Mission No.: 4021020
SSS Sq Cpt: Rezo Sifer (51734)
Desc: Human-Goblin Payload Exchange
Keywords: #Human #Goblin #Economic #Mercantile #Fabric #Metalwork #Currency #Translator #Common #Goblish
Loc: Meridia ; Arbor Mesa Zone
Summary: Planned and delegated exchange of goods between human city Polara clothier board and goblin settlement Marrowfort forge assc. SSS party of ten (10) to serve as enforcement and peacekeeper to one (1) Marko Ytalli, human Scribe, and two (2) human apprentice(s). Human-made reams of fabric and textile to be exchanged for goblin-made iron ringlets and chains for estimated equal value. Physical manifest(s) provided to SSS Sq Cpt. Rendezvous point Meridia-Monster border two (2) leagues E of Marrowfort. SSS Roc deployment NW Polara Meadows.
Est. Time: Six (6) or fewer day(s).
Location: Arbor Mesa Zone
"The rendezvous point is a three-day journey on foot from the Meridia-Polara border." Rezo spoke with all the patience of a parent explaining for the third time in a night why exactly the moon traveled across starry skies. Muffled and metallic, his voice echoed from his silver three-point helm as his jowls rubbed against ill-fitted hinges. Damn the international metalworker holiday. They'd see him rubbed raw after a six-day journey.
"And those great birds...those rocs. Bigger than castles! Why couldn't they simply fly us to the goblins?"
Rezo didn't consider himself young. Marko Ytalli, head translator for the Clothiers' Coalition, surpassed him by a decade, maybe two. Unlike the child--whose naivety and impatience, perhaps rooted in curiosity, endeared it to the parent--Ytalli's sickeningly-sweet pass for charm wore even rawer after half a century spoiled.
"Not protocol." Rezo stated. "You're a translator, right? Finest in Polara. Perhaps then you're familiar with goblin superstition when it comes to visits from large, airborne creatures."
None more than Rezo wished the SSS Roc squadron had dropped them a stone's throw from the monster-Meridia border. However, the Arbor Mesa Zone proved problematic. Though the flat stumps of long-harvested titanic trees stretched for miles, the frontier still boasted a quite living ecosystem. Shoots, if they could even be called it when growing wider around than grain silos, grew endlessly from their progenitor mesas; a dense, interconnected and multilevel forest. No place for a roc to land without risking its wings.
Marko sighed. Telltale signal of topic change. "My feet ache. Saddle sores...my word, Mar Sifer, you can't imagine. All for trade. All to endure so I can exchange with savages. Barbarians. Fine fabrics for mere ringlets, I say to you...."
"Oh, Mar Ytalli! So wise and so patient."
"Night of the third day, wise Mar! We haven't much longer."
Rezo dared steal a glance over his shoulder. The left, for his armor stacked insurmountably high over his lesser side. Through the slits on his visor he watched Ytalli's assistants fawn over a man twice--thrice?--their age. He wondered how deep the womens' pockets went, considering they endured a predicted six days' travel in company of their Master, who as far as Rezo's eyes could tell, had only vacated the saddle of his primped ostrich to relieve himself four times a day.
No sign of the rest of his ten-person party. Rezo figured his contemporary SSS members who he'd either recruited or had fallen in line for assignment happily protected the payload rather than endure their Polaran guests. As fancy as the man dressed, despite the dozens of gold rings he forced over his bloated fingers, Marko Ytalli couldn't outprice the reams upon reams of spun fabric and cut textiles his employers had entrusted safe passage and safer exchange. For all his pomp, for all his self-important elaborations to his decades-younger apprentices, Marko Ytalli could consider himself little more than an accessory to capital.
From his vantage point at the head of the party, Rezo observed the road in front of them turn and widen, leading to the doorsteps of a fortress. Cut into the wooden cliffside, the Meridia Waypoint bore SSS symbology carved above its lattice-locked door. Losing himself in the third retelling of his time as a founding falsetto of the Bandelbride Scribe School's first a capella group, Marko Ytalli failed to notice the impressive edifice.
Rezo approached a large spool protruding from wooden ground off the path and pressed his SSS coin to its surface. Fibrous, vine-like rope unraveled from the mechanism, which Rezo looped around his left arm with little fanfare. A hefty tug, his beastly arm straining, the interlocking wooden panels barring entrance to the waypoint retracted, permitting entry.
"Heavens! Thank the Scribe we've finally arrived."
"Yes, Mar Ytalli!"
"Finally, Mar Ytalli!"
Marko Ytalli looked down his nose from his ostrich's saddle to meet Rezo's helm. The look on his flushed face, framed by primped oily curls, reminded Rezo of someone who had taken a bite out of a lemon wedge. "Mar Sifer, I pray the third of our waypoints the most accommodating yet?"
Rezo nodded as professionally as one could after spending almost three full days marching next to the world's whiniest sack of Polaran corn flour. The Paladin lead the party through the gates, which barely yawned open wide enough for the wagon, and waited for the last set of feet to enter before he pressed his SSS coin to an enchanted panel to lock the gate. Lattice wove shut, barring all but a few drops of moonlight.
"Ah, so dark!" Marko Ytalli yelped. "Perhaps it's better if we can't see the grime...."
"Torches!" Rezo bellowed. "Kaspella, Novelle, step to it! We need--hmmmm...."
The guttural, beast-like growl had escaped his lips before Rezo could pay it mind. One of the apprentice girls jumped, as if she had simply thought his sloped, three-pronged helm and swollen arm entirely decorative. Rezo sensed something amiss before sudden enchantment or wandlight would blind them all, for his beast's eyes cut through the darkness and smoldering coals and gristle settled on his palate.
Rezo flew with sudden quickness to prod at a recently-collapsed fire pit in the corner of the waypoint's ground floor. Stupid, to leave a fire unattended in a structure made entirely of wood. Though it chipped away at his pride, Rezo found himself on all-fours. He lifted his visor and then dropped his snout to sift around the tepid coals. Charred meat, spilled spirits...no, something acerbic, alcohol-like but not consumable, and a third odor he could not recognizable as human nor monster.
"Fan out!" Rezo commanded. He rose, back straight, and flipped his visor down. Both panic and pride fought for control of his breath. "Secure the perimeter! Moe, Val, Narn, Kaspella--upper floors. Ambrose, Dresden, Alisya--outside. Scout the surrounding waypoint grounds. Novelle and King--with me, here. Protect our Polaran allies and their payload."
'Though not in that order.' Rezo sourly mused.
They had company. Unknown, unanticipated, but nonetheless a hitch in an otherwise smooth, by-the-books escort mission.