The rest of the week passed in a blur. Fira, Rodrik, Lorton, and the others were informed of the potential demonic threat. Rodrik was furious at the possibility, Fira seemed anxious, and Lorton somehow looked even more tired. Regardless, all of them followed up with our theory, and while they found the number of missing to be higher in Mudrat territory, we never got a clear confirmation of the cause. Naturally, this made all of us even more worried.
Also, during this time, word got out about my modifications to our bathing facility, and our hall’s bath became much harder to book. I’d also gained a reputation in the dining hall for no reason other than enjoying bones. I blame the time on my island; everyone else is really just missing out. The other mercs took well enough to the excuse that I had ogre blood in me, though not everyone was satisfied. No one from the church came knocking, so I assumed Paula hadn’t run off and told them—or they hadn’t believed her. I had a bad feeling I was wrong and the real answer was worse for me, but I forced those thoughts aside (for the most part) to keep my anxiety down.
More importantly, I made great progress learning how to use my spear and how to use a shield, but I was increasingly dissatisfied that I was learning to fight as a human. The day couldn’t come too soon for the company announcement of what I was. I was excited, but extremely nervous.
This was, in a lot of ways, a public debut. The Gelles Company was taking a huge risk by deciding to work with a demon even partially openly. Word would get out, and while it would mostly be taken for rumor, the church would investigate.
For all I knew, I was still a citizen of Ordia, and I’d broken no laws except in self-defense. Admittedly, I didn’t understand laws, but I would definitely challenge “is a demon” as breaking them. Couldn’t help that one. Not that I’d be walking around a city without my human guise on for a while, regardless of what happened. The amount of attention from that would just be… yeah no. Not to mention the headache it’d cause for so many other people.
When the time came to reveal I was a demon, we were all called into the training range. Seyari and I walked up next to Firalex and Rodrik, and I took a deep, shaky breath. Seyari’s status as a “half” angel was going to be revealed first. Then they’d use her to prop up their argument about me.
I was a little surprised they were going through with this, but the upcoming operation was going to involve a lot of the company folks here in Lockmoth, and I agreed they needed to know before I shifted back to my true form in front of a bunch of allies.
Seyari revealed what she was to murmuring, some awe, a few utterances of “I knew it,” and a barrage of questions about why she wasn’t with the Church of Dhias.
“Miss Zarenna Miller, would you step forward, please,” Rodrik asked, motioning me to step forward.
I nodded nervously, and did as he asked. Here goes.
“All of you have gotten to know Miss Miller this past week, and from what I hear, she’s fit in quite well. I’m sure all of you have also noticed Miss Miller’s unusual stature. Well, I apologize that our given explanation was less than truthful. Some of you’ve already deduced this and we’ve spoken in private. For the rest of you, it is important to note that we have visited a nearby church and been cleared of any mental influence. Now, Miss Miller, if you would show them the real reason for your stature?”
I nodded, swept my gaze nervously around the assembled people and undid my human transformation. I forced myself to keep my eyes open to see the reactions. I heard gasps, but no screams. Some people seemed afraid, and I sensed anger building from a few people. I tried to note their faces and pulled a little from the emotion, dulling it. No sense having a riot over a few people.
When I tried to speak, however, I realized I couldn’t. With everyone staring at me, I froze up completely—no sound or expressions were working. I was back in a dream, in the Linthel market with everyone staring at me. I just stared off into space above the assembled company members, trying to figure out how to make the word sounds I probably should make.
“Renna!” I heard Seyari’s voice somewhere below me. Suddenly, there were two hands over one of mine. “Don’t tell me you’re nervous?”
Nervous? I felt a pulse of my own anger. “Of course not!” I snapped back, looking down at Seyari’s golden eyes and laughing smile. Just like that, the spell of anxiety that had held me broke. I laid both of my left hands over Seyari’s and looked back up at the crowd. The anger had mostly gone, and a lot of the looks of fear had been replaced with confusion or even stifled laughter. Hey!
All the while, Fira kept silent, though they seemed oddly focused on Seyari.
“Right!” I announced, clearing my throat. “I’m Zarenna Miller, and I may not exactly look it right now, but I’m a greater demon of wrath.” Seyari pushed herself up against my side. “And my girlfriend is being a little overly possessive at a very awkward time.” I made no effort to peel her off.
“I have to show them you have angelic approval,” Seyari said with exaggerated emotion. She actually batted her eyes at me.
“Uh, Sey, are you okay?” I asked, suddenly concerned. “This isn’t like you at all—did someone put you up to this?”
“Yes.” Seyari tossed a glare at Fira. “I would’ve come over to slap some sense into you when you locked up like that, but Firalex wanted me to ‘show our relationship’ to ‘help sell your image’ and I couldn’t resist making fun of their terrible ideas.”
I felt a pulse of anger from behind me.
“They can’t possibly think we act like this…” I glanced over my shoulder at Firalex, who had raised brows, downturned eyes, and lips drawn into a thin line.
“Oh, they do,” Seyari whispered. “Your bath idea didn’t help.”
I thought of a dozen different things to say to Fira, but embarrassing my new boss in front of my new coworkers was something even I could identify as colossally stupid. So instead, I glared at Firalex. Seyari stuck out her tongue and shoved off me, and the two of us turned back around to answer questions.
“Uh, any questions?” I scratched at a horn and flicked my tail anxiously. A bunch of hands went up. “And we’re not normally that, uh, affectionate. We’re together, but no relationship questions.”
Several of the raised hands went back down. I picked someone I recognized from our hall.
“So you were the one who pushed for a nicer bath for our hall, weren’t you?” they said more than asked.
I flushed scarlet and coughed. “Uh, yeah, that was me. Next question!”
From there, I had to answer a barrage of questions. Several members even floated weapon ideas, which I was more than happy to indulge in—offering what insight I could as to what fighting with four arms and a tail was like. Only a few of the company members reacted like Paula had, and none of them that badly. I guessed that the ones living at the company were probably more open to things in general. With some difficulty, Fira seemed to talk down the ones who weren’t.
Overall, the reveal went way, way better than I ever could have imagined. Cheesy or not, Seyari’s display and my anxiety probably scored points in my favor. I’d traded any chance of seeming strong and regal for being a well-liked dork, and I was honestly okay with that compromise.
I spent the next few days training, now that I could train openly on the training range without needing to be in my human form. Seyari also helped instruct and spar with me. Mostly, I focused on physical combat. Magic was all well and good, but I had a better handle on that and Rodrik had been right about my amateurish form.
After the first day, I learned of another side effect of revealing myself to a company of trained combatants: I now had half a dozen people trying figure out the best places to stick more pointy bits to accentuate my natural pointy bits. Some people wanted me to try four swords at once; that was a disaster. I had no idea how to move my body to wield them and there weren’t any instructors on hand(s) who had experience with four blades at once—for obvious reasons.
When I’d tried multiple spears, I didn’t feel like I could put enough power behind a thrust with the other spears in the way, unless I thrust all of them at one. Multiple small shields I seemed to take to rather quickly, however.
That said, I liked the idea of multiple weapons. For the attack on the Mudrats, we’d be going into a lot of smaller spaces; a spear would work only for thrusting and get in the way otherwise, and with my stature, blades would potentially be unusable. Not to mention I couldn’t train myself in a week.
For now, I’d take my spear just in case, and have a pair of bucklers strapped to my lower pair of arms. If I went up against enchanted weapons, I’d get good use out of the shields, and they were simple enough to practice with, given they worked with the footwork I already knew for wielding a spear.
Traditional weapons weren’t the only new tool of destruction I was given, however. My current training was proving one of the most unusual weapon ideas to be a very good one indeed.
I hit the training dummy with a thrust of my spear, then shoved back and swept my tail around at chest height. The spikes ringing my tail punched into the dummy before my strength snapped it off its base. That’s coming out of my pay. Despite the cost, I couldn’t help but smile. Drin and Rodrik had come up with this new weapon, and I had to hand it to them, I was starting to get used to the weight on my tail; it almost felt comforting.
I moved my tail around in front of me to inspect for any damage to the prototype weapon. No damage, but the target hadn’t been armored. The weapon in question was a set of three metal rings that almost looked like spiked collars. The largest ring was very tight, and the next ones down my tail, which were only slightly looser, were chained together in series. The largest spikes were a good ten centimeters long, and thick around as a normal person’s wrist at the base.
I’d liked the idea of a tail bracelet so much that I had a set of three plain steel ones made just to wear. They went well with my new armor—a breastplate and light chain getup. The armor was for show, more than anything, but if the armor survived it could be enchanted, and it’d keep me relatively safe from an errant magicked arrow. Plus, it was altered (hastily) for someone with four arms. I had a helmet as well, with two holes cut out of it for my horns. All of which had just been finished today.
The Gelles Company had their own smith, and I had to say she did good (and fast) work. Seeing all the pieces coming together the last few days was incredible. She had to have worked just for me to even come close to getting this done. I knew some pieces were alterations of existing pieces, but still. The thought kindled a little flame of desire for Bourick’s workshop and my long-abandoned career path. Maybe someday.
For now, I had to train to fight. The Mudrats shouldn’t have anything that would require me to use more than my own claws, but they were far from the most dangerous people I would go after—or who would come after me.
With or without a sparring partner, I trained all through the night. Seyari joined me for a while, using the sword we’d found in the mountains. Fira had looked the blade over and gotten it repaired, and despite its flaws, Seyari seemed to have taken to it.
The next morning, there were two important pieces of news. The first was that we were ready. A location had been identified, and we were to attack tonight. I was to be part of the team going after Mudrat headquarters, which had been found by tracing back from where they were minting. Taava, Seyari, and Salvador would be with me, and it was anticipated Garvin would be there as well. He’d been spending less and less time going out of late. The disappearances had also slowed down dramatically. I had a very, very bad feeling I knew what to expect.
The second piece of news made my heart drop. The war between Navanaea and the Formid was official now, and it seemed like it was shaping up to be a bloody one. Aretan took the news about as well as could be expected—he’d assumed as much had been coming. The former mercenary asserted that he’d remain with us for this mission, but stated his intent to return home as soon as we’d dealt with the Mudrats. I couldn’t help the pit in my stomach that told me part of the blame for the war lay on my shoulders for killing the third prince Malich.
The spikes ringing my tail punched into the dummy before my strength snapped it off its base.
Oh my god, Renna’s got a thagomizer!
Ya know what, I'm actually surprised the reveal went as smoothly as it did. If anything, the fact they started coming up with ideas to "add pointy bits to accentuate natural pointy bits" in a fast manner is quite funny
You know, while I really love the companies enthusiasm for more pointy bits, I also hope some of them try to do things like add flame decals to Renna's armor for a bit of added more intimidation (and to make her go faster).
It's cool she got her tail weapon but I'm worried about her using her real last name. It wouldn't take much for the bads to connect the demon Miller to the Church Miller.
Eh, I don’t know. Miller is a pretty common last name.
only if Miller isn’t a very common name.
@FallingToAsh For the Church at large sure. But that high inquisitor, forgot his name, knows Tania(?) background. He will know about the failed demon summoning when he killed their family. They also know a good description of her so they'll be in the look out for her.
Tania not only let them leave but Salvador left with them. So when it comes out that the demon is using the name Miller, he could connect the dots.
He would have to make some assumptions and jump to conclusions for sure, but I still think they should be using aliases as long as Renna and her sister are separated from each other.
@marter true that might be a problem. Especially since Seyari would probably be in the report of the church too and I think the high inquisitor (forgot his name too) know at this point that Seyari and Zarenna are traveling together, so he might investigate further.
@Mermaeve yeah I think it's too many coincidences for him to ignore.
honestly, I hope after all this she'll be able to live peacefully as a blacksmith with her girlfriend somewhere, surrounded by those that love her
That's the dream!