Last week, we met Wulfbert and his bandits. This week, we meet the esteemed Sir Chiswick von Strontlebottom and Professor Melisa Grevling, looking for help to do something about Wulfbert and his bandits.
As the scion of one Porthaven’s best-connected families, Amara Valda is well aware that who one knows is often more important that what one knows. Amara is confident that she will inevitably be able to use this principle for the immense benefit of the Lyte Brigade.
Who Amara knows includes the Mercantile Free City of Porthaven’s Minister of Antiquities, the esteemed Sir Chiswick von Strontlebottom. As for what Amara knows, it has recently come to her attention through her various social circles that the Ministry of Antiquities is in need of assistance.
Admittedly, Amara may be missing some of the details, but it’s something about a site of archaeological significance being imperilled. Exactly the sort of problem for which an adventuring guild is the obvious solution.
Amara and the Lyte Brigade’s dauntless Captain Nolan are now sitting face-to-facial hair with the eminent Sir Chiswick himself, he of the equally-eminent moustache. Sufficiently eminent, perhaps, to comfortably house a family of four.
“Amara, my dear girl, I haven’t seen you since the Countess Dirigible’s cotillion! What can I do for you?” Sir Chiswick says happily from behind his desk.
“Actually, Sir Chiswick, we’re here on behalf of the Lyte Brigade.” She puts a hand on Nolan’s shoulder. “Nolan here is our Captain. We were hoping our guild might be able to do something for you.”
“Ah. Of course,” Sir Chiswick says, thoughtfully worrying the ends of his moustache. “You’re here about the bandits, then.”
Amara stares blankly across Sir Chiswick’s desk. “I beg your pardon?”
“Bandits, my dear girl,” Sir Chiswick says. “Running roughshod all over the ancient ruins that are, of course, protected by the Ministry’s mandate. They’re like ants crawling on a dropped sandwich!”
“Ah,” Amara says simply as the colour drains from her face.
“Quite all right,” Sir Chiswick assures her. “I understand completely. It is all rather galling, isn’t it? Bandits looting a site of historic interest. The very thought boils the blood. Why, look at you, my dear girl! You’re positively speechless with indignation at the mere thought of it all!”
That is not, in fact, why Amara is speechless.
She inconspicuously balls her hands into fists, trying to keep her composure as befits a woman of her breeding. The word ‘bandits’ has brought back memories of Amara’s last trip to Goldharbour and subsequent unpleasantness involving the infamous Bandits of Goldharbour and their unforgivable and unforgivably theatrical attempts to steal her prized heirloom necklace, her life, and her sanity.
“Hey, Amara?” Nolan asks, gently shaking her by the shoulder. “Are you still with us?”
She nods, smiles weakly at Nolan, and turns back to Sir Chiswick.
“Well, as it happens, I do have experience with bandits,” she says, trying to salvage a suitably diplomatic answer.
“Wonderful!” Sir Chiswick exclaims. “Utterly serendipitous! The Lyte Brigade may be just what we’re looking for!”
Sir Chiswick rises from his desk, crosses to the door of his office and sticks his head out into the hallway.
“Professor Grevling,” he calls. “I think we’ve finally found the solution to our bandit problem.”
Sir Chiswick steps back to allow a woman with mud-spattered boots to step into his office. He turns back to Amara and Nolan.
“Allow me to introduce Professor Melisa Grevling,” he says, clapping the new arrival on the shoulder. “The University of Porthaven’s special liaison to the Ministry. We’ve been working quite closely together to ensure the security and legitimate excavation of all archaeological sites within the territory of Porthaven.”
The woman has round, furry ears poking out through her hair—not an entirely unusual sight in Porthaven. Though most Wilderlings prefer life outside the big cities, many have decided to settle in cities like Porthaven. Encountering a person with furry ears, or a tail, or claws, or wings, is not entirely out of the ordinary.
She stares gravely at Amara and Nolan for a long, silent moment.
“Right,” she finally says. “Do either of you think I’m a raccoon?”
Neither member of the Lyte Brigade speaks.
“Come on, be honest,” the Wilderling woman urges.
“A-are you?” Nolan asks.
“I’m a badger,” the Wilderling Professor says. “If you can’t get that right, this is going to be a very short meeting.”
“That’s a common mistake, I take it?” Amara asks.
“Like you wouldn’t believe,” Melisa says with an exasperated sigh. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m new to the faculty, or because I’m a woman, or because they think I’m just some country bumpkin. But everyone seems to think I’m a raccoon.”
“How utterly churlish of them,” Amara says.
“Like Sir Chiswick said, I’m Melisa. Grevling,” she says. “You don’t have to Professor me. Makes me sound old. Melisa is fine. Good to meet you.”
She extends a clawed hand to Nolan.
Nolan happily shakes her hand and smiles broadly at her. “I’m Nolan. I’m Captain of the Lyte Brigade.”
His smile grows somehow even broader until he’s more smile than face.
“Meesed to pleat you.”
Amara bites her lip. She had been trying to get him to understand the absolute importance of making a good first impression, especially as the Captain of a guild still searching for its first client. Thus, she had also impressed upon him the importance of letting her do the talking.
And he has just sabotaged her attempts rather comprehensively.
Nolan’s eyes widen as he catches his blunder. “I mean, um,” he stammers. “I’m Nolan. This is Amara. We’re the Lyte Brigade. Well, not just us. There’s six of us, and—”
“Nolan,” Amara interjects.
“And, uh, I’ll just let Amara explain it,” Nolan says sheepishly.
“Thank you, Nolan,” Amara says. She can still salvage this, she tells herself.
“We represent the Lyte Brigade. Perhaps you’ve heard of us?” Amara asks hopefully.
Melisa shakes her head.
“Well, I don’t suppose that’s terribly important,” Amara concedes.
“What is important is that we’re a guild full of hungry young adventurers hoping to make an impact. And, well, I caught wind of the Ministry’s bandit dilemma and thought we should offer our help.”
“You said there’s six of you?” Melisa asks as her gaze shifts between Nolan and Amara. “Are they any good? Or are they more like you two?”
Nolan’s face lights up. “Just like—Ow!” A sudden jab from Amara’s elbow prevents him from digging himself—and by proxy, the rest of the Lyte Brigade—any deeper. “Amara! What was that—Ow!”
Amara forces herself to smile. “What the Captain here is trying to say is that while the Lyte Brigade may not be the most experienced guild, we all have heart, and we all have passion and ambition. And we do work well together,” she explains, barely even lying.
“We finished a puzzle with two thousand pieces,” Nolan notes. “As a team-building exercise. It was my idea. It was flowers.”
“You are the first guild to offer to help. That’s a plus,” Melisa says.
“Why don’t you come meet the rest of the guild?” Nolan offers.
“Maybe that will help you decide if you want to hire us.”
“Couldn’t hurt, I suppose,” Melisa says.
Amara again bites her lip and diplomatically wills a gracious smile onto her face. “We look forward to hosting you,” she tells Melisa.
Melisa nods. “Right. Where’s your guild’s headquarters?”
“Are you at all familiar with Lyte’s Public House?” Amara asks cautiously.
“Is it near your guild?” Melisa asks.
“Not exactly,” Nolan says.
Wow! Such Sir Chiswick! Very Esteemed!
And also Melisa, I guess.
But, seriously, though. That was Chapter 2. Come by next week for the next chapter:
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