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Sorry for the delay, all! I wanted to make sure the group was moving along, but if your characters need to stop, feel free to control the group and make it happen. She made a point to ask the group if anyone needed anything.
Adrianna departed from Malvin’s office but only got a few steps before a small child ran into her. No, it wasn’t just any kid, it was that girl, the seer. Her eyes were puffy and red, and though it was possible she had just seen something upsetting, Adrianna got the impression that it was something more…tangible bothering her. “Are you alright?” She asked, though the child made like she was just going to run for it anyway.

Glancing back over to the door, Adrianna wondered where she had come from, only to remember that the door itself was a closet. Being from the city, Adrianna could imagine a multitude of reasons a child might be crying in the closet. Perhaps she had just been taking a break from people, and the stimuli that brought on visions. Perhaps someone was harsh towards her, or perhaps someone had hurt her.

The thought of someone laying a hand on the girl, sent a shiver down her spine, and she casually opened the door to the closet, her paranoia making her think for a moment that she might actually find someone there. But there was no one, and Amune had answered that she was going to help the healers. Adrianna raised a brow, curious about the young girl with visions who also proclaimed herself a healer. Did she have both magics? Or was learning about healing more of a hobby?

Amune went on to say that she should be practicing with Gage. “I’m sorry he scares you. But he is not trying to hurt you. He is trying to help keep you from getting hurt by people who don’t care that you are young.” Adrianna didn’t know enough about her “training” and why Gage was chosen to try to interfere. She was going to be traveling with the group, though, so she was curious just what the young girl was learning from the seasoned fighter. The girl darted off to work with the healers, and Adrianna spent some time with some of the other mages she had come to know in Mutebo.

Over the next day, she had considered asking Taliya about the training decisions for the kid, and to perhaps talk about working with Amune herself instead, but she didn’t get the chance. Taliya was very busy, and Adrianna wasn’t sure she really wanted to volunteer herself for another task. Adrianna was reading one of the books donated to the small Mutebo library when she got the message to drop everything and go see Taliya. She waited outside of the office as some of her other future traveling companions assembled, though none of them seemed to have any idea what was going on either.

She dreaded the thought that Lionel would appear, or that perhaps he was already in Taliya’s office. As figures left the room, she tried to lean in to see if Lionel was working with Taliya in the room. She hadn’t seen him, but she couldn’t be sure. Fortunately, that question was answered when they were guided in. Adrianna moved all the way in and leaned against a wall opposite Taliya’s desk, leaving plenty of room for the others. Though she had been ordered to do things by Taliya, she wasn’t sure what kind of ‘missions’ the others had been on for her, unless training counted as a mission (which she did not).

Taliya then explained that she was sending them on a mission, which she called training. Adrianna didn’t care for the likening of the two. Training suggested that failure was okay, and the goal was self-improvement. This sounded like a search and rescue, one in which failure led to dire consequences. The mission was multi-part. They needed to find the merchants who had left the day before (the ones Adrianna passed early in the day), and they needed to find Gage. Adrianna had already ruled out salvaging the stuff, knowing it would be too difficult to get back to Mutebo if the crew manning the wagon had run into trouble.

The others questioned why, but Adrianna stayed silent. Taliya didn’t have to justify herself, really. They were staying in her territory, and her mantra was something like: “Do whatever the fuck I say, or get out of the way.” They should have been asking questions about the merchants’ path, or when Gage was sent to find them, so they could get an idea of where they needed to go to try to intercept the group without potentially stumbling across the same trap, assuming there was one.

“I’ve got a question.” Adrianna interjected as Taliya tried to wave them out. The others began to leave, but Adrianna stuck around for a few moments. Without this information, they would just be wandering around the main road out of Mutebo and flipping coins to pick directions to take. “Where was the merchant pair going, and did they have a set path they were planning to take?” Adrianna asked.

"To sell shit, where do you think? Where doesn't matter, because where they should be is here. They'll be on the road somewhere. Or in some animal's stomach. Just find out where they went." Taliya replied with her usual grace and poise.

“Wow. How helpful.” Adrianna said, her voice oozing with sarcasm. With the others not in the room, she didn’t try terribly hard to keep her tone neutral, and the femininity was more prevalent. “Well, if we don’t come across them by the time the path splits, we’ll just flip a coin.” Adrianna added, annoyed that they were being told to do something without all of the information. Hell, they might as well leave Ethan in charge of navigation.

She caught the others before they had gotten too far, and Ethan asked her where to start. “Yea, I—” Nymira interrupted and gave her opinion, suggestion they ask a guard which direction they went. When she turned things over again to Adrianna, the woman began again. “Yea, I saw the merchants yesterday when I was escorting some people into Mutebo, but there is really only one path out. The merchants had to take the road, because of the goods they were transporting. Gage might have gone through the woods instead, and I guess a guard might have chatted with them before they left and gotten some idea, but my guess he stuck close to the road so he wouldn’t miss the merchants.

Nymira made a comment about Gage not being alive, though Ethan seemed to think that Gage would be fine. “Either way, we need answers. Is there anything anyone needs to get before we depart?” Adrianna moved to the front of the group and began to walk out of the building. She always had her bag on her, in case she needed to go, but she wasn’t sure the others were so prepared. Ideally, they should only be gone a few hours. However, ideals generally weren’t safe to rely upon.

Ethan and Nymira were ready, or so they claimed, and so Adrianna turned her attention to the others. If they needed something, the group would make a detour. Otherwise, they would briskly leave the compound, with Adrianna in the lead. She paused at the gate and turned to Nymira, offering the woman the chance to ask the guards about Gage, if she wanted. The woman was flippant at best, and so, with a shrug, Adrianna continued on out of Mutebo along the main road.
I should be able to post next. This week has been crazy, but they should settle around tomorrow.
Lionel complained about people dying on the streets while the wealthy simply passed them by. Adrianna shuddered a bit at the memory of such sights. More specifically, she remembered when she was still in training with the Church, and she had wanted to use her healing on some of those people. Her supervisor at the time had scolded her for even making the suggestion, calling them degenerates who were just lazy and looking for handouts. If they wanted to improve their lot in life, they could do so through work and service to the Church. She even remembered trying to help them by telling a few people as much. Her words were not well-received, and it took her a few years more to understand why.

He went on to say that Magi didn’t serve any purpose anymore, but Adrianna disagreed. She felt like they were alive for a reason—even though mages were growing weaker, there were still beasts... and monsters. Perhaps it was just that the monsters they faced did not come from the void anymore. When she said that they should be done away with, Adrianna froze. Did he mean…some sort of extermination? The thought sent a shiver down her spine, and she was left is silent shock as he held up his hand to indicate that the conversation was over. The silence that fell between them was thick with tension, at least for the one in the pair who was not certain that the other was a mage. Did Taliya know?

She was still silent as he called them rats, though her knuckles whitened as she tightened her grip on her split bo staff. She could pull it out and strike him across the face. Would it solve any problems in the long-term? No. Would it make her feel better immediately? Perhaps.

Before she could, however, they were surrounded by the guards at the gate, and the people they had been escorting made their way around the pair to get inside to ‘safety.’ Lionel began to move off in another direction, and Adrianna made no effort to follow him. Her jaw was set, clenched tightly as she watched him walk away, regretting that she had healed him at all. After all, she was just a rat, scurrying—

“Adrian!” The deep voice broke her from her thoughts, and she turned in the opposite direction to see Malvin, one of the guards, heading towards her. Malvin was an older man, though still quite an accomplished fighter. He was certainly a mage, though Adrianna was under the impression that he did not need his magic as much as some other men did. She also knew that he had a family at some point, though since he never talked about them, she could only imagine that they were lost.

“What is it?” Adrianna asked, moving over towards him.

“Come over here.” He gestured for her to follow, and walked a roundabout way around the nearby buildings before wrapping around to the complex. Adrianna followed quietly for a while before she spoke up, again asking what was going on. He reiterated that she should follow, and then went into the complex, gesturing for her to follow. Inside of one of the offices, he pulled out a flask and took a swig before handing it off to her.

“What’s this about?” She asked as she cradled the flask.

“You looked like you were going to punch that twat…again. So I figured you needed to cool off a little and have a drink.” He leaned against the desk and pointed at the alcohol in her hands.

He was right, though it annoyed her initially that he had read her so well and made her walk nearly a mile out of the way just to give her a drink. She took a swig, though, and after a few more moments decided that he meant no harm by it. He was just trying to keep her from doing something else stupid. “Taliya’s got some kind of hard-on for Lionel, so I don’t recommend you make an enemy of him.” He continued.

Adrianna let out a breath and nodded. “Yea, whatever. Just…tell Taliya I’m not chasing him down or helping him out anymore.” She replied. She went ahead and chugged a bit more of the flask’s contents, feeling the burn as it went down her throat, before handing it back to him and opening the door. “That guy is a prick. And I don’t trust him as far as I can throw him.”

That got a raucous laugh from Malvin, to which he added a simple, “Fair enough” as Adrianna turned and departed from the room.
Adrianna didn’t see it. Lionel seemed to think there was a big difference between not mattering and being useless. It was a nuance at best to her, and she shrugged noncommittally at his utterance. It just sounded like more complaining to her, and she didn’t care to provoke him further about it. She felt as though her point had been made.

Lionel at least accepted her point about Taliya. The woman was no saint, and she was glad at least he wasn’t so thick as to have missed that about her. His voice was thick with sarcasm as he commented on her knowing people well. “Well, some people wear their emotions and opinions on their sleeves.” She replied, glaring right back at Lionel. He was one of those types of people as well. He wore his thoughts, or at least what Adrianna assumed were his thoughts boldly upon his sleeve. He clearly felt as if he was better/smarter/more valuable than the people around them. He thought his pride and ego was more important than anyone else’s, and the group’s safety as a whole. Lionel made that clear when he forced the man to apologize to the trees. She didn’t understand why it had to be so hard, why the man couldn’t simply be polite to the group he was asked to escort.

Lionel then asked her about dealing with people and being civil about it. “Clearly not.” She mumbled at his complaint about not being diplomatic. She tensed as he again brought up her history with the Church. Why did he always have to be so crass? She didn’t like the idea of calling people dumb. Adults were the product of their upbringing, and in this world, rumor and fear spread much more quickly than truth and trust. “People are…ignorant because they are lied to for their entire lives. Magic being one of the worst.” Adrianna sighed, glancing back at the group before continuing.

“I mean, we are taught that magi once protected citizens of Adelon from beasts of the void, called heroes and revered as they brought peace among the races. Hell, the royal family is said to be a pure line of incredibly powerful magi still. And yet nothing is controlled by them. The Church controls it all, and to them, magi are a threat. I wouldn’t be surprised if they removed the royal family entirely, though I can’t imagine any of them lifting so much as a finger of resistance.” She was perhaps speaking out of turn about the royal family, and were she in their presence, she would likely have silenced her tongue for fear of losing her head. The things that came from her lips may have been somewhat common thoughts, but they certainly weren’t commonly spoken. Still, the fact of the matter was that no ruler in the last few generations involved themselves in the affairs of the Church. She had seen the King once or twice at large events, making a brief appearance, but they were more of figureheads than actual leaders.

“Magic is dying out, and one would think that the King would care. Maybe they haven’t even noticed and are just inbreeding to keep their own line strong.” She scoffed, looking ahead as she continued. Adrianna realized that she had gotten swiftly off the topic of Lionel’s question. “Sorry, I got a bit sidetracked.” She shouldn’t have been gushing to Lionel. He was probably the least trustworthy man here, at least judging by their conversations so far.

“My point is, I can’t blame people for not knowing. The Church has twisted people’s minds into thinking things about magic, about magi. They have made learning about it all but impossible, apart from pledging to follow their code, even though their code is what is destroying the very essence of magic in this world. The Church has us all turned against each other, and a dumb populace is a moldable populace.” It made sense for the Church to keep people from sharing too much information. That is probably how the Church kept the royal family so content, by sparing them from the pesky details like crime, education, and healthcare of the people of Adelon.
“If Jerard is a hunter, then Taliya has bigger problems than being desperate enough to send me to rescue you.” Adrianna said. He just needed help focusing on his task. If she wasn’t there, that poor sap would probably still be apologizing to trees. Of course, she hadn’t seen how complainy the group had been before she arrived, so she didn’t think they were terribly annoying at all. In any case, Lionel might not even know Jerard, but Adrianna knew he was quite involved in Taliya’s resistance efforts.

In any case, Adrianna was rather annoyed that Lionel had such little faith in her, and thought that telling the drivers to expect them was a poor idea. Next time she would just let them shoot Lionel when he surprised them. Don’t be like that. Then you’d have to heal him.

“Oh look. They didn’t kill us.” Adrianna donned a sarcastic voice after the wagon passed them on the road. “How fortunate we are.” Lionel really brought out the worst of Adrianna’s attitude. She had tried to be decent towards him, but he was just such an asshole.

“No, but these morons with us are killing me.” Lionel complained.

“We can hear you!” One of the women called out in response.

“Oh, you can do something right? Well done!”

The exchange prompted Adrianna to ask about the people they were leading, though Lionel’s remarks were quite condescending. She frowned at his initial remarks and shook her head. “Every life matters, Lionel. Maybe you don’t think they matter to you, but that doesn’t make their lives worthless.” She hated to think what he would say about her when she wasn’t around. What’s more, with such a poor attitude, Adrianna couldn’t imagine what she was ever supposed to learn from him.

Lionel went on to tell her about a healer who didn’t know much about plants yet, a guard who lost control of his magic, a teacher, and another guy. Overall, they didn’t sound like bad people, and Adrianna shrugged. “They certainly could be.” She replied at the end, though her tone was genuine. Why Lionel seemed so eager to see all of these people as useless was beyond her. She considered how to challenge Lionel without being driven to apologize to a tree in the process, but Lionel spoke up, about Taliya this time.

She scoffed lightly at Lionel’s remark quoting Taliya, shaking her head in disagreement. That might have been a mantra of the resistance under the old leader, but Taliya was more interested in Magic as a weapon, and anyone who chose not to use it as such was the lesser for it. “I don’t know what you drugged Taliya with to get her to say that. All I’ve heard is, ‘If you aren’t going to help us fight, then get the fuck out of the way.’ ”

Turning to the woman near the back, Adrianna spoke up a bit, walking backwards for a few steps. “Miss, if you are looking to learn more about natural poisons and poisonous plants, there are some books that the healers keep that I am sure they would be willing to share.” She said before smiling brightly at Lionel. “But you also don’t have to learn how to kill people.” Of course, Taliya would be a little annoyed if the healer stayed in Mutebo and did nothing, but if she was a half-decent healer, she would be accepted. Hell, if she showed up when it was her shift, she would probably be favored over Lionel at the least.
One would think that the people they were escorting were being held against their will by how rude their exchanges with Lionel became. Adrianna kept her own mouth shut initially while the group complained about not taking more breaks. She wondered how long they had been making their way to Mutebo, and looked back a few times to try to gauge whether any others were injured. She was pretty confident they were all fine, albeit tired, and had her attention drawn to Lionel as he demonstrated a new side of himself, sparring verbally with one of the women.

He had a point about attracting beasts, but he certainly could have said it more eloquently. Adrianna sighed, and turned to step in and diffuse the situation a bit, when one of the other escorted people began to rant and rave. When he grabbed Lionel and the man continued to patronize the larger, stockier man, Adrianna rolled her eyes.

The two began to tussle, and Adrianna let them duke it out, but drew her staff in either hand as she stared down another man who nearly leaped into the action. The last thing they needed was a loud brawl in the forest. She was putting them away again when the other took the hint and Lionel finished putting the man back in his place. He insisted that the man apologize to the trees for wasting oxygen, and Adrianna couldn’t hold back her opinions any longer. “Now you are wasting time and oxygen, Lionel.” She said, shaking her head as she turned to the man rubbing his arm still. “Don’t go apologize to the trees. Or if you want to, do it while we walk. We are wasting time and daylight.”

Adrianna turned from the men and began to walk off. She heard Lionel insist that the man continue with the apologies, and she tensed, debating leaving him behind. Taliya told her to go and get him back, but she had made sure he was still alive. Couldn’t that be enough? She only took a few steps, but could hear that no one was following her. It made sense, really. Even though the people they were escorting wanted to move along, they trusted Lionel. He had kept them alive this long, though she really didn’t know how. Still, she would have loved to wound his pride by having all of them just walk away and leave Lionel waiting to be appeased.

She weighed her options for a few moments before stopping and waiting for Lionel to determine that they had wasted enough time and could continue. “Are you finally done lording over these people?” She asked.

"I don't know...Being a lord might be fun." He replied with a snarky grin.

"You may act entitled enough, but you have to be at least a little responsible." Adrianna said, holding her fingers a few inches apart. She shook her head at the thought of people actually relying on him for anything. Why Taliya had entrusted him with this was beyond her.

With that, she began to walk once more, silently grateful when she heard footsteps behind her once more as the others began to follow. They went another mile or two before Adrianna heard something up ahead. It sounded like a cart and horses. She stopped, holding up a hand to indicate that the others should pause, and then turned to Lionel, mouthing “Do you hear that?” as she pointed in the direction further up the path.

He indicated that he had, and she gestured to the trees. “I’ll go check it out.” She whispered, and then drew her bo staff once more. Once they started to move off of the path, she darted to the other side and moved between the trees, then turned and quickly made her way to the direction of the cart. Surely enough, only a short distance later, Adrianna made out the cart, and its two drivers. One she recognized from Mutebo, and so she stepped out of the woods and waved. The driver brought the cart to a stop, and Adrianna spoke with them briefly, letting them know she was traveling with a group up ahead a little way, and to expect them shortly thereafter. They appreciated the warning, and mentioned something about Taliya being eager for their return.

Adrianna jogged back to the place where she had indicated for them to go off and take cover, and waved them out. “It’s just some folks delivering supplies from Mutebo. I told them to expect to see us so no one was spooked. Let’s keep going.” She said to the group before turning her attention back to the path. Going ahead to scout had slowed them down further, but hopefully they would get back soon, and Lionel wouldn’t pick any more fights with their charges. “So who are these folks?” She asked Lionel as they began moving once more. “Mages? Inventors? Protestors?”
Despite having asked about her combat abilities, Ethan didn’t seem to care much about her answer. Turning back to Ethan after she posed a question of her own, she found that he wasn’t even paying attention to her anymore. Though she was a little annoyed that she was putting effort into socializing with someone that was clearly only being polite before, Adrianna reminded herself that it was better to form less ties with these people. After all, they weren’t going to stick around when things got tough. They were merely people with whom she could share space while they went in the same direction.

Adrianna went her own way after the meal, thanking Ethan for treating her as the man went off with the others to train. She didn’t much understand the point of it. There was only so much they would pick up in the few days they spent here in Mutebo—it wasn’t like a few short days would turn them into hardened soldiers, ready to face whatever challenges they expected to encounter. But she barely knew these guys, and whatever was prompting them to put a crossbow in an 8-year-old’s hands instead of leaving her with responsible adults to raise was not her business.

When she was asked to go find Lionel and bring him back, along with his charges, Adrianna was less than thrilled, though she kept the majority of her complaints to herself. She didn’t know why Taliya would have trusted Lionel with such a task, or why she cared so much about him returning. She asked, but Taliya reminded Adrianna that she was owed a favor. “For what?” Adrianna challenged, crossing her arms. She hadn’t been in dire need of Mutebo when she arrived. She had come initially because she had helped one of Taliya’s men, and he wanted to return the favor. They should have been even.

She could have just left, and she seriously considered it as she wandered near the path from Mutebo in the direction Taliya had indicated. If she simply never returned, Taliya wouldn’t have to know why, and if their paths crossed again, Adrianna could have easily stated that she had been spooked by some armed travelers, and didn’t want to lead them back to the mage safe-haven.

As she walked, Adrianna kept her eyes and ears out for signs of Lionel, or whoever might have intercepted him, but her mind was coming up with elaborate reasons why she could get away with never returning. The sound of shouting tore her from her thoughts. She heard the word recklass, and moved closer to the yelling, keeping herself largely hidden until she verified that one of the voices belonged to Lionel, and he wasn’t actively fighting.

Adrianna emerged into the clearing where the group was situated, earning some gasps from a few of the people nearby. “It’s okay.” She said, putting her arms up defensively. “Taliya sent me.” She looked from the closest person to Lionel, who was sitting on a stump and eating an apple. He was also covered in blood and looked a bit bruised. She could feel how worn out he was, and though his injuries were not extensive, she had a feeling that he had already been healed a bit after…whatever altercation transpired.

Looking from side to side, Adrianna felt for any other injuries among the group, but didn’t sense or see any. Whatever trouble they had faced, Lionel had been the only one to look the worse for it, though the others hardly looked like fighters. “She said you were taking too long. I figured you probably got distracted fucking with people’s livelihoods. Seems I was right. Who’d you piss off this time?”

Lionel responded noncommittally, and no one else seemed to want to add anything to enlighten her further. He asked if she wanted to fix him up, and Adrianna stared at him for a moment before letting out a deep breath and walking over to him. Even though he had already healed himself a bit, she could still tell that the blood on his clothing wasn’t his. Interesting. Perhaps he was more competent than he let on. “Sure. That’s my job.” Adrianna placed her hand on his shoulder, the one he had just put back in place, and took a few long slow breaths as she concentrated on sending her energy into his body to take away the aches and bruises. There wasn’t anything life-threatening to heal, but he was going to be a lot more comfortable for the rest of the trip. For his own magic, though, he would need to rest, something Adrianna was sure that he knew.

“Need to sit and rest for a while longer?” She asked when she was done. She wanted to get back as soon as she could, but she didn’t want to escort these people back herself to get the task completed sooner. As much as she didn’t like it, that meant working with Lionel for the time being.

Lionel, fortunately, seemed eager to get moving again once more anyway. Adrianna shifted her pack as Lionel rounded up the group, and moved to the front to lead them. If her magic had been something combat oriented, she might have moved to the back of the group, to help respond with magic to an attack. Since most of her magic was healing, and her actual combat skills were close combat oriented, she moved up front with Lionel to lead the way back to Mutebo.

If he had complained and wanted her to go to the back, she would have, but he said nothing, so she figured it was fine. Still, she didn’t exactly have anything in mind in terms of small talk with the man. She could chat with some of the people they were escorting, but they had already formed their own tight-knit group. You don’t need to constantly try to make friends. Adrianna reminded herself, walking quietly beside Lionel.
Hey all, I just got back from a rather exhausting trip, and I am still catching up on work stuff. I hope to post by Friday evening! Thank you for your patience.
I believe that Norman's goal is to help prevent Cecil from needing repairs so often. I haven't been around long, but does Norman think that the others need protecting by Cecil? I imagined the idea was that Cecil could throw it up without expending his own energy to protect himself from attacks, and then take it down to launch his own. Maybe if Cecil grabbed Amune he could pull her in as well if that is what you want?
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