When they arrive back at the inn, Caleb looks wrung out. He plans with them for a while anyway, though, and from what he and the others say Caduceus picks up a little more on what he must have missed, before. Something about Caleb’s name not being Caleb, about Caleb’s former teachers being in Rexxentrum. That the people in Rexxentrum might have taken Yeza, if it wasn’t really the Krynn that Beau heard had done it while at the hospital. It all sounds a little complicated to Caduceus. He wishes they would stop speculating so that he could sleep, and find out for certain in the morning.
Eventually Caleb seems to have enough too. “None of it makes sense,” he says heavily, and pushes away from their table and towards the stairs to their rooms. After a few moments, Nott follows, looking just as exhausted.
“I think we’ve talked him out,” Beau says. Her face is conflicted. “Sorry you were left out of all that, earlier, by the way. In the cart.”
“It’s all right. I wanted to help.”
“I mean, I don’t know what you got out of everything just now, but there was more to it. What he, uh, said. I don’t know if I should—”
“It’s really all right.” He isn’t quite sure what to add to that. That he doesn’t need to know? That he’s not concerned? “He’ll tell me when he’s ready,” is what he settles on.
“Okay. Just—don’t let him bullshit you, all right? If he starts saying creepy shit about using you or—”
“You don’t have to worry. I know the difference between a parasite and a symbiote.”
“Uh—okay, I guess.” She pinches the bridge of her nose. “Shit, today was fucking—we have a lot of work to do.”
“That we do. You’ve already done great work today, though.”
A small smile breaks through, like ice breaking along a pond in the spring. “You think? I uh— you too. I look forward to hearing from your—” she wriggles her fingers. “—thing. In the morning. That’s pretty cool.” She leaves to follow Jester upstairs, and, finally feeling allowed, Caduceus gets ready to sleep as well.
Ghor Dranas, he says, after. He doesn’t know what it means exactly, but the rest do, Nott blinking in confusion and Caleb rubbing his temples in stress. They prepare to go to the tunnels.
Caleb doesn’t tell him anything.
Not for a while, at least.
There’s an edge of paranoia to the way Caleb prepares their shelter when they travel, Caduceus thinks. Not that there wasn’t a bit of it always, ever since Caleb first showed them the Hut and promised that no one would be taken in the night. But it’s a touch more extreme now—though they already know the bubble can’t be trespassed or harmed, starting their first evening in the tunnels Caleb also strings up an alarm wire, and sends his cat out of the tunnel as a lookout. Caduceus creates a partial stone covering over the dome more to ease Caleb’s mind than anything, but even so, even when Caduceus points out there is no need to take watches, when he wakes sore-backed partway through the night it’s to find Caleb awake, hunched over a book pressed up against the driftglobe. As he watches, Caleb lifts his head to stare away in the distance, the way he does when looking through his familiar’s eyes.
“Mr. Caleb,” he murmurs. No response. That’s right. He can’t hear when he does that.
He considers going back to sleep, for a moment. Leaving it be. But there’s another part of him that already wants to reach over to straighten Caleb’s posture, to snuff out the dim light that is no doubt straining his eyes and ease him back into his bedroll so that he wouldn’t be exhausted come morning. It’s a hard feeling not to give into. So he doesn’t. He raises himself from his sleeping mat with a sigh, and places his hand on Caleb’s back, listening for the moment the wizard comes back to himself with a gasp.
“You’re not doing yourself any favors, staying up,” he says. The edge of Caleb’s lips quirk up.
“You are so sure that I am? For all you know, only an hour has passed.”
“You know, though.”
Caleb scrubs a hand over his face. “Tunnels are clear for the moment. I would not worry too much Herr Clay—I have already prepared all the spells I need to, and I can afford not to be so alert, probably, so long as I’m not asked to lead the group through the dark. For now, I’d like to complete this.”
Caduceus glances down, and sees that Caleb wasn’t reading, as he had thought. Writing, rather, his hands coated in charcoal dust from the cheap pencil he’d been using, the book in his lap filled with letters like little ants, marching in orderly lines.“What is that?”
“I read a book in the Cobalt Soul, dealing with some of the history of Xhorhas—a little bit of what the Krynn worship. It may have some bearing on the thing we are carrying, that we are wondering about and are bringing so close to them. But. It’s one thing to remember a thing I’ve read and it’s another to find what’s important, to process. This helps. With the thinking. May help everyone else to look at it and weigh in, too.”
“I heard that dreams can help with thinking,” Caduceus says. Caleb gives him a frustrated look. “It’s true. I think you’ll still remember the book come morning. There’s nothing to stop you from continuing tomorrow night.”
“That’s not—that is not the issue. This is how I can help. The sooner I can—then the sooner we can come up with a plan, maybe, instead of, of rushing headlong into danger. We’re flying blind, Herr Clay, and I do not like it.”
“We’re not flying,” Caduceus says. He’s sure of that, at least. “Maybe it would be faster if we were? If we had a flying carpet that could lift us all up—”
Caleb laughs, and Caduceus might be happy about that, if it didn’t also half sound like choking. “Maybe so. I am wondering if it would not have been better if Nott’s husband was in Rexxentrum after all,” Caleb says. “Even if I don’t think—at least then we might know something about what to expect.”
Caduceus had been wondering, briefly, what it would be like if everyone could fly, if Caleb had dark little bird wings and was fluttering about the cave. But that is enough to bring him out of it. “Rexxentrum was where your teachers were from,” he says.
Caleb nods, then looks guilty. “Ah. I have not spoken to you about—”
“No, you haven’t.” Caduceus wonders if he forgot, if that’s the reason behind his expression. That happens, sometimes. Though he can’t help but be a bit hurt by it—even if he doesn’t need to know, even if he wants to be patient, he doesn’t like the idea of being overlooked.
“It, ah, it is not relevant now, as I thought it might be at the time,” Caleb says. “I thought I might wait for the right moment, but it hasn’t seemed like there is one. Like now—you could be asleep.”
The kernel of hurt in Caduceus’ chest loosens, a little. Not forgotten, then.
“Regardless. It’s something I told the others, so it is your right to know, if you wish. I will not refuse you asking.”
Something about his phrasing makes Caduceus pause. He tries to put his finger on it, what memory it brings up, and only gets the vague impression of a puffy face, the taste of lavenderberry. The Uriven family, he thinks.
“Sometimes when mourners came to our temple, they would tell us stories, about their loved ones or things that hurt them, and it helped them to tell us,” he says, slowly. “Others would tell us because they thought they had to, because we were helping them and they felt obligated. And the telling only hurt them again. It didn’t help.”
Caleb is very, very still.
“I think what I’d want to ask is—is this something you want to tell? Would it help?”
Silence. Caduceus waits, and because he is still tired, he slips in and out of dozing, still sitting upright, until Caleb answers.
“…No. It won’t help.”
“Then that’s all there is to it. You never have to tell me anything.”
“Caduceus Clay,” Caleb says, voice so faint it feels like a nervous moth, just alighting on Caduceus’ ear. “I don’t understand you at all.”
Caduceus can’t help but find that funny. He’s very simple, after all, and he knows that Caleb deals in the complicated. Maybe that’s the issue.“I think, that with people it’s often less about understanding them than believing in them. Do you believe in me, Mr. Caleb?”
“That’s all that matters. You know, I believe in you.”
He tries to convince Caleb to renew the ritual for the Hut, to at least get some sleep when he’s finished writing. Caleb refuses, saying that he wouldn’t be responsible for delaying them. But when Caduceus settles back onto his own sleeping mat, it’s only a few minutes before the light from the driftglobe snuffs out, and he hears Caleb shuffling over to his own bedroll. Caduceus doubts he was really so close to being finished.
Maybe there’s a way of getting through to him after all.
When he dreams that night, he dreams of Caleb with large dark wings. He’s flying away from them all, impossibly fast, but just when Caduceus is worried he’s going to leave them behind for good, just when he begins to call out, Caleb turns. He waves his hand and says something Caduceus can’t understand, and all of a sudden he feels the weight of wings on his back, as well.
It feels good to fly.