After walking out into the woods for about twenty minutes they arrive at what is left of a home. there is little more than a floor and the odd bit of stone wall no higher than Calans knee. he stood at what had to have been the doorway and very purposefully took measured steps forward. after taking five steps forward he sidestepped one large step then took one more half step forward and kneeled down. Calan pulled a dagger out from his belt and used it to pry away a large stone. Calan was surprised at how easily it had lifted up. normally it takes a fair bit more prying to get the stone up. as he sets the stone aside with his left hand he reaches down into a hole under the stones with his right. leaning down so far that hes practically laying on the ground Calans right arm disappears. His face begins to show an amount of confusion he pulls out a dusty bottle with a wax-covered cork on it takes a breath then peers down into the hole. its dark but Calan can see the colour of the fabric in the hole. He reaches in once more slowly this time. his body visibly shaking. He pulls out a rolled-up piece of paper from the hole; his mind races back to earlier when he was putting the empty vial in his pouch and realized that this is why he had emptied it. His eyes scrolled across the page. Calan's shoulders drop.
Rohnan froze for a moment. A deep dread went through her. Feeling like she was moving in slow motion she went to grab at the note. The words didn’t make sense to her. “Who- who wrote this? It doesn’t look like Jinn’s writing”
"presumably someone from New Acarthia. honestly, this could mean a few things. I don't see a reason to jump to any conclusions."
while his voice said one thing. his body language said another. Calan knew there would be no reason for Jinn to have someone else send these back without an explanation. Death wasnt always the only thing that could go wrong. what if he was stuck someplace and nobody in New Acarthia was brave enough or strong enough to get him back. what if Jinn had forgotten who he was and decided to stay behind? a dozen horrid scenarios played through his head.
Rohnan’s mouth was dry. She looked around for someone to give her guidance. But the person who she would turn to when she wasn’t sure, wasn’t there. She squeezed her eyes shut and took a steadying breath. “Neither of us should have let him go alone. We need to figure this out. We need a plan. We need...” Rohnan’s hands flew over her ears as she tried to block out the noise of the voices that were yelling in her head. She had been doing such a good job of keeping them down. But now... she screamed and kicked at a broken part of wall. The pain that shot up her leg was enough to re center herself.
Rohnan hissed as she put weight on the foot that she kicked. But kept it there. It was blocking out the noise. “I’m fine with keeping this a family affair for now. But...” she yelled again and threw a flame bolt at the floor. “I need to do something.” She looked at Calan with tears brimming in her eyes.
“Hey, maybe something happened and he wasn’t ready to talk to us personally. Maybe he didn’t feel okay keeping the banners so long. Maybe he left for somewhere else in a hurry.” Calan hugged Rohnan. “It’s best not to think about it.”
Rohnan could tell that Calan was just as worried as she was. She couldn’t help it, she laughed. Then got angry again and pushed him away but clung onto his hands. She needed the extra balance with her injured foot. She was starting to think she broke a toe. “I’m allowed to be worried. It seems that the people who I love feel the need to run off and send cryptic messages. But I’m done sitting on the sidelines waiting to see if everything is going to be okay.”
“Calan smiled, awe you love me?” He raised his hand gesturing to be quiet. “Shh too late can’t take it back.” He laughed. “ seriously though, I have done a lot of stupid dangerous things, most of them were with Jinn. When have you ever known him not to pass off his gear to someone in the face of true danger and say run I have a plan.” Calan paused to let that sink in. “ all we got back was the banners. No gear, no clothing, non of the other odds and ends he took with him, just the banners. I would bet all the plat I have there is a good explanation otherwise like I said this note would have contained a recounting of, ‘Jinn gave me his belt and began insulting a fae lord...’ or whatever dangerous thing they encountered.” He playfully punched her shoulder. “Trust me.”
“Yes I love you, you moron. Doesn’t mean I don’t get to hate you sometimes too though. Jinn is... I don’t know. He gives off this air of invincibility. To the point that I think that he thinks that he can’t die. So yes he does stupid ****. And you know that there’s a chance that this is actually all that’s left of him. So I’m gonna be mad and worry. And definitely smack him the next time I see him for making me worry.” She sighed and dug through her pockets for a vial and drank a heath potion. Her foot feeling better she said, “come on. Let’s go kill something and then get drunk.”
Phalaenopsis gathered his things and followed Calan and Rohnan unsteadily as they left the porch; annoyed at his own stumbling, and knowing he could just drink more when they returned, he pulled a vial out of his box and drank it quickly, making a sour face as the bitterness hit his tongue. He rushed to catch up to the pair, following them more or less in silence to the ruins of a house. 'Hmm...'
Expecting Calan to simply grab whatever they'd come for and then say they were leaving again, he took a moment to examine the rubble, running his fingers along the stone; he wondered how long the house had been here, in this state, but more pressing in his mind was whether Calan had found this by accident and decided to use it as his stash, or...
"I think I need more than a drink."
Phal spun around at Calan's words, expecting, perhaps, that his stash had been raided and something valuable had been stolen, maybe some kind of heirloom? But the shaking in his voice and the paper in his hands said something more troubling than a simple theft had happened. Phal made his way over and knelt down as Calan pulled the banners out, and his mind went a bit blank as he processed what it meant.
"Jinn did not come with them."
He sat there, staring at the banners, processing Calan's words, as a dozen possibilities raced through his mind. 'Jinn was in New Acarthia, so these came through the Mists... A courier or messenger hawk could have delivered it, but...' he blinked several times as he thought, biting his lip hard, 'And this was in Calan's stash, but he's acting like he didn't know, so...' He shook his head, deciding he could figure it all out later, and looked at Rohnan and Calan; neither was doing well, although they also hadn't-- Oh, never mind, Rohnan was kicking the wall and injuring herself.
"We need to go tell Evo."
"I'd like to hear Phal's thoughts first."
"I'll wait until we get back to say what I think." he said quietly, "But I think you should leave telling Evo to me; going to him when you're worked up and without any 'hard facts' is just going to make him assume the worst. There's... a lot to consider." He kind of deflated as he finished, bracing himself on his right arm and kind of slumping over into a sitting position. He poked at the bundle of fabric, knowing it would do exactly nothing to ease his mind or impart any insight into the matter, but it made him feel better all the same. He finally stood up, and dug through his box for something; he pulled a very small glass bottle out and put it in his pocket, then withdrew 4 vials of rich green liquid from a different compartment. But as quickly as they had swung from neutral to rage, the pair had started joking around again; well, Calan, at least, and Phal let out a chuckle as the pair bantered about love and 'no take backs'.
"I think it's good that you're mad and worried." he said, moving and pulling them both into a group hug, "I am, too. But let's save the slapping until we've had some time to process, yes?" He released them and shoved 2 vials at each of them, more or less forcing them into their hands. "If you're going to go fight some things, take these with you. I'm... Going to stay here for a bit longer, and think." He gave them a smile that he hoped was reassuring.
"I'm afraid I prefer to sort things out in my head rather than work them out through steel, and I'm still a bit upset with myself over Balinox's realm, so I'm going to sit this particular monster hunt out." Phalaenopsis replied with a smile, leaning in to give her a kiss on the cheek, "But I do appreciate the invitation to mayhem. Maybe next time, when my mind is a little less crowded. I'll make extra Weakness Globes and Slow Globes, so you can have more fun than with just Paralysis."
Calan took the vial. “Thanks,” he leaned over and layed out the banners then rolled them up. He cringed at the feeling of the raven sculls as they rolled. There was something about the texture and sound that he didn’t like. In fact every time he rolled them up for whatever reason it was one of the things that made him wish he’d done a better job making them. Once the were rolled up he placed the rock back in place over the hole swept some dirt over it to make it look less obvious that it had been pulled out. He stood up and faced Rohnan.
“I don’t know that I feel up to killing anything at the moment myself.”
Calan turned towards Phal and rested his forehead against his. This was how he and his sister had greeted one another when they were small. Somehow in this moment it seemed as though it was the thing to do.
“Take all the time you need maybe when your done you can come look at the painting. Calan picked up the bottle that he’d previously placed aside. And started to walk back toward the house.
“Let’s go have a drink though.” Calan gestured with the bottle towards Rohnan.
Rohnan pouted for a moment. “No one ever wants to indulge my destructive tendencies.” She sighed dramatically. “Fine, lets go drink. But tomorrow we do something productive about this. And you better not run off alone Calan or so help me I’ll shove that entire bottle some place super uncomfortable. Sideways.” She started to leave with Calan and then stopped as she passed Phal and hugged him. “I love you too, by the way.”
Phalaenopsis recoiled slightly as Calan's horns and forehead bumps into his horns, and he inhaled sharply; it was very pleasant, but also very much overwhelming, and he winced and bit his lip as he tried to maintain composure. It was a moment before he could process and respond what Calan was saying, and he gingerly patted his horns, the way you might gingerly poke a bruise, as he recovered his senses. "That, uh, is still a bit much." he breathed; he had bitten his lip hard enough to bleed a little, so he wiped the blood away with a hand and cast a spell to seal the wound.
Now back to his usual presence of mind, he resumed the playful teasing. "I'll be sure to barge in and critique it harshly, Calan." Phalaenopsis chuckled, giving him a quick hug before giving a quick hug to Rohnan, "And yes, in this particular case, I will say that inhibiting your destructive tendencies temporarily is a good thing. It's because I love you both that I try not to let you ruin yourselves. Operative word being 'try'." He winked at his own teasing, and turned back to the stone Calan had replaced. "I'll be back at the house soon, though. I just need another couple of minutes."