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Once upon a time, there was a queen. Queen Marion Lavorre was the beloved matriarch of a small coastal kingdom that was just as majestic and beautiful as she was. “The Ruby of the Sea,” they called her. Stunning and special.

Marion, thought to only have room in her heart for her people and country, made room for another. Like a thief, the charming stranger sneaked right into her heart and stole it. But the two could not marry, for her love was not of noble blood. Still, they met together in secret for months, and eventually, Marion became pregnant. Yet before the baby was born, Queen Marion’s lover disappeared. She managed to keep her pregnancy secret. During this time Marion fell ill, posing danger for both herself and the baby. It eventually came time for Marion to have her baby, and in the throes of birth, she begged the heavens to save herself and her child. And her prayer was answered. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl, her little sapphire. Too overwhelmed with emotion, all Marion could do was sing. So, she sang, and sang, and sang. Her love ringing in every note. It was during this lullaby when she noticed her daughter’s hair begin to glow. “A blessing from the gods,” Marion thought. That is how the two fell asleep that night. Performer and audience. Mother and daughter. Ruby and sapphire.

Shortly after her birth, the baby was separated from Marion for both of their safety. If the kingdom found out that the queen had had a secret affair, it would have not boded well for both Marion and the baby. So, the little sapphire was taken to a secluded tower in the forest outside the capital and raised there by trusted servants. Even after all of Marion’s best effort to keep her daughter hidden, there were still rumors of the “Secret Princess”.

Chapter Text

Beau always got the job done. No one could argue that. So what if there were some bumps on the way? The noble’s house. The secret society. That one tavern. Even if everything didn’t go according to plan, the desired end result was always achieved.

This was another one of those cases.

About a week ago, Dairon came to Beau with a job.

“This is a serious assignment, Beau. Only a few of the higher ups and myself even know about it, and I suggested you. Don’t make me regret it,” Dairon had said.

Beau had been with the Cobalt Soul for a while at this point and was eager to prove that she deserved to be there. That Dairon was right.

The Cobalt Soul had two major facets: the librarians and the spies. The librarians did, well, librarian stuff. Maintained the libraries, organized the intel, and researched any necessary or relevant topics. All of those jobs were important, but definitely not Beau’s speed. Now, spy work? That was where Beau belonged; in the action. Others seemed to disagree, but Beau thought she was good at what she did. Even if she had a streak of bad luck. And Dairon seemed to think she was good enough too. Good enough to get Beau one last chance to truly earn her spot, at least.

Beau’s mission was this: retrieve the necklace that was stolen from the queen eight years ago. Easy enough, right? The problem was who stole the necklace. The underground crime syndicate in Nicodranas was the stuff of legends. Elusive and scarce enough that they didn’t even have a proper name. Everyone had assumed they were the ones who had had the necklace the entire time, but this was the first time in those eight years that there was any real evidence. For some reason they entrusted it to Beau.

And Beau delivered.

The necklace itself was in one of the syndicate’s storage facilities. The facility was a warehouse on the eastern outskirts of the city. This meant there would be much less pedestrian traffic since the only people in those parts were other warehouse and factory workers. Beau planned to infiltrate in the late morning. Workers moved around at dawn, noon, and sunset; that left late morning, the afternoon, and late at night for Beau to choose from. People tended to leave work early in the afternoon, and the syndicate upped security at night. So, late morning it was. Plus, Beau rather get the job sooner than later.

It was 10:00 a.m. when she made her move. Beau had watched the warehouse for an hour, memorizing the watch pattern. She was confident in her ability to get in unnoticed. And her confidence was not misplaced. Beau sneaked past the guards and into the building without a hitch. Inside, the actual work began. She would have to locate the necklace, retrieve it from whatever safe or guard that would inevitably be in front of it, and leave without anyone the wiser. Beau did the first two steps, no problem. She hid around corners, poked through crates and boxes, and eventually found a very secure crate with its own personal guard. It might as well have had a sign that read “Steal Me!”.

Beau threw a ball bearing toward the other end of the warehouse. The guard looked sharply in that direction. When he didn’t move, she threw another ball bearing in the same direction, slightly to the left. The guard moved, and so did Beau. At the crate, she withdrew three items: a stone imbued with detect magic, borrowed from the Cobalt Soul for the job; a wand charge with dispel magic, also from the Cobalt Soul; and her lockpicks. Beau whispered the incantation to activate the crystal. Shortly after activation, it began to glow, signaling the presence of magic. With a triumphant smirk, Beau tapped the crate with the wand and got to work on the lock.

This was when things began to go wrong.

The lock on the crate was much more difficult than anticipated. Beau worked at the lock for almost a full minute before it popped open. And within was her prize. She let herself momentarily admired the piece of jewelry. It was much simpler than she had expected, it being the queen’s and all. The necklace was just a simple silver chain with one sapphire charm cut in the shape of a heart. Beau tucked the necklace and the box it was in into her bag.

“Hey!” the guard from before emerged from two larger crates.

Beau took off. That tricky lock had messed up her timing. Not only that, her face was completely exposed when the guard found her. Swearing under her breath, Beau pulled up her mask and flipped up the hood of her cloak. Once again, Beau failed to complete step three.

That was why she was sprinting through the forest. Lucky for Beau, she was just as good as the criminals when it came to making herself scarce. Even if she was seen fleeing the scene, as long as they didn’t physically catch her, all was well that ended well. This was not Beau’s first escape into this forest, and it certainly would not be her last. It was the perfect way to lose pursuers and Beau knew it like the back of her hand.

Which is way she was surprised when she stumbled into an unfamiliar area. Well, maybe less “stumbled” and more “fell”. True, it was a little farther into the woods than she usually went, but she still knew the forest intimately. At least that was what she thought.

Beau was about to start scaling one of the small cliffs in order to get the advantage of higher ground, when she fell straight through the stone, landing hard on her side.

A spell? she thought blearily from the ground.

Beau moved to stand and felt a sharp pang in her ribs. She desperately hoped nothing was broken.

Beau was dusting off her clothes when she heard footsteps and muttering voices from behind her. With that, she headed deeper into the mysterious new alcove. Walking down the short tunnel, Beau reached the end, covered by a sheet of loose ivy. She cautiously peaked through the vines. Beau tried to process what her eyes were seeing. A tower. An entire fucking tower in the middle of the forest and she had never noticed. How long had it been there? Beau looked again. Yeah, it was a tower. She considered her options: wait here in the tunnel until she felt safe enough to head back into town, or check out the tower?

Beau advanced toward the tower as stealthily as she could in her excitement. Beau would not be where she was today if she had never indulged her curiosity. What would be in there? A wizard? A crazy hermit? A dragon? There was only one way to find out. Beau stopped at the base of the tower, taking in its full height.

“Eh, I’ve done worse,” she said to herself.

Beau did a few quick stretches, mindful of her side, and began to climb. Hand, foot. Hand, foot. The thugs who had been chasing her were long forgotten; the only things on Beau’s mind were the climb and the destination.

Five minutes later, Beau fell through the tower’s window. She allowed herself a few seconds to catch her breathe before she stood. She peered out the window she entered through, admiring the view. It was beautiful. A small slice of paradise. Wildflowers dotted the grass. Ivy covered the surrounding natural stone walls. A little stream cut down the middle of the land and wound around the tower’s base. There were even a couple of fruit trees.

Beau sported a pleased smirk as she turned to inspect the inside of the tower. But she never got the chance. As soon as Beau turned, she had enough to time to see the girl and the weapon she was holding, before she was knocked unconscious.

Chapter Text

Jester finished reading her favorite book for what was probably the millionth time. It was a very good book, though. It had all of the essential parts; an intriguing mystery, a lot of action, and most importantly, a steamy romance.

She released a content sigh. “Well, what do I do now?” she said to the air.

This was how every day went: Jester woke up, had breakfast, entertained herself until lunch, had lunch, entertained herself until dinner, had dinner, and finally, brushed her hair before bed. Normally, people would include brushing their hair as part of going to bed, but Jester was a special case. Brushing over fifty feet of magical hair took up a large part of her evening. It was a tiring, albeit necessary task. There were days when she did not mind it, maybe even enjoyed it. But there were other days she resented it. Those restless days when she was tempted to cut her hair and flee from her tower.

“It is a blessing from the gods,” her mother would always write back. “You cannot cut it. And you cannot leave. What do you think would happen if some criminal discovered this blessing?”

So, Jester never cut her hair, and she never left her tower.

She really shouldn’t complain, though. Jester had it pretty good all things considered. She had a Mama who loved her, even if it was too dangerous for her to visit. She had all the books and toys and paint she could possibly ask for. And most importantly, she was safe. Jester also had the coolest best friend in the world. She met the Traveler when she was very little, or maybe he had always been there. She wasn’t sure. He was the most fun ever, though, and made Jester’s everyday life a lot less boring and lonely. The Traveler would visit Jester almost every single day when she was younger, and they would play all day long. He visited less often now, but that was okay. Oh yeah, he was also a god. So, it wasn’t like Jester could tell him what to do. She was just happy when he did visit, especially on the harder days.

Today was one of those days that Jester felt particularly restless. It was already past lunch, and she had already cooked, cleaned, sketched, sewed, cooked again, cleaned again, and finished her book. To be fair, she had lived in this tower her entire life. Can you blame her for wanting a change of scenery every once in a while? Or at least something new to pass the time? It was almost her birthday, though, so her Mama would be sending gifts.

She loved her Mama’s gifts, she really did, but what Jester really wanted was to leave. Not even forever. Ever since she could remember, Jester watched thousands of lanterns decorate the sky every year on her birthday. All she wanted to do was see them at the source. She always asked the servants who brought her Mama’s gifts what the lanterns were for, and the always said they didn’t know. One day Jester would find out, though. One day.

Jester rolled onto her back and swung her legs off the side of her bed, moving to retrieve her paints.

Painting always helped Jester clear her mind. Almost every inch of the tower was painted by Jester’s hand. Well, the inside of the tower, that is. Caricatures of fantastical adventures from Jester’s mind crept up and around the walls. Starting with just simple scribbles near the floor, it eventually bled into full murals on the ceiling. Jester had not done much in her life, one can only do so much when confined to a tower, but she had done those paintings. She was incredibly proud of those paintings.

Paints in tow, Jester skipped to the washroom, eager to fill the empty space she remembered behind the door.

Jester was finishing the last strokes of the unicorn galloping across the door’s trim when she heard a noise from the main room. She froze, the song she was humming trailing off. “It could be someone delivering Mama’s birthday present,” she thought. But messengers always called for Jester before coming up; she was the one that pulled them up. Also, her birthday was tomorrow, and Mama had never sent her gifts early or late. It was always right on time.

Suspicious, Jester stepped out from the washroom and peered down the small hallway that lead to the tower’s central room. What she saw flooded her with a flurry of emotions.

There, standing in her tower and looking out the window, was a cloaked figure. First, she was shocked, of course. Then she was immediately curious and excited. Who was this stranger? How did they find the tower? How did they even get up here? And finally, the fear hit Jester. Who was this stranger? How did they find the tower? How did they even get up here?

Jester had never known whether she was the “flight” or “fight” type. She had never been in situation that called for that kind of response. Today was the day she found out.

With a quick prayer to the Traveler and silent footsteps across the room, Jester struck the intruder with her spiritual weapon just as they were turning toward Jester.

Whack!

The stranger fell to the ground in heap.

Jester stared at the woman. And the figure was a woman. Smooth brown skin. Dark brown hair pulled back to reveal that the bottom half of her scalp was shaved. Several piercings. Full lips. And now, a red bump forming on her forehead.

Jester’s spectral lollipop dispelled.

She stared at the woman.

The clock struck 3:00 p.m.

She stared at the woman.

“Oh man, oh man, oh man,” she said in a hurry. Jester began pacing the room, periodically checking on the unconscious body beneath the window. She inhaled deeply, “Okay okay okay. This isn’t really that bad. I can handle this. I’m like super strong and have magic and stuff.” Jester stopped pacing. “Okay, I just need to—”

Moving an unconscious person was a lot harder that she imagined. After over half an hour of struggling and swearing, Jester eventually managed to maneuver the stranger into a somewhat sitting position in a chair. Satisfied enough, she began removing and inspecting the intruder’s possession; her bag, her weapons, and anything else Jester considered to be a possible hazard. That turned out to be everything but the woman’s clothes.

Finally, Jester bound the woman to the chair.

“Okay,” Jester said. She bounced back and forth on the balls of her feet as she worked up the courage to wake up the stranger.

“Okay,” she repeated. Jester, hand charged with a small healing spell, slowly reached for the woman’s face and—

Jester quickly yanked her hand back toward her body.

“Oh my gods!” Exasperated, Jester shook her shoulders to loosen the tension. “One, two,” on “three” Jester smacked her hand to the intruder’s forehead.

The woman began to stir.

Chapter Text

Beau lolled her head as she woke and blearily began to take in her surroundings. The first thing she noticed was the throb on her head. The second this she noticed was the throb in her ribs. The last thing Beau noticed was the fact that she was tied to a chair in a room she had never seen before.

The tower, she thought.

This brought Beau to full wakefulness.

Beau’s head snapped up in panic. She recounted the last things she remembered. The chase. The fall. The tower.

The girl.

“Who are you?” Beau heard a voice say from the shadows. She squinted in the direction it came from, trying to spot the person it was inevitably accompanied by. She could only assume it was the girl she briefly saw from earlier, but it would be nice to know.

“I said,” the same voice, but now it was to Beau’s left. “Who are you? And why are you here?”

“Okay, uh, if you just listen, I’m sure we can come to an agreement,” Beau said with effort. She tested her restraints again, and this time she saw just what was restraining her. “Is this hair?”

What Beau had thought was just sheets in her hazy state, was actually hair. And lots of it. Yards and yards of soft white hair wrapped around her wrists, waist, and ankles. More trailed around the base of the chair she was bound to and into the dark corners of the room.

“Don’t change the subject!” the voice called from behind Beau, followed by a muted thump and footsteps. Before Beau could respond, she felt a weight on her shoulder as she was suddenly spun around. The chair teetered on its back legs and Beau stared wide-eyed at the stranger in front of her.

Beau’s captor was… surprisingly short. Beau was not sure why, but she expected the girl to be taller. She was all curves and freckled blue skin. There were also small horns poking out of her hair. And her hair. A river of white fell past her shoulders, past her waist, past the hem of her dress and flowed farther behind her, once again into darkness. Most startling, though, were the girl’s eyes. They were a bright shade of purple, too light to be violet, too dark to be lavender. Beau couldn’t quite place it.

She watched the tiefling’s eyebrows furrowed deeper.

“Who are you? And why are you here?” Beau saw a flash of fangs and the flick of a tail. The grip on her shoulder tightened almost painfully.

Beau swallowed. “Name’s Beauregard, and if you untie me, I will gladly leave.”

This didn’t seem to please the other girl. She gave and exasperated sigh and released Beau’s shoulder. “But why are you here? How did you even get here?”

“Listen,” Beau began, “I was just trying to shake some thugs, and I suddenly fell through a wall of rock. Then, lo and behold, a fucking tower! I couldn’t not see what that was about, so up I climbed. I’m not here to steal anything or murder you, if that’s what you’re worried about. I will gladly take my things back and be on my way.” She added a friendly smirk at the end for good measure. Beau was trying extremely hard to act calm as to not alert this girl to the very valuable and very important item Beau’s bag. So maybe it was less of a smirk and more of a grimace.

The girl’s suspicion and frustration seemed to give way to curiosity. “You were being chased?” she asked. “Why?”

Beau let out a heavy sigh and slid her gaze to the ceiling, considering just how much she should say.

“So, a while back, some bad guys stole something that they shouldn’t have, and I took it back. Naturally, the bad guys were not too happy about that, so when they chased after me, I ran off into the woods. I figured I would be able to lose them pretty easy—and I did, by the way—but I accidentally stumbled across this tower,” she flailed her bound hands as best she could to gesture at the room. “I just wanted to check it out, alright? No shady shit, I swear. Just honest curiosity.”

The other girl considered Beau’s story. During the pause, Beau had a small realization.

“Hey, uh, also,” she started awkwardly. “I know I’m not in much of a position to negotiate, but since I practically gave you my life story, could I at least get your name?”

“Oh!” the girl snapped out of what seemed like deep thought and switched her focus back to Beau, all hostility from before forgotten. “Yes, um, my name is Jester. I live in this tower.”

“Nice to meet you, Jester. Now that we’re properly introduced, do you think you could,” Beau tugged at hair wrapped around her arms.

“Maybe, Beauregard,” Beau saw a twinkle in Jester’s eye that she did not like. “But first, I have a proposal! Every year, around this time, they light thousands of lanterns in the capital and let them loose, right?”

“Yeah, the festival for the queen.”

“Yes! I want to go to that festival. I want to see the lanterns in person.” Jester’s excitement was palpable. “I want you to take me.”

Beau narrowed her eyes, “That’s it?” There is no way it was that easy. Was all this girl wanted in exchange for the queen’s long lost necklace really just an escort into town? Only then did it occur to her that Jester may not have looked in her bag.

A grin broke across Jester’s face as she nodded, “Mhm. I will untie you if you take me to the lanterns and also bring me back.”

“Alright. I’m not saying no, but I’ve got to ask. Why can’t you just, you know, go? By yourself.”

“That doesn’t matter. So, will you or will you not take me?” Jester said, not so subtly deflecting the question.

“Do I get my stuff back?”

Jester nodded.

“Do I get any actual payment for this?”

“I think letting you leave is payment enough,” Jester smirked.

Beau sighed. She hoped should wouldn’t regret this.

“Fine! I’ll do it. Can you get all this damn hair off of me now?” Beau petulantly struggled against her bonds.

Jester practically bounced over to help untie her.

What had Beau gotten herself into?

Chapter Text

Jester did not know what she had gotten herself into.

She was finally leaving the tower, though! That was something!

After she helped Beauregard out of the chair, Jester bustled off to retrieve all of the things she had confiscated from the other woman.

“Okay,” Jester declared, shoving the armful of possessions toward Beauregard. “Let’s go!’

Beauregard cocked an eyebrow. “You’re not going, like, bring anything?”

“Nope!”

The other woman eyed her from head to toe, her gaze narrowing at Jester’s bare feet. “Alright,” Beauregard shrugged. “No complaining, though, or I leave you in the woods.”

Jester watched Beauregard climb out the window and onto the side of the tower.

She sucked in a deep breath. Jester was about to leave the only place she had ever known for the first time in her entire life. She was really doing this. Carefully, she peeked over the window ledge.

“Are you coming or not?” Beauregard called as she descended.

Jester took a step back and exhaled heavily. She quickly flapped her arms and shook her head to release the nervous tension.

“Okay okay okay,” Jester mumbled to herself.

There was a special hook outside the window that Jester would wrap her hair around so she could haul her Mama’s messengers into the tower.

She tossed her hair onto the hook.

Jester had used her own hair to maneuver herself around the main room’s rafter for years. She had to paint the ceiling somehow.

“It’s just like that,” Jester whispered to herself.

She stepped onto the windowsill.

Jester took another deep breath.

And she jumped.

The squeal that escaped from Jester’s lungs was not one of fear. Well, maybe a little bit. That scream was, mostly, one of pure, unbridled joy. Jester hadn’t even hit the ground, and she already felt the delicious thrill of freedom. The wind whipped at her dress and through her hair.

She was a mess of giggles by the time her toes touched the grass.

Jester instinctively recoiled from the sensation. After so many years of only ever walking on the wood and stone and carpet of tower’s floors, and even the small garden on the roof, Jester couldn’t help but shrink away.

Slowly, she lowered herself to the ground.

“Why the hell did you let my climb if you could just do that?” Beauregard called from above.

Instead of responding, Jester collapsed into a gleeful heap and began to roll among the weeds and wildflowers. This was the boldest decision she had ever made, and she did not regret it. Not yet. The Traveler always encouraged harmless chaos so everything would turn out alright. Probably.

Hopefully.

Jester was sprawled out on her back, considering it all, when she heard Beauregard land with a huff.

“So, I’m just taking you into town to see the lanterns?” Beauregard asked as she started moving toward the alcove’s exit.

“And back. To the lanterns and back,” Jester scrambled after her.

“And what’s supposed to stop me from just leaving you in town?”

Jester had not considered that. Of course just letting Beauregard go from the tower wouldn’t be enough to ensure she keep up her end of the deal. What had Jester been thinking? She weighed her options.

“Well, Miss Beauregard, I—” Jester started.

“Beau.”

“What?”

“Just call me Beau. No need to be all stuffy and formal.” The other woman was looking pointedly ahead.

“Oh. Okay… Beau,” she said with a small smile.

The two of them walked together in silence. Well, almost silence. The entire time Jester was either humming or gasping or sighing. There were just so many new things to see!

“Look, Beau! It’s a real mushroom. Like for real!” Jester would gasp.

“Yep,” Beau would respond, marginally less impressed than Jester.

Jester would excitedly skip from one exciting new thing to the next. A bird! A flower! A rabbit!

Then the anxiety would catch up. What if Mama’s messenger showed up early? What if she got in trouble? Like bad trouble?

What if all of the terrible things her Mama warned her about were all real and Jester was in way over her head?

“Hey, um, Beau?” Jester said softly.

Beau looked at Jester from the side of her eyes and raised a pierced brow. She made a grunt of acknowledgement.

“What is the city like?” Jester asked. She anxiously twirled some of her hair between her fingers.

“Uh, it’s big,” Beau began, “It’s also a port city so it stays pretty busy. There are people from all walks of life because of that. Lots of nice folks, but lots of not so nice folks too. As long as you’re not stupid and keep your nose out of things, you should be fine.”

Jester nodded. That was less helpful than she had hoped, but at least she had some frame of reference.

“Now my turn,” Beau suddenly continued. “Do I get to ask why the hell you were holed up all alone in a tower in a hidden grove deep in the woods?”

“Oh, ha ha,” Jester laughed nervously. “It’s a little complicated. You probably wouldn’t even believe me if I told you the truth, so it doesn’t matter.”

“Well, now you have to tell me,” Beau said, turning her full attention to Jester.

Jester swallowed. “So, the reason I live in that tower is because it’s not safe for me outside. Not like outside outside, but, like, outside of the tower. Anyway, apparently my mom is someone very important and very famous. Important and famous enough that it was a bad idea for everyone to know that she a baby without being married, which is dumb by the way, so when I was born, she moved me to that tower to keep me safe. She’s afraid that if people knew I existed, they would try to use me to take advantage of her.”

Jester couldn’t read the expression on Beaus face. She didn’t even know why she told Beau the truth! Jester had just met this woman today. She could have just made something up, she didn’t have to share her real and potentially harmful backstory. But she did. And she didn’t regret it.

At least, not yet.

“But anyway, that’s the truth even if you don’t believe it,” she added.

Beau stayed quiet for a moment, which made Jester a little nervous. Finally, Beau said, “So were you just alone all the time?”

“No! of course not. I had a nanny until I was thirteen, then messengers would come and go. They bring letters from my Mama and anything else I need. And there was my best friend the Traveler, of course.”

“The Traveler?”

“Yes! He is my very bestest friend and also a god. Where do you think I get my awesome powers from?” Jester said smugly.

Beau gave her a skeptical look but nodded anyway.

“So, exactly how old are you?” Beau asked gingerly.

“A woman never tells her age!”

“Yeah, okay, but how old are you?” She repeated.

“I’m an adult if that’s what you’re asking,” Jester rolled her eyes. “They didn’t just leave a child in a tower to fend for herself. The messengers came a lot more frequently when I was younger.”

Beau seemed reassured by that statement.

“And the hair?” Beau peered behind them to appraise the trail of hair behind Jester. “Do I get to know exactly why you are dragging around a million fucking feet of hair?”

Jester responded with a laugh. “No, actually, I think I am going to keep that secret to myself.”

Beau rolled her eyes dramatically.

Jester let the conversation trail off with more giggles. She was once again optimistic and excited for the journey ahead.

Chapter Text

“Are we there yet?” Jester whined miserably.

Beau was beginning to regret everything. They had been trekking through the forest for probably an hour—two at the most—and Jester already looked over it. “Oh no. I am shutting that shit down now. I said no complaining and I fucking meant it.”

“It was just a question,” Jester mumbled and shot Beau a glare.

Beau was not going to let Jester’s pouting get the best of her. Absolutely not. She was a monk of the Cobalt Soul. She was trained to withstand torture; she could handle a perturbed tiefling.

A few tense, silent minutes passed

Jester was still pouting.

More minutes passed.

More pouting.

“We’ll probably get to town tomorrow morning,” Beau sighed. “Late morning if we keep up this pace.”

Beau watched Jester instantly perk up. She looked very pleased with herself.

“Is it really going to take that long, though?” Jester’s eyebrows furrowed. “The messengers get to the tower and back to town in one day. That’s what they told me anyway.”

Beau weighed her possible responses. She could just tell Jester the truth, Yeah, I’m purposefully avoiding the main road because the extremely shady and incriminating guys that were chasing me earlier are probably still out here and they will definitely kill me on sight if we cross paths.

Or she could make something up.

“Look, I don’t wanted freak you out,” Beau lied. “But, the main road that runs through this forest is known for bandits. I figured you would feel more comfortable skirting around, even if it adds a little extra time to the trip.”

Jester stopped dead in her tracks, tense and apprehensive. There, thought Beau, now we can march back to your little tower and go our separate ways. A girl like you isn’t ready for the world.

Mustering a sympathetic look, Beau said, “Hey, if you want to head back, I totally understand. It is not too late to change your—”

“No,” Jester’s face shifted from apprehension to determination. She continued, “No, I want to go. I have the Traveler and my powers. And you.”

She looked at Beau at that last part.

Beau felt something in her heart react, but she didn’t know—didn’t want to know what it was. She sighed.

“Alright, if you’re sure,” Beau resigned.

Jester gave a decisive nod.

They continued on their journey, walking mostly in silence. That is all Beau had wanted when she brought up danger, just some peace and quiet. Getting to take the girl back to that tower was just the best-case scenario. But this silence was just as unbearable as Jester’s incessant noise form before. Jester’s trepidation was pliable. Beau’s guilt grew.

“Hey, you getting hungry?” Beau eventually asked. She told herself she was not breaking. She was not. The past hour, or at least what had felt like an hour, of awkward silence had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Beau just so happened to start feel peckish all of a sudden. None at all. “If we stop now, I can get us some food. Pretty good food at that.”

Jester finally broke her routine of scuffing her feet and sighing wistfully into trees to meet Beau’s gaze with a confused expression.

“Um, I guess so. But we’re still in the middle of the woods,” One of Jester’s eyebrows crept towards her hairline as she glanced at their surroundings.

Beau could not suppress the sly smile that spread across her face. “Well, lucky for us, I know this forest, and what is in it, very well.”

Jester’s eyebrows dropped back down in a furrow. Squinting she said, “Mmmm, okay. But if I ever get the feeling that you’re up to something I will protect myself. By any means necessary.”

“Hey, now,” Beau chuckled and raised her hands defensively. “No need for that, tough stuff. I know my odds.” She motioned to the bruise on her forehead. “I just have a friend that lives around here that I think you might like to meet. No ulterior motive. Unless you count taking advantage of a friends amazing cooking as an ‘ulterior motive’.”

Jester seemed more relaxed at that. “So,” she said, hands clasped behind her back, tail swishing in time with her swaying steps, “what can you tell me about this ‘friend’ of yours? What business does someone have living all by themselves in the forest?”

“I could ask you the same thing,” Beau shot back.

Jester leveled an unamused look at her.

Beau rolled her eyes. “Well, family business, you could say. He and his family are the caretakers of a cemetery. It’s mostly for old and rich families, or maybe old or rich families. Regardless, that’s why it’s so out of the way. It’s kind of one of those ‘need to know basis’ things.”

“Why do you know about it then?”

“Job stuff. They have kickass garden, so they are our suppliers for all of our herbs needs, medical or magical. Sometimes the also supply information. It’s mostly the plants though,” Beau shrugged.

Jester looked genuinely interested at the prospect of making a new friend. It was a relief. This Jester was significantly easier for Beau to handle than the sullen one from earlier. All she had to do was keep the tiefling’s mood positive for their brief time together. Today and tomorrow. That was it. She could do this.

“So, like, how far is this graveyard?” Jester asked, just as Beau spotted the top of the cemetery wall.

“Looks like we made. Here, this way,” Beau led the two of them around the outskirt of the wall until they found the proper entrance. “Usually, I would have just jumped they wall, but, you know, stepping on people’s graves isn’t, like, cool.”

Beau turned to look at Jester when she didn’t respond, just in time to watch amazement wash over Jester’s face. She was taking in the atmosphere, eyes wide and mouth agape. Beau let herself have a small triumphant smile.

“Hey,” she called after Jester, “if we want to make in time for dinner, we have to keep going.”

Jester nodded absentmindedly; her expression remained unchanged.

As they walked, Beau watched Jester continue to soak in their new surroundings. The ivy crawling up the wall around the cemetery’s perimeter. The headstones: some fairly new, some looking as old as time. The copious colorful plants and flowers growing wildly among it all. She couldn’t blame Jester, either. Beau had been here on multiple occasion on Cobalt Soul business, and every time it took her breath away.

The two eventually reached the small house in the center of the cemetery. Beau approached it confidently and strode right in with a quick call of, “Knock knock!”. She felt Jester following her cautiously.

When Beau rounded the corner, she exclaimed, “Hey! There you are, man! Sorry for the intrusion, but I didn’t think you mind. My new friend and I were in the area, and it was conveniently dinner time, so I was hoping you could help a pal out.”

“Ah, Beau! How are you doing?” The other man rumbled in response.

“Much better now that we’re here,” Beau smiled as Jester finally followed into the main room. With a gesture of her hand Beau said, “Jester, I would like you to meet my friend, Caduceus Clay. Caduceus, this is Jester.”

Chapter Text

Jester’s first thought was, Pink!

Followed closely by, Wow, he’s so tall!, and then, Say something!

“Hi!” Jester managed to blurt out.

She felt Beau’s hand on her back as she was subtly pushed into the room proper.

“Hi,” the firbolg drawled.

Jester could not stop staring at him. In her defense, there was a lot to take in. Jester knew she was on the smaller side, she was even shorter than Beau, but Caduceus simply towered over her. His curly pink hair fell in a sheet down the left side of his face and over his fuzzy ears. He was watching her with kind eyes and a kinder smile. His eyes were purple like Jester’s; or maybe they were pink. Jester couldn’t tell.

Caduceus slowly blinked. “It’s nice to meet you, Miss Jester,” he continued.

“You too, Mister Clay,” Jester responded. “I like your hair.”

Caduceus’ kind smile somehow softened even more, “Oh, well, thank you very much. I like yours too. It’s quite long.”

“What about my hair?” Beau interrupted from behind them. She dramatically mimed tossing hair over her shoulder, since her hair was twisted up in a bun. After a pause, Beau slid her gaze to Jester and smirked.

“I like your hair, Beau,” Jester said. And she meant it. Jester thought Beau had a really cool haircut. It made her look badass. “It makes you look badass,” she added. It was a deep, dark brown that highlighted beautifully in the sunlight. It also looked very soft.

“Oh, uh, thanks,” Beau said, her smirk deflating. Her eyes flicked away, and a hand came up to rub the back of her neck. “So, is dinner happening or not? Because if not, I’m gonna have to figure something out real quick.” The last part was said to Caduceus.

“Yes, of course. Meals are much more fun with a group,” replied Caduceus. “I wouldn’t mind some help preparing the food. If the two of you don’t mind, that is.”

“I’d love to help!” Jester chimed. She ignored Beau’s eyeroll. “I’m pretty good at cooking, if I do say so myself. And I do,” she declared with a giggle.

Caduceus gave his own soft chuckle. “Well isn’t that just great. Maybe you could teach me something. How does that sound, Miss Jester?”

“I would be more than happy to, Mister Clay,” said Jester. Her mind was already reeling with all the different recipes she wanted to show Caduceus.

“Well then, lead the way,” Caduceus gestured to the kitchen area in the corner.

Jester glanced back at Beau with a bright smile, only to be met with another eye roll. Though Beau did not hide her smile as well this time. Jester triumphantly skipped off towards the kitchen.

Jester wasn’t disappointed, per se, but Caduceus’s kitchen wasn’t quite what she was used to working with. It was… simple. The kitchen in Jester’s tower was not much bigger than the one in Caduceus’s home, but hers was definitely busier. In order to figure out what meal she wanted to make, Jester first took stock of everything he had: one pot, one pan, a knife, a large spoon, and a pair of large chopsticks.

“Sorry there isn’t a lot to work with,” Caduceus chimed. “We used to have more—my family, that is—but every time someone left, they took more utensils with them.”

“Oh no! Don’t apologize!” An idea was already formulating in her head. “Beau mentioned you had a ‘kickass garden’. She said you grow herbs, but do you grow other stuff too?”

“Of course, of course. We have regional vegetables, as well as herbs, also a couple of small fruit tress that are in season right now. Oh yes, and all the tea plants.”

“Great!” Jester clapped her hands together. “If you don’t mind, I would love to try those. I think they would make a lovely soup!”

“I’ll go get those,” Beau called as she pushed up from her leaning position in the doorway. “Gods know I can’t cook for shit. Which ones do you want?”

“Um, whatever Mister Clay says goes well together. I trust his judgement.”

“Alright. If you would follow me Miss Beau, we can go get started,” Caduceus grabbed a straw hat from the hook next to what must have been the back door. “Now, we should probably figure out what kind of soup we want. We could do something crisp and fresh, or we could get ingredients for something a little more on the heavy and hearty side…” Caduceus was still rambling on about potential ingredients and what they could bring to the dish as he moved to the backyard.

This was when Beau caught Jester’s eye. The other woman was making a show of nodding emphatically at Caduceus’s suggestion, adding in extra ah’s and oh’s and mhm’s whenever she thought necessary. Jester couldn’t help but smother a laugh. When Jester met Beau’s gaze again, she seemed very pleased with herself. Then she gave Jester a sly wink and slipped out the back door with Caduceus.

This made Jester pause.

It was probably nothing.

She didn’t have time to think about it anyway, she had a dinner to cook!

Jester began bustling around Caduceus’s kitchen to prepare the soup. She got out the pot and the spoon, as well as the knife, and cleaned them all. She also got water from the well that was inside Caduceus’s house. Jester thought that was very cool. She had just put the pot on the fire to begin heating when Beau and Caduceus walked in with their bounty.

Jester immediately noticed that Beau was the only one carrying any vegetables and she was also significantly dirtier that Caduceus. This made Jester shoot the both of them s quizzical look.

“I offered to help, but she insisted on doing it herself,” Caduceus shrugged. He removed his hat and placed it back on its hook.

“I said I’d get the veggies!” Beau said as she frustratingly attempted to deposit her armful of produce onto the table without spilling them everywhere.

“Here,” Jester rushed over to help. She grabbed a couple of average vegetables, followed by some she had never seen before. One red and really lumpy. Another looked like a normal gourd except it was bright blue. Jester was suddenly very excited about this soup.

“Thanks,” Beau said, almost sheepishly.

“If you want to start handing me things, I can start cutting them up.” The knife in Caduceus’s hand would have felt threatening if anyone else was holding it. Regardless, Jester quickly handed him whatever she was holding.

It took them a minute, but they all eventually fell into a cohesive rhythm in the small kitchen. Beau handing Caduceus the ingredients, Caduceus chopping them, and Jester adding them to the pot.

Ten minutes later, there was soup.

“Mmm!” Jester hummed delightedly. “This is so good! Whatever you chose, Caduceus, it was perfect.” She went in for another bite.

“Why thank you, Jester. You pulled this all together though, so I can’t take all the credit,” Caduceus said between his own bites of soup.

“I picked everything! Like physically picked them,” Beau interjected.

Jester dramatically gasped. “You’re right, Beau! How could I forget?”

Beau just rolled her eyes and continued eating.

“I’m kidding, Beau, I’m kidding. Thank you for getting everything. For real,” Jester placed an apologetic hand on Beau’s arm.

Beau reluctantly made eye contact.

Jester hoped she was able to silently convey with her eyes that she really meant it, that she was actually very grateful.

It must have worked because Beau rolled her eyes again, this time with a small smile and nod in acknowledgment.

The three of them finished their dinner in relative silence. It wasn’t awkward though, which Jester was thankful for. Jester liked both Beau and Caduceus a whole lot and she hoped they felt the same.

It was her first day out of the tower and she had already made two really cool friends! Maybe the outside world wasn’t so bad.

Chapter Text

“We should probably get going,” Beau peered out the window to check the suns position. They still had a few hours left before dark. “If we want to get to town at a decent hour tomorrow, we need to cover as much ground as we can today.”

“Oh, alright. If you say so,” Jester said from behind her. Closely behind her. Jester’s chin was practically on her shoulder.

Beau swallowed, “Yeah.” Then she very smoothly slipped past Jester. She did not trip on Jester's foot when she moved. Nope. Absolutely not.

Either Jester didn’t notice or was kindly not acknowledging it. Beau hoped it was the former.

“You’re going into town?” Caduceus asked as he finished drying the dishes.

“Yeah! You want anything? I owe you for the food,” Beau replied, gladly jumping on the shift in topic.

“Oh, you don’t owe me anything, Beau,” said Caduceus. And after a brief pause, he meekly added, “But if it isn’t too much trouble, there are these special berries. They should be in season. They’re not native to this area so it’s kind of a special treat every year, if I drag myself into town that is.”

“Just the berries?”

“If you don’t mind,” Caduceus then began describing the berries, as well as supplying both Beau and Jester with snacks for the road.

“C’mon, man! I’m supposed to be repaying you for dinner,” Beau protested.

“Then just think of this as me ensuring you both don’t starve tomorrow,” Caduceus said and ushered them out the door.

“Thank you, Caduceus!” Jester shouted and waved from farther down the path.

Beau rolled her eyes.

The firbolg waved a hand in reply. To Beau, he murmured, “So, are you going to tell me where she came from?”

Beau was still watching Jester explore the colorful graveyard with a smile. “Nope,” she said, blatantly ignoring the knowing look Caduceus was giving her. The bastard could be annoyingly observant when he wanted to be. “Well, thanks again,” Beau added awkwardly. She patted his arm and followed Jester.

Caduceus watched them go with a smile of his own.

When Beau caught up, Jester said, “Caduceus is so awesome! He lives in a beautiful garden-graveyard thing and has like super good food. And he even has pink hair! Like, holy shit!”

Beau responded with a small chuckle. “Yeah, Caduceus is pretty cool. I knew you’d get along.”

“Are all the people you know that cool?” Jester asked. Beau could tell she genuinely wanted to know. Jester’s curious eyes and open expression were peering straight into her soul.

“Not every person I know, but I like to think all the people I call friends are at least.” Sure, Beau didn’t have many friends—like real friends—but the ones she did have, she thought quite highly of. They all had qualities and skills she admired, as well as a healthy dose of quirks that set them apart from the crowd.

“Wow…” Jester said wistfully, tail swishing happily behind her.

“Hey, I’ll tell you what, if we have time tomorrow, I’ll try to introduce you to some of them,” Beau proposed. There was a certain goblin that she thought Jester would hit it off with.

“Oh my gods, for real! I would love to meet all of them, if they are as cool as you,” Jester sighed. Her smile was so bright Beau had to turn away. Beau hoped she was just imagining the blush she felt begin to color her cheeks.

As she looked away, Beau noticed something out of her corner of her eye. Well, not something, someone. The pair of them had traveled closer to town, and closer to the main road. That road is where Beau saw one of the thugs from that morning.

That is also where the thug saw Beau.

Beau’s stomach dropped. “Shit!” she hissed.

Grabbing Jester’s arm, she sprinted in the opposite direction.

“Hey!” the man shouted form behind them.

“Beau!” Jester squeaked. “What is happening? Why are we running?”

Beau jumped over an exposed tree root. “Well,” she said through gritted teeth, “you remember when I mentioned running from some bad guys? It seems those bastards are more tenacious than expected.”

All jester said in response was “Oh.” She was desperately trying to gather as much of her hair in her arms as she could while she ran. Beau scrambled to grab some as well.

Beau dared a brief glance over her shoulder.

She could still see the goon and he could still see them.

Beau whipped her head back around and searched the trees for a decent hiding spot. When her frantic glances fell on a small cave, she exclaimed, “There!”

Beau darted toward the opening, Jester tripping after her.

It was a tight squeeze, especially with all of Jester’s hair, but the two of them managed to fit into the small alcove, hoping they were hidden from their pursuer. They were both breathing heavily. Beau told herself that her fast heart rate and flushed face was because of the potential danger they were in and not at all because she was pressed close enough to Jester that she could feel the other girl’s pulse. She also did not think about the fact that if she turned her head away from the mouth of the cave and toward Jester, they would most definitely be nose to nose.

Beau quieted her breathing and tried to see or hear any sign of the man chasing them. After a few moments, she felt Jester take a sharp inhale at the same time her eyes fell on her target. He was about twenty-five feet from them and turned away. Beau knew she could be there and on him before he even turned around. And besides, what good was all of her training at the Cobalt Soul if she didn’t use it?

It was ballsy and probably really stupid, but she had a plan. Well, “plan” may have been generous. Beau moved to face Jester. Her eyes locked with Jester’s wide, purple ones, and she whispered, “Stay here. Do not move. I’ll tell you when it’s safe to come out.”

All Beau heard was a distressed, “What? Beau, no! What are you doing?”, from Jester as she slinked out of their hiding spot and toward the oblivious thug.

Chapter Text

It took all of Jester’s self-control to not yell at Beau as she watched Beau creep toward the enemy. They had the perfect hiding spot. Why the fuck would she run into danger? Jester pressed her back against the cave wall and tried to manage her breathing. Jester couldn’t help Beau if she passed out from hyperventilation. Jester frantically considered what her next move should be.

These were her options: do what Beau said and stay in the cave, try to sneak past them and find another hiding spot, or charge in after Beau.

The first was definitely the smartest choice, but also the least appealing. Beau and the other man were shifting in and out of Jester’s line of sight, which kept stressing her out.

The second was less smart, but then Jester would at least have something to do instead of just silently waiting while Beau potentially dies.

So that left the third option: join the fray.

Jester reminded herself that she had the Traveler on her side. She had super badass magic and her best friend was a fucking god. The Traveler knew how much Jester wanted to go see the lanterns, he wouldn’t let her die. Beau too, Jester thought toward the Traveler. Almost a prayer.

Jester’s decision was practically made for her when she watched Beau attack the man. She at least got a couple of good hits in before her opponent was able to retaliate. His retaliation, though, was intense. The thug swung at Beau twice, both landing in her gut, and drew a knife.

Before Jester could even think about it, she was behind the man and casting her trusty spiritual weapon.

Their pursuer received a giant purple lollipop to the face when he turned around. This didn’t knock him out, as Jester had hoped, but it did give Beau the opportunity to unleash blows of her own.

Pop pop pop!

“Quick! He’s stunned! Hit him again,” Beau barked.

So, Jester gladly did just that. After another swing from Jester’s lollipop, and a flurry of attacks from Beau, the man finally collapsed.

The two women breathed for a moment.

As Jester dispelled her weapon, she heard Beau mumble, “Thanks.”

Jester had definitely heard Beau, yet she replied, “What?”

A sigh. “I said, thanks. That went a lot smoother and quicker with your help,” Beau scrubbed the back of her shaved head. “I’m not going to apologize for telling you to hang back though.” Then she turned away from Jester and began to rifle through her bag.

Jester smiled at the red on the tips of Beau’s ears. It seemed Beau was not proficient in feelings. Even though they had only known each other for a day, Jester really felt like she was starting to understand Beau. The other woman was blunt but also secretive. For Jester, getting to know Beau was like starting a mystery novel that she couldn’t read fast enough. For every question that was answered, a million more were created. And Jester had a lot of questions.

One of which was, “So what the heck are we going to do with this guy?”

Jester asked this as she nudged the unconscious man with her foot.

Beau, pride fully recovered, turned away from her bag with a rope in her hands. “We are going to tie this motherfucker up, then go find somewhere to set up camp.” After a moment of consideration, “We’ll also take his shoes.”

Jester couldn’t help the laugh that escaped her. “Why are we taking his shoes, though?” She was not opposed by any means, just curious.

Beau was binding the man’s hands behind his back. “Well, one, because it’ll slow him down a little bit, and two, it’s fucking funny.”

They both laughed that.

With a sharp, final tug on the rope, the thug was restrained, Jester watched Beau stand up and dust off her hands. Jester also watched a sly smirk stretch across Beau’s face. Nodding to the man’s boots, Beau said, “You can do the honor if you want.”

Jester replied with a smirk of her own. Then she flourished a bow and tugged off the man’s shoes as Beau just watched with an amused expression. When the deed was done, Jester considered the boots in her hand. It’s true that it was pretty funny, but she really did not feel like carrying around some random asshole’s shoes while she was on her great adventure. She quickly came up with a solution.

“What if I just…” Jester trailed off, and immediately threw one of the boots over the canopy and deeper into the forest.

From behind her, she heard Beau exclaim, “Wha-!” and dissolve into laughter.

“You want a try?” Jester asked Beau with a devious smile.

Beau was still laughing. Jester watched her grip her stomach, which was really toned by the way, as she tried to catch her breath. Beau simply waved Jester off as a response, so Jester took that as an invitation to finish the job herself.

Bolstered by the victory of making Beau laugh, Jester added a little flair to this throw. She shook out her shoulder, honed her aim, wound up her arm, and whoosh!

The boot disappeared into the trees.

Triumphant, Jester put her hand on her hips and turned to face Beau again. The other woman had recovered from her laughing fit enough to say, “Well, as fun as that was, we really do need to go find a campsite.”

Jester finally noticed how low the sun was in the sky. Through the trees, she could see the telltale pink and orange of sunset bleeding across the sky. “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” she exhaled. The excitement of the fight was still rushing through her system; she could see the mirth still shining in Beau’s eyes too.

Jester will later blame what she did next on the adrenaline, but in that moment, she was too overcome with the thrill of another great idea.

“How about…” she began casually. She also saw Beau’s expression slow turn into one of curiosity and confusion at Jester’s new innocent demeanor. “Whoever finds the coolest campsite first, wins!”

All Beau had time to do was tilt her head before Jester sprint into the woods toward the city.

Toward a campsite.

Toward tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Okay.

Just because Beau went racing off alone into the forest does not mean that Jester was allowed to do the same. Did that make Beau a hypocrite? Yeah. Probably. Did she really care? No, she did not.

There were a lot of different factors at play between the two situations. First of all, Beau had a plan when she fucked off and left Jester by herself. A sort of plan. Okay, well, Beau at least had a goal and an understanding on how to complete said goal. Jester did not have that. Jester, the girl that has apparently lived in the same tower her entire goddamn life, just ran off into the unknown without a clue as to what a good campsite might even look like.

All of this ran through Beau’s mind in a panic as she watched the other woman’s silhouette disappear among the trees. All Beau could do for the next few seconds was stand there, completely stunned. Her new tiefling companion had surprised Beau more than once in the short time they had been together, but Beau never expected her to pull something like this.

Her mind finally caught up to the situation.

For all Beau knew, there could still be straggling thugs traipsing through the forest looking for her. She didn’t know what they would do if they found Jester, but Beau really didn’t want to find out.

Just as she was about to chase after Jester, Beau’s mind caught up for a second time.

The pounding in her ears subsided, the fear in her veins draining out, as she watched a trail of long white hair still slithering on the ground in Jester’s direction. Beau took a few deep breaths and let herself calm down for a moment.

What had gotten into her? Beau was used to experiencing a myriad of variables from the different jobs she had done, but her ability to keep a level head was always something she knew she could rely on. Her logic and adaptability were her strongest attributes on the field. Why had she lost her cool?

Shaking her head, Beau calmly picked up her bag from the ground and casually jogged after the woman in the woods.

It did not take long for her to catch up. Even at half speed, Beau was fast. It also helped that Jester had stopped. She was standing in a small clearing among the forest a short distance from Beau. Beau first thought Jester had stopped in an “Oh, yeah, I was just waiting on you after the funny joke I did” kind of way but no, Jester looked frozen. It almost felt like Beau had just stumbled across a hidden statue in the forest, instead of literally chasing after the girl in front of her moments ago.

Beau cautiously approached her and tried to assess what could have possibly gone wrong. Jester was just so still. Her hands her balled fists at her side; her tail limp and motionless behind her. Once she was close enough, Beau’s eyes finally caught some movement. She watched as Jester’s chest and shoulders minutely rose and fell in time with Jester’s rapid breaths. Thank the gods, at least she was breathing.

“Hey, uh…” Beau tried to say but it got stuck in her throat. She blamed it on the run over here; it must have dried out her voice. She cleared her throat. “Hey, Jester,” she tried again.

No response.

Beau reached out a hand toward Jester’s shoulder, “Jester, are you—”

The rest of Beau’s sentence was cut off when Jester suddenly had Beau’s wrist in a vice like grip, her head snapping in Beau’s direction.

Wide eyes met wide eyes.

And just as quickly, Jester released Beau’s hand and stumbled backward. Beau watched silently as Jester’s breathing evened out. The other woman’s gaze was focused pointedly on the ground between her bare feet.

Beau resisted the urge to ask what was wrong, because she knew something obviously was. But Beau also knew that pressing the matter, making people talk before they were ready, could make the situation even worse. She might not be the best in the area of social graces, but Beau had some experience being there for a troubled friend. She could thank a certain wizard for that. Beau decided that the best course of action at that moment was distraction.

“I guess this means you won,” she said after Jester had another moment to collect herself.

Jester met Beau’s eyes again and blinked. “Huh? I—what?”

“I—I mean. You found the campsite first,” Beau gestured awkwardly to their surroundings.

Jester looked around like she was seeing for the first time, but at least her shoulders were beginning to relax. Beau was glad it was working.

“Oh,” was all Jester said in response.

Beau glanced at the sun’s position in the sky; it was probably best they made camp anyway. “We should start on a fire. I can go find some tinder, or we could both go. Whichever; it doesn’t ma—"

“You go. I’ll—uh—fix up the campsite. I’m good.”

“Oh-Okay. Then I’ll just…” Beau trailed off. Jester obviously wanted some space. Beau could do that. She turned to head into the forest to collect firewood, sparing a glance over her shoulder. Jester was also turned away. Beau watched her pick up loose limbs and plants that littered the ground. She hoped she wasn’t making a mistake, leaving Jester alone. Jester is a grown adult, Beau reminded herself. She can make her own decisions.

By the time Beau made her way back to their makeshift campsite, Jester seemed to be in her normal spirits again. She could tell this by Jester’s colorful swearing as she tried to drag a log into the clearing and her tail twitching irritably. Beau smiled to herself; Jester’s mood had really thrown Beau for a loop. If she could just keep this tiefling happy for one more day then everything would go back to normal. Beau dropped the tinder she collected in the small pile of twigs in the middle of the space as she walked toward Jester, careful to create just enough noise to make her presence known.

“Where did you even find this?” Beau grunted and picked up the opposite end of the log.

Jester stumbled slightly as she regained her balance from the shift in weight. “I mean,” she grumbled, “we’re in the fucking woods, Beau.”

That made Beau snicker. She much preferred Jester’s frustration over her fear. “Here, how about I finish this up and you go start the fire,” Beau moved to get a better grip. “It will probably be easier for you since you have magic and shit.”

“Oh. Are you sure?” Jester didn’t seem convinced.

“Or I could do it and we would have to wait an extra fucking hour to eat the leftovers Caduceus sent with us.” Beau peered at the darkening sky for extra effect.

“Hm, that is a good point,” Jester determined. “Okay.” She then abruptly dropped the log and moved over to the firewood.

The sudden jerk from the log quickly reminded Beau of all the injuries she had sustained that day. Namely the one from the fall she took when she discovered Jester’s tower. As it turns out, her ribs were not miraculously healed by the gut punches she took from the thug earlier.

Beau let out a strangled “Ah!” before dropping the log completely to the ground and clutching her side.

Jester turned at the noise, “Beau? Beau!” She rushed forward and caught Beau before Beau hit the ground. They both fell to their knees. “Oh my gods, Beau! Are you okay? What’s wrong?”

Beau met Jester’s wide, frantic eyes for the second time today.

“Hey, hey, I’m okay. Calm down. It’s not a big deal, I just—,” Beau winced as Jester maneuvered her to sit on the log. That is when Jester finally noticed the hand Beau had against her ribs.

“You’re hurt,” she said. “When did this happen?”

The other girl was anxiously inspecting Beau’s side as Beau answered, “This morning, before I showed up at your house. Ah!”

“There,” Jester had found what she was looking for.

“Ow,” Beau hissed. As a monk, and a rowdy teen, Beau had suffered countless scrapes and bruises; Jester really did not need to fuss like this. But Beau let her continue her ministrations.

“I can fix this.”

“Yeah?”

“Mhm,” Jester nodded. “I can heal you with my magic, but, um, it’s not like the normal way. I guess.”

“What do you mea—”

“And you can’t tell anybody! Like at all. It’s a super-duper big secret. So, promise you won’t tell anyone!”

“I still don’t know wha—”

“Promise!”

“Okay, I promise!” Beau yelled. “I promise I won’t tell a soul about your weird, secret magic or whatever. Gees…”

“Okay,” Jester sighed. After a moment she added, “Close your eyes.”

Beau, who had decided this would be easier if she just complied with Jester, closed her eyes with a huff. After Jester made Beau promise that her eyes were shut, Beau felt something being wrapped around her torso. At first, she thought it was a scarf or sash, but it was too dense and too long for that. It was when it brushed her arm that Beau recognized it as hair. Jester’s hair. She had to fight the urge to open her eyes and flinch away. Instead she sat tight and trusted Jester; Beau was the one with the injury, Jester was the one with the magic.

“Okay, now don’t move. And don’t freak out,” Jester murmured as she finished covering Beau’s ribs. And after a pause, she took Beau’s hands in her own.

Beau blamed the jump in her heart on the surprise of contact.

Now, Beau had been on the receiving end of her fair share of healing spells, so she expected Jester to begin some sort of incantation, recite of few lines and move on with their night. Beau did not expect Jester to start singing. And very well, at that. Beau felt her middle section grow warmer and warmer, and she couldn’t help herself. She cracked open an eye.

Jester was glowing. Like, literally glowing.

It took an honest second for Beau to realize that Jester’s hair was the source of the light. It was all around the two of them. Yards and yards of radiant white hair trailed down from Jester’s horned head and swirled around their small clearing before coming back to cocoon Beau in magical warmth. Once Beau’s eyes finally made it back to the woman still singing in front of her, she noticed Jester had closed her own eyes as well.

In moment of selfish weakness, Beau allowed herself a moment to openly admire Jester. How in the world had Beau just so happen to stumble across one of the most fascinating people she had ever met? This wonderful and fascinating badass who is too nice to everyone and too brave for her own good. They had only spent the one day together and Beau was terrified by the realization that she wanted to share so many more. That was also when Beau realized Jester had stopped singing.

This time, when their eyes met, there was no fear or tension to be seen. Jester’s eyes were lively and brilliant in the fading glow surrounding them. The light from her hair and the moon caught in the purple of her irises, making them almost sparkle like jewels.

Amethyst, Beau thought to herself, answering her own question from that morning, that's what color her eyes are.