[Skyhold, the night of Taylar's disappearance]
Tamarack trudged home morosely, a heavier-than-usual pack slung over her shoulder. Pushing open her front door, she found Kianna already in bed.
"You awake?" she whispered.
Kianna moaned and rolled over, almost convincingly, save for the sound of crumpling parchment.
Tam smiled and sat down on the edge of Kianna's cot. "You keeping out of trouble, kit?"
"Save for my afternoon killing spree?" she giggled.
Tamarack smirked wryly. "One o' these days, Ki, I'm not gonna be sure if you're joking or not." She pulled her pack close and started to open it. "Speaking of killing spree, I've got a present for you."
Kianna sprouted a giddy smile, she loved unusual gifts.
Tamarack pulled out the pair of horns she had collected and held them atop her head. "Rawwwr!" She set them down in Kianna's lap. "Thought ye could have some fun with those. Took 'em off a minotaur. Didn't kill him myself though. Don't know what it is about minotaurs—I'd rather join 'em for ales than hit 'em. But, well… they are touchy about trespassin'."
"Well they're in our town aren't they the ones trespassing?"
Tamarack shrugged. "Arguable. A lot of creatures have tried to claim that underground monstrosity. I'm not sure how much it's a part of our town… but it will be. I think it will be by the time we're done." She paused and swallowed. "Taylar's… disappeared."
Kianna nodded, seeming ambivalent, "Do you think he ran off?"
"Just… he literally vanished. He had this trinket from that nasty sorceress we worked for in Landsbreak. Supposed to teleport him a short way out o' danger. He used it, and… now we can't find him. Looked everywhere. Almost. There was this room… we didn't open the door because… it seemed to be full of… acid." She took a deep breath. "I dunno if he's just hiding somewhere to piss us all off, or if… he's on the other side of that wall. Was. S'pose there wouldn't be much left of him if…" She trailed off.
"Oh…" replied Kianna, patting Tam's shoulder in to console her, "Well it doesn't seem like him to hide to make you worry, he always seemed more prone to drawing that knife of his if he was angry." she paused, "But that doesn't mean he's dead," she instantly regreted blurting the last word.
Tamarack stood and looked away, shaking her head. "Anyway. If you're okay sleeping here alone for a little while, I'm going to stay at his place. Just in case… yunno… he comes back… or something."
"I'll be alright, on my own," replied Kianna bravely, "are you ok?"
"Mm-hm," she mumbled, tossing some extra blankets into her pack. "So, take care… stay safe. Got any plans for tomorrow?"
"I might just hang out with Saite once you go back down"
"Good. That's good. Nite, kitten."
Tamarack slipped out and wandered through town. A small dog yapped behind a closed door as she passed by someone's house.
"Puppy," she whispered. She felt a burning sensation in her chest.
Taylar's shack was not exactly what she expected, and yet somehow entirely appropriate. Rags, trash, and emptiness. She half expected something to jump out and stab her, but nothing did. Knowing Taylar, there was a lot more here than there appeared on the surface, but she wasn't inclined to go snooping.
She cleaned up the hearth and lit a fire, curling up before it wrapped in a blanket.
There was a quiet shuffling of feet outside the front door. Quickly Tamarack leaped up and flung it open, but it was just a couple of neighbourhood boys lurking about.
"What—what are you doing sneaking around here?" she snapped.
Their expressions turned stricken. "Is… the little fire man here?" one asked.
"He's not home!" she snarled out through clenched teeth, and slammed the door.
Tamarack returned to her blanket and stared into the flames. They began to blur as her eyes moistened. This place was so barren. She wondered if he ever got lonely.
She slept little that night, thinking every little noise might be him coming home.