Friday, February 26, 2021

From the Internal Narrative of Callidus Igni

"What did you do?"

"What I had to..."

-

I startled into wakefulness. An unfamiliar tent stretched over me. It smelled wrong, felt wrong. Where were my pockets and gear? Why did I... oh. Right. Ody.

"Good, you're awake."

I turned my head slowly. Panna sat outside her tent on a log dragged in from somewhere. She was eating something that looked warm and smelled good. My stomach grumbled and a smile slipped out from a hidden side, showing on her face for a brief moment before being locked away again.

Tatters of the dream still echoed in my head.

-

"What did you do?"

"What I had to..."

-

"Igni?"

I stared at her for a long moment. She said something... something I missed, and it took me several moments to dredge it up.

"Do you want some food?"

I crawled out of the tent. There was a large jug of water just outside, and I poured some into my canteen, sloshed it around with the dregs and dumped it, before filling it once more and taking a long swallow. A narrow tube sewn down one of my sleeves held some powder, and I squeezed it into the canteen, shook the contents, and drank slowly.

Panna made a face. "Do you want some real food?"

I shook my head.

"Secondus needs to speak with you."

"No."

"It didn't sound optional. I think that's him."

A figure had detached itself from the main camp and was making its way towards us. A second spotted the movement and started to follow. It seemed they had a small argument, which the first one lost. Together they continued. As they drew closer, I recognized Secondus and Tertius.

-

"What did you do?"

"What I had to..."

-

"Panna, can you excuse us please?"

She glared at the three of us, nodded to Secondus, picked up the last bit of her meal and walked away. Over her shoulder she shouted, "Don't burn down my tent."

Tertius giggled, until Secondus gave him a stern look. "Sec, I know you have pressing matters to discuss, but before you scare anyone off, can I just say... Igni, you were right, we do have a problem, and it's bigger than just Ody. If there's anything left after Sec is done with you, I'd like your help dealing with it." He turned to Secondus, "Okay, that's it, I'm out, he's all yours." Tertius turned and started back towards camp.

-

"What did you do?"

"What I had to..."

-

"Are you listening to me?"

"What?"

"Dammit Callidus! You cannot flake out on me! We need you. --I'd hoped after your release last night, you were going to go out and meditate somewhere, or take off early, not... What was that about?"

"Check your books."

"You are so far outside... I think you got lost somewhere, Cal. We might have to retcon the season, did you know that?"

"You won't."

"Really? What expert opinion do you have that a dozen storytellers, Primus, me, and Quartus couldn't come up with? Go on, Cal, tell me. What did you do?"

-

"What did you do?"

"What did you do?"

"What did you do?"

"What did you do?"

"What did you do?"

"What did you do?"

"I did what I had to do."

-

"It's called a Reckoning."

"What?"

"It's in the canon. And when it's done, you'll have your game back. It has a built in reset."

Secondus froze. "When?"

"After the fire. Twenty-four hours."

"What's the cost?"

"One soul."

"You--" He paused as realization dawned. "It's Ody. You need me to give you Ody."

"I don't need you to give me anything. I will take him. He's already mine, he just doesn't know it yet."

"I-- Cal-- please tell me you're not actually going to kill him."

"I'll do what I have to do. If he cooperates, if he plays his part, then he can walk out of here tomorrow morning, banishment intact. If he doesn't... I can't make any promises."

"How long is the recovery period?"

"Why? Are you planning on letting him back in?"

"No, just... curious. If it ever happens again."

"Pray it never happens again."

"But how long?"

"Never. There's no coming back from this one. They get trapped inside the time loop so everyone else can get out. Delete one person to save them all."

"And if you fail, there's no peace for any of us."

"No, it's worse. Until the price is paid, nobody gets out. A retcon is a battering ram. The soul is a key. All you'll do is make the door harder to open."

"--Shit, Cal. That's a nasty piece of work. Who wrote that into the canon?"

"I think it was unintentionally grandfathered in when whoever wrote it borrowed rules from something else. It predates me. Probably your first storyteller."

"That would be Primus. And he didn't even know. --Wait, how much gets reset?"

"Everything. Even their memory. Only Ody and I remember it; for the rest, it's like these twenty-four hours were just a bad dream. For him, it's the rest of eternity and yesterday was the dream."

"Next time..."

"There won't be a next time."

"Next time you do a major working, any major working, just give me a heads up, please?"

"We'll see."

--
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