Some days Jesse really didn’t mind her job. She never could quite say she loved it, even on the good days, but there were certainly times when she really didn’t think the whole hero-adventurer thing wasn’t so bad; sometimes you could even call it fun. Today was not one of those days.
Today Jesse absolutely hated her job. It wasn’t so much that Jesse minded helping people; there was very little she wouldn’t do to help someone in need (something that would eternally vex her friends). It was rather the monsters that came with those pleas for help that Jesse really minded, and this particular occasion came with far too many for her tastes, and strong ones at that.
Maybe she wouldn’t be so annoyed by the whole thing if it hadn’t been caused by one man’s extreme carelessness. An alchemist and makeshift apothecary in the small village half a days ride from their own had been experimenting with potions, much like Ivor had a tendency to do, the stark difference being the fact that this particular man used mobs as his test subjects.
It was clear that this man hadn’t meant for things to get so out of hand, but all the good intentions in the world couldn’t stop the mutant zombies and and skeletons from breaking out of their containment and terrorizing the nearby innocents.
Things had started off relatively well, all things considered. The monsters were strong, but they’d faced things that were decidedly much worse. The whole fight was going rather routinely, each of them taking on mobs and dispatching them with relative ease.
The trouble came when it seemed like Petra would be overtaken. Three of the overpowered mobs had her surrounded and while fighting normally wasn’t a problem for her, Petra looked like she was starting to struggle. Jesse never wanted to assume that Petra, or anyone else for that matter, couldn’t handle themselves in a fight, but even the best fighters could get caught in tough situations.
Mind made up in less than a second, she was about to rush to Petra’s aide whether she really needed it or not, when a knock from behind stopped her plan before it could even begin.
The hit came seemingly out of nowhere, and it was hard. It was so hard that it sent Jesse flying into the nearby wall, her head slamming into the solid stone making her world go black in an instant.
When Jesse came to, everything was hazy and she couldn’t quite recall what had happened, but something was definitely different. It took her a moment to remember the knock to her head, but the distinct lack of pain was suddenly the most confusing part of it. Either she’s been out for a long time or Ivor had somehow given her one hell of a healing potion.
Things were slowly becoming less hazy and more details came into focus, things like the fact that her head was resting in what she could only assume was someone’s lap and someone, presumably the person she was using as a pillow, was running their hand gently through her hair.
Finally opening her eyes, the sight that greeted Jesse was not quite what she’d been expecting. It was not the alchemy lab where they’d been fighting or anywhere in the temple, and yet it was oddly familiar, though she couldn’t place why.
Everything was put into perspective when she turned her head upwards to greet the last face she ever thought she’d see again. She was home. Not the temple, or her treehouse but home with the face of her mother staring lovingly down at her.
“Am I dead?” It was the only thought that would come to her now as she lay there in shock. After all, it seemed like the only logical explanation she could come up with suddenly being face to face with a woman who’d been dead for the greater part of her life.
“Not yet my beautiful girl. It seems like there are quite a few people who don’t want to let you go yet.” So if she wasn’t dead, was she dreaming? It certainly didn’t feel like she was dreaming.
Sitting up to face her mother Jesse furrowed her brow as she tried to sort out what was happening. “So if I’m not dead then what is this? Why am I here? Why are you here?”
Simply smiling gently, Jesse’s mother brushed back a stray bit of her daughter’s hair as she spoke, answering but not really answering any of the questions she’d asked. “I have so many things I want say to you, and so little time to say it.”
“Say what? And what do you mean so little time?”
“I want to say how proud I am of you, sweetheart. I never wanted to leave you, especially when you were so young. Things were so hard for you after that and still, you grew into such a remarkable woman, a hero just like I always knew you could be. I remember when you used to run around telling me you were going to be Gabriel the warrior when you got bigger.”
“How could I forget after the time I snuck out of my room at night to go fight monsters. That was the only time I ever remember seeing you get really mad and boy did I deserve it.” They both laughed at the memory, glad for a bit of levity before they both go too misty-eyed.
“You always did have a knack for getting yourself into trouble, didn’t you? Oh but you’ve come so far since then.” Gently stroking her daughter’s cheek, Jesse’s mother smiled. “You’ve done such great things and I know you’ll do so many more.” As if she’d willed it, Jesse suddenly started to feel herself being pulled into the realm of unconsciousness once again.
“Wait…” Things were fading quickly now as Jesse felt like she was being pulled into a state of sleep, even as she tried to fight it for a few more moments of clarity.
“Don’t fight it sweetheart, it’s alright. There are people waiting for you, people who love you. We’ll see each other again someday. But for now there are people who need you around for a while longer.” Jesse couldn’t keep her eyes open now as she slumped against her mother’s shoulder, but she could hear the smile in her voice. In the last moments before the darkness claimed her again, Jesse could feel her mother press a kiss to her head and her subsequent words, soft as they were. “I love you, Jesse, never forget that.”
The next time Jesse came around the first thing she registered was the pain suspiciously absent when she first ‘woke up’. It was much harder to pry her eyes open this time, but when she managed it she was greeted with a much more familiar and expected scene.
Immediately Jesse could tell that she was in one of the infirmary beds, the infirmary being a sizable room in the living quarters of the New Order’s temple with a handful of beds for the inevitable times when more than one than one or even all of them were hurt to some degree. This time it looked like she was the only one who needed to be here, but she was by no means alone now.
Sitting in a chair on one side of her bed was Lukas with his journal open to a blank page as if he had intended to write something but never got around to it. In a chair on the other side of the bed was Petra, much to Jesse’s great relief, with her arms crossed and looking incredibly unhappy, in the usual Petra fashion. Then there was Olivia on the floor leaning against her bed and Axel facing her, leaning against the bed next to Jesse’s. Every single one of them was sound asleep.
The only conscious person besides herself appeared to be Ivor who was currently too busy fussing with his potions to notice that she was awake. “So you decided not to join the group nap, huh Ivor?” Her voice came out quieter than she intended with a slight rasp to it, but it was more than enough to get his attention.
It was clear that Ivor was trying his best to look stern but the surprise and relief on his was much more apparent. “It’s about time you rejoined the living, Jesse. You’ve been out for days you know.” He informed her, answering the question she’d wanted to ask before she even had to ask.
“We’ve got to keep you busy somehow, right?”
Ivor scowled in response as he leaned over her, checking bandages that Jesse hadn’t even realized she had yet. “For a group who’s supposed to be heroes, you all certainly know how to get yourselves into mess after mess. I’m the one who has to fix you up when you get hurt, would it be too much to ask for a little consideration?”
Jesse couldn’t help but laugh at that, which she quickly learned didn’t help her pain any. Her helmet-less head may have taken the brunt of the damage, but the rest of her armor only did so much. The pain must have showed on her face, because Ivor wordlessly left her side, returning with a healing potion that Jesse knew Ivor wasn’t going to let her get away with not taking.
Sure enough he helped her into a sitting position and put the potion into her hands. “Drink,” he instructed her, this time with a much more effective stern look. Normally she’d try to argue but considering how bad she’d been and how bad she still felt, for once she complied.
Once he was satisfied, Ivor removed the empty bottle from her hands, setting it on the nearby table and Jesse wasted no time slumping back into the pillows. “So I’m guessing from the gang of uninjured people in the infirmary that I scared everyone pretty bad, didn’t I?”
“Damn right you did.” To her surprise it wasn’t Ivor who answered but Petra now quite awake. “And you better not do that again, got it?” Despite her arms crossed for emphasis of just how serious she was, a tiny smile worked it’s way on to Petra’s face.
And Jesse smiled back, both relieved that Petra seemed to have made it from their previous fight at least relatively unhurt and that she didn’t seem too mad at her for getting herself knocked around. “Got it.”
“Everyone else is gonna want to know you’re awake. You think you can handle all of us at once?
“Isn’t that what I do on a daily basis anyway?”
“Fair enough.” Petra conceded with a grin. She leaned over the arm of her chair to shake Olivia’s shoulder. Olivia slowly blinked awake, taking a moment to fully awake up.
Once she realized why she’d been woken up though, she wasted no time jumping up with the full intent of hugging her now awake best friend. In her excitement though she accidentally woke Axel with an unintentional kick in the shin. This did nothing to stop her from all but tackling Jesse in a hug as soon as she was up. “You’re okay! We’ve been so worried.”
Axel wasn’t too far behind her being very quick to bear hug his small friend a little too hard, not that she had the heart to tell him that. “Oh man, dude, it’s so good to see you. Not that I was worried or anything, I totally knew you’d be fine.”
Realizing that there was only one person left asleep, Axel’s face turned to a devilish grin as he grabbed a pillow from a nearby bed, lobbing it straight for Lukas’s face.
Lukas sat bolt upright in the chair upon impact, flinging his journal and pen off behind him somewhere, forgotten while he searched frantically in the moment of panic for the culprit. “Who, wha-” His panic was cut short when he laid eyes on Jesse, now propped up and trying not to laugh rather than the concerning state she’d been in the last time he saw her. “Jesse! Oh man is it good to see you up.”
Jesse looked around at her friends’ faces, all some mixture of joy and plain relief and her mother’s words echoed through her head. Whether it had been a dream or not, it was true that what she’d said. There were people here who loved her and she loved them, the crazy mismatched group of people they were.