The sun blazed down on the streets of Haven's Harbor. The breeze from the sea did little more than hold the desert winds from the east at a standstill. Many of the denizens of the port were lounging under awnings, tents or seeking refuge indoors. It was early afternoon and it was time to take a break. The only people on the streets were those who had to be somewhere important or those who were trying to get away from somewhere important.
"Frik, hurry up! We don't need to be late. The Haven Thieves' Guild doesn't exactly sound like the type of people you want to be holding up," yelled Josef who had stopped to wait for his gnomish traveling partner. The wild-eyed little fellow was bartering with a merchant over some patchouli. He was waving his arms up and down, his head of wiry blonde hair bounced up and down. "Too much! Way too much! I'll give you five silver."
Josef sighed and looked up ahead. Two others, a human and an elf, had stopped to wait for them. He held up his hand to assure them that he had it under control and then turned towards the gnome. Ever since they met, Frik had always been a bit scatterbrained. But lately, ever since that run in with the Brotherhood, he had been absolutely out of control.
"This guy wants a whole gold for this!" The gnome held up the pouch of patchouli, looking at it as if it were a bag of dirt.
"So what? It's a gold piece. Either buy it or don't. Shadow and Jin are waiting for us." The young sorcerer was getting irritated. He had made the case several times over to Shadow and Jin as to why they needed to keep Frik in the party, but he was starting to doubt his own logic.
"So what?! It's clearly overpriced. How am I supposed to concentrate on my spells when all I will be thinking about is how I got scammed on my components!" By this point, the gnome was bouncing from foot to foot. His spell pouches and brightly colored, mismatched clothes bouncing on his tiny frame.
"Here. Look." Josef handed the merchant a gold piece. "Now I can worry about getting scammed instead of you. Come on, let's go."
The two sorcerers walked up to the elf and human. Frik was trying to undo the knot on the pouch. Josef sighed. "Sorry guys. We're ready now."
Shadow, the Celasyn elf, looked down at the gnome, "Frik. You mustn't wander off like that. We're trying to get you and Josef to safety. What's the point if you walk off and get stabbed in some alley?"
Frik never looked up from the knot, "Don't worry, ranger. Strike me down and I'll become more powerful than you can possibly imagine!"
Shadow furrowed his brow. "What does that mean?"
Frik let out a triumphant sound as he got the knot undone then he looked up at the elf. "What does what mean?"
Shadow sighed and turned to walk towards the open gates that allowed entry into the lower city. They all looked up at the causeways that angled above the thirty-foot doors and then at the gateway into Upper Haven. "A city built ontop of another city. Only humans would be so impatient to just build up rather than find a new place."
"Actually," replied Josef, "I read up on this place once. Apparently it wouldn't have been possible with out the help of Celasyn magic. It was your people's ability to bend natural materials like wood and stone that allowed the upper buildings to support their own weight rather than crush down on the city below.
Jin silently smiled over at Shadow. "No one likes a know it all, 'Frak.'" replied Shadow.
Josef bristled at the nickname but kept quiet. He liked Shadow and Jin. Shadow was one of the famous rangers of the Celasyn House Comet. His blue hair was almost black, yet it still bore the telltale random coloring that all of House Comet share. Jin was a warrior monk, a follower of Vrae. They were definitely the front men for the party and kept things going smoothly. But too often they seemed like the "big brothers" picking on him and Frik. He contributed more than his fair share to the group and even helped in combat. But, they still saw him as immature and erratic just like Frik. Even that nickname, "Frak" as in "Frik and Frak" lumped him in with Frik's chaotic tendencies. Maybe if he can figure out what is going on with Frik he can show them how useful he really is.
In the front of the group, Jin spoke quietly to Shadow. "I don't like this. The negative energy flowing from this place is very strong. We must be very cautious."
Shadow nodded. "Yes. If there was any other way I'd go for it. But, my cousin said that the Haven Thieves' Guild has been a silent ally with the Coalition of Free Magi for some time. They'll be able to find us a place to lie low while we figure out our next move. We didn't have a choice with those Brotherhood guards. They were going to kill Josef and Frik. But that thing with their spell surges? Something else is going on with Frik and we have to figure it out."
Jin stared intensely into the darkness beyond the looming gates. "How was that even possible? How can one sorcerer's surge cause another sorcerer's spell to surge while it is already happening?"
Shadow stopped. " I have no idea. I don't think they do either." He looked back at the other two. Josef was sweating, thankful to be in the shadow of the city. Frik was still mumbling into his little pouch that he had bought. "Hold up for a second. We need to talk. We're about to enter one of the most dangerous cities in the known world. I want everyone to stay close and keep your eyes peeled. Jade said to ask for the bartender at the Lone Wolf Inn. So that's where we're headed. Try to stay as inconspicuous as possible. Are we clear?"
Jin nodded. Josef nodded. Frik seemed to consider his options and then nodded. Shadow pulled up the hood of his cloak; word was that elves were not generally welcomed here. They stepped into the darkness. Their eyes adjusted and soon they could see by the dim light of the lanterns hanging along the closed in streets. Eyes watched them but no one spoke. The air hung thick with hostility, smoke, and a stale stench.
Shadow wheeled around, already reaching for his bow. Jin had struck his fighting stance and Josef had jumped about ten feet away. All around, the denizens milling about had suddenly reached for whatever concealed weapon they had on them. But, Frik just stood there, sniffing at his pouch. He looked up at the others.
"This isn't even patchouli. It's Cardamom!"