The Cyneweard

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Part I - Bringer of Storms :: 10

"How many does that make?" Greer asked, rubbing his chest.

Wilcox signed another thick roll of parchment and tossed it to the side with a sigh. "Forty three death confirmations."

Greer clicked his tongue. "You holdin' up?"

"I've seen more death than this," the Watcher replied, pulling another thick sheaf of parchment from a pile to the right of his arm. "Far more."

"I keep forgetting how old you are," the Protector replied, his eyes locked onto a far off vision.

"And you?"

"Me what?"

"How are you holding up?"

Greer closed his eyes, rubbed at his eyelids, and leaned forward. He clasped his hands together and kept his gaze to the floor. "I can still smell it. Iron and sulfur and sweat and burning flesh."

"Death is a potent perfume," Wilcox agreed, eyes locked to the paper on his desk.

"My chest is tight, the skin's still healing despite Leona's efforts to heal it. Hurts to laugh. Hurts to yell."

"Day off didn't help?"

Greer shook his head. "Leona claims I was hit with the burst of the spell, the most damaging part. Says it was powerful enough to punch through stone. Maybe even iron and steel."

"Mmm," replied the Watcher.

"I just keep thinking about all those dead. Gone in a flash. The images won't leave."

"And they never will," Wilcox grunted, reaching over to freshen the ink on his quill.

"Who could have done such a thing?"

"That's our job to find out. As soon as this Funerary drudgery is out of our way, we can get to work."

Greer nodded. "Alchemist Guild?"

"Yup," Wilcox confirmed. He tossed another signed parchment to the left edge of his desk. With a sigh he stood and cracked his back. "About time for the holy wackos to drop by."

Greer glanced at him from the corner of his eye. "Don't be too rude. They're here to help."

Wilcox laughed. "Not sure we need their brand of 'help'."

A knock came at the door.

"Need or not, they're here."

The Watcher strode over to the door and flung it open. Rain had returned to Little Mille shortly after the blast and had set in hard. Wilcox hoped that it would clear before the funerary. Just what the community needed: a wet funeral. Fun times for all.

There were two figures at the door. One was a lithe feeling in flowing green robes, jade pendants and ear rings, and a youthful but wise face. His fur was a grayish white and his eyes a bright yellow.

"Watcher Wilcox," he greeted in a soft, grinning tone. "I wish we were visiting under less dour circumstances."

"Yeah," the Watcher replied. "Have a seat over there, Guerre."

The feline nodded and glided over to a chair in front of the Watcher's desk. He waved a hello to Greer, who returned the gesture with the traditional Chamatri holy greeting.

"Same for you, Lachey."

"I prefer to be called Priest Lachey."

"Whatever."

Lachey was a stout Hume, square jaw and small, tired eyes. His hair was white yet his beard still clung to a youthful deep brown. Thin lips adorned a jutting chin and thick brown eyebrows rode a prominent-ridged forehead.

The Watcher let out a deep sigh as he sat back down behind his desk. "Gentlemen," he began, placing his hands palm down on the desktop. "We have need for holy services tomorrow, providing the rain breaks."

"Absolutely," replied Guerre. "The Chamatri Temple will be honored to help send the fallen back to the soil."

The Watcher nodded and turned his gaze to the Humbolt Priest.

Lachey's eyes narrowed. "The House of Humbolt will need protection. Can the Sigil guarantee that?"

Wilcox shook his head. "I'm not sure what sort of threat you're expecting."

"You witnessed yourself the heinousness that befell Elder Dumdhall. The House must have guarantee of safety."

"No one can guarantee your safety," Wilcox replied. "Not even the Machinist group and their army of guards."

"I thought it was the Sigil's job to protect this community," scoffed Lachey.

"It is the Sigil's job to enforce the law, not prevent bad things from happening. We cannot see into the future."

"But we Humbolt followers know what's coming. The rain, the death of our local elder, the chaos in the streets, the fire engulfing the heavens. The Great End is right around the corner."

The Watcher frowned. "Keep your proselytizing to yourself, holy man. I just need you to either give words and service tomorrow or stay holed up in that House of yours. I would hope you would want to offer solace to all those affected. Humboltism is the most generous of the belief systems, right?"

Guerre caught a snicker a little too late. Lachey shot up out of the chair, threw side eye at the Chamatri holy man next to him, and then pointed a large finger into the Watcher's face. "And I don't need your blasphemy Watcher. A heathen 'protecting' Little Mille. Hah. I don't know what's worse, your ineptitude at your own job or the gall you have telling the House what to do."

Wilcox didn't offer a reply but kept a hardening gaze on the Priest. Greer could see his boss' jaw muscles clenching and relaxing.

"I thought not," the Priest replied. He stomped off to the door and threw it open. "The House will not be offering service tomorrow."

The Watcher had found his voice. "Fuck your god and your services. I'll let your followers know how cowardly and thin-skinned their religious leaders are."

Lachey's face reddened, his eyes bulged. He started to move back towards the desk.

"Another inch and you're going to be spending the night in a cell," yelled Wilcox.

Lachey halted, backed up, and spat onto the floor. "I hope you are dragged kicking and screaming to the Below when your mortal coil unwinds."

"My, what lovely words from a Priest. Out of my office."

The Humbolt priest obliged, slamming the door hard enough to rattle the lone window attached to the building.

"Smooth," Greer said as his boss sighed and returned to his seat behind the desk.

The Watcher ignored his subordinate and motioned to Guerre. "Sorry you had to witness that."

"It is of no mind of mine. I well know your stance on faith, Mr. Wilcox. I do suggest, however, that you try to control your temper. Anger only leads to more issues."

Wilcox grinned. "It did lead to my wife leaving me, so it has at least one redeeming quality."

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