“Give us the tale of the Stormblades!”
“No, the Company of the Black Lantern’s fight against the dark elves!”
“I want to hear about the Jade Ravens!”
The storyteller’s gaze swept across his audience, lingering briefly on one then another of the eager young faces turned his way. With a small smile, he put aside his pipe and leaned forward. The crowd quieted in expectation as he began to speak.
“Those are all fine tales of great heroes, my friends. But I have a special story in mind for this evening, one you most likely have not heard before…
“In a way, it was Brightfather’s Day that brought them together. One day before the festivals began, a line of pilgrims, merchants, and would-be delvers stretched down the Emperor’s Road outside the South Gate. As bureaucracy turned its slow wheels and the line inched forward, a group of five near-strangers made awkward conversation below darkened skies.
“Bingle was a young and cheerful gnome with ideas of grandeur floating about in his head. His excitement about his new life in the city bubbled over into so fast a flow of words that he didn’t even notice that his new companions were largely ignoring the funny little fellow in old-fashioned wizard’s robes with the weasel riding on his head.
“Estin was an idealistic priestess of Teun, come to the stronghold of her faith to help the sisters there spread word of the blessings of technology. She had left a thriving family business as a blacksmith when she heard the call of her goddess, but she had never regretted that decision for a moment. The young woman with the bright red hair stood quietly by as the others began to get to know each other.
“Qumbarich was an oddity indeed, a dwarf raised by an elf in the ways of a human religion. The young monk had met Estin and Bingle while he searched the wide world for clues to his parentage and to the purpose of the magical amulet hanging from his neck. After years of fruitless searching, he was returning home to continue his search there (and to deliver an orphan he had ‘acquired’ in his travels to the Order of Dayra). The bald, tattooed dwarf listened eagerly to Bingle’s chatter, feelings of heroism welling up within him.
“Leovin was also returning home. The halfling did not speak much except to growl slightly when Bingle’s familiar got too close for comfort. However, I like to think that the gnome’s enthusiasm fascinated the streetwise thief. Certainly, he stuck close to the wizard as they neared the city gates.
“Cardo I leave until last because even today very little is known of this mysterious figure. He had traveled with Leovin, but whence he came before that he would not say. Rumor has it that there was a king’s ransom on his head in Dohrinthas and that Cardo was not even his real name. Regardless, the elf made no secret of the fact that he had come to Ptolus to make his fortune.
“As afternoon passed into evening, these five finally gained entrance to the city and were directed, upon their queries of adventure and gold, to Delver’s Square. The board there was full of bounties and quests, as usual, and a brief discussion led them to choose a minor haunting in a North Market neighborhood as their first job together. The promised reward of 75 gold Imperials was one of the smaller amounts on the board, but that led them to believe the task would be easy. They were mistaken.
“Investigating the ‘haunted’ house quickly revealed that there were no ghosts there (though Estin made an impressive display of holy power attempting to turn a white sheet). Instead, the place was infested with filthy goblins that had crawled up from the tunnels below the city through a hole in the cellar wall. The fight with the goblins was long and hard, and the party was forced to retreat from the cellar, Qumbarich unconscious and Estin and Bingle bleeding from several deep wounds. The people of the neighborhood did not take the news of goblins well, but Estin’s silver tongue soon calmed them.
“She took her companions to the temple of her goddess to rest and heal their wounds, even convincing the priestesses there to let them stay the night in the sanctuary surrounded by the creaking and grinding sounds of machinery as the night wore on. Their first day together had met with limited success, but the morrow was Brightfather’s Day, and it would signal the beginning of something greater than they could have imagined…”