From the AshesAfter stuffing her face with Deni and Aeria, Ignis parted ways with her friends. She told the velen that she would drop by his place after a quick errand. The Pelagian accepted her reasoning, too sleepy to argue or press for detail. Besides, Ignis had just given him that dreamy look she usually wore, the one from before the Black Portal. That face reassured everyone around her. It solidified that image of Ignis as an aloof daydreamer without a care in the world. When had she ever stepped out of that role without extreme situations to force it? The answer was simple: not very many times.
The sunlight took the edge off the winter chill, but didn't do much to ease the winds battering her cloak. Ignis’ cheeks reddened and her short head feathers fluttered back and forth in the strong breeze.
The enlil could hear Amicus’ leaves rustling just below her ear, where he clung to her neck like some sort of twiggy scarf.
The path she took was familiar, but the sights and sounds had changed, much like Ignis herself. There were construction projects, boarded up storefronts, and “remodelling” signs where there hadn't been before. Some of the stalls selling a variety of street food still tempted her with their tantalizing odors. Vendors called out from either side of the street, advertising their wares. They offered everything from produce to terra regia. The pale enlil relented and bought a bunch of berries from a fellow enlil who raised plants imported from Boreas in a greenhouse.
“Here, you can tell me if their quality really is what it was back home,” the young woman told her companion, passing the bushy creature the fruit.
Amicus rustled appreciatively and accepted the treat with a wave of satisfaction that Ignis could feel through their bond.
The shops and stands thinned out as they reached the residential area where Ignis had found a small apartment several months ago. To her dismay, the place where she had once lived was heavily charred with boards haphazardly nailed over the windows and doors. The crumbling brick and faint scent of smoke that lingered told her what she needed to know.
“I really liked that nest…” the enlil said in a small voice.
Amicus tightened his grip on his companion.
Ignis crouched and jumped, flapping her wings to give her leap some added height. A platform of sticks and vines formed beneath her feet seamlessly, allowing her to perch at the windowsill. The enlil's claws easily pried away the boards, allowing her entry into her former residence.
Half of Ignis’ things had been left in Deni's apartment, but this loss still stung. The sight broken floorboards and scattered bits of shattered dishes in the daylight filtering around her perched form made her chest ache.
“I...” her voice trailed off. What was there to say? Ignis’ mouth closed and opened and closed soundlessly a few times. She hugged her knees to her chest, resting her chin on her knees.
The platform curled around the avian like a cup and carefully manoeuvered her through the window to inspect the rest of the apartment. Not much was recognizable, the scorched scraps of what used to be the meager amount of clothing Ignis owned, bits of paper with blackened edges, a few exa in the dusty corners. The small bedroom wasn't much better, a few piles of ashes decorating the floors, gashes accenting the damage to the walls. One of those ash piles spread out under the weight of Ignis’ gentle touch. Her teeth sank into her lower lip, bruising it.
The ashes were like soft, blackened sand, carrying the vaguest traces of warmth from the demonic fires that had ravaged the place. The remains of an ordinary fire would have long been cold by now.
The fingers of Ignis’ free hand curled into the leaves of the mons infans clinging to her neck, trembling.
She withdrew her hand from the ashes and wiped her hand clean on her cloak, smearing the red fabric with dark streaks.
Understanding what his contractor needed, Amicus quietly navegated them out of the burnt apartment and back towards the more active parts of town.
The shield dissolved, letting Ignis stand on her own feet. The feeling of the cobblestone street seemed to bring the pale woman out of her daze if only slightly.
“Guess I'll prepare for my next journey,” she mumbled aloud, though it was highly unnecessary for communicating with Amicus.
With nothing left to do but walk, Ignis made her way towards vendors and shops selling clothes. Despite the thick, fluffy, rust colored down covering her body from neck to waist, she would need something more to stay warm in Arctoa. There was no need to think of replacing the clothes she'd lost, that would have been looking back. No, Ignis needed to think ahead, to prepare for what came next.
A well insulated travelling cloak made from a durable leather (basilisk skin, the retailer insisted) didn't even make a significant dent in her purse (or the empty feeling in her chest). It was heavy and a deep green color, leading credence to the claim that it was indeed basilisk skin. Inside, soft, light colored material gave it a plush feel. More importantly, there were a few well placed pockets inside. With the proper bargaining and a few bigats, the avian could have a gun holster added.
The velen who owned the shop was more than happy to get the requested alterations made within a few hours when Ignis offered extra compensation. He even offered a smaller cloak for Amicus at a reasonable price.
Ignis wandered off to find more things, barely remembering the location of the shop let alone the velen's face.
The rest of the day passed in a similar fashion. By the end of it, Ignis had her wares wrapped up in one of Amicus’ shields molded to form a basket, floating behind her as she made her way back to Deni's apartment.
The cloak, spare terra regia, extra bullets, and such were neatly arranged in a closet before Ignis went to the kitchen and set some water on the stove to boil. The avian shuffled off to find Deni's pants crumpled on the floor. Careful not to disturb his sleeping form sprawled across the bed, she rifled through the pockets of his discarded clothing until she found what she was looking for: his stash. Ignis took a pre-rolled joint before replacing the tin and went back to the kitchen to fix herself some herbal tea. Within five minutes, Ignis found herself on the balcony with a steaming mug in her hands and a joint between her lips. Smoke trailed from the end of the joint and wisped from her small, reddened nose.
The floaty feeling of being high dulled the emotions she had been trying to ignore most of the day, but it couldn't erase the images burnt into her memory. Amicus sat on her shoulders, twiggy fingers preening her head feathers.
Ignis pulled the joint from her mouth to sip at her tea, the steam warming her face.
Another drag intensified the dizzying effects of the drug and loosened the tightness in her chest.
“I'm not sure I'm ready for this next adventure, Amicus. Then again, I don't have much left to lose.”