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fear and doubt began (and god threw up his hands)

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None of them have gotten used to teleporting yet, so this time is as much of a whirlwind as any of the previous.

Eren lets out a breath that sticks to the walls of his throat, like he had been shoved underwater and was just brought up for air at the last second. For a moment he thinks he still never left the unseelie court due to the sight of mist around him, and his stomach nearly drops at this.

“Is—“ he turns his head as if to address someone else, but his eyes stay locked onto the space directly in front of him as he tries to get a sense of his surroundings. “Is everybody all right?” he asks to seemingly empty air. He only just notices the labored breathing next to him, and something clinks against his vambrace.

A cough. “I think so,” Allan says, voice strained and hoarse. Eren glances at the glimmer of the harp in the other’s hands then.

“We need to move,” Lysha still has her arms outstretched from when she was commanding the wrath of nature. She takes a step forward to face Eren and Allan when her posture straightens, her expression haggard and her eyes giving away that she’s going through a million thoughts at once, “We can’t just stand around out here in the open.”

Eren’s eyebrows furrow, “It’s not like they know where we are. Can’t we all just—“ a roll of his neck, “just take a second?”

“Eren, you’re bleeding,” Lysha says, deadpan but with enough underlying urgency in her voice to maybe get it through his skull. Eren is about to scoff at the scolding when he looks down and sees red oozing from the crevices and against the silver of his armor. All the adrenaline must still be kicking in, even when his wings seem to have drawn back before they had even left the court.

Lysha continues before a single retort could come from his mouth, “And I can’t heal you,” she grimaces, “Not right now or anytime soon, thanks to Niamh.”

“We’re miles away from the nearest town—it’s across the lake,” Allan says, suddenly remembering where he had taken the three of them amidst their panic. He looks back to where a hut presumably sat on the small island according to his hazy memory, “And I’m guessing Artelaine’s not going to be glad to see us back so soon.”

Eren excuses himself from the conversation by peeling away his armor and dropping every piece into the sand of the shore they’d landed on, leaving the plates around his abdomen for last. His chainmail grows more uncomfortable the longer he becomes aware of his current situation, and in his peripheral he sees Lysha hold herself back from reaching out to help him.

He groans. “That Guardian took a chunk off me, huh,” is his last thought before everything goes dark.

He doesn’t dream while he’s under, which Eren is eternally grateful for. The last thing he needed right now was a foreign voice telling him he was on the verge of death again for the millionth time in his life. Even if the said voice were Amglef, Eren would just be more annoyed than distraught enough to do anything about it at that point.

There is talking when he reaches any aspect of conscious, however. Familiar voices conversing in hushed, but frantic tones and near enough where he can hear them but far away enough where he can’t completely make out their words. It doesn’t help that his head feels like it’s been buried in sand ten times over.

The first thing Eren notices when he cracks an eye open is that he’s indoors now. He can hear light rain hitting against the roof and dripping in through a hole in the ceiling right next to the cot he’s in, and he can spot the puddle on the floor if he cranes his neck just right. He finds out the hard way that any movement he makes shoots pain directly to his abdomen, and the cot groans under him the same time he does.

There’s the sound of shuffling when he squeezes his eyes back shut; the sound of wood scraping against wood to be heard as it stops by his cot. He manages to open both eyes now, the two figures refusing to look at him or each other. Nothing new he particularly missed, then.

“Artelaine isn’t home, or anywhere on the island,” Allan says, arms crossed. “Consider us lucky.”

Eren doesn’t know what to make of this. “Do you think he’s back at Galadron?”

“Who knows? Old man could be dead for all I care.”

“Well we can’t just wait for him to get back,” Lysha sounds as if this isn’t the first time she’s saying it, the exhasperation in her voice evident.

Allan looks to her, then, “And how do you suppose we’re going to cross the lake, hm? Or are you yet to make up your mind on whether we’re returning in the middle of a civil war, or across in the other direction where there are more people who want our heads?” he seethes.

A humorless laugh a beat of silence later as realization hits Allan, “Xiiva’s in that lake too, in case you’ve forgotten, so pick your poison.”

Lysha visibly deflates in her seat.

Eren’s eyes flicker between them, “I could fly back to Gal—“

“We knew you’d bring that up,” Lysha cuts in, gaze stern, “Off the table.” Allan is back to not looking at him.

Eren would argue if he himself didn’t see that as a last resort. He’s never been one for bright ideas in their time together, after all, and if even his compatriots were struggling on their next move then they may be as good as lost. If Artelaine was off the island, that could mean there wouldn’t be a single boat around for them to use anyway.

He settles into his pillow, incapable of and unwilling to push his suggestion further and just wanting to sleep for the next century or more. His breathing evens out best it can with a hole in his front—which is bandaged and most likely stitched up now and worthy of some form of gratitude, so he does just that before he forgets like the thick-headed idiot he is.

“Thanks, by the way,” he mutters. He tries his best not to wince at the poor attempt.

Still, Lysha smiles at him, albeit sadly, “It’s the most I can do right now. We’re fortunate to be stranded at Artelaine’s home of all places.”

“Do not get her started on the amount of herbs he has in here,” Allan says with less bite than he was probably intending on but it earns him a slap on the arm anyway, “I thought you were already dead by the time she found what she was actually looking for—which weren’t even herbs.”

“A lot of these are really rare!” Lysha vaguely gestures to the wall of cabinets and drawers on the other side of the room. Eren takes that moment to survey the rest of what he can see of Artelaine’s home for the first time. Stacks upon stacks of books littering the floor; various liquids in glass bottles and jars with labels Eren can’t possibly begin to understand, thinking his two companions were to know way more about. He sees his armor piled in the far corner along with his broadsword leaning against the wall, and the corner of his lips quirks ever so slightly at the sentiment.

“Hey,” he says then, softer, “I’m still here now and that’s all that matters.” He closes his eyes, not needing them open to know Lysha nods solemnly and Allan rolls his eyes at this. Eren allows sleep to pull him into its arms again.

He doesn’t dream this time either—and he would be lying if he said that didn’t worry him despite welcoming the pleasant surprise. In the times he flickers awake for short periods, he wonders if the rain had ever stopped or will stop. The sky showers upon the old mage’s home in the middle of this little island, as if Vindur himself has pinpointed where they are, and Allan’s moved the tiniest amount to the left from his spot sat next to Eren’s cot to avoid the hole in the ceiling. Eren would have laughed had his mind and body been more present.

When he awakes fully, and it catches up to him how sore his whole being is, it’s dark out. The only way he can tell from where he lies is by Lysha sat meditating in the open doorway, and Allan’s chair having been turned around so he could lay his arms and head on the backrest while still facing Eren. For the first time, he notices the fireplace at one end of the room, its glowing warmth and crackling the only things to fill the space now that it’s in use. No sign of rain, and still the ceiling drips away. Artelaine doesn’t seem to have returned.

Eren’s fully aware he shouldn’t attempt to sit up, but he feels as if he’s about to gather moss if he spends another second laying here. He would even be fine with not being on his feet yet, he just wants to have some semblance of upright now that his head is beginning to ache.

“Don’t even think about it,” is what he hears when he braces his arms against the cot in a start to attempt at getting up. Lysha doesn’t even turn to look back at him, and he drops his head back onto his pillow with a huff.

“I’m rotting away here, Ly.” The statement is deemed redundant by how he brings the blanket placed on him up to his chin.

“It hasn’t even been a full day yet—and you’re staying there for multiple,” she says with a calm finality to combat the indignation she knows will come from Eren.

He gapes at her with her back still turned to him. She merely adjusts her posture.

Eren swallows when a thought dawns on him, previous efforts to get up now forgotten. “We could have brought Olika home,” he says under his breath, knowing Allan isn’t fully asleep. Never truly is.

The bard does not respond for a few seconds, but Eren watches as his frame moves when he sighs, “Lysha hasn’t realized that yet. I don’t think she wants to.” Allan says lowly, lifting his head so his chin rests on his arms. Eren narrows his eyes at him; mulls over this.

“I mean,” Eren starts with the softest of laughs, “we could always meet back with them.” Allan’s gaze darts away. Eren refuses to acknowledge it. “With Olika, Khorak and Thoras? We’ll figure something out.”

Allan’s mouth is a tight line, “We don’t know if they made it out, Eren.”

“Thoras went off with that Dullahan guy, right? Those other fae wouldn’t’ve stood a chance.” Eren’s smile is prideful thinking about the goliath even when faced with the look of incredulousness it earns him.

“Thoras ran off with the Wild Hunt.” 

“Yeah, see? Totally badass.”

“No—Eren,” Allan straightens in his seat with a shake of his head, “That thing they did? The raging massacre? Thoras isn’t coming back from that. He doesn’t have the mental fortitude to fight it.” In any other circumstance, it would have sounded like a mere jab at the goliath, but Eren takes Allan’s expression into account.

Eren’s eyebrows furrow, “What, like, they’re gonna kill him?”

“He’s going to join them. For eternity,” Allan doesn’t give Eren time to react, staring him down, “If he’s good enough for them they’ll make him stay, and he won’t be able to break free from it.”

“It’s true,” Lysha says from the doorway, startling Eren. Him and Allan look to her as she stands, “He could be long gone by now. When they’re done with that area they’ll look for another, and they will not stop for what could be months.” The front door creaks when she closes it. The ceiling continues to drip.

Eren decides that is when he has to be sitting up for this conversation, and he powers through the way his body screams back at him in pain. Neither Allan or Lysha try to stop him this time.

He nearly lurches over when his head starts spinning and he has to prop himself up on the wall by his shoulder. It’s cold against his skin; he’s wondering if he’s sweating.

“And we just—“ Eren starts around a labored breath, “left him there?” His face pinches in anger and Allan mirrors him in response, though more out of irritation, not wanting to have any more of this discussion.

“He chose to go with them, Eren. There’s nothing we could have done.”

“We could’ve—“

“Nothing,” Allan’s stare hardens, holding Eren’s gaze for a moment before he turns around in his chair so that he’s properly leaning against it.

“He’s gone,” he finishes, not looking back at Eren.

Eren can suddenly feel the bags under his eyes when he looks over to Lysha sat by his cot as well. She has her palms up in her lap as she stares at them, the harsh shadows on top of her hair obscuring her face preventing Eren from gauging whatever could be on her mind. Although, he could make a good guess.

He breathes in deep, “I’m sorry about Olika..." his gaze flickers to the floor then back to her. "And Khorak,” he tacks on, knowing how much the other druid meant to her.

He sees her hands slowly ball up into fists. She lets out a bitter laugh, “We weren’t thinking. How could we? When are we ever?”

Eren smiles at this despite himself as he lets his head rest against the wall. He knows they are far from where they need to be and, mentally, from each other. They sit in silence while the fire begins to die, and come morning they will face the mist that weighs heavy but is blown to wherever the wind may will it. Much like the three of them.

The next time he closes his eyes, he does not dream.