Dragons & Deities

On A SONGGGGG
I've had this on my laptop for weeks so I was like "hey, why not, I'm only offering a half-finished piece up for judgement"

Well, he’s a snide, sarcastic drunk
With just a dash of sincerity.
It’s an old, worn-out cliché
But Hell, it’s good enough for me.
How isn’t there
A character
Already the same as he?
I don’t know,
But here’s an ode
To Lenny!

His bio-dad’s uncaring,
He is Phanen the changeling.
His father died to save him,
And his mom, too, was buried.
He remembers them fondly
On his ukulele
And sure it’s lame,
But it’s just a game
Of D&D

So here’s a song,
You can drink along,
To our favorite halfling
[SPOKEN: or changeling or whatever the fuck he is]

Yes, mount your horse,
Because of course,
It’s Lennyyy!

coughs loudly [SPOKEN: I need a drink]

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Excerpts from the Shrine of Erathis

salt.
he takes us apart
every night
runs his lips over
salt-tainted skin
and tells us we taste like
freedom

ocean i.
does she know?
how the sea foam on the rocks
makes us quake with envy?

flowers i.
he has the forest in his eyes
he calls him pretty
like he’s a bouquet he has plucked
from a field flowered with our losses

moon i.
the moon is his executioner, and we
are the accusers

but he is the judge

flowers ii.
we are the bouquets that have
withered
and died

(look at me)

flowers iii.
more flowers were brought in today
they are oh so small

they smell of freedom and terror
we cannot smell it over ours

flowers iv.
he takes a piece of the forest each night
uses it as a substitution for
the flowers
for if he takes even the slightest whiff
the forest will burn itself
and there will be naught but ashes

ocean ii.
i want to be the ocean
salt in my veins
life in my body
freedom on my skin

glass i.
the others praise him
why?
he puts the bouquets in pretty vases
delicate and fine
but can’t they see
how wilted they are?

(or does the salt
preserve us?
keep us pretty?)

i hope that glass shatters in his hands

ocean iii.
we are choking
on our salt

do you think
if we swallow enough
we’ll become part of the waves?

i too
wish to drive myself
upon the rocks of that sheer cliff
until there is nothing left of me
but sea foam

moon ii.
sometimes
in the distant surface of sehain
i can see the face
of my mother

crying

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On Further Inspection

The three sat quietly in the mess hall. Yes, quietly. What an event! Belle stared somberly at her raw chicken leg, occasionally taking a nibble but failing to gorge herself like usual. Kithra was uncharacteristically reserved, prodding at an unidentifiable charred hunk of meat with a fork. And Lenny, usually enthusiastic and sarcastic, was completely silent and melancholy. He didn’t even have the energy to pretend to eat, and instead silently stared into his plate of potatoes and biscuits. His rum bottle sat beside him, still full to the brim.

They all had reason to be uspet. After they’d woken up, their dorms were disheveled and ramshackle. Blankets and articles of clothing were haphazardly thrown across the floor. A few glasses lied on the floor, liquid spilling out. And worst of all, their belongings were confiscated. From Belle’s massive stash of fellow cultists’ hands to Kithra’s huge assortment of training-area-only weapons to Lenny’s massive stash of liquor, they’d all suffered tremendous losses. Breaktfast was to be their mourning time.

The doors to the mess hall slammed open as Phanen briskly paced directly to the trio’s table.
“Good morning, everyone. It seems as though you slept well.” It was impossible to tell whether Phanen was being snide and sarcastic, which would be out of character to say the least, or simply didn’t bother taking off his Official-Appearance Polite Face™. Lenny shot his head up from his ‘meal’.
“It seems like you did too, what with all of our stuff being missing.” Phanen smiled slightly.
“Ah, and it’s just that which I’ve come to talk to you about. We did a routine inspection of the dormitories-” Belle’s head popped up next.
“There was nothing routine about it! I’ve been here for years and we’ve never had one! And it’s less an inspection and more of a raid, anyways! Who gave you the right to comb through our stuff anyways?” Phanen snapped his head towards her abruptly and spoke dryly.
“Unfortunately for you, beast, I inherited that right the second I enlisted you. You’re under my command, so you’re under my rule.” He turned towards Kithra, who was still staring at her plate, not making eye contact. “Do you have any quips now, girl?”
“No, sir, I would never upset a superior, sir, it’s all for the good of the Cult, sir.” Phanen beamed at Lenny and Belle.
“See? This is how an initiate ought to behave! I might not even reprimand her for the disallowed weapons we found under her bed!” He dropped a sack of dozens of blades and bludgeons onto the table in front of Kithra. She snatched the satchel and hugged it close to her chest, gleeful to have escaped any anger from her superiors.
“My statements towards you two might be a bit more harsh, however.” Phanen moved in front of Belle first. Not wanting to show any weakness or submission to authority, she looked Phanen dead in the eyes as he loomed over her.
“Let’s start with our motivation for this whole ordeal. Now, I know you have urges and whatnot, and this may be a ‘confusing time’ for you, Belle, but you must understand it’s rather concerning to find that many of our fellow worshippers have had their hands bitten off in their sleep.”
“Why should that concern you, O My Superior? It’s not like you give a gnome’s ass about people’s lives. And besides, what proof do you have that I took the hands? It could have been anyo-” She was cut off as Phanen silently dropped another canvas bag on the table, this time filled with severed hands.
“This sack that we found in your room should be enough. You are expected to issue a public apology and will be on dish duty for a month, and this is going on your record.” Belle scoffed.
“You sound like a Middle School principal.” Phanen took her by the collar and his teeth drew close to her face as he whispered curtly and angrily.
“Trust me, monster, I could do a lot worse if I wanted to. Don’t push me.” With that, he pushed her. To the floor. He then moved on to Lenny.
“Ah, last but not least. Of course the most major offense would be found in dearest Lendall’s room.”
“I have nothing to say to you.” Lenny’s usually chipper disposition had vanished.
“Really? Because this book we found with your ukulele would suggest otherwise.” Phanen lifted a small songbook with scraps of wrapping paper still attached. Lenny grew hot-headed.
You opened it? How dare you!
“Oh, I dare. Clever boy, wrapping up your treasonous scriptures so that we’d think it a gift. And disguising it as a songbook? You’re truly brilliant. Unfortunately, you weren’t brilliant enough.”
“There isn’t even anything in there, other than sheet music. It’s from my parents. It’s just a few of their and my favorite songs…” Lenny’s face was growing redder as he fought back tears, while Belle and Kithra both silently stared.
“Then care to explain these prayers to Avandra inside?” Kithra jolted up from her seat and instinctively jumped on top of the chair. She stared daggers at Lenny as she stood above even Belle’s head. Kith began silently mouthing words, trying to voice her thoughts properly, and slowly increased in volume until she was incomprehensibly babbling some complete nonsense out loud. The rest of the cafeteria was watching in awe as she became even louder in her droning, still failing to put together even a single word, beside herself with the thought that anyone, even someone as stupid as Lenny, could have the gall to worship someone other than Basilis. Eventually, she reached her limit and screamed at the top of her lungs. She attempted to lunge at Lenny, forgot that Belle sat between them, fell onto the floor, scrambled to her feet, and sprinted out of the mess hall, completely forgetting her sack of weapons. The entire room, including Phanen, looked in disbelief at the doors creakily swinging on their hinges, hearing her feet flop across the gravel as she retreated to her tiger’s embrace. Phanen spoke.
“And yet she’s still a more qualified leader than either of you.” He turned away from the doors and back to Lenny.
“So what explanation do you have for this blasphemy?” Lenny sniffled a bit. His childhood had already been wretched away from him. Now, it would avenge itself and ruin the life that he’d been forcefully taken in to. Lenny spoke back, unable to bare the fact that he was about to defame his own family.
“It just belonged to my stupid parents. I never saw them again, so they wrote some dumb goodbye letter in the songbook. Really, it lowers the book’s value on the market. It’s as inconveniencing for me as it is for you.” Phanen narrowed his eyes and bent over to Lenny’s height.
“I don’t believe that for a second, you drunk little shit.” Lenny slit his eyes right back.
“And what are you going to do about it? Beat me in front of this crowd? I’ll say what I just said to you back to the entire Cult. You have no proof.”
“You assume people would take your word over mine. You forget that you have no proof either aside from your own word. I could have you excommunicated from this organization on counts of sacrilege, left on the street with no value to your name except for the label of an ex-cultist, which society isn’t very approving of, and believe me, if it’s your word against mine, Lendall Anulos, you won’t stand a chance. You might think you’re being independent or rebellious, but the rest of the Cult sees you as nothing but an obnoxious child. I highly suggest you back down before things get ugly.” Lenny’s face grew even redder and an angry, frustrated tear streamed down his face. He still refused to break, though.
“Make me.” It was significantly less intimidating since he looked like a sweaty tomato, but the child’s message had gone across. He was guilty of sacrilege and disrespecting authority.
Phanen opened his hand and struck the young halfling across the face with the back of his hand. He then proceeded to wipe his hand on his robe, drop a sack of rum bottles on the table, issue a week of dorm cleaning, go to the doors, and drop one of Lenny’s two final mementos of his family in the garbage can like a candy wrapper.

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Finding something worth protecting
What Toska truly wants to obtain in life

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale again. Close your eyes and let out a piercing shriek. Then open your eyes and start your day.

Toska’s morning routine never failed to attract some form of attention. Normally, it was just a little rustle of an animal sprinting away from them, or larger animals might get curious and draw closer. Maybe something would think that they were wounded prey, just waiting for the final blow before they would become some wolf’s breakfast. Unfortunately for the wolf, the opposite tended to be true. Today, a squirrel ran up the tree directly next to Toska, unfortunately making the tiniest of sounds. Barely even opening their eyes, Toska reached into their bag, dug out a shuriken, and five minutes later they were starting a fire to cook their squirrel meat. Though it didn’t make for much of a meal, Toska couldn’t really complain. Three days ago, no animal had shown itself, forcing Toska to forage for several hours before finding a slightly edible plant. It sucked, but at least plants can’t judge you on poor life choices or gender identity the way that people could. Plants wouldn’t try to murder you if you insulted them in some way. Heck, plants couldn’t even talk, let alone talk back.
God, Toska thought. I wish I were a plant. Toska sat there, cutting the meat into several portions (one squirrel could last up to two days if you cut it right), listing to themselves all of the reasons why being a plant would be great. Plants don’t have gender. There was one of Toska’s problems, gone in a heartbeat. Plants don’t need to hunt for food. They just need dirt, sunlight, and water. Then, Toska wouldn’t have to worry about hunting all the time. They couldn’t stand killing animals, but the other alternative was to starve.
But was it really necessary that Toska survived? Were they anything more than some orphan, left to explore the world, searching for the meaning of gender? Was that all there was to their puny little life? Aside from gender, of course there were other concepts that they were curious about, but they had long since given up hope on them. Kindness? They hadn’t run across that in many years. Kindness was intangible, beyond understanding, and Toska had given up their faith in kindness long ago. Bravery? What, was that somehow any different than foolishness? Was Toska considered “brave?” They certainly didn’t think so. I don’t want to give up on these things, they had thought to themself many times. I want to hope that the future is better. But hope was as faraway a dream as kindness or bravery.
“Oh, stop brooding,” their master would have said. “It poisons the soul with darkness, weakens it, destroys it from the inside out.” Toska pulled their head up, realizing what a dark path they had set their mind on. And it was so easy to do. It was as if all of their faith in themself had just… vanished.
“I’m not going to let it happen again.” They whispered to themself. “I need to stay hopeful. It’s what has kept me alive all this time.” They packed up their bag, concentrated on where they needed to go, and set off. “I’m going to keep going. I am going to get stronger.
It was a seven-day journey to reach Kord’s temple. Toska had used the remainder of their funds to purchase enough food and rent a small rowboat (small enough that they barely fit), and headed out to sea. The wind blew, the waves reached forty foot high, and the weather was atrocious, but Toska kept going. Eventually, they spotted it in the distance.
“Who comes to this temple?” One of Kord’s followers had challenged when Toska finally reached the entrance.
“My name is Toska. I come seeking the guidance of Kord. I am on a quest to gain strength, and believe that I will find it under his care. Is this his temple?” The follower nodded, and Toska followed them inside.
“It is said that Kord used to test prospective visitors with daunting trials to prove their bravery and their place in this temple. Naturally, his followers have followed suit. Are you prepared?”
“Can it be considered daunting if I am? Even if I’m not, does it ma-“ their sentence was cut short when the goliath swung a scimitar at their head. Toska rolled out of the way just in time for it to pass over them completely.
“I must admit, this is the first time I have heard of a gnome in search of Kord’s guidance,” they called as they attempted to land another blow. Toska scrambled out of the way as the blade collided with the floor, sticking it place for a few seconds. They swung their leg out in an ac above Toska’s head, bringing their heel down on their shoulder. Luckily, Toska managed to grab it before it made contact.
“You are more skilled than I anticipated,” the goliath admitted, bringing their heel up (with Toska still attached) and swinging it once again, sending Toska crashing into the wall of the temple. Toska quickly got to their feet, pulling a few shurikens out. They flicked their wrist, and the shurikens sailed towards the scimitar, forcing it at such an angle that the goliath was forced to drop it. The goliath grinned.
“Hand-to-hand combat is a skill that I have been honing for quite a while.”
“Wow, what a coincidence. It’s a skill that I’ve been practicing all my life.” Toska sprinted towards their opponent, diving under their legs and grabbing onto the back of their knee. Suddenly, Toska developed a very strange plan. They began climbing up the goliath’s leg, quickly racing up the torso and eventually perching on their shoulder. This proved to be a stupid idea when the goliath grabbed them by the foot and swung them over their head, sending them crashing to the floor. They quickly got up once again.
“Wow, you’re strong. What is your name?” They asked, trying to break the goliath’s concentration.
“My name is Uriel, loyal follower of Kord. And yours?”
“Toska, um, follower of Avandra.” Uriel looked at them with a curious and someone scorning glance.
“What place does a follower of Avandra have in a temple to Kord?”
“Well, it’s really a minor following, simply because she is the goddess of travelers, and I’ve really been nothing but that.” Toska wondered if Uriel could sympathize with them, but they were unpleasantly surprised.
“If you are so weak that you think you require the guidance of two deities, you have no place in the temple of Kord. For tarnishing our name, I will now defeat you and cast you out into open sea, you disrespectful young man.” Suddenly, the fire that had seemingly burnt out in Toska’s eyes flared once again. They launched their fist at Uriel’s face, leaping into the air so that they could manage to land a blow.
“I am not weak,” they seethed as their fist connected with Uriel’s jawline.
“I am not some needy child begging to the gods for help.” Toska planted a kick in the center of Uriel’s chest, compromising his balance.
“And above all else,” they growled, spinning in the air and planting two kicks to Uriel’s shoulders. “I.” Another punch. “Am.” Another kick. “No.” Two more punches. “MAN.” With a final push, Toska leaped out of the way as Uriel crashed to the floor. Toska took a few steps farther into the temple before he heard Uriel begin to laugh.
“What is it?” Toska snapped.
“It seems that you place a great deal of your strength in the things that matter most to you. The places where you have been wounded before are the ideas and qualities that you fight for with all of your strength. Though it’s very interesting that you choose to invest it in your gender. As you mentioned before, you are a traveler, so I imagine that contributes to the fact that you defend your own values so well. Imagine if you found something even bigger than yourself to fight for. Given your size, it shouldn’t be too hard.”
“Something like…”
“Like, for example, you claim to follow the path of Avandra. Perhaps becoming an adventurer to protect others might suit you well. But I don’t believe that there is anything you will find in our temple that you don’t know already.”
“No, that’s not entirely true.” Toska took a few steps back towards where Uriel was sprawled on the floor. “Your wisdom and guidance are words I have not heard in so long, and carry a message that I desperately needed to hear. Perhaps I will visit other temples like this one, and perhaps I will find something to fight for.”

Toska appreciated the temple and teachings of Melora, given the fact that they had grown quite fond of the wilderness. After spending a few days there, they had set off once again. They spent a few days in Ioun’s temple, listening to scholars tell them about the current situation of the world before leaving with proper directions to Avandra’s temple. They sat inside, completely silent, offering a few prayers that they might have a safe journey before traveling out into the world again. There were a few times when they would be chased out of a town for no reason, or they had to fend off attackers, but they kept going nevertheless. Eventually, it became less about understanding individual concepts, and more about the people themselves. Of course, any relationship they created lasted for a few days at most, but they still met and defended many people.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale again. Close your eyes and remember what you’re fighting for. Open your eyes and swear that you will defend it no matter what, even if you might die. Fight for something bigger than yourself. Even if you can’t guarantee your own safety, promise Leandris that you won’t let the people in Haven get hurt. Even if you don’t know if she might kill you, stay with Readam and calm her down if she starts having flashbacks again. Though you might disagree with him sometimes, promise Irren that you would die for him. Promise yourself that you actually would. Though Toska wasn’t completely used to sharing their life with others, they understood that some things are simply worth protecting, even if you aren’t sure whether or not you’re strong enough to.

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The Scarlet watch takes a road trip
A Road trip AU for Group 2

“Damn it, someone please get their elbow out of my face!” Irren and Eilwen shifted around the van awkwardly in an attempt to give Adaka some space. Readam had claimed a window seat and had been (quite strangely) sticking their head out the window for the past fifteen minutes. Unfortunately, I was not so lucky. As Eilwen scooted away from Adaka, she accidentally sat on me for the third time today.
“Um, Eilwen?” I mumbled, trying to get to a position where I could breathe again.
“Hmm? Oh. Sorry, Toska.” She shifted once again, and found herself slipping off of her seat.
“Um, Lucy? Could we stop the car? Just to, you know, switch positions? Or even just so Toska can have some fresh air? I think they’re getting squished. Lucy pressed her foot down on the brake, shifted the van’s gear to ‘park,’ then turned it off and stepped outside. Now, the main problem with getting out of a car with five people that are much larger than you is that you really can’t get out. Or at least, not without being sat on by almost all of them.
“Goodness gracious,” I whined. “Irren, you’ve got quite a sharp ass.”
“Um,” he blushed. “Thank you.”
“No, I mean it’s actually really sharp. Get it out of my face, I’m worried that you’re about to impale me.” Irren blushed even more and attempted to escape the van as quickly as possible. I trailed behind him, trying my very best not to get stabbed by my friend’s rocky behind.
“Ah! Fresh air!” Readam cried as she stretched her arms into the sky.
“Um, Readam, you’ve had the window open the entire time,” Lucy chided. “You’ve had fresh air for the past two hours.
“This was a stupid idea,” I grumbled, trying to get the cramp out of my neck that had developed during the trip. “By the end of this, I’ll hate all of you. Readam especially.”
“What? What did I ever do?”
“You claimed the front seat! You don’t need that much space! I’ve been squished underneath everyone!”
“Um, but we’d be pressed even closer together if you had it, Toska.” I stopped and turned to Adaka, who had been munching on trail mix for the past five minutes. Irren was staring at it longingly. I was almost afraid that he was going to take a handful and throw it at his face. He tends to do that when he sees food that he wants to eat. It’s mildly disturbing. I calmly walked over to Lucy in order to escape the inevitable rain of peanuts and raisins, cautiously eyeing the paper in her hand.
“So we take this turn here,” she muttered to herself. “Then we go over there, then we take this exit, and then we’re the-oh, hi Toska.” She put the map away in her bag. “What’s up?”
“Um, where exactly are we going? I mean, we’ve been driving for a few hours, we haven’t really stopped all that much, we’ve been eating the strangest foods, and we don’t really seem to be going anywhere. I mean, if we’re just driving around, that’s, uh, you know, it’s fine, but I’d kinda like to know.”
“Oh. Well, we’re going on a road trip.”
“A what?”
“Well, you get in a car, drive around, eat some food, see some famous landmarks, and enjoy each other’s company within a tightly enclosed space.”
“Wait, people do this for fun?”
“Well, often it’s something that…” she trailed off and quickly turned away from me.
“It’s often what?”
“It’s something that, well, families do together. I once went on one with mine, so I thought it might be a fun bonding experience for us.” Family. That’s right; Lucy and Irren were both part of the same family. It shouldn’t have surprised me that Lucy’s parents had interacted with them, even if just a little bi, because apparently that’s what parents are supposed to do. They’re supposed to raise you, care for you, nurture you, protect you, keep you from getting hurt… is it bad that I sometimes got angry at Lucy for throwing it all away? I knew that she had a rough relationship with her mother, but still, when I was a kid I would have given anything to have a family.
“Toska? Are you alright?” Lucy affectionately placed a rocky hand on my shoulder.
“Hm? Oh yeah, I’m… I’m fine. I just… what’s it like? Having a family?”
“Well, Toska, I think you should be able to answer that one for yourself by now.” Lucy gestured towards the rest of the group. There was Irren, asking Adaka what trail mix tasted like, Readam doing a little bit of dancing to warm up her stiff muscles, and Eilwen, sheepishly waving and mouthing “I’m sorry” for sitting on my face. I turned to Lucy and smiled. Who knows, maybe we were like a family. Some silly, badass, family that at the end of the day is probably an amazing one.

“DAMN IT, GET YOUR ELBOW OUT OF MY FACE! HONESTLY, THIS IS LIKE, THE FIFTH TIME THAT YOU’VE DONE THIS! IF YOU DON’T STOP, I’M GONNA THROW TOSKA AT YOU!”
“Wait wha-“ before I knew it, Adaka, who was usually pretty calm, had crawled over Irren and had grabbed me by the foot.
“Adaka, please, don’t tease Toska. Even if they would make a pretty functional beach ball.” I glared at Irren as his weird laugh echoed throughout the car. Eilwen had eaten 3 bags of beef jerky (without bothering to share), and had decided to take a nap. Her snoring was almost as loud as Irren’s strange chuckling.
“Ah, god. If you don’t keep shouting at each other, I am going to stop this car, do you understand?” Readam’s head was back inside the window, and she had brought out her zills. Lucy stopped snapping at the backseat goers (we had named ourselves that after we had been stuck together for three hours), and was listening to the pleasant ringing as it filled the car. Unfortunately, while everyone was listening to the music, nobody had paid any attention to the fact that the window was still open, and that is was blowing cold air directly at the sleeping, cold-blooded Eilwen.
“So cold.” She mumbled in her sleep. “Toska, close the door, would you? It’s cold in our room. Mmmaybe I’ll try to warm myself up a bit. I hope I don’t catch the bunk on fire. Everyone shrieked and screamed “STOP THE CAR” at Lucy, who instantly swerved off of the road. We piled out of the car (Irren almost accidentally stabbed my eye out) and carried Eilwen out just as her breath began to ignite.

“Okay, I get that families sometimes have their ups and downs, but is it normal to have a family member almost char-grill you?” I asked Lucy as I stomped on my cape one last time, just to make sure that the fire was out. Eilwen had woken up, slightly terrified that she was stuck in a semicircle of flame that everyone was trying to extinguish. Irren was sobbing at the melted package of trail mix, whimpering, “I’ll never know. I never got to taste you.” Adaka had finished putting the fire out, and was staring at the sky for some reason.
“Beautiful, aren’t they?” Readam asked as she walked up next to Adaka. I glanced p to see what they were looking at, and my jaw dropped. The stars were shining with such brilliance, as if there were a thousand torches in the sky. I joined Adaka and Readam, who were trying to distinguish different stars, and sat next to them as Readam told us about her favorite constellations. Lucy and Irren also told us what they had learned about the stars as young children, and we listened close as if we were still that young. Eventually, the topic shifted from stars to stories in general.
“Ooh,” Readam cried. “I’ve got a good one!”
“Well, Readam, it better not be a ghost story. The last time you told one, Toska didn’t sleep for a week.” I punched Irren in the arm (which hurt my hand quite a bit), but Readam just laughed.
“Oh, don’t worry, this one isn’t that bad. Long ago, on a roadside, much like this one…”
It was that bad. Goodness gracious, Readam has quite the imagination. Everyone piled back into the car, and I offered to drive.
“Toska are you sure? I mean-“
“Don’t worry, I won’t fall asleep at the wheel. I’m probably not going to sleep at all after that story.”
“No, it’s not that. It’s just… your feet won’t reach the pedals.” I let out a silent curse as I realized that not only would my legs fall several inches short of even gettig off the seat, but I also wouldn’t be able to see over the steering wheel. I sighed as I climbed back into the sseat, sitting on Eilwen’s lap simply because there was no more room and there was no way that I would sit on Irren’s. As the scenery shifted out the window, I stared at all of my sleeping companions. They all looked so peaceful, as if they somehow knew that nobody would endanger their safety while they slept. I envied them. I glanced up at Lucy, whose eyes were planted firmly on the wheel, as I offered up a silent prayer of Avandra.
Thank you, Avandra, for blessing me with a wonderful family.

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Toska doesn't beat the crap out of someone (and regrets it for about a week)
Lesson learned. Someone points a sword at you, you break their face.

Though a week had passed, I still saw his body lying dead on the floor. I somehow could not get over the fact that I had killed someone, even if they would have done the same to me in a heartbeat. In fact, he had tried. And he had gotten pretty close. I gently touched the ribs that had been broken and winced. Did I still have any healing potion left? I grabbed my bag with my right arm (my left arm was still healing, but at least it was no longer broken) and searched through it. Ah, thank Avandra, I found some. To be honest, I’m almost upset that I never learned anything about being a healer. If I had become one, then maybe I wouldn’t have had to spend four days in an infirmary. Although it was rather kind of them to give me a proper binder. Damn it, why couldn’t I have just been born without breasts? It would make my life so much easier. “Muscular an lung damage,” but what about “gender dysphoria and no money to throw at it, hoping that it will go away?” Honestly, they had looked at me as if I was some idiot, trying to at least make them disappear from my sight. “Oh, but you might damage your ability to fight if you so it like that” would have been a better argument, not “oh, there are better options that you’d never be able to afford in your life if you hadn’t just experienced life-endangering trauma.” Also, how could they not try and mitigate the amount of transphobic sadists that lurk in the shadows, waiting for some idiot like me to come along. Well, at least I learned my lesson: people are freaking monsters, so stay far away to guarantee your safety. Heh, I should have learned that one a long ti-
Something’s burning.
I smell something burning.
And is that-
Several screams pierce through the air before I can pull my thoughts together. Suddenly, I’m running on a pair of legs that were broken only days before. I don’t care that it hurts, I don’t care that I might pass out from the pain. I might be about to scream, but someone else may be about to die.
Shit.
Shitshitshit what’s going on? Finally, I catch up to whatever’s screaming. I stop nearly dead in my tracks. I can’t understand what’s going on. I see a temple, but I smell smoke. I see people huddled around outside, but I hear screaming. Suddenly, a few turn on the rest and begin pushing them around. Suddenly, I see whose temple it is, whose people are being hurt, pushed around, frightened, and I seethe with anger.
Who, no, what asshole dares to attack the people of Avandra? In her own temple? Who dares to set such sacred ground alight, and spill innocent blood into the fire? I storm forward, not thinking, not caring about the danger I have just put myself in. I take one last drink of healing potion, shove it in my bag, and bring out a shuriken in exchange. I have caused someone’s death before. I am no longer afraid of killing.
“Who are you?” I shout at the small group of attackers.
“Well lookie ‘ere, seems that we’ve got another one.” The man bent down, grinning to expose the four missing teeth in his mouth.
“Oh yeah, definetley.” For some reason, another one of his despicable companions comes to have a look. Suddenly, there are four large men surrounding me, the rest of their group left with the people of Avandra’s temple.
“So, what’ll we do with this one?” One pushes forward and I attempt to move backwards as well, but there is another one blocking my way. Shit. I’m surrounded.
“Ey, what’s that? A weapon? How about you drop it? I’d hate to see it clash with mine.” He brought out a large sword, strategically placing it right at my neck. Using the small scrap of common sense I have, I drop my shuriken. Unfortunately, someone else picks it up.
“So,” One shouts back at the rest of his group. “We ready to go?” Some other dispicable companion of his gives him a thumbs up with his other hand pointing a sword at what appears to be a priest.
“So,” the man with the sword at my neck shouts, moving towards the group and pulling me along. “You all are coming with us. If anyone makes a move on any of my friends or tries to escape,” he smirks as he pulls the sword a little closer, almost close enough to draw blood. “Let’s just say that we’re gonna have a little bit of blood to clean up.”

The first few days were awful. Unfortunately, it’s fairly obvious that the height difference between a thirteen year old gnome and a full -grown human (why is it always humans? Like, seriously? I mean, there’s a couple of half elves over there, heck, there’s even a dragon born, but this one human won’t get his freaking curvy sword out of my face. YES, I SEE THAT IT’S SHARP. SO IMPRESSIVE. WHAT, DO YOU WANT ME TO DRAW A PICTURE OF IT FOR YOU? DO YOU WANT ME TO CLAP? WHY WON’T YOU JUST LEAVE ME ALONE?), and there’s also quite a difference in athletic ability between the two of us. Well, there’s also the fact that he’s armed, I’m not, plus he took my bag away, which contained all of my weapon and healing potion.
“I can tell that you’re a fighter, aren’t you?” He leaned in, examining my face. For some reason, he’s started doing that recently.
“Um, well, I kinda live on my own, so I have to be.”
“You any good?”
“Well, I like to think so.”
“Train anywhere?”
“A monestary. Left when I was young.”
“How old are you now?”
“Um… thirteen.”
“Shit, you’re short for a thirteen year old.” He put his blade back at my neck. “You’re lying, right? You’re not that small and that old. You know what I do to liars?” He traced the blade up my neck and slashed it across my chin. “Eh, you’ve got some nice looking blood, there. Who knows how much someone could pay for someone with such… nice looking blood.” Oh, no. Suspicions had crossed my mind as to who these people were, but I didn’t want to think about that. I needed to get out of here. I needed to get back to… where again? What place did I have in the world? Was this really some horrible crime, the same way it was a horrible crime to steal a child from a waiting parent? I had no parents, no family, not even a home. So why did I feel such a strong urge to fight against them? And yet, and yet I still had some urge to fight, even though I’d probably end up in some horrible situation regardless of what I did.

Gosh, how I wished I had fought. Note to self: no matter how scary your attacker is, who they work for is always going to be scarier. Especially if they’re trying to sell you off specifically because of the blood in your veins. Goodness, why did they even want to sell me off because of my blood, anyway? I mean, sure, I have a strong heart and strong, full veins to match it. Sure, I probably was in good enough condition that I wouldn’t die instantly. But this was honestly the stupidest thing I could think of. I ean, gnomes don’t even have that much blood, given how freaking tiny they are. Well, then again, no matter how scary this person was, they were obviously really, really stupid. Like, really idiotic. But hey, so far they’ve apparently made some cash on something that came out of my own body. Who knows, maybe they’re trying to get money from smuggling gnome blood onto the market for tiny blood transfusions or something. Goodness, I must just be getting so faint to the point where I’m just thinking up a bunch of random shit. I mean, the other day, I had this weird thought: what if I just, like, broke my way out of here, found the guy who took my stuff, beat the crap out of him, and then danced away into the sunset. Oh wait, my bag’s right there. Eh, I guess they’re gonna try and sell that, too. Oh wait, someone’s coming.
“-stupid idea. I mean, he’s got so little blood in him-“
“But it’s good quality. I mean, everyone else from that lot had some sort of disease, or their blood was poor quality, or they didn’t have enough iron in their blood,, or they tried to escape and got killed. Plus, this is just to tide us over until we can get some real money.” Oh, Avandra, please grant me luck. I’m gonna need it while I do this stupid ass thing. As the pair entered the room, I somehow managed to break out of the piece of rope that was keeping my leg tied to the wall (honestly? One piece of rope? I mean, I had only been picking at the individual strings for hours, but it’s still pretty dumb), grabbed my bag, and ducked between their legs as I ran off as fast as I could. I downed the rest of my heath potion, threw it over my shoulder, and refused to look back, even when a few arrows whizzed past my head.

“God, that was awful,” I muttered to myself as I woke up the next morning. There had been someone kind enough to lend me a room for the night in the next town over, even if they had eyed me suspiciously. Next time, if someone came near me, I would beat the living crap out of them, regardless of how pointy their weapon was.

View
A Bloody Misunderstanding (pt. 2)

Over and over, he turned it in his hands, trying to figure out what had happened. There was a dead cleric wearing some sort of religious medallion, laying in the middle of the woods near a cave. Was it a random murder? Or was there something else? Usually unlooted bodies weren’t just found as such for no good reason.

Nyssa eyed the medallion and sighed. Whatever, he’d just head back to camp. He’d walked around the area a few times, and besides this body and the cave, there wasn’t anything of much interest.

Hopefully, they still have some food left for me.

Still unsettled by the corpse, he turned to leave, heading back into the underbrush—

A snarl tore through the night.

“Don’t move,” ordered an icy voice, and Nyssa froze, even as his hands flew to the hilts of the axes on either hip. He slowly looked up. As he watched, a tiger emerged from the shadows of the trees, teeth bared and blood flecking its coat, while on its back sat a halfling woman with an eyepatch, one of her hands encased in flickering flames. The woman eyed him coolly, before asking, “Who are you?”

Nyssa automatically raised his hands into the air, showing he meant no harm. “I’m—”

The woman’s eye widened, and the fire in her hand petered out abruptly, while the tiger gave a sort of disgruntled noise. “You’re my contact.”

He trailed off, somewhat speechless. What in Avandra’s good name was this lady on about? Contact? He’d just been on patrol! Warily, Nyssa lowered his hands to rest on his axes’ hilts, but didn’t otherwise move. “Contact?” he echoed.

The other halfling shot him an unimpressed glance as she slid off the tiger’s back, the ease and grace of which she did so hinting at years of repetition. “Yes, my contact. Our mutual…friends sent me out here to deal with the problem? You’re to guide me to the den.” Despite her clear impatience, there was a soothing tone to her voice, as if he was a skittish horse she was trying to tame.

Nyssa blinked. Mutual friends…? Who the hell…oh, maybe she was referring to the rest of the group? It wouldn’t have been the first time they’d ran into some other travelers. “By problem, are you referring to the ones who did this?” he asked, pointing to the body of the dead cleric.

The halfling’s gaze narrowed, and her lips cocked in an angry sneer. “Slavers,” she spat. “They kill anyone who won’t look the other way or submit.”

Anger at the injustice began to curdle, hot and low, in Nyssa’s stomach as he looked at the corpse anew. “Slavers did this?” he demanded.

She nodded her head, shifting her weight slightly so it was baring onto her staff.

Nyssa took a long look at the dead cleric’s face, sex indeterminable but terror still frozen on their face, and scowled. “Disgusting,” he declared. If slavers were the ones who did this, he’d have to make them pay for such injustice—murderers, the lot of them. Nyssa stuck out his left hand, as his right was still holding the medallion, and the other halfling took it after half a heartbeat.

“Nyssa.”

“Vlita Kithra.”

“I look forward to working with you, Vlita.”

Vlita’s brows furrowed. “Working with me? I was under the impression you were just to lead me to the den.”

The den? What den? Nyssa frowned, thinking hard, before remembering the cave. Caves were like dens, right? He shook his head. “No, I couldn’t just leave these fiends to you alone. They have to be stopped.”

The halfling tilted her head in his direction. “I’m glad you agree, Nyssa. I’ll be sure to report your helpfulness and dedication. Now, where is the den?”

Nyssa led her, through the crumbled rock and fallen boulders that littered the mountain slope, towards the mouth of the cave he had seen during his passthrough of the area. Every once in awhile he glanced over his shoulder, making sure Vlita and her tiger were still there—they made no noise as they walked over the patches of loose earth and stone, making them ghostly shadows amidst the landscape, and the only glimpses of them he caught were tinted in red from the full moon above.

As they twined behind a large boulder that had been driven into two by its long fall, the halfling glanced behind once more and let out a yelp as he came face-to-face with Vlita. The sharp noise echoed through the mountainside, and she hurriedly clamped a hand over his mouth, baring down on him with a fierce scowl as she demanded, “What are you doing? Do you want them to know we’re here?”

Nyssa shook his head violently, and then pleaded, his words muffled around her hand, “Can you please stop doing that?”

“Doing what?” she hissed, voice low.

He wiped the back of his mouth with his hand after she removed hers, retreating back several spaces so there was more than a hair’s breadth between them. “Being all…quiet. It’s creepy.”

Her one black eye narrowed at him. “It’s common protocol. You’re the one lumbering around like a lame elephant in all that armor of yours.”

“Hey, it stops me from getting killed.”

“Just be quiet,” she snapped.

Nyssa awkwardly scratched the back of his neck and offered a sheepish smile. “Will do, Vlita.”


The two halflings stood before the mouth of the cave, squinting against the darkness.

“Is this the place?” Vlitha asked, her voice barely audible.

Nyssa peered into the lightless cavern, and made a sort of shrugging motion. “I think…? I can’t really see that well, though.” He was pretty sure, considering this was the only cave he’d seen, but he supposed there was always the possibility that there was a second or third one around.

She turned to look at him, and as she did so Garon’s light caught on the metal clasps of her eye patch. A brilliant thought struck him. “Hey!” he said in an excited whisper. “I hear that pirates wear eyepatches so one eye is always adjusted to the dark. Can you—”

“I only have one eye,” she said shortly. “The other is gone.”

“Ah.”

Vlitha furrowed her brows, straining to see into the formless shadows before turning, face taut with anger. “Sahari says she smells that they’re down there,” she said, voice tight. “Can’t tell how many. Likely more than fifteen slavers.”

Sahari? Who’s that? The blond halfling blinked. “Who’s she? And why can’t she tell?”

Vlitha gestured sharply to the tiger besides her, her movements quick with what was clearly agitation. “She can’t tell because of the smell of all the fear,” she hissed.

Nyssa felt his face shutter, and his easy smile quickly fell away into a thin-lipped expression. There were slaves within, huh? Fearful ones. These slavers had already killed an innocent cleric, and were also in currently possession of slaves?

He shuddered to think what would’ve happened if Vlitha hadn’t found him. He didn’t want to know how the rest of his group came to know of these slavers, and what was so vile about them that made them send a complete stranger his way instead of coming to assist him themself, but based on what he’d heard so far there was no way they could let these slavers go unpunished.

“So, what’s the plan?” he whispered, removing his axes from their sheathes and taking comfort in their familiar weight.

Vlita gazed into the dark cave. “We’ll proceed as one unit,” she finally said after some time, voice quiet. “Whenever Sahari smells anyone close, I’ll scout ahead before signaling her, and she’ll signal you.”

“Got it.” He nodded.

And then, after a split second, Vlita turned into a mouse.


She crept, silent and quick, through the winding corridors of stone, sniffing every odd while and darting from shadow to shadow. The world loomed before her, large and unsettling, but now in faint shades of gray instead of pitch black.

No matter how many times she assumed the form of a mouse, she would never get use to it. Honestly, Kithra preferred that of a cat for both appearance and functionality, and the fact that they were inherently more graceful than a rodent, but if she was seen by any of the slavers a cat would be far more incriminating than a small black mouse who’d crept inside the cave for shelter.

Nyssa’s reaction had been…something to see in the least. Based off his startled look, she assumed he’d never seen a druidian transformation before. Surely, he hadn’t lived in seclusion all his life?

But then she remembered that the other halfling was no more than that: a mere halfling. Normal halflings weren’t raised around those of magical talent, she supposed, and he was obviously a warrior.

Regardless of either, she was pleasantly surprised when he had opted to join her. Most of their contacts were members who’d been undercover for a long time and were, consequently, quite skittish, or those on the inside of groups who’d offered up information in exchange for protection from the Cult. Nyssa was part of the latter group, based on what Phanen had told her. Still, although he seemed a bit confused in the head and somewhat…dim, not to mention forgetful, he had the necessary drive and will that would surely make him a valued member of the Cult after he went through training.

Kithra sniffed, following her nose through the next corridor and there, unsurprisingly, were two mangy guards, smelling of alcohol and sloppily observing the area before them. She paused for a moment, ran up between them, and squeaked.

“Ah?” the one on the left slurred, looking about.

Kithra squeaked again.

This time, the one on the left (who seemed to be far more sober than his companion), looked down. “It’s jus’ a wee mouse,” he told the other, waving his hand loosely. “Prob’y right scared of the big beasties outside.”

The drunken one squinted down at her, and frowned. “But I though’—I though’—”

“Ya though’ wha’, ya great oaf? That this wee little mouse,” the sober one gestured largely in her direction, “is somehow a mouse assasin? Ooh, fear the wee beastie, it’s come to eat yer face!”

“Oi, no need to be mean.”

“Yer dumber than a post, lad. If yer stupid enough to get sloshed when Taria is here, than tha’ alone gives me the right to shit on you.”

‘Two guards,’ she told Sahari, feeling her presence approach. ‘One drunk, one not. Kill them. If they raise the alarm after we’ve passed, there’ll be trouble.’

The two guards’ bickering faded away as she darted past them and continued on, scampering through the dark caverns and caves. They certainly had made it…extensive, in the very least. The cave had been hollowed out and passages had been chiseled through, clearly having the appearance of being man made rather than natural. Was this a more organized group than the Cult had originally assumed?

Taking note, she shoved the information away from later, pausing and heading towards the sound of voices.


Nyssa moved past the two guards that Sahari had just killed, eyeing her bloody teeth warily. He’d knocked them out, as per usual, but the tiger had torn their throats out soon after, apparently displeased with his softness.

But still, he supposed, they were in the right. These slavers deserved no mercy for what they’d done, and anyone who helped them were equally as guilty.

The blond adjusted his grip on his axes, following Sahari as she faded in and out of the shadows, golden eyes glinting off the lanterns that now dotted the walls. Apparently, Vlita had found no more resistance ahead, as the tiger hadn’t signalled him again. It was strange—he’d never seen anyone turn into a mouse before, and after Vlita had darted off into the darkness Sahari had shot him the most unimpressed look he’d ever seen on an animal.

Perhaps she was more intelligent, since she was Vlita’s companion…? Ah, Avandra, he didn’t know how magic worked, nor did he particularly want to.

Lost in his thoughts, he very nearly missed Sahari’s soft growl and the warning whip of her tail, but managed to catch himself just in time. He smiled apologetically at her, and she scoffed in response, but turned and headed down a more darkened corridor, laying her ears flat against her head and turning easy lope into a predatory prowl.

Carefully, he followed, wincing at every screech his armor made and feeling like it echoed down the long hallway.

Eventually, the two of them emerged at the end, and what Nyssa saw made his heart stop. In the tavern below, a large group of what were clearly slavers milled about, all grunting orders at each other and laughing. A woman clad in fanciful clothing was in the center, noticeable by the way the crowd parted around her.

“Slavers,” he growled, flipping his axes around in his hands, and Sahari softly snarled her agreement. It occurred to him that the tiger had brought him there for a reason and he lowered himself down into a crouch, minimizing the chance someone could see him from below as he asked: “Is Vlita down there?”

She rumbled in affirmation.

Nyssa shifted, feeling sweat gather on the back of his neck. There were so many. Most of them appeared to be men, but there were also women scattered about, all of them scarred and mean with the exception of the gilded one that strode about like a queen. Regardless of gender, however, one thing was for certain: all of them were human.

He narrowed his eyes at the mob, trying to access whether they had weapons or not, when a question occurred to him. Slowly, he turned to Sahari.

“When are we—?”

Before he could even get the question out, the tiger was leaping over the edge of the overhang and into the crowd of people; cursing, he quickly followed, wincing at the yells and shouts that assaulted his ears.

He supposed it wasn’t everyday you saw a large, bloodthirsty tiger coming from above.

There was a scream as Sahari snarled, and he turned, fixing her in his field of vision as she tore a man’s throat out, spraying blood across the nearby humans and the floor.

And then there was chaos.

Rallying cries were heard and weapons were drawn, and as Nyssa danced between them all his axes felt like deadly extensions of his arms, flaying all who got in his way. He shoved them into bone and muscle, carving out holes where there hadn’t been before and being continually thankful for his armor after he felt attack after attack land on his back, left undefended whenever he struck.

Between the streaks of blood and violence, however, he wondered where Vlita was. Had she already died? Did she flee? No, she seemed far too noble to flee. Dead, then…?

Screams filled the air.

From the shadows burst Vlita, terrifying with the flames riding across her skin and making her look like some sort of evil deity raised out of the deepest, darkest pits of the earth. Nyssa couldn’t watch, too busy driving the blades of his axes into the vulnerable flesh of the evil, screeching slavers that surrounded them, spitting oaths and curses, but every odd heartbeat he’d hear a scream that he knew he didn’t cause and smell burning flesh, and knew that she had hit her mark.

Sahari was her own sort of terrifying monster; large and heavy and strong, she ripped her way through the humans as if they were wet parchment. Blood and gore splattered across the cavern floor, painting it slick and red—Nyssa felt it flek his hair and skin as he chopped through another, indistinguishable arm, narrowly dodging a limb that flew through the air and landed somewhere on the floor with a wet noise.

His stomach rolled.

Behind him, he could hear the tiger and Vlita snarling and roaring as if they were both wild, untamed beasts, in symphony to the wails and screams of the dying men. Gritting his teeth, he stared at the limb for a heartbeat longer before whirling around, slicing through a woman who had just leapt at him, sword positioned to run through his neck.

They were murderers, thieves, slavers—they deserved no justice, let alone his pity.

View
When Belle gets romantic
A dysfunctional OT3 born from a blackmail

Past curfew. Stranger in the dorm room. Interacting with the enemy. There were a thousand reasons not to let Toska into his room, but Lenny didn’t particularly care. If the cult wanted to keep him from “meandering out of the path of Basilis,” they would have to do a better job. Plus, Lenny had heard that having a cat lie next to you was a dream come true, but no feline could hold a candle to Toska. Just having them in close proximity made Lenny feel so much better.
“Hey,” Toska murmured. “Are you sure that you won’t get in too much trouble?”
“Oh, relax. What’re they gonna do if we do? Kick me out? I can fend for myself alright.”
“Not if you’re dead.”
“Calm down, Toska! No one is gonna walk in on-”
“LENDALLLLL?!?!” A high pitched scream echoed from the doorway. Crap, Lenny had forgotten about his scary half-mer roommate, whose sole purpose was to keep him on the straight and narrow. Her black eyes darted between him and Toska, the pieces seemingly coming together in that little cannibalistic brain of hers. However, she still felt the need to be coy.
“What’re you up to there, ‘love’?”
“Funny you should ask. I was… we were… shit, I haven’t had enough alcohol to handle this situation well. Belle, meet Toska. Toska, meet my scary, cannibal half-mer roommate. As the name implies, she eats people. And she likes it.” Lenny gave Belle a little wink. “Go on. Go run off to Phanen. Go tell him, ‘Oh good golly gee! Lenny’s kissing someone in the dorm room! Oh when, when will I be free from such, such scandal! Oh, oh dear old Phaney-poo, whatever shall I do?’” Lenny dramatically sighed and pretended to faint back onto his bed where Toska was now sitting, cautiously eyeing Belle.
“That’s enough from you. I’m well aware that Phanen won’t give a shit. But do you wanna know who might give a few shits? Kithra. Your more immediate superior.” Belle leaned in closer. “In fact, something tells me she might give quite a few shits. Maybe even a small collection of shits.” Even closer. “Or she might just lose her shit.” Lenny swallowed dramatically.
“Alright, you have my attention. What do you need from me to keep this hush-hush?”
“Oh nothing much from that cute little boyfriend of yours-”
“Not a boy.”
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe a finger? An arm? Hell, if you want to keep me quiet for at least a week, maybe even a leg.” Toska began to shrink away from Belle with an unmistakable expression of fear.
“Ah, calm down, Belle. All of Toska’s parts are so out of your league. Plus, I think you’re scaring them. So, aside from cutting my significant other into little pieces and feeding your jealous rage, what do you want? Money? Booze? Seriously.”
“Hmm, well now that you mention it Lenny, I could settle for something else. So come on, make me an offer.”
“Ah… I’ll give you a pair of pants.”
“Gross.”
“This week’s supply of alcohol?”
“Even more gross. You’re not doing yourself any favors.” She turned away from Lenny and glared straight at Toska.
“So,” she purred. “What can you offer me? Wanna become an organ donor? You could save a life.”
“Whose?” Toska whined.
“Well,” Belle exposed her sharp teeth. “Yours, of course.”
“Okay, good talk.” Lenny got up from the bed and grabbed Belle’s hand. “Yup, this was a fun time. And let’s all agree never to ever repeat this or speak of it, because this is all one pile of awkward. Love, sorry to drag you into my long standing rivalry with little Ms. Hannibal over here-”
“Aw,” Belle pouted ‘cutely’. “That’s the name that you used to call me. What, am I suddenly not good enough for you?” Lenny stepped back about half a foot, rattled.
“Are… are you being serious?”
“Do I sound like I’m joking, Lendall? My name is ‘beautiful.’ Regardless of whether we’re just roommates, or romantically involved, or even if we’re just friends, are you telling me that that,” she jabbed a claw in Toska’s direction, “is more beautiful than me?”
“Aw, come on. That’s racist.” Lenny smirked as he swallowed his first drink of the night.
“Lenny. I’m being serious right now. I’m really not in the mood for being cast aside like a tool that’s lost all function. I wanna be INCLUDED.” She pouted once again as she whined at Lenny.
“Like, included included? Like, in this relationship?”
“What else could I mean?” Lenny stopped dead in his tracks, as if what she had said finally made sense.
“You want to be in a romantic relationship with me, and a gnome you just met?” He turned to Toska briefly. “No offense, of course.” Suddenly, his eyes went wide as he gulped down his second drink of the night.
“Oh wow. This is strong stuff. Here Toska, do you think that this is too strong?” Too late, Lenny had realized his mistake. The stuff raced through Toska’s body faster than Oatus at top speed. Within five minutes, Toska was shouting “OT3! OT3! OT3!” almost loud enough for Kithra to notice.
“Mmm yes,” Belle grinned excitedly. “This is going to be so. Much. FUN!”

“Ah, Toska?”
“Yeah, Irren? What is it?”
“Um, well, I knew that your boyfriend was coming over, but I wasn’t expecting… this. Sit tight, I’ll get the mop.” Lenny was shaking his head, trying to apologize to all of Toska’s friends, occasionally staring back at Belle. Forget the original squirrel fiasco, this had become a squirrel massacre. On the way to Haven, Belle had found a hole filled with what she referred to as “afternoon snacks,” but she hadn’t anticipated that having Toska carry them in their bag would result in a large squirrel attack… on Toska. Lenny had swatted a couple down with his ukulele, but they had fought a majority of the squirrels inside the cabin. Once they were all off of Toska, Belle had gotten a little too excited. Irren, Lucy, and Adaka had all watched in horror as Belle went after every single furry creature. At some point in time, Irren had even clutched his bag and had started whispering, “don’t look, Coop” into it. So much for the nice lunch they had all planned. Irren returned with a mop and began cleaning the blood off the floor while Belle finished the last creature off.
“Okay, so I know that Lenny’s your boyfriend, and I have no idea who that is, so… introductions?” Toska looked at Irren for a couple seconds, before taking a deep breath.
“Ooookay, SO, this is Lenny, he’s my boyfriend, and he’s also Belle’s boyfriend. Belle is my girlfriend, and she’s also Lenny’s. The three of us are dating.”
“Yup,” Lenny sauntered forward. “So everyone, find something sturdy and hold on tight, because our beautiful poly relationship will blow you away, into a world of rainbows, unicorns, and a lot of fanfic.” He smirked at Eilwen and sauntered over to Belle, who had just officially destroyed his appetite for the next few days.

“Okay, Toska, remember that you are a lot smaller than everyone, so you need to use that to your advantage. Be quick!” Toska and Lenny toppled to the floor once again, Toska trying to wiggle themself out of Lenny’s grip.
“Six, seven, eight… ten! Yay, I won again!” Lenny laughed as he pulled Toska back to their feet. “Wanna call it a night?”
“Nope. Let’s go again.” Toska brought their hands up in front of them again.
“Aw but Tos, I don’t wanna hurt you. Here, why don’t you go a round with Belle?” Belle sat up from eating yet another disgusting meal, her eyes glinting with competitive spirit.
“Aw, I feel the love already. Ok, Toska, are you ready?” Toska shook their head vigorously, aware of the blood that surrounded Belle’s gaping maw.
“Sure you are. I have faith in you. Belle, are you- oh, nevermind. You’re always ready. Ok, GO!” Poor Tos tried to dodge out of Belle’s way, but she was too quick for them. With a single swipe, she knocked Toska off of their feet, and caught them in the air, their cape dangling from Belle’s hand.
“Um Belle, you know this isn’t…it’s not-”
“Down you go, shorty!” Belle screeched as she drove Toska into the floor.
“Belle it isn’t-”
“Die, tiny scum!”
“It’s not serious fightin-”
“Ha! What’s the matter? Too weak?”
“Actually, Belle, it isn’t-”
“Ha! Got you now!” Belle picked Toska up and threw them across the room.
“BELLE! IT’S FLIRT FIGHTING!”
“Wait, what?” Bell took her foot off of Toska’s chest.
“Yeah. It’s not serious. I mean, come on, Toska’s amazing at hand-to-hand combat. I’m not gonna fight them all out.” Toska got up off the floor and doubled over, breathing heavily.
“Oh. Um. Sorry, love.” She picked Toska up, shook them a bit, and set them back on the ground. “But don’t get me wrong. If you dare assume that you’re Lenny’s favorite because he isn’t willing to go easy on you, I will rip your heart out and eat it myse-”
“BELLE! Please, work on your flirting, I think you traumatized them.”

Lenny could tell that this wasn’t going to work.
“Belle, I think you’re going a little far, here. I mean, I know that you’re basically blackmailing us, but I think that you’ve gone far enoug-”
“Quiet down, Lendall. If you’re serious about me staying quiet, then we’re gonna do this. Now,” she turned back to Toska, who was practically shaking by this point. “Where were we?”
“Belle, come on, you’re destroying my relationshi-”
“Oh, you mean our relationship?” Belle held Toska close to her, the same way she had seen them and Lenny curled up together when she had first walked in on the couple. “Well, Tos? Do you love me?” Toska flinched a little as they tried to form coherent words. Lenny shook his head. He should have seen it coming. He had seen this a thousand times. Belle wasn’t trying to have a romantic relationship. She was playing with her food.
“Belle-”
“Um, I… I, ah-”
“Belle!”
“Yes, my love?”
“Leave them alone. You’ve already asserted your dominence enough, don’t you think? What is it you want? Hm? Do you want me to go hunt you a squirrel? A deer? Heck, I’ll even hunt you a dragon if you want. Well, what is it? Anything you want. Just. Leave. Them. ALONE.” Belle’s eyes widened a bit before she threw back her head and laughed.
“What, like I didn’t already tell you? I don’t need much, just an arm, maybe a leg-” Quick as a lightning bolt, Toska leaped out of the bed and into Lenny’s arms.
“Um, ah, I think your roommate-”
“Yeah. She’s talking about your arm, specifically.”
“She wants to-”
“Yup.”
“What should I-”
“Well, I’d suggest you get the hell out of here.” Kithra’s voice echoed across the room. Sahari let out a mighty growl. “After all, WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, TARNISHING BASILIS’S NAME BY BRINGING THIS-THIS OUTSIDER IN HERE!”
“Calm down, Kithra, it’s no big deal. I was just hanging out with m- GAH!” Lenny ducked under the wooden chair that came hurtling towards his head.
“I SWEAR ON BASILIS HERSELF, IF SHE-”
“Not a girl.” Kithra turned towards Toska, fuming.
“Alright, sorry. Carry on.” Kith took a long, deep breath before continuing, slightly calmer now.
“If this character isn’t out of your dorm with all of… their stuff in the next sixty seconds, you’ll have Sahari to answer to. And she’ll be a lot less understanding.” With that, Kithra turned around and stomped out of the room, Sahari trailing close behind. The door slammed as Belle turned towards Lenny and Toska with a sheepish half-smile.
“So… here we are. I think some apologies are owed, some hugs are to be had. I, for one, would like to say I’m sorry for, uh, going a bit overboard on intensity…” Toska and Lenny were totally unamused. The room was totally silent for about ten seconds before Belle spoke again.
“Wanna make out?”
“Get out.”

View
Is love always lovely in the end?
Rated R for “RIPPING YOUR HEART OUT, STEPPING ON IT, AND LEAVING IT IN THE DUST TO WHITHER AND DIE IN AGONY”

The branches of the forest tore at their clothes, both of them panting as they ran as fast as they could. Toska glanced up at Lenny, who grinned with that idiotic smile and pulled them along.
“So, where are we going?” Toska panted. The directions in the letter had been rather vague, revealing nothing about their getaway other than five simple words: “Meet me in the forest.”
“Oh, you’ll see, love. It’s gonna be tons of fun.” There Lenny was, out of breath, sweating from running so far, and yet, he still had that stupid grin on his face.
“So, how’d you get out this time? It’s after curfew in the dorns, right?”
“Oh, I just waited for my guard dog- um, I mean, I waited for Belle to fall asleep. Once she’s out, she doesn’t wake up for hours. Though it is kind of hard to pick a lock with a half-mer snoring in your face. Especially when you leave your tools in your tent and only have a half-empty rum bottle at your disposal. What about you?”
“Oh,” Toska smiled. “Eilwen let me out.”
“Really? It seems like she’s the only one between either of our posses that supports us.”
“Yeah. She said something about me ‘living my dreams’ and ‘being so, unfathomably adorable.’ But wow, the stuff she writes in her journals about us- I’d say she likes our relationship, to say the very least.” Lenny threw back his head and laughed as loudly as his exhausted lungs would allow.
“So, you never answered my question.”
“Hm? What was it?”
“Where are we going?” Toska eyed Lenny suspiciously. “Or are we just gonna hang out under this tree? Well, hang out, possibly make out, fake out our companions and lead them to believe that we sleepwalk.” Lenny wiggled his eyebrows and led Toska to a clearing.
“Well, actually, I think you’re gonna be pretty pleased with the date I have planned for tonight. In fact, I think it’s better than the last one you planned.”
“What? What could possibly be better than robbing a field of potatoes?”
“Sure, it was a nice touch that some were fermented, but it’s not exactly, uh, ‘romantic,’ or ‘action-packed,’ or ‘fun.’” Toska stared at Lenny with curiosity and hints of suprise.
“Well, at least not nearly as much as this!” Lenny skipped in a small circle around Toska, then sprinted to the nearest tree, reaching behind it to reveal the present he had bought (spelled S-T-O-L-E) for Toska.
“Oh my gosh.” Toska’s eyes widened as their hands clasped around the bow. It was smooth and wooden, and yet it seemed almost as if it had been made just for them. Normally, any bow was either far too large for Toska to use, or had been made in such a rush that it was fairly poor quality.
“Lenny, where could you have possibly stolen a bow this… perfected from?” He smiled coyly and, from his pocket, produced a small pocket knife.
“It only took me three months. Happy anniversary, Tos!” Lenny handed Toska an arrow, pointing to the exact spot on the bowstring they should place it on.
“Ok. So you just pull it back and-”
“TOSKA? ARE YOU HERE? TOSKAAAAAA?” Lenny jumped back, startled, and landed in one of the bushes face-first.
“Toska? Where are- oh, there you are.” Irren came lumbering out of the forest, clutching Toska’s bag in one hand and his glaive in the other. “Oh gosh, I was worried about you. I thought you had been kidnapped or something.”
“What?” Toska quickly bulled the bow behind their back, careful not to let Irren see and possibly confiscate the beautiful gift Lenny had given them. “Doesn’t that imply that I’m a kid?” Toska laughed nervously, eyeing Irren and hoping that he’d laugh back.
“Well, I wasn’t sure if someone had gotten confu- wait. Do you hear something?” Irren turned to the bushes where Lenny’s left foot was still poking out. Irren snarled and grabbed it, pulling
Lenny out into the open.
“WHO ARE YOU?” Irren screamed, almost positive that Lenny had tried to hurt his companion.
“No, Irren, stop! Cut it out, you big buffoon! That’s my boyfriend!”
“Yeah, hands off the precious cargo!” Lenny struggled furiously, but unsurprisingly, his small halfling body was unable to escape the grip of a large rock beast.
“Wait, is this the guy Eilwen keeps telling me about? Isn’t he.. isn’t he an assassin?”
“Wha-why would you think that?” Lenny laughed nervously.
“Ah, because Eilwen told me so. Because Toska talks in their sleep now, apparently. Oh yeah, by the way, Toska, you’re hanging out with an assassin.”
“So?”
“SO? Do you know what assassins do for a living? They kill people! How do you know that this precious ‘boyfriend’ of yours isn’t trying to murder you?”
“Why would anyone-”
“Think about it for a moment, Toska. There have been so many attacks on Haven within the last three months. All of them have been targeting us, specifically. Some of them are angry about Balthazar-”
“Wait, you’re the ones who trapped Balthazar?” Lenny’s eyes began shifting back and forth between Toska and Irren.
“See? They know each other. Also, remember Toska, I do have a bit of… what do you call it again? Psychic ability. This guy has been trained to kill, to never look back, to never doubt any assignment he’s been given. He may snark and retort, and given his attitude, I bet he does, but that never stops him from doing it. How long is it going to take before he gives in and carries your dead body back with him?”
“Well, buster, funny you should mention ‘doubts,’ because first of all, I have quite a few doubts about my superiors, and second, I have a few more doubts about the likes of yOOF!” Lenny was immediately silenced when he landed face first in the dirt a few feet away.
“Come on, Toska,” Irren glared at Lenny as he picked up his companion. “We’re going home. You’ll be safe there. And,” Irren turned back to Lenny. “If I ever see you anywhere near Toska again, I will personally kill you.”
“If you ever see me again, buddy, you won’t be seeing much else afterwards,” Lenny, of course, felt the need to retort, and paid for it dearly with another cloud of dirt becoming acquainted with his face.

“Irren, come on. You can’t do this to me!” Toska pounded on their room’s door, but it wouldn’t budge.
“Sorry, Toska. I really don’t want to do this, but it’s for your own good. Trust me, you’re much better off this way.” Eilwen sat on her bed, biting back tears as she read through her fanfiction one last time.
“Irren! Honestly, what the hell? Do you really think that this is going to solve anything? Do you really think that shutting them in here is going to do anything? I wrote you to be so much more open-minded!”
“Quiet, Eilwen! This is your fault too, you’re the one who told me about this guy in the first place. Plus, which would you rather have? Toska being a bit upset? Or Toska being dead? I could just tell, Eilwen. Blame me for being close-minded, I don’t care. I’m doing whatever it takes to keep our group safe.” Toska growled a few insults as they tried to push the door open, but it was much too heavy with Irren propping against it. After seven tries, Toska was so tired that spots began to dance in their vision.
“You can come on out now, Eilwen. I think Toska would like to be alone for a while.” Eilwen gave Toska a quick glance of sympathy as they placed Toska back on their bed, before opening the door and slipping through.’
Time passed. Slowly, at first, the minutes stretched on until they felt like hours. Then hours became like days, days became nights, and nights became unbearable. Their isolation stretched into eternity until a soft knock broke them from their lonely thoughts.
“Um, Toska?” Eilwen’s soft voice resonated through the door.
“What?” Toska snapped in return.
“You have some… unmarked mail here for you. Um, I don’t want to get your hopes up, but I think it might be from-”
“Slide it under the door.” The yellowed envelope made its way into their room, and Toska snatched it up just as quickly.

Hey Tos,
Gosh this sucks, doesn’t it? It’s been so long since we’ve seen each other. Pity our last date had quite a rocky end (god, don’t you love puns?). Well, I miss you a bunch. Belle’s some pretty shitty company, and everyone’s acting like I’ve done something absolutely horrible. Hey, did you know that when a tiger bites your arm, it hurts a lot? Anyway, I’m pretty much stuck on lockdown. Which sucks, because I had a really great date planned. Like, I’ve gotten so lonely that I’ve just started creating hypothetical dates. For when we see each other again (which will likely only happen in our dreams), would you rather go on a romantic tour of some random village on horseback (Oatus, of course) while I strum a wonderful love song that makes your heart burst? Or would you rather I meet up with some less-scary half mers and see if they could find us a cool getaway on one of the Ys islands? I’ve heard that there are some pretty cool pirate gangs there. Either way, I hope it’s better than getting a failed archery lesson rudely interrupted by a sentient piece of rock.
Well, I hope I see you again sometime!
Love,
Lenny, your knight in shining purple pants

Toska paused for a moment, considering their options and courses of action. After a short while, they turned to Eilwen.
“Would you be willing to do me a favor?” Eilwen’s eyes lit up slightly.
“What kind of favor?”
“I’m going to need something delivered.”

The letters were exchanged back and forth for days, then for weeks, then months. There were short updates on the going-ons in their respective parties, conversations about their feelings and desires, and general proclamations of love. Slowly, however, they began to develop from updates and ideas into plans. Ideal circumstances were lain out, excuses were thought of, and specific locations, events, and durations were thought of. Then one day, Eilwen arrived in her and Toska’s room, at the regular time, but not with the same news.
“Toska, this letter looks different. It’s not yellowed or covered in horse spit at all, it’s covered in intricate pink and purple patterns and borders, and it has your name on the front in cursive. I think it may be special.” Curiosity piqued, Toska grabbed the envelope and tore it open.

Toska,

Please meet me at noon tomorrow about a thousand miles out of Haven where the rivers meet, where we won’t be found. I’d like to have a brief archery lesson since we didn’t finish ours two months ago. I look forward to finally seeing you in person again.

Love,
Lendall

“Damn!” Eilwen shouted from right next to Toska, causing them to topple off of the bed. Eilwen had clearly been reading over their shoulder.
“Not even one exclamation point? And he called himself Lendall! Lendall! Is that even a name? Clearly he’s trying to be fancy for some rea- hey, where are you going?” Toska stood in the doorframe, bow in one hand, letter crumpled in the other, and quiver slung across their back.
“Well, if I’m gonna walk one thousand miles, I ought to get moving, right?” They left the room gracefully, leaving Eilwen alone on the bed, eyes sparkling and jaw on the floor.

Lenny sat on a treestump strumming at his ukulele peacefully and drinking happily. He’d been preparing for this moment for quite a while now. Archery was on the menu, absolutely. But what he really had his eye on was a beautiful diamond ring in a box on the ground across from him. He had the perfect plan. Hide the ring among the foliage, have Toska shoot an arrow in that direction, and collect and return the ring instead of the arrow to propose. He’d rehearsed every variable over and over, just to make sure that as long as Toska had a shallow shot, which they definitely would due to their diminutive stature and lack of practice, he would be able to retrieve the ring and propose. It was perfect. The ring was planted and the plan was in motion. Lenny moved to a position in the bushes where he would wait for his love. For the next twenty four hours. Oh boy.

Toska knocked on the door of the old cabin, unsure of whether or not this was a good idea after all.
“Who is it?” A fragile voice called from the inside.
“It’s Toska. I’m a member of the-”
“Oh yes, yes. Please come right in.” Toska wandered inside, their eyes shifting around the cabin nervously.
“My dear, what brings you to my cabin?”
“Well, I need… a favor.” The older woman inside’s eyes lit up as she rushed over to Toska.
“Oh, it’s you. Of course, whatever you need. It’s the least I can do after all you’ve done for me.” Toska stared quizzically at her for a few seconds. Toska had never met this person, and yet they were talking as if they were long time friends.
“Ah.” The woman leaned in towards them, picking up on the confusion in their eyes. “My daughter. She’s in the infirmary now after last night’s attack.”
“Oh. I’m…I’m sorry to hear that.” Toska’s gaze dropped to the floor.
“Don’t be. If it wasn’t for you, she’d be dead. You are quite skilled, especially given the fact that…”
“Given what fact?” The woman’s eyes filled with sympathy.
“Given the fact that you look so upset. So please, anything I can do for you, just say the word.”
“Well, I need some help. You see, if I leave Haven, my companions will know, and they’ll come looking for me. I need to stay hidden for a little while. I heard rumors that you might be able to help.” The woman’s brow furrowed with concentration for a few seconds before she perked up once again.
“Ah! I have just the thing for you. It might be a… a little embarrassing, but I think you could pull it off quite nicely.” She walked over to what appeared to be a bedroom, and pulled a beautiful dress off of the bed.
“Um… what?” Toska’s jaw nearly dropped to the floor. What was this old woman thinking?
“You see, I’ve had a job as a tailor for many, many years. When my daughter was younger, she would always stare at the dresses in our shop with awe. When it… when it burned down, I managed to salvage a few that I had made for her when she was younger.” The woman took a few more steps towards Toska, who managed to stay frozen in place. “I know that it might make you a little uncomfortable, but it is likely the only thing in the entire house that will fit you.” Toska swallowed their complaints and took a few steps towards the woman.
“Okay. I’ll do it.”

The worst part of the disguise was the hair. Gone were the days of Toska’s hair fluffing up regardless of the circumstances, as the woman had put some substance in their hair that kept it laying flat against their head. The dress was almost the right size, except for the fact that Toska kept tripping over the hem. Their bow was still slung over one shoulder, their shurikens buried deep in the folds of the dress… just in case. But it was the first time in years that they hadn’t had their shirt or cape with them.
“I feel naked.” They kept muttering to themselves over and over again. Eventually, they got so engrossed in how awkward they felt that they hadn’t noticed the young man trailing behind them.
“Hey there, little lady. Looking good.” Toska stopped abruptly, and turned to face the man with the most enraged look Haven had likely ever seen.
“Utter those words to me again and I will personally split your skull.” The man’s face contorted with fear as they sprinted away as fast as possible. Toska scoffed and kept walking. Unfortunately, they walked straight into Elanan.
“Hey, watch where you’re-” Elanan’s snarky remark was cut short once he looked down.
“I should say the same to you.” Toska growled, marching around him as fast as possible. They ran to the place where their group’s horses rested, hopped on Adaka’s horse, and rode off to meet Lenny once again. Elanan watched as the mysterious stranger abruptly left the town, and reached down to pick up the single shuriken that had fallen off the horse.

Lenny still sat patiently, waiting for Toska to arrive. The river fork was a rather busy trade route, being the separation between Haven and Napolia, with Basilis just a few hundred miles north. Lenny had decided to choose a small forest clearing just off the main path where he could see the passerbys, but he still couldn’t be seen. Judging from the sun’s position in the sky, as well as the pocket watch he’d stolen off a noble, it was about noon, when Lenny agreed to meet, but the only people who had passed so far were a slightly-taller-than-average silver-haired elf, a rather old wilden hunched over on what could’ve been either a cane or an extra limb, and at present, an overly-feminine gnome wearing a bow on her back, walking slowly as she grumbled something about humiliation.
Wait. That was no ‘her.’
Lenny leaped out from his small hiding spot in the bushes, grabbed Toska by the shoulders, and they both tumbled to the ground in an interconnected somersault. It eventually devolved into a strange wrestle-cuddle combination in the center of a road in a crowded district. Toska was treated to Lenny’s rancid rum breath coming out of his stupid grin directly onto Toska’s face.
“Hey, you beautiful girl!” Toska immediately shoved Lenny off of them.
“Oh, shut up, it’s the only costume they had. What’s your excuse?”
“Wow, awfully rude way to talk to your instructor. Come back here, I found a perfect clearing for some archery practice. I want to at least teach you how to hold a bow without shooting yourself in the chest.”

They broke through to the small opening among the trees. Half of the space consisted of a rather small but still expansive open plain that led to the bordering river, and the border across the other half was filled with the lush, green trees and foliage that the couple had just broken through. Across the river was a single tall tree, the perfect target. Toska took their bow and got ready to draw back the string.
“Alright, love, let me show you how to show this.” Lenny tried to grab Toska’s arms, hoping to guide them towards a shallow shot, providing opportunity to grab the ring.
“Hey, watch those hands! Let me take a couple of practice shots, I wanna see what I can do with this baby.”
“Alright, Tos, if you insist. Just don’t hurt yourself.”
Toska raised the bow, pulled back the string, arrow cocked, and with perfect form, let loose. It went flying across the river and broke through the leaves in the tall tree on the opposite side.
“Wow. That was, um, at least a few hundred yards.” Toska beamed up at Lenny.
“Not bad, huh? I’ve been practicing a little bit. I wanted to surprise you!”
“Well, um, I’m certainly surprised.” Lenny looked down at his feet and kicked a bit of dirt around.
“What’s wrong? Is everything alright?”
“Um… yeah. In fact, everything’s really, really great. Hey Tos?”
“Yeah?”
“Um, so I was thinking. Ah, I’m just gonna come right out and say it: I love you. A lot. And I think that when you love someone this much… I think that it’s about time that I propo-” Suddenly, Lenny turned abruptly. Several feet away, there was a gang of ruffians, smirking as they watched the two of them.
“Aw. That’s so cute, isn’t it? Two young people fall in love, go run off where daddy can’t find them, maybe get married, have a couple of kids.” Toska stepped in front of Lenny instinctively, preparing to do the job they had kept for so long.
“Aw, well you see, sweetheart,” the one who seemed to be the leader pulled out a dagger. “That’s just not the way this fairy tale is gonna end. Now,” he turned back to his group. “How much do you think daddy’s gonna pay to see his little princess again? What, gnomes are generally pretty loaded. How many gold do you think we can get for he-” his sentence was cut short by the sound of Toska kicking him in the face. They glanced back at Lenny, who flashed them that stupid grin as he pulled another arrow out of his quiver.
“I don’t know, princess? Will you marry me if I chase away the bad guys for you? Isn’t that the way fairy tales go?”
“Well then,” Toska pulled an arrow of their own out of the folds of their dress. “You’d be best off finding a princess, wouldn’t you? My brave, idiotic knight in shining purple pants.” Lenny threw his head back and laughed as he let another arrow fly.
“You never actually answered my question.”
“What was that? Couldn’t hear you over the sound of me saving your ass!”
“I said,” Lenny punched another ruffian in the face before striding over. “Will you marry me?” Toska’s eyes went wide in suprise as they found themself speechless.
“Oh Lenny… I… oh wait, hold on just one little second.” The backflipped over an unconscious bandit in time to kick another in the face. “God, I hate this dress. I feel like I’m flashing everyone when I try to beat them up. Anyways, OH LENDALL THAT’S SO ADORABLE AND SWEET AND I JUST CAN’T-” Lenny stopped their wail by pulling them into a tight embrace. Toska stepped onto one of the bandits’ unconscious bodies in order to be a few inches taller, just tall enough to kiss Lenny on the lips.
“So, what do you say, love? Will you marry me?”
“Oh why of cou-” Toska was interrupted once more, but this time it was not love in Lenny’s eyes. He turned and fired an arrow into the bushes, freezing in place when a scream fired back at him.
“Lenny, oh shit, oh shit… that was Readam’s scream.” Toska followed the arrow’s path and
found Adaka murmuring soft words to Readam, holding her hand and pleading her to stay in control. Readam’s eyes had widened with shock. Irren and Lucy were crouched over her as well, Irren’s hand gripping his silver knife just in case. Eilwen had pulled the arrow out of Readam’s leg and was attempting to treat the wound without injuring her friend.
“Oh god,” Lenny took a step back, trying to process what he had done. “Readam, I am so-”
“Wow, Lendall, you really did a great job. This is a first.” Lenny turned to see his group smirking, Belle chomping down on some poor bandit’s arm.
“I… what?”
“Your new assignment. Straight from the higher ups. It seems as if you took out that other group. Very clever how you did it. Make the lycanthrope go out of control, kill a couple group members before eventually being killed by one of their own.”
“Lenny?” Toska’s eyes were wide with shock. “Is this true?” A tear was forming, threatening to spill.
“I swear, Toska, I never meant t-”
“Of course it’s true!” Kithra cut him off happily. “You did wonderfully!” Adaka was still holding on to Readam’s hand, who seemed to be retaking control.
“Toska, I promise, I didn’t want to… it wasn’t supposed to…”
“Lenny, I believe you, really I do. But right now I just need to-”
“Get away from him. You heard what he was trying to do to you, to all of us! Toska, look at him. What did I tell you? He’s been planning this since the moment he asked to meet you.”
“What? I didn’t-”
“Well, sure you did.” Belle piped up. “I mean, I haven’t see you this invested since we all slaughtered that village together.” Toska took another step back in fear.
“Toska, I swear, i didn’t-” Lenny’s sentence was cut short by Eldrazi placing a firm hand on his shoulder, wrapping another around his waist and picking him up off the ground.
“Eldrazi, let me go. Eld- TOSKA! TOSKA!” Lenny screamed as his githzerai friend hauled him away.
“Lenny?” Toska took a few steps forward, but slowly turned around, burying their head into Adaka’s shoulder. They stared back up at their companions, then turned back to where Lenny had been standing seconds before.
“I’ll never forget you, love.” They murmured as tears traced the side of their face.

The clearing was empty. The forest was sad and lonely once again, completely quiet.
“Ah, young love.” A fragile voice broke the silence as an old seamstress emerged from the underbrush nearby.
“It’s a truly beautiful thing. Poetic even. It’s like… Romeo and Juliet.”
The woman’s cloak fell from her body as she rose in stature, its wispy, gray hair turned pure white, and his voice fell low.
“Of course, we all know how that ended,” Phanen said in the lonely clearing, clutching a diamond ring. “Honestly, Lendall. True love always dies in the end. Any fairy tale you read will tell you that.” He placed the ring on the ground and crushed it under his foot. “Of course, this one has no ‘happily ever after.’”

View
Wait For It [Shadow of Basilis Reprise]

Wait For It — Hamilton

KITHRA
My parents, they wrote me a letter ev’ry day.
I know my bed would be cold without my Sahari
My team is on west side of Vale
We’re tryin’ to help the cult win a war
I know they’re not loyal. So,
Sahari, stay close

Love doesn’t discriminate
between the sinners
and the saints,
it takes and it takes and it takes
and we keep loving anyway.

We laugh and we cry
and we break
and we make our mistakes.
And if there’s a reason I’m on the right side
when so many have tried
then I’m willing to wait for it.
I’m willing to wait for it.

My father was a merchant of grandeur

ARATRIS (interjected)
Grandeur
Grandeur
Grandeur

KITHRA
But there are things that luxury and wealth won’t teach ya.

ARATRIS (interjected)
Teach ya
Teach ya
Teach ya

KITHRA
My mother was cordial

THAVA (interjected)
Cordial

KITHRA
My brother was a child of glee

ARATRIS (interjected)
Glee
Glee

KITHRA
When they died they left no instructions.
Just a world to redeem.

KITHRA/ARATRIS & THAVA
Death doesn’t discriminate
Between the sinners and the saints,
it takes and it takes and it takes
and we keep living anyway.
We rise and we fall
and we break
and we make our mistakes.
And if there’s a reason I’m still alive
when everyone who loves me has died
I’m willing to wait for it.
I’m willing to wait for it.
Wait for it.

ARATRIS & THAVA
Wait for it
Wait for it
Wait for it

KITHRA
I am the one thing in life I can control

ARATRIS & THAVA
Wait for it
Wait for it
Wait for it
Wait for it

KITHRA
I am inimitable
I am an original

ARATRIS & THAVA
Wait for it
Wait for it
Wait for it
Wait for it

KITHRA
I’m not falling behind or running late

ARATRIS & THAVA
Wait for it
Wait for it
Wait for it
Wait for it

KITHRA
I’m not standing still,
I am lying in wait

ARATRIS & THAVA
Wait
Wait
Wait

KITHRA
Phanen faced an endless uphill climb

ARATRIS & THAVA
Climb
Climb
Climb

KITHRA
He had something to prove
He had nothing to lose

ARATRIS & THAVA
Lose
Lose
Lose
Lose

KITHRA
Phanen’s pace is relentless
he wastes no time

ARATRIS & THAVA
Time
Time
Time

KITHRA
What’s it like in his shoes?
Phanen doesn’t hesitate.
He exhibits no restraint.
He takes and he takes and he takes
and he keeps winning anyway.
He changes the game.
He plays and he raises the stakes.
And if there’s a reason
he seems to thrive when so few survive,
the Goddamnit-

I’m willing to wait for it.

I’m willing to wait for it…
Life doesn’t discriminate
between the sinners and the saints
it takes and it takes and it takes
We rise.

We fall
And if there’s a reason I’m still alive
When so many others have died,
then I’m willin’ to-

ARATRIS & THAVA (at the same time)
I’m willing to wait for it.
Wait for it
Wait for…
I’m willing to-

Life doesn’t discriminate
between the sinners and the saints
it takes and it takes and it takes
and we keep living anyway,
we rise and we fall and we break
and we make our mistakes
and if there’s a reason
I’m still alive
when so many have died,
then I’m willing’ to-

KITHRA
Wait for it…

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