Snow trickles down from an ebony sky. The characters stand on the most rickety looking wooden dock they have ever seen in their entire lives. The temperature is below freezing, and the violent howling wind makes it feel like absolute zero. Behind them lays a small town, rickety and run down. It is one of the most depressing looking skid rows you could ever imagine, with child beggars frozen solid in the streets with coin cans hopelessly stretched outwards. All around them, roughly 7 other people stand around with a confused or impatient look on their faces. In front of them lies two ships. One is a small one man sailing vessel. It’s soul occupant is a cloaked figure who is just climbing out.
He ties his boat to the dock and staggers out towards the town. Before he can make it off the dock, he drops to his knees and begins vomiting violently. When he finally finishes, he wipes his mouth and drags himself into the darkness.
The other boat is a magnificent gun ship. Hundreds of disheveled looking people hustle around the main deck as men in red uniforms glare at them. The ship flies the colors of the Ranpurrian flag. Just under it is the seal of the country’s notorious nobility.
Suddenly, the hustling hit’s critical overdrive, with the men in red taking out clubs and beating people who don’t move fast enough. A man on deck screams,
“Make way for Lord Iona, and his excellency, ARCHDUKE SHOURECROX!”
The hatch to the lower deck explodes open and two men on a sedan chair are slowly raised up in a cloud of warm mist. One is incredibly obese, dressed in black silk and velvet robes adorned with jewels from head to toe. The other is thin, and dressed modestly in white silk pants and shirt.
“Greetings filthy commoners. I am the great and powerful Arch Duke Shourecrox, the great, great 13th cousin twice removed to the King of Ranpurre himself and a member of the Letan dynasty. We have gathered you here from your respective places of origin to preform a great service and great entertainment to the Ranpurrian crown. We need you to gather shadow monsters, known by the locals as “Denizens” for some idiotic scheme of Iona’s which will probably never work." The fat man declares.
A clearly visible expression flashes across Iona’s face that undoubtedly reads,
“If you died tomorrow, I would violate your corpse then throw a 6 year long party to celebrate your death.”
“We shall supply you with two things vital to your survival since we stripped you of everything but pants and a shirt on the way over here.” Shourecrox says, pulling a small golden rod out of the rolls in his fat. He presses a small red button on the rod and a cannon springs out of the ship. With a tremendous explosion, the cannon blasts an enormous decorated chest into the air. The chest screams back down to earth and blasts straight through the dock, sending icy water and splinters into everyone’s faces.
“Whoops, lets try that again.”
The Duke presses the button again, with similar results, this time destroying the dock directly in front of the party.
“Please just get the peasants to do it.” Lord Iona moans.
“No, they’ll make it dirty.” Shourecrox sniffs.
He clicks the button again, and this time the chest doesn’t even hit the dock. It sails into town and crashes through the roof of some one’s home. There is a loud ‘BOOM’ in the distance after it lands.
“Fine, I’ll let the peasants do it.” Shourecrox growls.
Several starved looking people dive into the water and dredge up one of the chests that were fired into the dock. Inside are 8 brown, ratty, vests and a scroll with a picture that reads “Denizen”.
“Hey wait a minute, those were supposed to be gold embroidered ‘Vests of Useful Items’, those look like ‘Vests of UseLESS Items’.” The Duke says suspiciously. “Some one has been tampering with our wager. When I find out who… THEY’RE GOING TO BE IN DEEP SHIT! I’ll Excruciate every one of you little bastards to find out who it was!”
Several of the peasants quake with terror.
“IT WAS MORTY!” One of them screams. One of the peasants on deck glares at him.
“Tim, you are such a dick!” A hand full of men in red drag Morty below deck.
“Look, the object of this mission is to locate 1000 Denizens. They are small enough to be carried by hand. When you find any denizens, place them in the trunk we just placed on the dock. Once you bring us 1000 we will pay you 100,000,000 in gold coins each, and grant you one certificate of favor of the Ranpurrian Nobility each.” Lord Iona says with his fore head in his palm.
The two noblemen slowly sink back into the ship, leaving the group to gaze off into the snowy abyss that is the Shadow Continent.
Jaden Anon puts on his coat. He glares around listlessly at the other mercenaries.
“100,000,000 in gold coins sounds good. However 1000 is a great deal of creatures to locate. I suggest we form a fellowship before we venture into town. Perhaps there we can learn more about the locations of these ‘denizens’.”
As Jaden puts on the vest, he notices that the atmosphere seems much less frigid than it did before. He notices a small pocket on the inside with a sizable bulge in it.
Tiger takes the Robe but doesn’t put it on.
“Wait, why are we doing this in the first place?” He asks, “The dude said this scheme would probably not work anyway.”
“Well, I’m sure we can all use the money…so let’s get started!” Natasha says, slipping the vest on. “Let’s see if this is really as useless as it seems…” She reaches into the pocket. Natasha reaches in and pulls out a heavy sack filled with lead coins. The letters SM are scratched into their sides. There are 50 coins in the bag.