The Beginning After the End (Vol. 8.5): Amongst the Fallen
The Three Lances (Part 2)
The Three Lances (Part 2)
Dec 16, 2021
Throughout the tedious days after Dicathen's fall, building and refining our little hideaway in the Beast Glades had become my hobby. When it wasn't my turn to scout, I spent my time playing with the shapes of our beds, the type of stone for our tables, and the design of the oven. I carefully molded shelves into the walls, smoothed out the floors, and even grew cute little columns and arches that went up the walls and across the ceiling.
When remodeling grew boring, I turned to molding and shaping other things. I started with a bust of Aya, but it ended up looking more like my cousin Hornfels if someone shaved off his beard. Artistry wasn't really my thing.
After that, though, I tried making simpler shapes in the form of little dolls, which were now scattered across my bunk. The closest thing to a doll I'd had as a child was a target dummy for my spells, and I'd never seen the point of creating golems or simulacrum in combat, like my old partner Olfred had, but there was something meditative about molding and shaping them.
They seemed to annoy Aya as well, so I'd crafted dozens of increasing strange or creepy dolls, and regularly left them around the cave for her to find.
As we waited for Varay, I released my gravity spell and picked one up. Giving Aya an apologetic smile, I held the doll out to her. "Mica is sorry for interrupting your meditation. Please accept this peace offering."
The elven Lance glowered down at the doll. It was a particularly ugly one with a bulbous and misshapen head, a missing eye from a crack that ran from the top of its head down through its face, and a plump, lumpy body. It too, I realized, looked a little like an angry potato.
Aya put her fingertip against the top of its head and conjured an inaudible, vibrating sound into the crack, causing the doll to break in half with a loud snap.
Varay turned back to us and I gave her a scandalized look. "Varay, Aya broke my doll!"
The human Lance rubbed at her eyes and made a visible effort to ignore me before launching into her debriefing. "I have good news. The Wall still stands and is held by Dicathian soldiers, for now. I believe that its lack of strategic value has provided limited incentive for the Alacryans to take it. Additionally, they seem to have abandoned their presence in the Beast Glades, which bodes well for us."
"And?" I asked, impatient for actionable news.
One of Varay's thin eyebrows rose as she regarded me. "And I have found a target for you to vent your frustrations on, Mica."
Knocking the broken doll's hands together in a high five, I plopped down on my bed like a kid waiting for a bedtime story.
"There is a powerful Alacryan, perhaps a retainer, who is moving from city to city acting as a mouthpiece for the Vritra, announcing the Alacryans' victory and execution of our Council, and informing people that they are now subjects of the High Sovereign, Agrona. Their forces are still disseminating throughout Dicathen, and they have yet to reach many of the smaller, more rural settlements. This speaker's name is Lyra Dreide, and I've tracked the pattern of her movements. I believe her next stop will be a moderate sized trading village between Xyrus City and Blackbend named Greengate.
"My suggestion is that we go to Greengate and capture this Lyra Dreide. We can interrogate her to learn more about what the Alacryans are doing and how to best disrupt them."
"Yes," I replied immediately. Aside from a handful of small skirmishes, we'd avoided exposing ourselves since the loss at Etistin. I was tired of sulking in the Beast Glades, and more than ready to show the Alacryans that this war wasn't over.
Aya, on the other hand, was shaking her head. "It's a trap, right? Why else would this person make their movements so obvious? With their personal teleportation artifacts, the Alacryans could just teleport from town to town randomly to avoid an ambush."
"They think they've won," I said quickly, not wanting the elven Lance to change Varay's mind. "They think Dicathen is defeated, that there is no one left to challenge them. Mica wonders why they would go to the trouble of hiding their movements if there is no threat left to them."
Aya ignored me, meeting Varay's eye as she continued. "Do the Alacryans strike you as reckless? They've been three steps ahead of us at every turn. They've outplanned us and outfought us, which is why they won."
I opened my mouth to reply, but Varay held up a hand to stop me, then gestured for Aya to continue.
"We can't just throw ourselves into the first opportunity for battle we see. If they know we're still out here, then why wouldn't they try to lure us into the open? If they've foreseen we might try to interfere with the fledgling government they're installing, then dangling this woman in front of us like bait makes perfect sense."
Varay, who had become our de facto leader since the Council's fall, had listened thoughtful and carefully to the elven Lance, then was quiet for several frustratingly long seconds afterwards.
"I agree with you, Aya"—the elven Lance flashed me a victorious smile—"but there will be danger in any action, and inaction isn't something I'm capable of any longer."
Aya's eyes snapped back to Varay and her face fell. I smirked at the side of her head.
"Although this could be a trap, this is also our first opportunity to strike at a high-value Alacryan target. If we were ever worthy of the title of Lance, we can no longer hide here in the Beast Glades. It is time to act."
Varay's sharp eyes darted from Aya to me. I nodded. Aya followed suit a moment later.
"Good. There's no time to waste then. I think we should head for Greengate immediately and set up a base of operations."
The war between Dicathen and Alacrya is over and Arthur Leywin has vanished. In the uncertain aftermath of this decisive loss, a few familiar faces navigate peril both political and moral as they are now forced to make a difficult choice: accept life under Vritra rule or keep fighting despite impossible odds? As Dicathen falls, Mica Earthborn, Lilia Helstea, Emily Watsken, and Jasmine Flamesworth must each answer this question for themselves.
NOTE ABOUT READING ORDER: to get the best reading experience, Amongst the Fallen should be read after volume 8 of The Beginning After the End (make sure you've read up to episode 868).