“ I hope these two are worth the trouble” William thinks to himself walking down a lonely street in New Hope. It had taken three weeks to track down his grandfathers old army contacts and arrange this meeting. Its just after dusk and the last few rays of sun light are still peeking over the horizon. The street lanterns cast a dim glow barely lighting the path way. William had walked this and many of the other streets in New Hope many times in the last month trying to drum up support for the Vandergon army. He had gotten a few nobles to pledge financial support but had only managed to recruit less then a hand full of soldiers. His hopes were these two men could help him remedy that
“ Vincent and Stan “ William said out loud, the names were familiar to him. Vincent Monroe was a ranked officer in the Vandergon army back on Faedurn. He found his way to New Hope when he was given the duty of escorting a group of nobles and their families to the new colony. Vincent was a competent officer and well liked by his men, at least that’s what William’s grandfather had told him. Stanrick Varen had served with William’s grandfather in the war. He was a fearsome warrior and believed in the ideals that the colors of Vandergon stood for. Stan had arrived in New Hope on one of the last boats from Faedrun. He had seen the fall of the lines himself and barely survived. He now works as a weapon smith and has supplied many of the guards with arms.
William toke a moment to glance down the nearly deserted street. Only a few wanderers and passers by inhabit the street, but more importantly “ where are all the guards “ William thought to him self. William had noticed this problem all over New Hope. There where guards around the outskirts of the city and at the front gate but very few patrolling the streets. “That’s something I’ll defiantly have to fix”
William stops in front of a weathered wooden building, much like most of the buildings in New Hope. The Tilted Barrel, this was the place Vincent had said to meet. As William walked inside he scans over the crowd. The tavern wasn’t overly crowded and most of the people were too busy enjoying their drinks or engaged in their own conversations to even bother to notice him walk in, although being one of the only people in New Hope to wear the Vandergon colors does make one stand out a bit. There were a number of tables in the center and along the back wall of the tavern and the bar ran along the left side. A small band was playing an up beat melody on the stage to the right. “Ah, there’s the guards” William said to him self in disgust. Two guards men were sitting at the far end of the bar, mugs of ale in there hands. “William!” an older gentleman seating at a table towards the back wall motioned William over. As he approached the man William recognized him as Vincent. The two had met before when William had first started to rebuild the Vandergon army. Seated across from Vincent was a dark haired man drinking a mug of ale.
“William it’s good to see you” Vincent said in a joyful tone.
“Vincent, glad to see you well, thank you for meeting with me” William said as the two men welcomed each other with a hand shake.
“Stanrick, this is the fellow I’ve been telling you about” the dark haired man then stood. “Stanrick, good to meet you” William extended his hand along with the greeting.
The man simply said “Stan” in a gruff voice and grasped Williams hand firmly as if he was testing Williams strength.
“Sit, sit we have much to discuss, barmaid another round of ale” Vincent shouted across the tavern as he took a seat next to Stan and William sat a crossed from the two men.
“So, Vincent tells me you want to build yourself an army, huh” Stan asked in the same gruff tone. “Not exactly “ William explained “I want to rebuild the Vandergon army and it won’t be my army it will be the people’s army.”
“Why!” Stan asked rather abruptly almost cutting William off. “Because Vandergon used to mean something, back in Faedrun, the glory of Vandergon was well known and the people knew what Vandergon stood for.”
“The glory of Vandergon died in Feadrun along with its army” Stan said in an even gruffer tone. “No, your wrong” William protested “ I’ve seen it here, in the hearts of those that for no reason but to protect that with they hold dear, take up arms and stand firm in the face of the coming horde. The glory of Vandergon still lives, its just scattered, divided . It just needs someone to gather and strengthen it.
“What do you know of the glory of Vandergon!” Stan shouts across the table. “ I was there, kid, I was there when the lines began to break. I saw my friends slaughtered by the lines of the unyielding undead and have the memories and the scars to remember it by. What have you done to make you think you’re worthy to wear those colors?” William locked sight with Stan, fire glowing behind his eyes. Never before has someone questioned him. Never before has William had to defend his deeds. But now without breaking his gaze with Stan, William defends himself.
“What have I done? I’ve been out there defending these lands from those that would destroy that which we’ve rebuilt. I’ve stood firm in the face of a Mordock horde over thirty strong. I’ve hunted a Mordock shaman to the very heart of the Dirg swamp. And I was in the battle when that same shaman and his army were defeated to save a Ulven village. I put my life on the line to save the families of Aldorin refuges from a rouge army threatening to make examples of them. I’ve fought along side Human, Ulven and Syndar alike and I have worn these colors proudly! I have memories and scars too Stanrick, and what of you? My grandfather told me stories of how great a warrior you used to be, and now you question my worthiness. I have fought to protect the values the Vandergon army was founded on. I have earned to wear these colors more then you will ever know and ten times over.”
An unnerving silence falls over the three men as William and Stan continued to stare each other down. Just then a young lady came over to the table with three mugs. After she had set them down and left Stan quietly grabbed his mug and toke a long drink. Vincent toke this chance to change the subject “William, it sounds like you have noble intentions, but how do you plan to make this happen?”
“Well I already have a couple of nobles that have pledged financial and political support to the cause but as far as recruiting solders go I’m having trouble coming up with the numbers needed.
“How many do you have?” Stan asked breaking his silence, his tone changed.
“Five with possibly one or two more good men and women, even recruited a few Ulven.”
“Ulven!? In the Vandergon army? Who would have thought.” Vincent said questionably.
“ Of course, remember this isn’t about building a human army. This is about building a front line between the people and the enemies out there. Look around gentlemen it’s a dangerous place out side the city, bandits and thieves plague the roads and the Mordock are a constant threat. If we are to survive and prosper then there must be some line of defense for the people of this land, all of the people”
As William explained this to Stan and Vincent he couldn’t help notice three men enter the tavern. He easily recognized their green and blue tabards, “Aldorians?!” William says out loud. The three men watched the Aldorians walked up to the bar and seemed to order some drinks. “They must be with a trade convoy, there’s been a lot of them heading in from Aldoria lately” Vincent answered the question William didn’t have time to ask. Stan then turned back and asked, “ So William I don’t suppose you have made any strong allies with these human, ulven and synder that you have fought along side have you?” his gruff tone now softened.
“I don’t suppose you’ve heard of a group called The Bastards?”
“I have, they’re an adventuring group and traders.” Vincent answered. “They’re good people, a little strange, but good people”, William says with a grin. “I’ve fought along side them many times and I believe them to be honorable“
“But what if they were asked to fight, do you think they would join the cause?”, Vincent asks
William answers “There’s a gentleman in their group by the name of Aedan VonHorest he’s a member of a militant religious order known as Arnath’s fist.”
“Now them, I’ve heard of”, Stan says after another drink from his mug.
“A couple of months ago I had some men come through my shop, say they were from that order, They ordered some specialty weapons and some armor.”
“Aedan and I have pledged support to each others cause, and if push came to shove I believe I could count on him. The rest of The Bastards I’m not too sure of.” William added.
“What of the Ulvan, any allies among them?” Vincent asked
“I’ve fought along side many Ulvan and formed some strong ties with a few packs. Clan Nightriver has always been on the side of the colonist, and I have strong ties with pack Longfang.”
As William continued to talk with Stan and Vincent his gaze is continuly being drawn to the three Aldorians at the bar. There was something familiar about one of them, something recent. In a spark of memory it all comes back to him. His short black hair, his dark features and that crooked smile even in the heat of battle. He was one of the Aldorians William had fought against out side of the Wayward Inn. The man was talking with the young barmaid from before. Their conversation seem innocent enough from where William was sitting. Until the man tried to reach up and touch the girls hair. She quickly slapped his hand away and turned to leave. The man then grabbed her by the arm and wouldn’t let go.
“I’ll be right back.” William said to Stan and Vincent getting up from the table and stared walking toward the bar. “If no ones going to step in I will.”, William says to him self as he approaches the group. The barmaids back is to William while the man grabbing her arm was standing at the bar facing her. The two other Aldorians are sitting enjoying their drinks ignoring what is going on right beside them.
“Let the young lady go about her work” William says in a strong voice. “This doesn’t pertain to you stranger” the man says getting a good look at William.
“I don’t think you want to start a fight here Aldorian.” William says in a threatening voice. The man starts to speak then stops himself. “You!” William can see in the mans eyes that he’s been recognized.
“Let the girl go!” William says again and the two men stare each other down. Then with one quick movement the man throws the barmaid to the ground and with his left hand pulls a dagger from his belt. “Lets see what you’ve got Vandergon!” and with that lunges at William blade in hand. William side steps to his left dodging the thrust and grabs the mans arm with both hands. He then slams the arm into the bar disarming the man. The Aldorian takes a step back grabbing his arm in pain and uttering some curses under his breath. He then steps forward with fist up and attacks. William dodges the first swing and blocks a second but the man is too quick and catches William with a right hook to the ribs and a left jab to the face. William takes a step back shakes his head and advances with is own assault. The Aldorian is skilled and blocks William’s first right- left combo. The man tries a quick jab, but William quickly dodges and lands a solid punch to the gut. This stuns the Aldorian and William takes the advantage to connect with a solid right to the face followed by a strong left hook. The force of the blow is enough to spin the man who collapses on the bar.
“Had enough ?” William asks in a mocking tone. The Aldorian then quickly grabbed a near by bottle off the bar and swings it at Williams head. William raised his right arm to block the attack smashing the bottle on his armored forearm. He was lucky he had worn his bracers, but the spray from the liquid that was still in the bottle had blinded William, and the Aldorian toke full advantage of the distraction. William feels incredible pain in is stomach as the man lands his first blow. William can only watch as his opponent strikes with a left hook to his ribs followed by a right to the jaw. As William stubbles back a step his vision blurred, time seems to slow down. William sees the attack coming and tries to defend himself, but his body won’t respond. The Aldorian hits him in the jaw with a devastating left hook that sends William back another few steps. As William tries to recover, he can hear the Aldorian taunting him. “Is that all you’ve got Vandergon? I expected more.”
William’s vision slowly comes back to him and as he looks back at the man he feels his strength coming back to him. With his fist clenched he stands tall and motions the Aldorian over. “Come on I’m not done yet!” William says with determination in his voice.
As the two men stepped toward each other William was the first to attack with a quick right jab catching the Aldorian in the jaw. William followed with a left hook and another jab both were dodged. The Aldorian counter-attacked with a right hook then a left cross. William blocked the right but caught the left with his right arm. With this opening, William attacks with a series of body shots staggering the man. William then charges forward and with a strong upper cut strikes the men in the stomach. The Aldorian doubles over slightly at which point William grabs the man by the back of the neck and slams his head down on the bar. The Adorian slumps to the floor blood flowing from his nose and a nasty gash above his right eye. William then looks at the other two Aldorians still sitting at the bar. “I suggest you pick up your friend and leave”, William fully expects the men to charge him, but they just quietly pick up their other member and walk out of the bar. William then walks over to the barmaid still on the floor, she has a look of shock on her face. “Are you all right?” he asks holding out his hand. The young lady simply nods and takes his hand. As William helps her up she manages to say “thank you” through shaky lips. “Your welcome, miss” is all William says as he turns and walks back down the bar towards his table. As William passes by the two guards at the end of the bar he kicked one of their stools and says in a stern tone “Thanks for the help fellas”
“Well that was impressive” Vincent says as William makes it back to the table. He simply flashes a smile and takes his seat at the table. As the pain from the confrontation sets in, William holds his side. “That’s going to be sore tomorrow” he thinks to himself as he finishes the last of his ale with a few big gulps. As soon as he sets his empty mug down a new one is set before him. “This round is on me gentlemen.” says the young barmaid William just saved.
“That’s very kind of you miss” Vincent says handing a mug off to Stan and taking his own.
“It’s the least I can do” the barmaid say with a smile. She then turn towards William and asks “If its not too much trouble may I know the name of my rescuer”
“Only if I may know yours” William says with a grin.
“Isabel” the young barmaid says her chicks turning a slight shade of red.
“I am William”
“Thank you again William” Isabel says “and if there is anything else I can do for you gentlemen please let me know”
“Oh I believe we will” Vincent answered. The three men watched as Isabel walked away and could almost make out a slight spring in her step. Stan and Vincent turn to look at William who quietly takes a drink a small grin peeking from behind his mug.
“So William, you said before you were having trouble finding soldiers. Where do Vincent and I come in ?” Stan asks changing the subject. “You two have connections in this town, connections I don’t have. I’ve been out of New Hope for most of the winter and the time I am back is usually brief. In fact in just a few days I’ll be following a trade convoy north to help reestablish old trade routes. I don’t have the presence in this town that I need to get the word out.”
“So what do you need from us” Stan asks
“I need people I can trust, people like my self that want to see the Vandergon colors rise again. My grandfather once told me that if anyone could help him rebuild the glory of Vandergon it was you two.
Stan and Vincent glance toward each other with thoughtful faces. Stanrick, I’ve heard stories of you from my grandfather. You used to be a great Vandergon soldier, and believed in what the colors stood for. Vincent you have your finger on the pulse of this city. You know what gossip and rumors are true and what’s no more then stories.
“Your right kid I’ve seen the glory of Vandergon with my own eyes. Unfortunately, that glory died on the shores of Faedrun. When people arrived here they were broken and beaten with little possessions with them but hope for a new life. What they found was no less threatening then what they faced back on Mardrun. There is strength here that’s for sure, but it needs something to believe in, someone to stand behind.” Stain pauses for a second and looks deep into William’s eyes. “I look into your eyes and see the same fire and determination I once had. Thank you for proving an old soldier wrong. I’m sorry I doubted you William. Anything you need I’d be glad to help.” and with that Stan extended an arm. As William grasped Stain’s hand a new sense of worth washed over him his grandfather would be proud.
“Stanricks right, William, the people need something to believe in again. And I for one have been waiting for the day that the red and gray flies once more.” As William and Vincent shake hands to a new partnership Vincent adds “and anyone that can get Stanrick here to admit he’s wrong is OK in my book.”
“Very funny old man” Stan says in his gruff tone, and the three men enjoy a laugh.
“Well gentlemen, I must be off the hour is late and I have some loose ends to clear up before I head north” William says getting up from the table. “I should be back in New Hope in about a weeks time. I’ll be sure to look you fellas up then.”
“Be sure that you do, William, we have much to discuss.” Vincent adds.
“I maintain a home here in New Hope. I usually keep someone there in case any new recruits happen to trickle in. Just look for the Vandergon banners hard to miss.”
“Before you go I should tell you, a few days ago I had a man come in to my shop wearing the green and gray colors of the Vandergon Rangers.” Stan says catching Williams attention. “When I asked him about it he talked about getting the old unit running again. If I can track him down or run into him again I’ll be sure to send him your way.”
“I’d be very interested to meet with him. Thank you both for your time I look forward to working with you gentlemen.” William said in farewell.
“Take care out there kid” Stan shouts as the three men exchange good byes. As William passes the bar he flashes a wink and a smile at Isabel as he leaves the tavern. She simply smiles back and watches him leave.
Outside William walks the empty streets of New Hope as he returns home. He senses a change in the wind. “This is the beginning the seeds have been sown and Vandergon shall rise.” He thinks to himself. William stops and looks up at the nearly cloudless sky. The stars are shining brightly and the sliver of the moon seems to be smiling. “I hope you know you had a hand in this grandfather, your dream will come true as promised.”
As William continues on his way he is filled with a sense of hope for what tomorrow might bring. Things are starting to look up.
Unfortunately that feeling is not meant to last……….