Xerdoal looked at his guests as the plates were removed and the cups filled. There were satisfied smiles and laughing. The grumbles about the distance traveled were gone and all looked settled in. The fact that the rain waited till all were inside he took as a good omen. With the fire making the room as comfortable as a bath, he had high hopes for tonight’s proceedings.
“So, tell us why.” Yra lifted her cup to her lips.
“Why what?” Xerdoal was pulled from his thoughts, blinking as he turned to her.
Alim smiled. “Come now, Xerdoal. You invite us to a tavern known to none of us, and ply us with food and drink.”
“Of an unexpected quality, no less.” Geirel toasted his host. “Your coins were not dear tonight.”
“Can I not just have wanted to enjoy the company of my good friends?”
Ravtis laughed. “Not with that look in your eye. We all know it too well.”
“You have wounded me.” Xerdoal tried for an affronted expression, but it was marred by his smile. He gave in with a sigh of defeat. “Very well. I am guilty.”
“Well, of course. But what has that to do with tonight?” Sayelh’s laughter was joined by the others.
“But tell us, Xerdoal. Why have you gone through all this trouble? Why was your house not suitable for this?” Uarla leaned forward, her chin resting in her hand.
“As to why not my house, it has the eyes of a certain acquaintance upon it. So I have dismissed my servants temporarily and closed my house. This tavern was the best place I could think of.
“As to the trouble, I wanted you all in the best possible mood. I have a proposal and I wanted it met and considered with open minds.”
“Fair enough,” Yra nodded. “Continue.”
“We all share, I believe, a similar outlook. A rather pragmatic one, yes. But also, our perspectives and morals are of, shall we say, a darker grey hue that many out there. We see what must be done and we are not averse to doing it. Within reason, of course.”
He looked at each in turn, watching the looks of consideration turn into ones of assent.
“My thought is that we, and those we deem worthy, offer our uniqueness to those lacking our gifts. My friends, I wish to establish a guild, with us as the masters. To place those who share our more realistic, less burdened outlook with adventuring parties in need of just such a thing. To do what they are not unable, or simply unwilling, to do themselves.”
“With what sort of incentive?” Sayelh shook her head. “The ones you speak of – realistic, less burdened – are used to less than hospitable treatment. Why would they trust a ‘honest party’?”
“And how do we know we can trust those that would seek to join such an endeavor?” Ravtis waved his hand. “I’ll not offer my name to be misused by another.”
“I am not foolish enough to think this a fast and easy game. We shall have to be most prodding and careful with each step. We all have our circles that we can pillage from. We all know those who would be worthy. We do not limit by talent, but by perspective. And we do not blindly trust, neither those who would join the guild nor those who would hire our members. This is something to last for our lifetimes, at the very least. Something of note. Something to give others pause.”
“And what roles are we to play in this?” Yra drained her glass before reaching for the nearby bottle. “Just our names and money?”
Xerdoal smiled as he shook his head. “No, we shall be in charge of everything. We manage. And instruct.”
“Instruct, Uarla. Though my thought is for you to handle the coin. See that none goes wandering and the best deals made.”
“And the rest?”
“Heavy arms for you, Ravtis. Light and no for Yra. Sayelh, battle healing. Alim, the matter of stealth. And our Geriel, when drawing attention is required. Myself, what manner of history and arcana I think needs sharing.”
“Do you have a name for this guild?”
“The Grau.” Alim set his cup down with a sharp tap. “In keeping with your talk of ‘greyness'”
“And are you to be the head of this?” Geriel looked at Xerdoal, his usual smile replaced with a keen look.
“I admit, I did consider it. But in the end, I decided no. I feel there is really only one choice for that. The most tempered of us.” Seven faces turned toward the figure at the table’s end, silent since their arrival.
“The Voactum, that is what we shall be called.” Illmer’s sightless eyes met theirs as his hand unerringly reached for his cup. “If we wish to do this.”