It took Kahari several minutes to get control of himself, by the time he did Bedora had the deer roasting on a simple grill over the fire. Nissa remained quiet while he was crying, offering only a reassuring hand, and a soft smile.
“We’re one of a number of groups that have been contracted by the Association directly to find out what they’re doing, and rescue everyone we can. There’s even some Ruby rankers that have signed on.”
Ruby was the rank above Gold, stronger than any Kahari had ever seen, if some of them were involved...the Association was taking this seriously.
“You said your family name was Miraki right? Well...we have some good news and some bad news. The mayor says your sisters aren’t among any of the bodies, so they were taken. That’ll give us a few months to get them back before they’re at risk, Night Talons don’t have any winter ritual sites under their control. But your father…”
“Your father died honorably, there were a dozen Night Talons that fell to his hammer before they overwhelmed him. They’ve already started burying the bodies, but they’re waiting to give your father an Association funeral.”
“Association funeral? My dad is a smith…”
“They never told you? Your father was a gold ranker in his youth, so was your mother, looks like they’re the ones that opened the branch round here, though it was leveled in the attack.”
“That’s...that’s not possible!”
“Ask the mayor yourself, your dad and mom retired to live a quiet life, they gave up fighting. Your father fought only with a makeshift shield and a blacksmiths hammer, but he still killed a dozen.”
“Bedora, enough for now, he’s overwhelmed enough at the moment.”
Kahari stared at his hands for a minute, shaking as he was overwhelmed by everything he had heard. The Amazon was blunt, but it seemed to come from a good place. Nissa stood up, saying only.
“Don’t stand till you eat.”
Before going to join Bedora cooking. They whispered to one another, and while they did so, two familiar figures entered the hut. One was the massive Ogress, Marge, and next to her was Mayor Toin. Marge had a bandage wrapped around her left eye, but most of her other wounds were nearly healed. Ogre’s were well known for their recovery ability, surpassed only by true regenerators. Toin was a middle aged, balding man with hard eyes, and a stern face, but he did his best for the townspeople. The Ogress stomped up, clapped a hand the size of a dinner plate on Kahari’s shoulder, and said only.
“Heart of a fighter kid, keep that fire burning.”
Before she moved over to sit on a massive chair prepared for her, she was here mostly as the only town watch still functioning, so she was Toin’s guard. The old man sat down in the chair Nissa had vacated, and held out two beaten, worn golden badges, and a folded note.
“I’m….I’m sorry son, this...is all that’s left of your home. Your father angered them heavily, they left nothing behind.”
Kahari took the items with shaking hands, the badges bearing his family name, while the note was faded and yellowed, obviously aged by who knew how many years.
He pulled from his bag a hammer, the same hammer Kahari’s father had fought with. There was still dried blood on one end, but what caught Kahari’s eye was the faint glowing sigil hidden on the handle. The mayor quietly got up, and Marge followed him out, Bedora watching her with a cold gaze that only came from someone that had seen the brutality of other Ogres. Kahari unfolded the note and read it’s content.
“Kahari, Aiyoko, Tanyaya, if you are reading this then it means I have finally passed to join your mother. I do not wish to be revived, though the family chest has the money for it. I wish to rest, and be with Aira one more. Along with this, you will find our badges. I know I shouldn’t have kept this from you, but I...I couldn’t bring myself to put the images in your heads. It is a hard, unforgiving life with little reward. I did not wish to see my children follow the same path, not after it took your mother, and nearly took me. Please, I beg of you, as my final wish, do not follow that path. Live a quiet life, have a family, settle down, be happy. That is all I can ask of my children. I love you three dearly, I will watch over you as long as the gods allow. Goodbye, you were the jewels of my life.”
“I’m sorry dad I...I can’t do what you ask.”
Kahari whispered to himself as his hands clenched on the letter. He folded it carefully, and put it next to him while staring at the badges. His eyes watered again, but he forced the tears away again. He tried to get to his feet, but a magical weight dragged him back down, eyes widening, he looked over to see Nissa locking her eyes on him.
“Not. Till. You. Eat.”
He sighed and remained where he was, his mind racing, his hands shaking. It took about fifteen minutes before Bedora dropped a plate into his lap, roasted venison, a little cheese, and some stale bread. She took the seat in front of him this time while Nissa sat on the bed next to him. They were silent as they ate, and Kahari struggled to swallow each bite, but he was managing it. He finished eating several minutes after them, that was when Bedora spoke.
“Kid, I’m going to give you an offer. I heard what you said, you plan on going after your sisters-”
“Quiet! I will finish first. You are no match for the Night Talons, not as you are, and definitely not alone. The Knights and that Ogress told me how you charged into the battle, and even managed to kill one of them because you caught him unaware. You may lack the skill, but your heart is in the right place. We need a third party member anyway, and we have six months till your sisters are at risk, the ritual we suspect they’re preparing for has to be done during the first new moon of spring. If you want, we will train you, and sponsor your test for the Association. It won’t be easy, the training I mean, you could probably take the test now given your stats are far more balanced than most level ones, and what’s more, your strength, vitality, and magic are about on par for a level two, nearly max for your level.”
Nissa piped up at this point.
“Bedora and me...it gets lonely just the two of us, and most quests that actually pay need at least three members. It’s a four month journey to the city the Night Talons are hiding in, that gives us time to get you ready, and build up some money.”
“What my big sister is saying is, we will train you if you join our party, and only if you join our party. What do you think?”
Kahari was quiet for several minutes, the pair were patient as it was a lot to take in. His hands clenched around his parents badges, before slowly nodding in acceptance.
“I have to get my sisters back, even if you weren’t here, I’d be trying to find them.”
Bedora smiled and clapped a heavy hand onto the shoulder of Kahari.
“Perfect! We’ll start training tomorrow. For now, go pay your respects, and get what equipment they can spare. We have to hit the road to get to the city and register you, no one’s left here that can do it.”
Kahari flinched as the hand his shoulder, he could feel a bruise forming already from the Amazon’s heavy hand. He stopped for a second and looked up at the woman.
“Wait, big sister?”
“Adopted, raised by a kindly Dwarven artillerist. Was raised in the Association.”
Nissa responded before Bedora could, who stood up and marched outside, mumbling something about helping clear away more rubble.
“It’s alright kid, she gets a little flustered that a little fairy girl is a higher level and older than her. She’ll get over it. Get some rest, we start moving after you get your stuff tomorrow, no time to waste. I’m going to go treat some more of the wounded.”
Kahari nodded and laid back down in the bed, both badges still clutched in his hand. His quiet life was over, now it was time to get ready for the fight of his life. His sisters needed him, now more than ever, and he wasn’t just going to leave them to die, or whatever other twisted things were in the Night Talons plans.
“Aiyoko, Tanaya, I’m coming, just hold in there.”