Also, there may be inconsistent updates in the future.
“We’ve been trapped.”
The announcement spelled doom and gloom over the previously rising spirits in the room.
Not me though. As they say, ignorance is bliss. The Mayors declaration only served to have me wonder what she thought the silent siege was.
“Are you just realizing this? Carbina has been trapped for a while, that’s why we’re here talking about attacking Cultists.”
“No, you fool!” she screams. “We’ve been caught in a far more sinister web of magic. How do you not know this? You pointed out the pentagram!”
“No need to get hostile.” I breathe. “Educate me, I’m obviously in the dark about this.”
“Educate you…” she mutters silently under her breath, “However poor your education in magic, however you were taught, as an apprentice or in an institute. You should know that this pentagram is old, sinister and powerful magic.”
“Well now I do.”
“No!” she protests, moving into my space, “You said you’re a Mage and I took your word for it, show me, show me the extent of your magic if you have any.”
Anselm gives me a look and I shake my head. I don’t know what it means but no is the answer. This is an awkward situation; one I didn’t predict. This is the first time my ignorance has been so plainly exposed.
I’m not sure what to do. I’m not sure how to cover this up, everyone is looking at me now.
So, I do as she asks.
Unlike breakfast this morning, I concede to Leriva and summon my mana all around me. The blue-green mist thickens and swirls as it seeps out, undeterred from my body. Leriva takes a step back, the furious look on her face dissolves into one of curiosity and fear?
Silently, I command the mana back into me, direct it to my eyes and activate Sense Death. I feel my eyes cool with my mana, they glow brightly as I step into her space and whisper.
“I see Death.”
The beat of silence burns longer than it is in reality, our eyes are locked but I can see plain as day, that Leriva has some reason to fear my magic, and in this moment, she’s regretting calling me out on it.
The briefing ended soon after. Reasonably, no one desired to fester in the awkward, threatening atmosphere that began to choke everyone that wasn’t Anselm or I.
The men quickly excused themselves after setting a type for an assault on our target. They had to go prepare what few others were willing to jump in the face of danger.
Anselm questioned what he saw; Leriva’s fear.
“I’m not sure what reason she would have to fear you.” He muses, “She must know something.”
“How in hell did you get to that conclusion?” I roll my eyes at him, “Maybe she’s actually a really weak Mage, weaker than me even. And she’s never seen power manifest itself the way it did with me. Have you considered that?”
“I have, but it doesn’t match any with her personality or her background. She is obviously from a powerful noble family what with the village being named after it. There’s no way she would be afraid or your little light show.”
“Little light show? You’re just too used to me, Anselm. I’m actually really powerful in comparison to other Mages out there.”
“What other Mages?” He chortles, “We’ve only met two and one Diviner!”
“Huh, it just occurs to me that we haven’t seen or heard of any Diviner in this village. Didn’t you say they were assigned everywhere?”
Anselm looks surprised, “Oh wow, you’re right. That is curious. But I suppose a Diviner wouldn’t want to be anywhere near such blatant heretics. To make matters worse there’s all that talk about old magics at work with that pentagram. Are you sure you know nothing of it?”
Unfortunately, I’m sure. I’m completely unawares to what Leriva could be have been talking about back there. A part of me even regrets not being humble and listening to her explanation, if she were to offer one.
This old magic talk could potentially throw a wrench in all my plans. I don’t know what it is but from the way she spoke of it, I can only expect the worse.
“I can’t have all that on my mind right now, I need to choose.”
Before me is a servant holding up a list for me to read. I have a plethora of funny named foods to choose from. I could only imagine what they looked and tasted like; this world has many familiar things, humans, common livestock and crops but it also holds much of the unfamiliar as well, their dishes are as exotic as they come.
This particular dish I am strained to choose though, is meant to serve me as a final meal just in case I find myself without my head or without free will out there in the Cultists camps.
Our attack is imminent. There’re only a few moments left before I’m called out to move as the sun begins to set.
“Do you think you’re really ready for this?” Anselm’s voice is unsteady.
“How cute of you, Anselm, worrying so much about me.”
“Be serious!” He rebukes, “I can’t get the last time out of my head, Asher. I watched them fight the Following. It was an intense and rapid battle. Constantly attacking, their numbers nearly overwhelmed the skill and organization of the Following, but they prevailed.”
“Sounds like you have a crush on a religious organization, Anselm.” I raise my hand silencing another rebuke for my flippant ways, “I understand you’re frightened. But there’s no proof that these Cultists are the same as the ones in Arak. Those Cultists had time and the population of an entire village on their side, it is expected that they’d grow in power. But these Cultists are different and smaller in size, just one camp.”
He shakes his head, frustrated, “And how do you know that’s how the Cultists powers work? Leriva said this was old magic, that’s even more mysterious. Don’t you see? We don’t actually know anything about the enemy!”
I wave away the tired and obviously irritated servant. I don’t choose a meal; Anselm’s words work well at knocking my appetite away and setting a hard clump in my throat.
“You’re right.” I say with trepidation. “We don’t actually know anything about these Cultists. How their powers work, their intentions, their magical strength. We don’t truly know any of that.”
In my periphery I spot Leriva and her men trooping closer. The sky dims with the setting of the sun, the time for the assault nears. I’d wasted too much time trying to choose a meal.
“But Anselm, you forget. We also don’t know how my powers fair against them.” I put on a smirk. A façade of confidence, for both Anselm and myself. “A well-placed Death Grip will snap necks all around.”
“And if that doesn’t work?”
I shrug, “Well, it’s been a while since I used Soul Drain.”
At this he breaks out laughing. “Fine. Not for the first time I’ll let you risk both our lives on a hunch.”
“They’ve paid off alright so far.” I wink at him, tapping my belt pouch, heavy with coin still.
Just in time, Leriva and her men arrive next to us. Behind her and the other two men that were in the briefing room with us are about three dozen other men outfitted with the barest minimum of armour and weaponry which came down to thick leather outfits, pikes, a few swords and even fewer bows.
The scene makes me think of the bandit stash of armour and weapons back at that broken-down fort, perhaps I should have brought them along.
Still, Leriva looks confident, a change from earlier really. No doubt the volunteer turnout inspires her mood.
Two of her militia marched forward with her as they present perhaps the finest weapon in sight.
“For you, Sir Anselm.” She says.
I quirk an eyebrow at this. I didn’t know he asked for a weapon, when could he have even gotten the chance?
Anselm picks it up. It’s a spear, two-pronged, with metal seemingly freshly smelted glistening in the now risen moonlight. He twirls it, tossing it in the air, catching it and swinging it around his body in a beautiful display of his proficiency with the weapon.
Satisfied he nods. “Thank you for this. I’m impressed you had this made so quickly,” he shakes his head, “No, I’m impressed you went so far. When I asked for a spear, I thought I’d just be getting one from your armoury.”
Again, when was this?
“It was no trouble really.” She says, except she is not Leriva but her assistant, Matilda. “The Blacksmith had a frame he couldn’t complete without funds; we trust your skills at hunting Cultists and simply thought it ought to be matched with a deserving weapon. As deserving as plain unenchanted iron can be anyways.”
“Regardless, you have my thanks.”
It’s nice he has a weapon to fight with, he’ll need it. Though, I wondered why he chose a spear and not simply a sword. I mean, he used a sword back in the cave…as a corpse. I sigh, there’s much of Anselm I’m unsure of.
But right now, I could only think of how heavy that spear would be to carry when he wasn’t around. I don’t need that stress!
“Are you ready, Sir Taserman?” This time, the speaker is Leriva.
“No more than you are.” I grin, nodding at the militia behind her.
She shares in my mirth, “Ha. Well, I partly have you to thank for this. Along with the public need to be rid of the Cultists and end this terrible siege, they’re inspired by the presence of another Mage. Let’s hope we can protect them.”
Let’s hope we make it out alive…
“That’s flattering. We’re losing time though. We should be heading out.”
She nods agreeing. As I begin to step out with Anselm presenting his cool spear at me, I notice Leriva step aside with Matilda.
There isn’t any point in stepping aside though. The kiss is fierce and eye-catching; an ‘I may not return’ kiss no doubt. Deep, sensual and desperate.
I chuckle as it occurs to me and wide-eyed Anselm at the same time.
“And you said I should seduce her.”