Chapter 8 - Tense Meetings

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They weren't here to mingle in political affairs. In fact, they were supposed to stay clear of anything even faintly related to that. Still, the tension had his entire patrol at edge, and they all had their weapons ready. Marcus picked up his shield. Measured from the ground, it reached to Phyllis's shoulders. He placed it in front of her as he motioned for the others to stand down. Which they did, but they hadn't missed his own assessment of the atmosphere.

They watched from the side-lines, as the villagers moved aside to let Nara and a man who Marcus assumed was Raghnall, pass. Cornelis was one step behind them, his entire composure breathing trouble. He had put on a blue, long-sleeved plaited shirt that hid his bandages from view. Anyone that hadn't been informed he was injured, wouldn't be able to tell. He was breath-taking, to say the least.

"That's Phelan," Phyllis breathed, pointing at a slender young man with auburn hair that stood in wild angles. "And that's Connor. He's trouble." Connor looked very grim indeed. He was a touch shorter, touch darker version of Cornelis, and he looked like the sort of guy who would loathe such a comparison. Trained warriors, all of them. As were the men and women that surrounded them. Only their weapons were missing, and Marcus wondered if they would truly turn out unarmed if it came to combat. He himself would not trust them to be.

"So that's my grandmother," Phyllis said.

Marcus glanced at Phyllis and back at Nara. She did not resemble her very much. But Nara's cold eyes did remind him of Myra. Though Myra had never been mean to him, she sure was distant. Even, to some extent, to her own daughter. Nara's grey hair was fastened in the same practical bun Myra usually made, she had the same heart-shaped face that Phyllis too had inherited. All in all, it was clear Nara and Myra were related. And in all honesty, if Nara was a difficult woman, she would find a match in her granddaughter.

Marcus forgot all about Nara as soon as his eyes settled on the village's druid. He had allowed Cornelis to distract him way too much.

"Impressive," Phyllis commented.

Marcus did not have anything eloquent to add to that. Although Raghnall was a few inches shorter than Cornelis, the man didn't manage to dwarf the village's druid like he seemed to do with anyone else in his presence. Raghnall's robes vaguely resembled those Caitir. But the resemblance was fleeting, dimmed by the night blue colour of the fabric, a colour not befitting Mesmer's mother. The copious amounts of heavy, finely woven wool bore no adornments. Raghnall was all dark. Black hair that went far past his shoulders, lightened only by tresses of grey. Raghnall was in fact part of the very generation that Marcus had just discovered to be missing from the village. Late forties, early fifties? It was hard to tell, since Raghnall's face was partly obscured by a black blindfold. He held a wooden staff in his right hand, which wasn't uncommon for a druid, but he held the object a little in front of him. Still, Raghnall strode forward with such a determined pace Marcus was momentarily confused.

"Is he blind?" he asked before he could stop himself.

Phyllis's wide eyes and wild hand gesture told Marcus two things: Raghnall was blind. And he was an idiot.

Even if Raghnall wasn't blind, most people couldn't see through heavy cloth. And they wouldn't face their enemies blindfolded. Marcus contemplated he had spent too much time at Mesmer if he started to doubt simple observations.

"Focus," Phyllis muttered, and it was not a moment too soon.

"State your business, Roman,"

Nara's voice dripped with venom as she spoke. The effect on the leader of the patrol was immediate; his mouth set into a tight scowl. His eyes drifted to Marcus before he answered, which delayed his answer for a moment.

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