I guess I don’t have anything particularly important to say at the moment. Let’s just get on with the story:
It wasn’t clear how long he had been asleep, but Julius was suddenly wide awake in the darkness. He could hear the others breathing. Twig was snuggled up to him and he could feel her strangely relaxed breaths on his shoulder. He carefully extracted himself from her and stood. The complete blankness of the room was unnerving. Above the sound of sleep there seemed to be the faint echo of people talking a great distance away, and a slow, heavy, rhythmic, movement of air. He needed light. Even if it was creepy and green.
Compared to his movements the snoring and whatnot seemed like the crashing of thunder. Maybe it was his imagination, but he didn’t even feel the need to mask his steps. He opened the door and sickly light arced inside in a clear beam. He made to shut the door, but almost screamed as a hand stayed his own. Alina’s hand.
“I can’t be in there anymore.” She whispered. Panic subsiding, Julius let her step into the corridor with him. The door remained slightly ajar as it was meant to be sealed from inside. “Where are you going?”
“I can’t take being in their either.” He whispered in response. He made a motion for her to follow and they began slowly walking along the long hall. Once they were a fair distance away Alina spoke again.
“You’ve been invaluable on this expedition.” She began. “I don’t really… Praise isn’t something I’m good with…”
“Well, I’m not used to getting it, so maybe we can take it as read that you appreciate my work and leave it at that?” He replied.
Alina smiled and nodded.
Not wanting to stray too far from the party, Julius slid himself down the wall and Alina did likewise. They sat there in silence for a long while before either spoke again. Alina seemed lost in thought and Julius chanced a good, long look at her. He could hardly believe she was just a human woman. One with martial prowess that far exceeded that of most, but still. He might have crossed her path in the street and never noticed. Well, no… Not with that hair. He would have noticed, but not had an inkling of her astounding skills. He remained lost in this reverie until a moment after Alina had noticed him gazing at her in apparent wonder.
“Still a little awed by my presence?” She asked, blushing in spit of years of this sort of attention.
“Uh, yes!” Julius spurted, whipping his gaze away in embarrassment. “You are easily as awe inspiring in person as on a poster.”
“Do you… actually have one?” She asked slyly. “One of those silly propaganda posters?”
His face had already answered, but not being aware of this he replied anyway. “I… might have taken one. For… decorative purposes.”
“You aren’t alone.” She laughed. “Every new group of trainees comes in with a few boys… and some girls… who hang them by their beds.”
“That honestly doesn’t make me feel much better.” He admitted.
“No? Well, you’re a big boy. You’ll get over it.” She teased.
“It must be annoying.” He said. “Going through this every time you meet someone new.”
“Not exactly annoying, but I miss being a nobody sometimes.” She replied. “I’ve never really felt like that woman in the posters. I understand their purpose, but they look like someone I don’t know to me too. I only ever meant to be a medic, you know? And I certainly wasn’t supposed to be at the gate that day. Our commander fled when the line broke. We were in a complete route. When we saw the elite guard overrun I decided I’d rather die fighting than with an arrow in my back. When I stopped running so did Niona and Regalius. I picked up a mace and prayed that our sacrifice might allow others to escape.”
“That’s not the story they told us.” Said Julius.
“I know. They always made it out like I was something more than just a terrified healer. As arrogant as he can be Regalius has every right to be angry when people only credit me for saving the city. If he hadn’t been there, if they all hadn’t been with me, I wouldn’t be here now. But that was not the story the council wanted told. And honestly I think the others count it as a blessing, even Regalius, in spite of his protests. It is very… vexing… being a living legend sometimes.”
“I’ll have to teach you the art of not being seen.” Julius smiled.
“I would like that very much.” Grinned Alina. “But from what Niona tells me I’d be better off letting your cat teach me”