Oranges, yellows and pinks began to color the sky, shining the first rays of sunlight through Taako’s window. The sounds of market stalls being set up could be heard filtering through the glass. Freshly baked bread could be smelt cooking from the floor below, and his mouth watered; he could tell it was Lup’s cooking.
The plane that they’d landed on this year was quite similar to the one that they were all born on; although they certainly didn’t have anything remotely similar to the Starblaster, everything else was quite the same. The air wasn’t poisonous, they didn’t have to run around in hamster balls, and it wasn’t uninhabited. Taako usually preferred the uninhabited planes – the beach one being his favorite – but this one was an exception. Like Tesseralia, it was centered around food and cooking, and that was certainly a bonus in Taako’s books. In fact, it was a bonus for everyone, since the twins cooked enough to feed more than the entire IPRE.
Taako didn’t rush to get ready; he made sure to take plenty of time selecting which outfit to wear. Unlike literally everyone else but Lup, he made sure to buy a closet worth of clothes on every plane they went on – that is, if they were available. He glanced outside his window to check the time of day; the sun had risen higher, casting light onto the red and orange leaves covering a large portion of the ground below. Rifling into his make-up bag, Taako was disappointed; there was a sufficient lack of make-up in this plane, so he’d just have to give himself some Arcane Cosmetics and burn spell slots for the rest of their stay here. It wasn’t practical, but he loved make-up, and nobody could stop him from applying it.
When Taako finally made his presence known in the kitchen, his sister had already finished baking the bread. It sat on a rack to cool with a cloth resting on top of it to keep any unwelcome bugs away; the windows in the kitchen didn’t have any glass in them – god knows why – so there was no other way to stop pests coming in. Lucretia sat nearby, writing copious notes; about what, Taako couldn’t tell – probably the recipe for the bread, knowing her. “You’re finally up. Good,” Lup said, crossing the room and thrusting a piece of paper against his chest. “I need you to get these.”
Taako rolled his eyes when he realized it was a list of ingredients, but from what the ingredients were, he could tell what she wanted to make. “Will I get reimbursed for this?”
“A free back rub?”
“Nuh-uh, I can just ask Magnus for that,” Taako said, tucking the list into a pocket on his waist. “I want you to stop wearing the fucking jeans, Lup.”
Lup looked down at her jeans; they were just like Barry’s, but instead of being blue, they were black, with red and orange denim at the bottom to look like flames. Lup pouted, her ears flopping down to her shoulders. “But I like the Fantasy Guy Fieri Aesthetic –”
“If you wanna dress like Fantasy Guy Fieri, then I’ll start dressing like Fantasy Shrek and we’ll see how much you like that.”
Lup spun on her heel to face Lucretia. “They don’t look that bad, do they?” Lucretia awkwardly smiled, but said nothing. Lup sighed and turned to leave the room. “Taako?” she said, pausing at the doorway.
Lucretia was sketching the marketplace outside – she was currently documenting the trade and commerce of the plane they were in – and she smiled when she noticed Taako purchasing various different ingredients from the stalls. Twenty minutes after he had returned, Lup had finished cooking; she’d made sweet potato chips. Merle and Davenport appreciated having some whilst they played Fantasy Euchre, and Lup had made a bowl for herself, Barry and Magnus. Lup and Barry were trying to set Magnus up on a date, and while Magnus had tried several times to convince them that he was perfectly fine without one, Lup was persistent and Barry was Barry. This left Taako and Lucretia.
“Hey Luce,” Taako said, standing in the doorway to her room. “Wanna come watch me bake?”
Just as Lucretia went to joke – she was used to Taako pranking her like that – she saw the look on his face. “You actually want me to come watch?”
“Pssh, duh,” he said. “Didn’t you say you wanted my macaroon recipe?”
Lucretia did say that, and she was surprised that Taako even remembered something so insignificant. She’d said a lot of things during their travels, and she was more than used to her ideas being forgotten or falling flat. But here Taako was – the last person she’d expect, too – remembering something so mundane.
So that’s what Lucretia did – she followed Taako to the kitchen and sat at one of the stools next to the bench, watching and asking questions here and there. She’d think back to this moment more than once decades later when she encountered the exact same recipe again; Elderflower macaroons. The first time would be when Taako went on tour and sold recipe books to his fans – Lucretia would laugh when she saw that he’d omitted his secrets from the recipe, the ones that he’d entrusted only to her. She’d smile – almost sadly, but not so much as to give herself away – as Taako explained the very same secrets to her once again at a Candlenights party. He said to ground down the almonds until they were fine and to make sure that the filling inside was thick enough for the cookie to stand up on its side. The last time she recalled this moment was the most profound; Angus had cooked Taako macaroons, and he’d gotten the recipe wrong, as Taako never told anybody but her how to make them properly – and Lucretia’s heart jumped into her throat when she saw Lup’s name burnt into the wall. A twinge of happiness hit her in the chest at the idea of Taako remembering because of the cookies – some memory sparked, perhaps – but he’d had no idea, and that broke her heart.
Lucretia had continued to watch Taako bake, and soon the smell of the Elderflower macaroons had filled the room and wafted throughout the house, bringing everybody back into the kitchen once more. Merle and Magnus had been fighting over who’d be able to recreate the macaroons better – neither won, because Lup intervened, and nobody but her was a match for Taako’s culinary skills. Davenport was having a blast eating majority of the cookies, and Barry was asking Taako what the secret to making them was. Taako just tapped the side of his nose and winked at Lucretia.
Lucretia had erased most of Taako’s memories; she’d erased basically everything. She couldn’t chance letting him keep memories of the recipes – he’d cooked so many different dishes over the course of a century that in keeping them, he’d be bound to remember something – but she hadn’t written all of them.
Lucretia hadn’t written about the macaroons in her journals; she didn’t want to break his trust in doing so. It was their secret . . . and somehow, Taako had remembered that. Somehow, in some deep place of his mind, he’d remembered the night where she watched him bake. Perhaps not the details, but he remembered the feeling. He had trusted Lucretia enough to tell her his secrets again.
And as much as he didn’t want to – as much as Taako wanted to follow through with his threat and blast her off to the Astral Plane for what she’d done to him – he couldn’t. He heard Merle’s questioning, he heard Magnus’s reasoning. He heard the sounds of the approaching apocalypse . . . and he heard her, though he didn’t want to admit it. “Fine.”
Taako turned away. He heard the others arguing, heard Lucretia pleading . . . but he was done. Done with thinking. Done without Lup, without his sister. “Y’know, honestly? Do whatever you want. I don’t care anymore.”
“Taako, please – just trust me.” Lucretia continued, but Taako didn’t hear; he felt like he was underwater, with no idea where the surface was. He felt like that he was in so deep, that without Lup – it would feel easier to just swim down. As Lup would have put it . . . he’d lost his heart.
Vaguely, Taako could hear Magnus trying to comfort him. He grasped the handle of the Umbrastaff so hard that his knuckles turned white. “I appreciate what you’re trying to do. And I’m onboard for whatever the plan is. But understand this – I have nothing, and I don’t give a shit. The world is ending, and I. Don’t. Care.”
Taako turned the Umbrastaff over in his hands, remembering when he called Lup a clown for making it. He wasn’t focusing at all until he heard Davenport’s voice. “Barry, Taako – we leave here, and Lup comes back.”
Taako’s head shot up. Merle was disagreeing, but it wasn’t Merle he was focusing on. He was focusing on Angus, who’d made him his macaroons not too long ago. “Sirs, please don’t – don’t – don’t go. Don’t leave us to this – please.”
Taako looked back down towards the Umbrastaff, and he knew. He knew without a doubt that if they did this – if they abandoned this world, abandoned the bonds that they’d made with everyone in Faerun – Lup would never forgive them. She’d never forgive him. It was selfish to leave Kravitz, to leave Angus – fuck, it was selfish to leave even Leon, and selfish was all he’d ever been. They’d made a promise well over a century ago, as Lucretia had said – and Taako had every intention on keeping it, even if he died trying.
And Taako almost did, more than once. But he’d watched as Angus casted a spell way too powerful for someone of his skill level with the Umbrastaff. Watched him tremble and yell in surprise – and then he knew. He knew where Lup was.
So when Angus threw the Umbrastaff back . . . Taako snapped it over his knee, and it was like a bomb went off in his hands. He flew backwards horizontally after a wave of force hit him, and from where he was thrown, he could see a cloud of red smoke begin to gather and encircle the tendril in the center of the room. Fireworks went off in orange, yellow and pink flares, reminiscent of a now distant sunrise. An explosion tore through everything, tearing apart the tendril – and floating where it once stood was Lup.
It would take a long time for Taako to forgive Lucretia, and even then he never would completely. He knew he wouldn’t have at all if Lup had properly died; but just like Lup, Lucretia was his family – and family stuck together.