There had been a lot of noise. She padded down the hallway with her pack, her skulk, and avoided Orphée. She was supposed to meet someone. It was a surprise. Someone who had returned a while ago whom Orphée thought she should get to know. They were to meet soon. Maybe already. Maybe in a few hours. But the noise had distracted the Kitsune. And she was nothing if not nervous and curious. The constant, forever fight in her mind. Curiosity had won this round, and she sniffed at the crack below Hasdrubal’s door.
She lay against the corner of the floor and the wall, tiny and quiet listening until the loud noise stopped.
Then there had been soft noises of sorrow, and that was worse. She couldn’t help him. She had known men like him in the dozens and the help they needed then was privacy. He had a storm in him and it had to blow itself out… from the thunder and the lightning, to the soft lingering rain until the calm. She could smell the hard liquor, the bottle of something old and pungent, that had been consumed and slashed as he raged.
And then she heard the calm.
And she stood as Kitsune and tried the door. Locked.
She shaped her hands into nails she had seen on a patron the Harkenon, long, strong and deadly. She had used them before to escape a lock. Hopefully Hasdrubal had not magically locked his door as well. She was working on learning to avoid that, but had not yet. She needed to never be trapped anywhere again – and yet she was having her eyes opened to how the school for wizards was just another type of cage. At least it had more leg room, and when she was finished with her business, she could run further than she had run before. She would be more powerful.
The lock clicked and she pushed the door open gently. No magic boomed in her face. No singed whiskers.
She became her human, and walked in.
Hasdrubal was unconscious from drink slumped in a central chair, his sword at his feet.
She closed the door and relocked it.
She placed her hand on his shoulder and he didn’t move. He groaned a little bit.
She touched his face and felt the damp from his grieving.
Why did he cry? He had saved his kits and returned them to the pack. Perhaps he mourned that he could not keep them. That he had to hide them somewhere. Somewhere she had to discover. (Wouldn’t she just love to tell the fat man that the kids were up his long and well frequented ass hole. But that would not work for Master Lyrion, who would tell her her role and the words to use.)
Had there been something beyond the children? He wanted to kill someone, right? And he had not? She had someone he could kill. Maybe that would help. She would have to ask when he woke.
The room was trashed. He reeked of liquor. She laid her hand on his cheek (he didn’t react beyond drooling slightly), and she cast Lessor Restoration. As he slept this off, he would feel less exhaustion in the morning.
She walked around his room, trying to not disturb his mess but to find some small things she could help fix so his regret would not overwhelm him as he woke. She found his mask from the gladiatorial arena, destroyed. She spent all her mending for the day and was able to fix all the damage, but it was better – a half mask, but better.
She sought Hasdrubal’s bedroom, sighing in relieve, as she noted that this room had not been as badly tossed. She prepared his bed.
Then went back to the blacked-out Hasdrubal. She could not lift him. But, she could and did summon a tortoise who could move him. She and her mage hand gently dumped his drooling self onto the back of the large amphibian and she spoke to it asking it to move slowly to the bedroom. While it moved, slowly carrying its load, she removed debris. It had a back not high enough for her to manoeuver him into his bed, but she moved pillows and blankets to the floor. And then rolled him into it.
She fetched him water.
Dispelled the creature.
And then set to cleaning what she could.
She wasn’t helping Hasdrubal because of any great reason. She had been trained to care for wounded souls, and her typical healing would not help him while unconscious. She knew other ways. Not all men wanted to make love. Some wanted to weep and not be judged. Some wanted to beat someone. Some wanted her to wear little outfits and clean things while they leered. She was very good at making love, not judging, being beaten and cleaning now.
She did what she could. She had four uses of prestidigitation, and she knew where they kept the cleaning supplies in the hallway. For hours, she worked, singing lightly for her own enjoyment. At several points, she checked him for wounds that needed healing. He had been healed but there were minor cuts and bruises on his hands from his rage. She washed his face and tried to remove as much of the pain he would feel from hangover as she could with her healing. She smoothed his hair.
They were her pack now too. She remembered very little from before the cages and the training from Harkenon. She knew he had taught her song and how to heal through physical intimacy. But she knew other things. Things that she learned from what must have been her pack before then. She remembered hands, tracing symbols in the soil and leaf litter. And the hands were like hers. They were also Kitsunes. They taught her how to control the vines and fight inspired by the natural world. And there had been a name, but that was gone now. That pack was gone now. And now these wizards were hers, or she was theirs, and maybe that didn’t matter which way that went.
The room was not clean, but it was orderly as much as rubble could be. And he had very little left to do, beyond fix or remove the damage. The room no longer stunk of debauchery and anger. And the chair was nicely polished. There really was little left. The rubble was lined up for inspection like she had seen the gladiators line up… maybe he’d like that.
She went back to his room and sat cross-legged beside him looking at his face. This was the second time she was able to observe him while unconscious. And he was not sleeping lightly. He was still drunk. There would be hours more of him sleeping off this drunk. So she stroked his cheek and sang to him. She had no real spells left that could do him any good. His weaponry and magical, undamaged things she had arranged on his bed. Things were cleanish. She smoothed his hair.
And eventually, she became fox and curled up for a quick nap, where the blankets made a basin at the crook of his arm against his chest. He had hours to sleep. She would take several dozen minutes and then find Orphée. She was pretty sure she was late for something. But Little Grey Fox promised to wake her if her blue companion came looking for her. In the mean time, she would be up and out before Hasdrubal woke. And she being close to another was not a torture in and of itself. Sometimes she missed it. The foxes were fine, but she always woke Kitsune, and they were small. She would wake Kitsune by Hasdrubal, feel his warmth, capture it so she could remember it, and then leave.
He would never know. But at least he would not be alone.