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Pieces of Home

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Imagine if, after the crew returned from Carlo, their lives just went back to normal.

Edmond goes home to a warm fireplace, and soon enough, a warmer oven. There’s nothing like a couple gold pieces…. Especially when there was fresh chocolate in the market stalls, bittersweet, cold, and on sale. Perfect. When his neighbor walks up the path with the spare keys to his house, Edmond bursts through his front door and leaves it swinging behind him, thanking the teenage girl for watering his plants before handing her a bag of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. “Don’t tell your parents.”
“Thanks. And…” The girl points straight forward to Edmond’s torso. “Uh….”
He looks down at the black apron, the bloodstains from his clothes seeping through the white “Kiss the Chef” written on the front. “Oh.” He scratches the back of his head. “It’s been a while since I washed that…”

Ishe flops down onto her bed, letting the mattress spring back up against her spine. Her headband is strewn on the floor; it's not a risk she would normally take, but she can barely keep her eyes open, let alone think straight. Yet, every time she notices someone walk by her window, she feels that nagging thought at the back of her head. It’s not safe. She couldn’t possibly let her guard down, she could lose everything like this, what if someone passes by and finds out and spreads the word and suddenly -
A meow. The cat seems to have a different idea of what to do with the headband: It grabs the cloth then curls up by Ishe's bed, toying with it a bit before letting it droop over his paws. Ishe rolls over on her side, imagining the cloth covered in cat spit and bite marks, then sighs. “Oh, give me that.”
It gives her a brief glance and tosses it aside, but Ishe is faster; her hand swings towards the fabric, grabbing it before the cat could even make a move. “You wouldn’t dare.”
The meow in response almost seemed to mimic her mocking tone, but she barely pays it attention as she ties the cloth back on and falls back onto her bed. Her head suddenly clears with the headband on; she was suddenly reminded that she had no job to deal with, no worry about being discovered or exposed, no shortage of cash…. The most worrying thing in her life was that cat, at the moment. And that same cat, who Ishe, after a quick look at the black stripe across its sleeping face, decides to name Licorice, now has its head tucked between its paws. It hasn’t let its guard down like this since she’d been back. She had shown she was friendly before she left, but when she returned, it always kept one suspicious eye on any human around it. But now, its breathing is rhythmic and quiet, and she watches the cat’s stomach rise, and fall, then rise again…
She wakes up in the morning to Licorice pawing at the door. “Wha -“ A sigh. “At this rate, the whole store’ll hear you. Wait a minute…” When the door does open, the cat shoots downstairs and immediately waits by the next one, which, after washing her face, Ishe goes to open. “Just don’t run a- wait, where are you going? Don’t… run… so - what???”
As Ishe weaves through alleyways behind it, eventually out of breath, she loses it - only to find, instead of a cat, a human-shaped figure turning the next corner.
This is what happens when she wakes up this early after four days of adventuring.

Zia races through alleys that next morning, cursing a bit as she avoids enough shady figures to want to get back to the street. She wasn’t going to throw away another ten silver to that ass of a barkeeper because the caravan got home a little late, but, looking back at it…. Really? Ishe’s house?? At the time, she thought literally anything was better. But it was such a hassle just getting in the home, not to mention the fact that Ishe completely let her guard down, and now…. Hopefully, they’ll never meet again, and Ishe could stay wondering about that cat who never came back.
But for now, she has to get that out of her head and get home. She blends into the streets fairly easily despite being an elf; people, especially on busier streets, never have enough time to do more than just stare at her as she rushes past them. During the day, the guards at the walls and the rest of the way home aren’t too much of a hassle either - they're more annoying, if anything. She’s so obviously an elf, and they question her often.
Today, however, is different. She spent the whole night as a cat, and can’t get that out of her head. Her vision still feels off, and she’s still a little dizzy from spending all that time on all fours, and yet, she wants to go back. For all she cares, she could spend the rest of her life as a pet; they don’t have to worry about anything. They’re fed, they’re taken care of… But then, she contemplates it. Is that what she really wants? No. It really can’t be.
She follows the path home straight into the forest, where it weaves a bit through the trees before reaching home. The thing is, being a pet means she would also never be busy. She could never adventure, never really be on her own, and the thought of having no purpose in life seems- “What was that?”
For all she knows, it’s a flash of brown. Then another. Then another. And then, right before her eyes - A huge bear sprints across the path in front of her. She starts dashing behind it, the rush of flowing water getting closer, and closer, until the bear in front of her swipes a fish from the water and eats it, then continues chasing after the figures ahead of it, dashing through the trees and out of sight.. Damn. She looks down at her new form - brown, and furry - and bares her teeth. Well, whatever. There’ll be more bears and fish coming, if she’s patient - and, with this form, she had all the time in the world.

Rufus lights a ball of fire in his hand as the other pockets the gold he’s just received. He’s back in Sydel; and, of course, that’s where he could find all the knowledge he needs. He glances at the library as he makes his way west but doesn’t stop at it - instead, he dims his flame as he approaches a half broken building.
It’s a place he knows all too well - he recognizes the destroyed wooden floors, the overgrowth, and, of course, the lingering smell of fire - because its one of the only places in Sydel that had some sort of information about magic. If he wants to find anything about what was used to enslave that town, he’ll find it here. If it wasn’t already burned to the crisp, that is.
But Rufus isn't worried. If anything, he could always go back. It isn’t out of the question at all - he would have turned back at that moment and started the ride if he weren’t so tired. So, instead, he browses through the books, glancing at covers until he finds something that catches his eye. But every time, he puts it aside, building a huge stack of books that he knows he won't find anything in. He makes it through one bookshelf only glancing through the indexes of around four or five of them, then in the next he picks up three, but in the last one, after picking up and putting down four books on the shelf, he finds something. With a black cover and sliver text on the side, “Taboo Magic Through the Ages” catches his eye almost immediately, but when he opens it, he realizes he definitely isn’t the first to find it. Its edges are wet, some of the pages stick together and others are ripped both near the binding and away from it. But the text itself….. It has everything. Possession magic, necromancy, psychological manipulation, illusion magic…. The list goes on, but the sun is coming up.
He grabs it, and dashes off. Don’t want to be there when the construction workers come.

Helaena wipes the sweat off her forehead with the back of her palm as she gets off the bench. The people at the arena training grounds always push her to the limit, and she always appreciates that, as much as she doesn’t show it; putting her blood, sweat and tears into training is honestly the best way to let an adventure like that last one find her. She even has enough respect for a dummy to hack at it with her sword like there’s no tomorrow, letting music play in her head as she swings - but today, there are people here. Today, she's fighting with strategy, fighting with a creature she knows - none of that extendable arm bullshit she remembers all too well. The conflicting feelings still linger in the back of her mind: She wants to go back to see what other kinds of insane creatures she could find crawling under that town, but at the same time, she knows better. She isn’t stupid - she knows some of the others are going to go back to that town, but she isn’t planning to die along with them. She knows that all too well, and one day, she’ll come back with a plan - but for now, she’ll fight, and fight, and - “Wait!!! I forfeit. Stop, please.”
Maybe she's closer to becoming stronger than she thinks.

Bartleby and Tetra sit down in the cart, counting their coins. Thankfully, Cistella and the others let them stay in there - returning to Beggar’s Keep with this much money would be hell on earth - so they count in peace, spilling all the coins on the floor of the cart before splitting it between them so they can get through it faster. Three gold, plus ninety-five silver, plus the rest of their savings, plus some cash they found on the floor…. They sit there, sifting it through for a bit, before Bartleby flops down on the floor. “Well,” he starts, “it’s enough to buy a house.”
“Finally.” Tetra begins picking up the coins when Bartleby speaks again.
“How long has it been??? 3 years???”
“Four and a half.” She answers, closing her pouch. “Of constant work.”
“How about we forget the house and go on vacation??” He laughs, hopping out of the cart. “No, I know, we’ve been waiting for a while.” He pulls out their map, checking the places the two had marked before they left. “So, where are we going first?”
Tetra points to a random one, and off they go - all day, looking at houses. Being responsible adults was nothing new, but this was different. They haven’t had something permanent for as long as they bothered to remember, so they take it more seriously than they often do their jobs. So they can’t afford one that was furnished, and any apartment with two bedrooms can wait until they needed an upgrade, and there would be no fancy kitchen or polished coffee table in their living room…. And they have to stay in Beggar’s Keep for days, taking watch to defend their savings. They won’t just let it slip away after this much effort.
But then, one day, they stumble across an apartment for sale that they know they’re lucky to see. There’s no lingering smell of old people, or rat infestations, or lack of bathrooms, or splinters on the floors. It's just one simple bedroom, a living room with a kitchen, and a bathroom. They can afford it, just barely. They still have to sleep on the floor. But at least…. At least it’d be theirs.
That’s all they need, right?