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Day ??? of year 121 Post-Downfall
Sunstorm onset

The Lone Survivor

“I... well, we don’t have...” the woman sputtered. "I..."
As Kay slowed down her gait and eventually stopped, Enn adjusted his speed accordingly, making sure to stick to her side as instructed. Arms neutrally hanging by his sides, hands half a dozen centimeters from his thighs, plainly visible, gun on his back, standing straight.
“Something is wrong. Something has happened.” She did not need to say it; it was apparent from her behaviour.
"I'm going to guess there would be no kettles in that truck, huh?" he inquired in a low, flat voice. Unseen, his eyes were fixed on the approaching pickup. "I suppose I'm going to have to improvise, and hope I don't fuck up."
The assault rifles were not overly concerning. Guns like that were typically smaller calibers, and probably would not do too much harm before he managed to dive behind cover. The machine gun was more concerning. Being mounted, it could afford to pack perhaps even more of a punch than your standard-issue Anderekian infantry firearms. If they knew how to use it, it would be hard to dodge, and unlike the smaller guns, it would most likely not run out of ammo before you could count to five. He did not need to be hit more than once before being effectively dead, chances were. “This is...” The pickup came to a stop at what was closer to talking, than gunning distance.
“Don’t move!” Well, that part was easy, seeing how he was already doing it. And, at the very least, matched the Anderekian protocol. If you were asked to identify or report, you stood absolutely still and answered. Briefly. Accurately. Nothing more. Completely ordinary, thus far. Well, perhaps aside of the fact that he was evidently a lot more interesting than his companion.
“Wait -” Kay shouted, but was waved off. They clearly knew who she was, but did not appear to consider it worth even listening to her. The guys were obviously no real soldiers. It was less the waving around while gripping their guns one handed (though, depending on how exactly they went about it, it could amount to a gun safety violation and cost someone a foot or two) as the overall eagerness in confronting him. The driver especially. If you're driving, then drive. Also, your gun is useless.
“No, identify yourself! What are you doing here? Who are you with?” Not too different from the way he had greeted Kay earlier today, to think of it.
"Enn Que," he replied. "Infantry."
That part was easy. The other parts ... not so much, and he had the gnawing suspicion that he would not have much time to ponder over the various implications of his potential replies. Notrau had no intention of finding out whether these amateurs were more or less trigger-happy than himself. In any case, it was probably best to give them an answer right away. An honest one. And a short one. If they wanted explanations, they could ask more questions. Odds were it would be safer than derailing too far or hesitating too long. Marginally, but still.
Civilians were supposedly more likely to be twitchy than outright executioners. More likely to kill out of reflex or on a whim than as calm, pre-meditated action. As long as he does not move and sticks to replying to things mostly in accordance to the protocol he was used to, it should be fine and he might get to glean what the heck was going on here and why it did not match what Kay expected. Should be.
"I was hoping to gain an audience with your faction." With less muzzles pointed his way, granted. Unseen, Enn kept staring at the machine gunner from behind his visor. He did not know whether he was the most important one of the lot, but he had the biggest gun, and as far as the renegade was concerned, it amounted to the same.
"She said her name is Kay-Gee. Scourer." Not what they were probably expecting, and nothing they did not know, but technically completely accurate. Sometimes it was better to play dumb rather than overshare. He no longer had a faction. It would have taken too long to explain how and why right away. If they wanted to know, they would need to ask specifically that, separately.
There was no telling whether it was healthier to inform them outright that he was alone - truly alone, Kay notwithstanding -, or let them think that there could be a faction backing him up - one that knew exactly where he was, and come looking in force, pissed, if he went missing.

73:02:12 LNT
(afternoon/early evening)
Domhnall MacRaith


“Recent?” the young fellow repeated. “The person being cured, you mean? That was a while ago, it turns out, but we only learned about it just several days ago, and it took another day to actually track him down. We’ve only known about all of this for a few days, really...”
Just a few days ago? The forestfolk's head notched upwards and his gaze drifted to somewhere above and his right. Just a few days... Jael...the younger black-eyes had said they'd been on the move for at least a week, and that they knew there was a person here who had been cured of the soul plague, though he had not been overly specific, and evidently had not know how he accomplished such a feat. And that there was some guy William waiting for them in the City. Huh. He glanced at Jaelnec, but opted not to comment for the time being, with the audience and the black-eyes already urging the greeter-fellow to continue.
“And the other thing? About people able to walk, and family and friends being willing to help them?”
So, for the time being he focused back on their appointed information dispenser. For the urgency in the boy's voice, the fellow at the gate sure took a long time to get to his point.
“...‘Whether I let them or not’ is right. It’s probably no surprise that those afflicted who could still walk, and who still had friends and family... they left on their own. I have no idea where by Mount Zerul they might be, or if they even made it there, and I’m left almost exclusively with afflicted who can barely move.”
"So, someone has gone forth on a mission. 'Ey folks jus' sent themselves," asserted the forestfolk in the way of summary. "Migh've wan'ed tae leed wi' that. Recon our work's all se' out fer us af'er we've done chattin' wi' the Djubei-praiser. Le's hope peeple ain't harder tae fin' than game. Oughtn't be. Prob'ly stomped all over the place."
He turned stern again as the lad continued on with answering his final question, however. As it turned out, an entire city had been razed by not an army, but a singular ... well, the word used was "monster". Seemed an awfully impotent way of putting it, somehow. Monsters ate stragglers in forests, and were usually bears or treacherous holes. This one was something else entirely.
The young black-eyes was visibly, and understandably perturbed. One thing gave the forestfolk a pause, though. A name. Just as the already pale boy turned an even more ghastly shade, he had uttered a name. One that Domhnall figured was a perfectly normal human name. He sucked at remembering all the thousands of foreign names he'd been exposed to since leaving his original home, but he was fairly certain he had heard this one before, and that fellow had shown no intention of eating him or his various internal organs thereof.
He also called him a harvester, which... No clue, aside of the feeling that it had nothing to do with agriculture in the strictest sense. Unless you equated humans to crops, anyway.
"Ya know this one? Met 'im?" he inquired perhaps a bit too urgently, this time eying the black-eyes with dumbfounded surprise. It certainly sounded as if in addition to being appropriately terrified of it, they knew what and who exactly their malevolent entity was. If so, how were those folks alive, and how in the Planes had they gotten him to introduce himself? "Wha' manner of being that is tae teer down a whole city?"
Day ??? of year 121 Post-Downfall
Sunstorm onset

The Lone Survivor


“They won’t shoot you if they can tell you’re with me and that I’m bringing you of my own volition. Pretty much everyone knows who I am in Eighfour; being ‘the girl with the gate’ makes everyone at the settlement pretty interested in me, though not always in a good way. They’ll probably spot my cart and put their guns away immediately! No need to worry. None at all.”
"And would it be because they're confident in you, or because they are afraid they'll damage your associated gadgetry?" he inquired. Too dark? Perhaps he should not have said that, but for whatever reason her manner of speech had lead him straight to something that was equal measures gallows humor and genuine question, and he had responded before his brain caught up on the fact that he was not with his usual company. To be fair, it could have been risky even with his usual company, depending on the vicinity of more suspicious officers.
“Unrelatedly, my cart is pretty resistant to bullets. Just so you know.”
"Huh." Was that by design or just a coincidence? Engines stopped bullets fairly decently. Fuel or batteries could rather mean an opposite effect. There was probably stuff inside that might stop a bullet. Frames aside, there was usually little functional reason to reinforce a light vehicle to the point of having any stopping power against bullets of his calibre. An AP bullet slowed down to seven hundred meters per second would be just as lethal.
His first in-person look at Eighfour followed a brief climb disrupting the otherwise fairly monotonous landscape distinguished mainly by the types of trees you could see around you (it was better to stick to where the conifers were if you wanted to get through with anything larger than yourself; the deciduous trees made thickets). Disturbingly, a part of him thought it could also be a big-ass crater the faction had decided to inhabit, by the way it seemed to curve around the buildings toward the center, as became evident once he had climbed it. And if it was a crater, it was probably not a natural one.
For a few seconds - Kay permitting - he stopped, attempting to glean what he could from the elevated position. He could just about discern a couple of turrets and low, varied buildings of some description. There was a truck departing. This one was distinct regardless of its comparatively small size mostly because it moved. And was warm. The sunstorm prohibited further analysis. Wind was dead quiet. There were electromagnetic disturbances aplenty and radiation was up, but thankfully, the weather was not throwing worse at them than dry (in terms of rain, if not humidity) lightning. Probably better to move on regardless.
“Seems you’ve got yourself a welcoming committee,” the woman remarked. “That’s a first, I think. But then again, there aren’t a lot of strangers in Eighfour.” He had not paid too much mind to the vehicle, figuring it was just a part of some routine (or, at the very least, typical) pickup run, but Kay's reaction seemed to indicate otherwise. Nevertheless, it seemed she wasn't overly concerned. Compared to how she had been before the settlement - could it even really be called a base? - came to sight. Still. Odd.
His fingers twitched, muscle-memory compelling him to ready up for a potential confrontation, but consciousness interfering. Do not ready arms. Do not halt. Did nothing against adrenaline beginning to flow, but it's not like they could tell either way, or so he told himself.
"You didn't mention anything about a surveillance system beyond the perimeter - past what can be seen from the walls. Nor a vehicle at the ready at all times," Enn pointed out. "Don't you think your greeting party reacted just a tad too quickly to be reacting just to us?"

72:79:32 LNT
(afternoon/early evening)
Domhnall MacRaith


People said this, people said that, hearsay was not overly reliable either way, or there would be three thirty-foot tall man-eating bears lurking in every second village (it was usually people getting drunk).
“It’s probably a coincidence. I have a hard time believing that some monster just happens to fill the air with something that cures the Withering. But if this guy got better, there must be something there.”
"Unless we're dealin' wi' a coincidence of a differen' kin'," remarked the hunter mumbled with deadpan pragmatism, mostly to the younger black-eyes. "Coul' be the feller af'er all. Or real chance. One in million million kind. Why'd ye think I aske' if there'd been o'ers?"
The rest was all the lad explaining why no one had really tried to replicate the "miracle", no matter how small the odds of it being true. Either the will to survive of those people here was much smaller than those back home or things did not quie add up.
"I's very recent, then?" he guessed, finally dropping his hand from his face, gripping the saddle and even leaning a bit forward (but not too much, given his rather precarious situation) as he stared at the lad, eyebrows raised. "Less than a week?* It starts as wee gray bruises, aye? These ones can walk, an' there shoul' be plen'y o' those wi' friends an' families. Those jus' afflic'ed, they won' care if they die, since they'll die anyway. An' mithers an' lovers, they'd be jus' as desperate even when unblemish'. They'd go, whe'er ye le' 'em or nae."
"An' this," he motioned his head vaguely towards the refugees, "it jus' started today, nae? Wha' happen'd tae these people, anyway?"

*Not applicable if we're dealing with Meila's father or anyone before that point, among others.
Domhnall MacRaith


If anything, their greeter-fellow looked even more perplexed than before. Luckily, the young black-eyes seemed to catch on and offered his somewhat awkward explanation, at which point the robed lad realized what was going on, too. Well, he had given nicknames for a few of the carnivores sharing are with him during his active hunter days himself, but he did not really go around insisting they offered favours of any kind besides, perhaps, not trying to eat him. They were animals of the sentient, but not truly sapient kind, after all.
"Ye're all sayin' there a mons'er of some kin' under the moun'ain?" he affirmed, trying to sort through his knowledge of similar things. They said it was tentacled, and most tentacled things he knew lived in the sea. The sea was not far, granted, but nevertheless the alleged presence of a specimen of the implied dimensions in the specified location seemed odd, unless it was indeed part-deity and did not submit to laws such as those that governed mortal beings. Absently scratching a bearded cheek, he continued. "An' it never shows? Cannae think how there'd be enough food for a regular ol' beastie that size down there, 'less there's a tunnel to the sea or somethin'... It'd have all shriveled up long ago."
There was no confirming whether or not the legends were true. The people who disappeared might as well have gotten utterly lost in the derelict and probably highly unsafe passages, and the mists might have just as easily been the doing of the mountain itself. Mountains did weird things like that, sometimes, like always having their tips shrouded in clouds or making weather turn on a pebble.
"Eh, bu' wi' what ye said, it's nae likely we'll learn much from ol' Djubei, aye? Dinnae soun' like yer lad met 'em, ei'her. Anyone else wi'ered set camp 'ere yet? If no'in' else works, migh' as well try somethin' which shouldn't, aye?"
So, it shouldn't be all that hard to find volunteers. If several others got well, too, then that would at least be one answer ... though it would remain unclear whether it'd be the doing of the mountain, a giant cave octopus, a deity or something else entirely.
Domhnall


It seemed he had confused their poor greeter-fellow. The younger black-eyes seemed quite pleasantly surprised, though, if equally perplexed by his sudden knowledge of said tidbit. Never mind, though; Claw was coming to the city and everyone appeared to have a different opinion on what exactly he looked like.
"I'd say both of these'd be much more human," Domhnall absently mused, trying to picture all of the beings the boy listed as comparison points with their large companion in turn. "Claw's more like a cross between a mighty large standin' maned bear and ol' Murchad 'ere, if ya ask me." he noted, referring to Iridiel's lupine companion. They'd seen a couple of those "Melenian" folks. Looked more like furry humans with cat ears and claws than anything. With ample bosoms, no less.
The robed lad looked even more confused.
"Won' be long till he's all here," asserted Domhnall yet again - would not want some of those folks try to put an arrow through their new friend for looking inhuman, after all - "Reckon we'll stay here for him."
The young black-eyes excitement for finding the answer to their quest remained strong as ever. Something about some noble or another supposedly curing a guy. A mage, perhaps, given the location and a "fog" which supposedly wasn't just a cloud stuck to the ground. The mountain ... well, he supposed there was really only one of those 'round these parts, and it wasn't too far.
"Who's this Djubei-fellow, an' can't we jus' go talk with him ins'ead?"
Domhnall


The young fellow seemed confused at his remark, which did not bode well. Unless whatever planning they'd had had been hopelessly overturned by whatever mess the lot had gotten into and their greeter here had arrived after the rest of the party, there was no change someone would miss a freaking half-lion, half-dragon four times the bulk of a horse...
...And what if he'd pulled his cloak a bit closer to himself? the foresfolk mused to himself. He was wearing a shirt, a vest, no cold metal, and a coat, and an Iridiel, and he was still bloody freezing his fingers off, quite unlike the young black-eyes who seemed to mistake the bleary damp autumn misery for a lovely summer afternoon. Wait, the leader!?
He glanced at the boy.
"The man riding the beast Domhnall described is the leader now,” Jaeldric or what was he corrected the greeter grimly. “The woman – a daywalker – and him went ahead of us earlier; they should have come through already.”
So there had been some infighting in the group? It took the robed fellow, seemingly not much older than the younger black-eyes, a disturbingly long time to reply. But he did seem to make things click in the end, and explanations ensued. The forestfolk could not divert his full attention to the conversation, though, as a distinct voice cut over the bustle.
Domhnall's body jerked slightly, his expression slacking and brow furrowing as he turned his head, eyes scanning the surroundings. Claw? He had thought their new acquaintance did not quite sound fond of their imminent destination, yet he was announcing his intention of ... joining them? In any case, he was coming and a rather distinct, and perhaps alarming to the uninitated, fellow oneself.
The robed lad had moved on to explaining something about a man who had been cured of the withering, which, although no doubt important, could tolerate being asked questions over a few moments later after they had sorted out any potential confusion over yet another new arrival.
"Pardon?" he cut in after the lad's declaration of miracles, loud enough to jolt the weary refugees and make a couple of heads turn. "There's ano'er of us arrivin' soon. Twice as tall as I am, and three times as broad, black fur, wears braids? Figured I ough' tae warn the guards aheed o' time, at leas'."

Day ??? of year 121 Post-Downfall
Sunstorm imminent

The Lone Survivor


“I’m… sorry about that,” the woman told him with an odd grimace. “That sounds horrible. I’ll help you get on their good side… or, well, at least try to convince them that you can be trusted. I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
Notrau hesitated for a second, then raised his shoulders in a stiff shrug. "It is what it is. Can't miss what you never really had. At the end of the day, we're all just trying to survive ... each in our own way. You by hiding... Anderekians by military, military by officers, officers by soldiers, soldiers by guns. And, well, hiding only works as long as no one finds you. Once they do, you have to run, or fight. ...Or negotiate, I suppose, but who knows if they'd even listen, and if they do, they will want something in turn. And they're in all the positions to assume you'll comply with anything other than being wiped out during the next lunch break."
He had reiterated the last point a time too many now, had he not? He guessed that was what happened if the entire meaning of your life was suddenly focused on one, seemingly impossible task: you could not stop thinking about it. Was this really his best option other than learning to hunt and make campfires in the first order and hoping he doesn't get eaten by a wandering beast or run out of bullets? But he assumed that regardless of how uncomfortable staying under the looming shadow of a giant "HIT THIS TO WIN" weakspot made him, it would at the very least be too quick a death for him to really do anything about it if any hostile faction chose that path. He was not sure whether to be disturbed by it - aside of what he supposed was now his own faction providing that outcome -, but he supposed it was not that different from being run over by an artillery or a .50 cal bullet tearing through his brain. The end result, from his personal viewpoint (or lack of it, as the case would be in this particular hypothetical scenario), would be roughly the same. And in any other doomsday scenario ... he supposed he would at the very least stick around until it was beyond hopeless. Unless Kay was wrong and Eighfour would turn against him. Unless that.
Kay-Gee seemed to switch moods in an instant - it seemed whatever darkness hung over them - over her faction first and foremost - was quickly forgotten in favor of her, what he assumed was her usual mirth. It was not like he What was with this woman? Careless? Unable to grasp the situation? Not wanting to accept the gravity of it? Or just figuring there is no point in worrying over what she could not change?
Currently, she was waving at the trees ... or rather, the invisible birds supposedly still perched somewhere in the branches. He was almost certain one of the trees growled in response. Or crooned? Produced some kind of low, guttural sound. Seemed like a warning more than an expression of fondness. Watch it. Better than the oddly human cries from before, at least...
He fell in line with her easily enough. He was a solder. Used to keeping a pace, even with half of his body weight worth of equipment on his back. Not much in the way of that on him, now. Just his armor and gun. Kay wasted no time chattering away.
"Not the sort to keep quiet for long, huh?" Notrau ... Enn idly commented. It was preferable to being left with his own thoughts, he supposed. Should probably clarify that. "It can be a good thing, yeah? Takes the edge off the quiet before the storm thing, at the very least ... and not the literal impending sunstorm. That's just an, ah, convenient inconvenience for the scourers and scouts. At least as long as there are no gamma bursts or supercells," or fog, "in which case I hope there is a bunker to hunker down in waiting for us. No reason why we can't ... have a cup of tea in a bunker." You do have one of those, correct?
The less enthusiastic one of the two, he listened to her descriptions. Forest. He had seen one of the artillery units ramming down a tree just yesterday. Sure, these ones here were bigger, but given time and an actual harvester... Simple walls. Good enough for the fast anti-personnel, at least. Some guns, most shoddy, wielded by civilians. AA, not automatic, not exactly light but probably not too fast or accurate. It would probably be easier if he weren't usually on the assaulting side, although it helped with what to expect. Somewhat. He was no officer. Had not been. Was he one now, de facto?
Kay rambled on, now going at the intricacies of Eighfour...ian? food production. Enn, Notrau closed his eyes (not for long enough to march straight into a tree), and swallowed. Food. Yeah. Not doomsayery things.
"To be fair, I'm not entirely sure where our food came from, or whether it had ever been plant, animal or any other lifeform ... just that there was always enough of it. Never saw any fields or cattle of ours. Just harvesters, mines, command centers, living quarters, defenses, factories, the like... If I'm going to venture a guess, whatever our food happened to be on any particular day could be blamed on the techs. Some was decent or at least reasonably edible. Some was good. Some was either experimental, or they discovered that our planned diet did not match up with the current plans and added stuff to what they had already prepared ... or both, I suppose. Never did find out whether the officers had their own supply of food or we were all subject to equal opportunity to complain over the lunch."
He went quiet yet again when Kay started talking about her family. Perhaps he shouldn't have mentioned not missing something you did not have in the first place? He stared at the ground in front of his feet as he strode on, quickly, efficiently. If there had been any pebbles on the ground, he'd have kicked one. There were none. Only dead conifer-needles.
"This is where I say I'm sorry, yeah?" It was unclear whether it was a joke, a confirmation of whether or not he understood the laws of her society correctly, or a clumsy expression of his own feelings. Perhaps all three. Soldiers did not get officially remembered. They were gone and that was that; unless you saw it, you never knew why. The ground remained devoid of pebbles. Luckily, Kay changed track, as if unwilling to dwell. He supposed they all had a reson to hate the fog, at least. She was a scourer and a tech. Something of the sort.
He did not express any words of compassion when the woman talked about how she had come to be ... changed. Half-macine, part-inhuman. If it had "restored enough of her celebral functions" as she had, roughly, put it ... then she was, indeed, not truly human anymore, was she? Who knew what this thing was really capable of? Turning her into an automaton? Kill-swithc? Some of her fellows to decide...
He can't allow them to touch him. To catch him unaware. It's just him and his gun. These people were not trustworthy. Not even Kay herself did not seem to be overly trusting, or happy with the decision.
Notrau didn't skip a step and his helmet covered everything but his lack of comments. Leave? Stick with the current plan? Ask Kay to up and leave in spite of being part mechanoid? She was probably the most familiar entity that was not liable to shoot him without ... something happening. Company could be useful, either way. But he wanted to be somewhere else. Anywhere. Well, almost anywhere. Anderekian or Trenian company would probably not be most desirable either. Nevetheless, it felt like he was walking into a trap, to a suicide mission or to become a guinea pig, just as he'd been warned. Just like what they knew they were fighting against. Almost as if it was more than just propaganda. It was all right. They were right. A ... chilling thought. He hoped Kay knew what she was doing, even when there was no obvious reason for her to trust those people besides them being the ones she had grown up with. Perhaps they were all the same, in different ways. Soldiers by guns.
There were signs of human activity around now.
“We’re nearly there,” Kay confirmed is suspicions. “Just a bit further ahead and we’ll be in view of the gate. Just… put away your rifle as well as you can and walk next to me, all right? It’d be a shame if they thought you’d taken me hostage and was forcing me to take you here; depending on who’s watching the gate they might hurt you, or worse. Some of the guys are a bit overenthusiastic about getting to test their guns on ‘real’ targets.”
"That doesn't sound encouraging," mumbled Enn morosely. If anything, her assertions added to his newly reacquired doubts. "I really do hope you know what you're doing, and I'm not being lead to a trap." Nevertheless, his gun stayed slung behind his back. He reasoned that there was a high chance the fellows up there would have either guns too shoddy to punch through armor or aim too poor to properly hit him. Follow orders. Do as Kay says. He can do it. For now.
Little did they know, something had already paid a visit hours ago. A small craft, shaped much like an arrohead, nimble enough to navigate through the forest, darting out from between the trees, halting for a second or two, skirting sideways before suddenly raising above the limits of the wall, and launching onward in a cloud of green flames and a crack of supersonic thunder enough to rattle, but not shatter glass.

59:72:29 LNT
(afternoon)

The Aftermath


An armored palm was placed on a panel, slightly warm and somewhere between metal and plastic in feel. Black eyes behind a helmet's visor fixed on the rest of the locking mechanism. There was a dull, mechanic clank, and the door yielded, obediently sliding aside. Barely enough to halt his step, yet the lock is allegedly the work of some of their brigtest techs, at least one of whom was probably a psychopath. A very bored one with a very particular task to solve, and who had no small amout of medical knowledge.
Probably for pizza, as he doubted they would stay interested for long enough otherwise, wandering off to find something more novel, if the one he knew was any indicator. Brilliant guy, excellent problem-solver, absolutely unperturbable, if anything less interested in morbid matters than the usual person, problem-oriented, but listless and always seemingly varying between not bothering and doing things against the protocol just because he was bored and did see no objective harm from doing so. Thankfully, most of the time he did things because he saw a thing that needed doing that he could, and not because he found something that could be interesting that he didn't figure had enough downsides to not do it.
In any case, there was no easy way for anyone to trick the lock, even if you dragged a living person with authority over and got them to go through the motions. There were physiological differences between varying types of duress, and the system was sophisticated enough to distinguish between them. Frankly, it would be easier to cut through a wall. And then there would be no info an intruder could glean, and no controls they could take over with any more ease. At the very least not without equipment flexible enough to cause far more havoc than just hijacking the local information flow. The command center's defenses were to protect the people within more than the equipment.
He couldn't feel the damp air through his helmet. That provided nothing more than clean, filtered air. Not powered for the time being, though. Taking a breath took slight, but notable extra effort. If you were not used to it, the vague impression of suffocation could be rather panic-inducing. Claustrophobic, perhaps. But it was better than risking coughing up your lungs in the middle of the battlefield. If need be, and systems remained intact, there was a powered version available, for about forty-eight hours. The next step up was what was sometimes referred to as 'the gills', which were connected to your bloodstream and could replace breathing, and thus lungs entirely. Contrary to what the nickname implied, they only worked in the air, and could not provide for you underwater. (He assumed the name referred to the inside consisting of many overlapping but not connecting semi-transculent planes, tinted faintly orangeish from the blood when in operation, like some kind of odd machine cooler, or indeed a primitive set of gills. He had disassembled a broken unit, once, as a teenager.) Something about oxygen not dissolving easily enough under water, which necessitated taking containers along if you wanted to go diving. The gills were typically reserved for injured people. He was surprised Marax had not been provided a set. He had not checked, but he assumed they had simply ran out.
The dull white of the skies remained appropriately morose, even though their equipment promised a change for a much unhealthier hue soon. Where they had not been flattened or trampled over by the battle and its aftermath, there were ... flowers. Little bushy things. Hundreds of tiny pink blossoms on each branch, with little scale-like leaves. They had not been as apparent during the night, but they were everywhere. Heather of some sort, perhaps. If it were not a battlefield, it would probably be quite pretty.
He wanted to be away from people. For a bit. The living ones, at least. Once more, too many had died, and too many more were wont to die all too soon. Going over the names Igna had listed, the ones he had read to confirm what he already knew, he knelt down to remove a number of branches from the pink-flowered plants. It was awkward, trying to cut the flexible stems using only is non-dominant hand, but it felt like a thing he had to do.
Uwe or Marax would never understand. Igna might. Eris ... would have. He did not remember where Aidren was from. No family from what he knew of ... not his own, anyway. He had mentioned a father and a brother, but it was unclear whether they were military or civilian by background. And now he had come some unit of angular momentum less from being completely bisected, much like he himself had almost lost an arm. There was more chance you went prematurely as a soldier. Igna would have pointed out that between accidents and attacks, civilian life was no more certain. Still. Civilians only took a hit when military failed. Could they have prevented Angan Tirez? Can they prevent future attacks of similar kind? Someone had to. And their sacrifices will not be in vain, cliched as that statement might be.
With a collection of branches awkwardly held against his chest, he stood, heading towards the eastern edge of their camp, and past that, where two rows of people - what had been left of them, rather - were laid out. The sight was not pretty - they could patch up most things, so often enough, only the unfortunate people who had been completely torn to shreds, cooked, flattened or disrupted died. Many of them were not recognizable, and could only be identified by personal markers. Armor and equipment had been removed. Only remains of the bottom layer, simple synthetic fabric remained on the bodies of the first row. Standard-issue. Chosen for comfort and practicality, not fashion. Absorbent, smooth, not likely to leave threads in or melt into wounds.
Gore had ceased to bother him. Or perhaps it had never really bothered him. The deaths of his friends and subordinates did. People he lost. People he failed.
Starting from one end of the row, he progressed, one step after the other. Meticulous. Stopping only to pick a branch and drop it onto a body or vague collection of remains with a familiar marker. There were other flowering branches already there, on some more than others. He was not the first one to take a break from duties and come here. Those who did were usually of civilian background. Those who had grown up in a military environment were typically too ... pragmatic, perhaps. Dropping flowers on graves or dead bodies made no sense. It was just a tradition without function. Something living people did in order to cope with the loss, to be respectful, whatever it meant. What did respect matter to people who no longer existed.
The beasts will probably drag the remains off once they're reasonably certain the combat won't resume. The survivors who had known them would occasionally recall them during their downtime, reminiscing with a sense of melancholy for as long as they remained living. Past that, the fallen would probably exist as records in some database for as long as they, Trenians managed to protect it from fog, foes and data decay.
And then they would be no more.
The row of once-Trenians ended, and he sauntered back to one specific form, sitting next to it. Well, with his back to it, rather. He had already taken a good look. He found it fair, facing the consequences. But for now, the consequences could kindly step aside and leae him alone with... Well, with some concept of closeness with what had once been his fellow officer. To be fair, visiting graves and places people died made none too much sense the same. He had heard megaraptors did something similar, so it was not even just a human trait.
"Igna was right, don't you think?" he finally asked. There was no reply, just a vague conflict between the recollection of the person he had known and the knowledge of the leftovers behind him. And an absence. "It is pointless." The void remained stubornly silent. You could not avoid the natural proceedings of things. Past was past. Game over. No point in dwelling over the past. Life went on. The survivors mattered more than the dead. Time passed. Figures moved about in the makeshift base. One of them detached, heading his way, nay, past him, with but a slight nod, stopping at a couple people, much as he had. One of the artillery drivers, according to the markers. Much like him, she was fully armored.
With a sigh, he stood. Consciously, he knew it was far too late to say goodbyes. Absently, he moved on to the second row. It was longer. Much like the first row, the once-people here had been stripped of arms and armor. The remaining undergarments, however, were different. No markers that he could detect, only faction sigils.
Anderekians.
There were other differences, though, if you looked carefully. Fewer of these bodies seemed as destroyed as most fallen on their side. No one, and perhaps more importantly nothing, had tried to save those people; Ardeks quite literally died more easily. And even if they did find someone of the enemy ranks alive after the battle, those unfortunate fellows were usually just ended. Excecuted, almost. Cruel, but nigh inevitable. They could not spare the resources to save them, and even if they did, what then? Let them go home to kill his people the next day? Let them stay and hope these newly instanced renegades would be more loyal to them?
He did not hate them, he figured. Not cognitively, anyway. Most of them were probably just following orders, and would have been decent people if they were on his side. Emotionally, he did not really know. Sometimes he felt sorry for them. Sometimes the gnawing pain in his arm and the deaths and injuries of his friends and acquaintances won and he felt ... rage, anger, something of the sort.
He also noted these men - and they appeared to be almost exclusively men - were, on average, much younger than the Trenian forces. Between sixteen and mid-twenties, perhaps. More on the younger side. None as old as he was, let alone some of the more seasoned veterans like Igna. Only a couple of theirs were under twenty, but many of the Ardeks were practically boys. Whatever the differences in the two factions' paradigms, he could not help but think that Anderekian frontline soldiers got the shorter end of the stick. And that the two could ne
Someone had went and dropped flowers on the Anderekians' remains, too. Maybe respect. Perhaps an apology by someone who did not think it entirely justified to end people's lives, enemy or not. It did not change anything, but it could make people feel better. Funerals were for the living.
The living needed to do things. Both for the sake of their own peace of mind and getting things done. He was simply not sure what those things were. He was no medical personnel and the drones had not picked up anything noteworthy. The sky was already changing color. It would not be long until all surveillance would fall back to programmed flight, recording feed to be analysed upon contact. Everyone who could was already in position. There were scant few things he could move with one good arm, and he figured everything that needed to be shuffled about had been taken care for while he was in for surgery or asleep.
So he was either to find himself anything to do until someone needed him or, as it happened, there was one unknown. Three of their people were missing. Not that looking for them on foot was bound to be particularly effective. Drone sight covered the upper plane quite decently, so there was only the forest below... No vehicles on their end, so if they were alive, they wouldn't be far. The only spare one up here (and that only because it was a personal one) was Uwe's. He didn't suppose the guy would be overly fond of him lending it, even if it were not locked down to only obey its master. It was fast, though, and small enough to remain usable down there. It was difficult, convincing oneself that even if time was of the essence, Uwe still had better odds at locating the missing soldiers, vehicle or no. For better or worse, he was the only functional officer on duty this shift (Marax didn't count for the functional part) so he needed to stay here.
Might as well pay Aidren a visit.

51:14:72 LNT
(early afternoon)

[[ROOT]]


There was another fragment between here and the makeshift base that had been arranged at the ground access. Potentially interesting, but not overly surprising, seeing that the fairly unremarkable span of land they had taken root in was more Larecrom's, than Root's own domain. The old loon to the northeast was most likely well aware they were there, but not overly interested in making contact or otherwise interfering. They didn't look enough like trouble. Seemed more civilian than military, an old relict warhead left aside. As per the progenitors' archives, these had been more common in the past, but were mostly disassembled to serve as nuclear fuel after the Downfall. Even if you had neither scattered or burrowed too deep, warheads like these were all too easy to shoot down before they got in range. This one looked more like a display than a functional armament. Not that it - be "it" the faction or the warhead - could not be put to some use if need be. North did need some more aid, in one form or another, and Root oneself did not have the forces to spare. Up to the north to decide what to do with them.
Humans were fickle. They over- and underfit. They saw patterns where there were none, and failed to see any where they were crucial. They had the innate drive to believe that random happenings had dues, that true randomness was uniformly sparse, that coincidences had meaning, that trees had faces and wind had voices... They put high confidence in their subroutines, yet could not explain what those routines were and why those came up with the results they did. They made mistakes. For a type of animal that took high pride in one's own consciousness, humans could be notoriously lacking in self-awareness.
Not that Root oneself was infallible ... simply more aware of one's own operation, with more redundancy and more integrity than most others in this often all too insane world. It mattered not that Root used one's own definition of insanity.
Nor did it necessary matter if someone else was insane, as long as they were the reasonable kind of insane. There were some cultists living, for all intents and purposes, right on top of Root oneself. They knew of their downstairs neighbour, and left usable if insignificant offerings whenever their goals seemed to coincide. Root did not mind them. They sought no unnecessary harm. They took what they needed, and not much more. They adhered to fairness and sufficiency ... if anything, their ways were decidedly suboptimal. Lunatics perhaps they were, but within a reasonable measure of confidence, they were what could be termed as harmless lunatics. As an aside, they knew enough to take some edge off the Scourge, however little. It was not ideal, then, that the Scourge was but a comparatively small issue to be handled.
As far as the old type "Arrowhead" was concerned... Time to - not shoot, but - take the messenger apart. It was but one small part of the whole of what had come to be referred to as Root; it had been very much useful for its lifespan, but now it had served its time. Though still functional, it was inferior to its newer versions, and as such, it materials would be put to better use in another form. The brain had decreed that the time for this little sensory cell was over. To effect the survival of the organism, it settled into an empty coalescension pool, and the less sophisticated inverse version of its birth tore its frame apart to catalyze and dissolve its components.
All biological organisms that were specialized multicellural had similar mechanisms in place. What needed to be replaced or was too damaged to warrant repairs self-destructed to make way for its own replacement. Controlled, programmed cell death, apoptosis. The entities who did not utilize similar methods soon ended with cancerous growths, and as practice had shown, mechanoidian cancer was no more desirable than biological cancer. Mechanoidian cancer was how you ended up with things like the Scourge, and while the Scourge was too disorganized to deal a devastating blow to a sizable faction on its own, it remained a nuisance that would utilize every resource it can reach to feed and expand itself, if only permitted.
Not far from where the old arrowhead had found its demise, a dozen small and two huge coalescension pools were drained. The small ones released new generation arrowheads, ready to fulfill their duties as scouts, messengers, and light hitters. Two were going to be northbound. Four vehicles that were almost, but not quite inexchangebly similar to Trenian chargecarriers (these ones were uniquely unmanned), had already been dispatched in a similar direction, though the forest and potential meddlers necessitated a detour course. It was a bit unorthodox, using another faction's etalons as basis for your own units, but what worked, worked. The anti-air Root had lended were not truly one's own design, either.
The huge pools revealed, for the first time, the earliest of what were later going to become known as Wraithmakers.

54:14:72 LNT
(early afternoon)

The Eastern Gate

Pity there were clouds. And that it was daytime. She had missed yesternight's fireworks, and today's grand show did not quite have the scene set for it, even if the seat was ideal. It was just about the beginning stage of a sunstorm. There was only so long they could chat speculations over Root's plans and the clashes between their northeastern neighbours from the upper plate. Or Crom's musings over the human condition. Or whatever was being worked on in the internals of the labs and factories. Those were good enough topics to pass some time, but nothing she felt overwhelmingly enthusiastic about.
What would she have found overwhelmingly engaging, anyway? (War. War would certainly break monotony. But once it was not only the non-thinking parts of commander-overseer getting wrecked and people you knew started dying, one such would not exactly be her idea of a good time, either.) Not lab-work; that seemed even less engaging than watch duty. Nor robotics. Maybe she could draw (badly)? Or write (even worse) poetry? Nah, not creative enough for either of those; she'd spend far too much time staring at a blank. Unarmed and -armored combat, maybe? It would probably be pretty hard to be bored out of your mind if a split-second of inattention meant being decked in the face. Nothing routine - not like dancing -, but reading a person and reacting, responding in an organic manner?
Simulations - of anything reasonably demanding and hectic - could be engaging enough, but ultimately there was always the knowledge that there was the imagination of a machine mind behind it all, be there other human actors or not. And it was not ... real, even though Crom had pointed out that they could always leave some bruises and punch a few nonlethal holes in her body if she failed there and let her heal in a more primitive way, in addition to applying a sense of pain where appropriate. Y'know, for the most immersion one could realistically achieve.
As an aside, simulations had a cost, most likely because running them served no practical purpose and humans needed some incentive to work rather than find new ways to entertain themselves. (Aside of the lucky ones who found objectively useful things entertaining.) Rewarding work with arbitrary currency and limiting pointless entertaining things by requiring amounts of said currency worked reasonably well, Crom insisted. Essentials were free, so it was not like you needed to work from survival standpoint. At least until commander-overseer got annoyed with you for being complacent enough with the bare minimum needed for surviving comfortably and assigned you to something, anyway.
For a change, Erida's eyes honed on a little flying speck hovering in her peripheral vision.
Her hand darted out, metallic fingers closing around the tiny intruder. Not that the little buggers could do any harm to anyone up here, but there was still a small measure of satisfaction in getting rid of them. Y'know, for the sake of all the times they got into living quarters with their whining high-pitched buzz and the ability to turn invisible just as you motioned the light on. She had thought about requesting miniature AA in the walls just to get rid of the damn things.
She dropped her arm, relinquished her fingers and -
"I think my suit is defective," the watchwoman reported to her companion, watching the mosquito and it's signature annoying buzz casually begun floating upward again, unperturbed and very much alive. "I have failed to terminate a target twenty-five million times smaller than I."
"Did you try shooting it?" Crom inquired. "I suppose powered gauntlets could be made with perfect fitting between the digits and the palm, but it seems like niche quality compared to having the optimal grip on, say, weapons that can harm units that pose a serious risk to your health."
"Are you mocking me? Anything that'd get through the defenses controlled by our lord and savior the commander-overseer makes me the mosquito." Her hand darted out again, this time deftly crushing the parasite between pinchers composed of her index finger and the thumb. Her sensors could pick up the barely audible "krk" of the insect's exoskeleton breaking, but she proceeded to rub her fingers together just to make extra sure this time. "If I live through such an attack which tears down our mighty walls and war machinery, they'll just pause to wonder how exactly, and the next shot - splat went the nuisance."
"Ah, I'm sure there is something you could do. Think outside of the box. Querilla warfare, set traps, use sunstorms and the fog to your advantage..."
"Do you reckon I have the mind to pull this off? Were you not insinuating I might try to see what jumping out of the watchtower would be like out of sheer boredom if I were subjected to TMS?"
"Oh, I'm not implying you might not consider it now, but the destrution a true war would work would change the context you see. Whereas now you -"
Pause.
"Crom?"
There was more pause.
"We appear to have found a man. Or, rather, he found us. Or, rather rather, he just stumbled into one of the scourers. Doesn't appear to be aware enough to qualify for much finding."
"A man?"
"Does it make a difference?"
"You seem overly curious at that for someone or something that, as far as I can tell, is an AI. But no, just surprised. And you can tell that, too. Even if you happen to be a human. What's the deal with him?"
"Looks to be a misplaced Trenian. Quite the holey man. Incidentally, that means you'll get your thrills. We'll prepare a vehile for the extraction and send someone up to replace you. Welcome to the team." The scourer had no means to pick up passengers.
"As long as it's not a hovercraft." Curiously, she did not get sea-sick or aircraft-sick, or even crawler-sick, let alone be jolted by tracked or wheeled vehicles. But hovercraft, with their sway and glide were her bane. Something she could not ever quite convince her brain weren't the effect of her being poisoned...
'Under the yellow flashing sky...'

68:32:25 LNT
(late afternoon)
Domhnall and Iridiel

Iridiel had grown thoughtful after his final thoughts on the matter, though eventually fell back to slumber, perhaps too tired to ponder long.
It felt true, though, what he had said: gods had their marked and their favored, and the common man had better odds talking to those select few rather than the deities themselves. Gods' power was indubitable, yet they did not listen to everyone. Did they not want to, or could they not? He did not know. He supposed, though, that even knowing every plea and prayer directed in their direction must become tiring, even to gods themselves. People wanted this, wanted that, very rarely giving something back to the gods they requested favors from. And what could a man or a woman give to a god that they could actually use, anyway? Did gods ever do something with the meager offerings people gave them? With their prayers? Their praise? Or was it all just gimmicks and noise?
As they neared the city, however, he could spot people on the roads, haggard and weary, many of them injured, some rather gravely. They did not look like soldiers; nay, they appeared to be common citizens, and a lot of them too. Something bad had happened, something that was neither the Withering nor civil war, unless soldiers were going after merchants and butchers, tailors and housewives, pampered children and common street urchins alike now, entirely without discrimination.
As much as a part of him wanted to just let Iridiel sleep until they had figured out, Domhnall figured Iridiel needed to see this sooner rather than later. The healer in her would not be happy if she discovered they'd just been riding past people who needed their help, and done nothing. Some of them looked like they might fall flat on their faces at any moment. Besides, they were most likely nearing the gates already.
"Hey," he insisted in a low tone, reaching back to tap Iridiel on the shoulder (an action which was somewhat awkward with her resting on his back and his fingers being half-numb from holding onto the reins in the cold for so long). "I think we're nearly there, and something has happened. There are a lot of people on the road ... looks like they've been attacked, and are fleeing to Zerul City."
"Domhnall... too tired to... do anything..." the highlander mumbled against his shoulder, hardly stirring. Grabbing the reins in his other hand and rubbing the one which had held them till now against the side of his thigh before sticking it under his vest for warmth, he attempted to peer over his shoulder in an attempt to take a glance at his companion's face. Yep. Definitely right back to sound asleep. Probably no means of waking her for good unless he were to resort to violence. And then the unfamiliar albeit thus far surprisingly cooperative beast beneath him would probably throw a fit.
"Don't ask me why I didn't wake you later..." the forestfolk muttered as he set the sights forward again, as much to himself as the highlander. He supposed they might as well talk in the inn if she didn't wake before then. If she intended to continue her slumber even then, then getting off the horse and into their respective beds could prove rather awkward indeed.
He had expected to be permitted passage through the gates with ease - without Etakar and Claw there, they looked hardly remarkable, his own complexion aside - yet a young lad seemed rather fixated on the younger black-eyes. Or, at the very least, his armor. It was a rather fancy article besides its trouty glimmer, by the sound of it. Ah, and he was someone who was been told to wait for them, though he seemed woefully unaware of what had happened to the rest of their little party. Which was concerning.
"There s'posed tae be more of us lo'," he informed the lad in his harsh, guttural accent with rolling r's, removing his spare hand from his vest and rubbing the side of his neck. "Tall foreign-looking warrior fellow with a narrow face, a wee whi'e-haired lass an' a beas' a bi' like a lion big as four horses, with a dragon's limbs, tail and head. Ough' tae be ra'her hard tae miss if they came through here..." Well, and Claw, but to his knowledge, he didn't exactly intend to march through the city gates...

Jordan Forthey


The stranger screamed as Jordan's blade dug into his fingers. It was a primal, visceral sound that commanded the squire's muscles to halt, applying to some deep instinct that insisted it was one of his own kind facing slaughter, and he himself should remain quiet and unnoticed, lest the same fate befalls him. He mustn't. Can't. He had known - had thought he knew - that people fighting for their lives were usually too shocked or distracted to scream; the people who had the peace to lament their injuries, the mourning, and the fearful sounding alarm were noisy, but those in combat and the ones dying had too little energy to spare.
But had succeeded. He had gotten the stranger, fast and powerful though he might be, off himself, and now the masked fellow was unarmed, down a hand and with a cut to the bone in his shin, bleeding. He still had his sword in a death grip; his wrist was maybe sprained, maybe broken, and he had a few bruises, but he was not bleeding. Get away. Get up. It was not over. This one was not going to give up so easily, and bleeding out took time.
Even now, still recoiling from a kick to the chest, the stranger was already scampering to his feet, assuming a crouch, hissing like a feral cat. Not fleeing. Preparing, even as Jordan aligned the tip of his blade with the stranger's chest and attempted to assume a semblance of a guard while drawing in his legs and figuring how to best get up without losing his ability to defend himself, even momentarily.
If there was something to be thankful for, it was the stranger's flair for theatrics, as even now, he briefly halted himself for a statement, 'This is how it en--' ... and ceased. The change, just as the stranger once more had the squire in his full view, was almost imperceptible. A hair-thin jolt as muscles froze in tension with the silencing of the figure's voice. Perhaps there was contemplation, maybe a blink of an eye's worth; something had changed.
The stranger bolted in a display of unnatural speed, abandoning the fight and his weapon.

Some part of Jordan almost failed to register the abrupt change. It was ... over? But why? He, too, froze in a lack of understanding ... the stranger had initially wanted to leave, and if Jordan didn't intervene, probably would have, but he doubted the masked figure would, just like that, go back to his original plan. His confusion felt longer in the combat-fueled haze, but in reality, he had just about enough time to blink thrice as he watched the stranger go, before -
"You found trouble," an all too familiar voice stated from somewhere to the right and what registered as "up".
Oh.

The rush of blood from the confrontation was slowly being replaced by an entirely different kind of nervous feeling, the cold, anxious sensation of - in its most polite iteration - "Am I in trouble now? I'm probably in trouble now.". It was no longer survival and instincts. Now, it was about consequences. Thankful as he was for finding himself no longer in mortal danger, he nevertheless involuntarily seized up and very much wanted to be ... somewhere absolutely not where he was now.
It was cold outside, now that he had the presence of mind to notice those things. He was also covered in cooling sweat, which did not help matters. The cobbles did not make the most comfortable resting site. He was still holding onto his sword, for no other reason than that sheathing it would have been a too elaborate action, and he was unsure what else to do with it.
Then again, he probably could not pretend that Sir Yanin was not standing behind him indefinitely, either. Slowly, warily, he turned sideways inching up till he was sitting sideways with his back against the wall, his legs half-bent from the knees. He had made sure his sword did not scrape against the street, though still he rested it on its scabbard rather than sheathed it. His head hurt some, as did his wrist. Other bruises weren't as noticeable, though that may change come next morning. He stared dully at his knees.
"Did you sustain any injuries?" Sir Yanin's voice was ... dispassionate. Not that it was all that atypical of him. Felt like the knight was going through some kind of a checklist. Might be better than angry. Probably. But given that something had been bothering him before... Who knew. There were plenty of people who yelled when they were pissed, but turned cold and calculating when they were really angry.
That was a simple question, at least. Glancing up, his master appeared to be observing the street in the direction his opponent had taken off to, rather than - thankfully - staring down at him. The knight's sword was still brandished, too. Back to staring at his knees.
"My right wrist is sprained, I think... The rest is just bruises, I think." His voice seemed dull.
The knight sighed. "Get up and sheathe your sword, " he said, demonstrating the latter half of his own words. He did not expect Jordan's ... what was the stranger to him? Attacker? He had technically attacked first, at least. Whatever the case, Sir Yanin did not seem to be expecting the stranger to be back.
But ... yeah. Get up. He guessed he could do that.
"Preferably before someone comes along and figures you're either a drunkard or that I beat you up."
Oh.
Jordan (probably wisely) chose not to ask whether the latter was not something his master pretty much habitually did every day, anyway. Minus the sprained or broken wrist, that is. Sir Yanin had never really broken anything. So he just managed to carefully slid up the wall, awkwardly sheathing his sword using only his left hand. Certainly less convenient than doing it with his right hand, which was opposite the scabbard on his left. The cobblestone in front of his right boot seemed very interesting just about now.
"How come I found you fighting a vampire?" For Sir Yanin, the tone was almost conversational, yet Jordan wanted to flinch like a much younger boy expecting to be hit.
A vampire? He had noticed the speed and strength, but ... a vampire? In a large city like this? How come he had not been caught with all the magic and guards and eyes and who-knows-what-else ... in spite of supposedly leaving corpses in his wake? It's not like he could kill the citizens and just pretend a bear ate them like he could in a more rural place. Jordan had figured he was a rogue warden or something...
Usually, he'd have asked his master how he had managed to identify the stranger as a vampire, not as a warden, or a demonspawn, or any other potential mostly humanlike fiend. Not today.
"I was asking people about the refugees. He looked like he knew something. About, well, something. He did not like questions, I guess."
"Hmrh."
"Sorry." It could not probably hurt to just apologize pre-emptively. Whatever it was he was exactly supposed to apologize for in this instance.
"We can discuss if further at the inn, in the evening. I figure I'll be running the errands I intended to give you myself. You go get your wrist checked, and I'm certain the guards here would be interested in knowing there's a homicidal vampire running around on the streets. And try to avoid finding more trouble today; stick with streets that have people on them, for example."
"Okay." So he will be facing the potential repercussions ... later. Great.
"For someone who picked a superhuman for his first fight entirely alone, you did not do a too bad job not getting your throat immediately ripped out. You've learned some."
At that Jordan actually looked up at Sir Yanin, who, evidently, considered the conversation done, seeing how he opted for seeing himself out. Was that supposed to be a weird acknowledgement, or just an insult? It was true he'd have been dead by the time of his master's convenient arrival a year ago, but ... still.
Even after years, he wasn't entirely sure what to make of Sir Yanin's way of interacting with people.
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