Illyon walked home in a daze. He was both shocked and thrilled at what Delaron had asked them to do. He couldn’t imagine what the task really held, but coming from Master Delaron it must be important. This is it. This is my ticket into the college. He looked over at his two unlikely companions
“So Astidi, you work at the Maratesh Mine?” he asked.
“Yes. And don’t call me that. Nobody calls me that.” He seemed upset that Delaron even knew his name.
“What should I call you then?”
“Flex. That’s my name.”
This gets stranger and stranger, he though. “Oh. Well, pleased to meet you Flex. I’m Illyon Averin. So do you guys think you’re up to this?”
Flex answered “The wizard promised us good pay, much better than what I’m making slinging rock in the mine. Besides, I’m happy to put a thorn in Durgha’s side. He’s a dick.”
“What about what Delaron suggested? Do you know anyone who can help us?” Illyon asked.
“Not really. I’m fairly new to town and have only met my coworkers here in the mine. They’re mostly good people but not cut out for this dangerous work.”
“What about you Scruffin”?
The quiet young woman raised her eyes to Illyon and then away, as if hesitating to answer. “No. I don’t know anyone here. Except Flex.”
Master Delaron had encouraged them to find a couple more brave adventurers to aid them. People they could trust. The caravan transporting the item was likely to be heavily guarded and the three of them couldn’t handle it alone. Additionally, bringing along more people not associated with the Academy would further distance it from what, boiled down to it’s essence, was a crime.
“I have an idea. I think I know who to ask.”
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
Back at the Desert Wind, Illyon’s boss, Bento Hilwalker, was angry he had disappeared for so long. But Illyon knew exactly how to play him and in no time had Bento laughing and forgetting the whole incident. When he saw his chance to get away, he hurried over to Kraldar’s table and sat down with 3 fresh pints. Kraldar is a cleric of the Defender, he thought. He defends, not attacks. He couldn’t imagine Kraldar being excited about this mission. That’s okay. I’m not going to ask Kraldar. He turned to Kraldar’s companion, the young thief Amadi.
“So Amadi,” he said as he passed over the pint, “you wanted a chance to get out of town, right? See the world?”
“Yeah, something like that” Amadi answered in a suspicious tone. It was more than ‘seeing the world’ that interested him, Illyon knew. Amadi was a former member of a secret gang of criminals known as the Black Knights. The Black Knights were mostly a rumor. Almost just a whisper, a scapegoat the guard used when they couldn’t solve a particularly heinous crime. Supposedly they had operatives all over the cities of Ninovan and were possibly connected to crime organizations further North in the metropolis of Crossroads. But these were just rumors and stories. Amadi was real. He knew little of the Black Knights outside of Koshepa. He only knew that he didn’t feel safe in the city, as if the Knights could find him at any second.
“Something has come up. I need some help and I think you two might be just what I need”. Illyon explained the mission to them. Heavily tattooed, Amadi’s rough and unkempt outward appearance belied a lean and powerful physique. Illyon watched as his interest steadily grew. But at the same time, Kraldar looked more and more put off. When he finished, Amadi spoke:
“Yes. This sounds great. We can take them. Hell, I need some money anyway.”
Kraldar was quick to respond. “Absolutely not. However righteous your cause, that rod belongs to the Empire and we cannot steal it.”
“But they’re going to destroy it! You know that. Delaron wants to study it. It could hold something important. Everyone knows Delaron is a good man and wouldn’t do something like this if he didn’t think it was necessary.”
Amadi interrupted their argument “I’m going, Kraldar. I need this. I have to get out of this city.”
“Amadi, they aren’t going to find you. That life is behind y-” Kraldar was interrupted.
“That’s not the point! I feel trapped here. Nothing is going to change until I can get out of Koshepa, even if only for a little while.”
Kraldar seemed to have an ever-present stern gaze. He was deep in thought but still as alert as any warrior. “Fine, Amadi. But I will have no part in this. If you are going to destroy yourself, you do it on your own.” He looked at Illyon “I pray that the Lightbringer shows you a more righteous path, Illyon. The Gods have mercy on you both.” With that, Kraldar stood. He gave the pair one final look, a worried look with a hint of disappointment, then walked out of the Desert Wind.
Amadi turned back to Illyon, "Okay, so when do we leave?
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
They met at dawn the next morning. A horsekeep approached them with 4 horses. She was dressed in regular clothing but Illyon immediately recognized the loyaran Acolyte who had approached him the previous night. “Good Luck.” she said before handing over the horses and leaving.
They were an unlikely bunch for such a mission, Illyon thought. A quiet and mysterious sorceress; a miner who worked for the organization they were attacking; a street urchin desperate to get out of town; and he, a bartender with dreams of swords and sorcery. How they would pull this off was a mystery.
“I thought I might find you here” the voice was familiar, as was the man who plodded up on horeseback.
Kraldar looked them over, one by one. It was clear his thoughts were similar to Illyon’s. “Look at you. You are all going to get yourselves killed. Someone has to protect you. Come, let’s get this deed over with.” He turned and trotted his horse toward the East Gate. One by one, Flex, Scruffin, Amadi and Illyon followed.
With that, the 5 of them rode into the desert to face whatever their future may hold.