Sauldor stood at the northern gates of Yndarr. The city stood in the nook made by the two connecting rivers at the very southern tip of the Renge. For centuries, it had served as one of the points where the lands had been invaded. One of seven port cities along the Big Muddy, as well as one of twelve along the Great Muddy, Yndarr had seen its share of success.
Now, it was forgotten unless one was a thief or a cut throat. Few claiming any amount of sanity ever entered unless they were searching for someone. Even the troops that served the nobilis shied away from the city. Any naïve enough to venture into the city found their adventure cut short by murder or rape…or both.
But Sauldor had grown up here. He was a native, and natives were a hard lot. Cut throats left them alone. Thieves tended to avoid them, desiring not to lose a hand if caught.
Still, there was no honor among thieves. He knew that. He was a thief himself. But he was a damn good thief.
A thief had to be careful, though. Mages wandered the avenues of Yndarr, and mages tended to curse thieves when they caught them. Merchants, on the other hand, were never smart enough nor brave enough to accuse anyone of being a thieve. Most of the time, they hired a thief to steal from their rivals, splitting the loot with their hireling.
But merchants were not above hiring cut throats either. If a thief began raising his asking price for doing business, a merchant would agree with him taking on a false sincerity to cover the plot to kill the thief once the burglary had taken place. But cut throats were messy, and often left trails back to the one who hired them.
That was where the Assassins’ Guild came in. They did things nice and neat. No trails left behind. But they were also damned expensive.
But the Assassins’ Guild was an ally of the Thieves’ Guild. Assassins would only go after thieves that had fallen out of favor or had broken the codes of the Guilds. Thus, merchants rarely called upon assassins from the Guild.
No matter how one looked at it, life in Yndarr was very profitable as long as you knew where the dangers were. He knew. He was a member of both Guilds.
He was deadly with any weapon he was handed and he could stealthily enter any merchant’s house without being detected. Even the nobilis of Yndarr feared him. But fear never kept them from using his services. They always feared someone else more than they feared him.
He stood at the northern gates watching. He had befriended the bard after a misguided attempt to assassinate him and now worried that his friend was in trouble. The bard had told him that he would be gone for no more than two days. Now, that second day was nearing an end and there was still no sign of the bard.
He began to turn and go in, when a dot on the horizon drew his attention. He stopped and observed its movements. He watched as it slowly approached, growing larger and revealing itself to be a man. He smiled as it was revealed to be his old friend.
He breathed a sigh of relief. Now he could rest easy. The bard had returned and Yndarr’s treasure had come home. But what had Bez discovered?
Valgryn sat astride his horse at the edge of the Big Muddy, a small tribal clan behind him. As Primal Cyrtians, they were seeking entrance into the Order that shared names with their tribe. At the moment, they awaited nightfall so that their entrance into the Renge would go unnoticed. Their tribe, and the Order that shared its name, had avoided unneeded attention from the Ring’s Master, while ensuring that the Order didn’t die.
The Cyrtian Order had kept a pact with their barbarian cousins for centuries that had allowed a fresh infusion of blood into their ranks. They kept close guard upon their numbers, making sure to give a misleading estimate to the Master, hiding those who had just been allowed in.
At the same time, they had been allowing a stray outsider in here and there in a way where it wasn’t noticeable. This kept the Master at bay and ignorant at their actions. It kept their active recruiting a secret. The Master didn’t need to know that they had been raising an army. No one needed to know.
Little by little, the Cyrtian tribes and clans had filtered into the four lands. One small group at a time, the order had begun building an army. And the rise in number was kept hidden. All the while, they never appeared to be openly recruiting since they never openly invited outsiders to become members. It had been an ingenious ruse worthy of one of the great heroes.
Tomorrow, this time, they would be safely within the cities of the Order. At the moment, they waited patiently. They could easily cover the remaining distance under the cover of night. After all, they were mages even if they were barbarians in the eyes of the Rengelanders.