"Ah, just who I was hoping to find."
Siesta blinked, then looked up to see the headmaster's green-haired bespeckled secretary. Her name was on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn't bring herself to ask out of the embarrassment of forgetting the name of someone so important.
"Well…" The woman whose name escaped her smirked. "Not quite, but a close second."
"Umm…" Siesta wasn't really sure what to say to that. "Sorry?"
The green-haired woman laughed it off with a wave of her hand. "Oh, it's nothing you have to worry about dear. I'm simply looking for your new employer, Lord Felwinter."
"Oh…" Siesta said, the dots connecting in her head.
Yes, I suppose he is pretty hard to find if he doesn't want to be, isn't he?
"Well, I was actually on my way to see him," Siesta mentioned, adjusting the large bag slung over her shoulder.
She didn't carry many things from home, mostly because she didn't have many things that she could truly call her own. Given the size of her family, actual individual possessions were rare, and most things tended to be communal or hand-me-downs. Which was just as well because the accommodations for the staff of the Academy weren't designed for too many personal items anyways.
Still, it didn't make her feel any better about the fact that she only managed to stuff one large bag with all her things in a few minutes, while Louise had taken a whole day to pack several suitcases. Siesta supposed that was just the class disparity at work, and it wasn't really surprising, even if it did make her feel small.
Fortunately, Lord Felwinter's gift made her feel much better.
"Now, where was he again?" she muttered, pulling out the tablet he'd given her and tapping on the screen to pull up the map.
The secretary gave her a puzzled look as she navigated the menu. "Pardon me, but what is that?"
"Oh, it's just a tablet," Siesta said thoughtlessly.
Siesta opened her mouth to respond when she realized that she didn't really have the words to. At least, not in Tristinian. Even if she did, she wasn't sure the secretary would understand things like "medium-sized personal interactive handheld computer", namely the computer part. Plus, the more she thought about it, the less confidence she had in the green-haired woman understanding anything she explained.
So she used the old trick her grandpa taught her.
"It's basically a magical thinking machine designed to help people organize stuff," she said. "They can do stuff like communicate with one another instantly over long distances, store information, and display enchanted moving maps."
"When in doubt," her grandfather always said, "Blame magic. Not like these neanderthals can tell the difference, anyway."
It wasn't very nice, and her mother had said so on many occasions. That said, it was hard not to agree, at least a little bit, every time someone said something...quaint, like geocentrism.
"Oh," the green-haired woman said, "I suppose that does sound awfully helpful. Are they common in your homeland?"
If her grandfather was to be believed, very. She'd had some doubts herself, given the circumstances her family lived in and the world around them, but given that Lord Felwinter handed them out like candy she had to admit there was likely some truth to it.
"As I understand it, yes." Siesta nodded. "Lord Felwinter gave me this one so that I might find him."
She held up the tablet to display the map, an overhead view of the surrounding area including the academy and surrounding forests. It looked like it was a picture taken from a bird, but Siesta wasn't sure how Lord Felwinter had done it. She guessed it was with a drone, like what her grandfather did, but the man could transmat himself, so he might have just popped up high into the sky, taken a picture, then hopped down.
The secretary, upon looking at the image, was stunned. Her jaw sagging, no doubt at the fidelity of the image. Siesta had gotten the impression that photos and video weren't exactly common in this land if they existed at all.
"Magic." Siesta smiled unhelpfully, doing her best not to giggle at the sharp look the woman sent her. She had to admit, she'd always gotten a little perverse enjoyment out of knowing things about the world others didn't. She knew it was wrong, but for some reason it made her feel better about her lot in life.
"That blue dot at the bottom? That's us," Siesta pointed out. "And the red dot at the top is Lord Felwinter."
"So…" The secretary frowned, squinting at the image as her brow furrowed in thought. "He's on the hills, out by the forest?"
"Yep." Siesta nodded. She had to admit, she was impressed by how fast the bespeckled woman had arranged her mental map of the place. Many she'd met could spend an hour trying to contort their brain around the strange image in an effort to map it to their perception of the space around them.
"So," she chirped, readjusting her bag over her shoulder again as she pulled the tablet back, "Why let's go meet up with him, shall we?"
The first thing Siesta noted when she saw Lord Felwinter, was that he had a bow in his hands.
He was standing on the top of a hill overlooking the forest outside the academy, a large bow hung loosely in one hand, dangling by his hip, and the other cupping his chin as he gazed into the treeline. The bow was different from the one she'd gotten from him earlier, lacking any of the odd wheels or pulleys. Instead, it seemed to be a more traditional recurve bow, but rather than using wood it appeared to use some familiar-looking composite materials that reminded her of the things they'd gotten from the forge back home.
Something about the image struck her strangely. While a nobleman practicing archery wasn't exactly unheard of, Lord Felwinter was supposed to be from her homeland. A homeland that, from what she'd learned from her grandfather, generally considered bows to be outdated and mostly used for cultural reasons or taste, rather than any practicality. And if there was one thing she'd picked up from the cryptic Lord, it was that he wasn't much the sentimental type.
That said, he also didn't seem like the type to entertain her while she grilled him over her every idle curiosity. Especially while he was busy.
"Hmm…" The warlock rumbled, tapping his chin with a thumb as he looked out from the hill into the forest. "...missed. Looks like it needs more calibration, 0.257 degrees to the left, and 0.587 degrees up."
Siesta swallowed nervously. He looked like he might have been busy with his bow, and she didn't want to interrupt him, but at the same time, he had specifically asked for her to meet him here at this time. Plus, she'd brought a guest.
"Uh...my lord?" she asked hesitantly.
Siesta could practically feel the secretary's presence hanging over her shoulder, judging her every action and mistake with those all-too sharp eyes. It made her feel like even the tiniest slip up was put under a microscope and picked apart by someone who surely had far more experience than she in this field.
Fortunately, she was under different employment now and was working for someone who didn't seem like he bothered with all the social niceties and hoops most nobility surrounded themselves with. Something she was reminded of when he waved an impatient hand in her direction.
"Yes, yes. I know you're here," he said, his hollow voice gruff and unkind, but not quite mean either. He turned to face them, leveling his empty gaze across Siesta, then the woman following her. "And you brought a guest."
Siesta gave her new master a bow as she'd been trained, but only a shallow since she knew any further would annoy him. She gestured to the woman following her, but didn't say anything. Instead, Siesta hoped to let things play out and that no one would notice that she still didn't know the secretary's name.
Fortunately, it worked.
"Hello, Lord Felwinter?" The green-haired woman stepped forward. "You may have seen me before with the headmaster. I'm his secretary, you may call me Miss Longueville."
The second the name hit her ear, Siesta felt like an idiot for not remembering it earlier. She blushed in embarrassment, ducking her head as she tore her own self-esteem apart in an internal tirade about how much of distracted, ditzy, useless, buffoon she was.
The now named Ms. Longueville bowed, far deeper than Siesta had. She winced, knowing by now that Lord Felwinter found such acts of supplication tedious and a waste of everyone's time.
"And?" the Iron Lord responded impatiently.
"And...I'm here to deliver a message from Professor Colbert." The secretary explained. Her bespeckled face scrunched up slightly as she tried to recall the memory. "He says...he says he found a reference to some kind of great war taking place."
Lord Felwinter seemed to perk up at that, the information grabbing his curiosity and dispelling his annoyance. "In Russia?"
"Well, I can't say that for certain, Professor Colbert said the account was in what you'd identified as Russian, so…"
"So it's at least some way connected," he mused, stroking his chin again. "Did he find anything else?"
"Well, one of the most prominent things of interest he found was a reference to a fight with some kind of empire of endless crimson legions."
"Crimson legions...like a red army?"
"Er…" Ms. Longueville looked very uncertain. "Perhaps?"
"That...hmm…" Lord Felwinter looked off into the distance with what Siesta could only assume was a pensive stare.
"...that doesn't make any sense at all."
Ms. Longueville gave him a quizzical expression. "You don't know what it means?"
"No, it's not that. At least, I don't think." Felwitner shook his head, "I know of a red army, the revolutionaries are rather famous in Rus. It's just that…" he trailed off, muttering under his breath. Siesta could catch a few choice curses her grandfather used a few times, particularly when he came across something he considered nonsensical.
"It just doesn't fit the timeline." he admits with a growl, "The revolutionaries didn't pop up until well after all contact should have been lost. If the red army is known to these lands then we must be looking at something wrong."
"And…" Lord Felwinter muttered under his breath that Siesta could only just barely pick up, "I'd assumed it had something to do with the Orthodoxy."
"...I see…" Ms. Longueville said neutrally.
Most of it went over Siesta's head, history was never something she cared much about. It was more her older brother's territory. Still, it sounded like the path to getting back to her homeland had just gotten murkier.
It made her feel a little sad.
She wasn't sure why.
"Well," Ms. Longueville said suddenly, sliding her hands down her dress to press out any wrinkles in a nervous expression, "while I'm here, do you think you could answer a question for me?"
"Depends," Felwitner grunted.
Siesta spotted a tiny twitch of Ms. Longueville's lips, but nothing else. "Those revolutionaries you spoke of, the 'red army. What do you know of them?"
Lord Felwinter shrugged. "Not much. It happened a while ago. If I recall it was something about overthrowing the Bourgeoisie and seizing the means of production."
Ms. Longueville frowned. "I'm afraid I don't quite know what that means."
The Iron Lord rolled his free hand in an expression of what Siesta suspected was exasperation. "Generally speaking? My understanding of it is that the lower class masses were fed up with the excesses of the upper class, capitalists, and nobles, before enacting a violent revolt that ended with the execution of most of those who'd previously held power."
"Though I'll admit this happened a very very long time ago, and my understanding of the situation is far from complete." Lord Felwinter cocked his eerie iron helm to the side in askance. "Why?"
Siesta turned back to Ms. Longueville, who now looked as white as a sheet.
"Ms. Longueville?" Siesta prodded, now curious herself.
"Ah, well." The secretary coughed into a closed fist and averted her eyes for a moment. "It's just, well...Albion."
Siesta winced. She'd heard from the grapevine what was happening over there. Given the revolutionaries there, she could see why the secretary would be concerned about parallels.
"Albion?" Felwinter questioned.
Right, he knows barely anything about the continent Siesta realized, it's doubtful he's heard anything about the violent civil war there.
"Albion, it's an island nation off the coast and it's…" Ms. Longueville sighed. "It's undergoing a violent civil war to overthrow the monarchy. One that is going exceptionally poorly for the nobles."
"Ah, I see." Lord Felwitner nodded in understanding. "You're concerned about any parallels, correct?"
"...yes, " she admitted. "It's just that, well, many are worried about the fighting spreading the continent."
"Probably," Lord Felwinter shrugged almost casually.
"P-probably?" Ms. Longueville asked.
"Violence begets violence. If they're passionate enough to kill their leaders, why stop there?" Felwinter pointed out. "The Russian revolution was joined in its century with two of the largest and bloodiest wars in our history, along with a long stretch of purges, rebellions, smaller wars, tinpot dictators, and regional destabilization."
"...ah." Ms. Longueville looked as if she'd seen a ghost. Siesta couldn't imagine she looked much better.
"Was there anything else?" the Iron Lord asked the pale secretary.
"...N-no, my lord." Ms. Longueville bowed deeply, then quickly walked back towards the academy.
"...that was odd." Lord Felwinter said.
"I, uh...I think she wanted you to assuage her fears, my lord," Siesta said hesitantly, not daring to look him in the eye for fear of incurring his ire.
Felwinter grunted irritably, "Well, if she wanted me to do that she should have just said so."
"Ah...people don't usually say things like that. It's usually implied. My Lord," Siesta remembered to add.
"Sounds like burying your head in blind optimism to me."
"I never said it was logical, my lord."
Lord Felwinter shifted, his helm moving to stare down at her with deep empty pits. Siesta shuffled nervously under his gaze, wondering where this sudden streak of quite possibly suicidal impudence came from. She could just imagine him telling her to get out his sight, possibly with a display of his violent magic or a strike across the face to make sure she knew her place. She could already hear his chiding tone.
"Hmph," He grunted instead, then turned back to the forest.
Without a second thought for her words, he drew up his bow, summoning an arrow in his free hand in a flash of white light that, the more Siesta looked at it, appeared to be turning into the arrow itself, rather than heralding its appearance.
"How are you doing that?" She asked thoughtlessly.
"Glimmer," he answered distractedly, "I have a large store of it to pull from. I draw up the glimmer and program up whatever arrows I need as I need them. They aren't infused with light as I'd prefer, but unless I have to deal with...I don't know…" He waved the arrow through the air to gesticulate vaguely,"... demons or something, I shouldn't need it."
"...Glimmer?" Siesta repeated breathlessly, staring at the arrow in awe, "You have glimmer?"
"Yes, of course," he answered, cocking his head to the side as he gazed at her, "shouldn't your grandfather have some as well?"
"Grandfather says we'd need a fabricator of some kind for that. We have a Forge on his ship, but it doesn't work anymore and no one knows how to fix it." She explained, still staring at the arrow in stunned fascination.
"A forge?" he questioned. "I imagine you'd need more than a simple forge for glimmer."
"Oh, of course. We all just call it that because it's easier," Siesta waved him off. "Grandfather calls it something like the 'Advanced Mobile Fabrication Engine', but that's a bit of a mouthful for the rest of us. The things grandfather said he could do if he had access to it again…"
"...interesting." Lord Felwinter said, holding Siesta's gaze as he tapped his fingers against the arrow's shaft with a mindless rhythm. Eventually, he turned back to his bow, drawing the arrow back and readying his shot.
Siesta frowned at the sight, considering whether to push her luck and ask her questions and remain silent and stay in his good graces, such as they were.
In the end, her curiosity won out.
"Er...pardon me, my Lord."
"Yes." He said in a clipped, if not unkind, tone.
"It's just...why are you using a bow?"
He turned to her, head cocked with a silent question.
"It's just that, er, well...if you can use glimmer for fabrication, why don't you make a gun?" She asked, "I mean, with all the wonders glimmer is capable of, fabricating a rifle wouldn't be too hard, would it?"
He holds her gaze for a moment before shrugging, "no, it wouldn't."
"...but?" she prodded carefully, taking the bait he was so plainly leaving out.
"But I don't need to." He explained, turning back to the forest in front of him. "For most of my purposes in this land, a bow should suit me just fine. It's less attention-grabbing for the locals, it requires less maintenance, and I can find ammunition for it without having to constantly spend glimmer."
"It's not," he continues as he takes aim, "any one particular thing, nor do I have a particular fondness for bows. Yet, my time with Gehleon has taught me the value of being resourceful on the battlefield."
Finally, Lord Felwinter released his grip, and the arrow shoots forward. Siesta's eyes barely manage to track it as it darts across the field and down the hill, before burrowing itself roughly half a meter into the bark.
Siesta hadn't much been one for archery, not with her Grandfather's arsenal, but she had seen the odd round of target practice from the nobles around. It wasn't much, but it was enough reference for her to notice that his bow, for whatever reason, launched arrows much faster, and with far more force, than any she'd seen before.
Granted, that could be because they'd all been ornate and fancy bows specifically crafted for the delicate tastes of a noble, solely for the purpose of making them look more noble and dashing as an archer. Siesta acknowledged that if she'd seen a war bow in action, maybe that would have been a more apt comparison.
Still, as she looked over the bow in his hands, she noticed something.
"Didn't your bow have a set of pulleys?" She inquired.
"Hmm…" he hummed distractedly as a tapped out a seemingly meaningless pattern on the bow he'd fashioned with his fingers. On closer inspection, waves of light were radiating down the limbs of the bow, subtly shifting its structure.
Is he...reshaping the programmable matter on the fly? Siesta wondered. Maybe...maybe he's tuning it, testing out the new bow, and tweaking it based on the results.
Before her mind could spin down the alley of all the possibilities weapons forged of programmable matter could lead to, the warlock spoke up.
"That...was a different weapon of a different make. Something...experimental." He explained. "This?"
He held up the bow, "this is more of a temporary stopgap."
"A temporary stopgap?" Siesta repeated, "But...for what? And why not make a gun for it? If you have glimmer, surely fabricating a gun wouldn't be that much harder?"
"In a way, but I'm working on that." Felwinter explained, "I recently lost most of my old equipment in combat before Louise brought me here, so I've been working on how to rebuild my arsenal and get it up to snuff using what survived. In the meantime, I need a stopgap."
"This is that stopgap."
Siesta opened her mouth, then paused. The more she thought it over, the more she could see the logic.
"So...the bow is...what, a simple low maintenance solution while you work on a real one?" Siesta reasoned, "I mean, it would make sense. A bow would require less upkeep than a gun, and it would be easier to get arrows than bullets. You'd probably waste less glimmer like that."
"I also plan on using my [Light] to handle most problems. The bow's just to fill the gap between razing a forest and snapping someone's neck." He remarked, "by arrow or by bullet, won't change how dead someone is."
Siesta considered commenting on the mention of razing a forest, but she'd heard from her grandfather about the weapons of the red tyrant, and there were plenty of rumors about what a square class mage could do. More than enough to satisfy her imagination. Instead, she focused on the other part of what that stopgap meant.
"So...you are making a gun to fill that gap?" She questioned.
He tilted his head a bit. "A few, yes. Why?"
"Oh, er, it's just that I was thinking about the stuff you gave me the other day. A-and that experimental bow you mentioned." Siesta stammered, "I, uh, it just made me wonder what you were going to do with it."
"Well…" Lord Felwinter began. As he spoke, he pulled another arrow from the digital light of the glimmer and drew the string of his bow back. "I do plan on fixing them up and modifying them to suit my need."
With a silent twitch of his fingers, another arrow flew out into the forest and punched its way through the bark in the dead center of a tree at least a quarter kilometer away.
He hummed in satisfaction. "Better."
"Fixing them up?" Siesta asked, "Are they broken?"
"Hmm…some are." he rumbled with his hollow tone, lowering his bow once more. "My favored helmet, for example." He said, gesturing to his face with his free hand. "Others are just bits and pieces that hold potential."
"Like that battery and it's discharger?" Siesta inquired, her curiosity momentarily overriding her mouth before she could stop herself. Not a moment later, she slapped her hands over her mouth with a furious blush.
The way the empty-eyed gaze of his blackened ram's skull slowly turned to her made Siesta want to crawl into a hole in the ground and die.
"You recognized them?"
"How-no, wait," Felwinter cut her off when she began to open her mouth, "your grandfather I presume?"
She nodded sheepishly.
"Of course…" Felwinter sighed. He scratched the tip of his helm's chin in contemplation, all the while Siesta cringed under his silent gaze and wondered if getting involved with him had been a mistake.
Of course, it had. She chided herself, That would lead to attention, and by the founder that's the last thing I want. Brimr, I hate this kind of pressure.
"Would you, perhaps…" he finally spoke up, "be amenable to aiding my projects?"
Siesta blinked, "Eh?"
"I'd already wanted to recruit you, as I thought you could be of use helping to maintain my gear. However…now, I think your talents could be put to better use." Lord Felwinter explained. "What would you say to helping me out with my gear?"
"I-I-I, w-what?" Siesta stuttered in shock, "b-but surely nothing I could do would compare to, er, the wondrous machines you could surely craft, right my Lord?"
Lord Felwinter waved a dismissive hand through the air. "Nonsense."
"You've expressed enough talent for the craft that I'm interested in seeing how you do when put to the test. Perhaps the tools that your grandfather left you can be put to immediate use." Then Lord Felwinter cocked his head at her in what Siesta was sure had to be a mischievous grin. "And I've little doubt you've got the drive. The gleam in your eyes every time the subject of gunsmithing comes up isn't exactly subtle."
Siesta flushed brightly from his words and averted her gaze.
"Maybe…" She muttered quietly.
If she was being honest with herself, the idea of having the freedom to tinker around with rare and no doubt powerful weapons and armor without having to worry about conserving supplies or keeping vital parts of the village's infrastructure intact. Back home, there'd been plenty of fascinating pieces of technology from her grandfather's home, but by the time she was born nearly all of them were too valuable for her family to do anything but keep them running.
Although, now that she thought about it.
"Um...sure. I-I mean, yes my Lord. It would be my pleasure my Lord." She began, bowing her head in supplication.
From the corner of her eye, she could catch Lord Felwinter moving his head in what she was sure was a tired roll of the eyes.
"But, um...could I make a request?"
Lord Felwinter sighed but nodded his head. "Yes?"
"Uh...do...do you think you could help repair our Forge?" She asked.
"The fabricator?" He said, "Of course. It would be of great benefit to me as well. Shouldn't be too hard to fashion the pieces for it either."
"Oh, fantastic!" Siesta beamed and clapped her hands in excitement. The lack of a working Forge was the main reason things were stretched so thin back home. Her family had cobbled together some things from basic materials around, but it was a far cry from the stories grandfather told of home.
"Grandfather will be ecstatic to use SIVA again!"
Lord Felwinter froze. His voice was cold, flat, and heavy with dread. "What did you-?"
He was cut off when a wave of unnatural unease slammed into them. To Siesta, it tasted of purple and smelt of desire. It was rapidly dissipating, but at the moment it was a thick and cloying miasma of an ethereal presence. She gagged on its essence, the noxious pressure of it making her feel rotten to the gut.
"Wha-" She choked out, "What is this?"
Felwinter, meanwhile, was glaring out over the hill, facing towards the forest off the eastern wing of the Academy.
"That, Ms. Siesta…" He growled.
"Is a problem."
A/n: Not Dead
Sorry for the impromptu hiatus.
Season of the Worthy dropped a whole bunch of relevant lore I had to sift through for this fic, and then school started picking up and I didn't have much in the way of free time to spend on this. But now I'm back with this little chapter.
But now I'm back with this little chapter.
It's not the biggest or the species, but it's the bridge between 8 and 10 and it does touch on some important shit.
Also, for the SIVA stuff, I hadn't originally planned on Siesta's family having SIVA, but more recent lore has revealed that SIVA isn't actually all that bad, Rasputin's just an asshole. That and that SIVA was actually surprisingly prevalent in the Golden Age. Given what I have planned for her family, it wouldn't seem unreasonable that they'd have some SIVA related stuff, even if it doesn't work anymore.
As for other stuff, I know Felwinter has his own custom helmet now. Obviously I made this fic before that became a thing, and I've made way too fucking many references to a "blackened skull of a ram" for me to even seriously consider retconning it in the fic now. So I'm saying it got damaged in the fight in the SIVA chamber so he's wearing a backup. Makes everything a lot less of a pain in the ass.
That should be about it. Dunno when the next chapter is coming out for this thing, and I'm sorry I don't have more for you, but this is what I got.
And you can safely expect more chapters in the future.