Part 3: Meeting the PartyPart 001: Meeting the Party
"What am I waiting for?"
"What do you mean, just be patient? It's not like I have all day!"
"Oh shut up. Hey! Andrew!"
"Yes? You know, staring into the portal like that isn't best for your health.
"What time is it here anyways? I mean, it was morning when I got pushed through, but there isn't exactly a sun in the sky."
"Oh, we base our time by the location of the Empire end of the Portal. Or at least, the one in the Capital they use for the big exiles."
"That wasn't the one I used. So....?"
"It's about 3AM now."
"I don't feel like it's that time."
"It's natural, really. Here in the caves, we have constant illumination. People tend to set their own schedules. If you heaver head to the Tower or the Castle, I'm sure you can find someone who has made a study of it." He sighes, despondently. "Would probably make them a Professor or the like if they could get it published in the Empire. But such is not to be."
"You know, I may just do that."
The portal begins to swirl, increasing its activity.
"You might want to stand back. Someone's goming through." He readies himself for the new arrival.
"AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!" A crossbow bolt slipped through the portal behind the new arrival, eventually embedding itself in the wall of Tor's shop. The new arrival crashes into Art.
"What the hell! Get off me!"
"Oh man! That was fun! Gotta try that again some time!"
The black-haired woman pushed up, seeing that she had landed on another person. "Hey! This is Exile, right?"
"One second Andrew, sir. YES! NOW Get OFF ME!"
"YES! Got away from that bastard, I did!"
"Thank you!" She regains her feet. "Can you explain to me why someone was shooting at you as you came through?"
looking around "So, wow! I mean, I'm glad to get away from those creeps and all, and going into Exile seemed like the best idea at the time."
"You sure? Really?"
"Hey, what's your name? I'm Art."
"You can call me Ember, of course! Isn't it obvious?"
"No." she sighs "Look, I've got a job offer for you. Talk to Andrew over there, get acquainted with the fort, get some supplies then come back and see me, alright?"
"Yes! Gods, is recruiting going to be this annoying for everyone?"
"I wasn't talking to you."
"Uh... who are you talking to?"
"NO ONE! GET SUPPLIES, COME BACK, GET JOB!"
"Uh... alright.... must be a magic thing."
"Oh gods, that could have gone better. I seriously need people for this? I mean.. right?"
"Did I hear you were hiring for a job?"
"You've got quite a set of lungs on you. Calm down and we can talk business."
"Oh gods. Yes! Yes. You just startled me like that. Um, I'm Art. And you are?"
he offers his hand, Art shakes it. "Rook. Recent arrival like yourself. Actually came in while you were taking your tour." he gives her an appraising, if not judging look "What kind of job would you be offering so soon after arriving, when you have so little to your name."
"HAHAHAHAHAHA! That's a good one! I've heard rumors that not even the First Expidition got out safely, what makes you think there's coin in that?"
"Because there's worse coin in not trying. He's a merc, great. I can use this, I think. And you don't have more than me on you, I can guarentee that. Better to work for someone with a goal in mind than to wander around for something that might not come along.
"You saying one in the hand over two in the bush?"
"Heh. You'd got some spunk for that. You pulling together a team for this, right?"
"Yes... Why, you've experience?"
"Maybe. Why don't we start by comparing skills, see what we have and what we need?"
"A good start. Art. Let's see. I've got a little training in how to handle blades, I'm well-rounded physically, and what magic I use tends to focus on buffing and debuffing."
"I haven't heard of those terms before. Buff? Debuff?"
"Sorry. Guild slang for spells that augment your allies or debilitate your enemies."
"Good. I'm an archer my trade, but pretty good with a blackjack or anything else blunt and heavy. You won't see me touch any of that magic stuff. That's two. What else do we have?"
"I burn things! Lucky for me, I also like to throw things at people when burning isn't an option."
"I decided I want to wander around a bit, and three is better than two!"
"Ember, right? Care to tell us your real name?"
"We'll need at least one more. Up to six people in total. After that, it becomes hard to lead a unified group, and three people just aren't enough for more long-term activities."
"You realize she just invited herself along without me telling her anything?"
"I know that kind of person. Besides, she's romani. She'll follow us whether want her too or not. They're stubborn like that."
"I'm standing right here!"
"So what next?"
"We'll need at least one proper front-line fighter. Preferably two."
"I don't suppose you have any friends looking for a job?"
"Now that you mention it..."
"No. Came here by myself."
"How about that guy?"
"Do you address me, ma'am?"
"Did you just call me a whore?" a flicker of fire crossed her hands.
"No. I addressed you as ma'am. If I had intended to address you as a member of that profession, I would have called you a madame, or something similar enough. It was not my intent to distress you, and for that I apologize.
Let me suss him out. Name's Rook Ironwill, 1st Exile Escape Committee.
Hey Art, what if someone else is using that name?
I don't know? We challenge them for the rights to the title?
Karmas Michaeli. Formerly of a certain Kingdom since... vassalized to a certain Empire.
I like the way you think, girlfriend!
Ah, excellent. You see, the EEC is recruiting new arrivals to Exile to investigate the possibility of, well, Escape. We are looking at people who have, quite literally, stepped through the portal here and ask them to consider, as they are the ones most likely to desire to return to the surface and not have plans to settle down.
What makes you think I would agree to that?
You are well educated.
I read the right books. You want in, or do you want to find your own way.
Your boldness intrigues me. Very well, I will assist you, for a time.
Thank you. Over here, we have Art, the head of our Committee, and the driving force behind it.
Hello. Karmas, I presume?
Yes. I presume due to your attire that this is as much a personal endeavour as it is a political one?
Something of the sort. The Castle and King Micah are focused, for the moment, on internal affairs and infrastructure. Therefore, I've taken upon myself to investigate more long-term solutions to certain problems.
whoa, way to lie there sister! And I'm Ember, I'm here to have fun and what not. I've heard of Michaeli before, but I can't place it. Care to enlighten me?
Not at this moment. Is this all?
You know, if you're doing this, I'm going to head home. I don't need to be useless here.
Bye Andrew! See you later!
* grumble *
So, that's four. What next?
Right now? I think we're almost set.
Injured civilians incoming!
Oooh! Maybe there's an attack!
Steady on there, girl. Let's see what's happening first.
Agreed. The local guards seem well equipped to deal with emergencies.
What if it's a Nephilim attack?
What? The Kitties?
There are hostile Nephilim down here?
I concur. Of what do you speak?
Oh, for the love of...! Look, not everyone down here is all lovey-dovey, alright? There's a faction of the Nephilim that want to kill everyone, alright?
Fine by me!
Perhaps we should...?
YOU IDIOT! YOU SAID IT WAS SAFE!
Get inside! We'll handle this!
Last time I trust you!
It wasn't that bad, now, was it?
You bloody ingrate!
I'm a healer. Are either of you hurt?
Pride and damnation! No, woman! I'm not hurt. Physically, at least. I cannot say much the same for this oaf!
There's no need to call me names! No, I'm not hurt. Not badly, at least. Duncan's my name. Fun is my game! And your vision of loveliness is?
About to put this knife somewhere soft if you don't respect my personal space.
Go for it anyways!
While his manners leave everything to be desired, I suppose some introductions are in order, as you did offer your assistance to us without recompense. I am Peregrine the Fourth, expert thaumaturge at your service. This imbecile with the grace of a Grue goes by the name of Duncan.
Art. Head of the 1st Exile Escape Committee.
Rook, head of human resources of the same.
Ember! I'm here for stuff.
Karmas Michaeli, independent citizen who wishes to assist in the goals of the Committee.
Hello to you all! Listen, this here idiot here wanted to head to Silvar, the nearest town. Only his sense of direction
... ours was a bit off. We went north towards Fort... Dunvo, I think it was? Well, turns out there are some raids up there. And we had to come back this way in a right hurry.
Art, a moment please.
Sure. Karmas, talk to these guys some more, will you? Find out what happened.
This is an opportunity.
I see a couple. Which ones were you thinking of?
We could recruit them. Thaumaturge's are skilled at skilled at both types of magic, and Duncan is a man who is skilled with his hands. I think we should recruit them.
I thought about that too. But they are already not the best of friends.
Offer to escort them to Silvar. It's south-west of here, along a river. We can figure things out from there.
This seems like a weak justification. What's your angle?
I don't want to stick around while recruiting. Fresh locations and fresh faces. It'll also give you and me time to settle down just what the Committee is, and how it works. Nice improv back there, by the way.
I've had practice. But for now, your plan is sound. Get it done.
* * *
And that is our party. Normally, the party is directed to go north to do some grinding and learning about the world, but for narrative purposes, I'll head them to Silvar first and get into a fight along the way to explain how combat and general exploration work. This post was too long as it is.
Also, here's a map of Fort Exile with all the people I've talked to so far. There are a couple more NPCs that I haven't shown off talking too, but I think I'll take care of that at the start of the next chapter.
As always, comments, suggestions and criticisms are welcome.