FEPlanet Community

Full Version: As Firm as a Mountain
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Pages: 1 2 3
It wasn't entirely by choice that she came to the country: there was no place that she could openly remain after the libel that the Marquess Laus spewed about her. Since Laus is one of the most influential of the Lycian marches alongside Ostia and Pherae, falling into Laus' disfavor would be disastrous for many marches. Cecily didn't want to risk allowing any Lycian noble get an opportunity to inform her homeland of her whereabouts, which made Bern the only reliable haven for her to risk.

The lady arrived in Bern raggedly dressed and smelled from days without a proper bath. The latter was quickly remedied, though it took a little longer for her to obtain proper clothing: the kind of clothing that would be presentable to a royal audience. She later learned, after her exile from Laus, that the Lausian marquessate fired all of the staff personnel who serviced her, which included her personal tailor. That person also fled to Bern and was fully willing to supply Cecily with proper clothing for this occasion. She had no money of her own to afford the cost of obtaining the cloth for tailoring, but Cecily was able to siphon funds from her organization, the Eight Republics, through her agents in the country. Through purchasing, transporting, and sewing, it took over a week to prepare her garments: plenty of time to prepare for a meeting with the Bernese royalty.

Although she would be readily recognized by any Lycian spies that may be within Bern, Cecily was betting on the king holding to his policy of amending the nation's darker history. By doing so, he would not return her to Lycia without at least hearing her side of the story, if the emperor demands that she be returned to the empire. Therefore, Cecily saw it pertinent that she make her case before Lycia begins to place political pressure on Bern, the last bastion capable of standing against the Empire of Lycia.

For this meeting, Cecily wore a dark green dress that glimmered with silk, complete with bold, golden lines sprouting from the collar. The collar's design represented the mane of a lion: the centerpiece of the Lausian coat of arms. Over it, Cecily wore a long cloak of royal purple, trimmed in gold colors. She studied her raiment in front of a mirror, running her fingers through her hair for any knots that she may have missed with the brush.

"Your opinion, Theodore?" she asked.

"Like a marquess of Laus," the rogue replied. He was leaning against the nearby dresser, resting his head on one arm. He was supposed to remain in Laus, but managed to reassign agents of the Eight Republics in order to be around Cecily. Unsurprising, as he was Cecily's most loyal subject.

"Good," she answered. "Let us be off: it would be no good if we make him wait."

The coach was just outside with its attendant waiting by the door. Theodore was accustomed to the routine, positioning himself across from the attendant as he offered Cecily a hand to step inside the coach before entering after the lady. The interior is as comfortable as any other coach, though it could never be as comfortable as Cecily's own coach. The fluffy seats were not broken in, so they resisted her weight.

The trip to the castle was largely uneventful. The streets were bustling with activity, paying little heed to the coach as it made its way to the lord's mansion. It is an entirely different feeling than in Lycia, where the crowd flocked to the appearance of the coach, hoping to get a glimpse of whichever dignitary is passing through. It is not as though they showed no respect. The men who laid eyes on Cecily as she passed gave a courteous nod or a tip of the hat while the women offered her a smile.

'This is the Bern of today,' Cecily thought. It is a far cry from the Bern that she knew from the history books.

Servants were waiting in the courtyard as the coach finally pulled to a stop in front of the three-story mansion. A mixture of men and women, Cecily noted. How thoughtful.

"Welcome to Lord Randolf's private residence," one of the female servants greeted the couple. "The lord himself is waiting inside."

"Wait here, Theodore," she told her accomplice before stepping down from the coach. The walkway was constructed with expensive stone that echoed a rich tone underneath her high heels with flowered hedges to guide her to the door.

Randolf looked both young and old. Although he could not be any older than his early thirties, his hair is already graying. Perhaps from stress: he is a trusted advisor to the king himself, after all.

"I trust your trip here was pleasant?" he asked, offering a hand to the lady.

"The roads to Bern are the same as ever," Cecily answered. She curtsied before taking his hand.

"I already know why you seek an audience," Randolf said as he guided her to the lounge. "But I cannot promise anything. Wine?"

"Half glass," Cecily replied and a servant obliged, pouring into a glass held on a tray before offering it to her. "How much do you know of what is occurring in Lycia, Lord Randolf? Surely, you understand the gravity of the situation with such knowledge."

"Bits and pieces, I can surmise," he said.

A political response: there is no doubt in Cecily's mind that Bern had placed spies within Lycia in order to gather information about what is happening. However, she had no intention of antagonizing what is possibly the only country capable of holding back Lycia's legions. She took the glass from the servant and sipped it. Too bitter.

"The Emperor is consolidating his control over the marches as he annexes the Etruscan territories. The sudden disappearances of nobles, many whom I know as respectable individuals, across the lands are evident of this," Cecily said.

"But it is still troubling as to why he is doing all of this. The Church of Sanctity is definitely involved, though the purpose still eludes me," she continued. "The wisdom of merchants tell us that time is the most valuable commodity. Of my understanding of the Emperor, it is only a matter of time before Lycia turns its gaze elsewhere. But where? Sacae? Ilia? Bern? Of these three, Bern is the greatest prize, yet it is also the most dangerous foe. However, the same could have been said of Etruria before its defeat. There is no guarantee of Bern being able to survive by letting Lycia make the first move."

"I understand your desperation, but we will remain as firm as a mountain," Randolf said. He stood up, doing a short flourish of the wrist -- for no apparent reason -- before reaching for his glass.

"Trust me when I say that Bern is not idling. Time may bring profit, but the greatest profit comes when the harvest is reaped at the right moment," he said. "Be patient."

"I'll trust your judgment, but I won't hide my reservations, Randolf," Cecily bowed her head.

"I see. If that is all, would you like to take the rest of the wine back to your residence?" the lord gestured to the bottle held on the servant's tray.

"I would like you to savor it as much as I have," Cecily dismissed him.

"In that case, I'll escort you back to the coach," Randolf offered his arm for her to hold.

Arm in hand, the two returned outside and soon, Cecily was on her way back to her inn room. She said nothing of the matter to Theodore, who immediately understood what happened. Cecily received nothing. Bern will not move.
After dismissing Theodore, Cecily closed the door to her room behind her and let out a sigh. Of course it was highly optimistic that she would be able to convince Bern on her own, though it would have been extraordinarily helpful if Randolf had at least guaranteed that Bern will help…

"… but the greatest profit comes when the harvest is reaped at the right moment…"

Bern was paying attention. They are considering their policy in regards to Lycia. A grin etched itself on her face. It was far from a guarantee of support, but more of an offer of consideration. If the time is right, Bern will move.

She took a step into her room and immediately froze. The smile disappeared as quickly as it came. Although Cecily could not admit to being the tidiest of noble women, the mess she makes was organized at the very least. The collar should be pointing to the window at the bed side and the hem of the skirt at the foot of the bed. The collar is out of place.

Footsteps brought her attention to the side and she felt the sweet blade lick her shoulder as she moved. Once she had enough distance between herself and the assailant, she got a good look at her attacker. Of course, his dress is fairly non-descript, but she could recognize the dagger he used anywhere. It is a Lausian dagger: not from the royal forge, but one of the lesser kind. The guard of the hilt had a curvature typical of Lausian metalwork.

She only had a moment to cry out before the assassin was at her again. Her high heels betrayed her balance and she thought it was over. At least, until it took too long for the blade to strike her heart.

Theodore's face filled her vision as she allowed herself to open her eyes again. Her vision blurred from the collecting moisture.

"Thank you," she said.

"We cannot remain here, milady," Theodore replied.

"I know," she answered in turn. "Let's find the refugee camps. We should be able to find help there."

But she felt light-headed: standing was a challenge within itself.

"Poison…" she whispered as Theodore steadied her.

"I'll find--" he began.

"At the camps," Cecily cut him off.


The refugee camps were nothing particularly notable. A labyrinth of tents were erected on the open grounds with signs only pointing in the direction of essentials like water and restrooms. The camps were an organized venture once, until the incoming refugees poured in faster than volunteers could be pressed into service. Because of this, documentation on who is in the camps grew unreliable.

"I need a doctor!" Theodore shouted as he carried Cecily in his arms, with a bandage wrapped around her wounded shoulder. "Is there a doctor anywhere?"

He could hear Cecily's breathing growing more labored. He might not know what kind of poison was afflicting her, but his own knowledge poisons indicated that she won't last a few days without medical help. Her health is going to get much worse if he cannot find help in the next half-hour. It was irritating that many of the refugees looked in his direction but didn't offer anything to help, but at least they didn't pretend that they knew how to help.

"Hey, I'm not a doctor, but I am an alchemist," a refugee approached him.

The alchemist is very overweight: evidently lived well before he came to the camp, which was oddly comforting to the rogue.

"What's wrong with her?" the alchemist asked.

"Poisoned weapon," Theodore explained.

"I'll see what I can do," the alchemist replied.


"I'm not going to pretend I know any medical procedures to remove the poison, but I can give her some meds to counter the side-effects," the alchemist said.

"Anything will do," Theodore said. "As long as it keeps her alive long enough for a proper doctor to arrive."

A crowd was gathering outside the alchemist's tent, curious as to what was going on.

Cecily could faintly hear them murmuring among themselves, but she couldn't focus enough to decipher what they were talking about. Her entire body felt like it was burning, despite the layer of sweat that covered her.

"Water…" she rasped.

"Oh! I completely forgot!" the alchemist exclaimed. He offered her a small bowl of water, helping her drink. The water had a nasty tinge to it, catching Cecily by surprise. She instinctively tried to cough it out.

"You know: they did say that a few cups a day keeps the doctor away, or something," he joked.

"It's… apples…" she corrected him.

"Ah, my mistake," the alchemist bowed his head in apology.

"If you can look after her, I will be looking for a doctor," Theodore said.

"Thank you for your hospitality, sir," he offered the alchemist a deep bow.

"No problem, no problem!" the alchemist waved away the pleasantries. "I was getting bored to tears anyways!"

The retainer pushed his way past the crowd on his way out of the tent. Although he would ideally remain behind to protect his liege, he had to make sure that a doctor came to treat her. Either way, Theodore knew he was in a difficult situation. If there were any samaritans among the present expatriates, he would be incredibly grateful.

"You seem to be taking this rather well, miss," the alchemist noted. "I'd expect someone your age to be in a panic."

"I… am…" Cecily murmured. Even with her life at stake, Cecily didn't look like she was going to freak out, courtesy of her training in court life.

"Did… Theodore… leave…?" she asked.

"Yep, he's looking for a doctor for you," the alchemist offered her more water.

"There are… other… attackers…" Cecily forced herself to speak.

"I'm not surprised. Sorry to say, but I'm no fighter. Yer going to have to rely on the publicity you have to stay alive," the alchemist answered.

"Comforting," Cecily sarcastically smiled. She couldn't blame Theodore for the decision he made: it was her best chance of survival.
The camp looked about as miserable as the average central Lycian village. How ironic that it would be located in Bern, of all places.

Satsume sat on a tree stump, puffing on his pipe. He was only a couple days from home, intending to drop by for a visit to give some of the money he had earned to his family. Granted, it wasn’t his usual means of making a living (he had won a card bet in Badon with a group of particularly inebriated pirates), but he figured his father wouldn’t mind too much if he had kept quiet about it.

I’ll just tell him I got it some other way, Satsume thought, and only if he asks.

Just then, a small commotion behind him caused Satsume to stand up and look back toward the center of the camp. A small crowd of people had gathered around one of the tents. Satsume chewed on the end of his pipe, swept his knapsack up from the ground, and started walking toward the tent, faintly intrigued. His armor made its familiar clanking sound as he walked.

As he neared the tent, Satsume was approached by a lithe man with a very formal-looking gait. The man’s clothes didn’t quite match the impression his walk gave. Satsume was prepared to step aside and let the man be on his way, but as he locked eyes with the stranger, he stopped and addressed the young armor knight.

“Pardon me, sir…”

“Me?” Satsume muttered from around the lip of his pipe. He plucked it from his lips and pushed a cloud of smoke off to the side with his breath.

“Yes. Would you know of a doctor around here?”

“Uh…” Satsume said apologetically. “I’m not a regular here.”

“Ah…” The man nodded in appreciation, then started walking past Satsume.

“But wait!” Satsume said aloud, remembering. “My village is only about a day’s ride from here.” He pointed to the east. “We have a physician. Maybe he could help you.”

The man shook his head. “I may not have that much time,” he replied, “but thank you all the same.” And just like that, he was on his way. Satsume watched him wander off for a moment, then turned back to the commotion at the tent. His curiosity had been further piqued. He calmly approached the crowd and weaved his way between the onlookers. Through a gap in the tent flaps, he could pick out a young woman lying on a cot. She had a cloth on her forehead and appeared to be sweating heavily.

Satsume pondered this a bit. She looks like she’s pretty sick…, he thought. I wonder… He took a deep breath and entered the tent. He could hear the group behind him slow their mumblings as his wide, armored frame disappeared behind the flaps.

“Hey! I said no visitors! Out with you!” cried an aging man as he entered. “Or are you the doctor, perhaps?”

“No,” said Satsume. He gathered that this man was probably an alchemist, based on the various vials and other equipment that lay strewn about the tent.

“Then get out!” the man cried again, throwing his hands up toward Satsume in a shooing motion.

“Wait,” Satsume said quietly, and he reached into his knapsack and fumbled around a bit. The alchemist shook his head and continued trying to shoo Satsume away.

“No no, I don’t want your money. I can’t have people here disturbing-“

“Just hold on a sec, will ya?!” Satsume snapped back. He finally yanked a small vial of pale orange fluid out of his pack. He stuck it out in front of the alchemist’s face. “Here.”

“This…” The alchemist turned up one of his palms, and Satsume placed the vial in his outstretched hand.

“It’s not much,” Satsume said quietly, “but it should help reduce the fever and convulsions until she can be cared for properly.”

The alchemist stared at the vial for a moment, not saying anything. His eyes softened into a kind expression. “I see… yes, that’s good. Better than nothing, yes.” The alchemist reached for a small cup that lay next to the woman and began preparing the antitoxin. Satsume was caught by her rather fancy attire – was she some kind of noblewoman, maybe? Or maybe just exceptionally rich. Satsume rolled his eyes as his mind flashed back to his dealings with Orica, the Tanian princess. Some noble flower SHE made herself out to be. Yeesh.

Satsume looked on as the alchemist gently lifted the woman’s head and helped her drink the antitoxin. He folded his arms and waited, hoping his chance remedy would at least breathe a little life into her.
As someone intruded in the tent, Cecily tensed. She couldn't tell if it was a doctor or an assassin from the poison's effects. Even words were getting difficult to distinguish. It was the change in the alchemist's tone that indicated that she was safe for the moment, as she accepted the antitoxin concoction that was offered to her.

The antitoxin was bitter and more repulsive than the water. Cecily gagged on the medicine as it left a baste aftertaste in her mouth. However, the effects took only a minute to take hold. Although her body still felt like it was on fire, it became easier to breathe and her vision cleared. Getting a doctor is still the best option for survival, but at least her health is a lot more stable with that medicine. The alchemist also seemed satisfied with the effects as he put aside the cup.

She turned on her cot to get a look at the man who offered to help. How did he know she was poisoned? Why does he have an antitoxin? Is he really here to help or is he trying to lull the alchemist into a false sense of security before killing her?

Her suspicions waned upon seeing the man's armor. The color and seams were standard Ostian. However, Cecily didn't recognize this soldier's face: perhaps a lower ranked militiaman or garrisoned at less important facilities around Ostia. Or she just forgot his face: it's hard to remember non-interactive faces when one traveled to all of the Lycian marches. She beckoned the man to come closer. If he complied, she pulled him very close to her face to whisper in his ear.

"Did you notice anyone suspicious loitering outside the tent?" she asked.
Satsume slowly approached the young woman and knelt down to her eye level. Her voice was hoarse, but she was breathing better now after the medicine.

"Did you notice anyone suspicious loitering outside the tent?" she asked.

"No," Satsume replied. He took a quick peek at the alchemist, who had gone to the tent's entrance to try and disperse the crowd. Satsume could hear the noise beginning to die down, and eventually, the alchemist turned back to face the pair.

"Finally, some peace and quiet for you, milady!" he exclaimed a little too loudly. He must have realized his mistake immediately, and cupped a hand over his mouth in embarrassment. "Sorry... I'll shut up now."

"It's fine," said Satsume. He looked back at the girl and leaned in to whisper again.

"The crowd is gone now, I think," he said softly. "You should rest."
"Only if you cannot control your tongue," Cecily added after Satsume reassured the alchemist, in direct contrast to the knight's willingness to compromise.

The alchemist grumbled and turned away to tend to his belongings as the two continued their conversation.

"Would you rest, if someone was waiting to plunge a dagger into your heart?" Cecily whispered back to Satsume.

Truth be told, she was exhausted. Her sinus felt like it was going to explode and her senses were still jumbled by the poison. Simply moving about on the cot was like moving boulders.

"I appreciate the gesture, though," she added.

The tent's opening rustled as Theodore returned to the tent. "I brought someone who says he's a doctor."

"Checked for weapons?" Cecily strained to say.

"Of course, milady," he answered.

"Bring him in," she nodded to him.

A young man entered the tent, carrying a backpack. He certainly looked like a medicine man: a well equipped one, in fact. But Cecily is not so quick to judge him by his appearance. Many politicians separated their appearances and motives: assassins are similar in that regard.

The doctor began to move to the sick lady, but Theodore stopped him with one arm. Despite her vassal's protectiveness, Cecily beckoned him to come forward.

"Do you know Hippocrates?" she asked the doctor.

"Miss?" the doctor was taken aback by the question.

"Hippocrates," Cecily repeated more slowly. "I was reading his works lately."

"A bit, but I don't remember much of it," the doctor said as he began laying out utensils.

"He wrote about the methodology of a king in ruling his subjects," Cecily said.

"Oh, that does sound familiar," he seemed to brighten at the topic.

"That a king may need to commit evil to rein in his subjects, but to perform his evil at once rather than over time, for the commoner's mind has short memory," she continued.

The doctor nodded.

"Theodore," Cecily turned her gaze to her subject, who immediately understood her.

A dagger sprouted in the doctor's chest and he collapsed on the tent floor. The alchemist cringed.

"Wha? I thought you needed a doctor?" the alchemist blabbered.

"The philosopher who wrote about the methods of kings was Nikolai. Hippocrates laid out the ethics of medicine," Cecily explained. "I wouldn't trust a dishonest doctor."

"Then why would he say he know?"

"To lull us into a sense of security. Amicable and welcoming," Cecily replied, gesturing to Theodore.

"I need you to defend our alchemist friend," she told him.

"What about you, milady?" he asked.

"He will escort me back to the inn," Cecily tugged on Satsume's arm, ignoring the fact that she didn't ask the man for his help.

"Letting a stranger escort you, milady?" Theodore asked her.

"They know you will do whatever it takes to defend me. They will converge on your presence. It places you at great risk, but I will have a much greater chance of getting away," Cecily replied.

"Can't you call on the Bernese guards?" the alchemist asked.

"They already know I am the lady of Laus. In order to avoid actively taking a stance against Lycia, they cannot offer me refuge," Cecily explained. "Enough questions. They will be coming soon."

A commotion began to be audible outside, presumably from the presence of one or more unexpected individuals.

"Sir Knight, if you will," Cecily gestured for Satsume to pick her up.

It did not need to be said that she wanted to get her plan moving along, though it was up to the Ostian's consent whether it would move at all.

"The two of you can get out the back," the alchemist hurried towards the back of the tent and pulled aside the drapery. Behind was even more tents strewn about the field, which led into a clearing where a well was.
Into the refugee camp the boy went. It was on the way to Pherae, and by way he meant the way that wouldn't end with him burning at the stake. He had tried to sneak in the back to avoid drawing attention to himself due to his looks, but it wasn't just the church that attempted to stop his magic. He was definitely in one of the shadier areas alright, much to his (soon-to-be) chagrin. With barely anybody around, it was the perfect time for...


A fearsome blow to the head left a certain mage dazed.

"H-hey, give that back!"

Luckily for him, the man who had just tried to mug him took the wrong tome. Ray took a deep breath to regain his composure.

"Vita, Mortus, Ca Ryo..."

In seconds a loud, deafening crackle of thunder sounded throughout the entire camp.

Ray was smart enough not to kill the man. Or at least he had hoped, a task made difficult by his propensity for overkill and certainly not indicated by the loud sound emitted from his finger. In any case, the mugger definitely wouldn't be getting up for a while. Also quite luckily, the lack of people in the vicinity worked in his favor as well. Ray quickly grabbed his fire tome and quickly high-tailed it out of there, leaving out the entrance he took and approaching the maze of tents from another angle to throw off suspicion. A good chunk of the refugees were magi, so one would have trouble proving his crime.


Ray found a proper entrance into the camp. It was a completely normal day for him. Nothing was out of place at all. He definitely didn't have a large bruise on the back of his head. Nope. Not possible.

He didn't like to go out into the open normally, but it looks like that would also not be possible. He certainly wasn't in the mood with his massive headache.

Looking around the refugee camp, it looked overcrowded. Being parched, he inquired about where he could get something to drink. He was pointed to a clearing with a well, but the well was... packed. Imagine that, every refugee wanted something to drink. He got in line.

"Bah, what does a guy have to do to get some water? You'd think Athos would've invented a spell for that, but nooooo, too busy blowing shit up with tomes from the scouring."

Though I suppose I can't say I blame him...

Ow, my aching head!
Satsume absorbed the incident with the false doctor with surprising ennui. It confirmed his own suspicions about the young woman – she was a Lycian noble. He kept silent as the rogue he had pointed toward his home earlier spoke again, trying to comprehend the gravity of the situation. That’s when he heard something from the lady that elicited a response:

“He will escort me back to the inn.” Satsume felt a tug on his sleeve.

“Come again?” Satsume interjected. The noblewoman didn’t seem to pay it any mention, and continued arguing with her vassal.

"They already know I am the lady of Laus. In order to avoid actively taking a stance against Lycia, they cannot offer me refuge. Sir Knight, if you will.” She tugged at his sleeve again.

“Now hold on a minute-“ Satsume began, but a look at the girl’s eyes didn’t seem to give off an air of expectancy. He stared at her for a moment, then finally sighed and got to his feet. “…very well.”

"The two of you can get out the back,” said the alchemist.

“Sure,” said Satsume. He slid his arms underneath the lady’s back and thighs. “Hang on.” He hoisted her from the cot without much trouble. And with that, they were on their way. Blasted nobles, he mused silently. Seems like all of my trouble starts with them these days.

As Satsume skirted around the edge of the camp, girl in his arms, he figured it was as good a time as any to strike up a little conversation.

“What’s your name?” Satsume was careful to keep his eyes low to avoid tripping on anything and risk caber-tossing his cargo. He didn’t even notice that he was straying a bit close to the well area of the camp, where a line of refugees stood waiting for water. A short tug on his sleeve alerted Satsume to the situation, and he hastily stepped away from them, moving toward the tree line.

“Even better,” Satsume said, “Your man there has a point - why do you trust me?”
"Lady Cecily of House Laus, daughter of Lord Reynard," she introduced herself without hesitation. She directed his attention as the two approached the well and the knight changed directions to a more secluded location.

"I do not have any reason to trust you," Cecily admitted. "However, you did miss several opportunities to kill me. First being the antitoxin: you could have sabotaged it in order to cause my health to deteriorate further. Second being while the only people in the tent were you, the alchemist, and myself. Third being while everyone's attention was focused on the 'good' doctor. But if you are indeed one of them, then drop the act. It's not like I have the energy to resist you, nor do I deserve such pity."

As though to further her point, a nauseous wave afflicted her, and the noble rested her head against Satsume's shoulder are she endured its duration. Vomiting felt like a good idea to her, but she kept her insides in check.

"If not, then let's find some place to lay low," she quietly added.
Laus, huh? Satsume turned Cecily’s name and title over in his mind a couple times. Funny that one from a place notorious for mage-hating would be found here.

“I do not have any reason to trust you,” Cecily continued. Satsume then had to endure all of her explanations as to why she allowed herself to be scooped up and carried off by a stranger. The whole time, Satsume lamented his decision to get involved. I should have just gone home instead of puttering around this blasted camp.

“…if you are indeed one of them, then drop the act,” said Cecily. “It’s not like I have the energy to resist you, nor do I deserve such pity.”

“You know, I could always drop you instead,” Satsume quipped. “I’m sure a good fall is JUST what your body needs after whatever happened to you.” He kept his eyes fixed on the trees, stepping carefully over and across the roots and branches. Cecily rested her head against his shoulder plate, seemingly trying to fight off the urge to retch. Satsume paused and looked behind him as she tried to breathe through the nausea. They were a small ways from the clearing – the only way they would be seen would be if someone was specifically looking for them.

“Let’s find someplace to lay low,” said Cecily.

“My plan is to bring you to my village,” he replied. “There shouldn’t be too much traffic there. We also have a doctor that can treat you proper.” Satsume knelt down and tried to gently position Cecily’s feet on the ground.

“We’ll make better time if I carry you on my back,” he added quietly. That, and my arms were getting sore. She still looked about ready to keel over, so Satsume steadied her against him as he turned round and stooped to one knee. The width of his shoulder plates made it difficult for her to lock her hands together across his chest, so Satsume gently settled his hands underneath Cecily’s thighs and hoisted her up. Ahh, much better, he thought. Now the only hurdle would be making sure his armor didn’t clatter too much.

“One more thing,” Satsume continued. “I’m not a knight. I don’t serve anyone. Just call me Satsume.”
"Lady Cecily of House Laus, daughter of Lord Reynard."

That was the phrase Ray overheard as he finished his water, alongside the princess' examination of a lack of assassination attempts in order to discern how trustworthy her carrier was.

What is the princess of House Laus doing here?

Ray was a born magician, and that came with all of the curiosity that oh-so-frequently tends to get them killed. He trailed them.

I'll be spotted as soon as we get out of this crowd. Where's a vendor when you need one?

There's a vendor!

"Let me see that tome."

Ray quickly fumbled through the tome, looking for a certain spell.

"Here it is! I'll buy this. Here's 300 G."

That was the price back in Ilia. The price of them had really gone down since Roy's days. Or so he thought...

"Price hike. It's 500 G now."

"Yeah, because you're selling soooo many of them and don't have any competitors. Take it or leave it!"

"Grr... Ilian prick. Fine."

They exchanged their ends of the deal.

"I'm an Ilian prick who just saved a bunch of money. Later."

Wind isn't my forte, but whatever, a low-level spell should work fine. Now... let's see here.

Ray took a deep breath. In through the nose, out through the mouth.

"Jorna, Vcret, Ee-Kaze..."

Ray concentrated the spell in his feet, then took a few steps. They were much silenter than before.

Not completely silent but it'll get the job done. Now it's just an issue of staying hidden. Alright, here we go.
Cecily wanted to retort to the idea of being dropped, but she had difficulty formulating a dignified response thanks to her nausea. Although Satsume tried to let her stand, she could only manage to cling to the edges of his armor to keep herself from falling into the dirt before he could hoist her onto his back.

Her arms dangled freely from Satsume's shoulders as she was carried towards wherever Satsume said that he was taking her. That village or whatever. Her eyelids were heavy, so she did not resist them. Regardless of the discomfort, she was grateful.

"Why do you choose to help me?" she asked him. "Are you expecting a reward?"
Satsume had to be exceptionally careful while carrying Cecily on his back - she wasn't really hanging onto him all that well, so he often had to stoop forward to keep his balance as he walked.

"Why do you choose to help me?" she asked.

"I don't know. Felt wrong not to."

"Are you expecting a reward?"

"Not unless you're offering." Satsume ducked low underneath a branch. It was still a ways to his home, but he was making good time. He was certain he'd get there before sundown. "Being the lady of Laus, I'm sure flipping a few coins or favors to a commoner like me is no skin off your back. Which reminds me..." Satsume stopped walking. "Why is someone like you out here in the first place? I thought all of the Lycian nobility supported the Emperor."
Another urge to retch boiled up, making her gag on her own bile. Simply being exposed to the elements was taking its toil on her as the effects of the antitoxin waned. Sweat began to precipitate again, making her hands feel clammy. She wanted to tell Satsume to hurry up, but even her strength to speak was disappearing as minutes passed. All the lady could manage was a raspy breath in response.
Some time later…

Satsume cracked a weary smile as he entered the village. Cecily had fallen asleep during the later part of the trek, and her limp body weight was beginning to take its toll on his back. He picked out his family’s cottage and walked with renewed purpose, taking larger strides despite the aching in his calves. Pretty soon he would be rid of her weight on his shoulders (literally) and could rest.

Satsume paused in front of his house and was immediately caught by the familiar scent of soot and singed leather. A brief wave of nostalgia coursed through his mind, recalling the similar telltale smell of the smiths’ fires in the Ostian courtyard. He sighed and lifted one of his legs and kicked at the door gently with the toe of his boot. Here’s hoping my sister answers the door and not-

The door creaked open and the doorway was immediately occupied by a stocky, older man in his late fifties. His crimson hair was beginning to recede at the top, but his great red beard drew attention away from that pretty well. He was clad in an apron and sturdy work clothes, slightly dusty, with various small metalworking tools peeking out of the apron’s front pocket.

“Oh!” he exclaimed upon seeing Satsume.

“Hey, Dad.” Satsume said as respectfully as he could. He peered over his shoulder at Cecily, still slumped over his shoulders. She stirred a bit and winced. “Listen, uh… we need to get the physician for this woman.”

Satsume’s father gave him a hard look and crossed his arms. “Is she pregnant?”


“Fine, fine. Bring her inside, I’ll send Stella to get the doctor.” Satsume’s father stepped aside, trying to hide a mischievous grin. Satsume quickly stepped through the living room and moved past the kitchen. Hopefully they haven’t rented out my room.

No, it was still there, unoccupied, with everything as it had been when he left. Satsume carefully slipped Cecily down from off his shoulders and onto the bed, then wiped the sweat from his brow. “Whew!” He looked down at the young noble – she didn’t seem to be doing too well. Any reprieve that his antitoxin had provided was no doubt through her system, and her cheeks were thoroughly flushed. Satsume grabbed a cloth from the bedside table and rushed outside to the rain barrel.

Hope Stella gets back soon, he thought. Not much more I can do at this point. He dunked the cloth in the water and wrung it out some. As he went to move back into his room, he passed by his father again. He stopped him.

“Mind explaining what this is about?”

“I found her over at the refugee camp,” Satsume replied. “Someone poisoned her, I think. She didn’t trust the people there, so I brought her here.” He glanced into his room from where he stood. “Says she doesn’t trust me either, but I don’t know that I buy that.”

“I wouldn’t,” his father replied.

Satsume returned to his room and set the damp cloth on Cecily’s forehead. He could hear his father behind him moving some things around in the living room, and he soon appeared with a stool. “Here,” he said. “Stay with her until your sister returns. I have some things to take care of in the shop.”

“Sure.” Satsume set the stool down beside his bed and unstrapped his breastplate. He set it down quietly on the floor and seated himself next to Cecily.



“…It’s good to have you home again.”
Ray followed the two into a town, presumably the armor knight's living area, since he doubted the noble would have residence here.

Well... maybe.

In any case, it was clear they hadn't noticed him, so he went from stealthy to inconspicuous and simply walked into town.

It took Ray a while to realize why the armor knight looked so familiar. He hadn't given it a second thought considering the cargo it was carrying, but he pieced it together as he saw the armor knight talking to what was most likely his father.

What's Satsume doing here? The plot thickens.

He was about to scope out the place for an open window to get a better view he was rudely interru-


"Ow! Watch where you're going, jackass!"
There was no end to the assassins. The tent was shredded by the multitude of blades thrown and swung around. Several bodies already laid at his feet, but Theodore could already feel the fatigue of battle. They managed to cut him several times, across the shoulder, on the thigh, along the cheek. But he knew that the longer he stayed alive, the more time it would give Cecily and that Ostian to get away from the camp. He dodged another attack and delivered his counter in kind, finding the muscle in the assailant's shoulder with his blade. Another assassin took the wounded one's place before Theodore could finish him off and the process began anew.

There are too many. They are definitely Lausian trained. Even though they lacked his level of skill, they were of respectable caliber. But Theodore could feel the poison sapping his strength. His movements were dulling and his parries were less stable. He saw the final blow sweep before his eyes, but there was nothing he could do. The former royal bodyguard fell to his knees as blood oozed from the deep wound.

"My lady..."

Cecily gasped as her eyes flung open. She raced her fingers along the bed sheets, which were started to wet in her sweat, in search of someone's hand. Theodore's. Satsu-something's. Anyone's. It is hard to focus on anything in the poison-inflicted haze over her eyes.

"Where's Theodore?" she rasped.

Her mind was racing faster than she could control it. When her hand found something, she clenched it as tight as she could, even though her grip was weak and shaky. She didn't care who's or what it was. Her anchor of stability was out there fighting for his life, as well as for hers. Or he already died on her orders.

"Where's Theodore?" All she could feel was fear. She could hear people talking, but she couldn't comprehend anything.

"I can't die like this..." she whimpered.

"I can't die yet."
The faint patter of leather soles on the village road followed behind Limstella as she raced to the apothecary’s cottage. Everything had developed so suddenly, and she hadn’t even gotten a chance to talk to her brother – but with the urgency in her father’s voice as he explained the situation, she didn’t have time to be complaining about that. All too typical of you, Satsume, she thought as she ran. Trouble finds you faster than a wyvern’s tail.

She sped along the road and finally hung a left towards the last cluster of houses. The apothecary’s cottage was the first one off the main road. Limstella slid to a stop in front of the door and pounded on it with her fist. She would have probably hammer-punched the physician himself if she hadn’t caught herself mid-swing as he opened the door.

“We need your help!” she cried. “No time to waste – they’re at my house!”

The young apothecary’s eyes lit up as he comprehended the gravity of the situation. He disappeared into his home for a moment, and before long he returned with a large medicine bag slung over his shoulder.

“Lead on!” he shouted.

Together, the two sprinted back up the road, with Limstella leading the way.

“What’s the situation?!” huffed the medicine man as they ran.

“Some girl my brother brought in!” Limstella yelled over her shoulder. “I don’t know what’s wrong with her, but my father said-“

*SLAM!* Just like that, Limstella was jutted off to the side and sprawled out on the path, just in front of her house.

“Ow! Watch where you’re going, jackass!” said whatever she ran into.

“Sorry!” she gasped, scrambling to her feet. She dusted herself off and gave a quick glare back to the apothecary, as if to say, “thanks for the heads up, asshole.” The apothecary gulped and shrugged. She turned to her unexpected roadblock – a short kid. Shorter than her, even - maybe five and a half feet, with long green hair. “Kind of in a hurry, wasn’t looking where I was going. Are you hurt, miss?”

Before proceeding further with the young lady, Limstella gestured first to the apothecary, then to her house. “It’s over there! Go!” she ordered. The apothecary nodded and trotted off. Limstella watched him go, then spun back to study the stranger, who was also in the process of picking herself up and dusting herself off.

“I haven’t seen you around here before,” she said, trying to make a bit of small talk before politely excusing herself from the conversation. She brushed a lock of blue hair out from in front of her glasses. “Are you from the camp?”

Satsume recoiled as Cecily tossed around. What do I do..? he asked inwardly. Come on, Stella! What’s taking so long?! He could see the sweat pouring from Cecily’s face as her cheeks reddened and her breathing quickened. She began to mumble something. Satsume attempted to stand.

“Hold on!” he whispered sharply. “I’ll go get-“

Suddenly, Satsume felt a clammy hand seize his wrist. He turned and looked back at Cecily’s face. Their eyes met, but it was almost like she couldn’t see him, a stare not unlike that of a blind person.

“Where’s Theodore…?” she said, her throat parched. Her eyes were darting back and forth now. Satsume clasped his free hand over Cecily’s. He didn’t have a response. Instead, he tried to subdue the growing sense of panic in his own head as he clutched the young lady’s hand.

It’s only on the other side of the village! What’s taking so long?!

Finally, Satsume heard the frantic footsteps of someone else in the house. A harried apothecary stood in the doorway to his room. “I’m here to help!” he cried. “How is she?”

“Bad,” Satsume replied quickly. “It’s poison of some kind. Conventional antitoxin took the edge off for a little bit, but she’s gotten-“ Satsume was hung up mid-sentence by a violent tug on his arm.

“I can’t die yet…” Cecily whimpered.

“Please leave her to me.” The physician reached into his satchel and started pulling a couple of vials out of it. “I think I know what it is.”

“Hurry.” Satsume reached over and pulled the damp cloth from Cecily’s forehead, sopping up some of the sweat that had gathered near her temples. He could feel his own heart thundering with anxiety. Satsume took a deep breath and gently laid his hand over Cecily’s again. Gotta stay calm, he thought. If I start to lose MY mind, we’re BOTH in dire straits…
“Kind of in a hurry, wasn’t looking where I was going. Are you hurt, miss?”

hmm... is that a medicine bag? I wonder if she's connected to...

"I'm fine, sorry for the trouble. It's been a long day." Ray quickly made up a lie.

“It’s over there! Go!” the woman ordered to the apothecary after gesturing towards her house.

Yep, that's the place. Now how to get in to find out more?

As the apothecary left towards the house she turned to face him.

“I haven’t seen you around here before." She then paused to brush a lock of blue hair out from in front of her glasses. “Are you from the camp?”

Just then Ray came up with a lie, and he came up with it quick.

"Yeah, I came from that way. I'm not sure how I got here, actually. This is on the way to Pharae, isn't it? I think I might be lost... uh, but that's not important right now. Is someone in trouble? Maybe I can help."
((Lackluster post. Not sure what is there to do.))

Cecily's breathing grew irregular as the medicine man pulled items from his bag. He held her eyelids apart, getting a good look at her blank stare, before he began.

"Whoever designed this toxin is pretty clever," the apothecary murmured as he mixed drugs together.

He tilted Cecily's head back and gave her the first of the drugs, to which Cecily immediately started choking on.

"It probably doesn't taste good, but you have to drink it, miss," he consoled her.

Cecily didn't reply. The apothecary didn't bother with further pleasantries: he pushed her jaw closed and held it shut until he could hear her gulp down his concoction. He gave her a second draught, which eased her fever.

"The toxin targeted her mind and body. It'll take time before she can move again," the apothecary explained as he packed his things.
Pages: 1 2 3