She walked up the path, wondering. How long had it been.

How long had it been?

His letters weren’t indicative of a great deal of time having passed, but it had been some…time since she’d received one. Months, even.

Annabelle bit her lip, her tail twitching in agitation, before she took a deep breath, gathered her skirts, and marched onwards, gravel crunching underfoot. Well, that was a good sign at least, father was always very particular about the drive and making sure no one could sneak up.

And really, dear, buck up. You’re home again. This is Escalante. Faerun, certainly, and there’s the manor house, looking just the same as ever. Mother’s roses look quite a bit grown up but if one followed the normal passage of time that would hardly be surprising… she picked up her feet, running towards the mansion, unafraid of the “statues” in the garden that slowly turned to watch her. There could be no concerns, she was…

Home.

There was already a disturbance behind it’s walls as her feet clattered onto the wide porch, a boom as she struck the front door. “Father! Mother! Sissy! Jon! Everyone! Eddie! Kitty! Abs! I’m home! I’m ho….. yeeeeep!” Some strong hands grabbed and yanked her through the door. Tears, and sobs, and joy as the family gathered around her, yelling, crying, and in general carrying on for a few, brief moments of relief. Before Father broke through in a bear hug, and she clung tightly to him, sobbing further. “Y-You…oh, Papa, I’m so very sorry for the trouble… you must’ve seen me coming, none of the traps…”

“There, there, my dear child, we’re just glad you’re home.” He took a deep breath and squeezed her, smiling. “Your thunderous entrance was timed just right, good job for remembering.”

“O-Of course, I, I’m just happy you’re not…it’s not all…” More sniffles, and her mother gently handing her a hanky. She blew her nose and looked apologetic.

“Annabelle Aziphelia Murphy, enough of such hysterics. Of course we’re not all dust. As odd as planar time can be, you knew very well we’d be fine.” Mother tapped her lightly on the nose, but she still looked very relieved.

“Yes, Mother. Oof! Absolom!” The little one grabbed her knees and her skirt, and soon the other siblings swarmed in again, and there was much chatter as the servants took her backpack, and they were ushered into the drawing room. “…yes, I carried my own bag! I’m not useless, Kitty… yes, Abs, there’s presents….Oh! Mother, can you please have them bring it… no, Father, it’s not THAT filthy, it’s *practical*. Yes, I have presents, Jacob!”

It was bliss, really, for a few bright hours with her family. Just talking, and talking, surrounded by her siblings, even Eddie was home and could hardly stop tweaking her horns. Agatha… there was silence for a few moments as it was acknowledged she wasn’t home. Hadn’t been, in some time. Mother and Father didn’t say, and Annabelle didn’t want to think much about it, but Jon and Eddie shared a glance and a frown. Agatha had barely acknowledged Annabelle’s disappearance. Just an annoyed glance and a sigh and something muttered about getting into trouble. They doubted she’d even respond to word Annabelle had returned, if not for the fact of the presents.

Well, presents was a bit of a strong word. There was only so much she could carry, and most of it was a couple of books that would be hard to get here in Faerun, as well as her notes and sketches of her adventures. The stuff about mindflayers was especially well received, and she even received some faint praise from her father on the anatomical sketches she’d made. Her brothers and sisters crowded around, begging for stories from the younger set, hugs and hand squeezes and relieved looks from Jon and Eddie. She was disappointed Aggie wasn’t around, but then again, she hadn’t lived in or even near the family lands since before Annabelle had left.

For a few happy hours it was just them, the siblings, her parents, hot tea and snacks. The siblings were then dismissed, Jon back to the mortuary, Eddie to his studies, the kids to run about as usual. Mother and Father of course had questions. Concerns. Annabelle took a deep breath and put down her tea.

“Please, Father, you and Lord Osman didn’t terrorize the school too much?”

Mother arched a brow, and her Father huffed a bit. “My dear girl. It was readily apparent those fools at the College weren’t responsible after an initial investigation. Planar magic, let along the spells necessary to snatch you so…cleanly… no one we spoke with was capable, or had any motive.”

“And Aurelio, he didn’t…”

Mother coughed. “He was instrumental in assisting your father, Annabelle. I was told there wasn’t much bloodshed…”

“Oh my gods. I’m not going to be able to show my face! I liked that school, Mum, and Waterdeep is a proper metropolis and centre of magical study! You know how hard it is to find a good magical school these days…”

“But dear, you just got back from travelling the planes! Surely you’ve learned more from real, practical application in such a rarified enviroment then with those bigots?”

“I…” Annabelle took a deep breath and looked down at her tea. Mother was, for the most part, correct. She gulped. Oh, she hoped they hadn’t stirred up too much of a fuss.

“…speaking of, we were rather concerned with your last letter. I understand one must make do with one’s situation, but it rather gave us the impression you were, ah, adventuring.” Father, bless him, looked concerned. Annabelle buried her face behind her tea cup. Siiiiip.
“Annabelle. Surely not. A lady of means, a tiefling of noble heritage, rambling about with *adventurers*? They’re not really decent sort of people! You know that lot would be barging through the door, yammering on about their morals and “good vs.evil” or such nonsense…”

“Father, please! They’re lovely people!” Annabelle’s eyes filled with tears, and her mother sighed.

“Edmund. We just got our daughter back, don’t badger her.” She patted Annabelle’s shoulder, and Father let out a breath and nodded.

“We’ll discuss it later, but I understand your desire for…companionship. Since you’re home and safe, they have our gratitude, and if you’re fond of them I’ll assume they were of a mostly decent sort.”

“Oh they are, Papa! One of them is a tiefling as well, and she’s so very nice. The others aren’t but they didn’t mind the horns at all. Even Gonrik, and he’s a palad…” She covered her mouth with a little gasp. Now Mother also looked aghast.

“Oh dear, not a paladin? Really, Annabelle!”

Thankfully, by this time Lord Osman had arrived. Annabelle caught her breath. He looked terribly demonic but in a good way, and the red flush and aura calmed down as soon as he asw her well and truly settled. After that… clasping hands, and her parents wouldn’t let her visit with him at his home, not when she had just so recently arrived, but there was of course several guest rooms, most of which had double beds.

It was so good to be back home. And she could, to her surprise, stand up to her parents’ critiques better then before. It would be so nice to have her friends come and visit, and with pleas, and tears, and a good deal of discussion, even a begrudging agreement allowing her to travel again, once they had some time together. She could be her own woman, doing her own travels, not just stuck in Sigil. Osman was in no hurry to be wed either, and was most eager to resume the more entertaining parts of their engagment. And besides, he had smirked, while she had her fun and her travels, that would make the meetings in between all the sweeter.

Author Wallaroo
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