Glimmerglass didn’t know she was going to change the world when she clicked the send button, but in a sense, that was exactly what she intended.
>> TO: @burnttoast
>> FROM: @glimmerglass
>> HEADER: Checking in
>> BODY: Hi there! It’s been a while, but I wanted to see if you’d gotten caught up in all the stuff that’s going on now. I hope not – it’s pretty awful – but if you are in the middle of this, toss me a line ok? Your name is showing up kind of weird in my list, and it’d be nice to know you’re okay.
Glimmerglass had struggled over the words for longer than she should have. She knew that preparing for the next wave of the Consortium’s forces was crucial, but debating between “my list” and “my friend list” had seemed just as important.
Was she BT’s friend anymore? Did BT even want to hear from her in the first place?
“Message is sent?” Cambrell asked.
“Yeah. I kept it short. I guess that’s good?” Glimmerglass said.
“It’s good you sent it,” Cambrell said. “How she responds, or if she responds, that’s on her. Won’t change that you tried, they you were brave enough to reach out.”
“I know. None of that makes it any easier to take my eyes off my Inbox though,” Glimmerglass said.
“No answer might be the best answer. Didn’t you say that?” Cambrell asked.
“Yeah, if she’s fully retired she might not be reachable at all. That would put her out of any immediate danger.”
“Might expose her to more danger in the long though, wouldn’t it?” Cambrell asked. “Old adventurers aren’t going to be ignored by the Consortium for too long after they conquer the world.”
“That won’t be a problem for her if do our jobs though,” Glimmerglass said. “If we take back [Crystal Bower] and the other cities Penswell has targeted, we should be able to stop their advance.”
“Maybe,” Cambrell said. “Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a strategist – and I can see why this place is a critical but this is war on a world-wide scale. Holding one town, or even one country isn’t going to be enough to stop the whole war.”
“I know. Even if we could get a main boss to appear, there’s too many of the Consortium’s forces here for them all to crumble when the boss is defeated. This war is going to change the face of [Fallen Kingdoms] forever, even if we were to win it right now. If we can hold [Crystal Bower] and the other places though, we can create safe areas for the non-combatants to. That would give the retired adventurers some hope.”
“Won’t do much for the regular people though,” Cambrell said.
Glimmerglass deflated a bit, seeing the world through Cambrell’s eyes. Goblins had been accepted as a “people” rather than “pests” or “monsters” only relatively recently. And that “accepted” status was far from universal. There were still goblin controlled dungeons and areas which were viewed as fair game for adventurers to plunder since the goblins who inhabited them had refused to enter into the non-aggression pacts the “civilized” goblin nations had signed.
In the midst of a global crisis, it was all too easy to imagine the goblins – no matter their affiliation – being left to fend for themselves, or even actively sabotaged by their neighbors who would be just as happy to see the Consortium’s forces succeed in a complete genocide so long as the genocide was limited to “the right people”.
“Do you know how your friends and family are holding out?” Glimmerglass asked. She could teleport off to help them, but she could put in a word for her team to help with the defense of [Toothache] or [Wagon Town] or one of the other goblin cities once [Crystal Bower] was secured.
“Uh…dead,” Cambrell said. “But that’s not new.”
“Didn’t become an [Assassin] because I had a lot of either one,” Cambrell said. “Don’t tend to make many on the job either.”
“You’ve got…no one?”
“Coworkers. Employers. Enemies. Lots of those. It sounds bad when I say it like that, but it’s sensible.”
Glimmerglass sputtered searching for which of the many objections she was going to raise first. Something in Cambrell’s expression brought her up short though.
“Sensible? Do many people target you for your work or do they go after the people who sent you?” she asked, guessing what one of the prime issues might be.
“Oh, they always come after me. The targets, their relatives, target’s bosses, my bosses sometimes. It’s fun. You should try it. Keeps you on your toes. And makes you a light sleeper.”
“I’m guessing the easiest route to take to you tends to run through those who are close to you?” Glimmerglass asked.
“Only if I care about them,” Cambrell said. “Happy advantage though, if you’ve got an annoying associate, messing up just enough on a mission and then hanging around them for a little while can fix that problem easily.”
That should have been terrible. It should have evoked sympathy but Glimmerglass couldn’t help but be drawn in by the goblin’s gallows humor.
“So how annoying would you say we all are?” Glimmerglass asked, affecting a suspicious glare.
“It varies,” Cambrell said. “This isn’t that kind of mission though. Here if I mess up, we just all die. Or get captured. War’s not particularly subtle.”
“Happy advantage then, we can be friends,” Glimmerglass said.
“My enemies aren’t limited time offers,” Cambrell said. “They’re happy to wait as long as it takes to get to me.”
“I’d be more worried about your enemies if I didn’t know what my friends were like,” Glimmerglass said.
“My enemies don’t fight fair,” Cambrell said.
Glimmerglass laughed. “You think my friends do? Let me ask you this, do your enemies generally possess any sort of wealth?”
“Sure. Nobody hires me to kill poor people, and poor people can’t afford me,” Cambrell said.
“Do you know what adventurers do to people who have loot who decide to flag themselves as hostile to us?” Glimmerglass asked. “If not allow me to direct your attention to where Damnazon and Mellisandra are stripping the [Trainsaw Transport] for every saleable part, while the rest of the team loots every body in the area. There are locust plagues that leave more behind than your typically adventuring team.”
Cambrell turned his gaze in the direction Glimmerglass indicated and started to chuckle a moment later.
“That is kind of disturbing now that I look at it,” he said.
“Yeah, you might think being an [Assassin] is bad, but trust me, you fit right in,” Glimmerglass said. “I mean, I’m the healer and I’ve bashed in more brains with my staff so I could get some new underwear than I should ever admit.”
Cambrell slowly slid his gaze to Glimmerglass, a look of honest concern creeping into his eyes.
“For reference, I don’t wear underwear,” he said.
“So noted,” Glimmerglass said with a nod of approval.
“Hey, any word on when the next Consortium strike force is going to get here?” Mellisandra asked. “I’m try to coordinate with some other teams.”
“Nothing from Penswell’s [Command Center] yet,” Glimmerglass said. “I did hear from one of the scouting teams we have patrolling the city though and they said we’re clear for the moment. The Consortium force in that last represent most of what they have in this quarter of the city.”
“Might send [Assassins] in,” Cambrell said. “Probably not though. No one good target. This would be a bad job to get out of too.”
“Good, I’ll let the others know,” Mellisandra said and left to go rejoin the looting.
“Could you get out of her if you had to assassinate one of us?” Glimmerglass asked.
“Probably,” Cambrell said. “Depends on which one.”
“I’m going to guess Damnazon wouldn’t be easy?”
“Wouldn’t be my first choice,” Cambrell said.
“I’m guessing I would be though?” Glimmerglass asked.
“Sorry,” Cambrell said.
“No, it’s smart. Always take the healer out first. I’ve argued for that strategy more times than I can count.”
“Just hard to make sure people stay dead when someone like you is around,” Cambrell said. “Probably have to kill you first even if my target was someone else in the group.”
“You sound like BT now,” Glimmerglass said. “Whenever we did intra-guild PVP, she always apologized for taking me out first. Even when I specifically told her that was the strategy to try for.”
“You told her to kill you first? And this person was a friend?”
“Yeah. We were…close. Or at least I thought we were.”
“Murder seems an odd tactic for staying close,” Cambrell said.
“Dying in an adventurer PVP zones isn’t quite the same as normal,” Glimmerglass said. “I mean, obviously, we weren’t permanently killing each other. It was practice for PvP Raids.”
“Oh. So you used practice weapons?”
“Not at all. Real weapons. Real spells. It’s pretty weird the first time you do it. Really helps if you’ve died and respawned before so you know being blasted to bits isn’t that bad.”
“Still seems like it would be hard to kill the person you’re used to being the one who keeps you alive.”
“I did mention I can cave in skulls with this staff right? In PvP, there’s no such thing as ‘I don’t do any damage’. Turn your back on a healer and they will absolutely punish you for that.”
“Adventurers are weird.”
“No arguments there.”
“So, will your friend be expecting you to cave in their head if they come back?”
Glimmerglass frowned as she tried to consider her message from BT’s perspective.
“I don’t think so,” she said. Could BT be worried about being yelled at? Did she think Glimmerglass was still mad about how she’d left?
Are you still mad?
Glimmerglass wanted to say ‘No’. Of course she wasn’t still mad. That was a long time ago.
Except shouldn’t she be mad?
“Should she be?” Cambrell asked.
“I’m not going to attack her!” Glimmerglass objected. “I…we need her! We need everyone like her!”
“You just look tense when you talk about her,” Cambrell said. “Usually I see that when people are about run away. Or try to stab me.” He paused for a moment to reflect on that. “I may not be as familiar as I should be with how normal people act.”
“It’s not you,” she said. “Things with BT are complicated. I don’t know if she even knows that though. I think for her it was probably really simple. Our guild wasn’t doing too well and people had started leaving. No one major or critical. Not before her. I thought we could recover, rally and do some recruitment. I thought we had something worth preserving. But that was just me. I…”
“You cared. You needed it more than they did,” Cambrell said. “I know how it is. I wasn’t always…I had friends too. Long ago. It sucks.”
“It’s stupid to worry about though,” Glimmerglass said. “That’s all ancient history at this point. And this war is so much bigger than all that. I can totally let the past just fade away. I just hope she can too.”
Glimmerglass turned her thoughts inwards, her imagination reaching back across the years for the sound of BT’s laughter, for the fiery courage in her eyes, for the scent of her as they sat close around a campfire late into the night.
“I just want to see her again.”
>> Message received!
Glimmerglass blinked and called up her inbound message queue. Before she could open the message from “@burnttoast” though, a comet crashed to the ground beside her.
A cocoon of golden light opened like a flower, layers of petals peeling back as a blinking and stunned Burnt Toast stood up from the minor crater she’d punched into the floor of the library.
“Hey there,” she said stepping forward.
“BT?” Glimmerglass asked, her breath and heart squeezed into immobility by surprise.
“Long time, no see Glim..glim…glimmer,” BT said and then fritzed for a split second.
Just like a [Disjoined].