It had now been 9 days since Pix had gone missing. Several search attempts had turned up zero results. Well, zero results other than a regular sized bugbear and two giant honey Badgers taking up residence in the cave the party had originally found them.
Even with her attempts to speak with some of the forest animals willing to search, Cora still had heard nothing. But now all that changed.
Now she was running.
Sending apologies over her shoulder to the small group of goblins and one changeling girl she had ran through interrupting their playing to make way. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to stop your game but really need to get to the dragon right away even quicker if that was possible but it isn’t so I got to go!”
As Cora bursts through the door of the dragon she announces with post raised in the air. “PIX HAS MAIL.”
Usually Merrick finishes up with his business at the stables before heading across the street to the Dragon for a late but well-earned breakfast. But today, while finishing up bailing some hay, he happened to catch the sight of Cora running like mad into the entrance waving a bunch of postage in her hands and going a mile a minute about Pix, he decides he best check in a little early.
“Never a dull moment” he mutters as he puts down the pitch fork and tries to wipe some of the grit and grime off of him as he makes his way to the Entrance of the tavern.
Lunan is groggy after staying awake all night staring at the moon and questioning why one of his friends would disappear like that. Usually there is a reason and a track to follow but this time he had been stumped. As he takes a sip of his morning ale at the dragon he hears Cora’s exclamation and jumps up like a kangaroo and rushes over to greet her.
“People hardly ever get mail out here. Have you read it yet? I sure hope Pix is ok.” Lunan says looking concerned but eager to find out what the mail says.
Cora nods to Lunan and makes her way to the bar and spreads out five letters on the counter: One addressed from The Iron Tree Library, a larger one that appears to be more of a parcel than a letter addressed from The Upstaged Theatre Company, and the final three letters with residential addresses.
“I didn’t want to open them just yet since they aren’t for me but I got worried well I’ve been worried and all I could think was to bring them here since everyone else has been worried and well what should we do?”
Lunan thinks for a moment and then says “well sometimes it is better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission and I feel like this is one of those situations. Especially since Pix has been gone for so long without a word. Question is; which do we open first.”
He takes a moment to look at them all. “Feels like Pix has been spending a lot of time at the library, so maybe this other library has been in communication with Pix.” Lunan points towards the mail from the iron tree library and urges Cora to open it.
Cora picks up the letter from the library and nods to Merrick upon his arrival.
“I suppose you are right Lunan but I still feel really guilty about this even though it’s FOR Pix and I guess it’s appropriate to start with the one from the library since that where I found these well our library that is I’m rambling aren’t I? The letter!.” Cora unseals the letter and begins to read.
Halfway through she stops. “Oh. You probably wanted me to– ummm okay yeah. It says:
Although I remember you going by a different and proper name your recent visit was a pleasant one. After conferring with the Council of Librarian Commerce as well as the staff at the Iron Tree University we do hereby accept your proposal of a loaned book exchange.
We feel that both parties can greatly benefit from such an exchange. We will be sending our list of eligible books to be exchanged for a short time within the coming weeks. We look forward to working with you and your local library in the future.
SincerelySilanna Dade, Chief Librarian
Merrick sidles up to the growing group looking over the letters. “Well, don’t feel too guilty, Cora. From the sound of things, this is not exactly personal correspondence. Sounds like Library business, so look at it as handling clerical tasks while the Chief librarian for the Amber Library is, um, on leave?”
His brow crinkles as he looks at the first letter. “Hmm, anyone familiar with this Iron Tree University?”
Cora sets the letter down with a relived sighand wiping away a small tear.
“Thank you Merrick. That makes me feel a little better and at least we know they made it there alright and McKay didn’t do anything to them. Pix mentioned the university a few times since it is in their hometown but never attend or wasn’t allowed to? I’m not totally sure. They rarely talk about it. Which one should we open next?”
Merrick has a look over the remaining letters. “Not sure, maybe the Upstaged Theatre one? I would hazard a guess that it might also be business related, although I don’t really know what business a theater company would have with a library apart from plays.”
“Can’t say I’m familiar with any theatrical scripts or works of music the Amber library would have. Don’t delve into that section myself. Lunan? Any preference on the next letter?”
Lunan nods at Merrick “I don’t even know how you go about setting up a place to get mail. So really could just be that Pix set up the library as the place to receive their mail in general. A parcel sounds interesting to say the least so I agree with opening that one next.”
Unsealing the thin oversized envelope Cora finds a sealed letter. The letter states:
I must send you another round of thanks and applause. If not for you stepping in at the last minute to cover our opening act I don’t know what we would have done. I still can’t believe the original group said they simply forgot their songs. Who does that?
I don’t know what god I need to thank that my casting manager recognized you at the tavern you were preforming at. He wouldn’t stop talking about your performance at the Toothless Dragon’s opening. Again I apologize if he scared you or you brother’s you were dining.
Anyways, Danni and the rest of the Dream Circus also send their thanks as well. They wouldn’t stop talking about you. Should you ever wish to preform here again we would be more than happy to have you.
Enclosed with this letter is the billing you asked for. I hope it won’t be the last one you do for our theater.
Zach Briarberry Direction of Theatre Operations
P.S. – Should you or your family wish to have their box seats reserved for them yet again, all they need to do is pay the annual fee that is owed. We do miss seeing your family and hope to see you again soon in the future.
Cora sets the letter down and pulls out a parchment that says:
For Three Days Only!
Come witness the awe and wonder of Danni and the Dream Circus!
Unlike any experience you have seen before!!!
With surprise opener all the way from Hopes Bastion: Skyla “Pix” Boarsword!!!
Cora sets the poster down and takes note. “The last day of the show was still three days ago. Where have they been since then?”
”Seems we need to find this circus first and foremost and then we might know where they are. Could be they are with their family or with the circus still.” Lunan offers.
Merrick nods along “From what I remember, Pix has had some unresolved tension with their family. A return home after a long absence, even if they planned on it being brief, you could still find yourself roped into things.”
He turns to Cora to say “And this might be a good thing, mind you. Pix has grown extraordinarily during their time here. It just might be that, with a new strength, a fresh perspective, Pix could very well be finding themselves able to handle old problems that before seemed insurmountable!”
Cira narrows her brow towards Merrick and with an uncharacteristic deadpan tone,
“Mushrooms. Remember the mushrooms Merrick?”
“Or how about the time they lied and accidentally convinced an entire family they were with child?”
“Or how now they keep turning themselves into animals! Willingly! I watched them turn into a snake the other day only that see a hawk snatch them off the ground 5 minutes later only to fight their way free and fall into a pond!”
Merrick raises a hand to interject but fails to come up with any retort at each point.
“Insurmountable isn’t my worry! I care for Pix but trouble has a way of making a playdate with them and vice versa. And they would be gone this long without sending word, I mean I get spending time with family and all and I know they have grown I’m just worried.” After a sigh, Merrick finally thinks of something to say.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that you *shouldn’t* worry. And you’re right. It isn’t like Pix to not send word. But I will say that I am not inexperienced in having someone you care about go off into parts unknown.”
Lunan pipes up.”I feel like most of my life has been spent chasing after ones I love. Whether they feel the same or not, the worry is understandable. Hence why it would be wise of us to enquire around town to see if any know where we could find this circus and then head out to find pix ourselves.”
“Only actions can ease a worried heart.”
Cora’s expression softens. “I’m sorry Merrick. I didn’t mean to respond so harshly like that. And Pix hasn’t been gone this long all alone –they were with you two for a few weeks– but then I found this drawing; a design they made of a house which –who puts a bedroom right next to a kitchen?– honestly. And then I heard about that McKay person holding an impersonator of Pix hostage and now I need a drink –I’m getting a drink– here, open this one. I don’t recognize the address but it feels like there is something in it, I’ll be back.”
Lunan looks to Cora and gives an understanding smile and looks to Merrick as she gets her drink.
“Do you want to do the honors on opening this one?”
As he says that he realizes that maybe one of these letters contains something of ill intent and then quickly casts detect magic and subsequently detect poison and disease before either of them tries to pry it open. “If nothing pings off of the magic, poison, nor disease detection I think we should be safe to open the rest.”
As the spells leave his lips, several waves of color and light flow over the letters.
Lunan sighs. “Seems to be safe; that is good. Means it must not be anyone trying to do harm via mail which is a scary thought. Though there is a smell of lavender for some reason?”
“Now that I think of it as well maybe it is a good idea to open the rest without Cora and then report what we find. Ease her worries a bit.”
As Cora continues to get a bottle of wine open across the bar, Lunan unfolds the letter and begins to read. As he does Merrick notices something fall from the letter and float to the ground.
Bending over to retrieve the object, he unfurls a silk handkerchief with a family crest of a shield and sparrow.
The letter reads:
Dear Sweet Pix,
I had resigned my life to the nunnery and in service to a god I didn’t care for until I saw you preform.
I felt a stirring I hadn’t felt before. You caught my eye halfway through your second song and I felt as though I was the only one I was the theatre.
I have sent you my favor. Bare it well. I hope to hear from you again soon.
P.S. – Your dragon is hot but not as much as you are.
Lunan barely finishes the letter before Cora returns with wine in hand.
“So what was in the letter?”
There is a long pause while Merrick stands there with the handkerchief, finally handing it over to Cora along with the letter, wordlessly.
Taking the letter and handkerchief Cora begins to sip the wine as she begins to read the letter. A sip turns into a gulp and into several gulps as she continues to read. She manages to keep a fair pace until the dragon comment at which point she can no longer take it and snorts wine onto poor Merrick.
“I’m so sorry. Here. ummm. Just clean up with this.” Cora tries fruitlessly to clean up what she can before just handing the now wines soaked silk handkerchief back to Merrick.
Seeing that the remaining letter came from the same address Cora hastily gathers them up and stuffs them in her overalls pocket. “I’m just gonna take these and, I’m, uh, I’m going to go get cleaned up a bit and maybe get more wine …or not, maybe something a little stronger.”
Merrick gently holds the handkerchief by two fingers for a second before lightly dabbing his forehead.
There is a long pause.
He finally turns in his seat and says to Lunan with a sigh “Perhaps if we manage to find this Circus, I should join it myself as a jester.”
He reaches for a drink, muttering into the mug “…never a dull moment.”