Last week, we met the esteemed Sir Chiswick von Strontlebottom, a man eminent in reputation, girth, and facial hair.
This week, the Lyte Brigade kills some time.
Copyright 2022 J.B. Norman
Matilda Lyte waits.
Just like she’s been waiting for weeks ever since Nolan first got the Lyte Brigade re-approved by the Guild Authority. Weeks where nothing at all has happened. Matilda signed up for her brother’s guild to be adventurer. But she still feels like she’s only pretending to be an adventurer.
Aren’t adventurers supposed to have adventures?
She sighs and slumps over the table in the corner of her parents’ inn where she has spent the past few weeks waiting—and waiting, and waiting—for Nolan to find the Lyte Brigade its first job. If Nolan can’t find them a job, Matilda knows it’s only a matter of time before her parents ask her to start waitressing again. She shudders at the thought.
Whenever her parents pass by, she tries to become perfectly still and blend into her table to escape their attention. She hasn’t been recruited back by her parents yet, so she can only assume that she has perfectly mastered the fine art of camouflage. An art, incidentally, perfectly suited to an adventuring career.
Exactly the sort of career Matilda would like for herself one day.
“Ugh,” she groans. “Nolan.”
She’s sure this is all ultimately his fault.
The news that Amara apparently knows somebody high up in Porthaven’s city hierarchy who needs a guild’s help gave Matilda a brief moment of fleeting cautious optimism, but that has been fading fast as she continues to wait—and wait, and wait—all day for Nolan and Amara to return. Hopefully with good news. But Matilda is used to disappointment by now. Both as an aspiring adventurer, and in general.
Matilda momentarily raises herself out of her slump and peers through the curtain of long, dark, painstakingly cared-for hair that has fallen across her face. She looks around the dining room to see how much better the others are faring.
Quite a bit, as it happens.
Pela is seated at the bar on top of a stack of cushions, happily discussing matters of cookery with Matilda’s parents. As the daughter of a chef by birth and something of a chatterbox by nature, the Half-Goblin has easily found common ground with Matilda’s publican parents.
Across the dining room, Falcata has clearly been making use of the Porthaven Central Library. The tall Amazon warrior is surrounded by stacks of books almost as big as she is. With muscles like hers, Falcata never seemed like such a bookworm. This must be Nolan’s doing, Matilda decides. She pushes herself up from her table, deciding to talk some sense into her Elven companion.
As Matilda approaches Falcata’s table, she tilts her head to read the titles on the spines of the books in one of Falcata’s piles: 512 Maps of Realmgard, What’s to Be Expected When You’re Anticipating Adventure, Wolves: Where They Live and How to Avoid Them, Intermediate First Aid—Second Edition, An Amazon’s Guide to Life in a Man’s World.
“That’s a lot of books,” she notes.
“Yes,” Falcata answers with a nod.
“Wouldn’t you rather be practicing or something?” Matilda asks.
“My mother often says that the training of one’s mind must not be neglected,” she answers. “Besides, we did not have many of these books back home. I am learning so many new things. It’s exciting. It’s been hard to stop.”
“What about that one? It doesn’t look like the other ones,” Matilda says, pointing to a book with a battered, faded cover.
Falcata smiles fondly as she removes the book from the pile. “I brought this one from home. It is my favourite book,” she tells Matilda.
“My father bought it for me when I was little.”
Matilda looks at the title. “Astraea and Orm? What’s it about?”
“Astraea is a princess. Orm is the wild dragon she befriends. They have adventures,” Falcata explains. “They fly to the moon and meet the Great Moon Bear.”
Matilda blinks dumbly at the Amazon. “Moon. Bear?”
Falcata nods. “Yes. He is the king of the Moon,” she says, as if that explains why there is a Bear on the moon.
“I see,” Matilda murmurs.
Falcata holds out the book. “You can borrow it, if you’d like,” she tells Matilda.
“Thanks,” Matilda says. She doesn’t read much, but she feels like she now has no choice but to read the book for Falcata’s sake.
“Of course,” Falcata replies. “We are friends now, aren’t we?”
“Yeah,” Matilda says, smiling. “We are.”
Meanwhile, Tancred has found himself roped into a game of chess with Matilda’s youngest sister. Sally grabs Tancred by the sleeve, introduces him to her beloved rabbit stuffy Count Bunnyescu, and leads the young knight to the table beside the one where her elder sister is currently reading the borrowed copy of Astraea and Orm.
“You’re in for it now,” Matilda tells him, glancing up from the old book.
“I think I can handle myself, Miss Matilda,” Tancred replies.
Matilda shrugs. “That’s what they all say.”
Clearly, Tancred thinks he’s facing off against a mere child.
Which means Sally has him right where she wants him. Matilda almost feels sorry for him, but anyone who falls for a trap laid by a seven-year-old probably has no one to blame but himself.
“Checkmate,” Tancred says not long afterwards.
Matilda shakes her head and suppresses a smirk. Sally always lets them win the first game.
“Let’s play again!” Sally declares, baiting her trap.
“It would be my pleasure,” Tancred answers, stumbling straight into the trap.
The second game goes much less well for Tancred.
“Checkmate,” Sally says happily, ruthlessly swatting his king off the board and nearly across the room.
“What?” Tancred exclaims, looking down at the chessboard in amazement, finally realising that he has been well and truly bamboozled.
Sally grins at him.
“I—How did—W-what?” Tancred stammers. “Did you lose that first game on purpose? Did you just hustle me?”
Sally nods, hops down from the table, scoops up Count Bunnyescu, waves, and cheerfully skips out of the room.
“Don’t feel too bad,” Matilda tells Tancred. “She plays that trick on everybody. Well, except me. I hate playing chess.” She reaches across to pat Tancred’s shoulder sympathetically.
“Thank you, Miss Matilda. That’s much very appreciated,” he mutters.
Well, look on the bright side, maybe Tancred will take this lesson in the fine art of deception to heart…
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