From the notes of the bard Septimus the Lesser.
Someday I’ll write a song about this…
“So, in the course of trudging up North here, I believe I’ve discovered a whole new category? Classification? Whatever. A whole new thing of humanoids that I totally dislike,” said the slurring, swaying elf. Leaning in closer, he told me, “Faeries.”
“Pish posh,” I thought and reading my expression, the elf continued, “Isa, isa true thing. I know nobody wants to talk about them, but they’re real. Real as can be. I’ll tell you about them if you’ll just…”
Pay me money? Buy me a drink? Be my partner in some spurious land deal?
“…listen and quit acting like a smug jackass.”
So that’s how I first met Niowin the Seer. That’s right, the Seer. Back then I wasn’t a bard. My bardic training would come later. At that time I was just a guy who played a bit of mandolin, sang a bit. I traveled because it was easier than sticking around to explain every little thing I’d done. I started out learning how to blow into a mouth harp, but you could never accompany yourself singing so I stole myself a mandolin and learned to play some. Decided to swing up north and west of Freiberg. See the sights. Get some fresh dust on my boots as it were. And along the road, in a dingy little inn, I met Niowin. This was not him as a fresh-faced young lad, but neither was he yet the adventurer that we are familiar with. More like this was the point in his career where he was coming to grips with who he was, who he was with and what they wanted to do. The act of “coming to grips” at this point seemed to involve pouring shots of whiskey into mugs of ale and then drinking them down (as the blended flavors of the two alcohols was, I learned, an “acquired taste”). I had struck up a conversation with Niowin and downed four of those foul concoctions before the subject turned to the Fae. No telling how many Niowin had in him but once we became drinking partners he matched me drink for drink.
“So anyway, we’s walking along and we see…” And his eyes closed and his forehead came to rest on the top of his mug. I took the opportunity to relieve myself and buy us another round of whiskey-n-beers? Beer-n-whiskies? I had to come up with a better name but what? Liquid insanity? Anyway, I poked Niowin to wake him up, and his narrative continued, “…n these little fellers. They’d disappear in shadows. Annoying little jerks…”
I was concentrating on the livid ring on Niowin’s forehead, left from resting it on his mug. It was red and perfectly round and suddenly what he said registered with me. “Wait, wait, wait. You mean they’d hide in shadows?” I asked.
“No, they’d disappeared. Just vanish,” leaning in on me again, he said, “Isa magic thing.”
At this point I’d not started any training in the mystic arts and immediately scanned the room to see if Niowin had been overheard. All clear…
“Anyway, we’s paying attention to the little fellas when other, bigger little fellas jumped us. They wore red caps and they’s called…”
“…Redcaps, sure enough. Knock one of them caps offa their head and their game is ruined. So we fought them. Killed em all. And found on one of ‘em a contract. And it was magic. It had the names of me and my fellas on it and if you write it just right, that map will tell you where to go and who to kill.”
Later I learned that what Niowin said was exactly true, though at the time and with no knowledge of magic, it all seemed like a random jumble of syllables being bound together by crazy and alcohol smell. But the gist of it is that the Redcaps Niowin fought had been contracted to kill him and his group, Redcaps acting as the assassins and enforcers of the Fae world. The contract was a magical item and was imbued with some of the essence of the target. Part of its magic was to allow the holder of the contract to track and find the subject of the contract. Why the Fae contract on Niowin and the rest of the group? Who can say. But it is how they met the smith Warwick and learned about the power of Fae contracts. And how to break them…