Chapter the Eighteenth: Every Town Has Its Less Savory PartsIt looked like between the cost of training and what old Sammie took I was damn near broke. Everything I'd been working for was suddenly gone. Furthermore, as poorly equipped as I was to handle any future assassins I couldn't exactly afford to not pick up the various parts I'd been looking at. Dammit, dammit, dammit... What the hell am I going to do now?! Luckily I was just across the street from 36 Low Dervish Row, so I figured I'd drop off the note I'd been asked to deliver for a quick 100 coin boost.
How did they-? Oh hell. Now was not the time to think about how they knew I'd looked at the note. I slipped in-between two of the attackers and whirled off to the left, stabbing the third one but good. Virgil started hollering and making a nuisance of himself, slapping the men in the face with his quarterstaff while I did my work from behind. Virgil... thanks.
The men drew rusty old swords and laid into Virgil terribly. I winced as I saw them cut right through his overcoat, his blood beginning to run down the edge of their blades. He didn't falter one bit, he kept on screaming and attacking them, causing more than enough of a distraction for me to continue working. Jayna, unfortunately, didn't quite know what to do. She looked at me almost in awe as I dropped the third man to the ground.
Suddenly it seemed like she noticed what was happening to Virgil and she began shouting. "No! Stop! Stop fighting!" she kept shouting over and over. "Virgil, no!" she shrieked as he got cut again and again. The second man made a strangled gurgling noise as blood bubbled up into his throat, frothing out of his mouth for a moment before he at last collapsed to the ground. Jayna screeched again, tightly shutting her eyes. Shortly after, my blade found purchase between the third man's shoulder blades and he collapsed as well.
Sighing, Virgil worked what little magick he could and tried to clean up his wounds, but he didn't have nearly enough strength left after the beating he'd received. He removed his overcoat, looking at it sadly, and I could see his arms and torso were covered with slashes and bruises. Jayna finally opened her eyes and shuddered with horror as she looked at him. She immediately drew some salves out of her bag and began tending to him, flinching every time she applied the salve to each new wound. Virgil simply sighed and accepted it.
I tried to say something, Virgil... I'm so sorry... this is all my fault..., but the words simply wouldn't come out. Why, Virgil? Why do you care so much, why do you try so hard to protect me? I don't deserve it, least of all from you. I knew deep down that I was a terrible person, and an even worse friend.
As I watched Jayna tend to Virgil's wounds I felt like I had sunk to a new low. Virgil was quite seriously hurt and it was entirely my fault, and Jayna could barely keep herself together. Tears were streaming down her face. Virgil looked at me calmly, "Don't look at me like that. I've survived worse, I'll be fine."
Just like anybody else that's ever shown me even a lick of compassion, I've only brought pain to the both of you. Sighing, I bent down and put my weight beneath Virgil's arm, helping him stand up. "Come on. I think the church that Joachim mentioned is nearby. Let's see if we can't get you healed up. As usual, this one's my damn fault so the bill's on me."
Jayna looked up and smiled between sniffles and Virgil simply stared at me with the cutest little expression of shock on his face. I didn't say a damn word. Think what you want, but I do care and I'm sick of hurting people. I didn't learn how to fight because I wanted to. I helped Virgil into the church and set him down near the back. The priest rushed towards the back and began to mend Virgil's wounds without hesitation. I handed him almost all of my remaining few coins in thanks, without him even asking. "It's almost all I have left, but I want you to have it. I can always get more money. I can't get another Virgil."
Virgil's face turned a rather bright shade of red and Jayna hugged him. Before anybody could say anything else I asked the priest, "What can you tell me about the Panarii?"
Well, if I can ask anybody I can ask this fellow. "What can you tell me about this Arronax?" Virgil stared at me, unbelieving. I almost felt offended that my actions seemed so foreign and unexpected.
Of course I'd heard the occasional cryptic tale about banishment, but I was still rightly confused over the whole process. How was it done? What happened to the victims? "What do you mean, he was 'banished'?"
Sadly, it seemed like I already knew most of what there was to be known about the whole deal. It certainly explained why there hadn't been a book in Frederick's study titled 'The How and Why of Banishment'. "Has anyone else ever been banished?"
He kept saying that word... 'archaeon'. I knew I'd heard it before somewhere, but I'd be damned if I could remember where. "What is the Archaeon?"
That would certainly explain why it sounded familiar. Of course I was aware of the Panarii in my hometown, though I'd never previously deigned to pay them a visit. I've never had much faith, nor much cause to have any. "Could you tell me what you know about Nasrudin?" While I'm asking I might as well ask about the whole bit. Virgil needs to take a load off anyway, and it'll probably make him feel better if I take this stuff seriously. As seriously as I can manage anyway.
I swallowed hard. It was time to ask the uncomfortable question. The question that sometimes kept me up at night and sometimes made me laugh out loud at how silly it all was. Am I Nasrudin's reincarnation? "Are there any prophecies that he will return?"
Religion is always so bloody cryptic. Is he coming back or is somebody else going to represent him?... like, say, me. "I don't understand. Isn't Nasrudin dead?"
...and that's about where I come in, eh? Bloody ridiculous... no... I have to respect Virgil's beliefs. It's the least I can do for him when those beliefs are his entire reason for wanting to protect me. "Thank you very much for your time, sir. I'll be leaving, then."
Damnation. I suppose I did promise, even if I never promised it out loud. "Sure."
I failed to see how this bloody thing was supposed to create any converts. Silly pamphlets aside, however, I was beginning to see why Virgil believed so strongly in this panarii business... and I didn't think it had anything to do with the religion itself. While it was interesting to hear about given that I was supposed to be The Living One, I suspected Virgil's beliefs had a lot more to do with that Elder Joachim fellow. I had to start considering the possibility that he didn't actually want to dismember me.
As we left the Panarii temple Virgil looked in my direction. He smiled warmly and said, "Thank you, Miss Colburn."
The expression on my face must have been hilarious because he burst out laughing the second I looked at him. "Virgil, please. Don't ever call me that. You make me sound like the promising young daughter of some gnomish nobleman. Ugh. Just call me Samantha, won't you?"
He nodded, "Sure.... Thank you, Samantha."
I stared at him hard through wide eyes, noting the bruises that still adorned his face despite all of the magick and the salves. "No, Virgil, thank you. You took that beating instead of me, and it was a beating I deserved. You don't owe me any thanks or anything else for that matter."
He seemed like he wanted to respond to that, but one look in my eyes and he knew it was pointless. He sighed and kept his mouth shut. All three of us remained silent for a good while after that. I traveled in the direction towards Mulligan Bone Alley, but on the way I noticed a sign advertising 'Stanton Importers'. I stepped inside briefly.
A man sat at a plain, undecorated desk in the center of the room guarded on either side by half ogres. I swear, this is really getting out of hand. Those damn things are in more buildings than they aren't. "Pardon me, sir, I was looking to inquire about the Bessie Toone mine. Specifically, I was wondering if you might relinquish ownership back to the Toones."
Hmph. You think you're a shrewd businessmen, do you? "What is the going rate for a worthless mine, anyway? What kind of a price is brittle iron fetching on the market, assuming you bother to pay workers to retrieve it?"
Didn't even skip a beat. I didn't really like the way he was looking at his ogre guards, waiting for me to respond. I began to see how Percy got himself into this mess in the first place. I wasn't about to make the same mistake, especially not when that would involve dragging Virgil and Jayna into it along with me... again. The way I saw things I could still make 150 coins of profit if Percy held up his end of the bargain. "Okay, I'll take it."
"Done." He wasted no time in accepting my payment and handing the deed over to me. It was an overpayment to be sure, but there was less violence this way and the both of us made a profit... even if one of us didn't really deserve it. I suppose it's not like I deserve it, either. We're both profiting on the misfortune of the Toone family.
I left Mr. Stanton's store and finally made my way over to 57 Mulligan Bone Alley where the infamous Siamese twin skulls awaited me. Also awaiting me was another half ogre. Of course, of course... what other race is dumb enough to guard an otherwise empty shack for 2 coins a day?
"So sorry. I'll not bother you anymore. Good day." Half ogres were the perfect guards, really. Strong, and too dumb to realize they were being underpaid. Their stupidity also made it rather difficult to bribe them. How the hell can you bribe a creature that doesn't understand that a hundred gold is more than five? No matter, sneaking past them provided little difficulty. They truly were worthless things, for the most part.
That's not a pair of skulls... but on the plus side it's worth no less than three times what the skulls are anyway. I'll be taking that. Although I was one 'Kerghan and Persephone' richer, I hadn't a damn clue remaining on how to get my hands on the skulls.
I didn't want to wander all over town with a stolen painting so I hastily made my way back towards the Garringsburg residence. On my way I was flagged down by a gnome in front of a seemingly abandoned warehouse. I saw him eyeing up the dagger on my belt and the bruises on Virgil's face. "Excuse me, madam... pardon me, my name is Simon Plough and I couldn't help but notice you're a woman that looks like she can take care of herself."
All right... you've got my interest. Flattery will get you everywhere. "How much would you pay for me to do away with these rats?"
If I ever managed to get ahold of those technical manuals I'd been wanting so desperately I would be able to make excellent use of spare parts, so I agreed. "That is no problem, sir. I will take care of it for you." He handed me a key to the warehouse and I went inside. I slipped on my armor since I was expecting a bit of 'trouble'.
There were quite a few rats inhabiting the smaller of the two buildings on the property, and I imagined the other building would have even more. I was certainly glad for that orcish thug's armor, and my own ability to sew up that nasty little hole in the back from when I 'acquired' it. The rats had a severe difficulty biting through the armor and I was easily able to dispatch them. Aggressive little bastards, aren't they?
As I expected the larger of the two buildings was even worse. Not only were there even more rats, but there were significantly larger rats as well. They're like goldfish... the bigger their homes the bigger they grow. I dispatched the larger specimens first in case they had better luck biting through my armor. I didn't want to waste Jayna's salves needlessly and Virgil was having an increasingly difficult time working magick on me. I can't help it that I like to tinker with locks, it's a perfectly natural fascination, I tell you.
Luckily for me, and for Mr. Plough, the warehouse was indeed well stocked with assorted junk. The parts that I couldn't make use of would fetch a suitable reward from the junk dealer and the parts that I could use would bring me no end of joy. Honestly, the whole ordeal was one of the more straightforward and pleasant business transactions I'd dealt with in recent memory. The only things in need of stabbing were a few rats and that was one creature I held no love for at all.
Once all the rats were dead I slipped my dress back on and paid Mr. Plough a visit. "Your warehouse is free of rats, sir... though you might want to see to removing their corpses. I'll only do so much work for what you're paying me."
"That is quite all right. Good day." I had a painting to deliver anyway, and Mr. Plough had been nothing but honest.
I made my way back to the Garringsburg residence where Polgram let me in once again. Mrs. Garringsburg's jaw dropped open at the sight of the painting. "Here you are, madam. All in one piece even."
It sounds so damned formal when you say it like that. I do like your reward money, though. This is a good start to replacing what Sammie took. "Thank you, madam. Glad to be of service."
Oh that's just what I need... even more people in this town shouting my name from every street corner. As if I hadn't garnered enough attention already. With any luck her good word would provide me with even more work. I definitely needed the coin. "I appreciate the vote of confidence. Good day to you, madam."
Now where the bloody hell could those skulls have gotten off to?
Bonus ContentThe Journal of Henry Dovern
perhaps, of a bad day dawning.
As the previous pages of this journal state, I was returning from a successful two day manhunt for the blackguard Horatio Grimwell, a sorcerer, a cad and a cheat who, some gossips claimed, was known to practice the foulest of necromantic tricks. Needless to say, Boothby and I chased him down and gave him the right proper thrashing he deserved!
At around midday, we had returned to our town's outskirts. I don't know about my half-breed servant, but I for one was quite looking forward to a long and hot bath. It was as we approached the gates that Boothby pointed out what appeared to be a carnival in one of the nearby fields.
I was as curious as the common man, I must admit. So with my ogrish companion in tow, I went to see what all the fuss was about.
What I witnessed there was a shameless display of chicanery! A huckster mage claimed - I can scarcely write it down here from my own outraged disbelief - to be able to make a large wheel turn through neither magic nor muscle, but through something else called 'science'. Sheer nonsense! Granted, the man's wheel did move, thanks to some kind of hissing magical apparatus that was attached to it by means of lengthy belts, but what wonder is there in that? How is this 'technology' any less magical than a necromancer's nights work in a cemetery? What makes a whistling whoozit anymore special than a good old-fashioned wand?
As if such shenanigans were not insult enough, I then overheard some of the youths present engaged in a debate over whether orcs were related to humans! And what next, I ask, theories that dragons evolved from parakeets? Or that elves come from the same stock as humans? What a grand joke this 'science' thing is!
Really, it's quite ridiculous. Why the city guard chose not to run blighters like that in I'll never know!