Well, at midnight tonight I will, assuming that I don’t have a page finished, be 3 days behind on my schedule. I am back where I started when I asked for guest strips however longs ago that was. I’m guessing just after Christmas. Yes, right after the death of my uncle I imagine.
I may as well tell you all what’s been going on. It’s connected to the aforementioned death. My uncle had 3 children, two of age and one still a few years from it. A couple of months ago his wife had a seizure that left her in need of constant care. It is about as horrific fate as you can imagine because she has no short term memory and only remembers her life up to a certain point. So basically every day she wakes up to find out her husband is dead and her children are grown up. It’s kind of like 50 First Dates if the point of that movie was to illustrate a living Hell. Needless to say everyone involved has been a little stressed.
My part in the ensuing chaos this caused has been keeping an eye on my father and the animals, and making a space for my young cousin to occupy. That space was my… office? Artcave? In any event I compressed my belongings into my bedroom. Luckily I played a lot of Tetris in my youth. I have folded space itself to make my ridiculous collection of artifacts fit in this room. Honestly though it’s not unlike my first apartment. In fact, this room is larger than my allotted living space at that time. Also I’ve compressed a lot of my stuff into storage over the years. Particularly the comic books.
My parents getting custody of my cousin was kind of a given. Which is why I have been able to keep up as long as I have. As soon as things went tits up I started preparing in any free moment I had. So here we are. Things are still unsettled, but you can tell what the puzzle is supposed to look like, and a 15 year old girl has been added to the list of things I’m supposed to help keep from dying.
How bout some fiction?
“Who’s that one?” Twig asked quietly, pointing at Niona.
“Ah, sorry, yeah. That’s Niona, she’s a scholar. That’s Regalius, he’s a tone mage… and that’s… Alina Redgrave.” Julius said, pointing to each one in turn. At the revalation of Alina’s name Twig’s eyes almost tore her face in half trying to widen wider than they’d ever been before. Before Alina could even speak Twig had crossed the distance between them and was all but groveling at her feet.
Twig couldn’t seem to form words and she was nearly crying, but she managed to scrabble around in a little pouch and produce a bright stone, like the one Julius summoned her with, and press it shakily into Alina’s palm.
With that she sprinted back to Julius and buried her face in his chest again. He seemed almost as surprised as Alina.
“Uh… Twig says, should you ever need help, just speak clearly at the stone.” Julius instructed. “If it’s in her power to help she’ll defend your life to her last breath… Mistress.”
“This is an exquisite gift,” Alina replied, turning the little stone over in her fingers. “but I certainly haven’t earned it. If anything I should be giving her something.”
“She was in the capital, at the battle of the gates.” Julius explained. “You can understand how… I mean…”
“It is a very rare event when someone repays that debt.” Nodded Alina solemnly. “Our accounts are balanced, Twig, but I’m afraid I can’t bring myself to return your present. I’ll have to owe you for a while now.”
Twig forced herself to look Alina in the eyes and nodded.
“She is wonderful, Master…” She said in a tone even Julius had trouble hearing. “As wonderful as you.”
“I was with her you know?” Complained Regalius, pulling himself to his feet. “We were in the same company. It’s not like Alina did it all by herself you know.” He remembered himself for a moment and cast a quick glance at Alina, who had on the expression of someone who had heard this many times already.
“Not that she isn’t the commander for a reason.” He continued carefully. “But no one ever gives me presents when they meet me. Or Niona for that matter.”
“I don’t believe you, Elf!” Twig replied, casting an appraising eye towards Regalius. “You seem like a bad elf…”
“It’s true, as hard as it is to believe sometimes… Regalius is a hero.” Alina chimed in. “I’d never’ve survived without he or Niona.”
Twig regarded Regalius for a long moment, slowly digging around in her bag, then violently whipped a stone at him. He caught it by luck as much as anything else because his hands were in front of his face when he sensed danger. In spite of the method of delivery he seemed genuinely pleased with his gift and even managed a believable thank you for it.
Twig offered Niona a stone by means of an upturned palm. She still seemed unwilling to let go of Julius, although she was holding on to his sleeve now, rather than his whole body. Niona’s smile seemed to put Twig much more at ease. By the time she had risen and made the short trip to where Julius and Twig were standing Twig had even managed to release Julius and take a few steps away.
“You must have been 14 or 15 at the battle of the gates…” Niona said. “Had you already been studying combat?” Twig shook her head.
“My daddy was a soldier, but I was sposta to be a witch. Sometimes I watched the training though.” She explained.
“How extraordinary…” Said Niona, turning to Julius “And you taught her to shadowphase, with no real combat or magic training to speak of?”
“Yeah… It, uh… She does it like she was born to it.” He replied nervously. “She only has to see something a couple of times and she can copy it almost perfectly.”
Suddenly Niona made a complex gesture with her hands that ended with a shower of sparks erupting from her fingertips like a gun. Without speaking Twig copied the movements almost exactly, which resulted in a smaller, but significant, sparkle of her own.
“Astounding! How utterly fantastic!” Niona grinned. Julius seemed a little disturbed. Twig had already replicated Niona’s cantrip perfectly and was well on her way to improving it.
“Yes, fantastic as always, Twig, but you probably shouldn’t-” He said, making to stop Twig from already trying an eigth time. Unfortunately, before he could break her concentration, a tongue of blue flame was doing significant damage to to the pillar Regalius was now scrambling away from like a cockroach. Twig was squealing with laughter at her new trick.