Episode 35

Standing under the covered porch of the two story house, Deedri, Modoran, Trakenthin, and Tassilda idle and half heartedly observe. One small camera crew maintains a distance off to the side, capturing the group waiting on the wooden deck. A young fvalian man steadies a camera on his other shoulder with a shrug, and a young fvalian woman glances over with a smile on her face, adjusting levels on an audio recorder. With an amused eye roll, the older man behind and between the two aims a shotgun mic overhead on boom towards the porch area. Under the attention of the cameras, Deedri presents a cheery exterior, occasionally wavering. With hands in his pockets, Modoran leans upon the house front nonchalantly and eases a bored sigh out. Trakenthin crosses his muscular arms and stoically stares out, traces of irritation twitching his eye. Placing her hands firmly on her hips, Tassilda glares out a beam of contempt to targets in front of her. She mumbles, barely audible to the rest of the nearby team. "I do NOT like the feeling I'm getting about this."

Out in the front yard, the majority of the swarming recording crews position themselves around Chad and Veevi. Walking confidently towards the black, dented sports utility vehicle, Chad steps around the front on the driver's side and flashes a bright, signature smile at a camera with a smug flit of the brow. Veevi energetically skips over to the passenger's side of the vehicle, excitedly bouncing her long, pink hair across her tight fitting shirt. Opening the large door, she sneaks a playful wink at the nearest camera and guides the short haired tail poking out of her skin tight shorts into her hands. Hopping up into the seat, she plops down and lands with a prominent shake of the body. Settling into the driver's seat, Chad closes his door, places his keys into the ignition, and grants the rest of the awaiting team a simple acknowledging wave. Deedri and Modoran return the gesture, similar effort given. Trakenthin and Tassilda stare unmoved, leveling vague disapproval back at Chad across the yard. Veevi closes her door, and Chad starts the engine. Chad and Veevi strike up a conversation within the confines of the cab, recording crews shifting focus through the windows. Moments later, attention from all outside gradually wander towards the back of the black sports utility vehicle. Flicking her furry, tufted ears away, Deedri blinks her auburn eyes in surprise and squints curiously. "Um, does anyone else see that strange-"

With sinister amusement, Tassilda light blue on black eyes spring open, and a short, wicked grin cracks on her gray face. "I DO. Is THAT... YOUR handiwork?"

Snapping her glance over towards Tassilda, Deedri quickly shakes her head of tied back multicolor hair in wide eyed shock. "What?! OH! NO! Of course not!"

A smirk creeps from the corner of Trakenthin's mouth, and he scrutinizes Deedri expectantly. "If it is yours... Claim it."

Defiant embarrassment wells up on Deedri's fair face, and she grits her sharp teeth defensively. "I would NOT do such a thing!"

Furrowing her brow, she glances between the assembled team on the covered porch dismissively. "I wouldn't have had time anyway. I've been busy making potions and other supplies."

Deedri crosses her arms upon her apron and straightens her posture, projecting her resolve. Modoran snorts out a few fits of laughter, and his cool exterior cracks at the sight of Deedri next to him. "It's okay. I believe you. Truth be told, something like this would actually be my thing."

Tilting his head in thought, he twists on smirk on his dusky, bluish gray face. "But... I've been too busy myself."

Underneath the sports utility vehicle, a thick, glowing mist billows out from around the wheels and clouds the baseboards, forming a surrounding fluctuating rainbow mass. Just above the natural background noise, a strange, high pitch rattle replaces the anticipated low engine rumble. Chad checks his mirrors, shifts the vehicle into gear, and turns his head towards the back window. The large machine rolls back out of the driveway. The rainbow haze stirs up into the draft and blows up above the hood, swirling in the currents. Tilting her head to the side, Veevi blinks dumbfounded and stares bewildered at the strange colorful vapors coasting the breeze. Briefly shifting her pink pupil eyes Chad, she ponders a moment and remains silent, returning her stare to the fading mists. Tassilda covers her mouth around an escaping ill-humored snicker. "OH. Chad doesn't realize what's happening yet. This is TOO good."

Surrounding camera crews refocus their equipment on the billowing colors flowing out from the vehicle, the prismatic trailing dissipating quickly. Backing up fully onto the street, Chad swings his head around and pauses upon Veevi's awkward forward facing silence. Glancing over with an eager smile, Veevi flutters her eyes, squirming in her seat. "Well, let's go! I can't wait to get it!"

With a charming smile, Chad nods, returns his attention forward, and accelerates the black sports utility vehicle. Outside the cab, a sharp, shrill squeal replaces the exhaust rumble of the large engine, and a stream of rainbow clouds blast out into the draft of the speeding machine. Seconds later, a van with the "Next Adventurers of Nexus" logo follows behind, the drivers and passengers visibly laughing and pointing. In the moment free of crew attention, Modoran breaks out cackling, steps around gasping for breath, and supports his doubled over, hands on his knees. Trakenthin stifles a series of sharp snorts, his sheer amusement fighting for freedom from the stoic facade. Deedri tightly pins down an ear to ear awkward smile and firmly presses her crossed arms down upon her side, hiding her shaking giggles. Tassilda shines forth a devious grin, holds her long nailed hand in front of her mouth, and dramatically laughs, posing prominently with her other hand on a hip. With jaw agape, Samantha blinks and slowly rotates her face away from the concealment of her clipboard. She eyes the resolute Gerald, lowering his camera down in astonishment, and aims a whisper to him. "I know it's Friday, and the production teams are getting ready for the live reveal tonight... But..."

Gazing at Samantha with a wide grin, Gerald nods calmly in agreement. "Yes. I think Howard will approve a rush process of this footage for a choice clip tonight."

Inside the confines of the living space of the ranch style house, the wall mounted television plays back clips of a rainbow cloud trailing sports utility vehicle. Leaning forward from her side of the couch, Sotalia snickers and points towards the television. "Oh, it HAS to be Deedri. SHE did it."

Cideeda bites on a claw tip and flicks a furry ear, pondering with uncertain hums under her breath. "I don't know... She's always seemed genuinely nice, in general. To, well, everyone. Even Veevi."

Sotalia sinks back into the cushions clogging the corner of the couch, levels her confident gaze to Cideeda, and grins. "I'll agree, she is nice."

Lifting up an accusing eyebrow, she playfully chuckles. "But, THAT doesn't mean she can't get even. In fact, it'd be the perfect cover for her to do ANYTHING. No one would seriously expect her. Girl totally did it."

Weighing the possibilities between slow tilts of her head between either shoulder, Cideeda eventually shrugs it off with a satisfied smile towards Sotalia. "I still don't think she's behind it... But, if she did..."

With a flicker of evil in her emerald green eyes, she flashes a toothy grin. "I fully support her decision."

With a slow nod in agreement, Sotalia stretches her legs out, rests her feet on top of the coffee table, and folds her arms behind her head. "Always a rookie mistake to push the nice, quiet ones too far."

Across the room at the dining table, Bach lifts his head up from the project upon the tabletop, blinks confusedly a few times, and pivots an incredulous stare towards Sotalia. Hoisting a brow sharply up, he glares at her momentarily. Sotalia watches the next bits of show, oblivious of the attention. Rolling his blue eyes away with a twist at the corner of his mouth, he drifts his gaze at Aristespha. Fingertips drums against opposing hands, and Aristespha smugly settles into the recliner chair, deeper underneath a blanket cover, concealing the devious glee on her face behind her hands. Bach draws a deep breath, sighs, and returns his focus to a number of small sticks resting on the tabletop. He glances up and watches Dretphi meticulously carve out grooves into a broom handle, using a small chisel bit from a nearby set of woodworking tools. Guiding the fine blade edge, she follows inked paths in rigid, exacting precision. Inspecting Dretphi's work, Bach smiles approvingly. "That's looking really good. Once you finish that pattern, we'll do some basic flow inking. After that, you can start working on your actual staff."

Dretphi pulls a slight smile and turns her head to glance at the large, trimmed, debarked branch resting against the wall in the room corner near the dining table. "I want to practice further. Apply my best effort."

She shrugs her shoulders and focuses back on the task before her. "The branch needs to dry first."

Bach examines the large piece of wood, nods, and picks up one of the small sticks in front of him. "Understood. That was a nice find. Even the branches you cut off are good enough to make some nice practice focuses from. You can try carving one of these and practice flow inking it, too."

His eyes dimly glow blue and faint flickers of magical energy swirl around the piece of wood in his hand. Purposeful patterns draw out a few millimeters from the surface and encircle the stick completely, sparing small space at the base. Over the seconds, intricate designs shrink onto the surface, pressing tightly into the material. With a few faint sparkles, the work fades from view, and Bach's eyes return to normal. Exerting a little effort, he focuses upon the wooden stick, and the previous patterns light up, the very tip glowing out a hazy trail of magical illumination. He doodles out a few shapes and letters in the air, waits for them to fade away, and places the finished practice wand off towards the table corner. Pausing a moment, Bach lifts his head up and catches Sotalia staring over from the couch. "What?"

Sotalia rests her head upon her propped arm, cracks a sly grin, and averts her golden eyes away, pseudo innocently. "Oh... Nothing... But..."

Her eager smile widens. "If you are making another batch of those, my nieces and nephews were quite happy with the last set. So, if you got a few other effects, they would love them."

Bach briefly narrows his eyes upon Sotalia and perks an inquisitive eyebrow. "You do know you can make these yourself, right? I'm not doing anything that special."

Sotalia lifts her head off her hand, brushes some dark red hair over a horn, and winks playfully with a smile. "Yes. Of course. But, who am I to deprive you of your fun?"

With a long sigh and shrug, Bach surveys the remaining stock of wooden sticks, tugging at the corner of his mouth. "Right. Of course."

The television blares out a new jingle of music and displays some flashy graphics. The screen cuts to a shot of the Flames of the Phoenix group sitting around a table.

"Now, we bring you live inside the dining room to witness a major announcement from Chad Bosch, leader of the Flames of the Phoenix."

The voice over seizes the attention of Aristespha, Bach, Cideeda, Dretphi, Sebastian and Sotalia, and the team wait in expectant quiet. The scene focuses upon Chad. Standing tall at the head of the table, he overlooks Tassilda, Trakenthin, Modoran, Deedri, and Veevi. "I'm sure you've all been wondering what errands I've been running with Veevi."

Tassilda crosses her arms, Trakenthin narrows hazel eyes at Chad with a flit of a snarl, Modoran simply quirks an unamused eyebrow, and Deedri vainly maintains a calm demeanor against the awkward attentions of Veevi. Chad presents his signature, heroically bright, white smile and chuckles out loud. "Well, I won't keep you in suspense any longer."

He nods to Veevi with a slight bow. "Veevi, if you'd please."

Veevi excitedly springs up from her seat, reaches into her short shorts front pocket, and pulls out a rectangular card. With dramatic fanfare and an exaggerated pose, she presents the guild identification card, waving it across the table, and winks to the camera. "Say hello to Veevi Valiant! Official Intern of The Flames of the Phoenix!"

A fvalian swear sputters out through Deedri's lips, and she quickly seals them tight under the pressure of her hand. Blinking bewildered at the announcement, Modoran eyes Deedri in guarded amusement. Trying to resume a cordial exterior, Deedri forces the facade of an innocent smile upon her fair face, posture rigid in her seat. Trakenthin grumbles to himself, retrieves his aetherphone, and taps up a paused game, letting it absorb his attention. Glowering up at Chad, Tassilda's smile fails in disguising her gritting teeth, her ire visibly radiating outwards. Veevi grins brightly against the emotional contrast of the surrounding team and flashes a seductive perk of the brow to Chad. Narrowing her pink pupil eyes, she purposefully reflects the overhead room light off the card's plastic coating into Tassilda eyes. A low growl vents through Tassilda's sneer, and she swipes her hand out at the card. "GODS! Let me SEE that fraudulent mockery! There is NO way the guild would authorize you to be a rest stop janitor, much less an intern!"

Snapping back her hand, Veevi sidesteps swiftly behind Chad with mocking fright. Tassilda tries to slide back her seat, glancing to both her sides when efforts fail. She discovers Trakenthin's foot hooked behind the front leg of the chair. She glares intensely at Trakenthin and harshly whispers. "Do you mind?"

Keeping his visible attention upon the game on his phone, Trakenthin directs a quiet, firm response back to Tassilda. "Stay seated. No victory to be had here."

Tassilda draws a loud breath through her nose and contorts out the frustration on her gray face. Releasing a long, irritated sigh, she awkwardly wrestles her expression back to a reserved, unamused state. Her short haired tail flicking, Veevi slinks back into her chair and leans well over into Deedri's personal space. One hand firmly grips Deedri's chair back, and the other shows off the card to a wary Deedri. Chad hems loudly, seeking the team's attention, and addresses the group. "I think that actually went quite well. Now, another order of business..."

Narrowing his eyes with a stern frown, he slowly sways an accusatory stare across the group at the dining table. "Who the hell put THAT spell on the SUV?"

The conversation abruptly noses dives into a furious blame game, the camera shot retracting to a wide angle upon the television screen. In the chaos of the arguments and accusations, the show transitions to other highlights of the week clips. A sinister grin creeps out upon Aristespha ivory face from the blue and gray hints at the edges. She squirms delightfully into the cushions of the recliner, a faint giggle hidden beneath the audio from the television. Hovering near, Sebastian blinks to awareness and glances over to Aristespha. He maintains a long quizzical stare upon Aristespha. Noticing the suspicion upon her, Aristespha presents a neutral front, and the two engage in a quick conversation of eyes and emotes. Aristespha sighs in vague defeat and waves off Sebastian's scrutiny. "I will tell you later, Sebastian."

Drifting his gaze back towards the antics on the television screen, Sebastian curls a curious smirk. "Okay, dear."

Middle of the night illumination from the moon and stars casts through the sliding glass door into the living room. Hazy reflections of the night sky glimmer in the finish of the coffee table. A dark blue hue radiates out into the room upon the walls and furnishings, contrasting the few specs of light from appliances and electronics. Light, clicking steps sound out from the hallway, and Cideeda wanders through the archway, stretching out a yawn. Rubbing her eyes, she walks around in a hazy consciousness, her long, fluffy tail swaying lazily from underneath her long, large nightshirt. She rounds the dining table, plods forward into part of the kitchen prep area, and stops in front of the refrigerator. Firmly closing her eyes, she averts her head away from the flood of light from the fridge door opening up. Reaching inside, her clawed fingers rummage around and feel out the various items inside fruitlessly. She carefully cracks open her eyelids enough, and her emerald eyes spot the target. Swiftly she removes the branded yogurt fruit cup clear of the bright box, and lets the door seal off the light. Moments later, Cideeda blinks open her eyes, inspects the package, and circles a claw tip around, slicing the foil lid off. Lifting the lid off by her claw tips, her nose sniffs near the underside of the lip. Her hand pauses briefly, her eyes refocus on yogurt speckled foil, and she quickly licks the top clean. Plucking the small plastic spoon off the side, she pushes it out of the wrapper and stirs the contents of the cup. Rolling the foil lid and plastic wrapper together, she underhand tosses the balled up mass into the garbage can across the room, sinking the shoot right in the middle. With spoonfuls of the treat in her mouth, Cideeda sates herself, smiling, and wanders along her return route back around the dining table.

Pausing for a few more scoops from the cup, her idle stare lands upon a few wooden magical practice focuses on the corner of the tabletop. Her attention diverts from the snack, and her consciousness piques with the new thoughts rising in her mind. Quickly inspecting the vacant, silent vicinity, she gently rests the yogurt treat and spoon nearby on the surface of the dining table. Her hand hovers over the sticks. Fingers wrap around one of the small rods. She lifts it up, securely wrapping her hand over the other, and focuses her gaze upon the wand. Breathing in slowly, she bites her lip uncertainly against a flush of determination and concentrates all her focus inwards. Seconds past, her light brown face twitches, and she exhales steadily, purposefully. Occasional muscle flexes move her arms. Her mouth twists and contorts between different sneers, smirks, and snarls. Her hands and arms tremble from strain, and she sharply yanks air through her nose and vents through her gritting teeth. Closing her emerald green eyes tightly, she mutters in hopeful, encouraging tones to herself over minutes, occasionally slipping out pleas in different dialects of fvalian. A few words clear the audible threshold from her. "Come on... Come on... Just once..."

Eventually, a final sigh of defeat escapes, and a cascade of tension washes away from her whole body. Old, familiar disappointment fills her face, and she straightens her posture with a simple, accepting shrug. She stares longingly at the wand, holding it above the corner of the tabletop. Her fingers pause right before releasing it. Cideeda's grip tightens back, and she rolls the training stick in hand, her eyes searching her mind. A subtle smile graces her, and she mouths to herself. "Some day..."

With a secure grasp around the practice focus, she pivots in place, sweeping up her yogurt cup with a free hand, and walks through the archway into the hallway with clicking, light steps.

Within the encircling kitchen of the two-story house, Deedri flips through a few pages in a book upon the counter top. Tracing a claw tip through a long series of instructions, she nods in confirmation after each bullet point and taps at the last line of the remaining step. She pivots to another section of the counter surface, picks up a glass jar, and inspects the contents. Her auburn eyes visually count the small green plant sacs and narrow carefully, performing a cautious recount. Grimacing uncertainly, Deedri swings her attention back over to her book and studies the last instruction carefully. Shifting her focus over to a collection of calculations upon a scratch piece of paper, she groans out frustration and twists her mouth with a realization. She lifts the glass container back into view and deliberates with a long stare. With a frowning shake of the head, she sighs. Deedri rolls her eyes at herself and mumbles under her breath. "No. You know better than that..."

She opens the refrigerator door and carefully places the jar inside. Pulling open a drawer, she draws out a sheet of plastic from a cardboard roll and stretches out the film tightly over a nearly full, glass bowl of blue translucent fluid. With a firm two hand heft and a swift toe claw catch of the closing door, Deedri settles the larger container inside the fridge. She seals the door back up, checks her apron, and tucks her notes inside the book on the counter. Scanning the room, she steps forward with a cautious gait around the dining table towards the back sliding glass door. Her tufted, furry ears flick and perk towards the front of the house through the dining archway. Distant voices barely rise out of the background quiet of the two-story house. A cringe flashes upon Deedri's fair face, her furry ears aiming towards the stairwell. A few moments later, she slinks next to the back door. Flipping up the lock, she gently slides the door wide enough, and squeezes herself through. With a slow, firm pull, the large glass panel seats back to the frame, and Deedri steps gingerly around the perimeter of the backyard, her gaze darting between the visible vantage points of the two-story house. Squinting cautiously to the balcony of the next door house, she swiftly weaves within the shadows of the scenery and creeps progress to the forest line.

A series of fast footsteps cascade down the stairs, and Veevi swings around the archway into the dining area. She hops energetically into the entry of the kitchen. Her disappointment shows, blinking and searching the encircling area of the kitchen. Veevi crosses her arms unsatisfied, scans the countertops with her pink pupil eyes, and blows a few stray pink hairs out of her pouting face. Wandering around the dining table, she glances out into the backyard through the sliding glass door. Her eyes snap attentively to a point within the distant treeline and narrow, focusing. Leaning closer to the glass panel, a mischievous, sharp grin creeps along her mouth, and she feels the position of the door's handle and lock lever. With a significant effort, she pulls the sliding door open, stepping through, and seals up the transparent gate behind her, slinking swiftly towards her target.

A gentle breeze rustles the leaves in the late spring canopy overhead. The sun projects the clouds upon the tree tops and fragments of the pattern flicker below onto the forest floor. Deedri gazes up above and catches the chorus of the forest in her fury ears, squinting her eyes at the glints of noon sun slipping by layers of leaves. A peaceful smile rests on Deedri, and she stands calmly within the moment, each second stripping away layers of stress off into the passing winds. An unfortunately familiar, dangerously enthusiastic voice shatters the sensory haven. "Hey, Deedri! Wait up!"

Deedri's furry, tufted ears droop sharply, the fluffy tips touching her shoulders. Her auburn eyes spring open with narrowing pupils, and a strong wince cinches up her upper cheek, snarling her upper lip. Her shoulders abruptly tense, her posture snaps rigid, and the fur on her tail flares out. A few terse fvalian words spit through her clenching teeth, barely muted by her tightening lips. She slowly pivots in place, her feelings fighting against the pleasant facade her face locks into. Veevi skips fast down the forest path and waves to Deedri with a wide grin. "What are YOU doing out here?"

Deedri presents a calm front, nods to Veevi with her hands held tightly upon her apron, and honestly responds. "I was short of an important reagent for a batch of wound treatment salve. So, I am going to retrieve some from a source nearby, before the batch risks spoiling."

Hopping to a stop next to Deedri with a cheery smile, Veevi cocks her head to the side with a wink. "I see..."

After a few blinks, Deedri warily returns the smile, rotates herself around, and glances down the path. "I'm afraid it's nothing exciting, really. Just need to find the right plant, and I'll be right back."

She stretches out the paces of her words. "Just a LONG... BORING... Walk in a plain, average forest..."

Veevi glints a grin at Deedri and gazes down the path. "That sounds nice and relaxing, actually. Could I come along?"

An uneasy wave radiates through Deedri, creeping down her spine with a faint squirm, and she grants Veevi a gradual nod. "Sure, I guess..."

Deedri turns forward completely and walks down the path, quiet. Veevi follows along with an initially faster gait, easing into pace at the side of Deedri. The two start down the center of the path. Deedri maintains most of her focus ahead, occasionally peeking out of the corner of her eye. Veevi stretches her arms and body out, feigning a nonchalant exterior between side eyes. Gazing out into the natural and vibrant scenery with fleeting interest, she gradually adjusts her trajectory along the trail. Within minutes of casual nature watching, the gap between Deedri and Veevi remains. Deedri's toed boots stir up the debris littering the rough shoulder of the path. Sidestepping around a small bush in the way, she promptly returns to the outer edge of the trail, restoring the buffer zone between. Veevi lifts an intrigued brow with a smirk, sighs out loud, and directs a quizzical tone to Deedri. "So? I have to ask, what do YOU do for fun?"

Recalling her desires from the distance back to her immediate surroundings, Deedri quirks a furry, tufted ear over to Veevi. "Oh. Uh. I don't know. I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction books. I really enjoy a lot of the Pre-Cataclysm books they find and republish."

With a calculating furrow of the brow, Veevi draws a sly smile on her lips and concentrates a piercing gaze at Deedri. "Hmm. I kind of figured that. Okay, your turn! Ask me a question, now."

Deedri blinks a few times against her reservations, and her eyes search her mind for a few seconds. "Um... Where did you grow up?"

Veevi giggles cheerily and shaves a few centimeters off the divide between her and Deedri with a subtle overstep. "OH, no where special. I'm just a simple southern coast girl from around New Valdo. SO, where are YOU from?"

Auburn eyes sort through memories, and Deedri crosses her arms, recounting thoughts. "Well... When I was really young, I lived on the south coast, too. Actually, west of New Valdo in Dothan."

Furrowing her brow, she wrestles a grimace and sighs. "But, some monster tore through part of the town. Killed a few militia and injured a lot of people, including a girl a few years older than me."

She shrugs simply and keeps her sights forward towards a closing, familiar forest perimeter. "My mother was already thinking about moving. So all THAT made her decision really easy. Then, I grew up in a small town outside of Anta."

Silence looms above the two, quietly walking down the path with only their footsteps against the forest ambience. Veevi glances around the area, settling an expectant glance upon Deedri. "So... It's your turn to ask ME a question."

Tugging at the corner of her mouth, Deedri stumbles over the words through her indecision. "Ah... Um... Uh... Well, why did you become a pop star?"

With an excited glint in her pink pupil eyes, a proud grin parts wide on Veevi's face. With dramatic gestures of the arms, she draws an exaggerated breath in and melodically proclaims out. "Why?! Why not! I've got the body and the voice of a star. Why not perform for the world, and gift myself to adoring fans near and far..."

Another subtle slide over shrinks the gap between Veevi and Deedri. Veevi's short-haired tail wags closer to Deedri's fluffy tail with each sway. A softer tone taints Veevi's tone, and she seductively bites her lip. "Speaking of adoring... So, do you have anyone to adore you?"

Deedri's eyes spring wide open, and she immediately senses Veevi's uncomfortable proximity. The short-haired tail swings over the fluffy tail, coiling slowly around in a gradually tightening wrap. Veevi gazes with a sultry undertone to Deedri. "Boyfriend, maybe? Or... A girlfriend-"

From beyond the transition of forest in the field meters away, Bach's distant voice calls out. "So... Yeah... The fluid sacs are located near the top, underneath the big flower top?"

From another point out of immediate sight, Sotalia speaks in a loud, curious tone. "Yes. Why? Did you find some? Show me where they are at!"

Veevi halts her progress and stares forward, her fuzzy ears puzzling at the sounds ahead. She perks up, feeling a swift brush slipping from her tail's grasp. Deedri rushes ahead, snapping the fuzzy tail clear of Veevi's coiling. Hiding behind a large tree trunk, she peeks out to the side, observing the activity. She momentarily glances up to the skies above with a thankful expression and prayer under her breath.

Out in the many stalks of the massive, sprawling patch, Bach and Sotalia stand underneath the shade of a larger protellow plant. Bach circles out an area with his finger, aiming upwards into the giant flora. "I think I see a few up there."

Sotalia squints for seconds, contorts her mouth in thought, and blinks her golden eyes. She quietly recites a few incantations, gestures her hands to touch opposing finger tips, and peers through the magical energy framed within up at the protellow. A smile grows on her light tan and dark gray face, and she separates her hands, wisps of fading flow trailing from her fingertips. "OH, that's them. Matches exactly what Aristespha said. Now, we need to get up there and pick them."

Furrowing his brow, Bach slowly rotates his head and hoists a curious eyebrow towards Sotalia. "Okay. So... What? Like climb up there and pluck them off?"

Placing her hands on her hips, Sotalia flashes an unamused expression at Bach and grumbles faintly. "Yes. As much as I'd like to use magic to pull them off..."

Her eyes rolling, she groans with a trailing sigh and drones out technical from memory. "Aristespha has explicitly said to avoid using any direct magic to acquire reagents to prevent cross-contamination and avoid accidental alchemical misfires during processing."

Bach scratches the beard hairs on his chin and develops a sly smirk. "So... Indirect magic is okay?"

Sotalia sways her hips with a thought, shifts her gaze to Bach, and grins amused at the idea. From behind the clearing's edge, Deedri harshly whispers. "Where are you going?!"

Veevi boldly strolls out from the brush perimeter of the forest line, a gust of wind flaring her pink hair out. She approaches Bach and Sotalia and energetically waves with a proud tone. "Hello, fellow adventurers!"

Pulling at a corner of her mouth, Sotalia narrows an intrigued stare at Veevi and frees a hand from the hip to grant a plain wave. Bach blinks in surprise and darts his gaze side to side suspiciously around the area. Spotting nothing of interest, he responds with a simple, meek wave. With spunky energy, Veevi skips over and poses confidently in front of Sotalia. "I don't think we have officially met. I'm Veevi Valiant, rising star, AND... Newest member of the Flames of the Phoenix."

Slightly pitching her head up, Sotalia angles an examining stare carefully upon Veevi. An amused smile sliding across her mouth, she guides dark red hair over a black swept back horn, gazes at Veevi with golden eyes, and poses proudly. "So, I have heard. Sotalia Feratosia. Mage."

Shrugging nonchalantly, Bach notices Deedri cautiously walking up and waves again at her. "Um, Bach Warwick. Intern...?"

Veevi fully focuses upon Sotalia, tosses her pink hair back, and responds with a charming smile. "I actually got to witness some of your spells when I was training the other day. VERY impressive."

With a calm smile, Deedri stops in front of Bach and shuffles over, keeping at least a meter gap between her and Veevi. "Hello. I am sorry to interrupt. I was out to gather some reagents from these protellows and..."

Fighting back a reflexive grit of the teeth, she sighs with a faint droop of her furry, tufted ears. "Veevi... tagged along... for the walk."

Scratching the back of his head of longer brown hair, Bach nods understandingly and points a thumb up to the large looming protellow shading the vicinity. "Well, we're gathering reagents, too. We're trying to get some of those fluid sacs from up around the top, and we were trying to figure out how to do it without harming the reagents... or ourselves."

A spark of enthusiasm lights up Deedri's fair face, and she steps forward with newfound initiative. "Oh! Perfect! That's the same thing I need. Let me climb up there, and I'll gather enough for all of us!"

Glancing up the tall plant, Bach returns a concerned gaze towards Deedri. "Um, yeah, uh, that's pretty high up there. Do you want any help?"

He spots the quick, awkward glance Deedri aims towards Veevi, passing by him on her way to the base of the large stalk. Deedri flexes her claw tipped fingers to Bach with a sharp, confident grin. "Don't worry. I've got the climbing part covered. I just need to concentrate on the task. But, if you could keep watch for wind gusts and be ready to catch anything that might fall, that would be very helpful."

Analyzing the situation between glances around at everyone present, Bach briefly motions to Deedri to wait up and steps next to Sotalia with a grin. "Hey! I have a great idea. Maybe you should share some magical education pointers with Veevi. One fellow experienced mage to another aspiring mage."

Slowly rotating her head to Bach, she narrows a dubious eye to Bach. She examines his expression, notes the subtle wink, and nurtures a devious, mischievous smile. With a proud shift of her pose, she taps a contemplative finger upon her lips and grins at Veevi. "Why, of course! If I am to assume correctly your present teacher, I do believe her distinctive emin haughtiness may be impairing her ability to properly educate you."

An intrigued smile parts upon Veevi, and she places her hands on her hips attentively, eagerly awaiting. "Why, yes! I do believe it is. She keeps telling me to go through long, pointless drills and tries my patience with trivial practice exercises."

Sotalia chuckles darkly, waves out her hand, and sprinkles a dramatic flair to her sigh. "OH. I figured. I do believe it is my duty to share some important hints and tricks to help you along your path in the magical arts. And, I'm certain if you demonstrate these proficiently to an audience, your teacher will ever be so motivated to teach once she recognizes your true potential."

Veevi's attention fully affixes on Sotalia's examples, gestures, and incantations. Sotalia demonstrates a series of small, colorful, and exceptionally flashy spells from the simplest instructions. After each quick performance, Sotalia coaches Veevi, leading her towards basic proficiency of the spells. Off to the side with Bach assisting, Deedri deftly climbs up the stalk of the towering protellow. Her finger and toe claws render the task routine, and she secures herself near the top of the stalk. With expert precision, she extracts the fluid sacs into the safety of her apron pouch. Standing by at the base, Bach keeps a vigilant watch overhead and spots other locations, calling them out to Deedri. Half hour later, Deedri's toed boots touch stable ground, and she sorts through her apron pockets. "This was a great haul. There was quite a lot on that protellow, and the sacs seem freshly formed. I have more than enough. Here."

She scoops up a double handful and presents the sacs of Bach. Retrieving a cloth bag from his pocket, Bach opens it up and ushers the contents from Deedri's hands in. "That's great! Thanks. Really. The local reagent shop was out, so we've been looking for a source and heard something like this was around."

Glances over his shoulder, he faces Deedri with a grateful smirk and softer, appreciative voice. "Hey. Um, by the way... Thanks again for the other day. Didn't think we really needed those two to throw down at the grocery store, of all places."

Deedri rolls her auburn eyes away with a sighing shake of her head. "OH. Don't worry. I understand completely."

She briefly peeks around Bach at Veevi and flicks her eyes towards Bach. "And thank you for the latest distraction."

Bach blinks blankly, quirks a brow at Deedri, and points through himself at Veevi with a light snarl. "Yeah... It really looked like you needed a break from... Uh... HER..."

Narrowing her eyes to a tired, unamused expression, Deedri sighs, slacking her shoulders. "OH. You have NO idea. It's a... challenge."

She retrieves her aetherphone from a side pocket, taps the screen, and reads the time of the clock. "Oh, good. I should actually be back in time to complete my batch of wound salve. This is actually working out nicely."

After a gracious bow, Deedri navigates the thick surface roots weaving along the ground over near Sotalia and Veevi with Bach following behind. "I really hate to leave so soon, but I must get back."

She presents a pleasant, encouraging smile. "But Veevi, you are more than welcome to continue your lessons. I wouldn't want to interrupt your progress."

Flashing a sly smile to Deedri, Veevi perks her dark pink eyebrows and sighs contentedly, stretching her arms back. "Well, they want to do video journal segments today, and I don't want to be late for mine. I have A LOT to say."

She nods to Sotalia with a hint of respect and excitedly squeals with childish glee. "AND, I can't wait to practice what you've shown me! Thank you so much!"

Sotalia crosses her arms with a smug, contented smirk. "OH, I'm certain you'll definitely impress your teacher. Don't be shy about your new spells!"

Waving to Sotalia and Bach, Veevi quickly steps towards the tree line and the forest path. Veevi swiftly slinks over to the side of Deedri, trying to close distance Deedri refuses to relinquish. Bach slides next to Sotalia and gradually angles his gaze towards her, puzzling. "So... What all did you... TEACH... Veevi?"

A sinister glint shines off Sotalia's smile, and she flexes her long, black nailed fingers on a hand in smug delight. "OH, you know... Just a few simple spells and flow techniques."

Bach's stare narrows at Sotalia, and he twists his mouth suspiciously. "Okay. AND, what would those be?"

Sotalia nonchalantly inspects her nails and fails to contain her overflowing self-satisfaction, manifesting into a wide grin on her face. "OH. Yes. Just a few of the most distracting, flashy, trashy, lowest common denominator spells you can find. Only the BEST ones to show a starting student. A few of my favorites from when I was an annoying, disruptive, attention seeking teenager."

A snort escapes Bach, and he gazes off into the forest with a slow side to side sway of his head. "Wow... Just WOW. You think she'll actually follow through and use them?"

An evil laugh slips out from Sotalia, and she reaches out for the cloth bag full of fluid sacs from Bach. "Are you kidding? A young, egotistical girl with something to prove the world? OH, trust me. She will NOT miss the opportunity to try them all."

Bach hands the fabric sack over to Sotalia, and she happily nods at the contents of the bag. She carefully wraps the end of the bag up and secures a hand around the opening. With a motions to Bach, she steps along towards another part of the forest perimeter. "Well, we better head back. I have potions to make."

Shaking his head, Bach follows along behind with a dry chuckle to himself. "Next week's episode is going to be interesting."

A wicked sparkle dances in Sotalia's golden eyes. "GODS, I do hope so."

With Aristespha, Bach, Cideeda, Dretphi, and Sotalia sitting around the dining table, Sebastian's ethereal form hovers overhead. He scrutinizes the collection of documents littering the surface of a large table covering map. Narrowing his eyes in thought, he slowly nods in agreement. "Yeah. That makes the most sense. One of Noxian's reported old hang outs is nearby, and there's a few... uh..."

Pausing moment, he contorts his mouth hesitantly against words at the front of his mind and sighs reluctantly. with a shrug, Aristespha smiles amusedly and gazes lovingly at him. "Go ahead and say it, Sebastian."

Sebastian floats over and lands down on the floor. He holds his ghostly arms out his to side and plainly states. "A few simple, routine, and easy jobs in the area."

Rolling his translucent blue eyes, he shakes his head of intangible coiffed hair. "Now that I've cursed all of us by saying that, let's look at our options."

Cideeda reaches out over the table, arranges the few quest printouts next to each other, and compares coordinate lists to the map. Dretphi peers over another row of papers, guides a finger on one hand along the text, and points out the locations on the map with another finger. Sotalia gestures quickly and taps the spots Dretphi designates, leaving a magical highlight upon the surface. Shifting his focus between the documents near Cideeda and Dretphi, Bach picks out keywords and mulls over his opinion between twists of his face. Aristespha squints over the data and turns her attention to one of her tablets. "I am going to guess that Hattan will be the best place to get rooms for a few days. I will start searching the area for good accommodations."

Perking up, Sotalia glances over to Aristespha and lifts her dark red eyebrows. "Hey! See if you can book that one place with the day spa next door. Gods, that was REALLY convenient."

With an incredulous smirk, Aristespha rolls her violet eyes and scrutinizes Sotalia. "It is only going to be for a few days. I highly doubt we will really have the time for such activities."

Sotalia pouts with a sigh and mumbles. "You should still try... Please?"

Sebastian's gaze follows a road on the map, and he notices a particular location that pulls a snide grin on his ghostly face. "Hey, bro. You think we should stop by Tullachester? Stop by that old house you were in?"

Lifting his head away from the work on the desk, Bach incredulously squints at his brother, cracks a lopsided smile with a cringe, and lays down the sarcasm. "Yeah... Sure, man... We can swing by and tell the new renter that the landlady most definitely conned them. I can then regale them about all the plumbing, heating, cooling, electrical... structural... and ethical problems with that place. I'm certain they would also love to know the best places to put the pots and pans when it rains or what creatures make which noises in the attic."

Dretphi stares over to Bach with an uncertain expression, struggling for the right words. "That residence sounds... Difficult?"

Bach rubs his eyes to a pinch of the bridge of his nose with an honest smile. "Yeah. That actually sums it up best. I mean, that town has nothing going on for it. There's one decent bar in the whole area, and that only showed up in the last few years. Doubt it'll last much longer knowing that place."

Shrugging his shoulders, Bach swings a gaze at everyone with a thankful chuckle. "Listen. When being abducted AWAY from the town is the highlight of your time being IN the town, it probably isn't a good place. Two months out and still NO desire in me to ever go back."

Sebastian crosses his arms and smiles with an ethereal laugh. "Okay. SO, that's a strong NO on stopping in Tullachester."

Tracing the route out on the map, Dretphi pauses at key points and plots the travel path in her mind. "The roads are serviceable from experience. Not sure if we can arrive by nightfall. Just after. Maybe."

Cideeda idly scratches her jaw line, and her emerald eyes study the map. "Worst case, we camp at a rest stop in the mountains. I remember a few of those along the way coming up from Anta."

Aristespha smirks, lifts her tablet up off the table, and angles it to Sotalia, quirking her brow slyly. "While I can not book that one place, I should be able to get..."

Shifting her attention over, Sotalia widens her golden eyes and bites her lip in gleeful anticipation. "Oh, THAT will work, girl."

Sebastian hovers up and hangs over the table, his eyes sifting through the job notices. "Okay. Let's bid on jobs, get some work lined up, and book the rooms. We'll take it easy tomorrow and set off Monday."