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This is the first part of a Vote Your Adventure story. More information is here. Voting will close the evening of Monday, January 16, 2012. Enjoy the tale!
Bardulf rubbed the corner of the parchment on the table. He preferred to read the reports in a quiet corner of a tavern to get away from his farm. It was an old habit that he started when reports were brought to him by nobles in his previous career. The only difference now was that he used rough parchment, not fine paper from the Court.
Twin candles illuminated the reports for his eyes with a dim light. He had read through the items multiple times already: numbers for the previous years harvest; the cost of seed for the crops; how much hay was stored in the the barns for the animals. It was all there, staring at him. The numbers looked good, and everything was checked and accounted for. Bardulf closed his eyes and then ran his hands through his thinning hair. His farm was doing well. He just wished that there was a mistake somewhere to break up the monotony of his life.
He glanced at the reports for a moment longer before pushing them aside. Nothing was going to change in them, and he couldn’t concentrate on the numbers any longer. He took a drink from his mug of ale, trying to think of ways to put up with the boredom.
For many years, Bardulf served the kingdom of Karathon as one of the Rangers. They were tasked with keeping the creatures that roamed the untamed wilds around the kingdom at bay. He had always loved wandering the forests as a kid, and becoming a Ranger had been a dream come true. In time, he even became the Ranger Lord. But that all changed when the former king was overthrown and King Orias took the throne. The Ranger Corps was disbanded and forbidden from operating. They were lucky they hadn’t been imprisoned from the rumors.
Without a job, Bardulf returned home to his wife and sons in Belmont Acres and took up farming. It was good, hard work that kept his mind off the past, most of the time. He had lived a life of adventure for all those years, and he missed it. He missed the others in the Corps, and strangely, the reports that the nobles sent him. “Now I am just a farmer,” he grumbled. Bardulf finished his ale, and motioned for another.
He fished some coins out of his pouch and handed them to the serving girl as another mug of ale was set in front of him. Bardulf took another drink, and picked up the parchment again. This was his life now.
The candles on his table flickered as a gust of cool air blew through the tavern, threatening to extinguish one, and succeeding with the other. “Close the door,” someone cried out. Spring may have finally arrived, but the bite of winter still lingered on.
Bardulf looked up at the newcomer. He was a younger man and wore fine clothes – not the dress of a nobleman, nor of a commoner, but somewhere in between. This man was probably a servant of some sort, but Bardulf couldn’t remember for which noble in the town. The man looked around the tavern, searching for someone. He began to turn around to leave when his eyes fell on Bardulf. Even in the dim light, Bardulf could see the relief on the man’s face, and he sighed, understanding that this man was looking for him.
The man strode over to the table, his face regaining the seriousness appropriate of a servant. “Do I have the pleasure of speaking to Bardulf Sylvani?”
A smile cracked the young man’s face for a moment. “You are a hard man to track down, Lord Sylvani. Your wife said you were at a tavern going over reports this evening. But she didn’t know which one. This was the last in town.”
Bardulf chuckled. “I am no Lord. And I was trained to not be found.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Job hazard.”
“That is why I am here,” the man replied. “My master has a job for you. He said that it was a job for a Ranger.”
A job for a Ranger. Bardulf looked at the parchment on the table again. He felt a stirring in his heart, something that had lain almost dormant. A thirst for adventure.
“And your lord is…?”
“Ahh. Alain Belmont, Lord of Belmont Acres,” Bardulf mumbled aloud. The lord of the city was offering him a job! There were scant few jobs that a former Ranger would take, and the old guard of nobles knew and respected that. For Lord Belmont to offer a job to him meant it was something big, and most likely it paid well. Through his excitement, Bardulf kept his face calm. He paused before he asked his next question. “What is the job?”
The page shook his head. “Lord Belmont did not divulge that information to me.”
“And he would like to see me, when?”
“He would like you to see him tonight.”
“That is very short notice, and I’ve had a number of drinks tonight,” Bardulf said with a sigh. He looked at the mug of ale in his hand, trying to remember how much. “I’m afraid that if I saw Lord Belmont tonight, I would be hired as a jester, not a Ranger. I would prefer to go tomorrow morning, not make a fool of myself in front of the lord of the city.”
“I understand.” The servant glanced around and leaned in closer, his voice much quieter. “It seemed really urgent, though. It has something to do with a message I brought him earlier in the day. When he read it, his face went white, like a ghost and he was silent for some time. When he spoke again, he asked me to find you. He said that he couldn’t trust anyone else. It’s your choice, though,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders.
Bardulf sighed again. He knew his limits well, and he wasn’t so far drunk that it wasn’t possible. After all, it wasn’t wise to anger the noble who owned the land you farmed. But, if he went in the morning, he could sleep off the alcohol and clear his mind for the meeting.
Health: healthy, but a bit drunk
Inventory: reports, dagger, pouch with a couple of coins
What should Bardulf tell the page?
A) I will go tonight.
B) I will go in the morning.