[P] there is a world down on its knees
[--wc] Lemme know if change anything LOL

They were lucky that the lake had been spared the foulness of the rivers and coastline. It was pristine that day, glittering and almost blue underneath the cloudless sky, not a blemish above or below.

A sorely needed bath was in order for the Broker, who spent too much of his time working in the stifling hot Schoolhouse. He wasn't the kind of person who liked to run in and run out of the water, which Malik could be whenever certain people joined them (weird); rather, Calrian took his time getting settled. He found a perfect spot where he could sit mostly submerged and lay his head back against the springy grass, prop an arm up on a buried log, and bask in the tranquility of the season.

Calrian could imagine he was back in Krokar when he closed his eyes. The water wasn't buoyant like the sea, but it made him feel lighter. He leaned into the warm wind and sighed; peace was fleeting in a family as large as theirs. When the sounds of splashing stirred him from his thoughts, Calrian could only submit to the end of his tranquility with a fake kind of resignation, as if he didn't enjoy company and constantly crave it.

The Broker waded out from his little spot and grinned when he realized it was Adrianna and Vivian who joined him that day. He briefly debated fetching a frog and pulling a prank of some kind, but then thought better of it. It would be two against one. Maybe if Mateo was with him, but lately the Minstrel was understandably occupied with his stolen kid.

"Ladies! What a pleasant surprise," he said as he approached and planted himself in the shallows beside them. "I was just hoping to see you two! I've got this itch on my back, and I can't reach it. Would you give me a hand?" He turned, and the frog he'd placed on his nape gave a little croak before leaping at the nearest person.

Well. He had thought better of it, but some things couldn't be helped.
Adrianna had heard the stories whispered of what the rivers around Rome had looked like during the human days, though no one really had much clarity of when exactly the water had cleared up and the foulness dissipated. The water was cleaner than the stories all hinted at when she had grown up, but without the muck of how many millions of foul creatures nature was capable of returning to equilibrium.

Though, she knew a thing or two of the stench of algae, storms, and dead fish. The smell of the dead fish that had been washing up on the shores of the rivers and the sea had been more than enough to deter her from straying far from home. Then, it seemed to slowly clear up and when Vivi reported that the sightings of rotting carcasses had decreased, she judged it a good time to return to the water.

As much as she loved warm water baths, the sulfur and salt in the hot springs added a powdery feel to her fur and left her weary of the smell. She convinced Vivian to join her for a long soak and a proper grooming, bringing her well-used and well-loved set of tools to the lake. Outfitted with their drying cloths and her rolled up tools, they proceeded to join Calrain.

They were unbothered by his presence until Vivian started splashing and it descended into giggling fits of chaos that were unbecoming for the Madam. Not that it mattered since Adrianna was probably the worst sort of Madam anyway. Calrain had hardly even noticed them there until they started pushing waves of water at each other and laughing, swearing in different languages with meanings that transcended the barrier.

Adrianna squeezed out water from her hair, coiling it in her hands as she deftly wrung it like one wrung a cloth - though with a fraction of the strength. She raised her brows at the Broker, unsure of what he needed them for.

Then, Adri's eyes widened as the green object launched itself from his neck and right into Vivian's face. The dog screamed arms flying up and about. It almost looked like her waving hands had managed to hit Calrain but Adrianna was rather distracted as her Nightgirl went sideways into the water.

She hauled Vivi up with half her side now coated in mud. It plopped into the water, rippling out as the doggish woman panted heavily, eyes wide.

"Hai vergine sconsiderato cappello da culo!" screeched the Madam as she scooped up a thick glob of mud and tossed it at Calrain's stupid head.
[--wc] bahahahaha

Calrian whipped around to see his handiwork, and he was not let down. Perched on the Night Girl's snout, the frog looked a little confused, but not entirely fazed by the antics of giants. Now it felt like home again, especially in the ensuing chaos.

Vivian's panicked flailing sent him back with a splash, and Calrian howled with mirth even as the water rushed in and made burbles of his laughter. He surfaced coughing and gasping for air, and between this still shook with laughter, so much that he did not catch most of what Adrianna yelled at him. It might have been in a different language, but he got the gist of it. If he hadn't, the muddy missile spelled it out.

Calrian wiped the mess away from his eyes. "For fortune's sake, Adri! I just got clean too!" The glob had gotten everywhere, but mostly into his nose, and now all he could smell was lake and maybe a little of their perfume.

When he regained his sight, he knew from the look on their faces that he had two choices: surrender or risk a violent drowning.

He held up his hands. "Alright, alright," he conceded, and wiped at his face as he approached. "Adri, Vivi, I hope you can...frogive me," he leaned forward to wipe his muddy hands on whoever was closest, and braced himself for retribution.
Children. That was what they all were: a gaggle of uneducated, uncultured children with a penchant for sticking their fingers up their noses and wiping the boogers on the newly cleaned linens.

Vivian looked so horribly shocked that she just blinked at the rippling water as her Madam screeched at Calrian. Adrianna cooed in Italian at her, finding a wet rag that was floating by after it had been displaced from their grasp. She shook off the muck and tried to wipe off the lake bed goo that was slipping down Vivi's face. It was only a matter of time before the Southern Belle returned to herself and the sparks would truly fly.

"You pazzo!" she screamed while Vivian's eyes were still a safe level of blank. Her cursing was accompanied by the thick, wet plops of mud hitting water. "What were you thinking?" she added, in full maternal lecturer mode as she tried to preemptively soothe her Night Girl.

Not that it seemed to help all that much.

"What in the holy name of the Lord were you thinking, you devil's gift to the world?" hissed out the dog-mix as she slowly turned toward Calrain, brushing off Adrianna's administrations and swiping the mud careless off herself. She ignored the pun, though Adri did send him a glare that screamed of "why would you say that".

Vivian reached deep into the water, her hands hidden, and she rose with a menacing glare, water falling from her sopping wet fur. Then, screeching as only a banshee in a haunted graveyard could, Vivian launched herself at Calrain with thick handfuls of mud aimed right for his face.
[--wc] cal: *perfectly cut scream*

What was he thinking?

"I hope that's rhetorical," He replied, lips pursed, because he knew she wouldn't like the answer.

Sometimes he wanted to play. Everything was hard work these days—between the renovations, the weird energy around his brother and Jeff, Adina's unrelenting ire, O'Brien's departure, and his recent spat with Salem, Calrian found his reserves of sobriety utterly drained. It was only meant to be a little fun, as all good-intentioned but hell-bound bricklayers professed. Seeing Vivian in such a state of shock, however, encouraged a return of sense.

Before he could make amends, the Night Girl turned on him. Calrian realized he didn't know true terror until that moment. "W-wait," His mouth trembled at a smile, and he took a step back. Somewhere inside, he knew this was no use. "Vivian, please, love, let's be reas—AH!"

He wasn't sure what hit him first: the girl, the mud, or the water. All three crashed in like a tsunami, and for the span of a breath, Calrian was sure he died. At the very least, he'd ingested half of the muddy shore. He fell back first into the lake, and grabbed her along with him.
Adrianna knew that Calrain had no chance against the ferocity of the southern woman's anger. When she was enraged, Vivian was a live-wire that would electrocute anything and everything that she touched. He had also sparked her ire quite well, so Adri was very happy to watch the carnage of her Nightgirl flinging herself at the Broker. She was still fuming somewhat when she started chuckling at the sound of Cal negotiating and then screaming. Ah, yes. Justice.

Smug and self-satisfied, she began to wipe off the mud on the fur she had just cleaned. Meanwhile, Vivian was rising from the muck with Calrain in tow in her grasp. Mud coated her and the Broker on top of being absolutely sopping wet from the newest plunge into the water. Adrianna sniffed as she scooted over a little to avoid the back splash from the rapid-fire cursing her normally collected Nightgirl was borderline screeching.

Adrianna let it go on for a few breaths before sighing dramatically and reaching in to pull the angry woman away from Cal. Vivian narrowed her eyes at him and scooted off in a dramatic way and sat herself a distance away. The faint mumble of Southern twang rippled across the short gap.

"Gods above, you are not a child, Calrain." She was all for pranks and jokes but the Nightgirl and Madame took their hygiene very seriously. A grubby looking girl was not going to get any decent bites. "You know we take our bathing seriously. Have you no one else to play with?" she teased sternly, reaching over to try and wipe up the muck on his features.
(---) | NPCs: ---
*stares at the calendar* i don't understand time. laughing at my own joke of cal thinking he has just 1 problem

Thrashed about the shallows like a deer caught in the jaws of an alligator, Calrian could think of nothing except all the things he wish he would've said or done before meeting his end. He would have liked to have seen La Roja open, would have liked to see a room full of strangers applaud his brother, would have liked to try some mushrooms with Cookie, but now the future was dark. He could see Salem shaking her head.

When it was over, he stood frozen like a muddy statue, another fable of a man turned to stone by a woman's ire. Adrianna's hand returned clarity to his world, her voice chiding and soothing at the same time. He knew he deserved it, and assented to her motherly condescension without complaint. Maybe on some level, he'd desired this outcome; he devolved into trouble-making when it came to feelings of disappointment in himself. Vivian's actions were a clear retribution, unlike Salem's silent avoidance.

"No," he answered sullenly, and began to gather handfuls of water to splash over his face. Once most of the muck was cleared away, the selkie's son peered pathetically at her with a look that belonged on his brother's face. "I think I've got a problem, Adrianna."
Vivian's dark cursing could be heard over the sound of water splashing and mud plopping back beneath the surface. Adrianna took her time to more delicately remove muck from her features, flicking it away as she watched the Broker clean himself of his own embarrassment. Her gaze was stern, though. She did not appreciate the interruption to what was supposed to be a very relaxing and very needed ritual for the two women of the night. It was a private moment for cleaning and restoring their spirits. Vivian was anything but restored.

The Madam's lips tightened at the pathetic look on Cal's face, somehow so out of place on his usually cheery features. So serious, too serious for the man who was more of a boy at heart. Adrianna's shoulders rose and then fell as she sighed loudly, exhaling her annoyance and frustration.

"You have many problems, Calrain. What is the trouble this time?" she asked, wading through the water toward the man. She grabbed his arm gently - if firmly - and nudged him away from the corner of water that Vivian was tainting with her angry Creole chants and swears. "It cannot be so bad as Vivian's problems at this moment," she added, shaking her head at him. He certain was a problem for some.
(---) | NPCs: ---

He allowed himself to be guided away, although a glance over his shoulders at Vivian spoke of his reluctance. Part of him was compelled to offer to help her clean up, and another wiser part of him knew it was better to let sleeping dogs lie.

After they were well enough away, his attention swiveled back to Adrianna. Her air had softened some with his admission, but he knew the Madam to be more stern than sympathetic when it came to him (and for good reason). At times, this made it easier to confide in her. Her feedback would be more realistic than idealistic, and she would make sure that he saw his problems with this pragmatism too.

"Well," He glanced back over his shoulder, "No, I suppose not. I'd be wrong to answer differently, wouldn't I?" He rubbed some of the mud from his snout, now that it had dried enough to pat off. She had given him a thorough thrashing, but he still resolved to make it up to Vivian one way or another.

"It's just...you see, I feel like I..." He scratched at his ear, scattering flecks of dried mud back into the water. He wanted to make something up, a problem that was really not a problem, like losing his mojo (which Calrian did, in fact, fear). He sighed, resigned to telling the truth. "Salem and I had an argument a few nights ago, and now we're not speaking."
Boys were always the worst with their hearts and minds. They operated best when their pelvic brain was in charge and the rest could just follow suit. Calrian wasn't the one Adri expected to suffer that tragic condition considering he had a silver tongue and what she thought was more sense in his head than most. At least he had some modicum of wisdom lurking in the corners of his dusty skull.

Adrianna smirked and nodded her head when he glanced over at Vivi's stormy cleaning session. Good boy, it was the safest answer he could possibly give and Vivian's dark mumblings quieted somewhat to the point where the words were no longer quite so discernible. Calrian had a lot to learn, but at least he didn't give an answer that would have sent the dog howling with indignation at his tactlessness.

She waited patiently for his fumbling to stop and an actual answer to be given. She wondered if he had been debating lying to her. Probably. He was THE liar after all. Who better to be their Broker, their figurehead? 

Shockingly, it seemed like he was being honest. Adrianna's expression didn't change much but she did sigh with more understanding than she had before. "Oh, my, I see." That explained his pent-up need to annoy. "So you had a fight. You made her mad? What did you do to cause this?" Likely as not, he was pigheaded and said something the mysterious woman did not appreciate. "Did she tell your fortune?" she added, wondering. Her brow raised somewhat the more she thought about it.

Was Calrian sweet on her?
(---) | NPCs: ---

"Well, I—now, wait just a moment, why do you assume that it was my fault?" He only needed to glance over at Vivian and the terrifying expression on her face to work out her reason. Accepting this with a nod and a look that said fair enough, Calrian crossed his arms and gave a sigh.

"No, it wasn't a fortune or anything. You remember that night when Lee was teaching us a card game, and we all got really drunk?" He ran his hand over the top of the water until his reflection broke apart.

Even now it was hard to come to terms with the way he had behaved. He was sure it was himself, but like some ghostly version, a vague representation of the way he truly felt. And yet, the feeling between him and Salem was hard and real, and more painful now than any hangover.

"Anyway. I don't remember exactly what was said—I was pretty gone, if you can remember—but I think we..." his expression opened with horror as images from the night flashed through his mind's eye, and he turned to Adrianna. "Oh no, Adri, I think I threw up on her."

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