Chapter one, A fateful meeting.
In which our six heroes meet for the very first time.
Festag, 24th Jahrdrung - Wellentag, 25th Jahardrung.
Kirsten started her afternoon as usual, down at the small muddy docks. Though no city Delberz’s position on the Talabec provide enough opportunist work for a young low born woman keen to live on her own by her wits and skill rather than on her back. Opportunities were getting thin on the ground especially since the Tileans had arrived to muscle in on the two local gangs grip on the wine and spirit smuggling trade between Altdorf, the eastern city of Talabheim and the northern land routes to Middenheim. The alleys, sewers and tunnels of the poor district, known as the asylum had become a no go area as the rivalry approached outright war.
Ahead Kirsten smiled to see some giant of a country bumpkin trying to negotiate passage for himself and his Halfling friend aboard an Oldenhaller boat. No amount of coin would buy passage there and this bumpkin looked as though he didn’t even have two schillings to rub together. Kirsten’s attention wandered back to the goods loading and unloading at the small docks. Nothing looked worth the risk of being caught taking so she turned to head back up into town. Her way however was blocked by the thin but deadly presence of Little Alfredo. “I’ve told you before Al, I’m not interested. Now let me past.” Kirsten was in no mood for this fool this morning. “Bella, no, you owe me more respect don’t you think.” Little Al seeped as he took both Kirsten’s wrists into his hands.
“The lady says she isn’t interested.” A loud hearty voice behind Kirsten brought a change to the small mans demeanour. “Mind your own business, eh!” retorted Alfredo with an evil scowl to his face. “no I think you should let her go”, came the reply, Kirsten turned her head to see the bumpkin standing fist in hand whilst the Halfling looked up, concern written straight across his face. Reaching for his dagger Al hissed, ”how dare you..” his reply was cut short as the thin Telian spotted the large hatchet tucked into the giant youths belt. “We, will finish this later,” said Al as he stormed off.
Kirsten turned to mouth, “thank you”, before running away from the two friends who had by their actions marked themselves for dead.
“Well at least you got a thank you but I don’t know what possessed you?” Harbull’s question to his friend was rhetorical but Werner still replied, ”I don’t like bullies.” “Fair enough my friend,” replied the Halfling. “Perhaps we should go find something to eat? I don’t think we will have much luck finding passage by river.”
A lanky boatman sat perched on the edge of a large barrel of salted pork. “He’s right you know. Prices too good down south to warrant taking up hold space with poorly paying passengers.”
“And what would you know of it?” Werner was not best pleased to have his plans in disarray already.
“I’m a boatman, or was till I just sold my boat.” As the big man and his cheery little companion departed Johann reflected that today had been a day for firsts. He had never met an elf before and his last job before selling his boat had been to carry one of these mysterious people across the Talabec. Johann had taken no money for that job, the prospect of selling his boat had left him a little cold inside. The elf had no need of talk and that suited him just fine.
Selling his boat had been another if reluctant first but debts needed repaying. The irony being he had only borrowed to buy the boat in the first place. Handing over that much gold to the thin Tilean who had bought his debt had been yet another first. Heading into town to drink the last of his money, that wasn’t going to be a first.
Johan stooped his head as he ducked into The Reavers Return. The giant of a boy and his friend from the docks already sat nursing small drinks. He half considered joining them but instead decided to keep his own company bought a drink and sat in the corner. The sound of music caught his ears but the tune was too refined for a dive like this. Looking up Johann saw the elf from earlier that day playing tunes from his own homeland. He would make no money as a minstrel in places like this indeed in the whole of Delberz there would be few enough with the refined tastes to appreciate the elven music. Himself included so it was something of a relief when a few of the locals decided to try to turf the unappreciated musician out on his arse. After a brief struggle the elf wrested himself free and calmly left without a word. Cursing himself for a soft hearted fool Johann followed him out.
“Your liable to get yourself killed elf.” Johann approached the minstrel outside the Inn . The elf smiled, ”you are the boatman who was so respectful on our trip across the water. I thank you but please explain why will I kill myself?” Johann smiled, “because you’re strange in a small town used to violence. If you want my advice learn some bawdier songs if you want to earn some coin.”
“Yes, yes some coin, I need some coins. But what are bawdy songs, I have a long way to go if I am to understand you people.” The elf looked most perplexed. “If you want money and wish to understand people what you need is a job my friend.” The boatman extended his hand to shake, “Johann.” The elf copying the gesture but failing to shake hands replied, “Malmir”
Further over town a young apprentice mage was preparing to begin her journeyman apprenticeship on the morrow. That morning she had had a long discussion with her master about responsibility, power and temptation, finally he had added, “Wanda, I think that the time has come finally for you to begin your journeyman’s apprenticeship. Tomorrow you must take you leave of my house returning only when you feel you have truly learnt more about your powers, I trust you to know when that time will be.” Wanda looked up from her contemplation the noise of her fellow apprentice passing disturbing her. She knew he would be jealous as always but she had known him since she first entered her masters house all those years ago. She would miss him almost as much as the old master. Paying for her journeyman’s licence had left her out of pocket, her first action would have to be earning enough money to travel to Altdorf and there earn her right to call herself a mage. She looked out across the darkening town almost wishing the sun to travel faster in its setting and rising so her new life could begin all the sooner.
The encroaching darkness brought only apprehension to Werner and his friend Harbull. They could not find lodgings at a price they could afford and the nights were still cold and often wet. They followed a guide at the moment, who had assured them that rooms could be found but the district of town they now found themselves left a great deal to be desired. Turning down a blind alley they both found themselves surrounded by well armed footpads, "greetings from Little Al.". Harbull wasn’t sure exactly what happened next or at least in what order. Money was certainly lost, and bruises gained but some how Werner and he ended up hurtling down one unknown alley after another with the ruffians on their tail. Turning down a final dead end it was desperation rather than trust that had the pair bundling down a cellar door following a whispered cry of, “in here quiet, now!”
By the light of a tallow candle the two made out the face of the young woman they had helped earlier that day. “one good turn deserves another,” she said grinning. “Tell me, what is an unlikely pair like you two doing in a nowhere town like Delberz…”
And so it came that the following morning, as Wanda descended the street leading to the twon square five other wanderers also arrived looking for work of an adventurous nature. With her masters final words still in her ear, “take my advice, find some young fellows to share the road, stick to them like glue..” she and five other adventurous wanderers heard a town crier read a list of mundane jobs and news before declaring, "Specialists required for reposession job. One nights work, legal, some danger, good money. Military background helpful. No time wasters. Councillor Oldenhaller, Oldenhaller mansion, Oldenhallerstrasse."…..