Rat & Will Chapter 6: The Local Guild: We Don’t Know Your Name and Don’t Want To
The next morning, Rat and Will were out on the streets of Morgans Reach just after dawn. Will grumbled, but Rat insisted they be up early. Too easily, they found a saddle maker who excitedly promised speedy repairs to their saddlebags when Rat offered to pay with actual coin. He didn’t even attempt to cheat them, naming a price fair enough that Rat simply agreed without any bother with negotiation. It made clear that Milla was telling the truth about one thing at least; the townsfolk were seriously short on coin.
They picked up breakfast at a stall just off the main road leading to Tremant’s castle. Again, suspicious looks were quickly replaced with grateful smiles when they paid in coppers.
They slurped coffee and munched on pastries as they walked towards the Guild hall. Will was growing more irritated by the minute. “Look at that, damn guard just stole a ribbon right off of that poor girl’s cart. Why bother having guards if they’re going to be worse than the people they’re supposed to protect?”
“Because they’re not here to protect the people. They’re here to keep them in line.” Rat was trying to decide if pickpocketing the guards was worth the trouble.
As if he could read her mind, Will led her away from the guard they were nearing. “Even if they don’t catch you, you’ll just get someone else in trouble.” He muttered quietly.
She sneered at the idea that they’d catch her, but didn’t argue. Instead, she pointed up the road. “I think that’s the Guild hall. Kind of a pit, don’t you think?”
Behind the sign reading Mercenaries Guild in flaking letters, Will took in the large, poorly repaired house with it’s dim windows and fenced yard behind it. An old barn, covered in vines and ready to fall down, peaked up from behind the fence, it’s windows dark. He shrugged. “Everything in this town is a pit. And really, at two silver just to get in, who’s stopping by if they can help it?”
“Good point.” Rat led the way into the shabby house.
Once inside, she stepped to the side to let Will in, giving her eyes time to adjust to the dim light. At the back of the large room, a small fire did little to ward off the morning chill. Beside it, a large, red haired man with grey at his temples sat sharpening a large and well used sword. He looked up at them briefly, then turned back to his work, his huge arms rippling as they moved.
“Got no jobs here. Best get back out on the road to anywhere else.” His voice was deep and filled the room with more warmth than the fire, but not by much.
Rat snorted. “You aren’t kidding. But we’ve found our own job. Just need a basic contract.”
The man looked up again. Eyebrow raised, he asked, “You Guild members?”
“No.” Rat sneered at him.
He chuckled. “Deserved that.” The man set aside the sword and stood, walking slowly over to them. He had a pronounced limp, dragging his left leg behind him, but the rest of him was well fit and muscular. “Sorry about the attitude. Been getting mostly green youths in here desperate for work. Even if I had it, which I don’t, they’d just get themselves killed instead of paid.”
“Your town’s in the shit, sure enough.” Rat remarked.
He shrugged. “It’s seen better days. But so it goes. A contract you said?”
“Right.” Rat looked up at the man and noticed a familiar set of brown eyes. With the red hair and broad build… “I didn’t catch your name?”
“Ah.” The man looked a bit sheepish. “Name’s Urden. Urden Longbough. And you are?”
“Rat and Will.” She angled her head. “Any relation to Milla in Morgan’s Keg?”
He frowned and eyed them with sudden suspicion. “My sister.”
“Ah. No wonder she said you were probably trustworthy.” Rat considered the large man for a moment, then looked about the dim hall. “But why only probably?”
“Because I probably won’t approve of why you and she know each other.” Urden hadn’t lost his suspicious look, though he wasn’t stupid enough to make any threatening moves.
“Probably not. But I’ll still need that contract.” Rat didn’t move or blink when he leaned down to glare at her. Behind her, Will tensed, but he didn’t speak up.
Urden continued to glare for a few moments longer before realizing it was useless. Then he gave up with a sigh and turned about. Lurching over to a desk, the man sifted through rough piles of documents and finally pulled out several sheets of paper. “Gonna be five coppers for the contract. Ten more to file it. Plus twenty percent of final pay.”
“Right.” Rat no longer complained about the percentage the guild took from their contracts. She and Will had learned the hard way how useful the perks of Guild membership could be. She pulled out two coppers and exchanged them for the rolled tube of papers Urden handed her. “Thanks.”
Urden grunted and would have returned to his work, but Will stopped him. “How long has Tremant been sucking your town dry?”
The man shrugged, then moved back to his seat. He took care with the leg when he sat, then said. “I wasn’t here when he moved in. Apparently, he just rode in one day with a small but nasty group of men. Killed the mayor, then killed anyone who argued about it. Lots of people just up and left. The rest…learned to live with him. More or less.”
He sighed and gestured to his leg. “After I got wounded, the Guild assigned me here. Seems the last Guild Master disappeared. As did the one before him. They figured since I was from here, I’d do better. Mostly, I keep my mouth shut. And the Guild makes regular inquiries, which probably helps me not get dead.”
“The guards. Are they all his people?” Rat sat in the chair across from him, ignoring the way his mouth firmed in dislike. She didn’t take it personally, most people weren’t fans of outsiders asking nosy questions. Fewer still seemed to care much for her particular kind of nosy questions.
“Not all of them. A few still remain from before. But most are his now, even if they didn’t come in with him. Only real way to ensure survival. People will do a lot to protect and feed their families.”
Rat knew that well enough. “He goes down, does the town recover?”
Urden grimaced. “Maybe. Depends. Do his people go down with him?”
“How many are his versus just following whoever’s strongest?” Rat asked.
“Good question.” Urden considered. “You’d need to ask my sister. She probably knows the whole lot by name. They drink in her bar regular like.”
“Good to know.” Rat stood. She’d just turned to follow Will out when Urden stopped them with a question. “You’re all that Segritt sent? Just you two?”
“How do you know Segritt sent us?” Rat glared at him.
“Who do you think gave my sister his information?” Urden glared right back. “Technically, I’m a free agent here. As long as he leaves the Guild be, I’ve nothing to say about who runs the city.”
Will spoke up. “He’s charging Guild members two silver just to enter the city.”
“After they tried to kill us outside the gates.” Rat added sarcastically.
Urden frowned. “You’d swear to that?”
“I just did.” Rat gave him a cold look. “If you need our sworn testimony and statements, you’ll have them. If we decide to take the contract, we’ll have it back by tomorrow morning.”
“Not sure what I’d do with it, but I suppose it’s a final chance to try to get the guild involved.” Urden nodded his head. “I’ll put in a report, request repayment from the Guild.”
“I’d take that repayment. Especially given what I’m like to turn over if this job doesn’t kill us.” Rat grinned hard and fast. “Tell them it was four silver. Each.”
Urden frowned again, but then shrugged. “Why not? Hell, I manage to get it, I’ll be taking my ten percent just for taking the report.”
“Right.” Rat walked out of the Guild hall, Will close behind her.