[P] to see a perfect forest through so many splintered trees
Set after this thread.
While Serafina was left to regale their brothers with her exploits, Lotan returned to the outside world. He was glad that the young woman's decision to come here had been correct – in any case, she now had the chance to rest and look for her companion. If he had gone to New Caledonia, it seemed likely they might cross paths with a member of the pack in the tavern. The other option was to take her north, but what did they really know about this place? New Caledonia was just a name. Was a new court any different from the one she and her companion had left behind?

Lotan would discuss the matter with Pazuzu, he decided. If anyone would give him a fair opinion, it would be his mentor.

When he stepped into the cold, however, two new things became apparent – the smell of tobacco smoke, and the sight of a blonde figure he had not expected to see again.

“Jethro?” Lotan asked, and knew the moment the coyote turned he was correct. The red streak on his nose was as recognizable as the sooty black ash he painted his face with.
Galilee hadn't known about the tall man or his excitable little sister, or she might have warned him. It was too late for that now, though. Jethro had come back to take over her role at the door and gotten a whole ten minutes of peace before Lotan, huge and pale-haired, emerged from within.

The coyote felt his heart drop to his stomach.

It had been over a year – two, even – since they had seen one another. Lotan was like a mountain in his memory, a massive being who seemed immovable. Oh he looked placid enough now, with his robe and his cut hair, but Jethro remembered the sight of him in battle.

That last night in Erie resurfaced in his memory all too quickly. Jethro faltered and stared, as if will alone might make Lotan vanish. When it did not, he forced a false smile onto his face.

“Hey Lotan,” was all he said, as if this would be enough.

The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.
Character Wiki | La Estrella Roja | Player Wiki
They had both changed in their time apart. Jethro had always been skinny looking, but he was well fed now at least. His hair was still long and he was still smoking. There weren't any new scars that Lotan could see, but he did not think the coyotes had walked away without harm.

Everything had been confusing after the fire. When they left, no one had thought to stop them.

Even now, Lotan thought this was the best decision. Erie had changed things between them, and made an already difficult task impossible.
Doing the right thing was never easy. Inevitably, people got hurt. It was too simple to define people as good or bad – a lot of both had died in those great, apocalyptic flames. Not being able to save them had done irreparable damage to their group, and been what tore it asunder.

Aware of this, Lotan did not move to embrace the blonde as he had his younger brothers. The two men stood apart. Artoo, on Lotan's shoulder, crooned gently into his ear.

“What are you doing here?”

“I work here,” Jethro explained. “What about you?”

Lotan let out a little laugh. “I ran into someone looking for this place – and our brothers,” he added.

The blonde's expression became clouded by conflicting emotions, and he frowned. “Is Tiamat with you?”

“No,” Lotan said quickly. “But I am looking for her.”

“Is she around?”

“I believe so.”

“Is she in trouble?”

It sounded so simple and plain, coming from his mouth. Lotan's smile faded. “I'm not sure,” he admitted. “But it is important I find her.”

“Yeah, I got you,” Jethro said. “Who the hell did you bring here, then?”

“I have another sister, apparently. Serafina. She's inside with the twins.”

“What about Pazuzu?”

“I was going to get him. Is Marlowe still with you?”

“Yeah, he's probably somewhere in there.”

There was a lull in the conversation. No music was playing in La Estrella Roja, but the buzz of conversation filled the air with a dull hum, even with most of the windows shuttered. Light spilled from the cracks in the walls and gap beneath the door. There was a fire burning nearby, and several more out in the dark land beyond the tavern's little claim.

They weren't strangers, exactly, and so the silence was not unwelcome.

The unspoken thing between them remained present.

How could it not?

Erie was a failure on all their parts. Intervening as they had was what drove those people to fulfill their prophecy, and it had cost dozens of lives.
Jethro didn't know exactly how many people had died in that fire. They might never really know – no one had dug through the rubble nor accounted for all the corpses left behind. It had never been their place to step in, but they had, and the consequences were terrible.

He wasn't sure how he felt about Lotan being here, or the idea of Tiamat roaming like an errant knight. The rules were different in these lands. Old enemies were close, and new allies few and far between.

“Are you staying?” Jethro asked.

“For now,” Lotan said, which meant not forever. Jethro wasn't sure if the big wolfdog called Portland home still. The place where he had been born was now just abandoned wilderness, left to the fortunes of the great unknown.

Krokar, like Inferni, had been plagued and brought to ruin by fanatics.

When Jethro didn't say anything, Lotan went on. “Is it all right if Pazuzu puts his horse in with yours?”

“Use the main part, but yeah – Tobi and Marlowe's horse gotta stay separate, but the other one won't mind. I'll show you, if you want.”

“That would be appreciated.”

Jethro took a drag on his cigarette. He could feel his heartbeat slowly returning to a normal rhythm. “All right, once you come back we'll get it all set up.”

“Thank you, Jethro.”

“Yeah don't mention it,” he said dismissively. It felt as if he didn't have an option.

When Lotan left to find his companion, Jethro was forced to wrestle with the surge of feelings brought up by these ghosts from his past.

What were they really doing here, he wondered?

Why now, after all this time, had they come back?

Worst of all, what would Malik think if he ever discovered the truth about Jethro's involvement with his family and the terrible things they had done together?

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