“As a child, my earliest memories were of a lone child in the streets of a small town. There was a monastery in the town and one of the monks took pity on me. He brought me into the monastery to educate in hopes of giving me a brighter future.”
“Then may I ask how you became a mercenary? Why not an educated profession as your beneficiary apparently intended?”
“Years ago the monks were attacked under the cover of darkness and the buildings razed to the ground. I survived because the monks hid me in the catacombs below. There was just enough moisture to keep the fire away, but I was the only survivor. Let us just say that I intend to keep my sword sharp and ready until I find the villains behind that attack.”
It was a practiced version, refined over the years. Created to be practical, plausible and half-true. There were plenty of monk groups scattered through the land and raids on them were common enough. The details you withheld wouldn’t be missed and would only make your job harder – assuming people believed the whole truth. Besides, even rumors connecting you to the Ameltian monks would dampen job options and could be deadly. They had been peculiar enough to earn more than their share of enemies and dark rumors. Even though they had been wiped out seven years ago, most people remained superstitious and feared them. And then of course, if the villains responsible learned you had survived … well, you’d much rather be the hunter than the hunted.
The merchant strokes his bearded chin. “What is your name?”
After you give it, the man replies, “I am Galen Tarish. You are an interesting man with a dark past, I see.” Galen grins. “I like you.” He gestures to the contract. “Please, feel free to study it and ask any questions you wish.” He waves to his servant to escort Taz out, leaving you and the merchant alone in the room.
For the most part, the contract was simply verbatim of what Galen had said. You eye him. “What’s the merchandise you trade?”
Galen shrugs. “Standard stuff – lots of quality fabric, including the best silk on the market – prime ale and wine, and spices with a few medicinal herbs.”
You raise one quizzical eyebrow. “So you don’t cater to the war?”
Galen grimaces. “I want nothing to do with it. It’s because of these idiots that I have to waste so much money on guards! All the cut-throats brought in by the war and paid to wander the countryside are half thieves and when they’re bored, they seem to think it’s fun to lurk around my estates, steal from my caravans and would probably love to demand ransom on one of my children. This war should never have happened, if only Lord Sander had any guts. Lord Tivolt and Lady Cinea are just dragging it out no matter the destruction it creates. They’re both wasteful fools!”
You nod, a slight smile edging your lips. The ‘old geezer’ has quite a bit of back bone.
Galen meets your gaze and leans back again in his chair, steepling his fingers. “You seem the cunning and intelligent type so I wonder. What is your opinion of the war?”
“If I favored it, I would have just joined one side or the other, but as you see, I’m here instead.” You sigh. “After a while, the principle of who is right and who is wrong is worthless compared to the lives wasted.”
Galen nods. “Yes, I do indeed favor you and need more men like you on my side. I think you would be wasted simply as a guard and am willing to offer you a deal. I need someone I can trust to help protect my lands, family and business from these fools. I think they have bribed and seduced information from my servants and workers. Sabotage is the next step and only an idiot would sit back and wait for them. They’ll ruin me if they can.” He scowls. “They’ve been working on it for years, but,” he adds with a smug grin, “I always outwit them in the end.”
“And what’s the deal?” you press, intent on the details and not just the theories. Ideals and abstracts don’t make money and they certainly don’t win fights. Usually they just make you an easy target.
“I will give you double the regular pay and you will have access to the main house and a private room in the servant quarters. You will report only to me.” His eyes grow serious as he studies you. “You would officially be the one in charge of keeping the main house secure. Unofficially, I want you to watch and learn who is loyal to me and who is out to destroy me.”
Take the job. Sure beats sleeping on the road.
“The special treatment would make it hard to mingle. Just hire me for the regular job and for a little extra pay I’ll watch over the caravans and report anything.”
“I’m not really into that sort of work. I’ll be fine with the regular job and if I happen to see anything, I’ll let you know.”
I’m outta here. I don’t want anything to do with this mess, be it real or just paranoia.
Voting is open until Friday.
For those who missed the rules for this game check them out here!
And to see how this adventure began, see Renegade Project #1