Basal 71st, 1042

“Alo! Clover! Where have the two of you been?” She did her best to keep her voice even, not to let worry seep too heavily into it. She did well considering how worried she’d actually been, given that two children she was responsible for vanished and had been gone for nearly six hours.

River had noticed both of their disappearance in the night, and she hadn’t been the only one. Aspen had been beside himself, tossing threats around at the healing center’s staff, demanding to know where they’d both gone. She knew Alouette, knew their impulsive streak. But Clover, as far as her limited impression of the girl went, wasn’t that way. If Alouette had wanted some kind of midnight adventure and had taken Clover along, Clover would have at the very least probably left a note, River suspected.

Alouette was carrying Clover, and put her down very delicately, holding her arms once she was on the ground in front of the healing center. Her eyes flickered up to meet River’s, and her pupils were a startling shade of bright orange in the center of her brown irises.

Alouette gave River a nervous little nod; Clover was alright, whatever had happened, but neither of them seemed eager to explain themselves. Alouette looked…ill? They’d never been ill since arriving in this realm, far as River could recall.

Aspen didn’t have the same tact River did, and stood up from the bench outside he’d been on for the past few hours. He’d said very stubbornly that he’d wait to give them a piece of his mind when they returned, and all she’d been able to do was keep him company and make sure he stayed bundled up. The desert stayed cold through both the day and night, just as the tundra did. Kuiper was still inside with Azaleon, but promised to let them know if he woke up anytime soon, and likewise, she’d told him she’d notify him when Alouette and Clover returned. That Azaleon was still unconscious was a grim fact; River feared he might not wake up at all, Thauma or not. They’d used as much as they could.

“Well? Where have you been? You better have a good excuse for–”

“Your Highness, I’m sorry,” Clover said, her voice cracking. “It’s not Juniper. It’s me. I didn’t know.” She held up her hand, and River recognized the gold emblem as a Cachet identical to Aspen’s. He’d stopped mid-rant, staring. The anger vanished clear off his face, replaced with something akin to horror.

“You’re the other Quasar?” Aspen asked. Alouette’s grip tightened on Clover’s arm.

“She needs to lie down,” they said, their tone strained. “And so do I. Can we do this later?”

It shocked River, then, when Aspen nodded.

“First…Clover, let me say this,” Aspen said. Clover met his gaze, weary. The way she held herself made River think she expected the prince to say something cruel, or to pick a fight. He swallowed, stepping closer, and he pulled her into a hug.

“I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Least of all, you,” he murmured. “I’m sorry, Clover.”

Clover slowly wrapped her arms around him and wept, her body shaking hard but her sobs silent. Too young, River thought. Both of them, too young, yet clearly so brave.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” she said to him, pulling away.

“I know.” Aspen said.

“It’s not fair–!” She scrubbed her eyes with her palms.

“I know.” Aspen repeated. “Clover, whatever you’re thinking right now, I’ve thought it a thousand times.”

“You know what sucks? When he hid it, he caused permanent damage. Even Remedy couldn’t fix the nerve damage that much Thauma caused.”

“Remedy?” River asked. “Come, let’s all go inside and talk, you’re going to all freeze to death out here.” She ushered them inside with a gentle hand, back to Azaleon’s room, which had been unofficially decided to be their living quarters while they were in Glassview.

Clover had Aspen and Alouette on either side of her, and River was touched both of them were so eager to comfort her. The three of them sat on the second bed in the room, and River took the chair Kuiper offered to her. He was standing near the window, and he looked from it to them.

“I see you two decided to return. I was getting worried.”

“We’re fine. Mostly.” Alouette said, nodding towards Clover’s hand.

“...Well, that’s…” He trailed off. The proper thing to say to a Quasar was that it was an honor, and to thank them. Clearly, that wouldn’t be the best thing to say now, knowing what they all did. “I’m sorry.” He settled on. “Your eyes look strange; His Highness’ eyes don’t look that way. Should we be checking you into a room?”

“No– it’s nothing to do with the Quasar stuff. Er, not exactly.” Alouette said. “We found Remedy. We took her with us. With Clover.”

With Clover. River mulled this over, eyeing Clover. She was still herself. And yet, there was an air about her, something different, something weighty in the air, the same presence Alouette had had the first time River had stumbled across them, before they’d learned to temper it and blanket it in the presence of others.

It was a wild air.

“...You took a God with you,” Aspen repeated. “You made Clover do that?”

“No one made me do anything. I kind of prefer you being a jerk to you treating me like I’m made of glass.” Clover swatted at him. He wrinkled his nose.

“Well, see if I try to comfort you again!” He snapped. That got a small smile out of Clover. River was relieved to see that. “Look, neither of us are going to kill each other. You can use my gloves. We keep it hidden, alright? Here.” Aspen got up, going to where their luggage was piled up in the corner, shuffling through his until he found the gloves he’d been wearing on the first day.

“Are you sure?” She asked quietly.

“I’m always sure about everything. If you’re found to be the Quasar, people will demand we have the Ceremony. I don’t trust anyone to hear us out or listen to logic. People are dumb, panicked animals and the second they hear we aren’t planning to go through with it, they’ll be calling for our blood and accusing us of all sorts of things.”

“...Okay, yeah.” Clover sighed. “I just– I’m so confused. And angry. I know I shouldn’t be, but–”

“Clover, you’re allowed to feel whatever way you do about this,” River interrupted her.

“Oh, yes, if someone hid something like that from me, I’d be pissed, too,” Aspen confirmed.

“I know that, but…Aspen, you’re so…you seem so fine about being the Quasar, it makes me feel like I’m overreacting!”

“I’ve had years to process it.” Aspen said, leaning back with a huff. “And also I’ve been taught to be self-disciplined enough not to cause scenes unnecessarily. It would ‘embarrass the crown’,” he said with air quotations. “So don’t beat yourself up for feeling things. Even I am included to feel things, on occasion.”

“And Remedy is still mad,” Clover added. “So I feel like she’s making me mad, by accident, like, influencing my emotions? It’s weird. Like I can’t tell where I end and she begins.”

That was interesting. Something River definitely wanted to ask more about.

“Mad at me, I assume.” Alouette said with a pout.

“At you? Why is she mad at you?” River raised an eyebrow. “You’ve been trying to help her, just as you’ve been trying to help the other Gods.”

“I don’t know. Clover, can you ask her what she meant when she was talking about that cycle thing? The only cycle I know about is the Quasar cycle; but I don’t think she meant that.”

“...She said she might tell you when she’s done being mad at you,” Clover muttered apologetically.

“Wait. Clover, can you speak to Remedy freely, at any time?” River asked.

“Yes? She’s been quiet; she’s only talked back when I ask her something directly. She did say she’d be out of the way, but–”

“Clover.” Kuiper said, and River thought clever as he was, that he must have sensed what she was going to ask. He was one-track minded. “You’re possessed by the God of Healing.”

“‘Possessed’ is a strong word. I think we agreed on the term ‘hosting’, but–” Clover stopped herself, following Kuiper’s gaze down to Azaleon, still unconscious. “Oh! Duh! Yeah, Remedy, can you– oh? Yeah, okay,” she said, standing up. It seemed like she was having a conversation with the God, unheard to all of them but herself.

She hovered a hand over his ribs, waving it around. “Right around here, he got stabbed. No, I don’t know…how many days has it been?” She asked, looking up at Kuiper. “Eight days,” he informed her, and she nodded. Then she let her hand move upwards, holding it above his hand. Her eyes slipped closed.


“What?” Kuiper asked.

“The Lunar God did something; he wasn’t suffering from some kind of brain damage or infection or anything. She said their–the Lunar God’s power lies in: ice, sleep, and death, but he’s not there quite yet. She can fix him.” Clover said, breaking out into a relieved smile.

“Okay,” Kuiper said, dazed. “That’s good. That’s…please tell her I said thank you. That I can’t thank her enough.”

“And she wanted me to say that she thinks he’s had way too much Thauma and he’d better lay off for a while,” Clover added, “And I’m really not trying to argue about health with the God of it, so…”

“....Yeah, I’ll make sure he does lay off it,” And River didn’t miss the hesitance in his tone. Alouette had told her that first night what Azaleon was using gold Thauma for, and she suspected she knew why already. She stood up.

“It would only be polite to give the two of you a moment while he wakes up.” She said it very deliberately, shooting a glance at Alouette and Aspen both.

“I need something to eat anyway,” Aspen said, standing up and crossing his arms towards Kuiper. “If he wakes up and has a fit because I wandered off on my own, tell him I’m not five nor am I doing anything more risky than eating cafeteria food of a questionable quality.”

“Well, I’ll go with you in that case, I’m starving! And to make sure you actually don’t do anything risky,” Alouette added.

“Are you seriously telling me that? With what you just pulled?!” Aspen could be heard arguing with Alouette halfway down the hallway. River smiled, then caught Clover’s eye.

“You’ll be alright doing this? If you want my guidance or company, I’ll stay.”

“No, I’ll let Remedy do her thing, I don’t think it’ll take much from me. It’s not her Thauma, it’s…what’d Alouette call it? Divinity? Yeah. I’ll join you guys in the cafeteria as soon as I’m done.” She gave a weary thumbs up. River thought she ought to be sleeping right after she ate, the way she looked dead on her feet.

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