Picardie frowns, and decides to speak in the second panel.
Picardie: But- you are great!
Auvergne looks over their shoulder.
Auvergne: I have no competition here.
A closeup of Picardie’s eye shows frustration.
Auvergne’s eyes widen and they stop frowning. We only see the back of Picardie’s head.
Auvergne: Has that struck you in another matter?
The next panel only shows the back of Picardie’s head.
Picardie: I had no competition at home. But things still did not work out.
Auvergne smiles, but not out of joy.
Auvergne: Have you gone back, since leaving?
A side view of Picardie’s face shows a frown.
Auvergne turns their head but looks at Picardie from the corner of their eye.
Auvergne: You should. Despite my lack of talent, I return and make merry every winter.
The next panel shows yellow-green mountains capped in snow, under a dark blue sky full of clouds.
Auvergne: I see my sisters, Wind Priests, guiding the Auro winds north.
Auvergne reaches a hand out to Picardie’s shoulder.
Auvergne: I do not know the reason, but it seems that you have some bonds to amend.
A long horizontal panel shows Auvergne and Picardie, facing each other, with Auvergne’s back to us. In the background, a yellow dirt path extends into a light forest.
Auvergne puts a finger to their chin.
Auvergne: Ah. A bad choice in words.
The same mountains from the previous page, but darker, tower over Picardie. She is surrounded by a brown dirt.
Picardie: I was all alone, when I left. No one chased me.
Auvergne approaches Picardie.
Their feet lift up from the ground.
They are in the air, looking out at the yellow walls in the rising sun. Auvergne holds onto Picardie.
Picardie: I can reach this height on my own, Auvergne.
Auvergne looks lovingly at Picardie.
Auvergne: You are not alone. Even on your own.
Picardie cries in a close-up panel.
Picardie: If you insist.
The next panel shows Occitanie, entering the greenhouse. It is dark.
Occitanie: Guyane? Are you here?
Guyane waves to Occitanie from the opposite end. Calais is there, too, looking at Guyane.
Guyane: Hello, Occitanie! We are here.
Calais stands, pushing on the table.
As Occitanie approaches Guyane, Calais leaves, not looking at her.
Occitanie: Good news…
The last panel shows Occitanie’s eye, looking back at Calais, her eyebrow raised in what is either dismay or shock.
Occitanie sits at the table with Guyane. The third seat is empty.
Occitanie: We have two children on their way to make contracts with you.
But Occitanie is not happy anymore.
Occitanie: We are preparing another house…
Calais leaves the greenhouse behind, walking along the forest path.
Calais thinks: Must I leave this forest, to escape this situation?
They walk past a gray stone and some orange flowers.
Calais thinks: I cannot go much longer without speaking to Duxa- no, Occitanie.
They enter the forest, trees around them.
The next thought sits on the page with no panel or art around it.
Calais thinks: The thought of her terrifies me.
Calais begins to run through the forest.
They hold their throat, pressing on the skin, mouth downturned.
Calais thinks: I can barely breath now, now that she has held me so closely.
Closed moon lilies stand tall, on a brown and green background.
Calais thinks: I thought it would feel great for her to accept me, once again.
Calais walks down purple stone steps.
They bend over, holding their knees.
They see their younger reflection in the river. Neither version of Calais is happy.
Calais thinks: She has always accepted me… but… this time, I wonder…
Calais leans back, looking away from the river. The stone wall and steps extend beyond them.
Calais thinks: I should have kept traveling. My magic is enough to earn my keep.
There is no panel art for the next speech bubble.
A voice asks: Calais? Have you wandered here?
Two panels show Calais’ eye closing in dismay, and a hand not quite in a fist resting on the dirt path.
In the bottom-right corner, Calais sits without any panel or background.
Calais: Yes. I am here.
Occitanie holds a hand to her throat, looking to the right.
Occitanie: …I did not mean to scare you from me.
Calais jumps to a rock in the middle of the water. Occitanie is still on the bank.
She looks at Calais, hair flying a little bit.
Occitanie: Please, do not back away! I only sought comfort on your shoulder.
Their younger selves stand, upside-down, in the reflections on the river. Occitanie reaches out to Calais, hand glowing slightly. Calais stands with their back to Occitanie, but looks in her direction.
The Occitanie of the present: You have always been wonderful with the plants. Especially their roots.
The younger Occitanie smiles in an upside-down close-up.
Both Occitanies: I consider you my equal in ability.
The Calais of the present speaks, eyes not showing in the panel.
Calais: Thank you. But I rot away, sealed in that greenhouse.
Occitanie of the present tilts to the right, eyes wide. She responds.
Occitanie: Should someone else take charge? I am sure that we could rotate…
A panel shows Calais’ present feet balancing on the rock, reflection also managing. A second panel shows the younger Calais’ hair flowing as they looks to the right. Then the present Calais speaks, still hiding their eyes beyond the panel. The text flows over the three panels.
Calais: Even when I complain, you make plans. You have always been so perfect. How can I not wish to run? The next row is all in the reflections of the water, upside-down. Occitanie’s hand is at her side, touching the fabric of her clothing.
Her younger self speaks up, hair flowing.
Occitanie: I was not as perfect as you believe.
The younger Calais responds, smiling and with one eye showing.
Calais: You doubt yourself.
The present Occitanie frowns, frustrated.
Occitanie: That does nothing to ease my burden!
She steps into the river, and her reflection is that of the present. She hoists up her dress, boots in the water. She frowns a bit, mouth open.
Occitanie: Hear out my feelings!
The present Calais finally turns to face Occitanie. Their face is a bit twisted in rage, but the panel only shows one eye, the bridge of their nose, and hair.
Occitanie stares back, frowning.
Occitanie: Look at who I am now!
Calais stands on the rock, dry. Occitanie has waded over to be much closer.
Occitanie: I am lonely. I- I need you, Calais. Come close to me.
Occitanie blushes strongly, looking away.
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