Chapter 17
1 Sp'mo' (We'ginday)

1

They all woke early the next morning, the first day of Sp'mo'. After packing their things and bringing them down to the wagon (and Cameron rechecking his lock spells, for signs of tampering, of which he found none), they went to the dining room for breakfast. They found Tiejo already there, munching on toast with marmalade.

"Morning, Tiejo," said Darius. "Find a nice place to sleep outside, did you?"

"Tiejo-" began the street rat, but he was interrupted by a waiter, who was followed by the inn's manager.

"That's him," said the waiter, pointing.

The manager looked rather disdainfully at Tiejo for a few moments, before turning to the guests. "Is this... person... yours? That is, is he an acquaintance of yours?"

"He is," said Darius. "Why do you ask?"

"He seems rather... underbred. I trust someone will be paying for his food?"

"If you were worried about it, why has he been served already?"

The waiter spoke up. "He looked like he might be dangerous. Also he sounded kind of..." he lowered his voice on the word, "crazy. I thought it might be safest to give him what he wanted, and then get Mr. Ha'citjuice."

Tiejo wiped his mouth with his sleeve, and then wiped his sleeve with a napkin. He took a quick gulp of juice before saying, "Tiejo not dangerous crazy. Am shiny-happy crazy. Here," he added, taking out a gold coin and handing it toward the waiter, who waited a moment before tentatively reaching for it, and drawing his hand back quickly. Tom rolled his eyes. "Is being enough?" asked Tiejo.

"More than sufficient, sir," said the manager. Turning to the waiter, he said, "Jerstin, go get the... gentleman his change." The waiter was beginning to relax, and the difference between the coin and the cost of the meal would make a nice tip, indeed. Yet when Tiejo finished speaking, he began to giggle, and it was to Jerstin an unnervingly mad-sounding laugh. "Will there be anything else?" he asked, hoping he might make a retreat soon.

But Darius answered, "Actually, I think the rest of us will be wanting to order our own breakfasts, once we've had a chance to look over the menu." The others began seating themselves, and picked up their menus. "That isn't a problem, is it?"

"Of course not, sir," said Mr. Ha'citjuice. "Dreadfully sorry to have troubled you all."

He turned and departed. Jerstin said, "I'll... just give you all a few centhours to decide, then," and followed the manager out of the room.

When they were gone, Tom complained, "Of all the nerve! They treated Tiejo like... like...."

"Like common street rat?" asked Tiejo. "For this I am being, and no offense am I taking at being called or treated like that which I am."

"Besides," Darius reminded him, "it's certainly no worse than how you treat him."

Tom harrumphed, "'Treated,' you might rather say. I'm sure I've been improving, about that. And anyway... uh...." he trailed off.

"Anyway," said Darius, "I think I'll have some corned beef hash and coffee. Maybe an egg or two, on top. How 'bout you?"

Tom was grateful for the change of topic, and buried his face in his menu for a few minutes. Meanwhile, Tiejo finished his breakfast and sat back, rubbing his belly and smiling.

"Well," said Ginger. "I think I'll have a ham, egg, and cheese croissant. I also think, it being We'ginday, that perhaps we ought to get ourselves to church this morning. I haven't been to a service since we left Plist. I know it isn't that long... come to think of it, I guess I went just last We'ginday, the day before we left. Funny, it seems longer than a week...."

"I understand how you must feel about such things, being a spirit-talker," said Darius. "Of course, I haven't been to church since I left home at 13, except for occasional New Seasonal services, particularly Spring and Winter."

"The former was just two weeks ago, and we were still in Plist, making preparations. I didn't see you at the New Spring Day service."

"Um, yeah, well..." Darius rubbed the back of his head and looked half-away for a moment, "I said occasional services."

"Two to four times a year is pretty occasional, I'd say."

"Oh, well, I meant more like occasional years. Or something. ...Wait, I actually think New Spring Day was the day I first met you guys in the Band, and that wasn't until the evening..."

Ginger thought about this for a moment. "Huh... I guess you're right. Could've sworn it was after we met, but... I guess not. Now that I think about it, I mixed it up in my head because I was thinking about New Spring Day while playing that night, and as you say, it was also the night we met... Ah well, whatever. Anyway, if you don't want to go to church today, you certainly don't have to. But I do want to."

"Well, I guess. I was just hoping to leave early, noon at the latest. But I suppose anyone who wants to go with you can meet the rest of us down at the dock when you're finished."

"Spies at docks there are being," Tiejo casually commented. The waiter came in just then to get everyone's orders, and Tiejo said, "More juice, please." Jerstin began to ask what kind, but the street rat interrupted with "In honor of the manager."

The waiter nodded, jotting 'ha'cit juice' down on his pad. He took the others' orders, and once again departed.

When he was gone, Darius turned to Tiejo and asked, "What do you mean, 'spies at the docks'?"

"Waking early, I was. Scampering I went to look at things, maybe seeing old friends. And friends did I find, but pointed they out InterGang spies, watching ferries. Old friends say they play game sometimes, watch the watchers. Know them well, they do, by sight and reputation, though not often personally. Watching alert, now, I also could tell they were nasty sneaks. Checking I went to the other docks about town, and all are full of sneaks. Thinking I am they wait for us."

"Probably so," agreed Jasp. "I'll contact LandOrder after breakfast and tell them about this, see if they can do anything."

"Good," said Darius. "Cameron, I also want you to scry the docks, to make sure. Can you share your vision with the rest of us?"

Cameron nodded. "It'll take a little more time and mana than just using my own eyes as a scrying medium, but I could temporarily enchant a mirror or something."

Tom asked, "If they are watching everywhere, and we can't possibly get past them, what are we going to do?"

"We may just have to fly to Tanq ourselves."

"Over water? I don't care how short a distance it is, you know the old saying...."

"'Only fools fly over water,'" quoted Darius. "I know. Though I don't think the saying is that old. But we may not have any choice. Cameron, I've never really understood what was so bad about it. Does water affect the flight magic somehow?"

"No. There've been occasional accidents when flying over water, but probably no more than when flying over land. It's not that water makes the flying unsafe, it's that the chances of surviving a crash over water are worse, due to the likelihood of subsequently drowning. But floatation spells became a standard feature for most flying objects, just in case. Even after such improvements were made, caution was advised, and that supported the maxim. So it's a very rare thing that anyone ever challenges the idea, and most people just take it for granted that it's unsafe to fly over water. Those who do try it, treat it like, say, going over waterfalls in a barrel, or something. They think it'll be a dangerous but fun adventure, and tend to be disappointed when nothing remarkable happens."

"Because flying, in and of itself, is so completely unremarkable," Tom commented sarcastically.

Darius ignored him. "If it's no more dangerous than flying over lannd, that's good enough for me. Anyway, if we have to do it, we have to do it."

The rest of breakfast was spent mostly in silence. They quickly finished eating, and headed back up to their rooms. Cameron, Darius, Tiejo, and Jasp crowded into Jasp's bathroom, after Cameron had enchanted the mirror. They checked out each of the village's docks, as well as the area immediately surrounding the inn. When looking at images of the harbor, Tiejo pointed to people he'd noticed earlier. Jasp agreed they were almost certainly InterGang spies. It was also fairly clear that the the Green Otter was being watched, which was hardly surprising, considering last night's burglary in the parking lot.

They went back into the bedroom, where the others were waiting for news. John and Marian came in at the same time, having been talking privately in another room until just a centhour ago.

"Well," said Darius, "it looks like Tiejo was right. This place is also being watched, so I don't know if it's a good idea for you two to go to church," and he nodded at Ginger and Tino. "I think maybe we should just take off. Chances are if we went about the day as if we didn't suspect anything, they wouldn't make any moves, but I'd rather not take that chance. After all, they'd have to think us pretty stupid not to be suspicious after having been robbed." Turning to Jasp he said, "Do you still think it would be a good idea to contact LandOrder? I don't want you doing anything that might risk InterGang learning more about your organization."

Jasp smirked, "Oh, I don't think that's an issue. I can be very discreet. In any event, I'd like to do some watching of the watchers, myself... just like the game Tiejo's friends play. Maybe I could even learn how they spotted us in the first place."

"If that's going to take awhile," said Ginger, "I'd like to go to church anyway, and just hope they think we're stupid."

"In any event," said Tino, "it's not like we're going to look less suspicious if we all just stay holed up in our rooms."

Darius sighed. "Okay, I guess you're right. Everyone... do as you will. Try to be careful without particularly seeming to be. I trust you all."

"Well then," said Ginger, "let's go."

She grabbed Tino by the arm, and led him toward the door. Jasp was right behind them.

However, they were stopped by Marian, who cleared her throat and said, "Um, excuse me, everyone?" Everyone stopped and turned toward her, and she continued. "John and I were talking about this last night, and again while Cameron and the others were scrying, just now. Look, you all seem like great people, and we support your cause, but... we're just ordinary people, not really adventurers or anything. We play at it, basically. I'm not saying we're not both handy with a sword or dagger, but... rebellion is way out of our league."

Darius was momentarily surprised, but quickly said, "It's beyond anything any of us ever really expected, I'm sure. Well, I've been thinking about it for years, but only vaguely. Anyway, John, you were a police, I'm sure you must... have some skills...."

"As she said, we both do. But not like this."

"Okay, but... I know this would be way more illegal than what you're already doing, but if we win, you could probably get reinstated in the police, later. That's one organization I have no intention of getting rid of. After all, they predate the Order as well as the gangs. Heck, they even predate the First Order...."

"I know, and I'm glad to hear you have nothing against them. But you're talking about a very big 'if.' Honestly, as dubious as capo Primus was, I'd say Marian and I have even greater doubts than he does about your chances."

Marian agreed. "Yeah, and while you mentioned to Primus yesterday that you have to worry about both the police and InterGang being against you, that doesn't even take into account the Army, which I'm sure you'll have to face if you ever get to the point of really starting a rebellion. Though from what I've seen so far, you all seem more like tourists than rebels. Some of you talk like you might know people who could help, but no one has made any guarantees. LandOrder's help is tentative at best. There's no way of knowing whether you'll succeed in rescuing Tiejo's master, whoever he may be, let alone how much help he could actually provide. Cameron won't come close to making clear who he knows. And no one else seems to have any ideas at all. In fact, forget I even mentioned the Army. John and I have done a fair job of staying out of the way of any gangs until we met you people. If we really join you, I can't imagine we'd survive InterGang's sudden interest in us. I'm already worried it may be too late, but hopefully if we just stay here in Jump Village, and you all leave, they'll eventually realize we're not a part of your group."

Everyone was quite for a bit, then Darius said, "I understand." With a half-smile, he added, "I don't blame you a bit. After all, it's not like I ever expected every single person I approach to end up joining. Honestly, I'm surprised anyone agrees to join me. Anyway, I wish you both the best of luck."

"We wish you all good luck, too. I hope things work out for you. Sorry we can't be a part of it."

John grinned and said, "I'm sure it woulda been fun."

"Yeah," said Darius. "I'm sure it would. And who knows, maybe in an alternate universe, you guys chose differently, and came with us."

"Neat," said John.

"Well, let's go, John," said Marian. "Goodbye, everyone."

A few people said "Goodbye," and the bandits left the room.

After a few moments' of silence, Jasp said, "Well, I should be going, too. But don't worry, I'll be back." He exited the room, and Ginger and Tino followed.

When they were gone, Darius sighed, and Emma took a step toward him, tentatively reaching out to touch his shoulder. "Darius," she began, but he shook off her hand.

"Thanks. I... I'll be right back." He left the room, went downstairs, and exited the building not long after the others.

Ginger and Tino turned around, and Ginger asked "Change your mind about coming to church?"

"Sorry, no. I had something else to say to them," and he nodded at Marian and John.

"Okay." Ginger and Tino continued on their way.

Catching up with Marin and John, Darius said, "Hey... you guys had some stuff stolen from our wagon, right? I think I should repay you. I have a bit of money on me, and I can get more."

Marian turned and said, "Forget about it. It's fine. It wasn't that much."

"Are you sure? I feel really bad about this."

"Hey, the first time we met, I was going to rob you. Consider this karmic justice."

Darius smiled. "I don't believe either of you have bad karma. You're good people. And I hope we meet again someday, under better circumstances."

Marian shrugged. "Maybe," she said, in a tone which didn't lead Darius to think she had much interest in the idea.

John said, "I'm gonna head home. I'll see you later, Marian. Take care, Darry."

Marian turned to John and was about to say, "Wait, I'm coming with you," but instead she just sighed, and watched him jog off. Turning back to Darius, she said, "Look... John thinks... it's crazy, but he thinks you and I... that we might've..." She sighed again and started over. "I said before that you all seem like great people. And that's true. Even though we only knew you guys for about a day, it was a long day." She grinned as she said, "John often says, 'Do you ever notice how some days it seems like a ton of stuff happens, and other days it seems like nothing happens?'" Darius grinned at that, too. "Well, yesterday was one of those days. The ones where a lot happens. And for the most part, it was a fun day. You all seem like people it would be fun to spend more time with, get to know better. Even without taking a shared resentment of the Second Order into account. There's just something pleasant about you all; even Tom's grumpiness is somehow endearingly amusing."

"I think it's largely an affectation."

"Yeah. Anyway... I kinda wish we had met under other circumstances. I mean, if you and I had gone to school together, I think we could've been great friends."

"Maybe. Though chances are we wouldn't have even met. I may be traveling with a lot of people right now, but that's really out of character for me. I'm usually painfully antisocial. I think I've been doing a bit better since I met these people, and I'm not saying I didn't have a few friends when I was younger, but... the idea that I would've approached you back then is kind of hard to believe. But it would have been my loss, if I didn't."

"Hey, maybe I would've approached you. Or maybe we would've met in the library, fighting over a copy of Oni," she said with a grin.

Darius smiled and asked, "Why is it I can't help smiling around you? I usually hate smiling."

Marian looked at him for a few seconds, but then her own smile began to fade. "That's... part of the reason John thinks what he thinks. And it's part of the reason I don't want to go with you. All those things we said back in the room were the main reasons, but... the first time you and I met, you talked like you were suicidal."

Darius's smile faded now, too. "Yes, but-" and that was all he could think to say.

"The truth is, I can be antisocial, too, and I can sometimes get very depressed. Not that depressed, but still... enough that I think we could understand one another more than most people do."

"All the more reason-"

"And that's not a good thing. At least, I don't think so. Maybe it would be a good thing, as long as the main part of our friendship was more pleasant things like enjoying the same books and graphic novels, and such nonsense as that. It's nice to have someone who not only shares your interests, but also understands your pain, and can comfort you. But-"

Darius sighed. "I don't know that I could comfort you. When I saw you suffering, I would want nothing more than to say or do whatever I could to make you feel better. I'd want to do that for any friend. But I fear something in my head would prevent that. I just wouldn't have any idea what to say or do, and if I did think of anything, I'd fear it was wrong. Even if I knew it was right, I couldn't help feeling like it was wrong, and so I'd do nothing, more often than not. And I would hate myself for that. You understand? Hate. Myself. And sooner or later, you'd get fed up with me. I'd always expect comfort from you when I needed it, and wouldn't always be able to do the same for you. It'd be totally unfair. I can't... ask anyone to put up with that."

"Okay. Not exactly where I was going with that. I was more thinking it would be unhealthy to develop a mutually codependent relationship, but what you describe might be even worse. Or not. Either way... not healthy. But all that aside, I wouldn't trust myself to lead a revolution, and in spite of thinking you're a good person, fairly intelligent, with a good heart and good intentions... nothing I've seen has inspired me to believe you'd be any better a revolutionary than I would."

"Like I said, I don't know why anyone follows me. I wouldn't follow me. All I can do is try to find an answer. I may not know exactly what I'm doing, but I know it's all that truly matters to me. If I don't do this... there really is no reason for me to go on living."

"Well... I hope you find what you're looking for. Goodbye, Darius."

"Goodbye, Marian."

She turned and started walking away, but suddenly stopped, looked over her shoulder and said with another grin, "Of course, another part of the reason he thought there could be something between us was just because you chose to call yourself Robin Hood. He really is crazy like that." Darius laughed, as Marian turned and continued walking.

2

Darius turned back to the inn. He had somewhere else he wanted to go right now, but he'd said he'd be right back, so he supposed he should do so. But before he could take a step forward, the door opened, and Emma and Cameron came out, and they walked over to him.

"Um, excuse me, Darius," said Emma, "but I... are you okay?"

"Fine. Like I said before, I don't expect everyone to join the cause."

"I know. It's just, I know rejection can be hard for you."

"This isn't rejection. Not of me, and not of the cause. It's just self-preservation, and common sense. Now if you'll excuse me, I have somewhere I'd like to go for a little while."

"Where's that?" asked Cameron.

"Fisherman's Wharf. I had you scry it a little while ago. It doesn't seem like it's being watched, since there are no ferries in that part of the harbor."

"What do you want to go there for?" asked Emma.

"It's just a place I sometimes like to go to sit alone and think, when I'm in the area. Not the wharf itself, but the beach around it. There are some shops and a seafood restaurant on the wharf, but the beach itself is usually deserted. In spite of the crowds nearby, basically all you can hear when you're down there is seals, surf, and the occasional gulls. If you can hear people talking at all, it's an unintelligible murmur which fades into the background. So I find it peaceful."

"Sounds nice," said Emma. "Do you mind if we come with you?"

"I guess not."

It was about a 20 centhour walk from the inn, during which time all three of them remained silent. When they got there, Darius led them down a gentle, rocky slope to the beach itself. At the bottom of the slope, there were several large, flat stones which were reasonably comfortable to sit on, with other rocks just above and behind them which served as tolerable back rests. Darius selected a spot and sat down; Emma sat to his right, and Cameron to his left. They were careful to choose seats that were close enough to talk over the nearby sounds of nature, but not so close that Darius would be uncomfortable. Darius was grateful for that; it seemed they both knew him fairly well, which gave him an added sense of comfort.

They maintained the walk's silence for a few centhours, after sitting down. Neither Emma nor Cameron wanted to be the first to speak, though they knew it was hard for Darius to be the first. It seemed important, however, to wait until he was ready, in this case. Darius himself hadn't been planning on talking to anyone; he'd wanted to come here alone, as he usually did. But he found that with people sitting so close, even if it wasn't too close, he simply couldn't focus his thoughts. So he figured he might have more luck focusing them if he tried doing so aloud.

"So," he finally began. "They're right: we've been acting like tourists. I suppose it's hard not to, in a village like this. But we really should start taking things more seriously, work out at least some short term plans, other than just 'go to Near Port and rescue Tiejo's master.'"

"You said that last night," said Emma. "No one's expecting you to come up with anything in a day."

"I guess. Still... I always had this sense that building the rebellion would take years, and now I'm starting to feel like if big things don't start coming together a lot sooner than that, it'll mean I'm not doing an adequate job." He grinned wanly and added, "Maybe I'm the only one really interested in doing things chaotically, but I don't see the point in fighting order with order. On the other hand... maybe I'm not doing things chaotically enough. Nothing's more orderly than following a familiar routine, and aside from the fact that I have traveling companions for a change, I've been doing things pretty much the same way I always do. Wander from village to village, find places to eat, sleep, and shop. Even go to the library. Not very adventurous, let alone rebellious."

"Dare, it's only been two weeks since we met you, and less than one full week since we set out from Plist. You've still got loads of time to do things more quickly than you first intended, without worrying about falling behind some kind of nonexistent schedule."

"That's right," agreed Cameron. "And no one's asking you to work out the kind of elaborate Plan the Order had for the Coming."

"I appreciate that. But even given time, I don't know that I'll be able to come up with much. The plan of having no plan is too firmly fixed in my head. It was fine when I was looking at the rebellion as something I might like to do at some point in the future, but now that it's upon me, I'm finding that... it was a ridiculous dream. Honestly, it's just so ironic that someone with so little self-confidence, so much indecisiveness, and so forth, could set himself such a lofty goal."

He sighed and continued, "That's kind of why I became an adventurer in the first place, actually. It's just easier than putting down roots and dealing with all the regular stuff. I don't think I could get a normal job if I tried. Not that I couldn't do some job if I got one, I just don't think I could get it. Partly because I'd suck at interviews or even filling out applications, but also because, no matter how much you deserve a job or how well you present yourself, to a certain extent it always comes down to luck. And somehow I've just never felt that lucky, even before I lost my family. So I always set my sights low in life." With a sudden shake of his head he amended, "Well, that's not entirely true. I always tried to excel academically, and usually succeeded. I don't doubt my intelligence the way I do my people skills and personality in general. But I still felt like I'd fail in life. Especially after what happened to my clan. So I just figured, why bother? I might as well just spend as much time as possible away from people, and so far that's worked for me. But I can't become a total hermit or anything; I do still like to see people sometimes. And I still have a sense of obligation to make the world a better place. So... the idea of starting a revolution sort of grew out of that. But I never really thought it through, and as lofty a goal as it may be, it's always remained mired in my self-doubt and dislike of planning anything in life. But as I told Marian just before you showed up, this ridiculous dream of mine is all that matters to me in life."

Darius could feel the others looking at him, but he kept his own gaze squarely on the water, a few yards in front of them. After a centhour, Emma asked, "What exactly makes it so important to you? I mean, there are any number of reasons for any number of people, including those you've already convinced to join you, to want to change things. But I think most of us would have just accepted things as they are, and made the best of it. Maybe it's just easier for us than it is for you, but I get the impression that's true regardless of circumstances. Life is going to be hard for you, given the way your mind works, no matter what you do. And as hard as accepting the current state of the world might be, it's obviously even harder for you to figure out what you really want to do about it. So why are you so insistent upon making things harder?"

Darius thought about that for a bit, then said, "Maybe it's just the idea that no matter how hard it is to change the world, if I succeed, and make it more like it was when I was a kid, then just living a normal life wouldn't be that hard anymore. You know, we're in a funny kind of generation. When most people grow up, the whole world suddenly starts looking a lot different than it did when they were kids, just because they've changed. But they get used to it; it's a normal part of becoming an adult. Not that I think I'll ever be quite capable of truly seeing myself as an adult... but that's a separate issue. What I meant to say was, for those of us in this generation, the whole world really is a lot different than when we were kids. More complex. I want a simple world, with the simplicities of the old ways, as well as the simplicities of the new ways; but not so many of the complexities and difficulties peculiar to each world, the old world and the new. I guess I kind of said that last night, and you said that's the nature of life. And as you said just a centhour ago, it's harder for me to accept the new world than it is for others. And it would be hard to accept the old world." He sighed. "It's like the saying goes, 'damned if you do, damned if you don't'. I guess I just feel like I'm not capable of living in a world that is anything less than my ideal. But as the capo pointed out, I don't even have a very clear idea of what exactly my ideal world would be. And even if I could figure it out, I daresay it would be unreasonable of me to impose my ideal on everyone else." Glancing from side to side at his companions, he asked, "Wouldn't you agree?"

“Oh, absolutely it's unreasonable, no question about it," said Cameron. "But you know, a moment ago you quoted a saying which originated on Earth, but which is surely true on every world in the Universe. Another Terran quote I once heard went like this: 'The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man'."

Darius grinned. "I like that. A lot. Still, it doesn't change the fact that, as I also told Marian, I have no idea why anyone should follow me. I damn well can't change the world alone, no matter how unreasonable I am. And honestly, I think some of the people I assemble should be more reasonable than I am."

"I dunno," said Emma. "In spite of the irony that the only two people to opt not to join you so far were the only ones among us who are actually criminals... I mean, aside from Jasp, who maybe isn't technically a member of the Chaos... In spite of that, I think if the reasonable thing is adapting to the world, Marian and John were more reasonable than any of us."

"Okay, maybe you and the others are kind of unreasonable, but not nearly as much as I am."

"Well then," said Emma, "clearly all you have to do is figure out how to inspire more people to be as unreasonable as you are. Or at least as unreasonable as we are."

"Very well! Then I now demand an unreasonable degree of silence, while I ponder this matter."

So, once again, Darius looked out to the harbor, and tried to clear his mind and concentrate on a reason why anyone should join his cause. Granted, it wasn't really just his cause; it was a cause that many people had fought and died for, during the Coming of the Order. Many of those who'd fought and lived, back then, might still be willing to fight; and then there were many more who'd been too young back then, but who were now interested in changing the world. He thought about saying this, though as true as it might be, it had nothing to do with why anyone should see Darius himself as a potential instrument of the kind of changes they all wanted.

He continued sitting in silence, when suddenly realized he couldn't remember having had any actual thoughts at all for the last few centhours. He shook his head, and told himself, I guess I really do need to work this out aloud. So he said, "Okay, the question is basically not, 'Why should there be a rebellion', but, 'Why should I be its leader'. And honestly, I think the most I can guarantee anyone is that in the midst of battle, I wouldn't have an emotional breakdown, because my immediate goals would be clear: survive, and help my comrades survive. But that shouldn't... I mean, it should just go without saying. That's not a qualification for leadership, or even... being a follower. It should just be a given, for everyone. Sadly, it's not something I can guarantee when we're not in battle. When everything's fine... I could have a breakdown at almost any time. And that is decidedly a reason for people not to follow me. Though on the plus side, at least that guarantees that if anyone does choose to follow me, they must be of an unreasonable bent."

He took a breath, and continued. "But again, the question wasn't 'why shouldn't I be leader', it was 'why should I'. So, forget we're talking about me, for the moment. What should any leader do? I suppose... the main thing is to... well, basically, to formulate plans, to achieve both the short and long term objectives of those he's leading. Which we've already established I don't want to do; but I'm beginning to wonder whether it's so much a matter of not wanting to, as not being capable of it. It's probably... like life in general. I always have plenty of vague ideas, but I tend to let details slide. I'm more the type to let life carry me along, than to actually chart my own course, let alone the courses of anyone else. Hell, more often than not I get depressed because I can't choose what to order off a bloody menu! And I'm seriously trying to organize a rebellion?"

Cameron replied, "Another thing we'd already established is that nobody can do something like this alone. Good leaders delegate. At the very least, you should rely on others to help you make plans."

"Careful there, buddy," said Darius. "You're starting to sound dangerously reasonable."

Cameron grinned at that, and Emma laughed. Darius, however, wasn't in the mood. In spite of having told Emma that he was fine, when she and Cameron had first approached him, and in spite of the fact that he honestly felt Marian and John had made the right choice, he couldn't help feeling a sense of loss. It wasn't just about losing potential allies, but potential friends. And there were so few people in the world he was able to think of as even potentially becoming friends. And this train of thought led him to wonder, as he had done so many times over the years, how anyone could want to be friends with him. That question predated the current question of why anyone should follow him. And one thing Darius had always noticed about himself was that he rarely felt any individual pain just on its own merits; he tended to feel things cumulatively. One thing tended to trigger memories of many things that had hurt him throughout his life. So he'd already been in a fragile state of mind when Marian and John left, and while some aspects of his subsequent conversation with Emma and Cameron had consoled him, other things had added to his sorrow and self-loathing. The funny thing was, he was still quite capable of making jokes, even in the darkest depths of depression. This might raise his spirits for just a moment, but ultimately it just created a new peak for him to slide down into another emotional valley.

Mostly what this conversation had done was force him to think about the kind of person he was, in the hopes of coming up with some glimmer of a reason for people to respect him enough to accept him as a leader. Which he found difficult, because he'd never before given any real thought to anyone leading his rebellion. That was part of the chaotic nature of his non-plan, that there would be no leaders. And that, he realized now, was ludicrous. It was also the least of his problems, easily changed. All he had to do was decide to become a leader, after all. But unfortunately, that just brought him back to his attempt to find some hint of leadership potential in himself, and he found none. As usual, all he found were reasons to hate himself, and a strange mix of appreciating the fact that others liked him, and hating them for it. Because it confused him, and confusion always caused him intense pain. This, too, he could shove aside, and concentrate on appreciating friends, whether he felt he deserved them or not. But he kept coming back to the question of leadership.

"You know," he said, "this all started with Tom. The rebellion idea had been in the back of my head for years, in a vague way. I just wanted a name for the damn thing, and Tom unwittingly provided one." Under his breath, he said, "I still can't believe 'The Chaos' never occurred to me. Idiot." He continued aloud, "But the important thing is, I never would have been the first to speak. I would have sat at the bar, thinking my own thoughts, drinking my drink, then gone to bed, and gone on with my pointless, mostly solitary little existence. But Tom spoke up, started a conversation. And later, he introduced me to all of you. Oh, and before that, I don't think Tiejo would have joined us, providing an initial quest for the Chaos, if he hadn't overheard me talking with Tom. I had no damned idea, that night I wandered into the Boar & Bear, that my silly old idea was actually going to get started, then and there. When it did, I just got all swept up in it, excited that it was finally becoming a reality. So I didn't even stop to think of the trouble I'd be causing for anyone else. It just doesn't seem fair... to ask anyone to follow me."

He'd been holding back a wave of depression for some time, and now he realized he was going to fail at that. Suddenly, he remembered the bottle of pills in his pocket, and took it out. As the tears finally started to flow, he opened the bottle, and shook a pill out into his hand.

"You're really going to try that, are you?" Emma asked.

Darius let out a sound part way between a sigh and a sob. "If I don't accomplish this ludicrous goal I've set for myself, my ever having been born will have been entirely pointless. I don't want that. But I know I can't do anything when I'm in this state. If these pills can clear my head, allow me to ignore all I can't stand about myself, then maybe I'll have a prayer of succeeding. But even if I didn't give a shite about rebellion, there'd still be all this wretched pain, caused by both everything and nothing, simultaneously. If this keeps up..." He didn't finish the thought, but instead popped the pill into his mouth, let his saliva build up, and swallowed.

"What? Are you saying you might kill yourself?"

"Sometimes I feel it isn't a question of 'if,' but 'when.'"

"Well, that'd be pretty stupid."

"Oh, and it just makes so much sense to live for God only knows how many decades filled with unending pain, hopelessness, frustration...."

"I thought... talking helped. But if it doesn't help enough... I think you said you'd seen a psychotherapist at some point, but maybe you could try again?"

"I don't see the point. The guy I saw said I should be taking something, but that nothing was available yet. He said there should probably be spirit-talker apothecaries, who might learn from discoveries about treating chemical imbalances on other worlds. For all I know, this new drug could be something he would have prescribed, if it had existed back then."

"Maybe," she said doubtfully.

"Anyway, a few doses aren't likely to hurt. Meanwhile, I'm already starting to feel a bit better." All of a sudden, he stood up and grinned. "The ocean's pretty damned beautiful, don't you think?" he asked, spreading his arms wide and walking toward the water. "It feels good walking on this sand; I bet it'd be better with my shoes off." He took off his shoes and socks, and walked back to look down at his friends.

"Look," he said with a smile on his face, "I'm sorry. I've been such a downer, but I'm not always like that, you know. I've got my flaws, but who doesn't? I have some pretty good qualities, too. I mean, I could get on in society! Sure, why not? Maybe it all doesn't come natural to me, but I do get by. How much more is there, really, than what I already do? My memory may not be so great, but one can hardly forget to pay one's bills, can one? They never give you a chance, they just keep reminding you. I may not know how to ride a strider, and I rarely even drive a wagon. Mostly I walk or fly a carpet or take coaches or something. I have a bank account which I keep perfectly balanced. I cook my own meals, and so forth. Life is easy!"

He climbed up onto the rock he'd been sitting against, stood out on the very edge of it, looking out across the bay, and laughed. Then he inhaled deeply and said, "The beach smells so... interesting!" He jumped as far as he could, and landed on the beach a few feet past his friends. He spread his arms again, and started spinning.

Cameron looked at Emma and asked, "Do you think he's okay?"

"I think he's going insane."

"Really? Cool! This should be fun to watch." They both turned to look at Darius.

Darius fell to the ground, the world spinning around him. "I'm just happy!" he shouted.

"That's fake happiness, Darius," said Emma.

"Yes, but fake happiness is so much better than real depression!" he replied. When the world's movement had slowed nearly to its normal pace, he sat up and looked at the others. "Listen, I've been a fool. Do you know what? I like you both, a lot. But yes, I'm sure you already knew that. Still, I want to get to know you better."

"I'm sure we'll all get to do that, assuming we don't give up on the mission," said Emma.

"The mission, of course! I see everything so much more clearly, now. My head is usually so heavy, so mired in a jumble of incomprehensible thoughts. I'll have some vague idea what I'm thinking, perhaps, but not really. Sometimes I can concentrate on immediate problems, and my head clears a bit. But left to my own devices, with no particular plans or objectives, nothing makes sense. I don't know myself; and most of what I think I know, I don't like. But more than that, I don't like the world. Perhaps more importantly- and I said this to Marian- I either don't know what to say, or when I do know what to say, there's something in my head that prevents me from saying it, no matter how hard I might try. Even if I know there's no reason not to. But now, with these pills... now I can talk without any impediments at all! Now everything changes! My good, dear friends, I may not have a plan, but I have a feeling!"

"What's that, then?" asked Cameron.

Darius jumped to his feet, looked heavenward, and pointed an index finger high in the air. "I'm a-feelin' we're gonna amount to something! We may not utterly defeat the Order, and maybe we shouldn't. But as God and you two are my witnesses, we're gonna give them one hell of a run for their money!" Still grinning, he looked back down at his friends. "Oh yes, I was gonna come up with a reason people should follow me, and I assure you, I have. Side note, I usually find that phrase, 'I assure you', to be inaccurate. Because, you know, people say they're going to assure you of something, then they don't back it up with anything, they just leave the statement hanging. Can anyone really assure anyone of anything just by saying 'I assure you'? Shouldn't they say something like, 'I attempt to assure you'?" He shook his head. "But I digress. In some cases, such as this one, they do follow it up.

"So here's the thing: we've established that many people are unhappy with the way the world is, aside from a few modern conveniences the Order has introduced- and by God, there's no way in Hell I'd ever consider giving up water closets, oh, Hell no! Where was I? Oh yes. You both see the world's problems. Lots of people do. Did either of you ever think of trying to fix those problems? Did anyone in the Chaos? No. You said it yourself, Emma; most people accept the way the world is, whether they like it or not. Cameron, you provided that wonderful quote from- who said it?"

"Uh, I think his name was Shaw."

"...That wonderful quote from Shaw. And we all agreed that I'm the most unreasonable person in the world, so-"

Emma interrupted with, "I don't think anyone said that."

"So, it took awhile, and maybe it took a little Happiness, but what both of you said has germinated in my head. Is that the right word? Germinated? I'll look it up later. Or more likely forget. It doesn't matter. Where was I? Oh yes. What you said has led me to an answer. Wait, were you trying...? Wow, I just thought you were, like, trying to get to understand me better, but were you... suggesting an answer, and I just didn't realize it?" He stopped grinning, and started to look a bit disappointed. "And here I thought I was being so clever."

Cameron rolled his eyes and said, "I don't recall anyone other than you questioning why you should lead us."

"Right," said Darius, "because it's only natural that the person who had the idea for a rebellion should become its leader, but that's not good enough. You've all been terribly unreasonable to act like it is."

"The point," said Emma, "is that we have no idea what you're talking about. If you've come up with an answer to a question that we weren't even asking, you'll have to tell us what it is."

Darius's face brightened again. "Oh. Well, good. Though honestly, it's not... I'm basically just rephrasing what we've already established."

"We sure have established a lot lately, haven't we?" asked Cameron.

"Yes! Hurrah for establishing things! So. Here. Is. The. Thing. You haven't tried to change the world. Your bandmates haven't. Tom hasn't. Tiejo- well, who can bloody say, about Tiejo? But probably he hasn't, either. Has anyone tried to change the world? No, not that I've seen. Does that mean they don't want to? Oh no, they want to, alright. We established that. So... why should anyone follow me? For the simple reason that I'm the only one who's even trying! Now c'mon, you guys, let's get going!" He climbed up the rocky bank back onto the path into town.

Emma laughed, and picked up Darius' shoes and socks. As she and Cameron climbed up after him, she asked, "Where are we going now?"

"Wherever we want! I've gotta stop shouting!," he shouted. And then in a more normal voice, "Okay, this will do." Noticing his footwear in Emma's hands, he added, "Oh, thanks." He sat down on the path, put his socks and shoes back on, then jumped back to his feet.

"It is nice to see you more cheerful, confident, and generally positive," said Emma. "But I think you should learn to do that without the pills."

"Meanwhile," said Cameron, "just try not to get carried away by your happiness, and focus on what you're doing, okay?"

"Okay," Darius said with a nod. "It's nice to feel this way, though. I really believe things will improve for all of us, and then I won't need the pills to feel this way. Of course, that could just be the pills talking, but it's not something that would really be to their benefit to say, is it?"

Emma grinned and rolled her eyes, and the three of them started walking.

After a centhour, Darius realized he had no idea where he was going, so he stopped and thought about it. "I suppose," he said, "that we should go back to the inn and wait for our friends to return, so we can all continue our journey together."

"Way to formulate a plan of action," said Cameron. With that, they started heading toward the Green Otter.


chapter 18

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