Autumn, CY 611 CY The Search Part II
War, pestilence and starvation had plunged the Sheldomar Valley into a pain and suffering almost too great to endure. “How could I feel this old in less than two score years,” he wondered aloud as he walked through the crowded market. A few of the shoppers nearby gave him strange looks as he talked to himself. The market was alive with the haggling and shouting of the vendors, but it was a merely a shade of what he remembered from his childhood.
Even the resilient citizens of Cryllor reach a point where they break and would never be forged anew. “The crucible needs to refine the metal, not destroy it, if you want to make a sharp blade or sturdy hammer.” That was the advice given by a surly dwarf met in this same market all those years ago. It seems the very thought of that dwarf and our companions still brings more joy than sorrow. Will the crucible of these times destroy these good people or forge them into a bastion of strength and resolve?
Everywhere he went he saw hunger and disease, pain and death. The remnants of the Times of Trouble still echoed loudly even after all these years. “Not a long period of time for a dwarf or an elf, but I have too few summers left to see if the seeds I plant will grow into the heroes who can restore peace and deliver prosperity for future generations,” he mused.
His thoughts were broken by a tug at his sleeve. “Will you want the usual, Master Clearspring?” It was Sandoval the Bald, his usual wine merchant.
Absently he responded, “Yes, and have it delivered to my shop, payment on delivery as usual.”
Sandoval paused a moment, and then continued. “A question, if you don’t mind; you have a small dry goods store, no family to speak of and yet you buy wine by the hogshead every fortnight. Do you swim in it?” A quick laugh and a smile was all that was needed to deflect such curiosity. Wine was one of the most useful ways to loosen the tongues of those who would be heroes, doomed to an unmarked grave or those who had the potential to be the sword or hammer the kingdom needed. How many start to seek fame and fortune only to find they serve a higher purpose for the greater good? A question only the gods could answer.
The handbills posted in the local taverns, guilds, refugee camps and the city gates always brought out a crowd. The mere mention of adventure, fame, and fortune (with a free glass of wine) made the curious and the brave come out. For nigh on three years these meetings had withered to only a few who possessed the skills required to survive the adventuring life. Those who showed potential were either old campaigners long in the tooth or those too young and unskilled to survive an encounter with an angry bar wench, let alone orcs, trolls, or worse.
His shop was small and unremarkable from the outside. Always cautious, the door locked and shutters closed; a quick hand gesture and a few minor words of arcana would reveal any magical auras. The only emanations were on the expected items. Unlocking the door, he entered, and quietly relocked the door. With a word he moved through the ether between places to a warehouse on the outskirts of Niole Dra.
“Welcome back, my friend.” the scowling Dwarf exclaimed. “We have serious matters at hand. When will you give up on these fishing trips?” In his mind, “Never” was the answer.
“Where are those the kingdom will need? When I find them, I will guide them, prepare them, and forge them for the future.”