Part 35: The Poor Quarter
Chapter 26 - The Poor Quarter
Great. I sure hope this will wear off.
With nothing left to do, I headed back to Captain Mitox. I came in sight of the battlefield. The carnage was horrible.
Human and orc corpses alike lay on the battlefield. But it seemed Mitox's defenses had held. Human soldiers still held the line, although they looked weary with combat and grief for the fallen.
More gore and carnage indicated that the orcs had briefly penetrated the lines, although they didn't make it far.
I continued on in search of Mitox, although I wasn't sure what I'd be able to do in cat form. Perhaps I could convince him to have that wizard take a look at me.
Suddenly, without warning, I felt the painful sensation as my body contorted and I regained my normal form. I opened my eyes to see a surprised-looking Captain Mitox with his sword drawn facing me.
He lowered it.
By the good gods, you startled me, freebooter.
Sorry. I found a statuette which transformed me in the orc encampment. I didn't know how to change back. I'm just glad it wore off on its own.
So there was a secret base to the south?
Aye. It was full of weapons and supplies, but there weren't all that many orcs, not compared to what hit you here. It looked like their plan was to wheel up some ballistae and attack from the high ground. Don't worry, I used Lightning to weld some moving parts together. Those siege weapons will never fire again.
I remembered the note I found and pulled it from my backpack. I handed it to the captain.
I found this note near the secret base. I can't read it, myself, but it might have useful information.
Mitox beamed. "Excellent work, Jeremiah!" he exclaimed.
"I see you were victorious in battle," I said.
Mitox's smile faded, "Aye... although it was costly. We lost at least two dozen, and another 30 were wounded. Some may not see another morning."
My condolences, Captain. Was it enough to break the back of the orcs?
No, just their offensive. They won't be trying that again anytime soon. If those ballistae on the ridge had fired on us, then the orcs would have won.
Mitox paced the room, trying to come to a decision.
You've proven yourself. I must ask you to take on one more mission for-
I sighed with fatigue and closed my eyes. "No," I said firmly.
Mitox looked surprised.
The orc threat still remains, when the reinforcements from the other tribes arrive, we'll be in the same situation, if not worse in as little as three weeks.
I opened my eyes and looked right into Mitox's.
I'm sorry Captain, but I didn't come to this dukedom to play soldier. I only helped this much because if this land fell into orc hands it would make my goals difficult or impossible to accomplish. I think I've helped more than enough one man.
Mitox opened his mouth to protest further, and then he saw the determined look on my face.
He nodded, "Very well. If you change your mind, come back to see me. I doubt I'll have any volunteers for this mission."
The sun was getting close to the mountaintops when I exited the building. I was dead on my feet, but at least my head has stopped aching. I had a vision of a pile of hay in Homer's barn. The fastest way there was through the poor quarter.
Music - "Suffering and Shame"
Download (Thanks to Grawl)
A man in a pale orange shirt was watching me closely. An old man approached.
I wasn't too tired for a little charity. I pulled out a coin. "Oh aye, Malachias. Here's a gold piece. Catch!" I flipped him the coin, and he caught it with surprising agility for an old man.
Thankee, you're a kind soul... And for such generosity I offer a word of advice. You're a freebooter by your looks. The other night I encountered a mysterious thing near the entrance of the graveyard: a gemstone, lying by the road. Naturally I would have snatched it up (and would thus have escaped at least several weeks of begging) but it vanished as I drew near. Maybe an experienced adventurer like you will find a way to catch the tricksey thing.
I was skeptical.
It disappears? You're sure? Or were you rolling drunk yesterday?
He looked indignant.
I'm a poor mendicant with no money for ale! Malchias only drinks water from the puddles on the road... and I'm not crazy! The gem disappears and re-appears when you reach some distance from it. That's black magic I'll be bound! Be careful! Don't go near the gem if you know nothing of such things - it could be a trap. Trust poor old Malachias!
Thanks for the tale, Malachias.
I continued walking. The man in the pale orange shirt discretely kept an eye on me.
Apparently I was a new sight to the poor quarter. I quickly became a focus of attention. The people with little to lose would probably be the most likely ones to give unvarnished truth. I decided to ask some of the locals about rumors.
You look like a wizard. Any chance you could magic up some food?
Alas, I don't think I ever learned that spell. It's hard times for everyone. Heard anything interesting?
They do say that the Thieves Guild is recruitin' at the moment. I'm not surprised, mind you - the Guild always expands when times are hard. I tried to join them a few year back, but they said I talked too much. Maybe I'll try again if they are looking for new candidates.
A lot of young girls have gone missing in Verdistis over the last few months. Folk 'round here believe a group of cultists callin' themselves the Flagged Sing are stealin' the girls and forcin' them to commit diabolical acts! I hardly dare to go out these night, lest they grab me!
I hear tell yon boy-duke Janus is a-callin' hisself the Divine One, bold as brass. I hopes for his sake that he's right. Gods can get very nasty if you go claimin' to be their chosen one when you're not. Leastways, that's what my old Mum told me when I was a littlun.
Food is getting very scarce these days. They say that the farmers have run into lots of trouble and, of course, the war with the orcs has screwed everything up good and proper. Still, I don't see the merchants or nobles getting thin. We poor should organize a revolt and topple the fine ladies and gentlemen from their privileged positions.
The war with the orcs is a bad thing, but seeing all I have to my name is the rags I stand up in, I won't be afraid if the orcs defeat us. At least the orc code of honor stops them from killing unarmed folk who surrender, and maybe they'll treat us better than our human overlords do now.
The sun was setting when I reached the far side of the poor quarter. There was some commotion as the door to the quarantined area opened, and a man emerged.
Video - Meet Dr. Elrath (Voice Acting)
Nothing. I've found nothing so far. I'm going home now to continue my researches. But if there's a significant increase in the number of the afflicted, come and get me immediately.
As you say, Doctor.
Also, I seem to have misplaced my house key. If you or any of the other healers find it, let me know, would you? It's new, so it should be nice and shiny.
If you've lost your key, how will you get back into your house, Doctor?
Elrath started to head off, but a small crowd of the poor quarter's residents started to ask him questions.
Who was it who died?
Everything is under control. You should know better than to listen to rumors.
You're lying. 'Twas no rumor we saw the guards carrying out the back entrance of the quarantine area. It was a body covered by a sheet.
Alas, that was Corroner. He died of complications from the Grey Death. I didn't want to worry everyone.
Well we're plenty worried anyway! Why hasn't there been a cure yet?
It's too late! My son Aaron is DEAD, and still the illness continues.
I'm working as hard as I can. But good news, the healers from Aleroth have just arrived at the Blue Boar Inn. With their assistance, I'm sure the plague will be gone soon.
I noticed a dark-haired woman wearing purple among the people. Something about her didn't seem to fit in with the rest of the residents. Perhaps it was just that her clothes seemed a bit less shabby. I also noticed the man in orange from earlier. Unlike everyone else, he wasn't watching Elrath; he was watching me, although he was smart enough be subtle about it.
Daddy? When's soon? When can we go home to see mommy?
I don't know, sweetie. I'm sure doctor Elrath is doing the best he can. Aren't you, doctor?
Don't you worry your... pretty little head about it.
What about Cederic? What about my husband?
You should feel lucky that you're not showing any symptoms. Now please, I'm tired. No more questions.
The crowd parted as Elrath moved through them.
He said all the right things... but I've been with Jenna on some of her visits to poor areas. She meant what she was saying... but Elrath... no... forget it. I'm just tired and imagining things.
Is there no one who can anyone help us?
4 Febirium 1218 10 O'clock
In Idfrennia, it was known as "the year without a winter". An unseasonably hot air mass had crept over the country and stayed. Whenever icy air tried marching down from the north, there would be a struggle, a storm, and the heat remained. And then there was the rain. Without the chill of winter, disease became rampant.
I was heading into the hideout of Simmons' gang, only to meet them on the way out.
"What's going on?" I asked.
"Another job, Edwin. Let's go," Simmons said.
"What is it this time?" I asked.
"Some special cargo for their lordships," Simmons said vaguely, but he was smiling. It must have been very special cargo indeed.
* * * * *
We were disguised as a group of migrants. There were more and more people leaving the crowded city these days in attempts to avoid becoming sick. The cart had to stop to avoid running us over.
"Come on! Out of the way!" grumbled the driver. As we started to shuffle off the road, Simmons gave three hacking coughs. That was the signal. We threw aside our cloaks and brought up the crossbows we had concealed there, catching the driver and the guard completely by surprise.
"Blasted bandits!" the guard exclaimed.
"Look, we're not carrying anything valuable. But if you really want a load of dishware, you're free to it," the driver said. Simmons gestured at the driver and guard to get off the cart, and they complied. He got up onto the cart.
"A very good attempt," Simmons said. "But we didn't go to all this trouble for your decoy cargo."
Simmons lifted the seat of the drivers bench, revealing a hidden area underneath. The guard instinctively moved to try and defend the cargo, but Big Bruno walloped him on the head and he fell into the muck, out cold.
Simmons lifted out a small box.
"You have no business stealing that! It's medicine for the plague victims! Have you no decency?
I grabbed Simmons by the arm.
"Wait, we're stealing medicine? Since when have we done that?" I said.
Big Bruno pulled me off and put a knife to my throat.
"Let him go," Simmons said.
Bruno released me.
"That's rig-" I started to say. Simmons punched me hard, in the face. The coppery taste of blood filled my mouth. Then he followed it up by a sucker punch to the gut. I collapsed to the ground.
"You remember your place, Edwin! I run this crew! Me!" Simmons said sharply, looking down at me. I was still catching my breath and was unable to speak. Simmons turned to the courier. "An' you! Don't tell me some patronizing sob story about 'ow yer gonna help the downtrodden. I know perfectly well that this cargo of healin' gems is destined for the rich blokes who don't give a toss about anyone but themselves, an' that includes you."
"That's not true!" The courier said desperately. "What about Sir Liro? It's well known that he's generous to the poor - and he could be to you as - oof!" Simmons socked him in the stomach.
Father? Has he caught the plague? No...
"This is NOT a negotiation," he said. "Tie' em' up and let's get out've here."
The man in orange scratched his nose idly.
"Are you my daddy?" came a voice from behind me.
I turned and there was a small child. He wrapped his arms around me. I peeled them off firmly.
"No kid, I ain't your daddy," I said, ruffling his hair. "But aren't you just the most adorable little scamp. Now run along."
The kid started to run off, but nearly lost his balance, thanks to the iron grip I had on his arm. He turned to look at me. I held out my other hand, palm up. The kid had an innocent look on his face. He opened his mouth to say something, I just tightened my grip. The expression on the kid's face turned into a sulk as he reluctantly put my coinpurse into my open hand. I let him go and he ran off.
"After the day I've had, you really don't want any trouble with me. So, this better be good." I said.
The man in orange behind me knew I was talking to him.
I'm not sure what you're talking about.
I turned around.
You scratched your nose just before the kid tried to pull his move. You were signaling him.
The man smiled.
You've got good eyes, friend. You aren't from Rivertown, are you?
No, I thought not. My name's Orlain, but my friends call me Lain. Now, you look a likely sort-
On second though, I wasn't interested in whatever he wanted to sell me.
"I don't have any spare coins, beggar," I said dismissively.
Lain didn't like that. "Do I look like like a bloody beggar?" he said indignantly. Learn to look close before you judge a stranger, friend. That's advice that could save your life one day.
I took a closer look at him. Even if I hadn't been clued in by the stunt he tried to pull with the kid, Lain had thief written all over him.
"Sorry, you're right, Orlain;" I said, relishing the moment, "when I look closer you look more like a leper."
"Ha ha, very funny," Lain said in a manner that indicated he was anything but amused. "If there weren't so many guards around, I'd cut a tattoo on your face to teach you better manners." He took a breath and calmed down, starting back up on his sales pitch. "Now, you look a likely sort who doesn't mind working outside the law if the pay's good."
"You're mistaken," I said, trying to cut him off.
"I've got a good eye for people, and I'm never mistaken. I've been sent to find some reliable people to perform certain... er... delicate tasks for my master. Now, I'm sure you've heard of the Ducal Inn."
I pretended to think for a second, then I snapped my fingers.
"Is that the place where they re-barrel the 'used' beer to sell again the next night?" I asked mock-earnestly.
"Heh. You're about as funny as the pox," Lain said.
"I'm more concerned with the actual pox going around. Know anything about that?" I asked.
Lain's face fell.
The plague? Yeah... a sad thing for sure. One of my best friends, Cideric is now living in the quarantined area. I even went to a party with him the day before the disease broke out. I guess I should feel lucky because I wasn't infected.
What am I supposed to say to that?
Yeah, lucky you. Goodbye.
The sun had set. I made sure I still had my coinpurse and left the area. My legs were aching.
"About the Game" posted:
Lain is a recruiter for the Thieves Guild. We're not joining that right now. But we will eventually, if only because we'll get good bonuses.
I decided to save some time by cutting through the woods and fields
I heard movement up ahead, but pushed on anyway...
... and found myself in the middle of a group of orcs.
What the hell?!
Then I saw that they were carrying barrels with a skull and bones symbol painted on them. The drummer gave orders.
Kill the pigskin, quickly!
I hadn't recovered much energy, but I had some left. I ignored the nearby orcs and went for the most dangerous one. My shield protected me from the blades until he went down. A troll had heard the commotion and wandered out of the bushes. I saw my chance to escape...
...and Swapped Places with the troll, who took blows form the orcs meant for me, and retaliated. In the confusion, with the orc leader gone, the fight ended quickly.
What the hell are orcs doing HERE, this far behind the lines? Did they come across from the Aleroth side of the river? No... wait, there's a cave...
The cave had a strange, chemical smell to it. But it wasn't completely abandoned.
I remembered some of Hugh Dellabaere's words on orcs, and their honour.
Let's see if this orc is any more honourable than the ones who... let's just see, anyway. I doubt it, though.
So, greenskin, you're the one who poisoned the harvest, judging by these barrels filled with poison. I'd have expected better from an orc warrior. Have you lost your birth-honour?
The orc gritted his teeth, the comment had stung.
Go 'way pinkie. Master will punish Tipsix if he find I speak to human.
Master? He's poisoning the harvest on someone's orders? I have to admit that mass poisoning of crops isn't the style of the orcs - not even honourless ones.
Tell me orc: why are you doing this?
The orc opened his mouth to speak, and then he actually cringed in fear!
Neee! Master will torment Tipsix again. NO! Tipsix will not let that happen. Tipsix will die like warrior! Ready a blade, human! I go to sit beside my ancestors! Haaaiii!
Tipsix flung something into one of the open barrels of poison and drew his blades to attack me.
My reflexes were too good, or perhaps living in the poison-filled cave had weakened him. Three quick strikes and he fell, never to get up again. I hadn't meant to kill him, he was the only one who could have provided answers..
Damn! Now what?
I went over to the barrel the orc had thrown something in. Floating on the surface was a piece of paper, dissolving in the nasty toxin. Before it completely vanished, I recognized it for what it was.
Where did the orcs manage to get their hands on the scroll for the human teleporters? And why would they use it to poison a few fields? ... I'm going to keep that information to myself. No one would believe me without proof anyway.
I turned and saw something gleaming by Tipsix's corpse. It was a golden key, the number "2" was stamped on it. There was nothing in the small cave which was locked, so what was it for?
I left the cave and followed the heavy footsteps which I had ignored earlier back to the teleporter platform.
Then it was back to the barn.
I closed and barred the door and lay down. Despite all the thoughts and questions running through my head, I was asleep in minutes.
I woke up to the sound of something beating at the barn door. It was still dark.
H-hello? Is that you, Homer?
There was the low growl of a troll, and further angry pounding.
After a while, the beast gave up and moved on.
I should really do something about that...
I closed my eyes and returned to a dreamless sleep,
Next Time: Vizziturs Wellkum
Behind the Scenes
This update turned out to be a LOT more work than I anticipated.
What's fake in this update?
- 11 of the 23 images were digitally altered in some way.
- The images of the massacre were mostly created the easy way - I lured something like 50 orcs to follow me to the front lines. In the first shot I killed them all outside the gate; in the second shot I killed them all inside the gate, doubling the apparent size of the attack. This was much better than my earlier idea which would have been to photoshop ALL the bodies in.
The bodies are where they laid. But I couldn't be a cat for those sequences because a cat has a tiny sight radius, so I the bodies outside it would have been invisible. So I had to take those shots as Jeremiah the human, then hide Jeremiah the human and put in Jeremiah the cat.
I also added in living human soldiers to make it clear that the humans won, although it was not a pretty victory.
- You really meet Malachias just south of the poor quarter, I thought it would be easier for the narrative to move him slightly.
- I added the people looking at Jeremiah, it felt odd to have him talking to people we never actually see.
- There is no crowd surrounding Elrath when he leaves asking him things. It's a bit easy to tell because they don't look much like sunset.
- The real name of the other victim is Coroner. That's a word, so I added an extra 'r' to make it not a word.
- The kid and Liam screenshot was also fake. Liam doesn't send a kid to test you, he straight-up asks if you'll join if you talk to him, then he gives you directions.
- The orcs were not really moving barrels of poison. I would have done that practically, but the barrels always explode when you move them from your inventory to the ground, so I had to use photoshop. In retrospect I could probably have done it using EMPTY poison barrels and had a much easier time faking it.
- I even had to fake the Tipsix shot, he was hidden in darkness outside my sight radius when the conversation triggers, so I had to add an orc in.