BaltisonThe day had come and gone. Though it was not the normal midwinter's day. Then again, this whole year was anything but normal when it came to the weather. It was cold and raining, just as it was the day before, and the day before that. The time where there should be snow on the ground there was not. Instead there were murky puddles scattered everywhere. The fountain was not flowing, then again, it usually did not during the winter time, but instead of ice covering the inside there was about 3 inches of dirty water. No one had any idea of why the weather was so strange, yet there were rumors a plenty going around the entire land. Many of them pointed to old stories of ghosts and goblins. A few of them told of evil wizards changing the weather. However, all of these were just stories and rumors. The fact remained, at least in the mind of Cathos, that this has happened in the past, even if not in his life time. So he did not worry too much about it. 

Standing around outside the tavern by the fountain, he waited quietly in the shadows. This strange man said he would explain everything when they met again, yet it was almost midnight. Where could he possibly be? Cathos watched the patrons from the Tavern slowly come out and head home. Though he suspected that not everyone was going straight home. A few of the solders had girls hanging on their arm. He knew they were not there for just the pleasure of the solders company, but more for the coin the companionship gave them. Watching people was nice and all, but he was actually quite bored right now. He had nothing to do other then wait, which was quite unusual for him. Generally he was seeking out the next rich patron to exit the tavern so he could bump into him. When that would happen, the rich patrons coin purse would usually fall into his hands by total mistake. Yet since the patron was rich, Cathos figured he had better use of the coin and the patron would not miss it in the least.

Tonight however he just stood in the shadows bored. "Where is that old man?" he said as he jingled the pouch filled with coins in his pocket. Then he remembered the scroll that was given to him last night. Bored and curious, he pulled it out and examined it. It was a curious thing indeed. Pulling on the red cored, Cathos wondered what it said? A Declaration perhaps from the royal family? It did look like it was something that a rich royal family might have and give away. The cord pulled away quite easily, almost as if it were never tied. Just as he started to open it however, an almost nauseous feeling came over him. Clutching the scroll in one hand, he dropped the red silk cord on the ground. A wave of almost pain came across him in the pit of his stomach and then everything went black. None of the patrons saw nor heard anything other than the midnight bells ring in town.

"Ughh." Cathos moaned. "Don''t move lad" a soft feminine voice said to him as a hand was placed on his shoulder. He tried to open his eyes, though all he could see was a dim fog in front of his eyes. "What happened?" he tried to say, yet all that came out was another groan. It felt as if someone had punched him hard in the stomach. "Come here!" the said. "He is waking up." Cathos could hear several footsteps, it sounded as if there were two other people here. But where was here, he thought to himself? "Lay still, it will pass. Do not worry. I have some tea for you. Can you sit up?" The soft voice was reassuring, yet now a sense of fear came over him. Trying to sit up, he felt that pain slowly fade to a dull ache.

"My name is Berra and this is Tolrin and.." she paused for a second, "What is your name again?" she asked someone else in the room. "I told you three times already, my name is Sharill of the Andrid-Moore Cast." the woman''s voice said rather sternly. "Ah, that is right, Sharill. Here drink this." And the strange girl helped him sit up and put a cup to his  mouth. He took a small sip at first. Normally he would not drink something strange from a strange person, yet how could things get any worse? It did not taste too bad, so he took another, longer drink. "There we go, that should help."

He noticed that his vision was slowly coming back. Instead of a dim foggy light, it was now a bright foggy light. "Where am I? What happened?" he said with a shaky voice. "I am not exactly sure to be honest. Though it appears we are in a rather nice cave. I presume that scroll in your hand has something to do with it. We each have one as well. However no one is able to read what they say." So at least these strangers were in the same boat as he was. He wondered if they had as hard of a time as he had. And how did they get there? "We are not sure where we are or what happened." the first girl started to say. But she was interrupted by the woman''s voice. "I told you it was some sort of teleportation spell. Gah! Where is that old man? I want some answers already!" Cathos was slowly getting his eye sight back and could now make out the figures in the room. If it was a room they were in.

Cathos tried his best to see what was around him. He was impatient when it came to his surroundings, since he always liked to know who was around, where and what his own situation was. For the first time in a long time, Cathos was feeling a bit too vulnerable. At least his vision was returning. He could now make some detail of the others in the room with him. The older woman was not as old as he had thought. Yet her voice did carry a tone of authority about it. Perhaps that is why he thought she was older. The girl he noticed, was not as much of a girl as she sounded. She was taller then the other one, and actually quite attractive, even in the woodland garb. He listened to the two women talk among themselves and noticed the man they introduced as Tolrin was not talking much. "How did we get here? All of you met that old man also? I met him in the pub last night around midnight. Said he had a job for me and I was curious. Perhaps I should not have been as curious as I was." Cathos rubbed his head. It started to ache in place of his stomach. But at least now he could see. The room did look rather like a cave, though the floor was covered in rugs and there were several lit torches lining the wall. The room was about 15 or so feet across and he was sitting on a pile of cured skins.

The large man stood up and started to pace. " I cannot take this any longer. Where is that old mage? I want to know what is going on and where we are." He was quite irritated. Cathos probably would be just as irritated if he were not as curious as he was right now. He was quite eager to meet this old man again, yet it was to resolve his own curiosity and not because he was irritated. Then again, that is how Cathos usually was. More curious then cautious. Cathos took another long drink from the small cup and drained it. "That was pretty good tea." he said, " Thank you for it." He handed the cup back to the tall woman, then asked, "Why are you all here? Same as me? Who was that old man? he called himself.. Balta, err, Bath..err.." The older woman interrupted him, "Baltison was his name. And yes, we all met him under almost the same situation. However he came to me in my wood at the ruins. Which no one here has seemed to have ever heard of before. Which I cannot understand." she scoffed at that idea. Then the tall woman spoke up, "He came to me in the Library at my city. Yet no one had seen him but for me. I asked around today, or was it yesterday now? I am not sure. But he is odd indeed!" Sharill said.

"I am, as this lady had said, Tolrin, Paladin of the old King, retired solder of the Terrum Artran Army now turned mercenary." he said as if everyone should know of him. He waited for some response then realized there was not going to be one from the others and continued. "I was looking for work when the mage came to me. When I opened up the scroll he gave me the night before, I was ported here somehow. Did I mention I hate magic?" the large man said with an emphasis on the word hate. Just as Cathos was to respond to the outburst from the mercenary, a door opened up in the room. Now that is odd, he thought. Cathos, nor the others had noticed that door before. The strange man, Baltison, walked in quietly and smiled. "Good! I am glad to see you are all here! I was worried a few of you might not show up." he said matter of fact.

Everyone in the room visibly jumped. Even Sharill whom was hardly ever startled. Each person the room glanced around while Baltison just stood there smiling. Finally Tolrin spoke up. "Why did you bring us here old man?" he said with impatience. Standing up he tried to look the old man in the eyes, yet got that unnerved feeling once more and looked away. "All in good time lad, all in good time. First, let me make sure that you are all recovered from your journey and are comfortable?" The man glanced around the room with a sincere look in his eyes and tone in his voice. No one wanted to argue with this stranger. He was a mage after all. And each person in the room had their own thoughts on why it would be best to just nod. After a moment of silence Baltison walked across the room and sat down on a soft pile of rugs. "Where shall I begin?" he said half to himself.

"Usually at the beginning is best." Sharill said plainly with a slight tone of irritation. Though she would not argue with this man, she was still somewhat confused and irritated of being spirited off to some strange room to Lords know where. "Ah, so wise for someone so young. Yes, that is a perfect place to begin." The man shifted himself appearing to try to get a bit more comfortable. Then as he started to speak he also pulled out a small book. "I have been charged by my Queen to find her daughter. She was kidnapped about two weeks ago under some strange circumstances." When there was no reply he continued as calmly as he had started. "I have been charged, as I said already, to find a group of adventurers to assist the royal family. Sadly I am unable and almost powerless." At that moment a clatter of comments and questions tried to interrupt him. He paused and let them ask. All at the same time. Finally they stopped, looked from one another and then nodded towards Sharill. All three of them figured she would be the best to ask any important questions since she was a magic user as well. "Then let me ask you this, why all the cloak and dagger stuff? Why did you have to spirit us here to some strange place without our knowing? Why did you not just explain everything when you first met us?" She had many more questions to ask, yet stopped. Sharill realized that she had just asked several at once, and all in one breath. So much for her upbringing, she thought to herself. Yet these were all important questions and they needed to be answered.

Baltison gave his typical grin. Then it quickly turned serious. "All these questions and more I shall answer. At least the best I am able. Yet let me answer one right now. We needed secrecy. There are prying ears out there and we do not need any unwanted attention." he started. "First, let me give you all some wine, so we can relax while I tell the story." At that moment he got up and pulled out a rather large flask. Five cups appeared out of nowhere and he poured the drink. To everyone but Sharill, the brew was warm, as if the wine had been warmed in a fire. Each person cautiously took a cup but did not drink from it until Baltison did. All except for Berra. She waited. Once everyone was settled again and as comfortable as possible, the old man cleared his throat and began his story.