Spring came unusually swift this year in Vesuvia. The robins were chirping, squirrels prancing, frogs hopping, chickens clucking. Everything seemed to be at peace as Muriel stepped out of his quaint hut deep in the forest and into the early morning rays of the sun. Soft and warm, he relaxed and took in the smell of the forest. He wouldn’t admit it, but Spring was this man’s favorite time of year. The cold of winter finally melted away and the forest seemed to be at its happiest. Animals woke from their long slumber and his little world was reset. That peace would be short lived however, as his childhood fluffy haired friend came lazily sauntering into view.
Asra stifled a yawn as he spoke, “Hey Muriel.” Already there was mischief gleaming in his violet eyes.
“Asra” he said, curious of what the magician had hidden up his sleeves. “You’re up early.” The two friends hugged and Muriel invited him back inside.
“I won’t be long, have to head back into town to pick some things up for our trip.” Asra announced as he plopped down onto one of Muriel’s rickety chairs.
“Our?” Muriel asked suspiciously raising a bushy brow. He slid his friend a glass of water and sat across from him beginning to whittle.
“Remember years ago, when I went to the Painted Daisy Festival and you wouldn’t come with me?” Asra eyed his friend playfully, waiting for the realization to dawn on him.
“No, I’m not going.” Muriel huffed, face twisting in annoyance.
“But you promised you would next time and now it’s next time!” Asra pressed on, “So we leave in a week, pack some clothes and I’ll do the rest.” With that Asra was back out of the door and headed toward the city.
Curse his good memory, Muriel thought. He always assumed the past would catch up to him someday but he never imagined it would be about an old half promise made to a friend. He let out an exasperated sigh and threw his head back in defeat.
“How did I get into this mess.”
The days turned to nights and back into new days. He made sure the chickens were fed, their coop was nice and stable, and the wards around his home were charged. He wanted to guarantee he’d come home to an empty quiet hut when all this was over. At least he and Asra would have quality time together without them around.
Muriel couldn’t remember a time he and Asra could be alone like the old times before the apprentice came into the picture and ruined his only sense of stability. Soon enough he felt lonely again, forgotten by the only person he came to trust.
Asra was his best friend, the only person he had in all of the world. So as uncomfortable as a Painted Daisy Festival sounded to Muriel, he looked forward to the time spent with Asra away from Vesuvia.
Asra told him he planned to stop by the day before their trip to talk about all the things they’d do in Nepal and what travel would be like. Asra arrived at the hut in the early afternoon and gave a few swift knocks to his heavy door. Muriel invited his friend inside and they talked and caught up for hours until it was time for Asra to get home and rest before the trip.
“I hope you’re excited Muriel.” Asra cooed, and of course Muriel wasn’t prepared to admit that. He had to change the subject.
“What will you apprentice be doing?” He heard himself ask, not quite sure why he was curious about that but it seemed to shift the conversation how he liked. Asra didn’t answer right away though, he just gave a quick smile and continued toward the door of the hut to leave.
“Don’t worry about it, see you tomorrow bright and early!” With a wink and a lazy wave Asra headed out into the evening light heading back towards the city.
Odd, Muriel thought. Usually he could talk about the apprentice for hours. However, it was refreshing that Asra kept it short for once. He thought nothing more of it and trundled off to sit in front of the fire until he felt his eyelids get heavy with drowsiness. Inanna followed and did the same, curling up next to Muriel.
That next morning, he packed all he needed, tended to the chickens and made breakfast for himself and his magician. Not much longer was it that Asra arrived at the hut, quickly inviting himself inside and greeting Muriel and Inanna. As much as Muriel expected Asra’s arrival he didn’t quite fancy letting himself in, but he decided to ignore that for now.
“You ready Muriel?” He spoke in a melodic voice, his violet eyes expressing just how happy he was. Muriel’s lips couldn’t help but twitch up into a barely there smile in response to his friend’s eagerness. He nodded toward the table, “made breakfast.”
“Well, that wasn’t initially in the schedule but I’m sure you and Y/N can eat fast!” Asra responded matter-of-factly as if he didn’t just suggest the apprentice was here. Muriel cleared his throat roughly.
“I’m sorry?” He said, eyeing his friend up and down as he watched him slink out the door. As quickly as he left, Asra was back ushering the apprentice through the door. With that, Muriel’s sense of security and peace was shattered. He didn’t sign up for this, let alone would he invite the apprentice into his home and offer them food. He stood from the table and made no attempt to mask the irritation that surely fell over his features. The apprentice avoided his searing gaze and shrunk under the scrutiny.
“What is... this?” Muriel asked curtly waving his hang vaguely in the apprentice’s direction. His eyebrows knitted together and his lips twisted into a look of disgust. The apprentices head hung low, and they whispered to Asra.
“I told you this was a bad idea.” they squeaked. Asra just shrugged it off and gave a light laugh. “C’mon Muriel, you remember Y/N! They’re tagging along, did I neglect to tell you!” He purred. His voice sounded lighthearted yet his eyes told Muriel that he needed to settle down with the attitude. Muriel secretly envied how Asra could communicate to him in such a way, despite being a loner, it was hard for Muriel to mask his true feelings. And right now, he was feeling irritated. He didn’t want to travel with the apprentice, had he known they were coming he wouldn’t have agreed to this trip. At least not so easily.
Muriel sat back down with a huff and watched warily as Asra pulled a chair out for his other friend. That morning was quiet, even if Asra did chat away to the two of them about the journey ahead, though neither the apprentice or Muriel were much conversation that morning Asra didn’t seem to mind. Muriel ate his eggs in silence as his mind raced with his complaints about this situation he’d gotten into. Asra and Y/N shared their plate of eggs, and when they finished Muriel took the plates and tidied up his home before closing the door and silently saying goodbye to his hideaway.