Arianna let her smile fade somewhat as she walked around the table and returned to her seat, leaving Shroomsworth at the left side of the table from her. The book she had been reading was still in front of her, but she certainly didn't wish to go back to reading now that she had a most important guest. “I know you must be weary of the subject... but I'm sure you would like to know that the burial went along as planned.”
The news felt like a stab to Shroomsworth's heart, but it carried a feeling of closure with it. There were worse possible fates. Ones that made his skin crawl. “... I am glad nothing went wrong. To even think of those bone-yard scavengers finding him first, I... I can't bear it.”
“I made absolute sure we moved him as soon as possible. The worry was on my mind too...” Arianna admitted with concern. Her gaze averted to the book she had been reading prior, and she picked it up in her vines to accentuate its importance, “I had been studying the history of previous elders... most of them passed within the village itself, ensuring that they will be... prepared for burial, and then--”
The gentlemanly Breloom stood quickly after his stern-sounding outburst, pushing his seat out behind him with the motion as he settled his clawed hands upon the wooden table. “I... ahem, pardon me for the interruption,” Shroomsworth apologized, shame in his voice over his own rudeness, “but I really must arrange some quarters for myself. I plan to reside in this village once more.” He really didn't know what came over him, but... he couldn't listen to more of that thought.
It was strange. Not once to Arianna's recollection had Shroomsworth ever outright interrupted someone like that. Her eyes averted until she heard of his plans, which brought her to smile once again. In light of confirmation that he would stay around, Arianna was willing to forget all about that minor faux pas. “I see... I can offer you spare quarters here, if you'd like.”
Though it was a nice gesture, Shroomsworth shook his head, stepping to the side and pushing his chair back in, “I will be quite fine with one of the caretakers' quarters in the hub, but thank you, dearest Arianna.”
With solemn understanding, Arianna nodded up at Shroomsworth. “I suppose that would be most comfortable for you. Perhaps on your way, you could pay your respects at the elder's grave before sundown,” she suggested, lifting her book to continue where she had left off.
The suggestion caused Shroomsworth to freeze for just a moment. “Quite...” was his only reply, low and somewhat unsure, as he made his way back out of the drape he had entered from, into the relative low, orange glow of the outdoors.
On the way across the unpopulated square of the village, Shroomsworth briefly pondered the suggestion he was given. Very briefly. Before he knew it, his feet had taken him to the front of the Shroomish Hub, a building he was very familiar with. It was once his home... he never thought he'd call it that again, but it wasn't a bad thing. He would have to tread carefully though – an early bedtime was something he remembered clearly from his childhood.
As Shroomsworth entered through the drape, he was greeted with the sight of many toys, desks, and other activities that his brothers enjoyed so much, basking in the glow of those same sorts of flowers found in the library and most other buildings. It always gave him a sense of accomplishment to remember that they were once making do with makeshift toys crudely made of leaves and wood, only to have him put actual funds toward importing well-crafted things. His funds went toward expanding the hub as well – a large bedroom, accessible by two draped archways across the room from the entrance, housed many beds, which were currently full of his slumbering siblings, if he had to guess. They previously had to slumber in the entry room, with all of their belongings.
There were two more bedrooms off to the sides of those. While designated caretakers often had their own dwellings to return home to, they would need to stick around at night to watch over the little ones. Sometimes there was more than one volunteer at a time, necessitating multiple private quarters to retreat to. Shroomsworth approached the arch leading to one of those very rooms, being as silent as he could. He was just about ready to peek inside, to see if a current caretaker was utilizing it. That's when he heard a most peculiar noise.
That was a clear sign that they were awake, but what was wrong? Was it someone grieving? Shroomsworth felt that he should at least check on them, knowing that they were awake. He pushed the drape open to a nearly pitch-black room. The soft light from the central room shone in on the darkness, revealing his closest, tie-wearing brother seated on the room's relatively large bed, sobbing quietly to himself. “Sporegard..?” he called out, pushing his way into the room.
There was a segmented half-sphere covering on the wall with a handle in the middle. Shroomsworth reflexively turned it, causing the upper segment of the sphere to rotate so that it was cupped inside the lower one, releasing light into the room from a previously-enclosed flower. It was the village's light switch, so to speak, and it allowed Shroomsworth to see his brother gazing back at him. Though teary-eyed, it would seem that his presence warranted a smile.
“Brother!!” Sporegard exclaimed, though in a whispered tone that was mindful of the others sleeping nearby. Eagerly, the little Shroomish slipped from the edge of the bed and ran for Shroomsworth, making a very trustworthy leap toward him.
“Oof!” Shroomsworth exhaled as Sporegard impacted lightly against his stomach, though he still caught him in his arms and embraced him in a warm, brotherly hug. However, he immediately felt the stain of those wet tears against his body, accompanied by another sniffle. “Goodness, Sporegard...” he began, carrying his smaller brother back to the bed and sitting down on it himself, allowing Sporegard to rest on his knee. “I had certainly hoped to see you, but not so very sad. What is the matter?” he asked in the most calming manner he could.
“Oh... it's indefinitely nice of you to ask, brother,” Sporegard started, pausing only to sniffle, “I went to the elder's burialment ceremony, because Miss Arianna said it was respectful... but not all of our brothers and sisters went! I tried really hard to get them to go, because I want them to be respectable to the elder too... but they would not go. Then I got in trouble... for yelling.”
It was quite unlike his closest brother to shout at anyone. Still, Shroomsworth understood what it was all about, wearing his best comforting smile as he looked down upon Sporegard. “You must understand, not all of your brothers and sisters are as brave as you are...”
“But what does it have to do with bravery, brother?!” Sporegard replied, looking up through teary eyes. “It is not about that, it is about being respectable to the elder, right?”
The notions brought up by his smaller brother made Shroomsworth look away for a brief moment with nervousness. It was certainly not an easy subject. “Eheh... well, that is true. Still, you should not pressure them if they feel uncomfortable with going. Surely you know that all of your siblings, myself included, have the utmost respect for our elder. You may be shouting at them for things they cannot help.”
Sporegard looked down in thought. “I suppose that is true... I should apologize,” he concluded, hopping right off of Shroomsworth's lap and landing effortlessly on the floor below. He turned to face Shroomsworth, and a smile was crossing his face for the first time, though his eyes were still teary. “How long are you visiting for this time, brother?”
With a relieved sigh, Shroomsworth placed his claws together in his now-empty lap. “I am not visiting this time, dear Sporegard. Let us say you and I will be seeing a lot of each other from now on,” he hinted quite blatantly, with a wink through his monocle to match. A rather upbeat gesture for such hard times, but if anyone would bring good feelings out of him at this point, it would be his closest little brother.
Part 2 of "Successor" by