The Proposal

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.”

An Introduction

You won’t believe me anyway so let’s just call it a lie from the start. A story from the bottom of these tankards.

The Heir
The Spare
The Soldier
The Scholar

That’s how the rhyme goes. And that is what we had. Until me.

I was born nine years after the others. There was talk behind hands and looks from corners of eyes, of course. But it was ignored. I was a surprise, but I was not unwelcomed.

Then I arrived, dark where the others were fair. Now the talk, and looks, had to be considered. My father never had reason to doubt my mother’s faithfulness. But enemies will have their fun. So the mage was sent for and there was hurried discussion.

And when I was presented to the people, I was as fair as my siblings standing nearby. They were told I was fragile and it was accepted. If I was shown only when the ceremony absolutely demanded it while the older children were seen more often, it was understood. And if they forgot about me between times, so much the better.

Not that I was so brushed aside by my family. That I wish made clear. I see the look in your eye, you think this the bigger lie in my lie. But it is true. I was loved no less. The older ones understood the need for the deception. They knew the care taken with me was my burden and not a boon. I was a full member of the family.

It need not be said that the glamour was the first spell I learned. Oh, we all do magic in one way or another, my family. Not spoken of much, of course. And I am the only one on my path.

No, I will not show my other face to you. You don’t believe me, remember.

But I will answer your question and say why I left them. No, you didn’t ask that, you didn’t have to. That look from before, remember? Here, let me pour you some more.

No, I left because even a frail, last-born can be considered a prize by some families. And I was nearing the age that the ‘chance meetings’ would begin.

So we made the announcement that I was leaving. Off in search of better health, to better serve the family line, as it were. Made a festival of it, everyone saw me off. Few expected the figure they saw to return. But they had the four they needed, so I was expendable and there was little real concern.

And now I make my way, far from my home.

I see the look that’s in your eye now. Another one, playing at a title to impress. To give a story instead of coin. Because, you say to yourself, why share such a dangerous tale, when there must be those who would pay for it? And you would be right.

Were you to live long enough to tell it.

Ah, the surprise. Yes, my companions are most noble and would never lower themselves to this. That is why they have me.

For things exactly like this.