[OC] Week 204: A Little Night Musing

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Sep 22, 2009
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Aeria had never thought that dreams could be so vivid until recently. Her nightmares routinely woke her up, panting and screaming, as the waves of daemons came at her again and again. At first, she hadn’t felt much ill effect from what had happened at the Black Portal, but increasingly she was starting to remember the blood, the stench and the carnage of that battle. Her thoughts kept turning to what she’d seen, thoughts that somehow she hadn’t deserved to come out of that battle alive and whole. She knew this was irrational, but the thought kept returning: I don’t deserve this, I don’t deserve to be called a hero.

She kept picturing the commander of the Contigeri battalion and his broken body laying in front of her. He’d been a career soldier, a man willing to put his life on the line again and again, yet he’d died out there in the the mud and the shit.

Who was she? An engineer. A not particularly distinguished engineer who’d decided to play soldier. How was it right that she was alive and a man who’d taken risks for his country year in, year out was dead?

Another thought that haunted her: how could I have been so arrogant? She pictured herself out there on the battlefield, making that idiotic “noble” speech. Now people thought she was something special, but she’d basically seen no other alternative to stopping a terrible wave of destruction washing over the world. Wouldn’t anyone have done the same thing in her place? A wave of unthinking anger rose up in her until she could feel its pressure weighing down on her. She wanted to lash out, to scream, to tell the whole world that she was a fuck up who didn’t deserve anything.

Eventually the anger passed and she was left feeling drained and sweaty, laying in a knot of sheets. Part of her wanted to get dressed, go to some bar and drink herself into oblivion, but she simply couldn’t do that to herself. Some spark in her told her to keep fighting on, to keep fighting through the feelings of inadequacy and weakness. So what if she hadn’t deserved to survive? She bloody well had survived and she was just going to have to live with it.

As she slowly felt her fists loosen and her body relax, Aeria’s thoughts turned in another direction. With everything that had happened, she realized that she had no idea at all where her mentor and friend Professor Craxtus had ended up. In between her jail term, her escape and the events of the Black Portal, she had barely seen the man in years. She assumed that TorBru still wanted him and still saw her as the primary means by which to gain access to him.

In many ways, the fact that the Conexus had decided to cut her loose was an incredible gift. She was still suspicious of them and their reasons for acting, but she wasn’t about to question any decision that had her on the right side of the bars. It made it harder for TorBru to use her as a pawn, but she still wanted to get Craxtus where she could keep an eye on him.

She’d have to rely on Aelflead and Diamantus to help her. The redhead’s offer of help had shocked her, but it was quite welcome and Diamantus had never failed to be there when she was needed. Right now, she had no way of directly getting in touch with Quaestor Laermont, so his aid was out of the question. Of course, she could still theoretically walk into a detachment of the Quaestorii and ask to speak to Laermont, but she was afraid that TorBru would have planted informants in the organization and that it would get back them that she’d been in looking for the detective.

Diamantus traveled in circles that had strong vested interests in keeping themselves away from the attentions of the police. The velen also knew who amongst the criminal fraternity of Terminus was likely to be in the employ of TorBru. The attribute that Aeria found most useful in Aelflead’s case was her skillful use of violence. It would have to be enough.

She had dismissed the fear that Craxtus was dead because otherwise TorBru wouldn’t have hired a couple of thugs to come after her and Aelflead. She hoped that they’d keep showing their hand because it was a lot easier to track what they were doing when they were so unsubtle. It showed that Ulysse Mercuti still underestimated her abilities and she was alright with that. The longer it went on, the more she’d be able to put plans in place to counter it.

This productive line of thought had considerably improved her outlook, although she could still feel the pressure of what she felt was her utter weakness in the back of her mind. She suspected it would remain there for quite some time to come. Once again, she’d just have to work around it. There was still too much to be done for her to drown in self-pity.

Concluding that sleep had officially become useless, Aeria got up, splashed some water on her face from the ewer beside her bed and set about brewing up some coffee. Soon the dark, rich aroma of brewing filled her nostrils and she felt the tendrils of a more profound wakefulness starting to slither into her brain. By the time the coffee was ready, she felt entirely more composed. The first sip shivered over her tongue and she sighed in enjoyment at the flavour.

Now that she wasn’t fighting the effects of having woken from a nightmare, more practical considerations started to intrude on her. She needed a job. Being a revolutionary and a warrior didn’t exactly pay the bills. At least, she had some skills that were applicable. She hadn’t practiced as an engineer in far too long, but these days there were many options for employment. Her actions at the Black Portal had, for good or ill, given her a profile she hadn’t had before and the Conexus’ pardon meant that she didn’t have a cloud over her head that would dog her wherever she went.

Of course, the problem was that being identified as a hero meant that she might become more of a mascot than an actual employee. All she wanted to do was to be able to work steadily, support herself and move on. Instead she could be the focus for attracting increased business rather than because she was competent at her job. If she was honest with herself, it probably didn’t matter. Anything that might make a bid at normalcy possible was worth pursuing.

Having this increased profile was a conundrum for Aeria in terms of TorBru. On the one hand, if she was taken, more people might notice that something had occurred. On the other hand, it made her a more visible target because people knew who she was. The cloak of anonymity cut both ways in this instance.

For the moment, she decided to leave these night musings alone, drink a nice cup of coffee and try to figure out next steps. It felt good to have these mundane concerns after everything she’d experienced.
 

Current Writing Week is 206

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