Her hands hurt like hell.
Mirryn leaned against the parapet of the Legion HQ and took in the view, resting her forearms on the stone.
“How are you holding up?” a voice came nearby.
Mirryn turned to see Donnelan approaching from along the wall.
“Couldn’t sleep either, huh?” she asked him.
“Not a chance in hell” he muttered.
Neither of them wanted to talk about their baptism but they couldn’t help thinking about it. When they had finally been taken out of the basin the trainees had immediately lost consciousness, their minds longer supported by the complex enchantments that had surrounded them.
Upon awakening they learned that three of their friends had died.
All things considered it wasn’t a bad number. Below average. She could see the relief in the officers faces that they hadn’t lost more. It seemed stupid, to be thankful of only three deaths but she understood their logic. Would the situation be somehow better if four had died?
The commander and the rest of the Legionaries had been past to visit them in the days since. The trainees had been placed in a convalescence unit, comfy beds, good food, medical staff around the clock, counselling specialists, the works.
On the surface Mirryn would have been shocked to think of the cost of the lavish treatment, the Legion was legendarily thrifty, they made most of their own equipment, ate nutritious but brutally unflavoured food. It was a regular sight for the trainees to be seen cleaning their leathers and polishing their swords outside the barracks in the dawn light right next to their officers.
The trainees were learning just how many things they had thought they’d known had been an elaborate deception. The Abyssal Legion they thought they’d known, the Dungeon they’d thought they’d known, indeed, the world they thought they had lived in were so far from the truth.
“Did you ever think that something like this could exist?” Mirryn asked Donnelan as he joined her.
“Absolutely not” he answered flatly, “In fact I specifically remember being told such a thing was impossible”.
Even though she was looking at it, Mirryn still thought it was impossible.
It was a city.
In the Dungeon.
A vast egg shaped cavern of impossible size, kilometres across and many more high, filled with people. The buildings covered the bottom of the cavern and then extended up the walls, carved into the rock face. A gigantic glowstone at the top of the space provided illumination in the day and faded at night, regulating the time for the thousands of citizens here in Railleh.
Through some mechanism she couldn’t imagine the cavernous space managed to keep the Dungeon veins out. There was no risk of monsters spawning within the city itself. Such safety within the Dungeon felt weird to her. She’d spent every moment underground up to this point being completely alert. To be this relaxed down here felt, unnatural.
From her vantage point Mirryn could see the city bustling with activity day and night, the people moving like ants in the cramped streets below. Even now the light of thousands of lamps lit the city at night like a sea of candles in the darkness. It was incredible.
The Legion headquarters was about halfway up, a citadel that occupied a position of great standing, looking down over the rest of the city. She hadn’t been able to explore much yet, the trainees were basically confined to recovery. Not the trainees actually… Full Legionaries now.
Mirryn had longed for that for so long…
“How’s your hand?” Donnelan asked.
She glanced down at the heavy bandages that wrapped her forearms all the way to the tip of her fingers.
“Better” she said, “they’ve been healed but they’re worried about damage to the bone so I’ll be under wraps for a few days yet”.
Donnelan’s expression twisted a little. Unable to contain his curiosity he eventually asked “Is it true how they got injured?”
“What did you hear?” she answered.
“That you punched the commander in the face”.
Mirryn shrugged her shoulders uncomfortably. “it’s true”.
Donnelan whistled his appreciation. “I can’t… I cannot even imagine it. Did he say anything?”
He hadn’t. The commander had visited each trainee personally upon their wakening. When she’d finally opened her eyes and got her bearings he’d already been there. He didn’t explain, or justify. He just sat there. On seeing the man that she’d trusted so much, almost like a father, who had done such an unspeakable thing to her and her friends … she’d lost it. Rage and fury had exploded in her.
She’d been able to contain it at first… what would be the point of hitting him?
When she asked how many had died and he told her she’d leapt out of the bed and punched him right in the face with both hands. He hadn’t resisted in anyway, willingly accepting her strikes, but, the end result was she broke both fists. She didn’t think the commander had even moved.
She’d spoken with some of her fellow trainees, especially Donnelan. There were feelings of anger, of betrayal and of fear. Fear of the pain that kept them awake at night, fear of the never ending horror of it and deep down, fear that the Legion was right.
They could feel now. Ever since they’d awoken they could tell that something was different. Their bodies were absorbing mana out of the air, breathing it in and out through their pores. Mirryn felt stronger, healthier, her mind felt like it moved more quickly, with greater agility.
They hadn’t even begun training or using their new bodies yet but they could already tell that they had been fundamentally changed. She didn’t think it would end with just this either, she thought there would be more secrets to come.
She knew that her officers were good people. The impression she had of them from years of living alongside them weren’t wrong. They were indeed the kind of hard line, duty bound hard heads that would put people they cared about through such torment, so long as they had good reason to.
The torment was over but Mirryn was afraid to find out why it was necessary.
The Legion had done this for thousands of years, why? What exactly are they fighting down here?
She turned back to Donnelan. “When do you think they’ll let us out and into the city?” she asked.
He smiled. “Hopefully soon. After everything that’s happened I could do with some leave. A few refreshments wouldn’t go astray”.
Mirryn shook her head. “A whole new world to explore down here and the only thing you care about is getting drunk?”
“Yes” he said.
After a pause they both laughed and turned back to the city spread below them. Growing up in an undeveloped frontier country like Liria had stunted them in many ways. They’d very rarely met members of the other races, didn’t come into contact with the rare and powerful artefacts of the old empires. The frontier nations had been established in land that nobody had wanted by people with the grit to try and carve out a new life for themselves. The kingdoms, empires and alliances that had endured from the Cataclysm to today were far off legends to them. Here and now, looking down on the impossible city below them they felt as if those fairy tales they had heard were so close they could reach out and touch them.
A cough sounded behind them and the two jumped, turning quickly to find Tribune Aurillia behind them.
“I hope I’m not disturbing you, Legionaries?” the older woman enquired.
The two stiffened at being approached by their officer. It would take a long time for any sort of trust to exist between them again. Aurillia was not offended, or even surprised. She naturally knew how they felt, she’d gone through the same thing herself.
“The commander has called for you to assemble. It’s time to find out if what you endured was worth it”.