As Nolan stands outside the inn and watches the sunset, he decides he isn’t quite sure how to feel about today. On the one hand, he signed his first member to the new Lyte Brigade. On the other hand, if it has taken him this long to sign one member to the Brigade, he’ll be just as old and retired as his grandfather by the time he has a full roster.
Of course, his parents have a lot of old burlap sacks kicking around the kitchen. Maybe he can just draw some faces on them and fill out applications to make them members of the Lyte Brigade.
But the Guild Authority is probably too smart to fall for it.
On top of everything else that’s happened to him lately, his head still hurts from somehow managing to drop all of his father’s brooms and mops onto himself. And he bit his tongue when he tripped over that bucket. He decides he needs to talk to his parents about using a bigger room as his office.
They’ve never needed to rent out all the rooms at the inn before. Surely, Nolan could start using one for the Lyte Brigade.
“Hey, Nolan,” Matilda says, settling beside him.
“Hey,” Nolan answers.
Of the seven Lyte siblings, Nolan and Matilda look the most alike and take most after their mother. They have the same big, dark eyes and brown hair. However, colour is the only thing their hair has in common.
Matilda takes excellent care of her long hair that borders on — and occasionally crosses over to — an obsession. Her hair gleams and has been meticulously and ruthlessly purged of knots and tangles and split ends.
Most days, Nolan doesn’t do anything more to his hair than wash it.
“I hear you made a friend,” Matilda says.
He nods. “I signed up a recruit for the Brigade. She needs a place to stay until we have all five members we need to get started. You’ve probably seen her around the inn.”
“Is she the one wearing a bear?” Matilda asks.
Matilda grins at him. “This was your plan all along, wasn’t it?” she asks. “Surrounding yourself with a guild full of beautiful women. You sly dog,”
She playfully nudges him.
“But there are easier ways to get girls to talk to you, Nolan. I mean, hey, some of my friends think you’re kinda cute. I’m sure I could put in a good word.”
“That’s not it. At all,” Nolan protests.
Matilda rolls her eyes. “I’m joking, Nolan. You always take things too seriously.”
“I do not,” Nolan mutters.
“You definitely do,” Matilda continues. “And if you really want a guild full of beautiful women, how could you not ask the most beautiful woman in Porthaven to join up with you?”
Nolan stares blankly at his sister.
“Me, Nolan,” Matilda says, as if it should be the most obvious thing in the world.
“Oh. I get it. You’re joking.”
“No, Nolan. I’m not joking.” Matilda says, flipping her hair to emphasise her point. “I definitely am the most beautiful woman in Porthaven. And I really am telling you to sign me up for your guild. Come on, don’t look so shocked,” she urges. “I know how much this whole thing means to you, and what kind of big sister would I be if I didn’t offer to help you, my dear, sweet little brother, so magnanimously and selflessly out of the sheer goodness of my heart?”
“But you’ve never said anything about wanting to join a guild before,” Nolan notes.
Matilda throws up her hands in frustration. “Seriously, Nolan?” she asks. “I took magic lessons for five years! Do you really think I want to work for Mom and Dad for the rest of my life? I’m wasting my life and my talent, stuck here stinking like fish-grease. And this apron, Nolan! I hate it! What was the point of learning all that magic if I never get to use it?”
“You’ll have to take the test for your Adventuring Licence,” Nolan notes.
“Will there be fish-on-a-sticks?” Matilda asks.
“Probably not,” Nolan answers.
“Sign me up,” Matilda says eagerly.
“Dad’s not going to like it,” Nolan says.
Matilda shrugs. “Dad has, like, twelve more kids.”
“Five more kids,” Nolan says. “There are seven of us.”
“Anyway,” Matilda continues. “I’m older than you. I shouldn’t even have to ask your permission.” She smiles at him. “It’s called the Lyte Brigade, right? I’m as much of a Lyte as you are, and I’m older. Maybe I should be in charge!”
“But —” Nolan protests desperately, feeling his dream about to be snatched away from him.
“Calm down, Nolan. I’m just joking. Again,” Matilda assures him. “Well, not about joining the guild. I’m serious about that part.”
“Hang on. I’ll go get the forms,” Nolan says, after heaving a deep sigh of relief to learn that Matilda doesn’t actually want to steal away the Lyte Brigade from him. “And you’ll have to apply to take the test for your Adventuring Licence in the next three weeks. But don’t worry, I’ll help you.”
Thanks to her new status as one of its members, Matilda is confident that the Lyte Brigade will become the very best guild in Porthaven.
She has been trying to work up the courage to tell her father about her sudden career change. So far, results have been mixed.
“I can do this. I can do this. I can do this,” Matilda tells herself, as she takes a step towards the kitchen.
She promptly falters and quickly retreats.
“Nope. I can’t do this.”
“You still haven’t told him?” her mother asks as she appears in the hallway. Matilda shakes her head.
Telling her mother was easy. But the prospect of telling her father makes her blood run cold. She just knows he’s going to get so mad at her.
“Stay here, honey,” her mother says gently. “I’ll go get your father.”
“I can do this,” she repeats to herself. “I can do this. I can do this.” She feels her heart sinking again. “I can’t — No. Shut up, Matilda,” she tells herself. “You can do this. He’s your father. He loves you. No. I can’t do — Gah!”
She yelps and nearly jumps out of her skin when she hears her father’s voice.
“Matilda? Is everything alright?” he asks.
“Fine,” Matilda says, her voice cracking nervously.
The quizzical look her father gives her makes it clear that he does not believe her.
“Your mother says you have something to tell me?” he asks.
Matilda nods and shifts restlessly as her father looks down at her. She’s been practicing what she has to say for days now, but that hasn’t done anything to help her nerves. It’s turning out to be just as hard as she imagined.
After a long time spent nervously squirming and doing her utmost to avoid her father’s gaze, Matilda finally finds the resolve to get her words out.
“Dad,” she says. “I quit.”
Just like that, Matilda speaks the words she has wanted to speak for the last five years. She thought it would feel good to finally get it out of the way. But seeing the sad look on her father’s face, she mostly feels like a jerk.
She can just imagine how disappointed she’s made him. She’s probably going to get kicked out of the family. He has six other kids, so what’s the big deal with disowning one of them?
She could probably just start packing her bags now.
“That’s fine, Matilda,” he answers.
Matilda is left blinking mutely up at her father under the weight of her surprise.
“Wait,” she says. “What?”
Who is this guy and what has he done with her father?
“So, you’re serious about this guild thing, then?” her father asks her.
“Y-yeah,” Matilda answers. “It means so much to Nolan.” She smiles weakly. “And you know how he is. He’ll be helpless without me. Besides, this way, I finally get to use my magic training.”
Her gaze falls to the floor.
“I can’t do that working as a waitress,” she adds quietly. “Are you mad at me?”
“Of course not, Matilda,” he answers. “I know you’ve hated working here, but you’ve always worked so hard for us. Thank you, Matilda.” He pulls his daughter in close and hugs her tightly. “I’m proud of you, Matilda, and I always will be.”
“Thanks, Dad,” Matilda says. “You should probably talk to Nolan about this, too. He’s the one doing all the work.”
“Yeah,” her father agrees. “I think I should.”
Nolan is waiting for Matilda as she comes back around the corner.
“So,” he asks. “How’d it go?”
“Good, I think,” she answers.
“Great,” he says happily. “That means you can start studying for your Adventuring Licence test. Here.” He leans down and picks up a stack of books approximately the size of a young child. “You’ll need these.”
With Matilda busy studying for her Adventuring Licence Test, Falcata has been helping Nolan continue the Lyte Brigade’s search for its final two recruits. His previously fragile optimism has been buoyed lately, both by successfully getting most of the way to a full guild, and because of the other successes he’s been having.
For one thing, he finally managed to convince his father to let him start renting one of inn’s guest rooms to use as his guild offices. Now that he finally has a real office, he has been making runs for office supplies — and even furniture! He’s never had furniture before now.
So far, he has a fancy desk and a big, comfortable chair to go behind that desk, so he can look like a proper, big-shot guild Captain to any potential recruits who come by. Of course, it would be even better if he had some potential recruits coming by.
Nolan is glad to have Falcata around. He’s glad for the company, even when that company doesn’t talk much. He’s also starting to notice how much more seriously everyone is taking him now that he has a giant warrior woman standing beside him — especially one wearing a bear who looks like she could shot-put an elephant. On their latest trip to the print shop, he didn’t even get any smart comments about “Lyte” being spelled wrong. Hopefully, this newest batch of posters will get him the recruits he needs.
As they work on plastering their posters onto any available wall space, Nolan turns to Falcata, eager to get the answer to the question that has been nagging at him since he first met her.
“Amazons are all women, right?” he asks.
“We are,” Falcata answers.
“But you have a father, right?” Nolan asks.
“Of course I have a father. All Amazons do,” Falcata says. “We don’t just spring up out of the ground. We are not turnips.”
“So,” Nolan continues, “if the Amazons are only women, where do the men come from?”
“From anywhere,” she answers. “My father came from Hornsburg.”
“But I heard that men are banned from Amazon cities, and that if you catch any, you boil them alive and then use their bones for witchcraft,” Nolan says.
“No,” she says, briefly looking horrified before turning away in embarrassment. “We do not do that.”
“Well, that’s good, I guess,” Nolan says.
“Our cities may be remote, but they are not closed off to the world,” Falcata explains. “There are people from all of Realmgard living in the Decapolis, and there are many Amazons out in the rest of Realmgard. Like me.”
“Sorry,” Nolan says. “It’s just that I’ve never met an Amazon before.”
Falcata nods. “I can tell.”
Nolan sheepishly clears his throat. “So, uh, we should finish putting up these posters,” he mutters, desperately looking everywhere but at Falcata.
“You’re about to put that one upside down,” Falcata notes.