“More Alra than Revengardian?” Eryn asked. “What do you mean? Isn’t it our territory?”
“No… not quite,” Laine finally took his eyes off of Naz to address the trainee. “It’s outside of our domain, but not quite in the space the Alra tribes have claimed. It’s a city-state in itself.” Giving that a moment of thought, he rubbed his chin and looked up. Why did they refuse to annex themselves to a stronger nation? The protection of the Revengardian army would surely be a welcome boon to a merchant-filled city.
Nico shrugged. “Not Revengardian, and not part of Eriskar… I don’t know why Naz wants to send these people there. Definitely too many beastmen for my tastes, not sure I’d want to follow. But I trust her judgment. Owe her something fierce, too.”
The remark on Alra-kind bothered Varlaine, pulling him from his thoughts to instead cast his attention over Nicomenda. Staying his tongue, he instead returned his eyes to the mercenary on the stage. He’d missed some of her speech, but she seemed to have stirred the crowd up enough. They drew up to the wooden platform, mystified by both the shimmering treasures that were laid out neatly and with the way Naz spoke.
“I cannot tell you what to do. I can only tell you what I think is safe,” She continued, one arm lifting up and resting her hand on her hip. She cleared her throat, pausing to swallow. “And staying here is not.” Her armor defended her from scrutiny, reflecting and glinting; ‘Laine had only ever seen stuff of that quality in some of his father’s war room meetings, on a few Revengardian generals. Lor’tsun was a supremely battle oriented country, so he supposed they would have equipment of that caliber in good supply; still, she seemed to hold it in very high regard. Indeed, he wondered if she had hunted down the gear’s thieves as much for the sake of the armor as for the town.
The people chattered amongst themselves, while Naz shook her head and moved to jump off the stage. When she knelt and placed her hand on the edge, a man’s voice called out. “Wait—wait. Will you be coming with us?”
Naz stopped and looked back at him, then cast a glance over to Varlaine and his group. “No. I have business elsewhere.” She responded. Another murmur ran through the people, but she ignored it to hop off the stage and plant her boots in the mud. While they talked, she worked her way away from them and to the displaced prince.
“Good speech.” Nico praised, offering a thumbs-up while he leaned against a splintered wooden wall. “I don’t know if they’ll buy it, but I’d go if you were.” Varlaine opened his mouth to speak out on that, but just frowned and looked awkwardly away from Nico. “So… why aren’t you going, anyways?”
“I have to get these kids to Skyvlan. Then… I don’t know.” Naz dismissed his praise with a shake of her head. Eryn was still leaning heavily on Cassius. Hoping to assuage her concerns, the young prince reached to take her hand again, but she did not extend her own in return. His fingers instead drifted through Cassius’ earth feathered side. “But that’s later. Now, I need you to watch over them for a while.”
“What?” Eryn perked up at that, scrutinizing her with a wary eye. “Why is he watching us? I thought you were going to be taking us south.”
“I am,” The warrior brushed off the concern by rolling one of her shoulders. Varlaine could see a renewed dance to her steps, even if she was out of breath, taking a canteen from Cassius’ saddlebag and immediately draining it. She swallowed wholly but quietly, before returning it to its slot and wiping her lips. “But I need to help these people first. You two stay with him. I get them moving. We get supplies. Then we leave.”
While Varlaine wasn’t ecstatic about spending more time with Nico, he at least had enough sense not to complain. So far, the mercenary was already offering far more aid to him and Eryn than he could repay. When she clapped him on the shoulder, he met her eye and nodded.
“I’ll be going. You lot stay safe.” She said, and then started to make her return to the people she’d left behind. They’d begun to follow after her, and stopped when she moved into their midst. ‘Laine had to admit, it was better that way: he would rather not be in front of so many of his father’s citizens.
When she was gone, Nico sighed and shook his head. “Skyvlan… that’s at least two weeks on foot. Not a fun trip. What have you gotten yourself into?”