Faith stepped out into a small alley, bordered by small houses and fences made of rope. As she came down the alley and around the corner she noticed the ramshackle buildings were haphazardly stacked on each other or supported by stilts in places. They were the cheerful, weatherbeaten sort of buildings that one expects to see on an island. The snow was still gently falling.
She saw a young man with a backpack standing just beyond the alley and tapped him on the shoulder.
He gave a startled jump.
“Where did you come from?” he asked, looking past her. “You weren’t there a minute ago.”
“I just came around the corner,” she said in all truthfulness. “I need to talk to the adventurer trainers; do you know where I can find them?”
“Ah, ok. They are probably having their midday meal in the Wavecrest Tavern right there. Where did you say you came from? I didn’t see you coming off the ship...”
“I didn’t say,” she replied as she headed across the small yard area to the tavern. Faith had a problem with lies, but she didn’t feel she owed anyone an explanation.
She saw a pair of round wooden signs, each one displaying a painting of a pint of ale with a wave splashing out of it. They flanked a doorway framed by the remains an old rowboat. That simply had to be the Wavecrest Tavern; there weren't that many other buildings in the small village. She headed up a small ramp and into the tavern. The pungent scent of fermenting hops assaulted her nose along with other spicy scents. The heat in the room was generated by a large still behind the bar and it was a little overwhelming. A soft, pleasant tune was being played on a lute somewhere and voices murmured in conversation all around.
Faith stood just beyond the doorway a moment to let her eyes adjust to the light, glancing around but trying not to stare. The small two-room building was packed with people having their midday meal. Glancing around the room she could quickly identify many races- humans, half-orcs, elves, halflings, even warforged. Faith tried not to shrink back at the sight of the warforged but it was hard to control her long standing instinct to be afraid of them. She took a deep breath.
The light from the door when she entered had gotten the attention of many of the patrons, who looked up from their food and ale. Faith was a little embarrassed at being the focus of so much attention and moved quickly to the bar.
“I’m here to train,” she told the pleasant-looking woman behind the bar. “Do you know who I should speak to?”
“Well, hello there honey, you’ve come to the right place!” the woman replied with enthusiasm. “You’ll need to talk to Master Garant the Wary. He’s the tan and black warforged over there in the corner. Just on the other side of that wall, near the other still. See him?”
Faith tried to suppress her fear that her contact was a warforged. She leaned out a little to survey the next room. “Yes.”
“Why don’t you let me bring you some food and drink in the meantime, ok? Today’s special is cornmeal porridge with bubbling brown froth to drink. Only 6 silver pieces today! Sound good?”
Faith nodded and handed over a few coins. Killing sahuagin had made her very hungry, but she hadn’t noticed until now.
“Thank you, dear! Now, I’m Ingrid Bauerson and usually me or one of my family is working the tavern here so you come in any time you are hungry. Our food will also help heal you when you are hurt, so don’t hesitate to come here and sit for a spell til you feel better. We're open early and open late most nights. There’s no other place to eat on Korthos Island, so unless you brought your own food, we’ll be seeing you quite a bit til your training is done.
Looks like Garant and the other masters are finished with their food… Master Garant just has oil of course... but head on over there and check in with him. They won’t bite! It’s not like they're kobolds….”
Ingrid laughed at her own joke as she headed off to the kitchen to get Faith’s meal ready.
Faith tried to look confident as she crossed the room to the semi-private area that seemed to be occupied by the more important-looking people. Wooden dividers separated the tables, giving at least a little privacy to the people sitting at each one. Faith guessed these were the instructors or teachers.
Garant the Wary was sitting at a full table. He stood as Faith approached him and held out his hand to be shaken. Slightly surprised, she shook his hand. The cold metal flexed slightly in her grip and she was struck by the feeling that the wood underneath was pulsing, alive.
“I am Garant the Wary, “ he said. His voice, like Talbron’s, had a slight echo to it. It was deep and commanding nonetheless. “How may I help you?”
He retracted his hand and sat back down, watching her with yellow eyes that glowed with wavering intensity as he talked.
“Hello,” she said in a voice that, to her embarrassment, wavered slightly. “I am Faith Fayrehold and I have come to Korthos to train as an adventurer. May I join your program?”
“But of course you may join, “ Garant replied. “The question is whether or not you can succeed.”
This caused a round of chuckles from the other occupants at the table. At that moment, Ingrid approached with Faith’s meal and started to clear a spot to place it on the corner of the table.
“Oh, no, I can eat somewhere else…”
“Nonsense,” said Garant. “Here is fine.”
Before she could protest, Garant had moved an extra chair over to the table between himself and an older human man. Ingrid whisked away the empty dishes that were on the table and set Faith's meal in front of her. Faith settled uncomfortably at the corner of the table and tried not to slurp her cornmeal.
“Let me introduce you to the masters of our training program here. I am Garant the Wary, master tactician and I run the program for the Adventurers Union of Stormreach. This fine dwarf here (he indicated a white haired dwarf to his left) is Braam the Stalwart, our master defender. “
Braam nodded his head with a smile. “I teach students the mastery of armor and defensive stances and such.”
“This handsome fellow is Solac the Brawler, our master blademan. Countless melee encounters and not a scar on his face!” Garant continued.
The dark haired elf gave a laugh. “It’s all about flanking your enemy!” he stated. “Getting scraped up is lazy fighting, I say!”
“Mirielle the Peerless is our master spellweaver. She helps train our casters, both the divine healing casters and the arcane magic casters.”
The graceful white-haired elf nodded with a smile, but said nothing.
"Innif Ross is our Master Skirmisher; he helps to teach about weapons and different styles of fighting." The old white-haired man didn't bother to look up from his plate of food. Faith suspected he couldn't hear. He seemed to not notice anything or anyone around him.
“And last but not least is Waysmith Dern, our master scholar. He teaches history, geography and sociology. All apprentices, regardless of career path, must complete Master Dern's classes before graduating the program here on Korthos.”
He indicated the older human man who had moved his chair over to allow Faith to sit. Master Dern inclined his head slightly, acknowledging her. She smiled back weakly at them while trying to use her best table manners. Garant went on with his well-rehearsed introduction.
“There is no tuition and the Adventurer's Union will provide you with shelter while you are here- food is your own responsibility. The Bauersons here provide meals for reasonable rates. They also manage the housing, so see Sigmund when you are done to be assigned to a hut. In return for the Union providing you with training and certification, your future work must be registered through the Union and you must take at least one job per month from the Union board. Unless you are injured or otherwise incapacitated, of course.
Businesses and individuals pay the Union to have their jobs listed on the Union board. To be certified for higher difficulty jobs and be eligible for continued training, you must have your experience logged through the Union. As long as you are a Union member in good standing, you will be provided with housing whenever possible and some very valuable tools. You will also be able to continue your training. By registering your work and gear with the Union trainers, you will be certified for more complicated and higher paying jobs. Any questions?”
Faith had a million questions. But her mouth was full of porridge and she didn’t know where to begin, so she shook her head.
"I'm off to my administrative duties, then," Garant announced, rising from the table. "Mirielle, you'll see to her Union mark, won't you?"
The white-haired elf nodded and said in a soft voice, "Of course, Garant."
"That's two assessments we'll need to do this afternoon. This one and the elf. Can everyone meet at say, half past three?" Garant looked around the table. All of the masters nodded.
"Until then," Garant nodded and strode away.