We returned to the church and found the Borden family out in the courtyard, exchanging pleasantries with others. Everett ran ahead and gave his mom a hug and a sincere apology for running away. The others smiled at him wistfully. I finally realized that his reaction must have been so customary to the occasion that they had learned it was best to let the children have some time alone to accept the outcome. I still didn’t understand the point of traumatizing someone so young in the first place, though. Maybe I could talk with Aleph about it once I found him again.
It turned out the Borden family was actually interested in purchasing the giant rusty sword, and I ended up striking a deal, with Tetora’s help, for the drawing and a small sack of onions and potatoes. I even managed to get a few coins minted from a dark, almost black metal that I didn’t recognize.
“What do you plan on doing with it?” I asked Mr. Borden curiously as we finished haggling.
“Oh, ah, it’ll make a nice plowshare. Ours is a bit busted up!”
“Swords to plowshares!” Nora chortled.
I wrinkled my nose. “What’s funny about that? I think it makes good sense, actually…” I looked out over the dry countryside. “It’s not like he needs an anchor or anything.”
Nora grimaced. “Really. You never heard that saying before?”
“It’s a saying?”
Nora shook her head. “When we get back, I’m taking away all of your nerd privileges. We’ll just have to start you back at level one.”
“I’m keeping the ID card you made me,” I muttered.
We waved as the Borden family left the courtyard. The other townspeople also departed in small groups, and we waited for Aleph. Tetora, who had been holding onto the drawing, gave it to Nora.
“Wait. What do you think you’re doing with that?” I asked, gesturing at the drawing. “I paid for it, so I get to keep it.”
“No way. I gave him the idea to draw it, so it’s mine!” Nora snapped her bag shut after she placed the drawing inside carefully. “You’d probably just crumple it up.”
“I would not! Someday, ‘Big Baby Rachel’ will be worth a lot of money!”
“So let me hold on to it. You’ll just lose it.” I hated to admit it, but she was probably right.
Tetora paced angrily as the minutes went by.
Nora gave him a side glance. “So, sophisticated adults… do they fight with their companions, threaten priests, run off in a fit, and never talk about their feelings?” Oh, thank goodness she stopped picking on me.
“I never said I was sophisticated!” Tetora exclaimed.
“Are you an adult?” Nora was relentless.
“Of course. Look at how big I am!”
“I wonder if I can commission Everett to do a Big Baby Tetora.” Nora mused.
“Little rabbit!” Tetora growled. “You would not understand my anger!”
“Not if you don’t tell me where it’s coming from, no.” Nora agreed.
No, don’t fight! I walked between them. “Ah… Nora, maybe it’s not our business what—”
“It is if it affects the party,” Nora said sternly to me before locking eyes with Tetora. “You need to work this out with Aleph. Don’t you pretend nothing happened, either. You have been yelling at him since dawn!” Had I missed something even bigger before I woke up?
“You…” Tetora started, then sighed. “Yes, you are right.”
“What about Father Baram?” I asked Nora.
“He’s not part of the party, so who cares?” Nora shrugged. I really couldn’t ever anticipate where Nora would draw the line.
The church door creaked open, and Aleph appeared, gesturing for us to come inside. Nora led the way, and I let Tetora go next so I could bring up the rear. Instead of going to the sanctuary, we headed to a small office with several chairs. Father Baram was sitting at a small desk with Tetora’s war hammer lying across its length.
“I will bless your weapons to the best of my abilities,” he said by way of explanation. “Your staff, please, Rachel.”
I placed my staff on the table in front of him. Then I looked at Nora’s staff expectantly, but Aleph gently shook his head. Father Baram caught our exchange, and his eyes widened slightly at Nora.
“You’re a…!” Father Baram exclaimed.
“Father,” Aleph cleared his throat warningly.
“Ah…” Father Baram looked away, only to catch Tetora’s eye. “Er, I would also bless your iron claws if you approve…”
“Yes.” Tetora refused to look at him, but he placed his iron claws gently on the desk. Father Baram stood and held his hands above the weapons gathered.
“In Euphridia’s name, I pray. May your weapons strike wicked ones true even as it would spare the innocent.” I jumped as a gold light formed around each weapon. Father Baram raised his hands, and their glow intensified before disappearing completely. By the end, he looked quite exhausted, his robe almost translucent with sweat.
“It’s been a very long time since I’ve practiced such rituals,” he admitted in a wheezing voice. “I cannot vouch for their duration, but I will pray they last through your journey.”
“We thank you for your blessings, Father,” Aleph replied quietly.
Father Baram sat back in his seat with a huff and chanced a remorseful look at Tetora. “I wish I could have accommodated your previous request, great tiger. I am sorry for causing you anguish.”
“It was our request, not just mine, Father.” Tetora sneered for just a moment. He then glanced guiltily down at his feet before letting out a frustrated grunt. “I am sorry I blamed you. I know… things are complicated.”
“I will pray for change,” the sheepish priest promised vaguely, spiking my curiosity even more.
Aleph cleared his throat. “Father Baram has prepared rooms for us here. We should rest for today. Tomorrow, we can head into town and restock.”