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RP:Guess What's Coming for Cookie?

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Part of the What You Leave Behind Arc


Part of the Magic, Madness, and Mayhem Arc


Summary: 'What You Leave Behind' has ended. Now, four friends ponder what ought to be taken forward. Also, there's a behemoth.

The Healer's Hut

Lionel || How many had there been? Two? Maybe three. Was that a lot for a man of 32? Was it a little? Lionel O’Connor had no idea. He had never had a clue when it came to things like love. In his adolescence, he had fallen for Alexia Isis, she of the first-sired of Elazul, and in a remarkable surprise she in turn fell for him. They were to be wed, and she was with child, and then the First Vampire overtook Lionel’s body and forced him to watch from within himself as Hellfire was raised against her. That had been the first of two great heartbreaks in Lionel’s life; the revenge that he exacted upon the Dark Immortals for that sickening act was repaid by their last battlefield commander, Kahran, when he destroyed all of Catal in return. Revenge was the cycle; it was so clear to Lionel now how much damage his lust for it had caused not only to himself but to others as well. So many others. Perhaps, with Hellfire’s end and Kahran’s, Lionel could finally break free of the cycle of revenge. But how difficult it had been, whether true or a lie, to behold some fragment of Alexia before him like a puppet in that final conflict with Kahran. If it were a lie, it still stung; only in his dreams, which were nightmares one and all, had Lionel ever seen Alexia’s face since her death. If it were true, then Lionel was responsible for Alexia’s murder twice now, and he would have to live with that for the rest of his days.


Lionel || How many had there been? Two? Maybe three. After Alexia, eight years had passed, and in those eight years Lionel O’Connor had drifted. He abandoned Lithrydel immediately after the Second Immortal War had ended with Khasad and Elazul’s final destruction, leaving the realm’s safety to worthier people like Donovan and Cailyn Keane. In those eight years, he reclaimed Catal from its warlord aggressors only to lose his kingdom to Kahran’s vengeance. Lost, beaten, and looking for a place to die, Lionel returned to Lithrydel some four years hence, and there he met a woman named Alvina. Was that love? He couldn’t say for sure, but looking back, he didn’t believe it was. She had borne a striking resemblance to Alexia, and she too was with child, and hence the primal reaction on Lionel’s part; it was like he had been given the chance to save an Alexia who was not Alexia, and it was only when he realized the error of his ways that he withdrew himself to his brooding ways. At least she was alive and well, with a loving husband as best he could tell, and if nothing else he’d scored a sweet kitten with folded ears out of the whole affair. Who came after Alvina? Valrae, of course; the only woman Lionel was certain that he’d loved since Alexia. What sort of love? Not the variety that could sustain them at all. He had first witnessed her on the day of her death, which ought to have been enough to clue Lionel in on his recurring psychoses to begin with, but as ever he was blindest to his own feelings. He was addicted to the passionate effect Valrae’s death had upon her fellow witches, the galvanizing allure, the catalyst of it all, the martyrdom of her tragic burning. In most worlds, that would have been the end of that, but Hollow being Hollow, he had instead begun to meet with Valrae’s ghost. His addiction, like fuel to the embers of the very Halycanos within him, gave him the necessary strength to continue the war with Kahran. It was only once Valrae was reborn -- a great and happy thing by any other metric -- that the both of them soon realized their mutual addiction was not the right sort of love at all. They loved one-another for the ideals which they each had represented, not for the people preoccupied with those ideals. ‘False face must hide what the false heart doth know.’


Lionel || Two, then. There had been two. Two women that Lionel had ever loved. So what was this, then? He had known Penelope since far before he’d ever even heard of Valrae’s name. He’d first met her even before encountering Alvina Landon that fateful day on the snowy hills near Frostmaw. She had always been special to him but it had never occurred to him that he might love her as more than a friend and ally. Were those feelings always there? Or were they never there at all, only to be born when she risked life and limb to save him? Was this old reckoning or newfound heartfelt yearning? Or was it all in his head, and he needed only to dust himself off, wander from this hut, return to a life most hectic and forget his foolishness? There were two paths, and two paths only, that Lionel could take to resolve this matter. Either he promptly thanked Penelope Halifax for her invaluable services, reminded her that he would do his utmost to give her business everything it could ever need, and vanished back into a life of misadventure, or… he could tell her how he felt and see what awaited them in her own mind. He was so tempted to choose the former path, the simpler path, the path of least resistance. He had told Penelope he wished to discuss his plans for the future, which surely sounded heavy, but he could play it off with relative ease as nothing more than plans for the Warrior’s Guild and how best to shore up Lithrydel’s defenses for the next big thing to inevitably befall the realm. No. The cycle of revenge was broken. Lionel was free, at long last, to take his life into his own hands, to shape himself not as a creature of vengeance but as a man with dreams instead of nightmares. The thought gave him strength. It forged a fire in his heart that for once in his life was not from any Ishaarite spirit of fire, for the spirit Halycanos was dead. It was a fire purely his own.


Lionel || “Penelope,” Lionel said abruptly. “I kissed you, didn’t I? Before the battle. That was… unlike me. I’m sorry it was so sudden. I’ll make it up to you by, uh, running the risk of cranking up the awkward even higher. Have you ever been on a date? I sure haven’t. I’m thinking of amending that. Specifically, with you. At your earliest availability. Book me. I’ll bring… whatever it is that people bring on dates. And we’ll do… whatever it is that people do on dates. And that’ll be kind of cool, maybe.”


Lanara :: It had been a few days since the death and resurrection of Lionel, and although the witch had semi-promised Khitti that she would be wary of the warrior and not actively engage in any sort of contact, she hadn’t said anything about avoiding Penelope. Since defeating the apparition of Khasad, the witch felt stronger than she had in months, physically as well as spiritually. Lanara had felt a kinship to the healer of their courageous little group, Penelope, and so she had sought out the infirmary in Sage Forest. It’s a rare occurrence when Lana travels alone, so it’s no wonder that she’s accompanied by the beast that she had rescued from the plane in which Kahran faced off against Lionel. “Where oh where has my behemoth gone? Oh where, oh where, can he be?! Hm…” Feigning a look of confusion, the brunette lifts and a rock and takes a quick gander at the dirt, “Not there… Maybe behind this stump?” Dashing to the right, she pouts as she ‘guesses’ wrong again, though truth be told, a blind man could likely find the behemoth. Samael is wedged between a row of bushes and a boulder, though his long horns are poking out, as well as his muscular backside, which wiggles in anticipation every time that Lanara guesses wrong. “Oh no! I can’t find my behemoth! Could he be…” Lana nips her lower lip, trying her damnedest to hide the giggle that threatens to bubble forth, as the behemoth’s wriggling is causing the bushes to shake. He truly enjoyed this game! “GOTCHA!” Leaping in front of Samael’s head, the witch applauds her victory as the behemoth roars at the conclusion of the game. “Alrighty, Sam! I have to go inside and visit a friend now, so why don’t you scope out a new hiding place, okay? I’ll be back in a few minutes!” Clad in black leggings, a green tunic, and a leather jacket, the witch is dressed perfectly for the end of autumn. Muffled voices are heard from within the healer’s hut and Lana rummages in her bag for the box of freshly baked cookies that she had brought along. Draping the strap of her cross-body satchel over her form, Lana gently raps on the door of the hut, before slowly opening the door and stepping over the threshold. “Hello?”


Penelope had been outside in the cool air. The air was fresh and not muffled like the hut had been with people weaving through and out again. In the distance, she has a bow in her hands and arrows sitting on her back. Lately, the girl had decided that now was a good time to actually incorporate what she learned years before since the world swirled around her quickly at once. The woman has her elbow pulled back with the line of the bow with the arrow interlocked in her fingers. One eye is squinted shut while the other focuses on the target at hand that is about thirty feet away. One would notice a few arrows lying on the forest floor, while other arrows struck the target on a tree stump. Some perfect, some off-kilter. Practice made perfect, and her memory was trying to kick back in from when she was taught by the elf long ago. Her fingers let go of the stretched back arrow and the arrow flies; hitting the trunk with a ‘thunk’. “Right on,” a lighter, playful voice observes her. Ruari Erickson. “Getting better. I would suggest to hold your elbow a little higher next time, though,” he nudges her. The girl looks amused all the same and then shrugs the dark haired man off. “I was just telling you should probably go in before you catch a cold,” he suggests. The herbalist peers down at her feet with the crunched snow beneath them. “You know that’s a myth, right? Aren’t you supposed to be a nurse?” Mr. Erickson shrugs. “Only spilling what my momma told me,” he teases before she rolls her eyes in response. “I’m about to get more medicine for Lionel. Just so you know, that’s your cue to check on him.” The woman then nods in response and follows back into the hut where the warrior rested.


Penelope :: The door to the hut opens and she is placing the bow on a nearby chair in the corner and placing the arrows that are on her back in the corner as well. The freckled woman is in her own world—her mind multiple thoughts away from the present, for the world was pacing too fast for her. She shrugs the flannel that rested over her shoulders off and placed it on top of the weaponry only to reveal to tight-fitting, black long sleeve shirt with a pair of tan cargo pants with too many pockets. Obviously in a pair of her handy-woman attire. When the girl peers up to find Lionel on his cot, mossy eyes ease before she nears him and almost sits beside him before he abruptly begins to speak about the kiss. Before the war. Before his heart stopped. Before she revived him. Her breath is taken away for a moment or two. She blinks and every other chaotic thought comes to a halt. He kissed her. Was that not a bucket list check mark? Kiss the random girl? She saves you. You fall in love. Was that not cliché? What was love? Why is she even thinking about love? Lionel rests there with a waiting response and she is completely still with those parting lips as if wanting to say something. Love had turned to stone. Love had destroyed the once naïve girl and turned her fickle. Although, caring and flirtatious at times, she is frozen on what to even say. Despite the silence, there is something else that is forming that seems foreign in the pit of her stomach. An old feeling that was once lost in the depths of death. The man was an important part of the land, a military man, a warrior. Penelope Halifax was only as simple as they come. No family. No children. Nothing—believing only to live the most ordinary life possible. How could he just simply ask –her-? “Lionel, I thi—“ she is cut off by the ‘hello’ that walks through the door. She pivots quickly realizing that Lanara is standing within the door. “Hello!” She might have squealed a little in giddy, confused nervousness before flinching at her tone of excitement.


Krice came to the Healer's hut not for himself--he was hale and hearty as told from any cursory glance, let alone a discerning one--but because he sensed something. Those who knew Krice knew that he was a little more special than the average human, with faster healing, faster movements, a more efficient musculoskeletal system, every sense heightened. It wasn't Lanara's familiar scent, or her cookies that drew him here, or even the unexpected smell of the behemoth. Krice spent a moment staring from the tree borderline at the hulking creature as if it was the most normal thing in the world--he had experienced the saurian threat alongside Lionel, after all-. Would Samal catch a whiff of the warrior's wyvern, her scent all over him post-Frostmaw-flight? The behemoth turned to hide per Lanara's instruction and Krice turned his attention back to the hut. He hadn't arrived early enough to see Penelope in her bid for fresh air, so he only -saw- his companion's sister. Dressed in his usual black garb with his customary katana strapped against his back, the silver-haired enigma waited to observe the hut from afar, reluctant to interrupt given the snippets of conversation his sensitive ears had gleaned.


Lionel had only a split second to process what may have been reluctance, or even outright rejection, in Penelope’s voice before the knock at the door blindsided them both. His mind tried to linger nonetheless; he wanted to brace himself for the possibility of disappointment and remain graceful -- as graceful as Lionel had ever managed, in any case -- regardless. In his brief daze, Lionel bit his lip too hard and winced. He watched for the guest and, upon confirming it was Lanara, smiled a genuine smile. Was his newly-revived heart still beating almost dangerously fast? Yes. Was he inwardly as anxious as a goblin sneaking past an ogre? Definitely. Did his face reveal all that? Probably not, actually. He looked at peace. Lanara had begun to have that effect on the man. She’d assisted in his recovery from Chartsend’s beach mere moments after he’d escaped Kahran’s Shadow Plane dungeon, and she’d risked her life to fight by his side in the eye of the war’s final storm. Anyone who did that -- when the two of them were barely on a first-name basis to begin with -- was worthy at least of peacefulness. “Thank you,” Lionel told Lanara. Even his heart began to slow. (Not the bad kind of slow this time. Praise be.) “I don’t know how to thank you. I mean, I just did, but…”


Lanara knew she interrupted something heavy, from the way both parties glanced her way, to the heightened pitch of Penelope’s greeting. Was Lionel’s condition worsening? Had Rorin perished after nearly losing his leg in the battle? Sensing the worst, she slips out of her leather jacket and drapes it across the back of a chair, before taking a seat on the opposite side of the warrior’s bed. “How are you feeling?” A cursory glance from head to toe is given, before Lana once more allows her hues to linger on Lionel’s face, wondering if she should tell him that last night she had met with Khitti. She wasn’t supposed to trust this man, and was warned that danger would come to her if she lingered in his presence, but he didn’t look all that intimidating lying on a cot at the healing center. “You look like you’re on the mend.” Her words are short, her smile a tad forced, as she awkwardly fumbles with the box of baked goods, before placing them on a nearby tray. An expensive piece of parchment is handed to the healer, “Penelope… I was in the area, getting fitted for my dress for the ball that I’m hosting this weekend, and I thought I would drop in and see if maybe you’d like to attend? It’s in Enchantment, so you may not have heard about it all the way up here… But…” The witch kept her circle of friends ridiculously small, as her heart had been broken far too many times to count, so –making- a friend was equally as hard and sometimes the words didn’t come so easily. Lanara is stumbling through her invitation, nearly identical to how Lionel staggered through asking the healer on a date! “I mean, I understand if you’re busy and all…” Why was it so hard for her to show her vulnerability?! It’s then that Lionel shows his gratitude and her dark eyes widen, as she hadn’t expected any sort of thank you, “Oh. Um. You-You’re welcome. It’s sort of what a true witch does… Delves into the unknown, educates others, and heals when she is able…” There’s a brief pause, before she blurts out, “Khitti knows that you’ve returned to the lands. I was with her last night and it sort of came up.” It also caused Khitti to smash a glass which required stitches on her palm, and the two had drank long into the night, but she doesn’t mention that part. Lanara then falls silent as she looks from Penelope to Lionel, wondering who would be the first to mention –what- they had fought, the appearance of the crone, Rorin’s whereabouts, and what it all may mean for the future. Meanwhile, Samael is still hiding, literally in the same exact spot as earlier and his wiggling is shaking the trees. He catches the scent of the wyvern and he snorts, hoping that his hiding spot was –better- than the wyverns, and that Lanara would choose to play with him over another beast lurking in the forest. Samael wasn’t the sort to share.


Penelope’s mind was focused, as well, on Lionel’s question at-hand. The woman felt as if she was caught for something that she should have not been partaking in. Like a foolish child. Although, her chipper pitch was high momentarily, her face remained calm as well. As Lanara moves to Lionel’s bedside, the healer makes her way to another part of the small area. She moves to a tray and idly swipes up supplies to replace Lionel’s bandages. As she turns, the woman finally regains poise. “The Soiree. I’ve heard of it,” and eyes begin to land on the blonde who is resting on the cot with the witch. Mossy eyes blink fast before landing on Lanara again. “Yerrel insists on me attending. He thinks it’ll take my mind off of work. Find someone to mingle with," pause. Her tone seems sheepish and it is mostly because of the elephant between Lionel and Penelope. She continues, "He had me go shopping and to be fitted with one of his nurse connections in Cenril. He figured I needed some girl time,” she snickers before sitting in a chair beside the two with the medical supplies in hand. “I’d love to attend. I hope to see you there,” she says reassuringly with a smile spreading across unpainted lips. The herbalist truly connected with the witch, and the healer did not have a lot of friends because she was, too, shy. The Catalian proceeds to address Lanara through thanking her. His actions giving the herbalist a chance to breathe within the small space between the two, but the air still feels stiff. “I’m grateful as well. We would have never had a chance without you, Lanara. I’m thankful I met you,” a silken sincere sense of gratitude goes towards the witch. The girl then proceeds to move to grab a bottle of cleansing solution. The air grows grim as Lanara spills her hot gossip. The healer only attends to Lionel’s healing wounds in a hesitant fashion. Her fingers are fidgeting a lot more than usual, but the two speak, so there is no sense to worry. Her face, however, at least, remains cool and collected.


Krice :: After the most basic but necessary exchange with the healer, Krice now stood in the doorway to the actual ward in which everyone was gathered, Lanara's back to him, the other two at varied angles. He hadn't wanted to interrupt but since the witch essentially did that for him, however unwittingly, he wanted less to walk away without checking on his allies. So there he was, in the doorway, gazing at the trio within. He scrutinized the group, his expression one of concentration, emotions indiscernible; even without their conversation offering hints, he'd be able to tell that they three had been involved in something significant. As such, he posed his query to all of them: " You guys alright?" His focus shifted to linger on Lionel, clearly the most injured of the three.


Lionel || What was it that triggered the apprehension Lionel so plainly saw in Lanara? She seemed to have been regarding him as half a ghost. At first, and as the witch turned her full attention to Penelope with talk of soirees, Lionel pondered if it was simply because Lanara had seen him in a physical state even he could scarcely imagine. Seeing someone alive whose chest had been ripped apart probably wasn’t an easy thing to handle. But there was something else here. There had to be. The woman was treating him as less a ghost and more a ghoul, a creature to be pitied yet feared. Talk of the soiree continued, and Penelope’s sheepishness over the subject was perhaps even more apparent than Lanara’s apprehension around Lionel. Why did everything feel so awkward all of a sudden? He wasn’t angry or sad; simply surprised. Lanara’s attention returned to him now, and she was all stops and starts, but as soon as she mentioned she was a witch Lionel couldn’t help but grin. No matter why it was that he had truly been drawn to Valrae, that connection would forever remain, because it was ultimately a connection to the plight of the downtrodden, to the witches, whose numbers swelled far greater on the side of good than evil. “You’re a witch,” he said warmly. “No wonder you helped. I am, and always will be, a true friend to true witches.”


Lionel || It was fortunate for the Catalian that he had managed to get that out before the rest of Lanara’s statement, for as soon as she mentioned Khitti -- and with so pensive a look even then! -- he felt his mood sink to a more somber level. Khitti. The sister he had lost. The family he had promised never to abandon. Being held a tortured prisoner in a madman’s dungeon wasn’t exactly slipping out of town for selfish purposes. But deep down inside, Lionel knew that no matter what he could say, it would never be enough. He never would have been captured by Kahran if he hadn’t gone searching for Esche. His search for Esche should not have lasted more than mere days, but imprisonment turned days into months. He did not deliberately break his promise to the only family that he had. But his promise had still been broken. In breaking that promise, and facing the unexpected consequences, Lionel had also been afforded vital chance to suss out Kahran’s only weakness and kill him with it. But for every action, there was a sacrifice. It was a way of life he had grown to accept. It was sad, it was sobering, and it was constant. All he could do was carry forward. “Khitti,” Lionel repeated, his lips now only half a smile. “Gods, I miss her. I will always miss her.” His voice cracked. To think, moments ago he’d proposed a date to a woman for the first time in his life. And here, now, he was beginning to tear up. What an embarrassment this was. “Pray, keep her by your side forever.” The soiree… the elephant in the room. But now Lionel knew what had to be done before any form of pleasure could be felt. A letter needed to be written, a goodbye stamped in tears he would not be able to stop from flowing. “You guys alright?” Krice’s voice! Gods be good, this was turning into a soiree of its own accord. “Krice!” Lionel half-choked the word, what with all that imminent sobbing forming deep inside his throat. “It’s worse than it looks. Granted, it still looks a hell of a lot better than it… was. Kahran is dead,” he declared, but his thoughts were still of Khitti.


Lanara smiles as Penelope assures her that she will attend the soiree, “I’m sure you will look lovely! I’m wearing a silver dress, and since its Lady’s Choice of a date, I’ve asked Gorey Taelyr to accompany me.” They may have heard of the famed singer in the Sound of Sirens, who was actually an undead, but it didn’t seem to matter to the witch. She needed a date. Nick, the Backstreet Bard, was out of the question since he was performing; and Kyori was still in a seemingly irreversible coma. “Penelope, do you happen to sell any sort of heightened smelling salts? I have a, um, friend. And he won’t wake up.” Lana’s words drift off as Krice enters the room and suspiciously eyes the trio, and she levels her gaze on him for a moment, before coolly replying, “We’re alright… Is Taly okay?” The enigma didn’t look to be in distress, though her sibling was accident prone, and this –was- a healing center. Was Talyara in trouble? So much was happening in this single room, that time seems to be flying by, and the behemoth is –still- hiding in the bushes and waiting to be found. Samael wasn’t the brightest of beasts, so she’s not too concerned with him wandering off, or Goddess-forbid, going berserk. Lionel addresses her comment about Khitti, before he speaks to Krice, and she sees the unshed tears that line his vision before he changes the subject. “I will always keep her by my side… Khitti is my best friend. I wish things weren’t so broken between the two of you…” It’s the truth as she knew the pair were once inseparable and looked at each other as brother and sister. Lana didn’t know all the details, and it wasn’t her place, so she doesn’t press the subject. Maybe the warrior would apologize and things would go back to normal. Or Khitti would take out her anger against Lionel in a swordfight? Only time would tell, and she gives a slow nod and drops the subject. Penelope is complimenting her work and Lanara shakes her head, “No way, Miss Halifax! It’s –I- that should be thanking –you- as it was your quick thinking to set the place on fire, and your backbone against the crone that gave Lionel a second chance! You are a dark angel on the battlefield!”


Penelope is dabbing the warrior’s wounds with cleansing cotton again, placing the salve to help the wounds heal as correctly as they could, and replacing bloodied bandages for fresh ones. The tone in the room was oddly unpleasant. Romance that was possibly just a hallucination that was not resolved due to interruption, loved ones that were gone and possibly would not be mended again. It was a whole whirlwind. The human automatically shifts her gaze to the doorway where she hears the familiar voice echo through the room. “Krice,” she says with a simple relief to lighten up the atmosphere. The man had always come at her times of need. Coming cross pregnant woman going into labor, protecting her during the war, finding her in her most fragile states. He always had horribly, perfect timing. Now, he was here with the thickening air, but his face seemed to let her stomach unravel into normalcy again. “We are graciously okay—for the most part,” the healer looks back at Lionel and gives him a small, heart-warming smile and her hand slowly reaches to squeeze Lionel’s before the hand slips away and moves to replace the last bandage. She could feel his sense of hurt before Krice wandered into the room. “And, not to mention, Sir O’Connor survived,” she finds a warming gaze that lingers back on the man with the katana. The man was alive. Alive. That was all that really mattered. After finishing touching up the last bandage, the healer moves back to address Lanara. “Gorey Taelyr is a good choice. Edgy, I would imagine,” with those undeadly roots. “Smelling salts?” A friend who would not wake up? Little did she know it was Kyori, but either way. “Well, have you tried frankincense or myrrh…?” The woman appears a little faint as her mind reflects on the metallic-armed elf Linken She still had not found him yet after he left so suddenly. She was, too, searching for a solution. Something to fight the amnesia. The woman then stands and moves to replace supplies before leaning next to the window sill. The compliment from Lanara is simply waved off. “Save it,” she then looks at Krice. “Would you like to sit down, Krice?” she suggests the spot next to Lionel where she had just left. She was the host of this hut when Yerrel was not around. She was on duty, of course.


Krice may have looked like nothing fazed him, like he never reacted to anything, but there was a subtle air around him this day that told of his reaction to the air in this room. The revelation of Kahran's death was surprising to say the least, both brows arched at slight angles but enough to convey how unexpected - to him - the news was. Good news, just unexpected. He didn't know who Gorey Taylor was, or much about this expected Soiree, nor did he particularly care; his focus was on the wellness of his allies. When Penelope spoke to him, the warrior shook his head to politely decline her invitation - but he did take a couple more steps into the room to better see everybody. " I'm not staying. Just wanted to confirm that everyone was alive." Despite his calm and stoic disposition, he appraised them with the sweep of a relieved stare. " Talyara's just fine," was his reply to Lanara, followed by a more generalised, " Well done... Maybe now, we can all have a break from the chaos of the world." However long it lasted. His discerning state returned to Lionel. The two warriors were similar in some ways, not the least of which related to the baggage in their respective histories. Krice understood the weight burdening Lionel; loss, begrudging acceptance, exhaustion. Was the wielder of Hellfire truly okay?


Lionel took Lanara’s reply to him with relief. Before his capture, Lionel had been aware that Khitti and Lanara were growing close; his sister had mentioned Lanara on several occasions, after all, though it wasn’t until now that he could permanently attach a face to the name. But it was sweet enough news that Khitti had someone in her life now who was so strong, so supportive. “I do too,,” was all Lionel could think to say to Lanara. Perhaps if they had been alone he’d have said more. Perhaps he would have explained the situation in greater detail. Or simply cried. But there were other people here; these were all people he trusted deeply, but numerous subjects were in need of address between them. Slowly, Lionel began to lift himself from the bed. He brought up his left hand, fingers splayed, to indicate that he believed he would be alright standing up. It wasn’t the first time he’d done this, and he wanted to gauge now whether he’d ever need to lay on a bed for patients again. “Penelope is many things,” the Catalian agreed with the witch in her assessment of the healer, “and she always manages to look good in the meantime.” His azure eyes were still misty, but he couldn’t resist a smirk. He wasn’t going to let such a miracle worker go lean against a sill without begrudgingly accepting her own greatness. Afterward, however, it was as if there was a subtle pause in everything that Lionel did, punctuated when he turned to face Krice only to discover that the silver enigma had already been looking at him with a distinctive flavor of his usual stoicism; the flavor, Lionel knew, was that of concern. Over the years, Lionel had come to realize -- or at least, suspect -- that the best way to let Krice know how he felt was to give the man details. Details of Lionel’s recent wanderings, details of the people he’d encountered, details of the paths he traveled and the monsters he slew along the way. Lionel knew as well as Krice did that the pair shared respective historical baggage. And he knew that Krice could always pry the real Lionel out of hiding with but a few curt words. Thankfully for Lionel, he hadn’t been hiding today in the first place, but the details he now provided ought to have helped them reconnect just the same. “I was caught by Kahran,” he explained. “I learned that the armies were on the move again, prepared to strike every chokepoint, every major settlement, simultaneously. It was all that I could do to escape, but in my escape, I also learned that Kahran could sustain damage through Hellfire’s Ishaarite magics alone. When Penelope and Lanara rescued me from the shores of Chartsend, it was my intention to use my body as an Ishaarite bomb and end the bastard through my death. Instead, Hellfire did the trick, and though I think technically, momentarily, I died… these fine women beside us refused to take a hint. So here I stand. And Krice,” he reached out to shake the man’s hand, “It’s good to see you.”


Lanara grins as Penelope waves off the compliment, as –most- women didn’t take them very well, and the healer was no different. The men are chatting momentarily about their likeness on the battlefield, and it’s then that the smile of the witch falters, as her chocolate hues bore into the gaze of Penelope. She wants to explain, in detail, what had happened to Kyori. The man defended her honor against two swordsmen, and he had somehow come out victorious, only to return to Lana’s side and slip right into a comatose state. It had been nearly a month and he still hadn’t woken. She had brought in healers from all over the realm, tried every trick known to man, and all attempts were futile. The spellblade refused to wake up, and the witch had faithfully visited his bedside every day, to get an update on his status and to freshen his room. “I’ve tried those… In quantities that would be fatal to most, but Ky, -my- friend still sleeps. If you can think of anything, please let me know.” Lanara bows her head as a single tear trickles down her cheek, though she swats it away and blinks back the moisture, “I have the worst allergies. It’s probably from playing in the forest with Samael for the past hour.” She really –should- explain to Lionel that she had taken a souvenir from the Shadow Plane, but he seems to be struggling to get out of bed, so she immediately rises and holds out an arm to steady him, should he require assistance. She’s tiny next to both men in the room, but what she lacks in size, she makes up for in magic. Lanara nods as Krice reassures her that Talyara is well, and the smile returns to her face as Lionel explains what had happened and how the two women were to thank. “Oh. Not just us… That boy did some work, too. I do hope he’s alright… That leg was mangled.” Wrinkling her nose in distaste, the witch lifts the box that she had rested upon the tray, “I made cookies, we should all celebrate our victory against Kahran and his friends.”


Penelope almost wanted to laugh at Krice’s observation. Perhaps their chaos was ending, but the healer’s was only beginning. She remains stoic, though, and lets these thoughts rest internally to keep the room calmer than it already was. “We should meet, Lanara. Perhaps we should talk about your friend Ky. Maybe take a little break—get lunch, get a drink, something. Perhaps I can help more than you think. We can collaborate,” she tucks a loose strand with stern, sincere gaze of caring. As the wounded man begins to rise, the woman itches to help aide his side, but she lets him be strong on his own. When he throws the next compliment that bounces off Lanara’s, her heart begins to pick up the pace and beat faster—her cheeks shade a very light, almost unnoticeable pink. The Catalian brings her to life for a passing time. The woman remains near the window sill with her arms folded in observation and lets her heart slow back to her average pace. Lionel spills his tale to Krice, and momentarily, her mind flashes back to the battlefield that was covered in behemoth blood, flames, and burnt spider corpses. Her mind flashes to the warrior’s lifeless body and the healer remains stone while the warrior speaks his truth to the other warrior before them. Lionel was growing stronger, and she was a proud physician as she has a content, small smile perched on her lips. Their work was paying off with the medicine and therapeutics. “Lanara is right, that man, he tried so many spells to wake you. His leg… I completely neglected him and the state of his leg. You owe him the biggest thanks of them all, Lionel,” she says softly. “I just hope the poor man is okay.” The human then turns her gaze to Lanara again. “Celebratory cookies and perhaps I have a spare bottle of champagne in my shop,” aka, current residence. The freckled girl is finally grinning ear to ear.


Krice observed Lionel closely. Of like mind, he understood too the need for the other warrior to stand under his own power; despite his want to assist, the enigma refrained. Only once Lionel was approaching did Krice step forward, meeting the other male just on the door side of halfway. Something about Penelope caught his attention, just as her heartbeat quickened, but he didn't stare for long. Lionel was talking and the warrior listened attentively to the retold story of his captivity--recognition shone in gold-streaked crimson, a familiarity etched only by the memories of a similar ordeal experienced--and the final battle. A grateful glance passed toward the two women for their involvement. If not for them, and this other person - probably Rorin; the kid was practically glued to Lionel - likely they wouldn't be face to face today. Krice harboured regret for being too far away to notice the dangers, to notice the other man's absence enough that it was suspicious. He would have to reconcile himself with that, later. Lionel drew his attention again with an outstretched hand. Krice had never been one for contact, but in this moment he reached out to meet the palm with his own, no hesitation, a firm hold communicating his equal pleasure, for won't of a better word, to see him. " And you're already back on your feet," he quietly quipped, opting not to focus on Lionel's need to rest but rather his desire to get better. At Lanara's invite to cookies and celebration, the silver-haired man squinted and threw in a completely different question: " Is that where you got the beast outside from? The Shadow Plane?"


Lionel || “Rorin?” Lionel was genuinely shocked. All this time he’d been under the impression that his friend had been as fine as a lad could be given the circumstances, and that he’d checked himself in here for scrapes and bruises and ventured back out into the great beyond. “Seven hells.” He accepted Lanara’s arm with a thankful nod. He could feel it; his strength was returning to him for true. This was a very good thing, because Catalians seemed naturally predisposed toward stir-craziness -- himself most of all. “I’d better go find the lad. I suppose that’ll be my first order of business. My second order of business? Writing a letter to my sister. And my third? Getting a yea or nay from a certain Penelope Halifax on whether or not we’ll throw caution to the wind and go on a --” Wait, what? “A beast? From the Shadow Plane? Kahran’s armies have already regrouped?!” Lionel did not quite run so much as gallop toward the door, where he immediately espied a twenty-ton behemoth ‘hiding’ behind a tree that looked more akin to shrubbery in front of it. “This is quite possibly the -worst- attempt at an enemy ambush I’ve -ever- seen,” the prince commented quizzically.


Lanara nods in agreement with Penelope as she says that Rorin deserves gratitude, as he had battled alongside them for the duration of the fight against Kahran, as well as his paladin powers in trying to revive the warrior. The witch excitedly opens the box of cookies, there were at least two dozen, and begins to arrange them on a plate. A handful of sterile gauze is to be used for napkins, and she waits for Penelope to return with the champagne before she plays the part of a waitress in the small room. “Okay… I made chocolate chip, white chocolate with nuts, peanut butter, and oatmeal raison! They all are my mother’s recipe!” Baking was a safer topic than discussing a comatose spellblade, a legless boy, or the fact that they all survived a terrible ordeal. Lionel seems to be growing stronger, and after he shakes hands with Krice, the plate of cookies is pressed before the two. The witch gives Krice a ‘look’ when he mentions Samael, and she sighs, knowing that this could very well set Lionel’s recovery back a few steps. “Um... Uh-huh. Is he still hiding?” Of course he was still hiding, but he also found some weeds growing nearby and had a handful sticking out of his mouth, which he’d give to Lanara once she ‘found’ him again. Samael was also big on rewards, and knowing that Lana was a nature lover, he’d plucked her some weeds since she was kind enough to play hide and seek for hours. The plate of cookies is nearly knocked out of her hands as Lionel uses his final reserves of strength to gallop towards the door, where he stops short and stares at the behemoth that lurks in the forest. Sadly, Samael inhales the sweet scent of those oatmeal cookies, which happen to be his –favorite- treat, and he stomps on the ground and literally charges towards the hut. Lanara pushes the platter of cookies into Penelope’s waiting arms, “Hold the champagne for a moment! I have to reintroduce Lionel and Samael!” She dashes past the warrior’s and stands in the line of fire, as the beast immediately comes to a pause a mere foot from his mistress and drops the weeds at her feet. His massive tail sways from side to side as the ‘good boy’ waits for his treat, “Samael, darling! You gave Lionel such a scare! Come and meet my friends…” A hand is pressed to the behemoth’s side, just in case he flies into a rage for some reason, at least he’s under Lana’s control. “You remember him, right? Penny? Lionel? From, um, the Shadow Plane? He helped us during the battle… I called out, and he fought at my side.” It was his horn, fused with light magic, that slayed the apparition of Khasad. “He’s my companion, now…”


Penelope nodded along and, although there was no time to stop by her shop, she was sure Yerrel stashed some bubbly around somewhere. She sifts through drawers until she finds a glass bottle with a cork top. She then moves over to Lanara and found herself tightening her grip on the bottle. She hoped the grip was not too tight, for the glass would break, but thankfully she was not as tense. Was the warrior really asking her on a date in front of Lanara and Krice? The woman almost wanted to cringe until the distraction had the healer and the warrior both puzzled. Penelope had not ‘dated’ for about five years. She was asked prior in other occasions, men kissed those unpainted lips, but she never gave them the light of day. The healer suddenly frowned at the turn of direction. The beast…? What was Krice talking about? “Shadow Plane? What does he mean, Lanara?” As Lionel begins to hobble, the woman finally takes in authority and marches after him and Lanara stuffs the platter in her hands, but she leaves the champagne to the side. The door opens, and she rests a hand on the blonde’s arm to tug him backward while the other holds the tray. “Easy, Lionel. We trust Lanara.” She says simply. Penelope had a thick sense for people and Lanara was to be trusted. As the beast is swaying his tail from side to side, the girl blinks. Was this a behemoth dog? What is happening right now? When she stares at him, she remembers the meat cleaver, but at the same time, she realizes that this beast meant no harm. She pushes past Lionel and stands slightly in front of him before grabbing a cookie off the platter. The woman moves the cookie in the creature’s line of sight which the creature has been yearning for. “Well, I hate to say well-done,” she then tosses a cookie forward to see if that is what the behemoth truly wants. “Samael. Humanistic. Poor thing just grew up in a terrible way. He just needed a little love, I guess…” she trails unsure at the matter and she looks over her shoulder timidly to view Lionel’s reaction. She hopes he does not do anything rash.


Krice had no idea that 'the shadow-plane beast' as a phrase would trigger Lionel's defensive mode, but he probably should have; hadn't the man only just returned from captivity and life-altering battle? He was undoubtedly still prepared to draw his sword at a moment's notice. The warrior lifted a hand, hovering it in front of Lionel's chest as he moved with the other man to the door. " Take it easy," he urged, withdrawing shortly after as the females in the room stepped forward - namely Penelope, with her healing manner well-instated to placate the injured man. Given Penelope's ignorance and Lanara's warning glance, along with Lionel's shock, clearly the behemoth was the witch's secret and he let it out of the bag. Oops, but oh well. Glancing over a shoulder, the warrior regarded the behemoth as Lanara introduced them all. Its oddly playful behaviour looked even weirder given its size; even his relatively friend wyvern, Gylworliath, would find this animal left-of-the-middle. Krice watched the behemoth stride for the hut, stood his ground -just- in case, and then turned his attention to Lionel once Lanara had a handle on the beast. He spoke in a bid to reassure the other male. " I would have sensed if danger was near. You're safe here." If Krice had noticed the other man's attempt to invite Penelope on a date, he didn't seem too invested in the possibility of it, completely focusing instead on maneuvering - through verbal means alone - Lionel to the deeper, more encapsulated parts of the room.


Lionel || There came a time in most men’s lives when they realized they weren’t as potent at certain actions as they used to be. Lionel hadn’t expected it to happen at 32, but he knew the day would be upon him eventually. The realization struck him with shame, which pleasantly replaced the fear he might have felt instead when Samael the big, purple behemoth came charging straight at him. On any other afternoon, Lionel O’Connor would have hoisted Hellfire sharp into the air, leaving a trail of flames in the fabled blade’s wake. His eyes would have gone red, his legs would have carried him forward at lunatic speeds, and he would have sliced through the monster’s flesh posthaste. But like a Magikarp’s solemn splash, nothing happened. There was no speed, for there were no red eyes, for there was no trail of flames. Because there was no Hellfire. Lionel no longer possessed a sword. And as that sword was very special, and a pivotal part of his person, he no longer possessed even an inkling of his magic either. For all intents and purposes, Lionel was a halfway-healed, completely ordinary human being standing directly in the face of danger. If this were an anime, there would have been a sweatdrop on his forehead. Instead, it was real, and so the sweat was multiplied. He did blink like someone out of a cartoon, however, when Penelope just… gave the behemoth a cookie. The behemoth, which as fate would have it, was now at a full halt in front of Yerrel’s hut. Krice then told Lionel to take it easy, but it almost didn’t need saying. Lionel had done his absolute best to take things anything but easy, and in the end he had stood as an easy mark or easy prey. “Oh,” Lionel told Krice, still blinking, and then he overheard Lanara as well. “Khasad?” Still more blinking. Lionel appraised Samael anew. Apparition or no, anything that resembled Khasad must have been as purely evil as the very real Kahran. This behemoth had assisted Lanara in destroying the specter of a dark lord who had twice plunged all of Lithrydel into darkness. And now he was paused in front of them, eating a cookie. “I’ll take that drink,” the Prince of Catal said slowly, reaching for the bottle and pouring.


Lanara :: The front legs of Samael drop to the ground, while his butt points towards the sky, as his gaze remains fixated on the healer that stands before the small hut. That tail seems to endlessly wave back and forth as drool drips down the behemoth’s jowls, and his massive claws dig into the dirt. The witch smiles and gives an encouraging nod to Penelope, delighted that the healer knew not to show an ounce of fear, as beasts could sense that sort of thing. “Want a cookie, Sam!? You’ve been such a good boy! Go get it!” As the oatmeal cookie is tossed into the air, Samael excitedly bounces upwards and catches it in his mouth, before eyeing Penelope for another. Lanara knows better though, “Just –one- more, otherwise you’ll get all hyper on me from all the sugar!” Samael whines in protest, clearly wanting –all- the cookies in the box, but after earning another ‘look’ from Lanara, he relents and stalks over to Penelope to accept just one more cookie. He gently takes it from her palm, making certain not to pierce her with one of his horns, and just as he’s preparing to turn away he pauses and glances at the Catalian. A sense of understanding passed betwixt the beast and warrior, as both had overcome a great darkness, and were filled with a new sense of purpose once exiting the Shadow Plane. Both had faced and evaded death, and both had a woman at their side right now; one, a matron to all creatures, and the other; the heart of the hero. As everyone makes their way back inside, Lana lingers in the doorway and smiles at the trio, “Sorry if he gave you all a scare, he’s mostly safe… As long as his berserker mode isn’t turned to on, he’s as playful as a puppy.” She pauses for a moment, glancing at Krice, then Lionel, and finally resting her gaze on Penelope, “I should be going now… I have to head to Cenril to pick up some supplies for the decorating committee. But, I hope to see you all at the ball, or at least in the near future. Penny, we should get together soon, and I hope you feel better, Lionel…” The witch looks at the enigma, a grin on her lips, “Best not to tell Taly that I now have –two- pets from the Shadow Plane just yet… She’s cohosting the ball, and doesn’t need heart failure.” With a wink, Lana turns away and lures her behemoth towards the east, where they would frighten some unsuspecting shoppers at the market.


Penelope finds the behemoth begging for more, and she offers him another baked good. “Yeah, he doesn’t need all that sugar, unfortunately. Sorry buddy,” the woman says gingerly to the beast as if he was an ally. Penelope is grateful for Krice, all-the-same for sensing the danger before them which was none. Perhaps Lanara and the healer would get along after all. The freckled-faced woman turns to follow Lionel as he tries to reach for the champagne, but he grabs the bottle instead. The woman is attentive to the man as he pours within a nearby glass. All they had were water glasses. As he finishes pouring, she grabs the bottle from him attentively. “You need to sit, now,” she demands the warrior. Although standing was good for him, she preferred the man being attended to than wandering around the hut without her approval. “I will see you soon, Lanara. I’ll send you word to meet up for an actual occurrence. I’m sure Kelay is a trek away. It’d be easy to set a time and day,” she smiles all the same. “Travel well, dear. Keep him in control,” she says playfully before wishing her farewell.


Krice had always been, and likely always -would- be, more of an observer in these situations than a participant, so it was from the fringes of the group that he watched Lanara depart with her overgrown pup, and observed Penelope's assistance with Lionel, who clearly needed a drink. Keeping to himself as his assistance was not needed, the warrior was content to remain close by just in case Lionel's legs failed him, ready to help Penelope guide him back to some kind of solid furniture. With the distraction of Lanara's behemoth gone, and his own curiosity about the welfare of his allies sated, he waited for a lull in conversation to speak of his departure. " I'm heading out, as well. Seemed like you two needed to talk, anyway." The warrior obviously was speaking of the tension between them, though he was not as eager as a gossiping woman might be, or as hopeful as any other man; he simply understood the need for words to be shared between two people potentially interested in each other, and wanted to return to them the privacy they previously had. The enigma dipped his head, faring both of them well with a simple nod as crimson eyes drifted from Lionel to Penelope and back. " If you need anything, don't hesitate to talk to me. Send word to the fort in Frostmaw."


Lionel briefly wondered if he was being ushered back inside by some supernatural force. Perhaps it was Krice? His silver-haired friend remained as powerful as ever, and if Lionel had ever stood a chance at deflecting a well-timed push from Krice he surely couldn’t do so without Halycanos’ aid. It wasn’t a malevolent push; it was a push from someone who cared about him, so Krice fit the bill. Yet the warrior was speaking of departure now, and as was Lanara, and it was all Lionel could do to bid them safe journey as the mysterious supernatural force continued to have its way with him. All of a sudden, Lionel O’Connor was sitting in his bed again. The angst over Khitti; the behemoth that was not a foe; even Krice’s mention of Frostmaw… all of it was relevant, all of it filed away. The supernatural force had succeeded. Lionel looked around and drank deeply of his beverage. What was the instigator of his swift retreat? Penelope Halifax stood nearby, stern and resolute. She hadn’t pushed him -- he’d have felt it! Her own words held this much power? Vocal strength of this accord was the stuff of legend, the way of dragon-slaying in frigid northern realms. And all she’d done… was told him to sit down. Lionel was very tired now. The healer had asserted dominance over him and like a twenty-ton behemoth without enough sugar he curled up and slept.