The Town that Was

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Elly has been at her favourite spot at the Sanctum for a while now. There's a wide array of objects laid out in the series of tables and chairs in front of her; there are many books on topics from fae to elementals, an odd collection of metallic shards on a cloth, numerous parchments with scribbled notes, and more than a few discarded quills. She is tap-tap-tapping with a dry quill on the desk, occasionally getting up to pace impatiently and tap-tap-tapping on her forehead instead.

Everyone was just so busy. She had been there when the Queen had announced her ambitious plan against Culdranth, and she knew how thinly spread they were already...

Tap-tap-tap, tap-tap-tap

But this was important. She let out her breath in a sigh, sinking back into the chair and pulling a book on time elementals towards her. This was so much bigger than she had thought, and for the first time in a while, she felt very... small. And yet. This place...


Not this place. The people in it. They could help, just as she knew they could when she first arrived almost a year ago. Her throat tightened a little. They would help. They must.


They must.
Eyes sunken and hair unkempt, the magus enters, and without so much as a glance up he begins sorting through notes as he pulls them from a disorganized pile.
Elly's eyes follow him across the room, quill frozen in mid-air. After a more than a few moments of hesitation, she gathers up the metal shards in the cloth and approaches.

"Magus? I'm sure you're terribly busy, I was hoping to bother you. For a moment. Really quickly." She pauses. "Sorry," she adds, for good measure.
Evo's sorting slows, and he considers Elly. The papers find their way to yet another pile.

"I think it's time you and I talk, anyhow." He frowns in thought. "I've been happy to give you the freedom to pursue your own mysteries, but perhaps I haven't heard enough from you." He sits in a chair near Elly and gestures for her to speak.
Kai peeks her head in and looks around, looking anxious and out of breath. Spying her target, she makes her way towards Magus Evo.
While Elly collects her thoughts, Evo turns his attention to the anxious fox-kin. "What is it, Kai?"
"I've just come back from walking in the woods with Calan. He's deeply distressed, as you can imagine- but he imparted a bit of news to me that I think you need to know." She leans in and whispers in his ear.
Evo's eyebrows go up, and his lips purse. "Who else knows?"
"Jinn, Phal and Rohnan." She looks a little uncomfortable. "I figured the fellows are hooked into intel enough that they'd be told quickly anyways, and it made sense to update them when I let them know Calan was okay- er.. alright.. er.. not dead." She sighs, "I thought an update was at least making myself useful. That, and if there is anything that needs to be researched right now. Is there anything?"
"I'm sure there will be much to research. For some reason I feel laws of succession are going to become incredibly important to know about. But I'll leave a note in the cabin for you if I have something specific." He pauses and thinks. "I'm sure you'll be selective in who you tell, and I appreciate it; but this is not going to be secret for long, based on experience."
Kai nods to Evo. "Somethings need to be kept secret, some things shouldn't be, or can't be." She looks tired. "I'm going to ask around, see if anyone else has a project going that needs research." She excuses herself, and heads out.
Elly steps back, letting Kai bustle past. Watching her go, she chuckles softly. "Everyone's so busy."

Turning back, she says, "I can see you have a lot of demands on your time, I'll try to be quick."

She takes a few breaths, apparently not sure whether to sit or stand. She finally settles in the chair offered, brow furrowed.

"You might recall, I'm from a little do-nothing town. Brighton. It... burned not quite a year ago, which led me here. I'd had a vision of a sword in the woods, and on finding it, was given something of the ability I have now, though the sword wasn't much to look at. On getting back to the village, everything was in flames. My friends and I went back shortly after I got to the Lux, and found evidence of a huge elemental, drag marks that led to nothing... and the fire started in the old library where my brother and I worked. And lived," she adds with a shrug.

She shakes her head, as if to clear it. "A few weeks ago, the vision Mal so kindly helped me with finally became clear. It was... strange. There was a balance. A pendulum. A figure on either end, one with something on their forehead, if that makes any sense? Armies of soldiers in white and blue, then armies of monsters, swinging back and forth, light and dark... and my village. One moment in flames, one moment... fine. Beautiful." She clutches the cloth a little closer. "Brighton... almost in the balance."

Her restlessness gets the better of her and she begins to pace slowly again. "So we went back. And Brighton..." Her eyes are bright and wide. "... it was there! And fine! But... changed. The people were strange, no one knew me. The buildings weren't quite right, but some things were still the same. There had still been a fire in the library, but years ago. The man who lived there says he bore my father's name... but never had children. It was all so strange..." Her eyes are distant now, hands trembling slightly.

"And this." She holds out the shards in her hand. You might notice signs of what once was a sword, now hopelessly shattered. "The sword was there. In the forest again. Remade. And when it was removed..." She swallows hard. "It happened. Again." Her eyes remain fixed on the pieces, as if willing them back together. "But it wasn't a fire. It was a wind storm, a tornado. I've never seen such power."

She sinks slowly back into the chair. "I don't know... if I did this..." She fights hard for her composure, finally mastering herself and wrapping the cloth carefully back around the shattered blade. "But I need to know how to fix it." When she's finally able to meet his eyes again, her cheeks are flushed though her gaze is steady. "I need help. I'm desperately in over my head. And I know everyone's worried about the Duke, about the Reaches, the dragon, and I know it's just a little farming town..." She takes a breath. "I just feel like this is part of something... big."
Evo listens intently, and "hmmm"s to himself as Elly speaks.

"I have several thoughts, though no clear answers for you. However, I can assure you of two things. First, this is bigger than you. It's not expected that you take all the responsibility, or solve this yourself, no matter how much you may feel this is yours to carry. Because, and this is my second point, what you've described involves forces already involved in the greater wars."

He leans forward. "Not only do you need help, we need answers. This might be a portent of things to come, but if it involves time elementals then you could be witnessing various very real outcomes of our war. And even if Brighton is not something we can fix, it is most certainly something we can learn from." Evo takes a deep breath, then releases it slowly. "This is important to you, and I want you involved every step of the way. I also want you to take a ranking member of the Sanctum with you to lend experience and to provide the authority you'll need to recruit a larger team."

"The obvious choice would be your mentor." Evo looks out toward the house full of Tari-Noor. "If you could find Jinn and let him know what we've discussed, I'd like to see you, Jinn and Calan here." He frowns again. "I know Calan might still be stricken with grief, but I think it might be good to keep him occupied."

Evo hesitates a moment, then speaks with a gravity beyond his usual serious mien. "A final thought, before you find Jinn. You might be able to save Brighton. Or: You might have to decide whether you cling to the past, or forge your destiny. I'm trusting you to remember that there is more than just your village, your past, at stake. If the time comes to choose, be mindful of that burden."

His expression softens, and he says more gently, "Now go. Find Jinn and Calan, and we'll make plans."
The tension in her shoulders starts to relax, just a little. "I think you're right. I don't want to divide our attention too much, but there's something here. I can feel it. Thank you, sir. Really." When she smiles, it's genuine.

She stands and is almost to the door before pausing. She doesn't turn fully, and her voice is tremulous. "I don't know if you realize... how much this means. But just know that if Brighton is gone..." She takes a steadying breath. "... I made peace with losing my brother a long time ago. I'll do what needs doing. I promise." And with that, she pushes through the door.
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Billin arrives a little while later, and being told where Evo is, approaches his friend.
"Ah, Evo, I am glad to have found you." Billin give the Magus a small bow while standing off to one side. "I have news that you may not have heard and I seek advice."
Evo brightens a bit when he sees Billin. "It's good to see you, even in the middle of..." he waves in no particular direction "... all this. What's on your mind?"
"First the news," Billin says taking a seat, "last night four of us went to Calenhelm and the sanctum vaults there. Myself, Stig, Cato and Mar. We were lead there by Grandmaster Dramm and General Colson. In the vaults we talked to the Sword of Destiny that the late king wielded.. yes, we talked to a sword..." Billin says rubbing his temples.
"Anyway," He continues "The sword told us about 6 other weapons of legend called the Armory of the Hunters. These weapons should give us an edge against Culderanth."
Here Billin sighs and takes a moment to continue. "Grandmaster Dramm and General Colson informed us that it will be a joint effort between the Hammer Outfitters and the Home Guard to, A: find these weapons, as well as the schematics to reforge them. B: reforge them, casting any rituals or spells that may be required, and C: determine who will wield them, these people must be completely trusted by both guilds."
Evo nods, "ah, yes, the sword of the late King Ulric which came back under its own power and announced that it would one day return, to be wielded in a great battle, or some such. I'm glad to hear that the Homeguard will have such aid against Culdranth; I had considered it a nearly lost cause."

"That's only one of three enemies we are at war with, however. Queen Ava last night made it clear that we are to begin the offensive against the vampire lord, and to continue our mission to defeat Al Zoon. And as I'm sure you've heard, the vampire wasted no time in resuming the offensive against us." Evo pauses, looks at Billin's beard, and thinks.

"You should be aware that the Queen was openly distrustful of Ral'Endas, and believes that they threaten her trade routes and that the Dwarves are fortifying the tunnel entrance near the small village of Estelmere. They were not the only ones Queen Ava made hostile overtures to last night; Lord Az'Caine and even the Empress were slighted by her speech and actions last night. I hope, but do not expect, that we might find the cause of her rage and settle it, allow her to cooperate again with the allies she is alienating. And weakening the seat of Calanda, now? It's an ill omen."

Evo fumes. "And I can't even organize a proper defense or unity among our own people. With Phaesos so easily assasinated? I feel quite helpless and exposed. What prevents that vampire from doing the same to me, or the Queen herself? And I am--" he chokes up. "-- devastated at the loss. This was to be a shining beacon of hope, and now that foundation is shaken. And I am shaken."

He smiles with deep irony. "On the other hand, there's no point in giving up. If the choice is to die cowering or die spitting in the face of our enemies? Well, I'll keep my whistle wet for them."
"I only heard about the assassination earlier today, and it has not quite hit me yet." Billin says shaking his head. " it does seem that our enemies are vastly more powerful than we are, but we have something they don't. The support of each other. While each of us may be out matched individually. Together we stand a chance."
Billin slumps back in his chair and strokes his beard I thought.
"I may have answered my own question here, but I will ask it anyway. I have been put in charge of the effort to find these weapons and schematics, being promoted to Master Smith in the process. I was wondering how do you do it? How do you take charge of so many people and see the bigger picture?"
Closing his eyes Billin sighs "I don't think I am up to this task, and if we fail, at best we have nothing to show, at worst our enemies acquire the weapons we seek and use them against us..."
"In the simplest terms: listen, question, delegate, trust." Evo takes a breath. "I'm honored you came to me for advice, and I'm going to give you more than you should probably use."

"Listen more than you talk. I think you do that already. You can't hear other people when you're talking, and you can't hear them when you're waiting for your turn to speak. And you'll need to decide which things you hear are important, and remember them.

"Question everything, but again not necessarily out loud. Look for motives, and look for opportunities. You're going to send some of these people into danger, sometimes without you, but the responsibility is yours; so question if you've got all the information, and ask what can be learned from each mission, successful or not.

"Listening and questioning will help you know what needs to be done, and who to delegate things to. When I say 'delegate' I mean you need to ask others to do things, even if you could do it better. Because you're going to be busy.

"And you have to trust them, and let them know you're trusting them. Even though there will be failures, and even knowing you'll be kicking yourself thinking if only you'd been there it would have been different. Because as you said-- we support each other, and together we stand a chance."

Evo stops. "I don't know. But that's a good start. They will trust a leader who trusts them."
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