Or, how Lyn got tired of waiting and remembered that she loved to dance.
Lyn’s room was a simple affair. A shield sat nestled against the far wall, emblem obliterated from decades of upkeep. All of the equipment one could possibly need to maintain weapons were strewn about, sharpening tools, oil, polish.
The guild provided such materials, of course, in other, more specialized rooms, but Lyn had never thought it wrong to prepare her own gear. Her gambeson was out for repairs; threads had been wrenched out of it since her last mission. She could still feel the impact across her ribs, felt the kiss of the hammer…
“Stupid cat,” She scowled, glaring down at the mishapen beast. Half an ear missing, eye cloudy. One of the student’s pets had decided, against all odds, that the room that smelled the most like harnessed death and destruction was exactly where he should call home.
The cat flicked its one working ear at her, and yawned, stretching out.
With a yelp from the mangy stray, she threw it out and went digging into the unmade sheets before pulling out a small locket and chain.
Unhooked the clasp, through it over her neck, did it back up and slipped out.
The strange woman was gone, but Lyn could still smell the Guildmaster’s anger hanging in the air. A lingering dusky hint.
It was a lot more obvious when she knocked. “Guildmaster?”
An abrupt stop of soft movement, followed by the shake of many papers. “Lyn? Come in.”
Lyn breathed in for a moment, then out. There was no need to let the lingering anger in the air take her as well. Then she slipped inside.
The guildmaster had seen better days. The peppering of grey hairs among his black made his ruffled features look even more dour than the last time she’d seen him. The growing gaunt lines in his face—
They softened as he slid back into his chair, fingers running over the soft leather of the financial book. “Ah. You’re back from pilgrimage.”
Lyn didn’t want to think about that, so she didn’t. “Yes.”
“Any news?” he asked. Not unkindly. She wished it were more blunt.
“The War-God is still gone,” Lyn reported. “His hammer still rests undisturbed in the crater he left it before-”
Aer cut her off before she could think about it. She appreciated it.
“Well,” Aer said, leaning back in his chair. “At least nothing’s taken that.”
To see it in use once more… perhaps Lyn could even forgive whoever managed to lift the great god’s weapon.
But that wasn’t up to her.
“And how are you?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
Lyn stared at him levelly.
He stared back. Eyebrow slowly went unraised. “As business like as ever, Lyn. You should look into finding a way to relax.”
“Perhaps,” Lyn said, disagreeing.
“Perhaps,” Aer said, agreeing.
She stood there for a long moment as the Guildmaster’s eyes rested upon her. “No new injuries?”
“None that haven’t been taken care of by the Evoker I travelled with.”
“Dangerous field. I should get one,” he muttered. “It’d be useful to have one on staff instead of having to rely on the local church.”
“They are less than useful here,” Lyn agreed, deadpan.
More silence. Lyn privately wondered when exactly the Guildmaster would get used to her lack of talking. It’d taken him more than a week last time, and now she was back from her long… vacation.
The hammer of the gleaming god resting before her, calling her name. Speaking of great wonder of the glories it’d witnessed. Of the battles left unfought. How many had it touched?
“Are you ready for active duty?” Aer asked.
“Never been more ready in my life,” Lyn said. “You know that.”
“Business like as ever,” Aer said, though she read in the lowered tone a thought of disappointment.
And in the shift of emotions in the room. She disliked that.
“Do you have a team ready or not?” She asked. Blunt. Strike of the hammer.
He raised the eyebrow again. “For what?”
Lyn leaned forward slightly. “You know full well what I’m going to ask for. The Blighted Lands.”
Aer’s grin slipped slightly. “About that.”
“We do still have that contract, don’t we?” Lyn said, her voice dropping. “You wouldn’t happen to have found a way to… lose that contract, would you?”
“We haven’t exactly had the right team to take that on,” Aer pointed out, dry. “What with our lead warrior gone on pilgrimage, the teachers busy with students…”
“I’ll take the mage.”
Aer sank into his chair. “And what could you use that academic for?”
“He’ll be useful in figuring out how to consecrate the land,” Lyn pronounced. “Am I wrong, Aer?”
“Guildmaster is preferrable,” Aer grumbled.
“Or you could go out there with me.”
Aer’s eyes twitched up to Lyn’s face, then back down at the desk. With an extended sigh, he reached into the desk and pulled out a furled piece of parchment, then slid it up onto the desk.
“Ah. We do have it. I was afraid you’d traded it to one of the other guilds,” Lyn said.
He took it in his hand, hesitated for a moment. “You know this might be quite dangerous. There are many things left unsaid in those areas.”
“Any more unsaid than the woman that was in here when I returned?” Lyn asked.
Aer looked like he’d bitten into a sour orange.
“Or why you’re missing your candelabra?”
“You’ve made your point,” Aer said. “I’d beg you not to dig into my affairs. I am still allowed my mysteries.”
“You misunderstand,” Lyn said. “I don’t terribly care too much about them.” Her hand grasped the parchment and brought it up to her face.
“Changed to an escort?”
“You are clearing out old noble grounds,” Aer said. “That means you’re bringing a noble.”
“Goody,” Lyn said, sighing. “Let me gather the troops.”
The wizard’s room was far and away from everyone else’s. It’d been a deliberate choice, as magic was not only delicate when being devised, but dangerous when interrupted.
Lyn decided she didn’t particularly care, and swept past the empty room, counting them off one by one.
Three new rooms full since she left. Aer moved fast. He always had.
Three raps on the solid Blue-Oak door. Imported, but resistant to magic. From what she understood at least.
Nobody had ever called Lyn a caster.
Something sizzled behind that door and Lyn gently stepped to the side, waited a few seconds, counted backwards from ten, then slammed the heel of her armored boot into the lock on the door.
Startled yelp from inside. “Ack! Lyn! I’ll be out in a moment, give me a second!”
“You don’t have seconds.” Lyn muttered.
Muffled curses, spray of smoke under the door, and then it opened to reveal a slightly charred face. Dusked skin grinned under the brim of his hat.
Lyn tasted the emotions floating in the air. Bizarrely, there was joy there, interspersed with frustrations.
Oh, good. She’d somehow managed to leave a good impression. She should fix that.
“Ah! I thought you might be back today,” Dan said, smiling.
She could practically see her reflection in his teeth.
She should really fix that good impression. With a sigh, she leaned back against the wall.
“No need to glower about it,” he muttered, rolling his eyes. He wiped soot and ash off of his face with the sleeve of his robe. Loose, flowing. Easy to discard in the event of a fire or chemical spill. She could appreciate the utility, even if it looked absolutely ridiculous in any other context.
“This is what my face normally looks like,” Lyn said.
He changed the subject quickly. “We have a mission?”
“The same mission I wanted to take before we left. Some three months overdue at this point.”
Dan’s face dropped a bit more. “Oh. We’re still going to do that one?” He looked half nervous back into him room. Things still smouldered in the half dim. “Are you sure we can’t do something as a warm up?”
“If your skills have gotten dull since I was gone, that’s your own fault,” Lyn said, flat. “I’ve kept at the peak of my skill the entire time.”
Slight amusement at that statement, drifting from the open pores of the magus. What was funny about that?
“I’m sure you have, Lyn,” Dan laughed.
Lyn rolled her eyes and sighed, pulling herself off of the wall.
“So did you miss me?” Dan asked. Sincerity there.
She wasn’t entirely sure. The wizard had been somewhat of a thorn in her side, but there was something she could appreciate in the way he could throw explosive thorns out of his staff, even if he had to be babysitted everytime anything came within fifty feet of him. She tasted her own emotions, always muddled by whoever else was with her, always mixed up.
“…Yes,” She decided. “I guess I did.”
“Progress,” Dan yipped, laughing.
With a growl, Lyn tugged the hat down over his head. He squeaked indignantly, and she walked away while he sorted that out.
He knew where to go.
There was one reason to drift back into the guild’s own upkeep. Lyn couldn’t sew to save her life. Her fingers refused to grip needles, though a sword they carried just fine. A disgrace to the god of crafts, but in the glow of the War-god’s star…
Mela looked up from her supplies, putting the last few stitches back onto Lyn’s gambeson. Armored padded shirt. Lyn couldn’t wear heavier armor, and the amount it’d take to get even halfway decent plate would bankrupt them. At least, Lyn assumed it would. Aer had manifested deeper coffers than seemed reasonable, when the time called for it.
But she assumed his wallet did have a limit.
Mela moved like her feet weren’t touching the floor.
For a moment, the war-priest grinned, watching her work. The old edges and blunted emblems touched up by paint and dye, gleaming silver and luxurious red. It’d protected her many times.
The way that the craft-priest drifted across it, carefully smoothing away fine defects was fine as well. Nothing quite like knowing your possessions were being well cared for.
Lyn probably stood there for a moment, knowing Mela’s brown eyes hadn’t dropped onto hers, before Mela spoked up.
“Lyn,” Mela greeted. Not as laconic as herself, but Lyn appreciated the way Mela’s emotions didn’t reach out to greet hers. A bit of self control at last. “I’ve spent most of the day on this, I hope you take better care of it.”
Lyn’s eyes flicked over to the table, then across the room, then at Mela’s skin. Not a hint of sweat on it. “Take care of yourself as well,” Lyn suggested. “More water, at least.”
“Do you really care?” Mela asked.
Lyn tasted the air.
“Perhaps,” Lyn admitted.
“Is there yet any sign of rust on the War-god’s hammer?” Mela asked. “I know you must’ve visited while you were there, seeking blessings.”
Lyn’s lips split into a smile. This, this she could navigate. “Gleamed as if it had been freshly forged out of the heart of Autumn,” Lyn described. “As red as his star.”
Mela’s smile drifted across the back of her head until Lyn could read it in the quirks of her muscles. A pleased sort of contentment only found in the moment of activity, instead of complex thought.
“You have a mission,” Mela said.
“I do,” Lyn agreed.
“You don’t come here without a mission,” Mela said.
“Is that so wrong?” Lyn asked.
“I appreciate your company,” Mela admitted. “It’d be nice to meet one day without it being business.”
“Join me on the field at some point,” Lyn offered.
Mela looked up from stitching together the last of the gambeson. “I don’t think you mean that.”
A moment for Lyn to figure out if she really did.
“I think I do,” Lyn admitted.
“Perhaps one day,” Mela returned. A scar across the edge of her neck, a long healed blade wound from a time long ago. Had Lyn ever asked about it?
She didn’t recall.
“Here. Let me get you fitted for this. Make sure you haven’t grown or shrank any.”
Mela brought the shirt over, and Lyn enjoyed the fruits of their labor.
Dan was waiting in the muster room when she arrived. He’d cleaned up slightly. Enough that he didn’t look like he’d been burned, but not enough that he looked handsome.
Not that Lyn would know what that looked like. Lyn let her fingers drift across the pommel of her sword. A familiar weight at her side; long been there from the foot passage she’d made across the swamp, along the old roads most had deemed forgotten.
But she remembered. She tasted the old happiness buried in the furrows left filled.
But there was someone else here. Her eyes drifted across her body, settling across her stomach, where the old familiar eye of the war-god rested. An angry contortion of a pupil, searching out for passion.
“Brensh,” the acolyte introduced. “A pleasure to meet you Lyn. I’ve heard much about you.”
Lyn’s eyes flicked back over to Dan. “Has she?” she asked.
“You’re quite popular,” Dan said, coughing.
Lyn could fix that if she wanted to. But for now it served her. “Are you a new acquisition?”
“A new hire, yes,” Brensh bowed again.
“Stop that,” Lyn suggested.
The acolyte did just that. “Yes ma’am.”
“A trio will do the job. We’ll get in, bring the noble to his old house; let him see what shape it is in, and then we’ll leave again. Anything hostile in our path, we cut down,” Lyn instructed. The parchment hovered in her mind’s eyes, perfect pristine. A smile touched her lips.
“And if anything not hostile is in our path?” Brensh asked, slyly.
Lyn tasted the air, but couldn’t make much out of the muddle. “We leave it alone, obviously,” Lyn said. “We’re only going into the Blight, after all. There’s plenty of hostile things there without provoking anything else.”
“Eloquent as always,” Dan said. “I’ve got a few spells prepared this time.”
“Good. Try not to get surprised by them.”
It was time for Lyn to do what she liked best about her job.
The weight of her armor and sword felt like freedom.