Behold! A perfectly ordinary wetland. Grass, trees, boggy knee-deep water, pond scum, mud, fog, everything a person could possibly want in their swamp.
... You know, he could do a long explanation of the role of absurdity in humor, but he doesn't think it would land.
Instead he'll laugh it off and switch to broader humor.
Understood! Durante will thank them for a lovely dinner, and, assuming nobody wants to speak to him after dinner (if they do, he will of course be happy to discuss it), start putting together rumors about this war he's hearing about. He doesn't need to do it secretly; he's fairly open about the fact that he's interested in Adventure! and is from another land and wants to know what kind of Adventure! showing up to fight in the war will be.
The locals don't know a ton about it but he can put together that:
- Clat will pay top dollar for food if you'll bring it to them but it's too dangerous for most people to bother
- Soror has water elementals (2) and Clat doesn't, but if you're trying to get a river to behave a certain way Stone and Earth are also useful and Clat has more of those
- Clat's current king is a twelve year old but he seems to be doing a surprising amount of the decisionmaking himself
- Soror's current king is more experienced but has mostly been leaving the war to his generals
- they are both hiring mercenaries, and Clat pays slightly better; rumor has it they can use the Stone elemental to mine for underground salt
Are there ambassadors in the city, from either state? Are there maps?
That will do, then.
For someone who spent so long hanging out, drinking with the guards and telling war stories and teaching martial arts to pick up a little extra cash, Durante moves surprisingly fast.
(For someone who is still working a full-time job, Durante moves surprisingly fast. Maybe it helps that he only sleeps four hours a night.)
He's already carried out the first step, which was building his name. Now the second step is to find a backer. He goes to every noble with relatives in Clat, every major merchant in Wuld, every great landholder with too much food to sell, and explains, with the confidence of someone who knows exactly what he’s doing every step of the way, that he’s an experienced captain who would like to put together an expedition to relieve Clat - a very large delivery of food and (insert other standard export goods that have been piling up and are valueless here and desperately desired in Clat here), plus an escort that he can command; lots of people know him know, mostly in the Guard, they know he’s honest (or, well, that he can convince people he’s honest), and he’s looking for either a partner or a loan - funds to equip his band, funds to pay their salary on the way there, and either the food or the funds to buy it. He expects someone will take the chance, if he has to go through every merchant in the city.
The third step, once he has a backer, is that he'll let people know he's recruiting. One man is worth so much less than a dozen trained soldiers, especially a dozen some of whom are young wizards, eager for adventure. Durante's been telling everyone stories of heroes and glory and fighting monsters and war, of the horrors and tragedies of battle and campaign (that, somehow, spur so many young men onwards, for the greater the horror the greater the tragedy in overcoming it), and while most of these stories are those of Earth, of Hector before Troy and Roland at Roncesvalles, but enough of them are of his own expeditions that they'll have a pretty good idea he knows what he's doing. So why not come and be heroes? The romance of war is strong in his voice, songs of raining arrows and flashing swords and the charge of lances, to thrill the heart and set a fire in the mind.
Some of them will think better when his voice falls silent. Others... well. Durante will see about the others.
The concept of "funding" is a little underdeveloped around here, but he can, with enough looking, turn up a landholder who would love to sell some food in Clat and can comprehend the concept of supplying money now and taking more money later in the event of venture success. He has a few caravan guards he can lend to the purpose, too, and some of them have friends who'll come along if he's hiring more.
Great! Durante is getting as much capital as he can for this caravan he's organizing. He is absolutely hiring people, in the full hopes that some of them will want to stick around in Clat doing mercenary work there with him, provided they're willing to take orders on the way there. He'll also be equipping them himself if he can find an Adamant mage who's interested in going along with the adventure and/or just being paid.
Does he have enough money? (Are there Adamant elementals in the city for sale?)
(Durante is not going to commit petty theft. He's a robber, not a thief - to paraphrase the punchline of one of the stories he's been telling.) If anyone changes their mind he'll take advantage of it, but these people have been nothing but courteous to him except their government and he has no intention of wronging them.
Still, considering just how many young mages there are in the city, Durante expects he can get an Adamant mage eventually. Teenage mages? Female mages? Female teenage mages?
Are her parents important? Because he kind of assumed a lot of teenagers would want to sign up for the expedition and teenagers' parents usually are unhappy with them going on adventures, this was kind of an accepted cost.
Well, if she wants to go on an adventure and risk her life heroically and craft weapons and armor better than anyone else has ever made and become famous throughout the world, who is he to tell her no?
Sounds good to him!
(He's also willing to buy metal; she can transmute any metal into any other metal, right?)
Then he wants her to transmute metal into this alloy. (But keep it secret, for now, until they're on the road.)
He draws the medal out of his pocket. There are letters written into it on an alien language, but it is the shape of a small shield, and metal, and he taps it.
"It is much lighter than any metal made in your country, and much, much, stronger."
He wants - for every man or woman of his company - a spear, sword, greaves, breastplate, round, wide shield and helm of the metal. He can show how to shape the designs simply and easily. The plates he wants are thin and do not look as though they would stand up to an arrow, and when they leave he will show them that no bronze weapon can pierce it.
He calls it titanium.
Well, Durante will keep recruiting, singing, charming anyone he can get (who can fight or do magic) to join him. The expedition will leave the day after a festival, the first festival Durante can manage to get all of his ducks in a row.