Time Goes By Pt. 3

After a few reluctant mouthfuls of breakfast, Mariel looked back up at the twins. Just in their happy, supportive presence, she was starting to feel more like herself. Her confidence and sanity were slowly regenerating and she found herself even smiling a bit.

“I truly am sorry that to interrupt your vacations,” Mariel said. “Where did the two of you go? Back home?”

“I went back to my order,” Dimitri said. “It was good to see some old friends and Mistress Callen.”

Mariel looked confused. “You didn’t go together?” she asked. The twins had been inseparable for much of their lives so any separation was curious. Perhaps both of them had gained more faith in Dina’s ability to control her curse.

“We didn’t,” Dina said, tearing a sausage in half with her teeth. “Fern and I went camping in Thorncatch forest.”

Mariel smiled. “You and Fern?” she asked. “Really?”

“Yes,” Dina said with a smile. “We finally decided to give it a shot.”

“It’s about time,” Mariel said. “It feels like the two of you first kissed ages ago. Did you enjoy yourselves?” Mariel was suddenly overjoyed. The young druid and werewolf had been making eyes at each other since they had met and Mariel had hoped something would spark. She had remained neutral but she had hoped desperately. She was also impressed that Dimitri had not stood in their way.

Dina nodded. “You know that Fern is hard to read but I think we both had a really good time,” she said. “It’s really nice to just get lost for a while, you know?”

Mariel blushed slightly and nodded. “I think I catch your meaning,” she said. “Would you two mind if I went back upstairs to clean myself up before everybody else arrives?”

Dimitri nodded. “I think we can hold down the fort until you feel that you’re ready,” he said.

“I never put much stock in being clean,” Dina said. “But do what makes you happy.”

Mariel almost laughed. “Thank you,” she said. “I’ll be right back down.” She stood up and put a few silver on the table before the twins could try to pay for her. She still had her dignity. She hurried up the steps. She had not expected her friends to arrive so soon but she was so grateful for the support. The six of them had been through a lot together and it felt good to have them at her back again. Especially at a time where she had completely lost her footing.

She came back downstairs later after bathing and reapplying her makeup. She had her bag full of magical tools and weapons at the ready, attached to her waist with a sash belt. Just making the change made her feel ready for action again. There was still a tension running through her but she felt less wobbly. She would confront this head-on with her friends like they had confronted so many monsters and villains. She had turned a demon to stone, she could do this. She could hold it together.

When she arrived at the bottom of the stairs, the twins were nowhere in sight but her eyes were drawn to the source of whoever was playing a hurdy gurdy near the fire. It was Asher Woodhome, of course. Asher was a world-famous traveling bard who had somehow stumbled into fame by accident. He was more focused on making and understanding music and its power. He was also the only other member of their party who was as fashion-forward and put together as Mariel. Most who met him thought he was self-centered but he was actually just distracted and overly thoughtful.

Sitting on the floor and meditating near Asher was Luther Stonestill. The old dwarf had left home at a young age and, according to him, had led a brutal and self-centered period in his life. He had joined a monastery to atone and had become a centered yet passionate monk whose whole body was a weapon. And yet, he just as often used his words to diffuse tense situations. He was slow to violence but quick to end violence when it began. He had become the de facto leader of their group and it was he who had called everyone together once again. She was glad to see him.

Mariel sat in a chair across from Asher and next to Luther. Asher stopped playing with a smile and a nod. Luther spoke without opening his eyes.

“Are you ready to investigate?” Luther asked, absolutely calm.

“I am,” Mariel said. “Shall we?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” Asher said, slinging his instrument over his back.

“The children are all outside,” Luther said.

“Let’s go gather them then,” Mariel said. “One way or another, we are figuring this out.”

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