The meeting had gone on fairly late, and in spite of sleeping half the day, I was able to instantly fall asleep the moment my head touched the pillow.
A dreamless night I was oh-so-thankful for, followed by waking up in the morning. Hunting and Destruction were still asleep, and Night was semi-dozing on a stool, half slumped forward.
Did he even sleep?
Either way, I got up, and somewhat reluctantly, shucked off my armor and gear. I was down to just my filthy tunic that I wore under it, but such was life.
I found a cloth, along with the other implements needed to maintain my gear, and with a heavy sigh, started to work at it.
Weeks of non-stop fighting and sleeping in the mud had done terrible things to my armor, and I was about to spend days, if not weeks, more in the wilderness with Hunting. It wasn’t that I dreaded going or anything, just – I wanted a hot bath. Clean clothes. Less dirt under my nails, hair that wasn’t greasy and matting.
I grabbed a lock and looked at it.
I gave an overly dramatic sigh, before taking out my knife and giving myself a haircut, grumbling under my breath about it. Albina was going to half murder me for this. Hope I didn’t miss the baby.
Speaking of Albina, I should write her a letter to let her know what was going on. Should write mom and dad a letter as well. Probably Themis and Autumn to boot. Definitely going to send one to Artemis.
Except – problem. I looked around at the tent. The military tent. The tent we’d hijacked. The supplies of “emergency fight now.”
The pen was mightier than the sword, but when Formorians were attacking we elected to use swords and spears. They were strangely unreceptive to our pleas and eloquent words. Hence, letter-writing supplies were in short supply.
Blargh. I’d need to hunt some supplies down. I put my armor down for a moment, and popped my head out of the tent.
Excellent. We had a pair of guards, basically bouncers so nobody would bug us without it being important.
Or, as I thought of them, future minions.
“Heya. Can you grab me some writing supplies?” I asked one of the guards, arbitrarily picking one.
“Sentinel. With all due respect, it’ll be difficult due to-“
“Great!” I cheerfully interrupted him. “See you soon!”
Rank hath its privilege. In this case, sending soldiers on likely unreasonably difficult tasks, and expecting them to get done.
I was doubly thankful that I wasn’t the one running around looking for writing supplies, not when he had mentioned how hard it was. No idea why it was hard, which had me extra-happy I wasn’t the one trying to track it down.
I went back into the tent, and kept working on my gear. I looked around, and embarrassingly, in a manner that was entirely unsuited to my station and experience, realized I was missing some of it.
“Toxic!” I yelled at him. “Where’d my spear go?”
I’d given it to him back at the grove where we were fighting the Formorians, since he’d snuck over without his. I’d been blasting ever since then, not bothering to retrieve my theoretical main weapon.
Losing, when I was in the perfect position, a one versus one against a Formorian Soldier had soured me on even trying to use a spear against them, let alone a weapon less suited to killing things. In theory, I could probably dance around a Formorian and poke it full of holes and slowly kill it, but honestly, that was a pathetic way of going about it. After all, I could flicker a beam of Radiance through it and just kill it that way.
Still. It was my weapon, and I wanted it back. If nothing else, I didn’t want to have to explain to the Quartermaster that I’d lost my weapon, and I needed a new one issued. I’d get an earful from him.
“Spear? What spear? Don’t try to steal mine when you lost yours.” Toxic said, shooting me a dirty look.
My mouth opened in outrage, and I pointed a finger at him, planning on giving him a pint-sized lecture.
“You dick! You-“
“Nah, just fucking with you. Here you go.” Arthur said, grinning like crazy and holding the butt of the spear out at me.
I grabbed it, then punched him in the arm.
It was ok, because with my measly strength, and Arthur’s vambraces and thick skin, I couldn’t hurt him anyways. No harm, no foul.
I kept working on my gear as the rest of the Sentinels did their own thing. Hunting eventually got up, and after some moping around, plonked down next to me as I kept maintaining my stuff. With a deep sigh, he stripped his gear off, and started to use the maintenance equipment I wasn’t using to work on his own gear.
We spent some time in companionable silence, working on our stuff as the other Sentinels popped in and out, doing whatever they believed needed doing.
“We’re going to need a lot of food.” Hunting eventually said, the first words I’d heard out of him all day.
I bit my tongue, closing the floodgate of words that wanted to pour out of me. I wanted to ask him all sorts of things, like how was he doing? Was he ok? Did he want to talk about it?
I’d let him know I was available to chat soon, then leave him be. If he wanted distance, I’d give him distance. If he wanted an ear, I’d give him an ear.
Not literally though. I could regrow my ears, but I was rather attached to them. Plus, peeling off body parts as a party favor was just icky.
“Yup. Should try to grab as much as we can before the soldiers get to it.” I agreeably added.
“Shame Acquisition isn’t around. He’d have a dozen sheep outside our door by now, ready for the slaughter.”
Unbidden, the ghost-aroma of fresh mutton filled my nose, making me want to drool. I could feel my salivary glands activating in response. So unfair. Food. Good food. Oh, how I missed tasty food.
Well, soldier rations were better than Formorian.
“Yeah, that’d be nice.” I agreed.
“Or pigs. Could go for some nice ribs right about now.” Hunting said.
I wanted to encourage him on this train of thought, I really did. His mind was slowly going off of Katastrofi, and onto other topics, like our survival in the near future. Survival was good. Planning to survive was better.
Pork, however, I’d sworn off of ever since I blew off Kerberos’s head, and his roasting body had smelled exactly like pork. I couldn’t even think of it without the memory rising up in my head, [Pristine Memories] backfiring slightly as it gave me perfect recall over the situation and the details.
Details that I could now see and remember in all their gory detail, that I had missed the first time. Details like –
I quashed the memory. Nothing good came out of going down that route.
“Fresh fruit.” I added in.
We kept trading foods back and forth, things we’d love to have. Slowly, oh so slow, Hunting was brightening up. Thinking of other things. Sure, a large shadow was still being cast over him, he was still in darkness, but I was making him look towards some light.
One could even say I was having him look at distant light on the horizon.
Our banter was interrupted by one of the soldiers entering the tent.
“Reporting! A Sentinel requested writing supplies?” He announced to the tent in general, saluting with one hand while carrying a banged-up satchel in the other.
“Ooh! That was me! Thanks!” I said, hopping up and getting the supplies from him.
“While you’re here, we need a month’s worth of food and supplies for two Sentinels.” Hunting ordered.
A look of despair flashed over the poor minion’s face, before he schooled his expression and reluctantly saluted.
“As you command…” He said, turned on his heel, and practically fled before we could give him more unreasonable requests.
Well, they sounded reasonable to us, but we were lofty and on high, not having a great grasp of the greater situation in and around the camp. I knew intellectually that food supplies were running dangerously low, and that there were constant noises of squads of soldiers running around the camp coming from outside our tent.
Not my problem.
I put aside the last of my gear that I could fix, and picked up the writing satchel. I sat down at the table, got out the blank scrolls, frowned as half the charcoal had been turned to dust and was getting everywhere, and laid it all out in front of me.
“Just checking, nothing we’ve done or are doing is top-secret, right?” I asked, speaking to nobody and everybody at once.
“Rebellion.” Night said a single word from where he was dozing on his chair. I wasn’t completely sure how to interpret that, but I decided that meant to stay entirely mum on the subject.
Of course, I wasn’t going to risk my friends and family getting blindsided by it. They were worth too much to me.
Lots of wiping – my filthy tunic now had a dozen black streaks going through it as I didn’t have anything better to use – and careful writing with what little charcoal I had left, and I had a few letters to send back home.
Big fight, killed a bunch of Formorian Queens, wild party. I’m OK, Night’s OK. Sadly, it looks like I’m going to be stuck out here for awhile. More Sentinel stuff to do. Don’t know when I’ll be back – it’s a mess out here. I’ll try to write lots!
On a different note – why didn’t you tell me about you and Julius!? I’m so happy for you two! You’ve got to tell me everything when I get back!
Well, not everything.
Things, for reasons I can’t say, might start getting real crazy and hectic near you. Stay safe. Keep your students safe. If everything starts going crazy, hunker down and protect yourself. There’s no reason to go out and get involved in nonsense. Not allowed to say anything more.
I classed up! Got my next healer evolution! It’s so exciting! I can’t wait to get back and tell you all about it! It’s the best thing ever! I have so many cool tricks now!
I looked at the letter, satisfied. Artemis could read between the lines. She wouldn’t know exactly why, but she’d figure it out quickly enough once rumblings started.
Hey mom! Hey dad!
I’m safe and sound at the frontlines, after a whole big mess. We defeated the Formorians!! I’m needed for a secondary mission, but it’s low-danger. No big healing mess, no disaster, I just need to help out another Sentinel as he pokes around the former Formorian land.
There was a lot of poison used, and I’m just making sure he stays safe and alive.
On that note.
There’s going to be a new town founded here, and I suspect I’m going to be spending a lot of time here. While I should be back really soon, the land grab might start before I’m able to travel back, and I could be hijacked for more things, if not outright told to stay here and deal with the fallout. Two requests.
- Can you make a large purchase of land out here happen
2. Don’t come out here yourselves. It’s not worth the risk. It’ll get cleaned up eventually, at which point the land purchase will pay off
3. Tell as many people as you can not to come out here. I’d hate to see more people die because of it. Arthur keeps getting notifications about the poison killing people, and it’s tearing him apart.
Anyways! I got my healer class to class up! It’s super strong now! I can’t wait to show you all the neat stuff I can do with it! I can even preemptively heal people! In theory. Haven’t been able to test it out yet. Should be good for sparring.
The food out here is terrible. I even had to eat Formorian! I can’t wait to get back home and eat your delicious cooking again.
There might be some messes coming down the line. Dad, you should probably take a long vacation once you start hearing about things. No, seriously. Take the vacation. Bring mom and Themis with you. Maybe stay at Artemis’s place for a few weeks or months, show the arrogant squirts at the Academy how guards handle unruly mages.
Lots of love, can’t wait to see you again!
Your loving daughter,
I was less than thrilled that I’d asked for two things, then ended up writing three, but that was life. The bamboo was so smeared and half-ruined already that experience said that I couldn’t make the spot-editing work, not without running dark charcoal smears throughout the entire thing.
Dad being a member of the Praetorian Guard had me worried. They were the most likely to be in the line of fire when all this went down, the only physical protection the Senate had once the Generals were removed from the equation, or assumed to be hostile. If armed soldiers tried to forcefully break in, the Praetorian Guards were the only ones who would stop them – which would end with a lot of dead guards. My only hope was there’d be such overwhelming force that it wouldn’t turn to violence.
Better for everyone if mom and dad were on vacation. Preferably with Themis, so nobody had the half-baked idea of throwing all the guards and guards-in-training at whatever nonsense was going to happen.
I’d hopefully be back home before that happened, and able to physically defend my family myself. Barring that, the other Sentinels could help, but given that they probably wanted to protect their own families, they might be stretched too thin.
Between “Protect my own family” and “Protect my friend’s families” and “Protect my co-worker’s families”, I knew which one was getting the short stick.
Hope you’re doing well! Hope the baby’s doing well! I’m safe and sound, although duty calls. I’m going to be out here for some time, doing Sentinel work.
You might hear about a new town being founded out here. Whatever you do, don’t move out here. There are problems with toxins in the water, the ground, and more. It’s a slow poison, it’ll take time to notice, but it’ll kill off a baby quickly. Don’t come.
There might be a spot of bother heading towards the capital. Close your doors, keep your head down. Knowing me might not be positive in the upcoming mess, so maybe don’t advertise it heavily, or rely on it for protection.
Maybe it will help, what do I know about politics?
I’m a complete wreck from this trip though. I’m going to want you all day once I get back – or as much time as you can spare if the baby comes first.
I still hope to make it for the baby though! I can’t wait! So excited for you!
I didn’t want to seem like I was one-upping her by mentioning my class up. There was a strong chance Albina would never get 256 in her lifetime.
Unless I managed to level up fast enough, and start putting my thumb on the scale.
As I started to – well, pen would be the wrong word to use here, given that charcoal sticks I was using – write a letter to Autumn, my mouth twisted in a wiry grin. My recognition of the real estate opportunity here was only thanks to Autumn’s relentless chattering about money, and her endless rules on how to get lots of it.
I’m safe and sound! They didn’t pay me extra, but I found a way to make a few extra coins anyways. Buying land in a new town. Should be profitable.
I hope you’re keeping up with your studies. I’ll be checking when I next come back!
You might hear about a new town popping up. DO NOT MOVE HERE. The land’s poisoned, and that’s bad for business. Also, you’re a Light healer, and while I shouldn’t need to remind you, I just know you’re seeing coins and rods, and ignoring my warnings. You’re a Light healer, which means your ability to deal with toxins and poisons that are here are practically non-existent. Trust me.
Even if you class up first, wait for me. I need to check that your skills can handle this, it’s a nasty one. You won’t realize a problem until you need to spend dozens of rods on a cure.
With that being said, guard and soldier supplies are likely to spike in price soon. Might want to get ahead of the curve on that. Food might also become more expensive, although sticking around the capital might be a poor choice.
Best of luck. Stay safe until I can get back! Study hard. Poke Markus or Caecilius if you have any questions, they should be able to help you.
Honestly, the only way to get Autumn to listen to me was to threaten her pocketbook. Saying “don’t do it, it’s dangerous” would probably have her disregard my advice in favor of more coins.
“Don’t do it, it’ll cost you money”, on the other hand, was the perfect tool.
I sat back and looked over my letters. I nodded with satisfaction to myself.