Barrett couldn’t say he had fond memories of Ember City, but he couldn’t exactly say he had bad memories there either. After all, on the trip to the tournament it had just been a place to stop… and on the way back he’d never made it to the city.
While losing his arm and nearly dying in a volcano hadn’t been a great experience, being taken care of by Clara and Jack had not been so terrible- except the thought that he would never recover.
“Master Hykel, can we stop by the house of the people who took care of me? I have the feeling it would be better to see them before going to the Raging Fire Sect. If we went to visit them after… they might have people following us.”
“It isn’t likely that they have anyone who can follow us secretly… but visiting them beforehand is still less likely to cause trouble.”
Barrett was glad to be able to go at a normal walking pace, even if that meant it took several hours to get to Clara and Jack’s house from the city. Barrett was rather surprised at how he had managed to get close enough for them to find them. Sure, he had been staggering down the slopes of the nearby volcano, but that must have still been over an hour of staggering and stumbling while near death. He hadn’t really been aware of the passage of time at that point, and had just gone until he couldn’t stay conscious anymore. He was thankful for Master Hykel’s training to retain consciousness even in extreme situations… even if he would rather have passed out and missed some of the pain sometimes.
The two arrived at the cot, only to find neither Clara nor Jack. Since the door was unlocked, Barrett searched around the little house- but there wasn’t really anything in the way of rooms to hide in. “They should be nearby still or the door would be locked…” Barrett mused aloud.
“We can look around outside for a bit then.”
Outside, Barrett frowned at what he saw. The gardens, more like a small farm plot, were overgrown with weeds. Searching the nearby area, neither Barrett nor Master Hykel found anyone. “Maybe we should go ask their neighbors.”
The nearest neighbor was out of sight of the house in another small cot further along the dirt road that went near Clara and Jack’s house. When asked about Clara and Jack, the middle aged woman they found shook her head, “You won’t be seeing them any time soon, sirs. Some men from the Raging Fire Sect came asking around about them taking care of an injured man who was potentially an enemy of the Sect. They haven’t returned in over a month.”
Once they were away, Barrett sighed, “I should have left sooner… maybe then they wouldn’t have come under suspicion…” Barrett shook his head, “No, this isn’t my fault. I doubt it would have been any different if they had just picked up any injured person around that time. Then there was the thing with the bandits… but…”
“But you don’t like seeing people hurt because of you?” Master Hykel nodded. “They might still be alright… or at least alive. The Raging Fire Sect’s investigation seems to have come slowly- meaning they don’t know much about what really happened. They probably assumed their star pupil was off causing mischief for some time… then they didn’t know where to look. Connecting you, the incident, and the injured person they took care of wouldn’t be simple either. Of course, having concrete evidence probably isn’t their style. Even so, Ruben had no body or remains- and Mistress Seviren and Reina took your arm and axe. Some blood next to a volcano’s caldera isn’t evidence of a fight going into the caldera and a one-armed man coming out covered in burn wounds.”
“On the other hand…” Barrett said, “Being covered in burns might just be taken as someone having been in conflict with someone from the Raging Fire Sect.”
“Either way, if it was a legitimate investigation they would have returned some time ago.” Master Hykel stretched, “Either way, our next destination is the same. We might just use different tactics.”
Barrett’s armor was very heavy. He was pretty sure it was adamantine- or a mix involving adamantine anyway. The same could be said for his axe. The armor hadn’t fit quite right, but that was because it was Master Hykel’s. His backup armor, anyway. Master Hykel wasn’t huge, but Barrett wasn’t quite done growing yet either. Barrett was already above the average size for an adult man- though comparing him to the hulking piles of muscle that most warrior were, he was rather small. With some work, it fit well enough.
Barrett watched from a distance as Master Hykel walked up to the gates of the Raging Fire Sect. He’d never seen him in full armor before. He hadn’t even used armor when sparring with Mistress Seviren- though that was because he wanted to be injured at least somewhat. With full armor on, Mistress Seviren would have actually had to be more brutal with her attacks.
Regardless, Master Hykel was now dressed in full armor as he stepped toward the gates, raising large clouds of dust around him as he moved in a deliberate fashion. Barrett thought the guards at the gate said something, but he couldn’t hear what. Then Master Hykel swung his axe… and the gates that were made of some sort of metal, more than twenty feet high and at least half that wide each fell apart into a pile of chunks. Then Barrett heard Master Hykel’s shout, “Get out here! It’s time to pay for your crimes against my disciple!”
Barrett thought the shout would be heard clearly in Ember, even though it was a handful of kilometers away down the mountain paths. Even from where he was, the shout made him tremble- and the two guards at the gate fell over without Master Hykel even touching them. Barrett would have liked to stay and watch… but he needed to get moving soon. He looked at the map in his hands and tried to compare it to what he could see from his current perspective.