“Welcome, my children,” he says in a deep resonant voice that has an almost inhuman quality to it. “Training is at an end. You have proven yourself worthy. Now, it is time for you to use that training and take on your first mission.
“Your mission is war, my children. You will bring war to Talingarde.
“You have two objectives. First, you will see a shipment of munitions delivered to a bugbear chieftain named Sakkarot Fire-Axe. He makes his camp on the northern coast of Lake Tarik beyond the Watch Wall. With this shipment, the Fire-Axe will have resources enough to unite the barbarous humanoid tribes of the north and light the fire of war.
“Sitting on the dock as we speak is the longship Frosthamar captained by Kargeld Odenkirk. Tomorrow when the ship is resupplied it will be your transport. The captain is a ruthless mercenary and not to be trusted. He knows nothing of the specifics of our mission and you should keep it that way. He knows he is smuggling cargo to the north beyond the Watch Wall. That is all he need know.
“Once the cargo is safely delivered, he will take you just south across the lake under cover of darkness and land you near the town of Aldencross. There our contract with Captain Odenkirk will be concluded.
“It is shame how greedy he has proven. I had hoped to let the captain serve me again but it seems he is too much of a liability. Kill him. Kill his crew. Burn his ship and leave no survivors. It is crucial that no one suspects our involvement and that loose ends are taken care of. Be sure to reclaim the coin I gave him. Best not to be wasteful.
“That done, you will begin your second task. We will do more still to aid our ally the Fire-axe. The bugbears are mighty warriors but poor siege engineers. You will infiltrate the tower Balentyne, keystone of the Watch Wall, kill its commander and open the gate for Sakkarot’s horde.
“Once the shaggy monstrosities pierce the Watch Wall, the bugbears will pillage and lay waste to the townships of the north and the local garrisons will have no choice but to meet the Fire-Axe in the open field. Sakkarot is the most brilliant, gifted and murderous bugbear of his generation. I expect these battles will go poorly for the knights and yeoman of fair Talingarde.
“Do all of this and then when your task is done, break this clay seal.” He hands them a delicately carved clay seal adorned with a tangled knot of thorns surrounding the holy symbol of Asmodeus. “I will have more instructions then. Succeed and I will see you rewarded handsomely. Fail or betray me and you will pray for the comfort of Hell before I am done with you.
“The mission you start upon today is a holy mission. The people of Talingarde think they have seen the last of the mighty Asmodeus. Soon enough we will remind them that there is no escaping the grasp of Hell. Let us toast our success.”
He pours one glass of deep red wine for each of you and then finally pours one for himself. He raises the glass and offers a toast.