“It’s weird to be on this side of the bar,” Matilda muses. She’s never before been able to watch the bustle of the inn without being part of that bustle. And, best of all, she doesn’t have to wear that stupid little apron.
“And the service here is terrible,” she adds as her sister Adelaide hurries by with a plate of fish-on-a-sticks.
“Don’t be a jerk, Matilda,” Adelaide scolds.
Matilda turns to Nolan. “So, is the guild finally ready to go?” she asks him.
“Almost,” Nolan answers. “We’ve got enough members now and I’ve submitted everything to the Guild Authority. We just need to wait to get their approval before the Lyte Brigade is officially reinstated.”
“And can they, like, un-approve us?” she asks cautiously.
“Technically, yes,” Nolan answers. “But it almost never happens,” he adds quickly to reassure his sister.
“Almost never?” Matilda asks.
“If there’s something wrong with our application, the Guild Authority will just send it back to us to fix the problems,” Nolan explains. “They’ll only refuse to approve us if they’re worried we’re going to use the guild to take over the city or become some kind of crime ring. They’re very specific about not using Guild Authority resources for ‘wanton acts of criminality.’ I had to sign a statement that we’re not going to do that. We’ll be fine.”
“I am glad to hear it,” Falcata says, settling onto the barstool beside Nolan. “Are we having a guild meeting?”
“Not really,” Nolan answers. “But you can still hang out with us if you want.”
Falcata nods. “Thank you. Though, I should warn you that I have never ‘hung out’ before.”
She makes an attempt at leaning casually against the bar, though her slow, measured deliberateness ruins the effect.
“Am I doing it right?”
“Close enough,” Matilda says.
“I am glad,” Falcata says. “I have been by myself for a long time. It is good to have companions again.”
“And we’re glad to have you,” Nolan says. “We should get the whole guild together soon,” he decides. “We haven’t been all together in the same place yet. And there are still a few things we need to sort out —”
“I call Assistant Captain!” Matilda interjects.
“We’re supposed to hold a vote to decide that,” Nolan explains.
“Why? We didn’t vote for you,” Matilda notes.
“This is true,” Falcata notes.
“It’s my guild!” Nolan counters.
“It should be my guild, too!” Matilda insists. “We’re both Lytes!”
“This is also true,” Falcata adds.
“See?” Matilda continues, pointing to the Amazon. “She knows what I’m talking about!”
She holds out her hand, which Falcata eventually realises is calling for a high five.
“If you’re the Captain, I should be Assistant Captain!”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Nolan mutters.
Nolan’s father peeks out of the kitchen. “Nolan. Can we talk?” he asks.
“Yeah,” Nolan answers, hopping down from his stool.
Nolan is soon standing in the hallway leading to the kitchen, staring silently up at his father, while his father stares silently down at him.
“So,” his father says after a long, awkward silence. “I hear you’ve got the last recruit you need for your guild. I guess that means this is really happening.”
“I guess,” Nolan answers.
“You must be pretty happy about that,” his father offers weakly.
“Yeah,” Nolan answers, just as weakly.
“So, I suppose that means you’ll be around a lot less from now on,” his father continues.
“Not until we start getting jobs from the Guild Authority,” Nolan answers. “I can still help out around here until then.”
“No. Don’t worry about it, Nolan,” his father tells him. “You just worry about your guild.”
“Wait,” Nolan says. “What?”
Who is this guy and what has he done with his father?
“Look,” his father continues. “Like I told your sister, I don’t really get this whole guild thing. But then, I don’t really get much of anything other than keeping an inn. But even I can tell how much this means to you and Matilda, and I’m proud of both of you for getting this far.”
“Thanks, Dad,” Nolan says.
“I don’t think I’m very good at this, either,” his father muses. “What I’m trying to say, Nolan, is that if this really is what you and Matilda want to be doing with your lives, your mother and I will do everything we can to support you. And we’ll always be proud of you.”
“We’ll still be around to help when you need us, Dad,” Nolan offers.
“I know,” his father says. “Just do one thing for me, Nolan.”
“Look after your sister.”
“Good lad,” his father says, clapping him on the shoulder. “And, I, uh, I got you something.” He hands Nolan a bundle wrapped in cloth.
“It’s heavy,” Nolan notes as he accepts it and starts to unwrap it.
“I think it’s supposed to be,” his father answers.
As Nolan unwraps the bundle, he uncovers a disc of burnished metal. “It’s a shield?” Nolan asks.
“Yeah, well, good adventurers need good equipment,” his father says.
As Nolan continues to unwrap the shield, he uncovers a large, bright blue L emblazoned on the centre of the shield. “That’s the emblem of the original Lyte Brigade!” Nolan exclaims. “Dad, how did you —”
“I asked your grandfather about it,” his father says. “Since you’re taking over the guild, he thought it would be good for you to take over the emblem, too.”
“Oh,” Nolan says. “Wow.”
“Be sure to thank your mother, too,” his father says. “Most of this was her idea.”