“Anavari. Here. Now!” roared an all too familiar voice. I raised my head from the book I held in my hands and gazed towards the furious gray Charr that glared knives and daggers. I tossed my book aside and made my way towards my superior with a steady pace.
There stood Legionnaire Itan in the middle of Hero’s Canton. This was the place I called home. The area was divided into four parts; the Blood Legion had its tank-like structures to one side of the canton with their red banners suspended over them. In fact, they were tanks. If they were still operational was something I had yet to discover. I always wondered if they would one day take them out of the canton in times of emergency. However, I thought that to be unlikely. The enemy would have to get through the walls of the citadel first. Being an iron legion soldier, I knew that to be increasingly difficult.
The Ash Legion had its own set up closer to the gate of the canton. Several light tents with banners next to them, it was definitely more subtle than what Blood or Iron had. Then again, I suppose that was what the Ash Legion was famous for.
The Iron Legion had the most splendor in my opinion. We had tall towers that would be constructed about the area, as well as many of the fortifications on the main buildings of the canton. We called that the Heroes Forum. It was basically an area to stop and rest. Perched over the top of the building were massive canons and mortars constructed by my Legion. If anything were to invade the citadel, it would have to answer to those cannons first. Then there was the 12th Iron Maniple, a location where the Iron Legion could wander to for whatever would suit an iron legion soldier’s fancy. I did find this area to be truly magnificent. However, I could stop and gawk at the citadel structures at another time; my legionnaire beckoned.
I began to walk across the dusty floor of the canton, my boots dug into the dirt with every step. I was not looking forward to an audience with Itan. He hated me and I knew it all too well. Whenever he would summon me it would be to scold me over something trivial, or to completely explode in my face whenever I actually did do something wrong.
I stopped before him and mustered a cheerful smile just to spite him.
“Is there something you need Legionnaire?” I asked happily.
“Wipe that smirk off your face before I rip it off for you!” Demanded the Charr. I obeyed… with an obvious sign of reluctance. “Does something vex you legionnaire?” I asked in a serious tone this time.
“Vexed doesn’t even begin to cover it! I’m so angry I could skin off your pelt right now without even thinking twice about it!”
“And what exactly did I do?”
“Your last assignment you moron!” Itan seemed just about ready to drive one of his daggers into my chest.
“… And what about my last assignment?” I asked cautiously.
“I specifically told to come back with six kegs of gunpowder, not three!”
“And I told you that we were attacked by Flame Legion,” I said. “Three kegs had to be used in order to… repel them.”
It was not a farfetched tale either. The warband was attacked and we nearly died because of it.
“So In other words you failed,” Said the legionnaire flatly.
Of course it was obviously my fault!
In truth I had planned to take the blame for the incident in the first place. Everyone else seemed too damaged to take the wrath of the Legionnaire. “Had we not used the kegs,” I said in my defense. “The entire group would have-”
“Enough!” Interrupted the Legionnaire. “Don’t give me your excuses. I swear when I’m done with you, not even the flame legion would want a corpse as mangled as yours!”
Then I heard the subtle noises of charr feet running across the dirt, accompanied by panting of exhaustion. I rounded towards the noise and saw my friend Thoc. A charr with brown fur and a spotted pattern. His stature was greater than mine, but then again I was the runt of the warband so that was normal.
“Legionnaire sir…” said Thoc in between breaths, it seemed that he had been running for quite a distance. “It was the flame legions fault! Anavari had to use some of the kegs to kill them off.”
Thoc was right in that aspect. The Flame Legion had us pinned down and we had six kegs of gun powder, that we were supposed to return them to the Citadel. They had caught us by surprise so the majority of the warband was injured and incapacitated. Even our greatest warrior Garfas was crippled with a shard of shrapnel lodged into his eye (along with several other injuries of course).
As a last resort I threw three kegs at the Flame Legion soldiers and used a grenade from Thoc’s pack. The explosion completely annihilated the Flame Legion, we left with our lives intact, but returned with three less kegs.
“Besides, Anavari took out seven Flame Legion soldiers! That counts for something right?”
Itan glared at me like a devourer that had just lost its chance at catching its prey. “One more slip Anavari, one more slip!” He said not removing his gaze at me. “And I’ll have your hide.”
With that the Legionnaire strode off deeper into Heroe’s Canton. The brown Charr next to me gave out a sigh of relief.
“That was close,” he said.
“Thank you for the help Thoc,” I said with a slight nod of gratitude. “However I only remember there being five Flame legion soldiers, one of them being a shaman.”
Thoc chuckled at my response. “I figured that if we made it seem more awesome then Itan would spare you.”
I gave the charr a faint smile.
“Well it looks like it worked.”
“And just in time too,” said Thoc. “I saw that Itan was yelling at you from the top of the forum. I came as fast as I could.”
I began to make my way back to my book as Thoc decided to follow me.
“So you wanna get something to eat?” he asked. “I hear the cook’s got a new delivery of meat; if we hurry we can still make it before it’s all bought.”
I pondered the thought for a moment. I had not planned to leave the canton for the rest of the day, but the opportunity to sink my teeth into a steak was too tempting.
We both began to make our way out of the canton and deeper into the citadel. Fortunately by the time we arrived the cook by the factorium he had reserved a meal just for us. We were his regulars, and he always seemed to know what we would want. We proceeded to take a seat in the dome shaped kitchen. I enjoyed going to the Canton Factorium, simply watching the various areas where crafters would make their wares was worth it. I even visited a particular crafting station on occasion.
Thoc and I began to eat our meal. It went by relatively speechlessly, however, I knew that Thoc wanted to say something. I knew him too well, his ears would not stop perking up and his tail would not set still.
“Can I ask you something, Anavari?” he asked.
Here it comes, I thought. “You know you can, Thoc.”
“Well I was just wondering… you’re always so tense and stuff. Have you ever thought of, well you know… actually being friendly to the rest of the warband?”
I set my plate aside and began to tap my claws against each other before answering. “Answer me this Thoc. What did the rest of the warband do right after we joined?”
“Ugh!” groaned Thoc. “Not this gain, Anavari.”
“Just answer the question,” I said calmly.
Thoc sighed. “Mostly everyone stayed the hell away from you because you’re a necromancer.”
“And?” I asked expectantly.
“And they also said ‘why should they trust a magic user that can raise the dead. He might as well be flame legion.’”
“And that is why I do not bother to associate with them,” I said. “Why should I even bother acting nice with them if they already decided to shun me? Before even so much as introducing myself might I add.”
“Well not all of them shunned you…” said Thoc. “And hey, you saved our hides back there. You think they’d let something like that go unnoticed?”
I simply grunted with indifference. The notion of the warband accepting me seemed ludicrous; to them I was just the odd necromancer that would defect to the Flame Legion at any minute.
“I’m just asking for you to give them a chance. What if I told you that Garfas himself told me to get you to the Serrated Blade tonight so that he can personally thank you himself?”
“Garfas?” I asked in disbelief. “He said that?”
Thoc nodded. “So what do you say?”
I sighed as I leaned back on my chair and pondered my decision.
“Alright… I will give them a chance.”
“And?” Thoc asked expectantly.
“And be nice.” I said showing obvious displeasure at the thought.
With that Thoc and I proceeded to finish our meal.
The images were beginning to fade. My consciousness returned as I was starting to wake up. Before I knew it I was raptured from my dream.
My eyes snapped open and I was met with the wooden ceiling of the room I had rented for the night. I began to recollect the events of last night; I could remember Daniel wandering off into the city, and me collapsing onto the bed. I yawned and rubbed my eyes as they were struck by sunlight.
“Damn sun.” I said still groggy.
I moved to roll out of the bed but my actions were prevented. Something was latching on to my arm.
“What in the-” I began, but my words were cut short once I turned my head and found that a sleeping human known as Daniel was sprawled on the same bed I was in. His head calmly rested on my arm as he held it tight.
“Daniel,” I said trying to free myself from the human’s hold, he was maintaining a surprisingly strong grip.
“Daniel wake up!” I called out. The human began to groan in displeasure from being suddenly woken up.
“I don’t want to wake up,” he complained still half asleep. “Let me stay on this bed five more minutes…or hours.”
“That is just fine with me,” I said. “If you would let me go!”
“No,” said Daniel flatly.
“What do you mean no?” I asked with a deadpan expression.
“You’re warm and your arm makes a nice pillow,” said Daniel as he strengthened the grip on my arm.
I threw my feet off the bed and stood up while Daniel was still clinging on to me. I walked across the room and the human would still keep a firm grasp around my arm; he would not let go even when his legs were dragging on the floor. Then he finally released me and slumped onto the floor like a ragdoll. He rose to his feet as he rubbed his eyes.
“Well now I’m awake,” said Daniel with a yawn. He moved his hand across his short black hair. It took me several seconds to realize that this was one of the few moments the human did not wear a hood and face mask… or a shirt by that matter. I glanced over to the pile of leather armor thrown into the corner of the room.
“What were you doing in my bed… and what are you doing without any clothing on?” I asked with a raised eyebrow.
The human sat back onto the bed cross-legged and said, “Well when I came here you were already asleep, and you don’t expect me to sleep with my armor on do you? Besides it was cold last night and your fur gets quite warm.”
“And you couldn’t have rented a separate room for yourself because?”
“I thought I’d save us some money,” he said simply. “Besides the innkeeper didn’t seem to mind that we were sharing a room. However one of the nearby ladies blushed when she overheard me…I wonder why.” Daniel shrugged with indifference.
“Well next time get your own bed,” I said as I walked over to my pack and searched for my bloodstained robe.
“Now you’ve gone and hurt me,” said Daniel melodramatically. “This is the thanks I get for fixing your foot?”
I shifted my gaze towards my foot. I had completely forgotten about yesterday’s injury, mainly because the pain had completely subsided. A clean white bandage was now wrapped around it, and no signs of blood were found. I returned back to the bed next to Daniel and sat down; I slowly began to unravel the strip of elastic cloth. I found that a bundle of small herbs had been placed over the now nonexistent wound, my foot was completely healed. I flexed my foot a bit to see if anything was in full working order, thankfully the poison left behind no permanent damage.
“…Thank you Daniel,” I said with a sigh relief. The notion of me being reduced to a permanent limp had festered in my head before going to sleep last night. The last thing I want is to live with a crippled foot, or worse, no foot at all. I felt the humans hand pat me over the shoulder.
“It was nothing!” said Daniel with a smile. “Happy to help my furry charr friend.” I noticed that his green eyes were traveling back and forth between my foot and face. I allowed a faint smirk to show itself across my face.
“Anywho!” continued Daniel as he walked over to his own pack and extracted a set of dark silk clothing. “Let’s go check out the city and see what we can buy to eat!”
“Now food is something I would definitely enjoy right now.”
Daniel began to don his silk clothing. Meanwhile, I began to gather all our equipment in preparation for leaving the inn.
After a few minutes we were back into the village of Shaemoor and making our way towards the gates of Divinity’s Reach. The area was a small settlement just outside the city gates. It was quite beautiful with all the flowers and fields of green. Houses perched up hills and the occasional merchant here and there. I noticed that quite a few individuals glanced over to us as we made our way up the hill that led to our destination.
We now stood in front of the massive city gates. Other adventurers entered and left as we stood there gawking at the iron bars that were raised from the gate. Daniel and I exchanged looks of anticipation.
“Well,” said Daniel with a wide grin. “We made it!”
“Indeed,” I said. “Let us not waste any more time. I want to see the inside of this place already!”
Divinity’s Reach was by far much more than what either of us expected it to be. Wherever my eyes would wander I would end up staring in awe. The first structure that caught my attention was the massive structure in the distance. It seemed to stretch out to the bridges that connected out to the several floors of the city. Even the area we were standing on only seemed to be a platform that led to several other levels of the massive city. I glanced over to the signpost that pointed to the districts in the area; it seemed that we were in an area known as the Plaza of Dwayna.
I heard Daniel restrain a chuckle and glanced at him as he flashes me a wide grin.
“What’s so funny?” I raised an eyebrow.
“I had that same look on my face when I first entered,” said Daniel. “Pretty amazing isn’t it?”
“Indeed,” I said with a nod. “It seems like one could get easily lost out here as well.”
“Well it’s not so bad, I knew a bit of the place when I came here last night. I know where we can get a bit of food. If we go down that road we’ll find a few food stands and tables.”
Daniel signaled towards a path that led deeper into the city. By its sides there were ramps that ascended into the massive structure in the center. All of it was adorned with a variety of colorful flowers.
“Well no sense in just standing here,” I said. “Shall we?”
After a short walk we found the food stands Daniel spoke of. We bought our first decent meal in days, it was indeed a relief to be able to rest and keep my mind off of work. I could finally relax.
“Looks like a furry Charr friend of mine has finally lightened up,” said Daniel glancing over towards my direction.
“Sleeping on an actual bed can do that,” I replied. “Speaking of bed we should find an inn inside the city if we’re going to stay here awhile. Also how did the delivery go? Were you able to get a better reward for our services?”
Daniels eyes widened as if he had just realized something incredibly important. He tried to offer me the most innocent smile he could muster. I could see right through it. “Well you see,” he began. “I didn’t exactly go to finish our job last night… looking for your medicine took up all my time.”
Daniel gave me a sheepish grin and he scratched the back of his head.
“So you still have the letter and we’re broke?” I asked with a deadpan expression on my face.
“I have the message,” he nodded. “And we might be… a bit short on change at the moment.”
I sighed heavily and motioned Daniel to follow me.
“We’re turning in the job now?” asked the human. “But we’re not done with our food!”
“Too bad,” I shrugged. With that I took a hold of Daniel’s shoulder and made sure he would stay by my side.
Daniel was obviously not very happy about leaving on a half empty stomach. But we would not be eating anything at all should we not turn in the job. We walked past the streets of Divinity’s reach not completely knowing where we were heading. All we knew was that the location we were searching for was in the Ossan Quarter. After asking around (which is quite difficult when your group consists of a black Charr) we found that our destination was only a lengthy walk away. I made sure to tell Daniel that we had to map out the city to simplify travel.
Before long we made it to the target destination. The area seemed much more different than the rest of Divinity’s Reach. There were these tall thin trees and the occasional pit of sand. It reminded me of Lions Arch. The architecture was different as well, white houses that were more round than the usual box shapes that we would see throughout the rest of the city.
Daniel checked the letter in his shirt and read the writing behind the envelope. “I think this is it.”
I looked over down the road and my eyes widened at the sight of the house before us. Calling it a house wild be using the wrong word however; a mansion was a much better term.
Daniel and I both exchanged looks of surprised as we double-checked the letter.
“Well that explains the large reward,” said Daniel. “This guy must be a noble or something.”
“Only one way to find out at this point,” I said as I motioned him to follow me to the door.
We could hear gentle footsteps behind the large wooden door. After several clicks and a grunt, the door slowly opened. What appeared behind the door was a small mouse of a human, clad in a fine black suit. The human jumped and yelped in fear as soon as he saw the black charr that was standing in front of the door.
“Um,” I said towards the cowering human. “We are here to deliver a message. Is this the right location?”
The Butler’s eyes propped open and looked at Daniel and I in surprise. “O-oh,” he stammered. “W-well you must be the couriers Lady Serenity hired. P-please come in!”
The butler opened the door completely, allowing Daniel and I to stride into the brightly lit mansion. Most of the floor was covered in a fine blue rug, and the main hall had an elegant wooden staircase ascending into the second floor. Based on the many finely crafted furnishings and tapestries in the main room alone, I concluded that Lady Serenity was indeed quite wealthy. Daniel appeared to be very eager over that fact.
Several more butlers joined the room signaling us to walk over to the right side of the room. We followed their lead. After a short walk past several hallways and corridors we found ourselves inside a large library filled with what seemed to be books of every topic imaginable. I could even spot a few that I had read when I was a cub. At the center of this room lined with books sat a medium sized desk with a red velvet chair that had its back turned towards us.
Daniel and I slowly made our way towards the other side of the desk. We found two more chairs prepared for us. I gave a brief glance towards the velvet chair and saw a small human woman with long flowing black hair. Her features were sharp and accented, almost as if she was meant to emit a message of beauty as well as danger. This human was the personification of a rose if I ever saw one.
Her chestnut brown eyes glanced towards my direction. She gave a smile and said, “Welcome to my home, couriers. Please have a seat, we have business to discuss.”
Her words were soft and delicate; the atmosphere in the room immediately became serene and pleasant. It was obvious that she knew how to speak to other people, that much was certain.
Daniel and I strode over to our seats and sat down. I noticed that my seat was meant for a human so it looked quite awkward with a Charr sitting on it. I could hear the wood of the chair creaking under my weight. A butler quickly came and offered us several snacks on a silver platter (we quietly refused).
Do not eat anything in the client offers you. One of the many rules I made for myself when conducting business.
“It is nice to finally meet you both,” said the woman with ebony hair, her tone soft and placid. She was leaning back on her chair as she took a good look at both of us. “I’m Lady Serenity, but you can drop the ‘Lady’ formality when you refer to me, I don’t really like the sound of it. By what names may I call you?”
Daniel leaned forward on his seat. “It’s a pleasure Serenity, I am Daniel Virai. But you can ignore my surname.”
Daniel seemed to be restraining a bit of his optimism from this woman. I could tell that he was on edge as well. But there was no time for speculations; Daniel did his part, it was now my turn.
“And I am Anavari,” I said trying to keep a straight posture. “And might I say that it is a pleasure to meet you as well.”
“Anavari?” asked Serenity. “Forgive my rudeness but, that does not sound like a typical Charr name.”
“No it does not,” I replied with a faint smile. “But then again, I am not your typical Charr.”
Serenity smiled at my comment. “That is good, normal people can be so boring. I have a feeling that we will enjoy each other’s company in the future. But I digress; let us get to the reason as to why you are here. Do you have the message?”
I looked at Daniel expectantly. He nodded in reply and reached into his jacket. “Before we make the delivery final,” said Daniel not removing his hand from his jacket. “There were… complications on the way to the city.”
“Complications?” asked Serenity with concern, “what kind of complications?”
“Well complications sound a bit vague,” I added.
“A band of assassins targeting us is a better term,” said Daniel cheerfully.
“Which was not only an incredible hassle to deal with, but I had to walk all the way from the Kessex hills with a limp. This obviously led us to believe that the message we are carrying is far more valuable than your associates have led on to believe. To put it bluntly,” I glanced over at Daniel to finish my statement for me.
“Oh!” he said catching on. “We want more money.”
I cleared my throat loud enough so he could hear.
“A LOT more money,” added Daniel.
Serenity looked at both of us with a blank expression, what followed after was her uncontrollably laughing. She regained her composure with one more sigh and said, “I knew I would end up liking you two. You are not lying, that much I can tell. You are not afraid to go the extra mile either. On behalf of my company I apologize for the inconvenience. We have many enemies and took every precaution possible before contracting your services. Turns out they weren’t enough. Your reward shall be increased tenfold for your efforts.”
My eyes widened in surprise. I noticed through my peripheral vision that Daniel nearly jumped out of his seat. The reward in itself was already a substantial amount (which was why we accepted the job in the first place), but a tenfold increase was something neither of us expected.
“Yes well,” said Daniel with a wide smirk on his face. “A tenfold increase is perfectly acceptable. Right Anavari?”
“Yes… it is quite acceptable indeed.” I said trying to restrain my emotions.
Stay calm and composed during negotiations, another one of my rules.
Daniel remembered the letter in his hands and handed it to Serenity. She gently reached for it. As her hands touched the sealed message I could notice Daniels expression change from eagerness to surprise. His left eyebrow twitched. After traveling with him for so long I knew that such an action was an involuntary response to him discovering something that he found interesting.
Daniel released the letter and Serenity proceeded to open it. With a delicate finesse she tore open the envelope with the rustling of paper being heard throughout the library. She extracted a note and began to read in front of us. Her eyes raced across the page then she immediately handed the note to one of her butlers.
“You have been a great help, Anavari and Daniel,” Serenity stood from her seat. “Now allow me to extend my services. To the people of Divinity’s Reach I am merely a spice trader. But to the darker side of the word I am a trader of more valuable cargo. And that cargo is information. From just a brief observation I already know that you two are of the same tree as I, and if what you say about the assassins is true then you two know how to take care of yourselves. Feel more than welcome to call on my aid for anything that may puzzle you, and if you don’t mind, I would also like to request your services for future assignments as well.”
Serenity offered her hand to the both of us. We stood from our seats and offered our hands. She united both Daniel’s and my hand with her own and gave them a firm shake.
“It would be our pleasure, Serenity.” I said.
“Just call if you need anything delivered,” said Daniel. “You can count on us.”
“May we be of use to each other as allies,” Said serenity with a confidant smile. “And I hope you plan on staying for a while town, I might have a job ready for the two of you very soon.”
After some more brief words, we were given our reward for the job. Our spirits were high and our wallets full. As we made our way out of the mansion we found that we had a spring in our step as we made our way back to the streets.
“She’s a fighter,” said Daniel from out of nowhere.
“Serenity, she knows how to fight. I could tell by looking at her hands. She knows how to use a weapon.”
“You can tell by just looking at her hands?” I asked.
Daniel nodded, “Something I learned a long time ago.”
I shrugged in response, “I suppose it is not too surprising. But I believe we have much more pressing matters at the moment. Do you want to find a room for the night? Or should we do that later?”
“About that…”Daniel smiled at me as he scratched the back of his head. That meant he wanted to tell me something that he did not know how I would react to. “I had a different idea in mind.”
“…What is it?” I asked, I noticed that he seemed… reluctant, nervous even.
“Well this job did give us a good amount of money. I was wondering…maybe we could combine our gold and use it to buy a permanent place to stay?”
I looked at the human with a raised eyebrow. “You want to buy a house together?”
I admit the human’s suggestion did catch me off guard, and the notion of having some place to come back to once our job was done was something we only grazed at during previous conversations. But he was right, we did have enough money and I was quite sure that Serenity’s services could help two newcomers find a place to live in a City that they have never been in.
“Well I guess you can put it that way, but if you don’t want to that’s-”
“Are you sure about this?” I asked, “You want to share a house… with me? A Charr from the citadel with no last name. You do realize what that means right?”
“I’m a human with a past as shady as yours, Anavari,” Daniel seemed to have calmed down a bit. “Also you’re my business partner and best friend, and if you think about it the idea sounds…well, convenient.”
I smiled, “Alright…Lets go house shopping.”
Daniel’s expression became ecstatic. His eyes lit up and his face was beaming. “Back to Serenity’s then!” he said with a new found vigor. “Maybe she can help us find a place. We can move in tonight!”
Our lives practically changed overnight. We had found permanent residence in the city of Divinity’s Reach. Not only that but we had made a very influential ally. So our road to the next adventure began here, this is where it all started. Both Daniel and I were completely oblivious to the storm that approached.