For posterity, this year’s A to Z Challenge will henceforth be known as, “The Year I Fell Behind on Visiting and Commenting and Never Caught Up.” Catchy, yes?

It started off well enough. Probably because it was a Saturday, and I was able to spend a fair amount of time that first weekend visiting and commenting. But then Monday rolled around, and it pretty much went downhill from there. That’s not to say I didn’t spend a fair amount of time visiting and commenting the following weeks. I did. As much as I could spare/mentally handle. But it felt like no matter how much time I spent, it was never enough.


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Previous: Fastened Friendship

 

They waited a few more days to allow Hemlock time to recover, then made the journey back to the Grove. Hazel had mixed feelings about it all. On the one hand she was glad to be returning home, but on the other she was afraid she wouldn’t recognize it—or herself—once she got there. Other than undoing her mother’s geas, nothing had gone the way she had expected. She hadn’t ever thought she would turn to necromancy—she especially never thought she’d find beauty in what was supposed to be a grim, dreadful discipline. She didn’t know what to think anymore, and so she didn’t know what to expect when returning home.

Both she and Holly had their noses to the windows as the carriage rolled up in front of their cottage. They both got out and remained on the road as the driver unloaded their luggage from the rack up top.


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Previous: A Future Found

 

Tum toddled down to the common room as Holly trailed after him. Hawthorn sat at a table, sipping some wine, and Tum clambered onto an empty chair beside him.

“Of all the empty tables,” Hawthorn said, “you have to sit right there? Go find somewhere else.”

“It’s rude to let someone sit alone, you know. Tum’s nothing if not polite.”

“Oh, I can think of a few things that Tum is.”


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Previous: Aggravated Acceptance

 

The journey back to Sarnum was largely spent in tense, exhausted silence. When they weren’t all sleeping, that is. Hemlock slept the most. Holly spent a good portion of her waking hours staring out the window, her expression pensive and distant. Hawthorn expended his energy avoiding Hazel’s gaze. She couldn’t really blame him, after all that had happened.

They reached Sarnum late in the following day. The acolyte that served as their driver dropped them off at Sensi’s Contemplation. Holly had murmured her concerns over Tum having gone missing, while Hawthorn had muttered his over his carriage that had undoubtedly been stolen. But all were too tired to do anything about those problems, so they all agreed to go back to the inn to figure out what to do next.


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Previous: An Unadorned End

 

A chill settled in the room—wintery, just like the silence that accompanied it. Hazel didn’t know what to say, and so she said nothing, standing stiff and unyielding like a frozen tree.

Holly fell to her knees and into tears. Hazel told herself to go to her, to comfort her, yet she couldn’t bring herself to move. Instead, Hawthorn walked over and gave Holly a handkerchief, put an arm around her, whispered words that Hazel couldn’t hear. They must have been comforting, for Holly nodded and gulped down gasps of air as her sobs lessened. She rested her head on his shoulder, so Hazel turned her attention to Hemlock.


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