Two snippets from Charlize's perspective.
Blowing Off Steam
or: Why Is It Always A Swamp?
My boots are ruined, not that that's a rare thing these days. We've been sloshing through stagnant, waist-deep water for the last hour, since we lost the boat. Claaus keeps offering to carry me, like I'd submit myself to that indignity. We're enough of a spectacle as it is, thank you very much. At least Nim's having fun in that ghillie suit he took off one of the Lizardfolk, thrashing about "subtly".
Namia's talking to me, asking if I'm all right or something. I guess I've been acting weird since we found the big obelisk. I felt drawn to it somehow, and it's not like that's the only weird thing going on.
I mutter an "I'm fine, really" to Namia and pull my glove down a little to inspect my arm, suppressing a grimace. I think it's spread even more; the shimmering silver patches reach almost halfway to my elbow now. I hate to think how my hands look.
"Hey! There's the city!" Nim's excited yell feels impossibly loud in this oppressive place. It's not even a city. Barely even a town. Really it's just an outpost; the only inhabitants are the lackeys sent here to search the swamp for rare spell components in flat-bottomed skiffs, the crews of said boats, and the guards the crewmen hire. And now us, apparently.
There's a sort of dock reaching out over the water--the whole place is basically a huge raft. As we pull ourselves onto dry "land" I see a welcoming committee approaching, weapons drawn. I blow a Prestidigitation to make myself look a little more presentable and take a step forward.
"I am in search of several rare components. My companions and I have had a miserable journey here, as you can see. Kindly direct us to a place where we may eat and clean up, so that we may go out while there is still light." There's a beat. "Now, if you please."
"My Lady..." begins the ugliest of the five, "I do not wish to insult y-thee, but by what name dost thou... goest? There be criminals about, and we've orders, for Fordin here recognized thour..." He trails off, thank heavens.
"You know who I am, then?" I address this to Fordin, who nods. "You know what I am capable of?" He nods again, gulps. Good. I take another step forward; glace to see that no one's watching this encounter--convenient. "Then let me by, just like any other Mage; I won't be long."
I can see the protest coming. The simpering, sniveling whine of underlings with no instinct for self-preservation. "M-My Lady, I must most respectfully d--"
"You misunderstand. You cannot keep me out." My hands go through the simple motions, and I hiss a few short syllables as I bring my palms up. The fire streams forth; the guards crumple without a word; without a scream. "And your grammar is awful."
Enough is Enough
or: Why Are We Still Here?
I hated this swamp last time we had to come here, and it's so much worse now. And it's going to keep getting worse until Claaus is recognized as the true Aegis, and we go back and purge the Mithil of its corrupted power core. You'd think trolls, hags, and a freaking dragon would have been enough. Yeah, a dragon, like in storybooks. Except real, and huge, and completely immune to every spell I know as far as I could tell. I must admit, Claaus and Filbert did a great job taking it down.
At least the ride back to town has been uneventful, wyvern attack notwithstanding. Most of Aubretia's crew is still alive, which is honestly shocking. There's one guy that fell in the water just for a second, and Filbert says he might make it--I guess the corruption might not be as deadly as people think. Maybe it's already a little better after all.
We're pulling into port, and something's wrong. The Mayor is here, with the heads of all three houses and what must be every guard in the whole place. While we were out, Claaus's cover as "Falca McDougal" had obviously been blown somehow, and the rest of us along with it as usual. Claaus's earnestness is endearing, but I do wish he'd keep his mouth shut in public.
"Charlize Stamaya, I am placing you and your associates under arrest for high treason! Your executions will take place immediately. Guards, seize them!" The man's got nerve, that's for sure.
As the guards make to start boarding us, I stand up with all the haughtiness I can muster, which is an awful lot. I snap my fingers and feel the comforting hum that means I can't miss. So when I point at the Mayor and a thin green line sparks toward him, he turns to dust right there in the street.
"This town is no longer fit to sustain human life," I declare into the shocked silence. "As your new leader, I am ordering a complete evacuation to the grasslands outside the forest, where Aubretia will assume the role of Mayor. You will settle the land at least ten miles from this forest; you will not drink any water from this region; you will not eat any more humans or other sentient beings. You nobles will not attempt to wield any sort of political power, or you will join Nathaniel here blowing in the wind. There are enough boats for everyone. We leave in one hour."