Power surges down Isla’s arms with a feeling like white-hot fire, burning her inside out. She grits her teeth against the pain, and continues to pull on her magic. A small, dark pink flame forms in the palm of her hands.
“Lead me to Lucian,” she says, and the finding-spirit in her hand flashes once, then flies off towards the east side of town.
Isla follows it.
The finding-spirit takes her through winding streets, all the way to the abandoned house at the edge of town. The pink flame hovers in front of the door, then dissipates in a burst of light, leaving Isla gasping from exertion and pain. Isla looks up at the silhouette of the abandoned house, as imposing as ever, and her heart drops. Why would Lucian be here?
She looks around nervously, half expecting Em to appear out of nowhere, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone around at all. Everyone must be gathering at the town square for the festival.
She walks up to the door and tries the doorknob. It’s unlocked.
Taking a deep breath, Isla goes in. She’s not sure what she expects, but the inside of the house looks much nicer than the outside. The floors are swept and well-looked after, the furniture is, well, existent, and there are clear signs that someone lives in this house. There are no lamps lit and the decor is on the dark side, making it all look rather grim. There’s a slightly damp smell to the house which isn’t altogether pleasant, but it seems like a place where someone could live quite comfortably.
“Lucian?” she calls out. “Lucian? Are you there?”
“Okay,” Isla says to herself. “That’s a bad sign, but maybe she can’t hear me. She could still be okay.”
She starts searching the ground floor. There’s nothing to find except old, moth-eaten tapestries and a few worrying stains on the wood flooring. There’s nothing in the kitchen, nothing in the living room worth noting. Certainly no Lucian.
“Lucian? It’s me, Isla. If you’re here, can you say something?”
Still no response.
Isla goes up the dark wood stairs, and they creak terribly as she climbs them. She winces and hopes there really isn’t anyone home right now, or things might get really bad really fast.
She checks the first bedroom in the hallway, and finds it full of banners and books and a few sets of long flowing clothes that must be festival clothing. Some of them look damaged or incomplete. She flips through the books briefly, but it’s just some history about the festival and the ceremony that she really could not care less about in this moment. She moves on to the next room.
The next bedroom is, well, a bedroom. There isn’t much furniture, and it doesn’t look like there’s anyone living in it. She starts backing out of the room when she hears a low groan from somewhere.
Isla freezes, then tiptoes over to get a better look. There, on the other side of the bed, sprawled-out on the ground is Lucian.
“Lucian!” Isla says. “Lucian, gods, are you okay?”
Lucian lets out another low moan, but doesn’t seem to react in any other way.
Isla carefully rolls Lucian over onto her back and pulls her up into a sitting position. Her body is limp, and her eyes are wide open, but they don’t seem to see anything.
“Lucian,” Isla says, shaking Lucian slightly. “Lucian, it’s me, it’s Isla. If you can hear me, say something. Anything.”
Lucian still doesn’t respond, and Isla bites her lip. What could have happened to Lucian to make this happen? Did someone hurt her? Is she going to be okay?
Isla looks over Lucian for some kind of damage, but her clothes are all still intact, not even looking much dirtier than when she left. Her bad is gone, but the lantern is still hanging on her belt.
Isla takes a deep breath to try and calm herself down. She’s not sure if it helps–she doesn’t feel very calm at all. “Okay,” she says. “I need to get Lucian out of here. I can figure out what happened later.”
She reaches under Lucian’s arms and tries to lift her, but it’s like trying to lift a boulder–Lucian’s too heavy. Isla drops her again.
“Shit,” she says.
She steps back, trying to think through some kind of solution. She doesn’t think she can manage any more magic right now, and she’s not sure she even knows the kind of magic she’d need to pick Lucian up and get her down the stairs, much less out of this creepy house. Picking her up the normal way is out of the question, obviously.
Isla bites her lip and reaches over to take the lantern off of Lucian’s belt. There’s no way for her to know if Solanus is okay after what she’d done earlier in the day, but it’s the only thing she can think of. She turns the lantern on.
“Solanus?” she asks.
There’s a long pause, then a quiet, “Isla?”
Isla sighs in relief. “Solanus. You’re okay, thank goodness.”
“If you’re glad to hear from me, some shit must be going down,” Solanus says. “I’m not feeling great, Isla. What’s happening?”
“I don’t know,” Isla says. “Lucian got mad at me earlier and left, and I’ve been looking for her ever since. And now you guys are here in the abandoned house. What happened?”
There’s another pause, then, “I felt your memories while Lucian was walking around, and we followed them to wherever we are now? You said we’re in the house? That’s weird, I didn’t feel anything like that earlier.”
“What happened, Solanus?”
“I don’t know. I kind of passed out. Super passed out. Not sure what happened. Is something wrong with Lucy?”
“She’s not responding to anything,” Isla says. She glances back over at Lucian, who’s staring blankly up at the ceiling, then says, “I don’t know what’s happening. I’ve never seen her like this. I’m really worried.”
Solanus pauses for a few seconds. “Have you tried slapping her?”
“No! Of course I haven’t! Lucian’s not even–”
“Well, there’s your problem. Try giving her a big old slap across the face.”
Isla looks at Solanus, then at Lucian. Hesitantly, she slaps Lucian’s face. It hurts her hand more than it does anything to Lucian, who is still resolutely unresponsive.
“That didn’t do anything,” Isla says, shaking out her hand.
“Yeah, I didn’t think it would. I just wanted you to slap Lucy because she did something stupid again.”
“What? Solanus! Be serious! Lucian might be hurt!”
“What, you’re saying she walked us into a creepy abandoned house and got her shit kicked in and doesn’t deserve a slap or two that can’t even hurt her? What the hell do you want me to do, sing? Lucy’s probably gotten into some fucked-up magic shit and that’s why she’s all messed up right now. There’s not a lot I can do to help out.”
Isla presses her hands together. “But we have to get her out of this house, and I can’t carry her. You…Solanus, can you possess her?”
There’s a very long pause. “…Lucy’s not going to like that.”
“I know, but I don’t have any other way to get her out of here before someone comes back. It’ll just be until we get her somewhere safe.”
“Uh…you said she’s not responding at all? She’s like, unconscious or something?”
Isla grimaces. “She’s just staring out into space. She’s limp and she doesn’t do anything if I talk to her or shake her or slap her or anything. I don’t know what happened to her, but I’m guessing she’s been like this for a while. I don’t think it’ll be a good idea to wait for her to get better, especially when we don’t even know who lives here.”
“For the record, I’m totally against this. We had enough of this back when we were locked up.”
“It’s the only way. I’ll apologize to her later,” Isla says. “But I need to make sure she’s safe, first.”
“…Okay. Fine. But only until we get somewhere safe.”
Isla lets out a soft breath. “Thanks, Solanus.” She holds the lantern out to Lucian’s body. “It won’t be for any longer than necessary.”
Solanus doesn’t respond. There’s another long silence until Lucian starts moving slightly.
“Ugh,” Solanus says. “I hate this. I don’t even know how to use an actual body anymore.”
Isla pulls her up, and it’s definitely unsettling to see Solanus in Lucian’s body. Solanus has a wild, darting glance that looks wholly out of place on Lucian’s face, and when she talks, she doesn’t sound like Lucian, for all that she’s using her voice. It won’t be for long, Isla thinks. The sooner Solanus is out and Lucian’s awake and herself again, the happier everyone will be, but right now, this is the best they can do.