Bolag was one of three sons of a woodcutter. Having come of age, he set out to seek fame, wealth and fortune as it was customary. The land was rich in opportunities, there were plenty of monsters to slay, many jobs to take and even more caverns to explore.
However, he advanced farther than that. Crossing seven rivers and five mountains, he eventually stumbled upon a border where a humble kingdom began. He was intrigued by the visions of his findings, aiming to find the royal castle and the king himself within.
Days passed by and he only came across encampments of lone huntsmen that weren't particularly talkative. Thus, he was left on his own in his endeavour, but that didn't mean he was going to give up.
Quite the opposite in fact. He kept on exploring, delving deeper into the heartland of the kingdom, finally stumbling upon a village. He rejoiced at the sight, his weary legs picking up the pace and running towards it.
The place was strangely silent though. Nobody working at the mill, nobody chopping wood, nobody talking outside. There weren't any children chasing around either. It was very odd.
Instinctively, his steps led him to the centre of the settlement. He hoped that he would find a solution to this enigma. The largest and tallest of the buildings seemed to be something like a town hall to him, so he decided to enter.
"Hello?" he demanded attention, yet none answered. It must have been empty. Or its inhabitants didn't care.
He kept walking nevertheless, ascending a flight of stairs to the topmost floor. He thought his endeavour would be futile and he would have to turn away as the village was abandoned, but then he was proven wrong.
As he opened the wooden door before him, he couldn't believe it. There was an armchair in the far corner of the room, surrounded by emptied dishes. The most important thing, or rather a person, was sitting there.
It was a woman three times wider than him, the enormous flab on her belly being enough to crush him underneath. Her face was basically one large pork head and the eyes were barely poking out of the crevices between fat in her cheeks and the forehead.
She observed him carefully despite that, her mouth attempting to open and speak. Yet only inhuman sounds left her throat, her alarming weight preventing her from giving voice to her thoughts.
In truth, it seemed that she was choking. At least Bolag assumed as such. He wasn't aware of any way he could help her. He approached her nevertheless, watching her with both caution and curiosity.
"Are you alright?"
She muttered a sentence, but her speech was unintelligible.
"Sorry?" he begged her pardon.
She babbled again and even though it was hardly understandable, it was much louder this time.
"I still didn't hear anything."
"Get me something to eat, maggot!" she finally screamed, her voice sounding raspy and unhealthy.
"But is there anything to eat?"
"Of course there is! And if you can't give me anything, come over here, I will devour you alive, you worm!"
"Excuse me, but aren't you a little bit overweight? Movement wouldn't hurt you."
"How dare you insult me, the leader of this village?! Guards! Militia! Off with his head! Do you hear me?! Get here, damn it! You lazy fools! Where... where... ah... I forgot. They're all fat. They can barely move."
"Why did you allow it to come this far?" Bolag used the moment of her calmness to inquire and ponder about the fate of the settlement.
"We..." she found it hard to reply, her own body being a great obstacle to her. "We were cursed, most likely. There is no way for us to lose weight. We are always hungry even if our stomachs are full. Worse still, eating but a grain results in us gaining many pounds. We can't help it."
"Why would anybody want to curse you like that? Has your village done something wrong?"
"Village? No. Not the village. Or at least not anything I know of. It's kingdom-wide. The whole realm is under the influence of this darned spell."
"I'm not affected. I could try to lift this evil wrongdoing."
"You would do that? Out of pureness of your heart and spirit? You can't imagine how this state troubles us. If you managed to save us... we would be forever in your debt, I can tell you that."
"Alright. But how do I get to the castle?"
"It's easy. The road from here will lead you there. You can't miss it. After you get through the pass in the mountain range on the horizon, it will be directly in front of you. Only a few miles of walk will be dividing you from your goal."
"Thanks. I should go straight away then."
"Wait!" she stopped him as he was turning. He expected that she would warn him or something, yet the truth was different. "I really have to satiate my hunger. Could you please, very very please give me food to eat? Anything. Do you need both of your arms? What if I gulped your arm? What do you say? Come on, it's not that much of meat anyway. Barely enough for an appetizer."
He laughed and continued in his journey outside. Doing as instructed, he navigated the pathways through the peaks, emerging on the other side and spotting the grandiose castle on the horizon.
It didn't take him long to arrive at his destination. Tall walls of stone were before him and the gates were wide open. There weren't any guards at first sight, but that didn't mean they weren't there.
In truth, they were present. They were lying on top of the walls and in the streets, helpless and unable to stand up. When they saw Bolag, they yelled at him as loud as they could to gain his attention.
"Hey! You! Please, help us!"
He glanced around in order to find those addressing him, noticing steps leading towards defensive positions on the walls. Concluding that the origin of the voices was coming from there, he ascended all the way to the end.
There he spotted them. Morbidly obese men with their leather armour stretched to the very limit, some of the fibres broken and torn in half. The soldiers desperately wished to roll over to the newcomer, but their tries were hopeless. They groaned as they put a tremendous amount of strength into their effort, but they wouldn't move a bit.
"Please, you've got to help us!" one of the guards shouted out of desperation, attempting to tilt his head yet even that was unsuccessful as the fat surrounding his face wouldn't allow it.
"I don't know. Somehow. Please!"
"What happened here?"
"We don't know. Nobody knows. We suddenly went this way."
"How am I supposed to aid you then? I hope you don't want me to feed you."
"No. Just make this nightmare end. My stomach hurts yet I feel an insatiable hunger! I've... I've eaten my comrade. You can't imagine the guilt! But what was I to do when my urges commanded me to do so?"
"Calm down. Tell me what needs to be done."
"I'm but a simple soldier. I don't know the reason behind this change."
"Would the king know?"
"I'm not sure. If I were you, I'd try the court wizard."
"Yes. Hubenour is his name. He's the only one who's left untouched by the ailments so far."
"Could he be behind it?"
"I don't believe it. In fact, nobody does. That man aided us and still does. That's why it would be best if you started with him."
"Where can I find him?"
"Do you see the large tower? That's his spot."
"Alright, thanks," Bolag bid his farewell and immediately headed to his new goal. It was a strange case, but the vision of glory was shining in his eyes already. If he managed to save the entire kingdom, its citizens would be grateful for his actions and who knew, perhaps the royal family itself would reward him handsomely.
He paced towards the tall stone spire, meeting many lamenting and wailing people, each of them obese. Some were leaning against the walls of their homes, others were lying in the streets and unable to get up. No matter whether they were children, adults or the elderly, it affected them the same.
"Ha! Who laughs now, fools?! I may be fat, but you are much fatter!" shouted a baleful and pungent voice certainly belonging to an adolescent.
He steeled his nerves and prepared for a possible clash, cautiously choosing his steps as he neared the speaker, wondering who the mysterious individual might have been. Yet it took him merely a spin to witness the small plump person.
He was capable of moving, standing on his legs and grinning in front of the less fortunate people that were unable to rise up and walk unlike him. He apparently enjoyed his position to the very last drop.
"What is this regarding?" Bolag wondered, deeming the little man no threat.
"Wha..." the prankster turned to the woodcutter's son, his face expressing the fact that he had been taken aghast.
"Why do you laugh at the misery of others?"
"They deserve it," he shouted angrily, his confusion and anxiety waning in the single blink of an eye. He stormed off shortly afterwards, leaving Bolag completely baffled by the encounter.
He shrugged it off fairly fast though, remembering his task and resuming it. He entered the tower. It was a rather thin building with stairs whirling towards its topmost room. There, the wizard was performing experiments diligently.
"Frog legs... no. Causes nausea. Pebbles from the mountain spring. No... no effect. Warts of an old witch... too disgusting. Hair from children... useless. Damn it. Is there a solution to it all? I've tried everything, I swear. Everything!"
The frustration of the black-robed mage was apparent as he bashed his fist against the table where many kettles and potions were, jumping and landing as a result of the sorcerer's anger.
"Are you the court wizard?" Bolag inquired upon entering.
"What? Oh, yes. I am. How did you... wait!" the man was quite confounded as he turned to see there was a strong individual standing in front of him, unaffected by the curse of fatness that paralyzed almost everyone.
"I was informed you could help. The people outside are..."
"Morbidly obese. Tell me something I don't know. I've been trying to find a cure... for months! In the meantime, I feed them when it is necessary. But where are you from? Who are you?"
"I'm an adventurer hailing from afar."
"Aha. That explains it. But how do you fit into this... crazy story? There's no fame in here, no evil plot in motion to kidnap a princess, no pretender to the throne wishing to usurp power. Hell, there even aren't bandits plaguing the countryside as they are most likely lying flat on the floor, rolling around in search for food and unable to escape due to their size."
"Perhaps we could lift this curse."
"Curse? What makes you think this is a curse?"
"What else could it be? The guard spoke of symptoms that..."
"Symptoms, symptoms. I'm the magician here. I'm an expert in my field."
"So? Could it be a curse then?"
"Hmm. Maybe. I can't be sure. You could as well be a traitor that is responsible and now came to inspect my effort. Mocking me silently."
"Strange that you think that way. I was actually considering that you could be the culprit since you're unaffected and all."
"Unaffected?! Unaffected?! My parents are affected! My sisters are affected! My friends are affected!"
"So you harbour no hate for the townsfolk?"
"They picked at me for my frail and thin build, but it wasn't anything that would make my head steam... alright. I get your drift. Pardon me for being an old grump. You are willing to help, that is amazing."
"Yes. Shouldn't I introduce myself to the king first, though?"
"The king? Oh my... the king. He's holed up in the throne room, I'm afraid."
"Holed up? Why is that?"
"Well, it's a dramatic tale. His cook was about to present him a meal when the madness engulfed us. Everyone went fat, the chef that was standing at the entrance included, clogging it. I tried to push him in or pull him out. Without plausible results. With that man blocking entry, there is no possibility for anyone meeting the sovereign."
"How do you feed him then?"
"I can only hope he still lives. Although I have magical powers, they aren't exactly overwhelming. I can't do everything that I wish, sadly. Otherwise I would have dispelled this sarcastic magic."
"Speaking of which, I've seen a kid strolling around laughing at people."
"Tlustoprd? Yes, the boy. He's been nagged by his peers for most of his life. They made fun of him. That is why he now takes pride in this situation. Unwilling to help me as he finds this a paradise. Not that he would be of any help. He's not in possession of any magical powers.
It's a marvel that he wasn't affected, but so is my case. I thought my arcane knowledge shielded me at first, but when I spotted him, I began developing different theories. Perhaps we both have strong will. I from studying the mysterious arts of mana, he from constantly being bullied and having to put up with it. Or perhaps it might be a coincidence and we were left untouched for distinct reasons. I can hardly tell."
"I see. How could I be of assistance though? I overheard that you were trying to mix something."
"Yes. An elixir. A potion. A cure. But so far, my efforts were futile. I assumed that this was the only way as my seer abilities are somehow blocked, thus preventing me from delving into the depths of arcane truth and figure out if this is really a curse and who the caster was. Creating a drink to make the insanity go away was the sole other possibility, but it was pretty much trial and error... well, error mostly.
However, now that you are here, it changes things. Unlike Tlustoprd, you are strong. I believe you might be capable of breaking the seal that denies me using my seer talent. I've been able to trace it, but not destroy it."
"So you've known of a possible lead all the time? What if the one behind the obstruction is the real culprit?"
"Dragons surely can't cast magic, although their fiery breath is a perfect example of... how to put it... an inborn ability to harness and focus it in great quantity. Hence the block that is in effect."
"You want me to get rid of the beast, right?"
"If you were be so kind. You are quite likely strong enough to take on the monster. Unlike me. My magic is nothing compared to the inferno. But steel might be the key ingredient in beating it."
"Alright. I will try my luck. Just tell me where the creature is."
"Here, a map. It should be comprehensible."