ChronPavis

Back at the camp


For most of the Legion, returning to the camp around the temple in the Rubble has now become routine: they have almost started to think of it as "home". Not that they will ever feel the security and safety that a civilian would imply by the term, but familiarity, yes. And while there have been many new recruits in the last few weeks, the core of the Legion still remains a small group who have been working together for years, and accepting newcomers for years. It shows. The formalities of rank provide a structure, reassuring to some, but the organisation simply works, without the the need for words or explanation. Vesekor and his friends, and even Santhis, find themselves absorbed easily, fed, their injuries healed. Some of the Second Cohort make a passing reference to "more misfits for the Seventh", but there's no rancor behind it, and the remark is accompanied by a tankard of surprisingly good ale.

No, there isn't the level of noisy banter one might expect in an army camp - these are mainly Humakti, after all. There's still a reserve, a divide: but the automatic distaste for any Lunar Egil had displayed is in a minority, and frowned upon. As Dori points out to one man from the Second who raises doubts: "They're ex-Lunars, Branak. Ex. Not any more. If you think that's a problem, you can always raise it with your Hundred-thane, or with ours. I'm sure either would be most interested to hear that you don't trust people who used to be Lunars."

The momentary look of horrified panic as he looks round to see if Seledd Brightspear had been in hearing range tells its own story: but he still has one last line of defence. "They're not ex-Lunars, yet. Not severed from it."

"No, but they will be, and there's enough of us to vouch for their sincerity. Come to think of it, that'll be more important for Santhis. At the moment we're still having to keep him away from the Uroxi in case of accidents."

Egil saunters across to Vesekor, his eyes dark and fierce. "Say, we've both got a problem but one I think I can fix. You're still bound to the Lunar way, which won't go down a storm with some of us and I am going to do a heroquest and need a willing sacrifice." At this point the young man pauses to watch Vesekor's reaction before he continues.

Unimpressed, though Wary. Vesekor has seen enough death cultists in the army to not be scared, but also to know that they are a touchy lot. The rest of the Birds keep an eye on the pair - and stay close to their weapons. If there's going to be a fight, Vesekor won't be alone (or, maybe, they'll take to the Quail's Path out of there).

"I am to be Hu's sword and one station requires that I sever a relationship, you want to be an ex-Lunar so need a relationship severed. Seems very much like a hand and glove situation to me. What do you think?"

"Well, before I say 'Yes', I think you'd better tell me a bit more about your plans - 'Sacrifice' sounds a bit...final.

"As far as I can tell it, all your relationships on this plane are bound together in the otherworld like magical string. Hu found a way to break these bonds, and so relationships. As his weapon I will find the string that ties you to the red moon and cut it, freeing you from it forever."

"It will also stop their magicians from tracing you back here too! I think the whole camp will feel more comfortable when that link is no longer present." Graylor added. "If it is any comfort Santhis will be going through the same ritual, though for him it will be more profound. All his magic and cult ties will be cut away, and I guess that he may have to face agents of reprisal too. But as I have learned that the Legion protects it's own. As you have seen not even the demons of hell get away with it."

Vesekor summons Devekor over and they converse quietly. Finally, Devekor nods his head.

Vesekor speaks up again: "Well, alright - as long as what's being severed ain't my neck. But you probably ought to "sever" our Wyter's links as well - to our home regiment as well as the Pavis Vexilla. Otherwise you'll not be any better off as far as them tracking us."

"You have made a fair point Vesekor. The way I have seen our wyters communicate then that is a serious issue." He flashes one of his quick smiles. "So when your links are severed, let's hope that they think that we have executed you. They will be aware that they can no longer sense your wyter. I guess that they will wonder why it was delayed from the initial fight."

Egil screws up his face in disgust "I offered to sever him as proof of his trustworthiness, not as a way of avoiding confrontation with the red empire. If they want to come, let them. My blade is ready and my soul is shielded by Hu so no harm can come of it. Still enough of such talk for now, as soon as can be arranged I will begin my quest and you will find attachment to the red moon all but a bad memory."

He looks beyond the area of the temple ground and then speaks quietly, as if to himself "and I suppose I should get to bed, I feel like I haven't slept since the Sunstop."

Mauvin looks at his cousin, his jaw gaping in disbelief. "You can't go to bed yet, we're celebrating. You killed the vampire and we had a good ruck with the Loonies and I looked bloody fabulous while doing it. So get your arse over here and grab that tankard, I've got a flagon of cider knocking about somewhere and we'll get your new contraption to make the grub."

Egil tries to protest "But I don....." He voices dies in his throat as his cousin arches an eyebrow. He wanders over and plonks himself down on the low remains of a wall.

"Your cousin's right, Egil," Dori says mildly. "Unless killing vampires is something you do so often you've got blase about it, sit down and relax before you try to sleep. The cider's a good idea, too. Can't say I'm too sure about that gadget of yours, though, whatever Malan's got in the pot smells better."

She looks round at the peaceful scene: small fires, friends seated round them, food, drinks. "You know, this probably isn't how the Lunars imagine we're treating you Rinliddi, assuming they know you're still alive. They can probably think of all sorts of reasons for the delay, starting with "ask questions first, kill them afterwards." And maybe they know that executions take place at dawn... yes, that's an idea, I'll suggest it to Yodi. Severing you from the regimental wyter could happen at dawn, that would give them the right idea."

Elendala, dark and compact, looks at her with exasperation. "Dori, do you ever take your own advice? Stop thinking like the Raven and relax, will you? Do you kill your own father so often you're blase about it, too?"

"He wasn't my father, hadn't been for years. And I don't get a lot of choice about thinking like an acting Raven - Yodi still hasn't recovered enough to take the job back." But she accepts the proffered bowl of stew, and a mug of water, and leans back against the crumbled brickwork, listening abstractedly to the small-talk around the fire as others get their meals. It's perhaps the one sign of rank the Legion, or at least the Seventh, bothers with - no insignia, no uniforms, not much in the way of formal salutes or titles, but the senior officer present does get enough deference to have her meal handed to her first.

And then another man is striding across the campsite to join them. Still no insignia, but the quality of his equipment tells its own story, as does the way Dori's smile of welcome is accompanied by her giving up her seat to him. Dark hair, dark beard, dark eyes, and a huge dark sword slung across his back. There's something about that sword that makes Vesekor and his friends feel very uneasy, and very glad that it's at the far side of the little circle from them.

"Yet more allies and friends, Dorinda? We may have to appoint a Captain of Auxilia if this recruitment drive continues."

Her eyes widen slightly - the rank must have some meaning to her beyond the obvious. "Vesekor Eagle's-son, of the Ganbarri Ket, and his - clutch, I think you called them? For some reason being lied to and treated as demon-fodder seems to have caused them to take a dislike to their former commanders, so they joined forces with us."

"Understandable." The dark eyes meet Vesekor's, hold them. Dark? They're black, the complete blackness of night, holding his gaze, pulling him in, and at the same time penetrating enough to see into his soul. And then, after a moment or an eternity, he's released, and Illig nods. "You'll do."

There's a lessening of tension around the campfire - there hadn't been much, but enough to notice when it vanishes.

"So. You were discussing the severing of relationships. Dorinda, what have you learnt on that subject today?" His role has changed: this is the teacher, the head of Hereward's cult, not the Warlord of the Legion, and Dori, seated on the ground at his feet, considers the question.

"I'm not sure. Too much.... I suppose I learnt that no matter how thoroughly a relationship is severed, if the other party doesn't accept that, it can still have effects on you. Cavos wasn't my father, not any more, he wasn't my blood-kin, but he acted as if he was. And so... yes, it means you still end up with responsibilities, because of the relationship. His belief gave me opportunities, so I had the responsibility to use them. If someone thinks you have power, it doesn't matter whether you really do or not. Or if you do, but it's something you'd never use, never do, they still act as if you might...."

"It's ironic, you know," she adds thoughtfully. "All the trouble he went to to get me as a sacrifice, and I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have worked. Not completely sure, but fairly." She laughs. "I suppose a real seeker of truth would have made the experiment, just to find out, but the consequences didn't seem to be worth it. "

Egil shakes his head "Funny you should call him my cousin in one breath and then say Cavos wasn't your father in the next. Mauvin hasn't been my cousin for a good few years now, Hu seperated us, but Mav doesn't believe it and so keeps calling me cuz. I just ignore it now whereas I used to want to cut his fool head off." He knocks back a large swig of the apple flavoured drink in the flagon marked with an apple and ten Death runes - Scumble.

"An astute observation," Illig remarks. "Well, Dorinda? Why the difference?"

"I call Mauvin Egil's cousin as a matter of courtesy, because that's how he was introduced to me," she says mildly, then: "but yes, it does seem more natural. You think of him as kin: he is, in a way, he's a sword-brother. Or rather, a sword-cousin, since he's only auxilia, not properly in the Legion. The fact that he used to be your cousin in the more traditional sense is almost irrelevant. I remember saying that to Geran, just before he went back to his sister: we do have kin, all of us. My family's right here."

Illig, the head of that "family" and her teacher for the last twelve years, looks down at the top of her bent head with slight approval, but no letting up on the challenge. "So? Continue the thought. Ignore the extreme case of your own blood-kin for now, learn from others. How should you treat someone who was once your blood-kin, but is not longer?"

"I'm not sure - I've always thought of the severing as a means of getting away from them, having as little to do with them as possible. But that's too simple, isn't it?" She considers it, her eyes going from Egil to Mauvin and back: and to Elendala, for some reason, before looking up to Illig. "Maybe you have to just treat them the same as everyone else? Completely impartial? Just judge each individual on their own merits?"

He nods. "It's a start."

Graylor speaks diffidently. "You know for me it was the opposite. My severing actually gave me a relationship with my father. He was a Huist and as a kid I thought that he was this strange, distant and rather frightening figure. Only when I finally accepted my destiny and joined Indrodar did I finally work out what he was all about." He gives a rueful smile. "I spent most of my youth trying to escape from him, trying to be as little like him as possible. I joined the healers because he was a follower of the death rune. Little good it did me to try and escape Humakt had me marked from birth and the only one who couldn't see it was me!"

"Graylor of the Dancing Swords, who who uses enchanted swords as roof supports, you disagree with Dorinda." Illig's words were a statement and not a question. Though they made Graylor visibly wince and a look on his face like an apprentice caught in the act of passing off the master's work as his own. Illig waved off Graylor's spluttered reply.

"What do you think was the key thing about today if it wasn't relationships?"

After a pause to collect himself Graylor responded. "I think that it went deeper than relationships, at least for me. It was about Honour. Everything today was about doing it right, not necessarily succeeding but doing it for the right reasons. Take Dori, her honour would not let her slay Cavos out of hand as many could and would. She showed him the way forward, gave him a chance of redemption. So revenge became justice. The Rinliddi are here because of honour, a lack of it from their leaders and enough from us to show them the path forward. I'm just beginning to see that the Legion doesn't wear honour as a mere badge. They see it as an entity that infuses through their entire being and nothing is possible without it but anything is possible with it."

"If I'd wanted revenge on Cavos, not killing him would have been the way to do it," Dori says softly. "But no, you're right, the end result may have been the same in that he still ended up dead, but there's a difference between doing it out of justice or out of revenge. I'm not sure what it would have done to him, but I know what it would have done to me. Still, that's just my path to the Truth. It looks like Siggyr disagrees with me, for one."

[Anyone, particularly Guy, want to add anything here?]

"But the rest of it, about honour being important: well, yes, of course. Honour is the path as well as the goal, the end does not justify the means - I'm sorry, I thought I'd been making that clear from the beginning. I must be an even worse teacher than I'd imagined, if you only caught on to that today."

Graylor opens his mouth to speak but Illig gets there first.

"Some thing have to be experienced rather than taught, as I believe you know," Illig points out. "But there is one area where your teaching does seem to have been rather lax."

He pulls round the great sword from behind him. "Do you know what this is?"

She looks uncertainly at him, then at Vesekor. "Your sword - and the Legion's wyter. Among other things."

"Correct." He too glances at Vesekor. "And, as you have been teaching your pupil, it grants certain protections."

"Yes...." She isn't too sure where this is going.

"Dorinda, this is a sword. Not a pit prop. Not a shovel. Your defintion of any weapon, even your own ten, as being a sword in essence, is acceptable, even admirable in its ingenuity. But using this to protect a common tool that happens to be sword-shaped is not. Ingenuity can be taken too far."

Again Graylor opens his mouth to reply then blushes and closes it again. He notices Dori's crestfallen look and musters a reply.

"My excessive ingenuity is not Dori's fault. I will not try delude myself or you by offering a pathetic excuse for my behaviour. In the future and I will think more clearly about the use of it's power." He finds it hard to look at Illig directly whilst speaking. "It has passed through my mind before now that the similarity in our thinking may well be why Ironsword and Hereward wanted Dori and I to meet and be agents of their reconciliation. It is true that one of the common characteristics of both our Lords is that they pushed the boundaries of what was possible and it made them what they are now."

Illig looks at Graylor patiently whilst he stumbles through his reply. "It is good that you think about these things. However, you were talking about honour earlier; think about how honourably you are treating our wyter when you call on him for menial tasks. Ultimately it is him that accepts, or not, any request for aid. You would be wise to consider the honour for him in your actions." Illig pauses in thought for a moment. "You and Dorinda are well matched it is true as is your point on our Lords pushing boundaries. However, they were wise enough to know which boundaries could be pushed. You need to learn that lesson Graylor."

"Yes Illig." Came the simple reply.

Vesekor says little, instead listening and figuring out who's who, who's what, and where he might fit in.

Illig then turns and focuses his attention on Egil. "And so to our vampire slayer. Our congratulations must go to you you Egil. Many of this band have suffered at the hands of that servant of the wounded one but your caused its heroquest to go astray and then killed it. I am also aware that although you got behind it you gave fair warning of your presence before attacking. I am glad of this, death is a far better option than living in dishonour. Remember regardless of the opponent you should always act honourably, it is you who must live with the shame afterwards not they."

Egil swells with pride at the complements but tries not to let it show outside, he merely nods his head and murmurs "Thank you."

Illig continues "So, what did you learn on the heroplane about Hu and about the legion?"

At the mention of Hu Egil takes on a fierce look "That he will provide all I need to survive this world, and the next. The magic I knew before I could not use but the power he instilled in me let me fight that monster. To trust in him alone and I can achieve victory."

Illig arches an eyebrow "Was there something else? Any other power aiding you?"

Egil shakes his head "A sword helped me that I didn't recognise but its power was so great that it must have been Hu."

"Place much of your trust in Hu, he will guide you and aid you as he can but don't forget the legion. The sword that helped was Herewards, it channelled our power to you. The blade is exceptionally strong and with our power it can seem godlike to those who have not felt it before. Myself and some others lent our strength to you to make your magic stronger. Don't forget when you severed from Mauvin and the rest of your clan you were bereft of family but when you joined the legion that family was replaced and now you are succoured by us and us by you."

Egil seems somewhat distant at this as if remembering times long past.

"Yes Lord." he says, eventually.


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