Chapter the Eleventh: The Fine and Traditional Art of StabbingThere were a few men wandering about the ex-soldier's house, keeping themselves busy with whatever they could find. Despite the number of people, I knew immediately which one I was looking for. He was an older, grizzled-looking man with a deep scar on his left cheek. I approached him quietly and respectfully, "Hello, there, good sir."
He looked at me with a hint of curiosity in his weary eyes. He saw how the tears in my dress revealed far more than would be acceptable in polite society, but rather than focusing on how I barely managed to remain decent I could see him quietly judging how the tears might have gotten there in the first place. A claw mark in one sleeve, a clean cut across the shoulder that could only have been made by a blade. He saw me not as a whore but as a fighter and the tone in his voice reflected it. "Hello there, madam." It felt good to be respected to at least some degree.
Sammy, sammy, son of Merle... Merle was a crone anyway. "I am known as Samantha Colburn." I didn't want to be rude and blurt out my request only seconds after meeting him. I had time before the train arrived anyway, so I made polite conversation. "What is it you do here, Mr. Ogg?"
"If it is not an imposition, could you tell me of the war?" I was really beginning to long for the limitless books and articles in Frederick's study. It hadn't occurred to me previously just how much joy I took in learning about the world around me. Traveling around the world wasn't nearly as comfortable as Frederick's cushy chair but learning from my own experiences and chatting with others had a peculiar draw to it as well. If only it weren't so lonely.
Dernholm... such a pitiable sight. I'd seen pictures that had been painted out of sheer respect and adulation for the splendor of the city, back in its prime. Now, my shoes were still stained with the muck and refuse from the foul heap the city had become. And they want to do the same to Caladon... Herkemer continued his story.
"With Warren Pel Dar?" I asked without thinking. He nodded grimly and I blushed, embarrassed, "Sorry. Please, continue." Bringing up his deceased companion so callously was even less polite than blurting out a demand for training would have been. The saddened look on his face only made me feel all the more guilty. I remained quiet so as not to make a further fool of myself, and eventually he continued on.
"The war with Tarant was different from all other wars. It saw the end of the age of chivalry. The noble knight was replaced by a line of green recruits with guns."
Guns. To hell with them. I was no lover of magick, but neither was I fond of guns. My hatred for them was entirely personal, but that didn't make it any less real. The idea of them didn't bother me, and actually I was even a little curious. No. Never again. I will never use another gun for the rest of my life.
I was tempted to speak out against the damnable things but I felt bad enough for interrupting his story once already. I continued listening quietly, enraptured with the older man's tale. There was something enthralling about listening to the way he described it, the look his eyes held when he remembered the very things he was trying to tell me about. It was entirely different from reading about things in a book and I absolutely loved it.
Hmph. Chivalry, my foot. By gun or by blade, the morality of killing does not change. No matter how you justify it we're both damned and there's nothing we can do about it. Perhaps it was the whiskey, but I was feeling especially belligerent.
It sounded like I would've fit right in, except that I was probably only two years old when it happened, if I'd even been born at all. I didn't offhand remember exactly when the war started. At the moment exact dates didn't seem particularly important anyway. There was something about hearing it straight from Mr. Ogg that made it seem less like a history lesson and more personal.
Although I wasn't fond of Tarant either it seemed to me that only good could come from less military might in the world. More people would stay alive that way, and less people would be paid for killing. Although I could sympathize with the man who had no choice but to make combat his profession, I could not feel sadness at the idea of men killing each other for pay. I only felt pity.
"Sir, you do not ramble. It has been my pleasure." I couldn't help but notice just how frequently I was actually being kind and honest as of late. It was a startling change, and I wasn't entirely sure what to make of it. It's not as though I've suddenly turned over a new leaf. I'm traveling with Jayna for selfish reasons, and I really do enjoy hearing stories of the world.
I had nearly forgotten my initial reason for visiting the man, but being good at stabbing was an unfortunate necessity. "Would you object to showing me what you know about melee, Mr. Ogg? I've had to defend myself a rather unfortunately large number of occasions lately."
"I am sorry, but I can't meet your price of 500 coins just at this moment. If you would excuse me for a bit I will return shortly." Hmmm.
"Take your time, madam. I'm not going anywhere." He reassured me. But I, on the other hand, have a train to catch... and I do so hate to leave empty handed.
Perhaps pub philanthropy is a purely Cumbrian trait? I could learn to like this country after all, even if it is a bit backwards. Tulla was the legendary city of mages, said to exist in the very center of the uninhabitable wasteland to the North of Ashbury known as the Vendigroth Wastes. There wasn't much information to be had on it as the rumor went that the mages there were quite reclusive. Few were even able to reach the city, and fewer still were ever welcomed inside of its walls, but its existence was no hoax. Thanks for the donation, good fellow. I've some training to get to.
Mr. Ogg was quite the excellent teacher and I learned a great deal from him in just a short time. He taught me better how to hold my blade when I struck, and a more precise way of aiming that made it more difficult to fumble when my opponent was fast on his feet. When the training was finished I hungered for even more knowledge, even if it was knowledge I hoped I wouldn't have to use. "Who could train me to be a master of melee?"
"Hmph. It is a pity... arrogance is a fool's luxury and if he pursues the mastery of melee to the exclusion of all else he is a fool indeed." I didn't relish the idea of seeking out an arrogant, self-important sod for training if I didn't absolutely have to.
"He will get what is coming to him, I am sure. No man can breed such hatred and subsequently outlive it." I paused as I heard a train just arriving in the distance. "Ah, many apologies, Mr. Ogg, but I have a train to catch. Thank you so much for your time."
"It was no trouble at all, madam. You are an excellent student." I blushed, gave him a quick curtsy, and shuffled over to the train station as fast as I could. I would've loved to stay and chat with him longer, but the next train wouldn't be arriving for a full day and I didn't want to have to pay for a night at an inn when I could avoid it. Besides, I was excited to get on with my journey.
"Tarant please, madam." I could hear Jayna squeaking excitedly behind me. I turned just a bit to glance at her and smiled when I saw her pointing excitedly at the train. Virgil was smiling, too.
"Certainly. I would never even think of lying." Ironically, that's probably the biggest lie I ever told.
Am I the only one that doesn't actually pose a threat to this train? "Ah, well, Virgil does use a bit of magic... and Jayna here is a half-elf. So sorry." I blushed and Jayna started looking concerned. I mouthed "Don't worry about it." to her silently and she nodded.
"I assure you, Virgil is completely harmless. He can barely use magic at all." Virgil cleared his throat rather purposefully. I winked at him and turned back to the ticket seller, "Truth be told, he can't even get it to work half the time. I'll be set upon by a bear or some vicious beast and he'll have to try healing me three or four times before it'll stick!" The ticket seller and I laughed together just a bit and Virgil slumped his shoulders. Come now, it's all in good fun... and I'd rather not be turned away from this train.
Well there is that funny dagger I pilfered from someone or another. I've yet to get it identified, but carrying it does make me feel uncomfortable. "Of course not, I wouldn't have any use for such things. Hooray for modern technology!" I laughed nervously, but the ticket seller didn't catch on. Virgil, knowing better, started giving me a 'look'.
"I, uh... I really don't think any of us are above a hundred." I looked at Jayna with uncertainty and she shook her head in agreement. "We're all under a hundred, madam. Come now, I may not be young but I don't look that old, do I?" The ticket seller gave me a rather unamused look that suggested I wasn't the first 'clever' customer that had made such a joke.
"That's... an awful specific question, isn't it? Uh... no... no, we're quite good in those regards. Do people really...?" She nodded at me with a frightened expression. "Oh my...." was all I could respond.
I've barely even heard of half of those and I'm certainly no ignoramus! "No. You must believe me, we're totally harmless. To be perfectly frank I don't even know what you're talking about."
"That's wonderful, madam, thank you muchly. We're ready to board the train immediately."
"That'll be 75 coins per passenger." I grumbled but handed her the coins. That's robbery, I tell you. Why I could only afford two train rides if I made a quick stop at another pub. Is technology not supposed to be available to the masses?! She handed me three boarding passes in return and pointed to a man standing by the train. "The conductor is right over there."
I wandered over to the train, Jayna lagging behind slightly as she marveled over it. Virgil stayed with her to make sure she kept moving, albeit slowly. Silly girl, but I suppose that's why I'm fond of you. I approached the man the ticket seller had pointed to, "Excuse me, sir, are you the conductor?"
Jayna and Virgil finally caught up with me. Jayna clapped me on the shoulder excitedly and whispered a thank you into my ear. "I'd like to board the train." I handed the boarding passes to the conductor.
He was a rather jovial fellow, but I suppose one would have to have a certain passion for technology to work with the train on a daily basis. He looked over the boarding passes carefully, ensuring they weren't forgeries. They would be, but I'm no good at that sort of thing, so you're safe for now.
I hopped on the train along with Virgil who seemed distracted and Jayna who was also distracted but in an entirely different manner. I left them both to their thoughts and simply dozed on the way. Although the train was rather new by modern standards it wasn't the first time I had ridden it.
I dreamt of Nathaniel, which wasn't surprising given how much Jayna reminded me of him. I re-lived a memory I had of going to the beach with him and playing around in the water. I kept telling him that he was going to get sucked into the ocean and his body would wind up at Razor's Point, but... he was just so full of confidence. I was jostled awake by the train's arrival, but a melancholy mood crept over me as I grew reaccustomed to what my life had become. Shuffling off of the train with the others was slow, my thoughts still focused on Nathaniel; I missed him terribly. I carefully wiped a tear from my eye before Virgil could notice it.
"Tarant at last," I announced. Jayna squealed and ran out in front of the station. I couldn't really blame her if she'd been in post-war Dernholm her entire life. I glanced at Virgil and he merely nodded, his face a mixture of relief and nervousness. I felt the same way.
Bonus ContentIf you saw the upper left corner of the inventory screen I posted earlier and you guessed "Vermillion Station", I owe you 500 coins!