“How’s the jaw?” Tors asked, his voice but a whimper amidst the hustle and bustle of the tavern. Packed into a shadowed corner, he sat at an age stained table, across from Ledram.
“Still two chompers short” the sellsword griped, nursing a large cup of foul smelling spirits. “Barber ran out of corpse teeth half way through, had to get the smith to cast a pair out of lead.” He pulled back his cheek, revealing dull metal stubs nestled into his tortured gums.
“Lead?” Tors exclaimed, leaning back in his seat, “shouldn’t they be silver?”
“I killed a werewolf, not a dragon,” Ledram barked, swirling the vile concoction in his hand. “Between patching my armour, my sword and my face I barely made a profit.”
“That’s the issue with honest work friend,” Tors hummed, waving for the innkeeper. “Two half-loaves,” he called, before turning back to Ledram.
“Foods on me,” he stated, reaching into the pouch at his side. Ledram was about to interject, but was silenced as his comrade slammed an armoured fist onto the table. As he drew it back, he revealed a number of square pieces of brass.
“The hell are those?” Ledram snorted, eyeing up the strange coinage.
“Telucian Jacks,” Tors replied, tapping the table, “standard currency of the empire.”
“Telucia? Isn’t that half a world away?”
Tors smirked, and nodded softly. “Half a world and one bloody big ocean.” He leaned in, motioning for Ledram to do the same. “What if I told you there was a way to break the vicious circle of poverty? For scrubs like you and me to enjoy the finer things in life?”
“I’d say you’ve finally given in and turned to banditry,” Ledram snorted.
“Banditry with a royal seal of approval.” Tors pulled back the left arm of his padded jacket, presenting his wrist to Ledram. Upon the pale flesh was tattooed an intricate symbol, swirling vines enveloping a regal crown. “The Telucian empress is looking for men like you and me,” he stated, rolling his sleeve down, “men with no masters, who’s loyalty lies in coin, not kings.”
“You’ve been turned recruiter then?” Ledram hummed, sceptical of his friend’s offer.
“I’m afraid your mistaken, Led,” Tors exclaimed, feigning hurt. “All I want is to help a friend in need.”
“How much they paying you a head?”
“10 Jacks,” Tors smirked, “any sign-ons get paid the same.”
Ledram scowled. “Ten Jacks to die in someone else’s war.”
“No war to be had,” Tors assured his friend. “Just a few backwater villages that refuse to pay the royal tithe. The worst we’ll come across is a few angry peasants.”
“And that’s something beyond the imperial army’s capacity?”
“You can imagine how bad it would look, the empress’ personal guard cracking down on helpless serfs and tribesmen. A few Anwexian sellswords, however…”
“How’s the pay?”
Tors was practically beaming. “Ten Jacks a day, plus room and board.” He leaned in. “Not to mention a share of the loot.”
Ledram crossed his arms, deep in thought. On one hand, he would be abandoning the only home he ever knew, and answer to a foreign paymaster. On the other, he could spend the rest of his life chasing bandits and monsters across the isle in hopes of scraping together enough coin to retire on.
“Any other terms?” he asked.
“Three months minimum service, and you need to be tattooed with the empress’ personal seal.”
Ledram exhaled slowly, his head tilted back. “What’s the going rate on a Telucian Jack?”
“Three Anwexian crowns!” Tors exclaimed.
Ledram’s eyes shot wide open, and in an instant he was hunched over the table. “Where do I sign on?”
Tors guffawed, tears rolling down his pallid cheeks. “Meet me at the docks tomorrow,” he choked out between bouts of laughter. His fit subsiding, Tors wiped his cheek. Reaching over the table, he patted Ledram on the shoulder. “Glad to have you onboard.”