It’s not surprise that I’m a sucker for romance. Hell, my debut novel is a romance. So going into D&D expecting to not have my character have a love interest was a valiant effort but a failure waiting to happen. After Basile met his childhood friend Eyrene, I had to flesh out the conversations they had in a “short” story.
The people of Modelheim were starting to calm down after the devil attack, and the Associates were inspecting the bodies of the slain and caring for the wounded. Ciaran kept a brave face to distract the people as Basile walked around and healed them with his wand. Most people weren’t hurt too bad, and there was only one casualty. It could have been a lot worse if they hadn’t have arrived when they did.
“I can’t believe Ivuram didn’t come save us,” someone in the crowd grumbled. Basile didn’t recognize them. “We’ve been giving sacrifices and gifts all year and when we needed him most, he didn’t help.”
“I know we can’t trust dragons, but he had always protected us before. Why stop now?” another person added – Basile recognized him as Saul Larson. He used to be friends with his parents. He wondered briefly if they even realized the Addler’s had left.
“Hey, you guys are adventurers right?” A man around Basile’s age asked Ciaran. Basile couldn’t help but smile as his old friend, Raulin, stepped forward.
“Yep! The strongest and the best!” Ciaran stated proudly.
“You guys should go see why Ivuram didn’t help us,” Raulin said.
“Or just kill him! If he’s not going to do his part, he shouldn’t rule over us,” Saul added.
The commotion was cut off by a loud explosion behind them. Basile turned and saw as a plume of purple smoke billowed up from one of the devil carcasses, forming the symbol of Lucifer briefly before dissipating. Then, a second pop as the magic around them seemed to vanish for a moment.
Basile recognized that sensation. He had felt it when H’rathen had first revealed him to the others inside the library. He tried to turn invisible again, but his magic seemed to fail. Shit…
Suddenly there was more panic. Basile winced as he felt the thoughts of the entire town shift from anxiety to fear. Everyone crowded backwards, trying to flee from him. He let out a long breath, the satisfaction he was feeling leaving his body before being replaced with shame. Of course they feared him. Basile froze in his spot.
Saul was pushed out of the crowd, and he nervously pointed at Basile. “You’re working with devils?” he accused, looking at the others.
“I assure you, this man has done nothing but help you,” Neebs said diplomatically, before being quickly undercut by Rhaegar jumping in.
“If you have an issue with Basile being a part of our group -”
“Rhaegar! What the hell? Don’t just give my name away,” Basile scolded in a panic.
“Sorry, if you have issues with Asgore being a part of our group -”
Basile groaned and just lifted up his hand, showing the crowd the healing potion he had been placing on them. He didn’t dare speak. The last time he did that, they tried to execute him.
“Guys, get me out of this!”
“Hey, settle down,” a voice shouted from the crowd. A redheaded woman stepped forward, her eyes looking over the Associates before landing on Basile. She smiled and Basile felt his stomach flip with unease. “It’s just Eythan.”
The crowd murmured with confusion, staring at him. Basile took a hesitant step backwards, the urge to flee overwhelming. He wanted to lie, tell them they had it all wrong, that he wasn’t who they thought he was; but the heavy cloud of guilt radiating over the crowd’s thoughts made him keep still. They regretted what they did to him, and for the first time, Basile felt pity for his old home.
“Wait, is that…” A young kid in the crowd started, pointing at Ciaran and then to Basile. “An elf with an eyepatch and an invisible tiefling…It’s Ash Crimson!”
“Yes, it must be! After all, Tomas wrote the books…”
“I can’t believe it! We’re meeting the real Ash Crimson!”
Ciaran didn’t miss a beat, stepping in front of Basile and spreading out his hands. “Yep! It’s us! Neebs and Associates are the inspiration for the Commonwealth Times Best Seller The Tales of Ash Crimson.”
With that, the younger crowd rushed forward to meet with Ciaran, some breaking off to speak with other associates. Basile let out a heavy sigh and backed away, thankful for the distraction. However, he bumped into Neebs, who wrapped his arm tightly around Basile’s shoulders to keep him steady.
“Neebs, what are you -”
“Just trust me on this,” Neebs replied with a grin. It made Basile nervous.
“I really just want to get out of here.”
“Not until you talk with her.”
“Neebs, I don’t – “
“You do remember me, don’t you?” Eyrene asked with a playful grin as she came up to Neebs and Basile. The tiefling felt his face heat up in embarrassment. He felt Neebs nudge him to respond. Before he had a chance to, Rhaegar came up behind him and glared hard at Eyrene. The sight of the chiseled warrior startled her and made her stumble back, tripping and falling. Basile immediately pulled away from Neebs’ grip and spun around. He withdrew his vampiric glaive and smacked Rhaegar across the face with the blunt end.
“What the hell, Basile?” Rhaegar barked as he rubbed his cheek.
“Don’t be an ass to my friend,” he said sharply as he turned to help Eyrene back to her feet, hesitating for a moment as he wondered if she would accept his help. “Of course I remember you, Eyrene.”
Although shaken, Eyrene took his hand and stood back up, wiping the snow off of her clothes. Basile glanced over at Neebs, who smiled and gave him a thumbs up.
“Do you have makeup on?” Eyrene asked curiously, staring at Basile intently.
“What? Oh, no,” Basile said, clearing his throat. “This is…just how I look now. Being a tiefling and all…”
“And those?” Eyrene pressed her finger against the corner of her eye and drew a mark down the side of her cheek.
“Not sure what those are, but they’re not painted.” Yet another mystery of his bloodline.
“The horns look good.” She reached out to touch them, and Basile froze in place. He couldn’t understand why she was so interested in the way he looked. Then, as if realizing how uncomfortable he was, Eyrene pulled her hand away and apologized.
In the distance, he swore he could hear Kass whistling a romantic tune and felt himself blushing again. Basile suddenly remembered Lorn telling him about his theories on tiefling and dragon relationships and panicked. They have it all wrong!
“So, how has everything been? Other than the whole devil attack,” Basile sputtered out, trying to redirect the conversation to something less personal.
Eyrene’s entire demeanor seemed to change. She wrapped her arms around herself and stared at the snow beneath her feet. “Eythan, I’m so sorry about what happened. You didn’t deserve the punishment you were given.”
“It’s okay, really,” Basile assured her, slipping his hands into his pockets. “It’s all in the past now.”
“Well other than the attack, we’ve been okay,” Eyrene turned to look over at the large group of people surrounding the other associates. “With Krause gone, we’ve been trying to rebuild somewhat of a government. And Ivuram hasn’t been here to help us.”
Basile looked over to Alkaid with wide eyes and shot her a quick message, “I thought you were helping them!”
Alkaid shrugged sheepishly. “We’ve been busy.”
“You guys have killed dragons before, right?” Eyrene asked.
“Yeah, lots of dragons. You’ve read the books, haven’t you?”
“Of course! Tomas is a little celebrity in town,” Eyrene said fondly. Basile couldn’t help but smile. “Everything in the books are true?”
“A few details are changed.” Basile glanced over to Marven, who was keeping his distance from most people. “For example, Marven isn’t part whale. He’s actually part dragon.”
“Impressive,” Eyrene took a step toward Basile to stand next to him. “So you guys would be able to handle Ivuram?”
“Yeah, of course, no problem! Consider it done.” Basile said confidently, his voice raising in pitch slightly. Until this moment, the people of Modelheim revered their dragon lord. He didn’t want to mention that they already killed Ivuram in their quest to defeat Lucifer. He looked down at Eyrene, just now noticing that he was finally taller than her, and wondered if he could trust her this easily. Judah’s letter warned him to not trust them, saying they followed the adversary. Was Eyrene tangled up in this mess? “I should meet up with the others and try to figure out why our magic suddenly stopped working.”
“Yes, we should,” Eyrene started walking away and waved back toward him. “I hope I get the chance to talk to you some more. We have a lot to catch up on.”
Basile watched her walk away toward the group, realizing that most of those people were once his friends. He saw Mason walk up to Eyrene, likely asking her about Basile, but she seemed to brush him off. Basile remembered them being close as kids, but there seemed to be some distance now. Baron stayed close to his younger brother, Benji – the boy that Krause attacked just to blame Mary Fogg. Benji seemed to catch Basile’s eye for a moment and waved. Basile waved back, and he saw Baron nod his head in acknowledgement.
Maybe things were starting to change, but Basile still didn’t know if he could trust them.
While Lorn put up a barricade at the ice cavern to prevent the devils from reaching the portal to Infernus, the rest of the group gathered at the local inn. Wanting to be alone, Basile entrusted Kass to watch over Ciaran as he went to his old home to collect some belongings. Stepping inside always brought a strange sense of relief. It was something familiar that he could latch onto. Something tangible he could feel comfort in.
The last time he was here, he cleared out most of his most sentimental items – books, journals, gifts from his family. Now, he went to pick up anything his family may have left behind as they scrambled to shelter in Neebsenshire. Of course, they were eventually going to return home, but Basile felt the need to bring them back something.
He found a box under his parent’s bed filled with letters and drawings from him and his brothers. Tomas had left behind some books of his own, which Basile was interested in reading as well. He even grabbed some of Judah and Charlotte’s belongings – mainly memories from their wedding. Basile spent a lot of time lingering on portrait drawn of them that day. At first, Basile wasn’t upset that he wasn’t invited – they had figured he was dead. Now, he wished he was able to attend. If he had received Tomas’ letter sooner, he may have come and watched from a distance.
Basile finished packing up his things and headed back out into the town. His invisibility still wasn’t working, so he kept his hood up and his head low as he headed to Eyrene’s. He still wanted to talk with her – but no one else. He couldn’t handle all of the questions, the continuous apologies, or the distrusting stares.
“Hey, that’s actually Eythan, right? The kid who killed his dad?”
“Ivuram said it was Krause who did that. Eythan was innocent.”
“I can’t believe he became an adventurer! How cool!”
“Yeah, he’s the real Ash Crimson.”
Basile couldn’t help but smile. He wasn’t used to the praise, but now because of Tomas and his books, he was finally getting some recognition for the good he had done. His stained past was finally being cleared.
But I still can’t trust them. Not yet.
He walked up the path to Eyrene’s home. Attached to their cottage was the forge where she worked as the town blacksmith. It was a prestigious title for a place like this, and of course she excelled at her job. She excelled at everything.
Basile’s hand tightened around the strap of his backpack as he stood outside. It was starting to snow, the sky darkening above. “Hey Eyrene, it’s Basile. I mean, Eythan.”
From inside the house, he could sense her surprise. “Oh! You startled me – “
“Sorry about that,” Basile replied sheepishly. “I’ve gotten used to talking telepathically, I forget that people don’t expect it.”
“Well that’s certainly interesting.” Even in her thoughts, her voice was playful.
“Are you home?”
There was movement in one of the rooms above. Basile looked up and saw Eyrene look out the window. She waved at him before disappearing. A few moments later, the front door opened. He was surprised to see that she had changed out of her winter clothes and into something much lighter. “You know, you could have knocked.”
“I didn’t want to bother your family,” Basile replied, not mentioning that he didn’t want to have to explain himself to her mother or grandfather. He walked up the steps and quietly shook the snow off his shoes before stepping in. It was much warmer inside thanks for the forge. No wonder she wasn’t dressed in winter furs.
“Sorry it’s so hot in here,” Eyrene said as she reached to take Basile’s cloak.
“I don’t really notice it much” he said quickly, but he took off his cloak anyways and handed it to her.
“My grandpa is upstairs sleeping. The whole ordeal with the devils was a lot for him. And my mom is visiting with the Marlowe’s.”
“Charlotte’s family,” Basile noted.
“Yes! I wish you could have attended her and Judah’s wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony in the Temple of Ioun.” Eyrene walked over to the couch and sat down. She patted the empty space beside her. “Anyways, if you’re looking for a private place to talk, we’re safe here.”
Safe. How desperately he wanted to be safe. Basile sat down next to her, noticing how the cushion sunk under his weight, making him sit closer to her than intended. She didn’t seem to flinch. He couldn’t understand why she wasn’t bothered to be near him.
“What did you want to talk about?”
“Honestly, there’s so much…I don’t really know how to begin,” Basile trailed off, staring at his hands. He imagined the mark of Asmodeous burned into his palm and knew he would never bring that up to her. But the thought of the god he once tried to worship made him think of the true enemy he was facing, and it made him wonder if Eyrene could be trusted.
“Well, where have you been all this time?” Eyrene prompted. “You couldn’t have just been living in the woods for fifteen years.”
“Tomas explains in the book.”
“I want to hear it from you.”
Basile looked over at her and read her thoughts. No mark of Lucifer. No hidden motives. “We’re facing a powerful adversary,” he said, using the name Judah warned him about. The name didn’t seem to faze her. “It took me a long time to trust the others…”
Eyrene nodded and reached out, taking Basile’s hand in hers. It was warm, even through his gloves. It made him shiver. “I’m sorry that I didn’t stand up for you all those years ago. But I will stand up for you now. You can trust me.”
“Even against the Wicked One?” Once more, her thoughts didn’t seem to waver at Lucifer’s title.
“Against whoever dares to try and slander your name again.”
Basile’s eyes widened at her sincerity. “Why?”
“I didn’t have the strength to do defend you when you needed us most. But I can now.”
“I’ve already forgiven you for that,” Basile said, feeling as though the heat in the room was suffocating him. “Do you still worship Ioun?”
“Of course,” she said proudly with a smile. “Even when the rest of the town was starting to visit the temple less, I made sure I went to Judah’s weekly masses and gave my petitions.”
“And your faith has never wavered?”
“No, not like Baron,” she added, surprising Basile. “I don’t know what happened, but he stopped spending time with the rest of us and started going to secret meetings with some of the others. This was back when Krause was still in charge. By the way, the finger was a pretty shocking way of revealing you were still alive.”
Basile had almost forgotten he did that. “I wasn’t thinking clearly when I did that. Henrik had been hunting me for years, trying to capture me for a crime I didn’t commit. I was scared and paranoid, and when we realized he worked for the Wicked I had to…” His gaze fell to his hands again. That damn mark was going to remind him of his mistakes for the rest of his life. “I’ve done terrible things just to survive…things I’ve been forgiven for but can never forget. After Dad died, I didn’t know who to look up to. I almost lost myself…” He trailed off. He wouldn’t burden Eyrene with the darkest parts of himself.
He stiffened as Eyrene pulled him close and gave him a hug. His entire body seemed to jolt with electricity at the touch – it had been so long since he had been hugged by anyone other than his family. He almost forgot what it felt like to be cared for by someone who didn’t have to care for him. For what felt like eternity, he remained still, then slowly moved his arms up to hug Eyrene back. The moment his fingertips rested on her waist, he couldn’t help but curl in on her – engulfing her with his presence. Finally, someone who wanted to be near him. Someone who didn’t fear him.
“You’re not lost anymore,” she said quietly, and Basile believed her.
“So, you found Ciaran as an orphan and have been raising him on your own this whole time?” Eyrene asked as she took a sip of hot chocolate. She was now sprawled out on the couch, a blanket over her lap. Basile had moved onto the floor, sitting up against the front. He was staring into his own mug of hot chocolate, watching the steam escape. “That’s pretty impressive considering you were only…what, fourteen when you ran away?”
“Well, I was fourteen when I left Modelheim, but I didn’t find Ciaran until I was eighteen.”
“It must have been hard on you,” Eyrene said, tilting her cup to swirl the contents around. “You were barely an adult, trying to take care of a child while hiding from the world.”
Basile shrugged nonchalantly. “Helping raise Tomas and Judah gave me some experience, and Ciaran wasn’t a baby when I found him. Maybe three years old? It’s hard to tell with elves. Anyways, it was easy to keep an eye on him since I could talk to him telepathically. And since I was invisible all the time, he would tell people that I was an imaginary friend. Most people thought he was crazy and leave us alone.”
“You know, I’m not surprised that you decided to take on an orphan on your own.”
Basile looked at her curiously. Sure, he had grown to love him, but she had no idea about the forces that brought them together.
“When we were kids, you were always so protective of Judah and Tomas,” Eyrene continued. “You’d do anything to make sure no one hurt them. From what it sounds like, not much has changed. You’re still the same Eythan I grew up with.”
“I’m not some innocent kid anymore,” Basile replied somberly. “The Eythan you knew is long gone.”
“Nope, he’s right here.” Eyrene poked Basile hard in the middle of his back, right where Pythos had once carved his S.O.S. He flinched as she pressed into the scar. “Just because you go by Basile now and are a hot-shot adventurer doesn’t mean you’re not the same person you once were.”
“Well, I prefer to stick to my new identity,” he stated. “It’s a safety measure.”
“Sure, sure. Of course,” Eyrene said, her voice still playful. “So after you found Ciaran, you made your way to…?”
“Neebsenshire,” Basile clarified. “It’s about as far south as you can get before hitting the ocean, so it took several years to travel there by foot. It was first called Dwarvenshire, but after we defeated the red dragon, Neebs became king and renamed it after himself.”
“Oh that’s right! That happened in the second book.”
“Yeah, it was the first time we ever fought a dragon. I was scared out of my mind. Nowadays we barely flinch. We have bigger enemies to worry about. Which is why I brought my family there after we resurrected Dad. With three clerics in town, it’s much safer than Model-”
“Wait, back up!” Eyrene shouted, sitting up in her seat. She startled Basile and made him sit up straighter. “Your dad is alive?”
“Oh, Tomas didn’t write about that yet, did he…” Basile realized with a small chuckle. “Spoilers, sorry…I was able to bring my dad back to life with a resurrection scroll.”
“That’s amazing!” Eyrene said with wonder. Although she was older than Basile, she resembled Ciaran in the way she was astounded by everything. “That means you were the one who brought Benji back, doesn’t it? When Judah had attacked Krause and your mom and Tomas were sick? How did I not realize it sooner? I knew you looked familiar when you sold me that sword!”
“Speaking of swords, do you think you might be able to help out Ciaran and I? We needs weapons that will be strong against devils. Made of silver preferably.”
“You’re going after your own kind?”
“I’m not one of them,” Basile said sharply, then reeled back his anger. “I mean, I might share their bloodline but I don’t follow Lucifer. I’ve found my way back to Ioun.”
“Lucifer…he’s the one you warned me about early, isn’t he? The Adversary?”
“Yeah, Judah had warned me that some people in Modelheim were working with him. Krause was one of them, and Henrik. I didn’t know who else I needed to keep an eye out for. I’m relieved I don’t have to worry about you.”
Eyrene’s smile fell as she slid off the couch to sit next to Basile on the floor. It still surprised him when she wanted to be next to him. “You took your family far away from here because of Krause. Because of the Adversary.”
“Yes. Krause tried to kill Tomas because he knew too much, and he attacked Judah when he realized the truth…” Suddenly, Basile realized why his dad may have been targeted in the first place. By framing Basile for the murder of his father, they would have thrown him into Ivuram’s lair. They would have captured the Scion of Lucifer. “Even with Krause gone, you’re all still in danger.”
“But why? What does Modelheim have that the Adversary wants?”
“There is a portal that leads to Lucifer’s domain in Ivuram’s lair,” Basile replied in the safety of their thoughts. “When we came to heal my mom and Tomas, Mary Fogg was on trial. We tried to help Charolette stop Krause, but Mary was still found guilty. We followed the guards to the lair and were able to intervene, but we had to face Ivuram.”
“You faced Ivuram and survived?”
Basile felt a devilish grin toy at his lips. “I may have turned him into a goat for a while.”
Eyrene burst out laughing, leaning into him. Basile chuckled as well, trying to calm down his heart rate. “I can’t believe the Frigid Death was reduced to a goat.”
“Oh, he could still breathe fire and all of that, but after we killed him he was- ”
“Wait, you killed Ivuram?”
Shit, I’m getting too comfortable with her, Basile thought helplessly. “Oh, did I say that?”
Eyrene narrowed her eyes, but the edges of her lips curled up into a smile. “Yes.”
“Like I said earlier, consider it already done…”
Eyrene shoved Basile’s shoulder, almost knocking him over onto his side. “I can’t believe you just went ahead and killed our protector!”
“He was working with the Wicked One! We couldn’t just let him live!” Basile argued, though he could tell they weren’t actually fighting. She seemed to be enjoying their banter. It was like old times.
“Well, it’s no wonder he didn’t come to save us from the devils,” Eyrene added, her smile faltering slightly. “You guys did leave us without any protection.”
“I know,” Basile replied, losing a bit of his carefree attitude. “I’m sorry this happened to you. But we’ve been keeping an eye on Modelheim. I’ve asked Alkaid to check in as Ivuram to ensure everything was going well. She had said things were fine the last time she visited.”
“Check in as Ivuram? What do you mean?”
“After we killed him, Alkaid dressed up as him in a human appearance and managed to convince everything she was him. It’s how we exposed the truth about Krause, and how we finally cleared my name.”
“Ridiculous, but clever.” Eyrene shifted her position to face Basile. She rested her arm along the cushion of the couch. “Are you two close?”
Basile rolled his eyes in response. “We mix as well as oil and vinegar.”
“Interesting analogy. Why’s that?”
“It’s pretty straight forward when you get down to it. She’s an aasimar, I’m a tiefling. She’s good, I’m bad. She’s related to angels and I’m related to…well…you know.”
Eyrene was quiet for a moment, seeming to observe Basile. He felt uncomfortable, but couldn’t seem to break her eye contact. It was like being trapped under the spell of the frostwind virago. In fact, Eyrene seemed to be the spitting image of the ice monster that stole his heart. Maybe that’s why he felt like his stomach was full of knots.
“Even still,” she murmured, breaking the silence, “it was nice of her to clear your name.”
“Well, we are on the same team. Even if we don’t always get along, we have to stick next to each other,” Basile admitted. “Besides, she’s not nearly as bad as I used to think she was. Trauma can bring people together in weird ways.”
“Then I’ll just have to keep an eye on her and make sure you’re okay.”
The sudden hint of jealousy in Eyrene’s thoughts made his heart race. Though her words were nonchalant, her thoughts were quite clear. He cleared his throat and prayed that his skin tone hid his embarrassment.
“Anyways, Lorn is making sure it the portal stays sealed until it’s time to go to Infernus,” Basile said, trying to avoid any personal topics.
“Go to Infernus? Why would you need to go there? Why can’t you just keep him trapped?” Her voice was thick with worry, but she already knew the answer before she even had to ask.
“He needs to be stopped. Permanently.”
“Eyth…Basile…” Hearing her say his name made Basile’s stomach flip. “I understand that you’re trying to save us, but please don’t get yourself killed in the process.”
Basile attempted to smile and ease her worries. “That’s what being invisible all the time is for. I can’t die if no one can see me, right?” Actually, that was wrong. The one time he did die, a barbarian got lucky and cracked open his ribcage while he was invisible. “I promise I won’t die.” At least not for long.
They sat in silence, listening to the crackling of the forge in the next room. Their lighthearted reunion was now weighed down by reality. The only reason Basile returned to Modelheim was because of Lucifer. He wasn’t intending to become attached to the people he once knew. He only cared about the safety of his family, but now…
“What’s on your mind?” she asked quietly, running the edge of her thumb along the rim of her cup. It was now empty, only stained with the leftovers of chocolate on the edges.
“I want you to come with us,” Basile said aimlessly, answering without thinking. He quickly added, “To Neebsenshire, that is.” Then, the more he thought about it, the better the idea became. He felt some hope trickling through his bloodstream, making his skin tingle. “Ciaran can teleport you and your family there. You can stay with my parents at the Temple of Ioun we built. Then when Modleheim is safe again, we can bring you back.”
“I’ve never had the chance to travel very far,” Eyrene added. “It will be like a mini vacation from everyday life.”
“Yeah, exactly,” he said, playing along with the fantasy. It was better than thinking of fleeing for refuge. “Neebseshire is practically tropical compared to here.”
“Thank Ioun, I am over the snow. Is there a lot to do there as well?”
“Marven owns a pretty popular bar there, and the bard college is great to visit. Plus, if you get bored of the tourism, there’s a blacksmith in town who’d appreciate your expertise.”
Eyrene took another sip of her cocoa and closed her eyes. “Sounds perfect.”
Basile was aware of her shoulder against his. He suddenly remembered when all of the kids would have sleepovers at his house, their bedrolls pressed up against one another. Tomas and Judah would fight over who would sleep next to him. Instead of sleeping between them, Basile would watch them argue while Eyrene set up her spot on his left. They would be the last ones to fall asleep, and would whisper stories to each other until Levi would catch them. They used to be so close, but that was before he started hearing voices. Before his horns started growing. Before he was no longer allowed to see his friends.
I miss our sleepovers…
“Me too,” Eyrene replied softly. Basile then realized that he hadn’t kept his throughs private after all, and that he’d do anything to make sure Eyrene was safe. Even if it meant damning the rest of Modelheim.
“Everyone ready to head back?” Lorn asked as the group got together. Rhaegar and Neebs were visibly hungover from their long night of drinking and playing chess. Ciaran was practically sleeping on his feet, rubbing his eyes with his knuckles. The others were in various stages of grogginess, but Basile felt wide awake.
“We’re all here,” Kass said, ruffling his feathers as he yawned.
“You guys can go on ahead” Basile said, now invisible thanks to Lorn removing the curse from the devils. “I still have some unfinished business.”
“Oh?” Neebs said, a sly grin growing on his face. “Did things go well?”
Basile scowled, knowing that Neebs couldn’t see him. “Get your mind out of the gutter.”
“Is that girl from yesterday?” Rheagar asked. “The one you hit me with a glaive over?”
“If you weren’t acting like such a dick, I wouldn’t have had to hit you.”
“She seemed nice,” Ciaran said. “I like her. Can she come with us?”
“How do we know if we can trust her?” Dwayne asked, shivering from the cold. He refused to get a jacket despite it being the end of winter in the north.
“I’m sure Basile already considered that,” Lorn said, looking straight at the tiefling. Basile nodded in reply. “See? He’s already made sure she wasn’t working with the Wicked One,” Lorn continued, responding as if everyone else could see him. He then held out his hands, signaling for the others to take hold. “If he has a friend he’d like to bring back, I’m sure the Addler’s wouldn’t mind having guests. I take it Ciaran will be your ride home?”
“We’ll be right behind you,” Basile assured them. He and Ciaran watched as their friends vanished in a flash of light, already setting foot in Neebsenshire. Ciaran turned back toward Basile, his eyes now wide awake.
“Is she really coming with us?”
“Well, she seemed interested when I offered last night,” Basile admitted. He hoped she hadn’t changed her mind. “Come on, let’s go pick her up.”
The two of them made their way to Eyrene’s home, both of them invisible to avoid having to get stopped for autographs. Once they were outside, Basile send Eyrene a quick message and she welcomed them in.
Ciaran dropped his invisibility as soon as she closed the door. He beamed, holding out his hand to shake hers. “Hi! I’m Ciaran. I don’t think I got to meet you before.”
“I’m Eyrene, and no I don’t think I had the pleasure previously.” She took his hand and shook it firmly, before looking around. “Is Eythan, sorry, I mean, is Basile here?”
“I’m here,” he said aloud, tapping her shoulder to give her an idea of his presence. She jumped at the sensation.
“Geez! You need to quit doing that!”
“Sorry,” he said sheepishly. “I’m just more comfortable not showing myself.”
“At least give me a warning next time, eh?” she grinned as she walked further into her home. “Mom, Papa, it’s time to leave!”
Basile carefully followed behind her, nervous about how her family would react. As he entered the kitchen, he saw that the three of them each had a backpack filled with their belongings. Her grandfather sat at the kitchen table, rocking back and forth as though he were outside on his chair. Her mother stood beside him, the look on her face unreadable. Thankfully, her thoughts weren’t nearly as difficult to read. She was nervous, as he expected.
“I filled them in on everything you told me,” Eyrene explained, looking over her shoulder at the empty space where Basile was standing. “Not every detail,” she added. “But enough to explain why it’s safer to leave Modelheim.”
“Hi, I’m Ciaran!” the boy said excitedly as he pushed between Basile and Eyrene. “Basile says that you’re going to be staying with us in Neebsenshire?”
“That is what Eyrene told us last night,” Ophelia said cautiously, her eyes darting around the room. “She said you would…teleport us there?”
“Yes! I’m very good at magic – not as good as Lorn, but he’s been teaching me,” Ciaran said excitedly.
“Watch out for the octopus,” Eyrene’s grandfather added before eating a peanut from the bowl in front of him.
“So what exactly do we have to do?” Ophelia asked as Eyrene walked up to her.
“We just hold hands!” Ciaran explained, reaching out to take Ophelia’s. “Then I say the magic words and poof! We arrive at the well!”
“Make sure you’re holding onto everything you want to bring,” Basile added. Ophelia made an audible gasp at his voice, but Terrence didn’t seem fazed.
“Basile, you should probably show yourself for this part,” Eyrene said, her voice gentle and assuring. With a sigh, Basile let his invisibility drop. Once again, Ophelia gasped as he appeared next to her daughter. For the first time, Terrence seemed to realize something was off.
“Have you seen the muffin man?” he asked, looking over at Basile. His thoughts were just as confusing as his statements.
“I don’t believe I have,” Basile replied politely, lowering his gaze. Showing himself to others never seemed to get easier. “I’m sorry if I startled you. This is new to me.”
“This is new for us as well,” Ophelia said, eyeing him skeptically. “Are you really…?”
“Yes, Miss Sophie, it’s me,” Basile said. He made sure to use the old nickname he and his brothers used when they were unable to pronounce Miss Ophelia. Her eyes widened in shock, and she took a few steps toward him. Basile remained still, trying to hide how much being examined bothered him. Ophelia looked him up and down, as if trying to peel away the layers of tiefling to find the boy she used to know underneath.
“I just…I can’t imagine…”
“This may help.” Basile activated the hood of disguise he wore and took on a human appearance – one that he imagined he would look like if he didn’t have Lucifer’s bloodline. No red skin, no weird birthmarks, no horns. Just a normal human. Ophelia’s eyes started to water at the sight.
“Oh, Eythan…” she came up and hugged him tightly, catching him off guard. What was it with Eyrene’s family being so touchy? “We were all so blind to have believed a sweet kid like you would have ever hurt anyone. I’m so sorry.”
“I’ve forgiven you all,” Basile stated, sounding like a broken record. However, repeating those words seemed to make him believe it more.
The guilt he heard in Ophelia’s mind reminded him of his mother. The only difference is that Ophelia had the tact to apologize. Dahlia hadn’t said a word to him since he rescued her. He thought she just needed space. Maybe she needed to know he didn’t blame her anymore.
“Mom, you’re suffocating him,” Eyrene said, taking Ciaran’s hand in her own. Ophelia pulled away and composed herself, gingerly dabbing at her eyes with the back of her hand. She then took Eyrene and Terrence’s hands, now ready for their trip to Neebsenshire.
Basile walked over to Ciaran and turned invisible again, resting his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “All right. Show them how a real adventurer travels.”
Ciaran beamed with excitement. “To Neebsenshire!”
The Kenter family was shaken by the experience of teleportation when they arrived outside of the Temple of Ioun. Ciaran was having the time of his life as he excitedly talked with Terrence, who seemed to have a vague understanding of what happened. Basile noticed that Ophelia had dropped some of her belongings during the landing, and picked them up for her.
“My family has been living here,” Basile explained in a whisper. “You’re all welcome to stay with them.
“Thank you, Eythan.” Ophelia looked up at the temple in awe. “What a beautiful place.”
“My dad and I built it together,” Basile said with pride. At the time, he helped his dad build the temple out of obligation. Now, he was happy to have constructed something for the god who didn’t abandon him.
“You and your…” Ophelia asked in shock.
“Oh, Eyrene didn’t tell you?” Basile asked as he headed up the front steps. “Once I had enough money, I bought a scroll to bring my dad back to life. It’s how I saved Benji, too.” He opened the front door for the rest to come in. Ciaran was the first to bound up the steps and rush inside, shouting to let his surrogate family know they were home.
“Welcome home, Ciaran,” Judah said as he came to the door. “Where’s Eythan? He said he was bringing some friends with him?”
Basile disguised himself as human and dropped his invisibility, startling his brother. He laughed as Judah punched him roughly in the arm, cursing him for being such an annoyance.
“Ah ah, don’t be too mean,” Basile chided with a grin. “You wouldn’t want to look unwelcoming to our guests.”
Judah looked past Basile and immediately lit up with excitement. “No way!” He bounded down the steps to greet Eyrene and her family. “Charlotte! You need to get down here!”
“Already sent her the message,” Basile said as he sat down on the step. One by one, the Addler family came to the door and were surprised by their old friends on the porch. Tomas immediately went to Terrence and started talking to him about conspiracy theories, while Charlotte and Eyrene hugged each other and gushed about their time apart. His mother nearly started crying as she saw Ophelia and rushed to her. Levi stood next to Basile, observing the crowd with a smile. He rested his hand on his eldest son’s shoulder.
“This is quite the surprise, eh?”
“Modelheim was under attack again, ” Basile replied, his voice quiet. “I think the Wicked One is trying to access the gate to Infernus.”
“So you brought the Kenter family with you?” Levi asked curiously.
“They needed to be protected.”
“More than other families back home?”
Basile frowned. “Some people in Modelheim are still being manipulated like Krause. Besides, I can’t possibly bring all of Modelheim with us. I brought back the people I can trust.” He glanced up at his dad and felt himself blushing. Like everyone else, his father expected ulterior motives for his actions. “It’s not how you think it is.”
Levi simply smiled. “I just want you to be happy, son. You deserve it.”
“Oh my god…Levi?” Ophelia said in awe as she came up the steps. Upon hearing his name, Levi opened his arms and met her halfway, giving her a tight hug. “I can’t believe it…it’s really you.”
“In the flesh,” Levi replied, welcoming Eyrene to hug him as well. “All thanks to Eythan.”
Basile awkwardly stood up and went into the temple, unable to bear the praise his father gave him. At times, he still felt like he didn’t deserve the positive feedback. His self doubt wouldn’t let him accept such kind words.
In the safety of his home, Basile let all of his illusions fade. He hated having to shield himself from others, but he hated the way he looked even more. So, he went to his bedroom to hide away and found Ciaran packing up his belongings.
“What are you doing?” he asked irritably.
“Moving your stuff into my room.” Ciaran stated.
“And why’s that?”
“Eyrene and her family are going to need a place to sleep.”
“There’s the guest bedroom.”
“With only one bed. We can’t fit three people in there,” Ciaran corrected. “Grandpa Terrence can stay in there. The bed is very comfy for him.”
Basile crossed his arms over his chest. “Okay, so we need to share a room. Fine. But why are you deciding to move my things instead of moving your stuff in?”
“My bed is too small for Eyrene and Ophelia to share.”
“So you’re going to get to sleep in your own bed and make me sleep on a bedroll?” Basile asked with a scowl.
“You barely sleep anyways,” Ciaran argued, ignoring the fact that most of his night was spent meditating. “Besides, wouldn’t you rather have Eyrene stay in your room?” he added with an impish grin.
Basile bristled with annoyance. “I’m tired of everyone assuming – “ he cut himself off and shook his head. “Fine, whatever, Eyrene and her mom can stay here. In that case, I’m going to set up my spot on the floor.” He grabbed his bedroll and stormed out, nearly running into Eyrene in the hall. He apologized quickly, his back pressing into the doorframe as he moved to let her peer inside.
“Is this where I’m going to be staying?” she asked, waving at Ciaran who waved back.
“Yeah, just moving my stuff out to give you and your mom some more space,” Basile said, glaring at Ciaran over Eyrene’s shoulder. The elf merely smiled in return. “You two can share my bed and I’ll be staying with Ciaran.”
“Oh, so this is your room? We were ever allowed in each other’s room growing up.”
Basile couldn’t help but snort in response. “Still the dumbest rule our parents enforced.”
“Between us two trouble makers, they had every right to be worried,” Eyrene joked. “We could have been drinking.”
“Or doing drugs,” Basile added, playing along.
“Or harming small animals.”
“Or dabbling in black magic.”
Basile gulped, trying to ignore how close they were. Eyrene was still standing in the doorway beside him. He felt trapped. “Then I started growing horns and Mom said I wasn’t allowed to hang out with friends, period.”
“You sure know how to put a damper on fond memories, eh?” she said, cocking her head to the side as she looked up at him.
Basile shrugged awkwardly. “Being a pessimist is in my nature I guess.” As well as depression, anxiety, doubt…
“Well, stop it.” Eyrene poked him in the chest, snapping him out of his downward spiral. “You have so much to live for. Enjoy living!”
“I’ll enjoy it once we stop the Wicked One,” Basile sighed. “So in due time, I guess.”
“That’s a positive way to think about it.” Eyrene grabbed his hand and pulled him away from his room. “Now, show me the rest of the resort. I need to be pampered.”
With that, Basile let himself slip back into their vacation fantasy. He told her about the luxurious amenities of Hotel Addler and the attractions Neebsenshire had to offer; and for a while, Basile forgot about his worries.