Part 18: Murder in a Small Town
Chapter 14 - Murder in a Small Town
"About the Game" posted:
Finally, some new music. This track actually only starts playing once you leave Aleroth, but I felt the mood was right for the opening scenes of this chapter as well. It's only really used in the woods around Aleroth, but I like it.
Music - "A Perilous Path"
Download (Thanks to Grawl)
There were clear signs of a struggle, and George's pale face was a mask of terror. I backed out of the shop and looked around, but I saw no one.
I ran and fetched Mardaneus.
"Come quickly!" I gasped. "George is dead!"
"Poor George," Mardaneus said, shaking his head sadly. "Such a waste. He was a good man, well-liked by most everyone here."
I crouched by the body. There was a ragged wound in George's neck. Oddly, the blood was warm, but the body was cool.
"Any idea who could have killed George?" I asked.
"I have no idea, Jeremiah," Mardaneus said. "He was a talented healer and trustworthy shopkeeper. If you can find any clue about his murderer or the reason why he was killed, I would reward you kindly."
I scratched my face. "I know that George had money problems. A few days ago, the day I woke up in fact, I saw him arguing about some herbs with a strange fellow wearing an odd hat. He even asked me to get some of those herbs for him."
I didn't mention that I had helped get him the herbs.
"Hmmm..." Mardaneus said, "Do you remember the name of the herbs George was looking for."
I nodded. "Yes, I remember well. It was Drudanae."
Mardaneus stiffened. "Great Gods!" he exclaimed. "Nobody should use that carelessly! The liquid drawn from it is highly addictive! The herbs are hard to get, too!
"Well, I think this explains George's strange behaviour and his money problems... he was a drug addict!"
I knew something seemed off about the request. But I didn't give a damn. I just wanted my gods-damned discount. I don't even know why, there wasn't anything worth buying.
Mardaneus either didn't notice my expression or decided not to ask.
"George a drug-addict..." Mardaneus shook his head sadly. "I don't know why George never came to Lanilor or to me to speak about his problems. Of course, the question remains why he was killed... the poor fellow."
I stood up. "I'll get the rest of the healers, and Lord Seth." I said. The words sounded hollow.
I ran to Aleroth's gate and opened it. Lord Seth was there, and he turned around at the creaking of the hinges.
"Lord Seth, come quickly! A vile crime has been committed!" I said. Seth followed me to the door of George's shop, but wouldn't go inside.
"A deed most foul!" he exclaimed. "I must maintain my vigil on the gate, you - bring the healers here at once!"
I hurriedly brought all the healers to George's shop.
Joram turned pale and looked away. "It's horrifying!" he said. "Oh, I wish our last conversation hadn't ended in an argument over money.
It is a horrible event! Never has a single soul been murdered in Aleroth since the healers came here.
You haven't seen the desiccated corpse in Jake's cellar, have you.
Ssss. I didn't talk to George very often. He disssliked all lizard people. Ssss. Ask Mardaneuss. He knows more than any here.
I found a bloody knife behind the chest by the counter and picked it up. It stirred up something... something horrible inside...
24 Declianum 1216 - 22 O'clock
The dead thug wouldn't need his dagger anymore, so I picked it up. Maybe I was just scared, but the weapon felt comfortable in my hand, as if it belonged there.
Suddenly, the table I was hiding under was flung away violently. One of Mickey's men was standing there, clutching a club spattered with someone else's blood.
"I'm not on anybody's side!" I said desperately.
"Dunnt care," slurred the thug through bloody lips. I desperately scrambled away, looking for a safe way out, but there was none. Suddenly, a mug sailed through the air and clonked the thug on the back of the head. It only seemed to annoy him, but at least it annoyed him enough to distract him from me.
The mug had come from the hand of Simmons himself, but a second one of Mickey's thugs spotted him and moved in to attack him.
The thug who had been threatening me turned around, paying me no more heed and started heading to assist his friend grappling with Simmons. I could now see a clear path to the door. I could have left.
Simmons's crew was all occupied in their own fights. No one would be able to get to the aid of their boss. It certainly wasn't my fight. Running away to anywhere else would have been the smart thing.
Godsdamn everything. I failed my mother. I failed my friends. I failed myself. And for what?! NOTHING!
Simmons knocked out the man he was grappling with, but still hadn't seen the club thug. I came up behind the thug with the club, my borrowed dagger in hand and I swung with all my might.
I whacked the club-carrying thug on the head with the hilt. That's when I discovered why all the adventure novels I'd read were called fiction. What should have been a instant knockout blow wasn't. The club thug bellowed, more in annoyance than out of pain turned around and stared at me in fury. Simmons also turned at the noise.
I still could have run away. He was big, but not fast. I could have run. With the chaos of the fight, I could have escaped into the night. Instead, there was a quick dagger thrust and a wet squelching sound. All our eyes went to the bloody dagger clutched in my hand. I'd stabbed him out of fear and instinct. But I knew... I knew that I didn't need to. The man I'd stabbed looked at me in shock. The spark of light left his eyes as he dropped his club and collapsed to the ground. There was blood... so much blood.
Another one of Mickey's thugs was knocked out by one of Simmons' gang, and the rest of the fighting sorted itself out soon after. Mickey and his surviving thugs retreated out of the bar, with a threat that the dispute wasn't over.
"I didn't expect to have my life saved by a stranger," Simmons said. "What's your name, lad?"
There will probably be a reward out for my capture. If they find out who I am, I'll be turned in before I can cough.
"Edwin," I said. "My name is Edwin."
"You don't look like much, Edwin, but you seem like you can 'andle yourself in a fight," Simmons said. "With Bill there dead," he said, indicating a body on the floor, "we could use a new 'and. Are ye up for it?"
I wanted to say no. I wanted to walk away. But where else was I going to go?
"I think... I am..." I heard myself say.
That was the breaking point. All the stress over the last few days, the unpleasant memories coming to the surface, the smell of blood and bodily wastes in the room... I couldn't take any more. My head swam with dizziness.
I ran out the door; pushing past the startled knight Seth. I sank to my knees at the side of George's house, gripping the ground tightly so I didn't fly away.
That couldn't have been excused by an accident, or poor judgment. I stabbed a man in the back. He wasn't threatening me any more. I-I am a killer... a murderer.
That's not what's bothering you, though. You know you'll gladly do it again... to save her.
Yes... Yes, if I have to... I will kill for my family.
After a minute I unsteadily got to my feet. I heard a voice from behind.
"I was feeling a bit queasy myself, if I had stayed any longer in there, I might have done the same."
Shame coloured my ears and cheeks red. It wasn't George's murder that had upset me; it was the one I had remembered.
Joram saw my expression and misinterpreted it. "It's nothing to be embarrassed about. You've already proven your courage to everyone here."
Courage? Hah. I can't even find the courage to confess what I've done.
The catacombs hadn't been the time for self-recrimination, though, and it still wasn't.
All the atonement in the world won't change what I've done. I can besat myself up after I find Jenna. ... Only, I don't really know where to start looking. ... The letter which dropped when I was ambushed by the orcs! I've gotten back a lot of bad memories, but I can't remember what that damn letter said. Maybe that has some clues.
"Say Joram," I asked in a friendly manner. "Where exactly did you find my body in relation to the gate?"
Joram looked worried.
"Don't worry, I'm not going to do anything stupid", I lied. "I'm just curious."
Joram didn't seem convinced, but he told me anyway.
"About the Game" posted:
Assassin's Kiss (Passive)
- This survivor skill gives a chance for a dagger strike to do double damage. If it connects it gives a "BACKSTAB!" message, although thankfully, you don't actually need to be behind the target for this to happen. Rank 1 you have a 10% chance, Rank 5 it's a 50% chance for double damage with daggers. It's a must-have skill for those who want to use daggers, and daggers are indeed a viable weapon at all stages in the game. There are only two unique daggers in the game, but both are awesome. Jeremiah will be getting one of them.
Even though I claimed to put a skill point into Assassin's Kiss, that's really for those who intend to regularly hit people with them, which means not Jeremiah.
As I re-entered George's shop, Otho was just standing up from examining the wound on George's neck. He rubbed his beard with a very thoughtful expression.
"What is it Otho?" I asked. "Do you know something about the murder?"
The dwarf scowled. "I have my thoughts on the matter, but I ain't gunna talk about it," he said in a manner that I realized meant that the subject was now and forever CLOSED. Very few things can move a dwarf determined to be stubborn, so with reluctance, I let the matter slide.
The man I stabbed... there was a lot of blood... but not like with George... that's odd for a neck wound, isn't it?
I took a glance at the ragged wound again, but nothing caught my eye, and I feared taking a closer look would make me vomit.
I suppose that's some small comfort that I didn't get used to the sight of bloody wounds. I hope that means that I didn't spend that missing year slitting throats for Simmons.
A cursory search of George's house turned up no further clues to the identity of his killer. Lanilor confiscated his withered Drudanae plant.
I can't make any promises. But I'll try and bring George's killer to justice. I should get moving on the road, it's already dark.
I feel in my vitals that dark forces are involved in George's death. Be careful, Jeremiah.
Otho picked up a helmet from among George's merchandise and handed it to me. "Here, lad," he grunted. "Ye'll need this more than poor George."
Mardaneus walked over to the armor display and took off the set of light chain mail armor that George had said was a family heirloom. He placed it in my hands.
"Mardaneus, I can't. This is - was George's. He said it was a family heirloom," I protested.
"I know," Mardaneus said solemnly. "But the line of George's family has ended with him, and there is danger afoot in every corner of the land. This armor will serve you well, Jeremiah."
I took the armor and put it on. "Thank you, my friend. I hope to see you all again."
Mardaneus was wise, the armor's enchantments were helpful to magic-users like me.
I left them in their preparations for George's burial.
"About the Game" posted:
The murder of George is actually a pretty long sidequest, and the game doesn't give you any clues where to start - at all. In fact, I've given you more hints in my narrative than the game has. It will take completing two other sidequests to get the whole story.
Someone perceptive already picked up on some things about the creepy hat man, but that won't help us track him down. We'll have to rely on our ears and our luck.
Sign - Welcome to Aleroth (Voice Acting)
- The healers will be ready to move to Rivertown in the morning. Can you guarantee their safety on the road?
No, I can't. I and the people of Rivertown need your help once again. You have to reach General Alix Eastdragon with all due speed, so that a fighting escort can be dispatched to here. I will stay here to protect the village against orc marauders.
Where can I find the general?
That means you accept? Ha! Excellent! You will find her at the army barracks, a small stronghold south of Stormfist Castle. It's here on your map.
Her, he said. Interesting.
I would avoid the path. Your footsteps will carry louder on the stones.
Not in these magical shoes, they won't. But it's probably a good idea to stay off anyway; the Orcs will be watching the road.
I set off into the brush to my right, but I wasn't intending to follow the path. I was looking for the spot where the mysterious light had struck me.
11 Sembten 1218
It must have been well past midnight by now, and still in sight of the wall, I found an odd magical device. Its magical aura seemed similar to my teleporter stones, but it seemed to be almost inactive. A symbol was carved into it. All my attempts at fiddling gave no response.
I don't know how to use this thing.
An interesting distraction, but I didn't have time to waste. Night wouldn't last forever.
Creeping along the side of the wall, my foot struck something which gave a metallic chinking sound. I felt around in the grass and found a copper ring turning green.
It wasn't long until I encountered some orcs.
As I feared, they were a lot tougher than rotting skeletons. What was worse, the light and sound from my fireballs attracted quite a bit of attention. When it was clear, I hurried as quietly as I could away from the site of the skirmish.
I stepped onto a pile of twigs and my foot crashed through, sending me sprawling painfully onto the ground. I pulled my foot out and cleared the branches away.
Surprisingly, it wasn't a trap, but a treasure trove of potions. Probably left behind by the orcs, the healers kept their own stocks inside the walls.
Unfortunately, the creeping and hiding I had done made the hours of the night slip away fast - and the delay from leaving town hadn't helped. It was still before sunrise, but the dawn light was strong, and there was little cover in the meadow Joram had mentioned in his directions.
The meadow meant that I was on the right track, though.
Yes, this is the place. I was ambushed here.
The body of the Orc I had killed was stinking and infested with maggots and flies. Covering my nose and mouth, I took the axe from beside his body and moved in the direction I remembered running in.
"About the Game" posted:
The objects you find in the woods imply that that the events in the intro cutscene play out the same way for all combinations of gender and class, even though it was the male warrior featured in the intro.
The grass around the area was scorched and burned. I picked up the blade. It was my father's old sword. Maybe the heat from... the strange light which hit me had warped it. But why was the sword warped when I didn't have a scratch? Whatever the case, the sword was nothing more than junk now. I left it on the ground.
I'm sorry father. I'll find a replacement for it. I promise.
A small group of orcs suddenly emerged and attacked me. I exhausted the last of my energy dealing with them.
The letter I had dropped a week ago was unsurprisingly gone. I only had a faint hope of finding it after all this time, but I had to at least try. I started retracing my path south, when I became aware of something big coming. It made loud clonking sounds.
The large orc carried an axe in each hand and was wearing thick plate armor. I reached out my mind and gauged its strengths. This would be trouble, if I stuck around to fight, that is. I cold probably outrun it, weighed down by that thick armor...
18 Fengali 1214 - 16'15 O'Clock
"What about down the hill?" the last surviving mercenary asked.
"No, it's far too steep. The lady would never make it in her dress," Samuel said. "and in this downpour even I'd have to go down slow and careful or else I'd break me neck. And that'd give the greenskins plenty of time to shoot us down. There's no way to take cover." He turned toward me. "Any more magic tricks in your bag?"
"I guess, but it's dangerous." I ducked as another arrow flew past. "But what isn't. The rain's put the fires out. We run for the trees. I'll try distracting them with more fireballs."
There was no time to waste. We all scrambled to one side of the carriage, fully exposing us to one group of orcs, but shielding us from the other. I'd reached a strange place mentally... I couldn't be any more scared than I already was - which was calming in a bizarre way. Maybe all that training they'd put us through was kicking in after all.
Bolts of fire shot from my hands, racing towards the orcs. They panicked and looked for cover. That was the cue to run. I was watching mother, and not my own feet. I tripped on a rock and fell.
"Keep going! Leave me!" I said. The last of Samuel's mercenaries ignored my shout and pulled me to my feet. He took an arrow in his side for his troubles, but it wasn't fatal. We plunged into the undergrowth that scratched hungrily at our faces, but kept moving.
We ran for several minutes.
"Stop, please," Elizabeth said. "I need a rest."
We stopped to catch our breath by a huge old oak.
"I hope you've got a plan," I said. "I'm starting to get tired. I don't think I've got enough magic left in me to kill them all, even without them shooting back."
"No, I haven't got a plan," Samuel said. He was tired as well. "Except...Orcs are reputed to be fearless, but I suspect that bandits are cowards by nature. Perhaps we could fight fiercely enough to drive them off."
"What if we just surrender?" my mother asked.
"I don't recall hearin' any orc askin us to surrender before they started shootin' arrows at us," Samuel said grimly.
"What about now? Orcs don't treat their prisoners badly, if I recall," mother persisted.
"A proper clan, aye," Samuel said. "But I think these are Honorless - orcs who've been cast out by their own clan because they, well, are honorless. We'll get no mercy from 'em." He looked at me firmly, "And we should give none to 'em in turn."
There were crashing sounds from behind us, the orcs were catching up.
The mercenary who saved my life shared his advice. "If you take down enough of them they may run. They're not stupid enough to stay when they're overma-AAAGH!"
An orc arrow had gotten him and he fell like a sack of rocks. Another orc sprang out from the undergrowth and Samuel's sword cut him down.
"Run!" Samuel said. We needed no encouragement.
Oddly, though, I didn't feel like running anymore. I was sick of running. It was time to fight.
Next Time: Bastard Greenskins
Behind the Scenes
Here's the map:
I made a video of the amusing sign outside of Aleroth. Most of the direction signs in the game have an amusing little comment on them, but I didn't compile a video of all of them.
Game-breaker alert: Don't kill both Joram and Otho! You might think that you're done with Aleroth at this point, but don't kill both Joram and Otho, otherwise you could break the main quest much, much later. You can kill EITHER Joram OR Otho, if you want, but not both, otherwise you'll break the game.
I considered lightening up the nighttime shots, but there's nothing there but trees and plants, and it would have wrecked the nighttime feel of the shots. I could do it for the next night scene if you insist.
Finding that mini-boss Heavy Orc right by the site where Jeremiah got ambushed wasn't planned, it was a stroke of luck that I could fit into the narrative.
What's fake in this update?
- None of the healers or Seth appear in George's shop, those were all faked shots.
- I didn't really learn Assassin's Kiss. Even if I wanted to, I don't have close to that amount of skill points to spare.
- The healers, not being there, didn't really pull stuff off of George's shelves and give them to me. Actually, what I really did was ransack George's house for anything that looked valuable (scoring my FOURTH Elemental Hail spellbook), then I got Mardaneus to identify it. Same diff.
- The flashback screenshot of Jeremiah and his mother in the forest was fake, naturally.