An early summer wind skips across the warm waters of the Mirror Sea. It fills the linen sails of a skipper before disturbing the otherwise perfect stillness of a clear blue cove. The wind passes swiftly away from this idyllic scene, gusting toward the island of Loamholt and through a nearby coastal community. A group of young mice playing in an alabaster courtyard whoop and squeal, pausing in their games as the air buffets their brightly-dyed clothing and sends a small bucket skittering across the cobblestones.
The wind leaves the town of mice and travels inland, rustling branches and whistling through boulders dotted across a forest that has just passed the full bloom of spring. It finally comes to its end at a small outpost- an inn of smooth wood and dark gray stone deep in the heart of the forest. The sign over the door is pushed gently by the breeze, causing the fire-branded image of squirrel in a tall crown to dance to and fro. Over his head in curling red font is emblazoned 'The King's Ransom'.
A sturdy-looking mouse steps lightly out of a side door to the inn. Flour and oven soot stain her apron in equal measure, and her paws are still damp from the sink. She stretches her arms up and over her head, standing on her tip-toes as she slowly unkinks her neck. Maybe Wornick is right, she thinks. Maybe I should start thinking about letting the Ransom run itself for a change... She stops stretching suddenly at the sound of a twig snapping in the nearby woods. In an instant her fur is standing on end and she has dropped into a ready crouch- the thick muscles just under her copper-red fur grow taut. Her paw grasps the handle of something hidden under her apron and she waits. 5 seconds... 15 seconds... one minute... The tension drains from her posture and she snuffs in irritation. Old fool. Jumping at frogs and fairies, no doubt.
She turns to walk back into the inn, and that's when she sees it. A letter is wedged between the siding slats to the left of the door. Its edges are thick and firm (quality stuff) and the gold wax seal has been embossed with an ornate sigil:
The innkeeper's shoulders sag and she sighs deeply. Time to get back to work after all. she thinks. She plucks the letter from the wall and reads it quickly before anyone can see. She turns and heads back to the inn, leaving the night to its quiet ways- its warm summer wind and gently swinging signs.
It's a busy night and The King's Ransom is full. Most of the clientele are woodsmice: their brown-gray fur and simple homespun make that clear as day. There's a reasonably-sized contingent of shrews, as well. The nearest branch of the Swift is a ways off, but it would take more than distance to keep riverfolk away from the Ransom. There's even a hare at the end of the bar. He fills most of his corner, and by the look of his drooping ears, he's probably put away a dozen tankards tonight, already.
The four of you are seated at a square table. You've each been issued a summons to meet here, and by either fate or good fortune you've arrived at roughly the same time. Though most of you are strangers, you can identify a member of the Mouse Guard right away. The introductions have already been made:
Mazer, despite being no more than six seasons old, he bears the badge of a captain of the guard. He is both the youngest and the highest ranked member of the group. Eli Stonepaw, lightkeeper of the northern lighthouse. Large and quiet, it's hard to overlook the enormous driftwood club leaning causally against his seat. Craven, physicker to the shrews of the eastern shore. His fur has an unpleasant greenish hue, but that's barely noticeable next to his mask and peg leg. Nissa the Black, a reputation as dark as her name. She was called a hero once many seasons ago. Now 'deserter' or 'recluse' are used more often than not.
Mazer looks at each mouse, the soldier in him immediately assessing each one's ability. One seems sickly, but has an air of capability about him. He is surrounded by vials and trinkets. At first glance, they look haphazard and dirty, but he notices how everything is within reach. Nothing is placed in an awkward position.
Another is very large, and not hiding his bulk or his weapon. He clearly wants to project the look of a strong but slow fighter. However, Mazer can see the way he adjusts his weight, and makes small movements to stay balanced. This one is not slow at all: He makes people think that and then takes advantage of their mistake.
Finally, the ranger. He'd heard of her. Many stories, but stories get mixed up, and not always in a good way. He knows that better than anyone.
Nissa was here when the others arrived, her hood up, a short glass in front of her, back to the wall. She's a small black mouse with pink paws and dark eyes, and depending who you believe, she's a legend, or a renegade, or a ghost story. As she pulls down the hood of her stained, dark green cloak, you see at least part of the stories are true. The left side of her furry black face has long pink scars, and her left ear is all but gone, just tattered bits remain.
She says little. As the others arrive, she gives a genuine smile for Eli, and lifts her glass in his direction (but will let him initiate any conversation). Craven barely merits a glance. And Mazer... she actually breaks her silence to greet him with a quiet, "Captain."
Craven sits at the table, slightly hunched over, his beady green eyes glances all about, he silently pulls out a tiny flask full of clear liquid, pours a bit into an even smaller cup, and downs it as they wait.
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DM - Elustran Days ~ Fate/False Revelation
Rex'aliha - Hoard of the Dragon Queen ~ Mozu of Worms- The Stormpoint Mountains ~ Muireach Maon- Shepherd’s Crossing ~ Crownsguard - Storm King’s Thunder ~ Gunnar Wayland -Boats, Rocks, and Ruffians ~ POUF!- Ex-Ravens ~ Pascal LaRoux - Long Road Dragon Heist
Eli sips slowly from a clay mug, using both hands to bring the black tea to his lips, and then places it delicately back on the saucer in front of him. He returns Nissa's smile, but remains silent. He knows he doesn't have to say anything, and that's just one of the things he appreciates about their relationship. When words are needed, they will come. For now he was content to learn they would have an actual mission together.
He shifts slightly on his chair that's just a tad too small for his rotundness, being careful to keep the greatclub close. This place should be safe, but you can never be too careful. The bannermouse breathes in slowly, twitching each whisker individually in a fashion taught by the monastery to bring focus. He struggles a bit with two of the lower right strands which he can't quite get to behave, as they move in disappointing unison. He releases the breath, and turns his attention to the mouse called Mazer for the briefing.
This is how it happens. Nissa, living as she does in the woods near The King's Ransom, had been sitting in the tavern for hours before the first arrival. Craven made his way in next. Surprisingly lithe in his movements despite the wooden leg, he went unnoticed by every other creature here (except for Nissa, of course). The two of them sat in quiet acknowledgment until the arrival Eli. Mazer caused something of a stir when he arrived. Young, handsome, and clearly displaying his captain's clasp on his gold cloak, he swept into the room with the unashamed confidence of youth and authority.
Once introductions have been made, Mazer pulls a letter from his cloak (the page of it he has chosen to share, at least). The outline of your mission has been sent down from Mosskeep: the closest thing to a capitol city to be found on the island of Loamholt. Your orders are as follows:
To the Mice of the Guard-
A curiosity has risen its head- nothing more. For each of the past several nights, a strange green light has been reported on the Peak (Loamholt's central- and solitary- mountain). You have been summoned to The King's Ransom to gather provisions and set forth to uncover the source of this mystery. There are four of you- four brave mice to face the unknown and(several lines are scratched out and illegible) set to rest the fears of the nearby folk. You are members of the Mouse Guard, and the last watch is yours.
Mazer doesn't know anything about this new team. His first task will be to gauge everyone's abilities, and let the others do so as well. He'd seen other captains arrogantly take command of a new crew, barking out orders and expecting to be followed. That kind of foolishness led to chaos in combat. Mazer also knows well enough that his youth works against him here. Veterans like this group value hard experience over rank, and they have seen their fair share of idiots fresh out of command school eager to make their mark. If he is going to earn this group's trust and respect, he will have to do it on their terms.
So instead of attempting to take charge of the situation and make a fool of himself, he puts the paper out plainly for the group to see, hiding nothing. He wants to hear what they have to say. "Well, this is our letter. What do you think?"he asks.
Nissa will pick up the orders and reads them through once. She puts them down and points to the part that is scratched out. "Was't like this whence you got it?" Her voice is soft, and strangely accented, a little archaic.
Nissa thinks back on the last few days, after receiving her summons, and the trip to this meeting, did the denizens of the forest say anything about the green light?
She raises an eyebrow at that response, but moves on. "Whatever t'green light might be, t'forest beasts move on Firewatch, on't Peak." She directs her next question at Mazer again, black eyes piercing. "Is there word from't Firewatch Guard?"
(Mazer has heard nothing. Firewatch is typically held by 2-3 guards at most. If you've been sent, it can be safely assumed that they are either fled or dead. For context: Mazer's directive from Rynte is depressingly scant information)
"We should discuss specifics in a more private setting," replies Mazer. His tone is amenable, but he slightly tilts his head towards nearby tables, indicating that their conversation is within earshot of several parties. He keeps his tone upbeat and friendly. He doesn't hunch down low and whisper, advertising to the entire room that there is need for secrecy, like some storybook character would do. Instead, he knows that the best way to blend in in to keep his body language and tone of voice in line with patrons in a bar setting. "What do the rest of you think?" Mazer looks at the large mouse who has remained silent, as well the peg-leg with the interesting speech.
Nissa blows a little air through her whiskers, annoyed by being in a tavern, among other mice, and having to pay attention to stuff like that. She starts to stand up, to find a more private place, but settles back on her stool when Mazer asks the opinions of the other two.
Eli's eyes move over the paper, to Mazer, to Nissa, to Craven, and eventually back to the paper. Without looking up, he speaks, quietly, just loud enough for the table to hear him, though they might have to strain a little over the noise of the bar, "We should not waste time. There are scared folk who need our help. To alleviate their fear, we must make known what is unknown." Eli finishes his sentence with a slight nod of finality, then reaches once more for his tea.