Chapter (I): Fleeing the Nest (Part 10) (FINAL)

An awkward silence fell over the pair after Naz left. Varlaine took a seat on the wooden floor, wishing for a window to allow more light in before it all faded away, and Eryn milled about and scarfed down a small slab of the meat they’d found before taking two handfuls of it out to Cassius. Left alone, Varlaine briefly considered picking up one of the books Naz had retrieved; while he had no idea what they contained, it’d been too long since he’d had the peace to sit and read. Before he could muster up the nerve to dive into the mercenary’s belongings, Eryn was blocking the doorway, one hand on her hip and the other leaning against the wooden frame.

“I sent Cassius out to hunt himself some food,” She said, “But I’m worried. What if Naz stabs us in the back? We’ll be defenseless without him.”

Varlaine frowned, drawing his knees up to his chest and wrapping his arms around them. The fine, smooth cloth tore easier than Eryn’s uniform, and the fraying threads gave him something to focus his eyes on while she talked. “I don’t think she’s going to do that. She seems like she wants to help us.”

Eryn’s lips pursed in annoyance. He could see it in her face, as he’d seen it many times in the week they had travelled together. “Prince, I know you’re used to being able to trust other people to handle your problems, but it isn’t like that out here.” She warned. Walking lightly, she approached him and sat down at his side. After a moment of hesitation, she lifted one arm to drape it over his shoulders in a loose hug. “I just don’t see any reason for her to be on our side. What’s she get out of it?”

Varlaine tensed at the embrace, but eventually he leaned in against Eryn. While he wanted to believe that Naz was acting on good intention, he had begun to understand quickly that the world didn’t turn for altruism. “I guess… she gets company on her way south?” He offered lamely. The teenaged rider bowed her head in a nod, and he could tell by the sigh she subdued that it was more to herself than him. Laine’s head dipped in dismay.

“Maybe. Just… be careful with her, alright? I don’t trust her. Mercenaries aren’t the loyal type.” Eryn cautioned, giving him a squeeze and then rising to her feet. “I’m going to go and look around for something we can use for warmth, and light. I bet these guys had some torches laying around, or at least some firewood.”

She stood for a moment, watching him, before he realized that she was asking if he’d like to help. “Oh! I’ll come with you.” He offered, and the rider smiled widely. When she offered him a hand, he took it and accepted the help to his feet. The two went back outside together, and when she led the way, he felt a warmth settle in his chest. Now there, he thought to himself, is what a good friend looks like.

* * *

By the time Naz returned, two wooden buckets of water in hand, the pair had found a sizeable pile of firewood stacked behind the loothouse. Eryn had even found another treat in a pit nearby: a pair of resin-coated torches, only half used up. Varlaine had scrounged up a heap of blankets that were at least dry and clean enough to sleep in hidden inside a small improvised shed, which held a few tools but little of use. Leaving the water with the pair, ‘Laine watched Naz disappear into the shack for a moment to get her own helping of food, and looked to Eryn with a smile. It was half-returned, while the pair sat down at the firepit and stacked some of the wood they’d gained in the way Eryn had learned in training. Then the rider laid out some tinder and took up the flint the previous keepers of the camp had used, striking it on stone. She and Varlaine both cheered when the sparks took.

Naz emerged with her bag packed back up and over her shoulders, an apple in one hand, and a chunk of the salted pork in the other. ‘Laine couldn’t help but smile in pride when appreciation lit the older woman’s face, even if it was dim. While she was getting her things, the two had soaked up the first bucket of water she’d brought like sponges, and his smile evaporated into a bit of embarrassment when Naz looked at the empty bucket and then at the wet stains in the front of his robe.

“Feel better?” She asked him, and he nodded. Even Eryn seemed to have lightened up a little, with food in her stomach and some water to quench her throat, and with Naz having returned bearing even more relief. The three found themselves sitting comfortably in a ring around the fire, resting; Varlaine took note of their new caretaker’s behavior silently, watching as she drank heavily but slowly from the remaining water, as she sat and retrieved not just one of the books from her bag, but a hardened glass bottle of ink and a feather pen.

As the moon was just beginning its ascent over them, Cassius returned with a bloody beak and a pleased chirp. He landed near the group, and Eryn excused herself from the fire to check on him, and then to disappear into the dark storehouse for an apple to reward him with. That left Varlaine alone with Naz, so he tried to strike up a conversation, to get to know her better.

“You write?” He asked, punctuating his question with a yawn. She looked up from the fire, and he nodded towards the book sitting near her lap.

“Oh. Yes, I do. Logs of my travels,” She explained simply. It seemed like that was all she had to say on the matter, so he tried to press the matter further.

“All of them? You seem like you’ve seen a lot more than three books’ worth.”

Naz snorted at his comment and shook her head. “No, young Prince. Only the times that make for a good story or song.” Perhaps noting that he was a bit perplexed by her answer, she cocked her head. “Why do you ask?”

“I enjoy reading. Maybe you could let me peruse them someday?”

Naz looked off to the sky, watching the clouds pass over the moon—Varlaine’s eyes followed hers, and they sat together for a moment before the silence was interrupted by Eryn tripping over a rock in the dark and swearing angrily. “Maybe someday.” She agreed, and that made him smile.

When Eryn was finished with Cassius, she returned to the pair while rubbing at her eyes. She sat with them, and they all enjoyed the peace for a while longer, until Varlaine found himself nodding off by the warmth of the fire. When he did, Eryn woke him with a shake, and Naz insisted that she take the first watch of the night. The younger pair were too tired to complain, so they took some of the blankets Varlaine had found into the loothouse to get some cover from the wind and firelight.

Once inside, with the door shut, everything was black. Blindly, the pair fumbled to lay out their blankets together, and crawl into them. Varlaine had the foresight to bring an extra to bundle up for a pillow, and while the fabric was somewhat scratchy and not the most pleasant to lay on or under, it was nicer than nothing. He closed his eyes for the night while frowning and wishing they’d taken a blanket back to Naz before disappearing inside, but before long, that faded to a warm sleep on a full stomach and with sheltering walls around him.


((Author’s Note: And that’s it for the first chapter! I hope the story is enjoyable so far. Please let me know in the form of comments and messages what you think. Updates should continue on Saturdays from here on out, and I’ll try to work in a few extras when I can. Have a happy new year!))

(Part 1 of chapter 2 is up, and can be found here!)


Chapter (I): Fleeing the Nest (Part 9)

(No breaks, not even for Christmas! I hope all of my readers have a warm, happy holiday!)

Feeling out of place, Varlaine pulled himself to one side of the room and away from the open door. He cast glances to it, feeling perturbed by the claustrophobic feeling of the loothouse they were in but even moreso at having an open door to his back. Eryn followed, jaw set in a firm frown while Naz removed the contents of the bag she was searching through and placed them out on the wooden floor: Next to the gauntlets, the older woman placed first one pair of hinged metal plates, and then another. Following that, an ornate wooden jewelry box, weathered and the size of a small loaf of bread, and then a trio of leatherbound books, before pulling out the biggest item, a large and polished silver breastplate. The bag deflated after it was removed, and Naz seemed satisfied enough to look up at the pair of them.

“Is that what we came for? You to get your stuff back?” Eryn complained. She had her arms crossed close to her chest, and Varlaine could almost feel the palpable tension in the air around her. The rider seemed to be demanding a response from Naz, but the mercenary was quiet for a moment, looking over her things and taking stock. “Hey, are you listening to me?”

The latter comment’s bite made Varlaine cringe, even if it was directed away from him. Naz didn’t look too impressed, either, but she stayed on her knees and began to remove the borrowed gear she’d worn in. Careful, practiced fingers undid her gauntlets’ cinches and placed them aside with as much speed and comfort as Varlaine would have with buttoning up an undercoat.

Once she’d shed the metal gloves, she reached for the greaves that adorned her feet and pulled the leather ties that held them tight, loosening them up. The dented, scratched guards were on the floor before she finally elected to respond to Eryn’s question. “No. We’re going to take what we can use from here. Then we’re going to return to the town these goods came from.” She spoke slowly, clearly. Her throat worked as she thought over her next phrase, giving Eryn time to suck in a breath and respond, but Naz cut her off by standing up to start undoing her stolen, just-oversized chestpiece.

“Then we’re going to tell them how to get to their belongings. We will ask for what they can spare, and then we will be on our way south.” A solid plan, at least from what Varlaine could expect. He was surprised the woman had managed a plan at all, considering how briefly they’d been together and how willingly Naz had agreed to go traveling with a pair of youths.

“That sounds agreeable.” He nodded, which silenced Eryn’s concerns. The light spilling in from the open doorway was beginning to take on a creamy orange hue, which may have also contributed to a little more willingness to compromise on all parts; it would be dark soon, and the lot of them would be needing to find refuge and rest. It had been a long day, and Varlaine’s muscles ached for a warm bed; he could not imagine how Naz must be feeling, after the combat she’d faced. “Do you plan to rest here?”

“I think that would be best. It’ll be dark, but shelter is shelter.” A shrug from Naz, who was armorless in the dusk light, dressed only in plainclothes beneath: simple, stained brown linens, something that likely came from up north, closer to the border of Lor’tsun. Varlaine knew that they wore less cotton and silk up there from the few times he’d sat in with his father on meetings with ambassadors.

“What about food?” Eryn questioned. “The prince and I are starving.”

“Those barrels have preserved meat and fruits. We passed a stream while we were coming this way; I will fetch water.” Naz picked up the blade from the ground, her sword, and set about strapping it in at her waist. Her armor left on the floor, she paused for a moment and looked over the pair of them. “Eat up. We won’t be able to carry much when we leave and what we have on the road will be less than fulfilling.” And without a word of warning, she was moving to exit the shack; her legs carried her out into the open, starting to search for a bucket to carry water with. Varlaine watched her go with a little bit of fear in his chest, while Eryn crossed the room to search through the barrels. She produced a large, cooked and salted pork loin, grimacing as she held it up.

“Here, dinner.” She told Varlaine. He bowed his head in appreciation and followed after her to take it, and the meat was slick and grainy with salt in his hands. It smelled a little too old, but also better than anything Cassius had managed to hunt and Eryn had managed to scorch in their scant campfires since they’d left, and so he held his breath and took a bite out of the meat. The pork was slimy, and unpleasant to chew, but his jaw worked on it until it was processed enough to swallow down. Then, with a frown, Varlaine took another bite.

(Part 10 is up, and can be found here! It’s the final part of this chapter. Thanks for reading this far!)

Chapter (I): Fleeing the Nest (Part 8)

Varlaine kept his head bowed as they passed the spired heads, wanting nothing more than to be away from them. As they grew closer, a stench sent a shudder through him, the smell something he’d read about in books but never had the displeasure of experiencing: rotten meat.

“That one isn’t… human.” Eryn acknowledged, gesturing with her thumb to one of the pikes. Her voice had softened considerably, and Varlaine wondered if she was taking the situation more seriously now. It was strange to him, at least, that he was more unsettled now than he was when he’d seen those highwaymen die.

“Alra. Looks like some kind of deer.” Naz responded. She did not point out that Eryn was not obeying the direction the mercenary had issued. Briefly, Varlaine flicked a look as well; when he saw the carrion birds perched on the sun-bleached antlers, pecking away at the mostly white skull, he tore his gaze away. Not all of what they were getting their beaks into was bone. The thought disgusted him.

“I thought there were not very many Alra around. I have never… met one.” ‘Laine deliberated over his wording for a moment. Naz snorted behind him as the horse carried them forward according to her pulls; just off the main road, there looked to be an empty encampment, a few scattered tents and firepits, and behind them was a wooden shack.

“You wouldn’t. Your king was not fond of them.” She answered. Their presence didn’t seem to be drawing any attention, but she placed the reins in his hands anyways, to put a hand on the pommel of the blade she bore at her hip. “There are many, though, especially far to the west. I’ve never been, but I hear they are setting up a country of their own. City-states. Not unlike Lor’tsun.”

The prince let that all process a moment. His platinum brows creased in disdain for a moment; what had she meant with her comment about his father? Lor’tsun, the nation to the north of his home, was well-known for its unstable governance, with Lords and Ladies claiming dominions and brushing shoulders with one another in boundary skirmishes. If Alra were setting up a nation, why hadn’t he heard much about it in the castle?

Another awkward silence fell on the group. It took ‘Laine a moment to realize the expectation was on him to further the conversation, and when he did, he smiled awkwardly. “Is that where you’re from? Lor’tsun?”

Naz watched the area around them for a while as she guided with a hand towards the rickety base they were coming up on, before nodding her head slowly—yes.  Then she was putting a hand on his back, which gave him a jump. “Stop. Both of you.” When that made Eryn cast her a frustrated glance, she frowned right back. “Traps on the ground.”

Varlaine’s eyes widened and he pulled on the reins, issuing a ‘whoah’ command. His horse, tired from the journey and dusty, in dire need of a brushing, slowed to a halt, while Cassius also followed Eryn’s direction and stood still. With a kick, Naz was no longer at his back, and instead had metal boots on solid ground. She drew her sword, and carefully, carefully poked it into the underbrush.


The grinding sound of metal was pain in the young prince’s ears as a serrated, awful metal trap sprang closed around the tip of the blade. It was made of some dark iron, easy to miss in the longer and untamed grass of the wild, which left his chest tight; if his horse had stepped on that by mistake, it wouldn’t be carrying anyone anywhere.

“Keep your eyes open. Follow me.” Naz’ looks were trained on the ground, following the lines of grass with her eyes as she moved. Slow, sweeping scans of the grass, then another hand up and another jab of her borrowed sword. Snap. Another trap triggered, and she waved for them to follow.

* * *

When they made it to the doorway of the cramped building, it was after a thorough clearing of all the traps. Eryn had broken a handful of them with her axe, while Naz tripped the overwhelming majority, finding and activating them with practiced efficiency. She was fast enough that she didn’t need to spend as long looking as the others. It was almost like she already knew where some were, which ‘Laine was positive filled Eryn with distrust.

Once they were at the door, Naz took point. ‘Laine stood behind her, and Eryn behind him, all preparing to enter the somewhat sizeable single-room building in their own way. Eventually, Naz flung it open and brandished her weapon, preparing to strike at the first thing she saw, while Varlaine found himself hiding behind her and looking to Eryn, who was still watching their rear.

When the door swung wide, it showed off the room behind. It was unoccupied, and did not appear to be much of a home. In the corner, a cot with fur blankets bundled at the foot rest inconspicuously. Against one wall was a line of wooden barrels; some were cracked open and ‘Laine could see food and drink within.

Opposite that, on the other wall, stood a small armory of gear. Swords, shields, plate and chainmail of varying sizes, axes and spears, a small collection of hunting bows. At the foot of that was a collection of bags that spilled across the floor, against the wall and out into the center, wrapping to the ends of the wall and bleeding out into the others. He could see treasures in the lumped bags, small chests, glinting jewelry that shined in the little light cast by the opened door.

“Thank the gods,” A short exhale of relief from Naz. She looked something between excited and concerned, and deliberated a moment longer to check for any hidden enemies; finding none, the mercenary abandoned ‘Laine and Eryn at the door to move to the assortment of weapons and armor on the floor. She rummaged through them briefly, while ‘Laine exchanged a look of confusion with Eryn, before finding one large leather bag in particular that she pulled from the lot and opened. Callous fingers undid laces quickly, and when she was done, she pulled free a pristine but worn leather sheath with an embossed grip, and in it was a glittering silver sword befitting someone of renown. Varlaine did not know much about weaponry, but he could tell that it was valuable, even without the weary glimmer of adoration in Naz’s eyes. It was like she was in a different world, a faraway place, but that relief faded quickly and she gestured for them to come inside with a swish of her hand.

“Leave the door open.” She instructed. ‘Laine obliged, moving in and shuffling to stand near the older woman, while she pulled a pair of silver gauntlets from the bag and set them aside. Eryn stuck to his side, one hand gripping his shoulder to keep him close.

(Part 9 is up, and can be found here!)

Chapter (I): Fleeing the Nest (Part 7)


* * *

The group traveled in silence for some time. Varlaine had offered to share his horse with the mercenary woman, and she’d obliged; it was an offer that Eryn had questioned at the time, and now, with a stranger sitting behind him in the saddle and reaching around him to grip the reins, he found himself just as worried. Eryn kept Cassius on the ground, the griffon’s heavy footfalls falling heavier than his rider could manage if she were stamping along with them. He had no idea what they were searching for, perhaps a cave or a shack somewhere hidden in the woods, but the group was still plodding on a well-travelled road. He found himself wishing the awkward silence would end.

When he could stand it no longer, he finally opened his mouth to speak. When he did, the noise of his tongue moving, of his lips parting, turned Naz’s eyes off the road and down onto him. Her look made him feel smaller than he already was, and so he stayed quiet, and her gaze returned to sweeping the thickets around them. Varlaine let out a sigh that turned both of his companions’ heads, before Eryn sighed a notch louder and leaned over Cassius to pet his neck.

Finally, the stronger woman behind him cleared her throat. The noise made ‘Laine jump, and he jerked to sit up straight, back against her armored chest. When she spoke, it was quiet; Eryn didn’t appear to acknowledge her presence any more than she was required to, which meant it was on Varlaine to respond.

“You two look like you came from the castle,” She acknowledged, in her scratchy, serious tone. The young prince nodded in response, looking down over himself briefly; royal purple robes stained with mud, lined in gold trim and cords that hung down past his chest. Eryn, too: The griffon-bound girl’s dawn-orange shirt and riding pants were perhaps less commonplace for a guard, as a trainee, but her armor was unmistakably emblazoned with the seal of Revengard’s royal line.

“Yes. We left a few days ago,” He answered, after a moment of plodding along on horseback. Naz slowly bowed and raised her head in acknowledgement.

“Then you’re fleeing the coup. You certainly look like a royal.” It was an observation, not a question.


She was quiet for a short while, and he could feel her stiffen behind him even through the metal of her stolen armor. Then she relaxed, taking in a deep breath and holding it before releasing it to the side. “Do you know of the outcome?” When that did not get her an answer, Varlaine felt her arms squeeze in around his sides hesitantly. Then she drew back up, keeping her eyes off him and onto the road. He appreciated the shift in attention.

“If we’re going south, we need supplies. Water, food, clothes. There’s naught to be done for her armor, but you need to burn these robes,” She advised. He lowered his head in response; while he was young, he wasn’t wholly ignorant. Her embrace, simple and short as it had been, had to mean something. So did the insistence that his raiment be destroyed. While he didn’t know the outcome of the attack, he had assumed his father and the royal guard had driven it back. Days on the road avoiding people and towns until they could find somewhere safe had not told him otherwise, and the hope that he would be able to return home after finding help in the duke of Fort Skyvlan, a friend of the king and someone he trusted for aid, was in large part the reason he was still able to stay upright.

“I don’t know where to get those,” He answered honestly. “We have no money. And if we enter a town like this, I’m afraid of being discovered.”

“We’ll handle that when we get to town. There will be some things for you to change into, and bedrolls we can take. We’ll see what we can scavenge.” He noticed that when she talked, it was usually in shorter bursts, as if it pained her to speak. After every pause, he saw her throat work in a swallow. The hoarseness to her voice perplexed him, but, having little reason for her to tell him about herself, he kept himself from asking about it.

Eryn interrupted his musings before he could decide if it was a sickness or an injury with a callout. “Hate to interrupt you two, but I think we’re getting close.” Her head nodded forward, directing attention

‘Laine looked up to where she was indicating and drew in a sharp breath. Behind him, Naz took one of her own, then let it out slower. Ahead of them, a line of half a dozen pikes stood in almost a fence-like array; at the top of each was a head, in varying states of decomposition from coarse white skull to fresh meat, a handful of crows picking at the most intact.

“Don’t look.” An instruction from Naz. “Either of you.” He followed the suggestion, turning to glance at Eryn, who stared for a moment longer before digging her heels into Cass’ side. The griffon trotted on, and ‘Laine’s horse followed after.

(Part 8 is up, and can be found here!)

Chapter (I): Fleeing the Nest (Part 6)

When he saw the armored woman stepped back, turning her blade over in her hand and inspecting it, Varlaine deliberated for just a moment before swinging his legs off of his horse. When he hit the ground, he stumbled over his long, flowing robes, righting himself with a hand on his steed’s reins and moving closer to Eryn. The rider had stooped down low, and offered a palm to the downed young man. He took it and sat up, and ‘Laine watched him wince, trying to get his bearings, as he drew near.

“I… I’m sorry about your friends.” Eryn’s voice was soft, and she stole a glance over her shoulder, at Naz. Then she moved her hand to his shoulder, slicked crimson, and he jerked away from the touch, reaching for his spear. Varlaine, closer, reached down and grasped it, tugging the haft away from him.

“Get away from me.” A pained hiss from the bandit’s throat pushed Eryn away harder than his hands could muster. The rider stepped away, hand tinted red and eyes falling to the bloodied dirt. ‘Laine pulled the spear further, picking it up in both of his hands and sticking it in the ground. While the bandit rose to his feet, ‘Laine was pushed aside, and Naz stood in his place; her sword, notched and stained, pressed right against the bandit’s chest like a fang waiting to strike.

“This is your last warning. Tell me where to find your hideout or lose an arm.” Her voice left little in the way of mercy, making Varlaine cringe. The young prince righted himself, leaning on the spear, while the marauder he’d knocked down took a deep breath. His chest pressed into the tip of Naz’s blade when it inflated.

Before he could speak, ‘Laine reached over and placed his hand on Naz’s sword-bearing wrist. She looked to him, but did not speak, red brows furrowing over cold steel eyes and lips twitching.

“Is she telling the truth?” He asked.

For a moment, the cornered rat sneered at the boy. That blade dug into his chest hard enough to elicit a jerk away, before he bowed his head. “Aye. She ain’t lyin’. You… really kill Henrik, lady?” Naz pulled her sword away, resting it on her borrowed pauldron. She, too, nodded—which made the much younger bandit laugh a hollow, empty laugh. “That bastard owed me big. I guess I won’t be seeing a coin of it.”

“Boy, you have bigger problems.” Naz shook him from his rambling with a poke, piercing his shirt and sending him stumbling backwards. Eryn grabbed her arm, pulling it back and earning herself a glare that made Varlaine shrink into himself. “Tell me where to find the things your lot stole.”

The raider lifted a hand to his chest, touching where the steel had sunk in and coming away just clean. Then he took a step away, one that had Naz following, before holding his palms up and out in surrender. “There’s a camp in the woods, straight south. Three hours. Traps around the perimeter. I… don’t think there’ll be much of a guard left. If’n you got Henrik, I figure the rest who stayed behind…”

Naz nodded again, before turning to Varlaine and holding out her hand. He hesitated, before holding the spear he’d been holding out to the older woman; she took it in one hand, the other keeping her blade trained on the outlaw, before pulling back and swinging it overhead. ‘Laine flinched and looked away, and Eryn protested with a shout, pushing the boy away from the blade while Cassius screeched in alarm.

When ‘Laine opened his eyes again, it was at the sound of splintering wood. Naz looked around herself, at the retreating prince and the rider who had pushed who she thought was going to be her next victim to safety, before holding up the spear she’d taken; its end lacked a point, the metal tip laying in the ground and the haft ending in splintered wood. She jammed the wood down into the dirt, flattening the jagged, sharp tips, before offering it out to the injured bandit.

“…This will help you walk. There is a larger town to the east that will take you in,” She instructed in her callous, scratchy voice. Her thumb jutted to her right– east. He took the staff, leaning some of his weight against it, as both Eryn and Varlaine watched without a word. “Tell the people at the smithy that Naz sent you to apprentice.”

Stupefied, the boy, and she had every right to call him a boy when he was half of her age, nodded and backed away from her, from Eryn. “I… thanks.”

“Don’t. Just don’t let me cross paths with you again.”

Shaken, he nodded, and then warily turned in the direction she’d pointed. Stepping over the corpse of one of his ex-companions, he started to walk. Varlaine watched him go in silence for a little bit, and then watched Eryn, who was keeping her eyes on Naz even while she moved to hug her griffon. Eventually, it was broken by the woman who’d saved their lives, burying the blade of her sword in the earth so she could adjust her gauntlets, then kicking her boots.

“Where are you two going?” She asked absently. ‘Laine jumped at her question, and Eryn looked away. Eventually, the prince spoke up.

“Um… Fort Skyvlan, to the south, and then Immervolk’s capitol city.”

“That’s a long way to walk alone,” Naz voiced. “If you need an escort, I’ll come.”

Eryn shook her head, about to complain, before Varlaine answered for her. “We appreciate the offer, but we can’t pay you anything.”

“So work it off. I’m going to make a recovery effort. You want me to come with you southward, you come with.” Naz pulled her sword from the dirt and tapped it against her boot, before moving to pick up one of the bags the bandits had dropped to rifle through it. Shrugging, she dumped it to the ground, before turning her head to watch the prince for a response.

With both her eyes and Eryn’s on him, Varlaine nodded slowly.

(Part 7 is up, and can be found here!)