Rollick considered Soubrette’s suggestion about the house fire when Julen addressed the matter to him, but he quickly saw some insurmountable obstacles. “A good thought, but when we scouted the premises before, it was clear Panterras lived only on the lower storey. There are likely others living above, and we can’t gamble their safety on your friend’s ability to contain a fire to only one floor— particularly a lower floor, as fire climbs upwards. Also, I doubt Panterras owned the building himself. It is highly unlikely the landlord knew what was going on, given how much trouble that could bring down if Panterras was caught by the officials. The money from a cheap flat rental just wouldn’t be worth the landlord’s risk, if that risk was known, so I must assume the landlord is blameless. That being the case, I wouldn’t want to take away their livelihood for our own convenience, and risk leaving them destitute from the loss of the building.”
Rollick paused for a moment, thinking, weighing options. “Perhaps an abandoned building might serve, though. We passed another on our way to this one that looked likely to collapse at any moment, so burning it instead would be no great loss. Panterras could be taken for a homeless man who built a campfire inside to keep warm, only to have the blaze catch while he slept. Such tragedies are, unfortunately, not entirely uncommon, and I think such a thing would not arouse undue interest from the Guard. We have already smashed Panterras’s magical laboratory and his store of potions, so all we really need to do is destroy the body, and it need not be done in his own home.”
Uluki said nothing as Rollick spoke, and then Julen and Soubrette. She assumed the others would perceive her as completely intent on healing, but she wasn’t. Healing came so naturally that, while it required some level of concentration, it didn’t occupy all her thoughts for the duration. Currently her thoughts were in fact very scattered.
She couldn’t help being somewhat worried about Julen. Not about his physical state— he was likely right that he didn’t need to be healed— or even about this incident in particular, but about how little control he seemed to have over his magic. Rollick had appeared to take the whole thing in stride, and Uluki doubted very much that it was just to make Julen feel better. Rollick admittedly didn’t understand magic, so he was never particularly surprised to see it behave wildly or abnormally. Uluki, as a magic user, knew more about how magic was contained, harnessed, and used, so she was much more concerned that Julen was in danger from his own powers.
Uluki had known Julen couldn’t prevent the illusions, but until she’d seen him actually use his magic, she hadn’t understood just how powerful he was… and powerful, out of control magic was a very perilous thing. Uluki knew that very well. There was a time her own magic had been beyond her ability to restrain it, and she’d become a murderer, albeit an unintentional one. That horrible accident had brought her more guilt and loss than the deaths of any of those she had once faced in combat, and she didn’t want that to happen to Julen. Something had to be done. But she wanted to talk to him about it privately, not in front of all the others.
She also couldn’t banish the blood-soaked images that continued to haunt her even now that the fighting was done. She watched them fall, again and again. Dash, then Rollick. Rollick, then Dash. Blood everywhere, but not enough to obscure her vision or to conceal the horrors before her. The sounds, too. Dash’s screams. The harsh noise of metal striking wood as Rollick’s armour and sword hit the floor, immediately followed by the dull thump of his head. It was all she could do not to cover her ears, but she needed her hands to heal Rollick, and it wouldn’t make the awful sounds go away anyway, any more than closing her eyes banished the images. It was all burned too strongly into her brain. She knew she had not really lost them, but she was still residually terrified of how close she’d come to it, especially with Rollick, whose injuries were not feigned. That knotted her stomach up; she couldn’t bear the thought of living without him.
As Julen and Soubrette talked, Uluki finished her healing of Rollick, then turned her attention to her own face and neck. The damage from the burn was simple enough to correct, but she was utterly exhausted from healing all of Rollick’s wounds, so when she had finished she reached for Dash’s hand and held it, glad to have her daughter safe and close, and leaned against Rollick and closed her eyes, comforted by the steady rise and fall of his chest.
After a moment, when the time seemed right in the conversation, Uluki suggested, “I know Rollick and Dash and I are very tired, and I’m sure the two of you are as well. Perhaps we should return to the base soon, to rest? Soubrette, if you wish to join us we’d be happy to provide you with food and a bed. You have more than earned our family’s friendship too.”