Chapter 1: The Tale of Flint Morgan and The Red Letter

Captain Flint Morgan stood with his hand on the Midnight Cannon as he peered out of the stained green glass window to his left. His eyes were tired as he had been up since dawn and now, many hours on with the moon hanging heavy in the night sky, he focused on the bright blue tail of a comet through the glass. The more superstitious folk of West Cross Port called the comet Draco’s Light believing it was Tah-huraz, the female dragon god of destruction, returning to the lands of Talderia to take vengeance on those who had given up on the power of magic in favour of machines and industry. Flint Morgan did not believe this. He knew full well, as all Dwarfs did, that his ancestors had slain the last dragon thousands of years ago in the closing days of the Dark War. The truth was Flint found it hard to believe in anything these days as much like the stories of that war, his life had become dark and full of unlucky turns.

He was only middle aged for a dwarf but he had seen much of Talderia whilst captaining his sky-ship ‘The Cardinal’. He and his crew had started off as honest traders but times grew hard and slowly over the years they went from hauling goods to stealing them. Flint closed his tired eyes and imagined himself standing at the wheel of ‘The Cardinal’. The wind blew though his thick ginger beard and over his face, several pistols where holstered across his chest and at his hip hung a great, jewel encrusted, cutlass that had been forged in the caverns of Glimmer-cairn and handed to him by none other than the Iron Dwarf himself. His crew where readying the cannons as his brother and first mate Silver-Shaft Morgan, barked orders at them. They were about to take a small trading vessel Flint had spied a few hours back. Flint reckoned it would be a good haul.

“OI DWARF!” barked a voice, “DON’T IGNORE ME!” Flint’s eyes snapped back open. He was no longer stood on board his sky-ship nor did he have his jewel encrusted cutlass. That was now just a memory from a better time long ago. He was back stood on top of a stool behind the bar of the Rabbits Foot Inn looking out of the stained green glass window. “You’re about to spill good fucking ale you idiot! I won’t be paying extra if you do, you know that right?” said the voice. Flint looked down and took his hand off the tap of the cask of Midnight Cannon Ale just in time to stop it over-flowing from the tankard. As he placed the tankard on the bar he looked up to see the man who had shouted at him. It was Harkens, one of the local blacksmiths and a regular who had been trying to pick a fight with him for the past few weeks on a count of him being the only dwarf in West Port, but Flint wanted none of it. Since the theft of his sky-ship along with the rest of his wealth Flint had been unable to get work on any other vessels as most knew him as a pirate. He was about to give up and head back to the Dwarven capital when a woman by the name Lizzie Sheers figured him to be a strong enough looking Dwarf and offered him a job at her Inn as long as he caused her no trouble and could change the barrels by himself. The last thing he wanted were the local lawmen poking around because he had killed some nobody in a bar fight. He also remembered his promise to Lizzie that he would make no trouble and he wasn’t about to break that promise. Lizzie was a kind woman who had helped him out when nobody else would, she always laughed and said “Maybe the Rabbits Foot Inn is the just the kind of place you need Flint, they are supposed to be lucky after all!” Besides, the lawmen might recognise him for who he really was and the crime for piracy in Talderia was the hangman’s rope. As he placed the tankard on the bar Flint and Harkens locked eyes in a deathly stare for a few moments, before Harkens slammed down two copper pieces on the bar top, “I told Lizzie she should never have given one of your kind a job here”, with that he spat on the floor, grabbed his drink and stormed back to his table on-which sat the other local blacksmiths.

“Ignore him old friend. A man like that wouldn’t last a day in the sky, not worth your trouble” said a handsome man sat sipping a fine Veraxian whiskey and smoking a short, curved pipe that had been carved from the tusk of some unknown, exotic creature. The man took a long pull of the pipe and exhaled a thick cloud of smoke that left a faint, familiar smell of Apple-wood tobacco hanging in the air. It was Flint’s long time and probably only remaining friend Sebastian Grim. Sebastian was a clean shaven classically handsome man who always had a distant look of mystery and ambition in his eyes. He stood half a foot taller than most men and wore a long, dark green leather duster in which flint knew he concealed many weapons but the greatest one wasn’t in that duster, Sebastian’s greatest weapon was his charm. Not many people knew Flint’s true identity but he trusted Sebastian with his life and trusted him to keep the secret. “Erghhh I know,” sighed Flint “I just wish it was like the old days Seb. Just us in the skies taking what we wanted and making bastards like that take a long walk off a short plank!” Sebastian laughed and relit his pipe, He took another long drag and exhaled again leaving a plume of apple wood scented tobacco in the air. “Well, I may have some good news on that front Flint. I was speaking with the port authorities in Eosveir before I left and they told me that a ship fitting ‘The Cardinals’ description left Linn Sky-port only 2 moons ago heading towards Arkall, it might be our ship Flint?” Flint’s fist clenched tight as he slammed it onto the bar top, “That fucker!” he shouted. “Silver-shafts planning on running spice to those bastards! Not only has he stolen my ship but now my plans to take over the eastern trade routes too! I’ll kill him Seb, I’ll fucking have my brother’s life for this!”. A silence fell between the two friends as they both pondered the next step to getting ‘The Cardinal’ back from Flint’s brother. Sebastian looked for a moment like he was going to say something to try and calm Flint but instead, took another long draw on his pipe and a sip of smooth Veraxian whiskey.

The rest of the night passed quietly, the locals finished drinks one by one and slowly began to leave the Rabbits Foot Inn. Flint was underneath the bar reconnecting some hoses to the taps that had come loose but he could still hear Lizzie and Sebastian talking. She was sweeping the floors and he was helping her put the stalls on the tables. Sebastian didn’t work for the Inn but Flint knew just what his type of woman was and Lizzie was definitely it. Easy on the eye and harder to win over than convincing a cleric of healing that the rash you have absolutely no idea how you could have gotten, is definitely not from the local brothel they just saw you step out from that very morning.  Flint believed though that if any man could win the heart of Lizzie Sheers, it would be Sebastian Grim. Suddenly Flint heard the door to the entrance of the Rabbits Foot Inn creaked open, “Sorry, We’re closing love and the Inns full for the evening” said Lizzie. “Ouh” spoke a soft feminine voice, “I’m not here to drink or acquire a room, I was told by a rather rude and opinionated gentleman that this is the only Inn in West Port that has a dwarf as a barkeep. You do have a dwarf working here don’t you?” Flint instinctively reached to his chest for a pistol as he sensed danger then realised he didn’t have them as Lizzie didn’t let weapons in the bar. Foolish woman, he thought. “Who’s asking?” said Sebastian in a stern yet diplomatic voice, “Well I can quite clearly see you are not a dwarf so I’m afraid I’m not at able to reveal that information however, I can assure you the matter is of great importance for the survival of Talderia” spoke the soft voice.

Elvish thought Flint? The accent had a slight air of Elvish to it but not like he had ever heard before. Flint hated most elves as all Dwarfs did for their cowardice during the Dark War, he wasn’t about to hide from a bastard elf. He slid out from beneath the bar and strode with conviction across the room stopping next to Sebastian and Lizzie. Before the three of them stood a hooded figure in what was once probably a rather elegant sapphire blue robe however now it looked incredibly worn and well-travelled. The white velvet gloves the figure wore had obvious wear marks from the reigns of a horse and her riding boots where laden thick with mud. Looking up Flint spoke confidently, “Aye, I’m that Dwarf you’ve heard so much about, who might you be missy?” The blue robed figure bent down to one knee so she was eye level with flint, her white velvet covered hands pulled back the hood of the robe to reveal the most beautiful face Flint had ever seen. The woman knelt in front of him had all the beauty and elegance of an Elf however, her ears where not as pointed as the ones he had seen before, nor did she have the same arrogance he had seen in eyes of other Elves. Instead they were like two beautiful green pools that seemed to look directly into his soul and make him feel at ease. All of this was framed with a head of long scarlet red hair that autumn leaves braided into it. “My name, Master Dwarf, is Vexahnas Eldrin and I am here to deliver this letter directly from Filbert Talisman the Head of the Old Talderian Mages Guild”. Flint, so distracted by her beauty, didn’t even notice Vexahnas reach into her robe and pull out a red envelope, taking it he looked down at the wax seal which was indeed from the Old Talderian Mages Guild. He broke it open, pulled out the letter inside and began to read it in his head. After just a minute he had read it through twice and could not believe what it contained, he looked back up at Vexahnas and in shock voice asked “Is this true?”, “I don’t know… but if it is, I need your help to gather the others”.

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