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Though The Night Be Dark And Long

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The tattered band of survivors numbered around a hundred, and was led by a girl who firmly gave her age of seventeen but that he guessed was closer to twelve.

It also had the very odd feature of playing host to five MTs, two of whom were half converted into the hellish monsters they had been made to be, arms and legs removed to make way for magitech limbs that couldn’t tire, one had half a helm over his right eye. The group was incredibly protective of them, and had bristled at any suggestion that they be split from them.

He had a guess as to why, this group was the only far-flung one that had arrived with families and children intact, and some of those children were quick to dodge behind the MTs. They had been using the MT to control the Scourge, and knew that they would be dead or infected in weeks. The same black pollution spread down the three unconverted faces, though their pallor was strangely better than Prompto’s had been at the same stage.

“Highwind?” He questioned, approaching the girl after spending a few moments studying the group.

The half converted MT was standing next to her, and for all appearances they had been conversing, but entirely odd, Prompto could talk, but he found himself wondering suddenly when they lost that ability. They had tried and failed to talk to them during the way. The MT had a slight built and a shock of scruffy red hair on the side of his head that wasn’t wielded with metal.

“That’s me.” The girl popped her hip, hand on her lance, and gave him a look. “you the one in charge?”

“I am.” He settled his hands behind him.

“We’re here to apply for refuge.” She told him boldly. “We was told in Lestallum you were the one to petition. Them to.” She gestured at the MT, who nodded seriously.

“Can he speak for himself?”

The girl looked at the MT, the MT looked at the girl, and then sighed. “I can, but it is difficult. They had started to replace.” He gestured palm up to his throat in an encompassing gesture. “We are all able to work.”

He nodded, trying to control his curiosity to deal with them as what they were - refugees – not something to satisfy his teenaged curiosity with. “There’s a waiting period for entry.” He gestured to the tent city. “You are welcome to join them, work around the camp.”

Highwind snarled. “I ain’t sleeping on the ground no more. You got beds in there!”

He smiled after a moment. “There are beds here to be taken for a work allotment. Jobs, as well, but entry requires quarantine procedures, and I can tell you they would absolutely not pass.” He nodded to the MT.

“Spoon’s not sick.” The girl said seriously. “None of them are. They can control the sickness.”\\

“They still carry it, and we’re not sure how it splits from them.” He shook his head. “I can offer jobs, I can offer shelter, but my people would not allow them to enter the city.”

“Aranea. It’s fine.” Spoon muttered, voice soft and a bit whiny, as though he strained to speak. “This is better than we feared.”

He watched them interact, the MT all placid calm, almost resigned, the girl all cold fury. Shiva’s tits she could have been a Valkyrie – probably was one, if her last name said anything. Far as he could remember the Highwinds had always been a bit damaged and temperamental. It wasn’t a shock to see a cub of one here, firm in the place she should occupy in the world.

“You have just as much right as everyone else!” Aranea was protesting.

“We do not, and never have. It is better that the children go through quarantine. The smaller units…” A glance to him. “The children have a chance here. The other groups will be satisfied with that.”

“Other groups?” He asked, mildly.

“I am one of many.” Spoon said softly, pressing a hand to his chest. “Some of my brothers and sisters are fully converted, others are like myself. When the master stopped giving us orders, Arenea found us and gathered us with her.”

He shot the girl a sharp glance.

She jutted her chin out, defiant.

“How many “other units”.”

“The armies of Niflheim, Commander Leonis.” Spoon said, just as placid and pitched as he had been the entire.

“Where are the generals of Niflheim?” He asked, directing the question at both of them.

“Gone. Eaten up. I don’t know. I don’t care. They’re gone, and none of the labs are left standing.” Aranea snarled, hands tightening around her lance. “The Emperor probably rotted away in that palace of his, while the rest hide in their safe rooms and let the Scourge take them!”

He had a guess as to why there were no more labs standing. It was sort of amusing, in its own way, this child had accomplished more than the entire Lucian army had fifteen years ago.

A mere slip of a girl with the fury of a thousand in her veins.

“And you control them?” He asked the girl, trying to keep his voice mild.

“They choose to follow me.” Aranea tossed her head, eyes narrowed. “Left some of them in Tenbrea, some in Niflheim. They settle in the communities they can do some good.”

“Healing the Scourge.”

She frowned. “…yeah.”

“That was your ace, wasn’t it?” He asked. “That Spoon and his brothers and sisters can drain the scourge.”

Her cheeks reddened, but it faded fast and the defiance returned. “So what? Even if you’ve got one I’ve got thousands. One can’t heal as many people as you’ve got locked up in there! I told them at Lestallum, but they wouldn’t listen!”

He sighed, letting it become a soft chuckle. “Highwind. What do you want?”

“Safe place for the kids.” She returned, chin up.

“I have more orphans than I know what to do with.” He pointed out, glancing at one of the pale wretches.

“I got minders for most of them! I can get more, too. The MTs can fight the Daemons, and they don’t draw them when they travel. You work with me and we can make your life easier.” She was desperate, young, and she was giving too much of herself away.

He felt an odd sort of kinship with her, this slender girl who had somehow won herself an army while the upper echelons had slowly succumbed to the night. “Alright. We can discuss it.”

Relief darkened her eyes, shoulders slumping, and she gave Spoon a companionable arm to the gut that he bore with good natured calmness.