Solfyre packs her things, swaddles the baby, tucks the tiny girl against her chest and under the cloak for warmth, and leaves. While it was unlike her to leave in the dead of night, she had had enough for one market. Her heart hurt, her disappointment mounted, and she was growing weary of the people at forum.

Leaving the forum proper, Solfyre trudges out into the wilderness to find comfort amongst the familiar paths and scents of the wilderness around Runeheim. Not long into her walk, she could hear the shuffle and grunts of a ghoul not far off. Glancing at it, she sighs, not in the mood to fight it off and wake the baby that was sleeping quietly beneath her cloak. Solfyre turns to meet the creatures eye’s and glares. Solfyre stills, waiting for it to catch up.

“Well, come on then. If you’re going to shamble my way, I’m going to put you to use,” she says aloud as the malefic growls hungrily. It stops rather suddenly as it is psychically assaulted and then shambles forward, staggering and falling to its knees in front of Solfyre.

Solfyre takes off one of her packs while being careful not to jostle little Calanthe too much and places a bag around the malefic. If a ghoul could look confused, she imagined this was what that looked like. The ghoul looks up and just watches her. Yet again, another psychic assault, and the creature’s disgusting, lifeless eyes glaze over with a sense of admiration, perhaps more.

“Come, come. I don’t have all night and honestly, I could use a good walk and talk—you know, before I put you down,” she grouches.

The ghoul groans and shuffles along behind her like a pack mule.

“Ugh…Tell me about it. Everyone is like ‘Solfyre, please give us influence’, ‘Solfyre please buff the towns people against the oncoming invasion’, ‘Solfyre, please, could you buy this sword for me?’ And you know what? I always say yes. Why? It’s so thankless and if something happened to me, who would shed a tear? They hardly like me if they do at all. They take what I have given, turn around and ask for more, all the while they accuse me of killing babies or being so untrustworthy and—get this—mercurial! If I were mercurial, based solely on the value of my services I have rendered to people of this town, you’d think I’d be wealthier! When the fire guild is hired, it is often at a cost. I work for free and you fucking know what?? Does this baby look dead to you?!” Solfyre turns to the ghoul and brandishes the sleeping infant. “No!”

The ghoul grunts. And looks at the baby. It starts to reach out for it and Sylfane baps it hard in the snoot while simultaneously hitting it with some magic. It recoils and so does Sylfane, shaking her hand. Like it hurt.

“No, bad ghoul, anyways, they’re just objectively rude and no matter how much I offer or sacrifice, it never feels like enough…”

The ghoul lets out a long groan.

“EXACTLY. And there is just No respect, no reciprocity, no acting in good faith. I Fed like a thousand people and the town comes knocking at my door for three copper. Three copper despite me getting the city food. The church told me it was something they really wanted but no one could pay. I could, I did, they basically forgot the word they gave to me that they would at the very least make some mention of my contribution since I wanted people to know I am on the side of the people. Nahhhh. I Paid the mages’ taxes before and, holy shit, instead of a thanks—the complained that they shouldn’t *have* to pay taxes—well, they didn’t, I did it for them. a couple weren’t even in my guild. Good faith. Ha, For fucksake. Sven said it would be nice if warfare got the fire mage units back and I felt bad for Hans for losing his men and our comrades, and so I worked for like six months to get those men back on the warfare map only for Ser Sven to do nothing but complain about me to the nobility, side eye me, huff and roll his eyes every time I speak, and tell me it’s not enough because the mages aren’t under *his* command. I’m not perfect, but I’m not worthless.”

The ghoul groans.

“I know, thank you, that’s so validating. Well, I have Hans… He reciprocates at least. But I see him only when he is around which isn’t frequent honestly. My own company threatens me, lies, and takes things away and hides them from me… very welcoming, really. Perhaps next time I get spice I shouldn’t share. Perhaps next time I have influence I shouldn’t feed the town and selfishly buy a tome or something instead. Perhaps next time a ghost merchant offers to increase my innate magic that no one anywhere can tell me about aside from the person who abandoned me, I will accept it and *not* help the town resolve him. Fuck it. What do I have to lose? Wulfric turned me down for tressertag and seems so distant, Caito left me and never returned with my heart he stole, my own mother abandoned me, I gave up my sister to Vindicta who I have been dedicated to who dismissed me with a hand wave as though I was an annoyance, my best friend left me and died—for a love mage I certainly have a terrible track record. If only I were willing to MAKE people love me… but… I don’t want that. You know? Have you experienced heartache like this when you were… you know… not…. well… ugl—I mean, dead?”

The ghoul grunts and then groans.

“Terrible, isn’t it? I have been trying to drown myself in my work. People get in the way of that too. I think I need to reach out to my mamì about coming here with papì. They could set up shop around here and at least I would have some company that I don’t feel wants me out of their presence. Have you ever worked in food business?”

The ghoul groans, grunts twice, and growls.

“Hmm, yeahhhh… [obey] tell me more about that,” Solfyre says and with that, they continue into the deep forests around Runeheim.

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