Chapter 21 - Fire

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Phyllis

Phyllis had purposely picked a question that Cornelis might be likely to answer. What she really wanted to know was of a very different nature. How he obtained the scars on his back. How Raghnall lost his eyes. If Raghnall was so powerful then why did they lose in the first place?

The one time she had caught Marcus unawares as she used her powers on him, the very first time, she had almost succeeded in making him kill Mesmer's former Optio.

Almost.

Almost wasn't good enough.

Almost had saved their friendship though, and when they finally managed to discuss the matter, they had agreed their mutual bond had probably prevented her from completely bending Marcus to her will. When they, after much hesitation, had tried again, she had found she could still faze him but no longer retain him. Much less force him into acts he didn't want to commit.

Yet Connor had been utterly powerless against her.

The Romans back in Cornelis's village had been powerless. Except for that very first one, that had startled her while he tried to attack Marcus.

Connor, those Romans and Marcus, fighting Flavius, had all experienced her control for the very first time that day. Maybe people could be trained to resist it. It made her wonder how she would fare against Cornelis, who obviously knew exactly what she could do.

Phyllis did not often shy away from an experiment. But trying Cornelis out for size could either be very cruel if she succeeded, or very harmful if she failed. Marcus had hit her. Cornelis might very well just kill her.

Cornelis stretched out against the warm roof tiles. He could span the entire height of the slope that way. As relaxed as he appeared, he was clearly stalling. Probably measuring out an answer. She didn't really care if he was selective in what he chose to share, as long as it was true. If not, especially after what just passed, he'd suffer the consequences. She shuffled up a little, until she sat next to his head, and stretched out her legs as she watched his face, as impassive as ever. He met her scrutinizing stare without a flinch as he started talking.

"You remember the location of our village? At the border of the Sequana, just like Lutetia."

Phyllis nodded and Cornelis went on:

"Lutetia is a lot further land inward. You can be back at the open sea within a day's time from our village. Which makes it an interesting place to set up port. My father hoped to accomplish that. Set up trade lines with the Roman Empire in which our village started to act as a distribution centre. Raghnall argued the idea, stating that those trade lines might very well include the shipment of our own people, for how much Rome likes its slaves."

"What did they decide?" Phyllis asked, and she refrained from the temptation to lean closer to him. Marcus often gave her trouble too, but Cornelis was different. With Marcus, she at least knew how he felt, even if she often couldn't decipher exactly why. But Cornelis either felt nothing, or knew how to shield himself from her. The only emotion she could detect were his lowered eyes at the mention of Raghnall's name. It was a small moment, gone as he continued his explanation.

"Raghnall yielded. Because if my father could come up with the idea, so could the Romans. He decided we would stand stronger when the time came if we knew our enemies well."

Phyllis gave a quiet nod, wrapping her arms around her knees.

"So I was sent to Lugdunum when I was 12, to learn Latin and all the other interesting stuff."

Cornelis's voice mustered so much contempt, she instantly knew how he felt about leaving his home village behind.

"Does that mean you had sword training from the Romans?" Phyllis asked incredulously. Try as she might, she could not picture that.

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