The Wonderful and Marvelous Adventures of Gust, Chapter 18
It will come as no surprise, after the exciting retelling of the harrowing adventures my newly formed group of adventurers, Hard Steel, had faced up until this point, that the Guild of Merchant Adventurers eventually noticed our existence. They had contacted me in a discreet manner, letting me know to bring my group to their base and meet their Great Master Rowan for Basic Training.
Toki was out vagabonding again, at the University as per his words, but who knows with him, really? So Olaf and I made our way to what is sure to become a historic encounter, the meeting of two great minds, Great Master Rowan meets Great Master Gust. Of course, I'm not so conceited as to use such an extravagant title, however, I surely would deserve it, considering the masterful skills I exhibited as the leader of such a successful team of mercenaries.
Great Master Rowan looked as impressive as his title would suggest, and he wasted no time in directing us to yet another meeting, at the Eagle-Eye Pub, located in The Wynds. Of course, the labyrinthine qualities of The Wynds didn't daunt me in the least, so I quickly accepted to meet Goron the Peg-Legged, the man who would send us on this training mission. While I never thought we needed actual training, I bowed to their wishes, as I surely believed that an alliance between the Guild of Merchant Adventurers and Hard Steel would be beneficial to both groups.
Olaf surprisingly came up with an idea, that we go find the pub a day before the scheduled meeting to scope up the bar and its denizens, maybe gather clues as to what our mission could possibly be. Not one to discard the ideas of the more simple-minded, I agreed to the plan. We navigated the Wynds easily, and we went in the afore-mentioned pub. The first thing I noticed upon entering, which gave me a twinge of sadness, were the stuffed eagle heads on prominent displays. I silently mourned the poor birds who had given their lives to this grotesque display, and turned to the rest of the common room, which was occupied by about 20 patrons.
We made our way to the bar, and I questioned the bartender about his establishment. It turns out that the Eagle-Eye Pub was the favored drinking hole of the Guild members, and that another team had already been there to inquire about basic training. We shortly discovered that the bartender was Goron himself, who couldn't mask the sounds of his peg leg as he milled about, serving patrons food and various drinks.
As we enjoyed our mug of second-best mead, the previous group of adventurers came back to the Pub, amidst a group of burly, noisy thugs. It had seemed they had successfully passed their first mission, which was certainly a good omen, as we were then assured of not facing an impossible challenge. The previous team was soon assaulted by various patrons cheering them on, so I took the opportunity to pull aside one of their members, a lovely young woman, and put my charms to good use.
The lady's name was Leia, and she possessed a certain quaint beauty, one that I wouldn't have minded seeing on a regular basis. She wove a tale of dressing up as rats in the mud and being jumped on by their trainers, but I was hardly listening, as my hormones had started playing games with my head. In a moment of optimistic impulse, I offered her the honor of joining me for the night, however the excitement of the evening had taken its toll on her, and she couldn't bear the additional sexual tension my offer would have brought upon her, so she understandably declined.
Successful with my questioning, however, I was not disappointed in the least; instead I called to Olaf and we left to inspect the perimeter of the pub. This was Olaf's second idea of the night, which makes me suspect that I'm rubbing off on the simpleton. While his superior strength has always been an asset in our previous adventures, with the proper guidance from yours truly, he might one day be sharp enough to lead a mission. It makes me proud to be able to share my gifts with the less fortunate.
Finding nothing out of the ordinary around the establishment, we made our way back to my apartment, where Toki awaited us. I had to assert some authority and let him know that it was unacceptable to miss out on meetings like that. I dislike dressing down my subordinates, but how else can they learn? As Toki looked properly chastised, I left Olaf to debrief him on our day and left to write the preceding paragraphs.
The three of us came in the Eagle-Eye Pub and properly introduced ourselves to Goron The Peg-Legged. We didn't have to wait for long until the thuggish team of trainers came back, this time in greater numbers. I was not surprised that they believed they needed more trainers for Hard Steel, as our reputation undoubtedly preceded us.
The lead brute was named Thunder, and he seemed oddly unreceptive to my natural charisma. It could be that while he was directing us towards a back room, my hand ended up brushing his purse, so he might have been under the impression that I was after his meager fortune, but I assure you all that it was the farthest thing from my mind, as my father's coffers have always been more than enough to finance my needs.
In the back room, we were introduced to a lovely well-muscled lady named Ice, with eyes that could look right through my brave facade and see the romantic soul that hides behind it. I tried looking away from those two mesmerizing wells as she had started to brief us on our training mission. We were to follow a group of make-belief orcs who had allegedly kidnapped a princess, track them to their hideout, get past the guards and find a chest containing instructions to rescue said princess. The whole ordeal seemed ridiculously simple, but I did not want to antagonize the beauty sitting across the room, so I kept my mouth shut… about the mission, anyway.
I tried applying my charms once more, but I must admit that Ice's statuesque beauty left me shaken and I couldn't win her over as instantly as I usually do the ladyfolk. She told me about the different trainers in her team, but I was hardly listening to her words, as her voice was all that could fill my mind. I tore my gaze away from her so that we could go about this mission, but forever will her eyes be in my dreams, I have no doubt.
We were given cloth-covered clubs and were lead down to the cellar, in what seemed to be a cavern. In the corner, I immediately noticed two figures, writhing on the floors. I first thought I was noticing two lovers in the throes of passion, however I eventually heard a voice coming from their location, repeating an odd monologue. From what I remember now, it went something like "Follow Yggdrasil's roots down Sleipnir's road to find the Serpent's Head." Recognizing instantly the religious implications of the speech, I quickly set it aside, as it was no time to follow up on such foolishness. You are aware of my contempt towards people who will believe these grandmother tales, of course, but I also recalled that we were instructed to stay in lit areas and ignore anyone who wasn't a trainer disguised as an orc. We therefore put them out of our minds, and looked around the multiple corridors leading away from the cave.
While Toki tried to find out which corridor emitted more light, I instead turned to a more reliable source. I called upon the critters residing in the cave and found a honest rat, willing to lead us down the path that the orc-disguised trainers had used not long ago. Hard Steel followed the rat down the winding undergrounds, to a room containing a small cabin guarded by two men. The men were not disguised, however, and did not seem too friendly, so we passed them by to make our way to another lighted corridor.
In the middle of the new corridor, we found a conspicuous door. Toki put his ear on it, listening to the voices within, but before we could act further, we heard a clanging noise coming our way. We hid around the corner, and eventually saw an injured armored man bearing red and orange colors hobbling by. Even my massive knowledge of nobility colors couldn't identify his allegiance, but we still decided to approach him, and offer help with his injury.
The man who later identified himself as Sir Garrig was quite handsome, even despite his bloodied face. Not as handsome as I am, obviously, but he had nothing to be ashamed of. Toki used his expertise in medicine to tend to the man's injuries successfully, earning us his favor. Now in better shape, he introduced himself and promised to pay us back at a later time. While friendly and receptive to questions, he still refused to identify his master, whose red and orange colors he bore. I was a bit disgruntled by his refusal, but decided to be the bigger man and let it go. After all, I knew that as a subordinate, Garrig probably didn't possess much freedom of speech.
With Garrig now heading out of the caves, we were free again to inspect the door. Toki finally noticed some old runes next to it, runes he translated as meaning "Orc Hideout". We were then assured that we were at the right place. As we were devising a plan to sneak in the room without being noticed, we were surprised by the door opening from inside, right in front of us.
Who or what faced us, and what happened afterwards will excite, shock and amaze you, but I fear you will have to wait for the next chapter in The Wonderful and Marvelous Adventures of Gust before finding out.
Basic Training - Hard Steel - Part I
They dressed up like rats?!?
The Wonderful and Marvelous Adventures of Gust, Chapter 18