No, this is not going to remain the title. Actually this was originally “Quest for Taravina,” and it was one of the short fantasy stories I wrote when I was seven or eight, so it was really bad. But then I further developed the world and started over, and then I overhauled the world and now I have to start over again, but it should be pretty fun. It’s going to be deeper now, knowing what I know about the redeveloped world, so I’m excited to see how it goes. Unfortunately I’m not super happy with how this opening scene turned out, but hopefully you still enjoy it. :)
Jair strode up the palace steps and was immediately escorted inside, to the throne room. He bowed low. “You wished to see me, Your Majesty.”
Jair straightened, looking at the king. King Julen’s bright blue gaze still managed to startle him, despite all their past meetings.
“I’d like you to go on a scouting mission for me. You know Thienid, I presume. I have plans to invade, but I’d like to know the lay of the land first. This is to be a scouting mission only, and I’d like to have a dozen of the royal guard accompany you.” He emphasized the word ‘only’ and Jair smirked. He had been known to make messes of things, as his eyebrow piercings and ruby-studded ring attested.
“Thank you, Your Majesty, but I think my team can handle it. We don’t need supervision.”
“Oh I have no doubt you can handle it, but nevertheless I’d be more comfortable if the guard went with you.” Julen’s expression said the matter was settled.
Jair bowed slightly. “Of course, Your Majesty. We’ll leave first thing in the morning.”
“Thank you. You are dismissed.”
Jair turned on his heel and left the palace, taking his horse back from the stables and riding off toward home.
“Home” was a tiny village – if it could even be called that – just outside the worst part of the capital. It was a collection of about a dozen ramshackle buildings, most of them inns and taverns and not one of them a private home. Drunks staggered through the trash-filled streets and porch roofs sagged, but to Jair it was perfect.
He stopped at one of the inns, tethered his horse to a rotting pillar out front, and stepped inside.
He spotted his group immediately, mostly thanks to Crystal; a tall, slender elf in the midst of brown-clad miner humans was bound to stand out. He crossed the room to their table and sat down, hailing the waitress and ordering an ale.
“So,” Malachi’s dwarven voice was low, “what’s the job?”
Jair’s chair creaked as he leaned over the table and replied in an equally hushed tone. “A scouting mission. To Thienid.”
Eyes widened and eyebrows raised all around the table.
Jair nodded. “You heard me right. Thienid.”
“What information are we gathering?” Elem asked, absorbed in a map he was studying.
“He didn’t specify, so I assume anything we can.”
“We don’t have any specifics?” Crystal asked.
Jair shook his head. “None other than that he wants us to take a dozen of the royal guard to go with us, but I think he already knows that’s not going to happen.” He grinned.
“What’s the pay?” Malachi asked.
Jair paused. “He… didn’t mention it.” He immediately recognized why. “That bastard. He’s going to make us take the guard.”
“Smooth going,” Averil said, scoffing as he glanced at Elem’s map.
“I could convince him we don’t need them.” Malachi ran a hand over the blade of his battleaxe.
“It’s not brawn he’s worried about,” Crystal said. “He wants them to keep an eye on us.” She turned to Jair. “And not without cause.”
“Sure it’s not without cause, but we always get the job done, don’t we? When have we ever failed?”
Crystal gestured to his golden eyebrow ring.
“That was one time.”
Crystal rolled her eyes. “I’m just saying that maybe we should play along, take the guard, and get rid of them later on if we have to.”
“Sounds like a good plan to me,” Elem said.
“If Jair had kept his eyes open this wouldn’t have been an issue…” Averil looked pointedly at their leader, “But I suppose this works.”
“Perfect,” Jair said. “We’ll leave at daybreak. Malachi and Elem, get the ship stocked. Averil, what can you tell me about Thienid?”