Chapter 33: Patron Journey; Cultist Camps (P2)
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POV change.

Looking out this window used to be my favourite thing to do. I built-rebuilt the Town Hall purposefully to have my station above the populace. Looking out the window to remind me that while I was a Noble, I wasn’t too different from the people left out there in the mud. And with that inspiration I worked hard with the ambition of turning Carbina into an economically important piece of land.

Being a village there wasn’t much question to what land I could expand into, the general answer was everything around me. After all, there weren’t many land owners seeking to settle next to a backwater. This fact is the advantage villages have but their leaders, the Mages acting as Mayor either as a punishment or a thrill-seeking activity would never understand this. The big picture would never be apparent to those satisfied with doing just well enough to get accepted back into aristocratic society.

Though, I wouldn’t lie to myself. If I were afforded the option of returning to proper aristocratic society then I doubt I would be as magnanimous as I find myself to be.

Carbina is all the luxury I can afford, but not for long. Carbina Village may be the throwaway fief my family wants to dearly forget and in turn its were they throw every other thing they want to forget; Offending Mages, unseemly favours and of course, deviant daughters.

The door clicks open and I turn. It’s Matilda. I smile.

“So, what do you make of them?”

“Ah, yes. “I gasp as I toss myself onto my chair and fish out a particularly fancy piece of paper. Already Matilda is giggling.

I take a breath and begin reciting, “To all pious leaders of the Great and Holy Kingdom of Ire, I call upon you, to seek aid and give warning. A Necromage has become apparent in the Kingdom, the fiend is weak but as any infectious injury to the body, it festers, grows and draws strength from killing the pillars of health and longevity in the body. Already the fiend has challenged the reigning Mayor of Ioina village and has enchanted the populace with its offensive magics. If this fiend is not put down by the eternally loyal servant, Perlman of House Venri then I prompt you; beware of a raggedy stranger wandering into your domains and preaching fealty to Gods other than Anera, beware this vile Necromage for he is weak but his tongue slithers with sweet smelling lies of loved ones, friends and even enemies pulled from the bosom of Anera is a clear act of heresy. May the Synagogue guide your hands in this matter. Long live the King, blessed is his name in the grace of Anera.”

By the time I’m done Mathilda is seated on my desk trying hard not to fall off as she laughs.

“That letter gets me every time.” She gasps.

I pull out another paper from my drawer, “Remember the picture?” I can’t help mirroring her grin as I wave the drawing.

She takes it out of my hand and laughs a bit more at the awful drawing, her delightful laughter unfortunately begins to die down quick as she begins to realize.

“Ah, uhm, this couldn’t be…” she starts, unsure and nervous.

“It is and it’s alright, I have everything under control.”

“I-if he’s here then that means,” she gasps, losing her breath in her words and growing panic. “That means he killed Perlman.” She huffs, jumping off the desk and pacing about the room.

“I know it seem dire bu-”

“Dire? Leriva, Perlman was a B-rank mage. I can barely manipulate mana and you’re a C-rank. We do not have this under control.”

I get off my chair and grab her hand, enveloping it in mine. “Listen, the Synagogue doesn’t like us, they don’t like him either so we at least have that in common. There isn’t any reason why he’d challenge me. And if he does, I have that new summon, the one that’ll get me to B-rank.”

She gives me an unsure look, shaking her head as she speaks, “You can barely hold that summon for a minute.”

“Three minutes.”

“Still, you need to be at full strength just to summon it and three minutes later you’re unconscious. If the Necromage challenges you do you really think you can defeat him in three minutes?”

She has a point, a very valid one. But still…

“The letter said he was weak, Mathilda,” I take her other hand in mine and get down to her eye line. “I know you automatically want to think of the worse case scenario but I want you to think of him as an ally and not an enemy.”

“Well, that’ll give us a big boon but throw us in deeper straits with the Synagogue, we can’t harbour a Necromage, Leriva.”

I nod, “No, we can’t. But for five years the Synagogue has left us to be beset on all sides by a Cult they openly rebuke, they obviously want one of us to cancel the other out. If the Synagogue wants us dead so much condemn an entire village of innocents then I say we’re as deep as it gets.”

“Not so deep they’d sic the Following on us I hope.” She mutters.

“Long term the bigger enemy is the Synagogue, Matilda. The Necromage is strong, but he isn’t X-rank yet. He didn’t arrive with an army, he didn’t demand my immediate surrender, he didn’t ask me to serve his god. Nothing. It’s the complete opposite instead, he is hunting the Cult, with his kind of power, B-rank? We’d finally be free to continue building up our strength, we’d get out of this deficit and actually have something in our coffers.”

She sighs and lets me lead her to a seat. “Well, I mean, yes. That’ll be great, perfect in fact, we’ll have somewhere to send out all that food and we’d finally keep our promise to the farmers. A lot of them have been wanting to leave, they left other places to be here but now with the Cult surrounding us they think it’s their rivals wishes come true.”

I snort. “If they knew it probably would be. But you see the possibilities this gives us, now don’t you? That Necromage walking into Carbina might be the best thing that’s happened in five years.”

She gives me a pout and I crumble, “Well okay, not the best thing.”

She laughs and draws in, placing a kiss on my lips. “Better.”

“How’d they find their rooms?” I ask.

“Fine. Honestly looked like they hadn’t seen anything that good or comfortable in a very long time, especially the Necromage. He was very surprised, well, not very, moderately.”

“What else?”

“I asked if they needed anything and the man in Armour, he asked for corn.” She says, nodding her head, “Just corn and nothing else, not even water.”

I laugh. “That’s certainly strange.”

“They are strange people.”

“Right. Let’s get the guards. Prepare them for tonight, we have to discuss which Cult camp to exterminate first. And they also have to be on high alert from now on.”

“They’re always on high alert.” Matilda chuckles.

“Higher then, the Cult is just a bunch of telepaths. If they sense we’re winning for once and try to group up and kill the two of us, then the guards will be the only thing stopping them from flooding the gates.”

“I don’t want to think of that.” She murmurs, her smile vanishing under the hood of her rapidly deflating mood. “You dead, Carbina defenceless? Me alone?” she shakes her head.

“Listen, it’s only a possibility, and I trust the Necromage to be powerful enough to handle more than his fair share of mind controlling Cultists. I’ll very likely be fine, but if I’m not, then Carbina will need you to step up.”

Her head whips to me, she has an incredulous look on, “Why me?” then it clicks, “Oh.”

“That’s right, you’re the only one with a hint of magical training in this village other than me. You’d be the Mayor; you’d be in charge of all their lives. You have to be strong.”

“I hope I don’t need to.” She pouts.

I sigh, exasperated and tired. “I hope so too.”

Have a Merry and safe Christmas!