Chapter IV

Blast Back
[Repose & Pathos]

~ 23rd, Lux Ter, 6734 ~


“It’s simply something I have not wanted to learn with any great import,” Chorem said, leaning against the side of the carriage’s cab.

            “Why not? You could shoot fire from your hands, I’m certainly envious,” Dylock replied from his space on the carriage bed.

            “I’m much more interested in utilitarian applications of magic, honestly.”

            Dylock jumped up from his reclined position, leaning on the back of the cab seat.

            “But…fire…from your hands,” the young man said, holding his hands forward, wiggling them at Chorem.

            “Yes, yes I know. I’d rather light a camp fire than immolate someone.”

            “What about enchanting my sword, wreathing it in flame? You can do that, right?”

            “That…sounds interesting.” Chorem turned to Lomley at his left. “Lomley, is there such a thing?”

            Lomley nodded, keeping his eyes forward to the road ahead. “Of course, enchantment is very practical and utilitarian. However it takes a certain amount of knowledge to go from igniting a sword to enchanting it.”

            Dylock’s eyes widened at the thought. “Please do not set my sword on fire.”

            “Perish the thought,” Chorem replied, turning his gaze to the passing countryside.

            Dylock dropped down behind the cab seat, running his fingers along the sheathed sword strapped up with his other effects. He again thought back to the day Din had given it to him, wrapped up in the red scarf he perpetually wore around his collar.

            “Dylock, you do seem to be in rather high spirits, all things considered,” Lomley said.

            “I’m trying to remain that way. I can think about Din, but mourning him won’t bring him back. I cried on his deathbed, and at his funeral, I cannot will more tears to drop.”

            “There is nothing wrong with mourning, lad.”

            “Yeah, bottling it up causes ulcers,” Chorem joked.

            “There are things of greater import to focus on now, plans for the future, and wallowing in sadness will not help in those plans coming to fruition,” Dylock continued.

            “How are you getting along, then?” Lomley asked.

            “Ah, Dylock here fancies the idea of becoming cannon fodder,” Chorem jeered.

            “Aye?” Lomley chirped, tipping the brim of his peaked hat up to brush his forehead with his forearm.

            “I have been thinking – I’m going to enlist in the Lionhead Corps after graduation,” Dylock explained.

            “Oh, well that will be a fine test of your skills, will it not?”

            “Yes, although I was absent in class the day we learned to endure taking blade to collar. I believe you will do just fine, Dy,” Chorem said.

            “Pay no attention to Chorem, I am sure you will make a fine soldier, Dylock,” Lomley assured.

            “Thank you, sir,” Dylock said, sliding back down to lay back in the bed of the carriage, staring up at the ivory clouds sliding through the blue sky. Dylock realized he hadn’t looked towards the sky since Din’s passing, as his posture sank and his head arched low in sadness. Getting away from Altroim’s hustle did well in clearing the young man’s head, only a few thoughts freckling his mind, like the handful of clouds fluttering through the sky above.

            Lomley guided the carriage to the right side of a dirt road, adjacent to the opening of another, smaller road flanked by two head-sized stones that rested in grass slowly overtaking them. At the far end of it sat a quaint farmhouse, shadowed by the canopy of a large maple tree that swayed at its side. The horses slowed, fussing against the reigns as Lomley tugged on them. When the carriage finally came to a stop, the praefectus pulled on the brake lever with an audible grunt. “Here we are then, boys.”

            “Ah, home sweet bumpkin home,” Chorem said, taking in a deep breath of country air.

            Dylock sprang up from the cab, scanning the surrounding countryside; rolling hills speared with deciduous trees of various ages nestled next to cozy cottages.

            “I’ve not been here in four years, and everything is the same,” Dylock said.

            “I’ve lived here for seventeen years, and everything is the same,” Chorem replied.

            “Not true – seems as though your neighbors planted a new tree. I had not seen it on our last trip here,” Lomley interrupted, pointing to a home in the distance with a fledgling tree sprouting from the earth near their walkway.

            “Oh, he’s right, it’s completely different now. Chorem, you’ll have to show me around again,” Dylock said, hopping down from the carriage with his effects draped over his shoulder. “Now, Chor, remind me again? Your family’s farm is to the left of the cow pie, correct?”

            “To the right of the cow pie. The left leads to the watering hole where the entire village bathes together on Primdiel nights.”

            “You boys jest, but someday you’ll long for such a quiet little place to live,” Lomley lectured from his perch in the carriage.

            “Of course sir, but that day will not be today,” Chorem remarked, telekinetically lifting his own bag from the carriage.

            “Right, possibly tomorrow,” Dylock said.

            “Maybe sometime next week,” Chorem added.

            Lomley chuckled. “Alright boys, I shall be back in Burgstowe midday next Sepdial. Enjoy your week.”

            “Thank you, sir,” Dylock nodded.

            “I’ll run on ahead, let them know we’ve arrived,” Chorem said, trotting down the dirt road toward the farm.

            “And, Dylock my boy,” Lomley waved the young man to the side of the carriage with a wistful hand.

            “Yes sir?” Dylock approached, adjusting his effects draped from his shoulder.

            Lomley brushed a hand over his striped pants, searching for the tact required to accompany his words. “Chorem is…Chorem may not understand the decisions you make, but forgive his confusion and remember that he cares about you. Similarly, while Din was a great man…do not rush headlong towards a destructive life in some vain attempt to chase an expectation you believe the old man had for you. You know he would not want you making such rash decisions in grief.”

            “I understand, sir. But…my decisions are not made in grief, I assure you.”

            “I certainly hope so. You have many who still care for you; try not to push them away in this emotional time.”

            Dylock nodded with his head low. “Thank you sir. I’ll do my best.”

            “Have a good week, let this time away from the academy help you clear your mind,” Lomley pinched the brim of his wizard hat between his index and thumb, tipping it in farewell to the squire. “And do refrain from any sort of attempts at enchanting, I do not want to bring you back to Altroim with a melted lump of steel.”

            Dylock smirked. “We will try, sir. Safe travels.”

            Lomley spurred the horses and the carriage lulled into motion. Dylock moved up the road to the house with a slow gait, watching as Chorem greeted his parents. No grand embraces or chatter about how much they’ve missed each other, Chorem arrived as if he had never truly been gone more than a day. This farmhouse in Burgstowe really was his home, not the loft above Lomley’s alchemy shop in Altroim. Dylock smiled as he watched more of Chorem’s family emerge from the front door to offer greetings, the younger sisters dancing playfully around the adults. Chorem’s father, Noja, glanced down the road, noticing the young squire trudging up walkway.

            “Dylock! It’s been a few moons, hasn’t it?” Noja bellowed.

            The man was great in stature, with exuberance to match.

            “Going on four years, I believe,” Dylock said with a small nod, letting his effects drop from his shoulder.

            “C’mere boy.” Noja reached out with large arms, bronzed from hard days in the sun, and hugged the young man tightly. “I’m so sorry to hear about your father. If you need to cry, you just let those tears fall. Just let them out, you hear me?”

            “Uhm…uh…thank you, sir. I believe I am all cried out for the time being,” Dylock said, his words muffled by their embrace.

            “Father, please stop strangling my friend. It’s difficult to find new ones this late into the schoolyear,” Chorem said, tapping his father’s shoulder with the back of his hand.

            Noja released the squire, and Chorem’s mother Ledda reached out for Dylock’s hand, taking it with a gentle grip. “I’m sorry for your loss, dear.”

            Dylock’s gaze followed Ledda’s toned arm up to her caring countenance. She was a woman weathered by tough but rewarding parenthood. She was sturdier than many of the women back in the city who sported slender frames. Ledda herself had the stockier physique to handle a life farming in Burgstowe, but still had tenderness in spades. The definition of a loving but tough mother.

            “Thank you, ma’am.”

            The youngest daughter ran to Dylock, wrapping her arms around his waist.

            “Oh, hello. Yora,” Dylock said.

            “It’th okay to cry Dylock. Tearth are wordth only the heart can thay,” Yora said.

            “Oh for the…” Chorem’s exasperation trailed off and he glared at his father. “Did you tell her to say that?”

            Dylock glanced past Chorem, where the second oldest sister Yoja stood, coyly half-hiding behind her older brother.

            “Hello Yoja, nice to see you,” Dylock said.

            “Hi…Dylock. Uh…welcome to our home,” Yoja replied, her gaze dancing about, avoiding Dylock’s face for more than a second.

            “Yoja, take Dy’s things to the boys’ room.” Ledda ordered.

            Yoja’s shoulders perked up, and she reached for Dylock’s effects mumbling, “Yes’m.”

            “Be careful with the…sword…” Dylock relinquished his things to the eager girl, and she rushed into the house.

            “Aaand she’s gone,” Chorem said. “Mother, Dylock and me are going to take a walk, we’ll be back.”

            “Are you sure I don’t need my sword? For those bears, I mean?” Dylock asked as the two boys began walking down the dirt walkway from the house.

            Chorem chuckled, waving his hand dismissively. “Of course not. That sword wouldn’t do much to the bears around here anyway.”

            “You make Din roll in his grave,” Dylock scoffed.

            “Good, we don’t want him to get bedsores.”


            Dylock and Chorem sat on the front porch, watching as the country day slowly passed, the sun inching its way across the sky. Yoja sat with a book on the small wooden bench to the side of the front door, half reading the words on the pages, and half listening to the boys’ conversations.

            “This place truly is a boring sight to behold,” Chorem muttered.

            “It has its moments. The city can get too loud,” Dylock replied.

            “Ear plugs, my friend.”

            The two chuckled, followed by a muffled titter from Yoja.

            “Perhaps you would like to liven things up,” Dylock said.

            “Oh? What, pray tell, did you have in mind?” Chorem shifted his weight to lean towards his friend.

            “We could do a bit of sparring,” the squire suggested. “Practice for the tournament next fall.”

            Yoja gasped, slapping her book shut and setting it on the seat next to her before swiftly stealing away into the house.

            “Sparring to practice for the tournament? Are you sure you are up for such a task?”

            “I made the suggestion, did I not?”

            “Heh, many nations have waged losing wars,” the acolyte said, the corner of his mouth tugged at by pomp.

            “Tough words from Sir ‘Utilitarian Purposes’,” Dylock shot back.

            Chorem held his hand before him, and a staff topped with a hook shape emerged from a sheath of light, the tip of it resting in the dirt. “I’ll gladly show you some of those utilities, breadcutter.”

            Chorem lifted himself from his seat by pushing off his staff. Dylock rose from his own seat, saying, “I’ll need to get my things.”

            Yoja burst through the front door holding Dylock’s sword and shield in her hands, trying to hide both a smile and the desire for eye contact. “Here you are, Dy.”

            “Oh, thank you, Yoja,” Dylock chuckled, taking his luggage.

            “You’re welcome,” Yoja muttered, her shoulders rising up to her collar as she smiled.

            “Quit wooing my sister and get down here so we may commence the trouncing,” Chorem called, walking further into the open space of the farmyard.

            Dylock rolled his eyes, draping his shield over his shoulder as he held the strap with curled fingers. With his sheathed sword held by its handle, the squire walked towards his friend, stabbing the tip of the scabbard into the grass deep enough for the soil to hold it. Din’s sword slid from the sheath as Dylock continued to walk forward.

            “First to break loses, right?” Dylock checked, affixing the shield to his left arm.

            Chorem nodded, holding his crook perfectly upright as a small ball of light gathered at its top. He raised the staff lightly, then brought it down in a swift drop, which sent the gathering of light coursing down through the staff. With a magical spark popping from the grass, both Dylock and Chorem saw their bodies washed over by a gold light that wrapped tightly about their forms. The light dimmed to nothing as quickly as it appeared, and one would never be able to tell the boys were shielded by mid-level magicks – the spell of Armis, which covered a subject in a powerful magic barrier that can incur a certain amount of trauma in a person’s stead.

            “Yora! Chedda! Cherra! Come watch Dylock beat up Chor!” Yoja ran into the house, calling to the family as Dylock and Chorem backed away from each other, their bodies tensing.

            “Betrayed by my own blood, the tragedy of it all,” Chorem lamented jokingly.

            “You will receive no sympathy from this breadcutter.”

            Dylock raised his shield in front of him, covering the left side of his torso from shoulder to waist, his sword held in a coiled right arm. Chorem held his staff before him, his left hand hovering around the curved top of his weapon. The front door opened with a creak on tired hinges, and the whole of the Folemthatch clan appeared on the front porch.

            “Ready?” Dylock asked.

            Chorem nodded. “Yora! Count us down!”

            A smile grew on Yora’s face, and she took in a deep breath. “Twenty! Nineteen! Eighteen! Theventeen! Thixthteen!”

            Chorem’s shoulders sank, and he rolled his eyes. “Mother, if you could, please.”

            Chorem’s mother set her hands on Yora’s shoulders. “Smaller numbers, deary.”

            “Three! TWO! ONE! GO DYLOCK GO!” Yora yelled.

            Dylock dug his foot into the grass and propelled himself forward.

            “Really? I want a new family,” Chorem muttered. “Dylock, if you win you can have them!”

            “How generous of you!” Dylock reeled his right hand back for a wide cut with his sword.

            Chorem swiped his staff to the side, an unseen force knocking into Dylock’s shield, but otherwise failing to interrupt the squire’s attack. The sword came in low, slicing upwards into Chorem’s torso, the hit creating a brilliant spark as the blade struck the invisible armor. Chorem coiled his body with the blow, haphazardly thrusting his staff forward to fire off another telekinetic shot that forced Dylock to slide backwards.

            “Fwoo, that was a good hit. You were faultless in your approach, even as I rapped your shield,” Chorem said, spinning his staff in his hands to return to his normal combat posture.

            “Yeah? I believe that will be quite pleasing to the company scouts at the tournament,” Dylock said, twirling his own weapon in hand.

            “Company scouts?” Chorem cocked his head.

            “Yes, scouts for adventuring companies will undoubtedly be present. A great performance in the tournament could attract the scouts’ attention,” Dylock explained.

            Chorem’s shoulders sank ever-so-slightly at the thought, and he drew his staff downward. Dylock hopped to his left avoiding a plummeting wave of energy that matted the grass. “Getting yourself all dolled up for the corps, then?”

            “That’s what the tournament prepares us for, is it not?” Dylock readied his shield ahead of him again.

            “And here I thought this was just a friendly sparring match.”

            Dylock began his second approach, his sword following behind with his flowing red scarf. “It cannot be both?”

            Chorem responded with his own approach, keeping silent as a small fire gathered at the crook of his staff. The acolyte turned the tip of his staff back, swiping at Dylock with the bottom end. Dylock slapped the staff aside with the broadside of his sword, while Chorem used that force to spin on his heel leading with the enkindled crook of his weapon. Dylock leaned to his right, raising his shield to impede his friend’s attack. The wood of the staff slapped the broad surface of the shield with a loud clap, the fire at its tip flying off towards the house, landing in the canopy of the large maple tree that loomed over the front porch. A gasp from Chorem’s family followed the explosion in the leaves.

            “Chorem! You do not burn down this house!” the acolyte’s mother yelled.

            Chorem called out “Apologies!” as he sent a ball of ice over the yard that smothered the minute fire growing on a branch.

            Chorem swung his staff, the bottom end striking the side of Dylock’s head, a bright spark popping from his temple. Dylock staggered back as Chorem thrust his staff forward, swiftly sliding the shaft across his open left palm to release a shockwave. The shield covering Dylock’s body flashed brilliantly for a moment as he took the full force of the shockwave, his heels digging into the soft ground. Chorem swept his staff up, and a gust of wind erupted from underneath Dylock, flipping him off his feet and onto his back, causing the shield to flash again as it absorbed the impact.

            “How embarrassing for you,” the acolyte snickered, standing over his prone friend.

            “That was a clean combination strike.” Dylock rubbed the side of his head. For the most part, their galvanized state protected them from the more devastating effects of combat, but attacks could still produce dizzying results as their bodies were swiftly battered in different directions. To an extent, even much of the reactions one had to attacks while galvanized were purely psychological.

            “Yeah, it was.” Chorem loosed a blast of ice past Dylock’s head.

            Dylock climbed to his feet, stuck halfway between standing and crouching because the end of his red scarf was frozen to the ground in a small patch of ice.

            Chorem jumped backwards, smothering the ground behind him in a slick of ice that stretched like a path away from his opponent. “I’m sure the scouts will love that,” Chorem said snidely.

            Dylock smashed the ice block with the pommel of his sword, freeing his neckwear from marriage with the grass, and sprinted toward Chorem. Chorem held his staff at the bend in the crook, resting its length on his left hand, firing off telekinetic shots like a rifle. The recoil of his telekinetic rifling pushed him along, sliding backwards across the icy path he created, putting distance between him and Dylock, who continued forward with his shield raised to brush off the shots. Chorem slid down a small hill with Dylock giving chase, a telekinetic shot knocking the squire’s shield aside which he used to wind his arm forward, throwing the shield from his hand. The shield sailed towards Chorem, and he whipped his staff upwards to knock the armor aside.

            “Getting a little desperate, are we?” Chorem chided, turning to face ahead in his path as he came to the bank of a small pond.

            The acolyte jumped from the bank, his slide giving him the momentum to soar over the water. Chorem swept his staff underneath him, unleashing a spray of ice towards the pond below and freezing it solid before he landed. His feet touched the newly formed ice, and he stabbed the end of his staff into it to keep from slipping. Dylock approached on the ice slick, jumping from the bank with his sword held at the ready in both hands, his red scarf lapping at the blade. Dylock flew in, slashing the air as Chorem slid to the side, pivoting on his staff. Dylock landed low, sliding on his side towards his shield, half of which had become frozen in the surface of the ice. Chorem pulled his staff up, charging up to loose a fireball that bounced off the half-frozen shield. Dylock tightly gripped the shield’s straps as he slid past, pulling it from the ice that cracked with the strain.

            Dylock rose to his feet, affixing his shield as he did. The two young men were silent, the growl of cracking ice whispering through the air.

            “C’mon then, those scouts will take off marks for apprehension.”

            “Chor…are you alright?”

            “Me? Oh yes, everything’s fine. I’m also winning,” Chorem taunted.

            Dylock’s brow slowly lifted, and he scoffed.

            The squire dashed forward, his sword held low and at the ready. He stopped his stride just short of Chorem, sliding ahead as he swung his weapon. Chorem caught the blade with the crook of his staff and guided it past him, and the two young men slipped on the ice, falling on their sides. The ice split beneath their bodies, cracks spreading across the clear blue surface. Dylock and Chorem exchanged a look, their eyes darting to the ice beneath them and each other.

            “Maybe…we should take this battle off the ice,” Dylock suggested.

            “Could do…”

            As the young men slowly rose to their feet, the ice continued to crack, breaking up into smaller floating platforms that left the two of them separated by chilled pond water. Dylock tapped the tip of his sword on the ice under his feet as he watched himself float away from Chorem.

            “Chorem, Dylock!” Yoja called from atop the small hill near the house. “Mother says that food is almost ready, so whenever you two are finished beating each other senseless, you can come and clean up for dinner!”

            The boys glanced at the growing gap between them.

            “I suppose it’s a draw then, is it not?” Dylock asked.

            Chorem lowered the end of his staff just above the surface of the water, and a ripple appeared from a telekinetic wave, slowly pushing Chorem’s floe to the bank of the pond. Dylock, though, stood on his solitary floe, floating in the middle of the still water.

            “So…uh…could I maybe get some assistance?” Dylock called.

            An unseen force the size of a cannonball flew into Dylock’s stomach, lifting him from his floe and throwing him onto the bank behind him. Shards of golden, glass-like energy trailed the squire as he flew away, peeling away from his form as his magical shield broke from stress. Dylock landed on his back, groaning lightly as he let his arms fall down onto the dirt beside him.

            “I win,” Chorem said from a distance.

            Dylock coughed as he rolled onto his side. “Thank you.”


            Metal dinnerware scraped against plates as the Folemthatch family, plus one, sat down for their evening meal. Yora climbed onto the edge of the long table, leaning forward where she blew out the candles set up in the middle of the meal, and Chorem immediately sighed.

            “No, please stop doing that,” Chorem lamented, setting down his fork.

            “Chorem! Do it again! Do it again!” Yora pleaded.

            “Okay! But this is the last time I do it,” Chorem said. “Any more and you’ll be eating your potatoes in the dark.”

            The young mage held his hand forward, holding his fingers in the shape of a pistol. He pointed at the candle on the far end of the table, and flicked his wrist, mimicking the recoil of a fired gun. The wick of the candle instantly produced a small flame, and Chorem swept his hand across the table, pointing at the other candles and lighting them in kind. The children cheered, and Chorem rolled his eyes.

            “At least someone likes your parlor tricks, Chor,” Dylock joked.

            “We love his tricks!” Chedda cheered.

            “Oh, you guys love my tricks, do you?” Chorem asked, a smirk growing on his face at the same time a ghoulish apparition rose up behind the unaware children in their seats. It loomed closer and closer, opening a ghastly maw as black as pitch as its red eyes gleamed.

            Chorem’s mother glanced at the apparition, her shoulders sinking in exasperation. “Chorem, not at the dinner table!” she said sternly, slamming her fork against her plate.

            The shadow quickly receded, disappearing into nothing as Chorem’s shoulders rose tensely, the mage cowering in his chair. “Apologies,” he muttered.

            “Good to know all that hard studying at the academy has produced such impressive parlor tricks,” Noja said.

            “Fear not father, I have enough knowledge of the aetheric arts that I could potentially lay waste to all of Burgstowe,” Chorem replied, spearing a chunk of potato with his fork. “Not there is much to lay waste to.”

            Noja paused with his fork close to his open mouth. “Why would they teach you something like that?”

            “I’m joking, Father,” Chorem affirmed.

            “I would hope so…” Noja sighed.

            “I think.”

            Noja cleared his throat. “Say, Dylock? How has your schooling been coming along?”

            “Oh, classes have been going fine. I have yet to learn any village-busting techniques, but I’m sure I could hold my own against maybe a small army, a battalion at least,” Dylock replied.

            Noja chuckled. “What are you boys going to do with all this talent of yours?”

            Dylock swallowed a bite, glancing at Chorem, who met eyes with him for only a moment before his gaze darted away. “Well, I’m unsure of Chorem’s aspirations, but come graduation time I was seeking to enlist in the Lionhead Corps.”

            Noja’s eyes widened in surprise. He leaned back in his chair and exchanged a look with Ledda. “Really now? The Lionhead Corps?”

            “That’s quite the commitment, Dy,” Ledda said.

            Chorem looked at the reactions of his parents, and pushed around several kernels of corn on his plate.

            “It will be, but I think it will also be worth it.”

            “Only you can be sure of that, son. It’s not our place to tell you what to do, but we would be fools not to make sure you’ve thought this through,” Noja said.

            “Believe me, I have thought this through. I have never been more sure of anything in my young life.”

            Noja and Ledda shared another look, this time one of acquiescence. Chorem saw their exchange, and it felt like his shoulders would slide right off his body if they could go any lower.

            “Alright, son. Of course we’re not your parents, so we can’t tell you not to, but…do be safe, you’re still loved here,” Ledda said.

            “That’s it? ‘Be safe’ is all you have to tell him?” Chorem let his fork drop onto his plate with a startling clang. “Not even the elders are a voice of reason. Excuse me.”

            Chorem rose from his seat and left the house, leaving the door outside to slowly close on its own.

            “Uh…excuse me.” Dylock slowly stood up, offering simple apologies as he made for the front door to follow Chorem. The squire picked up his sword from its resting place by the door. Dylock stepped off the front porch, noticing Chorem standing at the top of the hill overlooking the pond, which had since thawed from their earlier tussle. Chorem watched Dylock trudge up the incline.

            “Did you come to disappoint me further?” Chorem asked.

            “I was not aware that’s what I was doing.” Dylock stopped next to Chorem, admiring the rising moon reflecting off of the pond’s surface.

            “Not surprising, you haven’t seemed to have considered what I thought about all this Lionhead Corps talk.”

            “I had believed we squared that away before we left, at the cemetery.”

            “I had begun to believe it was a passing fancy. The country air did little to clear your senses though, you still feel it’s best to get yourself killed.”

            “What is your problem, Chor? Why do you refuse to understand this?” Dylock turned to his friend, his arms open wide at his sides to welcome an answer.

            “Because I do not believe you are grieving properly!”

            Dylock’s eyes narrowed slightly at the response.

            “If my father died…I would be a mess. If I lost anyone in my family, I have no clue of how I could carry on. I would be devastated. And you…you’re so complacent, ever since Din was laid to rest. I would be beside myself, and here you want to enlist in the Lionhead Corps, throw yourself at bloodshed and death!”

            “Chor…I just…It is not as if Din died suddenly – he was old. It was not like when my parents were killed; back then, I did cry, a lot, but just as you are here for me now, Din was there for me then – he helped me deal with the grief. As we grew older, we both had plenty of time to come to terms with the inevitability of his own passing. It will always hurt that he is gone, I will never stop missing him.”

            Chorem sighed, his head tilting to his left. “I’m afraid that you have gotten over Din’s death too quickly, and now you are making rash decisions.”

            “I’m not over Din’s death. I never will be. That’s not how it works, Chor. Little by little, I will learn to live without him here. It’s the same for all of us when someone we love dies. We will get better over time, but we will never be who we were before with them. Truthfully, I would not want to be, it would mean that he was not as big a part of my life as I believed.”

            “Then why the corps, Dylock?”

            “I already told you, Chor – I want to give back to the world. Din saw a lot of worth in me, and I want to show that I see a lot of worth in the world,”

            “But there is so much that you could do. Other adventuring companies are constantly looking for new members who want to make the world a better place. Why would you choose the one that jumps at the chance to stand at the forefront of any ensuing battle?”

            “Chor, the Lionhead Corps does what many others will not. Sometimes they are all that stand between a goblin raiding party and an innocent village. How many sleepy little hamlets, like Burgstowe here, have been saved from the fires of war because the corps pushes back enemy parties, preventing them from gaining footholds and subjugating the innocent? That’s what I want to do, I want to know that the actions I take have a lasting effect on the people. Let the likes of the Arcanum Shell Heaters scour ruins for artifacts and other scholarly pursuits of the past, I want to be above ground, stopping immediate threats in their tracks.”

            “So you have truly committed to this. It was not about living up to an expectation that Din had for you?”

            “No. Din only wanted me to live up to my potential; I’m who decides where that potential lies,”

            “And that potential is in fighting back against whatever needs fighting? Regardless of the danger, or how badly you get killed, Dylock Luftmac is joining the Lionhead Corps?”

            Dylock nodded silently. Chorem took a deep breath.

            “And I’ll be coming with you,” Chorem declared.

            “Really? You’re going to join after all the concern you showed for me?” Dylock asked.

            “Hey, I was concerned about you dying; if I’m there, I can watch out for you.”

            “Oh yeah, and what about you?” Dylock jeered. “Am I to keep you from harm’s way?”

            “Me? No need, I’ll never die.”

            The boys chuckled. Dylock sat down, hugging his sword close to his chest as the hilt rested on his shoulder. Chorem plopped down next to him, and the two of them stared up at the moon, a bright white disc laying against a bejeweled blanket of cold, blue night.

            “Chor…are you sure?” Dylock asked.

            “Of course, I made a promise to an old man,” Chorem answered.

            The two young men glanced at one another, Chorem himself grinning. Dylock did the same. He propped his sword on its sheathed tip and stared at the hilt shining in the moonlight.

            “I’m glad we cleared things up, Dy.”

            “Yeah…I don’t think I could take a whole week of you being a passive-aggressive twit. Lomley would have to find himself a new phialboy.”

            “Is that what you believe? With those moves you displayed in our little training session?”

            “I was…going easy on you…”

            “Of course you were, Dylock. Of course you were.”

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