Chronicles of Koeleth

Chapter IV

Settling In

Tom woke up early the next morning, which came as a surprise to Aaron, who had never seen Tom wake up earlier than he had needed to in the two months that he’d known him. Tom made use of the bathroom provided by the inn to purge himself of the dirt and dust of the road. Going in, he looked like an impoverished beggar, but, coming out, he had cleaned up nicely. He had slicked back his usually messy hairdo, and he even bothered to groom his beard more than usual. After rummaging around in his travel pack for a couple seconds, he produced clean, unmarred, gentleman’s attire, wholly foreign to his usual wardrobe. The transformation complete, he hardly resembled the road weary warrior from before. This all came as a great shock to the half awake Aaron, and he couldn’t help but comment.

“Who are you, and what did you do with Tom?” he muttered.

“I save these clothes for when I’m traveling in the upper echelons of society. It’s important to make a good impression on those with whom you are doing business. If they are expecting a battle-hardened warrior, you give them a battle-hardened warrior. If, however, they are expecting a gentleman, you give them a gentleman. I am off on this fine morning to purchase a home. I am sure they would prefer to deal with a gentleman, and not a warrior.” The outfit was black from tip to toe, with silver accents. It had cost Tom quite a bit, but it was valuable armor that had carried him through the battlefield of high society on more than one occasion.

“Whatever works, I guess. What should I do?” Aaron asked in the same groggy voice as before.

“Whatever you want. I’m not your mother.”

“Great.” Aaron rolled over onto his side and fell back asleep.

Tom grabbed his coin purse and the strongbox with the diamonds in it and left his room. He went to the innkeeper and paid for another night, just in case his mission was a failure, and he left for the wealthy district of Ramsthrone. He found a realtor who guided him through his options. The realtor hadn’t expected much from the gentleman before him, so when Tom explained his budget to him, he was floored. An individual with so much personal wealth certainly had quite a few more options than most.

After searching for most of the day, Tom eventually found somewhere he liked. It was quaint compared to some of the other houses he could choose from, but it was more than enough to meet Tom’s needs and wants. The small brick mansion was relatively out of the way compared to other homes in Ramsthrone, but that suited Tom just fine. Upon entering the building, a visitor would find themselves in a large, open hall, a warm and welcoming fireplace directly across the room from the door. At each side of the hall, there was a door. If one went to the left, it would lead them to the dining room and the kitchen. If, on the other hand, one went to the right, one would find a library and a private study, both devoid of any documents or books at the moment. In the center of the hall was yet another door, this one leading to a gallery, which sat just as empty as the library. At the end of the gallery, another door led to a small flower garden, a favorite spot of the previous owner, according to the realtor. Back in the hall, you could find a set of stairs on either side of the room that led to the second floor. Regardless of which stairway one took, one would be led to a walkway lined with several doors. If one went through the door directly in front of them, one would find a small hall leading to the master bedroom. In the small hallway, there was also a door leading to the second level of the library. In the master bedroom, there was a door that led to a large bathroom and another that led to a sizable closet. Back on the walkway, two doors on the right led to guest rooms that sat over the front of the library. To the left, the walkway branched into two paths. Following the left path, headed towards the front of the house, one would find another guest room. Going to the right, one would find a guest bathroom and a small supply closet.

“So, what’s the history behind this place?” Tom asked, a bit more impolitely than appropriate of a gentleman.

“Well, the previous owner was a wealthy merchant. He was rather eccentric, and he had no family. He built this mansion so that he might pursue his studies in peace.”

“What happened?”

“He became ill. After consulting his physician, he sold the home and left for the restful solitude of the Thorn Crown Mountains. That was roughly three years ago. We’ve maintained the property, but few people show any interest.”

After some further discussion, the two men headed back to the realtor’s office and finished up their dealings. Tom returned to the inn, unsurprised at Aaron’s absence, and gathered what few possessions he had. He moved in to his new home and immediately took advantage of having a place to store his stuff. The handful of documents and books he had were stored in his study. His ratty old clothes were stored in his oversized closet, along with his battered armor. The snake sword that had been in his pack for the past six months was hung in the gallery. His road rations were brought to the pantry below the kitchen. Now, the only thing that remained in his travel pack was a package to be delivered to a noble. As he was finally settling in, the knocker on his mansion door went into frenzy. He got up from the couch that he was laying on to answer it.

“Hello, hello!” The cheerful face greeting him belonged to the body of a young woman, a couple inches shorter than himself. The short, black ponytail and the distinct yellow-green eyes could belong to only one person.

“Hello, Captain Flowermaiden. Please, come in.”

“Don’t mind if I do.”

Tom led the soldier to the living area in front of the fireplace that he was sitting at moments before. They sat down in chairs facing one another.

“To what do I owe the honor, Captain?” Tom asked curiously. He couldn’t help but notice that the woman sitting across from him wore notably different attire than she had yesterday. Rather than steel armor, she wore an elegant sundress in a color that complimented her unusual eyes.

“Please, just call me ‘Lilly.’ Officially speaking, I’m not on duty today, so I’d rather not be addressed as if I were. However, customarily, it is my duty to greet new residents of Ramsthrone and ensure they have safely settled in. Normally, I would just wait until the next day I’m on duty, but I made an exception in your case.”

“Ah, I see. Well, I’ve had no trouble settling, so you needn’t worry about that. Since you’re here, would you like anything to drink? I don’t have much, I only just settled in, but I can offer what I have.”

“Yes, actually, that would be great. Thank you. Do you happen to have any tea?”

“Actually, I do. I have a small batch directly from Ariluo. Best tea in the world.” Tom got up and headed for his kitchen. The kitchen was large enough to support several servants, but Tom found the tea kettle easily enough. He started water boiling and, when it was ready, steeped the tea.

“How has Ramsthrone been treating you so far?” Lilly called from the hall.

“I’ve been through Ramsthrone a couple times, and it treats me well every time. I look forward to living here, as long as it continues to do so,” Tom shouted back.

“Good. It’s a decent place to live, but sometimes it takes getting used to. Glad you’re enjoying yourself.”

Tom found a platter, loaded it with the kettle and a couple tea cups, and brought it out to the living area. From Lilly’s perspective, he looked very much like a butler.

“I must say, you clean up nice, Mr. Riversedge,” she chuckled.

“Thank you. Tea is served, Madame. I apologize but there is no cream or sugar,” Tom said, putting on the air of the aforementioned butler.

“Ah, thank you, Jeeves.”

“Jeeves? Man, not even a cool butler, like Alfred, or Jarvis.”

“Who is Jarvis?”

“A character from an old story. I don’t remember the details.”

“Anyway, what are your plans, now that you are in Ramsthrone?”

“Well, I figured I might update my wardrobe. It’s hard going so long with only two outfits. I might furnish this house a little better. The guest rooms are rather drab, the library is empty, and the gallery is dull.”

“Planning on entertaining, then?”

“Nah. But you never know when you might need to.”

“You don’t seem like the kind of person to choose a home like this. You strike me as a ‘small shack in the woods’ kind of person.”

“Yeah, I kind of am. But I needed a proper house to come home to. I needed a place to store my trophies and my books. I haven’t been able to keep very many possessions because of my nomadic lifestyle, and I wanted somewhere to rest, I guess, where I could have things.”

“I suppose that does make sense. By the way, I heard you have a blessed weapon?”

“I do. Who told you that?”

“You just hear things when you work so close to politicians. Besides, it’s something I should know as head of the guard. May I see it?”

“It’s up in my room. Come on, I’ll show you.” Tom put down his cup of tea and got up. Lilly followed his example.

“Which guardian blessed you?”

“Lady Sorowa, Maiden of Tears.”

“Really? You seem like such an optimistic individual, though.”

“Yeah, but it’s usually the optimists who are the most sad. Actually, I feel sorrow deep in my soul. It saddens me that the world is so depraved and that there is so little I can do about. That thought is always on my mind. Ah, here we are.” Tom opened the door of his bedroom and led Lilly to the closet. Opening it up and walking in, he retrieved his halberd and brought it out. “This is my halberd, the Hardened Tear. Its enchantment is ‘water wall,’ a defensive spell that lets me summon a wall of water.” He handed the weapon to Lilly, who gingerly took it.

“It’s nice. Seems like it could be useful to have in a few situations.”

“It is.”

“I also have a blessed weapon.”

“Oh, really? What’s yours?”

“I have a rapier called ‘Spring Rose.’ Its enchantment is ‘wind speed,’ which, as you might imagine, improves my speed.” Without warning, Tom found himself staring down the blade of rapier.

“Fast, indeed. Although, I must admit, it’s not normal to threaten to stab people in the face.”

“Yeah, sorry. I got overly excited. You see, I am a follower of Lady Joye, the Reveling Heart, and I take great pleasure in showing off my weapon. Battle, weapons, and magic are just so much fun.”

“It’s fine, really. Just please give me some warning next time. Can I have my halberd back now?”

“Oh. Sure.”

Tom put his halberd back in his closet and the two warriors returned to the downstairs living area.

“Yeah, I get that. I mean, I come from a line of blacksmiths, so I have developed a healthy respect for the beauty and intricacy of weapons. Magical weapons, in particular, fascinate me. They are extremely durable, being able to withstand blows that would cleave lesser weapons in two. I’ve seen wooden sticks withstand crushing blows simply because they were magical.”

“Isn’t it fascinating? I was shocked when I first received my weapon. I was training in the barracks alone when it happened. All of a sudden, a vibrant white light filled my vision and bam! There was a woman standing there. She was definitely not a warrior, though. She wore a loose tunic that came down to her knees and carried a hunting bow in one hand and a harp in the other. Her waist length, dark blonde hair was pulled into a ponytail. At first, I thought this woman was seriously lost. Then she introduced herself. Honestly, my first impression of my guardian is that she is a bit too free spirited. Pretty flippant, actually. But she gave me a speech about how the joy of my heart would be manifest, or something like that, and then she gave me the Spring Rose. Never did properly thank her.”

“Ah, the Erscheinung.

“The what now?”

“The Erscheinung. It’s the Ekoalem word for ‘apparition,’ and it’s one of three major ways humans receive blessings from the guardians. Ekoalem is the language that gave birth to our modern language of Koeling. Anyways, the apparition is when an illusory image of the guardian is sent to bestow the blessing on a person. Mine wasn’t so pleasant. I received my weapon through an Einberufung, a summoning. I had just left my hometown of Lilly Pond to begin my career as a mercenary. It happened when I stopped to take a rest near an isolated lake. I heard Sorowa tell me that the sorrow of my heart would be given form, and then I felt a wrenching pain in my chest. When I finally recovered, there was the Hardened Tear, lying on the ground in front of me. Unlike most blessed individuals, I actually went to my guardian to ask for her guidance. I don’t know how it is for her paragon, but she is pretty easygoing with the missions.”

“That’s pretty crazy.”

“Yeah. Aaron, a friend of mine, actually has two weapons from Apathos. Both of them were given to him by Erscheinung. The first time he received a weapon it was because he was so immensely lackadaisical that even Apathos couldn’t ignore him. The second time he got a weapon, it was because Apathos forgot he had already given Aaron a weapon.”

“That’s pretty funny. Never figured a guardian could make such a simple mistake, though.”

“It’s the only time I’ve ever heard it happen. Even Embarassia doesn’t make those mistakes.”

“Right. Anyway, I’ve stayed here long enough to do my job. I’ve enjoyed the visit but I probably should go now. I most likely have other things to attend to.”

“Yes. I appreciate you checking up on me. Keep up the good work. Oh, if anything valuable goes missing, don’t hesitate to come to me. I can probably give you some information.”

“Really? That’s interesting. It’s not something I personally would say to an enforcer of the law, but I’ll keep it in mind. Alright, see you around.”

“Yeah, don’t be a stranger.”

“Hey, hey, hey! Who is this?” an all too familiar voice said. “Already have a girlfriend? You move fast.”

“What!? No! This is Captain Lilly Flowermaiden, the captain of the town guard. She was just here ensuring that I had settled in comfortably.”

“Oh really? Well, you won’t mind if I flirt with her, then.” Aaron gave Tom a suspicious glance.

“Be my guest, but I’m not responsible for the consequences.”

“And, who may I ask, is this strange character?” Lilly said, slightly baffled.

“Aaron Deepscar, at your service, milady.” Aaron took the air of a suave young gentleman. He grabbed her hand and lightly kissed it.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Is this the friend you were talking about?” Lilly easily dismissed Aaron’s advances.

“Yeah, that’s him,” Tom answered.

“I can see where he might make the mistake of calling me your girlfriend, though. Given that this was our first social visit, we were awful friendly with one another.”

“Yeah, but how would he know that? Unless you were watching?”

“What? Me?” Aaron asked, trying to seem innocent. “I would never stoop so low as to watch a fellow man as he brought a woman to his bedroom to show off his weapon.”

“So, you were watching! And enough with the innuendo. I get enough of that already.”

Lilly simply chuckled at this humorous but clearly idiotic new entity in her life. She did not say it, but she thought the two made for excellent friends. She could sense a certain understanding between them, despite their outward animosity.

“Lovely Lilly, the gardens of Eternal Reach pale in comparison to your eyes. Their beauty knows no end.”

“Hold your horses, kid. That’s not going to work on me.”

“Hey, I’m not a kid. I’m 24. I’m an adult.”

“Well, I’m 22, and I’m clearly much more of an adult than you.”

“I thought women never said their real age.”

“Sometimes it’s necessary.”

“Harsh, man,” Tom interjected. “Shot down twice in three days.”

“Don’t rub it in.” Aaron had resumed his usual aloof demeanor.

“You are good for a laugh, I’ll give you that.” Lilly let out another laugh. “Well, boys, I must be going. I have other things to attend to. Do me a favor and don’t lose that sense of humor. What a couples of idiots.”

“Hey, now,” Aaron and Tom said in sync.

“See you!” The young woman ran off, leaving Tom and Aaron equally insulted.

“Finally, she’s gone,” Aaron exhaled in relief.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Tom rightly questioned.

“I may or may not have purloined a precious something from a nobleman or four.”

“Already causing trouble, I see.”

“Only a couple of items for a few of my jobs. And maybe a golden ram statuette as a housewarming gift.”

“Housewarming, huh? I’m not sure I want stolen goods adorning these halls.”

“So, this is the place, huh?” Aaron finally commented on the house. “Nice. Very, um, luxurious. Oh, honey, you really shouldn’t have.”

“Don’t start that up again. Yes, it cost a pretty penny, but that just means my load is a little bit lighter. Look, it’s pretty late. I don’t have much in the way of food yet, so I was going to run by the market to grab some things. You can do whatever. You are welcome to stay in my home, but please try to avoid doing illegal things while you’re here. I’m trying to make a comfortable life for myself here. The last thing I need is the captain of the guard breathing down my neck.”

“No guarantees. Also, ‘comfortable life?’ Worst lie I’ve ever heard.”

“Yeah, well, who asked you?”

Tom left the mansion on his mission, leaving Aaron to his own devices. Aaron, having been left to his own devices, explored the halls of this empty building and set himself up in one of the guest rooms. He placed the ram statuette on the first pedestal inside the gallery, with the full knowledge that every time Tom walked into the room, he would be reminded of the fact that stolen goods adorned his home. Tom returned from the market with enough goods to feed a small army. After preparing a small meal for Aaron and himself, Tom stored the remainder of the food. The rest of the night, miraculously, was rather uneventful, and Tom spent it in his study, reviewing the few texts he owned. Aaron disappeared, as per usual, but, shockingly, it seemed he had not caused any trouble when he returned.