Home as War Draws Near

-Fang Mountain Range-

Aquilo had been claimed without a hitch. It was always going to be easy, though one of two outcomes ended in major loss all around. That was not an option then and all three of the leaders standing in the mine understood that. Markus was not difficult to sway once Koshnem left the floor to Shalia. Being in control of their lives moved progress along efficiently, but tapping into her past and connecting it to the craftsman took it the extra mile. Through him, she had to encourage the workers not to do something blindly heroic and pointless that the Empire wouldn’t even remember after their settlements fell. Urge them to be tactful enough to benefit themselves in the coming conflict and be protected for a time among the Odonine. The lives they lived in Aquilo would not be disrupted, but for the war effort it was all hands on deck with supply and demand. Time was passing by fast and the heaviest of winter was well on its way.

“The Stone City will once more face the true nature of its desires,” the battlewitch had spoken low to the War Chieftain as they rode away victorious, her tone continuing to darken with her behavior as days went on. “Let us see if the dogs can stand one last winter on these shores. They have always been fragile this season. Always.”

The frigid nature of the mountain was well embraced by Shalia this time of year, but returning to the village she had known for years now was a slightly superior feeling, no matter how long she had been away. It was home. The place where she could rest her head for a moment, familiar and comforting. Longer rest could come after the fight was won, but aching bones were aching bones. After everything, the least this damned world could allow her was a few days of quiet and cold contemplation; no one could deny it. In taking said rest for a few soothing days after, Shalia further examined the puzzling items she acquired to keep her wandering mind busy and full of spinning cogs, seated on the floor of her firelit yurt.

On one of those nights something unexpected occurred.

In the Arbiter’s journal, the swift swordswoman Voah Sahnsuur, there was much to take in. Piecing recollections of Mizaran made deciphering this memoir particularly challenging, but also mentally stimulating. It was almost relaxing trying to figure the full image of this woman out…but more intriguing was who she was involved with and what she had encountered. Some names that meant nothing to her, then Islana’s which meant significantly more, then the names of certain leadership and Sir Zane. What a strange thing seeing those names again.

And then there it was. The singular name that haunted her night and day, mentioned in only a small handful of entries about native encounters and then falling off the pages--


Shalia exhaled sharply and ran her finger over the word again, leaning in as if getting closer would prove it wasn’t really there, that maybe her mind was playing tricks. But it was very real. Jiyn…the husband she abandoned without a trace here in Arcadia. Jiyn, not a mercenary but a soldier now. Of course he was. He had the courage and loyalty to fit the bill, the skill too. 'But he is such a pleasant and refreshing soul,' she thought, 'not destined for the meandering armor-clad life of an Empire’s fool. Not him. Never.'
Now, there was a very real reality that he might die in the Ostiarium attack. Would. But he had to be smarter than that to stay in the ranks against a war they couldn’t win, right? Choose his battles wisely. Why did he come here? Where was he now? Did this Voah woman know, and why do the other pages exclude him? Or perhaps those she was in touch with knew. Perhaps Islana...?
Any agonizing possibility that she could not still see him face to face in the end or that he would be cut down with the rest of the foreigners did not phase her much in this moment, but what did was an overwhelming sense of hope. That if she could just draw him out during the attack and assure his safety, all would be perfectly fine. If he was in the city at all. Could he have made off into Arcadia as she had once? Could he survive the landscape after all his time of being hired help or getting thrown into chaos? No, everything could be okay again! There was a chance and that is all that mattered. Chance had taken her this far. Now, she just had to find him.

Tears welled in her eyes as Shalia whispered into the air.

“Please guide him through the storm and away from death. Carry him into my arms again.” The woman quietly began to weep, partially joyful but also plagued with inescapably bitter dread as she considered it more. She did not know who she was calling to, nor did she really care. If words held so much power as poets and politicians attested to, perhaps they could manifest. Speak into existence, into reality. And if not, maybe Noraura held some fragment of sympathy in Her cold, dead heart for Her first real priestess as Shalia thought She did.


“If I don’t come back from this…” the dark-headed woman verbally recalled telling a sleeping Jiyn before her fateful departure, “then you must come to find me--unite us again.” The woman added with tears reaching the smiling corners of her mouth and flaking away, crystallized in the rush of emotion. Pale arms hugged the journal to her chest with a brief, innocent giggle, a wild expression of relief. She sniffled and wiped her red nose.

“The life we wanted and the one we deserved.”

After the war, it would all fall into place.

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