Authors: Honor Raconteur
Tags: #Young Adult, #Magic, #Fantasy, #YA, #series, #Deepwoods, #Raconteur House, #pathmaking, #Epic Fantasy, #Honor Raconteur, #assassins, #adventure, #guilds, #warriors, #female protagonist, #New Adult
For some reason, this made Hammon chuckle. “I suppose I fit
the definition of ‘unquantified.’ Well, thank you for the explanation,
Guildmaster Maley. If it’s alright with you, I’ll go collect my bags and then return
“Go, go,” she encouraged with a wave of the hand. “But
Hammon? A word of advice.”
He paused partway out of his chair. “Yes?”
“The easiest way into the hearts of this guild is to bring
them something tasty.”
He gave her a thankful nod. “I’ll find something suitable.
How much should I bring?”
“As much as you can,” she answered seriously. “I have
several bottomless pits that masquerade as humans.”
With a mock-bow, he promised, “I’ll do my best. Then, if
you’ll excuse me, I should be back by this evening.”
“Alright. Send word if you need help.” She meant the words
literally. No matter how unorthodox this situation might be, he was still a new
member of her guild, and all the guild looked out for each other.
He seemed to understand her sincerity as his smile grew
genuine before he gave her another quick bow and left as unassumingly as he’d come.
Before Hammon had completely left the Hall, Wolf came and
sat across the table from her, snagging a strawberry and dipping it in the
chocolate. The wooden chair and table creaked slightly under his weight as he
leaned over the surface.
“Oy!” she protested. “I haven’t sufficiently tested that for
Knowing very well she was joking, he replied calmly, “You’re
not dead yet. I’ll take my chances. Who was that?”
Pulling both bowls closer to her in a defensive manner, she
said, “Our newest guild member.”
Wolf gave Hammon’s back a quick glance as he licked the
chocolate off his thumb. “Don’t look like much of a fighter.”
“Scholar,” she corrected with a wry twist of the lips.
Her giant enforcer had the blankest expression she’d ever
seen as he repeated, “Scholar.”
“He’s going to work in the guild—” might as well get that
out in the open now “—but his main purpose in staying with us is to study the
different cultures and figure out how to improve trade relations between them.”
“Hoooo.” He looked thoughtful, white-blond brows screwed
upward slightly as he processed this.
“Be warned, he’ll probably ask you the most questions.” For
rather obvious reasons. As far as Siobhan could tell, Wolf was the only Resken
in this entire city, and his looks sometimes invited trouble. No one could
mistake him for anything else, not with that giant, powerful frame, ice-blond
hair and deep blue eyes. Despite his propensity to find trouble, she thanked
the stars he chose to remain with her. Wolf had become the dearest friend and
brother in arms she had, and if he ever did choose to leave, it would be like
losing an arm.
“No doubt.” Wolf didn’t seem the mind the impending
interrogation. “Why did you agree?”
“He said he’d do the books.”
Wolf chuckled as he reached for another strawberry. “
it makes sense. What do we know about him?”
“Not enough,” she admitted, swatting at his reaching hand
and missing. “But he had a good look in his eyes and he was respectful and
willing to work, so I don’t think he’ll cause trouble.”
Wolf glanced up at her face for a moment as he reached for
the last plump strawberry. “I’ll keep an eye on him anyway.”
She knew he would, no matter what she said. Wolf didn’t
trust anyone the first six months they were in the guild. His caution had saved
her hide more times than she cared to remember, so she didn’t argue with him.
He’d come around eventually. “Will you stay out of my strawberries?!”
Laughing, he stuck his finger in the chocolate bowl before
going on his merry way.
Hammon came back well before dinner, arms weighed down by
various bags. Siobhan saw his approach from the second story window, where she
had been freshening up a room for him. Seeing that he was struggling to hang on
to everything, she called down the stairs, “Someone go help Hammon!”
Even as she spoke, she hurried out the door and downstairs,
intent on helping him herself if no one else had heard her. But as she hit the
ground floor, she saw that Conli had beaten her there. Denney hovered nearby,
eyes doing a toe-to-head sweep of Hammon before catching Siobhan’s eye and
Siobhan nodded confirmation as she strode around the table
to the door.
“—take at least some of this from you,” Conli offered,
already lifting a wicker basket out of Hammon’s hands. “How did you manage to
get it all here without dropping something?”
“Who says I didn’t?” Hammon returned with a wry smile.
“Uh-oh.” Siobhan bit back a smile as she took in the bags.
“Which one? Anything break?”
“No, likely not, as it was the bag with all my clothes and
“Good, good.” She looked at Conli. “Did you introduce
“Barely.” Conli turned to Hammon and offered a hand, now
that Hammon had one free. “Conli Rorona, the physician of the guild.”
Hammon blinked at the word ‘physician’—it was a rare occupation,
as most chose to be bonesetters or apothecarists—but accepted the hand readily.
“Light and peace upon you, Rorona. I’m Markl Hammon, Scholar.”
“Welcome,” Conli responded with a slight smile. “We’re glad
for anyone that will take the books away from Siobhan.”
Siobhan gave him a dirty look, which he returned with a mischievous
grin. “The love I feel from you is underwhelming, Conli, thank you. Hammon, I
have a room set up for you at the top of the stairs. Throw everything in
“And after you do so, come see me,” Conli directed. “It’s
procedure in the guild that I examine every new member that comes in.”
Hammon pointed a finger at his own chest, head canted in
question. “I’m not ill.”
“No, you look perfectly healthy,” Conli agreed pleasantly.
“But this way, I know if you have anything that I need to be aware of,
medically speaking. Like allergies to foods, or medicines that don’t work well
on you. It’s best to know these things in advance.”
“Ahh, I see. Then, I’ll come see you in a moment.”
“Denney,” Siobhan directed, “play tour guide for him.”
Hammon turned, just noticing the young woman standing
quietly behind Conli.
Conli gestured toward Denney, then Hammon in an inviting
manner. “Hammon, this is Denney Icean. She’s our resident animal expert.
Denney, Markl Hammon, our new master of finances.”
“And language expert,” Siobhan added. “He speaks two
languages no one else does.”
“And I certainly will learn more, when I can,” Hammon
agreed. He regarded the girl with obvious interest, perhaps because of her
milky brown skin that didn’t belong to any particular culture. He surely
wondered where she was from, but aside from a brief, “Light and peace upon you,
Icean,” he didn’t say anything to her.
Siobhan didn’t miss the way his eyes darted from Conli to
Denney and back again. True, the two looked similar enough that they could be
kin. They had joined Deepwoods together six years ago and to this day Siobhan
was not quite sure why. Siobhan had always suspected that the girl was Conli’s
daughter (with a twenty year age gap between the forty year old Conli and the
twenty year old Denney, it was certainly possible), but had never felt it right
to pry and satisfy her curiosity. She didn’t know their precise relationship,
just that Denney never strayed far from Conli’s side.
Denney offered him a smile. “Come with me, and I’ll show you
where everything is.”
“You’re very kind, thank you.”
She watched them go off toward the stairs, Conli following
after with the basket still in his hands.
Strange, from the back, it looked like Conli and Hammon were
kin. They both had the same tall build, fair hair, fair skin and that
intellectual air about them. Though Conli was from Island Pass and Hammon from
With them more or less sorted, she went and tried to put the
books in some sort of semi-order for Hammon to take over. Right now, they
likely wouldn’t make an ounce of sense to him. They barely made sense to her.
As she sat at the main table and struggled to make things add up, time more or
less passed by without her notice.
“You really keep such detailed notes on each person?” Hammon
asked, his voice mixing in with the sound of footsteps against the wooden
“Oh, I have to. I don’t dare trust my memory,” Conli
responded with a half-laugh.
“For good reason,” Denney muttered.
Siobhan turned and smiled up at the group as they came down,
pleased by the way that Hammon respected Conli’s skills. Physicians and
pharmacists were not well received, although Conli’s skills with herbs and
surgery made most doctors look like quacks. He’d proven over the past six years
of being in the guild that he knew his trade, and knew it well. His medical
expertise had opened doors for her several times.
She opened her mouth, intending to call Hammon over, when a
clatter from behind distracted her. Wolf came inside with a slightly guilty
look on his face and his right arm clasped to his chest. Tran was right behind
him, an evil smile of sadistic pleasure stretching from ear to ear.
Reading the signs well enough, Siobhan just groaned. “Wolf,
you broke it
“Broke what?” Beirly appeared from the back room like magic,
his leather apron on and a hammer in his hand. He took in the sight of Wolf’s
hand and said on a growl, “You broke the hand
“It was an accident!” Wolf protested.
Beirly crossed his arms over his chest, bushy eyebrow raised
in challenge. “Oh, do tell.”
“He was trying to hit me and missed, so he hit the wall
instead,” Tran explained, grin widening.
Despite being a good deal shorter, Beirly managed to reach
up and snag the back of Wolf’s neck, hauling him down to his own level. “That’s
not an accident, you fool! How in the world do you manage to constantly break
Siobhan, used to such a scene, simply rolled her eyes before
standing and pushing away from the table. “Alright you three, hold on a moment
while I introduce you to our latest member. Beirly, you can ream Wolf later.
Everyone, this is Markl Hammon.”
Hammon gave them a cautious half-bow.
“This is Tran Amar,” Siobhan introduced.
“Hammon-maee,” Tran greeted with a slight head bow, his
three long braids swinging forward with the motion. Hammon blinked, slightly
startled as he was forced to look up to meet the man’s dark eyes. Siobhan had
reacted the same way upon first meeting Tran. Between his corded musculature,
imposing height, and the array of scars that mottled his pitch black skin, he
looked like a thug, really. No one would suspect that a highly intelligent mind
lay beneath that rough exterior.
“Hammon the scholar, how do!” Beirly greeted in that
slightly rough, deep voice he had, bushy red beard quivering with energy. He
clasped arms with the man, and judging from the slight wince on Hammon’s face,
a mite too strongly.
“Light and peace upon you,” Hammon returned. He lost some of
his caution under the enthusiastic greeting.
Without waiting for questions, Beirly volunteered, “I hail
from Widstoe originally, but I’ve lived here in Goldschmidt for nearly a decade
and was one of the founding members for Deepwoods. Siobhan, Grae and I are
childhood friends, you could say. As far as I know, there’s no dwarvish blood
in me.” He said this with a half-chuckle as people usually assumed he had a
dwarf ancestor somewhere in the family tree. With his short but stout build, he
certainly looked the part. “I’m the fixer in the guild.”
“Fixer?” Hammon parroted.
“Blacksmithing, carpentry, leatherworking—if it requires
tools, I’m your man. I keep everything in repair around here, and when we’re
traveling I’m responsible for fixing anything that breaks.” Pointing at Wolf’s
iron hand, he said proudly, “That’s a bit of my handiwork right there. I fixed
it up for him when he first joined us.”
“It’s good for fighting and working,” Wolf added with a
slight smile. “But not for loving.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Hammon admitted, torn
between staring at the hand or at Beirly.
“Wolf will let you get a good look later, won’t you, Wolf?”
The question was clearly rhetorical as Beirly didn’t pause before continuing,
“He likes to show it off.”
“Not as much as you do,” Wolf retorted with a snort.
“And finally, Erik Wolfinsky,” Siobhan finished. “We all
call him Wolf, though.”
“You’re welcome to as well,” Wolf offered him although his
tone was neutral. “Forgive me if I don’t shake hands.”
“Quite understandable,” Hammon assured him with his eyes
locked on the broken iron hand.
Beirly blew out an irritated breath. “Alright,” he directed
Wolf, “come on back, I’ll fix it before dinner.”
“Hurry,” Siobhan advised. “I’m assured it’ll be on the table
soon. Hammon, if you’ll follow me, I’ll try to explain my insane book-keeping
method to you so you can take over.”
“Oh, yes, certainly,” he agreed.
As the boys tromped back into Beirly’s shop, she led Hammon
to the table and ran him through the books. He was more or less able to grasp
what she wanted done the first time through, which Siobhan appreciated. So he
truly did have the mind to be a scholar, eh? Seeing his intelligence at work
They wrapped it up when their cook started setting dinner on
the table. People filtered in from every direction—barring Sylvie, who had
stepped out for an errand—and she waited until they were all gathered before
snagging Hammon by the elbow, preventing him from sitting down. “I’ll introduce
you to the last two. This is Fei Man Lei, one of our enforcers.”
Hammon perked up slightly meeting him, not unexpectedly.
Hailing from the mountains of Saoleord, Fei fit the description of his people
to the letter: slick black hair, pale skin, slanted eyes, small stature and the
fighting prowess of a tiger. The Saoleorans didn’t normally descend from the
mountains, so finding one living here was a rare opportunity for the scholar.
“Light and peace upon you, Man Lei.”