Will I Follow?

“Hey ma, what do you think we’ll do if the mists lift?”

“Hmm, I don’t suppose I’ve had time to think about it. I suppose Etienne will talk to the Court, and we will figure something out”

“And you believe they will make the right decision?”

“Well, the Court has guided us this long, and we are all alive. And Entienne is a smart man. Why, dear. You have doubts?”

“I mean, some things happened last market that just left me with a lot of question. Just….So Apple had said the last season that, because of the circle’s commitment to the town, and the town’s commitment to the circle, that we were free to adopt Discord to replace sins of Bias. But this market the Court addressed the town in the tavern to have us prove to them that, I don’t know, we were worthy of having that change happen? I guess I just didn’t understand the confusion between the Court about letting it happen? But then Ashe got upset and left, saying she couldn’t stand by this change knowing how many of us died at the hands of the Benalians, and that it was not her way just to simply forget.”

“Well, some members of the Court aren’t immune to acts of impulse. Apple is the spirit who loves the circle the most, so it makes sense that they would be the most in favor of this change, even if it was not solely their call to make”

“Yeah, I suppose that makes sense. The Circle was really torn up about Ashe leaving, and reached out to try to talk and bring them back to the Court. But then Ashe had a list of demands for the Benalians to do to prove to Ashe that they accept us. But, haven’t they done enough?”

“What do you mean, dear?”

“Haven’t the Benalians not bled for us? Haven’t they not been accommodating to our needs? Have they not turned their heads to our activities? When Jo was out in the middle of the tavern yelling ‘My people, it’s time. Let’s meet in our grove’, do you not think the Benalians were playing dumb, closing their eyes, and covering their ears to stay in line with their faith when they had Heresy? And the ones who could not turn their heads to our Mother, they were just shouldering that on their soul. What more do the Benalians have to prove? They could have hunted us a hundred times over by now, but we have chosen to live together for so long.”

“Ashe does hold the memories of the dead from before any of us could comprehend”

“But also our memories don’t work as they should. The mists, which the court tell us to work to strengthen as much as we can for our protection, takes our memories away. So many of us have walked into the forest to be caught in the mists and come back not knowing our families. Last market I found Chevreuil’s body. And Colibri, and, from what Cadence said, Entienne could not remember him. And I think that’s mists fault, and not them not caring about the old leader of our Circle, and, for Entienne, the old head of our family. Yet we are judged for not remembering or understanding how Vecatrans in the region were hunted? I understand that Ashe holds those memories, but that is not the situation we are living through, and the Benalians have done so much already. I am not sure why we are not taking more of a firmer stance toward Ashe, and saying we would love for Ashe to be apart of our community, but if they cannot live under this allegiance with the Benalians then we will remember them fondly.”

“It isn’t so simple, Hadrien. Most of us have lived with the Court our entire lives, and our parent’s lives, and their parent’s lives. Losing of the Court is like losing a close family member.”

“Yeah, I know I haven’t been with the Circle nearly as long as most, and even then I just stood in the back, and didn’t really participate. But we are losing the Court anyway. The Court has said when the Chiropoler died and the mists recede, the Court will fade with the mist. If Ashe wants to leave, and leave with what they believe is their dignity, then why not support that decision? And what are they going to do when the mists spirits fade? When Colibri said this market that Oak was a man who does not change easily, Entienne corrected her and said that the spirits were belief. So will we need to believe in new spirits and create a new Court, or will we be left on our own?”

“I am sure we will find our way. Vecatra will guide us through our crone and through Colibri and Entienne. It just takes a little faith”

“And I want to have faith. I just am not sure how much faith I have. There is so much I don’t understand. I am not sure why Nadia Kruezmoor had to pay for peeing on a tree in blood. I am not sure why Entienne says he cannot help with matters he does not see as pertaining to the Circle if we no longer take the sin of Bias, even though I am awfully sure he was in Gerard’s platoon when fighting the monster in Chiropoler’s bowels last market, and we do still take on the burden of Submission. I am not sure why I cannot help members of my community, like Cadence, Henri, Isabelle, and Sophie without being in Violation of Vecatra. I just don’t understand”

“Honey, were is all this coming from. You never had questions like this before”

“Ma, it just feels like when Chiropoler dies, and the mists fade, we cannot expect the Benalians to protect us. Even if the Benalians in Luisant are loyal to us, we cannot ask them to die to the world’s armies for us, because that will only lead to every dying. We cannot stand up to an army. And so if the mists fade, I can’t see the Vecatrans not receding with the mists and hiding in the forest, on their own”

Sylvaine looks up and speaks.

“Merle, listen to what the boy is trynna tell us”

Merle pauses for a moment, and then a pain expression rests on her face

“Hadrien. If we do have to leave Luisant, you are coming with us. Right?”

“Ma, I……”

Sleepless Nights

“Hadrien! Wake up, you’re screaming.”

“Huh, what! Where am….oh, I’m sorry ma.”

“Dear, you’ve been having nightmares since you got back. What’s going on?”

“Oh, it’s nothing. Just a bunch of meat, and rats, and most of the town getting repeatedly stabbed or blown up or melted in acid, or falling down a chasm, or turning against each other. I’m fine; I’ll let you get back to sleep.”

“No, Hadrien, let’s talk about this. I know you want to help people, but I know people would appreciate you just as much if you made a few more medicines, or maybe brought them a few more materials. If you don’t want to fight, what did you say they were? Rat wizards? You don’t have to. You don’t have to go down there.”

“I know ma, but I never felt anything like it. It felt like I was outside of my body. I wasn’t hardly thinking, my arm was just moving. My mouth was just shouting. My legs were just walking. It felt like I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew everything that was happening at the same time. And after everything was over, looking over the cave, and looking over the town, and realizing we all made it out. And then realizing that I help us make it out. And everyone helped me make it out. And there was this bond between us. And. sure, I was scared, but I didn’t want to run. We were all in it until the end.”

“Well, honey, if you’re sure then you are sure. I just don’t want you to be losing too much sleep. Do you want me to leave a candle on for you?”

“No, ma, we don’t need to waste the resources on me. Just give me a couple nights, and I will be good as new.”

“Ok. Goodnight, son.”

“Goodnight, ma.”
————————————-

“What about you missing sleep, Merle? I’ve noticed you’ve spent most nights by his door since he came back home.”

“It’s just, when we sent him to market, I expected him to connect with the circle, improve at his trades, feel like part of the community and be his own person. I didn’t expect flesh tunnels, and mad saints, magic rats. And I certainly didn’t expect Hadrien of all people to be in the middle of it all.”

“We live in a dangerous world, Merle, we both know that. I’m not thrilled about him getting himself in the middle of all of it. But I am damn proud at him being able to take care of himself–”
“But Sylvain, there is a difference between him being able to stay safe from some ghouls, and him fighting a witchking!”

“But he isn’t fighting a witchking. And whatever he is fighting he isn’t doing it alone. And besides, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the boy so happy. He is going ‘round without us. People around town are talking about him. He’s smiling, he’s being his own person, he has confidence, he has friends. He isn’t just following around in our shadow. And I’m proud of him. And if this is a fight he wants to take on, and if he feels so strong about protecting us, then I am proud of him. After all, if no one took up the fight, we would all be dead.”

“I know, I’m just scared for him. And I suppose if he can be brave, then I suppose I can be brave for him. He really has grown into such a wonderful person in such a short time.”

“Now let’s try to get you some sleep.”

Courage?

“Hadrien, these vegetables you brought back are delicious, but we do fine enough. You could have donated these to the town.”

“I know, Ma. I just like to make sure you and Pa are taken care of.”

“Well, we appreciate it, dear. Is everything ok? You’ve barely ate.”

“Yeah, life just got kinda complicated kinda fast, ya know”

“How so, dear. Tell me about it”

“Well, the gathering got kinda intense. Someone almost died. The spirits are asking for blood to cleanse some corruption, or replenish lost spirits, or something. I don’t know. And it sounds people are really willing to just give into them. And later I met some werewolves from a circle that just moved in. And they are kinda staying as wolves way too long, and killing people and things all willynilly. But they seem to know to balance the spirits more than us. But I the mother kinda had this hunger in his eye when he looked at me, and I was scared and tried to keep distance from him, which I think he took as weakness and then he scared me into staying still. And I think I held myself pretty well, but he could smell the fear. And then later someone got a vision on how to get closer to finally killing the witch king, and it meant we all had to gather basically inside him. It smelled real bad. There was some lady named Gabrielle who was apparently a saint. She seemed real mad though. And one of our spirits was there, and she seemed real scared. There were dead plant monsters. And then there was this beast that looked like he ate magic. And a lot of the town was getting hurt, and I had to keep a guy from bleeding out. I wanted to be there, but I also didn’t know why I was staying and not just running away.”

“Oh, honey. That’s a whole lot. If you don’t wanna go back, we aren’t gonna force you”

“No, that’s not it. The weird thing is that I really have come to care about the town, and I wanna help them. I have thoughts and feelings about what is going on. Our circle needs to consider how the town fits into Vecatra. And there is a just created sprit who apparently had limitless potential that some people in the town are trynna to make into a spirit of community. But the trees think they it’s corrupted and shouldn’t be accepted. But I don’t think that’s right. I think the town needs a spirit to look over it since the town is so much of apart of our life. And I was able to provide a bunch of materials to the town to help with projects, and to help feed us. But it just feels like I should be doing so much more. I should be speaking up more. I have friends who see a problem and just run at it with all of their strength, and believe, and give it their all, and I am scared just watching them in a corner.”

“You know with the way you two talk you could raise the dead. And we already have enough malefic around here.”

“Sorry for waking you, Pa.”

“Don’t worry about it, the bigger problem is you not getting up and doing something.”

“Huh?”

“You say you have all these feelings about all the shit going on around you. Get off your ass and do something about it! You’ve seen a woman when her skin cut off, bee operated corpses, werewolves, undead plant things, magic eating shits, a fucking crazy saint woman. And you can’t tell me you couldn’t have just walked off and avoided all them. You wanted to go to that shit, and you say you wanna brave all this and do what you can for the good of the town. But don’t just show up, fuckin do something. Obviously you are in good hands out there. Seems like you fell in with a good crowd, and no one’s died yet. Learn something from them, get good at defending yourself, and speak up. You can’t just stand in the corner and empty your pockets at people forever and think that’s good enough. Get off your ass and do something.”

“But what if….”

“No buts about it. You have more guts than you know, son. You’re life’s been full of scary shit. You had to grow up too young. You just have to learn that you are stronger than you know. You just gotta put yourself out there and trust in yourself. Follow your friends’ examples.”

“Hmm……..I think I know what I gotta do. I gotta go see someone. Thanks, Pa!”

Hadrien runs out of the house.

“You’re too rough with him, Sylvain.”

“And yet now he’s doing something about it. Now pass me his plate, no need for that food to go to waste.”

Conversation After First Market

Hadrien walks through the door to his home.

“Ma, Pa, I’m back”

“Oh, Hadrien, dear. Welcome back. Your father is resting,” Merle DuBois emerges from a back room, smelling of bitter herbs and dirt. “Please, please, tell me of Market. Was it good?”

“Well, I had a bit of a rough start, you know. Me and a few other folk got a bit twisted around in the mists and got a bit jumped by some walking corpses full of bees. We had a couple fellas with us who cut them down well enough, but it looked real painful, on account of the bees. Apparently the corpses had honey in them and everything, but also apparently someone tasted the honey later, and the honey wasn’t so sweet, so it’s anybody’s guess how much of the honey was people as opposed to, you know, honey. But anyways a little ways on we found some poor woman with her skin cut off who we had to carry into town. I shouted for some help, and they tried to bandage her, but I’m not sure how you bandage a person when they are missing all of their skin, so they took her to a tent, and I guess whatever they did works and she ended up living somehow.”

Merle could barely hide the shock on her face, “Well, that certainly sounds like an introduction to Market. But I am sure that is the only excitement that happened.”

“Well, actually, it was just a bunch of people standing around and talking for a while. But then I found our family, and they took me to the grove–”

“Oh, you met the circle. What did you think?”

“Well, I gotta admit, I don’t know how to feel about it. When we were walking to the grove, we met some kind of weird ghost or something who was offering us items and stuff in exchange for other stuff, but he was being real creepy, and later I heard he might have cursed the town, but the Mother was real enthusiastic about trading with him for simple stuff like wool, but I wasn’t sure how to feel about it until this man who looked real smart said something like ‘do we need to trade with these strange beings when we can provide for ourselves’. And I asked him straight if we was so hard up for food and supplies that we needed to make weird deals, and he was all ‘No, but some people are impatient’. And then later when we got to the grove, and elf just showed up–”

“You met an elf!”

“Yeah, an elf was there talking something about a spirit who wanted something and she wanted us to do something. I don’t know, I didn’t understand it, and I kinda zoned out a bit there, but a woman who I think was staying in my bunk came out, I think she was with the elf, talking about something. But apparently later someone said that the elf wants to kill a bunch of people, and that would be bad. But in the moment the Mother seemed real keen to do what the elf said the spirit wanted us to do if I caught the bits and pieces right, but someone else suggested we talk to the town about it, and I thought it was weird that the Mother was just jumping to do all these things, and other people had to bring up other considerations on how many to do things better. I just didn’t get a real leadership type vibe from her. But it’s a good thing we talked to other people about it, because that’s how we learned the elf probably just wanted to kill people”

“Oh, so you didn’t do what the elf wanted you to do?”

“Well, not exactly. From what I could tell the elf wanted us to have a big feast and worship the elf like a god like to make it bigger, but the next day Vecatrans and Benalians were like ‘What if tonight we have a party and instead of worshiping the spirit, we teach it what community is’ on account of maybe the spirit caused some people in town to eat people. I don’t know, it seemed like there was some history there that happened before. But anyway, the town was supposed to have a party in the woods to show it how much we liked each other, except when the elf and the spirit came apparently one guy was told the elf ‘you said you was my enemy before, and so you are my enemy now, and I wish you would go away’, which kinda killed the whole party energy, so people who just standing around all tense like. But, apparently the spirit said it found out what community was ok with it, but we needed to invite it to our feast in the morning and how it as our guest of honor, which I thought was kinda weird because I was told worshiping it wasn’t what we was supposed to do, and having something as a guest of honor sounded an awful like worship as far as a spirit was concerned. But anyway I almost got stabbed by one of my new friends, but he said it was an accident because his hands got possessed or something, and I wouldn’t have believed it if it wasn’t for something trying to make people stab and shoot each other after the elf and the spirit left, but no one got hurt. But I got real scared because we were all standing around while something was trying to creep into our minds, so I shouted real loud for us to get the fuck out of there, pardon me ma, but that seemed to do the trick and we all started moving back towards town. Then the next morning got kinda tense there because no one knew what to do with the spirit. Some people wanted to talk to it, but I think most people thought it best to just ignore it, but Mother got real heated because a magic guy who was suspicious of the spirit was, I guess, trying to protect people in the tavern, and Mother didn’t like that much, but he wasn’t doing nothing to her, but she called for some people to take him down anyway. Luckily someone else spoke up and talked some sense into her and said there was no harm being done so no harm should come to him, and things calmed down for a little while, and I think things calmed down after that. People were encouraging folks to be happy and jovial and not angry on account that we were trying to still teach the spirit about community, instead of how to yell at us I guess.”

“Oh, well, that does seem like an eventful market, but at least it sounds like no one was harmed. Well, no one besides that, umm, flayed woman you mentioned” Merle looked pale and felt for a chair to sit in.

“Oh, no that wasn’t all that happened. I went into a weird smelling old forge. They said some kind of earth wizard or someone built it a long time ago, and at the end of it there was a weird moving statue that people were calling an “atomatom” or some approximation, and that thing swung a real heavy sword real hard at us. I just kinda tried to run out of reach of it because I aint no good at fighting. But one guy did get got in the chest, and I had to hold the blood in him until we could get some bandages around him. A real strong woman ended up knocking the statue over eventually and hit it a bunch. And then there were the weird blood mud puddles in the forest that apparently hurt like hell if it got on you, and when it did it jumped at something else to try and hurt them too. I think some kids got caught in that stuff, but they turned out ok. And then there was a lot more corpse bees. And then I saw some trolls attacking some lady who sang real loud to call for help. And then apparently there were some werewolves around trying to attack people. And there were ghosts who were trying to kill the lord, but that turned out fine because apparently there was some lady in town related to an old king, and that made the ghosts go away, and she’s the head of the town now. And I think I saw some weird skeleton things, and it was all kinda blurring together.”

“Umm, I see. Well, Market seemed especially lively this go ’round. Thankfully it isn’t usually so….busy”

“Well actually I heard lots of people saying that this has been kinda normal lately, and there’s lots of problems happening that we didn’t have any right answers to, so it sounds like Market is gonna be quite busy for some time to come”

“I see, well, did you at least have any good points?”

“Well, I met a bunch of really nice people. Most of the people in my bunk house seems real nice. There was one who seemed like she was trying to get some of the Benalians to commit a bunch of sins without them knowing and then acting dumb when people were calling her out on it. She wasn’t too discreet like about it. And there was a wizard man who seemed kinda aloof and like he had a lot going on who I didn’t talk to too much, but I made him some ink, so that was something. But besides them everyone else was real nice. There was one lady with a big sword and shield who seemed honest and forthright enough about the happenings in the town, and seemed like she wanted to protect people. And there was a guy with a bunch of knives who seemed a little weary at first, but I made him some ink too, and they seemed real appreciative of it. He asked if I wanted to go out and gather in the forest, and when I said ok he asked how I defend myself, and I told him I hadn’t need to in quite some time, so I didn’t really have a way to, and he offered to help keep an eye on me. He was real impressive because whenever there was the slight hint of a yell in the forest he was off like a shot to go and help. I don’t think I saw a glimmer of hesitation in their eye the entire time I was around them. And there was a couple other people who offered to help too. One of them was a DuBois with a bow who kinda seemed like he was on the outs with the family, but he seemed to be alright and honest enough. And there was a woman who was small, but real bubbly and cheerful like, but carried a heavy looking weapon that was bigger than her. Her whole body must have been one huge muscle for her to carry that thing. I didn’t get to see her use it, but it must be a spectacle when she does. And then there was the guy who accidentally almost stabbed me in the chest. Like I said, I would have been more weary of that particular event if the whole town wasn’t fighting off some kind of crazy, but also the whole Market I saw him do nothing but work making stuff for the town, Vecatran and Benalian alike. And he seemed like he just wanted to work hard to provide for everybody, and it was real sweet watching him work, but it seems he might be overloading himself with all the responsibility. Well, actually, the same could be said for most of the people in the bunk. Well, anyway, there was another man who I think someone said had the charisma. And while he was real nice and charming like, and people really seemed to like him, I don’t exactly know if he was more charismatic than a lot of other people. But people seemed to think he was something special. He could tell things not to hurt him, and then they couldn’t, and then he would jump in front of things. I’m not sure how effective it was, but it was real entertaining to watch. I also met a person who sung real well, and made me feel all energetic and happy hearing them sing, and I think it was that song that gave me an awareness to jump away from the sword that one guy accidentally swung at me, so I was real appreciative towards them. And there was a bunch of nice people doing things.”

“Well, it is a relief that it wasn’t all bad. And I’m glad you met some kind people who you can lean on for the next market”

“Actually, Ma, I was hoping there wasn’t going to be a next market. To say the least it was scary as shit. And it seems like they already had people who could do what I could do and more. And mostly I felt like I was a liability on most occasions. So there’s no real reason for me to go.”

Merle paused for a moment and folded her hands under her chin before meeting Hadiren’s gaze. “Look Hadrien. Taking you in has been the best decision your pa and I made. You saved Pa’s life, and for that we will be eternally grateful, and we have tried to keep you safe and sound. But I fear we may have taken that too far. You said when you were out on your own you were still scared as hell on those streets, but you had some capabilities for hiding and scapping if you needed to. And while we tried to teach you useful skills, I’m afraid we might have coddled the scrap right outta you. Now, we can’t do much about the past, but we can try to instill a sense of confidence and capability in you, and you ain’t gonna find that around this ol’ house. Now, it doesn’t much matter that there are people out there who can do that same things you can. That isn’t what matters. What matters is that you can do it yourself, and you can provide for yourself and people and add to the helping that everyone else is doing. And it matters that you get to know people who can teach you to do new things, and who can help you make up for your shortcomings. What matters is everyone is able to do slightly different things, and all those things working together helps make the town and every individual in that town that much stronger. Now I know there was a little more than any of us bargained for this market, but you made it out alright because you depended on the people who could help you, and you helped some people in return, and maybe next time you can help a little more. And the more you help and the more people help you the more you grow, and I think you will grow to surprise yourself in what you could do.”

Hadrien looks down at the ground and takes a deep breath. “Ok, I think I know what you’re getting at. I’ll go to the next Market, and try to do what I can do for people. If I got past my fear this time I can do it again, and make you and Pa real proud of me”

“But Hadrien, you also need to be proud of yourself. You have already made us so proud, my son.”

“Thanks, Ma”.