Part 50: A Tale of Two Three Four Criminals
Chapter 37 - A Tale of
Music - "Suffering and Shame"
Download (Thanks to Grawl)
Malcolm told me Maria lived in the poor quarter, so that was the place to start.
You don't look like a leper to me. Put you in clean clothes and you'd look as healthy as the Duke himself
Um, yeah... I got infected by a very strange... um... beggar who lives in the Poor Section of Rivertown. It's the sort of leprosy that rots your inside first. My pancreas fell off yester morn... honest!
Why are you begging for money? Have you no family to fend for you?
Please kind stranger, have pity. My father was a noble who fell on hard times then fell on his own sword, the coward! My mother cast me away then I was little more than a babe, and went off a-whoring. I grew up in the streets with none to care for me!
I reached into my coin-purse and took out a few coins. "Here you are. Spend the money wisely," I said.
"Bless ye, kind sir!" The man exclaimed. One of the coins fell from his grip and landed at his feet. Then I noticed the reddish-brown stain on his sandals and toes - and more at the doorway of his house. The man looked down as well and saw what I saw. A look of fear passed across his face. He opened his mouth to speak, but without a word, I pushed past him into his house.
Hey, you can't go in there!
I ignored him.
The bloody footprints came from a hatch in his house. I opened it up. The unpleasant smell of blood filled my nostrils, but I went down anyway.
The meat didn't look that great (although the flies certainly seemed to be enjoying it). I went back upstairs.
The man was still standing outside his house, but he looked much more nervous than he did a minute ago.
Alms for th... Ah? You again here my friend? Life's still rotten but I'm here to help my friends. What can I do for you?
Ho man, I've found evidence in your hut to prove that you're the local cattle thief.
Damn you! I still those cows from that warty farmer because that's the only way I can survive. When I came out here from Rivertown, I though the life would be easy - food growing on trees and stuff. But it's as tough here as it was in the streets... harder, in fact, 'cause people here don't throw their rubbish into the gutters like decent folk. You can't find a meal in a farmyard midden. I know, I've tried...
Ah ha! So you admit it!
Are you deaf as well as stony-hearted? YES! I took the damn cows. Look around - everywhere in this damn dukedom there are people that are dying because they haven't enough to eat. Without the food I stole, they'd be dead by now. I'm not keeping it all for me, I'm feeding those that'r even worse off as well!
Aye, I do understand your motivations.
I thought for a minute. I did know what he meant. I'd seen how rough things were here.
I'll keep what I know a secret, but you better learn to steal better if you want to stay free, old man. Next time, remember to cover your tracks...
"About the Game" posted:
In general, helping the poor people of the dukedom is the fastest way to shoot your reputation up high.
Bless you! Bless you! ... Say, friend, you look like the wizardly type... would you be interested in purchasing a spellbook I acquired?
Hmmm... funny. Just down the road is an overturned cart belonging to the mage Kistandalius. You don't know anything about that now, do you?
I, uh... I'll offer you a substantial discount...
"About the Game" posted:
- This is similar to the Bless skill, but this one is more specialized. It only boosts your strength attribute, but by a lot more, and with a much shorter duration. It's helpful for boosting your carry capacity before teleporting back to your supply stash, or if you're a warrior-type.
As I wandered through the streets, it only just then occurred to me that I didn't know where the "Maria" that Malcolm was looking for actually was. Someone else noticed the way I was looking around at all the houses and people.
Hello stranger, are you looking for someone?
Why should I need a guide through the poor section?
The Poor Section of town is a rough place, my friend. Incautious people are robbed or even murdered in back alleys. Last week, for example, the town watch found the corpses of three drunks who used to sleep on the streets.
I can look after myself. Thank you anyway.
Listen! This place has its own rules. Just because you can look after yourself in the wilds, that don't mean you're any safer than a lost babe in town. Here, if somebody wants you dead, he won't challenge you in the open. They'll just find you next morning with a knife in your back.
Alright, fine. I'm looking for a woman called Maria. Guide me to her house and there'll be 15 gold in it for you.
We didn't get very far when someone in blue showed up, looking rather unfriendly.
I know it was you, Jonas. Give it back and I might just forget about this.
I don't know what you're talking about, Balin.
I'm not done with you, Jonas. Watch your back.
The man walked off.
I don't know what that was about, and I don't want to know what that's about.
Maria's house is just up ahead.
Jonas led me to a house, I paid him the gold and he hurried off.
It didn't look like the home of an assassin from the outside. I knocked on the door.
I turned the knob and entered. It looked even less like the home of an assassin on the inside.
I am called Jeremiah. It's a pleasure to meet you. The reason that I'm here is that I've heard that there's been some bad blood between you and the Merchant's Guild.
Maria laughed bitterly. "You could say that. I come from a family that was once wealthy. Sadly, thanks to the Merchants' Guild, my family lost both its reputation and wealth.
Well, she seems to have a grudge against them, but from the looks of this place, she hasn't got the means to strike back.
How did your family make an enemy of the Merchants' Guild?
My father once did business with the elves. Then one day my father received a notice from the Guild demanding a third of all the profits.
I'm not familiar with business practices, but even to my ear that sounds... extortionate. I assume your father refused?
He most certainly did! They had no right! He denounced the secretary who sent the notice, calling him a greedy fool. The next day, soldiers arrived and arrested my father for breaking merchant regulation law.
That is a terrible story.
That foul secretary Malcolm seized all of our possessions and I found myself in this pitiful situation you see me in now.
What happened to your family as a result of this interference?
Several days later my father died when his heart failed him and my mother was arrested by the town guards. She died a lonely, pitiful death in one of the city's dank, deep cells.
Her voice grew even lower and angrier. "I grow weaker by the day, but my thirst for revenge against that greedy bastard grows stronger," she said bitterly.
Are you angry enough to hire an assassin to kill Malcolm?
She looked at me like I had grown a new head. "Are you joking?" She spread her hands wide. "You see how I live. I can barely afford food. How could I possibly hire an assassin."
That's exactly what I was wondering.
I thought about the situation for a second. I didn't believe Malcolm, but that didn't mean that she was entirely honest either.
Tell me, Maria, would exacting your revenge on the secretary change your current situation?
I imagine it would. I know a lot of intimate and dirty details about many in the Merchants' Guild. Things that people in important positions in the guild would rather keep buried.
Just what information do you have?
Well, that damned secretary is altering the financial records of the Merchants' Guild. He is making a lot of money that way.
Maybe I could make some investigations and expose him?
Jeremiah, if you could expose his dubious behaviour I would be able to rebuild what remains of my life. The Guild master would be very grateful to me if it were proved that his good friend was stealing money from the guild.
I am not sure if I believe you, Maria. I will have to consider your accusations.
Look, Jeremiah. I know my accusations may seem to be born of hate for that man, but you have to believe me. He is a rotten person that steals and cheats! If you do decide to help me, I suggest you visit our friend in the Merchants' Guild and also his home in Verdistis. Here, let me show you on your map.
I will return later.
I left the house with much to think about, but one thought was occupying the majority of my mind.
Why the hell is nothing ever easy in this craphole country?
Just then, I saw the man who had some kind of bad blood with Jonas approaching me.
I am not in the mood for this.
What have we here? A freebooter skulking around my district without permission? How singularly interesting... and dangerous.
May I ask why a fat lout like yourself deems himself so very important?
The man bared his teeth in anger.
Count yourself lucky that I've just shared a warm bed with a warm whore and am in a favourable mood, or you would be laying at my feet with your life's blood flowing down the street and painting the gutters!
If you'd actually tried it, you'd be discovering the wonderful world of life as a small frog.
My question still remains unanswered!
I am Balin, owner of every street you see about you. I protect those that live here from thieves and scoundrels... for a small fee, of course. I'm a businessman, after all.
Wow... and I thought that Simmons and his crew were rotten.
You extort money from beggars? How low can you get?!
As I said before, all these streets belong to me, even the gutter holes that house vagrants and street urchins. Even the beggars have to give me something from their daily take. If not... well, a visit from my colleagues is something they learn to avoid.
How does one man come to own an entire district? And why should I need permission to wander where I wish?
You speak bravely for someone who looks inexperienced at fighting thugs in a narrow alleyway. But I like your bravado. Maybe you can do a favour for me?
I wrinkled my brow in confusion. "But you don't seem to be on fire?"
Balin gave a confused stare back. "Huh?"
"The only favour I'd consider doing for a lowlife like you would be to piss on you if you were ablaze!" I snapped back with a smirk.
Balin's face turned beet red, and I could see that it took all his limited self-control to avoid socking me in the jaw. That was too bad; I was hoping for an excuse to use my fireball spell. Finally, he calmed himself enough to be able to speak.
Alright... then consider it a favour for your friend Maria?
I own her house. She is under my protection. If you don't want anything to happen to her, you'll do me a favour.
It was my turn to get angry.
"There certainly are a lot of guards around here, aren't there?" he said mildly. "Besides... this is a nasty part of town. There are more unsavoury characters around then just me. If you kill me, who knows what will happen to her? It's a simple favour. It won't take up more than five minutes of your time."
"What is it you want me to do?" I growled darkly.
Jonas, a local street guide who makes his living showing strangers around town, has earned my disfavour. You know Jonas, don't you? I believe he has stolen one of my favorite necklaces and I want it back.
How can you be sure this Jonas is the one who stole your necklace?
I'm an important man in this town, so I employ others to keep an eye on my house when I'm away. They spotted Jonas entering my home while I was away in Verdistis. Sure enough, when I returned I discovered one of my necklaces was missing. No doubt the vermin stole it to buy food to fill his belly. An affront such as his cannot go unpunished. But I'm a just man and seek positive proof of guilt before I have him cut to pieces.
In his own mind, he really believes he's in the right, doesn't he?
I'm curious. Tell me again why it is you deem yourself so important?
Don't try my patience, stranger! If you want me to continue to protect Maria, do me a favour and go check out Jonas. Bring me my necklace, all right?
Balin stalked off and entered a nearby house. I couldn't decide whether it would be faster to simply kill him or not. I erred on the side of caution and went to Jonas's house. Jonas was not out front, and there was no answer when I knocked, so I went in.
"About the Game" posted:
At this point, you have the conversation option:
I have had enough of your insults! I will teach you a lesson in respect!
Which starts combat. But you get no reward or reputation boost for that.
I found a necklace on a shelf in Jonas's house. I went outside and saw Jonas returning.
Jonas, I found this necklace in your possessions. Recognize it?
Oh, aye. It belongs to that greedy Balin! That leech makes life in the streets much harder than it already is. He doesn't need that bauble. He extorts more than enough to live on. But me, I need money to survive.
Tell me more about Balin.
He's a gangster and murderer who extorts money from beggars and whores. Son-of-a-bitch thinks that he owns the streets. The sooner somebody puts that fat fart underground, the better it will be for everyone, I tell you.
So what you're telling me is that there isn't really reason why I shouldn't kill him.
Kill the bastard slowly and lay his corpse in the gutter for the dogs to piss on! He's had dozens murdered in his day! Time he tasted his own medicine!
Good enough for me. Here, enjoy your necklace.
I handed the necklace back to Jonas and walked down to where I saw Balin in the street.
You trouble me with your presence again wanderer? I do hope you have a good reason. I'm a very busy businessman with many important duties to attend to.
Oh, I have the very best reason of all: Prepare to die, your bullying days are over!
What?! You dare to attack me? You will pay for this, whoever you are!
Me? I'm just a humble wanderer who slaughtered an entire orc war-camp single-handedly, you ignoramus! If you paid more attention to who you try to threaten, you might have lived through this! Now die in silence so the world may be rid of you forever!
He swung at me with an axe. I moved to get some distance. A crowd gathered to watch the fight.
I blasted him with fireballs. Surprisingly, the guard made no effort to intervene.
Finally, Balin fell down dead, and his clothes caught on fire. There were loud cheers from all around. Only then the guard spoke up.
By your looks, you're that wizard who hunted down all the trolls who were troubling the farmlands. Officially, I'm supposed to warn you not to take the law into your own hands, but sod that! Well done! We of the Watch begged young Duke Janus to let us go destroy those stinking horrors, but he told us to mind our own business! My family are getting enough to eat now, and it's all because of you. Thank you. As far as I'm concerned, Balin died of natural causes, and no one here will deny that.
Thank you, officer. I appreciate it. By the way, spread the word that if anything happens to Maria, I will be. Very. Upset.
I'll do that.
He's uh... he's still burning. If you hurry, you can be the first in line to "put out the fire," if you catch my drift.
Ha! I do indeed. A good idea indeed, Jeremiah.
Music - "War and Peace"
Download (Thanks to Grawl)
I returned to Verdistis through a teleporter. I decided it would be easier to break into his house than to break him. I followed Maria's directions to Malcolm's house.
No one answered my knock. No one was watching and the lock was simple enough to pick quickly.
I did a quick search of the kitchen or living area, but didn't find anything interesting. No hidden panels, no squeaky and loose floorboards, nothing.
Darn... he might be cleverer than I thought.
... Or, he could be a fool who just somehow managed to avoid getting caught.
I closed and re-locked the house behind me with a lockpick, and went back to the Merchants' Guild.
I have found evidence in your house that you were stealing from the Merchants' Guild! I will expose you for what you did to Maria and her family!
We shall see who is more important here in Verdistis... that wore Maria... or I!
Somehow, I don't think you'll be able to count on the support of the guild five minutes from now. Better make those five minutes count.
He spluttered in rage, then turned white and ran off.
I entered the inner area of the Merchant's Guild by acting like I belonged there. It worked, the burly guard-types paid me little attention. I found a door marked "Guild Master - Trevor Ranirisor". I knocked on the door.
I was unknown to the man, so he was naturally upset at a stranger barging in.
My name is Jeremiah Liro. I have discovered that Malcolm is stealing money from the Merchants' Guild by fooling around with the financial records. Here is the evidence.
What?! Let me see that!
I dropped the heavy tome on the man's desk. He flipped through it a few times, and compared it with another similar book.
A pair of burly men entered.
Find Malcolm at once and have him arrested for embezzlement!
He's probably at home packing. I'd hurry.
The guards left in a hurry without a word.
Actually, a woman named Maria brought Malcolm's treachery to my attention... She says Malcolm wrongfully accused her family, and she lost everything because of this. She told me of his treachery and asked me to expose him!
Maria? Then it seems we wrongfully accused her and the family then! Malcolm fooled us all with his treacherous lies! If you see her again, please tell her that she is welcome again in Verdistis, and we are deeply sorry for the suffering we have caused.
There was a knock on the door. "Enter," Trevor said. It was one of the guards he'd send after Malcolm. "We caught him, sir, at his house. What should we do with him?"
Trevor wrote something down on a piece of paper dripped hot wax onto it, and impressed his seal on the wax. He handed the piece of paper to the guard.
Take Malcolm and this paper to Commander Kratus at once.
The guard nodded and left.
I am relieved that Malcolm has been exposed, and arrested. He could have brought great disrepute upon the Merchants' Guild! For your services, Jeremiah Liro, I hereby grant you life-time membership to our guild and offer our thanks.
He reached into a desk drawer and handed me a key.
Here is your personal key for the archive of the Merchants' Guild. You might find the information in there useful.
Thank you. I'll go tell Maria at once.
It seemed that the guard was very appreciative after all. Maria was safer than ever.
Ah... hello again, Jeremiah. I understand that I have you to thank for this... added protection?
I hope it's not too much trouble.
Thank you, but it's not the lowlifes around here which I'm worried about. If I have to spend one more night in this cold hovel of mine, I will surely catch my death.
Good news on that front as well. I have exposed Malcolm. The Guild master has told me that you are welcome again in Verdistis. They are deeply sorry for what they did to you and your family.
Praise the gods! My miserable life on the streets is over!
Maria ran over and hugged me.
*sniff* If only my parents could see that their accuser has been brought to justice. *sniff* I can now begin making a new life for myself. *sniff*
She released me and wiped the tears from her face.
Thank you, Jeremiah.
It was no problem at all. I'm glad to have helped.
I was glad to see her smile at last. But I was also glad to be getting back to what I should have been doing all along.
I returned to the Merchants' Guild and found the office of Yarun, the archiver. Yarun was the contact for the Assassin's Guild.
Now, FINALLY, I can meet with Yarun and get what I need from the Assassin's.
It is curious how you humans think.
What do you mean?
You are telling yourself lies... and yet at the same time, you are managing to believe your own lies.
What lies? What are you talking about?
You really do not know? You are not glad to finally be able to meet with the Assassin's Guild.
What? You're crazy, mystery entity. You don't know what you're tal-
You are afraid.
You've been looking for excuses to put this off. Deep down, you've welcomed each and every little interruption - that's why you took the job from the fat brute in the slum instead of simply turning him into a frog and walking away.
... Y-you're crazy. I hated all the interruptions!
You've been afraid since you met the first assassin, Crawler.
I'm not afraid of some assassins. I've killed plenty of assassins already.
It is not the assassins you fear.
Hurry up and start making some sense. If I were afraid of danger, I wouldn't have come all this way. You're full of crap, or whatever the equivalent is for your kind. Afraid... please...
You're afraid to find out the truth. You're afraid that your sister is dead, and had been dead before you ever stepped out the door of your house in Idfrennia to seek her out. You're afraid that you have failed your family yet again, as you've failed everyone you've ever met before coming here. Why do you think you've thrown yourself into the role of the hero with such enthusiasm?
I- That's- You're- No!
I couldn't deny it. That damned voice was... was right.
...Yes... Yes, I am... afraid...
You cannot put it off anymore. It is now, or not at all. But you are strong, Jeremiah. You were chosen because you are strong.
Chosen? By whom?
I can offer you no reassurances about the fate of your sister. It is as unknown to me as it is to you. I can lend you no air nor comfort if she is lost. Only you have the strength to persevere through what is to come. Are you going to find your strength?
... Yes. I will see this through, no matter what.
I didn't know how long I'd been standing there. Maybe minutes, maybe seconds, maybe hours. But it didn't matter. I strode forward and knocked on the door, but I didn't wait for a reply before turning the knob and walking in.
Next Time: Viper's Nest
Behind the Scenes
This is the last non-main quest update for a while. After this, it's going to be just main quest for some time.
You can talk to Trevor about his position.
How did you become guild master?
I was elected four years ago when my predecessor was killed by the Assassin's Guild. Most unfortunate.
Why did the Assassin's Guild kill your predecessor?
The last guild master was a wise man, but he made the mistake of doing business with the Assassin's Guild. Alas, one of the Assassin's guild members owed a sizeable amount of money and the Merchants' Guild master would not remit the debt.
What's fake in this update?
- Jonas doesn't lead us anywhere. Besides, the poor quarter is so small that we don't need a guide.
- Balin doesn't approach us after we leave Maria's house, but the conversation exchange was real, except that Jeremiah doesn't tell him that he'd only piss on him if he was on fire.
- The guard doesn't comment after Balin dies, but the conversation was real, except for the last part.
- The guards really were in Maria's house. They wander in because the house is near the quarantine area gate. It was just a nice coincidence.
- Obviously the black and white image was a photoshop.