Chapter 850 – Movement

The shadow falls like clouds, like rain;

Creeping dread begins to stain;

Shudder the heart, freeze the brain;

Ring out the laughter, again and again;

Call of you lover, daughter, son;

Sinks into your ears, your will undone;

Forward you step, your soul is wrung;

Cannot resist, Gon has come;

Who can defy that fateful call?

Who can escape the shadows pall?

Forward you go, heedless to stall;

Into the depths to meet the fall;

Lament the brave and pity the meek;

None can flee the song of the freak;

  • Rinnidan children’s rhyme.

There was a time that Titus had thought his daughter would never return to the Legion, that the untimely death of his son had robbed him of both his children. Now that he’d been reunited with Morrelia and she had integrated into the Legionem Abyssi a part of him that had long been dead was once again full of life. Not that anyone could tell looking at his face, of course, to the world at large he appeared as stone faced and duty bound as ever. Ever since Morrelia had been selected for accelerated development his pride had almost been ready to burst out of his chest. It would seem odd to most people, but watching her earnestly work herself to the bone in order to achieve her ambitions had filled him with powerful emotions. He had dearly wished his son had survived his initiation, so he could have seen both of his children rise to the challenge presented to them.

With a slow release of breath he pushed out the grief that rose within him as his thoughts dwelt on what had been lost. It had grown easier to bear over the years, but only a little. His acute awareness of how fleeting joy could be only made his current appreciation for his daughter all the more potent.

With a wrench of will Titus dragged his mind away from Morrelia and back to the numerous papers scattered across his desk. Administrative work was the backbone of the Legion, and though he would rather charge into a horde of demons without armour on, the commander would do his duty and defeat the enemy that rested on the flat surface before him. Once more focused on his task, Titus took hold of his pen, dipped it in the waiting ink and returned to battle.

Resupplying his new Legion after the members had been recalled from their postings during the wave was a monumental task. Thousands of soldiers and thousands more auxiliaries needed to be accounted for, equipped, fed, billeted and kept happy. Promotions, training, Skill development, Class upgrades, managing morale, all of it demanded the careful attention of the commander in charge and Titus knew just how important each of these were to the successful running of a military force. This was the sort of discipline that the Legion drummed into their officers! It was also something Morrelia would need to learn…

“Damn it!” Titus crashed his fist down on the table as his thoughts strayed once more.

“Something wrong, commander?” Aurillia burst through the door, his old comrade looked around the room as if expecting to see a lurking monster!

The commander didn’t lose his temper. He just didn’t! For him to yell like that, something must be seriously wrong! As she glanced back to the face of her old friend and superior, she froze when she saw the hard lines of his expression. Though he always looked carved from granite, right now the commander appeared as if he was forged from Abyssal Iron! Knowing him for as long as she had, Aurillia could tell he was furious!

“What’s wrong, Titus?” she demanded, using his name in a breach of protocol. “Is something bothering you?”

Unlike most officers of his Legion, she was prepared to face his wrath if the moment demanded it. After a long moment where he took hold of his temper, Titus breathed out his tension once more, his expression softening imperceptibly as he did so.

“Nothing is the matter. I’m just irritated and finding it difficult to concentrate,” he admitted as he waved a hand towards the piles of forms and applications in front of him.

“Thinking about your daughter out working hard in the Dungeon?” she grinned. “I know how proud you must be.”

Titus frowned.

“Of course I’m proud, but that doesn’t mean I want to hear gossiping amongst the ranks.”

“Gossiping? About little Morrelia who we trained when she was a young lass? Why would we?” the old tribune innocently spread her hands.

“Hmph,” Titus snorted.

“I have to admit to you Titus, a few of us are concerned about the pace she is setting. Overwork is a real issue and she is clearly pushing up against the boundary,” Aurillia grew serious as she laid out her concerns. “We’ve seen her stumbling into camp once every few days, covered in ichor and half dead on her feet. She spends so much time in the field they are rotating three squads to accompany her. She’s doing three times the work of a normal legionary! You can’t be alright with this.”

Titus didn’t blink.

“What did she say?” he said.

“That it was her decision and the rest of us should leave off,” the tribune grunted.

“There it is.”

“You can’t be serious, Titus! This is your daughter we’re talking about, don’t tell me that you aren’t concerned!”

He was concerned, but that didn’t mean he got to overrule Morrelia’s choices. Or the Legion’s.

“You never went through the advanced officer’s training Aurillia,” he told her, looking her straight in the eye, “you don’t know what it takes to succeed at that level. If she worked any less, she wouldn’t have a chance of making it through.”

“This much is insane! She could die!”

“It’s her decision,” Titus stated, his tone hard as steel. “I will support her choices. She understands the risks and is willing to shoulder them. I will hear no more of this matter!”

The tone of his voice brooked no discussion and his loyal tribune knew when she could push no further. Aurillia was far from happy with how hard Morrelia was being pushed, but she swallowed her objections for now. Seeing his officer no longer intended to question him on this matter, he moved the conversation to other topics.

“Has the scouting report on the progress of the ant colony come back?”

“Yes,” she forced her mind to move on to the business at hand. “Our sources in the third stratum have made contact with the Church. Apparently a demon city fell to an invasion of ants from above only recently.”

“Which city?”


Titus frowned.

“I’m not aware of that one.”

“It’s a relatively minor city directly beneath where we fought the ants.”

“So they dropped straight down into the vacuum. Is the territory around there contested?”

“It is, there are various powers at work in the area, including the Kaarmodo. We expect to hear more feedback in the coming weeks as the ants seek to expand their influence.”

The commander leaned back in his chair and pondered for a moment.

“We spooked them,” he said.

“That is what our strategists believe also,” Aurillia confirmed, “the ants are seeking to aggressively expand in order to stave off further extermination forces. The intervention of other actors has also complicated the scene.”

The tree and the folk. Neither of them friends of the Legion.

“We may have to wait until the ants manage to pull another enemy down on themselves” Titus grunted. “The Legion doesn’t have the manpower right now to stamp out these insects now that they’ve spread. There are fires all over the place that need putting down, especially down below.”

“I’ll keep you informed sir.”

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