A weak grey light fills the morning air. People stir and burned-out campfires are relighted. The makeshift campground beside the road to Beregost slowly comes to life.
Soon, the silence of the morning is broken by loud shouts from the caravan masters. They are looking for guards -- as many as they can find -- to protect their wagons on these now dangerous roads.
The recent troubles with the Cult of the Dragon have unsettled these lands. Rumors say adventurers have brought ruination to the Cult's plans, scattering their followers to the four winds. But previous reports of the Cult's demise have proven to be greatly exaggerated -- and few merchants will trust their lives and their goods to something as flimsy as rumor.
Soon, many of the adventurers and mercenaries that filtered into the camp on the previous nights are hired, joining the caravans to and away from Beregost.
But not all.
A few remain by the side of the road, looking abandoned as the caravans leave without taking them on. Something about them -- the shreds of a uniform hastily torn away, an arcane sigil burning through the bandages meant to hide it, a dark look in the eyes -- led the merchants to shun them.
Gathered together by the side of the road, they notice a figure in a faded greatcoat approaching them. It is a male half-elf, sharp-featured and seemingly ageless, but with a pair of spectacles perched on his nose. He lugs around a lute and several books, seeming to struggle mightily to carry even such a light Ioad.
He greets the party by the side of the road with a hearty good morning.
"Left behind by the caravans," he asks. "Think little of it -- these merchants are looking for shepherds to watch over the sheep, but you are neither shepherds nor sheep, I think."
He smiles in a sinister fashion.
"I think you are wolves," he says.
"And if you are, then perhaps I have a task for you more suitable than guarding caravans."
A young man sits near the fire. His head looks up at the half-elf and he closes a book that he was reading by the dying fire.
He doesn't look like he is accustomed to being out on the open road. His looks are much too clean though the days and nights outside have slowly taken their toll on his appearance. His robes are new but are beginning to look like they need a good wash. His equipment also look like they haven't seen much use.
"Hail and Well Met" he replies to the half-elf. "I've never met you and you've never met me" he says as he stows the book into his bag and stands up. He's holding onto a staff made of wood and encased in a dark metal. On the top of the staff there is a spherical blue crystal.
"It is either a great leap of faith you have in my abilities which may or may not be suitable to the task you have in mind....or you have no regard to my chance of survival and I will just be the first of a series of unfortunate individuals who would have accepted your offer."
"I would like to hear more about the task you have at hand. I do not want to waste your time if my participation does not raise the chance of success. It would be a great disservice to you on my part."
The young man bows before the half-elf. "I am Xel-Thoth Pallorean. How can I be of service?"
A black-robed young man steps up slowly from a dark part of the side of the road and walks towards the half-elf, examining him from head to toe; hoping to find something valuable on his person that is worthy enough to steal, without him noticing.
Slowly, he approaches the half-elf, at arms length, and introduces himself, "....and I am Khial. Perhaps you will need a man of expertise in the art of.....taking things".
The thief extends his hand for a handshake, for despite his shady reputation, he makes it a point to show good manners.....just in case he needs his victims to be comfortable around him.
The half-elf mutters audibly beneath his breath: "Well, it seems those caravan masters were excellent judges of ability -- they certainly left only the bottom of the barrel behind. Still, beggars cannot be choosers, nicht wahr?"
He then straightens and, with a sharp click of his heels, bows slightly towards you. He smiles in a friendly, guileless manner, as if you had not overheard what he just said.
"Allow me to introduce myself, kamraden. I am Herr Doktor Professor Eldritch Jaeger, an itinerant storyteller and folklorist.
"Like yourselves, I too am in search of financial remuneration more rewarding than that offered by the profession of caravan guard -- and I believe I have found it! A mile or two into the woods, I came upon what I believe to be hidden cache of the Cult of the Dragon -- one of many seeded throughout this land during that group's recent bid for absolute power. With the cult reportedly destroyed, the cache is obviously free for the looting.
"However, it appears I may be in need of some ... assistance ... to remove an obstacle left behind by the cult.
"Help me, and we shall split the contents of the cache three ways! What say you?"
Xel tries to hide his surprise of the arrival of Khial. He truly didn't notice the approach.
He stands in slience while Herr Doktor Professor explains the task. Khial is certainly one of those people who you do not want to meet on a dark night in a back alley. Xel begins to mentally itemize his possessions ...just in case they go missing.
While Khial's motives seem to be easily guessed at, at least on the surface. Xel is more curious about Herr Doctor Professor. As a half-elf, Xel cannot even determine his age. He also is unfamiliar with the title Doctor Professor. Does this mean he is a teacher and if so, from where across the vast Realms. So many questions yet Xel pushes them aside for the moment upon hearing the Cult of the Dragon.
If there is any possibility that what Herr Doctor Professor says is true, then indeed there may be a significant financial return on this endeavor.
Xel remembers that in order to complete his research and project he will need much gold. And this is not the only of his problems, he still needs to increase his magical knowledge, far beyond where it currently stands.
Xel's curiousity is definitely getting the better of him. The Cult of the Dragon is a known evil organization seeking the end of all humanity in the world. But what interests Xel is that they have access to rare spells and tomes which may prove useful to him.
It is entirely possible that such spells or tomes are part of the treasure Herr Doctor Professor promises lies at the end of this job.
Xel addresses Herr Doctor Professor: "It would therefore seem fortunate that our paths meet then this early morning. I would be lying if the promise of treasure, both coin and others, is not an opportunity I wish to waste."
Xel gathers his belongings, keeping a fair distance from Khial. He mutters a prayer to Mystra and Azuth to watch over him.
Xel is beginning to feel frustration that people keep on sneaking up on him. He resolves to try to improve his observation skill because this sort of blind spot will get him killed sooner rather than later.
DM: Would Xel be able to identify the monastic order of this new person.
The Herr Doktor Professor pushes his spectacles up his nose to examine the new arrival. Despite the elf's simple clothes and nonsensical talk, he nods approvingly.
"Indeed," he says, "the dead do not spend coin, but spend much time being still. An astute observation Herr ... ?"
He pauses, waiting for the mendicant monk to introduce himself.
OOC: Desarud, given that Epaminondas isn't described as wearing any distinctive clothing, I seriously doubt it. If you're curious about the new arrival, might I suggest talking to him.
OOC: You guys should write your own player interactions in your posts (descriptions, actions, etc.). What you write will stand as what is said and what happens in the campaign; the only time I'll correct your posts is when you're trying to do something impossible, against the rules, or both!
OOC: Use OOC when you want to talk about rules, etc. It stands for talking out-of-character (or out-of-campaign, in my case). I think it's the standard acronym on the forums. (I'd been playing for months before I finally asked someone what it meant.)
OOC: Can you guys see the map? If not, anyone know how to host an image on the web (the map image is on my Google Drive)? The Youtube video I found said to use gdURL, but it's shut down, I think. The image is also on my Google+, but that link didn't work either.