Thurber – factor for Helman’s Blades, a mercenary company in Ban Olfden
Magda – proprietor of The Merchant’s Rest in Ban Olfden
30 Fiann, 3032 PA
While the caravan wended its way west, the surviving ambushers were questioned. Cade proved rather amiable, informing the party that they were mercenaries operating out of Ban Olfden. They had been hired to intercept Engrit’s caravan but could not say who their patron was. He assured the party that his company captain would pay ransom.
The rest of the journey proved uneventful. Two days out from the town, the caravan stopped at the Ban House, an old hunting lodge converted into an inn by an enterprising pair of dwarves. A guard informed the party that an elf matching Merrow’s description had passed by a day or two ago, seemingly in a hurry. The land past the Ban House, gently rising above the river valleys, became gradually more inhabited. Crofters and small farms began to dot the landscape and, a day away from Ban Olfden, the party begin to see clusters of refugee hovels along the roadside. Malnourished children walk beside the wagons, asking for food under the suspicious, hollow-eyed gaze of their parents.
Ban Olfden sprawled along Elberwicks Rise. Buildings of timber and river-stone huddled close together, as if for warmth, inside a sturdy wooden palisade. Narrow dirt streets wound through the town, punctuated here and there by paved market areas. Thin plumes of smoke were twisted and dispersed by a chill breeze from the north, carrying an unseasonable promise of late snow and cold nights. Legionaries, cloaked against the cold, allow the caravan to enter the town and Engrit directs the divers to an inn called The Merchant’s Rest.
Run by a stout woman named Magda, who directs a small army of scullions, maids, and stable-hands as a drill sergeant directs recruits, the inn is large and comfortable. It is obvious that Engrit and Magda are old friends, and the party are soon housed and fed. Engrit, who has grown increasingly short tempered – prone to haggling over even a quadran – quickly retires to his room, but not before penning a letter and directing Sonia to deliver it to a trade factor in the town.
The group, finding themselves at a rare loose end, separate to pursue individual goals. Boris, disgusted that the Merchant’s Rest did not stock liquor, heads out to find a proper drink. Kiera and Dymas took Cade to find the captain that would pay the ransom. In a run-down tavern – stinking of stale vomit, pipe-smoke, and unwashed bodies – they found Thurber, the corpulent factor for Helman’s Blades. Surprised to find Cade captured, Thurber’s bargaining was odd. He offered far more than Cade and his men were worth. Fearing that the sergeant might be punished for his failure, Kiera’s honour would not allow her to accept the ransom. After leaving the tavern, Kiera freed Cade who promised to lay low and stay out of trouble.
Raina’s interests took her outside the walls and into a small shanty-town inhabited by a few score of Afflicted elves. She did her best to ignore the dirty hovels, and the desperate hollowness of the slum’s inhabitants, as she searched for some kind of thieves’ guild. A young elf, brighter eyed than most, passed her a note – a request to meet the next day, and signed ‘M’.
Sonia, after delivering her uncle’s letter, took herself to the town’s church. She was conflicted by her new-found abilities. The freedom and power they allowed her was a heady rush, like strong wine, but it was not the way of the Congregation to allow such unfettered contact with spirits. Unfortunately, the priests and priestess of the church were unable to offer much more than platitudes – they were not initiates of magic. Even so, Sonia felt comfortable in the company of men and women of the cloth and spent much time there in the next couple of days.
The next day, Raina took herself to the meeting spot described in the note. She was surprised to find Damian there – he too had been summoned to this place by a mysterious note that promised answers. Raina considered that perhaps the meeting was not what she had thought it was.
The alley was not much more than the cramped space between two buildings. Their wooden flanks loomed above, blocking out the light, painted with broad strokes of black mold. Mud and other unpleasant substances squelched underfoot, sending rats scurrying under haphazard stacks of boxes.
The white-haired elf they came to meet sat cross-legged atop a barrel, cleaning her nails with the point of a dagger. She regarded the pair with bird-like interest for a moment before hopping lightly from her perch, the dagger vanishing with a practised flick of the wrist.
Merrow had a tale to tell and secrets that needed to be shared.