“Tell me, barkeeper, where would I go to find myself a decent mercenary around these parts?”
A few locals turned their heads to look at Infineon as he spoke, his accent and his question showing without a shadow of a doubt that he was from out of town, and thus a potential a threat to their quiet evening tradition of drinking their worries into oblivion. However, dust covered and seemingly weapon-less as he was, Infineon drew little attention; he didn’t look like a troublemaker. The markings of the pantheon of Balance displayed prominently on his robes helped to make the watchers lose interest, as a priest travelling through town was hardly a rare occurrence these days, what with the fledgling City of Balance being newly founded to the east. After a moment of studying him, the barkeep seemed to come to the same conclusion as the patrons about the nature of Infineon’s request, smiling and surreptitiously removing his hand from the cudgel below the bar; after all, you couldn’t be too careful with strangers, no matter what god’s garb they wore.
“A marce’nary ye say? Ye muss be thinkin’ o’ tekin the loo rood…”
The barkeep rambled on for a bit as Infineon stumbled to make sense of the local dialect, as the thick country accent made it hard to understand anything at all of the barkeep’s speech. Eventually, Infineon began to understand, and the man got around to answering Infineon’s question.
“I think I might have seen a lone, shady type camping out near the edge of town. Rumour is that he came in wearing full metal armour and carrying a frightful large weapon.”
The barkeeper leaned forwards towards Infineon and whispered to him in a conspiratorial manner, his eyes roving around the room as he did so:
“Now, I ain’t seen him up close or anything, but I saw him leaving town by the east road, and by his size I’m sure he must be part giant…”
Infineon looked sceptically at the tiny stature of the man whispering at him and immediately discarded that rumour. In this fairly backwater town, he was sure the arrival of an armoured figure would have sparked off whispers immediately, and the tale would have grown exponentially as the tattletales picked up on the story. The arrival of two different sets of foreigners was sure to leave the gossipers of the town in a tither for weeks after they had left. Nonetheless, there was certainly some small grain of truth in the barkeep’s tale, and even a cloth-clad vagabond carrying a rusty sword would be a better addition to his company than nobody at all. Nodding to the barkeep and leaving a small coin on the table for his trouble, Infineon stepped back out onto the dusty street to the waiting carriage that sat outside the bar.
A sturdy yet fairly simple affair, the wooden carriage was large enough to seat two inside and constructed of thick timber beams, strong enough to resist a crossbow bolt even from close range, and easily able to turn aside blades. The slats for ventilation in the two doors were covered in a thin red cloth, obscuring the contents of the carriage from any viewers on the outside. The red of the drapes matched the colour of the rest of the paintwork, as even through the dust, the shining red and gold paint could be seen. The patterns of swirls and spirals that adorned the carriage walls surrounded a motif of a three pronged flame, proclaiming the carriage to be of the followers of Pyrakkha, Goddess of the Flames. The two guards, who stood nearby, grooming their horses, also bore the symbols of that faith. However, like the carriage, the bright red of the light armour they wore was dulled by the long trip through the dusty wastes, and both they and their horses sagged with weariness after the arduous trip; honour guards at best, Infineon knew that they would be little help in a fight, hence his continuing search for some decent guards. Knocking twice on the door of the carriage, Infineon spoke quietly to the people inside, explaining the situation to them. Receiving confirmation to go ahead with his plan, Infineon jumped up to the driver’s seat on the carriage and took the reins, starting the small convoy back on its way towards the edge of town.
There, hopefully, Infineon would find someone worthy of protecting the precious contents of the carriage on its way home along the dangerous road back to Daelubrium, the City of Balance itself.
"Little solace comes to those who grieve/When thoughts keep drifting, when walls keep shifting/And this great blue world of ours seems like a house of leaves/Moments before the wind." ~House of Leaves