Catalyst: Crowley

I just wanted to provide a brief bit of background before you read what is by far the longest bit of writing I’ve ever posted on the internet. When I make a new D&D character I often write an extended bit of background for them, what I call their “catalyst” story, the event in their life that set them on their adventuring path. This is the catalyst story for my warlock Crowley, detailing how he met his patron. The campaign I play Crowley in takes place in The Myriad, a region made of scattered islands in a sea and four surrounding continents. I considered splitting this story into two posts, but wasn’t sure of a good place to split it, so here it is in all of its glory! I hope you enjoy it!

A bit of location inspiration for you. I took this in 2018 at Two Lights State Park near Portland, Maine.

Crowley woke up to find that Kestrel’s bed hadn’t been slept in. This wasn’t inherently ominous on its own, it wasn’t like the twins had never slept a night apart, especially now that they were getting older and occasionally wanted to slip off with someone for a bit of private fun. But it was a bit unusual for her to not at least drop a hint that she wouldn’t be coming back to their little room crammed beneath the eaves of the mansion called home by the Red Rivers.

The mansion had been built by some wealthy merchant when living close to the water had been fashionable and abandoned when the owner got sick of the smell of sea brine and rotted fish and decided to relocate to a more inland part of the city. The room Crowley and Kestrel had claimed was just big enough for two single beds and a table that was just long enough for them to work at side by side without bumping elbows. They were glad for their little roost, glad to have a place to fly under the radar of the gang they’d joined out of necessity when they were 12, after about a year of trying to get by on the streets on their own and barely surviving.

Yes, they had sworn loyalty to the gang, but it was secondary to their loyalty to each other. After all, at the end of the day they were each the only person that the other felt they could fully trust. They did enough work to keep their spots in the gang, but tried to keep a low profile otherwise. Even so, they gained a reputation and a pair of nicknames. Kestrel was The Mind, sharp as a nail, a schemer of schemes. Crowley was The Mouth, the one who took those schemes and made them happen, often by convincing people to do things they ordinarily wouldn’t have done. They hadn’t spent every last moment of their lives together, but it was a near enough thing.

Which is why other members of the Red Rivers were surprised when Crowley started asking around about her when she still hadn’t turned up by dark. “I thought you two was sewn together at the hip, birds of a feather and all that,” said fellow gang member Jack. Crowley’s inquiries didn’t turn up Kestrel’s whereabouts, but he did learn that actually nobody had seen her since the prior morning. A couple of people suggested that maybe she had been sent out on some kind of job, but Gideon, one of the heads of the Red Rivers, told him no such thing had happened.

Crowley tried to smother his growing unease by going to bed early, only to be prevented from sleep by the sight of Kestrel’s empty bed. Even after he’d deactivated the small, bewitched oil-less lamp that was the first piece of loot they’d been allowed to keep for themselves he found himself staring into the darkness at her bed, willing her to magically appear in it. Eventually, just as the sky lightened with the oncoming dawn, he drifted off into a fitful sleep, plagued by dreams of being lost on his own in a large, dark cave.

Crowley woke around noon. Kestrel was still gone. He had some tea and a little bread and cheese even though he didn’t feel much like eating and then set off for the city’s Archives. Kestrel’s schemes were greatly aided by research and she was well known to the staff there for spending hours poring over various books and documents. Crowley had barely spent any time at the Archives, but the clerk working the front desk recognized him on sight, probably due to their resemblance. “She was here the day before yesterday, in the morning, but she left just before midday with a big tough looking guy with dark hair. She said she was just getting something to eat so she left her things on her table, but she never came back. We collected her things when we closed for the night, if you’d like to take them?” Crowley accepted the linen bag the clerk offered and peered inside to see a couple of the many notebooks Kestrel was often scribbling in, as well as the small wooden case that he knew held her portable writing kit. The clerk couldn’t answer any of Crowley’s other questions, so he thanked him and left.

When Crowley returned to the mansion without Kestrel in tow, he found that some of the other members of the Red Rivers were beginning to worry as well. The Mind was highly dependable, it was highly unlike her to just run off with no explanation. Inquiries had been quietly made around the city and Gideon had even reached out to the leaders of a couple of the other gangs in town, but no one had any information. It was like she had disappeared into the mists of the Myriad itself. The one lead Crowley had gotten at the Archives wasn’t much help — most the gangs in town had at least one member that fit the description the clerk had given him.

Crowley wasn’t often one for anxiety, but Kestrel’s continued disappearance had him on edge. He tried to dull it with alcohol, drinking himself into oblivion in an attempt to forget she was missing, or at least trying to become drunk enough that he could plausibly convince himself she was simply traveling and not missing without a trace. He even wound up in the bed of his on again/off again fling Lucille, although he was too drunk to do anything other than sleep curled around her while he got there. He dreamed of the cave again and somehow even in the dream he was too drunk to do much besides sit on the ground and call for Kestrel.

On the third morning since Kestrel had gone missing, the Red Rivers were awakened by a shout. Crowley was vaguely roused by the sound, but shrugged it off and slipped back into sleep. They were a gang, shouting happened. But then he was being shaken awake by Lucille. He blinked at her blearily as he sat up, still somewhat drunk from the night before. She thrust a cup of water into his hands and as he drank she told, “Kestrel’s turned up.” The grim tone of her voice made the water turn to ashes in his mouth. Suddenly much more sober, he followed Lucille down to the dining room.

A body was laid out on one of the tables with a blanket over it and member of the Red Rivers filled the room. Crowley dimly noted that the boots sticking out of the bottom of the blanket were Kestrel’s. Hands shaking, he slowly peeled the blanket back from the body’s head and found himself face to face with Kestrel. She had been roughed up a great deal, her face and neck littered with cuts and bruises. Whoever had laid her on the table had folded her arms across her chest and they bore more cuts and what looked perhaps like burns. They’d even cut off the tips of her pointed ears and Crowley absently reached up to scratch at his own. The small hunk of quartz Kestrel wore around her neck was still there, as were the tiny golden hoops she wore in her lower earlobes. Clearly this was no mere robbery, but instead was likely targeted violence.

Crowley stared at her numbly for a long moment, all sound gone from his world beyond the beating of his own heart, a lonely echo in a vast, dark cave. And something snapped in him and he was hunched over, bracing his hands on the table for support, his breath coming in ragged, heaving gasps. At this Gideon came over and flipped the blanket back over Kestrel’s face, saying “Someone take him out of here, give him something so he can sleep.” Crowley gripped the edge of the table tightly, saying between gasps, “No. NO. I can’t, I can’t leave her.” And then Lucille’s gentle touch was prying his hand away from the table and her soft arms wrapped around his shoulders. “Come away for now, love. She’s not going anywhere,” she said. Lucille brought Crowley up to his and Kestrel’s little room under the eaves and although he didn’t typically like to take drugs, when she offered him one of the sleeping potions from the gang’s stash he swiftly drank it only to be swallowed up by the dreadful dream cave again. This time it was even larger and more cavernous, his cries for help not even able to echo back at him.

Crowley was jostled awake at sunset when Gideon sat down on the end of his bed, his mouth dry from the sleeping potion. He sat up against his headboard and accepted the flask of water that Gideon offered. “Marta’s the one who found her,” Gideon explained as Crowley drank. “She was going out this morning to buy bread and tripped right over her on the front steps. She saw a couple of big guys running off down the street in grey cloaks.”

“Oh, so the Gulls then? We’re going after them?” Crowley asked, perking up slightly at the thought of vengeance.

Gideon shook his head. “The Gulls are dumb, but not dumb enough to wear their own colors to drop off a body,” he said. “And besides, when I was asking around about Kestrel the other day Len told me their base had been broken into the other week and some stuff was stolen. Probably where the cloaks came from.”

Crowley perked up at the idea of having a plan of action. “Then we start there. We find who robbed them, then we find Kestrel’s killers and –”

Gideon shook his head again and raised a hand to cut him off. “Slow down. We’re not looking to get into a gang war right now, Crowley. We’ve got a couple of potentially big jobs coming down the line and we don’t need any extra attention. Maybe we’ll find who did it eventually, but there’s no need to rush into anything.”

Crowley flushed with anger, his voice beginning to rise in volume. “We’re just going to do nothing? Kestrel swore an oath to this gang and –”

“It’s a hard life out here by the Myriad and people die all the time. Why are you surprised? The two of you would’ve died years ago without our help.” Gideon snatched back the water flask and stood. “Look at this like the gift it is. You’re your own man now, no longer shackled to anyone else. I always thought you were holding yourself back because of her, now you get to live your own life. We’re sending her off in a couple of hours. You can stay here and pout or you can come say your goodbyes.” And Gideon left, slamming the door behind him.

When night had well and truly fallen, the Red Rivers bore Kestrel down to the docks, clad in their dark red cloaks, bringing a couple of small lanterns along to light their way. Someone had cleaned her up and tightly bundled her up in a blanket while Crowley was sleeping. One of the gang members had already stolen a small rowboat and they laid Kestrel in it before shoving it out into the Myriad. Once it was a fair distance out Jocelyn, their best archer, used one of the lanterns to light an arrow and let it fly towards the boat holding Kestrel. Her aim was true and the boat was quickly fully alight, the distant light searing Crowley’s eyes. The weight of his grief slammed into him again like a strong wave and he collapsed to his knees. Lucille laid a sympathetic hand on his shoulder while the rest of the gang stood respectfully mute for few minutes before gradually dispersing.

Lucille tried to tug Crowley away from the docks and usher him back home, but he shrugged her off. “Then I’ll stay with you,” she said. “No, go home,” Crowley said sharply, his eyes fixed on the flame on the water. He saw Lucille flinch out at his tone out of the corner of his eye and when he looked at her her face was so full of worry that he softened just a little. “I promise not to throw myself into the Myriad. I just need a moment alone.” Lucille nodded, gave his shoulder a little squeeze, and left. Crowley remained at the docks for a long while, fixated on Kestrel’s glowing boat until finally the flame went out and that evening’s chilly mist rolled in off the water. Reluctantly, Crowley wrapped his cloak tightly around himself and returned to the mansion.

When he arrived, a large party was in full swing to celebrate Kestrel’s short life. Not in the mood for a party, Crowley slipped up the back steps unnoticed. He found that someone had been in their room while he was gone. (“My room,” he corrected himself with a wince.) The little magic lamp was on and there was food, water, and another vial of sleeping potion on the table so he assumed it was Lucille trying to take care of him again. He picked up the potion bottle and uncorked it, considering the contents for a long moment. And then another wave of his grief swelled over him and he decided sleep was the last thing he wanted right now. It was too similar to death and, besides, he was scared to dream of that lonely cave again. He tried to re-cork the potion bottle, but his hands were shaking and he dropped it.

The sound of the glass breaking on the floor shattered something in Crowley as well and his grief became overwhelming rage. It made him feel good to break something, so he decided to break more things. The first item he laid his hands on was the little lamp and he held it between his palms and hurled it at the floor with all the force he could muster. From there he made short work of as much of what he and Kestrel owned, smashing small trinkets, ripping open pillows, overturning furniture, tearing pages out of books. At one point in the middle of this maelstrom, an oblivious Lucille came to check on him, his destruction in the attic unheard over the party on the ground floor. He roared at her to get out and she scurried away.

The one coherent thought in Crowley’s head amidst this chaos was that this is not how it was supposed to be, and it played on repeat, tormenting him. He and Kestrel had plans to travel the Myriad, visiting islands and maybe even the other three continents. He knew better than to think they would’ve lived together all of their lives, but he’d expected her to at least be around somewhere to be a shoulder to lean on when he needed, and he was supposed to do the same for her. Except for the two minutes between when he was born and Kestrel followed, they had always been companions in life and the idea of having to continue without her had Crowley at a total loss. Who could he rely on now? The gang that didn’t consider solving the murder of one of their sworn members a priority? No. He knew he was fully on his own now, but it wasn’t a gift like Gideon had suggested.

And then, at last, Crowley ran out of energy for destruction, collapsed to the floor in the middle of his carnage, and finally, bitterly wept. The strangled sobbing sounds escaping his throat shocked him, but he could not get himself to stop making them as long overdue as they were. By the time he finally quieted the sky outside the window was the blue grey of predawn. The house was silent, the party downstairs over. No one else had come to check on Crowley after he’d scared Lucille off and he wondered if she’d even mentioned it to anyone. He decided he didn’t care. He had a reputation for affability. Let them know he could rage too.

As he laid on the floor, wiping away snot and tears with his sleeve his eye caught on something — Kestrel’s linen bag that the clerk at the Archives had given him, it’s contents tipped out. The wooden case of the portable writing kit was cracked and leaking ink and the notebook looked a bit crumpled, but was otherwise intact. It had fallen open to a page full of Kestrel’s tidily looping handwriting. He heaved himself to a sitting position and pulled the notebook into reading range.

At the head of the page were the words “Ritual for Wish Granting” and the title of the obscure book Kestrel had copied it from. This was followed by a set of instructions with annotations and questions written in the margins. Below this Kestrel had scribbled some thoughts. “Could be promising, but potentially unlikely to work due to the long absence of the Old Gods and the relatively low occurrence of magic in the modern world. Discuss with Crowley?” This was the last page of writing in the notebook and Crowley assumed it was what she had been looking into the day she vanished.

He read the instructions over again. The whole process seemed like it would be relatively simple if he could procure the ingredients. Coming across these notes so soon after Kestrel’s death felt like she was giving him a sign. Maybe she’d known what was about to happen to her, maybe she didn’t, but either way she had left Crowley something that could perhaps reunite them if it worked. And if it didn’t, well at least it likely wouldn’t waste too much of his time and would give him something to do to get him through his first bit of mourning. He tore the page with the ritual’s details out of the notebook and pocketed it along with his money pouch before heading out to the city’s marketplace, leaving the mess of his room behind.

Between the market stalls and the apothecary’s shop Crowley was able to procure most of the components he needed and he only had to go a little ways into the sandy woods bordering the town to get the rest. Finally, around mid-afternoon, he made his way to the docks and pilfered a rowboat that he was reasonably sure he could paddle alone. The Myriad was clam that day, but the rolling waves still gave him a bit of trouble as he rowed himself out as far from town as he thought would be necessary — the instructions were exceedingly vague in that regard.

Once settled, he set about his work, adding the ingredients to the small bowl he pilfered from the mansion’s kitchen and grinding them down a bit with a stone before setting the tiny heap ablaze, spending two matches to do so due to the sea wind. Carefully guarding the fire in the bowl, he watched the various herbs and twigs burn down to ash. Once it had burned itself out, but before the ashes were fully cold Crowley pinched the dust between his fingers and sprinkled it into the water around the boat, taking care not to capsize himself in the process.

And then he waited.

And waited.

It was cold and windy, as the seas in that quadrant of The Myriad tended to be that time of year, and Crowley huddled in his cloak, becoming increasingly aware of just how cold his toes were. He wondered if maybe the instructions were incomplete, maybe Kestrel hadn’t actually figured out the whole ting yet and there were some words he ought to have said. Or maybe the whole thing was a dud and never would have worked anyway. And here he was looking like a fucking idiot alone in a little boat tossing ashes into the sea as if it could really give him what he wanted, could give him Kestrel back and —

As his thoughts reached a fervent kind of despair and desperation, the water around the boat churned and a figure came to the surface. It hauled itself into Crowley’s boat, somehow without tipping it at all, and sat onto the bench across from Crowley. Crowley recoiled a bit in shock as he watched it settle itself, arranging the assortment of tentacles that made up its lower body just so. Crowley’s eyes ranged upwards, taking in the humanoid torso with tentacle arms, the octopus-like head with shrewd eyes and a slit of a mouth, all of it a deep sea blue. With a start, Crowley realized it was wearing Kestrel’s hunk of quartz around its neck.

“Where did you get that?” asked Crowley, voice weaker than he would’ve liked due to shock.

“What? No hello? No how are you? No thank you, oh powerful one, for answering my puny little call?” Its voice was scratchy like sand shifting against itself on the ocean floor.

Where did you get that?” Crowley asked again, more forcefully.

The being shrugged. “It drifted down into my home a day ago. Maybe two days? Hard to say, time doesn’t work down there like it does up here. Are you trying to tell me you did all of this –,” it gestured to the ritual debris littering the bottom of the boat, “– for just a little necklace?”

Crowley frowned. “No. Well, maybe? I don’t know. I didn’t even know what was going to happen when I did the ritual. I just thought it would grant a wish.”

Crowley’s companion laughed, its lower tentacles squirming in a quite unsettling way. “You must be crazy or desperate to do a ritual without knowing what it’ll do.” It eyed Crowley, sizing him up as he shivered from the cold Myriad wind and a bit of fear. “Maybe both in your case. So what’s your wish, if it’s not for this necklace?”

“My sister Kestrel was murdered earlier this week.”

“Now we’re getting somewhere,” said the creature, grinning.

“You can bring her back?”

Another laugh, this one louder than before. Waves jostled the rowboat and Crowley felt like they were in time with the chuckles. “No, I can’t undo death, kid, but I can get you the next best thing.”

Crowley frowned, his heart pounding in his chest. “And what’s that?”

“Revenge. But it’ll cost ya.”

“But I don’t know who did it.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’m a guy who can get things done. I’ll figure it out.”

Crowley hesitated for just a moment, knowing that this whole thing was crazy and dangerous and potentially even all in his head. But he decided he had nothing to lose so he nodded and said, “Okay, how do we get started?”

The creature used its upper tentacle arms to remove Kestrel’s hunk of quartz from around its neck. “Like this,” it said and used a sharp edge of the stone to carve a line across the skin of one its tentacles. Blood welled up, thicker than any blood Crowley had seen on land and so dark blue it was nearly black. “Now you.” It offered Crowley the quartz and he sliced open his own palm. The being wrapped its cut tentacle around Crowley’s bleeding hand, creating a sticky mess that stung with the ocean salt that still clung to the creature’s clammy skin. Crowley grimaced at the sensation as he felt a tingling start to spread up his arm. Just as Crowley was adjusting to that unpleasantness his companion said, “I’m Jeff, by the way,” and plunged a tentacle into Crowley’s chest, a wicked grin on its face.

For the next while, Jeff had control of Crowley’s body. It was an exceedingly odd sensation to watch the world go by, feel his hands do things, hear his voice speak while having no control over it. A part of Crowley considered that maybe the situation should frighten him, but honestly after the week he’d been having it was something of a relief to have all decision making taken away from him. When he looked back later, Crowley couldn’t guess how long Jeff spent controlling him and he remembered only brief flashes of events, feeling as if he was in some kind of dim dream. The weight of Kestrel’s quartz pendant was around his neck. The rowboat somehow propelled itself back to shore as the ritual materials were stuffed into Crowley’s bag. There was a trip to the Gulls’ base and Crowley was vaguely aware that his voice was being used to demand information a bit more forcefully than he would’ve done if he was in control.

Then suddenly they were back on the street and Jeff was turning over a scrap of fabric in Crowley’s hands. He felt Jeff rummaging through his mind, like flipping pages in a notebook. It was a thoroughly unpleasant sensation that made Crowley itch. “Hey, quit that, it’s uncomfortable,” he thought at Jeff, hoping the message would get across.

He felt Jeff use his face to smile. “Oh, good, you’re awake. That will make this easier,” Jeff silently said to Crowley, the sandy sound of his real voice gently brushing against Crowley’s consciousness. “That Len man gave me this, said it was caught on a trap when something stolen was put back? What does it mean?”

Focusing hard to really properly see through his eyes, Crowley noted the deep green color of the fabric. “Green is the Bolts,” he told Jeff. “Unless someone stole their cloaks too?”

“And where do these Bolts reside?”

“They tend to move bases more often than most gangs. Last I heard they were somewhere by the Archives.” Crowley’s stomach dropped at the realization.

Jeff must have felt it too because he asked, “What? Why do you feel this way?”

“The Archives were the last place Kestrel was seen alive.”

As they set off for the Archives district, Jeff grinned so broadly it felt unnatural on Crowley’s face. It was fully dark by this point and they settled in at one of the major squares in the district, huddling in Crowley’s cloak in the shadows cast by a large fountain statue. Crowley Before long someone came by in a Bolt green cloak. Jeff tailed them, cornering them in a nearby alley. They were young, likely a relatively new recruit, and when they saw Crowley’s face they squeaked out a little scream and blurted out, “I swear I had nothing to do with it. I knew taking her was a bad idea, but you know how it is with gangs.”

Crowley pushed his way to the forefront of his mind and spoke. “Why did they take her?”

“They wanted her for the Bolts, but she said no because they wouldn’t take you too. And they couldn’t have her saying anything so, well, you know what they did.”

Crowley felt a surge of rage and he felt Jeff’s approval at that emotion. United in purpose they used Crowley’s mouth to say, “Give me your cloak and show me how to get inside.”

The Bolts’ hideaway was currently in an old grain warehouse complex and when Crowley and Jeff, newly dressed in green, let themselves in they were in sync. The Bolts’ door guard fled at the sight of Crowley yelling, “Oh shit, how did you find us?” Crowley had never had a knack for magic, but with Jeff’s aid it flowed out through his hands as smoothly as water, sprouting spectral tentacles from the ground that pummeled their enemies, blasting people with ice as cold as the Myriad depths, firing off wicked blasts of crackling energy that flung the members of the Bolts to the floor. Crowley’s blind rage had returned at the prospect of further destruction and Jeff reveled in the feeling, suggesting further ways for Crowley to use the magic. Crowley didn’t send spells after anyone who fled, but otherwise he attacked indiscriminately, considering all of the Bolts to be culpable for Kestrel’s death.

Before long Crowley was surrounded by splintered furniture and the bodies of people who were either dead or convincingly pretending to be. Breathing heavily in the silence and the sky outside the windows the pale grey color of early dawn, he decided their job was done and finally left, but not before knocking a kerosene lantern onto the floor, and setting the building ablaze as a final message. When Crowley reached his room in the Red Rivers’ mansion, he found that someone, probably Lucille, had made an attempt at tidying the mess he had made and the beds were set properly upright on their frames. The beds were made and Crowley had a new pillow on his to replace the one whose feathers littered the floor.

Exhausted by everything that had happened, Crowley was barely able to get his boots off before he fell into bed asleep. He did not dream of the empty cave, as he feared he might. When he woke up, he thought that perhaps the prior day’s events had all been a deeply unsettling dream and that Jeff was nothing more than a figment of his imagination. Maybe when he got up he’d find that the last few days hadn’t happened and Kestrel would be asleep in the bed across from his, as she was supposed to. But as he stirred the palm of his left hand felt tight and itchy and when he looked at it there was a thick pink scar where he had sealed the deal with Jeff. He sat up and saw that Kestrel’s bed wasn’t empty after all. Jeff had evidently vacated Crowley’s body and was asleep on top of it, curled up like some kind of messed up cat. It was a rare sunny day for that time of year and Jeff’s translucent blue skin glowed in the light. Crowley was considering what to do next when he heard a commotion downstairs and Gideon yell, “Where is he?” and his gut and the feet on the stairs told him they were looking for him. He nudged Jeff awake and mouthed “hide” at him. Jeff dropped to the floor and slithered into the shadows under Kestrel’s bed.

Crowley casually sat back down on his bed just in time for Gideon to burst into the room and haul him to his feet by the front of his shirt. “What did you do?” he said firmly, not yet fully raising his voice. Crowley tried plastering an innocent, confused expression onto his face, but Gideon apparently didn’t buy it because he shook Crowley forcefully and said, “Half the Bolts are dead and their base is burned to the ground. The survivors say you were there doing magic? I told you it was a bad time to do anything that would bring attention to us.”

“Don’t worry,” said Crowley, “I wasn’t wearing my cloak at the time. I was just a grieving brother, on my own, giving those assholes what they deserved for killing my sister.”

“I gave you an order!” Gideon yelled, shoving Crowley down onto the bed so hard he nearly hit his head on the wall. Crowley sensed Jeff stirring as if maybe he was considering coming to Crowley’s defense, but he stayed put.

“Well somebody had to do something!” Crowley shouted. “Even if she wasn’t my sister, she was a member of the Red Rivers and her murder was disrespect. Can’t have people thinking we’re weak, can we?”

By this point a number of the gang members crowding the doorway trying to see what was going on, including Lucille, who looked to be on the edge of worried tears. Crowley was thankful that in the midst of his argument with Gideon nobody noticed the creature under Kestrel’s bed.

Gideon considered Crowley for a moment, looking like he was weighing up different options. Then he said, “You deliberately disobeyed me. I told you to leave it alone and you didn’t. Pack your things.” He glanced around the wreckage of Crowley’s room. “Or what’s left anyway. And then get out.” He took Crowley’s red cloak from where it was hanging on a hook on the wall and left the room, slamming the door behind him.

Crowley listened to the footsteps of the crowd in the hallway dispersing and when he felt reasonably certain that everyone had left he muttered to Jeff, “You told me there would be a price? Is this it?”

Jeff slithered out from under Kestrel’s bed, his response in Crowley’s mind. “We can still talk like this even though we’re separate again. But no, that is not the price I had in mind.”

“Then what is?” Crowley thought back at Jeff. “I assume it’s not my life since you haven’t killed me yet.”

“I need you alive for what I want, but in a way I do want your life.” Jeff used his arm tentacles to haul himself onto the end of Crowley’s bed. “You see, I’ve been down in the deeps for…well, I’m not quite sure how long. Except I do know it was a very long time. Time doesn’t quite flow the same up here as it does at home. And it’s so dreadfully boring to stay in one place for so long. I’d like to see the world, but, as I’m sure you can guess by looking at me, it would be difficult for me to do that on my own.”

“But surely it will be just as hard for me to take you with me considering you’re…?” Crowley gestured vaguely at Jeff’s octopus-like form.

Jeff flapped a few of his tentacles dismissively. “I can just go incorporeal again like last night,” he said. “No big deal.”

Crowley recalled the sensation of being out of control of his body. It was one thing to mind speak with someone, but another entirely to have that being’s spirit inside of his skin alongside his own spirit, fighting for control of the same space. “I’m not sharing my body again, no more mind melding,” Crowley told Jeff firmly.

Jeff sighed and rolled his eyes. “Mortals. Always so touchy about their forms. Fine, I can travel in an object just as well.” He looked around the room before settling on Kestrel’s hunk of quartz hanging around Crowley’s neck. “That rock will do just fine, and that way I’ll always be with you. I’ll need to come out every so often and stretch my legs, but we’ll work that out when we get there. After all, I can’t see the world if you get thrown in the brig because some backwater island thinks you’re cavorting with demons or whatever.”

“Okay, I can live with that,” said Crowley. Jeff held a tentacle out to shake on it and Crowley shook his head.

Jeff rolled his eyes as he slowly faded out of sight. “I wasn’t going to snatch your body, idiot,” he said teasingly. “Not this time anyway.” Crowley could practically see Jeff smirking as he felt the quartz around his neck grow ever so slightly heavier with Crowley’s spiritual weight. It also felt somewhat cooler, like someone had thrown it in the sea for a brief moment.

Crowley gathered what items he wanted to salvage from the wreckage of his room and then left the Red Rivers’ mansion for the last time, his former gang mates eyeing him with suspicion or outright shrinking away from him in fear in the hallways. As Crowley set off down the road towards the port, his heart ached for the loss of his home and from the uncertainty about his future. Evidently he and Jeff were still somewhat emotionally linked because he heard Jeff hum thoughtfully in his head.

“What?” he thought back.

“I’d forgotten how deliciously dramatic mortal emotions can be,” was Jeff’s delighted reply.

Before turning the corner at the end of the lane, Crowley stopped to look back at the house one last time and saw Lucille dashing up the street after him, a parcel bundled up in her arms. “I’m so glad I caught you before you disappeared,” she said breathlessly when she reached him. “I don’t know where you’ll go, but it can be dreadfully cold this time of year so you had better take this.”

Crowley opened the parcel she handed to him to find his arms full of red fabric. “My cloak,” he said with a sad smile as he wrapped it around himself.

Lucille shrugged. “Gideon’ll be furious with me, but he won’t do anything to me that I can’t handle. And if he kicks me out too, I think the Bolts might be recruiting.” Crowley flinched at that and Lucille laid a soothing hand on his arm. “What you did was terrifying and extreme, but you had a good reason for it.” She cracked weak grin, trying for a little levity. “It’s a shame you’ve been kicked out, I don’t think anyone would’ve messed with us if you were around.”

Crowley half-smiled back and then leaned in and kissed Lucille on the cheek. “Thank you for looking out for me. I just wish I had something to give you.”

Lucille reached up and cupped his cheek in her hand. “Don’t worry about it. Just go live your life, Crowley. Take care of yourself. And wear the damn cloak so you don’t freeze to death.”

“And the same to you, Lucille.”

They shared a farewell hug and then Crowley headed down to the docks to see about getting hired onto a ship’s crew.

“Hard labor?” whined Jeff.

“We don’t have that much money, I can’t waste it on booking passage,” replied Crowley as they walked past the docked ships. “If you don’t like it you can always leave.”

Jeff laughed inside of Crowley’s head. “No way. This is only the beginning for us. You and me are gonna be hanging out for a long time.”