Prologue: The Citadel of Ilmwatch

Prologue: The Citadel of Ilmwatch

The Citadel of Ilmwatch: The Docks
10th of Flamerule 1374 DR: Morning

A sea voyage was never an inexpensive affair. A person of little means seeking passage aboard a ship could borrow, serve beside the crew or attend a wealthy passenger. A lucky few sailed with the blessing of a sponsor such as a crusading church or a center of learning sending forth finders of lore. However a traveler arrived one worry preyed on the thoughts of many as the white walls looming above the cliffs heralded the limit of their journey. They were also near the end of their resources.

The citadel stood isolated against its backdrop. Mountains to the west and to the northeast. But its docks crawled with activity. Ships berthed and lowered their ramps. Dock hands ran to unload their cargo. Darting among the crates, men and women wearing pale blue vests with the image of an evenly balanced scale upon their backs. Merchants watched nervously and wiped their brows whenever a laden wagon lumbered from the quay. Soldiers were very much in evidence observing the wharf and a more distant row of warehouses.

There were other passengers slinking away from the ships. Some armored, bearing arms and looking humbled amid lines of their ilk. Sighing relief as they veered toward a stone plaza with the streets of the city in sight beyond it. At every corner of a square pavilion signboards under a picturesque coat of arms (a ship borne on the waves) held a pronouncement etched in bronze plate. It was tedious reading in Common.

Towards the ship lumbers a tall man, impressive in his rarity: He stands at six feet and two inches, with a decent layer of muscle covering both arms. His skin is a greenish-gray, and he wears a covering of armour made of what seems to be bearhide. Set in his jaw is a set of ugly yellow teeth, as well as two large tusks jutting from his bottom lip. His hair is black, and set in coarse war-braids as it cascades down past his shoulders. At his hip is a finely made steel scimitar, curved blade resting against his side with wicked intent. Indeed, he is a half-orc to the bone, but there are a few oddities that suggest the other half is not exactly human. His ears taper into points like those of an elf, which, combined with his tusks, makes for a truly imposing picture. He is rather slim for his height and muscle tone, looking to weigh only around one-hundred and eighty pounds. He is very definitely still a half-orc, but with slight elfish qualities. The mere idea of an elf/orc hybrid is enough to make one shudder.

The half-orc walks to the nearest signboard, hazel eyes peering out cautiously from beneath a jutting brow and darting side to side, as if expecting a fight at any moment. He begins to read over the sign, although the fact that this creature can read at all is somewhat surprising. Under his breath, a deep and brutish voice mutters, voice slurred from its tusks and as if he is unfamiliar with the tongue, "Heskar Brandosk, Lord add-ad-admerrull of this inst-insta-instalashun by commis-com-commish-" His eyes darken, obviously growing increasingly frustrated at the unpronounceable words. His right hand slides down to his hip where the sword lay, and he plucks it from the ring on his belt holding it in place. With one quick thrust, he drives it through the paper and splits it in twain. Calmly, his anger sated for now, he places the sword back in its rightful place at his side. His legs move out from underneath him, and he sits cross-legged on the ground in front of the board, eyes scanning from left to right and back to left as if daring somebody to confront him.

A tall man stopped at the sign. He wore a breastplate, had a large axe strapped to his back and slung a lumpy-looking sack over his shoulder. A scar ran down his cheek down to a corner of his mouth. The patch of paler skin widened when he shook his head with a sneer.

"What a load of crock. Say anything to skim a few gold from some hapless saps. Least I hope it's a few gold."

The traveler leaned forward to get a better view of the pavilion's interior. Along the far wall several persons sat behind a row of desks. They were wearing the same light blue vests as the busy-looking clerks at the wharf. One of the persons was a lovely young woman. The man with the scar smiled as he tipped his chin and raised his hand in a little wave.

Behind the doorway a soldier wearing chain stood with his arms folded across his chest. He snickered at the gesture.

The new ship coming in causes Rebecca to run over to the dock. She looks up with eager eyes at all of the people disembarking from it. As a new adventurer, she was still getting used to the many things that she had never seen back in her small home. The sea had been one of the most fascinating yet, but the ship itself could not be dismissed easily. The thought of such a large vessel being able to cross the water was almost magical to her.

Wow! I hope I get to be on one of those someday! She pauses, suddenly feeling guilty at her interest. Ah... after I find Lucas, that is. I'm on a mission! I can't forget that! She lightly hit her forehead with her fist. No forgetting! From now on, I have to be more serious!

At seeing a huge man in front of the sign, Rebecca slides over to see what is written on it. She wrinkles her nose at the complicated words. "I have no idea what any of that means." She turns her gaze upward to the man that towers over her. Even though he does not look human, she is not bothered by their racial differences. Surely there were a lot more races in these towns that she had never met. He was just another one of them. So she innocently asks, "Do you get what that sign's saying?"

The half-orc grunts and looks at the young girl who so courageously (or stupidly) approached him. Standing from his sitting position, he takes his full height in front of her, barely seeing her by looking down the bridge of his humongous nose. He looks back at the bulletin board in confusion, as he thought he'd destroyed the complicated message, but then realizes that there are multiple copies of the announcement all over the board. Turning back to the girl, he says, "No. Me no understand it at all. Too many words, too many letters. Me not good in this language; me prefer native tongue." He regards Rebecca curiously, for not once in his travels has he ever had somebody come up to him as openly and friendly as this. No, whenever he was approached it was always followed by swears or threats; the thought of a young girl seeing him with absolutely no fear was inconceivable. He decides to solve this mystery. "Hrmm. Girl. Are you brave, or are you stupid? 'Course, can be both. Me is example of that."

Seeing the young girl having trouble reading the sign Sydrik feels a pang of sympathy. He walks over to the sign and gives it a shot himself. A stocky human by any definition Sydrik stands at only 5' 9'' but weighs in at at least 260lbs. His eyes are the color of steel. his face is scarred and ugly with a nose that has been broken many times. His hair is pitch black, braided in the back and reaches down to his waist. His beard is the same color as his hair and the same length it is also braided into 4 thick braids. He wears a chain shirt carries a greataxe and has 2 throwing axes at his belt.
"Hullo little lady! Lemme see if I can help ya with that."
After laboriously reading the document Sydrik takes a deep breath.
"Well. It sounds ta me like they're lookin for some folks ta do some grunt work. Appears They're payin at least. Dependin on tha kind o' work they want ya to do I might give 'er a go."

"Hey, I'm not stupid!" Rebecca exclaims at the man's question. Most people saying that would have gotten her much more angry, but there was something different about the way he had asked. He seemed legitimately curious. Plus he had just called himself the same thing. It felt like less of an insult and more of an establishment of fact. This causes her to think over the second part of what he said rather than going off on the tangent she might have normally. After a moment, she adds, "I don't think I'm really brave either. Why'd you ask that?"

At seeing another person approach to speak to her, she smiles up at him. At least someone knew what the crazy sign was saying. "Hey, thanks! I've been needing some funds, so maybe I'll look into it."

Sydrik gave the young girl his least ugly smile. "Happy to help young lady."
After a few seconds of consideration Sydrik decides he cant avoid asking the obvious. He also cant bear the thought of allowing someone so young to sign up for something like this without a word of warning.
"Aint ya a little young to be thinkin about takin up with the kinds o' folk these type o' things tend to bring around?"
He says quietly as he gestures at the pronouncement.

This statement outright confuses Rebecca. She tilts her head while saying, "What do you mean? Did it say you have to be a certain age? I'm sixteen, that's the same age my friend began traveling. I bet he did jobs like this too." In truth, she had no idea what Lucas had done while on his trip. His letters had not gone into great detail on the matter. But she thought it was a safe guess that he would have needed money at some point, and that a job like this would have been something he would have taken up.

From somewhere around the level of the two humans' elbows a warm, fruity little voice interjects.
"It takes all sorts to make a world, darling - and to make a team."
The speaker is an extraordinary little woman, barely three feet tall but looking at least as old as Rebecca - and, as her clothing seems at pains to point at, significantly further along the road between girl and woman. Her hair is red and her eyes bright and merry.
"Honey, I think your friend is trying to tell you that this poster is advertising a rather dangerous job - and that's true, it is. But I doubt you would be here at all if that didn't stir your blood in some way, hmm?"
So saying, she slides her pack from her shoulders and sits down upon the flagstones of the quay, stretching out her legs and flexing her large, bare feet.
"Ahh, that's better. My name's Cora, by the way - pleasure to meet you all."


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