Errow Cutwick blew some warm air into his cupped hands. For the briefest of moments the heat of his breath helped to assuage the unrelenting cold of Frostdale. As soon as his lungs were empty the sting of bitter ice and wind returned to wage war upon his bare hands. With a disgruntled snort the surly Amuari warrior tucked his hands back inside his gauntlets. The gesture was all that Errow feared it would be. The feel of metal cooled by the wicked chill of forever winter had made his armor an icy torture chamber. The broad and proud Rustwatch forged metal that adorned his body would protect Errow form the blades and bludgeons of the fiercest battles. His armor would repeal the teeth and talons of the chimera but the cold was a precise enemy that could find and exploit every subtle weakness in the expertly crafted plates and chainmail. The Amuari discreetly glanced around to make sure that none of the other tunnel sentries were looking in his direction. In a silent surrender to the might of nature that reigned over Frostdale Errow began to shake his hands and stomp his feet to try and get some warm blood sent to reinforce his ailing extremities.
“Is that a native dance of Rustwatch?” came the sweetly playful mocking melody of Cassidy’s ever jubilant voice.
Errow rapidly turned to face the sound of the embarrassing ambush. Before letting his head catch up with the the rest of his body, He only took the most fleeting of moments to make sure his face was void of surprise and set in its ever unexpressive natural state. “I do not know where you would get such a notion. Rustwatch is never so cursedly colds as this block of ice that people mistake for a city. We do not need to find humiliating ways of keeping warm where I am from,” Errow said while making a failing effort to hide his wounded sense of pride. He grit his teeth and frowned as her reflected on the fact that Cassidy always seemed to find him at his most vulnerable moments.
“I told you before that folk born of Frostdale keep warm hearts. It is the best way any of us have found to keep the chill of this place at bay,” Cassidy said with one of her trademarked smiles. As she walked into the flickering torchlight of the tunnel the burning braziers illuminated the clotted cuts and scars-to-be on her face from the recent battle while patrolling beyond the seal wall. “And we have a long list of other activities before dancing when it comes to ways to keep warm,” she continued with a driving teasing element in her words.
Errow noted Cassidy entering the light of the tunnel and felt like he was meeting her for the first time. He had only ever seen her face cheerful and unmarred before this last patrol. Seeing the juxtaposed gore of combat mixed with Cassidy’s ever positive energy had caused the Rustwatch man to shift his perspective of his fellow Amurai. Errow had never been so close to Cassidy in the anarchy of battle until this latest exchange with the chimera. The man learned that there was a skilled and deadly warrior lucking behind those noxious smiles and pleasant curly red locks. Perhaps it was her aptitude for combat or maybe it was the fact that she had saved his life but Errow found himself confronted with a different breed of emotion when he looked at Cassidy now. Part of him resented the glorious woman for all the unending awkward feelings that she induced in him.
“Really, A long list of things to keep warm in this snow box? I struggle to see what any of them could possibly be?” Errow said with a hard edge in his voice in an attempt to restore some of the comfortably familiar friction between Cassidy and himself.
“Well for starters, this is a simple one we all learn by the time we can walk,” Cassidy said as she shirked her gantlets. With a single graceful move she tenderly placed bother her hands on either side of Errow’s face. The warmth in her hands sliced though the cold that had taken root in Errow’s cheeks.
Where the icy air had been to blame for the redness in Errow’s face, a new culprit was to blame for the man’s altered complexion. The Rustwatch man could not hide the surprise he felt at the abrupt and intimate gesture that his compatriot had just preformed. He could also not hide the mounting shame he was feeling for how much he enjoyed the touch of Cassidy’s skin against his. “Thank you. I am not as cold anymore,” Errow said as he stepped back and distanced himself from the unnervingly kind woman. “My watch has not ended yet. Were you simply concerned for my comfort or does your presence here serve some purpose?” Errow continued with as much indifference impregnated in his words as he could summon.
“First of all frostbite is not mater to jest about,” Cassidy said with a cheerful wag of her head and toss of her hair. “Secondly your watch it over in moments. I passed your relief on my way here. Most off all I figured that you would be keenly interested in laying eyes on our new commander,” Cassidy said with a voice that nearly broke into melodic laughter.
“Rin Northfell is in the city?” queried Errow with a raised eyebrow and too much interest to make his words sound anything but genuine.
“He is indeed. Father Rhodes returned form the Viros conclave late last night with the rest of our Councilmen and Rin. Master Hannz is making introductions to the rest of our brothers and sisters on the steps of the barracks. If we hurry we should be able to catch the end of things,” Cassidy responded with passionate fire in her eyes and reverence in her speech.
Errow glanced down the tunnel and saw the oncoming sentry shift of armored men and women. He only gave the briefest moments consideration before speaking. “Very well, I would like to lay eyes on the man who is supposed to save Frostdale form the chimera,” said the pessimistic Amurai with permeating doubt and sarcasm.
Cassidy said nothing but offered the man bright eyes and a heart melting smile as she turned and swiftly began to head for the Amurai barracks.
Errow followed close on Cassidy’s heels. With each step he allowed his mind to offer a fantasy of the warrior he was about to view. By the time that Errow was halfway through the gargantuan city of snow and ice the image of Rin Norhtfell that he had constructed in his mind’s eye was something akin to one of the legendary Iron Lords of Rustwatch or the epic hero of Argaia, Sir Liam Broadcliff, The Helm Breaker. Once Errow and Cassidy reached the back ranks of the assembled Amurai in front of the barracks he allowed his usual skepticism to return and take control of his mind.
Errow scanned the top of the steps leading into the barracks. He saw Master Hannz in his ceremonial armor, a handful of Vermillion Councilmen and a collection of several other nondescript people on the flanks of the Frostdale Master of Arms. The common frown on Errow’s face deepened in severity as his eyes failed to pick up any visage of the illusive Rin Northfell. The rousing speech that Master Hannz was making to the gathered Amurai could not reach Errow Cutwick’s ears through the overwhelming cold and disappointment that plagued the Rustwatch man.
“It looks like we missed him. Are you sure that you were informed correctly?” Errow remarked to Cassidy with a sullen cadence.
Cassidy cocked her head to the side and looked at Errow with confusion. “I do not know what you mean. Rin is right up there, at Master Hannz’s sword side.”
Errow narrowed his eyes and squinted. He wondered if his vision was failing him after a long day in the icy tunnel. He blinked and squinted at length until he had removed any doubt that his eyes were questionably functional. When the reality of what he saw set in, Errow’s mind refused to accept what his eyes were presenting to him. “That can not be our new commander. Him up there. We are going to place all our hope in him,” Errow pointed up to the figure standing beside Master Hannz.
“That is Rin Northfell and they say his magic is stronger than most have ever seen,” retorted Cassidy with firm assurance.
“But he is just a boy,” Errow said in disbelief.