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Something Must Be Done...

Part 1: Something Must Be Done

2007 Sonja Torres & Aric Olsen, used by permission, all rights reserved

"I've lost 3 shipments!"

"The countryside is in terror!"

"The supplies I was waiting on never arrived. I'm almost out of everything!"

"The king has done nothing! Serves him right he'll not get his taxes because we've lost so much."

"Something must be done!"

Bentir rose above them all. "ENOUGH!" The Guildmaster looked around the room, meeting each pair of eyes, staring them down if it looked like he had to in order to forestall another outburst. "We will simply have to stop the destruction. Since the King is disinclined to help us, we will take care of this matter ourselves."

No one stood. No one spoke. Bentir sighed. He was no fighter either, but he disdained the cowardice of his peers. "We will hire someone to go out and find the source of our troubles and rid us of it, once and for all. How much can we raise with what we have left?"

Again the clamor arose as each merchant and tradesman complained about his losses, whined about being broke, swore there was nothing left to live on, let alone use to pay for a quest. Bentir held his peace, eyes hard. "Rolf," he spoke to the fat cloth merchant. "Perhaps you could gamble on saving your silk instead of your weekly dice game, eh?" He turned to another man, a scrawny weasly fellow with a pock-marked face. "And you, Jimthan...perhaps you would like to swing your own sword in defense of your precious jewelry?" Jimthan's mouth closed, his eyes dropping. Everyone knew he was as clumsy with a weapon as he was gifted with the finest gems nature could offer. "Perhaps you could spare a stone or 3, to save your trade?"

And so it went, one by one, as the Guildmaster called them out on their petty luxuries and weaknesses, wringing from them a share of what they retained, despite all their heavy losses. When it was done, they had gathered about 800 gold pieces worth of coin and gems, a potion or two, and enough supplies to outfit a small team, if enough brave ('or stupid', thought Bentir) souls could be found to take up the challenge. Signs would be posted and word would be spread. Now there was nothing to do but wait, and hope...

Greywarden listened thoughtfully as the heated discussion continued. For all the politics, and all the greed, he had always been forced to give a certain amount of respect to Bentir. Watching him call the merchants and tradesmen, one-by-one, to task made an impression on him. True leadership always did. He was a formidable individual - and his charisma was on display for all this day.

There were times in Greywarden's past that this kind of leadership wasn't present...when it was so easy for the mob mentality to take over. His skills as an apprentice wizard were kept hidden because of the wrong kind of attention being focused on him. Hidden to protect him against a lack of leadership to control the fear raised in so many by the unknown...

The joint was ill-constructed, joined by a common laborer with his mind on the coming dice game at the tavern, or possibly his favorite girl instead of the task in front of him. Even as that fact registered in Greywarden's mind he became aware of the foreman’s footsteps on the walkway above. A cry of warning was all there was time for as the joint let go, and thirty feet of scaffolding began its slow collapse toward the earth, promising the injury or needless death of the foreman. There was never really any choice, and the incantation sprang from Greywarden's lips even as his arm rose in gesture. The weight and momentum of the man was arrested, his mass temporarily taking on the characteristics of a feather as he floated gently, unharmed, to the ground below amid the wreckage of timbers and stones. Instead of thanks, Greywarden was met with fear. The witnesses were filled with their misunderstanding of what they had seen, and their collective temperament appeared to be turning for the worst. The foreman, at least, had some clue that his life had been saved, and managed to disperse the crowd before they could set upon Greywarden. But he saw the handwriting on the wall. Later that evening he collected his pay with the boss' apology and set on down the road, the incident only a memory in the villagers' memory...

As he stood listening to the excuses in the guildroom, he realized that he owed Bentir an unspoken debt. Here was a man doing what he could to solve a sticky problem. "Well..." Greywarden thought to himself, "...without that shipment of tools I ordered last month, there won't be any work for me anyway."

"Excuse me, Master Bentir."

"Journeyman Greywarden, isn't it?" Bentir replied. "What can I do for you?"

"I believe it has more to do with what I can do for you, sir. I'd like to volunteer to be the Guild's representative for the expedition you're putting together...for an equal share in the purse of course." If I survive...

There was no going back now.

“Well,” replied Bentir, “I’m glad to see this Guild has at least one stout heart. It’s a start.”

"I do have some questions, Guildmaster." Greywarden continued.

"Keep it short, journeyman." Bentir was a busy man.

"A short list, sir. Are all of the shipments into the village being hit, or only the ones from a certain direction? Are they well armed caravans being wiped out, or smaller shipments and lone travelers? Are there any survivors I can interview? When was the last attack? Was it one attacker, or several? Human? Orc? Ogre? Giant? Is there ballistic evidence I can examine that hasn't been seen by the king's men. Or - worst case - are the shipments disappearing entirely? Oh, and one more thing: can the guild supply me a horse or pack animal to use for my mission?"

"That was a short list, Greywarden? I'd hate to see a long one!" A wry smile touched the guildmaster's face - too soon replaced by his familiar stern countenance.

"I'll need some time to close down this uproar- uh, I mean, this meeting. Meet me at Adele's for lunch in an hour - I'll buy you a bowl of her stew and answer your questions - the ones I can. Until then I suggest you ready yourself - chance favors preparedness."

"Thank you Guildmaster."

Bentir held up a hand to forestall more questions. "Your enthusiasm is admirable, and your questions well spoken, but peace now. We don't have all the information in yet, but this we know: Some shipments are making it through just fine, but those that don't have no survivors. As for your request about the horse, I'm surprised you don't have one, but yes, the Guild can provide that. Please hold the rest of your questions till we meet at Adele's. I'll try to find out more for you by then." He eyed Greywarden, taking in his youth and lean carpenter's frame, "and hopefully we’ll be joined by a few more bold men."

Nodding respectfully to the Guildmaster, Greywarden moved toward the exit. At the door, he paused to speak with Bearnam, the construction foreman in charge of his project. After giving his notice, and collecting his pay, he parted company with the burly man on good terms - for once he is welcome to return to the crew if he becomes inclined.

The letter of marque from Bentir was exchanged for a sturdy mount at the stables
- the horse he chooses isn't built for speed, and appears to have been neglected... The mare isn't a razor, but with a bit of care, she looks to be a durable friend on the trail. He named her Stepper, and purchased an oat bag and a twenty-pound sack of oats. It wouldn't last long, but a lasting friendship with an animal can be started with food....

Afterward, he took Stepper on a short ride north of the town, keeping the buildings in sight, but climbing the low hill called the" Giant's Pouch" which offers the best view around. The familiar trail leads to a secluded place offering a clear line of sight all around - a spot Greywarden found when he arrived at the village several months ago. It is here that he studies his Art - not carpentry, but Magic. Turning Stepper loose on the sweet grass nearby, he pulled the Spellbook open and again wrestled with the passage on Clairvoyance.... Someday he'll understand it... He can locate a missing object unerringly, and the divination for clairvoyance is a similar spell... If only he can find a suitable teacher!

After a time, when his mind was full, he secreted the precious book in his bedroll, and saddling Stepper, he leads her to a different vantage point on the "Pouch."

From here he can see the road into town. How far away are the people responsible for the break in trade? Are they within a ten-mile radius? What are they planning next? Why would they choose this way of life? No matter. They can be found and brought to judgment. Then he can go back to work.



NEXT: Rumors

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 updated 4-13-07