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Anywhere and Else *Me (Thestarjar) and That Guy*

lost in the sauce
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"Thanks, I also prefer all of you out of jail than in it," Theida said, and on a split-second, possibly regrettable decision, decided not to show any more commitment than that. "How's that soup work, anyway? Do you have to wrestle people into drinking it, or...?"
 
thea ante hominēs
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"Depends on the kind. Some of 'em, you drink; some can be applied topically, if they're thick enough... and some can just flat-out combust." He chuckled, withdrawing his stirring-arm with a flourish. "This one just vaporises, though, so, uh... try not to breathe it in. It doesn't spread too far, once it's been set off, but still."
 
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Theida leans back a little, as though worried it might start permeating the air right here and now. "Good to know...."

"W-Won't happen until it's out of the container," Spindle tells her. "S-Speaking of which--Hother. Are you ve-very mobile, with that magic going? We m--we might be able to find something else to put it in, in the building, i-if there's an excess after the first use. But with Sweetgum, you'll likely need to--well, to apply it yourself."
 
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The dog offered a determined nod.
"The less it's carrying, the easier it is... as you could probably guess. ...And I can just about handle it at the moment, so... I'll be fine."
 
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"Good, because--"

A single knock on the door is, again, the only warning before it opens. "Alright, I have to--What." Sweetgum's eyes sweep through the room. "What the hell!" Seeing Hother's wand outstretched and emanating foreign magic, she takes a wide stride towards him, ready to tackle.
 
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Hother barked his alarm at the sudden interruption, only realising after the fact that his reflex to jerk the wand aside, flinging the magical mixture towards his would-be assailant, was also entirely the correct and planned course of action. Nevertheless, he found himself still standing, still holding out his wand, and now trembling, his tail flicking anxiously back and forth, as the aftermath of that single moment washed over the room.
 
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A splatter of the potion hits Sweetgum square in the chest, startling her enough to break her charge. Within moments, the liquid bursts into smoke-like vapor, which billows upwards around her head and dissipates soon afterwards. It leaves a muted stain.

In the midst of it all, she gasps, and that's plenty. Her forward momentum already has her off-balance, and she drops to her knees, blinking heavily. "What... What did y... Why?" It's all she has time to say before she collapses entirely.

Spindle stares a moment, wide-eyed, as though worried she might pop back up. She doesn't. "W-Well! That's, uh, potent!"
 
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Bristlecone shrugged, already high from the raw audacity of how far they had gone with this plan. If they had had any chance of being found innocent after all, those chances had since evaporated as readily as the sleeping-gas potion.
"Hey, they gave us dawnspite to do with as we pleased. It's not our fault their expectations of us were completely wrong."
 
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Theida raked her claws over each of her circles, making them each completely indistinguishable before sweeping at them with her tail. She managed to even them out into rough patches of ground, which were noticeable against the smoother dirt floor, but no longer distinguishable as any form of writing. "Okay, so the guard's down. Can we get going before someone else notices?" Nerves were making her agitated.

"I-If we go through the back, maybe we could--um, w-we should be able to reach Larch's place from back there. Or--Or at the least, provide you two with means of escape." Spindle looked at Bristlecone for confirmation.
 
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The alligator simply nodded, and motioned for the group to proceed, setting a brisk pace-- no challenge at all for one of his stature.

Hother almost inhaled to speak, but found himself following in obedient silence instead, his tail twitching back and forth at very much the same hasty speed. He considered attempting to foster some optimism amongst his fellow fugitives through the observation that, with Bristlecone leading, not only did they have a fair shadow to hide in, so to speak, but he would also make for a sturdy first line of defence, should things take a turn for the aggressive-- but even through the processing of that stream of thought, he concluded that staying silent would probably behove their cause more, at the risk of attracting exactly the kind of worst-case scenario he had already started imagining.
 
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Theida follows with similar quiet, wings folded tightly against her back. Her tail is lifted slightly up so it doesn't make sound dragging against the earth, and her every step is carefully placed. Although, with little experience in the environment, she isn't perfect at avoiding sounds as she brushes against plant life.

When the brush gets thicker, Spindle starts glancing down every other moment, clearly worried about the sound he's producing. He edges up behind Bristlecone and taps on his arm as a signal of sorts. Then he leaps up onto the alligator's back, clinging easily to his shoulders.
 
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Hother couldn't quite see it from this angle, but he held a quiet confidence that he had seen a soft smile blossom on Bristlecone's countenance, almost directly spiting the gravity of their situation. The dog inclined his head slightly as he processed the thoughts it brought him.
Everyone should have a chance to find a relationship like theirs. That reptilian smile was infectious, it seemed. ...I want someone who can hold me like that...but I'd want to return the favour, too.

The entire spiral of thoughts brought him some facsimile of peace, despite the tension of their journey.
 
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As jumpy as Theida was about every little movement she thought she caught in the corner of her eye, nothing came to attack them before they reached their first destination. Being that they were behind the structure, it took her until they went inside to properly recognize it: they were back at Bristlecone and Spindle's home.

Spindle hopped down from Bristlecone's back. He faced Hother and Theida with the barest whisper. "Any supplies you think you'll need, take them. All right?"

And before any objections could be presented, he started moving around the small dwelling, visibly shaky but clearly determined. He got a bag that looked to be his own down from by the door, and then moved towards the dining area. Before putting anything else into the bag, he stopped in front of the engraved slab of wood on the wall. He put a hand on it, made a move to start unhooking it, and then... looked over at Bristlecone, eyes wide and worried and full of a very clear question.
 
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Wearing a look of melancholy solemnity, the alligator nodded in silence, offering a hand to assist in the unhooking.

Hother, meanwhile, had missed this entire exchange, busying himself instead with looking for his bindle of supplies that he had brought from home. He reasoned that, at worst, if it had been confiscated during the raid that morning, at least he still had his wand; but to travel for less than a day and to have lost everything else so soon...

His ears flattened in discomfort. At first, he thought that was just his neurotic nature, pre-emptively castigating himself for such a flippant waste of resources and sentiment; but his hackles rose as a boiling chill ran through him. This was more than unease; more than dread; this deep, deep anxiety ran deeper still than his already-swarming emotions towards the current situation. Something was-- and he didn't even need to turn to confirm it-- very, lung-chokingly, head-crushingly, pulse-racingly wrong.
 
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Beyond any shadow of a doubt, or any glimmer of hope trapped in its wake, he was right.

"And here I thought this could all be dealt with by due process," a voice came from the front entrance. Its slow, perfectly calm cadence sent ice into Theida's veins. "I don't suppose there's any way I could persuade you to get back to it, before things turn sour."

Larch closed the door behind him, and held up a glass vial full of some orange-ish liquid, so that they could all see it. And then he poured it over the top of his makeshift cane, letting it seep into the jagged end of the broken branch. It didn't look particularly sharp, but a good hit would definitely give the target a dose of... whatever that potion was.
 
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"'Due process'?!" Bristlecone could barely contain a snarl in his tone, his incensed state grappling with his loath to appear belligerent in front of his husband or guests. Still, he took a defensive stance, stepping forth and spreading his arms, as if to act as a live shield for the others. "I don't know what in the name of nature's bounty has gotten into you, Larch, but this has gone too far! Leave us and our guests alone...and get out of our house!"
 
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The feathers on Theida's neck were visibly bristling now, and she was crouched low to the ground behind Bristlecone, like she might be able to just sink down into it as a means to escape.

Larch looked over Bristlecone's posture and sighed. "Pity," he said, and that was all the warning he gave before taking a hard swing right at Bristlecone.
 
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With surprising agility for his build, the alligator leapt aside, waving one arm back to gesture the others to get out of the way of danger-- to push them back, if necessary.
"Have you lost your mind?!" He bore every vicious-looking row of teeth in his head that could be compelled to make an appearance, and Hother felt a secondary chill; one that told him he was glad that Bristlecone was on his side...

He inhaled as if to berate Larch further, but then, and at a speed so alarming Hother barely registered it at first, he lunged forwards, to tackle their assailant to the ground, wearing a sad rage in his eyes. He had so desperately wanted to settle this diplomatically, but with each passing second, that enchanted staff frightened him more and more. He couldn't afford to waste time on words Larch would ignore anyway. Whatever it took... he was not about to let Spindle come to any harm.
 
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Larch was slammed to the ground. He had been expecting a fight, certainly, but apparently not such a sudden, ferocious offense.

Spindle, eyes wide and frantically moving about, also shooed their former guests towards the backdoor. "Get out! Get out, you're the ones in more danger!" He hissed. It was clear that he, himself, didn't have the intention of leaving with them. Not without Bristlecone.

It did get Theida up, though. All her stress and fear, abruptly given direction, put fire into her legs, and she made a low, wing-assisted leap that sent her several feet forward. She wasn't out the door yet, though; once she had enough distance from the fight, she turned to look back at Hother, and again at everything happening.

The warning and the movement were not lost on Larch, who let out a grunt of rage and made a hard kick at Bristlecone's underbelly. He threw his weight into a roll, trying to swipe that poisoned staff in the direction of the runaways as he did, but the only one near (and low) enough was Spindle. The frog wasn't hit, but he yelped as he jumped out of the way of it.
 
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Adrenaline kept Bristlecone from needing to recover from the counter for too long, and, with a pained snarl, allowed his fist to lead him back into subduing Larch.
"Go!" he managed to cry out. "Find somewhere safe!"

Hother had already begun backing towards the door, and in that time-- a moment that stretched into an uncomfortable eternity-- he struggled to process whether the command was issued to them, or Spindle, or all three of them. He hardly wanted to abandon his host like this, so he could only begin to imagine how difficult the notion must be to the gator's partner; but his own mind was racing by now. He knew he wouldn't even be able to fathom just how far out of his depth this situation placed him as things already stood; and he felt a pang of blame. If he had just stayed at home, just shut up and taken to the collar and leash, so to speak... But, no, that little act of rebellion had already rippled into...into... whatever this was.
 
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