“A priest. “ The old woman mused, plucking a grape from its stem with her withered lips. “I haven’t seen one of you for years.”
Yvin did his best to ignore the unfriendly tone of the Holder’s voice. “My order has never been numerous.” He said. She led him across the staging grounds, her shuffling pace slightly at odds with his long legged stride. Horses snorted and paced while stable hands tied bundles to their backs. Yvin let his eyes widen. It was impressive. From the number of wagons and armed individuals there had to be at least three venture companies all preparing to leave within the fading afternoon. He’d ridden in with another just this morning. Most settlements claimed two or three salvage groups, Gerra’s bayside town looked to claim around twenty.
Venture companies were the lifeblood of the settled. They brought everyday supplies, food, medicine and the occasional luxury from the ruins of the old world. Gerra’s reach would extend farther each year with every captain she recruited.
Gerra flicked the empty grape stem onto the ground between them grinning at his reaction to the crowds. Yvin reminded himself to show more composure next time. Dealing with small time warlords and venture captains was one thing, but Gerra had carved out a lasting place for her and her ilk. Such a feat was rarely accomplished without spilt blood. “No I imagine your little initiation keeps the recruitment numbers down.” She commented at last with a chuckle.
Yvin blinked and realized what she was referring too. “If you have an issue with our practices I can leave.” He was telling the truth, he was more than adept at spending nights in the woods and wilds surrounding these pockets of civilization. That said, a bed and a warm meal were luxuries he’d been anticipating for weeks.
“Gaivalia’s brood is always welcome here.” Gerra added a mite quickly and Yvin swallowed his smile. She had led them out of the main yard and the two now wove between rows of hovel houses. The heavy afternoon light made the salvaged metal walls shine like a sunrise. Dirty thin children looked out at him from doorways with round eyes.
Curiosity, Yvin realized, not fear. Too often it was the latter in larger settlements like this. He smiled back at one of them and the girl’s returned grin lit up her face like a gaslight. He turned back to the Holder. “Thank you. Roofs are always appreciated where we can find them, never expected though.” Yvin modified the mantra and continued before the rheumy eye roll she gave could bother him. “I have a few furs I can trade, should be enough for the week.”
Gerra waved a frail hand over his words. “You’ll eat under my hospitality tonight priest.” She laughed her small chuckle again and elbowed him in the side. “Just put a good word in with the Bitch for me.”
Yvin grimaced but forced it into a smile. “I’m not—“ He paused. Gerra was no longer waiting for his response. The old woman’s weathered face had grown a scowl as she looked past him into the far off staging ground. Without explanation or invitation she marched past him, back the way they’d came. Not knowing what else to do, he followed her.