Arbuck. A bustling city known for it’s many shops and therefore, crime record. Every street started and ended with a shop and at least one soldiers post. Shops of all kinds that carried almost anything that was ever wanted were not uncommon. The streets were narrowest in the older part of town, where most of the businesses were, while the outside of town was like the residential area and had wider streets. The city jail was usually overflowing with criminals charged with petty offences and the law enforcers that kept them there were few yet overpaid.
It was during one particular sunny day that Alaric Willowbreeze and Kurn Baldkil found themselves in Arbuck. After helping Garth and Del, the elderly couple from Atlon, move into their home the pair continued through the city. Some of the streets were horribly crowded, making it impossible to move safely and surely. After many close encounters between a hotheaded Kurn and other travellers, Alaric wisely decided to find the closest inn. Close to the centre of Arbuck they came upon Hargin’s Inn, a nicely furnished place that smelled of baked apples. Alaric quickly ordered Kurn a mug of ale while he rented a room and make sure the horses were taken care of.
“Nice place.” Kurn said when Alaric joined him. “Except for the *** traffic outside. Ya’d think there would be somethin’ done about that but no. Not in Arbuck, home of lumbering fools.”
Alaric shook his head. “At least we don’t have to hide ourselves here.”
“Oh but we do, Alaric. Our kinds are still not welcome ‘ere, yet…” He brought a finger to his lips and furrow his brow in thought. “Aha! It must be Sales Time! The reason behind all of the traffic.”
Alaric cocked his head to the side. “All of the shops ‘ave large sales before gettin’ new items. Lasts for a week or so, but you can find just about any race in theses parts.”
A maid appeared with two steaming bowls of soup accompanied with plates of bread and baked apples for the adventurers. Kurn inhaled the food deeply. “Just like Gorsa use to make.” A small tear trickled down his cheek. He smiled at his friend then started his meal.
When the pair finished their meal they retreated to their room to discuss private matters. “So how long are we going to be stayin’ ‘ere?”
“I don’t know. Until He shows up.” Replied Alaric
“Narmola said I would know when the time came.” The elf began to remove his leather armour. “The Foolish One was what she called him. He will not be with us for long and during his time with us will bring others to our cause.”
“Hmpf. Sounds like a load of bull to me.” Grumbled Kurn. “Does she give everyone these names?”
“Yes, if I knew their real names then what would I need her for?”
“What name do I ‘ave?”
“She calls you The Forger.”
I” like it.” Kurn smiled. “Tomorrow morning we should go an’ see Cudo. Show ’em the buckle.”
“But the streets will be horrible!”
“Not if you know the way.” Grinned Kurn.
The next morning Kurn led Alaric out of Hargin’s Inn and down the street into a dark alley. There he showed the elf a ladder that was hidden behind a large cabinet which went into the city’s sewers. The pair swiftly made their way through the rooting piles of filth beneath the city to another ladder. They climbed it and came again to the surface world. Silently they made their way out of the alley and walked nonchalantly down one of Arbuck’s bustling streets. Kurn led his friend to the east side of downtown Arbuck then went down one of the side streets. He stopped at a brick shop at the very end of the street. A freshly painted sign read: Bits and Sorts .
“We’re ‘ere.” Said Kurn as he walked into the store, followed closely by Alaric.
Inside Bits and Sorts there were literally bits and sorts of items on tables and shelfs. The shop was very bright which gave the customer the opportunity to see all of the merchandise. At the end of the store was a small counter where a man sat puffing at a pipe.
“Cudo!” Exclaimed Kurn as he rushed towards the man who had come in front of his counter. “How are ya, friend?”
“Good, Master Dwarf. And how are you?”
“Better then last.” Kurn stepped to the left. “This is Alaric, a friend I ‘ave brought with me.”
Cudo studied Alaric. “An elf? Since when have you…”
“It’s a long story, one I will share at another time. I’m ‘ere for a purpose,” Kurn pulled the orc buckle out from his pocket. “This we found on some orcs between ‘ere an’ Atlon. The symbol isn’t Thogkk, but Fertol.”
The man studied the buckle closely. “I can see that. Not many of these do you find everyday. Very interesting indeed. Come, we’ll go to my study.”
After locking the shop, Cudo led the pair to his study which was located behind his store. The room was just as light as the store was, windows letting in most of the morning’s light. Two bookcases lined each side of the wall and a larger desk sat between two of the windows. Three large chairs and two side tables sat by a small fireplace in the right corner of the room. Cudo and his guests sat in the large chairs quietly.
“This is the second buckle I’ve seen since the winter months. From what I’ve learned most of the orcs, except those that are Thogkk’s elite soldiers, have started to adorn their armour with the symbol of Fertol. The most logical reason I have so far is that the orcs are working temporarily under Fertol. Now past history has shown us that they only do this when there is to be a war coming. Of course when the war is serious they become under Merta’s command, wearing his symbol.”
“The Ever Seeing Black Hand.” Said Alaric absently.
“Yes. Most of the orcs in this region are followers of Thogkk though some have been known to work for humans or Fertol though those are far and few.”
Kurn rose from his chair. “Do ya still ‘ave that book I brought to ya last time I was ‘ere?”
“Yes I do. Would you like me to get it?” Cudo asked.
“Yes. Right now I ‘ave something to do but I’ll leave Alaric ‘ere and he can read it through. I should be back before nightfall.” Kurn then left the room.
“Well then,” Said Cudo as he stood. “I’ll look for that book. You can come and help me.”
Alaric followed silently out of the room and down the stairs. It was the first time he really studied the man. Cudo was of medium build with dark brown hair and almost grey-green eyes. He walked with a slight limp in his left leg and constantly scrunched his nose. His arms were strong yet his hands looked like those of a scribes, delicate and small.
They reached the bottom of the stairs which lead one to a landing with two doors. Cudo walked to the right door and entered, followed by Alaric. The room was large and filled with bookcases, tables, chairs, and other things. There was some equipment that Alaric recognized and others he didn’t.
“It’s a bit messy, haven’t had the chance to clean up. But the book should be around here somewhere. It’ pale green and quite thick. You can start looking over there.”
Alaric moved to the left side of the room and began his search while Cudo searched around the tables and in the desk drawers. Two hours later they still did not found the book. “W should of found it by now!”Cudo flopped into a chair.
“hy do we need this book?” Alaric asked as he also settled into a chair.
“It will help us. It’s a summary book of the prophecies.”
“The ones written by the Profics?”
“No, the one written by the Visionaries.”
“The human lands also have Visionaries? I thought only my people had them.”
Cudo shook his head. “No, there are Visionaries here also. Although they tend to keep a low profile. There is a man by the name of Arthen who has his study here in Arbuck. It’s extremely hard to have an audience with him, he tends to keep to himself. I have ties to him, that is most likely who Kurn has gone to see.”
“Arthen…. he has a dark grey stone in his forehead, does he not?”
“es that would be him. Do you know him?”
“No, although in my youth I read of him.”
“He’s quite interesting actually. Very knowledgeable. Once was a Visionary for Kermel, God of Wisdom. But he now works for only a select few instead of the public unless otherwise instructed by the gods.” Cudo sighed. “I wish I knew where that book was.”
Alaric nodded in silent agreement. The sun was shining brightly through the window of the room, lighting it with a thick beam of light. He skimmed his eyes across the room, when a green light caught his eye. Alaric cocked his head to one side and, with a puzzled look on his face, rose from his seat and walked towards the green reflection. Pushing aside a few older books was a pale green book with gold trim. “Is this it?” Alaric asked turning around with the book in his hands.
“Hmm?” Cudo said lazily. “Why yes! Yes it is! How did you? Never mind, come.” The man took the book from the elf’s hands and practically ran up the stairs to his study with Alaric following behind. “No, no, ah! Here it is….. Well then.” Said Cudo as he shut the book close. “You may stay here and read while I prepare supper. I believe Kurn will be along shortly.” And with that Alaric was left to himself in the study.
The elf simply shrugged his shoulders, reminding himself that humans could be unpredictable, and started to read one of Cudo’s books from the bookcases. Not too long after Kurn returned, possibly more annoyed then when he left. He said nothing to Alaric except merely grumbled then trouped upstairs. Alaric followed his friend to Cudo’s living quarters on the top floor which, once you came to the top of the stairs, brought you to a small sitting area. Next to the sitting area was an even smaller eating area that was connected to a kitchen. To the right of the landing was a door which, Alaric guessed, lead to the bedroom. In the eating area Cudo was placing the meal he had prepared on the table.
He rose a hand as Kurn started to speak. “After we eat, my friend.” And with that the three of them ate their meal.