On a quiet dirt path in the heart of one of Grammen’s many forests, the former gladiator Argarin met the young but skilled ranger Xylia. The meeting was mere chance but the pair felt an immediate camaraderie. A lone dragonborn and wild human, both from outside of civilized society, found that they had much in common and agreed to weave the threads of their fate into one common tapestry of adventure. Together Argarin and Xylia made their way to the closest bastion of civilization, the village of Kent, to seek a greater fortune in life.
The Village of Kent
Kent was like many other villages in the grand Kingdom of Grammen: small, agrarian, and full of rumors. The village itself was little more than an old keep, a few small buildings, and a large collection of peasant hovels.
To the pair from small, secluded homes, however, Kent was a wondrous sight.
Xylia bounced on her toes and tugged on Argarin’s hand. “Look at all of it! It is so huge!”
Argarin grunted in the back of his throat. “Yes, yes. More importantly, look at that.” He raised the hand out of Xylia’s grip to point ahead of them.
Following his finger’s direction, Xylia saw a guard nailing a piece of paper to a board. Once finished, the guard put his hands on his hips, shook his head, and wandered away. The two eagerly approached the board to investigate the paper.
A moment of silence passed over them while Argarin waited expectantly, as the paper was directly eye-level with Xylia, but she stared up at him instead, equally expectantly. “Well?” he finally prompted, too busy looking around to notice her stare. “What does it say?”
She frowned. “You tell me. I have no idea what it says.”
He looked down at her with surprise in his face and voice. “You have no idea? Do you mean to tell me you cannot read?” At this, he laughed, wisps of smoke swirling in his breath.
Xylia’s hair stood on end as she bristled and scrunched her shoulders up against her neck. “Hey! What else do you expect! It took me years to learn to speak common. I did not have time to learn the written part!” She jerked her head away and crossed her arms over her chest with a huff.
He chuckled as he leaned down. “Oh. This is interesting. It says that there are missing girls, and a reward.”
The offended appearance was replaced by one of intrigue. She looked back at him. “A reward?” She lit up with a smile. “A quest! This is our start!”
Now with a clear goal available to them, the two began to wander around the small village to glean any information they could.
What Kent lacked in size it made up in stories. Over the last few months young peasant girls had been disappearing from the fields. The mother of one girl pleaded with the pair to find her daughter, Leona. Everyone that Argarin and Xylia spoke with had an opinion on what was causing these disappearances. Some villagers said it was monsters, the farmers felt it was wolves, the local guards believed it was religious zealots, and the lord of the village, Sir Kendrick, thought it was the nature of young women running off with young men their families would not approve of.
Sir Kendrick was clearly not exceedingly interested in the disappearing girls. He was glad to meet two adventurers and much more interested in recounting many tales of his former glories. Old age had brought a bit of senility to the knight, but Argarin and Xylia did their best to stand before him and listen. There was not much to listen to, however, as the knight slowly slipped into a mumbling drawl, his eyes glazing over when memories of his youth clouded his vision.
The attendant to his right glanced at his lord and reached out his polearm to gently nudge the mumbling man back to reality.
“And then!” Sir Kendrick abruptly shouted, scaring Xylia to hide behind Argarin, then cleared his throat. “And then, that is when I claimed my victory.”
Xylia quickly resumed her place beside the dragonborn, embarrassed at her reaction.
“That… was a very interesting tale, sir.” Argarin nodded. “On the matter of the disappearing girls–”
“Oh, that again!” Sir Kendrick clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. “Yes, yes. If you can find some sort of answer to get the peasants to silence about the matter, I suppose that would be useful to me, but I would rather you take care of a real problem.” He slammed a fist against the arm of his chair. “Those zealots!” His other hand pointed in a random direction. “I don’t know what they’re up to, but I know I don’t like the idea of it. They are setting up some sort of fortress.” His dislike for the situation poured briefly into his words like venom. “They’ve set up very conveniently on the crossroads to the north, where our only trade can make it through. If they stifle us, then–”
Argarin interrupted the rant that seemed as though it would end no time soon by clearing his throat.
Sir Kendrick’s gaze focused on him and he looked a little surprised, almost seeming to have forgotten people were there. “Ah, right. Yes. As I was saying, if you could look into the more dire matter of the Sodality congregating at the crossroads, you will do this village a great service.” He waved a hand. “And, of course, I suppose you should investigate the matter with the girls, as well. I will make good on the reward if you can find something of use. It is important that adventurers such as yourselves receive rewards for your deeds. I was once an adventurer, too, you know. Once, for my service, I received… What was it…” His eyes glazed over once again.
The assistant waited for a moment before he coughed and nudged the man.
Sir Kendrick nodded. “Yes, that was a good day…”
Xylia glanced at Argarin and gave a small whine. He didn’t look back at her but nodded his head just slightly to acknowledge her.
“Then we will be off to take care of these matters you have given us, Sir Kendrick.” He bowed respectfully.
Xylia peered at him, then followed suit, albeit a little awkwardly.
“Good, good.” Sir Kendrick clapped his hands together. “I look forward to your report.”
After being escorted out of the keep and the doors were shut behind them, Xylia finally let go of a heavy, whining sigh she had been holding in the whole time. “That man! I thought we would never be getting out of there!” She rubbed her face with both hands. She pulled her cheeks down and looked up at Argarin with an exaggeratedly gaunt expression. “I have aged ten years in just an hour!”
Argarin shrugged his heavy shoulders and started forward. “It is what it is. Come, while there is still daylight left, we should find a place to stay.” He motioned for her to follow.
She followed, but kept tugging on her face. “Perhaps I have aged twenty years. I might die right now!”
Argarin chuckled. He pushed a hand against her head, careful to not push too hard, as his palm and her head were almost the same size. Xylia laughed and bounced a few steps. However, when she spotted someone watching them, she immediately clammed up, sidled closer to Argarin, and jerked her gaze away.
Silence fell on them and they eventually found an empty, abandoned peasant’s hovel just on the outskirt of town. Xylia was able to curl up in a corner while Argarin could only barely fit, one leg stuck outside the door. Although it was an awkward sleep, they managed to sleep well enough through the night to be fully rested in the morning for their trip to the crossroads.