The great capital of Morarth. The stretching plateu created the scepter for this gem of civilization. Frozen in time during the winter, now was summer and now it was busy and alive. A great stir was about in the northern quarter however, another adventurer was recruiting at the tavern. The sacred Crown of Tarind had been seeked for by many and sought after by every king of almost every nation and yet, none had ventured far enough to grab it. Two peasants in their summer robes, light and flowing in the breeze spoke about the happening.
"I heard another guy was off trying to get people on a suicide mission."
"Yeah, he has to be a nutjob. Glad I am not in the buisness of fortune seaking."
"I hear you."
Those that were seeking more in life however, had met at the local tavern; "The Snowed Gem" and were eager to see their new leader. The tavern was large and had a stage with many tables. Normally fools would preform on the stage and servers dressed fancily would bring them various alchoholic beverages. Posters had been scattered promising a meeting today at some point and while many wanted the crown, none were bold enough or clever enough to gather this many patrons. Then, she walked out.
The twenty or so gatherers looked surprised, repulsed or even shocked. Not only was the person daring to lead this a woman, but an elf? This was the human city and about thirteen immediately stormed out. The bartender yelling and cursing about them not paying their tabs. There were a few who stayed. An eager looking were-wolf, a curious bard, a smirking Drow, a steadfast warrior, a slightly off put but still dangerous looking man and in the back a cloaked figure.
The elf seemed slightly discouaged by how many had left, but collected herself and presented herself to the group. "As I was saying, I think we could work together to find this crown. If you are still up for it, I think we should introduce ourselves a tiny bit?"
"My name is Rema," the blue woman continued, moving some hair behind one of her pointed ears. Her completely blank white eyes made it impossible to tell exactly what she was looking at.
"I am a healer that lives not far from here. I hope my... appearance has not discouraged you too much. May I ask who I will be working with?"
She seemed rather kind, for someone who managed to clear an entire room simply by entering it, and not because she smelled bad. Actually, she smelled pretty good.
A black sheath with a black-hilt sword at her hip clashed with her white robes.
Lars was cradling his third brandy in the corner of the roomm when the Samsaran flowed in. He sat back and watched the female with his good eye as many of the gathered adventurers began to cry out about not following an "elf". The chaos that followed was quick and final.
As the last of the rabble cleared out, Lars smiled wryly at the innkeeper. "It would appear many of your patrons don't know the difference between an elf and a samsaran," he called before taking a sip of brandy.
Only Lars and six others were left.
After the Samsaran had introduced herself, a tentative silence hung in the room. Lars took the opportunity to glance around at the remaining candidates; a tired-looking guardsman, a foppish minstrel, a mangy beast, a mysteriously-cloaked figure that stuck to the shadows and... Lars gripped his glass tightly and made an effort not to reach for a knife.
The drow looked dangerous. Even if she hadn't, Lars would still have been wary. He hadn't met many of the elven sub-species but Lars knew enough to hate them as much as the regular elves. Travelling with a drow could prove interesting. And if she was as dangerous as she looked then she would be handy in a fight. Hopefully not handy enough when Lars decided she had outstayed her welcome...
As the others had hesitated in answering the samsaran, Lars decided to take the lead. "Alright," he barked, raising his glass. "My name is Lars von Breust." He took a sip. "And don't worry, your appearance doesn't discourage me at all, in fact..." Slipping a 3 inch blade from his belt, Lars points it vaguely at Rema. "...I've got one of those myself." He grinned, tapping the tip of the knife against his fake eye.
He placed the knife flat on the table and gulped down the last of his drink.
Lithfin eagerly raised his hand, showing the same excitement as a child that knows the answer to the question just asked.
"Oh, blue lady! Me! Me!" he said as he excitedly waved his hand. Rema gave him a gentle smile and made a gesture with her hand that told him he was allowed to continue. He stood up, nearly hitting his head on a tie beam as he towered over the room.
"I'm Lithfin. Grew up with elves. Small village, Sa'car. Want to find crown. Meet mom and dad!" His speech was somewhat simplistic, like something a child would say. His presentation was similar, like a child introducing itself to it's new classmates.
Lithfin sat down again but immediately stood up. "Oh, forgot!" he said as he pointed at the huge sledgehammer leaning against the table. "Have sledgehammer. Good for poles." He smiled brightly and sat down again, looking curiously at Remas eyes.
Kalic was about to speak when a rather intimidate and heavyset man raised his gruff voice in response the the elf. Pausing the listen he stopped and waited, yet just as he was about to start again a voice akin to young mages in class spoke up, followed by the reveal of a werewolf.
What in Morarth am I getting myself into?
He asked himself, finally perking up the courage to speak before faltering at Remas steady gaze
"Um. I'm, that is to say, my name is, um Kalic?"
Gods, why is it so hard to speak?
"Um, I'm a bard... I mean mage... I mean Bard. That is to say a former mage now bard." He looked around the room, glancing in turn at each person at the room.
"Anyone want to hear a song?" He finished, the epitome of meek.
At that he shrunk back into his chair, calming his breathing and analyzing each hero in turn. First there was their leader; the soft spoken elf, though Kalic had never met one in person he assumed she was a Samsaran, one of the many races who ended up in the Elven cities. There was little written of them in the academy library but he knew the basics of their race. The two other humans in the room looked like the warrior breed, both showing signed of middle age, but where one looked disciplined and hard the other looked almost cruel, the butchers knife didn't help.
The werewolf looked typical of his race, as typical as werewolves get, though behind his eyes there was an innocence that seemed out of place in a room of adventurers and elves. Finally his eyes turned to the two less savory member of the band, the black robed figure had yet to move from his seat, something about them was off, there was an almost magical hum that followed, as if he was casting sustained charms. Beneath their robe it was hard to tell gender, but from the lack of curves he guessed male. The Drow on the other hand was anything but male, shamefully his eyes were almost immediately drawn to her chest, blushing he raised his eyes to hers, from the glare he knew she'd noticed. Room analysed he returned to his drink.
This isnt gonna end well for me
"Anguisss," the cloaked figure hissed, lurching forward from his seat, he seemed to be staring at the Samsaran, though it was impossible to tell with how his mask concealed his eyes. Before speaking he could have been mistaken a a pile of discarded clothing that someone had placed a mask on, a more observant individual might have noticed the strange movements from beneath his cloak, or the cockroaches scurrying around his feet.
"A more powerful mage you'll not find," he spoke again, a strange humming, almost like the buzzing of an insect accompanied his speech. With that he slumped back into his seat, and turned his gaze to the others.
A couple of warriors, one who seemed almost proud of his missing eye, a stuttering excuse for a bard, a young werewolf and a drow. Those last two interested him, the werewolf seemed to have no idea what it was involving itself in, an innocent like that would be easily manipulated he thought. Then there was the drow, he had only met a few of them, and they held a fearsome reputation, he detested elves but if the drows reputation held any truth then he might find respect for her.
Then there was the Samsaran, the leader Rema, he had followed worse leads he supossed, but there was something about her that made her claim seem genuine. A careful listener might notice the perpetual buzzing around him become lower pitched and pulse, almost like he was laughing.
Lars stared at the cloaked figure as he... spoke. There was something unsettling about this one and Lars spat onto the dusty floorboards before motioning the innkeeper for another drink. As the brandy was poured, Lars reflected on the other two who had spoken.
A child-like werewolf raised by elves was a surprise to the butcher. Even in their innocennce, a werewolf was dangerous so Lars made a mental note to stay on its good side. For now.
The bard was also interesting. A young, awkward boy with seemingly little confidence. A bard with no confidence was like a blunt knife; useless. Still, he was human and that had to count for something.
Looking at Lars (one would assume; she turned to face him, at least), she replied, "My eyes aren't false. All Samsarans have eyes like mine. I would offer to give you a working eye, but I think it might be too far gone... and you seem fond of your false one."
Rema couldn't pin down why, but there was something about the werewolf that she liked. Maybe it was simply his youthful innocence? In any case, she couldn't help but smile kindly up at him. "Well, I'm certain you and your strength will be a valuable asset, Lithfin. Never fear, we will attempt to find your family as well, if we can."
Rema almost looked concerned; the poor bard seemed to have trouble speaking. "Perhaps we could do with a song later, when we get started, if you don't mind waiting. And don't worry, I'm no less nervous about this than you are."
Rema eyed the masked man sideways, trying not to let the suspicion show on her face. "Well, I certainly won't object to another magic user. I'm certain we'll get along well."
The blue doctor couldn't help but look on the drow with suspicion. She had remained silent so far, which didn't do anything for Rema's nerves. "And... who might you be?"
Fond of it? Lars thought to himself, gaze still fixed on the samsara, despite the fact that she'd moved on. It's a simple reminder. A reminder that I have a promise to keep. A promise that you, dear healer, will help me to fulfill.
The butcher picked up his glass and continued to drink.
Lithfin smiled brightly and wagged his tail as Rema talked to him. He thought this was similar to school, pay attention and be nice to the others. When Kalic asked if anyone wanted to hear a song he almost jumped for joy. He loved to listen to bards playing and would likely have asked him to play all night if it wasn't for Rema telling Kalic that he could play one later. Lithfin was a little disappointed, but he soon got distracted by the others introducing themselves.
Lars seemed to be thirsty, 'cause he was constantly drinking something. Lithfin didn't know what it was, but he could tell by the smell it was a drink for adults. Lithfin wasn't allowed to drink things like that. He didn't want to anyway, the strong scent would make his nose itch.
Anguis-s-s also had a scent that made Lithfin's nose itch. He rubbed it vigorously to stop the itching and even stuck one of his claws up there. He knew it was rude, but this wasn't school so he figured it might be OK. If Rema scolded him like his teacher would he'd know that it wasn't. Lithfin was curious of Anguis-s-s, but he thought he heard a bee so he didn't want to go near him right now. Lithfin didn't like bees, he got stung on the ear once.
Lithfin looked at the other two that hadn't introduced themselves yet. There was another human with a big shield. Lithfin looked at it with big eyes. It looked heavy, but he had seen the human carry it with ease. Lithfin figured that the human must be really strong.
Then there was the weird elf. At least she looked like an elf, but something was different. Lithfin couldn't quite figure it out, but he briefly considered if it was because of her clothes. He had seen the elven females in his village dress up for different events, but this one dressed differently. The elf didn't even look at Lithfin as he was watching her, but he didn't notice, being far too busy with his own thoughts.
He sat at the back of the tavern, trying to stay inconspicuous. His steel armor didn't help that at all. Nor did the shield that occupied the space next to him.
He looked at the figures around the room, sensing an air of hostility. Hopefully this didn't degenerate into a bar-room brawl. His body might not be able to take it. He stayed quiet, waiting for things to unfold. He was wary of the creatures he had never seen before. A wolf-man, taller than he, was talking to a woman, skin-coloured pale blue. Truly an odd assortment, never seen before in the capitol.
"Another drink. Something Stronger" He motioned to the bartender.
He got up from his seat, his armor grinding, years of wear catching up to it. Arason you fool, the first rule is that your armor is your body. He strolled toward the counter, grabbing the drink, and downing it in one swift motion. He surveyed the motley group in the tavern. If he was to be chasing the crown, he would need to know the group at least.
"My name is Elbaron, former Lieutenant of 4th Company, Morath Capitol Guard. Are you willing to die for this mission?"
Kalic looked up from his drink. No eyes were on him so a voice came easy.
"Isn't dying on a quest for the crown of immortality a tad ironic?"
He raised his eyes and looked at the solider, the mans gaze was hard but not unkind.
"If its all the same to you Ser, I'd like to remain alive"
Lars nodded appreciatively at the armoured man's question. He looked like a respectable character, full of respect and honour. A man you could respect and honour in turn.
Lars smiled thinly at the boy's remark, remembering his own innocence of long ago. A sense of humour could get you through but sometimes it just wasn't enough. Sometimes, embracing death is the only thing that can help you to succeed.
Picking up his glass, Lars raised it it to Elbaron. "Former Lieutenant Elbaron, I just want you to know that even if I lack the strength... I will fight. I do not fear when my time will come." He tipped the glass slightly, a glint in his good eye, before knocking back the brandy in one gulp.
Elbaron stared hard at the young man. He looked young. Too young. Too young to know the ferocity of battle. Too young to understand about duty above ones own life.
He went to speak, some choice words for the impetuous bard, but stifled himself. He had been young too, when he first fought shoulder to shoulder. Perhaps he would prove himself useful on the battlefield. If they were to fight together, then he would need to trust him. Even with all his snark.
Rema turned to face Elbaron. "While my goal, of course, is to reach the crown alive, you needn't worry about me on the field. My vocation is healing and medicine, but I'm no stranger to combat."
She nodded respectfully to Lars, but didn't speak.
Anguis smiled inwardly at the bards remark "A clever jest, but one must be willing to face death if they are to prove themselves stronger than it," he replied without turning to face them.
He considered why the others were searching for the crown, the old guardsman Elbaron and the leader Rema seemed the types to believe that such power would help them right wrongs or some nonsense. The butcher Lars seemed the sort to seek such power for more personal, more selfish reasons, something Anguis could respect. The werewolf clearly had no idea what it was doing and the drow had yet to speak. The bard though, was the bard Kalic simply seeking material for a story, as bards tended to do, or was there something else?
The blue-skinned woman looked around the room one more time, absently adjusting the curved sword at her belt, before nodding once. "Very well. If this is everyone, I see no reason to delay further. Gather your things and meet me at the city gates, we will leave from there. Thank you all for your time."
She bows deeply and turns to leave the tavern.
Kalic watched at their blue leader left the tavern, preferring to walk on his own, he to rose from his table. Dropping a few coppers to pay for his drink he left out a separate doorway, humming a tune.
As always Morarth was busy, the northern quarter practically hummed with life as he travelled. From the look of the others their was a good chance of some sort of conflict erupting once Rema left, something which was in his best interest to avoid. He marched with easy confidence through the cities cramped streets, while he'd spent much of his time in the academy Morarth was still his home, and he knew better than anywhere. He moved street to street, darting between travellers and citymen alike, even after he stopped to buy a apple from a vender he still arrived at the gate before the rest of the party.
Recognising an opportunity for coin, he drew his lute of his back and began to play.
Anguis waited until the others had left before rising from his seat, supporting himself with his staff he slowly walked outside, calling up any wayward vermin to rejoin him. He moved through the markets, ignoring Kalic's singing as he walked past, he visited various vendors, purchasing food, which he stuffed under the folds of his cloak.
Once he had purchased enough food he made his way to the gates, leaning against a wall he waited for the others to arrive, silently reinforcing the enchantments on his cloak, mask, and bones.
Lars waited a moment before standing up, sheathing his loose knife in the process. "Well," he said, "this should be interesting." He dropped a few coins onto the table, nodded to the innkeeper and left 'The Snowed Gem'.
Out on the streets of Morarth, Lars stretched slightly and blinked in the sunlight. Instead of turning to the gates, the butcher headed in the opposite direction, towards the less civilized part of the city, an area known as 'The Quarry'.
Lars walked through the dirty streets of 'The Quarry', ignoring the grovelling beggars and skulking street-thieves. Lars was well-armed and intimidating enough to be well left alone by the usual thugs and cut-throats that frequented the district.
Turning down a particularly dank alley, Lars stepped up the iron-barred door of an inn whose sign read "The Forgotten Crown". A worse place for terrible dealings in Morarth Lars had never seen but it was cheap and the innkeeper - a wiry fellow simply called Gus - was reliable if not entirely honest at times. Lars knew how to deal with the man though, one way or another.
Lars knocked on the door and stepped back as a small grate in the door opened to reveal a pair of suspicious eyes. Upon seeing the butcher, the grate closed as locks clicked and the door eventually opened.
"Ah...The Butcher returns." Gus intoned in a nasally voice.
"Not long," Lars cut in, digging a coin pouch out of his waistcoat pocket. "I'm going to be gone for a while and need you to take care of my things."
Gus took the coin pouch eagerly and nodded. "Fair enough. For how long?"
It took Lars a few moments to answer. When he eventually did, he stroked his moustache vaguely. "Not sure... but there's enough there to last a long time." Lars snorted as Gus checked inside the pouch, the wiry man's eyes lighting up at the elf ears within. "Anyway..." Lars began, looking around the alleyway as if he were expecting something. "...I gotta head back."
Gus nodded again and moved to close the door. Lars' heavy boot stopped it and Gus was faced with a blade pointing at his throat. He looked up but the butcher's face was calm, no hint of anger or intimidation. "If you take anything, I'll know about it. Make sure you leave well alone, alright?" Gus managed a slight nod before Lars sheathed the blade and walked away, heading in the direction of the city gates.
As he approached the gates, Lars saw the young bard playing his lute. It seemed to be a song unfamiliar to him, something about the poor botanical practice of Shades. He strode up to the boy and waited until he'd finished playing. the small crowd that had gathered rippled applause and handed Kalic a few coins.
"Hey boy," Lars called through through the milling crowd. "Know anything good about the Grand Finale?" He stared unwaveringly at the boy in expectation.
Kalic followed the sound of the voice to Lars, the man was standing a few feet ahead, watching with the crowd which had grown around him. From the look in his eyes this wasn't a normal request, it felt like the man would judge him on what came next.
"Most of the songs about that are in elvish, and would be lots on this fine crowd"
Keep them happy he warned himself dont insult them to much you fool
"However there is one, the tale of The Smith. I believe it goes something like this"
And so he sang. It was simple tale, a young smith married his true love and set up shop in the city. In it Morarth was fancifully described as a jewel of the world, a bastion of hope for all mankind. It was a very one sided tale. Eventually the wicked elves attacked The Smiths glorious home, driving an honest man into battle, as he took up his hammer and spent around two verses smashing elven skulls. In the end it was he who delivered the final blow to the elven leader, and while he was struck by one of their cowedly arrows, he died a hero, remembered in song.
By the time Kalic finished the crowd had thinned a bit, he didn't blame them, it wasn't a very good song. The few that remained clapped heartily, clearly these were people who held on to some old prejudice, with a bow Kalic looked up at Lars.
As the group gathered near the gate, a faint, but definite noise could be heard. An explosion that only a mage could cast reliably. The wind soon swallowed up the noise but all was silent within Morarth. Magi rampages were rare to say the least, but the last time one had happened a few dozen died in his destructive wake. Guards began to mobilize outside the city walls and yelling could be heard.
"He is getting away!"
"Stop that bastard!"
"H-he entered the King's Chamber."
The guards had gathered around the entrance to the black bottomless pit that devoured the light around it. The guards halted and within a minute, five or so men, one robed, one clad in leather armor, one wearing little and carrying a grass cutting scythe and one in large plate-mail all rushed past the few standing at the gate.
Guards were buzzing and people began to panic, running to their homes and the adventurers at the exit began to be the sole users of the streets. Nobody knew what was going on and anyone who had lived in this city would have noticed how panicked the guards seemed.
Rema watched the crowds run from the magical explosion, the worry clear on her face.
"Wait a minuet, what's going on?!" she tried to ask one of the passing guards. "Who is in the King's chamber?"
The chaos that occurred stopped the scathing words that Lars had prepared for Kalic during the shameful song. For a man that had read most - if not all - of the leading scholars on the Grand Finale, the song amounted to a children's nursery rhyme in complexities. But he didn't have time to think of that...
Lars watched in detached fascination as the guards tried to mask their panic and the streets quickly emptied.
"I thought the song was bad, but perhaps this is going a little too far..." Lars said to the young bard as he loosened the cleaver at his side and edged towards the nearest building.
Lithfin hadn't noticed that the others had left the tavern since he'd been busy gnawing at his arm, trying to get rid of some sort of bug that was crawling in his coat. When he looked up all the others had left, except Anguis, but Lithfin mistook him for a pile of dirty clothes.
"The city gates." a voice suddenly said. Lithfin turned his head. It was the bartender that had said it. "You're supposed to meet the others at the city gates". Lithfin didn't get it at first, but when he did he smiled brightly. He grabbed his sledgehammer and stood up.
"Thanks!" he said to the bartender before dashing out the door. The bartender shook his head, wondering if the werewolf had any idea what he was doing.
Lithfin had been surprised by the way humans behaved. Ever since he could remember he had heard stories from the elves about how dangerous they were, but he couldn't really see it. They had watched him, but none of them looked like they wanted to hurt him. Lithfin thought about this as he stood outside the tavern, looking around him as he was trying to find the city gates. He was taller than everyone else, so that wasn't a problem, but the buildings were in the way. He had no idea where he was and wondered how he would find the gates when something suddenly tugged at his pants. He looked down and saw a human child grinning brightly at him.
"You're big!" said the little girl. Lithfin smiled back at her.
"You small!" he replied. They both laughed, when Lithfin realized something.
"Oh! Need to go city gates. You know where?"
"Yes!" replied the little girl, then pointed to her right. "Just follow that street. You can't miss it!" Lithfin looked down at the little girl and patted her head, his huge hand covering her entire face.
"Thanks!" said Lithfin before he took off.
The girl hadn't been lying, but it still took him a while to get there. Even though the directions had been simple he got distracted and managed to go down the wrong street. He got to the gates eventually, and he saw Lars talking to Kalic. He also saw Anguis, this time not mistaking him for a pile of clothes.
There was suddenly a large explosion. Lithfin whimpered at the sudden bang and pressed himself against the wall next to the gate. Panic ensued in the streets. Lithfin didn't like it. He closed his eyes and tried to remain calm, taking deep breaths.
"Wait a minuet, what's going on?!" she tried to ask one of the passing guards. "Who is in the King's chamber?"
One of the guards stopped, looked around and sighed. The man was coated in the traditional guard's uniform. Studded leather armor, an iron helmet and boots. The guy was gigantic too, almost seven feet tall and dwarfed the elf in front of him. He looked rushed and in a hurry to get back to running around. "I don't know, all I know is that some mage caused a rock slide on the steps and he is gone. Nobody saw him at all, we assume that is where he had to go though. Probably got in an argument with the caravan crushed under that debris. Don't bother going in though, we got our best guys on it. The rocks won't be a huge deal and we can get rid of them in a month or two."
The guard scurried off and once he gained some distance, began running in a seemingly random direction. The inner gate was now unoccupied aside from the adventurers. All of the guards were either hiding in the barracks or crowding around the chamber.
Elbaron unsheathed his glaive, and hefted his shield to the ready.
Whoever had caused that explosion had been powerful...
Anguis pushed himself off of the wall, the explosion left an unpleasant tingle in his bones. The others seemed to have arrived at the gates, and Rema was questioning a guard about the explosion. He detatched a large beetle from his shoulder, sending it to investigate the exploion as he moved over to Rema and the guard.
"Is thisss going to be a problem?" he said, nodding towards the direction of the chamber.
"Shouldn't be" Kalic spoke, as he stopped his playing and joined the others.
"The Kings Chamber is at the top of the mountain, unless its our destination it wont matter. Why would we go there anyway? Anything anything good's been taken and going any lower is suicide."
Turning away from the others, he gathered up the coins he'd earned from playing. It wasn't much, but it was enough to fund the start of their adventure. Though he couldn't tell for certain that explosion was magical, either that or some alchemist decided to experiment in an old dungeon, either way it would be best to avoid.
Rema is clearly torn. On the one hand, they should really get going for the Crown. On the other, there might be people in need of medical attention, and she, as a doctor, cannot in good conscience leave them to die.
In a flash of light, which only Rema could see, the fairy fluttered and circled before landing on her shoulder. It seemed more than amused and lightly whispered in her ear.
"You can't do much for these people, go search for the Crown. The King's Chamber is a fine route to go! The crown is more important anyway."
Before Rema could respond, the fairy disappeared as quickly as it appeared.
Rema, startled, looked around for the strange flying thing after it disappeared. "Wait!"
But it was gone. And the good doctor looked rather odd, spinning around in place like that as if looking for something stuck to the back of her head.
Lars paced towards the group, watching Rema spinning confusedly on the spot. "Is this your way of deciding which way to go?" He raised his eyebrows in mock concern. "I hope you have at least an idea of where we need to look? If not," Lars shrugged his broad shoulders, "I'm gone."
The butcher wondered if the samsaran could be trusted to hold the group together. She seemed a little... occupied, as if her mind was somewhere else entirely.
"Are you alright?" Anguis said with feigned concern to Rema as she spun around, "We should head out sssoon."
Meanwhile his beetle neared the chamber, he could make ou the bodies of injured, but that hardly concerned him, the entrance to the chamber seemed intact, although it was difficut to make out details through the eyes of a beetle.
The poor blue healer nearly jumped when she was addressed by people that actually existed.
Recomposing herself, while keeping her hand around the hilt of her curved sword, she replied. "Ahem. I'm fine. I apologize, I... thought I heard something. What does everyone say to going through the King's Chamber?"