Chapter 10 - Home sweet home

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Home for Phyllis, and let's be honest, for Marcus too, is Mesmer. I have repeated descriptions of the characters first met in the story that carries that name, but in time, I want to complete the stories as a series (of three, although I haven't anything published for the story after 'Cornelis' since it would give away too much plot. If you find anyone or any place lacks description in this novel, please let me know!

6 days later


Phyllis waved away the puffs of smoke that drifted from the main square towards the hallway she crossed on her path towards Marcus's office.

Usually, the bonfires in the middle of the long rectangular square that Mesmer was built around went right up to the sky, their flames greeting the early stars in their dance. But a fierce wind had picked up, and even the massive marble walls couldn't really keep it at bay. She ended up shielding the tray she held with her cloak, wondering whether it would taste good, smoked feta.

She would find out soon enough. Marcus always treated anything that even resembled Greek food to his undivided attention.

Phyllis looked at Mesmer with renewed fondness ever since they came back, two days ago. The animosity directed at Marcus, though not uncommon, usually dissipated fast whenever a mission took up more than a few days. He had walked a dangerous line in her mother's birth village, and in Phyllis's opinion, had taken quite a few risks for its current inhabitants. Yet she had never seen her best friend meet so much unveiled hatred. Phyllis sometimes regretted growing up in Roman cities, and living in Rome where she was regarded as a very second-rate citizen at best. A child that would never truly become something, other than a woman. If only for that, it would take a very special reason, or someone, before she would ever consider returning there.

She had always known Myra's reasons for leaving Gaul behind weren't light, but now she understood it better, and it did feel a little bit reassuring that she was on the same page with her mother. Phyllis would not have wanted to live amid all that fear, tension and hatred, even if her mother had ever managed to reconcile with her outraged parents. Mesmer felt like a breath of fresh air after their last mission, if it even counted as such.

The healing school was built with Roman hands, but for Gaul pupils, which made it rather unique. Though it was substantially higher, the building's ground structure resembled a Roman villa, the grand square the core of their life here. The hallways around it were supported by round pillars that were as covered in green ivy as the outer walls, each pillar connected to the rest with a round archway. Together they carried the first floor, where she and the other students slept.

The inner walls were painted, and after dinner it wasn't unusual to find a group of three or four girls working on another scenery. The left hallway was empty now. Everyone had fled the smoke, favoring the other side off the building for the time being.

She really ought to help put the bonfires out. Part of her was surprised Marcus wasn't already at it. It only confirmed he was eager to talk to her, and that was why she didn't stop until she reached the room at the end of the hallway, nestled underneath the massive staircase that led to the upper floor.

The other rooms in the hallway contained bathrooms and storage space, the kitchen at the front, next to the gates, and Marcus's office on the opposite side. It had been storage room before, and in a way, it still was, since it contained every piece of information about the logistics of Mesmer, its finances and its connections to the outside world. Despite the polluted air, only one of the wide doors was fully closed, the other one slightly ajar in a clear invitation. She usually knew Marcus had arrived because she found Patroclus in the stables, or at least, the horse he had taken a fancy to riding that month. He wasn't exactly a faithful horse owner, admiring them in an esthetic way rather than a friendly one. One of their many differences that had them bickering now, but that had been fuel for not a rare fierce argument in the past. Patroclus didn't fare worse for it. Marcus took care of him like he did for everything in his life, methodically, thoroughly and without a fault.

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