It had been no easy task for Father Mazeon to tend to Liam after the ambush in the dark streets of Blackcloud. Even though the wounds the man had sustained would likely be fatal, Father Mazeon could not abandon his savior to bleed to death in the dirt and mud. The Councilman found Liam’s room key for the Cornerstone and with some help, move the gigantic Rayward man back to the tavern without attracting too much attention. It was fortuitous that Liam’s quarters were close by. After some rudimentary medical attention for Liam, The Councilman had retrieved Pratt and Tinaca from their lodgings. It was likely that their whereabouts had been known to the Councilman’s enemies so it would be wise to abandon that location. Now the two children, the Councilman and the former Rayward Master of Arms were all crammed into Liam’s diminutive room above the Cornerstone tavern.
“I could not tell at first but now I am certain of it. That man lying there is Sir Liam Boardcliff, The Helm Breaker,” Said Father Mazeon as he regarded the unconscious and bandaged man who occupied the single bed in the room.
Pratt had a whirl of questions begin to turn in his mind. He looked at the enormous and aged man in the horribly stained sheets. The Councilman’s apprentice marveled at the size of the stranger. His hand went to his lower back as he remembered helping Father Mazeon drag the giant through the slick dark alleys of Blackcloud and into the tavern. The boy took in the vast assortment of wounds that adorned Liam’s body.
A clap of thunder got the Councilman’s attention and he went to the one window in the room. He looked out of the simple hole that was cut in the wall and listened to the pouring rain intensify. The storm had finally increased in ferocity enough that the smog over Blackcloud could no longer diminish the torrent from the sky. Father Mazeon was grateful in part for the heavy soaking that had befallen the city. It meant that nobody would be foolish enough to brave the outdoors. The storm would buy him and his charges time to recover and plan their next move safely protected from any other agents that the Duke might care to dispatch. While the red rain that fell meant nobody would come to harm the Councilman or any under his care.
For the time being the storm had prevented the man from properly investigating Madame Katrina’s home. Father Mazeon wanted to return to her abode but his better judgment knew that it was a fool’s errand. He had seen enough in the few moments before the attack in the alley to know that the woman was dead or had used her own talents to vanish into oblivion. Either way Father Mazeon was certain that he would never see her again. It was a hard truth to stomach and he fretted for Tinaca’s safety. The special talents of Madame Katrina would have been the child’s greatest hope for escaping the chimera beast that pursued her. To the Councilman it seemed as though his venture back to the place he had grown up was of no value. He was struggling in an attempt not to call the entire business a total disaster.
“Will we be late for the conclave now?” Pratt asked his teacher. The boy nodded in the direction of the window to the sheets of scarlet that battered the streets outside.
“No I do not think so. If we are stranded here by the rains then it would be safe to say that other parts of Argaia are receiving similar weather. I doubt we will be the only travelers delayed,” Said the Councilman as he returned to sit beside his student at the rickety dining table.
“What about…” Pratt trailed off after speaking softly. He tilted his head in the direction of Tinaca, who was keeping a vigil at Sir Liam’s bedside.
“I am still trying to think of what to do with…” Father Mazeon stopped himself from speaking as he overtly glanced at Tiniaca. “I do not have a plan just yet but considering the state of things there is some time to reflect on the best course to take.” He continued as he gestured towards the window and the storm outside.
After several long moments when nothing had been said and the only nose to be heard was the sound of thunder and rain, Tinaca spoke. “Why is he called The Helm Breaker?” she asked while keeping her eyes locked on the unconscious Rayward warrior.
In perfect unison The Councilman and his young apprentice turned to look at the girl. It was the first time that she had spoken intelligibly and unprompted since they had met her. It was also the first time that she had seemed to express any degree of curiosity. Father Mazeon knew that the tale of Sir Liam was not well fitted for young ears but he considered all that the child had already endured and more importantly that she had just shown some more signs that she was ready to come out of her post traumatic mental fortification. The Councilman decided it was best to cultivate Tinaca’s wonderment.
“You don’t know the story of Sir Liam Broadcliff, the Hero of Rayward’s Gate?” Father Mazeon said to Tinaca after clearing his throat and adopting his best storytelling voice.
The little girl only shook her head “no”.
“Come and sit, I will tell you how he got to be called The Helm Breaker,” responded the Councilman as he patted a spot on the bench beside him. Tinaca quickly went and perched next to Father Mazeon. Both Tinaca and Pratt leaned in to hear the story that was about to be told.
The Councilman took a deep breath and then started to recount the legend of Sir Liam Broadcliff. “It was in the last great war, before the age of peace began. All other nations had laid down their arms save for Rayward and Rustwatch, they were still at odds and only when one of the two had been totally defeated would the war fully come to an end. Flint Roarkwin, who was the Iron Lord of Rustwatch at the time had laid siege to the Rayward Capital. His Iron Men had marched all the way to Rayward’s Gate and nothing had been able to stop them. Flint Rorakwin claimed victory after victory. Much of the Iron Lords success was attributed to his armor. Anything that comes from the forges in Rustwatch is unequaled by any other such item from any other blacksmith in Argaia, whether it be as simple as a horseshoe or as wondrous as a Royal’s crown. The armor that adorned the Iron Lord was no exception to this and many said that Flint Roakwin’s plate mail was indestructible. They said that the Iron Lord could wade into battle against a hundred men and fell them all by himself without receiving so much as a scratch. All that The Iron Lord had to do was take Rayward’s Gate and then he would have been the ruler of two kingdoms. The Rayward army had nearly been slain to a man. Against all reason and understanding, somehow, Sir Liam led a charge with a handful of brave Rayward knights at his side thru six brigades of Iron Men. At the end of the charge it was only Sir Liam who had survived but he had made it eye to eye with the Iron Lord. Sir Liam and Flint Roarkwin fought in single combat and every remaining knight of Rayward and Rustwatch Iron Man stopped and watched. Sir Liam took that great hammer you see there…” Father Mazeon said as he pointed to the great-maul that was laying up against the bed where Liam was resting. “…and with a single blow he broke Flint Roarkwin’s helm clean in two and laid the Iron Lord low. After the death of their leader the Rustwatch army retreated form Rayward and the last great war came to an end. In the days that followed Sir Liam was named Master of Arms in Rayward and forever earned the moniker The Helm Breaker,” Father Mazon said using his most theatrical voice.
Pratt and Tinaca sat in enraptured and starry-eyed as the Councilman finished his story. Once they realized that the tale was over they both began to blink rapidly as their young minds were awash with innumerable questions. Both of the children began to stutter and stammer as they tried to speak. Their babbling was put to a swift end when the sound of a gruff and haggard voice rose above all other noises in the room.
“Nobody ever gets that story right,” Sir Liam said as he grunted as raised himself up into a sitting position.
“Don’t move, your wounds…” Father Mazeon objected.
“Will be fine!” Interrupted the Helm Breaker. “I’m going to tell you all proper. Sit down,” Liam continued with a surprisingly authoritative tome for a man who had been bleeding to death less than a day ago.
Oddly compelled by The Helm Breaker’s words, Father Mazeon returned to his spot on the bench between Pratt and Tinaca. All three of them had leaned forward, giving the convalescing man their full attention. The Councilman and both children shared an equal sense of mixed amazement. It was hard to say what offered the greater curiosity, the fact that Sir Liam was in far better condition than one would expect or the Rayward man’s promise to dispel some of the inaccuracy surrounding his legend.
Liam groaned slightly as he readjusted his position in the bed. Her growled and coughed a few times before starting his account of the day he had become The Helm Breaker. “The facts leading up to the battle at Rayward’s Gate are true enough but that last battle…I hate how wrong the story comes out. Every time I hear it the blasted thing gets more and more out of control. The Iron Men were the greatest enemy that Rayward had ever encounter, yes but our army was hardly butchered the way it was told. We had taken heavy losses and we were outmanned at the Gate but what nobody seems to recall is the fact that Rayward still had a full auxiliary of fighting men camped less than half a day’s march from the front line. The capital had enough provisions stored away to set itself right for a long winter. If need be we could have waited the Iron Lord out until the cold or starvation drove him and his men back to Rustwatch. I did lead a spearhead into the thick of it but it was only three brigades of Iron Men that I fought thru, if that. More so, when I started my charge it was not a handful of knights at my side. I had at least a half strength regiment of the best men ever to front a shield for Rayward at my back. I met The Iron Lord and his personal guard on the field and I did fight him man to man. The thing that fires my blood the most is the story that I ended Flint Roarkwin with this here,” Liam said dourly as he motioned to the great-maul leaning against his bed. “This weapon belonged to the Iron Lord. It was what he wielded on the field that day and what I took as a trophy after defeating him,” Continued The Helm Breaker with a deep scathing tone.
Liam went silent for a few moments. The trio of listeners took in the tale that they had just heard and compared it against the story that Father Mazeon had recited only moments ago. Suddenly the exploits of Sir Liam seemed far less stupendous. Tinaca was the first to speak after the abrupt and anticlimactic end to The Helm Breakers tale. “So you did not break the Iron Lord’s armor?” asked the girl with a disappointed inflection.
“Oh I most certainly did, little one. I just did not use this old girl here,” Liam said to the child with a surprisingly gently and even playful voice. The Rayward man patted the haft of the great-maul with one of his bearlike hands.
“What weapon did you use, then?” Tinaca asked with a renewed interest.
Liam gave out a heavy breath and grimaced as he felt the stiches in his back pull against the movement of his wide muscular shoulders. “I had lost my dagger, somehow I cannot recall. The straps on my shield had snapped when I used it to topple a Rustwatch Lancer from his mount. By the time I met The Iron Lord I only had the hilt and half the blade of my broadsword intact. After the first three blows against his armor I didn’t even have that any more. When I crushed Flint Roakwin’s helm I had to use the only weapon I had left…” Liam said with a cryptic and leading cadence.
“What did you use?” Tinaca nearly shouted in excitement as she stood from her seat. In this moment the child had seemed more alive to Pratt and Father Mazeon than she ever had before. Tinaca almost appeared happy as she listened to Sir Liam speak.
The Helm Breaker met Tinaca’s bright and youthful eyes with the steely gaze of a veteran war master before speaking. “My hands,” he said ominously.