Chapter 33 – What’s in a Knight? Pt.3
Four people and one feline were squaring off in the middle of the commercial district in Berrios.
The elf appeared unsure, the beastkin weary, the cat agitated, and the man skeptical. Above all this, the Slime woman was internally cursing her bad luck.
As Captain Hendrickson eyed the small and suspicious figure sitting on the bench, it abruptly turned its head away from him and stared off to the sky in the opposite direction. It was so sharp and exaggerated he nearly fell over. It was as if they had a large sign above their head that read,
“Don’t talk to me!”
Upon studying the reaction of the two young women he’d been escorting, he could only conclude that they likely knew this figure. Which only led to other assumptions.
He turned toward the young beastkin, “Is this erm, … a friend of yours, I take it?”
Upon surveying the surroundings, Hendrickson noted several people keeping their distance and stealing glances at the oddly dressed … small child? He wasn’t quite sure. The oversized robe wasn’t helping, but judging by the stature, it appeared to be a child of around eight years or so. He’d met many odd individuals over the years, older mages especially, but this was certainly new.
Amalia wore a pained expression, as if someone were pulling all her teeth out and forcing her to eat soap.
She slowly hissed, “Y-Yes.”
Once that admission left Amalia’s lips, the assumed-child abruptly turned and stared at her, as if in shock. The two seemed to have a non-verbal communication as arms flailed and the wooden cane was pointed at several things. Hendrickson stood there quite perplexed, until the pieces finally came together.
Both he and his good friend Alphonse had been investigating young Amalia and her visit to the Biron manor months back. Their attempts at gathering information from Kulve had been impeded. Even the matter of the magic tool she’d used was shrouded in mystery.
Yet something wasn’t right. Documents that should have been on file in Kulve were absent or lacking content. Efforts to inquire deeper had only gotten them basic information and an appointment with an official on a waiting list months out. An Amalia Alcott surely existed, but it was as if someone had gently placed her under a rug. That fact was worrisome.
Even more mysterious was this ‘Mistress’ known as Rozalin. They’d found no information on such a person. A few folk in Berrios with the same first name, but the similarities had stopped there. Whether Rozalin be an alias, pseudonym, or she wasn’t from this region, they couldn’t say. They’d begun to wonder if she truly existed.
Now? He was much more certain.
While they ‘argued,’ Hendrickson’s eyes shone lightly. He quietly examined the robed figure. While not a mage himself, he’d picked up many techniques and abilities in his years. Studying the flow of Mana was naturally one of them.
Mana was condensed in the figure’s head—entirely natural for any mage. They lacked the bodily strength typical of fighters, thus reinforced their flesh with Mana to compensate. This was one of the first defensive measures taught in academies or by tutors raising a fledgling. Obviously, a mage can’t cast spells if their brain has been impaled, now can they?
Not only the skull, but a healthy layer of Mana also guarded this figure’s throat and hands. As a type of melee fighter himself, it was common knowledge that if you wanted to inhibit a Mage’s spellcasting ability, the throat, heart, lungs, and hands were excellent targets. Using ranged weapons was also advised, but that’s another subject.
Many spells lost their potency without a verbal component, and most mages channeled their spells through their hands. A quick slice with a sword’s tip to the throat or even a missing hand did wonders when facing a mage. Assuming you could get that close.
That wasn’t to say spells couldn’t be channeled through other portions of the body or chantless casting was impossible, but that wasn’t the norm. Hands were also viewed as an easy target. Pain, in general, would do the trick assuming the mage hadn’t trained to resist trauma or bolster their focus.
What Hendrickson found most curious was this all was happening in the middle of town. That was usually a sign of paranoia or someone with great discipline. Given Amalia’s visit and the conversation at the Biron manor, it would fit incredibly well with a mage capable of healing magic. In Hendrickson’s experience, they tended to guard the throat and hands while ignoring their ‘vital’ organs. It stood to reason that they were less ‘vital’ if they could be healed.
With all this, the good Captain was able to conclude this person was likely none other than the mysterious ‘Mistress’ Rozalin.
He watched her flailing arms and antics. And her small stature.
what he had expected, but …
Hendrickson shook his head. There was no way a child could possess such robust Mana. Appearances truly can be deceiving. There must be something more afoot here.
Breaking their pantomiming, Hendrickson finally spoke.
“I would assume you’re Rozalin? Heard a few things about you from Miss Alcott. A pleasure to finally meet you.”
He gave a short bow toward the figure. Amalia and it had frozen up and turned his way. The figure’s shoulders dropped slightly. Then, a voice came forth.
There was a raspy, mechanical clicking noise as she spoke. The tone bordered on androgynous, yet still high enough to be considered feminine. It was accompanied by a lisp and awkward enunciation, along with being a bit muffled.
“I am. Do you have business with me, Captain?”
Hendrickson tugged on his beard while eyeing the … ‘petite’ woman. At least his suspicions were confirmed. A name had been placed.
nothing of the sort. I was just about to give young Amalia and Miss Valduin a short tour, then grab some grub. Would ya care to join us?”
Hendrickson motion toward the elf and beastkin girl who, unbeknownst to him, were preoccupied talking on the Link—astonished at the difference in Rozalin’s voice. Their silent discussion was cut short.
Rozalin replied, “No thank you. I’m quite busy.”
The Captain watched as the figure sat back on the bench, causing him to scratch his head. As far as he could tell, she was just sitting there.
Busy doing what, exactly?
Rozalin abruptly stood up, then faced the Captain again.
“I’ll join you,” she said quietly.
Hendrickson internally cursed,
‘What the deuce? Just like that? How whimsy is she?!’
His forehead wrinkled, then he let out a hearty laugh and shook his head.
“As you will,” he chuckled.
It was on that note the group added another to their breakfast journey. Hendrickson was casually observing Rozalin, attempting to garner information on the … woman? He wasn’t quite sure her age. And she certainly wasn’t saying much.
Rozalin walked between Amalia, Val, and himself. This made observing more difficult, but he found it strange how Rozalin walked with a cane. Young Amalia was by her side, seeming to fret over her Mistress’ unsteady gait.
Hendrickson had heard this small woman was a mage of some prowess, if the stories were anything to go by, so her handicapped nature was a bit perplexing to him. A walking stick and small stature didn’t mean a mage couldn’t be lethal, but wasn’t he expecting someone a bit more dignified and imposing? And she was supposed to possess noteworthy healing magic, no less. Why the limp? Odd.
Regardless, the group made their way to one of the eateries down the street. They had to reduce their pace but still arrived without incident. It would typically be said the four ate breakfast and went about their way, but Hendrickson found that Rozalin ate nor drank anything at all.
‘I don’t eat in public,’
she’d said. The man found that most unusual. He then wondered how she’d do so at all when her whole body appeared to be bandaged up. Why was that, anyway? She couldn’t fear being slipped poison, could she?
There was a bit of discussion Hendrickson felt was off earlier on. When he went to introduce himself, Rozalin had replied to him as such.
“I know. I have seen you several times before. You were the only knight that day who treated Amalia fairly. That is the only reason I am sitting here with you.”
Her reply presented more questions. He more or less recalled meeting young Amalia by the roadside during their march, her clothing in tatters and looking like a street urchin, but otherwise clean. But there’d been no sight nor sound of another person present. His other meeting had been at the Biron manor, and the same applied.
Hendrickson suspected that this woman possessed some form of clairvoyance or perhaps the ability to see through other people’s eyes. Amalia had mentioned something about how she could talk to Rozalin mentally. There must be more to it.
The Captain was making conversation with the elf, Val, when a question was posed to him by Rozalin.
“How is that man’s daughter? Biron.”
Hendrickson looked as the small woman, trying to probe further behind the mask and gauge her thoughts. Even her tone gave little away. The faint mechanical
and measured way she spoke had an odd effect.
“Unfortunately, Alphonse hasn’t found anyone capable of restoring Aryana’s face … Why do you ask, if I may be so bold?”
For a moment, there was no response. He saw Amalia’s brow furrow out of the corner of his vision. Then, Rozalin spoke again.
“As nobility, I expect they have quite a library of books?”
He replied, “That’s … I would say so, yes.”
“I recall a monetary reward. Rather than gold, information is more important to me. I want to read books on exterminating undead, Dungeons, and this country’s legal system.”
Yet again, Hendrickson was struck by the oddity of this woman. It was only a slight exaggeration to call Aryana’s plight a matter of urgent importance. Such severe disfigurement was a societal death sentence for a young woman of nobility, let alone her mental state. If it were only reading some books and not asking for access to their private records or family techniques, then wasn’t that payment too little?
More importantly, ‘this country’s legal system’? The phrasing was off. Was she a foreigner?
Hendrickson began poring over all the information he’d amassed in his many years on a race or circumstances that would explain Rozalin’s attire, size, and Mana density. He began to have suspicions.
Hendrickson put on as casual an air as possible, while still attempting to catch a glimpse of insight.
“You only want to read some books, eh? That shouldn’t be hard. Bit of an odd mix though, dontcha think?”
He watched Rozalin sit there motionless for a while. Being unable to read someone’s face was off-putting.
“Knowing is half the battle,” was all she said.
He couldn’t tell if that phrase had deeper meaning, but it seemed Hendrickson wasn’t about to get more information out of this woman. Unfortunate. Perhaps it would be better to shift targets? He eyed Amalia.
He paused, reconsidering. If this Rozalin were to perform a favor for Biron, perhaps investigation wasn’t wholly necessary. So long as they could build a good relationship, having such a healer would be a good thing. Hendrickson wasn’t a stranger to not asking questions when one shouldn’t. He was first and foremost a military man, after all. That came with the job.
With a bit of disappointment, their breakfast concluded. Before they went separate ways, Hendrickson spoke up once more.
“If you’d like, I can contact Alphonse and set up a meeting with him? I’m positive he’d be happy to chat with you.”
Once more, he was met with that inscrutable, silent stare.
“Perhaps tomorrow. I am a bit tired,” Rozalin replied.
Another misunderstanding blossomed forth. Hendrickson assumed they’d had a long journey last night. He did not realize that Rozalin hadn’t yet recovered her stamina and Mana from all her shape-shifting experiments, nor how draining simple speech was.
It was a burdensome combination—liberal use of Domain to watch her surroundings due to narrowed vision from her attire, maintaining a general form through her Amorphous nature, and hardening key parts with Tough Hide for support.
For speech, a series of metal discs and a pipe had been shaped. With Rozalin’s ever-increasing knowledge on anatomy, she’d constructed a makeshift set of vocal cords. It was nestled in her ‘throat’ amidst a slimy membrane. Much attention and Mana was being directed to it, hence Hendrickson’s earlier misunderstanding.
Perfectly maintaining the delicate shape of hands was also impossible without assistance. A set of hollowed out, wooden ‘fingers’ had been carved to help serve as a guide. They had very simple joints with a metal pin holding them together.
That said, proper feet were still a work in progress. The night had only been so long, and priorities naturally had to be assigned. A long robe had solved that concern. For now, at least.
It was ‘human enough’. While many looks were directed her way, she’d surpassed uncanny valley and been labeled as merely outlandish.
Hendrickson shook his head, more or less accepting this answer. He was still reluctant to leave things as-is.
“If I may, perhaps I might borrow Miss Amalia for a short while? You mentioned being in town for a few days. In my old age, the house gets a bit lonely. I’ve a few young knights I advise from time to time. Perhaps I could impart a bit of knowledge and swordsmanship to her?”
This time, Rozalin cocked her head toward the man, before looking back at Amalia. The young beastkin’s tail could barely be seen wagging beneath her cloak and she wore excitement plainly upon her face. Hendrickson watched from the side. He was getting used to these silent conversations, but the duration was pressing down on him.
“Fine. She can go, but I expect you to watch over her,” Rozalin replied slowly, “Very, very carefully.”
“I shall protect her with my very life,” he chuckled, waving his hand.
After a second came another chittering reply.
“And I shall hold you to that.”
With an abrupt turn, Hendrickson watched as Rozalin made her way back toward the commercial district. Val gave the Captain a short bow and promises of future discourse. Amalia handed the elf the rucksack she had been carrying and Val quickly departed.
Hendrickson looked at the young lass, who still wore a smile and had her cheeks flushed with mild adoration.
“Well, ‘spose it’s just you and I now, eh? Allow me to lead the way.”
“Y-Yes, Sir!” she chirped with a bit of anxiety. This caused him to chuckle again.
“I’m off-duty. You can call me Maxwell or Max, lass. Just don’t call me late for dinner!”
Amalia’s eyes went wide for a second, and then her mouth began to twitch as she held in a small giggle.
She finally replied with a slight cough, “I-I’ll keep that in mind, Sir—… Mister Maxwell.”
Hendrickson turned, then smiled.
He supposed these things take time. There weren’t many people who called him Max, anyway. It was always ‘Captain this’ or ‘Hendrickson that’, while sometimes more simply ‘knight’ or ‘soldier’. He could handle being called Mister.
Maxwell Hendrickson led the young woman through the commercial district, then back into the nobility district. They made small talk along the way. Hendrickson was curious about Amalia’s upbringing and circumstances leading up until now. The young half-beastkin painted a compelling, but sad tale.
A smidgeon of respect formed for Dirk Alcott. From the forlorn yet fervent tone of adoration Amalia spoke, she’d painted a picture for Hendrickson to what regard she held both her father and knights. It tickled his heart. On Hendrickson’s part, he simply smiled and listened, interjecting when appropriate. It wasn’t his place to douse her cheerful thoughts.
Hendrickson felt much more differently about knights and war. Life experience had jaded his heart, yet he still held onto hope for humanity as a whole. It’d taken him a long time to forgive humans and beastkin and war and politics.
After all, that was how he and his wife lost their only son. And nowadays, the only thing Hendrickson hated more than war was funerals.
—Later that afternoon at the Hendrickson estate.
While not as expansive as the Biron manor, both Mr. and Mrs. Hendrickson were by no means poorly off. It was a tidy, rustic house surrounded on three sides by a stone wall, and on a fourth by a wrought iron fence. A large, packed dirt and stone patio paved the back yard, along with a modest shed. Numerous flowers filled a garden and decorated the side of the house, really bringing forth a ‘Summer’ vibe.
Mrs. Hendrickson, first name Marie, met with their young guest and served them all tea and cake. Marie was getting a bit up in her years—graying hair in a bun, crow’s feet dotting her eyes—but she still retained a youthful grace and sharp wit.
For the most part, Hendrickson made small talk with Amalia and got a bit more background information on her. Amalia had explained more on her father’s illness and her time in Kulve. It only served to make the man feel for the young woman. She was barely on the cusp of adulthood, and life had already thrown a great deal at her.
But as they say, the flowers that bloom in adversity are the most rare and beautiful of all.
On the other hand, Amalia was most pleased to chat with the old Captain. Something about him put her at ease and reminded her of her father. Hendrickson had many tales to tell and was, admittedly, quite the charismatic and animated storyteller. She felt herself being drawn in without noticing.
She asked him about his time in the military, how he rose up in the ranks, some of his best memories, and asked his thoughts on how to best serve the country and people. Elders were there for the young to draw on their life experience, and as such, Hendrickson freely spoke of such things.
Nonetheless, Amalia’s heart was troubled.
“Sir, how do you … how should I get stronger?”
On the surface, it was a simple question. It also pleased the Captain to hear. Desire to improve oneself was paramount. Hendrickson leaned back in his chair, running his hand through his beard. His gruff voice finally came forth.
“Let me ask you this first, lass—why do you wish to become stronger?”
Amalia locked her jade eyes with his and answered without a trace of hesitation.
“To protect the things that are important to me, and to help others that can’t do the same.”
It took a moment, but Hendrickson smiled, “That’s as good a reason as any, girl.”
The Captain casually poured himself another glass of tea, before reclining deeper into his chair.
“Strength takes many forms, young Amalia. The wisdom to know when to step forward, the courage to do so in the face of adversity, the power to see the act through, the right-mindedness to know which path is correct. I can’t exactly help ye much with any of those, but … if it’s just the strength of your sword arm, I might be able to offer a few pointers.”
Hendrickson flashed her a slight smile, before pointing back into the courtyard.
Moments later, Hendrickson was rolling his neck, while the two of them held wooden training swords in their hands. The clearing was six men’s height in length and width. They stood opposite each other.
Amalia’s face was filled with doubt and concern. It’d also been quite some time since she stood in a courtyard as such, sparring with another person. Any more it had been practicing forms, killing undead monsters, or merely imagining an opponent.
“Don’t worry about these old bones, I’ll be fine. Just show me what you’ve got.”
With a bit of goading, the two finally began.
Hendrickson adopted a neutral stance as the teen quickly closed the distance. Rather than a straight line, she approached at an angle. He judged her approach, footwork, and the way she held her sword all as good.
After several rounds, the tempo began to pick up. Hendrickson began testing her swordplay and how she reacted to different methods and angles of attack.
He thought to himself,
‘Vision, reflexes, agility are all top notch, everything considered. Solid grasp of swordplay, good form, understanding of the flow of a fight. If I had to point out a flaw …’
Hendrickson continued sparring with Amalia for several minutes longer. He began testing his theory, the young girl’s weaknesses becoming more apparent as time went on. With a sigh, he finally activated one of his Skills.
The veins around Hendrickson’s temples bulged as time itself seemed to slow. A bead of sweat flew off Amalia’s brow as her sword was parried and knocked skyward. Her grasp around the hilt barely held, yet a gap in her defense remained. Her eyes went wide.
Hendrickson watched as the girl grit her teeth and tried to bring her sword back down. His was already snaking forth. With a sharp thrust, he struck her square in the stomach.
As she hacked and coughed on the floor, holding her stomach, Hendrickson was left rubbing his neck. Her fighting style was a beautiful mess.
“Amalia, your father taught you to fight, correct?”
As her sputtering soon died down, she looked up from the ground at him and nodded, still in some degree of pain.
Her confirmation only caused Hendrickson to sigh.
‘Dirk Alcott, huh? Were you an idiot of a father, or too optimistic for your own good? If you’re going to be overprotective, then you should’ve made sure to finish the job.’
Negative feelings were bubbling up in the pit of Hendrickson’s stomach. It wasn’t a stretch to call this girl a prodigy when it came to swordsmanship, and her excellent, almost bestial instincts might barely place her in the genius category.
But she was also a fool.
At first, Hendrickson thought it was just a tendency, but then that turned into a habit. He began presenting ‘fatal’ openings in his guard for Amalia to take advantage of. She didn’t. The problem was then apparent.
Her way of fighting heavily favored targeting limbs and seeking to immobilize her foe. It was as if she were unconsciously avoiding lethal strikes, even with wooden swords. There were no thrusts to the upper chest, or attacks on the head or neck.
When it came to defensive measures—footwork, strikes, depth perception and range, parrying—everything was well polished. It was perfect for self-defense or rendering the opponent unable to fight.
—It wasn’t a style of swordsmanship meant for war.
She was in surprisingly good physical shape and had stamina to spare. Yet even with all this, a real swordsman would pick up on and exploit this knowledge without remorse, if the fight dragged on. It might work well against monsters that lacked such intelligence, but not humans.
Hendrickson shook his head. He’d told her based on her attitude that she could be a knight. He’d figured even if her swordsmanship wasn’t up to par, that was normal for trainees and could be improved. But forgetting something that’d been hammered into her for years?
He’d almost rather she never touched a sword. It might be easier to teach from scratch than erase such habits. As is, she wouldn’t last. Without change, she’d die young. Just like they often did.
“Let’s … stop for today, eh? I’ll have the missus prepare some dinner.”
Hendrickson gave her a pat on the shoulder and a wide smile. A miserable grin crept upon her lips, as she finally exhaled and sat flat on her bottom.
okay. Thank you,” she huffed.
Hendrickson looked at her sloppy smile. She was a good kid, he thought.
Maybe … he could still give her some guidance. Just a few tips and words of wisdom. Judging from this afternoon and what he did know of her, she seemed receptive. There was the problem of her ‘Mistress’. And could she change her mentality?
That was the big question.
A short while later, they sat on the porch. Hendrickson was smoking a pipe of tobacco and Amalia was wiping the sweat off her with a towel. This time, she started the conversation.
“Thank you for having me over, Sir. It was nice to spar again with someone. It’s been a long time.”
think nothing of it, kiddo. It’s good to move these old bones around once in a while! Helps keep me in shape.”
Amalia smiled bitterly, ”
I’m pretty sure you still ‘move’ around just fine, Sir …”
At this, all Hendrickson could do was grin.
“So what’s this Mistress of yours like? Rozalin, I mean.”
Amalia sipped on a glass of water for a moment, eyes thoughtful. Her shoulders finally slumped.
“If I’m being mean about it, she’s crazy. I’ve never met anyone like her before, and I doubt I will again. She talks about the most outlandish things, tells half-truths, breaks my common sense all the time, is abnormally dense at others, uses magic in ways I’ve never heard of, and doesn’t hesitate to do what needs done. … Even if it means killing people in terrible ways.”
Hendrickson nodded for a moment, “She sounds,
Why do you stay with her, then? It is a money issue? Is she threatening you?”
Amalia shook her head.
“No, it’s not that. Despite all those bad things, Roz is … She’s still very kind to me. Even when it’s inconvenient or hard on her. She takes care of me, tries cooking for me despite being absolutely horrible at it, won’t break her promises, tells me when I make mistakes and helps find ways to correct them, keeps me company, tells me stories, doesn’t judge me for being a
The last word was practically spat out. There was a pause.
“She believed in me when I said I wanted to be a knight. Even when I didn’t believe in myself anymore. That’s dumb, isn’t it? Why would she do that?”
Hendrickson locked eyes with the young woman, as hers turned a bit misty. Amalia’s hands gripped the wooden cup tightly. For a moment, he pondered how to respond.
“Who knows? I suspect it’s best to ask her yourself. But isn’t that a good thing? Having someone believe in ya, I mean,” he replied.
Amalia flopped backward on the porch, staring up at the blue sky.
I wish I knew what to do.”
“Just do what ya can, girl. No sense worrying too much. Still, this Mistress of yours sounds a bit … questionable. You sure you’re alright?”
At Hendrickson’s unnoticed nudge to win Amalia over, she merely flopped back on the porch. Her lips grew thin and her voice haggard.
I feel like I’m going to die every day I’m around her. This hellish training of hers is wearing me out, but I don’t have anyone to complain to.”
“Why not leave? I told you before, I’d vouch for you if ya’d like to join the Knight Corps, missy. Not sayin’ that’s an easy life either, though, so don’t get any ideas!” he quipped with a laugh, nudging her with his elbow.
It was quiet again for a moment longer. Hendrickson watched Amalia’s tail casually flick through the air as she looked up silently. When he was finally about to change the subject, she finally responded.
“She saved my life. And I told her I’d stay with her. Even if Roz dislikes people, even if she doesn’t trust them … I think she’s afraid of being alone. She talks in her sleep sometimes. Nightmares, I guess. Not often, but I’ll lay there and listen when she thinks I’m asleep. I want to help her somehow. It’s only right.”
Hendrickson sat there a moment longer, letting a puff of smoke out from his pipe. He silently chided,
‘Rescue the rescuer, eh?’
“Well, kid, she sounds like a handful. Seems you’ve got your work cut out for you. Do your best!
Amalia replied with an exhausted sigh, “Life is tough…”
“Ain’t that the truth!” chuckled the Captain.
Set to the tune of hearty laughter and conversation, dinner was soon served. The two then spent an uneventful evening, chatting about various things.
Meanwhile, at a rather modest inn in the eastern commercial district, two ‘people’ were chatting about various
‘Amalia, you traitor! Running off to play with the enemy! I don’t care if he has a well-trimmed beard! We were supposed to go shopping for equipment! Gah!’
Rozalin was sloshing around on the bed, mentally wailing to herself. Her pilfered clothing and wrappings were tucked away. Val was currently washing herself off in a small, adjacent room. Despite the distance that would normally impair conversation, that did not apply due to the Link.
Val was relentless.
Due to Amalia being gone, all of the elf’s unbridled loquaciousness was now directed at a preferentially anti-social Slime. Of course, Rozalin was no stranger to making small talk. It was required for office environments and clients. But this had gone on for over six hours now.
Six. Long. Hours.
As such, the springy, pink woman was growing increasingly agitated. Sure, she now knew much more about elven culture and had picked up a few magic casting tips, but
at what cost?
Sanity was precious. Surely that outweighed some theoretical knowledge and history lessons?
It had taken a long time to find a respectable inn, and Rozalin was soon forced to settle for a less than ideal one. She had been losing cohesion. Several hours was her limit to maintain something passing as a human form. As such, Rozalin decided some stamina training was in her future.
Their visit to Arnie would have to wait till tomorrow and the Biron manor was a dubious target on their ‘to-do’ list. More preparation was required. Rozalin was still on high alert after being stumbling into the Knight Captain. If uncovered, she wasn’t optimistic in her chance of talking things over.
‘Maybe I should just leave. I can leave, right? But then the library … Ugh, can I just sneak into the library? If they catch me somehow … But if they catch me in disguise if I go with Amalia and Val, won’t that be much worse in many ways?’
Indecisiveness had set in.
A cheap mirror was present in the room. Rozalin planned to refine her disguise after she finished eating and meditating. The mirror would help. There had been one in the boutique she’d nabbed some fabric from earlier, but having the leisure to examine herself without pressure, along with Val’s judgment, would set her nerves at ease. Probably.
While she was miserable thinking about how small she looked, function over form was still the agenda. She didn’t have enough mass for an age-appropriate height.
Rozalin bounced off the bed and in front of the mirror. With a bit of effort, she took on a humanoid shape again.
‘I can do this. Focus. Do not get performance anxiety. You should be used to people staring. Remember that feeling.’
A head formed. Facial features, while still pink and translucent, began to solidify and become outlined.
Nngh-! It will be fine! Acting is no problem. Think of the payoff. The plan is sound. Now start outlining more contingencies and escape methods. You know what Biron wants, use that information properly against him.’
Val poked her head back into the bedroom, looking at the Slime standing in front of the mirror.
“Rozalin, I’ve been intending to inquire, but what might those herbs be for? It seems a most …
purchase. You don’t intend to ingest them, do you?”
Rozalin turned to look at her companion, then over to the shelf littered with various herbs. She then looked back into the mirror, straight ahead.
“No. It is quite simple. I am going to turn that investment into a library.”
A wide, toothless grin formed on the translucent woman’s face. While Rozalin began planning conversations, body language, attire, logistics, and timing, Val was instead looking at the herbs with a finger to her mouth.
Val quietly thought to herself,
‘Should I inform her bristle weed is quite atrocious for papermaking? And also highly flammable.’
With a shrug, Val went back to cleaning herself. Amalia had advised Val numerous times to just ignore Rozalin when she was in ‘planning phase’.
After spending some time with the duo, the elf realized that was quite sage advice.