It’s been several years since you chased Nectin out of old Amsel’s grove. Each of you has been busy; studying, practicing, preaching and learning.
When the raven came from Rifkin, you all felt excited. It will be good to be on the road again, to put to use the arts and skills you’ve been practicing. The lure of the adventure is a strong one and it grips you like poorly made underwear.
Singly or in pairs you make your way to Mortimor’s Cross along the coast. A fairly large city, you know this is where the diminutive necromancer has been studying for several years now, though you have had visits with him as he occasionally visits Odo and Cheltenham. Most of you ignore Jasper’s jests that it’s the intoxicating lure of Peffy that has him returning so often to the little hamlet. The city is a seaport and filled with the sights and sounds of the tall ships, fish and the sea. Truly, with some brass in pocket, this would be a fun place in which to explore, drink, fight and whore around.
The invitation and the opportunities it afforded seemed too good to pass up and you arrive in town and are put up in nice lodgings; a place by the name of The Captain’s Cabin. It’s comfortable, if not lavish, the food is good and the ale better. Most of the clientele seem to be on the wealthier side, merchants and such; this is no sailor’s dive.
After a day or so of getting re-acquainted, Rifkin explains he has met some very interesting people since he moved to town and everybody seems to know somebody and rumors abound at the school and people come and go and the long and short of it, one of his teachers put him in touch with a certain Prince Dmitri Dmitreyivitch, not long come from the north, looking for people willing to work, and here you are.
The prince joins you for dinner. He is big for a dwarf, height and width. Even were he not wearing his boyar’s cap, he would seem so. His gakti was elaborate and ornate even with the muted browns and dark greens which compromised the bulk of it. Yellow trim and soft, supple looking yellow leather knee high boots, with little upturned toes, completes the picture of a dwarf who was clearly more the prince in name alone, but you have no doubt the long dagger at his belt is not just for decoration. He removes a sable lined cape and sits at your table. There are gold and silver rings braided into his reddish brown plaited beard and hair and more of the same adorn his fingers. He has several travelling companions but after a few minutes it becomes clear they are subservient to him and not equals. They are dressed for travel in rugged trousers and utilitarian gakti, each with several visible weapons on them. They insure his plate and glass are never empty. He refuses to talk business until he eats and does so with gusto, questioning each of you regarding your travels and studies, raising an eyebrow several times as you recount your run-ins with Nectin and the saving of Tess, while barely looking up from his plate. Finally after what seems like an hour and a ton of food, he suddenly stops, belches and with a dismissive wave of his hand, ends his meal. One of his men quickly lights a pipe and hands it to him while another pours him some deep red wine and clears his plates, quickly handing them to the wait staff who bustle off into the kitchens.
Then, with little fanfare, he launches into his tale: (In your best Russian accent)
“The dwarfs of the Novoragrod Principalities have returned to reclaim what is theirs. Starting with the ancient Volkov Delvings to the north, it is our intention to re-open trade routes into and from Norscandia and Breetland. In a time not much remembered excepting for the oldest of our kind, there were great roads and commerce between the three countries. Driven out by plagues of monstrous enemies, betrayed by both men and especially elves, our people were forced, as ridiculous as this may sound: underground. Those dark days of scattered families and finding what homes and work we could are over. My cousin, Prince Balil Raskolnikov Shrimpsky has been uniting the clans for over 30 years with a single purpose. We have started to take back what is ours. But, my new friends, I will be blunt with you, in fact, I know no other way to be: why should the countries who helped us so little in the past gain so much by our hard work? This is where you and others like you enter our history. I am a simple emissary come to your land to spread the good news. We are inviting you to come north to work and allow us to use our resources to create what will certainly be a mutually beneficial first link in a chain that will bind our nations together, opening the doors to trade, friendship and mutual profit. Elsewhere, other small bands are already heading north, eager to assist us and get rich in the process.”
He takes the time to let his words sink in, looking at each of you in turn.
“Yes, riches await and they are all yours”, he says, flashing a very warm smile, then adds very, very quickly: “Providing, of course, there are no existing legal/family/clan claims to such treasures, nor any other dwarven dispute to ownership, reclamation procedures, dwarven injuries associated with said reclamation or any heretofore unforeseen disputes arising over ownership, personal injury or damage to reputation or family name for which you are liable and to be determined by a legally appointed presiding judge of the Bureau of Dwarven Affairs.”
He relaxes and sits back, eminently pleased with himself with an attitude that only the privileged can affect after completing as mundane a task such as this.
The prince informs you that he was certain you would agree to the terms, knowing how practiced and skilled each of you were and that passage has been booked for all of you from Mortimor’s Cross to Inkchester and thence to West Easton where you will meet one of his family to guide you to Volkov in the mountains to the north.
He stands and shakes your hands one at a time, thanking you for your service and a wonderful dinner and quickly skips out on the bill.
Jasper can only look as the prince exits. ‘What a stwange puwson’ he exclaims, drawing another smack on the back of the head from Rifkin.