Brent the greatest archer south of the Fire Mountains. Brent the fastest blade in two nations. Brent the beggar, sat watching the latest person to join the table. She looked like a matronly older woman but she moved like a tiger.
He had arrived at the Deer’s Hide Tavern still playing the role of the dirty beggar. With the money from Jasper’s coin purse, he could have bought new clothes, paid someone to shave and tidy his hair, and arrived on horseback. Instead, he had only bought new boots. After scuffing the boots up, wrapping them in rags, secreting the rest of the coins on his person, he set out through back roads to Berdla. He still didn’t trust Jasper and at worst he could return to begging on the street if this didn’t work out.
Jasper, the woman from the ally, another man, and an orgeslayer had arrived before him. He had hoped to sit back and listen to the others talk but the young woman, Cassie, didn’t seem to speak and neither did her friend Santiago. They conversed with their hands through motions and gestures. The Orgeslayer had been even less talkative forcing him to attempt to engage her in conversation. In the end, he had learned little more than he already knew.
The last person to join their party looked like a matronly older woman but moved like a tiger. At first sight, he had pegged her as an investor or backer of Jasper’s endeavor, whatever it might be. While her clothes were nothing special, replacing an eye with a golden socket and jade stone had to have cost plenty of coin. Watching her nearly decapitate the poor barmaid changed his mind about her. Another fighter for a group that already had himself and an orgeslayer.
Once their last member had arrived, Jasper had excused himself from the table, promising to be right back. Evening came and went with no word from him. With midnight approaching and the tavern crowd thinning, Brent began to wonder if this meeting was some sort of trap. There were several people who would pay for his head. Annie and Olga seemed more than capable of overpowering him if it came to that. Were they waiting for the tavern to empty out for the night? Time to disrupt their plans.
Brent raised a hand in front of Cassie’s face and began snapping his fingers. “Hey, sweetheart how much longer do we have to wait?” Santiago shot his hand out grabbing Brent’s hand. Brent let him.
“Don’t do that. If you need to talk to her I can translate. Understand?”
Brent jerked his hand free. “Yeah, yeah, sure. Ask her how much longer.”
Santiago signed to Cassie and she signed back. “He’ll be back soon,” he said.
“Soon, soon. He said he’d been back soon now you’re saying soon. Y’all have a funny sense of soon.” He raised his voice steadily until he was almost ranting.
Cassie signed back her motions sharp and curt. “Then go. Nothing is stopping you,” Santiago said in a restrained voice.
“Ok, I will.” He stood up shoving his chair back with his legs. Brent headed for the front door tying his cloth sack around his body. If there was a trap he hadn’t sprung it and he was leaving before it could be. Halfway to the front door, it opened and Jasper entered.
He walked to Brent, placed a guiding hand on his shoulder and said, “Leaving so soon? Some last minute business kept me but I am back now and ready to fill all of you in on why I’ve asked you here.” Jasper gently led Brent back toward the table while he talked. “So, would you take your seat and we’ll get started.” Brent shuffled around the table and sat down. Jasper retook his place at the head of the table.
“First some introductions. I am Jasper Dalton, historian and currently the leader of this team.” He gestured to Cassie and Santiago. “This is Cassie, master artificer, and Santiago, her partner and translator.” He turned to the side. “Olga, former mercenary, currently a tavern owner.”
“And head cook,” Olga interjected.
“Yes, and at the end of the table, Annie, former Orgeslayer, currently …”
“Farmhand. Just the one,” she said waving with her only hand.
“Ha, farm hand. And Brent, former bandit, currently unemployed.”
“You can just say beggar. I don’t have a reputation to protect,” he grumbled.
“Right, Cassie and Santiago have already signed on and know all that I’m about to tell you.” Jasper took a deep breath. “Have any of you heard of the Dragon’s Hoard?” He paused to look around the table.
“You mean like in stories when dragons make nests of gold and gems?” Annie asked.
“Dear, you do know those are just stories, right? Dragons never hoarded gold,” Olga asked Jasper.
“Yes. I know those are just stories. I’m talking about THE Dragon’s Hoard. Before the fall of the last empire, the last emperor had several vaults for the Empire’s wealth created. Most were beyond the mountains that separated the capital lands from our own but one was in the Dragon Mountain range. After the trade passes were collapsed, it was lost. Over the centuries it became a legend, then a folk story, and then it mostly faded from common knowledge.” He paused locking eyes with Olga, Annie, and Brent in turn. “I know where it is and there is more gold than all six of together could spend in our lifetimes. Right now, it is under the control of a group of bandits but they can’t get inside. I need your to help me retake the Dragon’s Hoard.”