RP:Rainbow In The Dark

From HollowWiki

Part of the What You Leave Behind Arc

Part of the Through A Glass, Darkly Arc

Summary: Meri and Lionel head to Cal's house, accompanied by a family of carpenters. The family sets to work repairing the house while the three (mainly Meri and Cal) argue about the tree with Caiburne's skeleton embedded into it. Lionel calls upon Mulgrew to try to help with things, but ultimately, it makes things worse. Cal is offered two choices and he chooses to keep the bismuth skull.

The Greenhouse, Sage Forest

Callum || Not much had changed at the Rochester household since Meri’s super sneaky check-on-Cal mission. Empty crates were left to sit outside the front door, leftover from his day’s work in Cenril. It was the last time he’d have to sell his herbs at the wharf, if Eleanor had planned to keep him on board in the Rogue’s Guild for a long time. The holes in the roof and windows from the hail he’d made months ago in the fight against Caiburne still remained and the ivy that’d always clung to the “Greenhouse” had found its way inside, creeping around the windowsills and strangling the support beams that held up the rest of the roof. Despite all this, the massive garden of various herbs and flowers in front of and around the sides of the house seemed well-tended, as well as his horse. And there, in the middle of it all, was Cal sitting in the house, eating his lunch, because unfortunately he’s not a plant and couldn’t use photosynthesis instead. If only he could; the food tasted bland to him, had been since his ordeal, and everything seemed drained of color. Except for the green of the forest, the garden, and the ivy that threatened to takeover his home entirely.

Meri does not often send for Lionel's help. In fact, this might be the first request for help that Lionel has ever -formally- received from Meri. Which is not to say that in the time that Meri has known Lionel, that he has not helped her plenty...We're just pointing out that this request is not of the norm. But Lionel received a letter from Meri. The letter is vague, it is basically requesting that he meet her at the Cenril Bridge at this very date and time because she could use his help. Something is wrong with Callum, and she thinks that between herself and Lionel they may be able to help him. If Lionel assumes that the help Meri might want from him possibly involves her wanting him to stab something with his fancy firesword, which is what pretty much everyone wants when they need his help, he'd not be wrong. Meri is not alone as she waits for Lionel on Cenril's bridge. With her is three other individuals, one is middle-aged man with a graying beard. Don't be fooled by the gray, this beard is quite impressive. It has grown in full, not a single patch, and it's well-groomed. This man clearly has some beard pride. The other two are younger but still adults. They are in fact the offspring of of the older man. We'll call the father Graham. Let's name his adult offspring Hanz and Greta. Also with her is Kadence, who has a wagon hitched up to her that is full of construction materials. When Lionel arrives, Meri is not interested in lingering around on the bridge. She's more than eager to get to Callum's home in the Kelay-Sage area. On the way there is where she elaborates for everyone's benefit' once they actually get closer to their destination, "I was here a few days ago and it looks like Cal's place was attacked. Or something. There are holes in the roof, broken windows." Meri is looking at the family of three, for their family business was carpentry. This is their purpose, fix these things. And as for why Lionel is here? "There is this tree that Cal has been doing this ceremony around. It's creepy as all hell. This is what I was hoping you'd be able to help me with. Worst case, we burn it down, maybe?" She's not keen on elaborating too much, she doesn't want to scare the hired help off before their job is complete. So she leaves off the detail that there seems to be human bones growing into the tree. Everyone would see in good time, especially now that the Rochester home was now within sights. Meri explains to the group, "He's probably going to be cranky over this visit. Just. Ignore it." To the family, "You guys just fix what needs to be fixed, regardless of what he says...." And to Lionel, "And we're going to go look at that tree, regardless of what he says." Cal could probably hear them coming. I mean, the horse was pulling a wagon. They were not a stealthy bunch today.

Lionel tended to assume there were two reasons he was summoned by anyone other than his sister -- either his sword might be needed for something involving Kahran or his sword might be needed for something not involving Kahran. When it was the former, he’d feel cold shivers down his spine. When it was the latter, the fear was still in there somewhere, but he was far better at ignoring it. Meri had described a tree, or rather, mentioned a tree and alluded to there being more than met the eye with it, and problematic trees, like the two reasons Lionel answered a summons, generally came in two distinct varieties. Either they burned easily or they magically did not. The former wasn’t always the easier path, for the sinister spirits which had inhabited six trees in the heart of a far-western forest eleven years ago had taught Lionel a valuable lesson. Hellfire made destroying them a simple task, and similarly, Hellfire made sparing any uninfected tree a monumental effort. It was for this reason that, as Meri led Lionel and the rest of her entourage through the Southern Sage and close to Callum’s abode, Lionel gazed upon the canopy and silently prayed this tree would resist the flame. “Got it,” he said, perhaps belatedly. Meri’s instructions were clear as sunshine as far as he was concerned. She’d lead; he’d follow. If and when the time came that his physicality needed emphasis, he’d be ready.

Callum had indeed heard the wagon coming. It was kind of hard not too with all those holes in his home. His meal was forsaken, the thought of finishing it lost to the void as the wagon edged ever closer--too frakking close. The raven-haired Catalian stood up with such panicked gusto that his chair was knocked over and the table swayed back and forth a bit. No move was made to conceal himself; any other witch as of late would peek out at the outside world from behind a hurt. Cal on the other hand… The front door flew open and lightning crackled in his right hand--he had to be ready for anyone unsavory that might show up, of course. The two blondes were spied first, and then the family, but his attention soon shifted back to he who had been dubbed Firesword Guy at one point, as well as the mother of Cal’s child. For frak’s sake. Couldn’t a guy eat his lunch in his dilapidated house in peace?! “Leave.” There was no hello and even the uncomfortableness he felt the other day at the wharf when forced to stand with Meri was gone. “Go home, Meri. I will work with you, as promised, but you do not belong here anymore. -Leave-.” Cal’s tone was oddly commanding, reminiscent of those days when he hadn’t quite been able to contain that anger of his.

Meri :: Callum's command to leave stung more than Meri would let on. There was part of Meri that was tempted to give into the urge to have it out with Callum right here and now, creating an uncomfortable scene for everyone brought along. Well more uncomfortable than it already it. Meri manages to refrain. She answers Cal with silence and a lifted brow. A pointed look is brought to the family she brought along with her, motioning to the cart of supplies that they've brought. "Well you know what your job is. Get to it then. Like I said, he's going to be a butthead about this the entire time." The family of carpenters gathers their gear and descends upon the house. They'd start by pitching a ladder against the side of Cal's home, figuring that the roof repairs was one the best place to start. Especially while they still had light. Meri's jaw tightens as she turns to Lionel now, trying her best to ignore Callum's demands to leave completely. "Come on then..." she says to Lionel, leading him away from the front of the house. He would be taken around back, unless Cal decided to throw up one of his little lighting webs to try and stop them. Meri's banking on the fact that he won't really care to actually hurt anyone present. If she gets her way, she and Lionel will indeed be standing in front of a creepy tree. Lionel will see for the first time what Meri means by creepy, for it does indeed seem like bones are growing into the tree. Meri will even take the time to point to the humanoid looking skull stuck within the bark of the tree, "I swear this looks exactly like one of those cursed witch skulls."

Lionel used to be worse about this. Time was, when someone gave him tepid welcome he’d snark back with embellished bitterness. The world was too full of deadly things again, though, and Lionel had learned to take less serious matters in stride. Which wasn’t to say this wasn’t serious, even if Lionel himself felt little connection to it, but Callum’s stern tone and consternation were pebbles on a shore next to what lingered in the dark these evenings, watching in wait. Presumably, he and Meri were successful in approaching the tree behind the storm mage’s dilapidated residence. As Lionel took it all in -- the ugly hooks of moss, the angular branches grown in reckless abandon and colliding into one-another, the increased moisture in the air compelling him to sweat, and the skull most strikingly of all -- he withdrew a small, serrated knife from its holster and twirled it a few times. “I echo that unfortunate sentiment.” Meri wasn’t wrong. At best this was eerily similar to the witch skulls. At worst… “Never much cared for these things.” It wasn’t much of a statement. The emerald skull had brought about the sense of an addiction in Lionel, and though that addiction had proven useful in the end it was also a clear and present danger. “I’m gonna test something.” He swung his knife in front of the skull a few times without slicing into it, curious to see if it would react.

Callum hadn’t wanted to say that to Meri, but what else could he do to get her to leave? She’d been the one to leave in the first place, so he couldn’t understand why the hell she was here and how the hell she’d known about the house. Unless she’d been spying on him. But to what end? “Goddamn it” was uttered under his breath as he chased after the two of them; it was clear to him now where they were going and why Meri had brought Lionel, of all people, with her: the tree. The tree wasn’t much, but it was certainly taller than what it should have been for only having been “planted” a couple months ago. “I swear to god you meddle just as much as your frakking sister does,” he said, the words directed at Meri, but obviously it could’ve applied to either of them. “Don’t frakking touch it.” Remnants of rituals past still lay scattered around, bits and piece of things that hadn’t quit burned during the spell’s incantation. “It -has- to stay there. It -has- to.” There was worry in his voice now, the same that’d been there the night Meri came to check on him, as he recited the words of the spell. It was as if a switch had been flipped, from anger to anxiety, with perhaps a little bit of madness in between. But, his words came too late as Lionel swung that stupid firesword of his in front of tree. The sword would connect, but not with the tree; with every swing the older Catalian took, a bright flash of rainbow-hued light would spark up around the tree, the colors matching that of the aura the bismuth skull emitted upon use. “Do you seriously think I’m just going to let something like this sit here without something protecting it? I might be new at this witch thing, but I’m not frakking incompetent.” He paused, watching the two before finally closing the gap between them, the tree, and him. “It’s not another skull. Not a crystal one. It’s not entirely ordinary either but…” There was another pause and a heavy sigh, “Caiburne came back from the dead.” To elaborate for Lionel, he added, “Another Catalian. Had the skull before me. Alchemist. Not a nice guy.” Cal’s attention settled on the tree again finally, his lips twisting into a frown, “He was something… I don’t know… something that was half plant, half human. Or, undead I guess.”

Meri is probably better off practicing the golden rule right now. If she can't say anything nice, then she shouldn't say anything at all. But you know, being a werewolf has made her temper a little bit shorter and so biting her tongue is harder now than it has been in days of past. "I've missed you too," she says with a hard roll of her eyes, in response to the meddling comment. Which....really was not the worst comment Meri could have made. Snarky, yes, but she is still mostly behaved. Mostly. Although the more Callum talks, the more frustrated Meri starts to feel. Lionel attempts to take a couple hits at the skull to see what sort of reaction they'd get, but he is not successful. Meri knows that weird rainbowy aura for what it was too, that skull of Cal's probably was the source of power behind this particular protection spell. What Cal says in response to Lionel's failed attempts has Meri narrowing her eyes on the raven-haired witch. "Look, no one is sitting around calling you incompetent. No one said that you are not taking measures to...stop...whatever this is?" Meri looks to Lionel to see if he has any ideas as to what they might be dealing with. Those blue eyes eventually flit back to Callum, trying to keep the frustration out of the tone of her voice. "But I did see you out here the other night practically arguing with yourself." There is no real point in keeping how she knows of this tree a secret. "And whatever you are dealing with is not natural. So while you are clearly not frakkin' incompetent, you still need help. Now stop fighting with us and let us help." Meri makes a vague motion to the bones contained within the tree, "This was not here a couple months ago. Trees do not grow this fast. And they do not grow with bones inside of them....Are those Caiburne's bones?"

Lionel withdrew his blade from the stagnant fuchsia air blocking his way to the skull. Further slashing would be pointless. He listened to Callum’s explanation, grimacing when he learned another Catalian had been involved in all of this as Lionel always grimaced when Catalians were involved, especially when they were of an unsavory sort. It didn’t take him long to register the name ‘Caiburne,’ however. If Callum hadn’t cited him as an apothecary Lionel would have ignored the name, but given the considerable knowledge necessary to work with something like bismuth, the Last Prince knew of whom the storm mage spoke. Caiburne was, almost without a doubt, the self-same Caiburne who had been in the upper echelon of research and development society at Catal’s most prestigious university. Caiburne, who had created more potions and poultices than all his colleagues put together, had been a strange and discomfiting aid in Lionel’s battle to reclaim Catal, and when the day came that Catal fell into oblivion under Kahran’s vengeful banner, Caiburne was nowhere to be found. Now that madman’s disappearance made a measure of sense. This was important, but it wasn’t as important to either Meri or Callum as their own personal feud. It was trivia, mere minutiae -- Kahran having powerful allies was hardly revelatory. So Lionel let them speak, ignoring whatever it was between them that had ultimately led him here tonight, and focused on the task at hand. For now, that focus would appear to Meri and Callum to be a weak one. Lionel had closed his eyes, and he was holding a free hand out in front of the protective rainbow aura. Soon he would find out whether or not the party to whom he was hoping was listening in on them right now would bother to show herself.

Callum’s ex-woman’s words were heard. Oh, they were heard quite well. Her frustration was also noted and he too was doing his best to hide that mix of worry and his own frustration at her constant stubbornness. “Yes. It is his bones. I had no other frakking choice but to kill him. To use my skull. Even if you had still been here, I doubt it would’ve helped. He was completely insane, Meri. And I don’t know why the hell the tree is growing. I’ve a theory that maybe he had magic from the skull leftover in him, even after his death. Or something. I don’t know.” He waved a dismissive hand at her, smirking bitterly, “And don’t act like you’ve never spoken to yourself before. Besides that, I wasn’t speaking to myself. I was speaking to -him-,” the same hand then motioned to Caiburne’s bones, “Or any frakking person that might listen.” But, someone had been listening. -Meri- had been listening. But, she wasn’t exactly the one he wanted to answer his prayers. “Yeah. I’ve been a little crazy lately. It happens after…” Cal waved at the air between the two of them, to signal that he meant their break-up. “...and after Val and I found a dead witch in the forest with a goddamn symbol carved into her head, and then after our lovely friend Caiburne here tried to set me and the entire goddamn forest on fire.” The sleeve of his left arm was unbutton and the remnants of still healing burns shown to her--it was his worst fear, thanks to the fiery magicks of Lionel’s sword and Brand’s ever so potent fireballs. “So don’t lecture me about arguing with myself when I’ve been through a whole hell of a lot in a very short span of time. Ever.” The worry disappeared again from Cal’s tone, rage taking hold entirely. “He’s come back once and I’m not entirely sure he can’t come back again. The tree needs to stay. -Here-. Where I can watch it.”

Meri was losing resolve, Cal was about to win this battle of wills. Meri lifts both hands and covers her face as she listens to Cal rant on and on angrily at her, when all she really wanted to do was try and help. Her hands rub her face, and then they slide over to the temples of her head, rubbing them in slow circles. Like this action would relieve some of the stress she was feeling. At this moment in time, Meri has given up on trying to talk to Cal. She sees no point in talking, anything she said was just met with anger. And while Meri could understand to an extent, she honestly was eager to get out away from this place so that she could go back to -her- daughter. Meri's not knowledgable in the area of magic, that was her sister's strong point. This lack of knowledge means she has no real idea what Lionel is trying to do or sense, but right now the blonde haired Catalian was the only other being that could manage to be civil to her, so she'd lobby a simple inquiry at him, "What do you think?" And she is really hoping that he is thinking something, circle back to the point of wanting to flee this place. Cal was pretty close to getting what he wanted, Meri gone again.

Lionel had managed to disconnect himself from Meri and Callum’s conversation almost entirely, picking up only the important bits and ignoring what wasn’t, so that he could remain transfixed on his silent plea for help. It was only the name ‘Val’ that drew Lionel away from his cynosure. His brows furrowed despite his resolve and he swallowed and realized his throat had gone dry. ‘What do you think?’ Meri’s words pulled Lionel from his stupor, prompting him to glance back at the both of them with vague interest. “There’s nothing I can do to break this seal, and only two people in the world I can think of who might know how to try. Esche is gone -- dead, maybe, though it pains me to admit it -- and as for the other one…” He shook his head and sighed. “You wouldn’t trust her even if she bothered to show herself,” Mulgrew announced her presence, her pale, old arms folded and her featherly attire as colorful as bismuth. Although his muscles clearly tensed, Lionel held a hand out near Meri in a bid to communicate quickly that this woman wasn’t a threat. Not a direct one, anyway. “No,” he confirmed her interruptive inquiry, “I wouldn’t. And yet I called out to you anyway, because you gave me the emerald skull and I bet you know all about every damned skull that’s ever been and ever will be.” Mulgrew laughed heartily, covering her mouth in a feigned and unconvincing attempt at politeness. “Would that that were true, I would understand you mortals far better than I do. But then, where’s the fun in that?” The woman, hovering over the ground and smirking, turned her silvery gaze toward Callum and laughed all over again. “Now here’s a fine man. Striking hair, excellent jawline. I’m amazed he’s Catalian. But you try to be everything you’re not, don’t you, apothecary? This is nothing new for you at all. Perhaps the real you has been lost to the sands of time. Or perhaps not. All I will say, lad, is what your woman already knows: this skull is beyond you, it is reshaping you, it is turning you into something else. Just as it turned Caiburne.” She shrugged; somehow even in shrugging she appeared majestic, unknowable, and altogether irritating. “I offer you a choice, Catalian.” She emphasized the word because she knew how little it meant to him. “Accept my aid, though you know me not, and I will carve you safe from the skull’s ethereal grip, freeing you. Reject me, and I will watch from the shadows as what happens next tests you in ways you have never been tested.” Lionel remained silent. The sorceress had heeded his call, and he wasn’t yet certain things were the better for it.

Callum hadn’t wanted Meri to leave, nor did he fully want it now, but what choice did he have? She made the decision to leave and when Meri made a decision, there’s not much that could sway her--she was very much like that sister of hers and those other two Catalians, one of whom was standing oh so near. It was clear she was ignoring him now, so Cal did his best and bit back his anger as much as possible. The urge to just suddenly turn around and go back home was strong just now, and he even took a few steps in that direction, but for now it was to give the two of them some space--as much space as they could get at the moment. He stared off towards home, the sounds of carpentry much louder now than they had been before, if only because he finally focused on it. The old woman made her appearance, took note of his features--he’d be more vain about this if the situation wasn’t so serious right now--and offered him a choice. There was a hesitant glance towards Meri, and then one to Lionel, before he started to consider the offer. It didn’t feel like much of bargain, and as a person who was constantly in the habit of selling things to people--most of the time even scamming them--he’d know exactly how things were. “I am not strong enough to fight those witch-hunters without it.” He didn’t correct Mulgrew on the subject of Meri; he didn’t want to bring up the topic whatsoever right now. “People like me have been dying and disappearing left and right. Without the skull, all I can manage is a few storms and tending to plants all day.” That wasn’t exactly true, but his dependency on the skull had become much stronger lately. It was obvious that he was still debating on what to choose--the power to protect himself or a likely return to his passive days, those of which in the future would not likely end as well as they had before thanks to the witch-hunters.

Meri was definitely trying to ignore Cal, he was not wrong. She could tell that ignoring him only seemed to annoy him further, as did her trying to talk with him. Not talking seemed like the lesser of two evils right now, for all parties involved. Especially Lionel. Meri was really quite intent on keeping this not talking thing up, in fact she almost had the same idea as Cal. Maybe she should leave him and Lionel to figure out this tree thing while she checks on the work she has paid for. Cal seems to have the same idea and is about to beat Meri to it, when Mulgrew appears. This is the first that Meri has ever seen or heard of this figure. She may have helped some of the witches get their skulls, but Mulgrew and the emerald skull was not an account she was familiar with. A brow is lifted in surprise as she listens to the newest arrival to the scene. She's not sure if she should trust this figure, Lionel said he would not after all. Meri makes a cross-eyed expression, she's not sure this is the sort of help that she wants for Callum. What if he took her help and she screwed him over? What if he didn't, and he's screwed over? Hindsight was always twenty-twenty. When Cal speaks his concerns that he is not strong enough to fight the witch-hunters without the skull, Meri frowns and breaks her silence. "You are though. You've just always been your own worst critic." Meri is not -trying- to sway Cal either way with this statement, she's just never appreciated him taking this hard view on himself.

Lionel remained pensive. He’d brought the sorceress -- or whatever she truly was -- upon them, and now all he could do was hope for two things to hold true. One of those things was that Callum would make the correct choice. The other was that there was truly a choice to begin with. “She schemes and twists words to suit her very moods,” Lionel said without a hint of sarcasm, “but in her own way she’s proven an enemy of Kahran, if not his complete antithesis. Which is relevant right now because I’ll bet you twice what Meri’s paying those humble folk down yonder that Caiburne was in league with Kahran.” Mulgrew chortled and drew her bare feet down upon the soft, loamy soil. “And since we’re swapping gossip like fishwives, here’s my analysis of Lionel O’Connor -- oh, wait, nevermind, we have more important things to be discussing, now don’t we?” She waved an index finger at Lionel as if to mark that he had been behaving badly before reverting her full attention to Callum. “You believe yourself incapable of felling witch-hunting fools. So be it. You will only ever be as powerful as you allow yourself to be. Go back to gardening, then, and let the hold this skull has upon you be severed, because skull or no, your attitude alone will damn you to demise. If you wish to wield it, wield it true. As the archer prays, ‘Letten my arrow flyen true,’ so too must you. But I will give ye one more warning: you may not be prepared for what fate awaits you if you do not sever the link here and now.”

Callum || While Lionel clearly has a past with this woman (even if it’s the recent past), Cal didn’t quit trust people as easily (though it was obvious Lionel didn’t much trust her either). He never had really. Meri had been the only one to break that crunchy outer shell of his for the majority of the time he’d been here. But… that was something that was also in the past now. He didn’t know who the hell was a witch-hunter and who wasn’t, besides a small handful of people. This woman could even be a part of them or something worse. Was there something worse than getting a symbol carved into your forehead and set ablaze? Probably, but Cal couldn’t think of it right now. The skull’s hold was just a bit too strong for him; he needed that extra boost of magic to survive. Or, at least he thought he did. Each person present gave Cal their two-cents and he listened, but ultimately he’d made his choice without it, without even realizing he’d made it. “No. The skull stays. I’m not Caiburne and I don’t intend to be like him, but if Kahran’s still lurking around? I’m not giving it up so easily. Better to be with me than someone amongst his army.”

Meri :: If Callum made the right choice in keeping the skull, Meri did not know. She didn't exactly have a great feeling in her gut at the moment, but she also realizes she is biased against the skull. She hates the thing, if she were being honest. At this point, Meri is at a loss as to what to do. Meri herself had no help to offer, what was she supposed to do against this creepy tree? The only help that Lionel could think to offer has just been rejected. The woman frowns and turns her gaze to the ground in thought. Meri was at a loss and didn't know what to say or do. She low key kind of wanted to the crying thing, except she couldn't. Not in front of either Callum or Lionel. The feeling of hopelessness was strong. Meri's feet only managed to stay rooted long enough to see what Mulgrew may or may not have to say in light of Callum's choice to keep his precious. Barring some over the top response that created some immediate threat that needed to be dealt with like -now-? After Meri saw Mulgrew's reaction, she'd wordlessly pull away from Lionel, Callum and the tree that they are circling and she would leave. The carpentry crew would be left behind, and the psion would be able to make quick work of unloading their supplies, but after that Meri and the horse she rode in on? They were out. She'd probably write Lionel later and apologize for her rude departure and thank him for his help, but for now she'd was just going to be #moody.

Lionel watched Meri go, unsurprised by her decision. If he were in her shoes he probably would have gone, too. But Lionel had to stay, even if only for a few more moments, to see things through with Mulgrew. Callum had made his decision, and Lionel wasn’t close enough to the man not to respect his choice. Whatever fate Mulgrew claimed would soon befall Callum was Callum’s business alone. “Hohoho,” Mulgrew laughed. As ever, it sounded hale and hearty. “Please, lad. The skull never would have gotten anywhere near Kahran’s hands again. It would have been destroyed. Immediately. Along with what remains of that butcher you butchered.” She gestured airily at Caiburne’s bones. “But it matters not. Let it never be said I am not a woman of my word.” To wit, she winked at Lionel, sensing his increasing frustration. Already, her form was diminishing, as if being taken by the stray evening’s breeze. “Though your future pain’s no laughing matter, apothecary, at least I can chuckle that you’ve found still one more way to deny your heritage by denying me.” Her laughter was the last of her they heard, her silvery eyes the last of her they saw. Lionel stayed a little longer, mulling over the possible meanings of Mulgrew’s final words. Even now, with her attention almost completely spent on someone else, the sorceress had found a way to leave Lionel more confused than before. By the time Lionel looked up at Callum, Meri was surely plenty far away and growing farther by the step. “If you need me, ask around,” was all he said before he left. There was something in his expression, though, that looked akin to sorrow.

Callum || There were a lot of things Cal wanted to say right now, but he said nothing. Meri would leave, and then Mulgrew, and Lionel. What else was he supposed to do? The old woman made it seem like he had no choice at all. How the hell did he know the skull would be destroyed right then and there? And what if she’d lied? What if Kahran just decided to storm his way through the forest, like he had in Larket? How was he supposed to protect himself? He couldn’t call on Meri for help. He wouldn’t now, anyway. She’d made known her feelings when she left him there on his own--or at least, he thought she had. Meri being upset was obvious now, but he knew why: she definitely did hate that skull and always made sure to say it. The thing that struck him as odd though, was that look of sadness Lionel had. Cal had his own look of confusion in response to it, but he let the other Catalian go off on his own, likely back to Cenril. He was left alone, so why shouldn’t he just embrace it now? The frustration returned, leaving Cal to kick at the tree for the lack of anything better to do right now, though his own barrier protected it. Eventually, he returned home. And eventually, the tree grew a little more.