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Lemonade

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Eda was skilled at many things. She was once the most powerful witch on the boiling isles, she could con, cheat, steal, lie and flirt her way out of almost any situation. Comforting someone, however, wasn't something she had much experience in. Comforting a child, even less so. If she was being honest with herself, admitting that she loved her human was a fairly big step for her. Years of building walls will do that, however now was not about her. She was given her second chance at freedom, but at the cost of Luz's. She had told the kid to leave for that very reason, she had made her mistakes and she had made peace with them. She stared into the living room, her sister sitting on the couch. This wasn't what she had prepared for that day, and although she was grateful for her breath. She knew what this path would mean.

The owl house was always noisy, one of its many residents, and even more the house itself, were often loud and snarky. Yet today, it was silent. Eda bit her lip, as she made her way upstairs. She stared ahead at the door to Luz's room. She felt her nerves rising in her throat. Was this the right thing to do? Should she give her space? She clenched her fist, why was she being such a coward? Dammit her kid needs her.

The door opened with a slight creak, and Eda felt her ears twitch at the noise before glancing at her apprentice. Luz was asleep, however her face was scrunched up. Her chest moved with uneven breaths, tears leaked from her closed eyes. "Mami" the child called in her sleep. The witch fell to her knees, shaky hands gently ran through the sleeping child's hair. Luz's face softened and Eda let out a breath she didn't know she was holding. This kid is going to be the death of me. She smiled weakly at the thought.

"I'm sorry." An all too familiar voice said.

Eda didn't even turn around as she felt her emotions bubble to her chest. A silent war displayed on her face. She fixed her gaze on the sleeping girl, this child, who was currently dealing with some of the worst emotions of her life. Eda stood, her back to her sister, head still bowed over the child. "Do you have any idea of what you did?" She said softly, she felt her sister shrink in on herself. Eda turned, gold and silver eyes burned with fire. Owls were predatory birds and Eda's gaze would have scared off any beast that even glanced at it.

"I...I was scared, I was a child myself. I didn't know the curse would lead....to this. He told me he could save you. I...just wanted to fix my mistakes-" Lilith silenced as Eda raised her hand, barely meeting her gaze.

"You used a child to lure me to you. You used a child as a shield. You almost killed my kid." Eda glared, her voice never reaching much above a whisper as she glanced briefly at the sleeping human.

Eda was loud when she was angry, Lilith was more than accustomed to her sister screaming at her. This however, this quiet rage. This scared her more than she would ever admit, "I didn't think you would hurt-"

"You're damn right. You didn't think at all. What if I had run out of magic before you were throwing her into spikes? What if I couldn't turn away in time? She could have died, Lilith. This fourteen year old child could have died because of you. And now, she's trapped here for Titan knows how long."

"I.....I...." the older witch sagged as the words hit like knives, she sank to the floor, pulling her knees up. "You're right. I did it again. I focused so much on what I needed, what I thought would fix everything. That I didn't care about anything else." Sobs escaped her throat before she even realized. "Edalyn- Eda. You deserved better, the hu- Luz deserved better. I know that I can't make up for what I've done to you or your child." Lilith rose to her feet, her ears dropped. She turned away from her sister and walked towards the stairs.

"What are you doing now Lily?"

"I- I just figured that you'd want me gone."

"Admitting and apologizing for everything you've done, doesn't undo all the hurt you've caused." Eda said, fire finally feeding her words.

Lilith just nodded, turning back around, knowing her sister made the right choice.

"It is a start...."

Her sister's words caused the older Witch to turn, the quiet storm, the blazing fire she had seen on her sister's face was gone. Instead was a face she'd never thought she'd see again. Eda, despite her curse and how much she aged, looked hurt, sad, scared, but there was a pleading. Lilith just stared at her sister, frozen in time.

"Lily, I'm tired. I'm tired of hating you, of hurting each other. I don't even know if we can even fix our relationship. But you can help me find a way to get Luz home. You can help me protect her from Belos and maybe we can fix our mess too. I just....I'm out of magic. I can learn from Luz but that doesn't keep her safe in the meantime." Eda let out a humorless laugh, "please, just help me keep the kid safe."

"You really love this child." Lilith smiled melancholy.

"That stupid kid" Eda laughed through a sniffle, "Titan, if dying meant I could get that kid home safe....I'd have swallowed the poison happily. She's my kid. And ya know, I always knew in the back of my mind that she would leave eventually. I just didn't think knowing that she was staying would hurt just as much. I can't stand seeing her in pain like this."

"I promise, I'll do everything I can to help her." Lilith continued, the sisters finally meeting each other's gaze. The hurt and guilt was still in their eyes, but there was also warmth and even a bit of mirth. Lilith gently prodded her sister in the ribs, "Honestly Eda, when were you going to tell me I was an aunt."

Eda laughed despite all the hurt, "Oh fuck off."

Despite their tears, the sisters shared an honest laugh. They leaned slightly against each other, sitting on the floor outside of Luz's room. Their wounds were still fresh, but the bleeding had stopped. It was a start.

"EDA" Luz yelled in her sleep and the witch moved without question.

"Kid, kid, I'm here." She said quickly, immediately cradling the girl in her arms.

"Eda, eda please don't go." The child begged, her eyes still closed.

"I'm here. Luz, kid, it's gonna be alright." Eda rubbed small circles on her back with one hand, the other cradled her neck.

Brown eyes opened with a start, looking up at the witch. Eda felt like she was looking at a shattered star. Two tiny arms wrapped around her tightly, holding her as if she would disappear if she let go. The owl lady found herself returning the grip if not more so, before wiping away tears with her thumb.

"Eda, I dreamt that you were dead. I-"

"Shhh, it's okay kid. I'm not going anywhere. We're safe. It's going to be alright."

"What about Belos? And the emperor's coven-"

"Meh, not a problem we can solve right now. Look, the only competent one was Lily and she still never actually caught me. We'll lay low for a bit but I doubt they'll come here directly any time soon. In the meantime, let's focus on what we can do now. Are you okay? Are you hurt?"

Luz wiggled out of her mentor's arms, letting out a deep groan as the events of yesterday caught up with her. She felt sore, her whole body ached, exhaustion clear in her eyes. She flopped back on her bed, "I'm in a little pain, mostly I'm just tired."

"I'll get you a healing potion and some water-" Eda blinked as she felt the girl grab her dress.

"I'll be fine. J-just don't leave me...."

Eda bit her lip, before letting out a sigh, "just a bit longer. But you're getting some water and healing potions miss Missy. " She grumbled half heartedly as Luz snuggled up to her.

"Thanks Eda"

"Any time kid" She smiled softly but it didn't meet her eyes, "Sorry you got into this mess, you didn't deserve this."

"I couldn't let them hurt you." Luz mumbled into Eda's side.

She felt a retort, but let it die on her tongue. What about you Luz? What about your safety? The witch's thoughts screamed. She let out a sigh, pulling the kid closer to her. "Love you kid."

"Love you too Eda" She yawned, falling back to sleep.

The witch didn't know how long she sat there, it almost didn't seem to matter. She only looked up when she heard the sound of paws.

"How is she?" The demon asked, timidly.

"Not great. I didn't feel any broken bones but she's definitely in pain. Can you get a healing potion and a glass of water?"

"Sure thing." King nodded, but before he left he hugged Eda's side. "I'm glad you're okay."

"Yes, yes I'm fine. If you can't reach something, yell for Lily." Eda sighed.

King let out a happy squeak before dashing off.

Eda felt a worried smile form on her face as she ran her fingers through the girl's hair. This stupid selfless idiot, if anything happens to you I'm going to fucking kill myself. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of King's voice.

"That's right peasant, carry the tray for me."

"I'm carrying the tray because you almost dropped it." Lilith corrected.

"Quiet you two, you'll wake Luz-" Eda chided before feeling the weight next to her shift.

"I'm awake. It's fine." Luz's voice was horse with sleep. Brown eyes scanned her surroundings, her brain clearing not fully on yet. However she flinched slightly at the sight of Lilith, who's ears drooped in response.

"I'm sorry Luz, I know that what I did was selfish and inconsiderate. I know that words don't change everything that happened but....I will do all I can to help you get home and to make up for what I did." The older witch crouched down, setting the tray down, "I got the potion and the water you asked for, as well as some bone broth. Since she hasn't eaten."

"Thanks" Luz mumbled quietly, although her uneasiness was still clear.

Eda gave her sister a sympathetic look.

"I'll be downstairs then." Lilith continued, as she left the room.

Eda uncorked the bottle, a heavy medicinal smell wafted from the source.

"God, is this why the healing track classrooms always smell so bad?" Luz exclaimed, wrinkling her nose.

"What is medicine in the human realm really that much better?" Eda asked, quirking up her eyebrow.

Luz hummed to herself as her mind flashed back to all the liquid medicines she had in her short life, "Not really."

"The taste isn't as bad as it smells." Eda reassured.

Luz's eyes narrowed slightly as she thought of all the gross things she'd seen her mentor eat willingly, "I'm not getting out of drinking this am I?"

"Nope."

Luz sighed, taking the small bottle from the witch. She'd played many video games and smiled slightly upon seeing the red color of the potion. The pungent smell burned her nostrils as she tilted the bottle back, the potion had the consistency of warm jello and the taste was bitter and floral. She swallowed quickly, not even trying to hide the disgusted look on her face.

"And here is your chaser." Eda smiled softly, handing her the glass of water.

Luz drank it greedily, eager to get the taste of the healing potion out of her mouth. "Somehow I still think I have had worse human medicine."

Eda chuckled, "well, that's one point for us. Now eat some of the broth. Lily's actually a decent cook and plus you're going to want something in your stomach after that."

Luz nodded, picking up the oversized mug and taking a sip. The broth was warm and rich, and almost tasted like pork. There was a comforting feeling that came, like the soup had warmed up her aching bones. However it didn't stop the melancholy that followed. "Eda, do you think I'll ever be able to go back?" She said, barely above a whisper.

"Well clearly the magic exists to make it. I don't know how hard it will be to replicate. It's certainly not going to be easy" Eda sighed, wrapping her arms around the kid, and she felt King snuggle closer to them in his sleep. "It was thought impossible for humans to do magic, yet you proved that wrong. Facing Belos was thought to be a death sentence. Kid you've done the impossible time and time again. This is at least possible." She ruffled the kid's hair affectionately. "We'll figure it out."

"Thanks Eda." Luz smiled, hugging her teacher tightly.

"You're welcome Luz."

Chapter Text

Lilith Clawthrone had made her home in the emperor's castle, as leaders of his coven often do. She had been fairly minimalistic in her private quarters. She was on missions so often, she was hardly there. She had grown used to her place there. However, she no longer resided in the castle, a paw bapped her face. She groaned into the pillow, rolling over on the couch. Another bap can, settling around her ears this time. She flexed them back defensively, reaching for a pillow to sandwich her head. As she felt whatever creature that was disturbing her moving for another attack, she quickly smacked it with the pillow in her hand before placing back on her head.

King let out squeak as he was batted away. He grumbled as he grabbed his bunny and headed back upstairs, ready for some consolation cuddles from Luz.

Lilith just slept without even having realized her attack on the tiny terror.

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Lilith yawned as she woke up, stretching her sore back. She opened her now multiple colored eyes to see an annoying face staring down at her. Naturally, she screamed and punched it.

"OW, WHY DOES EVERYONE DO THAT WHEN I TRY TO WISH THEM A GOOD MORNING? Jeez. Hoot." Hooty grumbled pulling his head back through the window.

"The hell is with all the screaming about?" Eda yawned, still in her pjs, her bunny slippers squeaking on the steps.

"Your house demon was staring at me while I was sleeping!" Lilith yelled.

"Oh...yeah...he does that sometimes when people sleep in the living room." Eda stretched her back letting out a giant pop, "guess I forgot to say something after all the shit that's been happening." Eda walked to the kitchen, pouring herself a large mug of apple blood, she took a long sip before topping it off again. "Hooty, stop watching people sleep. It's weird."

"Well excuse me for trying to be friendly hoot hoot." The house demon huffed.

Lilith just let out a deep sigh, before joining her sister in the kitchen. Carefully looking in the cabinets for anything that resembled tea, but then stared at her sister's mug. "Apple blood? Eda, it's 7 am. That's a little early to start drinking."

Eda looked her older sister dead in the eyes as she took a giant swig, before letting out a deep breath. "Two days ago I was stuck as a beast, locked up, sentenced to death, had just watched my kid almost die, then got rescued by her only to find out she burnt her only way back home and also fought belos and somehow lived to tell about it." She then took another sip, finishing off the oversized mug, setting it back down on the table with a thud.

Lilith blinked processing everything that happened over the course of the past four days and grabbed the bottle of apple blood, pouring it into her tea cup. She drank it down in one gulp, before pouring herself another and set the bottle back on top of the fridge. "I'm going to go see if I can find any books about portal magic. Where is your study?"

"My what now?"

"Books."

"Oh, down the hall on the left."

Lilith opened the door and wasn't shocked to see a pile of hex mix bags overflowing the trash can. She groaned as she glanced at the shelves. The books were randomly placed on the shelves with no rhyme or reason. She rubbed her temples before walking back out of the room. "Eda, where are your books on portal magic?"

Eda got up off of the couch, walking into her study. Glanced at the shelves pulled an old dusty burntish book off the shelf and handed it to her sister. "Here."

"Wait that's it? You only have one book? How did you make a portal with only one book?"

"Make it? I didn't make it."

"Well where did you steal it from?" Lilith grumbled.

"The magic portal store." Eda said dryly, "I didn't steal it, Lily. I found it in a trash slug."

"Why did a trash slug have a magic portal?" Lilith asked seemingly to the room.

"I don't know, maybe it wanted a vacation. I found the key taped to the cover of that book. Whoever wrote it is the one who made the portal." Eda stated.

"Well this is amazing, this book has all the information we need- why don't you look relieved?"

"Open the book." Eda said flatly.

Lilith did as she was told, only to be met with a language she didn't understand, at least she thought it was a language. It could have been coded for all she knew. "Oh."

"Yep."

"Did you try a translation spell?"

"Yep. That thing is magically protected. Whoever wrote it, didn't want anyone in their business."

Lilith stared open mouthed, "and you couldn't find anything to undo?"

"I don't know, I only ever tried once and the damn thing set itself on fire. After that I figured it was easier to just try to figure out how to work the thing on my own than fiddle with the book."

"So we have one book, that is written in some language or code, that is heavily protected with magical enchantments specifically to stop you from trying to translate or decode it."

"Yep."

"Fuck."

"Wow Lily dropped the f-bomb. Haven't heard you say that in awhile."

"How are you joking around, this is serious!"

"I'm scared alright? ya happy?! I need to get that kid home and this thing is the only ticket she has out. Belos wanted that portal, so he clearly must have known about them. Portal magic is almost as rare as wild magic. So as far as I'm aware we can only see what we can find on our own or break into the emperor's coven. Normally I would be down to kick those clowns, but I'm out of magic and you barely have any left. Going there would be a death sentence, especially considering we barely survived the first time." Eda stated, in a tone that was so serious that Lilith certainly wouldn't have believed it was possible for Eda to even hold.

"So what do you suggest?"

"We focus on seeing what we can do about the protections on the book. Whatever it is. It's old magic. But Luz seems to be able to find Glyphs. Maybe it has something to do with ancient magic? Maybe it's some sort of layered protection spell. Either way. We're gonna have to research it."

"Well I guess I'll go to the library then." Lilith sighed.

"Yes nothing less conspicuous than being dressed like the leader of the emperor's coven." Eda snipped, earning a groan from her sister.

"Well it's not like I will be any less conspicuous in different clothes. My face is also on posters."

Eda was about to say something smart when an idea rolled into her head. She grinned sharply. "Yeah but unlike me. Your photos don't have your natural hair color or shape for that matter. The face people think of when they think Lilith Clawthrone is someone with straight navy hair."

Lilith's eyes bugged slightly as the implications of her sister's words started to hit home. "Can you undo the dye without making me go bald?"

"What? I was in the potions track with you, ya know. I'm crazy not incompetent. There's a difference. Besides I'm fairly certain you can make the potion yourself. I have an injured apprentice to check on. Call me down when your hair potion is ready and I'll help you with it then." Eda started up the stairs, "the potion ingredients are in a chest in the greenhouse."

"Wait, are they at least organized?" Lilith called up the stairs.

"Sort of."

"Titan dammit Eda." Lilith groaned.

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Luz laid in her bed as the words of the sisters sank deep into her heart. She wouldn't be going home anytime soon. She pulled her knees closer to her chest, ignoring the pain in her back. She felt wrong, twisted in her thoughts. She never really wanted to leave the boiling isles. She still doesn't, being a witch was what she always wanted. She made friends here. She found family here. But she loved her Mami. She knew that while her mom didn't always understand her. She knew that she loved her. Memories flashed of when she was small and a thunderstorm had scared her. She remembered her mother's warm hug and how she would tell her that she would love her know matter what. Her mom never proved her wrong. Luz prayed to whatever would listen that her mom would at least think she was at summer camp a bit longer. That she could find a way to tell her mom that she was okay. A knock on her door made her turn her head.

Eda's eyes gazed down on her, her ears drooped. She watched as the owl lady seemed to shrink before her, before pulling her into a soft hug.

"I'm sorry Luz, I should've sent you back when you wandered in. Now you're stuck in this mess with me. I never wanted to drag you down kid."

"Eda, you gave me my dream. I didn't have any friends at home. No one really liked me...aside from my mom. She was always worried about me, it's not even like she didn't support me. She just wanted me to have some friends. She did everything she could for me. And I want to go back to show her everything and I could see her whenever I wanted. I just want her to know that I didn't just leave her behind." Luz started to sob.

"Hey, hey, easy now. If your mom is anything like you, I don't think she'd ever give up on you. Let alone think you left her behind. I think she'd be proud of you. You've accomplished more than anyone thought and you're only getting better. I'll promise you this kid. I will do everything I can to get you home and I'll sing your praises all you want. Cause your mom raised one hell of a kid." Eda smiled, rubbing circles in her back.

"I think" Luz hiccuped, "she'd like you. She always said, the best people are the ones who still care when you have nothing left to give them."

"I think I'd like her too." Eda smiled.

"She wouldn't be super thrilled about the wanted poster though, or the theft really...."

Eda laughed, "Yeah well, even I'm not perfect." She said in her signature cocky tone.

Luz chuckled, tears still streaming down her face, "thanks Eda, I love you."

"Love you too kid." Eda smiled, "now let's get you something to eat and see if whatever Lily made will make her hair fall out."

Luz felt a smile starting to form on her lips, and she was still scared for what the future would hold. But at least she knew she wasn't alone.

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Lilith huffed, as she leaned over the tub. Eda's hands ran the hair treatment throughout her sister's locks. The goo was a milky white color but was slowly starting to take on the dark navy of the dye.

"I can't believe that I'm letting you do this." The older sister grumbled.

"What? Don't tell me you're still upset about the last time I did your hair." Eda grinned, before grabbing the shower head.

"What happened the last time you did her hair?" Luz asked, sitting on the floor by the bathroom door, holding a sleepy King in her lap.

Lilith was about to answer, before being blasted with cold water from above. The older witch coughed and sputtered, "It's a gentle rinse Edalyn! Not a waterboard!"

"Silly Lilly, Waterboarding is when you're face up. And it wasn't that bad. I just used too much of the anti frizz treatment."

"It was a holding treatment." Lilith corrected as her sister added another layer of the dye remover.

"I mean your hair wasn't frizzy afterwards."

"That's because it stood straight up!"

"My point still stands." Eda smiled in a sing song voice as she rubbed in the treatment, "Titan sis, you just had to pick a color this far from your natural hair color. Dark colors are the worst to get rid of."

"Well it's not like anyone would be intimidated by my natural hair color. It was a dress for the job thing."

"Well you don't have that job anymore so you can go back to being a strawberry puff." Eda laughed as her sister's ears turned red.

"Bold words Lil miss ginger snap." Lilith smirked, lifting her head to see her sister's face turn red.

"Stupid childhood nicknames." Eda huffed.

Luz chuckled slightly but there was still a bit of an ache in her chest. Gently she set the sleeping demon down before heading back to her room.

King, however, woke up anyways, quickly catching up with her. He hugged her leg tightly.

"Oh hey King, what's up?" She smiled but it didn't reach her eyes.

King wiggled his arms, and Luz easily scooped up the little demon, "I know I can't do much for you right now. I don't really have any magic. And I've heard you crying when you think I'm asleep. I just wanted to let you know that you're still my favorite boo boo buddy and if you're sad that's okay. I'll just try my best to be happy for both of us. " the little demon carefully placed a purple bandaid over Luz's heart.

Luz's eyes watered as she looked down at the demon in her arms before pulling him into a tight hug. King felt his heart break as he felt tears dripping on his fur. He knew that she'd probably just be this way for a while but he vowed that as she was, he'd always watch out for her. He wasn't much of a fighter, he didn't have any magic, but he could make her laugh and protect her from any nightmares that came in her sleep. He knew it might not always be enough but it was the best he could do.

Chapter Text

Hexside was closed for almost a week after what was now referred to as the petrification incident, mostly because calling it the owl lady incident leads to the question of which one. This was ordered by the emperor's coven as there was a surprising amount of distress after the ordeal. That and the coven guards were patrolling the streets like mad looking, surprisingly not for Eda, but for the now ex Coven leader Lilith. For Principal Bump, this was the first real vacation he had in the past two decades, and was happy to close for a little bit until things calmed down. He also had a meeting fairly soon with his former student, the now second most wanted criminal in the boiling isles, ironically dethroned by her sister, about the protections and protocol of her human. Most people would view the Principal insane for even agreeing to meet with her the first time, let alone after the most recent incident. He however wasn't stupid, the human had a lot of potential and after the success of multi track project, his students had improved significantly. He also knew pissing off Eda was equivalent to poking a rabid slitherbeast during a blizzard after three days with no sleep. He also knew that this was how she was before she became a mom to a human. Bump was also well aware of the people's growing feelings towards the emperor. He admired skill and true mastery came from freedom. He also knew himself well enough that if he was held at staff point and given the choice between fighting a seething eda or emperor belos. He'd pick belos in a heartbeat. Belos was at least quick with his murders, regardless of crime, he knew exactly what he would get if he betrayed the emperor. Death. Having known Eda, and especially now that she had someone she was protective over, he suspected that if he were to cause any harm to her student that he would suffer a fate far more agonizing than death. He prided himself in being able to get things done quickly and smoothly, it's how he lived and Titan dammit it is how he will die. He let out a sigh as he leaned back in his easy chair, a bottle of wine in one hand and a book in the other. Tomorrow he would deal with the owl lady, reopen Hexside, and betray the government. Today was for day drinking, and dammit he was going to enjoy it.
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Willow was nervous when she went back to school. Not by the incident, honestly after facing the bat queen and casually committing a federal offense to help a friend. She was far from bothered by the chaos of the past week. What that said about her mental state, she would deal with later. She was nervous because Luz wasn't at school. Luz adored Hexside and while sometimes late, had never missed a day. This left the witchling worried. The whole school knew how much Luz wanted to be a witch, and everyone was a bit shaken by the lack of the ever optimistic human. By the time lunch rolled around, Willow was on edge.

"Hey Gus, have you seen Luz at all today?"

"What? No, I thought she had classes with you today?" He blinked, trying to recall if he had seen the human anywhere. Before he could answer, a very concerned Amity sat down at their table.

"Is Luz with-"

"No. I don't think she's here at all." Willow answered before her friend could even finish her sentence.

"I'll ask Principal Bump for her homework. Maybe we can go by the owl house and see if she's alright." Amity said quickly.

Willow bit back a knowing smile, but was cut off by Gus before she could speak.

"That's a great idea!" Gus cheered, oblivious to Amity's slight blush.

Willow let out a slight sigh. 'How are they all so smart and so dense?' Her thoughts were quickly interrupted by a squeak from Amity.

"Hey mittens, where's your little human friend?" Edric grinned cheekily, leaning to one side of Amity.

"She's not here! Why are you even asking me?!" Amity growled.

"Well we figured if anyone would know where the resident human was, it would be you mittens" Emira smirked knowingly at her sister's now reddening face.

"Actually we're going by the owl house tonight to go check on her." Willow smiled, although she did exchange a wink with the twins.

Edric and Emira glanced at each other before Edric ruffled his sister's hair, "Sounds like a plan sis. Stay as long as you like. We'll cover for you at home."

"Stop that- wait what, really?" Amity blinked.

"What are we not allowed to be nice to our baby sister?" Emira laughed.

"You are, you just usually choose not to."

"Yeah well, you're still our sister mittens, besides. It's us against them." Edric's face was smiling but there was a seriousness in his eyes. Emira seemed to match his expression while Amity just nodded before pulling the twins in a hug.

"Thanks."

"No problem." The twins smiled, for once without their normal hint of mischief.
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Lilith snored on the couch, she had been up most of the night with Eda, trying and failing to figure out what kind of magic was preventing this book from being translated, as well as failing to find any language close to the one written. Their trip to the library was delayed because of the swarm of emperor's guards roaming the streets. Lilith, despite her now red hair, decided it was best to wait and see what they could do in the meantime. Eda had moved on from this seemingly futile task to checking on Luz and clearing out space in the study for a bed for her sister. Lilith decided upon nearly falling asleep into her cereal that a nap was in order.

"Ding Dong Ding Hoot Hoot!" Hooty yelled, slamming the door open.

Lilith woke groggily, "Hooty, shut up." She groaned rolling back over.

"Miss Lilith?" An all too familiar voice asked.

Lilith grumbled, debating on just ignoring it or going back to sleep.

"That doesn't look like Lilith...her hair is so....bright." Another voice added timidly.

The older witch let out a deep sigh, rolling over to face whatever annoyance had befallen her. Sleepy teal and grey eyes blinked and then shot open upon the sight of the three teens looking down at her. She sat up, trying to find a semblance of dignity, even in this madhouse. "Yes, it's me, Amity. For safety reasons, I returned my hair to it's natural color." The older witch fingers ran through her grey streak, "Well mostly."

The teens stared at her changed appearance, all vaguely considered commenting on it before deciding that it was probably safer to just leave it be.

"Is Luz alright? She wasn't at school today." Willow asked, seeing as the other two were still processing the older witch's strawberry colored hair.

Guilt immediately flashed across the older witch's face. Her hands fidgeted with the blanket on her, before letting out a sigh. "How much of the petrification incident were you aware of?"

The teens felt panicked, but immediately explained where they were.
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Principal Bump's ear twitched, as he heard the sound of Lilith's voice on the other side of the door.

"Do you want me to open the door for you, Hoot Hoot?" The house demon asked.

"Not yet, I kind of want to hear what's going on." Bump answered, leaning his head against the door.

"SHE FACED EMPEROR BELOS BY HERSELF?!" He heard three voices yell.

"Yes, Luz even chipped his mask." Another more annoying voice added, "she has the piece in her desk drawer. It doesn't taste good."

"Why would you try to eat it?" An exasperated voice, that definitely belonged to the oldest Clawthrone sister grumbled.

"How else will I show dominance as the king of demons?! Not only is that guy an asshole, but he's stealing my thunder!"

Bump eyes were surprisingly wide, only growing wider as the door he was leaning on swung open and he was wrapped up by an uncomfortably moist owl tube.

"Look what was listening at the me, Hoot Hoot" Hooty yelled, dropping the man on the floor.

He looked up to see a white staff aimed at his throat. "It's not what you think!"

Lilith Clawthrone didn't lower her staff as she glared down at him, "and why should I believe you?" She spat.

"Because you and your sister scare me more than the entire Emperor's coven busting down my door." He stated honestly, his hands raised in the air.

"Is that Bumpykins?" Eda called from upstairs before walking down to greet him, and politely calling off her sister. "About damn time you showed up!"

"Your human cracked the Emperor's mask and she's still alive?" He asked not even bothering to get up off the floor.

"Yes, yes. I know. It's not the point nor is it the reason I called you here. Now get up."

"You called him here?!" Lilith blinked.

"What he never narced me out to you whenever I went to drop Luz off to school, the man knows which side has more dangerous enemies." Eda grinned.

"Titan yes." He responded, finally getting up. "I've increased the enchantments on the school. If the emperor's coven even tries to get on property to hurt Luz or any of my other students. They'll find themselves in a world of hurt."

"Good." Eda glanced at her sister, who responded with a smirk. The owl lady quickly grabbed the man's wrist as her sister cast a circle around it. "If you betray me Bumpykins or even try to hurt my kid, I vow I will put you through the worst pain imaginable."

Bump nodded, "I promise my loyalty to you and your cause Edalyn. And if I break your trust, may your vow be quick." He felt the unbreakable vow seal around them.

"Now that I know for sure you won't rat me out to the emperor's coven, can you make anything out of this?" Eda asked, glumly handed the man the book that had fallen by the couch.

"What is that?" Amity asked, eyes scanning the half burnt cover. Reminded the adults that there were three kids present when they had their vow of secrecy.

Eda and Lilith exchanged glances nervously.

Willow let out a sigh, "we fought you and helped Luz try to steal a hat to cure Eda's curse. And Amity likes her parents as much as you like the Emperor."

"Odalia and Alador are douchebags" Eda sighed, "This book was attached to the portal to the human realm. However we can't figure out how to read it or translate it or anything."

Bump grabbed the book carefully before drawing a circle in the air.

"Wait! Don't do tha-" Eda and Lilith yelled, only for the man to drop the book as it caught fire in his hand. Eda immediately stomped the fire out with her boot.

"It's enchanted, any magic used on it only makes it try to destroy itself. We're not even sure what kind of magic was even used to make it. But it's the kid's only hope back aside from invading the Emperor's palace." Eda sighed, picking up the still smoldering book.

The man carefully grabbed the book, opening it up scanning the pages, "I know a little bit of almost every language in our realm." His eyes narrowed as he continued to flip through the book, "I've never seen any language like this in my life. I'm sorry."

"Well maybe that's because it isn't from our realm." Gus smiled eagerly.

Eda blinked, grabbing the book before dashing up the stairs. Her apprentice had been fairly down the past week, but maybe. This would be the break in the case they both would need. The witch slowed her steps, gently knocked on the door, "Luz? Can I come in?" When an answer didn't come she cracked the door slowly, Luz was asleep curled into a ball. Eda felt her heart break but knew there wasn't much of an option and gently shook Luz. "Kid, kid, wake up. Please I need you to look at something for me."

Luz opened her bloodshot eyes, despite spending most of the past few days in bed. She looked like she hadn't gotten any rest at all. "Hey Eda" She smiled weakly, her voice horse and raw.

"Can you understand this?" Eda asked, handing her the book.

Luz sat up with great effort, holding the now more charred book and flipped through the pages, "if it's a human language, it's not one I know or recognize" She grabs her phone, "maybe I can see if I can translate it." She opened an app on her phone, and clicked direct language to English. She tapped the screen only for the words offline to appear in bold letters. Luz just sinks further into herself as she sets the book down.

Eda sighed, rubbing the kid's back. "It's okay, we'll figure this out." Her ears twitched as she heard the steps creaking. She turned to see Lilith with her back turned to them.

"I don't know if she's in the mood for company at the moment" the oldest Clawthrone sister said gently to the teens in front of her.

Eda turned her attention back to Luz, "your friends stopped by to check on you. You feel like seeing people or do you want them to go?"

Luz sat up, leaning on Eda, "it's okay if they come in."

"Lily let the kids through." Eda called, and Lilith stepped aside.

Amity moved surprisingly quickly for someone on crutches, with the other two close behind.

They all felt their hearts shatter as they saw their friend. Luz was always so chipper and bright. Her positive attitude and smile lit up every place she went. The Luz currently being cradled by Eda, looked hollow, like her joy was snuffed out like a candle. They had seen her scared but nothing like this. Luz tucked her head into her mentor's shirt.

Willow and Gus helped Amity move down to the floor where the three of them pulled Luz into a group hug. Luz just hugged them back like she'd disappear if they let go. They all let out a slight yelp as King jumped into the middle of their hug, snuggling his head against his human. Luz laughed, and for the first time in what felt like forever, it felt genuine.

Eda stood up, relief filling her chest, "I'll leave you kids be. Holler if you need anything."

"Okay Eda" Luz smiled, and the room felt warm again.
---------------

Lilith smirked slightly as she helped her sister cut vegetables for dinner.

"Alright you've been grinning like a Cheshire cat for twenty minutes now will you tell me what is so Titan damn funny?"

"Oh nothing" Lilith chuckled to herself as she diced a carrot.

"Oh nothing my ass. Spit it out or I'll hex you."

"You don't have any magic."

"I will find a way."

Lilith felt another giggle escape, "You're just, such a mom now. Honestly I didn't know you even had this side to you."

"I'm a mentor, not a mom." Eda grumbled.

"You check on her when she's sad, you cuddle with her. You call her, your kid. Seems pretty motherly to me. You enrolled her in school, you make her dinner, you-"

"She is my kid. Of course I call her that. Cause that is true. And okay so I act a bit motherly towards her." Eda huffed before setting her drink down, "ya know what fuck it. Yeah I'm her mom. Well her other mom. While she's here at least. And ya know what I'm damn fucking proud of that little shit. She's the best. And I love her."

Lilith was taken aback at the confidence in her sister's words, and her eyes grew slightly larger when she noticed a dark haired girl standing just outside the kitchen. She let out a slight cough, and watched as her sister turned around.

Eda felt her brain short circuit as she stared at Luz. She suddenly felt very warm and knew if she looked in the mirror her ears would be beet red. She stared at the girl's face trying to decide what she was thinking. Was she mad? Eda knew she had another mom at home. She knew she wouldn't ever replace her. However, she had grown fond of the kid. She was chaotic and caused trouble with her just sheer honest enthusiasm. But she brightened up her day and watching her learn and grow made Eda feel a type of love she didn't even know she had. She bit her lip, worrying she had overstepped, but was greeted with a bone crushing hug.

"I love you too." Luz mumbled into Eda's shirt.

Eda lifted her head to look at her sister who was smiling softly, "that makes that old crone your aunt."

"I am not that much older than you!" Lilith grumbled.

Luz just sighed, shaking her head as the two sisters argued. She got her glass of water and went back to her friends. 'Maybe things will turn out alright.'

Chapter Text

Amity smiled as she packed her bag, grabbing anything she might need for Luz- her friends on their trip to the library. Luz had called it a stealth mission, since they were technically sneaking in Eda and Lilith. She felt her face warm as she remembered how excited Luz was, talking about the perfect disguises for the sisters. Lilith smiled weakly but it was definitely full of chagrin while Eda seemed to be happily encouraging Luz, even her more ridiculous ideas. Amity let out a snort as she remembered the look of fear that appeared on Lilith's face when Eda brought out the wigs.

"What's so funny Mittens?" Emira interrupted, a sly grin formed on her face.

"I-nothing" Amity stuttered.

"Okay, Mittens. That is the worst lie you have ever told." Edric laughed, "now what's up?"

Amity let out a sigh, knowing full well her siblings would only pry more. She blinked as an idea formed in her head, "Actually, you two might be helpful. We're going to the library to see if we can find any books to help us figure out how to get Luz back to the human realm. However Eda and Lilith would immediately get caught if they walked into....basically anywhere-"

"Helping the two most wanted criminals on the boiling isles?" Emira grinned madly, "fuck yes."

"Honestly Mittens, you might have some fun in you after all." Edric laughed, ruffling her hair.
-----------------

Eda was hardly shocked when Amity showed up with the twins in tow. "I see you brought dumb and dumber with you."

"Hey!" The twins yelled, while Amity laughed.

"Yeah well I figured they could help, they are the top students in the illusion track. Plus they've broken into the library more than once."

"I can't believe I need children's help to break into a Library." Eda sighed, "Luz hurry up and master Glyph magic, I have a reputation to uphold."

Luz snickered, patting her mentor on the back, "sorry about her, she's still mad Lilith took her spot as the number one most wanted criminal in the boiling isles."

"Damn right, Do you know how many crimes I had to commit to get where I was? This bitch does one thing and suddenly she's number one?!"

"The one thing Edalyn, was betraying the Emperor's Coven after being their leader for years." Lilith sighed, "I don't even want to be the most wanted criminal."

"Exactly. It's wasted on you." Eda grumbled.

Lilith groaned before looking down at the blight children. "Great, we're involving more children in federal crimes."

"Well do you see a better option?" Eda snipped, "Besides from what I've heard from Luz, these two have the makings of excellent thieves and scoundrels."

"Wait, we're committing actual crime? Mittens this is awesome!" Edric cheered.

"Our sister, helping start a rebellion. I've never been more proud." Emira smirked.

"I regret inviting you." Amity said flatly.

"Hey Ed! Hey Em!" A soft voice chimed in from behind the Clawthrone sisters.

"Willow! Glad to see you and Amity getting along again." Emira smiled, pushing past the older witches to greet her.

"The twins are here?" Gus yelled from upstairs, "oh this is so cool."

"Hey kid, so you're in the rebellion too. Nice." Edric grinned.

"Hey! You all came!" Luz flashed her smile and pulled the blights in for a group hug.

"Of course, we weren't gonna let our favorite human down." Emira laughed, while Edric nodded.

"Yes, yes, we all love Luz, enough with the cuteness." Eda grumbled while Luz only rolled her eyes at her. The witch ignored her kid's sass and pulled the twins aside, "You two any good at illusion enchantments?"

Edric and Emira exchanged a glance as Edric pulled out a bracelet from his pocket, as he slid it on, a puff of smoke appeared and before them stood Principal Bump. "This helped me get out of class so many times." Edric's voice rang from what appeared to be the principal.

"Ohhh, I like them already. Definitely Bad girl coven material." Eda grinned, "now as much fun as it would be to pretend to be Bumpykins. I think we'd need a more practical disguise."

"I actually think I might have the perfect idea." Lilith said, matching her sister's grin impressively well.
-------------------

A group of Emperor's coven guards carefully walked through the dark streets towards the library.

"This must bring memories back for you?." One of the guards' laughed, nudging the one next to them in the ribs.

"Eda, shut up." Lilith snapped back quietly, "we're undercover."

Eda, despite being disguised as a masked coven guard, was still able to make it very clear she was rolling her eyes.

The exchange of course caused the other "guards" to snicker.

The group made it to the library surprisingly easily, only exchanging a few brief nods from other passing guards. Lilith was actually grateful that the coven was still in extra security mode. As it made their group of eight much less conspicuous. She smiled as they reached the library before turning to the rest of her accomplices. "Willow, Emira, you two are on lookout duty. The rest of you with me."

The two girls nodded, turning to stand with their backs to the building. Lilith drew a spell circle and the door unlocked with ease.

"Wooh you didn't even need to use a scroll." Edric whispered excitedly, "what was that?"

"A wax key spell." Lilith answered quietly as she opened the door.

The others filled in, and just as quickly shut the door behind them.

"You have to teach me that when this is over." Edric continued.

"Oh, me too please." Luz added.

"Later, right now we need to find the restricted section." Lilith responded, still keeping her voice low.

"Oh I know how to get in there." Edric smirked behind his disguise.

"Not the section where they keep the dirty magazines, kid." Eda stated, and chuckled lightly as he deflated. "If memory serves me, I believe they keep the key behind the checkout counter, third drawer second from the right. It's track is a little bit sticky so be sure to pull up a bit when you slide it out."

Lilith resisted the urge to face palm as she used her spell on the locked drawer before taking the key. Eda quickly took it and led the way.

----------------------

Willow and Emira sighed as they stood unmoving in front of the library. They knew how guards acted on duty, as they often stood still and unmoving. They were statues that only seemed to show signs of life when they were on the move. Guards were trained to stand for hours reacting to almost nothing. Willow found it slightly boring but all together not the worst, while Emira's ADHD riddled brain internally screamed.

Both of them screamed internally however, when they saw a band of guards walking by, with two prisoners chained up in the middle. The witches were two girls, who couldn't have been too much older than them. They hung their heads low as a guard shoved them from behind causing them to trip.

"Hurry up!" The Captain barked, and one of the guards dragged the prisoners up by their chains. The captain sneered behind his mask before turning to Willow and Emira, he marched over to them. "I didn't know anyone was set to guard the library, especially at this time of night." He asked.

Willow was frozen in terror, but thankfully Emira remembered what Lilith told them to say. "We're under special orders Sir." She responded evenly.

"Whose orders?" The captain snapped.

"Kikimora, Sir." Emira replied.

The captain immediately jumped back at the name, his hands seemed to shake, "Oh, carry on then. And forget this ever happened....please." The fear in his voice was evident.

Emira and Willow just nodded before the three of them exchanged a salute. The girls continued to stand statue still, til the patrol was out of earshot before they both let out a deep sigh.

"Fuck, can they hurry it up in there. I don't know if I can go through that again." Emira whispered frantically.

"At least you managed to speak!" Willow whispered back.
--------------------------

The group inside scanned the shelves for any ancient looking books that looked like they might help.

The hidden restricted section wasn't terribly large, however the books were often very old and in the dim lighting made it fairly hard to see.

"Guys, I think I found something." Amity called over, as the others gathered around.

Lilith carefully took the book, it was written in ancient elvish, but after scanning the first few pages found it was about seals. She nodded, carefully adding it to the stack. Eda rescanned some shelves the kids had checked, trying carefully to make sure she wouldn't miss anything. However after an hour or so of looking only found five books that could be anything useful in their mission.

Eda sighed, "well these will have to do. Kids gather round" she waved them over, pulling out five trashy human romance novels she had found in one of her many trash hauls. "Alrighty, you two think you can change these to look like the books we took?" She asked Gus and Edric. They nodded drawing their spell circles, the dirty paperbacks quickly morphed into heavy leather bound tomes that looked battered with age, not garbage juice. Eda grinned, "Alrighty girls, time to the final touch." Luz carefully flipped through the books, gently tucking glyph cards in the pages before handing them off to Amity. The witchling hexed them, then ever so gently placed them where the real books had been.

"Good, now let's get out of here." Lilith said, as the group slowly made their way back to the normal part of the library.
-------------------------

Willow and Emira felt the tension leave their shoulders as the others opened the door.

"Any trouble out here?" Lilith asked gently.

"No. You get what we came for?" Emira replied.

Lilith nodded, and they carefully began their trek back to the owl house.
-----------

"Are you friend or Foe? Hoot hoot?"

"It's us Hooty, now open the door." Eda sighed, pulling the hair clip out and returning to her normal form. The others quickly followed suit and made their way inside.

"Wooo! Stealth mission completed." Luz cheered, doing a little happy dance.

"That went surprisingly better than I expected." Lilith smiled.

"Hah, that was a cake walk." Eda smirked, "you should have seen when Luz and I broke into the conformitorium and did a jailbreak."

"I honestly should have known that was you." Lilith sighed.

"Okay, speak for yourselves. You didn't have to talk to any guards" Emira shuddered slightly.

"You talked to guards?! Fuck yeah!" Edric grinned madly, throwing an arm around his twin and Willow. "You give em hell?"

"I was too scared to speak." Willow confessed.

"I nearly pissed myself." Emira added, "but Lilith's plan worked. The minute I said Kikimora, the guy jumped back like I lit him on fire."

"Yeah, she has that effect on people." Lilith said, a distant look of trauma in her eyes. She grounded herself slightly before turning back to the teens, "you all did wonderfully tonight. I hope that you feel proud of what you accomplished today."

Luz led her friends in a victory cheer, and even Lilith couldn't help but join in on the fun.

"We still need a name!" Luz said, practically jumping with excitement.

"A name for what?" Lilith asked, and even Eda looked a little confused.

"For our rebel alliance! Something cool. And mysterious. Oh and a sigil!"

"Ooooooo I'll go get my crayons!" King squealed happily running up the stairs.

"Alright brainstorm session. Go!" Luz grinned.

"Operation K.B.D." Edric said quickly.

"K.B.D.?" Eda said, confused.

"Yeah, kick belos dick." Edric smiled proudly.

"I like this one." Eda laughed, patting him on the head.

"We're not naming it that."

"How about Operation P. B. D." Emira smirked.

Lilith pinched the bridge of her nose, "that stands for punch belos' dick, doesn't it?"

"Maybe..."

"The kicking wasn't the reason the name was vetoed. I'm not going to be involved in a group named after attacking my former boss' genitalia. Also Operation is more for tasks than a group name."

"We could be the sparkle squad!" Gus offered.

"Yeah only you and Luz are high energy enough for that name." Amity said, as confetti fell out of Luz's pocket.

"KING'S ARMY!" The king demon yelled, holding a piece of paper with a crudely drawn picture of himself on it.

"No." Eda sighed.

"Hooty's besties?!" The house demon smiled hopefully, leaning his head through a window, about an inch away from Amity.

"Get any closer and I will finish where I left off." She growled.

"Well I tried. Hoot." He chirped before going back outside.

"How about the Nighthawks?" Luz said, posing dramatically, throwing her pocket confetti for good measure.

"That's actually not a bad name, kid." Eda smiled, the others nodded in agreement.

"Now we just need a sigil." Luz continued.

"ME????" Hooty asked, popping his head in throw the window.

"No." Everyone yelled back at the house demon.

"Mean. Hoot." He mumbled.

Owlbert flew down from Eda's shoulder doing a little dance.

"Aww, Owlbert. Do you wanna be the sigil Lil guy?" Luz cooed

"Actually I did design the top of the weathervane to look like him. We could use that. Although isn't that a little obvious?" Eda asked skeptically.

"Eda, if someone were to start a rebellion. They would immediately guess it was you." Lilith sighed. The kids nodded.

"I mean you are like 90% of the news" Gus stated.

"The crowd also were pretty easily swayed to save you" Willow smiled.

"You're literally one of the most well known criminals in the boiling isles, I think the world would be more shocked if you weren't involved." Amity added.

"Plus look at his wittle baby face!" Luz squeezed Owlbert gently, holding him up.

"Alright Alright. You guys win." Eda grinned.

The teens cheered as they continued to talk about cool names for task forces.
---------------------

Lilith and Eda sighed as they sat around the empty table. Most of the kids had left aside from Luz who was asleep with King upstairs.

"Edalyn, are you sure about getting the children involved with this. I-"

"Before you say anything I would like to point out that the person who came the closest to killing a child is you." Eda snipped, and smiled sharply as her sister looked down. "Lily, I'm not insane. I'm not going to drag these children into gorilla warfare. If the people are that easily swayed by a couple of kids talking. I think we have a decent shot at changing people's minds without having to resort to war. If we're going to do this we're going to it by showing the people how fucked the coven system is."

"And what about the Coven leaders? I doubt they will roll over so easily."

"Look me dead in the eye and tell me that the emperor doesn't play favorites with his covens."

"Fair point, so we talk to the ones who tend to get the shorter end of the stick. And cause internal chaos."

"Exactly. Any attacks we do will be in self defense against raids. And we keep the kids away from it as much as possible. And if we need to fight Belos directly. It's gonna be you and me. Those dumb kids are the best thing in this hellscape and I'm not letting them get hurt. Not again." The pain in Eda's voice radiated into the room.

"That wasn't your fault. I was the one who dragged her there in the first place."

"I could have just sent her back. If I had done that then she'd be safe at some human camp and not dealing with all this shit."

"She loves it here. We both know the warts and bumps of the isles. But she looks at the world with wonder and enthusiasm. She's one of the most dedicated students I have ever seen. She doesn't regret being here." Lilith reassured, placing a hand on her sister's shoulder.

"She has a mom Lily, she has someone who is waiting for her. And she might just keep waiting."

"And we will get them back together. We have some books we can look through. We have options......if things come to worse we'll find a way into the castle Library or even Belos' private chambers. We'll figure this "

Eda just nodded but it was clear that doubt rattled in her mind like a swarm of angry bees. She turned away as her sister drew closer, but the moonlight betrayed her, shining down on the fresh tears.

Lilith pulled her sister into a tight hug, and for the first time since they were children, Eda sobbed openly in her sister's arms.

Chapter Text

For the next couple of weeks, everything felt normal. Luz went to hexside, came back to the owl house. She did her homework, joked around with King and even started training again with Eda. Most people and even some of her friends didn't always notice the occasional forced smile, or a flash of emptiness in her brown eyes. Then again, most people didn't stare into Luz's eyes as much as Amity pretended she didn't.

She knew that if anyone could create a new portal to the human realm, it would be Eda and Lilith. Even without magic they were incredibly tenacious witches, you didn't get the reputation they had without being willing to put in the effort. In Amity's mind, it wasn't a matter of if, it was a matter of when. However as two weeks became a month, the when started to feel a bit more strained. She sighed as she wrote in her diary.

Dear Diary,

I'm worried about Luz. I know. I know. I basically have been writing that in here every chance I get. I just hate seeing her like this. She's clearly not okay. I just don't know what I can do for her. Eda and Lilith seem to be on top of finding things they can to create a portal, and I've even gone back to the restricted section 5 times to check to make sure there weren't any books we missed. I just feel so helpless. I hate seeing her like this, I just want to hold her and tell her I love her and that everything will be okay. But she doesn't need a romance right now and honestly I don't know if she will get home any time soon. It's already been almost a month and a half. I knew something like this would take time but I thought we'd at least have a start. I just wan-

"Hey mittens, you okay?" Emira asked gently, snapping Amity back to reality.

"I don't even know Em." Amity sighed, burying her face in her hands. "I just want to help Luz. But I don't know what I can do."

"Mitts, we know you care about Luz. We all do. But adding more work and pressure on yourself on top of all the shit our parents dump on you. Isn't helping anyone." Edric said, giving his little sister's shoulder a comforting squeeze.

"I can't just do nothing. If the situation were flipped she would work just as hard to help me."

"Oh my Titan, you two really are meant for each other." Emira groaned, wiping her hand down her face. "You two's unhealthy work habits aside. How about instead of living off three hours of sleep, caffeine and spite. Take a nap, maybe drink some herbal tea and I don't know, hang out with her?"

"I don't want to push my romantic feelings on her while she's vulnerable."

"You ship happy hopeless lesbian, you can hang out with someone without it being romantic." Edric chuckled, "look mom and dad still haven't found you a new mentor to train with right?"

"Yeah...so?" Amity asked skeptically.

"Well last time I checked Lilith is still alive and kicking and aside from working on decoding that book and fighting with her sister, I don't think she has a lot going on. Plus if that training happens to also Include Luz and Eda. Well not only can you two nerd out but you actually have a decent excuse to give to Mom and Dad." Edric smirked.

"That's actually not a bad idea" Amity blinked, "so this is how you both have such high test scores."

"HEY!" The twins yelled.

"Excuse me if you two spend so much time being dumb and annoying that I forget you're actually smart."

"I hope you are aware that we will tell all these embarrassing stories about your crush at our toast at you and Luz's wedding." Emira said, a hand over her chest in mock hurt. Edric just nodded, pretending to be as offended.

"MY WHAT." Amity squeaked, her face beet red, "That's it out of my secret hideout!"

The twins just cackled as they left.
------------------------

Lilith yawned as she walked towards the kitchen, to make her morning cup of tea.

"Lilith, someone's here to see you!" Hooty yelled as he swung open.

Lilith felt her already exhausted mind crying at the thought of any sort of interaction before she had a chance to get her caffeine.

"Umm Miss Lilith?" Amity said timidly, as she looked at the former coven leader's disheveled appearance.

Lilith was wearing an oversized wrinkled tee shirt that said taco cat spelled backwards is taco cat with a giant picture of a cat in some kind of costume on the front, and a pair of fluffy pink pajama pants with hearts all over them and the word sexy written across the butt in shiny gold cursive font. Her bright red hair was fluffed in an almost impressive case of bed head while her grey streak almost looked like a lightning bolt. Her grey and teal eyes had deep set bags and the dead eyed stare they held made Amity step a bit closer to the door.

The older witch let out a sigh so deep Amity worried the woman would deflate, "Luz is upstairs."

"Actually I wanted to.....umm talk to you....if that is okay....." Amity stuttered trying to avoid eye contact with the woman who looked vaguely homicidal. "If it's too much trouble.....I can come bac-"

Lilith Clawthrone grabbed her large round glasses off the end table and placed them on her face. They almost seemed to magnify the death in her eyes. "Come along Amity."

The witchling followed the older witch much like how you'd walk after being spotted by a predator. Trepidatiously, she stepped, still looking at the floor only to spot the leopard print slipper socks. 'If this were literally anyone else this would be hilarious.' Amity thought, her ears, which had been pinned back defensively, raised at the sound of clinking glass. She looked up and watched as the former most respected witch in the boiling isles poured a shot of Dwarven whiskey, and threw it back like she needed it to breathe. She grabbed the tea kettle and filled it with water before placing it on the match lit stove.

"I can just go, I really don't want to be a both-"

"Amity, you're already here. I got two hours of sleep, I'm wearing human trash clothes and it is six in the morning. Whatever formal pretenses and hesitations can be saved for later in the day."

"It's 9 am actually." Amity corrected, suddenly wondering how this witch was once held in such high regard as well as a general concern for her mental health.

"Time is the greatest illusion."

"Well.....miss Lilith-"

"Child, I'm wearing pink heart pants. I think you've more than earned the right to call me by my first name." The witch smirked wearily as she poured the hot water over her tea.

"I want you to be my mentor again." Amity said quickly, her amber eyes still glued to the floor.

Lilith snorted loudly, it almost seemed to turn into a bit of a wheeze as her body shook from laughter. The witch clutched her sides as she slid to the floor, trying to catch her breath.

"I'm not joking." Amity glared, her former teacher had said to drop her hesitations and well after almost fifteen years of being critiqued on her every move by her parents. The young witch was a bit more than done with not being taken seriously.

Lilith's expression sobered immediately at the amber daggers being shot down at her. She looked down at the half spilled tea in her hand. "I'm a wanted criminal with barely any magic who is still trying to make up for the last child I almost killed in my narrow mindedness." Her voice poured out like blood from a self inflicted wound.

"Well Eda didn't kill you and she let you stay here with Luz." Amity countered.

"Eda doesn't have any magic left." Lilith's voice said barely above a whisper.

"We both know that definitely wouldn't have stopped Eda from killing you. I also know Eda wouldn't have let you stay this long without Luz's consent. So despite what you may feel, I think they believe you have changed or at least have the ability to. And if they can give that to you, then you're qualified to be my teacher. And Luz is more than enough evidence to show you don't need innate ability to do magic."

Lilith raised her bloodshot eyes, a humorless smile on her face, "then why not Eda?"

"Well....." Amity let out an awkward cough as she scratched at the back of her neck. Suddenly transformed back to her neurotic fourteen year old self, "Eda made Luz shove moss up her nose and I don't think I could take more than a day of that kind of training."

The witches shared a genuine laugh, as the older one rose from the floor. Lilith adjusted her shirt and dusted off her fluffy pants.

"Well Amity, you've got yourself a teacher." Lilith grinned, although her lack of sleep seemed to catch up with her.

"AMITY!" Luz cheered, pulling her friend into a tight hug, "You got your cast off!"

"Oh, Hey Luz" Amity blushed, as her friend squeezed her.

"What are you doing here? Oh you want to have a surprise Azura book club meeting? Or talk secret rebellion stuff." Luz grinned, trying to look cool.

"She came here to get her training schedule now that she is my student again." Lilith yawned, making another cup of tea.

"We could train together. We can be battle brothers." Luz jumped excitedly.

"Well training won't start until tomorrow. So you two can do as you please. I'm going back to bed." Lilith said, wanting nothing more than to go back to sleep.

As the older witch left, Amity felt herself start to blush, suddenly at a loss for what to do.

"Amity?"

"Hmmm?" She blinked, realizing she zoned out in panic.

"So what do you want to do?" Luz asked, her normal bright smile sending butterflies through Amity's heart.

"I don't know. Honestly I didn't think that far ahead."

"Well, we could read the first few Azura books together!" Luz offered, grabbing her friend's hand.

Amity didn't even remember nodding her head, but she couldn't have been more pleased.
-------------------

"So. Now for truly the most important question. Who do you ship Azura with?" Luz asked, a silly grin on her face.

Amity laughed, they only just finished book one and Luz was already talking about theories and plot points in book five. It was a bit bombastic, much like everything Luz does. The witchling shook her head. "I don't know Luz, the book has a pretty extended cast."

Luz leaned closer, wiggling her brows, making a face very similar to her otter pajamas. "I've seen enough of your sketches to know that's not true."

Amity's ears flicked back and she turned a bright red.

"Ha. I knew it. Now spill." The other girl smirked, poking her friend gently in the side.

"I.....um....."

Luz backed off a bit, her normal soft smile formed on her face, "ya know it's okay if it's embarrassing right? I mean, even I have a few crack ships I think are fun."

"I...." Amity paused, her face still cherry red, "I ship Azura and Hecate together."

"They are so cute!" Luz squeaked, "Honestly if they don't become Canon, I'm rioting."

"I know right? They have such a good dynamic. Plus who doesn't like a rival to lovers story."

"Ugh, I wish I had wifi. There was a whole list of fanfics we could read together."

"I mean we could....always write our own." Amity offered, shyly, only to be practically pounced on by her friend.

"That is the best idea ever."

Amity just snorted, "Titan, you're a dork."

"Yeah well, I'm your dork." Luz laughed, "you chose to be my friend and now you're stuck."

"Yeah...." Amity smiled softly. 'she's my dork. MY dork.'

"I'll go get the typewriter!" Luz cheered as she ran out of the room, leaving Amity a blushing mess.

------------
Edric and Emira smirked over their game of Hexes hold em, the cards sprawled haphazardly across the floor.

"So....how long do you think it will take for Mittens and Luz to finally get together?" Edric asked, placing a card down, it roared to life and bit through two of Emira's cards.

The younger twin grumbled slightly at the display, "as soon as Amity either gets the confidence to say something or Luz suddenly gains awareness." She placed a card down, it charged Ed's most recent attacker, only for another card to jump up and bite it half. "Dammit I thought that would work."

"If it goes on for over a year, we're intervening." Edric sighed, placing another card down.

Emira examined her cards carefully, her face set in an unmovable blank mask. She set down a card and it sprung three cards to life only for one of her brother's cards to zap them with a fireball. "Fuck me, I walked right into that." She groaned, "also if you think I'm going to be able to sit there and watch those two dance around each other for a year. You're sorely mistaken."

"Hey, we have to let them at least try to figure it out on their own. Besides, it's not like anyone else in this family is any better. You get the same way around Viney and I walked into a door staring at Jerbo."

"Yeah well, it's not like our parents taught us any healthy social skills or ya know gave us any sort of affection."

"Well, here's hoping Mittens can be brave for all of us."

"Here here!"
--------------------------

Eda stretched her shoulder slightly before continuing her stitch. Although it wouldn't be for another month before the air would start to chill, her kid really didn't have much stuff for light cold. Really she only had the heavy coat which they had found in one of Eda's many junk piles. So she figured she'd make Luz a sweater, since her stay seems to be more permanent. Knitting also helped her relax, and after a decent amount of scattering pro freedom pamphlets last night at the market, she needed to relax. She smiled as Lilith joined her on the sofa, one of the books they had taken from the library in her hand. Eda felt a wave of nostalgia wash over her, remembering many days they spent with their granny, just relaxing in each other's presence.

"AMITY, AMITY NOOOO!" Luz yelled, dashing down the stairs, before sliding across the floor with her socks.

"YOU STARTED THIS WAR!" Amity laughed, chasing after her.

"WELL I'M NOT TICKLISH!" Luz protested, backing towards the kitchen.

"Then why are you running?" Amity grinned, moving closer, like a wolf towards a rabbit.

"I'm not running, I'm fine." Luz said, walking backwards into the wall. Amity immediately seized the opportunity, placing a firm hand on Luz's shoulder to keep her pinned. Her single minded focus made her miss the bright scarlet that ran across Luz's face. She quickly attacked her friend's sides. Luz yelped with laughter, moving her head down instinctively, only to head butt Amity in the process.

"Ow" Amity squeaked, her socks slipped on the hardwood, she felt herself start to fall back and immediately grabbed anything to right herself. However the thing she grabbed was a slightly dazed Luz who only proceeded to fall on top of her. The two were frozen, their faces red and inches away from each other.

"Now kiss." Eda called from the couch, not even looking up from her work.

The two girls jumped away from each other, both beet red.

"Eddddaaa." Luz groaned, flopping on her back.

"Luuuuzzz" Her mentor mocked, before bursting out laughing as the teen blew a raspberry.

Amity smiled, and found herself taken in by the joy and even Lilith giggled slightly.

King stomped in, wearing Hooty's sleep hat, "Hey some people are trying to sleep."

A devious grin formed on Luz's face as she turned to Amity who caught on to the plan.

"Hey King~" Luz said in a sing-song voice, "ya ticklish?"

"Ehh?" The little demon's eyes bugged, and he yelped, immediately running away as the two girls gave chase.

Eda just shook her head, she stopped knitting, and set the mostly done sweater down on the couch, "Remember all our tickle wars Lily?"

"Don't you fucking dare. Edalyn. EDA" Lilith shrieked as her sister dug her fingers into her sides. She jumped up off the couch.

"I'll give you a five second lead," Eda smirked.

"Fuck you."
-----------------------
Luz and Amity's chase had ended under a tree where the little demon had squirmed as they tickled him mercilessly. After enough pleas, they let him go and he immediately scampered off, just in case they changed their minds.

The two teens leaned back against the tree, gently snickering as they caught their breath in the cool dusk air.

Amity's face was stuck in a stupid love sick smile, her amber eyes entranced by the sparkling brown. 'I could stare into those eyes forever' Her thoughts stopped in their tracks as she saw the light fade in her eyes. Amity felt her soul ache as she saw a flash of Luz's shattered heart. She pulled her closer, leaning her head on top of Luz's. "You okay?"

"No....." she let out a deep tired sigh, "Today would have been the day I would have come back home from Summer Camp."

"Summer camp?"

"It's the place my mom thinks I'm at. Before I always hoped she just assumed I broke my phone and that I was fine. That she isn't scared or worried where I am. But if she didn't know before, she certainly knows now. And.....I just..." Luz felt hot tears burning down her cheeks.

Amity just pulled her friend in her arms as the girl started to sob. She rubbed her back gently as she felt the tears dampen her shirt. Amity had heard Luz talk about her mother, about all the fun games they would play on weekends. How Luz's mom had read her the first Azura book to her when she was nine. The times they spent together in the kitchen making family recipes. They were close in a way Amity could only imagine, she and her siblings often wondered if their parents would even care if they just disappeared. She gently held Luz's face in her hands, lifting her out of her shoulder. "Hey, if she's anything like you, I'm sure she'll never give up on you and when you get back, she'll be so happy you're home. In the meantime, you have us."

Luz sniffled, flopping her head back on Amity's chest. She looked up with her puffy red eyes, "I just hate not being able to do anything. Especially when I know someone I love is hurting."

"I understand, I'm the same way. Ed and Em always tell me that if I can't do anything, the least I can do is try to make myself feel better. Cause dwelling on it only makes it worse." Amity offered, giving her friend's arm a reassuring squeeze.

Luz let out a slight laugh, "you sure we're talking about the same twins?"

"Yeah they can be stupid and jerks sometimes, but with our parents.....the way they are. We look out for each other. Especially now. Honestly I think you calling them out at the library kind of reminded them of that. They still piss me off sometimes but we're talking more again." Amity blushed before looking away, "sorry, this isn't about me. I didn't mean to put my problems onto you. Especially right now...ugh"

"Hey, it's okay. We're here for each other. You can share your problems with me too." Luz lifted up her head and hugged Amity tightly, "thanks for coming by today. I really needed it. And I'm sorry your parents suck."

Amity laughed through a deep blush, "I had fun. And you're always welcome to talk to me when you're not having a good day."

As the dusk turned to night Amity made her way home. Although she was still worried about Luz, she felt better knowing that she would tell her and that she could do the same in return.

Chapter Text

"Good Evening Everyone, I'm Perry Porter, here at another site of Nighthawk destruction. The statue to our most Honorable Emperor has been destroyed." He spoke as the camera panned towards the fallen statue. There was hexed graffiti that said, the covens are a lie that moved every time the camera tried to get away from it. Perry however carried on, trying to ignore his nerves on how his bosses were going to take that message being displayed. "This is the third attack on a public building in the past two weeks. The Nighthawks have also been airbombing propaganda and misinformation about the coven system and the Emperor all over the night market. There have even been reports of nighthawk graffiti in our own Hexside school. Those responsible are still unknown but the suspected culprit is none other than the Former coven leader Lilith Clawthrone. The madwoman and his sister the owl lady haven't been seen in almost four months now. Emperor belos' right hand and acting leader of the Emperor's coven, Kikimora has this to say." Perry nodded as the feed switched off, he felt his entire body drain as soon as the camera was off. 'I'm so going to get in trouble for showing that graffiti again. Stupid hex, it's like it knows how my cameras work! These acts keep getting bolder, can't they just catch the mad lady already? I never got in trouble with my bosses for covering natural disasters or whatever the owl lady did. Eventually I was able to do her stuff in a week roundup. I don't get paid enough for this crap.
---------------
"WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?!" Eda yelled at the crystal ball, "THE SIGIL IS AN OWL. A FUCKING OWL. IT'S LITERALLY BASED OFF MY PALISMAN! WHY ARE YOU GETTING ALL THE CREDIT?!"

"Dear Titan, Edalyn. This isn't a competition. Besides they're blaming me because of the disgruntled employee angle. That and the fact that you're my sister, they're making me look like I was some crazed lunatic double agent." Lilith grumbled over her cereal, she was wearing a bright yellow tee shirt with something Luz had referred to as a 'sponge bob' on it and grey sweatpants with the word Pink in bright bold pink letters on the butt, her hair was in it's normal morning rat's nest, and her glasses were slightly skewed.

"I mean in that outfit, they're half right." Eda smirked.

"I got these clothes from you." Lilith growled into her tea, "besides they're comfortable for sleeping. That is their purpose. And it's not like I'm going out any time soon."

"I mean I think yellow is a nice color on you Lily. Makes you look like a happy little sunflower" King snickered over his eggs.

"Can it or I'll turn you into a hat."

"Good morning everyone!" Luz smiled as she walked down, dressed in her school uniform, she spotted the crystal ball. "OH! Were we on the news again?!"

"Yes, although they're giving all the credit to Lily, Again!"

Luz laughed as she shook her head, grabbing the breakfast sandwich Lilith had made for her and her packed lunch. "At least the word is getting out." She reassured as the witches continued their childish bickering.

"Please, don't leave me alone with them. If I have to listen to them fight over the remote one more time, I'm going to die." King begged, grabbing Luz's leg.

"King, you know you're not allowed on campus anymore. Mx. Frostmore is still mad about you getting into the pantry in the cafeteria."

"Excuse me if they aren't responsible enough to keep the can openers farther away from their giant cans of gold." King grumbled.

"Yeah well they also teach the elective course for the cooking coven I'm taking next semester."

"Hey, your reputation at school is your own making Miss Missy! I'm not the one who destroyed detention five times!"

"It was four times, you helped me with one and during your last adventure you waved to me while covered in canned blood orange syrup and then tried to hide in my hood when Mx. Frostmore grabbed their broom. I showed up to my next class looking like I committed murder."

"A murder most fruity, ehh? Ehh? Ya get it?"

Luz chuckled giving him a kiss on his head, "be good ya little rugrat"
---------------------------

Luz redid the buttons on her sweater as the cool autumn breeze kicked, however she didn't mind too much. Fall was a beautiful time on the boiling isles, well when you could see. The anti- propaganda war they had started had benefited greatly from the fog that often came during this time of year. This however had not benefited Luz who had accidentally walked onto an active construction site the first day the fog was bad. After that Eda had "bought" her a scroll and could use it to find her way to school on days when the fog was dense but not dense enough to cancel school, at least for witches whose average eyesight was slightly better than humans. Thankfully today was a fairly visible day with just light fog and Luz could actually take in the scenery.

The naturally orange leaves turned a deep red before drying to a dark brown almost black color and the trunks lightened and almost looked like birch trees. While there were still the pines that kept their normal color, it still gave off very Tim Burton vibes, which delighted Luz. She thought about showing her friends the nightmare before Christmas when it got closer to October but realized without the context of Christmas, Halloween and the fact that most of the monsters were normal. She figured they'd probably not really get it. Even if it was one of the few movies she had saved to her phone. It had been one of her favorite movies as a child, along with Coraline. So much so that her mom could practically quote the entirety of both movies even when she was a teenager. Luz felt a wave of sadness start to rush over her. 'just focus on the task at hand' She repeated her mother's mantra in her head and before she realized she was at school.
-----------------

Luz jumped when she felt a hand grab her shoulder, nearly dropping her lunch. She turned to the wall to see Viney's head poking out from a hidden door. "Dios, Viney. Do you always have to pick the door behind me?"

"Oh come on, like you wouldn't?" The upperclassmen grinned,"besides it's Tuesday. We always have lunch together on Tuesdays."

"Fair points." She laughed following her into their secret hideout.

"Jerbo, Baucus, all the doors are closed right?"

"Yep."

"Ruff."

"Cool." Viney turned, "Soooo I saw on the news Lord Calamity's sister is vandalizing property and trying to show the flaws with the coven system."

Luz bit her lip, "you guys promise to keep a secret?"

"Luz we've kept this place secret for two years. We're the people for you." Viney reassured.

"It's not just Lilith, it's all of us. Eda, Willow, Gus, Amity, Edric, Emira and Principal Bump. We're the ones who have been printing pamphlets and vandalizing government property. "

"Oh we figured tha- Wait Principal Bump is with you guys?" Jerbo blinked.

"Unbreakable vow, he fears Eda more. Also he isn't as active of a member. He mostly just lets us use the printers and brings really bland potato salad" Luz answered quickly, which the other three just nodded, not knowing how or where to start unpacking that information.

"Anyways, we want in!" Viney grinned, shaking her younger classmate.

"Wait seriously? Are you sure? Cause once you're in. There's no going back." Luz said seriously.

"We know Luz, and that's why we want to join. No one suffers more under the coven system than us multitrack students. Both the plant coven and the abomination coven want nothing to do with me." Jerbo sighed, "my moms are worried I won't have a career after school because of my tracks and the only coven that would allow me to use both......"

"The emperor's coven." Viney sighed, "that is the only coven that would consider any of us. And they tried to kill you and lord calamity."

Barcus whined, putting his paws over his face.

"Well, we have a meeting tonight at the owl house. You can come then. And if hooty asks for a password, just offer him some hexmix, or a bug....or a leaf...or attention really. He won't hurt kids....physically. " Luz added, munching on her sandwich.

"Whose Hooty?" Jerbo asked, nervously as he popped a baby carrot in his mouth.

"House demon" Luz explained, through a month full of food.

"She lives in a house demon?! Do you know how rare those are?!" Viney squeed, "I actually get to see a house demon, up close."

"Ya know what, nevermind. If you just act like that when you meet him, he'll let you in no problem. Warning he will talk your ear off." Luz chuckled.

Barcus ruffed.

"Barcus says he senses something very annoying in our near future." Jerbo blinked.

"Yeah......that's definitely Hooty."
--------------------

Edric chatted with his friends as they waited for the nighthawks meeting to start. He resisted the urge to tease Amity about her crush. He and Emira smirked as they watched their sister's ears which were flushed red on the tips and wiggled enthusiastically. They both however exchanged a knowing glance with both Willow and Eda. His thoughts were interrupted as Luz jumped up.

"Oh we have new members joining us today!" She smiled.

"For the love of all that is good, please tell me we aren't bringing more children into a rebellion to overthrow and undermine the emperor." Lilith asked, then groaned into her hands as Luz sat back down. "Child, I didn't mean that literal-"

"Finally someone who wants to talk to me! Oh this is better than the interview and fly all rolled into one!" Hooty cheered loudly, his voice barely muffled by the door? himself? Edric really wasn't sure but, honestly didn't want to ask either.

"Hooty, open the door." Eda sighed.

"Fine, but only because I want to Hoot hoot."

Edric felt his heart and bile sac jump into his throat as he saw Jerbo. 'oh no....' He turned to look at his twin in hopes that at least she would be able to pay attention only to see her face just as pink as his. He turned to see Viney walk in behind Barcus. 'well shit'

"Why does he feel damp?" Jerbo asked, looking mildly disturbed.

"House demons are 20% mucus" Viney smiled.

"And 80% loud" a voice added.

"Barcus, did you just talk?" Luz blinked.

"It's a spell, just makes it easier to communicate." Barcus smiled, before finding a comfy spot on the rug.

"Hey adorable talking demon is taken buddy!" King huffed.

"Yeah!" Hooty added.

"Edalyn. There are now more children in the rebellion." Lilith smiled through strained teeth.

"Eda-" Viney, Jerbo and Barcus jumped up from their seats.

"LORD CALAMITY??!!!" They screamed like fangirls outside of a boy band concert.

"Oh so you're the little mischief makers that inherited my old clubhouse, Luz told me great things about you." Eda grinned, patting each of them on the head. They giggled happily.

"Yeah the secret room of short cuts is in good hands!" Jerbo smiled.

Edric snapped out of staring at the boy's backside enough to process what he had just said and flicked his twin in the ear.

"Ow- the hell-" Emira grumbled only to be cut off.

"THERE IS A SECRET ROOM IF SHORT CUTS AND WE DON'T KNOW ABOUT IT?!" Edric asked, completely taken back.

"Wait, WHAT?!" Emira said, just as outraged, "all we knew about were the tunnels Augustus has been digging!"

"THERE ARE SECRET TUNNELS UNDER HEXSIDE?!" The three troublemakers yelled, just as shocked.

"Oh my Titan, I'm surrounded by Edas." Lilith buried her face in her hands.

"Fuck yeah!" Eda laughed, "Alrighty, now that the chaos at Hexside has been shared. We need to start our next plan. Lilith and I will continue fly over bonesborough, you, fuck how many of you are there now.....nine?! No wonder I keep running out of snacks. Well which every one's are available. Bump has the next batch of flyers and pamphlets ready in the old cage they used to keep grom. It's a lot so I'll need at least four of you to go."

Amity perked up at that, then grinned deviously as she saw her siblings were distracted, "Well, I'm coming by with Luz after school for training. And Ed and Em aren't doing anything."

The twins blinked, and turned immediately to their younger sister, their ears pulled back in panic.

"Relax you two, it's just paper. Grom is dead. You'll be fine." Eda smirked as the twins just nodded. "Next we'll be planning an attack on the government center. No fires, no lighting. Don't wreck more than the windows. We may be doing this after it's closed but we don't want to risk accidentally killing someone. Newbies, what's your skills?"

"Beast keeping and healing." Viney smiled proudly.

"Oh thank Titan, we have a healer." Lilith returned the girl's smile with a tired one of her own. "What are you ranked?"

"I'm the top of both actually." Viney blushed, rubbing her neck, "I used to volunteer at the hospital and I do a lot of research on the side with my gryphon Puddles."

"Well you're now going to get more practice than ever. Especially with humans." Lilith stared at Luz.

"That was one time!" Luz huffed, raising her hands.

"I mean you did almost fall into a hole in a construction site." Eda sighed.

"Human eyes don't see as well!" Luz grumbled, while the others snickered.

"Well now that we know Luz is going to be okay" Eda continued, and grinned as Luz stuck her tongue out. "What about you kid?"

"I specialize in Plant and Abomination magic" Jerbo said with a salute.

"Another tank, good. You can work with Willow and Amity. " Eda nodded, before turning to Barcus, "and what do you do?"

"Oracle and Potions."

"We can use you to help with planning and cover. Smoke bombs are a necessity. And any leg up on what might happen is always a good thing." Eda sighed contentedly, "Good picks kid. We really rounded out the team here."

"They came to me actually." Luz smiled as she watched the former detention track kids blush slightly at the praise.

"Well, you three will fit in here after all." Eda laughed.
----------------------

The sisters sighed as they sat in the kitchen. Luz was long asleep. They split a bottle of wine between them.

"They're going to attack us one of these days....you know that right?" Lilith said, calmly, taking a sip of wine. "We both know Belos won't stand for this war of words forever."

"The more words we get out the more people we can get to join our cause Lilith." Eda bit.

"What more children? We can't do that to them."

"I don't know if we could stop them from doing it even if we want to....any luck on who to start first in the covens?"

"I checked four different new sources. Apparently Belos gave the heads of the main nine covens a rather large pay raise."

"Look, in another week we can start training all the kids in combat and defense. For now let's just focus on the two we already train."

"You mean the two that stare at each other with doe eyes while we talk at them." Lilith grumbled.

"Hey, let the kids have their fun while they can. We both know that this is going to get ugly eventually."

"Well if they could hurry up on the stage of fun they're at so they could focus, it would be appreciated."

"Oh no they better no, not in my house." Eda huffed.

"What do you care? They're both girls. It's not like they can get the other pregnant." Lilith paused, "humans can't do that right?"

"Fuck I didn't even think about that." Eda's eyes bugged, "but no, I mostly meant cause the house has thin walls and also Hooty. Shit, I really didn't want to have that talk with my apprentice."

"Your kid, your problem." Lilith grinned slightly.

"Fuck, I hope you have annoying ass kids." Eda grumbled.

"Eda, I'm 46 years old. The ship has sailed."

"Yeah well I was 43 when a fucking human girl was dropped on my doorstep. There are nine kids in the rebellion, at least one of them is going to start clinging to your leg or giving you sass."

"Titan, their parents are gonna kill us." Lilith groaned.

"Meh, at this point the list is so long, what's a few more?" Eda laughed bitterly, swirling her wine.

"Depends how many of their kids we get killed along the way." Lilith said gravely.

Eda stared into her glass, before tilting in back, "we start group training in two days. We're also practicing our glyphs. Because as long as I can do something, I'm not letting those kids get hurt."

"We won't always have that luxury...." Lilith sighed, finishing her wine. The sisters exchanged a look filled with twisted guilt before parting for bed.

Chapter Text

Dinner in the blight manor was a tense quiet affair. Any and all conversations were usually in the form of question and answer, with Odalia doing most of the questioning.

"How is your independent training, Amity?" Odalia asked, her voice was sharp and direct like a fencing foil.

"It's going well. Although I'm probably going to start training with Edric and Emira later this week." Amity said, her tone flat and even.

Odalia cast her eyes at the twins, they tighten like a rubber band under pressure, "Good. If you two could pick up some of your younger sister's drive, one of you might actually get into the Emperor's coven early."

Edric pretended to not see how his parents eyes looked at Emira.

"Even if their scores improve, I don't know if we will be taking new members for a while. After the whole Clawthrone debacle, they've held off taking new recruits until they've chosen a more permanent leader." Alador said, carefully eating his food.

"We I suppose in that amount of time, all of you will improve. Oh Titan, imagine how lovely it would be for us to have two children in the Emperor's coven." Odalia smiled, "oh your grandparents would be so proud."

The teens just nodded. Dinner was always a fairly efficient affair in the blight household, yet it still seemed to drag onwards. Soon the servants came to take their plates and they quickly took their leave.

Edric however felt his mother's tight grip on his shoulder.

"Edric, sweetheart, could you sit down for a minute. I wanted to talk with you." Odalia asked, in a voice sweet and sharp.

"Yes, mother." He said automatically, taking his seat again.

"Edric" His father's eyes turned to him, "Do you know why we want to talk with you?"

"No fath-"

"LIAR!" Odalia screamed and smirked when Edric flinched, "Your teachers have said that Emira and you have been skipping classes. Is this true Edric? Did you lie to us?"

Edric wanted to argue, and felt hot tears burning in the back of his eyes, "yes, mother."

Odalia cast a critical gaze as she saw his expression, "Edric, you're the oldest of your siblings. You have to set an example." She walked closer, a cruel grin formed when she saw a tear run down her son's face. "Blights do not show weakness Edric. How many times must we tell you this? Your sisters never show unnecessary weakness. And once again you're dragging Emira down with you. I'm sorry son, but for that we're going to have to punish you."

Edric grit his teeth and nodded, ' she's just going to take away your binders for a while. You have some hidden in your locker at school. It will be fine. Nothing you haven't dealt with before' He reassured himself, waiting for the punishment to be laid down.

"No more of your hormone potions for a month." Odalia said, sternly.

Edric cracked, "but....but mother please.....I need those."

"Sweetie, I don't want to have to do this. But you left me no choice, you skipped school. We work so hard to make sure you have a good education and you waste it. Worse of all, you drag your sister down with you. These" Odalia lifted the vials of Edric's hormone potions, "are a privilege, not a right. You can have them back when your punishment is over."

"Please" Edric begged, watery eyes turned to his father.

"It's for your own good son." Alador said, turning away.
-----------------------------

Lilith smiled as she saw Luz walking up to the house with the blight children in tow. She opened the door, silencing Hooty before he could do his doorbell impression.

"Good, good, there's some snacks in the kitchen." Lilith said, carefully pulling out the flyers and brochures from the teens backpacks. "Yes, Bump actually remembered to change the font this time." She stacked them neatly on the coffee table before making her way to the kitchen. She had always liked to start off her training with tea and a snack. She had found children and even most adults hardly ever worked that well when they were hungry. And if she were being entirely honest with herself, she enjoyed spending some time with her students. Tea time with Luz, Amity, Edric and Emira had become a bit of a tradition the past month with the twins helping smuggle the brochures from Bump. She smiled, as she heard the teens chatting, three soft voices laughed, but seemed to be missing the deeper chuckle that rounded out their quartet.

She entered the room, getting the kettle, while casting a glance at Edric. He was the more forward and outgoing of the twins, if Em took herself slightly seriously and was slightly nervous about something. Ed didn't care and would run in to try. While Amity was certainly the most driven of the three, and Emira by far the most naturally gifted. Both girls were often easily frustrated when they didn't do a spell perfectly. Emira, especially if whatever they were learning didn't come naturally to her. Edric, however, was completely unbothered by failure, a trait Lilith found both very admirable as well as very unlike a blight.

Edric looked miserable, and Lilith could tell if he wasn't wearing concealer, he'd probably look like he had been crying. She looked at Luz, who caught her eyes. Lilith glanced over at Edric, silently asking her question only to be met with a shrug. She bit back sigh, before pulling out the cookies she had seen the boy always make a beeline for whenever they had snacks out. She carefully placed a few extra on his plate. He blinked, amber eyes glanced up at her in shock. Lilith simply smiled softly before going to get the kettle off the stove."So how was school today?"

"Luz tried to eat abomination goo." Amity laughed.

"It looked like it would be grape flavored." Luz added, crossing her arms defensively.

Lilith snorted, 'Titan she really is Eda's kid' "Was it grape flavored?"

"No...." Luz said sadly, "it was abomination flavored."

"Wait you actually ate some of it?"Amity blinked.

"Duh, as soon as the professor turned around and when no one was looking I gave it a taste." Luz explained.

"Ohhh, that's why you started coughing." Amity smiled, shaking her head.

"Wait, what is abomination flavor? Abomination isn't a flavor." Emira laughed.

"It is." Luz said firmly.

"It's not."

"It is!"

"Is not!"

"It is!"

"If it is then what does it taste like?" Emira grinned, while Luz wracked her brain.

"Like one of those fried mystery orbs at the carnival, but like after a week in the dumpster."

"Ewwww" Amity and Emira squirmed, before bursting out laughing.

Lilith just shook her head, and felt a little bit of relief when Edric let out a soft chuckle. "I would describe it more like if you mixed tar and rancid fruit juice."

"Wait, you've tasted abomination goo?" Amity said in complete shock.

"I knew I wasn't the only one!" Luz cheered.

"Why would you do that willingly?" Emira asked, disgusted as she was curious.

"Eda bet me five snails I wouldn't." Lilith grinned, with a surprising amount of pride. "I also bet her ten she wouldn't drink any. Then we got sent home early because we threw up in our cauldrons at homeroom. Granny was irritated but definitely not surprised."

"You were a troublemaker?" Luz said, her mind blown, "I didn't even know you knew how to have fun until recently."

"Brat." Lilith smirked,"I mean I was no Eda. But she definitely pulled me into a few of her pranks. And I certainly did my fair share of stupid things. " She took a big sip of her tea, "I actually went to school with Odalia and Alador. Odalia took my spot as team captain by hexing one of my grudgby balls. So put pink dye in her shampoo in the girls locker room. She looked like she lost a fight with Cotton candy choosey hat for three days."

Edric snorted loudly, which was the most noise he had made all day, while Emira fell out of her chair laughing. Amity and Luz wheezed only staying up because they held onto the table.

They enjoyed their tea for a bit longer, before Lilith decided it was time to set up for training practice. "Emira, Amity can you set up the practice dummies? Luz can you fetch Eda, I think she's making potions in the basement. The others will be here in the next hour. "

"Can do!" Luz cheered, while the other girls just nodded and headed out.

"What do you want me to do?" Edric asked, quietly.

"Are you okay?" Lilith asked, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder. "You don't have to answer if you're uncomfortable. And if you're not feeling well, you can sit out of training. Your health comes first, okay?"

Edric felt himself shake his head no, tears started to prick the back of his eyes.

Lilith pulled him in for a hug, rubbing his back like she used to do for Eda when they were kids. She felt him break into a sob, he buried himself into her shoulder. "Just let it out, you're okay." Lilith whispered.

"Ready to watch my student kick your bu- oh shit, sorry. Take your time." Eda apologized, backing out, she gently guided Luz towards the front door.

"Is Ed crying?" She asked, worry clear in her voice.

"Lily has him. He's gonna be okay." Eda reassured, patting Luz's head.

Lilith smiled as she heard her sister say that through the door, as she gently hugged Edric. She felt his breathing start to even out and he slowly lifted his head, a look of guilt in his eyes.

"I'm sorry." He let go immediately as if he was going to be shocked if he held too long, "I didn't mean to-" He flinched as she raised her hand.

Lilith's eyes widened, as she scratched her ear, her face filled with concern. She was even more startled when Amity and Emira walked in. Their golden eyes shot daggers at her as they stood by their brother. Lilith put her hands up defensively.

"It's okay, she was being nice." Edric spoke softly, his eyes while still watery, held a look of hope.

"What did they do to you?" Lilith asked, and watched as the girls turned to their brother, who simply nodded.
---------------------------

Clawthrones were never known for being calm quiet people. Granny Clawthrone had been known as a very sweet and loving woman but if someone hurt her grandkids. She'd likely put them in a body cast. Her granddaughters had found they had a similar streak especially towards the children life decided to throw at them.

Lilith was in a rage, saying every curse under the sun while Eda was surprisingly quiet and pensive. At least that's how King and Luz found them.

"What the hell happened?" King asked.

"Did you guys figure out what was wrong with Ed?" Luz added, worry in her voice.

"Yeah, right now we're trying to figure out what to do about it." Eda sighed, before turning to her sister, "that isn't murder."

"I'm not saying I would do it. But I want to." Lilith huffed.

"Yeah the problem is you'd actually do it" Eda grumbled, "Luz go check on your friends. Make sure they don't think we're upset at them. And call the others to tell them group training is canceled."

"Okay" Luz said carefully, scooping up King.

"What no I wanted to watch!" He whined as the door shut behind them.

"So are you done choosing violence?" Eda asked, rubbing her temples.

"For now." Lilith mumbled, "So what do you suggest we do?"

"We make some of the hormone potions. Give them to Ed to keep in his locker at school, and then see if we can make an arrangement with Bump. If one of the kids is having a bad day, see if they can get a free period. Give them some safe places they can run to when they need it."

"We can't just have them go back there! We need to call the authorities!"

"Oh my Titan you really spent too long as a cop. Lilith, we are the two most wanted criminals on the boiling isles. If we call the authorities. They will arrest us. Alador is also in the emperor's coven. And his wife is a Blight. They're one of the most well respected families we have. Even if the guards didn't immediately arrest us, they sure as hell won't arrest one of their own or anyone with that much political power." Eda watched as her sister's preconceived notions about her old job were once again crushed. "Also we are not kidnapping them. They will bust down Hooty for that."

"You kidnapped a human!"

"It's not kidnapping if they're from a different realm. It's finding. And I wasn't planning on keeping her forever.....it just happened. Look we already have the rebellion and decoding the book. If we take them. The blights will be at our door with the entire Emperor's guard. You don't have much magic and I don't have any."

"What if they try to get them to join the emperor's coven?"

"Well you can't join until you're at least 17 and with how crazy things are with you gone. I don't know if they're taking new people for a bit. And as long as we keep feeding chaos. We can at least delay it."

"Fine." Lilith growled, "but if they try to get them to join the emperor's coven. We're kidnapping them."

"See this is why you're bad at crime. You skip right over petty theft and jump straight into kidnapping and murder." Eda stated flatly. "And yeah, if they are going to be sent to tryouts for the emperor's coven. We will take them. I have no idea where in hell we'll put them. But we'll figure that out later."

"Ding dong!!" Hooty cheered, opening the door for the rest of the teens in the rebellion.

"Dang it Luz" Eda mumbled, "Hey guys, training is cancel- why do you all have sleeping bags and blankets and pillows-"

"Luz texted us saying Ed, Em and Amity were having a bad time so she said we could watch a movie together to make them feel better." Willow smiled.

Eda just looked at her sister's big pleading eyes and just sighed, "Alright come in. Yall can set your stuff up in the living room, Lilith and I will be downstairs working on some potions."

Luz walked in a slightly guilty expression on her face, "Hey Eda I'm so-"

"Can it. You did what you thought was best for your friends. It's not like they weren't coming over anyways." She smiled when Luz pulled her in a tight hug.

"You're the best."

"And don't you forget it."
--------------------------------

"Titan, I always forget how complicated some of these potions can be." Lilith sighed, "and it doesn't help you don't organize anything."

"I have my own system, thank you." Eda huffed slightly as she grabbed all the ingredients she needed. "Besides the reason why you think it's difficult is because you haven't had the need to make a potion since you were at hexside."

Lilith scrunched her face, clearly wanting to argue, instead she just crossed her arms, "yeah...." She tapped her foot anxiously on the floor.

Eda sighed as she placed some of her ingredients on the scale, carefully marking them down before adding them to the cauldron. "If you're worried about them. You can go up and see them. It's not like they can't pause that thingy. DVD? VHS? Bluetooth? Whatever the human thing Luz is using. I've seen her pause stuff before."

"I just don't understand, why they would do that to him. That's their child, those effect not only his brain but his self esteem. Why would take something like that and use it against them?"

"I don't know. How could someone use a fourteen year old girl as both bait and a shield." Eda sighed as she saw her sister flinch, "What I'm saying is, no one thinks they're the bad guy. Everyone believes they have a reason. However people can change. For better or worse."

"Alador was so nice in school. Honestly, Ed reminds me so much of him before he started going out with rich assholes." Lilith said, nostalgia in her voice.

"Alador was also a weak spined shrimp who wanted to feel more important than he actually was. He always kissed the boots of those more powerful than him."

"Hey, he happens to be a very well respected member of the emperor's- oh I'm proving your point." Lilith groaned, "why am I like this?"

"Undoing years of indoctrination takes time. At least you're starting to recognize it." Eda smiled, carefully heating up the cauldron.

"How did you see through it? You wanted to be in the coven just as bad as me? How did you just walk away from it all?"

"Oh, simple. I didn't. I saw how much you wanted it and figured there were more options out there. Then once I saw what was available decided it was more fun to strike out on my own path and also like after getting arrested more than once for doing literally nothing kind of makes you realize who your friends are."

"You make it sound so....easy."

"It might be a personality thing. I never really fit in anywhere so why even bother with the box."

"I guess I spent so much time making myself fit, I forgot there was anything outside."

"Mmmmhhhmm" Eda hummed, as she stared meticulously over the potion, "how's your progress on the book?"

"Still nothing. I just don't understand what it is. I've never seen even a self destruction enchantment act like this."

"Well yeah if it was a self destruction enchantment then it would have blown up the first time instead of just damaging itself." Eda said, carefully siphoning the potion into individual dosages, "Alrighty, these need to chill down to room temp and they'll be good to go."

"Well, let's go check on our brood then." Lilith teased.

"Ya know when I even thought about having kids, I at least thought I'd have a partner. Nine kids, and the only person in our life that's an adult is us, hooty and king."

"Titan we need more adult friends."
---------------------------

The sisters quietly made their way up stairs, as they heard the sound of the old T.V. as Luz had called it, playing a movie.

"I want my father back you son of a bitch." A long haired human on the screen said, stabbing another human in the gut with a sword.

Lilith and Eda turned to where the couch normally was, to see a giant tent structure made out of blankets. They carefully stepped around it to see the nine teens piled together snuggled in a nest of pillows, blankets and king's stuffies. They waved at them, before carefully handing them the four empty snack bowls. The witches chuckled before making their way to the kitchen to refill the bowls. A tinge of pain filled their hearts as a thought echoed in their heads.

'I hope they still do this after hell breaks loose.'

Chapter Text

The teens adjusted their masks as they jumped down onto the roof. They were black bird like masks, but were much more owlish, with the eyes being large and covered in a gold that reflected back in the light. They also covered their whole faces, the beaks were sharper and smaller as well. They had a special enchantment that was also used by the emperor's cover, that those wearing the mask would be able to tell each other apart. Their outfits were also black, although those were mostly acquired through their own closets or digging through Eda's stuff.

Willow used her powers on the vines growing on the sides of the courthouse, watching as they grew just big enough to hold their weight. The Nighthawks began their descent.
--------------------

Tom was a fairly low ranking member of the emperor's coven, he had gotten in mostly because his aunt had been a well respected part of the coven for years before she retired. She had put in a good word for him and although he barely passed tryouts. He still somehow made it in. The coven however quickly realized that now that he was in, they had to figure out what exactly to do with him. After quite a few years, being bounced around to different teams. The coven finally settled him into the job as the night guard for the tenth courthouse, which was mostly used to settle small claims and fairly minor infractions. During the day, it had quite a few guards, mostly to deal with any really angry people whose case didn't go their way. At night however it was vacant, and considering that the effort to break into a building was way more work than any disagreement over the placement of a fence post was worth. It was considered the easiest job in the coven. All the person guarding it needed to do was stay awake. Naturally of course, Tom was snoring when he heard a loud crash.

He cast a light spell, and held his staff as he carefully walked through the halls. He nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw a dark masked figure scamper by. He ran after them, and smiled as they opened a door but didn't shut it in their haste. 'I got you now chump' Tom thought as he ran at the door, it was only after he smacked head first into the wall that he realized the door was an illusion. He groaned as he hit the floor, rolling over on his side. He heard footsteps, and lifted his head up at the noise. He saw multiple masked figures with bats and maces. He stood up, although he leaned a bit on his staff, as he was still a bit disoriented. "You're not supposed to be her-" he started to yell, but a blue ring of magic cast over him. He suddenly felt very tired. He took a step forward only to fall flat on his face.

"We checked the other floors. Lilith was right. No one else is he- Wait you seriously knocked him out already?" Gus asked, staring at the sleeping man on the floor.

"I'm really starting to wonder if the best of the best means something different to the emperor's coven." Emira said, "this is the fourth person I've gotten to run into a wall this week."

"Nevermind that, our job is to smash up stuff and spray paint hexed graffiti." Amity stated, as she smashed a picture frame containing a picture of one of Belo's court rules. "Luz, Ed, you guys have the spray paint?"

"Just a second~" Luz's voice sang.

Amity turned and watched as her crush and her brother rolled the sleeping man on his stomach and carefully pulled his wallet out of his pants.

"Receipts? Well this was a waste." Edric grumbled.

"Jesus, this guy eats a concerning amount of convenience store not dogs."

"Hey, I found a cookie in his pocket!" Edric smiled proudly, holding a half crumbled cookie with pocket lint on it.

"Don't...don't eat that." Amity sighed.

"First the bat, and now a cookie." Edric pouted.

"Ed, Luz, there's a snack machine down the hall next to a bunch of possible breakable plaques." Willow said in the same tone used to excite a small child or a dog.

Luz and Edric grinned and dashed down the hallway, Emira nipped at their heels, a baseball bat in each hand. Then came the distant sound of smashing glass and coins falling.

"Somehow I'm both not surprised and still disappointed that worked." Amity groaned, while Jerbo sighed deeply and Viney pinched the bridge of her nose.

"Ruff" Barcus huffed, a can of spray paint floated by him.

Amity, Viney and Jerbo turned a bright scarlet behind their masks, while Willow, and Gus snickered. They also pulled out spray paint and began to work.

Luz, Edric and Emira laughed as they filled their bag full of treats and money from the now mangled snack machines.

The three continued their warpath through the offices, making sure to raid the mini fridges as they went. They however stopped dead in their tracks at a giant wall safe.

Luz pressed a figure against her earpiece. "Guess what we found!"

"What? Where are you three?" Amity asked.

"Second floor. We found a safe!" Luz cheered.

"Do not."

"Mittens why???" Edric whined.

"That thing is literally the only thing in this place that would set an alarm off." Amity stated, irritation clear in her voice.

A bark came from the intercom.

"Good idea Barcus, Willow, go babysit the dynamic dumbasses." Amity grumbled.

"Fine." Willow sighed, Barcus and Gus laughed beside her. "Why do I always have to watch those three?!"

"Because you're the strongest and the only one who can overpower that much chaotic dumbass." Gus smiled, however panic set in as a loud alarm screamed through the building.

"FOR TITAN'S SAKE!" Willow yelled, as the three of them made their way towards the idiot brigade. As they made their way down to the second floor, they coughed behind their masks, as a strong putrid odor took over their senses. Barcus whined and the other two groaned. They made their way through the destroyed office, before Luz and the twins ran past them, bags stuffed with cash and food.

"SAFE WAS GUARDED SAFE WAS GUARDED." Luz yelled as a giant horrid smelling slug demon appeared.

The six teens darted down the stairs, as they heard the demon smashing its way through the door above them. They dashed into the lobby.

"This way!" Amity called out to them, and the nine met up, and threw their smoke bombs.

The emperor's coven stormed into the foggy room, and found nothing but a trashed building, an angry stink slug and Tom asleep on the floor.
----------------------------------

"THAT WAS INCREDIBLY RECKLESS! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW BADLY THAT COULD HAVE GONE?!" Lilith growled at the three accomplices. Luz glanced a hopeful gaze at Eda, who only shook her head, her arms crossed over her chest. The human shrunk into herself, while the twin's ears dropped down. They bent their heads down, avoiding the grey and teal gaze. Lilith calmed slightly, "I'm sorry I yelled. This is just dangerous work and any unnecessary risks, even if it is in support of our own cause, could get you captured, hurt or Titan forbid...killed."

"She's right kiddos, I know it's easy to get caught up in the excitement but there's still a lot of risk involved. At the end of the day, what's most important to us is making sure you're all safe." Eda smiled, she ruffled Luz's hair affectionately, then reached to do the same to Emira. She blinked as the young witch jumped back, hiding into her brother's side. The Clawthrone sisters exchanged a worried glance, the descriptions of Odalia yanking on her children's hair and ears flashed before their eyes.

Lilith leaned down, "Hey, it's okay." She slowly reached out a hand towards them. A soft growl rumbled in Edric's chest. Lilith continued to reach forward, placing a soft hand on the boy's cheek. "You're allowed to make mistakes here."

Luz watched as the twins melted, burying their heads in Lilith's arms. She watched their claws retract. She often forgot how cat-like the witches of the boiling isles were, with their wiggly expressive ears, fangs, claws and growl. They generally were stronger and more agile than most humans and their hearing was sharper. Their night vision is where it stopped, as where cats had an incredible talent for navigating the dark. Witches were really only slightly better than humans in eyesight in general. The biggest question in Luz's mind was if witches purred. The answer to which, Eda and Lilith seemed to avoid like the plague, much to the young human's frustration.

Eda gently prodded Luz as a silent way to tell her to give the trio some space, She opened the door and chuckled slightly at the sight of Amity looking up at her, looking like a deer in the headlights. The older witch just moved to the side, and nodded her head over towards Lilith and the twins. Amity glanced up before darting over to them and getting wrapped in the hug.

Luz smiled as Eda began what King had dubbed, the brood checks, much to the chagrin of the Clawthrone sisters. Thus usually involved one of the sister's carefully looking over the teens to make sure none of them were hurt or putting on a brave face for pain. It always took place over two phases as the sisters were always very keen to double check the other's evaluations. Eda's checks usually involved her gently checking any visible injuries, gently prodding and hard eye contact. Flinches, unless confirmed otherwise, were considered automatic signs of injury. Lilith's checks usually were much more verbal with her going over a series of questions. Snarkiness and eye rolls were considered a good sign while pauses and glances away were usually her sign that someone was hiding something. Together they were surprisingly thorough.

Luz met her mentor's gaze with her normal bright smile, and was given a head pat for her efforts. She flopped on the couch next to Willow and Gus, and watched as Eda paced by the door.

"And here we have the owl lady, watch as she waits patiently to check the last of her brood." King said in a mock British voice.

"I will turn you into a pair of slippers." Eda hissed.

"Please, you've been threatening me with that for years." He laughed.

"And one of these years I'm going to do it." She grumbled, then turned as the door opened. She met the gaze of the last three teens and they all gave soft smiles. Satisfied her job was done she went to the kitchen for snacks and to count how much money they stole. She grinned as she heard the mild complaints as Lilith fussed over the teens.
--------------------------

Lilith yawned, switching the crystal ball off the news, they were still talking about their attack on one of the courthouses even after a week. She stretched, walking into the living to see Emira asleep on the sofa. She grabbed a blanket off her bed and carefully laid it on the sleeping girl. She felt worry simmer in the back of her brain as she made it to the kitchen and Edric and Amity weren't there. She knew if one of them was there then the one on the sofa was probably the one who was the target of their parents' wrath. She knew that they were probably covering for Emira but she hated the idea of them being there. She growled as she made her tea, thinking about their parents.

"Yeah, Lilith, you tell that plant what for" King chuckled, as he climbed into his high chair.

The oldest Clawthrone sister blinked realizing she had been staring blankly at a tiny cactus sitting on the window sill. Her ears flattened as she yawned. "Titan, I hate those bastards."

King looked surprisingly somber, "yeah, they don't deserve it. They're good kids."

"I wish I could take them now, and just keep them away but the emperor's coven would burn down the island looking for them."

"Too bad we don't have a portal to the human realm anymore. Otherwise we could hide them there." King chuckled, trying to lighten the sullen mood.

Lilith laughed bitterly, "I can't even get Luz there. Let alone anyone else. I've been studying these books for weeks. No enchantment seems to match the description."

"Well maybe it's layered. Luz figured out how to make a glowing ice glyph by combining it with the light spell. Maybe it's a combination spell enchantment. Someone who made a portal between realms had to have been well studied and versed in magic. So maybe that's because it's a unique creation on its own."

"If it's a unique spell then theoretically I could examine its current abilities and break those down in separate parts....King you're a genius!" Lilith grinned picking up the tiny demon and giving him a kiss on the head.

"I know." He smirked proudly.
---------------------

Eda grinned as the teens arrived for after school combat training, "Alrighty, since Lilith is busy being a nerd. We're going to be doing things my way today."

A wave of panic was sent through the group as Eda's lessons ranged greatly in quality, from finding extremely specific clovers for hours to finding a way to avoid flesh fairies. They all found themselves slightly worried, except for Luz, who was completely adapted to her mentor's crazy. The human trusted her teacher and respected her and somehow she always found the lesson, even if the lesson is fly swatters and running. The rest of the group sighed as they awaited whatever Eda had planned for them. Well most of them. Luz and Amity were snickering, each having a bit of a blush.

"Aww, the love birds are at it again." Viney snickered quietly to the others around her.

"I still can't believe either haven't figured it out yet. How dense do you have to be to miss someone having a crush on you." Jerbo laughed.

"I know right? Who is that dumb?"

The twins silently screamed in the back, realizing they were also attracted to idiots. They however missed the wink that Jerbo and Viney shared and both twins nearly jumped into a tree when their crush approached them.

Willow, Gus, Barcus, Eda and King exchanged a piece of paper with a betting list on each of the three pairs. Eda carefully placed the list in her hair and blew her whistle getting everyone's attention.

"Alrighty, today you will be fighting Hooty." Eda grinned madly.

"I don't know how I feel about fighting children." The house demon said, looking uncomfortable.

"I will get you a bad girl coven hat when I put in the t-shirt order." Eda smirked.

"PREPARE FOR WAR HOOT HOOT" He yelled.

"Hey, no possession and no killing." Eda called as she set up her lounge chair

"Was that to hooty or us?" Luz asked, her mentor just cackled as she poured herself a glass of wine.
--------------------

Lilith walked upstairs to find all nine teens worn out, covered in sweat and holding ice packs. She turned to see her sister opening a new bottle of wine. "How long did they last?"

"An hour, they did really well actually."

"I can't wait til our next match. I won't have to hold back as much next time. Hoot hoot." The house demon smiled.

"That was holding back?!" Jerbo yelped, icing his bruised leg.

"Trust me....I've seen him when he isn't holding back. It's not pretty." Luz groaned.

"Great. More bird tube." Amity mumbled into the floor.

"You will survive." Lilith smiled, patting her on the head, she straighten back up eyeing over the brood, "You've done well today and I'm proud of all you."

"Yeah, you're really starting to work as a team. Now go get changed. 5 minute showers for each of you. Amity. Gus. Don't use all the hot water. Now scram, you're sticking up the living room." Eda smirked, as the teens rolled their eyes and gathered their stuff. They grumbled, and Eda felt her smirk turn slightly devilish, "and no funny business, I'm too young and beautiful to be a grandma." She cackled at the shrieks and groans. "Titan, they are fun to mess with."

Lilith just shook her head although the crinkles by her eyes gave away she was trying not to smile, "what movie do you wanna put on since it's our turn to choose."

"I have no idea, let's see what's on the ball." Eda smiled, grabbing the remote.

"Reports are coming of a anticoven protest outside of Phalanx consisting of a small ban of students from Knuckle High. This isn't the first case, as small protests and property attacks have been growing since the Nighthawks recent attack and robbery of a second courthouse this week. Citizens grow worried as this terrorist group is growing in numbers and seems especially popular among the youth. Curfew Ordinances are being laid out across the island. Many wonder if Bonesborough is next. This has been Perry Porter, Reporting." The orb crackled.

A display of emotions ran across the sisters features, pride, fear, hope, guilt. The one that weighed the heaviest was responsibility. They knew that these people were going to be the future of the island, that they were sowing the seeds of change and could do things beyond what even their group of teens could do. They were proud of them all for standing for their beliefs but fear twisted in their gut. There was sacrifice that came with this, a metaphorical bomb that the sisters pretended they couldn't hear. The bomb that would destroy the excitement and fun. The breaking point.They before held it in their hands, making sure to choose locations that wouldn't be heavily guarded or dangerous. But as their movement grew, they knew what control they had was slipping. The teens were rebels in their hearts and the witches knew they didn't always listen. Especially when they wanted to protect someone else. They were good people. Lilith and Eda both knew well about what the saying was about what befalls the good.

"You guys okay?" Luz asked, looking confused at the two sisters and then at the deodorant commercial playing on the orb, "hey we don't smell that bad!" Lilith and Eda snapped out of their thoughts and turned off the orb.

Eda swallowed back her emotions, "Luz, we couldn't think of a movie, we're going to skip our turn. Why don't you let Gus know that it's his turn to choose."

"Okay...if you two need to talk or anything...we're here for you too." Luz offered, concern clear on her face.

"We're fine Luz" Lilith reassured with a plastered on smile.

Luz seemed skeptical of the pair but made her way back up the stairs.

Chapter Text

Luz rolled over on her bed, she groaned as she forced herself up. The weight of today's date twisted in her gut. She punched her pillow, 'I was doing better dammit' She let out a deep breath. 'It's just a day, all you have to do is survive it.' She thought and prepared for the morning.

She had loved her birthday when she was a kid, although she was always slightly irritated that her actual due date was on Halloween and she was born just two days prior. However, her mom always made the day special for her. They usually involved spending the day together and going to all their favorite spots. Usually ending at the old arcade for Laser tag. To other people it might not seem like a lot, but to Luz it was always perfect. Today wasn't going to be like that, even if she had been in the human realm. It was her 15th birthday, her quinceañera. She remembered how excited her mom was and all the plans of inviting relatives over all the way from the domincan Republic. This would've been the day she met relatives she had only heard about. It was a day where she was supposed to feel like a princess, like someone who was becoming an adult. She looked out the window at the magical world around her, this world she loved, that also served as her cage. That prevented her from being with the only person worth going back to that world for. She felt tears burning the back of her eyes and did her best to bury them. Despite everything, she never felt more like a scared kid.

----------------------------------

Eda and King sat pensively, their eyes glued to the door, waiting to see how their Luz was going to be feeling. She had been doing surprisingly well at school, and both theorized that the desire to go home fueled her drive even more to become a witch. Her grades didn't slip, but she did have her bad days. Usually those were spent snuggled up on the sofa with them watching some movie together. It was their routine for when Luz didn't want to get out of bed. They knew what today was and they knew what it meant to her.

Lilith, who was in her normal state of morning disaster, set down her tea. "Alright, what's wron-"

"Good morning everyone." Luz smiled.

Eda and King immediately snapped their attention to her.

"Hey kid, you wanna skip today? I found some more movies in one of my trash piles." Eda said gently, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"I can get my army to watch with us" King offered, hugging her leg.

Luz scooped him up and kissed his head, "I'm fine, thanks though. See you after school."

The duo watched as Luz walked out, her lunch in one hand and her breakfast in the other like it was just another day. While Lilith stared at them blankly.

"Now will you tell me what's going on?"
------------------------

Luz half listened, her eyes set forward to the board but her mind was anywhere else. Today she'd be spending more time in the oracle, potion and bard track. She only had one friend in two of the tracks and thankfully he didn't know what today was. However she felt Barcus' gaze on her. The problem with dog demons is much like normal dogs, they're very good at knowing when people they care about are upset. She turned her head down to her paper, as she wrote down vague words she heard the professor say. She bit her lip knowing that she wouldn't be able to escape from his worry until after lunch. She finally returned his gaze, offering a cheery smile. She watched him turn away and felt tension leave her shoulders.

"Alright class, one of the many skills to telling the future is to be able to connect to the present. The makings of a good oracle is to be able to see what problems they're trying to solve and see the branching paths forward to help them. However it takes years to be able to make that connection right away. So for today, we're going to be using someone you already know. A family member, a close friend, someone who you have a connection with and we are going to see if we can catch a glimpse of them in our crystal balls. Now please pick someone who is at work or a classmate, and avoid anyone in their 20s or has a habit of skipping school. Also no Exs. You will get into pairs and each will choose one person. I will come around and evaluate your choices to make sure the person isn't liking to be doing something....private."

Luz felt her heart sink to the bottom of her stomach, she turned to see Barcus already in the seat next to her. She shrunk under his gaze. He placed a paw on her hand, reassuringly. "Thanks Barcus."

She felt her nerves spike as the professor came closer and closer to their table. 'Just say Eda or King. Just say Eda or King.' She repeated in her head.

"And who are you going to be watching miss human." The professor asked.

"King." Luz answered, immediately.

The professor paused, their piercing gaze looked almost through the human. "The oracle sphere works only through a clear mind. Are you sure he is the one you seek?"

"Umm, Eda?" Luz offered, not meeting the professor's eyes.

"Let's see you try." They said, skeptically.

Luz tried to clear her dry throat as she placed her hands on the ball, she closed her eyes and thought about Eda and the owl house. She heard a buzzing and opened her eyes. She smiled as the picture cleared and showed Eda reading a book on the sofa. King laying on her stomach. A wave of relief washed over her as she smiled at the sight. Eda sat up walking to the kitchen where she was making a cake. Birthday candles sat on the table. Luz winced closing her eyes, the orb crackled loudly drawing the attention of everyone in the room. Luz looked at the picture, it was fuzzy and it buzzed wildly like it was barely able to reach whatever it was finding, but it was obvious who it was. There was her mother sitting at their dining room table, the latest good witch azura placed next to a picture of Luz.

"Mami." Luz choked, "lo siento, perdóname."

Camila sobbed, and Luz poured her energy into the sphere, desperately trying to get her attention. She ignored the heat that started to form. The picture seemed to clear and she saw someone placing a hand on her mother's shoulder. She wanted to scream and yell to do anything to get their attention. Before she could she felt a weight knock her to the ground. She covered her face as she heard the explosion.
------------------------

"Sorry, Eda" Luz sighed as she and Eda walked out of the principals office.

"Please, the oracle track always has at least one explosion a semester. Bump and your professor said you weren't in trouble. "

Luz just slumped against Eda's side, "I know."

"Let's go home." Eda smiled wearily, ruffling her kid's hair, "it's gonna be okay." The girl buried her face in her mentor's side and felt the hot tears fall down like the boiling rain. Eda squeezed her, "my poor baby bird."
-----------------

Luz was curled up in Eda's nest, in a restless sleep, while King snuggled next to her.

Eda herself was downstairs, trying to figure out exactly what to do with the birthday cake that she made. "Fuck me, why did I think this was a good idea?"

"Eda, you made a cake. You didn't throw her a parade. You knew today would be hard for her and it was. But she's here, she managed to make a minor explosion in the class known the most for minor explosions. All and all, could have been a lot worse." Lilith reassured, patting her sister on the back.

"She saw her mom Lily." Eda said, the pain in her voice was as heavy as lead.

"She was able to see into the human realm?! On their cheap old oracle spheres? Titan, no wonder it exploded." Lilith sighed, "that probably took a lot of her energy, but those school spheres don't hold that much so she'll probably be fine. She's just going to be out-" A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts. Lilith opened the back door to see a heavily panting Amity standing outside.

"Barcus, said Luz, talked Bump, got pass." Amity wheezed.

"Did you run all the way here?!" Lilith asked, ushering the teen inside.

Eda poured the young witch a giant glass of water which she drank greedily. Her breathing started to even out a bit, "I ran into a swarm of flesh eater fairies on the way."

"I always forget they migrate this time of year." Eda yawned, before taking a sip out of her mug.

"Anyways, what did you say earlier?" Lilith asked, worrying slightly for her frazzled student.

"Barcus told me to come here as soon as I could because Luz wasn't doing well. I talked to Bump and he let me leave early to check on her. He isn't going to tell my parents and I got all my homework." Amity added, seeing a bit of fear on her mentor's face.

"Well Luz is upstairs in my room, last time I checked she was asleep but- and she's gone. Since when do crushes give you super speed." Eda chuckled.

"They don't, that's anxiety." Lilith shook her head, taking a sip of her tea.

"I thought her name was Amity."

"Shut up."

"Hah. No."
-------------------------

"Luz?" Amity called out as she entered the large room, her head turned when she saw movement from the giant nest.

"Oh cupcake murder. It's you." King grumbled, he stretched, "She's in here."

"Barcus told me what happened. Is she okay?"

"She's tired, today's just been rough." King gently patted the sleeping girl's hair, "you watch her for a bit. I'm going to talk to Eda."

Amity nodded, dropping her bag from her shoulders and climbed into the nest and sat down next to her, gently rubbing her back.

"Lo siento, perdóname." Luz mumbled in her sleep. She tossed and curled up on herself, "Mami, por favor perdóname. Lo siento. Lo siento." Tears leaked from her eyes.

Amity felt her heart breaking, and gently shook her friend. "Luz, Luz. Wake up. It's just a dream."

"Lo siento."

"Wake up."

Luz jolted up, her breathing heavy, eyes wide as she looked around, Amity grabbed her shoulders. "Amity? Wh-"

"Just breath, okay. Deep breath in. Deep breath out."

Luz did as she was told, feeling her heartbeat going back to normal. She relaxed, her brain finally seemed to snap back into place as she realized how close Amity was. The light from the stained glass cast a golden light over the witch. Her hands pressed into her shoulders, golden eyes gazing at her.

"Luz? You still with me?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah. Just tired." Luz smiled weakly, she blinked as Amity pulled her into a tight hug.

"You're a bad liar. What's wrong?"

"Today's my quinceañera. My fifteenth birthday. It's a big deal in my family's culture. It's like a giant party where all of your family comes and it celebrates you becoming an adult. My mom had talked so much about how she wanted me to have this big party and invite all my family members to come. And now I'm here and have been missing for months now in the human realm. And then in class today when I saw her sitting there staring at my photo, crying. I just....I wanted to talk to her. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs that she would hear me and know I was okay. That I'm trying to get back and I couldn't. I felt so close. I fucking hate it."

Amity was a bit taken aback, Luz had never been one to curse or at least if she did, it was in a language no one understood. "Yeah, I get that. It's hard being stuck and feeling like you can't do anything about it. We'll get you home. I know it. You have some of the best people on the boiling isles pouring their heart and soul into figuring out how to get you back."

"I know and I'm so grateful for them and you. I just hate not knowing when. The longer it takes, the harder it will be on my mom. I'm sure any search parties have been called off by now. I'm worried she's going to get to a point where she thinks I'm dead and is just waiting to find out how."

"Honestly if your stupidity hasn't killed you this far, I don't see what she has to worry about." Amity laughed.

"Hey, you've gotten into quite a bit of trouble yourself." Luz huffed, but a smile started on her face.

"All the trouble I've gotten into is because of you!"

"Yeah you keep coming back for more." Luz smirked, and watched as the blush covered Amity's face, 'wait, when did she start doing that' She thought, suddenly feeling her palms start to sweat.

"I...I....I like....trouble." Amity stuttered, eyes glued to the ground.

Luz felt her heart beating faster, her mind fought with what to do, her face was bright red. She bawled her hands into fists. 'Just do it.' She leaned forward and kissed her.

Amity blinked before melting into her touch, her hands buried into her dark hair.

Luz pulled away, blush covered her face as she gently rubbed her neck, "trouble likes you too."

Amity snorted, pulling Luz into her arms, "You're an idiot."

"But I'm your idiot."
---------------------

"Hey, isn't it weird that the others didn't show up." Lilith asked, as she cut vegetables for dinner.

"Meh, Barcus probably told them it was canceled."

"Last time we said something was canceled they all showed up anyways and we had a giant impromptu sleepover."

"Yeah but that was also Luz, she's always one to try and help other people. Besides she had just found out that her friends come from an abusive household. Of course she's going to have everyone show up and be there to support them." Eda sighed, scanning through one of the books from the library.

"But wouldn't they do the same in return?" Lilith asked.

Eda blinked, "King, do you remember what tracks Barcus said he was in."

"Potions and Oracle."

The sisters shared a glance before both immediately ran upstairs.
----------------

Luz and Amity jumped apart as the door swung open. They immediately sat innocently away from each other like they hadn't been making out.

Eda and Lilith walked in, and looked down at the pair. The lights came on and while Lilith still had a sharp glare, Eda seemed to relax.

"Oh thank Titan the clothes stayed on." The younger Clawthrone sighed before returning to a more stern look, "Alright you two, no making out in my nest. Go do that in Luz's room."

"What- we weren't making out." Luz laughed, awkwardly while Amity just looked like she was about to have a stroke.

"Edalyn. Seriously?" Lilith looked exasperated.

"What, excuse me if my biggest concern was finding them fucking in MY nest. I sleep there. How would you feel if they were in your bed?!"

Luz felt the blood rushing to her head as she processed what her mentor had said, while Amity looked like she was going to spontaneously combust.

Lilith sighed pinching the bridge of her nose, "kids, out of the room." The teens just nodded, getting up awkwardly and walking out. "Guess it's time for the talk."

"Nooooo, I don't want to."

"Well, too bad. You said you were her mom. That's what mom's do. Now good luck."

"Wait, why am I doing this alone?! Your kid is in there too."

"Luz isn't my-"

"Dumbass. I meant Amity."

"What-"

"Mother fucker, have you not realized the baby blights follow you around like a mother goose. For fuck sake Amity even called you mom during training a few times. They don't call their own mother that."

Lilith felt blood rushing into her face, "I, umm, ah....huh....fuck I have three kids."

"Cool, now that that revelation is over. Let's go give them....the talk."

"Do we have to...."

"Do you know enough about humans to know we don't have to worry about pregnancy?"

"We are giving them the talk." Lilith marched ahead, "mom is one thing, I am way too young to be a grandma."

"Same sister."

----------------------------

King laughed harder than he had in his entire life when he saw the four women each with their own unique brand of horror on their faces. He rolled over, falling off the sofa with a thud.

"Shut it King" Eda grumbled, poking the little demon with her foot.

"But you should have seen your faces!" He wheezed, "oh my sides hurt."

"Good." Eda huffed.

King finally seemed to catch his breath, "so how was your conversation?" The smirk was clear in his voice as well as the giggles he was suppressing.

"It was very informative. Cisgender humans and cisgender witches are not that different. So we don't have to worry about any surprises." Lilith said, letting out a giant sigh.

Amity, at the word surprises, looked a bit like she was about to faint. While Luz coughed loudly.

"Well I guess you two will just have to settle for looking like grandmas." King snickered before immediately almost getting hit with a staff. He squeaked as the two older witches chased him.

Luz turned to her girlfriend's bright red face and laughed before giving her a soft kiss. "You're cute when you blush."

Amity just blushed harder, "I must be adorable."

"Awww young love!" The house demon smiled.

"Et tu Hooty?" Luz buried her face in her hands.
------------------

Amity sighed as she leaned against Luz as they walked. She knew they were going to have to move away from each other when they got closer to the manor. But for now the two girls just enjoyed each other's company.

"Thanks." Luz smiled softly, wrapping her arm around her.

"For?"

"Making today actually special."

Amity leaned up and kissed her, "Happy Birthday Luz."
----------------------

Edric and Emira greeted their sister as she opened the door. The twins exchanged a devilish smirk.

"Sooo what were you doing all afternoon." Emira purred.

"Or should we say who?" Edric grinned.

"We just got together. No."

"Well you definitely made out" Emira laughed, "unless you suddenly developed a very hickey like birthmark."

Amity blushed, "Dammit." She immediately put a hand on her neck.

"Oh relax, the wardens aren't home. You can borrow some of our concealer." Edric chuckled, ruffling his little sister's hair. Amity just hugged them, they smiled returning it. "Our little mittens is growing up" Edric fake sobbed.

"Soon she'll be getting married!" Emira laughed, while pretending to faint.

"And this is why you two are single." Amity sighed as she headed to her room.

"Mean!" The twins yelled.

Chapter Text

Luz and Amity were snuggled together in Amity's secret hideout, a book lay forgotten between them. Today was a rest day from training. Given Amity was close to falling asleep, it was definitely put to good use.

Luz smiled as she watched her girlfriend's ears twitching her sleep. A thought popped into her head, she gently placed a hand on Amity's cheek. The sleeping girl snuggled into the contact, and a soft rumble could be heard. Luz grinned wildly, trying for the life of her not to squee. 'I knew they could purr!' She decided she couldn't help herself and gave the purring witch a soft kiss.

Amity's golden eyes blinked open, her ears twitched slightly. She gave Luz a sleepy smile, "what's got you all silly?"

"Your purr is so cute!" Luz squeed.

Amity's eyes widened, a deep scarlet covered her face, the soft rumble ceased and she looked a bit distressed, "I didn't know I was doing that..."

"It's okay, It's cute. Besides I have definitely heard Eda purring around me but she denies it." Luz's head turned as she noticed Amity's color didn't seem to change, "Am I missing something here?"

"Do humans not purr?" Amity blinked, suddenly being hit with the fact her girlfriend wasn't just a different species but from a different realm.

"Nope, be super cute if we did though."

"Well, purring is generally something done with people you trust or care about a lot. Usually family members." Amity explained trying to avoid Luz's curious gaze, "it's fairly common for children to purr every time they're happy or feeling distressed. However past a certain age, purring around people that aren't relatives is seen as childish."

"Well, I think it's adorable." Luz reassured, watching as Amity's features relaxed. They held hands, although Luz's fingers eventually gave gentle squeezes to Amity's nails, retracting them to their full claw.

Amity snickered, "you having fun there?"

"They're so neat!" Luz brightened before looking a little self conscious, "I'm not bothering you am I?"

"No, it's just funny how something so normal makes you so happy."

"Humans don't have claws, and Eda always gets annoyed when I mess with her claws cause I kept messing up her nail polish."

Amity raised her hand already seeing a chip in her polish and laughed, "Titan you're an idiot."

"Your idiot!" Luz kissed near her girlfriend's ear. The purrs started anew as they cuddled close.
--------------------

"WITCHES DO PURR!" Luz yelled, grinning her face off as she pointed accusingly at the two sisters on the couch.

"Amity told you?" Eda groaned but a smirk formed on her face.

"Better, she purred for me." Luz bragged, her arms crossed, with a dopey grin on her face. The Clawthrone sisters exchanged a glance, their eyes widened.

"Didn't you start dating two months ago?" Lilith asked, a bit surprised.

"Yeah? Look I know it's something you really only do around family. But I think it's cute." Luz defended, a blush on her face.

"You have no idea what purring means do you." Eda chuckled.

"It has a meaning? I thought it was something ya know, you just did....when you were happy?"

"In children yes, but as you get older purring tends to be something you do when you're comfortable around someone although it can also be a self comfort tool." Lilith explained, while Eda continued to laugh.

"It's an I love you without words kid." Eda smirked, as she watched Luz's face turn a bright scarlet. She flopped down on the sofa between the two witches.

"S-she...loves me" Luz stuttered, her stomach felt in knots as she tried to understand how someone as wonderful as Amity could love some boring human.

Eda sighed, sensing her kid's existential crisis, pulled her in for a hug, a deep rumbly purr that sounded like a lawn mower came from the owl lady. She had purred in front of Luz before, mostly when she was trying to sooth her from a nightmare. Open affection wasn't something Eda was good at, but this kid was more than worth the ribbing she would get from Lilith. What she didn't expect was her normally reserved older sister joining their hug, and letting out her own loud purr.

Luz laughed, "I love you guys too."
----------------------------

Amity was laying flat on her bed, as the memory of purring in front of Luz played on loop. She buried her face in her pillow.

"Mittens!" Emira grinned from the door, flicking the lights on, "spill, we're having our gossip session."

"Yeah, we wanna know how your alone time with your girlfriend went." Edric smirked, poking the lump on the bed that was his little sister.

"Go away"

"Nope, something happened. You've kissed, now tell!' Emira smirked, squishing her sister.

"Nooo.....it's embarrassing."

"Aww come on Mittens, we won't tease you too badly." Edric chuckled.

Amity shoved Emira off her, and sat up, "equal exchange. How did asking out your crushes go?"

Edric turned a bright scarlet while Emira patted his back, "He chickened out. Ended up almost getting eaten by one of the carnivorous plants. Jerbo had to rescue him."

Amity snickered, "and I thought grom was bad."

Edric shot a glare at his twin, "bold words for someone who ended throwing her note in the gryphon pin and almost fell in shit."

Amity wheezed with laughter while the twins shot daggers at her, "Alright, Alright....I'll tell you what happened."

"Go on~" the twins sang, forgetting their bickering.

"I....I purred in front of Luz while we were cuddling."

"Oh my fucking Titan! You did?! How did she react?! I mean you haven't been dating for that long." Emira asked, a bit of worry in her voice.

"She doesn't purr Em."

"Plenty of demons don't purr." Edric added, looking a bit lost.

"She's not a demon Ed, she isn't from this realm....."

"Yeah....and?" They said, blinking.

"SHE HAS NO IDEA WHAT IT MEANT!" Amity yelled flopping face down on the bed.

"Wait you didn't tell her!?!" Emira said, shocked.

"I just said I loved her nonverbally and you wanted me to verbalize it right after?! I nearly died when I realized she heard me in the first place. I didn't even do it intentionally. I was half asleep."

"You confessed your love half asleep in a way that literally everyone but your girlfriend would understand. That is annoyingly on brand for us." Edric sighed, "Titan we're bad at this."

"Yep" his sisters agreed.
------------------------------

Amity sighed as she made her way to lunch, she didn't have any classes with Luz, and even if she did want to talk about it. Their relationship wasn't something they could display in public, as Odalia Blight had eyes and ears everywhere. Which is why Amity jumped when she felt someone poke her side. She turned so see Luz holding open a door that went through the lockers. Amity followed lunch in hand and felt relief when the door closed behind them.

"Luz, I wanted to talk to you about yesterday...I-" Amity was cut off by a kiss, a blush covered her face as she stared at her smiling girlfriend.

"I love you too." She said, as it was as easy as breathing.

Amity felt happy tears prick her eyes and she pounced her, knocking them both to the floor in a fit of giggles. The purrs began immediately as they snuggled, sharing their lunches with each other. It wasn't anything fancy or special but it didn't need to be. All they needed was each other.

Lunch neared its end and they slipped back into the crowd, and aside from Luz who was sporting some fairly obvious hickies, everything was back to normal.
--------------------------------

Emira groaned, today had been shit. She and her siblings had been late to school because she had overslept, her mother had given her a bruised shoulder for that, she had forgotten about a quiz she had in one of her classes and she had once again managed to embarrass herself in front of Viney. Her crush had waved to her in the halls and Emira had been so distracted she fell down the stairs. Thankfully it was only four steps, however when your shoulder is already hurt, anything else is just salt on the wound. Today had been shit, and all she wanted to do was go to the owl house with her siblings and spend time with her m- Lilith. With Lilith, Luz, Eda and King. She corrected, living with her parents had taught her good things didn't last. Everything had a price or could be taken away.

"Hey, you okay?" A soft voice asked.

Emira grumbled about to tell the offender to piss off, when she turned and saw Viney smiled at her. A blush covered her face and she stuttered from her thoughts, "Pfft yeah I'm fine."

"So it didn't hurt when you fell?" Viney said gently, worry on her face.

Emira felt her entire body freeze as the other girl stepped closer to her, she watched her eyes scanning her over, "when I fell...for you?" She mumbled barely above a whisper.

"I ask cause I noticed you've had your bag on the other shoulder all day." Viney smiled, "come on I'll take you to the healing track homeroom to get it checked out."

Emira was about to protest but when the other girl grabbed her hand and started to lead her down the hall, all complaints died in her throat.

The walk itself wasn't terribly long, but Emira could hear her heart beat in her ears like it was going to jump out at her. They entered the now empty homeroom, the medicinal smell filled her nose.

"Alrighty, mine taking off your shirt for me?" Viney smiled casually while digging through the cabinets for medical supplies.

"WHat" Emira yelped, her head finally catching up with the present.

"Well how else am I going to look at your shoulder? I can give you a medical gown if you'd be more comfortable."

"Oh, um no it's fine." Emira laughed nervously as she began to pull off her top, her shoulder protested greatly and she couldn't help but wince. She hadn't had time to see how badly her mother had been to her shoulder, she just knew she wasn't going to be able to have her satchel on it for a while.

Viney sucked in a breath from behind Emira, walking up with a first aid kit and some potions. "That's definitely worse than I expected."

Emira's ears flicked back and suddenly found it very hard to stare into the other girl's emerald eyes. She saw her lift the mirror and her eyes focused on the large purple bruise. "Those....darn stairs." She laughed weakly.

"Em, you fell down four small stairs. People fall down them all the time, I have treated some mild bruises and on rare occasions a twisted ankle. We both know where that came from." Viney said, her tone surprisingly stern for someone normally so chipper.

"It's fine, It will heal." She smiled wearily, "all the others did-"

"This isn't just something you can fucking brush off." Viney growled, but ceased when she saw the other girl start to curl up. "Em, it's okay. I'm not mad at you. I'm mad at your parents for hurting you."

"I've made it this fair, it's not so bad....sometimes my dad is nice..." She mumbled, in a tone even she didn't believe.

Viney handed her shirt back to her, "Come on, put that back on. I don't think I have the right stuff to treat a bruise that bad. We're going to the owl house."

Emira jumped back, ears pinned to her head, "we don't need to worry them more. It's just a little bruise."

"Emira." Viney paused, then turned back to face the other girl. Tears ran down her eyes, "I care about you. And I don't like seeing you hurt. I know there isn't much we can do. But I'm not letting you go untreated."

She sighed, carefully doing her best to get her shirt back on, despite the pain. Her ears were still stuck in a submissive droop, and followed the other girl's lead once more.

The walk was longer and the cold winter air stung their faces and bit at their coats. Viney let go of Emira's wrist to intertwine their fingers. Both were hit with a blush.

"I...umm found your note when I was cleaning out the gryphon pens...."

Emira felt her face turn a deep red, and her heart raced as she hesitantly met her gaze, only for a soft kiss to be placed on her cheek.

"I like you too. I have for a while actually....I should have said something earlier but I wasn't quite sure what to say....well that and you're pretty cute when you're flustered."

"I.....really?" She asked, one ear slightly raised as if she had misunderstood what was said.

Viney just let go of her hand, before cupping her cheeks and kissing her gently. Emira kissed back, closing her eyes only for it to end far sooner than she wanted.

"You want more, you have to let Lilith look at your shoulder." Viney grinned, booping her nose.

"Bribing me with kisses? How dare you do something that will one hundred percent work on me." Emira laughed, before interviewing their fingers again and leaning into the other girl's shoulder.

-----------------------

Lilith was nervous, pacing a little bit in the living room.

"And here we have the raven lady as she frantically waits for the return of one of her chicks." Luz smirked in a mock British accent.

"She's hurt!" Lilith defended, as she continued to pace a line in the floor.

"She's with Viney, Lily. That's literally the best person aside from us to be hurt around." Eda reassured from her spot on the couch.

"Guess who's her- OW HOOT" Hooty yelped as Lilith threw him open and immediately looked over Emira.

"It's her shoulder." Viney said, before moving out of the older witch's way.

Lilith placed a gentle hand over the injured shoulder and could feel the swollen bruise through her shirt sleeve. "Emira, honey, go upstairs and wait in the bathroom. I'll be up with the potions and some ice in a second. Okay?"

Emira nodded and carefully slunk upstairs, uncomfortable with the amount of eyes on her.

Lilith tilted her ear and waited til she heard a door close before turning to Edric and Amity who were sitting next to Eda and Luz on the couch. "What happened?"

"Emira woke up late...mother was mad." Amity said, not looking up at the older witch.

Lilith turned to Viney who looked like she was about to commit murder, "how bad-"

"Bad. She's lucky nothing is broken. If I had to guess, probably an abomination attack."

Lilith cast her eyes back at the other two Blights and saw them nod slightly. She felt her heart break. She went in the kitchen and grabbed an ice pack and went upstairs.

"I'm sorry....I didn't want to bug you with all this." Emira said, her ears drooping down.

Lilith gently placed a hand on the girl's cheek, "you and your siblings are never a bother." She watched as the teen looked up hesitantly, as if unsure how to process her words. Lilith grabbed a cream and bit back a growl as she saw the nasty purple bruise. She let out a deep breath and gently rubbed the cream on the injury. She watched the girl's ears, which easily gave away that she was still stressed. The older witch carefully bandaged the shoulder in a light compression and handed her a healing potion. Lilith snorted as she watched the teen's face scrunch as she drank the effective but gross tasting medicine. She helped the girl back into her shirt and they headed back downstairs.
------------------------

Amity and Edric sat on the sofa waiting pensively for their sister to come back down. They both felt slightly guilty as they watched the others training outside but Eda insisted they could take training off today. They both perked up immediately when they saw their sister walking down the stairs and Lilith not far behind. The siblings hugged and headed towards the door to train.

"Nope, you're not allowed. Especially Emira. You three are coming with me today." Lilith smiled softly.

They all looked confused but followed her to what was once the study but now served as Lilith's bedroom. The witch, while not having the curse as long as her sister, had already started her own nest. Although hers was made of blankets and pillows. They were about to ask what they were doing when Lilith pulled them into a hug and purred softly. The three blinked, and looked at her with hope and with fear.

"You three have become very important in my life, and although there isn't much I can do to keep you away from those two. And I know I have told you before that you are welcome here whenever you feel unsafe at home or need to get away. But I'm saying it again because I love you three as if you were my own. You're bright, kind and full of trouble and one of the best things in my life."

The three just hugged her and purred, and Lilith purred back. They spent their time snuggled together watching some old movie. The teens weren't paying much attention though, they just purred enjoying the feeling of finally having a mom.

Chapter Text

Edric snickered from behind his mask as shook the can of spray paint. He had become an excellent tagger after months of their rebellion, decided to take a bit more liberties defacing public property. The Golden emblem of the emperor's coven that towered over the 4th court house like a glaring eagle over a field of mice was now mangled and tagged. A very large penis was spray painted on the remains, with enough detail that it was guaranteed to be censored when the media covered this assault. Well it would be if Edric didn't immediately cast a spell Eda had taught him that bypassed the censors. The teen stood back and grinned with pride at his work.

Emira and Luz who had also done a fair share of more graphic and lewd tags walked over, the latter of which let out a whistle.

"That is truly a masterpiece." Luz grinned, pretending to wipe a tear from her eye behind the mask.

"That is a truly glorious cock." Emira laughed, placing an arm around her twin.

"Ooo, high praise from a lesbian." Edric smirked, which caused his two companions to wheeze with laughter.

Their mirth was short lived as an alarm filled the air. Panic raced through them as they hit their intercoms.

"What happened?!" Luz yelled into the mic.

"There was a hidden trigger in something we smashed. We need to hurry up and get the hell out of here before-" Amity was cut off as the coven guards poured in.

Edric and Emira immediately drew a circle and then jumped when the guards started throwing fireballs at them. They watched in horror as one hit the bag with the spray paint. They ran as they heard it explode behind them.

"Where is everyone?! They're setting the building on fire. We need to leave." Emira screamed into the intercom.

"We're on the fourth floor. We're coming down now." Jerbo called, as he, Viney and Barcus ran towards the stairs.

"We're down on the first floor. Willow and I will make an exit. Gus. Distract them." Amity ordered.

Willow grabbed a seed in her pocket and vines erupted from it, smashing the guards through the doors. The guards still standing continued their assault, now with abominations. Amity matched some with her own, and grinned when suddenly a giant ice column appeared in the increasingly smoke filled room.

Luz jumped down from it, the twins followed. Each throwing their own attacks.

"Viney, Jerbo, Barcus, where are you?!" Amity yelled into the intercom, as the coven guards grew vines that cracked through the burning floors. Hot ash fell onto the teens, only barely defected by Gus and the twins.

 

"On our way, we have a bit of an iss-" Viney was caught off as they heard part of the ceiling collapse above them, instinct drove them forward as they reached the bottom of the stairs which were lit ablaze, the coven guards waiting outside the door. The three cast a shield spell and ran through the flames, ramming into the guards, who screamed as the fire on the teens spread to them. Jerbo summoned a plant abomination who smashed its way through the remaining guards. They ran faster as they heard another rumble, as more of the ceiling started to collapse. The plant abomination threw up its arms as a beam fell down on it. It struggled to hold its shape and the load as the teens ran past it. They made it to the lobby just as the ceiling collapsed behind them.

Eda and Lilith were throwing glyphs and blasting away the guards, finally making a hole big enough for the nine to escape.

"Hurry up, there's more guards coming!" Eda screamed into the intercom as the teens ran out of the burning building. Lilith quickly stuck a stolen power glyph on her and Eda's staff as they all climbed on. They flew quickly, as they watched the fully ablaze courthouse grow smaller in the distance. The only thing still visible was the smoke.
------------------------

Eda and Lilith still heard their hearts beating in their eyes as they treated the burns on their brood. They felt some relief that despite everything, no one was seriously injured. Although there were definitely some marks that would scar, none were life threatening. However the images of any of their kids, burning alive still flashed in the sisters' minds.

"Well, that could have gone better." Luz smiled weakly, as Eda rubbed burn cream on her arm.

"We're taking a break from our attacks." Eda said sternly as she looked down at the injured teens, "the emperor's coven have gotten better at security and less cautious with their attacks. Lilith and I will be coming with a new strategy while you heal up."

"We can also find out better ways to counter spell-"

"No." Eda snapped at her ward, then immediately felt regret, "you can research it if you want....just right now...rest. You could have gotten seriously hurt and I don't think any of us could live with ourselves if something happened to any of you."

The teens seemed to want to protest but a look on their mentors' faces silenced them. They changed out of their smoke scented clothes and went their separate ways. The smoke lingered in the air.
-----------------------------

Brian and Calum Park weren't stupid. They were aware one of her friends was the human ward of the owl lady, and although they were grateful that she had repaired her friendship with Amity. They were scared things were getting out of hand. They had pretended they didn't notice the door opening late at night, the decoys in the bed and the occasional spray paint on the girl's hands. Tonight was different. Tonight their only child came walking in with the smell of a fire on her skin. She walked more carefully up the stairs, as if something hurt and she was trying not to aggravate it. She jumped when they flipped the light switch.

"Dad, Papa.....I was...ummm-" Willow thought, desperately trying to think of anything to say that would make it look less like she was sneaking in.

"We know Willow." Brian said, his deep voice rumbled in his chest as he crossed his burly arms.

The fifteen year old gulped, "Know?"

"You're part of the Clawthrone sisters Rebellion." Calum frowned, as he leaned against his husband.

Willow deflated, "Yeah...I am."

"Willow, sweetheart, we love you but this is dangerous. You could get seriously hurt." Calum said, fear filled his voice as he placed his hand on his daughter's cheek.

"They tried to kill my friends. They hurt people everyday. Someone has to stand up for what is right. Isn't that what you always taught me? To stand up for myself and others." Willow shot back, leaning her weight against the wall to keep it off her burnt ankle.

"Yes, but not at the cost of your own safety. Please sweetie, think of us." Brian begged.

"Then who's? Whose safety is less important that it's okay for them to fight for what is right? Luz? Amity? Gus? Do their lives suddenly matter less? They have people who care about them too. What about when I have kids of my own? Is it okay for them to suffer from the same hands that I could have tried to defeat."

"Willow, you're fighting the Emperor. The leader of the boiling isles!" Calum cried.

"Yeah, cause he hurts people. And no one else is going to do anything about it. But my friends and I will."

Brian felt a mix of fear and pride as he saw the sharpness in his daughter's eyes. She had become so much more confident in herself in the almost year that past since she met the human. She was stronger than he had believed. Tears still ran down his face, "Willow.....darling. Your dad and I love you more than anything in the world. We couldn't bear to lose you."

"I know Papa, and I love you too. You guys are the best. And you taught me the importance of doing what's right. I can't sit by and watch people get hurt because they don't fit in. And I certainly can't watch my friends fight for their rights and not help them."

Calum and Brian shared a look, they were scared. They wanted to protect their daughter more than anything else. They also knew she was going to do this regardless of what they did to stop her. That at the end of the day, they'd rather her be honest with them and be able to help her than have her sneak behind their backs. They pulled their daughter into a tight hug.

"Tomorrow, we're going to the owl house with you. We're not letting you fight this without us." Calum smiled through his tears as he held his daughter's face, "My little girl. You've become so grown up."

"I love you too Dad."

-----------------------

Eda wasn't entirely shocked when after school most of her teens showed up with parents in tow. Most with looks of anger and hurt in their eyes. Some seemed almost proud. But the vast majority looked like if given the chance, her head would be on the nearest pike. She had expected this to happen eventually. However, she wasn't exactly ready for it to be today. Then again, she doubted anyone would be ready for a mass of angry parents. The worst part was, she couldn't even blame them. She wondered vaguely if her agreeing with most of their points would save her from their wrath.

"Should I stop them?" Hooty asked, stretching his head into the living room.

"No, I think this is just music I have to face." Eda sighed, "Lilith!"

"What Eda- That is a lot of people...."

"Yep."

"We're going to have to talk to their parents."

"Yep."

"Well.....let's get this shit show over with." Lilith groaned as Eda opened the door.

Brian and Calum Park were the first pair through. Brian was a member of the construction coven and he looked like it. Calum Park was a potion maker, neither were particularly high ranking in their fields. They weren't bad by any means but they weren't from particularly rich or powerful bloodlines. Which was where most of those at the top of their covens came from.

Richard Hoar, Viney's father was next through the door. He was a member of the Beast keeping coven and worked as a farm hand. He towered over his daughter, and made Brian look small by comparison. He was a single father, Viney's mom had left when she was young, and had a fairly mean looking resting face.

Maggie and Esmerelda Stilwell were next, Jerbo followed behind his mothers nervously. Maggie was in the plant track, and worked in a flower shop. Esmerelda was an oracle, her brown eyes looked sharply at the Clawthrone sisters.

Ann and James Sirius were next, Barcus walked behind them with his tail between his legs. They were both in the healing coven where they worked as nurses. They both had an unreadable expression on their faces but their fur stood on their heckles when they walked in.

Perry and Rose Porter were fuming when they walked in. Perry especially looked like he was about to pop a blood vessel while Rose, a member of the baker's coven, glared daggers at the two sisters.

Luz and the Blight siblings, who had been having their tea time, walked into the living room and immediately moved to stand by their mother figures.

Eda sighed, already tired of the tension in the room, "So who wants to go first?"

"HOW DARE YOU INVOLVE THESE CHILDREN IN YOUR PETTY FEUD WITH THE EMPEROR." Rose growled, her ears pinned back like an angry cat.

Lilith was about to respond when Viney's father cut her off.

"PETTY FEUD?! THESE KIDS ARE STANDING UP FOR THEIR RIGHTS!" Richard snapped, bearing his fangs.

Eda and Lilith blinked a little at that, and were even more surprised when some of the other parents nodded.

"Rights to what? Vandalism and arson?" Perry asked hotly.

"Rights, Mr. Porter, to be free to be themselves. Not all our children fit perfectly into a coven track." Esmerelda glared at the reporter.

"Also you covered the Nighthawks attacks, you know they have never done arson. Our kids got burned. The damn emperor's coven were the ones who threw the fireballs. Your bosses just have the Emperor's thumb up their ass." Maggie shouted, putting a hand on her wife's shoulder in support.

"They shouldn't have been there in the first place! This isn't their fight!" Rose argued, fury still clear in her voice.

"Then whose fight is it gonna be?" Calum asked, incredulously, "they chose to stand up for this when no one else would."

"And here I thought they were going to be mad at us." Eda said quietly, pulling a bag of hex mix from her hair.

"I know, right?" Lilith agreed.

Ann snarled at the sisters, who easily translated her barks to, We're getting to you two.

"They're children. They shouldn't be involved!" Rose shouted.

"Oh we agree on that!" Eda added, smiling. Which caused everyone in the room aside from Lilith to turn to look at her in shock. "What? You think I willingly wanted my kid to be involved in overthrowing the government?! Titan no. I tried to get her to leave for the human world as soon as I thought she was going to get killed. I didn't even know her, Willow and Gus tried to steal the healing hat from the Emperor's castle."

The Parks and the Porters made a choking noise as they looked at their respective child. Both of whom smiled sheepishly at their parents.

"We didn't force them into this. They wanted to fight, and we have been doing our best to make sure they don't get hurt. They were going to start this rebellion with or without our help. Frankly, I'd rather be able to help them than have them sneaking around behind our backs." Lilith said, honestly.

"Like they have been doing with us?" Maggie snapped and the other parents nodded.

"Okay, exactly what did you want us to say? Gus growled, "Hey parents, we're trying to overthrow the government."

"We didn't want you more worried about us." Viney confessed, her ears drooping downwards.

"Mom, Mama, I know how scared you were about finding a coven, let alone trying to change the government." Jerbo said quietly.

"We also were worried that you'd get our friends in trouble by calling the guard." Gus added, calmer now that he got his anger out.

Willow looked down at the floor, "We were scared too."

Barcus whined, looking up at his parents.

The adults' rage quieted as they saw the teens gather closer together. None of them were thrilled about this whole arrangement, not even the adults who helped them. They were parents, they wanted their children to be safe. They also wanted them to be themselves, and all of them knew that they had been stifled by the coven system. Hands instinctively went over their coven brands, remembering vaguely the freedom they used to have when their magic wasn't restricted.

Richard turned to the Clawthrone sisters, "Sign me up for your rebellion."

"Us too." The Parks smiled.

The Stilwells nodded, and the Siruises barked in agreement.

The Porters looked a bit red, as they found themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. They looked at their son who stared back at them defiantly. They sighed realizing they were outnumbered and nodded.

The unbreakable vow was cast, and the rebellion had new albeit reluctant members.
--------------------

Jerbo smiled as he walked over to Edric, classes hadn't started yet and he finally had a chance to talk to him. He watched as the other boy pulled out a potion from his locker and drank it.

"You okay?" Jerbo asked, blinking as Edric jumped back, "shit, I didn't mean to startle you."

"Oh, it's you....yeah I'm fine. Well now....mother took away my hormone potions again. But mom- Lilith made me some to keep in my locker. So my hormones don't go out of whack."

"That's good, that you have the extras I mean." Jerbo corrected, blush coloring his face. 'I'm failing so hard' he thought.

"Yeah...well I need to get going to my homeroom."

"Do you want to have lunch together?" Jerbo asked quickly.

"Really? I....um sure." Edric coughed as he blushed tomato red.

The boys quickly parted, cheering slightly when they were out of the other's view.

The morning seemed to drag on forever. Jerbo could barely focus on his work. That was until the Abomination professor had them get into pairs. He blinked as Amity sat next to him, he smiled weakly.

After he grabbed the wrong ingredient for the abomination goo for the third time, Amity finally snapped.

"Alright. What is up. You're never this spacey. You're literally the only other person who is better at this than me."

He felt his ears droop as she looked at him expectantly, "I'm going to tell your brother I like him at lunch today...and I'm scared."

"Jerbo, he is head over heels for you. He has been doodling Edric Stilwell in his notebooks when he is bored"

"Wait what, I mean I knew he liked me....fuck what if I mess up. Or he finds out I'm not as cool as he is."

"Pfft, please. Trust me. You're the one slumming in this pair. He is a giant dork." Amity laughed, patting the upperclassmen on the arm.

"Yeah but I mean. He's a Blight. You're from this powerful rich family. And I'm just a normal guy."

"Blight is an unfortunate title we carry, none of us want it. The fact that you're not from a rich powerful family is what makes you so refreshing to him. You have parents whose expectations of you are to do something that makes you happy. You do what you love and in your own way. That's what he likes. You want Ed to be himself. That is all he ever wanted from anyone."

Jerbo felt a giddy smile form on his face as he helped Amity finish their abomination. He felt better than he had in awhile about his confession to Edric. And that good mood carried him to lunch.

Edric stood leaning against the wall, with his normal carefree smile and Jerbo suddenly felt his heart and bile sac jump in his throat. 'Fuckin. No we're not getting melted by his cute smile. We have a mission' He thought and he clenched his hands into fists.

"Hey so you ready for lun- Are you okay? You look....constipated." Edric asked with concern.

"I'm fine, come on." Jerbo grabbed his hand and went to the nearest secret door. He kept his eyes forward on his goal but if he looked behind him he would have seen the bright red his crush was turning at the hand contact.

Edric grinned madly as he looked around the secret room, "This is amazing!"

"Yeah..." Jerbo cleared his throat, he unintentionally tightened his grip on the other boy's hand, they looked at each other and blushed. Jerbo felt his free hand start to shake, "Edric.....I like you...romantically."

Edric felt his face burning as he stared at his crush, "really?"

Jerbo smiled at the shorter boy and leaned down to kiss him, "Yeah...I have been meaning to ask you out....I just didn't know what you'd see in-" He was cut off as the other boy jumped on him, kissing him deeply.

"You're not afraid to be yourself. And what you are is weird, silly and one of the kindest people I have ever met." Edric smiled resting his head on his chest.

"You're not so bad yourself." Jerbo smirked before the two burst out laughing at what they were ever so scared of.

Chapter Text

Lilith woke with a violent cough, she felt her body ache, and looked to see feathers poking from her skin. Her hands stretched and her claws suddenly couldn't be retracted. Her mind slowly felt foggy as she desperately tried to get to the bathroom for one of the potions. She fell as her back started to shift into something not meant to be upright. She screamed as she felt herself morph, her body twisting and cracking as it changed form.

"Lilith!" Voices called out, the last thing she saw was green hair and golden eyes before her consciousness was shoved into the back of her mind.

The raven beast was thinner and more human than Eda had been when she was in her owl beast form. It walked on all fours, with its hands and feet more claw than paw. It's eyes were black and it's feathers were a bright red with a stripe of grey. It growled at the twins, it's feathers puffing up making it look almost the same size as the owl beast. The twins opened the door and ran towards the stairs, as the beast chased after them. She pounced them, her fangs bared.

Edric and Emira whimpered, a clawed hand pressing down on them. "Mom... please." They cried.

The raven beast's head tilted at the word, her face moved closer as the twins shook with fear. She sniffed them, moved her paw and picked them up by their shirts with her teeth, as she dragged them back to her nest. She placed them down gently before laying on top of them. A loud growl like purr erupted from the raven beast's throat as it laid down to sleep.

The twins laid under the raven beast for what felt like an hour as they waited for her breathing to slow. A loud snore came from the beast and they slowly wiggled their way to freedom. Edric managed to pull himself out and turned to help his sister. They slowly creeped their way out of the room, making sure every step was as quiet as possible. They were the masters of sneaking out of Blight manor, this wasn't too terribly different. Aside from being sat on by a giant feathery monster that is also basically your mom. They made it halfway up the stairs when they heard a loud shriek from the beast, and they darted up the rest of the way. The raven beast's large paws thumped loudly on the floor.

"What in the hell is going on?" Eda yawned as she opened the door to her room.

"Guys, it's early." Amity groaned, coming out of Luz's room, the latter of which looked half awake and was leaning on her girlfriend.

"Some of us value our sleepy time!" King grumbled, following the other two out of the room.

The twins were about to explain when they saw the eyes of the others grow wide and the felt hot breath on their backs.

"Lily?" Eda blinked at the beast, which paid her little mind as it reached out scooping Amity closer before picking up all three Blight siblings by their shirts and carrying them back downstairs.

King stretched, "yay more space in the bed for me" as he ran back into Luz's room.

"Did....Did Lilith just take them and leave?" Luz asked, her tired brain trying desperately to process what exactly she just witnessed.

"Come let's go get the potion before she eats them." Eda sighed as she grabbed one of her potions.

The pair quickly made it down the stairs, towards Lilith's room to find her sitting on the twins while holding Amity down and licking her. The young witch's hair stood up in a giant cowlick, and only grew more and more damp.

"Luz, help get her off of me!" Amity called.

The human sucked in her lips, trying desperately not to smile as she quickly realized what was happening, however it didn't stop her from letting out a happy squeak.

The raven beast turned away from the girl, getting up from its nest. It's feathers puffed out and she spread her wings, making herself as large as possible.

Eda snorted at the display, "For fuck sake, we're not going to hurt your babies."

The raven beast roared then coughed slightly as Eda threw the potion, bottle and all into her sister's mouth. The beast wobbled, before collapsing on top of the blights with a heavy plop.

"Dead weight. So much. Help." Edric wheezed from underneath the mass of feathers. His sisters squeaked in agreement.

"She'll shrink back to normal in a bit. Besides I'm all out of construction coven glyphs." Eda yawned.

"We can't just leave them under there." Luz protested.

"Okay, you've had a growth spurt lately. Let's see if your lanky nerd arms can move a giant mass of grouchy feathers."

Luz, who had grown a few inches in the ten months she had been on the boiling isles, grabbed Lilith's beastly leg and gave her best effort to pull her off. This did almost nothing except cause Lilith to kick the human into the wall. Luz let out an oof as she fell to the floor, uninjured but definitely winded. She lifted her head slightly and watched as the beast slowly began to shrink back into her correct shape. The human had seen this many times before with Eda, but it never made it seem any less painful. Bones just shouldn't bend like that.

Lilith groaned as she woke up, her bed seemed to move underneath her and consisted of a lot more elbows that she remembered. She yelped slightly as one seemed to dig into her already aching side, and raised her head as she saw her three teens escape from her blanket nest, the youngest of which looked a bit like she had been licked to death by a hellhound. She was just about to ask what happened when she felt something stuck in her throat and she wretched up an empty potion bottle and a cork. "Oh...I transformed."

"Yep." Eda said, helping her sister sit up.

"I feel a bit like I was trampled."

"Pfft, and that's with only half of it." Eda laughed.

Lilith's ears flattened, as the weight of her sister's words buried deep in her chest, "I'm so sorry Edalyn. I can't imagine the amount of pain I've cau-"

Eda waved her off, "Sis this was hilarious. Don't ruin it by being sappy."

"Hilarious? I transformed into a monster?"

"Yeah and the first thing you did was fucking go all mama bird on the baby blights. For fuck sake, Amity apparently smelled too much like Luz and you gave her a tongue bath." Eda wheezed with laughter, rolling on the floor as her sister's face turned a bright scarlet.

Lilith immediately looked at the teens, now noticing some red feathers stuck on their pajamas. "I am so so sorry."

"Hey, you didn't eat us. I'll take that as a win. Besides, I think Mittens looks pretty good with her new hair- ouch" Edric yelped as Amity elbowed him in the ribs.

"Sis, that's no way to treat Ed! Especially after he complimented your h- Oof" Emira squeaked as Amity shoved her, before grabbing her girlfriend's hand and leaving. The twins giggled as they left making their way back to their spot in the living room.

Eda yawned and moved away only for Lilith to grab her wrist. "Eda, I'm seriously sorry for all the pain this curse has caused you. I was an idiot and let my pride get in the way."

Eda leaned back against the wall next to her sister. "You fucked up. Really badly that day. I lost my magic, and I almost lost my kid. But you've also helped me take care of her and even more kids. You're helping me keep them safe as we're attempting to overthrow the very person you used to work for. You're not the same kid who cursed me, and you're certainly not the coven leader who kept trying to capture me. You're a better person than them. And I forgive you."

"Why..."

"Cause, you've given me my big sister back. We're on the same side again. And as scared as I am about how much this rebellion is escalating, personally, I don't think I've been happier. I have you, our dumb kids, hooty, and King. I don't think our family has ever been this big. And I get to watch them spray paint penises on government buildings."

Lilith snorted loudly despite herself, "Only you would take pride in that last one."

"Oh come on. It's your kid that does most of them. Honestly, he's actually pretty good at it. I mean they're graphic but the detail is " Eda did a chef's kiss and Lilith wheezed.

"Thanks, seriously for giving me another chance. I don't think I'll ever deserve it but I'm grateful for it. I don't think I've been this happy either."

"Meh, deserve is overrated. No one gets what they think they deserve, good or bad. We get what we're given and we make the best of it. I certainly didn't deserve to get such a wonderful kid thrown my way, but I did. And she's one of the best things in my life. And most important thing that stupid kid has taught me is that we all can change."

"We have some really good kids." Lilith smiled.

Eda grinned, pride filling her chest, "Yeah, we really do." A smirk formed on her face, "have fun giving the talk to Edric and Jerbo."

"They're 17, I'm just going to throw birth control and condoms at them and be done with it."

Eda snorted loudly clutching her sides, "Well that isn't very informative."

"Okay, Jerbo has two moms that I'm sure have given him a decent understanding of sex. Also out of all the ones my kids are dating he is literally the least likely to be a moron. Whereas Viney will run towards dangerous wild animals and Luz is....Luz"

"Fair points, however he is also dating Edric. The most trouble of your three little greenies."

Lilith grumbled, "I'll talk to Ed about birth control in the morning. Right now I'm tired."

Eda smiled patting her sister's back, "G'night Lilith."

"Night Eda."
----------------------------------

Edric walked into the living room, his expression was one of mild horror.

"Lilith give you the talk?" Amity smirked, enjoying the karma.

Edric nodded, plopping down on the sofa, in between them.

"That lasted longer than when she gave me and Viney the talk." Emira laughed, as her brother sunk deeper into the sofa.

"That's cause you're both cis. She spent twenty minutes going over the different types of birth control options....." He groaned, burying his face in his hands.

Amity and Emira snickered, patting their brother gently, "She's trying her best. At least she cares." His twin smiled, reassuringly.

Edric felt a bit of warmth fill his chest, "yeah, I do appreciate it. Even if talking about sex with her is mildly mortifying."

"I mean it's better than our actual parents." Amity added, "they gave us a book and told us if we got pregnant before we were married they'd kill us."

"Jesus christ, why did they even have children?" Luz exclaimed from the stairs.

"To carry on the blight family bloodline." Emira said as if that were the most obvious thing in the world.

"Ya know, sometimes I think I've reached my max hatred for your parents and every time I find a new level."

"Lol same." Edric grinned.

"Titan, if we weren't doing so many illegal things I would put you all in therapy so fast." Lilith sighed as she walked in, gently ruffling the teens' hair as she passed them.

"Hah, you showed us parental love and affection and now we're your problem~" Emira sang, a mischievous grin on her face.

Lilith stopped, and stood in front of the teens that were piled on the couch, "That's not true. None of you are ever a problem. Even when you get into trouble. Cause I chose to do this. And being with you kids and watching you grow is a delight and I couldn't be more proud of all of you."

Luz smiled softly as the blights looked up with watery eyes. Edric looked up, "how dare you turn our self deprecating humor and turn it into a moment of maternal love. That's our main weakness."

"Cause someone needs to help with your positive self image. And also it's adorable how quickly you all melt." Lilith smirked, before giving them kisses on their forehead. "Now hurry up and change. We have training today."

"Yes Mom." The three Blights smiled.

"Yes auntie." Luz laughed following them up the stairs.

Lilith just shook her head, smiling at the four teens.
----------------------

"Another Nighthawk protest was shut down today by coven guards. This time outside Glandis High. The city of Larynx issued a mandatory curfew for everyone past midnight and people below the age of eighteen past ten. The protest was made up of mostly students from Glandis high, and they did not go quietly when the guards arrived. The stand off between the protesters and the guards lasted for almost two hours with the guards resorting to throwing tear gas at protesters, who returned fire with smoke bombs. Of the protesters, five were sent to the conformitorium, four were sent to the hospital with injuries and seven were sent to juvenile detention centers. The guards suffered six minor injuries and one guard was badly burned by an attack. This is the fifth protest by this terrorist group that has turned violent this week. With more and more riots breaking out across the isles. This has been Rita Wright Reporting, sending you back to Bonesborough."

"Hello everyone, Perry Porter here, standing outside of the ashes of our government center. The first case of a repeated attack by the original Nighthawks, who came to blows with our coven guards last night. The guards had of course been increasing security on all government buildings since their looting began. This of course was the second case of arson by the Nighthawks. The first being our fourth courthouse. This one however became more dangerous as some of the tear gas bombs that were thrown were flammable and caused it to spread. It's unknown of any of the attackers were injured during the exchange, however five of the guards had minor injuries, three were sent to the hospital, two of which are currently in critical condition. One guard was found dead crushed under falling rubble after the fire was put out. The mayor of Bonesborough recently passed ordinances banning anyone under the age of eighteen to be out past ten without an adult. The emperor's coven also recently passed a grant to all schools on the isles to help increase security. Kikimora, the current head of the emperor's coven, has asked us to support the families of the guards affected during these trying times. And from our news family to yours, stay safe out there. This has been Perry Porter, signing out."

The teens sat silently as a commercial started to play on the orb. Eda turned it off and looked at her brood. None had been badly hurt, as Eda had knitted them some clothes out of magic and fireproof string. Lilith had improved their masks to allow them to filter out smoke. They however weren't able to protect against the guilt in their kids. They each looked like they had personally murdered that guard. Eda sighed turning to them. "What happened back there wasn't your fault."

"They died because of our attack." Luz said, her voice strained, as tears ran down her face.

"Did any of you use any fire spells?" Eda countered, watching as they all shook their heads no. "You didn't have any spray paint with you, and all of your smoke bombs were just smoke. They certainly weren't enough to start a fire. The guards threw fire at you, the guards threw tear gas bombs that caused the fire to spread. You all have been doing this long enough to know how not to cause structural damage to a property. The guards hurt themselves. They're just scapegoating us because the emperor controls the funding to the media. They don't report the truth. They report whatever makes the emperor's coven look best."

Lilith turned to the tearful looks on their faces, "unfortunately, this is the new normal now. The rebellion is rising and increasing in support everyday. However, it's starting to boil over. We have done our best to protect you from this but I fear that is no longer in our control. This is only going to get more dangerous. I understand more than most the guilt you must feel. But you're not responsible for their death, and the only people whose safety I want you to prioritize in our attacks on public property is the people in this room. Guards signed up to do a job where they could get hurt. That's part of being in the emperor's coven. Your movement is important, and none of you can do it if you die. At the end of the day, I, Eda and your parents care about your safety. So if they're attacking you and trying to hurt you. Don't pull your punches. I don't want you to kill people if you don't have to, but if it's between your life and there's. Yours is more important to me. And if you want to leave or stop. I understand. None of you should have to do this. You're all still kids. And I won't hold it against you if you leave."

"Fuck No." Luz said, her voice sharp as a knife, "There are people our age that have already been carrying our movement and risking their safety for it. I'm not going to stop fighting. I started this when I stood up to Belos. I'm not going to let other people fight the battle that I started."

"They've already tried to kill our family members before we started this rebellion. I'm not letting you fight without me. I helped Luz try to steal the healing hat. If they want to fight. They're gonna have to go through me." Willow growled.

"We shouldn't have to restrict our magic or who we are just because that's what some tyrannical dickhead wants." Viney sneered.

"Is everyone staying in the bad bitch coven then?" Eda smirked, watching as the teens' faces morphed from guilt to determination.

"Fuck yeah!" They cheered, although it sounded more like a group growl.

"Alright, get ready. Your training is going to become a lot more difficult and a lot more frequent. You're going against trained soldiers. You'll all need to increase your strength and stamina if you wanna keep up with the actually well trained guards." Eda warned but only watched as they all seemed to nod. "Alright, go get ready." She watched as the nine walked up the stairs to change into their training clothes.

"Edalyn, what are we doing?" Lilith asked, fear in her voice.

"The only thing we can, Lily. They're going to keep fighting, we need to at least give them a chance. We knew we couldn't protect them forever."

"I...just wish we had more time for them to be kids."

"Yeah....me too."

Chapter Text

The cafeteria was a buzz, as news of another Nighthawk protest floated around. No one knew who had started the idea, but it spread like a wildfire amongst the students. Many people seemed to share the belief that the coven system was restrictive and that people should be allowed to be themselves. Somewhere in the grape vine it was decided that it would be held outside the night market, as guards tended to be much more lax around there as many were paid off.

The actual founding members of the Nighthawks were both ecstatic that their movement was catching on even in Bonesborough, and very confused on who actually started the idea of this protest. They had exchanged glances at each other and found out it was none of them. They all opened their scrolls, to see that Penstagram was flooded and the Nighthawk Peaceful Protest Page, somehow also not run by any of them, had the event listed on the stop of their story. The number of people listed as showing up only seemed to grow with each refresh.

"This is great, we don't have to do any looting, or spray painting. We just walk around hold up signs. Shout protests at people." Luz, still the ever hopeful optimist, grinned at her scroll, leaning against her girlfriend.

They had decided to meet in the tunnels under hexside for this impromptu meeting, as they worried people would start catching on to their other secret hideout. Gus had made surprisingly decent progress, especially considering he was now stealing supplies from the construction track homeroom.

"The last few protests turned violent, with the guards attacking protesters." Amity countered.

"Well that's all the more reason for us to go. We've been training harder than ever for months now. We can help protect them." Luz smiled, she flexed slightly, and giggled as her girlfriend blushed at the lean muscle.

"Hell yeah! What better way to make it an official protest than us actually being there!" Edric cheered, earning him a kiss from his boyfriend.

Barcus whined, looking nervously at his friends.

"Barcus, these are our classmates and friends. Even if something happens, they're doing this because of us. If something bad could happen it's all the more reason for us to show up." Viney said firmly. The dog demon seemed to relent, finding comfort in their group's strength.

"Well then it's settled, this Friday we're going to the protest." Willow said, as they put their hands in for a group huddle.

"Nighthawks!" They all yelled happily.

------------------------------

Lilith carefully measured the ingredients, she had fallen out of a lot of her potion making skills, however there were a few she could make in her sleep. Her first few years in the emperor's coven, she, like many of the recruits from the potion track, made the tear gas bombs and smoke bombs. It was tedious work, and she had despised the monotony, but she had been exceptional at it. She carefully placed the last ingredient in the bottle. She swirled the liquid around as it quickly formed a fog in the bottle, and placed it next to the rest. She had labeled them based on how recent the formula was used and the strength. Carefully she lifted the boxes and headed for the yard. "Eda, I need your help"

Eda appeared, setting down the time she was reading and grabbed one of the boxes, "so what's with all the tear gas and smoke bombs? Getting nostalgic for your old job?" She teased.

"No, I wanted to test out a hypothesis I had regarding the causes of the fire."

"The dumb guards were throwing fireballs in a building made of wood and filled with paper. I think that caused the fire."

"Yes but they mentioned that the tear gas from the guards and the smoke bombs we threw added fuel to the flames."

"Smoke bomb potions aren't flammable, trust me. I've tried to make them flammable. It doesn't work. All they do is explode. There's not even any smoke."

"Yes, I remember. You nearly gave granny a heart attack."

"Heh, yeah. Then she helped me."

"Yeah that sounds about right..." Lilith sighed, placing the boxes on the ground.

"Ooo, what game are you playing? Can I help?!" Hooty offered.

"We're not playing Hooty. Lily is trying to see if she can set these potions on fire." Eda smiled, holding up a stack of fire glyphs, her staff in the other hand.

"Alright" Lilith handed her sister one of their more recent designs on their Nighthawk masks, before putting on one herself. "This should protect us from the tear gas. Now I throw the potions, you throw the glyphs."

"This has to be your best experiment ever." Eda grinned.

The sisters started their task, repeating it again and again. Lilith carefully marked down the results as she watched the potions hardly react to the flames. Each time, the flame seemed almost to get suppressed by the chemicals in the tear gas. Dread filled the ex coven leader's throat. "This isn't good."

"You're telling me, I thought there'd be a big whoosh of flames. That's what happened at the government center."

"Eda, I think they switched them to something else to make us seem worse."

"How the hell does burning down their own building help their cause."

"They didn't report the fire as being caused by the guard. They reported that we started the fire. By having their guards essentially throwing explosives at us, not only increases their chances of getting rid of us. They also used us as a scapegoat for the guards who got injured."

"That or they could be testing for something worse." Eda said, eyes widened.
-----------------------

Lilith carefully heated up the water for the tea, as Eda set the snacks and plates out on the table. King sat by the door waiting, as he usually did this time of day.

"Hey! We're home!" Luz cheered, as the blights followed behind her.

"You're back!" King grinned, climbing the human to lay on her head.

"Of course! I had to see my cutiepie!" Luz laughed covering the demon in kisses.

"That and she comes back from school around this time everyday" Eda smirked, as she placed the snacks on the table.

"So how was school?" Lilith asked, as she always did.

"Good, the rebellion is really picking up steam at Hexside. They're organizing a big protest at the night market at the end of the week." Emira smiled, sitting down and helping herself to the food.

Eda and Lilith felt their blood run cold, "We need to stop it. Now." The eldest Clawthrone practically growled.

"What why?" Amity blinked, "this is the biggest protest yet and we've worked so hard to get here."

"We think that the Emperor's coven is going to plan an attack. We need to stop this." Eda said, panic in her voice.

The teens looked at her, "you have no idea how social media works....I mean we can try but I doubt that will stop it." Edric said, as he and the rest pulled out their scrolls.

"I mean, you guys are popular. If you call it lame won't people back out?" Luz asked, hopefully.

"I haven't hung out with any of the popular kids in ages." Amity confessed.

"I mean we're slightly popular but I doubt we can stop something this big by dragging it. I mean we can try." Emira smiled, but it was more out of panic than anything else.

Eda and Lilith turned to each other, a knowing look in their eyes.

"Luz, tell the group chat to bring their parents." Lilith said, but it almost came out as an order. They could see the coven leader instincts sliding back on like an old pair of shoes. Normally Eda called her sister out when she did this, however the hardness in the younger sister's two toned glare made Luz shrink back. She had seen that look before when she was trapped in a bubble. She had hoped to never see that look again.
-------------------------------

For the first time, the full official rebellion sat in the owl house. The parents looked skeptically at Principal Bump who waved shyly.

Eda whistled, gathering the attention to her, "We've brought you all here because we have a feeling that the Emperor's coven is planning an attack on the protest at the night market this Friday. We need you all to come with us and make sure the protesters are safe from any attacks. The kids will stay here and watch the hou-"

"The hell?!" Luz yelled, standing up from her spot on the floor, "You're benching us?! Those people are our classmates and our friends!"

"And we're the most trained! We have the most experience fighting the coven guards!" Willow growled.

"And we are doing this to protect kids from being hurt. Having you there will put more kids in danger." Lilith snapped, causing the brood to flatten their ears. "I already put children in harm's way once. I'm not doing it here."

"Mom, what about us? We're seventeen years old. We're almost adults-" Edric argued, trying to reason with her.

"No. I don't care about the law. I care about you. I can't protect you from Alador or Odalia, I can't protect you from being forced to join a coven. But I can protect you from this. You and your sisters have suffered enough. You're staying." Lilith ordered, her hard eyes caused Edric to sit down.

"Eda, you can be serious? I have fought the emperor. I can hand-"

"Luz, you're already stuck here. I love you kid, but I'm not the only person who you need to think about. You have your mom in the human realm. And it's my responsibility to keep you safe while she isn't here. You need to stay here." Eda pleaded, pain clear in her voice.

The human relented, sinking back down with the others as the adults formed their plan.

The owl house moved the next day, using an invisibility spell from the twins to hide its movements.
----------------------

The teens sat in the secret room of short cuts, picking at their lunches. The witchlings immediately pulled out their notes, as the human pulled out the masks from her bag.

"These are the older ones. Eda locked the others in an enchanted chest. The lock wouldn't break. These however I found in the closet. Along with our old clothes!" She grinned.

"Luz, you're almost a foot taller than when we wore these last. I don't even think most of us could fit in them." Jerbo smiled, "well aside from the tiny blights."

"Alright beanpole, no kisses for you!" Edric huffed, crossing his arms.

Jerbo smirked scooping up his boyfriend, "if you weren't small, I couldn't pick you up."

"You can live. For now." Edric chuckled, kissing his boyfriend.

"Well we at least need to wear all black and we all still have our cloaks so that's better than nothing." Luz sighed.

"Okay a better question is how are we going to get there. The owl house is now an hour away from Bonesborough." Gus asked.

"I actually already planned for that." Emira smirked looking at her brother, "We stole a bunch of brooms and stashed them in Amity's secret hideout."

"My hideout is not for contraband!" Amity grumbled.

"Relax, we'll take it out and find a junk pile to hide it under at the owl house." Edric chuckled.

"Will they have enough charge to get us back? I mean brooms aren't really meant for long travel." Willow looked skeptically at her friends.

"Don't worry, we also stole extra batteries." Emira smiled, brightly.

"Alright, we need a meetup spot in case shit goes south." Viney said, looking down at the map, "somewhere nearby but far enough away that it's not likely to be a part of a riot."

Barcus put his paw on a small candle stand near the back of the market, he barked, smacking his paw down.

"You sure? That's still pretty close to where the protest would be?" Amity looked at the dog demon, who just lifted his purple sleeved leg.

"Oracle magic!" Luz beamed, "hard to argue with! Oh and I made these." She handed them each a little notebook, all filled with odd looking spell glyphs. "These are flare spells, they're a light spell fire spell combo I have been fiddling with. They shoot up high in the air and let out a bright light, so we can find each other. I gave some to the adults a few days okay, but I stole some more tiny notebooks for us!"

Barcus ruffed, before turning to Viney, putting his nose on her blue healing track sleeve.

"Shit, yeah we should probably bring healing supplies. Barcus can you make some healing potions? I can see how many healing glyphs I can steal from my homeroom tomorrow."

Barcus nodded, although he still looked the most distressed out of them all. He had only seen glimpses of what could happen, but none of it was pretty. Despite that, he knew they could help protect people. Even if it was still a shit show.

"Now we just have to get past Hooty." Luz grinned, turning back to Viney, "think you can get a jar of insects from the beast keeping homeroom?"

"Pfft, they'd be more weirded out if I didn't take home a jar of bugs. What kind does he like?"

"He said his favorites are the cream filled kind...whatever that means..." Luz said, disgust clear on her face.

"Oh I actually know exactly what that means! I can totally get a few jars of those!" Viney smiled happily.

Emira and Amity turned to their brother, "No, you're not allowed to eat any of them." Amity turned to Luz, "that also goes for you!"

"What, why would I eat a bug?"

"Why would you taste abomination goo?!" Amity shot back, a smile starting on her face.

"I told you cause I thought it would be grape flavored!" Luz responded, grumbling.

Edric meanwhile looked a little disappointed, while Jerbo just smiled, shaking his head.

"Well, looks like we have everything planned out for when we get there. Looks like it's all set." Luz smiled, "Alright! Everyone hands in!"

"Nighthawks!" They cheered.
--------------------------

Alador Blight, a quite a few other higher ups in the Emperor's coven were gathered in a room. They stood at attention, like good soldiers, and waited for their orders.

Kikimora walked in carefully shutting the door behind her, "All of you are given Friday off, You are the coven's best and brightest. With the protest coming up, we don't want to risk anything happening to you. So you are to stay away from the night market."

"Shouldn't we be there in case of another terrorist attack?" One of the younger guards spoke up, looking nervously.

"Not to worry, we have plenty of people stationed there in case anything goes wrong." Kikimora spoke softly, it was almost unsettling how calm she seemed, "We have other things planned as well. Our city will be protected from these terrorists. Now you're all dismissed."

"Yes Ma'am." They barked.
----------------------------

Lilith sighed as she placed her mask on her face, the adults had already squabbled more in the past ten minutes than any of the teens did. They also had to leave one of them out of it, only because he was a reporter and it would be suspicious if he didn't answer his phone.

She walked before them, her sister at her side, as they examined their security guards. While Richard, Brian, Rose and Maggie looked ready to fight. The others looked nervous, and they were all under trained. And while everyone agreed they'd rather be here than have the children involved. That certainly didn't mean they wouldn't have jumped for a third option. She sighed, they weren't the best guard but they would have to do.

Eda held up a potion in her hand, "These are fire extinguishers, you'll throw them at any fire you see started." She held small capsule potions, "these are stun bombs. They're only good for one person. So make them count." She lifted another large bottle, the contents swirled madly in the jar, "These neutralize tear gas. They work for large areas. This should minimize any damage to any eyes." Lastly she lifted up a small kit and a tiny notebook, "this is a first aid kit. There's enough to help in case of any damage or at least stop some bleeding. And these are flare spell cards. If one of us gets out numbered or if we can't find each other. Throw one of these. And if we make it to our safe zone. Throw two. That's the signal that you made it back safe. Any questions?"

They all shook their heads no, they had heard most of this information over the past week. They all adjusted their faces so their faces were covered and tested their ear pieces.

Eda turned to look at Hooty, "Make sure none of those kids leave."

"Yes Ma'am! Hoot! Hoot!" He nodded.

"Alright, let's go." Lilith shouted as the adults took to the skies.
-------------------

King groaned, as he saw the teens immediately pull out bags, brooms and most had their black clothes on underneath their current clothes. "Guys, didn't they literally just tell you to stay here?"

"We can't let innocent people get hurt because of us King." Luz said, as she placed her mask over her face. "We started this fight. We should be there in case shit hits the fan."

"Okay, yes but have any of you considered. I don't know. Your own safety and well being? The adults might not have started it. But they're trying to look out for you." The tiny demon argued.

"We know they are. But we're better trained and have more magic than all of them. The vast majority of the protesters are people our age anyways, their lives matter just as much as ours. And at least we're prepared for the worst case scenario." Willow growled, as she handed out the brooms and bags.

"Are you though? Sure you've been in some scrapes with the guards and some fires. But this could be a full blown riot. Things get chaotic really fast, people get hurt." King said as he clung to Luz's leg.

"We're gonna do our best to minimize the damage." Luz countered.

"Well, I'm going with you. You're my family too and I'm not going to sit here and let you get hurt." He climbed onto her bag.

"Alright they're probably about twenty minutes ahead of us. Let's head out!" Amity yelled.

"Not so fast! Eda told me to keep you safe." Hooty said, sternly.

Luz grinned from behind her mask and took a jar from Viney, "What if I give you a jar of bugs?"

Hooty examined the jar carefully, he looked at her, "are...are those the..."

"The cream filled kind. Your favorite!" Luz wiggled the jar, "all for you."

Hooty looked nervously, as he weighed the options in his head, "I don't know...hoot."

Luz nodded, pulling out a second jar, "how about now?"

Hooty was sweating as he looked at the jar, drool dripped from his mouth, "two whole jars....Guys, I can't just let you leave-"

Luz carefully grabbed a bug from the jar and placed it in the house demon's mouth. He chewed happily.

"Wow hoot, those are tasty...although they tasted...a bit...diff...rsnt" The house demon slurred before falling into sleep.

"I told you those tranquilizers would work!" Viney smiled from behind her mask.

"You drugged Hooty?!" King screamed.

"Relax, it's only enough to knock him out for ten minutes. He's too big for anything to knock him out long." Luz huffed as they ran all starting off on their brooms.

"Was there a plan to do that to me?!" King continued, now standing on the human's shoulders, his paws hugging her face as they flew.

"Sorry, can't hear you, wind turbulence." Luz yelled, as they all increased their speed.

"THERE WAS!"

-------TRIGGER WARNING-------------

The Emperor's coven had formed a line in front of the night market, they had a line of abominations and golems in front of them. The guards were armed to the teeth and they all had their staffs ready.

The protesters marched in a circle about ten feet from the guards, many had their own replica masks, and almost all had some sort of black clothing or owl sigil on them. Their signs said, Magic should be free, Covens are oppressive and other such things. They dwarfed the number of guards, easily. However most of them were teenagers and twenty somethings. There were definitely some older people in the crowd. But they were the minority.

Eda recognized many faces in the crowd, she burned them in her mind as if that could preserve them. They landed in the back, away from the crowd. She turned to her team, she saw their fear but also saw a wave of protectiveness wash over them. Bump even had a fire in his eyes. They walked over, and the crowd cheered, as the adult Nighthawks formed a line in front of the protesters. They had their own staffs standing by. The black and white cloaks made them look like chess pieces.
-------------------------
The teens landed stashing their brooms in a bush near a closed bakery. As they ran towards the crowd of people, carefully blending in. They lost each other almost immediately. The news had reported that most of the protests had a few hundred people. The most being around five hundred. This dwarfed those easily, Luz had remembered seeing the posts of people showing up being in the five thousand range, and while some ragging on it from the blights helped bring the numbers down. There were at least a couple thousand in the march. They walked in a large lazy circle. She immediately spotted Willow in the center, as it was a pretty easy spot to attack. Luz kept her paper ready, as she walked. She felt the atmosphere of the crowd as they broke out into a call and response song about their demands. She smiled a bit as she was able to barely make out some of her friends' voices in the crowd. She stopped when she felt King tense up in her hoodie. She was just about to ask what was wrong when an explosion roared. She saw the crowd panic as she struggled against the wave of protesters, only to see the fire and smoke was behind the guards. 'It was a setup' she thought as the emperor's coven acted immediately. She pulled out her cards, ready to attack, when she heard a loud whistling and the world went dark.
-------------------------

Luz coughed as she felt something shaking her.

"LUZ, LUZ. YOU HAVE TO WAKE UP. PLEASE." A familiar voice screamed.

She groaned, sitting up, and saw King sitting next to her, she felt her chest and was pleased to find her insides still inside. She rose to her feet and coughed again. She chose to ignore the coppery metallic taste in her mouth. She picked up King, and surveyed the ground around them. Heavy smoke fogged everything and she only heard the sounds of screams. She heard another whistling sound and ran on instinct. She didn't know where she was running. She heard someone yelling for help and started to move towards the sound.

"King, do we still have potions?"

"A few. Most....we're damaged in the explosion. We have glyphs." He said, his voice stuck in shock.

"Those will have to do." She responded, as she raced towards the voice screaming for help. Slowly she saw him in the fog, he was in a deep pit. She saw the white cape but ran towards him anyways.

"Help me. Please Titan Help me." He cried, his voice sounded more broken than anything she heard. "I can't move my legs!"

"I'm here! I'm here!" She called, climbing into the pit with him. She felt the air leave her lungs at the site before her. She moved her eyes up his torso, his white cape beneath him drenched in red.

"Luz....I don't think...we can help him." King whispered in her ear.

She moved anyways, lifting him gently, and took his hand. "What's your name?"

"Thomas." He said weakly, "Why can't I feel my legs."

"Thomas, look at me. Just focus on my voice. Tell me about...about your favorite memory." Luz said, desperately trying to steady her voice. She felt her own head spinning but she sucked it up as she heard him speak.

"I...I was at the carnival...with my aunt. I was just tall enough to ride the moral coaster. I was so scared but she...she promised I would be okay. So long as she...was with me. I...remember as we....reached the top....holding her hand...." He seemed to smile, as his voice grew weaker, "Then we went down.....and I screamed.....so loud...but I had...fun...it was......the...be..st."

Luz felt his hand go limp, and she felt his pulse. She gently set the corpse down, as she climbed out of the pit. Her mind was numb. Her stomach twisted in knots as she felt the urge to throw up. A voice buzzed in her ear.

"Hello?! Hello?! Is anyone still here?!" Amity called over the intercom.

Luz's brain snapped back in reality just enough to press the button and answer, "I'm here."

"Luz! Thank Titan, you're alive! Where are you?!" Her girlfriend's voice screamed.

"By a...corpse." she responded numbly.

"You too?" Edric laughed weakly, his voice sounded odd, "maybe it's the same one."

Another whistling sound was heard and Luz took off running again, she felt King grip her for dear life, as they waited for the explosion, only to see a bright Owl light up the sky, and soon another followed. And she dashed towards it. She kept her eyes forward, keeping them as far away from the ground as possible. The air wreaked of sulfur and blood. She heard the voices in her intercom start up again.

"I'M AT THE STAND. DID YOU SEE MY FLARE?!" Gus screamed into the intercom.

"Gus! You're alive!" Amity yelled, "is anyone else hearing this? Emira? Willow? Viney? Jerbo? Barcus?"

"I'm here!" Willow growled, "I see the owl!"

"Are you okay?" Amity asked.

"My leg hurts. But I can still walk."

Luz felt the words of the guard echo in her head, her feet moved tirelessly as her heart pounded in her ears. The foggy stretch filled air seemed to burn through her lungs. She heard another whistle and heard the explosion echo behind her. She couldn't focus on her intercom anymore as the world seemed to fill with a thousand clashing voices. She saw the stand in the distance and a few different outlines of figures. She heard herself let out a cry, it almost sounded like a wail. This unearthly broken sob that escaped her throat. She looked up and saw Eda, Lilith and a few other adults gathered near the stand. Gus, Emira and Amity stood by them. Luz ran to them and buried her masked face in their arms, sobbing uncontrollably. Eda held her tightly as if she would disappear. They said nothing as Luz shook in her mentor's arms. She vaguely heard Lilith and Amity's voices calling out to people as they responded in turn.

"I saw your flare, I'm coming!" Jerbo yelled.

"I'm okay, I'm tended to some wounded. I'm going to try and get them out of here." Viney called into the intercom.

A barking noise was heard as all three dog demons ran to the stand. Luz pretended she didn't see the red on their fur. She felt a wet nose bump against her arm and a soft whine. She smiled weakly as she hugged Barcus. She felt relief fill her chest as she saw vines through the ashen sky, as Willow arrived, with her parents, as well as Jerbo's carefully placed on the ground.

Thumping stomped came as Jerbo appeared, sitting on top of one of his plant abominations, Edric in his arms. "He was hit!" He yelled, as he sank to the ground. Edric's arm was cut badly, and the Siruises immediately began to treat him. Amity, Emira and Lilith cried as they ran to the injured teen. At the sight of Amity with her brother, Luz's brain snapped back into focus. "Viney, Any eyes on Bump, Richard or Rose. I repeat. Bump. Richard or Rose."

"Dad?!" Viney's voice almost break, "He's not there?!"

"I'll set up another flare." Luz called back, tapping the paper.

Richard bared his teeth, picking up Luz who let out a yelp, as he pressed her intercom, "Viney?! Sweetheart?! Are you alive?!" He cried out.

"Dad! I'm okay! I'm on my way!" Viney's voice lightened immediately.

"Augustus!" A voice yelled.

"Mom!" Gus cried as he ran into his mother's arms.

Viney ran in, Principal Bump leaning on her shoulder as they walked to the stand.

The adults took the teens on their staffs, the stolen brooms long forgotten as they rose above the scene.

Luz had seen no man zones in video games and movies. The scene below her almost looked like one. She found her eyes immediately drawn to the gore that littered the ground. She thought of Thomas and closed her eyes, burying her face in King's soft fur.
---------------------------

"I tried to stop them!" Hooty yelled immediately as they landed, "oh Titan...." The tone sounded so wrong from the house demon as he threw himself open immediately.

"Well, no one's dead. That's a plus." Eda laughed humorlessly.

"No one in our group is dead." Luz corrected, leaning into her mentor's side like a shy child would hide into their parent's leg.

Viney, Barcus' parents and anyone else who knew healing magic set up an impromptu hospital in the basement. Luz was a bit shocked as she found herself being ushered downstairs.

"I'm fine." She countered, trying to go back to the couch. She wanted to sleep.

"Take off your mask kid." Eda said in a sharp panicked tone.

The human did as she was told, and saw a giant crack in it, a part near her eye was broken off entirely. She felt herself heave as she saw blood all over the inside of it. She took the bucket that was handed to her and threw up violently into it. She felt herself being lifted as she was set down on the table in the potion room.

---------End of the worst of it--------------------

Eda paced, her ears were flat against her head and her claws were out. Tears streamed down her face, as she blamed herself. 'All I had to do was keep her away and I couldn't even fucking do that right.'

"She's gonna be okay." King reassured sitting with the less injured people on the sofa.

"Her face was covered in blood." Eda cried, her eyes filled with angry tears.

"Well she's breathing and aware. So points are in our favor." He replied, smiling weakly.

"I should have known they wouldn't listen. I should have done more to stop them!" She growled, sinking in on herself.

"You did literally everything you could aside from magically trapping them in the owl house. They're banged up, and definitely mentally scarred but they're all alive." King sighed, snuggling up next to Eda, "We knew something like this would happen eventually.....we have been mostly fighting with words and symbols but it's still war. There was going to be blood eventually."

 

Eda said nothing, as she bit back frustrated tears, she remembered when she first transformed into the owl beast. It made her feel more helpless and scared than she had in her entire life. Now, she'd do anything for that to be her worst moment again. Seeing these kids she loved and cared for hurt. Luz, her little human, the kid who taught her more about herself than anyone else, was downstairs bleeding.

The basement door opened, Richard carefully held the injured human in his arms, he glanced at King, who gently prodded Eda.

The witch looked up, tears ran anew as she saw Luz. Part of her head and face were covered in bandages. She had more wrappings around her ribcage which peaked out from under the hospital gown. She saw the purple bruises forming on her skin and the army of bandaids over her small scratches. Eda felt her soul shatter at the sight, and carefully took the girl into her arms. She cradled her gently as she took her upstairs and laid her down in the nest.

"She has some bruised ribs, a mild concussion, a broken nose, a cut from where the mask cracked, and her one eye is pretty sore from all the smoke. But they said she should make a full recovery...." Richard said quietly, as he stood awkwardly in the doorway.

"Thank you....." Eda said just above a whisper as she held her child close, the guilt sank deep in her heart, "I'm sorry you and your family are involved in this."

Richard let out a deep sigh, "it's hard being a parent....you always want what's best for them. You teach them right and wrong. You keep them safe and you want them to be happy and themselves. Then all that shit you said about standing up for what's right and being true to yourself suddenly seems so stupid when they start fighting for it. Cause ya know they could get hurt and then they do. But ya know.....you were pretty spot on. You saw what they were doing and you did your best to make sure they were safe and prepared for when they did stand up for themselves. I don't know if it was the right thing to do but honestly I don't think there is a right thing to do. All I know is that I'm glad my daughter has some people looking out for her."

"They got hurt because of me." Eda sobbed quietly, "I should have done more. I should have sent Luz back I should have-"

"Hold on a fucking minute. You weren't the fucking asshole emperor who blew of his own soldiers to get them to start chucking bombs at children. They got hurt cause of him. Don't go beating yourself up. We did what we could to keep our kids safe. We knew how stubborn they were. All I know is cause Viney was there some kids are alive that wouldn't have been. This night fucking sucked and from a numbers game it was a lose on both sides. As a parent though, having your kid back alive because of the help of a stranger. That's their whole world saved. It's not much in light of everything but it's what we got."

Eda smiled wearily as she ran her fingers through her teen's hair, "I can think of worse consolation prizes."

Richard offered a tired grin, and took his leave.
--------------------------

Edric grimaced as threw back the flask of whiskey he was handed. His other hand gripped Lilith's tightly as Viney finished up his stitches.

"There we are, all patched up." Viney smiled, wiping down the area and starting to wrap it in gauze, "Probably going to be some swelling, bruising around the area for the next week. But all and all. Could be a lot worse."

"I mean I didn't get blown to bits so yeah." Edric smirked, although discomfort was clear on his face, "Now go and tell my sisters I'm alright otherwise you're going to have to deal with a double coronary."

"You can tell them yourself, I still have people to work on." Viney said, some of the stress finally bleeding through. "Dad! we got another one going up."

Richard nodded, scooping up Edric. "Where am I putting this one?"

"In my room. It's where his sisters are." Lilith said, her mind scattered as she washed her hands as Brian set Willow on the table.

"Aye, aye." Richard nodded, as he carried the boy upstairs.

Willow's right leg bent at an odd angle and was already swollen. The professional healers cast an X-ray spell, clearly showing the broken bone.

"Look at you, breaking bones and keeping them in the skin. Should give Edric lessons on that." Viney smirked, as she began cutting the fabric of her pants above the break.

Willow offered an exhausted laugh, "I would if I had any memory of how I managed to do it."

"Alright, so good news, We're totally able to put it back into place and it will heal up fine. Bad news, we have to set it back into place and we don't have sedatives so.....here is your whiskey."

Willow threw the flask back,she coughed, "This is so gross." She immediately grabbed her Papa's hand as they started to move her leg back into place, she took long swig of whiskey, forced herself to focus on the burning in her throat. "Motherfucker."

"All back in place. Now we're going to start getting it in a cast. Don't worry, everything else is much less painful." Viney reassured.

"Great." Willow said through grit teeth.
--------------------------

Lilith was exhausted as she finally made her way upstairs, everyone had been treated and patched up. The kids were broken and scarred but they were alive. She repeated the mantra as she made her way to her bed, were her kids were already asleep. She ignored the stabbing feeling in her chest at the sight of their injuries, climbing into her nest. She purred gently as she fell asleep.

The others made their way home, grateful everyone would recover from the blasts. Their comfort was undermined as they knew this was only the start of what was to come.

Chapter Text

Luz woke up to the sound of Eda's purring and snoring. The former sounded a bit like putting your ear next to a motorcycle and the later sounded like what would happen if someone had a chainsaw that was also part trombone. She lifted her head off the pillow, she felt her body protest as she tried to sit up fully. She however quickly gave up, as any bending near her ribcage felt like it was getting kicked. Her throat hurt, breathing out of her nose was difficult, her one eye was stinging, and her head throbbed. She heard the snoring stop and turned to see her mentor's dual colored gaze on her. Eda was normally a fighter, any pain she either buried or carrying through. Even when she thought she was going to die she focused on how well she lived even if it was cut short. That was what Luz was used to from her mentor. The look on the witch's face wasn't that normal tired put upon smirk. It was the look of guilt, fear and pain. The same look an animal rescuer would have if they spent a year rehabilitating an animal to watch them get eaten the minute they were released into the wild. The look of a mother holding her broken child and only seeing herself as the cause.

Luz offered her a tired smile, "Good morning." Her voice was hoarse with sleep and soreness. She watched Eda's ears flick back at the sound. She looked down immediately, guilt finding its way into her thoughts, "I should have listened to you. You were just trying to protect us. I'm so-"

"Did you help anyone?" Eda said calmly.

"What?"

"Was there any person at all, that you helped during that fucking mess."

Luz felt her chest tighten as the thought of the coven guard and his mangled body flashed before her eyes. She curled closer into Eda like a child during a thunderstorm. "I tried....to help someone.....but...he wasn't...."

The weight of Luz's broken words sank Eda's heart like a stone. She rubbed her back gently as the girl started to break down in her arms. "You tried. And that's the best thing you can do during an attack like that. There's no good war and when we do start fighting, the opportunities to be able to help people are going to become harder and harder."

Luz nodded, still clinging to Eda, "This is only gonna get worse....isn't it."

"Yeah...but for today, we rest." The witch sighed, gently ruffling her kid's hair, "how are you feeling?"

"Like I got hit by a truck."

"Yeah....I have no idea what a truck is." Eda said bluntly.

Luz laughed, as she tried to think of the best analogy, "like I got hit by a metal griffin running 45 miles an hour."

"Fucking hell, let me go see if we have any healing potions left and if not, I'll make some more." Eda stretched, carefully lifting King from the other side of the nest and placing him next to Luz, who immediately began snuggling him.
----------------------------

"Reports show that over 500 people were injured during last night's attack and one hundred people died. Half of which were coven guards during the first round of bombing done by the Nighthawks. There was-" The orb was smacked by Lilith's hand. She buried her hands in her bright red locks.

"Luz is awake, how's the other three?" Eda yawned, as she grabbed some juice from the fridge.

"They were up but they might have fallen back asleep. None of them slept well last night."

"Luz slept well, although a decent enough head injury will put anyone to sleep." Eda smiled humorlessly to herself, as she took eggs and some bacon out of the fridge.

"Eda, what the hell are we doing?" Lilith asked, her mind as frazzled as her morning bed head.

"I believe it's called breakfast."

"Edalyn. I'm serious. The new channels are all slamming us for bombing the emperor's coven and blaming us for everyone that got hurt in the process. Then on social media all these parents, young adults, teenagers and children are up in arms wanting revenge on the people who killed their friends. All the young people want to murder the first guard they see and all the adults want our heads on a pike. We need to do somethi- Stop drinking that from the carton. We all share that!"

Eda sighed deeply setting the juice back down, "meh, it's like half rum at this point. The alcohol will kill the germs."

Lilith eyed the carton and poured herself a glass, "What are we going to do?"

"Today? Nothing. For the next week. Honestly just keep it to air dropping the actual truth. And eventually start actual recruitment."

"Who and how are we going to recruit people? We're wanted criminals. And we can't exactly have our kids running up and down the streets with a sign up sheet and a clipboard."

Eda summoned her scroll and carefully showed her sister the Nighthawks peaceful protest page, which based on the comments was really do for a name change. "We live in an age where people post a picture of themselves for literally nothing. I doubt it would be that hard to find them in real life."

"Great, more children."

"Okay we're not taking any younger than fifteen. That's the youngest you can technically join a coven anyways."

"Gus is thirteen."

"Well....I'll add that to the list of reasons I hate myself and move on." Eda laughed bitterly.

"Eda, there are thousands of people on this list. How are we going to train that many?"

"You trained hundreds of guards at your old job. Not well. But I mean that's why I'm here."

"Yes but there was also a set structure on how things were done. And I never trained more than fifty at a time. We had specific people for that. We have us, a bunch of untrained adults and nine trained teenagers. All of which are in various stages of injury."

"Lily, the Emperor planted bombs to blow up his own guards. We both know he didn't put out his best and brightest for the job of dying. There are some higher ups that were told to stay home that day. And some of them might even have more than one brain cell and a tinge of moral ethics enough to figure out what really happened. We find them. We find people to help train." Eda grinned, filling up her mug with coffee.

"And how exactly do we find them?" Lilith grumbled, done with this logistical nightmare. She vaguely heard her sister mumble something into her mug. "What was that?" She watched as Eda seemed to try to hide behind her coffee, her gold and grey eyes avoiding her. "Edalyn...."

"Break into some guard barracks."

"That is insane."

"Well, do you have a better idea?"

Lilith sighed deeply, and laid her forehead on the counter in defeat, "no....."

"Well then we do that and see if we can break out some other wild witches from jail." Eda added, as she buttered some toast.

"This isn't a rebellion...this is a cluster fuck."

"Yes, but it's our cluster fuck." Eda grinned poking her sister with her elbow.

"I should have joined the potions coven." Lilith groaned.
---------------------------

Amity picked at part of the bandage around her arm. She was badly bruised in some spots and had some stitches on a gash on her arm but out of her siblings she was the least battered. Emira had her arm in a cast and five different stitched cuts, and Edric who had the unfortunate experience of being way too close to a bomb, had his entire left leg in a cast, and had a patch work of stitches.

"I'm so glad our parents are going out of town for the rest of the week." Edric sighed, as he used a back scratcher to itch his less injured leg.

"Yes because your leg will totally be fixed in a week Ed" Amity said dryly.

"Yes, but most of my stitches will be healed enough by then and I mean we told them we were doing hard training over the weekend at the knee. Just say I fell off something or we got attacked by a slitherbeast. I mean they don't know about that happening the first time so it's not even a lie." He grinned, cheekily.

"That's not actually that bad of an idea...." Emira smirked, "look at you having a good idea for once."

"Fuck off." Edric grumbled, causing his sisters to laugh and then immediately wince as their bruised ribs protested.

Lilith walked in an uneasy smile on her face, she had pillows in her arms, "Alrighty, breakfast is on the way, does anyone need anything?"

"A new leg?" Edric smiled although it turned into a slight grimace as Lilith propped him up with pillows.

"I'm afraid that isn't available." Eda smiled, Luz held carefully in her arms, "but I have this!" She grinned, stretching her arms out slightly. "Ya want it?"

Luz rolled her eyes at her teacher's antics, Amity however immediately sat up, "Yes please."

"Awww, you love me!" Luz giggled as Eda carefully placed her next to her girlfriend.

Amity blushed slightly, leaning her head against Luz's shoulder, "yeah, I love you."

"Alright, enough with the cuteness. Let people eat first." Eda teases as she and Lilith carefully handed the kids their breakfast.

Luz carefully munched on her food, the older witches' eyes watching them carefully. The worry lines on their faces that easy off slowly as they continue to eat. They almost seemed to physically relax when she took a sip of water. She thought of when she was little, how her Mami would always sit by her while she ate to make sure she was getting enough fluids. While neither witch was as openly cuddly as her Mami, the gesture warmed her heart.

"So find any healing potions?" Luz asked, putting a hand over her mouth as to not to display the food she was still chewing.

"No and we're out of ingredients for them. But the juice is mostly rum. So it will at least get you through the rest of the morning while one of us goes to get more." Eda offered a tired grin, patting Luz's head.

"Are you sure that's safe to do after....everything?" Emira asked, worry crossed her golden eyes.

"I'm going to Morton's to get some potions and ingredients, I'm not going up to the guards barracks with a giant sign that says wanted criminal over my head." Eda said, giving the girl her best confident smile.

"We can deal for a day or so. It's not like we haven't done that with injuries before." Amity confessed quietly, which caused Luz to pull her closer.

Eda bent down, ignoring the ache in her knees, and looked the blights in their eyes, "You're in our care now, if you are hurt we're going to do everything we can to help you feel better. Even if it's just a little scratch and it just needs a bandage. I'm not making you grin and bear it."

Their eyes seemed to widen slightly as the words hit, they had disobeyed Eda and Lilith. They had gone behind their backs and ended up hurt. Eda and Lilith were right in telling them not to go and yet despite everything. They still cared. Adults didn't do that for them.

Edric looked up nervously glancing at the two older witches, "We're not in trouble?"

The older witches blinked looking at the boy then watched as his sisters seemed to mirror his nervousness. Amity was even hiding slightly behind Luz, who looked slightly guilty but was nothing to the fear that radiated from the blights.

"All of you are hurt, and one of you can't even get up the stairs. I'm sad you felt the need to hide stuff from us but we also didn't give you much of a choice. We were trying to protect you from the worst case scenario and I feel we have made it worse. Moving forward, we will listen to you more. We're in this together and we can't do that if we don't listen to each other and if we're not honest." Lilith sighed, sliding into her nest. She pulled all four kids in for a gentle hug, a rumbly purr escaped her throat. The witchlings soon joined her in purrs, as the five snuggled together.

Eda let the sight warm her heart as she prepared to leave.

-----------------------------

Eda walked carefully down the streets, she had disguised herself as a feeble old woman thanks to charm bracelets that the twins had made her and Lilith. She had been extremely impressed and mildly insulted by them but understood that most didn't notice little old ladies.

She normally loved walking by the market, it smelled of money and opportunities. However today it felt like death. Very few people were out, and although the night stalls were away. The damage was still there. The air still smelled like smoke, even though the fire was put out. She walked by a bakery that Edric had blown through from a bomb. She saw the shattered window and even a few bits of dried blood. All being swept away by some young employee. Eda made eye contact with them and they immediately knew they both had seen the horror. She offered an understanding smile and they nodded gravely before going back to cleaning.

The boiling isles had always been chaotic, attacks were nothing new. Demons and witches are known for trouble. Their history had been bloody many many times. However, she never expected she would ever have to live through one. She never expected to do a lot of things that suddenly were quite mundane. The hugs, the laughter, the sense of pride she felt whenever Luz learned something knew. The forehead kisses, she, Eda the infamous Owl Lady, gave her young apprentice daily. These things she cherished and hoped to never end. The fear of the war, the soon to be scars on these kids faces, the worry whenever the kids weren't there, the threat of Odalia and Alador, the emperor's coven taking away any of her children from her. That is what she hated more than anything. She hated the guilt she felt for making these kids grow up quick, and watching their innocence get blown away by fire. She hated that she was proud of them for standing up and fighting back, but she couldn't help it.

Her thoughts were interrupted as she reached Morton's stand, she saw people moving inside. She knocked on the window, "hey, Morton! Open up!"

A woman appeared lifted up the stand, her eyes were blood shot, tears ran freely down her face, and her eyes looked like shattered glass. "Were you one of his customers?" She asked, her voice distant and soft.

The realization hit Eda as her eyes widened, "No....No....please tell me....he isn't."

The woman just nodded as she sobbed, "He was at the protest last night. I begged him not to go....he just wouldn't listen. He said Eda was one of his friends and he wasn't going to watch the coven hunt her anymore."

Eda felt her throat go dry, as guilt and shame ran through her views. "I'm so sorry."

"Oh, it's not your fault." Morton's father said, as he pulled his sobbing wife in his arms, "Those Damn Nighthawks, things weren't always great but before they came around I didn't have to worry about my son getting blown up in the streets." He soothed slightly as he saw the sadness in the woman's eyes, "your grandkids get hurt during the attacks ma'am?"

Eda just nodded, unable to form words, as she reached for her purse. Morton's parents gathered up some healing potions and ingredients.

"Here, this is all we have left. You don't need to pay. We've been giving out healing supplies to people affected." His father said, handing her the bag.

Eda took it carefully, "thank you." She said quietly, not trusting herself to speak any more.

She walked back towards the edge of Bonesborough, as she again walked past the war zone from the night before. She could see outlines in the ash from where bodies were found. She saw that employee from the bakery, standing in front of the store. Tears falling down their face as they lit a cigarette.

The boiling isles was many things, crime ridden, slimy, smelly, chaotic, wild, and full of wonder and horror alike. The one thing it almost never was, was sad. Today, the city of Bonesborough mourned and tried to repair and clean away all that happened before. However the scars on those who were there, those won't go away. Eda wondered if she could go to the market again and not smell the smoke. She sighed realizing that it was just another thing she'd have to get used to.

------------------------

Eda took off her disguise, the illusion fell away as she entered her home. She smiled slightly as she heard purring from Lilith's room. The bag of potions felt heavy in her hands as she walked. It wasn't just the bag, her whole body felt heavy, the words of her late friend's parents echoed in her head. She lifted a shaky hand and opened the door. Her sister and the teens were asleep, snuggled together in a pile. They were purring slightly in their sleep. She felt just a bit of joy in her heart as she saw Emira sleep kneading her sister's arm. She gently patted her sister's foot, and watched as Teal and Grey eyes blinked open.

"Hey" Lilith yawned, "You get the stuff?"

"Yeah" Eda responded quietly, handing the bag over without looking at her sister.

Lilith carefully set the bag on her lap, her keen eyes studied her sister's face. "It's that bad...out there?"

Eda made a slight huffing noise from her nose, "I've been to funerals that had a better atmosphere than out there....." She let out a hollow laugh, "Everything just felt raw, and watching the few people out try to go about their day when just up the street it looks like a war zone. It's.....fuck...." She growled as tears rolled down her cheeks. "I hate how much it hurts. I hate how much I feel like it's my fault."

Lilith felt her own eyes starting to prick with tears, as she carefully ran a hand through a sleeping Edric's hair. "We have done everything we can to prevent violence. We made sure they did property damage only, and if there were guards to use sleep spells or just defend themselves from attacks and run. That protest was peaceful. He was the one who planted the bombs, he was the one who armed the guards with explosives to throw into the crowd. HE hurt those children. And we're going to do everything we can to make sure he can't hurt anyone else."

"I just don't want to lose any of our kids in the process..."

"Then we train. We were once the most powerful witches in the boiling isles. We can get there again. As long as we're breathing, we're going to do everything we can to protect all of our kids." Lilith felt the pain in her chest turn to rage, "and those kids who died.....I won't let their deaths be in vain."

Eda felt the fire start to burn in her as well, rage was familiar. Rage let to action, and most importantly, it was easier than despair. She carefully grabbed the ingredients from the bag and went to work.

Chapter Text

Hieronymus Bump didn't often close hexside for more than a day, he understood that things happen, bad weather, unmanaged pixies, and the occasional explosion. He had closed the school for a week last summer after the petrification incident, and that had been his record for closing the school down since he founded it. Following the Night Market Massacre, he closed the school for three weeks. He adjusted his tie as he cast vacant eyes at the knot. He had never been good at forming the knots, yet found that it was perfect. He wanted to take some pride in this new ability, but the reason for it sank any pride he felt. He was always a fairly gruff stoic, sarcastic man, however he loved his students dearly. He often kept tabs on their accomplishments well after they graduated Hexside. He carefully adjusted his tie again and checked his watch. Today would be his sixty eighth funeral he had been to this month, and he had five more later in the week. He knew that this probably wasn't great for his mental health, but the thought of not going seemed to only make it worse. He needed to see them, see their families, offer them support. It was his very own personal torture, this ache in his chest, as he watched children he had seen grow be placed in the dirt. Guard or protester, he didn't care, they were his students and none of them deserved to die.

He flew to the mortuary, the path seemed ingrained in his head now. He landed carefully, his ankle still wasn't fully healed, and made his way inside.

Tom had been a breath of fresh air compared to his family, it was also why he had been the black sheep. He was good hearted and kind but could be apathetic. He had known what his family expected of him. He had gotten into the Emperor's coven because of his family. He had never really wanted to be there but he was. Bump had been shocked to find out that he made it in tryouts, Tom wasn't a very powerful witch, another reason his family was disappointed in him. Bump watched the eyes of the people in the room, and found most were fairly dry. He felt his frown tighten as many of the older adults seemed almost bored. He turned his eyes away to prevent himself from sneering at them. He felt his heart break as he saw Boscha. She loomed over the casket, as tears ran down her face. Bump turned to the picture board that was by the wall, and saw a picture of Tom, Boscha and their great aunt at a carnival. They all beamed brightly from behind one of those wooden stands. He sighed as he made his way to the girl who now was as far from that picture as possible. He placed a comforting hand on the girl's shoulder. He saw her head turn, her three eyes looked up at him, her lip quivering. He offered her a hug and she buried herself in his arms, rubbing her back gently as she sobbed. This is why he continued to come to the funerals, not just to honor the students he lost, but to support the ones that were still alive. Boscha was a bratty angry teen that definitely had given him quite a few migraines, today however, she was just a sad girl who lost her cousin too soon. Today, his purpose was to be there for her, and he would do his damndest.

----------------------------

Luz was bored. She attempted to shuffle a deck of playing cards in her hand for what felt like the millionth time. Eda had given it to her as a temporary solution to her student's near constant fidgeting and hatred of bed rest. Luz had taken them as they were honestly better than nothing and was now determined to become good at shuffling. She bent the cards back slightly and watched as they awkwardly slipped out of her hands. She groaned, flopping her head back into her pillow. It had been two weeks since the attack and although her nose was almost healed, Eda had banned her from doing anything other than learning potions and studying. Normally she would have been trying to get Eda or Lilith to teach her something but they were both out running errands and King was asleep. Her eyes caught sight of a hat, and an idea rolled into her head. She grabbed it, and carefully placed it upside-down on the floor. She laid back down on her bed and started tossing cards. She grumbled as she missed every single one. However she had forty six more chances and nothing else to do.
-------------------------------

Boscha walked through the halls of Hexside like a predator. She, however, had a single prey in mind. Three weeks had passed since the massacre, and two since the last relative she liked was buried. She was hurting, and all she wanted to do was beat the shit out of the people who killed her cousin. The identity of some of the Nighthawks was a bit of an open secret. Generally it was thought it was Luz, Gus and Willow Blights, they tended to be considered less likely. Boscha The plant witch's ears flicked back and a growl a , ,,,?,? Xoxo ' her throat as she saw Boscha, who radiated anger.

"What do you want." Willow snapped, despite her injured leg, she still looked ready to fight.

"You're a part of the reb-" Boscha snarled only to have a surprisingly strong hand clasp over her mouth, with a palm pressed firmly into her chin. She was about to dig her claws into the other girl to get her to release when the wall opened up behind them. Her three eyes glanced around the unfamiliar room, then yelped when suddenly she was slammed against the door. She felt Willow's claws grazing her skin, Boscha growled her ears pinned back.

"Now that we're not in the middle of the hallway where people can hear us. What the fuck do you want?!" Willow yelled, clearly done with any niceties she had left.

"ARE YOU WITH THE NIGHTHAWKS?!" Boscha screamed, tears welled in her eyes as she thought of her cousin.

Willow blinked at the tears, loosening her grip on the other girl. That however was a mistake, as Boscha used Willow's injury against her and quickly slammed her into the wall.

"There were bombs set off underneath where the emperor's coven was standing. One of those bombs killed my cousin. DID YOU FUCKING KILL HIM?!" Boscha roared.

"We didn't. The Emperor planted the bombs. He killed your cousin." Willow answered, as she watched Boscha's anger fall into despair.

"LIar!" She screamed through tears.

Willow drew a circle in the air and stuck her hand through it, "I will tell you the truth about what happened that night if you agree to not tell anyone else about it."

Boscha looked at the everlasting oath and shook the other girl's hand, "now talk."

"We went there to protect the protesters. The last few protests had gotten violent. Eda and Lilith didn't want us to go because they were worried the guards were going to throw bombs at us. We went anyways and I went into the middle of the circle to deflect any projectiles. None of us had any plans of hurting anyone. And when the bombs went off and the guard started to attack, I got pushed back in the crowd and blown into a wall. I woke up, used my vines to wrap my leg and saw the owl flare and ran towards it. At a certain point it got too painful to walk so I used my vines to carry me there. Everyone was scared and just trying to survive. We didn't start any of the fires in the court houses either. Our job was to break in, wreck shit, tag stuff and get out. If we ran into guards we were supposed to defend then escape. Lilith suspects that the Emperor planted the bombs to make us look worse since people seemed skeptical about the fires."

Boscha curled in on herself, hiding her face behind her knees as she tried to hold back sobs. She stopped as she felt arms wrap around her. "What are you...."

"What happened sucks, and you shouldn't have to go through it alone." Willow smiled, as she rubbed the other girl's back, "It was a bad night for everyone." There was a distant tone in her voice, and Boscha turned her head and saw the broken glass behind the other girl's eyes.

They sat together there, sitting in their grief, but taking solace that they weren't alone. They heard the bell scream and made their way to their homeroom.
------------------------------

Boscha sighed as she sat at her lunch table, most of the others chatted amongst each other. She sat near them but kept her mouth shut, as she picked at her food. The rest were familiar enough to know when Boscha was upset, you left her alone til she cooled off. This was different. She still snapped at them, but the bite wasn't there. That was because she was using most of her energy to keep herself from falling apart. She didn't know how to feel. Her family had history with the Emperor's coven, her mother was in it. Her mother, who was given the day off on the day of the massacre. Her entire purpose was to be the best and the strongest. She had even picked the potions track as that is what the leader of the coven had been in when she was at Hexside. Tom had been in the coven, but he was betrayed by them. She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up to see Amity taking a seat next to her.

"What do you want, Blight." She growled, although it was pretty clear her heart wasn't in it.

"I heard about what happened to your cousin, and I thought you might want some company." Amity said, honestly.

"I don't need your pity. I've had enough pity for a lifetime."

"I just wanted to say, he was a nice guy and he didn't deserve what happened to him. And I know he was your best friend."

Boscha felt herself start to crack, and she turned to look at her once friend, "Thanks...."

Amity smiled and was about to get up and leave when she felt a hand grab her wrist, she saw three eyes pleading for her to stay. She relaxed back into her seat and while their conversation was sparse and consisted of mostly just complaints about their favorite grudgby teams. There was a comfort and familiarity as they both watched the glorious path their parents had set them on burst into flames. The coven they had once respected and dreamed of being a part of now showed to be a web of lies. A place where people are treated like numbers that can go up or down without much of a thought.
-----------------------------

Nighthawk training was finally starting again after a little over a month of recovery. Edric was the last to heal, and now that he was finally able to get his cast off. Everyone was eager to get back to training. It wasn't easy or pleasant but there was familiarity to it, there was a goal and a purpose to it. They had sat in recovery, feeling more helpless than ever. Today, they finally felt like they could do something again.

Willow sighed as her locker closed its mouth. She adjusted her bag as she readied herself for the walk to the owl house. She blinked when she saw Boscha leaning against the locker next to her.

"Can I help you?" She asked the three eyed witch.

"Just waiting for us to leave."

"Us?"

Boscha moved closer and whispered, "You're going to train with the rebellion. Aren't you?"

Willow nodded, wondered how exactly the other witch had figured that out, and was about to ask how.

"Well I'm coming with you." Boscha stated it as if it were just an obvious fact.

Willow's train of thought derailed at her words, her mouth opened and closed like fish. She tried and ultimately failed at finding anything she thought would actually stop Boscha from joining the rebellion. Willow just sighed, slinging her bag over her shoulder, "well come on then."

-----------------------------

Eda and Lilith looked surprised as they saw Willow with Boscha in tow. The sisters were more than aware of Boscha. Her reputation was hard to miss, especially as the captain of the grudgby team. She was disrespectful, brutal, rowdy and her loyalty to most things was questionable at best. They gave Willow a look that could only be described as Titan why and the witchling just replied with a silent, this wasn't my idea either. Their unspoken conversation was quickly interrupted by the pink haired witchling. As she marched up to the sisters.

"I'm here to join your rebellion." Boscha said, a determined look in her eyes.

Lilith and Eda exchanged a glance, before the elder one said, "Give us one second." They moved farther away and began whispering.

"What the hell do we do?" Eda asked, looking at her big sister.

"Why are you asking me? This whole rebellion was your idea. Besides the kids only just healed, we haven't had time to start any recruitment plans yet."

"I know. So I don't know if we're in the position to turn someone down. But how the hell do we even know if she is going to work well with the others. She's kind of a prick."

Lilith paced slightly, "Well, there was a technique that the coven used on particularly unruly recruits."

"And that is?"

"Have them fight the strongest of the other recruits, let them get a few licks in and then promptly beat their ass."

Eda pinched the bridge of her nose, "YOUR TECHNIQUE IS THE SAME AS THE BEAT THE STRONGEST GUY UP RULE IN JAIL?!"

"Yes, but theoretically, the strongest wins." Lilith added, trying to be hopeful.

"And what do we do if Willow loses?!"

"I don't know. At least in the emperor's coven they always lost."

"There are not words for how much I hate you right now." Eda grumbled.

"I mean we could always have her fight the house demon?" Lilith offered.

"Fight Hooty by herself?! That's child abuse. It's hardly a fair fight with nine of them."

"So it's literally up to Willow then?"

"Fuck me." Eda huffed, "Willow! Get over here!"

Willow scampered over to the witches, "I tried to get here to stop but there's no arguing with Boscha-"

"Yeah, yeah we know that, kid." Eda waved her off, "I need you to fight her. Just let her get a false sense of security that it's gonna be easy and then kick her ass."

"Are you asking me to hustle in a fight with someone who has bullied me for years?" Willow asked bluntly.

"Yes."

Willow rubbed her chin before looking up with a surprisingly devilish smile, "Am I allowed to break bones?"

"The fuck?! No! Rough her up, don't kill her." Eda snapped.

"What about a black eye? I mean she has three."

"Okay, one more comment like that and Jerbo is fighting her."

Willow whined slightly as she walked back with the older witches trailed behind her.

"Should we be concerned about how excited she is for this? I feel like we should be." Lilith said, nervously.

"Bitch this was your idea!" Eda snapped.

"You even said it was a bad idea!"

"Yeah well we don't have any other ideas so.....whatever happens it's your fault."

"Fine." Lilith sighed as they reached the teens, "We will decide based on a witch's duel. Boscha, you'll be fighting Willow."

Boscha and Willow grinned, while the other teens expressions ranged from concerned to panicked.

Eda sighed, as she stood between the two girls, "Alright, I want a good clean fight. And for the love of Titan, don't kill each other."

The duel began quickly, with Boscha immediately throwing fireballs towards Willow, who barely blocked them with vines. The three eyed witch glared as she summoned three abominations.

"You holding back on me?!" Boscha yelled, "What! you think I can't handle it?!" One of Boscha's abominations threw their head, hitting Willow directly and knocking her to the ground. The three eyed witch prepared another fireball as she walked closer, "Is that really all you got?" She growled, daring the other witch to attack.

Willow smirked as she stood up, and wiped Abomination goo off her face. She moved closer and her eyes glowed a solid green as the grass erupted around her. Boscha blinked, suddenly lost in the tall grass, when a vine grabbed at her leg. Boscha grinned as she summoned a blade and sliced it just as it was about to drag her off. "You think you can handle me, three eyes?" Willow taunted.

"You weren't the only one holding back bitch" Boscha chuckled as she burnt down the grass, running at the other witch, slicing through every plant that Willow summoned in her way.

The others watched carefully from the side lines, eating popcorn.

"Okay, are they flirting? Like I'm not good at this shit. And I can't tell if they want to kill each other or make out. Is that just me?" Luz asked, and the other nodded.

"Oh they are definitely flirting." Emira grinned, shoving a handful of popcorn in her mouth.

"Fuck if they train like this every time, we're gonna need more popcorn." Jerbo smirked, throwing popcorn into his boyfriend's mouth.

Eda and Lilith just groaned burying their heads in their hands.

Willow wrapped vines around her arms and summoned a heavy spiked tree branch that looked like a mace. Boscha summoned a shield and they exchanged blows. Willow growled as she swung her mace, busting through the other girl's shield with ease. Boscha turned her blade slicing through the wooden mace, and grinned before getting punched from the other side. She staggered back, tripping over vines Willow had wrapped around her foot and fell on her ass into the dirt.

"You're done." Willow smirked, reforming her mace.

"I'm not going to lose." Boscha snapped, rolled away from the mace as it smashed into the ground.

"You're not getting a choice." Willow growled, as the ground cracked around her mace.

Boscha stumbled, her breathing heavy, as she glared at the other witch. "I'm not letting my cousin die for nothing." She screamed, as she set her summoned battleaxe aflame. She lifted her weapon high, when vines yanked her back hard into the dirt. Her summoned weapon broke as did her flames. She panted heavily as defeat sank into her bones. Her energy was spent. Her eyes turned glossy as she saw her chance at vengeance slip away. Her cousin's death would stay him being nothing more than a pawn in a game he didn't want to play.

Willow huffed before falling to her knees. She smiled at her opponent, which caused a confused look on her face.

"Titan. You kids really fucked up my lawn." Eda laughed, as her and her sister helped the teens up.

"That was impressive. I don't think I've seen enough use of summoned weapons and fire magic." Lilith said, a look of pride on her face, "You two seem to push each other. If we're to survive in war. We need that."

"But I lost?" Boscha wheezed, as she took a glass of water from the sisters.

"You can't improve without failure. If this is where you're at with just grudgby training. You'll be a formable fighter." Lilith smiled, patting the girl gently on the back.

"Now, the important part. Are you going to rat us out." Eda glared.

Boscha turned to the owl lady, a fire behind her eyes, "The emperor killed my cousin, and many other people just because he wanted to make you look back. I'm not letting his death be meaningless. Fuck Belos."

Eda nodded, "Welcome to the rebellion kid."

Chapter Text

Boscha was popular, she always had been. She may not have been loved, even she knew that. But she was respected. Feared. She had friends, although she wasn't close with them. She never needed to be. She had Tom and her great aunt. They were all she needed, but they weren't here anymore. Her great aunt had died a few years back, from illness. She didn't take it well but then she had Tom. And now she had no one.

She had been training with the rebellion for about a week now. And while she fought and trained with them. They tended to keep her at a distance. She had been on teams before, hell she was a team captain. She knew about training and working with other people. The rebellion wasn't a team. It was different. Teammates and even friends didn't act like this. There was a hierarchy there. Coach, assistant coach, captain, star player and then everyone else was ranked on skill. Her social group had a hierarchy, she and previously Amity were both from the most respected families and the others either were from slightly lower families or were powerful enough to be deemed worthy of their time. If you seemed too weak or your family fell from grace you were cut and replaced. Just like the weakest player. Everything she had was from status, as the top of the potions track, as the grudgby team captain, as a powerful witch and her family name.

The rebellion didn't work that way. They had leaders, obviously. The Clawthrone sisters were the trainers and the coaches. They planned things and gave the orders. However, both sisters seemed to be on equal footing with each other. They bickered but they didn't fight for the number one spot. The command below them seemed completely nonexistent. There were definitely stronger witches. Edric and Emira were top of their track, and while Gus skipped grades and had skill, he wasn't neither as powerful as they were. Amity was top of the Abominations track and Willow was now at the top of the plant track. They were obviously heavy hitters. Then there was the others. The multitrack kids had skills but clearly being divided between tracks meant they were less skilled at each compared to being just in the one track. Then there was the human, who was in every track and had no born magical abilities. Yet, they all seemed to be on the same footing. They corrected each other, and learned from each other. Hell she'd heard them purr around each other and not just the couples. The thought of doing that around her teammates was uncomfortable at best and inappropriate at worst. She didn't even purr much to begin with, the only person she really purred around was her cousin. The realization hit her, as her ears folded back. They were a family. The sisters even checked them over for injuries and gave them snacks. They acted more like how her great aunt did more than any coach. She was part of the rebellion but she wasn't one of their family.

She packed her things as the others readied themselves for movie night. They all ran down towards the basement, arguing over which movie to watch. She sighed as she headed towards the door.

"Leaving early again, eh?" Eda said, leaning back on her couch.

"They don't want me there." She shot back, although the hurt in her heart bled through.

"Not so easy being the outsider, is it kid?" The older witch said nonchalantly, her gold and silver eyes stared pointedly.

Boscha's ears flicked back as the words hit home, "I get it. I'm an asshole. You don't need to rub it in."

Eda sighed, adjusting herself to a sitting position and patted the spot next to her, beckoning the teen to come.

The three eyed witch dropped her bag and walked over, sitting on the other end of the couch.

"I wasn't exactly well liked in school. I was a troublemaker and while I had friends. I didn't have a lot of people that I was super close with aside from Lily. Her and Granny were my entire life and when Lily left to train with the Emperor's coven. It was just me and Granny for a bit. But she was old and started getting sick. I dropped out of Hexside to help take care of her but there wasn't much I could do. When she died, I felt more alone than ever. I didn't join a coven and most of my friends from school had already moved onto their careers. Most of them wouldn't have talked to me anyways after I was cursed. People thought I was a monster. So I did the only thing I thought I could do and isolated myself. I was free from everything, I had no coven, no job, no responsibility but I also didn't have anyone to talk to. Hell, part of the reason Owlbert and I are so close is for the longest time, he was my only friend. People didn't mess with me cause they were afraid of me. But fear is a lonely bedfellow kid."

"How else do you get people to respect you?" Boscha snapped, as she placed her chin on her knees.

"Did you respect your cousin cause you were afraid of him?"

"What? No. He wasn't even that powerful. I respected him cause I loved him."

"There's your answer."

"But they don't even like me...."

"Well" Eda sighed, "Have you given them any reason to?"

Boscha sunk further into herself, "No..." She blinked as she felt a hand ruffle her hair.

"No better time to start than the present. If you want to get close with them, you're going to have to put in the effort. You're gonna have to put those walls down and that's scary. Trust me. I know." Eda laughed, "but being open doesn't make you weak. Being vulnerable doesn't make you weak. It's letting people in despite the chance they could hurt you that makes you strong. And nothing makes you more powerful than having people by your side. Revolution fought by one man is a losing battle."

Boscha bit her lip, as she glanced cautiously at the older witch. "You think they'll forgive me?"

"Amity tried to get Luz dissected when they first meant and now they're dating. Willow and Amity are best friends again after everything that happened. Weirder shit has happened." Eda grinned, patting the girl on the back before pulling her close, "and trust me if Willow can forgive that then your little crush might not be a total loss."

Boscha felt her face flush, "w-what crush?"

Eda chuckled, "You really never learned much about flirting past elementary school?"

"Shut up." Boscha growled half heartedly as she turned away.

"Relax kid, your secret is safe with me. But, girls tend to like it when you're nice. Keep the confidence though, they really dig that. At least always works for me." Eda gave a cheeky smile.

"Yeah I really want dating advice from the person who's single, over 30 and lives with her sister." Boscha smirked.

"Hey! I'm single by choice and Lily only started living here last year." Eda grumbled but the smile never left her face. , "cheeky brat. Now go watch the movie with the rest of the brood."

Boscha grinned, "Sure thing boss." It faltered a bit as she headed down the stairs. She heard the sounds of purrs coming from the back room. She stood awkwardly in the doorway as she watched the others.

They pushed a bunch of mattresses that were on the floor together. Then cast a spell so they wouldn't slide, piling the large bed with pillows and blankets in a nest. They climbed in together laying on top of each other like kittens in a pile, as purrs vibrated the room. She coughed slightly, sucking in a breath as she walked in. She saw eight pairs of eyes shining back at her in the dark room and the purrs stopped. She felt fear rise and felt the urge to run. She clenched her hands into fists, keeping her nerves. Her eyes staring at Willow, whose ears flicked back defensively. She pretended she didn't see the others do the same and even the human did her best at baring her teeth. She stood before them, her ears drooping downwards and sunk to the floor.

"I know that I've been a bad person. And that I hurt a lot of you. I...I was wrong. None of you deserved how I treated you. Being around you all and training with you all has made me realize that and I want to do better. And I'm...sorry." Boscha said, as she started to curl in on herself, "I lost the last person I was ever close to and seeing you all act like a family....makes me remember how much I miss mine. And.....now...They're gone." Tears leaked from her three eyes, "I know I don't deserve your kindness.....I just want to feel like people care about me...and not just cause I could hurt them."

The others blinked a bit, Amity, Willow and Gus were especially at a loss for words. They had known Boscha the longest and none of them had ever seen or heard her apologize and actually sound remorseful. The image of the brash and ruthless girl who ruled over the school with an iron first and a golden pedigree, clashed with the broken sad girl in front of them. This girl was lonely, scared and grieving. The kind of person she probably would have made fun of in the past. Luz, ever the softie, turned towards Amity and Willow, with a pleading look in her eyes. She couldn't see their faces that well in the dim light but she knew their keen eyes could see hers. Amity bit her lip, her golden eyes cast to Willow, relenting any decision to her. Willow sucked in her breath, as she thought about everything Boscha had done, and remembered when Amity added on to the hate. She saw how much Amity had changed. This was different, Amity and her had at least started out as friends. Boscha had always been mean to her. Yet, she apologized. That doesn't undo what she did but to see her actually mean it, that was a lot. She smiled softly, leaving the purr pile and placing a hand on the girl's shoulder.

"Come on. The movie is gonna start." Willow said, helping the other girl into the nest.

Boscha wiped her eyes as she found herself squished into the pile. The purrs returned in full force as they snuggled as Luz hit the play button on the remote. The three eyed witch smiled softly to herself and for the first time since her cousin's death, relaxed.
---------------------------------

Lizzy sighed as she checked the Nighthawks Peaceful Protest page, she was the one who started it and so she usually spent some time going through it and getting rid of any trolls or copy pastas. She was a sixteen year old student at St. Epidrum and specialized in the bard track. She also ran a small band of protesters at her school, it was only about fifteen people but it was growing steadily. She twitched her ears when she heard something hit her window, getting up when she heard the noise again. She felt her jaw drop as she saw a figure in all black, with a full black owl helmet that covered their entire face. She watched as they cast a spell and a ladder appeared outside her window. She turned locking the door to her room, her parents were asleep but she didn't want to risk it and climbed into the chilly spring night. The figure cast another spell; this one however didn't seem to do much of anything, at least as far as she saw. Worry filled her slightly, as she approached.

"You're one of the Nighthawks. Like the real ones. From Bonesborough." She said, in slight awe.

The figure nodded, "You're Elizabeth Snapdragon." They said, their voice sounded almost robotic, and she wondered vaguely if that was the spell they cast or if the helmet was enchanted.

"My....my friends call me Lizzy, umm what are you doing on my lawn at 3 am, here. Four hours from Bonesborough."

"We're recruiting, a war is brewing and we need help to win it. Will you help us?" They asked calmly before leaning against a tree.

"Yes!" She grinned, "I want to help more than anything! I have friends! They're in my group! They could join too!"

"Give me names and I'll send associates to talk with them. But before you agree to anything. The night market massacre was only the beginning, I saw things there that will haunt me for the rest of my life. If you join, you will see things like that or Titan forbid worse. I don't want you to join without knowing what you are getting into. This isn't a protest. This is war." They said, despite the voice modulation, the pain was clear.

"I can't watch people get thrown in jail for nothing. I can't sit by and know people died because our Emperor tried to do a smear campaign and killed his own people to do it. I started that page because I wanted to do something about this." She responded, her tone was sharp and serious.

Despite the owl helmet covering their face, she swore she could see an unreadable expression. They placed a hand on her shoulder, "I'm glad you're willing to help, but I'm sorry for the cost. People your age shouldn't have to be fighting."

"Someone has to." She smiled meekly as she handed over a list of names.

The figure nodded, stepping back, as a spell seemed to follow them, making them disappear from view.

Lizzy climbed back up to her window and the ladder disappeared as soon as she stepped off. She laid on her bed as a mixture of feelings ran in her gut. Relief at finally being able to do something, pride in standing up for her rights and fear of the horrors that lay ahead. She closed her eyes and wished for the best.
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Odalia expected perfection. She had been pleased when her son's grades increased. And all her children's skills were improving greatly. If all three of her children were to join the emperor's coven, well that would only bring the Blight family more status.

Her husband had informed her that the Emperor was preparing for war as the boiling isles grew more and more divided. The Emperor, however, had no plans of changing the coven system, so instead was forming the Emperor's Army, which would allow for people from different covens to join and temporarily gain access to all types of magic in service to the Emperor. The Emperor's coven still hadn't taken any new members as many of the barracks had been broken into and there was fear of spies among the ranks. Alador had told her that as soon as tryouts were available, the blights and many of the other established families would have the first go. As the Emperor's coven members were to serve as officers in the army. Blights weren't meant to be common foot soldiers. They were better than that, and far too powerful to be wasted on the front lines.

A phone call pulled the woman out of her thoughts, she raised an already arched eyebrow at the caller ID and answered, "Principal Bump, what is the meaning of this call? Has one of the twins caused trouble. I promise it won't happen again." She grinned sharply.

"No, no, nothing like that Mrs. Blight. You see, your children are currently at the top of their tracks. I fear with the war looming. They might start to slip by the time the Emperor's coven will be taking recruits again. As Blights, having your children fail to pass the tryouts would be a great shame."

"Yes well, Amity at least will make up for her siblings. Emira might have a chance if Edric would stop dragging her down. Although lately even Edric has failed to disappoint me." Odalia said coldly, "What are you suggesting Bump?"

"Well, I was going to offer private tutoring for them. Even after the twins graduate, their skills will stay sharp and any competition will be wiped clean. Edric might be the least naturally gifted but he is the least gifted Blight. A rare sapphire with a flaw is still more valuable than a common rock. With my help, I'll make sure they perform better than all of their competitors. However it will require a lot of their free time and of course extended trips."

Odalia drummed her pointed nails on the desk, "and what do you get in exchange? Good things always have a price and your offer sounds good to be true."

"You were always a sharp one." Bump laughed, "Hexside has been experiencing some financial issues, and Kikimora herself has made an offer. If I can get multiple of my best students into the Emperor's coven when the time comes, the grant money will be enormous....Of course any donations to me for giving your children an advantage by making a sacrifice of my own personal time would be...much appreciated."

"I'm sure they'll be strictly used for school funding." Odalia smirked, as she placed her hands on her oracle sphere. The smoke filled the ball before showing her children in Emperor's coven uniforms. "You have yourself a deal. And don't worry. All checks will be in your name, in case you would like to spread the funding between yourself and the school."

"Thank you, Odalia. You were always one of my favorite students. The children will start Monday." Bump smiled as they ended the call. He immediately slumped in his chair as he let out a breath he didn't know he was holding. He stared at the documentation on his desk, the letter heading held the emperor's seal. He growled to himself as shoved it in his desk drawer. He would need it as proof if Odalia came snooping. He smirked to himself, Odalia had always been a talented oracle at least with things that weren't personal. Oracle magic was incredibly fickle and required a clear unbiased mind, which is why no oracle prediction can be wholly accurate. Odalia's predictions when it came to her children were often clouded by her personal ambitions. He knew this well from when she was a student. He also knew the best lies were the ones with at least some truth to them. Kikimora had contacted all the schools on the boiling isles with letters, promising grand rewards for the school who could get the most students in the emperor's coven. And at any other time he would have been striving for that, but he had other plans. The Emperor had killed his students, children who had bright futures ahead of them and he would be damned before he sent more to die for nothing.. He grinned slightly as he called Eda.

"Did it work?" The owl lady asked pensively.

"Better than we could have dreamed. And Odalia Blight will be personally donating her money to our cause." He chuckled, smugness dripping from his voice.

"I always knew you had a devious side Bumpykins."

"Yes well, until we can find a secure solution to remove the children from under her thumb. At least giving them an excuse for where they're at is better than nothing." He sighed, memories of a once bright eyed witchling who's parents' hold choked out her kindness flashed before his eyes. He hadn't been able to do anything then but he had a chance now.

"Thanks....ya know when I was in school. I honestly didn't think you cared....I feel kind of like a jackass now." Eda laughed uncomfortably.

Bump smiled softly, "Motherhood has softened you Edalyn."

"Oh fuck off. I'm trying to be nice here." She groaned.

The old man laughed heartily, "thank you Eda, and I should have the money for our supplies by Monday."

"Sweet, see you then. And you're helping with training. At least while I'm gone with the new recruits."

"Of course." He smiled as they ended the call. He cracked his knuckles as he pulled out a piece of paper and wrote a few different ideas on the page. If they were going to be leading troops. They needed to know how to act under pressure. And he knew exactly how to do that.

Chapter Text

Today was not a good day for Luz. It had been a year since she came to the boiling isles. She felt tears prick her eyes as she dragged herself to her feet. She wasn't going to sit and be sad. She was tired of being depressed. She growled to herself as she went down to the impromptu gym Eda had set up in the basement. Luz wrapped her knuckles and glared daggers at the sandbag that hung from a large chain. She thought of everything that upset her, the innocent people who died, how the Blight siblings were treated by their parents, Belos for trying to kill Eda, and herself for burning her only way home. She slammed her fist into the bag, the chain groaned as the bag swung. She remembered when she first arrived, she was shorter and she couldn't lift the handle on the prison cell. A lot had changed in a year, a lot of wonder and a lot of pain. She decided that this sandbag would be her target. The victim of all her pent up rage and sadness, and she was feeling merciless.
-------------------------------------

Eda tapped her foot nervously as she tested the book. She bit her lip as she watched her sister cast the spell. She watched as a lock appeared to flash on the cover. The sisters' faces fell as they stared at the one thing they knew that could get their human home.

Eda slammed her fist on the table, "Of fucking course it's a seal."

"Seals aren't unbreakable. They're designed to be unlocked." Lilith added, trying to be hopeful, although even she didn't believe it.

"Seals can only be unlocked by a specific thing and ya know that thing was probably the key that was destroyed with the fucking door." Eda growled as she buried her hands in her hair, "a year's worth of research and study and all for a dead fucking end."

"At least now we know the main enchantment. Seals can be broken by other things. Let's not throw in the towel yet. We still have books on seals we can use." Lilith said, placing a comforting hand on her sister's shoulder. "Let's take a break for now."

Eda sighed as she followed her sister out of the room. They made their way into the kitchen to start breakfast. Amity, who was clad in a pair of Luz's shorts and one of Luz's shirts, yawned as she walked in. "Hey, have you seen Luz? She wasn't in bed when- I mean she wasn't in her room when I woke up."

The Clawthrone sisters, who were more than aware of what having a house full of horny teenagers meant, raised their eyebrows slightly at the obvious lie. Amity just looked down, her ears flicked back as she poured herself a cup of coffee.

"Check the gym, she's been sneaking down there at night when she's upset and thinks everyone is asleep." King said, as he stretched, before turning to glare at Amity, "Also, it's rude to move the king of demons when he is sleeping."

"King, I wanted food. I wasn't going to let you lay on my feet til you woke up. You sleep 18 hours a day." Amity grumbled, "and why didn't you tell me she was sneaking down there?!"

"You're in her bed the whole weekend and some weekdays, I would have thought you would notice." King said, dryly as he poured himself some juice.

"I'm always exhausted when I'm sleeping here." Amity snapped and blinked as she watched the sisters choke on their drinks, "FROM TRAINING."

"Sure. From training." Eda coughed, as she watched the young witch shrink under her gaze.

"Morning all." Edric smiled as he walked in, "Titan, what happened our training camps get bombed? What's with all the sour faces?"

"Today marks one year Luz has been in the boiling isles." Eda said, burying her head in her hands, "both of us need to leave to check on set up for the rebellion. And we hit a dead end with the portal book."

"That would explain the footsteps I heard heading towards the gym." Edric stated as he sat down next to his little sister.

"Seriously? Did everyone know Luz snuck down to the gym at night but me?" Amity huffed.

Lilith added more bacon to the hot skillet, "I don't know, why don't we ask Jerbo who is currently trying to sneak by in his underwear."

Edric's face turned a bright scarlet as his boyfriend, who was wearing a rumpled tank top and boxers sulked into the kitchen. Jerbo towered over Edric before leaning down to give him a chaste kiss. He pulled up one of the stools.

"How did you even see that? You weren't even looking at the doorway?" Jerbo asked, more impressed than bothered. He watched as a white raven flew in from the window and landed on Lilith's shoulder. "Nevermind."

Lilith held up a bit of egg which her palismen ate greedily before flying back out of the room, she placed a large plate of scrambled eggs and bacon on the table. "Now boys, you know we don't care what you do in the privacy of your own rooms. So long as you take the proper precautions."

"Mom, you literally are the one who buys my birth control. We're good." Edric said, his face a deep crimson.

"I know, this was more karma for the time I caught you two on the table in the potion lab." Lilith grinned, giving the boy a kiss on the forehead before moving to give one to the other two teens. "So when do you think Emira and Viney will be joining us?"

"How did you know Viney was here?" Edric blinked.

"I don't know why you act like this is some big secret. None of you are subtle and we are more than aware Viney and Jerbo are usually here at least once while you're over." Eda smirked at the teens, "Also Amity, next time you and Luz start fooling around in the middle of the night. Might I suggest a sound proof spell."

The teens, now thoroughly embarrassed, munched on their food. However all heads turned when they saw Luz walk in the doorway.

The human's eyes were bloodshot, dark circles outlined them. Her shirt was soaked with sweat, the marks from the boxing wraps were clear on her arms, but she kept her hands out of sight. "We're gonna need a new sand bag." She said, casually as she took the juice from King who nyehed in protest.

"Titan kid, you look like shit. What time did you get up?" Eda said, worry clear in her voice.

"What time is it now?" Luz asked, scratching at her neck.

"Ten." Lilith said, as her eyes tried to get a clear look at Luz's knuckles.

"Oh, I woke up at 5." Luz answered calmly, but froze as Eda grabbed her wrist. Her mentor grimaced as she looked at the dark bruises, the raw worn skin and the swelling that formed on the human's hands.

"What the actual hell kid?" Eda gasped.

"You should see the sandbag." Luz smirked, only to get a hand smacked upside her head. "Ow."

"You can't keep doing this, you're gonna break your fingers!" Eda snapped, "Hell, I think you might have."

"I'll be fine. I just needed some stress relief that's all. It's not that big of a deal." Luz grumbled but as she looked around at the fear in her family's eyes she felt guilt slip in. "I'm sorry. I'll be more careful and won't train as long."

"Luz, why didn't you wake me up? You know you can talk to me." Amity asked, as she carefully took her girlfriend's bruised hand in her own.

She seemed to deflate as she took a seat next to Amity, "What's the point? It's just the same stuff that always bugs me. Not like anything changed."

Eda stood wrapping her kid in a hug, kissing her forehead, "It's okay to miss your mom kid."

Luz felt herself crack as the dam burst. Tears streamed down her face, she felt Amity join the hug as she kissed her teary cheeks.

Eda let out a slight groan as she scooped up the now much heavier teen, Luz just buried her face in Eda's neck as Amity followed behind. The older witch walked down the stairs to the medical ward/potion lab. Amity grabbed the Pillow for her girlfriend's head as Eda placed Luz down on the cot. Eda nodded and patted Amity's back as she left the room. Luz pushed against the bed to sit but her fingers wouldn't let her. Amity helped her up and sat next to her on the cot. Luz laid back down using Amity's lap as a pillow. She cried quietly as her girlfriend rubbed her back and whispered sweet reassurances to her.

 

Eda knocked repeatedly on what was now Emira's room, she watched as the teen cracked the door, she stood wearing a long nightgown.

"What's up auntie E?" Emira yawned.

"Is Viney awake and wearing pants?" Eda asked bluntly causing the teen to blush.

"I'm awake. Give me a second on the clothes." Viney called as she pulled on her discarded pajamas, and leaned over her shorter girlfriend, "What did Luz do?"

"How did you know it was Luz?" Emira asked.

"You were in bed, Boscha's at home and if it were Edric, Lilith would have been knocking on my door." Viney sighed as she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes.

"I'm pretty sure she broke some of her fingers destroying the sandbag." Eda said as Viney followed up the hallway.

"Of course she did. Titan, why doesn't anyone in this house have any healthy coping mechanisms? You don't need a doctor for writing shitty angsty poetry." Viney grumbled.

"Hey, she's having a tough day and she's missing her mom, go easy on her." Eda said, her eyes looked downcast.

"Fine but if Luz or Boscha gets hurt doing something stupid again, I'm going to tell you the medical effects alcohol has on your body." Viney yawned as she walked into the medical ward. She softened as she heard the sobs coming from the room. "Hey Luz, sweetie, can I see your hands please?"

The human nodded as she stuck her hands out, Viney bit back a grimace as she cast an X-ray spell, "definitely some fractures. Dude, did you keep punching the sandbag after you hurt your fingers." She watched as Luz avoided her gaze, "I should be able to bandage you up in no time. And I'll tell Jerbo to make sure you rest."

"I can watch her." Amity snipped slightly at Viney.

"Yeah and most of the time you follow her in her shenanigans. And I end up patching you up to. Besides once Jerbo gets into big brother mode you're not going anywhere. Trust me. I had a cold and he barely let me leave my bed. There we are. All wrapped up. Just let me get a couple of healing glyphs and we should be good to go." Viney smiled as she pulled the glyphs out of the drawer and carefully stuck them on her hands. "They should heal up okay in a few weeks but even then I wouldn't do anything major for at least a month."

"Thanks V" Luz mumbled, her eyes puffy and red.

Viney just patted her head gently, "Just take it easy okay kid?"

Luz nodded quietly as she curled into Amity. Viney and Eda exchanged a worried glance and the younger Witch pulled out her scroll, already texting the others. She headed out of the room and went up for breakfast.

Eda rubbed her kid's back gently, as her brain fought with what to do. She needed to check on the camp and drop off supplies. She also wanted to make sure that their ex coven trainers did their job. She wanted to stay and dig through every book in the boiling isles til she found a way to bring her kid home.

A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts as Jerbo walked in. He smiled wearily at the owl lady and placed a hand on her shoulder. She gave his hand a gentle pat and moved aside.

He leaned down and patted Luz's arm lightly, "You want to go upstairs for a bit or you want to stay down here?"

Luz turned her exhausted gaze to him, "I think I'd choose my bed." She smiled although it didn't meet her eyes. She huffed a bit as Amity helped her sit up. She blinked as Jerbo scooped her up. "I can walk. I just can't use my hands that well."

"You look dead. Besides this way I know you won't trip over your own feet." He smiled as he began walking towards the door.

Luz felt a tinge of her pride yell at her for letting him carry her, but logic told her she was too tired to fight it and Jerbo wouldn't have relented much anyways. If you were hurt or sick, Viney was the one who gave you the treatment and Jerbo was the one who made sure you stuck to her orders. They often jokingly called him Dad, much to his disdain.

He set her down gently on her bed, moving aside carefully as Amity climbed in next to Luz. "Holler if you need anything." He said softly as he left the room.

Luz snuggled close to Amity, and let her girlfriend's purrs lull her to sleep.
----------------------------------

Eda growled as she packed her bags. She glared as her claws accidentally shredded one of her shirts. She grumbled trying her best to retract them but she was too stressed.

"When do you want to tell her about the book?" Lilith asked, her own look of stress and worry clear on her face.

"She spent five hours beating her knuckles into a bloody mess because she misses her mom and you want me to tell her that our biggest lead to getting her home might be completely unusable? And that our next best option is to try to break into the Emperor's castle while we're in the middle of setting up a rebellion to dethroned him." Eda said, exasperated.

"Well we can't just not tell her. She deserves to find out. This affects her more than anyone else."

"I know that, but we're going to be gone for a few days. I don't want to just tell my kid devastating news and then fuck off. I told the others to keep their mouth shut about it. And I'll tell her when I get back." Eda sighed, as she ran her claws through her hair.

"Alright fine. But promise me you'll tell her when you get back." Lilith said, a sternness in her voice, "the longer you wait the harder it will be on everyone."

"I promise Lily.....fuck I hate this." Tears welled in the owl lady's eyes.

"I hate it too." Lilith said, hugging her sister, "but we owe her the truth."

----------------------------------------

Jerbo sweeped up the remains of the broken sandbag. He was stressed, he was always kind of stressed but lately things were getting more serious. He saw the posters recruiting for the Emperor's Army everyday on his walk to school. The owl house barely stayed in one spot very long as the guards were searching for them. More and more of their missions were them stealing supplies for their new camps throughout the isles. He also knew as soon as he left Hexside, Eda would be placing him in charge of one of these camps. It scared him more than he cared to admit. He wasn't sure if he could lead an army, let alone protect them.

"You need some help, love?" Edric smiled, as he held the dust pan.

Jerbo returned his smile but Edric knew it was forced. Jerbo continued to sweep.

"So are we going to talk about what you're upset about or are we just going to clean?" Edric asked, as he dumped the sand into the trash can.

"I guess....I'm overwhelmed. My parents were always worried about me getting in trouble before, after Luz helped start the multitrack program. My grades came up and my moms relaxed. Now, I'm almost about to graduate, I'm working on my staff, I'm spending more of my time helping out with the rebellion than at school and my moms are more worried than ever. On top of that our rebellion has barely any money, we're constantly short on supplies. Luz is going through an entire mental crisis and I can't seem to find anything I can do to make anything better." Jerbo growled as he kicked the broken sandbag, "and soon I'm going to be put in charge of a camp and expected to be able to run it."

Edric frowned as he rubbed his boyfriend's back. Jerbo was hardly ever angry, and seeing him mad enough to kick something worried him. "I think we're all overwhelmed and scared. I definitely am. But I always tell my sisters when they're stressed to worry about the things they can fix and just let the stuff they can't be. Your moms are gonna be scared no matter what. We can't do anything about that. Money and supplies....I don't know where to even start with that. So we can just put that aside. School.....I mean that's up to you. Many people leave school early."

"They leave because they joined a coven. Most people don't just fuck off."

"I mean you kind of already have. Besides your only coven choice would be the E.C. and we know that's not an option. I think it might upset your moms but if it's best for you. Maybe you should leave hexside. I mean I've learned more about magic and spells during training than I ever did in school. The only reason I'm staying for my last year is because my mother would end my existence. If I could leave hexside and just stay and work with the rebellion, I would." Edric sighed, as he leaned his head against his boyfriend.

Jerbo wrapped his arms around Edric and rested his chin on his head, "You're right. I mean I doubt my moms would be that pleased but I mean, they're already displeased, it's not like it really makes that much of a difference. And this way I can keep a closer eye on Luz." He bit his lip as he looked down at his boyfriend, "how are things going....with your parents?"

"As good as they can be. Mother was able to get Emira and I special exemptions from having to join any coven until the E.C. is taking members again. My grades are good and as long as she thinks I'm training with Bump. We're safe. She calls paying for me to be in these lessons, My second chance, to be a Proper Blight. But it's nice actually being able to get away from that, even if it's only on the weekends mostly. It's nice having an actual family. And for all the shit and the stress this whole mess has put me through. It also gave me people who would give their all for me. And it brought me closer to you."

Jerbo smiled lifting his much shorter boyfriend up to kiss him. "Your mother is a bitch. If she had any brains she'd see the skill you have and just how wonderful and unique you really are. You might not be a Proper Blight but you're doing the best you can and you should give yourself credit for that. You're charismatic, sharp and you're smarter than most people give you credit for. You're gonna be great at whatever you do. Especially being a leader."

"Hey don't sell yourself short. You're one of the few people who can butt heads with Viney and actually win. Boscha and Luz listen to you. You're basically everyone's big brother, you're going to be a great leader. Don't doubt yourself so much."

Jerbo smiled as he pulled his boyfriend in for another kiss. He was still scared but he felt better. He had options now and he wasn't alone. He hoped he could give some of this advice to Luz when she woke up from her nap. For now though, he went back to cleaning up the spilled sand.

Chapter Text

Emira cast the enchantment on the helmets. The Clawthrones didn't want any of the kid's families to be attacked because of their involvement and the blights especially couldn't be seen as part of the rebellion. Not with their father in the Emperor's coven. So the helmets had been their compromise. The face of the helmet was an owl although the exact species changed from helmet to helmet. The eyes were solid gold color which contrasted against the dark black metal. They almost looked like they were crafted from twilight itself. Emira carefully grabbed hers which bore the face of a screech owl. She looked into the mirror nearby and moved her eyes, she smiled as the solid gold eyes of the helmet matched her movements and the eyebrows did the same. As she grinned she swore the mask did its best to match the look. She pulled the helmet off and repeated the enchantment on the other nine helmets.

"How's it going down here?" Viney yelled, chuckling as she saw her girlfriend jump slightly in surprise. "Sorry."

"Sure" Emira smirked, "Well I just finished the facial mimic enchantment on our helmets."

"Sweet! Which one's mine?" Viney grinned madly.

Emira laughed as she grabbed a helmet that looked like a great horned owl, "For you my love."

Viney slid on the helmet, and the golden eyes moved flicking from side to side, before a smug look formed, "Do I look sexy or what?"

Emira snorted, "Alright, the enchantment works now take it off, I have to add the voice modulation enchantment."

"Wow, normally I'm the one telling you to take it off." Viney winked as she saw the bright red her girlfriend's cheeks turned as she tossed her the helmet.

"S..shut up."

Viney kissed her, "That make it better?"

"It helps." Emira sighed as she leaned into her girlfriend, "How's Mittens and the injured one?"

"Better than yesterday, although I don't know how much longer that will last. Luz is cuddled up with Amity on the sofa reading those Azura books together."

"Wow, look at Luz, actually resting for once."

"I know?! I think after how shaken up everyone was, I think she finally got it through her stupid thick skull that her well being matters to us."

"Do...." Emira looked away casting her eyes at Luz's helmet, "You think she did it on purpose?"

Viney sighed deeply as she ran a hand through her hair, "I honestly don't know. Maybe she thought the physical pain would be easier to deal with. Maybe she was just upset and punched too hard. Hell it could be both. But usually those who self harm aren't suicidal. Not that it makes anyone less worried about her. Titan, I thought Boscha was going to kill her when she found out."

"Boscha finally has a family again. Of course she'd flip shit. Luz and her are both Eda's kids. She's probably scared she was gonna lose her."

"Luz breaks her knuckles and she freaks out. But those two together get fucked up trying to rob one of the abomination track branches and they laugh their asses off while I stitch them up. " Viney grumbled, "I swear if those two no self preservation having bitches get put on another supply run together, I will kill Eda and Lilith."

"Yeah, even me and Ed aren't that bad."

"Oh you come fucking close. Ya know you're lucky I love you."

Emira smiled and kissed her grumpy girlfriend, "What you don't like getting to save the day?"

"I have to save the day because you and your brother share one brain cell. The only reason you two don't get injured as much as Luz and Boscha is because you're not nearly as short tempered and you're better at illusions." Viney complained, "Even Puddles looks annoyed when you four end up needing patched up."

"Puddles is probably more annoyed that we don't have snackie treats than our injuries."

"Okay it's probably the lack of snackies, but my point still stands." Viney smiled, "speaking of Dad says we need more feed at the south camp."

"We'll rob one of the Beast keeping coven branches tomorrow." Emira said, turning back to the helmets. "I still can't believe how quickly he offered to help out."

"Babe. We're poor. We don't exactly have much to lose here."

"I know..." Emira sighed, "it just must be nice being able to be open about everything all the time. Every time Mother asks about training or Father talks about joining the Emperor's coven. I just feel like a mindless gollum. We're all constantly scared we're going to get caught. And I'm so scared for Amity. I don't know if I want to think about what could happen if she's alone in that house."

"We'll figure something out. I'm sure your Mom probably has eighty different ideas buzzing around in her head to protect Amity from them. Titan knows she doesn't spend her free time relaxing. And even if she doesn't, if literally any of us find so much as a hair missing on her head you know Luz, Jerbo, Boscha and Willow will beat down the door if the rest of you aren't there. Hell I'd probably join that one." Viney smirked, as she rubbed her girlfriend's tense shoulders.

"I love you."

"I love you too."

The sound of Boscha's cursing and Willow's laughing boomed through the floor above them.

Viney rubbed her temples as she left the room and yelled up the stairs, "I SWEAR TO TITAN IF ONE OF YOUR CHESS MATCHES ENDS UP WITH ME PICKING THORNS OUT OF ONE OF YOUR ASSES OR HAVING TO STITCH UP A CUT AGAIN. I WILL MOUNT YOUR HEADS ON A PIKE." The witch grumbled as she walked back into the room. "Damn stupid flirty dumbasses."

Emira giggled, "come on, you can help me with the enchants in the meantime. I'm sure whatever they do they'll be fine on their own for a bit."

Viney smiled, "Of course love."
------------------------------------

Willow and Boscha grumbled when they heard Viney yell. They picked up their game board and decided to take their chess match outside.

"I still say you cheated last round." Boscha huffed, but a smile tugged on her lips.

"Don't be bitter that I beat you. Besides you always say I cheated." Willow answered, smugly, and bumped her gently with her shoulder.

"That's because you always cheat." Boscha stated firmly as they set up a small fold of table and chairs in front of the back door.

"And how exactly do I cheat?" Willow asked, raising an eyebrow at the three eyed witch.

"You distract me."

"I don't. We just talk. I don't pull any stupid distractions."

Boscha smirked, as she took her first move, "I never said that you tried to distract me."

Willow suddenly felt warm, as she turned her focus back on the game. "Really? Seems like you're the one trying to do the distractions now."

"Only fair, beautiful" Boscha grinned sharply as the other witch blushed.

"You're infuriating."

"Same."

A window opened slightly as Edric popped his head out, "WOULD YOU JUST KISS ALREADY?! IT'S BEEN MONTHS. "

"FUCK OFF" Both of the girls yelled while Edric cackled, closing the window before they threw anything.

Boscha coughed as she looked at Willow then quickly turned her gaze back on the board, "Titan that was annoying."

Willow kept her gaze steady, she and Boscha were friends now, even if they annoyed each other. However it wasn't as mean spirited as before. The others teased them constantly for flirting. She brushed them off as being annoying. Yet, something about how the three eyed witch always seemed a little off. Willow chuckled to herself, 'she doesn't actually like me...right?'

Boscha seemed to relax a bit as the game continued. She raised an eyebrow as she took a bishop with a pawn, "Alright, you're never this bad. What's wrong?"

"Nothing, just a little irritated."

"What by Edric? He's just being an ass cause he thinks it's funny."

"I guess. They all act like that though."

Boscha scratched her neck awkwardly as she could tell Willow was testing her. She knew her strategies well enough to know when she was probing. She bit her lip, as part of her pride refused to let her take the bait. "So?"

"You called me beautiful earlier." Willow smiled, she tried her best to bring back her smugness but her shyness cut it at its knees. She looked down. "you've actually said things like that a lot the past few months....."

Boscha panicked slightly, although it was mumbled, she still heard it. Her ears flicked back, "I......fuck....." She groaned, "I like you okay? You're smart, cute, and made me want to be a better person. Cause I know I don't deserve someone like you. There. Ya happy."

Willow's face flushed deeply, "Actually, you're actually pretty nice when you're not being a dick."

"Wait, do....do you like me?" Boscha blushed, a surprising amount of fear also flashed in her eyes.

"You drive me crazy, you're annoying, bullheaded and....." Willow met the other girl's gaze, "And....yet...it's been really nice hanging out with you. I don't know.....how to even feel. These past few months have been great but you were an asshole for years. It's still kind of hard to get that image out of my brain."

Boscha sighed, "well.....I tried. Are you still okay if we hang out? As friends?"

"I think I'd like that....." Willow smiled softly, "I'm honestly surprised you didn't blow up."

"I mean, I'm disappointed. But I'm not exactly surprised either." Boscha moved a piece on the board, "And despite what my mother thinks, yelling doesn't seem to solve as many problems."

"She sounds like a peach." Willow smirked.

"She's always been kind of an ass, she has some stupid rivalry with Amity's mom. She always tried to put me in the same classes and stuff as her. I got mad at her about it and she backed off. She still slightly annoyed that I picked the potions track instead of abomination. But she got over it slightly." Boscha's face fell slightly, "Tom was actually the one who got her to shut up by pointing out her boss had been in the potions track at school. Although that point is kind of ruined now that Lilith is leading the rebellion."

"Oh...I didn't know your mom was in the Emperor's coven." Willow said, awkwardly as she moved a pawn on the board.

"Oh it's not just my mom. My uncles, one of my aunts. My grandpa and my great aunt were in it. My great aunt was actually the previous head of the emperor's coven. She retired and appointed Lilith actually." Boscha smirked as she took one of Willow's Knights.

"Aren't worried? I mean they're going to be in the war...."

"My aunt and uncles are kind of the worst. They always treated my cousin like shit. Especially his dad......and as for my mom....it's complicated. I don't want her to get hurt but I doubt she'd even consider leaving."

"I mean have you talked to her about it?"

"What, you want me to walk up to her and say hey your nephew was killed by belos and also I'm in the rebellion."

"Don't be an ass. I mean. She was given the day off on....that day. She has to be a little bit suspicious." Willow offered, "and I mean if she at least backs off. She can't be all bad."

"She isn't. She's not that great of a mom but she's not a bad person. I'm just worried she'll start asking too many questions. I don't think she'd take it super well if she found out I was helping overthrow the government." Boscha smiled although it didn't meet her eyes.

"You won't know unless you try." Willow reassured, patting the other girl's hand.

"I guess it wouldn't hurt...." Boscha said, still looking a bit unsure. Her eyes glanced at the board, "Oh fuck you. I pour my heart out and you use that as an opportunity to get another queen?!"

"All's fair in love and war." Willow answered, looking like the cat who caught the canary.

Boscha rolled her eyes, a soft smile on her face, "and you call me an asshole."

"Learned from the best."

"Damn right."

-------------------------------------
Gus carefully spooned in the crushed blood roses into the potion, he glanced quickly at Barcus, for some sort of reassurance he was doing it right. He smiled as the dog demon nodded, and slowly he began to stir the mixture.

"Good job. If you keep improving at this rate, you should consider joining the potions track." Barcus smiled, adjusting his translator bracelet.

"Thanks, but I don't know if I need more work from school. Especially during all this." Gus said, a worried look in his brown eyes.

The dog demon handed over the next ingredient, easily sensing his friend's distress. Gus trained just as hard as them and was a fairly quick study on certain types of magic. However he was only thirteen and the stress was clearly taking a toll on him. He looked older, and not just because he was taller. Although after looking through the photos from when they first started, it was clear they all had aged. There was a sadness that seemed to haunt all of them. Something that lingered in their eyes that said they had seen too much too soon. Barcus waited as Gus filled the vials with the potion before gently rubbing his head against his side. "You doing okay?" Barcus asked carefully.

"No. But I don't think anyone is." His ears drooped as he sunk into the chair behind him, "I don't really know how to feel. I know you, Viney and Jerbo are probably going to be sent out to camps. The twins are only waiting til they graduate. And I guess I'm just worried about what's going to happen. I know Eda and Lilith talked about all ten of us being the same rank and since we're higher rank some of us will be put in charge. It's just....for so long it's always been us together. We've seen some really scary things but at the end of the day we were together. If one of us was in a bad spot, we'd just come together. I don't think we'll have that as an option much longer."

Barcus just looked up at the kid, "Yeah I think all of us are worried about that. I mean we're a family. We've relied on each other for a long time. It's going to be hard on everyone when we have to split up. Especially when some of us are leading charges. However, at least for a while, most of us will still be here. I know Viney and I have both talked to our parents about leaving hexside to increase our help in the war effort. So we'll probably be shipped out first. But everyone else will be sticking around for at least a little while."

 

Gus fiddled with the corks as he watched the vials chilling, tears leaked from his eyes, "w...what if not all of us come back after this all ends."

"We make sure that they didn't die for nothing. And when we finally get a chance to mourn, we come together and bawl our eyes out. " Barcus laughed humorlessly, "listen, We're a family. And we don't stop being family just because we're not around each other every day or even if we're dead. Even if there's only one of us left after all hell breaks loose. We're still a family because we made each other's lives better and loved each other to our dying breath. And all that love is still there, even if it hurts."

Gus gave a bitter smile as he clenched and unbleached his hands, "Is it bad that I'm kind of upset I'm probably not going to be ever put in the front lines?"

Barcus blinked, the seventeen year old looked at the thirteen year old with a look that could only come from people who were close enough to be able to call each other stupid. "I'm sorry, do you want to die? Cause that is not the direct I saw this conversation going."

"What? No." Gus sighed, "It's just....all of you at one point are probably going to lead some sort of group or charge. And I know that's terrifying and awful but I don't want to sit by on the sidelines watching my family get blasted into nothing. I know I'm young but I train just as hard as everyone else and I stayed in this because I want to help. "

"There's so many parts to this that aren't combat. We need people to run supplies, we need messengers, we need farmers, we need healers and so much more than just foot soldiers. Not even all of us are going to be leading charges. Viney's going to help my parents train some of the newbie healers and she'll probably run a medical camp for recovery. The training is so she isn't defenseless if they do get attacked. I'm probably going to be with the oracles and helping plan strategies. Honestly I'll probably be bounced around so much I won't even have my own camp. You're a damn good illusionist, but illusion magic isn't just helpful in combat. Work with your strengths, you're smart and a quick study. You can do great things with that regardless if you're in active combat or help injured soldiers get transported safely to another camp. I'm sure you'll get your share of getting blasted regardless of if you're in the front lines or not."

"I...I just don't want to be the last one left." Gus felt the sob escape his throat.

Barcus pulled Gus into a hug, he felt the tears dampen his fur as he rubbed the boy's back. He wanted to tell him that everything was okay, that they'd all make it back alright. But he couldn't bring himself to lie. No one knew how this would end, and he couldn't promise even his own safety. All he really could do is be there for him now, so he was. Even if it was just one moment of comfort.

Chapter Text

Luz and Amity lay together in Luz's bed. The witch was smaller than the human now, as she rested against Luz's chest, resting her small hand in Luz's larger one, being careful of her broken fingers. She purred softly as she listened to the human's heart beat, the gentle cadence being a firm reminder that her love was still alive. She moved her head to place a gentle kiss on her girlfriend's jaw.

"Talk to me." Amity said, breaking the silence.

"What if I can never go home again?"

Amity bit her lip, her thoughts swirled as she remembered what Eda had said about the book before she left. She knew Luz deserved the truth, but she didn't know if she was the right person to tell her. "We don't know that. We'll find something."

"After a year that really lost a lot of meaning." Luz sighed, "I...I wasn't exactly a great kid. I know I stressed my mom out a lot with some of the stuff I pulled. She had to get me out of the principals office like once every month. I always felt bad, she worked so hard raising me by herself. And I always seemed to fuck up. I thought by going to the boiling isles I'd finally found a place where I could be myself but I didn't think about how it could affect her. And now she probably thinks I'm dead and I went and started a fucking war so I might end up dead anyways regardless of if we can even make a portal."

"Well, all the more reason to not get yourself killed before we can get you back." Amity smiled, but even though her voice was even, Luz could feel her girlfriend's body tense.

"Mi amor, you know.....really the only reason I miss the human realm is cause of my mom and my uncles. Even if we get a portal open. This." Luz gestured vaguely with her bandaged hand, "This is my home. And it might not make my Mami happy but I will come back as soon as I can. Cause I can't leave my family behind."

"You promise?"

"I promise." Luz smiled as she felt Amity relax, "Ya know, my mom would probably adore you if you ever get to meet."

Amity blushed, "really?"

"Titan yes. You're smart, top of your class. You volunteer to read to kids. You're kind and respectful. Add a doctorate and be fluent in Spanish and my mom would die of happiness." Luz chuckled, "granted we'd have to leave out the parts where you almost got me killed."

"Hey, you have far exceeded me in almost getting us killed. Besides, I don't think Bump was actually going to dissect you."

"Well at the time I didn't really want to wait and see." Luz kissed the top of Amity's head, "besides I thought you liked trouble?"

Amity felt her girlfriend's smirk, and let out an amused sigh, "someone has to."

Luz laughed, "mi princesa, so cruel to her fearless champion?"

"I can't have you think I'm going soft now." Amity grinned, causing them both to laugh.

"I'm sorry I didn't talk to you about this earlier. I just didn't want to put more on you. I know this is hard on you, especially dancing around your parents."

"It's been tough hiding from them. Especially when I don't know when the Emperor's coven is going to be taking new recruits. Father says that mostly they're looking for officers to help lead the more common folk in the emperor's army. Aside from that lingering over my head. Just being able to get away from there, it's nice."

"I'm sorry if your escape is slowly becoming war planning and supply runs. And that your dream kind of fell apart. I know you wanted to be in the Emperor's coven a lot before all this shit went down."

"Luz, I'm a blight. From the day I was born, I was expected to be perfect. The emperor's coven was my parents' goal for me. I wanted it because it meant I was the best, that I would finally make them happy. But I realized that they're never going to be happy with me. The only reason they haven't been on my ass is because my grades are still great. And honestly I think that's at least partly to Bump and his training excuse." Amity snuggled closer to Luz, "Now, I have a real family. And I know that a real parent doesn't want you to be perfect, they want you to be yourself. A lot of bad things have happened and a lot more are in our future. But the only truly good thing about this rebellion is that it made us a family."

Luz hummed, "suppose there are worse consolation prizes....I just hope we don't lose it in battle."

"It's scary." Amity confessed, "before war was just a hypothetical. I mean I knew it could happen. And it probably would with what we were doing. It just felt further away. Like a storm on the horizon."

"The problem is, even now it's just sprinkling. All the signs are there. We're just waiting for the rest of the rain to fall."

"I hate it."

"Me too."

Luz and Amity sat in the silence, tension lingering in the air. They both knew there was something else the other wasn't telling them. The witch felt the weight of knowing about the book pressing down on her. She wrestled with the idea when Luz pulled her out of her thoughts.

"I...I still see the bodies sometimes....when I close my eyes. " Luz confessed and her girlfriend felt the tension rising in her body, "I can still smell the ash and blood too. Like I'm back at the market."

Amity felt tears prick her eyes as she curled closer to her, "Me too....when you went out on a supply run once....Lilith made tea for the rest of us and when the kettle started whistling we all panicked. We all kind of laughed it off at the time. But I don't think anyone that was there....went unaffected."

"I remember on that run, Boscha told me how she had wished she had been there...that day just....that maybe she could have saved her cousin or anyone..."

"Well now you can tell her that she's the only one who doesn't dive under the couch when they hear a tea kettle."

"You think we'll ever be okay again?"

"Bold of you to assume any of us were okay before." Amity smiled weakly, "I don't know.....I think that might depend on how things go."

Luz nodded, as she brushed her injured hand against soft mint locks, hazel eyes stared into gold briefly before they met for a kiss. "I love you."

Amity felt her face flush as she took in her girlfriend's words, "I love you too." A mixture of happiness and guilt swirled in her chest as she fell asleep in her love's arms. She meant what she said, but the truth about the book ate at her. The only relief was knowing Eda and her mom would be back soon.
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"Here is the list of supplies we'll need"

"Thank you Major Hearthfire, excellent job on training. Lily was right to suggest you."

"Thank you General Clawthrone." The ex coven member smiled, giving Eda a salute, "and thank you for giving me a chance to avenge my friends."

"Of course." Eda smiled, patting the young woman on the shoulder, "one of the Colonels should be here in a month or so to relieve you of your duty here. We'll have new recruits at the eastern camp waiting for you."

"Yes General." The witch coughed slightly, "could you tell....the other General Clawthrone that I said hello?"

Eda resisted the urge to sigh, this was the fifth former coven member she met with that asked her to give a greeting to her older sister. Considering most of them were in their mid twenties and Lilith was pushing fifty, she was mildly impressed but was also wondering if mommy issues were a requirement for the Emperor's Coven, "I'll be sure to pass it on" She smiled as she left, pulling out her staff to fly back to the owl house.
------------------------------------

Eda yawned as she walked to the door, gently giving hooty a pat on the head. She smiled as she entered the living room. It had only been a few days but it was nice to be home. Exhaustion creeped into her bones, the flight had been long. She however knew Luz would be up soon, and she had to talk to her. She carried herself into the kitchen and started on a pot of coffee. Her ears twitched as she heard the front door open, she waved at her sister, who slowly made her way towards the brewing coffee.

"How'd your meetings go?" Eda asked as she poured two cups and slid one to her sister.

"Our northern camp got into a skirmish with some E.C. guards. We held them off thankfully and no one was seriously hurt but we did have to move our camp a few hours away. They're going to need more troops."

"Our southern camp just trained a new platoon. I'll send a message telling them to ship them north and the next one can go to the eastern camp. They're short on troops but they're fairly well covered and haven't gotten discovered yet." Eda sighed, as she sent a message to Major Hearthfire.

"The western camp is doing surprisingly well, they've got excess food. "

"Send them south, they're close enough to the knee that it's hard to grow much down there."

"I sent a message to Major Shattershield, they'll send some scouts out to the south camp." Lilith let out a yawn as she nursed her cup of coffee, "I assume you're waiting for Luz?"

"Yeah....I can't wait any longer. It's been gnawing at me the whole weekend. You..can go to bed if you want. I know you must be exhausted."

"Eda, I'm not letting you tell my niece this without me. We're in this together." Lilith smiled, giving her sister's hand a gentle squeeze.

"Thanks Lily."

"Always."

Minutes seemed to last hours as they sat, watching the sun rising for the dawn. The sky was ablaze with golds and pinks. Small bits of blue peaked through the bright rays. The cool summer morning seemed almost to mock them. Their terrible truth seemed like a dagger in their hands, that would be plunged straight through their girl's heart. They both wished this moment wouldn't come, but they heard the heavy steps and the tell tale creaks of the upper stairs.

Luz smiled sleepily, before moving to hug the sisters, "Welcome back."

Eda and Lilith hugged her tightly, silently asking forgiveness for what was to come.

"Glad to see you didn't take Hooty on a joy ride this time." Eda grinned, but it didn't meet her eyes.

Luz rolled her eyes but the smile didn't leave her face, "one time and I'm branded for life." She helped herself to a cup of coffee before she sat down at the table.

"Luz, there's something I need to tell you...." Eda said, casting her eyes at the girl she considered her own. She swallowed back a lump that formed in her throat, "We found out something about the portal book."

Luz sipped her coffee, "I'm not going to the human realm any time soon am I?" A defeated look formed on the human's face, the bright sun shining on her. It seemed to highlight the despair in the human's eyes.

"No. Probably not. It's a seal, and those are a very specific kind of enchantment. They required something to be unlocked and an extremely large but delicately placed amount of magic to break." Eda placed her hand on her kid's arm, "but there are still things we can try."

Luz did her best to clench her hands despite her injury, she felt her heart throbbing like it had been shot through. She turned as she felt another hand placed on her arm.

"I know Belos has something that can break seals. If worse comes to wor-"

"I can't....I can't have you do that. Last time I went to Belos' castle, it nearly got us all killed. There's too much riding on this rebellion for us to go waltzing into his hands. If we have to wait til the war is over...then we have to wait. It's not worth risking people's freedom for." Luz grinned but tears streamed down her face, "Can I be excused from school today?"

"Of course kiddo." Eda reassured as she and Lilith pulled the girl into a tight hug as she began to weep into her mentor's shoulder.

Lilith rubbed small circles on the girl's back, "I can get Amity or everyone up if you want?"

Luz just nodded and Lilith quickly made her way up to Luz's room. She gently shook the young witch.

"Mom?" Amity mumbled, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes.

Lilith gently placed her hand on the girl's cheek before giving her a kiss on her forehead, "Sweetheart, Luz...knows about the book."

Amity's golden eyes widened as the words hit her like cold water down her back, she got up immediately. She moved past the older witch, as she twitched her ears trying to pick up any sound of her love. She followed the scent of coffee as she saw Luz. She felt her heart shatter at the sight.

Luz shook as Eda cradled her. The hazel eyes that normally carried so much light held nothing but despair. Amity hugged Luz, who moved to bury her head into Amity's shoulder. Eda blinked back tears as she leaned down to place a kiss on the girl's head.

The kitchen soon filled with the rest of their family as each tried their best to comfort their favorite human. An alarm cut through their reassurances.

"You can all stay home toda-" Lilith said but was quickly cut off.

"No." Luz's voice was hoarse from the tears, "It's too risky for them all to stay."

"Luz, are you sure?" Amity asked, her golden eyes filled with concern.

"I'll be fine." Luz smiled, which somehow managed to make her look more miserable with how forced it was. She turned when she felt a strong hand gently squeeze her shoulder.

"I'll be here, and so will Barcus and Viney. You guys can go on ahead." Jerbo smiled as he purred gently as he hugged Luz.

"What about school?" Luz asked, looking up at him with red puffy eyes.

"We talked to our parents and Bump. And we dropped out." Viney said, as she ruffled Luz's hair affectionately. Barcus let out a woof in agreement as he nuzzled the human's arm.

The others looked skeptically at Luz, none of them really wanted to leave. However the girl gave them a pleading look and they sighed before giving her one last hug.

"We'll see you after school sis." Gus tried his best to smile as he wiped his tears.

"I'll make sure to take notes for you. Since you'd be in my homeroom today." Willow said, as she gently rubbed her friend's back.

"Hey, don't pull that shit you did a few days ago. You scared the fuck out of all of us. We're family now, and I don't want you to getting yourself hurt." Boscha grinned, but her watery eyes gave her away.

Edric and Emira just hugged her tightly, as they did their best to hide their tears.

Amity pulled Luz in for a kiss, resting her hand on her cheek, "I love you."

"I love you too." Luz smiled wearily as she kissed her love's hand.

Luz leaned into Jerbo as she watched them fly off. The young man sighed as he looked at Eda and Lilith. Both women looked like they were about to collapse.

"You two go rest. We've got her." He reassured the sisters' as they each gave the girl a forehead kiss before they carried themselves to bed.
-------------------------------

Viney rolled her eyes as Jerbo walked back over to their spot and continued carving his staff, "Will you stop being a mother hen. She's asleep and we're right outside."

"I'm not being a mother hen. I'm checking up on her." He grumbled as he went back to carving.

Barcus and Viney exchanged a skeptical look before they went back to carving their own staffs. However they knew when Jerbo was worried about someone, there was very little stopping him from making sure they were okay. He was called the big brother of the team for that very reason.

Viney turned to the other, "I've been thinking....We've remained anonymous for awhile."

"I mean that was the whole point of the masks in the first place. Keep them from finding out who we were when we vandalized stuff." Jerbo said, like the statement was fairly obvious.

"Okay yes, but also if any of our relationships with Boscha or any of the Blights were to get out, they'd be fucked six ways to sunday."

"Yes, that's why our helmets disguise our voice and cover our whole face. Hell, the only limitation is we can't eat and drink with it on."

"I was actually working on a more comfortable mask for that but that's not my point." Viney smirked as she set down the knife, "We can't exactly all just go by Colonel. It would be confusing.....so I figured we could come up with code names."

"That actually sounds like a great idea." Jerbo smirked, "Now if only Puddles shared your intelligence."

"Hey! She's not dumb. She just doesn't always understand how doors work. But she's gotten better."

Barcus ruffed, and Jerbo snickered, "yeah, she's definitely gotten better cause she's scared of Hooty."

"He's a stronger demon than her. Griffins are pack animals. Of course she's a bit nervous." Viney huffed, "besides we weren't talking about Puddles."

"Your code name can't be griffin." Jerbo said flatly.

"Why not?" Viney pouted.

"Your assistant is a griffin, that would be confusing and also I'm about ninety percent sure that your palismen is also going to be a griffin. Be more creative."

"Okay smart guy, what would your codename be?"

Jerbo hummed, as he looked at the forest around them. He thought about different species of trees but those sounded a bit too boring. He scratched his chin then smirked when an idea struck him, "Ent."

"Your codename is a mythical sentient tree and you call me obvious." Viney smirked.

"Says the woman who would literally be working with a griffin all day."

"Bold words from a man who makes plant abominations."

Barcus woofed a suggestion, causing Viney to smile.

"Medical theme eh? Not a bad idea...." The girl thought, as she ran sandpaper along the staff. She giggled slightly, "how about Bones?"

"That is like half of what you fix. Sounds good to me." Jerbo smiled as he applied the wood stain to his staff, "your turn Barcus."

The dog demon smiled and let out a ruff.

"Mystic? Huh. You actually came up with one that's not on the nose." Viney grinned, "sounds like it's settled then."

They continued to work on their staffs as the comfortable silence started feeling more tense. They were excited about their staffs. However, there was also a sense of sadness that lingered. Staffs weren't just a tool, they were personal and they meant something to their witch. They also represented adulthood, a symbol of maturity and growth. The end of their childhood.

The war was bubbling and they knew that they were going to be the first to be sent out. They were older and unlike the twins, they had nothing that could keep them at Hexside til graduation.

"So, any of you know when you're getting shipped out?" Viney asked, as the others turned to her, "What it's not like we weren't all thinking about it."

"No, but if one of our camps already got attacked. I can't imagine it being that long. Edric's already nervous and I haven't even left yet. That's not even to mention my moms." Jerbo sighed, "and I'm worried about everyone else. Especially Luz."

"Yeah...Emira is scared too. My dad's actually really proud. So that helps. I'm more concerned about who's going to be patching up Luz and Boscha when they do something stupid for the millionth time." Viney turned when she heard Barcus ruff, "Yeah I don't they'll learn self preservation because I'm gone."

"You think they're gonna be alright?" Jerbo's tone told them he didn't mean just when they left.

Viney scoffed, "Alright is asking too much, pray to Titan we all make it back alive so we can work towards alright."

"On that lovely note." Jerbo said dryly as he stood up, "I'm going to go check on Luz again."

Barcus whined as he pulled his ears back. Viney sighed as she patted his head, "I'm scared too."

Chapter Text

Eda stared at the portal book as a thought ran through her head. This book was old, older than some of the savage ages. Magic like that was more about sacrifice. You fuel the spell not only with your magic but part of yourself or someone else. Blood magic was still practiced by healers but it wasn't sacrificial. These spells were incredibly dangerous and difficult to pull off. A few drops of blood most could spare but these ancient magics sometimes had a much higher cost. As witches evolved so too did their magic and it moved away from a lot of the brutality, not only because some of them were cruel. Magic like this almost had a mind of its own, and will consume its own caster if not done right.

Eda carefully pulled her pocket knife out, flicking it out as easily as taking a breath. She stared at the sharp jagged blade, and carefully ran her thumb across It's teeth. Red blood bloomed from the cut as she carefully squeezed a drop out. It touched the charred cover of the old book. Gold and grey eyes stared desperately looking to see any type of magic. Yet the drop rolled off, not even leaving a trail, as if the book itself was rejecting her offer. She growled, refusing to let the aching and guilt in her heart make her shed any more tears. "Whoever made you, was a Goddamn jackass. " The book just laid on the desk, completely unchanged aside from the burns it sustained due to spell attempts to translate or decode it.

She bit her lip in frustration, as she stared at it like it was a puzzle with half the pieces missing. She felt a tear run down her cheek, she watched with bated breath as she picked up the book. It, much like the blood before it, slid off of it like rain off plastic. She slammed her hand against the desk, as she stood. She might not be able to do much with the book, but she still could help Luz. She let that be her solace as she left to start her day.

-----------------------------------------------

Luz was sprawled on the couch, she held her hands above her face, watching as she flexed them. They were sore from lack of use but she was grateful for the full mobility back. She grabbed a deck of cards and shuffled them quickly. She smiled at the familiar feeling, it helps her focus and relax as she fiddled with the cards in her hand. She felt herself fall into a hyperfocus as she tried more intricate moves. She slid them up her sleeve and fanned them out. The cards almost seemed to dance in her hands.

"I see all the times you were resting from one of your injuries paid off." Viney smirked.

"Hey I fiddle with them in my free time now. Just gives my hands something to do." Luz smiled as she set the deck down, and sat up, "The staffs done?"

"Mine is, Jerbo's is. We're just waiting on Barcus to finish up. "

"Can I see them?" Luz asked, hopefully.

"We're waiting on Barcus to do the big reveal. But it is nice to finally see you smiling again." Viney grinned, ruffling the younger girl's hair.

"I mean I have been wanting a staff since I got here so seeing yours is exciting, by and by though, most days I'm just emotionally numb. So now is more of an exception than the rule." Luz explained, casually as she grabbed a mug of tea on the table.

Viney blinked slightly at the bluntness, "that definitely doesn't sound healthy."

"It is not."

"Well, points for self awareness I guess."

"Hell yeah." Luz grinned at Viney who pinched the bridge of her nose.

"That's still not good......ya know what nevermind." Viney flopped down on the sofa next to Luz. "Where's your better half?"

"In the greenhouse, Willow and her are giving each other lessons in each other's track."

"I'd be surprised if they learn anything over the sound of Boscha's pining." Viney smirked as she grabbed a cookie off the plate on the coffee table.

"Boscha's not gonna be here for the next few days." Luz sighed, "Her mom caught her sneaking out so she's grounded."

"Fuck. Hope she didn't get caught with anything suspicious."

"Well the coven isn't trying to bust down our door. So I assume not."

"Not yet at least." Viney said, a serious look in her eye.
-----------------------------------------

Brutus Lachance watched as his wife growled as she paced a line in the carpet of their bedroom. He ran a hand through his graying blonde hair before he cast his three eyes at his wife. He stood up and wrapped her in a hug. He smiled as he felt her relax slightly in his arms.

"What the hell are we going to do?" Sacha asked, fear finally overtaking her anger. The two eyed witch turned to face her husband. "We already lost Tom. I can't lose her too."

"Well, we haven't lost her yet." Brutus smiled weakly, "I mean we don't know for sure she's in the rebellion."

"Even if she is...she's probably better off than me....Lilith actually talked to us. Kikimora just gives orders and barely tells us anything else." Sacha sighed, she felt her husband place a kiss on her head, before brushing her magenta hair out of her face.

"You still think she's hot?" Brutus smirked as his wife elbowed him in the ribs.

"Fuck off." She grumbled, "We're having a conversation about our daughter possibly being in a rebellion to overthrow the Emperor and you bring up my crush from hexside?"

"Just trying to lighten the mood. Besides you're cute when you're angry." He smiled, and it only grew bigger as he saw her trying not to smile back.

"You're infuriating."

"I love you too." Brutus chuckled as his wife pulled him in for a kiss, "Sach, it's okay if you want to switch sides."

"My family is in the coven. I don't know what that would mean for them if I left."

"To hell with them. Misha dropped his son off with us because he was a late bloomer and wasn't even upset at his own son's funeral." Brutus growled, "besides none of them have ever treated you well."

"I don't know that the bombs were planted by the coven...."

"Belos threw Lilith in with her sister and was going to petrify them both. Lilith had been nothing but loyal to him. My aunt wouldn't have picked her to be the next leader of the coven if she wasn't." Brutus said firmly, "If he was so quick to throw her away, I doubt he would be that bothered by blowing up his own men."

"I don't know." She groaned as she buried her head in her hands, "We could get killed. Boscha could get killed."

"Well, we're about to be in a war, so I think that's going to happen regardless. And our baby girl is just as stubborn as you are. If we try to stop her......." He felt his heart break as he remembered burying the boy he raised.

"I don't want to lose her either." Sacha felt her own tears run down her face. "It's why I don't want her fighting in the first place."

"Sacha, we both have put our family names before our children. We've played into our roles and we've pushed that onto them. I'm tired of being just the last Lachance. I'm tired of us beating ourselves up with guilt for pushing our Tom into the Emperor's coven. It's too late for us to be better for him. We need to be better for her."

"You're right." Sacha wiped her eyes, "and if belos killed our boy.....I will do everything I can to stop him."

They walked to their daughter's room, they knocked gently on the door.

"Go away." Boscha yelled.

"We just want to talk...we have something we need to say." Brutus said gently.

Boscha rolled her eyes as she went to open the door, knowing full well they wouldn't leave. She just wanted their lecture to be over with. She blinked when they pulled her into a tight hug. She felt tears dripping on her shirt as she turned to look at her parents.

"I'm sorry. I'm so so sorry. I shouldn't have fallen into the same shit as my parents. I knew how bad that felt and yet I did it anyways. And I really shouldn't have dragged you into my rivalry with Odalia. I know that these words don't make up for how shit of a mom I've been."

"You're more to me than the heir of the Lachances. You're my daughter and I hate that it took this long for me to see that. I'm sorry for the pressure I put on you. I should have been better."

"Okay, what the hell is going on?" Boscha asked, looking at her sobbing parents.

"We know you're in the rebellion." Sacha said gently.

Boscha jumped back in alarm, she blinked when they didn't start yelling. "How?"

"We found your mask in your bag." Brutus smiled, as he placed his large hand on his daughter's cheek.

Boscha pinched herself, "well, I'm awake.....so you're not mad that I've been helping the rebellion try and overthrow Belos?"

"He killed Tom....and we were the ones who got him in the E.C. to begin with. You found the truth and you did the right thing. And we want to help you." Sacha smiled.

Boscha felt tears prick her eyes, "r..really?"

They nodded and the three joined together for a tight hug. They finally felt like a family again.
------------‐----------------------------------

Luz and Viney starred as Boscha walked in, her parents standing behind her.

"Oh...shit....spoke too soon." Viney laughed humorlessly, as she jumped to her feet.

"Fuck....fucking fuck." Luz grumbled as she dropped her deck of cards.

"Easy, easy!" Boscha raised her hands, "They're here to help."

Luz turned her head towards the kitchen, "Eda, Lilith, Boscha's gone insane."

"That sounds like a short trip.....fuck me running." Eda said as she stared wide eyed at the adults, she turned immediately on her heels and walked back into the kitchen. The sound of struggling and shuffling could be heard before Lilith was shoved out the kitchen door.

"What the hell Edalyn.....oh fuck. Eda open the door!" Lilith yelled.

"Nope."

"Boscha is closer with you! So your problem!"

"Nope. Your coven, your problem."

"Can I at least get my staff?!"

The door opened a crack and Lilith immediately charged at it, and yanked her sister out with her. They panted as they glared at each other.

"Well, didn't think this is how I would die." Viney sighed.

"Really? This is at least in the like top ten for me." Luz smiled.

"They're here to help you morons." Boscha said as she pinched the bridge of her nose.

"What." The four women said blinking.

"You were a good leader and you didn't sacrifice your own for nothing. I'm tired of the coven lying to me." Sacha said, as she saluted her old boss.

"My great aunt was your predecessor. She knew who good people were. You have my loyalty." Brutus smiled, as he did his best to mimic his wife's salute.

"And why should we trust you." Eda growled, looking at them skeptically.

"We can offer money to help your cause. Also I'm a professional healer." Brutus offered, hopefully.

"You had me at money."

"Eda!" Lilith groaned as she rubbed her temples. "Boscha. You can stay here. You two come down to the basement with me. We'll do your initiation down there."

Boscha flopped on the sofa, purposefully squishing Luz, who grumbled and tried to shove her off.

The adults smiled at them before heading down into the basement.

Brutus and Sacha followed the sisters into their potions lab, Eda drew a glyph on two sticky notes then placed them on their foreheads. She tapped them and watched as the pair glowed briefly before the light disappeared.

"Alright, why are you two really here?" Lilith asked, as she stared them down.

"We lost basically our son to the bombs and we don't want to lose our daughter too." Brutus said, he blinked as he felt compelled to say more, "We want to be better for her. We haven't been that great in the past."

"Kikimora also has been an absolute cunt at work and treats us like trash. I'm miserable at my job and I want to protect my family." Sacha then immediately felt panic rise, "I just called Kikimora a cunt...."

Lilith smirked, "Did you mean it?"

"Of course I fucking meant it." Sacha growled then immediately covered her mouth.

"Well the truth spell worked." Eda snickered "Alright, you can join the rebellion."

"However, we'll still need you to make an unbreakable vow before we fully admit you. Just so you don't rat us out to the emperor's coven." Lilith said rather nonchalantly as she cast the spell, "You will stay loyal to our rebellion and if you betray us. You will suffer greatly."

"If you do your best to be loyal to our daughter." Sacha added, as they shook hands.

"Of course." Lilith smiled, then repeated the vow with Brutus.

"Alright, so how much of your life do you want to uproot? Because we could always use more trainers and healers. Unless your specialty isn't combat." Eda looked at Sacha, "although I believe you were in the abomination track at school."

"Eda, she's one of the trainers for the coven." Lilith said as if it were obvious, she pulled out she scroll and looked through her notes. "We're going to be setting up a camp around the house as a headquarters, medical camp and training ground if you want to stay here. However we could use another healer in our M.A.S.H. unit. And our west camp could use another trainer for recruits."

"We'd prefer to stay here, with Boscha. if that's alright with you." Brutus said, hesitantly.

"We'll do our best. But we may need her in the field." Eda rubbed the back of her neck, "at the end of the day, we have to prioritize our efforts to defeat Belos."

"Just don't get our little girl killed....we already lost one kid." Sacha sighed, fear in her eyes.

"We fucking adore these kids. Trust me. We don't want them getting hurt any more than you do." Eda smiled wearily, as she placed a reassuring hand on the woman's shoulder.

The parents felt a bit of relief as they saw the sincerity in the sisters eyes. They were all scared but took comfort in the fact they at least weren't alone and the people in charge actually cared.
------------------------------------------

A few days had passed and the owl house was busier than ever. Many of the parents were helping out as they worked on building solid platforms to link to the owl house. Tents were raised and Hooty was absolutely thrilled as he stood up and sat down again testing the strength of the holds.

Luz sat back, as she wiped the sweat from her brow. She gulped down a glass of water and watched the others work. Willow and her dads were looking over the blueprints. Jerbo and his moms were setting up tents. Boscha was cutting lumber with her parents. Viney and her dad were loading up their griffins with supplies to take to other camps. Gus and his parents were testing spells to keep everything from falling over if it had to move. Barcus and his parents were connecting the supports.. Lilith and Eda were directing everything while the blight siblings helped wherever they were needed most. She felt a stab of envy as she watched these families together. Seeing them joke and laugh, it stung. She knew the others had family outside of their little group and it never really bothered her. Now, it just reminded her of her mom.

She missed speaking in spanish with her, their jokes and her mom's teases. The times they would dance together in stupid bliss in the backyard as the sprinklers when off in the summer. The talks they had about life and things they didn't understand. The hugs and kisses. She'd even take them arguing over this giant emptiness.

She had felt like this before, but she had always been able to brush it aside. They had the book. They would find a way. It had been a comfort that soothed her aching when nothing else could. The thought that she could be back with her human family again was shattered. The thought she might never be able to go back, lingered in her mind. It followed her like her own shadow, but it didn't disappear in the dark. It only grew stronger, especially when she was alone. It mocked her as it repeated that she had done this to herself. Any tears or pain her Mami was suffering, was her fault. She didn't regret saving Eda and she didn't regret being a part of this world but she still blamed herself for not thinking enough about her mom.

She felt tears prick her eyes and she stood, grabbing her saw and went back towards the lumber pile. "Boscha, you have any lumber marked?"

"Yeah mom put them in the pile over by the table."

"Cool." Luz smiled as she grabbed a plank and began cutting. She let her mind focus on the task at hand, remembering her Mami's old mantra. She grinned sharply as she heard the board snap. However as the task grew more and more automatic, the more her mind started to wander. The sounds of Boscha laughing with her parents seemed to echo like thunder. She bit the inside of her cheek as she felt her chest ache. She felt a hand touch her shoulder and she turned, sneering at them. She felt remorse as she saw Boscha shoot a glare at her.

"Titan, I was just trying to tell you Eda and Lilith have been calling us over for like five minutes."

"Oh, sorry. Not a great day...in here." Luz pointed at her head as they walked.

"It's fine. Just don't go taking it out on others. Trust me. It doesn't make things any better." Boscha smiled as she playfully punched Luz's shoulder.

Luz shoved her back and then took off running. Boscha snickering as she gave chase. They were panting as they made it to the group.

"So nice of you two to finally join us." Eda teased as both girls rolled their eyes.

Lilith shook her head but smiled as she ushered Jerbo, Barcus and Viney to the front. The three grinned brightly. "They have something they want to show you all."

The three straightened up and raised their hands, crashing was heard behind them, and Hooty yelped as he swung open as three staffs came to their respective witch's hands.

Viney held her staff sideways so everyone could see it. The wood was stained a dark chestnut brown and the staff itself had what looked like griffin claw marks along its body. Not enough to damage it but enough for aesthetics. The palismen on top was a griffin which was expertly painted and posed with one claw raised. She unscrewed it and it chirped happily and nested in her hair. "This little girl is Dewdrop."

"Hah, Knew it was gonna be a griffin." Boscha called from the crowd.

"Oh please we all knew." Jerbo laughed as Viney rolled her eyes but the smile never left her face.

"Alright asshole. It's your turn." She smirked as she stepped aside, letting him take the stage.

He held his staff so all could see. It looked more like the branch it was carved from. The top still had some of the bark and the knot on the side. The bottom was smooth and rounded but the stain was the same color as the bark. Moss seemed to travel along it as if it had just been found outside. The palismen at the top was a pileated woodpecker. He turned it off the staff and it puffed proudly as it flew to his shoulder. "This is Willy." Jerbo smirked.

"FUCK YEAH HE WENT WITH THE NAME I PICKED!" Edric cheered loudly causing everyone to laugh.

Barcus shook his head smirking as he levitated his staff. His staff was grey, but had streaks of purple that crawled up it like veins. There was a golden band that was right below the palismen. A grey fox sat on top of the staff, he took it off and it curled up on his back. "This is Todd." He smiled as the fox yawned.

The crowd awww'd at the sight and then quieted as Eda and Lilith moved forward.

"We're all very proud of these three. They've come a long way since they first arrived. And their training will be put to the test. Around this time next month. They'll be leaving for the camps." Lilith said, as she watched the mood turn from one of celebration to fear.

"We love them as if they were our own." Eda confessed, "but we need them out there. You were all trained to be leaders and strategists. This is just the beginning."

The group felt heavy as the three walked towards their loved ones. The fear was clear in everyone's eyes but they smiled anyways as it kept back the tears.

Chapter Text

Edric watched as Jerbo snored in his sleep, he didn't normally wake up first, but he couldn't bring himself not to.

He remembered the awkward boy he had crush on, the one who was shorter and whose voice still cracked from time to time. He was shy and didn't have many friends. He wasn't from any well to do family. He wasn't even in an actual track. He mixed magic and aside from the two other kids with him. He was a social pariah. Edric knew he would be poison for his reputation, he was a blight. Not only that but he was the eldest, and also the disappointment. He didn't need anything to make his standing worse.

Yet, here he was. Laying in bed with the man that boy had become. He was still awkward, in fact his new found height seemed to only make it worse. He often hit his head on low doorways. At six feet and five inches, he towered over Edric by a full foot. His voice had settled into a low baritone that rumbled in his chest and turned his purr from a hum to a lawnmower. He was hardly shy anymore, at least around him. He was silly and had dad humor. Most importantly for Edric though, was he was open and warm. He never hid his affection, never made him feel like it was something he had to earn. They had their fights but even when they were bad and Edric had thought he fucked everything up. Jerbo would only give him space. He wouldn't just abandon him. They'd talk when they cooled down and then they'd be okay. Jerbo loved him in ways he couldn't even love himself. He never made him feel like he wasn't good enough or he wasn't acting right. He loved him when he was himself.

Edric was pulled from his thoughts as he heard a hum from his love, golden eyes met sleepy browns.

"Good morning my love" Jerbo yawned as he gave him a warm tender kiss, "surprised you're awake. You sleep okay?"

"No...but I think that's fucked for now."

Jerbo held him in his arms, "I love you."

"I love you too." Edric felt tears run down his face, it quickly turned into a sob.

Jerbo just pulled him closer as he felt his own tears run down his face. He knew today would hurt but he would do his best to make his love smile.
----------------------------------------

Viney kissed her sleeping girlfriend's face. She smirked slightly as she saw her eyes flutter open. "Hey sexy"

Emira tried her best to smile but the weight of the day made her sink too low. "Hi"

Viney sighed, as she pulled her girlfriend into a hug and purred softly. She wished she had more time, that they could just defeat Belos with a snap of her fingers and she could just stay with her love all day.

She was used to being unnoticed. She was a detention track kid. She was poor and besides Jerbo and Barcus her only friends were her dad and their griffins. She was in shock when she found the letter. Emira Blight, the top student in the illusion track. One of the most popular girls in school. She was rich and well bred. Yet she liked her back. And now, she can't even remember why she had been so scared to ask her in the first place.

Emira was mischievous, smart, sparky and deeply insecure. She still blushed when she asked for a kiss. Her last name was a yoke that choked her if she did something wrong. Yet around her and their found family, she was softer. She was playful and silly. She was confident but not because of what her name was. She was confident in who she was and it had made all the difference.

Viney held her girlfriend's face in her hands, "I'm scared too. I don't know what's going to happen. But I'm a healer. I'm probably not going to be in much combat."

"Just...don't die on me." Emira cuddled into her.

"Trust me, not dying is at the top of my to do list."

"Is the second thing coming back to me in one piece?"

"One piece? Shit, let's not get picky here." Viney smirked as Emira glared daggers at her.

"That is not funny." Emira pouted.

"It's a little funny."

"Ya know it's moments like this it makes me wonder why I'm going to miss your stupid face."

Viney just purred louder as she gave her a soft kiss, "because we love each other."

A bright scarlet bloomed on Emira's face before she laid back down on her girlfriend's chest. "We do." She tried her best to purr but she couldn't and just took solace that her love was next to her right now.
---------------------------------

Eda and Lilith set the table up for breakfast. The normally light joy of spending time with their kids was gone. Instead the air hung heavy as fear and guilt gnawed at their souls.

"Are we doing the right thing?" Lilith asked, more to the room in general.

"Depends on how you look at it." Eda said, her voice distant and hollow. "As a leader of a rebellion. Yes. We're sending reinforcements and some of our best troops. For the future of the isles? Depends on if we win. If we do, we can give people freedom and make our world a better place. Morally, well I think we both know we don't have a very high standing there. Good people are going to die. And those who do survive will be scarred forever. We can only hope we win so those things aren't for nothing."

"The path to hell is paved with good intentions as they say." Lilith mused as continued to scramble the eggs.

"Hey at least we wouldn't be alone." Eda smirked as she threw her arm around her sister.

"I suppose there are worse punishments." Lilith smiled softly but the levity didn't last. There was too much weight that hung in the air.

Their heads turned as Amity walked in, her hair was a mess and she had bags under her eyes. Eda immediately took over the cooking as Lilith wrapped the girl in a tight hug, "Rough night?"

"Yeah...." Amity confessed as she leaned into her touch, "I'm worried about my friends with the war, my siblings who are dating some of them and Luz who's just been more depressed lately. I just hate seeing them all like this. Before I could at least tell them things would get better......I don't even know if I believe that anymore."

"Things are going to get worse before they get better. And this is a cause worth fighting for. People should be able to learn any magic they want and shouldn't have their powers restricted. They shouldn't be thrown in jail when they're not hurting anyone. I want people to be free to be themselves. If we succeed then we can make people's lives better. And even if we fail. We at least tried to make the world better." Jerbo smiled as he walked into the kitchen.

"Sometimes the best thing you can do is take solace in the fact you're doing the right thing." Viney reassured as she leaned in the doorway.

"Did that make Ed and Em feel better?" Amity asked desperately.

"I don't know if Ed feels better." Jerbo said his eyes glanced down as his ears dropped, "he understands why I need to go, why I want to go and he respects it."

"Em loves me. We don't want to see the other hurt. But this is bigger than us. We have to do something and we both know it."

"In the meantime. We're going to make the most of our last day." Jerbo smiled past his pain and fear, as he grabbed two plates to take downstairs.

"That's really all we can do." Viney added, as she carried her own plates of food. "I mean it's either that or give up and that really doesn't make anything better."

Amity nodded feeling a bit of hope warm in her chest, her mind wandered to the girl resting in their bed. The one who always seemed to find another way, despite people not always believing her. She felt determination fill her for the first time in months as she walked towards the stairs.
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Luz curled tightly into herself. Dark thoughts swirled in her head as she begged them to quiet. The people that were out there dying in the war, her friends who might never come home, her mother and uncles who were grieving her while she is still alive. She wanted the pain to stop. The aching in her chest as she felt the world pressing down on her. A world she couldn't hold up much longer for herself, let alone anyone else.

"Luz?" Amity said, as she crawled into their bed and spooned the taller girl. She kissed the back of her neck. "Remember when you first arrived here?" Amity asked as she held her love, "no one thought a human could do magic. Even I didn't think it was possible. But you found a way." She smiled as she moved to face Luz, "You taught me that anything is possible. It might be harder and it might take more time but there is always another way. That magic is wild and can be done and mixed in more ways than anyone could even dream." She pressed her forehead against Luz's as she cupped her cheek "You've done the impossible so many times before, my love, don't give up now."

"Trying never hurt before. Trying never meant killing innocent people who just happened to join the other side. And taking extra time didn't break my Mami's heart before."

"Giving up won't make the war end, it doesn't save anyone, and it doesn't get you back to your mom any sooner. Just...please hold on." Amity felt the tears welling in her eyes, "cause we can't make the world better if we don't try. And...my world would be better with you."

Luz kissed Amity softly, she still hurt. The ache in her chest was still there but it felt a bit lighter. Trying would still hurt. As she stared into her love's golden eyes, and thought of all the other people who loved her. The ones who were downstairs and the ones who were waiting. They were enough for her to keep going for a while. "I love you."

"I love you too."
--------------------------------------------

Jerbo and Edric sat on a little dock by a lake. Their shoes and socks lay in the grass behind them as their toes rested in the cool water. Willy pecked at a nearby tree, barely giving notice to the two witches below who rested in its shade.

Jerbo smiled as he watched a family of ducks swim by, and pulled a little bag of seed from his pocket and tossed some in their direction. They laughed as they watched the ducklings eat greedily, letting out happy little quacks as they swam closer in hopes of more goodies.

Edric threw some more, watching with joy as the ducklings happily continued their feast. His golden eyes widened as a particularly brave duckling swam up to them. It quacked loudly at them, demanding more seeds. Edric carefully put a few in his hand and squeed as it took them without any sign of fear.

The taller witch felt his heart fill with warmth, as he watched his lover continue to feed the ducks. He silently hoped that the gentleness stayed in Edric's heart even through the war. That his own compassion wouldn't die in the battlefield. That maybe one day they could come back to this lake when the war is just a bad memory. They could sit like this, with Edric resting in between Jerbo's legs, his back pressed up against his lover's chest. Hell, maybe they would even have a little one of their own, who would giggle and laugh as they watched the ducks swim by. The thought warmed his cheeks but melancholy creeped into his mind.

Another picture appeared, this time of just Edric alone. He imagined him looking tired, his eyes puffy and red but a smile still resting on his lips as he threw seeds for the ducks.

Edric leaned back against Jerbo, "What ya thinking?"

"The future....and what it could be"

Edric's expression turned solemn at his words, "if both of us even get much of a future."

"I can think of a thousand worse things than to end up as a memory in the hearts of those who loved me." Jerbo smiled wearily.

"Why? It's not even close to the same as having you around and all those memories would hurt."

"Never said it would be the same or that it wouldn't hurt. But....even if they hurt doesn't mean they're not still good memories. I'd rather you laugh through your tears than never laugh again." Jerbo kissed him gently, "and even if it hurts doesn't mean you shouldn't try to find love again."

Edric felt tears run down his face as he buried his head in his love's chest, he sobbed openly in his arms. Jerbo smiled as his own tears landed like rain on the emerald locks. Edric lifted his head and kissed his boyfriend. "So long as you promise me to do the same if I don't make it back."

Jerbo nodded as he cried, pulling him in for another desperate kiss before pulling a wrapped box out of his pocket. "I got this for you, as a memento."

Edric laughed lightly through his tears as he pulled out his own gift, "I guess great minds do think alike."

They traded gifts and they both began to undo the wrapping. Edric let out a gasp as he opened the box to see a silver locket in the shape of a bat. He clicked it open and saw the pictures of them together start to move. "a memory locket, Jerbo how did you even afford this?"

"Actually I made it. Well I helped make it. Viney's dad does some blacksmithing and he helped make the locket itself. Your sisters actually helped with the enchantment. Although the protection enchantment I did myself."

"I love it!" He cried as Jerbo helped him put it on. Edric placed his hand on the necklace and smiled, "okay, open mine!"

Jerbo snickered as he opened the box, his eyes widened as he stared at the beautifully detailed signet ring. The face looked like a carved emerald which depicted a woodpecker and a bat sharing a tree branch. The band was made of a cherry stained wood and he could feel just by touching it that it was enchanted as well. "Edric, Titan." Jerbo tried to find his words as he stared at his gift. Signet rings were only ever given to once noble families and they were only worn by the heads of said family. They were a sign not necessarily of wealth but of importance.

Edric smiled as he slid the ring on Jerbo's right hand. "A perfect fit."

"How did you even-"

"Told my father I wanted a signet ring and that I wanted to design it myself."

"He actually let you do that?"

"Please, he was thrilled I was finally acting like a proper blight. Although the stain on the wood I did myself when I enchanted it. I had help from Barcus, Viney and Luz. Well Luz gave me the idea for the enchantment and Barcus and Viney helped me bind it. It's also a protection enchantment."

Jerbo smiled and pulled his love in for a tender kiss, they basked in each other's arms as the afternoon sun replaced their shade, doing their best to make forever last a few more hours.
------------------------------------------------

Emira squeaked, gripping Viney's torso tighter as Puddles soared through the sky. She was used to flying. Normally she wouldn't have even blinked at being in the air. But Viney flew anything like a bat out of hell, especially Puddles who happily banked sharply or dove straight down if her witch friend asked. Emira closed her eyes as she felt them do a loop, and heard Viney yell with joy. Their speed started to slow and she opened her eyes to see a picnic set up near a cliff overlooking the beach. She felt a smile starting on her face as Puddles started their descent.

"See? We made it here all safe and sound." Viney grinned, booping her girlfriend's nose.

Emira crossed her arms slightly, "Yeah and you weren't trying to give me a stroke on the way here."

"Puddles wouldn't let us get hurt. Besides it's more comfortable for two people on a griffin than a staff." Viney smirked before giving her a soft kiss, "besides it might be awhile til we go on a ride together."

Emira felt her smile falter as she was lead to the large blanket that was spread out in the grass. She watched Viney as she pulled out a bottle of sparkling wine from the basket. She grabbed her pocket knife and cleanly cut the top off the bottle and poured it into their glasses. They sipped the wine in the afternoon sun and took turns throwing grapes into the other's mouth. They giggled like school kids as they moved onto throwing slices of cheese at each other. Viney snorted as one smacked Emira in the face before falling onto her cleavage.

"I make a basket" Viney wheezed as Emira swatted at her gently barely containing her own laughter.

"You did that on purpose"

"I have shit eye hand coordination. That was just a happy accident."

Emira rolled her eyes but the grin never left her face as she ate the offending piece of cheese. She took a sip of wine before leaning against her love. She leaned her head back and booped her nose. She watched as Viney smiled wider before leaning down to give her a soft kiss.

"I love you." The emerald haired girl whispered into her lips.

"I love you too." Viney said although there was a pain that creeped its way into her voice.

They laid back together as they stared at the clouds. Emira felt her mind drift off somewhere else. She thought of a world where there wasn't a war, where Lilith was her real mom and her and her girlfriend could just be two stupid seventeen year olds in love. Where their biggest worry was getting caught sneaking out on some silly escapade. They could be open about their relationship even at school and wouldn't have to worry about the social pressures of being a blight. She could study multiple tracks and they could graduate together. Then work a few dead end jobs before finding a little apartment to call home.

She didn't ask for much, her parents had taught her that she only received what they thought was best for her. She didn't want the most lavish dress or to learn how to sit up straight properly or how to use correct diction. She was used to being given things that were befitting of someone of her status. Yet the only thing she truly wanted is just to be able to be herself. Emira knew Viney sometimes felt self conscious, that she didn't always think she was worthy of her affection. She adored her Viney because she gave her love and that was worth more to her than anything in the world.

"Em, if we both manage to escape through this living hell alive....what would you want to do after?" Viney asked as she purred softly.

Emira nuzzled her head under her lover's chin as she thought. She never let her mind wander off to imagine the end of the war, she had told herself it was because she didn't want to get her hopes up. In truth, it was because the only future she knew was the plan her parents had mapped out for her since she was eight. "I guess I'd probably want to do this with you again. Just sit together and watch the clouds."

"That's it? No dream career? Dream house?"

"My dream house only needs you."

"Okay but I'd at least like it to have indoor plumbing." Viney smirked as Emira poked her side, "Sorry sorry, I couldn't help it."

Emira chuckled as she settled back into Viney's chest, "so what do you want to do when this all ends?"

"If we both make it? Probably find a job, probably as a healer for animals or maybe even a professor at hexside if they start incorporating more mixed magic lessons. Save up some money and get myself a little cottage on the edge of town so Puddles has space to run around without any neighbors bitching about her being on their lawn." Viney smiled but some redness flushed in her face, "maybe......someday marry a nice girl and raise some kids together."

Emira felt her face turn beet red as she pictured them playing at a park with their children. Viney and her taking turns pushing them on the swings and eating a picnic together. "I...think I'd like that too....if we both get to see the end of...this."

"If I don't make it back, promise me you won't close your heart off." Viney felt her eyes stinging as tears began to race down her cheeks, "Em, I love you. The only thing I want for you is to be happy even if I'm not around to see it."

Emira began to weep into Viney's chest, as she felt her heart breaking, "I'll try my best so long as you will if it's me who doesn't make it home."

"I'll try too." Viney smiled weakly as she pulled out a box, "I made us something."

"Love, you didn't need to get me anything and I don't have anything for you." Emira sniffled as she opened the box and saw two matching bracelets, they had a small clear gem in them and had a very faint reddish glow to the metal. She touched one gently and watched as the gem turned cloudy. Viney carefully touched the other one and both of the gems turned a soft blue. Emira felt her tears begin anew. "Sweetheart bracelets.....V you shouldn't have."

"Well I thought, this way, if we're lonely or missing each other. We can give the gem a little tap and we'll know when we're thinking about each other. "

Emira ran her fingers across the gem and the color changed to a deep emerald that almost matched her hair, "I love it. And I love you."

"I love you too."

They held each other close, as they listened to their soft heart beats. Enjoying their love for what felt like the last time.

-------------------------------------------------

Everyone had gathered at the owl house as the sunset began. The teens exchanged hugs while all their parents either offered support for Viney, Jerbo and Barcus's parents or tried to hide their own tears.

Luz hugged Gus as he started to sob, while Amity did her best for her siblings. Willow leaned into Boscha as they both cried.

The tears only quieted when Jerbo, Viney and Barcus emerged from the house in their uniforms. Their pants were heavy and black, while the shirt looked about the same but had dull brass buttons and on their collar was a pin with seven golden feathers on it. They each had their witch's wool cloaks that draped around their shoulders making them loom larger than they were. They each held their helmets in one hand and their staff in the other.

Lilith and Eda walked out, in their own uniforms. The only real difference was the pin as theirs both had eight feathers instead of seven. The three saluted them as they walked over.

"You three have come a long way, and we're all very proud of you." Lilith smiled, as she gave them each one last forehead kiss.

"Give them hell out there." Eda grinned before doing the same.

The family all said their tear filled goodbyes. Edric and Emira both gave their loves one last kiss.

"It's time." Eda sighed, as she wiped away her tears.

Jerbo slid on his helmet which resembled a barred owl, the golden eyes on the twilight black mask blinked to life. Barcus followed soon after with his helmet, his resembled great grey owl and lastly Viney who put on her great horned owl helmet.

The helmets made them look almost like demons with how the pupil less golden eyes stared down. The facial mimic only added to the uneasiness.

Lilith straightened her posture as she gave each a letter to give to the current head of the camp they were going to, "Colonel Ent, you're assigned to the northern camp, they've experienced heavy attacks. See if you can turn that around."

"Yes General." Jerbo's voice sounded almost like a growl because of the distortion enchantment.

"Colonel Mystic, you're assigned to the Eastern camp, the majors there are trying to establish new forts and will need your help."

"Yes General." Barcus whose voice was already something they were all getting used to sounded gruff and robotic with the helmet.

"Colonel Bones, you are to meet the M.A.S.H. unit in the western camp. Then you'll be leading them north to help with any casualties. We'll send orders if anything changes."

"Yes General." Viney's voice sounded raspy and also had a mechanical sound to it.

Eda came forward and handed them each a softer long cloth mask that didn't cover their mouths, the eyes were still golden, "These have the same enchantments as your helmets. You can wear these under your helmets and put them on when you're not in battle." They each took the new mask and gave a salute. "Good luck out there."

The group watched as the three Colonels flew away on their staffs. Any hope for denial vanished as they grew farther and farther away. The War was on and it was going to send them all off one day.

Chapter Text

It had been two months since Jerbo, Viney and Barcus left. Jerbo had successfully taken a fort from the Emperor's army. Barcus had helped them establish four new camps and Viney was traveling east to bring medical aid to the first eastern camp.

The owl house was now the central hub for the rebellion surrounded by a bunch of tents and shacks known as the owl town to those who now resided in it. Most of whom were new recruits here for training. The rest were healers and supply runners.

The rest of the teens had taken over as trainers. With the exception of the twins and Gus who lead supply runs and thieving missions.

The rebellion was doing okay for now and currently it was a rest day for those who didn't need to work all the time.

It was a Saturday night, and Luz, who went by the name Gambit in the rebellion, was treating her newest batch of recruits at the pub tent.

"Alright privates." Luz smiled, the cloth mask she wore distorted her voice and made her sound like she swallowed gravel every morning and followed it up with a cigarette chaser. "Supplies might run low. We save pain meds for those who need it most. And if you're not losing a limb you're probably not getting them. So you each get two shots of whiskey tonight. Better get used to the taste." She laughed bitterly as she threw back two of her own shots, and snickered at the faces the new recruits made. "Greenies."

Tonight was a bad night, Amity's parents made her and her siblings go to some fancy party celebrating the recent promotion of Alador as he was made a captain in the Emperor's army. Boscha and Willow were filling in for the twins on Gus's supply run to one of the nearby camps. Well that wasn't exactly true, Willow and Boscha both offered to stay if she wanted someone to hang out with tonight. She had told them she would be fine. 'It's just a day' she thought as she pulled out a pack of cigarettes and placed one in her mouth. She pulled out her deck of light spells and tapped one and held the cigarette out to it. She smiled as it lit before taking a long drag, 'not like being sixteen even matters here.' She pulled out her scroll and relaxed as she saw the time. Tonight was a bad night for sure, but it was just the night before her birthday. Tomorrow would be hell but it was still two hours away. She finished her cigarette and dropped the stub in the bucket by the tent flap and went back in the bar. She had only one goal tonight and that was not to be sober.
-------------------------------------------

Eda glared daggers at the book on the coffee table before burying her hands in her hair, "so Sacha able to get any new information on what the Emperor might have on portals or seals?"

"No, unfortunately. Apparently after I left they became super strict about who goes in and out of the Emperor's palace." Lilith sighed as she leaned back in the chair.

"It only took him how many years to finally get good security."

"I know, it's inconvenient to say the least. But I know he has something. He mentioned he needed the portal for some day of unity. So he has to have something or know something we don't."

"In brighter news, your kids were able to snag me another book on seals from the restricted section." Eda smiled softly as she grabbed the book, "Those three have the makings of damn good thieves."

"Of course they are, they're basically Clawthrones at this point." Lilith smirked but her face fell, "speaking of, you talk to Luz?"

"I did for a bit, I know she was planning on hanging out with Amity tonight and tomorrow but sounds like that was a bust. I asked her if she wanted to come home early but she said she was fine." Eda frowned, "I know she's hurting and I just want to help her."

"Trust me, you can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped. You taught me that lesson. At nauseum." Lilith mused as she ran a hand through her graying hair, "I'm more worried about her ways of dealing with stress. I know I've smelled cigarette smoke on her the past few weeks."

"The problem is I can't tell if it's her or it's just because she hangs out at the bar. " Eda said worry clear in her voice, "I'm more worried about her drinking. Cause she definitely drinks like a Clawthrone. The problem is I don't even know if I can even prevent that. Especially since we have to prioritize our medical supplies."

"We'll deal with it as it comes. Although if we catch her smoking we need to do something. Blue cloud fucks up demon's lungs let alone a human's."

"We'll see if she'll even listen to us." Eda groaned, "she used to be so open about everything. I don't know where she learned to bury her emotions......I fucking taught her that....Titan dammit...ugh why is parenting so hard?"

"Because we became parents to teenagers in our 40s with little to no experience of actually raising children."

"And now they're traumatized."

"Hey, we're at least trying. The emperor's coven breaks their recruits so they blindly follow orders....we at least spare our kids and our recruits that cruelty."

"It's war for fuck sake, we don't need to break them. One day on the field will do that for most of them. Titan, you should have seen the look in Jerbo's eyes last week when I went to check on the new fort." Eda stared down at the portal book, "I was hoping that if we could find something, just any lead on this book. We might be able to get some hope back into Luz and maybe give us some place to keep the younger ones safe if shit starts going south."

"I'm terrified when the Emperor's coven starts taking new members. I know they're only holding off on letting people in so they can weed out some of the weaker ones and have more openings for the elites' kids. If they run away, especially now that Alador is going to be leading troops. He could find them."

"He could also kill them by accident. Which might only be marginally better than going back to Odalia." Eda tried her best to laugh but it just sounded hollow, "even if we pulled them from the front lines. Having them here would be a liability especially if the coven is looking for them."

Lilith rubbed her temples, "nothing can ever be easy......Did you learn anything new about seal breaking?"

"Yes but not anything helpful for this. It's mostly about breaking enchanted locks. It's almost too modern for a spell like this. Although it would be good for getting any of our troops out of a jam so not totally useless."

The older Clawthrone nodded as she grabbed the portal book, flicking through its old battered pages, "I'm shocked the blood didn't unlock it. That's the base of so many ancient spells."

"I know! King even tried a bit of his blood but nothing happened. Slides off the damn thing like water off a duck." Eda growled, "who ever made that thing was a genius and a complete bastard."

"They were definitely something.......it's two am....I'm going to try to get some sleep." Lilith yawned as she placed the portal book back on the coffee table.

"I was trying to wait up for Luz, but I don't know if she'll even be coming home tonight." Eda said fear radiating from her.

"Brutus and Sacha are out at the bar tonight and so are Brian and Calum. I already told them to keep an eye on her tonight. And the bar is right up the way." Lilith reassured as she gave her sister's shoulder a gentle squeeze.

"Thanks Lily."

"No problem Eda" She smiled softly before a shiver went through her, "throw another log in the fireplace. It's supposed to get cold tonight."

Eda placed a few more logs into the flames, and jabbed the broken logs with the poker, "At least the bar has heating." She said more to herself than to Lilith who just nodded before heading to her room down the hall. Eda felt uneasiness rolling up her back as she made her way upstairs to her room. She stared at Luz's room and saw the moonlight gleaming off a golden colored tag. She smiled was she walked over and saw King sleeping on Luz's bed, and tapped him with her foot.

"Neh?" King grumbled sleepily as he swatted at her slipper.

"King wake up."

"Don't you know it's disrespectful to wake the King of Demons from his nappy time." He mumbled, opening one of his eyes.

"I'll let you have coffee tomorrow if you do this for me."

The small demon sat up, "ooo go on."

Eda chuckled slightly at his response, "I need you to wait downstairs tonight. Just until Luz gets home. I want to make sure she gets back safely."

King shrunk slightly at her words and hugged her leg, "For Luz. I'll do it without the bribe."

"Oh thank Titan, cause you're an absolute maniac on caffeine."

"Okay, ya know just cause you said that. I still want the coffee tomorrow."

"Nope. No take backsies." Eda smirked as she walked away from him.

"The king of demons always gets take backsies!"

Eda snickered as she stood in the doorway of her room, "Good thing you're just Mr. Wiggles then." She cackled as she closed the door and heard his squee of rage. She still felt a bit of worry twisted in her gut, but she knew she couldn't stay awake much longer. She closed her eyes and drifted into a dreamless sleep.

----------------------TRIGGER WARNING ----------------------

Luz staggered in through the back door, growled as she stomped out her cigarette on the mat. She walked over to the sink to wash the blood off her hands. A few privates had been harassing one of the newbies and she had decided to teach them a lesson. She had happily left one of them with a broken nose and the other with bruised ribs before dropping them at the feet of both Major Lachances. Brutus had only sighed as he got out his medical supplies. While Sacha got their names. Brian and Calum Park went to comfort the witch they were harassing. Luz, known as Colonel Gambit to the troops, decided she wanted to punch out her feelings so made her way back to the owl house.

She dried her hands on towel before making her way through the living room and down towards the basement. She grinned drunkenly as she reached the gym door and gave it a pull. The door however didn't budge. She yanked hard on the handle, this time with both hands but still the door didn't move. She kicked and blinked as a message appeared on the outside of the door

Luz,

I know today is a bad day for you but I don't want you to break your fingers again beating the shit out of the sand bag. I've locked the gym off for the next few days. Love you kid

Eda

Luz grumbled as she made her way back up the stairs, wanting desperately for anything to stop the aching in her chest. She didn't want to be sad. She was always sad and she was exhausted of it. Today should have been fun. She should have spent it with her mom, maybe learning to drive or playing Lazer tag with her uncles. However just like her fifteenth birthday she was stuck in the boiling isles with no way back. She felt tears prick her eyes and she made her way to the kitchen.

She smiled as she grabbed the whiskey bottle off of the shelf. She pulled the top off and threw it back like it was water. She stopped to hold some of it in her mouth, savoring the burning feeling. Anything was easier than the pain in her heart. She walked into the living room, ready to make her way to her bed when she spied something on the coffee table. Her hazel eyes stared daggers at the charred old book. She flopped down on the couch and took another drink before setting it on the table. Nimble hands quickly flipped through the yellow aged pages filled with nonsense. It had been over a year, and they had found nothing. This book, this great macguffin, that was supposed to hold all the secrets on how to bring her back home, was nothing more than a dead end next to a pile of broken dreams. She felt the grief and the guilt bubbling in her as she held this book of broken promises. She closed her eyes, she wasn't in the mood for any more tears. She had cried enough for her entire life in this past year and she was done. She smiled sharply as she turned her pain into rage, which roared in her veins like wild fire. She saw the fireplace, and the warm soft fire that crackled safely in its cage. She pulled back the grate with the tongs. She sat for a moment and watched the dancing flames that consumed all they touched. She pulled out a cigarette and lit it off the flames before tossing the already charred ancient book into the fire.

She moved back, puffing on the cigarette as the blue smoke curled away from her lips. She took another sip of whiskey. She smirked but it quickly turned into a frown as she watched the fire move around the book as if it were afraid to touch it. Not only that but the flames underneath it were starting to die out as if they were being suffocated. She snarled as she grabbed the book out of the fire, it was cool to the touch. She slammed it onto the table and pulled out her pocket knife.

King twitched in his sleep when he heard the ruckus, he lifted his head up and saw Luz. He wrinkled his nose as the smell of blue cloud tobacco and Dwarven whiskey filled the air, he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes as he saw Luz snarling at the coffee table. He quietly and quickly ran upstairs to get Eda.

Luz slammed her knife towards the book, but a force prevented her from bringing her blade any closer. It felt almost like she was trying to force two magnets of the same pole together. She fought it anyways throwing more of her weight behind it, she smiled as she felt it pierce but it fell away when she saw her knife in the table. She yanked it out and tried again and again. Each time it reflected off, she snapped as she almost hit her finger that was resting on the cover. A dangerous thought smirked like a half starved animal in her mind as she moved her hand over the book. She grinned as she found it almost seemed to break whatever was protection the book had. She laughed as she tighten her grip on her knife in the other hand and raised it high.

"Fuck, Luz! HOOTY GRAB HER!" a voice yelled and Luz didn't even have time to react before she was wrapped in a bunch of feathers. Her knife clattered on the floor.
-------------------------------------------

Lilith woke to the sound of agony. A wailing scream that overflowed with pain and raw emotion. She jumped to her feet as she felt a chill down her spine and dred bury deep in her chest.

She blinked her eyes adjusting to the brightness of the living room then let out a gasp at the sight before her eyes.

Luz was thrashing violently in Hooty's grasp, desperately trying to get free. Eda stood stretching out her hands towards the human like she was approaching an angry slitherbeast, tears rolled down her face. King just hugged Eda's leg like a scared toddler during a storm.

"Luz, sweetie, please it's me." Eda whispered gently.

The human only glared as she tried to claw her way out.

"Eda...." Lilith said softly as she placed a hand on her sister's shoulder.

"Lily" Eda said her voice like broken glass, "Go get the kid a glass a water please."

Lilith just nodded as she quickly made her way into the kitchen. She returned as soon as the cup was filled and placed it on what was left of the coffee table. She spotted the knife on the floor and quickly flipped it closed and put it in her pocket.

"Luz. Kid....I'll have Hooty let you go. But you have to sit still okay?" Eda said calmly, the human stopped and just panted. Her hazel eyes stared coldly ahead. "Hooty let her go."

The house demon looked hesitantly at Eda before he carefully let go of the human.

Luz immediately buried her hands in her coat pockets as she sank to her knees. Tears streamed down from her empty eyes and Eda immediately wrapped her kid in a hug.

"Luz, sweetheart, please just talk to me. I don't care if it's just the same stuff it always is. Honey, I love you so much and I don't want to watch you hurt yourself." Eda sobbed. She blinked away hear tears as she hear mutter something, she relaxed her hold as she moved to cup her cheek.

Luz smirked as she darted forward immediately pulling a translation glyph from her pocket and slammed it on the cover of the portal book. She watched as it immediately caught a blaze, the fire only seemed to consume the book as it quickly became nothing more than a book shaped piece of charcoal. As the fire put itself out the weight of her actions stabbed through the throbbing ache that was her heart. She fell to her knees as her grief and self hatred burned anew as she sobbed. She didn't want to cry anymore but she couldn't stop these tears. They burst through like an overflowed dam. She turned as she felt three pairs of arms around her. "I'm sorry."

Eda just kissed her forehead, "Just let it out sweetheart. Just let it all out. I love you Luz."

"We'll listen whenever you need us." Lilith said as she wiped the tears from her eyes, gently stroking the girl's hair.

"And I'm still here for you too." King added as he hugged while standing in her lap.

Luz lip trembled as she let out a cry of pure sorrow then buried herself in Eda's arms.

Eda rubbed her back gently, "That's my girl. Just let it out." She carried the girl up to her nest and all four of them snuggled together as the early morning sun started to peak its way on the horizon. It was only the beginning of a very bad day.

Chapter Text

Lilith woke early as she normally did, her back hurt and blinked when she found a small demon curled in a little ball right behind her. She turned and looked at her sister. Eda's sleeping form lay draped over Luz like a mother bear protecting her cub. Luz's face wrinkled in her sleep, tears leaked from her eyes. Lilith thumbed them away, brushing the hair out of the teen's face. She smiled as Eda pulled the human closer to her, her snores became accompanied by her purr. The eldest Clawthrone yawned, stretching her tired limbs, before getting up to make breakfast.

She walked down the creaky stairs and felt a cold breeze. Her eyes widened as she saw the house demon staring at her.

"Is She okay?" He asked, his voice barely above a whisper.

Lilith sighed, "She's sleeping and probably going to be hungover. Mentally....I don't know. We'll see how she is when she wakes up." She walked over and gave Hooty some gently chin scratches. "Let me know when they come down stairs okay?"

He nodded before going back outside.

She glanced at the charred book that sat in the ruins of the coffee table. She drew a circle in the air and the table mended itself as if it had never been broken at all. She glanced at the book and tried the spell again. The book however was still a burnt piece of charcoal. She let out a deep sigh before making her way to the kitchen.

She opened the fridge which was mostly filled with fruits and vegetables. Meat was hard to come by for the rebellion as most of it went to the griffins that helped carry supplies between camps. She grabbed a couple melons and some other fruits and began slicing them.

Lilith focused on her task, as she tried to ignore the weight last night. The book that was their biggest clue was destroyed, but surely there were other books. Her niece had a mental break down and nearly stabbed herself trying to take her anger out on said book. She had also has broken her fingers more than once beating up the sand bag. Not to mention her drinking and now smoking habits. There was also dealing with the rebellion which although had some recent victories and gained access to the Lachance fortune, was financially barely scraping by. Luz wasn't even the only one hurting, as the three people they sent off had witnessed real war first hand. Not to mention the countless teenages that ran off to join their fight who will never go home again. She bowed her head forward setting her knife down and buried her hands in her hair.

"Hey, everything alright?" Calum Park asked, as he stood awkwardly in the entryway of the kitchen, "I came by to drop off some reports but your house demon looked more traumatized than normally so I figured I'd just come in.....also I'm ninety percent sure he eats the reports we give you."

"He throws them up so we still get them." Lilith said, trying her best to calm down.

"That would explain why we use waterproof ink......anyways....are you alright? Is Luz okay? She got into a fight again last night. We had to leave her to help deal with the mess."

"Of course she did....what happened this time?"

"The usual, she saw someone getting sexually harassed by some drunken assholes and decided to take care of it personally." Calum sighed, "Sacha's handling the rest of their punishment now."

Lilith nodded, before turning to the man, "Things aren't really going that well today, Luz had...a rough night."

"Sounds like everyone had a rough night."

"At this point it feels like it's just gonna be a rough year......" Lilith mused as she sat down at the table, "I'm sorry you're kid is in this.......I know that seems pretty hollow at this point but it's true."

"It's hard.....on everyone. No one wants to see their kids hurt......if we don't fight they'll still get hurt...I'm just glad you and your sister actually care. You don't treat any of them like they're just pawns in a chess game." Calum smiled solemnly, "and as one parent to another. I'm glad you and your sister are trying your best for all of them. Amity, Edric and Emira are lucky to have you as a mom. And Luz is lucky to have Eda."

"I don't feel like they're lucky. Ed and Em are worried sick about Jerbo and Viney. Luz is a stone throw away from full blown alcoholism and already has some self harm issues. And poor Amity is trying her best to help all three of them while also dealing with the pressure of the war and the blights.

"Willow has been growing and smoking blue cloud. Boscha smokes it too and she drinks about as bad as Luz. Honestly of the ten of them the only one I'm confident doesn't have a substance addiction is Gus and that's because the other nine would kill him if he did half the stupid shit they did. There's hardly any good people in war, let alone parents. We're all struggling with what's happening and what we've seen. The best thing we can do is just talk to each other. " Calum sank into the chair across from Lilith brushed his dark blue graying hair out of his face. "The worst part is that I don't even know if I can be mad at them for some of their habits. I mean I don't want them smoking or drinking but I get why. There's really not much of a break we can get, even when we're not working all the evidence of war is around us. Even in Bonesborough. And I think all of us don't know what to do. "

"Hope we win." Lilith offered, as she smiled, although it didn't meet her eyes.

"Or at least die quickly." Calum added with a humorless laugh.

Lilith stood, and placed a comforting hand on the man's shoulder, "thanks....it's nice to know that I'm not the only one struggling with parenting."

"Of course. Some of the other parents have started meeting up together when we have the chance. I think everyone would be happy to have you and Eda join us."

"I'm not sure if either of us are exactly their favorite people. Especially if they're parents of the Colonels....they got dragged into this sooner than most."

"At this point I don't think any of us have any room to talk. No point in fighting when all our hands are dirty." Calum said as they walked back towards the living room.

"I was a coven leader. Trust me. Half of politics is fighting over whose hands are barely cleaner or what exactly is on them." Lilith sighed, as she opened the door, "Goodbye Major Park."

"Goodbye General."

----------------------------------------------

Eda turned groggily as she saw Lilith walk in carrying a plate of fresh fruit, some tea and a giant cup of ice water.

"She awake yet?" Lilith asked gently as she sets the food down on the table.

"No." Eda said, not taking her eyes off the sleeping human. Luz had grown a lot in this past year. She was taller, her hands were rough from training and her weak nerd arms were no where in sight. The biggest thing that had changed was her temper, she growled and bared her teeth like witches do. The world had made her harder, but in her sleep the softness returned. Eda gently rubbed the girl's back as she blamed herself for everything that happened.

"Calum showed up a bit ago. Gave me some reports." Lilith said, as she sat down next to her sister.

"Anything worth reporting?"

"Our third eastern camp was attacked last night. Colonel Bones actually lead a charge as the Major was injured. They were able to fend them off long enough to retreat. She got in contact with Colonel Mystic and they're planning to take the town."

"That's a risky move, could hurt a lot of civilians."

"They're planning on doing a stealth mission of their strongest into the barrack and the mayor's office. They'll kidnap the people they need to and do their best to sway the underlings. If this is successful, Mystic is going to make the troops help fix up damage they cause and make repairs and improvements to help the town." Lilith smiled, as she grabbed her cup of tea.

"Show them we're civil. Not a bad idea." Eda turned her two toned eyes to her sister, a knowing look in them, "What's the plan for those who can't be swayed?"

"They'll be sending some our way. The higher ups at least. See if I can move them. The lower ones will be either split up between different camps. Although....if they try to escape or try to attack people......well I think you can fill in the blank."

"Let's hope that most of those soldiers and guards aren't from that town. I don't think killing their friends will make us more endearing. And we don't need more people fight us in revenge."

"I'm sure more will, unfortunately that seems to be inevitable. Colonel Ent is helping establish another camp. Which would be our third northern camp. They're planning on trying to take out another E.A. fort. The goal is to take out as many forts and barracks nearby so they can surround and then take Brainburg."

"They're going to need more troops to maintain that."

"He requested two more platoons sent his way. I believe Colonel Ivy and Gambit both finished training a platoon. We can send them both up there."

"We still need reinforcements for the eastern camp." Eda stated as she looked over one of the files, "and the western camp needs more medical supplies. We're the twins and Gus successful in their raid?"

"Yes, although they weren't able to get as much as we need. We'll have to increase our growth rate for some of the ingredients for health potions. Although we might have to find alternatives or find sources for the the harder to find and inorganic ingredients." Lilith sighed, "We might need to send out more scouting parties."

"Send messages out with the supplies, I'm sure our camp leaders can form small scouting parties." Eda leaned her back against the side of her nest, she looked down as she felt Luz start to wiggle, "You alive kid?"

"Uggghh" Luz groaned, "well I'm breathing, but I sure as hell feel like death."

"Drink a fourth of a bottle of whiskey on top of whatever you drank at the bar and yeah. You probably will." Eda smirked as she rubbed her back gently.

"I fucked up....badly." Luz muttered her tired eyes staring up at the ceiling.

"Nothing some rest and rehydration can't fix-" Lilith smiled before being cut off by Luz's broken expression.

"You know that isn't what I mean."

The sisters exchanged a pained expression, "We weren't sure you'd remember what happened last night. You were pretty gone." Lilith grimaced slightly before handing handing her niece the large cup of ice water.

"Bits and pieces. But I remember putting the glyph on the book." Luz took a drink of water, but kept her eyes down, "I'll clean up the mess."

"I already took care of it. And the mending spell worked on the coffee table." Lilith added as she brought the tray of fruit closer to them. "No restoration spell or mending spell seemed to work on the book...."

"estupido." Luz growled, "why am I always such a fuck up."

"Hey, you're not a fuck up." Eda said sternly, "We all have done dumb things in anger."

"Eda, I burned my only way home. Again." Luz snapped, "at least the first time I had a good reason. I saved you. This was just...fuck!" She slammed her fist into the side of the nest, "ow. Damn pointy twigs. Wait. Why are my knuckles bruised?"

"You got into a fight again." Lilith said as she popped a grape in her mouth, "The Parks and the Lachances already took care of the rest."

"Huh. Don't remember that."

"By the way" Eda said, turning a sharp eye on her kid, "Don't fucking smoke in my house."

Luz's face blanched slightly, as she suddenly found her melon slices very interesting to look at, "I probably just had smoke on me from the bar."

"Don't lie to me Luz, you had a cigarette in your mouth when I found you last night. I know you smoke." Eda said, as hurt flashed across her face, "I'm going to kill whoever bought those for yo-"

"She didn't buy them anywhere. Willow's been growing it, and smoking it. Her, Luz and Boscha are confirmed. Unless you know something we don't niece?" Lilith asked, her gaze firm.

"Edric stole the seeds from Alador although he sent some off with Jerbo. The only ones who don't are Viney, Gus, Emira and Barcus. Viney cause she's a healer, Emira cause Viney told her she'd kill her. Gus because we would all kill him. And Barcus because he doesn't like the smell." Luz sighed, "I'm sorry I lied....I didn't want to make you more stressed. It just....helps me calm down..."

Eda ran a hand through her hair and turned to Luz "look I'm not thrilled about it. But....I get it.....and it's not like I've been the best parental figure in world. I just don't want you to hurt yourself. You scared the shit out of me last night kid. I thought you were gonna cut your hand off or......ya know. You're the best thing I have kiddo, I don't want to lose you."

Luz leaned against Eda, "I can't promise I'll stop soon.....I just don't know if I can cope. I'll cut back on them. And I'm definitely not drinking that much again. I know that's kind of a shit apology. I just don't want to make any promises I can't keep. I will promise I won't lie to you again. I just didn't want to disappoint you......"

"Kiddo, you've been through so much and I know none of this has been easy on you. But you've come so far. You've helped me and Lily learn glyphs. Hell we've both almost mastered them. You've been through all this, you're still studying at hexside, all tracks and you still have some of the best grades in the school. You've become a better pickpocket than me and your card and dart scams are amazing. More importantly, your troops respect you and you respect them. If someone steps out of line or hurts someone you protect them. You care about the people here. Even if it hurts. Titan, kid I'm so damn proud of you." Eda smiled, purring loudly as she thumbed away Luz's tears, "I love you, my owlet."

Luz hugged her tightly, "I love you too mom."
--------------------------------------------------------

Luz stretched before throwing her mask on her face. She stepped out the door and was immediately wrapped in a hug. She smiled, "Hey Hooty"

"I was so worried!" He cried nuzzling her face with his slightly sticky feathers.

"I'm doing better. I'm sorry I scared you. And attacked you. You didn't deserve that." Luz looked away as she petted his head.

"It's okay. I'm just glad you're alright....hoot."

"I'll see if I can get you some bugs from the beast keeping homeroom tomorrow. And I promise these won't have tranquilizers in them this time......sorry again."

"You apologized for that ages ago, also I was the one who puked in your shoes that one time." He grinned.

"Perra, I know that was you." Luz smirked, before a small demon came barreling at her, he jumped as she caught him in her arms.

"Luz! Why didn't you wake me up? I was scared when I woke up and the nest was empty."

"You were just so cute. I couldn't wake you." Luz laughed as she kissed his head, "besides what happened to its rude to wake up the king of demons during his nappytime?"

"Well....some rules have exceptions." He huffed slightly then snuggled into her, "I'm glad you're okay."

"Yeah me too. If you and Hooty hadn't been there....I could have done something really stupid. Love you ya little munchkin."

"I love you too." King purred in her arms then hopped onto her shoulder as she dug into her pockets and pulled out her pack of cigarettes and popped one in her mouth. She shuffled through her deck of cards before pulling out a light spell, tapping it and using it to light her cigarette. King wrinkled his nose and jumped off her shoulder, "ugh those things smell gross."

Luz blew the blue colored smoke out her nose as she laughed, "King, you literally eat stuff out of trash cans."

"Well at least my dumpster food doesn't slowly kill me." He grumbled.

"You once ate a not dog that had mold on it and you were sick for three days."

"Hey I'm better than Hooty, he eats anything."

"Hooty never gets sick, I've seen him eat the cigarette butts in the bucket by the bar because he was bored."

"They're better when they're wet and cold. Hoot hoot."

Luz and King exchanged a glance as Luz put the butt of her cigarette out with her thumb before tossing it to Hooty who munched it happily.

"I'll take your word for it." She said hesitantly before scooping up King and heading back inside.

"Neyh your breath smells like your cigarette." He complained, wiggling in her arms.

"Aww, you don't want kissies?" She smirked.

"Nooooo!" He whined as she peppered his face.

She chuckled, "Alright ya little bastard you're free." She smiled as she set him down. She looked up and her eyes spotted the burnt book on the coffee table. She picked it up like it was an injured bird and ran her fingers gently across the cover. She felt tears start to roll down her cheeks, "Lo siento Mami, volveré contigo algún día." She kissed the book gently before setting it back on the table. She stared at it for a second but it stayed a burnt mess. She glanced at her ash covered hands and went to the kitchen to clean them off.

The kitchen was dark, but she thought nothing of it and flicked on the lights.

"Surprise!" Many voices cheered as her family popped out of their hiding spots.

Luz smiled, shaking her head, before Amity leaped into her arms and gave her a deep kiss. "Hola mi princesa." She snickered.

"Happy birthday love." Amity smiled, "I missed you."

"I missed you more!" Luz cooed giving her a soft peck.

"If you two do this all night, I will puke. And I will aim for the cake." Boscha grumbled.

"Fat lachance." Luz grinned at her pun which caused Edric and King to wheeze with laughter.

"Babe no." Amity groaned.

"What bunny? Don't like my punderful sense of humor?"

"If you do this for an hour I'm making you sleep outside. I don't care if it's your birthday. I don't care if it's October." Eda said as she rubbed her temples.

"You won't, you love me too much."

"Trust me. I'll stop her if she starts to crack." Lilith said, taking a large sip of wine.

"Mom, why don't you be more punderstanding?" Edric smirked as he threw his arm around her.

"That's it. I can't be sober for this." Willow said as she walked to the counter, "who wants shots?"

"Me." Said everyone who wasn't telling puns and Edric.

"Ya know what just pour a shot for everyone except Gus and King." Eda smiled

"Wait, why don't I get one?" Gus pouted.

"You're thirteen. You're not getting stitches or a bone set. And we have enough borderline alcoholics in this family." Lilith said flatly.

"Ya know what. That's fair." Gus smirked.

Willow passed out the shots and filled two shot glasses with juice for Gus and King.

"To Luz" Eda smiled as she raised her shot glass.

"To Luz!" They cheered.

"Alrighty, Gus, Emira. You two get first choice on cake slices." Lilith said as she grabbed the plates.

"Wait, why do they get first pick?" Luz whined.

"We're rewarding them for being the only two of you shit heads that doesn't smoke." Eda shot back.

Four pairs of ears flicked back and then four heads turned to glare daggers at Luz.

"You told them!" Willow growled.

"Heh come on guys....it's my birthday...." Luz said nervously, "Amity, Bunny, sweetie pie, love of my life. You're not gonna hurt me."

"Abomination rise."

"Ahh shit." Luz yelped as she darted out the door, Boscha, Edric, Amity and Willow hot on her tail.

"I thought Willow's dad told you?" King asked as he ate a slice of cake.

"Oh he did." Lilith smiled, as she cut herself a slice, "however this is funnier."

A yelp was heard from the other side of the door.

"Hey, no maiming!" Eda yelled, her mouth full of cake.

"No promises!" Boscha screamed back.
--------------------------

Luz smiled as she cuddled up to Amity, the stain glass colored moonlight shining on them. She still had a lot of mixed emotions about what today represented, but somehow her family found a way to make it better. Things were shit, and they were only going to get worse. She might not ever make it home again, but for the first time in a while. She felt truly grateful for what she did have, they were all a little broken, but they found a way to always make their pieces fit together. She gently kissed Amity's sleeping face before joining her in sleep.

Chapter Text

Eda stretched, her back making a loud pop as she walked up the stairs to the living room. She stared at the burnt book that had been sitting like a monolith on the coffee table for the past week. Mostly because no one really knew what to do with it. Throwing it out seemed wrong, especially with how important it had once been. Yet keeping it out, especially in front of Luz seemed just as bad. She sank into the old couch, as she picked it up. Carefully flipping through what remained of its pages. She coughed at the ash that flew off of it then blinked as she noticed a faint glow in the corner of one of the pages. She wiped her finger on it and it revealed a golden letter g that almost looked like it was made of fire. She immediately checked the other pages, and found another letter and another. She felt happy tears come to her eyes as finally they had a clue, carefully she wrote the word down on a piece of paper. She knew many languages in the boiling isles, elvish, dwarven, orcish, and even a little goblin. But none of them looked like the word. She scratched her head and immediately ran out the door to the meeting tent where Lilith was currently talking war strategies with some of the oracles and the camp leaders.

"Lily!" Eda yelled, panting as she had sprinted the entire way.

Lilith, and the many faces in the room and on the face call turned to her. Most immediately saluted while Jerbo, Viney and Barcus snickered behind their masks on the screen.

"Eda, you're finally here. I was just in the middle of discussing-"

"Yeah we can get back to that in a second, do you know what this word means?" Eda asked, shoving the piece of paper at her sister's face.

"Please tell me this isn't because you're losing that stupid app game you play with King." Lilith grumbled as she looked at the paper, "Sanguis? Yeah I have no idea what this means. Have you tried a translation spell?"

"Fuck. Why didn't I think of that." She immediately patted her pockets, "You wouldn't happen to have a pen?"

Lilith handed her sister one of the pens in the little cup and Eda quickly drew the glyph over the word and tapped it, grinning madly. Her face quickly morphed into one of confusion as she started at the translation, blood. "Carry on without me I have something back at the house I need to deal with" she said, not even looking up as she walked back towards the owl house.

She sat back on the couch carefully scanning the book for any other letters. She huffed slightly as she found none, and pulled out her pocket knife from her hair. Carefully she pricked her finger, and carefully dropped a bit of blood on the ruined cover. She felt her eye twitch as the blood slid off of it just like before. "THE FUCKING SEAL IS STILL THERE. YOU DAMN BASTARD." She growled, "Fucking couldn't even give me another hint either. Blood. I tried blood already. Blood didn't work. You dumb bitch." She rewrote sanguis on the piece of paper, "maybe the stupid language is a clue."

Eda went to the study and shut the door as she grabbed every language book she could find. She would figure this out.

----------------------------------------------------

"Attention." Luz called from behind her helmet, she smiled as the privates lined up. "Today is your last day. I have taught you all what I can. You've all come far in the past few months. And you should feel proud of your accomplishments here. I have talked with the Generals and you will be leaving tomorrow to help the northern front. You will be under the command of my associate, Colonel Ent. If you have any unfinished business or want any letters sent home. I suggest you do that now. I'll be buying drinks for each of you at the bar later tonight and I will be seeing you off tomorrow morning. Good luck out there, may the Titan smile upon you on the field."

"Yes Colonel." They replied, giving a salute.

"Dismissed." Luz nodded, as she pulled out a cigarette from her pack, the mouth of the long eared owl faced helmet moved just enough for it to rest in her lips. She hated when the cadets left. Partly because she wanted to go out and fight herself, but mostly is because she knew that at least one of them wouldn't make it home. She'd helped the twins unload the bodies off their flying ships enough to recognize faces that she had trained, as well as a few she had seen at hexside. She didn't know what stuck in her mind more, the faces of the corpses or the faces of the parents who held their children's cold bodies in their arms. That is if the parents even showed up, the unclaimed were cremated in a funeral pyre. Their ashes and dog tags were placed in a small metal coffee can and from there they would work to deliver them to their families. Gus often did the deliveries as they were often in residential areas far from any combat. That combined with his snowy owl faced helmet is why he went by Colonel Ghost.

She only went with him on one delivery route. The first soldier they delivered had been only fifteen. They died in an ambush on one of the eastern camps. She hadn't known them personally but from their paperwork, she knew they were a runaway. She remembered watching their mother open the door from a nearby tree, the woman had fallen to her knees as she held the makeshift urn and dogtags. The sound of her cries burned into her brain as she thought of her Mami. The only difference being if she died, she wouldn't even make it back to her Mami in the human realm. She'd spend the rest of eternity in a coffee can on Eda's mantle. She smiled slightly taking comfort in the fact she'd at least be with one mom. She looked up at the afternoon sun and walked back through the owl town towards the house.
--------------------------------------------

Eda's ears twitched when she heard Hooty talking to someone at the door. The last time she had looked at a clock it had been nine am, she felt slightly panicked as it now said two pm and she had gone through all the books on languages in her library. None were a match. She sighed as she heard her stomach growl, and rose from her chair. She bit her lip as she wondered what she would tell Luz, as she didn't want to get her hopes up only for them to be crushed again, especially after last weekend. She froze when she saw said human at the door.

"Hey, Ma. Ready to get lunch?" She asked with a sad smile on her face.

Eda walked over giving her girl a hug, "How did your cadets take the news?"

"They seemed fine. I just hate feeling like I'm sending them off to die." Luz sighed as she pulled off her helmet and pulled the cloth mask out of her pocket, "I don't know how Gus stays sane doing those deliveries."

"Well from what I can gather from his folks, his sanity isn't much better than the rest of you. He's just more open about it."

Luz slid on her mask and searched her jacket for her cigarettes, she had promised she would try to cut back, but after some of her thoughts, she just wanted the relief. She pretended she didn't see the worried look on Eda's face, "If I die in this war, can you promise me something?"

"Of course kid." Eda said, as they began to walk, feeling tears sting at her eyes from just the thought.

"Split my ashes in three. Give one to Amity, keep one for yourself and if you do ever get another portal to the human world open. Give one to my mom if you can find her. " Despite the distortion from the mask, the sorrow still hung heavy in her voice.

"Sure kid." Eda tried her best to smile.

The blue smoke curled away from Luz's mouth, "Also if any of those cans are decaf. I will haunt you."

Eda snorted despite herself, "well now you've tempted me." She paused slightly, "about the portal.....I flipped through the book. And there were letters hidden under the ash. They spelled out a word in some language I don't know. I wrote it down, I was able to translate it fine. But I'm pretty sure it's origin is the biggest clue." She handed her the crumbled piece of paper. She watched as Luz puffed her cigarette, holding it in her teeth as she unfolded the note.

Luz's mouth went slack as she stared at the paper, "I know what language this is."

"What?"

"It's Latin. My first language is one of the languages that evolved from it. It means bl-"

"It means I think I know how we break the seal." Eda grinned, wrapping Luz in a bear hug, "You are so smart." She squished Luz's face before giving her a soft forehead kiss, "now finish that damn cigarette so we can go back inside."

Luz just nodded as she put it out with her thumb, stuffing the half finished smoke back in her pack. Happy tears ran down her face as they dashed back up the way to the owl house, their lunch plans forgotten in their excitement.

Hooty tried to greet them but grunted as they slammed him shut. He grumbled slightly before stretching his neck out to go make friends with whoever had the misfortune of walking by him.

Luz and Eda made their way to the study. The human flipped out her pocket knife as she walked up to the book, running the sharp blade across her thumb. She pressed it against the ashen cover and the book began to glow. They watched as it restored itself, the pages filled out and the burnt cover transformed into a warm leather one. Eda opened and found a familiar old language, she carefully drew a translation glyph and pressed it to the cover. She laughed as she watched it change into common. The two hugged each other tightly as tears ran freely down their cheeks. They finally had a lead.

Eda opened the book and began to read.
-----------------------------------------------------

Long ago there was but one world, where humans and demons lived side by side. However this world was not a peaceful one, as both humans and demons fought brutality against each other. Many species of humans and demons were driven to extinction. Although there were some humans and demons that got along, well enough that some even married. Although their children were often ostracized in both societies. This was the world my great grandfather Áki was raised, in the lands of the cold rains. The Titans ruled from above, often battled themselves for which side they favored. There were the Asiry who created humans in their image and the Dunery who created the demons in theirs. These gods fought as much as the beings they created. However not all of them hated each other. The Asiry God of Prophecy, Wit, and the Dunery God of Oracles, Ca, were deeply in love and sought a way to end the violence.

Together they studied for years and finally they received a vision but the answer wasn't one they had wanted. For it was fated that as long as the humans and demons both had access to magic, they would fight until only one species remained. So they came up with a plan.

They showed their side the vision where they lost and told them that if both were to remain in the same world their creations would parish. They said the only way would be to create a new world where magic could be kept along with the demons as it was in their nature.

The Titans formed an uneasy alliance and began to create the new world and build the barrier between them. However what Wit, and Ca had failed to tell them was that to do this would drain them of not only their power but of their life force. As they began soon, some realized what was going to happen. However as the spell was already started most were unable to break free. As the Titans force was drained, their bodies fell into the new world creating the land. And their blood spilled creating the water. However the anger that they held at being tricked caused them to curse this new world with violent weather.

Wit and Ca held each other as they finished the spell which pulled all magic into the new world. As their tears fell to the ground below, and formed the great Magnus trees from which we carve our staffs.

The three known Titans that were able to break free had changed drastically from the spell and lost most of their magic. One became a hideous slug, another a terrifying horned horse and the last a long necked monstrosity. Their descendants would become the lurk slugs, unicorns and giraffes. They're the only known creatures that can pass through the barrier into the old world.

The barrier between the realms however was never fully sealed and at weaker points some things can still pass through though it is uncontrollable and random. That however is something my great grandfather and I wish to be able to solve.

For you see when the spell to transfer magic to the new world was cast, it took not only the demons but any demon human hybrids and some of the few pure blood humans who practiced magic, trapping them here forever. The humans tried to form their own kingdom and began worshipping the old world as their heaven. The hybrids now known as the children of wit and ca. Or simply Witca. Formed their own land. However as ages passed and the demons both fought and allied with humans and witcas. The number of purebred humans decreased exponentially, and the number of Witcas increased.

My great grandma was one of the last remaining humans and she had asked my great grandfather with her dying breath to spread her ashes in the world of her ancestors. For years since he has been trying to find a way to make a portal to the human realm and I have been helping him. In this journal I will document our trials in hopes that if we are successful or not someone can use this to help in their own research or learn what we did to recreate ours. For I, Fríđa Àkison, fourth generation witca, hope to one day see this old world with my own eyes and document it and our findings for the good of both realms.
----------------------------------------------------

Luz and Eda exchanged a surprised look at each other. As things about both worlds seemed to snap into place.

"So humans once lived here." Luz laughed, feeling less alien in this world.

"I don't know what you're smiling about, according to this book they went extinct here." Eda added, looking her kid up and down examining her for similarities.

"Well kind of, their descendants turned into witches." Luz giggled, excitedly then turned back to Eda. "Wait how do you not know all this? It's literally your history?"

"Belos and many of the rulers and empires before him had a habit of trying to sponge each other out of history. When Belos took power he destroyed a lot of the books containing savage age magic and any history taught in school is still under his jurisdiction."

"Fair enough, where does it get to the part where they make the portal?" Luz asked, leaning her head over Eda's shoulder as she watched her flip through it.

Eda smiled, chuckling, "Kid, I haven't read the thing, I know as much as you. Give me a second."

"Eda, Luz? Oh there you are. I thought we were meeting for lunch." Lilith said, holding a paper bag, "You two didn't show up so I brought it back from the dining hall for us....what are you looking at?"

Eda and Luz grinned madly as they wrapped Lilith in a hug.

"We decoded the book." Luz cheered, sounding happier than she had in over a year now.

"I thought it was burnt to a crisp? Luz what the hell happened to your hand?"

The human blinked as she stared at her finger which she had forgotten the cut in her excitement and it had trickled down blood all over her hand. "Long story, we'll tell you over lunch."

----------------------------------------------

Amity adjusted her mask, as she leaned against a tree near the bar. She held her cigarette in her teeth as she lit it with a flame spell.

"Colonel Reaper" a private called out.

Amity blew a smoke ring that quickly faded as she turned her head to face them. She hadn't really chosen her nickname, much like Gus. She however often flew the ship to the nearby camps to pick up the dead in between training recruits. Add her barn owl faced helmet and the long hooded black cloak she wore, and well she looked like a Reaper. She didn't complain too much though, it helped make up for her rather small stature. "Yes private?"

"You brought my brother back to camp the other day. We ran off to join the war together. I was wondering if you could give this letter to Colonel Ghost to give to them with my brother's ashes." They asked quietly, she could see the fear and the sadness in the soldier's eyes.

"Consider it done." She smiled although with the helmet it was more unnerving than comforting.

"Thank you sir." They replied handing the letter over and dashing off.

She sighed as she made her walk to the pyres which sat at the edge of their little makeshift town. She could smell the smoke and the scent of ghost lilies. The flowers were used often in invisibility potions and helped cover the smoke when they burned them with the corpses. She spotted a familiar helmet and a figure sifting ashes into a coffee can. She smiled sadly and sat down next to him.

"Hey, got another letter home. Name and address and everything." She said, placing the letter on the table. She saw the fine layer of ash that had settled on him from being near the fires. His helmet and clothes were black like the rest of them but the ash made him look more of a dusty grey. He had grown a bit over the summer and was now only slightly taller than the twins, who both were 5'5. He however retained his small frame making him look spindly. Given he always wore his helmet when he worked, and it's abilities. No one really knew he was only thirteen.

Eda and Lilith had originally tried to get the boy to work with growing food as well as his normal supply runs which mostly involved looting coven branches with the twins. He however had no skill in plants, and although he didn't mind working with the griffins. He wanted to do more. He knew they wouldn't let him fight so they gave him the closest thing they could to war without sending him. He learned quickly how to tend the fires and what makes them burn most efficiently. He was always a quick learner. Amity was well aware that at least part of it was as a deterrent to keep Gus from wanting to fight. Although he still griped with them about it on occasion. He took pride in his work and never complained about it. Yet when he took his helmet off, you could see in his face the toll the war had taken on him.

She watched as he glanced over at his batch of troops that helped him lift the bodies and tend to the other fires. She saw him smile as they seemed to shrink under his gaze. He had a few that worked with him continually but most were unruly recruits who had caused some sort of trouble. He however had the benefit that most of them had been trained by the other Colonels. So they were well aware of their strength. Also almost all of them had probably ended up here after starting and promptly losing a fight with Luz or Boscha. So most never questioned him and those who would hardly had much fight left after having to carry dead unclaimed soldiers to the fire. After a few months of him being the go to Colonel for the worst of the lot and his position working with the dead, his reputation became one of both deep respect and a decent amount of fear. At hexside he was just a dorky thirteen year old who managed to skip a few grades. In his uniform and helmet in the owl town, his entrance into a room hushed it.

Amity wasn't far off from that ability herself, and understood more than most that while respect is nice, fear is less pleasant and often quite lonely. "How are you holding up?" She asked gently.

"Well, haven't seen any people I recognize in the fire so far. So small victory." He said as he continued to scoop ashes into the coffee can.

"I saw a few in the boat yesterday. " She sighed as she pulled out a cigarette and lit it.

"Do those actually help?" He asked skeptically.

"I don't even know anymore. But if I drank like Luz or Boscha I wouldn't be able to function." She watched the blue smoke dance in the wind, "it's more like putting a bucket under a leaky pipe. It works for a bit but doesn't actually fix the problem."

"A bucket sounds better than nothing."

"Hey, trust me. These things aren't worth it in the end. Besides you're still young." She countered, as smoke bellowed out the front of her mask.

"You're not that much older than me. I'll be fourteen next month." He grumbled, "and if they're really not worth it. Why do you keep doing it?"

Amity bowed her head as she stared at her cigarette guilty, "because I'm scared how I'll cope without it. All these vices are just us trying our best to make our minds forget about the hell we're in. They're not healthy and certainly not helpful but we don't really have much else. When I try to talk about some of the things I've seen. It's like I'm reliving them. So I don't often. These shut them up at least for a moment. The reason we come down so hard on you is so you don't make our mistakes."

"I know. Most of the time when I just can't take it. I try to talk to someone. Usually one of us, my parents, Lilith or Eda. " He tilted his head back and clenched his fist tightly, "but at night or when I'm alone with nothing to do. It's hard to keep the darkness out of my mind. "

"I kept a diary, well I still do although I haven't had as much time to write in it for a while. It helped when I didn't have anyone to talk to. I know Luz writes letters to her mom in the human world. Hell you get good enough at it, might be able to work with some of the bards. I know Edric's been practicing the lyre in his free time. Just anything to keep spirits up. "

Gus smiled, "thanks, I hadn't thought of that. I'll give those a shot."

Amity gave his shoulder a squeeze, "no problem."

"You should consider taking some of your own advice, Reaper." He joked slightly, but she knew he meant it deep down.

She laughed anyway as she stood up, "I'll let you know when most of us learn how to do that." She saw him shake his head as she walked back towards the bar. She pulled out her scroll and smiled at the message from Luz.

Dumbbutt ❤: Babe, got good news! Meet me at the house

She could use good news.
---------------------------------------------------

She squeaked as soon as she entered as Luz immediately picked her up and spun her around before giving her a deep but tender kiss. She giggled, settling into her love's arms."Well I haven't seen you like this in awhile. What's the occasion?"

"We decoded the book. I might be able to go back to the human realm!" Luz cheered, as she flopped onto the sofa, with Amity in her lap.

Amity felt her heart drop a bit at her words, she was happy for Luz, but fear lingered in the back of her mind. There was a war here, things were chaotic, she could die here. Why would she come back, when she could go live a quiet life away from this. She felt a familiar hand touch her cheek and looked up into the hazel eyes she adored.

"Talk to me." She said softly as they interlaced their fingers on their other hand.

"I'm just scared....you won't want to come back."

"Mi princesa, nothing would stop me from coming back to you. I love my Mami and my uncles. They're my family, but so are the people that live here. I want to go back to let my mom know I'm alive and spend some time with her. Ultimately though, I want her to come here and meet you all. Especially you." Luz kissed her then smiled that stupid dorky smile that Amity fell in love with.

"I love you."

"I love you too."

She was still scared but she trusted Luz. Amity leaned her head against her chest, listening to the familiar beat of her human's heart. A smile formed on her face as she felt strong arms hold her close. A soft purr started in her throat. Her love would come back from there. That's all she needed to know.

Chapter Text

Log 156

My grandfather thinks he has made a breakthrough. Spells strong enough to break the barrier must have some connection to the other side. We have been collecting Lurk slug blood in hopes that we can use it to break through the barrier.

 

Log 195

I decided we need something that might have a stronger connection. We're going to try extracting memories to see if we can get closer.

Log 197

After helping repair my grandfather's mind. We have decided not to use anything that close to his brain.

Log 230

We think we've made a discovery. Blood holds a lot of power. We're hoping by enchanting something with blood it might strengthen the connection to the other side. But first we need something from the other side.

Log 235

We have talked to some of the last remaining humans and they seem quite excited about the idea of their ashes getting spread there. They also gave us permission to take some of their blood. We're grateful for their help. Though I fear considering how old they are we might not be able to collect too much from them without causing harm. We shall try to do it sparingly.

 

Log 300

We're getting closer but nothing we enchant has a strong enough connection to the other side. I fear we may never be able to break through.

Log 350
One of the humans died of a stroke. In their will they agreed for us to take some of their blood for our experiments. The family is surprisingly okay with this. They said all she talked about for her last days was how she would be able to be spread in the land of her ancestors. I hope we can actually make her dream a reality

Log 400

There was an old story about a man who gave up one of his eyes for the ability to see beyond mortal can. My grandfather thinks this might be the perfect thing to enchant. His own eyes have seen both sides of the barrier and had a fondness for both. He agreed to give up one of his eyes, as he knew his wife would have done the same for him.

Log 405

From our experiments the enchantment is best done ten times. Too little and nothing happens. Too much....has a bit of an exploding problem. We do some minor binding with lurk slugs blood every day. But once a month we do the enchantment with a pint of human, demon and witca blood. As this is a portal between two realms. It has to have a strong connection to both. Let's hope this works.

Log 450

The eye has grown considerably in size. We're currently working on a door to bind it with for when it's finished. The final binding will take a great deal of magic. We might have to add unicorn horn or giraffe antlers for a good seal. I hope not as those are both expensive and those creatures scare me. I'm no fan of lurk slugs but they usually wash up dead on the beach anyways.

Log 500

The eye is ready, we managed to find some powdered unicorn horn and giraffe antlers. We've added them to our lurk slugs blood, with one last pint of human, demon and witca blood for good measure. We've come too far and spent almost a year on this to give up now. We've placed the key and the lock in the door. We'll do the binding tomorrow.

Log 501

IT WORKED!

----------------------------------------------------

"Of fucking course it was made with blood magic." Lilith growled as she paced the floor.

Eda buried her head in her hands, "this isn't just blood magic this is sacrificial magic. And unlike them we only have one source of human blood."

"I mean we have been collecting some in case of any great injuries."

"Yeah but not eleven pints worth and if we use all of that then if she does get badly hurt. She's fucked."

Lilith sighed, "She'd probably want us to do it anyway...."

"Of course she would. That stupid wonderful moron fucking burnt the first one to save me. I'm pretty sure she'd cut her arm off to get back if need be."

"She'd cut her arm off to save most people if she needed to. She'd lose an arm doing something stupid most likely with Boscha."

Eda snorted despite herself, "yeah, although she could also lose it with Edric or Emira. Titan knows the four of them together are just pure chaotic insanity."

"So.....how are we going to tell Luz....and what are we going to do about the eye?" Lilith asked, running her claws through her hair. It was a soothing technique although at the moment it did very little to help.

"Do you think there is a way to tell her where she wouldn't immediately try to give up her eye?" Eda groaned.

"I mean, I've seen the human world. Albeit briefly. So has King."

"I don't think that's enough to break through the barrier. I've been to the human world a lot more than either of you."

"Eda, you know she's going to fight you about this."

"Lily, I can't have her do this. She's already lost her way home for me. She's giving up her childhood for the war. Hell she's even talking about dropping out of Hexside. I can't have her lose anything else."
----------------------------------------------------

Luz sighed as she watched Edric, he was leaning back on the picnic table, wet spots forming around the golden eyes of the mask. "We sent supplies to the northern front today. I'm sure when they're back in the next few days they'll get a letter from him."

"It's been a little over a week since he sent me a letter. I know he doesn't have service so we can't message. But he promised he would write."

"Dude he is overseeing four camps, just got a new platoon and is trying to capture one of the largest cities in the boiling isles. I don't know if he has much of a chance to sleep let alone write." Luz reassured as she patted his back.

"What if he is hurt....or...dead." Edric said, pain heavy in his voice.

"If he were dead or hurt we would have gotten a letter already. Let's not jump to conclusions."

"This is war, he's in the front lines. This isn't jumping to conclusions." He growled as he grabbed a cigarette from his pocket.

"Easy bro. I'm just trying to help. I know you're scared. I am too.....just try to hope for the best while you're expecting the worst."

Edric just curled into himself as he smoked. He knew he was probably overreacting but Jerbo was one of the best things he had. His home life had always been shit, in school his parents expected the best of him at all times, his one escape had literally become a war zone. The one thing he had that made his day better was the messages, calls and letters from Jerbo. He knew that he was busier now than ever, that the rebellion desperately needed Brainburg's factories and ports to keep them supplied. This was one of the most ambitious campaigns the rebellion had tried so far. The eastern front was mostly still rebuilding from the attacks. The western front was getting new leadership as the Major who oversaw the camps hadn't done anything other than gathering resources. The southern front is waiting for another platoon to try and take one of the toe islands. They were mostly just holding their ground. They needed this.

"Titan big bro." Emira said a worried look appeared on her mask, "isn't that your fifth cigarette today?"

"And how many days have you gone without at least a sip of alcohol since she left?" He snapped at his twin.

Emira's ears flicked back, "Fair point.....look I'm just worried about you."

"Worried about me? Worried about me?!" He shouted, "Fucking don't worry about me. He's the one out there risking his life to keep this damn rebellion from falling in on itself. And what are we doing while he is doing all that?! Sitting with our thumbs up are asses while we wait for a semester and a half so we can leave Hexside."

"Listen Ed. I'm not any fucking happier about being stuck here than you. My Viney is in the war too. She's barely gotten a chance to write as she's been so busy patching people up on the eastern front. So stop acting like you're the one who's got their partner on the line." Emira snarled. The twins circled each other as they bared their teeth.

"Colonel Rogue, Colonel Silverwing." Lilith said sternly as she shot a firm glare at them, "You two are leaders in this rebellion and I expect better of you two than to shout and growl at each other." They both deflated, their covered eyes looked down. Lilith pulled them into a gentle hug, "I'm scared too. We all are. If we want to make it through this we need to work together. I know that isn't always easy and it's easy to let your temper go off. We don't need to take it out on each other. "

"Yes mom." They both said, as they leaned into their touch.

"Have you finished your tasks for today?" She asked rubbing circles on their backs.

"We have a supply run later tonight. But other than that yes for me." Edric said softly.

"I have the same supply run left." Emira added.

"I'm done with my tasks, I can cover it tonight." Luz smiled.

"We'll see. Eda wants to talk with you first. Is Amity done with training for today?" Lilith said, trying best to hide the worry on her face.

"Yeah. Ames should be finishing up. I'd head up towards the bunkhouses. She's probably bringing them back.....What does Eda want to talk to me about?" Luz asked, confused as she tried to remember if she did anything that would make Eda mad.

"She wanted to talk to you privately about this." Lilith smiled but it was obviously forced, "come along you two, let's go get the little one. We're overdue on some relaxing time."

Luz watched as they walked away, before heading up the path towards the owl house. She felt nervous as she grew closer. She didn't know what she would do if the book really was a dead end. She needed to tell her mom she's alive. She can't keep her waiting forever.

She entered the house and saw Eda sitting on the couch. Worry lines etched on the old witch's face as her gold and silver eyes raised to meet the human's. Luz pulled off her mask and stuffed it in her pocket and sat down next to her, "You wanted to talk to me?"

"Yes, Luz. Kid, you've had to grow up fast the past year and half. You've done so much to make my life better and I feel like I've only seemed to make yours worse-"

"That's not true-" Luz said but stopped as Eda raised her hand.

"Let me finish my point. I love you so much kid. You're my kid. And I've never felt more proud to say that. I know I have probably failed you as a parent more than I should, but since you've grown up fast. I'm going to treat you like an adult. And I want you to think about what I say next. I don't want you just to immediately agree. Can you do that for me?"

"Yes." Luz nodded as she silently prepared for the worst.

"Lily and I read through the book. And we know how to make the portal. But this isn't normal magic or a normal enchantment. This is sacrificial magic. This portal needs an eye that has seen both sides of the portal and has a connection with it. And it also needs blood. Human, Witch and Demon. We have plenty of witches to help with their portion. Hooty is large enough we can take blood from him without much harm at all. But you're the only human we have. We have taken your blood before as a safety measure a few times. This spell requires eleven pints of blood. We have six currently and you have to wait about two months in between donations to be okay. I know you want to see your family in the human realm again. But I'm going to be honest with you kid. I might need to send you, Boscha and Willow out sooner than I would like to fight. Jerbo needs extra hands leading the northern front, the eastern front needs better defensives so Barcus can help our southern camps. And the western front needs to do literally anything. If you get hurt out there and you need blood. You could be fucked. It might take us longer if we try and stagger it out. But we can still get you back. As for the eye....well we only have two options. The original demon who donated his eye had lived in both realms. He had been raised in yours and spent his adult life here. I'm going to be hundred percent honest with you. I don't want you to lose an eye for this. I have been to the human world a lot. And I'm willing to do this instead. Unfortunately, my strongest connection to the human realm is you. And I honestly don't know if my eye would even work." Eda hung her head slightly as her ears folded back, "I don't want you to answer me today. I want you to think about this for a week. Talk to Amity, talk to Willow, Gus. As many people as you can. Because this is a big decision. And I know that you have a good heart and you'd give more than an eye for any of us if you thought it would help us. But I want you to think about yourself. Cause I know that if you were to answer me now, you'd say yes without question."

Luz sighed deeply, "I will think about it. And I will talk about it. But you have to promise me something in return. That whatever choice I make you will respect it."

"Depending on what you say, I will definitely not be happy about it......but this is my own fault. Say what you will about how you got here, but at the end of the day I was the adult. And I should have been more responsible. I can't exactly treat you like a kid, especially after how much you've had to grow because of this war. You're smart, strong, and painfully similar to how I was at your age. I always got pissed when people older than me didn't respect or listen to me. And I suppose it's time to put that to the test. Luz, I love you more than anything. You're my kid. And I can't promise I won't be worried about your answer...but I can respect it. This portal means more to you than anyone in this world and as much as I hate the thought of you giving up more after everything you've lost. This is your decision. And I trust you."
Eda smiled despite her fear and pulled her kid in for a tight hug.

"I love you, and I will give it some thought. And I also promise that I'll come back to you. I helped start this war and I will see it to its end. Honestly, I have more family here than in the human realm. And we might not be related, but you're still my Ma." Luz smiled.

"I love you too kiddo. You're my daughter. And nothing will change that. And thank you. I know it won't be easy to come back especially with how bad everything is here-"

"Ma, things suck ass and it's fucking terrifying. But we can make this place better here. If we win, things won't be perfect. But we'll have a better start. This world is my home."

Eda laughed as tears rolled down her cheeks, she held her daughter's face in her hands, "Titan, I've missed your optimism."

"Can't promise it will always be there. But dammit one of us has to keep moral." Luz smiled, leaning into her ma's arms.

"My silly Owlet." Eda mumbled as she kissed the top of her head.

-------------------------------------------------------

Amity, Edric and Emira felt a bit silly as they lay cuddled in Lilith's blanket nest, they smiled as she brought them hot cocoa.

"You don't have to do this." Emira said as she took the cocoa.

"I know." Lilith smiled as she sat down in the nest with the three of them. "But I think you all needed a break. And besides I know how touch starved you all are" She chuckled softly as all three turned red. She held them close as she began to purr.

"I'm sorry I was an asshole Em, I was frustrated that I hadn't heard anything from Jerbo and I shouldn't have taken it out on you." Edric sighed as he took a sip of his cocoa.

"I forgive you. Besides I knew you were stressed and I shouldn't have pushed you."

Edric grinned as he gently nudged Emira with his arm, he laughed as she rolled her eyes at him.

Lilith felt a bit of sadness leak into her, "I brought you three in here partly to relax but I have some news as well. Jerbo is spread thin up north and Barcus can't help the southern front while trying to piece the eastern front together. Viney is doing her best with her M.A.S.H. unit. We need more leaders and with you three needing to stay at Hexside to keep your cover."

Amity felt her heart starting to break, "Luz is going out there. Isn't she?"

Lilith nodded and pulled her daughter close, "It won't be for a little bit. The other three want to get everything settled and set up for when Luz, Boscha and Willow are sent out. And if things continue to escalate. We'll need you two out there as soon as you leave Hexside. At that point you'll be eighteen and legally out of your parents control."

Amity buried her face into her mom as she felt her world starting to collapse, "I can't...please."

Lilith cupped the girl's cheeks, "I know. And if I don't have to send them out immediately I won't. But don't think I have forgotten about you......I have a plan to get you out of that hell hole. I just have to wait for some pieces to fall into place. Amity, I will make sure you won't have to suffer under their hands much longer. Just trust me."

Amity swallowed back tears but didn't leave her mom's arms, "I trust you."

"What if the coven starts taking new members. The Emperor is trying to kill us off to make it seem like it isn't going to last but if we take Brainburg. They're going to start needing officers and Odalia and Alador will make us tryout." Emira said, as she stared into her cocoa.

"I have a few ideas. Bump is helping me with some of them. None of them I think you will like but I have multiple options in case something falls through. All I know is that I will do my best to protect you three from them. And Amity, I'll do my best to make sure the twins won't have to leave immediately. I don't want you in that house alone."

"I know." She said quietly, as her siblings and her mom did their best to comfort her.
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Lilith, Eda sat at the table, the rest of the seats were occupied by the parents of their Colonels, and at the other head of the table sat Bump.

"Let's go over our options for the traumatized trio." Eda smiled wearily, as she leaned on the table.

"Edalyn. Don't call them that." Lilith grumbled.

"Well, I certainly don't want to call them...Blights." Eda said like the word disgusted her.

"Just call them the Clawthrones." Rose Porter said quickly before the sisters could start bickering, "It's probably the name we'd put on their documents anyways."

Lilith felt her face heat up slightly at the suggestion while Eda snickered. The rest of the adults rolled their eyes, wondering how exactly they worked for those two.

"I have talked to my old friend, Antoninius. He's the headmaster at the Arcane University on the Warm Hearth, it's the closest continent to the boiling isles and it's giant. He'd enroll them in University and they'd be able to continue their studies. Magic has less restrictions there."

"I'm almost worried the Hearth is too close to the isles." Lilith said, as she buried her hands in her hair.

"My friend Bjorn and his husband Sven on the Frozen Serpent will take them. Granted they'd have to work for their board. But it is farther away." Richard Hoar smiled, "Plus I'm pretty sure my Viney taught Emira how to speak Odinstongue."

"What is it that they would have to do for their board exactly?" Lilith asked, nervously.

"They're fishermen. They'd be working on their boat." Richard smiled brightly which looked almost wrong on his normally harden face.

"Pfft, okay I would pay to see those three work on a fishing boat." Eda snickered, only to be shot daggers by her sister, "What, you wanted farther away. They definitely wouldn't look there. And they probably won't even be able to ask for directions. Odinstongue is one of the hardest languages to learn."

"My folks on Tír na sióg would gladly take them in. They've been wanting to meet Edric and his sisters anyways. Ever since my mum found out about Jerbo's boyfriend. She has been so excited to meet new members of our family." Maggie Stilwell said, in her warm tone.

"Tir na what?" Eda asked, confused.

Maggie grumbled slightly, "You all call it Fairy land."

"Ohh, hey that would be a nice place to send them. Plus they'd be with future in laws." Eda grinned at Lilith.

"What my wife failed to mention is her parents own a small farm and are Beast keepers. Also the nearby town has a population of four thousand." Esmerelda Stilwell said flatly.

"Okay" Maggie huffed slightly before turning to Richard, "What's the population of the place your friends on the Frozen Serpent live?"

"5.5 million. They live in a port city." Richard replied smugly.

"Okay so they'd be in the middle of fucking nowhere but they certainly won't be found" Maggie said as she crossed her arms.

Lilith sighed as she rubbed her temples, "Eda, what's the status on option four."

"You know I don't like option four. And I told Luz to talk to everyone about it and then tell me in a week with her answer."

"It would be the safest place. They could find them anywhere else in our realm." Lilith said as sadness crept into her voice.

"There are so many factors that could go wrong with trying to send them to the human realm." Eda said, hoping to smack some common sense into her sister, although she knew why Lilith secretly hoped for that option. "Also let's not forget that option four is potentially dangerous for your niece."

"I know. I don't want Luz hurt. I'm just scared. I'm scared of Odalia and Alador taking them away and forcing them into the coven. I'm scared of them getting hurt fighting in the war and I'm scared of them being so far away. If anything happens to them It might be a week before I can get to the continent they're on, let alone to the place they're at."

"It's going to be okay. All three of those options are safer than here. And it's not like you can't call them and pester them. Just keep an open mind." Eda reassured as she gave her sister's hand a gentle squeeze.

Lilith carefully wiped her watery eyes as she turned to the others in the room, "We'll keep all options open for now. And I'll talk with them later about it." She tried her best to smile but she knew all three of them wouldn't be very pleased at any option. That however was a conversation she would have later.

Chapter Text

Amity sat at the empty table as the moonlight gleamed in through the stained glass. She couldn't sleep. Too much weighed on her mind as she thought about the future that laid before her. Her friends would be leaving, her love was leaving. Her sister and brother might be leaving. And if the Emperor's coven is ready for new members. She might be leaving. She'd be far away as those she loved fought and died. She felt stupid, she had been okay on her own. She might not have been as close.with her siblings, she might not have had any real friends, but she didn't have to lose anyone either. Luz changed her life, all the walls she had built around herself tumbled away as if they had never even been there. Her heart felt warm and whole in a way it had never been. She had a real family. She had someone who looked at her and all her faults and thought she was beautiful for having them. Yet, now it felt like everyone she loved was falling away while she was helpless to save them. She felt her lip tremble as she tried her best to hold back her tears.

"Mi amor" A gentle voice cut through the night as it's owner walked into the moonlight. Amity felt a calloused hand on her cheek and she held it there. Her golden eyes were drowned in fear and seemed to plead with her love's warm hazel orbs. She pressed her lips on Luz's palm. "Amity, I know you have a lot on your plate....and if it's too much. You don't have to answer. But I love you, and I don't want to make this choice without you." Luz bit her lip slightly before she turned her gaze back to her love, "the portal needs an eye. And it needs human blood. I have six pints already set aside. I need five more for the portal. However, if I start using the blood I set aside, there's a chance I won't have enough if I need it......there's also a chance I could die anyways in battle........I don't want to make you all worry more than you already are, but I don't know if I want to make my mom wait longer because the longer we wait while I'm fighting the higher chance I might not make it back or we don't have enough blood because I needed it. And I know what I want to do, but I don't know what I should do."

Amity felt herself break as the words sink into her like knives. Strong arms wrapped around her and she clings to Luz like she'd fall through the world if she let go. Soft lips press kisses on the witch's face, as her lover whispers apologies. She slowly gained the strength to look her human in the eyes. She sees the fear, the guilt and love in the hazel orbs. "I don't think I can even begin to answer that now....I'm overwhelmed. I feel like I'm losing everyone I love. Mom's talking about sending the twins to war, or all three of us to a different continent to keep us out of the Emperor's coven. I don't know if I can sit by while I know people are dying for a cause I helped champion. Let alone people I love. You're my partner, I don't know what I'd do without you."

"Hey, I'm going to make it back to you."

"Luz, don't make promises you can't keep."

"Amity, Bunny. Look at me" Luz smiled as she held the witch's face, "You know how much I want to see my mom again. You've seen how much I'm willing to put on the line." She said softly as she thumbed away her lover's tears, "Don't you think I'll fight just as hard to make it back to you?"

"Otter...." Amity sobbed, "You might not get a choice. Wishes don't stop fireballs."

"Then I'll make my love burn brighter. Hotter than any star. Til I come back to you." Luz promised as the tears stained her face, "Trust me, wait for me."

"Luz, promise me you'll think your choice through, don't do anything rash. Otter, make it back to me."

"Bunny, when have I ever been one to do something rash?" Luz laughed before Amity slapped her, "ow. Okay I deserved that."

"That wasn't funny."

"It was a little funny." Luz smirked before giving her love a kiss, "I promise I will come back to you."

"You better." Amity said as she buried herself in Luz's embrace. She felt stupid, but in that moment she let herself believe.
-------------------------------------------------

It wasn't common to see the Colonels congregate together outside of the owl house or the meeting hall. If three or four were together doing tasks or training that wasn't unusual. However currently there were six Colonels together near the pyres. Gambit, who many guessed was probably the human, paced back and forth in their helmet as blue smoke drifted from their mouth like a smokestack. Ivy, another one that trained recruits and also helped grow crops, sat on the bench, as they rolled cigarettes. Banshee, the other Colonel known for finishing fights any unruly recruits start, grabbed one of the recently made cigarettes and lit it. Their three eyes turned to watch Gambit grumble to themselves. Silverwing sat on the table next to the other two, the vacant eyes of their helmet and the vague expression made them seem lost in thought as smoke curled away from their mouth. Their hands fiddled with their silver bat necklace. Rogue kept their eyes on their sweetheart bracelet as they tilted back their flask.

The recruits were both terrified and curious. The ones nearby debated moving closer to the pyre Ghost was tending to catch even a bit of their conversation. However Colonel Banshee turned their unnerving blank golden eyes at them, almost daring them to come closer and they quickly realized whatever they were talking about wasn't worth another trip to the infirmary.

"Are you done scaring the shit out of the recruits?" Willow asked, as she rolled another cigarette.

"I'm just making sure they mind their manners." Boscha stated, as she reached for another smoke from the finished pile only for Willow to smack her hand.

"You already have one in your mouth."

"It was for later." Boscha pouted, "and my pack is almost out."

"Yeah and you'll get it filled with the rest of ours when I'm done." Willow grumbled half heartedly, "although you are pretty cute when you pout."

Boscha choked slightly, as her face heated up behind her helmet.

"Hey, I called you here for advice on the portal, not to watch you flirt." Luz said flatly.

Willow sighed looking up from her task, "I honestly have no idea what you should do as far as the blood shit goes. As for the eye, I mean is there a way to test the connection to the human realm? If it's related to memories, that's illusion magic."

"I mean we can test them. But it's hard to test an individual body part, at least not without a decent knowledge in healing magic. I can fix a few bruises and minor scrapes but most of my other skills are bardic, abominations and potions." Edric shrugged before turning to his sister, "You know anything?"

"I mean Viney taught me some things, but I don't know if I can do something that specific. I could set your arm or make a healing potion. I could tell you which plants are good for a headache but you almost need a professional healer for that kind of isolation."

"I might be able to test it out." Gus said as he threw more ghost lilies into the flames, "I've been learning more about healing since death care falls into their track. But honestly I don't really see much of a point in even testing their eyes." He turned his head away from his work to face the others, "Luz's eye is guaranteed to have a stronger connection and if that's what helps break the barrier easier than it should be you. This process is going to take a lot of work and we don't really have the time to restart it or fiddle with it. Might as well go with the best bet."

"Gus, I've seen Luz walk into walls with two eyes and you want her to go into battle with one?" Willow asked, baffled by her friend's words.

"Boscha has three eyes and is just as accident prone as Luz. That's not a sight problem, that's a jackass problem." Gus shot back.

"Hey, your job is to roast the dead." Boscha grumbled.

"Man, Gus. Tell me how you really feel." Luz said dryly.

"I love you like you're my sisters, I've helped both of you when you've been injured. Which is how I know that a lot of your injuries are because one or both of you did something dumb." He sighed as he blew air into the fire.

"So you probably think I should wait on the blood thing." Luz said as she started pacing again. She pulled out a deck of cards and began to idly shuffle in attempts to calm herself down and help her focus.

"I mean not terribly long. You have six pints now, maybe start when you have eight. Give yourself some wiggle room." The youngest witch said as he sat down with the others.

"I don't see much of a point in waiting. The longer we wait the worse the war is going to get. It's not truly going to be safe til the war ends and we don't know how long that could even take. If we even win at all. At least if we can get the portal back we have a place to run or hide if shit really starts going south." Boscha stated firmly.

"Mittens is stressed enough. I'd rather her not die of a stroke because of added unnecessary risk." Emira countered, slightly appalled by Boscha's seemingly lack of care.

"I don't know Em. I mean this process is going to take a long time as it -" Edric started only to be immediately cut off by his sister.

"Are you serious? Do you not remember how scared and miserable Amity looked this morning?"

"I do. But if it was you, Amity and Mom on the other side of that portal, I'd do everything I could to get back to you. We're Luz's family but those people are her family too. They don't even know if she is alive and we could all die during this any day. If she makes it back after being out on the battlefield she deserves to at least see all her family one last time before she has to go back." Edric gripped his necklace unconsciously.

The weight of his words hung heavily in the air. Luz shuffled faster, "So we have two waits, and two do its. Willow, what do you think?"

"I specialize in plant magic. Ask me how to grow crops for an army, or build a wall of thorns. Ask a healer about what is or isn't safe with your blood. Cause I don't know enough to even know what a decent extra blood supply is or not. I'd side with whatever they say is safe." Willow sighed, "Cause as far as I'm aware both options seem shitty and I want you to at least know exactly what the risk is."

Luz grinned madly, "Willow, that's brilliant. Why didn't I think of that?"

"Because your creativity came at the cost of your common sense." Willow smirked as she lit herself a cigarette.

"Ya know what, since I was already going to talk to Brutus, I can tell him about what you and Boscha were really doing a few nights ago when you were staying overnight to go over co-op training regimes." Luz smiled evilly, although it quickly turned into laughter as Willow and Boscha both coughed on their smokes.
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Brutus Lachance groaned as soon as Luz walked in the infirmary, "Who did what, and what state did you put them in?"

"I'm not here because I beat up an asshole at the bar."

"Okay, who did what, and what state did Boscha put them in?"

Luz rubbed her hands across her helmet, "that isn't why I'm here."

"Are you or Boscha hurt in any way?"

"No. Brutus." Luz said flatly.

The three eyed witch grumbled, "Excuse me for covering my bases. Edric or Boscha need any more hormone potions?"

"Ya know what, I was annoyed at your presumptions but that question is honestly really sweet. No. That isn't why I'm here either. I wanted to ask you about the portal. It needs blood and an eye. And I wanted to know what you think would be the best course of action."

"Did Willow, Amity or Lilith send you here?"

Luz rolled her eyes, "Willow."

"So proud of my little girl for dating her." Brutus grinned brightly, "Well how much blood does your portal need?"

"Eleven pints. It needs one a month for ten months and then another to bind it to the door."

Brutus scratched at his chin, "Okay, and how often can you donate blood safely?"

"Every 56 days."

"That's surprisingly specific."

"My mom in the human world is a nurse."

"That explains so much." He said as he drew something out on a piece of scratch paper.

"How I knew about some medical stuff before I joined the healing track?"

"No. How someone as impulsive as you managed to make it this far."

"Your daughter is more impulsive than me." Luz huffed slightly.

"Yeah and she's still alive to do dumb shit because I'm a healer. I love her to pieces but she's half of why my hair is turning grey." Brutus chuckled, "Alright and you have six pints now. Let's see the average witch has about 9 to 12 pints of blood in them. From what I've studied from you, humans are about the same. Cis women tend to have less blood than cis men but you also tall. So I'd say you probably have about 10 or 11 pints in your body. If you lose more than half your blood. You're pretty much dead. Let me run some numbers here. Okay so if we take another pint of blood today, and we use one for the portal. You'll still have six pints. Next month you'd have five then the month after that you'd be able to donate again....honestly I think you would be fine. So long as you left sometime this month."

"Wait really?"

"Well, your spare blood supply really doesn't drop too much until we start getting into late spring." Brutus smiled although it started to falter a bit. "But again. You would have to leave for war this month to take advantage of it. We'd also have to tell at least the healers of the camps you're human so they can take your blood. And also so they don't try to give you witch blood by mistake."

Luz sighed before looking back up at him, "What about the eye? Can you take it out safely? Is there anything that can replace it? Or will I just be one-eyed? Do you know how to see if Eda has a strong enough connection to the human world for her eye to be used?"

"Okay the last question is more illusion magic and a bit out of my wheelhouse. As for the eyeball replacement. Let me take a look see." He held up a small device that looked similar to what human doctors use to look in people's ears and nose. He cast a spell and help it in front of Luz's eyes, peering into them. "Well, size wise, finding a replacement wouldn't be a problem. Hmm. Definitely want to run a vision test on you." He mumbled as he cast another spell, before jotting down more notes. He put the device away and pulled out a needle, a bag with a tube and three test tubes. "Have an arm preference?"

"Left please." Luz answered as he disinfected her arm, "I get taking my blood but we were on the eyeball question."

"I want to run some tests. See losing an eye isn't exactly as uncommon as you'd think. And because of our wide array of species. We have inter species replacement eyes. However they're meant for witches or demons who have better eyesight than you. They're designed to basically adapt to be the exact same as the eye they lost originally. However, most people in our world have a reflective layer in the back of their eyes."

"Oh so that's why you all have the cat eyes in the dark."

"Exactly, but with that as the default. Well I don't think they'd be able to match your eyesight. I think the best they would do is try to give you the witch's version of your eyesight. So you'd get some astigmatism, and slight nearsightedness but it would probably keep the night vision. It would also probably still be able to see better than the eye you lose but I don't know exactly how well your brain would adapt to being able to see in low light with one eye and not with the other. The blood tests are more so I can see if your body would even accept a replacement eye."

"Wait can't you just give me a replacement that doesn't have that reflective layer?"

"It would have to be custom made and that would require, one a lot of money. And two, for us to go to an actual hospital instead of a shack made of metal siding stolen from the construction coven. And three, they wouldn't even do us the courtesy to remove your eyeball without asking questions."

"Well that's rude." Luz smirked.

"I know." Brutus laughed, "Now I'll talk to Eda and Lilith to see if they can whip up a potion that would be able to temporarily give you witch vision. It would be an eye drop so I would just do it in your weaker eye and see how well you can deal with it for a day. I'll run the tests on the blood. Should be able to get the results in a few days. And we can go from there."

"What do we do if I can't stand having one witch eye and one human eye?"

"Glasses, contacts, eye drops or we take out both eyes."

"If we could not do the last one. That would be awesome."

"Okay we wouldn't take them both out at once. It will take about two months for you to gain full sight in your replacement eye anyways. And a month to develop the color."

"Color?"

"Yeah so the Corina and the iris of the eyes are both set to white and they slowly develop to the color of your natural eye."

"Wait, so I'm going to have a white eye with a white iris and a black pupil. That sounds terrifying."

Brutus shrugged, "I mean, at least eyepatches are cheap." He sighed as he finished taking her blood and began wrapping her arm. "I hope I was able to help you, with whatever you decide."

"Yeah, I think you did..." She paused slightly, "so...do you have an opinion on what you think I should do?"

Brutus's eyes seemed to dim before he looked up at her, "As the father of a soldier. I would give anything to keep my little girl safe. I don't think I would know what to do with myself if I were to lose her....." Tears leaked from his eyes, "As someone who has already lost my son, I know how much pain your mom feels. Losing Tom was the worst day of my life. And I think I'd do almost anything just to see him one last time. There's no safe choice in this, but whatever you decide. I'll stand by you. This isn't an easy choice for anyone to make."

Luz smiled as he gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze, "Thanks Brutus. This helped a lot. I still need to do some thinking." He nodded as she left.
---------------------------------------------------------

Amity laid her head in Luz's chest as she listened to her heart beat. She leaned into Luz's touch as she ran her fingers through her hair.

"So" Luz sighed deeply as she turned her soft hazel eyes to Amity, "now that you know all the facts, and what would have to happen....what do you think I should do?"

Amity felt her eyes start to sting, "what I want you to do is for us to stay together, in peace. For us to be stupid kids again when the world wasn't resting on our shoulders.......I don't want you risking your life but it's too late for that......."

"Mi conejita" Luz whispered into her ear as she held her close, "We're doing this so no one else has to. So the people after us can be stupid kids without fear."

"I know...." Amity bit her lip as she felt her want cry out to stop Luz from leaving, to keep her there for as long as she could. She knew that wasn't fair, that there were other people who loved and missed her. That she might not make it back to anyone. She was scared to lose her. "Luz, I love you. And....I will stand by with whatever you decide. You might not ever get a chance to make it home before the war ends. You might not even make it back home to us. I'm not going to stand in the way of you being able to see your human family again."

Luz smiled as tears dripped onto Amity's hair, "Thank you." She whispered before kissing her deeply.

"Please just come back to me, Otter."

"I will. Nothing will stop me from being back with you." Luz kissed her, "Wait for me."

They held each other close, knowing the choices they would make. The fear buzzed in them like electricity but they held their ground like a mountain in a storm. Amity feared these would be the last days she spent in her love's embrace. Luz steadied herself, she would make it back to her Mami, and her Ma and her love. She had done the impossible before, she would do it again.

Chapter Text

Eda stirred her potions carefully, hoping the repetitive task would let her focus on anything other than the dred in her gut. She didn't want to think about what they'd be doing today. She glared sharply at the eye drops she had made earlier. Luz had taken some time to adjust but it didn't seem intrusive enough for her to have a witch eye and a human eye. Brutus had reassured her for the past two days that Luz's body wouldn't reject the replacement and that she would be completely fine. It didn't stop the guilt. She should be the one doing this. It was her fault Luz burned the portal. She was the bargaining chip. She owed Luz her life, she cost her the portal, and her childhood. All the wonder and joy that used to flow so easily from the sweet girl, was guarded. She was harder, quicker to anger. The world had broken her. It had broken all of them. And in her mind, Eda had let it. Even if she didn't have a choice. She flicked her ears back as she heard a familiar pair of heavy footsteps.

"Ma......."

Eda wiped at her eyes, "I thought you'd be prepping for your operation."

"I was. I just wanted to see you first." Luz smiled as she walked over to her. Eda looked at her, they were at eye level now. Gold and silver orbs traced the scar on the human's face. The one Luz had gotten during the massacre. Her mask had cracked from the blast and cut a jagged circle around her left eye that stretched from the top of her cheek and partly on her eyebrow. Soon the eye in the center of that scar would be in a jar filled with blood. "This isn't your fault...."

"Luz" Eda said only to be cut off.

"No. I know you and Lilith constantly blame yourselves for us getting involved and getting hurt. But it isn't your fault. We had a choice. And you had said before that you knew that we would have done this with or without you. You trained us to protect ourselves. We built this to save our home. I'm doing this for my Mami. So she can meet the wonderful people who have given their all for me. And to see that I didn't just make friends, that I have another family who love me with all their hearts. That there's room for her, mi tios, and all of you in my heart. Because that's the wonderful thing about love, it can always grow. I destroyed the first portal because I wasn't going to give your life for my way back. And if I was back there that day, I'd do it again. Cause I love you Ma, and I know you'd have given more than that for me."

"My owlet" Eda laughed as tears ran freely down her face as she looked into both of her daughter's hazel eyes for the last time and saw that glint. That little spark of wonder, joy and love. She felt a weight lessen on her shoulders. The woman that stood before her may not have been as open as the girl she used to be, but there was still some softness left. She hoped with all she had that it would stay there forever. That this world wouldn't consume all of the silly girl that brought so much light into her life. "I love you kiddo." She placed a gentle kiss on her forehead.

"I love you too Ma."

----------------------------------------------

The recruits whispered nervously amongst each other as they looked at the infirmary. Six Colonels and both Generals were standing outside the infirmary. They scanned the Colonels, Ghost, Reaper, Rogue, Silverwing, Ivy and Banshee were there. All with their helmets on except for Rogue, who was tilting back their flask. Ghost, who for once wasn't covered a dusting of ash, stared down at the dirt. The other four chain smoked cigarettes while Eda and Lilith paced anxiously. No one had heard anything about Bones, Ent or Mystic getting hurt which only left them with one choice. Gambit was often getting patched up for little things, but something bad must be happening for all of them to gather like this. They watched a Corporal leave the infirmary only to immediately get bombarded by the crowd of officers.

"How is she?" Eda asked, just quietly enough that the curious onlookers couldn't hear.

"Fine, Major Lachance is putting in the replacement as we speak. He told me to give you this." He said, handing her a small drawstring bag.

Eda held it carefully, feeling the outside of a jar through the bag. She felt a chill run down her spine as realization hit her. She placed it in her hair, hoping for it to be out of sight and out of mind for a little while. "Thank you, Corporal."

"Can I see it?" Edric asked timidly only for Lilith to smack him upside the head.

"Dude." The others scoffed.

"What? It's an eyeball in a jar, Luz will totally want to see it when this is over." He huffed as he crossed his arms, "Am I wrong?"

"You're not. But you can wait until she's done with the replacement." Eda grumbled slightly.

"Fine." Edric pouted slightly, well as close to a pout his helmet could mimic.

Eda snorted despite herself as Lilith buried her head in her hands.
-------------------------------------------------------

"You holding up okay?" Brutus asked as he applied more numbing agent to the area as he prepped her replacement eye.

"Yeah.... j...just letsh me take a little more pain medicine before you start." Luz slurred as she blindly unscrewed the top of her flask before taking a long sip. Whiskey dribbled down her chin as she screwed the top back on. She attempted to place it back on the nearby table but missed it completely, causing it to drop on the floor.

"I deeply regret telling you it was safe to drink during this" Brutus sighed as he picked up the flask and wiped her chin with a cloth.

"We...gotta save the...good pain meds....for the people." Luz reassured patting his arm, "I'm Fine! Besides.....I let...you put in....the droops.." She frowned, "drips.....drops!"

"I put in the eye drops because if you could see, you would have been scared shitless." He said flatly as he washed his hands again, "as tends to be the case when you see someone putting something sharp near your eyeball."

"yeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaah."

"Titan give me strength." Brutus mumbled under his breath as he grabbed his instruments, "Alright Luz, I'm going to cast the paralysis and sleep spell on you again. This part is a very delicate procedure."

"Night night time!" She cheered in her drunken stupor.

"Yep." He said, resisting the urge to face palm as he cast his spell. He let out a sigh of relief as he watched her breathing relax, "I don't get paid enough for this shit."

"They're paying you?" The Corporal asked as he helped sanitize the previously used tools.

"They are not. That's how I know." Brutus chuckled as he carefully held the replacement eye.
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Luz groaned as she woke up, the sound of purrs deafened her as she turned her head to see she was in the middle of a purr pile. She smiled slightly as she leaned her head onto Amity's chest.

"You're awake." Amity smiled softly as she gently placed her hand on Luz's cheek, carefully minding the bandage that now covered half her face.

"How bad does it look?"

"I don't know, Brutus said you have to keep the bandage on it for the next three days to prevent swelling."

"It'll be a fun surprise for all of us then."

"BRO!!" Edric cheered as he launched himself into the human.

"Bro!!" Luz laughed returning his hug.

"Wanna see your eyeball in a jar?!" He grinned excitedly.

"Fuck yes!" Luz smiled back, jumping to her feet.

"Hey I wanna see your gross eyeball." Boscha whined as she untangled herself from Willow's arms.

"I mean it would be pretty cool to see a real removed human eye." Gus added, his head popping up from under a blanket.

"I kind of wanna see it floating in the goo." Emira said sheepishly as she stretched.

"No, you three got mad at me when I asked to see it!" Edric huffed slightly.

"You asked to see it literally right after it was removed!" Amity said pointedly.

"You wanted to see my eye without me bro?" Luz asked, dramatically placing a hand over her heart.

"Only cause I wanted to be able to tell you if it was still warm or not bro." Edric said before they both burst out laughing.

Luz smirked before turning to Willow and Amity, "You two coming? I'll let you shake it~"

"It's an eyeball not a snow globe." Amity said flatly as she took Luz's hand.

"But it would wiggle!" Luz insisted, shaking her arms slightly.

"Come on. The sooner we see her eyeball the sooner I can go back to stealing Boscha's body heat." Willow yawned.

"Ugh, am I just a heater to you?" Boscha asked, in fake horror.

"No Babe." Willow smiled before giving her a soft kiss, "your snores also work as a white noise machine."

"Bitch." Boscha pouted, before Willow kissed her again, "and I don't snore."

"You do." Gus said flatly.

"It's so loud." Amity added.

"It's like a buzzsaw fucked a trombone." Luz cackled.

"More like a slitherbeast with a sinus infection." Emira chimed in.

"Hey be nice to my white noise machine." Willow smirked, as Boscha rolled her eyes.

"I hate all of you." She grumbled.

"You love us!" Edric laughed as he pinched her cheeks.

"Only because someone has to." She said as a smile creeped on her face.
------------------------------------------------------

Eda sighed as she checked over the book before drawing the large glyph on the ground. She turned as she saw Luz place a bucket in the middle of the glyph.

"Auntie, you have the rest of the stuff?" Luz asked, despite the bandage on her face, she was actually quite excited. This was old magic, older than the savage ages and they'd be performing it for the first time since the first portal was created.

"It's all right here." She said although her voice was grim as she set down the box with the needed ingredients.

Luz smiled as she grabbed the jar with her eye, she shook it gently. "It's so cool and gross."

"Only you would be this excited seeing your own eye in a jar." Eda said, grimacing slightly as Luz carried the bags of blood over to the bucket.

"EYE don't SEE a problem with my enthusiasm." Luz smirked as she opened the jar and dumped the eye into the bucket. Lilith and Eda groaned at the puns.

"We're already doing ancient sacrificial blood magic, use an intricately drawn glyph and had to take out your eye. If we could not make this any worse with puns that would be wonderful." Lilith said, pinching the bridge of her nose.

"Fine. Just trying to lighten the mood." Luz said as she opened the bags. The scent of blood hit her nose instantly, and the sound of screams flashed in her mind. She gritted her teeth as she poured them in. She let out a deep breath before she stepped back. All three made sure they were clear of the glyph before Eda tapped it with the end of her staff. The room filled with blinding light, magic flowed through the air almost like electricity. The air suddenly began to smell like freezing rain, and wood that had been battered with age. Luz felt a pang of nostalgia run in her chest as the light began to die down. She jumped to her feet running to the bucket to see the eye had grown and the blood was gone. The scent of the human realm still hung in the air. Luz felt a smile break out on her face as she felt warmth fill her chest. Happy tears ran from her uncovered eye as she turned to the witches, "It worked!"
-------------------------------------------------

Luz puffed on her cigarette as she ran the blade against the wood. She had never carved anything before and had been terrified at screwing up her staff, despite multiple reassurances that it's easier than she thinks. She understands that now as she can almost feel the life in the wood as it seems to bend to her will. She grabbed the sandpaper and began smoothing it out. She worked as if she had been doing it her entire life as she saw it slowly began to take form. She stopped when a shadow loomed over her spot in the grass. "Hey bunny."

Amity ran a hand through her hair as she sat down, leaning against Luz. They sat together in the seclusion of the forest, as the cold November air rustled the trees and the warm sun shined down on the witch's long two toned hair. The brown chestnut slowly overtaking the mint green. "Can I see it?" She asked gently, resting her hand near Luz's eyepatch.

"It hasn't developed color yet.....it's not the prettiest thing to look at." Luz said as she smiled weakly, "besides you know what I look like."

"Otter, as soon as you're done with that staff, you're leaving. You've been working on it nonstop since you found out you'd have to leave early. I want to see your face before you leave."

Luz sighed, blowing blue smoke into the breeze. She stared at the staff she had been working on since September, she had taken her time before. She had school, training troops and other things to prioritize. Now all her time was on the staff, her duties in the rebellion had been shuffled off. She knew she was almost done. She ran her hand on the part of her scar the patch didn't cover, remembering the face she saw in the mirror when she took the bandage off. The dark bruises that surrounded it. She turned to face the golden eyes that held her heart. She closed her eyes as she took off the patch and faced her love.

Amity stared at the bright white eye, it's only source of color being the pupil which wasn't much more than a pinprick in the bright sun. Purple bruised skin surrounded it, the contrast only making the eye look even more unnatural. She cupped Luz's cheek gently before placing a soft kiss just above the eye, "You're as handsome as ever."

Luz chuckled, kissing her gently, "You're cute when you lie." Amity smacked her lightly upside the head, "I'm kidding! I'm kidding!"

"You better be!" Amity warned although she was trying her best not to smile, "as my girlfriend you're not allowed to refuse my compliments."

"Really now?" Luz hummed, rolling over and pinning Amity below her. She grinned as Amity's face turned scarlet. She leaned down nibbling slightly on her ear before she whispered, "I love you."

Amity looked up at her only to see the pupil on her new eye had widened and also was a bit lazy making it look a bit like a googly eye. She tried desperately not to laugh which only seemed to make her wheeze harder.

"Seriously, I did all that work to be sexy." Luz grumbled slightly.

"I love you too." Amity smiled as she held her aching sides, "is your eye supposed to be....off?"

Luz groaned as she blinked it rapidly, "side effect. It's still adjusting."

"it's so cute."

Luz rolled her eyes which only brought back Amity's fit of laughter. "You're so mean." She smiled.

"Okay, that's not fair, it got stuck half way!"

"Nope. You lost eye privileges." Luz smirked as she placed her eyepatch back on.

"And you call me mean." Amity giggled, snuggling back into her love. Sorrow crept into their silence, as she rested her head above her love's heart, "when will you be back?"

"It depends on how badly I'm needed and how quickly they can get a replacement. Earliest probably May or June. Latest, July or August."

"And when is the portal supposed to be done?"

"August."

"I might not get to see you much then....when you come back."

Luz rested her head on top of Amity's, before kissing her hair, "I'm not going to be in the human realm too long. We'll be back in each other's arms before you know it."

"You better. You promised me you'd come back."

"I will. And when this war is over. We'll have all the time in the world. We can build a little cottage near the owl house. And if I'm truly lucky, I'll have the most beautiful wife in all the realms."

Amity's face turned scarlet, her ears flicked back, "y..you want to m..marry me?"

"Eventually.....I know we're still young..."

"Yes."

"What?"

"Yes......we can get married after this all ends...when we're older."

Luz smiled with happy tears in her eyes, "I love you."

"I love you too." Amity said, pulling Luz in for a deep kiss.

They snuggled closer as the air grew colder, but neither were keen on leaving their quiet spot away from the world. Luz carefully tucked a chestnut lock behind Amity's ear as she purred softly.

"So, what else do you wanna do after all this shit ends.....ya know aside from me." Luz smirked as Amity rolled her eyes.

"I don't know, my entire life I was told that I should be in the Emperor's coven."

"I mean we'll still need guards and politicians after all this is over."

"I don't think I'd want that if I'm choosing for myself. After all this. I think I've had more than my fill for violence and politics."

Luz chuckled darkly as she pulled out her flask and took a sip, "You're great with kids. You could teach the baby class at Hexside. I mean Bump already promised me a position teaching glyph magic after this whole shit storm ends."

"You didn't even graduate." Amity laughed as she lit her cigarette.

"I mean I know he graduated Viney, Barcus and Jerbo. Despite the fact they dropped out. Besides, I think it would be fun to be able to teach someone and not have to send them out to possibly die." Luz sighed as she took another drink and pulled out a cigarette.

"Teaching kids would be nice....although that might be a bit much to handle. Especially if we have our own little ones at home." Amity turned as Luz started coughing on her smoke. "Oh....sorry."

Luz cleared her throat, "no, it's fine....I was just caught off guard."

"Do you....not want kids?" Amity asked quietly, her eyes looking down.

"What? Of course I do!" Luz smiled as she gave her a soft kiss, "and we have a whole legion of babysitters for when we want our alone time."

"Titan, Eda's gonna teach them how to pick locks...." Amity groaned.

"Hey that is a proud Clawthrone family tradition." Luz smirked as she took another sip from her flask, "and who are you to break your own family's tradition, Amity Clawthrone?"

Amity giggled as warmth spread in her chest, "yeah, I guess you're right...Besides if Eda doesn't Ed or Em will." Luz looked away sheepishly, "Luz Noceda, I swear to Titan if you're the one who teaches our kids to pick locks I will divorce you."

Luz laughed, sending blue smoke out of her nose, "No you won't."

Amity grumbled slightly, "Fine, You're right. But you will be sleeping on the couch."

"Not even married and you're already threatening me with the couch."

"What, just because I like trouble, doesn't mean I want her to spread it to children."

"We are in the wrong family for that Bun Bun."

Amity sighed deeply, a soft smile on her face, "well, at least they'll be loved." She finished her cigarette as sadness crept in her eyes, "All this talk feels more like a pipe dream than a possibility."

"It's why we fight hard to make it real. I promised you I'd come back, and I'll fight every damn day to keep it. And I'll work just as hard for that future."

Amity felt tears run down her cheeks, "I love you."

"I love you too."

Chapter Text

Barcus lifted his flask as he looked over the map, "Colonel Ent, Major Richards, Captain Smith, what is your progress on the capture of Brainburg?" He lifted his head to look at the crystal ball.

"We've been approaching the suburbs. I'm doing my best to try and stay stealthy but I fear that they'll be expecting us." Ent sighed, "How's it look on getting more help up here?"

Barcus's eyes glowed purple behind his helmet as he looked into the oracle sphere, "The Emperor's Army will be expecting you. As for the help. Looks like they'll be sending a friend your way in a few days."

"Thank the Titan." Captain Smith sighed.

"We need all the help we can get." Major Richards added, as he scratched his face behind his mask.

Barcus nodded, "The eastern front is finally pushing forward. Captain Rogers and Captain Jameson are leading well. I'll be leaving to lead the southern front. Major Romanoff will be transferred over to take command of the western front. If she can manage to push us forward in that frozen wasteland near the knee, the warmer climate will let her steam roll them."

"I hope you're right Mystic, any word on when the next Colonels will be sent out?" Ent asked as he lit a cigarette.

"Ivy, Banshee and Gambit are going to be arriving at the beginning of January if things stay on track." Barcus said as he looked at the papers in front of him.

"Has anything in the Nighthawks ever stayed on track?" The Captain said with a tired smile.

"Never." The Colonels said in unison.

"How's Bones?" Ent smiled as warmly as his helmet could mimic.

"They picked up their latest pack of supplies yesterday. They'll be there in a day or so. Try not to die in the meantime." Barcus grinned.

"Hey, I'm not Gambit or Banshee." Ent huffed jokingly.

"Two words, Silver. Wing."

The cheeks on Ent's mask turned a bright bronze which caused Barcus to snicker. "Leave them out of this." Ent grumbled.

"Hah no. Bugging you and Bones is the best part of my week. Let me enjoy it."

Ent rolled his eyes but his smile stayed, "Alright, I'll talk to you again Monday when we check in with the Generals."

"See you then." Barcus nodded before signing off. He curled up on his chair as he took off his helmet and took a long sip from his flask. He lifted his head when he heard a knock on the door and put on his cloth mask. "Come in"

A large half orc half witch entered the room, following her was a significantly smaller half dwarf half witch. The women gave a salute as then entered.

"You wanted to see us Colonel?" The orc woman asked, a hint of nervousness in her voice.

"Yes Captain Rogers, you and Captain Jameson have been indispensable to me these past few weeks." Barcus smiled as warmly before he let out a deep sigh, "We lost a lot of good people the past weeks, but we would have lost more if it weren't for you two. For your help, I'm promoting both of you to Major and you'll be leading the eastern front. Eventually one of my associates will come and you will be their next in command. I'll be leaving in the next few days to lead the southern front."

"Sir, you only just made us Captain." Jameson said cautiously.

"Indeed. And that was truly foolish. I should have promoted you to Major after the first battle you two lead that turned this shit show around. You both graduated from Galdus together shortly before joining. But you both have a skill for strategy that goes beyond formal education. Who trained while you were at the owl town, or have you always been here?"

"We were trained under Colonel Ivy, sir." Rogers answered quickly.

"Well I hope you both had a good rapport, in a few months you'll be serving directly under them again." Barcus grinned, "I sense your uneasiness, but I wouldn't leave my camps with those I think are incapable. You work well with the troops, and well with each other. And if rumors are to be believed, that goes beyond the field." He smirked at their blush. "Now come on let's get a drink to celebrate.".

The two just nodded as they followed him, slack jawed, the cold night air immediately contrasted the warm smokey bar.

"Whiskey on the rocks, Jack." Barcus smiled as he placed his paw on the counter.

"On it Mystic." The bartender smiled, before taking the two women's orders. He gave them their drinks and Barcus downed half of his glass before going on their little makeshift stage.

"Today, we mourn those we've lost and celebrate those who made it back. Many of whom owe their lives to Jamilla Rogers and Mary Jameson, and I'm pleased to announce they've been promoted to Major and will be your new leading commanders." Barcus raised his glass high, "To Rogers and Jameson"

"To Rogers and Jameson!" The whole bar cheered.

"To those we've lost." He said sadly.

"To those we've lost." The bar mourned.

"And to a better tomorrow!" He yelled triumphantly.

The bar cheered once more before they all took a drink. Barcus nodded at Skara, who had finished tuning her lute before taking the stage.

Barcus smiled as Jack refilled his whiskey glass, as the ice slowly started to melt. He took a sip as the music began.

~Oh, I bid farewell to the house and the town
And I fly away to break the emperor's crown
To meet up with my comrades and friends
To go to the place I hear all soldiers end
As the souls of the dead fill the space of my mind
I'll fly without sleeping, no peace will I find
I fear not the battle, for we will be free
I remember the fallen, do they think of me?
With their bones in the soil forever will be~

Barcus started at the amber liquid in the glass as the sad song dug into his bones. He tried, not for the first time, to remember the last day he had gone without a drink. He decided that was an answer best left for the Titan and tilt back his glass.

~The Colonels stare down with the battle lines drew
We heal our wounds and say goodbye to those that we knew
So I swallow my grief and savor my breath
And hope I live in peace or take comfort in death
As the songs of the dead fill the space of my ears
Their laughter like children, their beckoning cheers
I hope to avenge them and set us all free
I remember the fallen, do they think of me?
With their bones in the soil forever will be~

Barcus hummed along with the tune. He knew he had done the best that he could with what he had. Their camps had been discovered three times and their troops ambushed five. It was only a few days ago they finally managed to over take some of the villages and take out the guard barracks. Even as an oracle, there's only so much of the future you can see.

~Then I feel a greatsword cut me down where I stand
And the medics they fly me off the bloody land
I lay with the broken who know struggle and strife
In heart I know this is the end of my life
As the souls of the dead fill the space of my eyes
my breath starts to slow and I feel my spirit rise
I'm far from my family but at least I'm free
I remember the living do they think of me?
When my bones in the soil forever will be~

He remembered how happy he had been to see Viney again these past few weeks. In times like these it was nice to see a familiar face. The moments they had together were few and far between with all the fighting and rarely without a bottle between them. The eastern front was secured and although he knew the fight was far from over. They still had the second largest city in the isles ahead of them. While he would be leaving to try and take the fourth. In truth he was scared to leave, he had grown rather attached to many of the soldiers here. He knew they would be in capable hands but death in war is only minimized by good leadership. They would still lose people. However he knew the Toes well, his grandparents had lived there when they were alive. He knew the sharp craggy shores and how to navigate them.

~Now of my life, my family will reminisce
While I pray they all get to live free and in bliss
As the colonels call to stand fast and forge on
And They'll keep on fighting til the damn tyrant's gone
As the souls of the dead live for'er in their mind
As they live all the years that I left behind
One day they'll raise our flag and we'll all be free
I remember the fallen and they think of me
For our souls in the soil together will be
I remember the fallen and they think of me,
For our souls in the soil together will be~

He smiled sadly as he sang along with the bar as he often did when he had free time. The music soothed him in a way and he enjoyed the company. It prevented him from being alone with his thoughts for too long. Titan knows he shouldn't do that. He prayed quietly for his parents who were on the northern front and for his friends. He didn't think it would do much, even if the Titan had any sort of consciousness, it never seemed like it cared before. But at the moment it was all he could, he finished his whiskey. "Another round Jack."
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Viney didn't know how long they had been flying but she didn't care. All she knew was she was exhausted. She flew her staff closer to Major Thompson who was looking at their map.

"How much longer til we make it to our resting point for the night?" She asked him.

Major Thompson was a E.C. defector, he had lost both of his children to the massacre. They had been protesters who had been unlucky. After he had joined the Nighthawks he immediately became a father figure to many of the troops. He smiled in a way only dads who have been on road trips with kids can, "Colonel....are you asking me if we're there yet?"

Viney buried her helmeted face in her hands, "If I say yes, will that amuse you?"

"Very much so." He smirked.

"....yes."

He giggled before looking back, "We have another hour left sweetie." He said in full dad mode.

"One of these days Thompson, I'm going to demote you for your dad jokes." Viney said although there was mirth in her voice.

"Please I was one of the best healers the bastard's coven had. Besides we both know we're in no position to be losing healers. Also I'm pretty sure you'd go insane trying to run this camp without me."

"That wouldn't take much at this point."

"With how much you drink, not really surprising"

"Hey leave me and my borderline alcoholism alone. "

"Borderline..." He grimaced slightly, "I think we're past that point kid."

"Either way leave it be Major. So long as it doesn't interfere with my work." Viney grumbled slightly.

"Just looking out for you Bones." He smiled sadly.

Viney sighed deeply, trying to figure out what annoyed her more. The fact he tended to treat her more like his kid, although a kid he deeply respected, than his commander. How much he not only reminds her of her father and makes her miss him. Or the fact that he was very much her father's type. In truth, Major Thompson had been a blessing. He was an excellent surgeon, and despite his terrible jokes and slight lack of professionalism. He was one of the few people that could make her laugh during all this. She knew a lot of her troops adored him as well and few could keep the moral up like he could. Hell, even she sometimes looked to him for advice. He was a comfort and a confidant. "I....thanks Thompson."

He smiled warmly, "I've told you before. You can call me David."

"Ya know I'd like to at least keep the illusion of professionalism."

"You are literally in the wrong track for that" He snickered at his own joke.

She rolled her eyes as she felt her mind start to fog with sleep. She felt herself start to lean forward but caught herself. Viney tried to rub her eyes but grumbled remembering the helmet. She yawned which really only looked like the helmet was venting itself slightly. The cold night wind blew hard against her thick cloak. She shivered anyways as she kept her staff steady, ignoring Dewdrop who was worried she was going to fall off or crash them.

"Sleepy Bones?" David smiled, raising an eyebrow.

"Maybe." She said, straightening her posture.

"You can ride with me if you want to rest."

"I'm the leader of this camp. How would it look if I'm sleeping when we get there? Let alone leaning on you."

"Like a person who is tired. And it would be much less humiliating than you flying into a tree."

"I am not going to fly into a tree." Viney scoffed, she flew ahead of him. Her palismen continued to squeak at her but she ignored her. She had done twelve hour surgeries, led an attack on the battlefield, and still managed to get injured less than Luz or Boscha.

She sighed as she saw their campsite for the night. It was an old farm that looked like the one her grandparents had when she was little. She smiled as she ran past the gate that was surrounded by overgrown bushes that brushed her as she walked by. She blinked as she was scooped up in a pair of strong arms. She turned to look at the assailant then tears leaked from her eyes as she saw her father's face. "Dad!" She cried as she wrapped her arms tightly around him. She smiled as he held her, just like when she was a little kid. She heard a familiar chirp and saw Puddles dancing in her pen, happy to see her best friend. Viney felt the soft feathers and purred loudly. She touched her sweetheart bracelet with her thumb, then felt her heart stop as she saw familiar emerald green locks. "Emira!" She almost sobbed as she ran into her love's arms. They kissed before strong arms lifted them both off the ground, she giggled as her dad hugged them both.

"Sweet dreams kid." He said softly which caused her to blink. They weren't going to bed, and he never called her kid. He always called his little shortcake. She felt the ground start to shift as she felt a soft weight on her. Then felt something sharp on her ear.

Viney woke up with a start, accidentally flinging Dewdrop across the tent. She squeaked grumpily, while Viney was trying to figure out where exactly she was. She saw her staff leaning on the side of the tent. She rubbed her eyes and panic set in as she realized her face was uncovered. She looked down and saw her helmet sitting right by her with a note stuck to it.

Hey Bones,

So you fell asleep and almost hit a tree. I was able to catch you before you hurt yourself. Don't worry, I was the only one who saw. I had the troops set up camp as soon as we arrived and then I put you to bed. I took off your helmet when you were inside because it didn't look comfortable to sleep in. Don't worry, no one saw your face and I don't know who you are. I won't tell anyone about this, just take care of yourself. Get some rest kid.

Love, David Thompson

Viney felt a soft smile form on her face as she shook her head. She gave Dewdrop some pets before exhaustion creeped back into her. She laid back down as sleep clouded into her mind, hoping maybe she could have that dream again.

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Jerbo ran his hands over his cloth mask. Today had been rough. Scouts had confirmed that the Emperor's army was waiting for them on the outskirts of the suburbs. He didn't have enough troops for his plan to slowly surround Brainburg. And he needed to do this without hurting the residents. He needed the people on his side and starving them out or burning their city wouldn't make the Nighthawks any friends. He growled at his map as he lit another cigarette.

"How's the planning going Ent?" Major Richards smiled as he poured himself a glass of whiskey.

"How do you think it's going Richards." He said, as took a long drag. "We need a way to take this city without hurting civilians and the enemy is waiting for us and armed to the teeth."

"Easy, I wasn't trying to be offensive." He sighed, "Just trying to lighten the mood."

"Sorry, just....I need to find a way to lead them away from the city." He leaned back in his chair as he fiddled with the ring on his right hand.

Richards took a sip of his drink, "Ya know the troops have been making bets on which family you're from."

Jerbo smirked, "the troops also have an ongoing debate on which one of our Generals they want to have step on them."

"There is no debate on that. Lilith one hundred percent for me." Richards grinned.

"Since you're my friend. I'll pretend I didn't hear that." Jerbo said as he got up and poured himself a glass.

"So I take it you're an Eda man yourself." Richards asked then burst out laughing as the Colonel choked on his whiskey.

"That is my future aunt in law you're talking about!"

"You're marrying a Clawthrone? I bet your parents are thrilled." Richards chuckled, "I didn't know Generals even had another sibling."

"They don't." It was finally Jerbo's turn to get a little revenge for making him shoot whiskey out of his nose, "I'm marrying Lilith's son." He grinned madly as he watched his friend choke on his drink.

"Lilith has kids?! And she still has a figure like that....damn..." He looked up awkwardly, "Don't tell her I said that."

"They're adopted. And honestly I'd be more worried about what you say around my fiance than my mother in law. She'll just tell you no, he'll turn you into a toad."

"How does a blueblood like you end up with a Clawthrone?"

"How many times do I have to tell you I'm not a blueblood?" Jerbo asked, shaking his head before taking another sip.

"The blue cloud you smoke is premium quality stuff. Just finding those seeds is hard, let alone growing them like you do. You also have a signet ring. Last time I checked they don't go giving those away to everybody. Especially with an enchantment."

"I was a thief and a vandal before the war. I broke into more places I can count. I was trained by the best criminal on the isles and the former head of the Emperor's coven." Jerbo grinned sharply as he lit another cigarette, "I don't need to be everybody."

"The tobacco I understand. But I've heard of people chopping heads off if you touch their signet ring." Richards said as he raised an eyebrow.

"Well. I guess this is one mystery you'll have to figure out for yourself."

"I guess so." Richards laughed as he lit his own cigarette, "so when's the wedding?"

"Whenever this war ends, and if I'm lucky enough to be still breathing." Jerbo sighed as he finished his whiskey.

"Hey, if I'm breathing too. Can I come?" Richards chuckled.

"Sure Greg. I'll do you one better. I'll make you a groomsmen."

"This'll be fun. Never been to a blueblood wedding."

Jerbo rolled his eyes then heard a knock at the door, "Come in."

The Corporal walked in nervously, "A message from the owl town for you sir."

Jerbo smiled as he took the letter, his smile grew larger and larger as he read, "That crazy son of a bitch."

"We're getting more troops?" Richards asked.

"More than that. We're getting someone just crazy enough to be able to help." He smiled as he lifted a playing card out of the envelope.

"Oh shit."

Chapter Text

Boscha sighed as she moved her pawn forward, before she smirked at Willow. "You look cute today, any special occasion? You dressing up for me?"

Willow rolled her eyes, "Maybe." She bit her lip as she looked up at her, then leaned forward and smirked back as she moved her own piece.

"You trying to get me to go easy on you?" Boscha asked.

"Please I wouldn't have to dress up." Willow smiled softly.

"Hey I'm not that easy to break."

"Really?" She leaned forward and placed a kiss on her girlfriend's cheek. She laughed as Boscha's face turned scarlet.

"S...shut up." Boscha grumbled slightly but she still smiled, "so what's really on your mind, flower?"

"Just thinking....Luz is going to be leaving soon and we'll be leaving in a few months. I guess I'm just worried about everything. I mean I'm scared for Luz. As for Amity, I just wish we had more time. Cause she's definitely going to be hurting with Luz gone. Plus rumors are going around that the Emperor's coven might be opening up over the summer or the fall. Depending on when that happens, she might have to leave before Luz even gets back." Willow ran a hand through her hair as she moved another piece. "That's not even to mention us."

"What's wrong with us?" Boscha asked, worry in her voice.

"Well we've only been dating for a few months and now we're getting shipped off in January. I guess, I just wanted more time. Everyone else got some time to just be a couple."

"Look, our relationship is new. And we might not have been able to just be two teens in love." Boscha bit her lip, "I...I really care about you and even if it's just letters between us......Titan I'm bad at this......I wanna make this work.....if you want to."

Willow felt blood rush to her cheeks, "You...mean that?"

"Of course, you gave me a chance after all the stupid shit I've done. I'm not going to let it die just because we're apart. Willow, you're one of the most wonderful people I've ever met, you're sweet, funny and you can kick my ass. "

"Pfft, really? You're putting the fact I can beat you up in the list of reasons you like me?"

"Yes. A smart, beautiful woman that not only calls me on my shit but also can beat my ass is......very...hot....to me" Boscha said quietly, suddenly finding the chessboard they weren't paying attention to very interesting.

"You think I'm beautiful?"

"What? Of course." Boscha smiled as she cupped her girlfriend's cheek, "Trust me, in this relationship, you're the one slumming not me."

"Hey me nice to my girlfriend." Willow warned before giving her a kiss, "You're not the same person you were before. And.....I want to keep our relationship going too..."

"Really....?"

"We knew when we got together that this could happen." Willow said as she gave her girlfriend's hand a gentle squeeze, "but you're worth it." Boscha rubbed at her eyes, "Are......you crying?"

"I took my hormone potions today." Boscha said quickly.

"Hey, it's okay. I'm going to miss you too."

"It's not that.....well it's partly that......I just...hearing you say that I'm worth it. After everything...."

Willow smiled softly getting up and placing herself in Boscha's lap, she wrapped her arms around her tightly, "You're worth it." She said before giving her a gentle kiss. "And it's very cute that you're a bottom."

"S....shut up....it's weirder that you're a top." She pouted.

Willow kissed her again, this time right above her third eye, a smile broke out on her face as Boscha started to purr, "I love you too, my cuddlepuff." She said as she joined her girlfriend's purrs with her own. They stayed snuggled together, Willow occasionally kissing her love's face. "We're gonna make it work."

"What if we don't?"

"Don't stay in a relationship or don't make it back?"

"Either."

Willow sighed, "If we don't stay together, we at least can't say we didn't try. And if one of us doesn't make it back. We do our best to try to remember the good times."

"I don't know what I'd do if you got killed....it was only April that I lost Tom...." She felt tears prick her eyes again.

"Hey, I have a decent versatility with my magic. I think I can make a pretty quick getaway if I need to." Willow reassured, although she was biting her lip.

"Say it."

"What?"

"I know that look. Say it."

"....you sure?"

"Flower, I will push you off my lap."

"Pfft, we both know that's not true" Willow snickered as she wrapped her arms tighter around Boscha, "Fine...I was gonna say....I'll remember you fondly."

"Really?" Boscha shook her head, "I'm honestly disappointed in you, you could have come up with a much better joke than that." She grinned, giving Willow a peck on the cheek, "Don't worry I'll be fine, it was nice knowing you, this was nice while it lasted. I mean those were just off the top of my head."

"I was trying to be nice." Willow laughed, "Also I promise that whatever portion of your ashes I get. They don't end up in my vacuum cleaner."

"Better not. I'd haunt the shit out of you for that."

"What are you gonna do? Clean the carpets angrily?"

"I don't think ghosts are forced to haunt the vessel they're in. Although a vacuum would be more useful in annoying you than a coffee can."

"All the more reason to keep you out of the vacuum." Willow grinned.

"Wow, takeaway the only way I can annoy you. So rude." Boscha huffed while trying her best not to laugh.

"Do you want me to vacuum you?"

"I mean do you have a better idea?"

Willow thought for a minute, "I could mix your ashes in some potting soil and then put a plant in it."

"What kind of plant?"

"I don't know....umm forget me nots?"

"Ugh what are we Luz and Amity? We're not that disgusting sweet. Also if you're going to use me as compost, I want it to be something cool or at least can move."

"Fine, but it can't talk, have spines or be poisonous."

"Ruining all my fun" Boscha scratched her chin, "oh plant a mandrake!"

"What? no! those talk!"

"Ah, they don't talk. They scream. There's a difference."

"That doesn't make it better." Willow said, as she got off of her girlfriend's lap.

"You're gonna deny my last request and end my cuddles?" Boscha said as she placed a hand on her chest dramatically, "You heartless bitch."

"Takes one to know one."

Boscha snorted laughing, "I love you."

"I love you too." Willow smiled as she took her hand.

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The house was filled with tension as the sun rose on this cold November day. The distress from the Generals and the Colonels caused an uneasiness throughout the owl town. Even Hooty seemed on edge, as his usually annoying greetings were empty from the air.

Luz sighed as she looked at the poorly masked fear on her family's faces. She sipped her coffee as Amity clung to her like she would disappear if she let go. "Titan's sake guys, I'm not dying. I'll be coming back. I mean Jerbo, Viney and Barcus have been out there for months now and they're still alive."

"We're just scared....we don't want you getting hurt kid." Eda smiled but it didn't meet her eyes.

"It's war, I'm gonna get hurt. But I'm going to do my best not to be unnecessarily risky." Luz reassured only to be given a series of raised eyebrows from her family, "I'm serious. Look, if I get hurt too badly, it could fuck up my chances to get back to the human realm. I can't risk that, and I'm not going to make you all have to mourn me. I already did that to one family."

The room seemed to grow still as the weight of her words sunk deep into their hearts. The air stayed tense as they sat in silence.

"Luz. You don't know what could happen out there." Lilith said, solemnly, "You can't promise something like that...even if you want to."

"I revived two forms of ancient magic, I can do magic without any built in ability, I fought Belos by myself and lived. We created this rebellion to try and fight for a better world for everyone on the isles. And we're still fighting even though we might not even win. When I was upset and losing hope about the portal, you and Ma always told me that I managed to do the impossible. That if I could do it once I could do it again. I will do it again. Trust me."

"We trust you Luz, it's the rest of the war we don't trust." Eda stared down at her cup of coffee, "Everyday is a gamble. But it's people we lose not money. You might have a good card in your hand and better ones in your deck, but it's all luck of the draw."

"That's why I keep better cards up my sleeve." Luz grinned, "a crazy old bird taught me that."

Eda smiled as tears formed in her eyes, "That trick doesn't always work if both sides don't play fair."

"We won't know until we play." Luz wiped a tear off her Ma's cheek, "Today is my last day here. Let's make the best of it." She glanced around the room looking at these people who she loved dearly. "That goes for all of you too. And especially you Bun Bun." Luz walked over and cupped Amity's face, "You'll have at least six months to miss me. So let's enjoy today."

Amity placed her hand on top of Luz's, as she leaned into her hand, "So what do you want to do?"

"What we always used to do." She beamed brightly.

-------------------------------------------------------

They laughed as they built their blanket fort, carefully securing it before loading it with any soft pillows and blankets they could find. King grumbled half heartedly as he was burritoed and carefully tucked in the center of the big blanket nest.

Eda and Lilith giggled as they joined the teens, as all the witches started to purr. Luz hummed, which was about the closest she could do. They snuggled together as they watched the screen flicker.

Amity snuggled closer, resting her head on her chest for what felt like the last time. She looked at the movie. This one had always been her favorite of the human movies Luz had shown them. She watched as Buttercup ordered Westly around, the chemistry between them obvious and sweet. It reminded her of her own relationship. That had its own rocky start. Westly always reminded her of Luz, This unyielding force that believed so deeply in love that not even death could stop it. She tended to view the past few months as what would have happened after they escaped on the Revenge. She cared for Luz and returned all her love and then some. She was so happy when she saw the hope in her eyes again. The brightness that could outside the sun on a summer day. Amity knew when Luz said she'd come back, she meant every word. However, it didn't stop the fear that gnawed at her heart. She had seen enough of war to know happy thoughts don't stop fireballs. Her heart begged her to try but she knew she couldn't. It wasn't in her nature. Luz fought like hell, she protected her friends. She always did her damndest, it was one of the things Amity loved about her. She also knew that if anything was going to kill Luz in battle is her trying her best to save as many people as possible. She wasn't her fearless champion at Grom, but in the past few weeks, Luz seemed to fill the role. Amity knew Luz wasn't fearless, far from it. She just did her best. The witch hoped that her warmth and kindness wouldn't die in the field, if she did manage to make it back at all. She closes her eyes as she felt Luz hold her closer while softly kissing her face. She wished desperately to stay in this moment, laying gently on her love, surrounded by family and being happy.

Luz tapped her on the shoulder and she turned to look at the screen. She saw Westly cupping Buttercup's cheek, "Death cannot stop true love, all it can do is delay it for awhile."

Amity felt Luz squeeze her hand. She buried her face in her love's shoulder, to hide her tears. She felt her strong hand rub her back gently, trying her best to soothe the worry away.
-----------------------------------------------------

The entire town had gathered as Colonel Gambit gave their farewell speech. Their helmeted face loomed over the crowd as they told them of the world they were fighting for. That even if they didn't win, they could rest knowing they at least tried. Anyone else would have said a speech like that they probably would have gotten laughed at. Yet Gambit always managed to sell it. Despite their roughness, there was still a good heart. The troops were skeptical that all the Colonels cared but they knew Gambit did.

They saluted as they saw them for the last time. Disappearing into the owl house for one last private goodbye. The troops all felt a sadness lingering inside them. Things were still escalating, and this was the first time in awhile they had such a large reminder.

--------------------------------------------------------

Luz smiled as she took off her helmet, resting it under her arm. She raised other hand, as a staff crashed it's way down from her room. She caught it as if she had been doing it her whole life. She turned it sideways to allow the others to see it.

The wooden staff was a familiar chestnut, that anyone could easily match to a certain Witch's roots. There were what looked like reeds carved around the top, right below her large Otter Palismen that stood on its hind legs. It unlocked itself and immediately climbed onto Luz's shoulder. "Meet Loco" She grinned as she scooped him up and held him like a baby. He squeaked happily, leaning back to see all the new people.

Luz turned to see Eda's face, which was full of pride as tears ran down her face. "Look how far you've come. Just to think it wasn't that long ago, you ran down those stairs in an old bathrobe with a traffic cone on your head."

Luz rolled her not covered eye, relaxing one last time in the old witch's arms. "You just had to bring up that story, didn't you Ma."

"It's one of my favorites, that and when you tried to fight a wooden trunk because you thought it was a monster."

"I thought it was a Mimic. And a doorbell tried to eat me once. I wasn't taking chances." Luz grumbled slightly, watching the others snicker.

"I love you so much, my little owlet." Eda said as she started to sob, holding her daughter close.

"I love you too Ma." Luz said, leaning into Eda as she kissed her forehead.

Lilith walked over next as she gave her niece a hug, "Take care of yourself, for everyone's sake."

"I will. Take care of all of them."

Lilith kissed her forehead before Gus immediately hugged his friend. "Don't die doing some stupid."

"If I do, I know you'll roast my ass for it." Luz grinned as she watched him groan. "Oh shush, you love me."

"You're the annoying older sister I didn't ask for." He laughed.

"No. That's Boscha." Luz smirked, causing Gus to laugh harder.

"Hey!" Boscha said as she walked over to them. "Don't be an ass right before you leave. I can't even say a comeback without seeming like a dickhead."

"That is the opposite of what you should say to get me to stop." Luz cackled, as they gave each other a bro hug.

"Give em hell for me." Boscha smiled with watery eyes, "Don't make me lose another sibling." She said quietly.

"I won't."

Willow walked over next, "Luz, you're a jackass and one of the best people I know. Thanks for always believing in me."

"Of course. That's what family's for."

"Also, I refuse to use your ashes to grow a mandrake."

"Who wants to haunt a screaming littl- oh...Boscha. that checks." Luz chuckled, "I mean I think I'd prefer forget me nots."

"Titan, you're disgustingly sweet." Willow said, watching Luz roll her eye, "Come back safe. I'd rather not have to use two people as compost."

"You won't."

Luz gave a reassuring smile as Emira pulled her into a hug.

"You've helped me and my siblings know what family is supposed to be. Don't-"

"I won't. I can't let you and Ed have all the fun annoying Mittens."

Emira snorted despite herself, "I'll hold you to that."

"Wouldn't have it any other way." Luz said, with a cheeky grin.

Edric charged at the human, tears running down his face, "Brooooo"

"Bro!" Luz wheezed with laughter as she wrapped her arms around him.

"You need to come back so we can be bros in law." Edric said, giving her a tight squeeze.

"I promise." Luz reassured, she let go of the hug and walked over to Amity. She wiped the tears off her cheek.

"I love you." Amity cried softly, "You better come back. So I can hold you close and we can be stupid kids in love again."

"As you wish." Luz said as she pulled her love in for a sweet kiss.

The moment ended all too soon, as Luz adjusted the seven feathered pin on her collar. The black uniform and the long black duster coat made her look taller and bolder. She put on her helmet, before carefully locking Loco back into place. A small terrified part of her screamed for her to stay, but she marched forwards anyways. She had a job to do. She looked back at her makeshift family, and saw the fear in their eyes. She gave them one last smile before she walked out the door.
-----------------------------------------------------------

Jerbo and Viney sat in the Colonels tent. He puffed away on his smoke, as she poured herself another glass.

"I can't believe how much I've missed that accident prone dumbass." Viney laughed.

"Titan it will be nice to have another familiar face around." He smiled.

"Let's just hope her optimism stays. I've seen things that make the night market massacre look mild by comparison. It's a lot to take in, let alone adjust to. She wasn't in the most stable mindset last we saw her last."

"It's not like any of us are the most stable right now. I think we're all a bit fucked. And at least for now, we have someone to talk to."

Viney nodded as she took a sip from her glass, "If she gets injured on the first day I'm killing her."

"Pfft, not even going to let the Emperor's army get a chance at it."

"The E.A. didn't have to stitch her or set her bones. I'm a large reason she's alive to jackass again."

Jerbo snickered, "You love her though."

"Of course. She's basically our sister. And as Eda said to Lilith, if anyone gets to put her down. It's gonna be me." She grinned as she watched Jerbo laugh.

A knock on the door took away their thoughts as they both pulled on their cloth masks.

"Come in." Jerbo called.

The door swung open and the tall figure entered the tent. "Hope you have another glass." Their helmeted face smiled as they shut the door behind them.

"Luz!" The other two cried as they pulled their friend in for a hug.

"It's good to see you guys again." Luz chuckled as she pulled off her helmet, she felt Viney's gaze immediately focus on her eyepatch. "V, I gave it up for the portal. I didn't get hurt. I already have the replacement in. It's just kind of gross to look at and it doesn't have vision yet."

"If you lose the other one before you get full sight back. I will kill you."

"That's fair." Luz laughed.

"I missed you" Viney said, as she smiled.

"I missed you too V."

"And I missed three!" Jerbo grinned as he picked them both up and spun them.

They giggled like stupid kids. They knew they'd have to be adults again soon, call in the majors and captains as they formed out their strategy. They knew that it wouldn't be long til they saw the horrors of war again. For now though, they could just be kids.

Chapter Text

Luz lit a cigarette as she stared down at the battle map. Viney took a sip of whiskey from her spot at the table. The majors and captains were circled around the three Colonels.

"Alright, our goal is to find a way to take the city and not hurt the residents that live there." Jerbo said, as he pointed to the small mound of rocks he had placed on the map. "The problem is the whole peninsula is surrounded. The port is guarded by their navy and the suburbs are surrounded by guards."

"Why exactly are we prioritizing these people over our own? This is war Colonel. We can't win if we play with kid gloves." A captain called out from the back.

A silence passed as the air suddenly felt a lot colder, "Step forward captain." Jerbo ordered, the young man stepped forward. "Why did you join this rebellion?"

"So we can be free."

"That we doesn't just mean us Captain, this army fights so the people of the isles are free. Our enemy has blown up innocent children who were protesting, I'll be damned if I sink low enough to massacre a city and try to say I did it for freedom."

"These people are indispensable but your own soldiers are replaceable?!" The Captain growled before he felt a hand lift him up by his shirt.

"Every single soul that died under my command haunts me Captain, every life I snuffed out weighs on my soul. These troops are my people but so are those in the city and the suburbs. So are the people we're fighting. I can't spare the life of every soldier we encounter but I'll gladly walk into the pits of hell and drag you with me before I let innocent people die because they were in the way. " Jerbo snarled as he brought the captain close to his masked face, the golden eyes stared empty daggers at him. "You may not have a moral code Captain, but I do. And as far as I'm concerned no one this heartless should lead anyone." He ripped the five feathered pin off his collar. "Now get out Private, before you truly make me angry." He smiled sharply as he dropped him on his ass. The solider stood, saw all three Colonels baring their teeth and Gambit shuffling a deck of cards. He quickly excused himself before they made good on their threats.

Jerbo cleared his throat before he lit a cigarette, "now that he's gone. Does anyone have an idea that doesn't involve massive civilian causalities?"

"Have you tried infiltration?" Luz asked, as she cut the deck of cards in her hands.

"Yes, it's how we found out about the navy, although our spies barely made it back with how jumpy the E.A. is." Jerbo sighed causing blue smoke to drift.

"Not the Army, did you try infiltrating the city? I mean if we can get into the city we can find the mayor and order them to evacuate."

"They've been running checks on anyone coming in or out. If you don't have the paperwork. You're not getting in." Jerbo stated, rubbing his temples.

"Well, sounds like we either steal some or forge some." Luz said as she lit herself a cigarette.

"They have the Emperor's seal. It's nearly impossible to forge." Viney added, as she took another sip of whiskey.

"Well, it's a good thing I'm here then." Luz grinned, "I was the best pickpocket of our group."

"Pickpocketing unconscious people doesn't count Gambit" Viney smirked.

"I can pickpocket them without it. It's just easier that way." Luz grumbled, "besides I don't see a better idea."

"Be careful, thieves are pretty common along trade routes, whoever you rob will be armed and ready."

"Don't worry Bones, I know my way in and out of trouble."

"In yes. Out....well that depends on the day." Viney snickered, "Don't make me have to patch you up on your first outing."

"I won't." Luz reassured, "now do we have any disguises?"
----------------------------------------------------

Edric, Emira and Amity walked cautiously towards their mother's study. They tried their best to keep their expressions neutral but fear held them in a tight grip. They were entering the lion's den.

Alador Blight stood tall behind Odalia who turned her sharp eyes on the three immediately. "Principal Bump has told me you've been exceptional at your practices. However, I expect nothing less than perfection when you try out for the Emperor's Coven. Your competition may have thinned as some of the other families either have lost control of their children or in the case of the Lachances. Betrayed their country. The Blight family however, has always been either heads of a coven or members of the Emperor's coven. You will not disappoint us."

"Yes mother." They said almost robotically.

Amity felt her heart beating out of her chest as she kept her face as calm as possible. Any crack would be exploited. "When will the tryouts happen?"

"Your ambition precedes you as always Amity. Your father has made arrangements for them to be held in January. You three will be the first to tryout."

The twins did their best to hold their form but Amity let the fear slip through her mask as she thought of not seeing Luz come back home.

"Is something wrong Amity?" Alador asked, his voice deceptively warm. It was his game to get them to let their guard down.

"Nothing, just that's sooner than I expected. I just want to make sure I'm ready."

"Amity." He smiled as he placed his hand on her shoulder, she flinched slightly at the contact. "Are you sure that's all that's wrong?"

"Yes father, I must strive for perfection to honor the Blight family."

Alador tapped her shoulder gently, "Good girl. You can leave. We'd like to talk to the twins alone."

Amity looked at her siblings, who gave her a reassuring glance before she left the room.

"I have been sticking my neck out for you both." Alador said, as the smile faded from his lips, "eighteen years old, covenless with no staffs. It's an embarrassment not only to me but to our family. To make it worse there's two of you doing it."

"We're sorry father." They said quietly.

Alador grinned sharply before turning to his wife. Odalia nodded, "Your father and I have been gracious enough to let you delay picking your coven so that we could hopefully get more than one child into the Emperor's coven. This of course, is a gamble. As an oracle, I've never been one to take unnecessary risk. However, if all three of you get in and serve well. It could bring great prestige to our family. You two, have always been a bit...disobedient. Edric, you especially, tend to be very lax which made your twin follow in turn. So to make sure you both stay in line. I propose an arrangement."

The twins felt their stomachs twist at their words. Alador and Odalia always had a price to their deals. Nothing good ever came from them.

Alador smiled his sharp wolfish grin, "If all of you get in, that's wonderful. However if both or one of you doesn't get in.-"

"We'll be disowned?" Emira asked cautiously, flinching as Odalia stood up. She carefully ran her claws along the teen's face, just light enough to not break the skin, but hard enough to let her know she could.

"And have you run off and join the rebellion?" Odalia said, her voice full of sugar it was like poison on the tongue. "Your father made arrangements so that if you don't get into the Emperor's coven, you'll join the illusion coven before you're shipped off to the front lines of the Emperor's army. Either you'll live to redeem yourself or die a war hero."

Edric felt something inside of him snap as he growled, "You're sending us to die. I'm surprised you didn't just kill us yourselves but I suppose you'd rather not risk it, as it could besmirch your reputation."

Odalia glared at him, turning her eyes to Alador who nodded. "Emira. Leave. Your father and I wish to talk to Edric. Alone."

Emira hesitated as she saw her father's shadow loomed over her brother, she took a step towards him and felt Odalia's claws dig into her shoulder. She gritted her teeth, as she tried to move forward, only to collapse on the ground from a paralysis spell. She laid there unable to move as she watched Edric and Alador.

Edric summoned duplicates of himself, hoping that Alador would lose him in the chaos. However, the man seemed to expect this as he summoned his Abominations. They made quick work of the illusions, and quickly grabbed the young man.

Alador made his abomination hold him by his neck. Edric clawed at it desperately as his face turned red. The Blight raised his staff when a bolt of lightning shot through him. The Abominations dissolved, and Edric gasped for breath.

Odalia snarled as she saw Amity standing there, her hands crackling with sparks.

"Don't hurt my family!" Amity roared as she threw another bolt at Odalia, who fell to the floor. Emira immediately scrambled to her feet.

"Let's get the go bags and get out of here before they wake up." Emira said as they ran out of the room.

"How the hell are we supposed to get out? None of our staffs are here or finished." Amity panicked as they headed towards their rooms.

"That is where you're wrong sis." Edric grinned as he raised his hand, a silver staff flew to him, his go bag already on it. "Now get your stuff. I don't think they're going to be stunned for much longer."

His sisters nodded, as they grabbed their bags. Fear coursed through them, but part of them felt freer than ever before. This manor hadn't been a home, Alador and Odalia hadn't been their family. They felt smiles grow on their face as they flew into the night. They were going home.
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Luz swung her staff like a fencing foil, grinning madly. She turned which caused the cloak to spin. "How did you even get highwayman armor?"

"This was a bandit hideout before it became our base." Jerbo smiled as he watched Luz look even more impressed.

"Did you take them off a dead guy?" Luz asked surprisingly quick, as she looked it over for blood stains.

"What? No. I found them in a dresser."

"Well, non haunted armor is still cool I guess."

Jerbo pinched the bridge of his nose, "The things you find interesting scare me sometimes."

"Shush, now fuck off so I can go rob some people." Luz grinned.

"You really are Eda's daughter." Jerbo shook his head.

"Damn right." Luz laughed as she took off for the bushes near the road.

She crouched down as she watched the road. She watched a few poor farmers pass and sighed. She sat down, waiting for some rich trader to pass. She might be a thief but even she had morals. Stealing from poor people just trying to get by is a shit situation for everyone. Luck however would soon be on her side as a large caravan appeared on the road. She lifted up her spyglass and a grin formed on her face as she spotted the logo for the Broken Skull trading company. It was one of the largest companies on the isles and it was based in Brainburg. She grumbled slightly as she saw private guards walking alongside it. However a familiar voice caught her attention as they grew nearer.

"Watch your step you brutes" Tibbles huffed as he jabbed one of the guards with his cane. "You get in the way of the horses one more time I'm going to let them trample you."

The guard sneered as they rolled their eyes, "Let's just hurry this up and drop off the profits so we can go back home to Bonesborough."

"We'd already be there if you hadn't insisted on taking so many breaks." Tibbles grumbled.

"Hey those are union mandated!" One of the other guards added.

Luz resisted the urge to laugh, "Tibbles, my old friend. You just made my life so much easier." She stood up, and leaned against one of the nearby trees. She held her staff in her hand, tapping the top against her palm. She grinned as she heard Tibbles yelp and bark at the guards to deal with the highwayman. She placed a cigarette in her mouth as she watched the five guards approach. She flicked her lighter a few times, sighing as it only produced a spark. "Any of you fine folks have a lighter on you? Mine's outta juice."

"Oh I do!" One of the smaller guards perked up.

"Carl, man, we've talked about this." The head guard sighed, "remember? Rule number one?"

"Don't be nice to people trying to rob us." He said, mildly dejected.

"Alright Highwayman you're outnumbered five to one." The head guard growled.

Luz turned to them, she grinned as she watched some of them flinch at the bright white eye that lay exposed in the highwayman cowl. "Do you really want to protect that asshat?"

There was a pause as the guards looked at each other, then they heard a yell behind them. "What are you dumb brutes doing? Kill them already!!!"

"I'm listening." The head guard said, pulling out their own lighter and handing it to Luz.

She smiled, taking a long drag before handing the lighter back, "how about this, you help me rob the caravan and give me the paperwork to get into Brainburg. And I'll give the five of you half of however much money is in it. And if anyone asks why you didn't arrive. You can say you were robbed."

The head guard scratched their chin, "What about Tibbles?"

"Tie him up. There's a village you passed ten miles down the way, got taken over by rebels. Drop him off at the guard barracks and tell them he tried to turn in the owl lady into the Emperor." Luz chuckled as blue smoke drifted from her nose.

The head guard smiled, as they all turned towards the caravan. Luz picked up her staff, leaning it against her shoulder as a devilish grin formed on her face.

Tibbles blinked as he saw them all walking back towards the caravan, "What are you doing?! Why aren't you taking them out?!"

"Change of plans. We work for them now." The head guard said as he cracked his knuckles.

"I....I'll tell the boss on you!" Tibbles screamed.

"Actually we're private contractors. We don't work for Broken Skull. It's how we keep our union rights."

"Carl, my guy. Not helping with the intimidation factor." The head guard sighed then yelled, "quick he's trying to make a break for it!"

The guards chased after Tibbles while Luz flicked through her deck of cards, holding her cigarette with her teeth. She smiled as she found the glyph she wanted, hopped on her staff and flew ahead of the small demon. She threw the playing card at him, hitting him directly in the face and watched as he fell over snoring.

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"I honestly thought she'd be back by now." Jerbo sighed as he paced, "I hope she's okay."

Viney leaned back in her chair, resting her feet on the desk as she swirled the whiskey in the glass, "Will you relax? We've mugged Emperor's coven members for literally years. Honestly if she gets hurt, I'll be more disappointed that she stayed that long with Eda and managed to get rusty."

"What if she was ambushed?"

"Heh, that would end really badly" Viney took a sip of her drink, "for them. Luz beat up people twice her size. We live in a world of magic. No one ever sees a fist coming. It's also how she gets so banged up. So unless she stumbled into a whole army. A few guards aren't going to do shit."

"You're being oddly supportive of Luz....how much have you had to drink today?" Jerbo asked, looking over his friend.

"This is only my second drink, thank you very much. And I get pissed at Luz for biting off more than she can chew. She can handle at least a dozen guards on her own. At least she should be able to after how many times she's pissed off a dozen or so guards."

Jerbo nodded slightly as he nervously puffed on his cigarette, when a knock was heard at the door. He opened it and blinked as Luz stood before him, now in her normal cloth mask, with a four horse caravan behind her. She also pulled out the paperwork and a large stack of snails. "Send this back to the owl town would you? Titan knows we need it."

Jerbo just nodded and stomped on the cigarette that fell out of his mouth. Viney appeared behind him, smiled, "Told you she'd be fine."
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The Emperor's coven members surround the Blight manor. One of the lackys brought Alador an ice pack for his arm. He kept his hard amber eyed down to the ground as one of the investigators walked up to them.

"Can you tell me what happened exactly?" They asked, as they held their notebook.

"The rebels....they broke into our house and kidnapped our children." Odalia said, leaning into her husband doing her best to look meek.

"That's a pretty bold statement, you don't have any proof it was the rebels?"

"Are you accusing my wife of lying?" Alador asked, a sharpness in his voice caused the investigator to flinch.

"No. Of course not sir....but we need to know for sure before we start trying to go after them, especially with us being at war."

Odalia reached her hand into her cloak pocket and pulled out a half broken Nighthawks mask, "this fell off one of those monsters when I was fighting them off."

The investigator took it and sighed solemnly, "We'll do whatever we can to get your kids back Mrs. Blight. If anyone contacts you about a ransom or you find anything at all. Let us know."

"Thank you so much sir." Odalia said, wiping her eyes.

"Just doing my job ma'am" The investigator nodded, "Alright, put out an alert looking for Edric, Emira and Amity Blight. Finish the sweep and let's move out."

Alador and Odalia watched as the coven members flew away.

"This better work Odalia." Alador grumbled.

"Don't doubt me pet." She cooed, running her fingers across his arm, "Besides, if they find them then we can send them all off to the Emperor's army. I will not have defectors in our family."

Alador raised an eyebrow as he looked at his wife and then at the broken mask, "Considering we found that in Amity's room. I think we can agree it's a bit too late for that." He grimaced as he moved his injured arm, "I'm leaving for the army in a month. What do we do if the coven doesn't find them?"

Odalia's claws sank deep into the wooden arms of the chair she was sitting in, "If you see them anywhere on the battlefield. End them. I'd rather claim they were lost or murdered by the rebellion than ruin our family's standing with the Emperor."

Alador nodded, smiling sharply.

Chapter Text

"THIS IS AN EMERGENCY ANNOUNCEMENT, EDRIC, EMIRA AND AMITY BLIGHT HAVE BEEN KIDNAPPED BY THE REBELLION. IF YOU HAVE SEEN THEM PLEASE CALL-"

Lilith turned off the crystal ball then went back to pacing back and forth. "Shit. Okay, Maggie, you get a hold of your parents?"

"Yes, the rooms are all made up. They're absolutely thrilled." Maggie smiled, trying to comfort her.

"I called my brother, he can be here with his cargo ship in a couple of days. Their next stop is fairyland. He said he could get a friend to take them to the farm itself." Richard said, giving Lilith's shoulder a gentle squeeze, "We'll get them out safe. We have plenty of large shipping crates we can hide them in."

"Thanks, I don't know what I would do without your help." Lilith smiled wearily.

"It's no problem." Esmerelda said softly, "we're all just trying to do our best."

Brian Park walked in from outside, rubbing his hands together to warm them, "I have the construction coven caravan all set up. We can hook up some of the griffins to it and be able to transport it to the docks without an issue."

Lilith nodded, "thank you all again. We can discuss things further tomorrow morning. I just sent out a transport warning to the town. Lock everything you care about down tonight so they don't break when Hooty starts moving."

"On it. And I'll get the griffins up to carry any loose supplies." Richard yawned. As the rest of the parents left for their quarters.

Lilith ran a hand through her ever graying hair and she made her way upstairs, since they finally moved the library to the tower. "Eda, Sacha, How are the forgeries coming alone?"

"Federal ID cards, Birth certificates, and Passports are all in progress. But they're going to need to come up with new identities. I don't care if they're in the middle of nowhere on a different continent, rich family names always cause people to gossip." Sacha said, turning away from the printer, "Trust me I speak from experience."

"I'll talk to them about the names and disguises in a bit. Sach, ask Brutus if he still has a few pints of their blood. If things get too heated. We might need to fake a death." Lilith grimaced.

"It has been a long time since I did one of those" Eda snorted, trying her best to lighten the mood.

Lilith gave a fragile smile, "It's only been four years. And that hand was from a troll."

"What, I didn't want you to think I went out like a bitch." Eda laughed.

Lilith let out a small chuckle as she left the room.

Sacha waited slightly til the former coven leader left the hall and turned to Eda, "This is so cool. I mean the situation is awful and I've never felt more justified in my hatred for Odalia and Alador. But we're smuggling people out of the country. Is crime always this exciting? The longer I've been a part of this rebellion the more I wonder how I ever joined the Emperor's coven."

Eda eyes widened as she let out a loud laugh, "Dear Titan, glad to see your fun side didn't get beaten out of you in the coven. Also Lily has no right to judge you for thinking this is cool, she was the one who rewarded them for spray painting dicks on public property."

Sacha grinned, "Oh my fucking Titan. That is amazing."

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Edric, Emira and Amity laid snuggled together in their mom's blanket nest. The realization of their actions finally dawning on them. They had all seen the notifications sent out on their scrolls, their faces were plastered all over the news. They knew that their lives were about to change, and although they were happy to be rid of the Blights. They knew their loved ones were soon going to be further from them than ever before.

"I fucked up." Edric groaned as he buried his head in his hands.

Emira leaned her head on his shoulder, "You stood up to them when they were going to kill us. Just indirectly. You were just trying to protect us."

Amity cuddled closer in her older brother's arms, "Besides, if what he said was true. We would have had to leave next month anyways. And you just told Alador off. I attacked them."

"Ames, they were hurting us. We did the right thing. We've been here long enough to know who our family is." Emira reassured although even she seemed nervous.

All three of them popped their heads up as the door opened, familiar curly red hair and a grey streak. They relaxed instantly as their mom pulled them in her arms. She kissed their faces softly.

"Oh my babies, did they hurt you?" Lilith asked as she looked them over carefully.

"We're a little banged up but we're okay" Edric smiled leaning into his mom's hug.

"Emira? Amity?" Lilith asked, looking at her daughters. They nodded before clinging tightly in the hug. Lilith blinked back her tears as she purred softly, trying her best to soothe them. They purred back as they held each other, grounding themselves in the moment.

"So what's going to happen next?" Amity said, looking into her mom's two tone eyes.

"Richard's brother is a smuggler. He's helped people escape unjust arrests before. It arrives in a few days. It's a long ride to fairyland, you'll be on the boat for about two weeks. From there one of our associates will pick you up and take you to Briar's Glen where Liam and Molly Stilwell will be waiting for you. You'll be given new identities and paperwork."

"I suppose we're going to have to change our appearance too." Emira smiled wearily, "can't exactly go walking around looking like a missing poster."

Lilith nodded, "We can start with haircuts and dye while you think of names. You can pick whatever color you want."

Edric and Emira turned to each other and smiled, "red like your hair mom."

Amity chuckled slightly as she watched Lilith wiping tears away from her eyes, "I'd like to go back to my brown. But...maybe add some red highlights."

Lilith pulled them back in for a tight hug, "As you wish."
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Eda yawned as she walked into the kitchen for a glass of water. Her eyes immediately caught sight of her sister staring blankly into a cup of tea. She sighed, "Can't sleep?"

"No....too many thoughts running through my mind" Lilith said, drumming her claws against the table. Even in the dim light, Eda could see her sister's ears pinned back.

"I hate it too." Eda laughed humorlessly as she sat down next to her sister, "I love those kids, they're our family."

"I know you do....I just...do we have to send them away. I mean, no one besides a small group knows who any of the Colonels are, let alone those three. We've managed to keep it a secret long enough."

"Yeah cause no one was looking for them and they weren't here all the time. They had school for most of the day and then the afternoons and evenings they did stuff around here and then they went back. They were only ever here all day on weekends" Eda saw the pleading in her sister's eyes and bit her lip, "We've already taken some risks staying this close to Bonesborough and we're an hour and a half away. If the E.A. or the E.C. find our headquarters we're fucked. And now they're going to be searching these woods with a fine toothed comb. And even if we ship them to one of the camps. If they get hurt, and anyone sees their face. It will spread like wildfire. And the camp would be overrun. They won't send some army nitwits either. They'd have the best of the coven at their doorstep. We're already gambling on Brainburg. We don't need more risk."

"I know...I just...hate not seeing them. Even if they stayed at the manor. If anything was wrong at home, they could come here. This...was their safe place."

"I get it." Eda smiled as pain filled her voice, "I never used to understand the saying home is where the heart is. For the longest time, I thought home was where most of your shit was. I mean it wavered a bit when Hooty and King came around. But Luz, that stupid kid, changed my world. She made this family. I felt my heart break sending Viney, Jerbo and Barcus out to that hellscape. Putting Luz out there, nearly killed me. She's my kid. But, we needed her. And at least this way I got to say goodbye then have her run off without me knowing."

"This must sound pretty stupid to you, I mean you sent Luz to war where she could get hurt or killed. My three are going somewhere to keep them safe and I still act like my world is falling apart." Lilith sobbed.

"Lily, they're going to a different country because they're being hunted here. Yeah they'll be safe there but we both know they're not going to be there forever. Honestly your situation is just as bad if not worse. Luz might be out there fighting but if anything happens to her or any of them, they can be transported here or we can see them in a few days. Ed, Em and Ames are having to adjust to a whole other life away from all this, knowing that even if they find peace there, it's temporary and when they come back, things here will be worse. All our situations suck."

"Do you ever wonder if we're doing the right thing?"

"Little bit late to be asking that isn't it?" Eda smirked, "we're leading a war."

"I guess, I spent so long trying to get you to join the Emperor's coven. Thinking it would make up for my mistakes....I get scared that we're just making more."

"We're standing for what we believe in and trying to make a better future for the isles" Eda said as she looked down at her cup, "Does that make up for all the death and carnage? The lives lost on both sides? I don't know. Maybe if we win, but I certainly won't be able to forgive myself for any of it."

"That makes us better than Belos at least. I don't think he cares about any of those kids he sent to die."

"I don't know by how much, kids are still dying on our side too. I don't know if the fact we mourn them makes us that much better. When in the end all our hands are bloody."

Lilith smiled wearily, "This is why most of politics is arguing over whose hands are the cleanest or what's on them. No one's truly clean. Why their hands are that way is the important thing."

"I don't know....I think quite a few horrid people in history thought they were doing the right thing. No one ever thinks they're the bad guy. Fuck. I've been a criminal for all of my adult life but murder was a line I never crossed. Now I've indirectly killed hundreds of people. I'm no fan of Belos and I want him gone...."

"You just wish we didn't have to kill people to do it." Lilith sighed, "We both knew it would come to this. He has too much power and control. Any chance for usurping was blocked when he started paying off the covens. Bloodshed was unavoidable, even if it doesn't make it right."

"All I know is if we manage to win, if you can even call it winning. We need to set up a government that takes care of its people. That listens to them and reflects their beliefs. After everything the war has put them through, it's the least we can offer."

"Well, let's hope we win. So we can even hope to atone for any of this."

Eda grinned as she raised her glass of water, "I'll drink to that."

"To make the country a better place" Lilith said clinking her tea cup against the glass.

"Or die fucking trying." Eda added with a bitter laugh. She gave her sister's shoulder a gentle squeeze, "Try to get some sleep. We have to be up in four hours to move Hooty."

"Did you get any sleep the night before Luz left?"

"Touché, but at least lay in your nest so you can at least make an attempt."

Lilith nodded as she watched her sister disappear down the hall, she stretched making her way back to her room. Her three kids lay snuggled together in her nest. She laid down with them, holding them close for what felt like the last time.
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The town held tight as Hooty began his march towards a new base. There was a ground crew that covered their tracks and the illusionists kept up an invisibility spell and a muffle spell. The troops held tight in their bunks as the whole town shook with each new step.

"The town fucking moves! This is so cool!" A younger Private cheered as they huddled in their bunk. Their tentacle-like hands easily transformed into spikes to hold themselves in place.

"Speak for yourself Kris!" Their bunkmate, a violet haired witch yelped as she held the bars on the sides of the top bunk with a white knuckled grip.

The town rattled again causing a variety of crys from the newer recruits.

"Will you all stop screaming? I'm trying to sleep here." Sergeant Jeffers yawned as he scratched near his goat like horns.

"And some of us are trying to reorganize the schedule!" Corporal Lance grumbled as he once again had to erase a smudge on the timesheet caused by the shaking. Some of the privates snickered at his fruitless efforts. However any laughter was soon replaced with screams as Hooty jumped over a river.

The Sergeant grumbled dejectedly as he realized his sleep wasn't going to come, "Everyone, off the top bunks. Titan. I thought that would be common sense. Lay on the floor and if any of you feel any need to vomit. Aim for the window or the left half of the bunk house."

"Why are you telling them to puke near me?!" The Corporal screeched.

"Cause I really don't feel like cleaning it up."

"You're an ass, sir."

"Heh. Yeah." He grinned as he sat down on one of the chairs, it slid slightly although he hardly seemed bothered by it, "We haven't moved in awhile. Wonder if they actually did kidnap those Blight kids."

"Five snails says Banshee did it." The Corporal said dryly.

"Ohh, I will totally join you on that bet." Sergeant Jeffers grinned as he pulled out a notepad, "Anyone else want in on this?"

"Should we really be placing bets on our commanders?" One of the privates asked from under their bunk, "I heard they get upset and then make you sit in a little tent and talk to the house demon for hours."

"Only bets abouts which one of the Generals is hotter gets you sent to horny jail." Jeffers said casually as he nibbled on the end of his pencil.

"It's called horny jail?" Another private spoke up.

Lance sighed, "yes, the Colonels even made a little cardboard sign for it, although the house demon ate it."

The group of privates were about to ask more questions before Hooty jumped again sending a few rolling on the floor.

The Sergeant and the Corporal just shook their heads, knowing full well the other bunkhouses were probably not much better.
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"Holy shit." Boscha smirked as she stared at Edric, Emira and Amity. "Yall really took one look at your mom's hair and said I want that one."

Edric ran a hand through his strawberry fohawk, "Hey I make this color work thank you very much."

"We have to sport our family colors." Emira smiled her hair now mid length and kept in a loose ponytail.

Willow gently bumped Amity's shoulder, "Good to see you back to yourself Ami."

"Good to be back." Amity said running a hand through her brown locks which were in a pixie cut. The tips were dyed a bright scarlet.

A low groan came from the floor, "I hate moving day" Gus said as he lay sprawled on the floor, a bucket near him.

"Hang in there dude." Boscha smiled, patting his foot.

Willow shook her head, "How did this not bug you the first time?"

"I don't know, I think I was too hopped up on adrenaline to feel nauseous." He said, holding his stomach.

"Here kid" Eda smiled as she tossed the suffering fourteen year old a motion sickness potion.

Gus immediately tilted it back, the shaking of the house caused some to spill on his shirt. He sighed deeply as he began to feel a bit better and flopped back on the floor.

"So how much longer til we've reached our new base of operations?" Amity asked, turning to her mom.

Lilith smiled softly, although exhaustion was evident on her face, "A few more hours. We're planning on setting down near the stomach. There's an abandoned fort our scouts found a few months back. We've had restoration and repairs done. It has plenty of land and the well still has water. Plus we'll actually have walls and fortifications besides just Hooty and protection spells."

"How far away is the port?" Emira asked her fingers pressed against the gem in her sweetheart bracelet.

"Six hours by horse, however, since we still have quite a few griffins resting. They should be able to get you there in three." Lilith said, numbly as she buried her fear in her chest.

"Three hours sitting in the back of a rattling flying caravan doesn't sound terrible." Edric tried his best to smile.

"Oh you're not gonna be sitting." Eda smirked slightly as she watched concern fill her nieces and nephew's eyes.
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Luz growled as she stared at the buzzing crystal ball as she watched Edric, Emira and Amity's faces appeared through the static, the distorted audio chirping out the words kidnapped and missing. She pulled a knife out of her sleeve and flicked it open. She turned her head back to the crystal ball, as she saw Odalia wiping fake tears from her eyes. She felt her blood boil, she pulled back her arm and threw the knife. It flew across the room before sinking deep into the wood of an old chest, right in the middle of an old worn happy face sticker that adorned the front.

"And that is why no one wants to play darts with you." Viney smiled bitterly as she threw back her flask, "although it's nice to see you've picked up a habit that isn't breaking your fingers."

"Turns out old chests and trunks are easier to replace." Luz shot back, yanking the knife out of the chest.

Viney drew a small circle in the air and a tiny x appeared on the side of a wooden crate across the room. Luz nodded as she turned, whipping the knife across the room and hitting the tiny x dead on. She walked over to Viney and grabbed the flask from her hands and tilted it back. The witch grumbled slightly, "Don't drink it all. It's another week til we get another box of supplies."

"I have four bottles in the box under my cot." The human said as she tossed back the flask.

"So four days worth of booze for one of you" Jerbo smiled dryly as he walked into the tent, cloud of blue smoke surrounding his masked face. "A scout dropped off a message personally from Eda and Lilith."

"They flew from the owl town to the outskirts of Brainburg in one night?!" The two other Colonels asked in pure shock.

Jerbo nodded as moved over to them, before carefully breaking the wax seal on the large envelope. They saw three more envelopes inside next to a note from the Clawthrone sisters.

Jerbo, Viney and Luz

By now I'm sure you've seen the news. They will be going into hiding immediately off the boiling isles. Any direct messaging or video calls are now no longer possible. Letters can still be written however given the distance, and our personal messaging system. It will take a while for them to arrive. Rest assured they are safe and will be in good hands. We can't disclose where they are and any letters to them must be hidden in something else. In those envelopes are personal messages from them directly. It will probably be the last one for awhile. We'll be calling you more over the next few weeks to keep you updated. Please talk with one of the healers that specialized in the mental health part of their track. We love you three and know we're doing everything we can for them.

Love, Eda and Lilith

The three felt a mixture of emotions swirling in their gut. Anger at Odalia and Alador. Fear as the coven was getting more and more involved with the army. Anxiety over the looming lack of communication. Yet, there was also relief. Their partners would be safe and at least for a time be spared from this war. For Luz, it was a chance for Amity to be free and to finally be able to put the title of Blight to rest. She was a Clawthrone through and through and this cemented it. Jerbo and Viney felt that for their lovers as well, but there was something else that lingered in their minds. The thought that they might actually be spared from the horrors of war.

The pair exchanged a glance before they looked at Luz, who was already pouring over her letter from Amity. She hadn't been here long. The planning to evacuate and then invade Brainburg had taken most of their time. Luz had been an asset not only in planning but on helping out with the troops and keeping up morale. She hadn't had to fight yet. She hadn't had to kill yet. Jerbo feared for how she would react, knowing how much it weighed on his own soul. It was an inevitability of war, even Viney, who mostly worked on healing, had stepped up to lead armies when needed. Jerbo remembered the look on her face, this woman who is sister in every way but blood, a person who prided herself in being able to help, had killed people. Neither knew why the Emperor felt the need to mentally break his troops, besides pure sadistic pleasure. The war would break them. Jerbo and Viney could tell who was new by the look in their eyes. The ones who had seen the full horrors of war, the ones who had fought and killed. Their eyes had a deep haunted look in them. They feared deeply about how Luz would react and hoped desperately that Edric, Emira and Amity would never have to.
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Goodbyes hurt more and more everyday. This one hurt more than most. Lilith looked at her children. They had changed so much from when she had met them. They had grown from the support and love found in their home. And now they had to leave. She knew they would be in good hands. That whatever life they would have while they're away would be safer than here. Yet it still broke her heart to watch them go.

The sun hadn't risen yet and all the witch's eyes were reflecting the few lights they had on. The cold December air bit at them though their cloaks dulled it's teeth.

Willow pulled Amity into a tight hug, "Bring me some seeds for the garden when you come back."

"Only if you promise to stay alive to receive them." Amity chuckled slightly although fear lingered.

"Ami, I'm not Boscha." Willow grinned before pulling Emira into a hug.

"Yall really need some new jokes." Boscha grumbled half heartedly as hugged Amity, she leaned down and whispered "bring back some mandrake seeds."

Amity rolled her eyes, "Fine, jackass. Stay alive to come back and die doing something stupid in your eighties with my siblings and Luz."

"Pffft eighties" Boscha smirked causing Willow to shoot her a death glare as she pulled Emira in for a hug, "Wanna make some loose plans to rob a bank when we're in our seventies?"

"You know it! I'll be sure to let Luz know when the time comes." Emira wheezed as Amity mouthed Do not.

"Can we rob an ice cream shop instead?" Edric asked before Willow elbowed him in the ribs.

"Dude, You and Em are allergic to milk and Luz is lactose intolerant." She grumbled.

"That's how it's fatal." Boscha grinned.

"And what you die because you developed type two diabetes?" Gus said, shaking his head as gave Amity her goodbye hug.

"I mean I was gonna say I got shot making a break for it while the others were either wheezing or in Luz's case shitting herself. But I mean now that you bring that up. I'd say fifty fifty." Boscha smirked.

"You're just gonna let us wheeze?" Edric said looking heartbroken.

"Bitch, you two were the ones who were dumb enough to eat it in the first place." She laughed pulling him in for a hug.

"Yeah but like I don't wanna die like a punk."

"Please go back to robbing the bank. Honestly if we live long enough to survive all this shit, you can at least die with some dignity." Gus added.

"I'm sorry have you met us?" Emira asked, "what dignity?"

"Pretend, please." Amity said flatly.

"Compromise, we still rob the ice cream place where we each die wheezing, shitting or whatever dumb shit happens to Boscha. But to make it dignified, we wear suits."

"Make sure they're rental." Eda laughed as she pulled her nieces and nephew in for a tight hug, "that way the others are stuck with the bill."

"Auntie please don't encourage them." Amity whined as Eda each gave them a forehead kiss.

"Kiddo, you're dating Luz. You chose this."

Lilith couldn't help but smile despite herself as she looked at her kids, "I love you all so much. I have never been more proud to say you're my children."

"We'll write you as much as we can Mom." Emira reassured as the three of them hugged tightly.

"And Em and I will send pictures of our finished staffs." Amity said snuggling tight.

"And I'll send a picture of mine too. So you can remember which one looks the coolest." Edric laughed as he heard his sisters complain, then felt tears prick his eyes as he felt Lilith chuckle. "I'm going to miss you mom."

Amity and Emira both started to cry as they held their mom tighter.

"I'll miss you too my babies." Lilith sobbed as she kissed their foreheads. "I love you."

"I love you too." All three said through their tears.

Their hug seemed all too brief before they let go. She watched as they climbed into some wooden crates in the back of the caravan. The few things they were bringing with them already in with them. Richard and Brian pulled the straps around to hold the boxes down while in flight before climbing into the front. The griffins took off into the sky, the caravan gliding behide them as the flew towards the small port village.

Amity ran her claws near her new earrings she had made, they were golden and little amethyst otters dangled from the hooks. She huddled in on herself, leaning her head against the wall of the crate, hoping Luz got her gift.
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Luz pressed her lips to the silver necklace, the pendent was a rose quartz rabbit. She carefully placed it around her neck as she looked over the letter.

Dear Luz,

I can't tell you where I'm going. I don't know when I'll be back. But I promise I won't stop writing you. I don't care if it takes them ages to arrive. I love you. If you go to the human realm before you get back. Tell me what your mom thinks from your description of me. Please leave out the parts where I almost got you killed. (I know you won't cause you're a butt) Come back safe and when I see you again I'm going to kiss you til you run out of air. Write to you soon Otter.

Love your Bunny, Amity

P.S. if you do anything stupid, get yourself hurt or killed while I'm away. Just know that if you die I will put glitter in your ashes and if you survive I will make you sleep on the sofa for a year.

Luz chuckled as she shook her head. She carefully placed her letter in with her others in her beat up shoebox in her bag. She smiled as she watches the box dissappear in the bag, the enchantment allowing it to hold a deceptive amount of things while appearing completely empty. She lit herself a cigarette before pulling out her beat up notebook. She stared at the half finished song she had been trying to write for her love. She flipped past it and some letters she wrote for her mom when she reached a page marked tattoo ideas. She grabbed her pencil and went back to her sketch. Blue smoke danced in the air as she took her moment of peace before the mission planned later tonight.
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Richard grinned as he pulled his brother in for a tight hug, "Thanks for the help Felix"

"Ahh, anything for family, besides I always knew being on the wrong side of the law would help me some day." He laughed as his crew loaded in the boxes into the hull.

"Take care of them." Richard whispered making sure the crew didn't hear.

Felix nodded as they let go. He watched his brother fly off with his friend. He breathed a silent pray for his brother's safety and walked back onto the ship.

He smiled at the brown haired girl who climbed down from the crow's nest, "Get a good view sweetie?"

"Seriously dad? In front of the crew?" She scoffed.

"What? I'm excited. You're finally following the family tradition." He said ruffling her hair, "My little Heldi"

"See this is why I didn't want to work with you. You're embarrassing me in front of the crew and our hired guards."

"Personally I think it's very sweet" A round faced dwarf smiled behind his guard helmet.

"Thank you Carl." Felix grinned, with a confidence face that only ever appeared on fathers embarrassing their children without realizing it. He pulled his daughter in for a tight hug and gave her a soft kiss on her forehead. "I'm going to go check on the cargo."

She nodded, slipped a small box in his hand before he disappeared below deck. He made his way to the cargo hold, he stopped at three boxes, each an orange spot that to anyone who look like some spray paint used to mark the wood when it was first cut. He double checked he was alone before he knocked on one of them, "hello in there."

A outline of a door appeared on all three of the boxes as the Clawthrone siblings stepped out with their suitcases. Amity and Emira had long wrapped parcels on their backs while Edric had his finished staff attached to his.

Felix's eyed widen as he saw how young they were. He knew one of them would be around his niece's age but he didn't expect her to be one of the older ones. His Heldi was only in her twenties and the thought of half of the shit these kids went through happening to her would have broke him. He gave a soft smile, "let me show you to your room." He pressed a knot in on one of the boards on the inside wall, it opened a door to reveal a small room filled with old bottles of rum and a mounted Boar's head. They stepped inside. All four of them barely fitting as he shut the door. He grabbed the Boar's tusk and the wall flipped, revealing a small room with six hammocks hanging up on the walls, a small table and chairs. A well worn sofa and a little bookshelf text to a long dresser. And there was a door in the back corner. Felix walked over and opened it revealed a small bathroom with a toilet sink and standing shower. He then opened what looked like another big dresser, the door to it swung open revealing a large metal box. "This is the dumbwaiter. Me or Heldi will lower your food down to you on it. Cups for water are under the bathroom sink. Any questions?"

"Yes, are we going to be stuck in this room for two weeks? Cause I may be forced to kill them." Amity asked, quickly.

Felix chuckled, "Titan no. You'll be able to go above deck. Just not long. Or like that." He gestured vaguely towards them. He pulled the small box out from his pocket and opened it to reveal six cat themed rings. "These have a special enchantment that will allow you to temporarily shift into a cat for three hours. However they take a whole day to recharge. So make sure to time it right when you use them. There's a cat flap below the hammocks that will lead you through a tunnel to behind some of the shipping crates. From there you'll be able to explore the ship to your heart's content. But you can't be seen in your normal form by any one. Only a few people on this ship even know I'm a smuggler and even then they don't know what I smuggle."

The three nodded before Edric immediately shot up his hand. Felix snickered slightly, "yes sir?"

"Are we allowed to annoy the crew with these?" He smiled giddily.

"Yes. Just don't get yourself pitched overboard." Felix laughed, "Alright. I'll leave you three to settle in. Need anything just put it in the dumbwaiter."

The Clawthrone siblings nodded as he left the room. They climbed into their hammocks and relaxed as they swayed with the ship. Exhaustion easily overtook them as the waves lulled them to sleep.
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Barcus bit his lip nervously as he tapped the crystal ball in front of him. He whined slightly to himself before the call finally went through. "I just got my letter from Eda and Lilith and rumors have already flown all over my camps.....are you three okay?"

"I can't speak for the other two. But I'm just glad they're getting away from everything." Viney sighed, "it sucks they also have to be away from their mom. But I mean. At least they're out of that toxic hell hole. They can get a break away from all the chaos."

Barcus nodded, "Titan that sounds nice right now."

Jerbo hummed in agreement, "All I know is that once this war is over, I'm not letting Edric out of my arms."

"Hey, it's not all bad. We're fighting for our rights and freedom for our country. We're trying to make the world a better place." Luz said optimistically only to receive mixed looks from the others.

"Luz, there are going to be somethings you're going to have to do. That no matter the cause, will never fully sit right." Barcus said solemnly.

The human let the smoke blow out from her mouth, "I know.....how....do you handle it?"

Jerbo stared down at his cigarette and the glass of whiskey the two poured him, "I don't. I mean, when everything's happening. You're so focused on keeping everyone and yourself alive that it doesn't hit you until the battle stops. Then you see the blood on your hands. On a good day I only think about it once. On a bad day, I wonder how many signed up cause they thought they were avenging a loved one who was killed in the massacre."

Barcus threw back his flask, "I try to focus on spending time with my troops on days like those. I'll go to our little makeshift bar and sing alone to the bard songs. The company helps. Especially when you're all trying to reconcile with the same thing. It's also nice to focus on the people that made it back."

"I just take solace in the fact I mostly have to make people better." Viney smiled wearily as she took a sip from her glass, "although, sometimes when I can't save someone....I think it's some sort of punishment from the people I killed. Although I think at this point that's more of me blaming myself out of guilt than actually true."

Luz looked down, swirling the ice around in her whiskey, "You think you'll ever be free from that guilt?"

The other three didn't answer as their silence spoke more than words ever could.

Chapter Text

Dear Jerbo,

I miss you. I can't wait til we're back together again. I'm sure you know I'm leaving. And I can't tell you where I'm going. But I'm safe. I know you're probably hoping that we stay there away from everything. But honestly I don't think we're going to get that lucky. Please stay safe and keep Luz and Viney safe for my sisters' sake. I've been thinking of you everyday. And I hope all the stuff about the future we talk about in these letters becomes more than just a fantasy. I'm glad my letters keep you company on your worst days. And when this whole thing is over, we can finally get married. So stay alive so I get to call you my husband.

Love, Edric Clawthrone

P.S. I love you

Jerbo wiped the tears from his eyes as he gave the letter a soft kiss. He folded it carefully and pulled out his cigarette case. He slid out the last letter from Edric and carefully placed it in the battered envelope he kept the rest of his letters in. Then placed the new letter in his case and put it back in his pocket.

He had told Viney and Luz he did it for good luck. That having a little bit of comfort in his pocket reminded him of what he was fighting for. That was really only half of the truth. The main reason he did it was in case he didn't make it back. If he ever got injured severely and knew he was a goner. He could think of Edric one last time before he closed his eyes forever.

He grabbed his helmet, as the cloth mask could show tear tracks, and headed out to plan their infiltration of Brainburg.

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Edric puffed on his cigarette as he laid in his hammock. He growled slightly, shifting positions. He felt useless. All three of them did. They were trained to fight, they helped train others to fight. Their family was out there on the field risking their lives for something they all were a part of.

"Will you two stop chain smoking? At this rate there won't be any air left." Emira grumbled, as she sat on the worn sofa.

Amity looked up from her sketch, her cigarette hanging in her mouth, "I mean there's some ventilation in this room. I don't think we'd be completely out of air."

"That's not the point." Emira huffed, "I'm breathing in so much second hand smoke from you two, I'm basically smoking myself. Also how have you two not run out yet?"

"Willow gave us a carton she had made earlier." Edric said, now laying on his stomach, his hammock rocking back and forth as he pressed his face against the ropes. He used his magic to move a bucket below him to catch the ash from his cigarettes. He smirked slightly to himself as he flicked the end and the light blue ash fell into the bucket down below. "I mean if you're basically smoking. Why not just smoke at this point?"

"Because I care about my lungs unlike you two." She shot back.

"You care about your lungs but not your liver." Amity grinned slightly as she worked on her sketch.

"At least I care about one of my organs. Besides, Viney would kill me if I smoked."

"V also drinks worse than you. Talk about your glass stones." Edric smirked.

Emira sighed deeply as she ran her hand down her face, "It's throwing stones in a glass house Ed."

"You caught my meaning anyways."

Emira just shook her head as she grabbed one of the cat rings from the box, "I'm getting some air. Don't suffocate in the meantime."

"Grab me some more pencils if you can." Amity called as her sister turned into a fluffy orange tabby with a white belly. She easily crawled out of the small tunnel and into the cargo hold.

Emira yawned as she stretched, extending her claws and wiggling her tail unintentionally. She climbed up the stairs to the deck and took in a deep breath of the salty air. She smiled as the sunlight warmed her fur. She rolled over and laid in a sunbeam as the crew walked around her or gave her a gentle scratch on the head. She knew she shouldn't waste the ring. Especially with how long it took to charge but she wanted a bit of time to herself.

Four days stuck in a small room with two other people would make anyone a bit cabin fevery. They had all done their best to ratio their ring usage, so they could each get a little bit of a break each day. She, however, didn't feel like rationing hers anymore. She just needed some time away.

The sunshine and the sea breeze reminded her of her last day with Viney. Their little picnic on the Cliffside. Even digging in the trash slugs with Eda felt nostalgic. She knew why they had to leave but the boiling isles was where her family was. Under any other circumstances she would have been thrilled to visit another country. However the only thing she wanted right now was her home. Her mom, her aunt, Viney, Jerbo, Barcus, Luz, Willow, Gus, Boscha, and maybe her siblings if they stop smoking her out of their temporary living quarters. She missed the stupid card games Eda and Luz always cheated at. She missed the movie nights and the purr piles.

She blinked as she felt stout hands gently scratch her cheek. Instinct took over as she leaned into the touch and stretched making a little mrrup noise as she did.

"Aww aren't you a pretty thing." A gruff voice smiled as it sat down next to her. They were an older witch, clearly an older sailor by their hands. Time had been far from gentle to them if the scars on their face were anything to go by. They dug into their pockets and Emira started to sniff as they tossed her a bit of jerky. She ignored the fact it had been on the floor and ate it quickly. Meat had been rationed throughout the isles and nearly non-existent in the rebellion. Even the meals at Blight manor had become more and more vegetarian as the months moved on. She cast her golden eyes at the kind stranger and smiled as they scratched her cheeks. "I had a pretty cat like you when I was just a wee babe. She treated me like her own kit, she did. Me own mum couldn't get her outta me cradle." They laughed as they lit their pipe, blue smoke puffed out of their noise. This one however smelled different than the ones her siblings smoked, almost mint like that covered the afternotes of tar. The smoke was lighter, more of a sky blue than the bright blue the others used. She relaxed next to the stranger as they shared their melancholy.

"Oy, Seadog. Need your 'elp over 'ere" A younger voice called.

"On my way laddy, just giving our four pawed crew some appreciation." They smiled as they stood, "thank you wee kitty, catch a few mice for me"

Emira slow blinked back at them as they walked over towards the younger deck hand. She stretched again knowing her time on the enchantment was short and made her way back down to the little hidden room below deck.
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"What's the plan Colonel?" One of the captains asked as they approached the war map.

Jerbo looked up from the table, his dark helmet seemed to shimmer in the light as the golden eyes pierced the souls of any who looked in them too long. "Have Gambit and Bones arrived?"

"I'm here." Viney said her own helmet on, "Finishing up some training in the med ward."

"And Gambit?"

"Trying and failing to find their lighter." Viney answered, amusement in her voice.

Jerbo raised an eyebrow, "You stole it, didn't you?"

"You have no proof."

"You're smiling."

"Am I not allowed to smile Ent?" Viney asked, pretending to be offended.

"You are, Bones. But this is the longest you've smiled without a letter in your hands. Which means you're clearly up to something. Now give it back. I'd like to finish this before evening rations."

"Oh no....what will you do without the fifty millionth fire roasted vegetables and potatoes." She said dryly.

"Hey we got a shipment of meat in for our griffins. It's bone broth tonight."

Viney dashed out of the tent at that, "Hey, found your lighter!"

Jerbo shook his head as he heard the two bickering lightly. He couldn't help but chuckle a bit at the annoyed scowl on Luz's face and the slightly prideful look on Viney's.

"How the hell did you manage to pickpocket me?!" Luz grumbled.

"What? You weren't the only one trained by the owl lady."

"Might I remind you two it's bone broth night." Jerbo said and watched as they instantly silenced. He hit the crystal ball and watched as Barcus appeared with an oracle sphere in front of him. "You hear me okay Mystic?"

"Yes, go ahead with your plans. I'll see if you need to tweak them."

Jerbo nodded as he turned back to the map, "We'll take a small team in the caravan into Brainburg. We'll use some invisibility potions to break into the Mayor's office-"

"I'd use a disguise enchantment. You're gonna want to save those invisibility potions for when you have to get the fuck out of there." Barcus said as purple light glowed from behind the golden eyes of the helmet.

"Cool, but what disguise would let us get to the mayor's office without having to deal with ID." Luz asked, finally getting to light her cigarette.

"Well, from the information we gathered. The Colonel leading the E.A. camp is the nephew of the Mayor." One of the Captains spoke up.

"Exploiting nepotism. Sweet." Luz grinned.

"Must be a powerful family for Belos to appoint two members that high. " Viney said, pouring herself a drink.

Jerbo raised his head, "What family are they from?"

"The Maro family sir. " The Captain added, as they flipped through their reports.

"Maro?" Viney snapped to attention, "That's the family that owns the Broken Skull trading company. No wonder. They're one of the richest families on the isles. And surprise surprise They're big Belos supporters."

"Oh this could be fun." Luz grinned, "You wouldn't happen to know which banks the Maros keep their fortune?"

"Focus Gambit. We're trying to win a war not commit grand larceny." Jerbo sighed, "Besides we still have the warships to deal with. They're loaded with troops heading to protect the gates of Brainburg."

"You can't go in with more than one or two people on that. The navel port is filled with guards on high alert. The best thing you could do is try a water breathing enchantment and send a one or two person team to place bombs along the hulls of the boats and along the supports of the docks." Barcus's voice crackled over the speaker.

"I'm a strong swimmer." Luz said quietly.

Jerbo looked over at her, doing his best to keep his voice neutral, "Are you sure Gambit? I can take the navel por-"

"Ent, you're not a good enough swimmer and we've both been trained for stealth missions. We need this city if we're going to keep this rebellion afloat. We can't afford to fuck this up."

"Gambit has a better success rate than you from what I've seen." Barcus said, hoping it would make the tension in Jerbo's shoulders relax a bit.

"Alright, I'll lead a team into the Mayor's office. Gambit, you can place the bombs on the ships. Bones, you're in charge of the camps while we're gone. Keep everyone on their guard. The E.A. might try something bold considering they have more troops and supplies coming ashore." Jerbo sighed, "We'll finish ironing out the details tomorrow morning. Anything else you want to let us know about Mystic?"

Barcus bit his lip from behind his helmet. He wanted to let them know how Luz would react. But he didn't want to say that in front of the troops. He scanned the future as much as he could and while things could go wrong. This was their best bet to evacuate the city and take it for the rebellion. "No, but there is some more private news I wish to talk to you about before the meeting tomorrow."

"Alright, see you at o seven hundred then." Jerbo smiled, "Good luck on your front."

"Thanks Ent." Barcus grinned back as he signed off. He let out a groan as he buried his face in his paws. This wouldn't be an easy task to rest on anyone's soul. He just hoped Luz could at least find some solace that they'll be able to save the civilians. Although he knew deep down that none of them would ever truly recover from the actions they took. Soldiers or not, they were still people. He stood up on shaky legs as images flashed in his brain. He made his way towards the pub, hoping the songs would ground him in place before the worst came.
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Viney and Jerbo watched Luz as she puffed on her cigarette like a chimney. They exchanged a worried glance but said nothing. They knew once Barcus had told them that she had the best odds that she wouldn't back out. Even if she knew part of it would destroy her inside.

"So, what am I putting the bombs in and how's our water breathing enchantment progressing?" The human asked as she shuffled a deck of cards in her hands.

"The blacksmiths are working on it as we speak. Thankfully water breathing necklaces aren't super uncommon at the beach. Although the wetsuit is still a work in progress. With how cold it will be out, we're trying to find a way for it to dry quickly. Otherwise you could risk hypothermia." Viney answered as she glanced at the human that was basically their little sister. "Luz.....it's okay if you don't want to do this..."

"I have to do it. And I'm going to." Luz shot back quickly then slunk down in her chair, "sorry....I didn't mean to snap at you."

"It's okay and I didn't mean you wouldn't do it or we have someone else do it. I mean.....it's okay if you don't want to do it."

"They already outnumber us and if we let those soldiers join the front lines. We're fucked. The explosion should also kick any doubts about evacuating the civilians out of their minds. Hell it might make people flee without the order." Luz sighed as she glanced at the cards in her hands, her shuffling becoming more delicate.

"It will definitely give us an advantage in battle. Doesn't mean you need to be thrilled about it. They might E.A. soldiers but they're still people." Jerbo said wistfully, despite his age, there was something older in his voice. "It hurts to remember that. But that's the thing that keeps us from being monsters like Belos."

"Take solace where you can find it Luz. Spare those whenever you can. Save those whenever you get the chance." Viney said with a deep exhaustion in her voice, "and hope we can keep hell waiting long enough to actually see the world be better."

Luz looked in their eyes, and could see the horror on their faces. There was an emptiness and disgust with themselves that wasn't there before. "How long until the wetsuit is done?"

"We don't know. Maybe a few days." Jerbo answered as he grabbed a cigarette from his case.

"And how long until those boats unload?"

"They unload and join the front lines at the end of the week."

Luz nodded, tilted back her glass of whiskey, "I'm going to go see if I can help them. Maybe one of the glyphs can help. But if it's not done...we're still doing it anyways."

"Luz" Viney said but was cut off by the human.

"My life isn't any more important than any other soldiers. I'm not letting more people get killed than already have to. And we're all the same rank so you can't stop me." She grabbed her cloth mask and pulled it over her face. She smiled at the other two before walking out.

Viney grumbled as she poured herself another drink, "I hate when she has a point and is still doing something stupid."

"When has that ever happened before this?" Jerbo smirked slightly, desperate to lighten the mood.

"Never. It's why I'm pissed." Viney laughed dryly, "She's gonna get herself killed doing that one of these days."

"Please. She's the only human in this realm and she's made it from fourteen to sixteen. She might get hurt but it would take a lot to kill her. She's too stubborn. Takes after Eda in that sense."

"For her sake I hope you're right....cause losing our little sister......I don't know if I could deal with that." Viney said solemnly.

Jerbo gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze, "Me neither."
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Amity walked around the deck of the ship. The ring had made her a calico cat. She smiled slightly to herself as the crew gave her a wide berth whenever she walked by. She had made it clear that she wasn't to be picked up or snuggled. She had clawed quite a few more brave crew members who thought they would be the exception to the rule.

She had expected Felix or Heldi to be annoyed at her about it. However they were surprisingly okay with it. Stating if she didn't want them to bother her, she should make that more than clear.

She jumped up on a barrel and loafed. She stared down at the waves as the boat moved. This was her resting spot when she got out of their room. It reminded her how excited Luz would have been to see another continent. She would have held her in her arms as they felt the spray of the sea. It also reminded her of her mom. The sea always matched her eyes. Yet unlike the water, hers held a warmth. The kind that came from a deep love for her family. Amity found she missed them all more and more as the days went by. She hadn't even made it to shore and they wouldn't for another week if the weather stayed nice. Another ten days if they hit a storm. At this point all she wanted was to be off this stupid boat.

She puffed her fur up as she felt something touch her, she growled ready to shred who ever violated her private thoughts. She turned to see an orange and white cat that looked almost identical to the one Emira turned into. This one however had a bit of orange on their lip as Edric had been too lazy to shave. She settled back down slightly as she felt him snuggle next to her. She normally would have been a bit fed up with this. Their time on the deck was usually spent apart, it was their break from below and from each other. However they could also sense each other's loneliness. They were all scared about the same things and missed the same people. She didn't know if it was the cat form that mellowed her irritation or if she just wanted some company. But she snuggled closer to him and purred softly. Despite everything that was wrong, she felt a little bit of peace.

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Jerbo held his cigarette in his mouth as he led the two people behind him to the Colonels tent. "Gambit. Come here and meet the rest of the team."

Luz stood, and scratched at her cheek through her mask, she smirked a little bit as one of them seemed to shrink as she walked over. "Colonel Gambit, pleased to meet you both directly instead of just seeing your faces in the background of meetings."

"Yes sir, I'm Captain Reyna Smith. It's an honor to meet you. I've heard great things." She smiled, although you could see the nervousness in her face. She had never quite gotten used to talking to Ent as a friend let alone another one of the Colonels.

"I've heard good things about you as well Captain." Luz grinned hoping to relax her slightly. The Captain however only seemed more nervous.

"I'm Major Gregory Richards" the man smiled as he shook her hand.

"So you're Richards. I have heard many many things about you." Luz chuckled, "Glad to know someone has been annoying Ent while I was away."

"Always a pleasure Sir." He laughed.

"Don't encourage him." Jerbo grumbled, "He put money down that I'm one of the Blight runaways."

Luz fell over laughing at how far and how close the Major was to the truth, "Oh my Titan, please show me this betting pool."

"Do not." Jerbo sighed as he rubbed his temples.

Luz let a knowing smile crawl on her face as she pulled his head down and whispered in his ear, "I will give you half~"

Jerbo pinched the bridge of his nose, "Smith and Richards will be coming with us in our infiltration of Brainburg. They'll be pretending to be my entourage when I go to see the Mayor as Colonel Maro. Is there anyone you want to accompany you on your mission?"

"No. Too many people would attract too much attention. Besides it's easier to get away if there's only one person running. Besides you'll need more back up than me. And there's no point putting more people in danger." Luz said as she took a long drag on her smoke.

"Alright. You and Richards will be hidden in the back of the caravan. Smith and I will take the role of coachman. We have the enchantments ready to go. We'll head out tomorrow morning." Jerbo said glancing at the other three, "Any questions?"

"Oh I have one!" Richards smiled knowingly, "although it's a question for Gambit-"

"Do not ask them that question."

"Ent, you don't even know what I'm going to ask them." Richards snickered, watching ears on the mask flick back.

"I know exactly what question you're gonna ask and I beg of you do not ask that to Gambit."

"Well now I have to know." Luz grinned, enjoying her basically older brother getting irritated.

Jerbo threw his hands up defeatedly, "Fine, go ahead."

Richards smirked as he pulled out his betting list, "so here's the first betting list."

Luz nodded, taking it and grabbing a pen from the desk. She carefully wrote down her initials and her bet. She didn't do too high as if she bet too much people would know she had the correct bet. "So what's the big question?"

"Oh the soldiers and I have been running a competition to see which General is hotter. So Eda or Lilith?"

Luz turned to Jerbo who looked like a cat who caught the canary. She then gave him a look that he quickly accessed was her asking how much she was allowed to react to. He wiggled his fingers and she nodded. She turned quickly to the Major who had a shit eating grin on his face. It fell almost immediately as she lifted him up by his collar, her cigarette smoke blew into his face as she breathed. "Say anything about the Generals like that again to anyone and I'll ship you back to the Owl town where you will clean Hooty for three months. Say that anywhere near me again and you'll wish you'd be cleaning Hooty." Richards gulped and nodded quickly, Smith stood a bit shocked at the display. Her eyes immediately looked away from Gambit as they dropped Richards on his feet. "Dismissed." Luz growled slightly which immediately caused the two to leave.

"Thank you for not killing him."

"I wasn't going to kill him. I'd have to murder like half the owl town if I killed every recruit that thought my Ma and my Tia were hot. They just also know that if any of us hear it we make them sit with Hooty for awhile and that usually shuts them up."

"So. If he says anything within ear shot about how Lilith is hotter than Eda or asks anyone about it?"

"Oh I'll punch him in the face and demote him."

"Fine, but don't go below Sergeant. He's actually a good guy. He just has a deep weakness for milfs."

"Why...why would you refer to them as that. I'm gonna get an image." Luz groaned.

"Consider it Karma for enjoying my pain earlier. Besides we wouldn't be family if I didn't get to pick on you." He smirked.

Luz rolled her eyes and gave him a playful shove, "Can you please go back to the constantly worried dad friend who checked on me every two hours when I was hurt."

"Oh what was that thing you taught me to say? Porque no los...dos?"

"I regret teaching you any Spanish."

"You love me." He grinned, gently shoving her back.

Luz snorted slightly, "I guess someone has to."

He chuckled and pulled her in for a hug, "You gonna be okay for tomorrow?" He asked gently.

"Would you be in my shoes?"

"No."

"There's your answer. But they're a threat. We have to do what's best for the people and for the isles."

"Do you believe we can still even achieve that?" He said, as the sorrow crept into his eyes.

Luz gave his shoulder a squeeze, "I have to. Otherwise the blood shed means nothing."

He nodded solemnly, he looked at her for what felt like the last time. After this, she'll be just like the rest of them. Wondering if the cost of making their world a better place isn't just blood, but also part of the souls of those who made it back.
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The morning came before anyone wanted it to. Luz splashed some water on her face as she looked in the mirror. Her eye finally developed some color, it was a light blue which contrasted sharply with her natural hazel eye. She ran her hands along the scar on her face, remembering the event vividly. The cracked mask cut her face when she landed from the blast. She ran with King through the dusty smoke filled air. The smell of charred flesh, blood and sulfur was branded into her brain. She remembered at the time thinking how cruel they were for being willing to not only kill protesters but their own to do it. The anger she felt when they blamed the Nighthawks for planting the explosives.

She put on the wetsuit and grabbed the bag of bombs. She wondered not for the first time, if they were becoming the monsters the media claimed them to be. She put the water breathing necklace on and grabbed the bracelet that would disguise her appearance. She pulled on her mask and went out of her tent to meet the others.

She stared at the long wooden crate that at one point held spears that were being delivered to the guard barracks in Bonesborough. The front had a few holes drilled into the top. Not enough to find your hand through but enough to not suffocate in the three hour trek into the city proper. The box was only slightly taller than them. They reminded her almost of a casket if the funeral homes decided to start upcycling old supply crates. She steeled herself and glanced at Richards who looked just as uncomfortable about being in a box as she did. However when he immediately looked away from her gaze, it was clear the only thing he was more uncomfortable with than being in a box for three hours is being in a box next to her for three hours. She sighed laying down in the crate. She felt herself tense slightly when she felt them lock it up and place her in the back of the caravan. She smirked slightly as she heard a squeak as Richards was placed in his box next to her.

Jerbo and Smith were disguised as broken Skull delivery drivers. He held the paperwork in a folder in the little storage compartment under the seat. He nodded to Smith as she flicked the raines and the horses took off out of camp and towards the well worn road.

Captain Reyna Smith had always been a bit nervous around Ent. It's not because she disliked them. She had been inspired by the Colonels and the regard they held in the rebellion. She had joined shortly after she graduated from St. Edpidrum. Her parents were low ranking members of the plant coven. They often barely scraped by and it wasn't from their lack of skill. The coven system had been dominated by the elites. Rarely without great skill did people outside of a rich family become a high ranking member let alone a leader of a coven. It had been an inspiration when she had heard of Lilith Clawthrone's roots. She had dreamed of being in the emperor's coven. Until she heard Lilith was branded as a traitor for defending her sister. The Massacre only sealed her feelings and left to become a member of the northern front.

The Colonels were legends among the troops. There were many rumors about who they actually were. Some believed they were all powerful demons. Some thought they were wild witches that had been friends with Eda. Some thought there might even be a human amongst them. Although she doubted that.. Others assumed they were Emperor's coven defectors that left with Lilith. Ent was believed to be one of the latter as their signet ring showed their status. Clearly they had to be from a noble family to have one.

Yet the disguise they chose looked like a normal looking young witch. Their hair and eyes were a mahogany brown. They had a scruffy beard and a scar across his nose. The early morning sun reflected off their eyes and she wondered vaguely if this was an illusion at all. Illusions weren't corporeal. They didn't usually reflect light well unless they were done by a master. She panicked as she made eye contact with them and immediately went back to looking at the empty road.

"Something you want to ask Captain?"

She blinked at the soft baritone voice that came out of their throat that seemed so far from the deep rumbling bass voice she was used to from their mask or helmet, "is...this....your real...appearance sir?"

"Disappointed?" They asked, a smirk on their face.

"Surprised....more than anything...."

"What, you pictured some forty something heavily scarred bad ass?"

"I mean. Yes? I mean you don't even look much older than me."

"I'm a few months younger than you actually." They said rather nonchalantly as they fiddled with their signet ring.

"You're eighteen?!"

"I will be next month."

"What....how?" Reyna said then immediately realized who she was talking to, "Oh Titan, I am so sorry sir. I didn't mean to ask you something so personal."

"Relax. It's alright. I get it must be a bit of a shock." They seemed to sense her uneasiness, "Ya want to know how I got my ring?"

"YES.....I mean...yes sir."

"It was a gift from my Fiance, he had it made for me. He gave it to me before I left for the front lines. I also keep his most recent letter in my cigarette case." Their eyes seemed slightly misty as they gently touched the folded letter before they lit a cigarette.

"My partners are in different camps. My girlfriend is on the eastern front. She was transferred over there before you arrived. Our boyfriend is at the owl town. He's a healer. I get how hard it is when they're far away. I miss them everyday."

Ent nodded as they wiped a tear from their eye, "I hope after all this. The three of you have a wonderful life. After all you've been through. You deserve it."

"Thanks Ent. I appreciate that. And I hope the same for you." She smiled, then a thought popped in her head, "so are all the Colonels this young? Is that why you guys try so hard to hide your identity?"

"We hide our identity partly to protect our loved ones. Partly to protect ourselves. But at this point, for the troops. They made so many stories and rumors about us than none of us could ever live up to. The helmet or the mask holds this mystery and these ideal brave leaders who could be anyone. And also so if this whole thing ends, we can move freely from the public eye. For me at least. If I manage to see the end of this. I think I'd prefer to quietly walk away an unknown than to be proclaimed a hero everywhere I go. I certainly have done nothing worthy of their praise. Death and violence for a good cause doesn't make any of it any less terrible. Most of the time it means you killed twenty to avoid killing two hundred."

Reyna sighed as she thought of all her battles, "it never gets any easier. I hate how often I think about their parents. Knowing I'm the reason someone's kid didn't get to come home."

"That is why I made you Captain. A good leader values their troops, protects civilians and doesn't take pleasure in the bloodshed. A reluctant soldier might not listen but I trust them more to make the right decision than one who only knows how to take orders."

Reyna just nodded as they grew closer to the suburbs. They saw the lines of Emperor's Army soldiers in their bright white uniforms. They surrounded the outskirts of the city walls, ready for any attack.

Jerbo bit back a laugh as they made it to the gate and the guards approached.

"Paper or no entry." One said firmly, their eyes hidden behind their helmet.

"Of course." Jerbo smiled standing on the front before pulling the paperwork, "here you go."

The guard glanced at the papers, "Says you should have been back last week."

"We broke a wheel on a pothole on the way back." Jerbo sighed running a hand through his hair, "You wouldn't believe how much of a lashing my boss gave me for it too."

"Heh, I know that one. Welcome back." The guard smiled as they signaled for the gate to be opened.

Jerbo just nodded as the caravan traveled into the city.

Brainburg was one of the oldest cities in the isles, it's architecture varied greatly as the Skull helped keep the weather from destroying some of the older buildings. Even in the daytime parts of the city were always in shadow, which had earned it the name the twilight city. Ancient Towers loomed over crowded old town houses and modern shops. As people bustled about or street vendors shouted out deals.

Jerbo drew a circle in the air which popped off the locks on the boxes in the back. Allowing Luz and Richards a chance to stretch. He smirked as he immediately heard them grumbling. Reyna found an alley to park the caravan and they climbed into the back.

"So what's the plan from here?" Richards asked, clearly trying not to flip shit about seeing one of the Colonel's faces.

"You, Smith and I will sell the horses then use our enchantments to disguise ourselves as Colonel Maro and two foot soldiers. Gambit, you can fly off towards the navel port. Keep your earpiece on. Let us know when the bombs are in place and we'll give to the signal when to set them off. But when you do. Make sure you've already flown away."

"Sounds like a plan." Luz smirked as she pulled out her staff, giving her palismen Loco some chin scratches. They nodded before she took off, pulling her mask off before she was somewhere visible. She had placed an enchantment on her earrings to make it seem like she had normal witch ears so as to not draw too much attention. She grinned as she flew out of one of the holes in the skull. The navel port was in the back of Brainburg. The sun shined brightly on it as it rested near the largest hole in the Skull. The sunlight shined brightly on the white wooden ships, the Emperor's symbol painted on every side. She flew through the broken window of an old abandoned lighthouse.

She landed carefully assessing how stable the stairs were and let out a sigh of relief as she found they were dirty but solid. She set her bag down and carefully tied it tightly to her staff, "Alright Loco, my boy. You stay here. And when I get out of the water. I'll call you over with the stuff and we can get the hell out of here."

The Otter chirped, annoyed he didn't get to go swimming but settled as he saw the worry in his human's eyes.

She pulled out the bag of bombs out of her pack. She wanted to laugh that they had made a fanny pack of holding and filled it with explosives. However, it seemed a bit wrong to laugh when she knew what she had to do with those explosives. She secured the bag to her waist, put the flippers on her feet and began the walk down the stairs.

"Testing testing, Gambit do you copy?"

"I hear you loud and clear Ent." She smiled, happy to not have to be alone with her thoughts for a little bit. "I found an old lighthouse to hide my stuff in. I'm almost to the bottom of the stairs."

"Good. Don't use your bracelet unless you have to surface. The illusion won't hold if you have to touch anything other than water. Also with the water breathing necklace you can just breath normally. It's a little weird at first but you should adapt quickly."

She grinned as she walked along the cold sand. "Aye aye captain."

"I'm a Colonel?"

She sighed, "nevermind. You wouldn't have gotten it anyways." Luz felt the icy water against her feet. She gritted her teeth and wadded in before quickly diving below. She held her breath on instinct but dived deeper. Eventually her lungs screamed for air and she breathed in. She blinked slightly feeling nothing but air in her lungs. She tried a few more breaths, and all were the same. She felt the tension relax slightly in her shoulders as she continued to swim towards the port.

She saw red keels and touched her bracelet before surfacing. She took a big breath as her head popped out of the water and looked down at her reflection to see a seal. She looked back up and saw the four large white ships and the rest of the navel port. She ducked her head down below, tapping the bracelet again. And went to work.
------------------------------------------------------------

Jerbo felt himself cringe as he stared at the voice mimic potion. General accents weren't hard, most of the ingredients were the same and the main difference was the regional drink added to develop the accent. Specific voice mimic potions required...more than that. He was grateful his spies were able to smuggle out the half finished water glass that Colonel Maro had quickly abandoned at their camp's pub. It however didn't make Jerbo any more thrilled to be swallowing someone else's backwash. He closed his eyes and gulped it down. Then tapped the watch on his wrist. He pulled out a hand mirror and smiled. The face that smiled back was older, probably in their mid twenties. Their hair was light blonde and their eyes were blue. His beard had been replaced with a scruffy five o clock shadow. "How do I look?" He asked, his voice sounded gruffer and a bit douchey.

"Very punchable sir." Richards smirked.

"Well then, mission accomplished." Jerbo laughed.

The other two quickly tapped their watches and they looked like any other Emperor's coven guards. They walked behind the Colonel, as they approached the town hall.

It was one of the tallest buildings in Brainburg, it had once been a palace. It had many tall spires and the tallest, was now the mayor's office. The guards at the door saluted immediately at the trio's approach. They nodded vaguely in their direction as they walked in.

What had once been a grand palace entryway was now every minimalist office building lobby. The only thing separating it from a normal office building were the many tapestries of the Emperor's seal all around.

Jerbo walked with his head held high as he approached the check in desk. The secretary seemed more than familiar with E.A. Colonel and undid a button on her blouse. He looked at this woman who was clearly old enough to be his mother and did his best to keep his screaming on the inside.

"Gaius Maro, I didn't expect to see you til tonight." She winked, leaning over her desk.

"I hate to keep you waiting, but I was told to come by and talk to my uncle."

"Oh, playing messenger for your dad again?" She laughed, as her nails clicked on the typewriter.

"Yeah...you know how they are." He smiled.

"Oh don't I, never get a moment's peace. You're the only Maro who knows how to relax me." She smiled, biting her lip and flashing him bedroom eyes.

"Titan help me...." Jerbo whispered, which thankfully only caused her to giggle.

"He says you can head right on up. The elevator is on it's way down now. Try not to miss me too much." She said blowing him a kiss.

Jerbo caught it, doing his best to play the part and moved his hand over his lips. He walked to the elevator and hit the close door button repeatedly as she unwrapped one of the lollipops in the little dish and swirled her tongue around the top. He blanched and turned around as the door closed. He had never been more grateful for a moving elevator in his life. He turned as he saw Richards and Smith snickering at his expense. "Shut up both of you."

"Damn Colonel. Didn't know you liked Milfs." Richards wheezed.

"You think she noticed I wasn't him?" Jerbo asked, desperate for any sort of change of subject.

"Please. I think she thought you turned around to...hide something." Smith grinned.

"On the contrary Captain, I don't think my balls have ever retracted so quickly in my life."

"And that is something I never wanted to picture" Smith said scrunching up her face.

"Well at least I'm not the only one suffering." He sighed. Then steeled his nerves as he saw two Emperor's army guards standing outside Mayor Maro's office door. He marched forwards, glaring them down. He smirked as they crumbled a bit. "You two are dismissed. I brought my own guard to watch the door. My uncle will only be protected by the best."

"Yes Colonel. Right away Colonel." They immediately ran towards the elevator.

Jerbo snarled at them one last time as the elevator door shut. He to his troops, "You two. Watch the door. Make sure no one disturbs us." They nodded as he walked in.

"Gaius, didn't expect to see you til tomorrow. Thought you had to spend your day giving orientation speeches to the new troops?" Mayor Maro smiled.

"I was able to postpone it till tomorrow, thank Titan." Jerbo said quickly.

"Ya know what they say, why do today what you can pay someone else to do tomorrow?" He laughed, "Your no good snake of a father didn't send you to talk to me about how I'm not allowed to make decisions for OUR family company again?"

Jerbo sighed and shook his head, "fraid so." He scanned the walls behind him quickly and saw a picture of Gaius and his uncle at some sort of golf tournament.

The mayor quickly caught his eye, "I see, couldn't wait to hit up the old course one last time before you have to deal with the troops." He grinned as he grabbed a golf club.

"You know it" Jerbo smiled, his hand fiddling with a seed in his pocket.

"I've been practicing for our big match at the driving range. Check out my technique." He stood away from his desk, as he readied his swing. Jerbo's eyes glowed as vines immediately tied up the mayor. "Gaius what is the meaning of this?!"

Jerbo touched the watch on his wrist causing the illusion to fade, revealing the dark owl helmet and it's blank golden eyes, "Evacuate the city. Now."

"You Rebel scum!" He shouted, "Why would I ever listen to filth like you?!"

"Because if you don't." Jerbo snarled as he held him by his collar, "I'll kill you."

"You're bluffing." He snapped, "Besides if you kill me, it will only make my nephew slaughter your kind faster."

Jerbo gagged the mayor with a vine, "Gambit, is everything in place?"

"They're all set." She answered, "I'm flying away as we speak."

Jerbo looked at the man, "I don't think he's going to get the pleasure. Now evacuate the city."

The man mumbled something through his gag and Jerbo moved the vine out of his mouth, "never" he growled and spit in the Colonel's face.

Jerbo sighed, "Gambit. Light it up."
------------TRIGGER WARNING------------------

Luz pressed the button as she landed on top of the lighthouse. She blinked as nothing happened. She was about to press it again when she saw the blast. Even from this far away she could feel the heat on her skin. Then the boom echoed throughout the skull and the only thing she could hear were screams.

She felt her chest get tight as the image of the guard blown in half flashed in her mind. She looked down on the beach below and saw red in the sand as smoke began to fill the air.

She grabbed her staff and flew. The screams only seemed to get louder as she moved away from.the ruins of the docks. She saw people flying on their staffs towards her. She felt herself freeze. They knew what she did. They were coming for her. She closed her eyes only to feel them zoom past her towards one of the holes in the skull. She looked back down and saw parents rushing away with their children. Terror on their faces. She turned around and flew back towards the navel port. She had to see what she had done.
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Jerbo froze as the explosion echoed throughout the skull. He felt his eyes widen as he remembered finding Edric thrown through a window, his bone sticking out of his leg.

"YOU MONSTER!" The man screamed.

Jerbo felt his hands shaking, he looked down at the mayor who looked ready to fight despite the tears running down his face. "Evacuate the city. Now."

"NEVER!" He growled, only for Jerbo to grab him by the throat. His claws resting close enough to his jugular to tell him that he was done playing games.

"Order the Evacuation." Jerbo growled, he took his staff and blasted through the window, he leaned him out the window, "Do it or join your nephew."

The man broke down in tears and Jerbo moved him towards his desk. He signed the Evacuation notice and sent it out. Sirens immediately blared as more and more people flew out of the city. He let the mayor go and turned to walk away.

"I hope you can live with yourself scum. All those people you killed. All the people you terrorized. The Emperor won't take this lying down. He will come for your heads. All of you terrorists."

Jerbo closed his eyes, as the words sunk into him like knives, "Let them come." He said as he walked out the door.
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Luz couldn't see anything past the smoke. She heard screams but she couldn't find anyone in the chaos. Her eyes burned from the heat and the ash. She didn't care. She had to try and save someone. She flew closer to the wreck. She jumped off her staff and dived into the icy water below.

She looked around hoping to see any survivor and came face to face with a mangled corpse that was slowly floating back towards the surface. She watched as red curled away from his body like smoke did in the air.

She breathed in and the smell of blood overwhelmed her senses. She needed to leave now. She couldn't stand to be here. This was too much.

"Gambit"

"Gambit?"

"GAMBIT?!"

Luz popped her head out of the water, and pressed her finger against her ear, "I'm here."

"Oh thank Titan. Where are you? We can get you and leave."

"I'm by the navel port."

"Fuck. Please tell me you didn't get hit by the blast."

"No...I just...thought...I could save someone." She felt herself trembling as she suddenly felt something scoop her out of the water. She looked to see Loco chattering at her in his little otter voice. She leaned down on her staff and petted his head. "I'm sorry." She sobbed to no one as Loco flew her away and towards the others.

"Luz!" Jerbo yelled as he saw her laying down on her staff, he almost rammed into her as he pulled her in his arms, "Sis. Please say something. Please." He begged desperately.

"I just thought I could save one." She sobbed into his chest.

"We always wish we could save them." Jerbo cried as he held her tightly. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have let you. I should have done it. It shouldn't have been so many."

The sirens grew more distant and both soon realized that their staffs had been tied together and were being pulled by Richards and Smith.

Luz and Jerbo breathed heavily as they both felt their chests tighten.

"Hey, hey. You two. Look at me." Richards said, "What is your favorite color?"

"Green." Jerbo said quietly.

"Purple." Luz added.

"Good." Richards smiled, "What is your favorite ice cream flavor?"

"Strawberry." Luz and Jerbo answered together, their breathing starting to even out.

Richards looked down finally seeing empty green fields, "What do you see?"

"The sky" Jerbo said, letting out a deep breath.

"Trees." Luz said, relaxing her grip on Jerbo.

"Okay. Now deep breath in through the mouth." He instructed gently, "and out through the nose." He repeated the action a few more times before he saw them finally seem more grounded.

"sorry." Luz whispered looking down.

Richards just gave her a gentle smile, "Trust me. I wouldn't know what to do if I hadn't been there myself."

"I see the camp ahead." Smith called behind her.

Jerbo and Luz just nodded as they both pulled on their masks. Everything in their chest ached. They did what they needed to do. And while the fight was over for today. A bigger battle rested on the horizon. They would have to lead the charge. They would have to be strong, but for now, they let themselves be weak.

Chapter Text

Edric laid flat on his back on the floor of the small room as the boat rocked violently in the storm. He had tried laying in the hammock but found that the boat caused it to swing aggressively back and forth and it only added to his growing nausea. He was going to go to the bathroom, but as soon as the waves started getting rocky, Emira had immediately taken her place on her knees by the toilet. So he settled for a bucket.

Amity was on the sofa, pressing a pillow against her head. She had made the mistake of getting into one of the bottles of rum that Felix had provided for them. She wasn't usually prone to hangovers, however she also usually didn't drink that heavily in the morning. Her head was throbbing and only seemed to grow worse as the storm carried on.

The boat started to lean back, causing Amity to fall off the sofa and Edric to slide. Emira gripped the toilet for dear life and managed to be the only one to stay in place. However as the boat started to descend back down, all three let out a yelp. They sunk their claws into the floor as the boat shook. The three of them felt their back claws cut through their socks as they tried their best to keep still.

Edric wished desperately to be back on land. He wanted his family, his mom and his boyfriend. He thought of the quiet nights where his mom and aunt would tell them all adventures they had as kids. The pranks Eda pulled and even the times Lilith actually started them. He missed the comedy hour and his bro time with Luz. The times when they would wait for King to fall asleep and dress him in cute doll clothes and he'd do his rage squeak. He missed Jerbo, and their time together. The soft morning cuddles and the tender kisses. Them laughing at nothing at all. Jerbo often wrote about how his actions haunted him, that he sometimes woke up in cold sweats thinking his hands were covered in blood. It's why Edric often wrote to him about what their future could be. They knew that they both wanted some escapism from the world. He just didn't think he would get it literally. They all knew they should feel grateful they could go somewhere safe. Yet they felt they were abandoning their loved ones in the process.

Emira vomited up what felt like her entire digestive tract as the ship began to go up again. Earlier she had longed for her mom's peppermint tea and Viney spooning her gently. After about the fourth time she threw up, she was ready to settle for dry land. She didn't care where so long as the world would just stop moving. She clung tightly to the toilet seat as the boat started down again. She made a mental note that if they all survived this war, they would never ever take a cruise for fun. She didn't care who suggested it but whoever did would feel her wrath.

"Gift for you! Rawk! Gift for you!" A voice squawked from the dumbwaiter door.

Amity, who was the only one who hadn't puked. Although she had come close, crawled over to the dumbwaiter. The boat shook again causing everyone to help. She opened the door and blinked as a large brightly colored parrot flew out and placed a bag down.

"Gifts for you! Gifts for you!" They repeated as they flew around the room.

Amity opened the bag and saw anti nausea potions and some sports drinks. She turned her golden eyes on the bird and smiled as she noticed the interlock on their foot, "Thanks, and tell your witch thank you as well." She called out to the parrot.

"Will do. Rawk. Will do." The parrot repeated before flying back into the dumbwaiter and pulling on the rope to send it back up.

Amity tried to stand but flopped back into the floor, careful not to break anything in the bag. She decided to go back to crawling. It didn't take her too long to reach her sister, who gratefully grabbed a potion and a drink. Amity was about to start heading towards her brother when the ship started to rock and he slid across the small room by the bathroom door. "Ed, here" She said as she handed him the bag.

"Thank Titan." He groaned downing the anti nausea potion.

Amity just nodded as she took one for herself. The storm continued roaring above so they hunkered down in the small bathroom. They barely fit but it was better than rolling around or being swung. They used each other as support so as to not be rattled around and leaned their backs against each other. Exhaustion finally took a hold and they finally slept. Although it was fair from peaceful or undisturbed.

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Emira was the first one to awaken. She didn't feel nauseous but she certainly didn't feel great either. Her head hurt, and felt thirsty. She smiled slightly at the bag the Palismen had brought down for them and carefully grabbed another sports drink. She drank about half before detangling herself from her siblings. They both groaned slightly before sliding down to the floor.

She stretched feeling her back pop slightly, she blinked as she heard squawking from the dumbwaiter. She opened it up and saw the parrot again. "Hey pretty bird." She smiled as she gave it a head pat.

"Gotta note. Gotta note." They repeated hopping around in a little dance.

"I see." She laughed as she saw the note carefully tied to their leg with a soft piece of fabric. She carefully undid it and held the note, "What's your name pretty bird?"

"Heimdall, Heimdall, Heimdall" the parrot cheered, flying around.

She smirked as she turned her eyes to the note.

hey kids,

Hope you got through the storm okay. We didn't get too damaged so hopefully we should make it there at the end of the week. I'll be having Heldi run down to restock the crates you arrived in. My boyfriend will be the one running you to the farm. He's been in contact with the Stilwells so they know when to pick you up. I'll send down some more pencils and breakfast in a bit. Take care of yourselves.

Sincerely, Felix

P.S. Heimdall is a spoiled bird. I feed him off my own plate. If he says he is hungry he is lying. Also he will steal any unattended crackers.

"Snackies?" Heimdall asked hopefully, tilting his head.

Emira gently patted his head, "sorry buddy, dad said no."

"Snackies." He said sadly, nuzzling her cheek gently.

Emira melted slightly at his cuteness and pulled out a little bit of cracker from the cabinet and gave it to the happily dancing bird. "Fine. Only cause you're so cute. Don't tell your dad."

"Won't say a word. Won't say a word." He said in between greedy bites. He finished it happily then gave Emira's cheek a nuzzle before going back up the dumbwaiter.

She laughed lightly then turned as she heard groans. Edric and Amity slowly made their way from the bathroom. Even in the dim light of their tiny cabin it was obvious they weren't feeling much better than her. She frowned as she watched Amity rubbing her temples, clearly either about to or already had a migraine.

Edric noticed it and gave Amity a gentle back rub, "so how many days were added to our cruise from hell?"

"None, they either managed to keep most of the ship intact or the damage was easily fixed. So we should be reaching land in a few more days." Emira smiled warmly watching both of her siblings immediately perk up.

"That is the best news I've heard this entire trip." Amity smiled despite her aching head.

Edric stretched and let out a yawn, "Em, you feel like heading topside for a bit?"

"It has been a few days since we caused some minor annoyances."

Edric grinned at his sister before they took out their rings. Two nearly identical orange and white tabby cats crawled through the little tunnel to cause some mayhem.

They stretched as the sun warmed their fur. However the icy winds quickly took back what the sun gave. The crew were all over the place this morning. Mostly cleaning up the deck or fixing little things. Although they noticed some of the crew setting up some chairs in a big circle.

Normally that would be their first thing to explore but since they hadn't gotten their breakfast yet. They decided to see if they could get a treat in the kitchen.

Grog was an experienced cook, he'd been working in the kitchens on ships his whole life. He was good at what he did and hummed a happy little tune as he worked. His melody was soon joined by a chorus of meows. He smiled to himself, and looked down at his feet to see the two orange tabby cats who gently pawed at his legs. "Hey now, you know the rules." He laughed as they almost seemed to huff as they scurried off towards the pantry. They returned quickly holding a dead mouse each. They placed it at the old orc's feet and then started their singing again. Grog snorted, giving them each a few chin scratches before going towards the fridge. He pulled out some small fish and tossed them to the cats who ate them greedily. He chuckled and went back to making tonight's feast.

Edric and Emira licked what little there was of the fish off their lips. They walked towards the circle of chairs they passed by earlier. They jumped up on a nearby table next to the captain who smiled at them warmly.

"We're having a party later tonight. You two and your sister are more than welcome to come." Felix grinned as he adjusted his Captain's hat.

"You talking to the cats again Captain?" One of the younger deckhands chuckled.

"Laugh all you want. Cats are good luck on supply ships. They keep any mice at bay and happen to be quite good company. Inviting them to any event on a ship is an old old tradition. Suppose to bless it. At Least that's what I've been told."

"I suppose there are weirder things than that." The deckhand nodded as he went back to setting up the placements.

"Besides, all the trouble in the Boiling isles. Any spare luck is always a good thing." Felix sighed, as worry for his family ached in his chest.

"Yeah...." The deckhand ran a hand through their hair, "Part of the reason I joined the crew. My parents were worried I'd join the rebellion and die before I reached seventeen. I told them I wouldn't join a coven and they said I didn't have to but if I didn't, I couldn't live on the isles."

"I've heard that a few times before you from other deckhands. Half leave at the next port and try to find a life for themselves there. The other half stay on the boat til we get back to the isles and leave for the rebellion." Felix said, although sadness creeped into his voice.

"What do you think I should do?" They asked, as they sat down in one of the fold up chairs. The tabby cats immediately climbed into the chair next to them and they petted them softly, "I don't want my parents to have to bury me. But I don't know if I can sit by on the side lines."

Felix scratched at his graying beard, "I get it. My brother and his daughter are fighting for the rebellion. I have friends on both sides of the war. As an older brother and an uncle I want them as far away from the fighting as possible. As a wild witch and someone who was often persecuted for not conforming, I'd want someone to fight for what's right. And as a man who has family members to feed, and bills to pay. I do what I can to get by and help when I can. But I'm old and I have things tying me down. The good part about being young is you don't have much to hold you back. So my question for you, is what do you want to do? Not what your parents want. Not what your friends want, and fucking definitely not whatever the Emperor wants. Do that and even if it ends badly, you can at least know you tried." Felix said, giving them a pat on the back. He stood giving a stretch, "I'm going to check to make sure Heldi has us still on course. You think you can finish the last few bits yourself?"

They nodded as the captain took his leave, they noticed the two cats who almost seemed aware of their conversation. They looked around carefully making sure no one was watching, then they turned to the cats, "I guess the truth is I don't know what I want. I miss my folks and my friends. I don't like Belos or the coven system. But I don't want to hurt anyone.......and I don't want to die. I want the isles to be better. It's my home. My parents are still there. My friends are dying there. I guess, what's the point in fighting if you don't even get to live to see the results? I guess that sounds kind of cowardly. I'm just scared. I'm only seventeen. I'm still a kid and it seems like the only options are grow up fast and die young or grow up slightly slower and feel like you let other people die for you. I just....want to be a kid again. Ya know? I want to feel like I can make mistakes and figure myself out. Is that wrong to want now?"

The cats rubbed against their feet, the one with the little mustache flopped on his back showing his soft white belly. The deckhand bent down and gave them both some pats. They had teased the captain many times for how much he treated the cats like people. Yet, they started to understand a bit more now. The cats rolled around happily and they chuckled at their cuteness. Maybe it wasn't so wrong to want to grow up slower. Maybe it was okay to just want to be happy. Yet it still felt like it came at the cost of other people's misery. They sighed but took some comfort in the fact they wouldn't be back in the Boiling isles for another three months. They had time to make their choice and even then they knew the captain would keep them aboard if they asked to stay. They looked down only to see the cats had gone, they shook their head and went back to work.
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"Hey Mittens, we're back. We brought you a fish from Grog." Emira said as they walked in, she smiled as she saw Amity sketching at the table. Their food rested next to her. "How's your head?"

"Better. How bad is topside after the storm?"

Emira smiled as she flopped down in the chair across from her sister "Not that bad all things considered. Also there's some sort of party going on tonight."

"And I think we could all use a little bit of fun." Edric added ruffling Amity's hair.

Amity grumbled slightly at the ruffling but a smile worked on her face, "we're going to be getting off the boat soon. Of course I want to celebrate."

"Hell yeah! Plus it's probably a lot easier to steal snacks at a party." Edric smirked, throwing his arms around his sisters.

"Is it really stealing if we're invited?" Amity asked.

"Not if you do it Mittens. I think most of the crew would maybe shoo at us but they probably won't go near you." Emira laughed.

"Yeah cause I think random people touching me is weird like a normal person?"

"Just because you don't understand the simple joys of a tummy rub doesn't mean you get to judge us." Edric huffed.

Amity just rolled her eyes as she munched on the fish they brought her. "It's not that I don't understand. It's called being touched by a stranger."

"Well we can't purr pile in the hammocks and there isn't a place on the sofa and the floor is uncomfortable. So we take our love where we can get it."

"Ed...phrasing." Emira groaned.

Edric flicked his ears back, "not like that."

The three snorted as for the first time in over a week they finally felt a bit lighthearted.
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Three cats ran above deck as music blared from the little makeshift stage. Many of the crew danced and sang along with the bard songs. The air smelled of the usual salt but it was mixed with rum, smoked fish, roasts, fruits and cakes. They immediately scampered over to the buffet table , and each made off with a few shrimps and fish. They munched happily from the top of a few barrels as they watched the crew laugh and sing.

The three quickly finished their first round of snacks and went back for more. Emira and Edric grinned as only cats could as they saw an unattended platter of deviled cockatrice eggs. They nimbly ran around the many dishes of food, never placing a paw on any of them, and licked their lips as they reached the plate they wanted. They were both about to dig in when one of the hired guards scooped them both off the table.

"Hey now. No cats on the table." The guard sighed as she plotted them down on the floor. She walked towards Amity to shoo her off only for the disguised witch to turn into an angry hissing ball of rage, her fur on end As she growled in front of the smoked salmon and cream cheese. "You're like six pounds wet fuzzball, now off." She said ubothered as she easily lifted and gently tossed Amity off before she could even bite her.

The three siblings stared indignantly at the witch who removed them from their treats, and did what most cats, teenagers and witches do whenever they are told not to do something. All three jumped back up on the table and made for their snacks. They each shoved as much as they could carry in their mouths before the guard came back to shoo them off. They jumped back on their claimed barrels and ate their reward, stopping to glare at the guard whenever they saw her.

Amity finished her snack first and went to do what she did best.

Heldi was about four drinks strong as she relaxed on the deck chair, her foot bouncing with the rhythm of the music. She puffed on her pipe then coughed as she felt something jump on her chest. She blinked at Amity who mewed at her and tilted her head toward the food. "You can help yourself. You know that." She yawned going back to her nap. Amity, however, only meowed louder and jumped up and down on the sleepy sailor. "Fine. Fine. I'm up." She groaned and followed the cat towards the food. She watched as the youngest of their guests jumped onto the buffet table and carefully walked towards the smoked salmon. A guard huffed walking over to the table.

"Hey cat. Off" She said, teaching for a very puffed up grumpy Amity.

"Oy. Guard." Heldi yelled, smacking their hand, "Food is for the crew. The cats are part of the crew. Leave them be."

"They're gonna step on the food." The guard complained.

"Yeah cause you shoved them and without them there would be rat shit in your food. Now fucking let....let them have their share so I can go back to sleeping."

The guard relented and went back to her table only to find her beer knocked over and her plate on the floor covered in the dripping beer. She glared looking around for the two orange cats only to see them sitting innocently on the barrel across the way. She turned to the dwarf who was sitting next to her, "Carl, did those cats knock over my stuff while I was talking with the first mate?"

The dwarf glanced at the two cute kitties and looked back at his annoyed coworker, "I didn't see a thing." She rolled her eyes and went to get another beer. As soon as she was out of eyesight, he gave the cats a wink before going back to his food.

The three happily laid snuggled together on the barrel. Their stomachs' full of good food as they listened happily to the music.

After a few more bouncing jigs, Felix walked onto the stage which caused everyone to cheer. "Alright, alright. Now we all know why we're here tonight." He laughed drunkenly and the crew roared with applause, "Our dear young Annie will be taking leave of our crew after traveling with us for almost a decade to settle down and marry her partner of six years. And although many of us are sad to see you go. Lass, we couldn't be happier for you." He grinned like a proud dad and gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze. "And to celebrate your upcoming marriage, we'll sing you one of my favorite songs. I don't get to play it often but it's a joy every time I do." He smiled before clearing his throat, "and before anyone says anything. I'm using man in a gender neutral sense. Mostly because person had too many syllables and I'm not creative." He laughed at his own expense before he began clapping and sang.

~All my life I've roamed or roused but now I found a lovely spouse, I'm staying right here
Oh, I won't go sailing anymore, I won't obey the oceans call, I'm staying right here

I'll be a man of the land, I'll be a man of the trees, I'll be a man, wherever my lover will be
I won't be any captains mate, I won't be servant of the seas
'Cause this wonderful person is all I need~

The crew immediately joined along as they whooped and laughed. Annie just shook her head and smiled as some of the crew had shaken awake the drunk and tired Heldi, who clapped along, giving a pleading look to her friend. Annie, being the good friend she was, shrugged and laughed as Heldi flipped her off.

~At 14 I was Cabin boy, to fearsome Captain Buckleroy, I'm staying right here
When I was sick he ordered cat-a-nine, until I said that I felt fine, I'm staying right here

I'll be a man of the land, I'll be a man of the trees, I'll be a man, wherever my lover will be
I won't be any captains mate, I won't be servant of the seas
'Cause this wonderful person is all I need~

Edric, Emira and Amity felt a mixture of emotions weigh heavily in their hearts. This stranger had done nothing to them and yet they felt jealous burn in them. Yet any fire was overwhelmed by a cold sadness. Their loves were miles away, fighting a fight they all started together. The joy in the song only seemed to sting their sore hearts.

~At 20 I manned that crows nest and captain said "I was the best", I'm staying right here
But I nearly lost my eyes to the great fae, looking for broke wing bay, I'm staying right here

I'll be a man of the land, I'll be a man of the trees, I'll be a man, wherever my lover will be
I won't be any captains mate, I won't be servant of the seas
'Cause this wonderful person is all I need

At 25 no man alive could match my skills for gun'en, I'm staying right here
But the Captain he got drunk one night and sank the blasted cannon, I'm staying right here

I'll be a man of the land, I'll be a man of the trees, I'll be a man, wherever my lover will be
I won't be any captains mate, I won't be servant of the seas
'Cause this wonderful person is all I need~

That was what they truly hated the most about the trip. It wasn't the small space they had to share. It wasn't sea sickness. It was the lack of contact from anyone on the isles. They knew it was partly for their protection. Scrolls could be tracked.

It was also a smuggler's ship. They only kept the bare minimum of communications and most only let a certain number of people through. Even then service was spotty on the ocean and the most stable form of messaging was only used for Emergencies.

They were so used to receiving daily updates on the war. The silence scared them more than anything. War was brutal and every day they hoped their loves were safe and the war was closer to ending.

~Captain died at 28 and by then I was his first mate, I'm staying right here
Oh they tried to give me his command but I was hungry for the land, I'm staying right here

I'll be a man of the land, I'll be a man of the trees, I'll be a man, wherever my lover will be
I won't be any captains mate, I won't be servant of the seas
'Cause this wonderful person is all I need

Stepped ashore at Jack stow and made for Chroí by the road, I'm staying right here
Well I fell in love, when, first, I saw, them,
Emerald country's finest gem and now they've got me staying right here
Hoo-hey

I'll be a man of the land, I'll be a man of the trees, I'll be a man, wherever my lover will be
I won't be any captains mate, I won't be servant of the seas
'Cause this wonderful person is all I need

I'll be a man of the land, I'll be a man of the trees, I'll be a man, wherever my lover will be
I won't be any captains mate, I won't be servant of the seas
'Cause this wonderful, person, is, all, I, need~

As the song finished, the singing was replaced with drunken cheers. They started handing the mic around for speeches. The trio, however, found they needed a moment away from the celebration. The walk back to their cabin was shorter than normal due to the crew all being on deck. They slipped through the little tunnel and back into the quiet darkness of their little cabin.

They pulled the rings off and placed then back in their box to charge before they each flopped into their nearest hammock. They tried to focus on the gentle rocking of the ship, hoping it would soothe them at least to sleep.

Yet no sleep came to them. As fear buzzed madly in their skulls. They knew they would get more answers on shore, yet part of them wondered if they'll get any news they'll want to hear. The last they heard the Emperor sent a fleet of ships carrying 7,000 troops in from across the isles. That wasn't including the rest on the port who were all ready to join the 10,000 troops and guards already stationed in and outside Brainburg and it's suburbs. Any battle there was set to be a brutal one.

They had wished earlier to tell the deckhand that they understood. They may have started the rebellion but at the end of the day, they wanted peace. They wanted to be with their lovers again and be silly. However, they all realized there really wasn't a moment where they didn't have any pressure on them. They always had to be careful about what they did and how they acted, their previous last name had made sure of that.

They felt something somewhat ironic, they had wanted desperately to be rid of the name Blight. They had assumed it would be because they got married or disowned. They finally were free of it, they were Clawthrones now. Yet, they were also far away from their real family too. They also found themselves realizing that they had no idea what to do with themselves. They had spent so long training and doing things with the rebellion, along with school and whatever the Blights made them do. Yet now, there was nothing. They had hobbies although their minds always lingered towards their family. War loomed in their minds like a predator in the distance. Even abroad, they weren't free from its wrath.

The three finally were taken by a restless sleep, as the party raged on above them. Obvious to the sadness that lay below.
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Days had passed and they'd be approaching the shore soon. It was the wee hours of the morning. Although below deck it was always dark. They gathered their things and put them back in their bags. Thoroughly checked under and in everywhere to make sure they hadn't forgotten anything. Although it took them less time than they had originally thought. Most of their clothes were locked in a trunk in the basement of the owl house. Too many had been in pictures they had posted on pentagram, so they only had about two week's worth of plain clothes that had been donated to the rebellion.

They had a few more personal items, a few stuffies, they each had their own diaries now, knitted blankets their mom made them before they left. Amity had brought her good witch Azura books, Emira brought a very nice camera she stole, and Edric brought his lute. However those never left their crates.

A knock at the door made all three of them jump, as Heldi walked in to their small hidden room.

"Got everything? Cause we're going to be on the shore in a few hours and the crew is going to be coming down to get stuff ready to unload." She asked, as she started to grab their suitcases.

"Yeah we checked everything top to bottom. That's all our stuff that we brought from the crates." Emira said as her two other siblings were too tired to speak much.

"Good, come along then. Quickly." She called over her shoulder as she led them over to the crates. They opened the hidden doors and went inside and put their suitcases down. They came back out and smiled as they saw Felix next to his daughter.

"It has been wonderful having you three on board. Sorry we couldn't have met under better circumstances." Felix offered a tired smile.

"We appreciate you helping us get out. I know that's a lot of risk." Emira said, rubbing the back of her neck.

"Nonsense. Anything for family. Besides, I'm already wanted in a few different places. If I get lucky, maybe I'll be as famous as the owl lady."

"Please, you're hardly bold enough to be that famous." Heldi smirked as her dad pouted.

"Let a man dream."

"No."

He chuckled, giving her a soft kiss on the head which caused her to grumble and only made him laugh more. "Well. You three better head inside. But before you do. I have these." He pulled out three potion bottles, "my own special sleeping brew. Get a good sound sleep with no snores. Take this when you get back in the crate and it will definitely make the trip seem less long and tedious."

They each took one and placed it in their pocket, Edric and Amity who were already tired took that as their que to head inside their designated boxes. Emira was about to join them before Felix stopped her. She looked at him nervously.

"Relax, I just wanted to say.....My brother and I both ended up single fathers and so we raised our girls together in our old family home. Viney is basically a second daughter to me, and I love her a lot. And I just wanted to say I'm happy that she found someone like you. I have always been of the opinion that my girls deserved the world. It's rare to find a partner that agrees but I'm glad she did. Welcome to the family." He smiled then let out an oof as Emira pulled him into a tight hug, tears rolling down her face. "Oh don't cry. I'm gonna cry." He said, tears already in his eyes, he gave her a soft kiss on the forehead and thumbed away her tears. "Take care of yourself. I'll be keeping all three of you posted with letters from the rebellion."

"Thank you." She said, blinking back tears.

"Of course."

"Of course, Rawk, Of course." Heimdall, his Palismen added.

They both laughed before Emira made her way into the crate. She thought of Viney as she popped the cork on the potion. She cringed immediately at the strong horrid smell and held her nose as she drank it. However the smell was still strong enough to clear her sinuses even with her holding her nostrils shut. Her last thought was why anyone would mix menthol and horseradish before she suddenly flopped on the blanket covered floor and fell asleep.
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Felix stood at the wheel of his ship, the wood felt familiar and comfortable in his hands. As the shore grew closer and closer, he felt a giddy smile bloom on his face. Then the sound of barks caused him to immediately look for it's source. He felt absolute delight fill his chest as he saw the large bull seal swimming alongside the ship. He berthed the ship with ease, and ran down towards the docks like a little kid.

The seal flopped onto the docks barking happily before he began to morph. A large handsome man stood in its place, as he held his burly arms out wide for his love.

Felix threw himself in them as his lover spun him around as if he weighed nothing at all. "I missed you." He smiled giving his love a soft kiss.

"I missed you too." He laughed into their kiss giving his boyfriend a tight squeeze. "Come with me when I drop off the delivery. I missed having you by my side."

"I don't know. There's a lot of stuff I need to do on the ship. It's still Heldi's first time as my second." Felix sighed in worried father.

"Dad, I've worked on ships all my life. And just because it's my first time working with you. Doesn't mean it's my first time doing any of this." Heldi grumbled, "I'm twenty five. I can handle it."

"I don't know..."

"Felix, my love. You've raised a fine young lass who knows her way around a ship better than most sailors. She'll be fine. Besides, ya have to let your baby bird fly on her own. " The selkie smiled, giving him a gentle squeeze.

"Alright, Sean's right. Just keep your earpiece on. Please."

"Of course old man." Heldi reassured as she went back on the ship.

Sean let his boyfriend go so he could move his caravan. Felix took the opportunity to watch him walk away, only to be caught staring by his daughter. His face turned a couple different shades of red but he did his best to laugh it off.

He watched nervously as the three large crates were loaded onto the six horse caravan. Once they were on, he helped Sean tie them down. Then walked with him to the front by the reigns. The horses sprang to life as they started their long journey to Briar's Glen.
------------------------------------------------------------

"Any news from the rebellion?" Felix asked as soon as they made it far enough away from the more populated roads.

"Aye, seems they managed to get Brainburg to evacuate. They also blew the navel port to high hell. Destroyed an entire fleet. And killed Colonel Maro." Sean said, as he gave his love's hand a squeeze.

"That's good. If they manage to take Brainburg that will mean they'll be able to keep themselves afloat. And I'll have a safe port when I return them."

"I hope the wee ones have some fun while they're here. After all the things Richard said they went through." Sean sighed, as he felt his heart ache for the teens.

"I know. I don't understand how anyone could go through all the trouble to have three kids and treat them like that. You're supposed to let them grow to be themselves not force them to be what you want them to be. They're people not tools." Felix growled slightly, as the thought of anyone doing that to them filled him with rage.

Sean pecked his cheek, "Easy love, those bastards will get their what for. From what I've heard their real mum isn't one you want to fuck around with."

"Lilith, Titan no. She was the top of the Emperor's coven before she left. She and her sister are incredibly powerful. Even with just paper glyphs."

"That's good then. How's your family doing?"

"Viney is on the front lines again. I mean she's a healer but I know she had to lead battles before. And Richard is moving again. The southern front needs more griffins to help navigate the rocky terrain. It's not as violent as the northern front but it still scares me." Felix sighed as he rubbed his temples.

"You know....I wouldn't be mad at you if you went to fight."

"And what good would that do? I'm barely making ends meet to keep our house, on top of the crew and ship repairs. I can't protect them. I might be a wild witch on the isles but I'm not powerful. Only thing I could do on land is another one to be burned on the pyres."

"Oh come now love, You'd make one hell of an admiral. Now that they have a port. They could use someone with your skills."

"I can steer a boat. But I sail a cargo ship not some fancy war machine. I can fend off pirates and raiders fine but that's different from full scale naval combat.....and...and I'm scared. I've been a petty thief, smuggler, fisher and a sailor all my life. Those things had risks. Most of what I did wasn't always on the up and up but it wouldn't get me killed. Sure I've been threatened but ya know one or two people I can fight off. An army of soldiers? That's out of my league. Besides there's a difference between fending a ship off and sailing towards a fleet of armed ships with a fifty fifty chance of coming back alive. And I'm old."

"Hey bugger off with that old shite. I'm older than you. And it's okay to be scared. At the end of the day you should do what you think is right." Sean smiled, placing a peck on his cheek.

"Don't say that or I might have to join." Felix grumbled, he caught the smirking glance on his boyfriend's face, "Oh don't give me that face. I said I didn't wanna die, not that rebellion is wrong. I'm fifty five years old. Little long in the tooth for military life."

"Would you rather Heldi join?"

"Fuck no. Don't even joke-" He watched as Sean's face fell, "Titan no. Why. She's gonna get herself killed!"

"She's tired of running from the law. She wants her home to be a better place for herself and others." Sean gave his love's hand a gentle squeeze, "I know it's scary, but it's a noble cause."

"It's not the cause I disagree with. My dad left when we were kids. My mom got sick so I had to take care of the house. When I dropped out of hexside, it wasn't some fuck the system shit. I needed a job to feed my family. The fisherman that hired me didn't ask if I was in a coven. After awhile....I just forgot about it. I spent so long caring for my brother, and the girls. If anything happened to them....I don't know what I would do with myself. I'm supportive cause I love them and I agree with their cause. I just don't want them to get hurt. I can't protect Richard or Viney. But I thought that I could at least keep my Heldi safe."

"My love, she's an adult. Unfortunately you can't keep her safe forever. But I know she wanted to help spearhead the navy for the rebellion and you may be a bit of a dead fish on land. However no witch is better on the sea than my sailor boy." Sean smiled.

"Will you be okay not seeing me for awhile." Felix asked, rubbing the back of his head.

"I don't see what for. My family is out fighting. They could use a selkie on their side. Besides I have recruited quite a few Boiling isles refugees who would be fine running letters from here and the isles."

"You know we can trust them?" Felix asked, nervously.

"Aye, they're fae folk like me. They take to authority like cats to a shower. Plus I made them swear an everlasting oath." Sean laughed as he pulled Felix in for a soft kiss, "And this way if anything happens. We can be together."

"I love you."

"I love you too."
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"They're late. Oh I hope the wee dears didn't get hurt on the travel." Molly Stilwell, said as she sat in her little chair by the window, as she worked on her crocheting.

"They're not late dovey. They're just not here yet. Besides they're being brought here by a selkie. No one would be daft enough to fight him." Liam reassured his wife, and gave her a soft kiss.

"Aye" She said, "But selkies aren't as powerful this far inland. You know that."

"The man is the size of a fucking bear dovey, he doesn't need to be that powerful."

"Size isn't everything me love."

"That is not what you said last night" he grinned and only laughed harder as she threw a pillow at him.

"Behave yourself, we'll be having wee ones in the house again."

"Dovey, they're teenagers. And I'm not the one who's been feuding with Delores down the way." He smirked, as she rolled her eyes at him.

"Did you hear what her David said about our Maggie? It was shameful. And then the things she said about our Jerbo. Well I couldn't let that stand."

"Mmmhmm." He said as he rested his head on her shoulder, looking over her work, "And it wasn't because she beat you at your last game of cards."

"Fairy's fight isn't just a card game. It's an ancient tradition amongst fae folk. And she didn't beat me. She cheated." Molly said firmly, "and wipe that smirk off your face."

"Can't help it. You're quite bonnie when you're mad." He smiled before giving her a soft kiss.

She shook her head but smiled, "cheeky bugger."

Liam was about to retort when he caught sight of a caravan pulling in through the window. "Aye, looks like the youngin delivery service has arrived."

"Out the way, I have to meet our new grandkids." She cheered, almost shoving him out of the way of the door as she threw on her warmest cloak.

"Oy, wait for me! They're my grandkids too!" He laughed as he tugged on his boots and followed after her.

"Come misses you can do it!" Sean called, laughing as the woman charged up through the partly frozen grass.

"Be smart again Sean, and I'll have Liam throw the fish I was saving you back in the river." She huffed half heartedly, "now show me the wee ones!"

"Aye, aye, give me a second." He laughed as he moved towards the back, he knocked loudly on the crates, "rise n shine"

A chorus of groans were heard as lights appeared and three very sleepy heads popped out of the crates.

"Are we here?" Edric asked, certain he slept so hard he woke up in a different dimension.

"Aye, come out. It's safe." Sean smiled as the three groggily walked out of their hiding spots, all their stuff in tow. They blinked as the porch light shined into their eyes.

"Oh by the great fae, aren't you just the cutest wee things." Molly cooed, pinching their cheeks before any of them woke up enough to resist. She looked over at Felix and Sean who chuckled at the teens, "Oy, one of you check the back and make sure they have all their things. And the other bring in their bags. These wee ones need to go to bed and get some proper rest."

"Real beds? Yay." Emira cheered sleepily.

"Aye, proper beds. And proper food in the morning." Liam reassured as he patted the girl's back gently, he chuckled as he looked them over, "Our Jerbo does take after his old granda. He found himself a wee brownie lad. And in the Boiling isles no less."

Molly chuckled, "They're not brownies love."

"Elves? Hobbits?" He scratched his beard, "can't be dwarves. Not burly enough."

"They're witches. Just short ones." Felix reassured.

"Nonsense. Look at the hair. Tiny wee things with red hair are fae."

"My hair is brown. Just highhhlughts" Amity yawned, "and their hair is green."

"Green? Blazes. How will we ever find Jerbo's wee ones if they get outside?" Liam asked looking at his wife who wheezed with laughter.

"Not to worry, we just call out that the biscuits are done." She patted his arm, before helping the drowsy teens towards the house.

None of them were quite aware of what was going on. The sleep potion that they took had allowed them to avoid the mind-numbing boredom of a seven hour carriage ride, however it was strong enough that even after having slept for eight hours, they could easily go for another ten. It also had the added benefit of preventing any snoring, as the smell of it was strong enough that their noses still stung a little even after all this time. They felt their bones relax as they entered the little cottage. The sweet lady quickly ushered them into bed which after two weeks sleeping on rope hammocks or a worn couch felt like heaven. They mumbled thank yous as they fell back into sleep.

Chapter Text

Amity blinked as she woke to the sound of a cockatrice crowing loudly. She grumbled pulling the pillow over her head. It was too early to deal with sea chickens anyways. As she snuggled deeper into the soft mattress, her claws kneading a blanket that felt like some sort of fur. She was finally actually enjoying their trip, now that the boat finally stopped its nauseating rocking. Then she remembered vaguely that the boat didn't have beds, nor would a boat ever truly be still. And even more so, it didn't have chickens.

The young witch shot up bolt right, and growled on instinct. She looked around the room, and the growling stopped, as she saw the worn old flowery wallpaper. Most of it was covered in either family photos of various people, embroidery of odd knots and runes and lots of artwork. Artwork was used in the loosest sense possible as most looked like the drawings some of the kids she read too would give her. Although given that a few had clear signs of sun damage and aging. She guessed that these were fair from recent. There were also little statues of hummingbirds, woodpeckers and butterflies. As well as quite a few stuffies that despite being very old looked to be incredibly well kept.

She quickly came to the conclusion that either she was kidnapped by a very very old member of the Emperor's coven or she had arrived at their destination. She stretched feeling her neck pop then blinked as she realized she elbowed something off the bed. She reached over to grab it and her ears flicked back.

One of the few good things she had kept from her childhood and more importantly one of the few personal items she took with her was her beloved Otabin stuffie. Willow had given it to her on her fifth birthday and it had remained a cherished possession. She vaguely remembered placing it in her suitcase when she packed up her things. Her suitcase, however, was nowhere to be found.

She stood up, walked to the old wardrobe, pulling open the door and found her clothes on the hangers. She checked the drawer below to find her socks, bras and underwear all neatly folded and put away. She turned to the bedside table to find a glass of water and a little jewelry box. She opened it to see her otter earrings happily nestled in it. She wondered vaguely how dead tired she had to be to not feel someone touching near her ears then caught a look of herself in the antique mirror. She was wearing a soft flannel nightgown with little stars that were clearly hand stitched on. She also never remembered seeing it before this morning.

She left the room, determined to find her siblings. However the smell of food, tea and tobacco that wafted from downstairs almost tempted her to abandon her search. She opened the door to the room next to hers and saw the bathroom. She made a mental note to remember that before she moved to the next closed door.

This one clearly used to be someone's room as the walls were covered in posters. Planters hung from hooks in the ceiling and held quite a variety of plants Amity didn't recognize. She did however recognize her sister peacefully sleeping in the bed. She looked at the nightstand to see a glass of water and a little jewelry box next to her as well. She felt a small wave of relief wash through her as she carefully shut the door.

The next room she entered also appeared to be someone's bedroom. Although there were less posters on the walls. Instead various model ships adorned the walls and hung from the ceiling. She also spotted a large bookshelf that as she scanned it mostly contained books about oracle magic, ships and pirate adventure stories. She also noticed her brother sprawled out on the large bed, as well as the glass of water and jewelry box on the end table. She wondered vaguely if they also had on pajamas they didn't recognize but both of them were too burritoed for her to see.

She left the room and her ear twitched as she heard voices from downstairs. She carefully made her way down the staircase. The voices soon became a bit clearer, although their lilting accent made it hard to tell what language they were speaking. She perked her ears as she reached the bottom of the steps, and stood against the wall.

"I think I ought go check on them." A soft and warm motherly voice said.

"Ye check on them three times already, dovey. They're out like a light, they are. Let them rest." A gruff baritone voice laughed. Amity blinked as the laugh sounded familiar, but off. She couldn't quite place it but she swore she heard it before.

"I know. I just want to meet them. I've heard so much about them from our Maggie, and you know she always had good taste. Oh when I saw how smitten her and Esmerelda were for each other. I knew they'd be married." The soft voice reminisced happily.

The gruff voice chuckled, "As I remember it, Esmerelda was the only girlfriend our Maggie had that you liked."

"Exactly, that's how I knew."

Amity couldn't help but giggle at that.

"Aye, I think you may get your chance to fuss at them." The gruff voice smiled.

"Oooo" the soft voice grinned, and the sound of buzzing was heard as the older woman immediately moved towards the steps.

Amity blinked a bit at the woman who appeared to be hovering in front of her. She was a round portly woman with a soft round wrinkled face that looked like it belonged on a box of cookies. She wore a plaid flannel skirt with a white blouse and a knitted wool shawl. Her hair was grey but there were a few hints of red still left and her eyes were a deep emerald green. As the light shined on her from the window the young witch noticed the two large translucent wings that fluttered happily behind her. "I didn't know fairies could be so large" Amity said without thinking then immediately realized how it sounded, "I didn't mean it like that! I meant people sized."

The old fae just laughed, "Aye dear, most real fairies are people sized. The ones you have in the isles are what we would call pixies. They're usually a nasty sort. With fae, they're only nasty half the time."

"Cool. I was worried you'd try and eat me."

"Not to worry lass, the only one she eats is me." An old man laughed heartily. Amity blinked a bit when she saw him, as he looked incredibly similar to his grandson. Jerbo, after all the training had become a tall wall of muscle. His grandfather looked like he would have been similar in his younger days but now he was a slightly shorter do to age. The old man also had a rather large belly added with his round smiling face and dark brown eyes made him look rather jolly.

"Liam Fergus Stilwell, I canna take you anywhere!" She scolded, smacking him lightly upside the head.

"Aye, you love me anyway Dovey." He smiled giving her a soft kiss.

"Ignore him dear, I'm Molly Morgana Stilwell" She said as her wings disappeared, and she carefully landed on her feet.

"Pleased to meet you Mrs. Stilwell"

"Ohh Avalon no dearie, people call me Nanny." She grinned happily giving Amity's cheek a pinch.

"And you can call me Grandda, while you're here you're family."

"And what might your name be Flower?" Nanny asked gently.

"Amity, Amity Blight....shit....habit." She sighed, before offering her hand. The old fae took it, and a glow formed around the young witch. The energy flew back into a buzzing glow. The teen jumped back from the hand shake, as she growled. Her claws and teeth bared.

"Easy, easy sweetie. I'm not going to hurt you. Fae can take names you see. If you and your siblings are to hide here, you mustn't slip up on your names. It doesn't affect anyone who knows you and it won't harm you at all." She pulled out a small jar from her skirt pocket, it was a light periwinkle color. Her green eyes glowed a soft rose pink as she infused her magic in it. She held the potion up to the light and smiled to herself. She marked it with an A and the date. She floated over a box from the shelf and carefully placed it in the soft cloth inside. She smiled softly as she walked back to the nervous looking witch. She carefully handed the girl the fake ID card, she gestured vaguely for her to read it.

"Ameila Hawthorne" She said, cautiously as a different light swirled through her. It made her relax immediately, she almost felt lighter. As if some great weight was lifted off her shoulders. She smiled at the old woman only to see her blinking back tears. "Are you alright Nanny?"

"Oh I'm fine dear, just a little side effect of old age. Nothing for you to worry about." She reassured sweetly.

Ameila didn't fully believe her, she knew her mom well enough to know when an adult was hiding their own pain. However she felt a bit awkward as she didn't feel like it was in her place to pry.

Grandda seemed to sense the uncomfortable silence building, and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder, "Why don't you go sit at the table and help yourself to breakfast."

She nodded her head, worry clear in her eyes as she went into the other room.

Liam sighed as he placed his hand on his wife's back, "That bad?"

Molly only nodded as she wiped another tear from her eyes, "Part of it hurt her. Like an infection in her heart. Chewing on her soul like a leech. It's been a time since I have had to do something that intense."

"You alright?"

"Yes, love. I'll be fine. Her.....well; we'll need to keep an eye on the lot of them." She said, giving him a peck on the cheek before they moved back into the kitchen.

He bit his lip, he knew fussing at her more about it would be fruitless, especially with a guest nearby. So decided he would ask more later.

All three perked up when they heard grumbles coming from upstairs. Nanny's face shined brightly at the thought of meeting the other two, while Liam felt nervous. He knew she was taking their names for their own protection but he hated the emotional toll it took on her especially if part of the name holds painful memories. Yet he knew she would do a hundred times over if it meant helping someone get away from a bad situation. It's one of the many things he loved about her and also partly why his hair gray.

He watched her take their names as tears streamed down her face, as she promised them that she was fine. He pulled her in for a tight embrace as he purred softly. He smiled as he felt the tension start to leave her shoulders. She always loved his purrs. "You gonna be able to make it through breakfast, Dovey?" He asked, trying and failing to keep his tone playful.

"Aye." She said letting out a deep breath. She leaned closer as to not have the teens hear. "If I ever see those Blight bastards who dare call themselves those children's parents, I will unleash the wrath of the fae on them."

Liam nodded quickly, his wife often bickered with people. Especially her family, they often teased and needled each other about dumb shit they did or said. Even a few pranks every now and then were usually done in good fun. However, most fae, and his wife especially, hardly ever said real true threats. Faes were tricksters but usually they weren't more than mildly irritating. But there was an old saying, as old as the bones of the great fae that made up the emerald country itself, faes don't make threats. They make promises.

He also knew after being married to Molly for over fifty years that if she was anywhere close to this angry, he, and almost the entirety of Briar's Glen would be ready to help. Cause if she was ever this enraged, they more than earned her ire.
------------------------------------------------------------

Gus sighed as they all gathered around the crystal ball, the video was fuzzy but the sound was fine aside from some crackling. He buried his head in his hands as he listened.

The others weren't much better. Willow and Boscha were holding each other's hands tightly. Willow had her eyes closed while Boscha smoked a cigarette. Lilith and Eda stared at their tea, realizing it had gone cold. King did his best to lighten the mood but even he realized it was pointless.

"And....now onto the latest updates on the Nighthawk attack on Brainburg. Just last week, the Boiling isles' experienced one of the most deadly military attacks in our recent history. A fleet of 7 ships in total, and the entirety of the naval port were destroyed by dragon's breath bombs. Of the 17,000 soldiers that were on base or aboard one of the ships, 1424 survived initially, however over a hundred have succumbed to their wounds. Many more are fighting for their lives. So far none have been deemed fit to return and most are not expected to. As you know the Emperor has been resistant to calling all out war as it could endanger the lives of his citizens. But this Morning, Emperor Belos signed an accord declaring war against the Nighthawk Rebellion. Anyone seen or found to be working with them will be considered traitors. In related news, the search for the missing Blight children has reached its two week mark. While their mother prays they're being kept for ransom, the guards are fearing the worst. We will be hearing a word from Alador and Odalia Blight tomorrow night at eight. I'm Olivia Osborne signing off." The crystal ball said before switching to a broom commercial, Lilith switched it off.

"It's official." The eldest Clawthrone sister said looking down, "We're at war."

"Please, it's been official for awhile. He was just trying to see if he could get us under control before he actually had to declare it." Eda growled, she turned to look at the last three owlets in the nest. She drank a sip of her once warm tea, "How close are you to finishing your staffs?"

"I'm just waiting on the resin to set." Willow said, her eyes looking down at the table.

"My stain needs another ten hours to seal correctly." Boscha added, taking a long drag, "What's the news on Luz and Jerbo?"

"They said they're fine again. Bastards. I know they're torn up about it but I can't force them to talk." Gus said as he clenched his hands.

"I've talked to Viney, they are talking to Major Thompson, he specialized in both physical and mental healing back when he worked for the E.C." Lilith smiled, trying desperately to make any of them feel better. However it was obvious it was forced. She fiddled with the letter in her hand, "On a brighter note, Edric, Emira and Amity have arrived safely in Tír na sióg, Richard was given a message this morning."

"Fuck." Eda yelled as she slammed her fist on the table, "that means they're probably just finding out about the attack yesterday. "

"How could they not find out until now?!" Lilith asked, looking concerned.

"Titan, you are too used to working on the wrong side of the law. It's a smuggler's ship, you think they're going to have a crystal ball and web service in their hidden safe room?"

"Fair enough." Lilith sighed at her sister.

Willow and Boscha exchanged a look, they both knew none of the Clawthrone siblings would take that news easily, especially not Amity. They also knew the only probably taking the attack worse than Amity is Luz.

Gus looked like he wanted to yell. He had been growing more and more frustrated with his role. They were in war, his friends were fighting. Risking their lives. He was tired of being sidelined. He opened his mouth to speak.

"No." Eda and Lilith said before he even got a word out.

"You didn't know what I was going to say." He grumbled.

"Did it have anything to do with fighting in the front lines?" Eda asked, sharply.

Gus growled slightly, knowing he was caught. He drummed his claws against the table. Boscha and Willow both gave him a shoulder squeeze before they went out of the tent for some air. They slid on their masks as they each pulled out a cigarette.

"Well Flower, looks like this is gonna be our last night together." Boscha said, pulling her girlfriend closer for a soft kiss. "Well, until I'm dust in a coffee can." She laughed, trying to lighten the mood.

Willow pulled her into a tight embrace, "Please come back safe, or at least alive."

"I'll do my best. And when we get back. We'll go on a date. Not just playing chess outside the owl house. Or training together. Or some picnic. We'll go to a real restaurant, go to a theater and have a good time. If you still wanna be dumb teenagers with me..."

"Of course, cuddlepuff." Willow smiled, as she used her plant magic so she could reach Boscha for a kiss. "I love you."

"I love you too, my flower queen."

Willow leaned against her girlfriend's side, "Besides on a dinner date you won't be all pouty cause you lost at chess."

"I don't pout."

"You do."

"I don't!"

"You're literally pouting right now." Willow laughed, which turned into a wheeze as Boscha's face turned a bright scarlet.

"S-shut up." Boscha huffed, her ears down as she felt more than a little bit embarrassed.

"Oh don't be all proud." Willow grinned, "It's cute."

Boscha's ears perked up a little bit but her face was still red. Willow pulled her closer, and gave her a kiss. "Ya know, since this might be our last night together....." She nibbled on her girlfriend's ear before whispering, "Let's make the most of it."

Boscha, who at this point no longer could form words, nodded as her girlfriend dragged her along.

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The Hawthornes started at the newspaper from the Boiling isles. They knew they should be happy. This was a good sign that they might be able to take the city. However, they knew how much their loves were hurting.

"I fucking hate this." Edmund growled as his hand fiddled with his silver bat necklace.

"We all do Ed." Emma sighed, as pulled him close. Her eyes glanced to her sweetheart bracelet.

Ameila touched her earrings as she felt her heart throb in her chest. She reached for her cigarette case, and groaned as it was empty. "Ed, you have any cigarettes left?"

"No." He sighed, "I smoked my last one this morning."

Amelia just nodded as she walked solemnly into the den where Grandda was smoking his pipe while reading the paper. Nanny was carefully knitting something happily next to him on the sofa. She felt a stab of envy seeing the happy older couple enjoying their twilight years in contentment. She hoped that would be her and Luz someday but it felt more and more like a pipe dream as the war grew worse.

"Hello Ducky, glad to see you out and about." He smiled at her as he folded his paper.

"Hi, you wouldn't happen to have any blue cloud seeds? My brother and I are out of smokes." She asked, scratching at her arm.

"Ya have a special strain ya prefer or something? That seems a lot of work for a smoke. Why not just go to the shop? There's one up the way." He said, his brow wrinkled with confusion.

"Oh we're not old enough to buy blue cloud." She said awkwardly.

"I don't know what the laws are in the Boiling isles, but it's eighteen for tobacco and alcohol here." He smiled, then blinked as she looked confused, "Your ID says ya just turned eighteen and the twins are about to turn twenty?"

Amelia's eyes widened slightly at this and the very much just about to turn sixteen year old coughed awkwardly, "so...where is the shop?"

Liam and Molly exchanged a knowing glance, then she spoke up, "a few miles down the way, just past the abandoned barn."

"Thanks Nanny." She said quickly, rushing back up the stairs.

Liam waited for the girl to be out of earshot before he spoke, "Ya know. For someone who spent so much of her life hiding shite from the Blights, ya think she'd be better at lying."

Molly snorted with laughter, "Oh be nice ya old cogger. She didn't know. Besides, I'm sure the older ones are better at it. They definitely seem like they've gotten into quite a bit of mischief."

"Oy, between you and the youngins this town won't get any peace." He chuckled.

"It's about time really, the townsfolk were starting to adjust. No fun if you can't keep them on their toes." She grinned.

Liam placed a soft kiss on his wife's cheek, "Dovey, there's never a dull moment with ya."

"Ya damn right."
------------------------------------------------------------

Amelia and Edmund blinked cluelessly at the wall of assorted brands and flavors of blue cloud. They had only ever smoked the kind that they had grown from seeds. Alador Blight had kept his own private garden just for his expensive tobacco and thankfully he didn't notice when a few of the seeds went missing. Willow and Jerbo had taken to growing the seeds and knew how to dry and roll the leaves. After a while they taught some of the recruits who were skilled at plant magic so they could distribute it to the troops.

Neither of the Generals were thrilled about it but they understood that any sort of stress relief was hard to to come by. If it helped keep morale up, it wasn't their place to judge.

The employee at Stevo's smoke shop, looked down at the pair. "You two need any help?"

Edmund glanced at the wall, trying desperately not to look lost, "I'll take the silver and white pack of Baggins please." He said picking the first pack he could vaguely pronounce the name of.

"Long or short?" She asked as she turned towards his selection.

"Long." Edmund said quickly, before glancing at his sister.

Ameila scanned the shelves, "I'll take the mint Druids. Long." She added, trying to sound like she was familiar with the words.

The girl behind the counter grabbed the other pack and placed them by the register, "That'll be fourteen celts."

Edmund pulled out his wallet and placed a bill on the table. He looked up expectantly.

"That is a two Celt note." The cashier said dryly.

He coughed slightly, "woops. Wrong one." He said before pulling out a larger bill.

The cashier bit back a groan as she lifted the bill towards the light. She huffed as she saw it was legit and began making change for the hundred celt bill. She wondered vaguely why they didn't buy a carton each if they were going to use a bill that large but decided it was best to just hold her tongue. She only had a few minutes left on her shift anyways. She gave them their change and they left the store.

Edmund and Amelia smacked their packs a few times before pulling out a cigarette.

"Here goes nothing." He said as he gave it a light.

"I just hope they don't taste like ass." Ameila said as she took a drag on her smoke.

"Holy shit mine is minty, ohh I like this." He smiled.

Amelia blew the smoke out her nose, "wow, so whatever premium shit we were smoking before was clearly the gross one. Cause this is so much better. Mine's minty too."

"And this one is slightly sweet." Edmund smiled as he let out another puff, "Ya know I think we have enough to get a carton each. These packs won't last us more than a couple days anyway."

The cashier glared daggers at them as they walked back in. Half finished cigarettes tucked behind their ears. She was three minutes away from clocking out.

The pair smiled sheepishly, as they gave her the money and quickly made their way back out. They walked a bit further down the road to finish their smokes so as not to have to stand next to the disgruntled cashier as she locked up.
------------------------------------------------------------

Brutus and Sacha Lachance looked down at their companions at the bar. Brian and Calum Park stared down at their drinks. Neither couple were thrilled about the latest news.

"How did your talks with Eda and Lilith go?" Brian asked, as he took a sip of his cider.

"Not as well as we hoped." Brutus closed his three eyes as he pinched the bridge of his nose, "We're too short staffed on trainers and surgeons for us to leave the owl town. Especially since we're setting up to be the main medical center for the rebellion. At least until then we're stuck here."

"I know we're staying here since they're going to need me to help build the new medical ward. That and keep the reinforcements so the town doesn't fall off hooty when we move." Brian sighed.

"I help make the healing and pain relief potions so I'm stuck here too." Calum said, as he leaned against his husband.

"I know I'm needed here. I know Boscha has been trained well. I...I just don't think I could lose another child." Sacha blinked back tears as Brutus pulled her into his chest.

"I fucking hate this!" Calum yelled, which shocked everyone as he was normally a fairly calm man. "Fuck this war. Fuck having to watch as your only kid who finally is finishing her staff, which should be one of our proudest moments in our lives is taken away and corrupted as a sign she has to go out and fight. They shouldn't have to surrender their childhoods for war."

"They shouldn't." A voice spoke up, Maggie Stilwell walked forward towards the bar, Esme by her side. "But they would have anyways, this system is unfair and unjust. They're fighting to try and make the world a better place. I worry about my son every day, but I'm proud knowing he is willing to take a stand to try and make the world better."

"What good is being willing to take a stand if it gets them killed?" Calum growled.

"Oh now you finally listen to what I said when we first found out about all this." Rose Porter spoke up, irritation radiating off her. "I wanted them all to stop all this nonsense but you made me seem like the bad guy."

"That was different. They were just protesting. This is war!" Calum snipped.

"Will all of you quiet down." Esme Stilwell said firmly, the oracle had a way of chilling a room if she was truly frustrated. "None of us are happy our children are at risk. As a parent losing your child is one of the worst things you can go through, some of us have already had to go through that tragedy. However, we're not the only ones whose children are out fighting. There is a reason many of our troops are runaways. So I ask you to be grateful that at least you can say goodbye this time and know what's happening instead of getting ashes delivered to your door. And fighting amongst ourselves over things we can't control doesn't bring any of our kids home. If we want them home, we need to win this war. And we win by working together and not taking out our emotions on each other. Our children were trained by the best to become strong leaders. They maximized their skills and we must do the same. We might not all be soldiers, but the troops also need food, clothes, shelter and medicine. If we want our kids to come back. We have to support them, even if we're scared."

"She's right." Brutus said, as he ran a hand through his wife's hair, "Belos killed our son and he will kill and imprison many more. None of these kids deserve to die but if we give up now then what's the point? My son died because it was an easy way to get rid of less cooperative or skilled troops and make another side look bad. He was just a pawn to be discarded. Now they're trying to stand for something."

"And what if she dies?" Rose asked, growing more and more frustrated.

"Then I'll spend my last breaths fighting for what she believed in. So our world can be better, so no one else has to make the same sacrifice and so she doesn't have to die in vain." Brutus answered calmly, Sacha wiped her eyes as she nodded and stood with her husband.

Rose's ears flicked back, she never wanted any of this. She was a baker. She was happy. Her family was in a good position. Things were tight sometimes but it wasn't terrible. Their son was happy and doing well in school.

He's not happy anymore. He's not in school either. Instead of playing games with his friends or practicing spells for exams. He's training soldiers, tending the dead and preparing to lead troops into battle. He's fourteen but he looks older, his eyes are always tired.

She didn't understand why her son thought the world would be better this way. She certainly didn't understand why her husband agreed. Augustus jumped at loud noises, he woke up in cold sweats and screamed in his sleep. His friends were worse, as they drank and smoked all the time. He was already working on his staff, despite his young age. He had grown much more powerful, his magic had never been stronger. However, he lost a lot to become so. She didn't want to watch her son destroy himself physically and mentally just for the possibility that maybe he will get to be happy later. The coven system wasn't perfect, and Belos wasn't great. But her life was fine before all this. Her family was happy before all this. Now it wasn't.
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Gus growled as he conjured a short sword. Then created an illusion opponent. He moved with surprising skill as the dualed. Lilith had trained them all in basic swordplay as part of their combat training. However unlike the others who had to leave. He, Willow and Boscha were able to keep up their training. And soon it will be just him.

He hated being the youngest. He hated that could get respect and even fear out of people twice his age but he was still benched. All his friends were either in hiding, in combat or heading into combat. Yet, he was stuck in the owl town. He trained just as hard and just is long if not even longer than some of them. He disarmed his illusion and stabbed it through the chest. He sneered at it.

"You okay Gus?" Lilith asked, as she watched him create another illusion.

He fought again, this time more aggressive as he knocked the sword from the Illusion's grasp and sliced off its head. "Why am I still here? Why are they all allowed to fight and die for our cause? The cause we all started together. I know I'm young and I know I'm not as powerful as some of the others. But you have to know how much I hate feeling like I'm letting them fight my battles for me."

"Augustus. You've become a formidable fighter. You're more powerful than you give yourself credit for, especially for your age. It's not that we don't think you're a capable leader. We wouldn't have you training recruits if we thought that. I'd be lying if I said age wasn't at least partially a factor. We want you to have as much of your childhood as you can during all this. That and there's more to fighting than just beating your opponent. It's one thing to stab an illusion. It's another thing to run your sword through someone's chest. Luz is sixteen and she indirectly killed over a thousand people. It's torn her up inside. Jerbo, Viney and Barcus were already haunted by their actions. Now Luz is. And soon Boscha and Willow will. I don't want you to have to go through that sooner than you have to. Trust me, you'll have plenty of time to contemplate the blood you've had to spill."

"I know. It's not just that. There's a reason I've been staying in the owl house more than my family's quarters lately." He sighed, "My parents have been fighting....a lot. Especially about me and the rebellion. Dad's taken to his job helping manage the communications for the rebellion fine. He wants people to know the truth. My mom thinks our lives were better before this whole rebellion thing came to be. That things under Belos weren't great but they're better than this. I'm just tired of hearing them argue and her acting like I'm some stupid little kid. And like even the possibility of making our home a better place to live isn't enough."

"That must be hard. The world is unstable as it is. And it has to suck that it follows you home." Lilith sighed as she wrapped him in a hug, "I understand why your mom is upset. I don't agree with her conclusions but I can see where she is coming from. She wants to protect you and keep you safe. I can't blame her for wanting that. I want that for you too. However, I know that I'm not going to be able to keep you here forever. The reason why I'm keeping you out of battle is so you can enjoy yourself while you can. However you will eventually have to leave. Especially now with Edric, Emira and Amity gone. You have some big shoes to fill. But, with time and practice. I think they'll fit you well. So, don't you ever think that we've kept you out because we don't think you're capable."

Gus smiled as he pulled the older witch in for a hug, "Thanks Lilith."

"You're welcome sweetheart." She said, giving him a gentle pat on the back. She let go and made her way out of the room, making a mental note to check in on Rose Porter.
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Willow yawned as she woke up, then stretched. Well attempted to stretch, as there was a weight on her chest that limited her movement. She reached for her glasses and smiled at the sight before her. Her lover's head rested peaceful on her chest, she ran her hand against her back. She chuckled, remembering a time when she would have thought this was insane. Yet that Boscha, the one that was cruel and relentless, had morphed. She was more open and honest. She wasn't compensating for her lack of attention or her dysphoria. She was herself, her real self. She still had a temper, she was stubborn, but she was also loyal. She cared more than she often showed. Most importantly she was very cuddly and happily melted into her girlfriend's side when she had the chance.

Willow felt her heart ache as more thoughts filled her head. Their relationship was still new. They were both just about to turn sixteen. This is what their relationship should be. Them sneaking off together in the night. Spending the day goofing around and being silly. And moments like this, quiet and vulnerable. However, now their time is up.

Boscha stirred from her sleep, her third eye opened slightly, looking around lazily before focusing on her lover. "Hey flower." She smiled her voice hoarse from sleep.

"Hey cuddlepuff." Willow smiled back, but it didn't meet her eyes.

"I'm going to miss you too." Boscha said, giving her a soft peck. "But we have all of tomorrow to be miserable."

"Pfft, you sound like Luz." Willow snickered slightly.

"Hey great minds think alike." Boscha smirked.

"Let's not push it."

"Ugh, rude."

"Consider it payback for snoring." Willow said although it quickly morphed into a laugh as she saw her girlfriend's annoyed sleepy face. "Titan, you're cute when you pout."

"I am not pouting!" Boscha huffed half heartedly as she bopped her girlfriend with a pillow.

"You are!" She laughed harder as she blocked the oncoming attack with her arm. She waited for an opening before running her fingers along her sides causing Boscha to yelp.

"Hey! No tickling!"

"Nope."

Boscha tried her best to wiggle away but Willow moved, pinning her to the bed. The three eyed witch felt her face flush as she looked up at her love.

"We have some time left before we have to get ready to leave" Willow purred, leaning down to nibble her ear.

"Good....I...might be a...you may have gotten...me" Boscha crumpled under her girlfriend's smirking gaze, "...ummm.."

Willow leaned back, sitting on Boscha's stomach, "need something?" She asked, grinning like the cat who caught the canary.

Boscha whose throat suddenly seemed very dry, just nodded. Willow grinned sharply as she leaned down to give her a passionate kiss. "Don't worry baby, I'll help you." She whispered into Boscha's ear.
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"That's one big cock." Edmund smirked, as they stood over the pen. The birds clucked loudly.

"Cockatrice, Ed." Ameila sighed, rubbing her temples.

"Pffft cock, good one lad" Liam snickered, "Alright, you think you three can handle getting the eggs?"

"I'm sure. It doesn't seem that hard." Emma smiled before he handed them each a very large, very scorched, metal plated shield, and a metal bucket half filled with straw.

"Keep the bucket behind the shield so they don't cook the eyes. Don't make eye contact with the males, but if you do. You're gonna want to hold your ground and sneer at 'em. But ya gotta mean it, otherwise they'll keep on charging. Thankfully the snow helps prevent the worst of the fire. Also Don't get bit." Grandda smiled giving them all a pat on the back before opening the gate to the pen.

The three of them walked back to back, their shields out in front as they slowly walked towards the hen house. They heard a hissing noise and a tail rattling.

"Oy, be careful. Dumplin spotted ya." He called from the gate, before lighting his pipe.

Dumplin was a very large white cockatrice, whose snake-like tail and dragon-like wings were colored orange and green. He raised his wings in defense, his tail rattling loudly.

Emma just took solace that domestic cockatrices couldn't turn people into stone. "Nice Dumplin. Who's a good Dumplin? You are!"

"It's a demon bird not a puppy Em." Ameila said through gritted teeth, as they slowly walked forward.

"I don't see you with any better ideas." Emma shot back as she was trying and failing to stare down a very angry bird.

"Guys..." Edmund said, nervously, "We have another one." He stared face to face with a golden Cockatrice with a brown and back patterned tail and wings. It hissed, opening his beak to reveal two very large fangs.

"That's Noodles." Liam called, puffing on his pipe as he searched his pockets for candy.

"Oh my Titan, you have both literally impersonated coven guards and robbed coven branches, yet you can't stare down birds?!" Ameila grumbled.

"Usually the guards walked away and didn't know what we were doing. They also don't breathe fire or have venom." Emma said, desperately trying to stay calm.

"They have venom?" Edmund yelped.

"Shut up both of you." Ameila shouted, "just keep moving. Ignore them."

"Easy for you to say! You don't have one staring you down!" Her brother yelled.

"Come on Ed. Just like the fish movie Luz showed us. Just keep swimming. But in this case moving." Emma smiled, trying to lighten the mood. "Just keep moving. Just keep moving. Just keep moving moving moving." She sang quietly.

The twins repeated the song a few more times while their younger sister wondered vaguely how this became her life before they reached the hen house. The hens were smaller and definitely less hostile. The three loosen their shield wall to carefully gather some eggs.

Just as they finished gathering the eggs, Amelia heard a loud caw, and saw hidden in the rafters, a red eyed male cockatrice who was almost her height, it was clearly the largest one there. "Grandda....what's the biggest one with the terrifying red eyes called?"

"Oh that'd be Livers." He called, as he sipped tea from his thermos.

"Of fucking course his name isn't something silly." Ameila growled as she backed up, "guys we need to go. I think we've worn out our welcome."

"Ami. There's a small problem with that." Emma said, backing up towards the middle of the hen house with her shield raised.

"What?" She asked.

"We're surrounded." Edmund said, as he watched Noodles rattle its tail loudly.

Livers swooped down in front of Ameila, and opened his mouth, she could feel the heat starting to build, "RUN!"

The three of them turned and ran towards the gates as the three birds gave chase, flames nipping at their heels and melting any snow in its path.

Liam, who finally got his fill of watching them piss them from demon chickens, casually opened the gate and walked over to where the three males had them pinned. "Oy, fuck off the lot a ya." He shooed them and all three turned and hissed at him. He let out a low rumbling growl and bared his fangs and all three birds suddenly decided this was a good time to leave. He grabbed the buckets from them and carefully looked through them, "Hey, you didn't break any eggs. Good job."

The three stared at him completely dumbfounded as they tried to process what exactly happened.

"What, you didn't think I'd put you in actual danger? I'm an arsehole not an idiot. I raised those bastards since they were wee babes. They know who's at the top of the pecking order round here. Also domestic cockatrices don't have venom sacks." He smiled as he led the shell shocked teens towards the gate.

"Then why did you say don't get bit?!" Ameila said exasperated.

"It still hurts. Just because it doesn't kill you, doesn't mean it's pleasant." He said as if it was obvious. "Now who wants eggs?" He wheezed as all three shot him the evil eye. "I'm kidding. How about some biscuits and tea to make up for the trauma?"

"Yes please." Edmund said, still looking mildly betrayed.

Liam patted his back, "Sure thing Lad."
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Lilith, Eda and Gus stood a few miles off from the owl town, as to allow Boscha and Willow to not have to cover their faces when they said goodbye to their folks.

The Parks and the Lachances soon arrived as they huddled near the bonfire Gus was tending.

"And they're late." Lilith sighed, as she checked her watch.

"How the hell are they late? They can literally fly here?" Eda asked, mildly annoyed.

Gus, who's room in the owl house is literally right above the couple's, threw another stick in the fire, "Willow is helping Boscha with her staff."

Eda coughed as she immediately caught his meaning. Brutus and Brian both looked like they were about to have a stroke. Calum just smiled but it was obvious he was hoping the Titan would strike him dead. Sacha, who by far had the stupidest sense of humor compared to the rest, was trying desperately not to laugh.

Lilith, on the other hand, missed the innuendo entirely, "I thought they finished last night?"

"Oh they did. Dear Titan they did. All fucking night long." Gus said with the dead eyed stare of an asexual tired of his friends' horny nonsense.

Lilith raised an eyebrow and looked at her sister, "What am I missing?"

"Swap the fucking and the all in his last sentence." Eda sighed.

Lilith whispered it slightly to herself before her eyes grew wide, "OH. Oh. oh."

It was at that moment Boscha and Willow both arrived on their staffs. Willow's looked almost like a walking stick, and part of the bark still remained on the staff but had been smoothed over with a bit of resin. It had flowers carved elegantly in the wood and on the top of her staff was a large wolverine.

Boscha's staff had a dark, almost black wood stain, with a golden ring just below her palismen, which was a bear.

They both smiled then immediately noticed the thousand yard stares. Their cheeks turned a bright scarlet and it wasn't because of the winter air. They glared at Gus.

"This is what you get for keeping me up all night. Be lucky I didn't tell them about the vines."

"Why. Why in all the realms, would you say that?" Brutus asked, before glancing at his now mortified daughter.

Sacha wheezed with laughter, "aww she's a sub just like you."

Brutus and Boscha both looked like they wanted to crawl under a rock as they glared at Sacha who had now fallen over into the snow cackling. She got up, red faced when a snowball hit her in the forehead. She turned to her husband who stuck his tongue out at her. She grinned before lobbing one at him, he dodged it and it hit Brian in the head.

The big man chuckled, and soon a snowball fight broke out. Although for some it was fairly targeted as Eda and Lilith chased each other around like they were little kids. Brian, Calum, Brutus, Sacha and Gus decided a little payback was in order and bombarded the couple with snowballs.

Boscha conjured a kite shield, in attempts to give Willow a chance to make some ammo but it was a fruitless battle. The two surrendered.

"Sorry about your sleep Gus." Willow said, rubbing her arm awkwardly.

"Yeah, we didn't mean to keep you up." Boscha added.

Gus sighed, "Well given the circumstances I can't be too upset. Besides, I have a feeling that's not going to be much of a problem for awhile." He chuckled lightly before pulling them both in for a hug, "Come back so I can actually give you shit for it." They nodded and hugged him tightly.

Brutus and Sacha walked over to their daughter, tears in their eyes. Brutus cupped her cheek, "My darling little girl, I've never been more proud of you."

Sacha hugged her tightly, "and Tom would be proud of you too."

Boscha's eyes filled with tears, "I'll do everything that I can to make sure I come back home."

"And we'll do all we can to support you." Sacha smiled and kissed her head.

Brian and Calum Park engulfed their daughter in their arms. "It feels like only yesterday you were worried you'd never be a good witch. And now you're one of the best on the isles. Oh sweetie, I couldn't be more proud of the strong woman you've become." Brian sobbed.

"Please sweetheart, come home safe." Calum cried.

"I'll do my best dad."

Eda and Lilith made their way over to the pair. Eda smiled, "You two have really come into your own. You've also made each other better. Don't lose yourself out there. You won't come back who you are today, but make sure the person who does is someone you can look up to. Good luck out there kids."

"Edalyn's right, this war will change you. You'll have to do many things you aren't proud of. Things you might not ever be able to forgive yourself for. Just know that you're not alone. Don't be afraid to lean on other people. Especially your right hands. Talking is sometimes the closest thing to mental health we can offer." Lilith sighed, "stay safe."

They nodded as they put on their helmets.

"Colonel Banshee, here are your orders for the western front. Major Romanoff will become your number two." Eda said.

Boscha saluted as she put the papers in her coat.

Lilith turned to Willow, "Colonel Ivy, You'll be heading to the eastern front, Major Rogers and Major Jameson will be your number twos. You trained them so they should fall in well."

Willow took her papers and placed them in her bag. She saluted.

They lingered near each other for a moment before they both flew off. Goodbyes only seemed to hurt worse everyday.

Chapter Text

The ground below her feet felt like mud as she ran. The scent and the cracking below her feet told her that it wasn't water that made the ground like this. The air smelled like sulfur and it mixed with the blood scented soil. She kept running. She blinked back tears as she heard her family calling out her name from the cage next to him. They were beaten and bloody.

Emperor Belos leered down at her, "You're too late human." He raised his staff, aiming it at the cage where her family lay in chains. She watched as they slowly turned to stone. There cries of agony like thunder on her ears.
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Luz woke up screaming, her eyes darting around madly. She closed her human eye and let her demon eye scan the dark shack. She panted and uncovered her human eye. She tapped a card and cupped the ball of light in her hand. She looked around again and let out a breath. She looked at the time. Sleep wasn't something she got a lot of, and lately it was now split into four hour shifts. It was about an hour earlier than her normal wake time but she didn't want to go back to sleep.

She stretched and ran a hand against the noise muffling glyph she had carved into the wood. She gave it a gentle tap as she put on her uniform. She glanced at herself in the mirror, a soft smile formed as she glanced at her left hand. In black ink, power glyphs were tattooed across her knuckles. It was her first tattoo and she hoped that in the time they healed she'd be able to see if her idea worked. She had worried about running out of paper or cards for awhile, but if the glyph was on her skin, she would never be completely defenseless. However, glyphs often destroyed the paper it was on. Power glyphs didn't but they had limited usage before they wore out. She hoped they'd be able to recharge since they were part of her skin, but for now she had to wait for them to heal.

The northern front was preparing their attack on Brainburg, as the city was almost done evacuating. The Emperor's Army had been scattering across the forest looking for them. So the Nighthawks split its forces into five smaller camps just around the outskirts of the city.

Luz rubbed at her eyes, her demon eye was now almost the same color as her human eye, just a tad more yellow. It was hard to tell which one was unless you actively knew what to look for. The slightly narrower pupil in the sun, the wider pupil in the dark. The only clear difference was the eye shine. She snapped on the top of her uniform, and yanked up her slacks. The fabric wasn't super comfortable, it was stiff and slightly hard to move in. Patches of new leather and heavy gambeson were slightly stiff. Luz had asked the others on how they could stand to be in it so long. They said that once it's broken in, it's almost like a second skin.

She was used to the linen or heavy cotton uniforms they wore in the owl town. They were fairly simple and worn mostly for training, but in the front lines they were considered dress uniforms. They were often the nicest pair of clothes the soldiers had and were only brought out for special occasions. She grabbed her helmet, placing it on her head, in the summer and even in the fall the helmet was often a bit hot to wear all the time. However in the cold winter air, it kept her head warm. It also hid her eyes better. The cloth mask had more expression since it was more flexible. It might have her face half covered but it was easy to see this kind of weight. The helmet could only vaguely emote so it hid the pain and guilt that crawled in her brain.

Everyone noticed the change in her anyways. Gambit was often the most defensive of the cause. The first to lead the victory songs at the pub, the first one to remind them what they were fighting for.

They didn't do that as much anymore. And when they did, there was a pause. A brief moment of hesitation, the lingering thought that maybe they weren't any better. This worried the troops a bit, especially the ones who had been trained by them. The soldiers had noticed that the Colonels who served on the front lines acted differently than they did when they had only been at the owl town.

The ones who stayed on at the owl town, seemed more aggressive. Not necessarily more dangerous, but more posturing. There was a sense that maybe, they were bluffing. The ones on the front were calmer, they didn't react as much. They joked more and were friendlier with their troops. However, if they did get aggressive, it was far from a bluff. They didn't need to posture. They had seen that in Ent and Mystic. They even saw it in Bones and now they saw it in Gambit.

The Colonel pinned on their heavy wool cloak as they pushed open the door of their shack. The snow almost seemed to glow in the moonlight, yet the dark helmet was almost like a void. The only bit of shine was the piercing golden eyes. The cloak and armor added bulk to Gambit's tall but lean frame. They pulled a cigarette from their case and slipped it in the beak of their helmet. They puffed on it slowly as they walked towards the meeting tent.

They stared down at the map of Brainburg. Their camps were fanned out in a big u, as the plan was to try and overtake the army. They also had griffins ready to take down the siege weapons. Bones was leading them, as they were the best with the griffins. Ent and Richards were leading the two camps in the front, as they had taught him how to make plant abominations. They also had the crossbowmen, archers and many of the long range weapon users, as well as the distance casters.

Gambit and Smith were on the sides. As Smith's skills in illusion and potions could make it harder for them to be seen, the rest of her troops were bards, illusionists, and a decent amount of the abomination users. Gambit's team were the berserkers, the close range weapon users, the hand fighters and the close range casters. Their goal was to drive the armies towards the middle, where they'd be either taken out by the heavy hitters in the front or the arrows, and fireballs behind them. It was a decent plan.

Luz however was worried about how it'd go. She and Jerbo had a bit of a freak out after their last attack. Well, she had a freak out and that made Jerbo freak out. The smoke and the sounds had made her scared, it made her freeze and flee. She couldn't afford to do that. She needed to act and to lead. She needed to force herself to fight. Hesitation would only get more people killed. She felt the gnawing grow in her chest. The guilt over her actions weighed her down, but that was indirect. She had seen the explosion and even some of the aftermath. That however, wasn't the same as watching life fade out of someone's eyes.

She remembered the rage she had felt hearing Lilith had cursed her sister. The anger at Belos for trying to kill her Ma. The fury she had at herself for burning the portal and dragging her family into war. She needed to focus on anything other than her fear and guilt. People depended on her. She watched as smoke curled from the front of her helmet before she placed the cigarette in the ashtray. She reminded herself that there were people she needed to see, that she couldn't let herself get hurt or killed before she saw her Mami again. Not when she was this close.

"Hey Gambit" Major Thompson smiled as he walked into the tent, he sat in one of the worn chairs. "Surprised to see you up this early."

"Thought I'd get an early start on our battle plans. How are the healers?" Luz said, heavily relying on the distortion from her helmet to cover the exhaustion in her voice.

"Didn't sleep that well again?" He said, sipping his coffee.

"Just a bad dream."

He looked down at his mug, "ya know, the thing about a muffle spell, is that it makes noises quieter. It doesn't block them entirely."

The top feathers on the owl helmet flicked back, "You heard it this morning, I take it."

"This morning, yesterday morning, you get the idea. Look before you say anything, It's okay, you've been through a lot. And if you're around the same age as Bones, probably even more so for how young you are. All three of the other Colonels I've met have PTSD, hell almost all of the troops have it. So if you ever want to talk, I'm here."

"Did Eda, Lilith or Bones make sure you ended up in my camp?"

"Ent, actually. They seem pretty worried about you." Thompson added, genuine concern on his face.

"We're in a war and he still manages to act like a worried older brother." She mumbled under her breath, "How much about me do you know?"

"I'm in the med staff for your camp. And I was in the M.A.S.H. camp with Bones."

"Oh. So you're very aware of my bullshit." She smiled wearily.

"I have heard Bones' rants many many times." He chuckled, he gave her arm a gentle pat, "I'm also the mental health guy for the camp."

She could tell he was prying, she sighed, "I'm just worried I'm going to have a panic attack or fucking up....My mom is on the other side of the portal, by the time May hits, I'll have been gone for two years. I have to see her at least once. But, I can't leave this fight til I have to. This place is my home and I can't have my family here risking their lives while I sit on my ass." She swallowed back the ache she felt, "I didn't want to kill people. I don't want to hurt anyone. Most of these soldiers aren't any different from ours, they think they're fighting for their home. They have families, lives and plans completely outside of war. They're not drones or faceless monsters. They're people. And I don't know how to deal with that."

"I don't know if there's much I can do for you while the war is going. Just try to remember why this fight is important and why you're willing to be here in the first place. And when this is all over, find ways to help the people you hurt. Take responsibility for your actions, and even if they don't forgive you, you can at least move forward. You can give them closure. To be honest with you, it's a long road to recovery from stuff like this. It takes time. But you can manage it and live a normal life again."

"I don't even know what a normal life would be after this. I know my mom would probably want me to come back to the human world....but I just can't. This is the first place I ever felt accepted, I have more family here than I do there and I could actually live my dream. I don't think she's gonna take that well."

"Probably not. But honestly, I think after however long it is til you go back. I think she'll just be grateful to have you back." His eyes got misty as a tired smile came on his face, "Fuck, my children could have said they wanted to live in the middle of the woods on the Great Bear and I don't think I'd care so long as they were alive. Besides, if she truly cares, even if she's not thrilled about it. She'll try to see it from your perspective. It just might take awhile."

"Well considering that most of this shit is just make believe in the human world, we'll see if I don't end up locked in a mental ward first." She laughed bitterly.

Major Thompson nodded before taking a sip of his coffee, "at least you'll get therapy."

"Haha." Luz rolled her eyes but a smile formed on her face. "How do you always seem to keep your spirits up?"

"Sometimes it's a fake it, til you make it kind of thing. Sometimes it's because I care about making this a better place to live. Sometimes it's just knowing my kids wouldn't want me to be sad and they'd be happy I changed my mind. They can't fight anymore. They were robbed of that chance, so I have to keep fighting for them. Since a lot of our troops are runaways, a lot of kids without parents. It helps fill the hole. I know I can't replace my kids and I miss them everyday. Sometimes so much it hurts to even breathe, but the nice thing about love is you can always make more of it. And knowing there are people who still depend on me and look up to me. That I can make them feel better when they're scared or sad. It makes me feel a little better too. We've all experienced some sort of trauma at this point and we can use that to bring us together. Sometimes it's more important to be a person than a symbol. They can respect a symbol but they can care about a person."

Luz sighed as she rubbed her fingers on the spot on the map where the port had been, "So what's your plan if we manage to survive all this shit?"

"Well, I have a feeling the mental health business is going to be booming." He grinned toothily as he drank his coffee.

"Yeah no shit." Luz chuckled as she poured herself some coffee. She looked down,"Does it ever get any easier?"

"Coming to terms with your actions? Or killing people? Cause, you can come to terms and make peace with what you've done. Killing people, well if that becomes easier. Then I'd start to question what that says about you as a person."

Luz nodded as the crystal ball came to life, she saw Jerbo, Viney, Smith and Richards.

Jerbo was the first to speak, "Let's go over our contingency plans as well as battle strategy. We don't have much longer til the invasion."

Luz lit another cigarette, she could already tell it was going to be a long day.
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Dear Gus,

I did what you asked, but I don't know if I'm connected enough to your parents for any accurate readings. From what I've seen though, I don't know if they'll be able to overcome their differences. I also looked into your mom for Lilith, as she is worried about her becoming a traitor. From what I can tell I don't think that's likely either. I do know that your mom loves you a lot. You and your dad. She values your happiness above all else, but that includes over other people's happiness. I don't know if she will ever truly see the good the rebellion can do until after the war. Or maybe she just needs to see the smaller cities and towns. We've helped a lot with infrastructure and general welfare. Maybe if she sees how we've improved people's lives, she'll understand why we're fighting. It's not just because Belos is a tyrant or that things are unfair. It's that we can make things better.

The southern front is dangerous this time of year, although it doesn't get nearly as cold or any snow. The rains and the rocky terrain makes it difficult to move let alone plan attacks. The toes are going to be difficult to capture as after the base attack in the north, the south ports have doubled down. However this is pissing off a lot of the local fisherman and the merfolk as the E.A. is setting up more and more restrictions. I don't think we'll be able to pull off an attack as effective as the one in the north again.

There's a small fishing village a bit closer to the leg that we're going to try and secure as a port. I don't know where we'll get ships but we're going to need a navy. We might not need it to capture the Toes but we'll sure as hell need to hold them. I'm sending in spies to see if we can rally the locals to our cause.

How are things back in the owl town? I know I only left around August but it feels like it's been longer. So much has changed since then, the camps have grown and so has our numbers. I do miss having you all around. It was nice for a while having Viney around. Titan, she was just as scared and unsure as I was. I know you want to fight, but trust me. The less you have to see, the better.

Luz already knows how much it hurts to have blood on her hands. All of us can smell death on bad days. It follows us. The battles end, and eventually the war will but I don't know if our brains will ever fully leave it. I don't have the words to describe the horror and disgust you feel with yourself. You could be fighting for the most noble cause in all the realms but it all comes into question the minute you've killed for it. I hope you never have to experience it yourself.

Take care of yourself Gus, and know while you may not be in battle. You're incredibly important for the rebellion. I'm glad you're finally able to sleep again. Be grateful, my room was in between Edric and Emira's rooms. It's one thing to hear one couple loudly having sex, it's another thing entirely when it's on stereo. I'm glad Boscha and Willow weren't together then, it would have made my escapes to your room less effective at getting any sleep. I'm just glad I wasn't the only asexual in a house of very very horny idiots. There are places in the owl house, I don't think will ever be untainted ever again. Keep your head up during all this, things might get worse before they get better, but they will get better. They have to.

Love, your friend, Barcus

P.S. I know you sent those dog biscuits as a joke.....I may have tried one....send more. Tell anyone and I will hex you to stub your toe.

 

Dear Barcus,

Thanks, I'll try to see if I can take my mom to see one of the villages later in the week. I've had to expand our delivery service for the ashes. I've been running checks on our sky ships in preparation for the northern front. I have a feeling though that we might need more death care at the camps themselves, so I'm sending some of the troops that have worked with me the longest out to help. Anyone too mangled will be cremated at the base camp. Smaller wounds will be cauterized to make transport easier.

I've gotten better at potions. I've been practicing in my spare time. I've mostly been helping make healing potions. But I've made quite a few smoke bombs as well. Lilith and Eda are both impressed with how much I've improved not only with potions but also with sword training. They say I'll be a force to be reckoned with once I'm on the field. If I'm ever on the field.

As far as the owl town goes, things are still expanding. We're in the process of adding a wing on our medical ward. Also Lilith and Eda looked over for your request for us to start a navy and we already have some recruits. Richard's Brother Felix and his crew are joining the rebellion once they get back to the isles. There Felix, Heldi (Felix's daughter) and Sean (Felix's boyfriend) will be leading the naval charge along with some other pirates and smugglers that Eda and Felix are friends with. Really the only thing that's stayed constant is the amount of troops that have a weird crush on Eda and Lilith. Just this morning I had to send three captains to horny jail. That's not even to mention the newer recruits. I'm starting to even wonder if it's even a punishment anymore even with Hooty talking at them for hours. I don't even care that they have a crush on them, but dear Titan if I have to walk into another conversation about how they want to be stepped on or pegged, I'm going to pull my hair out.

I miss the times we used to hang out, especially when you were escaping the sex stereo on either side of your room. It was nice to talk or play games. I don't know, sometimes it's weird being asexual surrounded by sexuals. It was nice to have someone who understood. It's weird how long ago everything feels, I know the Emperor only declared war recently. But it feels like we've been at war at least since late last spring, if not even before that. It scares me how long ago it feels since we all were just students at hexside. Not even part of a rebellion. Just normal kids. I feel like I've spent so much time as Colonel Ghost, I'm starting to lose Gus. I mean I know they're both me but it's the expectations that change everything. Gus Porter is just some fourteen year old Hexside drop out. Colonel Ghost is one of the most respected and feared Colonels in the rebellion. It's odd when so many soldiers so much older than you fall under your command but the Generals and some of our parents still treat me like a kid. I wish they'd just pick one. Don't give me all these responsibilities then coddle me. I know they're trying to look out for me and that the front lines aren't any picnic. I just feel like they don't listen to me sometimes.

Anyways, I have some new recruits to train as well as some more classes on death care to teach later in the evening. Thanks for listening, I know the others are busy so they don't write as much. So I appreciate your letters, hopefully you can get a signal in your crystal ball and we can actually video chat again. It feels like forever since all of us talked, even over a conference call as Colonels. I miss the old days when it was just us and we'd have our purr piles and movie nights. Maybe when this is all over we can do those again.

Love, your friend, Gus

P.S. it was Boscha's idea to put the dog treats in the package in the first place. Don't worry I won't tell her you actually liked them.
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Emma sighed as she walked down to the living room. She and her siblings had all gotten sick, however Ameila and Edmund hadn't recovered yet.

"Afternoon dearie, you finally feeling better?" Nanny asked as she continued her knitting.

"Yeah, the soup you made really helped." She smiled at the older woman, "and the tea helped too."

"Fluids and rest is what you need when you're sick. You three probably haven't had a chance to relax in awhile. All that stress ain't good for you." Nanny said, giving the young woman's arm a gentle pat as she sat down next to her on the sofa.

"You need any help with anything around the house?" Emma asked, she was used to school, training and running supplies for the rebels. The boat, they couldn't do much because them being seen meant someone could find them. Now that they're back on land. And she is finally able to breath out of her nose again. She's a bit unsure of what to do with herself.

"No dear, and before you asked, I've already checked on the other two. They're resting fine." Nanny chuckled lightly as she continued her knitting.

Grandda walked out from their room, a wool sweater over his flannel shirt, he grinned as he put on his flat cap, "Hey ducky, Glad to see you on your feet." He grinned ruffling her hair, "You wanna come join me down at the pub with the lads?"

"I don't wanna crash your boys night." Emma said sheepishly, still a bit unsure about their standing. She's always been a bit weary of adults.

"Boys night? Two of them are nonbinary and three are lesbians."

"You said lads so I assumed."

"Oh, that's more of a term we used as a joke. Most of their spouses are also in me wife's knitting circle. So we joke that we're leavin our misses at home." He wheezed at his own joke.

Nanny just shook her head although she smiled brightly, "and it's not just a knitting circle. We also play cards."

"Aye, and I'm glad you bet with biscuits instead of money. Otherwise you, Dovey, would be in debt."

"And I could say the same for your hexes hold em games at the pub." She shot back, a smirk on her face.

"Seems I'm only lucky in love." He purred, as she rolled her eyes at him.

"We are both very lucky in that." She smiled, giving him a soft kiss, "Have fun love."

"I will! Come along Ducky, mustn't be late." He cheered as he threw a thick cloak over Emma's shoulders.

He summoned his staff, which was a deep emerald color with knots and other runes carved into it. The Palismen appeared to be some sort of dragon.

The cold air bit at their faces as they flew in the night sky. Emma thought back about the old couple's interactions. "Hey Grandda?"

He turned and raised a bushy grey eyebrow.

"How long have you and Nanny been together?"

"Together as in Married or together as in a relationship?"

"Both I guess."

"Oh well I've been married for fifty two wonderful years. But I met her when I was a wee lad. We were friends at St. Merlin's school for ages. It's the largest boarding school on the Great fae and one of the best magic schools in the world. I barely passed the exam to get in but I did and I shared a lot of classes with her. I had a crush on her since I was twelve but didn't get the courage to ask her out til I was fifteen. Our relationship, especially in the early days, wasn't the easiest. Her parents were less than thrilled their daughter was with a witch and not a proper fae. Not to mention me dad and Pa were poor fishermen. Her family comes from nobility, her cousin sits in the house of lords. Daft old cogger he is. She moved in with my folks when she was eighteen, her parents kicked her out. It was an adjustment for awhile but she really started to become her own person once she got away from them. We married two months after her twentieth birthday. Five years later we had our Cian, he's the oracle professor at St. Merlin's. Gifted he is at it. Although, makes him a bit spacey. Then two years after him, we had our Maggie."

"Sounds nice." She smiled softly.

"It was, definitely had some hard times. We've never been a rich family. We moved here after me great aunt got sick, she needed someone to help around the farm. After she died, left the place to me. And we've lived here ever since. Molly and I have had quite a few fights over the years. Some were bad, but in the end we always realized that whatever we were fighting over wasn't actually that big of a deal or one of us was clearly in the wrong. We'd give each other space if we needed it, apologize and realize we loved each other more than whatever we were fighting about. And if I had to redo anything, probably that cup of tea I had before the wedding. I was so nervous, and me hands were shaking so bad I spilled it on me suit." He laughed, "why ya asking lass?"

"I just miss my girlfriend. And I know my siblings miss their partners too. We're all worried about them dying. I'm also worried that part of what I loved about her, would get destroyed in the war. She's seen so much and I know it's only going to get worse. She's a healer mostly but she's had to fight. I don't want to lose the sweet girl I fell in love with."

"Let me tell ya a secret, the best advice anyone can give you. Part of being in any type of relationship is growing with each other. Me wife and I aren't the same people we were when we got married. We've changed. Mostly for the better, but we're still different. Everyday I learn a little something new about her. And when one of us is having a bad day. We know how to help each other. So long as you're honest with yourself and your love. You'll be okay. Even if you don't stay together. Cause you'll have never broken that trust. I canna say nor imagine what they're going through on the isles. Nor what you must feel knowing they're out there in the thick of it. But I know, as long as you do your best to communicate, you can't say ya didn't try."

"Thanks Grandda"

"No problem Ducky."

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Dear Viney,

I love you. I miss waking up in your arms. Things have been going well here. All three of us got sick shortly after we got off the boat. I recovered fairly quickly but Ami and Ed took a couple extra days. On the brightside this is probably the longest they've gone without smoking in a while.

Your uncle gave me his blessing shortly before we arrived. He's a really nice guy. I wish I had gotten to know him a bit better. His Palismen is so cute. I may have snuck him a few treats. I hope after all this, we can actually put his blessing to good use. Seeing Jerbo's grandparents together, reminds me of how much I miss you and how much I hope we end up like them.

I know we talked about having kids before, I know we both want to wait a bit after the war. After how many people who've become my family, I don't care if we adopt or use magic to have a biological kid. I think we'll love them regardless. Also twins run in my family and magic increases the chances of twins and if we have twins first I will probably die. Plus, I'm still a bit worried I'll end up like....her.

I hope you're still talking with Major Thompson. He seems like he really cares about you. Plus I know he'll be able to help you process some of the stuff you've seen. Please make sure Jerbo and Luz talk to him or at least someone about their mental health. And Boscha and Willow too if they've been sent out yet. Titan knows we'll all be needing years of therapy after all this.

Speaking of Major Thompson, you set him up with your dad yet? I know there's a war and everything but I mean, you always said that I give you something to come home to. I know he probably doesn't feel like he has much to lose, especially after his kids were killed. Maybe this will help him find new purpose.

Also I know before I was a bit hesitant about your idea of owning our own little ranch on the outskirts of Bonesborough. I don't think I'd mind it as much anymore. I know you'll want the land for Puddles anyways. However if you ever, ever, even ask about getting Cockatrices. I will divorce you on the spot. I have had to run from the bastards here on the farm more than once. And I swear there is one that is possessed. However you are allowed as many sheep as you want. They're very cute, soft and they don't breath fire and try to bite your ankles. Note I said sheep and not goats, goats are bastards. They're not as bad as Cockatrices, but you're not allowed too many.

I found out I'm not actually bad at Hexes hold em. I mean before my only real competition was Ed and Ami. I mean Eda and Mom knew how to play but they both cheat. Ya turns out Ed and Ami are just really good at hexes hold em. I won six games when I played with Grandda and his friends. They're all really nice. I still suck at darts though. I have had some fun, but It's not the same without you.

I know I shouldn't feel bad for having fun but I do sometimes. I think all three of us do. We've all felt down and useless. We're still keeping up our training while we're here. I think it's habit at this point. None of us know when exactly we'll have to go back but we don't want to be unprepared.

Please. My love. Stay alive so we can actually get to see the better world we created. I want to be able to grow old with you. We can have our own little farm and raise our family. Give them a childhood without the pressure to be the best, or have to prepare for war. I know these letters take almost a month to be delivered but please don't stop writing me. I can't wait to see the one they're bringing back. I still have all the ones you sent to me when I was back home. I love you, I miss you.

Yours forever, Em
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Eda and Lilith stared down at the eyeball, it had grown in size since November. They expected the magic to change the color of the sclera or the iris. However the eye retained its original color to an almost uncomfortable degree. Neither looked at it long when they didn't have to. Seeing their daughter or niece's eye floating in a container of trash slug blood, it occasionally bobs up and down if jostled too much. It was hard on their stomachs.

They could feel the magic getting stronger. The smell of the human realm now filled the basement. It wasn't a bad smell, mostly. It smelled of foreign flowers and trees. However there was a chemical after note. That smelled like tar or coal. It lingered in after, hidden behind florals and woods as a reminder that this world might have been the roots for their own, it was still alien to them.

Eda grabbed the bags of blood, they had congealed in storage and came out almost like slime. She grimaced at the sight and the smell before placing the container in the middle of the glyph and stepped back.

Every time they performed the ritual they could sense the connection getting stronger. Sometimes they even heard the sound of birds or bugs on the other side. The air grew cold as Lilith tapped the glyph, the light began to blaze once more. The two sisters stood in awe of the old magic before they heard screams.

Lilith and Eda panicked immediately, diving under the desk until the light dimmed. Unlike before, it lingered slightly. The sisters looked at each other before cautiously walking towards the glyph.

"Hello?" Eda called out, before carefully putting her hand over the edge of the glyph. She could feel it pulsing but it didn't seem dangerous. She ever so carefully stepped into it. She braced for pain but when none came, she continued towards the bucket. When she looked into it, she covered her mouth.

"What?" Lilith asked, scared her normally loud mouthed sister was quiet.

Eda stared at the small opening, no bigger than a soft ball. On the other side she saw worn graffitied wood walls. It was the house from the human world. The one Luz came through. "Lilly, throw me a notepad and a pen."

Lilith gave a worried look but complied, although she instead walked through the glyph to her sister, "Titan....is that?"

"Yeah. I'm going to see if I can toss something in it. Maybe we can see if we can get a note to Luz's mom." Eda said, as she ripped out a piece of paper and crinkled it into a ball. She tossed it at the hole only for it to burn up immediately. "Nevermind. Glad I didn't stick my hand in there."

"Well, it's progress. I hope we didn't hurt anyone on the other side. Especially with those screams."

"If we hurt someone there would be a mess. I think we may have just caught some humans off guard."

"I hope you're right." Lilith sighed.

The sisters stepped out and the light began to dim til it went out.

"Well this is an improvement." Eda smiled, "Next time we talk to Luz we should tell her about it. She'll be thrilled."

"I'm glad she wasn't here. She'd have tried to stick her hand through."

"Oh yeah definitely. Titan, that would be unpleasant to have to explain to her...mom." Eda smiled slightly, the sadness slipped through.

Lilith placed a hand on her shoulder, "You're still her mom too. She told you that."

"But this isn't like you and your kids Lilly." Eda said, kicking an empty can across the floor, "Odalia is a monster. They're your kids because they chose you. Odalia and Alador can bitch all they want but the kids will say they're yours.....Luz loves her human mom. Enough to risk her own personal safety to go back."

"Luz chose you. Just because she has a mom that's a human. Doesn't mean that you're not her mom too." Lilith reassured.

"That's not what I'm worried about. It will be two years since she's been gone by the time summer comes. And by the time August rolls around she'll be heading back. Even if she does come back through the portal. If she brings her human mom through.....well let's just say I don't think I'll be her favorite person."

"Well, she can't hate you too much. Luz loves you and this world. Maybe she can show her that you're not so bad." Lilith smiled, "I have learned that you should never underestimate Luz."

"Yeah, you better hope so. She may not like me but I never actively tried to kill her daughter." Eda smiled, as she saw a look of panic on her sister's face.

"Maybe...it's best we keep that a secret for a little bit. No need to make her adjustment any harder than it needs to. I mean, generally I'm the more sensible one."

"Tell me what about cursing your little sister is more sensible?" Eda asked, smirking.

"I'm sorry about that." Lilith said, as she physically crumbled in on herself.

"Hey, it's no fun if you're actually upset." Eda said, wrapping her arm around her sister, "You've done more than enough to make up for it in my eyes. Hell, we're now fugitives and traitors. We've helped each other take care of our kids. Honestly I'm just happy to have you back."

"It was nice for awhile wasn't it?"

"Yeah, it was. It was nice to be in a family again. I just hope we can be that again."

"It is. It's why I want to make it up to you. I've been researching how to undo Curses on the side. I haven't been able to find much. But I do know a place that would."

Eda gave her sister a knowing look, "Let me guess. Emperor Belos' palace?"

"I mean we wouldn't do this until the end of the war. If we even manage to win. But I just want you to know...I'm still trying to fix my mistakes."

Eda leaned her head back against the wall, "Would you cure yourself as well. Or do you still feel like you deserve to be cursed?"

"I cursed you so I could win some stupid competition because I knew I would lose. I became a lapdog to Belos. I tried to arrest yo-"

"I kidnapped, endangered and trapped a human in another world. I also started a war."

"I started the war. I was the one who brought you to Belos."

"Fine. We both started the war. But the point is. If you're a monster. I'm not any better than you. Especially now."

"Yeah....."

The two sisters sat there in the quiet darkness, as they wondered not for the first time, if the good they've done and their good intentions would counteract all the bad they've caused.
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Rose Porter sat alone in their current living quarters. Her husband was running the communications for the war and her son was off doing his duties as a Colonel. Her son, her fourteen year old son was a Colonel in the rebellion. She growled at the thought, he was a child. He shouldn't even be involved. Now he's obsessed with fighting in the front lines and burnt corpses every other day.

She stared at a picture on the little table. She had grabbed it when her husband said they were leaving. Her sister is currently staying in their house, she told her they fled the country. She wished that were true. She hated it here. She hated all the death, the justifications that seemed to only hold water if they actually managed to win, and most of all, what it did to her son.

Augustus had always been a smart sweet boy. He almost never got into trouble. He sometimes got picked on by the other kids cause he skipped a couple grades. However he never let that hold him back. He was never one who ever sought out danger. He was cautious to a fault. Well at least he had been. That little boy seemed gone nowadays. In his place was an angry teenager, who spent his days training and tending the dead. He had more confidence and stood up for himself more. But he didn't talk to her anymore. He used to tell her everything, she was his confidant.

She remembered the massacre vividly, the terror she felt as she thought she lost her family. She had sobbed her eyes out in Perry's arms as they looked for their little boy. She remembered every bloody body they saw as they searched. Each one scarred into her brain, just the smell of the smoke and the sound of the bombs. She remembered how scared he was when they finally met up at the stand. How he was shaking as she held him in her arms. He was mostly unharmed physically but he didn't sleep well for a long time. Although now she wondered if he ever slept right after that at all. He certainly didn't now.

A knock at the door brought her out of her thoughts, she opened it and glared, "Hello General." She said as if the word was poison on her tongue.

"Hello Rose." Lilith said, weakly. She knew this conversation wasn't going to be easy, "Can I come in?"

"It's connected to your sister's house." She said flatly as she went back to the table.

"I noticed Gus has been sleeping at the owl house for a while. And I was worried about him. He said you and your husband have been fighting a lot recently." Lilith said, gently trying her best to have a conversation with the clearly pissed off witch, "Look, I don't blame you for hating me or my sister. And if I were in your shoes, I wouldn't be thrilled about this rebellion either. But you have to know that we have done everything we can to keep him safe."

"If that were true, he wouldn't be here in the first place." She growled, her claws tapping against the wooden table.

Lilith just sighed, "Tell me, why do you think he's still here? Why do you think he and his friends started this rebellion in the first place, why they came to the massacre when we told them not to show up in the first place?"

Rose's ears flattened as she looked down at the table. That was the question she had asked him many times and eventually her husband who seemed to somehow change his tune. "I don't know. Somehow they think this is better than what we had before. That the fact he could end up dying for this cause is somehow okay. I don't like Belos. I don't think the coven system is great. But we were happy before. Augustus was just a happy kid who had a bright future ahead of him. Perry was a successful reporter. And I worked at a nice bakery. Sure, things weren't perfect. But it wasn't like this. My son didn't wake in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. He didn't have scars from cuts and burns he got from being close to a blast zone. He listened when I told him something was too dangerous. He understood when I was trying to protect him. And his father agreed with me. I know my son and he isn't-"

"A rebel?" Lilith asked, a tired smile on her face, "Rose. He's a teenager going through a lot. Of course he's angry all the time. He doesn't have any consistency. Most of the rebellion treats him like a terrifying man and then we treat him like a fourteen year old. He's seen the injustice in the world earlier than most and I promise you this. Even if my sister and I didn't do anything. If we told Luz, Willow, Gus and Amity that the rebellion was a dumb idea. They would have done it anyway."

"You don't know that." Rose argued, "He's a good boy."

"Well there's at least part of the problem. He's not a boy anymore. He's a young man. And unfortunately he's had to grow up faster than I think either of us would have liked."

"Even if he is a young man. He shouldn't be involved in this war."

"Maybe not but for better or worse he is."

"We would be home, and he'd still be in school. Perry would still have his job. We'd still have our savings. We used what we had to pay down our mortgage so we wouldn't lose our house. Although depending on when the battle reaches Bonesborough, we might lose it anyways. I never should have made that everlasting oath. I should have reported you to the guards as soon as I found out."

"I'm glad you made the oath. And you may not believe me. But I'm glad you're here."

Rose raised an eyebrow, "and why is that? So you have someone to help make rations out of the scraps."

Lilith's eyes glanced at the photo on the table, she picked it up gently in her hands, like it was an injured dove. "Most of our soldiers are runaways. They either didn't think or knew their parents wouldn't have let them join. But they did anyway because they thought it was the right thing to do. Many never even told their family goodbye. Most of what your husband does in communications is look up names and check runaway listings. So we can help identify the unclaimed bodies and get them home. Your son has delivered these ashes himself and he can tell you first hand the sorrow, the anger and the frustration they feel knowing that for some reason rational or not. Their kid didn't feel safe enough to tell them the truth and now they never will. They'll never know why they were so scared, why they believed what they did, or even if they missed them while they were out there." She set the photo down carefully next to Rose, "We all have things to lose in war. But don't lose them because of yourself too."

Lilith stood and walked to the door, she turned to look at Rose, "Major." She said, giving a nod before she left.

Rose said nothing as she stared at the little boy in the photo.

Chapter Text

Gambit stood over the crowd of soldiers, the golden eyes of their helmet shined in the dim light of the rising sun. "Today may be some of our last. Today we will face the worst battle yet. However, each of you are here to make the world a better place. We fight for our rights to be free, and so that others may be free. This is the burden for which we have chosen to take upon ourselves, for our friends, families, and those we've lost. We shall not stand by and let this tyrant rule our home any longer. And if we die today, may the Titan smile down on us as their true children. And may those we strike down find peace. Today will be a day of great pain, but let it not be for nothing. Let us make Today a day of Victory. FOR THE REBELLION! FOR FREEDOM!" Their gravelly voice boomed over the crowd as the troops cheered.

And just as the sun finally made its way into the sky, the horns sounded. And the attack began.
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The soldiers walked along the top of the tall stone gate. A few thousand with lances, spears and other such weapons stood in front of it. Their white masks and cloaks shining brightly in the early morning sun. They heard the horns and immediately sprung into their defensive stance.

Gunners readied the cannons, crossbowmen and archers held their weapons up, ready to fire at the slightest movement. Abominations stood next to their heavily armed witches. They knew this fight was coming and they were ready to deal with the rebel forces.

A scouting party of fifteen which had been sent to report the incoming troops, returned as one bug eyed hysterical demon.

"Corporal, where is your commander and what did you see?" The major growled.

"The trees. The trees...are coming...we stood n..no chance." They grinned madly, although there was nothing but fear in their eyes, "they're coming for us."

The major slapped them across the face and shook them, "What did you see?!" The ground shook and the demon screamed, scrambling out of the major's hold. She turned as she watched them run. She lifted her staff effortlessly, "Kill the deserter." She ordered, and a volley of arrows hit the fleeing demon and fell to the ground. She marched over and lifted the corpse by the neck. "This is the fate that befalls any of you that run." She snarled, "You fight or you die."

The troops kept their eyes forward, they did as they were told. They kept their weapons high as the ground shook more and more violently. The younger ones felt their instincts screaming at them to run away but the bloody corpse was a firm reminder that their odds of survival were greater fighting their enemies than betraying their allies.

"Incoming!" Someone shouted as they all raised their shields. They expected the heavy clunk of rocks or the pinging of arrows against their shield wall. However the sound was crunchy and wet. They lowered their shields and saw blood now painted many of them. They saw the mangled remains of the scouting party littered the ground around them.

"What could do something like this?" Another private asked, nervously.

The ground rumbled now and a loud roars came from the woods ahead as the trees themselves seemed to be shaking and some appeared to be moving closer.

"Ents!!" Another one cried as the gunners above loaded their cannons.

Seven Ents growled as they stomped, towering over even the troops on the gate itself. Sharp thrones lined every inch of the creature's body, and their hands were large mace like structures. They could see bloody pulp on one of the spiked branches on the leading Ent.

The major narrowed her eyes and spotted the rebel army in the distance. She gritted her teeth, "Men let's show these cowards how it's done. CHARGE!"

They ran forward as the cannons roared to life, the Ents groaned as cannon balls cracked through their frames. Their attack however didn't cease as they slammed their fists into the ground crushing any one below.

Those who managed to break past the Ents were shot down by a legions' worth of arrows and bolts.

The major screamed as she formed a fireball and shot it at the nearest Ent. She smiled as the flames slowly spread. "Attack it now!" She cried as she continued to blast the large creature with flames. Fury glowed in her eyes as she saw her enemies hadn't advanced despite her prodding. "FIGHT ME COWARD!!" She roared as she charged towards the Ents fire blazing from her hands. She laughed madly as the fire spread between the rest of the creatures. She turned as she saw the leading Ent had fallen to its knees. "GUNNERS FINISH IT OFF!"

"We can't Major, it's too close to the gat-"

"I DON'T CARE CAPTAIN. FINISH IT OFF!"

The cannons groaned as they moved slowly aiming at the giant creature, then fired. A burning hot cannonball pierced through the chest of the ent. Major was about to order her troops to fire again when the creature exploded. Soldiers screamed as burning branches, nails and bloody debris fell down on them like hell's hail.

The other Ents charged forward, as the remaining soldiers outside the city walls, screamed for the gate to be lifted. However, the gate stayed locked as the remaining Ents, weak from the flames consuming them, fell forward onto the unlucky privates and Corporals. The soldiers inside the walls fled, praying for protection as their world went dark.
------------------------------------------------------------

Colonel Ent raised more plant abominations, as they led their troops through the destroyed gate, they pressed their thumb against their earpiece, "Main gate is down. How are the others?"

"Second Gate is down" Richards' voice crackled over the speaker.

"Western gate is still up. But I'll have it down soon." Smith answered.

"Eastern gate is in pieces." Gambit said, their voice surprisingly numb.

"Good. Richards, head toward the square, and we'll meet up. Smith, get that gate down. Gambit, see if you can kite those bastards toward us." Ent said, quickly as the air began to fill with smoke and ash.

"On it." Gambit replied, they felt the adrenaline coursing through their veins. They could feel the part of their brain that begged them to flee become quieter as they forced it down. They had to make it back, they had people to protect. They let their fight instincts take over as they placed another glyph on their mace. They raised their spiked shield, as they charged forward. They blocked out the screams as they slammed their mace against the nearest E.A. soldier's head. Red splattered against the white uniform as they fell to the ground below. Gambit raised their shield as a warhammer struck down. They shoved it back, swinging their mace hard against their opponent's ribs. The glyph activated on impact, sending the soldier flying back as a ball of flames overtook them. Gambit raised their shield charging through their flames and rammed back any enemy left standing.

"Western gate is down. Gambit, where are you?" Smith asked, as she led her team through the city.

"A bit further from our gate. They're defending better than I expected." They groaned as they broke through an enemy shield.

"Then give them what they don't expect." Ent yelled through the speaker as he pulled back his longbow.

Gambit slapped another glyph on their mace and smashed it against an opposing shield, the soldiers were blown back as they deactivated their conjuring glyphs. They pulled out their cards, shuffling them quickly and threw one. It changed into a knife mid air and buried itself in the neck of an E.A. soldier.

The soldier staggered back on impact, and fell. The remaining soldiers roared with vengeance, as another card landed among them, this time vines erupted.
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Bones and their team of griffins waited in the trees. They bit their lip behind their mask as they watched their breath in the cold air. Ent had them waiting in case something started going wrong or as the final blow depending on how badly things went. The rest of their M.A.S.H team were back at base camp while the few that had active combat training were assigned to specific teams.

Bones patted their griffins neck, as they looked at their sweetheart bracelet. She watched as the gem turned a smokey topaz color. She hoped desperately for the red tinted metal to glow a soft blue. She wanted some sign from her love that she was thinking of her.

Her uncle and cousin were half way back, with plans to form the rebellion navy. They also had letters with them from the Clawthrone siblings. She missed Emira dearly. Emira had always been a bit crazy. She was mischievous and definitely liked trouble. She was crafty and sharp. She knew how to play the part of a blight better than her siblings. Amity postured too much and Edric didn't have the same drive. She had a maternal side that had surprised Viney at first, yet it made sense later on. They all had to parent themselves and Emira tended to do it the most to her siblings. Despite that she still managed to get into trouble, seemingly out of spite.

Viney, herself, wasn't actually much of a troublemaker. At least not intentionally. She was unorthodox for sure, but not really one to cause active trouble. She had grown up with her uncle always running from the law and her father always working long hours as a farmhand. They were both often at least mildly injured, they often couldn't afford to go to the healers. Viney remembered when she found out she had an affinity for healing magic. She had been so upset that her Dad wouldn't get his cut looked at, she desperately closed her eyes. Bright blue glowed from her eyes as she healed his injury. Ever since then she nagged her uncle, cousin and her dad about their injuries.

Emira and her understood the need to be responsible for others. Yet they stood on opposite ends of the spectrum. Emira tended to be a bit more trouble and Viney tended towards responsibility. Yet they balanced each other out that way, Viney gave Emira the security she needed, and in return, she helped Viney have fun.

Fate, it seemed, wished to cement this difference between them. As Viney had grown weary since they parted, although she was far from the only one. The war took its toll on everyone, even the ones not fighting. The rationings, the Propaganda, the runaways, everyone had someone they cared about fighting in the war, the most unfortunate had them on both sides.

It also made those fighting do things they never wanted to. She was a healer and a beast keeper. All she ever wanted was to help people and now she was a soldier. She was waiting for her orders to lead an attack. She was going to kill and it wasn't the first time she had. It wouldn't be the last either.

She remembered the letter she wrote Emira, when they were imagining a better life after this was just an unpleasant memory. She had mentioned them adopting kids. She had framed it as an alternative to labor, which while true wasn't the main reason. War always left orphans, and if she could give any child some comfort after having to spend any time alive during this. She would in a heartbeat.

"Bones! We could use the Calvary now!" Ent yelled over the speaker.

"I'll head out now. Hold your ground if you can." Bones said, as they tapped their griffin's sides. They buried their aches as they turned to their soldiers, "Let's give 'em hell!" They shouted as the other riders followed them into the fray. Each praying it wouldn't be their last.
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In a tall apartment building in the poor side of Brainburg, someone lay hidden on the lobby floor. The city had been ordered to evacuate, however those orders didn't tell people where to go. The other large cities like Palm city, St. Paw and Stonefist were all targets for the rebellion. Bonesborough was the central trading hub, but they had limited the amount of people they would take. And many were still worried after the massacre. Many smaller villages and towns had already been taken by the rebellion. Inns had increased their security and their rates to compensate. There really wasn't a place on the Boiling isles to escape the war.

A large green ear perked up before the goblin scurried down to the basement. "All clear so far," She said to the crowded room.

The group of people nodded as they went back to their arguing.

"This wouldn't have happened if it weren't for those damn rebels!" A middle aged woman growled.

"It was the Emperor that started this war!" A younger man shot back.

"We don't need to be fighting!" An old woman yelled, "Doesn't matter who started it. Both sides are dropping bombs on us, sitting around bitching about it helps no one."

A cry interrupted their argument as the young man left the rest of the adults. He walked over to the other side of the large basement where a small group of children were playing quietly. He turned to the play pen and picked up his one year old daughter. He rocked her gently in his arms, as tears rolled down his face. Antony felt like a failure.

He had promised his wife he would look after their daughter when she left for the rebellion. They knew one of them had to fight to make a better future for her. He did well for a while, but when the rationings hit harder, essentials became more expensive. The diner he worked at couldn't afford to stay open let alone pay him.

Mrs. Anderson was a divorced mother of five. Her oldest had gotten into the Emperor's coven by the skin of his teeth. She had been so proud the day she saw him in his uniform. He had given her his first paycheck so she could open her own bakery, instead of working in a factory. Her son didn't survive the bombings at Bonesborough and her bakery didn't survive the rations. The factory she used to work at had become an armor factory and had no use for their baking staff. Her second oldest, they ran off to join the rebellion. They believed the social media over the news, and wanted to avenge their brother. At least to Mrs. Anderson, all they managed to do was break her heart twice, and worry if Sam will end up like their brother.

Mrs. Taylor was the second oldest of the group, at 81. Her sister, Mrs. Greene was 86 and suffered from dementia. Her grandson Olly was taking care of them. His mom was required to join the army as she was a member of the Abominations coven, while his baba had been arrested for trying to steal medicine for their sick aunt. Olly was seventeen, and nervously passed back and forth. "What if we get trapped down here?" He asked nervously.

"So far the building has been sound." Tea, the goblin answered, "But I'll check again." She said before scurrying up the stairs."

Mx. Leery just leaned back into the wall, as they listened to the sound of the battles above. The cat-like demon kept their ears flat, as they ran their claws through their fur. Their Ex Husband was a low ranking coven guard, and was now a Corporal in the Army. Their daughter had run off for the rebellion. They hung their head low and prayed they didn't end up killing each other in battle.

The rest of their group was made up of the homeless who aside from the few children who moved to play with the other kids, sat huddled together as they waited for either the battle to end or to be thrown out to extend the supplies.

A particularly old witch among that group mumbled to herself under her breath as she held some sort of charm in her hands.

The children did their best to play but they all could sense the fear in the adults. They didn't know why they spent the last few days in the basement. The younger ones flinched as they heard another boom from above, but an older kid calmed them down.

"It's just a storm." Alice, one of the street kids, said softly, as she rubbed the backs of the frightened little children, "It'll pass."

Mrs. Taylor sighed as she looked around the basement. She and her sister had been around before the Emperor came into power, at the time. The Boiling isles had been more of city states than a true united country. When Belos took power, he promised to unite the isles and stop the petty feuding. However all he managed to do was replace five mediocre governments that fought all the time, with one big mediocre government with a lovely dash of fascism for flavor.

The battles she saw as a young woman were harsh but nothing compared to the atrocities of the modern day. She didn't like Belos, but she had been fooled before by those who promised they'd make their country better. She was angry mostly, that her daughter was forced into a fight she didn't want to be a part of. That her kid in law was arrested for just trying to get medicine they couldn't afford. That her grandson had to drop out of school to get a job to support them. And now all of them might die. Not because they were trying to take a stand, not to fight for a cause they thought was worth dying for. They would die because they simply didn't have anywhere else to go. They at least had food, shelter and medicine here. Most of them wouldn't last in the cold winter nights. The basement might be chilly, but it at least had functional toilets, a few showers and some insulation. What Mrs. Taylor hated the most though, was the fact they weren't the only ones.

Many of the cities poor, ill, and old weren't that far off from them. All huddled in basements, sewers and any spot they could hide away from the fighting around them. They didn't care about who won or lost, they'd lose either way. Most just hoped to survive another day.
------------------------------------------------------------

The Brainburg Conformintorium was the largest in the Boiling isles. It was one of the most heavily guarded facilities outside of the Emperor's castle. It held some of the worst criminals in the Boiling isles and currently it held the largest number of P.O.W.s in the country. It sat right in the back of the skull, just on the outskirts of Brainburg.

Yet when Jax woke up in his small cell, it wasn't to the guards dragging him out to the yard. Instead, he heard the sounds of bombs echoing in the city around them and the sounds of the other prisoners screaming at any of the ones who managed to escape. He growled as he saw that before the guards left, they added an extra enchantment to the P.O.W. cells.

The prison gangs had great distrust of the rebel prisoners. They didn't follow the rules of the system and they were a large enough group that stuck together. This only infuriated them and the guards even more. As it made the rebels harder to break.

The unaffiliated prisoners who were mostly low level thieves and other petty criminals held no resentment towards the P.O.W.s, in fact many agreed with what they stood for. However, they knew they'd get hurt if they showed too much sympathy.

The rules were different now, as the walls shook. It was everyone for themselves as those who could break out ran for their lives.

"Captain" Jax yelled for the person in the cell next to him, "Captain are you there?!"

"Corporal, thank Titan." She laughed, "I was worried they killed you before they left."

"I'm alright Captain, did any of our troops make it out of bonds?"

"If they did, they sure as hell didn't help anyone else." She groaned, as she leaned back against the wall.

Jax sighed, as he sat down, then looked at the wall behind him. "Captain, you think they enchanted the back of the cell too?"

"We have cuffs that prevent us from using our magic and that wall is like three feet of concrete and rebar. I hardly think they'd need to."

"Ya know, We might not have our normal magic. But I bet glyphs would still work." He smiled.

"They gave you something to write with?"

"No. But I have an idea that just might work." He walked over to the sink and ran his thumb along the blade of the cheap dull razor. He smiled when the red blood appeared and began his plan.
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Ent growled as they shot down another E.A. soldier, when another explosion echoed in the skull. They covered their head instinctively, then looked around. They didn't see any buildings nearby damaged. They kept their bow at their side as they ran, then saw a giant glyph of an Owl appear over the Brainburg Conformintorium. They summoned their staff and took off towards the prison.

The dust in the cold air clung to their helmet, but they wiped off as much as they could. They flew faster when they saw someone in chains jumping up and down waving like mad.

"COLONEL! DOWN HERE!! HELP!" They heard the prisoner yelling.

Ent immediately broke the young man's bonds as he stood in the wrecked prison cell. "How many of you are there?"

"I don't know sir." He answered, saluting.

"From what I can tell a few hundred." The Captain yelled from her cell.

Ent examined the enchantments on the cell door, he drew a pattern on it and it swung open.

Jax blinked, "h-how did you manage to do that so easily?!"

The Colonel tilted their head, "I was trained by the greatest criminal in this country. Do you know how many times that woman has broken out of jail? Undoing enchantments was most of our training in the beginning."

"Huh. That actually makes a lot of sense."

The Captain grumbled, "Enough talk we need to get these people out of here!"

Ent nodded, as they began repeating the spell, "you" they said to Jax, "See if you can find the control panel for the cells. In the meantime I'll keep doing this manually."

Jax nodded as he ran down the hall.
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The goblin grimaced as another bomb went off, the ground shaking below. The battle was getting closer. Tea covered her mouth as she saw a griffin fall from the sky. She carefully darted out but immediately wished she hadn't as she saw the bloody puddle the griffin and their rider had become. She gently closed the corpses' eyes before running back down to her group down below. "They're getting closer, I don't know how much longer we'll be safe here."

Antony and Mrs. Anderson broke down in tears. The young man held his daughter close while Mrs. Anderson pulled her three remaining children in for a tight hug.

Olly just froze as he stared at his grandma and his aunt. He felt useless. Worst, he felt helpless. He had given up so much to take care of his family and it felt like it was all for nothing.

Mrs. Taylor glanced at the group of homeless people. She found she had the same expression on her face, one of resignation. She was too old to fight, and they had been worn thin by the world. She blinked as she felt her sister touch her hand.

"Granny, where are we? Why does everyone look so scared?" Mrs. Greene asked, she often mistook her sister for their grandmother nowadays. She hated that even in her sister's fleeting memory she could still sense something was wrong.

"It's going to be alright Abby, it's just a storm. It will pass."

Mrs. Greene's face wrinkled as she took in her sister's words, worry still clear in her eyes. "You sure?" She asked, like a child who was convinced there was some in their closet.

Mrs. Taylor couldn't help the tears that ran down her face. She couldn't tell her the truth. She deserved to spend what could be their last moments in peace, even if it was from ignorance. "Yes dear. It will be over before you know it."

Mrs. Greene seemed satisfied with that answer and settled back into her chair.

Mx. Leery just stared at a photo of their daughter, wishing to see her one last time.

Tea growled to herself, she refused to give up hope. They needed to leave. But where would they go? The basement was the best place to hide and survive the bombings but if the building above them collapsed, they'd be trapped. They could try and fly away, but she doubted they'd all survive the crossfire. They were stuck. She stomped her foot, she wouldn't let them be. Someone had to care. They were civilians. One side or the other had to care. She climbed back out to the surface and scanned the alleys. She would get them out, even if it killed her. She scampered out of the safety of the lobby floor and towards the echoing bombs as the smoke, ash and dirt filled air rained down on her like snow.
------------------------------------------------------------

"We've got four hundred civilians and soldiers in need of medical care and transport at the Conformintorium. Anyone copy?" Ent's voice crackled over the speaker.

"I hear you, but I can't transport that many, our caravans or sky ships would be targeted immediately." Bones replied, "are any badly injured?"

"No. But they're malnourished and weak."

"There's an abandoned lighthouse not far from there. It's past the naval port I destroyed, it's outside the skull and far enough away from the fighting for them to be safe until we can transport them." Gambit answered.

"I can confirm, I just dropped off some civilians there I found in a shop." Richards said, anger in his voice.

"Civilians? I thought they were cleared out?" Gambit growled.

"Most were. But I doubt all could." Ent sighed, "Smith you there?"

"Yes Colonel." She said, quickly.

"I need you here asap. You'll have to cast an illusion so these people can fly off without getting shot down."

"Yes sir. Heading your way now." She leaped onto her staff and took off towards the prison.

Luz conjured her mace and broke through the enemy's shield. Rage filled her blood. She killed people. Blew up an entire fleet of ships so that the civilians would be evacuated out of the city. So that no one would be caught in the crossfire. She had felt her soul shatter as she destroyed the ships. The only comfort, the only solace she was able to give herself was that the civilians wouldn't get hurt.

Anger blinded Luz as she let out a terrifying battle cry. She would end this battle single handed if she had to. They weren't going to hurt more people. Not again. She conjured a second mace as every E.A. soldier nearby suddenly looked like a target.

Their white cloaks stood out even as a layer of ash covered them and soon they would be stained red.
------------------------------------------------------------

Tea hid behind a wall as she heard the screams. She watched as soldiers in white ran past her, many looking for a place to hide.

"Come back and face them you cowards!" Another soldier in white growled, she saw the golden shoulder pads and immediately recognized them as a commander. They raised their staff to fire at whoever was nearby when a head slammed into the chest. It bounced on the ground before rolling down the street.

The commander jumped back on their feet, they growled, "Where are you coward?!!"

The only answer was a terrifying yell, as a figure appeared at the end of the alley.

Tea swallowed back her fear as she watched them approach the E.A. commander. They almost looked like a shadow, their dark uniform blending into the ashen sky. Despite the color, it was easy to tell the fabric of their armor was wet. Two bloody maces hung at their side as they stalked forward. The street light above shined down on their helmet, it was shaped like the head of an owl and looked as if it were made of twilight itself. Predatory golden eyes stared at their opponent, almost daring them to fight.

The commander just growled as they circled each other, each waiting for the other to strike. Tea could feel the rage radiating from the pair. She felt terror seize her as she made brief eye contact with the blood covered rebel.

The soldier in white took that moment to attack, raising their staff, only for it to be shattered by a mace. They stepped back reaching for their sword, but it was too late.

Tea curled into a ball as she waited for the screams to stop. Her heartbeat quickened as she heard the wet footsteps of the rebel. She could smell the blood scent getting closer to her. She sobbed as she realized she failed her mission. She screamed when she felt the heavy damp leather gloves touch her shoulder. "Please don't kill me!" She blinked when she felt them give her a gentle squeeze, she turned and saw them panting heavily. They wiped the eyes of their helmet to clear off the ash and blood from their view, but it was mostly in vain. They tilted their head at the goblin expectantly.

"Will you help me? There's people hiding in the basement of an apartment building not far from here. Please, there's children there too." Tea begged tears streaming down her face. The soldier just nodded. She hugged then instinctively, "Oh thank you. Titan bless you."

She let go quickly, ignoring the blood that now stained her already dirty clothes. "This way! Follow me!"
------------------------------------------------------------

Smith gritted her teeth as she kept up the illusion. They were going in groups of a hundred as even with a power glyph she couldn't cloak all of them at once without being down and out for the rest of the battle. She just hoped the dark cloud would go unnoticed in the cold smoke filled sky.

They moved slowly as if they went too fast it would break their cover. However for everyone it felt like they were crawling. As bombs echoed in the distance, it took all their restraint not to flee immediately.

The hole in the Skull grew closer and closer. A few of the rebel healers hovered on their staffs, just outside of the skull to lead the people the rest of the way.

Smith groaned as she dropped the illusion. One of the healers took charge as the other three waited patiently.

Ent held his grown nearby. He had vines spread along the street, as he waited for any rustling to give away an opponent. "Richards, Bones, Gambit, how's our side looking?"

"I can't see much of anything with the ash and smoke everywhere. But there's definitely less people flying, on both sides unfortunately." Bones sighed, "I'll see if I can find any big clusters and see how they handle griffin claws."

"We're doing better on the ground. We've managed to push them back. We'll see if we can keep this up. But we might be able to win this." Richards replied, as he summoned his own plant abominations. They weren't quite as tall and there weren't as many as Ent's but they were still strong.

"Gambit, what about you?" Ent asked, fear twisted in their gut. "Anyone see Gambit?"

"Last I saw they were heading towards the poor side of town." Richards said, "and tore a bloody path through it."

"Their blood or other people's?" Bones asked, ready to change course depending on the answer.

"Other people." Richards reassured, "if they need something, I'm sure they'll say something."

"For their sake I hope you're right." Ent sighed.

"Ready with the next group, Ent." Smith said, trying her best to hide the exhaustion in her voice.

"Good. So far they haven't found us. You gonna be able to hold two more illusions?" Their gravelly distorted voice still managed to convey their worry.

"I can, it's why I wanted to go in groups of about a hundred. If I did anymore it would overload the power glyph. The only reason I haven't passed out after one." She laughed although it was strained.

"if it gets too much I can cover you with a vine wall. You're no good unconscious." Ent offered, while fear clawed at the back of their mind. "Gambit will you answer?" They growled as they still didn't reply.
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"You won't get away with this rebel scum!" An E.A. Captain roared his battleaxe drawn as he charged forward towards the Colonel.

Gambit threw a card down on the ground below and the captain was thorn vaulted through the second floor window of a nearby apartment building. They heard Ent calling for them, but their hands were a bit full as the remaining soldiers ran at them all at once.

Tea was hidden laying on the floor of a nearby building. She folded down her ears to block out the screams. She didn't dare take a peek at the battle in front of her.

Gambit growled as she felt one of the soldiers jump on her back, she felt them move their arm back reaching for her throat. She slammed them against the nearest wall and they fell to the ground. "How much further?" She yelled out to the goblin.

"Two more blocks." She squeaked.

Gambit just nodded as she dodged a spear, she threw down another card and flames sprang out scoring the closest soldiers. Her breath was heavy, as she looked around seeing no opponents standing, "We're clear, come on!"
------------------------------------------------------------

Olly felt his heart beating in his chest as he watched a building up the way collapse from the bombings. He did his best to ignore how the building shook and creaked above him. His eyes and nose burned from the smokey air. He covered his head as he laid on the lobby floor, hoping desperately that Tea found help.

A potion bottle flew in next to his head, he grabbed it and threw it back as hard as he could. He then ducked back down as he felt the blast. He flew back, his hands protected his head but he groaned as he stood up. The building rumbled now. They needed to leave.

He ran down the staircase, as the people gathered. His grandma gasped as she saw his bloody arm. He ignored her as he shouted, "The building is coming down. We need to get out of here!"

They scrambled together, a homeless demon carried Mrs. Greene gently, while Olly helped his grandma. Antony held his daughter close to his chest as he felt her shaking in his grasp.

The children were escorted first, as they scrambled on to the lobby. Billy, Mrs. Anderson's youngest, turned back towards his mother. "Momma are we gonna be okay?" He asked, terror clear in his voice.

"You will be. Stay with Mr. Olly and keep moving sweetheart." She did her best to sound reassuring.

The seven year old just nodded as he climbed up the stairs, and clung tightly to Olly's leg.

Alice carried some of the other kids up and then was placed in charge of the one year old while Antony helped the others make it up the stairs. Mx. Leery held a bag with some basic medical supplies.

Olly carefully placed Billy with the other kids as Mrs. Anderson made it up to her children. "Is that everyone?" He asked, he counted heads, and ran back down towards the basement. He checked every, then when another explosion rumbled the ground he dashed back.

They all watched in horror as part of the old stone archway above the door cracked. The old bricks above it started to sink as well.

"No no no!" Olly yelled as he, Antony and some of the other stronger people ran towards their collapsing exit. All six of them groaned as they held up the heavy stone.

"Quickly, get the children out!" Antony roared.

The building shook again, as the sound of cracking echoed through the building. Dust landed on everyone's hair.

The six people focused all of their strength to prevent the ceiling from caving down. Then suddenly it felt easier to lift as they noticed another pair of bloody gloved hands on the other side of the doorway.

"I found help!" Tea yelled as she waved from behind the gore covered soldier.

Luz held her intercom with her shoulder as the power glyph tattoos on her left hand burned like a wildfire. "CIVILIANS FOUND ON WEST HILL STREET. CHILDREN ARE HERE. SEND BACK UP IMMEDIATELY."

"WHAT?" Jerbo shouted, as he slammed a guard against the ground, "Is anyone nearby Gambit?!"

"No, Bones and I are on the other side of the city. They're bombing too much for any of us to take flight." Richards groaned as he shielded himself from another volley of arrows.

"Smith, where are you?" Ent yelled.

"Still up near the Conformintorium, our soldiers got flanked. I can't." She said through gritted teeth.

"Bones. Let me know as soon as you're free. I'm going to go help Gambit." Ent said, before he threw a large muck covered seed on the ground, "ABOMINATION RISE."
------------------------------------------------------------

Luz grit her teeth as she could feel the power glyphs on her left knuckles bleeding. She wasn't out of juice yet and she had been saving it for the last part. "IS EVERYONE THAT ISN'T HELPING HOLD THIS THING UP OUT?"

"Yes." Antony called back, his own hands blistered.

"OKAY, I'm going to need to let go one at a time. And come out through the door." She said surprisingly calm.

"What?" The six other people yelled.

"Trust me." She ordered, "Youngest first."

A fifteen year old half giant carefully let go of his side, and crawled out below. Luz adjusted herself slightly. Olly went next, as he ducked before running to his grandma and great aunt. A wolf demon let go of her corner, and walked out. Luz grit her teeth as she slowly turned, adjusting now so she is facing the crowd. The others behind her, as the building shook again. She can feel the rest of the walls above them starting to shift. She doesn't have much time. "Loco" She said to her palismen, who chirped in response, "On the count of five, I'm going to need you to fly in there. Scoop the rest of those people out and lead them to the old lighthouse." The Otter squeaked nervously. "I'll be fine. Once they're safe. You help me, okay? Protect these people." He nodded reluctantly. "FIVE." She growled preparing herself, "FOUR." She had to time this just right. "THREE." She grimaced then blinked as she saw a bomb land on the top of the building. "GO LOCO NOW!" She cried as she activated the rest of the power glyphs, she felt her muscles tear as she held up the stone archway above her head, Loco zoomed out with the last four people on him. The ones who had staffs carried the others. Luz pulled out her right arm and moved her head out from under the pillar, the entire stone archway rested on her left arm, she was about to pull it to safety when the bomb went off.
------------------------------------------------------------

Loco desperately wanted to go back as soon as the bomb went off. But he knew what Luz wanted him to do. He flew low, the others tailing behind him before he spotted a hole in the Skull. Smoke was leaking out of it but it was their best bet. He chirped loudly and flew higher. He was grateful they all followed as they got closer to the exit.

Smoke covered them as they exited through the hole. They now soared above the skull of the Titan, as smoke leaked from his eyes and any other place it could escape. It would have looked pretty if you were unaware of the context. Instead it just hung like a dead silence among the people who looked down at their burning home.
------------------TRIGGER WARNING ------------------------------------------

Luz groaned as her ears rang, she tried to sit up and pain screamed in her left arm. She tried to move it and bit back a yelp. She pulled a light glyph from her pocket and turned to see why she couldn't move.

Panic shot through her as she saw her left shoulder was popped out of its socket, part of her bone stuck out as blood pooled from the part of her arm that was being crushed by the giant stone. She desperately tried to move again and screamed. She was stuck. She was bleeding. The building groaned above her as the ground shook, it wasn't done caving in. She needed to get out and quickly. She reached for a knife and began to slice through the gambeson. She could feel her heartbeat echoing in her ears. She needed to calm down and focus. She cut away as much of the armor as she could around her shoulder. She used her free hand to grab a glyph. She tapped it and it conjured an axe. She turned to her shoulder as her world exploded with pain.

The building began to shake more as a rock fell dangerously close to her leg. She felt tears running down her face as she pulled back the axe and swung again. She screamed, she screamed like she never thought possible. The pain was all consuming but she wasn't free. Not yet. She threw the axe back one more time and she stood up immediately as the building gave way.

She felt faint. She needed to stop the bleeding. She pulled out a fire glyph from her pocket and slammed it against the spot her left arm had been. She fell to her knees as she felt it sear her skin but the bleeding stopped.

She pulled out some plant glyphs and summoned a little tent and collapsed in it. Exhaustion, Pain and blood loss clouded her mind. She couldn't fall asleep. She wouldn't let herself. She was far too aware of what could happen as she closed her eyes. Yet it was hard for her to fight.

Her mind drifted to her Mami, how she had come so close to seeing her again. She had done so much and she managed to fuck it up. She thought of her Ma, of the witch that taught her so much. The person who helped her find all the people who made up her family. Her Mami had been grieving her for almost two years, but this would be fresh for her Ma. She wished she could tell her it wasn't her fault. She knew Eda would blame herself. She thought of Lilith, her aunt who was already constantly stressed. She thought about how she'd put more pressure on herself to hold Eda up. She thought about Boscha, Willow, and Gus. She knew each of them would break differently from this. Boscha would crack as it hit close enough to her loss of her brother. Willow would be angry, at herself, at the world at Luz. Gus, well it would only fuel his fire. He'd demand to be sent out. He would fill her role in the Army, but part of him, the joyful side of him would perish.

Jerbo and Viney would take turns beating themselves up while telling the other it wasn't their fault. Neither of them took killing people well and this would break them. Their friend was gone and they would blame themselves.

Luz felt her eyes drooping as she thought of Emira and Edric. Emira would cry her eyes out. She would yell and scream. Edric would be angry and sad. He'd either blame himself or his parents. However, the only one who would be worse than her Ma would be Amity. Amity would shatter like a hammer against glass. A sea of tears would run from her eyes until she didn't have any tears left. She'd become numb and cold.

Luz remembered how she promised Amity she'd make it home. She promised she'd be there, if she waited. She had meant it, however she never said the whole truth. That she would come home, even if she were just a pile of ash in an old coffee can. As her world grew darker and darker, she hoped that what Westly had said was true. That death can't stop true love, it can only delay it for awhile. She hoped it was true at least, she thought as she closed her eyes.

Chapter Text

Jerbo ran down the street as he looked desperately for his friend. He passed down a corner and saw a group of dead E.A. soldiers. He spotted a knife buried in the chest of one of the corpses and carefully pulled it out. He tapped it as it turned back into a card then fizzled away in his hands. "GAMBIT?" He yelled, his voice drowned out by the bombings nearby. He growled as he could barely see through the film of ash, blood and muck that covered his helmet.

He yanked it off and shoved it in his bag, "LUZ!" He screamed, his own voice sounded almost alien to him. He could feel the smoke stinking at his eyes. He groaned in annoyance when something leaped on him from above.

He yelped as he stared at the soldier, who had pinned him down, a knife raised and aimed at his throat. Jerbo pressed against his attacker's hands as both used all of their strength. He didn't have the strength to push him off, but he spotted a small weed in a crack in the ground nearby.

The E.A. soldier roared as they pressed down, their knife grazing his cheek. Jerbo pushed his opponent's grasp further and further to the side. He needed them to be away from his vitals if he was going to reach the plant.

The young soldier growled and finally slammed their knife down as Jerbo reached for the plant. He screamed in pain as he made the plant sprout vines. They threw the attacker off by their neck, snapping it.

He stood on shaky legs as he saw blood dripping down his face. He looked down and saw the top of his ear resting in the bloody dirt below. He turned and saw his now dead opponent.

They looked around his age and guilt filled him as he saw their empty eyes. He grabbed his severed ear and placed it on the dead person's chest, "You earned this." He said before running further up the street.

Fear bolted through him as he saw the bone sticking out from underneath the pile of rubble. A puddle of blood below it. "No. Sis." He felt tears running down his face. His eyes followed the blood trail as he saw the spot of green in an ocean of desolation.

He moved like the ground was falling behind him. His heart pounded in his ears as he saw something running towards him. A loud squeak. Loco. The otter led him to the makeshift tent and he cut back the vines. He felt his breath stop as he saw Luz's helmet.

He tapped his ear piece, "I found Gambit."
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Ameila yawned as she woke up. The morning sun shined down on her face. She stretched and put on her slippers to go out for her morning smoke.

The cold air bit at her face, forcing her to be more awake than she would have liked. The smell of food that wafted from the kitchen however made it much more enjoyable. She jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder.

"Relax Mittens." Edmund said sleepily as he lit his cigarette.

"Ugh, even in a different country I can't escape that stupid nickname." She grumbled slightly.

Edmund snickered, smoke blowing out of his nose. "Not my fault you used to knead your blankets and stuffies to death. The mittens we gave you were probably the only reason Otabin survived."

"Yeah it was also probably the only thing that stopped.....them from punishing me for it."

"You were an anxious small child. Of course you'd knead. Just like how I used to purr all the time. We all coped in different ways. Em was just better hiding hers."

"Your purr isn't really a purr." Ameila grinned as he rolled his eyes at her.

"My boyfriend finds it adorable. So fuck you."

"Yeah that's also why his nickname for you is snuffles." Emma grinned as she popped her head out the door, "Also about time you two woke up."

"I should have absorbed you in the womb." Edmund sighed as he put out his smoke.

"But ya didn't" Emma laughed, "now come on or I'm eating your share of sausages."

"Bitch." Ameila said in fake horror.

Edmund wheezed laughing which caused his sisters to glare at him.

"Do not." Emma said flatly.

"Please no." Ameila said as she rubbed her temples.

"Hey that is the only sausage you two would ever fight for." He fell over at his own stupid joke while his sisters groaned and rolled their eyes.

"We're taking your share." Emma smirked.

"What, no!" He laughed as he chased after his sisters to the breakfast table.

"I thought I heard the duckies." Grandda smiled brightly as he poured his wife a cup of tea.

Nanny gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek, "thank you love, can you get the rest of the meat out of the oven. I have a suspicion we'll be needing the extras."

"Of course!" He cheered, then stopped as he saw a fresh berry pound cake resting on the cooling take next to the oven. He used his magic to pull out the trays of bacon and sausage warming in the oven while he slid open the drawer for a butter knife, his eyes staring at the cake. The drawer however slammed itself shut before he could even see the silverware.

"Liam Fergus Stilwell, were you trying to sneak a piece of the cake I made for my knitting circle." She asked, a playful smirk on her face.

"I canna help it. It's one of me favorites." He grinned before purring as he leaned closer to her, "Although I had my favorite cake last night."

Molly's already naturally pinkish skin turned a bright red as she smacked his arm gently, "The children are right there! You horny old buggar!"

The three just snorted at the normal banter the older couple had. Grandda loved getting her flustered, and Nanny in response often pinched his butt. She especially loved doing it when he was pouring his beer, as it made him spill some of it. He would grumble and shake his head before giving her a soft kiss.

"Your horny old buggar." He beamed proudly, as he settled back down in his chair next to hers.

Edmund, Emma and Amelia drooled a little bit at the breakfast set out on the table. The meat rations in the Boiling isles, had left them craving for anything besides vegetables and grains. And Fairyland's traditional breakfast more than answered their prayers. They quickly gathered the sausages, black pudding, white pudding, haggis, rashers and cockles. They also grabbed the tattie scones, toast, oatcakes, beans, mushrooms, fried tomatoes, fried eggs and the laverbread.

They may not be in the war but all three still trained like they were and happily took advantage of the fact that the Stilwells' farm would never run out of food. They hummed with bliss as they ate when the back door swung open.

All three siblings leaped from their seats, their claws out, ready to defend their new grandparents.

The stranger had a similar pinkish complexion to Nanny, although his hair was the same dark brown his father and nephew had. His eyes however were green much like his mom's. The whites of his eyes however, had almost a bluish purple tint to them. He stroked his long graying beard, "You three look different." He said quickly as he walked closer, examining the siblings, "Something's off."

"Excuse me?" Ameila asked, incredulously.

He sniffed slightly, "You smoke Druids now, and he smokes Baggins. No that's about right." He raised his bushy eyebrow, "What is it. Oh it's on the tip of my tongue."

"Nanny, why is this weird man looking at us and acting like he's met us before?" Emma said, letting out an awkward cough.

"Cian, love, we've talked about this. Just because you've seen them in your oracle sphere or your dreams doesn't mean you know them." Nanny said gently, patting her son's back.

He blushed slightly, as he backed away from the startled teens, "Sorry, second sight." He smiled as he adjusted his tie. "I'm Cian Stilwell, oracle professor at St. Merlin's school of witchcraft."

"Second sight?" Edmund looked confused and nervous, but not enough to stop him from sitting back down to eat.

"Aye, all beings in the realm have some natural affinity for certain types of magic. Your friend Willow is a natural with plant magic for instance. She's especially gifted at it. Why she was such a late bloomer. Hah Bloom. Flowers. Anyways, I was born with second sight. I'm a natural oracle and I don't even need to channel it with a sphere although it tends to be easier. However it tends to leave me, just a bit bad with people. I've met them in dreams or visions. And I forget they don't know me." He smiled sheepishly, "Also my predictions are still not one hundred percent accurate. No prediction is. Future is unpredictable and sometimes I find out things so far ahead I don't have a bugger what it means."

Emma blinked slightly as he answered the question before she even spoke it, "You're not a mind reader are you?"

"No, that just tends to be the question people ask me the most." He smiled brightly.

"Cian, what are you doing here? Holiday isn't for another month or so." Nanny asked, her son had a habit of showing up randomly so that was hardly the issue. It was more of if he remembered that it wasn't Holiday or if he told the headmaster before he took off. She often wondered how he managed to not get fired from his job, but he had been the professor for over a decade. Nanny figured they probably just realized they wouldn't get someone as gifted as him. That or they had fired him ages ago and he either saw them hiring him back, forgot or continued to teach out of spite. She wondered vaguely if all three had happened, given his temporal spaciness. "Sweetheart, remember to take your time grounding potion?"

He blinked slightly digging in his pockets, pulling out an assortment of oddities that would have impressed Eda. Then pulled out a blue potion bottle. "No. It seems I didn't." He popped the cork and swallowed it down. His ears twitched as his eyes became a little less frantic looking. He glanced at the three siblings, "The hair! That's what's different. Oh honestly that's just embarrassing. It's so obvious. Well now I just feel silly." He laughed as he sat down, helping himself to some breakfast.

Emma, Edmund and Amelia gave a concerned look to Nanny and Grandda who just gave them reassuring looks, and went back to their tea.

Breakfast soon went back to their normal chatter. Nanny was explaining the rules of fairy's fight as Edmund was joining in on their knitting circle.

"Now these are your mana cards." She held up a blue colored card with a picture of a pond with a fae woman standing above it, "Match the color with the car-"

"FUCK!" Cian yelled, his eyes widened, a grim look formed on his face. He looked at Amelia with a worried look on his face. "We need to call Maggie. Now. The nearest place with signal is three hours north."

The siblings looked confused but then saw the scared looks on Nanny and Grandda's face.

"We'll put everything away when we get back. Come along you three. Edmund, get your staff."
------------------------------------------------------------

Eda and Lilith stared wearily at the crystal ball, as the news played.

"It has been two whole days and the battle of Brainburg finally seems to be coming to an unfavorable end. After devastating blows by the Nighthawks prior to their invasion, they have taken the city. General Bloodarrow of the Emperor's Army and an esteemed member of the Emperor's coven officially retreated after suffering severe casualties. Many of our brave guardians in white lost their lives in days that are sure to live in infamy. Kikimora is appearing again tomorrow to let us know how the Emperor plans on helping the evacuated people find new places to live. This has been Ben Berry signing off."

Eda and Lilith looked at each other and smiled, they won. They captured Brainburg, they had a major port. They now had access to more factories. They could make more food, medicine and supplies. They had the ability to actually compete with their opponent's abilities and dealt them a massive blow in the process. For the first time in a long time, they felt like they could actually make up for their mistakes. They could fulfill their goal.

"We did it." Lilith smiled, a giggle escaped her lips.

"Yeah we fucking did!" Eda beamed as she threw a wrinkled piece of paper into a nearby garbage can.

"Do we still have that old bottle of smoked Dwarven whiskey?" Lilith asked, "the 150 year?"

"Of course. I kept it in the one place none of those little hooligans would dare touch it." Eda smirked, which only grew bigger and bigger as her sister's face dawned with realization.

"Edalyn Ann Clawthrone, please tell me you did not put our finest and rarest alcohol in the same box as your.....toys." Lilith said, taken aghast as her sister just cackled. "Titan....why?!"

"What, you teach a kid how to pick locks, undo enchantments and seals. You have to get creative to keep them out of your shit. This way I can lock it up, hide it and even if they see it. There is no way in hell they'll touch it."

"Yeah I don't wanna touch it either."

"I'll wipe the bottle with a disinfect wipe, you prude." Eda snorted as she made her way to her room.

"IT IS NOT PRUDISH TO NOT WANNA TOUCH A BOTTLE THAT WAS SURROUNDED BY DILDOS!" Lilith shouted up the stairs, as she heard her sister dying of laughter and King groaning. She walked back to the kitchen and smiled as she saw a message coming in from the Northern front. She answered it quickly, "It seems congratulations are in order Colonel."

"We need medical supplies, food, water and we're going to need more people trained in the construction track. We may have won but there were a lot more people caught in the crossfire. We have the hound teams out now searching for survivors. We need the civilians that we have to feel safe and be able to recover in peace and we have a lot to do if we want any of the evacuees to come back." Ent said, they turned to the others in the room, "You're dismissed."

"Yes Colonel." The troops said as they left the helmeted commander alone.

Jerbo cast a spell to lock the door behind him and took off his helmet. A bandage wrapped around his head, covering his injured ear. A long cut ran across his cheek and his eyes were bloodshot.

Lilith felt her throat go dry as she saw this boy battered by war and doubted if their victory was even worth celebrating, "I'll send those supplies out soon. Now, what is it you actually wanted to tell me."

"It's about Luz" He said, his voice cracking with sorrow.

The older witch felt her blood run cold, as horror crawled in her mind like a burrowing worm.

"I got the bottle and I wiped it down for you, Miss priss." Eda laughed, but it died quickly as she saw Jerbo's face, "Shit. What happened?"

"Luz found some civilians who were hiding in a building. It started coming down. She used her power glyphs but....her arm got stuck. She cut herself loose. She lost blood. She's unconscious right now. Viney gave her a pint of blood. She seems to be doing better but she had to perform surgery to clean up the impromptu amputation. We don't know if she'll make it in the next forty-eight hours."

Eda felt like she stabbed through the chest. She had been in pain when she lost her magic, she had felt hurt when she found out Lilith cursed her. This made those feel like just a small prick. The bottle fell from her shaking hands and shattered like her heart. Lilith grabbed Eda before she fell in the broken glass. She could feel her sister's chest shaking. It reminded her of when they were kids and Eda had gotten bullied at school. But this wasn't something Lilith could fix with reassuring words. Her sister, the terror of the Boiling isles, the infamous owl lady, bawled like a baby in her sister's arms. Lilith's own heart hurt. Her chest ached but right now, she needed to be here for Eda. One of them had to stay strong, so she would fall apart when she wasn't keeping her little sister together. She feared for her niece and prayed desperately that she managed to pull through.
------------------------------------------------------------
Jerbo wiped the tears from his eyes as he pressed the wax seal on the envelopes. Boscha's forces had their own series of skirmishes and had to start digging trenches to avoid attacks. However it also prevented them from getting clear signals from their crystal ball. Willow's camps were stuck in the marshes and Barcus's camps were taking refuge in the caves near the ankles. None had any way to be contacted via crystal ball or scroll. So he marked the letters critical and sent them on their way.

He knew Eda would probably call him back later so set his scroll to sound and ran his hands over his face. He was exhausted from fighting, barely getting any sleep since their victory this morning. And even then it was about a two hour cat nap after forty eight hours of near constant combat. But he couldn't bring himself to rest.

He stared at the dried blue cloud and the rolling papers in the box. He was out of smokes and needed to roll more. He however didn't want to be alone with his thoughts. He grabbed a pipe he had carved for himself when he didn't have his cigarettes and took a long puff. He glanced at himself in the mirror then his eyes cast on his cloth mask. He had worn it earlier but the fabric stuck to the bandage on his ear. The helmet didn't bother his injury, but the weight it carried was too much for him right now. He looked back at the mirror, the uniforms were all the same. Regardless of rank. It was easier to produce that way. The main difference was the pins on the collar. The golden seven feather pin was the only symbol of his rank. He pulled it off and placed it in his helmet. He grabbed his heavy black cloak to block out the cold late winter air, grabbed his box for rolling, his pipe and walked towards the bar.

He smiled softly as he watched some children playing with some of the younger recruits while their parents watched on. Some of the prisoners, troops and refugees had reunited with their families. It helped ease the flashes of horror he saw every time he closed his eyes.

The bar itself wasn't as cheerful, despite winning they still lost quite a few people and not all were as lucky to have gotten a chance to reunite with their loved ones. The place was mostly filled with the soldiers who had fought in the battle, while the reserves who had rested at base camp searched the city for survivors and tended the injured and sick. None of them felt the joy of victory, only the blood on their hands.

Jerbo got a bottle of whiskey from the bar and sat down at the table. He poured himself a glass and got to rolling. He ran his fingers along the divet in the top of the box. It had been a victim of Luz's knife throwing game as were many things left unattended in the Colonels' tent. He felt his eyes sting.

"Good evening everyone." The bard on the stage gave a weary smile, "It's been a rough one for everybody so I thought I'd sing this tune written by our own Colonel Ghost."

~Our parents in their homes did ask a favour of the war;
"Return my little soldier dear, the one I do adore.
Oh Please oh I beg of you, though you ne'er cared before,
But I shall weep until they sleep safe in my arms once more" ~

He sobbed as he thought of his moms. He missed them dearly. He was eighteen now but never in his life did he want to be hugged by them more. He missed being soft, he spent forty-eight hours shoving down all his emotions. Half of that he was terrified for Luz but even that he had to bury, if he wanted to stay alive. When he fought, he was numb. A machine of war that had to be brought back into his humanity.

~As though the war heard their implore, a vision did appear,
A flying ship, black toe to tip came floating ever near.
Oh Figures there did rest in it, and through the clouds it soared
To return, and give what you yearn, them in your arms once more~

He thought about Eda and Lilith. He had seen Eda upset, stressed and sad. However nothing came close to the pure agony he saw on her face. A mother who had lost her child all too soon. It was a story that repeated itself nowadays, the frequency only added to the tragedy. Before he could at least hope to change people's minds. Many who sought revenge after the massacre could be swayed with the truth. They couldn't do that now. People who joined the Emperor's Army to avenge a loved one who had died in battle, well no good cause argument worked on them. They didn't care about the war, they didn't care the reasons why each side was fighting. They saw them as kidnappers and family killers. Although many on their side felt similar.

~Love your soldier while you can
For sorrows are in store;
The War will do its horrid plan
And through your heart it tore
My dear, they cried as they spied, their soldier in the boat
Their hands were scarred, their eye was marred but on their face you'd dote
They thought with bliss how they would kiss the child they did adore,
And how sweet to feel their heartbeat in your arms once more~

He had never been out without a mask or helmet. Even though his identity was completely hidden and he blended in with the other soldiers who were injured but not bed ridden. He had even cried in the bar before in his mask, the tear tracks making a damp line in the cloth. Yet he felt more exposed than he ever had before. He felt raw, like his entire being was blistered. All he wanted was for peace. That this war would end quickly, that they could begin to truly rebuild their home. Yet he was more than aware the devastation was far from over.

~Love your soldier while you can
For sorrows are in store;
The War will do its horrid plan
And through your heart it tore
As they drew near, they felt the fear that something was astray.
Their mouth was slack and cold clouded eyes stared blindly at the day.
And in a daze, they turned their gaze from the corpse the great ship bore,
But they were given what they asked, them in their arms once more~

He thought of the soldier that had cut off his ear. Their young face filled with rage then just as quickly became nothing more than an empty vessel. That person was someone's child, someone's sibling, someone's lover. A life cut short by his own hands, just another one in a long list of people. He vowed then that when this ended, he wouldn't raise his fist in anger again. He would disavow the killer he had been and do everything he could to help people. He knew while many would consider the Colonels heroes, and that sentiment would only grow if they won. But they would never consider that title, heroes didn't do what they did.

~Love your soldier while you can
For sorrows are in store;
The War will do its horrid plan
And through your heart it tore
The Privates sit in their bunks and letters home they send
And they'll return to battle once more and pray this all will end
And The War smiles sharply, don't ask it what you implore
For you will weep as your child sleeps in your arms once more~

Exhaustion finally started to cloud his mind and he gathered his things. He went to his personal quarters and laid down on the rickety cot, his feet hung off as he was too tall for it. But he didn't care, he gave in as his mind went blank and fell into a restless sleep.
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Viney had been forced out of the surgical ward by her entire M.A.S.H. unit as they all pointed out how long she had been awake without rest. She did her best to argue but even she realized that her points didn't hold much water, especially since she made them after she passed out from exhaustion. She made her way to her quarters and passed out.

She woke up feeling rested but numb. Her sleep had been dreamless and she was grateful. She didn't have many dreams, mostly nightmares about the horrors she had done or played a part in. She was a healer, she was supposed to help people. Yet she had ended well over fifty lives just yesterday. It terrified her how truly fragile life was and how quickly it could be snuffed out. It was the eyes that haunted her the most. The cold stares of lifeless orbs that mere moments before had been alive. She was happy this battle was over, but knew it wouldn't be long before her unit moved again to the next fight. She went where she was most needed and unfortunately those often meant she had to help fight. It didn't matter how many lives she saved, nothing made up for the lives she ended.

She sighed as she glanced at her watch. She remembered it had been around five am that she finally fell asleep yet her watch said it was six am. She felt too rested to have only slept an hour when a knock at her door drew her attention. "Who is it?" She asked.

"Thompson, can I come in?" He said, the gentleness in his voice soothed part of her as well as made her heart ache for her dad.

"Yeah"

He smiled a little but blinked as he saw she wasn't wearing her mask, "umm...are you okay with me see-" She cut him off.

"David, you've seen my face before and carried me to bed more than once. You've more than earned my trust. Now, how's Luz?"

"Who?"

"Gambit."

"Ah, well. They've made it past the forty eight hour mark. They still haven't woken-"

"What?!" She said, alarmed, "How long was I asleep?"

"Ummm like thirty sixish hours?"

"I SLEPT THROUGH A WHOLE DAY AND NO ONE WOKE ME?!"

"Well you were up for three days without more than three hours of sleep. And if you want to be helpful to anyone you need to be rested." He said surprisingly firm for someone who was technically her subordinate.

She grumbled but didn't argue as she knew he was right, "Is she stable? Should we expect her to wake soon?"

"She's stable for now, and I don't know. She made it past the forty eight hour mark but she's not out of the woods yet. And if she does wake up, it's going to be awhile before she can get her replacement let alone donate blood. If she doesn't wake up in the next few days I suggest emergency transport to the Owl town medical facility. They have the ability to give people long term care."

"Fuck!" She screamed slamming her fist on her thin pillow, "That stupid selfless jackass. I knew she would do something like this. She can't breathe without getting herself injured let alone fight."

"You're not that different from her ya know." He said, a soft smile on his face.

"I am not a jackass. I have self preservation instincts thank you very much." She growled.

"I had to force you to sleep. More than once."

"We had hundreds of injured people. I was doing my job. That's not the same thing as her jackassery"

He raised his eyebrow, "Look me in the eye and tell me you wouldn't have put yourself in harm's way to save a bunch of civilians, even if it might cost you your life."

"I...that's not...ugggh" She buried her face in her hands, "You need to stop being right. It's getting annoying."

"Honestly surprised you didn't threaten to demote me" He smirked as he sat down on the bed next to her.

"Ehh, no fun when you know I won't."

"You doing okay kid?" He asked, his paternal instincts took over immediately.

Viney wanted to say she was fine, that she was an adult and his superior officer. She had seen battle before and she would get through it like she always had. Instead she weeped as she buried herself in his chest. Rivers flowed from her eyes as all those buried feelings of pain, horror, sadness and grief burst through her. She couldn't pretend anymore, she wanted to be weak. She wanted her dad, her girlfriend, her uncle, her cousin, and her griffin. She wanted to be with them again. She wanted to be able to close her eyes and not see the faces of the people she killed. She wanted her friend to be okay.

"It's okay sweetie, just let it out. I'll be here as long as you want me to." He said gently, his own heart ached for her. "I'm always here for you Bones."

"Viney"

"Hm?"

"My real name is Viney."

He smiled as he rubbed her back gently, "My real name is Count Leopold Von Schnitzel"

"What?" She asked.

"I'm kidding. I just wanted to make you laugh."

She scoffed but a smile formed on her face, "Ugh you're such a dad it hurts."

"It worked though."

"Yeah...I guess it did." She rested her head against him as he continued to rub her back.

They stayed like that for a while just taking comfort in each other's company. He knew they had essentially adopted each other now and he wondered vaguely if this was his children's way of saying they forgave him. He knew it was probably wishful thinking from his grief but it made him feel a little better.

"You wanna go check on Gambit?"

"Yeah, but I want to wait for Jerbo. I don't know if either of us could stand to see her like that alone. Well I don't think I could again."

"Who?"

"Ent."

"Pffft, the man whose voice sounds like a thunderclap is named Jerbo."

"Okay, his voice isn't that deep without the mask but yes." She laughed.

"You want me to go with you to see if he's awake?" He asked, gently.

"No, I'll be okay to check on him myself. He's basically my brother." She smiled softly, "Besides I ate up enough of your time as is."

He chuckled softly and patted her leg, "Kid I'm a counselor, besides I'm happy you trust me enough to be vulnerable with me." He stood up to leave.

"Wait." She grabbed his wrist, "What's your sexuality?"

"Ummm" He blinked, looking very uncomfortable.

"Not like that." She said immediately, she summoned her scroll, she found one of the few pictures of her dad where he didn't look completely pissed off. His resting face was scary even if he wasn't nearly as mean as he looked. "This is my Dad, his name's Richard and he's a beastkeeper for the western front. I think you two would get along."

David let out a breath he didn't realize he was holding, very grateful this went in a much better direction than he had originally thought. He took the scroll figuring he would at least humor her then his mouth went dry. The man in the picture was a beefcake. "And he's single?" He asked, his voice going up an octave.

"Yep. And he likes twinks so"

"I am not a twink!" He grumbled, and scrolled to a picture of Richard carrying a 90 lb bag of griffin feed over his shoulder like it was nothing, "okay, I can be a twink."

"Address a letter to Richard Hoar, and tell him you're on my medical team. He loves dad jokes. So just be yourself." She grinned as she took back her scroll.

"I will." He blinked as he realized his tone and then coughed, "I mean, I would be delighted to get to know him better."

"Sure you do Major." Viney laughed as she put on her mask and cloak. "Sure you do."

"This is Karma for the dad jokes, isn't it?"

"No. I think you two would genuinely make each other happy but teasing you about it is just a delightful bonus." She grinned cheekily.

"It's good to see you smiling again."

"You gotta laugh or cry and Titan am I sick of crying."

"You and me both, kid. You and me, both."
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It was a three hour flight to the nearest place with any sort of signal. Sean's friends greeted them before taking them down to a hidden room in the tavern basement.

"Crystal ball's right 'ere it is." The man smiled, showing off his large canines.

"High speed connection, impossible to track." A small red haired woman about Amity's height grinned brightly.

"Thank you so much, this is great." Emma said as she began to start the call.

"It's bloody fun being part of a rebellion eh, Cassie?" He said, "Ole Sean be right bloody proud."

"It's fucking campion it's what it is. Now Logan, what say we give 'em some privacy?" Cassie patted his back as they went back up to the bar.

"The brownie lass was the same height as our Amelia." Grandda said, looking at his wife smuggly.

"They're not brownies you Daft old cogger." She laughed, "they're just bloody short."

"Mom!" Emma cried as she saw Lilith's face in the ball.

"Oh is our Maggie there?" Grandda asked, leaning over her shoulder with his face too close to the screen.

"Liam! Let them talk. Avalon." Nanny sighed, as she pulled him back before leaning too close to the ball as well, "Sorry dearie."

"I assume you watched the news then." Lilith said, there was a tiredness in her voice and her eyes looked puffy and red.

"No. What happened?" Amelia said, panic filled her voice.

Lilith crumbled slightly as she saw her youngest's face, "I....oh my sweetheart I'm so sorry."

"What's going on?" Edmund asked, desperate for an answer.

Another curly haired red headed witch appeared behind Lilith, Maggie Stilwell sighed and rubbed the other woman's back, "Esme, put a spot a tea on for 'em please, love?"

"Already on it." A voice called from the kitchen.

Maggie looked at Lilith, "You think you have the strength to make it through this or you want me to tell 'em."

Lilith gave a pleading look as tears ran down her cheeks.

"Will someone please just tell us what happened?!" Ameila yelled her anxiety spiking.

"Well we won the battle of Brainburg, but there were some heavy casualties...."

Ameila felt her heart stop, "No...No...please tell me she's alive! She promised she'd come back to me!"

"She's not dead. But she's not doing well. She's stable for now at least. They're not sure when she's going to wake up." Maggie said, her voice soft desperately trying to give the girl any comfort.

Amelia however only continued to fall apart as the story went on. Edmund held his baby sister tightly as she cried. Emma took charge of asking any more questions.

Cian watched helpless from the sidelines as a thousand different paths twisted in his mind. He saw probabilities but nothing was ever certain. Well, that wasn't entirely true. What was certain to him was that whenever these three returned to the Boiling isles, it would hurt them. They would be scarred in every way possible if they even survived at all. He looked through different options, hoping there was a way for them to stay here longer, or keep them out of the fight all together. However those only seemed worse and worse. He turned as he felt his mom's hand on his arm.

"Ya canna save them from it can ya?" Nanny asked, a sadness in her voice that seemed so out of place from the normally jolly woman.

"No." He hung his head, "They'll have to go back eventually."

"What about our Amelia's girl? Any sort of thing on if she's going to be alright?" Nanny said, hoping to get any sort of good news.

Cian eyes glowed as he pulled an oracle sphere out of one of his many pockets, his ears flattened. He couldn't see. He never couldn't see. Even the dead have something left to say or do. No one was ever blank. He growled concentrating harder, he could feel the orb burning in his hands. He didn't have much time left. He growled then the oracle sphere shut itself off. He blinked, his entire life he always had an idea of what was happening and what could happen. It wasn't always the strongest or most accurate prediction and he often knew where he was but not when. However he was never clueless, even his time grounding potions only kept his mind focused on the present but it didn't prevent him from looking forward or back if he wanted. Yet for the first time in his life, he knew nothing. "Well this is fascinating" he said as his face wrinkled, "bloody terrifying. But fascinating."

"Anything about the poor girl?" Nanny said, worry clear on her face.

"I don't know." He smiled, although there was fear in his eyes.

"Too many factors?" She asked, never seeing a face like this on him before.

"No. If it were too many factors it would be buzzy and bouncy. I don't sense anything. It's blank."

"She might have a protection enchantment that's blocking you out." Nanny reassured, rubbing his arm.

"I've dealt with those before, normally it just makes it fuzzy. It never just blocks it out completely." He blinked looking at his mom, "Is this what it's like for you? Not a clue or insight into what may be, just your own intuition?"

"Aye" She smiled wearily.

"Huh, I canna tell if I like it." He said letting out a nervous laugh.

Their conversation was interrupted by a loud sob and they turned their attention to the poor crying girl. They all came together for a hug doing everything they could to soothe her.

Maggie sighed as she watched them, wishing she could reassure them. However, there was nothing she could do. She gave a weary smile as she caught her mother's eyes.

Nanny wiped Ameila's tears away with her thumb and cupped her cheek, "You wanna keep talking or ya wanna go back to the farm and lay down a while? If you change your mind we can always come back later. And I'm sure we'll be coming back over the next few days. It's okay if ya haven't the energy to keep talking."

"I...I'd like to lay down please." She sniffed quietly.

Nanny nodded as she held the girl close, she kissed her forehead softly. A soft warm glow surrounded Ameila and she fell into a calm sleep. "Cian, dearie, can ya take her?"

He nodded as he scooped her up, she looked small in his arms. He knew her age but it truly sunk in how young she was as he carried her. He looked at his parents and at Maggie's face in the ball. The Stilwells collectively shared a brief look of pain, wishing they could give these three the normal happy life they deserved.

Emma and Edmund sniffed, blinking back their own tears. Grandda patted them on their backs gently, "come on loves, let us go home." They nodded, sinking into his touch. He purred, giving them both a peck on the cheek.

Maggie sighed as she turned off the crystal ball. She knew that her, Esme and the other parents were going to have to step up while the Clawthrones grieved. Although the sisters left big shoes to fill, they would try their best. It was time for them to show why they were majors. Esme gave her wife a soft kiss on the lips as they both exited the owl house to gather the others. They had a job to do.
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Jerbo and Viney sighed as they sat next to their unconscious friend. He pulled a cigarette out from his case. He blinked as Viney took it from his hands, lit it and took a drag.

"After all the shit you gave me, Luz, and everyone else." He said, with an eyebrow raised.

"I sneak them okay? I don't do it often...I just can't always deal with the stress." Viney growled, "Besides you have to live long enough for them to actually kill you. And I don't know if any of us will be so lucky."

"Hey I have no right to judge, although I definitely owe Luz an apology, I thought she was the one who was swiping mine." He laughed although tears ran down his face as he grabbed his pipe instead. He took a puff and sighed, "I know we always joked about Luz or Boscha dying first. I just never thought it would actually happen, ya know?"

Viney chuckled bitterly, "All the stupid shit they do and manage to survive, they have more lives than a herd of cats. Never thought they'd run out."

"What do we do if she doesn't make it? Or she just stays like this forever?"

"Well if she stays like this and starts to go total vegetable......as both her friend and a medical professional" Viney took a long drag on her smoke, "We'd have to shut off the life support, we'd give her a heavy dose of a sedative pain reliever, then follow that up with a dose of death's lady poison as it's painless and fast. And just like that, she'd be gone."

"You make it sound so....easy." He said as blue smoke curled away from his lips.

"As a healer and a soldier I can tell you with the utmost confidence that it is very easy to end a life. It's keeping them alive that's the hard part." She said with a grim smile, "Look, I don't want to have to do it anymore than you do. But if worse comes to worse, it wouldn't be fair to anyone to keep her like that. Least of all to Luz."

He nodded solemnly, as they listened to the beeping heart monitor. "It's scary to see her like this."

"It's even scarier to think that it could as just well be us eventually." She added, breathing out a cloud of smoke.

"Or one of our other loved ones." He bit his lip, "You ever thought about what you do if it was Em laying on that bed?"

"All the time." She said honestly, "The good thing about that is if she got like that. She wouldn't die of her injuries because if she does survive I'll kill her for being that stupid." They both laughed.

"Please if that were true Luz would already be dead."

"Nah, she's gotta wake up first. Not any fun if she doesn't see it coming." She grinned, but it ended quickly, "What would you do if it were Ed?"

"Honestly?"

She nodded.

"I fucking cry my eyes out. Fuck, I cry my eyes out now just cause I miss him." Jerbo gave a weak smile as he wiped at his tears with his free hand, "if he died. I think a part of me would die with him."

"I'm more scared if I die on Em." She admitted, "she's already been through so much. Just once I'd like to give her the stability she needs. She had it for a time, but she still had to go back to...them at night. But in those brief moments she was able to be herself. She didn't have to stand on her toes, keep quiet and say nothing. She didn't have to be the other half of a set. She could be herself. This wonderful person who is fun, sweet, silly and has a maternal side she tries to hide." Viney snorted slightly.

"As opposed to you who's just been the tired mom friend."

She elbowed him in the ribs, "like you're not the tired dad friend."

"With our friends? We have to be." He chuckled.

"Please, we don't have friends. We're family."

"Yeah."

They both looked at Luz, the mask over her nose to make sure she got enough oxygen. The little sister they never expected to have but they loved nonetheless. The funky lil human that brought them all together. They sat silently but their faces spoke the words their lips couldn't bear to utter, that their family would never be the same without her.

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Luz blinked as she saw a figure in the distance. She walked closer and saw them clearer and her heart nearly stopped. "Mami." She said just above a whisper. She ran as she began to yell, "MAMI! IT'S ME! Tu mi..ja" She stopped as she realized where she was.

Marble and granite stones stood like trees against the grass. She felt her mouth go dry as she looked at her Mami again. The woman was on her knees in front of a stone as she placed a flower in front of it.

"Luzita, mija" Camila sobbed as she pressed her lips to the stone. "I hope you found magic, wherever you are. Adios mi bebe."

"MAMI!" She screamed, begging for her to turn around. She reached out to pull her mom in for a hug but she passed through her. She tried to stop but she just kept falling.

She landed on a familiar dirt covered metal floor. It was warm. She sat up and a smile formed on her face, "Gus!" She cried as she ran towards her friend as he tended the pyre. "Gus?" She called again but he didn't turn. Instead he growled as he moved away from the flames, he grabbed an axe and slammed it through a log. She reached for her left arm unconsciously.

"DAMMIT" He roared, but agony broke through his fury. "I could have saved you. I could have helped. Anything. Anything but this."

Luz shook as she turned to look at the pyre, a wave of flames shot out at her and she screamed trying to get away. She squeezed her eyes shut, as it consumed her.

A mangled horrid cry caused her to open her eyes again. Eda sobbed openly, a mint and brown mop of hair buried in her arms. Amity lifted her head, her eyes like shattered mirrors. They both let out a noise that was like a howl, grief and pain radiated from them. She knew now what the sound of ultimate suffering was, as she looked around the room.

Lilith had King cradled in her arms, as the twins curled in closer to her. Willow rubbed at her red eyes as Boscha weeped in her arms. Barcus whined and Gus stood solemnly alone. His hands covered in ash as he held an old coffee can. Viney and Jerbo walked past Hooty, who seemed like he had the life drained out of him.

Jerbo bit his lip nervously before he approached Eda and Amity. Her helmet in his hands, as sank to his knees. He hung his head low as he offered the helmet out to them. Viney followed suit with her dress uniform.

Eda lifted the helmet, her hand cupped it's cheek as she placed a gentle kiss on the top of it. Amity held the uniform close to her chest, her tears ran down like rain. The tears suddenly began to fill the room. Although no one but Luz seemed to notice as it grew into a deep sea.

She sank deep into the dark abyss. She tried to scream but nothing came out as she floated in an empty void of nothing. The space around her was infinite yet the darkness made it feel claustrophobic. Panic filled her chest as she saw a giant pair of glowing yellow eyes.

"You're not supposed to be here little one." The voice rumbled echoing in the emptiness. "Our dear brother is waiting for you." They sneered when they said brother like it was acid on their tongue. A softness and a tiredness returned to their voice. "His time is up on these planes but yours is not." The voice said gently and Luz swore she felt something touch her cheek, "Rise now child of the old world, for you are not done with either yet. But pray our next meeting is long from now. For few who greet me ever wake up again." The eyes closed as the world returned to emptiness, "Good luck."

Chapter Text

Luz gasped as she tried to sit up, but fell back as if she didn't have the support. She yanked the mask off her face and listened to the frantic beeping. She gritted her teeth as she lifted herself up with her core. Her eyes darted around the room, only to see curtains surrounding her bed and a heart monitor next to an IV bag and an empty blood bag. She finally relaxed as she saw the Nighthawks emblem sewn into one of the curtains. She reached out for the glass of water on the little table next to her. She blinked as the glass sat unmoved. She looked down at her left arm and only saw her shoulder and bunch of wrapped bandages. Memories ran through her head, and she sighed. She turned, biting back a hiss as her whole body protested, as she reached for the glass of water. She drank it greedily.

Something wiggled on her bed, and she held still as a statue til she heard a squeak. She grinned as Loco crawled into her lap. "Hey bub, let's go see what the hell happened."

He squeaked in protest but she summoned her staff and placed him back on the top. She slammed the base of the staff in the dirt, hoisting herself up on shaky legs. She glanced at the long linen tunic medical patients wore and sighed, knowing well it was probably too cold for just this in the late winter air. She grabbed the heavy black wool blanket that was folded on one of the chairs next to her bed and wrapped it around her shoulders. She carefully put on the rubber soled slippers every patient was given and began her trek for the door.

Every step hurt, her right arm while still attached throbbed and her legs ached. She just gritted her teeth and kept walking towards her goal.
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Jerbo puffed on his pipe, as he leaned back in his chair. He should be happy, the repairs to Brainburg were going well. They were able to rescue many civilians. They were beginning to clear out the factories and hospitals. They had more resources than they ever had before. He stared teary eyed at the knife Luz kept stuck in the corner of the map on the desk. He never understood why, she had said something about how he wouldn't get it. But it had made her grin every time she saw it.

She had been unconscious for five days now. Viney was currently in the process of getting a griffin caravan secure for transport of Luz and a few other patients that needed more care away from any potential fighting.

Despite the fighting ending days ago, many bombs and weapons littered the city and their teams were still in the process of cleaning them up. And while capturing the city had been difficult. Keeping the city would be harder. The Empire lost a major city and he doubted they would be without attack for long.

He poured himself a glass of whiskey, and took a long drink when the door to the Colonels' tent was thrown open. He turned to yell at the intruder then spit out his whiskey.

"Surprise Shawty!" Luz grinned weakly as she staggered over to the chair next to him and flopped down with a groan. "Fuck me that hurts like a bitch." She reached for her pockets instinctively and sighed as she realized she didn't have any, "You roll any more cigarettes? My stuff seems to have fucked off somewhere."

Jerbo blinked before pulling out his cigarette case, Luz grabbed one and held it in her mouth.

"Lighter?"

Jerbo pulled one out and gave her a light, he then downed his whiskey as he realized she must have walked all the way from the medical ward. He then poured himself another glass as he remembered that Viney hadn't been there since this morning. Luz leaned back further and spread her legs to get more comfortable, however it caused the tunic to ride up and Jerbo coughed on his pipe.

"What? I can't stretch?"

Jerbo rubbed his temples, "Luz, you wouldn't happen to feel a bit of a breeze...." He gestured vaguely down towards her legs.

"You helped me in the shower when I broke my fingers and I'm too sore to move." She said dryly, "now did the civilians make it out okay? How bad were the casualties? Did we manage to take the city? How long was I out?"

Jerbo took a long sip from his glass, "I helped you with more than your shower when you've been injured." He said with a thousand yard stare.

"You've helped me wipe my ass, and this is when you complain? Now answer the questions."

He groaned, throwing his cloak in her lap, "All the civilians we rescued are fine. And we've saved even more over the past few days. The casualties were heavy but better than they could have been. We took the city and are doing clean up and repairs as we speak. And you were out for five days."

"Jesus christ."

"Who?"

"Human expression." She smiled wearily. She saw the bags under his eyes and the beginning of what would be worry lines on his face. He didn't look eighteen, he looked older. She wondered vaguely about herself then she saw the bandage on his head, "What happened to you?"

"Mhm?" He raised an eyebrow then saw her gesture vaguely with her cigarette, "Little gift from the battle." He said blue smoke curled out of his nostrils, "lost the top part of my ear."

"Hey if you lose the other one, you'll get rid of your hexes hold em tells." She smirked.

He laughed and pulled her in for a hug, "Good to have you back sis."

"Good to be back bro."

Their reunion was cut short by the door slamming open. Viney shut the door and locked it behind her. Her teeth bared as she glared at Luz, "You. You dense motherfucker. You have any idea how much you could have hurt yourself walking here in the cold when you're injured?!!"

"It's just a flesh wound?" Luz smiled nervously.

Viney growled, "You lost your fucking arm. You almost died. You scared the shit out of everyone. Now I'm taking your dumbass back to the medical ward an-"

"V, give that bed to someone who needs it more than me. We have enough injured civilians and soldiers. I know our healers are probably already busy as it is. I'm fine in my own quarters."

"You literally just woke up from a coma. I need to monitor you and give you medicine to help treat your injuries."

"Just give me the bare minimum."

"Luz, this isn't some little scratch-"

"Yeah and we're short on medical supplies as is. Just keep me what you can to keep my wound from getting infected and just a few pain pills so I can sleep." Luz smiled wearily, "I'll he fin-"

"Okay, stand up."

"What?"

"Stand up and walk over to me then, if you're not that bad." Viney said with her arms crossed.

"Fine." Luz huffed as she grabbed her staff. She did her best to keep her face neutral as she pulled herself out of her chair. Her body ached and her right arm screamed from just getting her up. She walked over to Viney, using her staff as a cane. "See? Happy now?"

"Okay. Now walk back without using your staff."

Luz gritted her teeth, "Of course. Can do." She let go of her staff, and focused all of her energy on staying up right. Her legs wobbled as she took small nervous steps like she was walking on fresh ice. She smiled a little bit as she got a bit further and took a normal step. Her knee buckled and she braced herself for impact when she felt someone holding her up by her armpits. She sensed the irritated look on Viney's face without even needing to turn around, "Okay. I'm in pain. But my point still stands. There are civilians and soldiers who need the care more than me. I can grin and bare -"

"For how long? This isn't like your fingers. This will take months till you can even get a replacement and even then you won't fully recover for years. If we don't give you the proper treatment now. It will only make the recovery process longer." Viney snapped as she set Luz back in the chair.

"I'm not letting my care come before people who need it more. We have to use our resources wisely, and we owe it to those who were hurt to be treated with the best care possible." Luz said, "Now help me to my quarters."

"Fine. You can go to your quarters. But you're getting the better medication."

"V-"

"Your Ma stopped by to see you while you were unconscious ya know. She couldn't stay long as she wanted to because the owl town was almost flanked by the Emperor's Army. Eda is a tough old bitch, but I've never seen her like that. She looked more like a ghost than a person. They also risked their calls getting tracked to contact Amity, Emira and Edric. We didn't talk with them directly but from what Lilith said, Amity's barely eaten, slept or done much of anything for days. Imagine how they'd feel knowing you were suffering and refused to get help? Or your mom in the human realm mmh? How would she feel-"

"Don't fucking bring her into this." Luz growled, "Guilt trip me all you fucking want about the others but don't you fucking dare talk about my Mami."

"Well maybe if you actually took care of yourself instead of being a self sacrificing idiot. I wouldn't." Viney shouted, "Do you have any idea how much you scared all of us?! Do you have any FUCKING clue how much you mean to us?! You think you're being noble by neglecting your own health?! Do you have any clue of how many people you'd hurt in the process?!!"

"What about how many lives I've ruined?! This whole war is because I couldn't fucking leave bad well the fuck alone. How many people's children I've killed. How many people's siblings? Their lovers, their parents? I'm not letting any more people have to lose their loved ones if they don't have to. I've taken enough from them. Now if you'll excuse me Colonel Bones, I'll be heading to my quarters." Luz snapped as she picked up her staff, leaned down on it and flew out the door.

Viney just snarled, tears of frustration running down her face, as she turned to Jerbo who had little idea what to say during the whole fight.

He sighed and stood giving her shoulder a reassuring squeeze, "Just give each other some space. You've both been through a lot."
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Luz stared at the armor on the chair beside her bed. Even though it was black, there were darker spots from where the dried blood had soaked into the fabric. Her eyes glanced to the left shoulder where the fabric was cut and charred. She could see where the trail of her own blood had stained it. If she was being honest with herself, she didn't remember what happened all that well. The entire battle was just vague flashes. The gore and horror were imprinted in her mind but it was too awful for it to view.

She growled as she forced her mind to go blank as she closed her eyes to sleep. However Viney's words repeated themselves in her mind. What would her Mami think? She'd be terrified of everything. This world is alien to her. She'd be angry at them for letting her even participate in this fighting let alone anything else. She would do everything in her power to keep her from being here. Even if despite everything, hell maybe even because of some of it, this place is her home. She never fit in on earth, but here she's found her people. The rest of her family. She wanted to see her Mami more than anything, to show her that she was alive. But she was terrified when she had to tell her she wanted to go back. She knew her mom deserved the truth and hiding anything would only make things worse. Grom had taught her that in spades. That however doesn't mean that it would be easy to tell her everything. If she even believed her at all.

The part she hated the most was Viney was right. Her moms and Amity would be absolutely furious with her if they knew she was refusing care, even if it wasn't complete refusal. Well they would be furious if they stopped sobbing. Although that would almost make it worse. None of them were women who cried terribly often, although it was hard to believe that now. Her Mami always did her best to appear strong even when she wanted to fall apart. She had always been like that, I mean she had to. Her family wasn't exactly thrilled about her divorce and raising a child alone is hard for anyone. Let alone an afro Latina in America of all places. Amity was only recently undoing years of repression and learning to cry openly and be weak in front of others. The only one of the Clawthrone siblings who didn't bury their emotions immediately is Edric but that's because he is bad at it not because he doesn't try to. Her Ma was used to being independent and infamous. She got by alone and likes that she's respected and feared. She doesn't cry easily, even when she's in pain. She'd be the type of old lady who dies cause she laughed off a heart attack. If Eda's crying it's because she's in so much pain even she can't laugh it off.

Despite all of that, Luz still felt like taking full treatment would be wrong. That her treatment, even if they had enough supplies and everyone who needed it got all the care and medicine they needed, would come at the cost of someone else's. Fuck, if she were okay and Boscha, Willow, Gus or any of their family were doing what she was doing. She'd be with Viney calling them every synonym for moron she knew. She'd probably be even more angry if she was being honest. Yet, at the moment, all she could think about is the blood that covered her armor. Of all the lives she ended. The lives that she put out to save her own. Every breath she took belonged to someone else. Someone who regardless of their opinions on the war or Belos, didn't deserve to die. Yet she had killed them anyways, because that is how this whole mess worked. The winners, if you could even call them that, were the ones who lost the least. Any game like that is shit.

She tried her best to relax, to sleep. Maybe to just shut her brain off for a few minutes. Despite being unconscious for almost a week, she still felt exhausted. Her body ached and throbbed. Her left shoulder screamed as phantom pains only added to her discomfort. She had been in pain many times but this was closer to agony. The only time she had felt anything worse was when it was fresh. She didn't remember much of what happened but the pure anguish of cutting off her crushed mutilated arm would never leave. That memory would be a shadow that lingered every time she was hurt, every ache or minor grievance would be put in its place by the reminder of what true pain was.

Luz was well aware the moment she laid down on her thin cot that any thought of getting up again was out of the question. She had pushed herself too much just walking to the Colonels' tent earlier. Yet part of her brain told her she deserved this. That this was her punishment for all the lives she ended. She gets to live but in agony. Her suffering served to ease the restless souls that haunted her dreams. She knew deep down that it didn't work that way. That the dead were dead and nothing she did could make them any less so. That in the end her suffering was just as pointless as anything else. But maybe, in a world where Gods once existed, the dead can know their killer wished they were alive as much as they did.

She finally felt exhaustion creeping in. She could feel her eyes getting heavy as the soft comfort of sleep wrapped around her. Yet right before she went to sleep, something lingered in the back of her mind. She couldn't help but feel like she forgot something. That as insane as it sounded even to her, she had met someone. That whoever they were, they were important. Yet, it was brushed off as most things are before she fell into a restless sleep.
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Lilith woke with a groan as she got up from the sofa. She looked vaguely for King as normally he would have woken her up to check on Luz.

"He's still with Eda." Hooty said morosely, his little head hung limp.

"Thanks Hooty." Lilith said, offering a weary smile and a head pat for the house demon before sitting up to tap the crystal ball on the coffee table. She rubbed her dry puffy eyes as the call beeped. Luz should have left a few hours ago on the caravan although it would still take awhile since the owl town now rested in the foothills of the knee. Viney's face appeared on the screen and Lilith opened her mouth to speak.

"Your Jackass of a niece is awake." Viney grumbled before the older witch could even ask.

"What?! She's awake?! Is she alright-"

"She's as alright as anyone can be after waking up from a five day coma."

"Well take the ball to the medical ward, I'll go get Edalyn."

"Oh she's not in the medical ward." Viney said, rubbing her temples, "Jackass is in her quarters."

"Five days in a coma and a missing arm and you moved her from medi-" Lilith saw the tired and frustrated expression on Viney's face. One she recognized easily from having her own idiot younger sister, "What did she do?"

"Your wonderful Jackass, woke up from a five day coma. In clear pain, and decided to walk in the cold. In a thin medical tunic, wrapped in a blanket. Wearing slippers to the Colonels tent. She used her staff as a cane. She nearly fell when I had her try to walk without it."

Lilith let out a deep sigh that she had mastered over the years. The kind of noise that only comes from having multiple people she loved dearly who's idea of a good time ranges from resisting arrest to a near death experience. "I take it you and her weren't all hugs and kisses when you finally found her?"

Guilt flashed in Viney's eyes as she buried her head in her hands, "When I went to the medical ward to check on her and found her missing. I was scared shitless. I thought the caravan left early, or she had to be rushed into surgery or had...died. The entire staff managed to not see her leave and I went to Jerbo to see if he knew anything. And when I saw her there leaning back in the chair with a cigarette like nothing had happened. I was pissed......then she started refusing treatment. Asking for the bare minimum and I just went off. After barely managing to keep her alive and worrying she'd never wake up. I just couldn't take it anymore....and I may have crossed a line or two in the process."

Lilith chuckled lightly as she shook her head. "Dare I even ask?"

"Oh I brought up Amity and Eda. And then finished it off by bringing up her human mom." Viney groaned, "I'm a fucking idiot."

"Wow, you just went for the throat eh?"

"I know! Ugh, I was just mad. I just wanted her to get treatment, she was clearly in pain even just sitting down. I wanted her to accept help and when she started on her high horse about making sure the civilians and soldiers were treated first. Like we don't already do that. Like she had some minor stitches and a sunburn. Like all she needed was a pain relief potion and a nap. I just was frustrated....I shouldn't have brought them into it. I was just so sick of her being stubborn all the time."

"Yeah trust me. I know all about stupid mistakes especially towards your sister." Lilith laughed grimly, "One might even call me an expert. At least you can say you did this with her best interest at heart. Apologize for bringing her human mom into it and losing your temper. Then tell her how you felt and how scared you were. She's still a big marshmallow. She knows you care."

Viney smiled a little bit then sighed, "Yeah she is. What do I do if she still refuses treatment?"

"Well, compromise where you can....and is she still going to be on an IV?"

"Of course, I don't even know if she can keep any food down. I'm not letting her off of that for at least another week."

"Put some strong pain killers in her IV bag. If she notices she'll be too hopped up on painkillers to do anything more than drool on herself."

"That's so sneaky and underhanded. Why the hell didn't I think of that?!"

Lilith laughed, "Sometimes the obvious solution is the hardest to spot. Also I used to have to slip Eda her cold medicine in her tea when she was little."

"Sounds about right. You go let Eda know her stupid child is awake and let Amity know that her girlfriend is alive and stupid. I'll call you back so Eda and Luz can talk after I talk to her and at least get her some pain relief."

"Take care of yourself Viney."

"I will, as much as I can." She gave a weary smile. She turned away from the crystal ball.

"Oh, before you go. When she's feeling a bit better and isn't in constant pain. Slap her for me. Dumbass refusing medicine."

Viney snorted loudly, "Will do. And tell Emira I'm missing her every day."

"Of course sweetheart." Lilith smiled as the call ended. She stretched as her back popped before making her way up to Eda's room.

The younger Clawthrone sister hadn't left her nest much at all in the past five days. She lay buried in a mass of stuffies King had brought to comfort her, while the tiny demon himself lay cuddled up against her side. The curse had made Eda look older than she was but this week had been especially rough. Lilith climbed in and gently shook her little sister.

"Mmh?" Eda groaned barely cracking open her eyes.

"Luz is awake. Viney's getting her treated now." Lilith smiled as Eda shot up, happy tears in her eyes as she grinned like a maniac.

"I knew it! I knew she'd wake up!" Eda cheered, sounding happier than she had in months.

"who dares wake the king of demons?" King groaned.

"Luz is awake!" Eda beamed as she scooped up King and spun him around happily.

"Fuck yes!" He laughed.

"Yeah!" Hooty smiled as he crashed through the window, "Fuck yes Hoot Hoot!"

Lilith just shook her head as they all came together for a hug. Things were still tough. Everything was chaotic but the one positive thing was any good news was that much sweeter.
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Nanny knocked gently on the door, she bit her lip as no response came. She knocked a little louder then opened the door.

Amelia had an empty expression on her face as she picked at the food still on her plate from breakfast. "Hi Nanny." She said quietly.

"Hello dearie." She smiled as she sat down next to the sad girl, "Would you like to talk or listen?" She asked gently as she rubbed her back.

"Listen please." She said as she leaned into the old woman's side.

"How old are ya wee one? Actually, not whatever they put on your ID." Nanny asked as she tried to think of a story.

"I'm fifteen, I'll be sixteen in April."

Nanny felt her heart break as she realized just how much this poor girl had seen. "Well, when I was your age. Your Grandda and I just got together. I was so happy but I was also nervous. Me folks weren't exactly the nicest people. They're both from lines of Nobility from way back when the faes ruled over part of this country. They sent me to St. Merlin's because it was the best school and as a Mayfair, I was to get the best education possible. Not more than a fortnight after I was born, I was betrothed to Henry Camelot. Which considering he was seven years older than me, my go to babysitter and very very gay. It was incredibly uncomfortable for both of us. We both brought up the fact that we didn't like each other that way and he literally wasn't attracted to women at all. Our parents said it hardly mattered, we could each have someone else on the side. Even make them the head servants in our manor if we wanted. It was about status and the combined prestige of two old families. All we had to do was have one child and everything would be fine. Well that didn't sit right with either of us. It also made me realize why I was an only child and why my parents seemed to constantly argue about the headmaid. Apparently she'd been having a thing with both of them under the other's noses. Yet instead of firing her they just fought with each other. But that's neither here nor there.

Henry left me a note saying he'd fallen in love with one of the dwarves we went to school with, Hadvar Stormbreaker. And they were running off together to the Frozen Serpent to marry. He also told me that he would keep in touch with me and me only as I was the only real family he had. He also told me that I shouldn't let our families control me. That I should be free to love whoever I wished. And that if I ever needed a place to go. I was always welcome with him. He also knew I had the biggest crush on Liam.

Your grandda had asked me out the day before and I didn't know what to say. But after reading that letter. I knew that I should follow me heart. I told him that I would date him. And it was amazing. After years of pining over me best friend I was finally able to kiss him. It was like Avalon.

However that phase wasn't to last, as one of the professors was friends with me parents and caught me and Liam out of bed after lights out in an empty classroom. Let me tell ya, it is quite hard to backpedal when you're naked with your lover's head between your legs." Nanny snorted as she shook her head. "Oh me parents were furious. They told me to break up with that poor witch boy. And for a while I did. I didn't look at him or talk to him. I avoided him at all costs. Oh but he was a stubborn one. He would leave me flowers he'd picked from the school gardens. Little notes in me room. They were never anything creepy or pleading notes either. He just told me about his day. Or how he saw something silly or cute that reminded him of me. He just carried on like we were still best friends. Even though I never wrote him back, or spoke to him. After six months he left me a note asking if he was bothering me, and if I wanted him to leave me alone. But if I didn't I should meet him in the gardens after lights out.

Well needless to say I snuck out to the gardens that night and I kissed him like he'd disappear. We kept our relationship hidden after that. Mostly exchanging little notes and then meeting outside on the school grounds. For two and a half years we carried on like that.

When I was eighteen, I finally told me parents the truth. That I was deeply in love with the poor witch boy. They disowned me on the spot. Gave me two days to get me things and leave. I was terrified. But Liam told his parents what happened and to my shock they offered me a place with them. I remember when I arrived in their little cottage, I asked where the guest room was. And Liam's da and pa looked at each other then looked at me and his pa said I hardly see the point, you'll end up in his bed anyways. And I was floored while me poor Liam looked like he was having a stroke. Then his da added, Aye besides, this way you can get used to his snoring. Took me ages to adjust to sleeping next to that one.

Living there was an adjustment. I had to learn a lot of things I ne'er thought anyone did. I even got into a few spats with his parents. Oh after the first one I cried me eyes out thinking they'd kick me out. I apologized weeping and begging them to let me stay. They both were so confused. His Pa hugged me tightly and his Da thumbed away me tears and they told me families fight sometimes. That no one on the entire planet ever got along all the time with even the people they loved most, but that doesn't mean they stop caring. If ya fight constantly then well ya probably not meant to be anything to each other. But a few fights every now and then is normal for any relationship, family or lover.

Liam and I have had our share of fights over the years, after being together for over fifty years. Ya bound to. We've both said some nasty things to each other in the heat of an argument. But we both regretted whatever we said and after we let the other cool off. We'd apologize and work together to either compromise or just accept it as it was.

Communication is the key to a long and happy marriage. Well, that and ear plugs. Never could get used to his snores, and by the great fae they've only gotten worse as he's aged. Like sleeping next to a suffocating buzzsaw it is. But I wouldn't replace him for anything. Whenever I see him smile, it's like we're fifteen again back in the garden." Nanny swooned slightly, "and Not a day goes by that I'm not grateful that I listened to Henry. He and Hadvar just celebrated their fifty seventh wedding anniversary. Sent me photos and everything. What I'm trying to say is, life never works out like how you plan. But sometimes you get lucky and if you don't. Well then you'll have memories you'll always cherish."

Amelia felt tears running down her face as she thought of her Luz. She laughed through it as she said, "When I first met Luz. I almost got her dissected. Then I challenged her to a duel and made her say humans can't do magic."

Nanny's eyes widened, "Wait, she's human? Bloody hell I didn't think humans actually existed. Oh I owe Liam so many biscuits...."

Amelia laughed harder at the old woman's slight panic, "Trust me. It was a shock to me too."

Their laughter was interrupted by a knock at the door. Liam carefully popped his head in, "Logan and Cassie dropped off a message for ya Ducky. Says it's from your mom." He smiled softly as he handed Amelia the folded note that was taped shut.

The girl opened it carefully as her golden eyes scanned the words and her hand came up to cover her mouth as relief filled her chest. "She's awake!"
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Boscha stared down at the letter, the light spell trying it's best to illuminate the dark trench. The paper had tear stains from both her and Jerbo who'd written it almost a week ago. She set it down gently on the desk and looked at her latest letter from Willow.

Dear Cuddlepuff,

I'm sure you've heard the news by now. I'm scared. Luz has always been foolhardy even when she has the best intentions. I just don't know what I would do if she dies. I know she saved a lot of people and if she had to go this is probably how she would want to. It doesn't mean I have to be happy about it.

I know we both love Luz like a sister and this is probably bringing back painful memories of when you lost Tom. I wish I was with you right now to tell you she'll pull through. That you won't have to lose another family member to this fight. That we'll all get to see the end of this and maybe even get to be happy. I just don't want to lie to you either.

Please tell me you're safe at least? I know the heavy bombings forced you underground. Please make sure everything is properly secured and supported. If you die in a cave in and Luz dies in a coma I will probably not be able to handle both. Especially not on top of everything else I've had to do.

We've had a few skirmishes already here and I know they're nothing compared to what lays ahead. I just never thought I'd have to use my powers to kill people. I always thought of plant magic as a way to touch lives and show how we're all connected. Yet I've felt someone die as my vines wrapped around their throat. I watched as the light faded from their eyes and dropped a limp corpse into the black swamp.

We've been forced to take refuge in the trees. My powers have at least been able to provide some good. We've made shelters and bridges above the water below. We've been growing plants around our huts to keep the bugs away. The healers have been having a time dealing with the sores from our clothes and shoes rubbing against our skin with the constant moisture. Keeping ourselves clean and dry has been an ongoing challenge. Palm city is described as a tropical paradise but the swamps and marshes around it paint a different story. The creatures that dwell in the dark waters make even slitherbeasts look pleasant by comparison. Long snakes as wide as tree trunks and large lizards with powerful jaws that blend into the water.

I miss you. Titan more than I ever thought. It's been so long since I've slept alone. I always joked your snores were my white noise machine but now I realize how true it actually is. Luz being in the state she's in makes me even more worried about you. You two were always the jackass duo. Please stay safe as much as you can. I want to be able to at least see you once more before one of us falls victim to the war. I want us to at least have a few more days of being stupid teens. I want the trouble we get into to be sneaking into movies and staying out all night and coming home in the same clothes from the day before. Please be safe my love. Let all this fighting and horror end with us getting to enjoy everything we've worked towards. I don't want you to haunt a mandrake. Or be ashes in a can. I want you in my arms again. I love you.

-yours forever, Willow

Boscha smiled wearily as she wiped the tears that dripped down her face. She wished she could hold her close. There had been skirmishes slightly on their side. Although they weren't so much direct fights as they were air raids and bombings. She might have helped dig trenches, put up protection spells but she hadn't killed anyone. She wondered vaguely if there had been a time she wouldn't have cared as much. Back when she was okay with some sort of cruelty. Yet now after losing her adoptive brother. The thought that she would have to kill made her stomach sick.

She remembered when she had joined all the fire and the bravado she had. The anger that fueled her for single minded revenge had morphed and shifted. She began to see the cause as bigger than her personal vendetta as did her parents. This wasn't a fight to make up for a loss. Killing never healed anything like that, only fueled more pointless vengeance. She couldn't help but let out a bitter laugh that it took her til she was on the battlefield to lose her taste for violence. She wanted to stand and make the world a better place. Unfortunately this was how it happened and she could only do her best to help those she can.
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Barcus had been trying everyday to get a read on Luz. He wanted something. Anything to let him know if she would be okay or not. Yet all he seemed to do was almost blow up the sphere as he poured all of his energy desperately hoping for something about his friend.

He had given up. Well not so much given up as Major Medvedeva forced him to take a break for a few days. She sat with him now as they shared a drink.

"I just don't understand. No one is ever blank like that. She should have something. Everyone has something they need or want to do." He grumbled as he sipped his whiskey.

"Oracle magic is game of math. It is good for numbers. It is good for trends. It is not good for people. Too easy to get wrong. Some things are unknowable. Too much oracle magic makes you lose time." She said, as she leaned back in a chair that seemed to strain itself under her.

Major Karina Medvedeva was an immigrant from the Great Bear. She had come from a poor family and had hoped the Boiling isles would give her better prospects for her. She worked with both of the Hoar brothers as she was a wild witch and spent her days as a fisher. She had been known to many in the poor side of Bonesborough as the bear mom of urchins. She worked with the orphanages and her home was often the resting spot for many homeless children and teens. The protests had attracted many of them and both the massacre and the war had taken many of them. She still checked in on the orphanages and she had some of her friends taking care of her role in the city. When the fighting happened she knew she had to join. She would fight for those who couldn't as she always had. She was a shifter, which was an odd category that fell into many different things depending on the continent and line.. Specifically she was a werebear although even in her more witch like form, she was well over seven feet tall and was a wall of bulk. It wasn't lean muscle either, much like a bear she almost looked like a soft motherly figure despite the large fangs that hung over her lip. Her hair was white as fresh snow despite only being in her late forties. She threw back her glass of whiskey and coughed slightly, "How do you drink this? It's shit. Taste like trees."

"It's aged in wood. And honestly I drink it cause it's what we have. Boiling bourbon is the easiest thing to find here. Although I'd kill for a good bottle of fae or dwarven whiskey."

"Dwarven mead is better. Although nothing beats mead from home. Strong like winter but sweet like hearthfire. Smooth as finest silks from the Stone dragon." She smiled nostalgically.

"It's it a little stereotypical for a werebear to like a drink that is mostly made of honey?" He smirked.

"Says demon who eats dog food." She grinned sharply, as he sank lower into his chair.

"I regret not locking the door when you found me eating those." He grumbled slightly, "I'm just worried about her. Luz has always had a knack for getting in and out of trouble. This is the first time she really ever pushed her luck so much it ran out. Titan, what if she never wakes up at all?"

"This Luz, she is human?" She asked as she bit through half an apple in one bite.

"Yes, it's surprising she managed to make it this far." He laughed although there was a deep sadness in his eyes, "She's a crazy jackass who managed to face Belos and live. But even crazy humans aren't unbreakable."

"I mean. It is hard to find someone who is building proof. I don't know if I could even have done that and been unharmed." She sighed as she finished her apple, "But if she is as crazy as you say. She will wake up."

"I couldn't even get a read on her after three days with oracle magic. How are you so confident?"

"I don't need magic. I know crazy. If she is truly, how you say? Batshit? Then she will wake up. It takes a lot to kill those with that much life."

Barcus stared into his glass, "For everyone's sake I hope you're right."

"I am not often wrong. Wrong fears me." She laughed heartily.

Barcus just shook his head as he gave her a tired smile.
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Gus groaned as he felt King jumping on him. He had spent most of the morning training and was taking a well earned break after how swamped he had been with all the bodies that came in from the Northern front. "King, fuck off. I'm resting."

The tiny demon bapped his face, "Wake up! We have good news!"

"What? Is the war over?"

"No."

"Is Belos surrendering?"

"No..."

Gus yanked his blanket over his head causing the tiny demon to tumble off the witch he was standing on, "Then fuck off."

"Fine. I guess you'll just have to talk to Luz later." He grumbled then yelped as the teen shot up and held him by his armpits.

"She's awake?! Why didn't you start with that?!!"

"I was building up to it!" He squeaked as Gus held him under his arm like a grudgby ball, "I am your King, do not hold me like this!"

"You're fine." Gus smirked as he ran down the stairs of the tower towards the inner part of the owl house.

"Bout time you woke up kid." Eda laughed as she walked over and ruffled his hair.

"Eda help! He is holding me hostage!" King grumbled.

Eda raised an eyebrow as she took a long drink from her mug of appleblood, "No. I don't think I will."

King squeaked with rage which only made the occupants of the room laugh and added to his tiny fury.

"King, please. We're going to be on camera soon." Lilith snickered as she gently placed the grumpy demon on the table.

Viney's face appeared on the screen, "Hey guys....so I took your advice. However...the medicine kicked in a little bit faster than I expected...." She moved the ball over to Luz who had a dazed out expression.

Her eyes moved slowly as she stared at the ball, "Tia!!" She yelled before giggling. "Hiiii."

"Oh dear titan..." Lilith snorted only for Eda to push her out of the way. "Edalyn seriously?! Just ask me to move!"

"Hey kid." Eda smiled as happy tears ran down her face.

"MA! Hi!" Luz grinned toothily, then a frown formed on her face, "You.....look..sad. No be sad. Hug King."

"I'm not sad, sweetie. I'm just so happy to see you're okay." Eda laughed as she saw drool running down Luz's chin, "Titan Viney, how much did you give her?"

"I gave her the normal dose. I'm honestly shocked she's still awake." Viney sighed as Luz stretched out her arm and made a grabby hand. "No. If I give you the ball, you're gonna drop it."

"No I won't. I'm finne. Let me see the shiny." Luz said as she attempted to lift herself up with her nonexistent left arm. Her face scrunched as she tried to figure out why it didn't work, "Where did my arm go?"

"Wow...ya know what this is almost worth all the worry." Gus laughed as he watched Luz try once again to prop herself up with an arm that isn't there.

"Okay, this is starting to be like a turtle stuck on its back. Viney, help her up." Lilith said, biting back laughter.

"No. Don't just yet. I wanna see her try again." King snickered.

"Don't be mean to my daughter!" Eda gently swatted at him although she was dying with laughter.

"I love you guys!" Luz grinned blinking slowly from the medication.

"Hold still." Viney grumbled as she lifted Luz up by her waist.

"Hug!" Luz smiled, wrapping her arm around Viney.

The witch just leaned her head forward while a deeper laugh could be heard as Jerbo appeared and placed pillows behind Luz's back to prop her up.

"There we go. Comfy?" He asked, a stupid grin on his face as he watched Luz take almost a full minute to react to his words.

"Yesssh" Luz giggled then clicked her tongue, "can I...has water?"

"Fine but you're getting a straw and I'm holding it for you." Viney said as she reached for the cup.

"I can hold it." Luz pouted.

"You said that last time and you spilled it on yourself."

"I didn't!"

"You did."

"Didn't!"

"Did."

"Maaa, tell Viney I didn't."

Eda snorted loudly as she shook with laughter. She tried desperately to keep a straight face but to no avail as she watched Luz try and fail to get the straw in her mouth.

Jerbo's face appeared on the screen, "I will send you the video of her dropping the cup earlier. She didn't even try to grab it."

"I did!" Luz whined as water dribbled down her chin.

"So how long is she going to be all doped up?" Eda finally managed to speak.

"Probably for the next few days. Although it depends on how well her shoulder heals. I might end up having to do some clean up if parts don't heal right." Viney said as she wiped Luz's mouth. "If it does heal correctly, we'll start to lower the dosage and then eventually focus on pain management until her shoulder is healed enough for a replacement."

"Aww, you get drunk fussy toddler Luz for a few more days." Gus smirked as he watched Viney rub her temples.

"It's way less cute than it looks." She grumbled.

"It really isn't though." Jerbo snickered as Luz flopped forward on the bed. "Besides I thought you and Em wanted kids? Consider this practice."

"I do but most toddlers aren't six ft two and injured." Viney sighed.

"Hey! No talking about having kids til you're thirty. I'm too young to be a grandma." Lilith huffed.

"HAH! No please do! I would love to see some little kid calling Lily grandma." Eda wheezed.

"You realize that our kid will also call you grandma." Viney grinned as she watched the smile fall off of Eda's face.

"Nevermind. What she said. No kids til you're thirty."

"What, you don't wanna be young cool grandmas?" Jerbo smirked.

"Hey don't say stuff like that." Gus said, shaking his head sternly, "they're not young."

Both sisters shot daggers at the young witch who fell over with King laughing. Luz snored as she laid face down on the pillow. Viney shook her head lightly, "Well she's finally out. I'll have her talk to you again when she's on less pain medication."

"Please don't this is way too funny" King called from the floor.

Eda rolled her eyes, "Just make sure she gets some rest and all of you take care of yourselves."

"Will do." Viney and Jerbo smiled as they turned off the crystal ball. They carefully adjusted Luz so she wasn't folded over. They gently tucked her in, knowing full well that if they didn't she'd probably flop her way onto the floor. They both headed off to their own quarters nearby and for the first time in almost a week. They finally slept soundly.

Chapter Text

Nanny's knitting circle had gathered around in the living room for their weekly tea and biscuits. The group mainly consists of the Briar's Glen busybodies. They were the more feminine queers despite having quite a few gay men and nonbinaries. However the average age was somewhere in their fifties or sixties with the youngest being in their mid forties. Well youngest except for Edmund who smiled nervously as Nanny instructed him on how to knit.

"Just wrap it like this." She smiled softly as she watched his hands.

Edmund stuck his tongue out slightly as he concentrated, following her instructions obediently. He grinned as he made his first stitch. The others in the room fawned at the sweetness and pure joy on the young man's face.

"Molly, where in the blazes did you find such a sweet young lad?" Rachel, a blue haired fae cooed softly.

"Aye, my Morgan has been looking for a partner for ages. They'd be quite lucky to find one like him." Rory, the sixty eight year old fae man smiled as bright as his gaudy floral shirt.

"Your Morgan is a wee social little thing. They've a line of suitors outside their door. My wee Jim is the one who needs help finding himself a good man." River, an older selkie, said hotly as they continued their scarf.

"Your Jim is a slag. He is far too busy laying on his back waiting for the next willing Man to come by." Dolores smirked as she popped a biscuit in her mouth.

"He is not a slag. He just hasn't found the right person or people yet!" River huffed. "Just needs time to sow his wild oats, is all."

"Sow his oats? Sowed eight fucking fields this morning." Avery, a sweet faced but foul mouthed brownie, grinned, "Thank Avalon He has enough smarts to be safe about it or he'd be sowing every STI on the planet along with those oats."

"You're just mad cause you saw him sneaking out of your Bill's room." River grumbled although a smirk stayed on their lips as they watched their friend huff.

"Enough the lot of ya. This one's with my Jerbo and they're engaged. So keep your wee mits off. Besides, unlike my Maggie, he actually found himself a good partner when he's young. Took her ages to find her Esme. For a while I thought I'd die before getting any grandchildren. With this one I might actually get to see Jerbo's wee ones." Nanny smiled as she pinched Edmund's bright red cheeks. "Oh they'll be so cute!"

The young man coughed slightly as the older fae and witches giggled at his expression. "I mean with the war going on back in the isles. I don't know when it will be exactly safe for us to be having kids. Let alone have time to get married."

"How is the poor dear? I heard quite a bad fight recently." Mackie asked as he grabbed another color of yarn that matched his graying hair.

"He was hurt in that battle. Only lost the top part of his ear but Amelia's partner lost an arm. She just woke up from a coma. I was going out to fight with the rebellion myself but....things got complicated. Our mom sent us here and well....now we just sit and listen. While all the ones we love are out fighting."

A silence fell in the room as they looked into the young man's golden eyes. There was a pain in them. Something that aged his soft face, that showed there was more to tell. However despite the group's reputation, they knew better than to press. He had gone through enough without their prying.

Edmund set his stuff down briefly as he grabbed his pack of cigarettes and headed out into the garden. He leaned next to the backdoor as he wiped the stray tears from his eyes. He had done his best to keep busy, to know that this was for both his own and the rebellion's best interest. It didn't stop him from feeling useless.

The mention of his engagement and kids just reminded him of the letters he and Jerbo exchanged. It helped them both keep their minds off the horror that lay before them. They took refuge in a future they weren't sure would ever come. Planning wedding menus, the possibility of children and even if they'd build or buy a cottage were preferred to the stories of blood and death. Not only his beloved boyfriend but also the rest of their little family slowly question their morals. None of them are entirely at peace with the things they've done. He and his sisters, when their worries creeped in on them in the middle of the night, would talk about how they feel about the things their lovers have done and how they think they'll cope when it's their turn.

Although those were hardly the only things that worried him. Edmund had always been a bit stuck in his sisters' shadows. He was the other half of a pair, or the third part of a set. He was the third option, the one you took because the other ones were available. Unlike his sisters, whom.....they expected perfection from. He was expected to be quiet, to sit down, shut up and to keep himself in the background. He had figured he'd end up some upper middle manager or other well paid but unfilling dead end in the illusion coven. A job that wouldn't embarrass them while also not outshining his sisters. If he did manage to get into the Emperor's coven, he expected he'd be some night guard. Somewhere he wouldn't fuck up or cause trouble.

When the rebellion started up he really didn't have much of the time to think about his future. Now his time was unlimited but his ideas were few and far between. Not to mention the thought of children in the future. It was conflicting for him, not necessarily because he didn't want kids. He had always liked kids, he remembered fondly of playing with some of the kids on the playground while waiting for Amity to finish story time at the library. He found their endless energy matched his own and their joy contagious. Alador was what made him doubt himself. The coldness and indifference that man held towards him. Odalia was far from kind to him but she focused more on beating his sisters into the molds she had made for them. For him, it was Alador that he was often the victim of. He remembered how instinctual it had been for him to listen for Alador's steps. How easily he could tell when he needed to hide. He had always slightly envied his sisters as a child, as Odalia hardly considered him worth her time. Despite her cruelty, he craved her affection. He viewed her as the safer one. That if he had found acceptance with her then he wouldn't beat him. He was twelve when he had overheard them talking. He found that she not only knew about how Alador treated him, but she didn't care.

He remembered telling that to his mom one night when he ran to the Owl house to escape his punishments. She had held him so gently, like he was made of glass and paper. She had kissed his forehead and told him he wasn't a disappointment. That he had talent and worth outside of that dreaded name. That his happiness was more important than any ambition. Yet he didn't know much of what would make him happy.

Bump had offered jobs at hexside to all of the Colonels. He had told him that whatever combination of skills he enjoyed he was welcome to teach and if nothing else he could be an illusion professor til he figured what else he liked.

He found he greatly enjoyed bardic magic and had gotten quite skilled at it from a mixture of his mom and aunt's t