Chapter 13: Future Plans
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In the early light of dawn, Marusta was groggily waking up and preparing for the day. Windows opened and the sounds of industry wafted through town. People walked alone or in twos, casually drifting wherever they needed to go.

A hooded figure walking through the nearly empty streets stood out, but Lotte wasn’t willing to risk being spotted by the local guard. Just because Gunter had decided to throw her out didn’t mean that she wasn’t wanted. If nothing else, she was probably an easy target for a guard to vent his frustrations on.

The door to Marius’ shop was locked when she tried it.

“Marius!” Lotte cried, hammering on the door. “Open up! It’s your employee!”

She waited a moment, glancing around in case anyone was giving her a shifty look. Then the door opened and a very confused, very hairy man was staring at Lotte. She grabbed Marius in a warm hug and he ushered her inside into the musty air of his workshop.

“Are you alright, kid?” he asked, locking the door behind them. “After the guard took you away, I thought…”

“You thought the worst?” she asked, pulling away and wiping a tear from her eye. “Yeah, me too. But I’m alive.” She gestured to the scar across her face. “More or less in one piece, too. But, um, I do have bad news.”

“Are you going to be okay?”

“Yeah, I am, but… I can’t work for you anymore.” Marius frowned, but Lotte continued, “I just have too much going on right now. And, honestly, me being here probably puts you in danger, too. I don’t know what’s going to happen once everything is… over, but right now it’s best if we go our separate ways.”

Marius nodded slowly, replying, “That’s disappointing to hear, but I understand that you have your own path to follow in life. I wish you the very best. But before you leave, I do have one thing for you.”

He left her and went into the back rooms. Lotte fidgeted with her hands for a bit and glanced out the window, thankfully not seeing any guards peering inside. When Marius returned, he was carrying a small sack.

“This is the money that you earned but didn’t get a chance to take before… what happened.” Lotte took the sack and glanced inside. “It’s not much, but maybe it will help you with your fight.”

“Thank you, Marius,” she said softly. “Will you be alright without me?”

“I’ll manage, I promise. Just take care of yourself, kid.”

“I will.”

Lotte had intended to head straight back to Ursel’s house, but now she had a different goal. Her little house was the same as when she’d last seen it. She unlocked the door and crinkled her nose at the overpowering smell of dust and rotten food that greeted her. Nobody really had been here for a week.

She wasn’t sure if it was safe to light a candle with all this dust in the air. In the meager light cast by the window, Lotte sat the sack down on the table before sitting down. Her entire body was shaking and she began to cry.

What had happened to her life? Finding the eye in her bag had finally given her a sense of control over herself, but at the cost of throwing her entire life upside down. If they’d just managed to hold onto the money they’d saved, she and Alena could be long gone and she’d still have all her magical abilities.

When she’d finally pulled herself together, Lotte took the sack of money and walked into the bedroom. It was darker in here, but she was able to find the hiding place where they had stored their original little chest. She tucked the money away before exiting the house. Lotte was sure to lock the door before pulling up her hood and walking away.

Ursel’s home was abuzz with activity when Lotte returned. She didn’t have much to do to help the Resistance directly, not being much for administrative work herself. Lotte was mostly just an accessory to Alena, whom the Resistance had really wanted from the beginning.

She returned to the small bedroom she shared with Alena and sat down on the mattress, pulling her legs tightly to her chest. Her thoughts wandered back to the cell she’d been in and the lumpy, stiff bed she’d slept on. Lotte winced as she remembered being hit over and over again.

“I can tell that you’re not doing good,” Zisald whispered, kneeling down next to Lotte. “Talk about it. Once it’s not bottled up inside of you, you’ll feel better.”

But Lotte shook her head and curled up tighter. It had been so dark and so cold. She’d been so hungry and even a few days later still looked weak and malnourished. And now she had a scar on her face. Everyone would be able to see what had been done to her, forever. It was never going away.

The door clicked and squeaked as it was opened. Lotte could hear it, but it sounded faraway. Her mind was back in that dungeon with the cold and the damp and the rats and the—

“There you are.”

Lotte snapped back to attention to look up and see Alena frowning at her. Had Lotte done something wrong? Was Alena here just to admit that Lotte was too broken for her?

“How are you feeling?” Alena asked, sitting down next to Lotte.

“I’m fine,” Lotte mumbled.

“You’re not,” Zisald told her.

“Lotte,” Alena said slowly, “I can’t help you if you aren’t honest with me.”

“I’ll be fine,” Lotte insisted. “Did you need something?”

“…Ursel wanted to see you,” Alena said, standing up. “There’s a meeting that you’re supposed to attend.”

Alena took Lotte by the hand and led her through the halls until they got to the big meeting room. Ursel was there, along with Therese and Gernot, two other leaders of the Resistance, as well as Kurt, who often worked alongside Alena. Lotte and Alena sat down across from Ursel.

“Hello, Lotte,” Therese said, adjusting her eyeglasses. “We’d like to know a little bit more about what your magic abilities can do.”

“I promise I’m not a danger to anyone,” Lotte said, shrinking down in her chair.

“That’s not at all what this is,” Gernot assured her. “We just need to know the extent of your magic and how best we can use it to aid the Resistance.”

“Hold on!” Alena cried, standing up and slamming her hands on the table. “I object! She’s just been through absolute horror. There is no way that I’m letting you put her in danger again.”

“Alena,” Lotte said, grabbing onto her sleeve and pulling her back down. “It’s okay. I want to help.”

“I can’t let you get hurt again, Lotte,” Alena replied, whining a little.

But Lotte turned to the others and asked, “What exactly is the plan? I’m still not sure what the actual goal of the Resistance is.”

Ursel explained, “Our primary goal is to create enough civil unrest, weakness within the town guard, and distrust between council members that the council has no choice but to oust Torben and invoke a general election in order to replace him.”

Gernot continued, “Torben has agents scattered throughout the government and the town guard, mostly inherited from his father, that give him much finer control over the inner workings of this town than most prefects would have. A large part of our operation is breaking the bonds between these agents in order to weaken his network.”

“Once Torben has been removed from his position,” Therese added, “Gernot here will represent the Resistance as a candidate for Prefecture. With his status as a war hero and having served on the council for a while, he’s the most appealing face we can give the masses to represent our interests.”

“Why not just get the people together and overthrow the council?” Lotte asked.

Ursel explained, “A few riots are one thing. Forcing the council to get rid of their leader is feasible, but targeting the council itself will get the capital’s attention. That’s too much chaos. If the capital sends the army or even some of its own spies to set things right, we don’t stand a breath of a chance.”

Lotte nodded, then asked, “So what you need to know about me is: how good am I at sowing chaos?”

“A simplification, but yes,” Ursel replied.

Lotte’s eyes lit up.

“Okay,” she said. “I’m good at chaos. It’s where my magic works best, actually. I can do a lot of things that disrupt the natural order. I can control sound and light, and I can… what did Zisald call it? I can alter probabilities. Make some things more likely and other things less likely. I can age things really quickly; I did that with some out of season flowers. I was able to turn ashes back into coal. Not sure what you’d be able to use that for…”

“Quite an impressive array of abilities,” Gernot said, raising his thick eyebrows. “If I gave you a burned note, would you be able to return it to its original state?”

“I can certainly try,” Lotte chimed, her tail—wait, she didn’t have a tail. If she had a tail, it would be wagging.

“I think we can use her,” Gernot said.

Therese nodded and added, “So do I. She’d be great for field work.”

Alena whined and Lotte grabbed her hand gently.

“Very well,” Ursel said. “We’ll convene and see if we can come up with some ways for you to help us. Now, there is one other matter we have to discuss really quick. I need you two out of the house a week from now. There’s going to be a meeting of all the leaders of the Resistance, the first time all nine of us have been in a house together in the better part of a year. It’s imperative that you’re not able to see all the different leaders, to ensure privacy.”

“Understood,” Alena said while Lotte nodded.

“Then if that’s all,” Gernot said, “You may go, Lotte.”

She stood up and gave an awkward half-bow before leaving. It was about time for lunch. Lotte ran her tongue over her sharp fangs, already thinking of the rare meat that was waiting for her in the kitchen.

Later that evening, Lotte threw up her hood again and left Ursel’s home. She still had one more stop to make before everything was taken care of. Beneath her hood, a pair of big fuzzy ears formed to help her listen for the sound of clanking armor.

This late in the day, the streets were filled with people trying to get back home. That gave Lotte some camouflage, but it did slow her down. It took her longer to get to her parents’ home than she would have liked.

The front door was unlocked and her father was manning the counter. Lotte closed and locked the door behind her before lowering her hood and freeing her ears. A tail curled itself around her leg as she smiled at her father, who quickly ran around the counter to grab Lotte in a tight hug.

“Oh, my child!” he cried. “You’re alive! Roswitha! She’s here!”

There was the heavy sound of footsteps and Lotte’s mother ran into the room from the back, her apron covered in animal blood. She joined the hug, instantly ruining Lotte’s cloak. Lotte didn’t care; she sank into the embrace.

Once they were upstairs, Lotte took off her cloak and stood over the sink. She ran her magic into the garment, slowly separating the blood from the fabric and letting it fall into the basin. Before long, it was back to normal. Lotte filled them in on what had happened to her as she worked, carefully omitting the worst of the torture she received.

“Alright,” she said, setting the cloak aside and sitting down at the table, “that’s taken care of.”

Her father was staring at her. Lotte’s ears and eyes and toothy grin must still be a little intimidating for him. He wasn’t saying anything, though.

“How did you get that scar?” her mother asked, pushing a cup of hot tea toward Lotte.

“The wizard… was not happy to let me go,” she said, running her fingers gingerly over the injury.

“Oh, my poor baby girl,” Roswitha cooed, walking over and clutching Lotte close. “At least you’re safe now.”

Lotte nodded, then said, “It’s getting late. Why don’t I help you two prepare dinner?”

“There’s no need,” her father said quickly, standing up. “We’ll take care of it.”

“No, I want to help,” she insisted, standing as well. Lotte was shaking a little from her memories and needed something to hold onto her focus instead.

She chopped vegetables while her father and mother prepared the meat. They were making rouladen, one of Lotte’s favorites from childhood. After all she’d been through, it was a welcome treat.

“I see you’re still practicing that magic you have,” her father said slowly.

“Yeah, I’m actually getting pretty good at it.”

Lotte waited for a biting comment, but it didn’t come.

Instead, her father replied, “Well, that’s good to hear. You have it, you might as well use it.”

“…You aren’t upset?”

Her mother said, “We’ve been talking about it, dear.”

“That’s right,” her father said, nodding. “As long as it makes you happy, I’m okay with you… being a woman and having magic at your disposal.”

Lotte stopped what she was doing and ran over to her father, hugging him from behind.

“Thank you both so much,” she said. “It means an awful lot to me to have your support.”

“Of course, Lotte.”

The meal turned out quite good. It was nice for Lotte to get to eat with her parents again, especially now that they could see her for who she truly was. Lotte ate slowly, savoring every bite.

“What are you going to do now that you’re out of those awful dungeons?” her mother asked.

Lotte swallowed and replied, “I’ve given up my position working with Marius. Right now, I want to focus on the work that me and Alena are doing. I don’t want to go into too many details—it’s secretive stuff—but we’re trying to do good. More importantly, I’m going to continue practicing my magic. I’m hoping that I get the chance to travel and learn more about magic from people who have been practicing it longer than me.”

Her parents seemed a little nervous at her answer, but didn’t press her for more details. After that it was mostly small-talk until the meal was over. Lotte grabbed her cloak while her parents placed the dishes in the sink.

“It’s getting dark,” she said. “Alena will be worried about me. I’d like to do this more often, though.”

“So would we,” her father said, giving her a small kiss on the forehead. “Promise us that you’ll stay safe.”

Her mother added, “No more getting into trouble with the law, you hear?”

Lotte gave them a strained smile and nodded.

“Of course.”

Finally, Lotte has something to do for the Resistance!

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