It had been a long journey. Long and lonely, but now Cyndr found himself on the eastern coast of The Great Kingdom at the gates of Winetha… finally.
Predictably, a crowd of guards with question after question for the strange visitor to the small wharf town. “Hold, stranger. What do you want?” came the first of the questions from a burly, unshaven guard. Cyndr looked at him disdainfully, knowing full well the answer did not matter. His father and he had been through this enough times that it was all too apparent that conversation was futile.
“I travel from the south, as an emissary from Rel Astra.”
“We don’t get many of your type here, elf. Rel Astra doesn’t send emissaries, they send spies and assassins. You wouldn’t know about any of that, would you?”
The guards that had now joined the throng nodded in silent agreement with the inquisitor’s implication. “I am here to speak with the head of the guard contingent. I have news that will be of interest to him.” Cyndr thought that this might sway a man of apparent aggression and suspicion into allowing him to enter the city. Simple-minded infantrymen were always on the lookout for goblin patrols and raiding parties. Perhaps this would be his advantage. “Well why don’t you tell me what the message is, and I’ll tell him for you. Your likes ain’t wanted ’round here, elf.” The guard’s tone was becoming more harsh, as if conversation tired him and he wanted to get it over with quickly. “I’m afraid that I cannot allow you to relay this type of message.” Came Cyndr‘s reply. “The sensitivity of this issue requires the utmost of secrecy and discretion. I’m sure that you are aware of the importance in handling delicate issues of city security.” Cyndr switched modes and tried to appeal to this man’s sense of importance. If urgency couldn’t work, then maybe flattery would. Cyndr cringed at the thought of what he just did. “Let him in.” The voice came from behind the guards, a good twenty paces behind the city gates. The guards turned and watched the few people that had gathered to the small commotion at the gate part as a hooded figure passed slowly between them. The figure could not be identified, his robe and hood concealed all appearance but for the thin frame that supported the dark-coloured robe that rested on the man’s shoulders. Immediately, one of the guards reached forward and slid back the huge deadbolt and swung the gate open. The other guard stepped back to allow Cyndr to step through. The figure approached the gate and motioned with a bound hand to the guard who had opened it. The guard reluctantly approached, and the figure spoke to him briefly. The guard returned to Cyndr and the remaining contingent, and said, “You may enter our city and please accept our apologies. I’m sure you understand our concern in this matter. Your host awaits.” He stared at Cyndr with raised eyebrows and head almost bowed. Quickly trying to hide his surprise, Cyndr nodded to the guard and raised his chin slightly; an infantile indulgence after having been slighted, despite having no idea who this person was. He brushed past the guards and approached the gate where the robed figure waited in front of a few interested onlookers. “My thanks.” Cyndr bowed curtly and tried to peek quickly under the hood, but it was no use. Hoping for an introduction, Cyndr was disappointed that none came. “I heard of your arrival and thought it pertinent to ensure your safe entry. I hope my attentions are not too awkward; I have spent some time in this city, and understand those around us.” Gesturing slightly to the few interested parties behind them. “Do not be alarmed of the attention, they fear what they do not understand.” The voice was young, but deep and serious. “I appreciate your intervention, but to whom do I owe my thanks?” Cyndr was through beating around the bush. “Come with me,” was the reply. “We have much to discuss, you and I, grey elf.” And with that, the figure turned, and walked back into the crowd from whence he had come. There was no sound among the mob of people, and they stepped aside as the figure melted back through them. Cyndr rushed to catch up, leading his horse at a trot. No one said a word to the elf, and the only sound he heard was the clink of the city gates as they closed behind him. They walked in silence through the city streets. Cyndr caught sight of a huge marketplace and could hear the many sounds coming from that direction, but the robed figure led him away from the commotion. The city was built between huge ragged cliffs and the smell of the sea air rose in a fine mist through the streets. They had not walked far before they passed a guard contingent and into a large, fortress that seemed to grow right out of the cliff face. The floor was dusty, the walls were not adorned with wonderful tapestries. The entire building looked as though it were just now being furnished, or it was slowly being abandoned. The state of recovery from a terrible war, Cyndr thought quietly to himself. He came here to have questions answered about his father, and it seemed as though this man might be of some use in that respect.
Who is he? Cyndr thought as he continued to follow in silence. The robed figure continued down a series of twists and turns, finally arriving at a large set of double wooden doors. With a soft push the doors swung open easily, revealing a large room, lined with books and filled with the soft odor of dried flowers and candles. “Please, come inside.” The voice was more relaxed now, less serious but just as placid. Cyndr stepped into the room, and the heat from a warm hearth washed over his chilled skin. Surveying the room carefully, it was clear his host was either well read or wanted to make it look that way; the books that lined his walls were thicker and more obscurely-titled han most books Cyndr had read from the great library in Rel Astra. The room even had glass windows revealing a grand view of the harbor, below. “Please sit, Cyndr. Make yourself at home, and drink this, it will warm you quickly.” Cyndr‘s host turned slightly, looking back at thei double doors, and Cyndr was amazed to see them slowly close on their own! A spell caster! Cyndr thought. “Now I know why the people gave him such a wide berth. He must live here. But how does he know my name?” His mind raced. “Please let me apologize first for the theatrics. A guilty pleasure I must guiltily admit I indulge from time to time, but it is important that I keep a low profile even in this city. When I spoke earlier of the people’s fear of what they do not understand, I spoke of us both, you see. Few here in Winetha know who I am, so long as I do not disturb them, they are content to leave me be. I enjoy the privacy afforded me here.” The figure remained hooded and motionless, standing in front of a seated Cyndr. It made Cyndr very uncomfortable. Cyndr spoke up, “Then you understand my anxious to learn the identity of my mysterious but gracious host, and how it is that you know me.” Cyndr said politely. “Of course. You came to my attention most recently. Your role in the defense of that small caravan on the road to Rel Astra did not go unnoticed, I’m told you single-handedly dispensed with a handful of the hobgoblin raiders.” He paused a moment, clearly looking from the darkness of his hood at Cyndr for some kind of reaction. Cyndr gave none, so he continued. “A friend of mine was in that caravan, returning from the city on a small errand at my request. You saved his life, but disappeared too quickly for him to thank you. He would like me to extend those thanks now.” The figure bowed deeply, and Cyndr gave in, nodding politely from his chair. Cyndr would not be distracted however, one mystery solved with another still lingering.
Finally, standing tall again as before, Cyndr‘s host finally pulled back his hood and let it rest on his shoulders to reveal a mess of brown curly hair, a chiseled jaw and a wizened but youthful, human. Cyndr was almost disappointed.
What struck Cyndr however, was the reflection of the torches in this man’s strange, steel-colored eyes. They held fast on Cyndr, and he spoke again: “I am Griften of the Yellow Rose, and you have our thanks.”