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Tiras looked at his traveling companion. Renata. He never did catch her last name, he thought, but then, he didn't recall sharing his own. Her expression seemed to default to a gruff-looking pout, telling of the general direction of her thoughts. He flicked his eyes to the road, directing his horse as parallel to hers as could be arranged, before speaking up.

"Hey, so, as you can probably tell, I've uh, I've never studied magic before. I don't know any of the theory. Could you help me with any of this?" He held out the opened pages of Persephone. "I know Elder Magic is probably vastly different compared to Light magic, but surely there must be some things they have in common?"


Although she'd considered going back to Badon, Renata had elected to tag along with Tiras when he'd told her he didn't plan to stick around the port city. Perhaps it would have been possible to eke out a living in the city, but rebellion was on her mind in a way it hadn't been before. Besides, they'd both gone through a nightmare and come out alive. That had to make them something approaching friends.

Tiras's question tore her from her thoughts. "Do you expect me to read that from a horse?" She stole several glances at the environs for a moment. Paranoia about magic was an old habit to break. She steadied her horse with one hand and placed the other on the open tome to keep the pages from blowing about.

"Trouble with dark magic's that there's no rules," she sighed. "Magical academies, churches— no such thing for sorcerers. No authority on style." She looked at the runes. They were mostly alien, and even the ones that looked familiar were somehow different, as if they had been written using entirely different implements. "Even with a proper scholar at our side, I'm not sure if— That one." She pointed to a sigil on the page, a curling rune scrawled atop a jagged one. "I remember seeing that symbol on the ruins..."

She nearly fell onto Tiras as her horse veered to avoid a pothole in the road. She shook her head in frustration as she righted herself upon the saddle again. "Sorry, Tiras. I think this is beyond me."


Tiras took back the book, frowning at the pages, before stowing it back in his saddlebag.

"Don't worry about it, Renata," Tiras assured her. "I knew it was a stretch before I even asked. I'll have to puzzle it out on my own, I guess." He shrugged. "Such is life. But speaking of life, I haven't heard much of yours. After everything, I'm curious how you learned to manage both sword and spell? My mentor told me that it was impossible, and though I made the attempt at several points, I was not successful and gave up on the matter."


"No one does, really," Renata replied. "Not to an expert level, at least. Better to just focus on one thing if you want to do that..." She trailed off as she realised she was automatically focusing on the technicality rather than just telling Tiras about herself. It can't be that hard.

"My father was a knight of Laus— Sir Markus Valenth. Wounds forced him to retire, so he made me his project." It had been a long time since she'd thought of her parents, maybe a solid week. "Not before my mother made him into a man of faith, though. Faith enough that he sent me to study in Thria. I didn't last long with the new church, though, and I— I fled. I... wasn't about to live in that miserable place any longer." Renata felt panic for a moment as it occurred to her that she had no desire to recall the gory details of her life in Thria. Besides, she had wandered off topic.

"What about you, Tiras? You were a proper squire, right? I'd always wondered if life in a castle beats life in the Church."


Tiras focused on the road ahead, looking wistful. For a moment, he had to blink back tears.

"I was a squire, yes. My father was... is... a man at arms for the Emperor. He's fanatically loyal, and only cares about one thing: the advancement of himself and his family name. For this, he's a favorite, but he's not eligible for knighthood. I was, though, due to being a page at the time. I was squired to Sir Adrian Verde. We partook in the war, but deserted when they burned the Tower of the Saint. Sir Adrian lived by the old motto of Ostia, living a very austere, self-sacrificing life, though his family have been landed knights from the days of King Roy. He was not yet forty, and unmarried. No children. He taught me as if I were his son, or his little brother.

"We fomented resistance against the church and the Emperor for three years, but the Ostian regulars caught up with us eventually. We were ambushed, and Sir Adrian was wounded severely. We were traitors, yet the lead knight accepted our surrender. He was Sir Adrian's younger brother, Sir Hugo, another upstanding knight who nevertheless remains loyal to the Emperor. I escaped my captivity during the night, and found Sir Adrian dying. He told me to dress in his gear, and take his sword. He tried to knight me, but died before he could. I escaped on his horse.

"That was three months ago. I've been chased like a dog, had to sell Sir Adrian's horse, and have hardly made a dent in the Empire. With luck, though, that may change."


Renata rode in silence for a moment before offering a reply.

"He was a good man." But that was obvious. "I didn't think much of rebellion after I fled Thria. I just wanted to escape— well, I thought I did. But now I know I'd rather try to fight the Empire itself than live in exile. I think the Dread Isle helped me realise that." Maybe her miserable life on the road had also played a small part.

"I don't know if you've a plan, but... Whatever kind of uprising you mean to make, I want a part in it. That's why I'm here." She knew it had never really been an option to stay in Badon. Better to die fighting with pride than to live the life of a beggar and thief.


Tiras looked astonished at the thought and stared at Renata in wonderment. Whatever uprising you mean to make... She believed in him. She was willing to fight alongside him.

"Then we raid church convoys," he said, feeling the resolve to rebel harden in his chest. "It was what Adrian and I did, and we were good at it. Prisoner convoys specifically. Can't foment a rebellion of one person and expect victory, after all."


"Right," Renata replied with some anticipation. He actually has a plan. "Any chance to strike back against the Church of the Preservation is a chance I'll take." For the first time in a long time, she would be doing more than just surviving.