One step closer to the finish
|The entire room froze in time when Silverbolt and Wildhunt returned to their new base. Constance was the first to move. She giggled and threw herself into Silverbolts arms. She raised the mask and kissed him.
Easily the best part of my day, but what the hell is Rexword doing here? Soft hands caressed the maskless face. "I take it there's a story behind Rexword being here?" He pointed to the blue-skinned humanoid standing next to Midgely. "What happened to you?"
"Are you out of your mind Gabriel? I leave and, you decide to put yourself at risk. What's with the new look?" Wildhunt came off more worried than angry.
"I made a deal with Andraste." Midgely shuffled his feet and swayed on the spot. His priest's garb kicked up a small cloud of dust.
The horned helm slammed against the wooden floor. "Excuse me? You did what?" Wildhunts words were soft, deadly, and almost conversational.
Constance stood in front of him. "You let him go, remember? Was he supposed to wait for you to sort your life? He did brilliantly, and we captured the soul of your mother."
Constance? Hunting ghosts? I missed it. I would give almost anything to have seen it. Steel covered arms wrapped around the slender form. He looked down into the crystal-blue eyes and smiled. "How was it?"
"Do you remember the ichor you collected from the Schaefer estate?"
"Ghost matter," Midgely corrected. "Anyway..."
The horned helm found Wildhunt's head. "I'm going to bed." She pointed to the priest in white robes. "We'll talk once I've calmed down."
"I'll go talk to her. I'm proud of Midgely. He handled himself brilliantly, once he came too," Constance said while she kissed her fiance again.
I should be mad, but Midgely probably left her with little choice. "I want to hear all about your adventures once you've dealt with Wildhunt."
Rexword shooks hands with Midgely and slowly walked towards the door. "Maybe we can work together again soon."
How did he end up working with Midgely and Constance? I'm not complaining. They both came home unscathed. "Rexword, stay."
The blue-skinned swordsman stopped with his hand on the doorknob. "I don't know. I'd have to give Lady Victoria notice. You and I don't have the best history either."
A gauntlet extended in friendship. "You did terrible things in the past. I've been there. Constance and Midgely trusted you enough to show off our new base. That's good enough for me. It'll be nice to have some more experience for the next adventure."
"To be honest, with Spencer dead, I need a new bodyguard, and without you, victory over Idina would not have been possible." Midgely said. He pulled the dishonored man back into the building.
Rexword stared at the ground, his eyes filled with disbelief. "I don't know. My reputation may ruin the reputation of the team. I don't want you all to suffer because I backed the wrong horse."
Midgely put his arm around the disenfranchised swordsman. "Silverbolt would rather punch first and ask questions later, and I pass out at inopportune moments. How is your handicap any different from ours? As a High Priest of Andraste, maybe my patron deity knows how to change you back."
I could learn a thing or two from Midgely. The boy may pass out at the drop of a hat, but he's got the gift of gab to explain it away. "We have every reason to help you. Tuxley spilled his guts to your face. I want to know what he is up to."
Rexwords fanged mouth grinned. "I can't say the thought of bringing down Tuxley isn't attractive. For once, I'll back the winning team. Should I tell you everything now?"
Silverbolt shook his head. "Best to wait for the girls. I have a feeling there is more to the story than we know."
Constance entered Wildhunt's room and took a spot next to her on the bed. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Wildhunt removed the deer skull helm and almost threw it across the room. "Was I stupid to expect Gabriel to wait for me? He wasn't the problem and never was. Killing my mother fills my waking thoughts and dreams. The weight of my actions crushes me worse than the heaviest boulder."
I know Ethan still feels the weight of the Addle house after all these years. Constance held her friend's hand. "Does Gabriel hate you for doing a necessary thing?"
Clara slid behind her changing blind. The armor of bone and chain thumped against the wooden floor. "No. He's been supportive. He dropped his family to be there for me. I don't deserve such devotion."
Where have I heard something similar? "You don't decide what you're worth in another's eyes. He'll..."
Angry footsteps reverberated off the wood and stone. "Constance Penelope Reynard, where have you been? I cannot plan a wedding for you. Modesty is a little put out with you..."
Wildhunt covered her mouth alongside Constance. "I forgot about the wedding. Silverbolt and I have been busy trying to find the old one. If you don't mind me saying, the upcoming walk down the aisle is low on his list."
Sophie burst into the room and stared at the young woman with fire in her eyes. "I expected Silverbolt to be partially there at best. Lord knows the man has the attention span of a raven in a room full of shiny objects. What was so important you missed choosing your floral arrangements?"
Why do mothers have terrible timing? "I was out chasing the ghost of Idina Schaefer. She killed Lord Pankhurst." Constance challenged her mother with a determined glare.
Wildhunt joined Constance, "Silverbolt and I were out chasing down the Old One. We found him and..."
Sophie pressed her hand to her forehead and scoffed. "You both are Noblewomen. I should've known your association with Silverbolt would lead to unladylike behavior. Can I expect more missed appointments in the future? Does the wedding even matter to you anymore?"
Constance put up her finger to suggest something when Silverbolts Armored form peeked his head in the room. "Sorry to disturb you all, but we should begin planning our attack on the warehouse. Trust me, Rexword has some good intel."
The group assembled in the kitchen. A platter with cheese, fruit, and bread sat in the center of an old table. The wobbly chairs provided some temporary amusement. Silverbolt banged a fist on the table. "Let's get started. I know Rexword worked for the enemy, but he appears to have changed sides, and we are in no position to be picky." A baton twirled around his fingers. "Speaking of which, I turn the floor over to our new ally."
Rexwords hands gripped the table until they turned white. "Thank you for your kind words and hospitality." Rexword cleared his throat, "Please try to save your questions for the end."
Sophie refused to let the past go. "You are an affront to guardsman everywhere. First, you failed the royal family, then Madame Cuttle, and now you will fail us." Her words were like tiny knives cutting at the psyche of the blue man.
Silverbolt mused. It's true. Behind every great man lies a proud woman and a surprised mother-in-law. Wasn't there another proverb about meeting them at the worst possible moment? Didn't I already do that?
"Mother, that is quite enough. We will listen because Rexword knows more about the enemy than all of us combined." Constance snapped.
"It's going to be okay, Sophie. If our new friend stabs us in the back, he dies. No offense Rexword, I hope?" Silverbolt stood up from his chair and emphasized his point by slamming his fist into an open palm.
Rexwords face went pale, and a nervous toothy grin appeared on his face. "None was taken. I would've said the same thing were you in my position." He rose from the table as the metal-clad warrior sat. "Is it okay to continue my tale, or are we going to debate my appearance?"
A blanket of silence covered the room. Rexword waited for thirty seconds before his guttural tone touched the ears of the assembled people.
"How many people remember the explorers we sent out across the ocean?" the blue-skinned swordsman paused as a plethora of hands went up. " Eighteen years ago, the nobility financed four expeditions to map the world. We all know two never returned, a third came in as a ghost ship, and the fourth produced madmen."
"Did the empty ship keep a log?" Midgely asked.
"The captain's log was a mess nonsense mixed with truth. The entire crew capitulated and jumped to their icy deaths. Tuxley Championed the fourth expedition and went with his men."
"Impossible, Lord Tuxley was here the whole time. I recall his pathetic attempts to woo me." Sophie slammed her fist on the table with spirit.
Rexword chuckled. "Tuxley trained a look-alike to be him while he went out and explored the world. There were traces of civilization but no people. He found a temple filled with deathmoths dedicated to an evil deity named Ursula."
Wildhunt poured some wine into a goblet and asked, "Why haven't we heard of her?"
"According to Tuxleys journal, Ursula once cast her dark shadow over Rathmore. The gods were powerless to stop her, as they promised not to get involved with the affairs of mortals. Carmen made no such promise."
Silverbolt looked around the room, "I'll assume something happened, and the goddess was killed or sealed away?"
Rexword grinned and pointed at Silverbolt, "Four mortals were chosen to meet with the goddess and sealed her away. Near defeat and facing a never-ending void, Ursula poured all of her power into a singular mask worn by her high priest."
"The mask of Faun?" Midgely asked.
"Good memory. The mask grants power to the wearer but twists their outside to look like their deepest darkest desires." Stunned expressions made Rexword rub his temples. "For instance, I believed myself to be a lady's man, and at times took my advances too far. When I donned the mask, it made me as I am."
"You said it turned you into an El Sombreron?" Constance asked.
Rexword stared at the floor. "El Sombreron is an evil creature. When he finds a woman to obsess over, He braids their hair or the manes of horses. They serenade their targets at night via silver guitar. He feeds them void soil, which saps them of their strength, beauty, grace, and transfers it to the Sombreron."
Silverbolt kept a serious face. "How many have you killed since becoming this thing?"
Rexword pulled on his thumbs nervously. "Well...none. The mask revealed many things about my true self. Everything awful I did as a person hid the fact I desired to be with a man."
"Logically, you should be out looking for male victims because of your preference, right?" Constance asked.
"I thought the same thing too, but nothing of the sort happened. I theorize Ursula wasn't a goddess, just a powerful sorceress with followers who likened her to a god." Rexword sat in a chair and took a swig of his wine. "Constance could you please explain what spell you used on Idina?"
Silverbolt held her hand while she spoke. She's changed a lot since we met. She wrecked me for anyone else, and I'm glad. I don't think I have it in me to date again. "You mixed it up with the ghost?"
Constance giggled and blushed a little. "I'll tell you in detail later, my love. I just used a simple purification spell..."
Rexword put up his hand. "More proof we are not dealing with a god. I met one or two people cursed by a deity, no mortal magic can undo them. Speaking of which, what did you learn about the old one?"
Wildhunt fielded the question. "There was some trepidation about the warehouse...," Wildhunt trailed off under the impatient gaze of Rexword. "To make a long story short, the mask does not work on the old one. My little rodent friends heard Tuxley ranting and raving about it."
"Could you imagine the old one transformed by the mask?" Midgely shivered involuntarily.
Wildhunt shivered alongside her former beau, "What does Tuxley want?"
"I am not sure, but he's looking for the perfect body..."
I know. "Tuxley is trying to bring Ursula back?" Silverbolt asked. "Or is he looking to transfer the mask's power to himself?"
Everyone pondered both questions. Sophie offered the first bit of useful information. "We used to call him Ten-Year Tuxley. He had a ten-year plan for every young woman he tried to court. I found it to be off-putting and presumptuous."
"Didn't that happen just before you met Father?" Constance asked. She pulled Silverbolts arm around her and leaned into his body.
Sophie gave the pair a nostalgic glance, "Yes. As I recall, Every noblewoman from here to the capital turned him down. Not that one can blame any of the poor things, Lord Tuxley had strange quirks."
Wildunt raised an eyebrow, "Strange quirks?"
"We will say inappropriate expectations of a wife. Even Lady Victoria's mother refused to bow to them." Sophie replied in a dignified voice.
Rexword reassumed control over the discussion "We should come up with a plan to attack..."
A heavy metal fist shook the table. "How about an adaptable strategy?" Silverbolt said. "We hit the warehouse at dawn. Some of us will free the old one, the rest of us will engage Lord Tuxley, and his new minions."
"That isn't a strategy, its more of a suggestion." Rexword pointed out.
"Then I suggest we all sleep on it for the night and come at the problem with fresh minds." Sophie said in a low tone.
Constance giggled, "What about the wedding?"
"Pshaw. Modesty is an absolute bore to be around. I see now you both are working towards a noble goal. I will plan the wedding and promise to make it the day you both deserve." Sophie said.
Silverbolt and Constance sat by the fire and enjoyed a semi-private meal. "I missed you all day," the metal-clad hero said in a soft tone. "Have you figured out what your powers do?"
Soft ruby lips kissed the mouth of Silverbolt. "Yes, and no. I can amplify magical spells, or at least it feels that way. Does that make sense?"
"Yeah, it does. I never tried to throw lightning from my hands. For some reason, I knew it was beyond my grasp. We should experiment tomorrow and see if your theory holds water."
"Where did Midgely and Wildhunt go?"
"She and Gabriel needed to talk. She took him by the hand, and the pair left. Good for them trying to work it out. Wildhunt kept talking about him while we were out."
"Gabriel was insufferable on our outing. I've seen happier basset hounds. He looked untterly lost without her. Do you feel lost without me?"
Constance scoffed and put her hands on her hips, "Excuse me?"
"I'm not lost because you're waiting for me. If you weren't doing the waiting thing, then I would be lost."
"You don't worry about someone else creeping into your place?"
Silverbolt embraced Constance, and she squirmed playfully in his arms. "We both agreed at the start we weren't interested in anyone else."
Crystal blue eyes softened at his words. "I don't recall saying such a thing."
"Your actions told me. As I said before, you own all of my firsts, and I want the rest of them to belong to you."
The pair exchanged a soft peck, and Constance stared at the clock. We should get some sleep, the warehouse won't raid itself.