Only a few hours had passed since the wind had calmed outside, having kept him awake all night. Not until early morning had he been able to calm himself down enough to get some shut-eye. The storm had been particularly bad; he didn’t have to go outside to see the results.
“It can wait, just a little bit…” was his final thought before drifting away into a sweet dream.
Suddenly, a loud “BANG!” came from his door, three equally loud following in quick succession. His head felt like it had been rammed against an anvil one to many times; with a throbbing, his eyes so heavy, why couldn’t they let him be alone?
“Are you there? Wake up! We need to get out and survey the damage!” a voice shouted from outside the room.
He gripped his robe and swept it around himself in one move as he stood up, staggering a bit as the headache reminded him of who would be the boss today.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m here, stop that banging already. I’ll meet you outside!” he aspirated in one quick sentence.
“It’s late already, get a move on!” Jadrele shouted at the door as she moved on to collect some larger rolls of cloth from Jaymze’s cupboards.
On his way through the corridors that interlinked the houses they lived in together, he couldn’t help but notice all that was broken, wrenched apart. In some places, the roof was completely missing, with pools of water collecting on the floor. Making his way outside reminded him of a game he had played as a child, moving from area to area without touching the ground, but he knew he had to hurry. If this was the state of things inside, how bad was it outside? The sense of urgency was apparent, knowing that they couldn’t let people know they were there.
Reaching the meeting hall, he saw Jadrele and Kirtz pushing and pulling at the door that guarded their entrance, but it would not budge. Smirking for himself he prodded Kirtz in the side,
“Lost the key again?”
“Wha.. sa.. THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR TRICKS!” Kirtz burst out in a loud voice, startling both of his bystanders.
“Sorry sorry, just trying to keep a light mood, what’s up?” he excused himself quickly while trying to avoid Kirtz glaring eyes.
“It’s stuck, we can’t open it.” Jadrele quickly filled in before Kirtz had the chance to express himself again.
“Can you hold these, I’ll try and open it from the outside?” she continued, handing him some larger bolts of various fabrics.
“Uh, yeah, sure” he said, collecting them all from her before watching her escape down the trapdoor.
She knew this place, she knew it very well. It had been her home for a long time, and she intended that it’d remain that way. Little did she know that on the floor below, Hal, the Rogues' local barman was in the process of showing Shadow, in a very theatrical way, how he, as a young boy, had taken down a dragon all by himself. Shadow, one of the more skilled assassins the guild had seen, laughed and listened, poking fun at Hal at any chance he got.
As Jadrele swiftly darted down the stairs, she almost knocked Hal over, “Watch out!” Hal cried, as she swept by him. “Apologies, I’m in a hurry Hal, need to open the door from the outsi..” she had disappeared down another trap door.
It wouldn’t take her long now, down into the older city, right under the main house, get through the sewers maze and up through the.. *SPLASH*.
She was wet. Very wet. There was water everywhere, which whilst expected from the sewers, had swelled unusually high. “What is this?!” she cried out. Knowing that they didn’t have a minute to lose, and having already lost many, she hurried back upstairs to the now five different people that had gathered since Hal and Tom had joined them.
“What are you doing back? And why are you soaked?” he said as soon as Jadrele entered the room.
“The Sewers are completely flooded, I couldn’t get down and around, just look at this” Jadrele said gesturing wildly, clearly annoyed that she bore more of a resemblance to a Water elemental than anything else.
“I.. ha.. ” he stifled a chuckle as Jadrele turned to face him.
“Nevermind. I’ll scale the roof; I saw a tree making a guest appearance inside the building above Eridian’s Pillar. Does anyone know what happened out there?” he continued looking at those that surrounded him.
“There was a huge thunderstorm outside. I’ve never seen the likes before” Tom chimed in, his voice as happy in spirit as it normally was.
“I was on my way back down Copper Walk with some carts to replenish my stock. You know, I’ve been selling a lot these last few days and it just rolled over us, out of nowhere. Had I not known better I’d thought it was some of them Mages’ playing tricks on us again. You know they alw-“ stopping mid-sentence Tom could notice everyone was just staring at him. “Anyway, that’s not important, but there were amazing bolts of lightning that rippled through the sky and the skies, it poured down so much one would’ve thought Zoran himself was crying.
“Unbelievable” Tom ended with a serious look on his face, which was quickly washed away with a bright smile.
“Okay, thanks” he said “I’ll head out then”.
Sizing the pillar up, he understood it’d be quite a feat to get up to the tree that had found its way through the roof. Looking around him, items were floating. Eridian always had his way with magic, not the person you’d expect to join a fellowship like this. Nevertheless, he had to get up, so he leaped onto a chair, which just took a turn around the pillar. Dodging a few pots and pans he grabbed a hold of the lower shelf of a bookcase and climbed it to the top, item by item he made his way to a height from which he could make a small leap and grab onto the tree and climb outside.
As he climbed the tree, he couldn’t help to wonder how it had got through the roof. After all, the roof was thick, in fact, it was as thick as he was tall, built from several layers of sturdy material. It had withstood so much over the years, everything from flying dragons and their crazed out mages, to burly fighters and giants throwing boulders. But now, a tree? He just couldn’t believe it. What forces had been at play here? The tree was unharmed.
Facing the morning sun, shining brightly as it slowly rose in the distance, he got onto the roof and could see Moorgate in front of him, at least, what remained of it. The devastation was massive. The once beautiful city certainly had a rough time over the last few hours. It was in need of restoration. A lot of it.
Years later, He lurked outside the Rogues’ as usual, watching people pass by. They had never discovered the presence of the fellowship even when the storm had uprooted much of the city. He thinks back on those days after the storm, it was a strange time and nothing had really been the same since that night. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but something had changed. But, as time had moved on, each of them had to do their part, and he did his. Squinting, he watched a young man walking down the street.
He was short in stature, but clearly filled with confidence. Small groups of people gathered around the young man as he put various items on display; rings, necklaces, potions and pastes. The young man obviously had a way with words, successfully peddling items to one group of people after another as he made his way down the street.
All of a sudden the young man took notice of another Rogue making his way upwards, slipping out from the black market. As the young man quickly stepped behind two barrels stacked upon each other he felt the need to realign to get a better view of where he had gone. He moved across the street in a steady pace and… the man was gone. Strange, there were no hidden alleys here. Where was he?
Later that evening, after a dinner of cooked rabbit with some leeks and onions on the side, he thanked Jadrele for watching the entrance and got back to keeping watch outside. Picking his teeth with a hairpin He had nicked from a passer-by, he noticed the young man again. Not hesitating a second he quickly moved over to the man, waiting for him to finish his deal with an older woman looking at some necklace.
“It’s excellent quality, picked it up meself!” the man said, showing the ruby necklace off to the woman.
“Oh yes, I can see it is a fine piece. But why are you selling it?” the woman queried with an unconvinced look of curiosity.
“Well, see. Remember them storms a few months back? Hit me family hard,” he paused, sighing, “..I lost me mother. So I felt I couldn’t keep this necklace, you know?” the man said, his forlorn smile lingering just long enough to gain recognition, before returning to one of warmth.
“Oh my, I’m sorry for your loss” she sympathised.
“I’m fine. It’s fine,” he uttered, unconvincingly, “but here we are and I just couldn’t help meself. When I saw you, it was like a sign, this necklace was made for you!”
She blushed as he did so. She felt for him, and she wanted the necklace; so it was a done deal. She paid for the necklace and received it wrapped in some leafs adorned with a lily. The man turned around and was face-to-face with a shady character.
“Hello there” he said.
The young man, somewhat caught off guard, took a step backwards immediately.
“You’re the one who were watching me before. Who are you?” the man was watching him carefully.
“My name is not of importance, those who learn to know it usually have little time left before they stop breathing. So I’ll keep that for myself for now. However, I am indeed the person who watched you before. And I was impressed by your disappearance act earlier today. So I have a proposal for you,” the Nameless Rogue said, pausing briefly and letting it sink in before he continued. “You see, we are a few people that have gathered with a common ground based on our business interest. I took notice of your trading and I think this might be of interest of you. If you can find a silver acorn, and bring it to me, I’ll let you know more.”
“I see, well you have caught my interest,” the young man said, relaxing slightly and shrugging as he decided to come along. “Ain’t got nothing better to do, guess I could go look.”
“By the way, I am Sam.” The young man turned a corner and disappeared.
Days turned into weeks, weeks into months and time continued on its predestined course. Moorgate was slowly progressing in its repairs. Sam had joined the collective and developed his skills quite rapidly. He ventured far and wide around the island, experiencing its nature, learning its lessons and exploring its nooks and crannies. He learned to know other Rogues who he plotted and schemed with. Wrell and Virulex was two of his most frequent contacts, together they took on any feat, always lurking from the shadows, ready to strike. He enjoyed their company, they were very alike in their reasoning and they shared a common ground.
The messenger came running into the tavern, throwing the door open his clothes ripped into pieces.
“SAM, I NEED SAM!” he cried out desperately.
Witoast looked him up and down and spoke firmly “What do you need him for, boy?”
“Demons, demons everywhere. Master Eloras gave me this letter and told me to bring it to Sam, post-haste. He told me he could be found here. WHERE IS HE?!”
“I’ll get him for you, he’ll be here shortly. You need to calm down, here, take a cup of tea.” Witoast said while offering him a cup. He nodded at a shady character in the back who slipped down the stairs into the cellar.
Sam, was busy on the lower floor, he was deep into a lengthy discussion with a young rouge named Chiv about how they should work together. Chiv who he had recently met was a very talented Rogue who showed real promise. They both had views and ideas on how they could do more. Not as individuals but as a united force. Discussing it over they realized how their experiences, goals aims, could be achieved by making use of their differences.
A few minutes later Sam came up the stairs with the shady rogue.
“Who was it? Him?” Sam asked, nodding sideways at the messenger at the bar.
“Yeah” the rogue responded as Sam quickly continued his stride towards the messenger.
“Thanks.” he said without looking back.
Reaching the bar, he grabbed the shoulder of the messenger, giving him a slight scare as he turned him around in one move, pressing him against the bar.
“You had a message for me, it was important an-” Jus then, a large roar spread through the town.
“What was that?!” the messenger cried out.
“Demons,” Sam answered shortly, “you better get to safety. But first, where is that message?”
The messenger handed over the message and Sam grabbed it, quickly ripping it open. Reading it through without a slight change in his expression, he turned to speak.
”Witoast, this is bad, get everyone into hiding.” He turned to another rogue. “You there, rogue. Get to the Jadrele and tell her it’s an emergency and she needs to gather the fellows and meet me atop the roof of the market centre. Tell her to watch out for the demons. That goes for all of you, I’m heading to the Mages.”
Sam did not utter a word more, he dashed toward the door and headed straight to the Mages.
Arriving at the Mages’ quarters, Sam found Eloras standing in front of the grand building with a group of mages, blasting spell after spell at demons trying to reach them. Climbing down from the rooftops he joined Eloras, “You called. I got your message. It’s like you said, they are here.”
Eloras was slightly surprised by Sam’s sudden appearance, even though he had experienced it many times before, “Ahh, there you are, we’ve got no time to lose, we must get to the fighters.”
As they moved southwards on Brent Street Sam moved from cover to cover, making sure he stayed unseen where possible. Occasionally he moved out from the protection of the shadows, ending the life of a foe unknowing of his presence. As he moved out into the light, separating the head from the shoulders of a demon, causing it to tumble down the street, he noticed the scorched body was marked with something he had seen before,
”Hey,” he called out for Eloras. “Look at this. I’ve seen these before”
Eloras moved closer to the scorched body and Sam continued.
“Do you remember that weird looking portal I told you about, that we should investigate someday? It bears these marks. These exact marks.”
“Do you remember where it is?” Eloras queried directly.
“Then Let’s continue to the Fighters!” Eloras said and turned around, catching up with the other mages making their way forward.
Getting close to their destination they were met by a small number of knights instantly acknowledging their haste to reach their goal. They got channeled through their different ranks making sure they had a quick passage towards the massive iron-wrought gates of the large stern building. Sam made sure he kept his presence on a need-to-know basis, hiding amongst the surrounding mages. Sir Vladimir, the leader of the group immediately reported to a ranger who was then introduced to Eloras. The ranger, named Halren listened intently to Eloras as he spoke.
“This invasion… The mages have heard prophecies about it. One of ours knows how to end it. We possess a scroll that must be brought to Khaji, the Monk, he might be able to decipher it.” Eloras took a brief moment looking toward the group of mages nodding.
“There is a rogue with us, he can take the scroll to him without getting seen.” as Eloras speak those words Sam steps out from the group, pulling back his hood and getting closer.
“The scroll, it will end all of this?” Halren asked, glancing between Eloras and Sam who just joined them in the conversation.
“From what I have heard, we do not know.” Sam answered. “But he believes it is our best hope.”
“Then make haste! We will hold the this place for another two hours waiting for your return. If we hear nothing we move out to battle this ourselves.” Halren said firmly.
“Here, take this.” Eloras said as he handed Sam the scroll. “Guard it with your life Sam, I trust you.”
Sam nodded, wrapped the scroll in a piece of cloth and stove it inside his worshipper’s robe that he wore to blend in with the crowds. He pulled up his hood, took a step back into the group of people behind him and disappeared in the crowd, knowing well that he needed to hurry.
As he got outside the gates he glanced up along the wall on a nearby building, deciding he could scale it. This would be the quickest route, avoiding demons. He had decided to pass by the rooftops at the market centre, Jadrele would be there waiting for him, and hopefully she had a group of fellow rogues with her. He scaled the wall quite gracefully and moved from building to building making his way along broadside walk, watching how demons below slayed anything that came into their path. As he got atop the market centre he could not see Jadrele, he did however spot Fynn with a group of thug-like rogues armed with brass-knuckles and other blunt objects.
“Where Jadrele?” Sam called out as he got closer.
“Ah, there you are, wondered when you’d show up.” Fynn said quite calmly, “She’s back home, we’re here to help you. She’s preoccupied with keeping our hideout Demon-free. They are everywhere. Who did you cross to bring this to us?”
“I ne.. wait.. what? Me? I did no.. We don’t have time for this!” Sam blurted out, “I need you to create a distraction. Without getting killed by the demons preferably.”
“Go up Moonstone Street and get as much attention as you can.” Sam continued “I need a safe passage for me and some Monks as we head back to the Fighters Clan ok?”
Sam looked at Fynn and his gathered group of rogues who nodded in agreement, some eager to get going and the occasional ‘Who made you boss?’ being muttered. Fynn broke the brief silence
“Consider it done, just tell me later why we did all this.”
“I will.” Sam said as he leaped off the roof and grabbed a rope which swung him across the street and atop another roof.
Sam got to the Monks’ quite swiftly and stopped at the edge of the roof noticing a catline figure standing outside its gates slicing through opposing demons with his katana while more brothers and sisters were covering his back. Watching him leap forward in a beautiful hay-maker he noticed how a demon came at him from behind. Sam dropped down from the roof with a quick and instant movement letting his wrist blade piercing the demon’s head, instantly killing it. The thump behind the catline was clear and he quickly turned around and swung a sideways punch. Sam luckily noticed this and rolled backwards while hollering
“Whoa, hold it!” Sam tried to steady himself and regain balance.
The catline quickly realised that he wasn’t a demon.
“Are you Khaji? They told me to find you.” Sam more or less spat out before the catline would’ve had a chance to go after him.
“Yes, I am Khaji, what brings you here?” Khaji responded.
“Eloras sent me, he asked me to bring you this.” Sam said and stuck his hand inside his robe to fetch the cloth. Looking slightly surprised he looked up at Khaji, stuffed his other hand into the other side of the robe. With a breath of relief he pulled out a cloth and offered it to Khaji, “This.”
Khaji unwrapped the scroll from its cloth and looked it over.
“Wait here” he said and headed inside the gates, leaving Sam outside to assist the Monks defending their housing.
A while later Khaji came out of the gates again, with him he had some monks that he instructed to stay and protect their gardens. With that done, he turned to Sam saying.
“I’m ready, let’s go”.
Sam nodded “I know some shortcuts just down Autumn walk that should get us to the fighters without encountering too many demons. We need to wait just a little though, I have some friends creating a distraction.” very little time passed from his words before a series of explosions could be heard and the guard barracks at the crossing of Autumn Walk and Immigrant street.
Fynn and his gang of thugs knew that if they were to get the attention of the demons, they had to make it huge, and they had to direct their attention to a direction opposite that of the fighters. They had decided that the fort directly northeast of Monks’ fit the description perfectly.
So they blew it up.
This got the attention of the demons in the vicinity of the Monks’ giving Sam and Khaji an easy passage down the road before they slipped into a back alley. Protected by the buildings surrounding them they passed through something that looked like a maze built up by small spaces, temporary bridges and layered with a thick smell of cinnamon and cloves. They made it through quite easily, Sam knew this place like the back of his hand and just a few moments later they found themselves outside the gate of the Fighters Clan, escorted the last stretch by a group of barbarians they have met as they almost got cleaved in half.
As Halren came down into the main hall where they had been brought in, Sam told him:
“Meet Khaji. He has made the translations, we must go to the portal that is bringing these demons into the world, I know the way. It is deep within the ruins of the old fortress”.
Halren looked over Khaji as if he was determining his fate, the short silence is broken by Eloras as he instructs them all, “Lothaine will be joining you, he is the one that found this scroll. He is fighting outside, let him know when you will depart”.
With that Halren starts shouting order to the left and right, able men and women follow his commands without the slightest hesitation and just a few moments later they head out, Sam, Khaji, Lothaine and Halren with small groups of fighters, barbarians, rangers and the occasional mage start to move out towards the fortress where the strange portal had been seen.
The way to the fortress is not an easy walk, they continue with great cautiousness and end the life of hordes of demons along the way. They make use of each other’s skills and tactics, rotating, shifting, supporting and attacking over and over. After a while they reached the fortress and made their way inside, as Khaji leaped forward with a tremendous whirlwind kick, Sam slid under him - taking out the foes that just evaded Khaji’s sweeping kicks with his hidden blades, two at a time. Lothaine slashed his swords sending bursts of fire that cut through the demon’s ranks, while Halren decimated the oncoming foes three at a time with his sharp pin-point arrows, piercing their armor like they were little more than sacks of flour.
As soon as they reached the pitch-black, rift like portal, Khaji took lead and rushed to the portal, the others surrounding him and facing outwards, making sure that no demon, foe or other would get close to him while he performed his ritual. Sam made use of the shadows that seemed to spread everywhere close to the portal, it was almost like he teleported from place to place within the group, only stepping out from the shadows introducing various contact points on the demons when they got too close, before he disappeared again. He’d not let anyone slip by.
Sam stopped in his tracks for a second as Khaji seemed to float up into the air, his incantation is loud and clear, a translucent form appears slowly transforming into a dragon shaped body that seems to grow larger and larger by the second. Sam looks over at Lothaine, as the mithril-clad BattleMage turns around after deep freezing a demon and shattering him with the back of his left-hand sword. They exchange worried looks of what’s to come.
Khaji rose further into the air, his spirit getting channelled through the chant via streams of light entering the massive ethereal dragon. The dragon moved towards the portal until it surrounded it completely and it looks like it were to swallow it as a whole piece when suddenly a shockwave of blinding light engulfs them, the portal had exploded. They stumbled backwards and shortly after, a dark voice was heard:
“You have achieved nothing. When I return, no magic will save you”.
Returning back to the houses that he’d learned to know as home, Sam moved down Copper Walk, the moon at its apex across the lands, the star constellation known as ‘The Thief’s Despair’ straight above him. It was a calm night and the streets were empty, something he hadn’t experienced in quite a while.
As he reached the main entrance to the complex of buildings he was met by the ever present rogue keeping guard outside.
“Oi! Sam! Here, it’s me R…” the rogue exclaimed before he was cut off, by Jadrele rushing past him
“You’re alive!” Jadrele shouted as she rushed towards him and continued, “We thought something happened, a bright light went through the city like a shockwave and the demons disappeared. We were worried, where have you been?”
“Calm down, calm down. I’m ok.” Sam said, he was worn after the endless battles. No life threatening damage but the endless movement had taken its toll, he did not move as easy as he had once done.
“Let us go inside, I’ll tell you all about it when we are within our walls. Did everyone make it okay? Is everyone safe?” Sam said with a warm smile as Jadrele prodded and tugged at him to make sure he was still in one piece.
They entered the halls and made their way downstairs to Hal’s bar. As word spread throughout the complex of Sam’s return more and more rogues gathered to Hal’s appreciation, not often he got this much sold at once. He even had to hire people at the spot to provide enough refreshments for everybody to enjoy.
After the tale of how Moorgate had been saved by its own citizen working together as one entity, was told by Sam, there was lots of cheer and laughter in the halls, Kirtz voiced himself, shouting over the crowd:
“What happens now? Is it over? Where did that thing go? Why did you not kill it?” Kirtz blurted out in his usual very direct way.
Sam took a slight moment looking down into the floor, pondering about the answer before looking up and saying:
“I honestly don’t know, judging by its words I guess it’s far from over. But I have no idea about when and where this, it, will return. Nor do I know what it was. But when it does, we need to be prepared.” Sam said in a very serious tone. He walked across Hal’s bar which he was standing on to be seen better.
Tom followed up, looking over the crowd of rogues “Indeed we do, and to do that we need some structure. We are a large collective of different minds, wishes, ideas and objectives. But we need someone that we can follow, someone to guide us, someone that won’t control us but understand our differences and will work for our cause, our common objective.”
Tom nodded at Sam who continued.
“Yes, Tom, I agree, someone that to the rest of the lands acts as our figurehead and to us, internally, hold the respect of each and every one of us to the point that we willingly accept his or hers as our voice. Our collective mind, our leader.”
Fynn stepped forward and threw a circular piece of metal to him while questioningly saying:
“So, why won’t you?”
Sam caught the item thrown at him with a slight surprise and looked it over, he saw a ring in his hand, by an untrained eye, very common ring. But this one was different, it was made out of a exquisite metal that is hard to come by and the inside had the words “Master” written into the inner side of the ring and encrusted with diamonds. It surfaces was smooth and plain, in fact, to most men it’d look like a simple gold ring. He looked up at Fynn questioningly:
“Me? Bu…” Sam started as Jadrele cut in.
“Oh shush you, yes you.” Sam quickly turned to look at her, she returned his look and stared at him “There is not a single rogue here that isn’t appreciative for the work you done. You’ve shown yourself capable, understanding of our ways and trust me when I say it, your name is often mentioned by the people who pass me every day. It’s either you or Fynn, and Fynn made himself clear I’d say. Just fess up and do it already.” her stare lingered for a moment, before she relaxed her stern look slightly and offered a gentle smile.
“I… uh… alright” Sam said resignedly and a cheer erupted once again. “On one condition though” he raised his voice to be heard over the rowdy crowd.
“I will start us off, I will gather us as the Rogues and we will work together. Not as group of individuals but as a guild with shared interests and common objective.“
Sam paused for a breath, the cheering, stomping and rowdy crowd made themselves heard.
Sam continued, “This is no small feat, there is much work to do. We need to turn this place upside down, expand to new areas. Recruit new armorers and blacksmiths. Find workers of all kinds that will stay true to our cause. We need to find structure, governing documents that will not limit us, but help us exceed our own expectations. Moorgate, Stormport and all its neighboring towns lie at our feet. Let’s cease this opportunity and mark this day in history. The day when we became, The Rogues Guild.”
The already cheering crowd grew wilder and Sam jumped off the bar, making his way through the crowd. He got pats on the back, gentle nods and other confirming gestures and congratulations. Sam left them there to continue their celebrations and took to the roof of the tallest building in their complex. He stood there silently overlooking Moorgate, with a slight mumble he said to himself as he stroked the ring on his finger with his thumb.
“There’s much to be done.”