June 4, 1266 CE, In the forest outside of Praven, Before Dawn
After we burned the bandit lair to the ground, we made camp, about three miles from the city of Praven. With the first light we would enter the city. We had about three hours for sleep. We were all exhausted. But I preferred to lose my sleep, so the others may rest. Someone had to keep watch after all. I sat next to the fire, staring at the flames dancing around.“Damn” I thought to myself. “How did this all happen? Two days ago I was just in a bloody ship, heading towards whenever the fate would send me. And suddenly, I am the leader of a warband… What is destined for me?” I questioned myself.
As a person, I learned only to trust in myself, not to any gods or any superstitious beliefs. As a friend of mine used to say, all gods are vicious cunts. The only thing I believed it existed was fate. That everybody in this world has a role to play.“May I sit here with you?” I heard a voice behind me. It was Andreamon. I nodded “yes”.“I…” he started. “I want to thank you again, for risking your neck for my skin out there…”.“You have a good brother who cares about you. Just next time be more careful”.My men fell asleep shortly after.
Nothing happened during the night. Everything was calm. It was a little cold but nothing I couldn’t manage. When the sun appeared in the sky, I woke them up. Everyone wanted this to be over. We were awake almost for two days in a row, and we won to battles with the bandits. We were lucky to be alive.
June 4, 1266 CE, Praven, Morning
We arrived a just at the time the city of Praven was waking up. At this time of day, the merchants were preparing their stock, the blacksmiths were lighting up the fires of their workshops, the tailors were preparing the cloths and their orders for their clients. At a state like this we find old man Talius. Talius, by the way, a far as I was understanding, he was not just one more merchant. He had the title Merchant of Praven, a title with more power. Like a leader from the league of merchants, with a seat in the council of King Harlaus. I approached him.
“So, what do you have today?” I asked him.“Well, not something new as you can see…” he started, having not yet realized who I was. “Tharon!” he exclaimed, when he finally rose his head from his stuff.“We did it, old man. We have your brother” I said and I showed Andreamon, standing behind me. Talius slowly approached his brother. Then, to our surprise he slapped him.“Do that again and next time, I will let them skin you alive” and then he closed him into his arms to a hug.“Well, our job is finished here” I said to Fendrel. He nodded in agreement.
“Please” said Talius. “Join me for dinner at my house. I want to thank you properly… and also to make another… how to put it… Another business opportunity”.I looked at Fendrel.“We definitely need some sleep first” he said.“Yes of course” said Talius and took a small purse with the rest of the coins, as my payment. I thank him, with a bow of my head.“I will wait for you, just when the sun will go down” he said. “Now, now do not let me keep you from your well-earned rest. Also, I have work to do”.
My men and I went to the local inn and we had some drinks together. I wanted to know them better. The most interesting story I believe was Oliver’s. If someone met him, at first sight, he would deduce that Oliver is a mad man. All the hysterical laughter, his irony. But, as far as I understand, he is a wise man. He knows many things about the gods and humans. He feels their inner thoughts. Although this serious talk we had, I think that we had a good time. After that, we headed to our rooms with our heads slightly spinning. We drunk a little, but not too much, in order to be sober when we meet Talius and his brother.
June 4, 1266 CE, Praven, Evening
In the evening, we headed to the house of Talius. He was waiting for us by the door, with a huge smile on his face. We entered only to face a big table, with far too many food and alcohol.“Talius, surely there are too much…” I began to say but Talius raised his hand.“No, I will not hear any of this, Tharon. I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for my family. You helped an old man when he was in need. And for that you have my eternal gratitude” he said to me, with a small bow of his head. “Now let me introduce you to my family”.
Talius had two children. Henry, a boy around thirteen, already growing to become a man and Catelyn, his daughter, a gorgeous girl about twenty – my age. She had long and beautiful ginger hair, a thin body with curves only where they were needed. Her voice was soft and sweet and maybe… just maybe, I skipped some beats upon seeing her. She smiled to me, but immediately lowered her head. As it seems, she was a little shy.“Now, that’s a girl that anyone would want to marry, right?” I heard Fendrel speaking behind my ear. With a smile on his face, realizing that I liked her.
“Shut up you moron…” I said through my teeth.Talius also had a wife, Tereza, about a decade younger than him. She was very beautiful for her age and very well preserved.“And of course, you already met my stupid little brother Andreamon” said Talius at last. “And why wait any longer? Let’s eat my friends!”.We all sat and started eating. I was happy to realize that my seat was exactly opposite of Catelyn’s. Fendrel closed his eye to me playfully. I almost gave him the finger, but I restrained myself. After some time Talius’ wife broke the silence of the table.“So, tell us about your adventures”.“There is not much to tell…” I started but Oliver stood from his seat.
“We had to fight against a hundred bandits… Fire was all around us… Arrows were flying above our heads… We thought that we were all going today, but the gods” he said pointing at the sky “had different plans for us… That’s how they saved us…”.We let him to continue his little theatre for a little longer, as his performance was quite amusing to everyone. He, then, sat down and started devouring a chicken wing with his bare hands.“As you all may understand, my friend Oliver here was exaggerating a little bit. We confronted around thirty men”.“Seven against thirty!” exclaimed little Henry. “Was it difficult?”“Well, it was” said Fendrel. “Even the mighty Oliver was wounded”.
We kept discussing more. At some point Catelyn spoke for the first time.“How is your life?” she asked me, immediately receiving two angry glances from her parents. “Living an adventure on your own I mean… How is it?”.“It’s alright” I said to Talius. Then, I turned to Catelyn.“I cannot really say. I am quite new to this kind of life. Not even three days have passed since I arrived here. A plague stroke my country, a land far away from here. My family… they all died…”.“We are very sorry for you” said Tereza, a little broken from my story.“Don’t be. Everything happens for a reason. If I wasn’t here your brother Talius may not be here today”.“I can’t argue with that” said Andreamon raising his glass.
“To new friends!” he shouted.“To new friends!” we replied.After a little time, Talius stood and went to the backdoor. He called me with a nod. I followed him out in his garden. It was beautiful, even more under the starry sky.“I can’t thank you enough” said Talius, after some moments of silence.“You’ve already done it” I replied. “The things you offered us here, were far enough”.We stood in silence for a while longer.“I fear I have to ask you another favor” said Talius at last.“Tell me. As far is something far from abductions”.
“It’s worse than that. It is about the city. As the Merchant, I have some kind of power, influence. I hear things, I learn things”.“What is your point? Where do I fit in?” I asked.“My informants said to me something troubling. There is a reason these bandits have their way into the town. A help from the inside”.“It could be possible that they may have their way on their own”.“I have thought about this and it would be possible if this were a village. But we are fucking Praven, the capital of Swadia. Do you understand what I am saying?” he said, with obvious fury on his face.
“Who do you suspect?”.“I think it’s the captain of the guard himself. Captain Robard. He is seen leaving the barracks late at night or talking to strange and suspicious people. And it’s not only that… He meets around evening with a company of men and not from the garrison. I have a lot of proof that they maybe bandits. But I did not have the men to do something, nor the influence to persuade the garrison. Only the gods know how many bastards are in line with Robard. That’s why I ask for your help”.
“I will first speak with my men. For your knowledge, we found better equipment at the bandit camp. This may have to do with your fears. Many swords, shields and good quality armor. If the situation is critical, as you say it is… if the boys agree, we will help you”.“And do not forget to mention that you will be paid well” said Talius. I smiled and nodded.“You are Godsent, lad” he said at last and he went back inside.