The note looked small and insignificant next to all the wanted-posters and colourful ads for “Emon’s newest, and most spectacular theatre! Opening on Wednesday at 8.” But it somehow managed to catch Kima’s attention and she ripped it off looking closer.
Strong people, up for a fight, talk to Günter Boneback at the Wyvernhound for a job. You’ll get 10 000 gold.
It was hastily written down and Kima almost had a hard time figuring out what the note said. This Günter seemed pretty desperate, but also didn’t want to catch too much attention to whatever he needed help with. It sounded like the perfect mission, she thought with a smile, and it was actually the first one she had found since she started looking two days ago. Two entire days with only walking around searching for people with a job, while also trying not to get lost. She was fairly new to Emon and she was already starting to miss her much smaller home-city.
Kima had spent the majority of the past months devoting her time to her faith. A necessary task for a paladin, but not always the most fun thing to do in her own opinion. She was devoted to her platinum dragon though, so despite how demanding it sometimes was she went through it without complaining. She had finally decided to take some time off studying and daily prayer in the temple to have some time for second biggest interest in life. Beating things up.
She put the note in her pocket and turned towards the closest creature in her vicinity. It happened to be a dragonborn. She tapped her on the shoulder (or as close to the shoulder she could reach).
“Yeah?” the dragonborn said as she turned her blue-scaled head around to look at Kima. She looked friendly, but sort of intense, with a pair of eyes that could read your most inner intents.
“Do you happen to know the way to the Wywernhound?” Kima asked.
“The Wywernhound… Hm.” She sank down in thoughts for a second before lighting up. “In fact I do! It’s not too far. Just go out to the right and then turn left at the third exit, then left again when you see a statue in the shape of a wolf…” Her instructions went on for a while and Kima had to try her hardest to remember everything. When the dragonborn was done Kima quickly thanked her and made her way outside. She was eager to take on the mission.
After walking around for a while she realised that she had forgotten almost half the directions and turns, but she pushed on trying to find the way. She’d be damned if she couldn’t even remember simple directions.
“Bloody far away. I’m getting old.” She muttered, and laughed to herself as she kicked a small stone on the walkway. It bounced away a couple of feet and then stopped making clinking noises on the ground. Much like that gold would if she could just get to that tavern, Kima though as she watched it’s journey.
“Bahamut show me the way.” She sighed and continued walking. Unfortunately her dragon didn’t seem to be of any help today and it took her several hours before she finally saw an old sign sticking out from a building reading “The Wyvernhound”. It was getting dark and she realised that she needed to be in and out quickly if she wanted to find her way back to the temple before dark. Her stubbornness had gotten her this far and she was not about to give up.
Inside there were quite a few people, but it wasn’t stacked. She looked around the room to see if anyone looked like a Günter Boneback, but with only a name it wasn’t the easiest. Instead she went up to the bar and took a seat, maul on her shoulder, grabbing a few coins from one of her inner pockets in case she would have to bribe him.
“’Scuse me, is Günter here?” she asked the person standing in the bar. A half-orc with grey skin and a mighty, beard adorning his face, who was cleaning a glass as big as hear head with a surprisingly clean rag. “Günter Boneback?”
He put down the glass and looked up at her with a wide smile on his face.
“Well yer lookin’ right at him!” he said and walked up to her. “What can I do ye for?”
“I’m interested in the job.” She held out the small note to him and he nodded.
His face immediately turned more stern and secretive, but his smile didn’t fade as he took the piece of paper. He took a quick glance around the room and then leaned closer to Kima.
“They call him the Scourged Rider.” He said in a low voice. “He’s an Efreeti from the Fire Plane and he owes me ye see. I won against him in a game of cards an’ ‘e gave me this beautiful ring.” He raises his hand to show Kima a golden ring with ornate carvings on the side in a language she did not understand on his right, middle finger. On top there were three jewels. One red, one blue, and one green, sparkling even in the dim tavern light. “Ye see ‘e told me it could do all sorts of magic things and foolish as I was I believed him. But when I put it on, there was a spark of some type-a light and I almost died. If it wasn’t for my lovely wife – may Pelor bless her soul - I wouldn’t be standin’ here talkin’ to ye. We still haven’t found a way to get the bloody thing off though an’ I quite like me fingers so I don’t wanna cut any off. It attracts unwanted attention, but to be honest I’m starting to grow quite fond of it…” He trailed of inspecting the shimmers the stones gave off as he slowly turned his hand in different angles. Kima cleared her throat and gestured for him to continue with an inpatient look.
“Oh, yeah, anyways, I want this bloke dead of course. I don’t care how ye do it, just bring me his head so I can see it with me own two eyes. And also to know ye ain’t extorting me or something. Not that you seem like the typ-a gal that would, but I’ve learned my lesson in trusting people if ye know what I mean.” He chuckled and looked at Kima, but she just gave him a cold stare. It was getting late and listening to this man’s life story was not how she wanted to spend the rest of her evening. She needed to get back to the temple.
“Oh, not a jokester.” He mumbled to himself. “Well… heh. I’d do it meself but me legs ain’t what they used to. An’ I never really liked travelin’ either. I got a lot of information about him and his whereabouts though, so all ye have to do is find him and take him out. I don’t really have a strict time limit. But it’d be great if ye could be back before Winters Crest. I’d love to burn ‘is head in one of the fires ye see. So that would be in uh…” He counted quickly on his fingers. ”… about a month. That sound like an okay deal?”
Kima thought for a while. He seemed like the type of barkeep who loved to tell a good story to whoever was in earshot. If it hadn’t been for his apparent dislike for traveling he might have become a bard, she thought. But she had the sense that he was someone she could trust. He wouldn’t just send you into certain death, and besides, it was a very lucrative job.
“Depends on where he is. I’m not the fastest.” She answered and gestured towards her Halfling form. It wasn’t intended as a joke, but Günter chuckled.
“Well, from what I’ve heard he seems to mainly roam about Markett. He’s from the fire plane, but I doubt he’d go back there anytime soon. ‘E seems to have been banished. From his own home. Must be tough, but it serves him right. I’d advise ye not to go alone though. Nothin’ against ya, I couldn’t even take him out on my own.”
She nodded. One month to get to Marquet and back was quite far, she definitely couldn’t get there on foot in time and maybe not even by horse. There were some airships in Emon and a few teleportation circels, but she didn’t have the money nor the rank to use any of them.
She was just about to decline the offer with a heavy heart when a human sitting a few chairs away looked up at them.
“I might be able to help.” She said with a smile and moved closer. Kima felt a sting of hope, but then she realised that the woman had been eavesdropping their conversation in a shady bar and the feeling turned into suspicion. She narrowed her eyes. The woman was clad in blue, surprisingly clean robes and she had a brown leather bag at her side. She looked friendly and at the moment and Kima saw no weapons on her. Considering how stupid it would be to walk into, well, anywhere defenceless, the woman had to be some sort of magic wielder, or just very good at hiding her knives.
“And why do you think that.” Kima asked leaning back, while tightening her grip around her maul.
“Well, you see. I can fight… a-and I have a few friends that could help too. We’re actually… Well it would probably be better if we discussed it in private.” She gave Kima an admonishing look and indicated the people around the bar. “We have a room upstairs.”
Not realising until now that this was an inn and not a bar Kima felt even less trusting towards the entire circumstance, but nothing about the woman seemed threatening. It was either following her - maybe get ambushed, but hopefully getting a lot of money - or just head home without anything until she could find some new mission.
“Fine. I accept the deal.” She said and nodded to Günter as she hopped off the chair. Günter only smiled back and went back to drying glasses.
“Great! Good luck, you two!”
If Kima had wondered how he could be fooled by that so-called “Scouraged Rider” before she knew now. Despite trying, Günter was way too trusting with people. She sighed, shook her head, and looked up at the human, now walking beside her towards a flight of stairs she hadn’t noticed before.
“If try anything funny I swear to Bahamut that it’ll be the last thing you do.” Kima said with a stern voice.
“Oh I don’t doubt it.” The woman answered with an understanding smile. “I’m Allura by the way.”
“Kima.” Kima grunted back. She didn’t hold out her hand and walked in stubborn silence until Allura stopped in front of one of the doors. She knocked in what seemed like a specific pattern and then opened it revealing a small room with two bunk beds. Inside were three more people and Kima quickly grabbed one of her daggers. But none of them made a move towards her. They only looked at her curiously. Two of them, a gnome and a human, were sitting on either bed playing cards and the third, a dwarf with a beard and long brown hair, was leaning against one of the walls reading a small book.
“Hey guys, this is Kima.” Allura started, not sounding quite as confident anymore. ”She’s going to join us, hopefully. Kima, these are my… friends. Dohla:” She gestured to the gnome who gave Kima a small wave and a smile.
“Welcome to the party.”
“Ghenn.” Allura continued and the human nodded towards her. Kima said hello to both of them and loosened the grip on her dagger. If they wanted to attack her they would have done so already.
The dwarf only looked back at her with mild suspicion.
“Can we trust her?” He asked, not putting down his book.
“Well hello to you too.” Kima muttered and leaned toward the opposite wall, not sure where she fit in among all the new people. Allura closed the door behind her and, as she did, said a word in a language she didn’t understand. The door glowed with a white light for a short second and then went back to being the same old wooden door. Kima had no idea what kind of spell Allura had cast but she knew she had been right; Allura was an arcanist.
“I overheard her talking with one of the bartenders and she’s taking on the same mission as us. Different boss though. Uriel wasn’t wrong when he said that the Efreet had made quite a few people upset.” Allura explained as she sat down beside Dohla. “He’ll give ten thousand gold if she brings him his head, so I think she wants to catch him just as much as we do.”
“That’s my money though!” Kima burst out when sudden interest showed in the gnome’s eyes. She had worked hard to find this job and she’d be damned if she split the price with four other people.
“We’re not gonna take your money.” Drake said with a flat voice going back to his book. “We have a deal with the sovereign so we’re gonna get our moneys’ worth anyway.”
“Uriel?” Kima was impressed, Drake seemed honest, which should mean that she was sitting among pretty important people. It wasn’t just anyone who got an audience with the head of Emon.
“Yeah, word got out that he was looking for people to aid him, and we all showed up. Not at the same time, of course, but he put us together as some sort of task force. He didn’t want to send his own guards. Not sure if he needed them to stay here or if he was just embarrassed.” Dohla laughed. “But here we are.”
“Apparently the Efreeti pulled some sort of trick on him. He didn’t want to say what it was, so probably nothing good. He wants to bring him to justice after what happened and seemed really upset.”
“Justice as in a trial or as in death?” Kima hoped the latter but Dohla only shrugged.
Allura looked troubled for a moment.
“I’d like to put him to trial… But they don’t agree with me,” she gestured toward the rest of her party, “and Uriel said that we should do what we could. I don’t know what’s easiest. Capturing an Efreeti or killing one.”
“Well I’m here to kill it.” Kima said with a stern look towards Allura, who nodded.
“That you are.”
They sat in silence for a moment before Drake spoke up.
“Well on to more practical things. We’re planning to go to one of the bigger libraries tomorrow to see if we can find some information about Efreet. Their potential strengths and weaknesses, et cetera. We’ve been to a few already but not found more than that they seem to be resistant to fire. As for today, it’s evening and we have a room here with five people and only four beds.”
Kima was getting the impression that he didn’t trust her yet and would rather have her sleeping somewhere else. She felt the same about him.
“Well, I was planning to go back to my temple…” Kima said as her voice trailed off looking out the window. It was already pitch-black outside and considering how long she had wandered around trying to find the inn the chance of her finding her way back before dawn was very low. Staying didn’t seem like the best option either; sleeping in a room with four strangers. She highly doubted that they would attack her, she just preferred to have her own room when sleeping. All the snoring and the overall presence of other people in her vicinity had always made her made feel uneasy.
“You can sleep with me!” Dohla said jokingly with a wink.
“Thanks, but I think I’ll just rent my own room.” Kima answered, giving Dohla her first smile of the evening. She pulled out her pouch with money, which she luckily hadn’t had to use yet. She did have enough for a few nights and it was probably best to stay at the inn with her newfound party. But the longer they stayed, the less she could spend on what she would need for the mission. Potions.
“Allow me.” Allura stood up and pulled out a pouch of her own from her bag, much larger that Kima’s. ”It’s the least I can do for the inconvenience.”
Kima didn’t complain and let Allura follow her down to the bar, where Günter was still cleaning cutlery.
“Have you done many missions like these before or are you just rich?” Kima asked her, gesturing at the pouch, as they were walking down the stairs. She hadn’t meant for it to sound so harsh. “I mean um… You seem to have a lot of money…”
Allura only smiled at her.
“I’ve made magical items since I was a child. They weren’t that good at first, I tried to make bags of holding, but some of them ended up destroying things you put into them, or took away the magic on items instead. I got a lot better with time and one day I realised that I could probably sell them to other people. One doesn’t really need more than one bag of holding after all.”
“Cool.” Kima answered. It was the only response she could give. If Allura was telling the truth she was truly a powerful archanist. To make bags of holding when only a child…
“Is that one of them?” She asked and pointed to the bag Allura had been carrying with her.
“It is, actually! One of the earliest designs. I wanted to keep it as a memory. I’ve gotten a lot better since then.”
“’Ey there again ladies.” Günter interrupted their conversation with a wide smile. “Everythin’ going okay with the mission?”
“Splendid.” Kima answered. “We’d like- I’d like a room. Only a few nights. If we stay longer I’ll pay for more.”
“Of course! Here ya go. Room 25, is luckily available. Just beside yer friends. That’ll be 30 gold for 3 nights.” He handed Kima a brass key with the number 25 engraved in it and a candle for light, as Allura handed him the gold. They made their way back upstairs.
“What about you?” Allura asked.
“Yeah, I learned magic by making items, how did you learn to fight?” She nodded at the maul, still resting on Kima’s shoulder.
“Well, you kinda have to, living in a world like this one. Lot of people out there who don’t want you any good.” Kima answered, Allura didn’t say anything and waited patiently for Kima to continue.
“It’s a long story.” Kima sighed as she slid the key into the lock and opened the door to her room. Allura didn’t push her on it and knocked her secret pattern on her room door, but she looked interested.
“Perhaps a story for another time.” She said.
“Another time.” Kima nodded. “Good night.”
“Good night!” Allura smiled once more at her before she went into her room, braids and robes flowing behind her as she closed the door. Kima shook her head and laughed a bit as she got ready for bed.
“Bahamut what is this plan you have for me?” She asked as she laid down on her bed, blowing out the candle that Günter had given her. An unexpected day, but not in a bad way. Maybe she could actually make some friends in this city.