Chapter 1: A Cup of Fumes

“You picked an interesting time to join, not sure what to make of that…” As if the recent chaos and destruction associated with Eesians could in any way be attractive for her – if so, what kind of a sick person is she, anyway? “The news is the most trouble you saw – and we don’t get that kind of shit over here.”

What I had seen on the news about the worms – the rabid wolf monster, 34 villagers killed – initially, made me doubtful about his offer to join… Anyone connected to the Temples, the worms, the marbles – Eesians, the Rozenbaers – I even thought about leaving Reso, as through Rozenbaers – Reso was looking to join the Eesian family, too…

The situation was even scarier around the Black Sea – all walled off from the rest of the world now – millions of people, having lost their home to a strange outbreak – now roamed around Evropa, hunting for worms, trying to take down temples, and getting into fights with other EESO-type guilds.

On the other hand, there was nothing for her to do at RESO after Andre died. The department Andre had been leading got canceled and with the guild unwilling to give to her a promotion, but also unwilling to extend to her an invitation which Vino had told them to extend…

“I joined out of spite.”

Then she was overwhelmed by the quick move from the biggest, dirtiest, busiest city in the region – from Reval – to Oeselia – where they have managed to preserve very old nature, so many pine trees – hundreds of years old. The fresh air, the small houses – and people all around who seem to know each other.

That move made her feel as naked as a newborn – because she was still living with the pace of the city, and they, here, all chill. As uncomfortable as their relative slowness may feel to me, I may be experiencing the most beautiful autumn of my life.

“What were you doing in Reval?” For a moment, the young man’s attention shifts from Eysin to the almost empty glass that he’s holding. It’s not releasing any fumes anymore, so he drinks up the liquid in the bottom – and his face immediately expresses regret. It’s bitter – he had expected it to taste somewhat as pleasantly as it had smelled.

“I was in Reso Guild, decoding.” Based on what she saw in his face, Eysin did not dare to drink up the bottom of the glass and added hers to the large collection of empty glasses on the table before them.

“Decoding, so, you knew Andre… He got you in here?”

“In a way… I met Vinu at his funeral, had a chance to talk to him later that evening and he actually asked me if I wanted to transfer over. I packed my stuff and moved the day after…”

“Like it here?”

“Love it. My skin is healing. The air… And the tech is interesting, too.”

“What guild you in? Oh, hold that one, you liked the red?” Raynar got up and stepped up to the waiter carrying around a new round of fume glasses.

The red one – watermelon – a delicious smell, she smells it when he hands it over to her, and answers his question, “Temple.”

“Aw, Leon…” Raynar is referring to the guild master.

“Don’t like him?”

“You do?”

No comment. Our conversationalists appear to be at a sort of a house-party, Eysin’s bunkmate has brought her to this place, and she sat down and he just started talking to her. Raynar, a young, strong man – there’s silver scarring in his eyes – something Eysin kept seeing around the island – knowing they must be from the Gladiator Guild – the actual guards, warriors – the security that EESO guild was really known for.

Raynar had seen her act a little awkward as her roommate – another woman he already knew – Denea – had left her alone, so, he thought he’ll get to know her a little, make her stay a little more enjoyable – maybe she’ll come back, maybe she’s someone interesting.

“What do people do at Temple Guild anyway?”

“The shortest way to say it – trying to study how they build.” The temples consisted of self-extracting blocks – the guild was studying how it’s possible, and why some temples are different, and why and how some blocks are special. Unique blueprints exist – and one of the largest temples in the known world – the one in Paris, holds hundreds of them. “We use these,” she raises her left hand and a silver-white glove appears on it – a liquid material coming out from a few pores of her skin, turning into a handy machine. “We take up a block… Or a marble with a blueprint on it, and sit with it…”

“You go in and you explore…”

“That’s right.” What the Eesian scribes do – they sit with it – pick up the piece or touch it, close their eyes, and see what’s inside. Streaming as if a visual dream, thanks to an extra nervous system implemented within. “Which is pretty cool, but…” Eysin frowns now, “it’s slow and kinda boring after the first few times. I found it a little too manual. So – I actually figured out how to get the blocks done way faster – but Leon told me to scrap it… Which as turned me of completely off… I mean… If I can’t bring something new to the table, what’s the point…”

Eysin was actually quite disappointed – ever since she had joined, she had gotten ideas for experiments she wanted to try – see if she can capture a drone from the quarantine swarms by sending it some orders, hasten the block creation or copies, study more of the pinks and the blues – but soon she realized that no matter what she proposed, Leon blocked her – not necessarily because they projects would have been expensive – but he simply didn’t seem to like her going off on her own tangents. He was very protective of his guild.

“Thought to try any other guild?”

“I don’t know what else there is.”

“Come to Security. We welcome new ideas in Security…”

Eysin snorts a laugh. “Do you see the spaghetti that my arms are?”

“You’ll train, you’ll get over it.”

“I’ve never trained. Last in class. No knack for it, sir.” She takes a deep whiff of the watermelon smell, and now thinks she may want something sourer, instead.

“I wouldn’t worry about that. No one would expect you to become a combatant. You do know that Denea comes with us half-time, right?”

“Maybe. But she’s physically strong, too.”

“She wasn’t like that at the start. We do need more ideas – and having more people like you around… Besides, the monthly matches are fun as fuck.”

Eysin had now seen one of the matches at the large arena attached to the local temple. Going back to it, for a moment, she tried to place herself in it – and what she had seen – how they move, how they throw and take punches – she shook her shoulders and uttered, “maybe not.”

* * *

But it took only for one more small disagreement with Leon to make Eysin change her guild out of spite, once again. A few days after that conversation she asked about it from Denea – and found out more about the transfer. “Yes, you can transfer, but you have to do it now because the new cycle is about to start.”

Eysin went to Leon the day after, to inform him of this decision.

Leon had a conflicting aura about him – half the girls in the guild saw nothing but genius, and the other half often had to bite their tongue, because they had pointed out something surprisingly hurtful to him before – and the consequences to that were never graceful. A strange sort of an anti-charm. To Eysin – that anticharm felt concernedly familiar. Even the way he spoke, his accent – in some strange way sounded much like a man she had had to deal with in the past.

But because Eysin had respect for Vinu Laos – and Vinu Laos had approved of this guy for some reason – there has to be something good about him, too, right?

And when Eysin told Leon of her plans, he burst into a loud, forced, and ridiculing laughter, signs the release document, and says, “alright, see you back here in a month.”

“Why’d I come back here?”

“You’ll drop out. Look at you! You think you come from Reval or whatever place and know how life works? Do you understand what loyalty means? Will you keep hopping around places as soon as you feel things get a little too difficult for you? Well, the security guild won’t welcome you back once you leave it, don’t forget that – but when you need to come back, remember that I will let you back in.”

“No… I mean… What makes you think I’d come back here…”

He snorts another laugh, puts away the tablet, and coughs, “good luck with your experiment.”

As soon as she stepped out from those rooms, a heavy burden as if had lifted from her, and on her walk towards the Terratorium – where older Security members were currently having a match, and she looked down on it, and saw figures in silver-white suits running around silver-white blocks, shouting, screaming and knocking each other out – another weight snuck in. She receives a message that her application to join has been approved, and the training starts in a week.

And if you want to know how Eysin does at the gladiator guild – you’re going to have to keep reading.

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