Balance

An Unexpected Journey Home Pt 2

22nd of Reaping 383 ONT, Al’Callani Estate outside of High Port, 2:50pm

The shimmer disappeared as quickly as it began and the slight disorientation of travelling like that disappeared leaving Tar Di blinking and looking around in the dim light of the main hall. Lazy afternoon light left puddles of vibrant green carpet and warm polished wood amidst the shadows. At the back a small fire popped and crackled in the fireplace. The wood of the walls were carved in amazing detail and depicted scenes that she could only guess were either the histories of the elves or fables of some sort. A great table ran lengthwise in the main hall decorated with no less than four flower arrangements and had a small burbling fountain in the centre. On the far wall hung four portraits though one was covered with a thin black cloth.

“If you’ll excuse me, Miss Hikari, I’ll summon my parents and we can give you a proper welcome.” Tar Di noted that the lippy elf girl was acting a lot more humble now that Hikari had shown off some power and watched as Charisia gave a better curtsey before limping away and leaning heavily on her cane. So it wasn’t for show, hmmm.

She looked to Hikari and was surprised to see her close to tears. Tar Di did not understand. If anything she should be annoyed or smug about putting the elf in her place. More so given that Hikari had shared how she had been pushed to leave at an early age and all but disowned by the family. Hearing Charisia calling out for her parents, Tar di had to ask, “Why are we meeting them? We’ve, well you’ve done more than you needed to and we can go back to the palace at any time.”

“I did that to her,” Hikari responded, “It was my fault she has to use that cane. I wasn’t watching her close enough.” She looked down at the arachnid and touched it gently on the back. “No, we are still us and we will not forget that.”

Her mentor was strange enough before meeting and joining with the arachnid. Tar Di was still mad at hikari for not letting her go along into the temple. It sounded like they had a lot of fun down there and came out with some new abilities. Though losing her eyes was not something Tar Di wanted to experience. The problem was that just like when Paprikka had become Hikari and changed so too had she changed from her experiences in the temple and Tar Di was still trying to figure her out.

“So? That was Paprikka’s past and not you and it doesn’t mean we need to stay here any longer than it takes for you to recite that spell again to get us out of here. She’s rude, stuck up and way too elf for my taste. Her parents are probably the same.” Annoyance crept into her voice as Tar Di poked one of the carvings in the wall. Maybe she could make them move and enact the scenes so she’d know what the story was.

Hikari sighed, something she did a lot around Tar Di, and shook her head. “No, we will stay for a while. There is something that we need to do before we leave here, something that might help things change.”

“Change? These are minor elven nobles. They are set for life. What needs to change here?”

“Watch, listen and look closely Tar Di. Things are not as good as they appear.” Great, now she’d gone off being cryptic again. Why couldn’t Hikari be more direct and fun? All these rules, all these stupid tasks that she made Tar Di have to figure out on her own. Well maybe she would enchant the walls then just to… Wait? What was that?

Tar di spun around and looked towards a darker corner and froze a chill running up her spine. Shadows and shapes moved where none should move and clung to the wall. Faint purples, and reds much like auras but not on people slipped from shadow to shadow. Looking around she felt like this place, this estate was close to being a house of ghosts. But as soon as she tried to focus on one it would disappear on her.

Large doors on the other side opened and two elves, slightly older looking than Charisia to Tar Di’s eyes came through dressed equally as fine as their daughter had been. They smiled and gave the proper bows and greeting which Hikari returned in equal measure adding in the ‘we’ and her title for good measure which made them much more pleased with her presence. To Tar Di and Thorbil they barely glanced and she could tell they thought she was nothing more than Hikari’s servant or some such. Well that just meant she didn’t have to listen to the boring conversation they were going to have.

“…would be honoured to stay for dinner and spend the night. The Archmage is a busy man and would not miss us for an evening.” Wait what? Damn it all. She was seriously going to have to talk to Hikari about her ideas of fun and a good time. This just wasn’t right. Then she noticed Charisia standing off to the side and the youngest Al’Callani had a strange expression on her face. Looking back to the other two she noticed that both Liliahna and Etheronim were not as happy about it as they appeared. So why were they staying? Hikari wanted her to figure that part out. Well she wasn’t going to play along. After all how often did one get to explore an elven mansion?

A few servants began to move around cleaning and clearing things off and Tar Di was allowed to wander off with Hikari and the elves moving off to something called a solarium. For her part she was curious about the shrouded painting and moved over to it. Lifting the sheet she saw it was a picture of a youthful and happy Paprikka and she looked to be only a few years younger than Charisia was now. Well that was boring. Dropping the sheet she proceeded to wander off and made her way to other rooms in the house. But if there was something to be found beyond a dozen or so empty bedrooms and storage closets and only a half dozen servants quarters that even looked possibly occupied Tar Di was not seeing it.

Dinner was good, not Hikari cooking good but better than most places she’d eaten at and Tar Di did her best to be polite and behave mostly to avoid a lecture later. After dinner they were shown to a set of rooms that had been hastily cleaned and many apologies were given and polite conversation before they were allowed to close the door and get ready for bed.

“So, did you figure it out yet?” Hikari asked through a yawn.

“No,” Tar Di shrugged, “It’s just an old house with a lot of rooms and a few elves and halflings in it. Lots of it is unused but there isn’t anything wrong with the house or the people.” Tar di paused, “They still have a picture of you in the main room, which was odd.”

“I noticed it too,” Hikari nodded. “Was that all?” Tar Di nodded and Hikari sighed and shook her head. “Sleep well then. We will leave at first light.”

That bothered Tar Di. She’d missed something or managed to disappoint Hikari and she didn’t know how or why. Maybe she could ask Thorbil. He didn’t speak much and had a strange need to call Hikari Mistress but he was a good and honest sort. Wait, where was Thorbil? Thinking back he’d disappeared sometime before dinner and had not returned. Hikari wasn’t concerned or she would be taking the place apart piece by piece to find her friend so he wasn’t in danger. But where was he then? And where had the stuck up Charisia gone? She’d barely eaten anything before running off. This had to be related to what Hikari was talking about. Stupid Hikari and her stupid cryptic-ness.

Tar Di wasn’t going to get to sleep thinking about this and rolled out of bed. “Have to pee.” She told Hikari and slipping on her clothes left the room.

The shadows she’d seen earlier had disappeared or hidden with the arrival of Etheronim and his wife but now, with the estate once more quiet they were moving about again. Tar Di hated this, hated being able to see things like this and how no one else ever could. But they seemed to be rippling and moving in a particular pattern tonight and finding a bit of courage Tar Di followed after to see where they led.

Out of the guest wing and away from the Al’Callani side and out the back door. Slipping from the mansion she followed a well-worn path towards a small side building. Light blazed from a partially open doorway and odd sounds came from within. Tar Di approached cautiously trying to make no sound and stepped up to the door to look in…

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