Lord Novak was sweating buckets by the time the squad of troops rode up to his manor. He hadn’t been able to relax since the army showed up at his city. He tried not to involve himself in military matters. If he did, he would be out leading his own army instead of staying in his city. He prefered plotting and scheming… but safe plots. A little here, a little there. Never making anyone too upset.
They’d said Lord Rutten would be dead. Guaranteed it, in fact. If he’d known what he knew now, he’d never have taken the risk. What good was a few wagons full of supplies and some admittedly fine workhorses? It was just a little bit of extra income. Now, there was an army outside of his city, and a very not-dead Lord Rutten. He’d held out hope they wouldn’t know it was him… but the squad knocking on his front gates shattered that hope. “Let-” He cleared his throat, “Let them in.” Could his guards hold against a squad? Maybe, but if they could, they definitely couldn’t hold against an army. The gates weren’t cheap… but they also weren’t particularly sturdy. Better to open them before something happened. Lord Novak put on his best neutral face and went out. “Ah, Lord Rutten. I didn’t expect you to visit. I assumed you were just passing through the city.”
Lord Rutten was an imposing figure. Large and powerfully built- not the biggest gevai Lord Novak had ever seen, but he seemed to consider himself a mage, and the confidence radiating off of him made him seem more than he was. He had a bored expression, merely staring at his nails as he spoke. “I was… but some of my supplies went missing… because you took them.”
Lord Novak was going to deny it. Sure, he had suspicions, but he wouldn’t know… but then he realized his mistake. He was weak, cowardly… and not nearly ruthless enough. He was, however, decently good with people when he wanted to be. Faces especially, and he remembered one of the faces. He had been with the supplies when they were commandeered. That meant there wasn’t any plausible way to deny what happened. It wouldn’t have mattered if Lord Rutten hadn’t come back… but he had. Lord Novak pondered what to say, though his brain worked quickly. What did he know about Lord Rutten? He was an effective military commander… and he hadn’t died when he was supposed to. Sometimes he broke taboos, and had no qualms about going against other lords if they irked him. He decided to take the easy way out. “About that… I was told you would be receiving supplies from elsewhere, and it would be best logistics to send those supplies to my own troops. Given that you are here, I imagine there was some mistake made. I will of course return your horses and wagons, as well as equivalent supplies. In return for the inconvenience, I will provide you with another set of supplies and a convoy of my own, as apology for not looking into the information more deeply.”
“I had thought something along the same lines,” Lord Rutten replied. Lord Novak smiled gently. “However, since you were surely not mistaken about the messages you received, I believe a total repayment of ten times what was taken is in order.” Lord Novak paled at that.
As a lord ten shipments of supplies- and more importantly the wagons and horses- wouldn’t bankrupt him… but it would be very hard to acquire. “Lord Rutten, don’t you think your demands are completely excessive?”
“Is that so? I do not appreciate being stolen from. You should be happy that I am letting you live.”
Before Lord Novak could come up with a response, the soldier next to Lord Rutten cleared his throat. He seemed rather small and weak… was he perhaps an assistant? No, the clothing was too fine, and the insignia was that of a commander. “Lord Rutten, it is perhaps a bit excessive. I might recommend five times repayment. The original, and four times to indicate good will.”
Lord Rutten sighed. “Fine. I can accept that.”
Lord Novak nodded, “I… understand. It will take a few days to prepare, but I hope that my sincerity will help to clear up this misunderstanding.”
Lord Rutten nodded. “Very well. Actually, if you tell me who informed you I wouldn’t be coming back, I can lower the repayment even further.”
“Why, I have no idea who you are talking about. It was merely a miscommunication.”
“Is that so?” Lord Rutten raised an eyebrow, “Well, I await your repayment. Do be more careful in the future.”
It was only when they left that Lord Novak considered that five times repayment was still quite excessive… but he wasn’t going to renege on the deal. That was especially true when he heard that Lord Rutten had Lord Kendrick’s army under his command as well… and Lord Kendrick was dead. The most extreme rumors said Lord Rutten had downed a goblet of pure poison before beating Lord Kendrick to death with his bare hands- through his armor. That one was obviously exaggerated, as was him causing an earthquake and collapsing a pass… but he had almost certainly come out of the fight nearly unscathed. The more important thing is if he would kill Lord Kendrick, he wouldn’t have too many qualms about killing Lord Novak either.
Jordan had always known there was something special about Lord Rutten’s staff. After all, he was a mage and yet used it in melee combat. Even most magical staves wouldn’t stand up to that sort of treatment. Occasionally, Jordan had seen Lord Rutten talking to himself… but eventually Jordan realized it was the staff. He wasn’t sure if that was more or less crazy.
As for the staff itself… it was usually contained in a hard leather case. Even in combat, Lord Rutten kept it there. Occasionally the case would get scarred, and some traces of the staff could be seen, but never the whole thing. Then, during the battle with Lord Kendrick, the whole staff was revealed. Even against a magical sword it remained completely unscathed. While most magical weapons returned to pristine conditions after a battle, they would still get damaged during a battle. That wasn’t the case with the crystal staff. Surprisingly, after that battle Lord Rutten hadn’t bothered to get a new case, and even directly said it wasn’t necessary when Jordan asked if he wanted one. Jordan knew the staff was special, and even had the vague feeling of having heard about it before… though some of those might have been childhood legends. Maybe he had read about it somewhere, though he mostly read about historical battles. Where would it have come up?