Being a mercenary in Aviyon can be a lucrative venture. That is, if you live long enough…
Five years ago the king died, leaving behind no legal wife, let alone an heir. When the group that would have declared the new ruler is killed in a secret raid, the entire realm splintered in war as the three younger siblings of the late ruler each fought to place themselves on the empty throne. In an effort to limit the bloodshed, the oldest of the three demanded that no one could use magic or any sort of “unnatural” weapons, and that all battles happened outside of the main city. The others agreed. People rallied to their chosen leader. The passage of time brought generous wages, rich bribes and deadly sabotage, but the war drug on far longer than anyone intended. Eventually, the common people returned to till the stained and trodden earth in order to survive. Men once loyal now play one side against the other while the countryside turns lawless. The eldest of the three has recently withdrawn from the battle and the other two face nearly empty treasuries.
You can feel the tension and hint of desperation when you enter a local tavern. People sit in tight groups around each table, but peer warily over their shoulders at anyone that moves or raises their voice. Colored scraps of fabric tied around upper arms boldly declare allegiance – gold for Lord Tivolt and purple for Lady Cinea. Of the entire room of thirty or so, one or two still wear blue, despite the official withdraw. Rumor has it that Lord Sander is broke. Several men from each table turn to eye you. Determined to scout out your options before signaling any sort of preference, you make your way to a seat at a table of men without armbands.
At first, the men peer up at you skeptically, but a relaxed smile and an offer to pay a round of drinks earns an eager welcome. By the time the drinks arrive, the men around have returned to the typical grumbling and bragging about their exploits. You listen with aloof interest, only speaking enough to keep the conversation going and drinking only enough of your own ale to avoid questions.
Finally, one of the men brags about a cushy job he has with a local, wealthy merchant. Room, board and ale are generously included as well as decent pay. The job sounds simple, just guard the guy’s caravans for short trips to the towns in the nearby area and when there’s no trips, help keep the estate secure. Can’t get much easier than that. However, it seems that this merchant guy demands that anyone he hires promises at least six months of service up front.
Usually, someone like you would never consider such a commitment. Much better to be able to check it out and have the freedom to cut and run whenever you need to. On the other hand, with money scare and people desperate, betrayal was all too common. Your last employer skipped out of paying you for a whole month of work. So you continue to listen in.
“Well, the merchant is an old geezer with lots of family baggage. He’s crabby, but it hardly matters since he doesn’t deal directly with the caravans. His oldest son runs all the trips and he’s doesn’t really give a darn as long as the merchandise gets delivered on time.”
“Gotta daughter too,” the man added with a wink. “She’s one lass I’d like to get to know better.”
The others in the group laughed, but when they pressed for details, the man sighed and shrugged. “The old geezer keeps a close eye on her. She never leaves the estate and the other son is always hangin’ around her. He always wears a sword, but I doubt the brat can actually use it. Think the old man orders the jerk to keep an eye on her.”
One of the other guys grins. “Probably all for show. Sounds a lot more profitable and interesting than my last job. Who do I gotta talk to to get in?”
You decide that the profit and luxuries of the job might outweigh the contract issue and certainly beats the option of being dime-a-dozen meat fodder for the warring factions. It’s worth looking into anyway. So you tell the other interested guy that you’ll tag along.
With that decided, you take your meal in your room. You eat what you can stomach and shove the hard-roll in your stuff for the morning.
In the morning you wait in the common room for the other guy, but several hours pass and it’s approaching noon before he stumbles into sight, clutching his head and muttering curses.
Rolling your eyes, you confront the guy, remind him of the job offer, and help him stagger out of the inn.
By the time you track down the address it’s almost evening, but your companion has recovered from his hang-over and after washing his face at a nearby well, he’s presentable. However, hunger gnaws at you and after hours of dragging the guy around, you’ve decided that you don’t like him. When he finally gets around to giving you his name, it only confirms your conclusions – Taz sounds more like a street urchin or cutpurse and not a respectable mercenary.
The estate lies at the very edge of Aviyon and looks like an old military garrison with rotting timbers and crumbling brick mortar that someone had tried to convert into sprawling nobleman’s home, but gave up in the middle of the process. Moss and dark ivy tendrils covered sections of the outer wall allowing multiple areas for would-be intruders to hide and considering the crumbling gaps you can see, you wouldn’t be surprised if some of the ivy covered holes big enough for such an intruder to slip through.
When you inquire about the job at the guard house, you are led through a servants’ entrance in the back of the main house and into a sparse library where an old gray-haired human sits at a large desk scribbling on parchment and counting silver coins.
He peers up at you with squinting gray-blue eyes. “What do you want?”
Whip out your knife and demand, “Hand over those coins and no one gets hurt.”
For those who missed the rules for this game check them out here!