Chapter 2: A Dump of A Camp

Rhodovus kept on bugging me about writing his story into this as well, so I figured I might as well. Fortunately, the elf had all his stuff written already, and I just had to paste it in. Whew! Don’t ask why he chose to write about himself in the third person… what can I say about arrogant elves? 

Thossolarian Rhodovus of Yirgh the Third glared over the drab conditions of the army camp surrounding him. Where were the feasts to keep a mage’s mana and focus up? Where were the baths to assure that he could work his Arts in peace and cleanliness?

He shivered as he glanced across the plains at the grey blob. The Dungeon loomed across the flat land like a beast lurking above its prey. Even from here, the dead zone could affect him. He imagined tendrils snaking through him, sapping a bit of his mana every moment he spent on this wretched plain. While a bit exaggerated, it wasn’t even that far from the truth. Either way, the mental exertion required to channel the thin mana around here tired even him, a fourth-rank Papermage from Izmuth Academy.

The sergeants hustled about the camp, preparing the men for the march. Ugh, more dust. Rhodovus, Lord Thossolarian to those not close to him, once again regretted taking on this mission. He had been promised ten thousand contribution points as well as access to an ex-headmaster’s, a sixth ranker, notebook for a month, but he had not been told the mission would require traveling to this mucked out plain with commoners.

He cursed, although not out loud because that would be far beneath him. As an elven noble, he ought to have had the commander’s tent! He could trace his descent all the way back to the founding of the Avish Empire four thousand years ago; it was only ten generations for an elf, but still! They ought to have given him his due of at least a modicum of respect. These humans had only regressed from their peak under Elvish dominion.

Of course, there was the main Summer Elf branch, but he could hardly claim himself to be of their line. Flushing, he thought about how terrible it must have been for his family when they had returned to that place a millenium ago, arriving in rags. Oh, the shame his family must have faced from the mainline! Even now, they were regarded as second-class family members. Still, their unique bloodline had assured their acceptance, and they had been integrated and were now almost accepted as part of the mainline family. Now, he dreamt of her instead, trying to shift his mind away from his family’s shame. He would become a great mage and win her hand in marriage, joining the ranks of the City of Yirgh’s upper crust.

He would have to bear this disgraceful current state of affairs for her love, but these scoundrels made his life so difficult. How was he to maintain his elegance in such squalid conditions?

He nearly stuffed his clothes into his trunk before reconsidering and carefully folding his embroidered gowns. He glanced around his tent, making sure he was leaving nothing for those thugs to steal. Someone else, probably a common lieutenant, would take his tent down later. Once he assured that everything was in order, he stomped toward the officer’s breakfast while the rest of the army readied themselves for the march.

“Ah, so the Elvish Lordling deems to grace us with his presence.” The commander glanced up and deeply bowed; some of the officers snickered. Ignoring the fools, Rhodovus prevented himself from snarling, speaking with a voice devoid of passion brimming with the same cold incision taught by the cutthroat Summer courtesans, “Sir Thomas, how kind of you to greet me. Please, continue telling us of your little plans.”

The commander frowned. Seeing his superior’s irritation, a captain stood, “Listen here, you son of cowards who fled the fall of…” Rhodovus pulled out a piece of paper, archaic gold markings scrawled over a black background. The captain paled.

The commander raised a hand, trying to separate the two.

Rhodovus knew he ought to not bully humans when any one of them could have some powerful hidden bloodline. On the other hand, he doubted the Hewther Kingdom would waste such rare powerful individuals on this type of suicide quest. After all, the Hewther Kingdom was far from one of the old Avish Empire’s bloodline centers, leaving it relatively sparse in terms of powerful bloodline abilities.

Rhodovus smiled. “That’ll be Lord Thossolarian to you. I only recognize your superior.” As what, Rhodovus left unsaid.

Sir Thomas coughed. “Lord Thossolarian, we were just discussing our plan of attack against the demon. You’ll provide support as we”

Rhodovus cut in, “I was specifically hired by the provincial constable who begged the academy to send in a capable mage. Do not presume you command beings born before your father, child.”

Rhodovus wasn’t quite sure how long modern humans lived, but he assumed his 50 years was sufficient. Then again, Rhodovus refrained from mentioning that 33 was considered an adult age among the elves, meaning he had actually only been an adult for seventeen years, seven of which he had spent in the Academy, and the last three of those seven were spent preparing for the highest rewarding mission he could find. Now though, he regretted wasting so much time on preparing because all those three tiresome years had gotten him was a mission to come here.

The captain hesitated. Rhodovus sniffed, “Now, the academy was offered a decent enough reward for them to send me, a fourth-rank acolyte to aid your excursion.”

Rhodovus snacked on a bread biscuit, which tasted how he imagined tree bark would. If anyone dared to suggest that Summer Elves ate tree bark like those nature-loving Spring Elves, Rhodovus would assure that the last thing they saw before they died the next instant was a fireball larger than their head.

Sir Thomas went through the scout’s reports; the officers saying inane things here and there. Rhodovus sighed. He pondered about the head mage’s instructions to collect research materials on this mission after fulfilling the commander’s orders. The bonus reward offered by the Academy had been quite enticing, but how was he going to do that?

“Lord Thossolarian?”

Rhodovus turned. What did these humans want now?

Sir Thomas spoke, “If it isn’t too much trouble, sir, would you be able to strengthen our men before we march in an hour?”

Rhodovus sighed. “Fine, I’ll provide some spells.” While he detested that the commander was bossing him around, he figured it’d be safer in the likely case that the mission failed because the commander would be unable to blame him for refusing to contribute.

Sir Thomas glanced over the room at the twenty other officers in the Officer tent, a captain for every five sergeants who each lead a ten-man squadron themselves. Rhodovus disdained the place. Ever since the fall of the Avish empire, humans had lost the trappings of civilization. When the elves marched for war, they understood that morale determined how an army fought and a thin tent hardly sufficed for an officers’ meeting. It wasn’t even warded!

Pointing at a group of six captains, Sir Thomas ordered, “You will follow Major Orias and lead the men in a charge. The rest of the men will protect the rear so that you can retreat. As you all know, we lack any cavalry, so we’ll have to hold the flanks while we charge in, which will be the period of greatest risk. According to Council Mage Aryam, the core should be facing  Northside.”

Rhodovus ignored the whispers swirling around him. A captain spoke in a barely concealed hush, “Ha! Aryam’s a real mage. A human mage! Not an elvish scumbag playing around with runes.”

Red in the face, Sir Thomas yelled, “Damn it, Tivanius! I ignored it the first time, but just because you don’t like the elf, you better show him the respect he deserves. Apologize! He’s going to be fighting by your side, and I won’t have any discord among us that’ll cost soldiers their lives.”

Captain Tivanius sat down, cowed. Without looking at anyone, he growled, “My apologies, sir.”

Rhodovus spoke through gritted teeth. “I see this is how the rank and file of the ruins of the Avish empire act nowadays. I’ll go perform the rites.”

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