Searching through his tunic for his gem purse, Marcus frantically tried to remember where it could have gone to. The sword he was entrusted with from the Freyan Guard Academy needed to be sharpened. Even though he wasn't particularly thrilled about being enrolled in the Guard against his will, his father thought it would be the best way to keep him from trouble.
The burly blacksmith rolled his eyes and turned around to continue sharpening another student's blade.
“Tell me if ye find it son. If not, then I gotta keep it 'ere til ya do.”
Where could it possibly have gone? He had just had it after leaving his house. Could he have gotten pick-pocketed? His memory was a bit shaky from the nerves of ceremonies tomorrow. Although he did remember running into that cute girl on the way here... Could she have swindled him? He was pretty distracted, and a good thief can spot that a mile away.
As he pondered what may have happened, a chime came from the bell above the door as another customer came barging in.
“Hey Padraig! I got your money!”
Marcus recognized that voice. It was the same girl from earlier. Keeping his cool he looked away towards the shield rack stacked behind the counter. She walked quickly up to the counter next to him and leaned over it, poking the blacksmith in the back.
As he turned around to look at the girl, she pulled out a small sack of gems and jingled it in his direction. Marcus turned towards them both and looked the girl up and down to verify it was the same he had run into earlier. Black hair, plain blue tunic and brown leggings, and a face that would make any man give up the same amount of coin she stole to have her on his arm for a day.
Pointing at the sack of gems, Marcus smiled at the girl.
“Hey! Look Padraig! I found my gem purse!”
The girl's face turned flush and then beet red. Thankfully for Marcus, it stunned her long enough to grab her by the arm gently before she could run off. She tried to pull away, but Marcus was too strong.
“Calm down! I'm not gonna hurt you.”
The blacksmith looked at them both and cocked an eyebrow. With a grunt he turned around and grabbed the sword and sharpening stone.
“Then why are you holding me!”
Marcus let go against his better judgment. Thankfully for him, he was faster at getting to the door than she was. Not without nearly knocking down an entire armor stand.
“I'm not gonna report you either.”
The girl's face contorted in disbelief.
“And why should I believe you?”
Marcus sighed and stepped aside from the door, gesturing towards it.
“Because not only did I not grab my gems back, but I'm not going to give you the appearance that I'll force you into anything.”
The girl stood bewildered. She fidgeted with the sack of gems in her hand, then looked back at Padraig. He laughed and started sharpening the sword again.
“Mary, did ye truly pilfer this young lad's purse to pay fer a debt? Ye know how I feel about acceptin' dirty money.”
Scowling at Marcus, she turned back towards Padraig with a whimper in her eyes.
“Padraig, I'm sorry! I just... I just don't know what to do! It seems the only work I can get is... So unsavory. I'd rather steal than shame myself upon all of those men!”
Padraig sighed and stopped sharpening the sword. Placing the blade and the stone gingerly on the counter, he slammed his fist on a shield displayed behind him. As hand met steel, it created a strange ringing noise that resonated lightly on the ears.
“If ye'd do an honest days work ye wouldn't have to resort to 'unsavory' things! Don't forget the reason ye even owed me a debt in the first place.”
Marcus got the feeling there was more to this than he saw. Leaning on the wooden doorway next to a rack of spears, he crossed his arms and waited. Mary gasped as if she'd never been so insulted.
“You're saying I didn't work?! Oh that's rich! How am I supposed to keep up with you? You've been doing it for years!”
Padraig pointed a meaty finger at her in anger and raised his voice.
“It's not just me ye couldn't keep up with lass an' I know it. I merely asked of ye what I would any man seeking an apprenticeship. Ye said ye could do a job, and I even I paid ye up front to help with yer troubles! Ye didn't deliver! Now, ye pay me back! That's how it works!”
He slammed his hand so hard on the shield behind him it fell of the rack and clanged on the stone floor. Mary stood in silence. She obviously didn't know what to say. Marcus stood for a moment in awkward silence. Padraig huffed and took a deep breath. Picking up the shield, he put it back on the rack behind him.
“Sorry. Didn't mean to get so angry. I've just been overloaded since the Guard has started open recruitment. Tisn't a day that goes by I don't get a break before I gotta get home an' take care o' the missus and the kids.”
Mary's head sunk and she stared at the ground. Marcus watched as her eyes swelled up and she began to slowly weep in front of the blacksmith.
“Aw now deary, I dinna mean ta make ye cry! Just been so stressed lately. There's been talk of-”
Marcus saw an opportunity to speak up. He knew what Padraig was about to say, and he didn't want the subject to even come up.
“How much did she owe you?”
Padraig looked up at Marcus, while Mary crouched to the ground and dug her face into her knees.
Marcus whistled and stood up straight. Walking up to Mary, he outstretched a hand to help her up.
“I know it may seem strange, but I want to help you. Do you want to know why?”
She looked back at him with glossy eyes. Sniffling and rubbing her face, she tried to regain her composure. Clearing her throat, she tried to speak.
Padraig disappeared in a doorway behind the counter for a moment, nodding to Marcus as he left.
“Because that's my job.”
Padraig walked back around the counter while inspecting a sword's blade in one hand, and a sheath in the other. Sheathing the weapon, he buttoned the leather latch to keep it locked in. He handed it to Marcus with a grin. Mary saw the design on the sheath and her eyes grew wide. Fear and confusion seemed to flood her face.
“It's ok. Even if I wasn't just starting training I would help you. The guard isn't here to be a sentence to the people for mistakes and poor circumstances. No matter the oath that may come out of my mouth in pageantry; I'm here to help and protect you. I promise to never let my position get in the way of that.”
Mary looked at him with wild eyes. Something ignited a fire in her that Marcus had never seen before. A feeling that who she was changed in that moment. Then, something that startled Marcus. The faint glow of red that burned in her iris'. He knew what this was. It was something Marcus said his father saw in his eyes the day he was born. She had just gained attunement to the Ley-Lines. She had just become a magi.