The witch held her forehead as Brand, Tom, and Rottkap looked on. "That was..." she began, but didn't complete her thought.
"It didn't hurt, did it?" asked the little mushroom woman. "I was correct, no?"
Karolina coughed and slowly looked up, grinning uncharacteristically. Her eyes glow with a soft red hue. "Actually... I feel pretty good. Really good, even."
Brand and Tom Thumb exchanged a modest high five with each other. What they had witnessed was a human, amazingly untouched by the shadows and laws of the barbarian world in her upbringing, brought into the darkness of Xibalba, as both everyone and everything else was. There was essentially no benefit to being without the blessing of the mushroom queen and the magick of Xibalba's unceasing gloom. But their interest was less based upon Karolina's gain, so much as what she should have been able to do now. "Excellent. Well then, Miss Karolina... do you think you can find the Longtooth's territory now?"
She closed her eyes for a moment, concentrating. Smirking, she opened them again and told them, "Yes. I can see every focal point I've been now. Adelaide, the beach, the cave... yes, I can get there now." She turned to Rottkap. "I want to thank you... I saw some inspiring things from whatever you did. And I can feel it now! I understand Blood Sensing... it feels like it was on the tip of my tongue all this time, and I never knew it."
"A pleasure, Miss Karolina," chirped her fungal companion. "There was no reason to leave you exempt from the gifts all creatures on Xibalba enjoy. In time, you will come to understand the other benefits of my lady of mushrooms, but I see you're already feeling the vitality within you, too."
"I had no idea it was like this," Karolina said. She was scarcely hungry or thirsty anymore. And a great deal less tired. "Well, then... I suppose we should take this for a test spin, eh? Rottkap... and Brand? You'll uphold your end of the deal?"
Brand bowed politely, seemingly more deferential now. "Absolutely. I will always fulfill any bargain I make, dear miss. Tom can teach you what I can show you, when you complete your end of the contract."
"We are of a like mind, after all..." said the familiar, riding on Rottkap's head. "What I know, Brand will know, and so on."
Karolina grinned, feeling emboldened, as if she could take on the world. "Great! Well then... we better get going. I know how to get there, but it won't be quick and time is of the essence for me right now. Ready everyone?"
Soon, they left Brand's camp, re-entering the red fields of peppery grass. Brand sat down once more as he watched them leave. Then, he glanced to the other less than welcome silent visitor in the grey cowl... but now, she was gone and nowhere to be found.
"Interesting..." he muttered thoughtfully. Not only had his enigmatic guest left without a trace, but both he and Tom had taken note of Karolina's red eyes. When a Xibalban wasn't feral but the eyes glowed crimson, it usually indicated they were in a state of excitement, anxiety, or readiness. Humans unaffiliated with a Xibalban tribe, however, rarely bore the blood red glow on their own, no matter what their mindset was.
I always dig the "Alice Cooper In Wonderland" vibe this story has.
Hee hee. I would totally hire you to be my pitch man, if I could.
So red eyes are a sign of....
So. What does that mean was going though the mind of the 'silent visitor' when we first saw the camp?
On a personal note I find it funny I saw that and not the disembodied hand waving at us from the middle of the picture.
Red eyes are usually a sign of excitement, hostility, or aggression. In this case, it's probably excitement for Karolina, since she didn't have the gifts associated with it before.
The silent visitor is still a mystery. We'll be coming back to the visitor eventually.