Chapter the Thirteenth: Wherein We Chase Wild Geese and Other Like ThingsI'd been in the bath for nearly two full hours when I was interrupted by a knock on the door. "Are you alright in there, madam?" It was Virgil.
No, in fact I am not. I don't know what it is you're running from, but I don't think you'd fare much better if you quite unexpectedly came face to face with it. "I'll be fine, Virgil. Just... you know... being extra careful to wash up after the last few weeks of travel."
"Of course, madam." It was obvious he saw through my lie. "I won't pester you about it any more then. I'll be getting some sleep. Good night."
I sighed, "Good night, Virgil." I heard the creak of the bed as he flopped down onto it. With a deep sigh I finished washing up as quickly as I could and got some sleep myself. Jayna was already out cold by the time I emerged, and if Virgil wasn't asleep yet he made no sign to reveal as much.
Sleep came to me slowly, even though I was awfully tired. My mind simply wouldn't settle down. When sleep finally did come I dreamt again of the past. Thankfully I dreamt not of Nathaniel, but of Frederick. I almost felt guilty for that, but at the time it was a much needed comfort. Waking was no more pleasant than it had been on the train, and throughout the entire morning my mind still remained firmly rooted in the past. Oh, Frederick... are you waiting for me to return? No, you wouldn't... you had to have been expecting this...
"Good morning, madam." Virgil greeted me as I started to open my eyes. He was looking down at me with a decidedly worried look, but his voice was even and soothing. "Jayna's just finishing up in the bath. If you wouldn't mind, I'd like to pay the telegraph office a visit when you're both ready."
I was still groggy and my mind was reluctant to depart from its current train of thought. I nodded, only half understanding what I was agreeing to, "Yes, Virgil, that will be fine." Damnation, he means to meet up with Joachim! Pah, I can't put it off forever, can I? Might as well get it over with. Once Jayna was ready we headed for the telegraph office at once, finding it along Kensington Broadway near many of the shops in town. I interestedly glanced into many of the shop windows, quickly jotting down prices in my notebook to keep a tally of how much money it would take before I could afford everything I wanted.
"Do you have a telegram for Virgil?" I blurted out hastily. Virgil gave me a questioning look. I suppose it would've made more sense just to have him ask.
Definitely should've had him ask. This is what I get for being so damned scatterbrained. I paid the man his two coins and took the telegraph from him in return. Since I paid for it I took a look at it before handing it off to Virgil. Virgil, of course, tapped his foot impatiently.
It was indeed bad news for Virgil, though I secretly celebrated. It was another golden opportunity to put off meeting Joachim for as long as possible. Stillwater? Why that's even more out of the way than Shrouded Hills! The longer I went without getting unceremoniously dismembered by religious fanatics the better.
I patted the dagger on my belt, thinking back to my training with Mr. Ogg not long ago. "I don't need protection..." I gave him a sly wink.
I didn't mean it like that. You don't have to be so bloody sensitive. I could tell that Joachim's behavior was beginning to irritate Virgil, but I didn't like that Virgil saw fit to take it out on me. I was admittedly angry, and I simply blurted out what I'd been thinking with no thought to the consequences. "I'm no religious fanatic. I think the whole story is a bit contrived..." Well... the cat's out of the bag now. This is going to go over like a lead balloon.
I sighed deeply. Getting angry at Virgil wasn't going to get anywhere, and arguing in front of Jayna and the telegraph operator seemed both rude and silly. As much as I wanted him to drop all of the religious nonsense, it made about as much sense for him to do so as it made sense for me to stop acting like a bloody thief. I felt bad, and I realized that I ought to have tried to be just as much of a friend to him as he tried to be to me. "Virgil, let's not argue about this. Let's look into the ring..."
"That sounds fine, Virgil..." I'll make it up to you. While we're in town we'll swing by that Panarii temple Joachim mentioned. I'll even take a bloody pamphlet.
I know, Virgil. We both know. When are we going to be able to talk about it? "Sounds like you know a lot about surviving in the streets...
Please... don't back out on me now. "Virgil... what is it? Where do you come from?" My motives were perhaps selfish, but certainly not ingenuine. I was actually starting to trust Virgil and I wanted him to trust me as well. I wanted so badly to talk about what I'd done, what I'd run away from... only I had nobody to talk to.
I could understand that outlook. It's the same outlook I had when I first met Virgil, but more and more I found myself thinking about the past and comparing it to the present. You may not be shackled by it, but neither can you run from it... I'm half a continent away and I feel worse than I did before I left. "I see. Let's go, Virgil."
Virgil could hear the sadness in my voice. "Yes. Let's, uh... let's keep moving forward..." Now wasn't the time to dwell on all of this anyway. This was Tarant, there was plenty to be done. I didn't make that shopping list for nothing. We wandered back out into the street and began browsing the shops in more detail. I'd only gotten through a couple of them, more concretely noting a few things I wanted and even a couple parts that seemed interesting to tinker with, when a man suddenly started shouting at me.
Damnation! I never should've let Mr. Wright take that photo! "Uh... No. You must be mistaken." Jayna was biting her lip nervously, and Virgil was glaring at me. Just because you two know I'm lying doesn't mean he does.
The man looked very embarrassed all of the sudden. "Oh... I beg your pardon, madam. You look remarkably like the photo in the paper." I quickly headed in the opposite direction, perhaps a bit too quickly. I was so busy searching the streets with my eyes, looking for anybody that might've overheard, that I failed to notice what was directly in front of me.
No sooner had I reached the next street than I quite literally tripped over a man on his hands and knees right in the middle of the road, staring down a sewer grate. I picked myself up off the ground angrily and shouted at him. "What in... who the hell are you?!"
"A pleasure." My sarcasm seemed lost on him. "What are you doing here out on the street?" He had to know he was making quite the nuisance of himself. I was still nervously glaring about, looking for potential assassins, but I seemed safe for the time being.
"That's a shame..." I was mentally laughing at him, but I tried to sound sympathetic. Aside from just being polite I was actually hoping he'd offer me some money to retrieve it. Picking out so many things I'd wanted to buy had focused my mind quite directly on money and how I could get more of it. Everything was beginning to look like an opportunity. Sewers aren't so bad. I've slept in worse.
Oho, yes, this is definitely worth a few coins. "Perhaps I might be of assistance?"
He glanced me up and down quite surprised, "Would you...? I'd be so appreciative. I don't at all savor the thought of tramping around in the sewers, mussing up my shoes. If you were to go down there and find the ring for me, I'd pay you 150 gold pieces!"
Shoes? You lost your wedding ring and you're concerned about shoes? If Jayna weren't here your pockets would already be empty just for being such a snob. "Done" I hopped on into the sewers without hesitation. They really didn't bother me... much.
Rank didn't even begin to describe them. Poor Jayna looked like she was about to retch. We'll be out of here in no time, dear girl. At least I'm not robbing the poor sod. We trodded carefully through the shallow, murky waters dispatching overgrown rats as much because they were aggressive as because of the olfactory offenses committed against us.
After passing by a few passageways I stumbled across a couple thieves chatting with each other about the proceeds they'd just acquired from their latest victim. "Good day, friends!" I called out. I was hoping to ask them about the local guild, den, or whatever else they were calling it in Tarant these days. Unfortunately for me they mistook my shout as an act of aggression and attacked.
It was quite sudden, but my reflexes took over. One of the men lunged at me clumsily. I flipped my dagger out at just the right angle, knocking his weapon out of his hand. He stumbled backwards a bit, put off by my skill with a blade. I dashed around his partner and brought him to his knees with one good stab, kicking him off of the blade to free it that much quicker. The first man advanced on me again, but I was far faster and more experienced. Much like his friend he was already face down in the sewer water, blood trickling out of a lethal wound in his back.
On the plus side, his armor is rather snug. Beats ruining my poor old dress even more than I already have, and I can always sew up the hole in the back later. Jayna was staring at me in shocked horror, but Virgil gently grabbed her by the shoulders and pushed her on. She'd get over it... at least I hoped.
It wasn't long after our rather violent encounter with overly aggressive thieves that I managed to spot the ring sitting up against a wall in the far corner of the sewers. It was probably the dim lighting and being covered with a mixture of urine and god knows what else, but it really didn't look all that impressive. I wasn't even certain it was the right ring.
I slipped my dress back on before heading out of the sewers, making sure to always be at my best appearance when dealing with other people. I will be taking another bath tonight. "Matthew! I found your ring," I held it out in the palm of my hand so he could get a good look at it. Then I snapped my hand shut and drew it back towards me, "Unfortunately, I think I'm going to keep it..." I don't really want your smelly old ring, but you're filthy rich... share the wealth!
So even after all the nasty things you've heard about the sewers, you'd rather things come down to fisticuffs - with a woman, no less - than to part with another 50 coins? Cheap is too good of a word for you. "I was only joking, old boy! Here's the ring!" I tossed it at him disgustedly.
Right, whatever. Enjoy the married life. "I must go. Good day to you." I was angry and disgusted, not wanting to stomach the man's presence for any longer than I had to. After my trip through the sewers I had a feeling that most upstanding Tarantians would feel the same way about me. I would have taken a bath immediately, but I really needed to get as much done as quickly as possible with what the innkeeper was charging me. She'd get suspicious if I pickpocketed her a second time. No, my bath would have to wait until most places of business had closed for the evening.
Jayna tugged on my sleeve as we headed towards the university district. "Madam, don't you think that joke was a bit mean...?" She almost seemed to have forgotten what happened in the sewers, or at least come to terms with it. You have got to stop following me, dear girl. I'm not a good influence.
"Mean? Do you really think his ring just fell off during the morning wash up?" I suppose I could've said it a bit nicer, or just let her think I was a cruel wench instead of pointing out what I thought would've been obvious. It was endearing the way she trusted people.
She frowned and stared down at the ground, "Oh..."