The death of Minister Melvien de Malecroix, head of the Order of Woltaris, has deeply saddened Famlienne. With her close ties to the Order, her sadness has led her to seek seclusion, both from her work as a reporter for the Adoulin Examiner, and from her friend, Skeptical Owl. Will the gift of a buckler from Owl manage to break her from her sorrow and embrace her work again? Will Malecroix's death continue to loom over both Famlienne and Adoulin, threatening to end any plans of pioneering expansion?
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“Hey, Owl! So where's that article of yours?”
Owl grimaced at his chief editor’s harsh tone.
“It’s...not done yet, sir.”
“Is this some kind of joke!? It’s way past the deadline already! Do you expect me to send the paper out with a huge empty space where your article’s supposed to be!?” the Chief Editor bellowed as he brandished a baton of rolled-up papers in his hand.
“I’ll get right on it, sir.”
With a sigh, Owl stepped out of the editorial office.
All right, now what?
There was a reason the article was delayed. It was because his partner, Famlienne, remained cooped up in her home and would not come out.
The catalyst? Melvin, leader of the Order of Woltaris, had perished in the forest.
Fam had held great admiration for Melvien de Malecroix, so the news understandably hit her hard. But deadlines wait for no one. Owl had tried to coax Fam out of her isolation, only to part in a fight.
Well, nothing to do but get on with the investigation.
There were a few things about Melvien’s reported death in the forest which bothered Owl, and he headed for the order’s manse to seek some answers.
As he walked down the street, Owl realized that the atmosphere of the city seemed different than usual. The occurrence of such an unforeseen tragedy had shrouded the entire city in a heavy gloom; the streets were all but empty, and the people spoke in hushed whispers as they exchanged rumors of what had happened.
“We should have listened to the founder king’s dying words.”
“We should never have set foot in the jungle!”
The atmosphere has taken a turn for the worse.
There had already been a portentous increase in omens of misfortune prior to the incident, such as landshivers and an alarming increase monster sightings. Owl, for his part, found himself increasingly in support of the colonization initiative since becoming a journalist. Above all, the conduct and attitudes of the people of the Middle Lands spurred his enthusiasm for pioneering and adventure.
“Oh? Are you not with your friend today?”
Owl turned at the voice from behind him to see a young Hume girl in a long robe. This girl—I know her. It was Yumela, the exorcist-in-training whose childhood friend had become cursed by the forest. It had been Owl and Fam who tracked down the source of the curse.
“Uh...yeah, right now she’s a little—well, you know...”
From just that utterance, Yumela must have been reminded that Famlienne had intimate ties to the Order of Woltaris. The young girl’s expression became filled with sadness.
“How are things with you?”
At Owl’s inquiry, Yumela related the news that her friend was headed toward recovery.
“I only wish I had had some of Famlienne’s bravery that day.”
“She’s a bit too big for her britches some days.”
Yumela laughed. “Please tell her how very grateful I am, won’t you?”
With a little bow of her head, Yumela took her leave.
So I guess it wasn’t all in vain.
Owl felt affirmed that his and Famlienne’s actions hadn’t been those of a couple of meddlesome busybodies after all.
“Still, something ought to be done about that recklessness of hers...”
Fam might be honing her skills as a knight, but she still had far to go compared to the pioneers. Owl never wanted to see Fam harmed by a monster of the forest.
Let’s get to it.
Owl decided to finally act on a plan he’d been contemplating for a long time now. But first, the investigation! Owl was a familiar acquaintance of the Order of Woltaris’s butler; no doubt he could answer some questions. After that, Owl decided, he’d try visiting Fam one more time.
Famlienne lay prone on her bed, besieged by guilt. It had been her own decision to become a journalist and yet, here she was, doing nothing but sitting and crying in her room day after day. As a journalist—nay, as a daughter of a knight with ties to the Order of Woltaris—such behavior was an embarrassment.
“Zegard must be furious with me.”
Worse, he might be disgusted. Or perhaps has even given up on me. Famlienne felt a small needle-prick of conscience. The more she acknowledged it, the more the needle poked, goading, reproaching, shaming.
There was a hesitant knock at the door.
“My lady, you have a guest.”
“I don’t want to see anyone.”
“I understand, my lady. But, uh, he wished me to give this to you.”
At the mild, humble voice, Fam finally raised her head. Beyond the doorway stood the maid, holding a large leather bag.
“Yes’m, from Owl.”
Fam stopped her breath. A present – from Zegard? Removing the gift from the bag, Famlienne stared in astonishment.
It was a small buckler, engraved with arcane glyptics, sporting an image of Altana—not something that could have been easily acquired in a mere day or two. Light and easy to hold, it was perfect for even a petite knight like Famlienne to wield.
What a wonderful gift. But this isn’t exactly the first thing to come to mind when thinking of how to cheer up a grieving girl.
What did he expect her to do with this? Wasn’t he the one always telling her to be more prudent, more careful, not to take risks?
But he’s right. Right now I’m a journalist above all else, with a duty to tell the people what is happening in Adoulin!
As she stood with buckler in hand, warmth filled Famlienne’s heart.
“Please ask him to wait! I shall get dressed immediately.”
With those energetic words, Famlienne found herself depressed no more.
For the Future of Adoulin
First, allow us to express our deepest condolences at the passing of Minister Melvien de Malecroix, leader of the Order of Woltaris, who lost his life in the wildlands of Ulbuka.
As one who held the very future of Adoulin in his hands, Minister Melvien knew full well the importance of colonization. Sadly, he will never see the future he envisioned become reality. Nevertheless, we remain convinced that the continued colonization of Ulbuka is of the utmost urgency to the welfare of our Sacred City of Adoulin. Now more than ever, we must take up Minister Melvien’s cause and redouble our pioneering efforts.
We cannot leave the jungle to the demons forever. The path we must cut leads through the forbidding darkness of those trees, through that undiscovered country rife with monsters and menace, to where our future waits for us on the other side. We here at the Examiner will also continue to bring you detailed reports of the colonization effort as it progresses. May our endeavors bring us even one step closer to the future that Minister Melvien wished for fair city.
In the next issue, we plan to bring you a special correspondent’s report from the front lines of the colonization effort.
Fam and Owl, special Eastern Ulbuka field reporters