OG Q’taxians #18: Neighbours.

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Saari sat outside on the porch while the children played with Quip and Mr. Skitzel in the yard. The cat had grown fond of his voidspawn counterpart and Quip had stopped cowering to him. Cassidy was drawing benign sigils in the grass. They spewed fireworks and sparkles. Saari found it hard to believe that such simple spells were in that dreadful tome, but it was either that, or Cassidy was crafting her own sigils. Both were equally impressive.

She sat with a hot cup of tea in her hands. She hated coffee, but that was all Sylus seemed to drink. She was slowly catching on to him only drinking the stuff that came from the gas station. Perhaps there was something to that particular blend… The gas station itself remained a mystery, but it was one they tried not to read too deeply into. It always had what they needed in a pinch and there was always fuel in the tanks. Don’t question a good thing, Sylus had told her. She agreed it was best to leave that particularly benign mystery alone.

Quip had learned to chatter a bit. He made different sounds as if he was trying to speak. Saari was certain he’d figured out how to say ‘Hello’ in a rather disturbing, yet endearing way. Daniel was apparently voice coaching him. It was a strange relationship they had. Daniel was adamant about Quip’s desire to talk to everyone. He dedicated much of his time to coaching the voidspawn with grammar lessons. The day Quip could hold a conversation would be a miraculously strange day indeed.

Sylus… Was asleep. He’d been sleeping an awful lot since the Mist was able to settle back into the house. Saari knew he needed it. She never even caught Qaitax laying awake as he was often wont to do. As far as she could tell, both of them were completely unconscious. They’d get up every now and then, walk around, maybe go outside for a bit, but it was never for long. Her only concern was how ravenously hungry they’d be when they finally chose to resume a normal waking schedule. She didn’t fear for herself or the children, in fact, she wasn’t afraid of him at all. She just knew he’d be quick to do something stupid that might wind up getting him hurt.

She sighed as she sipped her tea. Sylus had taught her how to make it. After her disgust with his coffee, he took her to the store and bought her all kinds of teas. They spent almost an entire day going through boxes and tins of tea trying to figure out which one’s she liked. He explained each one thoroughly so she’d get a good idea of what each box or tin tasted like. She was able to form rudimentary images in her Voidsight that were distinguishable enough for her to remember which container was which. It turned out she liked them all so he cleared out a cabinet and filled it with all her teas. He called it her “treasure trove”. With all the shiny labels, the title wasn’t far from the truth.

She missed simple days like that. Just spending time with him. She knew things were changing. She knew what little peace they had wouldn’t last long. She knew… That the Voidlord they had left in Q’taxia would find them sooner than later. Rather than focus on the impending darkness, she chose to savor small moments of joy like this one. She only wished Sylus would recover soon so he could enjoy them, too.

Saari removed her horns as she leaned back in her wicker chair. She smiled.

.

With the following morning came a knock upon the door. Sylus heard it in his slumber, yet he chose to ignore it. The knock came again. Rolling onto his stomach, he put a pillow over his head. Peeking out he found Saari still fast asleep beside him. Another series of knocks. He pressed his face into the mattress and pulled the pillow down tightly. A tirade of knocks rang out against his door. Seething with rage, Sylus sat up with a start. He caught a glimpse of himself as he stormed out of the room. He looked terrible. His eyes were red and sunken and his hair was an unruly mess. Whoever was at the door had better have a good reason to be there or he was going to throw a fit. He was quick to decide that unless it was one of his friends, whoever was knocking was going to be breakfast.

Skulking down the hall, he checked into each of the children’s rooms. They were both fast asleep. For some reason it was in this moment that he noticed the stark lack of decor in Cassidy’s room. Until she had moved in, it was an empty spare. She’d been living with them long enough that it was time she put some of her own character into the once vacant space. They’d work on that. He smiled as he pulled her door shut.

Knocking. More knocking.

He remembered how angry he was to be woken up like this. Drawing back his lips to show his jagged teeth, he finally opened the door.

“Howdy neighbour!” It was a cheery, yet familiar… yet… entirely upsetting face belonging to a tall, angular, spindly man with long platinum almost white hair around his face. He was wearing a yellow long coat and a long yellow scarf stood before him. “Just moved in and I was just so DANG eager to meet everyone in town!” All of Sylus’ rage faded into unadulterated fear, “Seems no one else lives around here! To be honest,” he laughed as he leaned in close to Sylus, “Neither do I,” he whispered before pulling away, “but you’re the closest living things to where I DO live! I’m over there!” he pointed back over his shoulder with a free hand while he kept the other behind his back. There stood a large golden tower that had never been there before, “That’s home! Casa de Oro! Figured it’s best to keep with the local naming conventions. Nice view, but a bit isolated. I was getting cooped up decorating when I decided to bake a pie and visit the neighbourhood!”

He revealed a pie from behind his back. Claws and tendrils protruded from it’s crust.

“Fresh Voidspawn pot pie! So… Not really a pie… Not a dessert pie anyway… Oh, forgive me! I’m all flustered!” he fanned his face with his free hand.

“H-Haurex…?” Sylus struggled to utter the name.

“Oh you DO remember me! I thought it’d been so long that you’d have forgotten by now!” he spun around in place, his feet actually on the ground.

“Wh-what the fuck are you doing here?” Sylus could barely speak.

“Why must you suspect the worst! I come bearing food! Your favorite thing! Here,” he motioned for Sylus to take the pie, “Old family recipe. In fact, it may even contain some of the old family!” Haurex laughed heartily.

“I don’t want your pie,” Sylus said flatly.

“Aww… But I made it just for you! It has bits of all your favorite spawns! Just give it a try, will you?” Haurex pushed the pie closer to him.

Sylus chuckled, “You think I’m dumb enough to eat something you made? I’m sure you laced it with something that’ll kill me,” Sylus moved to shut the door.

“Even if I could do that, why would I?” Haurex replied, his cheery tone falling away, “You’re so much more fun to have alive than dead,” He offered Sylus the pie again, “Trust me. It’s just some old homestyle cooking.”

“Trust you?” Sylus scoffed.

“Well… what have I done to prove I’m anything BUT trustworthy? I’ve always been honest with you, Sylus. There’ll be plenty of time for games and mischief, but for now?” he held the pie up at Sylus’ eye level, “Take this as a token of goodwill. Toward you and only you, Sylus. Not your lesser half.”

Sylus sighed, “If I take this, will you go away?”

“I’ll return home, but home is just a few miles away! So if you ever want to stop by and chat, you’ll know exactly where to find me!”

Sylus snarled before finally taking the pie and slamming the door shut.

“Rude!” Haurex scoffed before sighing on the other side of the door, “Perhaps I will resist the temptation to wake you up next time.” He stood in front of the window that looked out onto the porch. He waved at Sylus with a disgustingly saccharine grin on his face, “Enjoy, my friend!”

Before Sylus could reply, Haurex vanished. Sylus stood alone in the living room with a grotesque pie in his hands. He walked it over to the rubbish bin before Qaitax interrupted him.

We haven’t eaten in a while…

“Are you suggesting we trust Haurex?” Sylus balked.

“I’m suggesting we take a bite and find out if it’s any good,” Qaitax replied.

“You specifically told me to never trust Haurex…”

Qaitax shrugged, “Food is food.”

Sylus sighed before grabbing a fork and stabbing the pie. It looked horrific and yet… it actually tasted pretty good. He’d never thought to cook voidspawns, but he’d be damned if he wanted to ask Haurex for the recipe. He managed to finish it before turning to find Haurex standing in his window again.

“I hope you enjoyed my secret ingredient!” he clasped his gloves under his chin.

Fear filled Sylus as he immediately darted through the house checking on his family. All were accounted for.

“If you laid a hand on Jeron…”

“The nice man that smells like fresh baked goods and bacon? I already visited him. We exchanged some recipes.”

“Then…”

“I’ll give you a little hint if you open this window,” Haurex was grinning from ear to ear as he tapped the window pane.

With a heavy sigh Sylus knew he was going to immediately regret his decision. He opened the window allowing Haurex to lean into the house.

“It’s a secret! Give me your ear!”

“If you fucking bite me…”

“Aww… And here I was planning to give you a little nibble,” Haurex giggled, “I won’t. Just lend me your ear so I can bestow upon you my super secret additive!”

Sighing once more, Sylus leaned in.

“Something old, something worn, something loathed and something scorned. Brotherly love there was not, but such aged flesh is best served hot!”

Sylus turned to face Haurex, but he’d already vanished. It didn’t take him long to realize what Haurex was talking about. For a moment, he was filled with regret over inhaling the pie, but at the same time… It tasted really really good…

So much for squirming… Qaitax sighed.

Sylus chuckled to himself, “One missed opportunity gives way to another. I wonder if we can reverse engineer it…”

Saari would not be pleased if we started baking her people into pies…

Sylus laughed loudly, “Touche, my friend, touche.”

There was a moment’s pause while Sylus decided whether he was still hungry or not.

This is going to become a problem…

“Hm?”

Haurex… He wasted almost no time moving into our realm… 

“Oh don’t worry, Qai,” Sylus yawned as she stretched his arms over his head, “One pie isn’t exactly a winning play.”

The pie means nothing in the grand scheme of things… We must be wary. Haurex doesn’t always seed his chaos directly. He has his ways and we must study them.

“And so we shall, my friend, but for now… I’d like to lay back down for a bit,” Sylus yawned again, “It’s too early to be alive.”

I wonder if that thought ever occured to the unfortunate Brother Johl…

Sylus laughed almost uncontrollably as he made his way back to his bed.

Somehow, all of that had transpired, and everyone remained fast asleep.

Crawling back into bed, he cuddled up against Saari. She sighed as she rolled over to face him.

“Are you feeling better, my lord?” she rested her head on his chest.

“Much,” he sighed as he rested his chin on her head.

“I am glad,” she breathed before falling back to sleep.

.

Sylus stood on the porch with a pair of binoculars in his hands. He was squinting into the distance at the golden tower that had seemingly sprung up overnight. Lifting the binoculars, he tried to discern anything useful from the building’s facade. As far as he could tell, the walls were smoothe save for a few windows and scattered balconies.

“He’s up to something…” Sylus muttered.

“Of course he is, my lord,” Saari stepped in front of the binoculars, startling Sylus into dropping them. He was relieved when the lanyard that hung around his neck caught them. “But unless you actually go over there and investigate, there is not much to be learned by simply watching.”

“Plenty can be learned from studying the behavior of your enemy,” he lifted the binoculars again.

“My lord, with all due respect,” Saari stepped in front of the binoculars again, “You are being ridiculous.”

“Ridiculous? How so?” Sylus stifled a scoff.

“We must make plans for how we can defend ourselves,” Saari tried to speak reason.

“How can we plan anything when we don’t even know what he’s up to?”

“We must secure a safe place for the children first and foremost…”

“We’re not going anywhere,” a firm voice came from behind.

They turned to find Cassidy and Daniel standing in the doorway.

“This… Haurex guy… Big deal. We can handle him no problem,” Cassidy scoffed.

“I highly doubt that,” Sylus answered honestly.

“I said we. That means all of us. If he comes knocking again, we can take him!” Cassidy clasped her fist in her hand.

“He’s a Voidlord…” Sylus tried to talk her down from her excitement.

“So are you, Dad,” Daniel finally spoke up.

“Not like him, I’m not!” Sylus balked.

“But you have us!” Daniel cheered, “Haurex has no one. You have us! All of us versus him?” Daniel turned to Cassidy, “We can do it!”

Cassidy nodded firmly.

Sylus turned to Saari. She sighed heavily.

“Then it would do each and every one of us well to perfect our specific powers. Cassidy,” Cassidy stood tall and saluted her, “You have done well to study your sigils, but now you must focus on ones of a defensive nature. No more playing.”

“You got it, ma’am,” Cassid put her hand on her tome that now hung at her side.

“Daniel, if you can, try to talk to the local spawns. Perhaps they can be our eyes and ears on the tower,” Saari continued.

“They won’t do it for free, but I’m sure I could figure something out,” Daniel replied, his mind already racing with ideas on how to win the local void life over to their cause.

“What about you, Saari?” Sylus turned to her.

“I must procure a new crystal… Perhaps Brother Johl can assist with that…”

Sylus swallowed hard.

“Why go back to that bastard when I have a closet full of them back at my old place?” Cassidy scoffed.

A weight lifted from Sylus’ shoulders.

“You do?” Saari found it hard to believe that a human child would know anything about Void crystals… Then again… This was Cassidy Jones…

Cassidy nodded, “Quip used to bring them to me. I have tons of them. Hopefully one of them will be the right kind for your staff.”

Saari nodded confidently, “Once I replace the crystal, I can try to remember how to use it…” she laughed nervously, “I have never had to use it before…”

“You’ll figure it out!” Daniel cheered her on.

Saari smiled as she turned to Sylus.

“What of you, my lord?”

Qaitax turned to her with an uncharacteristically excited grin, “I believe, my dear Saari, that it is time we finally learned to play our hand.”

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