awoke slumped over the bar table, staring through the bottom of an empty tankard. The bar swam before his eyes as he tried to clear his mind. The sunlight pouring through the grubby windows told him that it was morning, and he tried to remember what had happened the night before…
He had arrived at the mountain town of Thorgrim around dusk, the autumn light fading over the hills and valleys that hid most of its mines. It was a quiet town in most respects, save for the occasional goblin
raid. The leader of the Thieves Guild
had sent him from the city of Feremere to receive a package from one of their representatives. Being one of the newer members, he had no choice in the matter, as he would not have taken it of his own accord. The roads in these parts were infested with highwaymen and other nasty surprises, and Kael had only just made it to Thorgrim by sheer luck. He had arrived in a dark alleyway; the drop-off point, bruised and beaten, but thankfully out of the way of prying eyes. The remaining light of the day didn’t so much as illuminate the alley, but defined the shadows. He was worried.
Kael span around, eyes squinting in the gloom, to see a large figure looming over him. The man didn’t seem to be staring at him, but through him, with a cold blackness that chilled his very soul.
“That’s me” Kael spoke carefully, trying to mask the fear in his voice.
“You know what I need.”
Kael nodded. He rummaged around in his pockets and produced an unassuming bronze disc with a split money pouch engraved in it. He passed it to the man. The man then passed him a small package wrapped in paper, and left without a word. Kael stared at the package for a moment, wondering what it was that he was sent for. His hand moved slowly towards a corner of the paper to open it, when a noise startled him. A cat ran down the alley, spooked by something, and darted off into the street. Brought back to his senses, he deposited the package in his backpack and set off in search of a tavern
to spend the night.
As he left the alley, he failed to notice a dark, shadowy figure overhead, watching him from between the rooftops. He would come to regret this.
Kael managed to the find the local tavern easily enough, although he winced from his bruises every step. He made a note to himself to try and find the local apothecary in the morning for something to ease the pain. As he entered the rustic building, he was hit by the heady aroma of beer and pipe-tobacco
, and knew there was going to be something more readily available to ease his tiredness and aching. It was a fairly quiet tavern, with a few locals sat down, eyeing him carefully, but not detracting from the generally friendly atmosphere. He looked around for a moment, then slowly strolled
up to the bar. The bartender turned towards Kael, and gave a look of concern.
“You look a bit rough friend, do you need any help?”
“I’ll be fine till the morning when I can find an apothecary. Can I get a beer and maybe a room for tonight? I’ve had a long journey.”
“Sure, we’ve got a room spare, five silver pieces
a night. The beer will cost you ten copper pieces. Are you sure you don’t want some help at the moment? You look pretty beaten up.”
Kael counted out the money and passed it over. “Like I said, I’ll be fine till morning. They’re mainly just a few cuts and bruises. I got jumped by a couple of bandits but I scared them off.”
“Well if you’re sure you’re fine. I’ll get your beer and go prepare your room.”
The barkeeper got Kael his beer and disappeared out back, presumably to go tidy the room. Kael took the beer and sat down at an empty table and started to drink, the cool liquid refreshing him for the first time that day. He started to think to himself about what had been happening to him over the last couple of days. Without a great deal of experience, he had been sent several miles to receive an apparently important package when, en route he was set upon by several bandits, where he only just managed to escape with his life. And now that he was in Thorgrim, he had managed to collect this package from the giant hulk of a man. Why did he inspire so much dread in him?
“Mind if I sit here?”
Kael looked up to see a rugged looking man standing in front of him. He was fairly tall with shaggy black hair and an unkempt look about him. He was wearing a long black cloak fasted to his shoulders. Kael was a little apprehensive, but the man looked friendly enough.
“Sure, pull up a stool”
“Thanks. You’re Kael aren’t you?”
“Who wants to know?”
“The name’s Lars, I’m a member of the guild here. You look like you had a rough time getting here”
“Yeah, everyone seems to say that, but I’ll be fine by morning.
“Even so, you’ll still be needing another drink. There ain’t anything finer here than a flagon of dwarfish ale. I’ll go get us both one”
As he left for the bar, Kael finished his beer and started thinking. This complete stranger was being very friendly to him, and even though Thorgrim was known for the friendly locals, Kael thought it would be best to be on guard.
“Here we are, two pints of the best stuff. This will have you feeling better in no time.”
Lars returned to the table with two large, foamy mugs of dark ale, and placed them down on the table. Still cautious, Kael thought it would be best to find out if he was just being generous or not.
“Have you seen that buxom
looking lass over there Lars, it looks like she might be interested in you…”
“Just over there”
As Lars turned to face the woman, Kael quickly swapped the two mugs around.
“Well she’s not exactly a fair maiden, but anyway, what brings you to Thorgrim?”
Kael swallowed a mouthful of his drink. “It’s mainly guild business. I had to pick up a package for our people back at Feremere. Personally, I don’t see what’s so important about it, but I hope it was worth the journey.”
“So you don’t know what it is then?”
“No, I was told not to open it. I know better not to disobey the Head of the Guild.”
“You’re not even a little curious?”
“Well, a little, but like I said, it won’t be worth the risk finding out.”
“Oh, well, you might get told when you return, but until then, we might as well drink. Here’s to the guild!”
Both Kael and Lars quaffed deeply from their tankards, draining them dry. The bittersweet liquid rushed down Kael’s throat, satisfying his thirst. He then noticed something odd. Lars was still smiling, but not in the friendly way he had seen before. There was something malicious about this grin, and it deeply unsettled him.
Kael tried to stand, but his legs would not support him. He slumped back down to the table, to see that cold grin again.
“What was in that drink?”
“Just a little something to help you relax. You didn’t think I’d really fall for that old trick did you? Pleasant dreams Kael…”
Everything around him started to swim, his vision dimming, until he could see no more. The last thing he saw, was that cold, dark grin, filling his entire vision…
“I can’t believe I let that guy get one over me”, Kael thought to himself. His head was still pounding, but at least the room had stopped spinning. He patted his pockets to check if anything was missing, when he realised something. He had taken the package! No wonder he was so interested in it.
“He did you over pretty well, eh?”
Kael turned to see an old man sat on a stool next to him, the pungent aroma of pipe-tobacco filling his nostrils.
“What do you know old man?”
“I know where that guy headed off to, but you’ll be lucky if I tell you after that rudeness!”
“I’m sorry, I get a little annoyed if I’ve just been drugged and robbed”
“Understandably, but it still doesn’t help you. He headed off towards Khazak Pass in a hurry. Don’t know what business he has there. No one’s used that road in years. Not after the landslide.”
“Thanks for the information. I just hope I can catch up with him.”
“Not if you carry on talking to old men all day! Now hurry!”
Kael strode out of the bar, into the crisp morning air. The sun was just rising over the mountains, the light splaying over Thorgrim like a warming blanket. But it could not warm the chill in Kael’s heart, as he strode towards Khazak Pass
Nightstrider - Chapter Two