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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Previous: A Return to Light

 

Hazel moved as if within a dark and disturbing dream. It was like she had become trapped in a net of iron-bound mist. And she wasn’t alone. There were others here with her, whispering against her skin, drawing long, shadowed fingers across her mind.

They desired things of her, wordless pleas that pulled on her thoughts and crawled over her skin. The men in black robes needed to die—they told her this. And they gave her a soulless dragon as her vessel.

Yet, at the height of her fury, a light shone in the distance. It permeated the cloying whispers like sunlight spilling over a strawberry strewn hill. She reached towards it, but then the warmth gathered around her hand, as if she held the sun itself and it had refused to burn her.


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Previous: Before the Fall

 

Holly gripped the skirts of her dress so tightly that her hands had turned numb. Her whole body tensed; she wanted to run. But she couldn’t—not with that dragon with its creepy, blinking scales and fetid breath blocking the way forward. Nor could she go back. Her mother stood right behind her, exuding a chill that made Holly’s skin prick and the hair on her neck stand on end. It was too much, being wedged between a necromantic dragon and a dead mother. It was wrong, all of it.

From across the room, Hawthorn headed towards her. He had made it halfway across before the dragon put down a monstrous leg and blocked him from view. She needed to do something, but whenever she tried thinking of a spell, countless cold, otherworldly eyes across the dragon’s flank would blink at her, and Holly’s mind froze along with the rest of her body.


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