Sarfina had asked both Mazatl and Fimul, but neither of them had seen Dee yet and Taeral had returned home years ago. She wasn’t aware of Dee having any other close friends in this part of the Day city, so it seemed unlikely that Dee had gone to a friend after flying off. It seemed unlikely that Sarfina could find her either, unless the girl wanted to be found, so the best bet was to stay home and wait for her to return. Sarfina had a hunch that Dee would return to the pavilion since that’s where she had left from and where they had argued earlier. So that’s where Sarfina decided to wait.
She waited for hours, occasionally getting refreshments from the maids. She wasn’t sure what she would say once she saw Dee again. What could she say? “Sorry for storming off! I forgive you.” Did Dee even feel the need to be forgiven? Did she even do something wrong? Should Sarfina herself be apologizing? For what? Did she overreact? Did she just need time to think?
As time passed she also recalled the time they had spent together. That time was mostly filled with training, but not just that. There were happy times and sad times. Sarfina smiled as she remembered Dee’s penchant for gluttony. One of the few weaknesses the girl had, if it could even be considered a weakness. The other weaknesses were all mental. In some ways Dee was one of the strongest individuals mentally that Sarfina had known, but in other ways Dee was very much damaged. Damaged mostly due to her time with the assassins, but not just that. Despite her apparent personality, there was a lot of demon in Dee’s character as well.
Her strengths were of course obvious. Most of them at least. Some of the less obvious strengths included her ability to say a lot while saying very little and her resiliency. In some ways Dee seemed very fragile, but in others she had the resiliency of someone much older than her. Resiliency was built only when facing adversity. The same things that damaged Dee also built her to withstand adversity in the future.
The suns had already set and the short and fairly bright night was upon them when Dee finally returned. Sarfina stood up as she saw Dee land on the ground close to the gazeebo. ‘It’s rare to see her in her angel form. I wonder what brought this on?’ Sarfina thought to herself idly. She walked up to Dee and the two stared at each other for a time that seemed long, but couldn’t have been more than a minute or two.
Sarfina noted that Dee seemed somehow vulnerable. She couldn’t explain her realization, but there it was. Dee was afraid. Afraid of being rejected. Sarfina felt bad that she had allowed the girl to feel that fear. She knew how few people Dee had that could be called close, let alone family, and she had allowed Dee feel fear about losing one of those rare few. She stepped up to Dee and pulled her into a hug. Dee gave a small shocked shiver before reacting. Finally she too put her hands around Sarfina’s shoulders, as the two squeezed each other harder.
Sarfina too realized how much it would’ve hurt to lose Dee. The two stood like that for a long time, drawing strength and reassurance from the other’s presence. Reassurance that the other wasn’t going away after all and that they wouldn’t be rejected. A casual observer might have found the situation slightly amusing, considering Dee was a full head taller than Sarfina, despite the difference in age and social positions the two occupied in relation to each other.
“Let’s go home.” Sarfina said finally.
“Yes, Faylen.” Dee replied testing the word.
Something had changed between as a result of the recent emotional turmoil. It seemed an invisible weight had been lifted from their shoulders.
“Hello again Fimul.” Dee greeted the dwarven smith as she walked through the doors of the smithy.
“Little Dee!” Fimul and several other dwarven smiths yelled back greetings, as they dropped what they were doing. Their mascot was back. This called for drinking and merrymaking.
“Little?” Dee’s eyebrow shot up as she stared down at the short dwarves. They were quite literally less than half her height. They were bulkier as both males and smiths, but Dee wasn’t exactly scrawny either.
“Yer gonna be little until you can drink me under the table girl.” Fimul groused with a grin.
“That’s a high standard to set. Drinking a dwarf under the table.” Dee was actually considering trying the feat. Her body’s regeneration should be able to handle the nominal poison that was alcohol. She also remembered that the holy drink used in the Ritual of Choosing had little effect on her.
“Not just any dwarf either. Don’t belittle me. I could out-drink the whole lot of these bastards any day of the week.” Fimul replied, eliciting grumbles from the rest of the dwarves.
“That’s a bet then.” Dee shot back. She didn’t actually mind if she lost, and this might be fun.
“Oooh.” Gasps went through the crowd of dwarves, some of them already running to set up tables and shut down their forges.
“Well well. It seems wherever you were dallying around these years inflated your impression of your own abilities. It seems we will have to disabuse you of that mistaken impression. Yer finally old enough to enjoy the finer things in life, so this should be fun.” Fimul’s grin split his whole face. They had been hard at work for weeks, and this would be a nice distraction.
The dwarves set things out behind the forge, near the place where the weapons were all tested. Copious amounts of alcohol were dug up from goddess knows where and some of the dwarves went to fetch something to snack on. Dwarven smithies might come equipped with booze, but they weren’t dineries. They might bring their own lunch, but that wasn’t suited for snacking while drinking. Besides, the gluttonous bastards had already eaten everything.
First drinks, starting off light with dwarven ale, were brought out and they all started swapping stories. The first part was for catching up and setting the mood. Dee told the dwarves about her time among the Four Winds and the basic training of the Radiant Sun. The dwarves were very familiar with the basic training, as they spent so much time working for the order and a couple of them had actually gone through the training. They also got a kick out of Dee’s story with the lich and especially the glue she had used to distract the undead monster.
“So you’ve been keeping up on yer alchemy? Would you mind whipping up some things for us? We’ve been working non-stop for a while now, and we’re running a little low. Your enchantment ink is better than the normal stuff anyway.” Fimul asked.
“I haven’t had much time to practice, but I can still manage that. Is something going on that’s causing so much work?” Dee inquired.
Fimul rubbed his nose with a finger, signaling that this talk would not leave this company. “I think the order is gearing for something big. There’s been a lot of weapon and armor orders and we’re swamped. I hear the other smithies that work with the order are the same. I don’t know when it will happen or what exactly, but something is going on. I think we’re still in the preparation phase, so it might take a year or two, but mark my words. The order is gearing up for war. Seeing as yer now a member, yer probably gonna be in the thick of things I’m afraid.”
Dee took another swig of her ale while thinking. She didn’t have enough information to speculate possible enemies, but it seemed likely that the dwarf was right. She would be involved. It also seemed likely that she would find out more before things came to a head. “I’ll keep that in mind.” She said finally.
She didn’t actually mind fighting, in fact it might be to her benefit. She could always slink into the shadows if things got too heated. She had no problem running away. What is honor? Is it tasty? On the other hand she might gain a fair bit of power from a situation like this. She recalled the burst of power she had gotten from defeating the dragotaur. ‘Which reminds me.’
“Hey Fimul, do you think you could make something for me?” Dee asked.
“I don’t know if I have the time, but it seems like a fair trade if you do some alchemy for us. What did you have in mind?” Fimul replied while finally pulling out some harder liquor.
“I’m not sure actually, I just ran into something that might work as pretty good ingredients.” Dee replied and pointed to a wide open place next to the table. The corpse of the dragotaur popped out, slamming into the ground. She had stored the corpse inside Croestia’s storage after the fight.
“Well I’ll be damned. That’s an almost intact dragotaur. An adult one at that. The only part really busted is the head, and we could make fuck all with that anyway. The horns might be useful though. Dragotaurs aren’t quite up to the standards of small dragons as far as materials go, but they’re pretty close. How did you find a treasure like this?” Fimul said with a whistle.
“We had a bit of a tiff with Faylen yesterday. I needed to vent. This guy volunteered.” Dee explained shortly.
“You killed an adult dragotaur? The buggers can give rank seven warriors a run for their money. How much have you grown in these years.” Fimul was shocked enough to almost miss the way Dee had changed the way of addressing Sarfina.
“He certainly put up a fight. So what do you think?” Dee prompted again.
“Well he’s good materials for sure.” Fimul thought for a while. “However, I’m not sure if I should. I’ll process the materials for you for sure, but didn’t you get accepted into the scouts? Their gear is quite different from other templar and paladins. It might be better to have them make something for you. Besides, I think I’m the wrong person to make you things now that you’re getting stronger.”
Dee’s expression made the message clear. Translation: Explain. Now.
“Well it didn’t really matter as much when you were a kid, but I don’t really know how to make things for psions. You are aware that each path of power has their own dedicated equipment after a certain level, right? A mage does very little with a sword optimized to be used with ki. I’m a holy smith that does ok with ki focused equipment. I could make you something that’s good with holy power, but I get the feeling that that’s not what you need at this point in your life. Weapons for psions are a very specialized field, and I’ve got no skill in that area. The scouts specialize in information and they’re an elite unit so they probably have their own suppliers. Even if that’s not the case, they can at least point you in the right direction. I can prep the materials for their use, but…” Fimul shrugged.
“Let’s do that then. Besides, you’re right. I’m not even sure what type of gear I would need in the scouts. Now let’s see about drinking you under the table.” Dee grinned.
Dee banged her head against the table, which elicited a flash of pain and a grimace on her face. Never underestimate the drinking abilities of dwarves. They had all been so plastered at that point that none of them remembered who the final winner was. This morning they were all losers. Apparently even her regenerative abilities went a little haywire if you overloaded them with enough poison, resulting in the current hangover. She could swear that some of the stuff they drank was actual acid. At least she took solace in the fact that the dwarves were feeling a lot worse. Or would be if it wasn’t for the other problem Dee was facing.
Mazatl had found her bright and early in the morning as they were supposed to be meeting and spending some time together today, however plans sometimes change. Mazatl had started off by saying: “What’s this I hear about someone supposedly getting a higher priestess rank than me from their deity?” As a teacher, the saurian couldn’t ignore the gap in Dee’s knowledge and supposed position. Thus started the remedial lessons of torture. Dee had learned the fact of life almost all students learn at some point during their life, namely that hangovers and lessons don’t go together all that well.
Dee couldn’t decide if the worst part was the torture or Faylen smirking from the other side of the room. At least the smirk had been wiped off when Mazatl had forcefully drafted Faylen into helping with the lessons. Dee did her best to combine absorbing the information and ignoring Mazatl to the best of her ability. One of the benefits of being a psion was the ability to do things like that.
In the meantime she considered all the things she had learned from her fight with the dragotaur. Apparently her angel form had some use after all, which was both a good thing and a bad thing. She was happy at the prospect of being able to better utilize her psionic abilities. On the flipside, she was still not too fond of her angel form, mainly because it represented what she considered to be her enemies. While she had made some brand new enemies since then, her dislike of angels had not waned.
That was one of the main reasons she had underutilized that form so much. She had tested the form when she had gotten it, but the differences had been so small that she had mainly ignored them. The wings she liked, aside from the color of the lavender wing, but she could use those in other forms. The problem was that when she had gotten the form, her ability to utilize psionic power for anything beyond simple tasks was non-existent. Even during the few times she had assumed the angel form later on she had not actively utilized her psionic abilities. There was no way she would’ve noticed the difference without actively using her powers. However, it was her mistake that she had not thoroughly tested the form when she got older and more powerful.
Just from past experience Dee could extrapolate that the forms would grow even more different in their abilities as time passed. It was interesting to consider how different they would end up being later on. She had done some testing while she was flying back from the fight, and the difference between her ability to handle psionic power in the angel form and the other two forms was quite drastic. In the other forms she had great trouble with control, but in the angel form her power seemed to try to please her like a living being. She had more control, much more, but she didn’t even need it because the power seemed to do what she wanted on its own accord. Her biggest problem had been control, and now the problem seemed to be solved. That left Dee feeling a little weird. She was used to working hard for her gains, even if they came faster for her than many others, and getting a solution like this just handed to her seemed cheap somehow. Luckily she had not compunctions against being cheap or cheating.
She had also noted that she felt physically weaker in the angel form. Not by a wide margin, but enough to make a difference. Well not by a wide margin compared to her normal form, the four legged kitsune form was much stronger than both of the others by a stupidly wide margin. That’s why she had tried to use that form against the dragotaur. Some beings were still much stronger than her however. Sometimes size did make a difference.
That said, she would have fared much better against that particular enemy if it didn’t have a way to defend against her psionic abilities. That was another thing. Apparently her psionic power was less prone to outside interference in the angel form. That strongly suggested that if she wanted to really do anything with her psionic powers, she should do it in the angel form. Assuming lacking stealth wasn’t an issue.
The angel form stood out like a beacon in the dark night. Damn halo was one thing, but apparently her increase in power had other effects as well. Apparently the angel form now seemed to have this inner glow. The exact nature of the glow was dependent on her mood, or at least that’s what Faylen had said when Dee had returned that night. Dee herself couldn’t feel the difference. Just like the halo, Dee could hide the glow for a short time but it would be problematic to try and hide them for too long.
Also the damn form was all curvy and apparently very eye-catching. Dee had left the mansion yesterday to meet the dwarves in her angel form to get used to it, but all the stares she had gotten had quickly convinced her to switch. Apparently whatever caught everyone’s eye in the angel form overrode her natural ability to make people ignore her. Also the curves got in the way. Very inconvenient. So no stealthing around or acrobatics in that form.
Dee was brought out of her thoughts by a snapping impact next to her head on the table. Apparently Mazatl had struck the table with something that looked like a ruler. ‘Where did she get that? She didn’t have it before.’ Dee wondered idly.
“Are you paying attention? This is important you know.” Mazatl demanded, sounding impatient.
“Yes I am, though all these rituals seem very servile to me.” Dee pointed out.
“They’re supposed to be. Priestesses are the servants of the deities. We are their hands and representatives in the mortal world. Of course, certain deities demand more servility from their servants than others.” Mazatl explained as if stating something obvious, which it kind of was.
“My deities don’t seem too bothered. Besides, what’s this about singing and dancing? Why would that get us anywhere with the gods?” Dee asked honestly confused. She had quite little experience with ceremonies.
“That’s it. It’s time you learned to perform some actual ceremonies. You might be a brutish templar in the making, but no student of mine will be this ignorant! For the rest of your vacation we will be practicing various rituals and ceremonies, and you will take part in those that include song and dance. Am I clear?” Mazatl’s voice brook no resistance.
Dee had a bad hunch but knew better than to argue. “Yes ma’am!”