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Jeralt's Journal

[ Codex of Information ]

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a character in “Fire Emblem: Apotheosis”, as played by Nemeseia

Description



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《Jeralt Eisner》
AGE xxxx┇ ??xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Himself
xHEIGHT ┇ 6'xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 184 lbs.

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Jeralt, also known as The Blade Breaker, is a current mercenary and former Knight of Seiros. After a mysterious incident twenty-one years ago, he disappeared, initially believed killed in a fire that broke out on the grounds of Garreg Mach Monastery. However, for unknown reasons, he actually left the Church and his knighthood at that time, after which point he married and had a son, losing his wife to illness shortly thereafter. Jeralt is a gruff personality, not especially good with people, deeply secretive and slow to trust. Those who knew him before he left the Church have been known to comment that he hardly seems to have changed at all in the twenty years since, sentiments that he shrugs off dismissively. Fond of both drink and fishing, Jeralt is first and foremost a fighter, and always has been.





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《Reynard Voigt》
AGE xxxx┇ 25?xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Adrestian Empire?
xHEIGHT ┇ 5'11"xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 175 lbs.

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Of all the members of the Black Eagle house, Reynard is the only one Vridel has much respect for. He's a rather mysterious fellow, and no few people confess to finding him somewhat shady, mostly for the fact that he is rarely-seen outside of class and famously evasive in conversation, rather like the foxes he was named after. He always seems to be hiding an amusing secret from the expression on his face. The circumstances under which he came to attend the Officers' Academy are unknown; as are his parentage, place of birth, and other ordinary and mundane details of his history, to say nothing of his motives. Surely he must have passed the usual criteria for admission, but there is simply a dearth of information about him in collective student knowledge. The only person he ever seems to talk to is Vridel; he doesn't even generally show up to meals, though he will appear in class from time to time, particularly on Tuesday afternoons, when the Black Eagles have lessons from Cyril, or on fencing days, when they practice with Professor Jeritza. He is exceptionally skilled in swordplay, though as of yet no one has seen him do anything else, so it is hard to gauge his overall competence.


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《Volkhard von Arundel》
AGE xxxx┇ ??xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Adrestian Empire
xHEIGHT ┇ 5'11"xx.xWEIGHT x┇ ?? lbs.

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Volkhard von Arundel is the head of a minor noble family within the Adrestian Empire. He was granted the title of lord after his sister, Patricia, wed Emperor Ionius IX. During the Insurrection of the Seven in Imperial Year 1171, in which he played a key role supporting Duke Aegir, Volkhard took Patricia and his younger nieces and nephews, including Vridel, to the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus in apparent exile. Patricia eventually married King Lambert, while Volkhard and the children returned to the Empire in 1174. Though it is not publicly known, he was in fact the driving force behind the Crest experiments performed on the Imperial children, of which Vridel was the only survivor. Their relationship is understandably chilly, but neither has cut off contact with the other completely as of yet. Volkhard still intends to make use of his nephew, while Vridel is certain that his uncle knows more of the true history of Fódlan than he has yet said.


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《Emperor Ionius IX》
AGE xxxx┇ 57xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ The Adrestian Empire
xHEIGHT ┇ 5'10"xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 161 lbs.

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Ionius von Hresvelg is the Emperor of the Adrestian Empire. He was crowned Ionius IX in Imperial Year 1136, the same year he wed his wife Patricia, the sister of Lord Volkhard von Arundel. He fathered a total of eleven children during his reign, but of these only his ninth, Vridel, was born with a Crest. In 1171, he was stripped of most of his power by a group of nobles led by Duke Aegir in a coup d'etat called the Insurrection of the Seven. Amidst the upheaval, the younger children and Patricia were taken to the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus in apparent exile by Patricia's brother, Lord Volkhard von Arundel, who was also one of the key conspirators. Patricia later married King Lambert of Faerghus, and stayed behind in the Kingdom when Volkhard and the children returned to the Empire in 1174. Ionius was powerless to protect his children from the experimentation visited upon them by Volkard and his allies, rendered essentially a puppet ruler in the wake of the Insurrection, and himself a sickly, infirm man. He has to all appearances lost all but the faintest traces of the man he once was, and now listlessly languishes in the capital, unable to change his lot or unwilling to try.


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《Monica von Ochs》
AGE xxxx┇ ??xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Adrestian Empire
xHEIGHT ┇ 5'5xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 130 lbs.

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Monica von Ochs is the heir to House von Ochs, an Imperial barony on the northern half of the western peninsula known as Fódlan’s Fangs. She was a student at the Garreg Mach Officer's Academy last year, but disappeared just before graduation. Because her regent did not contact the Academy in response to their inquiry, it was presumed that she had gone home rather than attempting her final exams. She was found along with Amalthea in the custody of the Death Knight, and like Thea does not remember the details of her captivity. Her professors have remarked that her personality seems to have changed a great deal, as she was once a rather shy, retiring girl, and now seems to be rather outgoing and gregarious. She has expressed a desire to finish out the year, and rejoined the Black Eagle house.






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《Devon Margrave》
AGE xxxx┇ 16xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Holy Kingdom of Faerghus
xHEIGHT ┇ 5'6"xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 150 lbs.

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Devon Margrave is a citizen of Fódlan, born to a fur trapper from Sreng and a farmer from Faerghus. His parents met and married rather young, and were both killed by the same plague that ravaged much of Fhirdiad and took the life of Sorcha's birth mother. He and his siblings were left to eke out a living for themselves, and when this proved impossible in the countryside, they moved to the capital, sleeping rough and learning how to steal to survive. One day, Devon was caught stealing by Lord Lonato, a minor regional overlord in Faerghus, and brought back to his estate in the far west of the country. Rather than attempt to punish him for his misdeeds, Lonato taught Devon to read, and sponsored his entry into the Officers' Academy. Devon, always small and nimble, naturally excels with bows and short blades, preferring knives even over swords. He's generally a little shy and unsure of himself, but upbeat and optimistic overall. He does come under some suspicion for being part Srengese, but generally doesn't let it get to him much.



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《Sylvi Galatea》
AGE xxxx┇ 17xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Holy Kingdom of Faerghus
xHEIGHT ┇ 5'7"xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 132 lbs.

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House Galatea is a branch from House Daphnel, defected to the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus. As a result, Sylvi was born with a minor Crest of Daphnel, which immediately brought her family into the good graces of most other noble houses in Faerghus. Because of her Crest, she is the heir-apparent to House Galatea, and their saving grace. The region ruled by her family is a frigid wasteland and her House doesn't have much in way of money and privilege. Her father is hoping to marry her off to another Noble family in order to save themselves and replenish their coffers. While Sylvi believes that her duty to her family is her highest priority, she can't help but think it's unfair that she cannot live her life the way she wants to. She wants to be a War Master and serve her Kingdom and Queen, however; if she were to marry a Noble, she wouldn't be able to follow her dreams. It leaves her conflicted with herself. On one hand she wants to be the filial child, and on the other hand, she wants to give up her titles. This, however, she does not voice out loud. She is fairly decent with axes, and despite her stature, she is fairly strong in hand-to-hand combat.



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《Cornelia Arnim》
AGE xxxx┇ ??xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Holy Kingdom of Faerghus
xHEIGHT ┇ 5'5"xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 135 lbs.

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Cornelia is a mage who is revered as a holy woman in the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus. Around Imperial Year 1162, a plague ravaged the Kingdom, claiming the life of the Queen Consort, Sorcha's mother. Cornelia cured the plague, and in gratitude, she was rewarded with a position as a mage in the service of the royal family. She is also an engineer, and has spearheaded several important civic and technological projects in Fhirdiad and Faerghus more generally, including the Kingdom's aqueduct and sewerage systems, once unhygienic and disease ridden. They are now state of the art, and Fhirdiad easily has the most stable, technologically-advanced infrastructure of any city in Fódlan. Being the court mage, she's had much interaction with Sorcha since the latter was a young child, and has become something of a mentor figure, recognizing a native intelligence and talent for technological ways of thinking in the Princess. Such things were never especially encouraged by anyone else, but the popular holy woman made at least some of them accessible to Sorcha, something for which she is grateful. They still write letters to each other, and Cornelia is known to send baskets of sweets periodically.


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《Rodrigue Fraldarius》
AGE xxxx┇ 45xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Holy Kingdom of Faerghus
xHEIGHT ┇ 5'11xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 181 lbs.

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Rodrigue Achille Fraldarius, also known as the Shield of Faerghus, is a lord of the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, and the current head of House Fraldarius. He is also known to be a magnificent warrior, and served as the right hand of the king of Faerghus during a military campaign in Sreng. In Imperial Year 1176, his son and heir Glenn was slain during the Tragedy of Duscur, leaving him without an heir. Rodrigue's estranged half-sister was Senka's mother, making him her uncle, and he is considerably closer with her than the rest of House Fraldarius is. He has also been something of a mentor for Sorcha over the years, or at least someone she could look up to, who treated her a great deal better than most of the Kingdom's nobles. He's an honorable man who believes deeply in the ideals of chivalry.





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《Sofia Esparsa》
AGE xxxx┇ 21xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Leicester Alliance
xHEIGHT ┇ 6'0"xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 165 lbs.

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Sofia is the daughter of wealthy Alliance merchants, folk who have made their trade in fabrics. Her family is reputed for their famous silkweaving technique, as well as their extremely savvy business sense. While this has taken them relatively far, it has not made them noble in the slightest. Born the first of three daughters, Sofia was expected from an early age to marry well and increase her family's standing—so crafty and ambitious were they that at one point she was almost affianced to Mercer von Reigan. The deal fell through, however, in no small measure because of vocal protestations on both their parts. It wasn't that they hated each other—on the contrary, Sofia quite likes Mercer. Enough to tell him that she only likes women, and that she'd be completely miserable married to a noble. She wants a life of adventure and interesting things, though her quiet personality does not in fact suggest such proclivities at first. Not long after Mercer got the arrangement nipped in the bud, Sofia met and fell in love with Dierdre, and they plan to elope after finishing their course at the Officers' Academy, which will hopefully prepare them for a life of making their own way without the support of their families. She is a talented fighter, very defensive, and aspires to become a proper knight, either in service of the Church or independently, whichever will help her realize her dreams.


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《Dierdre Allard》
AGE xxxx┇ 19xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Leicester Alliance
xHEIGHT ┇ 5'1"xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 110 lbs.

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Dierdre is the bastard daughter of the noble house of Goneril. Born out of wed-lock, her only saving grace was the minor Crest of Goneril that she'd inherited. She was raised to be one of the successors to Lord Goneril, despite not being his child, however; she abandoned her nobility in order to do something she wanted. She was always a rebellious and hot-tempered child, and even into her teens, she was strong-willed. She didn't want to be confined to rules and arranged marriages, and that was all that awaited her in House Goneril. She traveled most of the Leicester Alliance, picking up various trades and skills before meeting Sofia. She fell in love with Sofia at first sight, and enrolled in the Officers Academy to improve upon her magical skills. She'd always been talented in the arts, and wants to help Sofia achieve her dreams... with a little bit of competition. After all, everyone knows that mages are better than knights.


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《Matteo Andrea Gloucester》
AGE xxxx┇ 25xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Leicester Alliance
xHEIGHT ┇ 6'0"xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 170 lbs.

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Matteo Andrea Gloucester, newly-minted Duke of Gloucester, is hardly what one would refer to as a temperate personality. As the head of the second-most powerful house in the Leicester Alliance, he grew up quite aware of his heritage and all the things it meant—as well as all the things it meant he could get away with. Matteo is well-known within the Alliance for his libertine indulgences and his tendency towards skirt-chasing, which rarely ends as well as he promises it will. He, like most of the well-positioned nobles in the Alliance is, however, a cunning schemer beneath all the bluster, albeit one without much of a conscience or sense of responsibility to his people. He looks out for himself and his house first and foremost. His second priority is enjoying as many of the good things in life as possible; the well-being of his country is a distant third at best. He resents House Riegan for their place as first among peers at the Roundtable Conference, and seems to have a particular disdain for Mercer, rooted perhaps in the Riegan heir's half-Almyran heritage, though he keeps this subtle. His latest political maneuver is an engagement to the Princess of Faerghus, though it would be a mistake to assume he's the sort to settle down in any way.



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《Alaric Goneril》
AGE xxxx┇ 26xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Leicester Alliance
xHEIGHT ┇ 6'2xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 184 lbs.

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Duke Alaric Goneril is heir to House Goneril, and Dierdre's cousin. He inherited his position sometime after he graduated from the Academy. His father had fallen ill and could no longer participate in the Roundtable summits, and thus named Alaric his successor. He was known in his academy days for his keen intellect, winning The Battle of the Eagle and Lion during his academic year for the Golden Deer House, however; he wasn't a very social person. Others often ignored him mostly due to his serious expressions, however; Alaric wasn't the intimidating figure people made him out to be. He is actually rather kind and gentle, things a Duke of the Alliance should not be, per se. He has not seen fit to take a wife, yet, despite his father's insistence he do so. After all, it is his duty to continue the family line. As the head of House Goneril, Alaric was charged with defending the Leicester Alliance from invasions from the neighboring kingdom of Almyra and managing the fortress of Fódlan's Locket. He earned a reputation as Leicester's greatest general. Prior to Mercer being recognized as the true heir of House Riegan, many thought Alaric would succeed Duke Riegan as the new leader of the Alliance. He is, however, glad that is not the case. He rather likes Mercer





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《Archbishop Rhea》
AGE xxxx┇ ??xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Church of Seiros
xHEIGHT ┇ 5'11"xx.xWEIGHT x┇ ?? lbs.

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Lady Rhea is the Archbishop of the Church of Seiros, and as such the leader of the Knights of Seiros, as well as the administrator of the largest religious institution in the world, and the only one worth the name in Fódlan. She is also technically the headmaster of its famous Officer's Academy, and as such has been helping to train the finest leaders on the continent for years. Rhea is what one would expect of a head of a church: benevolent, kind, and compassionate. While she is such to the devout followers of the church and the students and faculty of the Officers Academy, she is ruthless and dismissive of those who oppose the church. Any who do so are dealt by her righteous vision of justice and even labels their defeats and misfortunes as judgement of the Goddess. Though it might not be expected for one in her position, she is quite capable of self-defense, with a mastery of light magic, and extensive skill with sword and shield as well.



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《Lyanna von Kreuz》
AGE xxxx┇ ???xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Church of Seiros
xHEIGHT ┇ 5'6"xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 135 lbs.

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Lyanna von Kreuz, Amalthea's sister, is a member of the Church of Seiros' administration, the personal assistant and advisor to Archbishop Rhea, ad accordingly one of those tasked with coordinating the Knights of Seiros. She is a rather mysterious figure, often sighted around the monastery but seldom on anything other than what seems to be very important business. Though nominally the leader of a group of knights, Lyanna is much more inclined towards the magical arts, and is reputed to be a Gremory of surpassing skill, aided by the Major Crest of Cethleann she possesses. She's more than a fair hand with a sword as well, however, and it would be unwise to underestimate her physical prowess due to her rather small structure. Similar enough in appearance to Amalthea that the two are sometimes mistaken for twins, she nevertheless has a certain sort of maturity to her that marks her as the elder, though her features are quite youthful for one of her high rank, much like the Archbishop's. She is known for a somewhat strict and fastidious, orderly personality, and is often a practical, non-nonsense voice in discussions with the Archbishop and others.



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《Tomas Kriegfeldt》
AGE xxxx┇ ??xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Church of Seiros
xHEIGHT ┇ 5'9xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 159 lbs.

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Tomas Kriegfeldt is a longstanding member of the clergy of the Church of Seiros. For almost forty years, he has served as the librarian at Garreg Mach Monastery, and there is surely not a soul within the walls who knows more of its contents than he. An affable if slightly absentminded personality, he enjoys assisting students and faculty alike with their research. He's also known to have some modest talent for the magical arts, though he will openly admit that his theoretical knowledge far outstrips his skill in this regard, and many of the Academy's students swiftly overtake him in practice.



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《Hanneman von Essar》
AGE xxxx┇ 51xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Church of Seiros
xHEIGHT ┇ 6'2xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 161 lbs.

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Hanneman von Essar is an instructor at the Garreg Mach Officers' Academy, and also a scholar of great renown. Called the "Father of Crestology," Hanneman has pioneered many techniques in the study of Crests, and knows more about the subject than perhaps anyone alive. Formerly a nobleman of the Empire, Hanneman gave up his status in pursuit of greater knowledge—and access to non-Imperial Crests. Himself possessed of a Minor Crest of Indech, Hanneman is skilled with bows, as many in possession of such a crest seem to be, but his primary focus is in black and dark magic. He, along with Manuela, is one of the rotating 'home room' instructors at the Academy, and does genuinely seem to enjoy instructing students. His bickering with his counterpart is oft-noted among the student body, with the more fussy, fastidious Hanneman providing a sharp contrast to the more relaxed and carefree Manuela. The perceptive are easily able to pick up on the respect and affection underlying these exchanges, even when the two frustrate each other.



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《Manuela Casagranda》
AGE xxxx┇ ??xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Church of Seiros
xHEIGHT ┇ 5'6xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 125 lbs.

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Manuela Casagranda is a teacher at the Garreg Mach Officers' Academy. Formerly a singer with the famous Mittlefrank Opera Company, she was hailed for many years as 'The Divine Songstress.' The left the company to pursue teaching in 1174, for unknown reasons. In addition to her teaching post, she serves as the Academy's physician, aided by a substantial knowledge of herbs and medicines as well as more magical healing techniques, which she is able to blend quite effectively. Manuela is a seemingly carefree personality who specializes in white magic and blades, though as a rotating homeroom teacher, she has to know a bit of everything. Her demeanor often leads people to underestimate her, as she tends to more readily display her flaws than her talents, and is known for her tendency to overdo it when drinking and her rather luckless love life. Despite this, she is well-loved by her students.



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《Alois Rangeld》
AGE xxxx┇ 45xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Church of Seiros
xHEIGHT ┇ 5'7xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 170 lbs.

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AASPD 」x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACHA 」x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

Alois Rangeld is a Knight of Seiros and a part-time instructor at the Officer's Academy, occasionally offering tutorials on axemanship, barehanded fighting, and armor maintenance. The second born son of a merchant family, Alois's parents died when he was young and he came to live at Garreg Mach Monastery. At the age of 11, he was discovered by Jeralt, who was then captain of the knights, and became his squire. He was officially knighted when he was 24 years old, though Jeralt disappeared that same year. Alois has a boisterous, dramatic personality that sometimes obscures a truly chivalric heart. Devoted to the Church and the protection of the weak, he can come across as a little much sometimes, but his intentions are always good. He likes telling jokes, but they're not that funny, and fishing, though he isn't that good, and has an almost childlike affection for sweets.


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《Jeritza von Hrym》
AGE xxxx┇ 22xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Church of Seiros
xHEIGHT ┇ 5'9xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 160 lbs.

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AADEX 」x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAARES 」x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AASPD 」x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACHA 」x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

Jeritza von Hrym is the fencing instructor at the Garreg Mach Officers' Academy. A strange, withdrawn personality, he is nevertheless well-respected for his skill, even though his eccentricities are noticeable. For one, he is never seen without the white mask that covers the upper half of his face. Jeritza dislikes mingling with others so much that he will outright reject people who attempt polite banter. He does, however, seem to have quite the taste for battle, from sparring to more serious kinds, which leaves some wondering why he chooses to serve as an instructor for students rather than a Knight of Seiros proper.



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《Shamir Nevrand》
AGE xxxx┇ 25xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Church of Seiros
xHEIGHT ┇ 5'4"xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 131 lbs.

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AASPD 」x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACHA 」x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

Shamir is a master of the bow serving as a Knight of Seiros. Until Imperial Year 1175, Shamir was a mercenary working in Dagda, her homeland. After Dagda and Brigid invaded the Adrestian Empire, sparking the Dagda and Brigid War, the Empire counter-invaded both countries. Shamir's homeland was destroyed, and her partner, whom she was in love with, was killed. After that, Shamir traveled to Fódlan and lived as a wanderer until she was taken in by Archbishop Rhea. In gratitude, Shamir pledged her loyalty to Rhea and joined the Knights of Seiros, though she never became a believer in the Church itself. She is a terse, practical personality with a deadpan sense of humor. These days, she spends a lot of time working with Catherine, whom she refers to as her partner. some have speculated that this is more than a purely platonic connection, but Shamir refuses to comment.



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《The Divine Seiros》
AGE xxxx┇ ??xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ ??
xHEIGHT ┇ ??xx.xWEIGHT x┇ ?? lbs.

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AASPD 」x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACHA 」x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

The Divine Seiros, founder of the Church that bears her name, is a mortal who received a divine revelation from the Goddess Sothis. According to Church lore, she was guided to save the people of Fódlan from Nemesis, the tyrant-king bent on conquest and ruin. From the holy site of the Red Canyon, Seiros gathered her army, led by the Four Saints and the Ten Elites, and with the power of Crest magic and legendary artifacts bestowed upon them by the goddess, the army drove out Nemesis and his forces, finally felling him on the Tailtean Plains in the Imperial Year 91. Seiros is said to have slain Nemesis in single combat.



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《Saint Indech》
AGE xxxx┇ ??xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ ??
xHEIGHT ┇ ??xx.xWEIGHT x┇ ?? lbs.

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AASPD 」x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACHA 」x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

Saint Indech is one of the Four Saints of the church of Seiros, who fought alongside her in the so-called War of Heroes. It is said that he was known for his wisdom, as well as his unerring and precise skill with all manner of weaponry, but especially the bow, with which he is often depicted. He is known to have been less adept with other people, however, and as such he is sometimes appealed to by other introverted types, and is the patron as well of hermits and the hunters that live at the fringes of civilization. Like the other Saints, he is believed to now dwell eternally on the Blue Sea Star with the Goddess and his fellows.


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《Saint Macuil》
AGE xxxx┇ ??xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ ??
xHEIGHT ┇ ??xx.xWEIGHT x┇ ?? lbs.

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Saint Macuil is one of the Four Saints of the church of Seiros. It is said that her gifts for tactics and magic were unparalleled in all of Fódlan during her time, and she served as chief strategist for Seiros and her armies. She was also a pioneering figure of the magical arts and the study of crests. Along with the other three Saints, Macuil is believed to have perished almost a thousand years ago, at the end of her natural lifespan, having aided in Seiros' defeat of Nemesis and ascended to the side of the Goddess Sothis.



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《Saint Cichol》
AGE xxxx┇ ??xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ ??
xHEIGHT ┇ ??xx.xWEIGHT x┇ ?? lbs.

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Saint Cichol is one of the Four Saints of the church of Seiros, and the father of Saint Cethleann. Known for his skill and strength-at-arms, Saint Cichol is said to have been a master of the lance, as well as master of the skies. As Seiros's right hand, he occupied a unique place even among the Saints, and was a battlefield commander of unparalleled charisma. Believed to be the first to have ascended to the side of the goddess, the day after Seiros herself managed the feat.



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《Saint Cethleann》
AGE xxxx┇ ??xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ ??
xHEIGHT ┇ ??xx.xWEIGHT x┇ ?? lbs.

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Saint Cethleann is the gentlest of her peers by far, renowned for her skill with holy magic and her bright, benevolent, and kind nature. The daughter of Saint Cichol, she was young at the time of the War of Heroes; nevertheless her role in the defeat of Nemesis was pivotal. It is believed that she was able to lay a partial seal on the power of Nemesis and his followers, enabling the others to defeat them once and for all. As with all of her kin, she is believed to have earned an eternity at Sothis's side, and to reside now upon the Blue Sea Star, where she looks down upon Fódlan with love and care.







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《???》
AGE xxxx┇ agexxxxAFFILIATION ┇ ??
xHEIGHT ┇ ??xx.xWEIGHT x┇ ?? lbs.

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For as long as Cyril can remember, he's been dreaming of things he cannot explain. Battlefields he's never seen, people he's never met, events he's never heard of, all of them consistent and somehow with the feel of reality to them. Perhaps strangest of all is this girl. When they meet, it is in a room enshrouded in darkness, where she sits in a pool of greensih light, upon a throne made of granite. Her appearance and voice are childish, but her mannerisms are those of a very old person, perhaps a grandmother. He can rarely remember what they speak of, a difficulty she also seems to encounter, but the sense of deep familiarity remains. Of late, they've both been remembering more, though they still aren't sure of her name.




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《Patricia von Arundel》
AGE xxxx┇ 35 (at death)xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Adrestia, Faerghus
xHEIGHT ┇ 5'7"xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 130 lbs.

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Patricia was born to House Arundel, at the time a minor house, and is the younger sister of Volkhard. Her marriage to Emperor Ionius IX raised her house to significantly higher social standing within the Empire. She gave birth to Vridel in Imperial Year 1161. In Imperial Year 1171, when Vridel was 10, her brother, along with some other nobles, instigated a coup against the Emperor known as the Insurrection of the Seven. During the incident, she, Vridel, and several of her other children relocated to the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, where she married King Lambert, becoming his second wife and Sorcha's stepmother. Patricia was never especially maternal with Sorcha, being a rather distant, melancholy woman who seemed to engage minimally with anyone that wasn't her son. Though Vridel eventually returned to the Empire in Imperial Year 1174, Patricia remained in Faerghus as its Queen Consort until her death during the Tragedy of Duscur in Imperial Year 1176.






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《Espera Scutari》
AGE xxxx┇ 47xxxxAFFILIATION ┇ Duscur
xHEIGHT ┇ 6'3xx.xWEIGHT x┇ 190 lbs.

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AASPD 」x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACHA 」x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

Once a renowned General of Duscur, now the Rebel Leader of what's left of its people. Espera was injured gravely during the Tragedy, however; he was saved by his lieutenant, and daughter, Giulia. She died saving his life, and since then, Espera has harbored a deep hatred for those in Faerghus. His current mission is to find the ones responsible for the massacre of his people, his king and queen, and of his princess. He was thoroughly surprised, however, to find out that Princess Senka still lives. Now that he knows that the royal line isn't gone, he is doing everything in his power to gather the required resources and soldiers to take back their lands. He is a stern, and cunning individual, however; he is not seeking revenge. He only wants justice for his people and his daughter. He is a skilled pegasi rider, who specializes in lances.


So begins...

Jeralt's Journal's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Sorcha Blaiddyd Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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Mercer von Riegan

Mercer wasn't the kind of person who had exact faith in the Goddess. As Sorcha whispered for the Goddess to protect them, Mercer felt a bitter feeling go through him, however; he hoped for the same. Death was not something he was afraid of, but it was too soon. He had ambitions, things he needed to accomplish before his time came to an end. If he died here, on this field with Sorcha and Vridel...

He pushed the thought from his head and held his sword close to his body. Goddess or no Goddess, he was going to use whatever remaining strength he had left to keep himself alive. He didn't need the Goddess's protection, and perhaps she knew that. Perhaps she already knew that they were going to succeed. Somehow, they were going to live to see another day. Mercer had to believe in that thought, that they would make it through this with their own strength.

“We just need to hold out a little longer," he gritted through his teeth. “Just a little longer," he repeated. For what, he did not know. He could see that the other two were as tired as he was. They were not trained soldiers; they weren't ready for this. Not yet. But he supposed that's how his life was, being thrown from one situation into the next. He just wished that it didn't have to involve Sorcha or Vridel. All he had to do was survive. Even if it wasn't him who survived. As long as the other two lived... he'd be okay with that. They just needed to survive a little longer.

Live.

The crude lance Sorcha had picked up from the ground on their way out of the field was by this point covered in blood. The Princess herself was slicked with sweat, tendrils of blonde hair plastered to her face and neck. Her grip was shaky, Mercer could tell; she looked unwell, like she was fighting down the desire to be sick right here in the middle of the burning forest clearing. But still, she neither quit nor faltered in her stance, even though some of that blood had to be slick on her hands now, and even though she herself was bleeding, from the first leg wound and a few others she'd taken since.

On her other side, the Imperial Prince looked more winded than anything. His eyes were narrow, lips slightly parted to accommodate his breathing, sword still held at the ready. If he had any magic left, he was conserving it, though in a slightly lull in the action, he did reach over and tap Sorcha on the shoulder. Healing spells weren't quite as good as a proper rest and recovery, but it seemed to close up a few of her wounds, at least; she stood a little straighter.

The brigands, meanwhile, had figured out that they weren't dealing with average prey here, and slowed down their approach, fanning out and drawing closer all at once. One, a large fellow with a thick leather breastplate lined in fur, seemed to be the leader. He was definitely carrying the nicest axes, one in each hand—a large steel one, and what seemed to be one of the smaller throwing sorts that was enchanted to return on command.

He assessed them with dark eyes, face pulling into a sneer. “Three little whelps, givin' ya this much trouble?" he snarled the question at his underlings, pointing his axe at the trio. “S'pose I gotta do everything m'self."

“Hey now, I'm sure they're doing their best to take us down. We just aren't willing to do so," Mercer replied, a small quirk to his lips. He knew this wasn't the best situation for that kind of reply, but there were few precious minutes left. And at this point he was willing to draw those few minutes out with light talk.

“And hey, if you did everything yourself, maybe you wouldn't need your band of followers with you. Imagine all the money you'd have if that were the case. Why... I'm sure you'd be as rich and fat as the next noble," he continued baiting. That was likely to end their time, faster, but Mercer knew that people made mistakes when they were angry. And those mistakes would be the difference between life and death for the three of them.

“You first," the brigand decided, drawing back with the axe in his left hand and letting it fly towards Mercer.

Before he could even react, it was met in midair by a javelin, both clanging fiercely and falling to the ground some distance away. The bandit barely had time to more than blink in confusion before two figures, one mounted and one afoot, burst through the treeline from the side of the village.

The man on his feet seemed to have thrown the javelin. It was back in his hand a moment later, and even as he ran he lined up his next throw, hurling it with seemingly no effort at all for the nearest bandit while the mounted man—older, it seemed, and carrying an ordinary lance—charged his horse into their left flank with a short battle cry.

Of the two, the younger was by far the quieter, seeming to make almost no sound at all as he darted for the next bandit in the knot, leaving the lance through the other's chest. His hands seemed to light up with crackling magic; he loosed two bolts of it at different targets before flowing into a high kick, slamming his foot into the leaders jaw and turning aside the awkward retaliatory axe blow with the bracer on his right arm.

“What the—" the bandit leader managed no more than that before another bolt of lightning struck him in the chest, delivered by a heavy punch.

Vridel was the first to capitalize, lunging for another bandit distracted by the spectacle of his fellows falling like hewn wheat before the two newcomers. He landed two slashes, and the third stab felled his opponent, but another was coming in from behind, recovered and intent on attacking an easier foe.

Mercer didn't hesitate, and reacted with a deft hand. He lifted his sword in order to block the attack that would have sliced Vridel's back open. His eyes narrowed, and his teeth clenched at the strain of the axe he pushed against. His strength was almost depleted at this point, but he wasn't going to allow one of his comrades to fall as long as he took breath. He managed to make the bandit stagger, and took the opportunity to swipe his bow, now useless without any arrows, at the man's hand, disabling him for the moment.

Whoever these people were that were helping was of little consequence to Mercer. That they were helping at all was small relief to him, and it meant that they were going to be okay. Or about as okay as they could be. The two warriors were skilled, from the way they were fighting, but something about the younger man's face was unnerving to Mercer. There was nothing; no joy, no disdain, no revel. It was as if he were simply just existing and nothing more.

He wasn't allowed more time to assess the man as a sword came swinging in his view. It sliced a few strands of his hair, but Mercer managed to duck his head in time to avoid losing it. Better his hair than his life, he supposed. He twisted his arm around, bringing the sword up just in time to block another attack before unleashing a small flurry of aggressive attacks on the man. It wasn't the best idea, using so much strength at once, but it at least was enough to force the bandit into a defensive stance.

“Hya!" Unbalancing him was enough; the Princess moved in with a surprisingly graceful whirl of her lance, building enough momentum with a twist of her body to cleave into his back and drop him. She was breathing heavily, hard gusts of air sawing in and out of her lungs, but she maintained the wherewithal to meet his eyes and nod once.

“I think... it might almost be over."

She wasn't wrong, either. The man on the horse and the younger fellow—still ignoring most of the fallen weapons and fighting with some strange combination of his fists and what seemed to be black magic—were quickly mopping through the remaining brigands. It wouldn't be surprising if those trapped on the other side of the fire just... fled, really. Certainly even as the magical fire guttered out, none of them dared to approach.

When the last bandit fell, the man on horseback dismounted, summoning the other with a nod. Both approached the trio, stopping at a respectable distance.

“What're a buncha brats doing out here?" the older man asked. He had fair hair, Mercer could see now, pulled into a short tail and shorn on the sides. His tunic was a burnt orange, bearing some kind of unfamiliar pattern in white. Several heavy pieces of armor lay around and beneath it, and the lance he bore was unadorned but seemingly of quality. He had a craggy face with a few faded scars, and a short, half-kempt goatee. It was hard to tell in the dim light, but his eyes might have been a light brown.

“Watch your tongue, old man," Vridel replied sharply, straightening to his full height.

The man only sighed, turning to Mercer and Sorcha as though they might offer a better answer.

She at least didn't seem to be in much shape to do so. It was easy to tell, with the immediate danger gone for now, that the adrenaline leaving her wasn't doing her any favors. She was clearly doing her best to hide it, but she was shaking—he could just barely hear the light plates of her armor shivering together with it. It seemed to be taking her momentous effort to remain upright; either her leg was about to go or it was just the aftereffects of the battle. Perhaps both. She leaned heavily on where her lance was planted in the ground, trying much too hard to look as though she weren't. Her face was drawn tightly; she didn't so much as acknowledge the Prince's rudeness, or the man's question.

“Uh, don't mind Vi. He's just very excited that you saved us," Mercer replied, rolling his eyes as he did. He glanced towards Sorcha again, pursing his lips together as he laid a hand on her shoulder. He stood closer to her, offering her any support she might need or want before addressing the two people. “I'm Mercer, and this is Sorcha and Vridel," he introduced himself first before he continued. “As for why us brats were out here," he paused and shifted his gaze back out towards what was left of the battlefield.

“We were doing training exercises when those bandits attacked us," he finally spoke after a minute of silence. “Our teach abandoned us the moment they did. We're really grateful to you for saving us, even if the grump over there might not appear it." The least Vridel could do was show some appreciation or thanks to these guys. It wasn't as if it would be beneath him to do it. One should always show proper thanks to someone for saving their life. Shaking his head lightly so that he did not disturb Sorcha, he glanced at the older man before his eyes landed on the younger one. He could feel a small shiver go down his back, but he couldn't tell if it was actually his, or Sorcha's.

“Uh, so. Thanks. Again. For saving us."

The younger man tilted his head slightly to the side, shifting his eyes from Mercer to Vridel before they landed on Sorcha. They were an unsettlingly-bright gold. His brows, some indistinct dark color to match his hair, furrowed just faintly, before his face blanked again.

It was the older man who did the talking, though, waving a hand dismissively. “Don't mention it." He frowned slightly, narrowing his eyes. “Teacher? You're not from Garreg Mach, are you?"

“Yeah. We're students at the Officers Academy," Mercer replied, offering a lopsided smile. “Like I said, we were doing a training exercise when we were attacked," even though the school year hadn't officially started. That would be in two days, if he remembered correctly. He glanced at Sorcha, though, and let his brows furrow slightly. They needed to rest before they made their way back to the Monastery. That, or if the teacher somehow made it back and they sent the Knights for them. Who knows how long it would be, though, before they arrived?

“You don't happen to know where the village is, do you? Remire, I think it's called?" he asked, hoping they would have an answer. “We could use some rest," he stated, placing his hand on top of Sorcha's head in a somewhat affectionate manner. She had a gentle heart, and he did not doubt that this was more than she could deal with at the moment. He wanted to get her some rest, or at least a place where she could clean up and get the blood and grime off of her.

The older man sighed heavily, and for a moment looked almost inclined to refuse, but then his eyes fell on Sorcha and he grimaced. “Sure, kid. Village is back this way. You can rest up at ours for the night, I guess. We've got a spare room."

Almost as if it were automatic, the younger man took the horse's reins and the rear position in the group, while the other led them from the forest. “Name's Jeralt, by the way. That's Cyril." He nodded over his shoulder to the blank-faced fellow. It didn't take them long to find the path, and it quickly became clear why they'd been able to arrive in such a timely manner: the place he led them to was a small complex, almost like a guardhouse or maybe a mercenary barracks. Not sizable, for such a thing, but then in a village this small it was more than expected.

Cyril disappeared for a moment, presumably to stable the horse, while Jeralt led them all to a squat cabin sitting on one corner of the complex, shouldering open the door and ushering them all inside. The room inside was cozy, with a small sofa and a couple of chairs, as well as a circular dining table with two more.

“Have a seat," Jeralt said, a bit awkwardly. “Cyril'll probably make tea when he shows up. It'll take a bit for the water to heat for any baths or anything."

Vridel took one of the chairs, pausing long enough to shed the red cloak he wore and at least smear the worst of the blood off so he wouldn't be getting it on Jeralt's furniture. “Thank you," he said after a moment, sinking into the chair.

Sorcha took one of the seats at the dining table, glancing once at Mercer with what might have been a flicker of gratitude. She'd taken her boots off just inside the door, and settled her cloak on her lap, twisting her hands into the fabric.

Mercer supposed he counted himself luckier than the other two. While he had bloodstains on his person, he wasn't nearly as covered in it as the other two. Thanks in part to the bow he'd used earlier, was his guess. At the mention of tea, though, Mercer turned his attention towards Jeralt. The name sounded familiar, but he couldn't place it. It didn't matter, though. He and Cyril, his subordinate from the looks of it, had saved their lives. And tea sounded really good at the moment. It would help ease the tension for him, at least.

“Maybe you should wash up, first, Sorcha?" he stated, taking a seat in the other chair at the table. The sooner she was cleansed, the better she would feel, was his hope. Once the water was warm enough, she should take the first wash. Mercer was used to being covered in dirt and grime, but not necessarily blood. His attention went back to Jeralt, though, and he tilted his head.

“So... are you guys Knights of some sort?" he asked, though he knew it was a redundant question. If they were Knights, they didn't look like it. And the way they fought, organized and methodical, spoke more of mercenaries tactics. He just wanted to assume that they were Knights. Mercenaries were not as bad as bandits; they didn't go around killing or stealing from people. But they were, essentially, blades for hire. If the bandits had attacked them with the intention of killing them, and not robbing them... well, that would be a different story and mercenaries would be the logical next step. Mercer forced himself to reel in his thoughts, though.

Maybe the events were finally catching up to him?

Before Jeralt could answer, the door opened again and Cyril came through, giving the group a small nod before he passed down the hallway to the left of the kitchen, disappearing into some other room. From the sound of old pipes creaking, he might be starting on heating the water, as promised. He appeared again a few seconds later, walking behind the same counter Jeralt had taken up a spot behind and pulling down what indeed seemed to be the accoutrements or tea from one of the shelves. He flicked the stove on with a snap of his fingers—it seemed to be the open-flame kind—and set the full kettle down on top.

Jeralt, meanwhile, was regarding them assessingly. “We're mercs, not knights," he said, evenly if a bit gruffly. “Is that gonna be a problem?"

“No." Vridel answered first, tilting his head to the side with a thoughtful frown. “Besides, you're not just any mercenaries. You're the Blade-Breaker, and he's the Ashen Ghost." The names seemed to mean something to him, though if anything, Cyril looked confused to hear them.

Mercer snapped his fingers in realization as soon as Vridel spoke. “That's why your name sounded so familiar!" he stated. “To think we'd be in the presence of such... such," he started, but couldn't find the right word he wanted to use. Greatness was too mild of a word, but he shook his head. “But like Vi said, I don't think it'll be a problem," now that he knew they wouldn't try to kill them at least. Plus, Jeralt the Blade-Breaker had been something of an idol for Mercer when he was a child. It also made sense to Mercer as to why he felt so strange around Cyril.

The young man was notorious on the battle field for his calm demeanor. Mercer could feel the grin forming on his lips as he recalled the stories he'd heard. “So, does that mean you're headed back towards the Monastery?" he asked curiously. The Blade-Breaker was known to be one of the greatest Knights of Seiros, but not much else was known about his departure. Or at least there was not much information pertaining to it.

Jeralt pinched the bridge of his nose. “No," he said flatly. “And I'd really prefer if you left me out of it when you told Rhea this story, thank you."

“Here." At some point, Cyril had made his way to the table with a tray balanced in one hand, apparently without any sound at all. His voice was quiet, but not quite raspy with disuse, a lower tone than either Mercer's or Vivi's, but smoother than Jeralt's gruff one. He set a cup and saucer carefully in front of where Sorcha sat with the word, and a tiny container of sugar cubes with a spoon next to it. “The sugar will help."

Her eyes widened; she'd mostly seemed zoned out of the conversation, but being directly addressed seemed to snap her out of it. “Th-thank you."

Cyril nodded once, then set another in front of Mercer—no sugar, though. Vi got a third, and a finger-sized container of milk, which he dumped unceremoniously into the cup immediately.

Mercer pursed his lips in disappointment. He was hoping that Jeralt would at least escort them back, however; he supposed he could understand. He would admit, though, that he was slightly surprised that Cyril knew how he took his tea. He didn't like sugar nor milk in it, and took the cup from its place. “Thanks," he spoke in Cyril's direction before turning his attention back to Jeralt.

“I suppose it's the least we can do since you saved us. And it would be poor of us if we didn't repay that debt," he stated. If there was one thing Mercer didn't like, it was being in someone's debt. “We promise not to tell the Archbishop of your involvement," though they would have to come up with some believable story as to how they'd survived. No doubt their good-for-nothing teacher might have exaggerated the number of bandits if he made it back to where the Knights had been stationed.

Jeralt nodded, apparently satisfied for the moment, and for a while there was silence as everyone drank their tea.

After a few minutes, Cyril spoke up again. “Water's usable. We've got spare uniforms if you need something to use until your clothes are clean. Bathroom cupboard."

Sorcha set her teacup down. “Thank you," she said again. “I'll... try not to take too long." Standing, she disappeared down the hallway Cyril had come from. There was a decisive sound of a door shutting and a latch being thrown, and then silence.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Amalthea von Kreuz Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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I.Y. 1180 - Great Tree Moon - Friday the 10th
Lyanna's Office - Afternoon - Drizzle
Amalthea von Kreuz


Amalthea was grinning from ear to ear. Today was the end of her first week of classes, and she still had a lot to learn. By far, Professor Cyril's classes were her favorite to attend. Professor Hanneman was too strict and forward, and he didn't properly explain some things. That, or perhaps she just frustrated him with all of her questions? She couldn't tell. Professor Manuela was nice and all, but she made references to things Amalthea wasn't quite familiar with.

She hummed a song in the back of her throat, waving at the people who greeted her as she made her way towards her sister's office. She couldn't wait to tell Lyanna about her week, so far. But first, she had to find her sister. It wasn't too late in the afternoon, which meant Lyanna would still be in her office. While Amalthea didn't want to bother her sister while she was working, she was too excited to share what she'd learned the last few days.

And she was excited to tell her sister about her new friends. When she reached Lyanna's office, she waited a few seconds before announcing her presence. “Sister!" she stated, perhaps a bit too loudly. She didn't mean to do that. “Good afternoon. Are you finished for the day?" she asked, smiling brightly at her sister.

Lyanna currently sat behind her desk, feather quill in one hand and a half-eaten jelly doughnut in the other. At Amalthea's entrance, she hastened to swallow what was in her mouth, not quite managing it properly the first time and coughing a bit as she stuck her quill back in its inkwell and patted her chest. It took a moment for her to be able to speak properly; when she could she cleared her throat, face faintly pink. “Ahem. Thea. Hello." She nodded to the seating area just in front of her desk, where a large platter of sweets sat, no doubt the source of the doughnut.

“Just about. Why don't you have a seat and tell me about your first week of class?" Her tone was a little hard to read at the end; Amalthea knew Lyanna had had to work pretty hard to convince Lady Rhea that it was okay for her to enroll in the Officers' Academy. Her sister had expressed some reservations of her own, but caved at the strength of her enthusiasm and agreed to at least try to have her admitted.

“Oh, of course!" she stated as she took the empty seat. She glanced at the table near Lyanna, and noticed the plate of desserts. Amalthea's eyes widened as she reached for one, grabbing a jelly doughnut similar to the one Lyanna had just eaten. She took a bite of it and giggled to herself. She loved sweets. She turned her attention back to her sister, though, and smiled brightly.

“It's really great so far. I'm learning about formations and how to think outside the box for strategies. Professor Cyril is really, really nice, too. I like him the most out of our Professors," she started, taking another bite from her doughnut. “Oh, and I think I've made new friends with Princess Sorcha and Senka, and Devon and Sylvi!" she continued. “At least I think I have. Sorcha and Senka let me sit with them during the classes, and they were very helpful with helping me understand some of the things I didn't."

Lyanna hummed, affixing her signature to the bottom of the document she was working on and pursing her lips as she set it aside. Standing, she took another one of the chairs and a bite-sized cake, hovering for a moment over the plate before grabbing a second and sitting back. Their sweet tooth was something the sisters had in common, despite their many differences.

Sighing quietly, she bit into one of the cakes and chewed it over, eyes narrowing behind her spectacles. It wasn't clear why she wore them; as far as Amalthea knew she didn't actually need assistance seeing, unlike professor Hanneman. “What's he like? Your professor? He was hired quite suddenly; Lady Rhea didn't so much as bother to consult anyone about it and I don't understand why." While the Archbishop had final authority over such things, Lyanna was often consulted, as she had the responsibility of managing the administrative tasks for the Monastery, the Knights of Seiros, and the Officers' Academy.

“Well," she began, swallowing the bite she had in her mouth before continuing. “He's very composed and... calm? He doesn't show much of anything, but he is very patient with those of us who can't keep up, or if we don't understand something. He's very knowledgeable in tactics and has seen lots of battles. He even uses some of them for references during class," she stated. She could understand why her sister was interested in knowing about Cyril. He was completely foreign to her; there was no recorded history of him, and the only known name he'd carved for himself wasn't entirely pleasant.

“I think the Archbishop hired him because of his talent. I don't know how old he is, exactly, but I'd say he's about as old as you are, and I think that says a lot about his skills. All of his accomplishments, and the fact that he's Captain Jeralt's son makes him an obvious choice," or at least to Amalthea it did. “He seems quite at home in the role of Professor, if anything. It's almost as if he's done something like this before." She couldn't say for sure since Amalthea hadn't ever really been in a classroom before.

Lyanna worked her way through the two small cakes and another doughnut, frowning outright when Amalthea compared her age to Cyril's, though it wasn't clear why. She was a patient listener, however, and didn't interrupt—if anything she used the opportunity to mow more quickly through the sweets. Lyanna tended to eat a lot of them when she was stressed, and the new school year always tended to make her that way. This one seemed especially bad for some reason though.

“It would be fine if he had any trackable history," she mumbled around a mouthful of jelly and pastry. She always managed not to spray crumbs, somehow. Swallowing, she heaved a sigh. “But there's nothing, Thea. Not even a birth record. I don't know how old he is, and no one else seems to either!" She waved her hands, one still holding a doughnut. “And of course his lack of a birth record is not his fault, but then it's 'Ashen Demon' this and 'Jeralt the Blade Breaker' that, and the Archbishop knows something, I'm sure of it." She sighed again, shoving the last of the doughnut in her mouth and muttering something incomprehensible.

“Have you tried asking Archbishop about Captain Jeralt? I mean... he was the Captain of the Knights of Seiros several years ago, wasn't he? I'm guessing that Cyril might be a little older than me if he was born after the Captain left. It would make sense since I was born in 1164," she spoke, taking one of the cupcakes her sister had not eaten, and holding it.

“When did Captain leave?" she asked, finally taking a bite from the cupcake. She was curious why he left. The Knights of Seiros were a well-respected group of Knights, and Amalthea respected them. She'd learned that Jeralt was the greatest of them, and she had admired him from what stories she could pry from the other Knights. At least before she wasn't allowed to be told stories any longer. If she were being honest, she wanted to be like The Blade Breaker: a great knight of renown.

Pouring herself a bit of milk from the carafe that had been brought in with the sweets, Lyanna hummed. “I am told he disappeared after a fire at the monastery some twenty years ago. If his son was born after that, he would be much closer to your age than mine," she said. “Were it only the irregularity of his age, I suppose it wouldn't matter. But there is also the matter of... well the whole thing. Captain Jeralt didn't simply retire to become a mercenary. From what I am able to gather, he was presumed to have died in that fire. Why did he tell no one he was leaving? Why come back so readily now if that were the case? Why does the Archbishop trust him, if that were the case?"

She shook her head, taking a swallow of the milk before picking up a cookie. “And Cyril has quite a..." She bit down, searching for a word. “Dark reputation. The stories about him are not the kind I would think the Archbishop wants associated with the Church of all places." She paused there, going quiet and rather still.

“I do not believe Lady Rhea would intentionally put the Church or its people in danger, Thea, but... if at any time you have any reason to be suspicious of your professor, you must tell me, do you understand? Even if it seems like nothing."

“Yes, mother," Amalthea retorted, straining the last word a bit. Sometimes, her sister really did act like her mother, however; Amalthea knew it was because she genuinely cared and worried about her. She respected her sister's wishes and would do what she could to ensure that Lyanna did not have to worry about her. “And I believe in Lady Rhea's decision to appoint Professor as... well, the professor. It might be that she believes Jeralt had his reasons for what he did, and wants to give him another chance."

There were many things it could be, and Amalthea believed that Lady Rhea had a kind and forgiving heart. “And what about you, how has the day been for you!?" she decided to ask. It was obvious enough that Lyanna was stressed about the whole ordeal. “Oh, I know! After you get off, let's go have the kitchen make us a batch of your favorite jelly doughnuts! Those always make you happy!"

Lyanna had winced at being called 'mother,' the expression on her face tightening, but she pushed a breath from her nose after the rest and shook her head. “Most of my day was spent checking in on progress for the week. I have meetings with all the Professors tomorrow, which is why your Saturday group activities are being delayed by a week."

She looked down at the sweet in her hand, and the dwindling pile of them on the tray, and grimaced. “I do not wish to inconvenience the staff too greatly, however... I believe a dozen should not be too much extra imposition."

“We'll need at least another two," maybe three dozen would be sufficient.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Senka Rinaldi Character Portrait: Amalthea von Kreuz Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Sorcha Blaiddyd Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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I.Y. 1180 - Great Tree Moon - Saturday the 18th
Garreg Mach Grounds - Early Afternoon - Sunny
Amalthea von Kreuz


Amalthea hummed quietly to herself. Today was the day they were going to do lawn work, or maintenance. Something like that, and she was excited. It meant that she'd get to spend more time with her classmates in a setting that wasn't a classroom or a field exercise. She didn't mind those, really, but interacting with them outside had a certain appeal to it. Perhaps because she'd never really had the chance to bond with people, at least not fully. For as long as she could remember, it was always either her sister, Archbishop Rhea, or one of the other priests of the Church. There were occasionally people who visited the Church, but Amalthea always had limited contact with them.

Lyanna always said it was to protect her, though she never understood from what. The people she'd met were always very kind and warm. She didn't think those people were capable of harming her, at least not in a way that was dangerous. Shaking the thoughts from her head, she waited for the first of her classmates to arrive. She had been too excited the night before to sleep properly, which resulted in her being up near dawn. The first people to arrive were the princess and her friend. Amalthea thought they had a very lovely friendship, and it was easy to see how close they were. For a moment, she wondered if she'd ever be able to make a friend like that.

“Good morning, er... afternoon, Sorcha! Good afternoon, Senka!" she greeted, waving happily in their direction. Senka merely regarded her with a passive stare, and nodded her head in Amalthea's direction. She never understood why that always seemed to catch Senka off guard, but it did not deter her.

“Good afternoon, Thea," she greeted, causing Amalthea to smile. She finally addressed her by the shortened version of her name, something Amalthea had tried previously to get her to do. She felt a little giddy inside.

“Hello Thea!" Sorcha still seemed to be securing her hair in place, trying to get it to stay pinned up. She'd otherwise come dressed for the work they were supposedly doing, down to a pair of gardening gloves hooked presently into her belt.

Just when she seemed to have the hair in place, a piece fell forward to rest next to her face. Sighing, she appeared to give up, and just tucked it behind her instead. “How are you?"

“Very well!" she replied, a slight break in her voice causing her to laugh nervously. Her voice cracked whenever she got too excited about something, but she cleared her throat and shook her head. “And what about the two of you? Are you both well? Do you need anything?" she stated, knowing full well there wasn't much she could get them at the moment. Still, the offer was out in the air if they did.

Senka merely regarded her with a stare before slowly shaking her head. “I... am fine, thank you. I do not need anything at the moment, but," she paused, turning her attention to Sorcha as if she were seeking approval to continue. “Perhaps if there is something that requires your help, I will seek your assistance?" she stated, almost as if she were unsure of herself. Amalthea didn't quite understand it, but she nodded her head, regardless.

“Of course! I'd be glad to help in anyway I can," she stated, feeling her smile stretch across her face.

Sorcha huffed softly, but before she could say much by way of addition, a different familiar voice cut into the conversation. “Don't you all have somewhere to be?"

It belonged to Vridel, who approached with a wrist resting casually on the sword all students of the Academy wore with their uniforms. The bright red cape of his house was a sharp contrast to the stark white of his hair, and the deep purple of his eyes, but it sort of worked, giving him a harsh, but striking, appearance.

Sorcha crossed her arms and rolled her eyes at him, though she didn't seem upset or anything. “I could ask you the same question, Vivi. We happen to be waiting for chores to get underway."

“Well, well," put in the man walking slightly behind Vridel and to the left. He looked older than most of the others, a bit of stubble darkening his jaw, and sharp grey eyes. He also appeared to be smoking from a long-stemmed pipe. “What a coincidence."

Vridel spared the man a glance before returning his eyes to the three of them. “Wouldn't you be better served doing that at the stables? Where your chores are? I just saw some of your classmates over there."

Amalthea felt her heartbeat quicken at the arrival of Vridel and one of his classmates, it seemed. She didn't know why, but she would push that thought for another time. Maybe she could ask Lyanna about it? “But this is where we were scheduled to be, Vridel," she stated, smiling in his direction.

“Wait, am I in the right place?" it was Mercer who spoke this time, startling Amalthea slightly and she lurched forward. “Sorry, Thea, didn't mean to scare you," he apologized as Amalthea shook her head. “But seriously, why are you all here?" he asked, confusion evident in his voice.

“Move it, blockhead!" another voice pierced through, throwing Amalthea off for a second. She glanced towards the owner of the voice, and spotted a young woman, a bit shorter than herself, with vibrant red hair and pale green eyes. She didn't look too happy to be there, but she merely stood behind Mercer, arms crossed against her chest.

“Is that any way to treat your House Leader, Dierdre?" he responded in a flat tone, though he did look amused by something. Amalthea stared at both of them rather incredulously. Were they close friends to be speaking to each other like that? Or... maybe they were in an arrangement of sorts? She'd always read stories about arranged marriages and the like. Maybe that was the case with Mercer and Dierdre.

“Wouldn't have to if you weren't blocking the way," she muttered, pursing her lips in his direction. Senka had remained mostly quiet at the introduction of the newer people, and stood slightly behind Sorcha. Perhaps she was shy?

“But that still doesn't explain why you're all here? I thought the Blue Lion House was responsible for the lawn care, today?" She really was confused.

“And we thought it was us, and I'm sure His Highness over there thought it was the Eagles." The speaker was a very tall, powerfully-built woman with long, dark blue hair pulled into a ponytail on her head. She seemed to be following the red-headed one, a bit of fond exasperation on her features when she called Mercer 'blockhead.' Lyanna wore that look sometimes.

“Quite," Vridel replied, sparing the woman a nod.

Of course, matters were only further complicated when Devon and Sylvi appeared, this time in the company of Professor Cyril. He, at least, did not look surprised at all. Dressed in a sleeveless tunic and dark work pants, he looked quite as though he planned on getting into the dirt with them, not merely supervising.

“Good, you're all here." He gave them what seemed to be an approving nod. He must have observed some confusion, however, because he blinked slowly once, then clarified. “Saturday chores are mixed class. The other professors and I drew lots for who would supervise which groups. As such you are stuck with me for the remainder of the year." He paused, then added dryly: “my condolences."

“Wait, so that means we're stuck doing chores with them?" Dierdre asked, jabbing a finger towards Amalthea's group and Vridel. Amalthea, however, was more than estatic. She was going to have Saturday chores with all of the beautiful people, and hopefully she was going to make friends with them all. “All year?" she continued, as though she were in some disbelief.

“It would seem that way," Senka stated, but Amalthea almost didn't hear what she said. It was stated in a low tone, and she was almost sure Senka hadn't spoken at all, however; Mercer groaned in an exasperated manner.

“And here I was planning on shirking all my duties to you, Sorcha," he mumbled, but he didn't appear to be in a foul mood, despite his groan. Dierdre rolled her eyes, but dropped her hands to her sides.

“Well, it's a pleasure to meet you all," Sylvi was the first one to speak in a friendly manner, and bowed towards the others who were not part of the Blue Lion's. “I'm Sylvi Galatea," she greeted, her eyes falling onto her fellow Lion's. Amalthea already knew Vridel, but she supposed it was a good idea to introduce herself to the others.

“I'm Amalthea von Kreuz, but you can just call me Thea!" she stated, bowing, perhaps, a little too excitedly.

“Dierdre," she began, however; Mercer elbowed her in the side as she glared at him. “Dierdre Allard," she continued, narrowing her eyes in Mercer's direction. She moved away from him, though, and made her way towards the rather tall woman.

She, for her part, offered a calm nod. “My name is Sofia Esparsa." That explained who all the Golden Deer were, at least.

Vridel sighed. “Vridel," he offered, touching his fist briefly to his chest. “That is, not Vi, or Vivi, or any of the other nonsense those two—"he gestured briefly at Sorcha and Mercer—“use." He glanced to the man beside him. “This is Reynard Voight."

For his part, Reynard only nodded, exhaling a pale cloud of smoke, though he was polite enough to do so such that it wouldn't end up in anyone's face.

Devon introduced himself next, and with that it passed to Sorcha and Senka. “I'm Sorcha," the princess said, before gesturing to her friend. “This is Senka Argyris, my best friend."

“You all know me, I hope," Cyril deadpanned. “I think even Mercer's been awake for enough time to catch on to that much."

Sorcha coughed; it sounded like she was trying not to laugh. Vridel actually smiled. Mercer snorted unceremoniously.

“In any case, our chore for today is to maintain the lawns and flowerbeds. We're going to rotate the tasks, so we all do part of everything, but first I would like your suggestions on what those tasks ought to be." It seemed very unlikely he didn't know; rather, he seemed to be doing what he usually did and giving them the opportunity to figure things out and decide for themselves how to tackle an obstacle.

“We should probably clear these loose rocks off the lawn," Sofia said. She had a soft voice, deep for a woman's but soothing and calm. “I'm sure there are buckets in the supply storage we can use to make hauling easier."

“There's probably a wagon or some barrels we can fill up to make the haul a little easier. People can fill and haul at the same time," Mercer stated, shrugging his shoulders in a nonchalant manner. Amalthea chewed the bottom of her lip, thoughtfully, as she rolled a couple ideas around. They were doing lawn maintenance and also maintaining the flowerbeds.

“Some of us can pull weeds that are around the flowers. It'll help them grow, better," she stated. Senka glanced in her direction, but did not say anything before her attention was returned towards the other group of people.

“While the weeds are being pulled, some of us can fertilize the flowers. There are a total of ten of us; we should be able to divide the work between us, easily," she spoke, still just as softly, but loud enough that Amalthea could hear it. Dierdre must have heard, too, since she huffed lightly.

“I agree. If we split into a group of three, it should make rotating the work, easy. We just have to let whoever takes over for one of us, know what we've already done, and where they can start," Sylvi spoke, folding her hands behind her back, and rocking on her heels.

“Properly," Cyril said, arching one eyebrow ever so slightly. “You have eleven." It seemed he did intend to work with them.

“Why don't we do three groups of three, and one group of two?" Sorcha suggested. “The groups of three can move between rock removal, weeding, and fertilizing, and the two can float around to help with whatever seems to be going the slowest. Then we rotate every hour so everyone gets a chance to do a bit of everything and no one's stuck with the hardest job all afternoon?"

Amalthea liked that idea. Not only did it mean that they would be in small groups, it also meant that she would be able to socialize with some of the newer members. Even if they were of a different house, it didn't mean she couldn't make friends with them. There only seemed to be one problem, though. How were they going to decide who was in each group?

“It makes sense to have Professor Cyril be one of the two in a group, but maybe each House Leader should be grouped with someone not in their own house?" Sylvi spoke, almost as if she were reading Amalthea's mind. Senka's features seemed to tighten for a second, but Amalthea put it down as a trick of her eyes.

“Which means Sorcha, Mercer, and Vridel need at least two people from one of the other houses. There are more Blue Lions, though," Dierdre spoke, her brows furrowing in a tight manner. Amalthea supposed that was true, considering that almost everyone in her House was present. There were three Golden Deer and only two Black Eagles. That meant Reynard would go to either Sorcha or Mercer. It seemed fair, to Amalthea, that each leader get at least one other non-house member.

“If that's the plan, I'll split you," Cyril said matter-of-factly. “So you can resent me if you don't enjoy yourselves." It was hard to tell if he was being completely serious or not, but in any case, he did in fact do as he said. “Sorcha, take Reynard and Dierdre with you, and get started on the weeds. Mercer: you, Sylvi, and Devon can work on fertilizing. Vridel, Sofia, and Amalthea can get started on the stones in the yard. Senka, you and I will float. We'll begin with the weeding group, so they can get and stay a bit ahead of where the fertilizing group comes in behind. Does that work for everyone?"

“Works for me," Mercer replied first, giving Cyril a grin before turning to Vridel with a strange grin on his face. Amalthea didn't understand why, but she was glad that she was going to be working with Vridel and Sofia. Sofia seemed nice enough, and Vridel had been nice to help her out with her knowledge on plants. Of course, she still had a long way to go, but she thought she understood a bit more thanks to him.

“Fine by me," Dierdre stated, crossing her arms over her chest, however; her eyes briefly slid towards Sofia before she glanced in Sorcha's direction.

“I suppose it is settled, then," Sylvi spoke, bringing her hands to the front of her. “Let's get started, shall we?" she continued. Amalthea shook her head, and made her way towards Vridel and Sofia while everyone else grouped together. This was going to be exciting, or at least to Amalthea, it was.

“Hello again, Vridel!" she stated, smiling up at him before turning towards Sofia. “I'm looking forward to working with you, too, Sofia."

Sofia smiled gently. She had a very calm, cool sort of aspect to her, but the smile softened it, giving her an unexpected warmth. “And I with the both of you. If nothing else, I suppose we can look at it as good strength training. I'll fetch a barrow, if you two don't mind waiting a moment."

Vridel gave her a short nod of acknowledgment before she left, and he shifted his attention to Amalthea. “What are you training for?" he asked, tilting his head slightly.

Amalthea grinned up at him. “A Great Knight! I want to be like the ones in the stories, so I'm training in order to pass the required exams to achieve that," she stated in one breath. She took a breath in order to catch it. She hadn't meant to just spill everything like that, but she supposed the excitement was still running its course.

“Plus, I'm not really good with an axe, but I need to be in order to pass. I've never really had someone to practice with, and Lyanna didn't like me practicing with sharp objects," she stated, pursing her lips together. Something about poking an eye out or hurting herself more than others. Amalthea had to admit that it did sting to know that her sister didn't trust her that much, but she supposed it was for her own protection.

“A great knight?" he echoed. His eyes narrowed, a bit assessingly, but in the end he expressed neither skepticism nor doubt. “In that case, I suppose hauling stones around will make for useful exercise. Make sure you get turns at the wheelbarrow, too." He nodded, then pursed his lips. “And if you've never chosen an axe before, let me know when you visit the armory. I prefer swords, but axes are something of a... tradition. In Adrestia."

Amalthea felt her eyes grow rather largely. Had he just... volunteered to help her? Again? She blinked rapidly a few times before she shook her head. “Really? You'll... you'll help me with them?" she asked, though she felt strangely afraid for asking. Maybe he'd take it back now that she seemed unsure? Or maybe she was just a little too excited about it to think properly?

“I'd really, really appreciate it! Oh, but... I don't want to take up too much of your time. You're already helping me with the plants," she murmured, frowning slightly. Her ears also, strangely, felt warm.

Vridel seemed to notice that something had changed, because his expression did, too, a flicker of surprise passing over it before a strange smile curled his mouth. It wasn't the benign one he usually wore, the one that didn't quite light his eyes. Nor was it the same as the one he got sometimes when he and Mercer were bantering, though it was closer to that. It looked... like the kind of way a cat might smile, when it had spotted a mouse. If cats could smile, that was.

“No trouble," he said, and in some odd way his voice matched the smile. “I'm sure we'll come up with some way for you to make it up to me, if you're set on it."

Before either of them could say anything further, though, Sofia reappeared with the wheelbarrow in tow. “All right," she said, exhaling softly. “Shall we get to it?"

At once, Vridel's face returned to its usual expression of vague disinterest, and he nodded. “Let's."

Amalthea felt strange, and didn't move even when Sofia returned with the wheelbarrow. Her cheeks felt like they were burning, and there was a strange tingling sensation in them. Her heart was also beating fairly fast against her chest, and for a moment, it felt like she couldn't breathe. Why is that? She took in a deep breath, trying to calm herself, and nodded her head.

“And I'll definitely find a way to make it up to you, Vridel!" she stated once she found her voice. She was set on it, and if he was going to help her, she wanted to repay him in any way she could. Whatever it was, she would do it. If it was extra chores, or taking over his particular duties, she wouldn't mind.

“Let's get to it!" She'd never been this excited about anything, before.

Vridel laughed softly, more of a chuckle than anything, and that strange expression flashed briefly across his face before dropped eye contact and started working. “Sounds like a plan to me."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Senka Rinaldi Character Portrait: Amalthea von Kreuz Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Sorcha Blaiddyd Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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I.Y. 1180 - Great Tree Moon - Sunday the 26th
Garreg Mach Monastery (Outskirts) - Morning - Cloudy
Senka Rinaldi


Senka had woken rather earlier than normal. She wanted to be sure she would be ready for the morning's mock battle, and didn't want to leave anything unchecked. She'd pulled her hair back into a high tail, mostly so that it wouldn't be in her face, and to keep it out of her eyes. It wouldn't be beneficial if she were distracted or her vision impaired. She was slightly grateful that she had, since the air was rather warm outside. A bit humid, perhaps, because of yesterday's light drizzle, but the tunics they were wearing were helpful in keeping cool. According to the information they'd been given, these tunics were designed to bleed out the color once they'd take a certain amount of damage.

Each house had their respective colors: Golden Deer were given yellow tunics, Black Eagles were red, and Blue Lions had a pale blue. The blue contrasted with Senka, but she didn't mind. They were here for a battle, if nothing else, and she was rather excited about it. She'd spent the last few days practicing her magic spells, and a couple of ones Vridel had taught her. She wasn't quite confident in those spells, yet, but she was satisfied with them, nonetheless. She glanced over her team, watching as Amalthea fiddled with her tunic, and her axe. Sylvi had also chosen an axe, but seemed more comfortable with it than Amalthea did hers.

Senka had elected to use a sword along with her magic. After all, magic was not infinite, and she wouldn't be able to use it endlessly. She still needed a way to defend herself. “I'm so excited, I can't wait!" Amalthea spoke excitedly, turning her attention towards Senka.

“I know the feeling. This is our first battle; I'm excited to put to use what Professor has taught us," Sylvi added. Senka only nodded in agreement.

Sorcha wore her tunic over very light chainmail; rather than just pulling her hair back, she'd braided it around her head to keep it firmly in place and to avoid her usual problems with pins and such. She was equipped with both a training lance and a bow, including a quiver of soft-tipped arrows. It was hard to check blows with arrows and magic especially, so they'd all been instructed in ways to compensate: spells were to be cast at minimum power only, and the blunt arrows were not to be aimed for the head or eyes. There was still some risk, of course, but the school had brought along several additional healers besides just those on each team.

Healing spells would apparently return some color to the tunics if applied, so that should work basically as normal, at least.

For his part, Professor Cyril carried no weapons at all; his own version of the tunic had no sleeves whatsoever, though his arms from the elbows down were wrapped in bandage-like fabric, protecting them a bit, it seemed. He had a few scars on his upper arms, but it was rather clear just from looking at them that he was in exceptional fighting shape. Certainly moreso than Professors Hanneman or Manuela seemed to be, or any of the students besides. He raked a hand back through his dark hair, slightly mussed from the breeze drifting over the field. A rogue strand of it fell across his nose, but if it impeded his vision, he gave no indication.

Across the field, the other teams were getting set up as well. Vridel was easily identifiable by the bright white color of his hair; the tall man next to him had to be Reynard. The Golden Deer were slightly closer, but partly shielded by a small copse of trees, a tactical advantage designed to compensate for their somewhat middling position.

The Professor's eyes swung to his assembled students; he exhaled the slightest huff at Devon struggling to string his bow. He managed it, though, and slung it over his back. At his waist were several knives. Making sure he had everyone's attention, Cyril spoke. “The other teachers and I have decided that the first part of this battle is yours to decide how to handle. We don't have much time, so we have to decide quickly on a strategy. What would you like to do?"

That was not unusual given their trainings, she supposed. She merely glanced at her teammates, Amalthea lost in her own thoughts it seemed, and Sylvi seemed to contemplate what Professor Cyril had stated. “At the moment, the Golden Deer House has the advantage with their position. And it wouldn't be wise to split up and attack both houses at once," she began speaking. Senka could see some logic to that. If they split up their forces, they'd be outnumbered either way they went.

“Let's go after the Black Eagles, then," Amalthea suggested. “If we take them out, first, then the Golden Deer will be an easy sweep, right? After all, you said they would provide the least resistance to us," she continued, glancing in Cyril's direction.

“That does not mean you underestimate them, Thea. Even if we said that they weren't as much of a challenge, does not mean they wouldn't give us one," Senka spoke, watching as Amalthea's face fell, slightly. She didn't mean to be so straightforward, but that had been the first basic rule of war: never underestimate your opponent no matter how favorable the odds are.

“Perhaps we should go after the Golden Deer, then. The quicker we deal with them, the quicker we can move on to our biggest competitors," Sylvi spoke, but Senka merely narrowed her eyes.

“I agree; we should hit the Golden Deer, first. They are closer, and it will give us some time to deal with them before the Black Eagles have a chance to reach us," she stated, glancing in Sorcha's direction.

“Don't forget that they're able to move unimpeded, too," Sorcha pointed out. “I could see Mercer waiting it out if we attacked the Eagles because his position is so good, But Vivi's isn't better or worse than ours. He might choose to fall on our flank as soon as we're committed to the attack. Splitting up might not be good, but we should definitely keep some people watching for that."

Devon nodded. “Maybe those of us in the back line keep an eye on them since we aren't in quite as much danger from the front? If they come around we can be ready to switch to melee. As long as we keep each other updated on where we're needed and what's going on, we can focus on downing the Deer first and just fend off the Eagles as much as we absolutely have to until we're ready to fight them as a team."

“Very well," Cyril said evenly. “Then who are our front and back lines?"

“Amalthea and I can take the front lines," Sylvi stated, grinning in Thea's direction. Her attention went towards Devon and Sorcha, after that. “Devon, since you and Sorcha are the best archers we have, you two can stay in the back." Senka could see that. It would mean that the archers could at least engage from behind and keep each other updated. Sorcha was also good with a lance, so if the need did arise to switch to melee, Sorcha could defend herself. Finally, Sylvi's eyes landed on Senka, a strange light in them that she wasn't sure what to make of.

“And you, you're pretty decent with magic, right?" she asked. Senka could only nod in response. “Good, then you can come with Thea and myself on the front lines," she stated.

“Very well," she replied, glancing at her classmates. “Does that mean Professor will be staying behind, as well, in the back lines?" she stated, her eyes drifting towards Cyril. If they were going to split up, it made sense to keep the numbers even. Sorcha and Devon could provide support from a distance with their arrows, and Cyril bring up the rear if they had to resort to melee. Knowing how talented each House was, Senka did not doubt that it would come down to that.

“I think the Professor should stay fluid, so he can go anywhere he needs to," Sorcha offered. “A lot of this I think is going to depend on being adaptable, so we should all be ready to move, but having someone who's already planning on it would help shore up any defenses we need to reinforce quickly."

It would seem Cyril found this agreeable enough, for he nodded.

If he'd been about to say something, though, it was cut off when a loud voice rang out over the field. “All right everyone!" The speaker appeared to be Jeralt, his voice magically amplified to carry easily. He stood atop the nearby hill, the Archbishop and Lady Lyanna nearby, along with the spare healers the monastery had brought. “Only attack like you were instructed to, because only hits to tunics count. As soon as someone's tunic turns grey they're out, and should come to this hill. Hitting someone after they're out means you're out too, automatically. We're here to learn, not kill each other for real. Last person standing wins for their House. Begin!"

Sylvi wasted no time, and began moving towards the Golden Deer, a strange smirk adorning her features. Senka would have put it down to excitement, but it seemed a little different than that. Amalthea was right behind Sylvi, and with a spare glance towards Sorcha and Cyril, so was Senka. They moved at a rather even pace. Not too fast that they would tire themselves out before they even reached the Golden Deer, and not too slow that they were leaving their ranged fighters in the back for too long.

“Man, here I was hoping you and the Black Eagles would fight among yourselves, first. Not come after us," Mercer spoke when they were close enough. He didn't seem too disappointed, though, if the smile on his face was anything to go by. Sylvi merely laughed, but said nothing as they closed in. “I really don't want to do this, but..." he started, trailing off as his eyes went to Dierdre and Sofia, “Dierdre, you and Sofia are up. I'll provide you with some support."

“Let's give it our all!" Amalthea stated, raising her axe over her head as she ran towards them. Senka sighed softly, stopping a good distance away as Mercer fixed an arrow to his bow. She, at least, knew what he was capable of, having seen him training with Sorcha. She could try and provide cover for Sylvi and Amalthea from the arrows, but that would leave her exposed to the other archers on his team. She would have to make due with her sword, for now.

“Hey you! Fight me!" a voice called out, causing Senka to turn her attention towards the source, narrowly dodging a small fire attack. It was Dierdre, and it seemed she wanted to make Senka her opponent. Gripping her sword in her hand, she obliged.

In the line behind, there was time enough to provide ranged support, it seemed. Spells and arrows alike went flying for the very front line, where Sylvi had engaged Sofia, who was set firmly in position to defend Mercer. As promised, though, they kept themselves flexible, and so when the Black Eagles appeared on their flank, they were prepared, leaving the softened Golden Deer line for their melee fighters and turning their attention on where Vridel, Reynard, and a heavily armored man were making a swift charge forward, supported mostly by mages, from the look of it.

Cyril was quickest to react, rolling out of the way of a wind spell and sending a dark magic blast of some sort back towards the mage-in-training who'd fired it. The color on his tunic flashed, dangerously close to greying out before it stabilized. He fended off the armored fellow with the axe, smoothly catching his arm on the downswing and twisting to disarm before sending him back with a kick square to the chest. It looked like he could have done something more damaging, but his motions were clearly restrained.

Sylvi looked like she was having some trouble with Sofia. The woman had a slight height advantage, and from their physique's alone, was more muscled than Sylvi. She had more strength, and was probably able to hit just a bit harder. Sylvi had been mostly on the defensive side, blocking attacks when she couldn't do them, herself, and attacking only when there had been an apparent opening. Most of the color on their tunics were dangerously close to grey, but Sylvi seemed determined to win.

She brought her axe up, swinging down hard towards Sofia. “You've been a good opponent, but I think it's time we end this!"

Sofia's only response was to stab forward with her lance. Both attacks hit at the same time, and both bled the remaining color from their tunics, signaling that both girls were out. They vacated quickly, heading towards the hill so as not to obstruct things.

Meanwhile, Cyril, Devon, and Sorcha were doing their best to hold the Eagles at bay. The axe-wielding man had been knocked out by a solid chest-shot from the Princess, but another front-liner had stepped up to fill his spot—mostly distracting Cyril, by the looks of it. Vridel was haranguing both Sorcha and Devon at the same time, while Reynard had seemingly disappeared. Maybe he was out?

By the time Senka had managed to deal with Dierdre—she'd left for a different opponent who must have taken her out since she was scowling on the hill with Sofia—Senka still had color on her tunic, but not quite as much as she'd started with. Amalthea, still full of color, had made her way back towards the other three, and Senka followed suit. Immediately, though, Amalthea's smile grew on her face as she headed straight towards Vridel.

“Vridel! You promised to be my opponent!" she shouted, causing someone to laugh. From the sounds of it, it was likely Mercer who laughed. He'd joined the fray as well, making his way towards the group fighting, but still keeping a relatively safe distance from it all. He was likely waiting for the others to drop before he made his own move. Senka was fine with that. She sent a small fire ball in the direction of the front-liner distracting her Professor.

“I will be your opponent," she stated softly, raising a hand out in front of her while keeping her sword in the other. To anyone else, it might have seemed like she were mocking the person, however; that was not her intention.

Sorcha had turned her attention on the people immediately in front of Mercer, perhaps intending to carve a line to the Duke's heir herself. Cyril nodded when Senka drew off one of his opponents, and proceeded to swap his attention to the other. Devon started in on the Black Eagles' nearly untouched back line, trying to make each shot count by standing behind Senka and Cyril to prevent counterattacks.

Vridel had abandoned his previous course, making it easier for Devon and Sorcha to switch tacks, as soon as Amalthea had called out. He wore a smile of all things as he sheathed his sword and reached back, drawing an axe from his belt. “So I did," he said, lunging into a run to meet her halfway, swinging the axe with controlled strength and the momentum of his charge.

Amalthea let out a strange sound, something mixed with delight and frustration as she tried to block Vridel's attack. Even with his controlled strength, Amalthea was pushed back a bit, and staggered. She was barely able to get her balance back before she charged at Vridel, axe raised once more as she flung her entire body in his direction. It appeared she was throwing all of her weight into that one attack, which was strangely endearing to Senka.

Or it would have been if she weren't fending off her own opponent. Mercer seemed slightly surprised when Sorcha came his way, but grinned and pulled his bow from his back. “Let's see just how much you've improved, eh, Princess?" he stated, clearly trying to rile her up as he usually did. He fit an arrow to his bow and aimed it in Sorcha's direction, one eye closed and the other narrowed, before releasing it.

Vridel turned Amalthea's strike aside, though he seemed almost surprised by the strength of it for a moment, before his smile widened and he retaliated with a flurry of quick blows. “Not bad," he said, “but don't unbalance yourself now. You need to keep solid feet if you want to defend anything."

On the other side, Mercer's taunting seemed to be having an effect; Sorcha used her lance to strike the last blow on the only soldier between them, and then tried to duck the arrow. She wasn't quite successful; it struck her in the shoulder regardless, leeching more of the blue from her tunic, and she threw the lance down and drew an arrow instead, twisting away from the chaotic tangle not far from her flank and firing. To her credit, it was quick, and there was no hesitation in the shot—it flew unerringly for Mercer's chest.

“Right, keep balance and solid feet!" she echoed, trying her best to defend against Vridel's attacks. One of them did manage to hit her near her shoulder, though, causing some of the color to bleed from her tunic. She did her best to dig her feet into the ground, though, as she made a horizontal swipe towards Vridel.

Mercer seemed genuinely surprised by the accuracy of Sorcha's arrow and moved so that it caught him on his right shoulder blade, causing some of his color to fade. “Shouldn't have underestimated you," he stated in a leisurely tone, an arrow already fitted to his bow. Unlike Sorcha's quick release, he waited, watching Sorcha's movements with a strange intensity, before he released his arrow.

Sorcha, apparently knowing trying to dodge that would be futile, used the time to release one more quick arrow before the one Mercer had fired caught her dead-on the sternum. Though there'd been quite a bit of blue left in her tunic, it faded completely then—it seemed striking 'vital' areas was proportionately effective, then.

The Princess looked down at her tunic, sighed heavily, and smiled just a bit, giving Mercer a wry salute before shuffling off the field to join the others. By this point, the competitors had thinned considerably, only one or two left from each side, plus teachers. The Blue Lions were doing slightly better than most, at least until Vridel landed another quick hit on Amalthea.

“Nice work," he said simply, replacing the axe and drawing his sword. “You're already better." White light briefly engulfed him, brightening his tunic back to blood-red, but he and professor Hanneman appeared to be the only ones left on the field for the Eagles. Professor Manuela and Mercer were the sole representatives of the Deer, while the Lions had Senka, Devon, and Professor Cyril.

For his part, the Professor cracked his knuckles. “They're going to join up and attack us first," he said, apparently completely certain. “Stay behind, and watch for Reynard. I don't think he's out yet. Otherwise, cover me. Can you do that?"

“I will," she replied, nodding her head in his direction. I can, didn't seem like the right words to her, and it was something she felt she had to do. She hadn't had time to assess Reynard's skills on the field, and it was likely that he was just biding his time. Smart, if she were being honest, and so she gripped her sword a little tighter, and scanned the field. There was no obvious sign of him, but Senka knew better than most that just because it wasn't obvious didn't mean it wasn't there.

Mercer had begun his next assault on Devon, perhaps because he was trying to take out their only archer. He had a strange smile on his face, though. It wasn't the grin he usually wore when he teased Sorcha, nor was it the same one that he wore with Vridel. It seemed more genuine, as if something had made him happy.

Devon fired back as much as he could, but it was evident that he was the worse shot, and he quickly ducked a bit behind Cyril for cover. The professor didn't seem to mind. When Hanneman and Manuela sent two offensive spells at him at once, he blasted them out of the air with the force of his own. “Let's go."

He charged, meeting the Eagles' front line first, which at the moment was, well, Vridel. Somehow, he managed to dodge the Professor's first swing, but he had to throw himself to the ground to do it, and before his retaliatory flames could do more than singe the very edge of Cyril's tunic, he'd let fly another of the dark magic spells, and Vridel's tunic lost all the color it had previously regained.

“S-Senka, I don't think I can hold him on my own," Devon said. There were only slight traces of blue left in his tunic. While Mercer's had seen better days, too, he was clearly doing better than the other archer was.

Senka felt her eyes narrow in Mercer's direction, and she moved towards Devon just in time to knock one of Mercer's arrows away from Devon with her sword. She released a fire attack towards Mercer to get his attention, and when she did, she sighed softly. With her hand outstretched, she summoned her black magic: Miasma. It probably wasn't the best spell to use at the moment, considering it took a decent amount of time to gather, but Senka needed to get Mercer away from Devon. Otherwise they would be down one more person.

And Senka would rather it be her, than Devon.

“Sorry, lady, but you left yourself wide open." The voice, roughened probably by all the smoking he did, belonged obviously to Reynard, and the point of his practice blade touched the base of her spine a moment later. Once, twice, three times before she could so much as react to his presence. It registered easily with the magic on the tunic, which turned promptly completely grey, only for Vridel's attendant to slide out from behind her.

He didn't manage to retreat before a heavy hand caught him by the collar and yanked him back, Cyril landing two body blows and putting him out. He took a hit from Manuela while thus distracted, leeching a little more blue, but this time the magic he shot back took her out too, until the only people left on the field were Hanneman, Mercer, Devon, and Professor Cyril.

It was strange. Senka hadn't registered the time when she was attacked, and when she left the field. She had blinked, a strange chill going down her spine, and when her eyes opened, she was in the company of Amalthea and Sorcha. Something felt off and she wasn't quite sure what it was. She was brought from her thoughts when a small body latched itself to her, and she had to lower her gaze to see what it was.

“We were cheering for you, Senka!" Amalthea stated, turning her head so that she was staring up at Senka. “You did great! Now you can cheer with us for Professor Cyril and Devon! Oh, and Mercer, since Vridel's with us, too," she stated, finally releasing Senka. The words hardly registered in Senka's mind, though.

“I'm not cheering for him," Sorcha groused. “I hope the Professor teaches him a lesson." she sniffed, then seemed to notice Senka's absent state, because she tilted her head and spoke a little more quietly. “You okay, Sen?"

She blinked slowly at Sorcha, but nodded her head. “I'm fine. I was just caught off guard. I should not have allowed myself to be open like that," she replied, but it felt too... automatic. There was nothing in her voice, too, and Senka furrowed her brows. Shaking her head, she pulled in a deep breath, before releasing it slowly. “I think we are on the cusp of winning, though," she stated, turning her attention back towards the field.

Mercer had renewed his assault on Devon, and it seemed that Professor Hanneman had focused most of his magic attacks on Cyril.

“Okay," Sorcha said, reaching over to squeeze Senka's shoulder gently. She didn't quite seem sure of the answer either, but she rarely pushed when it came to things like this.

On the field, Devon held off as long as he could, but eventually succumbed to Mercer's arrows, leaving them down to the final three. Professor Cyril must have judged Professor Hanneman to be the greater threat, because he ducked a barrage of flames and charged across the field towards him. Curiously, thrumming, curling magic surrounded his hands, licking up his arms like dark fire, and when he threw a fist forward, the impact took Professor Hanneman off his feet, his tunic immediately draining of all color.

Cyril whirled then, throwing a bolt of the same magic for Mercer.

Mercer wasn't as quick, though. He was hit with the magic, draining the rest of his tunic's color. Senka could see he was groaning, but what should have been a joyous occasion didn't quite reach Senka the way it should have. She registered the fact that they won, and that Amalthea and the others were cheering, but she couldn't bring herself to do the same. She didn't understand why; something felt vaguely familiar, a situation, perhaps, but she couldn't put her finger on it.

Instead, she clapped slowly along with the others as her way of cheering. It would have to do, for now. She could hear the crowds calming, though, as Jeralt cleared his throat, perhaps to make the announcement official.

“And that's that," he said, gruffly but with an apparent smile in his tone, too. “The winner of this mock battle is the Blue Lion House!"

The Archbishop wore a strange little smile at the announcement, her attention focused rather keenly on where Professor Cyril was helping Mercer to his feet. Beside her, it almost seemed that Lady Lyanna looked worried for a moment before she suppressed it, face returning to her usual stern expression.

“We won!" Amalthea shouted enthusiastically, making her way towards Vridel. Senka wasn't quite sure what Amalthea was going to do, until the young woman threw herself in his direction, and latched onto him the same way she'd done to Senka, earlier. “And thank you for helping me, and teaching me a valuable lesson on the field!" she stated, squeezing a little tighter as she hugged Vridel.

Vridel's eyes immediately went wide; honestly he was so stiff it was hard to tell if he even knew what a hug was, let alone if he'd ever been given one before. Tentatively, he patted her head, grimacing and looking rather unsure of himself. “You're... welcome," he said after a moment. “And congratulations, I suppose."

“Don't I get a hug, too?" Mercer's voice cut in, a lopsided grin on his face. His attention was on Sorcha, though, when he spoke. He'd apparently made his way towards their spot on the hill without Senka noticing.

Sorcha looked unsure for a moment, almost as though she were actually considering it. Her face flushed, but then she cleared her throat. “I'm sure Thea would be happy to," she replied with a sniff, but she sounded almost like she was sulking.

“But I was asking, you," he stated, his lips pursing into a fine line. The smile never left his eyes, though, as he laughed. “And in all honesty, I have to admit, I'm kind of surprised, Sorcha. I'm really proud of how far you've come. Hell, my shoulder still kind of hurts from where you hit me," he stated, sounding rather genuine. He rubbed his shoulder as if to emphasize the point, however; Senka merely felt her features smooth out. It was almost as if she wanted to smile, but she couldn't quite bring herself to.

Sorcha cleared her throat, looking down at her feet and mumbling something that sounded vaguely like “thank you."

Amalthea had finally released Vridel at this point, and was smiling just as brightly as she usually did. “We still need to thank Professor, too! Oh, and we'll need to celebrate! You and Vridel and the others are coming, too!" she stated, earning a light chuckle from Mercer. She was rather excited, it seemed, at the idea.

It was at this point that the professor himself appeared, looking much the same as he always did. Aside from a few scorch marks on his tunic, he could have simply gone for a morning run, for all that his expression showed any strain from his exertions.

“I believe I heard something about a celebration," he said. “Shall we?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Amalthea von Kreuz Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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#, as written by Aethyia


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I.Y. 1180 - Harpstring Moon - Thursday the 1st
Garreg Mach Monastery - Early Evening - Clear
Cyril Eisner


The celebration had needed to wait a couple of days, in the end, and the first day of Harpstring Moon had rolled around before they got to it, but that was all right. It had enabled the staff to throw together a large meal for everyone with plenty of food from the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, as well as a number of Blue Lion-themed desserts, including a cake modeled after the house banner, which was currently serving as a rather impressive centerpiece to everyone's enjoyment.

Before he'd had much opportunity to partake, however, he'd been summoned to see the Archbishop in her receiving room. He counted it fortunate that these celebrations were not like mercenary ones, else someone might have tried to convince him to imbibe, and he doubted the Archbishop would much approve of such things, even if they had negligible effect on him.

As it was, it was completely sober and still a bit hungry that he made his way to see Rhea, who as usual was flanked on one side by Lady Lyanna. He dropped into a shallow bow, as seemed appropriate, and then rose, expression blank as usual.

Rhea was smiling in a soft manner, gentle almost. Her hands were folded in front of her, and she nodded her head in Cyril's direction, perhaps as an acknowledgment to his bow. “Your work with the students was remarkable," she began, her eyes narrowing slightly. “I can see Jeralt has trained you well," she continued, gesturing towards Cyril with her hand. “I do hope you were able to use the occasion to bond with the students," she stated, though the smile on her face didn't seem to reach her eyes. They seemed a bit darker than they usually were.

Cyril considered this for a moment. “They are..." he wasn't quite sure how to finish the sentence. It was true that the students seemed to be unusually fond of him compared to how other people in his life had been. They regularly sought his company at mealtimes, and seemed to possibly even enjoy being taught by him. And he would not deny that since coming here he'd felt...

At ease. Not completely—there were certain things about this place that he was not sure would let him rest easy. But when it came to everyday routine, to training and instructing and making lesson plans and eating in the dining hall and all that sort of thing, there was a marked difference between this and the life he'd always lived, where his father was distant and the men were wary of him because of his reputation. The students at least showed from no wariness at all to not much after a while, and it felt... nice.

“I believe so," he said, remembering well his father's distrust of Rhea and his own instinct towards not exposing his weaknesses. “They seemed satisfied with the result, at least."

There was a strange smile on her face when he'd answered. It wasn't quite one that was genuine, but moreso on the wary side. As if she'd expected him to answer poorly. “I am so happy to hear it. Nothing would please me more than if you used this coming year to grow closer, still," she finally stated, her smile turning somewhat melancholy. She turned her attention towards Lyanna, though, as if she were expecting her to speak.

“Of course," Lyanna continued smoothly, “the mock battle is merely practice. The real fight is the Battle of Eagle and Lion, which will take place during the Wyvern Moon." She straightened slightly, adjusting her glasses. “You are expected to properly train your students so as not to humiliate the academy during the long-held tradition that is the coming battle."

Cyril gave her a short nod. It sounded straightforward enough.

“As for today," Rhea began, glancing towards Lyanna before returning her attention to Cyril. “I have called you here to tell you of your mission for the month ahead," she continued, pausing only to smile lightly. “Your class is to dispose of some bandits causing trouble nearby." She spoke with a calm and even tone, as if disposing bandits seemed rather natural to her. It was obvious that she meant that his class was to kill them, however; she didn't seem fazed by it.

“Bandits?" Cyril's tone only barely belied his skepticism. His students were talented, there was no mistaking that. But he did not yet think most of them ready to see real combat. To take human life.

Lyanna seemed to sense his hesitation. “Those affiliated with Garreg Mach Monastery have a moral obligation to help those in need, regardless of social standing."

Cyril almost said something—that hadn't been his protest at all, but he bit his tongue. The more they talked and the less he did, the better.

“Students are no exception. Each month, before the newly-birthed moon departs, all students must complete their assigned mission. You shall work to complete the task at hand alongside your students and report back to the Archbishop after your deployment. Understood?"

Cyril narrowed his eyes slightly, but nodded, just slightly. Lyanna almost mirrored the expression, and did return the tight nod.

“I will provide you with the necessary details later."

Rhea looked like she was about to say something more, however; it was at this time that someone else entered the room. “Ah, Professor!" it was Amalthea, and she had the same happy smile on her face that she always wore. “The others said you'd be here! We're getting ready—"

“Amalthea von Kreuz, you will hold your tongue," Rhea spoke, her voice loud and almost domineering. It was enough that even Amalthea had a shocked expression on her face. “We are discussing matters of importance; you are not welcome here. Return to the main hall. At once." Her eyes were narrowed, and it was easy to see that she was vexed by the interruption.

From the corner of his eye, Cyril saw Lyanna flinch, then quickly suppress it. For a moment her expression darkened, but a mere second later it was smoothed over, as though it had never occurred at all. For his own part, he felt a flash of—something. An emotion he didn't know, sharp and hot, lanced through his chest like a tiny bolt of lightning, but his tongue did not know what words to give it.

“Apologies, Lady Rhea, I didn't..." Amalthea spoke, but Rhea fixed her with a stare, and Amalthea bowed in an apologetic manner. Her head almost went to her knees with the force of it, and she turned on her heel and hurried out of the room. Rhea turned her attention back to Cyril, though, her eyes narrowed and the smile still on her face, but still just as dark as it had been.

“I can sense something special within your heart... I have high hopes for you." She departed afterwards.

Lyanna lingered a moment longer, staring out the way Amalthea had gone, then back the way Rhea had departed. Her eyes, strangely pained somehow, landed on Cyril. “Professor." She spoke quickly, but without the crispness that usually characterized her words. “Amalthea. Would you—?"

Cyril at once understood what she was asking, but not why. Shouldn't this be something she did? Still, he nodded, and her shoulders slumped with relief. “The Archbisop is expecting me. I must—" She pursed her lips together, then turned and hastened after Rhea.

Unsettled, Cyril left the same way Amalthea had, using his long strides to catch up to her and place a hand on her shoulder to stop her progress forward. “Thea," he said quietly, recalling what some of the other students called her. “May I refer to you as Thea?" His tone was quiet, but he was surprised by the amount of... something, in it. Like it had lost a little of the usual flatness.

She had visibly flinched when his hand landed on her shoulder, and she'd spun around so fast that her eyes were wide with fear. As if she'd been caught by something and wasn't sure how to flee. Her eyes were slightly red, and there were fresh water marks trailing down her cheeks. When it seemed she recognized him, she immediately brought her hands up and tried to wipe her face. She made a light hiccup sound as she attempted to dry her face, and once she seemed ready, she smiled at him. It wasn't quite the same, though.

“I'm sorry, Professor. I didn't... I didn't mean to interrupt," she stated, but she was still shaking lightly. “And... and of course! You can call me Thea. I'd... it's..." she didn't seem to know what she wanted to say, and fell silent, her eyes going from his, and landing on the floor.

Crying wasn't something Cyril knew how to deal with, even if he could at least identify it. If anything, it only sharpened that crackle in his gut, and he felt his jaw tighten, but relaxed it. He didn't want to make her think he was angry—

Anger.

Was that it? The heat? He was... angry, on behalf of Thea. At Rhea, for speaking to her like that. For making her cry over something that was neither her fault nor, as far as he could tell, even a significant matter. “It's all right," he said, giving her shoulder a gentle squeeze. A month of training had made a difference, but she was still so thin. And young enough to feel fragile in his grip. Like if he squeezed too hard, something would break. And here she was, weeping after a scolding from the archbishop.

It wasn't that he thought she shouldn't be. Only that he had no idea how he was supposed to prepare someone like her for the reality of taking life. Even criminals were still people, and these were children, being asked to kill.

Of course, he'd killed long before he was an adult, too. But he'd been acquainted with the reality of such things his whole life, not raised in a monastery, or a noble household, or even a merchant one. Places where death was a rare tragedy, an extraordinary and momentous occurrence, not a mundane, everyday thing like it had become for him. If it were up to Cyril, he and people like him would do what fighting there was to be done, so that others never had to get so used to it.

“There was no cause for her to yell like that," he continued, more firmly. “If she'd expected not to be interrupted, we could have met in her office, but we didn't. You didn't do anything wrong, okay?"

Her lower lip trembled, but she shook her head. “No, she was right. I shouldn't have interrupted like that. I should have waited outside for you, but..." she paused to take in a breath, and seemed to calm herself, “but I didn't. I'll just wait next time. I just... wanted to say they were getting ready to cut the cake for us, and... I didn't want you to miss it."

She swallowed thickly, her tears stopping for the moment, as she glanced up at him. He was nearly a foot taller than her, after all. “Thank you, Professor." Her smile, at least, seemed to regain some of its brightness. “I'm fine, now. We... we should go back before they start without us."

He wanted to argue, almost. To make sure she understood that there was nothing rude or improper about what she'd done, but somehow he thought she was just... going to think that. It seemed the Archbishop's words had more weight than his own, and perhaps that was to be expected. He did fish a handkerchief out of his pocket, though, one of several he owned, and handed it to her.

“Then we'll go eat some cake," he said quietly. “And you can use this so no one notices you cried." He had a feeling she wouldn't want that kind of attention—that she preferred to put on a happy face even when the situation didn't call for it. He couldn't understand that, exactly, but he could respect it, and respect her wish for it.

She took it, her lips trembling still with her smile as she glanced at him. “Thank you, Professor," she stated, wiping her face with it. Once she appeared to be presentable, she tucked his handkerchief away in her pocket, and took in a deep breath. Slowly, she released it before her usually bright smile was back on her face. She folded her hands behind her back, and tilted forward a bit.

“Now... let's go get us some cake! It always makes everything better!" She at least sounded better.

Cyril huffed gently, but nodded as though the acquisition of cake was in fact a serious mission they needed to undertake.

“Cake it is."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Senka Rinaldi Character Portrait: Amalthea von Kreuz Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Sorcha Blaiddyd Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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I.Y. 1180 - Harpstring Moon - Wednesday the 14th
Garreg Mach Monastery (Training Grounds) - Afternoon - Sunny
Mercer von Riegan


“You fight like a girl!" Dierdre shouted, hurling a fireball towards Mercer. He snorted at the statement, and deflected it with the axe in his hand. He'd lost his training sword somewhere, and he had to replace it with the only other available weapon. Axes were not his thing, really, but it was the only thing available to him since the other weapons were currently being used by other students.

“So you're saying I fight like you?" he retorted, watching as she momentarily froze. He used this opportunity to switch to his bow, and aimed it at her shoulder. The arrows were flat, and non-lethal for practice, so when it hit her shoulder, the most damage it would do was bruise her.

“Mercer, you jerk! That wasn't fair," she shouted in his direction. He merely waved at her, and laughed.

“Oh, on the contrary, it was fair," he stated, grinning almost wryly. “On the battlefield, you're opponents are going to use whatever advantages they can," he continued, pursing his lips together. Enemies would do anything to ensure they won, or completed their task. He knew that from the multiple attempts on his own life. That's just how it was growing up in Almyra, however; he shoved those dark thoughts to the back of his mind, and watched as something caught Dierdre's attention.

“They're going to have a tournament at the end of the month," she stated, handing him the flyer she'd grabbed. “I wonder if Sofia would be interested," she asked, glancing up at him.

“Maybe. You should go ask her," he stated as she nodded and walked away. He knew another person who might be interested in it, and allowed a grin to form on his lips. “Now if only I could find little Thea," he muttered to himself. He might as well search around the training grounds, first.

Of course, it was the training grounds, and so it wasn't really all that surprising to run across Sorcha. She seemed to be having a one-on-one practice match with Professor Cyril, both of them wielding lances. Though as he approached, he could tell it was more lesson than proper match; every time Cyril did something that got an advantage over Sorcha—which was pretty much all the time—he stopped, and they spoke about it.

As Mercer got closer, he noted that their teacher was having Sorcha practice some kind of low sweep, perhaps designed to take the feet out from under an enemy with poor or unbalanced stance. Almost as if he sensed him approaching, though, Cyril called a halt and looked up, one brow arched in query.

It took Sorcha a moment longer to realize what was going on; when she did spot him, she blinked, then dropped her eyes to her lance, rubbing at the flat of it with her thumb. “Something you need, Mercer?" she asked.

Mercer grinned at Sorcha, before glancing towards Teach. “Acutally, no, I don't need anything at the moment, however; I thought I might come see how you're doing with the Teach," he stated. A complete lie, but they didn't need to know that. At least not at the moment. “And maybe see if you wanted to get some training in with the bow later on," he added, the offer actually genuine, for once.

For some reason, the tips of Sorcha's ears reddened. “We're doing fine, thank you," she said primly, glancing once at Cyril. “Or, uh... at least I think so."

He nodded in his mild sort of way. “You are improving with admirable celerity," he added.

That actually got a smile out of Sorcha. Just a small one, but one that was real enough to reach her eyes, and give the clear blue of them a little light. “Then yes," she said. “We're doing just fine." She finally met Mercer's eyes then, tilting her head slightly and inadvertently letting a strand of blonde hair come loose from her pins. “And more bow practice sounds good, if you don't, uh... mind."

She looked adorable like that. He wondered if she knew that? Inwardly rolling his eyes at himself, he laughed lightly. “I guess if Teach says so, then it must be true," he stated, reaching up to rub the back of his neck. “And sure, just name the time and place, but first," he paused, dropping his hands to his side.

“Have either of you seen Thea? There's an axe-throwing competition coming up at the end of the month, and I'm sure she'd like to join. She's training with axes, right?" he asked, finally, arching a brow in both of their directions.

They exchanged a glance with almost comically-accurate timing. “I believe I saw her enter the greenhouse on my way up to the training grounds an hour ago," Cyril offered after a moment, leaning a bit on where he'd planted his lance in the ground. His posture was always so relaxed and alert at the same time; it was a little different from the knights, who were often kind of... uptight by comparison.

“I think that's a good idea," Sorcha said with a nod. “She's been training really hard, and having some competition who are also beginners might help her confidence. I'm not sure she realizes how far she's come." She paused, tapping the butt end of her own lance against her toe. “But about the bow thing. Um. How about tonight? The usual time?" She looked as though she half-expected him to refuse; as though she had in fact braced for it somehow.

He visibly rolled his eyes this time, but he smiled nonetheless. “Sure thing, Sorcha," he stated, grinning in her direction. “Same time, tonight, and don't be late! You were late last time," which was another lie. She was always on time, sometimes early. It was a little unnerving to him how dedicated to something she was, but he supposed that was another reason he was so proud of her. He clicked his tongue as the thought crossed his mind.

“And don't sell yourself, short, Sorch," he spoke, smoothing out his grin to something more of a smile. “You've come a long way, too. You don't give yourself enough credit," he was sure it was a confidence issue, but he couldn't be too sure. “Have fun with the Teach!" he stated, waving them off as he made his way towards the Greenhouse. It wasn't too far from the training grounds, perhaps a ten minute walk. When he arrived, though, Thea was no where in sight. He pursed his lips together at that.

“Oh, hey Mercer," it was Sylvi who spoke, bringing his attention towards her. She was with Devon, holding a basket of herbs. Perhaps for the kitchen staff since they were on kitchen duty today. “Looking for something?" she asked, causing him to sigh heavily.

“Yeah, Thea. Have you seen her?" Sylvi pursed her lips together and shook her head.

“Nope. I haven't seen her, here, today. What about you, Dev?" she asked, turning towards Devon.

Devon shifted slightly, adjusting his basket. “I did actually! Earlier she was down by the pond? I think she was talking to Reynard about something. He might still be on the dock? He spends a lot of his free time fishing, I think."

Mercer sighed dramatically, flailing his arms up before he let them fall to his sides. “Thanks, guys," he stated, watching as Sylvi shrugged her shoulders and returned to her work with Devon. Mercer, on the other hand, made his way towards the pond. Sure enough, there was Reynard, reel in hand, and looking rather content. Or about as content as one could be from Mercer's distance. He really couldn't tell. When he was close enough, he called out.

“Hey, Reynard! Have you seen Thea?"

The man tilted his head in acknowledgment of the question, languidly enough that it was almost like he'd been expecting it. Removing one hand from the reel, he grasped the bowl of his long-stemmed pipe and exhaled, a cloud of fragrant smoke drifting away from the both of them. “She came by about a half-hour ago," he said, replacing the pipe in his mouth and speaking around it. he seemed to be slowly pulling the bobber back towards himself, legs dangling over the dock.

“She was looking for Vridel. I told her he was in the library. My guess is they're both still there. He's been awfully interested in botany lately." A half-smile curled one side of his mouth, and he shot Mercer a narrow-eyed look from the corner of his eye.

“Wonder why that could be."

Mercer couldn't help but laugh at the statement so hard that he had to grip his sides. “Man, that's never going to get old," he stated, glancing towards Reynard's position. “I'd wager it has a lot to do with a post-victory hug from a certain green-haired person," he stated, his grin turning a bit more cheshire.

“Thanks for the intell," he stated, waving a dismissive hand in Reynard's direction. The library wasn't too far, he supposed, but part of him really didn't want to make the walk. He could have just left the information with Sorcha and called it a day, but he supposed he might as well finish what he started. Once he managed to reach the library, he heaved a big sigh, and pushed forward.

“Oh, hey Senka. Wasn't expecting you to be here," he stated, watching as she turned pale amethyst eyes in his direction. She blinked in that slow motion she usually did before her head tilted.

“Plenty of students come to the library to learn, Mercer. How would I be any different?" she retorted, earning a light chuckle from Mercer. “If you're looking for Sorcha, she's at the training grounds with Cyril," she stated, turning her attention towards the book in her hands. He raised a brow at that. She'd always addressed him as Professor Cyril. When had she dropped Professor?

“I'm actually looking for Thea. I was told she was here, but I can't seem to find her. Have you seen her?" he asked, her attention back on him. She nodded. “Great! Where is she?"

“Second floor with Vridel. We were studying a new tome when she came to ask his advice on something axe related. Supposedly there is an event at the end of the month and she was excited about it," she replied languidly. Mercer blinked a little stupidly at Senka. Did Thea already know about the tournament? Well, whatever. He could at least still tell her since he'd made it all this way.

“Thanks, Sen," he stated before making his way to the second level of the library. There, he spotted Vridel, but not Thea. He pursed his lips together.

Vridel, as it turned out, spotted him as well. His eyes, a much darker shade of purple than Senka's, narrowed. “What do you want?" he asked. He could come off as so grouchy sometimes; it really was kind of hilarious. He appeared to have an array of books spread in front of him; at least one of the illustrations depicted a poleaxe, the sort of heavy steel thing used by and against cavalry units.

Mercer snorted at his reaction. “Obviously I want you, otherwise I wouldn't have spent my entire afternoon searching high and low for you," he responded without missing a beat, flittering his eye lashes in Vridel's direction. He could have sworn he heard someone cough, as if they were trying not to laugh, but Mercer paid it no mind.

“Alas, our time apart has made the heart fonder," he stated, crossing his arms over his chest. Before he could say anything further, though, another voice took his attention.

“Ugh." Vridel rolled his eyes in an exaggerated manner and proceeded to turn back to his books, quite ignoring Mercer.

“That's what they say in the books about Knights," it was Amalthea, who seemed to appear out of nowhere, to Mercer. He blinked in her direction before pursing his lips at her.

“You! Do you know how long it took me to find you!?" he stated, momentarily forgetting about Vridel. She blinked, large innocent eyes, up at him and tilted her head.

“I didn't know you were looking for me, Mercer! Sorry!" she stated, bowing in an apologetic way. He groaned. She didn't need to do that.

“Don't... you don't need to bow, silly. I just wanted to let you know about the axe tournament at the end of the month, but I couldn't find you," he stated, watching as a bright smile blossomed on her face.

“I know! I saw the flyers they were putting up, and I came to ask Vridel for advice on which axes would be the best to practice with!" she stated, her eyes turning up towards Vi. It was adorable, really.

For his part, Vridel did look up again then, offering her a short nod. There was unease in his body language, but he was also curiously oriented so as to be inclusive of her, rather than shutting her out of his space or anything like that. “Realistically, the Monastery has access to most of the Imperial varieties of throwing axe, and if that's the case there's no point in using the kinds from the Kingdom or the Alliance, as they're patently inferior. I suspect such a competition will use the standard returning hand axe, so you'll want to familiarize yourself with those. You can worry about things like balance and heft differences once you have the fundamentals established. I have a tomahawk I believe might interest you. It's a little lighter, but more aerodynamic, so you get better force for less effort."

It took every ounce of control for Mercer to not laugh at the situation. It was obvious that Amalthea wasn't as aware of the unease in Vridel's body language as Mercer was, however; he decided to let Vridel be, for now. “Oh, that would be great, Vridel!" she stated, and Mercer could have sworn she might have jumped with excitement. She really was overly excited, like a puppy. It was slightly endearing.

“Well, it seems you two lovebirds have everything handled. Guess I can be on my way now that my job is done," he stated, watching as confusion flickered across Thea's face. She glanced up at Vridel, the question evident on her face.

“What's a lovebird?" she asked, though from the way her ears were slightly red, she might have had an idea, but wasn't sure of it. Mercer had never laughed so hard. He was sure he broke something.

Vridel looked to be about on the verge of unsheathing the sword all Academy students carried around and stabbing him with it. Not that they were generally very sharp; the practice blades could be used for defense in a pinch but mostly they were there so that students would get used to the weight and feel of carrying one around, as many of them would be expected to later in life, either symbolically or for very practical reasons. Still, the prince seemed almost willing to give it a try anyway.

“They're a genus of parrot," he replied, tone unnaturally calm for the murderous expression on his face. “I've no idea why Mercer should compare either of us. If there is a noisy, squawking bird in the room, it is most certainly him."

“Ouch, that hurts," Mercer replied, but he ducked down the stairs with all the intent of getting as far away from Vridel before he actually was stabbed. Maybe he'd go tell Reynard about this new, little... development?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Senka Rinaldi Character Portrait: Amalthea von Kreuz Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Sorcha Blaiddyd Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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I.Y. 1180 - Harpstring Moon - Saturday the 31st
Zanado, the Red Canyon - Afternoon - Clear
Mercer von Riegan


Mercer clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. Teach ordered the archers to the back, but Mercer decided he wasn't going to do that. Instead, he stayed close to Sorcha, watching as the bandits scurried to arm themselves, proper, and begin their own assault. This wasn't going to be an easy fight; for someone who'd had to fight most of his life, he was okay with what they had to do. But the way Sorcha had reacted to their first encounter, he didn't want her to be alone through it a second time. Dierdre had looked a little hesitant to remain in the back, her eyes focusing on Sofia for a brief moment, before she seemed to steel herself.

He couldn't blame her; it was a very real possibility that they were about to lose each other. And love like theirs was very rare to find. He almost envied the two of them. Sylvi and Amalthea had stayed close to the Teach, and Senka had, oddly, remained somewhere in the middle. She wasn't in the back, but she wasn't as close to the others as Amalthea and Sylvi were. Perhaps she too felt the need to fight at a closer range? He knew she was decent with magic, but still... he allowed his gaze to focus back on the bandits.

The least he could do is try and take out one or two of the bandits. In total, there must have been about fifteen to twenty of them. It was, by no means, a small group, but against the eleven of them, it shouldn't be too difficult. This was under the assumption that the others would be able to do what they needed: kill.

Vridel was about even with Senka, sword drawn but from the look of it magic also at the ready. His facility with white magic was almost certain to see some use today. Sofia glanced back to her fiancee only once, nodding firmly before hefting her axe in her hand and firming up the front line with Teach and the others. Devon had the rear, and Reynard had once again seemingly disappeared. There was enough cover in this part of the canyon that he might well have found somewhere to snipe from, or to launch a sneak attack of some description.

“I'm here for you, Sorcha, just so you know," he stated, though he didn't quite understand the need to say it. He just thought it would be reassuring to her, somehow. Like it was to him. He didn't want any of his friends to die on the battlefield, and he was going to make sure of that, one way or another.

Her hands trembled where they held her bow. She, too, wasn't content to stay all the way at the back; probably because she had melee options as well and wanted to be in range to help support the front line if necessary. She pursed her lips, but looked suddenly up at him as he spoke, almost as if she was surprised to see him there. “Mercer! I, um..." She swallowed audibly. “You too. I mean. I'm here if you... need me."

She grimaced, mumbling something to herself that sounded like “not likely."

“Of course I need you," he responded almost immediately, fixing his eyes into serious state. “One person alone is only so strong, but as long as you're with me," he began, offering her a small smile, “I'd like to think we'll both make it through this, alright?" He wanted her to know that she was also going to be providing strength to him. She, and the others, were the reason he was going to give it his all today. To ensure that everyone lived, even if he didn't.

It wasn't long after that, they finally met the first wave of bandits. Mercer had notched an arrow almost immediately before letting it fly. Unfortunately the bandit he aimed for was wearing an armored chest plate, and the arrow merely hit it with a soft thud before falling. He pursed his lips together, and readied another arrow, letting it loose on another bandit. This time, the arrow found its mark, but it was lodged into the bandit's shoulder. He cried out from the obvious pain, but Mercer didn't have much time to think about it. He readied another arrow, and aimed again.

Beside him, Sorcha kept up a steady rhythm of fire, though he could tell from as close as he was that her fingers trembled on every draw. It didn't seem to hurt her accuracy much, nor did the way she gasped softly after the first bandit fell to her arrow in his throat.

“Survive," she whispered, turning her next shot on someone trying to approach Senka from the side. “Survive."

The reminder to herself did not stop the tears from beginning to flow.

In the front, their line was making efficient work of the bandits. Some of them were definitely burn-scarred, and dressed similarly to the ones who'd attacked the three of them during the training exercise. It was no great leap to assume they were the same group. Two of them, bearing the scars of his magic, apparently recognized Vridel and went straight for him. He cut one down, and the other fell to a pair of arrows from Devon.

Sofia kept her side of the line steady with measured, calculated blows. She wasn't a quick striker, but she was patient and sudden when she did decide to hit, and one of her axeblows cleaved a man's head, covering her in gore. She looked like she was about to be sick, but grimaced and held out. The incident, however, blinded her to the man trying to flank on her left.

Dierdre released a wind spell, pushing the man away from Sofia as her eyes were wide with fear. She was trembling as well, but she didn't have much time to react as another tried to attack her from behind. Mercer was quick with his arrow, notching it in place and releasing it in time to catch the bandit in the head. His body slumped forward, and Dierdre nearly jumped out of her skin as she turned in time to deflect an incoming arrow.

Amalthea didn't seem to be doing so well, though. She was visibly trembling, but she had yet to engage an enemy. Senka had kept close to her, deflecting swords here and there, but she could only do so much. Amalthea had gripped her axe, raised it as high as she could, before she brought it down in time to knock a dagger out of a man's hand. And in doing so, she lopped his hand off. His scream, and the blood that poured from his now-missing hand, seemed to startle her and she took a step back. She screamed as the blood covered her, and Senka had to pull her out of the way from arrow. It grazed her shoulder, the arrowhead slicing into it and producing a thin line of blood, but she did not appear to be fazed.

Sylvi had, at this point, worked her way through two of the bandits. She too seemed to be having trouble, though, and it was easy to tell that she had been crying, but her expression seemed strange. Her lips were pressed into a fine line, and her eyes seemed to be relaxed. Mercer knew that look. It was the look of someone who wasn't quite there, and was losing themselves in some other thought. That wasn't a good sign, though, and Mercer called out to her.

“Sylvi, stay sharp!" otherwise it would get her killed. She seemed to snap back to reality as her axe became more swift. More accurate, and she was able to push the bandit back. When he'd no more arrows to use, Mercer switched to his sword.

Sorcha ran out at about the same time as he did, and shifted to her lance. Even Devon was on his backup knife now, and Reynard had joined the fray in earnest, a short blade in each hand, cutting down from behind a bandit who'd almost gotten Sylvi.

Vridel shifted in, briefly touching a hand to Amalthea's back. Her bleeding stopped immediately, only what had already soaked into her clothes likely to remain. He hurdled a blast of fire at some of the incoming bandits; their rear line was now making the charge, and they were much more numerous now, in the thick of things.

Over Vridel's shoulder, Sorcha stabbed her lance, catching one who'd managed to duck under the fire and tried to retaliate. Teach, meanwhile, drew back and hurled his javelin, finishing off one of the incoming group and following up with a spell, which took out their left flank. It thinned the numbers considerably, but the incoming collision was still going to be a hard one.

“Brace yourselves!"

Before Mercer could react, there was a loud scream. He could tell it belonged to Amalthea, and immediately his eyes scanned the area for her. There was something wrong with Senka. She was as covered in blood as the rest of them were, however; something was off. She had an arrow stuck in her back, near her shoulder, and was standing in front of Amalthea. From the way it looked, it was as if she'd taken the arrow that had been meant for Amalthea. It was a sudden turn, though. She flung herself, sword in had, at the nearest bandit, catching him in the gut, and pushing him towards the ground. Immediately, there was a flame in her hand, and she was pushing it in the bandit's face, burning it off. The man screamed in anguish, and for a moment, even Mercer winced. It was bloodcurling and painful. She pulled the sword from his stomach, and plunged it once again, almost in a repetitive motion until the bandit moved no more.

She was screaming something, but he was too far to hear what it was. When her eyes flickered towards his, however; Mercer felt his stomach drop. It was a feral look, one that only cornered and frightened animals had. But it was also void of everything. Typically she had an impassive face, but there were small tells of what she was feeling. Now... there was nothing. She jumped to her feet, and charged towards another group of bandits, flinging another fire spell at one and clashing swords with another. If Mercer hadn't known better, he would have thought she were an expert with the sword, but there was still something feral and wild about it. She was thrashing about wildly, fighting two at once. A third bandit seemed to join the fray, but Senka showed no signs of letting up. It was like watching a caged animal, fight, and Mercer was certain that Senka wasn't quite there.

Amalthea had, at this point, retreated towards Mercer, tears clear as day in her eyes. “Mercer! She's not... she won't stop! She's not listening," she stated in a panic. He clenched his jaw tightly, and glanced around the field to see if there was someone close by.

“Sorcha, Teach! Something's not right with Senka," he shouted once he spotted them. It was at this point that most of the bandits seemed to focus their attacks on her, and she was being surrounded by at least three more. She wasn't going to last much longer, if the way she was breathing heavily was anything to go by. A couple of the bandits managed to slice her arms, and one tried to get her legs, however; she moved so that it caught her in the side. And then there was rage. Mercer wasn't sure if he'd ever seen so much emotion on her face, before. It was unnerving. “Amalthea, go," he stated, ushering her in the direction of Devon and the others. She nodded her head, and immediately, her eyes went wide. Without hesitation, her grip on her axe tightened, and she threw it at a bandit trying to get to Devon. It landed square in his chest, deep enough that it would likely take a great deal of strength to remove it, however; she stretched her arm out and used the enchantment to call it back to her.

Mercer turned his attention back towards Senka. She was still surrounded, and he was out of arrows.

“Sen! Senka!" Sorcha's tone was desperate; she broke from the line to try and get to her friend, only to find herself quickly accosted by two more bandits. She scored a quick jab to one of them, sending him reeling backwards, but before she could finish him, the other stepped in and disarmed her. Left with few options for defense, she scrambled, blocking the next blow with her bow. It broke under the bandit's sword, and she screamed as it cut into her shoulder afterward, but remained standing.

“Mercer!" Cyril was suddenly beside him, hurling the javelin into the uninjured bandit before he could finish her. “Get to Sorcha. Pull her back behind the line. Vridel, you're on standby for her and Senka."

So saying, he sprinted for where Senka was still tangled with her foes, arms cracking with lightning magic. He drove his fist for the first, landing a heavy blow at the base of the bandit's spine with a wet crack. If that hadn't killed him outright, the magic surely would have, and it jumped to the next foe, jolting him as he was about to make a swing. Cyril grabbed him, still on the move, and physically threw him into his compatriots, knocking them away from Senka. A blast of dark magic went at the lot, but the professor didn't so much as wait to see the result.

Instead, he grabbed Senka by the collar, disrupting her balance and deftly disarming her. With one arm, he hoisted her onto his shoulder, and the other held the sword, which he used to run through the one bandit who'd survived the magic and tried to lunge for him now that he was encumbered with the weight of another person.

Mercer was quick to move, finding Sorcha's side in a matter of seconds. She was holding the javelin Teach had thrown, but she didn't seem to be handling it well. Probably because her arm had been injured. When that had happened, Mercer felt something in his stomach, twist. He'd felt sick, as if he'd somehow failed to do something he said he was going to do. Protect. She had been injured because he wasn't quick enough when he needed to be.

When Teach had grabbed Senka, she'd immediately started slamming her fists into his back, screaming at him to let her go, that she needed to get back to them. Whoever they were. He turned his attention back to Sorcha, though, and pursed his lips together. “Hey, are you all right?" he asked, knowing it was a stupid question to ask. Still... he couldn't... he needed to know she would be okay. That she was okay, physically.

She grimaced; there were smears of blood all over her clothes and light leather armor. Most of it wasn't hers, he could tell, but a fair amount of it was, too. “I'll be—better when this is over," she admitted, shifting the javelin to her left hand, and hurling it. She wasn't nearly as good with it as her right, but it still connected with enough force to knock a bandit off-balance, and Reynard quickly finished him.

She summoned the weapon back and lined up another throw. Despite all the viscera on her face, clear tracks were obvious from her eyes to her jaw. It was hard to tell if she were still crying, but it almost didn't matter. The damage had clearly been done. To all of them.

The bandits were almost done for, though, and even as Cyril brought Senka back for healing, ignoring both the fists pounding into his back and her desperate cries, he made eye contact with the last man standing, pointing over the intervening distance with Senka's sword. A crackle of electricity sparked along the surface, coalescing at the tip and striking out, traveling over the field in a hard, shuddering bolt. It struck the bandit leader square in the chest, and he collapsed, unmoving atop the glowing green floor tiles.

There were types of magic capable of such distance. From description alone, that was probably Thoron. Whatever it was, it ended the battle.

Sorcha immediately fell to the ground, hugging her knees to her chest and looking to Teach. “Is she going to be okay?" her voice was tight, cracked with worry, even now.

He hesitated, holding Senka in place while Vridel worked.

“I hope so," was all he said.

Mercer doubted she was going to be okay for a long while, but he decided to keep that to himself. Instead, he sighed heavily, and rolled out his shoulders. They'd all survived, and that was all that mattered, in the end. Even if some of them were likely to have nightmares, or be haunted by the images. All that mattered was that they had all survived. Even himself.

The journey back to Garreg Mach had been relatively silent. No one spoke; Dierdre walked so close to Sofia that it looked like she was occasionally tripping over the woman's feet. Amalthea had nearly tucked herself into Sorcha, but kept a respectful distance between them. Sorcha, though, didn't seem to mind, and readily put her uninjured arm over Amalthea's shoulders, pulling her a little closer, so they were walking in step. And Senka, she'd stayed near Vridel and Teach, her eyes on the floor every step of the way. They were all going to need some time, after this.

“You should take Senka and yourself to Professor Manuela, get a look over," he stated in a low voice to Sorcha. Vridel's magic could only do so much for them, and he was certain they could both use it. All of them could, but out of the group, they'd sustained more injuries. Amalthea had a scratch on her face that would heal, given some time, and Dierdre had sustained some injuries. But they weren't anything she couldn't handle. The others were likely to have injuries as well, but Mercer considered himself rather lucky that he just had a couple of bruises.

“I will," she replied just as quietly. “Maybe Vivi will come too. He doesn't act like it but he's got to be about to pass out from all that healing." They didn't have too many other people who could do it, and one of the only passable healers was Senka, who was obviously in no shape to help.

As they approached the monastery entrance, Teach dropped back to walk for a moment beside Mercer. His eyes didn't leave Senka's back even as he spoke; it would seem he was still wary of her wounds. “I'm required to report to the Archbishop as soon as we arrive," he said, tone flat but somehow harder than the one he usually used. Certainly not nearly the same one he used with his students. “Would you be interested in coming with?"

“Fine by me," he replied almost instantly. He wanted to see what Rhea had to say for herself, sending them into a battle like that. He could understand if it were him, and maybe Vridel and Teach, but the others? They were clearly not ready for this. Taking another person's life wasn't something that people could easily do, especially people with relatively soft hearts like Thea and Sorcha. That... he felt his chest clench painfully as he walked with Teach towards the Archbishop's office.

When they'd arrived, Rhea's face immediately furrowed from the smile she had been wearing. Clearly she wasn't expecting Mercer to be there, but she ignored him for the moment, and turned back towards Cyril. “So, you have safely disposed of those bandits. I pray that their souls find salvation," she stated, sincerity laced in her voice, but Mercer knew that it was not genuine. Her brows furrowed once more, her eyes shifting towards Mercer.

“But why did they target the students to begin with?" she questioned, closing her eyes for a moment before she continued, “We must further investigate the true cause of all that took place. Until we know more, I ask that you support the students and relieve them of any unnecssary worry." Her eyes were still on Mercer when she spoke.

Cyril's face was blank as ever, but with time, Mercer was getting a read on the subtle differences in it. It would have been hard for someone like Rhea to tell, who never saw him with his students, but this kind of blankness was much harsher than the kind he had with them. “I'll do what I can for them," he said, but something about it suggested it wasn't really a promise to relieve 'unnecessary worry.'

Her expression shifted slightly, but it was so quick that Mercer wasn't sure he'd seen it properly. Instead, she nodded her head. “Good, I have high expectations for you." That was a rather odd statement, to Mercer. Why would she have high expectations for Teach? “By the way," she began, eyes sliding back to Cyril, “how was your time in Zanado?"

“Legend has it, in ancient times, a goddess alighted upon this world in that very canyon. For a goddess from the heavens, Zanado could only have been a temporary haven," she spoke, her voice light, as if she were recalling a fond memory.

Teach tilted his head, something about the information apparently catching his interest. “And this would be... your goddess? The one worshipped here?" Apparently he hadn't been exaggerating his lack of knowledge on the subject.

She didn't bother hiding the flash of disappointment across her face. She nodded her head, nonetheless, and sighed softly. “Long ago, the divine Seiros received a revelation from the goddess. A gift, to help guide the lost," she began, causing Mercer to purse his lips together. “The goddess is always watching over Fódlan from her kingdom above, however; in ancient times, the goddess graced this world with her presence," she explained, causing Mercer's frown to deepen, “and offered salvation to the people here."

“She is the mother of all life, the arbiter of every soul," she continued, but the way her voice sounded caused Mercer to take a mental note of it. It wasn't of someone who truly believed in the goddess, but of someone who had experienced it before. That, in itself, was strange. He'd have to tell Vridel about it, later.

Before Teach could reply to this, Lady Lyanna entered, walking somewhat briskly, the skirt of her white gown rippling with the motions. “Your pardon, Lady Rhea," she said, executing a neat bow. “As you requested, I have arranged matters with the knights for the Professor's next mission." She half turned, showing no outward surprise at Mercer's presence.

When Rhea gave a small nod, she elaborated. “We have received reports that Lord Lonato has rallied troops against the Holy church of Seiros." There was something curiously flat about her voice when she named the Church.

Teach's eyes narrowed slightly. “Why would he do that?"

Rhea shook her head, “Lord Lonato is a minor lord of the Kingdom. He has been showing hostility toward the church for some time now." She didn't sound affected by it, though. Wasn't Lonato the one who sponsored Devon? To his credit, Mercer kept the surprise from his face, glancing towards Lyanna and Rhea with a face to rival Senka's and Teach's impassive one.

“A vanguard unit of the Knights of Seiros will soon be dispatched to his stronghold, Castle Gaspard," Lyanna added, crossing her arms. “His army poses no threat to the Knights, ultimately. It is possible the rebellion will be suppressed within a day of initial contact." She shook her head, as if she found it all quite senseless.

“Even so, I would like for your class to travel with the knights' rear guard to deal with the aftermath." Another battle? That meant they would be required to kill again, to fight in another bloody battle for the Church. Something just didn't add up, to Mercer. Something was missing, off, and he didn't like it.

If Teach thought so, too, he was doing a good job of hiding it, at least until he spoke. “This army Lonato has raised... in whom does it consist?" There was the faintest edge of suspicion to his tone.

“Exactly who you'd expect," Lyanna replied slowly. “His house's army, and volunteers to his cause."

Volunteers? But that would mean—

“You intend to send children barely off their first battlefield to kill innocents?" Cyril pressed.

Lyanna's eyes went wide. She darted a quick glance at the Archbishop, and spoke rapidly. “Those who defy the Church are never innocent, Professor. And those you call children are adult enough to lead countries. Armies. They will not be kept from reality." Her jaw tightened, and there was a flicker of something—fear?—in her eyes.

Whatever it was, it kept Teach from replying further. He crossed his arms, but nodded slightly.

Clearing her throat, Lyanna continued as though the interruption had never taken place. “As you know, war zones are unpredictable. We do not expect you will have cause to actually battle, but be prepared for the worst." She expelled a breath. “The knights you will be accompanying will be led by Lady Catherine, the Sacred Knight."

If Teach's response fazed Rhea, it did not show. She merely smiled, as if she were expecting that kind of response. “Catherine is one of our bravest knights, and that is no small feat. Only an exceptional few have what it takes to join the Knights of Seiros," she explained, her eyes sliding to Mercer with a strange uncanniness. “This mission should prove useful in demonstrating to the students how foolish it would be to ever turn their blades on the church..." Mercer felt his jaw tighten.

She might not have speaking about him directly, but damn did it feel like she was. It was enough that Mercer swore he felt a chill go down his spine as she and Lyanna exited, leaving him and Teach behind.

“Did that sound like a threat to you, or was it just me?" Teach's voice was back to its usual dryness, but his eyes were quite sharp.

“And here I thought I was the only one who thought so," Mercer replied, his eyes narrowing in the direction of where Rhea had left. “And to be honest, it didn't sound like one; it was a threat," Mercer knew enough to know a threat when he heard it. “But why would she go about threatening kids? We don't pose much of a threat to her," at least not now.

“Well three of you are set to lead countries," Teach noted. “I don't know much about politics, but if she can scare you young, maybe she hopes it'll stick." He wore a slight grimace, and shook his head before giving Mercer a soft clap on the shoulder. “For now I don't suppose there's anything to be done. Get some rest; I'll tell Professor Manuela you'll be late tomorrow, if you'd like some extra shut-eye."

“You're a life-saver, Teach, you know that?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Senka Rinaldi Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Sorcha Blaiddyd Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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I.Y. 1180 - Garland Moon - Sunday the 8th
Garreg Mach Monastery - Early Afternoon - Overcast
Senka Rinaldi


The day they had returned to Garreg Mach from the Red Canyon, Senka had been asked by Professor Hanneman to see him when she had the chance, after she had recovered. He was there when they went to the infirmary to see Professor Manuela, and he wore a curious expression when they recounted their battle. Senka, of course, had no recollection what happened after she'd been shot with the arrow, only that she had come to and she was on Professor's shoulders. Thea had filled in small details, causing Senka to become worried that something was wrong with her, however; Professor Hanneman had told her that there could have been another explanation for it all.

And if they wanted to know, that she should seem him in his office once she had recovered enough. Senka wasn't entirely sure if she truly was recovered. Her hands were stained with the blood of a person, forevermore. That was a reality she had to come to terms with, but it wasn't easy. She knew she shouldn't lose sleep over their lost lives, but at one point, they had been people. They were still human, and taking a life should not have been that easy. Perhaps that was just her body's natural reaction to the stress of it? To take over and just survive.

Whatever it was, it had startled Senka. So, with a sigh, she made her way to Hanneman's office, slowly.

Her path took her past the courtyard where the Saturday group tended to congregate, but today there were only two occupants: Sorcha and Cyril. They both looked up when she approached, Sorcha with a half-smile when she recognized Senka and the professor with his customary blank-faced expression.

“Sen!" Sorcha called, waving her over. “Where are you headed?"

Senka felt her face soften at seeing her friend, and made her way towards the two. Once she was at a respectable distance, she answered, “I am on my way to see Professor Hanneman." She tilted her head slightly as she regarded her friend, and the professor. “Would... you like to join me?" she asked hesitantly. Perhaps they were too busy at the moment, but Senka didn't want to go alone, necessarily.

“Professor Hanneman?" Sorcha blinked. “Is this about your magic certs?"

The professor seemed to pick up on some of her internal discomfort, at least if the way his brows furrowed slightly was anything to go by. His reply was a beat too late by most standards, but not at all insincere. “Of course I would," he said simply.

This seemed to remind Sorcha of the question, and she nodded immediately, closing over the book that was in front of her and putting it in the satchel near her feet. “Definitely!"

“Thank you," she spoke softly, waiting until they were walking in stride. When they arrived at Professor Hanneman's office, she knocked briefly on the edge of his doorframe and waited until he spotted them.

“Ah, you may all come in," he stated, motioning them towards him. He looked rather pleased with himself, as if he had just discovered something important. Once they were all situated around a large device, he cleared his throat to get their attention. “How much do you know about Crests, Senka?" he asked, causing her to purse her lips.

“Very little. We do not have them in Almyra," she replied, watching as Hanneman's brow quirked in curiosity.

“Fascinating, well," he muttered, straightening out his posture, “you've also stated that your mother was from Faerghus, correct?" Senka nodded. “I'm surprised she said nothing about them, to you. Or is it, perhaps, that she came from a family that bore none?"

“I do not know," Senka replied, casting her gaze to the ground. The only thing she'd known about her mother's family was that they were from Faerghus, and that they had been a small, noble family. Crests had never come up, before, and she didn't think that they were as important as the Church had made them out to be. They were, essentially, just symbols of power that people could shape and use however they wanted. It wasn't something Senka thought highly of.

“And what about you, Sorcha? You carry a Minor Crest of Blaiddyd, after all. What do you know of them?" His attention was on Sorcha, at that.

Sorcha tilted her head. Senka knew she didn't much care about Crests, either, as important as they were to the Kingdom. Still, there was a difference between thinking they determined a person's worth, which Senka knew her friend hated, and academic study like Professor Hanneman's, so she answered without complaint. “I do," she said quietly. “I don't think I've ever used it though. People used to talk about my father being so strong in battle he could break someone's sword with his bare hands, but... he had the Major, so I doubt I'd be able to do anything like that." She pursed her lips a little.

It had always been something of a sore spot for Sorcha that she only had the Minor Crest of Blaiddyd. Prior to her, the family line had carried it strongly, with almost every generation having the Major version, something Faerghus as a country was proud of. There were some who said it was because she was to be the first daughter in a long line of sons, and who had thought the King would have been better off trying for more children, or that it had been the first Queen's fault somehow. It was even whispered, from time to time, that his marriage to Patricia had been an attempt to do just that: have a son with the Major Crest to make the next king instead.

Of course, both Lambert and Patricia had died before that came to be.

“Indeed, no one truly knows what they are capable of," he stated, though there was a strange smile on his face. “I suspect that, because they are considered blessings of the goddess, each crest has something to do with the Ten Elites, and what they were particularly gifted at. For example, for you, Sorcha, I imagine that Blaiddyd was a particularly strong fellow who was known for his extraordinary might," he continued his explanation, before his attention shifted towards Cyril.

“Of course, like Cyril's Crest, there are still Crests out in the world that have not yet been discovered, so it is difficult to discern exactly what they are." Senka glanced towards the professor and tilted her head. Professor had a Crest? That... explained some things, if Hanneman's explanation was anything to go by.

Cyril himself certainly didn't deny it, only crossing his arms over his chest. His expression seemed thoughtful—at least she'd known him to wear it when deep in thought before. “So you think that what happened to Senka the other day is because she has a Crest?" he asked. “I don't think I've ever seen one activate before. Is it always like that?"

“Precisely," Hanneman stated, causing Senka to furrow her brows slightly. “And each Crest is activated differently, depending on the situation. It might have been that Senka's Crest, dormant in some way, was forced to activate when she was in peril. You were injured with an arrow protecting Amalthea, correct?" Senka nodded. “It's possible that your desire to protect her is what activated it."

“But... I do not believe I possess a Crest. Even if my mother was from Faerghus, she has no bloodlines to the Ten Elites," she stated, causing Professor Hanneman to smile in a strange way.

“Ah, but you see, I just said there are Crests that are yet to be discovered," he stated, motioning for her to come closer to him. “We can use my device, here, to see if you do, indeed, possess one. Don't worry, though, it is painless," he explained. She shot a glance towards Cyril and Sorcha before obliging him. “Now, just hold out your arm," he stated, holding his hand out as if to grab hers. She reached out and set it where his was, and waited.

The machine made a whirring sound, and for a moment there was nothing. Suddenly, an image appeared, startling Senka somewhat, but not as much as Professor Hanneman had been. He nearly dropped the pen he'd been holding as he stared at the image. “It's... this... this is absolutely amazing!" he stated, as Senka retracted her hand. The image on the device was strange to her, almost shaped in the way of a bull of some sort.

“It's the lost Crest of Maurice! To think that we'd see it again after all these years," he was rambling at this point, and Senka furrowed her brows before turning her attention to Cyril and Sorcha.

“Lost... Crest?" Sorcha blinked, her eyes wavering uncertainly between the three others in the room. Mostly, she looked concerned, probably because of the bit about the Crest manifesting involuntarily. “Of Maurice? But that's impossible. Church lore says he had no descendants after he—" She grimaced, turning worried eyes on Senka.

“Indeed. I did not think it was possible that he had descendants," he stated, turning his attention towards Senka. “But it is clear as day that he had, and has. Tell me, Senka, have you ever heard of the Crest of The Beast?" he asked, causing Senka to shake her head. His eyes fell slightly, as if he were hoping she had. His next words made sense.

“Lore says that, after the war against Nemesis, Maurice was cursed into a demonic beast from overtaxing his own Crest and Hero's Relic," he began, causing something in Senka to tighten. It felt like her lungs were refusing to work, and she couldn't breathe. “After that, he lost control and killed innocent people in such a gruesome manner, that," he paused pursing his lips together.

“People say that if he had any descendants, that they were cursed to suffer the same fate. The Crest of Maurice was considered bad luck, and was renamed the Crest of The Beast, after that." Something felt hot inside of Senka. Did... did that mean she was cursed? Was she going to turn into a demonic beast, like he said, and kill people?

“Is... is that going to happen to me? Am... am I going to kill..." she couldn't seem to find the words she wanted to say. Something hot lanced through her, an emotion she'd been intimate with, before. It was fear.

“Don't be ridiculous!" Sorcha's voice, unusually sharp, cut through the silence like a hot knife. Her hand, firm and cool, landed on Senka's shoulder. “Everything that happens with Crests happens because the user wills it. You might be able to accidentally trigger the Crest, but something like that... if you learn how to control the Crest carefully, that won't happen. Maurice was greedy for power and regularly overtaxed his Crest to get to that point, right Professor Hanneman?"

Professor Hanneman winced at Sorcha's words, which did little to ease Senka's fears. “That... is easier said than done, I'm afraid," he replied, and she felt her heart drop. “Because Senka's Crest reacted the way it did, controlling it will not be that easy for her. If she had prior knowledge of her own Crest, she might have been able to deal with it, properly, but unfortunately, that wasn't the case. Now, it is possible to learn control, but there has to be someone whose Crest is greater, if you will. Your Crest, Senka, is not only that of Maurice's, but it is a Major Crest. It is going to be difficult for you than it would be for someone like Sorcha, who bears a Minor Crest. That is simply how they work."

“But... what if I don't? What if... what if there's no use in controlling it? What if..." she couldn't stop the questions in her head, the What ifs.

“Then you just find someone who can handle your strength, right?" Professor Cyril hadn't spoken for some time, but he did then, drawing everyone's attention back to himself. He shrugged. “I don't know what kind of Crest mine is, and to be honest I don't really care. But we know I can deal with yours." He was surely referring to the fact that he'd somehow gotten her off the battlefield safely in the fight with the bandits.

“So you can practice control on me. And if anything funny looks like it's about to happen, I'll knock you out. No point wondering about what might happen if the worst is true when we haven't even tried the other options yet, right?" He met her eyes steadily, without even a trace of the fear she was feeling, or of Sorcha's and Professor Hanneman's apprehension.

“Professor Cyril is correct, my dear. If he was able to deal with your unknown state, it is possible that his Crest can handle yours. You should not fret," he stated, but it still did not ease her doubts and fears. She kept her gaze with Cyril's just a moment longer before she finally dropped it. Maybe he was right? Maybe she just needed to try first, before she gave up on something? Taking a slow breath, she calmed her heart that seemed to be beating a strange rhythm in her chest. It was unusually fast, but she put it down to her near-panic.

“Alright," she spoke softly. It did not make her feel better, though, that she bore a Crest that was considered cursed. “Alright," she repeated once more. “Thank you, Professor Hanneman, Cyril, Sorcha," she stated. She was certain she wouldn't have been able to do this alone.

Professor Cyril nodded slightly, but Sorcha smiled. A small one, but a smile nevertheless. “Don't worry, Sen. We're with you, and we'll figure it out together."

She hoped so.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Sorcha Blaiddyd Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


I.Y. 1180 - Garland Moon - Monday the 9th
Entrance Hall - Evening - Overcast
Vridel von Hresvelg


Vridel tried not to scowl too heavily as he and Sorcha made their way to the entrance hall. What was he doing here, anyway? The less interference he had to deal with this year, the better, and unwelcome relatives were hardly the sort to leave him to figure out his next course of action in peace.

Things were further complicated by Sorcha's presence beside him. She looked rather pleased to be able to say hello to someone she considered her 'uncle,' even if there was no blood relation there. This meant he couldn't speak as frankly with Arundel as he might like, lest she ask him all sorts of inconvenient questions about it. He wanted to keep her apart from all of this nonsense as much as possible, for her own safety as well as his peace of mind. There were some people who should just... be allowed to have optimistic views of the world, and Vridel knew too many things that would shatter Sorcha's outlook.

Not, he supposed, that it was quite intact after the end of last month. But there were different kinds of breaking, and he didn't want to be responsible for any of them.

“You don't have to come see him, you know," he told her, straightening his back as he walked. He'd been spending even more time than usual bent over tomes, trying to master a few of his shakier spells for the certifications later in the month. When he wasn't practicing bladework. He wondered if he shouldn't take the riding ones too, just in case. He didn't intend to be cavalry, but it wouldn't hurt to know. The battlefield, he knew, was rarely as cut and dry as all these clinical little divisions made it. But the Academy demanded he jump through all the hoops, and for the sake of learning everything he could, he'd jump. It would get difficult to hide his competence from his classmates if so, but he suspected that was becoming a fragile farce, even with the oblivious idiots in his own House.

Sorcha looked askance at him. “I know. But why wouldn't I? It's been ages since I've been able to say hello in person."

“In person?" His brows drew down. Did that mean she'd been writing him—

“Well, yes," she said, a strange expression crossing her face. “I always bundled his letters with yours. He wrote back, though."

Vridel stopped dead in his tracks, comically forcing Sorcha to an abrupt halt as well when she realized. “You—" his lips parted over the rest of the question, but something stopped it from coming out. She'd written him letters? All this time, he'd...

Sorcha clearly hadn't caught on to the direction of his thoughts. “I? I'm... I'm not mad, you know. I figured you probably had other things to do. Becoming heir and all." The statement was cautious. Vridel knew it was a charged thing for both of them. How they'd come to be the heirs of their countries, and how other people viewed that. Sometimes he wondered what it had been like for Mercer. Had he suffered to get where he was?

But of course that was a stupid question. Nobody in this world came into power without suffering eventually.

“I... never mind," he said, shaking his head. He couldn't tell her, not yet. “Thank you. For not holding it against me." So saying, he continued their trajectory ahead.

With a puzzled expression still writ clearly on her face, Sorcha followed.

“Hey! What's the hurry!?" it was Mercer, from the sounds of it. Only he would sound so bored on a day like this. They hadn't made it to the entrance hall, yet, where Arundel awaited them, but Mercer seemed intent on stopping them. He jogged a bit to catch up, falling in line next to Sorcha and his eyes flickered between the two of them.

“Are you two on a date?" he stated, sounding almost surprised, and smirking just light enough to know that he was trying to tease Vridel.

There was a moment immediately afterward when Vridel glanced over, making eye contact with Sorcha. He almost wondered, for a moment, if she'd be willing to play along to get a rise out of Mercer, but from the look of revulsion immediately on her face, he figured that was a no-go. To be fair, he shuddered too. There were some things it was just... better not to think about.

“Goddess, no." Sorcha didn't mince words, but then she rarely ever did. After a moment, she seemed to realize how that might sound, and cleared her throat. “Er... I love you Vivi, but, uh. Yeah. No. Definitely not."

He shrugged. “A sentiment I... return." She was not so reckless as to use such a word without knowing it to be true, but it still surprised him a little. As did how strong his own was, in turn. He'd almost forgotten what it felt like, to be in her company. To feel something like love at anything other than great distance. And even then, he'd thought—

He'd thought she'd forgotten all about him.

She grinned so widely at him now, though, that he knew her earlier words for truth. She, too, had believed he'd forgotten her, ignored the hand she'd reached out for him even over that distance. Why would Arundel do such a thing? It surely had to be he who was responsible, if he'd intercepted the letters and written back to Sorcha. But to what end? Just to prevent Vridel from speaking of the experiments? Those were only sort of a secret anyway—what would she have been able to do? Neither King Lambert nor his brother the current regent would have been able to do much, either. And the Church...

Well, that was a matter he was still figuring out.

“As for you," he continued, shifting his eyes to Mercer. “What do you want?"

Mercer sighed heavily, a ploy to be sure, and rolled his eyes. “We've been through this, Vi, I want you, remember?" he stated, wagging his eyebrows in a suggestive manner at Vridel. For whatever reason, he couldn't seem to keep up the charade, before he burst into laughter, wiping away something at his eye. “That'll never get old," he stated more to himself than to either Vridel or Sorcha.

“Darling, you couldn't handle me," Vridel drawled.

“But no, seriously, nothing. I just figured I would invite myself along to wherever you and Princess were headed," he finally answered, laying an arm over Sorcha's shoulders in a more friendly manner. There was nothing inappropriate about the way he did it, either. It was simply as if they were just friends, and nothing more.

Sorcha groaned softly, raising both hands to cover her face. She seemed to assume Mercer wouldn't let her walk into anything, at least. Not a safe assumption, in Vridel's opinion, if it would be humorous. Her face was entirely red, whether from the banter or the contact was hard to say. Friendly it might have been, but Vridel suspected Sorcha had had few friends, fewer male friends, and fewer still who initiated such casual contact on a regular basis.

It could simply have been the jokes, however.

“In that case, have fun inviting yourself along to a boring meeting with my uncle," he added with a shrug, though he did make a point to meet Mercer's eyes over Sorcha's head, letting his expression tell a different story. He couldn't be sure yet, but now that he'd learned about the letters, he wondered if Arundel wasn't up to something a little different than he'd always supposed. Mercer's read on him would be helpful.

Mercer quirked a brow, but seemed to understand what Vridel was getting at. “Boring meetings with boring uncles is my specialty, though. I'll make sure to have a blast, and also have an uncle by the end of it," he stated, a large grin covering his face as he squeezed Sorcha's shoulders a bit. Friendly it initially had been, but he seemed to be teasing her, still.

“This is the same uncle, Volkhard Arundel, correct?" he asked, but from the way he stated it, it sounded as if he were simply confirming a fact. The way he glanced at Vridel, though, made it quite obvious that Mercer was being cautious about it.

“I am fortunate enough to only have the one living uncle, yes," Vridel replied simply. His eyes narrowed slightly at the way Sorcha's shoulders shrugged up under her ears, in response to the touch. Well, well. That was interesting. And charmingly obvious. She was ever so straightforward, even as she lowered her hands and cleared her throat, trying rather endearingly to act as though she were not caught somewhere between embarrassment and enjoyment she wasn't sure she should be feeling.

Some people were really just that innocent, he supposed.

“Same?" she echoed curiously, turning her head slightly to look up at Mercer with wide blue eyes. “You know we have the same uncle?"

“He does now," Vridel pointed out.

Sorcha made a small noise. “Oh! Oh, I'm sorry Vivi, I wasn't—"

He waved a hand dismissively. “It's fine." It was hardly an official secret or anything; really the only reason it had lasted this long is because no one had thought to investigate the relevant question. He was sure the higher-ups in the Church knew already. As much as he disliked having a weakness exposed, his connection to Sorcha was obvious. It could also be downplayed, if necessary.

“Huh, I'd say that it explains a lot, but it actually doesn't. You two are like polar opposites, but I suppose it's possible," he stated, shrugging his shoulders in a way that didn't disturb Sorcha too much. “I take it both of you are cousins, then? I have to say, there really is no physical resemblance as siblings," he added. It made sense for him to think that. Vridel and Sorcha looked nothing alike, but it was possible for them to pass for cousins if need be.

Sorcha apparently thought that since the main bit of it was out, she might as well tell the rest. “Stepsiblings, actually," she said. “Uncle Volkhard is my stepmother's brother. Lady Patricia." The last part was softer, and her eyes dropped to the ground.

Vridel grimaced. “Patricia was my mother, but eventually married Lambert. Hence the 'step' part." A small shrug moved his shoulders. “A lot of us lived in the Kingdom for a while, when we were children. Sorcha and I met there."

“Not that I knew you were my stepbrother for a good whole year," she said with a sniff. “Nobody ever told me anything."

“Don't tell me now you had a crush or something, Sorcha," he teased as they entered the hall.

She quite childishly stuck her tongue out at him. “Of course not. My first love was—" She paused, her brows knitting together in an expression of puzzlement. “I don't... remember, exactly. But I know I had one, and it definitely wasn't you, so go stick a pin in your ego, Vivi."

He rolled his eyes.

“You're going to have to tell me all about this crush of yours, Sor. I think I'm a little jealous," he stated, placing a hand over his heart. The grin on his face made it obvious that he wasn't at all jealous, but he did seem genuinely curious about it. Almost as if the information would be useful to him, somehow. “Though, I guess I shouldn't be surprised," he stated, turning his attention to Vridel.

“Did I tell you she forgot about me, after all? Me of all people?" he stated, feigning a bit of hurt into his tone.

“Lucky her," Vridel replied reflexively. “I'd like to forget you too."

“Alas, I'm stuck in your mind, forever, love."

“Like a terrible song."

“Repeating constantly."

“I always knew I was unlucky."

Sorcha, for her part, looked torn between apologetic and something else, something closer to irritation, and it was this that won out in the end. She elbowed Mercer in the ribs, stepping out from underneath his arm and straightening to hold her head high and sniff imperiously. “When you're both done being idiots, I'm sure Uncle Volkhard won't mind talking to you." Turning on her heel, she marched towards the figure near the bottom of the stairs, currently speaking to one of his attendants.

The entrance hall was split into levels, with a large staircase in the middle. Banners were draped from the ceiling, bearing the crest of the church on its trademark cloth of silver. In the evening like this, it was lit by several chandeliers and wall sconces, along with the last of the light coming in from the open door, spilling onto the deep blue carpet runner and silver-and-black tiled floor.

Vridel snorted softly. “Do be careful with her, please," he said, glancing askance at Mercer. “A little fun's a little fun, but she's quite painfully earnest, when it comes down to it."

“It wouldn't be any fun if they weren't a little fiesty, but I'll do my best," he stated between laughs, rubbing at his ribs as if they actually hurt. He shook his head, nonetheless, but smoothed out his expression into something a little more passive. “So, from the looks of it, I'd say you don't trust your uncle. I don't blame you, he doesn't look like the trustworthy type," he commented low enough so that Vridel could hear, and no one else.

“Plus, there are some inconsistences with his donations and why they suddenly just stopped," he continued, but said nothing further as they walked towards Sorcha and Arundel. His usual nonchalant smile was on his face, as well as his mask, the one that made him seem less keen, less aware than he actually was.

Vridel only nodded. All true enough. His uncle had feigned at piety for many years, donating considerable sums to the Church, but records had indicated that had stopped in recent years. Not tapering off gently, either. It made little sense.

As they descended the stairs, they found Volkhard wearing his customary slanted smile, eyes narrowed with it as he spoke to Sorcha. Vridel had always found that he rather disliked the expression; in the years since his adolescence began he could only see it as a cold thing, like a snake's. But of course this was not the case for everyone. Including Sorcha, who wore a genuine grin of her own. A rare enough sight that he found himself irritated that his uncle should be found deserving of one.

But that was a foolish way to think, of course. It was good that she could smile at all, after the events in the Red Canyon. He wasn't around her as often as her own classmates, but he'd noticed a worrying distance in her eyes on the odd occasion she believed no one was watching her. Perhaps he owed the old snake some gratitude, for making her forget that even for a while.

“Uncle," he deadpanned, drawing the man's attention to him. The snake's smile didn't waver; if anything it grew a little colder. Vridel was used to that; he certainly did not inspire warmth in the way Sorcha could.

“Vridel. You're looking well; I'm quite pleased to see it." Sorcha turned a little so the two of them could easily be integrated into the circle of conversation. “And you must be... the young Lord von Reigan, perhaps?" He tilted his head inquiringly at Mercer.

“Indeed. Mercer von Riegan, at your service," he stated, offering Volkhard a customary bow. To his credit, his smile hadn't wavered, but his eyes did narrow slightly, as if he'd noticed the same thing Vridel had. “It's a pleasure to finally meet the Lord Arundel; I've read a lot about you," he stated, straightening his posture so that he was standing not quite at his full height. His shoulders were slightly slumped, as if he were trying to appear non-threatening in some way or another. His eyes shifted briefly towards Sorcha, before they returned to Volkhard.

“What brings you to Garreg Mach?" he asked, his brow quirking in curiosity.

“Ah, where are my manners?" As though he'd merely forgotten, Volkhard returned the bow, about as shallowly as he could while maintaining politesse. “Volkhard von Arundel. It seems you know both my nephew and my niece." He shifted his eyes slightly to Sorcha at that, before resting them both on Mercer and Vridel. “I've made the trip to the monastery to visit them, of course; I was curious to see how they were doing. I remember my own days here fondly; the place seems to have hardly changed, in fact. I suppose the Archbishop is still her radiant self?"

Vridel fought not to react to that. It felt like it meant something, but then much of what Volkhard said and did was like that: laden with meanings it was impossible to parse out entirely. “She seems to be in good health," he replied neutrally. “We students see her only rarely."

Volkhard nodded. “Of course. I'm sure she has much to do. A very busy organization, the Church. I hear rather unsettling rumors of some disturbances to the east as well. I suppose you wouldn't know much about that, would you?" That question seemed directed at Mercer.

“Uncle!" Sorcha admonished, frowning outright. “Of course Mercer wouldn't know anything! It's not very polite to make such insinuations." She seemed genuinely disturbed by them.

Amusingly, her frankness almost seemed to put Volkhard on the back foot, and he waved a hand. “Obviously not, dear niece. I apologize if my joke was in poor taste, Lord von Reigan." He didn't seem too happy about needing to apologize, but Sorcha had inadvertantly put him in a position where he had no choice.

Vridel could have hugged her. Volkhard put out was a rare sight, and one worth savoring for the brief time it lasted.

Mercer merely shrugged his shoulders, but laughed in a good-natured way. “Not at all, Lord Arundel," he replied in a casual manner. “It's understandable; I get that a lot. I just have one of those faces, you see," he stated, though he'd made it obvious he was joking as well. “And to your previous statement, yes, I am acquainted with both your nephew and niece. She's," he stated, nodding his head in Sorcha's direction, “my current apprentice."

He didn't seem to elaborate on what she was an apprentice for, though.

Sorcha pursed her lips and sighed. “He's helping me learn to shoot," she specified.

"A worthy enterprise." Volkhard nodded slightly. “I know there are those who doubt your competence, my dear, but I for one would never be so foolish as to consider you cursed."

Though his words were delivered in a kind tone, Vridel saw them for the barb they were. The reminder alone would have done it, and the way Sorcha winced was proof enough that it had struck true. She mustered a weak smile. “Thank you, uncle," she murmured.

“How are things in the Empire?" Vridel asked, not inclined to give Volkhard a chance to twist that knife any further.

"Quite as they were when you left," the other man replied with some amusement, narrowing his eyes. It had always rankled Vridel a bit that he shared his eye color with his uncle. On the other hand it had taught him how unsettling the color could be, something he used to great effect, on occasion. "A few months isn't much in the grand scheme of things, dear nephew. I think you will find the Empire has far less need of you than you assume. So it is with most rulers, it seems."

Vridel's jaw tightened, but he didn't let the hit show otherwise. “And my father?"

"Sadly the Emperor's health is still in decline," Volkhard said, affecting sympathy he certainly did not feel. "Stable enough for the moment, however. I do not think you will need to be making any emergency trips back from Garreg Mach, so worry not."

Mercer's eyes narrowed slightly at Volkhard, but it was covered by the smile on his face. It looked, to anyone else, the strain of the smile caused his eyes to narrow. “Well, hopefully he'll be able to recover. I don't know what sickness ails the Emperor, but hopefully he recovers from it," Mercer stated, however; he was glancing at Vridel when he spoke.

“Will you be visiting for a short while, then? I mean, if the Emperor's health is in decline, I'm sure they wouldn't want you to linger for too long at the Monastery, right?" he asked, not at all interested in knowing the answer, but smiled to appear that he was.

"Of course," Volkhard replied easily. "Though the Emperor is fortunate to be surrounded with many capable advisors, it would not do to be away too long." Volkhard paused, then pressed his fingertips together. "As it is I fear my day of travel has been long, and I should rest. Perhaps my niece and nephew would be so kind as to grace me with their presences on the morrow? After class, of course."

Sorcha nodded immediately, her smile still a little uncomfortable. She was clearly trying not to show it, however. “Absolutely. We'll see you tomorrow, uncle."

"Wonderful. For now, good night, and please excuse me. It was a pleasure to meet you as well, Lord von Reigan. Perhaps we shall meet again, someday." With a gracious nod, he took his leave.

“Hopefully not," he muttered low enough that only Vridel could hear it, but he nodded his head at Volkhard before he left. “Man, seriously what is up with your uncle, Vi?" he asked, his voice still low so that Sorcha could not hear.

Vridel shook his head, replying just as quietly. “It's a long list."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Amalthea von Kreuz Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

0.00 INK



I.Y. 1180 - Garland Moon - Wednesday the 11th
Lyanna's Office - Midafternoon- Light Drizzle
Amalthea von Kreuz


Amalthea kicked a steady beat against the legs of her chair with her own. She was visiting her sister today partly because Lyanna wanted to see her, and partly because she wanted to talk to her sister about last month. It was only a week, or two, ago, she couldn't keep track of the days at the moment. There were things outside of the Church that Amalthea had not been exposed to, and death was one of them. And killing. She'd never killed a person before; never seen a person be killed. Reading about it was completely different from actual experience, and she could still see their eyes. They haunted her dreams as of late.

She was trying her best to keep a happy appearance up for her friends, but she had failed miserably. They all knew it, because she knew they had felt the same. Why did they have to kill those people? Those bandits? Surely they could have done something else? Maybe they could have captured them and interrogated them? Or... something, anything different. She took a deep breath, and reached for the plate of desserts settled on Lyanna's desk. She always had a plate ready when Amalthea arrived, and she was grateful for that. Sweets always made things better, however; as she chewed thoughtfully on the donut, she couldn't help but taste a light bitterness to it.

Lyanna, seated again in the chair immediately across from Amalthea, was working her way sedately through a scone and some tea. The office was rather darkly-furnished, the window behind the desk open to the dreary, grey day outside. Drizzle marred the glass pane of it; she'd lit a few candles to supplement the light. They had a light, vanilla smell to them, a scent that her sister often shared.

Setting the scone down, Lyanna took up her cup and saucer, sipping from it and studying her over the rim of the cup. Replacing it with the soft chink of fine porcelain, she expelled a soft breath. “Would you like to talk about it, Thea?" she asked, her tone unusually delicate. There was no need to ask what it was, really.

Amalthea pursed her lips together. “I do, but..." she didn't know where to begin, really. “I just, I think there could have been a better way to handle it," she stated softly, dropping her gaze to her hands. “I mean, why... why did we have to kill them? Aren't we taught that life is precious and sacred? Shouldn't we have tried to do something else?" she continued, her hands starting to tremble lightly. Her breath was a little shaky, but she pulled in a deep one and exhaled slowly. It was something Professor Manuela told her to do whenever she felt uneasy.

“Do... do you think I did the right thing, sister?" because it felt like she'd done something horribly wrong.

Lyanna hummed quietly, Setting her tea down on the table in front of her and pushing a strand of verdant hair behind her ear. “That's not an easy question to answer, Thea," she said gently. “And if ever you meet anyone for whom killing is easy, don't trust them with your back." She grimaced as she said the words, as though she were speaking from some variety of personal experience. Nibbling at a little more of the scone, she appeared to think over her next words, idly brushing a few crumbs off her pristine robes.

“But... everything that happens in this world happens because of the choices people make. Whatever else might be true, those bandits chose to make their lives stealing from and killing other people. Did you know they tried to kill some of your friends?" Her lips pursed. “The very first training exercise of the year, for the heads of house, was attacked just outside Remire village. The Imperial Prince, the Princess, and the young Lord Reigan all quite nearly died in that attack. Someone hired them to do it, and they accepted money for that. To assassinate three innocent people."

Amalthea felt her heart drop, and she was certain it appeared on her face. They'd tried to kill her friends, before? But, was it really their fault? They only accepted the money to do it because they needed it. Maybe they didn't want to actually kill her friends, but were obligated to do it because they needed the money? Even if they had killed other people, even if... she pushed the thoughts from her mind and glanced at Lyanna.

“But..." she began, pausing momentarily to take in a shuddering breath, “that still doesn't make it feel right. I would be terribly sad if Sorcha, Vi, and Merc were killed, but I can't fathom a world that, in order to make sure people are kept safe, we have to kill. It's not... it doesn't feel right." She wasn't sure if it would ever feel right. She glanced at her hands for a moment, and a brief vision of blood covering them, filled her sight. She squeezed her eyes shut, and shook her head.

“Amalthea." Her sister rarely used her full name, and when she did it was usually very seriously, like this. “Sometimes in this world we are not afforded the luxury of another path. Whatever reason those bandits might have had for doing what they did, they did it. They tried to murder innocents. And in so doing they forced a choice upon your friends and teacher: fight back, or die. Kill, or be killed. And the sad truth of it is, that is how the world is, sometimes. There are people who will force those choices for money, or for causes they believe in, or for simple enjoyment of killing."

A stricken look crossed her face. “It's not okay. I wish it were different. But it has been true for as long as humans have existed on this world. Perhaps there may come a day when peace is truly possible. When everyone will have enough, and no one will kill from need or ideology. But even if that day comes... people will still kill. And still die. Because some of them are greedy, and some of them hate, and some of them are just... broken, deep inside themselves, in a way no magic can fix." She pursed her lips, eyes hardening just a little.

“If you mean to be a knight, this is something you must accept. You cannot waver on the battlefield. It may not be you that pays the price if you do. It may be one of your classmates that suffers for that hesitation. Could you bear that any more?"

“Of course not!" she nearly stood in her chair, her hand placed over her heart. “I wouldn't want any of my friends to die because of me!" she stated, her bottom lip quivering. She felt the hot tears prick at the sides of her eyes, but she blinked them away. If any of her friends died because of her, she would never forgive herself. Especially if... she didn't know why it was so much more dire if it were Vridel. If he died trying to protect her, Amalthea wasn't sure if she could live with herself, knowing that he died because of her.

“I don't want to lose them. They've all been so nice to me, even Vi and Mercer. And they're not even part of my House," she stated, slumping back into her chair. “They're... they're my first real friends," she whispered. Her sister was right, though. She could not waver on the battlefield. “Then I want to change the world," she spoke softly, “so that no one will ever have to kill again. I want to fight for a world where everyone has enough, and that there's no more fighting, and everyone can get along." It wasn't a feasible thing, she knew. It probably would never happen, but she at least had to try.

Lyanna's eyes softened, growing bright, it seemed, with a little moisture of their own. “Then fight for that," she said softly. “To protect the people you care about, and for a better world. It won't be easy, but... some of those friends of yours will be in charge of countries someday. Maybe it's not as impossible as it seems." She managed a smile then, small and a little shaky, but opened her arms, clearly requesting a hug.

“But do me one favor, Thea," she added, just as quietly. “Please don't ever repeat what you just said in front of Lady Rhea, or anywhere she might hear about it, okay?"

Amalthea didn't hesitate, and moved to give her sister a hug. She wasn't entirely sure why what she had said should matter to the Archbishop. If anything, perhaps she would be inclined to do the same. But she would respect her sister's wishes. “I won't, I promise," she stated, squeezing her sister just a little tighter, and burying her face in her shoulder. “And I will fight for it all, a new world. Also, Lyanna..." she paused in order to swallow, “I love you," she stated, feeling the onslaught of tears she had held back, fall into her sister's shoulder.

“I love you, too, my dear," Lyanna replied, her voice thick with emotion. One hand shifted up to gently stroke Amalthea's hair, while the other wrapped around her back, tight but also gentle. Lyanna had always had a sort of warm presence about her; this close the sweet vanilla scent about her was all the more obvious.

“So very much."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Senka Rinaldi Character Portrait: Amalthea von Kreuz Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Sorcha Blaiddyd Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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#, as written by Aethyia


I.Y. 1180 - Garland Moon - Friday the 13th
Courtyard - Midafternoon - Clear
Cyril Eisner


Cyril observed his students with knitted brows. As usual, his Saturday group was meeting on the afternoon of a day that wasn't Saturday, but the mood seemed particularly low today. Even as they studied and worked on assignments, their shoulders were hunched, eyes more distant than usual. Even those not so directly affected by the events of two weeks ago were certainly feeling it by proxy of the others; even Reynard looked rather dispirited as he worked his way through a text on historical blade variations.

In one sense, he supposed, there was little to be done about it. When he'd seen his first real battle, his father and the others had just... given him space. There had been no conversations, no acknowledgment beyond the fact that he hadn't been assigned chores in the week following. Even that was something Jeralt had called an "error" in scheduling, though both of them knew differently. It was not an easy thing to talk about, and he supposed thus far he'd taken his father's tack, assuming that it was something that everyone had to come to terms with on their own.

And maybe, ultimately, it was. But that didn't mean he couldn't try something to help. Reaching into the inside pocket of the vest he wore over his tunic today, Cyril withdrew the parchment therein, unfolding it carefully at the creases.

“Dear Garreg Mach students," he read, quite sure the start apropos of nothing would draw their attention. Indeed, when he glanced up, he found he had everyone's attention, and almost everyone's eyes, at that. “We wanted to say thank you for what you did in the canyon. The bandits who lived there were always showing up to our village to take our crops. They killed anyone who fought them, and some families lost their daughters, too." He paused, suppressing the grimace of distaste that threatened. He hoped he wouldn't have to make what that part meant any more explicit.

“We were really worried about what we were going to do this year. It's been a hard one for the fields, and if they took as much as they usually do, some of us wouldn't have made it. The man writing this letter for us says that it was your first battle. We're sure that was hard—none of us could bear to stand up to those bandits. We hope you're all okay. The whole village is grateful to you; we were worried we wouldn't be important enough for anyone to take notice of, what with the troubles everywhere else. But you noticed us. You saved us. My daughter turns fifteen this year—and now I know I don't have to worry about her being hurt. Thank you. Thank you so much."

He folded the letter back up, passing it to Devon, who was nearest to him on that side. “That's really what it says. You can all read it, if you like." Blinking slowly at them, he tilted his head.

“It doesn't change what we did. But if you're going to think about that, you have to think about this, too. It's only fair—the lives of those villagers are worth just as much. And they get to keep living, because of you."

Sylvi was closest to Devon, and seemed to be reading it over his shoulder. Her eyes went soft, but she didn't say anything. She remained quiet for a moment before the letter was passed to the next person. Amalthea's lip was quivering a bit, and it was clear that she was trying to hold back tears. She was doing a good job until a tear escaped, but she didn't seem upset. Rather, she seemed happy about the letter. Dierdre's eyes had remained down on her hands, but she was smiling softly and sniffling. She was, perhaps, trying not to cry as well, but doing a better job than Amalthea. Sofia's hand rested at her back, moving up and down in comforting motions. Her eyes were a little wet, but she didn't cry.

“I'm glad we were able to save them," Sylvi finally spoke, glancing towards Devon before her eyes went to the others. Senka had remained quiet, her face strangely hard to read. She didn't appear to be upset nor happy. She was just simply there. Her mind might have been elsewhere, however; the letter had been handed to her, next, and her eyes scanned the contents. A flicker of a smile appeared on her face, but it was quick enough that the others might have missed it if they weren't looking.

“A reminder that the sacrifice of one life is worth the continued lives of many," she stated softly, causing Mercer to nod his head.

“Agreed, though in this case, I think the lives of a few bad apples was well worth it," he added.

Even Reynard took a moment to read the words before passing the letter to Vridel. “Someone took dictation for the villagers," he pointed out, eyes flickering to Cyril. “Don't suppose that was you, Professor?"

“It was," Cyril said simply. “The village is called Remire. My father's mercenaries worked out of there for a month or so, but since they've moved up here, there wasn't anyone around to take care of the problem." He swept his eyes over the students. “Until you, that is."

Vridel quietly passed the letter to Sorcha, but for the moment, she seemed more interested in studying Cyril. “You went all the way back there just for this?"

He shrugged. “There's no 'just' about it, Sorcha. You saw firsthand the worst part of work like this. You deserve to know the best parts, too. I thought you should hear it as directly as possible, that's all."

“We should take the good where we can. It's not often that it happens, but when it does," Mercer started, pausing only to take a momentary glance at Cyril before continuing, “it's the best feeling in the world, isn't it?" Amalthea nodded slowly while Sylvi gave a single nod.

“I'm glad that they'll be able to celebrate a birthday, and be able to survive, now," Dierdre spoke, placing her hand over Sofia's and giving it a light squeeze. “They'll be able to possibly harvest enough for themselves to last through the winter, too, I bet, now that they don't have the bandits to feed," she added.

“And maybe, just maybe we can slowly start a real change," Thea spoke softly. “I want to try and save as many people as possible if it means we can do this for them," she continued, glancing in Vridel's direction, briefly, before turning her attention to Cyril. “And... I don't think we'd have been able to do that without your guidance, Professor."

Cyril felt an unexpected thing at that, perhaps at the totality of this. A warmth he could not recall ever having felt before. He felt his face shift, almost into a smile, but it didn't quite manifest. He shook his head, faintly. “You've all got this in you," he said simply. “All I'm doing is teaching you how to use it."

He really did think they were an extraordinary group of people. Talented, yes, but more than that... good people. He'd seen all sorts, in the mercenary life, but never this many good ones at once, that was for sure. It was true that his father demanded a code of ethics from his people, but Cyril hadn't made any such demands of these nine. He hadn't needed to. They already had that, quite on their own.

“I know this doesn't make it all go away," he continued. “And I'm not telling you you need to be all right tomorrow, or at any particular time. But I want you to know that... you can talk to me about this, if you want to. I promise it's no imposition on me, and if at any time you feel you cannot go on a mission, whatever the reason, all you have to do is say the word." He exhaled heavily. “Even professionals get tired of it, sometimes. A lot of people retire early from this kind of life. The ones who stay with it are the ones who are either just naturally inclined to it... or the ones who have a reason to fight. But even if that's not you, I hope you know that last month, you protected each other, and you saved those people. You have the right to be proud of that."

“I have a reason," Vridel replied simply. “But... I appreciate it, Professor. Truly." He nodded once, then dropped his eyes back to the book he was working on.

Sorcha pursed her lips, frowning thoughtfully. “I... I do, too," she said after a moment, exchanging a glance with Senka. “Like Thea said... sometimes we have to fight to make the world a better place. I can't... I can't run from that, even if it's going to be hard sometimes."

“And I will be there every step of the way with you, to help, Sorcha," Senka replied, placing her hand on Sorcha's shoulder and giving it a light squeeze. “I too, have something to fight for, people I..." she paused, her eyes widening slightly as if what she were about to say were some strange revelation, “want to protect."

“A single reason is usually enough to want to do that," Mercer chimed in, shrugging his shoulders lightly before turning his attention towards the others.

“It's the small things that count, the differences we can make. And... I am proud that we were able to survive, and protect each other. Even if you guys aren't part of the Blue Lion House, the obviously best house," Sylvi stated, smirking just slightly as her eyes slid towards Sofia. Dierdre visibly rolled her eyes at the statement.

“Sure, and Mercer's a serious and reliable person," Dierdre shot back, causing Mercer to purse his lips slightly.

“I feel like you just insulted me. I'm insulted."

Sofia sighed, but a small smile played at her face. “I have such a reason, too," she mused. “I think I needed to be reminded, though. So thank you, Professor, everyone."

Devon nodded solemnly. “Me too. I'm... I'm glad I get to fight with all of you. I think it could have been much worse, to be honest. It wasn't easy, but... at least we're in this together."

“Good," Cyril said softly. He could see it—the way they were slowly coming to terms with this. Ultimately, he thought that was a good thing. There would be trials ahead of them, still, but if they could build these foundations strongly now, they would stand in good stead later as well. “I'm here if you need anything, but it seems you may not." He allowed himself a bit of gentleness, there—or perhaps it was more accurate to say they simply... drew it out of him, somehow. Perhaps this was simply what it felt like to have students. He would have to ask his father.

Senka pursed her lips together slightly, and tilted her head. “I'll need you for a long time, yet, professor," she stated in regards to his statement, but it must have sounded strange to Mercer because he started laughing. Harshly to the point that he fell out of his chair. Once he seemed to gather her bearings, he wiped at his eyes as if pulling something away.

“I think what she means to say is that we will continue to rely on you, Teach, and we may still need you," he stated, causing Senka's head to tilt a bit further to the side.

“Is that not what I said?" she asked, causing Dierdre to snicker softly.

“Not even close."

Cyril rather thought it was what she'd said, and blinked with some confusion at Mercer on the ground before shrugging inwardly. Sorcha and Devon looked as confused as he felt, but everyone else appeared to know something he did not. In any case, he shook his head.

“Regardless," he said slowly. “Please don't forget that we have stable duty tomorrow morning. I appreciate your diligence, but if you're up too late studying you'll burn out sooner rather than later. Or possibly laugh so much you fall over and rupture something."

Sorcha snorted. “Don't worry about him; he's made of bricks."

“That's a new record. I've been insulted twice today." But Mercer was smiling and didn't seem to mind what Sorcha had stated. “And yeah, stable chores, not looking forward to that," he muttered softly, his lips pursing into a fine line. Dierdre rolled her eyes, and Sylvi laughed softly.

“Oh, that's right! I forgot. It's going to be awesome! We'll get to play with the horses and wyverns and all the animals," at least Amalthea seemed excited for it.

Cyril huffed. Her enthusiasm really did seem boundless at times.

But the smile she wore wasn't a false one, and he'd absolutely take that.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Senka Rinaldi Character Portrait: Amalthea von Kreuz Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Sorcha Blaiddyd Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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I.Y. 1180 - Garland Moon - Saturday the 14th
Garreg Mach Stables - Morning - Clear
Mercer von Riegan


Mercer might have said he wasn't a morning person, that he liked his sleep and didn't want to be bothered, but the truth was he was a morning person. He was usually up before most of the school was, often taking an hour to skim through the library and see if he could find more information. This morning was no exception, and for once, he thought he'd meet his friends... Mercer blinked at the thought. Friends? Huh, that's new, he thought, shaking his head to himself. He supposed he did consider them his friends after all they've been through together.

He dressed in his chore clothes; usually just a sleeveless tunic, colored with the gold and dark browns of the Leicester Alliance, and a pair of shortened pants. He had a gold band in his hair to keep it from falling into his eyes. Plus, it would help control the sweat. He didn't need to burn his eyes during the chore session. Standing by the stable gates, he stood against it and waited for his class to arrive.

As usual, Sorcha and Senka were the first to arrive. Always together, he'd noted, and dressed ready for their chores. Senka, however, seemed to be wearing a sleeveles light blue tunic that was a few shades lighter than the symbolic blues of Faerghus. He'd seen a shade like that before, somewhere, as a certain color that represented something, but perhaps he was just being too analytical? She was wearing thick white leggings beneath it, though, and a pair of black shorts on top. She looked ready to work, at least, with her hair braided down her back, close to her head. For a design like that, it was likely they had been up around the time Mercer was.

She blinked at him, though, a sign that she was clearly surprised to see him there. He felt almost proud of himself for being able to read some of her tells. She'd been a hard one when they first met, but she tilted her head and her features smoothed out. Her way of smiling, he'd learned, which made him almost smile. It was endearing to him, for some reason, like he was able to bring forth a smile from someone so inexpressive as she. He wondered, briefly, if Sorcha was the only one lucky enough to receive a true smile.

“Good morning, Mercer," she greeted, causing Mercer to grin.

“Good morning to you, as well, Senka, and you too, Sorcha," he replied, placing a hand on his hip and popping his leg out in an over dramatic manner. “To think that I beat the legendary early-riser here, I'm shocked," but he was just teasing her at this point.

Sorcha, for her part, always seemed slightly overdressed for the weather, perhaps a habit she hadn't yet kicked from growing up in such a cold place? Her tunic was long sleeved, but she'd at least rolled it to her elbows, exposing the fact that her arms were dotted with freckles, not unlike her face. She'd chosen sturdy trousers tucked into boots otherwise, black to the tunic's green. A cord around her neck disappeared beneath the neck of the shirt, and she'd pinned her hair up as usual.

She sniffed at his joke, and harrumphed. “Oh look," she replied primly. “Miracles do happen. Someone call the priests. Whoever made this happen might qualify for their own sainthood."

Mercer hid his smile beneath a grin, but he was certain it was showing in his eyes. At least she seemed well enough to be responding to his jokes like that. He'd take the small victories where he could get them. Instead, he placed a hand over his heart, and feigned a hurt look. “I'm hurt," he stated, pursing his lips in her direction. Senka looked like she wanted to roll her eyes, but she merely cast them towards Sorcha.

“Yeah, well if you weren't such an idiot, you wouldn't tease the princess like that," Dierdre's voice cut through, causing Mercer to snort unceremoniously. It was almost as if she'd popped out of nowhere, and Mercer allowed himself to jump to give that appearance of being startled. “Besides, it's not like she can help that you're a blockhead. I worry about our country's future with you," ever so blunt, and ever so appreciated. She was dressed similar to Mercer had been, though the colors she wore were just black and white. Her tunic was black, outlined in white, but her trouses were a dark grey color. It made her hair, pulled into a tight bun, stand out in contrast along with her eyes.

“And now I feel like this is your fault, Sorcha, turning my ally against me," he murmured in good fun.

“That was your own fault, Mercer, not hers."

Sofia, following much more sedately than her fiancee but dressed similarly, sighed quietly, as she often seemed to find herself doing. Her dark blue hair was pulled up into a high tail, but otherwise she didn't seem particularly disturbed by the prospect of any dirt. “You're all lively this morning," she noted, blinking slowly. She was certainly not a morning person, but tended to compensate for it by getting lots of coffee with her breakfast, so she'd probably be about as energetic as she ever got within half an hour or so.

“Understatement if I ever heard one," a voice called out, sounding groggy and tired. Mercer allowed his eyes to slide to the source, and snorted softly at Sylvi's appearance. She had lazily pulled her hair back, some of the strands still falling into her eyes and sticking out of its tie. Her attire looked like she'd slept in it. She was wearing a pink long-sleeved shirt that was rolled up to her elbows, probably because they'd be doing a lot of manual labor, and her trousers, beige in color, were as sturdy as Sorcha's looked.

“I'm so tired. Someone come help me fix my hair!" she stated, her eyes glancing around the current group. Mercer chuckled softly, but held his hands up in defense.

“Sorry, love, no can do," he wouldn't be able to pull a miracle like that, after all. Senka, however, stepped forward in a tentative manner.

“May I?" she asked, and Sylvi wasted no time making her way towards the taller woman. Once Senka appeared to be comfortable, she pulled Sylvi's hair from its tie, and began working her fingers through it. Satsified, it seemed, she began twisting and pulling it, tying it in a similar braid to her own, however; it wasn't as intricate. He wondered if she did Sorcha's hair, too? Once she was finished, and Sylvi's hair was tied up properly, she turned around and smiled brightly at her.

“Thanks, Senka, you're a life saver," she stated, giving her a hug. It was obvious that it caught Senka off guard because she tensed so stiffly that Mercer almost mistook her for a statue. He tried not to laugh, as she seemed to recover, and patted Sylvi's back. Dierdre rolled her eyes, hard, and groaned.

“Where's the rest of us? I want to finish early so I can go back to studying for my exams!" Dierdre stated, furrowing her brows.

“Callum, really?" At the moment, Vi's voice distinguished itself from the ambient noise. He and Reynard seemed to be heading towards the group from the direction of the dinging hall. Both were dressed in short-sleeved tunics of imperial red, Vi's with a bit more embellishment at the hems, but nothing fancy. Curiously, Reynard seemed to have red lines inked onto his forearms, disappearing up beneath his sleeves, in a pattern Mercer had never seen before.

“No lie, Your Highness," he drawled.

“Hm. Well. I think you made the right choice, then." He pinched the bridge of his nose between his forefinger and thumb, rubbing away some last vestige of sleep. He yawned as he reached the group, looking them over with disinterested eyes. “I'd say good morning, but I'm not convinced. Where's the Professor and the small ones?" He had to be referring to Devon and Amalthea.

“Uh, we're here," Devon said, approaching with Teach. He'd worn a blue sleeveless shirt and shorter pants like Mercer and some of the others. Teach was dressed like usual, only he'd lost the outermost layer so he had no sleeves either. Unlike the students had to, he almost never wore the sword that was part of the uniform, and he hadn't today, either.

“The other small one usually isn't late," Mercer stated, pursing his lips together. Part of him was worried that something might have happened to her, however; there was a loud crash, and a groan. All eyes turned towards the source, and Mercer did his best not to laugh. Amalthea had been running, from the looks of it, and she'd tripped over something, landing near a barrel. She was currently face down on the ground, but Sylvi immediately ran over to her, and helped her up.

“Are you alright, Thea?" she asked, helping her to dust her shirt and pants. Amalthea nodded rather enthusiastically, and grinned.

“I am! Sorry, I just... I didn't see that broom on the floor and I saw all of you gathered already. I didn't want to be later than I already am!" she stated as way of excuse. Dierdre had snickered lightly, but Senka's lips pursed lightly towards them.

“You should be more careful, though, Thea," Mercer added, furrowing his brows in her direction. She simply nodded in response. She was something, really. Funny, if anything. “Alright, so it seems the group's all here. We're basically cleaning around the stalls and the stables, right?" he stated, his eyes sliding towards Teach.

He tilted his hand back and forth in a 'so-so' motion. “Well first we're letting all the animals outside into the field behind the stables so we can clean. We've been assigned Barn C, which I understand is our lot as third to the activity." It was established that Barn C was the least-desirable of the ones for students, all three of which were separate from the two the Knights used. Apparently most of the animals in it were considered subpar for some reason, or at least not as good as the ones in Barns A or B. It figured.

“Then we're cleaning. After that, though, we'll be spending some time with the animals themselves. Grooming, maybe exercising them so you can all get some experience. You'll want to know if there's anyone you want to request if you're going into a mounted or flying class, after all." With a small gesture, Teach bit them all follow him inside.

The barn was quite large, organized into separate sections for horses and flyers. Wyverns and pegasi were known not to get along in general, but there didn't seem to be quite enough space to keep them entirely separately. Several of the animals poked their head out over the stall doors at the entrance of the students, a few horses nickering.

Teach unhooked a clipboard from the wall just inside, moving silently over the straw-strewn floor. He read down what seemed to be a list of some kind. “All right. Looks like we've got three wyverns, four pegasi, and a dozen horses. They all go into the same field, so let's get them moving. Your leads and halters for equines are there—" He pointed to a door, which probably led into a tack room—“and there for the wyverns." They seemed to have a different room, probably because their tack tended to be larger and shaped differently.

“If you don't know how to lead an animal, feel free to ask me. It's not something everyone knows to begin with. Sorcha, if you can get the pegasi, I'll ask Mercer to handle the wyverns. The rest of you can take out the horses. Does that work?"

Sorcha nodded. “Of course!" She actually looked... rather delighted, actually, and all but skipped towards the tack room to get her halter and lead.

He nodded. “Oh, and Mercer. Be careful of the one in Stall 17. He's apparently a bit cantankerous."

“Nothing I can't handle," he stated with all the confidence he could muster. Senka followed after Sorcha much more casually than Sorcha had, to grab a halter and lead as well. Dierdre made her way towards the other tack room for the wyverns with Sylvi following suit. Mercer figured he might as well grab one, too. Besides, wyverns, in his opinion, were superior to everything else. Sylvi had been the first to grab her lead and halter, and made her way towards a stable. She pursed her lips together before moving towards another one.

“I don't think anyone should deal with that one," she stated, pointing towards the stall she'd just passed. “There's a black pegasus in it, and they're considered bad luck," she murmured. Senka had, at that moment, appeared in time to hear what Sylvi stated, and pursed her lips slightly, her hands gripping the halter in her hand unusually tight.

“Why does the color of the animal matter in whether or not they are good or bad luck?" she asked, curious for some reason, it seemed.

“They're very rare, for one thing, and often times bring bad omens to those who ride them," she explained, shrugging her shoulders in a nonchalant fashion.

“Well then," Sorcha said simply, throwing her lead over her shoulder to grip the door to that stall, “we'll match. Fine by me." She said it lightly, but Mercer could sense the underlying seriousness, and she did in fact not hesitate to open the stall door. It wasn't more than a few moments later that she was leading the pegasus out. It was in fact black, from head to toe, even its mane and tail. Its coat definitely looked like it could use some attention, and it regarded the students with wary eyes and a vaguely skittish posture, but Sorcha either didn't notice or was choosing not to make a point of it, simply leading the creature out through the open barn doors.

Devon shrugged, then followed with a horse, a docile-looking bay mare.

Mercer grinned as Sorcha led the pegasus from the stall, and out of the barn. He had a feeling she felt a kinship to it for certain reasons he would find out, later. Instead, the others followed suit, grabbing their horses as well and leading them out. Sylvi had grabbed a dapple gray colt that seemed very curious about his surroundings. He occasionally pulled on the halter, causing Sylvi to stop and turn around. He nipped her shoulder a couple of times before she managed to get him out. Thea had chosen a gentle-looking chestnut mare who seemed to follow Thea with little to no hesitation. She'd occasionally raise her head, but not enough to disturb Thea.

Dierdre had chosen a blood bay stallion with a strong personality it seemed, as he seemed to immediately try and take the lead from her. She struggled for a moment before she, too, made it out of the barn. Senka had steered clear from the pegasus stalls, a strange look in her eyes, as she pulled a black gelding from his stables. It was oddly calm, an almost mirror reflection of Senka's own calmness, as they left the barn. He huffed lightly as he made his way towards stall 17. He peeked inside to see a white wyvern curled near the back corner. It looked like it was sleeping, however; it had fixed Mercer with intense golden eyes the moment he approached. He arched a brow, and opened the stall.

“They told me you're a bit of a trouble maker," he stated, his voice calm so as to not startle it. It rose to its feet, and immediately, baring its teeth in a show of aggression. “Really? You want to prove them right?" he stated, placing the halter down for a moment and crossing his arms over his chest. It merely continued to stare at him, and Mercer rolled his eyes. “Alright you, what's the problem? Someone put a thorn in your side and now you don't want to trust anyone?" he spoke, watching as the wyvern eyed him. They were intelligent creatures; Mercer knew this from experience, so he didn't feel too out of place for talking to it.

“I bet they left you, didn't they? Thought you were too much of a risk being out in the open as you are. You'd give the position away if someone spotted you, right?" he continued, watching as the wyvern seemed to narrow its eyes at him. “Look, all I want to do is clean your stall. Don't you want to get some fresh air, and have a clean place to come back to?" he stated. After a closer inspection, it appeared that this wyvern was in similar shape to the pegasus Sorcha had taken. He frowned and shook his head, deciding to take a step forward. The wyvern didn't seem to like that, though, as it growled in his direction.

“You need a bath; you stink. C'mon, let me take you out so you can be groomed. You'd like that wouldn't you? I'll even convince them to give you fish instead of the usual stuff for dinner, tonight, how about that?" he continued, watching as the wyvern's expression shifted at the word 'fish'. He grinned. “Is that what you want, fish? Alright, you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours. I'll even sneak in a few extra for you if you let me take you out," he stated. The wyvern regarded him with a wary gaze, but seemed to capitulate as it lowered its head in Mercer's direction. He grabbed the halter from floor, and slipped it over the wyvern's head and secured it. Scratching the snout, Mercer smiled.

“See? Isn't this better?" he stated as he led the wyvern out, and smirked in everyone's direction. “Cantankerous, my ass," he stated as he passed by them.

He met Teach at the doorway; there were two horses behind him, a blue roan and a large stallion with a deep grey coat and a pale mane and tail. Neither wore a halter; he'd simply looped leads loosely at the base of their necks and was guiding them out. He paused, though, gesturing Mercer ahead of him with a nod. Neither of the horses seemed panicked by the wyvern's presence. Though they were mostly fish and bird-eaters, some horses spooked easily around them. These ones seemed almost to have been infected by Teach's stoic demeanor, though, and Mercer could hear them following out not more than five feet behind.

Once everyone was out of the barn, the students got to work. Though monastery workers probably took care of the place on some kind of schedule, overall it still had an air of some neglect to it. No doubt something they were collectively meant to rectify. The group got to work, either mucking stalls with pitchforks or moving in new straw and feed, or running water back and forth to refresh the buckets in the stalls. Even Teach got right into it, throwing open all the doors and windows to circulate fresher air and sweeping the central walkway, coordinating the others to scrub it down with hard lye soap. Vi and Senka helped him rinse with water magic.

Once they were done with the barn, Mercer made his way out to the field so they could start grooming the animals. The wyvern immediately made his way towards Mercer, and laid his head on Mercer's shoulder. He nudged it a bit as if he were asking for something. Mercer rolled his eyes at the creature, and scratched his snout. “No fish for you until we wash you down, alright? And then you'll get a full bucket's worth," he stated as he pused the wyvern from his shoulder. It was kind of heavy, after all. The wyvern merely nudged his back with his snout, and made a light grunting sound.

“It's bad to eat before you've been cleaned, you know. You need to look your best for dinner, or lunch in this case," he stated, earning another grunt from the wyvern. It fixed him with a strange look, one that he could have sworn Sorcha used on him once. Was he begging Mercer for the fish?

Something metal and cool pressed into Mercer's free hand; Sorcha half-smiled at him. “Got you covered," she said, reaching into the bucket she'd just handed him and picking up a fish. Apparently with not the faintest hint of revulsion at the sliminess of it, either. She fed it to the wyvern with a conspiratorial expression. “But he can have a snack before bath time, can't you, love? Who's a handsome wyvern?" she made a cooing noise of pure delight and gave the beast's nose a scratch. “You are! Yes you are!" She actually leaned forward, apparently not even slightly afraid of the creature's reputation, and gave him a kiss right on the end of his snout, which was still sort-of resting on Mercer's shoulder.

“I'm off to groom my other new friends now, but don't let this fiend bully you, sweetheart." Patting his cheek, she grinned, nodded at Mercer, and headed towards where the black pegasus was standing by itself in a far corner of the field, a second bucket still in hand.

“Oh, I see how it is. You'll give Fluffy here a kiss but not me?!" he called out after her, loud enough that everyone who was near could hear him. He could hear someone laughing, Dierdre or Sylvi, and he shook his head. 'Fluffy', however did not seem to appreciate the name, and nipped Mercer's shoulder lightly. He chuckled lightly and scratched the wyvern's snout. “Yeah, I know, you don't like the name, here," he stated, grabbing another fish and tossing it in the direction of the wyvern who caught it with ease. There was a satisfied rumble from his throat as he glanced in Sorcha's direction, before turning it towards Mercer. Mercer supposed today was going to be a good one.

Sorcha was doing a pretty good job of pretending she hadn't heard him... except for the redness of her ears. She seemed to give it up, glaring back over her shoulder at him before straightening in that way she always seemed to do when she was gathering her nerve for something. “Maybe you should try harder," she called back, promptly turning away with her head held high and marching over to the dark-winged pegasus. It seemed a little wary of her, but its ears pricked forward when she held out a shiny apple towards it, from the other bucket.

Behind him, Vi snickered. “Sounds like a challenge, hm?" He appeared to be working on the dark grey horse Teach had led out earlier. With them, it was a matter of getting bigger chunks of dirt off first, followed by finer dust, and then a good soak. The latter wouldn't be needed every time, but considering how poorly-attended some of these seemed to be, they definitely needed it now.

Well... that was interesting. “If that's what she wants, I guess challenge accepted," he replied, cracking his knuckles as he grinned towards Vi.

Sofia, meanwhile, was struggling to keep the blue roan still. It wasn't being aggressive, just fidgety, and she clearly didn't know how to handle it. “Never learned a thing about animals," she admitted. Teach jogged over to help, and the horse stilled quickly under his hand.

“They take a little getting used to," he assured her.

“It helps if you approach them calmly," Senka stated from her side, working a brush through the gelding's coat. She seemed to know what she was doing, as the horse merely stood still for her, occasionally shaking his coat, or flicking his tail. She glanced towards Sofia and nodded her head. “Like any animal, they are sensitive to others' emotions. If you approach it like you are afraid, it will be wary and skittish around you." She went to work on the gelding's mane, after that.

“Easier said than done, Senka. Did you work in stables before?" Dierdre asked, apparently having the same issue as Sofia was. That was likely due to the fact that the stallion she'd taken out, was a little more aggressive and confident. He pawed the ground and bucked his head up and down. Senka shook her head, and made her way towards Dierdre, to assist, it seemed. She placed a hand on the stallions snout, scratched it briefly before running the brush through its mane.

“Not exactly," she whispered, “father used to maintain a small stable. We used to go riding whenever he wasn't busy, and he taught me about their care." That explained it, he supposed. But he found it strangely odd how she kept clear of the pegasus in the field. When one would get too close, she'd stiffen before abruptly walking away. She handed the brush back to Dierdre, though, and went back to her own horse to continue.

Amalthea seemed to be having fun with her horse, braiding its mane after she was done brushing it, and occasionally weaving a flower that she found, into it.

The process of brushing and washing everyone took some time, but by the end of it, all the animals were quite clean, and looked rather less bedraggled than they had before, at that. They also all had flower crowns or wreaths, courtesy of Amalthea, as did most of their tenders. Sorcha wandered back over towards Mercer and the wyvern, followed much more comfortably this time by her new pegasus friend. It seemed to have no aversion to the wyvern, either, in fact nudging its soft equine nose into one of his wings and flicking its tail.

“Friend of yours, girl?" Sorcha asked the pegasus, who nickered softly in response. “Well that's only slightly adorable, it's fine." She smiled at Mercer, earlier contention forgotten, it seemed. “So Professor Cyril says none of these guys have names. Apparently the students get to do that. What's his?" She offered her hand towards the wyvern again, as if volunteering to scratch him.

“He should name you Sir Brightscales, shouldn't he?" she crooned. “Because you're so handsome and shiny."

He wasn't going to let her forget about it. Not that easily, he supposed. He slipped an arm over her shoulder and leaned against her as if he were using her for support and hummed a thoughtful note. Sir Brightscales didn't quite seem like a name for wyvern, but he clicked his tongue in a thoughtful manner. The wyvern seemed to nudge the pegasus back, perhaps to acknowledge that they were, indeed, friends. A strange one, if Mercer had a say about it.

“Ladon. He'll be Sir Ladon Brightscales," he stated, glancing back towards Sorcha, his face just a little closer to hers as he grinned at her. 'Ladon' seemed to approve of the name as he nudged Mercer's shoulder, pushing him a little closer to Sorcha.

She leaned slightly away, seemingly by reflex, but was otherwise apparently either unable to move or not quite aware that it was an option. This close, he could almost count the tiny, light freckles on her face. They were easy to miss, from greater distance. Even now, they were being somewhat overtaken by the pink flush rising to her cheeks. Her eyes were wide; a little shiver jolted her slightly beneath his arm. Sorcha swallowed.

“That's, uh—that's a g-good name," she stuttered, before seeming to get ahold of herself and pressing a hand to his chest to push him away from her person at the same time as she cleared her throat. “Anyway, I think he looks like a 'Sir' for a nickname. I'm less certain what to call this lady here."

The pegasus readily accepted the rub she gave her velvety nose, stretching her wings a little in something that might have been enjoyment, actually. “A-any ideas?"

It took a lot of restraint on Mercer's part not to laugh at her. She looked absolutely adorable, and the flush on her face, well... he thought it was a rather fitting color for her. It brought out the color in her eyes, so bright and vibrant as they were. He tapped his chin in a thoughtful manner, though, giving Sorcha the impression that he was not at all affected like she was, and thinking of a name for the pegasus.

“I think you've already named her," he stated, turning his attention back to her. “Lady. She looks like an absolutely gorgeous lady, so it's only fitting that she be named as such. What do you think, Sir?" he asked the wyvern who merely grunted. He'd take that as a yes, he supposed. He stepped closer to Sorcha, though. He wasn't about to let her get away that easily, and reached over her shoulder to rub the pegasus's snout.

She was clearly trying to behave as though nothing were amiss, though there was no hiding the way she stiffened a bit as he got close again. She focused quite intently on Lady, though, making a thoughtful sound that was only a little bit strained. The blush did not recede. “Lady what though?" she murmured, pressing her forehead gently to the pegasus's brow. With a quiet hum, she seemed to catch a thought she liked, because her smile brightened. “Lady Luck. You can show everyone who thinks you're unlucky that they're wrong." The words were soft, accompanied by a gentle scratch behind the creature's ears.

“Sounds perfect," he stated, deciding he'd done enough damage, and stepped back to give her a decent amount of space. “Lady Luck, and Sir Ladon Brightscales. They're going to prove everyone wrong," he stated, earning a light nudge from the wyvern. He'd help them prove it, too.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


I.Y. 1180 - Garland Moon - Tuesday the 17th
Blue Lions Classroom - Afternoon - Clear
Cyril Eisner


With class dismissed, most of the students started to filter out of the room, many off to study for their certifications, or to collect the materials to do so so they could meet up later at the courtyard, or in someone's room, or in the library. He could be reliably sure that when he found somewhere to settle and write up the next lesson plans he had to work on, at least a few would wander by, and a few more would stop and settle a while. It was... nice, he thought. Just to have the company.

Moving a few things around on the surface of his desk, he opened the right-hand top drawer. Ah, that was right. He meant to teach a brief starter course on lockpicking next week. There were some among his class who could already do it, but it was a useful skill to have. The front gates of castles had to be taken down the old-fashioned way, of course, but there were other situations they might find themselves in, where getting quickly and quietly through a door might be an advantage, or even essential. No few of them had politics as well as war to think about, and at the very minimum, understanding how various lock mechanisms worked was good for choosing the ones that would be most secure against intrusion.

Removing his lockpick set from the drawer, he set it on the surface of the desk, closing over the notebook he'd kept open during the lecture. He didn't ever seem to forget what he wanted to talk about, but it was helpful to have them there just in case, and the initial act of writing information there seemed to cement its ordering in his mind.

Across the room, Devon seemed to be struggling a bit with his books. Though he had only one certification that he absolutely had to take this month, he seemed to be exploring other options as well, especially since their first run at stable chores a few days ago. Cyril was only too pleased to see this, but it did mean he harried several thick books around with him at all times, more or less.

“Did you need some help, Devon?" he asked mildly.

“Oh! Uh..." the young man's dark eyes went wide. “I'm all right, I think. I just need to actually do this in a good sequence instead of trying to manage it all at once." Flushing under his dark complexion, he hefted the books onto his desk with a thunk and started to feed them into his satchel one at a time.

“Hey, Devon!" Mercer had entered the room, apparently passing by and stopping in after spotting Devon. “Hey Teach," he greeted in his usual way as his eyes went back towards the other young man. “You ready to get some practice in with the bow?" he asked Devon, glancing back towards Cyril. His eyes must have spotted something interesting because they widened slightly.

“Hey, now, Teach, I didn't know you had a nice set of lockpicks. Those are nice, where'd you get them from?" he asked, meandering towards them. He was a bit of a dramatic sort, but it had only been in good-fun, apparently.

Devon had nodded at Mercer's question, but now his interest seemed to be drawn also. “Oh," he said, tilting his head. “Those are nice. Much better than mine—er. Not that I've used them recently! Or at the Monastery at all I mean!"

Cyril felt a flicker of amusement, waving a hand slightly to indicate he wasn't inclined to take it poorly. He did, after all, own a set of his own. “I think these ones are... from Brigid?" He recalled having been told such, but the information had meant nothing to him at the time, being only a place name with no information attached other than that his lockpicks were from there. “Apparently they do something with sand when they're filing; gives them a really crisp edge." He willingly handed the leather case to Mercer, only further amused when Devon abandoned the task of putting books away for the moment to dig a similar case out of his bag instead.

“I hear Brigid ones are really good! Mine are from Sreng, I think. A hand-me-down from my father. They don't make a lot of locksmithing tools in Faerghus. Or, well, they do, but they don't just sell them to anyone, or leave them laying around, if you know what I mean."

“Do I hear someone discussing infiltration tools?" The voice belonged to Reynard, who'd just entered alongside Vridel. “The best ones are from Brigid, and it has nothing to do with being a nation or pirates and thieves."

Vridel rolled his eyes, but Devon nodded. “I know. The professor just said it was sand in the filing process?"

For once, Reynard looked surprised, dark brows briefly arching as he turned an assessing gaze on Cyril. “Well well, Professor. You are a man of many persuasions, aren't you?"

Cyril snorted quietly, shaking his head and relaxing a little further back against the desk. “Just a man with a paranoid teacher."

“So does that make you just as paranoid?" Mercer inquired, but it was easy to tell that he was joking. They all knew Cyril at this point, and paranoid he was not. “I wonder what kind Senka uses. She picked the lock to my door rather easily not too long ago, and that one had been personally changed by me," he stated, pursing his lips together and shaking his head.

“Apparently they're Almyran," Vridel replied with a shrug.

“The ones I have, though, are from the Leicester Alliance, made in copy to those in Brigid. They're not as good of quality, but they're decent enough," he stated with a light shrug of his shoulders. “Kinda wish I brought them with me, but I left them in my drawer," he added.

Cyril hummed. “Would you mind bringing them to class next Thursday?" he asked. “I was planning for my skills lecture that week to be about lock mechanisms and so on. Having sets for comparisons would be helpful. Also if any of you are willing to volunteer old locks for your classmates to practice on, that would be helpful. I have a few, but might lose one or two in the process." Those new to the skill could be clumsy, after all.

“I won't let anyone use your picks; I've got beginner sets for that, and I'm planning on making sure everyone gets one at the end of the class to keep. But if you don't mind running demonstrations I could use a student in each class able to do so."

“I'd be happy to!" Devon replied brightly, “though Senka's probably better than me. She seems to be good at everything." He didn't sound envious in the least; only happy for a friend.

“I can certainly help, too," Reynard added. “Though my picks are also from Brigid."

“Not a problem."

“I don't mind if someone uses mine; I have two sets. Plus, I think it'll be good for everyone to at least be familiar with each set of lockpicks from the different countries. Well, minus yours, Reynard since they're from Brigid like Teach's," Mercer stated in a nonchalant fashion, but it was easy to tell he, too, was looking forward to it.

“I also think I might have a few locks I can donate to the cause," he added, glancing back towards Cyril. “How'd you learn to pick locks, anyway, Devon? Aren't you a member of the Gaspard household?" he asked, turning his attention back to Devon.

“Uh." Devon grimaced, shuffling his feet a bit against the stone floor before he shook his head. “Actually, Lord Lonato adopted me and my siblings. When I was a lot younger. I was—my parents were farmers. My mother grew up on a farm not far from Lonato's holdings, and my father was from Sreng. He came in with a trade caravan but fell in love with my mom and stayed. He's the one who taught me how to pick a lock, but I never did until, uh..."

“He died?" It was a guess, quietly issued, but Cyril was fairly confident in it. It seemed to be quite the running theme with his students. He supposed he wasn't so different. Perhaps... perhaps that was just the kind of place Fódlan was.

Devon nodded. “Sickness. Not the same plague that got the Queen, but... they think it might have been the last vestiges of something similar. We tried to stick it out on the farmstead, but we were just too young. So we moved to the city, and I, uh. Stole. For a while. I tried to do honest work! Just... there were three of us, you know? But when Lord Lonato caught me trying to filch one of his books, he uh... he offered to take us all in."

A heavy silence descended for a moment. “This is the man the Church wants to go after?" Vridel said, a faint trace of scorn in his tone.

“Yes," Cyril confirmed, dipping his chin and studying Devon's face. The young man's jaw was tight; he wasn't making direct eye contact with anyone. Clearly, he was trying his best to suppress his emotions, but his eyes easily gave him away. The thought alone made him miserable.

Mercer's jaw tightened as well. He had been present when Rhea had told Cyril about the month's mission, and it seemed to still be sitting about as well as it had been the first time with Mercer. Which wasn't at all. “Lonato sounds like he's a decent guy, I wonder what he has against the Church that he'd... rebel," Mercer murmured softly, his lips pursing into a fine line.

“It doesn't add up. He wouldn't have sent you here, either, if he planned on doing something like that." Mercer seemed to be lost in thought, after that.

“I hope..." Devon grimaced. “I hope we're not too late to talk to him. He's a good man, I know he is."

Truthfully, Cyril knew they were only expected to be on cleanup duty. To put down any rebel stragglers, if that. It was a mission that would most likely involve no combat at all, and it was unlikely that Lonato would still be alive by the time they got there, unless the Church somehow managed to capture him.

“I don't understand it," Vridel murmured. “Why someone with so few troops would go against the Church to begin with. It's foolish, and he does not seem a fool from the way you describe him."

“I don't know," Devon said, shaking his head and resting one hand at the back of his neck. “He hasn't... he hasn't quite been the same since his son died, but no one would be. And I never thought anything had happened that would lead to this."

“Someone must have pushed him into it," Mercer murmured softly. “How did his son die, if I may ask?" Mercer spoke, but he stated it in a gentle tone as if he were trying his best not to upset Devon in some capacity. “Because it sounds to me that he died in a Church-related incident. That would be the only reason I could see that would drive an otherwise decent Lord into doing something like this."

Devon pursed his lips, rocking back on his heels, hand still mussing the hair at his nape. “I don't know," he admitted. “This was four years ago; I was barely twelve and I don't think he really..." A sigh. “He's not really the kind who confides in people a lot, you know? Kind of the strong, silent type usually."

Cyril could relate; his own father was much the same. He didn't even know much of anything about his mother, or anything about her death other than that it was apparently childbirth-related.

Vridel shot a quick glance at Mercer, an unusual sort of urgency to it. Whatever had moved him to do so, however, he kept quiet about at just this moment.

“At the very least," Cyril said, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms. “I can make you that promise. If we do encounter him, we'll find a way for you to talk to him. If this could be ended without violence, I would prefer that path." Not least for the sake of the boy in front of him, but also because Rhea was so set on this man's death, and something about her adamancy made Cyril suspicious. If Lonato's army was really so small as to be such an insignificant threat, why did she care so much? It should be beneath her concern, almost. That it wasn't made him wonder what else could be going on here.

Devon looked relieved; enough to smile a bit, at least, though it didn't reach his eyes. “Thank you, Professor. Really."

Mercer locked eyes with Vridel for a moment and nodded his head. “Agreed. I'll see if I can come along, too, to help," Mercer stated, patting Devon on the shoulder in a friendly manner. “I'm sure he has his reasons, but for now, how about we go make some practice shots with the bow, now? I'm sure Teach can come along and correct us if we mess up. And I'm sure Vi and Reynard would like to get some jabs in as well, right?" he stated, his gaze going towards everyone else.

Reynard snorted softly. “I don't know, Mercer. You might be almost as good as me."

Vridel rolled his eyes. “Perhaps you can have a match then, and decide it." He gestured out the door, and Cyril stood as well, giving Devon's shoulder a brief squeeze.

The young man smiled a little more honestly this time, and nodded. “Thanks, guys. I'd be happy for the help."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Senka Rinaldi Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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I.Y. 1180 - Garland Moon - Sunday the 22nd
Common Room - Early Afternoon - Cloudy
Senka Rinaldi


Senka arranged the baked goods on the platter as neatly as she could. There were a few jelly-filled doughnuts, some with chocolate and others with fruit fillings, and a few custard jars topped with caramel. They were specialties of her homeland, and she didn't make them often, however; she wanted to make something from home, something she loved, and share it with her friends. Even if it was just going to be Vridel in the study session, she at least wanted him to try them. She also wasn't too sure on his preferences; did he even like sweets? She wouldn't be offended if he didn't, but she had woken earlier than normal to make sure everything was set for today.

Once she was satisfied with her assortment of desserts, she balanced the tray on one arm, grabbed her books, and made her way towards the common room. It served as Cyril's make-shift office, but he'd told them they could use it whenever they needed to for their studies. She found she'd used it more than most since it was away from most people, and she wasn't near prying eyes. She'd always felt slightly uncomfortable about it.

She set the platter down on the table once she'd arrived at her destination, and arranged the sweets out so that they could be easily grabbed from wherever Vridel sat. She sat down, thereafter, and opened one of her books, content on waiting for his arrival.

It didn't take him much longer to arrive, but as it happened he wasn't alone when he did. Professor Cyril was with him, carrying a tea tray with three cups, a container of milk, and a large pot of something that smelled like a spicy fruit tea. Something changed in his eyes when they made contact with hers—like when she smoothed out her face, it seemed to be a way of smiling without actually moving his mouth.

“Hello, Senka," he said mildly.

Vridel's eyes widened a little at the tray of sweets before he, too, greeted her. “Hey. I invited the Professor here to help us out. I figured you wouldn't mind." Why he thought this he did not specify, instead simply taking the seat across from her and setting his satchel down in the one next to him.

This left the only open seat the one next to her, and Cyril shifted around, setting the tea tray down before resting his hand on the carved wooden chair-back. Like most of the things in this room it was a dark wood, the seat and back-pad upholstered in burnt orange and cream. “May I?" he inquired politely.

“Of course," she replied, nodding her head, “I do not mind." She was glad that she'd made a decent amount of the pastries with the arrival of Cyril. Her eyes widened a fraction at the thought. He could try them as well. With that in mind, she regarded both of them with a stare. “I hope you do not mind, but I made these for your enjoyment," she stated, pointing towards the platter. “You are welcome to them as well, Professor," she stated. She wanted him to know that he could partake in the pastries, as well, if he so desired.

“Mind?" Vridel echoed skeptically. “I could hardly mind." So saying, he picked up one of the chocolate-filled ones, biting into it with a contented sound before he remembered himself and swallowed, clearing his throat. “Ah, that is to say, thank you." When he flipped open his book, he resumed eating at a much more sedate pace.

“They are... from my homeland," she stated tentatively. Over the past few months, Senka had grown to trust Vridel and Cyril a great deal. Enough that she was willing to allow them a glimpse into who she really was. Where she was really from. She did not wish to deceive them, but she couldn't tell them more than that. If they asked, she would oblige, however; she would have to be careful in how she explained it to them.

Cyril tilted his head. He'd been pouring the tea, but not that it was distributed, the milk settled firmly between Vridel and Senka, he picked one up and set it on his saucer, delicately slicing into it with his fork. He seemed to take great care with fine tasks like this one, almost as if he had to mind the amount of force he used with everyday objects. “Faerghus?" he asked curiously, tilting his head as he took a bite. His brows inched up, and he made a much softer hum of approval than Vridel had before swallowing. “That's good. Is it Almyran?"

Vridel's eyes had narrowed; he was now regarding his food with renewed interest. “This is definitely not from Faerghus," he said, shaking his head. “It's much too light. And the Almyrans favor spicier chocolate." He lifted his eyes to Senka, clearly puzzled but not accusatory in any way. “Where are you really from, Senka?"

Cyril seemed to catch on to the importance of the question, at least; he looked back and forth between them almost warily. “You don't have to answer that if you don't want to," he said slowly, perhaps mindful of what else he knew about her history.

She shook her head, though, and took a deep sigh. It would have only been a matter of time before someone figured it out, and perhaps, this way was safer. More controlled. She could tell two of the people she trusted the most with this information, and then, perhaps, she'd be able to tell more. She regarded Vridel with a stare before dropping it.

“Vridel is correct. I did not lie when I said my mother was from Faerghus, however," she paused to glance towards Cyril, “my father is not Almyran. To be honest, I know very little of Almyran customs, and was only able to pick up on a few through books I read." There were not a lot of books, unfortunately, but she had managed to make due with what she had.

“Do you recall when I told you my parents were killed by bandits?" she asked, glancing towards Cyril. “They were killed in what was known as the Tragedy of Duscur. I am from Duscur," she stated, dropping her gaze to the table. She felt... ashamed, almost for having kept that from them, but she also felt ashamed for telling them. She was from Duscur; people from Duscur were, naturally, hated. They were blamed for regicide, a crime her father did not commit. And she would take that blame, that hatred for however many years it took to clear her nation's name.

“The Tragedy of Duscur?" Cyril repeated, his tone perhaps as delicate as she'd ever heard it. It was quite clear he'd never heard of the events, and was a little uncomfortable asking her about them.

Vridel, on the other hand, looked like a lot of things suddenly made sense to him. He shot Cyril a glance, paused long enough to give Senka the opportunity to speak if she wished, and then explained. “Four years ago," he said, his voice much lighter and softer than it usually was, “Duscur was an independent nation. Just a small one, on a northern peninsula adjacent to the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus. There had been some... tensions, in previous generations, though nothing that went to outright war or anything. But the border was contested, to put it mildly, and Duscur was fairly close to Fhirdiad, the capital of Faerghus, which some people worried about more than they needed to."

He leaned back in his chair, dashing some milk into his tea and stirring it before taking a sip. “But Sorcha's father, King Lambert, and King Disma of Duscur were negotiating a more settled peace. As a sign of good faith, Lambert, his family, and a small detachment of Royal Knights made the trip into Duscur to finish the negotiations." Vridel paused, grimaced, and then sighed, disturbing a strand of stark-white hair. “The caravan was attacked within Duscur's borders. Everyone in it was killed, except... except for Sorcha."

Another drink from the teacup, this one longer than the last. “The people of Duscur were immediately blamed for the death of the King, the Queen Consort, and all the knights that had gone with them. Lambert's brother Rufus was appointed Sorcha's regent, Viscount Kleiman and several other small but influential houses started pushing for retaliation, and before the dust had even settled over the King's grave there was..." He pursed his lips, regarding Senka with obvious sympathy.

“Tragedy is too light a word. It implies that what happened could not have been helped. But what happened was a massacre, and those lords are to blame. Kleiman wound up with the land, as I'm sure you can guess. And a whole people would up with something less than a home."

There was a thick silence for several moments after that. Only when it had almost become unbearable did Cyril break it. “So the..." he halted, glancing towards Vridel before turning his eyes to Senka and gesturing vaguely at his head. “It's because of... that?"

She knew he was referring to the nightmares. “The nightmares, yes. They are because of that. Father only wanted to make peace with Faerghus, to show them we were not a threat. But people are hateful, and they are spiteful of those who are not like them. We were no threat; father only wanted peace, but it..." she found a lump in her throat made it hard to speak, and she shook her head. “He even took a Faerghus wife with my mother in hopes that it would have brought peace."

But he had taken her mother because he actually loved her, and she had loved him. It was a sight that Senka found herself missing. “I hope one day to help my people and clear their names. They are innocent," she stated, finding her voice with much more emotion than normal. She didn't understand, but she chanced a glance at the both of them.

As if by instinct, Cyril's hand reached for her, but he drew back at the last moment, as though unsure of something, and let it fall back to his side. “I believe you," he offered in its stead, nothing but complete sincerity in the words.

“As do I," Vridel added. “Even if I hadn't known you personally, the circumstances were always far too suspicious. But now that I do, I'm sure of it." He exhaled quietly, picking up another of the treats. “From all accounts, your father was a good king," he continued, sidewardly acknowledging what she'd inadvertently let slip. “I am sorry for your loss."

She felt the barest flicker of her lips tilt upward, but she smoothed them back out. “He was the best person I'd ever known," she whispered softly. “You... remind me of him sometimes," she stated glancing towards Cyril. “He just wore his heart on his sleeve, better," she stated, her eyes softening for a fraction.

“If you'd like," she paused for a moment and glanced back towars Vridel, “I can bake some more desserts for the two of you, ones that are native to Duscur. And also... introduce you to some of our customary meals." It would be nice for once, to be able to do that. To make meals from her homeland for the only people she trusted.

“Well I certainly won't turn down more of these," Vridel noted, putting a bit of levity back in his tone. Not in a way that seemed like he was making light of anything she'd just said, but perhaps simply an attempt to move the conversation from darker places.

Cyril nodded, turning slightly to reorient himself back towards the table. His arm brushed hers, only incidentally, but he didn't seem to mind. “I'd be glad to try anything you wanted to share," he said simply.

She smiled at the both of them, one that surprised her. It'd been a long time since she'd felt her face pull into a smile like that, and before she could say anything, someone cleared their throat. She felt eyes on her back, and a familiar heat about them. She knew that feeling; it was the feeling of the people who looked at her with such disdain in their eyes. Hatred. Anger. She turned to the source and was slightly surprised to see Lady Rhea standing at the entrance to Cyril's office.

“It seems you are getting a long, well, with your students, Cyril," she stated, a strange emotion laced in her voice. It seemed the Archbishop was interested in Cyril, for whatever reason Senka did not know. “What is it that you would be sharing, Senka," she stated, her eyes fixed on Senka's. She decided, then, that she did not like the way Lady Rhea was regarding her. It was predatory, as if she would, at any second, bring harm to Senka.

“I have learned of a new recipe for a dessert that I wanted to bake. I was simply asking them if they would like to test it for me," she stated. Lady Rhea's eyes moved towards Cyril, almost as if she were asking him if it were true.

“And I mentioned quite looking forward to it," he added simply, confirming what she'd said without the faintest hint of hesitation. His posture shifted, something about it suggesting a... defensiveness, almost? Like he was prepared to stand and shift in front of her or Vridel at any moment. The Professor often seemed wary, that way, like someone who was accustomed to danger and reacting quickly, but over the past few months it had become less obvious, like he was relaxing.

He certainly didn't seem that way now, though.

The smile on Lady Rhea's face was not genuine. It was bitter, and there was a touch of disgust about it when she directed it towards Senka. “Perhaps you will allow me to partake in them as well, when you have the time," she stated. Senka merely nodded; it was the only thing she could do. “Very well, I will leave you to your studies. It seems the both of you will be taking your certifications this month. May the goddess bless you with positive results," she stated, nodding her head before she departed.

“I do not trust that woman, nor do I like her," Senka stated the moment she knew Rhea was no longer near the vicinity.

“Me either," Vridel said bluntly. His attention shifted to Cyril. “I don't think you do, either, do you Professor?"

“No." If anything, his reply was even more blunt. “She outright said this month's mission was a way to remind you what happens to people who turn their blades on the Church. And I..." Something changed in his expression; like he was trying to recall something that remained just beyond his reach. “I don't know. There's something about her. I can't explain it, but it... puts me on edge."

“She seems quite... interested in you," Vridel mused. “I doubt she talks half as much to Professor Hanneman or Professor Manuela. From the sounds of it, Lady Lyanna handles all their missions and reports herself." He paused, finishing off his tea. “What about you interests her so much, I wonder?"

Cyril shook his head. "I wish I knew. At first I thought it had something to do with my father, but... the more time passes the more I think it's the other way around. But it doesn't make sense. I'd never even have met her but for the coincidence of the three of your running towards Remire that day."

“Maybe she's just a sucker for a handsome face," Vridel suggested, the sharp cynicism of the words a sure giveaway that he didn't mean it as a serious guess.

For his part, the professor looked slightly confused for a moment, then shrugged. “Whatever it is... if you can avoid ever being alone with her, please do. I can sense her magic sometimes, I think, and it's... very strong. Stronger than mine."

Senka was slightly startled by the sound that came out of her throat. The smile was something she'd thought she wouldn't be able to do much of, however; the laughter that came out of her voice was... strange. She couldn't recall the last time she'd laughed like that. Before everything, perhaps, but she rather missed it. Something about Vridel and Cyril made things easier, like they were natural. That they should have been there all along. When she managed to calm herself, her eyes were narrowed by the strength of her smile.

“I do not plan on being alone with that woman, however; I must agree with Vridel. I believe it's your face she is so interested in," because she would not deny that her Professor had a sort of pleasantness to his features. Vridel was quite the same way, and so were most of her classmates.

“That's it," Vridel said, leaning back in his chair and smirking. “That's all the luck I will ever have in my life. Little did I know all the misfortune until now was balancing out this moment." He huffed softly. “Not only did Senka smile and make me pastries, she laughed. At my joke. Mercer would never believe me, but I even got a witness. And some interesting gossip on top of that." He did not specify what the 'gossip' was, but the rest was obvious enough.

Cyril still looked faintly puzzled, but seemed to accept that she was furthering the joke Vridel had made. “Maybe I should get myself a mask, like Professor Jeritza."

She huffed slightly. “It would be a shame to keep your face covered because of her," she stated, turning her attention to her books. “But I do believe we were here to study for an upcoming certification. Shall we?" she stated, arching a brow in Vridel's direction. She... liked this, being more expressive with herself.

“Quite so," he replied easily. “So Professor. I'm pretty sure I saw you use Thoron last month..."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Amalthea von Kreuz Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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I.Y. 1180 - Garland Moon - Friday the 25th
Training Grounds - Afternoon - Overcast
Amalthea von Kreuz


Amalthea pursed her lips together as she tried to roll her shoulders out. The armor she'd put on wasn't quite to her fitting, but it was the only one that could work for her practices. She was much smaller than the other students who were trying to pass their certifications for the armored knight class, and Thea couldn't help but wonder if she should change classes? It wasn't because it was difficult; she enjoyed what she did, throwing axes, practicing with Vridel and the others. But it felt like the armor made for knights were not suited to people like her? She puffed out her cheeks, earning a curious glance from Sylvi. At least she had the right build for an armored knight.

“Stuck in your armor, Thea?" she stated, clearly amused at Amalthea's frustrated state. She shook her head at Sylvi, though, and furrowed her brows.

“I'm not stuck, I just... I'm trying to figure out the best way to manage the armor that isn't quite suited to me. I'm... it's kind of heavy, and I can't really maneuver in it." Sylvi hummed a thoughtful note as she stood from her spot on the bench. Amalthea glanced in Sofia's direction, too. They were all trying to do something similar, and had decided to study together. Even Sofia looked like she had the right build to be whatever knight she wanted to be, and Amalthea felt a little envious of it. Pushing out a breath, she furrowed her brows.

“I'll just have to show that anyone can be a knight, even someone as small as me!" she declared out loud, causing Sylvi to chuckle.

“Dierdre's smaller than you, Amalthea. You're not that tiny. You've grown a little since the last time, you know," she stated, causing Amalthea to smile. She did feel like she had grown somewhat in the last few months.

Sofia nodded, distinctly calmer and less expressive as tended to be her way. She wasn't blank-faced like the professor or Senka, just... mild. Quiet, even, though she spoke easily enough when she had something to say. “I'm sure once you get your classification, they'll have a set better made to your specifications," she noted. “That's the only reason why there's a separate certification for heavy armor anyway. They want to know you know how to use it before they go to the expense."

She approached, half-crouching to check some of Amalthea's straps and buckles and the like. She adjusted a few, making it slightly better, but in the end she pushed a sigh from her nose and shook her head faintly. “This set was made for someone at least a few inches taller than you, and longer in the legs, but... it's the smallest they have."

“I'll just have to improvise, then," she replied, nodding her head in thanks. “But it does feel a little better so I think I might be able to move around a little easier. I think, in the end, that is what'll help me the most. Getting familiar with the armor, even if it's not quite to my specifications," she stated glancing towards Sylvi who was chuckling.

“You have a very optimistic outlook on things, Thea, you know that? I don't think I've ever heard you say anything mean about anything or anyone," she stated, causing Amalthea to purse her lips in confusion.

“Why would I do that? Everything is a teachable moment, and why would I want to miss out on that? Looking at it in a negative light won't help me to understand it, so..." she trailed off not knowing how else to put it. Everything to her was, in some ways, new. She was still young, and for the first time in her life, experiencing the outside world. Reading about it was different than actually being a part of it, and Amalthea felt like she was learning something almost every day.

It was at about this point that the Professor walked by, carrying what seemed to be most of a suit of armor himself. It didn't look nearly sized for him, though—it might have fit someone of Devon's dimensions, but no larger. He paused when he saw them, making his way over to the group. Sofia smiled and nodded; the latter, the Professor returned.

“Practicing with armor?" he asked, surveying the three of them. “You're all taking the axe certifications as well, yes?"

“Oh, hello professor!" she greeted, smiling in his direction. She blinked as she turned her attention towards Sylvi and Sofia. “I'm studying for both the heavy armor certifications and the axe ones," she replied. She would need to pass both of them if she wanted to be an armored knight. She was decent with the axe, better than when she'd first started at least, and she didn't think she would have too much trouble passing that exam.

“Yeah, I need to be proficient in the axe if I'm to pass my certifications. I had to change them mid-way, through, though. Apparently my original class was only for men," she sounded bitter about it, but she shrugged her shoulders lightly. “I'm studying for the brigand class, now. That just needs an axe certification of at least C, and I think I'm good enough to be able to do it," she continued, confident in her abilities. Amalthea couldn't help but be amazed by it.

“Wait, so does that mean your dream of being a war master has changed?" she asked, watching as Sylvi grinned.

“Of course not. Even though it might be for just men, I'm going to still prove to them that I, Sylvi Galatea, can be just as good, if not better. I'm going to be the first female war master! Just you watch," she replied, an unusual fire in her eyes.

“Well I should hope you'd allow us to do more than watch," Cyril noted with a faint trace of amusement. “But for now..." he set down the suit he was carrying, laying out the pieces and sifting through them with a hum. Every once in a while, he glanced up at Amalthea as though trying to decide something. When he was done, the armor was in two separate piles. He gestured her forward.

“Some of these seem closer to your size, and they're a bit more flexible. If you mix them together, you might get a set that'll do well enough for practice."

“Oh, why didn't I think of that!" Amalthea stated as she bounded over towards the sets. “That's a very smart idea," she continued, grinning at the piles as she glanced them over. She could hear Sylvi snickering softly, but she decided to ignore her for now. She picked a few pieces out before pursing her lips. She turned towards Sofia and Sylvi her brows furrowing lightly.

“Can you help me with my armor?" she asked. She couldn't take it off, herself, considering, but they had helped her put it on, to begin with. She could get her legs and the metal boots, but she needed help with everything else. Sylvi laughed at her, but shook her head. She motioned for Amalthea near her and Sofia, and she obliged. Once they had helped her out of her armor, they helped her into the new set. Sylvi seemed to do a once over to make sure everything was secured properly, before clicking her tongue in a satisfied manner.

“I think this looks better, Thea. Can you move?" she asked, as Amalthea nodded her head. She moved her shoulders a bit, and twisted a couple of times to make sure she was a little more limber.

“Thanks, Professor!" she stated, moving every so often to get comfortable with the armor. She made her way towards the racks that held the practice weapons, and pulled a practice axe from it. Amyr wasn't allowed in the certifactions, something about being above her certs, but she didn't mind. If she passed her C-certs, she'd be able to use Amyr, proper, for the other exams she'd have to take.

“You're welcome," he said simply, moving away from the center to take a seat on the fence. The rest of the armor, he set down behind him. “Don't mind me if you want to practice."

Sofia offered a smile, hefting her own weapon. She favored long arms, and the poleaxe was no exception. She said the forms were closer to the lance ones she preferred anyway, but with more chop and less thrust, as it were. “I'll have a go with you to test it out if you like, Thea."

“I'd like that!" she replied, nodding her head as she jogged—about as well as she could in a full suit of armor—towards Sofia. “And don't feel the need to take it easy on me!" she addeed, grinning up at the taller woman. “I can handle it, and... practice makes perfect, so," she stated, hoping Sofia would catch on to what she was saying.

They spent almost two hours sparring, Amalthea occasionally landing a hit. Sofia had started off on the defensive side, as if she were just watching Amalthea make her moves. It made sense after awhile when she shifted into an offensive stance, knocking the practice axe out of Amalthea's hands every so often. It didn't hurt like she expected it to, but her hands were a little sore from the force of which Sofia attacked. She was patient, calculative, and seemed to make every attack count whereas Amalthea was merely using most of her strength to try and wear her down.

Perhaps she'd been going about it the wrong way? Sofia seemed to be doing the complete opposite, as if she were waiting for Amalthea to wear herself down. That seemed to be the case since Amalthea was currently tired. Her muscles were sore, and her arms felt heavy, like iron. A side-effect of wearing armor, she supposed. She took a deep breath, and called for a halt in their practice bout.

“It looks like I still have a lot to learn," she stated, smiling in Sofia's direction. “Thank you for being my sparring partner!" she added, bowing towards Sofia to show her gratitude. Sylvi snickered softly, but shook her head.

“If you keep practicing, Thea, you'll be able to succeed in no time. And the fact that you can acknowledge that you have a lot to learn, still, means you're on the right path," she stated, placing her hand on her hip. “What do you say, Prof?" she asked, glancing in Professor's direction.

“You're all improving," he remarked simply. “You're getting better on the horizontal, Sofia. Good work."

She smiled at that, a little more brightly than usual. “Thank you, sir."

He turned next to Amalthea. “You're getting better with the armor, Thea. You shouldn't overtax yourself all at once, though. Endurance isn't built in a day."

“I think he's telling us to take our rest for the day," Sofia noted. “Not a bad idea, I think."

“Agreed. I need to go bug Devon and see how he and Mercer are doing with their bow training," Sylvi stated, a mischievous grin crossing her face, causing Amalthea to giggle. She tucked the books she'd brought with her, under her arm, and waved good bye before leaving the area. Amalthea waved after her and Sofia, leaving just her and the professor. She turned to him with a bright smile, though.

“Thanks, Professor! I'd hope I was improving," she stated, making her way to remove her armor. Luckily, she could do it herself, this time, and once everything was removed, she turned back towards the professor, and grinned as an idea formed in her head. “Oh, we should go get some tea! I hear it helps soothe sore and aching muscles and helps you relax after training," she suggested. She paused, though, and titled her head slightly to the left. “Unless, of course, you're too busy! If that's the case, I can go bug Lyanna!" because Lyanna always made time for tea, and sweets. Usually sweets, but Amalthea promised she wasn't going to tell anyone that about her sister.

If she remembered correctly, it was something Lyanna swore her to secrecy about. She probably didn't want people to know she ate a lot of sweets.

“Of course I'm not too busy," he replied simply, stepping down off the fence and gathering up the pieces of armor he'd brought, as well as the ones she was no longer using.

After a stop to store his in the armory and hers in her room, they made their way to the dorm building, where the professor made tea. They took it outside, though, simply seating themselves on the lawn with the tea tray between them where they faced each other. He'd apparently found some cookies somewhere, because they were on the tray too, along with plenty of sugar for the tea, though the professor didn't take any. It seemed to be a sweeter berry flavor, warm and fragrant.

Once they'd settled in, he regarded her quietly for a few moments. “You grew up in the monastery, didn't you?" he asked. “Were you born here?"

She'd been halfway through a cookie when he'd spoken, so she washed it down with her tea, and nodded. “I was... I think. Lyanna doesn't talk about it, often," she stated, smiling still. “I think she said mother passed right after I was born, so I didn't know her growing up. She doesn't speak of father, though," and she never thought to question it. For as long as she'd been alive, it was always her and Lyanna.

“She basically raised me," she added, glancing around before turning her attention back towards him. “The Church is all I've ever known, so I was excited when Lyanna said I could join the Officer's Academy instead of devoting my time to the goddess. Not that I wouldn't devote to her. From the way Lady Rhea speaks of her, she sounds amazing," she continued, taking another bite out of her cookie. She loved the stories Lady Rhea and Lyanna would tell of the goddess, and she thought they were romantic and divine.

“What do you know about the goddess?" she asked, curiously. For as long as she'd known the professor, he never seemed to know much about the teachings of Seiros nor the Church. She would gladly tell him everything she knew, though, if that's what he wanted.

The Professor looked down into his teacup, as if studying his own distorted reflection in the liquid. “I would... appreciate that, I think," he said after a pause. “I know the basic story, about the War of Heroes, but little beyond that. The Archbishop hopes for me to convert, I think, but..." He shrugged.

“Religion has never been a part of my life. I suppose I can see why some people would embrace it, but I am not sure there is—" A faint crease appeared between his brows. “I'm not sure there is any void in my life that it would fill."

“Oh, that's understandable. You didn't know anything about the Church until you came here, right?" she asked, though she already knew the answer to that. Instead, she washed down the rest of her cookie, and dusted the crumbs off of her person before turning to face him fully. “Well, first thing is first," she began, folding her hands in front of her.

“We devote ourselves to the goddess, Sothis. She is the one who gave the Divine Seiros the revelation and power that helped put down Nemesis. Without it, we... might not have existed at all. Well, maybe, but not quite the same as we are today. Divine Seiros's actions would later be considered miracles, to the people, and thus the Church was founded to remind people of how she defeated Nemesis in single combat, and basically saved our lives." It had been a fantastical story, to Amalthea when she'd read that in one of the books. In single combat, with no help whatsoever.

“Essentially, we worship Sothis for giving the Divine Seiros the power to save us, and the blessings she bestowed upon us. Not like the Crests, though," she quickly waved her hands in front of her. “I mean, like, blessing us with good fortune and other things like that."

His eyes had widened just fractionally when she first said 'Sothis.' It was the sort of thing easily missed on most people. But for someone like the Professor, who habitually expressed so little, it was a clearer contrast, and something that someone watching his face could pick up on, if they were practiced at talking to him as she was. Through the story, his attention seemed to shift; it was like he were half-listening with rapt attention, but half somewhere else entirely, and when she was done, the silence stretched for an unusually long time.

“That name," he murmured, almost as if speaking more to himself than her. “Sothis. It is... familiar, somehow. Like something I knew once, but have forgotten. It's the name of the Goddess?"

She nodded her head. “It is. The goddess, Sothis. At least, that's what Lady Rhea said," she answered, pursing her lips together. “I'm surprised she didn't tell you; Lady Rhea always makes a point to make sure anyone who isn't a believer, knows the name," she was, honestly surprised. Maybe it slipped Lady Rhea's mind, however; Lady Rhea was a bright woman. She wouldn't neglect to tell Professor, that, if she wanted to convert him.

At the mention of Rhea, the Professor's eyes seemed to darken a little; he passed a quiet sigh from his nose and took a draught from his tea. “I have the feeling a great deal is being hidden from me," he mused. “I don't even understand the real reason I was hired to work here. My father operated as a mercenary for many years. His name was well-known, and yet these Knights never came looking for him then. Why go to such lengths to bring us into the fold now?"

With a faint shake of the head, he lifted his eyes back to hers. “I'm sorry. I should not unburden myself on you, Thea. You've exams to study for, and plenty to keep you busy."

Amalthea shook her head, and smiled. “Oh, I don't mind, Professor! If you need someone to talk to, I've been told I'm a good listener," she stated, offering him her ears if he ever needed them. “And... I believe they did search for Captain Jeralt, but gave up after a few years of searching. I think it's because they thought he died," she stated, but perhaps she'd been mistaken. Shaking her head, she offered him a smile, still.

“If you ever need someone to speak with, Professor, to let out your own worries and other things, I'm always here for you! Just like you're always here for us, that's the least I can do," she wanted to return the favor, after all that he's done for them.

He huffed gently, then nodded. “Thank you, then. I will keep that in mind."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Senka Rinaldi Character Portrait: Amalthea von Kreuz Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Sorcha Blaiddyd Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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I.Y. 1180 - Garland Moon - Monday the 30th
Magdred Way - Morning - Foggy
Mercer von Riegan


Mercer pursed his lips together as he scanned the area. They had left Sunday in order to travel to Castle Gaspard. It had taken them a day, but by the time they'd arrived, it was strangely foggy outside. He was slightly regretting not bringing a torch with him, or something as a means of light. Fire magic could fulfill that, but it meant using magic, and he was certain the mages would like to conserve it. Even if they were there as the cleanup, there could still be a battle to be fought. He glanced around at the others, his eyes landing on Sorcha for a moment before turning towards everyone else. A soldier, a young man perhaps not more than twenty, seemed excited about something.

“Are you anticipating a fight?" Mercer decided to ask. It was unusual for someone to be excited to do nothing after all. Chances are, they wouldn't even be needed for this. The soldier shook his head, though.

“I'm excited at the chance of being with Catherine! No matter how powerful our enemies may be, there's no need to worry as long as the mighty wielder of Thunderbrand is with us!" he stated, causing Mercer to huff lightly. He supposed having someone on their side who could wield a Hero's Relic might have been a slight advantage, but he didn't think too much of it.

Most of the others seemed to know what he was talking about, but Cyril, who was in fact walking beside the woman herself, looked vaguely confused for a moment. “Thunderbrand?"

“You mean you don't know?" Catherine stated, vaguely surprised. She stared at Teach with a confused brow, before she continued. “My weapon is called Thunderbrand. It's one of the Heroes' Relics." Everyone almost seemed to nod in unison at the explanation.

“Yeah, supposedly a long time ago, the goddess bestowed divine weapons upon ten heroes, which were passed down to their descendants," Mercer stated, causing Catherine to nod her head. “For instance, House Blaiddyd has Areadhbar, and House Riegan has Failnaught. We're each expected to inherit those relics when we ascend to our position as leaders, but in the mean time..." he trailed off with a shrug of his shoulders.

“They're an honor to wield, but I'm afraid there won't be any chance for that today," Catherine stated, holding out her arms with a shrug. “Our mission is to help clean up the aftermath, not fight." Which was true, for the most part. That, however, did not seem to ease the unsettled feeling in Mercer's stomach.

“I wonder why Lord Lonato would start such a rebellion, though," Sylvi asked, glancing towards Devon with a sympathetic gaze. Catherine looked vaguely uncomfortable for a moment before she sighed. Mercer had a feeling she at least knew part of the reason.

“It all goes back to the Tragedy of Duscur..." she began, curiously catching Senka's attention. Her eyes were on Catherine as soon as she'd said it.

This, Teach actually seemed to know about. At least, he didn't ask what it was. “I don't understand," he admitted. “The Tragedy of Duscur wasn't a Church dispute, as I understand. Why would someone rebel against the Central Church because of it?"

“There's more to that story than it seems," Catherine explained, expelling a heavy sigh. “They had accomplices within the Kingdom as well," she stated, shaking her head as she glanced at the group. Senka's brows were furrowed, and Amalthea looked vaguely confused. Catherine chanced a glance in Devon's direction, and Mercer found his lips pursing into a fine line.

“Accomplices," Sorcha muttered, shaking her head. If Mercer hadn't been as close as he was, he wouldn't have been able to hear what came next. “Ridiculous." She didn't, however, dispute what Catherine was saying, probably for the sake of the mission they were all here to do.

“Lonato's son was part of it, wasn't he?" Mercer questioned, bringing Catherine's attention back to him.

“He was one of them, and so he was handed over to the church for execution," she explained, shaking her head once more.

“What is the church doing, executing criminals?" Senka finally spoke, calling Catherine's attention.

“Speaking from the church's perspectice, we simply passed judgment according to our doctrine in place of the Kingdom, which was in complete chaos. Whatever the truth behind that incident may be, Lord Lonato has harbored resentment toward the church, ever since." That explained why Lonato was attacking the church, but nothing more, to Mercer.

“Well... to be more specific, his grudge isn't only against the church. It's also against the one who turned Christophe over to them..." she added, glancing away from the group. Mercer had an idea, but he chose to keep it to himself for now.

Devon winced, but said nothing.

Teach apparently shared Mercer's hypothesis, but not his instinct to keep it to himself. “I take it that was you?" The question was blunt, but in that weird way Teach had about him, it didn't come across as harsh or unkind.

She glanced up, ready to reply when a church soldier hurriedly interrupted them. “The enemy is approaching! Their numbers are far greater than we predicted," he spoke, glancing between the group. “They used the fog to slip past the knights' perimeter!" he continued, panic laced in his voice. Mercer didn't blame him; they weren't supposed to have to fight.

“It looks like our mission just changed, Professor. Everyone, prepare for battle!" Catherine shouted as if to rally the troops together. Some of the troops nodded in unison, and departed to do as they were told.

“Well, I guess so much for being a cleanup crew," he muttered, shaking his bow loose from his shoulder and glancing at the others. “Uh, not to make anyone alarmed, but they are using this fog as cover. Be careful out there, alright?" he stated, glancing at everyone before his eyes landed on Sorcha. “Especially you," he added, pursing his lips in her direction.

She frowned, glancing away from him, but she did nod a little, tightening her grip on her own bow.

“Agreed. With this fog, it's impossible to tell where the enemy might be... or how many of them there are. Keep your guards up; the enemy could be trying to surround us. They shouldn't have enough soldiers to form a tight circle, but it's best to stay focused and alert," Catherine stated before she departed.

Teach squinted after her for a moment before sighing. “Dierdre, Sofia, Thea. Go with her. Deirdre, fire magic into the air if you need help. It should be visible through the fog." When that group had departed after Catherine, Teach simply made eye contact with Reynard, who half smiled and saluted casually, drawing a knife from the sheath at his thigh and seemingly melting into the fog.

“The rest of us are going to make small units, and follow the same plan. There has to be a cause to this fog; it's not natural." He didn't elaborate on how he knew that, but there was no doubt whatsoever in his words. “Our first priority is finding that mage, and taking them out. Mercer, Vridel, Sorcha. You're a group. Move quietly. Senka, Devon, Sylvi: you're with me. We're going to make the noise."

“Fine by me," Mercer replied, saluting Teach in the process as he glanced at Sorcha and Vridel. Senka had spared a glance towards Sorcha, but merely nodded her head and departed with Sylvi and Devon with Teach. He wished, at the moment, that he'd brought a torch with him, but he supposed that would defeat the purpose of moving quietly, now.

“Alright, I can't see too much in this thick fog, but," he stated, glancing at his surroundings, “we can at least form a tight circle to watch each other's backs for now. Also, I know this is prime opportunity, with the fog and all, but please don't accidently stab me, Vi." He'd given the man plenty of reasons to want to stab him, after all.

“Oh believe me, Mercer. If ever I stab you, it will be very much on purpose." Vridel replied simply, drawing his blade with a slight rasp.

Sorcha glanced between them once and rolled her eyes slightly, but where ordinarily she might have made some comment, she was silent now.

“Teach said the fog wasn't natural, so..." he trailed off, making eye contact with Vi, “any idea how to track the source? If it's not natural then there has to be someone making it, and that usually requires magic, right?"

“I'm not some kind of weird magic bloodhound like the Professor, if that's what you're asking," Vridel said dryly. “There's magic all over the battlefield right now and it's not easy to tell what's what. That said..." he paused, frowning. After a moment, he stopped moving and shut his eyes.

Sorcha moved immediately to cover him, squinting warily out into the fog. The quality of the air around seemed to change for a moment, almost brightening, somehow, or... freshening. It smelled like early spring, when the grass was new, and the flowers were coming in, but the change had no obvious source.

After another moment, though, Vridel cracked his eyes open, tossing his head to clear a strand of hair from his face. “I think it's that way." he pointed with his sword to the northwest, more west than north. Teach's group was going more north, and Catherine's headed almost due west, so if he was right, they'd surely run into the source first.

Probably what Teach had thought, come to think of it. Why else have the noisy groups draw attention in the other directions?

Mercer nodded, moving in the direction Vridel had pointed to. The fog was thicker than Mercer had anticipated, and he had to switch from his bow, to his sword. He didn't want to use his bow until he could see, clearly. As much as he favored it, he didn't want to accidentally hit someone with it. He wanted to make sure it was an enemy and not one of his friends, even if they'd gone in the opposite direction. He wanted to be sure.

They'd encountered a few soldiers along the way. One had managed to nick him in the shoulder with a spear. Mercer had reacted too late when he'd spotted it coming out of the fog, and barely managed to get out of the way in time. He cut the man down, but even Mercer felt a slight hesitation in his blade. These were civilians, and possibly innocent people. He wondered if they wanted to be in this fight, this battle fighting against the church. They had to know they couldn't win this. So why... he pushed the thought out of his mind as an arrow whistled towards him. It nicked him in the face as he dodged it, drawing a thin line of blood as he sighed.

“I take it we're getting close. There are more soldiers around," he spoke to Vridel and Sorcha. Chances were they would want to keep the mage as protected as possible to keep the advantage. But there was also a chance that they were just trying to confuse them and make them believe that. Mercer did not want to have to kill more people, but he gripped his sword tighter as he moved forward. He didn't have a choice.

Neither Vridel nor Sorcha looked any happier to be there. Vridel's face was set into a grim frown; at a small break in the fighting, he reached back and tapped Mercer with a quick healing spell, wordlessly resetting his stance a moment later to fend off another blade from the fog.

“W-why are you doing this?" behind them, another man faced Sorcha, a spear held in his trembling hands. “Lord Lonato is a good man! The Church is wicked and corrupt! They—they're liars!" Behind his ill-fitting helmet, it was clear that he wasn't much older than any of them, and his lack of experience in battle was just as clear. He had the build and patchy clothes of a workman, perhaps a farmer's son or something of the kind from the outlying region.

He thrust forward with his spear. Sorcha deflected with her own, crisply enough to knock his weapon right from his hands. He fell to the ground, mostly from surprise and terrible balance, probably. She leveled her spear, and he threw his hands up as if to stave off her blow. “Please! Please don't kill me!"

Mercer was close enough to hear the soft sound Sorcha made in the back of her throat. Her expression was pinched, pained; in the strange pall of the fog, she looked wan and ill.

The tip of her lance shuddered, a scant few inches from the man's hands. “Go then," she said, voice hoarse. “Leave, and don't come back."

He looked at her, then, eyes wide with disbelief, but didn't second-guess the mercy, scrambling to his feet and disappearing into the fog.

Sorcha looked stricken, and swallowed thickly. “He's probably gone to warn someone we're here," she said, still soft and scratchy. “We should hurry."

He wanted to tell her that it was going to be alright, but the truth of it was that Mercer didn't know. As much as he didn't want to kill someone, there was no room for mercy on the battlefield. An enemy was an enemy. It didn't matter if they had experience or not on the field. He had half a mind to grab his bow and finish him off, but a quick glance at Sorcha had him sighing heavily. Shaking his head, he glanced her way.

“Do it, next time. Battle is life or death; there is no mercy on the field, Sorcha," he spoke, his voice unusually harsh. He reeled in on himself, though. He hadn't meant to be that harsh, nor say that. They continued pushing forward, Mercer positioning himself to the front so as to keep Sorcha behind him. He did not want her to do what he was now doing, cutting people down whether or not they were innocent.

It didn't matter.

Mercer narrowed his eyes into the fog, spotting something almost like light. He turned his attention to Vridel, “I think we're closing in. Vi, can you use a fire spell to dispel the fog in that direction?" He pointed in the direction where he'd seen the light. The sooner they lifted this fog, the better.

“Leave it to me," he replied grimly. He'd remained quiet through the disagreement, but Mercer knew quite well that Vridel felt much the same way he did about these things.

Lighting the spell in one hand, he took a moment to close his eyes again, then adjusted his aim and let loose. The flames sliced through the fog like a hot knife through butter, their roar a much more fearsome thing than it had been during their desperate flight from the bandits a couple months ago. It burned away the fog it passed through, and at the end of the trajectory there was a short yelp, and the air around them seemed to shudder.

“Found him. If you two can hold off his friends, I can get this fog off the field."

Sorcha pressed her lips together, but nodded, readying her lance. “Do it."

With a nod, Vridel surged ahead, just as several soldiers closed in around them.

Mercer merely nodded, readying his sword in his left hand. He glanced in Sorcha's direction before turning back towards the field. Taking a deep breath, Mercer deflected a soldier's attempt on him, knocking the soldier back in the process. He struggled to get back to his feet, and Mercer grimaced when his sword went through the man's throat. He could hear him, feel him in a way he had to shake off. There was no mercy on the field. None. He felt his nerves steel themselves as he continued fending off the soldiers who continued their onslaught.

At his back, Sorcha seemed to have done the same. Or at the very least there was no time to do anything but stay alive, no room for anything but killing so as not to be killed. Every once in a while a metallic clang would ring out from the direction Vridel had gone, or magic would flash in the corner of Mercer's eye, but for the most part it was just the two of them, dealing with the onslaught.

She was unnaturally quiet, for her; it was hard to even tell how things were going for her, except that her presence at his back remained there, steadfast and stubborn if nothing else.

It wasn't more than a couple minutes more before the fog began to thin, almost all at once, dissipating into the air as if it had never been there at all. The morning sun fell over the field, bodies strewn in three distinct arcs from east to west. To the south of them a figure in white—Catherine—had fixed her gaze north, where a small palisade wall served as fortification for the rest of the forces and with them—

“Lonato!" Devon, not more than fifty yards to the north with Teach's group, was looking at the same thing: a dignified-looking man mounted on a barded horse behind the wall, lance in hand.

“It's you, Thunderstrike Cassandra," he spoke, glaring at Catherine. His eyes landed on Devon for a moment, and Mercer saw a pained expression flash across his face before he turned his attention back to Catherine. She merely furrowed her brows in his direction, and dropped Thunderbrand to her side. “It was your wretched zealotry that killed my son!" Catherine, however, turned to face Lonato, scoffing lightly before pointing her weapon at him.

“The only name I answer to is Catherine!" she stated, gripping her weapon a bit tighter. “Prepare to taste the blade of one who serves the goddess. Now you face a Knight of Seiros!" she shouted. Lonato merely huffed as he glanced at his soldiers.

“The fog has cleared. There's nothing left to hide you or the filthy Central Church from the judgement of the goddess!" he declared. Mercer grabbed his bow, this time. He wasn't close enough, but he could at least try and pick off a few soldiers from a distance.

Someone else had the same idea; and arrow went sailing over the palisade, landing at the feet of Lord Lonato's horse. Tracing its path back, Lonato met eyes with Devon, where he stood in the middle of his group, protected on two sides by Teach and one each by Sylvi and Senka.

“Lonato, why are you doing this?!" he called, doing his best to straighten to his full height. “You're putting all of your people in danger, leading them into a fight you cannot win, and for what? Please—tell me why this is happening!" There was an edge of desperation to his voice, but there was hope, too. Like he really did believe it might be possible to talk down Lonato's army. Like the Church wasn't already planning to kill them all.

Lonato seemed to have no such illusions. “You wouldn't understand, Devon. Know that the Church had betrayed us all. That woman who sits at the very top of this world... her claws are deep in every nation in Fódlan, and no one will ever be free until they have been torn out!"

Devon hesitated, clearly unsure what to do or say in response to that. But then a soldier slipped past Sylvi's guard, and he had other, more immediate things to worry about.

Mercer grunted under the force of a battle axe that came down on his sword, and he struggled to push it back. He managed to get his footing, using his bow to sweep the man's feet from underneath him before plunging the sword deep within the man's gut. He pushed out a breath as he glanced towards Catherine and Lonato. Catherine was upset, it was obvious to tell with the furrow of her brow, and she charged Lonato, who rushed to meet her on the field. Their weapons clashed as Catherine deflected his lance. “You! I will be the one to kill you, no other!" Lonato declared, twirling his lance towards Catherine.

“You have lost all sense of justice, Lonato," she retorted, thrusting Thunderbrand in his direction and eyes heavy with something. It wasn't quite sorrow, but Mercer would say it was close to it. Perhaps regret? “You want to fight me? So be it; I'll send you to meet your goddess," she continued, dodging his attack as he continued his onslaught.

Thunderbrand sparked and crackled as it glowed red. It would have been an awe-inspiring sight if Mercer didn't already know what Catherine was planning to do. He had to turn his gaze as she slashed at Lonato, the force pushing him back and breaking his guard. Mercer didn't need to hear the strangled cry that left Lonato as Catherine's attack made contact, slicing through the metal of his armor. He fell to his knees, glancing defiantly up at Catherine as she pointed her weapon at him.

“Vile woman..." he spat, his voice ragged with each breath he took. “Christophe, forgive me," he stated out loud, perhaps on purpose so that everyone could hear him. Catherine grimaced as she swung her blade, ending the battle as she turned away.

“I... never thought I'd see Lonato meet this fate," she spoke, her voice cracking just slightly. She seemed to steel herself, though, and glanced at everyone as the other members of the army, retreated. “Well done, everyone. Let's... gather our troops and go," she stated. Mercer couldn't agree more, as he glanced in Sorcha's direction.

“We should regroup with the others," he muttered in her direction.

Her eyes were fixed on the scene; he had the distinct impression she'd forced herself to watch the whole, bloody thing. After a moment, she tore them away, nodding.

“I think if we—"

Abruptly, Sorcha's eyes went wide, a strangled cry that never had a chance to form parting her lips silently as a blade bloomed from her stomach. Her knees gave out beneath her, and the sword withdrew with a slick sound. Behind her stood the same soldier she'd spared what seemed like hours ago, but had likely only been about twenty minutes. His face was twisted into an expression equal parts anger and terror.

“You've ruined everything!" he said, voice trembling as he prodded her off the end of the sword with his foot. He must have picked it up on the field somewhere. Blood seeped over the grass beneath her; Sorcha was entirely still. “You've killed him, and now—now there's nothing!" Tears streaming down his face, he raised his sword, slick with Sorcha's blood, and charged Mercer with a shout.

Mercer's eyes went wide as Sorcha fell over. He could hear Senka shouting from over the field, but everything went numb. Cold. He reacted without much thought, his blade deflecting the man's sword as he tried to attack Mercer. Without much effort, Mercer's blade found its home in the man's neck, severing his head from his shoulders as Mercer threw his blade to the ground. He rushed towards Sorcha's side, eyes wide, and a strange sense of panic seeping through him.

“Sorcha!" he shouted, moving to her side to cradle her towards him. “Sorcha," he continued, not registering the small body falling to his side. Amalthea had reached them first, having run from the other side of the field, it seemed. Mercer would have thought it strange since she was so small compared to Senka's longer strides, however; he couldn't seem to focus.

“Oh, no... no, no, no, Sorcha!" she spoke, placing her hands over Sorcha's wounds. “Mercer, we need to get her bleeding to stop. She's going to bleed to death!" she shouted, but Mercer already knew that. He was trying to get his body to move, to do something other than shut down, but he couldn't seem to take control. He was paralyzed. “Mercer!" Amalthea shouted. Tears were starting to bubble up in her eyes, and she continued to put pressure on Sorcha's wound.

“Don't... you're going to be okay, Sorcha. You'll be fine. Vridel and Senka are on their way!" she couldn't stop the sob that tore through her throat, and the force of her tears had caused her to shut her eyes. “Goddess, please help me," she whispered. Whether it was the prayer, or some latent ability of Amalthea's, her hands began to glow. Mercer recognized white magic when he saw it, but he never recalled her having it. He chanced a glance at Amalthea, her eyes still closed as the tears continued to fall, however; there was a light glow coming from where her heart was.

Did she have a Crest, too? Whatever it was, it seemed to knit Sorcha's wounds closed, but it wasn't enough. She was still bleeding. If Amalthea had a Crest, and did little training with her own magic, it wasn't going to be enough. Her Crest would likely only be able to do so much. He glanced at Senka who came into his vision. “Help her," was his only plea.

“I need you to let her go, Mercer. Vridel and I can take over from here, Thea. Let her go, and let us help," she stated, clearly out of breath, but wearing an expression Mercer had seen before on other people, even himself. It was fear and anguish.

It wasn't long before the whole class had gathered there, even Devon wearing a worried expression on his already tear-streaked face.

“Out of the way," Videl snapped, pushing past several people to drop next to where Thea had begun the work. His hands were already lit with the light of a healing spell—a pore powerful one than the standard kind, from its brightness. “Mercer, you need to put her down or she is going to die. Do you understand me? Senka and I both need to be able to get at that wound."

He was trying to do what they wanted him to do, but his body wasn't responding. He was screaming at his muscles to move, but they wouldn't listen to him. Couldn't they see that!? He was trying, but his body was not in his control. Both Senka and Amalthea were now pleading with him, their eyes wide. Amalthea's were wet with tears, and Senka's looked to be on the verge of her own tears.

“Mercer! Let her go! I'm begging you!" Senka shouted at him, reaching towards Sorcha. He'd never heard her yell like that, before. There was so much emotion behind it. His grip only tightened on Sorcha and he cursed himself. He was going to be the reason she died, even though he desperately wanted her to live.

Vridel cursed and went to work, clearly at least trying to do what he could alone.

Perhaps it was his magic added to what Amalthea had already done. Perhaps it was something else. Either way, Sorcha's eyelashes flickered, and her eyes opened just a little, hazy, indistinct slivers of foggy blue. She seemed to struggle to focus, perhaps unable to process all of what was going on, but somehow, her eyes found his, and with what seemed to be great effort, she lifted the hand closer in to his side. Her fingers were smeared with blood—most likely her own, though there was no way to tell for sure.

“'msorry," she slurred, like her tongue was too thick and heavy in her mouth. Her fingertips found his cheek, and she half-smiled in that particular way she had, where it was a little bit wry, even if this one was dreamier than usual, actually. It wouldn't have been surprising if she was delirious from blood loss at this point. “You can... let go," she mumbled, quietly enough that it was probably only he and Vridel who were close enough to hear now.

“An' smile, 'kay?" her head lolled, hand dropping away as though both were too heavy to hold in place any longer. She left a crimson smear on his face. “'It's..." her eyes slipped closed again, and she went limp.

“Mercer," Vridel repeated urgently.

The force of her words was enough to cause Mercer's body to relinquish his hold. That, or perhaps it was the force with which Senka pushed him out of the way as she grabbed hold of Sorcha. He swallowed thickly, watching as both Vridel and Senka immediately went to work on Sorcha's wounds. It felt like hours. Long, drawn out, and angry, for whatever reason Mercer could not name. When they were done, Senka's shoulder's were shaking. It was clear to Mercer that she had been crying, but it wasn't until she turned to face him, that he realized that it was his fault.

“What were you thinking! You could have..." she shouted abruptly at him, but stopped when something caught in her throat. “You could have gotten her killed! Why didn't you let go!?" she continued, causing Mercer to avert his gaze from her. He knew. He knew, but he couldn't bring himself to let go. “She's... she's all I have left and you almost let her die!" And he deserved her wrath, and her anger.

“Senka, I... don't think he did it on purpose. He was worried, scared just like you are," Amalthea stated, briefly touching Senka's arm as she turned to face her. Senka glanced back at Mercer before turning her gaze from him, and refusing to look at him the rest of the time. He deserved it.

“We need to get her back to the Monastery so she can rest." She said no more after that.

Vridel stood last, rising with Sorcha in his arms. “We can put her on one of the horses for now, but someone should ride with her." From the way he was swaying on his feet, he wasn't in any shape to be doing so himself.

“Senka." Teach nodded to the horse Sofia was leading over. “If you need to switch off let me know." He seemed to deem it best that Senka be the one to travel back with Sorcha, and given the fright she'd just had, perhaps that was a kindness. At least this way she'd be able to know if anything about her condition changed right away.

“As for the rest of us... let's get back to the monastery."

Senka nodded at Teach, though glanced over her shoulder one last time at Mercer. He knew, then, that she hated him. And he did not blame her. He hated himself.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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I.Y. 1180 - Blue Sea Moon - Thursday the 3rd
Outside Garreg Mach (Town) - Late Evening - Cloudy
Mercer von Riegan


Mercer ran a hand through his hair, slicked back from water, as he walked through the town. He was dressed in simple clothes, nothing that detailed involvement with Garreg Mach or the Alliance. Hell, he was pretty sure he looked like a typical commoner. The shirt was a dull beige color, slightly worn with a few patches on it. The trousers he'd worn had seen better days, a hole in the left knee, and he was certain there was a hole somewhere else, but it was a disguise that worked for him. He had agreed to meet Vridel and Reynard at their meeting place, and it was quite difficult to slip out without being noticed. With the Goddess' Rite coming up, security had been increased which made it more difficult to slip out of the Academy.

He wondered if Vridel and Reynard had the same problem? He shook his head at himself. He doubted it. They were good at sneaking out, or into places, Reynard especially. The man was way too quiet for Mercer's liking, but as long as they were allies, there was nothing to fear. He wondered, for a moment, how Sorcha was doing. He hadn't had the chance to visit her because Senka hardly left her side. And every time he went to visit, she had thrown him a glare. It was strange seeing so much emotion on a person's face who'd, otherwise, had none. He didn't blame her, though. He hated himself just as much as she hated him.

Shaking the thought from his mind, he continued towards Reynard's house, pausing only to knock on the door, and waiting for an answer.

It was Reynard himself who answered the door. He too was dressed like a commoner; more of the townsman type than a farmer or laborer. He managed to look considerably older than the average Garreg Mach student, which probably helped; at the moment he was even sporting heavy stubble. Mussing his hair, he blinked at Mercer and opened the door a little wider, stepping back inside. “I'm going to get you a key," he murmured. “Vridel's in the study."

It wasn't far off the entrance hall; a small and sturdy bookshelf took up most of one wall. There was a small, grimy window on another; it was important that the place fit in with its neighbors. The table in the center had several chairs around it. In one of them sat Vi, apparently hard at work on one of the ciphers he'd mentioned.

His attempt at plainclothes was... slightly less accurate, but at least he'd gone with dark colors and worn a cloak, which was now draped over the back of his chair. He didn't look like he had anything to do with the school, at least. There was a tray of sandwiches in front of him, and a few glasses of water.

Glancing up, he waved Mercer in. “Hey. What's new?"

“Oh you know, just the usual," Mercer replied in good fun, but he knew his face didn't show it. Instead, he heaved a heavy sigh, and took a seat across from Vi. “I swear this is getting stranger by the minute," me murmured, leaning forward and catching his face in his hands. He rubbed his hands down his face for a moment before turning to glance at Vi. His brows furrowed slightly before he took in a dramatic sigh.

“Were you able to find anything on Lonato's son?" he asked, leaning back in his chair in a haphazard way. From what he was able to gather during the battle, Christophe had been accused of being part of the Tragedy. The church executed him as a result, but that confused Mercer more than anything else did. Why was the church executing criminals? That wasn't their job, even if they were temporarily carrying out a sentence.

“And Catherine obviously had something to do with it, but... it doesn't add up," at least not at the moment.

Vi sighed, leaning away from his work and back into his chair. “Reynard found the official Church records on the incident. Apparently, Christophe was a member of the conspiracy against King Lambert, and instigated the people of Duscur into killing him." A roll of his eyes indicated what he made of that. “The truth... will be much more difficult to uncover. Perhaps we will figure it out in the course of the rest of this."

He folded his hands together and settled them behind his head. “If you want my best guess... the Church wanted him dead for some other reason and used the assassination as a screen. A justification for slipping in and killing him with no trial and few questions. Everyone just wanted to put that whole thing to rest as soon as it was over."

Assassinations seemed to be plenty, lately. “Probably, but then that leaves the question: what did Christophe plan?" He would have asked Devon if he knew anything about it, but... there were two reasons why he didn't. Devon was clearly distraught over Lonato's death. Mercer didn't blame him; Lonato had practically taken him in and raised him. The other was that it was obvious that Devon knew nothing if Lonato's words were anything to go by. He didn't want Devon to be part of whatever it was he was doing.

“I wonder if it has anything to do with Rhea," he stated. Then again, a lot of things seemed to be pointed in her direction. “She made it quite clear to Teach that this battle was supposed to teach us a lesson. About us ever turning our swords against the church or some shit like that," he continued as his eyes narrowed in thought. “I wonder... if Christophe had done something like that?" he mused out loud. It was a possibility that was the case, but they needed concrete proof.

Vi hummed quietly. “It's curious, isn't it? That there are no recorded cases of anyone openly rebelling after the War of Heroes. At least not on any large scale. You'd think that someone, at some point, would have, and yet nothing until this Lonato business." He shook his head. “I've always thought they have to be suppressing that information. Handling it themselves instead of turning it over to the relevant country's authorities. She's not so perfect that no one ever disagrees with her, that's for damn sure."

Mercer huffed lightly. “That means someone inside the church knows the information we're looking for, unless they were disposed of for precautionary reasons," he stated in a nonchalant manner. It wouldn't be the first time something like that happened. Mercer knew from experience that there were people who were killed to keep the silence. It meant that, whatever information they knew, they wouldn't be able to use it as blackmail, later on. Not as effective, though, as they'd want it to be. People were cautious by nature; there was bound to be a journal or something.

“It's not the first time they've concealed something like that, though," he sighed, slumping into his chair. “Supposedly Maurice didn't have any living descendants," he stated, allowing his eyes to slide towards Vridel. He wasn't stupid; he'd seen the Crest on Senka's forehead and knew what it meant. The perks of reading forbidden things, he supposed. “Why would the church cover that up? There's no reason to; we all know he went crazy with bloodlust," he continued. That's what was written in the lore books, anyway.

“I think it's all the same," Vi replied, picking apart one of the sandwiches and eating a slice of tomato. “If it stays under the surface, so that even those people don't know what power they have... no one asks any question the Church doesn't want to answer." He paused a moment, midway through another tomato, and frowned. “The question is... why hide these things in particular? A hero turning rogue... it's a bad look, but like you said everyone knows. So what questions are they avoiding in concealing this?"

“Why'd he go rogue in the first place." it was mostly a statement than a question. “Supposedly it was because he overtaxed his Crest, but wouldn't that have happened to the Saints during the battle with Nemesis? They, obviously, used their Crests to defeat him," which didn't add up in Mercer's book, but he'd let it slide for now. Speaking of which... “How did you come across the dragon thing, anyway, Vi? How does that even make sense to associate it with a Crest?" Dragons, for all he knew, didn't exist in Fódlan. He'd, of course, heard of the different species across the world, but there hadn't been a sighting in Fódlan since... well, forever.

He thought they were mostly just myth. He picked at one of the sandwiches, settling it in front of him, but otherwise left it alone. He just poked at it.

Vi sighed quietly. “I don't know where it comes from. It's an old story, I guess. My uncle told it to me. Something about... being a way to understand how to access the power of a Crest. It helped me figure out how to use mine whenever I wanted, so I sort of assumed it was some kind of educational tool. A metaphor." He shifted aside a piece of cheese in the sandwich to take out another tomato.

“I was kind of surprised none of you knew it, actually. Don't they tell any stories like that in the Alliance?"

Mercer merely shrugged. “Not really, no. And to be fair, I grew up in the alliance, doesn't mean they taught me anything about my Crest." he responded a bit dryly. “Remember? I just inherited the role as future heir of the Alliance not more than a year ago. It's not exactly enough time to say 'hey, so your Crest of Riegan does this' and what not. Plus, they didn't really put an emphasis on it," but that might have just been Mercer.

“And you really love those tomatoes, don't you?" Mercer inquired, but shook his head. He took a deep breath through his nose and glanced at Vi. “Metaphor or not, why associate them with a dragon? For all I know, dragons don't exist in Fódlan," he murmured, leaning his head into his hands and propping his elbow on the table for support.

“To make people feel more important?" Vi shrugged. “Why tell anything with creatures that don't exist?"

“Then there's Rhea's weird obsession with Teach. Did I tell you how she looked at him when she gave him the mission? It was..." strange was too mild of a word to use. “Expecting. If I didn't know any better, I'd say she had a real serious thing for Teach, but it goes beyond that, I think."

“Actually..." Vi's expression darkened; breaking the sandwich in half with his hands, he took a large bite from one half, putting it back to chew over for a bit before he swallowed. “I got kind of the same impression. Senka and I were studying with him for our magic certs, and she just... showed up. It seemed like she wasn't interested in anything but him. I even made a joke like that, but you're right. It might be that, but if it is, it's more, too."

Grabbing the glass next to him, he took a swallow before setting it back down and continuing. “I mean his whole hiring is suspicious. I won't deny that he's damn good at what he does, and at teaching it to us, but... he had no qualifications. He was a mercenary, and one with a pretty unsavory reputation at that. He'd taught no one anything; there was no reason to suppose he'd be good at it. Why take the risk? It's like she wanted him to stay, and just used the means she had to make it happen, you know? But why, if they'd never met before?"

“Well, from what I've gathered, she knew his father," he began, pursing his lips together. “She brought him back into the fold, too, without so much as questioning it. I haven't been able to find out why the Captain left her, but I did come across something strange in the library not too long ago," he stated, closing one eye as he regarded Vi.

“There was a fire at the monastery back in 1159. It said something about a child dying, I can't be too sure," it was kind of hard to decipher that one properly, “but if I had any guess..." he trailed off, his eyes narrowing slightly.

“I'd have to say that whatever the reason, it might have been why the Captain left," he stated. Maybe it was the death of an innocent child that pushed Jeralt to the edge? He still couldn't discern when the man had left Rhea's services, but he could at least put two and two together. Maybe he was making up something that wasn't there? Seeing things only he wanted to see. He shook his head, regardless, and finally took a bite out of his sandwich. It tasted strange to him, but that might have been because he had no current appetite at the moment. He wasn't sure if he'd ever get his appetite back, not after the whole ordeal with Sorcha.

“Didn't everyone think Jeralt was dead, too?" Vi mused.

He sighed after a moment, though, eyes fixed on Mercer. They were an odd color, that purple they had to them. It wasn't a trait of the Imperial family, or at least nothing like that had ever been in any of the material Mercer read. And the Emperor's portraits all depicted him with grey eyes. Given Volkhard, though, it was probably a maternal thing. “You're moping," he said flatly, narrowing the eyes until the hue seemed almost to sharpen itself.

Mercer had forgotten about that detail, but now it just made everything else more curious. At Vi's statement, though, Mercer furrowed his brows and pursed his lips at him. “I'm not," was his quick reply, shoving the entirety of his sandwhich into his mouth. He immediately regretted it, but he choked it down. His pride demanded that he did. Once he managed to clear his mouth, he sighed heavily. Vridel was right, he was moping.

“You'd be moping too if Senka was furious with you for doing what I did," he finally stated, pushing another heavy sigh through his nose. “And for also being partially responsible for Sorcha being on bedrest for so long. She wouldn't be if I had just..." if he'd just let go, the others would have been able to heal her properly, and perhaps, better.

“Maybe," Vi replied, lifting his shoulders and letting them fall. “But it wouldn't be doing anyone any good then, either." Keeping his eyes fixed on Mercer a moment more, he expelled a heavy breath and stood, making his way over to a cabinet at the end of the bookshelf. Opening it, he pulled down a dark bottle of something and a pair of glasses, returning to the table.

Once he'd dropped back into his seat, he opened the bottle, pouring out a rich, golden liquid into both glasses and pushing one towards Mercer. “Get it all out, then," he said simply. “Whine and blame yourself. Tell me about all the things you did wrong and wish you could take back. Don't leave anything out, because this is the only chance you get to convince me you're an ass I should blame for any of that."

Mercer pursed his lips at Vi. Convince him that he should blame him? Didn't he, though? Didn't he blame him for what happened? “I should have killed that man, to start with. If I'd done that, he wouldn't have had the chance to stab her. You and I both know that mercy can't be afforded in battle," he spoke, his hand gripping the cup tightly. It wasn't enough to break it, and instead, he downed the drink in one go, slamming the cup on the table in the process.

“If I'd been paying better attention, if I'd let go of her when Senka first asked me... the both of you could have worked to heal her properly. That she's alive now... if I hadn't been able to let go, she'd be dead. How can you not blame me for that? I almost got her killed," he furrowed his brows. Senka hated him, and he hated himself. So why didn't Vi? He had the right to hate him; Sorcha was his step-sister.

At the conclusion of his words, Vi nodded, tossed his own drink back, and poured again for the both of them, leaving more in the glasses this time. “That all?"

That's all? “That's all?" Mercer found himself repeating his thoughts. “What do you mean That's all? What else am I supposed to say!?" he nearly shouted, but gritted his teeth. He slammed the cup back down on the table, almost rising to his feet. “I know you blame me for it, Vridel."

“Do you?" he hissed in return, still sitting in his seat. His expression had sharpened, until all his angles were edges, like someone had carved him out of ice. The chill was almost palpable in the air, too, crackling like the frozen surface of a lake in winter. “Do you know that? Because I don't think you do, Mercer."

Deliberately placing his glass aside, he set his palms down on the table. “You fucked up. I am quite aware of that, considering I'm the one who had to compensate for your mistake. But guess what? We've all fucked up. You think I bear no responsibility for letting that man go? I could have shot him down with fire just as easily as you could have with an arrow; I was right there too. You think Senka's healing was any good as emotional as she was? You think Sorcha couldn't have just killed him to begin with, or been more aware of her surroundings? You think the Professor couldn't have split us differently? Where does the responsibility stop, hm?"

He shook his head emphatically. “Everyone makes mistakes. That's what humans do. And you know what? She survived this one. But if you don't pull it together, if you don't leave it in the past where it belongs, she might not survive the next one. We don't have the luxury of wallowing. We have to be better. That's the only choice if we want to get out of this alive. If we want them to get out of this alive."

Vridel's words were sharp, and the cut deeply. Mercer felt himself wince at the force of them, but that didn't change how he felt. He knew he had to be better; that was what he was striving for. The reason he joined the Officers Academy. He wanted to protect his friends, but how was he going to do that if he wasn't competent enough? He had to get better. He had to. There was no choice other than to be stronger so that none of his friends, or any of the people he came to care about, were hurt or killed. He... wouldn't be able to take it.

“It's not that easy, and you know that. Saying to be stronger, to be better, you know as well as I do that even if that were the case, it wouldn't matter," he stated, slumping back into his chair and running a hand down his face. “I can't promise that I will leave it in the past, but..." the least he could do was try. He took a deep breath and cracked his eyes open, unaware he'd even closed them. “I'll..." why was it so hard to say that he'll try?

“On the contrary," Vridel replied, picking up his glass and taking a deep swallow. He set it back down with a dull thud. “Getting stronger... it's the only thing that matters. It's the only way we'll ever be able to change the world that forces all this on them to begin with." He pushed a hard breath out through his nose, and shook his head, topping up both their glasses before flopping back against his chair.

“I don't blame you, for whatever that's worth. And honestly... after what Amalthea did, I did most of the healing, and I could've done it even if you kept holding on. I was worried I wouldn't be able to, but I was." He didn't sound prideful; rather his words had the air of a strange observation more than anything. “I think she has a Crest. But anyway—I for one know Sorcha's not going to blame you, either. Senka will get over herself soon enough too. It's not like she has any room to talk about handling trauma badly."

The words were blunt, but the very opposite of cruel. Vridel said them with a great deal of compassion, though perhaps most people would not have been able to detect it as easily as Mercer could. “If you don't believe me though... ask Sorcha herself. She's the one whose opinion really matters to you right now, isn't she?" He arched a brow, eyes still keen.

That didn't mean he wouldn't stop beating himself up about it, he would just... heed Vridel's advice and talk to Sorcha. He did have a point, though, at this point, Sorcha's opinion was the only one that mattered. He didn't like the way Vi phrased it, but he wasn't wrong. Sighing softly, he drank from his cup a little slower this time, placing it back on the table as he raised a brow at Vi. He could feel some lightness seeping into his personality again as he grinned lightly.

“Oh, she does. I saw it glowing on her chest," though to be more specific it was on her heart. But where would the fun in that be if he told Vi, that? “Such a strange location, don't you think?" he continued, finishing off his drink as he kept his gaze on Vi.

“You're being transparent," Vi grumbled into the rim of his cup, taking a long draw. “But fine. I'll be honest: I find her attractive." He shrugged, as if this was no trouble at all to say. “But honestly it's incredibly inconvenient. What am I supposed to do with that?" He finished the rest of his glass and went for another. Perhaps the drink was loosening his tongue a bit.

“If I thought she was just after my title or Crest or something it wouldn't matter. But even I can tell she's not that good an actress." He frowned, sinking down a little in his seat with another grumble. “Usually when someone pretty fancies me I just... fuck them and call it done, you know? But of course that's not an option either. Really. Where does she get off being so... naive?" He made a disgusted noise and took another swig.

Mercer nearly fell out of his chair. He wasn't expecting that, to be honest. Vi didn't know what to do with Amalthea's little crush on him? That was a strange insight to the man, honestly. “Can you really blame her, though? She was raised by the Church, and from what she's told us, she wasn't able to leave until she joined the Blue Lions House. She doesn't have much wordly experience like you and I do," he stated, grinning to himself as he shook his head.

“I didn't say I blamed her," he muttered, staring down at the contents of his cup. “It's just... inconvenient."

“You find her attractive, sure, but do you like her? It's different if you do, because then it's fucking hilarious, but if you don't, you should probably have a talk with her. She's not very good at hiding her emotions. That one there wears it everywhere for just about any one to see," he stated, swirling his cup in his hand. “Plus, it'll save her from a future heartbreak once she understands the depth of what a crush is. I'm pretty sure you're actually her first crush, lucky you," though he meant it in a genuine manner.

“The sooner you let her down gently, the sooner she can move on and not experience a heartbreak that'll be ten times as worse if she ends up falling in love with you. And even I know you wouldn't want that on your conscience."

“Ugh, you're useless," Vi groused, shifting in his chair so he could prop his feet up on the corner of the table. Reaching out, he tugged the bottle of liquor closer to him with unusually-unsteady fingers, sloshing more into his glass. “What the fuck does it mean to like someone, anyway? That's such a stupid phrase. I like Sorcha, but she's practically my sister so I'd never—" he made a face and a gagging noise at the same time.

“And don't give me any of that bullshit about physical responses. That's all sexual. And it seems like all of the emotional things are just... pretty much like being friends with someone. But apparently liking someone is different from wanting to fuck a friend, so please do enlighten me, o wise one."

Mercer chuckled lightly as he rolled his eyes. “Really, Vi? You've never had someone you've liked?" that was an interesting thought. Everyone liked someone at a different stage in their life. Most of them liked someone when they were young enough to understand what it meant, however; that Vi never liked someone was an interesting thing to know. “You know, it's not always just physical responses. And you like your sister because she's family. You couldn't see Sorcha that way even if you wanted to," he rolled his eyes again at that.

“What I meant is that, do you enjoy Thea's company more than others? Liking someone doesn't always have that romantic notion or bullshit. Sometimes, liking someone is just as simple as that. You enjoy their presence without getting any of those physical responses and you can just... relax. You don't have to put up a mask or pretend to be someone you're not," he continued, sighing softly.

“You actually kind of care about them and want what's best, I suppose. I dunno if this makes sense to you, but it might be because of the drinks," because Mercer was certain he wasn't making to much sense. Hell, he didn't even know what he was getting at at this point.

Vridel waved a hand carelessly, as if to banish the remnants of the conversation. “Whatever. I'll sort it out somehow." He shifted in the chair, clearly trying to get comfortable. “You been to see Sorcha yet?"

“No," he muttered intot he rim of his glass. “Senka's been there a lot lately, and I haven't really been able to see Sorcha. She's a scary woman, that Senka," he admitted. It wasn't that he was afraid of her, but rather, he just didn't want to face her, yet. “Plus, I'm sure Sorcha's doing fine with her friend there, and all. Not like she needs me, yet," he continued, slightly perplexed by what that meant, yet.

Vi made a face that looked like it was supposed to be skepticism, but apparently he was having trouble summoning that sharpness he usually had right now. “Don't blame me if she starts thinking you don't care, then," he said with a sniff. “She's more sensitive than she lets people guess. You know she still carries around a token from her 'first love'? Has been as long as I've known her." He shook his head, but couldn't muster the disapproval he seemed to be going for, managing only a sort of soft, fond exasperation.

“And I've known her since she was nine."

Mercer snorted, but that did catch his attention, and he turned a curious brow at Vi. “First love, eh?" he stated, leaning on his hands, folding them beneath his chin. “What's this token that she carries around? The only thing I've ever seen her with is a green-looking jewel," and he knew for a fact that was something he had given her.

“That'd be it," Vridel continued with a nod, entirely oblivious to the relevance of this fact. “It's kind of ridiculous, honestly. She can't even remember anything about the fellow, other than the fact that she apparently knows he was kind to her. Which..." He sighed heavily. “I suppose I can understand why she'd find that novel, really. But children grow up. He's probably married by now, or forgotten all about her, or at least doesn't have any such... sentimental attachment to her. I've not the heart to tell her that, though."

Mercer blinked slowly, the words registering in his mind. He snorted before he found himself laughing entirely at Vi. He nearly fell out of his chair once more, but managed to keep himself balanced. “Wait, back up, she said I was her first love?" he stated, giving Vi an incredulous stare. “I mean, yeah I was nice to her when we first met, but that's because she wouldn't stop following me everywhere. And I gave her that jewel so she'd stop crying. I didn't think I'd have that profound of an effect on her, though," he stated, wiping a tear from his eye as he calmed his laughter.

“And obviously I haven't forgotten about her, and," he paused to wiggle his fingers in front of Vi, “obviously I'm not married." He couldn't stop another bout of laughter after that.

“What the fuck?" Amusingly, Vi did not seem as immediately quick on the uptake as usual, but a moment later he sat bolt upright in his chair, dropping his feet back to the floor and nearly spilling his drink all over himself as he pointed an accusatory finger at Mercer. “That was you?! What the hell, Mercer?!"

An exaggerated expression of consternation overtook his features, looking ridiculously out-of-place on them, like it wasn't suited at all. “And don't laugh at her like that, you asshole! D'you know how many people have ever been nice to Sorcha?" He set his glass down and counted on his fingers.

“There's you, and me, and Senka. And maybe like... a couple knights. Oh, and Rodrigue. Her dad was okay, I guess. That's it. So you better not fuck it up. You said—what did you say? Gently. Yeah. Let her down gently, or I'll stab you and it'll be totally on purpose."

Mercer gave Vi a flat stare, but he was doing his best not to laugh. “How can I fuck something up if I've never started it to begin with? She's the one who developed a crush on me, not the other way around, but," he paused, pursing his lips together, “unlike some people," he gave Vi a hard stare, “I know how to let people down gently. I'm not an asshole like you, Vi. You know that. And besides, it's not like she's complained."

He did suppose that this new information was to be taken into account. He didn't want to mislead her, or anything, but she was too damn cute to not tease. “And how many times have you said you'll stab me? If you're gonna stab me, just do it already, but please," he paused, batting his eye lashes at Vi, “do be gentle. It'll be my first time, you see." He was grinning from ear to ear.

Vridel scoffed. “Perhaps I should outsource, then. I'm not known for being gentle." Polishing off the rest of his glass, he set it down and relaxed again.

He was quiet for a long time, and from the way his eyes had closed, it almost looked like he'd fallen asleep, at least until he cracked an eye. “So... I've figured out that Deirdre and Sofia are affianced. No points for that one. And I'm sure you've noticed Sylvi's thing about Devon. But. What are your thoughts on Senka and the Professor?" he cocked an eyebrow.

Mercer raised a brow. “Teach and Sen?" he stated, pursing his lips into a thoughtful manner. “It's kind of hard with those two. They hardly show anything but it's obvious there's an attraction of sorts, there. Do you see how often she smiles at him? Smiles! She doesn't smile at anyone but Sorcha, really. And there's this weird chemistry with them. It's like they're... aware of each other, but they're both so stupid that they don't understand what it is. Oh," he paused to take a breath, “someone said they were holding hands in the kitchen the other day."

He knew there was something there, but he wasn't sure if Senka or Teach knew it themselves. It was, in his opinion, hilarious. He'd never seen two people so starved of something, before. Maybe that's just how they are? “What about you?"

Vi nodded. “I heard he was seen leaving her room one morning. Right after that night with the thunderstorm, after our first battle as a group?" He shook his head. “I had Reynard suppress that one, since I'm pretty sure they haven't actually caught on yet, so it can't have been anything much." He shrugged.

“Well that and I just don't see a problem with it. It's not like he grades us, and I haven't seen him give anyone special treatment, so why should anyone care?"

Mercer had somewhat of an idea. “Weren't we just talking about it?" he questioned. “Rhea's obsessed with him for some reason. Who's to say she'd take that well if Teach was seen with another person, nevermind that Sen's a student. They're both of age, anyway, but Rhea... she just rubs me the wrong way with that." He shuddered thinking about it. He wanted to doubt Rhea would do anything to Senka, or to Teach, but he couldn't bring himself to do it.

“Like you said, why should anyone care? I'm sure it wouldn't be the first time a student was... what's the word, romanced, I dunno, by a professor. But, yeah... Rhea, bad fish that one." He was slurring slightly. Was he drunk?

Vridel snorted a laugh for some reason. “Bad fish," he repeated, grinning a bit too widely. Maybe he was drunk, too, come to think of it. “She probably—probably smells like one. Like a rotten—slimy—fish." He lost hold of another chuckle, wrapping one arm around himself as if to keep it in. Entirely unsuccessfully.

Mercer knew, for a fact, that she did not smell like a fish, however; that didn't stop him from joining in on the laughter. “I mean, her hair is like that slimey green they get, isn't it? Bad, smelly fish lady, needs to just leave the Teach alone. He doesn't want her stinky fish face," he added, falling over in his chair, finally hitting the floor with a hard thud. He didn't mind, though. He was too busy laughing to notice any pain, if there was.

Vi's laughter blended with his own, though he at least managed to keep his chair. “Right? Who would? She's a grumpy fish. 'Punish the infidels, rrrrr. Let this be a lesson to your students about what happens when they challenge meeeeee!'" His impression of Rhea's voice was terrible, shrill and grating probably on purpose, and he waved his hands emphatically but with no direction in particular.

Mercer snorted. “Rawr, fear me! The Queen Fish of all the fish!" Mercer stated, raising his arms in the air in an attempt to be intimidating, but he wasn't doing so well on the floor. “I bet you she like... can actually transform into a fish. That's a thing, right? She's like... got her own little pond she swims in and just like, does stupid fish things like make faces and probably like, scowls at people."

“Stupid fish things," Vridel agreed, nodding sagely, then ruining it with a grin.

“What if someone fished her out of the pond? Is that cannibalism?"

“Never thought about it... we should give it a try!"

Mercer wasn't sure what happened after that.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Amalthea von Kreuz Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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I.Y. 1180 - Blue Sea Moon - Monday the 7th
Lyanna's Personal Quarters - Afternoon - Breezy
Amalthea von Kreuz


Amalthea hummed quietly to herself as she walked down the hallway that lead to Lyanna's room. There was something Lyanna wanted to talk to her about, but she couldn't remember what, exactly. She had just finished her studies for the upcoming written exams for her classification, when she'd remembered. She had to make sure to bring an extra tray of jelly-filled doughnuts for Lyanna, though, as her apology. Senka had made them, and she was excited to try them out. And also share them with Lyanna, of course.

Lyanna's room, however, was located just after the library, and as Amalthea passed it, she smiled. “Vridel!" she greeted, waving at him with her free hand. “Studying for your exams?" she asked, feeling her face turn slightly warm. She inwardly frowned at herself; she thought she was getting better at controlling her blush, but apparently she was wrong. She cleared her throat, though, and glanced back up at him.

Vridel had a small stack of books in his hands, all of which he shifted easily to tuck against himself with one hand, adjusting the strap of his satchel with the other. While more expressive than the Professor or Senka, he wasn't much of a smiler, she'd noticed. At least not the happy kind. But he did give her a small one by way of greeting. “Hello, Amalthea. I was attempting, to, yes, though I've encountered a bit of a conundrum, admittedly."

He clearly noticed the tray of jelly doughnuts, and blinked. “Far be it from me to assume you require assistance in either carrying those or consuming them," he added wryly, “but if you would like any, I'd be happy to offer it."

“Oh, these?" she stated, glancing at the tray in her hands. With the amount piled on, it was kind of heavy. But she had taken it as a sort of strength training, so she shook her head. “I don't need help carrying them. It's like strength training for me, right now. While it is heavy, I should get used to it," she continued, nodding her head.

“But if you'd like some, I'd gladly share them with you! Senka made them for Lyanna and myself, but if you'd like some, too, I don't mind sharing!" she added. “I was just on my way to see Lyanna if you want to come with me!"

He tilted his head, looking rather uncertain for a moment. “I wouldn't want to interrupt your time with your sister," he said, rather solemnly for some reason. “And I doubt she'd be too pleased if the likes of me showed up unannounced."

Amalthea felt herself grin. “That's what these are for," she stated, holding up the tray a little higher. “She'll be in a better mood once she sees these. She's probably a little upset with me right now because I forgot she wanted to see me. If..." she paused to glance around and make sure Lyanna was no where in sight, “If you ever want her to not be mad at you, just get her some jelly-filled doughnuts. They're her favorite and she'll forget she was ever mad to begin with."

Vridel huffed softly. “Is that so? What a conspicuous weakness, for the woman at the Archbishop's right hand." It seemed more like a joke than anything, though, and he fell in step beside her, his hand brushing just above the small of her back in gentle encouragement for her to keep down whatever path she'd been treading.

“And what are you headed to talk to her about today?" he asked, apparently genuinely interested. He didn't seem to realize that his fingertips were still pressed slightly into the back of her uniform.

Amalthea put it down as him being friendly. “I don't know, but I think it has something to do with the last mission when Sorcha was..." she winced slightly and did not continue. She knew Vridel would understand where she was going with that statement. “I think it has something to do with what happened, what I did," she murmured softly. She wasn't entirely sure what happened, but Amalthea knew she played a small part in Sorcha's healing. As far as she'd known, Amalthea had never really learned any healing spells.

She wasn't even sure how she did it, only that she did. “I hope she's not mad," she added, furrowing her brows lightly. She hadn't meant to use a healing spell, but there seemed to be something more about it. “But, again, that's what these are for," she forced a smile on her face as they neared Lyanna's quarters.

“Ah. Actually if that's the case I might have some insight to offer after all." Vridel's touch disappeared; he withdrew the hand to run it back through the white strands of his hair, trailing his fingers to his nape with a sigh. He was still wearing the glasses she'd seen him use for reading sometimes; either he'd forgotten to take them off or they didn't bother him enough that he needed to. “As I'm fairly sure I know what happened. I'm sure your sister could confirm my guess, though."

“Then I suppose it's a good thing you're coming with," she stated, smiling up at him in the process. “You look really nice with your glasses, by the way," she added, turning her attention back in front of her. Her ears were burning again, but she managed to cool them down by the time they'd reached Lyanna's quarters. She knocked on the door frame before entering, shoving the tray in first as she smiled at Lyanna.

“Sister! I brought you some jelly doughnuts to try! Senka made them," she spoke as she set the tray down on the nearest table. She might as well lead with that. The sooner she could get her sister to not be angry at her, the better.

“Thea? What are you doing here? It's not—" Lyanna glanced out the window and blanched. “Oh goddess. I completely—come in." Though this wasn't her office, it looked like she'd brought a great deal of the paperwork back to her quarters, perhaps in anticipation of continuing work on it later. Only knowing Lyanna, 'later' had turned into 'just a few more minutes' and now it was much later than she'd thought.

Her eyes widened upon catching sight of Vridel, but he spoke before the obvious question could be asked, placing a hand to his heart and inclining himself in a crisp, formal bow. “Lady Lyanna. Please excuse my lack of an appointment. I understand I may have pertinent observations on the matter you wished to discuss with Amalthea, and so she invited me to attend." It wasn't exactly the order in which those things had happened, but it was true, at least.

“Your Highness?" Lyanna blinked, clearly confused, then promptly looked down at herself and blanched again. She was wearing a rather informal gown, the kind of thing she used to lounge around their rooms rather than conducting meetings. “I—I will be right back. Please make yourselves at home."

Vridel behaved as if he had not noticed anything odd at all, and like the request was perfectly ordinary, glancing about the room as if to take its measure. This one was something of a common area between their two bedrooms, and was richly-appointed. Most of the furniture had been chosen ages ago by Rhea, but a few personal touches had made it in as well. The sofas were plush and upholstered, but the warm knit blankets thrown over them were Lyanna's handiwork, and there was a vase of flowers sitting in the window. Bookcases and cabinets held some of their favorites, as well as knickknacks from travels her sister had supposedly been on before Amalthea was born.

He took a seat on one of the couches, crossing one leg over the other and letting his arms spread over the back of it, looking for all the world completely relaxed, like he'd done this sort of thing a thousand times before. “I suppose that one's yours?" he asked, arching an eyebrow and nodding at the door opposite of the one Lyanna had gone through.

Amalthea nodded her head with a bright smile. “Yes, that's my room! Oh, I can show it to you sometime if you'd like!" she stated, her smile inching wider. She had a few books in there that he could read if he was interested in that. They were mostly books she'd found in the library ages ago, but hadn't returned them, yet. “I have a couple of books and other things in there that you might be interested in."

She didn't think it sounded inappropriate, after all. He was her friend, and she didn't see the harm in sharing her things with him, even if she did have a small crush on him.

Vridel seemed quite amused by the offer for some reason, leaning back so as to better meet her eyes from his spot on the couch. Almost lazily, he lifted a hand, catching one of the long green locks of hair that trailed down past the front of her shoulders. He curled it a few times around his finger, tilting his head in query. “As intriguing as that sounds," he said, something genuine in it despite the sly tone his voice seemed to have taken on. “I wonder what else you might show me." He gave the lock of hair a playful tug, not enough to hurt, raising it briefly to his lips before letting it slide through his fingers to fall back in its place.

“There's not a whole lot, but I could show you just about everything, really," she replied, feeling the heat return to her ears, and bloom over her face. She wanted to laugh at how ridiculous she was being, but shook her head. She finally took a seat across from him on the other couch, and waited for Lyanna to return. “Oh, there is something you might like in there!" she stated suddenly.

“I made... well I had someone make it because I'm not very good at handiwork like that, but I had someone make a mount for Amyr!" she spoke, taking a breath at the end of the sentence. She didn't realize she spoke so fast.

For a moment, Vridel looked genuinely confused, but then he sighed, the sound trailing off into a wry chuckle. “Well, I'm glad to know you're keeping it safe, but don't forget it on a mission, all right?" He turned his attention back to the door just as Lyanna exited. She was dressed more formally now, the gown a deep blue and not typical of her work attire, but probably suited for meeting someone important.

“Please forgive me, Your Highness," she said, smoothing her hands down the garment's bodice. “Had I known I would be receiving royalty in my apartments this afternoon, I would have tidied, or at least had tea prepared." She shot Thea a rather vehement look, and adjusted her glasses.

Vridel shook his head. “Please, Lady Lyanna. There's no need to think of it in such terms. I'm here at the moment as Amalhea's classmate, and a student of the Academy you direct. If anything, I perhaps should have been a little bit more careful in my interruption of your time. And your apartments are lovely."

It seemed to be the right thing to say; Lyanna visibly relaxed and actually smiled. “Thank you; that's very kind. Thea, if you would please sit, there are matters to discuss and I would hate to waste His Highness's time." She offered her hand across the table between them. “A pleasure to finally meet you, by the way. As you're no doubt aware, I'm Lyanna Von Kreuz."

With a lopsided smile, Vridel took Lyanna's hand, though rather than shaking it, he leaned forward, raising it to his lips and brushing them over her fingers. “Vridel von Hresvelg. The titles are really unnecessary, Lady Lyanna. Please address me as you would any other man. There are no Princes in the Church, after all, is it not so?"

Lyanna's brows raised in surprise, and then the strangest thing happened: her ears turned just the faintest bit pink. “You flatter me," she said, sounding like she wasn't quite sure what to make of that. “Vridel."

He laughed softly, and shook his head. “Not yet, though I could if milady so wished."

Amalthea laughed lightly. “I told you Vi was charming, sister," she stated. She'd never seen Lyanna so flustered before, and it was a new experience for Amalthea. She found she actually liked it, because her sister was always so serious. Not all the time, but moreso than Amalthea had ever seen her smile. She turned her attention towards Lyanna, though, and blinked. She laughed softly at her sister's request and held her arms out wide.

“But... I'm already sitting, Lyanna. See," she stated, gesturing to herself and the couch she sat on. “Anyway, you said you wanted to see me, so here I am!" she continued, smiling at her sister. Her lips pursed into a fine line, though, as she regarded Lyanna with an unsure gaze. “Does this have to do with what happened?" She didn't need to elaborate; she knew Lyanna would know what she meant.

Lyanna still looked a little flustered, probably why she'd made a request that had already been answered. The fluster faded though, in light of the new question, perhaps. Clearing her throat, she picked up one of the doughnuts and sighed. “Well... it might. But first I need more insight as to what actually happened. Perhaps that was what you were thinking you could provide, Y—ah, Vridel?"

He released her hand with a sly smile, relaxing back against the sofa. “I believe so, yes. As it happens, when our... comrade was injured on the field the other day, Amalthea here did much of the initial triage, with very little spellwork. If I were to venture a hypothesis—" He narrowed his eyes, tilting his head at Lyanna. “I would say she activated a Crest."

Lyanna's lips parted, eyes widening in alarm. “How did you—" Briefly, she touched a hand to her chest.

Vridel shook his head. “Let's just say I have a certain... sense for these things."

She sighed quietly. “I suppose there is little point in trying to hide it, then. Yes, our—our family bears a Crest. And it functions more or less as you expect. The mark appears here." She tapped her sternum. “Over our hearts. It's the Crest of Cethleann. Mine is the major. I have every reason to believe Amalthea's would be the same."

“Crest of Cethleann? As in the Saint, Cethleann?" Amalthea questioned, giving her sister a puzzled look. She had a Major Crest of Cethleann? “Does that mean our family is descended from her?" she asked, perplexed at the news. If she had a Crest, why didn't her sister tell her about it? Why did she keep it a secret? If she'd known sooner, learned to activate it sooner, maybe she might have been more help on the battle field.

“Why didn't you tell me?" she questioned softly, turning her gaze to the floor. They had a Crest of a Saint in their family. It's not as if Amalthea cared about those things. Crests were just symbols of power to some people, but they didn't mean much to Amalthea. She spent most of her life growing up believing she didn't have one, nor had any ties to such a Crest. To find out that she had a Crest of Cethleann, no less, was a bit overwhelming. How was she supposed to process that, properly?

“Even when such things run in families, they do not appear in every member," Vridel said quietly. “I had eleven brothers and sisters, and of them, I was the only one born with a Crest. Perhaps your sister simply didn't know whether you bore a Crest or not?" His eyes locked with Lyanna's, a strange tension seeming to snap through that contact.

She swallowed, parting her lips to speak, but Vridel kept going.

“Or perhaps... it was safer for you not to know. Safer for it to never manifest, lest the wrong eyes land on you?" The words were about Amalthea, but he was quite clearly speaking to Lyanna, who flinched.

“It's true," she murmured, setting down her doughnut with a strange expression. Her lips were curled up, but the shape they made could hardly be called a smile. “What they say about you, Vridel. You really are too clever by half, aren't you?"

He was silent, but he did dip his head, as if in acknowledgment.

With a sigh, Lyanna turned to Amalthea. “I kept it from you because I hoped you did not have it. We are... related to Saint Cethleann, yes, and that brings with it a certain amount of... scrutiny. Scrutiny I'd hoped to keep away from you. You've... you've already endured so much, because I brought us here. I just wanted—" She swallowed. “I just wanted you to be safe."

Amalthea could understand that, wanting to keep someone safe. It was how she felt about her friends and Lyanna. She managed a small smile for Lyanna and nodded her head. “It's okay, Lyanna," she spoke, her smile inching just a little wider. “If anything, I've learned that it can help me with healing people. I'd like to learn a little more about what I can do, but..." she paused to keep her gaze with her sister's.

“It's alright, about the scrutiny, and whatever else comes with this Crest, because I have you. And I have my friends. Who cares what anyone else has to say about my—our Crest! It's just... a stupid notion, anyway," she continued, furrowing her brows. “You've taught me a lot already, and Crest or no Crest, that's not going to change who I am. If you want me to, I can pretend I don't bear one, and it'll be easy to conceal. The only people who know are my friends, and I," she paused to glance in Vridel's direction.

“I trust them."

Lyanna looked down at her hands, clenched hard in her lap, and pursed her lips together. “I understand. And if you want to use this power, then... then some part of me is very happy. But Thea, you have to understand. It's not just what people say that will matter. It's what they might do. The blood of a Saint—it's special. If people find out that you have inherited this Crest... I need you promise me you'll be careful, and never use it in front of anyone you do not trust absolutely. Can you do that?"

Amalthea wasn't so sure what that meant. How was the blood of a Saint any more special than anyone else who bore a Crest? She could tell it made Lyanna uncomfortable, and that was the last thing she wanted to do. “I promise," Amalthea finally stated, nodding her head in Lyanna's direction. “And besides, I've never really been good at those things, like using white and healing magic. I'm a bit... uh, slow on the uptake," she admitted, laughing at herself. It was true, though. She'd never been really good at a lot of things, and magic was by far her worst subject.

“Maybe if I have you help me with it, Lyanna, I can manage it better so that I don't accidentally activate it when I'm around people who might need my help," she certainly didn't want to break her promise to her sister, either. And Lyanna was the only person she knew who could use white magic and she trusted her sister.

“And what am I, chopped liver?" Vridel quirked his eyebrow. “You do know who actually finished healing Sorcha, don't you?" He didn't seem to be genuinely offended or anything; more amused than anything else if he was as he seemed.

Lyanna laughed quietly, an almost mirthless sound. “As talented as I'm sure you are... I am in fact a master of the art. Perhaps..." She paused, narrowing her eyes assessingly at Vridel. Picking the doughnut back up, she ate through half of it while steadily staring him down. Amalthea had never seen quite this look on her sister's face before. Her earlier fluster was gone, replaced by something resolute, almost keen-edged.

“Perhaps, if you can prove yourself a worthy and discreet student, I could instruct the both of you in the art."

Vridel smirked, spreading his hands as if in invitation. “I invite you test me any way you desire, my lady. I promise I shan't leave you wanting."

She coughed, swallowing the bite she was working on and flinching. Probably she'd swallowed too soon.“Hmph. I'll work you hard, Prince. Are you certain those pretty hands of yours don't mind a little blood and dirt?"

“They've been soiled with both already. More times than I care to count."

Lyanna nodded. “Sunday mornings. Early. Very early. It's the only time certain eyes are sure to be closed."

Amalthea groaned lightly. She really didn't want to wake up that early, but she supposed that Lyanna had a point. Though she wasn't entirely sure who she meant, about who'd be asleep. Even Mercer wouldn't wake up that early on Sunday. “Alright, Sunday mornings it is. And no, Vi, you're not chopped liver. I honestly forgot you could use white magic," she admitted, glancing away to look at her hands which were much more interesting at the moment.

“Is there anything else you need me for, sister?" she asked, glancing back up at Lyanna and refusing to glance in Vridel's way. “I have a couple of things I'd like to do before the day is over with, and I'll need your help with it, Vridel!" she stated as she forced herself to look at him.

“I'm offended," he grumbled, but the sideways look he gave her, paired with that tiny smirk, suggested that no offense was genuinely taken.

Whatever it meant instead, though, seemed to put a furrow in Lyanna's brow, and she frowned. “I—no. I suppose that was all I needed to say for now. If you have other plans, feel free to see to them, I suppose." Clearing her throat, she gave them a small nod.

Vridel stood first, bowing again and then crossing to the door to open it. He stood to the side rather than passing through, inviting Amalthea to go first with a gesture.

Amalthea smiled as she made her way towards the door, but paused before she exited. “I'll make sure to bring you more of the doughnuts!" she called out after Lyanna before exiting her quarters. Once they were further down the hallway, Amalthea glanced up at Vridel with a smile. “Senka told me that Sorcha's birthday is coming up," she started, tilting her head from side to side. “I was wondering if you and the others would like to help plan a surprise for her. After being on bedrest for so long, I'm sure a little surprise party would help make her happy."

Amalthea wasn't too sure if it actually would make Sorcha happy, however; she wanted to try. “Senka and Professor are going to make the necessary food for that day, but I want all of her friends to be there, too, for it. Do you think you can help us with that?" she wasn't sure why she was so nervous about asking him that.

Vridel seemed to consider this, expelling a soft breath and reaching up to remove his glasses from his face. He tucked them away in his pocket, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. “Sorcha's always been uncomfortable with attention," he murmured. “But I don't think she'd mind, if it was just the group of us. What exactly did you need me to do?" he looked down at her with a quizzically-cocked brow.

She hadn't thought about that, honestly. “Well, food is covered, but I'm sure she'd like a gift or something. It probably doesn't have to be something extravagent, but maybe... something small? I just thought since you two are pretty close, that you would know the kinds of things she'd like. And maybe... help me pick something out for her?" she asked. Amalthea wasn't even sure if Sorcha would like gifts, but if it was from one of them, maybe she would?

“And also make sure everyone is there. I hear Mercer is quite hard to wake up from his sleep and I just... well, you seem like the best person to wake him up," she added. Senka and Professor would be busy preparing the food, and that left just her and Vridel to prepare everything else. “Oh! And also maybe convince Mercer to keep Sorcha busy while we prepare things? I heard she'll be able to leave the infirmary soon, and I don't want to ruin the surprise."

Vridel hummed quietly, giving the matter some consideration as they walked. “I don't think there's much of anything she needs or wants," he observed. “But if you see something that makes you think of her, or would like to make her something, I'm sure she would appreciate that." He pursed his lips, then huffed softly. “Do you know how to braid, Amalthea? I think if you do, we could all work together to make her a little something she might like."

He lifted his hands, folding them together behind his head. “As for convincing Mercer to be the distraction... I'll do my best, though he might rather listen to you than me." A sour expression crossed his face for some reason; he made a quiet hmph sound. “He certainly does seem fond of you."

Amalthea smiled, “You really think so? I'm fond of him, too, but I'm fond of all of my friends." She hummed a quiet tune, though, as she chewed her bottom lip. “I do know how to braid, but nothing as elegant as what Senka does. Have you seen her braids? Oh! I can make her a floral crown! Those would look really nice with her and bring out the shine in her eyes. They're so pretty, kind of like yours."

He really did have pretty colored eyes.

For whatever reason, this comment seemed to catch his attention; he was looking at her from the corner of his eye again, at least until he took a long stride and spun around, leaning down so as to be just about at eye-level with her, looking directly into hers with the very same deep purple irises she'd just confessed to admiring. They were ringed with long, snowy lashes, too, and as close as he was, she could make out subtle variations in the color—there were actually little flecks of indigo ringing each pupil, almost like tiny, irregular flower petals.

“Are they?" he mused, catching her chin between his forefinger and thumb. His expression was hard to read—the smile he wore was strangely ambiguous. “And what about the rest of me, hm? Do my eyes redeem an ugly face, or fit with the rest, you think?"

She felt her heart skip a beat as she blinked at Vridel. “Of course you have beautiful eyes, Vi," she stated, feeling a bit of heat rush to her cheeks. “And of course you're just as pretty as your eyes. Everything about you is lovely; I don't think anyone would disagree with that," she was rambling now, she knew it. But she didn't want to be dishonest with him. She thought he was one of the most beautiful people in the Academy, but she could at least refrain from saying that.

She felt her breath hitch in her throat as she swallowed thickly. Why was it suddenly hard to breathe? What was wrong with her? Was she dying? She was dying, it felt like, but that didn't seem quite right, either. She took in a sharp, sudden breath, and blinked. “I, uh... at least I think so." She could feel her ears burning, now. Stupid crush.

As if her words had broken a spell, that strange, ambiguous intensity shattered, and Vridel exhaled in a soft huff, the breath close enough to ghost over her cheek. “To be able to say something like that so simply. Really, now." He shook his head faintly, releasing her chin with a softer expression. This one, Amalthea knew. It was something like fond exasperation. “You really ought to be careful, Amalthea. People will take advantage of you, if you're so open about that kind of thing. Wicked people, with wicked intentions."

He tucked a little piece of hair behind her ear and straightened. “Anyway. Senka can and should help with the present, too. I was thinking we could all make her a bracelet or something. I have a set of very small beads from Brigid that can be used for such crafts. If we all pick a color, and weave them together for her, I think she'll like it."

She pursed her lips in confusion. Wicked people with wicked intentions? She wasn't entirely sure what he meant by that, and nodded her head. “That sounds good. We can make her a bracelet and it'll be lovely on her," she stated happily enough. She folded her hands behind her back before glancing back up at Vridel

“And... for what it's worth, Vi," she paused to glance at the floor, “I don't think you're a wicked person. I think you have a very good heart, but... you just don't wear it." From the time they've spent together, she honestly believed he was a good person, no matter what anyone said about him. Crush or not, that was how she felt.

“And that, my dear, is the sound of you proving my point." He half-smiled at her, wry but not upset, and then fell silent.

“Let's go see that idiot about the surprise, shall we?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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#, as written by Aethyia


I.Y. 1180 - Blue Sea Moon - Tuesday the 22nd
Rhea's Office - Midafternoon - Clear
Cyril Eisner


He supposed that a personal summons from the Archbishop wasn't something a person could really refuse. When Lyanna had delivered it to him, she'd looked mildly concerned, in that odd way she had that convinced him not everything was as harmonious between herself and Rhea as most people assumed. Either way the summons was for the middle of the afternoon, right around teatime for those who got to it a touch later than average. The monastery seemed to run on a stretched daily schedule, starting earlier and finishing later than most every ordinary enterprise did. He was more or less used to it; since mercenary life was hardly regular in the first place, he'd always found he could adjust easily to most any routine.

On the grounds that it probably wasn't meet to show up at the Archbishop's office wearing the same gear he used to train his students, Cyril had washed down and donned a black tunic with his father's sigil at the neck in white, sleeves rolled to his elbows in deference to the weather, and a sturdy pair of trousers tucked into his boots. He carried no weapons; they were rather wholly unnecessary to him to begin with, and he didn't have much desire for the Archbishop to think of him as someone who'd come to meet her armed, even if he in fact rather was.

There was much to dislike about Rhea, even as little as he knew of her overall. Perhaps he had only seen the stern face she must put on in front of those she led—he knew well that some people's public and private faces were much different. But still, anyone who thought of killing militia, real people, as first and foremost a lesson for his students about defying the Church needed, at the very least, an adjustment of priorities and a better idea of just what it had done to them. Sorcha was only barely beginning to look and act like herself again, Senka still didn't trust herself, Mercer and Vridel were beginning down a winding and ruthless, bitter road. To say nothing of Amalthea, or the others, or how personally torn Devon had been by what they'd been commanded to do.

It was with no small amount of discomfort, then, that he reached the Archbishop's office door. Fortunately, he had a very good expressionless face, one he easily employed now, knocking thrice on the wood panel before stepping back.

The door opened almost immediately after he knocked, as if she were anticipating he would arrive exactly when he did. She smiled at him, the same smile she usually donned, and ushered him in. “Welcome, Professor," she greeted, waiting for him to step inside. Once he did, she moved so that she stood in the middle, and regarded him with an even gaze. “This is the first time I have welcomed you here, is it not?" She laughed lightly as she shook her head, though.

The sound was rather strange, almost affectionate in some way. “There is no need to be nervous, though. Please, come closer." she stated, holding her hand out for a moment before she brought it back to her and folded it by her stomach. “When you speak with me in this room, you are not speaking with the archbishop, but simply me: Rhea."

He supposed that answered his question, in a way. He certainly knew now that she perceived herself as having two distinct sides, at least.

In spite of the words, he wasn't really any less wary, though he made a conscious effort to visibly relax. “I see," he said quietly, casting his eyes over the office. It was decorated with items of furniture that were clearly expensive, but like much of the monastery it had a certain... spareness to it as well. He wondered if this had something to do with her particular aesthetic sense.

He took an obliging step closer, tilting his head slightly. He didn't have to look as far down as he did with most people to meet her eyes, but he was still considerably taller than her. There was a power to her, though, a subtle thing that he could only place because, he thought, of experience with people who were stronger than they might first appear.

There is something about this woman, the girl said from her spot in the back of his mind. But I cannot be sure what.

Her smile widened if slightly when he stepped closer. “Such a sweet child," she spoke, tilting her head light as if to regard him. “Oh," she spoke suddenly, inclining her head towards Cyril. “My apologies, I should not be treating you like a child," she stated, her eyes narrowing in mirth, it seemed. “As Jeralt's kin, somehow you don't seem at all a stranger to me..." she paused to glance at him. There was something in the way she looked at him, like she was searching for something that wasn't quite there.

She didn't seem to find it, though, as a flash of disappointment crossed her face. “Speaking of Jeralt," she stated, tilting her head in an inquisitive manner, “may I ask if he ever spoke of me to you?" She seemed to be expecting a postive answer of some sort.

Expectation aside, Cyril had only the truth to give. He had no idea what she was looking for that she didn't see, but he wasn't entirely unused to being on the other end of that. His father had used to look at him similarly, as had many of the people he'd met, actually. He never seemed to quite be what anyone wanted, but it was something he'd grown accustomed to.

“He almost never spoke of the past," he said, lifting his shoulders briefly. “And never of this place, or anyone in it." His father had told him to be cautious about what he revealed, but he thought there wasn't really any good way to avoid this particular truth. He somehow doubted she didn't already guess.

“Oh dear," she stated, folding her hand beneath her head, but leaving it just far enough so that her head wasn't resting on it. “How heartless of him," she continued, her lips pursing into a fine line. She seemed upset by the declaration, as if she'd expected his father to have mentioned her at some point. “I suppose it cannot be helped, however; let us endeavor to become closer from here on out," she stated, dropping her hands to her sides and smiling at him.

“Since you are here, shall I tell you about the Jeralt that I knew?" she stated, a strange lilt to her voice. “By the look of it, you haven't heard much about his time at the monastery, have you?" she questioned, though she already knew the answer to that. Cyril had told her before that he was not familiar with the Church, nor his father once being part of it.

“When I first met Jeralt, he was quite young. Why," she seemed amused by her next set of words, “he could not even grow a full beard at that point!"

He arched his brows slightly at that. It was honestly difficult to imagine his father looking any other way than he did now, because in all honesty, it was the way he'd looked as long as Cyril had been alive... or at least as long as he could remember. “That's... not the easiest thing to picture," he admitted. “He's never been without it entirely. Not that I recall, anyway."

“Hm, indeed. It's hard to imagine, now, but there was a time, long ago," she stated, smiling somewhat as she nodded her head. “On one fateful occasion, though, the band of mercenaries he belonged to fought alongside the Knights of Seiros," she began, closing her eyes as if to recall the memory. “I was traveling with the knights at the time, and Jeralt jumped in front of an attack meant for me. He was gravely wounded, on the verge of death, even," her lips pursed into a fine line as she opened her eyes to regard Cyril.

“I tended to his wounds in a desperate attempt to save his life. Thankfully," she paused to place a hand over her heart, “my efforts were not in vain. Jeralt managed to escape a seemingly certain death." Her face smoothed back over, and the same, empty smile she had before, was back. “I made arrangements for him to receive further care at Garreg Mach. The moment he was deemed fully recovered, I invited him to join the knights."

“That sounds like something he would do," Cyril admitted, something almost wry entering his tone. He could certainly imagine a younger, more impulsive version of his father jumping in front of a blow meant for another, much as he'd—

Do you think she might know something about that? he asked the girl, suddenly uncertain. The time thing?

Maybe, the girl said softly. But do you want her to know you can do that?

The answer was immediate, and he expelled a soft breath from his nose. “I suppose I owe you my thanks, then," he said to Rhea. “The literal truth aside, I wouldn't be who I am without my father. He means..." He wasn't sure what the right words were, really. He never had been. “He means a great deal to me."

“Every parent means the world to their child," she stated suddenly, a strange, hard look to her eyes. She shook her head, though, and her posture seemed to relax. “It is not a story I have often repeated," she spoke, shaking her head softly. “Even at the monastery, there are not many who know that." She paused, her facial features smoothing out as if to make her appear younger than she looked. “I tell you this because... to me, you are the child of the one who saved my life all those years ago. And also..." she paused again, diverting her gaze to the floor before she closed her eyes. She didn't speak for at least a few minutes before shaking her head.

“Never mind, it is nothing. I simply wanted to say that I trust you. By coming to visit with me today, you have... well..." she began, her eyes narrowing slightly. “Suffice it to say that my day is brighter than it otherwise would have been. I thank you for that," she inclined her head towards him, bowing lightly in the process.

“If there is anything you should ever need, please do not hesitate to ask."

Cyril wasn't entirely sure what to make of that. There was definitely something else she wasn't saying there, but he doubted very much he'd be able to prompt her into it, either. His shoulders relaxed a little further, though, and he sighed quietly. “Thank you," he said simply. He could not tell her he would, or even that her words were reassuring, because frankly neither of those things was especially true, and he'd always had an instinctive aversion to lying. So he settled on something that implied almost the same, but was not false.

“I'll keep that in mind, Rhea."

That seemed to make a smile cross her face, something more genuine and life-like. “You are welcome, Cyril," she responded. She seemed quite curious about something, though, and tilted her head at him. “I do have a question for you," she began, pausing only for a second before she asked him, “how are you getting along with your students? I've heard a few... interesting things." She did not seem to care to elaborate on what those things were, though.

He blinked, immediately wary of the question for a reason he couldn't explain. “They are exceptional," he replied simply. “Interesting how?"

Her eyes narrowed with her smile. “Interesting in that they all seem rather fond of you. You'll forgive my forwardness, but there have not been many instances when students are particularly fond of their professors. And to have the fondness of not only your main house, but of those in different houses as well..." she trailed off at the end, her eyes narrowing in what seemed like displeasure.

“You would do well to remember that it is not always so. These students are merely that: students. The three heirs will be leaving at the end of their year to return back to their countries as, perhaps, better rulers." She didn't seem to include Amalthea or Senka, as if she were anticipating something would keep them from leaving the monastery. Amalthea's home was the monastery, though.

So the remaining exclusion made little sense to him, except as a thing of intention. He had other students, of course, the rest of the Blue Lion House and the rest of his Saturday group. But he knew it would be fairly easy to tell that he spent the most time with those five, and so he wondered.

“I understand that they'll be leaving," he said slowly. “I don't see any reason not to want to be on good terms with them while they're here, however. It makes teaching them easier." The truth, though certainly not all of it.

If anything she looked disappointed in his response. “While it may seem that way, they will leave, and you will be left behind. If you are quite certain that is something you can handle, then by all means, continue to cultivate your bonds with your students. It will make things that much more difficult when it comes time to say goodbye." She shook her head, though, and regarded him with a flat stare.

“I believe that will be all for today, Professor. You may spend the rest of your day however you'd like. There are things I must return to," she stated, bowing softly in his direction as her way of dismissing him.

He could not help but feel that something about the words was a threat, albeit one lightly-applied. Unsure what to make of that, especially contrasted with other things she'd said, Cyril furrowed his brows, returning the bow. “Archbishop," he said simply, turning on his heel and exiting the office.

Something wasn't right about that woman, but he'd be damned if he knew what.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Senka Rinaldi Character Portrait: Amalthea von Kreuz Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Sorcha Blaiddyd Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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I.Y. 1180 - Blue Sea Moon - Thursday the 24th
Library - Early Afternoon - Light Rain
Senka Rinaldi


Senka sighed softly, closing the book she'd been reading and crossed her hands in front of her. Things were becoming more lively in the monastery; the knights were making more patrols, seemingly almost stretched thin by the looks on their faces. With the possible assassination attempt, everyone seemed to be getting worked up about protecting the archbishop. The woman didn't seem to need protecting, though. Senka knew strength and power when she saw it; the woman held herself in high regards, and it was clear that hardly anyone else mattered. Anyone not the professor, at least. She felt a light shiver go down her spine. She still hadn't forgotten the way Rhea had glared at her the day they were studying in the library. It was unnerving, however; her thoughts were occupied elsewhere.

Why would someone go to the trouble of making an assassination plan, but leave it on their person when they knew there was a possibility of death? It was just... too poorly planned. It didn't make any sense to Senka. She wondered if her friends felt the same way. She knew Vridel and Cyril were not particularly fond of the archbishop, but she knew they wouldn't allow the woman to come to harm. They had a mission to complete, and they would do it without fail as they always have. It still felt strange, as if the assassination attempt were smokescreen for something else. Something more important, but Senka did not know the monastery well-enough to know what it was. Perhaps that was why she had asked her friends to meet her in the library. The rain made it difficult to meet outside, light as it was, and the library wouldn't seem as suspicious if they met there.

Written exams were coming up, after all, and it would simply look like a study group to most people who cared to look. And she knew there was one person in particular who would. Even though she was the first one there, she would wait patiently for her friends to finish whatever it was they were doing. She wanted to see if they shared her suspicions as well. Maybe her lack of sleep was causing her to see things that were not there, though?

Sorcha, of course, was already there. It wasn't clear exactly what had happened, but she seemed to be doing better in the last few days. At least she was sleeping enough that the dark circles had lifted from her eyes, and though she rarely smiled, that wasn't so unusual. She wasn't as inexpressive as Senka, but true smiles from the Princess had been rare in all the time Senka had known her. Part of it was of course what had happened to her family, but she knew part of it was also pressure from the court, to be many things that she was not in order to make herself a more suitable ruler for Faerghus.

It wasn't too long before Vridel and Reynard appeared, speaking about something in low voices. It was almost certain that they'd share her suspicions; they seemed to have the demeanors for that kind of thing. Devon wasn't far behind, carrying an overstuffed satchel full of books as usual and entering with Sylvi, a genuine grin on his face at something she'd said, it seemed. He was still mourning his foster father, and all of them knew it, but the news that his siblings had both survived the uprisinghad come as a great relief to him, and enabled him to keep up with his studies.

It wasn't long before Mercer appeared, hair disheaveled as if he'd just woken from a nap. For all intents and purposes, that was what he wanted people to believe. Senka knew him a little better than she'd like to admit. Amalthea was next to him, smiling as if she'd found out something entertaining. She waved at the group, though, causing Senka's lips to twitch just slightly upward. It wasn't quite a smile, but she knew they would know she was. That had still been a little strange to her; having people who could read her expressions as if they were clear as day was... nice.

Dierdre and Sofia were next to arrive, Dierdre grinning as she had her arm looped with Sofia's. Senka thought they were a rather lovely couple. Almost complete opposites as far as their personalities went, but it was obvious enough that they cared deeply for one another; loved one another. When everyone was settled at the table, Senka glanced around to make sure everyone was present.

“Is that everyone?" Sylvi seemed to ask, as Mercer shook his head.

“You invited Teach, didn't you?" he asked, glancing towards Senka. She nodded her head. She invited everyone that she could, including their professor. He just hadn't arrived, yet.

It took Cyril another few minutes to appear. He entered the library slightly damp from the rain outside, reaching up to slick his hair back away from where it had fallen in his face. As often seemed to be the case, one particular stubborn strand of inky-black fell in front of his nose anyway, but the rest stayed mostly put.

“I apologize for my tardiness," he said quietly, glancing back over his shoulder with a slightly narrow-eyed expression. He didn't elaborate, however, merely moving towards the tables. The seat left was rather far from Senka, but he along with everyone else was in view, at least.

“And I thought I was usually the late one," Mercer murmured, causing Dierdre to elbow his side. “I kid, Dierdre," he stated, rubbing at his side. Senka merely pursed her lips together as she shook her head. “So I take it we're all here for the same thing?" he asked, earning a nod from just about everyone around.

“Good. This will make it that much easier, then," he began, leaning his forearms against the table. “What do you think the real target is?" he asked, his voice low so that it wouldn't be overheard by unnecessary ears. Senka shook her head, though. She had not the slightest clue.

“Why wouldn't it be Lady Rhea?" Amalthea asked in a confused manner.

“Because they're not actually targeting Lady Rhea," Sylvi spoke, glancing towards Devon for a second before turning her attention back to the others. Senka nodded her head in agreement.

“The assassination plot is a cover for something else, but we don't know what that is, quite yet. You grew up here, Amalthea. Is there anything that comes to mind that would be of importance to this place?" she asked, watching as Thea shook her head.

“I can't really think of anything. "

“What about the timing?" Sorcha asked. “What happens on the day of the Rite of Rebirth that doesn't usually happen?"

Vridel hummed quietly. “The Archbishop and Lady Lyanna spend much of the day in the Goddess Tower, I know that much," he said. “I think... maybe other parts of the Monastery open to the public also?" He looked to Amalthea, as though he expected her to know this. Probably not an unreasonable instinct.

Amalthea pursed her lips together and seemed to be thinking about the question that was asked. “There are a few places that will open up, yes," she finally answered. It seemed that all eyes were on her, now, and she fidgeted a little under their gazes. She took in a deep breath, lips still pursed as she still seemed to think about it. “The Holy Masuoleum, for one, will be open to the public," she finally spoke.

“What's that?" Dierdre asked, narrowing her eyes as she did. Thea chewed the bottom of her lip in a thoughtful manner, and Senka sighed softly.

“It's where the tomb of the divine Seiros, lies. It's said that she slumbers there, eternally," Amalthea finally answered. “It's mostly just a rumor, though. Only Lady Rhea and, occasionally, Lyanna are allowed down there. During the Rite, the public is allowed to go in there, but usually not for very long."

If that were true, why open it at all? Why not just keep it closed off to the public? If Seiros truly slumbered there, why would they risk her being exposed to people?

“After all, it's just an ancient coffin down there." Still, it seemed important enough to warrant being closed off through most of the year. “Oh, the Goddess Tower might also be open to the public," she added.

Cyril shook his head. “The way Lady Lyanna described it to me, she and the Archbishop will be in complete seclusion, there. Not even the Knights are allowed inside. It's why there was concern about the legitimacy of the threat—because if someone could get in there, they could attack those two alone."

“I suppose it would also be a good chance for people to go unnoticed other places, even if they're strangers," Devon pointed out. “On the average day, an outsider in the greenhouse or the library would be obvious, but on that day there are visitors all over the place, so no individual one would be that noticeable. If I wanted to steal something from the Monastery, for instance, I'd pick a day like that."

“Hide in plain sight," Reynard agreed, tipping Devon a respectful nod. The younger man looked genuinely pleased.

“I think we can safely eliminate the greenhouse and the library though," Vridel said. “If they just needed to wander into one of these places, which aren't usually even under guard, they'd want the patrols and guard postings to be normal, not to stir them up with a fake assassination threat. Now there will be moving patrols everywhere. We need to think about places that means fewer guards."

“The crypt," Sorcha said quietly. “If people are only allowed down for a short time, it follows that they're supervised. Someone has to enforce the time, after all. But if the guards are being shuffled around to protect Lady Rhea, then chances are there will be fewer there to do that."

“Giving someone more time to search the tomb," Cyril finished, lifting a hand to rub at his jaw. “But for what? Is anything kept down there except the dead?"

“As far as I know, it's only the tombs. Ah," she stated abruptly as if something just came to her. “I overheard Lyanna say that there are Crest Stones down there," she stated.

“Crest Stones? What are those? I know that people who are descendants of the ten have Crests, but what are Crest Stones?" Dierdre asked, confusion written over her face. Amalthea smiled as if she could answer that question with ease.

“Well, you remember Catherine wielding Thunderbrand?" Dierdre nodded her head. “That was a Crest Stone in the handle. It's like a physical representation of the Crest you bear, if you have one," she explained, though she pursed her lips together. “I don't know much about how they work, but your Crest has to be compatible with that Crest Stone. Catherine said only she could wield Thunderbrand, which means she has a Crest," that was obvious enough for everyone around.

“What is so important about Crest Stones, though?" It sounded as if not just anyone could wield it, so why would they be important if someone had a Crest?

Vridel sat back in his chair, crossing his arms. “Every Hero's Relic is fitted with a Crest Stone," he said, his voice quiet, almost as if he were reluctant to speak. “It helps synchronize the relic with the wielder's Crest. It's possible to wield a Relic without one, if you have a particularly strong major Crest and you're willing to risk overtaxing yourself. It wouldn't especially surprise me if the Church had extra stones, though I suspect this is something the nobility would be interested to know..."

He looked almost ill for some reason. “They can also be used to... well, never mind. Suffice to say they interact with Crests and allow their power to be tapped more efficiently. Thus they are fitted to Relics."

“Are they of any use without a Relic?" Cyril asked.

Vridel pursed his lips. “Not... to most people. There are a few in the Empire who might have a... different use for them, but those people already have what they need." He fell silent, eyes on the table in front of him, clearly not interested in saying anything further on the topic.

“Okay, so..." Sorcha carefully picked up the thread of conversation, shooting Vridel a concerned glance before continuing. “It's at least conceivable that someone might want to steal the Crest Stones. If they help power Relics, they're certainly worth having. At the very minimum, I'm sure most noble families would jump at the chance to own a spare, just in case something happened to the one in their Relic. That makes the Mausoleum seem like the most likely target to me. How about the rest of you?"

Vridel nodded tightly.

Senka had to agree as well. The Mausoleum was looking more likely to be the place that the culprits truly intended to ask. It wouldn't do any good to notify the knights, or Rhea, about it. Senka doubted that they would believe them. Mercer seemed to agree as well since he nodded his head after Vridel had. Amalthea looked vaguely sick, but that could have been because there were people who would desecrate a sacred tomb. Sylvi pursed her lips tightly, but didn't say anything. Dierdre seemed to acknowledge the statement with a light nod before she turned her attention towards Devon, shooting him a sympathetic smile before she dropped her gaze to her hands.

He smiled back, a little awkwardly—that much was obvious. But he nodded, too, clearly unwilling to let his personal circumstances interfere with getting to the bottom of this.

Senka could understand why, though. The people who planned on targeting the Masuoleum used Lonato's rebellion as a means to do it. They planted the assassination note on him; there was no doubt in Senka's mind about that. Whether or not it he was carrying it willingly or not, the fact remained that those people knew Lonato was not going to survive the battle. Senka clenched her fists tightly at the thought. Those people were despicable.

“I suppose that means that we will focus our efforts on the Mausoleum when the time comes," Senka stated.

Cyril leaned forward there, picking up a piece of parchment and a charcoal pencil. “We'll split into three groups..."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Senka Rinaldi Character Portrait: Amalthea von Kreuz Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Sorcha Blaiddyd Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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#, as written by Aethyia


I.Y. 1180 - Blue Sea Moon - Saturday the 26th
The Holy Mausoleum - Midmorning - Clear
Vridel von Hresvelg


The morning of the Rite, Cyril's class had assembled as planned. They were split into three groups, with instructions to concentrate their patrols in the area of the Holy Mausoleum. Vridel's group consisted of Reynard, Amalthea, and Dierdre, a rather varied mix of approaches to combat designed to be flexible. The other two groups were more specialized: Sorcha, Mercer, and Devon had found higher ground within the Mausoleum, concealing themselves among the columns and figures carved into the walls with bows at the ready, watchful.

The Professor, Senka, Sofia, and Sylvi were the frontline distraction team, and as soon as Mercer had fired the signal arrow, they burst through the front door of the Mausoleum.

Vridel, who had never seen the inside before, followed with his team. The room was enormous, a cavernous space with stone caskets arranged in two columns, one to either side. The center was mostly empty, but let up to a large dais, on which was perched a grander sarcophagus still. He could sense the magic in the air, thick and pungent enough that it was almost a taste on the back of his tongue.

The thieves they had interrupted were clearly surprised to see them; Vridel couldn't exactly blame them. He wondered, sometimes, how it was that of all the people in the place, it was sometimes only this group who seemed to bother thinking things through. But they had, and here they were.

“Keep them busy!" one of the thieves demanded. They seemed to be dressed largely in black and red, the style of the robes vaguely Imperial but not officially so by any means. He wasn't sure exactly what, if anything, to make of that. “I need time to complete the ritual!"

Probably to break the seal on that casket—even from across this huge room, Vridel could tell it was a strong one. What on earth these people would want with what was probably Seiros's corpse wasn't totally clear to him, but he figured it was better to make sure they didn't get it and ask the questions later.

The Professor had given them permission to act autonomously if the situation demanded, and it seemed to at the moment: while Cyril's group kept the main force of the enemies busy, Vridel's could rush the magician, to try and cut him down before he could complete the unsealing.

Drawing his sword, Vridel strafed to the left, gesturing the others after him. “We're stopping that ritual," he said simply. “Trust the others to cover—just take down anyone in our way."

Amalthea nodded, following after him. Dierdre wasn't too far behind, either, however; they were intercepted by a few of the soldiers who were intent on protecting the magician. Amalthea reacted rather quickly, throwing Amyr at one of the soldiers and rushed him. Her attack had been anticipated, and the man dodged out of the way, however; she summoned Amyr back as she forcefully shoved the handle into the man's stomach, causing him to double over.

Dierdre threw a fireball at one of the other soldiers who tried to attack Amalthea from the side, causing the woman to jump back, but singed her robes. It was hard to tell what expression the woman was wearing, but her attention was on Dierdre as she attacked with a magic of her own. Dierdre countered it with a strong wind spell, but it left her defenses open, which another soldier tried to take advantage of.

Reynard was there immediately, sinking his knife into the man's side. With a twist, he brought him down, tearing the weapon free and ducking the broad swing from the next in line, a swordsman, by the look of things.

Knowing he'd be fine, Vridel focused down the mage, so that Deirdre and Thea could work together to handle the remaining soldier. A blast of light drew her attention from Deirdre, who immediately switched her focus to Thea's opponent. Vridel threw another, following it up with a jolt of electricity he'd picked up from studying with Senka and Cyril, and the mage was down.

The last soldier followed, and after checking over everyone to ensure that no emergency healing was necessary, they continued forward.

Cyril's group were making fast work of the unprepared thieves elsewhere; they'd even begun to advance up the other side. Mercer's team, still unseen, was providing steady cover fire, suppressing any enemy attempts at major charges or flanking maneuvers by harassing those who tried to get strategic advantage over the others.

They made some progress, Amalthea disarming a soldier every so often with Dierdre finishing them off. It seemed to be that Amalthea still did not wish to kill anyone, at least not yet, and was leaving that to Dierdre who seemed to have no problem finishing off their opponents. She turned her attention towards a mage who seemed to be throwing a lightning bolt in random directions, perhaps trying to locate Mercer's group, and threw Amyr at the mage. It hit the mage's arm, nearly cutting it off, however, it still hung off by some of the flesh. The mage screamed, causing Amalthea to wince lightly as an arrow pierced the mage's heart, silencing them.

He was going to have to talk to her about that.

When they'd managed to move up again, they were confronted by a small ring of soldiers, trying to act as a wall of sorts. A barricade so that Vridel and the others couldn't move any further. They were with a rather large and brutish looking man. He had gauntlets in his possession, perhaps a brawler. Amalthea pursed her lips together before she glanced in Vridel's direction. With a light nod, she and Dierdre were charging the group, Dierdre readying what seemed to be a miasma spell and Amalthea trying to get the attention of the others so that Dierdre had the time.

Reynard didn't need to be directed, really, and darted to the side, no doubt to begin whittling down the edges of the grouping. Keeping an eye on the other two, Vridel decided to do the same from the other side, and lunged, slashing a lightly-armored fighter over the abdomen. When she doubled over, clutching her wound, he followed through with a hard stroke to the back of her neck, blade cleaving into her spinal cord between two vertebrae and killing her instantly.

Flicking the blood from the blade, he shifted aside from the next incoming blow, a downward lance-stroke. The reach advantage would normally bother a swordsman, but Vridel was even before this a mage, and he shot a blast of fire directly for the spearman's chest. He reeled back, smoking, but did not quite fall. A well-placed arrow to the throat from somewhere behind Vridel finished him off.

This was taking too much time. Hopefully Cyril's group was having better luck.

From the looks of it, they were still making steady progress. Senka was wielding her sword, only resorting to magic when it looked like she needed to, however; Sylvi looked to be having a somewhat harder time against the mages. When she would advance, a mage would force her back with a lightning spell, and another would try to flank her with a fire spell. Senka looked like she was trying to cover Sylvi, but was dealing with her own opponents. An axe-wielder swung in her direction, forcing her to duck, however; it seemed that one of the mages took the opportunity to attack with a wind spell, Cutting Gale, from the looks of it. Sylvi was barely able to move in time, however; Senka repositioned them so that she took the hit, and not Sylvi.

The attack cut into the skin of her back, but she looked mostly unfazed by it, quickly turning around and summoning her Blizzard. Sylvi covered for her, hacking away at a soldier with the axe who attempted to take advantage of their distraction, and pursed her lips into a fine line. Dierdre looked worried for a second as her eyes landed on Sofia, but she managed to push back a mage who tried to take advantage of her brief distraction.

Amalthea was mostly still, defending against a taller, more muscular brute who seemed to be wailing on her with his own axe. She seemed to be able to take it, though, as she was still standing, defending as her eyes glanced for an opening.

Vridel found himself with a conundrum, and as ever decided to try both. Summoning up his magic, he called a spell he'd never used in a real fight before, directing the healing all the way across the field to Senka, and then again to Sylvi. The concentration required left him open, but Reynard covered smoothly, taking down the last of the opponents who wasn't Thea's.

Across the room, Cyril was juggling several soldiers at once. He managed to get some breathing room, though, hurling his javelin for the troublesome mage, hard enough to impale him rather entirely, before falling on the ones in front of him with his fists and his magic.

That, along with continuous suppressive arrow fire, was enough to get their group through and onto the top level of the dais first, where Vridel lost track of them. They'd be fine, now. They were mostly healed, and the Professor was in front. If anyone on the field was safe right now, it was them.

In the meantime, the rest of them had this fellow to deal with.

Dierdre turned her attention to the man who was still attacking Thea. She summoned a fire spell, and hurled it at the man. He didn't seem to have any trouble dodging it, though, and whirled around so that his attention was focused on Dierdre. Amalthea took the opportunity to hurl herself onto the man's back, digging Amyr in as well. The man didn't seem fazed by it, though, and merely reached behind him, grabbing Amalthea by her arm, and flipping her over his shoulders. Amyr was still stuck in his back as she landed with a hard thud.

He swung his axe downwards in a finishing motion, however; Dierdre mimicked Amalthea's earlier actions, flinging herself into the man's side in time that his axe missed Amalthea by a couple of inches. She rolled from underneath the man, and summoned Amyr back to her. Dierdre seemed to have abandoned her magic, though, in favor of her fists. She wasn't a physical fighter, though.

Fortunately, Reynard was there to assist, and while Vridel helped Thea back to her feet, Aymr in-hand, the other man got several quick stabs in on the enemy soldier, who miraculously still seemed to be standing.

Knowing that Thea was likely to balk at the idea of finishing him off, Vridel stepped forward to do it himself, plunging his blade into the man's lower back from behind, hard enough that emerged out the other side with a gout of blood. Setting his foot against the man's spine, he pushed him off at the same time as he pulled the sword, freeing it from his body as he toppled forward.

There was little time for relief. The ritual—

Vridel whirled even as the Professor landed a hard, barehanded blow on the mage attempting to unseal the casket. The robed man staggered backwards, but it seemed he'd already accomplished his aim. The lid of the sarcophagus was cracked, and he reached inside quickly, yanking out what seemed to be—a sword?

It had a longer blade than most, slightly serrated along one edge, with a thick crossguard. Vridel had seen enough relics to know one when he encountered it, and this seemed to be made of the same unusual material that all of them were. He doubted Cyril recognized it for what it was, but it had come out of Seiros's casket, so anyone could tell it was important.

The man attempted to swing it at the Professor, but he sidestepped the blow easily and caught one of the fellow's wrists, twisting and forcing him to drop the blade. Cyril caught it easily, but just when Vridel was going to warn him not to try and use it, the whole thing took on a crimson glow, one that seemed to catch the entire room by surprise.

The mage was the first to recover, trying to use this as leverage for a surprise attack, but the Professor caught him by the throat almost automatically, it seemed, a large hand applying pressure to the man's windpipe until he went slack. The glow of the sword died down at the same time, leaving Cyril looking rather, well... perplexed.

Vridel couldn't blame him for that.

Before anyone had a chance to say anything, Catherine and a couple of soldiers burst into the tombs, Thunderbrand at the ready. “Is the intruder here?!" she shouted, blinking in a confused manner at the group. “Oh," she began, her posture relaxing a bit, “looks like you have this under control." She turned her attention to both of the soldiers and gave them a command: “You! Round up any stragglers. We can't afford any more mistakes." The soldiers nodded their heads in unison and went to do as she commanded.

Amalthea walked next to Vridel, and touched his elbow lightly with her hand. “Are you alright?" she asked, clearly worried for his well-being and not her own. She had a streak of blood on her face, probably from when she stabbed the man in the back or when he'd flung his blood-covered axe in her direction. Senka was tending to the professor, Sylvi, and Sofia, and Dierdre was making her way towards their group, as well. Probably to check on Sofia.

Vridel exhaled quietly, nodding his head. Thoughtlessly, he reached up and dabbed the blood away from her face with his sleeve. It just didn't look right, there of all places, though he was sure he was wearing a fair bit of it himself. “I'm fine," he said quietly. “Didn't even get hit. What about you?"

She nodded her head. “I'm fine, too. See? Not... not a single scratch," she spread her arms out as if to show him that she was, indeed, fine. She winced slightly, though, but smiled through it. Her back was likely sore from when the man had thrown her to the ground. “I should probably go check on the others, too. Make sure they're alright. I'm sure Lady Rhea will want to see Professor," she stated, her eyes going towards Cyril.

“You're right, Amalthea," Catherine cut in, glancing between Vridel and Amalthea. “We're going to escort the prisoners to her; she wants your professor to come along as well, but," she paused, moving her gaze towards Cyril before she looked back at Vridel. “Perhaps you'd like to ask him to come. The others can tend to their wounds and get them looked after if you want to come, too," she seemed to suggest, directing the last part of the statement towards Vridel.

Brows furrowing, Vridel nodded slightly at Catherine. It wasn't a bad idea for someone to be there. Since he and Mercer were sharing information, it didn't much matter which one of them it was, but it might be slightly less suspicious if it wasn't always the same person. Calling a touch of healing to his hand, he placed it gently at Amalthea's back before stepping away smoothly.

“I think I will," he said, making his way towards the Professor.

Cyril showed not even the slightest inclination to disagree, and the two of them split off from the group to head for the Archbishop's office. She'd almost certainly be called away from the Rite for this, but it might take some time for that to be possible. Vridel wasn't exactly sure what was involved.

They took seats outside the area, Cyril still loosely holding the sword. “Be careful, when we're in there," he said, staring straight ahead with a rather flat expression. “The Archbishop doesn't seem to like you all very much."

“It's mutual," Vridel grumbled. “Though I can't imagine why she'd bother to form much of an opinion on most of us."

The Professor grimaced. “I think it might be my fault," he admitted. “I've... mentioned your merits, on more than one occasion. I don't think she likes it, for some reason."

Ordinarily such a thing would have seemed unbelievable, but Vridel had been there, in the common room that time. The Archbishop really did have some strange fixation on the Professor. It sounded like the sort of thing an obsessed lover would do—not want that someone to have connections of import with anyone else. Not healthy, by any means. But why the Archbishop, and why the Professor?

He doubted Cyril had any more idea than he did. “Sounds unnerving," he said quietly. Vridel understood a thing or two about obsession and being the object of it. Whether 'romantic' or not, it was disturbing in the extreme, and uncomfortable.

“It is."

There was no time to say more about it, though, for the sound of footsteps echoed down the hall. Both of them stood as the Archbishop approached, a small group of the captured being led behind her in chains by some of the knights. Lyanna did not seem to be with her this time—maybe she was still in the Goddess Tower, doing whatever the Rite of Rebirth required.

Rhea's eyes were immediately on Vridel, a look of displeasure quickly flashing across her face before it disappeared. There was a different woman with her, this time, deep violet hair similar to the shade Senka had. Her eyes were rich, deep violet as well, nothing like Vridel's or Senka's. The woman glanced at Vridel, and then towards the archbishop before her eyes went to Cyril.

“Good, you're all here," she stated, inclining her head towards Cyril. “No time for proper introductions," she continued, speaking directly to Vridel and Cyril before her attention went to those in chains. “As all of you have committed a breach of faith, the archbishop will now pass judgment," she spoke, her voice and demeanor oddly calm. “Inciting a Kingdom noble to rebel, unlawful entry, the attempted assassination of the archbishop, and an attack on the Holy Mausoleum," she listed off what seemed to be their crimes. “It is unnecessary to go on, followers of the Western Church."

One of the priests looked shocked at the statement. “What?! We have nothing to do with the Western Church!" he shouted in defense, it seemed. The woman merely shook her head, though.

“You have already been identified, there is no need for your second-rate theater," Rhea spoke, her eyes narrowing at the priest. “Dishonoring a holy ceremony is worthy of death for a member of the church," she continued, pausing only to shift her gaze slightly towards Vridel and Cyril, “You are well past the hope of redemption. If you have any grace remaining, you will willingly offer your life as atonement for this crime."

The priest's face turned white as he tried to take a step back. “No!" he shouted, anger in his voice, “This isn't what we were told would happen! We've been deceived!" This statement seemed to anger the other woman, and she glared at the priest.

“It's no use arguing. Whatever your excuse, the punishment stands."

Vridel thought it was rather stupid to go ahead and pronounce such a judgment so swiftly. Even looking at it from the most brutal perspective, saying it now removed much of their incentive to talk, to explain who had hired them to do this, or tricked them into it, as they claimed. Unless, of course, the Archbishop had no need of such information because she already knew what they were going to say.

“Should we not at least hear them out?" The Professor inquired quietly. “Surely it's important to know if there are... further people targeting the Church?" He was careful to couch it in terms that would likely be acceptable to Rhea, Vridel noticed. Not at all a simpleton, their teacher. Certainly far from the typical thickheaded mercenary stereotype. But then, he'd known that for a while now.

“Wait! Please!" the man begged, his eyes almost pleading. “Listen to him! The goddess would never forgive you for our execution!" The other man to his side merely grimaced, though, and took a step forward.

“Monster!" he shouted, pointing a finger in Rhea's direction. “We know you've already slaughtered many of our fellow brethren like this!" he seemed to be accusing of her of murdering people before. Rhea did not look pleased with the accusation, and lifted her hand in a silencing motion.

“This concludes the investigation," she stated, malice in her voice, though it seemed disguised by a calmness she was known for, “Please remove these poor, lost souls from my sight." It was clearly a command. The soldiers bowed their heads and took the prisoners away, to await their fate. Rhea turned towards Vridel and Cyril, disappointed, perhaps, at Cyril's statement.

“They are from the Western Church. It is well-known that they have never appreciated the Central Church," she stated, her brows still furrowed.

Vridel barely avoided a skeptical snort. More like they tried for an iota of independence from the Archbishop. Not that he had any fondness for the Western Church. Not in the slightest.

Cyril pursed his lips, shaking his head faintly but apparently knowing better than to argue the point. “Ah, Archbishop. They were trying to get this, I think." Adjusting his grip on the blade, he extended it carefully towards her, handle-first.

Frankly, Vridel admired his courage. He'd have never handed the Archbishop his weapon, no matter how good he was with his hands.

She didn't look at all surprised when Cyril presented the sword. She merely smiled and shook her head. “I cannot thank you enough for defeating those invaders in the Holy Mausoleum, and especially for protecting the Sword of the Creator," she stated, inclining her head towards the sword Cyril held. “That sword is one of the Heroes' Relics, and the most precious artifact in the church's possession," her expression hardened for a second before she continued, “It is also a weapon of terrifying power." She smiled again, and glanced towards the woman still at her side.

“For now... I will entrust the sword to you. Please, use it wisely. I have faith that you will not be corrupted by the wickedness that once took Nemesis." She seemed to believe her own words. “Since his death, none have been able to wield the Sword of the Creator. None... until now. After all those long years of being sealed away, it has returned and found a new master," this seemed to please her, as her eyes softened with the smile on her face as she glanced at Cyril.

The Sword of the—

That Relic was the Sword of the Creator? And she was just letting the professor keep it?

Moreover, that he could even use it meant... well it meant he must somehow be related to Nemesis, the King of Liberation. Crests were hereditary, after all, unless...

Unless. Vridel would have to think about that one. The Professor's hair wasn't white, but his memory wasn't good, either, and maybe... hm. For the moment, he kept his silence, as the Archbishop surely expected.

“Since the two of you are already here, an update for next month's mission should suffice. Lord Kleiman of Faerghus has requested our aid. There have been unsettling rumors of late in the Kingdom near the Duscur region," she paused to regard Cyril before she continued, “of an unsightly beast. It has killed countless of the Lord's men and you and your students will go to eliminate it."

“A beast?" Cyril echoed. “Like wild wyvern or a bear or something?"

Vridel wasn't exactly sure what she meant by it, either. What a nonspecific way to put something like that.

Her eyes narrowed slightly. “Not exactly," she began, turning her attention towards the sword the professor had. “It is nothing that you will not be able to handle, especially now that you wield the Relic," she continued. She seemed to be putting a lot of faith in Cyril. “They claim it is a demonic beast, but none have returned alive to confirm this report. Nevertheless, I am certain there will be interested parties in visiting Duscur, after all." Her eyes narrowed slightly at that statement as if she were displeased with it.

“Unfortunately, most of the Knights of Seiros will be away from the monastery, purging the apostates of the Western Church. We are entrusting this mission to you, after all. The Sword of the Creator is a powerful weapon, well beyond the other Relics. If it happens to be a demonic beast, you have nothing to fear," she stated, her eyes glancing towards Vridel.

Demonic beast... those words had once been used to describe what had happened to the fallen hero Maurice, but even then he wasn't sure exactly what they meant. Besides that, that legend was from a thousand years ago. It was possible the Archbishop meant something different, but then why be so squirrelly about it? Something wasn't adding up here, though Vridel didn't know exactly what yet.

It may well be that there was only one way to find out.

“Duscur," Cyril said, his brows drawing down faintly. “I see. As you wish, Archbishop."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Amalthea von Kreuz Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Sorcha Blaiddyd Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


I.Y. 1180 - Verdant Rain Moon - Sunday the 3rd
Professor Hanneman's Office - Afternoon - Hot
Cyril Eisner


Cyril knocked lightly on the doorframe leading into Professor Hanneman's office, clearing his throat expectantly. It would seem news had gotten around about the whole 'Sword of the Creator' business, and while he wasn't entirely sure what to make of it himself, it had apparently granted the other professor some insight into his Crest. He supposed that made sense, since Relics and Crests were closely related.

Peering inside, he could see that Professor Manuela was present as well, draped sideways over Professor Hanneman's chair and apparently quite contentedly filing her nails while their colleague searched through some of his research notes. She looked up and smiled when he knocked. “Oh, Cyril! Please do come in; don't mind him, he's just getting his thoughts together. At his age, it takes a while." She smiled, genuine and bright, rolling her eyes playfully at Hanneman's back.

“I'll have you know my ears still work, Manuela."

“That's news to me," she drawled.

He stepped in, sure enough that Hanneman wouldn't mind Manuela asking him in on his behalf. He'd noticed they tended to bicker a lot, but there seemed to be a trust underneath it. He'd assumed them married when first he met them, though he'd since learned this was not actually the case. He didn't know if they were involved or not, but in either case there was a certain harmony to the way they interacted that belied the surface-level contradictions in their personalities. Perhaps that was just what happened when two people worked closely together for long enough.

“Please, ignore her. It is her birthday today and she has seen fit to spend it harrassing me," Hanneman spoke, clearing his throat as he regarded Cyril. “Thank you for coming, Professor. I've heard much about you, lately," he began, his eyes narrowing in Manuela's direction before he continued, “Specifically, that you were able to awaken the Sword of the Creator's power. Thusly, it seems the true nature of your Crest has been uncovered."

“I had, of course, seen your Crest before, however; I faild to recognize its true nature, at first. Eventually, it dawned on me that what is visible is perhaps merely a small part of a greater whole," he paused to shoot a glance in Manuela's direction, eyes narrowed slightly before he turned back to Cyril.

“In other words, your Crest is too significant to be detected when using normal instruments."

“Do mark the moment, Cyril," Manuela said with a sniff. “Hanneman's just admitted he doesn't always know best. It probably won't ever happen again, so you really should consider this an occasion. I, for one, will be considering it a little birthday gift."

They were certainly... something. “Happy birthday, Professor Manuela," he said first.

She grinned at him. “You don't have to use titles with us, dear. We're colleagues, after all. Please, do just call me Manuela."

He nodded, which seemed to be sufficient to satisfy her, then turned to Hanneman. “I don't really understand," he admitted. “The Archbishop said the Sword was much stronger than other Relics; can Crests be more or less significant as well? I know there are Major and Minor ones, but I thought that was just variance within the same Crest."

“Yes, well," he began, folding a hand beneath his chin. “It is speculated that Major Crests and Minor Crests differ depending on how strongly the bloodline runs in that particular person. The stronger the bloodline, it is more likely that a person will inherit a Major Crest. Minor Crests usually mean that the bloodline is present, but distant."

“After this discovery, though, I began researching Crests that might fit the description of yours. It allowed for a temporary hypothesis," he stated, inclining his head towards Cyril. “I could not be certain, however. The Crest my conclusions led me to was far too unusual." He closed his eyes for a moment as if some inner turmoil was plaguing him. “A Crest thought to have disappeared from this world in the millennium since the fall of Nemesis, the King of Liberation. What you possess... it's the Crest of Flames." He opened his eyes, a strange mirth to them, as he grinned at Cyril.

“Your ability to wield the Sword of the Creator has unequivocally proven my hypothesis. A legendary power, dormant since time immemorial, and now resurrected..." Hanneman sounded rather excited about the prospect of such a Crest existing. “There can be no doubt that this ancient power resides within you."

“Well, aren't you special?" Manuela sounded more amused than anything, perhaps at Hanneman's excitement. “Don't go letting it get to your head, now."

Cyril certainly wasn't planning on it. As far as news went, he wasn't so sure this was the good kind. After all... Maurice's Crest was considered a curse, and all he did was overstrain himself fighting for the side the Church considered right. According to the story Sorcha had told him, Nemesis was quite literally the thing all those people were fighting against. He could understand why Hanneman would be so interested—he likely didn't care—but why on earth would Rhea treat this as though it were good news? Especially considering the way she treated those she believed were against the Church?

Manuela regarded him sympathetically, perhaps sensing the direction of his thoughts. “Try not to let it bother you," she said simply. “There are very few people who believe the ancestors who first bore Crests have any impact on the kind of people their descendants are today. Honestly not everyone cares about Crests at all in the first place; I certainly don't." She glanced almost mischievously at Hanneman there, as though she were expecting an entertaining response.

Hanneman regarded her with a flat stare. “Don't be absurd, of course they have no impact on their descendants. You cannot pass on personality traits through a Crest, after all," Hanneman retorted, pursing his lips in Manuela's direction. “And you wouldn't care about Crests because you do not bear one. I study them so as to see how we can achieve a way not to rely on them," he answered, his eyes narrowing lightly in the process.

“For what it's worth, having the Goddess' Crest is not entirely without merit. How you came to possess it, though, is a rather intriguing detail. I must research, further. Could it be that Nemesis had a descendant, lost to the pages of history?" The idea seemed exciting to him. “But do not let us keep you, Cyril. If I come across anything further, I will be sure to let you know.

“I suppose we should go and see about your birthday cake, Manuela," he stated, a faint color dusting his cheeks. It disappeared just as quickly, though, as if it were never there to begin with.

Manuela smiled the cat's own grin, putting away her nail file and standing. “Hmm, I could get behind that idea," she replied. “See you around, Cyril."

With a wink, she took her leave behind Hanneman, and Cyril exited as well, so the other man could lock his office door. Choosing a random route through the monastery, he began to walk, seeking out the place in his head the girl resided. It was difficult, for him to find her, whereas she seemed to be able to speak to him whenever she wanted.

As it happened, she seemed to be interested enough now to answer the summons.

The Goddess's Crest, she said, sounding more perplexed than anything. Why would you of all people bear such a thing, I wonder. And what does it mean that this Nemesis person had it, if he was supposedly the enemy of this Church's founder?

There's also the fact that the Goddess's name meant something to you. Or me, or... us. Sometimes, the distinction wasn't entirely clear to him, to be honest. Especially considering that they were both missing what seemed to be large pieces of their memories. And that one or both of us recognized that canyon...

Where the goddess supposedly alighted, yes, the girl replied, sounding almost distracted to him. I feel as though the answer is close, and yet... I fear that if we push for it, it might be like last time. She could only be referring to the splitting pain in his head; it seemed she didn't want to put him through it if it were avoidable. He supposed that was something to be grateful for, although—

Perhaps tonight, he said, expelling a breath. If there's no one around and I can sleep afterwards, it shouldn't be that bad.

He felt her silent agreement, and then she receded to the back of his mind again. He'd wound up in the courtyard, unsurprisingly, and at the moment it seemed to be occupied by a few of his students. Sorcha and Amalthea were there, along with Mercer and Vridel. The others must be elsewhere.

Immediately, he felt that strange sense of warmth that seeing them so often provoked, though it felt as well like something was missing, and he identified the cause with a stab of unfamiliar guilt. Senka. He really should have pulled her aside and told her first about the mission—he felt like a fool for not doing so.

“Professor!" It would seem that Sorcha had noticed him; she waved him over with a small smile.

Without any reason to refuse, he joined them, taking a seat beside Vridel. “Perhaps you might have some input, Professor," the prince said by way of greeting. “We are attempting to plan birthday festivities for Senka. Apparently hers is three days hence."

“I'm thinking it should be small," Sorcha said. “Maybe just us here, even, but... I'm kind of stumped on what to do. She's not really much of a party person, usually, and I don't want to make her do anything she's uncomfortable with. Normally at home we'd just go out in Fhirdiad for a day but... there's not really much of the same stuff to do here."

"Would she enjoy an afternoon outside the Monastery?" he asked. "The far side of the lake might be a peaceful area."

Sorcha's eyes widened. “There's a field," she murmured, glancing once at Mercer before quickly looking away. “With lots of wildflowers. We used to swim a lot when we were kids, maybe... maybe we could pack a lunch and spend the day by the lake?"

“Would there be swimming involved?" Amalthea asked, her brows furrowed lightly. Mercer snorted softly and nodded his head.

“I'm sure there would be if there's a lake," he responded, causing the furrow to deepen. “Why, Thea? Afraid of the water?" he stated, raising an amused brow in her direction. Amalthea narrowed her eyes at him.

“I can't swim," she murmured.

“Well I'm sure some of us can teach you, if you'd like."

Cyril nodded his agreement, as did Sorcha. Swimming was something he knew how to do, though oddly he couldn't remember learning, exactly.

“And you don't have to swim," Sorcha pointed out. “We can bring other things to do, like field games and things." She seemed to be getting excited about the prospect. “I don't think Senka's ever really been a gift person, but I saw this scarf down at the market the other day if anyone wants to chip in for a group gift. It's really colorful—I know she'll like it."

“Certainly," Vridel agreed.

Cyril made a soft noise of affirmation, though he thought he had another idea as well. He didn't think both would be too much; he'd gotten Sorcha something for hers, too, though he'd waited until after the others had cleared away from the party to give it. He planned to make sure everyone he taught got something on their birthdays, or at least at the end of the year if he missed the right day.

“Oh, I'll chip in, too!" Amalthea stated. Mercer nodded his head as well in agreement. “We should probably not surprise her, though. Senka doesn't look like the type who likes surprise birthdays. How are we going to convince her to come with us?" Amalthea asked. Mercer seemed to have an idea as he grinned rather widely.

“We get Teach to do it. Or Sorcha, one of the two," Mercer spoke, causing Amalthea to smile. “I'm sure she wouldn't refuse Teach if he asked, and of course she wouldn't say no to Sorcha at all, right?" he continued, winking in Sorcha's direction.

Sorcha seemed to consider this for a moment. “Well I don't want to surprise her on the spot," she agreed, “but I would like it to be kind of spontaneous, for her. But that means I'll have to do a lot of the setup earlier in the day. Maybe if the rest of you can help me, Professor Cyril wouldn't mind explaining the situation closer to the time and asking her to come?"

He was sort of surprised so much confidence was being placed in him, here. Persuasiveness was not a trait he'd ever been accused of having before, but he supposed Senka was a reasonable person and probably wouldn't mind a quiet afternoon with a few friends like this. It shouldn't be too difficult to convince her, he hoped.

"I'll try," he said with a small nod.

“Oh, trust me, Teach, you won't have to try very hard," Mercer retorted, rolling his eyes slightly before he turned and grinned at Vridel as if the Prince would catch on to what he said. “So, we have three days to do this. Thea, I love you and all, but please try not to get too excited about it and accidentally let it slip, alright?" he stated, causing Amalthea to give him a flat stare.

“I'm not the one who admitted to trying to kiss a fish. It's no wonder you and Sir Ladon get a long so well," was her flat response. Mercer laughed at the response, either not ashamed of it or taking it in a completely different way.

Vridel snorted, far more amused by this exchange than it seemed to really warrant.

Cyril figured it was something only he and Mercer knew about, but in any case he was... oddly happy to see them enjoying themselves. It had a way of making the rest of it seem to matter less.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Senka Rinaldi Character Portrait: Amalthea von Kreuz Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Sorcha Blaiddyd Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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#, as written by Aethyia


I.Y. 1180 - Verdant Rain Moon - Tuesday the 12th
Derdriu (South Gate) - Midmorning - Sunny
Vridel von Hresvelg


Vridel wasn't exactly sure how Cyril had managed to convince the Archbishop that a field trip to the Alliance capital was a good idea, but he certainly couldn't complain. Given the historical tensions between Fódlan's three countries, it was unusual for members of other royal families to visit such places, and he was well aware that he and Sorcha would both be under a great deal of scrutiny from the nobles here during the trip, but he thought perhaps it might be well worth it. He was scrutinized wherever he went and whatever he did, after all; this wasn't so unusual.

Mercer had seemed rather surprised to learn that the Professor's entire Saturday group would be accompanying him home, along with his mother and Lady Lyanna, but not even they as the future sovereigns of countries generally got to say no to the Archbishop, if he'd even have been inclined to in the first place.

As they approached the southern gate of Derdriu, Vridel scanned the landscape from the back of his borrowed horse. Even at march pace on horseback, it was a two-day journey from the Monastery. The temperature was noticeably more moderate here, and less humid, no doubt the ocean's influence. He was looking forward to seeing the so-called Aquatic City, said to be one of the world's most beautiful places, and more in harmony with the bordering ocean than even the Empire's grand ports.

Before they drew too close, the fliers in their group landed, which mostly just meant Sorcha, Mercer, and Lady Lyanna, who sat sidesaddle astride a pristine white pegasus mount. “Something amiss?" he inquired, glancing between them.

Sorcha pursed her lips. “There is a rather large party ahead, waiting at the gates. They appear to be flying the Crest of Gloucester."

“Flashy bastard," Mercer mumbled as he appeared slightly in front of Vridel. “He just wants to be seen; he's like a peacock who has to strut his feathers. Don't mind him, too much, though. Hopefully you all won't have to interact with him, much," he continued, not bothering to hide his disdain. Mercer didn't appear to like the Duke of Gloucester.

“Why is that?" Senka asked, pulling up to Vridel's left on Libi, the black gelding she'd requested. Mercer pursed his lips in her direction.

“Don't be too surprised if he tries to proposition you for... things," he stated, causing Senka's brows to furrow.

“Proposition? Like what?" Amalthea asked, clearly not understanding the reference Mercer had stated. She was on Senka's otherside, mounted on a chestnut mare.

“Don't worry about it, too much, Thea. Just stay close to us, or your sister during the stay," Mercer replied, giving Amalthea a small grin.

Vridel, of course, knew very well what things Mercer was referring to. Honestly someone like that would be lucky to get Thea to understand what he wanted, never mind the rest. He would know—he hadn't yet really succeeded at the first. Perhaps it would have been easier if he knew exactly what he wanted in the first place.

The Professor, riding near the front of the column with Judith, looked rather indifferent as usual, though he did squint a bit at the gate, as if to assess the waiting party.

Sorcha looked slightly upset by something, but nudged Lady forward on foot with nothing more than a sigh.

Vridel figured that was that, and the group resumed its progress towards the gate. He supposed they looked rather less impressive than a company of knights; they were distinctly less unified in bearing, with fliers and pack horses and a small wagon in their midst. If anything, the patchwork of it would resemble merchants traveling with an armed guard, or... mercenaries, perhaps.

He found he didn't hate that so much. Better that marching with Church banners waving obnoxiously over their heads, anyway.

As they drew closer, the figured resolved more distinctly. At the head of the group was who could only have been Gloucester. He rode in polished silver armor, the family standard of a rose crowned with the Gloucester Crest obvious on the bannermen behind him. His horse was an Imperial charger, Vridel was sure of it, a large white one, and he'd foregone the helm of his armor in favor of meeting them barefaced. He was probably quite confident in his looks, as that type so often were. Admittedly, he wasn't unattractive—the dark lavender shade of his hair was unusual enough to be striking, and his features certainly qualified as elegant, in a masculine sort of way.

When the party was close enough, he and his two bannermen detached from the rest of his party, riding forward to meet them. It was all very chivalrous, and entirely unnecessary in Vridel's opinion, though he supposed it was all about knowing one's audience. He knew at least that Faerghus had a great cultural appreciation for this sort of thing. Perhaps he meant to impress Sorcha? He could have done worse if so.

“Hail, visitors!" Gloucester called out, drawing to a stop a polite distance away. “Might I ask if Her Highness Princess Sorcha Blaiddyd is among you?"

There was a beat of silence, during which Vridel threw a look at Mercer, curious as to whether this sort of thing was normal for the Duke.

Mercer mumbled something beneath his breath, but glanced directly at Gloucester. “Couldn't you wait until we were inside? We've been traveling for two days, Matteo, don't you think the Princess would like to rest first? As well as my other guests?" he stated, clearly irritated by something.

“Mercer," the Duke replied, clearly not entirely pleased to be addressed by his first name and returning the insult in kind. “How... pleasant, to see you. As for the occasion, well—that is precisely why I and mine are here. I had thought to give your... party a proper escort through the city, so as to better avoid the crowds and suchlike. I had also intended to invite my intended to board at my estate here in the city. I should hate for House Riegan to find themselves... overtaxed, with such an abundance of guests."

At this point, Sorcha cleared her throat, raising her hand briefly before swinging down from Lady's back. “I'm Sorcha," she said, looking rather like she was bracing herself for something.

Gloucester blinked at her, perhaps slightly taken aback either by her directness or the fact that she had in fact made the journey astride an 'unlucky' beast. He swiftly dismounted himself, and approached her.

“Ah, so the rumors of your exquisiteness are true, Your Highness." Gloucester delivered the line with perfect sincerity. Looked at a certain way, it was almost impressive. Vridel didn't think he could have willingly said that seriously. “No—on second thought, I daresay they have not done you enough credit." Reaching forward, he took up Sorcha's hand, startling her, it seemed, as she'd been about to dip into a bow. Instead, though, he raised her hand to his lips, brushing them lightly over her knuckles. Mercer openly glared at Gloucester when he did.

“Enchanted to meet you, my Princess."

“U—um," Sorcha stammered, flushing a bright pink. “I'm sure it's nothing so—"

“Nonsense!" the Duke cut off her self-effacing reply with a wave of his free hand. “But please—Mercer does have a point. I should hate for our esteemed guests to be kept from the rest they so surely deserve!" Keen eyes swept the group. If Vridel had not been practiced in looking for such things, he probably would have missed the way the Duke subtly lingered on the other women as well, but as it was he definitely noticed.

This, he thought, could get ugly.

Reluctantly parting with Sorcha's hand, Gloucester remounted. “Please: ladies, gentlemen. Allow the Knights of House Gloucester to serve as your honor guard and guides to the fair city of Derdriu. If there is anything you should require during your stay, do not hesitate to ask it of us." Without so much as waiting for a reply, he wheeled his charger and began to lead the way to the gate, his bannermen flanking him.

Mercer didn't say anything, and motioned Sir forward to follow behind Gloucester's company. “This is unnecessary, even if he was being serious about it. This is all for show, is it not?" Senka asked, riding beside Vridel and glancing at him from the corner of her eye. She must have noticed something, otherwise she wouldn't have mentioned it to Vridel. They were close enough that she didn't speak loud so that the others could hear her, though.

“Oh, it's completely unnecessary," Vridel replied, just as quietly. “But he's not doing it because we need an escort. He's doing it to get one over on Mercer. It's plain they don't like each other, even before Sorcha figures into it. And Mercer's all but given himself away with some of his reactions, so I'll wager our 'friend' the Duke just got some information out of this that makes it entirely worth pretending to care about any of us."

This was real politics, not the friendly ribbing they all gave each other at the Academy. And everyone here would be watching them all very closely, looking for weaknesses and exploitable character flaws, anything that might give them any kind of inside knowledge of or leverage over himself, Mercer, Sorcha, or the Church. And like it or not, that meant the others were automatically just as involved.

“This so exciting! We're being escorted by knights, almost. It's... almost romantic!" Thea didn't seem to have any reserves about being led into the city. She was, as usual, very excited about it. She glanced between Vridel and Senka and merely smiled. Mercer had remained in front, though from the way his shoulders were tense, he didn't seem to be happy about any of this. Whether it was because of Gloucester's actions, or the fact that he stated that Sorcha was his intended. It might have been both.

Sorcha hastened to remount, riding a little behind most everyone else. She seemed to be looking down at her hand, as though something about it was suddenly fascinating. Vridel tried not to grimace; he recognized the effect, having intentionally induced it more than once himself. Fortunately, Cyril rode up beside her a moment later and said something he couldn't hear, drawing her into some kind of conversation. That wasn't as bad, perhaps.

“Emphasis on almost," Vridel murmured, a response to Thea that he didn't really intend for her to hear. Of all the people in this group, he figured she was the most likely to fall for even the thinnest pretenses, and made a mental note to keep an eye on her.

They passed through the gate and into the city proper thereafter. It was a lively place; Gloucester had at the very least not been false when he'd implied that the crowds were large. They parted for the knights, though, who formed a protective ring around the group, keeping them apart from those milling on foot. It wasn't too hard to pick out the main threads of conversation, though.

“Duke Gloucester's Knights—"

“Is that young Lord Riegan?"

“That hair—the Imperial Lily?" Vridel frowned at that one, head snapping to the side to glare in the direction it had come from. A cluster of young women startled, then giggled, one or two of the bolder ones waving at him. One of them actually winked. He suppressed a sigh. At least it wasn't meant in insult, he supposed.

“What are they doing here? The Church?"

To his credit, Mercer was back to his normal self, smiling at the crowd and waving. Some of the people seemed to be intimidated by Sir, but the wyvern merely kept his head held high, as if he were strutting. Amalthea had moved a little further up on her horse, and Senka moved with her. They seemed to be spared from any of the chatter. Senka wasn't wearing anything that linked her to the church, save for the fact that she was riding with them. Amalthea was wearing the church's sigil embroidered on her cloak, so that was a giveaway.

Cyril wore only his father's sigils, and otherwise looked exactly like the mercenary he was, so even riding next to Sorcha, he drew no particular attention beyond what an attractive human being in such company would. Sorcha, too, was conspicuously without any of the trappings of anyone who might seem to be the Princess of anywhere, and looked, no doubt, more like she was with the Professor than any of the rest of them.

For his part, Vridel preferred to do what he'd always done; ignore the crowd. He didn't hate commoners by any means; he wasn't the kind of noble who disrespected the contributions of his people to his country. But he wasn't really the kind of bright, open personality Mercer was, and the idea of trying to fake it was... unpleasant.

Mercer had actually fallen back a bit, so that he was now riding next to Vridel. “Man, I hope this goes by fast. I really don't want to be here," he muttered, smile still in place as if nothing was wrong. It was easy to tell, at least for Vridel, that Mercer was upset, and that Gloucester was the one responsible for it. “Sorry you have to be here to witness this little game, though. Maybe you can help a friend out, yeah?" he stated grimly, though not at all serious about the last part.

“It's fine," Vridel replied easily. “I promise you I'm used to them. You want me to stab him or something? I can make it look like an accident. Or Reynard can, whichever."

“I'd say please, but it wouldn't really work that well," he replied, pushing a sigh through his nose. “I honestly don't know what Gloucester has planned. He is laying it on thick, and that's saying something for someone like him. No offense, Vi, but at least you have more class," Mercer stated, his smile turning into a small grin.

“I really don't have to tell you this since you already know, but," Mercer began, but paused as his face took on a more serious note, “watch your back. Closely. People here, you know exactly the kind they are, but they," he nodded towards the others, “they don't know. We should make sure they're at least going to be okay, and... if you could do me a solid. Watch Sorcha. I don't trust Gloucester alone with her. I trust her, but not him."

Ordinarily Vridel would remind Mercer that Sorcha was quite a capable person, and rather able to look out for herself, but... he was fairly sure Gloucester has also attended the Academy, and the years of experience since didn't seem to have been useless. The knightly act was in part an act, to be certain, but the discipline of the Duke's men, the surety of his posture on his horse... he was quite convinced there was real skill underlying that. All the more unfortunate.

So instead he expelled a breath, and gave Mercer a short nod. “Your esteem flatters me," he drawled sarcastically. “But... yes. I will keep an eye on them as well."

Mercer seemed to relax at the statement, almost as if he was not as burdened as he'd been when they arrived. “Thanks, Vi. You're a solid friend," he stated, rolling out his shoulders as he nudged Sir back to the front.

He did wonder about that, but... well, perhaps it would do for now.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Senka Rinaldi Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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I.Y. 1180 - Verdant Rain Moon - Tuesday the 12th
Derdriu - Early Evening - Warm
Senka Rinaldi


When they had arrived at the von Riegan manor, Senka had never seen anything so beautiful. The designs of the architecture were beautiful, and not at all like the ones back in Duscur. Not even Faerghus could compare to it. They had been greeted by a few other nobles of the Leicester Alliance when they'd arrived further into Derdriu, however; none of them seemed as elegant as Gloucester made himself. She'd spotted one of the lords, or Dukes—she really didn't know who he was—staring at her, specifically. It didn't make her uncomfortable, though. Senka was used to people staring at her for various and obvious reasons.

Their mounts had been led to the stables, and everyone had been ushered near the foyer of the manor, however; she been separated from Sorcha and the others by the time she'd made it to the foyer. Glancing around, she pursed her lips together until she spotted Lady Judith. The woman noticed her, and grinned. “Hey, kid, you lost?" she asked, making her way towards Senka.

“No," she replied. “I am waiting on the others," she continued, keeping her eyes on the von Riegan woman. Judith huffed lightly, and shook her head.

“You'll be waiting for awhile. Gloucester wanted to speak to your Princess, and the von Kreuz lady and her sister were escorted to their rooms," Judith spoke, causing Senka to purse her lips. “Don't know about the Imperial boy, but your teacher was around here somewhere." She shrugged in a nonchalant manner, reminiscent to Mercer's shrugs. She grinned, then, as if a thought crossed her mind. It was sly, almost mischievous in nature.

“You can join me, though. I'm headed out for a drink, and I'd love to hear all about my future daughter," she stated suddenly, grinning at Senka. She wasn't so sure if she should be seen drinking with a lord of the Alliance, let a lone Mercer's mother, however; Senka thought about it briefly, before shaking her head.

“I couldn't tell you much about them, honestly," she stated. Judith barked a short laugh as if she found something funny. Senka wasn't too sure what it was, though.

It wasn't more than another moment later before Cyril appeared from a side door—one that led into one of the guest hallways. He held it open for a moment, and Vridel stepped out behind him, looking somewhat more irritated than usual. They spotted Senka and Judith, and made their way over.

“Did I hear something about drinks?" Vridel muttered, flicking his eyes between them. “Because I was just going to ask where the nearest tavern is."

“That's right," Judith replied, nodding in Vridel's direction. “I invited your pretty friend, here, for some drinks so that I could learn more about my future daughter," she seemed to explain. “You're her Teach, right Cyril? And you've," she turned her attention to Vridel, “spent some time with her. Care to tell me all about Sorcha Blaiddyd over drinks?" She seemed to be inviting the other two. Senka wasn't so sure that was a good idea, however; some part of her didn't mind.

“I do not mind going if they are as well," Senka stated as she nodded her head in Cyril and Vridel's direction.

“Great. What say you two?"

The two exchanged a glance, after which Cyril shrugged. Vridel seemed to take this as an acceptable answer, because he turned his attention back to Judith. “If you're buying, you can ask me whatever you want about her."

Judith huffed lightly and crossed her arms over her chest. “I can ask, yes, but you better answer them. I know your type, Imperial boy, but yes, I will be buying the drinks," she grinned at them and motioned for them to follow her. It wasn't long before they reached the nearby tavern, and Judith ushered them all inside. They found a table nestled in the back corner of the place while Judith seemed to place an order. She returned not too long afterwards with a large pitcher, and four cups. She placed one in front of Cyril, Vridel, and Senka before she sat down.

“Alright, so, let's start with you since you seem to be glued to Sorcha's hip. What do you know of their current relationship?" Judith seemed to jump right into the questioning. Senka blinked slowly as Judith began filling up her cup, and offering the pitcher to the other two at the table.

“They are friends, however," she paused, her eyes sliding towards Vridel before she returned her gaze back to Judith. “I'm not sure it's my place to say..." Judith pursed her lips together and leaned back in her chair, one of her arms draped casually over the back.

“C'mon kid, take a drink, and then tell me," Judith drawled, motioning towards the cup in front of Senka. Senka furrowed her brows, and sighed. Reaching towards the cup, she lifted it to her face, and breathed in the scent. It smelled fairly strange, stronger than most drinks she remembered her father used to partake in, however; she finally placed the cup to her lips, and took a drink. She immediately regretted it as she coughed, the liquid burning the back of her throat. Judith seemed to find it amusing as she laughed.

Cyril lifted a hand to pat her back, with just enough force to help the cough settle. He seemed to be having no such difficulty with his own drink; half of it had been summarily consumed already. Vridel was a little slower, but he'd clearly had at least a little practice, if the lack of spluttering was any indication.

“It's not that big a deal, Sen," he said with a shrug. “Gossiping about your friends is practically in the rules of friendship. You don't give away anything you were told in confidence, but everything else is fair game if you want to mention it."

That was easy for him to say. Everything Sorcha had told her was in confidence, and if she told... well, she supposed it didn't really matter. Sorcha was, technically betrothed to Mercer, now, and Judith was Mercer's mother. She supposed it wouldn't hurt? “Well, Sorcha has fancied Mercer for quite a while," she began, pursing her lips in the direction of her cup. She took another drink, going a little slower, and winced slightly as the burning sensation in her throat subsided a little.

“For as long as I've known her, which has only been four years." Judith seemed intrigued by that statement.

“But Mercer hasn't been at the Academy not even a year, yet. How could she have fancied him for almost four years?" she asked, tilting her head in Senka's direction.

“She mentioned that she came here when she was a child, did she not?" Senka retorted, causing Judith to snort, and wave a dismissive hand in front of her face.

“Ah, that's right. Sorcha was just a small thing, then. Oh," she seemed to recall something suddenly, and leaned forward to rest her forearms on the table. “Mercer said he lost his stone around that time she was visiting. Does that mean... she's fancied him for that long?" she seemed rather interested in the answer. Senka thought it better to nod in reply, and did.

“She didn't know it was him, I don't think," Vridel added, taking another swallow of his drink. “Her memory's always been sort of patchy, but I met her when I was ten, so she'd have been about nine, and she told me she'd gotten the stone from 'a nice boy who made her smile,' I think were her words. She calls him her 'first love,' though if I'm being honest I doubt she's had a second. And innocent as it was, it meant a lot to her."

He pursed his lips, then, almost as if he were considering whether to say something. He must have decided it was worth doing so, though, because with a soft exhale he continued. “She's never really fit in, in Faerghus. She's too soft in a lot of ways, too radical in others. She's got it in her head that she's not allowed to like anything or be in any way feminine, because she has to be as close to a boy as possible. She used to think they'd like her, if she was. Even asked me how to act more like a boy. Me." He pointed to himself, no doubt an oblique reference to his rather pretty features.

“It was kind of flattering at the time, but only until I figured out why she cared."

“Why does it concern them so much, anyway?" Cyril asked, already refilling his glass from the pitcher.

Vridel sighed. “Since Loog, Faerghus has been a Kingdom. As in, only kings, and all of them with the Major Crest of Blaiddyd. Culturally, they take a lot of pride in being able to weather the harsh conditions of their country, and in being powerful despite their relatively small population. Every man in the country has military training, and they prize physical strength and chivalry, where the Empire favors a mix of magical supremacy and infantry, and the Alliance is best known for their archers, flyers, and cunning. No one says women aren't as important, but..."

“When you consider the average man and the average woman, the man comes out better on the traits they value, in part because he's trained for it," Cyril finished, brows drawing together.

Judith rolled her eyes, hard. “Yeah, well everyone knows Faerghus is ruled by idiots," she muttered, almost as if she were trying to offend the Kingdom. Senka didn't blame her. She knew Sorcha had her issues, but for them to be stemmed that deeply? For those things that were not in Sorcha's control? It made Senka angry. Sorcha was her gentle-hearted friend, the person whom Senka had depended on when her country had been destroyed, and her people killed. To her, Sorcha has always had a strong conviction, and would make a great Queen one day.

In Duscur, that wasn't the case. Everyone who showed the slightest talent, man or woman, in any field was trained for it, however; Duscur wasn't a war-trained nation. They had been much too peaceful, then. Her father had even allowed her to train with some of the knights, and learned the magic of her mother. She was trained in whatever she wanted. It didn't seem fair that Sorcha didn't get that chance.

“Hm, she doesn't have the best confidence in herself," which Senka understood. They shared a lot of those negative traits, but Senka thought that they were working through them. “It is a shame that she doesn't want to be feminine," Sorcha was a beautiful young woman, at least to Senka.

“Indeed, it's a shame. Well, that's going to have to change," Judith stated, throwing back her drink as if it were second nature to her. “There's a merchant in town who specializes in clothes and tunics that are quite beautiful on the right person, but are made in a way that even someone like Sorcha would enjoy them."

“How so?" Senka was quite curious, and Judith grinned.

“Well, there are tunics that shape the figure rather nicely, but they don't restrict movement. They'll make her look and feel like a warrior, but also help remind her that she is, first and foremost, a lady. There might even be a few things that will look lovely on you, kid, especially with your figure," Judith was quite bold in her statements, but it was enough that Senka felt her cheeks warm. She'd never been complimented like that before, and wasn't quite sure how to take it.

“Probably not even necessary," Vridel said with a teasing lilt. “Sen was ogled twice today. Even if you don't count Gloucester, since he stared at every woman with a pulse in our group," his lip curled in a faint sneer before smoothing away. “There was still that other fellow. Redhead, Deirdre was talking to him? I think she said he was her cousin, so that'd make him a Goneril, I suppose."

“Duke Alaric," Cyril supplied mildly. “My father and I did some work for him once, up near Fódlan's Locket. Border skirmish; he wanted it resolved quietly, so it would look like two groups of bandits had a dispute and both countries could overlook it. That was..." he paused, thoughtful. “Five years ago? I think he'd just inherited."

Judith barked a laugh at the remark. “Goneril? Really," she drawled, glancing towards Senka. Senka, however, pursed her lips in Vridel's direction, a strange burning sensation on her face. If she remembered, Sorcha had said that was what a blush felt like. She'd never had a reason to blush before, but now, what these people were saying? They were slightly embarrassing. “Goneril doesn't have a wife, yet, though I've never seen him interested in anyone before. Maybe he intends to woo little Sen, here," she continued, leaning her head onto her fist, her elbow propped up on the table as support.

Senka wasn't entirely sure how to take that. Woo? What did that word mean? “I'm certain he wasn't looking at me," she murmured into the rim of her cup, taking another drink. After all, why would anyone look at her? She wasn't... well, she didn't think she was, anyway.

“Oh, but Vi, here, says he was. It's alright, Sen, you're a beautiful person. I'm sure you've had your fair share of admirers." Judith stated, causing Senka's blush to deepen.

“I... haven't, no." She admitted softly. Her father had never pushed her into an arranged marriage, nor saw it fit to try and find a suitor for her. He wanted her to know what he had known, and fall in love with someone she wanted. She was loved by her people, but it wasn't the same thing. It didn't matter, though.

“Really, now. Well that'll change, I'm sure," Judith stated, her eyes sliding towards Cyril before they landed on Vridel. Senka thought she saw something mischievous in Judith's eyes, but it might have been the poor lighting in the tavern.

Vridel arched an eyebrow back at her, then shifted his attention to Senka with a sniff. He poured himself another drink. “Really. You and Sorcha are ridiculous. It's fine to admit you're attractive, you know. I, for example, am very good-looking. Does it make me a better person? No. But it's the truth; no point denying it." He shrugged. “Lady Judith here is likewise quite lovely, and no doubt partially responsible for the fact that Mercer is." He seemed to have absolutely no issue saying any of this. To him, they really did seem to just be facts.

“Professor Cyril, you'd say Senka's pretty, wouldn't you?" he asked offhandedly.

The table's attention moved at that, but Cyril only blinked, blank-faced as ever, and sat back in his chair, still working on his second drink. “No," he replied with a shrug of his own. “The better word is beautiful." He tilted his head, regarding her with sympathy. “But if you'd rather the topic of discussion change, you need only say so."

Senka could not bring herself to look Cyril in the eye. Her face was burning, and she was certain the color would be visible even against her skin. Judith seemed to find it amusing since she was laughing rather loudly. “Aren't you smooth with the ladies, Cy?" Judith spoke, glancing in Cyril's direction. Senka merely swallowed thickly, and kept her gaze on her cup.

“No?" he replied, seemingly vaguely confused. “Usually people are unnerved by my face. Including women." He pointed at his face, which if the sound of his voice was anything to go by, was characteristically inexpressive still.

Vridel barked a soft laugh. “Oh I'm sure not all of them are. It's a very nice face."

“It doesn't seem to bother the professionals, at least," Cyril agreed with a nod. “But I suppose they wouldn't show it even if it did."

Vridel snorted—hard enough that he immediately had to reach for a cloth napkin and hold it to his nose. He started to cough, interspersed with laughter. “You just—" He coughed again. “Mercer's going to be so mad he missed this."

“Vi has a very good point, though, Sen. Even Cy agrees that you're lovely, so now we just have to show the others how lovely you are. You and my future daughter, and maybe even the little verdant-haired girl. That's, of course, assuming I can steal her away from her sister. That von Kreuz lady seems pretty intense," she stated as if it were the easiest thing in the world to say. For someone like Judith, it probably was.

“I... um. Thank you. Vi. Cy—Cyril," she stuttered. She really couldn't look anyone in the eye right now.

Vridel, still chuckling, shook his head. “No need to thank us for stating facts, Sen."

Cyril, on the other hand, seemed inclined to take mercy on her obvious discomfort. “You were asking us about Sorcha, though? Or perhaps there is something you wish to tell about Mercer?" He seemed to have grasped the concept of gossip fairly quickly, if bluntly. He picked up the pitcher and topped off everyone's drinks as they awaited Judith's answer.

“Ah, you're no fun, Cy," Judith stated, waving a hand in front of her face. “As for the boy, you already know how he is. He's a little shit, but oh, did I tell you he used to be afraid of fish? Couldn't look at 'em at all. He said they were bad, or something like that. The boy was strange in his youth," she stated, throwing her drink back rather quickly. Senka merely pursed her lips together, taking a slow drink from her cup.

Vridel's laughter redoubled, though it wasn't clear why.

“He was also a very chubby kid. Cute as a wyvern, though," she added as if she were recalling a fond memory. Senka couldn't picture Mercer as a heavy-set child. He was lanky, but had strength in him. It was like his frame belied his true capability, but she supposed that might have been the way he carried himself. She could understand wanting to appear less threatening, or even not at all.

“You know, I could see it. Sorcha was this bony little thing—and small enough that she looked like a doll." Vridel shook his head, putting his chin in his hand and bracing his elbow on the table. “She had the fiercest eyes, though. Refused to cry about anything, though I suppose now I know why that is."

“As I remember it, the boy said he gave her that engagement stone as a way to make her stop crying," Judith responded, finishing off her drink. “But it was rather adorable when they were running together. The boy was this little ball of a kid, and Sorcha was chasing after him because of something he'd said. I wish there was a way to have captured that moment. It would be embarrassing to him if I could have shown it to everyone." Senka felt her lips tilting up at that moment.

She missed this. Missed talking with her mother and recalling fond memories with her father. To have her parents talk about her like that when they had visitors. It was nice, and she'd forgotten what that felt like. Even if they were teasing Mercer and Sorcha, she missed things like this.

“Oh, is that I smile I see, Sen?" Judith pulled Senka from her thoughts, and she turned to face the Lady.

“It is," she admitted, though she didn't know why, exactly.

“You really are too much," Judith stated and huffed lightly. “Well now, anything else I should know about the boy and Sorcha? Other than what's been stated? I feel like I have an understanding of my future daughter, but is there anything else I should know?"

Vridel appeared to consider this, then finally shook his head. “Honestly, just watching them will tell you the rest better than I ever could. They're idiots, both of them, and rather oblivious, but I suppose time might wise them up a little."

Judith huffed. “You've a point, Vi. It wouldn't hurt to push them in the right direction, though. The boy is stupid, but he's not dense." She glanced in Cyril's direction before turning to Senka. “I know a couple of people who are like that; they need the right push." Senka wasn't sure what that had meant, but she did not doubt Judith knew plenty of people. She was a Lady, after all.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Senka Rinaldi Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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I.Y. 1180 - Verdant Rain Moon - Wednesday the 13th
Duke Riegan Manor (Stables) - Morning - Cool
Senka Rinaldi


Senka pursed her lips together. She wasn't sure if she should be flattered or alarmed at the letter she had found outside her room this morning. It was... beautiful, she would admit. The things it said about her, comparing her to the moon or some ethereal creature, was causing her stomach to do strange flips. She knew the letter belonged to Alaric Goneril, the current Duke of House Goneril, however; she didn't understand why he was so adamant about telling her these things. She had found out that he was the young man who had been staring at her when they'd arrived in Derdriu, yesterday, when she had joined the others at the tavern. He was currently visiting the von Riegan manor, apparently speaking with Mercer. From what she'd been told, they were old friends, so it made sense for him to visit Mercer when he'd returned to Derdriu.

As if her thoughts had summoned him, though, Duke Goneril rounded the corner of the stables and his eyes softened in her direction. They were a pretty shade of blue, almost pale grey in some instances. His hair was fairly long for a noble, but Senka supposed that mattered very little in Derdriu. A lot of the nobles sported hair at least down to their shoulders, and Duke Goneril was no exception. The red was what caught her attention the most. It was rich and deep, and so beautiful. Just as he was, now that she could see his features properly. Not quite like Cyril, though. She dismissed that thought, as Duke Goneril approached.

“Good morning, Lady Senka," he stated, placing a hand on his heart as he bowed. She returned it, and offered him a more softened expression of the one she was wearing. It wasn't quite a smile, but he did seem to put her at ease. “I... hope you found my poem to your liking?" he asked. Senka blinked at him, but nodded her head. His expression shifted into a light smile, as his shoulders seemed to relax.

“It was beautiful," she admitted as he held out his hand, an invitation to give him her own. Hesitantly, she did, laying it with his, but felt her brows furrow. It didn't feel quite the same as when she'd held Cyril's hand. Cyril's hands had been warm and comforting. Duke Goneril's were warm as well, but she didn't quite feel the same comfort as she did from Cyril's. He brushed his lips over her knuckles, though, before releasing her hand.

“I am glad it was to your liking," he stated, straightening out his posture. “I was wondering if you would, perhaps, like to accompany me to dinner tonight? I—" he paused, a faint pink dusting his cheeks as he glanced away from her. His apparent nervousness was causing her to feel awkward, and she felt her own cheeks heat up. He spoke again before she could answer, though.

“I would like ask you if I may court you, properly," he stated, his eyes locking with hers. Senka was genuinely surprised, and she felt her eyes widen at the statement. He wanted to court her? Her? “Ah, you do not have to answer now, if you don't desire. I am willing to wait," he stated, taking a step back as if to give her some space. She appreciated the thought, because she wasn't entirely sure what was wrong with her chest. Her heart was beating rather fast, and it felt like her stomach was doing strange flips, again.

“I'm... flattered, really, Lord Goneril. May I have time to think about it?" she asked, watching as his expression shifted into one of hope. He smiled and nodded his head.

“Of course. Please, take your time. If you must leave Derdriu before you find an answer, please write to me once you do. It would bring me nothing but joy if it were a favorable response, but I will not harbor any ill-thoughts against you if it is not. I wish only the best for you, Senka. May... I call you that? Senka?" he asked. It was so genuine, and so... tender? She didn't know the word for it, and could only nod. He smiled once more before he bowed.

“I will have dinner with you tonight, if you'd like, Duke Goneril." Senka supposed it wouldn't hurt. His smile brightened more, and it made Senka think of the way Amalthea usually brightened. As if something were fascinating and worth smiling about. She was having a hard time believing that he was smiling because of her, though.

“Nothing would please me more, however; if you'd like, you may call me Alaric. I feel like it wouldn't put such a boundary between us," he stated. Senka blinked, swallowed thickly, and nodded. It was the only thing she could do since her words seemed to fail her. He bid farewell to her after that, leaving Senka to her thoughts. Libi stuck his head out of his stall, though, and nickered in her direction. She smiled at him, and laid a hand on his snout, rubbing it gently as she lost herself in her thoughts.

Why would he be interested in her? She was, for all he knew, just a schoolmate of Mercer's. Despite Vridel and Cyril's words, she didn't feel particularly attractive, so what would Duke Goneril gain by trying to pursue her? It didn't make sense. Some, strange, hopeful part of her, though, thought that maybe it was genuine. That he saw her and nothing else, and wanted the chance to be with her. Senka was touched, she really was, but... she felt confused. If she did agree to allow Alaric to court her, where would that leave her friends? Cyril?

That thought alone surprised her. Cyril was her teacher. Why should that matter? Why did that matter? Libi pushed her hand gently with his snout, calling her attention back to him. He snorted softly and she smiled in response. It was getting a little easier to do that, lately: smile. Senka thought that her friends were the root cause of it. They had made her... well, happy was too mild of a word to use. She loved them dearly for what they did to her, how they were bringing her back ever so close to her old self.

“What should I do?" she murmured, leaning to place her forehead against Libi's snout.

A soft humming alerted her to the fact that someone else was heading into the barn; oddly it seemed to be someone familiar to their animals, because several more heads popped over stall doors, as if in anticipation of something. The barn door on the far end slid open gently on its hinges, and then Cyril stepped through, leaving it open to the sunshine and breeze behind him. He had a large bale of hay slung over one shoulder and an oversized bucket of fish in the other—sure enough, he was the source of the humming, some gentle tune she didn't recognize. It could have been a lullaby, even, but perhaps he'd just slowed down something a little faster.

It ceased as soon as he spotted her and realized he was not alone, but he didn't seem startled. Instead, his expression softened slightly. “Good morning, Senka," he said, as if it were any ordinary day at the monastery and she'd arrived early to the classroom. He was dressed in the same manner as usual for their days off—a black and white tunic, black trousers, and boots. The tunic was short-sleeved in concession to the weather, and there were pieces of hay in his hair, but otherwise it could have been a morning at Garreg Mach.

“Come to take a ride? I hear the Duke's property has some nice scenery, and trails." He set the bale and bucket down, breaking the wire holding the former together with his hands and separating it out into flakes in preparation to feed the horses. “I can have Libi's ready for him if you'd prefer to get him some exercise first?" He paused long enough to look over at her inquiringly, one eyebrow slightly raised over the other.

Seeing him always made her feel strangely comfortable. Every little thing that she nitpicked about herself seemed to disappear whenever he was around, and she couldn't help the little smile that appeared on her face. “Ah, not exactly. I was just checking up on Libi to make sure he was doing alright and..." she paused and furrowed her brows, “I ran into Al—Duke Goneril." She corrected herself before she said his name. She didn't know why she didn't want to say it. It was, after all, just that: a name.

“You have hay stuck in your hair," she stated, pointing to a few pieces that seemed to stick out more than others. It was rather, dare she say, cute. She never really thought about Cyril that way, but the way he was now... it made her feel warm inside. She couldn't explain why, so she just smiled.

“Of course I do." Somehow, he managed with very little actual expression to convey the impression of rolling his eyes, and reached up with one hand, brushing it carelessly back and forth through his hair. Most of the hay fell out, but he definitely missed a few bits, and in the process mussed his hair, which was unruly at the best of times. It now stuck out in all directions, save the one piece that still managed to fall in front of his face.

“Did I get it?"

Senka laughed lightly, and shook her head. “No, you didn't," she replied, stepping closer to him for a moment. She reached up, hesitantly at first, almost unsure of herself before she ran her hands through his hair. She pulled the rest of the bits from his hair before running her fingers through it one last time to straighten it out. It would likely get messed up again, but at least now he didn't have to worry about there being hay in his hair.

His hair was softer than it looked, almost downy in its texture, and largely free of tangles despite the careless treatment he'd given it. He was quite quiet as she worked, tipping his chin down as if to make it simpler for her.

“There. Better," she spoke once she was sure she took everything out. “Now you look more presentable," she added blinking slowly before she pursed her lips together. She remained quiet for a few moments, debating whether or not she wanted to ask him something. She decided she wanted to, and glanced in his direction to meet his gaze. “May I ask your opinion on something, Cyril?" she decided to ask. She wanted to know what he would think of Duke Goneril and his... well, what he'd asked her, earlier.

He'd huffed quietly at the word 'presentable,' a vaguely-skeptical expression on his face, but it disappeared when the subject changed, and he tilted his head slightly to the side. “Always," he replied simply. “What is it?"

She opened her mouth to reply, however; she found she couldn't say the words she wanted to. Perhaps because she didn't know how to word them. Instead, she chewed the bottom of her lip, thoughtfully, before she came to a conclusion. “Duke Goneril wishes to court me," she spoke softly, and turned her gaze towards the floor.

“He is very kind, and nice, but... I don't... know." She truly did believe he was a nice person, but she didn't understand why he wanted to court her. Courtship usually meant that the interested party would eventually seek marriage. Senka wasn't too sure if she would want to marry someone who saw her, but didn't know her. “You know parts of my history, and you know who I am, but Duke Goneril does not. I... don't want to deceive him that way, but I also don't want him to be interested in someone who... possibly couldn't return what he wants. What... what would you do?"

Cyril clearly considered this for some time, his own lips pursing faintly. “This seems like the kind of thing worth a longer discussion," he admitted. “Do you mind if I feed everyone while I think about it? Then maybe we could take Libi and Sterling out for some exercise? I'd like to ask you some things before I answer, if you'd be all right with that."

“Of course," she replied. She valued Cyril's opinion, and if he had to think about the answer he wanted to give her, or ask her things in turn, she would gladly wait. And she did. She waited until he fed the animals which took almost half an hour. She didn't mind, though, since she said she would wait. Once she had Libi saddled, and she led the black gelding out of his stall, and mounted with relative ease. Libi seemed rather happy to be out of his stall, and merely snorted, pawing the ground almost impatiently. She supposed he enjoyed their walks as much as she did.

“I am ready when you are," she stated, glancing back towards Cyril.

He swung astride Sterling, one of the other Barn C residents at the monastery. The mare was one of those hotblooded Imperial sorts, with a deep grey-blue dappled coat and a silver mane and tail. She was a spirited horse—too much so for most riders, but she seemed to quite like Cyril, so he was usually the one who exercised her, since all of the grooms and most of the knights were wary of the fact that she tended to bite.

Gathering up the reins—he preferred an unusual, bitless bridle configuration—he steered her out of the barn, then waited for Senka and Libi to draw even before nudging her forward again. He seemed to have some idea where the trails went, because he pointed them down one without hesitating, heading for a copse of trees.

When they'd been walking for a few minutes, he turned to regard her evenly for a moment, expression thoughtful. “Do you want to be courted, Senka?" he asked. “Forget the who, for a moment. Is the what of it something you have any interest in?"

Perhaps, at one time she did. The idea of being courted by someone that had, perhaps, loved her, was something she had thought about when she was younger. It was childish of her to think so, but when she looked at her parents, she'd always wanted something like that.

“I did," she finally answered after a few minutes of silence. “When I was still Princess of Duscur, I always thought... that it would be nice. To find someone like that who could be... I don't know," she pursed her lips together and furrowed her brows. “But I think that is no longer available to me. Why would anyone want to court someone like me? I'm..." she paused, feeling a strange lump in her throat as she sighed softly. “I'm afraid of it. If someone found out who I was, I don't think they would want to court me at all. And... I'm scared of that."

Duke Goneril seemed like a genuinely nice person, who could be a good person to someone he eventually loved, but Senka couldn't picture herself as being that person. And she didn't want to do that to him. He has been nothing but kind to her since their arrival. It was though Cyril said, even if it wasn't Duke Goneril, Senka had a hard time believing that anyone would want to court her, and not hate her if they found out who she was.

Cyril considered this for a moment. “I didn't ask if you thought it was available to you," he pointed out gently, “only if it was something you would want." They emerged from the copse of trees, and suddenly the ocean and sky filled the horizon. There was a beach just a little ways ahead, a long, unoccupied stretch of sand without so much as a dock on it.

“For what it's worth..." he paused, steering them onto the sand before continuing. “I'm just a commoner, so maybe I don't know much about these things, but—I don't think any less of you for being from Duscur. I can't imagine I'm somehow unique. In fact I know I'm not. Vridel clearly doesn't, nor does Sorcha, and I have every confidence that the others wouldn't either."

But didn't he know that he was unique? That he was the exception to all of it? He didn't think any less of her for being from Duscur because he was a mercenary. He didn't have ties to any of the three kingdoms in Fódlan, so how could he have an actual opinion on her?

“Thank you for saying that, Cyril. It means a lot, it really does, but," she paused to sigh softly. “Things are a bit more complicated than that. And to answer your question, yes. It is something I want..." but it wasn't something she could have. She chanced a glance at him, and turned her attention back to the scenery in front of her. The ocean was beautiful, clear and full of life, it seemed. She gripped the reins a little tighter before she turned her attention back to Cyril.

“I suppose that is why I agreed to have dinner with him. Maybe... maybe this could be," she wasn't sure what it could be. This was a chance to get to know him, and he would get to know her. Maybe something would come of it. Maybe nothing would. “It couldn't hurt to try, right?"

“I don't think it would in this case, no," Cyril replied slowly. Sterling tossed her head, dancing sideways a little as they approached the waves, but he hardly seemed to notice, keeping his seat as a matter of reflex rather than conscious decision, by the look of it. “I don't know the Duke well, but he seems a decent man, and I doubt Mercer would be friends with anyone who wasn't. He's a good judge of character, in that way."

He regarded her steadily as their path took them close enough to the ocean for the waves to wet the horses' hooves before turning parallel to the waterline. “So if you don't mind the what, then I suppose the question is... how do you feel about the who?" He blinked. “Not that I think you need to have any definitive answers; you barely know him, after all." He shook his head.

“I'd be... cautious, if he was declaring love at first sight or something like that. I've never known anyone to say that and really mean it. But somehow I don't suppose it's that, right?"

Senka huffed a little before she started laughing lightly. “No, I do not believe that it is anything like that. Father used to tell me, though, that he fell in love with mother at first sight," she stated, smiling a little at the thought. “I think he was just spinning tales about it, but he really did love her. As for the who," she had to pause, and pursed her lips together. Who would she want to court her?

“Well, I suppose someone like you," or even Vridel, for that matter. They were all so nice to her, and treated her as if she were actually worth something. Nevermind that they were her friends.

His eyes widened slightly at that, before he shifted them away from her and towards the ocean. “That's... not exactly what I meant," he murmured. There was something almost slightly... thicker about his tone, though it was hard to identify, and he cleared his throat anyway, rendering the point a rather moot one. “Maybe, uh—" He seemed a bit lost, and when he turned back to face her, there seemed to be just the faintest hint of color to his skin. It was warm out, but the expression he was making was a bit unusual, too, almost as if he were slightly flustered.

“Never mind. It seems to me that if it's something you want and someone you think could potentially be a good fit, well... why not at least give dinner a try? It's not—it's not like you have to decide right then. But if you don't try, you won't know, right?"

“It would be worth a try," she admitted, unable to meet his gaze for some reason. She didn't understand it, herself, but she could feel her cheeks warm lightly. “Thank you, Cyril, for listening to... my... dilemmas. If you do not mind, I'd... like to speak about it with you again. I value your insight and your company a great deal."

“Of course," he said quietly. The request somehow pulled another one of those little smiles from him. “I'm here for you, Senka. Whatever you'd like to talk about."

Tilting his head, he smiled a touch more. “Should we let them run for a bit? The sand should be good exercise."

She nodded her head; that sounded like a good idea, and so she spurred Libi forward.