A/N: Last chapter, Golzar received a message from another Guild Council member, Edmund, calling an emergency meeting to resolve the issue of a hero company being held prisoner in another country. In this chapter, she attends said meeting.
Street, the old man with the corgis was inspecting the mushrooms. Mushrooms of
all shapes and sizes grew in abundance throughout Lucrece – some edible, and
some poisonous. Golzar watched him watch the little brown beads that snaked a
trail between the cobblestones. She then watched him come back to his senses
and begin to leave. No corgi left behind.
The Old Quarter
of Lucrece was filled with narrow alleyways like this one. Golzar squeezed
along the right side of the cobblestone path, careful to duck under eaves and
signs that hung from roofs. Around her, the residents were moving about at a
slow, hankered pace, plodding through the mid-morning. Most of the work would
have been done by dawn, Golzar noted, eyeing the buckets full of cow manure
almost neatly scooped and laid out around the legs of an old woman who guarded
the farming supplies shop.
At last, she
arrived at the small house at the end of the street and knocked on its circular
It was Haywood
who opened it. His shocking blond hair was just barely combed down, and he
scrutinised Golzar with a squint and ruddy cheeks. “Hmph. You’re early enough.”
The house was
one owned by a freeperson supporter of the Heroes’ Guild. Golzar nodded to the
young woman standing beside Haywood, who was dressed in a rich carmine apron.
Soft cheeks blushed.
The space was
cramped, as though the woman’s family had fallen on hard times. There was a
stone firepit towards the back of the room, and no backroom in sight. Golzar
remembered they had usually used the backroom of their supporters’ houses
during the war, to avoid suspicion from any of the King’s men who roamed the
entered, the woman slipped past her to peek at the streets outside. She seemed
mouse-like, turning her head left and right, as though looking for something.
“Worried your colleagues
will see us, madame?” Normand said from the round table. He smiled, the edges
of his auburn sideburns crinkling upwards. He had a full beard, combed neatly,
and a head of hair that distracted from his wrinkled forehead. His complexion
was chalky, and it glowed slightly in the light of the small cooking fire the
woman had burning.
“N-no, not at
all,” the woman squeaked. Golzar winced. Bad enough she had to accommodate all
these fools on the regular.
A quiet, low
rumble of a voice came from the seat beside Normand. “We won’t be long,” Othmar
said. Calm hooded eyes looked evenly at the woman. He had a soft face, his skin
mid-brown with a cool undertone. Othmar wasn’t a tall or imposing man, but he
certainly had a presence. A necessary one, Golzar thought. He was the only one
of the Councillors she could honestly claim to respect.
his throat. He was sitting at the farthest side of the round table’s edge, as
if still looking for a head of the table. His sword was leaning on the wall beside
him, whereas the others had left their swords by the door. “Shall we begin?”
Edmund, who was
also already seated, tapped his pen meaningfully against the side of the table.
completely bald, and his head glowed slightly. His features were smooth despite
his age, and his body long and bony.
scurried away to sit in a corner of the room. Freepersons did not usually offer
hospitality to heroes like this, and perhaps she was feeling a bit out of her
depth. Golzar removed her sword from her belt and placed it in the same stack
at the door, before moving to take her seat.
She noticed the
seat beside William was empty, but no one was remarking on Ariga’s absence.
“It’s the first
time Commander Thomas has done something like this,” William said. “We don’t
know all of the specifics.”
Edmund’s gaze move toward a piece of paper kept under his notes. When William
glanced at him though, he sharply moved away again, fixing his eyes upon
continued. “We’re not sure if the guards at the border really are to be
trusted. It was by their report we learned that a trespass had been committed.”
“Do we have any further evidence? I know the information says the trespass
happened near the outpost of Tyn.”
“I say they
could’ve been mistaken,” Haywood harrumphed. “’S not like that hasn’t happened
before with other companies.”
“Or the guards
could be lying,” Normand said cheerfully. “I know some outposts give their men
a good commission if they catch a couple of unsuspecting foreigners and get
them convicted for petty crime.”
In the dimness
of the room, Golzar could make out Edmund’s impassive face. She looked at him
with just as little emotion. She was thinking hard. Part of her wanted to say
‘leave them’. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for heroes to trespass the
Zenithian border, and they’d always bailed them out during the war. Now, they
no longer had that as an excuse. It could damage the diplomatic tie between
kingdoms if they kept up with old habits.
with the cover of the pouch she had been keeping on her waist since the middle
of the war. It was a good make, Zenithian. The company had received it from
some of the Zenithian merchantry, which supported the heroes’ rebellion against
Korvus during the war. Some of the Councillors’ weapons were also from Zenith.
Edmund owned a curved blade, which glinted in the firelight. Though Ariga
wasn’t hear, Golzar knew the woman kept her own stash of curved blades to use
on horseback skirmishes.
At the same
time, Golzar couldn’t keep taking her chances with the Council. She had
realised it after talking to Raymond. The memory of the first meeting made her
set her jaw in a hard line. The darkness of the room seemed much colder. She
couldn’t afford to alienate herself amidst the Guild, with so much of the
nobility unwilling to hear heroes as a whole out.
was a voice from the corner. “With all due respect, Sir Guild Chief . . . The
border villages of Zenith have always been on good terms with the Woodlandian
Merchants’ Guild,” said the woman in the red apron. “Furthermore, if my sources
are correct it was sacred grounds that the Brown Dogs trespassed upon.”
her from the tail of her vision. She was flushing slightly, but she spoke as
though she often spoke up at these meetings. The other Councillors listened
attentively, as well. Perhaps she’d been wrong about her initial assessment,
have little to do with the Merchants’ Guild,” William rumbled. When he did,
Haywood and the others began nodding. Only Othmar remained silent, still
looking at the woman. She smoothed out her apron and looked back at her cooking
fire, nudging a coal with a pair of tongs, awkwardly.
It was at this
point that Golzar decided to make her move. “Even if they did trespass on
sacred grounds,” she begun. “Is it not our responsibility to bring them back
and discipline them on our own territory?”
to contemplate this for a moment, then his face hardened into a grimace. “I
would suppose so.”
Golzar let a
small smile onto her face. It was a roundabout proposal, she knew it. But her
main concern was making whatever they were doing palatable for the people of
Zenith. Palatable enough that they’d not only agree to it, but consider it a plus
point for themselves.
“What if they
refuse?” Othmar said. He adjusted the neck of his black woollen shirt.
wish to have the sovereign of the trespassed area enact the punishment
“Which would be
a problem as well, if we try to bring them back without punishment,” Edmund
said, looking up from his parchment. His almond-shaped eyes looked on
innocently, unaware of William’s growing frustration beside him. No, Golzar
thought. It wasn’t that he wasn’t aware; he just didn’t care.
Edmund’s other hand discreetly push a full cup of tea towards William.
into his hand and continued. “All in favour of sending a contingent there to
“Aye,” rang a
chorus steadily around the table.
“In that case,
this meeting’s adjourned.”
One by one, the
other Councillors began to leave. Golzar lingered to help push the chairs back
“This house . .
. they’re still making designs like these aren’t they?”
woman smiled at her, cheeks rosy. “Oh,
yes. Even in the other quarters.”
It was a design
that hadn’t changed in decades. Golzar remembered seeing sketches of these in
the cheap copies of books she used to get during the war. Meanwhile, no one
kept the designs of swords Golzar remembered from her youth. The seax and the
gladius were no more. She only had the bone-handled seax she kept, almost as a
souvenir, with her.
Golzar bowed to
the woman before she left. The sunlight poured in from the world outside.