Frea shifted her backpack, adjusted the straps for the full-hand dozenth time, and continued walking towards the rock formation her contact in the merchant guild had described as “just appearing overnight three full-hands and a half tool-hand ago.” She’d made him describe it to her properly. Who even believed in huge rock formations appearing in the scrublands overnight? This wasn't the creation time.
The green viridi plants were just starting to bloom, pink buds at the end of the long green spikes. The path was worn down well enough that none tried to grow in the slightly more compact soil. It kept travelers’ feet away from the irritating leaves too.
Frea figured it’d take her an hour or two to walk to the base of the rock formation, where the merchant caravan looking to hire her was camped. Why they were this far out of town mystified her. That they couldn’t have sent a runner to engage her services in town and let her get to work negotiating the entrance fees with the town guards right then, well, that was just going to drive up her fees. Bloody two hour hike each way. If she’d wanted to walk for a living, she’d have joined the merchant guild instead of the scribe’s.
An hour and a half later Frea walked around the last bend in the path, before the caravan spot under a rock hang. She stopped short as four… figures turned and pointed something at her. They looked like those black-powder tools the alchemists’ guild was starting to sell. Except, sleeker. More compact. And yet much more complex.
"You are not Frea Hanisdelaar,” the figure closest to her said. It had a double voice, the first one spouting gibberish with the second, flat mechanical one speaking intelligently on its heels. How was the figure standing on only two limbs? Why didn’t it fall over? The tool was held by two more limbs, but where was its full-hand? Two more of the figures were shaped like the first, cruelly missing so many legs and their full-hand. They were shaped all wrong, limbs so rigid and large.
"She…” Frea swallowed hard and tried again. “She died last winter. I’m Frea Handalan.”
"I see. And what rank have you obtained in the scribe’s guild, Frea Handalan?”
"Journeyman. Oh dear.” The figure in the back had a high voice, like a flute, and the proper four limbs on the ground, but had an extra full-hand — two tool-hands holding another of those complex tools pointed at her, two full-hands blindly digging through a sack. “Did your guild master perhaps give you a token or something to give us, child?”
"I am not a child! I am a full member of the scribe’s guild, duly appointed by the city to represent merchants within the city limits!”
"And you thought to get one up on your rivals by intercepting runners in order to offer your services first,” said the closest figure in that weird echoing double voice.
Frea could feel the heat radiating down to the ends of her full-hand.
"Well,” said the furthest figure, pulling some sort of box out of the sack and pointing it at the rocks. “It seems you’re to be inducted into some of the mysteries of your guild a bit early.” They pressed something on the top of the box and Frea’s jaw dropped as an entire section of the rock formation began rolling away to reveal a dark cave within. Bright lights, brighter than any candle Frea had ever seen, as bright as a noon sun, snapped on within the cave; the missing limb figures gestured with their tools for Frea to enter.