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we'll build a Lucy and we'll make Lamashtu pay for it
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It hurts. 

It's not that Lusilla's never felt pain before. Stuff happens. Sometimes whatever animal she's hunting will get in a hit, or she'll slip with her knife, or any of a thousand other ways to pick up a minor injury that come up in the day to day. 

But usually when she gets hurt it goes away. Slowly, for the bigger hurts, but it's generally over in less than a minute, and she can feel it getting better. 

She can't feel this getting better. It hurts and it's not going away. 

She wants to cry out, but her chest hurts more when it moves, so, that's maybe a bad plan. 

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...There are other things going on, besides the pain. She's on--a surface--that's moving, jostling her injury slightly, ow--and there are unfamiliar voices all around her. 

"Make way! Coming through! Fetch a healer, quick!" 

It takes a moment for meaning to filter through, her initial attention all on the voice itself--it sounds different than she's used to. A different accent? She hasn't been exposed to a lot of different accents, but Griar the Druid says his accent is a little different than the local...

But a healer sounds good. Probably not Griar, with so many unfamiliar voices, this can't be Rivertree. It could be Odd's Hollow, she didn't hear everyone there talk...

"Hey, somebody, we got a wounded fighter! Can we get a healer over here?"

A fighter? No, that's wrong. She's never fought anyone. 

"My, my, would you look at this? But why would you drag a wounded fighter into the middle of the festival square? Couldn't she be carted off somewhere else, like... oh I don't know... an infirmary? Or an accommodating ditch?"

Wait, this can't be Odd's Hollow, she may not have heard all the voices, but they had more or less the same accent as in Rivertree. Could it be Okorrost? Okorrost is such a long ways away...

"Make room, everyone step back! Now, what's the matter? What happened to her?"

She hurts. And she can't even lift her head. 

"Hmm... the wound looks nasty. Who did this to her?" 

SHE WOULD ALSO LOVE TO KNOW THAT HONESTLY. 

"Demons, Prelate! We found her barely alive outside the walls of Kenabres." 

Demons??? Mother thought people would think she was a demon...and what the fuck is a Kenabres? Is it the town? She's never heard of a Kenabres, is she even farther away than Okorrost???

"The walls, you say? The enemy doesn't usually stray so close to the city. We must fortify the defenses... And you--hold fast, don't die, we'll see you right!" 

She's definitely not going to die! Dying would be bad! 

"We'll get you patched up now. But first--you there, guard, take her weapons: bearing arms is not permitted during the festival. Wounded or not, everyone must abide by the rules. She can get her things back after the festival." 

Lusilla's first reaction is confusion--what weapons? But someone does seem to be removing something from her--stretcher, she's on a stretcher, that's now been laid on the ground--maybe the--demons???--that hurt her left weapons behind and they got mistaken for hers?

Her second reaction is incredulity--what kind of priorities does this man have???

"Oh Inheritor, leader of our troops, the sharpened edge of our blades and and the unyielding strength of our armor. Iomedae, I beseech you, grant your mercy, heal her wounds." 

Troops??? What??? What's an Iomedae. A god, maybe? Lusilla knows perfectly well that there exist gods besides the ones anyone bothers to worship in Rivertree, and that in big towns and cities the healers are clerics, not druids, who can channel great rings of healing power instead of just using a spell whenever someone gets hurt like a druid does, and clerics get power from gods. But that still leaves so many questions. Lusilla is confused. 

A soothing light washes over her, but leaves her little improved afterwards. Lusilla has never, actually, herself, been on the business end of one of Griar's healing spells--he wasn't one to waste them frivolously, and she heals fine on her own. Usually. But this is sort of how she'd imagined it feeling, except for the part where it barely helps. 

It does help enough, however, that she can turn her head and squint up at the severe-looking man who tried to heal her and has a weird god and cares about rules too much. She swallows, and rasps, "I'm not...going to die..." 

It seems like an important point to clear up. 

"That's the spirit," he says bracingly. "My powers are not enough here--someone call for Terendelev! You there! Yes, you--stop dithering and gawping and make yourself useful--go and get Terendelev!"

Who's Terendelev? She hopes he's right that they can help. 

"Prelate. Surely there is someone else here better suited to running errands."

...What??? What would it even mean, for one person to be better suited than another to running errands. 

"I'll get her. Terendelev! Has anyone seen Terendelev?"

"Be quick about it, before it's too late!" the man, presumably named Prelate, snaps. "Now, who are you? I don't remember seeing you before, and I have a memory for faces." 

She's very very sure she's never seen him before but maybe this is harder to keep track of in cities. "I'm Lusilla," she manages. It's all she can think of to say--if she's never heard of Kenabres, then probably he's never heard of Rivertree. And she still has no more idea what's going on than he does. 

"That's the first I've heard of that name. Who are you then? What's your business in the city?" 

...Her business in the city is getting dragged into it on a stretcher??? She's never been here before! She's never been close enough to have heard of it, before! 

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A warm female voice cuts in. "My dear Prelate, please--for the sake of the festivities, stop interrogating this poor woman. She has been through enough already. Go on, I'll take care of her." 

Presumably this is Terendelev. Hopefully Terendelev is saner than Prelate is. 

"Hmph! All right, as you wish. You are our protector, and a dragon at that," sorry, a dragon??? A fucking DRAGON??? "so I shall defer to your wisdom. But be on your guard: I've been informed she was wounded near Kenabres--that means the demons are prowling just outside the walls. And the city is crawling with their spies! Others may be able to relax on this holiday, but not you or I--not the defenders of the city!" 

He stalks off. Lusilla wonders if there are any demons at all, or if he's like old Yokim, who sees fairies in the woods everywhere even though there are actually only fairies in a couple of spots and everybody humors about it because he's old. 

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Terendelev, when Lusilla lays eyes on her properly, is beautiful. Her face is unlined, but her eyes contain a sorrow that leaves no doubt in Lusilla's mind that she's the oldest person Lusilla has ever met, and her hair is a shining silver--really silver, not just Lusilla's or Mama's white. Lusilla suddenly finds it VERY PLAUSIBLE that this woman is a dragon actually. 

Just what has Lusilla been dumped into?

The glowing hand that Terendelev presses to Lusilla's chest does a great deal more good than Prelate's. 

"Thank you," Lusilla says, sitting up carefully. She presses on the spot that was hurting. Does it still hurt a little, or is that just a phantom ache? 

"I accept your thanks. But my work is not yet done," Terendelev says. Lusilla looks up sharply at her. Does that mean she still needs to be healed, or that some more storybook nonsense is going to happen?

"What do you mean?" 

Terendelev sighs. "I have restored your strength and eased your pain, but I have not healed you fully. In time, your pain will return." 

"What happened to me?" Lusilla asks, trying to keep the plaintive note out of her voice.  

"I don't know. But what struck you was no ordinary weapon," Terendelev says. "But do not be discouraged. You will be fine for today, and tomorrow--tomorrow, come to the cathedral and say I am expecting you. We will find a way to fix this. For today, though--enjoy the festival, and put this out of your mind for the moment. Merriment, all too rare in this time of war, is one of the best medicines." 

Lusilla can only nod mutely as the dragon-woman rises and walks away. 

This time of war. Troops. Blade and armor...

A war...against demons?

This is something out of a storybook! 

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Okay. Okay. This is something out of a storybook, but things out of storybooks happen in real life--if they didn't, where would the stories come from? So Lusilla has to actually deal with--the things that don't happen to get written down by someone who wants to tell a good story. 

Terendelev said to meet her at the cathedral tomorrow, which means she's going to need somewhere to sleep tonight...she looks down. Her dress is torn at the collar, and bloodstained, and she can fix the former but not the latter. She does that, to begin with, and then looks around. 

...It's beautiful. 

The city's square is much bigger than the village square in Rivertree, and more people than she's ever seen in her life--certainly at once, maybe in total--are milling around. There are minstrels playing, over there, a song she's never heard before. People are laughing and playing games and eating and drinking--there are smells she's never smelled before, enticing even to the human version of her olfactory senses--

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--There's still plenty of light out, she has time to figure things out. And she was explicitly told to enjoy herself. 

The very first thing she does is go over and punch a dummy that is for punching. Lusilla isn't that great at hitting things with her human-shaped hands, yet, but she's still pretty strong, and it's not hard to hit a straw dummy. The wooden post trembles under the force of the impact, and the other festival-goers assembled nearby cheer for her. Lusilla bounces and claps and twirls, and runs off to try the next thing. 

The next thing turns out to be a special festival drink, not that Lusilla could tell the difference between something that's special for the festival and something that's just different because it's from very far away. It tastes nice, anyway, and the bubbling excitement over new experiences spills over like the froth from the beverage. 

She has moved on to dancing in the open spaces, learning by watching the other festival-goers, probably doing very badly but who cares, when she's having fun? 

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And then everything gets very bad very quickly. 

Creatures with red skin holding spears teleport into the square; creatures with the body of a humanoid and the face and wings of a vulture appear in the sky and descend upon the crowds. 

"BEHOLD, CRUSADER GODS," a voice rumbles from no immediately visible source. "BEHOLD, IOMEDAE, YOU POOR IMPOSTER. YOUR CITY WILL FALL TO ME. YOUR FOLLOWERS WILL FEED MY HUNGER."

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This is--bad. This is bad on a level Lusilla does not, actually, have the experience to process. 

Terendelev appears again, and demonstrates that she is, in fact, a dragon, by taking on her true form--Lusilla is in awe--but when she calls out the source of the horrible voice, the creature that appears is even larger than her, and--

--and now Terendelev is dead. 

Sometimes, disasters happen and places end. Lusilla should probably run. Mama ran, when Hilltop ended, and that's the only reason she lived to have Lusilla. But--

What happened to Hilltop was an isolated incident. Bad, but once it was over it was over; nothing similar had happened before, and nothing similar happened afterwards. 

What's happening right now is a war against demons--the spawn of Lamashtu--the very thing that Lusilla has been afraid of being mistaken for for her entire life. 

If she abandons these people now, how can she say absolutely that she isn't? 

The halfling who called for a healer when she was brought into the city loans her a crossbow that he claims is supposed to be able to pierce the hide of a demon lord--presumably the thing this Deskari creature--Terendelev said its name--is. She's dubious, but turning into her more powerful alternate form is a move Terendelev already tried, and it super, super didn't work, and Lusilla does not think she is stronger than a dragon. Admittedly, she doesn't have a long, sliceable neck, but--well, she can try the crossbow. 

The crossbow, astonishingly, works. 

...Well. Sort of. It hits Deskari, anyway. It doesn't seem to hurt him much. It does piss him off, though. His great, Terendelev-decapitating scythe comes down on the ground, and the earth itself splits open, as though to swallow her whole. 

Fortunately her spell-like abilities don't depend on her form; she kips into the air once there isn't solid ground under her feet.

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Hm. No. 

It doesn't exactly behoove Deskari to expend a lot of attention on a stinging gnat, but it behooves him even less to let it get away with it. He swats it out of the air and into the chasm in the ground. 

He meant to cleave her in two, but for some reason this doesn't seem to have happened. Whatever, good enough. 

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When Lusilla regains consciousness, she is at the bottom of a very deep hole in the ground. Her first instinct is to immediately get out of the hole, but that's pretty close to the instinct that led her to try not to fall into the hole in the first place, which did not work out so well for her. Also, the rift in the ground seems to have intersected with a pre-existing tunnel system. She cautiously gets to her feet and peers around. 

There are luminescent fungi, but it's still pretty dark. And there's no one around. And she just got beat up a bunch. 

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So she assumes her true form, which is significantly sturdier, and starts moving along the tunnel. 

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It isn't too long before she hears voices. 

"Holy mother of..." one voice curses. 

"Hey, hey! Stay with me! You actually got pretty lucky; you fell into a big hole, but at least you're not on your own. Everything's going to be fine. Tell me something: can you feel your legs?" 

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Lusilla immediately reverts to human shape. 

The second person seems sort of familiar, but she can't place it, so--whatever. Bigger problems right now. 

"Hello?" she calls, just as the other woman is affirming that her leg hurts too much to have a spinal injury. 

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The--knight? Raises her sword warily in Lusilla's direction for a moment, before lowering it. "You're the one Terendelev healed. You're not hurt, right? Can you help me get her out?"

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"Yes--no--sure," Lusilla replies, in order. She crouches next to the pile of boulders that have partially trapped the other woman, carefully lifting boulders with an ease that belies her slight frame. 

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"You're pretty strong." 

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"Am I?" She's weaker in this form than in the other. She's never really bothered to test her strength against her mother or brother, so...

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"These rocks are pretty heavy," the trapped woman confirms with a grimace. 

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"Oh." Maybe she is stronger than a normal human? That's sort of a shame, in that it would be cool for normal humans to be stronger. "...I'm Lusilla, by the way." 

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"Anevia Tirabade, of the Eagle Watch. I was in charge of security for the festival. I expected that demon cultists would try something, but...not this." 

"I'm Seelah, paladin of Iomedae." 

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"Iomedae is a local god, right?" 

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"I...wouldn't call her especially local, no...where are you from?"

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"Well, my mother's from Hilltop, originally, but Hilltop was destroyed, so now we live in the woods outside Rivertree." Pooooossibly this isn't much more informative to them then "Kenabres" was to her. "The nearest big city is Okorrost," she adds, in case that helps. 

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"Do you know the country?" Anevia asks. 

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Lusilla has to think about this for a moment. "Iobaria?" she hazards. It's not like it generally matters. 

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