Burnish, Old Soldier
It wasn’t just the people, or their culture - Burnish had come to realise that even the air was different in the north. It was light and breezy here, free of the dry heat of Sultar, or the close warmth that plagued the distant east. Yet as much as he could breathe easier in this climate, the aged Numasai found he missed the oppressive heat of his homeland. There was a strange honesty to it, something that focused the mind to the task at hand, like working next to the sweltering forge. Enduring sweat had been no problem, but here he found the clean air distracting.
He knew he’d have to adapt until the late season regardless, until the caravans turned south and crossed the border into Indar. It would still be a long way from the familiar coastlines of his homeland, but the humid jungle terrain would be a step in the right direction at least. If he wanted a good night’s sleep before then he’d just have to bed down next to a hearth in the workshop.
Still, Burnish was glad he’d made the step into the world of Guild Ball. It beat working his fingers to the bone for the military – or dealing with the ungrateful oafs that led them. All too often he’d forced himself to bite down a retort at their impossible requests, given limited timeframe or lack of materials. It had been easier during the war, when everyone’s backs had been against the wall, and they were united against a common foe. In the aftermath, with no enemy to fight, it had all just seemed pointless. Petty politicking and bureaucracy ruled the day, no matter how poorly that sat with him.
But the game was urgent, vibrant even, and a man could find a sense of purpose and duty on the field.
Although Burnish was long a master, he wasn’t fool enough to think he could advance himself through Guild Ball. He was old, and had no backer amongst the Guild officials besides, an arrangement he was entirely comfortable with. The Numasai knew he was no captain, something better left to more capable figures like Anvil or Ferrite. He didn’t even like the lads acknowledging his title. Out on the pitch he was just another man on the team, covering the others with his Dragonthrower. Off the field?
A simple Smithy, nothing more. He knew his place in the world, and it wasn’t being called “sir”.
Cast, Fiery Dervish
Burnish watched Cast sparring out in the yard, darting between several wooden poles set into the ground. Hanging from each on a thin piece of string was a slim metal tube, coloured copper in the sun. As the young woman danced around the posts, she would deftly clip the tubes with the sharpened edge of a buckler, each impact emitting a sharp metallic chime. She had obviously been at it since dawn, her dark skin covered in sweat and her thin tunic spotted with wet patches.
Burnish was not surprised. Whenever his apprentice put her mind to something, she did so with remarkable dedication. It had been the same back in the days he worked the ships, Cast taking up with the mechanics despite her obvious indifference to her duties. It was of considerable relief his surrogate daughter had taken much more wholeheartedly to Guild Ball, the game seeming to suit her fiery temperament more. He owed her that much happiness, his debt to her blood father.
The lad had perished during the Century Wars, during the great siege of Burdana. Young and wet behind the ears, he’d nonetheless held an aura of honour about him that most could only dream of. When the rest of the soldiers manning the walls fled, he’d chosen to stay alongside Burnish to repel the invaders. For long hours they’d remained, the two of them comrades to the end. When eventually their position was overrun, the boy’s efforts had earned him a spear in the belly as a reward. Burnish had thought to apprentice the boy come the end of the wars, but instead the lad had died far from home, staining the sand red under uncaring skies.
He left behind a daughter, a beautiful crying babe. Her mother had died in childbirth, and the lass was completely alone. Burnish had never once regretted adopting the child in the aftermath. Her father lived on through her, and his duty was met.
He was snapped back from his memories as Cast let out a shrill cry and launched herself into the air, coming down hard against the centre pole. Shields extended before her, she snapped it in two, her dance ending with a shower of splinters. Burnish smiled grimly. Guild Ball certainly did suit her much better. He only hoped it wouldn’t lead her to a similar fate as her father.