Part 26: Wouter
Chapter 21 - Wouter
I decided to be polite. The markings on the leader's armor were similar to the ones in Idfrennia, so I guessed he was a lieutenant.
"Yessir! What can I do for you, Lieutenant?
"We're looking for a thief from the farmlands," the lieutenant said, carefully watching my expression. I wasn't who he sought, so mine didn't change.
"Aye, I was in the farmlands recently, but I'm no thief."
At least not anymore, you mean.
The lieutenant didn't look convinced, and said "Maybe yes, maybe no. Unfortunately I can't prove anything just yet. But be careful. From now on, we've got an eye on you.
They turned to leave.
That dead man near Hugh's place... he was burying some gold...
Hang on a minute... earlier today I was up near farmer Hugh's place and I found a dead man, a case of snakebite I think.
"What does this have to do with the thief?" the lieutenant asked.
Well, he dug into the viper nest while trying to bury a chest of gold, and farmer Hugh didn't know the man. Maybe he was your thief. Farmer Hugh said he'd hold onto the gold in case someone came looking for it.
"We'd have to walk all the way around the castle to check out your story," the lieutenant said, narrowing his eyes. "Isn't that convenient. Perhaps I should take you into custody while I verify your story."
"As you wish, soldier. I've nothing to hide," I said flatly.
The lieutenant stood there another minute, locking his gaze with mine, trying to spot a lie. Then without a word, he turned and led his men off toward the northwest and Hugh's farm.
"About the Game" posted:
Either the "Yessir" or the "Don't talk to me like that" responses get the same response without a disposition change.
If you lie and tell him you weren't in the farmlands, the guard mentions that he's heard of someone matching your description, but he lets you go anyway.
If you tell the guards that YOU'RE the thief, they all go hostile and try to kill you (serves you right, idiot). I did that pretty soon after reaching the Farmlands, so I wasn't a high level. If you kill all three at level 11, you get slightly more experience than if you get them to go away peacefully. However, the potion you'll take afterwards is likely worth more to you than the extra 450 XP.
Finally, I turned and headed for the tavern's entrance. I could still sense the presence inside. I could have followed it with my eyes shut.
Standing outside the entrance was a man who looked in rough shape. His face was badly swollen.
I'm glad I'm no stranger to rough bars.
Yes I am. Why do you ask?
"W'll then. A w'rd of adv'ce. Don't chall'nge Burl'gh to a fight," the man slurred.
Who is this Burl'gh you mentioned?
Burl'gh is a ver' good fight'r. He chall'nges peopl' for money! Don't do 't, Burl'gh is ver' strong! H'll s'rious'y injure you!
Why are you speaking like that?
I w's fool'sh en'gh to fight Burl'gh. And th's is the res'lt!
Th'nk you f'r th' w'rn'ng. I w'll tr' t' avo'd th's Burl'gh.
Music - "Drunk With Dwarven Mirth"
Download (Thanks to Grawl)
I ignored the rest of the bar and headed exactly where I was being drawn, through an archway. There was a heavily armoured man standing there with a huge sword strapped on his back. He had the appearance of being many years older than I, although appearances could be deceiving. He was staring at me intently with a wary expression on his face, which I suspect matched the one on my own. The bright glow which had drawn me was coming from his right wrist. Despite being concealed under a thick armoured gauntlet, I could see it plainly. I looked at my own wrist, and only saw bandages, but...
Damn... is my Mark that visible to everyone EXCEPT ME? No... someone would have said something by now.
I looked up in time to see the armoured man looking up after glancing at his OWN wrist. He seemed to be thinking along the same lines as I was.
He was being cautious, I took the same approach.
"Greetings. What are you doing here?" I asked.
"I am waiting for someone," the man said, waiting for me to make the next move. Fair enough.
Slowly I reached into my pack and pulled out the Teleporter scroll for the mages.
"I am looking for a man called Zandalor," I said, showing the mystery man the scroll. "He is rather old and has a beard. He said he would meet me here."
"Zandalor!" said the man loudly - too loudly for my taste. "Quite the coincidence. I am looking for him too. Which means that you too are -"
"Sssh!" I said. "We're rather close to the public area for my tastes. We don't know who is listening. I suggest that we continue this conversation in a more private area."
The man nodded and said, "A good idea." I followed him into his room.
We pulled up chairs at the table. I grabbed an apple from the bowl.
"Do you mind?" I asked. I'd been too busy to worry about food.
"Please, help yourself," the man said. We talked in low voices to keep the conversation as private as possible.
Zandalor sent you? That must mean that you too are a Marked one. My name is Wouter Jansen.
We shook hands.
I am Jeremiah Liro. Zandalor mentioned that I am a Marked One. Do you know what this all means, other than the fancy tattoo on the wrist?
You can see it? It's under a thick gauntlet.
You can see mine under these bandages, can't you? I can't see the glow on myself, and no one else has commented on it either, other than Zandalor. I don't think everyone can see it, perhaps it's only because we are both Marked. ... not that I know what that means. Did Zandalor, perhaps enlighten you about what this means?
I am as puzzled as you about the matter, Jeremiah. Sorry.
Wouter and I compared our stories. He too had experienced some temporary memory loss, but like me, he had regained most of his memories, with a couple exceptions. His hair was already grey so if it had changed, he hadn't noticed it.
Have... have you had any strange dreams or visions?
Yes, yes I have. It's the same thing over and over. Some people in dark robes.
The Black Ring.
Yes... that's what the-the voice calls them. They try and kill some entity in the shape of a woman, but she escapes and I see her fly through the air and hit me. After that, the next thing I remember is waking up with Zandalor and a white cat staring down at me.
I must have passed out again, because when I woke up, it was a couple of hours later and only Zandalor was there, the cat had gone somewhere.
A white cat? Joram - the man who found me in the woods said that a white cat led him to my body. I guess it wasn't just luck, Zandalor must have sent the cat to find me.
That's most likely.
The strange voice - have you heard it at other times?
Wouter thought on this. "No, not that I can recall. But mostly I've been staying here. I haven't even left to go for a walk."
"Hmmm..." I said. "Any other odd occurrences?"
Yesterday, I had a seizure of some kind. It felt like a great weight was on my chest and I couldn't breathe. But after a minute or so it passed and I felt just fine.
It felt like more than a minute to me. But maybe that's because I was the one who almost died.
I filled Wouter in on my encounter with the Dragon Rider. His face paled.
I've never seen anything like that before, and from your description I never hope to. Did you really mouth off to it?
I rubbed my chest where the blast had struck me.
Aye, much to my regret. I think that my near-death was the cause of your seizure.
So what happens if one of us dies for good? Does the other one die also?
There was a moment of contemplation.
I hope we never have to find out. I met Zandalor yesterday, he said to meet him here, and he hasn't returned. Do you know where he is?
He has gone to Stormfist Castle to find yet another Marked One, I believe.
"Just how many of these Marked Ones are there?" I muttered rhetorically to myself. We both knew the answer, of course.
I stood up. I still had to find out what happened to Jenna, and waiting around just wasn't me.
I think I will go to the castle and find Zandalor.
Wouter frowned. "Zandalor said we should wait here! I am sure he will return shortly," he objected.
"He might have found you quickly, but it took him three days to find me. Who knows how long he'll take to return this time, if he returns at all. I still think I should go to the castle. Maybe Zandalor is in trouble and needs help. If he returns while I am gone, tell him I shall check back here from time to time."
Wouter sighed, "Very well. Maybe there is no point in us both waiting here."
"Very well. I will go now," I said, leaving the room, and met a dwarf coming from his room.
I'm a friend to all honest folk.
Good to hear! With all these stinking monsters about, it's good to see a friendly face again. I am called Krasnegar.
I'm Jeremiah. Where are you headed?
My destination is yonder dwarven village Glenborus, not far from here. But nowadays, even the shortest journeys are dangerous. And I have an important mission to perform... I have to bring something to Mayor Dunatrim of Glemborus.
This seems like a pleasant enough fellow. I could use an ally, or someone owing me a favour.
If it is so important, maybe I can help you.
Very kind of you, human. But no, I can't trust anyone in this matter. The teleporter scroll of the Dwarves must stay in our hands.
I could really use this scroll. But he's not going to just give it away.
I would think that the Mayor of such an important town would already have one.
Aye, he did, but he said it was stolen. Ha! Stolen my arse. If you ask me, that incompetent drunken sod probably dropped it into a keg of mead or something. By Duna's beard, if his brother weren't the King of Dwarves, there's no way he'd keep his position.
A dwarf who is called a drunk by other dwarves must transcend all normal standards!
Krasnegar shook his head in dismay. "What is the world coming to that such a man gets power? Especially in such troubling times as these."
I've had a hard time myself of late.
Ah, so I can see, Jeremiah. Tough times. Still, I myself have been extremely lucky over the last couple of weeks. I found some excellent gemstones up in the mountains.
What kind of gemstones?
Several flawless firestones, land pearls and elf rubies - not to mention a bag of semi-precious gems. Now listen Jeremiah, my father always told me to share my good luck with those that need it. That way you keep the favour of the Good Gods and stay lucky. So, seeing you've had a hard tine of late, I would like to give you a gem. Share a little of my joy, as it were. Would you accept such a gift form me?
I was about to say yes when I remembered.
I'm on my way to the castle, you know. The duke must help us war victims or we'll all starve.
Where did you live?
My house is... I mean, was - in a village to the southeast. We were attacked by the greenskin savages and they burnt everything to the ground.
Ah... No, thank you. It's not that I'm ungrateful, friend, but others need such generosity more than I do. There are many war refugees passing through these parts - most are more worthy of such a princely gift than a wandering freebooter like myself.
The dwarf's jaw dropped in astonishment.
GRUNGLAR! Some would be insulted to have their gift rejected, Jeremiah, but your words are music to my ears. You're as generous in spirit as my dead old Dad, and I'm proud to know you! I will go and find someone who is really in need of my gift...
The feeling is mutual, my friend!
The dwarf walked off.
There aren't any doors here. I could just walk right in and look for the scroll...
No... I like this dwarf. I don't want to steal from him.
I left the inn without ransacking the dwarf's room to head for Stormfist Castle. On my way I found Krasnegar again.
There you are again, my generous human friend. I did as you suggested and made a poor family really happy.
We humans and dwarves must stand side-by-side during these troubling times...
I only hope that my kindness isn't repaid with a dragon-rider tracking me by my scent.
I headed for the castle and tried to walk through the front gate. Bold, but pointless. The guards barred my way. The captain of the guards spoke up.
Good day to you, sir. What can I do for you?
I decided to try the path of least resistance first.
I just want to visit the castle.
I'm sorry, but the castle is strictly off-limits for security reasons. During the current period of crisis, all tours of the section of Stormfist Castle usually open to the public have been suspended. I must politely ask you to leave the premises.
I cursed myself for my naïveté. Of course they couldn't let anyone just walk in, not with war brewing. Time to play one of my truth cards.
I am a friend of Zandalor and I'm looking for him. I heard he came to Stormfist Castle.
Who are you talking about? I've never heard that name. You're wasting my time.
No, I speak the truth. It is an old man, and he looks like a wizard.
He seemed to think about this for a moment.
Ah yes... now I recall him. Yes, he had a safe-conduct of the old-duke, so he was allowed to enter.
"All right then," I said in a glad-that's-all-settled-now tone. "So can I enter, please?
The guard wasn't moved. "May I see your invitation please?" He said.
My heart sank. "I don't have one."
Then I'm sorry, but I can't let you pass.
Using magic to sneak in was out of the question because of the anti-magic field, and I knew I'd never be able to sneak in. I didn't even trust an invisibility potion to work, invisibility was extremely sensitive to changes in the local magical field. I'd probably become visible as soon as I stepped through, and after seconds after that, I'd be someone's new favourite quiver for their arrows.
What do I have to do to gain entry to Stormfist castle?
The guard had the weary look of someone who just wanted me to go away right now, but my expression told him the fastest way to do that was to just answer the question.
Well... The old duke occasionally invited people to the castle to congratulate them for completing important services for Rivertown or the surrounding regions.
Really? What do you suggest I do to obtain such an invitation?
The guard sighed and looked me over with distaste.
Well, an obvious freebooter like you could prove yourself useful to the army. The orc invasion is imminent, so they'll need all the help that they can get. Or you could talk to Commander Ralph of the Town Watch. They're based just south of here. He sometimes asks outsiders to investigate... er... "politically sensitive" matters.
Thank you. I'll follow-up your suggestions, friend.
I investigated the bulletin board posted nearby.
"Because of the war with the orcs, the taxes have to be increased slightly. Every citizen of Rivertown has to pay additionally 50 gold pieces for his or her protection. All young and healthy citizens who aren't able to pay the extra amount have the chance to join our army ranks in their glorious fight against the orcs."
"Lady Elona is now assigned to the position as personal counsellor of Duke Janus."
Damnit. I still haven't told General Alix about Lord Seth's predicament. ... and I'm not going there straight off, either. I wish I could apologize to all those depending on me... But I'm just too selfish. I have to think of my family first, me second, everyone else a third or lower.
I wasn't going to go see Commander Ralph right away, either. If there were any more of those nasty Dragon Riders abroad, it couldn't hurt to make my movements harder to track. Those teleporter scrolls could be just the thing.
Half an hour, I'll give myself half an hour to track down the misplaced Dwarven scroll, but not a minute more.
I hurried on the road to Glenborus, but along the way three men approached.
"Give way, we wish to pass!" The biggest of them said.
I didn't need any trouble, not with that lieutenant already suspicious of me.
"The world is big enough. No need to push other people around!" I said evenly.
"And why shouldn't we? If I count right, we have the advantage..."
I wasn't going to be bullied, either.
I conjured up a fireball and orbited it around me. "Anyone feel like experiencing life as an amphibian today? One more word and you'll have to take the consequences."
It was astonishing to see the change in their attitude. They all paled. "Why? Ehem... no reason to get angry... I was only making a joke.. little funny joke..." The big man was was practically groveling.
I dissipated the fireball and said, "Then pass... but be very careful, wag..."
Does everything have to be such a hassle?
"About the Game" posted:
There are three approaches to this confrontation. You can be a complete doormat, which avoids combat.
You can threaten to put up a fight, which makes them back down. They're smart enough to realize that they have the numerical advantage, but you're threatening them anyway, which means you could be trouble.
Or you can take a more neutral approach. If you complain that three on one isn't fair, they laugh at you and attack. This gives you the most experience. Be careful, because the leader, Bull, is tough and hits hard. I nearly died twice. Limbs of Lead is a good idea here, if you have it.
Next Time: Mission: Infiltration
Behind the Scenes
The next update will cover a lot of ground and start us into the meat of Act 2's main quest.
As you might have noticed, Jeremiah is going to Stormfist castle to try and find out what happened to his sister. This is also where the main quest is sending him, to look for Zandalor. That's an example of how I'll try and weave both quests together so that my story doesn't interfere with the main quest.
The Farmlands might be mostly clear of enemies, but we aren't in the Farmlands anymore. Traveling from place to place we'll typically encounter angry giant bees, snakes, spiders and wild boars. They're more annoying than dangerous.
If the Dwarf leaves the room, you're free and clear to take his teleporter scroll. But he's a nice guy, why get him in trouble?
Alternate Dialogue - Krasnegar the Jeweller
This actually doesn't annoy him at all. But I thought it was a little bit too hostile and aggressive for Jeremiah.
Ho, human, friend or foe?
Why a foe, of course! Don't you recognize me as Grogar the troll, the evil slayer of dwarven idiots? Now, do you have any more silly questions?
Pahahaha! A funny chap you are! At least there's one of us who can still make jokes in these bleak days.
If you try and mug him...
So... You say you have a lot of valuable gems? Gods be praised for making rich fools for such as me to prey upon! Now hand me over all the stones, or do I have to take them from your bloodied corpse?
TANGGLEDDIN! What an evil bastard you are! There's many who say humans are bad to the bone but, until now I didn't believe them. Ah well, I have no choice I suppose... I'm a miner and not a fighter, and most certainly not a hero. So you can take my gems, thief. I won't call the guards, if you let me live... Take them... May they bring you nothing but shame and misery!
That's right shorty... You know what's good for your health. Now run along.
Remember my words well, human... One day, you'll regret this... Always watch your back...
This gives you the same experience for asking him to donate the gems to someone worthy, but you take a -3 hit to your reputation.
What's fake in this update?
- You don't get the option to tell the guards about the body. It's never confirmed that the body is the thief, in fact this scene is the only place you hear about the thief, none of the farmers acknowledge being robbed at all. It wasn't until this LP that I made the connection between the dead body and gold no one knows about and the farmlands thief.
- You don't really mock the injured man by deliberately slurring. I did that because there's a bit of an 'ssh'le in Jeremiah.
- The conversation with Wouter triggers as soon as you enter the archway, but I moved it because you can't get a good look at him from that angle.
- Wouter doesn't go to his room, but a bit of privacy makes sense there.
- Upon being told that "Wouter" is apparently Dutch for "Walter", I removed the fictional first name "Daniel" which I added and gave him a fictional "Jansen" Dutch surname.
- The Dwarf doesn't meet you in the hall, he's in the north room.