Waves lapped on the shore, a steady but mild breeze blew and a lusciously warm sun shone down leaving my skin aglow with delight and relaxation.
“I could stay here forever.” I moaned contentedly.
“But then we’d miss all the fun of finals.” Way teased.
“We are supposed to be studying aren’t we?” I asked, turning on my side to look at her.
Way was in the beach chair to the right of mine. She looked as relaxed as I felt.
“Yeah, studying.” she agreed without moving a muscle towards any of the books we’d brought with us.
“How long did Professor Haffrun say they were delayed for?” I asked. I knew the answer but it was so nice to hear it aloud.
“Two weeks.” Way said, smiling.
“And we’re suspended for two weeks too.” I said.
“Not suspended. We’re on Cross Departmental Review. Professor Haffrun was very clear about that. We’re to be available for questioning at any time by the Case Review Panel until they have the incident fully documented and sorted out.”
“I don’t think the Explorer’s Corp is very happy with us.” I said.
“We did kind of break one of their big study projects.”
“We put it back together though!”
“Yes, but now it’s normal. No more time flux, no more need to conduct an extensive investigation into what was causing the time flux.” Way said.
“True. Instead the Diplomat Corp gets to interrogate the cause of the time flux and enroll him in their curriculum.” I said. The Emissary had quailed a bit when he’d seen the hungry look in the eyes of the Diplomat Corp investigators who’d shown up to “process him”.
Being able to affect time the way he had was a fairly rare gift. It wasn’t necessarily a trick he’d ever be able to repeat but that wouldn’t discourage the investigators from (verbally) dissecting him to see what they could learn.
“When will Kari be back?” Way asked.
“She’s got a full day of orientation, then Professor Haffrun said she’d bring her back here and give her some time to consider which program she wants to enroll in.”
“Think she’ll pick Diplomat?”
“Maybe. I think she’d do really well in the Explorer Corp too though.”
“We should arrange for a party for her when she gets back.” Way suggested.
“With Grida’s cooking?” I asked.
“We wouldn’t want to anything but the best right?”
We were both in agreement. The small taste of Grida’s cooking that we’d had at the dinner party we’d attended had left us dying for me. There was of course one small issue to that.
“I think Colten may have claimed the next hundred or so meals with her.” I said.
“Actually he’s claimed all of the rest of our meals, but that doesn’t mean we don’t welcome company too!” Grida dream spoke to us.
Both Way and I sat up in surprise.
“Healer Grida? When did you learn to do this?” I dream spoke back to her.
“Probably right around when you asked me to help recreate the entire world.” she replied.
I don’t know why I was surprised. In retrospect it was a bit dim not to have seen that coming.
“In fact if you girls would like, we’re just putting on a small lunch now and we’d love to have you join us.” Grida added. She sent along the scents of the various dishes that she’d prepared.
Way and I took a moment to look to each for confirmation. I didn’t waste any time. I teleported straight to Grida’s house. Heck I teleported straight into the seat she’d set for me at her table. That still wasn’t fast enough to beat Way there. We shared a giggle at that and at Colten and Brayson’s reaction to our sudden appearance.
“Why hello girls. So nice of you to join us.” Colten said.
“Healer Grida said it was ok. She invited us.” Way said.
“When was that?” Brayson asked, a smile on his face as well.
“About two seconds ago.” I answered.
“Ah good you’re here. That didn’t take long.” Grida said emerging from the kitchen with her tray of “small lunch”. There were armies that had marched on less food than she’d prepared.
For the next hour, Colten, Brayson, Helena, Marcus, Way and I made our best and most heroic effort to at least taste the various dishes that Grida brought out. I knew she had to be using magic to make them. She would have needed a hundred ovens and a pantry the size of a football stadium to hold all of the ingredients she prepared. I also knew that magic alone could never had made food as good as what she served us.
Eventually the flow of delicacies ebbed, mostly I suspected to give us time to digest and make room for future courses. That also let Grida join in on the conversation for a while.
“So Caina is setting up a ‘Reformed Church of the Holy Throne’?” I asked.
“So I’ve heard.” Marcus said. “With the Emissary gone and the Sanctuary spells lost, the church’s power is in decline, but there are some that find it more comfortable to continue believing in it.”
“Those Reborn don’t seem to be ‘declining’ too much.” Colten grumbled.
“Only some of them are siding with the church though.” Marcus said.
“Not sure which ones I’m more worried about.” Brayson said.
“They’re not as worrisome as they were before.” Sir Gahn said.
“Now that we’re pledged directly to the Dominions, I think you’ll find the Knightly Orders a bit stronger than they were in your day.” Sir Maak said.
In part thanks to their improved spell casting prowess, both of them were looking back at the peak of health.
“These Reborn aren’t like the ones that you fought before.” I added. “They’ve got their own hearts and minds back.”
“Still fast and strong as hell though.” Brayson complained.
“Resistant to magic too. We couldn’t do much to change their bodies when we brought them back.” I said.
“I not all that clear on what you did there?” Helena asked.
“It’s a little tricky to explain. The basic gist is the Emissary had separated them into pieces using the Cauldrons. The pieces he didn’t like, basically the parts that made them unique people, got tossed out of the world. When we beat the Emissary, the whole world fell into that same realm and as long as we were pulling it back from there, pulling back the wayward souls too was safer than leaving them out there.” I explained.
“Why was it safer?” Helena asked.
“Ripping out bits of what’s real is tremendously dangerous. It leaves a wound in the world and there’s all sorts of unpleasant things that can take advantage of that. The Eternal Reborn will be a problem, but they’re this world’s problem, and they’re people, not mindless murder bots so there should be a lot of options in how you deal with them.” I said.
“Speaking of problems, I’m surprised we’re not having more problems without the Sanctuary spells.” Colten said.
“There’re still signs of monsters lurking about but its like they’ve all pulled back.” Marcus said.
“Mmm, that might have happened.” I agreed, fighting to keep a smug smile off my face.
“I think the Priestess knows something she’s not telling us.” Helena said.
“I think she knows a great many things she’s not telling us.” Grida agreed. “But perhaps we shouldn’t call her Priestess.”
“Why’s that?” Colten asked.
“You usually address royalty as ‘Your Majesty’ I believe.” Grida said.
“Royalty?” Brayson said, his eyes widening as he looked at me.
“A mistake on the Emissary’s part. He took a title I had from somewhere else and made it real here too.” I said.
“What she’s not mentioning is that her title let her order the monsters of the deeps to stay in the deeps.” Grida said.
“To be fair, there are less of them around here too, so they’ve got plenty of room to breath as well. The Emissary had been gathering them up. When we brought the world back, we made sure they weren’t too concentrated. A lot of them aren’t even technically monsters. If you could meet them under more favorable circumstances you might find some common ground to work from.” I said.
“So what will you and Sir Way do next?” Helena asked.
“We have a little while before we’re needed anywhere.” Way said.
“We were thinking we might try to have an actual vacation here.” I added.
“And if any trouble comes looking to take advantage of the recent chaos?” Helena asked.
“We’ll be here to discourage it.” Way said.
“That’s a relief.” Grida said.
The was a knock on her front door.
“Just on time! Would you get that for me Colten. I’ve got to get the deserts ready.”
I turned to watch Colten open the door and do a double take. He murmured a greeting and then stepped aside to reveal two men and a young girl waiting outside.
With a gracious bow, Andromalius preceded his liege the Goblin King and Liggy into the foyer.
“Greeting unto the house of Grida, Healer and True Disciple of the Dominions.” Andromalius said.
“And a blessing on the fine cuisine she offers!” the Goblin King said.
What followed was another hour of delicious eating. Conversation was strained at first since there weren’t many obvious common topics between the elders of Dawns Harbor and the Goblin King or a former lord of the Underworld. That is until they began talking about past campaigns. It turned out that Andromalius knew some of the demons that Grida’s group had struggled against and was none too fond of them either. The Goblin King had been an adventurer in his princely days as well and it wasn’t long before tall tales were being traded back and forth almost as fast as the dessert trays.
Liggy was quieter but Way was able to draw her into a conversation, starting with thanking the goblin girl for her help the first day we’d arrived. Liggy had been the one to discover Way’s dazed and disoriented body. Since she’d been closer to Dawn’s Harbor and Way had looked human Liggy had gone there to get help.
That contact with Way had been the channel for the Blind God to call Liggy to his service. With the Blind God gone and the threat from the Holy Throne removed, Liggy was free to return to her homeland but when Way questioned her on that she shyly ducked the question.
The conversations continued for another hour after the dessert courses ended. It wasn’t until there was a lull that lasted for more than a few moments that the Goblin King rose from his seat.
“Our thanks and blessing upon your house once again, good healer. I believe the time is drawing near that we must take our leave though.”
“Thank you, your Majesty. And yes, I believe it’s time we headed out.” Grida replied.
“Headed out? Where are you going?” Colten asked.
“Didn’t you pack like I asked you too?” Grida said.
“Yes, but you didn’t say we’d be going anywhere today.” Colten said.
“That is my fault.” the Goblin King apologized. “There were affairs of state which I presumed would take longer to set in order than they did.”
“Affairs of state? You two are leaving together?” Colten asked, dismay on his features.
“No. We five are leaving together. Unless you don’t want to come along with us.” Grida said.
“You’ll not be rid of me that easily!” Colten said, dismay giving way to a beaming smile.
“I’ve wrapped up some leftovers for the rest of you. We should be back by tomorrow night, though we may be returning too late for dinner.” Grida said.
“If you don’t mind me asking, where will you be? I know Pastor Peracles can handle any medical emergencies that come up, but if we need to get word to you, where should we send it?” I asked.
“You will have to ask your Professor Haffrun about that. I’m not sure where she’ll be taking us.” Grida said.
“Proffesor Haffrun?” I asked, shocked as much as Colten had been.
“Yes, we got to talking after the whole event there. She says that His Majesty, myself and Miss Liggy show signs of the kind of talent her department is setup to nurture. She’s said we may even be able to begin training within a month or so.”
Professor Haffrun? Training them? In a month or so? At the start of the next semester?
“We’re getting new classmates.” Way said, smiling at the notion.
I stared in amazement as Grida waved her hand and drew Colten, Liggy, the Goblin King and Andromalius across to the Dreamlit World. So many new dream walkers and Vale Septem with it’s future wide open before it.
Sometimes you can’t begin to imagine the impact that you’ll have on the world.