Ashja stood on the pier and marveled at the sight before her. This city was nothing like she had ever seen in her life. So very different from the town at the edge of the desert near which she had been raised. But then, she had seen a lot of strange and unusual things in the last several months. She stood staring at the throng, paying little heed to the bumping and jostling of so many people in one place.
“Oy!” a voice shouted from behind, jostling her into awareness, “ye ain’t th’ only one wantin’ to ogle over the sights! Get yer arse movin’.”
Shaking off her awe, she hurried down the pier toward the harbor town. Stopping at the first inn she found, The Wayward Lobster, she inquired about a room. A room for a single night cost more than the few silvers and handful of coppers she had in her purse. Dejected, she turned to go.
“The Leaky Dinghy is on the other side of the harbor. Ask Hammond about a room and a job. Tell him Ala’kia D’agon sent you,” said the Halfling with a wink and an enigmatic grin. “And don’t you let him charge you more than fifty coppers a day for the hovels he calls rooms and the swill he calls stew!”
Trudging across the wharf, her eyes drank in the sights. Most of the buildings and walls looked like they were designed for giants. Of course, all she heard on the airship from Sharn were incredulous tales of the city. Now she could see that what she had interpreted as a gross exaggeration, barely described the reality of her own eyes.
The clientele of the Leaky Dinghy was several steps down from the Lobster, but she was confident she could pay for a few nights’ lodging with the coin in her pocket.
“That’ll be three silver a night, morningfeast and eveningfeast included,” stated Hammond Greene.
“Huh,” said Ashja, curiosity coloring her voice. “Are you telling me that the rooms and fare here at your establishment are equal to that of The Wayward Lobster? I’m sure Madam D’agon would beg to differ.”
Hammond paled a bit, but stood straighter, “now look here young…”
Ashja leaned into the bar and lowered her voice, just a bit. “She sent me here. And she recommended I pay no more than fifty coppers a day for a room, to include morningfeast and eveningfeast. Now,” she said, raising her voice once more, smiling sweetly at the rotund proprietor, and laying two silver pieces on the bar, “this should cover lodging and meals for a few days. Where can I find employment?”
He scowled and pointed her to two elves sitting at a table on the other side of the great room. Her stomach growled loudly as she warily joined the two. She motioned to the serving girl as she sat down at the table.
Out of the corner of her ear, she heard the priest at the end of the bar whisper to Greene, a chuckle in his voice, “Ala’kia got you pegged, don’t she?”
Uncomfortable with her back to the great room, Ashja maintained a polite demeanor despite the prickles between her shoulder blades.
“Good day to you, Sir Elves, may I join you?” she asked in slightly accented Elvish indicating a chair. At a nod, she sat. “I am Ashja and have just arrived in the wondrous city of Stormreach.” Nodding toward the bar, she continued, “the innkeeper directed me to your table, said you might have a task that requires completing.”
The elves looked at each other, amusement sparkling in their eyes.
“I’m Morhir. My companion is Fynnwyn,” said the first elf. “I overheard that you are looking for work. We have a job, and if you’re interested, you can join us. Besides,” he said, “you handled the innkeep rather well.” He gave her a conspiratorial wink, then switched to the common language. “And me and Fynn here, well we could use someone who knows their way around the path less traveled if you get my meaning.”
Ashja sat back in her chair just as the serving girl arrived and set a hot bowl of stew and a foaming mug of ale in front of her.
“Do you mind?” she asked taking a bite of stew, “I’m famished.”
After a few bites, she looked up at the elves. “Sure, why not? I need the coin, and you need the help. It sounds like a mutually beneficial arrangement.”
“Excellent! Meet us at the Fallowcrest Library when you’re done.” With that, Morhir and Fynnwyn rose and left the tavern.
Ashja moved to the bench against the wall, finished her meal, then trudged up to the small room for which she had just paid. She washed in the basin left by the chambermaid and stowed her meager gear in the chest next to the narrow bed. Feeling refreshed, she headed back down to the common room.
“Can you tell me where to find the Fallowcrest Library?” she asked the barkeep. He gave her directions to the library, and she went off in search of adventure—and gold.
A quarter turn later, she found herself in the Harbormaster’s Plaza and turned left up the stairs into a good-sized courtyard. There she spied Morhir and Fynnwyn talking with an elegantly dressed woman.
“Ah, there she is,” Morhir said as she joined them. “Ashja, this is Dalsamira Courdry, she will explain the situation.”
“I would like you to recover a tome for me. It’s a … er, delicate … matter that must be accomplished with … um, tact and finesse. The librarian knows your friends so you will have to do this on your own.”
Ashja grinned. “I understand.”
She went into the library and spoke with Eldamir Fallowcrest, making up a story about researching a lost relative.
“Yes,” said Ashja, spinning her tale for his benefit, she nattered on as he led her into the stacks, “my sister’s husband’s family is reported to have come to Stormreach. She asked me to find out about them for him.”
She followed the custodian deeper into the library, and he showed her to the correct area of his library, watched her pull a few volumes off the shelf and take them to a nearby desk, and begin taking notes on parchment she drew from her belt pouch. After a while, he left to see to another caller at the front of the library. After he was gone, she reached for the book to which she had been directed, and all hell broke loose.
The room was trapped, and she was not able to disable them all. It took her more than an hour to find her way through the traps Fallowcrest had set, and some of those traps managed to singe her fingers on more than one occasion. She really had to learn to check ALL the corners of the room.
In the end, she came out of the library with a few more gold pieces than she had when she started, two new friends, and a budding reputation as an adventurer in the city of Stormreach.