“Look alive men! Commander on deck!”
Flynn heard the somewhat frantic call of the Captain long before he reached the barracks, it of course meant they weren’t ready to see him, but he wasn’t going to hold it against them, he himself had more the one last minute rush to be presentable for inspection, so he could understand, not the mention Alexei never actually checked on the brigades, so it was to an extent to be expected.
Honestly though, Flynn’s mind was only partly on the task at hand, he was far more caught up in own thoughts, and the realization of how much things had changed.
‘Three months… three months since the Blastia ceased to exist…’
In that amount of time the world had gone into panic, terrified and accusatory it had taken up until now for Flynn to feel confident he could leave the capital, that everything would be fine at home without him long enough for him to even do these inspections.
Heliord had been one of the cities most affected by the change, having been a brand new town to begin with most of the families there still hadn’t even settled in before they learned that the safety they expected from the barrier blastia was no longer going to be there.
And that was just the residents.
The brigades there had struggled since the barrier had disappeared, trying to keep the monsters out of the city limits. From the reports Flynn had read back in Zaphias they were low on supplies and had quite a few injured men.
The captain saluted as Flynn stepped into the Loller brigade’s headquarters, the place had been organized since Loller had taken over, the barracks no longer looked like they had just moved in, everything was neat and in it’s place, something Flynn admired.
Made him wonder why they seemed so nervous to see him, though to be fair this was his first inspection as commandant and they didn’t know what to expect from him.
“At ease Captain.”
He watched as he visibly relaxed, if only slightly.
“Um, yes sir, I hope your journey here treated you well, it’s getting a bit hairy out there.”
“So I’ve noticed.”
“we’re currently getting ready for mating season, there’ll be a lot more Tortoise roaming past here in a few weeks, we currently have more food and building materials being brought in to help with the effort.”
“Good to hear, show me around?”
“Of course, sir.”
Captain Loller led the way though the barracks, it was small and rather cramped, but it seemed he had found a way to make due, the interrogation rooms were currently being used as storage for keepable foods and the back room was filled with makeshift beds ready for travelers that would be stranded in the city until the monster activity settled down.
Flynn had to admit he was rather impressed.
The captain ran his fingers though his slightly graying hair, he was tall and over twice Flynn’s age, he knew there were quite a few knights that resented having such a young boss, however he didn’t get that feeling from the seasoned captain.
“Stay still! I need to re-wrap it.”
Flynn looked over as they passed what was currently being used as the infirmary, a young lieutenant cried out in pain as a medic on duty wrapped his leg in bandages, as he did so they began to stain though already turning a crimson color.
“How are your supply of gels?”
“…Not good, down to our last crate of lemon gels, been doing our best to use apple only but we ran out a few days ago, running low on treats and mélange gels, and have crates filled of useless orange and pineapple gels, don’t even know what to do with them to be honest.”
“I see… we’re having the same issue nearly everywhere, I’ll see what I can do get you more medicine.”
“Thank you sir, I’d appreciate it.”
Without the blastia the machines that synthesized the gels, weapons and armor no longer worked, and people were scrambling trying to buy what reserves there were of the now far more precious medicine, as it stood the knights were holding back as much of them as they could while a staff of skilled mages started the process of making gels by hand, but the amount being made was nothing to fill the void.
“It’s only going to get worse… isn’t it sir?”
Flynn thought about that for a moment, right now it was taking everything the knights had to keep the peace in the capital, and he could only imagine what Harry was going though right now still green and trying to take hold of the reigns his grandfather had left behind, the world as a whole was in a fragile state and there didn’t seem to be a solution anywhere in sight.
“I hope not Captain, but we need to be ready for anything.”
“Always… um permission to speak freely sir?”
“Of course, captain.”
“Honestly? We’re just asking to be demolished sitting out here in jungle territory, it was fine when he had magic but now… then there’s the small settlements popping up around this side of the continent, we can’t protect them all sir… I’m not blind, I know as well as anyone who was watching the sky that the blastia’s power was used to destroy that thing… was it really our only option? Surely we could have come up with a better way…”
Flynn didn’t really have an answer, it was true the whole story as to what happened was being kept from the public as well as most the knights, they were sure if they told they had sent a ragtag team of people up there to save them all at the expense of life as they had known it people would be even more angry then they were now, and then there was the point of protecting Yuri and his friends from persecution, something he and Yuri had been arguing about since the first real issues arose of machines no longer working and people getting hurt or even dying when the blastia simply ceased to be. If he was being honest he didn’t know if the truth could ever really be told to them.
“I wish I could explain to you more what happened, only that we really didn’t have any other options. Perhaps with time we could have found another way, but at that point it might have been too late to save our world, and I would rather give up magic then lose our entire race to whatever that creature was.”
The captain sighed, he sounded tired, like the weight of the world had been dropped onto his shoulders, and in some ways it had been, trying to lead his men who had lost their morale when their blastia stopped working, and small brilliant lights shot up into the sky leaving them with almost nothing to protect themselves with in their new, scarier world.
“I know that your right, but it doesn’t make it any easier, I’ve watched several of my men die that could be here right now if we still had magic to heal them… I… I worry about my son out in Desier… I haven’t heard from his brigade since it all happened, and he always sends me a letter at the beginning of the month, do you know if he’s alright?”
Loller’s son Daniel had only just been promoted to captain of his own brigade a month ago and was in charge of watching over Mantaic and the three other small towns that had were being built in the area, without barriers people were opting to find their own place in the world, it was making it even harder for the knights to protect everyone, and while Ioder had stated that they were still their citizens and needed their support it was quickly becoming apparent that their weren’t enough knights to cover how far spread everyone was.
“I’ve sent my second out to Desier to check on them, When I know something you will as well, he’s a strong leader though, I have no doubt he’s doing well.”
Perhaps it was wrong to give him so much false hope, after all the brigades in Desier were the only ones they had lost contact with since the Adephagos was defeated, and the fact that it had taken three months to have available bodies to check on them was considered a personal failure in Flynn’s book.
Flynn and Captain Loller turned as a frightened lieutenant ran to them, Flynn noticed that he was limping and wondered how he gotten himself injured like that.
“What is it lieutenant? What happened to your leg?!”
The young lieutenant took a moment to catch his breath.
“We… we got attacked out on the eastern border… monsters everywhere….we..we weren’t ready…”
“Monsters?! They shouldn’t have been here in that kind of number for five more weeks!”
“Sir… there’s a traveling caravan… we tried to protect it but…”
Loller Sprung into action as two other knights helped the lieutenant to the infirmary to join the others already being treated, leaving Flynn to follow suit, the far more seasoned knight gathered his men and within minutes they were at the outskirts of the city, it reminded Flynn of just how young and inexperienced he was to be commandant, he needed to take hold of the situation before their were fatalities.
Then again Flynn wasn’t the most experienced with fighting the creatures in the Tolbyccian continent so perhaps it was best to let their captain run the show.
From the long stone pathway that led out into forests Flynn could see the disaster unfolding, several heavily wounded knights trying to protect the traveler’s carriage, From the carriage itself a woman was trying desperately to calm down a young child, the girl was screaming in fright which was only making the monsters come after the carriage more fiercely.
Flynn and the rest of the reinforcements quickly made a circle around the wounded knights and carriage, now in a defensive stance Flynn could see the monsters quickly closing in on them, the biggest problem being the Tortoise and Basilisk, though the howlers could be an issue if they didn’t keep an eye on them.
“Corporal! Report on the situation.”
“We were on our normal patrol Sir, when we saw the carriage we offered to escort them to the city, but before we could reach it we were attacked, there were only a few at first but they quickly overtook us!”
“More coming from the east!”
Within seconds the battlefield was covered in dust clouds as the monsters charged them, knights quickly getting lost in the fray, without magic this fight was more like a suicide mission, Flynn ducked as a Howler appeared from the dust trying to bash in his head with its sharp beak, a couple swipes finished off the creature and he ran to help several other knights who were trying to kill one of the Tortoise that had broke through their perimeter.
“Sir! We’ve lost track of private Barnne!”
Private Barnne was the newest recruit to the brigade if Flynn remembered from the report he had gotten three weeks prier to this visit, she was Green and had been posted at Heliord to get her though basic training in a safer environment.
Apparently, that had been a bad idea.
Flynn bolted upright at the sound of the shrill scream, it had come somewhere to his left, rushing, he dodged past the many small battles that were taking place, clearing the dust he found Private Barnne had been cornered against the tree line by three Tortoise and a Howler, she clumsily ducked out of the way of the Howler’s sharp beak tripping over a rock, and the Tortoise in front reared back planning the crush the poor girl under its heavy feet.
‘Damnit! I’m not gonna make it!’
She tried to scramble out of the way but she was met by the other two ready to crush her as well, in all his life Flynn have never seen monsters fight in such an organized way, and he wished that he never had.
There was no way she would survive the monster stomping on her.
The sound of a monster in agony filled the air, in a flurry of metal and cloth the Tortoise collapsed to the ground mere inches from the young private, she screamed as she made it to her feet grabbing her sword.
“wh... what was that!?”
The other two fell as well, amidst the chaos stood a woman with scarlet hair, she wore a long-sleeved teal shirt and a long chocolate brown skirt that fell far past her knees, she wore matching brown boots and carried twin daggers with three blades, blueish-green eyes stared coldly at the failed attempt at a recue with contempt before disappearing into the battle.
Flynn could only watch as the woman took over, slicing gracefully, like a ballerina on a stage she spun and twirled leaving dead monsters in her wake.
It was as if she were dancing.
It shouldn’t have been possible, for one person even with magic to single handedly take out a small army of monsters, but that was what she had done, she stood triumphant though seeming almost bored by the whole thing, Flynn made his way to the strange woman who looked at him with discontent.
“Thank you for the assistance, I don’t think we would held out much longer.”
He honestly didn’t know what else to say.
She gave him an icy glare as if him expecting a reply were an insult.
“You should be, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a sloppy display, your knights so I would think you would know how to fight without magic, and why aren’t these roads closed? Does no one realize how active these monsters are?”
She seemed to say the last thing more to herself then to him.
“Annalise! Thank goodness you followed us! We should have listened when you told us it wasn’t safe to leave The Union!”
The woman who had been holding the young girl had come up to thank who Flynn now knew was Annalise, the girl hiding behind her looking around as if not believing it safe.
“It’s alright, I hope you listen in the future, you alright Clare? The monsters didn’t get you did they?”
The little girl shook her head and timidly came up to Annalise and gave her a hug.
“Me and mommy are safe now?”
She nodded to the girl.
“Yes, your safe, now go on and get into the city before more show up, ok?”
Clare nodded and ran back to her mother.
“Thank you again, all of you.”
Mother and daughter returned to the carriage and the knights quickly went to tend to the wounded.
“Your lucky, if the Grasshoppers had begun moving already you guys would have been doomed before I got here, no one seems to listen to me when I tell them that the monsters mating season has begun early this year…”
“It seems so… we’re still learning the new habits of the monsters now that the aer has begun to change.”
“That’s just about what id expect from imperial knights, your all the same… you should have made them abandon the carriage, what was so important about protecting the stuff?”
“The carriage gave them at least a bit of protection from attacking monsters.”
She shook her head.
“You need to learn when to cut your losses, otherwise you’ll lose everything, like that girl over there.”
In the distance private Barnne was shaking uncontrollably from her experience, the slightest noise causing her to jump.
“You almost went home with one less knight today, know when to quit.”
The woman named Annalise turned to leave.
“Wait! You’re from Dahngrest aren’t you? I’m guessing you’re a guildsman? Why would you come out this far for one carriage?”
She turned to face him.
“Wouldn’t you to protect the innocent? Or is that also been forgotten by you knights?”
“Now wait just a minute…”
“No, you wait a minute, you’ve been commandant how long? Three months? And what have you done with it? Nothing, that’s what. People are starving, cold, hungry, and scared. And when you’re not doing inspections your playing politics and telling the public it’s gonna be ok instead of actually making it ok. That’s why I’ll never respect an imperial dog.”
Flynn was taken aback, the woman seemed to know a lot more about him then he did about her, not only that but she had a very strong opinion against him and he wanted to know why.
“Yeah that’s what I thought.”
She walked off leaving Flynn with his thoughts.
‘Just who is that woman…?’
Flynn noticed that Annalise was talking to Private Barnne when he looked up, it seemed the girl had calmed down a bit but was still shaken, he needed to go focus on her for now.
“You alright Leah?”
Private Barnne looked up at him terror still clear in her eyes, Annalise walked away without saying a thing to him, it was almost as if she had stabbed him in the back and was quietly leaving the scene of the crime.
“Y-yes sir… I’ll… I’ll be fine.”
Flynn wasn’t convinced.
“I’ll speak to your captain about giving you leave, today was frightening even for the best of knights, I don’t blame you for being scared.”
Leah quietly shook her head, struggling to look her commander in the eyes.
“All due respect sir… but… I think I might request to be let go… I admittedly became a knight to make my father happy… but after today… I just really want to go home…”
There was that same feeling of being stabbed in the back, but Annalise was nowhere to be seen.
“Are you sure? Is this something you really want or was it perhaps suggested to you?”
She did her best to smile despite herself.
“That woman did say things I felt were true, in the end she asked me if this was something I really wanted, and… in all honestly it’s not… I don’t really like fighting… I’m… I’m sorry.. sir.”
Flynn shook his head.
“No… It’s alright, if that’s what you want then I won’t stop you, go home and get some rest ok?”
Leah nodded and Captain Loller came to escort her back into the city limits, as the knights began to return to their posts Flynn lingered a moment, thinking about it now all he had been doing the last three months was damage control, trying to calm the panicking populace and keep some semblance of normality in the Empire, but for all of that he hadn’t really done anything to actually help the citizens in any long term way.
He frowned, he was going to have to change that, the people needed support, supplies and his undivided attention, Anna was right about that.
As he returned to the confines of the city he wondered if he would see her again, he couldn’t help but want to prove her wrong regardless of how unimportant it was to do so, some people already had their minds made up about him after all.
Taking a deep breath, he returned to talking to Captain Loller about the towns future, he had a lot to do and nowhere near enough time to do it, it was time to get serious and help get the Empire back on its feet after all the events of the Blastia, it was time to get the world back on its feet.
He just hoped he could handle whatever came his way.