It was a merry night in The Bee and the Barb, just like every Fredas night. The locals were all there, drinking as much mead as they could fit in their bellies. It was not unknown for strangers to stop by the tavern; this was Riften, after all, and nobody really knew anyone. However, the stranger that entered that night was quite distinctive. She was a tall, willowy Nord, with long blonde hair and intricately embroidered robes that did nothing to enhance her figure. The only thing that the natives found not to be suspicious was her long black cloak – which she wore with the hood up indoors.
A regular sight, so close to the infamous Ratway.
This wily Nord walked towards the bar, handed over a poster and a heavy-looking coin purse, and whispered some words to the Argonian, Keereva. The instructions were simple; the Nord required her cellar and hospitality the following Morndas.
With that, the Nord turned and left, taking no heed to the stares she received as she went.
The Nord had not returned to the tavern since leaving the poster there.
It was finally the night she was supposed to meet the people that would be assisting her on her adventure; she was intrigued to see who would respond to the invitation. She assumed, of course, that they would be dirty, greedy vagabonds. Though she probably would have assumed this even if she was hiring in Solitude; she always had been rather judgemental.
She waited patiently on a table in the cellar of the tavern. Since it was a bit dark and cold, she performed one of her favourite spells and created a floating fireball. She knew that this would show the adventurer-hopefuls that she was a magic user. She was happy with them knowing. Skyrim wasn’t a very magic-appreciating place, so she thought it might give her an edge over the others and make them fear her somewhat.
When the hatch door opened to have Kereeva ushered down a Nord, Bosmer and Breton, who cautiously approached the table in the centre of the cellar room. The fireball, suspended in mid-air, illuminated the slender, blonde Nord that awaited their arrival. Shortly, introductions were had. The Nord revealed her name to be Asta.
Few details were given to the hopeful adventurers about the task that they were to undertake; all that was revealed was that there was a wealthy man funding them to go and find some sort of cure for his loved one. Hedvig, the Bosmer, made it quite clear she wished for more information, but the party seemed pacified by the 300 shiny Septims they were each provided in faith that they would embark on the mission they had been offered.
Before the adventurers had chance to question Asta for more information, she went up through the hatch and locked it behind her, taking the only light source with her.
The adventurers were left in darkness.
Hedvig assessed the situation, using her elven eyes to see into the darkness. She saw something very unexpected indeed; a Frost Atronauch had spawned. The adventurers displayed their skill and fervour in battle, eventually defeating the Atronauch, with barely a scratch to show for it.
Asta immediately opened the hatch to find all the adventurers still breathing, victorious.
They had passed the test. This didn’t stop them from voicing their horror and disgust at what she had just been forced to go through. Asta told them that she had to know that they were good enough. They had all been successful and were to meet her at the stables the following night. They were to take everything with them that they would want – she made it clear that they might never make it back to Riften, so if they had any loose ends to tie up, now was the time to do so.
The adventurers met early the next morning to buy all the supplies they might need. Their first stop was Gerry’s stable. They needed a horse and cart to ensure their quick passage to the other side of Skyrim. Fortunately, Gerry was good friends with Finna. This put them in good stead – they got an excellent deal, and gained a friend for life.
They went all across the marketplace, eventually finding themselves in need of the general store. Unfortunately, the portly woman that tended the shop was rather rude… until the adventurers mentioned Gerry’s name. The woman claimed that she and Gerry were, at one point, romantically involved. Though he was married now, she still had quite a fancy for him… and were the adventurers willing to give him a note that she had written, she would heavily discount their purchases. Not wanting to turn down such an offer, the adventurers agreed.
Upon leaving the shop, Finna suggested that they read the note, to ensure that Gerry – the upstanding beacon of wholesomeness that he has always been – would not be receiving anything too suggestive. Hedvig and Ida agreed; it was in the whole of Riften’s interest that Gerry be protected.
The note proposed that they meet in the Bee and the Barb that very night and rekindle their romantic passion.
The adventurers were initially unsure what to do with the note – though they had decided that giving it Gerry was most certainly a bad idea.
Before leaving their city, potentially for good, they went for one last drink at their trusty (or not-so-trusty, as the previous night had shown them) local. While they were there, they bumped into a city guard that they chatted to briefly, the night before.
They took it upon themselves to do a little matchmaking. Giving the note to this friendly guard lead to his cheeks reddening and him departing quickly to ‘brush up’, mumbling something about him ‘having a date’.
Their work there was done.
As soon as they finished their drinks, it was time for them to depart. Permanently.
They went to meet Asta at the stables, where they set off, in the dead of night, to find what lie out there.
Little did they know where it would take them, nor what it would cost them.