Although the day just began, his eyes rapidly searched the clear morning sky, scanning the few clouds coming from the west. He felt a cool breeze that blew through his hair whilst he stood absolutely quiet and listened to the silent sounds of the nature. He was sure, he had heard the noise of a friend. After a few minutes, he heard the sound again, and moments later, a great Hawk landed next to him.Halvin didn’t need to see the orange-read ornament within his wings to recognize this majesty of a bird.
Years ago, Halvin travelled with Seldeka Argamandin, meanwhile Member of the High Council, through the Eteluunta Desert, trying to convince the Etelä tribes to join the Council in Algaman to bring peace and democracy to all the Provinces and Habitants in Narod Rada. Back then, Seldeka was a new member to the Lower Council, and like many others, he had big intentions though little knowledge of the world outside. He headily volunteered to go to the Etelä tribes, hoping, it would help his ambition to become the youngest High Councilor of all times.
His Father, Selevan, head of the Argamandin Clan and member of the High Council as well, supported his sons dream, but having seen to many wars already he sent out for his old friend Halvin, asking him to join his sons journey, keeping not only one eye on his aspiring yet naive succesor.
During their arduous trip they found a wounded and almost dead Eagle lying in the snow. After a few days of medical treatment and encouragement he got better and Halvin went on to tame and train this very intelligent creature for Seldeka. The Eagle not only learned to answer to the name of Alvar and hunt, deliver goods or messages for Seldeka, but never left the side of his new Master, so he soon took over Halvins job and took care of the young, aspiring Politician. Since then, decades past by, only tightening the bonds of friendship between Halvin and Seldeka, whereas they rarely met.
Halvin hasn’t seen Alvar in years, but the red ring around Alvars left talon was a distinct message from Seldeka – HELP!
Without losing any seconds, Halvin detached the red ring and put it on Eagles right talon as answer for Seldeka, sending Alvar back to Algaman immediately. Moments later, Halvins stuff was all packed up and he headed towards the big city as fast as possible.
Thoughts were racing through his mind while he made his way through Esath Theren, were he had been conquering the mountains. What could possibly have happened, that after two years without any contact, Seldeka would send Alvar? Either way, he could only find out in two days, due to the distance to Algaman as well as the bad weather conditions and small paths he had to travel.
After a long journey, he finally arrived in Algaman, his body exhausted, his mind clear. He soon spotted the leaflets and posters, and heard people on the streets discussing the decisions of the High Council while he stayed out of peoples ways, not being seen.
A few minutes later, he entered the front door to the Argamandin Manor House, being awaited by Seldeka himself.
“Welcome, my friend”, said Seldeka, shaking Halvins hand in the way of the warriors, “you look terrible. Come in, have some food and wine, a bath and some sleep.”
After this brief welcome, they went into a small salon without saying any more words and sat in big wingchairs in front of a fireplace. A servant brought a big caraffe filled with red wine, and some dinner leftovers for Halvin.
“You look older – it’s been a few years, but I don’t remember your hair being white…” – “You haven’t changed a bit. Literally” responded Seldeka, sending the servant out with a friendly gesture.
“Why did you call me” asked Halvin, after the servant had left the salon, “they call out for Mercenaries and you sent Alvar to get me? Something seems wrong… there must be more than that!” – “Something strange is going on. Please, help yourself”, said Seldeka, pointing at the brimmed plate, “let me explain while you dine.” A brief look at the plate full of cold turkey, mashed potatoes and two slices of bread (which would rather make a meal for a servant than a real dinner) made him smile at his ironic choice of words.
“I sense you’ve already heard about what happened in the western farmlands – although we don’t really know what has happened nor what actually is happening there. We haven’t have heard anything from the men we already sent there, so the High Council decided to form a group of mercenaries to investigate the cause so not only the people but also the Council calms down.
Although we were looking out for brave, strong men, willing to fight for their lives and clear these unsolved mysteries, there were a lot of weird folks and even women showing up lately to join the force. Or, if you want to put it differently, anyone who has an intense death wish, needs money or is somehow addicted to suicidal adventures is trying to catch the attention of the Council – still, we are searching for quite the opposite.
Commander Agmars men are trying to sort out the wheat from the chaff, or, as I like to put it, the maniacs from the lunatics. Only few will proceed to go on with this mission, and I … we need a man we can trust.”
During Seldekas last words another servant entered the room, accompanied by two very different-looking yet similar-behaving men. Nevertheless Halvin distinguished them as members of the Council, albeit they didn’t wear their epitogas. “Politics and Society seem to shape even the way one walks”, Halvin thought by himself, while he and Seldeka rose from their chairs to welcome the Councilmen.
Coming closer to the light, Halvin recognized the taller one, before the servant started to introduce both men, according to both courtesy and the almost exaggerated conventions of the High Council.
“His Excellence, High Councilor Svag Petturi and Councilor Cornelius Templeton, this is…” – “Halvin” interrupted Halvin quickly and a little impatient, shaking Councilor Templetons hand. “Good to see you again, Svag”, he said, while shaking Svags hand in the way of the warriors.
“I … ehm, please forgive me”, said the servant, who felt very unpleasant seeing Halvins honourable greeting with Svag, “I did not know you already knew each other…” – “How could you know, Dirideth?” answered Seldeka, “Please, bring more wine for the four of us and leave us uninterrupted. I think we won’t need any more of your services or those of other servants tonight. Send them all to their chambers.” “Very well, Sir”, replied Dirideth.
After the servant brought another caraffe of wine and left again, the new arrivals were seated and Seldeka summarized.
“As I just told Halvin, we are looking out for someone we can trust. There will be many distinct characters forming this investigation force. We sent out Messages in all directions, as well as to the Etelä and the Elves. We even sent word to the dwarfs, albeit none of them will be able to make it in time.
We need the best of the best – and therein lies a great danger. At least, the three of us think this way. It’s going to be a dangerous path, not only considering the dangers the group will be confronted with. We need someone, who can hold a group of lone wolves together.
Also, there are some dark and mysterious things going on, according to a certain rumor within the Lower Council. We can’t trust anybody with this, not even Alveris. If the rumor turns out to be true, there might be a mole inside the High Council.
We don’t know who it could be, and God knows what he’s planning right now. We fear, it might have something to do with the mysterious things happening in the Westlands, and therefore we need someone to know about all this within the investigation force.
We can’t place someone in the mercenary group ourselves, it would be too obvious, and since all our men are too well known it must be an outsider, someone, who has a very versatile set of skills and knowledge. Someone, the Council would accept for the group upon his abilities, not upon political statements."
Without even speaking out his request, he looked at Halvin and waited. Halvin, wise enough not to speak out too fast, held his breath and waited.
“Seldeka told us little of your joint adventures” said Councilor Templeton, “and Svag added some bits and pieces he remembered as well. We think you’re the man we’re looking for, even though we don’t really know a lot about you other than the little Seldeka knows.”
Svag nodded his head and added: “Your skills aside, your political and social indifference and the fact that you are almost unknown to the Council, make you the perfect choice – our only choice.”
Halvin lent back into his chair, slightly amused by these oh so mighty men, almost begging him on their knees.
“You think, the Council will accept me for this mission? Decades ago, I was abandoned by the Council and the habitants of this very city. I was told to leave and mind my own business. If it wasn’t for Selevan, I would have turned my back on this city forever back in that very day. I once again ask you, do you really think that the very same Council, that dismissed and expelled me from the city will accept, if I offer my services?”
Councilor Templeton followed his own thoughts, not delivering himself to the subject. Svag looked Halvin straight into the eyes and answered him: “Yes. These incidents happend way before I set foot in this city, and after all the things you did, a few of the older Councilmen who still remember whisper your name in awe, if they ever even mention it. As far as I know, you stood strong back then, and they do show respect for that, although they might never declare their actions as mistakes.
They might have very mixed feelings about this, but they will vote in favor for you, knowing what kind of man you are.”
Seledak stepped in: “Hell, without you Svag wouldn’t be here, the Etelä wouldn’t have a Councillor, and Alvar and I myself would have died in that snowy pothole Eteluunta.
Hold your horses, Svag”, he immediately added, seeing Svag tensing up, “you know it’s true.
And not only the older ones will vote for you, every other Councilman who sees into your steady eyes, look at your weapons and skills, will vote for you. You should have seen the other Lunatics running around the city these days. You perfectly fit the submission, and if you unveil yourself as Mercenary from the higher north, none of the younger Councilmen will become suspicious.
And don’t ever worry the elder Councilmen any more, they won’t tell stories of past times that could hurt their careers, on the other hand, how should they know what you’ve been up to for the last fifteen years?
Anyhow, we will leave you know, knowing you need to time to think this through. But I know, you will join this group anyway.
Feel free to sleep in here, there’s a Wendigo fur rug in the back of the room that might suit your sleeping habits better than a normal bed.
We shall meet again tomorrow at the Councils final meeting deciding the investigation forces members and briefing the unit at noon.”
No more words were lost when the three Councilmen stood up and exited the salon.
Behind the closed doors Cornelius Templeton asked Seledak on the way outside: “You really think he will do it, don’t you. How do you know?” – “I know this man. And beyond his very cold appearance, his heart is beating for the humans, as well as for the elves, even though both never accepted him into their social structures and often rejected him. He is strong at heart and knows the right thing to do. Don’t worry.”
After this final testimonial, they said their goodbyes and went their own ways.
The next he got up before dawn and left the Argamandin Manor, only minutes before the servants got up and started their day. No one saw as he vanished from the city streets. Once he was outside the city, he awaited the sunrise and entered the city again, this time not wearing his hooded cape, so his face would be visible to passers-by.
He headed for the Council Chamber, arriving way too early. On the way, he had picked up one of the posters, so there would be a reasonable explanation for the Halvin the Mercenary seeking the Councils and no known relation to Councilor Seledak Argamandin at all.
While waiting in line, he noticed a female dwarf passing by, following a guard. Immediately very certain memories came to his mind and warmed his heart. Could it be…? But Seledak said, they would never be able to make the trip to Algaman in time. He gazed after her in disbelief and shook his head. This might become a quest of mysterious ways.
While he dwelled on his thoughts, the line moved forward, and suddenly, a guard Captian stood in front of him, sizing him up with a peculiar look in his eyes. Obviously he had asked Halvin for his name, waiting for an answer.
“Halvin’s the name, and I guess I’m here for the same reason as everyone else”, Halvin stated.
The Captian looked down on a note on his desk, back up to Halvin and said nothing more than “please proceed… out of the door, line on the left. There will be someone with you soon, guiding you and the others to the Council Chamber.” Looking over Halvins shoulder he yelled “Next!”