Mercenary's Diary Page
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|Mercenary's Diary Page|
|A page from a mercenary's diary|
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Low risk, high pay they said. Bah, I should have listened to my instincts. But how could I have foreseen this? Every now and then a deal goes sour and if your wit and sword are sharp, you can usually land on your feet, but this? The notice was under the seal of King Ctesphon himself, calling for adventurers and mercenaries interested in making good gold for little work to meet at the central plaza in Khemi. I was out of work and out of coin and there was nothing odd about the notice. Every so often the bandits who haunt the desert highways grow too bold and the King hires a small army of ruffians to scare them back into their hideouts for a while. It's boring work out in the desert with nary a whore or tavern in sight, but it pays well and bandits are more interested in running away from overwhelming odds than fighting so your chances of coming back again are pretty good. Better than any war I've ever fought in. In any case, I thought this would be the same thing. But it wasn't. Quite a few of us gathered at the muster in the square - mostly Stygian, of course, but there were a few freebooters from the northern lands. They stood in their own little group, some distance from the rest of us, looking uneasy. The royal guards showed up and cleared a space in the center of the square for the royal herald. "We're looking for treasure hunters" he announced, looking around the square at the assorted scum that the summons had gathered. "We've discovered the ruins of an ancient city and we need those souls brave enough to travel into the ruins and recover all of treasures found therein. For every treasure that you recover, you will be paid a sum of gold. The ruins are, as far as we can tell, uninhabited. Because we don't want the whereabouts of these ruins - and the treasure- to become common knowledge, if you agree to join us there are three conditions. Firstly, you will be blindfolded and transported by wagon to the ruins. Secondly, you will be not be allowed to have contact with anybody outside of the ruins while you are there. And finally, you will wear one of these." He was holding up a golden bracelet, which glinted with a green jewel. I was too far away to make out much detail but I remember thinking immediately that the price of the bracelet - if it was real - was worth taking the job for anyway. "What's the trick?" A burly, leather-clad man holding a fearsome looking maul demanded. I agreed. Something was not right here. This all sounded far too good to be true. "The trick" said a black robed man, pushing past the royal herald to confront the mercenary who had shouted, "is really very simple." He lifted an arm, and it was clear that he was holding a golden bracelet exactly like the one that the herald had been holding a moment before. "If you try to keep anything you find in the ruins, or you run away from the ruins with the thought that you might sell this bracelet - you will be punished" The man in the black robe flicked his hand and it wasn't a golden bracelet he was holding, but a small golden snack with glittering green eyes. He threw it full in to the face of the burly mercenary. The man shrieked and clawed at his face, but it was far too late. He began to convulse, frothing at the mouth and turning a dreaful pale color. He fell to the ground, still twitching. The man in the black robe stepped over the dying man, and picked up the glittering snake from the ground. By the time he did, it was simply a bracelet once more. The crowd murmured uneasily. We were used to the priests of Set and their bloody knives, but such blatant sorcery implied a pact with even darker powers, the type of pact that stains a mans soul in darkness that can never be erased. "Now, if our terms are acceptable to you, please step forward." The royal herald has stepped forward to talk to the crowd again, the black robed sorcerer had withdrawn back behind the guards. About half of the crowd moved toward the herald immediately, eager for the adventure. Quite a few people left immediately, clearly disquieted by the demonstration of power that they had seen. I lingered. I'm not a superstitious man, but I knew there were things beyond my understanding in this world and I wanted no part of them. On the other hand, my purse was hanging limply at my side and my lips were parched for lack of strong drink. I should have listened to my instincts. But I chose the path of the fool, and now I am destined to die in the Exiled Lands. Just another exile, lost in the desert...