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Prophecies. Renault was glad he’d had a light breakfast, otherwise he might have been ill.

Surely Incepta hadn’t freed him from his imprisonment for the sole purpose of protecting a child. A royal child at that, who had at her disposal every ounce of strength Estora could muster, and then some. His eyes wandered to the girl, preoccupied with Lucas’ phone while the lot of them discussed the future of, he supposed, the world at large. The edge of his smile curled slightly, and briefly. It wasn’t like he could be disappointed with her; she would probably find the burden of heroism as unappealing as the rest of them. That didn’t make her any less hopeless.

Well, it was this or the cell, wasn’t it?

He took a quick stock of the rest of the room. Princess aside, the assembled royalty left much to be desired. Lucas was an outcast, and a loser by every metric his surname didn’t pass for him. Princess Isabella had, to his knowledge, been a vapid if harmless figurehead, until the attack at Giles’ manor had evidently turned her into a vapid, bloodthirsty figurehead. The warhawk lived up to every Rodion stereotype Renault had ever heard in any bar, which, while he respected the predictability, surely hindered them here and now. The Scions of Gravity and Wind, if the reported drastic reduction in their public appearances was anything to go by, had been reduced to cowardice; the latter at least had the good sense not to demand war as retribution for the attack. The Scion of Earth was an impetuous idiot, and the Scion of Metal wilted like a wallflower, but at least their interests aligned. Honestly, there’d been more reason shown by the church’s armored dogs than the Mother’s favorites, pained as he was to admit it.

Where did that leave them?

A united front is most wise, my prince,” he said, obsequious. “But much easier said than done. I’m sure you of all people are aware of how fickle the court of public opinion can be. It will take quite some work to convince even our supporters—to say nothing of our detractors and even less our enemies—that the Scions of Incepta stand resolute against the coming storm.

To hear it said, following the attack, everyone fled to weather all matter of PR disasters. Though, the less generous were more biting with their criticism. Some, through misunderstanding surely, might have mistaken these actions for fear. All of this hearsay, of course, but all the same, sometimes hearsay is all it takes.

He rounded up by the head of the table, glancing between Lucas and the rest of the Scions. “In my humble opinion, scattering again so soon would only set the rumor mill churning. And besides, with some manner of threat still present within Estora, it seems like a quick way to put targets on our backs.
Cyril’s whole world spun, and for a moment it felt like he’d been flipped rather than simply dropped. Camille had taught him early on that if you’re gonna fall, fall correct, or you could do more damage to yourself than whatever had hit you. So he crumpled, and then when he came close to the mat he rolled onto his back and slapped himself down. It sounded much worse than it was, but he still took a second to lay there while his vision refocused.

Mon dieu,” he wheezed, spitting his mouthguard out onto his hand. Look at that, a little trauma knocked the Casobani back into him, their parents would be proud. He propped himself up on his elbows and held up his palms in surrender, in case she came in for a finisher. “Felt like you had a metal bat strapped to your leg.

Camille warned you,” Sybil said, though she seemed a bit shaken herself. “She trains with Dragon, what’d you think was gonna happen?

Cyril got back up to his feet and shook himself off. Truthfully, he hadn’t known what to expect. Obviously Quinnlash was an experienced combatant, in her Savior, but he’d found that to be a poor benchmark. Being in a Savior felt powerful, immensely so, but it was different face-to-face. He supposed he’d expected it to be the same for her; not weaker, per se, but different. Evidently that was not the case—Quinnlash was exactly as fierce out of the cockpit.

Well, that’s me for the moment,” he said, peeling off his helmet and tossing it at Sybil. “Your turn!

Uh…” Sybil looked between, to Cyril, to the helmet, then to Quinn. “Pass.

No. No pass. Do you know what happens if Camille hears we called out just to ditch? I'd rather spend all day getting kicked in the head, thank you. Besides, this is a fantastic opportunity! She’s our teammate, we get to learn from Ablaze!

Cyril hopped over to her, taking her by the hands and pulling up. Sybil groaned reluctantly, but eventually resigned and put on the helmet, along with the rest of the pads from the basket. When she was finished, she made her way onto the mat, popping the mouthguard in, and raising her hands. She seemed to be trying to mimic Cyril’s stance, but there was something off about it. Was she shifting her weight strangely? Holding her hands too low? Too high? Perhaps she was facing flat forward for a reason.

Watch her legs!

Sybil did, eyes darting down to Quinn’s feet briefly before they shot back up to her face. Rather than wait at the start as Cyril had, she elected for a different strategy and rushed Quinn right away. There was a nervous, inaccurate energy to her movements, and she came out with a wildly wide haymaker aimed to take Quinn somewhere between her head and her shoulder.
At Quinn’s approach, the twins perked up. Cyril grinned wide and bounced away from his sister, who remained seated against the wall. Like Cyril she was dressed for exercise, but she didn’t seem to share his enthusiasm, and in fact if it weren’t for the almost fixed look of detachment on her face, she might have appeared anxious.

Hey!” Cyril greeted, stretching on the mat while Quinn geared up. “Hope you don’t mind, but I invited Sybil to join us. We could both use the practice, and if it means a day off training with Camille…

They shared a frightful look, and Cyril shook out his shoulders like he’d gotten a chill.

Hoo…Anyway! Are you alright to give us both a round or two? We can swap out, or take some breaks—whatever you want. We’re both just excited to see what you got!

Yeah…” Sybil muttered.

Cyril refastened his pads and got into place across from Quinn. Even with a mouth guard in, he managed to keep his smile on. He stopped bouncing, but that energy coiled within him like a spring. His stance was good, he seemed focused, but there wasn’t a trace of genuine aggression in his eyes. He probably looked out of place doing something like this, but then again, Quinn didn’t look much different to him. He wondered, briefly, how many pilots were naturals to violence. Surely some had to be, just watching them tear through the Modir, or even each other. But outside of the Saviors, how many looked like outliers?

He put up his hands, winked. “Ready when you are!
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A year spent in cold silence, and still Renault felt pressed for time. As the train sped on towards Castle Lucania—terrible luck, being named after a castle—he found himself praying for a delay. An obstruction, a technical problem, hell, he would have settled for a minor derailment if it meant he could finish reading first. Who would have imagined so much could happen in one, itty bitty year? It was like missing the penultimate episode of a gripping drama; so much context, so little time.

But fate seemed determined to keep him punctual, so, he chose to focus. Nothing was truly inconsequential, but he eschewed the minor details lost in the broader strokes. Hikes on some of Lorenzia’s imports, Doumercene copyright battles, Rodion lieutenants maiming each other over parking spaces. Entertaining to be sure, and useful circumstantially, just not this circumstance.

He'd spent the week since his release catching up on the Kaudian conflict, starting in Rodion and following the branches outward. National attentions shifted harshly after the incident at Giles’ Manor, and it brought him no small amount of satisfaction to know the truth of the matter. Giles was a moron, but pinning it on his tax policies? It was almost too bold.

That led him to finally reading up on his fellow Scions, as well as their Holy Hounds. Few of the names had changed since his incarceration; most notably, the Scion of Time had been murdered. Renault was surprised to see they’d rewarded the old Templar by sticking him to Theodore’s successor, although considering who it was, there was a chance the Church was hoping Sir Morris would fail a second time. Who knew, perhaps if Prince Lucas lived long enough, the High Cardinal’s shriveled old heart would give out. A win either way.

The rest was mostly refresher. Following his aunt’s career so closely had made him fairly aware of the other Scions. He had never met any of them of course, but there were plenty of people who worked for them, either directly or downstream, with whom he had grown quite…familiar. But insight into routines and traveling patterns was no substitute for conversation. In his career he’d come to prefer one-on-one meetings to impersonal dossiers—though he learned to make use of both.

The security check left only him and his Templar to proceed. Zacharie Chaudoir, a fellow countryman. Effectively blind, which Renault figured made him about as useful as Sir Morris had been to Duke Theodore. But, he was a mage, and evidently a good enough one to make up for his sight. He was also used goods. Not a bad thing, some of Renault’s favorite clothes were hand-me-downs. The Scion of Shadow had passed away of an illness, and though he was the last person to dismiss such a death so casually, he found himself wondering how Zacharie had taken it. Blaming himself would have been foolish, but preferable. Guilt was easy to work with.

He missed Duchess Bachmeier’s introduction, which was a shame. How did she feel, being the latest host to Incepta’s darlings? Surely she’d doubled the efforts of Duke Giles, but if something did happen, she must have known her head would be next on the block. Well, that was a worry for later. For now, he made his way into the meeting room to join the rest of his peers.

It was like he’d shown up late to a birthday party. There Prince Lucas sat, crowded by the heads of people who might have been acquaintances at best, looking as happy to host as he was to attend. In fact, the only people who seemed at all happy to be here were the templar with a mouthful of food, the effete Scion of Earth, and the toddler.

Well, it couldn’t hurt to throw another smile into the mix.

The conversation was palpably tense and covered in a thin coat of noble pretension. Nice to see things hadn’t changed. The topic, unsurprisingly, was war. He had wondered what Prince Lucas’ plan was, if he’d meant to lead the Scions on some holy, vengeful crusade and burn Kaudus to ash. However, it seemed quite the opposite. Good. Surprising, but good.

The Prince has a point,” he chimed in. “Straining international relations when we’re on the verge of war seems unwise. Besides, it’s not as though the Kaudians are going to topple our borders. We were attacked from within. The knife is already here—we shouldn’t turn our backs to it.

At Renault’s words, Lucas felt pertinent to give him his attention, outright ignoring Belle’s look of disbelief. He was, however, glad to see he wasn’t alone in holding things off. Why the princess and apparently the Instagram star were suddenly so bloodhungry was beyond him. Rationale would win this fight, and he wasn’t interested in having to ward off sharp nails aimed towards him if he outright said he thought they were both stupid.

That said, Justinian’s paltry attempt at steering the conversation irked him. “Bold of you to dismiss politics when that is how the world is run,” He didn’t let Justinian’s asinine comment slide. “If you truly think it isn’t prudent to at least discuss where everyone’s head lies, you’re more foolish than I thought you were. And don’t think I didn’t notice you completely sidestepping your own opinion on the topic. If you’re going to sit on the fence, butt out and let the adults speak.”

The high prince then stood from his seat, eyes leveled with the new Scion in mild disinterest, contrary to his current action. “Since High Cardinal Margaret didn’t see your holy sigil as a blessing on Gaia, I thought it prudent to introduce everyone to our newest holy associate,” He spoke, gesturing towards Renault. “For those unawares or unfamiliar, this is the Scion of Lightning, Renault Allard.”

Renault smiled and bowed politely to the table. “Thank you, Your Holiness. Charmed to meet you all. I hope I can be of service in these troubling times.

The last few weeks had been quite a whirlwind for Ionna. Following the assault on the manor, things had at once moved incredibly fast, and also very, very slowly. It seemed like the whole of Estora waited with baited breath for the next tragedy; the king’s death, the vanishing of Nadine Lucienne, the gut punch that was Kasper’s passing.

Then, of course, there was Theobald.

Ionna’s heart had sunk to hear she was being reassigned, at first believing she was to be removed from Scion Duty altogether, and might be spending the rest of her career guarding hallways, or sweeping latrines, or whatever soldiers did after they made the wrong people grumpy. The reality was more…complicated than that.

Losing Dom was deflating. Not that she didn’t trust Sara—in fact, she believed there were few people in the world Dom would be safer with—but all the same, it troubled her. Their time together had been so short, and it felt like they were only just starting to bond. She hoped their brief dueling lessons would stick, and the practice would continue under Sara’s tutelage. After what happened it did feel a little silly to think the Scions shouldn’t at least be capable of defending themselves.

But, that left her with Theobald. The Scion of Fire. Ionna had relayed the news of her transfer to her father, and found her own worries echoed. Theobald had proven himself, both over his long military career and his shorter, yet engaged Scionhood, to be a dangerous man. To some—no doubt to most of her homeland—this would be seen as a great boon, but to the Ranis, he was proof their vigilance was required.

Ionna didn’t love it when her views on people aligned with her father’s, She liked to think she was more generous, more forgiving, and when she chose to see the potential good in people, she liked to think she was correct more than she wasn’t. But with Theobald, she worried. Navigating this partnership without getting scorched would be difficult enough, to say nothing of trying to sway him towards a gentler attitude.

Not that she wasn’t going to try.

Arriving at Lucania Castle—had he named it after himself?—Ionna was pleased to see it was a more modest abode. At least, modest insofar as royalty could manage. She carried with her another small box of cookies, which had once again required a slight delay at their security screening. She’d whipped up more or less the same medley; chocolate chip for Dom, sugar for Rosemary, with the addition of a few triple-chocolate-chunk’s for Hollyhock. Naturally, there was already plenty of food spread out, so, rather than make another announcement, she instead slid her box of sweets in alongside the rest.

They weren’t free, of course. A little note attached to the box read: “Help yourself! 1 cookie = 1 compliment to your Scion / Templar :)”

That done, she wasted no time in grabbing herself a plate. With such a busy day, she hadn’t had time to eat after her morning exercise, and she worried if she waited much longer, the rumbling of her stomach might shatter whatever deafening spell surrounded the meeting room. She’d just have to be careful not to get any crumbs or stains on her uniform. As nice as it was to see friendly, familiar faces, now that they were all together again she knew Dame Irina could be lurking around any corner.
For a moment, Tillie worried her hearing had gone. Surely, she thought, Quinnlash Loughvein wasn’t asking her for lessons. Why would anyone want to learn from her? Moreover, what did she have to teach anyone? Teaching was…well, she’d been told often and firmly how inane her ramblings were, and judging by her own experiences as a student, that was unideal for a teacher. She didn’t know if she could explain how to make a sandwich simply, how on earth could she possibly convey the field of modiology in a way that was at once palatable and, importantly, not annoying. Impossible, surely.

Then again, if there was ever a reason to find a way…

Tillie beamed, releasing a squeal high-pitched enough to alert the dogs down on Illun. “Ohmigosh yes! Uhm! I mean! Absolutely I can, totally, yes—ma’am. I’d love to, that’d be awesome. I could, well, no I don’t have a real lunch break for the next few days. Actually I’ll probably be stuck here ‘til after dinner—but! Uhm! After that, if you want, we could meet up, I could explain some of the things we’re looking at.

Maybe that was better. Rather than just vomit modiology at her, she could focus on Ablaze, and work backwards from there. It wouldn’t be the most comprehensive syllabus, but Quinn was right; it couldn’t hurt if pilots understood the actual mechanics behind their profession a little better.

We couldn’t really have it in the labs, the sorta bolt everything shut after dark, and I think if we tried to meet on the shop levels you might get swarmed,” she giggled. She’d already heard stories about how excited everyone was to have Ablaze’s pilot here. “My room’s too small, and I’m not really unpacked yet anyway. Oh! I know there’s a curfew for you guys, but maybe we could meet in the dorms, and I could just slip on out before then!

Uhm! Oh gosh, I mean—I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to assume. We don’t have to do it tonight if you don’t want to. I was just sorta, y’know, ugh, new environment and all that. Has me a bit frazzled. Seeing a friendly face is just kinda calming.
Tillie was thankful she’d taken up exercising again, because a few months ago Quinn’s impact might have thrown her onto the floor, and that would have just been so embarrassing. But, she kept herself vertical and threw her arms around Quinn as well with an absolutely delighted laugh. She’d been warned that things might be tense, or a bit dreary, but Tillie knew better; she knew an unbreakable spirit when she saw one. That’s why Quinn was her favorite!

When they parted, it took Tillie’s suit a few moments to re-inflate. “Same!” she beamed. “I was so worried at first, cause I don’t know any Casobani and, I know everyone speaks Common but—oh! Uhm! But everyone’s been so nice!

She really had expected worse. Plenty of techs back on the Aerie still treated her like an undergrad, and weren’t too thrilled about her getting selected for duties she got. Her senior assured her she’d earned the spots, but what if the Casobani techs didn’t think so either? But, the whole team here had deferred to her pretty quickly, especially after they saw the face.

Oh!” Quinn’s question and her own memory collided at once. “Ablaze is great! Uhm! Transport seems like it went fine, and all the readings came back as even as ever! Yeah. When I showed up though, there were so many inquiry reports about the, y’know, eye deal. I told’em what we know—which is basically nothin’, but…

She gestured up to the Savior, and the field study being conducted on the scaffolds around its face. “They wanna keep running some tests. Uhm! I don’t blame them! I wanna run tests too. We’ve never seen a partial regeneration block like this before, it’s so cool! Is it even a block? What if it’s a genetic anomaly with your Savior? Or some kind of mirroring adaptation? It could be a mutation! Or—oh! What if we could replicate the effect, and spread it to other Modir?” Tillie giggled excitedly, but caught herself before she went on rambling anymore.

But yeah! Uhm! As far as I’ve been told, I’m just supposed to treat this like business as usual! So, is there anything you need?
An office’s worth of tests run by a fleet of the CSC’s most talented doctors, and Toussaint still wasn’t sure what to make of her. Or Besca, for that matter. Modium tumors on the brain were rare, and unfailingly fatal almost as soon as they appeared. By all rights, Quinn should have been a corpse inside a containment casket bound for Illun’s hottest crematorium. No one with a pulse should have been within a hundred feet of her without a turducken of hazmat suits.

Inert. Ridiculous. modium had been as lethal to humanity as the Modir—more, depending on who you listened to. But, even if he didn’t believe she’d had this growth for so long, the fact was, even if she’d suddenly sprouted it the second they ran their scans, she’d have been dead before they finished. Either it was inert, or it wasn’t modium. In either case, she wasn’t dangerous. For now.

“Hm,” he sighed, then stepped aside and opened the door for her. “Just…alert us if anything changes. If you feel ill, or…I don’t know, anything. And really, I don’t know if Commander Darroh put you up to it, but, no more secrets. We’re allies, Ms. Loughvein.”

The hallway had slowly repopulated while she waited, everything seemed on its way back to normal. Toussaint had clearly made sure to keep the details of the incident under wraps, and aside from a few stray looks, the personnel all went on with their busy schedules. Quinn took the lift down, and on the way the alien thoughts stirred. It wasn’t discomfort, and it wasn’t urgent danger, it was more…excitement.

The doors opened and Quinn emerged into the cathedralesque expanse of the Ange’s hangar. The Saviors all stood in their alcoves, encased in scaffolds and walkways, flanked by platforms rife with all kinds of equipment. Spectre and Enavant were housed next to one another, and on the opposite side, beside Foudre, was the familiar sight of Ablaze.

There were twice as many techs scurrying about her Savior than any of the others, especially around its head. Every last one of them wore a pale-blue hazard suit, even the ones on the platforms around it. They prodded Ablaze’s flesh, took scrapings from its modium plating, sampled saliva from its gums. Mostly, though, they clustered around its face, dividing themselves between its eyes in clusters of loud curiosity.

All except for one at the bottom, who wore a hazard suit as well, only it wasn’t blue. It was bright orange. They turned, like they’d sensed her, and despite that they were entirely obscured, they became obviously and incredibly excited.

Quinn! Hey!” came the muffled, but familiar voice as jogged over, suit squeaking with every step. “Quinn! Uhm! It’s me—it’s Tillie! Commander Darroh sent me over to be our tech liaison! Me! Can you believe it? I get to work on the Ange with you!
This was the second time Quinn had thrown that punch, and it was the second time it had caught Besca directly in the gut and left her winded. It was just as baffling to her now as it had been before, and it drudged up the same panic, the same buried shame. With how tumultuous things had been, how close the shaves had become, she found herself thinking often of home. Westwel was a familiar haunt in her dreams, a land so thoroughly ruined no one would live there again until it was sunk, eroded, and a new land emerged to stand upon its corpse. That feeling of loss that lingered in her waking blinks was all she had left of it.

But, in these little moments, looking at Quinn, she thought she might remember what home really felt like.

Love you too, hun,” she said, as naturally as she breathed. Like that, every ounce of panic and shame vanished. She smiled. “Sleep tight.

Besca sat there for a long time, ignoring the messages and hails from outside, and did not leave until she was sure Quinn was asleep.

Despite how lax the Ange’s schedule seemed, everyone’s day started fairly early. The automated voice chimed at the approximate dawn to announce: “Curfew has lifted.” and shortly thereafter there was activity in the hallway. Through Quinn’s door she could hear Cyril and Sybil chatting on their way to the lift, but she herself didn’t rise for another hour or so. A ping on her phone alerted that an appointment had been made for her in the medical wing, and requested she come at her earliest convenience.

It was a quick ride. The lift took her up past the market floors, to the floor just above it. There she stepped off onto the thick, glass floor overlooking the district Cyril had brought her to yesterday. If she looked, she could have spotted the restaurant, or even Misericord .

Here things were less casual. Scores of employees in lab coats and uniforms scurried about the central plaza. A quintet of massive hallways split off in different directions, each designated with hanging signs like: RESARCH AND DEVELOPMENT or MODIOLOGY, which themselves had lists of subsections attached to them. At the front desk, a man politely directed her to the sign that read: MEDICAL, giving her a room number and assuring her the doctor would be ready shortly.

The hall was wide enough for a dozen people shoulder to shoulder, and split by a pair of autowalkways. Nurses hurried this way and that, ducking in and out of rooms while busy lab techs skirted their paths. Some patients lingered in the hall, or scooted themselves along in wheelchairs. Quinn still got the odd look here and there, but for the most part the personnel seemed to fixated to pay her much mind.

She found her room easy enough, and just like she’d been told, the doctor was in not a few minutes later. He seemed pleasant enough, a bit older and thinner in the hair than Follen, but he had a warm smile that the wrinkles of his face were accustomed to.

“Hello, miss Loughvein, thanks for coming in right away. I know you’re in good hands over on the Aerie, so this is mainly just for formality’s sake. For our records, you understand. Anyway, there’s a fair number of tests we’ve got to run through, nothing too invasive or terrible, but still, better to get it all out of the way now.”

He opened his tablet, flicking through a few pages of whatever document he’d prepared to guide them through the process.

“Right,” he said cheerily. “This shouldn’t take too long at all.”

Toussaint was calling. Besca declined, and went back to her salad. A moment later her phone rang again, and this time she let it ring until she had successfully extracted every disgusting baby tomato from her lunch—depositing them into the bin where they belonged—before, finally, she answered.

Toussaint, I get ten minutes to eat.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” his voice was faux-calm, he’d never been good at hiding when he was upset. “I just needed to ask you a quick question, Besca.”

Then ask, Jaime.

“It’s nothing too pressing, really. I just need to know if you sent a fucking bomb to my space station..”

Ah, Quinn had gone to medical. Besca took another bite of her salad, checked the time. She’d barely gone through half and her break was almost over.


She’s not a bomb.

“There is modium in her head!”

It’s inert.

Toussaint sputtered. “There’s no such thing!”

If there was no such thing, you’d be dead, whoever was in the room with her would be dead, whoever was around her for the past day would be dead, and in case you forgot the fact that it’s in her head, she would be dead.” Besca sacrificed another precious forkful to cut Toussaint off before he could argue further. “It’s inert. It’s not growing, it’s not radiating, it’s a rock stuck in her head.

“It’s not just in her head, Besca, it’s on her brain.”

Where is the brain located?


Listen, she’s been with us for months. I’m not dead, Dahlia isn’t dead, no one who’s been around her has caught so much as a sniffle. We’ve seen no growths, no modium sickness, and as far as we can tell, she’s as healthy now as she’s ever been.” She elected to leave out how healthy she’d been when they found her. “If you want, I’ll put you on with our head of medical. He’s been personally overseeing Quinn since she got here. All the records you got, he wrote.

“I’m assuming he wrote records on this as well. Funny how those weren’t included.”

If they had been, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Casoban would be picking out a dress for its wedding to Eusero. Now call Aldous Follen, or don’t, but I have seven meetings to get to keep this treaty running on my end, and expect you to do the same on yours.

There was silence on the other end, then a single, dejected sigh, before Toussaint hung up the phone.

It was hours before the door to Quinn’s exam room opened. It wasn’t the doctor who had returned, but rather, Toussaint. He looked tired, skeptical, and just a tad wary, and stayed on the other side of the room from her.

“Alright,” he said, clearing his throat. “We have determined that you are not, currently, a danger to yourself or anyone who might be in close proximity to you. However, we will continue to monitor you, closely and frequently. You will need to return here ever few days for a scan.

“As well, I believe it would be for the best if you not mention this to anyone right now. Especially your team. I want your integration here to be smooth, and frankly, this might make things…uncomfortable, if it were public. Business as usual.”

He stood there a moment, just looking at her, as if he might be able to see inside her skull. He shook his head. “Well, as long as you’re okay. Anyway, unless you have any questions, you’re free to go. I would suggest at some point today you drop by the hangar and check on your Savior. I believe your technician arrived this morning, and we’d like to make sure everything is up to standards.”

Ionna was no stranger to harsh teachers. In a lot of ways, Dame Irina reminded her much of uncle Dragomir, and their training regimes, while of course different on many scales, were similar in spirit, and certainly in rigor. They had similar expectations, and when they weren’t met, they expressed their disappointment in similar ways, right down to their expressions. It was what had made her tutelage under Irina more sufferable, while also quelling some of her own homesickness. Some days it really was enough just to hear another Rodion accent.

So, Ionna listened intently to the debriefing, and when the expected dressing-down came, she took hers on the chin. Frankly, it was harder to hear her criticisms of the others, Sara especially. Ulysse had been slain, there was no one else to look for Nadine. If anything, Ionna had been the one to hinder the Fire Templar’s search, though somehow she doubted that would have changed Irina’s opinion. Zacharie at least emerged relatively unscathed. That was good—she owed him big for taking care of Dom and Kasper. An extra cookie next time, maybe.

Either way, they were dismissed, and Ionna was a tad disappointed. She’d hoped for some good news, about Nadine, about the attackers, about anything. In her mind, nothing was beyond the ken of the church, and part of her had expected they’d arrive to find Fyodor waiting with the head of whoever had masterminded the attack. Sometimes it was easy to forget how human the church was. In its own way though, that was good.

But then Dame Irina called her back, along with Sara and the Wind Templar, Jannick. That, she guessed, was probably not good. Not for her, probably not for Jannick, but especially not for Sara. Ionna liked Irina, but she didn’t know her on a personal level. The woman was a soldier, and she was Rodion, and frankly her most recent experience with that combination left her extremely concerned for the only Kaudian in the room. If Sara ended up in her crosshairs, Ionna worried there might not be a Templar of Fire come daybreak.

That didn’t seem right. Sara hadn’t done anything wrong, or at least nothing any more wrong than the rest of them. She’d only followed Ionna after Nadine, and it wasn’t like Theobald had suffered in her absence. She shouldn’t be the one in the line of fire.

As the ballroom cleared save for the four of them, Ionna took a deep breath and reaffixed the smile to her face, before stepping forward. “What’s up, teach?” she asked, bubbly as ever. “Somethin’ we can help with?
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