“Lord North”, one of the guards said, bowing low as the Lord climbed from the carriage, looking around disdainfully, “welcome to your new mansion.”
“Eh”, he replied, with a dismissive wave of his hand, “I’ll sell it, and his skaa, I have no interest in living out here in the middle of nowhere. His skaa are still alive?”
“Most of them”, the guard replied, “Lord Hudson’s steward has the exact numbers for you. You’re planning to sell all of this…?”
“Yes”, North gave back, following the guard into the mansion, looking around and sneering, “as I said, I have no interest in living out here. How my dear cousin could stand it here, I will never know. Where is the body? You kept it as I said, yes?”
“We did”, the guard replied, holding back the urge to grimace as none of them knew why the Lord had wanted this, but they all had known better than to talk back, “down in the cellars, where his body wouldn’t… go bad. You want to look at it right away?”
“Take me there”, North commanded in response, the guard nodding respectfully before he started leading the way; and as they walked, the new lord of the mansion demanded to hear exactly what had happened the night of Lord Hudson’s death, the guard shrugging before he responded, keeping his gaze away from the new lord’s face as they walked.
“I wasn’t there, my Lord, I only was told about it”, he said, keeping his eyes straight ahead – Lord Hudson had never liked it when the guards had looked him in the eyes, and he figured that this new lord wasn’t any different, “and the guards who were there were quite… confused about what happened. Lord Hudson had one of the skaa women brought to his chambers, and when the guards outside heard him scream, they came running, only to find him dead.”
“You were smart to send the Thug to me at once”, North told him, making him shrug again, the explanation he gave making the lord raise an eyebrow.
“Lord Hudson often worried that rival Houses might go after him”, the guard said, grabbing a torch to light the way as they walked down into the cellar, Rowan keeping the fact that he wouldn’t have needed extra light to himself, not wanting to reveal too much of himself to a random guard, “so he told us that, if he dies in strange circumstances or very unexpected, we’re to send a runner to you at once, and to not bury him. And, well… his death was strange and unexpected.”
“You did well”, North reassured him, not missing the brief relieved smile – the guards weren’t skaa, and in no danger of getting killed, but still their future had been uncertain, with their lord dead, and at least this guard now figured that he had a chance for a good life, “I shall keep this in mind once I sell this mansion and the plantations.”
“Thank you, my Lord”, the guard said, bowing a bit; then, he stopped in front of a door and let Rowan know that the body was in there, making him nod before he pushed the door open and entered, the guard following closely with the torch held up high, filling the room with a somewhat eerie, flickering light.
Lord Hudson’s body laid on a table, undressed except for a small cloth covering his groin, his men having provided him with some modesty even in death; Rowan noted this down as a point in their favour, clucking his tongue as he walked around the table and looked at the wound, raising an eyebrow at the glint of metal he could see deep within it.
“Tell me”, he said, looking up at the guard again, “was this like that when you found his body? With the… metal in there?”
“Yes, my Lord”, the guard reassured him at once, “we only removed his clothing, changed nothing else. The metal you can see seems to be his belt buckle, his belt was all torn when we found him.”
“I see”, Rowan replied, bending down for another close look, “has anyone else been told about this? Anyone from nobility?”
“No, my Lord”, the guard said, to his well hidden relief, “we just sent for you at once, and the guards who had seen it were instructed not to speak of it to anyone.”
“Very good”, Rowan nodded, satisfied by this; if any of the guards had blabbed, he’d find out, he knew, and could take the necessary steps, but for now, he’d be content with the knowledge that no one but his dead cousin’s closest guards knew about this, “you did well. Tell me, do you know anything about Allomancy?”
“Not much, my Lord”, the guard said, looking worried again now, “just… myths and legends, like most. Why do you ask?”
“No reason”, Rowan replied, studying the belt buckle again, “you’re dismissed. Leave the torch.”
“As you wish, my Lord”, the guard replied, bowing once again before he retreated; and the moment he was gone, Rowan smiled to himself, then dug into the dead man’s body, until he could pull the buckle out, clucking his tongue again at how deep inside him it actually had been.
Yes, he thought to himself, this is a very interesting development indeed.
He smiled again as he studied the buckle, his mind running with the possibilities, and he couldn’t wait to get his hands on the one who had accomplished this.
“Tadaaa”, Holtzmann let out theatrically as she upended the bag over the kitchen table in their hideout, Patty and Abby cursing as they hurried to catch any stray coins which went bouncing here and there, “a nice haul indeed. Go us, Ladies.”
“It’ll be even nicer if you don’t toss it around”, Patty scolded her, putting the coins she had managed to grab back on the table while Erin picked up a few she had missed and added them back to the pile, “how often have we told you not to do this, Holtzy?”
“Holtzy sorry”, the blonde replied in a bashful tone, making Erin smile a bit without even fully realizing; her smiles came much easier these days, she had noticed, and usually were caused by Holtzmann saying or doing something, and she wondered what this meant as she started making little piles of the coins, not with the intention to count them, but more to keep her hands busy.
She had no idea which coin was worth how much, but it was more money than she ever had seen in her life, with skaa not getting paid, but receiving food and shelter for their work; she tried hard to not appear too fascinated by this wealth as she sorted coins by size and colour, figuring this was a good way to do it, but still the other three could tell how awed she was, Holtzmann smiling at the look on her face.
“You know what”, the blonde said, distracting Erin from the awesomeness of the cash in front of her, “I was planning to go buy new metal vials tomorrow, using some of that money, you want to come?”
“If you don’t mind”, Erin gave back, fighting the urge to fidget – so far, Holtzmann and she only had gone out at night, to practice Allomancy, and the blonde never had taken her along when she had left the warehouse for errands like the one she just had mentioned, “perhaps I should get a look at the city during the day…”
“My thoughts exactly”, Holtzmann nodded, earning another small smile from the redhead, “alright then, tomorrow it is. For now, we should get some sleep, I feel all tired now after all the amazing food we got at Rebecca’s.”
“It was truly amazing”, Erin sighed, looking a bit wistful; Holtzmann smiled at the look on her face and nodded, and both women missed the look Abby and Patty exchanged, not able to see yet what the two already were noticing.