Relevant NPCsRat, Liam
While Rat had kept his word of not bringing any immediate ills to the church save for his presence, he failed in making more of a mess inside the ruin, as inexplicable as that may have seemed to Candle initially. She also had a feeling that whenever he would come back, the first promise would be broken as well if the brief snippet she had into his person was of any indication.
Still, the blood was cleaned as ordered, only for Rat to leave on some errand or another. He had been gone for nearly an hour by Candle’s own reading of the sun, but it at least let her finally make some headway on the dust that plagued her new home.
A wet munch sounded from the doorless entryway, and in it stood rat. His leather bundle was tucked under his arm, a sack held in that same arm’s hand. In his other, a strange fuzzy fruit was held to his mouth. It dripped sweetly and held a golden flesh covered in a rine the color of dawn -- it was a peach. Rat’s small, bright eyes seemed intent on Candle as he chewed, his lips curling into a smile.
Candle stared at the fuzzy orb he held in his hands, her eyes unconsciously tracking the juices that ran from it and his mouth. Her mouth opened, both to ask where
he had managed to find such a thing and to hopefully sink her own teeth into its flesh despite the great distance between them. Saliva started to pool in her mouth. Realizing what he was trying to do and attempting to curb her own desires, Candle snapped her mouth shut and forcibly turned her gaze towards the broom in her hand and the dust on the floor, staring so intently as if the dust would burn and clean the rest of the chapel for her while it was at it.
Her curiosity could not be sated, however, and she had to at least know where he had attained such a delicacy. ”I hope whatever you were up to, you didn’t bring any trouble back here.”
“Only if you call this trouble,” Rat said before taking another large bite of the fruit, his other hand swinging the sack to and fro as if making a suggestion. He gulped and closed his eyes, clearly enjoying his meal, “You ever have a peach?”
She hadn’t. The only fruit she was ever regularly exposed to were the wildberries that grew all over Pertovia; small, sour little things that only ever so rarely had one perfect jewel among a field of many that were soft, succulent, and often savored and reminisced about all too quickly. Apples and their ilk less so, but common enough among markets and regular rations. Their tartness never seemed to agree with her, however, much less the texture they often had if not picked and eaten in the same week. She had seen peaches only a handful of times before and touched one only one. She could only imagine what they would taste like, and so silence and a hungering look at Rat’s bag were her only answers.
“How about a different question,” Rat flicked the bare pit of his fruit out of the chapel and reached into the sack for another. He slowly pulled out a plump yellow-orange peach, tinged with a deep red that promised a sweetness not often found in Pertovia. He rubbed a thumb over the fuzz and appraised it, “Are there blacksmiths where you are from?” His eyes changing as quickly as the topic, darting to where she had placed her dagger.
Eyes colored with longing watched the pit fall outside of the chapel. ”Aye,”
she replied, attempting to tear away her eyes from the bag now that she knew it contained a veritable sack of riches. ”My convent used to have a small number of Brothers and Sisters dedicated to crafting the tools we needed to carry out Parrel’s will. Most of the time the lay people that followed us would have a blacksmith among their number, and they would handle the more common mundanities.”
Rat listened with an understanding nod, keeping the peach near his face without taking a bite. Finally he held it away from himself and cleared his throat, “That’s mighty convenient... barring the limit of resources... I’d say you almost have an endless, er...” He thumped his head with the back of his hand as he figured out the word, “faucet... able to acquire new metal goods when you need them. I say coincidence because I myself have a similar arrangement where I can get these little fruits whenever I damn well please.” He made an almost surprised face, “So naturally, I’d say we are in a unique position where I just give you some!” He laughed, “It’s not the Kend way, I know, but it’s the least I can do since you’re offering your dagger for the whole sack anyways.”
Visible pain flashed across Candle’s face before she recomposed herself. ”Unlike your… produce… our tools cannot be given away so freely. And I have never offered you my dagger. Each tool is made specifically for a certain member of our parish and we are often involved in its own making. They are our vital instruments, just as we are Parrel’s. In any case, I have seen many winters since the last time I was in contact with my convent, and they have likely moved somewhere new. I came to Kendles to offer my own services, and what I can do does not extend to blacksmithing,”
she explained, her eyes suddenly darting to her pack that still lay in the lean-to sat against the sanctuary wall and, inadvertently, to the room where the crown was hidden.
“Oh no, I understand, oh yes,” Rat’s salesman like tone seemed to finally drop, “It’s just that this sack of peaches weights much more than you dagger as it is, it’s not like I was buying your sword... it is rare to find a stable source of metal in this town, you know.” He finally bit into the peach, it bursting with juice. He smiled and chewed quickly, swallowing with a gulp, “Not to say there is a stable source of anything -- like food.”
Candle pursed her lips, then finally looked down and away. ”Parrel guides those who have the will to first guide themselves,”
she recited. ”If you wish to deal with my convent, you are more than welcome to search for them yourself. Besides,”
she started to counter, staring directly where the nail formerly lay embedded inside him, then at Rat’s face. ”I’ve still yet to ask for payment of services rendered.”
“And that’s why I like you,” Rat sneered, “In Kendles, me asking for a trade rather than swiping right from you is respect enough, you know.” He laughed once, “Oh yes, fuckin’ Kendles... I bet you couldn’t tell, but...” He looked over his shoulder then back at Candle, “I can be a wee... cautious -- but you... I can smell your niavity; could fuckin’ cut it with a knife. This is the most relaxed I’ve ever been, and that doesn’t bode well for you -- can’t be relaxing people around here.”
Annoyance. Aggravation. Righteous purpose. All of it and more began to bleed into Candle’s speech. ”And it is for that exact reason that I have decided to establish a new church. If I was like you, would we be having this conversation I wonder? Or would you still be wandering around this Filth-ridden town, bleeding a trail for whoever harmed you to follow?”
Rat squinted his eyes in an almost patronizing way and smiled, “Sure, yes, you can play the same hand in the same game twice -- but what I’m telling you is none the less true. You’re out of your element here. You can’t just skip on in fuckin’ full of piss and holy cree’ and expect everyone you meet to suddenly go-” He tucked his hand under his chin and put on a wondering face, “Oh shit and Oorick’s nips, I never saw it that fuckin’ way ‘fore.” He bit into his peach aggressively and quickly chewed and swallowed, “Ye think you’re the first?” He jutted his chin at the wall next to him, “I knew the last fucker who holed up here, you know.” ”Why do you think I chose this ruin in the first place?!”
Her voice began to rise, fluctuating in tone as she attempted to keep calm. This was not the first Candle had heard these remarks, it would not be the last, but it still stung to hear nonetheless.
“I bet to fuckin’ the sky and back it wasn’t because you heard about this-” Rat dropped his leather bundle and the sack of peaches, his voice a squeel of anger as he tossed the peach lazily in the air. With impressive speed he ripped his metal shank out of his pants and zipped it through the air. With a wet slunk the knife caught the peach and sent it into a wooden beam, pinning it.
“--Cuz that’s about where Derick put the head of the last one.” He spat, the peach sliding off its mark and hitting the floor with a splat as if to punctuate.
She knew about the gangs. About the turf wars, the sudden rise to power of the Filth eaters. Not an insignificant number of her patients who came under her care were victims of his ascension. Liam and a countless score of others had warned her about the inherent dangers and most of all, the stupidity in chasing her lofty goal. She still didn’t care. ”And what were you hoping to have me do by trying to scare me? Have me leave? Run? Enter under your ‘care and protection’?”
Her throat became tight, her lips a thin line as she tried to keep tight control of herself.
“Bah,” Rat snarled, but his snarl was half hearted as he walked over to his shank. With a tug he yanked it from the wood, his eyes not meeting Candles, “I’ve already said my peace -- you’re a fuckin’ idiot, and I wouldn’t have said any of this if I didn’t think your life was worth keeping around.” He turned to her, “Don’t ask me why, but a kid like you should at least try to be a little fuckin’ smarter.”
Of all his words, it was his look that infuriated her the most, like she was something to be pitied. Her eyes burned itself onto his face, daring him to meet her challenge. In response, however, she only had one thing to say. ”Should you ever require my services, my church and my skills will always be open to you and to any others that might come seeking refuge under my roof.”
“And for that, I’ll make sure to urinate away from your grave,” Rat kept his stare, his eyes narrowing with pride the longer Candle looked, “But I’m afraid I still need to stick around a wee longer.” He slid his shank into his pants and walked over to his discarded bag and bundle.
With nothing left to be said, a heavy silence descended between them, awkward and long. It took a while for Candle to regain her composure, but her mantras and prayers served her well in doing so, as they always had. She resumed what she had been doing before Rat had waltzed in and continued sweeping the floor, trying to ignore the fact that presently, there was a distinct lack of a roof above her in the first place.
At some point another pair of footsteps began to plop merrily closer to the church. ”Ho there!”
A familiar voice sounded, the rich tenor belonging to Candle’s most recent traveling companion. ”Still ‘live and in one piece girlie? Haven’t had yourself shanked now have you?”
Laughter sounded off in response to a joke seemingly only Liam understood as he walked inside.
“Teid’s tits,” Rat remarked, “I suppose now I understand where all your fuckin’ anger is coming from.” His hand was on his shank and eyes on Liam. ”Ho!”
Liam greeted warmly as his eyes fell upon Rat, a stark contrast to the gruff persona Candle received on their first meeting. Still, his eyes remained sharp as his still-functioning hand rested easily on the pommel of his mace. ”I didn’t speak too early did I girl? This gutter rat hasn’t done anything a lady wouldn’t ‘ppreciate now did he?”
“Wait just a hole shittin’ minute,” Rat closed his eyes and tilted his head, his shank slowly coming out of its resting spot, “Did you just fuckin’ call me a gutter rat?” He opened his bright eyes and stared daggers at Liam. ”The only stabbing and bashing to be done will be by my own hands and no one else’s in this holy house,”
Candle warned, turning her face pointedly to the two others, to which Liam raised his hand and lowered his face in mock apology. ”Rat, this is Liam, the dead merchant’s guard.” ”So you are a rat!”
rat; just Rat,” The thief hissed, “If you have trouble with the accent, I can do some quick work on your tongue so it better fits your swollen head, free of charge.” He sucked in a breath and stood in front of his bundle, his eyes flickering with thought, “So you knew Lauriel?” ”Rat, Wolf, Fox,”
Liam laughed. ”Get a few more characters and you can start your own weird little farm! As for Lauriel,”
he paused, his wide smile turning into a cold and practiced grin as he sized up the lanky rat-man before him. ”I knew her as much as a guard hired by her could be. I am sorry to say however that it seems my skills were not up to par,”
he said with an indifferent shrug. ”However, --
“Holy Teid!” Rat interjected, “The next Kendles has already been torn down and built -- just fuckin’ answer yes or no to the simple ones. Listen half-pint,” He pointed at the clearly taller man, “Do you have Lauriel’s package or not.”
Liam’s stanced shifted ever so slightly, danger and caution sewn into his aura. The same, cold grin remained on his face. ”And what package would that be?”
Rat squeezed his eyes shut and looked to the open sky as if praying. He mouthed a silent word and cracked a smile as he turned back to Liam, “Of fuckin’ course you don’t have it. I shoulda known any shit for brains merc like you would go for the shiny bits and baubles first -- probably tossed them away for a stroke -- possible a choke if that’s what you’re into-- but no. Fuck!” He swore loudly, “You bloated sword pushers always miss the important bits.” He turned away and swore again, “This ain’t some sort of fuckin’ thing you’d ask about, you’d know if you fuckin’ had it and I can tell by the way your pants aren’t pissed right now that you don’t fuckin’ have it.”
And just like that, Liam’s posture relaxed, a bit more personality injecting itself back into his expression. ”What can I say,”
he apologetically shrugged, ”I was only hired to do a single job. But it was dear Lauriel’s poor, dying wish to resolve whatever worldly affairs she had left unfinished here in Kendles, and who am I to deny a dying woman’s will? So, perhaps I can help you find this package.”
What Candle remembered of the merchant’s last moments were ones of pleading and gore, but she decided to remain silent on this point.
“Oh yeah?” Rat fluttered his eyelashes. “You’re a real fuckin saint,” He scowled, “And who am I to deny a saint -- you can start by telling me how far away from here she fuckin’ croaked.” ”Two days walk north of here,”
Candle offered, showing she was still making sure that no bloodshed would happen in her new home. ”Right, right, bit off the road. Poor girl here wouldn’t rest until she gave Lauriel and the others a proper burial despite guttin’ a score of grunts that day! I’m sure she’s too busy here fixin’ up this place and whatnot, so if you’d like I could lead you there, maybe see if there are still any good bits left that haven’t been taken.”
“You know,” Rat wagged a finger thoughtfully as he scooped up his bundle and bag in one arm, “I think you may be a very smart man, oh yeah.” He tapped his head, “You head on out, and I’ll meet you there you fuckin’ halfwit.” His voice dropped, “What kind of bastard of Oorick do you take me for, I oughta...” His voice trailed into a snarl, cutting off the threat as he eyed Candle.
Liam laughed. ”No need for the harsh words, Rat. I know how you Kendies are, all paranoid and the like, but I’m an Illistair man, bred and born! Ain’t got a single bad bone in my body, though if I do make it out there first, who’s to say I won’t accidentally take your package? After all, I’ve no idear what it is, but I do live by a very firm code of ‘finder’s keepers’.”
His face turned solemn as if uttering an oath before cracking back into his amused face. ”And since you’ve no idear where it is, it’d be better if we went together, right?”
“Oh, I get it,” Rat nodded his head, “You see a Kendie
.” He shook his head, “Oh no, I understand, I do.. Before you, you see a short man, kinda lanky... long hair -- name’s Rat. What a fool, yeah? He is from Kendles to boot-- but do you know how old I am?” Rat gave a funny look, “Thirty-nine. I am Thirty-nine years old, mint is on my breath, my teeth are white and I have peaches in this here bag.” He jumbled the bag, “Oh but you know Kendies, so you already knew that -- so you probably know how I did it as well.” Rat looked at the man with a stone cold stare, “By gutting cocky shits like you and turning them into sausage before their mother could even think about farting out another disappointment--” ”Enough!”
Candle threw up her hands in exasperation. ”You two could threaten to gut each other all day and never be done with it. What if I went with the both of you and make sure you both don’t kill each other on the way there or back, aye? And if either of you try anything, I will cut whoever it is where they stand, then drag them back here and fix them up again. Does that sound fair?”
“I’m not stepping a foot with this sorry mound of puss until he learns some fuckin’ manners,” Rat spat, “I appreciate all you do, I really do, but even my boundless appreciation has trouble keeping me from opening Wallie fool’s throats while they sleep.” ”Fine! Then how about only I go with you, while Liam stays here and tells me whatever bobs and bits he wants me to plunder from whatever items may yet remain. Agreeable now, yes?”
A smug look overturned Rat’s snarl as he gave a bemused look towards Liam, “I think that’s quite the deal. How ‘bout a peach to keep it in stone?” ”You try to bribe me anymore than you have and I will gut you and eat all those peaches myself.”
At that, Liam broke his silence with laughter once more, this time turning it into a full, gut-bending roar. ”Well, what can I say to that but aye? Fine girl, have it your way, but don’t expect me to find another healer so quick for you if you come back with several new holes in your back. People like you aren’t exactly common ‘round these parts.”
Candle glared at both men, then set aside her broom and went about packing all her things that she had so carefully unpacked just hours before.
“Hold on, swift,” Rat held up a hand, “We can’t exactly just up and leave right now. Give it four days, we are going to want to be more prepared than Lauriel was if we expect to survive up to four nights on the road.”
Candle sighed, re-unpacking her belongings. Liam, meanwhile, smiled and stared at Rat. ”As newly made friends, I hope to see you come back alive now.”
Rat chewed his cheek as he simply stared at Liam for a bit. He rubbed his chin and shook his head, suddenly turning to Candle, “Be ready in four days, sleep behind the chapel not in it, and have Liam here do all the talking (far fuckin’ away from you) -- especially if to Derick’s goons. Peachy?” He held his belongings tight against him.
Candle looked at him then nodded, figuring it was easier to agree than talk anymore than she already had to. The road to her new church still stretched far off into the distance yet.