Randidly tried his best to keep is face even. “Surely… this amount of… data is unnecessary, for our purposes.”
“Oh, I disagree,” Mrs. Hamilton said smoothly, her smile wide. “Surely, as the founder of Donnyton… taking the time to write out some concrete advice for this many people is just par for the course? And if you are to make intelligent decisions, you need to be informed.”
Trying not to let the headache force him to lose his temper, Randidly said slowly. “...I’m a warrior, that’s my job. Sure, knowing this political and economic and scientific information might be useful in the long run, but-”
“Incorrect.” Mrs. Hamilton’s voice was low, and the small smile she usually wore slowly fell away, revealing a deep, implacable determination. Carefully, she folded her hands and gave Randidly a long, and searching look.
“Perhaps you aren’t really playing dumb, you just haven’t… conceptualized it. You haven’t named it. The people here, Randidly, they venerate you. Most of them haven’t met you, they’ve only heard stories. Watched the people they admire watch people those people admire, admiring you. That means something. The weight of those feelings changes things, whether you like it or not.”
Leaning forward, Mrs. Hamilton said. “Look, I understand what you said earlier, you need to focus on figuring out how to… well perhaps some things are best to be left unsaid. You want to create something uniquely yours. But I think that you will find 4 hours working on this now will save you innumerable troubles down the line, and affect your research very little. You need a legacy. These letters… they will start that legacy, even if the recipients decide to ignore them.”
Randidly felt his face flushing. He knew the way people looked at him, how they treated him… but to hear it stated so clearly… it was almost embarrassing. The blood continued to rush to his face while he looked at the pages on the table in front of him. With the list of names that Mrs. Hamilton thought he should write pages to…
The point was to inspire them, but… the thoughts wouldn’t come. What would he say? All he could do was picture Shal’s face, or his father’s…
But then, in his mind’s eye, he saw Aemont’s back, standing there, facing outward, in that strange land where that test occurred. That expression on his face. Not a smile, not a frown, not even fear, but more…
And beyond that, the look in those minions’ eyes, the monsters that Randidly slowly fought his way through the gauntlet of the test. Their determination, their absolute belief that sustained them passed the point where they should have given up from wariness or wounds. A level of faith and willpower that allowed them to stretch their lives beyond their fated ending. An endurance that defied imagination.
Not for themselves, but for something greater.
And holy fuck, Mrs. Hamilton wanted to bring that here.
He could see it now, the determination in all the eyes of the people he had known. Donny, Decklan, Dozer… the Squads, the villagers… Kiersty and her cultists… even in Simon’s eyes, after he had found out his true identity. A difference of treatment. Randidly had to bear the weight of that, of course, but if his back was broad and strong enough to carry these expectations…
Their faith would become a weapon.
Sighing, Randidly reached for a packet of information prepared by Mrs. Hamilton, and began to read. She was probably right about the hours not mattering for the Aether research. And the Creature was an issue, but Randidly did not let himself lose sight of the other monstrous opponents that arrayed themselves against him.
The final opponent, the way it was made to seem by Aemont, the unbeatable one: the Calamity. Aemont was not able to figure out how to beat it, even with his great skill. It loomed ahead of them, gleeful and malignant. The tumorous System’s final judgement. Or something, it was hard to tell…
But against these opponents, Randidly had the sense that personal strength wouldn’t be able to carry him all the way. There had to be something else. Something greater. Perhaps… this faith was the weapon that they needed.
Randidly set pen to paper, and began to write.
For Thea, dawn came all too quickly. She was introduced to dozens of different men and women who were a part of the Squads of Donnyton, all of them with an incredible no nonsense approach, who appraised her silently, even as they smiled and offered their greetings. It turned out that the building that Thea needed to use her Stone of Fate was still under construction, and would be for another week, so Thea was basically free to just wander around the town, or participate in any free training sessions.
Which was great, from Thea’s perspective, for several reasons. The first was that the people here had no prejudice against Chrysanthemum, and even seemed amused by giving her their spare animals parts. The reason for this only became clear while wandering the market; she encountered a bunny person, hopping amongst the people, as if nothing strange was happening.
Thea had paused, and followed. Then she had found there were Turtle people as well, chatting amicably. Thea had just blinked, then shook her head. After everything else… she supposed these strange people weren’t that much of a shock to discover. Donnyton was just… a very strange place.
The second reason that Thea was glad to have some time was because the markets in Donnyton were selling all sorts of rare and powerful armors, some dropped, others forged. Whereas there was only the most basic of leather and some large and clunky metal armors in the North, in Donnyton…
They had fucking chainmail.
Not only that, but weapons were not just made with Steel and Claw: there was gems, bone, teeth, wood, and strange, artificial materials. They had alloys that glistened strange colors and weapon designs that left Thea gasping.
More than the materials, it was the artistry that left the most profound impression on Thea. It was still budding, she could tell, but there were no simple Steel Swords here. They all had a curve, and a ruby embedded at the hilt, and had strange attributes like “Heat Forged I” or “999 Hammer Method II” that added extra Stats and other bonuses to the weapons. Literally every weapon maker she found had their own unique method, that varied in effect, but made these weapons take one single step forward.
And these were just the weapons that were available to the public. Thea had a feeling that the Sam character, who welcomed them with extremely sharp eyes, had the ability to create something much more powerful. She had learned later that Sam was in charge of the entire production operation, and most of the stuff sold in the markets were done by smiths and leather workers that weren’t good enough to make it as one of his 20 apprentice positions.
That was not to say that the other items were inferior quality, but just that his were the best. Still, some of his previous apprentices had left his tutelage and set up shop, creating their own brands. But those locations were all inside actual brick and mortar buildings, in the central district of Donnyton, up on the hill.
The third reason that Thea was excited to have some free time was the chance to train with Donnyton’s Squads. Although each Squad had its own training, she had heard that there would be a free training period at dawn, generally led by one of the more powerful people of Donnyton. There was a rotation, but everyone seemed to enjoy giving pointers to the Classers who signed up to be in Squads. Even the recalcitrant Dozer had done it on multiple occasions.
To her delight, an invitation to join had been extended to Thea, probably due to her connections to the Ghosthound, but she didn’t mind. It was a chance to see how her strength compared to that of the Zone’s strongest.
And the final reason that Thea was glad of the break…
...was because she still couldn’t decide on what to use her Stone of Fate. In her mind, using it on her Class was the most compelling, but when they talked about the possibility of upgrading a Statistic… If her Strength… or Agility was a higher tiered Stat….
Wouldn’t she be unstoppable…?
With all these things in mind, Thea found herself waiting nervously with a rapidly growing group of people, chatting before this day’s instructor arrived. Today she decided to focus mostly on training, but starting tomorrow, in the evenings she’d see if she could talk someone into allowing her into their Squad as a short term member, so she could earn money to buy some of these weapons.
Once she had those… she would probably return to Star Crossing as one of the most powerful Classers they had. The thought made her shiver.
It was a sobering thought.
Thea wasn’t sure exactly how many people were in Donnyton, but it always seemed full of people. And almost 300 or so people had gathered, now beginning to stretch and grow silent. A figure walked up the steps to a wooden stage, and clapped her hands. There was something… powerful about the movement, and instantly, all noise ceased, the attention of the 299 Donnyton residents and Thea.
“I’m Alana, today’s my day.” The woman announced, and Thea had to blink slightly because there was a strange golden aura around the woman. “I hope you came ready to work too… because I am in a bad mood.”