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"Drop that pen right now Melfina!" yells Cadence as she enters the shop. "What are you doing!?"
Melfina rolls her eyes at the bard. "Don't tell me you came by just to yell at me again."
"Of course. I had another delivery for Lord Luna, so I thought I'd come by to make sure you weren't still here wasting this opportunity of yours!" she says as she grabs a seat right in front of her friend. "After all that you went through, you need to celebrate! Not just grind through each day as if nothing huge has happened!"
"Just because I have a lot of money now doesn't mean it can magically upkeep the shop," Melfina says as she finishes another recall scroll.
"That's exactly what it means! Go hire and assistant then go on vacation! Go travel the world! Relax by some lake shore! Buy some new dresses! Do something!
"I don't really do that."
"Go visit libraries then. See some museums. Go buy some of those rare books you're always looking for! How can you not go out and do that?"
Footsteps interrupt their conversation. Stark walks in with sword on hip, head held high, and a coy smile graces the bard's lips.
"Oh hello there, guard captain. Nice to see you again," says Cadence as she tosses her long auburn hair over her shoulder.
"You as well, Cadence," nods the paladin. "If you don't mind, I saw you walk in here, and I came to ask about outside news."
"Why not at all. We were just having girl talk," she says as she flashes a smile. "It can wait." She taps her finger on her lower lip. "Hmm... let's see... latest news... well. The plague has spread to Vesper, and the city's now under quarantine, small crime is on the rise pretty much everywhere, and of course everyone in Luna can't stop talking about the Reunification."
"Reunification?" inquires the scribe.
"The latest proclamation by the Archduke," Stark tells Melfina, then looks back towards Cadence. "What is it exactly? The town criers were just starting to proclaim the message as I left the city. I have yet to return."
"You guys don't know!" Cadence exclaims as she looks back and forth between the two. "The Reunification! Peace between Luna and Umbra!" Stark's face goes blank. "A verbal agreement has already been made as a temporary truce until next year. Official papers'll be signed at that time, which place steps to eventually unite the land as one again. Plans for a giant celebration have been constantly worked on for the past month! How can you not know!"
"Peace," Stark curses. "Why would the Archduke agree to peace with the necromancers."
"Besides no more war with a powerful neighbor? Because. Peace will increase trade. Luna has so much more to offer Umbra in terms of trade goods than Umbra has for Luna. The net flow of gold will flow out of Umbra and into Luna. And Luna's scholars are granted access to the city and whatever knowledge that's been kept secret from Luna all these years."
"Wait- What?" Melfina quickly asks as her face lights up.
"Part of the agreement is to lift all the heavy border restrictions on both sides. Even paladins are now allowed to enter their city."
"And necromancers ours?" Stark asks grimly.
Umbra, thinks the scribe.
The paladin shakes his head and vents. "We need more guards. No wonder crime has been rising. Their corruption is already spreading. In the City! They've been walking the streets!" He looks at Cadence. "How is the Order taking it?"
Umbra, she thinks again, oblivious to Stark's tirade, and speaks over the paladin. "Why hasn't Lord Luna told me! Something like this will affect sales! No wonder I've been selling out of recalls unusually fast!"
"He did. It was in the letter I delivered to you last month."
"Oh." That "I didn't open it," she says a little shamefully.
"Mel. Why don't you go to Umbra? See what you can find? There's probably something that'll interest you there."
"No!" Stark says before she can even consider it.
"Why not?" asks Melfina.
"It's Umbra. You won't be safe there. The city is lawless and corrupt. No city guard. Just swordsmen who rent out their services to any who can pay their outrageous prices. To protect against kidnappings in broad daylight. Not for ransom, but for experimentation by the necromancers. Or you could simply be knocked out, be stripped of money, supplies, clothes, everything, while others do what they will with your unconscious body."
"Oh come on, it's not that bad." Cadence responds. "I've been there since the proclamation. Everyone seems to just keep to themselves and mind their own business. A little quiet, especially compared to Luna, but I never felt as if I was in danger."
"That's 'cause you won't. Not until it's too late."
She looks at him levelly. "Have you ever been there. Have you been anywhere?" she says, irritation in her voice. "Don't tell me what's safe and what's not. Traveling is what I do. Villages, towns, and all the major cities, while this is as far as you've ever been beyond the Luna's walls! Why don't you go wander around West Luna some more and pretend you're seeing the world."
Anger flashes on Stark's face, but he quickly suppresses it. "I meant no offense. You are right however. I should return to my duties." Turning to Melfina he has to add, "It's a dangerous place. Anywhere else. Not there." He leaves.
Cadence shakes her head and as she watches him leave, a smile slowly blooms on her face. "Even in defeat he still has that confidant walk of his that I love to watch." Melfina stares wide-eyed at her friend. "Oh don't tell me you haven't noticed," she grins. "But anyway... you also shouldn't listen to him. He doesn't know what he's talking about. You know you want to. Do it."
"It couldn't hurt to take a look," she says slowly. "I guess I do have money to spend..." She smiles. "Umbra! It's finally open!" No more banned books. And no more stupid laws barring the writing of new ones. "I don't think anyone really knows what it's like over there." After a pause she whispers. "I could write a book. The first book on Umbra to be written in generations. Not about how to fight Umbra, or the evils of Umbra, but actually about Umbra!"
Cadence smiles at how enlivened her friend is.
"I like it. I know people will want to read that. Too many people are like your guard captain, and just don't know what they're takling about. Even if they do want to know. And they'll be happy to spend those golds on whoever'll go there to find out what the place is all about for them."
"I'll finally be published! I've gotten stuck on my other books for one reason or another. But this... this will be so easy to write. I just need to do the proper research, and it'll probably write itself!"
Cadence says her good-bye, knowing her friend doesn't hear a word, as she's already lost in thought scribbling away in her notebook.
* * *
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