Thursday, March 12, 2015

Hakaar - Chronicle 17.4 - The Hunt

We passed through Hammer Gate into the Ainsley Gorge on the way to where we planned to hunt. The sun had since crested and was a good hour into starting it's way down. The traffic had thinned as workers settled into their duties The sale of wares on the roads had hit a lull, many talking amongst themselves.

Silah's temper had settled. Her ultimatum was her outlet, and she regained composure by degrees while we walked. Just before the gate, she had cradled my arm as she did the last time we were here. I tried to keep my thoughts from wandering, but it was useless to avoid how much I would have to spend, let alone earn, to fulfill her mandate. I could imagine the smile on her face as she listened in on the frantic accounting. Thankfully, she kept silent while enjoying the whirring gears in my head. I was still a long ways from resolving how to make things right with Silah. Contrition had been a staple for me over the past week.

There were few travelers on the road at this time of day. A shadow was settling across the gorge from the high valley walls. Ahead was the Hlofolk tunnel, one of the only routes of access to the lands South. Eventually, we would venture in, but I had heard plenty of worrying stories about the tunnel. If not for the Ethesia House, I doubt I would have taken the chance to come up here.

I sighed.

Silah patted my arm, still cradling it, but remained facing forward.

"We'll move ahead. Just, stay back a bit." Floki said to the rest of us while flagging for Bromm to come with him.

Sig, Ewe, and Danin were conversing just ahead of us. Both Sig and Danin produced their respective crossbows, they were purely backup if something were to happen at a distance. I incidentally reminded myself of the conversation with Preben about throwing swords and smiled to myself. I felt fingernails bite into me, just enough to be a warning.

"You have to admit. It was funny." I shook off the threat.

"You have an interesting sense of humor if you think that's funny. Keep it up and it'll be liable to get you in trouble." She spoke audibly but remained attached, facing forward.

Ewe ended up with the larger crossbow that had a hand crank to draw the string back. They were showing him how to load it and aim it. There was twang and a bolt thudded into the ground just ahead of them. Ewe laughed nervously and gave Sig with a worried look.

"Maybe we should have prepared Sig's father for this a little better?" I mused aloud, "Hey, maybe I should carry throwing knives?"

I patted around my waist with my left hand where I'd keep something like, visualizing how I'd draw them. Silah looked up at me.

"Are you trying to annoy me?" She glowered. "Why don't you go back to trying to figure out how to meet my demands? Now, that was entertaining."

Her turn to twist the knife.

"You have an unfair advantage in all of this. Wholly unfair."

She raised an elegant eyebrow and smirked, her honey-brown eyes sparkling.

"Always operate from a position of power." She returned to leaning on me, tracing her fingers along the inside of my arm.

I sighed again, but there was a warmth in my heart. Feeling her touch did wonders for my mood.

Floki and Bromm were back on the road, waiting for us to approach. Floki held up a finger and pointed into the bunch of trees just past him, then he put his finger to his lips. We slowed our pace and the conversation between Danin, Sig, and Ewe died down.

As we approached the copse of trees, Floki motioned us to get low and creep to a spot. His guidance kept me from making too much noise. Silah had no trouble. We both took a crouched position looking through the brush to a large boar that was rooting around in a boggy meadow. The shrubs and trees refused to grow in the marshy ground so visibility was not a problem.

Floki pointed out a spot for Bromm to settle in, and he obliged, moving like a ghost behind us until he got into position and put the musket to his shoulder. Sig, Danin, and Ewe were positioned atop a low rise that acted as the edge of the basin for the marsh. Trees readily grew on the mound, giving them more than adequate cover. Ewe had his heavy crossbow at the ready, his breathing was anxious and I could see beads of sweat springing up on his forehead as he tucked it to his shoulder and peered down the shaft.

An adventure of a lifetime.

I smiled to myself. We had given Ewe a new perspective. He seemed so much more alive than when we had first met. His stuffiness had evaporated under the glaring light of each new experience. I just hoped that he could land that shot.

Floki disappeared with some vague instructions that involved a complicated set of hand gestures. Bromm seemed to get it, nodding to him. There was nothing else to do now but wait. Silah moved up close to me, putting a small hand on my left shoulder.

Time passed slowly. I eyed the forest to see where Floki had moved off to, but he had moved like a ghost into the woods.

Then, I heard him. Yelling out and making a commotion, the boar snapped to attention then turned and bolted in our direction. Roots and grass seemed to cling to the boar's body, but it easily ripped through the vegetation that clung to it.

I nodded at the incoming creature with a smile on my face, but realized my hands were empty. This wasn't my kill, I had to remind myself. I heard the muted thump of the crossbow and a bolt lanced off into the trees beyond. I grimaced as the anxious and wide-eyed Ewe walked through the steps of reloading as quickly as possible.

The boar had only just seen us, but was now charging into the midst of the group, head bowing aggressively as it barreled forward. The boar was massive, likely three times my own weight. I worried for our more fragile members, but it seemed to be moving in my direction. Danin had rounded the hill toward me, getting into position to attack. A loud crack rang out as Bromm's musket threw sparks at the beast, peeling back flesh and spraying blood. A few arrows sunk deep into the flanks of the creature, landed expertly by Floki, slowing it briefly.

I saw Sig, out of the corner of my eye, voicing something directed toward the boar, out of the sight of his father. Ewe levelled the crossbow and, sunk a shot into the left shoulder. His eyes widened.

"I hit it!" He exclaimed with both surprise and pride.

The boar had started to round the hill, I looked to Sig and tilted my head toward the boar. He nodded, giving me permission. I reached back for Silah who, must have been watching my movement, grasped my hand. The boar ran unexpectedly into Danin and thrashed hooked him with a tusk. I swung the newly formed greatsword low, as to not be obvious to Ewe, and neatly cleaved through the left flank, removing the leg. A gout of blood arced out and the creature was sent thrashing to the ground. The blade hummed with the ecstasy of taking life. I felt a chill roll through my arms with the experience.

I immediately set Silah down gently behind me and thought of her in human form. I heard a thud as the gore covered blade fell to the ground. I spun around, surprised. I glanced toward Ewe who was still marveling at the massive beast he'd brought down. I think he believed that his shot was the killing blow, which was all that mattered.

I moved over to the bloodied blade and briefly touched it while still on the ground, willing Silah to take human form.

"No." I heard briefly in my head.

I took the handle and held her up. Inspecting the blade.

What's wrong?

"Common courtesy. It's totally lost on you, isn't it? I'm not coming back all covered in filth with present company!" The looming shadow presence of her sat in the distance arms crossed, eyes afire.

My eyes widened with the thought. I hadn't even considered it. I wiped the length of the blade on my tattered wool breeches, transferring the gore from her to me.

How about now?

"Better." She said, still annoyed.

She reformed out of line of sight of Ewe, who had moved up to the boar and pushed at it with his foot. Danin looked annoyed as he touched his own torn flesh. There was a pulse of light and his wounds closed quickly.

What a thing that would be. Healing at will.

I shook my head at his ability.

"Remember, you can always make a mistake once. Once." Silah looked at me sternly, dabbing at her face. There were faint traces of blood streaking her pale skin, but it was far less obvious than it would have been.

"I thought you had to change according to my wishes." I said it apprehensively, bracing against the response.

She affixed me with a long burning stare.

"If it aligns with my wishes, I'll choose to do what you ask me to." She proceeded to pat down her dress, smoothing out any wrinkles.

"Where have you been? It's like you've lost all reason? You have one night out and the gentleman that you were slowly—very slowly—becoming simply evaporated." She crinkled her nose, giving me a look of disdain.

I pondered the thought. I wasn't sure what had changed. She didn't appreciate my humor, I know. But she was more than willing to make it her way and her's alone. There had to be a balance, a mutual respect between us. I was full of questions, but stayed silent, not wanting to poke the dragon. Which, only recently, I had found actually do exist—among other things.

Floki had already sliced into the boar. He was up to his elbows in it, pushing past the cooling flesh from within. In his way, he was a bit of an artist, laying back the flesh, and reducing the carcass into lean cuts of meat.

I gave myself a little distance, moving into the boggy meadow. Something caught my eye. In the water, there was cloth rising to the surface. I reached down and gingerly pulled it out letting it drain. It looked like one of the Dowry guard's uniforms. It was ravaged, torn apart by the brood. A skull lingered just below the surface, glowing eerily in the waning sunlight against the dark bottom.

"Look at this?" I lifted the uniform. A binding rope, frayed, but tightly coiled, fell back into the water.

Bromm joined me and Silah watched, staying out of the water, but within the distance of our bond.

"Someone fell on bad times." Bromm noted.

I picked up the skull and looked at it. A neat diamond shaped hole pierced the rear of the skull near the spine. I shuddered.

"Very bad." I said quietly. I raised my voice, "Do we want to tell anyone about this?"

"Who would we tell?" Floki said, glancing back at us. "It seems like we're more likely to get in trouble for bringing attention to it."

I grimaced, dropping the uniform back into the water and watching it settle to the bottom. I closed my eyes against the sinking feeling I had in my stomach.

Enemies everywhere.

I didn't like Dowry much. Too many games above my head. It was far too easy to become a pawn in all this nonsense. I was ready to return to the relative simplicity of Hlorfreden. Ah, my times at The Sea Witch. What I would give to be back there right now.

I sloshed out of the bog into an ongoing discussion.

"How do we plan to pack this out?" Sig said.

"We could each carry some." Floki suggested, shrugging.

"I could take it." I said, eyeing the significant load of meat.

"There's about three hundred stones worth of meat here. Are you sure you can take that?"

I grimaced. I could carry it, but we were going to be walking for miles.

"It'll be bulky, but I can carry it. Unless you want to use your magic purse," I motioned to Sig who gave me a sour look.

"No way is that going in there!" He said with a furrowed brow, "I'd never get the smell out!"

Floki turned to Bromm.

"You have that belt, right? Hakaar could use that to pack all this out."

"If someone is willing to carry some of my load, I'm game." Bromm nodded.

Silah held up a hand.

"I can help."

I looked at her with an appreciative smile and she returned a tense look, bordering aggravation. I really had no idea what to do with her. For all of the good that had happened in the last couple of days, I now felt like I was losing her bit by bit.

Floki created an improvised sling with the hide of the boar using some rope, and neatly laid the meat in rows until each sling was full.

A bellow rose, echoing off of the canyon walls. Piercing the quiet of the forest. The ambiance quieted, birds and insects stopped their chatter. Wide eyes went up and around the group.

"We had better leave. Now." Floki got to his feet, hurried to the meadow, and quickly rinsed the blood off of his hands and forearms in the standing water of the bog. He then pulled out his bow and started picking a path back to the road.

I ratcheted the belt on that Bromm handed to me and, they were right, the meat was considerably lighter than I expected. I set each rope over the opposite shoulder. I was covered in the smell of new death, but, now-a-days, it seemed to be my way of life. Silah gingerly held Bromm's musket, showing her trepidation for the weapon.

With as loud as that bellow was, there was no follow up. We hurried down the trail, passing roads leading up to farm houses. A man had moved to the end of his lane and exchanged words with Sig and Ewe. There was a polite nod from the man as he turned and moved back down his lane. I was worried. Danger lurked so close and we just kicked the hornets nest. I hoped that there would be no repercussions affecting these families.

At Hammer Gate, money changed hands as they pointed back to me. Apparently, there was a tax on goods coming into the city.

It was awkward moving through the city laden with meat. There were many a look, layered with both disgust and envy. I kept plodding along, starting to feel the weight of the load bite through my shoulders. Ewe was now leading us, pointing past his house to a local butcher.

The butcher looked bemused as we walked in, ready to turn us away, until he saw the meat we had brought.

"It's been downright dry, lately! The ranch took a turn for the worst and we haven't seen beef in a while. What's that you have there?"

Floki piped up.

"We just took down a boar outside of town. The meat is as fresh as you can get it. Ewe, what would you like to do with it?"

"Some rounds of fresh chops. Marinated the way I like them, of course," He gave the man a knowing look. "And I'll have the rest cured and jerked."

"Winter's over, my man. Curing can only go so far without a cold room." He warned Ewe who immediately smiled.

"I've had my eye on one of those alchemical cooling devices…" Ewe stopped and straightened up, "For another time. I've got business to attend to."

Coins exchanged hands, and I laid the meat gingerly on the counter. My shoulders ached with the release. The butcher immediately set to work, gathering his tools and laying out the meat with practiced precision.

We had parted ways with Ewe, who was walking confidently back to his home. His childlike excitement was apparent with the wide smile that spread across his face. There was no doubt that we'd be doing this again.

We went to Butterwicks immediately. I was feeling self-conscious with each step as I no longer had meat draped over me to account for the amount of blood I was still wearing. I thought of making a show of it, but decided against that. There were enough rumors on these streets already.

I handed the blood encrusted belt off to Bromm, who eyed it with contempt, then looked back at me. I nodded toward Floki.

"It was his idea, right? I'd have him clean it up." I said apologetically. "I'm done dealing with blood for today."

He looked pitiful, and his mouth yammered silently. I shrugged heavily at him and turned away.

I moved toward the stairway up to the rooms. Silah, in turn, handed him his musket, which he promptly put down while still eyeing the bloodstained belt, unsure of what to do next. She slowed her pace behind me, taking her time getting up the stairs.

I opened the door and sprawled on the small chair, my head lolling backward. I reached up and started unbuckling the breastplate with some effort. I had begun to feel the strain on my body from carrying that load. I could barely lift my arms above my shoulders. The belt helped tremendously, it was true. But the slings, as ingenious as they were, did the most damage. I rubbed the now bared shoulder before attempting to unclasp the next.

I heard Silah enter the room quietly and move up behind me. I closed my eyes, bracing for the torrent that was yet to be unleashed. But, instead, she unbuckled the other clasp and lifted the breastplate away, setting it noiselessly on the floor. She began to knead my shoulders, putting a man's strength worth of work into each individual hand. At times I cringed with, but slowly the muscles loosened and I melted like butter on a warm day. She continued, moving to my neck, then she traced her fingers over my shoulder as she moved over to the bed and sat down facing me.

I was bewildered by the attention. Confused at the tenderness where there had been anger. I was exhausted by the constant push and pull. Nothing had remained settled for long. I'd say it was my fault, because it almost always was, according to Silah. Yet, I wasn't the one choosing to be offended.

"You'd probably do better to jump in the bay than sit in a tub full of bloodied water." She said with a weak smile.

"I'm sure I'll manage," I nodded quietly, "And thank you."

I sat forward and removed my boots in silence. I stood and stretched, bumping into the ceiling with my hands, feeling the tension in my shoulders evaporate. I looked at her, she sat looking at me with an unreadable expression.

"And, really, thanks. That was amazing." I rolled my head around, feeling far better than I had in ages. I paused, thinking to myself, then looked to her.

"But, why?" I asked feeling confused, "I thought you were mad at me."

I waited briefly. She looked at me with a placid expression.

"You are more like Duncan than you may believe." She tilted her head slightly looking wistful, beautiful, "There are a lot of people in your life."

I shrugged, "Yes, but I'm not sure..."

"I just have to remember that." She interrupted quickly, while nodding. Then she smiled and did a shooing motion, "Go take your bath."

I rooted through my rucksack and produced a clean undershirt and smallclothes. I went to the door, glanced back at her and nodded, unable to mask my bewilderment. I walked into the bath room, spending time, first, to clean my existing clothes, the blood stains not rubbing out readily. I hung up my breeches and underclothes so that they could drip dry.

I drained the dark pink water, listening to it gurgle and sputter down the small drain in the tub. The small potbelly stove had a reservoir built into it. Lighting the stove and filling the reservoir did the difficult work for you, letting you fill the tub from a nozzle once it was hot enough.

I took my time, taking the hard cake of soap and attacking the crusts of blood that criss-crossed my body. At least, this time, it wasn't mine. I had felt Silah moving around, at the edges of our bond, but little else beyond that.

I cleaned up, doing my best to make it presentable for whoever came next, then moved through the hallway and pushed into the room. I looked toward the bed but didn't see Silah. My heart skipped a beat as I took in the room.

Silah sat in the small wooden chair facing the washing basin. The mirror was coated with steam from the hot water. My breath caught in my throat. Her shoulders and back were bare, the elaborate tattoos weaved intricate patterns up either side of her spine. There was a pink towel on the right of the basin and fresh towel to the left. Her purple dress was piled on the floor next to the chair. She was dipping the towel in her hand into the scaldingly hot water and wiping her face, then moving on to her shoulders. The towel began to pick up the pinkish hue with each pass.

She began to turn toward me and I immediately turned to the side, putting my hand up to block my vision. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to intrude." My heart was racing.

"Intruding?" The question in her voice seemed genuine.

I heard her turn back to the basin, and I chanced a glance toward her. She was wringing out the towel in the basin with such strength that its fibers squealed. She poured the scalding clean water over the towel in her hand and continued to towel the traces of blood off of her arms, lifting them gracefully. Her eyes following each careful stroke of the towel.

"This is a very calming ritual." She nodded slowly. "I can see why you do it so regularly."

"Well, that and being presentably clean. Which has been more difficult lately." I said, trying to keep it as an offhand comment, but I was incredibly anxious and my voice quavered slightly.

Silah had to know what effect this situation had on me. I clenched my teeth, it was yet another way to put me off balance. And it was working. I paused looking around the room for what I needed to be publicly presentable.

"I'll meet you downstairs when you're ready." I moved quickly through the room, grabbing my breastplate, boots and sheaths.

I shut the door quietly behind me and took a deep breath. The bath was now occupied by someone else. They were noisily splashing around in there. I took the time in the hallway to finish dressing.

I ran my hand over my face. Silah wasn't around to scold me, so I went right back to my old habits. I looked at my trembling hand and clenched it tight, steadying it against my nerves.

What was it that Duncan said? "Fitting to have a weapon be a woman. Fitting, but dangerous."

It was never a matter of desire. There had always been desire. But then there was consequence to be considered, too. Decisiveness in battle was critical to survival for both you and your squad. The Grasslions were unequivocal and unanimous in their loyalty to orders. That's largely how Duncan trained us, there was no question but to do what you were told and do it well knowing he had both the interests of the squad and the battle in mind.

With Silah, I was far from decisive. So many lives depended on us working well together, but I was the one taking the risks. Adding anything new to this was just going to be far more trouble. We had only just begun to understand each other. It took years of training to learn to fight effectively in cooperation with others. With her, there was neither a trainer or a known foe to plan for. It was just us, or, perhaps, just me. So far, the combination of us had been our own worst enemy.

That, and the fact that I had no idea how to associate with women. It was becoming increasingly apparent that I was ill prepared. Hell, maybe Robyn would exchange a favor for a favor? She could give me some clue as to what I was getting into.

I could see Robyn's sarcastic smirk now. It brought a small smile to my lips. No. There was no possible way she could prepare me for the level of gentry required to stand toe to toe with Silah. But maybe that wasn't the point? I wanted leverage so I didn't feel so weak willed when there was blood on the line.

I clomped down the stairs heavily. Indecision and confusion rattling around in my head.

Sig was downstairs getting a meal. He mentioned that his father had stopped in at Butterwick's, and said that someone had come by with the contract "and a bit more". Ewe offered to have the envoy meet at his house. Sig was planning on heading that direction after his meal. I nodded and offered to join him.

They had a rough history together, from what others had said. I couldn't see it, though. Maybe at first, but I wasn't sure who was being more tolerant. They seem like a pair to me, both matching each other's rhythm with very little effort.

I wasn't hungry, but I did order an ale so I had something to do with my hands. My nerves settled as I sipped and talked with Sig. The others started to filter downstairs. Bromm first, then Silah, then Danin. I nodded to each in turn, having a hard time meeting Silah's gaze. She pulled up a chair next to me and listened in on the conversation quietly.

"We should go. I'm not sure when the envoy will get there, but we should be ready for him." He smiled, "My father will probably keep us entertained while we wait."

"I like that idea." I nodded, tipping the mug his direction.

We approached Ewe's home just as the envoy arrived. We were all invited in graciously by Sig's mother, a woman who had aged gracefully, that is, until her worries caught up to her. We were in the sitting room, I sized up my compatriots, each maintained a polish that I couldn't compare to. Silah sat across from me, looking at me with an assuming gaze, tilting her head and studying me. I fidgeted under her gaze, feeling crazed with the colliding feelings.

Ewe stepped in and joined us.

"Dear? A round a glasses and our finest liquor, if you please? We have business to celebrate." He smiled around the room. There was a proud glow in his face as he regarded Sig.

The envoy gathered signatures from Sig and Bromm, while Danin notarized the dealings with an inked stamp from his station with the Derum Ebbar clerics. After all seemed taken care of, the man dropped a jingling bag in Sig's hand. His eyes had widened briefly, looking surprised by the weight.

A round of liquor was poured, one I had never heard of. Old Law was the liquor I was most familiar with up to this point. This burned like liquid fire, but melted into the palate with fine taste of cloves and sage. I looked around the table with a grin spreading wide. I suppressed my enthusiasm as everyone else remained extraordinarily calm. I would have to ask Ewe about that later.

Everyone stood and shook the man's hand. I was a clear head and a half taller and I closed my meaty hand gently around his hand. The man looked anxious, but I nodded, hopefully appearing as gracious as my countenance would allow. It was Silah who told me to be careful to whom I smiled as it looked … menacing.

We made our way out the door, Sig and Danin matched pace with the envoy while Bromm, Floki, Silah and I moved back toward Pike's. The sun had only a mere hour of light left before it dropped behind the rising hillside.

Bromm had mentioned that he wanted to see if one of the Salamanders had a pistol called a Pepperbox. Along the way, a contingent of the Salamanders posting the fliers they had mentioned about the lost duchess. There wasn't an illustration, but the description of her was exactly her. E'robyn. I smiled at how she had distanced herself from her name, but with a style of hiding in plain site. When I first heard how they pronounced Robyn's birth name, I didn't get it, but having it spelled out on paper it was suddenly obvious.

Igul eyed us, and his mouth stretched into a thin line.

"Evening." He nodded.

"So this is the flier, eh?" Bromm said, taking one from the top. "How about we help get these up for you?"

Igul's eyes lit up and the thin line stretched into a smile.

"You would? There's a stack, we have a hammer and some small pitons there." He pointed out the supplies.

I took one of the fliers and tucked it away, then proceeded down the street, tacking the posters to any posts available. I overheard two of the Salamanders talking, setting my ears ablaze.

"Word is, this is just for show. He say's we're moving on North and East in the morning."

I looked to Silah seeing if she caught that. She had been keeping her distance from the show, but listening in. She looked up at me and nodded. I grimaced. My queasiness from our earlier encounter completely subsided. We were working again and that kept my mind off of where things were headed.

The stack of fliers dwindled to nothing. And Igul slapped Bromm on the back.

"You, my friend, are a man of your word!"

"But you're buying, right?" Bromm pointed to him.

"For you? Sure! I choose, though. I know how this goes." Igul rallied the group, "We're done, boys. Let's head back to Pike's!"

We moved along with the troupe. Preben was there, he gave me a nod, but I think the discomfort he felt last time he walked with me made him think twice about doing it again.

"Does anyone in your group own a pepperbox?" Bromm asked Igul.

"I know at least one. Martin. He's had terrible luck with it. It's a fine weapon, so we blame the bad luck on him."

"Do you think Martin'd be willing to sell?"

Igul shrugged.

"I wouldn't be surprised? Come and ask him yourself so I can buy you that drink." Igul patted Bromm on the back again.

I lagged back and lingered by Silah.

"I wish I felt good about any of this. We have to warn her just in case it's a trap."

Silah nodded.

I paused, I was starting to feel anxious again.

"What about you?" I asked her.

"What about me?" She looked up at me.

"Did I do something? I can't fix it if I don't know." I looked at her, trying to read her expression.

"There's nothing to fix. You're fine." She said and she put her hand on my arm. I looked into her eyes, trying to find some clue, but she tilted her head again. "You're sweet. Just stay the way you are."

It was an answer that wasn't an answer at all. I furrowed my brow and nodded.

"Well, then, let's go. We've got business."

We pushed through the front door of Pike's.

There was a deal going on right then. Bromm had pulled out his musket and his pistol, engraved with the word Glory. Martin Monk, in his Salamanders garb, produced an equivalent sized, but multi-barrelled, pistol. This is what Bromm had been calling the pepperbox. They were inspecting each others weapons with some enthusiasm.

I overheard Bromm spinning a tale about a place called Briargate on a forbidden island full of witches and pirates. The town in Briargate is where the pistol was manufactured as part of a war between champions of the gods.

The story was intricate and, in looking at Bromm, I realized that he genuinely believed it. It may have been overstated somewhat, but he was intent on the tale in a way I hadn't seen before. I knew I had to ask him about it later. Whether it was a well practiced fabrication or the real thing, only he could tell me.

The man was pleased with the story and asked for a writ from Bromm himself, to the authenticity of the weapon's origin. Bromm scrawled to paper and handed the weapons over in exchange for the shiny new pepperbox.

After that, we made our way out of Pike's.

"We need to get to Robyn quickly. Did you hear what they were saying? They're leaving tomorrow morning." My words were heated.

"We'll get there. Let her know so that this is happening on her own terms." Bromm assured me.

"You don't think it's true, then? That they're hunting her?"

"I'm not sure what to think. But I owe her a warning. If she wants to take it, that's her business." Bromm nodded.

Bromm continued, "Let me drop this off with Sig," he held up the new pistol, "and we'll talk with Beidrick. You and I will leave at first light."

(Get to know Akeron)