The public room was nearly empty at this time of day, and of the half-dozen people inside only one was a gnome: a young-seeming woman, sitting alone at a table with a book in one hand, a quill in the other, an ink-well beside her on the table, and a large smear of ink across the bridge of her nose. That had to be the one he was looking for.
He crossed the room and took a seat across from her, putting them at roughly the same height. "Geira Rockseeker?"
"Oh? Yes-yes, that's me. I am she. I'm Geira."
She was still studying him as he replied, "Abdael Nightflower, warlock for hire. You were the one who posted the job offer at the guildhouse?"
"Yes!" He wasn't immediately sure if she was excited or surprised or both, but either way she was energetic. "Are you looking for work? As a guard?"
"To be honest, I'm looking for work in general."
"But... you said you were a warlock?"
"I know," replied the half-elf. "It surprised me too."
"It's just... you're wearing a sword. And I'm pretty sure that's a chain shirt under your cloaky-poncho-thing."
Geira looked puzzled, but not displeased. "I thought warlocks mostly cast spells in the service of dark forces beyond the comprehension of mere mortals."
"Yes, well..." Abdael hesitated, then grinned. In for a copper, in for a gold... "Of all the dark and incomprehensible forces that control my life, the need to find work so I can continue to eat food and pay for lodging is among the most ominous and demanding."
Geira giggled. "Well, we're paying as much as we can."
"If it helps," Abdael added, "I really can fight with the sword -- at least, once my shadow has embraced it. But I can also cast spells, and if I remember to look I can tell when there's magic around."
"Oh, that'll be useful!" Geira looked excited. "You're hired! Twenty-five gold to escort me and my cart back to Thandalin, and more if you decide stay around and help us with some projects afterwards." She leaned forward conspiratorially, and Abdael found himself leaning in under the sheer force of her enthusiasm. "You were going to be hired anyway," she told him. "We've had a little trouble finding adventurers willing to work a small job with a lot of travel like this." She looked around as if she were about to reveal a big secret, then added: "I've only found two other guards so far. I'm hoping we can find one more before we leave tomorrow."
Three guards seemed like plenty for a gnome with a single cart traveling along established roads in a relatively civilized area of the Sword Coast, but Abdael didn't say so. Perhaps she was just being cautious, or perhaps she had some special reason to worry; either way, it was his good fortune to find paying work.
A pair of dwarves at a nearby table suddenly fell silent, looking towards the entrance, and Abdael twisted around in his seat. A small figure, brilliantly colored, stood just inside the door, looking around the room just as he had. For a moment Abdael thought he was looking at an over-large bird, but no: the figure was a winged humanoid, covered in feathers. It stilled, looking at their table, then cocked its head.
"...I think you may be in luck," said Abdael, then rose and stepped back to make way for the newcomer. Aarakocra, he remembered at last. There was a race of bird-folk called Aarakocra, though his reading had made them sound larger and not so brightly colored; but then, given the variety of colors found in the skin and hair of humans and elves, he supposed he shouldn't be surprised if different groups of Aarakocra had different plumage as well. The city of Neverwinter had proven itself a constant education.
He ordered a drink at the bar, then stood and sipped it as he watched to make sure the newcomer was friendly. He was, after all, Geira's guard now, even if he wasn't officially on duty just yet. It wouldn't take long to gather his adventuring gear -- which was about four-fifths of everything he owned -- from his single room, and close things out with the proprietor. He'd have to store the rest of his things in the guild hall and find another room when he returned, but that was fine; his current room was tiny and seemed to grow dirty every time he left it. Abdael wouldn't miss it at all.