Ceres inscribed a string of numbers on a piece of parchment with her quill. The ink dried up as she was midway to finishing a line of calculations. Frowning slightly, she dipped the nib into the inkpot and continued, grimacing at the blotch that formed when she touched the pen to paper. She much preferred the brush over the quill. A far more elegant implement, the tapering lines and the smooth flow made for much better results than the blotchy chicken scratches she was managing with the quill.
Well, you made do with what you had. It wasn’t like she could go fetch her own, abandoning her post. Not with how hectic things were right now at the logistics office. Given how short-staffed they were after most of the regular officers had been shifted to combat assignments, hoping for an extra pair of hands to grind ink for her would be too much.
Her fingers flicked across the abacus, tallying and computing with every clack of the beads. She wasn’t combat capable yet, so, this was the only way she could help. Thankfully, her years under the Vulpines’ hadn’t been for naught as her arithmetic and management skills far outstripped those twice her age. That was why she had received a field promotion to –
“Provisional Quartermaster Ceres.”
That. Ceres completed her latest string of calculations and set down her quill, flexing her cramping hands. Turning around in her rotating chair, she faced the source of the voice. A flaxen haired Tier 1 mage, barely over sixteen. From the white stripe on his breast pocket, she could tell that he was from the Messenger department. Noticing the slight ruddiness of his cheek as he shot furtive glances at her, she couldn’t help but chuckle internally. A blushing man was the best boost for any woman’s ego after all. Now, if only she could get her Husband to act that way. Throwing those frivolous thoughts to the back of her mind, she turned serious as she addressed him.
“Yes? Cadet –”
“Devon, Ma’am. From the third squad of the messenger department.” He replied with a straight back and puffed chest, eager to impress.
“Then… Devon, what brings you to me?”
“Ah, yes…” he fumbled with the satchel slung over his shoulder, brought out two correspondences and handed them over top her. Taking them, she found that one was from the alchemy department and one from the Artillery department.
Reading them, she frowned slightly before turning to Devon. “Okay. Tell the alchemy department to cut down on the amount of healing potions they make and focus more on the mana restoratives. Tell the healers to pick up more slack for the reduced potion supply. They will get the first priority for the mana potions. We are racking up the body count for the ants and we can refine potions with the help of the materials we get from their carcasses but that does not mean that we have an unlimited supply of the auxiliary materials required for the potions. I would like to keep the consumption of those non-renewable resources to a minimum. Mana restoratives, as far as I’m aware require less of those?
“As for the Artillery department’s request… They are complaining about the side effects of the mana restoring potions. It is true that they are the ones who have to consume the most of the potions and therefore the ones the most affected. We need them in top shape for the defence… but higher quality mana potions will burn more resources… uhhh… Alright, have a portion of the alchemists branch out to make the potions specially for the Artillery department at a higher standard than the rest. Ask the other departments to be sparing with the potions. Have them meditate whenever possible to reduce consumption and restore mana naturally.”
She stopped her instructions and asked the boy who had been furiously jotting them down in shorthand. “Got all that?”
He wrote some more then stopped. “Yes, Ma’am.”
“Good.” She said with a smile that made him blush again and sent him on his way. Once the boy was gone, she rubbed the top of her left foot on the back of her right calf. Her mark was itching again. She gazed out of the window of the office at the top of the wall, a part of which was lit up by a fiery red glow. Husband’s Wall of Aggravation. He was drawing upon their bond.
Closing her eyes, she concentrated on her bond. She could fuzzily feel his presence on the other side. Reaching up, she touched her chest. She felt nothing. There was a void where her heart had been, the mana constructs that replaced her heart and lungs unable to replicate the sensations of the real organs. That would come with time, as her wounds healed. But she preferred the void, preferred it over the twinges of pain that her Geas would inflict every time her thoughts crossed the line set by her captors. Yet, she felt a bit lost at her inability to have her heart race at the thought of her Husband. For it was his form that filled the hollow of her chest.
Smiling, she returned to her task. For a while, the only sounds in the room were the clacking of her abacus and the scratch of her quill against parchment. In the background, the war raged on.
Suddenly, the peace was broken as the door to her office was shoved open roughly and three men burst in. Startled, she looked up to see that they were faces she recognized; highly ranked officers of the army. The one in the lead was the second-in-command of the Messenger corps: Aeryn Corvus, a rare Pluma with the bloodline of ravens in his veins. His jet-black wings covered his back like a magnificent feathered cape and his equally dark hair was tied back, exposing his broad forehead. His beak-like nose and sharp obsidian eyes gave him an imposing look. The two by his side were Marshals from the same department. All three of their gazes upon her were unfriendly.
Innumerable thoughts welled up within Ceres’ mind as she speculated their purpose in coming. Assassination to abduction, many motives flashed past her mind, but she had neglected two important facts. First, all three were from the messenger department and second, Aeryn Corvus, both due to his bloodline and his penchant for delivering bad news was superstitiously titled: The Harbinger of Doom.
His rasping voice rang out in the room. “Ceres Felidae nee Vulpine, for the suspicion of colluding with the Traitor; Hotaru Vulpine, you are hereby relieved of your duties and put under arrest. Please follow us without resistance.”
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