The ship slowly drifted up to the dock, the timbers creaking and the chatter of the crew drowning out other noises. William stepped up on the deck, again fitted in his plate armor with his longsword at his hip. He looked around, his dark eyes looking for familiar faces.
"Sir?" Anton's voice interrupted his train of thought.
"Yes, Anton?" William turned to face him. Anton was dressed in a vest and bracers of studded leathers. He had an emblem of William's elk sigil on a strip of cloth tied around his forehead.
"What are you looking for?"
William took a deep breath. "Friends, Anton. People I know should be meeting us here." His gaze swept back to the crowd, scanning for people he knew. But it wasn't a person that he saw, rather a familiar coach sitting at the end of the dock. The emblem of his mother's thornes rose was set in the doors in bright enamel, unmistakable. He turned to see Detrious lumbering up from below decks with chests in his arms. Leaf came along behind, much happier to be docked. The older elf disliked the sea, and had remained in the cabins.
"Leaf," William said. He gestured to the coach.
"Yes, sir," Leaf replied with a smile. "We will have the chests loaded shortly. Why don't you go have a seat in the coach?"
William smiled. Leaf would not hear otherwise, so he headed towards the gangplank. Adovan had already disembarked, and stood at the base of the plank. He wrote his plate as well, but had an emblem of William's elk pinned to his tabard.
"You don't have to wear that," William told him as he marched down to the dock. "Neither of you," he said, turning to Anton. “You’re very publically aligning yourself with me, and you don’t have to. You’ll be able to go wherever you’d like once we get things sorted out.”
Anton looked at William, his young face puzzled. “Sir, why would I not want with you?”
“If you hadn’t saved me from that camp, I’d be dead now,” Adovan said quietly. “I owe you my life.”
William looked at the two of them, his throat feeling thick. He couldn’t find the words, and nodded to them instead. He turned and headed towards the coach. He had only made a handful of steps when a hand took his elbow.
He turned, finding a matronly woman with stately bearing glaring at him. Her imperious nature immediately soured his opinion, but he strove for respect. “Milady,” William said politely.
“You are William of house Stotts, yes?” she asked in impatient tones.
“I am,” William responded. His desire for respect was waning quickly.
“You aren’t married yet.” This wasn’t a question. The way she said it was an accusation. “That is a neglect of your duties as a nobleman and a disgrace.”
William saw Anton and Adovan start to step towards the woman and waved them back. This wasn’t a fight to be settled by strength of arms. “I have no neglected my duties,” he responded curtly. “I’ve been fighting in the Army of Unity for the last several years.”
“Do not make excuses,” she responded. “You should be married. I am Lady Elaine of the Dentral. My niece is of your age. You will find her appropriate.”
William felt his hackles rise in anger. This was the return he got after everything he’d been through? “I do not find her appropriate by virtue of being your niece,” William responded. He couldn’t resist the urge to be uncouth, and spat at her feet. “You are unwelcome.”
With that, he turned and strove for the coach. He angrily threw the door open and stepped inside. He was surprised to see it empty, but took the seat and unclipped his scabbard from his belt. He leaned his head back and sighed.
Footsteps and the creak of the coach’s steps caused him to open his eyes. Anton carefully took a seat opposite him, looking hesitant. “That... lady...” he said slowly. “Her face turned dark, sir.”
“I expected as much,” William replied quietly. “I insulted her and her niece very intentionally. I doubt she’ll think much of myself or my family for the rest of her life.” He looked around. “Where is Adovan? He’s not...”
“No,” Anton said. “He’s at the door. He won’t let anyone in.” The young man fidgeted uncomfortably. “I don’t understand.”
“I know,” William replied. “I may have been a good soldier, Anton, but this world of polite society and politics is something I’m not good at. That’s why I asked about wearing my emblem earlier.”
Anton looked back, meeting William’s eyes. “I’m your man, always.” There was iron in the young man’s voice that made William smile. He looked around the inside of the coach and found the hangers beside the doors.“In that case,” William said, “if you’re going to be an Andolman, you need to have a full uniform.” With that, William pulled the two curved fighting knives with blades the length of his forearm from their sheaths, where they were kept in case of emergency. “We can’t have a man of our entourage go out underdressed.” William smiled as he handed the two blades to Anton.