Snippets from a former bandit

Milo steps backwards as the werewolves claws swing downard. It cuts the hem of their cloak. Just a bit, nothing that can’t be repaired. Better than it hitting their chest. As their backfoot lands they spring forward, lashing out with their knives. It’s the wolfs turn to back away now, leaping away as Milo advances. It’s learned not to let them close, choosing instead to draw them away from their group and let the other two werewolves flank. It’s too dark for Milo to see clearly but they can hear the sounds of paws in the grass to their left. They cease their attack and begin backing away, daggers at their sides. The would be flankers advance on them now, but Milo is well out of their reach.

Henri pleads with Milo to pull back, but they can’t until the others are back in town. Henri won’t fight, but won’t be attacked. Alphonse hasn’t studied his grimoire yet, so he’s casting at a disadvantage while his book is out.

Milo leaps away from another claw, tumbling across the grass. Their breath returns to them as they stand, daggers ready, “I’ll cover their retreat if it kills me.”


Dinner is being served and the town is eating happily. Milo has just filled them in on their strategy for killing werewolves. Cadence says they shouldn’t kill the werewolves. That they used to be people. Milo frowns. “I don’t care. If a human was trying to hurt me or my family I’d kill them. Hell, if Roger, or Hugo, or anyone else in town tried to kill my family, I’d kill them. Nobody hurts my family. Least of all some shitty dog-people.”


Milo clutches their overgrown rat to their chest, the smell of soap on her fur. Maizy breathes softly, her nose tickling at their hand. This is the first market that Milo has brought her to since they found her almost a year ago now, and they’re glad they did. Henri was threatened by an elf. Apparently the elf wants to destroy humanity. Cadence is real mad now. They’re not good at reading expressions but they can tell that much. Cadence doesn’t threaten to kill as lightly as them, but she’s doing it now. Milo shivers and pulls Maizy closer.


Milo hears a call for help and they’re running before they realize it. Their gloves are on their hands, their knives are out. Hive Zombies. They pull their collar up over their nose and pull their hood down to their brow. The bodies aren’t dangerous, but the bees piloting them are. They sprint forward, knife at their side to cut the body as they pass under it’s wide swing. A small swarm spills out and pursues them in retaliation and they show it their back. As the bees begin to land on them they roll forward and squash them, or at least most of them. The body is still up, but Roger’s spear pierces it and it falls down. As more bees spill out there’s a call from deeper in the woods. Milo locks eyes with Roger through the swarm. They both rush into the woods.


Milo stands next to Leo as his nephew prattles on. The child seems to think that bandits are cool. They feel their heart race with anger. Stupid kid. Their mind flashes back to their first few months with their bandit crew, to all the cuts and scrapes and beatings and stab wounds and hardship and abuse and-

“Could you show him for me?” Leo’s voice interrupts. Milo looks at him in confusion and then at his nephew, holding Leo’s sword. Leo leans in and whispers, “Just knock it out of his hands.” Milo draws a knife and steps forward. They feel their hands aiming for his hip, something that will hurt but be easy enough to bandage. Probably put the kid off of his feet for the rest of the day so he has time to think about whether being a bandit is worth being stabbed or not. But they know Cadence wouldn’t approve. Cadence adopts children, she doesn’t stab them.

With a flash they knock the knife from the childs hand.

“Were you a bandit like my uncle?”

“Yeah, I was. But then I stopped and came here.”

“What do you do now?”

“I kill bandits.”


Milo withdraws their knife from some bandit’s ribcage. These ones are all crazy. They don’t speak, they don’t really listen, they just look for vulnerable targets to kill. Milo tried to give this one a chance like Cadence said, but the moment he saw Marinettes back he charged her. So now he was laying on the ground, bleeding out, while Milo stood over him. Bless her heart, Marinette was kneeling next to him and applying pressure to his wound. Milo began looking around, checking to see if Cadence needed any help with the one she was fighting, but of course she was fine. It was nice to have family that could take care of themse-

There’s a bloody scream near him as the bloody bandit catches his second wind. He starts swinging his weapons (why hadn’t milo thought to take those away from him?) at the girl trying to save his life. Milo kneels, traps the weapons with their first knife, and thrusts their other into his chest. One in the gut. One in the heart. Marinette gasps.

“Milo…. You killed him.” Her eyes are wide. Is that shock? Disgust? Fear? Milo was never good at reading expressions.

“If anyone tries to hurt me or my family, I’ll kill them.” They respond, “He tried, so I killed him… I’m sorry.”


Milo is sitting just outside their cabin relaxing with Maizy in their hood when they hear someone say Marinette is being attacked. They’re off like a shot, slipping their gloves on and drawing their knives as they cross the bridge. Two big green things with huge weapons. Are these trolls? Marinette stands behind one, trying to back away without going too far. Milo can hear footfalls on the bridge behind them and Roger’s voice say “You get Marinette, I’ll distract the monster.” Milo chafes at being told what to do for only a moment before sprinting at the troll and tumbling past it. Roger engages the toll with his spear as Milo checks up on Marinette. No injuries, thankfully.

Marinette manages to make it back to town and Milo and Roger together are able to take down the troll, though it’s a tough fight. Luckily other people had arrived to deal with the other one, because fighting two at once would’ve been a hassle. Milo notes the swords it was wielding. One looked like sharp trash, but the other seemed pretty nice. Fabron would probably like those. Milo lifts them and hands them off to Hadrien as they hear soft squeaking come from their hood.

“Maizy! Oh no, I forgot you were there!” they exclaim, reaching a hand behind their head to feel her tucked into his hood. Her claws are dug into their mantle, but she managed to hang on throughout all their tumbles and cartwheels. Milo smiles, purse lipped and worried. There’s another troll in the woods, and the others will probably need Milo’s help. “We’ll have to make this work. Hold on, okay?”


Milo curls up on the forest floor, thankful for their cloak that blends into the night around them. They can still feel the last whisps of Magic as it adjusts their thoughts, rewiring their beliefs. Alphonse has explained this spell to them before, they think. It binds the recipient to a promise. In this case one that Milo is angry at themself for making. Could they keep it? Are they willing to accept the magically encouraged mental anguish that would come with breaking it? They wish tears would come, but they don’t. The shock doesn’t fade to despair, but to a stark resolution. Milo sits up and takes a breath.

“I’ll kill anyone who threatens my family. Even myself.”


Milo sits against a wall, surrounded by rats and spiders in the depths of what they’re quickly beginning to suspect is one of Chiropolers body cavities. The multicolored lights have faded. Only the dull glow of ghostly light remains. A voice comes to them. It’s their father. The one they didn’t get to choose. Milo can’t bear to listen, but sits quietly while he lists off their sins and ridicules their worst traits. They wish they could deny them, but they can’t. Instead they do what they know. They stand, they cuss, but for some reason they don’t joke. Perhaps the jokes have been beaten out of them.

“Fuck off, old man. That old bitch killed herself. I’m learning how to fix my mistakes. S’More than you ever did.”

The light fades. They’re alone again. Until the fucking bone spider shows up.


Milo walks back into the woods as the Market comes to an end. They have so much studying to do, their head was already starting to hurt. Their report on the Leshen is finished finally, but now they have even more to work on. Bog Ghasts to start. Then those Bee Corpses. They also want to get a report on that Rocheaux ghost, but they’ll need to collect more information on it first. A large sigh escapes them as the weight of it settles. A year ago they were a dirt poor, near naked, shit-headed bandit wandering into town. Now they are considerably less poor, and much more clothed… But they still feel like a shit-head bandit. One that was way out of their depth.

Maybe that’s okay, though. Maybe part of growing is just looking at things way above your head and reaching until you get there, then finding the next thing. Maybe you’re supposed to always feel a little out of your depth. A little weary, a little battered. Maybe sometimes it’s more than a little. Maybe so long as Milo has the family they chose for themself, they can ascend to the station required of them. And maybe they can help their family do the same.


“Relix Nah….riss?”

Milo opened their eyes and looked down at the journal in their hands. Nah-rez. Narez. Relix Narez Relit.

Words were always hard for them. Motions were easier. The handsigns came quick, almost without meaning. Just fun motions they could copy from Alphonse or Ludovic.

“Relit. Maahhhh…. morum?”

Their eyes dart to the page again, scowling. Mamuri. Worum.

Words were always hard. This was harder. Nonsense phrases that could launch javelins of stone or pull a person into a ground. Or maybe kill disease. Their eyes closed again.

“Relix. Narez. Mamori. Orum.”

No, that didn’t sound right. Their eyes opened again. Relit. They forgot relit. Ludovic’s voice came to mind. ‘A mispoken phrase can cost your friends their lives.’ Milo sighed and read the page again. Relix. Narez. Relit. Mamuri. Worum… Not Orum. Worum. Eyes closed.

“Relix… Narez… Relit… Mah-Mah-Rii…. Wor-Uum.”

Eyes open, look at page. Relix Narez Relit Mamuri Worum. Mam[U]ri. Mamuri. Not mamari. Mamuri. This was stupid. Nothing was getting done. Did they even really need to know this stuff? They’d seen Alphonse cast with just his hands before, they could surely afford to just not learn this dumb made-up bullshit phrase for people who just wanted to be loud while casting. Fucking dumb. Bullshit.

Milo threw the journal onto their bed, sighing in frustration. Stupid fucking brain. Stupid fucking bandit good for nothing brain that couldn’t even remember some baby-speak blah-blah language for people who were smarter than it. They clasped their hands in front of them, palms together. Handsigns were easy.

Middle fingers locked, curl pinky and pointer. Flip upside down. Pointer to thumb. Make fists, twist over, thumbs together. Bring up to shoulder. Flip outwards, right to left and left to right, clasp fingers together. Flip around, palms up, thumbs still together. Break, clasp an orb. Right hand palm up, left down. Clasp fingers. Break to form V.

Easy. Alphonse had called it Maelstrom. Said it was bullshit. Speaking was bullshit. Maelstrom was easy.

“Relix. Narez. Relit. Mamuri. Worun.”

Eyes to the book. Worum. Not Worun. Stupid fucking brain. Worum. Wore. Uhm. Wore-Uhm. Worum. What other handsigns were there? Alphonse did Sight alot.

Hands together, palms touching. Pinch. Open in triangles. Sideways. Spin. Hands Flat, pointer and thumb touching, facing downward. Upside down diamond. Flip up, pointer and thumbs pinch to make mask. Back into Diamond but upright. Bring down to chest.

“Relix. Narez. Relit. Mamuri. Worum…. Sigun?”

Sicun. Not Sigun. Sick-uun. Everything else was right though. Sicun. Sicun.

Alphonse had said Magic was like Flips. Mostly as a joke, but Milo found it a useful comparison. Before you flip you need to stretch. You need to practice curling your body. You need to get comfortable being upside down. You need to trust your body to move without your mind. Handsigns were easy because they were an extension of the skills they’d practiced for years in the woods already, just smaller. Why were these words so difficult in comparison?

Speaking was hard because coming up with the right words was hard. No amount of words could convey the meaning a shrug and a head tilt could. No turn of phrase could communicate a purse-lipped smile in response to a questioning look. But did Milo need to come up with the words for Magic? They remained the same every time. A universal response to a dozen questions.

A cartwheel was a set of actions taken in order every time, with only minor adjustments based on angle, speed, and weight. If taken out of order they would do nothing. If the actions didn’t flow, then the cartwheel would fail halfway through. Many minor parts that individually do not matter, but which when taken together make a new and more significant thing. Would Milo really need to learn each word, then, or could they learn the words as cousins to each other, each individual pieces of a whole? A set of actions that conveyed sound, each strung together not because they had meaning but because their order was what determined their significance.

Relix-Narez. Not Relix, Narez.

Eyes back to the book. Full incant.
Relix. Narez. Relit. Mamuri. Worum. Sicun Gundavult. Vorug. Ta. Verg. Tira.
Relix. Narez. Relit. Mamuri. Worum. Sicun Gundavult. Vorug. Ta. Verg. Tira.

“RElix, NArez, RElit, MAmuri, WOrum, SIcun, GUndavult, VOrug, TA, VErg, TIra. ”

The words were slow and awkward in their mouth. Not half as fast as Alphonse could speak them. But speed would come with practice. Repetition would lead to Mastery.

“Relix, Narez, Relit, Mamuri, Worum, Sicun, Gundavult, Vorug, Ta, Verg, Tira. ”

My First Journal

‘I hate crowds. Everything about them. The noise. The eyes. The people. The hands. The footsteps. The Risk. Too much all at once. Easier to just avoid it. Only sometimes I can’t avoid it. Like the tavern. Or like Convocation.

Convocation. I didn’t know that I’d need to attend to get baptized. I’d thought I could just have Cadence dunk me in the stream and call it good. I wish. Instead I had to stay near so many people. All looking at things. All breathing. All sitting. And other people were looking at ME because I’m a freak who’s Standing near all the people Sitting. Bundled up trying to Hide without a place to Hide. And THEN Clemence Points at me and THEN they ALL look at me and THEN my hands cant Stay Still and all I want to do is Hide and Run or Run and Hide or just Not Be Here and Cadence Looks at me too and then I have to walk over away from a wall and be In Front of people and she takes my Hand and says words that make it easier but they’re all still Looking and I j us t W ant- ‘

Milo curses and checks the pen in their hand. Undamaged, thankfully. They were sure that Alphonse would notice if the pen didn’t work anymore. The paper was ruined, though. They’d pressed too hard and tore the sheet. Their heart was beating too fast in their chest. So much for practicing their writing.

They slipped the pen back into Alphonse’s bag and crumpled the paper into their pocket. They’d try again another time. When their thoughts weren’t so Loud.

Late Night Watch

Milo crouched low, huddled within their dark dyed cloak and blending into the night. The grounds surrounding the Owls Nest were well illuminated even at night, forcing them to stay just outside the gates. That suited Milo just fine. They’d spent the last few days figuring out which room they would need to watch, and had a nice spot in a tree that they could see it clearly from. Milo relaxed a little as lights began going out in windows all around the castle. Just the relatively lax night shift now.

Milo’s mind wandered to the feasting grounds. What a shitshow. Two Convocations and both of them were trials. A town guard shot a guy in the chest point-blank. Their friend was knighted into the Templars by a sword. Shit like that didn’t happen other places. And that Melandihim… Milo let out a soft sigh. What had they gotten themself into?

They hugged their cloak tighter around their shoulders. It was nice to wear something they hadn’t put together for a change. Suzette did good work. And Fabron had really come through on those knives. Maybe this wasn’t all bad. Folks here were nice. Mostly at least. Some were assholes. Best not to dwell on that though. Milo would stay for a while longer. The cat was already out of the bag with Ludovic, anyways. Hopefully he wasn’t one of the assholes.

A half written letter sitting in the monastery


I am sorry it has been so long since I last sent a letter. Between building and farming, my time in Stragosa has been more busy than I’d thought. The last letter I sent, I believe, was a little over a year and a half ago, shortly before I left Lethia, and much had happened. I learned to read, for one! In fact, I am writing this very letter myself!

I’ve learned much in my time here. I feel that I’ve grown into a stronger person, both within and without. I’ve met wonderful people from all corners of the Throne, some even from Sha’ra! I’ve met Mages and Princes, repelled Ghouls and Malefic, and heard the most wonderful songs and stories. In truth, as much as I miss home, I am beginning to feel happy here. My feet finally feel as though they’ve settled on solid ground, and I’m finding myself planning for the future.

Sanguine says we’re to begin working on the Fortress Monastery this coming season, which I’m quite looking forward to. I’ve been preparing for the upcoming Hearthwise ceremonies (they’re celebrated here as well) and I’m quite looking forward to the Ice Doll next season. I’ve begun planning a large Springtime feast as well! I’ve met quite a few herbalists in the city, and I believe that with their help I could feed the entire market! I feel as though I’m finally finding my place, that I’m finally doing good in the world on my own terms.

I hope you’re doing well, also. I know that the Gothic winters have never agreed with you. I assume Clypeus is reading this to you, have him get my blanket from the loft, should you need it. I hope the horses arent giving you too much trouble, did you ever find a new farmha

Lysander looks up from his desk as a cry comes from the courtyard. He stands and crosses his small, sparsley furnished monastery room, a look of worry on his face. He sees the city of Stragosa, his new home, under siege, the vision cutting through him like a cold knife. He hastily dons his leather armor and weapon, slinging in his satchel over his shoulder, and then rushes from his room.

The Longest Night 604

People of Stragosa,

As you may know, Juleis is upon us, and with it the Longest Night of the year. The Hearthwise of Stragosa are seeking assistance in watching over the yule fire for the duration of Saturday night. Please contact Sir Lysander Freiheit at the Monastery in Province 69 or at forum to volunteer.

A messy, if deliberate, ramble

I was seventeen when my Charismata was discovered. Most are found much earlier than myself. A member of the clergy may notice a particularly gifted or peculiar youth and have them checked by a proper paladin. We can sense each other, I’m told. I’ve never tried. I think I feel normal.

That I was able to go so long without being discovered is strange, especially given my circumstances. My father died when I was quite young, and in his place Father Clypeus helped my mother raise me. He said that his closeness with me blinded him to it. I’ve not known him to lie. When we went to convocation, my mother always seated us close to the door. She hates crowded spaces. Reminds her of the pens, she says. Nobody spoke to us much, except for Clypeus. My mother was always clearly “other,” be it the way she dressed, spoke, or behaved.

People were never mean, mind you. Just quiet. Conversations had a way if dying when she entered the room. She said it was because she was a “Shar’Aslan.” Desert lion, I believe. My knowledge of Shariqyn is broken at absolute best. She was an outsider. I suppose that’s all people could see her as. And I am her son. The boy who speaks with an accent despite not knowing any other languages. The silence that followed her had a way of clinging to myself, as well.

I was still a “Proper Gothic Man” despite my origin. I grew up on a ranch. My mother was quite talented at tending to horses. She says it’s because, in her oldest life, she was a “Rakib.” I don’t know what that means. Her skills were valuable, though. I didn’t understand them the way she did. I always enjoyed working the fields, though. The slow transformation of a barren patch of dirt to a rolling field of golden grain will always be my gospel. To create food from nothing but work hard work. The kind that leaves you sore at the end of the day, that makes the night’s sleep all the more enjoyable. It is my passion. My trade. Often times, I find myself thinking that I am more farmer than Paladin.

I fear that I may be rambling. I was already a man in my own right when I was discovered. I was expected to soon start a family of my own. My place in life was set. Or, rather, I thought it was set. Back then, if I’d been asked what I would be doing in seven years, I would never have said “repelling Malefic in a cursed valley.” In a way, I mourn for my old life. For the version of me that stayed in Woefeldt. What would he have been like? I don’t suppose I’ll ever know. That version of me is dead.

I don’t know why I’ve written this. Azzam told me to practice writing each letter a hundred times, but I’ve already done that. Perhaps I just wanted to get the thoughts out of my head and on paper. Jurnaling? I’ve just asked a clergy member, turns out it’s spelled Journaling. Maybe I should start, now that I can write. Hopefully my next entries are less dour than this one.

A vision

Lysander jolted out of his trance, tears flowing from his eyes.
A weeping woman in white.
A ring.
A chest.
His eyes darted to the box before him. That chest. The whispers sounded almost congratulatory, but eerie nonetheless. The young paladin stood and began pacing his small room. He’d never attempted that ritual before, and hadn’t expected the visions to be so… Vivid. Emotional. Lysander ran a hand through his hair, brushing a few stray locks from his face.
Woman in white. But not all white. There was red. The deep crimson of blood. And a ring? In a chest. That chest. Marriage? A bride, perhaps? What about the groom? Was the blood his? Did she… No, she wouldn’t be crying.
Lysander came to a stop near the chest and placed a hand on it. The whispers got just a little louder. Far be it from him to criticize, but why couldn’t an archangel give more concrete answers? Perhaps he’d have to pray on the subject some more. But not now. He still felt a drained from the ritual. Emotionally, more than anything. Maybe it was time for a walk.
He grabbed his white robe from his bed. Lysander rarely left his room without it. He hated dressing the part of paladin, desperately missing his nice, comfortable peasant garb, but he’d found that he could wear just about anything under the robe, since it covered his entire body when buttoned. Besides, it held sentimental value. His friends back in Woefeldt bought it for him.
Where to first? He could walk into town, he supposed. No, there’d be too many people. He liked that his presence seemed to cheer up the people around him, but he tended to draw crowds as a result. Maybe a walk in the woods? Clypeus had made sure to teach him wilderness navigation during his training as a Nuranihim, may as well use it… But he was still on edge from the ritual. Though his Gift protected him from fear, it did not protect him from the heebie jeebies.
Maybe he’d visit some of the farms. If he was lucky, he might even manage to convince someone to let him lend a hand. That sounded nice, he thought. A tour of the farms it was.
Another whisper came from the box. Lysander frowned before setting his testimonium atop it. The whispers stopped.