Chapter 485: PLUMELAAAA!!
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Chapter 485: PLUMELAAAA!!

 

  Stryg pushed the tent flaps open and strode inside. Tauri was already pacing around, her scarlet fingers tapping at her side, as if ready to draw her spiked mace at the slightest surprise.

  “Good morning,” he said carefully.

  “Where have you been the last few days?”

  “I’ve been around, mostly here,” he said evasively.

  “Plum and I stop by your tent every few hours but you’re never here. The Shaman and War Elects don’t know where you’ve been either. Bloody Bellum, even your own honor guard loses track of you! And your mom? Pft, your mom would rather die than tell me anything about you.”

  “Sorry, I’ve been busy—”

  “With what? We’re about to head into war and I haven’t seen you in a single war meeting. Where were you last night?”

  “I was…” Stryg shrugged and walked around her, careful to give her a wide berth. He sat atop his travel chest, the wood creaking underneath his weight, and turned to face her. He thought walking over here to sit down would give him a chance to think up a good answer. It didn’t.

  “I was busy meditating with Lunae,” he admitted.

  “Meditating? You hate meditating.”

  “No, I don’t.”

  “You literally fell asleep while meditating.”

  “That was one time.”

  She gave him a dry look.

  “Okay, maybe more than once. But so what? It’s not like I’d be much help in any of those war meetings. I’m not a general. I wasn’t trained in the Sylvan warrior path. I didn’t go to Hollow Shade’s martial academy.” He gestured towards her, “And I’m not a scion of a martial Great House either.”

  She raised her eyebrow. “Really? You could have fooled me, Veres.”

  “Don’t call me that.” He frowned.

  “My point is, you’ve proven yourself a warrior countless times.” She laughed with disbelief, “Even if you didn’t have anything to offer —which you definitely do— you could still learn a lot from the war meetings.”

  “Noted,” he said dismissively.

  “Stryg, this isn’t a game or some stupid test. They expect you to lead them.”

  He stared down at the ground. “I didn’t choose this. I didn’t want to be their War Master. And neither do they. Not the Elects, nor the chieftains.”

  “Maybe. But Lunae does. The literal goddess of the moon chose you. So who gives a fuck if the Elects didn’t pick you for the job. I mean, you’re you, Stryg!”

  He furrowed his brow. “What is that supposed to mean?”

  “You idolize the moon goddess. I don’t understand why you’re not jumping up to do everything she tells you.”

  “I’m a figurehead, Tauri. I’m not an actual general. And I’m certainly not a War Master.”

  She narrowed her amber eyes, “That really bothers you doesn’t it? Being War Master? I see the way you wince and pull away every time someone calls you it. Why does it bother you so much? Isn’t this what you always wanted? To have power? To be the leader of a tribe. To be respected by the Sylvan folk? Well, you got it. All of it. So why do you seem so unhappy?”

  “Because…” Stryg sighed. “Because I didn’t want an army. I just wanted to save my friends back in Hollow Shade. I wanted the Sylvan’s respect because I was tired of being an outsider in my own village; I wanted them to accept me, not this!” He gestured to the outside. “Have you seen the way they look at me? They practically worship me!”

  “And that’s a bad thing?”

  “Are you joking!?”

  “No, I’m not. I know many nobles who would love to be in your shoes right now.”

  He rolled his lilac eyes, “Yeah, until everyone is dying around you on the battlefield and they are all looking at you to save them. I’m not a hero out of the legends, Tauri. I’m just me…”

  “I know that, Stryg,” she said softly.

  “You wanted to know why I haven’t been ‘around’? It’s because I’m not good with war meetings, any meetings really. I’ve always done better alone.”

  “You’re not good with crowds, I get it.”

  “No, you don’t. I wasn’t good at anything.” He stared at his hand and a flame sparked to life on his palm, “But magic? I’m good at magic, I understand it, instinctively. It comes easy to me. It always has, ever since it awoke within me.” He smiled wryly, “It was the first time I was good at something. Even Blue storm magic, I can learn it, I can master it, I know I can! I’m a prime mage. People dream of being talented in magic, but I actually am. I can do this.” He clenched his fist and snuffed the flame out.

  Stryg glanced at the tent flap, “But that, out there, I have no idea what I’m doing.”

  “So what, you’re gonna give up? Leave the people out there all on their own?”

  “No,” he said resolutely. “No, I’ll be there. Fighting on the front lines like anyone else. Even if I don’t know how to lead them, at least I can fight and bleed beside them.” He closed his eyes and muttered, “It’s all I can do.”

  Tauri walked over and sat on the chest with him, their backs to each other. “...Maybe that’s enough. Maybe they don’t need a hero out of legends. Maybe all they need is to see you out there. To know that they aren’t all alone. A little hope, you know? You can give that to them.”

  “They have a goddess on their side, I don’t think they need me to—”

  “They need someone who is one of them. Not a goddess they can’t understand, or an orc outsider for that matter.”

  Stryg stayed quiet. He felt uncertain of what to say.

  Tauri groaned, “Look, you don’t need to attend the war meetings if you don’t want to, but at least let the people see you. Let them know that you stand with them. They are marching to war because of you. You owe them that much.”

  “...You’re right. I’m sorry.”

  She leaned her head back and touched the back of his own. “You can make it up to me with a drink when we get back to the city. If we ever make it out alive from all this bullshit,” she muttered.

  Without turning around, Stryg reached out and grabbed her scarlet hand.

  She glanced down at his pale blue hand and slowly interlaced her fingers with his own. “...So you learned to cast storm magic, huh?”

  “A little bit,” he admitted.

  “You still suck at swimming.”

  “That says more about you as my swim teacher than it does about me.”

  “Ouch. I walked into that one, didn’t I?”

  He scoffed with a smirk. “Yeah…”

  “...You know, we might die in the next few days.”

  “Yeah…”

  “Your hand is cold.”

  “Is it…?” he squeezed her hand ever so slightly. “Yours is warm.”

  They both turned their heads and stared at each other from the corner of their eyes.

 

~~~

 

  Plum weaved her way through the tents and ashen trees without ever glancing up from her book. The pages entailed spell threads for complex mind spells she had never read about in the academy’s library. She had borrowed the book from one of the shamans of the Frost Whisper tribe.

  The spells contained within the tome were fascinating, but there were several passages written in old arcana that she couldn’t decipher. She hoped Stryg could shed some light on them.

  As Plum made her way to his residence, she spotted his honor guard standing in a wide perimeter around the crimson tent.

  Good, he’s actually here for once.

  Elayne spotted Plum walking up and she quickly moved in her path. “Miss Plumela, the War Master can’t see you right now.”

  “Stand down, Captain, I’m on official business,” she lied without missing a beat and walked around the armored goblin.

  “Really? Oh,” she stepped back in her way, “Even still—”

  “Sorry, I can’t chat. ~Very serious orders from the top~” Plum pointed at the book, “They need Stryg’s help.” She spun around Elayne and skipped her way to the tent.

  “The War Master is busy! Please come back later,” Elayne called out, though her voice was faltering.

  “Don’t worry, he’ll make time for me,” Plum winked back at her, before walking inside. She pushed the tent flaps open, “Oi! Stryg, I need your help—!” Plum stiffened and her eyes widened in surprise, “—with this passage…” The book slipped out of her hands.

  Tauri atop the bedroll, naked and panting. Her scarlet skin was flushed and her short black was slick with sweat. Stryg laid above her in a naked embrace, his hands wrapped around her hips, and her legs wrapped around him.

  Stryg noticed Plum first and gave her a quick cursory glance before returning to his activities. 

  Tauri looked up a second later and her face paled in horror. “PLUM!? What are you–!? Get out—! Augh! Stryg, stop!”

  Plum did a 180-degree turn and walked right out, forgetting her book on the ground.

  Elayne was waiting outside with a troubled expression. “Is everything alright?”

  Plum pretended she wasn’t there and fiddled with her round glasses.

  “Ma’am? Is everything alright?”

  “Yup,” Plum answered tersely.

  “Was the Chosen able to help with—”

  “Definitely.”

  “Oh… I see,” Elayne smiled sympathetically. “Is there anything else I can help you with—?”

  “Nope, I’m good. Thanks.” Plum walked off but suddenly stopped in her tracks. “Ah, actually. Do you know anywhere I could hide from a bloodthirsty orc hellbent on killing me? No?” 

  “PLUMELAAAA!!” Tauri roared from inside the tent.

  Plum smiled stiffly and nodded, “You know what, I’m just gonna go.” She channeled Purple and wrapped herself in a cloak of illusion.

 

 

 

(AUTHOR'S NOTE:)
Hello! These last few days have been quite busy for me, so I've fallen a bit behind on releases. Therefore I will be releasing another chapter tomorrow to catch back up to the normal schedule.
Thank you for your patience,
~Frostbird (AUTHOR'S NOTE END:)
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