The air lay heavy in the streets that night, sticking to things as a thin mist in places. Had it been in Lowmyre, the fog would have been notably thicker and tinged green—just enough to be concerning if you opted to think on it too long. Contemplating contaminated fog was low on Bird's list of pleasant or exciting things to do, but that was the point. He needed something boring to kill the flow of adrenaline.
The problem with adrenaline is that it can make a moment feel like a minute, and it felt like hours before he could calm his breathing. The time passed with him focused instead on staying as quiet as possible. Eventually there was a pause, a time where the shouts and barks had drifted far enough away that Bird drew a proper breath.
He slumped down, wringing his wrist against his palm once. Twice. Three, four, five-and-a-half times before he fully noticed and broke his trance; this was no place to linger. A quiet egress down from the roof and into the connected alleys was his chosen route, planned a few days before. Luckily the maps they found were still mostly accurate.
There was no chance in hell this would have worked further into Goldwind, but a little enchanter's boutique set up near the edge of the cliff over the Lowmyre was within reason. That said, there was also no chance in hell he'd be able to get away if anyone saw him here. A Weird walking around after dark when a store’s alarm had been raised was likely to be arrested on sight.
A few lights flicked on as he darted through the narrow walkways, drawn more by the distant barking and shouts than by his padded steps. Shutters unlatched behind him and their creaking sent him flying down the alley, ducking around a corner to hide. A moment later and they closed with no other consequence. Bird could hear the latch protesting as it was locked.
It took effort not to deviate from this alley. The next one over was darker and had fewer windows, but this was the path for a reason. Bird darted out as quickly as he dared towards the end of the alley. There was only a fence separating him from a small section of greenery used to spruce up the cobblestone wall. It shielded the locals from having to stare at Lowmyre too frequently.
This particular section of wall had a large, loose stone at it's base, just behind a wide bush. A convenient shortcut that Foresight had been able to find with his Clairvoyance; Bird made a mental note to buy the three-eyed Weird a drink if he got back.
“When I get back. When. Positive thinking, come on Bird!” He muttered to himself, so low that even his ears could only hear half syllables. Creeping up to the spot, he tried to remember exactly what Foresight had said.
Sure enough the mortar was loose, and the stones nearby didn't seem to need the support of this particular lump of stone. The caveat was having to pull this small boulder, not push it. If it went rolling down the cliff it would draw way too much attention, and it'd be clear where he had ran. A quick bit of work with a pocket knife chipped out final stubborn bits of mortar, and Bird took the moment of stowing the knife to prepare himself. He hated how stone felt against his teeth.
He slipped off the gloves that he'd been using as part of a cheap disguise, flexing his hands and doing his best to work the stiffness out of the muscles. A line across each of his palms widened and split, opening to reveal a row of ivory teeth and a fading darkness beyond them. Bird stretched them as far as they could open, more as reflex than anything.
He palmed the rock and bit down with his hands, grabbing what he could with his fingers as well. A quick look around to make sure no one had heard the slight cracking of stone reassured him.
Bird didn't have a particular knack for physical alchemy, so he settled for straining his arms and tugging the boulder back bit by bit. Better that than wasting time and mana making himself nauseous.
As a sliver of space showed itself between the rock and the wall, Bird heard a scuffling start to approach. The snap of leather being pulled taut and the click-clack of claws on cobbled streets. Adrenaline started to pump almost more out of necessity than fear, and Bird found himself jerking the rock out a few more inches before starting to cram himself through the gap. There were probably strange marks on the rock, but his priorities had shifted away needing to cover all his tracks and towards simply escaping..
The scuffling became louder as the barking started. Bird got up to his ribs in the wall, the panic making the task harder than it needed to be. He forced the air from his lungs and started to wiggle, squeezing through and immediately turning around to block the path.
It was a little trickier than he would have liked, given that the ledge he had was less than a foot wide and the footholds on the cliff weren't doing him any favors. The rock was probably sticking out a few more inches than it had been, but the howling carried over the wall with such volume that he didn't care to risk someone seeing it move.
The journey down the cliff face was somehow the most relaxing part of this endeavor. If he didn’t consider the immediate danger of a straight drop across rough stone and through someone's roof, that is. Then again, a long drop would only be his problem until the sudden stop. After that it was somebody else’s issue to deal with.
“Positive, positive. Come on.” Bird told himself again, using the mouths on his hands to anchor himself to what stone he could. Every little bit helped and he wasn’t exactly worried about the teeth.
A foothold failed him and his teeth sank into the rock, chipping it and sending a few shards into the darkness of the mouth. He'd have to fish them out later so they didn't just knock around in there forever, but being alive was worth the minor maintenance.
The ground under his feet was unpleasantly damp, but a welcome relief nonetheless; Bird was back in the Lowmyre. A Weird walking around the slums was easy enough to dismiss, and with any luck it would be a few hours before anyone in Goldwind got the idea to put a proper search party down the cliff. If they even bothered.
A left, another left, a right, straight on River Street for three houses, a right, and then straight on that alley until he reached the main drag of north Lowmyre. From there he knew the path by heart.
Bird couldn't help but smile as he strode towards the Nightlight, knowing he'd be well hidden once he got inside. It widened a bit when he saw a shock of pink hair outside the door, a short line nearby. Thrash was working the door tonight; perfect.
“The prodigal bird returns. How was the flight?” She smiled down at him, horns catching the multi-colored glow from behind her. The complaint from the front of the line died in the air, silenced with a glare from the tall bouncer.
“Well enough. Got some good exercise at least. Here, hold out your hand.” Bird smiled as Thrash cocked a brow, putting her palm out. He placed his own a couple inches above and concentrated on the chips that had dislodged on the way down.
A small shower of pebbles poured out of the mouth, piling on Thrash's hand. She recoiled a bit, a confused look etching itself across her face.
“What the hell are these?” She pulled them close to her face, flicking them around with a finger as Bird slipped around her, patting her side.
“Souvenirs.” He could hear the shower of rock hitting the wooden porch as he entered the club, adjusting to the shifting colors and lights easily enough. The music was another story though, and Bird did have to cover his ears to navigate the room and dodge dancing bodies.
Mono had a knack for finding the strange musicians. This group had been here before, he was sure of it, if only because the modifications to the drums looked so familiar. Maybe the one with the lute was new.
Past the throng, he knocked on the door to the back once, twice. Waited a moment. Once more. Bird could just barely hear the click, and the cacophony was blissfully lessened as the door shut behind him.
“You cannot let them do more than one set.”
“You missed the good song.” Foresight shrugged, moving grass-green hair from his eyes. The third, vertical eye on his forehead darted in a different direction than his other two for a moment before resettling on Bird. “You get out alright?”
Bird answered with a wide smile, reaching into his pouch to pull out the necklace that this entire night had revolved around. He clasped it around his neck, blinking a few times as he felt something settle over his eyes, like an impossibly thin sheet.
“How do I look?”
“Like a Weird with a necklace.” Foresight couldn't help but smile a bit though. It seemed like the illusory magic of the necklace managed to bypass the normal issue Weirds had with cosmetic alterations. “Good news though, your pupils are round and a good shade of blue. No diamond pupils, no orange flakes.”
Bird's sigh of relief whooshed out with abandon. This had been worth it. The fact that his Weirdness had partially resided in his eyes had been one of the trickiest problems to solve. Everything else they needed to do could be accomplished with cloth and a bit of discipline.
“Looks like the plan is still on then, yeah?” Bird offered, starting to feel the wear of the night weighing on him. A floorboard creaked as someone rounded a corner in the back of the room, and Bird knew it was Mono by the weight of her step.
“It seems like tonight was a smashing success for all involved parties!” She happily reported; her single, central eye smiling as widely as her actual mouth. “I enlisted a bit of aid from Foresight and Lucy earlier, and we finished your day clothes.”
“Looks like we might be able to pull off this insanity of yours after all, Bird.” Foresight clapped him on the back, spinning some trinket on his finger.
His enthusiasm matched Bird’s as they looked at the clothing that his friends had produced. Mono had a knack for work with a needle and thread, and Bird almost felt like he had underestimated her talent now.
“These look great! Once I get out of Lowmyre, no one should be able to tell I'm a Weird.” Bird might have been ready to fight his exhaustion through excitement alone, but the drain from the adrenaline rush was weighing just a little too heavy. Mono seemed to notice, stepping forward to shoo off Foresight before leading Bird towards the door at the back of the room.
“Come on, you need to get some rest.” Mono's voice didn't leave a lot of room for arguments in the moment, though Bird had few to give. There was a temptation to throw some kind of remark out, just for the fun of it. Half of the language in Lowmyre was sarcasm and sass intermixed with earnest sentiments.
At the same time though, the closer he got to the bed the less interest he had in a verbal sparring match. Besides, Mono could win one gagged and blindfolded, and that was a power he dared not tempt.
It was Mono's room, but Bird had a feeling she wasn't going to be sleeping here tonight. He owed the four of them a great deal for going along with his dumb idea, and knowing they had been working tirelessly for the past week meant more to him than words would reasonably describe. Even Lucy had been busy, running around and helping the other three as much as a child could.
“Rest up. I've got some work to finish. Just some touch-ups to make sure everything is as normal as we can make it.” Mono left him beside the bed, stopping halfway to gesture to the couch in the room. A small, twisted horn was poking out of a nest of blankets. “Just don't snore too loud; Lucy's about as dead as you are. Make sure you actually get some rest, alright?”
“Yeah, big day tomorrow.” Bird slipped out of his shoes and took off his dirty tunic out of respect for Mono's bed, smiling faintly at the thought of their efforts coming to a head. This could work.
No, this would work. As Bird’s head hit the pillow and darkness started to take him, a faint smile curled on his lips.
“We've got an Academy to sneak into.”