Lars led them deftly through the throng of workers to a large, red merchant's wagon. It was the tall, sturdy make used by traders for long hauls across the Middle Plains of the Empire. Looking at it, Gruffydd had the distinct impression that under the gaudy red paint, it could closed up to approximate and fairly good fortress.
Emblazoned on the side was a blue heraldic shield bearing a wagon wheel surrounded by starts.
Standing in front of the wagon was a older gentleman surrounded by a gaggle of drovers, freighters and trader types badgering him for signatures, orders and money. The whole scene took on the look of hunting dogs cornering their prey.
He signed papers, gave orders and emptied a seemingly bottomless purse into open hands, all with a far off bored looked about him.
Lars ran the pack off with some colorful language, and few kicks and the mere presence of the mountainous Lud.
"Master Von Aldensburg, may I present some new recruits for or security detail."
Von Aldensburg was of middle height with broad shoulders but the belly of a man who had lived well. His rich clothes matched the livery of the wagon and despite the heat, his fur collar was clasped shut with one of largest rubies the party had seen. He had a waxed mustache and beard, and ridiculous curl on his forehead. On seeing the group, he pulled himself up, and cleared his throat.
"These,....people have some experience travelling into the wild?" His question delivered with a bit of a lisp the upper crust sometimes affected, and aimed at no one in particular."
"Aye, lord", Lars replied. "From what I hear, regular citizens of Beyond the Wall."
At this the old man's blue eye's almost gleamed.
"Well, well, we have quite the adventure planned! I shall be the first merchant in a dozen generations to set up regular trade routes North."
Gildrid, one of the elves laughed. "There ain't nothing out there but beasts and monsters. They tend to take things, not trade".
The rest nodded at his assessment.
But the merchant would have none of it. "Oh no! Oh no. Gentlemen, oh, ... and lady" he had spotted Miss Adventure sheltered behind Mellion's cloak,
"I have come into possession of a map and quite reliable intelligence that a city lies far to the north. Some sea traders arrived just last year with news of it. A few months later a purchased maps."
"These sea traders", began Gruffydd, "they wouldn't happened to have pointy ears, pale complexions and penchant for torturing people, would they?"
At this, Von Aldensburg frowned as if annoyed, or just not used to be questioned.
Before any more questions could be asked, one of the shudders to the wagon flew open and a young, richly dressed woman appeared. Any amorous thoughts that might have appeared in Nemon's brain quickly evaporated with her shrill voice.
"Kluas, this wagon is cramped. The heat is stifling, and this place smells awful..."Before she could continue, Klaus cut her off, "Light of my dawn, my precious darling, we leave first thing in the morning. Tut, tut, just one more night."
She stuck out her bottom lip, gave the party and look that turn milk sour and disappeared with a slam of the shudders.
He turned to the group. "We leave in the morning."