It started in a tavern, as it so often did. There was a reason adventurers liked to meet in taverns, since they were crowded places full of witnesses it made backstabbing those you made deals with much harder. But not impossible, Benedrik reminded himself as he entered the place. He shook his head a bit, getting some of the rainwater out of his dreads and drawing a few curious looks from the other patrons of the establishment. The villagers were used to seeing adventuring elves, but it was a safe bet they had never met an elf from a warmer continent with dark brown skin.
The elf looked around him, it seemed that the fishing village had its fair share of cut-throats and swords-for-hire visiting tonight. Good. He drew his cloak back from his arms and shoulders, exposing his naked arms which a human would have called athletic and an elf would have called needlessly bulky. It was then that he heard that annoying voice he was sadly so familiar with:
"HA! It seems whoever did it missed the other one! Too bad, I could have mocked you for looking human!" the voice behind Benedrik semi-shouted.
Benedrik's hand instinctively went to the ravaged thing that used to be his left ear, but was now unrecognizable as such if not for its location. He quickly caught himself as his fingers barely brushed its skin and lowered his left hand, turning to look at the one he hated so much, and yet always ended up working with for the big jobs. An elf's pragmatism, Benedrik told himself, allowed him to work with a person he personally despised if said person was the best one for the job, and thus the best one to ensure he'd come out of an adventure alive and richer than before.
"What the hell happened to it?" demanded to know Old Farron, without any tact of course. But such a trait was sadly typical of dwarves, according to any elf you could ask. Old Farron was pressing and twisting his long, dark gray beard with both meaty battle-scarred hands to get the water out of it. His shaved scalp needed no such care.
"A damn goblin ambushed me six months ago, landing on my back and gnawing at my ear."
"Guess the thing had an ugly death afterwards, uh?"
Benedrik gave Old Farron a scary smile at that moment and stated "I didn't kill the goblin."
"It escaped you???" For a moment it seemed like the dwarf was surprised enough to drop his battlehammer.
"Not at all." Benedrik loudly clapped his hands and a miserable figure even shorter than the dwarf limped in from outside, carrying a huge backpack which caused him to lean forward and big heavy sacks in each hand. The small, green-skinned humanoid shivered as he stepped out of the rain, not having the luxury of wearing a cloak like the two who had been chatting about him a moment before. The goblin's features were typical of his kind, a long nose and a huge mouth which almost went from ear to ear. As far as the ears themselves were concerned, he was missing his left one, which had been cleanly cut off in the past, no doubt Benedrik's handywork. Strangest of all, the goblin had a slightly glowing red gem which was partially sunk into his forehead.
"Benedrik," said the dwarf, "I have no love for goblins, but using magic to enslave one is... It's wrong."
"Keep your opinions to yourself, dwarf! No one mutilates an elf and gets away with it!" After an uncomfortable silence, during which the goblin just stood there with all the baggage while looking down at the floor in fear, Benedrik added "I have what is perhaps the most promising treasure map I have ever seen. Do you want to be part of its exploration and looting, or would you rather walk away over the honor of some lowlife goblin???"
Old Farron shook his head for a moment but then lifted his chin forward towards a table in the corner of the establishment. "You know I wouldn't pass on such a chance. Let's sit down and discuss this job."
The tavern owner, a fat middle-aged man behind the bar, seemed like he wanted to complain about the presence of a goblin in his tavern but couldn't muster up the courage to do so at the scary-looking adventurers. He ended up just nodding at his daughter, a well-fed girl in her early twenties. The girl went to the table, trying not to stare at the goblin who was made to sit on the floor with his bags. Before she could say anything, Benedrik had already told her "A glass of your least horrible wine and some ale for the dwarf. Go."
The girl's face flushed with anger at the elf's attitude but she said nothing and started to head back to the bar. Old Farron grabbed her arm gently to stop her and whispered "Don't worry, I will tip you well to put up with the damn elf, human child."
Benedrik let out an annoyed "Tsk!", his elf ears -as both still worked perfectly fine- had of course heard that and he knew the dwarf knew it. As the girl walked away from their table, the elf said "You were always bad at judging the age of humans. That one is already an adult, at least by the reckoning of her species."
The old dwarf said "By all the Hells, they all seem like children to me." and then he looked at the elf, perhaps remembering that despite how they looked, Benedrik was the oldest of the two.
"I want your opinion on something." said Benedrik as he extended a hand which was quickly handed a map to by the meek-looking goblin. The elf then proceeded to unroll the map carefully on the table as he talked. "This map is an incomplete version of the underground temple, not meant for its long-dead owner but probably for his servants. That means that none of its traps, magical or otherwise, are revealed in here. Ideally we'll need experts to deal with both types of traps. If none are to be found, then we'll need many hirelings who'll walk ahead to trigger said traps. If we do it like that we can expect many casualties, which should lower the amount of shares to be paid by the end of the trip into the dungeon." He was of course using the word 'dungeon' not according to its proper definition but in the way adventurers used it as slang, a term to describe any old dangerous place that might hold a treasure of some kind.
The dwarf let out an annoyed sigh at how casual the elf could be about the deaths of others.
The elf picked up on that and argued "They would be humans. Even if they didn't die then, they would still die in a laughingly short handful of decades."
Old Farron pretended to ponder the argument for a few seconds to appease the elf's ego and give him the impression that his callous words had some weight, then finally said "I believe we'd be better off and safer with experts in any case. I think it would even be worth waiting a few more days to find the right people, in fact. After all, what are a few days to us compared to humans?"
"That's the thing, in this case every minute matters!" said Benedrik. "This isn't the only map, and I believe we are not the only ones who have recently acquired a copy!"
"So, do we risk spending a day or two looking for some experts or do we simply hire as many fools as we can to help us out?"
Should Benedrik and Farron find experts at the possible cost of taking more time before they set out for the dungeon, or should they just hire many hirelings and get there as soon as possible?
Votes will end on Monday, January 12th 2014.