It was a quiet night.
Veila was sitting at her makeshift ‘desk’ in her tent. In honesty, she was sitting on the ground, and the desk was more of a tall bench that she had stacked some papers on.
There was a soft warm glow flooding the inside of the tent, originating from the glowstone she was using so that she could see the papers she was working with. It wasn’t safe to use a fire for lighting for a number of reasons, and the heat wasn’t necessary given the hotter climate in the forests to the northwest of Alphia where they were camping.
She could faintly hear some bugs chirping in the distance. Her train of thought was getting too derailed at this point, so she forced herself to look back down at the papers on her ‘desk’.
She was reviewing her map alongside a list of the other divisions of the counter-revolutionary forces that had sent a check-in signal on time.
It was important to maintain which facilities had been compromised. They had a lot of places they could trust, but the interfers had infiltrated and occupied the majority of Alphia’s territory by now, so they could never be too careful.
She just found it… unsavory. Reminding herself of how many of her friends and compatriots could be dead on any given day was obviously wearing on her mind a bit.
The silence was suddenly broken by a whisper outside the tent.
“Veila, it's Kal. The human kid woke up.”
Veila looked up from her desk and stared at the blank wall, maintaining a brief silence before releasing a defeated sigh and finally responding.
“Well, I needed an excuse to take a break anyway.”
The two snickered with each other for a few moments as Veila opened the flap on the tent and stepped outside. They both ended up staring at the ground for a few moments, not exactly sure what to say.
The chirping of the various nocturnal insects and birds became louder as she stepped outside. It wasn’t an especially substantial difference practically speaking, but the sudden change in the ambience she’d grown accustomed to over the past several hours was certainly a bit jarring.
The two spoke as they walked the path to the tent where the human had been placed to rest.
“So… what’s the plan? You made it pretty clear this morning that you didn’t want him to know the truth about the humans, but how much are we going to let him know?”
Kal seemed fairly anxious about the upcoming conversation.
“I think it's fine to just tell him about the war. Obviously, if he asks about something like what they’re taking the children for… I don’t know, I’m sure you can come up with something. Just, avoid stuff that could make him curious about what they want humans for in the first place.”
Veila definitely didn’t sound too sure of herself by her tone.
Her conversation partner was silent for a few moments, before abruptly standing still. They stopped just barely far enough away from the human’s tent that they were probably out of earshot.
“Do you really think he’s dense enough to not ask why we accepted his ridiculous offer in the first place? Like… we both know you sounded way too eager when he suggested joining us. Won’t he be suspicious?”
They stared at each other, deep in thought.
When Veila thought about it seriously, she wasn’t sure.
Ultimately, other than Xerxes word on their limited experience with the boy, they had practically no way to guess how perceptive he really was. But she knew it was in her best interest to quell her friend’s anxieties on the matter either way.
“It’ll be fine. We can just say we were short on men; it technically wouldn’t be lying.”
Veila grinned at them. She could tell they were a bit exasperated by the weak suggestion.
Glen had only woken up a few minutes ago.
The moment he sat up, he saw there was a person he… supposed was a guard sleeping upright in a chair next to his bedroll. He alerted the guard to his presence and watched as the man anxiously informed him they would go alert their superiors. The guard came back a couple minutes later and asked him to wait a few minutes, and here he was.
It was honestly a bit strange just how calm he felt despite the bizarre circumstances.
It was probably due to his jumbled up memories that he wasn’t reacting so strongly to the situation, but he had at least mostly sorted everything out in his head by now. It might also have been because he was primed for the weirdness of his present circumstances by the far stranger conversation he’d just had with the weird being who now occupied his mind alongside him.
He heard some indistinct chattering outside the tent and sat up on his sheets. It was finally time for him to formally meet the woman he saw from atop the wall… however many days ago.
He suddenly realized he still didn’t know how long he was asleep.
“Hey, dude, how long was I out?”
Glen turned to the guard and asked them the question. He seemed a little surprised, like he was hoping Glen wasn’t going to talk until his superiors came into the tent.
“Oh, um… Th-”
He was interrupted as the entrance to the tent was pushed open and one of his superiors answered for him.
“Thirty hours, give or take. It’s the start of night, the day after you were knocked unconscious. Good evening. I’m Veila, and this is Kal.”
As she finished her sentence, she motioned to the entrance and another person entered the room.
She was a tall, presumably muscular woman with a rather defined jawline, pony-tail, and a suit of armor that appeared to be designed around ease of movement.
She also, of course, had a pair of long, sharp ears.
“I’m the commander of the company you requested to join. Kal is vice commander. I’m sure we both have plenty of questions for each other, so why don’t we take turns? You first.”
“Well, technically, wasn’t me asking how long I was asleep my first question?”
He couldn’t help himself. Veila narrowed her eyes and frowned.
“Do you want the first question or not?”
“Sorry, sorry, I’ll start. So… Who are you guys, exactly? I mean, I heard from the person who knocked me out that you guys are called ‘elves’, but… besides the ears, what makes you different from us? Also, where are you from, and are you the same people that Liam said attacked his home?”
The two looked at each other for a moment. The guard had somehow quietly left the tent without him noticing.
Kal spoke up first.
“That’s uh… a lot, so we’ll focus on the second question. The situation is rather complicated, but to put it simply, we’re not the same people that attacked that man’s home, but we’re from the same place as them. It’s called Alphia, if you remember.”
Kal stopped speaking and Veila stepped in for them like clockwork.
“Our nation is in the midst of a civil war. A group of political dissidents manipulated the masses a year or two ago and initiated a coup d'etat, ending in the successful take-over and occupation of the Alphian government. They’re called the interference party. We’re counter-revolutionaries who want to bring the former ruling isolationist party back into power.”
Glen stared wide-eyed for several seconds after Veila finished speaking.
“That’s uh… a lot.”
Veila grinned at his succinct reply.
“Yeah. It is. Point is, you’re gonna be helping us reclaim Alphia or die trying. If that undertaking is too much for you, we can offer you the option to simply leave and remain unaffiliated with us, but… we can’t guarantee that the interfers won’t kill you on sight if you do.”
Glen looked at the ground silently as he listened.
It was a lot to consider. He wasn’t thinking especially straight when he requested to join this company, but now that he was presented with his options, staying with them definitely seemed like his best option.
He had heard from Liam that the interfers really were massacring humans en masse, so it didn’t seem like the captain was simply lying to garner his favor.
“I’ll stick with you guys. I may not be particularly bound to humanity… But I don’t think I could bring myself to be personally responsible for inducing the genocide of my own race.”
He looked his new captain in the eyes.
“We’re glad to have you then, Glen. Actually, Xerxes told us your name is Glen, but do you have a last name?”
Veila raised an eyebrow as she posed a new question.
Glen thought for only a couple seconds before giving his answer.
“...Nope. Just… Glen.” He smiled awkwardly.
“Alright, Glen. Since you got to not count your first question, I’ll go ahead and say asking your name doesn’t count either. So, first question; What were those gauntlets you were wearing back at the human city? Xerxes told us that there was an enormous discharge of electricity and you were knocked out cold for over a full day just from having them pulled off.”
Glen glanced away.
He wasn’t sure if it was safe to tell them about the gauntlets, given how strange the results of his using them seemed to be. Even Gan (the name that was decided upon for the fellow in his head) suggested it could be risky.
But realistically, telling them something so important would be useful in gaining their trust, and also help in explaining why he needs combat training despite the prowess he demonstrated to Xerxes when he was still using the gauntlets. Glen made his decision.
“So… that’s also a bit complicated, but I’ll try my best. Basically, I didn’t know anything about them until I was knocked out yesterday. I only know what I know now because of a conversation I had while I was asleep.”
He tried his hardest to preface without making himself sound completely insane, and honestly didn’t think he was succeeding.
Kal spoke up for the first time in a minute.
“While you were asleep? As in, someone communicated with you through your dreams? It would have-”
“Let him explain, Kal.”
Veila interrupted, fortunately.
“Alright, so… it seems that those gauntlets are somehow enchanted with a copy of the mind of a master swordsman from thousands of years ago. The enchantment is apparently supposed to completely override the mind of the wearer and manipulate them into constantly deciding not to take them off because that would interrupt the process.”
Glen took a second to catch his breath, as the subject was still very confusing to him and he was mostly just reiterating the things that he learned from Gan. He continued after a moment or two.
“So. The gauntlets were letting me draw from the memories of this ancient swordsman, thus granting me far greater prowess in combat than I should have. Unfortunately, at the same time, that swordsman is also… apparently completely deranged, and would have taken over my mind and gone on a massacre if the instructions in the enchantment had been able to complete.”
Kal nodded their head, seeming to grasp the matter, and voiced their interpretation of this situation.
“So, the process of the electric magic manipulating your mind was interrupted by the abrupt removal of the gauntlets and you were knocked unconscious by the sudden disconnect with the constant electric flow that you’d grown used to. I understand that much, but how did you realize this? You said something about-”
“He’s still there. The swordsman. The memories that were put into my head are still there and manifested into some… weird entity with an extremely fractured mind. He approached me in a dream while I was unconscious and explained his best understanding of the situation based on the memories he still had access to.”
“So now, he just… exists as an alternate personality in your head?”
Veila inquired a question that Glen honestly didn’t have a very clear answer to.
“I mean… I guess so? I can’t really communicate with him easily if I’m not unconscious, but it looks like he can probably still take over my body if he needs to.”
Kal opened their mouth without speaking and blinked a few times before asking another question.
“Can we… meet him?” They had an awkward smile on their face.
“Uh… I'd prefer not…?”
Veila let out a loud, obviously fake cough and took the conversation by force.
“Ahem, anyways, do you have another question to ask?”
She raised an eyebrow again as she prevented more useless banter.
Honestly, there wasn’t a great deal that he felt he needed much more clarification on, at least not without feeling like an idiot. He figured he could piece things together better if he did so over the next few days, talking with the various members of the company.
He did have one thing he was curious about, though.
“If uh… I think you called them the ‘interfers’, if they’ve taken over the military of your country, then who are you guys serving? Or, like, who’s the supreme commander?”
Veila and Kal both let out a hearty laugh before answering the question.
Veila spoke first.
“Believe it or not, that is also a very difficult question to answer. Basically… Nobody really knows. I’ve actually seen them before, but they wear a strange suit of armor that covers their entire body.”
She spoke with her eyes closed, clearly aware of just how strange it was.
“That’s… that’s really weird. Do you even know why they care so much about their identity? Or for that matter, why do they care so much about restoring the country?”
Glen was utterly bewildered.
“No idea. They somehow mobilized the entire counter-revolutionary army almost single handedly; all we know is that we can trust them. We just call them ‘Pitch’ on account of the color of their armor. I’m honestly not even sure what that thing is made out of.”
Glen and Veila stared at each other blankly for a few moments.
The dim light coming from the back of the tent was casting a shadow in the shape of Glen’s head onto her face, which had been distracting him for the past few minutes.
“In any case, it’s getting pretty late. I doubt you really need any more sleep, but make sure you can walk tomorrow, because everyone is getting pretty sick of carrying you. We’ll ask you some more questions tomorrow afternoon during lunch, so… get some rest if you need it. We sure do.”
After Veila finished speaking, Kal whispered something in her ear; she smiled and punched them playfully in the shoulder.
“Good night, Glen. We’ll talk again tomorrow.”
The two left the tent with a relaxed gate.
There was clearly a long road ahead of him, but Glen was more excited than anxious to see the greater world.
How different would it look inside the elves’ homeland? What kinds of things existed outside here that didn’t inside the Palisade? There was a lot on his mind by now.
He probably didn’t need any sleep, but another conversation with the new friend in his head might be nice. He climbed back into the bedroll and closed his eyes.
<=To Be Continued...