• Zenia Platten

Chapter 1 - Jerome

Updated: Feb 17, 2019

Twelve hours had passed since the inferno, but already a tent city of refugees had sprung up around the eastern walls of Tameeka-Tor. The lines of canvas homes stretched into the tall grass of the plains, echoing with sounds of grief and exhaustion. Peirce stumbled from Brewer’s District to find the remainder of the city intact and dragged himself into the camp with the other displaced residents. He leaned against a barrel in the largest tent looking at the patchwork roof, trying to mentally block the groans of those being hospitalized nearby. Closing his eyes, Peirce ran one hand over his long, dark hair and followed the length of it as far down his back as he could reach. He sighed, dropping his hands back into his lap and licking his lips as his throat itched with stale smoke.

He had been working side by side with Jinju to move the wounded to this tent, the only one large enough to fit them all. He had been relieved to find his friend in good health soon after arriving in the camp, and more relieved still that the monk had been in a different district when the fire started. A fit of racking coughs overcame Peirce and he sat to rest, but Jinju had continued to work for another hour. Jinju was returning, coming to join him with a large wooden mug in each hand. Twice as wide as the slender Piece, but half as tall, Jinju made his way calmly over to the teifling and offered him one of the mugs, sloshing cool water over the side during the exchange.

“Is that all of them?” Peirce asked, his voice still pained and scratchy from the smoke.

“Aye, anyone not here, or wanderin’ the camp, has been declared dead. Brewer’s district is too unstable to look for more without losing the rescuers too.” The hairless dwarf looked distant and his tear drop tattoos suited his grim expression.

Pierce had met Jinju two years earlier, when they had been hired as part of a team to investigate some local disappearances and he had been fond of the kindly dwarf since. Peirce and Jinju kept in contact with the friends made on that job, but the dwarf and teifling had stayed especially close. Watching the dying and wounded, Peirce wondered what would come next for them. With the distillery where they had both lived and worked as nothing but a hollowed shell, he was eager to find more work. Despite avoiding the inferno, Jinju still looked as miserable as any of the refugees. Covered head to toe in soot from searching for survivors, the dwarf was hardly employable, and Peirce doubted he was in any better shape.

“There’ll be plenty of construction jobs needin’ strong backs,” Jinju said, guessing his thoughts.

“Ugh. All day in the hot sun, hauling and laying stones. Pure monotony. There must be something else.” Pierce rolled his eyes and started absentmindedly polishing the soot from his horns. Jinju leaned back, thinking, and rubbed his hands over his bald face, hesitating at his chin where any other dwarf would have a beard.

“Well lad, you know the sea would leave me parched*, so sailing’s out, and neither of us want you to go back to thievin’ so unless you know of an artisan that didn’t lose their business today it looks like construction is the only choice, boring or no.”

*Yes, that was a blatant Corb Lund reference. No, it did not fit there. Hindsight's 20/20!

Pierce groaned and let his head flop forward onto his crossed legs. He stayed bent for several minutes, closing his eyes and almost drifting to sleep in the awkward position. He stirred when Jinju elbowed him.

“Peirce, look. A well born got caught in the fire.” Jinju was gesturing across the tent to where a young man in soot-covered nobles garb paced. At every turn the aristocrat’s long silver hair would flick around his waist, giving the impression of a cape.

As he watched, Pierce was impressed by the sheer height of the man. Peirce usually had a few inches on most men he met but as the slim well born paced Peirce realized that he would probably only come to the noble’s chin. The sharp features and slightly pointed ears hinted at a half-elven lineage, and the wrinkles beginning to appear on his forehead looked out of place on such a young face. Then again, Peirce reminded himself, half-elves and elves could live for hundreds of years. This noble could have more than a century under his belt and still be considered a youth. As the man turned again, Peirce noted a crest embroidered into the sleeve of his outfit, peeking from the sooty residue. As he studied the silver dragon on a field of red it dawned on him just who he was looking at.

“Jinju, that’s not just a well born, that’s Wilder Jones. The founder’s son, you know, the witch,” Peirce whispered excitedly.

I love how few questions new author's ask of their stories. How did a street urchin/day labourer know the crests of the local nobility? Why are they called 'well born'? Why does Peirce care? We'll never know.

“Really? I thought he was supposed to be working at his mum’s bank, what was he doin’ in Brewer’s district?” The dwarf looked thoughtful for a moment and furrowed his brow. “That fire burned through solid stone as if it were dry timber, it had to be magical. You don’t think…?” Jinju trailed off as Wilder glared across the tent, directly at the dwarf. After a few tense seconds the noble went back to his pacing, satisfied that he had ended that particular train of thought. Peirce shuddered before leaning to Jinju and muttering in his ear.

“You might want to keep your voice down; it seems the lordling has his mother’s sense of hearing.”

The two watched Wilder pace in silence long into the night, listening to people calling in their dreams for lost loved ones or screaming wordlessly through nightmares of solid stone collapsing beneath wild flames. Eventually the city healers arrived and began to administer to those in the tent, and the need for working room forced Pierce and Jinju onto the plains to sleep. As they tramped down a spot in the tall grass and settled in for whatever sleep they could snatch, Peirce’s keen eyes watched a lazy tendril of smoke still slowly wafting from the city, blotting the stars as he succumbed to exhaustion.

Smoke rose from between the flagstones of Peirce’s room as shouts for water wafted in from the street, waking him. He fumbled his way from his cot and rubbed his stinging eyes. Despite the darkness, Peirce’s night eyes could clearly see his small room above the distillery. The floor was covered in clothes, cast off from his one-man fashion show the night before. Pants, skirts, shirts, and dresses were scattered over everything except the small table, piled high with bundles of fabric and thread. Clumsy with sleep, Peirce pulled on a pair of long blue pants, specially designed to cover his hooves from view, then dropped onto his hands and knees to reach under the bed.

He groped for the full backpack and yanked it out, heading for the door in the same motion. Peirce had learned to be ready for quick escapes from his previous life in Shadows district, and for once, he was thankful for it. Swinging the door open, he was thrown back hard with an explosion of stone and heat as the barrels on the first floor of the distillery caught flame. He flew farther than he would have thought possible and landed hard on a solid, jagged surface that jabbed painfully into his back. Suddenly thrown into the broad light of day, he lay dazed as the fire licked its way over the street. Green-yellow flames caught on bare rock and leaped upon Peirce’s precious clothes, scattered around him and wrinkling alarmingly fast. Peirce’s arms and legs grew heavy as the smoke billowed around him and filled his lungs. He watched as a purple dress with stripes and lace floated up and wrapped its fabric arms around his throat, choking the life from him with all the malice of paisley.

I'm still proud of that 'malice of paisley' line. It's always cool to see something done right in a review like this.

Peirce convulsed twice before sitting up in the early morning air. Panting and sweating he put his hand to his throat and rubbed it lightly, pleased to find his fabric foe had dispersed with his sleep. Jinju sat beside him, legs crossed and palms up, meditating in the morning sun. The dwarf’s brown monk’s cassock looked cleaner than the night before and Pierce wondered if he had found somewhere to wash up. Glancing at his filthy trousers Peirce hoped that was the case. Finding his backpack between them, Peirce gripped the strap, intending to change into a clean set of clothes, but stopped when a too familiar smell slapped him in the face.

“Gods damn it.” Peirce said, holding the bag in the air but away from his body. Jinju calmly opened one eye to regard the teifling.

“Good morning Peirce.” He said, his tone reprimanding.

“To hell it is. Someone’s pissed all over my backpack.” Peirce replied, looking around for any guilty faces, but found too many watching his outburst to pinpoint the culprit. Grumbling to himself he opened the bag and was relieved to find the interior had escaped unsoiled. Moving with care and deliberation, making sure that anyone watching could see, he pulled out his leather armour and a dagger still snug in its sheath. Slowly, he donned the armour, running his fingers over the holes and tears from long years of unfortunate use. It had been ages since he’d had need of it and he was glad that now he was only using it for intimidation. The dark grey suit would overheat him quickly but for now he appreciated the extra layer of protection amidst so many strangers.

Pierce and Jinju were camped close to the main city wall, and they were the first to see a figure stumble from the wicket gate. When the stranger hesitated in the narrow doorway he was assisted through by a rough push from the guards. Peirce watched curiously as the staggering new-comer weaved his way through camp, shaggy brown hair hanging in his eyes, moving from group to group. Peirce could not hear what he was saying but shouts of “Drunk!” followed in his wake. The wanderer was younger than Peirce had originally thought, no older than sixteen. Height and a haggard countenance lent age to the lanky frame and a pimple marked face. The figure approached Pierce and Jinju, ready to collapse with hands outstretched, as if it were pitch dark and he was feeling for obstacles.

“Please,” he said in a weak slur, “help, someone please. They took him, he’s gone.” Remaining out of the figure’s reach, Peirce examined the new arrival, dancing away when he lurched closer. The boy shuddered, legs giving way, and Jinju stepped forward to catch him. Peirce watched as Jinju laid the boy in the grass and rested his head against the newcomer’s green tunic, listening to his breathing and heartbeat. The boy looked just like the other refugees at first glance, but as Jinju checked him over for injuries Peirce noticed that the dirt was not right.

“He wasn’t in the fire.” Pierce observed.

“Nay, I can’t find any burns, nasty bump on the head though. Maybe he got caught by some falling stones?” Jinju sat back on his haunches and retrieved a water skin from a hidden recess of his robe, and the boy drank greedily.

“I don’t think he was anywhere near the fire,” Peirce clarified. “He’s got no soot on him, just dust and regular old street crud.” Pierce let his expression soften and he knelt beside the boy opposite to Jinju.

“What’s your name?”

“J-Jerome Burske.” The boy managed, his eyes unfocused.

Peirce saw a shadow fall over his shoulder and, turning, looked up at none other than Wilder Jones, the noble from the previous night.

“Jerome? You look awful.” Wilder said, squatting beside Pierce and looking concerned. “What happened to you?”

Jerome looked for the voice, moving his head from side to side. “Who is it? I-I can't see.”

“It’s Wilder Jones, where is your master?” Wilder waved his hand in front of the boy a few times, confirming his claims of blindness.

“If’n you’ll excuse me sir,” Jinju put in before Jerome could speak “but this boy has taken a nasty crack to the head at the very least, and should get some rest before he tries too much conversin’.” Wilder looked put off but nodded before standing and brushing himself off. As Wilder turned to leave, Jerome jolted upright, grabbing the front of Peirce’s armour with eyes wide.

“No! It’s important. Sir Greenfeather’s gone. We were attacked. Everything happened so fast, I- I couldn’t stop them. They hit me.” His lip trembled with each panicked breath and he looked as if he might faint. “They wore lizards, orange lizards on their arms. They took him. I think they poisoned him.” Jerome’s eyes rolled up showing only whites as a coughing fit took him, and he fell back into Jinju’s waiting arms.

“Shh lad,” Jinju murmured, stroking the boy’s sweat-soaked brow. “It’s going to be alright. You’re with friends now, but you need to rest.” Jerome tried to argue, making less sense as delirium set in, but Jinju was able to calm him into a fretful and exhausted sleep. The three men exchanged glances with eyebrows raised.

“So… does anyone know what that was about?” Peirce asked. Wilder creased his brow and put his chin in one hand regarding Pierce curiously.

“Sir Isaac Greenfeather is a family friend of the Jones’. He works as a knight for the city, keeping the orc tribes from coming too close to the local villages. This is Jerome, his squire,” he explained, and Peirce stayed calm under the half-elf’s scrutiny. Peirce felt a brief thrill of excitement as a plan began to form in his mind. He felt for the boy, and helping a knight of the city could mean nothing but good things for the rescuers. Peirce risked a study of the noble half-elf before him, measuring him up and down. He wanted to help the boy, but he and Jinju would need a way to survive in the meantime. They would need money. Peirce stood, crossing his arms as he began to slowly pace circles around the unconscious Jerome.

Part of me wants to be annoyed with how I handled bringing the party together, I know I could do a better job of it now, but it was an awkward meeting in real life too, so perhaps it's better off this way. There was a certain amount of glossing over details in the game version, that just doesn't translate well to story.

“It’s a real shame that Jerome here couldn’t tell us more, as is there isn’t really enough information for anyone but trained professionals to find your friend. Alas, this twig of a squire probably won’t be able to afford anyone but the city guard to investigate. Poor knight, don’t you hate it when good people meet bad ends Jinju? I hate it.” The dwarf looked up at Pierce confused and got a wink in return that did nothing to lessen his bafflement. Wilder was watching the teifling pace and crossed his arms, unable to contain an amused expression at the not-so-subtle advertising.

“And I suppose you happen to know some such professionals?” Wilder asked, his voice low. “Or perhaps you are some such professionals and I will be so thrilled to have found help for the doomed Sir Greenfeather that I will throw money at you in exchange for promises of retrieval.” Peirce’s face fell as the noble continued, his voice rising. “Imagine my delight when you return after a few days with promising leads, but alas!” Wilder threw up his hands in mock despair. “You won’t have the funds to pursue them. Naturally I’ll help and loan you the money, my family owns a bank after all, it’s not like we don’t have some to spare, but then a few more days will pass and I won’t hear back, a few more and I’ll be sick with worry,” the half-elf paused and shook his head. When he looked up he was glaring at Peirce as he continued. “Another week and I’ll realize the deceit and be too embarrassed to warn my peers of the swindlers who will no doubt be off cutting someone else’s purse strings with their silver tongues.” Wilder smirked as he finished and Pierce rallied as best he could.

“You wound me sir!” He turned away from Wilder and bit his lip, thinking fast. “As it happens we are such professionals, however not the swindlers you make us out to be.” Pivoting on his heel he faced Wilder again, this time with a pout. “We were retired. Jinju and I have been working in the local distillery, but as that is now destroyed we really are looking for honest work. You could always pay us after we’ve gotten some results.” This notion pleased Wilder and he drummed his fingers on his chin looking back and forth between Jerome, Jinju, and Peirce. After several moments of contemplation the noble spoke.

“Usually, I would hire on a group of accredited inquisitors for something like this, however I feel that you have an extra service you can grant me that gives you the competitive advantage.” Wilder said. Peirce shuffled his hooves and looked to Jinju who was still seated with the boy across his lap looking both amused and bewildered by the proceedings.

“What would this extra service be?” Peirce asked, trying to keep hesitance from his voice.

“You’ll allow me to come with you.” Wilder said, looking smug. “Any inquisitors are just as liable to lie to me about leads as you are, licensed or not, and if I’m there in person I can be sure that things are on track. I assure you I can be helpful in a fight if it comes to that. Besides, it will help me keep my brother off my back.” Pierce immediately wondered if suggesting any of this had been a mistake. If a noble died within one hundred feet of Pierce he was bound to be a suspect, he was too recognizable. He was about to decline when Jinju stood up with Jerome cradled in his arms, the boy’s feet dragging on the ground.

“Well Peirce,” the dwarf said with a knowing look “what’ll it be? Rescuing a knight in shining armour, or laying stone for the rest of the summer?”

Peirce bit his lip and shifted his eyes from side to side, running mental arithmetic to try and determine his odds of finding the knight without any harm coming to the lordling. Finally, he extended a hand to Wilder, forcing a smile.

“Congratulations Wilder Jones, you’ve just hired yourself the, uh… Brewer’s Crew.”

The long, dry grass became easier to move through as Pierce made his way across the main bulk of the tent city, the pasture already stomped flat by hundreds of shuffling feet. Peirce walked tall with his hands in his pockets, taking his time moving to the far side of camp, scanning for familiar faces. As he passed people, he tried not to notice the averted eyes and the efforts to shuffle away, or worse, the outright glares and muttered insults.

From what the squire, Jerome, had said Pierce knew that this was not a job to run into with only two people. Well, two people and a noble. They would need a healer, at the very least, and Pierce knew of only one who would be likely to go out of their way for a few extra coins. Smiling at everyone as he passed, letting the looks and harsh words roll off of him, he made his way to the farthest part of camp from the infirmary. There, a small cook fire burned, walled in by three familiar figures sitting a stone’s throw from the other refugees.

Peirce waved as he approached the trio and slumped, cross-legged to join them. He watched as a tiny brunette with sharp features tried to treat her struggling gnomish patient. Behind the gnome, a broad-chested half-orc held him still with massive grey-green hands, offering Peirce a tusk-filled grin as he joined them. Denterra pursed her lips and scowled as she worked over the burns that covered the orange skin of the gnome’s hands and face. His unusual colouring gave the scorch marks an amber quality and as he squirmed the vicious burns glistened in the morning light.

Occasionally, Denterra would pause and reach up to brush some stray brown hairs behind her ears, only to have them fall back into her pinched face within moments. As Pierce watched, a bead of sweat collected on her creased brow and he wondered if she would be able to continue wearing her heavy plated armour when the heat of midday arrived.

Side note on Denterra: In game she had multiple personalities. Every now and again she'd roll a d6, and on a 1 would become a Lolth-worshipping cultist/weirdo. It only ever came up once in a two year campaign, so I left it out, but it was still a memorable part of the character for me.

Denterra and Rogar, her half-orc aid, were an odd pair. There were rumours around their relationship being more than professional of course, but to Peirce’s eyes the stern annoyance that Denterra showed Rogar was too far from romance to give the stories any creed. To him, she was a tired school teacher who has been saddled with her least favourite student so long that an odd sort of friendship had bloomed.

“Argh, it’s really not that bad. I’m fine, stop it!” The gnome, Aangle Trigg, argued as he struggled against the massive hands holding him in check. Many of the refugees still looked dirty and tired from the disaster the previous day, but Aangle looked especially so. His green hair was singed off near the front, the chest of his once bright and colourful shirt was incinerated, and shiny, amber burns wound severe and painful paths up his small arms, chest, and face.

“Aangle what happened? You look like hell,” Peirce said. The gnome did not reply, instead gasping in pain as Denterra continued to wipe his chest clean of grime. Rogar spoke for him, enunciating each word carefully around his protruding tusks.

“He only just crawled out of Brewer’s district a few hours ago and stumbled his way into camp. I found him by the water casks and brought him to Denterra,” Rogar said, loud enough to make Peirce lean back subconsciously.

“Yes,” Denterra chimed in “from the looks of it our little alchemist was near something explosive when the fire reached him. He’s lucky; I think he’ll still be able to move most of his fingers after this.” Aangle paled to a yellowish hue and swallowed hard.

“Y-you’re kidding right?” he asked. Denterra looked straight into his eyes without any hint of humour.

“Only if you stop squirming, otherwise…” she trailed off, shrugging noncommittally. Aangle sat up straight and nodded warily, wincing as she continued her work but no longer trying to escape. Rogar slowly removed his hands from the gnome’s shoulders and turned his attention instead towards Pierce.

“Glad to see you’re okay, have you touched base with Jinju yet? We haven’t seen him,” Rogar said and Peirce had to resist the urge to put his fingers in his ears. The half-orc always managed to push all the volume of a shout into a perfectly casual speaking voice, putting most people on the defensive. The habit put Peirce on edge and he often reminded himself that the lack of volume control was simply Rogar’s norm.

“Yes, Jinju is fine. He’s helping in the infirmary with a late arrival.” Pierce was about to continue when Denterra began to chant and he stopped to watch the spell. It only took a few seconds of melodic mantra over the damaged skin before the burns began to reduce in severity, growing lighter and smaller. When Denterra removed her hands the burns appeared several weeks into the healing process and had faded to a much more comfortable dark mustard colour. Aangle sighed and his eyes were suddenly drooping, released from the constant pain that kept him wakeful. He wavered where he sat, swaying as if he might faint and Denterra handed him a small pouch of nuts to eat before sending him to a nearby bedroll. Once Aangle was snoring soundly, Peirce recounted the story of Jerome and Wilder, and the job that had come from it.

“All we have to do is find a missing knight, and Wilder Jones has promised to pay us well for our time. He’s also agreed to a little extra hazard pay if anything should come to blows, which from what I’ve heard so far, it might.” Peirce explained.

“From what you’ve told us it doesn’t sound like there’s anything to go off. What makes you think anything would get violent?” Denterra questioned, looking decidedly unenthused by the proposition. There was always paid work for healers and, homeless or no, the oracle would not need to risk her safety for employment.

“Jerome said that the people who attacked him had orange lizards on their arms right?” Peirce replied, focusing his attention on the little woman, knowing that if he could convince Denterra to help, Rogar would follow her. “Well I recognize that mark, they’re tattoos. There’s a gang that operates out of Shadows that call themselves the Flaming Salamanders, and the lifers get the tattoos. That’s where we should start searching.”

“We?” Denterra jumped on the word without hesitation. “Who precisely is ‘we’?” Peirce looked at the ground sheepishly.

“Well, I was hoping ‘we’ would be Jinju, the two of you, and me. Oh, and the lordling I suppose.” Seeing Denterra’s scowl Peirce put on his best wheedling voice. “Please Denterra? It would be suicidal to go into Shadows without a proper healer watching our backs. There’s good money in it for everyone, better than that search and rescue from a couple years ago.” He clasped his hands and sat on his knees, pouting his lower lip slightly. Denterra sighed and looked into the little fire, chewing her cheek and picking at her nails, not looking at him.

“Why haven’t you included Aangle in your list? He was with us for the last job, why leave him out of this one?” Denterra asked, not taking her eyes off the crackling fire.

“To be honest, I was hoping not to have to split the profit another way. Well, that and I seem to remember he was a little… accident prone. Remember when he tried to blast that door open? He nearly took out half of the manor.” Peirce chuckled at the memory, which got funnier the more time was between him and it. A few more moments of contemplation passed before Denterra replied.

“We’ll do it” she said, gesturing to herself and Rogar, “IF Aangle can come too. I don’t think it would be wise to leave him in the camp without friends.” Pierce tilted his head and raised an eyebrow at the healer.

“He’s gotten along without help for years Dee, what makes you worry now?” Pierce asked, and he shuffled closer when she beckoned to him conspiratorially.

“Look at the burns.” She whispered. “They’re down his front, and only his front, like an explosion, not a fire. Last time I spoke to him, he was talking about inventing an alternate energy source, because wood is so expensive here. He’s been putting weeks into it and as you said, he is accident prone.”

Peirce thought hard about what Denterra was telling him, staring at her and trying to read more from her face until an ‘O’ of understanding appeared on his lips. His eyes flickered over the snoozing gnome before returning to Denterra, a crease forming on his brow.

“You think he was working on burning stone? That he started the fire?” Peirce questioned, mortified. The alchemist had a reputation for being reckless, but trying to burn stone in a city built of the stuff was too much for Peirce to believe.

Reckless doesn't begin to cover it. Aangle was the kind of character DM's love, because all they need to do to create havoc and conflict is to place the character in the room with a button, lever, or 'do not touch' sign. He was the kind of character that would look at an orb of annihilation and think 'but how do I know without touching it?'

“Yes, I do, and with his ‘mad scientist’ reputation he’s lucky Rogar brought him to me and not to another healer who might have come to the same conclusion. I don’t like the idea of leaving him alone around so many people who might notice the odd burn patterns. He comes, or none of us do.” Denterra crossed her arms and leaned back, waiting for Peirce’s decision.

“Fine. He’s useful enough. Besides, Jerome thought that the Salamanders had poisoned Sir Greenfeather so maybe he’ll earn his keep. That little tidbit about the fire might keep Jinju from accusing our new patron of it again too.” Peirce stood as he finished speaking and stretched his arms.

“We’re meeting outside the infirmary tent tomorrow at dusk to head to Shadows. Be ready with whatever you’ll need.” As Peirce turned to leave, Rogar, who had been scanning the camp beyond, touched Denterra’s arm.

“Hey, looks like the Candle is coming back,” He said, giving Denterra a sideways look.

Denterra stuck out her tongue and worked herself into a standing position, leaning heavily on one good leg while the other sagged inwards oddly, twisting in on itself and deflated of muscle. Peirce, as always, tried and failed not to stare at the oracle’s curse, a malady given to chosen individuals by the gods. With the curse they gave powers, usually spells, using the affliction as a natural counter to unnatural abilities. To distract himself from the deformity he looked to where Rogar had pointed to see a man approaching in white cleric’s robes, topped by a shock of bright red hair that gave the man his nickname.

“Nigel’s been trying to get me to go to the infirmary to heal people free of charge. Says it’s my civic duty to Tameeka-Tor. I told him I’m from Voidgaze but that doesn’t seem to sway his opinion on the matter.” Peirce looked back as Denterra explained to see her climbing onto the half orc’s back. She was harnessing herself into a modified backpack, criss-crossed with complicated straps for reinforcement. The pair usually travelled in the odd arrangement to compensate for Denterra’s limp, but repetition of the sight made it no less strange. Denterra finished securing herself while the lanky cleric was still forty feet away and looked across to Pierce, who was now at eye level for the short woman.

“Keep an eye on Aangle for a bit. We’re going for a run.” As she finished speaking Rogar lurched forwards into a light jog and the pair bounced away around the perimeter of the tent city. Peirce watched Aangle and shook his head, wondering if Rogar ever resented Denterra’s heavy armour when he carried her. The Candle approached, watching the shrinking figures bobbing across the plain and he spoke to Peirce without looking at him.

“If you can find any sense of duty in that black soul of yours, demon,” Candle practically spat the word, “then tell Lady Cornel that her presence has been requested at the infirmary tent. The clerics are overwhelmed and need support.” The sour man pivoted on his heel, making his robe flutter, kicking up dust, and Peirce called after him as he left.

“I think she’s already given her answer to your request, but I’ll let her know. If, of course, I don’t get preoccupied being a beacon of sin.” Pierce grinned wide at the Candle’s scowl and was pleased to see him go. Flopping back between Aangle and the fire Peirce looked over the plains and wondered exactly how long he would be stuck gnome-sitting.

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©2019 by Zenia Platten.