"She won't come Nix." Mortimus's huge face looked sad.
Nix looked up when the War Leader walked back in. A hud map of Zintia was being displayed while Nix tried to decide upon the best plan. "Why not? Isn't a raid on Zintia important?"
"She's mourning Nix; it's been a bit over six months since we lost him." Mortimus looked like he might start crying, he wiped his massive mit of a hand across his eyes.
"Last winter, it happened." A woman's soft voice spoke from the doorway. She had dark auburn hair and sad brown eyes. Although she was a beautiful woman, she gave off a sense of warmth and kindness. "I apologize, sir. My husband is right in that I'm grieving. However, you have been fighting on our behalf since you were brought here. I will talk with you."
"We should speak in detail about an important topic." Nix spotted a table nearby that had a half-dozen chairs around it. Without asking, he moved toward it and sat down.
Scarlett watched him without commenting and then followed. "I won't have much input; War is not my specialty."
Nix waited until Mortimus joined them before he started talking. "A few months ago, I was adventuring in an unexplored region far from the Inferno Guild Hall. I came across someone that was lost and alone." Nix smiled while remembering bald Morti. "I did what I could to help him, and he ended up joining me as my Spirit Companion."
"He must have been very thankful." Scarlett's voice was soft and clear, although saddened, she was determined to do her duty.
"Yes. Since then, we've fought dozens of battles against all sorts of powerful beings. Dragons, Nether Overlords, even Khione herself. Not one time, has he ever let me down."
Scarlett smiled despite herself. "He sounds like a mighty warrior."
Nix nodded in agreement. "I was tossed through a rift when Khione fled my team; it was there that my spirit companions and I were separated. We lost the battle, so I can't summon them for a few more days."
"How many spirit companions do you have?" Mortimus's deep voice rumbled from across the table.
"Four. A Sea-Turtle, a Drakon, a Water Witch, and a Titan cub."
"T-Titan Cub?" Scarlett leaned forward, her brown eyes shining. "Was he the one you found lost and alone?"
"Yes." Nix leaned back in his chair, "he wouldn't have been there too long before I found him. Maybe a few months."
"Name? What is his name?" Her red lips trembled, but her voice was steady.
"See for yourself." Nix brought up his hud and displayed his spirit companions.
[Spirit Animal 4/4]
1: Soup [Royal Sea Turtle]
2: Ducky [Water Witch] (2 days left)
3: Fey [Drakon] (2 days left)
4: Mortimer [Titan Cave Bear] (2 days left)
Scarlett's entire body started to shake; she covered her mouth with one hand while tears welled up in her eyes. "Mortimer," she spoke in the barest whisper. "It's my little cub."
"Yes. Khione was our first defeat, although it was definitely my fault and not his." Nix stole a glance at Mortimus; the War Leader seemed to be frozen in place, his eyes staring at Nix's hud.
Unexpectedly it was the War Leader who threw back his head and started bawling loudly. Nix coughed to cover a smile; it sounded precisely like Morti had in Shangri.
Scarlett stood up and moved behind him, pulling his head against her bosom while she stroked his hair softly. "Mortimus, it's okay. It's going to be okay."
Nix watched her comfort him. "Take your time, but then we should make plans."
Scarlette nodded and kissed the top of her husband's head. "He keeps things bottled up, just give us a moment."
Gil scowled at Jaro. "You stupid bear... I can't remember the last time you paid for a drink!"
Jaro tipped back the last of his mug. "I saved your life the other day, so you're buying until you return the favor!"
"A valid point. Thank you" Gil tossed a few coins to the waitress. "Another pitcher then."
The door slammed open, and a moment later, Dresa stepped in. "You two! Come to the fortress!"
The two Titans stared at her when she spun around and exited the tavern. Her footsteps could be heard running away.
Jaro pushed his chair back and stood up. "What's got her wound up?"
"Probably you don't know what you're doing!" Gil slapped him on the back hard and headed for the door at a trot. He grabbed the pitcher from the waitress on the way out.
"What? I know more than you, Turtle Bastard!" Jaro chased after him, although slightly drunk, he followed both versions of Gil as they ran toward the fortress.
A few minutes later, the tavern duo found Nix. The room was crowded with Ground Pounders, but the only ones sitting were Nix, Scarlett, and Mortimus.
"Another... Tell me another one, Nix!" Mortimus sniffed his red nose loudly.
Nix nodded. "There was this one fight with a Giant Ape called Ced' Far the Magnificent."
"Ced'Far the Magnificent? He sounds big." Mortimus's booming voice drowned out everything else.
"Thirty feet of angry ape. Would have torn us apart if Morti hadn't raged on him."
Mortimus nodded as if he had been there. "How big? How big does Morti get when he rages?"
"Back then, a bit over twenty feet. He walks around at close to fifteen feet nowadays."
"Fifteen feet?" Mortimus's giant hands clapped together. "Did you hear that, Scarlett? Fifteen feet!"
Scarlett was still standing behind her husband, her hands on his shoulders. "I did. He's big like his Papa."
Nix spent the next hour talking about the battles that Morti had taken part in; the crowded room was quiet except for Nix's voice and the occasional question from Mortimus.
Finally, Scarlett started asking questions. Was he happy? Who were his friends? Does he get enough to eat?
Slowly the woman changed, the sadness fading away, and the tiniest spark of hope ignited. A short while later, she chased everyone else away and found a quiet room for Nix to work in. At the doorway, she put a steady hand on his shoulder. "We'll talk about Menial tomorrow, Nix. I'm afraid we wasted quite a bit of your time."
"It's not a waste talking about my friend." Nix eyed the mountain of pelts that were sitting on the table. "I'll talk to you tomorrow."
Scarlett exited the room and grabbed her husband's hand. "He needs to work."
"I wanna talk to Nix a bit more." Mortimus's loud voice carried into the room.
"Tomorrow, dear. We'll have lunch with him, and you can talk more."
Nix picked up the first Dire Wolf pelt, just as the steps walked away from his door.
Twice during the night, someone came in to replace the pelts Nix had used up. Scarlett had sent her seamstress with all the needles and threads she could find. When Gil peeked in on him at 1000 hrs, he was sleeping soundly on the hard table; there wasn't a pelt in sight.
"What happened to all the wolf skins?" Gil stepped closer, fully prepared to shake the Inferno Guild Leader awake.
Nix sat up slowly; someone had covered him with a blanket after he had fallen asleep. "Don't you sleep?"
Gil nodded. "The Clan Leader is waiting for you. And it's almost time to summon Soup."
"Right." Nix sent her back with an update before they left the river.
"We really gonna go after Menial today?"