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Lilliana stumbles backwards as she’s hit with another spell. Pain shoots through her body, making her cry out involuntarily. 

A gerblin infestation my ass . She thinks as she steadies herself.

It was supposed to be easy money. A small reward of gold to clear out a local mine of some nasty gerblins that had taken up residence. She’d even convinced the mine operator to double the reward because she was doing it alone. There was nothing in the job description about some magical evil scientist wannabe lurking down here. 

Another spell hits Lilliana before she has the chance to take her turn. Sharp, agonizing pain spiderwebs its way out from her chest. Her legs give out and she falls to her knees, panting. 

Her opponent cackles. “Is the baby bird having trouble? I guess being one of the most powerful beings in the universe isn’t hereditary. What would your family think if they could see you now?”

They wouldn’t think. They’d kill you in half a second and be done with it. They’d take me home and give me hugs and treats until all my wounds were healed. 

Another flash of pain shoots through her and she grits her teeth. She should’ve turned back the second she realized this was more than just gerblins. She could’ve gotten a party together. Or called one of her family members. They would’ve had this place cleared in ten seconds flat. 

Queenie, Lilliana’s raven that she hand-picked out of the Raven Queen’s flock, squawks and dives towards the distracted wizard. It gives Lilliana the time to pull herself back up to her feet and nock an arrow. She may be low on hit points, but so are they. 

As soon as Queenie is out of the way, Lilliana lets the arrow fly. Her hands are shaking from her low health and the pain of that spell ( what was that spell? ) still coursing through her, but her aim stays true. The arrow soars across the room and lodges itself in her opponent’s chest. Their eyes widen a fraction before they go down like a sack of bricks, dead as dirt. 

Lilliana stays put and nocks another arrow. She draws it back and holds her breath, keeping her eyes fixed on the body in front of her. After a minute, it hasn’t moved, hasn’t made any indication that they’re going to be rising back up to attack her again. Lilliana sighs, relaxing her stance and lowering her bow. She slides the arrow in her hand back into her quiver. Queenie flies over and rests on her shoulder, several arrows that had been scattered around the room throughout the fight held in her beak. Lilliana smiles and takes them from her, sliding them back into her quiver as well. 

She walks over to the body and stands next to it. Her arrow is still sticking out of their chest. She thinks about pulling it out, but it’s always just… so gross. And she doesn’t think she’s got enough strength left in her to pull it out. There’s still a throbbing pain in her chest, and her arms feel heavy as they hang at her sides. 

“I’ve got enough arrows already,” she says to Queenie, still sitting on her shoulder, “they can keep that one.” 

Queenie squawks in response. 

“You’re right,” Lilliana says, though she doesn’t actually know what Queenie’s saying, “the mine operator definitely owes us more money for this. I deserve compensation for the shitton of hit points I just lost.”

She leaves the chamber the fight had taken place in and heads back down the long stone corridor that brought her there. She’s almost at the elevator that’ll bring her back up to ground level when her entire world lurches . Everything spins and Lilliana can vaguely hear Queenie squawking at her, but it’s drowned out by the pounding in her head. 

When Lilliana comes back to herself, she’s kneeling in the middle of the cavern path she’d been walking along. Standing takes so much effort, she’s panting by the time she’s back on her feet. Her head is still spinning, she feels like she’d fall right back down if she tried to keep walking. She stumbles over to lean on the cavern wall. She slides down it, the rough rock scratching lightly at her back, until she’s sitting on the floor again. Her whole body feels so heavy. She’s so tired. She’s weak. Her chest is still aching. 

That battle took more out of me than I thought. Her eyes slip closed, almost of their own accord. I should rest. Her head lolls to the side. Just for a little bit. A short rest to get some hit points back, then I’ll keep going.

Queenie squawks, over and over, but it falls on deaf ears. Lilliana falls sideways, and she’s unconscious before she hits the ground. 

~

Barry’s home alone, doing some work at the kitchen table. He lost the coin toss, so he got stuck with paperwork while Lup and Kravitz got to go after a bounty. 

He’s got his head resting on one of his hands, zoned out and half asleep, when he hears the distinct sound of fabric tearing. Broken out of his reverie, he grins and turns in his chair to ask Lup how the bounty went, only to get a face full of feathers. 

He splutters as Queenie flutters down to the table, disturbing the neat piles of forms and documents Barry had laid out. 

“Queenie, what-” 

She squawks at him. 

“What are you doing here?” 

She squawks at him again. Then again. She doesn’t stop, making indignant bird noises at him very loudly and incessantly. 

Barry doesn’t get it. Why is she here? Queenie wouldn’t just come home on her own like this. As far as Barry knows, she rarely goes anywhere without Lilli.

Lilli.

Barry stands, his chair almost falling over with how quickly it gets pushed backwards. “Something happened to her.” 

Queenie gives him an affirmative squawk and flies off the table, through her bird-sized rift. Barry summons his scythe and tears open his own rift, following after her. 

The scene Barry steps into is bleak. A grey stone hallway, dimly lit with intermittent torches, and there, on the ground in front of him, is Lilliana. 

She’s laying on her side, eyes closed. He can see her shoulders and chest rise and fall as she takes short, shallow breaths. 

Barry’s never been more grateful for Kravitz’s complete inability to say no to Lilliana. He doesn’t know what’s happened to her here, but clearly it isn’t good. Queenie, weird magical Astral Plane raven that she is, may very well have saved Lilli’s life in coming to get Barry, and Kravitz is the one who may or may not have stolen said raven from the Raven Queen (they still can’t get him to admit to it, he maintains innocent until proven guilty). 

Barry kneels next to Lilliana and pushes some hair back from her face. Her skin is cold. Too cold, almost. “Lilli?” Barry says. “Can you hear me?” 

She doesn’t react. Not even so much as a twitch of her ear. She’s unconscious, not asleep. Barry doesn’t panic. Not yet. She’s got a healing potion strapped to her hip, the glass vial luckily unbroken. He shifts Lilliana so he’s cradling her in one arm and she’s partially sitting up. He then frees the healing potion and uncorks it. He lifts it to her lips and gently pours some of it into her mouth. Her breathing slows down to a normal pace, and after a moment her eyes flutter open. They roam around her surroundings, starting at the ceiling, then looking over at the wall, before finally settling on Barry. 

“Daddy?” Her voice is breathy and quiet, and her eyes are a little glazed over. She’s not unconscious anymore, but she isn’t fully there yet either. 

“Hey sweetie,” he says gently, “what were you doing passed out in a cave?” 

“I was tired.” Her eyebrows furrow just the smallest bit. “My chest hurts.”

“We can fix that.” He helps her sit up properly, then holds the rest of the healing potion out to her, “I need you to drink this, okay?” 

Lilliana looks down at the potion then back up at Barry. “Why?” 

“It’ll help you feel better, make your chest stop hurting.” 

Her hands shake as she reaches for the vial, so Barry helps her guide it to her mouth. After it’s all gone, she blinks a few times, and Barry can see as she comes back to full alertness. She looks around at her surroundings again, then back at Barry. 

“What happened?” 

Barry shrugs. “Beats me. I was doing paperwork when your bird appeared in my face and wouldn’t stop yelling at me. I followed her and found you here.” 

Lilliana frowns and looks around again. 

“Are you okay?” Barry asks. “Do you remember anything?” 

“Yeah…” she shakes her head, clearing the fog out of her mind, “yeah, I was only supposed to be clearing out gerblins, but I found some nutcase that’d holed themselves up down here. We fought, I won, I was on my way back out to collect on my reward and I just… passed out? I think I was more hurt than I thought.” 

Barry looks her over. “Maybe I should take you home.” 

“Yeah, maybe.” Lilliana slumps further into his embrace. “Turns out going unconscious on a cave floor does not constitute a rest. Short or otherwise.”

Barry chuckles. He would tell her that she shouldn’t joke about the fact that she was alone and unconscious in a cave and her weird dead magic bird had to come yell at him to get him to feed her a health potion so she wouldn’t maybe die, but… he doesn’t exactly have a leg to stand on there. What with the lich thing… and the reaper thing… and the “doing necromancy on his own dead bodies” thing… 

Basically, morbid humour is one of two things that make up his whole brand, and as much as Barry dislikes it coming from his daughter, he can’t exactly stop her. 

He helps her to her feet, and she’s still a little unsteady as she stands, leaning on Barry for balance. He summons his scythe and opens up a rift back home. 

“Wait,” Lilliana says as Barry guides her to the rift, “the mine operator-” 

“I will talk to the operator and get your reward,” Barry says. “You go home and rest.” 

Lilliana rummages through her bag and pulls out a slip of paper. “Here’s what he said he’d pay me for getting rid of the gerblins on my own. He’s rich as hell so you better weasel some more gold out of him for that -” she throws an arm out, gesturing deeper into the cavern- “whole fucking ordeal.”

“I will get you your gold, now go home and rest .” 

“Okay, yes, rest.” Lilliana turns back to the rift. “I’m fucking exhausted.” 

She steps through it, and Queenie flies through just as its closing, leaving Barry alone in an abandoned mine that his daughter might have almost died in. 

Barry takes a deep breath, pushing away the image that tries to force itself into his mind’s eye of Lilliana dead and alone in some random cave. He heads to the elevator and takes it back up to ground level. 

Walking out of the mine, the mine operator and a few workers are waiting there. They look incredibly perplexed to see him which, yeah, fair. He explains the situation, how there was much more than just gerblins down there, how Lilliana got severely injured, and how he expects his daughter to be paid proper compensation for her troubles. 

The operator seems a little disgruntled at having to fork out more gold, but Barry is Barry Bluejeans, Saviour Of The Universe, One Of The Seven Birds, so he gets what he wants. Once he’s got a leather pouch in his hand, filled with an appropriate amount of gold, he even offers to clear out the body and the lair and whatever else might be down there. No charge. They accept, gratefully. 

Barry heads back down into the mine, through the corridor he’d found Lilli in, and into a more open cavern. It’s pretty barebones, just a large table pushed up against one wall, and pages of notes all over it. There’s spell components scattered around, all piled up in out of the way corners. 

Oh, and there’s the body too. 

Lying face up, an arrow sticking straight out of its chest. Barry approaches it and looks down at it thoughtfully. 

“You know,” he says to the dead body, “I would’ve killed you myself, if Lilli hadn’t done such a good job on her own.” 

The body, naturally, says nothing.

Barry moves towards the table, wanting to see what the hell this person was working on, when his stone goes off. 

“Hello?” 

“It’s coming back,” Lilli’s voice, trembling just a little, comes through the stone. 

“What?” 

“The shaking and the spinning and the weakness,” there’s a thud and a soft whimper, “my chest hurts. It’s all coming back.” 

“Okay, just stay calm, there should be a few healing potions in the bathroom. You can-” 

“I can’t. I can’t get there.” 

“Where are you?” 

“Living room. I was getting a drink and-” Lilliana breathes heavily on the other side- “everything started spinning again. I dropped the glass and I barely made it this far to the couch. I’m… I feel weak and drained again. I don’t kn-” 

There’s a thud from the other end of the line. 

“Lilli?” 

No response. Barry doesn’t even try to call her name again. He hangs up his stone and opens a rift home. He steps through it into the living room, and Lilliana is in the same condition he found her in the first time. She’s slumped sideways on the couch, eyes closed, breaths short and shallow, unconscious. Her stone is on the floor, having fallen from her hand and rolled under the coffee table. 

He runs up the stairs to the bathroom, grabs the first healing potion out of the cupboard, and runs back down. He goes through the same routine he did the first time. He maneuvers Lilliana up to a sitting position, feeds her some of the potion until she wakes up, then gives her the rest of it. 

When she’s awake and back to herself again, Lilliana looks up at Barry, a tinge of fear in her eyes. “What’s happening to me?”

“I don’t know.” 

Barry wants to go back to that lair. Look through all those notes to find out what’s happening and what he can do to fix it, but he doesn’t want to leave Lilliana alone. What if it sets in faster each time? What if she’s left unconscious for too long? Will it kill her? Is she already dying? 

Lilliana leans heavily into Barry’s side, nuzzling into his shoulder. He puts an arm around her and holds her tight. “You’re going to be okay,” he says, “I’m going to figure this out.” 

“I know,” she says, her voice muffled by his shirt, “you’re the best wizard in the universe.” 

“Now don’t go saying that around Taako, I think he’ll disown you.” 

Lilliana laughs weakly. 

Barry pulls out his stone and tries to call Lup, but no dice. She and Kravitz must be deep in their investigation into this bounty, Lup only ever turns her stone off during work if it’s getting real . He leaves her a message anyway, just in case she turns it back on before this is solved. 

Barry doesn’t bother trying to call Kravitz. If Lup’s got her stone off during a bounty, Kravitz for sure has his off. So he tries Taako. 

Taako doesn’t answer.

Barry calls everyone. Everyone. Nobody picks up. All of them ring for what feels like ages, but they all go to voicemail. 

Lilliana’s leaning even heavier on him now, the weakness creeping back up on her again.

“Daddy,” she says, “I need you to get every healing potion we have.” 

“What?” 

“Bring me every healing potion in the house. And maybe every healing potion in Taako’s house. Then I can keep myself awake and you can go and find what that wizard did to me.” 

“Lilli-” 

Listen,” Lilliana pushes herself up to sit and look at Barry properly, “it’s either we sit here and you feed me potions until someone answers your calls, or I sit here and keep myself awake with potions while you go and solve this.” 

Barry turns this over in his head. He doesn’t want to leave her alone, not like this. It scares him to no end. But… she’s right. It’s the best option. They can’t sit here and wait for someone else to pick up their stone. This needs to be solved, and it needs to be solved now

“Okay,” he says, “but if anything happens-” 

“If I pass out or run out of potions, Queenie will come get you. Promise.” 

Barry presses a kiss to her temple and stands. He collects every healing potion they’ve got in the house, and deposits them on the end table next to the couch, more within Lilli’s reach than the coffee table. He then runs the short distance between their house and Taako and Kravitz’s house, and raids the place for any healing potions they might have. He goes back home and adds the few he could find to the collection. 

Barry puts his hands on either side of Lilliana’s head and presses a kiss to her forehead. He then tilts her head so he can look her in the eye. “Stay awake for me, okay?” 

Lilliana nods. Barry gives her another kiss on the forehead. “I’ll be right back,” he says.  

Then he opens a rift, steps through, and begins the tedious task of sifting through all the notes of a dead wizard who was trying to kill his daughter an hour ago. 

He’s trying to move quickly, so he’ll skim a page, but then he’ll worry that he missed something, go back and read it properly, and realize halfway through it’s nothing near what he’s looking for. It’s taking too long for his liking. It probably hasn’t been as long as Barry thinks it’s been, but he just keeps thinking about Lilli. She’s alone, she’s suffering, and she’s at risk of passing out at any moment. Barry has to keep reminding himself that, technically, she’s not alone. Queenie’s there, and if anything happens, she can come and alert him, and Barry can be back at Lilliana’s side in a second. 

After what feels like hours (but was more like minutes. 10, maybe. 15, tops.) Barry finds it. A spell that this wizard put together, modified from an old necromantic ritual. The ritual was designed to leech the victim’s life force away and put it into someone else, like someone that wanted to be more powerful, someone sick and dying, or someone already dead. But the spell… the modification of the ritual into a spell was possible because this wizard took away the someone else . The spell drains the life force of the victim, then does nothing with it. It simply ensures that the victim dies slowly and painfully. It makes sure the victim can feel themselves being taken away. 

The paper crinkles in Barry’s hand as he clenches his fist. He turns to look at the dead body in the middle of the floor, and he’s so fucking angry. How dare they get to die easily, while his baby girl is at home, feeding herself potions just to keep herself awake, just to keep herself alive, feeling her life force being drained from her by the minute. 

Barry throws out a hand and casts a fireball at the body, incinerating it, leaving nothing but a body-shaped pile of ashes in its place. 

Barry looks back down at the notes in his hand, detailing the machinations of the spell, and he knows how to fix it. 

~

Merle is having a perfect day. He’s spent the whole thing lounging on his patio, watching the waves roll in, falling asleep, waking up, watching the waves some more, falling asleep again, then rinse and repeat. 

He’s dozing, almost asleep, when there’s the sound of fabric tearing and- 

“MERLE!”

Merle jumps, pulled fully out of his blissful dozing state. “Hey!” He says, looking over at the intruder. “You can’t just sneak up on a guy like that, Barry!” 

Barry’s a mess. His eyes wide and panicked, his glasses a little bit askew, there’s smoke curling off his hand like he just cast a big, fiery spell and it hasn’t quite died down yet. “I can when it’s a life and death situation.” 

Merle huffs, getting comfortable in his chair again. “I’m too old for life and death situations.” 

“It’s Lilliana.”

Merle cracks open his one eye and looks Barry over again and, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Not much can get Barry riled up these days, but anything to do with Lilliana? Well, that’s a pushed button for all of them. “What about her?” 

Barry holds out a piece of paper, his hand shaking ever so slightly. “She was in a fight, got this cast on her. I need you to do a Greater Heal.” 

Now, Merle is no wizard scientist, but this spell… hoo boy, he can see now why Barry’s very loud and sudden appearance was necessary. “How much time have we got?” 

“Until she runs out of healing potions to keep her awake. After that, no idea.” 

“Alright,” Merle pushes himself up and out of his chair, moving as quickly as his dwarf legs will carry him, “let me get the shit for it, and we’ll be in business.” 

Barry nods, gripping his scythe with both hands and following Merle into the house. “Just hurry.”

Merle hurries. He’s got his things and they’re in Barry’s living room in a matter of moments. Lilliana is sitting up on the couch, her head tilted back to look at the ceiling. Her weird bird is sitting in her lap. She turns her head to look at them as they show up, and her eyes are glazed over, distant, she’s pale, and she just looks… gaunt.

“Aw geez, kid,” Merle says, climbing up on the couch to get a good look at her, “you’re a mess.” 

“M’ chest hurts,” she mumbles. “Potions aren’ helping anymore.” 

“I know,” Merle says, digging through his bag for what he needs, “but I’m going to fix that for you.”

Barry hovers as Merle takes care of Lilliana. His anxious energy coming off him in waves. But it only takes a minute or two for Merle to get the spell off, and instantly Lilliana looks better. 

The colour comes back to her skin, the glazed over look in her eyes fades, and she actually looks at Merle, registers that he’s there. 

“How you feelin’, kid?” 

So much better, thank you.” Lilliana stands from the couch (prompting her bird to transfer from her lap to the coffee table) and stretches. “Even better than any of the healing potions made me feel.” 

“You’re welcome.” Merle gets off the couch and claps his hands together. “Now,” he says, “if you could give me a rift back to my sunlit patio, I’d greatly appreciate it.” 

“Do you wanna stay for dinner?” Lilliana asks. 

“Nah,” Merle waves a hand dismissively, “I’ve got a whole day of nothing and nada to get back to.” 

Barry opens a rift for Merle. “Thank you,” he says as Merle steps through. 

“Hey,” Merle says, “just doin’ my job.” 

The rift closes up behind him, and Barry looks back at Lilliana. “You’re sure you’re okay? Does your chest still hurt?” He asks, coming closer. “Any weakness or pain? Is your head spinning? Are you dizzy?” 

“No,” she smiles, “I’m all good, daddy.” 

Barry breathes a sigh of relief and pulls Lilliana into his arms, holding tight. “I knew you would be,” he says, although the quiver in his voice gives away how worried he was. How scared. 

Lup is the love of his life and undeath, but Lilliana is his everything. 

He knows one day he’s going to have to bury her, he and Lup talked at length about that fact before they even started trying to have a baby, and he’s accepted it. But it’s not supposed to happen until she’s old and she’s lived the 180+ years that half elves usually live. If he lost her early, this early, he’s pretty damn sure it would destroy him. 

“Don’t cry for me, daddy,” Lilliana says, her chin propped on his shoulder, “I’m right here. You saved me, I’m okay.” 

Barry didn’t even realize he was crying. He pulls back from their hug and wipes at the wetness on his cheeks. He looks up at Lilliana, maybe to make a fun quip, maybe to tell her how much he loves her, but anything he planned on saying dies in his throat. “You’re crying too,” he says softly, reaching out and brushing a tear away with his thumb. 

“Oh. Yeah, I-” Lilliana goes to say something clever, but she stops, her lip quivering- “I was really scared.” 

Barry opens his arms and Lilliana falls into them again, clutching his shirt. They both cry a little bit, standing together in their living room, holding each other, and they stay like that for a while. Could be moments… minutes… hours… neither of them can really tell. 

“Hey, so,” Lilliana says, leaning back a little bit so she can look at Barry, “I don’t mean to completely ruin this very emotional and touching father-daughter moment between us, but-” 

“Yes, I got your gold, and yes, he did give you more for your extra troubles.” 

Lilliana grins, and rests her head back on Barry’s shoulder. “I love you, daddy.” 

Barry smiles and presses a kiss to her temple. “I love you too, baby girl.” 

~

You have two new messages. To listen to your unheard messages-

First message. 

“Uh, hey, babe. Listen, there’s- there’s something wrong with Lilli. She was in a fight and was hurt, but Queenie got me and I gave her a healing potion. She was fine, but now she’s not fine again, and I think she must’ve gotten hit with a spell or something. I’m rambling. Basically, something’s up, and I don’t know what it is, but I don’t want to leave her home alone while I figure it out. Not when she’s like this.” 

“I guess you’re actually probably busy, since your stone is off. I’m going to try everyone else, but please, if you get this and I haven’t left you another message saying everything’s fine, come home. As soon as possible.” 

“Stay safe, Lup. I’ll see you later. I love you.” 

End of message. To delete- 

Message deleted. To hear your next message-

Next message. 

“Hey babe, I know that last message sounded super freaky and scary, but it’s okay now. You don’t need to rush home if you’ve still got bounty stuff to do, Lilli’s fine. I figured it out, got Merle to come and break off a heal for us. She’s all good. She’s asleep right now, otherwise I’d probably put her on to say something.” 

“Anyway, I just wanted to update you, make sure you didn’t rush home in a panic when there’s nothing to panic about anymore. We’ll tell you about it when you get home, promise. I hope your bounty is going well. Stay safe and kick an ass for us. I love you and I’ll see you later. Bye.” 

End of message. To delete- 

Message deleted. You have no new messages. You’ve reached your main menu. To- 

Goodbye.