“What is wrong?” Sir Liam asked as he noted Tinaca’s grimace. The Helm Breaker was familiar enough with the girl to realize that a frown was a commonplace expression for the child’s face however food always seemed to lift the girls brooding at least a small measure. Tinaca had long been at a small wheel of cheese but the creamy fair had done precious little to alleviate the girl’s mood.
“I do not know?” Tinaca said softly before taking another unsatisfying bite of her midday meal.
Sir Liam continued to guide the wagon along the traveler’s path as he contemplated how to breach the girls icy emotional barriers. The Helm Breaker had just felt like he and Tinaca were beginning to bond in a somewhat paternal sense but now the child was back to her usual sullen way. After a few moments longer of thinking and pondering the answer hit Sir Liam in the face like a cannon ball.
“I miss the red cloak and his boy,” said Sir Liam with a tone that was as passive as he could make it. Tinaca said nothing in response but the tightening on her fingers and the wincing of her eyes gave her away to The Helm Breaker. Sir Liam took a second to silently berate himself for being so oblivious to the matter at hand. “What about you?” Sir Liam continued after Tinaca’s continued silence.
“Me to,” said the girl softly. She returned to feasting on the wheel of cheese in her hands. She did not offer any sort of engagement with the Rayward man past the minimal response.
The Helm Breaker stewed in the silence for longer than he cared and then renews his attempt at starting a dialogue with the orphan girl. “I did not know the two of them for very long but I will say that I was starting to like them,” said Sir Liam with as much cheer as he could infuse in his voice. Tinaca offered only continued disconnection so Sir Liam pressed his position. “I liked the way that they bantered. Father Mazeon made the lad jump all sorts of every which way. I supposed that it reminded me of my time as a squire in a sense. That was many years ago. I never liked…” Sir Liam said nostalgically until he was stopped form speaking by a sharp outburst form Tinaca.
“Stop talking about them!” Tinaca yelled as she threw the last bit of the cheese to the ground.
Sir Liam jumped up a little in his seat on the wagon at the surprising volume that the girl was able to command. He was thankful that the only witnesses to his unmanly reaction were Tinaca and the backside of the packhorses. He shook his head slightly as he felt the embarrassment wash over him. If he had been so easily startled in front of proper fighting men he knew that he would never live down the teasing. The Helm Breaker attempted at salvaging his unflinching demeanor by clearing his throat with a few overworked coughs before he spoke. “Apologies, little one. I did not mean to upset you. Would you please tell me what is wrong?” Sir Liam asked his companion.
Tinaca sat with her arms tightly folded across her chest and wore a stonecutting pout on her lips. Slowly her face softened as many thoughts ran through her young mind and equally as many emotions flickered in her little heart. “I do not want to think about Father Mazeon…or…or Pratt anymore,” Tinaca said with a warrior’s stare cast at The Helm Breaker.
“Did they do something wrong? I thought that you got on well with the pair of them?” Sir Liam responded with confusion marking his brow.
Tinaca squirmed in her spot beside the large Rayward man. It was easy to see that she had some complex feelings that she was experiencing. The girl mouthed the words that were running rampant in her mind as she tried to make sense of the best way to vocalize her inner turmoil. Tinaca happened to meet the gaze of Sir Liam and a strange fatherly warmth in his eyes helped the girl to select the words she was desperatly scrambling to find.
“They did not do anything wrong at all. I do like them both. I like them both very much…that is the problem,” Tinaca said quietly.
“Ah, you miss them like I do?” Sir Liam asked.
“Maybe, but it is… it is not that they are gone…it is more that I do not know if they are safe,” Tinaca stated with a heavy measure of vulnerability in her voice. “I do not understand why we had to split up.”
“Eye it is hard not knowing if the Father and Pratt are all right. I will tell you this, even though I knew them only a short while the two of them never once gave me a reason to doubt that they are capable of looking out for themselves. I would be confident to say that they are safe…” Sir Liam said with strength in his words. His eyes drifted up to the sky, which had once again adopted the red hue that preceded one of the bloody soakings, “…or at least as safe as one can be these days,” he continued with an air of foreboding in his words.
“I just wish that we could have all stayed together…” Tinaca said quietly as she solemnly looked out across the expansive winding road ahead of the wagon.
Sir Liam struggled with the notion to broach the topic of the groups separation. The imaged of the burned men back at the Grand Abbey rushed in to fill The Helm Breaker’s mind. “You know there is a good reason that we had to go a different way than the Father and Pratt?” Sir Liam asked cautiously. He knew that Tinaca was an intuitive child but he still wanted to gauge her understanding of the situation.
“That chimera, Koin, it is after Father Mazeon and Pratt,” Said Tinaca reluctantly.
“Eye, and it means to do them harm. They care for you and that is why I need to take you far away from them. We are going to Rayward where I will be able to better keep you safe,” Sir Liam said with as much confidence in his voice as he could force.
“Koin is after me to. It is because they saved me from Koin that it now hunts Pratt and Father Mazeon,” Tinica said with a voice cold and lifeless.
Sir Liam heard the hopelessness and regret in the child’s voice. The girl carried guilt and an understanding of that guilt that was far beyond the comprehension of one so young. Sir Liam franticly tried to think of some way to comfort the child beyond mere platitudes. “It is not your fault that those two have become entangled with the chimera. Being at the service of others is the cornerstone of what wearing that red cloak is all about. They would have done what they did for anyone, it just happened to be you,” Sir Liam said with as much of a comforting tone as he could conjure up. “You are not wrong the beast is after you, but it will have to deal with good men first. Koin will have to answer to me before it harms one hair on your head. Do you think I will let that happen?” Sir Liam asked the girl.
Tinaca said nothing and only continued to look at the unending road. She did not need to speak. Sir Liam knew that she believed he would fight to the end for her. More importantly Sir Liam believed that fact himself. The Helm Breaker and the orphan girl pressed on the long journey towards Rayward’s Gate. Both of them cast their thoughts to there recently departed friends and traveling companions. Sir Liam and Tinaca wondered if they would ever see Father Mazeon and Pratt again. They hoped it would be so.