I thought over what Night was saying.
Basically, he was killing thirty birds with one stone. We needed to check that the Formorians were fully uprooted. Hunting needed something to do – and his role happened to coincide with ‘go find Formorians and make sure they’re dead’. There was a potential civil war brewing, or so Night believed. I hadn’t seen hide, hair, nor whisper of anything like that, but I trusted Night’s analysis on that. I wasn’t the most politically astute, and it wasn’t like I hung out with generals, nor would the generals send a polite letter to the Senate telling them about it.
Heck, it was almost Julius Caesar-like. Or Sulla. I didn’t know my Roman history all that well. Massive victory, huge, loyal army, no external enemies left – only thing to do was to march home and declare oneself emperor.
Sounded like more than one general had that plan. There was probably some vast web of politics and intrigue, and the more I thought about it the sicker I felt. Night was totally right. I would try to get involved, if only to heal people, and simply hanging out would cause problems. Heck, knowing me, I’d end up getting roped into some scheme or another, think I was being nice and helpful, and OOPS! Turns out I’d accidentally dragged everyone into some massive mess, just by trying to be helpful.
I knew I could be a bit of an idiot with politics and the like, which is why I tried to run screaming from it. Usually that wasn’t a problem, because “kill the monster, save people” wasn’t terribly complicated, but when people were fighting each other, it got real tricky real fast.
Getting me out of the way, out of the mess before it could properly begin was an okay move. I’d honestly rather stick myself in a wagon, close the door, and get carted back to the capital while sleeping and eating good food, but hey. There were more problems to fix. For all I knew, the cart would get hijacked without me being aware of it, and I’d be carted around as a healing beacon, all while thinking I was out of the mess.
Sending me with Hunting seemed to be the second or third best solution to the “Dawn’s going to cause problems” problem, but it did solve a number of other problems.
It wasn’t like most of those other problems that I was solving could be easily aired out in public, in front of the rest of the Sentinels.
Right then. I was feeling the steam coming out of my ears. This wasn’t the type of problem I was equipped to handle, and I was going to happily pass it off to someone who I believed had my best interests – all of our best interests – at heart, and listen to what he wanted to do.
After all the time processing, we were nearing the tent, Night looking distinctly nervous.
“Right. I’ll do it.” I told him, as the tent came into view.
Night smiled, a huge, predatory slash across his face.
I paused outside the tent, and a grumpy look crossed my face.
“Night. Can we have some privacy – some real privacy – for a second chat?” I asked him.
He looked at my face, and slowly nodded.
“Follow.” He said, opening the tent-flap, allowing me to enter first. I did, thanking him, and we made our way to Night’s portion of the tent, where with a thought red liquid snapped around us, surrounding us, cutting us off from the rest of the world.
“Night.” I said, organizing my thoughts.
“Dawn. I am listening. Speak.” He said, with a serious look on his face. I’m glad that he treated me seriously, that he listened to me.
“I recognize that your position is difficult.” I said, trying to be somewhat diplomatic. It was hard, interacting with people and yelling at your boss, especially when stupid sleep deprived. I felt a cold trickle of sweat going down my back that had nothing to do with the temperature.
“However, that’s no excuse for not letting me know what was going on here! I could’ve been here! I could’ve been saving people! Heck, I was here, if I’d known there was a problem, I could’ve been working on it! People are dead as a result, that didn’t need to be! Why didn’t you tell me!?”
I’d started off calm, but got more and more upset as I went through my rant. Fuck. No more emotional stability from [Center of the Galaxy]. It’s what I wanted, but…
What was done was done.
“Dawn. If you were here, you could not have been deployed to Aquiliea. If you were here, you would not have saved the souls in Pompeius. There are dozens of calls for Sentinels every month. You know that we must choose when and where to deploy, to optimally save the largest number of people. You know this. The balance of the scales would not be appropriately tipped by your knowledge and presence. It was a decision I made. Now, do you have any further objections or comments?”
I turned and angrily stamped off, Night dismissing the barrier before I hit it.
I hated how right he was.
I got a few more hours of sleep. All of us needed the rest, and it was late afternoon by the time I was woken up again.
My internal clock was totally screwed. Getting back on a normal sleep cycle was going to be all sorts of fun.
All of us, except for Destruction, got up, fixed some food – rations were starting to run low, with the supply lines having been cut off when the Formorians broke through, then the huge party following our victory was pushing our supplies dangerously thin – then we sat around the central table, Destruction’s snoring punctuating our conversation.
He’d stayed awake for almost three weeks straight. We were all willing to cut him some slack.
Night laid out the situation once again, going much more in-depth into the upcoming movements and potential changes in governing structure that was being planned. I was half snoozing through it, half doing my own thinking.
Just because a rebellion was headed by a general, with a significant portion of the army behind him, didn’t make it any less of a rebellion. Night having spent thousands of years in the military might be skewing his view a hair on the matter. It wasn’t like this was the first time someone had taken a chunk of the army on their way to ‘correct’ things in Remus.
At the same time, by the sounds of it, something like 70%+ of the army was getting involved in some way, shape, or form. I was no political genius – heck, I was a political moron – but when that much of the army, the people with the sharp swords and deadly skills were saying ‘this person’s the new boss’, well. It was kinda hard to argue with them.
The only people that would be arguing with them were the other parts of the army that wanted someone else to be the boss, and yeah. It was shaping up to be real ugly, real fast, if there wasn’t some nice place for the army to be. In a way, the Formorians had been good. They were a source of external pressure keeping everyone united. Almost the literal minute the external pressure was gone, we fell into infighting and bickering.
Blah. Working together for the common good was just too much for some people.
I kept listening in on the conversation, not having much to add. It was all ‘implied support’ this and ‘appearance of neutrality’ that. I got a bit more interested once we moved on from the topic.
“Do you want me to stay here to turn the fortifications into a town?” Bulwark asked. “It’s out of the way, and it’s part of what I do. It helps that the only people it’ll look like I’m helping are the soldiers staying out of the fight, which should help with our appearance of neutrality. We already have walls, the expensive part’s done. If it wasn’t for the breach, the place would already be a town.” Bulwark said, to almost everyone nodding along to what he was saying.
Toxic and I exchanged horrified looks. A quizzical tilt of my head, a sharp jerk by his. Silent, non-Ranger-standard communication.
Afterall, everyone here could read Ranger communication.
“No.” Toxic and I both said together.
Night looked at us and frowned.
“Are you certain?” He asked.
“Absolutely.” I said, giving him a look. One that tried to say that he better go along with my plan if he wanted me to go along with his.
Ok, fine. I was going to help Hunting out either way. I didn’t want him diving deep into despair anymore than Night did. I liked Hunting too much for that.
Toxic took in a deep breath.
“It’s the poison I was using.” He said, chin up, staring unblinkingly at each one of us until he moved onto the next person to lock eyes with.
“It’s poisoned the land, the soil, the water. It’s poisoned everything, and it’s cycling back through. Anyone that lives here, anything that’s grown here, will have small traces of the poison.”
Brawling sprayed the water he was drinking out of his mouth, onto all of us. A shield flickered in front of Bulwark and Night as they expertly deflected the surprise attack.
Toxic stoically accepted the spray as his due punishment. Nature seemed delighted to get some water for his plants – well, water that didn’t come from his mug, and Hunting seemed to just not care.
Destruction was snoring through it all.
Which left me, spluttering with indignation as I got sprayed. I didn’t have the reflexes to handle surprise water attacks from close-range, not without [Bullet Time] giving me a hand. For all that [Bullet Time] occasionally stretched to help me with not quite lethal situations, there was no way it was going to help me with surprise water.
I shot my deadliest, most withering look at Brawling, who was still staring at the mug with a look of horror.
“Dawn! Quick! You gotta save me!” Brawling said, reaching across the table to touch me.
I kept up my mad face as I touched him, letting [Dance with the Heavens] pulse through him.
No mana drained.
“Thanks! Thought I was a goner. Cute angry face by the way.”
“You idiot! If the poison was bad enough to kill the physical Sentinel after being diluted a million times, we wouldn’t be sitting here discussing it, now would we!” I shouted at Brawling. “We’d all be dead a dozen times over!”
Brawling looked kinda sheepish at that, and was getting unimpressed looks from the rest of the Sentinels.
“If Toxic were that lethal, there wouldn’t be a single living soul in the camp.” Night softly said. “Nor would we have had this issue with the Formorians. We digress. Back to the subject at hand. Dawn. Toxic. New towns and cities are troublesome to arrange and build, to say the least. Properly founding a new location is a massive undertaking, requiring scouts, an army legion, a nearby quarry, and mining large quantities of stone to build walls in the first place. We have an opportunity here, a town, ready-made and able to accept settlers, with pre-established trade routes. On the other hand, the area is slightly poisonous.”
Night closed his eyes, thinking about it, then opened them up.
“Right. While this situation is larger than just us, we move as a unit. We move as one. Our words have weight, meaning, gravitas. What will our recommendation for the future of this encampment be? Discuss.”