“There’s no guarantee that I’ll be joining you in this undertaking of yours,” pointed out Denfia Sarobrast to the younger woman sitting opposite her. They were eating in a tavern in the town that backed the fortress of Treblesse, and the meal was boiled smoked hocks with boiled root vegetables and cabbage. Denfia was drinking hard beer and her companion was enjoying cider. “The commander isn’t happy that you’re making off with Harrandil Evan as it is. I’ve no doubt he’ll make it worth my while to stay.”
“I’m sure he’ll make an excellent counter offer,” agreed the younger woman, nodding her head with its drudge-short brown hair. “I was hoping though that I could beg a few days of your time to help me recruit the man I want to build the undertaking’s fortifications for me. I can’t speak to the details of our needs, but if I can bring people with me to demonstrate that I can get the right questions answered, then I’ve got a better chance of getting his help.”
“So, you don’t want to recruit me,” Denfia gestured with her fork at the younger woman.
“Oh, but I do.” Her dining companion smiled. “I need ballista teams and experienced people to run them. You’re the best fit around for what I need in a ballista captain, and so the commander and I are in competition over you.”
“Do you know that there are some very strange stories beginning to run around about you?” If Denfia’s greying hair wasn’t being held tight to her scalp in St Kwitchi’s braids, it would have swished as she turned her head to check who’d just walked into the tavern. “Is that Orratram Baanthazar?”
“Yes, it is. The man with him is my architect. They’re the other two members of my delegation to see the fortifications expert.”
“You’ve gotten Baanthazar to work for you?” Denfia’s interest was piqued. “How did you manage that?”
“I was persuasive, and I had references.” The younger woman smiled, then asked, “Do I need to provide you with references?”
“If Baanthazar is working for you, then that’s reference enough for me,” replied Denfia. “Doesn’t mean that I will work for you, though. The commander here might still make me a better offer.”
“He might,” agreed the younger woman with a smile. She turned her attention to the two men who were now standing by the table. “Get your business done, gentlemen?” They both nodded. “But have you eaten?”
“No,” admitted the man with a patch over one eye and the straggly beard. He turned to Denfia and asked, “Do you mind if I take the chair next to you, Captain Sarobrast?”
“I don’t mind, but you have the advantage of me. Should I know you?” Denfia looked at him critically, trying to place the face and voice.
“Denfia, this is Alvithis Mordvill, my architect.” The younger woman chuckled. “He keeps telling me that my expansion of his circle of acquaintance will be the ruination of him.”
“Lady Erima, you keep introducing me to respectable people,” shot back Mordvill. “You’re going to ruin my professional reputation!”
“You’ll have to introduce me to the people who think that, and then I can explain to them exactly what your choices were,” suggested Erima.
“Lady Erima,” said Denfia slowly. “How true are those rumours I mentioned earlier?”
Erima considered for a moment as she gestured to get the waitress’ attention, then replied, “The versions I’ve heard have been reasonably accurate.” Turning her attention to the waitress she said, “Two more plates of hocks and vegetables, please. Oh, and could we have a pitcher of hard beer with two more mugs, too?”
Denfia said flatly, “You really are a female Godson?”
“Well, yes. A goddaughter.” Erima smiled sunnily at her.
“And you want me to work for you?” Denfia wanted to grab onto something solid.
“If we can come to terms, yes,” agreed Erima. “Given that my cousin, Commander Lord Ourim, doesn’t know exactly what he’s counteroffering to, yet.”
“Indeed?” That was Baanthazar.
“Interesting,” was Mordvill’s contribution.
“I thought that on our way to see the fortifications man, we might stop at Chatham and see how my siege engines are getting on.” Erima smiled at the older woman. “Are you interested?”
Denfia looked at her again, harder this time. “You’re getting your own siege engines built. New.”
“Well, yes.” Erima spread her hands and sort of shrugged. “Everyone who’s already got them, needs them. So, I had to get more built.”
“I would very much like,” said Denfia with great deliberation, “to take a side trip to Chatham.”
 These are cornrow or canerow braids. In this world they were popularised by the well-venerated martial saint, St Kwitchi, who wore the hairstyle.
 Pronounced Cha-tham, because I say Bathurst as Ba-thurst. 😊
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