The passage of time eventually turns night to day, and the last moments of calm before the storm come to an end. It’s hard to watch the other members of the cabal split again, all of them off to their own tasks in this the beginning of the end. Will Daniel see any of them again? If so, which ones? There isn’t enough time to dwell on those thoughts at the moment, his focus needs to be elsewhere.
It’s with his two fellow Ecstatics; Ava and Aaron, and Jianyu that they arrive in Davenport, in the rose garden where it feels like they were last at only yesterday. He knows that they’re using a different focus in this instance, but his violin case is still slung over his shoulder anyway. “I can’t believe this is all alive.” He says, struck by the life in the gardens despite the freeze they went through, and the rains that must not’ve stopped. “You’d think it would be waterlogged by now.” He reaches out to trace his fingers along a rosebud.
He turns toward the rest of the party, eyebrows raised. “So…should we inform ”/characters/johann-erdo-an" class=“wiki-content-link”>Johann we’re here and waiting for him?"
“I already did,” Aaron answers. “We used to have a secret language. Comes from being the only two mages you know for years. If he’s out here, he’ll hear me.”
“I did.” Johann has his hands in his pockets. No matter where he stands he’s standing in mud and water. He frowns down at his feet, his brown socks waterlogged. “Why are they here Aaron?”
“We just want to talk. I brought the talky people.”
“Well…that’s handy.” Daniel grins softly. “So we just…” Wait. That sentence remains unfinished as he turns toward the new voice. “Hello Johann,” He says with a slight bow of his head in greeting. “Yes, Aaron’s right. We just wanted to talk. Ecstatics…and ”/wikis/dreamspeakers" class=“wiki-page-link”> Dreamspeaker to Ecstatic."
“Alright. Should we go somewhere more comfortable?” Johann was never one for the outdoors. He’s not even wearing shoes, so he was probably inside when he got the call.
“Sure. I’m sure there’s a dry how around here some—” they’re standing in a stranger’s living room before Aaron finishes the sentence. None of them at least will recognize Sonia’s old home. It changed hands months before the Cataclysm, so even the photos are gone.
Johann peels off his wet socks while Ava looks around cautiously.
Daniel looks slightly alarmed at how quickly Johann was able to move them, also peering around cautiously. He’s checking to make sure the whole party was safely transported before he turns back to Johann. “You want to warn us next time?” He snaps irritably. “We’re here to talk, not to be pulled in multiple directions.” Someone is a little more on edge than he lets on.
“We’re technically at war right now,” Johann points out, pointing a finger accusingly. “I could’ve just teleported your heads off your bodies. Yours too,” He looks at Aaron, lest the Ecstatic think he wasn’t included.
“Easy now,” Aaron says, holding up his hands. “Non-combat people, remember?” Hands up, he eases down onto the ottoman. “Let’s just sit down and chill, okay?” Jianyu and Ava both takes seats on the floor—reluctantly, Johann joins them. Seeing this, Aaron slides onto the floor. They are more or less in a circle now.
“So, what, we’re just going to smoke some pot and forget that Johann is going to kill you all in a few hours?”
“Actually.” Aaron draws the bong out of his bag. “Pot’s a good start.”
Daniel looks as if he would like to have a verbal sparring match with Johann, but Aaron steps in before he can open his mouth again. Instead he does as everyone else, sinking cross-legged to the floor and completing the circle. He shrugs the violin off of his back and lies it on the floor in front of him while Aaron goes to dig out the drug paraphernalia.
“Yes, basically. For starters. It’s a shared experience, Johann. Don’t you want to indulge in the practices of your Tradition before your creator wipes most of us out?” He glances at Ava, then Jianyu. The look he gives his young quasi-apprentice more or less says ‘You don’t have to if you don’t want to.’
“Are you kidding me?” Johann asks. “Guilt-tripping me?” He’s a bit past that point. Nonetheless, he takes the bong from Aaron and inhales deeply before passing it onto Ava. All of them, except maybe Jianyu, can use this to reach an Ecstatic state, so a focus like this empowers him as much as it disarms him.
Jianyu gives Daniel a hesitant look. He’s definitely a ‘good’ kid—normally he’d probably decline. But he’s also a curious one, and if they’re all going to die later today, well… he nods his willingness at Daniel. Ava passes the Canadian Ecstatic the bong next—Jianyu will be last.
“You’ve got my attention. What do you want me here for?”
Daniel shrugs his shoulders at Johann. It was worth a shot, right? “Just stating facts.” He replies. He takes the bong when it’s passed along to him, having his own moment of hesitation before taking a toke. He coughs as he exhales, then passes it along to Jianyu.
“See this little hole here?” Yes, he is instructing the Dreamspeaker how to properly use a bong. “You want to hold your finger tight over it while you light it and inhale. Otherwise you won’t get much smoke.” What a great mentor he is, right? “You want to breath deep as you do it to get it in your lungs, then hold as long as you can. Don’t worry if you start to cough, it’s a normal reaction.”
His attention is split between the conversation at hand and making sure Jianyu doesn’t have much difficulty with his first use. “You wanted to see Aaron.” He says simply, his eyes cornering to Johann and the other two Ecstatics. “He asked us to come with him.” He pauses. “Plus…I’m still curious about…about everything, really. I was hoping you’d share your experiences and perspective with us.”
Jianyu pays attention to Daniel’s instructions, coughing as the sensitive tissues of his throat and lungs, unused to inhaling smoke, burn a little.
“I did,” Johann says. “Before this all went to shit. You keep on fighting and there’s not anything I can do. Sonia already died because you went up against Kal.” Aaron’s face freezes. “Why don’t you do something then?” He interrupts. “I mean, are you my friend or not?”
The homonculus’ face softens. “I was your friend. Before everything—before, I was your friend, however it started. But ”/characters/kal" class=“wiki-content-link”>Kal is a god and an Archmage. There comes a time when you just have to fold your hand," He says to Aaron.
Daniel looks momentarily delighted when Jianyu gets it on his first try. “Don’t worry, the burning goes away with time.” He reassures. “You might get a distracting itching in your ears, though. Once you are done, you pass it along.”
His attention in full is back on the matter at hand as he sits up straight. “Did you really expect us to just sit back and let him continue on his tirade?” Daniel asks. He does his best to keep any accusation or anger out of his tone. It’s tough to keep a neutral face when it comes to Kal. “He’s going to kill us all if no one stops him. He’ll finish off the last of the Adepts of Time and then he’ll move onto us. Or when we pass our next Seekings, he’ll come after us then. We can’t live our lives in that fear, Johann. We can’t just lie down and let him dictate our fates.”
He glances between Aaron and Johann, letting out a soft sigh. “You don’t have to fold your hand. You don’t have to stop being his friend.” He trails off, not sure where he’s going with that line of thought.
“What do you expect to do about that?” Johann asks plainly. “He’s an Archmage. A god not just to me but to you as well. You don’t defy the will of a god. You ask, you implore, and he can be merciful, but you can’t beat him.”
“But you told ”/characters/america-anders" class=“wiki-content-link”>America that Kal and Kate were coming," Ava points out. “So you were willing to defy him then.”
Johann looks away. “I was wrong to do that. I thought Sonia would have a better chance if she had a warning. Maybe if I hadn’t she’d still be around.”
Aaron’s arms are still crossed. “So you found me and befriended me because Kal told you to, only you were really my friend at the end. Friends take risks for each other, Johann. Kal is going to kill us all today, so why don’t you do something about it?”
“Fuck it. Do you have anything better than this?” The German asks, gesturing at the bong and changing the subject.
“A god who has been a plague on the Tellurian.” Daniel says. “A god who has committed a massive amount of genocide to your own Tradition, and to so many others. I don’t know what to do, but I know it has to be something. I will not ask for mercy from him. Mercy will get us nowhere. It will get us to stagnation and to waiting and wondering about the day he decides to take that mercy away.”
Aaron and Ava are better at reasoning than him. Daniel is too emotional on this subject and he knows it. He sits back, trying to shut up and release the tension in his body. His shoulders sag and his arms relax. “We would be stronger with you and your insight, Johann.” He says softly. “Or at least, if we could have your word that you wouldn’t remain on the sidelines in this.” He glances at Aaron and his bag of tricks. “Of course we do.”
Aaron pulls out some hallucinogens. Jianyu looks both uncomfortable and curious, but Aaron lets Johann take his pick. “Do you even have a plan?” Johann asks, too neutrally. He and Aaron partake first.
This time, Daniel places a hand gently on Jianyu’s arm in reassurance. He leans in to whisper to him. “Remember, the choice is yours whether you do this or not. No one will force you, okay?”
“Kal ”/characters/gabrielle-harrison" class=“wiki-content-link”>isn’t the only Archmage left in the world, Johann." Daniel deflects as he sits back up.
“It must be so weird to be you. Or stressful. Kal already allowed the continent to be broken. He’s ended the Technocratic paradigm. None of you have any power against that.” Ava takes the next hit before passing to Daniel.
It doesn’t take long—Daniel might not even be finished—when Johann tries to rise to his feet. “What did you do? That wasn’t… wasn’t just LSD.”
Aaron tugs him down. “We’re not going to hurt you Johann.” He tells the Ecstatic. His eyes are cold. “You’re just having a bad trip. Too much judgment.” Yes, he’s gaslighting the homonculus. “Take a deep breath and try to relax. No one else is having a problem.”
“Not alone, we don’t.” Daniel agrees. “And not by normal magical means, maybe. But…we shouldn’t have had the power to figure out how to fix the weather, right? We shouldn’t have had the means to save Aaron from the Starlight Passage, either. We did both of those things, though. We’ve gotten pretty far because we’ve worked together.”
He’s in the process of dropping the acid when Johann starts to make a fuss. His blue eyes flick up on the German, then back to his hands. Aaron has this under control. He finishes off and holds his open hands out to the Dreamspeaker with a questioning look.
Jianyu shakes his head once. He knows Johann’s trip is just because Aaron laced his drugs… but if they’re going to act like this is all in Johann’s head then it’s natural for him to act reluctant.
The homonculus pulls back, rubbing his face as he looks around at them. “Sssh,” Aaron says, catching his hand. Slowly, he pulls Johann in for a hug, holding the taller man in front of his body. It looks like a very intimate, soothing way to hold someone and chase their demons away. But his friends can see his expression—devoid of feeling.
The rest of their trips pass fairly normally, until abruptly Johann is just gone. Aaron hardly has time to register his surprise before he falls asleep. Jianyu hits the rug behind Daniel.
Ava looks at Daniel, eyes wide.
Daniel nods and sets what’s left of the drug on the floor in front of himself. “No one is here to hurt you, Johann.” He says softly.
He watches Aaron with a look of deep sympathy, reaching out with his mind magic to sooth him. It’s not much, but it’s all he can offer at the moment. As the rabbit hole gets deeper, the emotional range does as well. He expands it, sharing a warm feeling of love and support he has for his friends. If this is one of their final moments together, he wants it to be a good one for all of them.
Of course, that is all cut short by the sudden change in atmosphere. He can feel his anxiety spike as both mages collapse, his first instinct is to turn to Jianyu and check him over. “Oh no…no no no not yet.” He whispers. He looks over at Ava, the same surprise she is probably feeling on his face. Are they next? “Are you okay? Do you feel okay?”
“I’m okay,” Ava says. “If Kal’s taken him… let’s contact the others.”