And so the diverse group of wanderers set off in an unruly, raggedy procession lead by an Elf and a lady arm in arm. After quick speeches and commotion this sight could not help to attract a following. There were jeers and some throwing of filth, particularly at the elf but it was for the most part good natured. Initially it seemed the whole citizenry of Deberz had nothing better to do than follow up the mud, offal and night-soil covered road. However as the occasional, rough, cobbles steadily became more frequent, well cut and clean nothing more than a ragtag group of young urchins followed.
Step by step each of the adventurous souls, as yet strangers to each other, made a commitment to a new life and each found time to contemplate reasons to look backwards.
Werner thought hard about the job advertised by the crier, good pay building one of the Emperors new signal towers. But he didn’t look back.
Harbull may have looked forlornly into the open door of the Hanged Man but as they past, mercifully up wind of the smell of good breakfast sausages, beer and bread, he did not look back.
Kirsten considered her comparatively safe life of anonymity and not for one second looked back.
Johan thought about the river and the life he had given up through little choice of his own. He was too proud to look back.
Wanda knew as the turning to her master’s house approached, with its dusty tomes and learned council, she could not afford to look back.
Malmir alone had walked this way before when he had left behind his idyllic life with his own people for what he knew would be a more brutal but more fulfilling life. He had nothing to look back to.
Wanda lead the procession to the mansion and with a sudden realisation approached the servant’s entrance. The doorkeeper clearly expected to see people in heavy boots tramping into his master's hallway. A messenger was sent to the Councillor, and after a half-hour wait all were led through winding, opulently decorated corridors to a huge study. The floors were covered with oriental rugs and the walls were hung with family portraits, hunting trophies and framed contracts and bonds.
Albrecht Oldenhaller sat behind a vast mahogany desk, toying with a jewelled paper knife. Looking at Wanda he smiled, “Wanda I suppose I should have expected you, Herr Blitzens informed me he was to send you out as journeyman.” Then he looked the other prospective employees up and down, and then spoke.
"As you may be aware," he said, "The House of Oldenhaller is engaged in trading and other activities at a number of levels, and we would be most unhappy if our dealings with certain agents and contacts were to be made public. Accordingly, I must insist that this business must be conducted in the utmost secrecy. So no repeats of your march up here." He pauses significantly while this sinks in.
"A certain gem has appeared in the city," he continued. "I won't bore you with the details, except to say that it was acquired on behalf of the House of Oldenhaller by a group of people vulgarly known as the Schatzenheimer Gang, who have so far failed to make delivery. You are to recover the stone from them and deliver it here by dawn tomorrow. Like many great stones, there are several legends and superstitions attached to the gem. It is said to have come from a ring worn by one best not named, and to carry some unpleasantness which afflicts all those who handle it. I set no store by these superstitions, but in case there is some substance behind them, you will take this" – he then pushed an elaborately-carved wooden box across the desk -"and use it to carry the stone. It has been enchanted to suppress the magic of anything inside for precisely six hours. That should give you adequate time to deliver the stone here. You will set out at nightfall, and I will have you guided to one of the entrances to the area known as the Asylum, which is where I believe the stone to be. Any questions?"