Arden and Company sat around the long wooden table in a private dining room in the Traveler’s Inn. The innkeeper, Joseph, was mopping his brow and trying to clear the trenchers from the table. A well-picked turkey carcass lay in surrender in the middle. Goat Bently wiped grease on his long gray beard and then reached for the bird, finding a last morsel of dark meat.
“If that man could sniff out gold coin as well, we’d all be feasting in the Keep Fortress on a permanent basis!”, laughed Handsome Brune.
The Company was in rare form tonight. The cares of the past seemed but a trifle. Corwin sat back in his chair, a mulled wine in one hand and his long clay pipe in the other. No books or scrolls were in sight for once.
“Arden, you summoned us for a feast, but I think that revelry is only part of tonight’s meeting, true?” the wizard asked.
“Well, as you know, I’ve been to see the castellan…Thane was present as well. His lordship wants to help us secure the Caves of Chaos. This would, unfortunately, come at a cost. He wants a share of the treasure.”
Arden stopped a moment to gauge their reaction. Uncertainty colored many faces, a flash of anger in others. He drained his cup and continued, “I thought that if the castellan were to get a share, then we will need to discuss wages all around.” This perked up the ears of the men. They grew quiet in anticipation.
Thane interrupted, “Of course his share will be bigger…”
Arden looked irritated at the dwarf, “It will be the same as the principals of the Company. It’s something that may be need doing. He has an advantage. We’re in his Keep. He will send archers to provide support for our foray and we shall give him a share of any valuables we find.”
“Not enchanted items, I hope?” asked Corwin. The wizard didn’t care to be sharing the magic that they found with Florian, the keep’s advisor and wizard.
“No, the catellan will get a share of the treasure–coins, gems, art objects. We’ll keep anything that you deem useful, Corwin.”
Egg Barkley cleared his throat, “I guess if’n his lordship is sending troops with you, then you won’t be needin’ as many of us dirty sods?”
Arden chuckled, “Actually, I was thinking of giving you boys a raise. It’s up to you. If you want to sign on and join the Company, then you won’t get 2 silvers a day from us. You’ll have to fight for it and dig it out of the Caves for yourself. The Company is going to need some henchmen. That’s a little bit different than a hireling. You lot have been hirelings, taking orders and getting your pay…and then spending it on booze and cheap entertainment. That’s fine, you can continue to do that and we will cut you in with an eighth of a share. That’s more than two silver coins a day, if we are lucky.”
“Others of you are front line fighters. You’ve kept the Company in one piece when things looked grim. I say to you, let us improve your lot. The Company has to grow. If you sign on as henchmen, you’ll be expected to do your share and more. You’ll have to learn to master a weapon and be ready to fight for your companions no matter what the odds. With this comes a greater reward. A half share for each man that signs on as henchman. Be warned though. You’ve seen days when all we brought back from the Caves was our fallen brothers. I know that more treasure lies down those filthy holes. But it won’t be found unless we can band together to get this done. If you become henchmen, you stand on your own. No one buys your room and board, you share in the Company’s fortune for good or ill. What say you?”
Goat was the first to stand up. Greasy beard and well past his prime, “Aye, son! I’ll hench for ya! Tell me who to shoot and give me some room to do it.”
Arden wrinkled his nose a bit at hearing this. “Perhaps a bath first and then some archery practice.”
They drank well into the evening, discussing plans for taking the Caves of Chaos. The newly made henchmen talked excitedly of what they would buy with all the treasure they hauled back.