Part 24: Richard's Tale
Chapter 19 - Richard's Tale
Music - "The Four Seasons Singing"
Download (Thanks to Grawl)
Richard sighed and sat down on a sack of grain. It looked like he was about to start a long story, so I found a box to sit on.
Richard removed his helmet, revealing the face of man not a lot older than I was. He had black hair and a thin mustache.
Richard looked hungry and thirsty, so I tossed him a bottle of water and some wrapped leftovers from Trisha's fine cooking.
Talk. Does Jenna's disappearance have anything to do with the reason the Duke's son sent an assassin after you?
I'm afraid so. That malignant brat, Janus, wants me dead because I questioned the circumstances of his father's death. Something about how the old duke died seemed fishy to me.
I was itchy for news of Jenna, but it seemed important to have all the details, so with some effort, I restrained myself.
I'm not familiar with how the old duke died... in fact, I didn't even know that he HAD died until now.
Oh yes, you're not from around here. Sorry. Last month, the duke was out hunting with a group of friends, when he was struck by an arrow. At the time it was thought to have been an accidental shot by another member of the hunting party, but that night, the Duke developed a fever and soon died of what the healers said was a heart attack.
"I've seen the duke of my homeland, and he looked like he could have a heart attack climbing up the stairs," I said neutrally.
Frankly, I doubted that our Duke died of a heart-attack. I've been boar hunting with him. The man could run up a mountainside as fast as I can run along the flat, or as fast as I could run, before my legs got so knackered. I knew he had a heart as strong as a stag's, so I suspected something else had killed him... I was quietly looking into the matter, but Janus found out...
"You got Jenna involved in your investigation, didn't you," I said quietly. "What were you thinking?!" I shouted.
"I wasn't encouraging her," Richard said. "I mentioned to her what I was doing and she insisted on helping investigate. She was quite fond of Pendrak - just like everyone else was. I tried telling her it wasn't a good idea. She told me that the worst they'd do to an ambassador was to send her home with a black mark on her record, and she'd be damned if she let something like that stop her. I-I should have tried harder to stop her, if anything happened to her, I'll never forgive myself." His eyes grew moist and he looked away, ashamed.
I shook my head in disgust. "Words don't mean a damn thing, not anymore."
It probably wasn't all Richard's fault. Jenna had too much of our father's spirit in her.
"My sister can be too stubborn for her own good sometimes. But I didn't come all this way to lose hope now," I said. My words had more conviction than I actually felt. "Now, tell me what happened when Jenna disappeared."
It was a few weeks ago. I entered my room in the castle, and lit the lamp. I was about to remove my armor when I heard something behind me. I moved just enough that the bastard's sword skittered across my plated shoulder instead of plunging into the gap at my neck.
Richard paused in his story. "Still, I was unprepared for the attack and fell forward, bouncing off of a chair. I was unarmed at the time ... Like all evil men, he felt the need to have a good gloat over me when he thought me helpless. That's how I've escaped him, twice so far, the numbskull. He told me his name was Crawler, and he was a backstabber - fourth rank - in the Guild of Assassins. He raised his sword to strike me down." Richard smiled and continued, "That's when I kicked him in the nadgers. Still, he was fast, and he never let go of his sword, so I ran. I knew that they might also have sent someone after Jenna."
Richard paused for a drink of water. "I made it to her room, but she wasn't there. I knew something was wrong, though."
I braced myself for bad news.
"Signs of a struggle?" I asked. My voice sounded hollow in my own ears.
There could have been, although there was no blood, thank the gods. But someone had clearly been there and searched the place. Some things were out of their usual place.
'Their usual place'? Was he... No, that's not important now.
I left a note telling her to meet me at a spot we knew in the farmlands.
Richard paused again, a little too long. I realized that he was out of answers.
"And that's it? You left her behind?" I questioned him angrily. "What if they hadn't known about your bloody stupid conspiracy until they found your note?"
Richard held firm. "As I said, I'm positive someone had already searched her room. I didn't sign my note, nor did I say anything incriminating in it." He looked down at the ground. "I know you think me a coward, but I didn't abandon her," he said in a tone that suggested he wasn't just trying to convince me, but himself as well.
"I looked everywhere I could reasonably go," he said softly. "When I couldn't find her, I spent a few minutes - keep in mind, Jeremiah, that the assassin was still hunting me through the castle. I spent a few minutes writing a note to you, and secreting it in the outgoing mail. If I had only been interested in saving my own skin, I would have been better served by making my escape immediately."
"But you don't know for sure that she's in trouble, right?" I said with faint hope.
Richard sighed. "I waited for her at the spot we knew for two days before Crawler tracked me down. He's still out there now somewhere looking for me. I've been on the run for weeks, but I'm getting tired now, and my legs hurt like hell from all the creeping and running I've had to do over the past few days."
Alright, I'll start looking for your friend Crawler tomorrow morning. Do you know where he's hiding?
He must be nearby; I can feel his rotten presence. Being a fourth grade assassin, he's a master of stalking his prey, but nobody seems to have told him that nobody wears all-black outfits out here in the farmlands. If you spot him, you'll know him. It's spotting him in the first place that's the trick.
For now, bar the door and try and get some sleep. I have it on good authority that this barn door kept a raging troll at bay.
12 Sembten 1218
The night passed without incident. In the morning I set off to look for the mystery assassin, but before I had gone far, I saw someone coming down the road.
He didn't have the look of an assassin, especially not with the overstuffed, clanking backpack he carried. But it didn't hurt to be cautious. I watched him carefully.
Good morrow, sir. I'm no bandit - and I hope you can say the same. I'm not in a trusting mood these days, so perhaps you'll want to tell me about your purpose traveling these dangerous roads...
My name is Allan - Allan the Trader. I'm a traveling merchant and I supply the farmers with any of the wares they call for. Maybe you're also interested in buying something?
He must have caught my expression of suspicion.
No? Alas, the farmers hereabouts aren't in the mood for purchasing either. The recent Troll attacks, you know, the farmers are like to be driven off the land if it continues. So naturally they don't think of anything else, and that ain't good for my business...
Those trolls are bad news for everyone, it seems.
And another thing: if you stay on this road, you'll come to the Cursed Abbey. Be cautions as a cat in a kennel near that place. I've heard many strange and horrible tales from them as has been too close. I'd strongly advise ye to give the Abbey a wide berth. But of course, it's up to you. Right, enough talk! I have to visit a lot more farmers this day. Farewell!
Before you go, can I have a look at your wares?
I cheerful smile came over the trader's face. "Certainly! By all means!" he said.
I negotiated the trade of one of the magical axes from the catacombs for some potions, empty flasks and a magical helmet which enhanced my vitality. The sun was beating down unseasonably brightly today, though, so I decided not to wear the helmet.
"About the Game" posted:
After Allan mentions the Troll attacks, you can ask him about that, but it's redundant information, so I skipped over it.
Allan's gameplay purpose is probably to unload the stuff you picked up from traveling through the woods. But he only exists inside this cutscene, so if all your stuff is at Joram's, you can't leave to get it. You'll need to get it before you meet him just outside Homer's barn.
Zandalor suggested that we might want to visit the Cursed Abbey in search of information on the teleporter scrolls. Allan suggests we stay away. Right now, it's definitely much better that we stay away from there.
I bought a +2 Constitution hat. That only gives an additional 8 health to a Wizard, but it's something, and it is at least some head protection. I may switch between wearing and not wearing it for a while.
I continued along the road for a while, until it curved off into the trees. I could see the weather-beaten roof of a building sticking through the foliage.
Is that the Cursed Abbey?
Instead of following the road, I approached a nearby farmhouse.
Well met stranger!
Not a stranger for long, I hope. My name is Jeremiah. Jeremiah Li-
If what Richard said about the new duke being behind Jenna Liro's disappearance is true, I should avoid using my last name as much as possible.
"Just call me Jeremiah," I said. Finn didn't seem to notice the pause.
Jeremiah? I knew an old hermit named Jeremiah. He lived up near that damned abbey, I can't imagine why. I suppose it's because he didn't care much for people, and no one went near that place. Livin' there's probably what made his heart give in.
Finn snapped out of his reminiscence and remembered that he was talking to me.
Sorry, excuse my manners. My name is Finn. I seldom get visitors these days. What with these eerie goings-on at night, even my brother farmers stay away.
Tell me more about the 'eerie goings-on.'
That abbey to the north is cursed. It's no coincidence that people are avoiding that place like the plague, but just lately it's got much worse - the curse is spreading!
Finn had a haunted look on his face. He came closer.
At night I'm awakened by ghostly voices that mutter and moan things I can't understand. And in the morning the cows give soured milk! I didn't think such a thing was possible!
The farmer was starting to give me the creeps. I decided to try and calm him down.
Ghostly voices? This is a windy valley. Are you sure you're not simply letting your imagination run away with you, my friend?
Suddenly Finn grabbed my lapels with both hands.
"It's definitely not the wind! There are audible words, though they make no sense to me. The voices start as whispers - barely audible. Then they grow and grow until you can hear them EVEN IF YOU'RE LOCKED IN THE INDOOR PRIVY WITH BLANKETS WRAPPED AROUND YOUR HEAD!!" Finn exclaimed excitedly. "And if you look out of the window, you can see dark shapes dancing horribly in the moonlight!
"D-Dark shapes?" I said, now getting quite unnerved by the farmer's vehemence.
"They're not human and sometimes I can see the crimson glowing of their demonic eyes. They're undead creatures from the Cursed Abbey, I'm certain of it!
Finn let me go and stepped back.
"Yes... Well..." I said. "I think I'll steer clear of that damned abbey of yours. I've got a bit of a horror of the undead, y'see.
A wise decision stranger! If you're like me, you'd wet your breechcloth if you just came in sight of the abbey gates, and nobody wants to die with a wet bum!
You're an odd fellow. Tell me a little about yourself.
M'name's Finn. I moved here and became a farmer years ago, after my sister - my only family - died of pneumonia in Rivertown. Poor girl! Selling herself on the cold streets didn't do for her, you know. She'd have loved living out here in all this greenery.
I couldn't help but empathise with him.
I can tell that you loved your sister very much.
Aye, I did. Father was killed in a knife-fight nine months before I was born and my mother died the day I came into the world. So my big sis took care of me. She soldiered on, even though she was always ill and couldn't stand the stinking alleys where she had to ply her trade.
I've got a big sister too. But now it's my turn to take care of her. ... On that note, it's uh... getting late and I have to be on the road again. Farewell.
"About the Game" posted:
Yes, in Rivellon, indoor plumbing has been invented, apparently. But despite the large and functional sewer system, you won't find a single toilet or sink in the game.
The Cursed Abbey is another quest hook, but we are definitely underlevelled for that right now. When Zandalor put it on the map he even labelled it "Dangerous!". Jeremiah won't go there unless he has a good reason, which he will at some point in the future.
I continued east, on the line between the fields and the woods around the haunted abbey, until I saw someone lying in a field.
"Sir? Are you all right?"
There was no response, so I hopped the fence. The man looked like he'd been digging a pit to bury a chest. I checked the pulse, but the coolness of the body told me he had been dead for some hours, although I didn't see any signs he'd been in a fight.
I looked into the pit and saw something shiny. I reached in, and too late noticed that something else was in there...
"Argh!" I screamed as a snake bit my hand. Cold fire started streaming through my veins. More vipers poured out of the pit and started trying to bite me as well.
I guess I know what killed the man now...
Not wishing to meet the same fate, I blasted the snakes with fire.
Once they were all dead I was able to take a breather. Luckily for me, just one fangful of the venom wasn't lethal. More carefully this time, I reached into the pit and pulled out a key.
It seemed that the snake-bite victim had been trying to bury some gold. I decided to leave it where it was.
I decided to see if the farmer in the nearby house knew who the man was.
"About the Game" posted:
No one in the farmlands acknowledges knowing the dead guy, you can't even ask about him. But doing this LP, I finally realized who he is. I'll reveal my hypothesis in an encounter later on.
And no, I didn't REALLY leave the money behind. Jeremiah the person would, but Jeremiah the character has bills to pay.
I'm Jeremiah Liro.
Um, I was passing by your field, and I saw a body by a tree. It looks like he dug into a nest of vipers. I killed them, but the man was already dead from snakebite.
I came to see if he might have been one of your farmhands. I'm not sure though, he looked like he was trying to bury a chest of gold by that tree.
I'll go take a look. Elli, look after our guest. I'll only be gone a moment.
Of course, dear. Be careful.
I know how to handle myself around snakes, don't worry.
Uh... so, Mrs. Dellamaere, have you seen anyone odd hanging around these parts? Dressed all in black, doesn't seem to fit in?
No, I can't say I recall that. I suggest that you talk to my husband Hugh. He likes talking to strangers. He was once a famous tailor, you know, and he's seen much of the world in his day.
Elli went over to the window and looked out over the fields. When she turned back, I could see that she was worried about something. She started pacing the room nervously.
What's going on?
The harvest looks like it will be a catastrophe! The corn has grown well enough, but it's got some sickness that makes it inedible. We'll have to work very hard to survive this winter. It would break my heart if we had to abandon our farms and move to Rivertown.
It's just one disaster after another for this dukedom, isn't it. It seems like things couldn't be going worse if someone was planning it.
Tell me more about the harvest disaster.
My Hugh is the main man trying to find a way to save the harvest. He's sort of an unofficial leader 'round here. Our corn takes on a greenish colour and after three days suddenly dies off and rots within hours. If you want to help us, then you should talk to Hugh.
Can you tell me anything more about your husband Hugh?
That's... rather more than I cared to know, actually.
Uh-huh... So why did Hugh give up his job? It seems as if he had a great future in Verdistis.
Ahhh, yes... Well, Hugh fell out with one of his clients, so he tells me: a gracious lady, who particularly enjoyed Hugh's ministerings while her husband was away. She got jealous of his other customers, if you catch my drift. Threatened to call the Assassin's Guild down on his head if he didn't promise to 'tailor' just for her. My Hugh decided he needed a bit of country life and moved - secretly - out here. Best luck for me! I met him while he was building this farm and now I've got him all to myself. A real women needs no assassins to hold on to a good man.
Hugh returned from the field.
Out here we get to know our neighbors pretty well, but I've never seen that man before; I don't know who he is. I'll hang onto the gold for a while though, just in case someone comes looking for it.
Could he have been Crawler? Although he wasn't dressed in black, and I don't know why he'd want to bury some gold. No, probably not Crawler.
As you wish. Have you seen any suspicious people around the fields? A man dressed all in black, perhaps?
Afraid not, but there are many farms, I'd ask one of the others.
Your wife tells me that you used to be a fine tailor, although from the look of your clothes, I gather that you're a humble farmer these days.
Hugh frowned at my clumsy phrasing.
Don't you be looking down your nose at me! I have to work in the fields from sun-up to sunset. You can't wear a silken vest in the stables, you know. When I'm finished with work for the day, I put on clothes which are much more stylish.
Curiosity is the bane of many a wizard. It comes with the robe and pointy hat. Despite my current lack of either, I was not immune from that affliction. I couldn't have kept the words from leaving my mouth with all the spells of sealing in existence.
Err... I'm just curious, but what sort of clothes to you wear after your day's work?
I heard that there are some problems in the fields?
Aye. The Harvest looks like it will be a disaster, and even the village elders do not understand why. If we don't find a solution, we'll all have to move to Rivertown simply to survive the winter.
What happened with the harvest?
It all started with the corn getting a strange greenish colour to it. Not a fungus... something nobody had ever seen before. After three days my cornfield was a swamp of decay. Fair sickened a body just to look at... 'Course we couldn't sell the corn and now my other crops are showing the same symptoms. And mine ain't the only farm that's been stricken around here, not by a long shot.
Do you have any suspicions?
Hugh's jaw dropped in disbelief.
Are you suggesting someone poisoned the fields? That would be terrible! Insane! Everyone knows that with war in the air, we'll need every mouthful of food from this harvest.
I've heard rumors about orc warbands gathering. Do you know why the orcs are risking a war against the Dukedom?
Why doesn't Ferol just send in their army and crush the marauding orc war bands? An organized army should be more than a match for them.
Galad finguil! Uh... pardon my language.
Oh, being on a farm, one tends to hear a lot worse than that!
I just can't...last ditch defense? The soldiers didn't say things were that bad!
No, they wouldn't. I doubt that many of them know exactly how bad it is, and their leaders aren't going to tell them, that would just be asking for mass desertions.
How can you be sure that the elves and dwarves won't fight against the orcs with us?
It's well known that both those peoples have got their own troubles just now, and human relations have been none too steady with any of the other races of late. Anyway, the elves and dwarves don't see much difference between humans and orcs - "a pigskin, pink or green, is a pigskin," is what they say of us. Perhaps they're hoping we'll wipe each other out.
If it's so bad, why aren't you packing?
Maybe we will, if it comes to that, but I still harbour some hope that there will be a peaceful solution...
You're more optimistic than I am, Hugh. Farewell Hugh, Elli.
And to you, Jeremiah. Be careful. These are dangerous times for us all.
While Hugh's colourful past was interesting, it was time to move on. I bid them both farewell.
"About the Game" posted:
A cross-dressing(?) farmer, who used to be a tailor/gigolo(?), and is now living under an assumed name on a farm he built with his own two hands, and he has also traveled a lot and knows a lot about orc culture and the brewing war?
Hugh is awesome.
Also, the poisoned harvest is obviously a quest hook, but it's one of those unhelpful hooks which doesn't give us any idea where to start looking.
The castle wall was very close. I headed down towards it, trying to look non-threatening to the archers on top, but they paid me no heed.
As I got within a couple of feet of the wall, something happened.
For the first time in ages, I completely lost all connection with magic. I could speak the words, but nothing happened. I moved away from the wall and my powers returned.
It seemed that Stormfist was under powerful anti-magic protection. If I got inside, I'd be forced to rely on my limited physical skills. I hadn't been expecting that complication, but I should have been - it made perfect sense.
I moved away from the troublesome castle and towards another nearby farmhouse. As I got closer, my heart sank at the sight of two graves.
Marie, my first wife. May she finally rest in peace.
There were two men out front. I assumed one must be Reginald.
"Ah, you look like a bit of mercenary," said the one in green.
It's not the impression I was trying to get across, but I don't see any reason to go about correcting people.
I was annoyed. "What do I look like, a bloodhound?" I snapped. "If someone's stealing your cattle, go call out the militia."
Tom was rather insistent, "Listen, over the last week somebody has made off with no less than four of my best cows. I know it was a man, not a stinking troll, because trolls don't leave tracks made by human-sized boots."
"Not my problem," I said, turning to the other man. He'd been drinking heavily; I could smell it on his breath.
"What happened to you, my good man?" I asked kindly.
M-my son and I went on a hare hunt. It was a beautiful day. The sun was blazing and we were boiling even in our light hunting leathers. Then it attacked. Without warning... A troll, damn its stinking guts! It hid in the wheat field 'til we were up close to it. I tried to protect my son, but I was thrown down and away. The troll ripped him with its filthy claws. Gods! I can still hear him screaming. I tried to help him but my leg was broken! Oh Gods, why didn't that thing take me instead? Why couldn't it have killed me too? I'd have given my soul to save my boy.
I'm sorry. I'll leave you in peace now.
As I walked off, I realized that I'd forgotten to ask about a mysterious man in black, but I decided not to go back.
"About the Game posted:
We will be resolving Tom's quest, but only accidentally. Cattle rustling isn't high on Jeremiah's list of priorities.
Up near an orchard, I saw a farmer with a worried look on his face.
My name is Jeremiah. Tell me what ails thee.
"I'm called Rufus," the man said. He sized me up. "Uh... well, it might not seem like much, but I saw a queer man lurking near my cornfield. Dressed all in black, he was, and I got the impression that he was looking for something - or someone. Didn't like his manner, not at all I didn't."
Aha, sounds like that Crawler isn't far. I wonder if Rufus knows anything else.
I kept my tone casual and said, "You saw a man walking through the cornfields? Is that all that's got you so jumpy?
"There was something wrong about him, stranger; fair sent shivers down my spine. I've seen plenty of killers in my time - you for instance."
I flinched involuntarily at that.
How did he know I'm a killer? Is it my "mercenary" look, or is there something in my eyes or face?
"...But this fellow was no mercenary or soldier," Rufus continued. "This one was a viper in a man's skin if I ever saw one. I only spoke a few words to him, but I saw he was the type to cut a man's throat just for the fun of watching him flop about. Steer clear, if you want my advice."
"That's a good idea," I said casually. "Did you happen to see which way he went - so I might better avoid him?"
Rufus hesitated. I didn't think he believed me. Finally, he said, "Last I saw he was heading towards the orchard behind me."
"My thanks," I said, heading directly into the orchard. Rufus opened his mouth to say something, then shut it again.
Sure enough, there was Crawler. There was no mistaking that garb. Definitely not a farmer.
What are you doing here? Get out.
I got straight to the point.
Are you the mysterious assassin following Sir Richard?
What?! You know? Then that means you know where Sir Richard is! Tell me!
Are you kidding? No!
"About the game" posted:
In the conversation, you have the option to say "Please don't hurt me, he's hiding in a barn!" But it makes no difference: you know too much and Crawler tries to kill you anyway.
Next Time: Cutpurses and Inns
Behind the Scenes
Did you spot something interesting in one of the images? If not, look again...
South of the barn in the middle of the map, just north of Crawler is where you can find Keldar, a retired adventurer with stories to tell. I'm saving meeting him until later for purposes of plot advancement.
There's a ruder alternate response to Richard when you meet him.
I've seen people who suffer from persecution mania, but you're really off your head with it!
A persecution mania? Me? Damn your eyes, I've... Wait! There was some movement over there! Somebody's sneaking up on us!
When Hugh mentions the war, you have a couple conversation options:
A war against orc raiding parties? Mmm... Sounds like an opportunity to pick up some light mercenary work...
No offence chum, but you don't know what you're talking about...
(That leads into the image I posted above. But Jeremiah isn't a mercenary, so I changed the line that lead to that.)
Instead of asking why the elves and dwarves won't help, you can scoff at the notion of needing help. This line only takes into account straight-up melee combat, not magic or stealth.
I need no dwarf or elf to cleave an orc's skull in half!
Aye, and an orc needs no aid from ogres or trolls to cut you down! Remember hothead; it takes just a single, well-aimed blow to kill the mightest in the land. The orcs are savage by human standards, but they're a noble people in their own way - and only a fool pretends they're easy to beat in a fight, especially with odds of ten of them against just one of you.
What's fake in this update?
- The exchange between Jeremiah and Richard is a mix of real and fake dialogue. The stuff about the assassination is mostly real (except for when Richard mentions the circumstances of the duke's death, we find that out later.)
- The image of the liches is actually from a Wallpaper image of the game set in the graveyard. The graveyard hasn't got any liches, and the Abbey does have liches, but no graveyard, so unfortunately there would be a problem either way.
- You can't hop the fence, you have to walk around.
- Hugh doesn't leave to check out the body, I clone-tooled him out.
- Your magic bar doesn't go grey at the castle wall and you can still cast spells, even that close.