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Alternate titles include:
  • certifiable mess
  • afraid of people
  • just doing my best
  • (but hey, at least there's pizza)

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[ Mandelein ] | [ Interactions ]

Kaspar remained calm despite Baudile’s panic. He knew what to expect if the church caught wind—had years of false-memories to rely on for that much, though it certainly didn’t take Dami’s gift to know—but someone had to maintain composure.

And it was always him. A pit he’d dug himself into, really. Stoic even when the life of his sister (should she still live) was on the line. He’d leave only viscera left of any church agent who dared touch Lyra, and he’d do it… Expressionless. So he gave the same guarded face even as his mind began turning over a plan to protect Mandelein that didn’t include declaring a holy war on the church itself.

Thus he remained silent through Denis’s appearance, even through the curiosity over the froabas, right up until—“Verdammtes erdbeben? (Fucking earthquake?)” the boy protested in his native Kerremand.

(And he’d need to get a grip on that, this place was slipping him up)

A… Giant dragon? Kaspar couldn’t even get a full view of it, mind barely processing the words that seemed to be emerging from its general direction, just… Free barbecue sauce? Well, there was still one thing this town couldn’t surprise him with.

Just the one, though.

He stared, nearly uncomprehending at the… Wyrm? Something akin to a Royal Sand Wyrm. Colored like it, at least. And of a vaguely similar shape. Yes. Focus on the inane details. That’ll crack the illusion. Or the hallucination. Whichever this is.

Baudile was speaking now, and… Oh. Not a hallucination, at least. Kaspar supposed he should be listening, learning what this image’s purpose was, but… Concentrating was difficult. He was mostly used to large wyrms not talking and trying to eat him.

And now… Juan, had he said? Was bringing himself more face-to-face with Kaspar and his classmates. He’d met one of the most powerful beings in their known world and handled staring into her eyes better than he was handling this, for—Well, for Dami’s sake! Perhaps it was the several near-deaths, the entire bizarre scenario, the potential that he’d lost his biological family, or the lingering experience of having brought someone back to life that had so robbed him of his faculties, but Kaspar had to swallow the urge to laugh hysterically.

He’d already chosen to spare them, and he knew what would happen if they remained here. Still half-convinced he could hide Lyra himself (though how he would help her was another matter entirely), the noble didn’t need these people to be saved. But there was still so much he’d have to figure out, and…

And she’d be safer with those who shared her condition, and those who had practice in aiding wildbloods.

Mind still spinning with all that had happened, Kaspar defaulted to the only question he could think to ask. His voice sounded unusually small, more reflecting the teenager he still was than the heartless bastard he often pretended to be.

“Will... Will they be hidden from us, too?”


[ Location ] | [ Interactions ]

Kaspar focused on his breathing, trying not to think about how utterly fucked up the current events were as his crimson gaze fell to the windows and barricades of the church. He had never expected to return to Mandelein, but if he had ever dreamed of doing so...This would not have been a feature. The boy nearly laughed, thinking of the irony—of his mother's conviction that the town would tear them all apart if they knew his "terrible secret".

The townspeople were certainly trying to tear them apart now... But it wasn't his secret that did this. They were… what, wildbloods? The whole town? Questions spiraled in his head, but grotesque snarling combined with claws scratching against shaking windows, and the cacophony drove them from his mind.

They were liable to die tonight, if they didn’t pull this together. Laska was shouting for the windows to be strengthened, and he barked out his own suggestion on strategy. Turning to the window nearest himself, Kaspar exhaled slowly and focused every ounce of skill he’d ever possessed.

It was a close thing—a critical error in the first moment spread their power too thin and the church was nearly overrun, but they managed to correct it, to keep from being mobbed by the hundreds of beasts outside.

Some had moved to the roof—to deal with a cannon, had someone said?—though a defense still mounted inside. At some point, in the blur of the battle, Kaspar felt Baudile’s hands on him, trying to seal his wounds. The student steadied himself long enough to cooperate, his own skill in binding allowing him to aid the healer’s efforts before fighting pulled them apart once more.

Beasts still crawled through the open upper windows, howls turning to pained screeching as their fur came alight with flame. It lended strength and recklessness to their rage, threatening all who had sheltered in the church.

Kaspar tuned out the agonized shrieks, tuned out the thought that any one of these beasts could be his family. He needed to neutralize the fiery creatures, or risk falling to the horde. He turned bitter desperation to focus and strength, reached into the whispering void within his own blood, and pulled.

The resulting creature would kill without regret. He could feel that, the knowledge settled somewhere in his cells. His control was great, and this demon not very fickle—but if it came unbound from him, it would happily slaughter the students alongside the townspeople.

But, in this moment, Kaspar held it with an iron grip. Despite his hopes, though, they were being overrun. Cannon fire shook the church, threatening to bring down the doors, and Kaspar backed himself near the path to the roof.

With instructions to simply destroy the cannon, his summon was off and out the windows. No more shots hurtled into the walls, but a few more wolves climbed in and one…

Her irises certainly seemed more red now.

Kaspar opened the door, stepping into the street. It was growing dim, and night would fall on the town soon. He turned, facing Lark once more. “If she turns out like me, if you choose to abandon her too… Send for me. I can and will care for her.” He hesitated, but the open hostility in Lark’s eyes pushed him further. “Even if you don’t, I will find her. And I’ll make sure she knows exactly who threw her away.”

The cold irony met him once again. Had this always been his fate? Would his life be a cycle of being abandoned by anyone without a use for him, while he destroyed all other connections because they didn’t care about him? Was he too much of a monster to be loved past his mistakes, or to find a connection beyond his usefulness?

He laughed. Openly, twistedly, the moment their eyes met. Of course it would come to this. The boy had tried so hard not to think that his family might be dead, that he may have finally hurt his father one final time. Yet here she was, like she’d been picked for this. To torment him.

Something dark in him whispered to destroy her—to make it quick, so she would be free from whatever hell Mandelein had become. Or… to make it slow, and prove his own darkness. In a moment where other attacks rained down, he could only think how to deal with her.

He reached out, pulling at something, instincts quicker than thought and—

And spared her.

Wrapped her in solid rock, protecting her as a big brother always should. He exhaled, stuttering, surprised at the outcome his reflexes had chosen. His blood spattered the ground and the beasts around him and for a moment he didn’t even care.

He hadn’t destroyed her.

That elation carried him through the fight. Even when the monstrous constable prepared to crush them all, when he plunged once more into the dire darkness within… He forged not a sword, but a shield.

As they slipped into the tunnel Casii and Christophe had made, Kaspar heard the crumbling of the church walls, set ablaze by the vengeful priestess. He had faith in the strength of his stone, but a hatred boiled through his blood.

He would return when this terrible night was over. He would not leave Mandelein without Lyra—living or dead.

And if she perished… So too would Laska.

[ Webers-Tappisserie, Town Square ] | [ Lark Weber @Wolfieh, Ehren Weber @Wolfieh, Lyra Weber @Wolfieh, Baudile Dubosque @YummyYummy ]

[ Ayla's Dorm ] | [ @Ti ]

Kaspar strolled down the street between dormitories, looking quite casual despite the turmoil inside of him.

Willa was likely already at his residence, no doubt frenzied by his absence. Hopefully Adala’s presence could keep her calm—but right now, he couldn’t be too concerned about it. He’d cut it close by leaving so late, but the boy didn’t want to disturb the flow of time. Well, no more than he already planned to.

He stopped outside the door, vague memories of a mid-night escapade bringing him—and a scaly companion—to this same building. This time he’d be using the door and actually speaking with the occupant, though.

And thus, softly rapped the knuckles of Kaspar Elstrøm von Wentoft upon the door of Ayla Arslan.

“Sqqqaaaaawwwrrr!”, a loud squeaky roar comes through the door as the boy rapped his knuckle upon it, accompanied by scratching at the bottom upon it. After a moment, the scratching stopped as the door gets unlocked to revealed Ayla carrying Asier within her arms as the Puff-lion was sniffing eagerly toward him.

“He is only dangerous if you show fear, So if you are scared, don’t get within biting distance.” She winked toward Kaspar, as she lowered Asier back upon the floor as she reached out to take upon Kaspar’s hand to bring him into the Lion’s den and well within biting distance of the puff-lion, and the lion cub of Varrahasta herself as she placed kiss upon his cheek.

As the pair walk through the door, she gestures for Kaspar to make himself comfortable as she moved to the kitchen area to bring out the welcoming set as she brought the boy coffee. a range of colourful macaroons to enjoy, and some dried-meat for treating the puff-lion too. “What brings you to see me, Kaspar?” The metal spoon clinking within the cup as she stirred the coffee as she smiled warmly toward him.

Kaspar sat down at the table, crimson eyes taking in the small spread before him. He took some dried meat in hand, holding it down to be happily devoured by the Lion Cub’s lion cub. Once his fingers were determined to be empty enough by Asier, he picked up a macaroon in a pale blue and nibbled on it, one hand wrapping around the coffee offered to him.

He looked up at the warm smile of Ayla, and felt that warmth slide into place in his chest. There was a sort of guilt, too, in knowing that she seemed so at peace and he was here on less happy business. He’d be nearly at a loss for words, in a different time. If it weren’t for… Well.

Kaspar was hyperventilating. From an objective standpoint, he understood that—but it didn’t change the burning in his chest, the panic in his mind. He’d kept it together in front of Willa and Adala, but he’d practically run the second the door had shut. No matter how fast he ran, he couldn’t outpace the coming change.

”I’m not—I’m not me, I’m… I can’t be him, I can’t, I don’t—” He sucked in a deep breath, nearly choking on it. Something, pained and desperate, wrenched itself from his throat. ”I don’t know who I am.”

If it weren’t for her. The glimpses of future he saw in her eyes.


He knew exactly where to start.

“In Torragon, you told me to be who I wanted to be,” he said, voice steady. “And to find you, once I knew what that meant.” His eyes flickered up towards her face, and he saw so many choices laid out before him. “I want to be who I am.” He felt like the floor had been pulled out from underneath him, like he was dropping into a great chasm. But rather than flail… He was going to let himself fall. And maybe the ground would never come.

“I am not Kaspar Elstrøm von Wentoft. And I never have been.”

Ayla raised an eyebrow at the final comment as she looked toward him. She is not exactly sure what to make of it, but there is a pause, “You’re not my Kaspar?”. She turned to look toward Asier who appeared calm in his presence, which rules out any kind of illusion magic.

There is silence for a moment as she thinks back to Torragon, the refuge, and how they found… “...Felix, Kaspar is your brother's name, isn’t it?”, she sighed in relief as she extended to take his hand, holding upon it.

He hesitated for only a moment before relaxing his own hand into hers. He took in her words, trying to think how best to redirect her.

“He’s not my brother. Not… by blood, at least,” he stated. “Kaspar Elstrøm… is an only child. I… was born the son of artisans, a few months after Kaspar. By the time we were eight, he was sickly and I…” He hesitated, fingers shaking in Ayla’s grasp. He looked down at the drink in front of him. “I hurt someone my mother loved.”

“Supposedly, Kaspar died. We looked strikingly similar, so… The Elstrøms took me in. Raised me as if I were Kaspar. They provided proper training so I wouldn’t… So I’d be able to help people. In exchange, I would be their heir. No one would ever know the truth.”

He gently tightened his grip on Ayla’s hand, finally looking back up to meet her eyes. A small and tired smile tugged at his features. “You were close. Kaspar—the real Kaspar—never died. He has the tethering. I didn’t know until I met Felix, and it was… difficult to understand. But I was never Felix, or Kaspar. I’m just…. Alaric.”

Ayla looked toward Kaspar, no, Alaric, with interest. The story certainly out there but it wasn’t unheard of for families to treat family members like pariahs due to suspected tethering. Even her own aunt was made to ‘disappear’, and there were rumours that due to her own more fragile stature, she was likewise afflicted and came to befriend Maura Mercador, a girl just like herself.

She stood up from the chair as she came alongside Alaric. Her arms stretched around him to give him a hug, pulling his head against her as her fingers caressed through his hair as she cradled him there against her for a heartfelt moment. She gently broke the embrace as she looked toward him, “Hola soy Ayla, it is nice to meet you, Alaric.”

It had been difficult to let down the shield. For half his life, it was what he depended on. Shielding the truth, at risk of dishonoring his family (at risk of endangering himself). Shielding his emotions, at risk of endangering those around him. When it finally came down… All of it came down.

He relaxed into Ayla’s embrace, breath stuttering but something so warm in his chest. It made it easier, to trust the decisions that brought him here, those he still had to act upon. As she pulled back, introducing herself, the boy laughed. Wet, through tear tracks on his cheeks, but genuine. He smiled, perhaps wider than he had since he was a boy, and whispered, “It is nice to know you, Ayla.”

She smiled as she moved to sit herself back upon her seat then began to pour herself another cup of coffee, using a teaspoon of honey and a dash of milk, and moved to refill Alaric’s cup likewise. “Is your intention to come out publicly and renounce your… adopted parents and titles?” she continued to gaze upon his features as she pondered his intentions, “What are Felix’s… Kaspar’s… thoughts on this, what would he like to do?”

Alaric wiped his eyes, taking a deep sip of his coffee as Ayla refilled it. Felix has told me he wishes to have nothing to do with the Elstrøm family,” he explained.

”As for what I want… I never wanted the titles or the inheritance, but that was my duty to uptake. Fortunately… this will change soon,” he said, voice rather even. ”The Marchioness Katka Elstrøm is with child. They plan to ask me to abdicate all ‘birthrights’ and join the Stresian Order.”

Kaspar lived alone.

The Stresian Order did not make for a terrible life. He adjusted, as he always had. He kept mostly to himself. The other monks left him to his own devices as often as they could. He projected solitude like a wall, and it was respected enough.

Kaspar wasn’t happy. Not that he had been, after he became Kaspar. There was a brief time, in his first year at Ersand’Enise, but… His studies kept him from dwelling too much.

His fingers drummed on the table as he sipped yet again from the warm cup. ”Even with an heir, revealing the truth could greatly dishonor them, and endanger me. I will gladly abdicate. But with my abdication, they will lose all rights over the course of my life. I will not cause them trouble, but neither will I take the path they have chosen.”

He sighed, silent for a moment. Glancing back toward Ayla, he smiled softly. ”The Stresian Order is… not what I want.”

Her eyes continued to focus upon his features as she leaned back in her chair. “Are you asking for my advice, my assistance, or simply my friendship?” She lent forward as she pinched one of the macarons between her fingers, popping it into her mouth as she bit into it, smiling as she savoured the taste. “You have the power to choose what you want, you have only to wish for it. What does Alaric wish for?”

Alaric watched her eat the macaron, that soft smile never leaving his face. ”Alaric simply wishes for a chance at life with the person he cares about,” he murmured. ”For the opportunity to choose. And, if he’s so lucky… To be chosen in return.”

He died alone, too. Not of old age, not of sickness. He was murdered.

He died alone, in the dim light of a study. He didn’t see who—just felt the twisting of his chemicals, too fast and too powerful for him to fight against. The ground, as his hands found it, and then his arms—and he was curling in on himself. It was dark outside, and then it was dark inside… And then it was just dark.

He didn't know who, or why. He could guess—perhaps something to do with the strange manas in his blood. Lightbringer and Demoncaller might pose a threat to someone's ideal future. Maybe a fool, trying to weaken the Elstrøm family by killing a "beloved son". Or maybe the Elstrøms themselves.

He didn’t know what kind of funeral a monk of the Stresian Order earned. That wasn’t knowledge gifted to him—if the Elstrøm family provided for something. If those he knew at Ersand’Enise were even told of his death. If Ayla was.

Kaspar died alone, and he was sure he was buried alone, too.

He took a steadying breath, seeming nervous again for a moment, but his voice was gentle as he continued, ”Given the opportunity… I would choose you, Ayla. Your friendship, always, but… If it is what you want, I would choose something more.”

Ayla paused for a moment as she was caught off-guard by the boy's comments. She had been thinking about how she could rescue Alaric from his plight, how she could tell him that they had no power over him, and he had all the power over them. She was thinking of what she would do for him, bare her fangs toward the Elstrøm family and make them cower before her. Yet, when given the choices offered before him, it appeared Alaric had chosen a fourth, an unspoken choice that even she did not consider.

After a loud silent pause, she finally broke the silence, “Alaric Arslan does have a ring to it.” She moved to take one of the macarons from the plate as she chewed upon it slowly. She struggled to string her thoughts together coherently, as her mind was racing. There was a lot to consider, and it is far from simple. She is already betrothed to another, and whilst Alaric, a boy of no notable standing, title, and had no ties to consider, she could stand to lose everything with such a decision. Even if he had asked such as thing as Kaspar Elstrøm, it would have been a difficult decision, though the loss in prestige would be something she could at least recover from. “Do you… know what you ask of me?”

His soft smile saddened, though understanding sat upon his features. ”I do,” he admitted softly. ”Perhaps not by heart, but by mind.” Alaric sighed, eyes returning to his coffee.

”Your friendship, always. There is nothing more I need, and nothing more I would press you for. If it came to pass that there could be something more,” he paused, trying to find the words. ”Then I would be glad. But… I know what we wish may not always be possible. I lack noble blood, but that is a lesson this nobility taught me well.”

Ayla frowned as this situation forced her to appear shallow. She truly cherished Alaric, and more than a friend at that. Already that loss of their innocence was missed as she recalled the boy struggling to understand the concept of a sandwich, and has decided to now open up a stall which specialized in providing them.

She moved her hand upon Alaric’s, keeping it held there as she squeezed upon it. “We don’t want you gone.” She sat and waited with him, as she moved her fingers to intertwine with his. She was stuck, she was lost, and it felt like all she could do was physically hold upon his hand tightly, scared. “Perhaps there is a way for you to stay by my side. We could always hire a mage of your potential, then you don’t need to go anywhere, especially not to the Stresian Order.”

He was content to sit in the silence between Ayla’s words, her fingers wrapped in his. The feeling of flesh against his hand, after all these years, still brought a tremor—but it brought comfort, too, and so he did not let go. “Even if there was not a station for me, or should I need to spend some time away…I will not set myself upon the order. Their work is noble, but… It is not mine to perform.”

As he spoke, Alaric’s fingers plied the gentlest pressure into the back of her hand, back and forth like the plucking of some silent tune. ”No matter the circumstances, or what solution we find… I’ll be there when you need me. Even simply as a comfort, inept as I may be. You have been a support to me from the first moment. I could offer no less than the same in return.”

Ayla nodded and smiled warmly to him, giving the hand three squeezes. She sat with him for a silent moment before she let go and removed it. “You would need to excuse me for a moment, we need to freshen up.” She excused herself, waving as she moved toward the washroom as she left Alaric in the company of Asier. The puff-lion cub looked up toward Alaric as it tilted its head to the side, approaching as it pawed toward him, requesting more treats from him.

Alaric was easy to convince, palming a few treats and offering them to the cub with a soft smile. It was good practice for when Varmkorv finished hatching, though he wasn’t sure how well a puff-lion compared to a froabas. Slowly, so he didn’t startle Asier, Alaric slid himself off the chair and onto the ground, trying to convince the small beast into his lap with bribes of treats. Asier peered up toward Alaric as if he pondered the decision, before committing to the treats as he crawled upon the lap to sniff and bite upon the treats, accepting ear scratches from the boy.

After a while, Ayla returned, freshened up as she appeared to have washed her face, applied some make-up, and seemed more pleasantly fragrant than before. “Thank you for waiting, we would appreciate your support”, as she smiled warmly toward him, though pausing as she looked very confused at him laying upon the floor.

Alaric was still on the floor, though his position had changed. What greeted Ayla was the boy sprawled across it, his tongue half sticking out as he stared dead-eyed at the ceiling. Asier appeared to be gnawing on his arm, hampered only by the sleeve between him and the mage’s flesh.

Ayla walked toward him as she picked up Asier, the puff-lion with a treat in its mouth as she cuddled him within her arms, “Oh well, we liked that one Asier. Now we got to try to hide the body now.”. She smirked as moved over and sat beside him. Her hand stroked through his hair as she giggled, and then flicked his nose.

The faint red of a blush crawled up Alaric’s cheeks as Ayla wandered over, like he’d somehow not expected to be seen. He tried to play the part convincingly as the girl spoke with Asier, mouth twitching to avoid breaking into a smirk. The boy’s blush deepened as fingers moved gently through his hair, the flick of his nose earning Ayla a soft sound, half surprise and half amusement. He shifted his head, leaning against her leg as the mage pulled a treat from his dampened sleeve, offering it upwards to the puff-lion. “Perhaps you could chew on the body, that would help hide it,” he whispered to the pet, a smirk finally settling on his face as he glanced up towards the Arslan beside him.

Ayla lowered Asier upon the floor as she moved his head upon her lap, allowing him to use it like a pillow. “There are a good few years in front of us, Alaric. Your tuition is paid for, you are an accomplished gift user, the academy can offer you a stipend…” and she leaned down to whisper by his ear, The price for your silence doesn’t need to be cheap either. She pinched his ear playfully, “Perhaps we should approach Afraval, we can support you if you desire.”

Alaric’s eyes roamed over Ayla’s face, quiet interest as she talked. As she brought up the future, the struggles it may hold… And the solutions, as well. He felt like he could see the claws she was holding back, ready to sink into the Elstrøm family. He sighed softly—something peaceful at the simplicity of the moment, and something scared at all that lay before him.

“I’ll think about it,” Alaric whispered, eyes drifting shut.

As they spent time together, somewhere nearby… A snake, dastardly thing that it was, slithered through cracks towards the pair, looking to infiltrate their peaceful room. Its scaled body pushed into the improperly latched door, prying it from the frame. With a hiss, it darted forward—and was stopped in its tracks by the teeth of a fearsome puff-lion cub, biting into its neck. With several vigorous shakes of his head, the threat was put to an end. No snakes would bite on this evening.

[ Nox Arcanum ] | [ @Wolfieh ]

The festivities of Nox Arcanum marched on, others still celebrating in the early hours of Ipte. Despite that, she imagined Kaspar had returned to his dorm, likely even asleep—as she herself had been, less than an hour ago.

Her fist connected with the wood again, pounding heavier this time. He wasn’t a light sleeper, so perhaps it would take some effort to rouse the boy. Maybe one of his small dragons might wake him, if the knocking was loud enough.

Willa glanced back, to where Adala stood just a few feet away, fidgeting. The girl’s eyes were tired—she’d been sleeping less than she should of late. Though she would need to return hastily to Helbahn, Willa was going to make sure she rested before leaving.

They waited impatiently after the third set of knocks, until another minute or so passed. Finally, with a grunt of frustration, Willa reached a hand down to the knob. She’d break it if she had to, twisting harshly, but—

The door swung open. Kaspar stared blearily at the two figures on his stoop, barely having time to register the first face before Willa was stepping in, the second figure closing the door without so much as a glance behind her. She looked familiar—did she have a sister? He remembered a girl with a similar face who would watch him as often as she could, but she never did approach.

Willa looked sharply around the room, unoccupied save for the small blue and green dragons peaking up with interest by the large, partially cracked egg. “Kaspar?” she called out, trepidation in the word. She hadn’t broken the door… It had been unlocked.

Her feet carried her swiftly to the bedroom, eyes sweeping over each bundle of clothes and lingering on the bed, as if hoping he might still be resting there. She called his name again, bitterly expecting no reply, before returning to the main room.

“Maybe he’s still out? We could come back in the morning,” Adala suggested softly.

“He needs to know now,” Willa but back, face creasing into an apologetic look as her gaze hovered to the girl’s face.

”You need to tell him. As accurately as you can remember.”

And so she began. And soon, Kaspar had sat down heavily at the table, crimson eyes boring into the wood. Tomsøthet sat on his arm, staring blankly around the room while his master listened in shock.

“Why is it so important?” Adala asked softly, nothing but genuine concern in her tone.

”We need all the time we have to plan.”

Kaspar tried to shake himself into focus, but simply ended up—somehow, he didn’t remember—with his head buried in his hands.

“You don’t think they would…?”

He looked up, meeting Willa’s eyes. He could tell she shared the same thought—they already had, with Felix. Who knew what they might resort to, if he did not get out of the way so easily.

Willa sighed, distraught, and sat down at the table.

“Truth be told? They might.”

A small gasp escaped Adala, and subconciously the tutor was already reaching out a hand to grasp hers comfortingly. It was instinct, when she’d taken in the girl and her younger sister after they first began working at the estate—sharing her quarters, making sure to keep them safe.

”I… I’ll do it.”

The silence had stretched so long that Adala startled at his voice. Trying to steady it, he pressed on, “What choice do I have, anyway?”

“There must be something we can do.”

She put the words into the empty air, hoping it might somehow change things. That some answer may be revealed.

”Are you sure this is what you want?”

He knew the answer. He thought about Ayla. Her warm hands, and bright eyes. The way she made him feel safe, and comforted. He thought about freedom, to chart his own path—to choose what knowledge mattered to him.

None of it stemmed from this.

“It can be.”

Floorboards creaked as Adala stood, gently tugging Willa to her feet. “If he isn’t here, then we’ll just have to go looking for him,” she said softly, pulling the older woman out of despair.

”I… I need some time. To think. Thank you, for what you’ve done tonight.”

The door shut softly behind him. He wished it had been louder. He wished it were in pieces. He wished he were, too.

Willa nodded sharply, taking a breath and turning to the door.

For the first time, she saw the piece of parchment hung on the back of the door by a nail, his looping handwriting in the center.

[ Nox Arcanum ] | [ @Wolfieh ]

Kaspar’s months passed… quite tamely, all things considered. His time in the Forked Tower provided significant learning and practice on Dark Magic, but after that week, there wasn’t exactly opportunity to learn or practice. Instead, his studies were relegated to those overseen by the academy. In the wake of a new forbidden magic, even his research into Blood Magic fell by the wayside, remaining little more than theoretical.

Despite his keen knowledge that he’d developed feelings for Ayla, the boy did not admit them to anyone—least of all their subject. He would, someday. But it was a matter of timing, and their were other things he felt she deserved to know first. He’d picked out the right moment, though—in no small part thanks to Ahn-Dami. Now, he simply needed to wait.

He did, surprisingly, begin spending much more time with another student: Ingrid Penderson. After his purchase of a lifetime supply of barbecue sauce, she had approached him with an offer. Over several discussions, the two agreed to be business partners—Kaspar, with the idea and the sauce, and Ingrid with the funds and experience.

It had been itching at the back of his mind since Torragon—like some faded memory he couldn’t quite grasp. Sausages, served like sandwiches… He blamed it in part for the inspiration of Varmkorv’s name.

Varmkorv, who’s banded red shell had begun to crack. Who had not yet emerged, but was preparing to. Tomsøthet and Blåbærterte spent more time by the egg than ever, almost as if they fancied themselves its parents. Feit-og-Sint would watch it from underneath the cupboard, staying awake into the long hours of the night.

In the recent week, Kaspar had been much more focused on preparing his outfit for Nox Arcanum. Brilliant reds and golden accents, smatterings of black in the details. Something regal, deserving of his noble blood—he smirked a little, every time he thought of it. An intricate metal mask, in the shape of a wolf’s head. No one else would know its significance, but he remembered the tapestry that had hung over Alaric Weber’s bed.

Hand-woven by his father, the face of a wolf on a swirling, deep green background. One that his father would look at with a sense of pride, before he’d lean down to whisper its meaning to Alaric. “That’s our family crest. Not like nobles, who signify their name,” he would say, lips pressed against his son’s hair in a smile. “No, it’s what we stand for. We’re a pack. That means we stick together, always.”

He wondered what happened to that tapestry, after. If they had another child, and passed it on to them—or if his mother was too scared that it might turn out just the same. If they stuck together; did his father feel the same fear Lark had? Did he agree to send Alaric away, or did he only learn afterward? Did he forgive his wife for it?

At eight, when he still cried at the nightmares, he’d sometimes wonder—hope—that his father was out there, trying to find him. Because they were a pack. They stuck together.


Kaspar Elstrøm von Wentoft slid the mask over his face, departing into the early hours of Nox Arcanum.

Yet, as the night of Nox Arcanum drew closer, so did many other things…

Three shadows shifted in the soft, dancing firelight on the stable floor as gentle rain beat against the roof. One belonged to a girl of perhaps sixteen; the other, who bore some resemblance to her, was a few years older. The third was a horse, half-saddled.


The older figure stopped her movements around the horse and fixed the younger with a glare. Swallowing, the girl continued, “...You have everything you need?”

Securing the flap of a saddle bag, the intended rider nodded once, sharp and determined. “It’s not much. The journey won’t be long, if I ride as fast as I intend to,” she supplied, pulling a few small bundles out of the folds of her coat and slipping them into a second pouch on the saddle.

The younger girl was quiet for several long moments, biting her lip and twisting her fingers in nervousness. Finally, despite her quiet voice she all but blurted out, “Are you sure about this?”

Adala sighed, resting her forehead against the saddle as she paused for a moment. “Liese…” she whispered, hesitating for a moment. “It… It’s the right thing to do. I owe Willa this much.”

Liese’s face twisted in sympathy. “And the boy?”

Adala chuckled, smiling a little. “That’s up to Willa. But he deserves to know,” she added softly.

“You’ve got a soft spot for that boy,” Liese teased, blush barely noticeable in the soft torchlight.

Adala grinned, stepping closer. “Half the estate does. And how could I not, when my baby sister has been sweet on him since the first day she saw him?” she teased, wrapping Liese in a hug as the younger girl’s blush became suddenly much more visible. “But what they’re going to ask… It’s not right, that he doesn’t already know,” she added, voice sadder as she stepped away from her sister. “I’m glad you told me what you heard.”

She put a foot in the stirrup and pushed up, swinging a leg over as the horse shifted minutely beneath her, nickering softly. “Keep yourself out of trouble while I’m gone, you hear? If you need anything, you come down to the stable and talk to Emmeline, she’ll look after you like I would. I left her a note saying our aunt is sick and I’ve gone to take care of her. If anyone asks, that’s all you know, got it?” Her voice was stricter now, and Liese nodded sharply.

“Good,” Adala replied, taking the reigns in hand, hood of her coat drawn up over her head now. “I’ll be back soon, I promise.”

“You better be,” Liese whispered, voice thick with worry and nearly drowned out by the worsening rain. “Be safe, Addy. And... Gods’ speed.”

With one nudge of the heels, Adala’s horse was moving forward and out of shelter, hooves splashing up water on the paved stone as they trotted away, towards the Estate Entrance. Liese watched until she saw their shadows at the distant gate, stopping to speak with the guards before being waved through. She watched until their shapes disappeared into the darkness beyond, and then watched a while longer.

LOCATION: Noble Dormitories

Kaspar left the tavern while the party was still in full swing, other competitors joining in the drinking. His head was spinning with the effect of three shots, two primes that had been purged and one shot that still lingered in his system in full, boosting his manas. He walked down the darkened streets, more of a wobble in his step than the boy was capable of recognizing.

He got back to his dormitory, an ornery Raspberry Drake winding around his legs and nipping at his heels, waiting for the door to be opened. Kaspar pushed it open after a moment of clumsily undoing the lock, and Feit-og-sint slithered in, darting under one of the cupboards. The quiet sounds of him devouring fruits he’d stashed away echoed through the front room.

He filled a cup with water, ignoring the curious stares of his two smaller dragons nestled in beside the froabas egg. He chugged the liquid, realizing it was a mistake when it hit his stomach all at once, sending it roiling through his innards. He stood, stumbling towards the door and sinking to his knees to clutch the bucket there, dry heaving. Nothing came up, but it took several minutes for the noble to regain his composure, beads of sweat soaking into his collar.

He sat back on his heels, and immediately a small body wrapped around his hand, sniffing at his skin. Looking up at him with eyes just a little too big for the head they were trapped in, Tomsøthet seemed almost concerned for his wellbeing. Gently scooping the reptile into his palm, Kaspar returned to his spot at the table, pushing away the now-empty mug.

Tiredness was beginning to pull at him, and for a moment the boy considered simply laying his head on his arms and giving in. But his crimson eyes trailed Tomsøthet’s curious expedition around the table to the other side, and for the first time since Willa had come to visit, his gaze landed on the portrait he’d created. Stretching his arm out, he caught the edge of the paper between his fingers and pulled it closer, finally taking in what he had drawn for the first time since creating it.

When he’d finished it, awed though he was by the skill in his art, the boy had dismissed it as the musings of a lovesick fool. He knew what this was, though he hadn’t at first… And none of it was productive. They were feelings he couldn’t allow to remain, at least not at the surface. So the boy had been pushing it down, restricting those emotions the same way he did all others. For days it had been like this, the noble staunchly ignoring the whole thing, yet never finding it in himself to simply burn the portrait like he thought he should.

Now, though, with the intoxication swimming in his blood and plying his mind, he truly drank in what he’d created. It was the only true portrait he’d ever done—a few sketches from a much younger and much less talented Kaspar seemed to imitate human faces, but they could not really be counted.

Something in his chest tugged, like it already knew that he would destroy the sketch come morning, resolve hardened by the softness of his altered state. He was already to his feet, sketch in hand, before his mind even fully caught up. Tomsøthet scurried to the edge of the table, reaching out front legs to grasp Kaspar’s sleeve and swing onto it, dangling before climbing the fabric and clinging to his forearm.

“I might need your help,” the boy whispered, lifting the dragon until it could slip into his vest. Snuggling in, it glanced up and chirped, the closest thing Kaspar supposed he could get to an agreement. He leaned down, snagging a stray quill, and steadied his hand to scrawl something on the corner of the page, doing his best to keep the words neat despite his drunkenness.

His fingers turned the knob of the dormitory door and he stepped out into the streets, darker and quieter than when he arrived.

There was only one place where the sketch could truly belong, and it wasn’t with him.

By the time he got to her street, Kaspar could only hope he’d been walking with something resembling dignity. He’d not noticed any other wanderers, but that was far from an assurance that they hadn’t noticed him. He counted the buildings as he strolled down the street, mustering as much as he could into looking like something other than a drunken student about to do some minor breaking and entering.

A small rush of relief coursed through him as the proper dormitory came into view. One of the windows was open, letting in the warm air of Ersand’Enise. Glancing from one end of the street to the other to be sure he wasn’t being watched, Kaspar approached the opened window. He was surprised to feel heat coming out of the room as well, but only for a moment before he remembered that she had two dragon eggs to keep warm.

It was now that he pulled the green dragon from his vest, holding the edge of the sketch up to his mouth. Tomsøthet grabbed it obligingly, though it was really more of an instinct than an intelligent response. He was set on the window ledge and blinked up at the Helbahnese boy, eyes bright but devoid of thought. Pulling a few treats out of his pocket, Kaspar tossed a grape through the window. It landed on the table, but bounced and rolled down onto the seat of one of the chairs.

Nevertheless, Tomsøthet was off, diving through the window and jumping onto the chair. The paper slid from his mouth and onto the surface as he devoured the grape. Kaspar cursed, and tossed another that landed and stayed on top this time. Tomsøthet was quick to scamper up the table and mow it down as well, but had no interest in bringing the sketch with him. The noble was trying to figure out how to get the dragon to do what he wanted when a few soft thuds and some shuffling came from the next dormitory over.

Panic laced like ice in his veins as Kaspar frantically pulled out another grape, getting the attention of his companion. The green creature dove back through the window, nearly taking off the tip of his master’s thumb as he chomped onto the treat, oblivious to the speed with which the boy had turned and begun walking hurriedly down the street. He glanced back only once he got to the end of the street, catching a figure in the distance who seemed to be at least as drunk as he was, wobbling into the distance with a single shoe in hand with what he guessed, from the bare skin of their back, was their shirt.

LOCATION: Noble Dormitories
INTERACTIONS: Willa @Wolfieh, Mentions of Ayla @Ti

Kaspar had journeyed back from the Manson de las Mil Ventanas the perfect picture of a stiff-backed noble, cool eyes concealing the turmoil within, rage at a situation that was not his to rage at. He closed the door to his dormitory with perfectly reasonable force, thank you very much, despite the way two draconic heads poked themselves up from the blankets surrounding the still-shelled Varmkorv. He paced to and fro, fingers itching, and took only a few minutes to realize what he desperately needed.

The boy ventured to his room and sat cross-legged upon his bed, still in all his finery, charcoal moving swiftly across the page as he sketched. His mind was barely registering what the noble was drawing, lines connecting and pulling from memory without hesitation. It wasn’t until a knock sounded at the door, some hour or more later, that he set aside the paper on the dining table as he passed it. Charcoal-coated fingers grasped the knob, pulling it open, and he looked coolly at his tutor before stepping aside and allowing her in.

“How did it go?” she asked, walking into the dormitory with a slight smirk. Eyes fell to the dining table and the drawing on top, and the smirk grew. “I suspect it went… quite well,” she remarked, holding up the paper.

Kaspar didn’t need to turn and look to remember the portrait. A finely-crafted rendition of Ayla, as she had looked the first time they spoke. White space like the sunlight in her hair, charcoal lines pulling at it like the gentle wind had, an essence to her features that spoke to a personality he had not yet known that day. He could almost hear her teasing voice, Draw me like one of your Perrench girls.

He’d never held interest in drawing a Perrench girl—nor a portrait of anyone. Not until today. And then, only one of a Torragonese girl.

Kaspar didn’t turn. Instead, he unclasped the cloak from around his neck, gold details dirtied by charcoal that would need washing, and hung it on a wall hook. “It was a dinner. Food was eaten, shoulders rubbed, families met. They announced Ayla’s betrothal, and I spoke with Augsuto about the derby,” he stated matter-of-factly.

“Ayla? The one you had that date with? She is betrothed, and didn’t tell you?” Willa asked sharply, head tilting in indignation.

It was then that Kaspar turned, gently grabbing the portrait from Willa without even looking at it, and returning it to the table. “She did not know,” he replied, moving past his tutor to the fireplace, grabbing up the stone striker and attempting to kindle a blaze within. “I won’t ask how you knew about the picnic, but it wasn’t a date,” he added as the kindling caught and began to creep towards the logs already in place. He straightened, pacing towards the shelves containing his cookware, and pulled out a teapot.

“Did you want it to be?”

He didn’t stop scooping water into the pot, but stayed silent as he affixed it to a hook above the fire. Crouching, staring into the flames, Kaspar said softly, “What I want… Does not matter.”

The Melon Derby

He threw himself into practicing for the Derby harder than ever—most days now melons made for an egregious portion of his meals (and all of his dragons’) as the boy worked on creating them with Binding, better each time. They were used to train the small contingent of dragons Team You Could Never had obtained, and sent home with teammates afterward.

The day of the Derby, Kaspar was relocated to a more stagnant role, which was perfectly fine by his count. It was more… social than the boy was used to, dealing with Zeno Bucks customers and exchanging melons for specialized merchandise created by his own manas, but he hunkered down and dealt with it. He was not alone, as Olga remained in the building to grow melons, and the two chatted back and forth in Eskandish, initially discussing tactics but soon transitioning to more mundane topics. He asked for her opinion on the name Varmkorv and while she didn’t respond, he could hear the disgusted sigh over the chattering outside.

They went over the names of his other dragons too—The grape dragon, Tomsøthet1 made her laugh. Blåbærterte2 was suitably adorable for the small Blueberry. Finally, for the Raspberry Drake, she agreed that Feit-og-Sint3 was fitting, if not flattering.

Zarina’s anger partway through the Derby was met, at least on Kaspar’s part, with signature level-headedness. “You want revenge, yes. But why half-ass it?” He turned from the counter for a moment, shrugged, and added, “If we turn everyone against them, we may defeat them now. If we turn them against each other, their difficulties grow in every way.”

Despite the advice, the noble boy left his team to do most of the aggressing. When envoys were sent out to other Zeno houses, he nearly asked to go to Zeno Zemana’s, simply for the chance to speak with Ayla. But, knowing it was neither the time nor the place, he instead followed Kol to speak with Marci’s team. On the way to the Zeno's house, Kaspar asked for his opinion on Varmkorv. Kol seemed to think it was a fantastic name, but laughed far harder than Kaspar thought it called for. After speaking with Marci, she was not fully amiable to the suggested plan, but helped in her own way—and that was enough for Kaspar.

In the end, Team Afraval and Team Pravda Æresvaktr came in third place—which, with the first place team holding the Melon Supreme, felt more like a second place. Not that their strategies were lacking, but given the near-guaranteed win the Supreme granted, no one had much chance of topping it. Zeno Mozaru’s students and Blaze of Glory were in a league all their own—for now, at least.

1— Empty Sweetness
2— Blueberry Tart
3— Fat-and-Angry
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