Calaras made his way through an unfamiliar temple. Such odd heraldry and tapestries hanging from the walls. This Heimdall was not so far removed from the great Mithras but for all his valor his decor was tacky at best. But no matter. Calaras was asked to ally with the priests here by his superiors. It was his gods will. How he missed the comfort of his library. Peace and quiet. The knowlege of ages at his beck and call. But he was asked to take leave. His field experience meant he was not to be cooped up so long. Like a keen edged blade he best not be left go to waste. He came upon a regal looking priest. His staff of office spoke of his place within the order. “Hail Calaras , cleric of Mithras, welcome to the halls of Heimdall” the priest welcomed. Calaras bowed to the senior priest. Though he did not agree with all the same tenets manners were still a virtue of his he prided himself on. “Brother Patrokles , an honor to say the very least”. “To what do i owe this honour to?”. Patokles bayed him to follow and walk while they discuss matters.
“Do you know of Alexander Lionheart?” Patrokles asked. Calaras knew him. Or at least heard of him. Some of his deeds made even the annals of his holy order. Brave , brash , foolhardy even. He had heard that he was indeed a follower of the church of Heimdall but if some of the stories were to be believed then how would they let someone like that into their holy order? Valorous deeds marred by…….. questionable acts to say the least. “Yes i know of him. A paladin in your service?”. “Yes indeed. He also is a bounty hunter from time to time. He has been known to hunt treasure more then the average paladin in our service but thats mostly to feed the poor and keep our coffers full. As you know some of his behaviour is not……becoming of a paladin”.“It would only not be becoming if there is some truth in the stories, my lord” Calaras interjected. They stopped. The older priest sighed." Heimdall seems to show him favour. Though not unjustly i have asked a favour of an old friend from your order. He said he would send an able bodied man to help keep him in check." Calaras felt his anger rising. " Able bodied indeed but i am no babysitter. Surely one of your own order would be best suited for this task?“.”Internal politics being what they are we cannot be shown to impede the progress of one of our own". Internal politics!! Impeding their own? How dare he!! Calaras had to fight to keep his anger in check. So this was to be the next chapter in his life? Babysitting a wayward sot!?". “My lord surely my skills could be better put to use at the battlefront. Or perhaps in the healing halls? I am as accustomed to taking a life as I am bringing a new one into the world” Calaras objected. “This is your charge from this day forth. Do not worry. While not the most envious position it will most certainly not be boring. Adventure snaps at his heels as it does yours from what I gather.” Patrokles could see the frustration in Calaras’ expression. “Enough. I am sorry i truely am. But this is your charge. Think to your teachings. This may be as easily a blessing in disguise. Your first task is to find him. There is a tavern in the city. The Dragons tear. He is known to frequent it from time to time. Seek him out. See if the man measures up to the stories. While your there you will meet a contact of ours. He will tell you of a job that the order requires done correctly”
Now he walks through the streets like some errand boy! The lanterns were lit. Shining on the drunks. The midnight peddlars. The women of ….. easy virtue. Shutters were down all around the streets, all the shops having long since closed. The sounds that came from the houses were typical. Laughing crying. Chatter. Banter. From the streets on the cobbled stones it was muttering and cursing.
Insolent cur. Calaras was furious. Of all the questions Calaras kept wondering it was the why’s that kept cropping up. Why would the gods favour a drunkard. Why even ordain him into their holy order? Had the world gone mad. Calaras was a man of discipline. A man of action. How many sermons had he givin. His voice booming across the halls. Bringing faith and wisdom. Why would a man like Alex, so easily tempted by wine and flesh have chosen this vocation?. But above all. “Why me?”
Calaras stood outside the dragons tear. It was a typical looking place there was light from a fire inside. Raucous laughter. Cheering. He could make out the siluettes of men raising their glasses to toast lord only knows. Right then two men burst through the door. Grappling and throwing punches at one another. Calaras side stepped to avoid them. It wasn’t the fighting or the cursing that disgusted him. It was the smell. Either they were part of the sewer watch or hygiene in this city left a lot to be desired. Before he entered the tavern he took a deep breath and cast his eyes to the heavens. “I did something didn’t I?” He asked Mithras. “Tell me what? Please tell me so i may atone in a more conventional manner” A distant cricket was his only reply. He sighed. Shook his head. And entered.
The bar was not as bad as it had seemed. There was a cosy fire and a lot of noise near the windows but the main bar was quiet enough. A table of of dwarfs were near the bar. Surly looking. No doubt each of them as bitter as the ale they drank. In the corner sat some sort of dark skinned barbarian. Downing mug after mug of ale. Did he breath the stuff? No sooner had he put his mug down then he called for another. Calaras approached the bar and inquired about Alex. One of the dwarves smirked a at the mention of Alexanders name but calaras knew enough not press him about it. Dwarves were good company and solid fighters. But it took a special type of fool to get between them and their ale. “Alex we calls him round here. Good customer. Always has a good yarn or two. He is staying the night here. We have good rates for men of the cloth if you need a place yourself”. Calaras shook his head “No thank you i have lodgings with the order. I just need to know what room he is in” . The barkeep smiled. " were you here five minutes ago you could have followed him. As it is though that information is for paying customers only". Bribery. He should have expected as much. His opinion on this Lionheart character was dropping by the minute. Room 11. Right beside Alexander in room 10.
Calaras waited outside room 10. All the other doors were open. None had anyone in them yet. It wasnt too late. The patrons had more drinking and carousing to do first. He thumped on the door " Alexander are you in there?" He shouted. “He will be in the morning. Check back by then” a mocking voice came in response. What was that Calaras heard. Was there a woman in there as well? He had his fill. Furious he kicked down the door ready to give that fool a piece of his mind. No sooner then he kicked down the door then Alexander was on his feet ready for a fight. “You better your in the wrong room!” Calaras took a swing at Alex but he was fast. He ducked and gave a return bodyshot to Calaras. Calaras was knocked back a step. His rage was getting the better of him. Was this it? Was this what Mithras was trying to tell him? Or humility? Damn why were these things never clear.
He held up his hand. “Wait. Hold. I am from the order of mithras. I am charged with bringing you back to the temple to convene with your superiors”. It took alexander a moment to lower his guard. Calaras looked at Alexander. He was physically not that imposing. Smaller then Calares , yes but he certainly knew how to handle himself. He looked from alexander to the bed and saw a woman there. A lady of the night no doubt. This was it? This was who Heimdall shows hi favour to? This philandering drunk? He must have done something terrible to deserve this. “Mara we have to leave this one early tonight. Go”. Calaras looked at the beauty on the bed . He could see the appeal a less pious man would be tempted by. But his iron need not fear such temptations.
“What is it you need?” Alex asked. “The order sent me to get you. I had no idea that their holy men acquitted themselves as such. Women. Ale. You scoff at the very nature of your order”. “Heimdall does not require abstinence. Nor sobriety. His teachings tell us to help others, protect the weak and innocent and live life in every breath. Sometimes i just enjoy life a bit more then most. In any case when is this summons?”. “We have been charged with a task. I was told we would meet a contact here and he would give us our charge” Calaras replied. “Thats fine but couldnt you have gotten the orders by yourself and then gotten me in the morning?” Alex replied laughing. “Come let us share a mug of ale and you can point out how i bring shame upon my god” Alex slapped calaras on the shoulder as he walked in the hallway pulling his jerkin on.
Mara walked from table to table. Looking for the drunkest men with the heaviest wallets. Any giving her an eager look. Harlot some called her. And some called her a lot worse she had her hood down revealing her elven ears. Seeming exotic always brought an adventurous customer. She though back to what just happened. No doubt not her most unusual encounter. Paladins. Clerics. Priests. So many had a holier then thou demeanour. It was refreshing to meet one that was honest about sex. She knew what happened in holy cloisters. Rectories. Holy ‘celebrations’. Bah closer to orgies then prayer. They would condemn her for it sure but that was why she followed the tenets of Olidammara. Lust. Physical pleasure. These were not vices to be denied. It was how many found god. Who were we to deny our very nature. She had met Alex before. But that was not the first time he engaged her services. But none of his order knew of his secret. It must have only been a recent first one for him. He barely had any idea what he was doing. Now he is upstairs with a larger man. Oh well. Whatever he is into. Mara spotted a strong look barbarian type. He looks different she thought. And she had seen him drinking earlier. He should either be very drunk or he can hold his liquor better then 10 men. She sat next to him trying to get his attention but he didnt seem interested. " So….." she started. She was playing with her hair and doing her best to flirt her way into his good graces. " Your not from around here". The barbarian eyed her up. He seemed to pay her no heed when a man who was going from table to table came upon them.
“Im looking for able bodied adventurers to do a job for my employer, and this tavern is known for having a few of those. I can make it worth your while” he inclined. The two didnt realise they were part of the same group. But the promise of a few coins always sweetens the deal. "If your interested come to the manor of Lord Rafton tomorrow at midday. “How do we know your not brining us there to mug us?” Mara enquired. “Please woman look at my clothes. If i were going to rob someone id start a little higher up then you”. The barbarian laughed a little at this. “Sounds like a plan” He said. Mara couldnt help but think he didnt sound too drunk. But she has heard that barbarians are hardy folk. With that the man left to go join Alex and that odd fellow from earlier who came down to have an ale. The barbarian stood up and made his way to the bar. He was stumbling a little. When he got there he brashly pushed the other patrons aside to ask for something at the bar. Mara couldnt hear them but the barkeep nodded and shifted his head to a door nearby. Mara knew from experience that usually that was where all the action was. Usually the illegal kind but thats where the money was. The barbarian entered a door down the hallway. Checking to make sure he was not followed. Mara was not far behind. She quietly opened the door and saw something she didnt quite expect. Nothing
“Share a drink with you? Fine a goblet of wine”, Calaras ordered. Alex came back with two mugs of ale. “This is not the bar to order wine in”, he explained. " We shouldnt be ordering drinks in the first place!", Calaras all but spat. " Very well what brought you here anyway?" Alex asked. “Iv been charged with keeping an eye on you. To make sure you dont disgrace your order more then you seem to. We are to meet a contact here who will tell us of a task that we are to preform. I am to accompany you and see that its done correctly” Caleras explained smugly. He could see that Alexander was getting annoyed. " I dont blindly follow the teachings. Yes I follow the tenets of the scriptures. But you should not interpret them so narrowly. Piety and faith are virtues true but to touch the hearts of the people you need humility , and to lead by example" Alex retorted. Humility. As naked as the day is long. Perhaps this was a lesson he would have to learn. But it wouldnt be from this whelp. Such a disrespectful pup. “Are you alright?” Alex asked. " I thought you would have been taller" Calaras replied.
“Ah gentlemen there you are” the man said sitting down. Calaras and Alex sat silently. Sometimes its best to listen first. “No doubt your superiors have mentioned that you were to meet a contact here. Well i am him. There is a task that i must put up to you. It involves your order and an ancient debt that needs to be paid. All i can tell you is that it involves the house of Rafton. No more can be said here”. Calaras and Alex looked to one another and nodded. “Very well. We will help you. I trust you have a token to confirm this story?” Alex asked. The man produced a signet ring. The decoration on it was the ones givin to the initiates of Alexanders order. He remembered when he wore a similar one. “What would you have us do?” Alexander asked. “This is too public a place to say more. Dont worry all will be revealed in time. Come to rafton house tomorrow at midday and we can discuss this further”. The tow agreed and with that the man left. Alex pondered as he drank his ale. “Hmm” was all the noise he made. " Im probably going to regret asking but whats on your mind" Calaras asked. “These rings are usually not given away. They are kept until we progress or death relives us from our duty” Alex explained. Calaras rolled his eyes " you know his house is connected your church". " True but i wonder what he needed a mage and a barbarian for as well? He was just talking to those two " Alex finished his ale and slammed the mug down. “Im away to my room. Wake me before you leave. You dont want me to embarrass the order anymore by being late”. With that Alexander made his way up the stairs. Calaras gaze followed him as he went. His last thought before leaving the bar were how much he really didnt like this guy
Mara looked around the room. There was nothing particularly unusual in it. Other then a large burly man just disappeared in here. The noise from the bar was getting louder. No. Not the bar. Somewhere else. She looked down and saw a bear pelt rug. Was that light she saw trying to break through it. She lifted it and sure enough there was a hatch underneath it. She could hear cheering from below being deafened by the sound in the tavern. She made her way down into the alcove and followed a short tunnel. Eventually it opened out into a large chamber. It must have been an old underground storehouse that they converted. It was an arena. A fight club of sorts. As pure a form of gambling as any.Some of the other local taverns must have had passageways down here as well. Just put a heavy weight over the hatch and lock it and if any one bar gets raided the patrons can escape out another. Clever. She made her way around the room and drew her hood. Some people still didnt take kindly to elves so best not draw too much attention. Besides she still had to figure who her best bet was going to be. Cheers erupted. A bout had just ended. One man raised his hand in triumph with bloodied knuckles. “Ulfbar is the winner” the announcer roared! Cheers erupted from the crowd. “For the next bout the contender will be Bullvine son of thiliak!!” The crowed hushed as bullvine entered the ring. He towered over the others by a head at least. To say he was intimidating would hardy do him justice. He was terrifying. His nose looked like it had been mushed. He had a cauliflower ear and scars on his head. " Is there anyone man enough to go a round with me?" He bellowed. Mara eyed him up and down. To fight him you would either have to be supremely skill and confident. Horrifically stupid or just drunk. “Ill take him” a slurred voice shouted out. Mara looked to the dark skinned barbarian who accepted the challange. Well he wont be at the job tomorrow she thought to herself. But then again….. She found someone taking bets and put fifty gold on him and held her breath.
Braxus took off his shirt and entered the ring. Stumbld more like. He had shown up and been making a fool of himself with his drunken antics. The announcer looked at him with pity but couldnt help laugh at what was about to happend. Braxus looked strong no doubt but compared to Bullvine he looked like a well built mouse standing up to a cat." We have a challanger. Braxus the barbarian slayer of chaos hordes and champion of his people" the announcer shouted " and the undefeated champion of the ring. Winning every night by brutal knockout out the defending champion bullvine. Braxus tried to cheer but in riling up the crowd he tripped over his own feet. The crowd laughed at him. Surely this wasnt going to end well. Braxus got to his feet. He would be in trouble now alright. If he was drunk. Fortunately though he was drinking water that night. But the easily deceived underestimate. Bullvine approached laughing at his would be opponent. He made to grab Braxus but as he did braxus made his move. He parried Bullvines incoming haymaker and countered with a chop to the throat. with his opponent stunned he pressed the advantage. He put all his might into a kidney shot and bullvine bent over to the side. Taking a hard swing down Braxus smashed his fist into the side of his face. Bullvine was on all fours now. Braxus grabbed his hair and pulled him up so he could better knee him in the face. Back on his feet bullvine stumbled. Side stinging. Nose broken again. Cant breath. Braxus knew he had to finish this. He too a step forward and launched himself into the air and using both legs kicked as hard as he could into bullvines chest knocking him off his feet and flying into the barricade. Braxus got to his feet. The crowd shocked. As if their minds wouldnt believe what their eyes just saw. Silence gripped the crowd. Only one voice was to be heard. “Yes yes you brilliant bastard you just won me load of gold” Mara was delighted. Elated. The long shot paid off for a change. The crowd erupted into cheers and laughter. Most had lost money on the fight but as far as spectacles go it was a sight to behold. A man stood up to a giant and won the day.
Braxus collected his winnings and basked in adulation. Approval? Fame? Money. Worthless. Means to an end by all means. But he had to know he was the best. Better then all comers. He had to stand over the conquered and know that he was the finest warrior there was. Second to none. Afterwards he was approached by some veterans." Nicely done" they said as he approached. " You certainly have skills. No doubt about that. What if we told you we could help you win big?". “Not interested” Braxus replied. “Hold on now. Wouldnt you like to train with the best? They could teach you things. Turn you from a crude brawler to a disciplined fighting machine?”. “Now you have my attention. Lead on.” The older fighters took him to their inner circle. “Behold this is the masters arena. Risks are higher make no mistake. Every fight you take part in could be your last. Death will stalk you. But we can teach you how to outsmart and out fight your foes. Like chess you only get smarter by playing a smarter opponent. The rules of engagement are no different. You used a mans overconfidence against him. Well and good. We can show you to do that with every single one of them.” Braxus was pleased. This is exactly what he was looking for. No doubt they would want to take a cut of his winnings. So be it. “Very well i accept”.
Mara was delighted. She had won big of that barbarian. Who know he could move so fast. Who cares she had her winnings. She couldnt spot him anywhere though. Oh it didnt matter look at all she had. Still the night was getting away from her. There was time for one more client before retiring. But who. Then she spotted him from across the room. The sound of coins dropping was what drew her attention. There was a foppish looking dandy making his way up the stairs into the bar. She followed him up to the tavern and shadowed his footsteps. Eventually she caught up with him. Handing him a mug of ale she got to know him. He said his name was Pierre de Sable. A noble from not too far away. She feigned interest in his stories of how he was brave and heroic and other such nonsense. In reality she knew better. She had read in a news letter about him. How he raised taxes on all of his farms and then up and left as soon as trouble came his way. His village was attacked but he survived. He didnt even raise the alarm. Well knowing that would make this all the sweeter.During his stories he would give unusual details like how he single handedly stopped an army and lifted up a bull. “Bullwarm is jusht lucky i didnt get in the citing fircle before that other guy” he slurred. The stick of this mans breath. It could catch fire!. “Why dont we take this up to your chamber” mara suggested . You didnt have to tell him twice. He hopped off his stool and nearly missed his footing. More then once, He nearly fell up the stairs when they got there. When the entered the chamer she locked the door behind her and payfully put the key down her blouse. Pierre took off his coat and she heard it jingle. Mystery solved at least. " I have a surprise for you" she said seductivly. Pierre sat on the bed with a stupid drunk grin on his face. “Lie back and close your eyes”. Pierre did as she asked and waited for his ‘surprise’. Mara stood at the door and waited. Only about a minute passed by before she heard the snoring. “What a dope” She said to herself. She rifled through his coat and found two large bags of gold. This was by far her most profittable night in a long time. Gambling and whoring. Who says crime doesnt pay. She kept all the pouches and put a few coins into a small coin purse. She made her way back down to the bar. It had nearly emptied by now. The barkeep looked at her. They knew each other. She gave him the small pouch of gold." You didnt see me here if anyone comes asking" she said with a smile. It had won over many men before and this was no exception. “Yes Mara, looking forward to not seeing you again soon”. She pulled up her hood and went out into the street. Nobody would come looking for her. The man was a criminal and a coward. And now a pauper as well. But getting sloppy can cost more than gold or freedom. It can cost you your life