Millington Klantyre’s room, in the Salonikos Rest Inn (12 Fyrmont 997 AC)
There was a knock at the door. “Come in.”
Aidan entered the room, and looked around, “First one here?”
“Seems that way,” answered Mills, too engrossed in his woodcarving to look up.
Closing the door behind him, the halfling walked over to Mills. “What you got there?” said the Aidan, pointing towards the small pouch lying on the bed.
“Some…food-thing I picked up in Armstead. Try them if you want.”
Aidan leaned in to inspect the crisps, and after a moment, picked a dried-brown flakey crisp. “What are they?”
“Potatoes” Mills didn’t raise his head. He was working the fine detail into the sculpture.
Aidan bit into the crisp. The taste was like nothing he had ever tasted before – but he found himself enjoying it. “Tastes nothing like potato,” he stated, reaching to grab another.
Aidan propped himself onto the bed next to the pouch full of crisps. There was a quick knock and the door opened – Gotryk entered with Chord following. “Good, you’re back” he said looking at Mills. “So? Any news on Croaker.”
Mills set the woodcarving aside, sheathed his carving knife and gave the priest his attention, “Nothing much really – all that could be confirmed to me by some Captain Jakov, was that Croaker was to infiltrate the orc operations in the Dwarfgate Mountains.”
“For how long?”
“His own way, but he is to make use of Alfheim to get back to Selenica – safest route. Apparently this operation is a collaboration between the boys of Fort Hobart and the elves.”
“Is it just reconnaissance or something more?”
“Captain implied this is just a fact-finding mission.”
“Good. Aidan?” Gotryk now turning his attention to the halfling.
“The farrier is coming tomorrow morning to inspect, same price as last time should we require his services.”
“These are quite good,” said Chord, munching away on a particularly brown crisp.
“Potato,” answered Aidan, even though the question was not asked.
“Seriously?” asked Chord incredulously.
“So why are we here? And why are we meeting in room instead of downstairs?” Mills asked…he didn’t like this many people in his room.
“I’m waiting for the other two before we start.”
“Other ” corrected Montano as he entered the room. “Hmmm what is that?”
“Try them, bet you won’t guess what they are?” challenged Aidan. He was thirsty now – these brown flakes were rather salty. Montano tried one. “Does anyone want something from the bar?” he added – everyone confirmed.
“Chord, come with me,” Aidan said as he turned to leave.
“Wait” said Montano, as he reached into his pocket and handed the halfling his set of cuffs. “Whatever these are, they make the cut,” added Montano, his tone and expression reflecting his approval of the crisps.
“Would you believe they are potatoes?” said Aidan, leaving with Chord, right after witnessing the quizzical look upon Montano’s face.
Gotryk closed the door behind them, blocking out the noise from below, and turned to Montano, “What happened with Adelmar?”
“The guild took him, no problem. Also Janice was right; we found a home for the drakeling with one of the guild members, someone you would approve of. Trust me.”
Gotryk made a slight nod.
“How much?” asked Mills
Montano smiled and gave a momentary pause before answering, “3,000 daro,” amused by the look on their faces. “This has been an elite day for us my friends!”
Both the priest and Mills expressed their amazement on the amount. “All cash?” queried Gotryk.
“Nah, got a CLOC.”
“So where is Janice now?”
“Said she had a quick errand to run, but that it wouldn’t take long,” Montano replied, while he grabbed a few more crisps out of the pouch. “These are unbelievable. Where did we get them?”
“Armstead’s fair” Mills grumbled, while cleaning up the shavings on the table, trying hard to hide his annoyance. They were going through the bag like vultures.
At that moment the door opened with Aidan and Chord walking in carrying two large pitchers of ale and several glasses. A rather jubilant Janice followed them in. The pitchers and glasses were placed upon the table.
“Where have you been?”
“Confirming our sources,” she answered before handing Gotryk an envelope. “I’m sure Montano’s broken the news.”
“What news?” asked Aidan turning to Montano.
“Only that Mills slaughtered 12,000 daro worth of drakes, enough for all of us to enjoy a fairly long holiday in the Ierendi Isles,” cut-in Janice cheekily, winking at Mills.
“Well it was Umbarth merchandise, All I do, i do it for you,” Mills sort-of badly sang the last line making reference to one of Montano’s soppy romance ballads. Janice laughed.
“Did you sort out the supplies,” Janice asked Gotryk. Gotryk nodded.
“So is anyone going to tell us why we are meeting in the tin-suit’s stuffy room instead of the comfort of the tables and chairs below," asked Aidan, before grabbing one of the pitchers and a glass and finding a place on the bed to sit, near Chord.
“I can only imagine to eat me out of house and home” Millington muttered under his breath.
“There are too many ears downstairs and for a little guy, your voice carries too much when you get excited,” teased Gotryk. Aidan snorted. The priest then turned and addressed Janice , “..the floor is yours.”
Janice waited till everyone got into position before she began. Montano filled his glass with ale from one of the pitchers, leaned up against the wall near the window while Mills sat back down in his chair – the only one in the room.
“Well I was speaking to Tom Eskarden back in Armstead…”
“The Hallonica man?” interrupted Mills.
“Yes” said Janice “it appears our friends in the Hallonica House have been suffering attacks on their people and merchandise travelling the Black Peak Mountain pass between Reedle and Duke’s Road Keep in Karameikos.”
“Could this be related to what you were involved in some weeks back?” asked Montano looking at Gotryk and Mills.
“No,” assured Janice, “these attacks are completely unrelated. From what Tom said, the attackers are a group of mismatched humanoid races led by a spell-caster.”
“How long has this been going on?” asked Aidan, while filling up his glass with more more ale.
“Two-three months or so, on and off” answered Janice.
“But Verun never mentioned it,” said Mills, “and we met up with him a few times. Why wouldn’t he tell us? That sort of work is pretty much our purpose.”
“I’m, thinking this has to be personal,” Gotryk replied, “probably a sensitive issue. Also I felt our last meeting with him could have gone better.”
“ Hallonica House has sent their own people to investigate the matter but have had no success,” added Janice.
“Verun Hallonica,” said Mills, “had all the opportunity in the world to employ us, when we were there last time, but he didn’t. Has he changed his mind – did he reach out to us?”
“No,” Gotryk answered, taking the now near-empty pouch of crisps from Chord.
“Then, why are we here? What do we hope to accomplish?” asked Aidan.
“Verun is on his way out,” stated Janice flatly. “My sources inform me that the other two Hallonica siblings voted for him to be replaced as head of the Hallonica House – my guess is there have probably been too many incidents: with House Luciu and the Al-Azrads, these attacks, and who knows what else. His term ends at the end of this month. The new figurehead of Hallonica will be Verun’s older brother, Bertram. They say he is quite amenable. Good news is, we have an in with Tom Eskarden – after what we did at Armstead on Market Day. I’ve arranged for a meet, later today.”
“As I said, an elite day,” commented Montano.
“What about this spellcaster and humanoid entourage, what do we know of them?” asked Mills thoughtfully.
Gotryk handed the crisp-pouch to Janice. “Well, it appears from the descriptions of the attacks, the wizard is some sort of defiler.” After seeing the confused look upon the faces of his colleagues, Gotryk explained, “A defiler is a spellcaster who draws his power from sacrificing the life-force inherent in all things to fuel his spells.”
“Vicious,” remarked Aidan. Chord nodded in agreement.
“Yes, rather,” added Montano.
Janice finished the crisps and placed the emptied pouch on the table and reached for the pitcher and a glass. Studying Janice carefully, Mills challenged “10 Daro says you don’t know what these crisps are made from.”
“Make it 50 Daro and we have a deal.”
“Mills don’t,” Gotryk warned, remembering his first encounter with Janice back in Corunglain.
“She is bluffing,” tested Mills, eyeing her shrewdly. Gotryk buried his face in his palm.
“That drake-armour you had commissioned back in Armstead is going to cost you a little. I’m guessing 50 Daro is a little too rich for you, Milly” stirred Janice.
“You just sold us a drake, I’m flush right now,” replied Mills coolly, although everyone could see him making a mental tally. It was actually going to be a close month, lot of debts were coming due in fact. Mills figured if the smith finished the armour anytime soon, he was going to have to do some fast talking…
“So make, the, deal,” baited Janice, sensing his weakness.
“Buddy,” began Montano “think about it, she finished the crisps, never commented on them once, not a thing. Don’t do it.”
“He’s got a point,” chirped Chord, Aidan agreed.
“Fuck it. Forget it.” Mills backed down.
“We wouldn’t want you to look stupid now would we?” smiling Janice turned to the others.
“The rest of you bozos owe me 50 daro and I’m taking that out of your pay.” Finishing her drink and placing the glass on the table, she turned to leave the room.
“Can she do that?” Chord asked.
“She knew,” Mills agreed with the others, trying to convince himself that he didn’t just lose out on 50 daro.
“Potatoes,” Janice said without turning before opening the door and walking out.