Lily shifted Cedar's weight over her shoulder, trying to keep him from pressing on where she had been burned, (or where Ted had savaged her), while Veronica passed the small ivory trinket to him. He looked at it confusedly and made a voiceless "how? with what?" expression. Her heart let out for her brother, as she fished in the fur in her neck for the small blue scarab, pulled it free of its fluffy prison, then slid the chain off her neck, and around his, and gave it a pat, silently. A look of stunned wonder crossed his face, before he nuzzled her silently. It was a weak, and pitiful nuzzle, but it radiated genuine love, affection, and thanks.
Without hesitation, the tall masked man had set to work, calling another ... being... from wherever he called them from. Her lungs hurt. It was hard to breathe. She looked at Rose, and she was all bristles, teeth, and eyes, but ready to throw in beside her carrying their brother, and quickly scooped up his other shoulder to carry him between them, in haste if needed. She could tell from the stifled cough, that she had the same problems from the fumes as she did, though maybe less, from not trying to fight the fire herself.
Cedar held the two charms, one in each hand--the chains having been slipped over his withered, balding head. He looked at the tiny blue stone insect in his haggard paw, remarking how incredible it was. ... What he would have done for this.. just a few days ago...
It wasn't really the way magic was 'supposed' to feel. Magic felt like excitement, energy, vitality, and life inside your veins, eager to get out and take on the world. It could also be calm, soothing and gentle, like the whirlings of a summer breeze through your fur. This was... Something else. This was like a blanket had been wrapped around him, warm and ready.. Something outside yourself, but standing passive, waiting for you to pull it in, and make it yours.
It was not how it was supposed to feel. But it was something.
---It was something.
The other though? He had no idea. He didn't have time to think about it long-- he was vaguely aware of Solomon and his latest summon snuffing out the hot glow from around the corner, as his sisters began to move in earnest like they meant it. --And he knew deep down they did. He tried to think what would best calm Ted-- Everything he had tried to say to him had only somehow made things worse between them. Made Ted even more jealous. More angry. More hateful... What could he possibly say to him? His mind wheeled and came up empty many times in the shortness of a heart's beating as he was carried forward and around the corner.
And then he saw him.
Saw Ted. ... What was left of him.
All at once, his heart and mind raced. Visions of Kaitlyn Stritzel, the woman who had forced herself on him more times now than he could count, erupted in his mind unbidden and unbridled. He could hear... He could FEEL the wailing horror of the woman, cloying and howling through his skin; Pounding in his heart-- imagining her reaction to what she would see had happened to her "boy", "Her Ted."
That phantasm of the imagination merged, and fused with his own horror at seeing him that way. Deep down, he knew he had fallen in love with Ted in his own way. It had been that love that had kept him alive down here in this hole of misery and suffering. That had given him the courage and will to keep on living, and to face the cruelties visited on him daily; with measured resolve.
Whenever he looked at Ted, he saw Oak. The brother that he had chased bugs with. That he had suckled their mother beside. That he had chased their father's legs and played tag with...
... And the one that wanted nothing more to do with him, and who's face only contorted with contempt when he came to visit.
... The touch of humans... can be so cruel...
The visions combined into a symphony of unexpressed passion and need. How he imagined Stritzel would feel. How he felt. How he imagined Ted must feel right now, and without even knowing it, he held the ivory trinket firmly in his left hand, closed his eyes, and DARED TO FEEL IT ALL, as it poured out and through him, sucking at the ephemeral magic surrounding him; giving substance to the pain and anguish he felt, and morphing into that women's voice. Thin. Wavering. Desperate, and fragile. It screamed of vulnerability and passion.
it called inside and through him, shrill and mortified.
"Teddy! My Teddy! What have they DONE!?"
Then breathy, broken, and full of despair.
"Teddy, Not here! Not like THIS!"
Before becoming more forceful, even vindictive and pained.
"Teddy Please! Just RUN! Run! Don't die down here, Teddy! Don't waste it on THEM! Don't waste your LIFE Teddy, JUST RUN!"
The bravado of the passionate plea faded, consumed by the breathy desperation once more, before ending in a mere whisper.
"Come to ME! Come to ME Teddy! ....COME TO ME!..."
"...I can't bear to be without you ..."
"... I love you..."
Then, just as suddenly as it tore through him, the voice was gone, leaving him clutching the hateful ivory talisman, with a sour and sick pain in his stomach.
His sisters had not stalled even a single moment, and had been traversing the room the whole time he had been consumed by the emotional deluge that had just ripped through him. They were drawing close to where Ted was-- battling the flaming head thing that he remembered from the tower fight with the wizard Asevor... He really needed to have a trip away from home that did not end in fighting like this some day... Gods.. He hoped.
It was his own turn now, to use his own voice, as the pair rushed him past, and out of arm's reach.
He reached out anyway, clawing at the air.
"Come.. wit.. Us..."
he rasped, as his sisters rushed him through the hall, and pulled Ted out of his sight.