Chapter the Twenty First: Saying Goodbye Is Never EasyI turned to Jayna slowly and sadly, looking up at her for a few short seconds before turning away again. "Jayna...?" Run away from me while you still can, don't let me ruin you.
"I'd like you to do something for me, Jayna..." No matter how many times I'd told her all of this in my mind it still didn't get any easier to say. I was clearly avoiding saying it, if only because I couldn't bear to say goodbye. Perhaps I'm just being selfish. I'm sure I would've sent you off long ago if you didn't remind me of Nathaniel every time I looked at you.
I swallowed hard, trying to get out what had to be said quickly. "I think you'd best leave the group." There, I said it. Please don't hate me, Jayna.
She seemed more confused than anything, a frown slowly forming on her face, "What? Why? I want to stay with you! I want to learn together!"
"That's not it, Jayna... I'd love for you to stay with me, but I can't in good conscience let you do that. I'm only holding you back. You're in Tarant now, you can get all the technical knowledge you ever wanted to know... it's not like Dernholm. I have to leave here for a while, though, and you won't have the same luxury if you stick by me." More than just a reminder, you've been a wonderful friend. I'm going to miss you. I felt tears coming dangerously close to surfacing, but I held them back. If I started crying I knew Jayna would as well.
I wanted to protest, to reassure her that everything would be all right even after I'd gone, but that would only reinforce her weakness... her attachment to me. "Goodbye. Perhaps we'll see each other again when I return." That was it, that was all I could say. With the paper seller shouting news of my survival at the top of his lungs for all to hear I had no time to waste in getting the hell out of there. If I hadn't already wanted to leave for more personal reasons, now more than ever I truly had to leave.
I crossed over the bridge leading through the boil, the filthy and run-down section of Tarant where all of the worst thugs hung out. It was on the outskirts of town and the guards didn't dare to try and enforce law there, they merely guarded people like me who only needed to pass through to get out of Tarant. As I left, the darkened skies finally opened up and rain began pouring down upon me. It was cold, almost frozen, and I began to shiver. I wouldn't turn back, though, I couldn't bear to. I continued on towards Shrouded Hills.
The journey was an uneventful one, abnormally quiet for both Virgil and myself. My mind drifted between Jayna and Nathaniel. Now that I'd forced Jayna out of my life before she was ready, she shared that much more in common with Nathaniel. Am I really any better of a person than I was when I left? Will I ever stop making these same mistakes? Jayna... be strong, you really are better off without me.
It took well over a day before the weather finally cleared up and I just knew I was going to fall dreadfully sick before I could make it back to anywhere civilized. Shrouded Hills didn't count as civilized. Hah, I'll be lucky if anybody there even sells the materials to make a few salves... oh, I never did learn how to make salves... I suppose those materials wouldn't do me any good anyway... I sighed, sniffling quietly as we continued. Eventually we did reach Shrouded Hills.
I received very few recognized stares as I wandered back into town, most people having forgotten my past misdeeds already. I didn't care to stay long enough to test that theory, so I was all business. I first stopped by Jongle Dunne's shop to deliver his long overdue package. "Good day, Mr. Dunne. I've brought back your package."
I bet. Why, Shrouded Hills might even show up on a map! "Fascinating. Perhaps you could share the secret with me?" It was hard to mask my sarcasm so as not to overly offend the poor sod.
I thought not. Why do I suspect his 'secret' is nothing more than a potion to cure an embarrassing skin disease? "Goodbye, Mr. Dunne. May you be well." I had been in town for no longer than ten minutes and I was already halfway done. There wasn't any compelling reason to stay any longer than I had to. In fact, sleeping amidst the wilderness half a day's away from town seemed like a much better idea than sleeping in a warm inn room at Shrouded Hills.
The afternoon sun nearly blinded me as I traveled past the farm and towards old Bessie Toone, stopping when I reached Percy's house. I let myself in, suspecting his ogre guard to be just another one of those decorative ogres I seemed to have been encountering. "I got your mine back, and I expect my payment right quick Mr. Toone." I handed him the deed.
"Excuse me, you owe me some money? I care not for your financial troubles." Hmph. Selling it off again right quick. You really are a bastard.
He shifted uncomfortably, nervously glancing about the room. "Oh... yes... what was it, 300 coins?"
I started tapping my foot and placed my hand on my dagger almost unconsciously. "No, it was 500." Don't make me get mean about it. I am NOT taking a loss on this blasted thing.
"Thank you. Pleasure doing business." What a rotten, cowardly cheapskate you are. I hope your mother's ghost haunts you in your sleep then kills you for what you've done. The Toone family business wasn't my problem. I had collected what was owed to me and that's as far as my involvement had to go.
Virgil and I left Shrouded Hills without even staying the night. We traveled beneath scattered clouds in the open skies for days on our way back to Tarant. I still thought frequently of Jayna, and I surely missed her company, but I was utterly convinced things were better this way. My wistful emotions were just rewards for having dragged her all over with me before cutting her loose. My reverie was rather suddenly interrupted by a mysterious trio.
Damnation! I never should've gone back to Shrouded Hills, now they've found me again! "I don't know what you are talking about." I really don't think I can lie my way out of this one, but damn if I'm not going to try.
All right. This one's my fault. Damnation! Can you at least not hurt Virgil while I'm stabbing you to death? "Please, don't kill me!" I didn't figure the assassins would have a soft spot, actually rather the opposite. If they regarded me lowly enough they might focus on killing me instead of hurting Virgil.
The man who had been speaking leapt forward, shouting "You will die like the coward you are!" I may well and truly be a coward, but I'm a coward that knows more than just a bit about stabbing you in all the right places.
One by one I whirled around my attackers, taking each of them down in turn. I stepped up close behind them, close enough for them to feel my breath on the backs of their necks and for me to hear their shocked gasps as my dagger found its new home. It was a macabre dance that I loathed getting involved in, but when the blades came out my instincts took over. If it was to be either me or them, my choice was clear. One of them did manage to graze me with a blade once, but thankfully Virgil remained unharmed.
"Well, that confirms it," I said to Virgil, "These assassins that are after me have been after me since the blimp crash and they're a part of this Molochean Hand group. Have you ever heard of them?"
Virgil sounded completely irritated, "You know, you could've avoided this if you hadn't gone and run your mouth off to that paper." I couldn't blame him for being upset, I would've been just as angry if he'd done the same thing and I wasn't even trying to protect him. Well, in a sense I was, but not the same way he was trying to protect me. It was complicated.
"You needn't remind me. All I'm saying is that the Molochean Hand isn't a group I'm overly familiar with. They're either very well hidden, or very old indeed. I'm sure I'd know something about them otherwise." One of these days I need to learn how to properly apologize instead of changing the subject.
Virgil thought about what I said in silence as we finished up the remainder of our journey to Tarant. The smokey gray clouds that perpetually hung over Tarant were visible from over a day outside of the city itself. It was truly filthy.
I searched all over the place for Jayna when we arrived, wanting to simply chat with her if nothing else. I was concerned with how she was doing, but unfortunately I could not find her anywhere no matter how hard I looked. Perhaps it's better this way anyway... she's better off not knowing me. I was saddened, but at the same time I realized I was free to do the one thing I'd been holding myself back from doing since arriving. After putting up with the insults and mockery of the upper class, after killing scores of rats and tromping around through sewers, after degrading myself for a perverted gnome and an eccentric Madam it was finally time to swindle, steal, and pilfer to my heart's content.
Oh yes, Tarant, it's time to pay and I'm not taking 'no' for an answer. I tried to be a good person, I really did, but that only saw me attacked by assassins and violated by a disgusting little gnome. Look out, Tarant, this time I won't be so nice. I started my crime spree where it was easiest and most legal.
I traveled all around town, stopping by bars just long enough to swindle the foolish drunks inside. I made at least 1500 coins at each bar and there were no less than three throughout the city. It was truly distressing just how easily I could make money when I decided I was done playing the kindhearted adventurer. I secretly resolved never to hold myself back again. I knew where it would lead me and that wasn't a path I was ever going to go down again.
I picked pockets and forced my way into shops where I relieved more than a few of their wares, then sold the items I didn't need to the local gypsy or junk dealer. I plied my trade expertly, racking up thousands of coins in mere days. I was certain my behavior was irking the local thieves, but I hadn't seen any kind of friendly invitation from them and I was really quite tired of waiting. There wasn't an upper class house in the city that I hadn't broken into by the end of the week.
The shopkeepers, despite missing a few of their more expensive wares, were more than happy to try and recoup what they'd lost by selling to me at a discount. As far as they knew my coin was as good as anybody else's and I wasn't going to do anything for them to suspect otherwise. I even bought a lifetime membership to the library, but the technical manuals still seemed a bit excessively priced. I snuck into the university late one night and pilfered an entire shelf of them while the salesman wasn't around.
After weeks of tromping through filth and doing difficult favors for the cheapest and least appreciative buggers imaginable, the week following my return to Tarant was glorious. Although Virgil clearly didn't approve of my excesses, even he had to smile and laugh at how easily I ripped off those who had wronged me. That filthy gnome... oh, especially that filthy gnome... he no longer even had two coins to rub together. I heard his ogre guard had to be put down after rebelling in response to his salary going unpaid for nearly two weeks. Mr. Franklin, on the other hand, was unable to entirely escape his ogre guard's ire without injury. It was perfect.
I had a sudden realization towards the end of my crime spree when I targeted a lone jewelry shop in a back alleyway and noticed the sign read, 'P. Schuyler & Sons.' The ring! I still haven't tracked down the owner to this ring! I'd been so focused on revenge and profit that I nearly completely forgot about my entire reason to be in Tarant in the first place. There was a dwarf hanging around suspciously outside of the shop so I made friendly chatter with him before going inside. "I don't believe we've met, good sir. What's your name?"
What in the gods? Rude little bastard, isn't he? "Forgive me. I wasn't aware it was such-"
"Your opinion has been noted, Virgil..." then, more quietly, "I happen to agree, but you don't get anywhere if you act like... well, if you act like this damned dwarf is. Let's just be nice and see where it gets us." He nodded, winking at me for a brief second before speaking up.
I admonished him loudly and dramatically. I was a terrible actor, but I suspected the dwarf too self-centered to notice. "Enough, Virgil!" I turned around with a "Hmph," staring back at the dwarf, "Now what seems to be the problem, sir...?"
"Ah, right. Of course. Forgive me, I wasn't aware it was such a breach in etiquette." ...and even if I were aware, I'd probably still ask just to get under your skin for making such a big deal of it.
So there are manners hidden underneath that stubby, arrogant exterior. "A pleasure, sir. What were you saying about a dwarf's name?"
"Why are you so protective of your family name?" Just what I bloody need, a dwarven history lesson.
"I see. Thank you for the lesson, Magnus." I half expected him to launch into another tirade now that I'd been the one to speak his name, assuming that was probably yet another offense.
I was actually surprised he didn't seem upset. He acted as though the next bloody wind that blew through the alley would upset him. "Certainly, Magnus. I wanted to ask if you might know anything about this establishment here?"
"If you curse it so much, then why are you loitering outside of this store?"
He glared at me angrily. I supposed I'd touched another nerve. "I might ask you the same. You seem awfully curious about P. Schuyler & Sons. What brings YOU here?"
Arrogant, self-important... "I'm investigating a ring sold by this establishment."
"Yes, very much so." It was a longshot, but I hoped it would have something in common with the ring I was investigating. It was a dirty, dusty old bronze bracelet with 'P. Schuyler & Sons' lightly imprinted upon it. There were also some faded, barely visible carvings along its surface. "What are these carvings?" I asked. "I can't quite make them out..."
Pompous, all-knowing... "What do you think is significant about this bracelet?"
It seemed like quite the long shot even by my standards, and I was beginning to entertain the possibility that I might actually be the Living One. "Have you spoken with P. Schuyler & Sons about it?"
Childish, rude... "What could they possibly be trying to conceal?"
I was clearly not fond of the damned dwarf, but on the other hand I figured I might be able to use him. Dwarves were supposed to be talented mechanics and I had just recently acquired a pile of technical manuals. Aside from that, an extra sword arm never hurts. "I see. Well, perhaps we could work together?"
"Well said. Good to have you aboard, Magnus." By not many of the usual definitions of the word 'good'. I hope you don't expect me to start behaving on your account.
Bonus ContentExtremely Mini Game Rule Explanation:
If I hadn't gotten rid of Jayna I wouldn't be able to get Magnus right now since Samantha has a low charisma. Stats give various bonuses every few points and Charisma's big thing is max follower limit. At a default charisma of 8 you can have 1 follower, it goes up to 2 at a charisma of 9. When you hit 12, 15, and 18 your limit increases to 3, 4, and 5 respectively.
Furthermore, each skill has a stat that it's based off of. For Persuasion, that stat is Charisma. While a high value in the respective stat doesn't actually make the skill any better, various stat plateaus act as a skill cap. At a Charisma of 9 my Persuasion has a max of 2, with it topping out at a max of 5 at Charisma 18. The skill caps are the same for every skill, differing only in stat. Since Samantha is heavy on the melee, dodge, backstab, and pick pocket you can tell I'm a total dex whore. Dex also gives you more actions per round.
There's also skill training, which has 3 levels (apprentice, expert, master). Apprentice training is offered by a wide variety of NPCs and costs 100 coins, usually conferring a small benefit. Expert is offered only by 2-3 people in the world (whom an apprentice trainer will refer you to) and costs 500 coins. There is only a single master in the world for each skill and they will require you to do a quest to obtain their training. The benefits vary per skill, but for Persuasion they go like this: Apprentice - your followers will wait for you longer than normal; Expert - gain a bonus of 1 extra follower in addition to the Charisma bonus; Master - anyone will join with the character regardless of alignment. You need to have 1 rank in a skill for apprentice training, 3 ranks for expert, and 5 for master. That's the primary reason I haven't sought out Sammie for master pick pocket yet.
If you're interested in more, you can find an online PDF of the manual here:
The Orcish Question, Vol. 2
warriors. That they succeeded admirably we can have no doubt. If any significant number of Orcs could defeat this violent nature and join our enlightened society as reasonable beings, then their creator would have failed! I say again, Orcs have been created to be mean and violent! One or two, here or there, may well be capable of advancing, but as a race such a thing is to be regarded in the highest suspicion.
Now to the crux of my argument. What Magick has done, that is turned humans into base creatures of violence, let Technology un-do! Why let these poor folk continue to be out of place in modern society because of the whim of some ancient sorcerer? We can rebuild them! We have the Technology! We have the ability to create the world's first pacified Orc! We can bring these poor lost souls back into society's bosom. Let us do so. I propose immediately beginning experimentation upon dead Orcs. Plenty can be had at the morgue. Furthermore, I urge experimentation upon live Orcs as well. These subjects can come as volunteers from those currently sitting condemned in the dungeons of the Court of the Executioners.
Thank you for your time.
A letter to Mr. M'Oran, August 1884
My dear Mr. M'Oran,
To respond to your earlier points: You claim that technologically altering the Orcs to a better disposition would be unjust. In light of Beddoes' treatise, I disagree. It would be very just to undo what has been done to them. You also propose the possibility of altering those who hate Orcs so that they no longer do so. If Orcs were not hated and feared for good reason, I would have no problem with this.
I think the problem of hatred and even prejudice will go away over time once technology has presented us with an Orc that is no longer predisposed to the behaviors that induce them. You claim that I would take away that which makes them unique and leave them defenseless. If that uniqueness is an unnatural predilection for violence, then yes. But I only seek to remove that which impels them to unnatural levels of violence, not to destroy their sense of self-preservation.
Hamilton Demry, Esq.
A letter to Mr. Gustaav, August 1884
Dear Mr. Gustaav,
whether or not it does. How, pray tell, is that unethical?
Hamilton Demry, Esq.
A letter to Mr. Gustaav, September, 1884
Dear Mr. Gustaav,
Yes, I wish to use our marvelous Technological know-how to change the Orcs. Let us make that abundantly clear. Let us also make it clear that I am most certainly NOT proposing that we make Orcs our willing slaves. I do wish people would stop making assumptions. Orcs, by design, are inordinately predisposed to violence. This predisposition makes their presence in modern, civilized society a problematic one. I propose a technological solution to the problem: remove the inordinate predisposition to violence.
Now, you claim that your hatred was learned. No doubt you have been treated poorly. But as a race, sir, the Orcs deserve no less. As harsh a statement as that is, I simply point to Mr. Beddoes' treatise as justification for it. Any race that practices wholesale cannibalism deserves little in the way of compassion. My solution is exceedingly generous. If we remove the barbaric tendencies which so separate Orcs from the rest of civilized society, then we may be able to effect a peaceful end to that separation. Pray, let us speak no more of bloodshed and wrath. It is unlike gentlemen to do so, and in so doing you only make yourself seem more brutish and in need of the alterations you would resist.
Hamilton Demry, Esq.