Glimmerglass could heal any injury, restore any lost body part, cure any status ailment, and even reverse death itself. Staring at the woman on the table in front of her though, she had no idea how to fix BT’s rapidly worsening condition.
“Does it hurt?” she asked, hating that she didn’t even know that much about whatever it was that was affecting BT.
“Surprisingly, no,” BT said. “The glitches don’t feel like anything, but I’m guessing they look pretty bad?”
“You flinch like someone’s stuck a flaming sword through your gut,” Glimmerglass said.
“I suppose you’ve literally seen that happen haven’t you?” BT turned her head and tried to offer Glimmerglass a playful smile. The glitch twitch in the middle of the smile made it less playful and more pained.
“More times than I can count. I guess that’s what it means to be a healer though,” Glimmerglass said. “You get to watch your friends suffer every horrible fate out there.”
“You can always patch us up though,” BT said.
“Not always,” Glimmerglass said.
“Don’t worry…” BT glitched for a long breath. “This isn’t the same. I chose this.”
“I know, you said that before.” Glimmerglass turned away. What else was there to say? BT was always the one to choose. Glimmerglass knew she would just have to deal with the fact that BT had chosen something that didn’t include her. There wasn’t anything surprising about that.
“I’m sorry,” BT said and reached her hand out to grasp Glimmerglass’s arm.
Did BT know what her leaving their guild had done to it? Had done to Glimmerglass?
“You don’t need this headache,” BT said. “Not on top of everything else you’ve had to deal with.”
Oh. No, it was just the business of the day.
Sure it was the end of the world. A cataclysm from beyond the sky. And strange changes to adventurers and maybe even the fundamental nature of the world.
But was that really important?
Glimmerglass wanted to smack herself. She wasn’t supposed to be selfish. She was a team player. The one who sorted out everyone else’s problems.
And the problem with BT was old. Long buried and long forgotten.
She’d had years to heal from the hurt.
Clinging to it was so…
That wasn’t fair, but she couldn’t help but feel it was true.
Still though, she was supposed to be better than that.
“It’s not a headache,” she said. “I just need more time to figure it out.”
“I don’t know if a spell’s going to be able fix this,” BT said.
“Maybe none of the existing ones,” Glimmerglass said. “I thought your condition might be one where the cleansing effect was limited to a fixed chance for success.”
“Like the [Demon Heart Plague]?” BT asked, rolling over to her side.
“Let’s hope not. You killed me so many times when we raiding that dungeons,” Glimmerglass said. It was the right thing to say. The right kind of friendly banter they’d been able to share without a second thought, but as the words left Glimmerglass’s mouth all she had was second thoughts.
BT sagged slightly at the emptiness in Glimmerglass’s smile.
“I don’t think this has a demonic corruption component to it,” BT said. “It’s more internal than that. So you should be safe.”
“That’s not a concern,” Glimmerglass said. “Damnazon and Mellisandra are waiting outside in case things get out of control here.”
“That’s good of them,” BT said, rolling onto her back again to stare at the ceiling of the treatment tent. “I’m sorry to drag any of you into this.”
“You didn’t,” Glimmerglass said. “We were in this well before you got here. All you did was give me something to take my mind off all that.” She waved a hand towards the world outside the tent.
“All that was why I came here,” BT said. “I know ‘All That’ needs you too though. If you need a break from this, from me, go ahead. I don’t know if what I’ve got can be cured.”
“Everything can be cured,” Glimmerglass said. “It just takes a while sometimes to find the spell or uncover the mechanic.”
“That takes me back so much,” BT said, her voice quiet but completely glitch free. “You made us keep going so many times through the most impossible things.”
Glimmerglass couldn’t help but hear that as a recrimination despite the fondness in BT’s voice.
“You were always free to leave,” she said. “All of you.”
“If we left though we knew we’d miss out,” BT said. “Epic loot doesn’t drop for the faint of heart.”
Glimmerglass felt her toes curling in anger. She wanted scream that BT had left. And the others had left with her. But that wasn’t completely true. And the scream was an old one. Easier to hold it in. Let it remain quiet and unspoken, where it couldn’t hurt anyone.
“That’s why they need you now though,” BT said. “You can inspire a group like this. So if you need to be with them, go ahead. You can leave me. I think I can hold the glitching together long enough to get the rest of the files transferred over to Penswell.”
A spike of anger broke free from Glimmerglass’s control.
“And what about after that?” She didn’t mean to growl the question out, but it felt right to do so.
“After the files are done?” BT asked.
“Yeah. After your job is over. What happens then? What if Penny has more questions? Or what if we need help with the next wave of Consortium forces? Are you just going to disappear on us? Is this all we get?”
“I…I don’t know Glim,” BT said and crossed her arms over her chest.
“Why don’t you know? Why did you come here if this was going to happen? Why is any of this happening!”
“I don’t know Glim. Not why this is happening, and not why I’m glitching out like this or how to fix it. But I do know why I came here.” She sat up and put her hands on Glimmerglass’s shoulders. “I came back for you. And for everyone that we knew. And for Burnt Toast here. I needed to be her again. I’m not just the Burnt Toast you knew. She’s a part of who I am, but we’re more than that. More than Hailey, or ‘Sid F. Fries’, or ‘Orangutan Julie’ or any of my other characters. I’m all of those and more put together, and even with all those lives, you were the person I knew I had to see.”
“Why?” Glimmerglass asked, confusing moving like water pouring through the shattered cracks in the dam around her heart.
“Because…” but BT didn’t get to finish her thought before the tent flap was thrown open and Mellisandra stepped in.
“Glimmer, Penny needs to talk with you,” Mellisandra said, holding the flap open.
“I have the chat channel open,” Glimmerglass said.
“Not on chat. In person. She’s here.”
“What! But it’s not safe here!” Glimmerglass began collecting her gear without thinking about it. Her thoughts had been wrenched over to considerations on how and why the [Defense Coalitions] best strategist was paying her a personal visit.
“That’s one of the things she wants to talk about,” Mellisandra said.
“Does she want to meet with me?” BT asked.
“She didn’t ask for you,” Mellisandra said. “Just Glimmerglass, and this meeting is invite only. For now at least. She said she’d be holding other meetings once this one was done.”
“But…” Glimmerglass said, looking down at BT in time to see a brief glitch pass through BT’s left arm.
“Go,” BT said. “I’ll be fine.” Another glitch shot along her right arm but BT clasped her wrist and the multi-color static stopped at her the base of her hand. “Really. I’ll be here when you get back.”
“Promise?” Glimmerglass asked.
“Half share of my loot if I’m lying,” BT said and folded her arms behind her head as she lay back down.
“I’m going to hold you to that, even if the loot’s all epic drops,” Glimmerglass said, a weight lifting from her heart.
“For a healer, you’re pretty cruel,” BT said.
“Don’t make me show you cruel,” Glimmerglass said. “I might feel inspired to get creative.”
BT’s stunned laughter bubbled up as Glimmerglass walked away from the tent.
“Get creative?” Mellisandra asked.
“People tend to forget that healers aren’t limited in how much they can hurt you,” Glimmerglass said. “They think we’re nice and cheerful and peaceful because we tend to spend our time fixing things rather than stabbing.”
“You also don’t tend to roast people alive from the inside out,” Mellisandra said. “That probably gives people a better impression of you.”
“It’s a pretty common mistake,” Glimmerglass said. “Consider for a moment though that an [Elementalist] can kill you with a fireball precisely once. A healer though? Death doesn’t get you away from us.”
“Thats…that’s terrifying,” Mellisandra said.
“Yeah,” Glimmerglass said with a slightly manic smile. “It’s good that we’re all just so nice right?”
“Yes. Yes it is,” Mellisandra said, shifting a half pace away from Glimmerglass.
“So what does Penny want? And why is she here?”
“Because the Consortium has done something very strange,” Penny said, without letting her invisibility spell drop.
“They gave up.”
“Here? Or the whole city?” Glimmerglass asked, trying not to stumble.
“The whole city, and several others,” Penny said.
“But that doesn’t make sense. Does it? Even if they were consolidating their forces they should have left a token group here to force us to keep our troops in place so the fortifications would be defended.”
“That is exactly what a sensible battle plan would be. This however is borderline random.”
“Is that why we’re meeting secretly like this?” Glimmerglass asked. “I mean I presume you have an anti-scrying field in effect already?”
“I do, it’s a part of my invisibility spell, and yes I wanted to meet with you and some of the other team leads privately before the official meeting in the city hall, since there’s no chance the city hall meeting won’t be monitored and at this point I’m concerned that our telepathic chat channels may be compromised as well.”
“Compromised? Can the Consortium do that? I thought those were sacrosanct?” Glimmerglass asked.
“They are. As far as we know. But this wild of a change of strategy this early in the conflict could be a turning point, so I want to make sure I’m getting the direct story from each of my key leaders.”
“But you’ve got hundreds of teams like mine?” Glimmerglass said.
“Technically tens of thousands, but of those only a thousand or so are in strategic hot spots like this one,” Penny said.
“That’s going to take forever to interview each of us isn’t it?” Glimmerglass asked.
“I’m having this same conversation about a hundred times in a hundred different places at this moment,” Penny said. “Three cheers for multi-plexing magics. Conversing and collecting the info is surprisingly easy. Integrating all of it is where the brain splitting migraines come into play.”
“Don’t let me waste your time then!” Glimmerglass said.
“Don’t worry, I’m not,” Penny said. “You’ve got some critical info both from the fight here and from what you can tell me about this ‘Burnt Toast’ person. Also, not to play favorites, but you are a lot nicer to talk to than the vast majority of the adventuring team leaders. I love what they can do for us but dear dead gods are some of them striving towards the peak of whiny, self-entitled, know-it-all status.”
“What do you need to know about ‘Burnt Toast’?” Glimmerglass asked, wondering how much she could really say about her old friend.
Assuming the woman she’d left behind really had much of her old friend left in her.
“She’s connected us to someone from another world who knows an unbelievable amount of information about our world and the Consortium. Thanks to this ‘Marcus’ I know how to fight back against the Consortium more effectively than I could have worked out if we’d battled them for a year.”
“That all sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?” Glimmerglass asked.
“It does. And it is,” Penny said. “The problem is this Burnt Toast. We’ve had reports of strange, warped adventurers. [Disjoined] their called. No one knows where they come from, or how they become [Disjoined]. All we know is that they don’t speak. Not really. And they are uniformly hostile.”
“Neither of those is true of BT thought?” Glimmerglass said.
“I know. But the analysis spell I cast on this area showed there was a [Disjoined] here and when I narrowed it down all my doubts were dispelled. BT is a [Disjoined]. Just one like we’ve never seen before.”