So this is what a city in the realm is like on the inside, so many people, so much commerce. I've never seen anything like it but Karndal seems to know his way around. Spent all of yesterday deciding if I could trust him. We kept the swords we picked up despite having no scabbards. Tried holding mine in my belt and it severed the leather. Now I need a new belt. Also it's hot, very hot.
The stallholder had that wizened air about him that seems to be some sort of trade secret, or a black magic. Whatever it was Greiip felt he really wanted to make the man a fair offer.
“Of course, fine steel like this, under proper inspection, could almost look like the work of a military smith”.
The old man looked at them with a knowing glint then back to the sword. He ran his finger along the flat of the blade, down the fuller “not many private smiths who now how to make a fuller this deep and still keep the strength in the thing, makes it light, very very light”.
He lowered the sword behind the counter for a moment, following someone in the throng behind them with his eyes then back to his customers.
“Fifty grains I'll pay you for this”
Karndal, who had been watching the trader with folded arms stepped in angrily.
“Fifty grains for a sword that new, over my dead body”.
The old man looked at Karndal with a slight glimmer in his eye “You should be careful bandying about ideas like that son, some people might just take you up on the offer. Fifty grains. Or you could take it over to the Realm smith on Walling Street. They may have a few questions however, about how two vagabonds came into possession of a military grade arming sword, without it's scabbard”.
“Sixty grains and an empty scabbard for this one” said Greiip opening his cloak a little to show the other sword there. The manoeuvre caused him to let go of his waistband and his trousers fell down a little. He shifted and grabbed them before he treated the whole market square to a public display.
“And a belt also”
With his trousers fixed against his body and a battered looking scabbard bouncing off his thigh Greiip felt a lot better. The two of them bought a couple of Rorebas steaks wrapped in a waxy leaf and retired to a shady corner of the square to count the grains.
“What next then?” asked Greiip “go and find a guild right?”
Karndal tore off a chunk of his steak and chewed it thoughtfully.
“You need to find the right one, none of the big ones would take you unless you had a few thousand grains to grease them up with. Some of the smaller ones, you wouldn’t sign up your worst enemy. Those ones just want your gold and couldn't give a good Roork Damn if you live or die”.
“Who decides which are the big guilds?” asked Greiip.
“Fate really, some of them do better than others, it's business. Guilds win, guilds loose and some just make do with being mediocre”.
He pulled a piece of sinew from his mouth and threw it on the floor at Greiip's feet.
“Of course if we start getting a bit of success we can apply to the higher up guilds on reputation alone, hell if you get good enough the guilds start approaching you”.
“So you've done this before?” asked Greiip.
“People of the Realm rarely adventure here. The guilds put some of their tax back into the King's coffers so we supposedly benefit from it anyway, but think about it, if wherever you're from had caves full of treasure, would you want to search those or find better, more exotic ones further away?”
“Where I'm from has a lot of potato fields and not much else”. Said Greiip “if it had treasure buried beneath those fields we'd probably try to plough it out”.
“Ah treasure farms, yes we have those. Anyway,” Karndal swallowed his last mouthful and wiped his hands on his trousers, “We should take a wander down Dewing Road, see if anyone's looking for a new contract”.
Dewing road was a different world to the market square. Colourful awnings were replaced by regal arched porchways. The towers of wares and poles hanging meat, fish and bushels of vegetables were swapped out for majestic Oplii trees. There was a sense of calm, of quiet business being conducted diligently behind heavy Pallenwood doors.
“Stroke of luck this, ending up in the town where all the guilds are” said Greiip looking about in wonderment. He had never seen houses this big before, a single one could sleep half his village if people didn't mind cuddling. Karndal chuckled.
“These are Journeyman's houses, the guild masters are mostly set up in the capital. It's okay though Journeymen can still accept new applicants. Sometimes better to deal with them over the masters anyway. Still,” he drew a sharp intake of breath “we will have to pick wisely. A lot of the ones in our price range are disreputable”.
Greiip saw it then. A blue painted door, smaller than the others in the row. The building itself looked as if it was being bullied by the houses around it, smaller and with less decoration it seemed to cower, in so far as a house can cower. He read the sign above the door aloud.
“Kringle's fabulous Mist Realm touring treks and adventures incorporated”
Karndal turned to look.
“Huh, never heard of them, could mean they're cheap”.
“Worth a look then?” asked Greiip.
The door appeared locked at first but a good shove revealed it was stuck by a stack of books. They toppled with a thud as the two men entered. The porchway was small and crowded with more books and rolls of paper. It led into what looked like a dining room, kitchen and study all rolled into one. A large black pot steamed over the open fire adding to the already sweltering heat. Greiip and Karndal loosened their collars and looked around. There was no one in sight but an open ledger sat on the table surrounded by the remains of a lunch. Greiip looked at it, the hand was Deeprealm, the curious business language of the Realm that sounded exactly the same when spoken but was written entirely differently. Here the stacks of books and pamphlets reached oceanic quantities, great drifts and dunes of parchment stretching away into the darkest corners of the room.
"Good Roork it's hot in here" muttered Greiip
“Hello” called out Karndal
There was a distant clatter from an unseen room away in the back.
“Hello” came back a muffled voice, “Hello, sorry half a moment” the voice dipped a little “no put the carrots in the stew the trimmings in the stock, how many times” the voice returned to louder muffle “right, yes hello”. It grew clearer accompanied by the odd clang of something being knocked over. Presently a portly man in a thick fur coat and wool hat emerged. A bushy beard covered his face but beneath his fat the eyes, which were the only part of him that was really visible, seemed gaunt. His beard formed a shape that suggested he was smiling underneath.
“How can I help you fine gentlemen?”
“Kringle I presume?” said Greiip extending his hands.
The man accepted the gesture and showed his open hands knocking a set of brass scales off the table in the process “Indeed, and you are?”
“I'm Greiip and this is my travelling companion Karndal. So you're the master of this guild?”.
Kringle made another beard shape that well could have been an even bigger smile, or a yawn, it was hard to tell. He picked the scales up and set them back on the desk upsetting a tin pot full of weights across the surface.
"Yes I'm Kringle, we're ah, that is I am still applying for a guildhouse in the Capital but don't despair, I have just as many dungeon rights as they do".
He turned away from the mess on the desk with a tut and stirred the pot on the fire.
"I assume that's why you're here?" Kringle stoked the fire a bit and pulled his fur coat tighter. “Sorry about the cold by the way, can I offer you a cider?”
Greiip wiped a bead of sweat from his brow and looked at Karndal. The lad returned a subtle nod.
“That would be most amenable, thank you” he said in slightly pained tones. Kringle filled several bone goblets straight from the pot and handed them round making sure to spill plenty on his guests thighs as he did.
“Roork damn it sorry, I'm not normally this clumsy”
He pulled a rag from a pile of papers which fell over between the three men and tried to wipe Greiip down. Greiip waved him away politely and took a careful sip.
“Wow, that's hot” he said to himself. Karndal's expression said he felt the same.
“There, that will warm you up in no time” Kringle took a seat in front of the ledger “so anyway?"
Greiip set his goblet down. Karndal had told him the right words to say. As the eldest of the two custom decreed he extend the request.
“Good merchant of the guild, I seek sponsorship for myself and my companion for dungeon rights”.
Kringle's beard remained a crescent but his eyes had stopped smiling. He folded his hands together.
“I see, and what do you bring as a guarantee?”
“Well we can make a down payment of forty grains” said Greiip.
Kringle dipped his quill and made a small note in the Ledger.
“Forty grains, well it's a start, what else?”
Greiip looked at Karndal and back to Kringle. He spread his hands “we have nothing else to offer”.
Kringle set his quill back down “new to this then, trust me my friend, there is always something else to offer. Your armour and weapons will carry a value. I offer equipment reclamation as a service, whe.. er, if you die I can retrieve your belongings through my underworld fences, all you have to do is sign death rights to me”.
Greiip didn't like the sound of death rights and Karndal's less than subtle kicking of his foot beneath the table confirmed it was probably a bad thing to sign.
“Actually we have no armour and only the one sword, not worth much more than sixty grains”.
Kringle brightened at this “ah no equipment, you're mages then. Well that's excellent you can sign up your services alone as a guarantee, nothing extreme, magic training, some light enchanting, thaumatology that sort of thing”.
Greiip shook his head “no we're not mages either”.
Kringle frowned “So, please to tell how exactly you intend, being neither warriors nor mages, to survive the Underealm?”
“Well, we sort of had a new idea on that one” said Greiip with a smile. Karndal looked at him and gave another subtle nod.
“We intend to simply avoid trouble, to not be seen”.
“And do what exactly?” asked Kringle
“Take what we can in the way of treasure and slip away unnoticed”.
Kringle looked like he was about to laugh when a flicker of deeper thought ran across his eyes. He picked up the quill and played the feathers through his fingers.
“That's, that is actually” he paused, the smile returning to his eyes “actually not a very bad idea at all”. A chuckle escaped his beard “seems like such an obvious thing now you say it”.
He began scribbling quickly in the ledger “you will have to think of a name of course, for it. Can't have a style without a name”.
Greiip looked at Karndal.
“It was your idea, maybe you should name it lad” he said.
Karndal smiled “how about; thief”.