Guiding the Blaze
Archer shifted on his feet where he stood, awkwardly glancing around at his... friends? and waiting in the hard silence for something to happen. It was quiet tonight, a little too quiet, and if Archer were honest, he’d say he was a little worried. His attention was shifted forward, when he heard Heathersbane’s voice and that feeling in his chest on grew when he did. “We don’t have a lot of time,” Archer’s eyes narrowed with this, confused, “but while the lady of the house is distracted I figured this was as good a time as any to tell you: you know those… totems you carry around?” He laughed uneasily, as Archer looked down at his pocket watch, even more confused; he also noticed the others doing the same, looking at their own significant items. What is he going on about? Archer thought, biting his lower lip as he looked back up, clutching tightly at the pocket watch now in his hand. “Those… aren’t exactly… real.”
For a moment, time seemed to stand still for Archer. “W-what...?” He questioned, breathless and confused, before anger started to bubble up in his chest. “What the hell do you mean they’re not real!?” He snapped, clenching his fists, and he wasn’t sure if it was a good or a bad thing that he wasn’t wearing his mask at the moment.
“We needed them to cast the enchantment on you that shrunk you down, the real totems are stashed away somewhere in Moonstone’s hoard.” Archer growled at this, but thankfully kept quiet. “Unless you want to stay two inches tall for the rest of your lives, you’re going to need to find them, otherwise we can’t turn you back when the circus ends.” He said, slow and unsure and Archer huffed, crossing his arms. He could tell the others were just as mad as he was, and for now, he was a little glad he wasn’t the only one. “Naturally, I can’t get them for you,” Archer scoffed at this, “but I do know how you can get into Moonstone’s hoard… I just need you to do something for me. I have a friend down there, but he can’t leave, and I need to stay out here in case the Madame gets wise to what’s going on out here. She’s not gonna want to part with any of her belongings, I’m afraid, so let’s just keep this between us.”
“Fine,” Archer started, a little of his anger leaving him, but he was still tense, “what do you want us to do?”
“If you find my friend, ask him if we’ve done enough...” and then Heathersbane was gone, leaving them on their own. It wasn’t long before Archer decided to get it over with and he began moving forward, going the path directed to him and the others down to Madame Moonstone’s hoard.
With each step though, he felt his anger flare through him once more: Moonstone had stolen his ‘totem’, had stolen his pocket watch. The only physical thing I have of my brother left and she just took it! How dare she! He thought furiously, breathing out a sharp breath through his nose, he finally decided to run, going in a random direction, passing other items and pointless coin. If I ever find her... she is going to pay!
Finally slowing down to a halt, he let out a shuttering breath as he took in his surroundings. He just needed to... find the right place to look. And, he decided, losing his mind wasn’t going to help him here, neither were thoughts of making that thieving vile Fae pay for this. No one ever even touched his pocket watch, let alone got away with stealing it. But... for now, he would focus on finding it. Whatever happened next, he would deal with then, and only then.
He spent minutes on end searching, until finally... finally he found it. He dug through the gold before grabbing the familiar silver chain and he pulled the pocket watch from the pile before opening it, heart beating furiously in his chest, and it brought tears to his eyes when he saw the inscription inside. Brother... he thought; his throat was too tight to speak.
But when he finally stood up, he felt fury and rage bubble up once more. “Moonstone!” He shouted, gripping the pocket watch tightly, his voice reverberating through the halls.
Though he was still seething, his blood boiling, Archer had found no reason to brood where he’d been and so, with a heavy sigh, clutching tightly to his pocket watch, he had decided to continue walking through the endless piles of gold and items. He paid no mind to a lot of it, though it was obvious, if only for a brief moment, that he wanted to take some of it back home.
As he walked, his anger seemed to dissipate a little, replaced by exhaustion and annoyance. But he refused to stop walking; that is, until he runs into something a bit familiar.
A... another mask...? He thought, slow and unsure, and he frowned, eyes narrowed. He’d slowed to a stop already, eying the pile of gold and silver that the mask casually lay upon. Hesitantly, he reached out to take up the mask, before turning it over in his hands. Rather curious that someone would just leave something like this here for anyone else to find. He thought, mildly, before sighing and he set it back down. “I best leave it alone. It won’t do me any good to have a second mask...” he murmured, soft to himself, before pausing and he glanced back at it, But... maybe I can take it and use it for something? Like a trade...? He questioned in his mind and thought for a moment before grinning, a plan forming in his head. Yes, if I take this with me, I can use it to my advantage. Someone out there must have something useful to give for a magic mask. He chuckled and took it up again, tying the string to his belt, next to his own mask and he smiled in satisfaction before continuing his trek through the halls.
It was minutes later when he began getting bored once more. “Ridiculous this is. How can someone have so much go-” he cut himself off with a sharp gasp, eyes wide, when he nearly fell into some water. “What the-?!” Looking up, he narrowed his eyes and huffed when he saw another Fae. Oh great... another no good, annoying little- hey wait... didn’t... oh yeah... well, maybe...? The teen frowned now, staring at the Fae in confusion.
The Fae in question had green skin and yellow gems upon his forehead. Was this the friend that Heathersbane had mentioned?
“Ah... er...” he almost didn’t want to disturb him, but... “hello there?”
The Fae cracked a jade colored eye open to look down upon Archer and a faint, but kind smile formed across his face. He tilted his head to the side to pop his neck, “I hope you weren’t standing there long. I didn’t notice you there,” Archer shifted uneasily when he noticed the Fae looking him over, almost curious it seemed. “You must be one of our precious guests. I hope my mistress hasn’t treated you too harshly.”
Archer felt anger flare through him again and he narrowed his eyes, scoffing as he crossed his arms. “Mistress? You mean Madame Moonstone?” He sneered and then frowned, pausing as he looked back at the Fae. “Sorry... that was... rude.” He mumbled and sighed, before shaking his head, running a hand through his hair and ruffling it a little.
The Fae smiled knowingly at Archer’s comment, however, and the teen just barely managed to relax, knowing he wasn’t going to be yelled at, thankfully. “It is true; speaking with my Mistress requires great patience, of which only I am seemingly blessed with.”
Archer chuckled wearily at that and shrugged before smiling a little back. “I’m Archer. Um... what’s your name, if you don’t mind me asking, of course?”
“I am Evice. It is a pleasure to meet you, Archer.” The Fae, Evice, responded kindly and Archer really smile then.
“Same.” He hummed and looked around, frowning now again. “Um, what are you doing out here by yourself?” He asked, curious, raising an eyebrow at the Fae.
Evice looked out over Moonstone's hoard with a sigh, “My well of magic is not limitless. I must meditate to refresh it. As you might guess, the surface... is rather a bit too noisy. Particularly with the circus this time of year.”
Archer laughed a little at this and nodded. “Ah, yeah... I noticed. Must be nice then, to get away from all that here.” He smiled and then sighed for what seemed the hundredth time, shaking his head. If only I could do the same... I’d like to go back home. He thought lightly before getting an idea. “The circus is almost over right? I mean, I found my watch... the one Moonstone stole from me, so... I can go back home, right?” He asked, his eyes getting impossibly wide; he was excited about the possible prospect of going home.
If he could go home now, he wouldn’t have to deal with the fairies anymore, or Moonstone for that fact and he could go back to... Archer frowned then, ducking his head, back to what... exactly? He thought, bitter now, I have nothing to go back to, just a life of wandering on my own with no place in mind and no one... He shook his head and huffed out a heavy breath, trying to rid his thoughts as he tried focusing on Evice once more.
Evice nodded slowly, seeming to be thinking the question Archer provided over in his head, “Yes and no. It will require another spell to return you to the human world, a spell that is forbidden of being cast until the circus finishes. Your watch will be the catalyst, so I implore you not to lose it. So yes, you will go home... just not until the Ringmaster is finished with you.”
“Oh...” Archer mumbled, deflating a little and he sighed, shaking his head again. “Thank you anyway.” He smiled lightly then, tilting his head. “It was nice meeting you.” For a moment, Archer turned away, but then he paused and turned his head back, remembering what Heathersbane had asked of them, “Hey Evice, one more thing: Heathersbane wants to know... have we done enough?”
Archer tossed his pocket watch in the air, catching it, before repeating the process a few times as he ran through his thoughts. He played over what happened earlier and he felt something unknown well up in his chest. He caught his watch once more and closed his eyes tightly, letting out a sharp breath that was filled with annoyance and frustration.
“What are you doing?” Archer jolted upright, eyes wide now, and he looked up, only relaxing when he saw Diantha.
“Oh... it’s just you...” he sighed and laid back against the grass, one arm behind his head as he stared up at the moon. He watched from the corner of his eye as she sat down beside him, leaning back against a small tree that was behind them, and she stared up at the sky as well.
“Sorry... I didn’t mean to frighten you,” she murmured softly and smiled a little at him. He puffed out a small breath and shrugged, looking away, “what were you thinking about?” She asked then and he turned his gaze from the grass to her face, frowning a little.
“Just... this... everything that’s happened.” He said, honest and he sighed again, looking back up at the sky. “It’s all been nothing but a rollercoaster since coming here and I... honestly, I don’t know what to think anymore.”
For a moment she frowned, studying him, and then she smiled again. “We’ll be home soon...” she promised and stood up before walking away.
He stared after her, deflating and he looked down at his pocket watch after sitting up. “That’s just it... I don’t know if I want to go back...” he said, weak and unsure, to the empty air around him.