Desert Heat

At a lowly pub in Blackdeath town...
Unwanted Visitor

You walk downstairs, after being given a surprisingly light bag of silver from the quartermaster’s office. It’s almost 21:00, and you decide to follow the age-old tradition of wetting a mission good luck. As you exit to the nearly deserted street you shiver, as the thick night fog starts to set in from the sea.
You all walk in silence across the deserted market streets, startling a cat picking through the garbage, and avoiding the guardhouse at the corner of Market street (even though you know that the guards are well paid to look the other way). You carefully slink between two storefronts to an unassuming alley, where an abandoned store with “J. Darrow, Cobbler” painted in flakey and faint black lies silent and waiting. You knock twice, rapidly, at the door and all three of you push your Guild pendants to the blackened, opaque, cracked store window. The door opens and you walk in, and down, taking care not to look at the bouncer that opened it.

This is J.D. Cobbler, the Guild’s bar, where the famous Thieves’ Test starts, where all teams drink to the good luck of their missions, and where all teams come to celebrate successful missions. It’s also open beyond curfew, which means that there are Guild members there around the clock – eating the terrible food, drinking the not-so-terrible drinks, and chatting with Martok, the bald headed, heavy set owner of the place, who is always, always, always there.

You nod at him when you enter, and slip into booth. Silver quickly scans the place. There’s a group of youngsters, trying their luck at the Thieves’ Test. How many will still be alive by dawn? There’s the six there, celebrating a mission successfully complete. By the looks of their clothes they are back from somewhere up north, somewhere significantly colder. There are more than the usual number of members just moping around, waiting, hoping for a job.
Jack growls his order, and then jumps when he sees a tall old man, with a flowing white beard, and even longer white hair sitting next to Hiriashi.
“Nobody invited you”, Hiriashi says, glaring at the man, who’s clothed in the clothes of a Salmonelis noble.
“I invited myself”, the stranger calmly answers.
“That’s a good disguise, a very good disguise, but I think that they’ll find out that you’re a fraud once they realize that you can’t do magic”, Silver points out.
“You’re awfully quiet, Jack. Don’t like the new mission much?”, the strayer asks with a smile
“Blast you old man. You know damn well that it’s a suicide mission. Now bug off and let us drink in peace. We at least deserve that after the pissing we’ve had just now”, Jack rumbles.
The stranger thinly smiles.
“Cheer up, young thug. You may not make it through the night. There are quite a few people in this city that want your mission to fail, let alone in Haven or in Sandstorm”, he states.
“We know that! We’re not idiots!”, Silver indignantly answers
“Ignore him, he’s just trying to get free drinks”, Hiriashi says.
“Who said anything about free? I’m here to sell, if you want to buy”, the stranger purrs.
“If it’s a map of Haven, we know it’s a fake. You’ve been conning people with that map for years”, Hiriashi blurts, “and we’re not that stupid”
“Fine then”, the stranger says, trying to his disappointment, “I won’t offer you my perfectly good map of Haven
“But I will give you a small tip, if you’ll care to buy me some Elvenwood wine”, he adds.
“Could you not pick a more expensive drink?”, Jack barks, “I’ll pay for no more than a darkwood ale, and that’s more than whatever junk you’re trying to feed us is worth. But at least you’ll bug off that way”, and he yells out the order.
The stranger is careful to wait for the drink to arrive, and quickly drowns down half of it, before Hiriashi grumbles and Jack grabs the mug, pounding it to the table, making the younglings jump and rush out to make their fortune.
“Start talking, or I start hurting”, grumbles Jack, while Silver is careful to play with a dagger dangerously close to the stranger’s belly, underneath the table.
“No weapons!”, Martok calls out, appearing at the table suddenly.
“None needed”, Hiriashi calmly nods, and orders a second round of drinks – but no more darkwood ale.
“Well?”, you all ask.
“You weren’t meant to go on the Pride at Sea”, the stranger mumbles. “The Swan was originally booked for your passage to Haven, and you were supposed to be off two days ago”
You look at him in disbelief.
“Even if, why do we care?”, Hiriashi points out, “Like you said, this is a suicide mission. So we got two more days to live – not a bad deal”
“Don’t you want to know what happened to The Swan?”, the stranger asks demurely.
“Wait, I know this. The Swan… there was a fire – something in the hold caught fire. Four crewmen died. The ship’s still under repairs in the south docks”, Silver chimes in.
“The crewmen weren’t crewmen, and they were dead long before the so called “accidental fire”", the stranger calmly states.
“What’s it to us? Do you know how many people will find a dagger in their belly by dawn? Who cares?”, Hiriashi retorts.
“They were members of the Guild, higher ranking than you, and they were meant to go on the mission that you were sent on. You are damage control – an attempt to show the Guild’s enemies that all is well. They’ve all but given up on this mission – there on some kind of plan B or C or D or F by now – but they’ve decided to send someone, someone expendable”, he says as he points to you, “to show everyone that business is as usual. But I’d wager a good sum that you won’t make it to the docks alive. There’s a lot of money and power to be gained from this here crises, and quite a few people who will go to great lengths to make sure that it’s not resolved. Watch your back, is all I’m saying, watch your back”, the stranger warns, and with that he disappears.
“Never did like that bloke”, Jack coughs as he gulps down a jigger of extra strong rum.
“Nobody does”, Hiriashi and Silver answer.


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