Thursday, May 24, 2018

Page 1776

Oh, indeed,’ said Garovel. ‘And I’m afraid it was also my idea to venture down there. I must apologize again for putting your family in harm’s way.

“Nonsense,” said Asad. “We chose to go with you of our own volition. Why, I even said--”

Yes, but you chose to do that because you are so fiercely kind,’ said Garovel. ‘I fear that perhaps Hector and I have taken advantage of that kindness, in some ways.

Asad merely frowned and exchanged glances with his wife.

If you are ever in need of our help, I hope you will allow us the opportunity to repay you for that kindness,’ said Garovel. ‘For the moment, however, we’ll leave you in peace. Hector and I have several pressing matters we must attend to. Good day, all.

Hector followed the reaper’s lead, and they left the robed family alone. Hector had hoped to talk to Asad more about various things like Rasalased and materialization training, but he supposed there was no rush.

Hector also wanted to ask Garovel if he knew something about the Najirs that he hadn’t mentioned yet, but there wasn’t time. Before Hector even finished climbing the stairs up to the second floor, he encountered Horatio Blackburn.

Ah,’ said Garovel. ‘Just the man we were hoping to see. Do you have a few minutes to talk?

The flat-faced man had been descending the staircase and now began going back up it without turning around. “Is something wrong?” he asked.

No, no,’ said Garovel. ‘But we would like to take stock of things. We’re checking up on everyone.

The man stopped. “You needn’t worry about us.”

Well, we do anyway,’ said Garovel. ‘Come on. Let’s find somewhere we can talk in private.

Horatio looked reluctant, but he acquiesced nonetheless. They found a vacant room near the stairs. It was small and lacking furniture, but it would do. Hector materialized a couple chairs for them while they waited for Horatio’s reaper to join them.

When she did, Hector encased the room in iron and empowered it with his soul. Apparently, this would prevent any outside reapers from overhearing what the two reapers in here were saying.

Of course, it also created a vacuum seal in the chamber, limiting the amount of breathable air left in it. That wouldn’t be a big problem, but Hector was made to wonder if he would still be able to speak if there was nothing but carbon dioxide left in the room.

Garovel started things off. ‘So. How are things?

Horatio seemed almost reluctant to answer. “Things are... difficult but adequate.”

Garovel’s next words were private. ‘Ask him something.

Like what?’ said Hector.

Whatever you want to know.

Hector had expected a more direct, instructive answer. Maybe Garovel wanted him to think for himself on this. The way a lord probably should.

“...How is the Lady Nere doing?” asked Hector.

Horatio’s frown deepened.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Page 1775

((Triple Wednesday -- Page 3 of 3))
Garovel advised him to play coy, so he did. He told them that questions about strength were important secrets that he couldn’t divulge.

Half the kids lost interest when he told them that and wandered off, but the other half stayed and askrf him other, more innocuous questions, like about his favorite food or color or animal.

Somehow, those proved even more difficult to answer.

He lost the interest of the rest of the kids soon thereafter. It felt like most of his confidence and self-worth left with them, as well.

However, his mood improved again after he entered the Tower of Night and found the Najirs there, having breakfast. It was the first time he’d seen them all together. Asad, his wife, sister, daughter, and son. Hector remembered Imas and Jada, but the wife’s and son’s names were escaping him.

Wait a minute. They were having breakfast?

Garovel, what time is it?’ asked Hector.

The reaper shrugged.

Hector supposed it didn’t matter much. Not having any daylight to go by was just one of the challenges of living in a giant hole in the ground.

He made his way over to the Sandlord family, who’d already taken notice of him.

They looked a bit tense, however. Perhaps because he and Garovel were watching them?

Asad spoke up first after finishing whatever he was chewing. “Hector. It is good to see you. Allow me to introduce my wife, Samira, and my son, Midhat.”

“We have already met,” said Samira. “Briefly.”

“Yeah,” said Hector with a nod. “Hello again.”

No introductions for us?’ said the reaper hovering behind Midhat.

“That is Ekkos,” said Asad, “my son’s reaper. Samira’s is Lemirat.”

Good to meet you both. I’m Garovel.

Yes, we have been hearing quite a bit about you and your servant,’ said Lemirat. ‘This is an interesting home you have here.

Yeah, it’s a work-in-progress,’ said Garovel. ‘You’re welcome to stay as long as you like, though we won’t be offended if you find the place a bit uncomfortable.

More fortress than resort,’ said Lemirat. ‘I cannot say it bothers me, personally. I generally find the sturdiness of fortresses more pleasant.

“I do not,” said Samira with an obvious tinge of irritation. “And it would appear we have made the trip here for no reason, as well.”

Asad gave his wife a look. “Samira.”

She saw his face, looked toward Hector and Garovel, then turned away.

Uncomfortable silence arrived.

Garovel was the one to break it. ‘You’re right, Lady Najir. I must apologize. I was the one who requested that Asad send someone here ahead of us. I didn’t foresee how strange our travels in the Undercrust would become. It’s not everyday you get teleported back to your home country, you know. It was quite the surprise.

The woman looked between Hector and Garovel again. “Yes, well... it is good that you returned safely. I have never been, but I have heard many tales of the perils in the Undercrust.”

Page 1774 -- CLXXXVIII.

((Triple Wednesday -- Page 2 of 3))
“You think they’ll leave Atreya?” said Hector.

“They will go wherever opportunity leads them,” said Amelia. “And Atreya is rather short on opportunity at the moment, so yes, I think they will have their pick of the many foreign companies that are no doubt observing the economic situation here.”

“...Who are these ‘skilled individuals’ you’re talking about?”

“Various people whom I have come to know and respect over the years. Some of them, I do not know personally, but I do know of their work and of their professionalism. I could go over each and every one of them with you right now, but there are quite a few, and I imagine you probably have more important things to do.”

“...Alright. I’ll leave it to your, ah... discretion.” He looked like he had more to say, however.

Amelia waited.

“...I’d like to meet these people, too,” said Hector. “Before you hire them.”

She smiled, then nodded. “Of course.”

Perhaps she didn’t have to worry so much about her family sinking their claws into this boy, after all.

Chapter One Hundred Eighty-Eight: ‘O, convalescing companions...’
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The meeting lasted a while longer after that. They discussed the restoration of Warrenhold in a bit more detail, and Madame Carthrace also told him about some of the local happenings around Gray Rock. Apparently, there had been a spike in crime during his absence--perhaps even because of his absence--and a number of prominent figures around the city had been trying to get in touch with him, the mayor of Gray Rock being among them.

Hector had no idea why the mayor would want to talk to him, and he almost didn’t want to find out. Madame Carthrace and Garovel both seemed to think it was probably just a formal greeting-type-thing, but Hector didn’t know if he believed that.

There was also the matter of the Rainlords. Hector asked her about how she had been handling all of them, and she rather bluntly told him that she hadn’t been. For the most part, they were taking care of and keeping to themselves. Each time she’d talked to them, they had apparently been both extremely polite and very reluctant to accept aid without reimbursement.

After he heard that, Hector figured he should probably go talk to each of the families himself and concluded his meeting with Madame Carthrace. It wasn’t a long walk to the outside of the Book Tower, since the office had been on the bottom floor.

That is one sharp woman,’ said Garovel privately as they made their way back toward the Tower of Night. ‘If she’s as trustworthy as she seems, then we’re lucky to have her.

Hector couldn’t help but agree.

The gaggle of children from earlier caught up to him before he could reach the Tower of Night, and when they presented the knight figurine to him again, he was forced to answer more impossible questions like how strong he was or if he thought he could beat Dimas in a fight.