interrogation

rocco: *yelling* RAJA!!
raja: *SQUAWK SQUAWK*
talmage: SHHHHH
bishop: oh my GOD we're trying to be QUIET

whaoanon

the group makes their way back up the tunnels under the falls. aurabri keeps asking about their current location, but we refuse to give them any information.

raja: how did you say you were taken by the vale?
aurabri: it's a really painful memory ... i don't want to have to relive it.

aurabri seems to be acting a little defensive – we aren’t sure what’s bullshit and what’s not.

bishop: why were you bringing us the bird stone, aurabri.
aurabri: i ... well, i wanted to do the right thing. and i did.
talmage: did you do it because mr. graves told you to?
aurabri: i--
talmage: what did he ask you to do? how'd you find him?
aurabri: he found me.
aurabri: the vale was, like i told you, recruiting magic users to forcibly track down other magic users.
aurabri: and mr. graves was the one they were buying the stones from, through cicero. he was their point of contact.
aurabri: he gave one to me when you all performed at the circus. do you remember that, talmage?

talmage realizes aurabri may have seen some things.

bishop: when we get out of this cave, we're going to get out of the city. you did something good before and i'm trusting you to not screw us over later.
aurabri: you saved my life
bishop: so ... you're not going to tell the vale officers anything, right?
aurabri: i ... i have no choice but to go back to them.
talmage: the ... vale?
aurabri: this is all a complete misunderstanding--
talmage: it's really not
aurabri: once i show them this place, it'll be fine--
everyone: MMMM NO

the group tries to assure aurabri that the vale will not welcome them back kindly.

aurabri: well, it was a false accusation-- i was awaiting my trial--
raja: there were callers in the town this morning announcing it. that is how we knew where you were.
bishop: do you want to go back to the vale?
aurabri: it's ... complicated. it's not something you can just ... run away from.
bishop: that doesn't answer my question.

aurabri looks worried.

talmage: does it have to do with your mark?
aurabri: it's the same one you have.
bishop: and talmage doesn't work for the vale.
rocco: talmage is just fine!
talmage: yeah, i'm doing pretty good!

aurabri looks talmage up and down and squints. they’re doubtful. they’re also the one in rags.

aurabri: there's ... nowhere for me to go but there.
rocco: that's not true! there's a place called the circus where you can go and just hang out for a bit and mr. gidley will help you--
bishop: if you don't want to go back to the vale, we can make sure you don't get hurt avoiding them.
bishop: if you want to go back to the vale, then that's a completely different discussion that we need to have now.
aurabri: 
talmage: do you know the effort we went through to get you outta that fuckin' cage? and you're just gonna walk right back to them?
raja: they're going to put you right back in the cage--
talmage: they're probably just gonna kill you on the spot! cuz you ran off!

aurabri looks down at their feet.

aurabri: fine. i will not return to the vale.

they seem to be saying it confidently, but bishop notices how nervous they are. the situation seems to be sinking in. they seem more scared than anything else. bishop gently pats aurabri’s shoulder.

bishop: we'll make sure that they can't hurt you again.
rocco: bishop is really strong! did you see him when he grabbed the cage??
aurabri: i was there. i attended that event.

bishop is getting exasperated.

aurabri: well, then-- get me out of the city!!
talmage: okay, so long as you're cool about it.
aurabri: *scoffs* i'm--! cool about everything talmage.
talmage: *laughs*
bishop: do you think they'll be waiting at the door when we exit or should we find a different door
aurabri: i don't know where the exit is. how am i supposed to formulate a conclusion properly if i don't have all the details--?
talmage: *frustrated* --the beacon, is it like a one time thing or is it residual? if we go up there, will they still know where our location is?
aurabri: it's one time, but-- there's tracks that can be followed. they usually send the birds after and those can fly, but not quite the full length of the waterfall.
aurabri: their range is limited. i had the highest range in the whole squad.
talmage: *unimpressed*
bishop: were you specifically watching our group?
aurabri: yes. i recognized ... him.
rocco: he has a name!
aurabri: i've used it.
rocco: did you forget all your memories, too? cuz bishop doesn't remember a whole lot either!!
bishop: ROCCO.

we try to determine what aurabri could do to help us get from the tunnels back to radious’s bunker.

bishop: you have magic.
talmage: they can't use it.
aurabri: i'm a very skilled magic user.
bishop: but if you cast it, they'll know where you are?
aurabri: yes. that's how that works.
rocco: so. what do we do with that. do we put a bag over them ...
talmage: that's a good idea.
luci: put them in a fuckin' body bag
raja: we don't have one handy.
luci: a shame

we think of ways to disguise aurabri.

bishop: do you have any way to disguise yourself that doesn't include casting magic?
[dee]: what color is their hair again?
[ashley]: white
bishop: ... talmage, you have some ink.
luci: *whispering* use the green one, the poison one

talmage smiles.

talmage: i ... do!
bishop: you could dye their hair.
talmage: ooh ...
aurabri: ... that's unnecessary.
talmage: no, i think that would work pretty well!
aurabri: i'm very recognizable by my facial features--
bishop: then we can cover your face in ink?
raja: i was going to suggest blindfolding them since we don't necessarily have permission to reveal the location of where we're going.
rocco: yeah, mr. graves would probably get really upset with me if they found out where this is--
talmage: no, i agree, blindfold is good.
aurabri: i-- i have to object to that, how else will i see where i am going?
talmage: that's the point.
raja: we will guide you.
talmage: that's the fucking point.
raja: do you understand how a blindfold works?
aurabri: yes, i understand, but-- there's dangerous things and-- people down here!

aurabri looks nervously at luci.

talmage: we are the only dangerous people down here.
raja: we didn't go through all the effort of rescuing you from a hanging cage over an infinite waterfall--
bishop: --not infinite, there's an end to it--
raja: --to lead you off of a cliff--

talmage takes his ink out and pours some into his hands before walking closer to aurabri.

talmage: alright, here we go--
aurabri: that's unnecessary, i should not have to do this--

talmage runs his hands through aurabri’s hair, effectively dirtying it and turning it a dark gray. he slaps at their cheeks a little too. talmage hands aurabri the wool wizard cloak from the polaris school to wear.

aurabri: it's ... unpleasantly warm. this will be suspicious.
talmage: how.
aurabri: i'm wearing a wool cloak in the middle of august?
talmage: just act sickly!
aurabri: that's your job.
talmage: 
aurabri: how many times did you fake being sick at school to not go to class.
talmage: how is that AT ALL RELEVANT RIGHT NOW

we’re worried if we should blindfold them or tie them up. bishop insists they don’t need their hands tied, but rocco is concerned.

rocco: but ... magic.
bishop: they can't.
rocco: i know, but what if they do.
bishop: they can't.
rocco: they could still do it.
bishop: but they don't have-- you cast from a book, correct?
aurabri: i am a wizard.
raja: well, they cast something earlier without it.
aurabri: that was a cantrip, that's a level 0 spell that even children could learn.
talmage: i think rocco is worried they might cast another cantrip like message.
bishop: don't do that.
aurabri: ... okay. i won't do it.

the group gives bishop an odd look. we aren’t sure if aurabri was commanded, or just agreed on their own. luci provides a black bandanna we can use as a blindfold for aurabri. they continue walking, bishop holding aurabri’s hand as they lead them further up.

talmage: sooo, there was a vale officer? that wore glasses?
talmage: i'm sure that doesn't narrow it down a whole lot, but
talmage: they seemed to know you. who was that?
aurabri: you need to be more specific in your descriptions. many vale officers, as you said, do actually wear glasses--
talmage: --right but like, one that seemed pretty familiar with you, like maybe worked directly above you?
aurabri:
bishop: the one at the cafe?
rocco: or the one that tried to-- with bishop--
luci: what?!
talmage: i'm just curious their relationship to you, and if they would be worried about--
aurabri: --then describe them more accurately--
talmage: *frustrated* oh my god, they had glasses, they had red hair--
bishop: they had two different-colored eyes.
aurabri: oh, that was captain brayden lucille.
talmage: okay? does he, uhhh, does he like you? like, what's your relationship.
aurabri: he ... oversees the dorms. he's a young captain, has a relationship with the cicero organization and the vale officers here-- he's-- he's a good man.
luci: sounds fake but okay.
bishop: will he go looking for you if you go missing?
aurabri: i-i have not-- i don't-- ... it is his job to keep track of us, yes. he ... perhaps.
talmage: do you think he would be upset hearing that you were to be executed, or do you think he was the one who ordered it?
aurabri: u-uh--
aurabri: ... he doesn't ... approve of rogue magic users ... says they're very dangerous to society and ... might've had ... a say ...
rocco: he sounds like a bad friend. why do you hang out with him? :(
aurabri: ... he's my superior officer.
bishop: what were you discussing at the cafe?
aurabri: that there was some sort of upcoming demonstration that he would be attending at the cicero offices with mr. graves.

we can gather that brayden was the one watching us perform the magic item tests.

the rest of the hike up is rough. everyone suffers from exhaustion, aurabri slowing the group down but letting bishop carry them when he asks.


they reach the surface. talmage and raja disguise themselves. raja takes out the summoner stone.

bishop: i feel like, of anyone, raja should use it. we don't know what it will do to talmage's mark.
aurabri: i am by far the most skilled at using these--
raja: well we don't know what it will do to your mark either.
aurabri: i mean, it would only be for a brief second--

raja decides to use the stone.

raja: is there anything i should know about how to use this?

aurabri is facing away from her. they are still blindfolded.

raja: aurabri.
aurabri: ... yes?
raja: is there anything i need to know about using this stone?
aurabri: be more specific.
bishop: *sternly* please give her a quick rundown on the basics of the stone.
aurabri: ... it's just like using any other summoning magical artifacts. if you've had a familiar before it's similar to that--
raja: i have not had any sort of familiar or have used any sort of magical artifact before.
aurabri: then you are woefully unprepared for this.

talmage is snickering in the background.

aurabri: ... you use magic to imbue it with your abilities, inspiring it into life. it takes craft and control to send the bird into the right direction. you will be unable to move when you are using it, as your eyes and mind and soul become one with this beautiful creature.

the plan is for raja to scout using the bird, and then send mordecai and bloodworth immediately ahead of us so they can run back and warn us of anything.

as we’re chatting, talmage offhandedly mentions radious.

aurabri: who?
talmage: 
aurabri: no--! explain what's going on here.
bishop: aurabri. we're trying to not get you killed right now. we will explain things later.

raja activates the stone. it’s really hard for her to get a handle on it. when she opens her eyes, she can see through the bird’s eyes. she attempts to fly through the door leading to the surface, but dives crashing into the ground.

luci opens the door a crack for her, who shakes herself off and launches again. she gets off the ground and manages to stay airborne. it looks like she’s struggling – aurabri is still blindfolded so they can’t make fun of her.

rocco: well, she did okay considering aurabri's instructions weren't that helpful!
aurabri: she could have asked better questions.

from above, raja can see a group of guards patrolling the waterfall. 4 looking away from us and 2 towards us. as she returns to the group, she realizes she doesn’t know how to deactivate the stone.

raja returns to her body, looking up at herself. she has no idea how to wake up.

rocco: what's she doing
talmage: i-- i don't ... raja ... get in ... your body ...
raja: *squawk* 
bishop: aurabri--
aurabri: what's going on? i can't see anything.
bishop: yeah, i know.
raja: *angry squawk*
bishop: raja is here, and raja bird is here. i don't know if we know the next step to make it-- not-bird.
aurabri: she simply has to disconnect herself from the spell.
bishop: okay, h-how?
aurabri: it's how you deactivate any spell?

talmage shakes raja’s body. she doesn’t move.

rocco: *yelling* RAJA!!
raja: *SQUAWK SQUAWK*
talmage: SHHHHH
bishop: oh my GOD we're trying to be QUIET

we are able to sneak safely past the guards and make our way to radious’s bunker.


we notice radious have covered any recognizable imagery in the bunker, in preparation for aurabri’s arrival. the magic circle glows in the room.

radious: *disguised voice* i have some questions for them before you leave.
raja: should we leave them blindfolded?
aurabri: i know it's you, professor radious. he already told me.
radious: *disappointed sigh*

we leave aurabri blindfolded. as radious approaches aurabri with his wand, his previously-unassuming demeanor seems to grow darker. he places his wand against aurabri’s cheek, pressing in, the tip of it glowing red.

radious: have you asked any questions yet, or is this for me to do?
talmage: we asked a little, but ... they weren't really willing to give up a lot.

radious sighs.

radious: ... it's a good thing you're here, talmage.
radious: wouldn't be so nice otherwise.

radious folds his arms.

radious: aurabri, you have to answer me, concisely, without any excuses.

aurabri gulps. they’re trembling.

radious: my question is, what did they offer you. what was the choice? why.
aurabri: 
aurabri: i didn't-- i didn't-- i didn't have a choice. they-- they found me and caught me while i was on an errand, the vale scouts did, and--
radious: go on, we knew that.
aurabri: they gave me ... a choice. they were-- they were ... searching for one person in particular at the school, and said if i-- if i turned them in, then that would be the end of it and i could go free and i wouldn't have anything to worry about and my family and everyone else and the usual threats would be safe.
aurabri: so i went back to school, i went and found them, and i don't remember much of what happened next, but apparently they ... followed me.
aurabri: they said they weren't going to do anything. they said they weren't going to do anything.

talmage laughs darkly.

aurabri: they were looking for-- for demons, specifically. that's what they were after. they said there was some ... demonic activity and that i'd be doing some help to the world to get rid of it.
aurabri: and it was that or they were going to kill me, right there!

radious sighs.

radious: that's the story they give most people.
talmage: 
talmage: i thought you were SMART
aurabri:
talmage: LIKE
aurabri: i left! and i cast invisibility! and i covered my tracks but either they already knew or they were having a game of it, i don't know, but--
aurabri: everyone's fine and safe and no one is hurting anyone right now!
aurabri: all of our magic is properly contained, being used for good.

talmage can tell this is a trained response. it sounds believable, but he can tell aurabri doesn’t truly believe it themselves.

talmage: you know that's not the case.
talmage: they're out there and they're doing that to more schools
talmage: they're out there, finding more idiots like you, and they're going to keep doing this!
aurabri: i ... know who they were after
aurabri: she agreed to turn herself in ... so everyone else would be fine.
rocco: who did they take?
aurabribishop: aurabri.
aurabri: 
talmage: who's life did you sacrifice for your own.
aurabri: i didn't sacrifice anybody's life, they decided to do it on their own, i told them to run
rocco: why did they want her, was she just really really powerful?
aurabri: they were searching for demons and tieflings, like i said, there's something going on--
rocco: she wasn't a tiefling, was she? but talmage is a tiefling, how come they didn't want talmage?
aurabri: i ... i don't know. he has ... a mark on him and got away, i've never seen that happen before.
talmage: ... i don't know

talmage is pretty sure he knows who the tiefling was.

talmage: what was her name.
aurabri: ... you know who it was.
talmage: and she turned herself in? she agreed to this?
aurabri: i wasn't there! i didn't know! she said she would do it, make sure everyone else was fine.
aurabri: i assume she traded her for you, you should be more grateful.

talmage grits his teeth, breathing growing more erratic.

talmage: WHAT ABOUT THIS SITUATION COULD I BE GRATEFUL FOR
talmage: is she dead?!
aurabri: i haven't seen her.
aurabri: ever since the viscount took her, i haven't seen her. i haven't seen him.
aurabri: the one who branded you. who branded everyone.
aurabri: he doesn't ... it's not monsieur west. he's the one who does the raids.

the room is uncomfortably quiet.

bishop: if they left you alive, then there's an equal chance whoever this is is still alive, talmage.

radious approaches talmage and puts a hand on his shoulder.

radious: she will be alive. this is not ... unheard of.
radious: when elves or tieflings or others who are innately magical go missing, we just haven't been able to find them or find proof of them being dead.
radious: the vale is doing ... something. we're working on it. we'll work to find her, talmage.
talmage: ... okay.
radious: but you can't get caught too. you need to get out of here. and the rockfort circus is one of the few places you'll be safe, for now.

talmage breathes for a moment.

talmage: i'll come back and i'll join you and we'll find out more about where they're taking them and we'll get her back.
radious: keep working on it. but keep yourself safe.
radious: this is a problem for all of you. aurabri is nothing compared to any of what you are.

we aren’t sure what to do with aurabri.

radious: i don't know if you understand based on context here, but they're the reason our school is toast.
radious: i had my suspicions about who it was ... 
bishop: people deserve a second chance. they can make something good out of it.
raja: if they want to.
talmage: ... is this stupid? are we making a stupid decision? bringing them with?
radious: you could have left them in the cage. that's what i would have done. but ... you're a better person than i am.
radious: and they're the only one who knows what's going on here.
radious: you can leave them here with me - eventually they would call for help, i'm sure. but i'd get the information out of them, have all of their plans.

we still want to bring aurabri to the circus. we consider what their circus act might be.

luci: maybe they could be a mime, with wyn.
luci: not allowed to talk. you could tell them not to talk.
bishop:
luci: just say that for a week they're not allowed to talk. can you do that?
bishop: luci, i'm not going to.
talmage: god, that'd be really great though.

luci asks radious if he has any red paint – radious gestures to the entirety of his bunker. luci begins rummages around for “clown supplies.”

[shad]: what kind of people just have CLOWN SUPPLIES in their SECRET RESISTANCE HIDEOUT

radious asks talmage what he would have done in aurabri’s situation. he has a hard time answering.

radious: would you have let them kill you? find your way back to us eventually? run back, try to warn people? given the option the person they were after to run?
talmage: 
radious: aurabri didn't make the best choice, but they certainly didn't make the worst one.
talmage: whatever, yeah.
radious hands talmage a briefcase.
talmage: what's this?
radious: shit i think you'd like.
talmage: oh!

it’s full of a bunch of assorted items – a coffee mug, hat, pair of shoes, telescope, etc

radious: in case you wanted to take anything else from me.

radious turns to rocco and hands him a to-go sandwich.

radious: and mr. graves said to eat your carrots.
bishop: was mr. graves here--?
radious: no, he was not here, but he did pass me in the street a couple days ago and told me to make sure that rocco eats his vegetables.
radious: you don't have to eat them, but he might know.
talmage:  did he tell you that before you knew we were--
radious: yeah, the night before you showed up, actually ...
talmage: that is FUCKING terrifying
rocco: he knows everybody!
bishop: he's got some magic ...
radious: he's not much of a magic user, i just think he's really good at what he does.
rocco: the power of observation ...

radious turns to raja.

radious: best of luck.
radious: i have nothing worthy of you.
raja: your hospitality is much appreciated.

bishop asks radious if he can pass on a message.

radious: ... sure. i am going to tell them who you are, you know what you are, and the choices you've made here.
bishop: can you let them know that, if kairos doesn't want me to go out and find him then i won't, but i'm not going to leave here when there's people i can help.
radious: short and sweet.
bishop: thank you.
radious: do you want a shirt. i don't really have much else to offer.
bishop: i don't think your shirts would ... fit me ...
radious: i think you should take this one.

he hands bishop a rolled up white cloth shirt with golden embroidery. there’s something wrapped inside it.

radious turns to luci.

radious: don't get them caught?
luci: i'm not! i'm the sneaky one!! i pick the locks!!!

radious glances at talmage and sighs.

as they shuffle onto the teleportation circle, talmage asks about the resistance again.

talmage: the recruiter-- how does that ... work?
radious: you don't get to know.
talmage: do we have to be ... here? will we know where we are?
radious: what did i tell you earlier.
talmage: i forgot ...
radious: talmage.
talmage: a lot's been going on!!!
radious: i called for them. made them aware of your interest. 
rocco: we have to make them notice!
radious: make them notice, because you won't notice them.
rocco: it's like mr. graves!
radious: mr. graves is not the recruiter, i'm letting you know that right now.

the teleportation circle goes off.


after teleporting, everyone feels nauseous. aurabri vomits in the background. talmage and luci feel great. the group landed in a small clearing – the magic circle beneath them is fading slowly. the grass around them is burning slightly. bishop rubs aurabri’s back and takes off their blindfold.

aurabri: we need to go ... the mark ... they'll see it ... of course they're gonna see it ...

we hear cawing in the distance. we need to hide.

rocco climbs up a tree. bishop hides in a bush. talmage and raja both don’t know what to do, they can’t find a good place to hide.

eventually luci is able to help raja cover herself with leaves. rocco offers a hand to help talmage up, but he can’t make it up the tree. as the birds are approaching, he simply lays himself flat on the ground. the birds don’t notice anyone, but are checking the area.

one lands near talmage. he throw his dagger at it, but it doesn’t kill the bird, and when the dagger magically returns to talmage’s hand, the bird makes direct eye contact with him. it squawks loudly before flying away. we need to leave.

rocco leads the group through the darkness, heading towards where we think the circus is. we can hear the caws following us. rocco eyes a small hole in the ground they would all be able to hide in.

[ashley]: roll a dex check to hide
[emily]: *rolls* oh
[emily]: i fucked up
[ashley]: natural 1?
[ashley]: talmage trips
[charlie]: can i use my inspiration point to help talmage?
[ashley]: okay, re-roll
[shad]: don't fuck up
[emily]: *rolls* oh
[emily]: MY god
[shad]: IT'S A FUCKING 1 AGAIN
[ashley]: talmage trips

everyone is able to safely make it in, but talmage trips over a root on his way there. he can’t stop thinking about how he’s done this before, how he’s run from the vale like this already, full-sprinting through the woods to get away from them, and all those memories are overwhelming him. as he lifts his head, he can see his friends huddled in the dark, bishop’s feline eyes reflecting in the moonlight. talmage feels something cold touch the back of his neck. he breathes in sharply, painfully, as the rest can see a wispy, black humanoid shape wrap its long fingers all the way around his neck and squeeze.

talmage shakes his head at his friends, willing them to stay hidden.

rocco casts [faerie fire] on the creature. it misses, but the light allows us to see the it better – it resembles the birds we’ve encountered before, maybe made the same way? it has two long horns and giant wings, long teeth and claws. it reeks of demonic energy and almost mirrors talmage’s appearance. rocco runs up to talmage. bishop runs out and casts [compelled duel] on the demon. he also tries to compel it with his sphinx powers.

bishop: let go of him.

the demon hisses, chuckling in the back of bishop’s mind in abyssal. it lets go of talmage. his bad memories are coming back more vividly.

someone touching him, whispering against in the back of his neck
“we need to keep an eye on this one”
the hand retreating, the back of their big cloak, red-haired, deep-voiced

talmage’s face is pale. he scrambles to his feet, instinctively swinging his staff at the creature behind him, but it’s so much taller than he anticipated and it barely affects it. raja casts [sacred flame] on it. luci shouts frustratedly at talmage before throwing a knife into a nearby bird. the rest of the birds circle talmage, pecking at him. rocco punches a bird, and then moves to [flurry of blows] the demon. his fists sink into the creature, and it doesn’t seem to have the impact he was expecting. bishop swings at the demon, using [divine smite] on it. it seems to be affected by magic attacks.

talmage tries to fight the birds off of him, to no avail. he looks around frantically, trying to determine more from the situation, but can only hear thudding in his ears. he ca hear his own heartbeat, remembers running through the dark, blood running down his skin, wiping soot from his face … he starts having a panic attack. the demon ignores bishop’s compelled dual, swiping down at talmage and dealing psychic damage. talmage goes down, and it reaches down, wrapping its claws around talmage’s body.

luci manages to keep his magic contained, sinking two daggers into the demon.

luci: what-- why doesn't it work?!
[emily]: fuckin'-- idiot GOD I HATE HIM

two of the birds attack talmage again, and he fails two death saves.

[dee]: why do they REALLY WANNA KILL YOU SPECIFICALLY

rocco punches at a bird. bishop leans down and uses [lay on hands] on talmage, returning him to consciousness.

he remembers running for his life, but he isn’t sure which time it was. if it was the time in the woods from brighthaven, or if it was the time you were running with your friends out of a keep trying to save the person who ruined your life in the first place. he sits up, a heavy weight around his neck. it’s a thick, metal collar. there’s something on his face, he can’t open his mouth all the way. it’s dark and empty. lonely. he feels like he’s been here for years.

the door opens, and an elf is standing there. lean, against the door like he owns the place. long red hair and glasses. he approaches, a long knife in his hands. he drops the knife and walks over, unbuckling the muzzle, and kisses him.

he feels overwhelming hope and warmth as the elf unshackles his chains, and they run out the door.

talmage wakes up, the collar leaving his neck as the claws retract. bishop is warm above him. he unfurls his wings in an attempt to block the demon from talmage. talmage grips at his neck and touches his mouth. did bishop kiss him???

the demon crits on bishop, almost fully taking him out.

[ashley]: luci rolled a natural 20!
[emily]: oh!
[ashley]: to NOT use magic
[emily]: oh MY GOD
[shad]: I'M GONNA MURDER HIM

luci throws his regular fucking knives at the birds. also more birds appear.

rocco casts [burning hands] at the demon, but it completely disappears and lights the tree behind it on fire. bishop heals talmage once more before swinging at the demon with his sword again. talmage frantically looks around for a way to attempt casting [cure wounds] again, so he looks for something on bishop’s person. he plucks a feather from bishop’s wings, dips it in ink, and tries to write on his arm– but it doesn’t work. he doesn’t know why, but he can’t write it on his arm. after panicking for a moment, he writes a healing symbol on his leg. he heals himself REALLY well.

bishop takes psychic damage and falls unconscious. back in the cave, raja feels something in there with her. something dark, strong, and powerful. she realizes she is alone – aurabri has gone missing.

aedith: just as selfish and strategic as i thought you'd be.

raja begrudgingly exits the cave and casts [sacred flame] on the demon.

talmage: *desperately* try to use your magic!!
luci: i don't-- i don't know how!!

luci focuses on the two daggers in his hand until one of them lights up. he glares at the one that doesn’t light up and throws it onto the ground. before he can even attack with the glowing one it shatters in his hand.

talmage sidesteps some of the birds, using the same adrenaline from healing himself to heal bishop by painting a large symbol across his chest. he turns to luci, shouting words of encouragement.

talmage: that's fine, keep trying, it's okay! you can do this!!

the demon phases through bishop to talmage, dealing psychic damage and knocking him unconscious.

raja runs over, healing talmage back to consciousness and yelling at him to get up. luci pulls out the dagger gifted to him by mr. graves, which lights up instantly. he looks wary, but jumps over talmage to attack the demon … he misses, hitting a tree behind the demon. the tree gets super fucked up. the birds attack talmage. they all attack the birds back.

luci’s arm is glowing all the way up to his shoulder.

talmage: keep trying!
luci: i'm almost out of knives!!
talmage: use your-- hand!!! LOOK AT YOUR HAND, USE IT

the demon hits talmage again, knocking him unconscious again.

raja: *to luci* USE YOUR FUCKING ARM
raja: alodia, please

raja snaps and casts [sacred flame], a golden light comes down from above, dissolving the creature instantly. luci watches in awe, before turning to one of the birds and mimicking the same motion. with a snap, another [sacred flame], twice as large as raja’s, shoots down on the bird directly in front of him. he watches his hand turn back to normal, a shocked look on his face.

the remaining bird books it, attempting to fly away. bishop charges after it, launches his javelin into the air, and kills it instantly. in the distance, a trumpet blares. it sounds … clown-like.

a few circus members come running, aurabri leading them. raja heals talmage a bit, and he wakes to her and luci leaning over him looking concerned. luci isn’t glowing anymore, but his expression shifts to relief.

luci: it's okay!
luci: everyone's here, it's okay, it'll be okay!

raja and luci help talmage to his feet. lorelai runs over to luci, hugging him and then using him to jump into a tree above them.

lorelai: there's more coming, we have to go right now! come on everyone!!

wyn approaches talmage and holds out a first aid kit. talmage … tries to take it? wyn shakes his head. he points at the box and then points at talmage. talmage … tries to open the box? wyn opens it instead, taking out a bandage and wrapping talmage up. he also gives him some tea and a trauma blanket to heal his psychic damage.

gidley taps their cane twice on the ground, covering the ground in shimmering light. footprints and demon claw marks glow in the darkness, before gidley taps their cane again and they go out. they approach luci and tap him on the head.

gidley: we all saw what you did.
luci: i didn't-- i didn't-- i didn't do any-- i didn't do anything.

we return to the circus. a golden-red line surrounds the camp, and upon crossing it we feel lighter and less exhausted.

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