There were several other interviews that occurred but none yielded any prospects and when the next THUMP THUMP sounded, one of the guards at the door poked in his head and said, "Sir, there are no more people to be received."
"Thank you," Marcurio said and sat down, all three looking at one another for a few moments. "How do you all feel about this group?" There was a tone to his voice and look on his face that indicated he was worried. This wasn't some issue of money or pride, or some trade issue. This was Marcurio's daughter.
"Well aside from me going myself Marcurio, I cannot be sure. But this group, despite their…issues. They're professionals. I am more confident than if the city sent soldiers that they will get results." Ateo nodded, speaking truly to the merchant. He also didn't want to say that they would find Dahla, alive OR dead. It wasn't what Marcurio needed to hear, although Ateo knew that it was known to the merchant that it was a possible outcome.
Marcurio looked at Ateo in thought for a few moments, nodding. "Indeed. I will think on what you said. Traynt?"
The priest adjusted in his seat, his brow furrowed in thought for several moments. Finally, he spoke up "I am maybe not AS comfortable as Ateo, but I am comfortable. The group is large and diverse so if a few of the…less desirable individuals do not complete the task, I feel comfortable that the others will."
"I trust you both, more than I trust myself. If it were up to me, nothing short of a group of Ascended would suffice." Ateo snorted slightly at the comment, but it wasn't audible to anyone else in the room. "Thank you all for everything. Your support, your council. I cannot thank you enough. For what you've done, and is still to be done."
Ateo started to look at Marcurio curiously. Something about him was aloof, despite all the obvious stresses and pressures. It was making Ateo slightly uncomfortable. Marcurio spoke up again and said "let us go meet out group of heroes, give them a quick talk and send them on their way then. Gentlemen." He stood up and the others quickly followed. Ateo felt more at ease now than before, his usual humble look and feel could be felt. Despite his abilities, job and his past, he was not very intimidating. Everything about Ateo, at least outwardly was plain and nondesript.
He opened the door for Marcurio and Traynt and followed, just settling off to the side, absentmindedly looking over the group, not really judging them or studying them. That time had past. Marcurio cleared his throat and waited a few moments for whatever conversations were going on to finish, or at least be put on hold. When all eyes were on him, save for perhaps Benjamin's, he spoke up.
"Ladies and gentlemen. I will try to make this short as you should all be on your way sooner than later. I am Marcurio Deltran, I am no mere coinsman. I apologize for the minor deception, but if it makes you feel any better, I did indeed start as a coinsman. And I've digressed."
He looked down at the ground for a moment and gathered his thoughts before speaking again. "Thank you. Thank you all for this. I do not care why you are here or what your agenda is. I care about my daughter. I have faith that this group has everything required to bring her home to me and my family. Now. Payment. I instructed you that payment was 150 gold coins for this. Consider this," at that point, Marcurio reached into a pouch that was no larger than two of his fists and began producing coin pouches, tossing them on the table before him. The amount of bags he produced was more than what should have fit in the pouch by any means, and anyone with any magical sense would know that the pouch was enchanted. "A down payment for services rendered. Do with it what you will. Some of you have expressed disinterest in the money, but I am morally and ethically required to first give over this gold to you. If you'd like, pick it up and give it back. Let me know any cause you see fit. Otherwise, I am going to donate to the local orphanage. They are still swimming in orphans from the incident years ago and could use any donations we could give them. Grab the bags at the completion of my speech and let me know."
"Next. I'm going to provide several things. First, horses. See the stable master at the gate and let him know you are in my service and he'll give you a choice of horse. Please choose accordingly. Price is not a concern, performance is. Next. Take 4 to 5 hours of time and do with it what you will. Buy supplies. Rest if needed. Gather information. But be at the gate in no more than 5 hours. Oh, and. Pay. There will be more pay handed out at the end of this. But this will be discussed later based on results and information after the fact."
"And I apologize. Some of you were introduced and some weren't. This is Traynt, servent of Hothradak, my most trusted advisor. I requested an advisor from the Temple and since then, we've been enjoying each other's company and advice since then."
He looked over at Traynt who nodded to the group, looking at each in turn. His visage was warm and observant, as if he was studying each person now, more than before, but not judging them.
"And then, Ateo. My security chief. Ateo has been in my service for countless years now and both he and Traynt are family to us now. Ateo is very capable and very business orientated. In fact, he'd rather pick up his employer and throw him in a room and lock him up, and tell him to fire him after, than to let that employer put them in harms way." Some of the party nodded and studied Ateo, who blankly stared at the table of money pouches with obvious disinterest, as if all of this meant nothing to him.
And, it didn't. His job was here, so while he loved Dahla and hoped this group did their job, HIS job was here. His job was Marcurio and his family and keeping them safe here.
"I know some of you and Ateo were at slight disagreement earlier, but I ask you to put that aside and know that over my years in his company, I know that everything Ateo has done, he has done for a reason. And sometimes, I may see it later, or sometimes not at all. But everything he does and says, I take heed and consider it above reproach. So please keep this in mind."
Ateo shifted back and forth, getting impatient and looking at the large boars head that was mounted on the wall. He wished Marcurio would just apologize for Ateo's earlier outbursts and be done, but he DID recognize that the reason that he stated this was because he was thanking Ateo indirectly. Ateo's outbursts, mainly at the drow, took everyone by surprise, especially Marcurio who knew Ateo to always be free of prejudice.
After, when all was said and done, Marcurio realized it was all a ploy and test. Yesterday, if a drow had walked into the door, or maybe a large and dangerous looking ork, Marcurio would have sent them packing. Ateo smiled inwardly. The merchant was a good man, and the fact that he was acknowledging this didn't surprise him.
What Marcurio said next DID surprise him, although in hindsight, he should have seen it coming. "And that is why I am sending Ateo with you." Ateo's focus snapped back into the room and his gaze locked with Marcurio.
"Sir, I cannot, I have my obligations here."
"You can. And you will. Your two lieutenants are more than capable of watching us. You know that. You picked them and trained them for a reason. That reason was in case you were ever away from your duties. And your obligation is not to protect me. It's to protect the Deltran family. And our family needs your help, just not here, not in the city walls. I do not want you to find Dahla. I need you to. While I'm asking you, and hoping you say yes, I am also commanding you."
Ateo was stunned. He was honored, but taken aback at the same time. He wish he'd have been more prepared and had time to go over notes and plans with the two lieutenants. But really, he was nervous. He was not an adventurer and longer and he hadn't killed anyone since The Riots.
"Very well. I will need time to prepare. I'll meet at the gates. Please excuse me."
He turned towards the door and stopped suddenly. He turned and looked at Fitch. "We need to talk. Right now."
He moved out into the common room and Fitch snorted and stepped off, "excuse me sirs."
Ateo couldn't help but feel eyes on him and he stopped and looked over at the mute, Serenity. Their eyes met for a split second and her mouth moved, quietly whispering the words, "I see death." Her lips hadn't even stopped moving before she seemed to almost lose consciousness and fall. Benjamin hurried to catch Serenity and held her in his arms. She looked around in confusion "Did I really speak?" she tried to speak again, but she could not, it did not matter how much she tried. Noticing the stares she got from the others she stood up with Benjamin’s help and signed "I'm...ok", a blush spreading on her cheeks and waved her hand to Ateo and Fitch, mentioning for them to go on about their business again.
At the motion of the girl, they stepped off and as the two closed the door behind them, leaving many looked confused at both the exchange, and also Serenity's episode. Marcurio and Traynt were among those. However, Marcurio recovered quickly and finished. "I have nothing else. Grab your gold, be on your way and use your time wisely. Feel free to use the door," Marcurio motioned to the door that was behind them. The door was NOT there moments before, and again this implied that there was a LOT more to Marcurio than one would gather initially, "behind you and if you have anything for me, let me know."