It was a bright, shining morning in County Birgh. Small puffs of clouds drifted across the sky like gently floating wisps of cotton while a light breeze kept the worst of the day’s heat off of the townsfolk. The peasantry itself moved like a sea of people, each on their own business. Today was one of the many dedicated days off, as decreed by the Count Greengarden and the Temple of the Sun Goddess. There was an air of general cheer and anticipation of the coming festival.
That is, until the town criers announced the day’s news. On the corner of a cobblestone street, a mousy-haired half-elven boy stood atop a barrel and cried out,
“Count’s daughter vanished! Kidnapping suspected! The Count Greengarden will reward any with information regarding her whereabouts! Promises to reward handsomely any who return her safely! Report to City Hall for more information!”
The crowd stopped, considering for a moment. The Count’s daughter had a reputation for running off and causing trouble. Some turned and began heading toward the City Hall, doubtless imagining the kind of coinage the Count would give to them if they found his daughter. Elsewhere…
In a back alley, two hooded figures were conversing in hushed tones. One said something to the other, who laughed a gravelly smoker’s laugh. They cocked their ears almost in unison as the town crier began his spiel again and the second turned to the first. Sigurd Stoneside was a human thief, known for his quick feet and quicker tongue. He was tall and lean, with greasy blonde hair and steel grey eyes. A few scars decorated his jaw. Next to him was Cailín, his recent partner in crime.
“Now listen. I know you like to keep your anonymity, but the Count is loaded. You could make more with this one job than we’ve made in the last month. And a charitable donation may be just what you need to become a fully-fledged member of the guild.” As he spoke, he gestured with his hands. His sleeve slipped just slightly to reveal part of a tattooed crow on his right wrist.
“Think, Cailín. You do this one job and we can disappear you so well, even you’ll think you never existed.” He chuckled at his own joke.
In the wilderness, the ranger Rambat was undergoing yet another lesson. Ishmael spoke from behind his curtain of ivy, voice both impossibly far and near at the same time.
“You must know the space about you beyond simple sight, for there will come a time when you cannot rely on what you can see. Close your eyes and allow your other senses to detail the room. Feel the wind and dirt, smell the woodsmoke and earthen scent, taste the cool air, hear the birdsong and the movements of the trees. They speak in their own language, and in time I will teach you to understand the birds and the trees.” Ishmael fell silent while he waited for Rambat to follow his instruction. Then, there came a sound from behind the curtain.
All the while Rambat had been mentored by Ishmael, there had never been a sound from behind his teacher’s curtain save for his voice. But now there was a sound, like the shifting of wood and leaves.
“That is all for our lessons for a time. I have a new lesson for you, one that will require all of my teachings hence. Venture into town and find the City Hall. Once there, ask for information regarding the Count’s missing daughter. Find the Count Greengarden’s daughter and the foul men who have taken her. Return her to the Count unharmed and strike down those who have wronged the forest. They have desecrated a site of great importance in their escape from the Count’s men and hounds. Go, quickly!”
In town, two blue-coated guards were watching a half-orc with scrutiny. So far, he seemed like he wasn’t up to any trouble, but they were looking for any excuse to stop him. They muttered to each other for a bit, then crossed the street quickly. Both were human men, one with brown hair and a beard, the other blonde and clean-shaven. The blonde-haired guard was considerably older and tapped Golgoth on the shoulder.
“Do you have a permit for that sword? Otherwise, you cannae have it out like that, ‘specially on a Day of the Sun. Count’s decree.” He held out his hand, obviously expecting a permit.
“If not, you’ll be fined for illegal possession of a weapon. You may also spend up to a week in jail and be assigned up to 3 month’s work in the quarry. At any time after that, you may register your weapons with the Lawmaster’s Office and purchase a permit. That particular sword will be confiscated and will not be returned, however.” The guard continued in a droll voice. Despite his bored tone, his eyes suggested he was enjoying watching Golgoth squirm.
A large red hand came down on the guard’s shoulder. The guard turned, most likely to tell the owner of said hand to piss off, but stopped with hard glare. Calog the Red stepped forward and into the conversation. The crest of the Emperor and the coat of arms of the Iron Claw declared him a higher authority than either of the guards. He nodded and in a deep, Northern accent introduced himself.
“Calog the Red, Knight of the Iron Claw and Hand of the Emperor. I can vouch for this man and provide him with any necessary permits he may require.” He gave the guards a harsher glare, almost daring them to disrespect the authority of a Knight. The guard wrenched his shoulder away and the two turned and walked away, muttering angrily to each other. Calog turned back to Golgoth. In a much friendlier tone, he said,
“I would recommend getting a permit. May save you the trouble next time. What is your name, warrior?”