C H A P T E R : O N E
From the dust of ages past a new world rises, inheriting the trauma of that which came before. Rends in the earth span miles and spurt the fresh blood of chaotic magics, and the stonework of lost civilizations pushes up from the ground like scar tissue. Around one such scar, its history all but forgotten, is huddled the city of Arskel. To some a dead-end, the last stop on a road to nowhere, to others a shelter for the lost where redemption may yet be found.
From a distance the ruins atop the Cliff struck an imposing silhouette, casting their shadows upon the city beneath, but a closer inspection would reveal their decrepit nature. Vines twisted up through cracks in the crumbling masonry, and much of what remained was supported by the wooden beams of the shanty town that crowded the base of the stonework. Yet in spite of its appearance, it bustled with life. Some stalked its narrow alleys with concealed blades and ill intent, but others stuck together. Gathered around communal fires, they shared what little they had amongst each other and blessed the coming day.
Below, fishing boats had already begun to ply the waters from the Lake district. The morning's catch lay fresh upon tables and in stalls, waiting to be sold or salted. A short distance to the south, uphill and upwind, lay the walled off Gold Quarter of the Lake district. Every inch of the district was in use, while the streets were broader and better maintained than elsewhere in the city, the decadent homes of the wealthy were slotted together as tightly as the more austere portions of the city. The guard here remained on a vigilant patrol against the vagrants that called Arskel their home, and the clubs at their side were typically well-worn.
Beginning on the northern edge and running through the heart of the city was a single artery that connected Arskel to what many considered to be the greatest civilizations the world had to offer, the Road. Nestled between the two extremes, this is where the majority of the citizens resided and carried out their day to day affairs. The streets were crowded by foot traffic, with a rare few mounts and beasts of burden being led by travelers.
At the center of the Road district stood the Wayfarer's Guild
, the largest and most renowned guild in Arskel, and in fact the region as a whole. A modest perimeter wall enclosed the compound which housed the main hall, a central tower with two wings extending to the east and south respectively. Several smaller structures that served other miscellaneous functions also lined the inner walls. Today the initiates who had gathered from around Olanthus to seek a new life would begin their trials to become true Wayfarers. Each of them had already been to the guild hall before and been approved by Oswynn Caragan
, Junior Vice-Captain in charge of initiation. Some time today, each of them had also received their summons.
Coming through the gates of the compound, the eastern wing of the guildhall was a tall, single-story structure built into the wall it abutted. The three initiates, two elves and one stone dwarf, had been led by an adept into what appeared to be a common area wihin that wing. The high-ceilinged chamber could comfortably seat dozens at the scattered wooden tables distributed haphazardly throughout the room. For the moment, there were only a few groups using the area, having drinks and going over plans in a casual manner. Some had scrolls rolled out on the table and were leaning over them, pointing and commenting in voices that couldn't be heard from where the group stood.
At a table near the entrance, a dainty ice-gnome in polished armor sat nursing a tankard of what was likely ale.
"Good morning! I'm so glad you all- Oh, there's only three of you?
" Her expression went from chipper, to disappointed before bouncing back again. "Never mind that, I'm your handler, Kiska! And you are?
Finn found himself in one of the guild's briefing rooms. It was a rather bare room with none of the adornments that were typical of the southern wing. These plain briefing rooms were typically used for initiations, which he would know considering he had gone through this process himslf several years ago. In the center there was a round wooden table with sturdy chairs, and a shuttered window looked out onto the training squares in the guild courtyard. Other than that the room was empty, that is except the two new faces to the guild, hoping perhaps to find fame and fortune, or maybe accomplish more mundane goals? There was no way for him to know yet.
What Finn might have noticed, however, is that there was supposed to be a Handler with him. He had been told that he would be filling a spot on an initiation assignment, as there had been an unusual number of no-shows, but he had yet to be briefed on exactly what that assignment was.
On the other side of the common area from the first team, a faun stood at the head of another table with a red-skinned figure beside him. Although he was attired in simple robes, his bearing was calm and confident, almost regal. He made a polite gesture for the initiates to sit as they arrived, but whether or not they chose to he continued.
"Welcome to the Wayfarer's Guild, I hope you find it to your liking. I'm your handler, Suran Reshta,
" the introduction might have come off as canned, but perhaps that's what happened after years of greeting initiates. He gestured to the figure beside him. "And this is Rohaan, we have a few missing faces, nothing to worry about, so he will be taking their place.
" Had there been a crack in his façade when he said nothing to worry about?
"Alright. You four will be working together on this one,
" the orc, with his gravelly voice and stoic expression, struck an imposing figure, or at least he would have were it not for the giant-blooded Khol. He seemed unfazed by the group before him, as if it were just another Monday in the guild. "I'm Logrim. After you've introduced yourselves, I'll go over the details of the mission and we'll see what you've got.
The five of them, four initiates and their handler, stood in one of the training squares in front of the proper guildhall. Logrim had been pacing a rut in the grass since the first one had arrived, and finally seemed to settle down at the last appearance.