Chapter One

CHAPTER ONE

The Heroes Meet

It was the fifth day of Cymril’s Magical Faire, and the weather had been sweltering. Tourists and celebrants had come from all across the continent to take part in this – the biggest party of the year – despite the unseasonable heat. The streets were thick with sweaty bodies pushing against one another in a futile effort to cling to the infrequent oases of shade.

My name, when I need one, is River, and I had seen all of this before.

I watched as a pair of Cymrilian rogues plied their games of subterfuge, fleecing unsuspecting travelers of their possessions with rigged games chance. I did not intervene, though it was well within my power to do so. Who am I to tamper with the local ecosystem? Let them be. I remembered that both they and their victims would be dead before dawn.

I arrived at the Emerald Pentacle at noon, awaiting those I had asked to meet me. Outside, my avir companion, Fate, watched their approach and alerted me with his music. They arrived one by one, as I had known they would; adventurers, wanderers, and other desperate souls. None of them knew that they were destined for greatness.

The first to arrive was a tall, imperial looking Cymrillian. He bore all the marks of the House of Tanas: the arched brows, the aquiline nose, and the haughty demeanor. He introduced himself as Tyranus and told me this meeting had better be worth his time.

The next fellow introduced himself simply as Wu, a smallish man with gold-hued skin and a shaved pate. He was soft-spoken, but seemed most interested in discussing silk prices, shipping and labor costs, and the clothing market. His demeanor was a smokescreen, I knew, for his hidden agendas. He was carefully evaluating us even as he spoke at great length about recent Arimite labor disputes and their effect on his silk business.

I judged that Tyranus could not have been more bored.

The third to arrive almost did not make it. As she crept into the Emerald Pentacle’s entry hall, the proprietor bustled out from behind the bar, broom in hand, and prepared to shoo her away like some kind of vermin.

It was the sort of greeting Pixx was used to receiving in civilized society, as a Ferran.

Before he could make use of his broom, she vanished beneath a table. A look of consternation passed over his face as he began searching for her, ducking between booths and tables in vain.

I intervened then, not wanting our first meeting to devolve into a slapstick comedy. I informed the proprietor that the Ferran was there as my guest and that I would stand for any trouble she might cause. I believe Pixx stuck her tongue out at him from behind my back. With a disgruntled expression, he sighed and walked back to the bar. When he glanced back, my cloak carefully blocked his view of Pixx’s rude gesture.

When she joined the table, Wu moved diplomatically aside to give her space to sit, though it is possible he was simply arranging to not be downwind of her.

Tyranus seemed to have had enough by then, and was ready to leave. I urged him to remain just a little longer, as we had only one more guest to come, a fellow named Xain.

When I said the name, two things occurred. First, Tyranus looked startled, as if he knew the name. Second, Xain himself cleared his throat from the dark corner in which he had been sitting all along. He slowly arose, walked past Tyranus and sat at our table. Tyranus bore a carefully blank expression.

When we were all seated, I told them what they could handle, if not believe. Belief could come later.

I am called He Who Walks the River’s Bank, because I walk along the river of time, stepping in and then out again when fate demands it. I was here, in the ruins of Cymril, sixty years from now. I knew what had happened, and I knew the names of the legendary heroes who had stepped in when needed. So now, an agent of Fate, I called those heroes together and told them where they must go.

They were uncertain of me, of course, but I had come prepared with the coins of gold that I knew would persuade them. They agreed to meet me that evening near the Whirling Omniverse ride near the center of the Faire, and so we went our separate ways.

While the future heroes enjoyed the entertainments of the magical faire and spent their new wealth, I sat on the roof of Aharazad’s Potions and Philters. I gazed upon the Omniverse, and contemplated the future.

– End Session One –

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