Hauling the gold ore down from the Windhollows was a chore. Not so much for the weight, but where to put it all. Bromm had given me a belt that straightened my back when I put it on and seemed to allow me to maximize my ability to haul what we had retrieved. In fact, I remembered using this back when we slaughtered the boar in Ainsley's Gorge with Ewe.
As we moved down the cliffside, I reminisced about the others at Robyn's farewell, thinking of the wizard with his bespeckled hat that used his magic to transport goods. Right about now, I'd have absolutely paid that man to move these stones for us. Sure, we could make due, but the inconvenience was enough to make me consider.
Heh, I really am getting soft. I thought to myself.
I had never considered manual labor as beneath me, but, after hauling ore from a series of waterlogged mining carts and digging out a collapsed tunnel, I had begun to feel that way. I sighed. Doing that much in one day made my body ache with the thought of future excursions.
Silah was also helping, speaking of things being beneath one's station. Silah had taken a few of the stones that wouldn't fit into my rucksack. She easily hefted one of the more unwieldy stones, holding it away from her dress in order to not get it dirty. She had a way of locking her arms and then counterbalancing by leaning back just slightly to keep herself directly under the mass. Her own weight was likely just less than the stone she carried. Her strength, in such a small, lovely woman, completely boggled my mind. I chuckled to myself with the thought of the any ignoramus tangling with her, but then also wondered if she'd ever actually fight back?
Today was likely the pinnacle of lowly tasks for Silah, this incredible being that was meant to keep the otherworld at bay. Again, I couldn't help but wonder if she would best fulfill her task elsewhere. And, as usual, I knew these thoughts would only make me restless and resentful of fate. I set those thoughts aside, keeping an eye on the road ahead.
We ended up at the temple of Derum Ebbar, taking the opportunity to unload the ore we had retrieved. Danin pushed through the doors, holding one open while he flagged us through. The inner sanctum was always something I found curious, being very unlike other temples I had seen. There were service portholes that lined one wall. Each had a specific service associated with it: exchange of currency, withdrawing money with their guaranteed writs, and granting money that would eventually be repaid.
Being money minded as the bookkeepers of Derum Ebbar were, each service had a surcharge which was considered a donation to the temple for the service. Strangely enough, Danin said there was a discount for him being a full member of the order. Unfortunately, that privilege didn't extend to us. I had asked him in the past how they'd know if he let that slide.
"I would know." He had said, giving me a scalding look.
I had immediately apologized for the affront. After all, you don't mess around with the men who handle your money.
We set up the exchange, dictated by Danin, getting what we believed was a fair rate for the ore rich stones. Sig requested that we divided up the funds six ways, which I found odd.
"You did good work in there." Sig said, turning to me.
"Just doing my job." I said, feeling overworked, but knowing I had been treated with respect..
"We wouldn't have had this otherwise, so it seems fair that you get two shares."
My eyes widened as he pushed the two shares toward me. Silah gripped my arm from behind and give me an excited, and painful, squeeze.
"Thank you." I bowed my head deeply.
I scraped the spoils into my coinpurse. Others attended to their business, some depositing their share into the temple's hold. Bromm and Sig checked in on the income from Richter Holdings. The transactions from the brewery were automatically being deposited via Derum Ebbar's own coin handling services.
As we exited the temple, Floki and Bromm has split off from the rest as we were on our way to Atticus's shop. Bromm indicated that he going to get a little rest at Robyn's cottage, but there was a look in his eye that made him seem a tad harried. Floki continued on to his hut just outside of town. I hadn't ever seen it, but the way that he had described it, it seemed little more than a lean-to with a door. One of these days, I was going to have to take a peek to see what he called home.
Silah and I followed Sig and Danin to Atticus's shop. Even with the excitement of some fresh coin in the purse, there was apprehension building as we neared our destination. Silah was on my arm, and I could feel her presence moving to and fro through my mind more and more aggressively with each step. It was uncomfortable, her taking up residence in my mind without my being aware of it. I looked in on her, finding myself on the stage, her giant visage discontent, casting it's glowing eyes back and forth while noisily pacing in the dark caverns of my mind.
Anything I can do? I thought.
Her glowing eyes trained on me, a chill of intimidation shot through me, but I met those glowing orbs. Her face was expressionless. There was a pause, but then her eyes dropped again and she began her tromping pace again.
If you aren't going to talk to me, can you do this somewhere else? Moving my form's hand in time with her movement as I expressed my annoyance.
Silah's armored form stopped and lifted a fist. She looked down at the fist that seemed about as large as I was. She tightened it closed until it shook. I wondered what I would feel if she struck me with that in this place. I didn't doubt that it would be unpleasant. This display wasn't for me, though, I had felt this way before; powerless.
"This soul. Whatever. Whoever it is, they," her visage paused, dropping the gigantic fist out of sight, "I don't know."
There was a long pause.
What about them? I thought, concerned.
Her glowing eyes closed and she shook her head slowly.
"I don't know their nature. I'm afraid," her downcast glowing eyes opened a crack, releasing shafts of light, "I'm afraid I may have known them. I'm afraid they come from my past."
I nodded, both physically and in my mind. In a moment of changing focus, I could see that we were nearing the shop. I physically hugged her close, but I couldn't penetrate the cloud of sullenness.
I'll be here. Whatever comes, I'll be here. I thought, my heart aching for her.
Sig pushed through the door, followed by Danin. I held the door for Silah and, as she broke contact, the heaviness in my mind lifted. I hadn't realized how much she was leaning on me, but I was immediately able to breathe more easily.
Atticus was rearranging the front of the shop and, as we walked through, his eyes brightened.
"You're a tall one. Can you grab those baskets? I think some of the herbs have gone moldy."
I shrugged and moved behind the counter, reaching up to shuffle the baskets around.
"Does he always do what you say?" Atticus said, a little louder than he probably should have, to his grandson.
"He likes to help." Sig smiled.
I grimaced to myself, still looking forward.
"Sig! I have some news for you." Atticus said, seeming to suddenly realize who he was talking to. He then turned to his assistant, Ori, I believe, and shooed him out of the front room telling him to check on the herbs upstairs.
It was hard to know how much of this was an act and how much of him was genuinely oblivious. I wasn't going to second guess the man in case I was wrong, but that's likely exactly what he depended on.
"I have something for you, too." Sig returned.
There was a pause as both Sig and Atticus looked expectantly at each other.
"Why don't you go first?" Atticus said, playing a game I've seen played out between Sig and Floki before, which explained quite a bit.
A brief annoyance fluttered over Sig's face, but he reached back into his haversack and retrieved the cloth wrapped stone. Silah unconsciously moved against me with the reveal, the sight of the stone putting her on edge again. I put my arm around her as I felt the heaviness of her presence settle, again, into my mind.
"We found this in the mine shaft behind the Windhollows storage." He said, unwrapping it without touching the stone itself.
"Oh, so that's what that smell is. You came right over, yes?" Atticus wrinkled his nose looking between all of us.
He turned his attention to the stone in Sig's hand, peering closely at it. He whispered and, with a slight gesture, began to look more closely at it.
"My, this is potent."
"Silah says that she was made from one of these." Sig said, glancing at Silah, but she didn't meet his gaze.
"Hmmm. I thought you didn't remember your creation?" Atticus pressed.
"It is a vague memory. I have seen others like this before." She said with a quiet firmness, but I could feel her withdrawing with the ache.
"Others. Very interesting." Atticus looked to Sig, "Do you mind if I hold this overnight?"
"Not at all. Let me know what you find?" Sig smiled.
My jaw clenched. It wasn't my place to withhold, but letting this out of our possession made me uncomfortable. Especially with someone who was admittedly bound to the powers of Gevurah.
"Just know that there are agents in this city." I said, unnecessarily, but I wanted to voice my concern.
"Oh yes! That!"
Atticus's frail form moved in close to us as he dropped his voice.
"I have been watching my clients. The old man who tends to the lighthouse. He has been coming here gathering components that we use." He nodded to Sig, "I doubt he is who he appears. There is a strong aura of illusion magicks around him at all times."
He continued, "I've watched him walk up the long path to the lighthouse and he appears as an old man, but something isn't right. If you wanted to find someone behaving oddly, that would be where I would start."
Sig nodded and looked to Danin.
"We'll have to tell the others." Sig turned back to Atticus, "Thanks for keeping your eyes open."
Atticus smiled and nodded. He seemed a man that was now owed a favor.
"Would you boys like to stay? I was going to have Ori cook a meal for us?" Atticus offered. "You can have your old room back?"
"Sure." Sig nodded, "Oh, and Danin is an excellent cook."
Danin nodded with steady smile.
"And you? Will you and the … lady be staying?" Atticus stumbled over his reference to Silah, still stuck on the idea of what she was and, infuriatingly, not who.
"We'll take our leave. I need to visit an old friend of mine." I said, looking at the others.
Atticus chuckled as I said old. I was confounded by Atticus in so many ways, it made me uneasy.
"Are you heading out to Kellas House?" Sig asked.
"Our first shipment of gunpowder is due soon. We plan on delivering it personally, so we'll likely see you out that way." Sig explained.
I had thought this was the case, but hadn't been sure what was decided.
"I will see you there, then." I smiled politely at Sig and Danin nodding, "Until then, be safe."
We exited the shop, Silah still close. We walked in silence, but I could feel her slowly relax as we moved further away.
"What do you think?" I said, fishing for thoughts.
"Doesn't it take half a day to get to Kellas on foot?"
"No, not that." I said bewildered by her leap in topic, "Why would that even be a concern?"
She looked up at me, her brow furrowed, then her grip tightened and I felt pressure as she started grappling around in my head.
"Please. Don't do that." I pinched high on my nose, trying to counteract the pressure.
"What?" She said, clearly annoyed. "If you don't feel inclined to ask directly, I have to do my own digging."
"Again, wholly unfair." I said aloud, "I need to gather my things from The Sea Witch before we go."
She had withdrawn her search, easing off of my mind for a moment. We walked in silence, but her annoyance was palpable.
"What do you think about Atticus and the stone?" I attempted again.
Silah shrugged, whatever she thought, she didn't seem to want to speak about it.
"Are you at all worried about him having the stone?" I pressed getting annoyed with her resistance.
"No. Not particularly." She said frankly, "He doesn't seem to hold ill will. He wants to help."
She paused and a wry smile crossed her face.
"In his own way and in his own time, of course." She looked up at me.
Silah must have caught something I hadn't.
"Let me inside your head someday. I swear." I grumbled noisily, shaking my head.
"Oh, you couldn't handle it, I assure you." She said through a laugh.
I glared at her, but swallowed my contempt.
"Then what about this old man and the lighthouse?" I asked, watching her expression.
The revelation about the old man didn't really seem to impact us. That is, unless it was was the agent that's been in the city. Then it should be dealt with immediately. Now that the Priory of Kols was active again, it was only a matter of time before there was another attack. I wanted that to be much later, so we had time to prepare.
She glanced up at me again, but this time with a wide smile.
"Exactly." She said with a nod.
"Exactly what you're thinking." She cradled my arm shaking with a shimmering laugh.
"Will we ever have a normal conversation?" I said, feeling both used and exasperated.
"I thought this was normal." Her laughter grew with my contempt.
We had reached the front door of The Sea Witch and I gave her a look of consternation.
"Far from it." I grumbled as I grappled with the small door handle and she walked through.
"Oh, my beast." She cooed, "You are my joy and my delight."
It sounded like sarcasm, but, strangely, I realized that she meant it.
All that hurts is my pride. I thought as my lips pulled into an dull smirk.
I retrieved all of my equipment from Bromm's room while Silah stayed downstairs. I could feel the pressure of her moving in the distance, but she was still within the range of our bond. I looked myself over in the mirror.
Being in the water for as long as I had been cleaned off most of the muck and dirt I had been wallowing in. What remained was the residue of the stagnant water. I took a moment and sat in the smallish chair, picking up my campaigner and looked it's rough, often sharpened edge. I was feeling the weight of responsibility linger for a moment.
"At least you never talked back to me." I mused quietly to the blade.
I held the blade up in front of me, seeing the symbol of the Grasslions in the pomel, bringing back memories of my time spent with them. I had joined the ranks of the Grasslions near the end of the Ten Years War, but I wore my time with them with pride and honor.
I sheathed the sword and picked up my rucksack and, just before moving downstairs, looked back into the room, feeling homeless again.
Silah was sitting at a table that was spread with a small meal of bread, butter, and a hearty soup. She smiled and stood as I tromped down the stairs.
"I figured you'd want a little something for the trip?" Her honey-brown eyes glittered as she spoke. "I wondered if you were just cranky because you're hungry."
I shook my head and smiled.
"Have you thought that I might be cranky because of you? You are relentless, after all."
She deliberately sat down and crossed her legs elegantly, her smile turning wicked.
"I'll take that as a compliment."
(Get to know Akeron.)