Title: Under the Milky Way
Author: bnomiko
Rating: R to NC-17
Pairing(s): Trevor + Sypha + Alucard, Trevor x Alucard
Spoilers: through the end of S3 + through S4
Disclaimer: "Under the Milky Way" is performed and recorded by The Church. "How to Save a Life" is performed and recorded by The Fray. Castlevania is the creation and property of Konami. Castlevania (animated series) is the creation and property of Netflix. This is a not-for-profit fanwork and I do not own any of these characters.
Summary: After the events of Lindenfeld, all Trevor and Sypha wanted was to return to the closest thing they had to "home," but Alucard has not fared well in their absence. "You wanted to save the world, remember?" " He also needed it. He needed us." Post S3 + S4 animation canon based.
Archived at: http://www.phenixsol.com/Miko/FF/

* * *

Under the Milky Way

Ch. 7: Drive until you lose the road
Or break with the ones you've followed

* * *

Trevor's original thought was that a communal bath would end up being something a bit... sexy. Sypha had agreed. So how had they ended up sitting on their respective benches soaping up in silence?

At least Adrian hadn't been overly reluctant to disrobe, probably figuring they'd already seen everything since there was no way he'd changed into a nightshirt while unconscious after the fight in the forest clearing. Maybe it helped that Sypha was comfortable with nudity, making no attempt to hide nor accentuate her body, and Trevor simply gave off "don't give a fuck" vibes, having begun stripping before they even got into the bathroom proper.

Now that they were there, Sypha kept shooting Trevor "what now?" looks every time Adrian turned or lowered his head. She was dying to say something, but it was too awkward to start making small talk about nothing of importance, and just as awkward to stay silent. Never mind that just because Adrian was okay with being there with them, that didn't mean he wanted to be gawked at or have anyone trying to draw his gaze towards their bodies either.

Trevor thought back to the previous time he was in the bath with Adrian. No reason the same thing wouldn't work again. "Want me to help with your hair, Adrian?"

"I can manage on my own," was Adrian's reply.

"Well, sure. But that's not why I'm asking."

"Then why?"

"Don't you think I did a pretty good job last time?" Trevor wheedled.

Adrian sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. It was less of a headache to give the go ahead and let the brunet do as he pleased, rather than argue back that he was capable of washing his own hair. "Suit yourself, I don't care."

"Great!" Trevor jumped to his feet and looked around a second, then pointed at a bottle next to Sypha's stool, which contained the same flowery concoction he'd used before. "That stuff's okay, right?" he asked, but before he could pick it up the blond shook his head slightly.

"Sypha likes that one, and there's probably not much left. Use whatever's in the larger green bottle over there." Adrian gestured at a shelf that held a variety of jars and bottles.

Trevor went and retrieved the item, uncorking it on the way back to take a whiff. He wasn't sure what exactly it smelled like as he wasn't discerning when it came to fragrances, but at least it wasn't floral. With a shrug, he poured a bit into his palm, then began working it through wet golden strands, causing the scent to blossom in the warm water. Trevor inhaled deeply, smelling fresh cut wood mixed with something sweet yet spicy.

"... Are you sniffing my hair?" Adrian asked. He wasn't really complaining; he was more curious than anything, as it was becoming apparent that Trevor liked paying attention to his hair, of all things.

Trevor simply chuckled as he rolled damp curls over his fingers.

Sypha couldn't help inching over to catch a whiff too. "Oh, that suits you. It smells like... a forest? There's a sweet spice, too. I'm not sure how to describe it exactly."

Adrian flushed at the attention. For some reason he'd felt less exposed undressing in front of the two of them, versus listening to them compliment how this particular scent settled in his hair.

"Huh, I never really noticed your ears..." Trevor suddenly commented. He had lifted a section of hair up and away and was now idly tracing the helix of Adrian's ear, following it up to the exaggerated point, smaller than a full-blooded vampire's but still pronounced.

The contact sent a jolt down Adrian's spine and all the way to his toes. He couldn't quite check the ensuing shiver and quickly gave a half-hearted swat to the other man. "Tsk - don't do that."

Well that was interesting... "What? It's not like your fangs, skin tone, or eye color don't give things away," Trevor said, pretending he hadn't noticed Adrian's reaction when all he wanted to do was try stroking his ear again.

"Since you hadn't realized, I try to minimize how much of my fangs I show if I can. A hooded cloak is all I can do about the rest."

Trevor had wondered why Adrian was prone to mumbling down towards his chest at times. "And your hair takes care of this part?" Trevor asked, laying the wet strands back down where they fell naturally.

"You only noticed it now, so it works well enough, wouldn't you say?"

Trevor froze. He'd picked a fight with Adrian moments after they'd met, simply because he had fangs and had popped out of a coffin. "Is that because you don't like it, or because there's idiots like me that assume the worst?"

"I don't care. It is what it is; it's how it's always been. But my parents worried about those things. When I was young I was rarely allowed out, as I attracted trouble one way or another."

Geez is there anything about this guy that's not depressing? Was it that Adrian attracted trouble, or was trouble going out of its way to hunt him down regardless? The brunet sighed and resumed his task in silence, though as he slung the lower section of tresses over one of Adrian's shoulders he found himself eyeing the criss-crossing scars on the half-vampire's arms and upper body. At least Adrian's back was unmarked, likely because he'd been prone on the bed when the cuffs had activated, but that was little consolation in light of the damage that had been done.

Maybe he was just being overly hopeful, but did the scars look a little more faint than before? Trevor did not dare ask knowing it could be upsetting, but he was beginning to wonder if Adrian would be okay with Trevor touching them, as long as he didn't fixate on it. He hadn't complained the few times Trevor's hands brushed over them, so at least it didn't appear that they were physically painful.

"Would you like a shoulder rub after this?" Trevor asked as he began rinsing out the scented oil.


"It'll help work out any muscle kinks, since we were just sparring," Trevor said, though it was more likely that he'd need the massage, as Adrian barely seemed inconvenienced by the match. But it was still a good excuse to put his hands on him.

"He's quite good at it," Sypha added, figuring that would help seal the deal, and Adrian finally nodded his assent.

Once Trevor was done with Adrian's hair, he twisted it out of the way, then slapped both palms down on either side of Adrian's neck and began rubbing and rolling the muscles there, slowly and carefully at first, to see what sort of reaction he got. Trevor made no attempt to avoid the scars, but he also avoided deliberately feeling for them, simply treating them like normal skin, though he could feel them under his palms.

At first the blond didn't make a sound, sitting still and staring straight ahead. But as Trevor began varying the intensity, moving around between the column of his neck, across the breadth of his shoulders, around the shoulder blades and down the upper spine, Adrian began making small groans and grunts, his eyes fluttering shut at times.

Trevor was enjoying himself as well. Adrian was a couple inches taller than him and more slender by several pounds - Trevor would feel better if he'd put on some weight - but there was nothing but the promise of power in that body, all lean, hard muscle under pale, marble-like skin. Trevor never thought he'd enjoy touching another man's body this much, but it was almost like admiring a work of art.

Sypha shot her boyfriend a playfully jealous look, but since this set up had been Trevor's idea, she was fine with him taking the lead, especially since Adrian wasn't complaining.

It occurred to the hunter that if Adrian turned around now, he'd get a face full of proof that perhaps Trevor liked touching him a little too much. So Trevor knelt, dismissing the discomfort. His pulse was picking up and he was pretty sure that Adrian could somehow sense it, so best to say something rather than pretend otherwise. Trying his best to keep the hoarseness out of his voice, Trevor murmured, "I very much want to kiss you right now."

There was silence for a long moment, then Adrian said, "Is that why you said you liked my face?"

"I like more than just your face..."

Sypha made an approving sound in agreement.

Adrian flushed, but his voice remained steady as he replied, "... No. Not right now. Not like this."

Like this? Like what, with Sypha watching? Or like, "Not while I'm naked and you're naked too." Or, "Not while I'm doing my best to not curl up into a ball while pretending to not notice your arousal?" Trevor wondered. He didn't say any of those things, opting instead to go with, "Well that's all right... 'later' is fine too."

Adrian's brow furrowed. He was completely confused as to what was going on. On one hand, they'd made a joke at his expense earlier, on the other, Trevor was being very... aggressively attentive all of a sudden. Had Trevor been interested in him before? No, he'd clearly only had eyes for Sypha. And although Adrian had felt some attraction towards Sypha, he'd never said anything to her because it had been obvious early on that she was interested in Trevor.

What had changed?

Seeing no reason to leave things be, Adrian shut his eyes and asked, "Why did you say I deserved last billing earlier?"

Trevor's hands stilled, though he kept them on the other man's shoulders.

"You... heard that?" Sypha responded.

"I caught part of it. My hearing's better than yours."

"Only that part?" Sypha clarified. It mattered, because depending on what Adrian heard, it could've very much colored what he'd been thinking.

"You said something about Belnades and Belmont and Tepes, and Trevor said it was good that I had last billing. Have I... not done enough?" the blond asked hesitantly, his stomach sinking. Taka and Sumi had thought that, hadn't they? That's why they...

"Oh my God, no," Sypha breathed. "Adrian, you misunderstood. We..." And she paused to glance at Trevor, realizing they had to come clean, because there was no other explanation they could offer.

"We agreed to court you. And then Sypha brought up that whole Belnades and Belmont thing that we've been announcing ourselves with throughout the countryside. I was just joking that it was a good thing I wouldn't be getting last billing anymore, because she's been passing me off as her sidekick, and... well..." Trevor paused to organize his thoughts as he realized none of what he was saying really made much sense, but he continued on to try and explain himself. "I'm not saying you'd be a sidekick of course. It's... just a stupid joke. Because she put her name first and... uh, I mean, someone's name has to come first when she's telling the story, right? It's just that she put hers first."

Adrian turned to stare at Trevor as if he'd carefully explained the aerodynamics of teaching a farmyard pig to fly. Then the first part of what the hunter said clicked in his head, and he blurted out, "... Wait. Court me?"

Trevor finally let go and sat back down on his little bench. "Well, yes. That's why I asked you to spar. I thought I was being slick. It was mostly a stupid excuse to get you sweaty and into the bath."

"You just told me this morning that I'd gotten things confused."

"You had. But I had as well, even more so." Trevor let out a heavy sigh. "Look, yesterday... you caught me off guard. I needed time to think about it, and to talk things over with Sypha. We came to an agreement: we both want to be with you."

"You... what?"

"We're both attracted to you and would like you to consider being in a relationship with us. All three of us, together," Sypha clarified, in case there was any ambiguity over what Trevor had said.

"Wh... what?" Adrian repeated, his head swiveling back and forth between the two of them. They couldn't... someone like him... the last time he'd... No, they didn't know about that. If they did, they would never have considered asking such a thing of him. "You can't..." he began protesting.

"Let me ask this to you straight, so I know absolutely, positively for sure... you do fancy men, correct?" Trevor inquired.

Adrian looked embarrassed, his gaze shifting somewhere off to the side. If Trevor hadn't just asked to kiss him, if Sypha hadn't said they were attracted to him, he'd have dismissed this all as a joke. It was something he'd never admitted aloud, not even to himself. Not that his parents had ever expressly told him it wasn't acceptable, but his mother's hope and expectation was that one day, he'd meet "the right woman." It felt like another failure, to wonder if that was what he'd really wanted. "... Maybe a bit more than women actually."

"But women are fine too? Or no?" Sypha wanted to clarify. She'd thought she had Adrian's interest early on, but maybe she'd misunderstood...?

"Oh yes, of course," Adrian assured her.

"So is it just me, then? I'm not your type?" Trevor asked, his brows knitting together, and Adrian marveled for the tenth time that minute that the hunter was claiming interest in him.

Adrian fully turned to study the man seated beside him: sarcastic and quick tempered and just as quick-witted, covered in more scars at the tender age of twenty than most men would gain in a lifetime, who carried upon those broad shoulders the weight of a legacy hundreds of years in the making. He sighed. This was all coming way too fast. "It's not that. I told you, your timing is poor. If this was a couple months earlier, we wouldn't be having this conversation."

"What do you mean?"

The blond gave a dry chuckle. "Maybe we'd have already made it into a bed by this point, who knows."

Trevor seemed to perk up at that.

Adrian couldn't help but glance down a quick moment, though he refused to let his eyes linger. "Were you always like this?"

"No, but now that you have my interest and we have yours..." Trevor airily replied, but then he grew a little more somber. "I'll have you know, I am quite serious about this - this isn't a joke. It's just... this is new to me. I hadn't given it much thought before. So I'm fumbling around and probably saying some stupid things because of that. Just ignore me if I'm being an idiot. I don't normally get close to other people, emotionally I mean. You know how that goes."

He said it all so easily, but Adrian thought it was admirable of Trevor to recognize and admit to his limitations, and to break through them.

"We know this is abrupt, so don't feel obligated to answer right away. We only ask that you give it some consideration," Sypha added. "If you decide it's not for you, then tell us plainly - we'll still be friends."

Adrian could only nod. Yes, he'd need to think it over, now that he had clarification on what was going on. In the meantime, he was curious as to what else he'd misunderstood. He thought of the stories Sypha had told him about the things they'd seen and done on their adventure. But they didn't match up with what she and Trevor had mentioned on the first day back. "So is this why the two of you decided to come back?"

Sypha started slightly, realizing that they'd never given Adrian the full story about what was going on outside of the castle. "I guess we never fully explained things... and we need to. But since we're pretty much done rinsing off, mind if we move to the tub first?"

Both men agreed, and soon enough, all three were soaking in the hot water. Trevor especially appreciated it, as he was starting to feel the after effects of his rounds with Adrian - not that that would stop him from challenging him again.

"We did miss you. But Trevor and I really did need a break," Sypha began.

"But you said you were doing all the things you hoped to be doing out there, other than perhaps finding your caravan," Adrian said. "Am I wrong?"

Sypha sighed, then inhaled deeply, straightened up, and said, "At first, it was fun. It was amazing, really. I thought we were making a big difference. After all, we're the heroes of the story, right?"

Her confidence wavered, but she kept on, pushing to their time in Lindenfeld. Truth be told, she still didn't really want to talk about it, but Trevor had been brave enough to share his family's story - and his accompanying fears and misgivings - with them. And it was clear now that by only telling Adrian about the positive things from her adventure with Trevor and glossing over the negative, the blond had gotten a skewed view of what actually happened. She'd told herself that he had enough troubles to deal with... he didn't need - and wouldn't want - to hear about her struggles. But Sypha now realized, if she ever hoped to get Adrian to open up to them, then she had to do the same, just as Trevor had... no, she had to do better than that. The onus was on her to expose her failures and weaknesses and trust that Adrian would understand and accept them.

"I got too caught up in the adventure. I got too full of myself. If I had stopped to think, I would've realized..." She faltered, hanging her head. "So many lives were lost that day. The harvest could have been stopped. But I'd dismissed the symbols around the town as... I'm not sure what. Mere threats? I did not put the pieces together and identify them as components of a complicated spell until it was far too late."

"It wasn't your fault," Trevor assured her. "Saint Germain recognized them as well but he didn't know what they were intended for either. Really we should've pushed into the priory earlier, but the Judge..."

Sypha groaned. During her retelling, she'd tried to avoid mentioning the town's headman as much as possible, but there was no avoiding it. "The Judge overruled us. It was his town, and we needed his men-at-arms to force our way into the priory. If possible, that worsened the disaster. The town burned. The priory burned. The monks and the men-at-arms wiped each other out. The Judge and Prior Sala killed one another." She shook her head, remembering the utter devastation. At the end of that hellish night, she and Trevor seemed to be the only ones left relatively unscathed, hale enough to slink out of town with their tails between their legs.

"The only thing we managed to accomplish was to kill off the night creatures that were there, and close the Infinite Corridor, I guess. Though the latter was Saint Germain's doing," Sypha said.

"All that to bring back my father?" Adrian rubbed at his forehead. He had no idea that there were creatures out there plotting to somehow bring Dracula back from the dead, but at the same time, he wasn't surprised to hear it. Not just vampires, but various dark forces had held up his father as a leader, a symbol, a stabilizing force. Without his presence, all sorts of malevolent things were running amok in the night. Adrian's only relief came from the fact that his friends had at least, for the time being, managed to thwart the most serious attempts at resurrection, as well as quell some of the craziness out there.

"Before we left, we discovered one last thing... and I think it was pretty much the last straw for us both," Trevor added, his voice grave. "In a way it was the worst part of it all, because it had nothing to do with vampires or night creatures or magical plots."

Sypha nodded slowly, but the pleading look she gave Trevor meant that he'd have to tell that part of the tale.

The hunter grumbled, but complied. "The Judge asked Sypha to burn down his house just before he died, but I was curious about a locked room on the side of the house. Turns out, he was collecting kids' shoes as trophies or something. The sick fuck was killing kids in his own town by luring them into a hidden pit of spikes - he called it indulging in his 'little pleasures.'"

Adrian's eyes were as wide as an owl's. "What the hell?!"

"That's putting it mildly. I wish we'd left days earlier like I'd originally wanted, but the Judge requested our aid and we got caught up in all of it," Trevor said.

"And I wish I'd listened to Trevor," Sypha admitted. "I never want to see that town again."

"We got back on the road we'd come in on, and followed it back here. I was done. It wasn't even a question," said Trevor.

"We both needed time: I wanted to think things over, Trevor wasn't recovering as quickly as he used to. And... we realized we hadn't done you any favors by leaving." Sypha bit down on her lip, then in a smaller voice, confessed, "I think in some sense, I'd been running away. Not on purpose, but maybe somewhere in the back of my mind, I was doing just that. Although I had chosen Trevor, I also liked you, Adrian... but your sadness was almost overwhelming at times. It still is, if I may be honest. But instead of telling you - and Trevor - how I felt about the both of you, it was easier to take him and leave, rather than stay and see if we could figure things out." She sighed, then breathed, "I'm sorry. I've made things difficult on all of us."

Adrian sat back in thought. It was a lot to take in, all at once. Plus, he'd thought he'd noticed something had changed in Sypha... and now being in such oximity and concentrating on it, he confirmed his suspicions. But how could he bring it up in light of their confessions? With no clear answer, he pushed it aside for the moment, musing, "But if you hadn't been out there, the Infinite Corridor might've been harnessed and fully opened and the plot would've succeeded. Maybe even more lives would've been lost. So take the good with the bad, I suppose."

"Since when were you an optimist?" Trevor asked, smirking.

"I'm not. I just want to believe that something worthwhile was accomplished despite all the losses, all the things that went wrong," Adrian answered quietly, pointedly ignoring the little voice in his head that reminded him of everything that had gone wrong in their absence.

Sypha slid around the tub a bit to hold out her open hand to Adrian. "Will you forgive me?"

How could he do anything but, when she asked like that? It was too awkward to hug while they were naked in a tub, but holding hands was acceptable. He reached out for her, wrapping his fingers around hers. "Of course. How could I not?"

She relaxed a little, a grateful smile blooming on her face. "I really want to hug you right now, but I'll be considerate and wait until we're out of the tub and dressed."

"That would be acceptable," Adrian answered with a faint smile of his own, still holding onto her hand. "Thank you."

Watching the two of them, Trevor almost blurted out that he wanted to join in, but he held his tongue. It was only fair to let Sypha have a turn at closing the gap between her and Adrian. Besides, they'd promised to give Adrian space and time to think things through; Trevor had every intention of being reasonable and honorable in his pursuit.

* * *

The conversation had been draining, but necessary. They left the bath soon after, cleaner - and in Sypha's case - clearer of conscience. Once they were all dressed and out of the bathroom, Adrian put an arm around Sypha's shoulders and gave it a squeeze, just like she'd wanted, since they'd been unable to do so in the tub. She leaned against him, warming his side, grateful for his understanding.

They made their way down the hall like that, with Trevor right behind, until they reached the end of the hallway and Adrian asked, "Sypha, could I ask for a favor?"

"Certainly. What do you need?"

"Do you remember... where my old bedroom is?"

"Your childhood room?" She looked upward, then twisted her torso to the right. "I think so... yes."

"Could you go in there and, well, see if there's any books that might be easier for a beginner to read? For Trevor's lessons."

"Oh God, are you really serious?" Trevor groaned, suddenly remembering the bargain he'd struck, under protest. "Children's books?"

"We're heading down to the armory to get my shield, so yes, Trevor."

Sypha laughed as the brunet rolled his eyes and grumbled about getting double-teamed. "A deal is a deal," she said firmly.

They split up once they reached the stairs, the two men heading down, the Speaker heading across through a connecting hallway and then up. Sypha managed to locate the room in question with only one wrong turn, but even she had to take a deep breath and steady herself before going in. Even with Adrian's blessing, she felt a little like an intruder.

The blood-stained sheet was still lying on the rug where she'd incinerated Dracula's corpse, the same rug where his wedding band still lay. She couldn't help but lower her head a moment in a show of respect; regardless of the terrible things Dracula had done, this was the closest thing Adrian had to a grave for his father. But the sheet... that definitely needed to go; she told herself to come back and get it later, for the burn pile.

She headed to the bookshelves lining the wall and began picking through the books, wanting to sort out a good mix of easier and harder to read options, even though she knew she'd probably overdo it and end up with too many to carry down all at once. It made most sense to take only the most rudimentary books for now, so she tried to make that her priority, but even then she managed to make a pretty sizable stack.

Figuring she'd pulled out enough for the moment, she went to Adrian's old desk to root for some writing paper and supplies, then added those to the stack of books. Just as she picked up her selections and turned to depart, the family portrait on the wall caught her attention. She'd seen it before of course, but she hadn't really gotten a good look at it due to the circumstances. Now without the company of a shell-shocked half-vampire that needed to be escorted out of the room, without the charred scent of ancient magic and death and regret lingering in the air, she had the opportunity to spend a little more time studying it.

The Tepeses made for a beautiful family - a happy one, at least on the day this was painted. Sypha remembered thinking that Adrian looked just like his mother: blonde, beautiful and graceful, but he had his father's sharp features as well. And the Dracula in the portrait was no monstrous figure, though imposing for sure, with his height and severe features and the starkness of his white skin against the charcoal gray suit. But it wasn't a stretch to call him handsome as well as he looked every bit the proud father: gentleness in his eyes, a hint of a smile on his pale face, his clawed hand carefully resting on his child's shoulder.

And Adrian was so ridiculously cute that it was criminal, with his halo of angelic curls and wide honey citrine eyes. He must've been about six months old, give or take - or perhaps even less, given that he'd aged quicker than a human child. Sypha couldn't help but smile when she noticed that he had teeny tiny fangs in the portrait, and that his mother had worn a blue hair ribbon to match Adrian's gown.

Sypha was struck with the urge to take the portrait with her as well, feeling a strange sense of foreboding that something bad would happen to it if it were left where it was, but she stopped herself. As much as she thought it'd be good for Adrian to remind himself that this was the true face of his father he'd grown up with, that he'd been loved, she had no right to touch the painting, or to tell Adrian that'd be best for him to put this where he could see it every day. It was probably still too painful for him to look at the smiling visage of his parents, from a time long since passed.

As she turned to leave, a cold gust of air whistled through the window and she realized the windows flanking the painting were both smashed, leaving the portrait and the rest of the items in the room at the mercy of the elements. She wondered if that had accounted for her unease. She made a note to move it somewhere safe later on when she came back to get the bloodied sheet, and maybe bring up the suggestion of repairing the windows as well.

Even if Adrian didn't want to see anything else from that room right now, perhaps he'd change his mind in the future.

* * *

In the meantime, Trevor followed Adrian past rows of armor and weaponry to a solid, plain door in the back of the room that was completely smooth and lacking any discernable keyhole. While Trevor looked it over, trying to figure out how one might open it, he heard a series of clicks off to the side and turned to see Adrian closing some sort of hatch hidden behind an otherwise ordinary stone fa├žade.

"That should do it," Adrian said as the door slowly began sliding open.

"It's really like magic," Trevor commented, noting that the door sat on some sort of metal rail that carried it into a gap inside the wall itself, and that the room lit itself once the door completely filled the gap.

"You mean science."

"Yeah yeah. What's science anyhow, but a form of magic?"

Adrian chuckled softly and stepped inside.

The interior of the room was surprisingly small but there wasn't much inside, so the space was sufficient. Adrian wordlessly walked past a suit of coal black armor on a stand, and Trevor realized immediately from the size of it that it must've belonged to Dracula. On one wall there hung a variety of swords, one-handed and two-handed, as well as a long spear. They all carried a whiff of magic. Since Trevor knew from his family's records that Dracula eschewed the use of magical weapons, these all must've been crafted for Adrian's use, though he showed no interest in picking out something new to use.

At the end of the row of weapons sat a large shield that looked like an elongated heater shield. Adrian picked it up, hefting it, then with a smirk he held it out to Trevor. "Want to try it?"

The hunter wasn't one for favoring defense either, but he accepted it... and very nearly dropped it, not expecting the weight. "What the fuck? It's so heavy!" he complained, rolling it slightly so the curve of the bottom edge rested on the ground, to lessen the effort needed to keep it upright.

"I told you," Adrian said smugly.

"No, but seriously... it's heavy, impracticably so. Is it all metal?"

"Very nearly. Better defense that way."

"Geez, you weren't kidding. I bet you could bludgeon someone to death with this... if you could only lift it."

Adrian took it back, sliding his arm into the straps and carrying it as easily as one would carry a wooden board. "Of course I can. And yes it can be used as a weapon."

"Well I didn't mean you you. I meant... ugh, never mind."

They exited the room, Adrian pushing the door an inch more into the gap which somehow caused it to roll closed behind them - it made no sense to Trevor, but very little of the castle's mechanisms did. They headed back up to wait for Sypha in the main hall.

She came down the stairs several minutes later, a good half dozen books in her arms, along with some paper, ink and pens. "Sorry, it took me a while. I think we can start with these."

Trevor glanced at the cover of the selection on top, and groaned. "Really, Sypha?"

She grinned as she handed him some of the books to carry. "What, everyone loves fairy tales!"

* * *

Author's Notes:

January 18, 2023