While the Iron Men of Rustwatch were not famed for etiquette or hospitality, they had an notorious sense of revelry. At first Brother Pratt and his companions had received a cold welcome in the Iron Lord’s city. The chilling neglect was in part a measure of relief for the adventures. The looming concern was that Sir Liam’s appearance in the city would have torn open old wounds and brought the long standing grudge between Rayward and Rustwatch back to the forefront of everyone’s mind. If there was one thing that could make an Iron Man forget the slavering hordes of chimera beasts clawing at the walls of Rustwatch it would be the appearance of the Helm Breaker on their native streets.
While the world around Rustwatch was falling into decline, the taverns and drinking halls of the city never slept. The constant partying and merrymaking posed a challenge for Pratt’s fledgling Amurai contingent to restore themselves after the long voyage across the Bone Sea. The four travelers were, at the very least, happy to have found a pair of rooms to hire within the city even if they were immediately adjacent to a never ending stream of song, vulgar jokes and wild laughter in the adjoining tavern. So far Pratt’s group had managed two days in the city and the worst complaint any of them could raise was an involuntary case of insomnia. It was a feat against the odds that an infamous Rayward legend and one of the tell tail ashen painted warriors of the Bloodwoods Clan had gone without confrontation for more than a heartbeat in the city. The red robes of Brother Pratt’s office were likely the only thing keeping the group unharmed thus far.
Three empty bowels and one untouched bowel of seared meat sat on the small table in the room that Pratt and Sir Liam were sharing. The Bloodwoods Clan hunter and the Helm Breaker’s protégé picked at the scraps of their supper while glaring dubiously at each other. Sir Liam had become the default adjudicator for the brooding cold war between Tinaca and Kalli in the absence of Brother Pratt. Sir Liam’s attention was heavily split between the pair of women who had not spoken a word since sitting down to eat and the mound of cooling beef mocking him in the bowl at Pratt’s place setting.
“Nether of you lasses saw Pratt today? He did not say anything to you about where he was going or what he was doing?” Sir Liam asked. The sound of three mouths chewing at lingering morsels was too uncomfortable to bear. Some conversation was needed in order to defuse to tension mounting between Kalli and Tinaca but more so to remove Sir Liam’s attention from the full bowl of meat, begging to be consumed.
Kalli maintained her usual silent bearing and only shook her head in the negative. He gaze never left Tinaca. Somehow she managed to keep her eyes locked on the other woman without the awkward appearance of someone who was staring. If anything it was a strange application of a hunter’s vigilance. While the ashen painted woman glowered at Tinaca, there was something inexplicably soft and tender dwelling in her gaze. Not everything she emoted was hostel or defensive.
“He was gone before I awoke. He said nothing at all about what he was doing,” Tinaca said quietly. She spoke to the Helm Breaker but her eyes never left Kalli. It was like she was still judging the woman even though her opinions of her were immutably formed. Even though Kalli’s unceremonious and potentially lethal introduction to the rest of the group was long in the past, it was well known that Tinaca could not let it go. She was fiercely protective of those close to her as that number was easily counted on one hand. The little orphaned girl that the Helm Breaker had taken under his charge had leaned every lesson he thought to her well, especially how to harbor hard feelings.
“Curse it all,” muttered Sir Liam. “The lad just expected us all to sit here and do nothing while he is off doing who knows what? This will teach him,” he continued with a sly self-convincing cadence. He reached over a heavy hand and started to slide the bowel set at Pratt’s place in front of himself. The enormous Rayward man’s belly rumbled with renewed apatite as he did so.
Before Sir Liam could vengefully work out his slighted honor on the food set aside for Brother Pratt, the door to the room opened and in stepped the junior Councilman. “Oh, wonderful. You all got supper. Thank goodness. I am famished,” he said as he went to the small table as sat down.
Sir Liam begrudgingly slid Pratt’s dinner bowel back to the young man. “Boy you disappeared on us, and all day none the less,” he said while shaking an admonishing finger at the Councilman.
“It is dangerous in the city. You could have gotten hurt on your own. I could have gone with you…You should have…” Tinaca started in a surprisingly passionate outpouring of concern. She quickly lost her words and fell into the silence that she was so well known for. She only offered Pratt a cutting and wounded look from her dark and troubled eyes.
“She is right. You alone here is not good. Foolish,” Kalli echoed.
“Apologies,” Pratt said after swallowing down a barely chewed chunk of meat. “I had to get to the Rustwatch Abby early. Not a moment to spare,” he said in-between mouthfuls of his dinner. “Nothing to worry about either. Nobody is going to harass a Councilman. I was never in any danger,” he said to Tinaca in the comforting manor that always seemed to calm her anxiety. His voice had the expected soothing effect on the girl and her featured softened though remained vulnerable.
“Well lad?” said Sir Liam with an inquisitive spread of his arms. A few beats of the only sound finning the air being Pratt’s lips noisily smacking together. “You went to the Abby and what of it?”
“Mmm, I was able to see one of the senior Father Councilmen, Father Caven, I told him that I was in need of an audience with the Iron Lord. He said that he would pass the request along to the Abbot,” said Pratt.
“Ha, you just asked another red cloak and expect your asking for a favor to get us face to face with the patron sovereign of Rustwatch? The spine on you lad…” Sir Liam said with a disbelieving chuckle.
“Why not, it worked?” Pratt responded with a smile.
“What,” Sir Liam, Tinaca and Kalli all responded in unison.
“Oh, the Abbot holds no great love for the Iron Lord, so naturally he would jump at the chance to inflict any inconvenience upon the man and Slate Roarkwin is duty bound to corporate with the Vermillion Council the same as any other leader in Argaia,” Pratt stated with a confident quality before tearing off a hunk of meat that nearly choked him as he gobbled it down. “So the Iron Lord will see us in five days’ time.”
“Not bad for a day’s work, lad. You are some kind of miracle worker,” Sir Liam said with admiration.
“I just know how to appeal to some of the petty and baser human qualities. I mean I will get the audience we are seeking but I will be addressing a captive audience so to speak. The Iron Lord only has to see me, he does not have to listen to me,” Pratt said with a thoughtful tilt of his head.
“Still it is something,” Tinaca remarked.
“Yes it is,” Pratt said. He shifted a bit in his chair as he evidently mulled over an issue that was troubling him. “As far as who gets to be face to face with the Iron Lord, It will only be the three of us,” he said motioning to Tinaca and Kalli. “I did not make mention of you,” he said to Sir Liam. “I want to build a little rapport with the Slate Roarkwin before I ask him to collaborate with the man who killed his uncle.”
An uneasy silence filled the room. It was deadly hot and set the ears of all at the table to burning though it only lasted a fleeting moment. The sound of Sir Liam’s overwhelming laugh broke the relative quiet that filled the room. “Lad I forget how wise you are sometimes,” said the Helm Breaker.