A Profitable Meeting

Nicholas Tamark

UP: Atlantic

    Jordan Cromwell rubbed his eyes wearily as he walked home from the docks. The people of Ocllo spent their time near the bank,which made the Public Library there a perfect place for him to do his research. However, time slips away within those shelves, and he had spent more time there than he had intended. Distracted, he didn't notice the pair of soldiers guarding his door until he had climbed his stairs.

Curious, he greeted them. "I don't recall ordering guards."

"I am Darkrider from the town of Yew," the younger guard said. He hadthe determined air of the inexperienced.

"You are a long way from the mainland, sir. What brings you to mydoor?"

The other soldier identified himself as Private Dunedain of the Yew Militia."Captain Sunwolf called us in. We received word that NCR had been skulkingabout." At Jordan's blank stare, he continued. "Nasty fellows. A cultof infernal necromancy."

Jordan thought a moment, then said, "I have many dealings, but I don'trecall those fellows."

"Sir, it seem the people art looking for a gem, and believe it may behither. The people art enemies of the town of Yew, and all who tread in yonlight."

"I must admit I often have shipments of gems. Why do you seek to stop thesepeople from transacting with me?"

Dunedain bristled. "This group wishes to supply a special gem to an evilmage for a dark ceremony that may have something to do with a demon."

Jordan pondered that before responding. "Interesting. Well, although it'snone of your business, I can tell ye I've had no unusual offers for gempurchases."

"I do not believe the knaves wouldst offer to 'purchase' it in the usualmanner, but wouldst seek to 'take' what the knaves covet."

Chuckling, Jordan withdrew his key and unlocked his gate. "I've dealt withpetty thieves before. Rarely has any shipment of mine been stolen. Of coursethere was that Westmark affair..." Trailing off, he sighed. "But Iappreciate the fact that you two traveled so far. Care to come in?

Both men could not hide their curiosity, and quickly agreed. Escorting the twoguards inside to the dining room, Jordan frowned. "The place is a mess, I'mafraid. Ever since that blasted facet gate happened, furniture keeps appearinghere."

Darkrider wandered away, looking at the various relics. Dunedain briefly lookedaround. "I have never been hither before. A sumptuous abode." Thesoldier quickly returned to business. "I be not sure of the exact nature ofyon gem the knaves seek. There art eight total. We believe the knaves have foundfive of them already."

Jordan sat at his table, fiddling with an empty wine glass. "I have many,in various shipments and storage areas. I supposedly have one they are lookingfor?"

Dunedain nodded. "We received a tip to that effect. Sunwolf suggested weshould try to maintain a presence here to keep an eye on the cult'sactivities."

"That's acceptable. However," Jordan pointed a finger towards themilitiaman, "I give you a warning. Any guest of my house is under myprotection. You will not assault anyone that is here on my invitation."

Dunedain stood straight and proud. "We wouldst not assault anyoneindiscriminately. It be not our way. But shouldst thou find thyself assailed, wewouldst gladly come to thine aid."

Relaxing in his chair again, Jordan continued. "My thanks sir. I may takeyou up on that. Now, tell me more about this gem."

"I truly knowest little mineself. A while back a strange imp appeared at abattle between Yew and NCR, asking after gems for his master. It turns out hismaster be an evil mage. Apparently seeking yon gems for a dark ritual involvinga demon, perhaps to free the demon from some prison."

"Sounds rather.... valuable."

"If you would allow me to summon a friend from Rivendell, who knows muchmore than I. She has been actively seeking the gems." Darkrider appeared inthe archway to the room. "Pray thee forgive mine young friend. Dark?"

"Yes sir?" responded Darkrider, snapping to attention.

"It be not polite to roam another's abode," Dunedain said sternly.

Sulking a bit, Darkrider saluted. "Yes sir."

Jordan interrupted. "Nay, not a problem. I should be more of a host. Summonyour friend, and I will show you around until she arrives." The three ofthem roamed the house, discussing various sites, until a young lady strolledthrough the front gates. Dunedain introduced Jordan to Lady Molly of Rivendell,and they returned to the dining room. The foursome chatted lightly, as strangerstrying to learn about each other often do.

"Now," Jordan addressed Molly, "these two fine guardsmen tell meyou have some information to give me?"

Molly grew serious. "Actually, I wish to ask you a few questions as well.

Jordan smirked. "As ye wish."

Smiling, Molly began the questioning. "I understand you have something thatI am searching for, and was wondering if you would be willing to part withit."

"I am a merchant, m'lady," Jordan sighed. He quickly flashed a devioussmile. "I have many things people desire. You'll have to be morespecific."

"Aye," she agreed. "I am searching for a gem. A lovely butpowerful gem."

Jordan turned to Dunedain. "I thought you said some evil thieves werelooking for it, sir? She hardly looks the type."

Dunedain coughed. "Well those people art not the only ones. Of course Ididst not mean Molly was an evil scallywag."

Laughing, Jordan returned his attention to Molly. "Ah, so you wish to keepit from them?" Molly nodded, overcoming her own laughter. "Well, as Iwas telling Dunedain, I have not received any unusual requests for a gem."

Molly leaned forward. "That is good news. The question now would be ‘Doyou own one?’"

The sound of bone and armor grinding together came down the hallway. Spinning,Molly turned to see a Death Knight standing in the archway, sword in hand. Achill began to fill the room as the militiamen put themselves between the undeadwarrior and their host. Their hands gripped their weapons tightly as thecreature hissed.

"Ahh, OES arrives." Dunedain scowled in anger, then caught Darkrider'shand as the other began to draw his weapon. "Stay thy hand."

"Greetings, mortals. I am Fustiar."

Molly recovered her composure, and tried to look the creature in its eyes."May we help you?"

Fustiar gave a skeletal grin. "Perhaps.."

Jordan had watched all this from where he sat, but raised his eyebrows atMolly's words. Standing, he stepped in front of her and stared at the warrior."This is my home, Molly. I will greet my visitors."

Molly put a hand on Jordan's arm, and whispered in his ear. "These are theones who seek to harm you." Jordan either did not hear her or did notreact. It seemed the room was empty except for him and the undead knight.

"Ah, the famed mortal, Jordan Cromwell.." The words rattled out of thehelmet. "I hath been searching for you, for quite a while.."

"I don't know you, Knight, but I've dealt with your kind in the past. Whatis it you seek?"

A hollow laugh rang out from the thing's helm, as it put away its weapon."You know full well, I would think."

Jordan indicated the others in the room. "It may well be what these peoplebefore you seek."

"They are cattle, nothing of merit, relinquish the item into their hands..and it shall be lost."

Unperturbed, Jordan continued. "Nevertheless, you will have to wait until Ifinish speaking with them."

The thing nodded. "Very well. Call me when I may have an audience."

As Fustiar noisily left the room, Jordan looked around at the others."Please, return to your seats. The undead must be handled properly, butthey can be handled." The others agreed, and sat back down as the desertwarmth returned to the room.

Apologetic, Molly said. "I only wished to protect you. I apologize for myboldness."

"I have already offered our assistance shouldst he be assailed,Molly," Dunedain interjected.

Jordan smiled and waved it away. "Understood. I have many businesspartners, some less... worldly... than others. Now, you were saying?"

"Well the question would be, do you have such a gem?"

"I might. I honestly don't know." Jordan shrugged. "What does itlook like?"

"It is yellow in color."

"Amber?" Jordan asked. “It’s the only yellow stone. Citrine isyellow-orange as well.”

"I am not sure of the type. Perhaps a Citrine. Amber is too large, and Iknow it’s a small stone."

Jordan's forehead creased as he thought. "Anything else distinctive aboutit?"

"Nay it looks to be an ordinary gem, but is most clear and lovely."

"Hrm, that will complicate matters." Jordan thought for a moment more."I'll tell you what I will do. I will check my shipments and storage areasfor all gems matching what you've said. Is there a place I can contactyou?"

The two of them agreed to meet at the Hungry Halfling tavern in a few days.Business concluded, Jordan ushered his guests toward the door. "Iappreciate you bringing the gem's value to my attention, my lady."

Looking back down the hall towards the shadows, Dunedain stated, "I praysir that thou wouldst not let such an item fall into the wrong hands."

"Can you tell me what you will require for us to attain it if you shouldfind it?" Molly asked?

Jordan smiled. "We will discuss price once I take stock."

Nodding in agreement, Molly stepped outside. "I thank thee for youassistance, and be wary of your next visitor. He is evil. If you wish I will askthese men to stay with you until he leaves."

Shaking his head, Jordan replied. "Nay, that is not necessary. Thank ye forthe warning, but he will behave here."

Saying farewell, Jordan watched the three descend his stairway. He stood there amoment, in dusk's light, absorbing what had just occurred. Long days spent inresearch looking for relics, and some things just fall into your lap. Hisinstincts were telling him there was more to this that had been revealed yet.Hearing metal shift behind him, it was time to find out more.

"Now Knight, what can I do for you?"

From the Town Cryer - The Journal of Ultima Online, Monday, July 17th 2000