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Isada

Blog 217: Campaign Novelization

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Another character returns, and not really someone expected, either. Especially after the way their last encounter ended. That scene is actually in one of the older blog posts, Blog 212.

But, as always, all the background and earlier chapters are kept on Wattpad, FF, and AO3 in case more is needed.

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Chapter 28: Take Me Home, Country Road


Mathal laid awake until gray light filtered in through the blinds. She watched the bar-like shadows stretch and fade across the floor until she drifted off. She woke seconds later from a pounding knock on the door...at noon.


“Come eat,” shouted Gorvio.


She was hungry, starving by the sound of her stomach, but the mere thought of the effort it would take for her to get out of bed, walk to the door, and be around a bunch of witnesses while pretending last night never happened turned her bones to lead. She rolled onto her back and laid her pillow over the upper half of her face as a large, unwieldy sleeping mask.


“Pass.”


Something plinked against her window. It might’ve been rain. Plink. But the sound was a little too sharp. Plink. It was small and light. Plink, plink, plink.


“Mathal, about the day we stopped the apocalypse…”


She pulled the impromptu mask off her face. White powder streaked her window. Three chalk missiles plinked against the glass. She tumbled out of bed in a barefoot mess of wrinkles and tangles and stalked to the window. There was nothing outside.


“Can I come in?”


“No.”


She drew the blinds with a yank and forced up the squeaky window, hissing at the blast of heat and light. A chalk nib hurtled up from the alley. She crushed it to powder in her fist.


“Get the [redacted] out of here!”


“I get you’re angry, and you have every right to be angry, but if you could just hear me--”


Something large, solid, and invisible whooshed past her head. It landed lightly, on two feet. She faced the invisible thing in a ready stance. It wrote out words in chalk and Common on the floorboards: ‘We need to talk.’


“Moris?”


“You’re still angry about--look, with Tarvi up in those vampires’s faces, there was really nothing I--”


‘No. I’m here to talk, peaceably.’


“Fine.”


The cloaking invisibility opened up around a tall man in a ragged dress and a floppy hat. Mathal snarled quietly and threw herself at Crosael nails first. He caught her nails in his.


“You said talking would be fine,” he whisper-shouted.


“That was before I knew it was you,” she whispered back, witchlocks slamming at his face.


He deflected her hair off his forearm. She shifted her stance just enough that they thwacked the bed instead of the floor. Down and low, she snapped a kick at his knee.


Crosael shifted back toward the door, but she twisted in the air to roundhouse his temple. He had to physically block the kick, leaving his abdomen open. Her witchlocks slammed into his gut.


He hushed his grunt. One hand locked around her ankle and the other around the ends of her hair. He flung her onto the bed, pulling in opposite directions. Her nails stabbed through the mattress but let her land without a sound.


“We talk or I’ll break it.”


With a whispered roar of frustration, she grabbed her pillow and threw it at his face. It thwacked ineffectually, damaging only his look by knocking off the floppy hat.


“Are you done?”


“Yeah.”


He let go with a little shove so both feet landed on the bed. She sat at the head of the bed against the wall, knees curled to her chest. He sat gingerly at the other end, hunching with his feet on the floor and elbows on his knees.


“I got a dream from Mom last night. She tried contacting our older sibling, Silana--”


“Dead.”


Or undead, from the sound of it.


“Figures. And you--”


“De-souled.”


“Ah, that makes sense. Good luck with that.”


“How’d you find me me?”


“Your smell. Do you still have your magic?”


“You mean all that magic you stole?”


“Borrowed.”


“I haven’t tried casting. I have an aura that’s not mine.”


“But you do have one. That’ll be enough for her.”


“She’s...getting the coven back together.”


“She’s getting the coven back together.”


Temporarily. The Maggot-Tree, the tree she’d grown on a diet of her own flesh and blood over a nexus of ley lines to weave them to her designs, was under attack. It was her most valuable and dependable source of power given her fluctuating coven status. Without the Maggot-Tree, she was nothing but a hag so reclusive that she’d had to take up swamp-farming to make up for all the lost manflesh.


“I don’t fancy another visit from Mom in my dreams--”


“More like nightmares.”


“Indeed, so if you could get your answer to me ASAP, it would be very appreciated.”


“I’ll do it.”


“Really?”


Mathal shrugged. She had to get out of Westcrown. This wasn’t ideal, but a holiday in the swampy countryside might be just what she needed to clear her head. Whether or not she’d return to the city or simply head out into the unknown from there had yet to be decided, but she leaned toward the unknown.


“Pack up and say your goodbyes, then. Is there anywhere here large enough to hold a teleportation circle?”


“The kitchen.”


“Excellent.”


Crosael faded back into invisibility. Mathal punched where she’d last seen his shoulder.


“Stop that. You want to get exorcised out of here?”


“...no.”


Gorvio only stopped talking when she opened the door. His eyes darted from her to Crosael and back. Crosael offered a face-splitting grin.


“Morning.”


“What.”


“It’s a family matter.”


Gorvio escorted them down to the dining room where everyone else had gathered for lunch. Everyone but Tarvi froze. She jumped to her feet, chair clattering behind her. She brandished her frost dagger in one hand and her table knife in the other. She gave them both a hostile spin.


“It’s fine, Tarvi. He’s not here to fight. He’s here to take me home.”


“Oh, I’ve seen you. Majordomo, isn’t it? You’re not welcome here,” said Fiosa. “Larko, Sclavo, would you mind taking that [redacted-dacter] to the kitchen so he can draw his little circle and begone?”


That [redacted-dacter] left with Larko and Sclavo without a word. Only then did Tarvi relax her knife and dagger.


“Mathal? Can we talk?”


Fiosa stood up on her chair.


“Don’t mind me. Gorvio, let’s join the others.”


He carried her out on his back, leaving the mid-meal dining room to Tarvi and Mathal. Kulata was there too, slowly, ponderously chewing something on top of the table, but the devil didn’t count as an occupant. Tarvi hooked her arm around Mathal’s and brought her to the corner window.


“Mathal, I know you need time, and space, plenty of space, but this? Last time we saw Crosael, he was one, trying to earn his Mammon Coin, and two, trying to kill us. Trying to kill you in particular. This is a trap.”


“He could’ve killed me this morning.”


“So he didn’t kill you immediately. He could already be initiated, and his first mission is to take you in for a trial and execution.”


“I’ll take that chance.”


Tarvi threw up her hands.


“I get it. This isn’t about trust at all. You’re running away.”


“I’m going on holiday.”


“On holiday. With someone you hate. Back to some place that you left for the Orphanage?”


Mathal looked out the window into the bustling street. It was a far cry from the abandoned buildings and wreckage out her own window on the other side of the house. The wind kicked up and gusted through the window, blowing the rough, flowered curtains into her and Tarvi’s faces. Tarvi flung the curtain off her face.


“This is a mistake.”


She stormed out of the dining room and up the stairs.


“I’m inclined to agree but don’t let that stop you,” said Kulata.


Mathal wordlessly gave them another bird and left for the kitchen.


Everyone sat on the barstools on the other side of the kitchen’s main corner. Sclavo shook his head, arms crossed over his chest. Larko patted his shoulder but shook his head as well. Gorvio glared overtop of a cooling cup of tea. Fiosa sipped from hers, but her eyes never left Crosael.


Crosael crouched and walked a slow circle step by step. The chalk in his hand never left the floor as it flourished out the lines of the teleportation interconnected with the curls of unspeakable glyphs. He didn’t look up as Mathal entered, but his nose twitched and wrinkled.


“Are you ready to go?”


“Yeah. Fiosa, Larko, Sclavo--thanks for the hospitality.”


“Gorvio, too,” said Fiosa.


“Gorvio, too.”


“You don’t have to go alone,” said Gorvio.


“Trust me, you and Tarvi have way more important things to do here.”


“That’s true,” said Fiosa.


Crosael stood up, dusting his palms on the sides of his raggedy dress. An olive green glow flowered out from the center of the circle through every line and curl of chalk. The light rose as soft as smoke up from the floor to the kitchen ceiling. Where it touched, it left a phantom copy of the circle below.


“Crosael, will we have to clean this up? Off the ceiling?” asked Sclavo.


“Better not,” said Larko.


“It’ll vanish when we do. Mathal?”


Crosael stepped into the circle and held out his hand.


“Just a sec.”


She ran back into the dining room.


“You’re coming with me.”


“I may just be a head, but I’m also a person and not some object you can tote around like your personal, talking tote bag.”


“You’re also the one who stole my turtle in exchange for your stupid wishes.”


If things got weird, and things involving her mother usually did, the option to wish herself out of there was too tempting not to take.


Mathal returned to the kitchen with a grumpy devil’s head. She stopped beside Gorvio and gave him a sharp nod. He nodded back, hesitantly. She stepped into the circle and took Crosael’s hand. Her brother’s aura flared until all she could see was his swampy olive green.

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