“And why would we do that?” Olga asked.
“You can take as much gold as you can carry if we succeed.”
“How do we even know if any of this is true?” Brent asked. Jasper reached into a pocket and pulled out a coin. He dropped it on the table between the three.
“Look at that and tell me what you notice.”
“It’s just a gold coin,” Brent said.
Annie leaned forward to give the coin a closer inspection. “The eyes are not scratched out,” she said. She picked it up. “And it isn’t worn smooth.”
“Exactly. It’s a coin of the Empire but unlike most coins from that time, the Emperor’s eyes haven’t been scratched out as many people did around the time of the Empire’s fall as a sign of rebellion. Also, it’s in almost new condition because it hasn’t been handled in over a thousand years.”
Brent extended his hand for the coin and Annie passed it to him. After he had looked at it for a minute, Olga offered her hand and the coin was passed to her. She looked at it for a bit and set it back on the table.
“How exactly did you find this Dragon’s Hoard?” she asked.
Jasper sat down and lean forward onto the table. “I was part of an exploratory mission of historians that went into the Dragon Mountains. We weren’t looking for the Dragon’s Hoard. The cave looked like any other cave with a few skeletons and weapons from the era of the last emperor. Deeper in we found a maze of traps, all inactive. Of course, it took us weeks to verify that it was safe to wander through the maze. Eventually, we found the vault doors. They were locked but one of our group was familiar with locks from that era and was able to open it. Inside were stacks of barrels and bags filling a huge carved out cavern. Along one wall were shelves of sealed scrolls. We opened a barrel and found it full of gold coins.
“A bandit group stumbled upon our camp. I was in the maze when I heard shouting from outside. I made it to the opening section just in time to see the last bodyguard killed. Most of the other historians were cowering on the ground but a couple had been cut down in the initial rush. Then the bandits began searching the camp and wagons.
“We had moved a couple of barrels and several scrolls to the smallest wagon to send back to the Historical Society. Luckily in their first quick search, they did not open the barrels. I was going to hide in the cave until full dark, activate the maze traps, try to escape silently on the small wagon, and get help from the Society. That was the plan I came up with and immediately had to scrap when one of the bandits started walking into the cave. I retreated further back into the cave to the maze entrance. There was no way I could let them have the Hoard.”
“Of course not, gold makes misers of us all,” Brent said.
“Never mind the gold. The scrolls represent hundreds of documents from the time of the Empire. Even if they’re nothing more than tax records, they will be invaluable in advancing our understanding of the Empire. I couldn’t let them have it so I activated the maze traps. There were a series of thumps and rumblings as the ancient counterweight system engaged. This is likely what drew the bandit deeper into the cave. I turned to see him holding a mace in one hand and a lightstone in the other. I don’t remember exactly what happened next. I charged him and we struggled on the ground. Then he stopped moving. When I got up, I saw a dagger in his neck and blood on my hands.
“I ran from the cave, jumped on the small wagon, and drove it away from the camp as fast as the horses could run. A couple of bandits tried to chase me down but my lead was just enough to keep them from catching me before they gave up. I made it to Franhal and sent word to the Society about the Dragon’s Hoard and the bandit attack and the others I had been forced to leave behind. They replied with instructions to return with the barrels and scrolls I had escaped with and they would decide what to do about the bandits. No mention of the those that had survived the attack. No mention of a rescue attempt. Just, come back now.
“I could not just leave my friends to die. So, I used some of the gold to finance this operation. I’ve had spies watching the bandit camp so I know they are still there along with a few of my friends. Others I paid to find fighters that I could trust. Regular mercenaries might be tempted to betray me and take the Dragon’s Hoard for themselves. All of you can be motivated by money or other rewards but you are all trustworthy and loyal. That more than anything else is what I needed.
“And you think we won’t double cross you once we get to the gold because we’re loyal?” Brent asked.
“You might but I’ve already promised you as much gold as you can carry. You could take a wagon full of gold and barely put a dent in the Hoard. So, why would you double cross me, for more gold than you could ever use?”
“Well when you put it that way, I guess not.”
“So, are you in?”
“For a wagon full of gold? Yes,” he said with a grin.
“Great. What about the rest of you?” Jasper asked.
“It has been a number of years since I went on an adventure so sure I’m in and I’ll only take half a wagon of gold,” Olga said.
“Deal. And you Annie?”
“Yes, I’m in for what you offered me before and the other half of her wagon if she doesn’t mind sharing the space.”
“Of course not deary,” Olga said patting Annie’s arm.
“Now that we have that all squared away, I bought us some rooms upstairs. Tomorrow we leave for Franhal to get outfitted for the fight and the journey.”