The Saltwater Room - Chapter 3
Summary: For some reason, Anise wants Logan to check in on the Commander. Occurs after the end of Champions.
Preamble: Male Human Commander & Logan catch up and be friends, but not before I exposit for two chapters about my Commander’s home and routine a la how he deals with the unique challenges that come with being the prismatic dragon champion. Warnings (which only come up in the second chapter): one brief discussion of a painful procedure, and one brief discussion about how the Commander thinks about his depression.
Chapter 1 | Chapter 2
Logan almost doesn’t notice the Commander, when he makes his way to Grenth’s plaza at the appointed time. All he sees at first are normal non-dragon-champion citizens of Divinity’s Reach milling about. For a moment he considers walking over to the priest of Grenth and asking if he’s seen the Commander passing by, but just as the thought flashes through his mind, he spots a tuft of black hair by the back wall.
The Commander is leaning against the bricks, at the corner of some unfinished graffiti. They risk disappearing into the sparse crowd, by virtue of how regular they look at this moment. Their coat is of an older fashion, a bit too long in the sleeves, and is visibly worn at the edges. It’s almost warm enough to go without it, but the cloud-covered sky just barely allows it. Held in the crook of their arm is the handle of a picnic basket, and in their hands is a beaten-up journal, which they are currently writing in.
They look so normal at that moment. They could be just another person living in the city. Logan wonders how different the world would be, if they hadn’t gone to help defend Shaemoor that day. If Wolfgang hadn’t died so suddenly. Or if they had succeeded in maintaining the old man’s clock repair shop.
Well, they’re drawing actually, not writing, Logan realizes as he approaches. The end of the pencil moves in long straight lines. He plants his back on the wall beside them, tries not to be obvious in how he peeks to try and see the pages.
“Hey.” He greets.
Their eyebrows jump up as they jerk their head to look up at Logan, who had apparently succeeded in sneaking up on them. Then they relax, and push the bridge of their glasses up their nose with the end of their pencil. “Hey.”
“You said there was a spot on... the wall that you like?” He asks, trying and failing to not sound incredulous.
The corner of the Commander’s mouth quirks upwards. Logan isn’t entirely sure if he’s ever seen the man smirking before. If he has, it’s been a while.
“You’ll see. I think you’ll like it. We’ve gotta get there first, though. Hope you’re up for some fence jumping.” They replied, grinning.
It’s easy for Logan to forget, seeing how the Commander has matured, that they had once been just another displaced orphan child on the streets. Like the rest of them, they had been all too susceptible to the influence of the gangs of that decade.
Logan met the Commander when he’d first joined up with the Seraph. On that day, he had been sent to shadow one of their officers as she investigated an ongoing epidemic of thievery in Salma district. According to the reports, the thieves were all children and young teens. As he and the officer asked around the district, they were also told that these children had been seen meeting frequently in the alleys, and moving around in large groups. It seemed the Seraph had a new gang on their hands.
Once they had the information they needed, his officer brought Logan aside to explain to him their strategy. Typically, with a gang of adults, they could be more aggressive with their tactics. They would send in infiltrators, try to identify the leader, and perform arrests. But with children, it would be a lot more difficult.
“Children don’t have the same reason to group up and form gangs as adults do.” She had explained, as they stood in the shadow of a clock repair shop’s awning. “They’re probably desperate, neglected, and bored. But if we don’t nip this in the bud soon, the pool of kids that might join them will widen. It’ll become a cool new thing, or their friends will already have joined, and they’ll want to be a part of that. We need to determine what they’re missing, and if possible, secure funds to give that to them.”
“Is that wise?” Logan had responded. “It feels like giving in to pressure.”
“They’re just kids, recruit.” She had shot back. “We already know they’re stealing food. They’re probably hungry. And kids shouldn’t be hungry. Even troublemakers.”
Logan had nodded, looking down at his feet, feeling somewhat ashamed of having asked such a thing.
They had gone on to locate the alleyway where the children most frequently gathered, and, upon seeing a group of about seven kids present, approached the congregation outright. The kids had been scared, and then wary, even when the officer and Logan had reassured them that they weren’t there to ‘get anyone in trouble.’ They just wanted to ask a few questions about some goings-on around the district.
They had interviewed a few kids. (Well, the officer had interviewed. Logan had stood back and watched.) A big but ditsy kid named Dan, a quick-witted girl named Helen, a rude girl named Alice, and the runt of the group: Atiota.
“Addy’s small. We gotta protec’ ‘em.” Dan had said, in reference to Atiota. It wasn’t hard to agree; they were much too small for their age, underneath that bird’s nest of black hair, and had visible scrapes and bruises from roughhousing.
“Protect them from what?” The officer had asked.
“The mean kids.” Dan had replied. “Like Pete.”
The interviews had then turned to what the kids’ situation was like. Helen lived with her mom, but the rest of the group present all lived at the Queen’s Heart Orphanage. The officer nodded, and after that, the questioning was over.
“It’s underfunded. That orphanage.” She had explained, as they got out of earshot. “Too many kids coming in; not enough money to feed and clothe them.”
And that was that. The officer had then sought to secure more funding for the orphanage in question; but the bureaucracy of the ministry meant that relief for those kids was too little too late. By the time it came in, years later, the gang had solidified itself. Logan knows, from the Commander having told him once, that the only reason they had gotten out of the gang at all was due to the kind intervention of Wolfgang Smith, who would go on to adopt Atiota at the age of seventeen.
In the world of today, the younger man’s years spent as a delinquent show themselves, as they deftly scale fence after fence, leading Logan through a labyrinth up the inside of the southwestern wall of Divinity’s Reach.
Logan is panting by the time they reach the highest ridge, after thoroughly scaring several homeowners who he knows saw them climbing up the sides of their precariously-perched houses. As soon as the two men are on stable ground, Logan leans forward, hands on his knees, and tries to get his breath back.
The Commander steps out to the edge of the wall, places hands on their hips, and takes in a deep breath of the open air, letting it go slowly, as if savoring it. The sun has come out, and it’s starting to get warmer.
“What is it with you and climbing tall things, anyway?” Logan asks them, between pants.
“What, am I not allowed to have a hobby?” They answer, deftly dodging the question. “C’mon. We’re almost there.”
They end up leading Logan along the top of the wall to a place where a house reaches up over the top of the edge, creating a spot where the sun and the wind won't reach them. There are signs of people having been here already; chalk graffiti, paper food wrappers, and a forgotten hat.
The Commander throws out his coat as a makeshift picnic blanket, and the two of them sit next to each other as they dig into the sandwiches that the Commander made. It is a hunger motivated by exercise, and Logan finds he enjoys the taste all the more because of that.
“How did you even find a spot like this?” Logan asks, when he’s slowed down enough to speak.
“I was a really bored kid.” They answer. “And… I guess I needed to get away from it all. Feel distant from all the shit that was going wrong in my life.”
And Logan thinks they’ve also answered that same question from a few minutes ago. Why do you climb tall things? To get away from everything for a little while.
And if that’s true, then the Commander has just brought him into that same safe space. They have deemed Logan a non-problem; a part of the good things in life, that they seek out to avoid thinking about the bad.
To be trusted like that; Logan isn’t sure what to say. If he should say anything. But he is overcome with emotion, and wants to prove that the trust is warranted.
They don’t say much else for the remainder of their meal, but the silence is comfortable. When they have finished their sandwiches, and gotten up to make the climb down, the Commander speaks again.
“Thanks, Logan. For coming up here with me.”
They make it down to the ground quicker than it had taken them to climb to the top of the wall. Logan promises the Commander that he will do his best to stay in touch, the Commander promises the same, and they part ways.
It is not long until Anise materializes out of the shadows of an alleyway, as Logan passes. She is gone one moment, then falling into step with him the next.
“How are they?” She asks, conversationally. Logan takes a few moments to find the right adjective.
“....Coping.” He replies.
“Good.” She responds.
“You couldn’t just ask them yourself?”
“I wanted to… endorse your friendship. It’s important that they have people they know they can lean on.”
“And you worry that they don’t?”
“I know... more about the particulars of their mental health than you do. They have people, certainly. It’s important that they know they can rely on them. On you. If they are left to their devices… if they only see you around when the world is ending, they might not.”
“It’s nice to know that you care, countess.”
“...Yes. I suppose I do. Though, this is not without strategic value. As precious as Atiota is as a person, they are also a fulcrum. A rather important one. If they break--”
“Things go south.”
“Well. I’ll be sure to be aware of the weight of the world next time we’re eating sandwiches on top of a wall.”
“You do that.”
And in between one step and the next, she disappears.
1 note · View note