A stately middle aged woman sits at a large wooden table inside of a spacious tavern apartment. The room is drab, although there are new bed sheets on the single large bed. The rooms only couch has several new cushions on the drab brown apholstery. There is a large round table in the middle of the room with fresh yellow flowers in the middle of it. Someone has obviously made an effort to spruce up the otherwise dingy accommodations. Sitting next to the elegant woman sits a thin, spectacle wearing man, who appears to be in his early fifties. He is sorting thru a stack of official looking parchments.
Standing on either side of the rooms only door and across from a large window are two stern faced men. Their alert demeanor and closely cropped hair speak to their martial background. Each carries a broadsword at his side. The fifth person in the room is a portly man in a serving apron. He places a large plate of assorted meats and vegetables on the table, as well as a wine cask and cups.
“This is the finest vintage that we have madam.” The portly man says in the gruff eastern accent of a South Brixian commoner. He has lived in the city of Windhurst his entire life, and his speech reinforces this truth.
“I hope that you like the room as well.” He continues. “We made it up just for you.”
The woman strokes the nape of her neck, giving the innkeeper a glimpse of a jewel encrusted necklace against her creamy white skin. Although the Dancing Mare is a respectable establishment, he knows that it is foolish to wear such an item. The woman regards the waiting man haughtily and then glances at the mousy, balding man sitting beside her.
The small man removes a single coin from his pocket and places it on the table. He carefully slides the coin towards the fat innkeeper with his index keeper.
“You may remove yourself innkeeper Cholo.” The small man says, as he looks back at his papers.
“Thank you milord, I…” The innkeeper begins, but he stops as the little man raises one manicured hand and shoos him away distractedly. Cholo quickly snatches up the coin and rubs it between his fingers. It has been freshly minted, and most likely never been used before. He glances about the room at the piles of expensive looking luggage stacked against one of the plain walls.
One of the stern faced men opens the door leading into the hallway, and looks at Cholo expectantly.
“Don’t forget to try the food.” Cholo says. “It really is good.” Cholo hesitates and then scurries from the room, as the door is shut behind him.
“Insufferable.” The woman huffs. “Being surrounded by all of these unwashed people is almost more than I can bear.”
She is a truly lovely woman; still youthfully attractive despite being in her middle years. Hard living is obviously foreign to her, and she has a pampered air about her. Her clothes are a tailor made mimic of commoners garb, and her sweet perfume permeates the room.
“I know ambassador Lindra.” Her mouse faced companion whines sympathetically. “But that is what the bodyguards are for.”
Before she can reply there is a soft knock at the door. The guards look at the small man who flicks his hand in their directions dismissively. One of the guards slowly opens the door at this signal.
The dark eyed man standing in the doorway is nondescript in his dress, appearance and demeanor. He wears a simple grey traveler’s cap on his head. If the comely ambassador is uncommonly cultured and refined, then this man is of the most common South Brixian stock; easily ignored in any place or circumstance.
Baros scans the room quickly and attempts to enter. A hand presses firmly against his chest stopping his progress. He looks at the bodyguard and raises his left hand to reveal a silver medallion. The symbol indicates his rank as an officer of the South Brixian Empire. The hawked guard examines the badge and then drops his hand, allowing Baros to pass. He closes the door behind the agent.
Baros moves forward and takes in the room. The bodyguards are competent and professional. That is easy to see, but maybe too easy. This assignment requires a low profile, and their feeble attempt to dress and act like everyday folk is easy for anyone to see.
The appearance of Ambassador Lindra and her small attendant is even more laughable. Not only does her beauty and bearing give her away as a person of significance, but any third rate cut purse can see the worth of her poorly concealed jewelry.
He half bows to the ambassador and removes his cap to reveal a shock black hair.
“Ambassador, it is good to see you again.” Baros says with an easy smile. “I am Baros, your liaison during this diplomatic mission.
“Despite your familiar words I can’t recall ever seeing you before, agent Baros.” The Ambassador replies with a raised eyebrow.
“You may not have seen me, but certainly seen you many times good lady.”
“You are too forward… agent.” Pipes the small man at her side. He emphasizes the word ‘agent’ with disdain. “Don’t forget your place.”
Baros quickly recognizes the real authority in the room and knows that he has to do something to neutralize the little man, or he could interfere with Baros’ ability to operate effectively.
“My place, good attendant, is to assist the ambassador as she meets with the diplomatic attaché from the Shadow enclave of C’Al’Sium.” Baros replies. “That means being familiar with every person and situation associated with this mission.”
Baros clasps his hands behind his back and speaks thoughtfully, as he pivots to address the ambassador.
“Take your attendant Abrie for instance good ambassador.” Baros smiles. “Or should I say Abrielle Sallaise, which is his birth name.”
Ambassador Lindra raises an eyebrow in surprise for the second time. A gleam flits across Baros’ eyes, briefly cracking his studied manner.
“I presume he changed his name to hide the fact that his parents were hog farmers on the borders of Western Brixia; thinking that his background would be a hindrance to his aspirations as a servant of the royal court.” Baros speaks, almost to himself, as he seems to analyze the words as they leave his mouth.
“His plan must have worked, because after years of service to the empire here he is; personal attendant and scribe to a prominent Brixian dignitary.”
Baros continues; speedily running through the remaining information he has gleaned through his research.
“The ambassador was chosen for this mission due to her master of the Shadow Elf language and knowledge of their culture.” Baros nods to the impressed ambassador. “Your refinement and grace are also qualities highly respected by your shadow elf counterparts.
Baros sighs as he rounds out his destruction of the presumptuous attendant. “Your bodyguards worked as imperial guards before being assigned to your service some two years ago.”
The two guards shift uncomfortably as their history is broken down. During the entire speech Baros made sure that the ambassador was the focus of his conversation; thus reinforcing her authority, minimizing the balding attendant’s, and elevating his own.
Baros bows deeply to the ambassador and subtly shifts his eyes to the cowed attendant and smiles inwardly at the results of their secret battle of wills. He’ll have few problems from the frail politician from now on.
“Unfortunately you were on the road before I was able to meet with you and discuss your journey.” Baros continues; speaking to the now smiling ambassador. “But I am making arrangements now to ensure your meeting with the Shadow Elf ambassador goes on without a hitch.
Despite his confident words, Baros is angry with himself for not travelling ahead of the ambassador to scout the inn where they now reside. If he was assigned to assist the ambassador, it was because there may be someone working against her success. If that is the case, his unknown opponent may very well have set a trap of some sort.
Baros is not completely without resources though. The Wild Elf Feralon Circer combs the areas around the inn, looking for any abnormalities, while Argus waits in the bar below, alert for any call for assistance. Despite the challenges, Baros relishes the opportunity to interact with the mysterious and enigmatic Shadow elves whose dark wisdom is to be both feared and respected.
A seed of excitement and fear begins to germinate in the pit of stomach at the prospect of what is to come.