When Ayda is eight years old, her foster mother, Adaine, hands her a stack of tomes, all written by Ayda Aguefort for Ayda Aguefort. They’re notes on nearly every subject Ayda might need to know, from optimization of the Dewey-Decimal system, to how to appropriately interact with pirates who have kleptomaniac tendencies. She’d known her whole life she’s a Half Phoenix, and had many lifetimes before this one. For some reason, she hadn’t expected herself to leave notes for the Aydas that come along in the future. She’s deeply touched, and pours herself into them.
The first three tomes are lengthy and difficult to get through. These three Aydas are all very focused on the Compass Points, and their studies. This is all very understandable, as the Compass Points Library is quite vast and very impressive. They dedicated their lives to their work and magic. Their knowledge is vast, and, at times, incomprehensible. Ayda doesn’t realize that these are personal, and not academic, journals until the third, when Ayda meets a young Garthy O’Brien, and takes the little urchin in. There’s a fondness in the notes about Garthy that was previously absent. Garthy is the first person Ayda loved.
“Listen to Garthy,” Ayda Three wrote to Ayda Four. “Arthur Aguefort is not a present man; you should never expect him to father you. Garthy is your guardian, and you should respect them as a parent.”
Ayda has heard many amazing tales of Garthy O’Brien. They’re a hero of Leviathan, a steady hand in a city full of hotheaded pirates. Their legacy stands firm, nearly half a century after their passing. Of course Ayda knows who Garthy is. She just didn’t expect to have known them so closely. She didn’t know she was the one to raise them, or that the favor was reciprocated. Ayda finds this to be extraordinarily sweet.
When Ayda starts the fourth journal, she’s eleven. It takes her a half a year to get to the part when she meets Adaine for the first time. This is when the tome starts to differ from the other volumes. The words used are a lot more personal, and tone of them is gentler. The advice becomes more-open ended. That shift is sparked by the Bad Kids coming to Leviathan. Ayda has been waiting for this part since she got the books.
“Garthy has sent a strange group of Solisians to the Compass Points Library,” Ayda Four wrote about the first time she met Adaine. “Among them was the Elven Oracle, though she refers to herself as Everyone’s Oracle, and perhaps the greatest wizard of our age, a Half Orc named Gorgug. A beautiful Tiefling girl tried to feed me seeds. I do not wish to be in anyone’s debt, no matter how beautiful they are.”
It’s the first time Ayda has ever called anyone ‘beautiful’ in her notes. In none of the previous journals does Ayda comment on the appearance of anyone, unless it is particularly noteworthy, academically speaking. Seeing that word, “beautiful”, makes Ayda’s heart flutter.
Ayda knows all sorts of stories about Adaine’s Adventuring Party. She loves to listen to Adaine fondly remember her youth. Ayda could tell you about Riz Gukgak, code name, The Ball, who solved mysteries all over Spyre, or Saint Kristen, whose faith brought a destroyed God back to life, or Captain Fabian Aramais Seacaster, who razed Fallinel of its riches with his fearsome crew of sheetdancers, or Gorgug Thistlespring, who birthed an age of technology, and all just from passing stories from Adaine. The literature documenting the Bad Kids many adventures were well-documented, and Ayda’s preferred reading material, second only to her incarnations’ tomes. Of all the stories about the Bad Kids’ heroics deeds, the parts about Fig were always Ayda’s favorite.
Putting pieces together about Adaine’s friends has been a fascinating puzzle. For instance, realizing that Adaine’s best friend, Fig, lead singer of Fig and the Cig Figs, is also Figueroth the Infaethable, Archdevil of Anarchy and Lady of the Bottomless Pit. Reconciling that in Ayda’s mind was really mind-boggling. She was seven when she put that together, and has clung to every Fig story she can get.
So, to see that her very first impression of Fig was ‘beautiful’, and knowing that adjective has never described a person for Ayda in any lifetime before that, it makes her heart flutter. From the pictures of her hanging up around Mordred Manor and on the covers of books about the Bad Kids, Ayda wholeheartedly agrees with her former incarnation’s assessment: Fig is beautiful. Ayda has always thought so.
The Ayda before her is her favorite, by far. She explored the world, and dabbled in all kinds of magic, and lived a fascinating life. She didn’t hide in the library, like the three before her. She was a real adventurer, living up to her great name. Because of Ayda Number Four, her father is in her life, sort of. Arthur Aguefort stops by every few years with an extravagant gift, a long-winded, half-coherent story, and a promise he would come immediately if ever she needed him. She doesn’t really need him, but she appreciates the offer. From what Ayda understands, she’s better off with Adaine, because Arthur Aguefort isn’t great with children, despite running a school. Still, none of the other Aydas had that much from him.
Ayda wishes she were more like the one before her. She was so brave and determined, she accomplished so much. Ayda now would rather read about the world than see it. In her youth, she traveled around with Adaine, going where they needed to go on occasion, but, mostly, they stayed in Elmville, at Mordred Manor. She was gifted a key many years ago that leads to her own special door in the manor leads to the library. Those two places, the manor and the library, are her safe zones. Anytime she has to go somewhere with Adaine, Ayda hides behind her, hoping no one notices her tap stature and huge, clumsy wings.
“You’ll grow into them, I promise,” Adaine keeps telling Ayda of her wings, every time she knocks something over or accidentally ignites something, but Ayda’s not so sure yet. She is especially unsure when she gets odd looks from the elven people, or the goblins up in the Mountains of Chaos, or the humans in Highcourt. While Ayda can fly great distances without tiring, she is by no means graceful about it. Practicing makes her self-conscious. She’s weird. As far as she knows, she’s the only Half-Phoenix. This is a fact that, should she linger on it for too long, makes her light whatever she’s touching on fire, which is inconvenient.
As Ayda grows up, it gets harder for Adaine to talk about Fig and the rest of their party. The only member of the party Ayda has met in this incarnation is Fabian. He taught her how to sword fight. Ayda has become quite proficient, wanting to impress him. The others have passed on, or aren’t easily accessible. Fabian is getting older, too; he looks much older than Adaine, as he’s a Half-Elf. It’s as hard for him to talk about the other Bad Kids as it is for Adaine. They miss their friends. It’s perfectly understandable; if Ayda had friends and they’d died, she would undoubtedly miss them. Wanting to respect Adaine’s feelings, Ayda doesn’t push the subject. She just reads her own notes, over and over again, about the times her former self got to hang out with the coolest kids on the land and sea.
She reads everything she can about Fig in the notes. At first, it seems like the previous Ayda had an enormous, outrageous crush on her, but the sentimentality towards Fig tapers out. Her influence is there, with lots of research into infernal magic and crystal technology in regards to performance and amplification, but it’s almost as though Ayda intentionally left information out of the journals.
She doesn’t like to make assumptions, but the only one Ayda can make is that things never worked out between her Fig. That thought makes Ayda very sad. She wishes she knew what she did wrong, how she could be better this time, so that Fig might like her more this time. But how could Ayda beat the previous incarnation of herself? She’s just a shy little bookworm who makes people uncomfortable. Compared to the incredible version she has to live up to, why would the amazing, incomparable Figueroth ever cast a glance at Ayda?
By the time she’s fifteen, Ayda knows in her heart that Fig is all she’ll compare any potential love interests to. Though she hasn’t met her, Ayda will always be smitten with Fig, she knows this as an irreconcilable fact. When she’s not working on her studies, she’s deep in infernal tomes to read about this resplendent, powerful woman. She’s in love. She can never tell a soul.
All of these facts make life much harder for the present Ayda. She’s nineteen, and too old to be cared for by Adaine, but she still stops by for dinner everyday. Ayda is thankful for at least one thing in her life that is routine. There are some days where Ayda will be so immersed in her studies that she’ll forget about her hunger until the alarm on her crystal goes off, telling her to come home for dinner. Whenever there’s a change in plans, Adaine is sure to let Ayda know weeks in advance and reminds her often, just for clarity, which Ayda very much appreciates.
All of that makes this situation all the more perturbing, as Ayda returns to Mordred Manor for her nightly meal only to find the ghosts. Ayda pokes her head around to all possible places, and goes so far as to asking Zayn for help, but he has no answers. He didn’t see anything, and neither did the other ghosts.
“It’s hella weird that she wouldn’t say anything to me, though,” Zayn explains. “She’s usually really good about stuff like that.”
“It is unlike Adaine to leave and not tell me,” Ayda tells him, firmly. “Something is wrong. We have to find her.”
Zayn claps his hands, but it makes no sound. “I’m bound to the manor, so I don’t think I’m gonna be a lot of help to you on that one,” he says.
Ayda frowns and digs through her pockets for her crystal. She calls the only person she knows would do anything to get Adaine back, but is delivered straight to Fabian’s voicemail. Worrying her lips, she tries again, and once more before finally leaving a message.
“Captain Seacaster, this is Ayda Aguefort,” she says into the recording. “Adaine is missing and I am in need of your assistance. I would like it very much if you called me back.”
She uses Adaine’s hairbrush to Scry on her, but gets nothing, which only worries Ayda. If she’s remembering her spell correctly, and if Adaine were dead, Ayda would see her body. Ayda sees nothing. Adaine must be on another plane.
There is one person Ayda can think of that she knows in another plane, and she doesn’t actually know that person. She stands in the middle of Adaine’s bedroom, debating with herself. Is this a bad idea? Does she have another option? As mortifying as it might be to ask her celebrity crush for help, it seems to be her only option. Of course, with Fig on her mind, Ayda thinks of all the Plane Shift research she’d done in her former life, and knows what she has to do. Ayda is an extremely competent spellcaster. That does not mean she isn’t nervous to cast this spell. Ayda gathers every ounce of her courage, and casts her spell to take her to the Bottomless Pit.
A seam is ripped through reality and dimensions, and Ayda steps through. The sky here is filled with roiling black clouds, spitting tiny embers of rain down to the brimstone ground. The rough path leads down to a set of gates, guarding a vast, rocky plain with a large, gaping pit, The Pit, as it were. A stream of souls plummets down the never-ending pit, starting their eternal fall for whatever mortal crimes they’ve committed. Ayda worries at her fingers as she starts down the path.
The gates open. As Ayda walks through them, she sees little imps, dripping red, all whispering to each other. Her knowledge of the Infernal language is limited, but she does hear them hiss her name with a dark delight that sends a shiver down her spine.
Ayda follows the path down the side of the pit, passing many doors. Somehow, she knows each door she passes does not contain what she’s looking for. She’s never been here before, not to her memory at least, but her taloned feet seem to know where to go. She strides down the rocky path, channeling confidence from her previous incarnation.
She enters a library. Around a table are quite a number of menacing, imposing creatures. There’s a Devil, towering nearly twelve feet tall with deep, red skin, a fire elemental glaring down at the books that they can’t touch, and a vaguely-humanoid figure entirely enveloped in chains. This terrifying, monstrous group defers to a petite Tiefling girl who stands with her back to the doorway, a great, Infernal bass strapped behind her. Ayda knows her, she recognizes her from behind, even without having met her before.
The enormous Devil nudges Fig, and she looks up at him, then swivels her whole body to look at who has just walked into her personal library. Her sparkling eyes grow wide in surprise, her back straightens.
“Ayda,” Fig gasps. Her eyes dance over Ayda’s form. Ayda looks down at herself and thinks she probably should have changed into nicer clothes.
Ayda can’t help but notice how young Fig looks. She looks much younger than Adaine, perhaps even younger than Ayda. She remembers reading that Fig took the mantle of Archdevil when she was sixteen, and she must have stopped aging at that point.
After a moment, Ayda clears her throat and bows, respectfully. “Figueroth the Infaethable, hello,” she greets, all nerves. “I’m extremely sorry to intrude upon your home without notice.”
Fig takes a couple steps closer, and the idea of Fig standing any closer to her makes Ayda’s heart race. She can feel her hair flaming brighter with embarrassment. “No, no!” Fig shakes her head quickly. “You don’t have to apologize, it’s totally fine. Are you okay?”
“Adaine is missing,” Ayda explains. “I tried to Scry on her, but yielded no results, meaning she is not on the Material Plane. I-. I don’t know anyone else on another plane.”
“Fuck,” Fig whispers. She purses her lips, looks down at her boots, then up at the large Devil. “Do you think it was Fallinel?”
The Devil shrugs. “Maybe,” he concedes. “She said that she’s not on the Material, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t them. It’s definitely the Elven people’s M.O. to send captives to the Astral so they can’t be Scryed on. But would Fallinel want to fuck with the peace they have going with Solace?”
The chains rattle, and it takes Ayda a few moments to realize that the person inside the chains is shaking their head. “The nation of Fallinel isn’t anywhere close to battle-ready,” they say, muffled through their bindings. “It could be a guerrilla faction trying to steal a little prominence.”
“Would you know if she was on this plane?” Ayda chimes in, full of worry for Adaine.
“I would know,” the Devil grunts, and, as Ayda doesn’t know better, she can’t tell he’s being friendly. “I can’t feel her. Hi, by the way. I’m Gorthalax. We met a long, long time ago, it’s good to see you back here, kiddo.”
Ayda’s head swims. She’s been to the Bottomless Pit before, probably with Fig. She’d previously met this Devil, who clearly cares very much for Fig, to help her so devotedly, and made enough of an impression for him to remember her, all these years later. Ayda’s cheeks get hot at the thought.
“Okay,” Fig sighs, her shoulders dropping as she tries to figure out what to do. “Dad, if you could double check, get in touch with the other Archdevils to see if they’ve heard anything. Kaistrana, reach out to Blozo and the other Regnants.”
The fire elemental roars something Ayda can’t understand. Ayda’s not even sure that it’s speaking Infernal. She’s not really paying attention, though, as she’s just realized that the enormous, hulking Devil is, in fact, Fig’s dad. She does notice, however, when Fig, Gorthalax, and the chained person all turn to stare at the elemental.
“Well, first of all, you watch your fucking mouth,” Fig points at the fire elemental. “She’s not the Elven Oracle, she’s everybody’s Oracle, and that includes us.” The fire roars again, a little softer this time, and Fig balks at is, glancing at Ayda before glaring at the elemental. “You’re on some pretty thin fucking ice, dude. I actually like having you around, I think you’re helpful, but I won’t hesitate to dispel you.”
Ayda’s brows raise. “What did it say?” She asks, her head tilting in confusion before she can be embarrassed about her inquisitiveness.
Fig glances as Ayda and flushes, just barely. She looks down to her boots, then shakes her head. “It doesn’t matter,” she says. “You don’t have to worry about it, alright?” Ayda nods her head, trying her hardest not to seem too eager.
Gorthalax pats Fig’s shoulder affectionately. He smiles, very slightly, at Fig. His hand is bigger than Fig’s head, but is endlessly gentle with his daughter. It should be absurd, to see a mountainous Pit Fiend so tender and gentle with someone he loves. “I got your back, baby girl,” he promises softly. Fig smiles back up at him, patting his wrist just as fondly. They let go, and he turns to the other two Hellish creatures, jerking his head toward the door. “Let’s get going, boys.”
“I’m not a boy,” the chained being complains.
“It’s an expression, Kaistrana,” Gorthalax huffs, already stomping out of the manor. “I know you’re not a boy.” The fire elemental roars as it rolls past Gorthalax. “I know there’s nothing cool about misgendering-! I don’t have to explain myself to you! You’re not even a gender!” Their strange argument echoes through the halls of the manor as they leave, the sound of Kaistrana’s chains dragging behind them filling out the sound.
“Have you talked to anyone else?” Fig asks, and Ayda jumps a little at the sound of her voice so close behind her.
Ayda quickly turns to look at Fig and is momentarily speechless. The photographs she’d seen the Bad Kids, all posing together, could never do Fig justice. Seeing her so closely, Ayda understands why her former self used the word ‘beautiful’ for the first time. “I, um,” Ayda stammers, then shakes herself out. “I briefly spoke to the ghost of Zayn Darkshadow, and he was not helpful. I also attempted to contact Fabian on my crystal, but was only able to leave a voicemail.”
Fig nods, and thinks for a moment. “Okay, well, not exactly cool,” she says. “Maybe if you Sending to Fabian, he’ll probably respond. Do you have that spell?”
Ayda nods quickly, almost surprised. “I hadn’t thought to use the Sending spell,” she admits. “You’re very brilliant. I’m going to use the spell now.”
Fig smiles a little, almost fondly, and Ayda has to turn away from the look in order for her heart to not explode in her chest. She had been certain it wasn’t medically possible, but now she is certain that, should Fig continue to smile at her like that, it’s the only course of action for Ayda. She’d happily burst into flame if Fig smiled while she warmed herself. Probably not healthy.
Ayda takes a few moments to count out her words. She has to take a few steps away, just to compose herself as she counts. Eventually, Ayda has gathered herself enough to Sending to Fabian.
“Adaine is missing,” she sends. “Not on the Material or Infernal Planes. I am in the Bottomless Pit with Figueroth. Any assistance is requested.”
She turns back to Fig, who is watching her with wrapt attention. Ayda glances away under her powerful stare, shifting uncomfortably. “I have sent the message to Fabian,” she says, loud and abrupt.
Fig smiles out of the corner of her mouth. “No, yeah, I caught that,” she nods. She rubs at her arm as her eyes dance around the room, as though she is purposefully not trying to look at Ayda. “Sorry if this is weird for you. It’s just been a long time since I’ve seen you. I kind of expected you to be different.” Fig shrugs a little and tries to hide a smile behind her hair, but Ayda catches the look, because she is focused solely on Fig’s expression.
Ayda’s back stiffens slightly, and she frowns to herself. “I am quite different to the incarnation you knew,” she admits, by way of apology.
Fig shakes her head quickly, her feet shuffling like they want to step closer. “No, no,” she says. “That’s not what l meant at all. You’re not, actually. Different, I mean. You’re exactly how I remember you. It’s-. Look, it’s just, I don’t know, it’s really good to see you. Sorry.”
“Why are you sorry?” Ayda asks, her brow furrowing.
Fig sighs, trying to find her words, then chuckles softly to herself. “I have a lot of information you might consider ‘actionable’,” she explains.
Just as Ayda opens her mouth to ask more about said actionable information, she hears Fabian’s voice in her head, and she’s instantly distracted.
“I will join you shortly,” Fabian promises. “We will get Adaine back. I’m glad you’re with Fig.” Somehow, through the Sending spell, Ayda can hear his smirk, and it makes her blush.
“Did Fabian get back to you?” Fig asks.
Ayda turns, but doesn’t trust herself to look at Fig. “Yes,” she says. “He says he will join us and help find Adaine. He also said that he was glad that I am here with you.” She doesn’t know why she said that.
“That little fucker,” Fig huffs, muttering to herself. After a few moments of grumbling, Fig shakes her bangs out of her eyes and straightens her shoulders and looks at Ayda. “I promised a long time ago that I’d always be honest with you, so, just-. I’m also happy you’re here. Okay?”
“Okay,” Ayda says, glancing up at Fig. She quickly looks away. “My heart is beating extremely fast.” Fig laughs a little. “As you have been so honest with me, I can only return the favor. However, I don’t wish to make you uncomfortable.”
Fig shakes her head and takes a step toward her. “No, it’s okay,” she promises. “You’ve never, ever made me uncomfortable. You can tell me anything, I want you to know that.”
Ayda takes a deep breath, and nods, still looking at the stacks of books around them. She can’t bear having to look at Fig while revealing the feelings she’s kept for so long. “Very well,” she says. “I know that my previous incarnation had very strong romantic feelings for you.”
“Oh,” Fig gasps softly.
“I also know things did not work out between you and my former self,” Ayda continues. “The thought makes me extremely sad. I have compared everyone I have ever met to a memory of you that is not mine.”
Because Ayda isn’t looking at her, she misses the way Fig frowns with dismay, her eyes falling closed as she sighs. “Goddamn it,” she whispers. “God fucking damn it, Adaine is gonna be so pissed at me if I do this right now.”
“I’m sorry,” Ayda squeaks, flinching.
“No!” Fig yelps. “No, Ayda. I’m sorry. I’m not mad at you. Ple-. I-. Okay. Just.” She holds up a finger. “Hold on. One sec, okay? Stay right here, I’ll be right back.” Ayda hesitates, glancing up at Fig once or twice, then nods firmly. Where else would she go?
Fig Dimension Doors away, then reappears a minute or two later with a book in her hands. Ayda realizes that any book Fig has that she doesn’t keep in this vast, well-kept library must be very important to her. It’s simply bound, but well-worn. Fig stares down at it for a few moments, her hand brushing over the cover reverently, then extends the book out to Ayda.
“This is some of the actionable information I was talking about a minute ago,” Fig says, holding the book out.
Ayda looks at it for a long moment. “A book,” Ayda states.
Fig nods. “It’s yours,” she says. “It’s for you. Um, you don’t have to read it now. Y’know. Read it when you’re ready, on your own time. Maybe after we rescue Adaine. And when-. When you’re done, I’m gonna be here. And we can talk.” She holds the book a little further out to Ayda with a smile.
After a moment or two, Ayda takes it gingerly, and holds it close to her chest like armor. “Thank you,” she squawks.
“You’re welcome,” Fig smiles.
“I like your library,” Ayda compliments, a little too forcefully. “I didn’t expect such a nice library in Hell, but yours is very nice.”
“Oh, hey, thanks,” Fig says fondly, looking around at the shelves and shelves of ancient volumes. “I had a lot of really awesome help.” She gives Ayda a look that Ayda doesn’t understand.
“I also have a library,” Ayda says, trying her hardest not to let her nerves leak through.
Fig nods and smiles a little wider. “Yeah, the Compass Points,” she says, digging into her pocket. She pulls out a library card with the Compass Points emblem on it. Fig keeps it on her person? “It’s a great library. I hope you know to be proud of it.” She slips the card back into her pocket and aims a finger gun at Ayda with a wink.
Ayda has not been winked at before in this context, and it makes her very flustered. She can feel her hair burn hotter, her wings flutter under Fig’s attention. Before she can descend too far into her own head, she hears the distant boom of a cannon, and feels a rumbling throughout the Pit.
Fig’s shoulders drop, and she rolls her eyes. “Of course he’d call his Papa,” she sighs, trilling annoyingly over the last word. “Baby!”
A little, dripping red imp appears from nowhere behind Fig’s legs and flitters up to her face. “Yes, Mistress?” The imp squeals.
“Hide the silverware, the Captain is coming,” Fig instructs very seriously.
The imp shrieks with some kind of pained delight that Ayda can’t quite understand. “Maybe he’ll kill me!” It screams excitedly as it flies away.
“The Captain?” Ayda asks, her brow furrowed in confusion.
“Captain Seacaster,” Fig explains.
Ayda shakes her head. “Fabian?” She asks, wondering why Fig would refer to her friend by his title.
“Fabian’s dad.” Fig starts to walk towards the door of the library, and Ayda follows closely. “Bill Seacaster is... extreme. And that’s a fucking lot coming from me, you know? He might do or say some stuff that’s gonna be confusing as fuck, but just try to roll with it.”
They walk up the winding path out of the pit and toward the gate. Approaching the pit is a fleet of reanimated beasts, all adorned with sails, flying through the sky. At the lead of the fleet is a great red dragon, bound and gagged to serve as a flagship for the Infernal Captain’s massive command. Near the head of the ship is Fabian, waving to Fig and Ayda. Ayda doesn’t wave back, but Fig is nearly jumping with excitement as she waves wildly. The dragon whimpers in dismay at the sight of their approaching location.
The crew begins the process of docking the ship, and, before it’s fully stopped, Fabian does an insane flip off the bow and uses his sheet to parachute him down. As soon as he’s on the ground, Fig is jumping up to hug him in a ferocious tackle they both laugh through.
“Oh, man,” Fig laughs, unable to contain her joy at their little reunion. “You’re getting old, dude. Look at you.”
“Don’t you dare say it-,” Fabian interjects, but Fig barrels straight through him.
“You’re starting to remind me of Gilear,” Fig beams.
Fabian visibly withers, shuddering. “Fuck off, ugh,” he says, affectionately, hugging her once more, quickly, before turning his attention to Ayda. “Are you okay?” He asks her.
“No,” Ayda says, firmly. “We need to find Adaine. Promptly, if that can be arranged. We were supposed to have dinner. I’m quite hungry, which is not helping matters.”
Fabian smiles a little at her, reaching up to pat her cheek gently before hugging her tightly. Ayda hadn’t realize she’d needed a hug, though, now that she’s in one, she’s grateful for the supportive contact. When Fabian lets go, he calmly pats at his sleeves to smother the embers from where he touched her wings on accident.
With a loud whirring woosh, Old Bill Seacaster descends from the ship with a rope from the rigging, landing with a boom. He is an enormous pirate, as intimidating as he is horrifying. Ayda instantly understands why Leviathan quivers at the very mention of Captain Bill. All the same, he seems glad to be here.
“Fig, me girl!” Captain Bill drawls. “It’s good to see ya, lass.” He extends his enormous claw to her, and she grins gleefully as she taps her fist to it. “I’m glad to see you’ve got your bird back.”
“Okay, no,” Fig says, her smile dropping as she shifts uncomfortably. Ayda’s perception isn’t high enough to notice Fig glancing awkwardly at her. Frankly, Bill Seacaster is so massive and monstrous for being a former-human, Ayda cannot really pull her eyes from his extra arm to notice whatever she’s missing. “That’s not-. No. I appreciate the sentiment, but no.”
“Alright, alright,” Bill concedes, holding all three of his arms up in a show of peacefulness. “Now, I’m understandin’ that y’need to get to another plane.”
“You are able to access another plane?” Ayda interjects, surprised, for some reason.
“Oh, aye, Ms. Aguefort,” Bill nods, sagely, and Ayda stiffens when she realizes he knows her. “The Astral. I and many others use it as a refuge when the waters start to get too hot. I’d be happy to take you there to find Ms. Adaine.”
“Fuck yeah, let’s get to it!” Fig says, amping herself up for whatever comes next. She turns to look at Ayda, an almost bashful look on her face. “Can you fly me up to the ship?”
“Of course I can,” Ayda says, “I’m very strong.” Ayda reaches her hand out to Fig, and Fig takes it. Her fingers are calloused from her bass, and warm, warmer than anyone else’s hand, not that Ayda touches a lot of other hands. Ayda lifts Fig easily into her arms, cradling her close. She wonders if Fig can feel her heart slamming against her rib cage. Her wings extend, and she flies them both up to the deck of the ship with more grace than Ayda has ever been able to muster.
As she puts Fig down gently, not wanting to accidentally hurt her, Ayda realizes something. “You could have Dimention Door’d up here,” she says.
“Well, maybe I just wanted you to hold onto me,” Fig says with a smirk and a wink.
“You’re flirting with me,” Ayda realizes aloud. Fig smiles and nods.
Fabian appears on the deck beside them with a huff. “We simply don’t have time for this right now,” he reprimands.
“If you don’t want me comparing you to Gilear, then maybe you shouldn’t act like you’re my dad,” Fig prods, poking at his bicep. “Gilear Junior over here.”
Fabian swats her hand away and glares at her in a way that is in no way intimidating to Fig. “Stop it,” he hisses, distressed.
“Alright, you mangy bastards!” Bill yells gleefully as he flies back onto his dragon ship, commanding his Hellish crew. “We’re going to the Astral! Posthaste, or it’ll be forty lashings!” He laughs wickedly as the overworked crew pulls off from the Bottomless Pit and back up to the sky of flame.
Ayda looks at Fig, her brow furrowed. “Should we have told your father that we’re leaving?” She asks.
“Nah,” Fig shrugs. “He’s got it.”
“He won’t worry for your absence?” Ayda asks, her head tilting, just slightly.
Fig shakes her head. “He knows what’s up,” she explains, “he’s generally got a pretty high perception and insight. Plus, this used to be his domain, so he knows how to handle things while I’m away.”
Ayda misses the mechanism the infernal pirates use to open a portal to the Astral Plane, but, suddenly, they’re sailing through the air towards a rift in reality. With a shutter of the hull, they enter the Astral. It is nothing how Ayda imagined it, though she’s never spent much time imagining the Astral Plane. She logs all of it away to memory, trying not to focus all of her attention on Fig as they travel inter-dimensionally.
“Now,” Bill Seacaster says, “I may be good at what it is I do, but not even I keep records of all the comings and goings of the Astral. It’s a vast, endless plane. Is there a plan to get the Oracle back that may be slightly better than sailing the Astral for weeks, directionless? I’m happy to do it, but ya may all go a bit stir-crazy here aboard the Goldenrod.”
Fig beams up at Ayda. “I gave the ship the name,” she whispers. “He used to be my vice-principal. Fucking creep.”
Ayda’s brows raise, slightly. Fig is far more impressive than Ayda had previously thought, which is nearly impossible, considering how highly Ayda thought of Fig. There’s so much she doesn’t know, but she wants to. Fig is the most fascinating creature, and it feels like a great honor, just to stand beside her.
“Is there a plan?” Captain Seacaster asks again, his smoldering brows raising expectantly as he looks around between Ayda, Fig, and Fabian.
“I can Scry on her,” Ayda says with a firm nod. “I brought her hairbrush. Even if I see nothing, it will alert me to her presence, or lack thereof, on this plane.”
“Oh, that’s smart!” Fig gasps. “Oh my god. If I were you, I’d be freaking out, like, way more. It’s so cool that you’re so prepared.”
This is alarming to Ayda. She is presently more ‘freaked out’ than she ever has been before. She knows that she can be hard to read, but she didn’t realize that her reaction was not extreme enough. “Should I be freaking out more?” Ayda asks.
“No, no, I’m sorry,” Fig apologizes quickly. “No, just. You’re so even-tempered and focused. If I was looking for my mom or dad, or Gilear, I’d be a wreck. I don’t think I would have traveled through multiple planes in such a small amount of time. I’m just, I don’t know, impressed, I guess.”
“Impressed?” Ayda repeats.
“Yeah, you’re, like, super impressive,” Fig nods, looking away and hiding behind her hair in perhaps the sweetest action Ayda has ever seen. It’s starting to dawn on Ayda that her crush may also have a crush on her back, and that makes her heart race. It cannot possibly be healthy to have such a fluctuating and extreme heart rate.
“I don’t know who Gilear is,” Ayda announces, because she doesn’t know what else to say.
“He’s my dad,” Fig explains. “My other dad. It’s a long story. He’s a Planetar now.”
“I don’t know how that happened,” Fabian scoffs, disdainfully. Ayda had almost forgotten entirely that he was present. Had she not been entirely focused on Fig, she would have noticed him and his father watching gleefully.
“Hey, don’t you pretend like you don’t love Gilear, too,” Fig scolds, her brow furrowed and her finger pointed sternly at Fabian.
Fabian rolls his eyes. “Of course I love Gilear,” he admits, offhandedly, which surprised Ayda, as every mention of this Gilear person leaves him looking somewhat haunted. “Who doesn’t love Gilear? But, you have to admit, it was pretty surprising that he became a Planetar.”
“Gilear was always an angel,” Fig sighs, nostalgically. “Now, it’s canon.”
“I think we can all agree, everyone loves Gilear,” Bill Seacaster nods.
“I’m going to Scry on Adaine now,” Ayda announces, and walks away from a conversation that, while is very enthralling, and perhaps the most interesting conversation Ayda has been privy to, is deeply confusing to her. She takes a moment to pull out one of her spell books and Adaine’s hairbrush, slipping the book she was given into a holster with a little extra room, and casts her spell.
The Scrying spell comes back with nothing, which is more disheartening this time. She’s traveled all this way and called in all these favors to get nothing. She worries at her fingers as she processes that Adaine has not been on any of the three planes that Ayda has been to today. She considers expending an additional spell slot, just to be sure. She decides against it.
She turns back to the group. Only Fig is looking at her, which, somehow, makes her feel both better and worse. “Anything?” Fig asks, a little bit of hopefulness in her voice.
Ayda shakes her head as she walks back over. “She is not on the Astral Plane,” she says.
“Damn,” Fabian sighs.
“A right kick in the teeth,” Captain Seacaster shakes his head sadly.
“Well, there’s other things we can try,” Fig says, trying to bolster their spirits. She looks up and smiles at Ayda with a steady nod. “We’ll find her, okay?” Ayda sucks in a breath, then nods once. “Okay. Awesome. Well. Feels like kind of a waste to gather all the troops for such a quick turnaround.”
“It’s never a waste to see you two lovely ladies,” Old Bill smiles in a way that is vaguely unnerving, but very kind to Ayda. “I had good reason to go to the Astral in the first place. Plus, it’s good to cross a favor off my ledger.” Ayda understands these words, but not their context. She doesn’t like that she does it, but she assumes that means Bill Seacaster owes Fig a series of favors.
“I appreciate your help, Captain Seacaster,” Ayda says.
“Oh, of course,” Bill waves them off, far more tenderly than she would have ever expected an Archdevil pirate could muster.
Fig points at Fabian. “Need a lift back to the Material?” She asks.
Fabian smiles, and puts his hand on his heart. “That would be wonderful, thank you, Fig,” he agrees, touched to be included.
“Dope,” Fig says with a grin.
“I’m out of spell slots to Plane Shift,” Ayda announces.
“Oh, no worries,” Fig shrugs, smiling up at Ayda. “This one’s on me.” She winks at Ayda again, and Ayda feels her cheeks get hotter than usual.
Fig swings her bass around and turns a knob on the front, then plays a series of chords. The sound ripples through Ayda; she’s never heard Fig’s bass in person, only though recordings of old Fig and the Cig Figs songs. She understands the power of rock music as she, Fig and Fabian are transported to the living room of Mordred Manor. The chords echo around them as they shift planes, reverberating in Ayda’s chest as they land back on the Material.
Ayda takes a moment to try and collect herself. It feels wrong, to be in Mordred Manor without Adaine. There’s been a scant few times in her nineteen years that she’s been alone here. All the family photos smiling back at Ayda feel wrong; they shouldn’t smile and be happy if Adaine isn’t here, too.
“Is it possible that Adaine has used the Blink spell to go to the Ethereal Plane?” Fabian asks as he deposits himself onto the couch.
“The Blink spell only lasts a minute,” Ayda says. “Even if she had cast it when I arrived, she would have Blinked back before I Plane Shifted to Hell.”
“Ah,” Fabian nods, understandingly. “That’s good, I wouldn’t want to go, anyhow. Aelwyn is there ninety-nine percent of the time these days, and it always makes for an awkward interaction.”
“I could not take you with me during the Blink spell, even if I utilized a higher spell slot,” Ayda tells him. “Now I don’t know what to do.” Her eyes unfocus as she thinks about all the worst possibilities. Maybe she’s wrong, and her Scrying wouldn’t show her if Adaine is dead. What is she supposed to do without Adaine?
Before she can get too far into her head, Ayda feels a gentle hand on her arm. “Hey, look.” Fig says. Ayda blinks and looks at Fig. “It’s not hopeless. I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. We’ll get Adaine back.”
Ayda nods, trusting Fig with everything in her. “Yes,” she agrees.
“Okay, awesome,” Fig sighs. “I’ve got a spell we can try, but if it fails, I take a bunch of psychic damage and go insane until my next long rest.”
“Oh, fabulous,” Fabian says with a roll of his eyes. Fig makes a face at him.
“I can give you my highest portent roll,” Ayda supplies, not interested in watching Fig go insane.
“That’d be sick!” Fig jumps with a grin. “Thanks, Ayda!” There’s something so tender in Fig’s fiery eyes, a sort of tenderness Ayda’s never been exposed to.
While she’s nearly shaking with nerves, it’s simple as anything for Ayda to give Fig the higher of her daily portents. Their magic connects through the strings of Fig’s bass, vibrating the surrounding air so hard, the sound glows radiantly. Fig’s eyes close as she plays through her spell. It’s incredible to watch. Ayda has to study magic extensively, almost obsessively. To watch a natural master is breathtaking.
“C’mon, buddy,” Fig, whispers, her brow furrowed slightly in concentration. “Answer me, dammit.”
The glow gets a little brighter. The smell of a sunny, creek-side meadow wafts through the sitting room. Fabian sits up a little from his perch on the couch. Three tiny slips of paper appear from nowhere. One slides between the frets of Fig’s bass, one is caught with precision by Fabian, and the third floats with a spin into Ayda’s hand. It’s a business card. It’s gilded and beautiful, with excellent penmanship. It reads ‘Riz “The Ball” Gukgak’, stating, just below, ‘Angelic Private Investigator’.
Before Ayda can ask anything, Fabian is jumping off the couch and looking up into the open air. “The Ball?” He asks, softly, his eyes sparkling with emotion.
“Greetings and salutations, friends,” a voice says, and in the middle of the room, a golden silhouette appears.
“Riz!” Fig sighs, smiling softly as she opens her eyes. “Fuck yeah! Okay, no more asking questions. We only get a couple, and I think that counted as one.” She points at Fabian and he scoffs.
“The Ball, have you seen Adaine?” Fabian asks, blatantly ignoring Fig’s instruction.
“Yes,” Riz’s voice rings out, very clearly.
This is not clear enough for Ayda. Of course Riz Gukgak has seen Adaine, they were best friends nearly all of Riz’s life. Ayda can’t help but frown.
“Okay, that’s good!” Fig says, nodding excitedly. “Have you seen her today?”
“Yes,” Riz repeats again, and Ayda’s heart picks up. She’s never met Riz before; he passed before she was reborn. She’s heard enough stories, though, and Ayda knows that he works for Heaven doing spy reconnaissance with his family. It sounds like one of the coolest things Ayda’s ever heard. Knowing that Adaine is with him soothes Ayda. At least she knows where she is. Heaven is not a bad place to be.
“Is she alright?” Ayda asks, bursting into the conversation with the celestial, remorseless.
“Yes,” Riz confirms, just like before, and Ayda sighs softly. “Home soon.” Though the phrase is clearly stunted, Ayda is able to understand what he means. He’ll return Adaine home soon, completely unharmed.
“Was she helping you with a case?” Fig asks.
There’s a slight pause, then a singular word that rings out between them. “Redacted,” Riz says, and Fig snickers at the response.
“That is not a helpful response, The Ball,” Fabian complains, his hands on his hips. He frowns at the golden air. For a moment, Ayda swears she can hear laughter from the light before it fades.
Ayda quickly recounts the interaction. “We were awarded five questions,” she says.
Fig nods as she takes a deep breath and flips her bass around to her back. “Exactly. That’s how the spell works,” Fig confirms. She turns to stare at Fabian, her eyes narrowing. “Someone had to waste one of our freakin’ questions asking if it was really Riz, like someone else is gonna use his business card.”
Fabian huffs with frustration. “Wh-, I wanted to be sure!” He complains. “You definitely should’ve led with the ‘limitations on questions’ aspect of this scenario.”
“I did! Ugh.” Fig rolls her eyes at her old friend, then turns back to face Ayda. “I didn’t forget that you said you were hungry,” she says, and Ayda is touched that Fig remembered. “I’m not the best cook in the world, but I can probably put something together.”
“I can help you,” Ayda says, eagerly. “I am also not great at cooking, but I would be happy to assist.”
“I’ll go ahead and leave you both to it,” Fabian says, lounging further into the old couch, looking oddly at-home for being in a home he’s never lived in.
While Ayda is glad to hear that Fabian won’t be there for her alone time with Fig, she momentarily panics at the idea that there will be no buffer during her alone time with Fig. While the dreamy, partly-insane part of Ayda that’s been picking out their nuptial formalwear since she was fifteen is jumping at the chance to really know Fig, the rational Ayda, which happens to be most of her, is terrified. She’s so afraid of doing something wrong and having Fig think she’s weird. What if Ayda chops off her finger and Fig stops having a maybe-crush on her? Terrible.
Fig meanders over to the kitchen like she’s been here a million times. It dawns on Ayda that Fig has been here, probably more than a million times. Fig used to live here. Fig’s mother and Adaine’s adoptive father bought Mordred Manor together, and half of the Bad Kids moved in shortly thereafter. Fig lived here long before Ayda did. After Jawbone left the manor to Adaine, she kept up his vision, giving all kinds a home when they need it. Ayda knew that some of the mishmash decor had been in the house since Adaine moved in, but she hadn’t realized that it might have been Fig to put it there.
Unaware of Ayda’s inner turmoil, Fig digs through the kitchen. When Ayda enters, she sees Fig squatted in front of the fridge, shoulder-deep in the produce. “There is an absurd amount of horseradish in here,” she says, having heard Ayda enter.
“Adaine says it reminds her of her youth,” Ayda recalls.
Fig snorts. “Crab parties,” she snickers, emerging from the fridge with various root vegetables. “Arguably the most influential thing the Bad Kids ever did.” She hoists the ingredients onto the counter, washing them quickly in the sink.
“I always thought the defeat of Kalvaxus was particularly impressive,” Ayda admits, moving to get a cutting board and a knife to help how she can.
“Goldenrod!” Fig grins, pointing a carrot at Ayda. “You just met him!”
For a moment, Ayda’s brain can’t reconcile those statements. “The ship?” She asks, her head tilting.
“Yeah!” Fig nods.
“The Emperor of the Red Waste was the Vice-Principal at my father’s Adventuring Academy,” Ayda recaps for herself, “and then was turned into an Infernal pirate ship for Bill Seacaster.”
“Exactly,” Fig smiles, “you get it.”
“I do not,” Ayda says. “But that makes the feat no less impressive. Actually, it makes it more impressive. You’re very cool.”
Fig smiles in a way Ayda could only describe as shy, or at least her closest approximation to it. Fig is not one to get shy. However, the expression is extremely endearing to Ayda. She likes the idea that she put that expression on Fig’s beautiful face. “You’re very cool,” Fig mumbles from behind her hair. Ayda lights up inside.
They end up making spaghetti and small talk. It’s quite rare that Ayda finds someone who is willing to socialize with her. Fig never makes her feel as though she’s fumbling her words, and always explains exactly what she means to Ayda. It’s refreshing, and almost overwhelming. She feels seen. Based solely on how they interact through the dinner-making process, it feels like a practiced dance, as though they’ve done this a million times. She tries not to think about the book Fig gave her. She wants to read it immediately. It would not be polite to accidentally spill spaghetti sauce onto such a precious gift.
As they finish up making dinner, a loud clamor comes from the sitting room. With her defenses already raised, Ayda leaps into the air and flies into the next room, her wings tucked behind her for speed. Fabian is already on his feet, sheet and sword at the ready. Ayda feels Fig run in just behind her.
The entire room shakes with powerful magic. Frames of artwork and photographs rattle from their wall hangings. The furniture trembles, but doesn’t move. The room fills with bright, radiant light, so bright that Ayda has to shield her eyes. A moment later, the light is gone, and Adaine and Riz stand in the middle of the room.
Before Ayda can process this information at all, Adaine rushes forward and hugs her tightly. “I’m so sorry!” Adaine apologizes. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“I thought you were in trouble,” Ayda says, hugging Adaine back.
Adaine chuckles softly. “I’m okay,” she promises, pulling back to smile up at Ayda. “I would have contacted you if there was any trouble.”
Ayda nods her head once, then looks over to Fabian, who has Riz up in his arms in a tight hug. Riz is laughing as Fabian swings him back and forth. “It is so good to see you, The Ball!” Fabian says, his voice full of emotion.
Ayda knows that Riz was the first of the Bad Kids to pass away; goblins don’t have a very high life expectancy. He lived a long, full life, and accomplished many impressive feats, but it has still been many years since he was buried in the Cravencroft Cemetery. Ayda realizes that this is the first time that Fabian has seen his best friend since he passed. It’s very sweet to behold. What’s sweeter is the sight of Fig impatiently waiting for her turn to hug Riz after having squeezed Adaine ferociously.
Riz pulls back from his hug with Fabian, then leaps into Fig’s arms. She lets out a tinkling, joyful laugh as she hugs him tightly. As they hug, Fabian reaches out and hugs Adaine, too, mumbling something into her hair. Adaine hugs Fabian a little tighter before letting him go.
Ayda is a little starstruck in this moment. Despite their negative moniker, these adventurers once made up most of the greatest heroes Spyre has ever had. Their schoolday victories are mere footnotes compared to what adventures they had to go on to save the world as adults. Ayda has met her fair share of great heroes in this lifetime, but they all have so much reverence for Adaine, and with good reason. To stand with most of the Bad Kids in what is essentially their lair is a little nerve-wracking to say the least.
However, when Riz smiles at Ayda and extends his hand to her, she feels a little better. All four of them smiling at her makes her feel like she belongs. She takes Riz’s hand and shakes it with a smile of her own. “Hello,” Ayda greets. “It is an honor to meet you. I have heard many stories about you.”
Riz grins a little wider and holds her hand firmly for a moment. “It’s good to see you, Ayda,” he says as he lets go. “You look awesome, as usual.”
Ayda blushes, and can’t help but linger on how weird of a day this has been for her, personally speaking. Her adoptive mother goes missing, she tries an extremely difficult spell for the first time, meets her celebrity crush, travels inter-dimensionally with said crush, made dinner with her, and she met another personal hero. Definitely the strangest few hours she’s had.
“Fig and I made spaghetti,” she announces.
Fig nods eagerly with a smile. “Yeah,” she confirms, “you guys got awesome timing.”
“Do you still eat, The Ball?” Fabian asks, his brow furrowing.
Riz snorts. “I’m not missing out on spaghetti night at Mordred,” he teases, jumping down from Fig’s arms. “I’ll help set the table.”
“Oh, stop it, Riz,” Adaine waves him off, already on her way to the kitchen. “You’re a guest, you don’t have to help.”
“I think I was here more than I was at my own house when I was alive,” Riz recalls.
“Yes, but you haven’t been here since you died, which makes you a guest,” Fabian says.
“You are a guest,” Ayda tells Fabian, because, as far as she’s aware, Fabian has never lived at Mordred Manor.
“Exactly, you don’t see me rushing to set the table,” Fabian shrugs.
“You could help,” Adaine complains. “You basically live here when you’re actually in town, it’d be nice if you helped out.”
“Wh—, why?” Fabian asks. “Do you need money?”
“Not all help is financial help, dude,” Riz calls from the kitchen.
Fig laughs, bright and loud, as she watches all her friends together. She turns her gaze to Ayda, who straightens under her watchful eye. “Crazy to see everyone but us getting old,” she sighs, shaking her head with a smile.
Ayda clears her throat. “Adaine looks young,” she points out, because it’s the only thing she can think of.
Fig snorts. “Yeah, maybe,” she reluctantly agrees, “but she’s been acting like an old lady since forever.” Adaine walks past the doorway into the kitchen with both of her middle fingers extended to Fig. Fig blows her a kiss with her own middle finger before she turns back to Ayda. “You coming?”
Ayda nods eagerly, and realizes she’d have the same reaction no matter where Fig is headed. She follows Fig into the kitchen and watches from the doorway as Riz puts silverware and napkins around the kitchen table. Adaine scoops pasta and sauce onto plates and Mage Hands them carefully to the table. Fabian has already plopped down into the seat he always occupies when he’s at the table. Riz sits down in the chair beside Fabian, the two of them already excitedly chatting to each other.
Fig sits next, and looks at Ayda with a smile as she pulls out the open seat beside her. “Come sit,” she calls over.
Ayda stands a little straighter, then goes to sit beside Fig with a small smile of her own. It’s a strange experience, to be so nervous and so comfortable at once. As Adaine joins the table with the last plate of food, Ayda is struck by how familiar this all feels. She smiles to herself as she looks down at the meal she and Fig made together.
Later that night, after Riz returned to Heaven and Fabian returned to his own house, after Fig played a chord on the piano and it flipped into a bed, Ayda goes back to her quarters at the Compass Points and cracks open the book Fig gave her. It’s in the hand of Ayda Four, her most recent incarnation.
“It seems irrational or silly to even start writing this journal,” the first entry reads, “but what has captured my focus doesn’t belong in my current tome for future incarnations of myself. All previous notes have been written extremely meticulously and academically. My attention feels more deeply personal than anything else that has been written thus far. As my new friends might say, it’s not the same vibe. A separate journal seems to be the logical answer, though it feels quite silly.
“I have never written about my feelings before. I have never been asked to describe them, therefore it is proving quite difficult for me to appropriately dictate. This journal is partly an exercise, practice for when my new friends ask me about my feelings. I understand that is a thing friends do.
“Truthfully, I’ve decided to keep this journal because this is a new experience, perhaps throughout my many lives. My heart has never raced at the sight of a person who wasn’t my enemy. When Figueroth looks at me and says she thinks I’m cool, it feels like my heart may explode. This feeling is significant enough that it feels worth documenting. Perhaps this is all fruitless, and my new Solisian friends forget about me.
“While the friendship is a lovely feeling, it is not why I am penning this journal. I write in this book about Fig Faeth. She is what is called a rockstar, and carries around a bass guitar through which she channels her power. She can turn herself into anyone she’s seen, very impressive magic. She has the prettiest, most expressive eyes I have ever seen. Her hair smells like fire and flowers, and has a little bit of purple in it. She is kind and fierce. I am in love with her.
“I have not been in love before, but this feeling is extremely easy to identify. How I feel for her is far more extreme than how I feel for her companions, even my best friend, Adaine. This is how I know it’s love. I have not broached this subject with her. Every time I try, I get too nervous, and the words refuse to come out of my mouth.
“Fig and I had a sleepover in Gorgug’s amazing vehicle. She was so captivating and wonderful. I wanted to kiss her the entire time. Sometimes, she looks at me like she might feel the same, but that is not an assumption I am willing to make. I have had no verbal confirmation that my feelings for Figueroth are reciprocated. The idea of rejection makes it feel as though my digestive system is trying to envelop my heart, which should be impossible. I understand that such is the nature of love.”
There are hundreds of entries. Ayda reads about traveling to Arborly, in Sylvare, with the Bad Kids. She reads about sneaking away from a party with Fig, and their first kiss, and the many kisses they shared that night. She reads about Ayda Four’s inner turmoil about whether or not their kisses mean they are girlfriends, and then about Fig confirming that, yes, they are, in fact, girlfriends. After that, Ayda exclusively refers to her as, ‘my paramour, Figueroth’. Every single time Ayda reads that, her heart stutters.
She keeps waiting for the part where it ends, when Fig realizes that Ayda isn’t what she wants, for the moment where Ayda says the wrong thing too many times and Fig leaves, but it never comes. They grow into powerful figures at each other’s side. They fall deeply in love, more and more everyday. They become an unstoppable team. Ayda reads all about how she told Gorthalax, Sandra Lynn, and Gilear about her intention to marry their daughter, making a point to say that she did not need their blessing, but they readily give it, anyway.
Ayda reads about how she got down on one knee, and Fig skateboarded away, only to return shortly thereafter with a ring of her own, one she’d been holding onto for weeks. Apparently, Fig had asked Garthy O’Brien for their blessing, but pointedly did not ask Arthur Aguefort for his. They married in an ornate but intimate ceremony, and lived happily ever after.
Ayda lived to be quite old with Fig, the two of them going on many, many adventures together, exploring the world and learning magic. In the extremely infrequent times they fought, Ayda was torn to bits, but never gave up on Fig, just as Fig never gave up on Ayda, and they always made up mere hours later. When they weren’t adventuring, they split their time between the Bottomless Pit and the Compass Points Library. They were happy. Even when situations were sub-optimal, they were always made better by Fig’s presence.
Ayda spends the entire night reading through the journal, rereading passages that are particularly touching. She’s completely immersed in the tome. Every story she reads, she can feel her brain trying to find the neural pathway, to find the memory she doesn’t have, but she can feel. They’re her memories now, she’s inherited them from her previous self.
The last passage is from the date wherein she was reborn into this incarnation. Writing the passage very well could have been the last thing Ayda Four did before becoming this Ayda.
“If you are ever lost, find Figueroth,” the incarnation wrote. “If you have read to this point, you know the love we share is as undying as we are. She will always help you, regardless of if that task is gargantuan or minuscule. She will always explain what you don’t understand, and hold your hand when you’re uncomfortable. She is the best part of my life, and I know she will be the best part of yours.”
She’d spent so long thinking that she and Fig didn’t work out. She’d been sure that Fig’s tenderness towards her today had just been kindness, not interest. Now, Ayda knows that’s not the truth. Fig looked at her that way because Ayda is her wife, her love. She looked at Ayda with tenderness, and hid sweetly behind her hair, because of the memories of the life they shared. Now that Ayda has a little more context, she’s starting to understand that those looks, those winks, are indications that Fig may want to share a life with Ayda again. Fig still loves Ayda; even if she loves a memory, that’s enough for Ayda. She thinks that could be a good place to restart. She can be brave enough to talk to Fig; if she waits, she could lose her opportunity.
Ayda flings herself through her magic door back to Mordred Manor, and quickly notices that it is extremely early in the morning. The sun has not yet begun to rise into the sky. Adaine might be out of her trance by now. Ayda doesn’t know if Fig sleeps, an oversight in her research. It would be extremely rude to wake Fig up in order to profess undying love.
The manor is quiet and still in the early morning. Not even the house specters stir. Birds chirp softly outside the windows as the sun just begins to peek up over the horizon. As Ayda debates leaving to get a bouquet of flowers, she enters the kitchen to find the beautiful Archdevil sitting at the table with a cup of coffee.
“Hey!” Fig smiles, visibly brightening as Ayda enters.
Ayda blushes and stops at the doorway, staring at Fig bashfully. “Good morning,” she says. “You’re still here.”
Fig nods. “Yeah, I am,” she says. “Is that okay?”
Ayda is surprised that Fig would ask such a question. “Of course,” she says, perhaps too eagerly. “I’m extremely glad you’re still here.”
“Oh,” Fig gasps with a small smile. “Awesome. Um. So, how’d you sleep?”
“I did not,” Ayda admits easily, unable to be anything but honest, especially with Fig. “I was up all night reading the journal I gave to you to give to me.”
Fig’s eyes grow wide as she absorbs that information. “Right,” she squeaks. “What’d-. Uh. What did you think of it?”
“It was very informative,” Ayda says. “I was not aware that you and I were wives. ‘Are’ wives? ‘Were’? I don’t know which verb tense is most appropriate here. At one point, you and I had a wedding to each other.”
“Yeah,” Fig nods in agreement, a small, dreamy smile on her face, “I was there, it was sick. Sick as in good, not like everyone got food poisoning and puked everywhere.”
Ayda nods, understandingly. She knows, she just read all about their wedding. It was perhaps the most incredible wedding of all time, though Ayda may be biased. She wonders, for a moment, if there are any pictures of the event. “Did you like being married to me?” Ayda asks.
Fig smiles and leans a little closer, probably unaware she’s doing it. “I loved it, it’s the fucking best,” she says, dreamily. “Before, I thought it would be so lame to be married to one person forever, but every day with you was better than the last.”
Ayda looks down at her feet sadly. “I am not like the Ayda you married,” she admits, sadly. “I am not brave or wise like she was.”
“Hey,” Fig says, her chair scraping on the kitchen floor as she gets up to cross the room to take one of Ayda’s hands between both of hers. “Yesterday, you went to Hell without hesitation to get your best friend back. That’s brave as shit. And you’re definitely wise. Ayda-. Will you look at me?” Ayda quickly looks up to meet Fig’s eyes. “You’re not exactly the Ayda I married, but you’re still Ayda. You’re still logical and sweet and wicked fucking cool. You still read lighting fast and worry about if you said the right thing. You’re the same Ayda I fell in love with. Basically, the only difference I can see is your haircut.”
Ayda doesn’t know what to say. She did not expect the resplendent Figueroth the Infaethable to say anything of the sort. She stares at Fig, wide-eyed and slack-jawed. “I have loved you since I first heard stories about you,” she whispers. It slips out before she even knows what she’s saying.
Fig beams up at Ayda. “Fuck yeah,” Fig sighs. She reaches up and pulls Ayda down for a soft kiss. As soon as their lips touch, Ayda’s hair flairs up. Her breath catches. Her brain basically shuts down. Fig is kissing her. Though Ayda just spent the last several hours reading thousands of descriptions of kisses with Fig, nothing could have prepared her for the real thing.
Fig pulls back an inch and opens her eyes. Ayda sees the reflection of her fiery eyes agains Fig’s. She looks so happy. Ayda can’t believe she gets to see it so close. She wraps her arms around Fig and holds her with no intention of letting her go. “Incredible,” Ayda whispers, because it’s the only thought she has. Fig grins so widely, and presses their foreheads together.
“Can I kiss you again?” Ayda asks.
When Fig nods, their noses brush softly. “Any time,” she says. “Blanket permission. You don’t have to ask.”
Ayda takes that blanket permission and immediately kisses Fig. They fall into each other. Some timeless amount of time that is altogether too short for Ayda passes, and Adaine walks into the kitchen.
“Hey, is there coffee goi— oh!” Adaine jumps as she realizes she walked in on Ayda and Fig making out in the middle of the kitchen. “Oh, wow. Okay. Jeez.” She turns away slightly as Fig and Ayda inch apart, trying to smooth themselves out. Ayda catches Fig sneaking little peeks at her as she tries to glance at Fig. She doesn’t want to look away, and she also doesn’t want to make Adaine uncomfortable. An interesting conundrum, to be sure. “Didn’t think you’d get to this point so quickly, but stranger things have happened, I guess.”
Ayda purses her lips in an attempt to smother a goofy, exuberant smile. “Fig and I were married,” she says, because it truly is the only topic on her mind.
“Yes, I know,” Adaine says, an odd, unfamiliar expression on her face. “I was your maid of honor.” Ayda very quickly and quietly casts Ayda’s Comprehend Subtext, and understands that Adaine is pretending to be annoyed, but is doing an extremely bad job. Adaine is happy for them. Ayda is endlessly pleased by this update. Adaine walks past them and reaches into the cupboard for her coffee mug.
Fig clears her throat as she gathers her bearings. “We don’t have to lead with that,” she says, smiling amusedly around her words. “Marriage is a lot of pressure before we’ve had our second first date.”
“Right,” Ayda nods. “Of course. That would be weird.”
“Only a little,” Fig shrugs, “and I happen to like weird.”
“This is cute, but I’d like to have my coffee without throwing up, please,” Adaine says without looking at either of them.
Fig snickers to herself, but Ayda blushes. It is quite embarrassing to be caught making out by one’s best friend slash parental figure. Ayda purses her lips as she looks down to the ground, trying to hide herself. Fig reaches up and takes her hand. While her heart races, Ayda is soothed.
“I have to get back to the Pit sometime soon,” Fig says, a little sadly. “Learned my lesson about staying away too long the hard way. We were sort of right in the middle of some pretty important Hell business when you came in.” She must see the slight panic on Ayda’s face at the idea that she interrupted something crucial. “It’s okay! Don’t freak out, it’s all totally okay. I’d drop anything to help you, or whatever.” She rolls her eyes at her own sentimentality. “It’s okay that you came, it’s always okay. But I do have to get back soon.”
“Understandable,” Ayda nods, reassured. “I can imagine that running a ring of Hell is a difficult task, though I’m sure you excel at it.” There has been no evidence to suggest to Ayda that Fig is anything but exceptional.
Fig shrugs and blushes. “Well, everyone has good days and bad days, y’know,” she deflects. “I’m not perfect, but Hell generally rewards that, so.”
“Incorrect,” Ayda shakes her head. “You are perfect.” She means it earnestly.
Fig, somehow, gets even pinker. “Oh my god, stop it,” she says through a broad smile. “Not in front of your mom.”
“Adaine is not my mom,” Ayda says. “My mother is a Phoenix. But you’re right, Adaine has requested we don’t flirt in her presence.”
“Thank you, Ayda,” Adaine says as she sits down at the kitchen table.
“Wait, don’t sit down yet,” Fig complains, letting go of Ayda’s hand to go over to the table and tug on the sleeve of Adaine’s ancient sleep sweatshirt from Astral State University. “I’m gonna go soon, let me hug you.”
Adaine rolls her eyes and does not succeed in hiding her smile as she gets up from the table to be snatched into a tight hug by her best friend. Adaine grunts under the force in which Fig hugs her. While Ayda smiles as she watches, because it’s unbearably sweet to see Adaine be squeezed half to death, Ayda can’t help but feel a little sad. She knows that she’s the reason that Fig and Adaine haven’t seen each other in nearly twenty years. They stayed away from each other so things wouldn’t be weird for Fig or Ayda. She doesn’t want to get in the way of anymore time, and watches as Fig shakes Adaine with tight affection.
“Don’t be a stranger,” Adaine tells Fig as they hug tightly.
Fig snorts. “Yeah, you say that now,” she teases as she pulls back to look at Adaine, “but then you’ll be like, ‘Fig, you have your own level of Hell, why don’t you go live there?’ You’ll be so sick of me stealing your coffee and crystal WiFi.”
“Yeah, but I’ve had a long time without it, so it’ll take a while before the charm wears off,” Adaine grins right back. “Tell your dad I say, ‘hi’. Tell him I tried that apple crumble recipe he gave me and it was incredible.”
“I know, right?” Fig gasps. “He’s gotten really into bread lately. He had me learn a whole-ass spell to contact Kristen for tips on how to care for his sourdough starter.”
“That is so adorable,” Adaine grins.
Ayda has great difficulty imagining the Pit Fiend she’d met yesterday baking desserts as a hobby, though she had eaten some of the apple crumble Adaine referred to, and it was excellent. She figures that surprising talents must be genetic.
“Catch ya later, loser,” Fig says, her voice warm as she salutes Adaine with two fingers.
“Love you, too,” Adaine says fondly, hearing the meaning of her friend’s heart through her words.
Fig turns away from Adaine and toward Ayda. Instinctually, Ayda holds her hand out to her. Fig smiles so widely, taking the hand extended to her readily. Seeing their hands outstretched to each other, Ayda notices how small Fig’s hand is in her own.
Wanting to be respectful of Adaine’s morning routine, Ayda and Fig move into the parlor hand-in-hand. “As troublesome as yesterday’s events were, I’m extremely glad I had the opportunity to meet you,” Ayda says, smiling softly down at Fig. How can so much might and splendor fit into one so small?
“I’m so happy that there’s a part of you that knew you could always ask me for help,” Fig admits quietly. “I’m glad we got a little mini-adventure before we got our kisses in.”
“It was a true delight to travel planes with you,” Ayda nods. “I know that I likely did not appear to feel that way, but I was glad you were there. I know it is a cliche, but, truthfully, it always felt like I was missing something. When you reassured me that all was not lost, that feeling of incompleteness was not present, and I was distinctly aware of that fact. Adaine used to tell me stories about the adventures of the Bad Kids, and your stories were always my favorite.”
Fig smiles so widely up at Ayda. “I missed you, too,” she says, almost bashfully. “There was, like, an embarrassing amount of times where I turned to tell you something and remembered that you didn’t know me yet.”
“I would very much like to hear anything you want to tell me,” Ayda says, eagerly.
“Awesome,” Fig agrees.
“Very awesome,” Ayda nods.
“Well,” Fig lingers, her eyes darting around for an excuse to stick around, “I should probably go.”
Ayda frowns. “Terrible,” she says. “Your presence is preferable to your absence by a considerable amount.”
“I know, I wish I could just hang out at Basrar’s with you all day,” Fig nods, squeezing Ayda’s hand tightly. “How about, I come to the Compass Points tomorrow and take you on a real date? We could go to the Gold Gardens, take a little walk around Gibbety Square. Whatever you want.”
“I would like that very much,” Ayda beams, excitedly. “Perhaps you might show me around your domain. It looked extremely fascinating, from what little I saw of it.”
“Oh, well, thank you!” Fig says, brightly. “I like it. It’s definitely grown on me, anyway. It’s tight as fuck to have a dominion, but the fighting, screaming souls can be a bit much sometimes.”
Ayda nods in agreement. “I understand,” she says, “Leviathan also has a lot of fighting and screaming. I wish you didn’t have to go.”
Fig smiles fondly at Ayda. “I don’t want you to get sick of me yet,” she teases.
“Impossible,” Ayda shakes her head with confidence. “That would never happen.”
Fig smiles, sighs dreamily, then wraps her arms around Ayda’s middle and hugs her tightly. Ayda melts into her, resting her head on top of Fig’s, being careful to mind her horns. Her wings wrap around them protectively. Fig seems unfazed by the heat and fire, and Ayda realizes that she’s an Archdevil; even if Ayda’s wings brush against Fig’s soft skin, she won’t be burned. The idea of Fig being able to run her fingers through Ayda’s hair has the Half-Phoenix sweating.
After a long moment, Fig slowly pulls back enough to look up at Ayda. “I feel like a kid all over again,” Fig says, beaming up at Ayda with so much happiness it practically rolls off of her. It’s infectious, and Ayda can’t help but smile back. “I know I’m repeating myself, but I’m just so damn happy to see you, Ayda.”
Ayda’s cheeks are starting to hurt from how hard she’s been smiling, as she smiled the whole time she read the journal Fig gave her. The ache is worth it, though. Ayda had no idea she could feel quite so exuberant. “I am happy to see you, as well,” she agrees. “I am disappointed that you have to go, but that is overwhelmed by my excitement for the next time I get to see you.”
“Fuck yeah,” Fig nods. “Same. The only reason I’m so pressed to go is so that I can come and see you faster.”
“That is extremely sweet,” Ayda blushes. Her wings fold back against her as Fig slowly detaches herself from around Ayda. Ayda reaches into one of her wings and plucks a feather. She holds the feather out to Fig. “Should you ever need me, hold this, and call my name, and I will be there.”
Fig’s eyes sparkle delightfully, gasping softly as she looks at the feather. “You gave me one before,” she remembers fondly, tucking her hair behind her ear to show off an earring with a fiery feather dangling from a delicate chain.
“Do you not want this one?” Ayda asks, not understanding why this is relevant, though it is wonderful to see that Fig holds her memory so closely.
“No, I do!” Fig insists, carefully taking the feather. “I’m, like, so honored. Plus, I’ll finally have a match for my favorite accessory. Thank you, Ayda. I’m not going to rip out my ear cuff. I mean, I could, if you want me to.”
Ayda furrows her brow. “You don’t have to do that,” she says, “it sounds extremely painful.”
Fig nods, and shrugs. “Yeah, kinda,” she agrees.
“Although, it would be useful to Scry on you,” Ayda says, thoughtfully. The benefits to not outweigh the negatives. She quickly shakes the thought off. “Please, do not rip out your ear cuff. I am an adept wizard, I trust in my ability to find you.”
“Okay!” Fig chirps, a smile on her face. “I’ll get you a better present for our first date.” Fig winks up at Ayda. Ayda can’t help but blush under Fig’s gaze. Will she ever get used to Fig winking at her? Hopefully, she’ll never find out, and Fig will keep giving her these gestures forever. “By the Nine Hells and the beard of Arthur Aguefort, I’ll see you again. That’s my vow.”
Ayda’s heart thunders in her chest, and she knows that Fig will keep this vow. “Incredible,” she murmurs, because it’s all she can think to say. Fig is the most incredible person she knows. “You’re so cool.”
“You’re cool,” Fig says, shrugging deferentially. Being viewed as cool by likely the coolest person to have ever existed is a great honor in Ayda’s view. Fig’s hand reaches out to brush shyly against Ayda’s sleeve. “I’m just stalling now. I have to go.” Her hands drop to her sides and she forces herself a step back.
Before Fig can go too far, Ayda captures her hand and takes a step closer. She kisses Fig’s knuckles, soft and reverent. She meet Fig’s eyes as she slowly drops her hand and smiles at her. “Goodbye, Figueroth,” she says. “I will see you tomorrow.”
“Oh my fucking god,” Fig whispers to herself, poorly trying to hide a giddy grin. Ayda would do anything to see that look again. “I will see you tomorrow.” Fig gives a definitive nod as she takes a few steps backwards and swings her bass around. She gives Ayda one last smile before playing an incredible, complicated sequence on her guitar and disappears with a fiery boom.
Ayda takes a moment to collect herself before she goes back into the kitchen. She wordlessly sits down at her favored seat, folding her hands together as her mind quickly races through the last several hours. Overwhelming, to say the least, though not in a bad way. She almost feels like she’s falling, but she knows she has wings. Exhilarating.
“You look happy, Ayda,” Adaine says, and Ayda sees that she’s smiling softly. “I don’t want to embarrass you, but I always knew that you had a crush on her.”
“You’re very intelligent, I admire that about you very much,” Ayda says. “If I may, I’d like to borrow your insight.”
“Of course!” Adaine chirps happily.
“As you are aware, my previous incarnation was married to Fig quite happily for many years,” Ayda explains. “Fig and I just kissed for a very long time, and she told me I was cool and that she still loves me. Does this mean we are girlfriends or wives?”
Adaine snorts, erupting into giggles. “Are you going to ask me that exact question every single time you and Fig kiss for the first time?” She laughs.