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The Flavor Has Changed

by NonAnalogue

NonAnalogue Will a hero rise up to face Granny Catalana?
The legendary hero of the Floret Kingdom was named Grimes Golden. Everyone knew who he was - he was virtuous, he was strong, and he had a sense of style unmatched by anyone before or since. Grimes was well-known for striding down the main road of Floret on sunny days, a bottle of cider in one hand and his trademark fedora in the other. He always had a smile on his face, and he always had a friendly greeting for everyone he passed by.

One day, word spread through the kingdom - the Sweetshine Army, from the frozen far-north continent of Sweetshine, was making a move. Nobody was quite sure what they were doing - they were leaving other countries alone, but there was a steady stream of soldiers heading to the south, as far south as they could go.

"I know what they're after," Grimes had said, and left without a further word.

He didn't come back. Not for some time, anyway. Quite a lot happened in the meantime.

Not long after the Sweetshine soldiers made their mysterious trek south, rumors started to swirl.

Granny Catalana, the kindly ruler of Sweetshine, had snapped.

Monsters, creatures that had never been seen before, were among the Sweetshine forces.

Sweetshine itself was completely vacant.

Nobody, of course, could verify any of them (except maybe the last one - and what if the Sweetshines were just hiding really well?). But the rumors soon became irrelevant. One researcher stumbled across a lead. There was a mysterious island in the far south - it held only a canyon, one that took up nearly all of the island's length. Nobody had managed to trek through the canyon in recorded history.

That was the common knowledge, anyway. In one book, one dusty old book, one book that was in but one library, pushed aside and forgotten, there was a long-since discredited account of a traveler who managed to get through the canyon. He spun a tale of traps, of puzzles, of savage creatures dead-set on turning him back... but at the heart of the dungeon below the canyon, he found what he called "this really kickin' crystal thing."

"What if," the researcher posited, "that's what the Sweetshines were after?" When the global research community panned her ideas, she continued on to say, "Well, it's not like you've come up with anything better."

The very next day after the researcher released her findings, everything changed.

The island was holding a dungeon - one filled with traps, puzzles, and savage creatures. Granny Catalana barreled through them. Her soldiers blazed a path, and she easily took the treasure at the end. It was no mere crystal that she found, however.

It was the Essence of Flavor.

A distinction should be drawn between flavor and Flavor. If one is discussing the taste of food, then flavor will suffice. However, Flavor... Flavor courses through every living being, big and small. Flavor provides the very core of their being - who they are. Whether a person is sweet or sour, whether they leave a bad taste in everyone else's mouth or if everyone savors their time with them - that is their Flavor.

Granny Catalana did not take the Essence of Flavor so that she could leave everything the way it was.

In the days following Granny Catalana's successful campaign, the first change that everyone noticed was a large mountain, seemingly made of some repulsive mixture of organic material and blood-red metal, that rose from the canyon. It was tall enough that everyone, no matter where they were in the world, could feel Granny Catalana's watchful eye from the peak. As if that weren't enough of a reminder of her position, every so often, a piercing howl of mad laughter would echo down from the summit, sending birds flying from their nests and setting dogs barking in countries on the other side of the planet.

That was not the worst of the changes.

A dark fog spread from the mountaintop. It slowly began oozing across the world, creeping across the ground and clinging to people like shadows. Anyone who stayed in the fog... changed. Someone who was sweet and cheerful eventually found themselves questioning their life, pushing away their friends, snapping at everyone they encountered. The generous began hoarding everything they had, the courageous hid or fled, and the just began to be easily swayed. A mass exodus occurred out of Green Pasteurs and Jettare, the two principalities closest to the mountain, but it didn't matter; the fog eventually swallowed the world.

The only proof anyone in the kingdom of Floret needed that something was seriously wrong was when Grimes Golden returned. His normal confident swagger had been replaced with a drunken wobble, and he collapsed at the feet of the first person he saw when he came into port. He only managed one sentence before he fell unconscious, never to wake again.

"The Flavor has changed."

Fifty years passed since the day everything soured. The fog refused to go away. It stalwartly stuck to the ground, resisting even the most turbulent weather - and there was certainly a lot of that to go around. Even the world itself seemed affected by Granny Catalana's iron grasp on the Flavor. Granny Catalana herself still improbably clung to life, her presence still felt from the highest point on what everyone had taken to calling Redstreak Mountain, for the dark red stripes of fleshy material that pervaded the steel exterior of the crag.

Two events of note happened on the fiftieth anniversary of that day. First, Grimes Golden, having never woken from his coma, died ignobly in a bed in the Floret Kingdom Hospital. His death was somewhat unusual, the doctors admitted, for how violent it was; without ever waking, Grimes hurled his arms to the sides of the bed, grabbing a pencil nearby completely by chance. In his death throes, he scratched and scrawled meaningless designs on the bed itself, before finally letting go of life entirely. If the doctors had looked more closely at the designs rather than dismissing them immediately, they might have noticed a sentence, written only semi-legibly.

"A hero can change the Flavor back."

The second event that day was the birth of a child in the same hospital. The doctors all commented on how bright and joyful she seemed, even for a newborn; word spread around of the baby who beamed like a ray of sunlight. Her parents named her Honeybell, hoping that she would one day shine bright enough to pierce the fog.
  1. NonAnalogue
    I want to write more, I just don't know the medium. P: Might be short stories, might not.
    Sep 29, 2013
  2. baratron
    Huh. What an interesting start to... a novel, or a series of short stories. Did you intend to write more in this universe?
    Sep 27, 2013