Lola stayed right next to Marrow, refusing to end the hug while the small army of mages, healers, and school faculty busily worked around them. The group of specialty students was a small one, but a steadfast one regardless. They hunched around each other, their respective familiars sticking close to each other.
A titanic figure strode through the crowd, and everyone backed out of his way, clearing a path for him as he approached the small group.
"Lola! Are you all right? I came the moment I heard!"
Looking up, Lola saw Francis towering above them with a concerned smile. Forrest jumped to his feet, Dawn calmly rose, Carl tried to look up at him (and kept looking higher), and Carolin grinned hugely. "Sir Conderie! I'm a huge fan." He gave her a pleasant smile before returning his attention to Lola. She smiled, hugging Marrow a little tighter. "Hi, Uncle Francis! This is Marrow! She's a lich and she ran away from the Compendium."
Francis' face went through a surprising series of contortions as he tried to process the sudden influx of information, before settling on interest."Is that so? Well, hello, Marrow! How are you doing?"
Marrow looked up at him, then shrank back slightly, tucking her legs up. Francis knelt down, speaking surprisingly gently despite his enormous frame and deep voice. "Marrow, I assure you, I am here to help. Nobody here has more experience fighting the Compendium than Isaac and I. You have my word, you are absolutely safe here. No one will hurt you here."
It was exactly what the lich needed to hear, and she relaxed visibly. Almost exactly as she did, tears started welling up in the corner of her eyes, and Lola renewed the hug with a fervor. Sniffing, Marrow hugged her back. "I was so scared."
Carolin patted her on the shoulder sympathetically, and Bloof sat in her lap, purring loudly. Forrest looked as though he desperately wanted to give them both a hug, but wasn't sure how. Dawn was paying a remarkable amount of attention to Marrow, and awkwardly stood behind them.
Even Francis rubbed the corner of his eye before his face spread into a rueful grin. "Sorry. I didn't mean to shed any tears, here. Is there anything I can do to help you kids out?"
Everybody shook their heads, except for Marrow. She looked like she desperately wanted to say something but still didn't seem to have the confidence to. Nothing got past Francis's attention, not when he directed it, and he focused on her. "What is it?"
She touched the tips of her fingers together, the thin layer slightly above her bones tapping into each other with an audible click. "Ummm... this isn't important."
Francis chuckled deeply. "I asked, didn't I?"
Marrow swallowed. "Can I... have some clothes?" She shrank down, a faint tinge of red crawling up into her cheeks, and everyone promptly became aware of the fact that she was essentially wearing a bunch of rags badly sewn into a dress. The boys looked away immediately, and Carolin promptly took off her short-sleeved coat, draping it around Marrow's shoulders.
Lola's eyes grew wide with excitement. "I have an idea!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Carolin shuffled through the closet, whistling. "You have a lot of dresses."
The boys were standing just outside, being entertained by stories of Francis's past fights, making bad jokes, and generally being boys. Meanwhile, Dawn had declined to come along, instead opting to go back to wherever she stayed. That left Carolin, Lola, and Marrow in Lola's room, back at the Bourgeious mansion. Isaac was staying at Weatherton, in the excellent care of the doctors and nurses available there.
Seated on her bed, Lola was swinging her feet casually. Turning to Carolin, she asked curiously, "Do you think there are clothes just for liches or do they just wear normal stuff?" Carolin blinked, unsure how to answer the question. As she opened her mouth, Marrow came out from behind the changing curtain.
Lola squealed in happiness. Marrow looked incredibly uncomfortable in a frilly, poofy dress of Lola's that the excitable young girl had insisted on, and clearly wasn't sure what to do with all the layers. The strapless top showed off more of her collarbones than she preferred, and her arms were also left bare. "I don't really like this."
Jumping off the bed, Lola walked around Marrow, inspecting the dress and smiling hugely. "It looks so good! You can keep it, if you want."
Marrow visibly flinched, shrinking back. "Can I... not?"
Carolin sighed, rummaging through Lola's clothes again. "Oh come on, there's got to be something better than that."
Lola looked disappointed. "But I really like this dress!"
Head buried in layers of lace, Carolin called, "Yeah, but it's a dress for you. It fits your personality just great, but I don't think it's quite for Mar - got it!" She retreated from the clothes waving her prize triumphantly, handing the folded clothes to Marrow with a grin. "Try these on. Good thing you're close to Lola's size." Marrow took the clothes doubtfully but headed back behind the curtain regardless.
Lola bounced back to her bed, crossing her legs and waiting impatiently. "I still think the dress looked good."
Carolin nodded. "The dress did look good, yeah. I'm not going to disagree with that, it's high-quality. The problem is that it didn't fit Marrow. Not that it didn't fit, it just didn't - you know what I mean."
Lola didn't, no.
Marrow came back into view, looking significantly more comfortable with the clothes. They consisted of a simple white undershirt, a mellow green long-sleeved sweater, and loose brown pants. A pair of fuzzy dark socks accompanied the look. She smiled faintly. "I like it."
Throwing her arms wide, Lola told her with a grin, "Then you can keep them! I never wear them anyway."
Carolin jogged over behind her, making sure the clothes were staying on correctly. She'd half-expected Marrow to be emaciated or at least unhealthily thin from the Compendium's control, but to her surprise Marrow's figure was simply thin, rather than underweight or overfed. The lich turned with her, trying to keep an eye on her in confusion.
Finally, Carolin declared, "All right, the clothes look great! Now, let's do something about that hair."