Basal 81st, 1042

River had been worried by how long Alo, Kuiper, and Clover had been gone. Worry that only increased when they finally did come back to the castle a full day later, shaky and dazed, covered in dirt and blood. And her worry transformed into full-blown panic when she asked where Alo was, and Kuiper muttered they had to fly in through the upper levels of the castle to clean up so ‘they wouldn’t scare anyone’. She did her best to stay composed outwardly, guiding them to sit in the tea room.

Azaleon was with Aspen in the library right now. She asked one of the castle guards to send word for them to come up, and in the meantime, she was dipping a washcloth into a warm bowl of water to wash Clover’s face. She and Kuiper were free of injuries, despite the dried blood on both of them. River was thankful they had Remedy.

Kuiper hadn’t said more than a few words. Clover hadn’t spoken at all. Asking if they were okay seemed pointless- it was obvious they weren’t. And they were still too shaken to be expected to explain what had happened, so she would be patient, focus on caring for them for now.

“I…I can do this myself,” Clover offered, trying to grab the rag from her hand. River tsked at her, shaking her head. “I–”

“You don’t have to,” River said. She hadn’t expected that to make Clover’s lip wobble, or her eyes to start misting up.

“My mom was right,” she murmured, “She said I couldn’t handle going into the world on my own, and I can’t. She asked me to come home when I called her in Windeen City, I should have listened to her. If something would’ve happened to me, what would she have done– who would take care of her?”

River pulled her into a tight hug, rubbing circles on her back. Kuiper was staring at the table in front of him, his knuckles white and his fists shaking. River thought she’d like to meet Clover’s mother very much and ask why the woman thought that was an appropriate thing to say to her own child. Refuge growled and snapped in her mind, fully ready to bite.

“You’re okay, you’re doing great,” River tried to soothe her, “and you’re safe as long as you have that Cachet, remember? Besides, Alo wouldn’t have let anything happen to you, even if whatever happened was scary,” and Clover stiffened at the mention of Alouette. Kuiper looked over at River, a faint purple in his pupils, and River felt dread drop like a stone in her stomach. His expression said all she needed to know. Whatever had happened to disturb both of them was because of Alouette. Something pulsed inside of her from Refuge, Divine energy blanketing Clover, River and Refuge both desperately trying to make her feel safer.

“I’m sorry,” River whispered, to both people with her, and to Refuge.

“What happened?” Aspen demanded, throwing the door open and striding to where Clover and River were sitting. Azaleon was a bit slower behind him, taking in the scene before shutting the door behind himself and going to sit with Kuiper silently. Gods only knew what he was thinking, but his expression left nothing to the imagination about how he was feeling. He’d been just as concerned as River had been, as Aspen had been– but Aspen and River had thrown themselves into books over it, dissecting every little clue they could find from books that were hundreds of years old. Azaleon had stood guard outside the library door silently nearly the entire time, a white-knuckle grip on his Wonderworking staff. Kuiper entwined one of his hands with Azaleon’s before he started talking.

“We got Fillip Arabella. Didn’t have much of a choice.” He leaned forward, pressing a hand on his forehead. “She’s got a lot to say, too– she’s noisy. River, we need to tell Alouette. They did something in the caves, and I– I don’t know what they’d do if we kept any secrets. Quite frankly I don’t have the energy to argue.”

“Tell them what?” Clover asked. Right, she had been out flying with Alouette when they’d all discussed it. River had come to the same conclusion, that they deserved to know about the cycle, and that she was confident she could keep them calm enough that they wouldn’t…’explode’, as Seiche had put it. Seeing how these two were acting made her second-guess herself, for a moment.

“You can listen to the explanation when we tell them,” River said. “If you feel comfortable around them right now.”

“I…” Clover looked down, going silent.

“What did they do? What could they have possibly done to scare you so much?” Aspen asked, looking between Clover and Kuiper. Kuiper took a breath, squeezing Azaleon’s hand tighter before he started speaking. He kept his tone even, like he was giving an official report, eyes not meeting anyone else’s.

“They shoved their hand clean through their chest, ripped their own heart out, and lit it up with gold fire. Then they shoved it right back in like it was nothing. And I don’t even think they knew what they’d done until we told them, and even then, they acted like we were the crazy ones for reacting at all. They had a massive meltdown and started swinging erratically between insulting us and begging for me to help Fillip.”

“I can still hear how their ribs sounded when they smashed through them, and that squishing sound–Ugh, I’m never going to forget,” Clover muttered, scrubbing her face with her hands.

“What in the world…” Even Aspen was visibly disgusted. “And they’re fine after that? Just walked it off? They’re not laying dead somewhere, are they?”

“No, they’re washing up. It..their injuries sort of mended themselves. But, uh, they were covered in their own blood,” Clover said. “And…Thauma? I think?”

River’s own heart beat erratically, Refuge frantic to share her own emotions: she was furious Alouette had scared Clover and Kuiper. River, on the other hand, was mortified and disturbed.

“But you said they didn’t seem to know what they were doing?” River asked.

“They– they were hallucinating, too. It was just abstract for me, the walls were spinning, colors were weird, but…they must’ve been seeing something vivid, something they thought was real,” Kuiper said, shaking his head. “They were going to hurt themself, I could tell. They were working themself up over what they were seeing. They scratched us up good when we tried to stop them.”

“I’m sorry; thank you for trying to stop them anyway,” River murmured. “Clover, Kuiper, Azaleon, if I may, can I ask your hosted Gods something?”

“I’ve been listening,” Seiche said, his cool blue eyes boring into River’s. It occurred to her that Azaleon had been quiet; Seiche could’ve been the one fronting the body this whole time; he seemed just as mad as Azaleon had been, but it was a cold anger, a controlled one.

“Oh, Seiche, hello! Look, we’re holding hands, isn’t that funny?” In comparison to Kuiper’s monotone voice, Fillip’s was loud and lilting. Seiche looked down at Azaleon and Kuiper’s hands, then sighed, leaving them entwined while looking back at River expectantly.

“I’m here, too,” Remedy confirmed. River nodded before posing her questions to them.

“Have they ever done anything like that? Is that what the Phoenix cycle is? …Will they have their memories when they come back here?”

Fillip looked excited to answer, moving Kuiper’s free hand around while she spoke. “Ohh, the mortals could’ve answered that, I think, because Alouette explained what they’d done. I saw it in Kuiper’s memories– oh, goodness, I didn’t think he’d be upset to know I was poking around in there, I’m sorry, I got curious! There’s so much good information in there! I’m sorry, Kuiper! Anyway–”

“It’s definitely not the cycle; they would have burned up that entire body, so I’d love to hear what they did, too,” Seiche said.

“They transformed their body into a permanent one because you were scaring them, Fillip,” Remedy said, her tone heated.

“What? I wasn’t doing it on purpose, I was just trying to speak with them and help them, I could hardly help it! They told me they thought you two hated them, which is awful, so I wanted to try to explain things to them! Besides, as fascinating as this is, it’s hardly the first time they’ve done something similar. Their work with energy in the past was simply inspired!”

“Sorry, they did what with their body? Do you want to slow down and explain what you mean to us?” Aspen asked, crossing his arms. A room full of Gods and he still managed to act like he was in charge. Fillip gasped when she looked at him.

Green eyes, you must be a royal! What a treat! Of course you’d be near him, Seiche, that explains why you’re being so mild. You’ve always loved hanging around them since it’s always easy for you to make them initiate wa-” Seiche very quickly shoved a hand over Kuiper’s face, making Fillip squeak.

“Remedy, will you please elaborate for His Highness and River, since Fillip is having a hard time staying on topic?” he asked, a bit strained. Remedy looked extremely put out to be asked to do that.

“...Well, it’s hard to explain in a way that’d make sense for you both, but we Gods…work differently from you all do. Our souls can exist outside of our bodies; it’s the reason we can be here in our elemental forms, and be hosted within you all, and the reason we can speak through animals if needed. When we come here we have to leave our bodies behind in the Upper Realm. Our true bodies can’t make the journey here; and even if they could, it’d be…”

Fillip pried Azaleon’s hand off her mouth, gasping for air before continuing Remedy’s thought.

“It would be overwhelming for you all! Completely incomprehensible, so much so it’d kill you! But Alouette binded their soul to their host body, and that didn’t happen somehow! I’d love to pick their brain about it, but I do think it’s more instinctual for them than it is methodological, which is unfortunate…I want to know if they’ll be able to return to the Upper Realm! Since they must have untethered themself. Or– oh, we should check their temple and see what’s going on with their Thauma!”

“Why would their Thauma be affected from doing something like that?” River asked carefully.

“...You really needn’t concern yourself with that,” Remedy said quickly.

“Damn it, Fillip, you need to learn to keep your mouth shut,” Seiche warned. Out of the corner of her eye, River noticed the water in the bowl she’d been using earlier was rippling. Fillip laughed, unbothered by Seiche’s temper.

“You can try and make me–” Fillip started, amused. If River didn’t know better, she would have thought Fillip was baiting Seiche, the way she was invading his personal space and daring him to do something.

It was either that or flirting. River really didn’t want to think about that, either, as inappropriate as it would have been at this very moment.

“No, you don’t get to just say that and not elaborate. As much as we– I personally– use gold Thauma, if them doing this gross little stunt affects it– why would it? And how do we fix it if it does?” Aspen interrupted, oblivious to the effect Seiche’s mood was having on the water.

“You don’t get to make demands of us. Any information we’ve deigned to bestow upon you was us being charitable. The affairs of Gods are no business of mortals. Try being gracious that we even allowed you Thauma in the first place.” Seiche was glowering at Aspen, but Aspen wasn’t backing down.

“Are you the ones being charitable? I’d think that would be us; you needed a body to stick around in because you can’t win a fight with the Big Gods on your own, didn’t you? You’re lucky Alouette didn’t shove you in a goldfish and tout you around in a little glass bowl,” Aspen said, tilting his chin up.

“Isn’t Alouette taking a long time to ‘wash up’? Maybe someone ought to go check on them,” Fillip mused, seemingly oblivious to the fight that was about to boil over.

Before any of them could respond to that or keep arguing, the curtain shifted, giving a glimpse of the neon city of the capital outside, backdropped by the near-constant dark glittering sky. Alouette was awkwardly perched on the windowsill, having opened the curtain with their foot and doing their best to look nonchalant.

“Sweet as the concern is, Fillip, I’m here! And I definitely just arrived here,” they added. River sighed. How much of the conversation had they heard? All of it? “Very cool to see almost all of us in one place again! Sans Frond, and of course, ‘Cier and ‘Fern, but we don’t want those two here, do we?”


“Inferno Ladybird? The Sol God?” Alouette asked, as if the rest of them had already known that. River wondered when they’d recalled that. “Like: Ladybird, ladybird, fly away from home, your house is on fire and your fellow Gods all gone, all except one, and their name is Alo, and they’re dropping through the sky below,” they sang under their breath. “Right, Fillip?”

“That isn’t how the nursery rhyme goes,” Fillip pointed out. “But of course you’d be interested in transformative works, hahah, how clever of you!”

Alouette swung their legs over the window sill, facing them all directly. “I think it’d be good if I could talk to the mortals now, and if you avoided putting any kingdoms underwater, at least this century, Seiche. Please,” they added.

“You can do that?” Aspen balked. Seiche smiled.

“The flood of 3219, D.A.,” he said, before he let Azaleon take control again.

“I am so sorry he said that, I’m sure he didn’t actually–” Azaleon tried.

“Stop apologizing for him. All of them seem to be moody or manic,” Kuiper muttered beside him, laying his head down on the table. “I’m done talking for the next week.” Beside River, Clover snapped back in control of herself and pulled her knees up to her chin. Her eyes were half-lidded, and she was staring at Alouette.

River had expected some differences since Remedy had said they’d made their body permanent, but it was nothing substantial; their skin, maybe, was a bit brighter, more alive. But otherwise, they looked the same. They ignored that statement from Kuiper, eyes flickering over everyone slowly.

“It sounded like you all had something to tell me,” they started, keeping their eyes on River now. She cleared her throat, nodding.

“There’s something Seiche told us. And we want you to know, because it’s about you. But you need to stay calm, otherwise you could hurt yourself and everyone here,” River started. Alouette’s expression was just one of mild curiosity, their head tilting slightly.

“Okay? Go ahead.”

“Because you’re the God of Transformation, you’re stuck in a cycle called the Phoenix cycle: a constant cycle of burning yourself up and recreating yourself. The other Gods can give you more information. Stress can be a trigger for it…if I had known the caves would have been so intense, I never would have risked sending you there.”

“Oh, no, I’m fine, I’m pretty calm right now. Do I look stressed?” they didn’t; if anything their calm demeanor was a bit too calm for them. Normally they fidgeted constantly and were lively, always using their full body to talk, skipping and hopping and wearing their heart on their sleeve. Now they sat still, hands folded on their lap.

“But thank you for the concern! I didn’t realize how sensitive mortals could be. My mistake.” They let out a small laugh. “Do the other Gods have such cycles, or is it just me? Ohh, please tell me Seiche’s is called the ‘water cycle’, you know, like the actual water cycle!”

“Alo, it’s okay if you need time to process this…absolutely no one expects you to just be okay with it, if it’s upsetting to you, it’s okay. Even if you’re mad,” Azaleon said.

“Really?” Alouette asked. “No. You probably want to see me get angry or something and lose it, so you have an excuse to shove me out the window. You’re mad I upset your sweetheart, aren’t you? That’s mean. But ask Kuiper or Clover, I got all those nasty feelings out in the caves. I’m a-okay–”

“We’re trying to get you to take it seriously! You go doing some physiologically-scarring shit like it’s nothing, and according to Seiche, you’ve been around as long as the rest of them, and you don’t remember it! Hundreds of lifetimes, just forgotten each time!” Aspen yelled. Alouette narrowed their eyes.


Aspen faltered. “What do you mean, ‘so’?”

“Neither Remedy nor Seiche found it important enough to tell me outright. Probably because they know I’ll just forget if it happens again, so what’s the point, right? If it was important, they wouldn’t have withheld it just because they were mad at me. That would be really petty,” they looked at Clover sharply. “I’m not glaring at you, Clover, but Remedy, just so you know.”

“I guessed that, but I kinda wish you wouldn’t be mad about it at all, since it sounds like the others were just nervous to tell you because it might make you…reset, basically,” Clover said. “Um, we don’t want you to do that, either.”

“No, no, I understand! It’d be inconvenient for me, too, to have to wait until I’m old enough to know things again! I literally hate waiting for anything, ever, even waiting for stupid things like bread to finish toasting or–well, okay, not relevant. But I’d also forget all of you, and I don’t want to, so I won’t be doing that. No more of this ‘Phoenix cycle’ for me, thank you. Ta-da, problem solved, I’ll just stop doing it!” They waved their hands with a flourish.

“That’d be good if you could, but Remedy has something to say-” Clover barely got the words out in time before Remedy started speaking, harsh and angry.

“You always do it, though. You get bored, or upset that your favorite ‘Mortal of the Month’ has died, or that they used the wrong shade of yellow in your tribute, or that time you thought it would be funny to do it when you snuck up on Frond and gave him the worst scare of his life by catching yourself on fire. I still remember how awful your laughing was while you did it. You have absolutely no room to talk about petty. You think these are the first people you’ve decided you didn’t want to restart for, so you could remember them and stay with them forever and ever, because they’re so special?”

“Well maybe this time I mean it! Maybe I’d rather stay with them than return to the Upper Realm just to be tossed out again–”

“If you can return in the first place, after what you did to that body, Fillip thinks you may have entirely cut your tether. And who’s to say any of us are willing to try and pull you back up?” Remedy said, standing up. River grabbed Clover’s wrist, stopping her from actually approaching Alouette. Remedy didn’t so much as look down.

“What did I do to piss you off so bad, last time I saw you, Rem? If you remember so much, I’d love to hear it. Because no one will tell me, and it’s not fair!”


“Yes, fair! You all know I can’t remember! And you’re choosing to direct all of this anger at me knowing that, even though you were withholding the fact that I’d even forgotten anything in the first place!”

“I actually think a good argument could be made that ‘Alouette’ is hardly even ‘Ash Rossingol’ as they are now,” Aspen said under his breath. “I mean– they grew up in this realm, raised by a human, so wouldn’t it stand to reason that they’re right? They don’t know why you’re so mad. Neither do we.” River was interested in that, too; hundreds, even thousands of lifetimes was a lot of time to accumulate anger, plenty of time to let a grudge build up.

“I’ve seen countless ‘Ash’s, and they’re always the same, a name change means nothing,” Remedy muttered.

“Yeah, well, Aspen is right. This is my first time as Alouette of Fawn Creek, progeny of River of Fawn Creek.” Alouette’s eyes flickered to River, softening. That gentle little look gave River hope. “So, Remedy? You know what?”

“What?” Remedy asked, eyes narrowed. It felt like everyone in the room was holding their breath. Alouette stepped off the windowsill, walking towards Remedy slowly, before reaching out and taking Clover’s hands.

I’m sorry. Even if I can’t recall it, I obviously hurt you. If there’s something I can do to make it better, tell me, and I will.”

Remedy’s orange eyes were wide for a brief moment with surprise, and River couldn’t help her own smile. That was right; she’d raised Alo that way, after all.To try to take accountability when they make mistakes. …Though she’d also personally like to hear what those ‘mistakes’ entailed.

“There’s nothing you can do now. Just tell me…where do your priorities lie?” Remedy asked.

“My priorities lie with helping the mortals. As all of ours do, as they always have,” Alouette said. She nodded, pulling her hands away and avoiding their gaze. She still seemed unhappy. Evidently there was more to the story than what was being said; River knew that much by the way all of the Gods were so evasive in explaining the truly important parts of their story.

“Just free Frond.”

“I was already planning on it,” they assured her. She let Clover have control again, the orange in her eyes fading to just the center. Clover looked down at their hands in hers. Slowly she pulled them forward into a hug. Alouette looked down at River with wide eyes, then back at Clover.

“Clover?” they asked.

“I–in the caves, we–both me and Remedy, we thought you were going to kill yourself,” she said, her words muffled against their shoulder. “She didn’t know what you were doing, and– you scared the shit out of both of us.”

Oh. Oh, Maggie,” they said, softening their voice.

“Maggie?” she asked, quickly ending the hug and pulling back, confusion written all over her face. River connected the dots far too quickly; she’d been pouring over that book Kuiper had found for a solid day now, of course Magnolia of Shivelight had been on her mind.

Clearly she’d been on Alouette’s mind too, if only subconsciously.

“I–I don’t know where that came from, hahah, sorry! I swear I’m not actively forgetting anything!”

“You are so full of it,” Aspen said. “And rude on top of that; but that’s a good jumping point for what we also need to talk about, what we’ve been working on since all of you were gone to those caves. You know about Magnolia? The former Quasar?”

“Magnolia…I…River’s made me read about her,” Alouette said. “It’s not like I met her. Or..maybe I did, but I don’t remember it if that’s the case,” they frowned. “While I was really out of it in the caves I thought I saw flashes that might have been past cycles, thanks to Fillip’s Inspiration, but that’s a dead end now. Neither her’s nor none of the other’s Divinity can affect me now, since I changed this body! And we’ve never been able to use each other’s Thauma, that’s a gift for mortals! So I can’t remember–”

“We don’t need you to remember!” Aspen snapped. “Because the book heavily implies Fillip was the brains behind what you did.”

“...What did I do?” they asked slowly, looking between Aspen and River.

“You helped the former Quasar Magnolia. Let me start from the top. This book, unlike her travel guide and Quasar biographies, is a fiction book, but it’s co-authored by an A.R. Ouzel, who, by all accounts and records we checked, doesn’t technically exist...”

Alouette laughed. Aspen glared at them, and they put their hands on their hips. “What? It’s funny. Not even a little subtle! A.R. for Ash Rossingol, and Ouzel is a bird! The fact no historians caught that–”

“Who would expect Gods to sit around helping people write books? With awful prose; Rosemary, Magnolia, whatever she preferred, she should’ve stuck to nonfiction–” Aspen started. River quickly interrupted him; it wasn’t as if she disagreed, but if they got into the topic of stylistic writing choices they disagreed with they’d be talking about it for hours.

“It’s a book full of clues, of course she’d choose to mark it as fiction so she could slide in hidden messages. About a character who meets a magic bird that tells them to visit a ‘cave full of dreams’ for ideas on how to stop ‘the personifications of summer and winter’...which sounds a bit relevant.”

“Your last incarnation helped the past Quasar from Lacus Mare to write it, we think, explaining how they planned to block the Gods entirely from choosing a Quasar from Lacus Mare. It seems like…you were going to do whatever it is you did here to Fern Helion, but restarted this cycle of yours before you could. There are clues in this book on how, but it really sounds like Fillip was heavily involved…” River said, looking at Kuiper.

He looked up from the table blearily, barely lifting his head up. He was spent; after this, she’d let them all go rest, but they did need Fillip right now. “...Yeah, she’s got something to say about that…a lot to say, so I’ll let her do that,” he said, before his eyes flashed bright purple. In comparison to his sluggish exhaustion she was much more animated. Poor Kuiper would likely be even more exhausted after she was finished.

“Oh yes, they came to me for help with that, I remember it. They brought Magnolia– Maggie, they called her! How cute! –To my caves, she used quite a bit of my Thauma and Divine Inspiration to come up with a way to use Ash’s power to do a large-scale casting with their power. They transformed the entire kingdom’s population so that they couldn’t be marked. It’s impossible to even put a Cachet on them! Oh, it was something to do with modifying DNA; the entire thing was such a huge effort they burned up afterwards– it was beautiful! A dawn that spanned three days overhead, and a bright glittering cloud all over Lacus Mare, countless artworks made from it. I saw them in my dreams… I suppose it took them a while to regenerate, being that they used up so much energy, but, ah, they’ve always been so willing to help people. A love so strong it’s terrifying.”

River had read about that. A hundred years ago, directly after the Quasar ceremony which had taken place in Lacus Mare there had been an unexplained weather phenomenon that had happened over Lacus Mare only. Some people back then had speculated it had been the Lunar God’s way of showing how delighted they were that their champion was the sacrifice, gifting the people over their blessed land a beautiful display for it. Finally getting answers to a decade old mystery was underwhelming to River when she considered how much new information she’d gotten the past month alone, how much more she knew about the Gods than the regular person. Still, she’d be noting this in her documents later.

“So they–I was–I was trying to help?” Alouette asked, staring up at the stars on the ceiling. “Because I’ve been thinking…”

Everything you’ve ever done was for the mortals, and always has been. You can believe that.” Fillip said seriously. Alouette broke out into a relieved smile.

“...And I burned up last time because I put in too much effort? I’ve been putting in a lot to free all of you. It’d be a pretty sick joke from the universe if I was to keel over when I finally free Frond, right after I’ve made this body permanent.”

“But it could be funny–”

“How in the world would it be funny, Clover?” Aspen asked, horrified.

“No, like, hear me out.” She turned to Alouette. “Imagine it takes you another couple of hundred years to regen and then you show up out of the blue. Since you’re kinda infamous now and there’s already dozens of theories about you that’d be unsolved, people would be so confused if you just disappeared then made a comeback! Like, oh my gosh, this criminal is also a time traveler? …Sorry, that’s probably too dark of a joke to make, isn’t it?” Clover trailed off. Alouette stared at her for a full ten seconds before breaking down laughing, laughing so hard they were wheezing for air.

“If your body is a ‘True Body’ now, why do you even need to breathe?” Fillip interrupted their gaspy little laughing fit, and they looked up with a gleam in their eyes.

“Don’t,” River warned.

“But…it’s for science,” they said. “You know, trying not to breathe is hard. It’s been a habit. Maybe I could try to go without eating or sleeping instead to see if–”

“Absolutely not, you won’t do any of those things.” River dared them to challenge her on that. They were slowly relaxing, slipping back into a more casual posture, but their laugh sounded strained to her, their smile just a bit too tight. Maybe no one else noticed it; maybe it was only because she had raised them that she saw the little hints. Alouette was the very picture of someone trying far too hard to be okay.

“Aw, I was just kidding, you know I love sleeping and eating anyway,” they said sheepishly. “Clover, Kuiper, you’re both.. okay, now?”

“Tired,” Kuiper muttered, evidently back in control of himself. Clover nodded, a bit delayed about it. if she was forcing herself a bit too, well, no one was calling her out over it.

“Good! That’s really good. Now, we have another problem: Frond Peter,” Alouette said, crossing their arms.

“Assumedly he’s around the area where his temple is like most of the other Gods have been, halfway to Briarwood,” River said. Briarwood was close to Fawn Creek. All the way back in Fern Helion. She sighed.

“No, distance isn’t the problem. It’s the matter of him needing a vessel. Aspen’s said he won’t already, so I’m going to either need to visit his temple and convince some random follower of his to do it, or I could leave it up to you all to pick someone. Since we’ll be letting them in on a lot of big and important secrets and all,” Alouette explained.

“Can’t we talk about this tomorrow? He’ll still be there, won’t he? Uh– sorry, that came out harsher than I meant it,” Azaleon said. “We’ve got a lot to think about and need to rest, and I think it’d be good if you took some time to rest, too–”

“Nah. This constant darkness is kind of a downer, and I dunno, I can get a head start on looking for him or something, with a chance to stretch my wings a little. Don’t feel obligated to rush to leave here, take as long as you need,” Alouette said, eyeing the window. River knew what they were about to do before they even did it.

“Alouette, wait!” River tried. They were already out the window, their wings sending a gust of air so strong through that it kept them all back. That had to have been deliberate. They smiled apologetically.

“I’ll meet you in Briarwood!” And when they took off, their dark wings shimmered bright gold and they left a trail like a comet after them.

“River, let them go. They clearly need some space, and so do we. Let’s just take a few days. Consider it a vacation, I don’t mind imposing on my sister at all, so calm down,” Aspen said. River stared after them, barely processing his words.

There had been times Alouette had left, sure; they’d gone to Lacus Mare plenty of times by themself, flying here and back in a day, and flying out to the castle a few times a year, persistent in their mission to contact Aspen.

This felt different.



prev chapter next chapter