The opening text:
Your story begins in the city of Canus. Founded 300 years ago by Southeners fleeing the Great War, it is an island of light in a dark country. Up and down the coast is marshland, ruled by crocodiles and disease-bearing insects. The coast is home to pirates, thieves, and brutally poor fishermen. In the interior: forest, thick and imposing, nearly unnavigable, and aside from a few settlements, very little of it is the domain of humans.
Canus, as I’ve said, is the light: Reaching far into the sea with great buildings on solid peirs, its warehouses hold the trade of a hundred city-states, and the factories on the land side produce some of the most beautiful and fine products of the age.
You five have come here like so many: each of you was, in your own way, exceptional in the place you called home. Stronger, faster, smarter than those around you, it only makes sense that such as yourself would come to Canus. Arriving as crew on the endless Galleys that must call at Canus, your dream was not to work aboard ship, but to see the city so many speak of, and to make your fortune.
The first moment you lay eyes on each other is as you stroll the dockyard district. All border places are the same, and even a city that makes the most beautiful glass in the world still has it’s dockyard district: warehouses of heavy wood, grimy streets, and everywhere the clatter and scent of work being done by those who will not eat well tonight.
Vlad, Xanthanov, and Bluebeard, you fall into step walking east along an avenue, it’s your thought to find someplace to eat after your journey, the last shipboard meal was at five bells, and it is now past noon
Rynoske and Bonejaw, you are walking the other way along the narrow board street, and you stop to let them pass at an intersection with an alleyway. It is just then as the four of you are all working your way through each other, that you hear raised voices from the end of the alley.
“If you’re not interested, then that’s the end of it.”
“wuz ee sayin’”
“ee’s making us a proposal”
“I ain’t doing’ nothing indecent”
“I can see you’re not the men I was looking for good day-”
“Oh now squire, we ain’t done considering”
Three voices, possibly four, one clipped and clearly educated, the others more like galley’s crew
“What’s his proposal?”
“I have no intention of repeating myself.”
“oh oh oh, he won ‘t repeat himself”
It’s impossible not to listen, the four of you stand there, and as you do, the four of you all subconsciously reach for your weapons.
“I shall go, you have no desire to take on this task, and no desire for the rewards that come with it”
“But squire, you’ve not heard our proposal.”
“I ain’t doing nothing indecent.”
“Eee knows that Flik, he does, or he will do, but here’s what I’m proposing squire”
You hear the wet, packing sound of a fist on a soft belly, and you move as one to the mouth of the alley
“I’m proposing you stuff your little job, and give us your jink now.”
You move as one, and as your eyes adjust to the darkness you see four filthy men standing about a half-elf wearing thick brocade lying prone in the dusty alleyway.
There’s no time to speak, the four men grimace of surprise, then turn their weapons to point at you as you stride towards them, the half elf looks up from his prone position, and calls“help!”