Titus was worried.

It was hard to see, the weathered lines of his face were cut deep over years of campaigning, an extra furrow in his brow, a little more tension in his stare, were signs almost impossible to notice.

Tribune Aurillia had noticed. After so many years serving in the Legion she was able to detect the subtle changes in her commander. The tightening of his shoulders, the way he constantly thumbed the blade of his famed axe, testing an edge that he had kept razor sharp for the better part of thirty years.

It wasn't often Titus was worried.

"… suspicious activity on the part of the mercenary union and merchants guild, as well as a shift in the rhetoric of the Church of the Path have been reported over the last two weeks. Our strategists suggest that the possibility of a coup in Liria is rising by the day" Aurillia reported.

Titus nodded absently, his iron gaze never leaving the forest expanse that spread out before them from their vantage point on the camp walls. The forest was dark now. Very dark. Even the monsters seemed to sense that something was coming. The din of combat, constant over the last week had faded away to nothing.

There was a tension in the air, as if every living thing in the Dungeon was waiting, ready to spring into violent battle at a moment's notice.

"Do you have any instructions to relay to the surface? Commander?" Aurillia queried.

Her commander didn't respond, instead continuing to gaze pensively at the expanse, his ice blue eyes reflecting the dying light from the trees.

"What do you think the Dungeon was like before the Rending, Tribune?" he asked suddenly.

Aurillia was taken aback by this seemingly unrelated question. After a pausing to consider her response she answered.

"Nobody knows the condition of the Dungeon before the cataclysm commander. No-one even knew it existed".

Titus shook his head. "Of course I know that. I asked what you think it was like, use your imagination Aurillia".

The Tribune was confused. "I don't know commander. We know that the mana level on the surface rose dramatically, I can only imagine that the mana level underground surged to incredible levels."

"I think the Rending was a wave" mused Titus, "I think it was just a very large, very long wave".

This wasn't an unheard of theory regarding the Rending, but no wave had ever come remotely close to replicating the world shattering effects of the cataclysm that had created this Dungeon age.

"You've read the reports from our neighbouring Legionary outposts?" Titus asked.

"I have" Aurillia nodded.

"The mana levels have been rising all around us, not just locally. The change has been even, no variation at all. Readings in Banron are the same as ours. I wonder just how far this wave is reaching? It may be covering the entire Perior federation. Perhaps even further?"

"Surely you aren't suggesting this is the beginning of a second cataclysm?" Aurillia scoffed.

The signs were worrying, but the cataclysm? The civilisations on the surface, humanity included, had almost been wiped out at that time!

A moment of silence descended as Titus stroked his grizzled chin with one hand, contemplating the dim light reflected in his eyes.

"I don't know" he said finally, "but I'm not sure. Something is different about this one. I just wish I knew what."

Another break in the conversation fell as side by side the two veterans spend some time lost in their own thoughts.

Eventually Aurillia felt compelled to speak.

"Do you have any instructions regarding the situation on the surface commander?"

Titus slowly nodded.

"I want every member of the Legion above ground to make immediate preparations to depart for our position within two hours. Not a single trainee or auxiliary is to remain behind. I don't care if they have to burn the Loremasters library to the ground, Alberton needs to be down here also".

"Everyone?" gasped Aurillia, "you're going to abandon the Queen? Do you think there won't be an insurrection?"

"There will be a coup and the Queen will be killed" Titus said.

"Then why?"

"The politics of surface kingdoms is of no interest to me, nor should it be to you Tribune. Our duty and our focus lies in the Dungeon" Titus replied firmly.

"But the Queen has been a loyal supporter of ours for decades. You're talking about Alberton's aunt!" Aurillia protested. She couldn't believe that Titus would be so cold hearted.

Titus paused for a moment, his jaw visibly clenching and a spark of anger igniting in his eyes.

"Listen to me Tribune" he said tightly, "we stand on the verge of an unprecedented disaster. The only thing standing between the city of Liria and a flood of monsters are these fortifications" he emphasised his words by slamming his fist down on the compacted earthen walls, "and the Legionaries who followed our orders to come here. The Queen has left herself vulnerable and I can't do a damned thing about that. I will protect my people no matter the cost".

Faced with the slowly burning rage in Titus' ice blue eyes Aurillia could only swallow her protests.

"It will be done commander" she assented.

Titus simple nodded and turned away from the wall to face the camp itself. Temporary buildings erected by Earth Mages were constructed in neat rows, dotted here and there with canvas tents and open built forges.

The men and women of the Legion who had joined him on this expedition were all present here in this camp, nobody had been allowed to venture out a centimetre since the light had begun to fade.

"I want you to send a message to Rixard" Titus suddenly said.

Aurillia was taken aback. "My son? Why?" she asked.

Titus dropped his chin to his chest for a moment before looking back up and continuing to speak. "I want him to pass a message onto the Mercs and Merchants".

Aurillia felt her heart grow still. "I'm not sure why you couldn't just send a message directly commander. My son is only a low level merchant in the city, they won't hold the message in any higher regard for being delivered by him".

Titus chuckled and shook his head. "Aurillia" a note of warning entered his tone, "don't play games. Not to me".

It was the Tribunes turn to drop her head as her commander continued. "I know Rixard has been passing information of our movements to the Mercenaries. Information he has been stealing from you. They will listen to him. Letting them know we were aware of their little mole will send another message also."

"How long did you know?" Aurillia whispered.

Titus snorted. "You didn't try to hide it Tribune, you wanted us to know. We found out years ago".

Aurillia gathered herself and saluted her commander. "I'm ready to accept my punishment commander".

Titus looked her in the eye for a moment. Her gaze never wavered. She had been prepared for this moment for a long time he supposed. To her astonishment he simply waved her away. "I'm the last person who will judge another for a wayward child Aurillia, the fault is not yours. Get Rixard to tell them we will hold here for two weeks. Two weeks only. After that they will be on their own".

"Where will we go commander?" the relieved officer asked.


Clapping Aurillia on the back, Titus moved away from the wall and began to walk through the camp, having a quiet word with his soldiers as he passed by, a joke here and there, a bit of encouragement, the occasional stern word.

Wherever we went he was met with respect, determination and idolisation shining in the eyes of his Legionaries. He knew it was there, knew what they thought of him. As much as it was embarrassing he welcomed their hero worship so long as it led them to do what he asked. He could keep them alive that way.

He didn't feel much like a hero. His back hurt, his knuckles ached and the cartilage in his left elbow made a grinding sound every time he hefted his axe. It wouldn't be long now before the Legion retired him to the stone.


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Bio: Working older person with family who really likes webnovels and decided to write one. Here we are!

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