In the riverside town of Fallcrest, in the Nentir Vale, you have received an auspicious message requesting that you pay a visit to the Cartographers’ Guild.
This bodes well for your reputation—the Cartographers’ Guild is known to pay well and to hire personnel who are reliable, trustworthy, and tough. Being known as one of their freelancers can only enhance your reputation. Not only that, having access to a guild’s web of alliances could lead to bigger things! Your hard work and persistence as a troubleshooter is starting to pay off!
On the morning of your appointment, you arrive promptly. You are shown into a study and asked to wait with four or five other… interviewees? Who are these others? Perhaps you’ve been invited to join one of the Guild teams? Is this the team? Or are these other candidates for the job? Surreptitiously, you study the “competition” to see what you’re up against.
Leaning against the wall stands a half-elf of indeterminate age. He carries a long quarterstaff that appears to be somewhat larger than he could comfortably handle, given his small stature. As you enter the room, heglances your way, sizing you up and seemingly dismisses your presence at the same time. His gear looks to be well worn, if perhaps a few decades out of style. As you study him, his eyes dart around the room keeping a watchful eye on the assembled group. [Character name: GulDrac Erdan, aka Drac. Player name: Ben]
An enormous Dragonkin paces restively, scanning map after map on the wall, tracing imaginary battle lines with his finger, grinning all the while. He gives the impression of one who is not prepared to wait long for anything. A pile of spotless gear lies nearby; you can tell that it has been used, but immaculately cared for. [Rho’Shel, played by Russell]
You haven’t long to wait, however, before a gray and balding middle-aged man enters the room. He sits down behind a large desk and steeples his fingers, taking in each of you. He finally nods, apparently satisfied.
“Welcome to the Cartographers’ Guild. I am Parle Cranewing, Master Cartographer of Fallcrest. I have a commission to offer any of you who wish to accept.
“I would not, ordinarily, field an entire team of agents with whom we have never worked before—”
You all look around at each other as you realize that everyone else is just as new to this as you are. Some of the tension in the room dissipates.
“—but I’m afraid circumstances leave me no other choice. All of our usual crew are on other assignments, and the patron who has requested this map is unwilling that we delay his request further.
“Should you choose to accept it, the nature of your mission is as follows: Our client is both a noble and a student of historical architecture, particularly that of the ancient empire of Nerath. He aims to consolidate his influence by expanding his ancestral seat and building it up as a replica of one of the fortresses that Nerath used to protect its borders. He has studied the building methods used during that era, and he believes he can replicate them.
“What he does NOT have is a complete blueprint of the fortress architecture. Of the extant ruins he has examined, none is in sufficient repair that he can make confident decisions as to the exact construction to replicate. He requests that we provide such a blueprint.
“I have pored through our library, and I believe I have found a record of one keep that was apparently still standing at the base of the CairngormPeaks as recently as 20 years ago. It is not far away—perhaps two days journey from here to the village of Winterhaven. In Winterhaven, you should be able to get more specific directions.
“It’s true that as the Cartographers’ Guild, we should be able to give you those specific directions, but I’m ashamed to say that I can find no direct reference to the keep. It’s very odd.
“At any rate, there is no reason to expect undue peril. But I do need reliable persons, quick thinking, persistent, durable. Since none of you are yet bonded with the guild, I’m afraid I cannot offer you an advance. If you choose to accept, our deal will be simple: Upon your delivery of a map of the Nerathine keep, you will be paid 250 gold pieces, split evenly among the group.
“The map must include the layout of the ground floor, as well as a thorough description of the foundations beneath the keep. How deep does it go? Is it a solid foundation? Upon what does it rest? Also, for my own part, I wish to know why this keep is situated where it is. The more I consider its locale, the more puzzled I am.
“What do you say?”
“I say rubbish! A waste of my time for such a pittance!” A large man with a sword at his hip stands abruptly and stomps out of the room. You hear the front door slam.
But you hold your seat. And so do the remaining adventurers in the room. The monetary reward is barely enough to make expenses, split among so many. But anyone with sense knows that the patronage of the Cartographers is the true reward being offered.
Parle Cranewing nods, unruffled. His gaze rests on each one in turn. “Quite so. And the rest of you?”
You look at the others appraisingly and three thoughts come to mind, one after the other: First, that whatever a summons to this guild may say about you, it says the same about the others summoned in like fashion. Second, that if you had been assigned to a Cartographers team with veterans, you’d probably get treated like the greenhorn you definitely are not. Third, it would be nice, for once, to have someone watching your back.
Someone across the room stands and says, “We’ll do it.” The rest of you stand with him.
It feels like a first consensus.