Chapter Thirty-Five: Comrades
The meeting was soon dismissed. It was decided that Princeton, the gnome with glasses, would be the one to transport everyone from Valhall to his hometown in Fineland. It was also decided that the servants who were left speechless, sans Old Forestar, would be the first to leave so as not to draw too much attention.
They scattered and went about their own businesses. As Victor left, he thought over everything. He would be used as a power source in order to free everyone. He was fine with that; after all, he was the one who suggested it.
What made his metaphorical stomach turn was the idea that he would be unaware each time. He had no way of knowing when he’d wake up. He had no idea where he’d wake up.
Francesca knew that he was taken by Vandi so of course she would come to Valhall to get him eventually. Victor was sure of that. But how would she know where he went if he were transported to Fineland?
Wait... What if he told her? Well, not tell her by talking, of course. But what if he left her a note? That would work, right? A note gave her directions to Cecil’s salon, so surely it could work to give her directions to him.
Wishing to bring his idea into reality, he searched around for the nearest person to give him the things needed for a note. Thankfully, the first person he ran into was Madrina.
She was outside on a balcony with a lit pipe in her hand. She stiffened upon seeing him then relaxed. She raised her nearly invisible eyebrows at him.
“What can I do for you?” she asked. When Victor mimed writing on his hand, her eyebrows nearly disappeared into her hair. “You want to write?”
Victor nodded eagerly.
She looked on at him incredulously but didn’t say anything. He followed her around as she searched around for a sheet of paper and a pen for him. Once she gave it to him, she crossed her arms and watched.
Victor held the pen in his fist and pinned the paper against the wall with his spear hand. He roughly scrawled onto the sheet a series of scribbles that only vaguely felt like letters. He held the paper out to Madrina with pride.
She shook her head with an amused smile. “You have no idea how to write, do you?”
Victor’s posture deflated a bit.
Madrina pointedly looked away. She inhaled a deep puff of her pipe before she sighed.
“You’re lucky that Hanna used to be a teacher.”
It took less than an hour for Victor to memorize the alphabet, both written and signed. Hanna attributed his unnatural learning speed with the childish mannerisms he had and thus “he had plenty of room to learn.” Madrina chalked it up to “he’s a magic rock in an ice statue; why not?”
“Okay, so...” Hanna explained. “You put the letters together to make a word, okay?” When her student nodded, she continued. “Like a name for example. You spell my name with H-A-N-N-A. Okay?”
Victor nodded again. Then he gripped the pen, correctly by then, and started writing. He had to take a guess at how it was spelt, but he eventually held up his sheet of paper that barely read ”MY NEIME IS VICTOR.”
Madrina and Hanna only briefly shared a glance before they both bombarded the poor boy with questions he didn’t know how spell the answers to.
Victor rushed up to Old Forestar. He was cleaning up the throne room, just as he had when they first met. By the evening, Hanna had taught Victor enough of the basics of sign that he felt confident that he could have a proper introduction with his friend.
The elf smiled up at him and crossed his arms. He waved an arm, telling Victor to go ahead and show him what he learned.
“You’re Four-Star,” Victor signed at him.
His shoulders shook in what seemed to be a laugh. Then he motioned for Victor to keep going.
“My name is Victor.” He held out his hand. He would have given the elf a proud grin if he could, but for now a handshake would have to do.
Except, Forestar didn’t take his hand. He stared at him in confusion. He looked over to Victor’s body still hanging over the throne then looked back at him.
Then he signed something that didn’t quite make sense to Victor.
Victor raked his mind for any mention of the name but drew nothing. So he repeated his introduction. “My name is Victor.”
Old Forestar’s face grew more worried. More panicked. More disbelieving. “Aren’t you Leon?!” he signed.
Victor shook his head. “I’m not Leon.”
Old Forestar leaned onto the throne for support. He was physically reeling from the realization. When Victor placed a hand on his shoulder, he flinched hard.
Victor backed away. Then, with his head bowed, he signed “Are you okay?”
The elf didn’t look at him. He gathered up his things, took one last look at Victor’s lifeless body, then went to the door. He stopped in the doorway and turned toward Victor.
He shook his head. He pointed from his chest, to his chin, to the body, then left.
Victor couldn’t find him for the rest of the day. He searched around all of Old Forestar’s usual haunts, but he didn’t see him anywhere. It was at this point that Victor started worrying. Had he done something wrong?
Vicor poked his head through the door to the dining hall. While most of the tables were filled, Old Forestar was still absent.
The people in the room were paying rapt attention to an elf in the corner, Ronnie, holding an apple. Their face was red, their voice was loud, and there was a bottle on their table.
“‘You shall not permanently force an emotion!’” they said. The others around them went stony until they shrugged. “I said to her, I said ‘It was with the purest intentions, Madame Fairy! She’s been sobbing about her ex for months! Please, just let me make her happy!’”
“Did she buy it?” the youngest human there asked.
Ronnie spread out their arms. “Clearly.”
There was a roar of laughter. Ronnie tossed the apple over to a halfling with a curly hair named Elijah. He stood up on his chair, barely reaching Victor’s shoulder.
“Wealth,” he said bluntly. There was a room-wide sigh of disappointment. “Just kidding! I killed someone with magic.”
“Wait, you actually got to finish?” Ronnie asked.
“I didn’t get Fafnir. I got that one fairy with the red wings. You know, the one with the axe? Anyways, this asshole was trying to sell his daughter to pay a debt. I decided to turn him into gold. Slowly. But the fairy and I spent so much time arguing about what my crime was that he finished changing. That settled the argument pretty quickly.”
The apple was pitched past Victor’s face. He took that as his cue. He was about to leave when a stern voice stopped him.
“Oy!” Madrina said. “Victor! Come here!”
All the heads in the room turned towards him. He kept his face towards the ground as he approached Madrina. At her table were Flint, Reggie, and Princeton. Flint was holding the apple.
“Victor?” Flint asked. “What, you named it?”
“No,” she answered. “Hanna just taught him to sign; he already had the name.” Before Flint could open his mouth again, she cut him off. “We’ve already asked him about his past but he needs more lessons to do that.”
“Have him join the game!” an elf from across the hall called out.
Victor shook his head and waved his hands for the elf to see. This whole game seemed like a bad idea. Especially since his only reason for being there was existing.
Flint shrugged. “Suit yourself. It’s my turn, yeah?”
“Well, you did catch the apple,” Reggie answered.
“I didn’t ask for sass with that,” Flint growled. He took a deep breath and straightened up in his chair. “The fairy said it was a wealth charge. I still don’t get why I’m here though.”
Princeton rolled his eyes. “You know why. The denial act got old twenty years ago.”
“But alchemy is different from sorcery. I’ve never even cast a spell before.”
“Alchemy is just magic through potion making!” Princeton blurted out in frustration. “It’s distilled and methodical magic but it’s still magic!”
“Fine!” Flint lobbed the apple at the gnome’s head. “What are you here for then?”
The apple bounced off Princeton’s head and rattled his glasses. He caught the apple before it could hit the table. His face started turning as red as the apple he was holding.
“I’d rather not,” he mumbled.
“You’re holding the apple!” Reggie said. “It’s part of the rules!”
Princeton groaned and straightened up his glasses. “Fine. I uh... I may have gotten drunk when I was younger...”
There were several smirks around the room. Princeton’s face burned redder and he sank lower into his chair.
Victor gently placed an icy hand on his shoulder. The gnome froze at the touch. Without looking up at Victor, he swallowed hard.
“I... I kind of... drunkenly attempted to blow up the moon.”
There was a resounding burst of laughter throughout the room. Everyone at the table stared at Princeton, who was desperately trying to get swallowed whole by his chair, with their eyebrows raised.
“You tried to do what?” Madrina asked.
“Don’t make me repeat myself!”
“Do you even have a spell for that?” Flint asked.
“I guess,” he said with a shrug. “Considering I woke up the day after my thirty-third birthday here.”
Princeton tossed the apple over his shoulder. It was Hanna who happened to catch it.
Her face turned stony for a moment. The whole room went quiet. She glanced over at Victor before her gaze was fixed on the apple in her hand. She gave it a sort of half-smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.
“Heh... Well... I won’t tell the whole story this time, but I’ll say this much. There was a man bothering one of my students. He’s dead now. I’m here. Simple as that.”
Victor felt a shiver run up his spine. There was something about the way she coldly said “he’s dead now” that summoned both respect and fear toward Hanna. Seeing the apple go from Hanna to Madrina’s hand brought on a new emotion entirely.
The woman let out a throaty chuckle. Her lips around her pipe turned up in a smirk. “My turn, then.” She brought a hand to her chest with a grand gesture. ”I tried to alter the past and tried to kill someone with magic.”
Princeton sat back with his eyebrows raised. Flint let out a small “Whoa.” Everyone else just sat and gaped in awe.
“W-What did you try to change?” Hanna asked.
Madrina casually lit her pipe. “Y’know Rastia?”
She blew out a cloud of smoke. “All of that. I tried to stop all of that.”
There were awestruck whispers. Elijah’s face in particular brightened up the most. “So you tried to kill The Conqueror?” he asked.
“How far did you get?!”
She chuckled. “I was in the past for maybe a minute before I was caught by Fafnir. There’s probably some version of me running around that didn’t go through with the plan.”
Madrina held the apple out to Victor. He shook his head but Madrina insistently nudged it toward him. He nervously held the apple then set it down on the table.
“‘My name is Victor,’” Hanna told everyone else as he signed. A few eyebrows went up, along with a few chuckles. “‘I am here because I have a gem.’”
The crowd looked at his gem and nodded in agreement. “Must be one hell of a story with that,” they said.
Victor fidgeted. He wanted to tell them but...
There was a knock on the door. Old Forestar leaned against the doorframe. His face showed a hint of amusement as he walked over.
He nodded to Victor to continue. He looked to Victor and faced his body toward Hanna.
“Um...?” Hanna asked. Old Forestar signed something to her, then her face lit up with realization. “Oh! He says he’ll translate for us!”
Old Forestar smiled up to Victor and nodded at him. Victor began.
“‘I once lived with an elf,’” Hanna told the others. “‘An elf named Seon...’”