Part 3: The city of Khorinis (Part one)
I laid on the ground for several minutes. The thug Moe had given me a good walloping and I ached all over. I found the strength to stand a few minutes later and dug around in my pack for a potion. I quaffed it and continued on my way out of the harbor.
As I neared the end of the harbor district, I encountered a bald man smoking some swampweed. I was in need of directions and he seemed knowledgeable enough.
"What do you want?" The bald man said harshly.
"I wanted to have a look around here..." I said meekly.
"And where exactly are you headed?"
"What interesting things are there to see here?" I didn't have any particular place in mind, I just knew that, at some point, I needed to meet with the paladins.
"There's a cat house here, and a pub. The landlord's name is Kardif. If it's information you want, he'll be the right person to talk to." I grimaced at the mention of a cat house, but kept my revulsion silent. "Do you need money, by the way?"
"Are you giving it away?" I replied, half joking.
Meldor gestured to the building in front of him with his empty hand. "No, but right across the street here is the house of Lehmar, the moneylender. I'm sure he'll give you a few gold pieces, just go ahead."
"Do you work for Lehmar?" I asked.
"Actually, I was on my way to the upper quarter." I decided to leave the part about the paladins out.
Meldor laughed. "Yeah, right. And I was about to board a ship and have it take me to the king for an audience. People like you and me haven't been allowed in the upper quarter since the paladins came."
"Are you a citizen of this town?"
"If you mean, do I live here - yes. But they still won't let me into the upper quarter. Only the toffs can get in there, or the merchants and craftsmen from the lower end of town. The people from the Harbor district don't carry much weight in Khorinis. There isn't even a regular militia patrol down here."
I changed the topic. "Has anything exciting happened lately?"
"Not long ago the city guards turned the entire harbor district upside down. They were searching for stolen property. There have been plenty of thefts here lately, especially in the better quarters. They're obviously trying to blame the poor suckers at the harbor for everything"
After I'd finished with Meldor, I resumed the short trip out of the harbor district into the lower quarters.
The harbor was a stark comparison to the lower quarter. While the lower quarter resident were not all proper citizens, they clearly received militia patrols and other attention that the harbor did it.
The first building I saw was that of a smithy. I was without any sort of income and had little idea of how to go about meeting with the paladins. I moved toward the Blacksmith and greeted him.
"I'm looking for work" I said.
"Hm - I could use a new apprentice.", The blacksmith eyed me up and down. "Brian will have finished his apprenticeship soon and then he'll leave the city. Are you good for anything?"
"If you mean, do I know blacksmith's work--"
"No. That's not what I meant", Harad interrupted. "Sooner or later the orcs are going to lay siege to the city, and then only the men who will count will be those who are in a position to defend our city. And I won't take on anyone as an apprentice who will disgrace me by fleeing the city with the women and the good-for-nothings, instead of holding the fort here with the men."
I hesitated. This smith really did not have confidence in the Paladins. "I'm not a good for nothing!" I said, puffing out my chest to look somewhat tough. I don't think it worked.
"Those are big words! Can you back them up with big deeds?"
"What are you getting at?" I asked cautiously.
"Bring me an Orc's weapon. Orcs have been seen near the city. With a bit of luck, you won't have to search for long. If you manage to bring one down, I'll take you on as an apprentice. Provided the other masters agree."
"Do you sell weapons, too?" I'd not been able to find anything decent since Xardas' tower. I was stuck with a large stick I took from a goblin.
"Forget it", Harad said. "Everything I make goes to the paladins or the militia. I have a commission for 100 swords from Lord Hagen. He wants to equip the city guard."
Slightly dejected, I decided to see if I had a better shot with a nearby carpenter. I didn't care what job I could get as long as it brought in some money. Defeating an army led by dragons seemed like expensive work. Plus, it seemed like I'd need a stable job to meet the paladins.
I headed across the street.
The carpenter spoke to me as I approached. "Ah! A fresh face. You're not from Khorinis, are you? This is not a good time for travelers. Bandits everywhere, no work, and now the farmers have risen up, too. What winds have blown you here?"
"I'm looking for work." I replied, not really caring for what else he's said.
"Do you know anything about carpentry"
I laughed nervously. "The only thing I can make out of wood is a fire."
"And what about locks?" Thorben asked.
"I'm sorry, but I can't use you if you know nothing about my trade. And I have no
money to pay an apprentice."
"So you know a lot about locks?" It occurred to me at that moment that work was not the only way to earn a living. In the colony I'd become quite good at picking locks, but those were old and worn. Anything new would stop me dead in my tracks.
"What good is a fine chest without a fine lock? I make my own locks. That way I can at least be sure that I haven't built my chests that sturdy for nothing. A poorly made lock is easy to break. And there are plenty of thieves about in Khorinis. Especially lately!"
"Can you teach me how to pick locks?" I hopefully asked.
"Hmm... I don't know whether you can be trusted or not. For all I know you might be one of those layabouts who only come to town to empty the chests of honest people. I'm not going to teach you anything before I'm convinced that you are an honest fellow."
I thought for a moment. "What if I want to start an apprenticeship with one of the other masters here?
"All right, I shall give you my approval. But you had better get yourself the blessing of the Gods first. Say, are you a man of faith?"
I wasn't until my days in the Colony. "Yes. A most humble servant, Master Thorben."
"Then go to Vatras, the priest of Adanos, and have him give you his blessing. He will tell you where you can find a priest of Innos. You should get his blessing too. Once you have received the blessing of the Gods I shall vote for you."
I said my farewells to Thorben and went to look for Adanos. I had a letter from Cavalorn to give him, anyway.
I left the carpentry workstation and walked toward the gate. A strong hand touched my shoulder and I turned to see another city guard. I panicked. Had they discovered that I snuck in?
"Hey you, wait. You look familiar to me." the guard said.
"What do you want?" If he was about to throw me out, I wasn't sure how I'd get back in. I didn't have enough for a bribe.
"I've seen your face somewhere before.. ah - right! Here - we found this picture on some bandits we picked up a few days ago - it looks a lot like you. Apparently these guys are looking for you."
I took the crude drawing and examined it closely. It looked very similar to the drawing that the mountain bandits had. "Gee, I'd never have thought of that myself."
"Very funny... what did those fellows want from you?"
I genuinely didn't know. "Ask them yourself. You've got them safely locked up, don't you?"
"No - they're dead."
"I guess we'll never know, then." I said, slightly shaking. Whoever had spent so much effort finding me would not stop now. I calmed myself down and continued toward the gate.
"If you're in some kind of trouble - go talk to Lord Andre. Maybe he can help you. You'll find him in the barracks." Pablo said as I walked away.
As I neared the gate, I was stopped yet again.
"Halt, stranger! I haven't seen you come through this gate. And the guards on the other gate have orders not to let any unknown persons into the city."
"Weeell..." I said nervously scratching my arm.
"I shall have a word with those two", The Paladin said sternly. "But now for us two: I am Lothar, paladin of the king and humble servant of Innos, your Lord. Our commander, Lord Hagen, has entrusted me with the task of explaining to all newcomers the new laws which apply to all inhabitants of the city. Since people have started simply vanishing all over this town, everybody needs to watch out that they don't suffer the same fate."
"I have an important message for the leader of the paladins." I almost expected that to work, but it was never that easy.
"The honorable Lord Hagen is not receiving anyone. Lord Andre, the commander of the city guard, is responsible for all issues pertaining to the common folk."
"Listen - the city is threatened by dragons!" I said, raising my voice and waving my arms slightly..
"That can't be true! Another lunatic", Lothar sighed. "We have enough unrest in the city as it is. And without some dimwit scaring people with fairy tales about dragons! I immediately locked up the last person who was here telling dragon tales and sent him to the Valley of Mines with the prison transport. So mind your tongue! We can't use anyone here who spreads panic among the people!"
That seemed odd to me. Xardas had not told me that he sent anyone else. "Somebody already reported the dragons here?"
"Yes. The fellow's name was Diego." My eyes widened. "I think so, in any case. I warned him - just like you! But the lunatic just wouldn't stop getting on my nerves!"
"I have come to get the Eye of Innos!"
Lothar was flabbergasted. "The sacred Eye of Innos! How do you know about that?! You are not a member of the order!"
"A magician told me about it." I replied coyly.
"I don't know what his motives were when he entrusted one of the secrets of our order to you but he certainly didn't mean for YOU to get your fingers on it. I don't want to hear any more about it!"
It didn't seem that the "The townspeople are simply disappearing?"
"Yes. It seems to be more every day. It's most annoying that the militia have still not been able to discover what's behind these strange occurrences. Small wonder that the town's inhabitants are very wary of strangers right now. So don't provoke them when you're in town, understood?"
I said my farewells. "If I hear ONE more time that you are telling people here about dragons, you will be in big trouble, do I make myself clear?" Lothar sternly stated as I walked away.
I left through the gate and headed back toward Lobart's farm. I still had some business out here to take care of. Lobart's wife had asked me to buy her a pan and there was still the matter of the oddly dressed man.
I made my way toward the farm first. Greg aided me with some nearby Blood flies but said nothing.
Canthar, who had previously been sitting on a nearby bench, had since left. I assumed he'd finally entered town. I'd have to find him another time.
I approached Lobart next, and offered to buy that clothing.
"I need some sensible clothes!"
"I can give you clean farmer's work clothes. Can you pay for them, then?
"How much for the work clothes?" I asked. I hoped all that I'd done would have lowered it to a good price.
"Well, we'll see: You've worked the field for me. Vino says you were a real help to him. And that's saying something - he doesn't usually hold with day laborers. Maleth says you chased the bandits off. The bastards have caused us a lot of trouble. Thanks to you we're rid of them! 40 gold pieces."
I nodded. Forty gold seemed fair. "Give me the clothes, then."
"There is a chest in my house where you will find clean things. But don't even think about taking anything else without asking!"
I walked into Lobart's home and found the chest he spoke of. I took the clothing, but I decided against taking anything else. He'd been fair to me, after all.
Next, I decided to pay Greg a visit. He'd previously asked if I could assist getting him into town. With these clothes, he could convince the guards that he was a farm hand.
"About the city guards..." I said as I neared him from the side.
Greg looked over toward me. "Yes? Got an idea?" he asked.
I presented the folded up clothes to him. "They should let you pass if you're wearing these farmer's clothes."
"That's just what I need. Man, I knew I could count on you. Nobody will bother me disguised as a local yokel. Ha ha. Excellent. You did really well. Here's your promised reward." Greg threw a pouch in my direction.
I caught the purse and opened it. "What? 50 measly gold coins? You can't be serious."
"Gold isn't everything my friend. Take them for now. I have the feeling that we'll be seeing one another soon. And who knows? Maybe I'll return the favor. Look after yourself."
I grumbled silently but accepted the payment. Despite the low pay, I'd made a new ally. One who would be valuable later.
As I approached the gates, I was again stopped by the guards. I'd walked right past them on my way out of the city but I supposed that it didn't matter. They couldn't let me back in looking like I did.
Remembering what Lester had said, I brought up that I was collecting plants for the local alchemist.
"Really? Then you won't mind showing me what you've brought. Mmh. Looks good. All right. In you go. But don't cause any trouble, understood?
After presenting a bundle of mundane healing herbs I was again allowed entry. I passed through the gate and set out to find Vatras, the Water Mage.
I found him praying in a small, covered, temple of sorts not far from the gate.
"Adanos be with you", he said. "I am Vatras, a servant of Adanos, the guardian of the divine and earthly equilibrium. What can I do for you?"
I withdrew Cavalorn's letter and handed it to Vatras. "Here, I've got a letter for you."
"For me? Indeed. This is an important message you're bringing me. I wonder how you got hold of this letter."
"I got it from Cavalorn, the hunter." I said.
"Cavalorn? Where is he?"
"He told me to tell you he couldn't make it and is headed for the meeting point. Whatever he means by that."
"I see that you've gain Cavalorn's trust. That speaks in your favor."
"I want to join the 'Ring of Water'" I'd hoped that that little incident where I'd betrayed the trust of the Water Mages would be forgiven.
"You do? That means you have already fulfilled the first requirement."
"What do you mean by that?"
"I mean there must be someone among us who trusts you. Otherwise, you wouldn't even know about it. But I know nothing about you at all..."
I shrugged. "What do you want to know?"
"Well, you could tell me where you come from and why you have come to the city."
"I carry an important message for the leader of the paladins"
"What is this message?"
"A large army is gathering as we talk, led by Dragons and determined to conquer the country."
"Dragons? You speak of being which, until now, have only been mentioned in legends. How do you know this?"
The Necromancer had told me not to mention his name, but I felt that Vatras would see through any lies I'd be able to come up with. "Xardas the magician told me. He sent me to warn the paladins."
"The necromancer... so he lives... and he really sent you? Who are you really?"
"I'm a former convict from the penal colony of Khorinis."
"That all sounds rather fantastic, but I cannot perceive that you are lying to me. Therefore I must assume that your motives are honorable. I want to give you a chance to join the Ring of Water."
"What must I do in order to join the Ring?"
"Know that you take on great responsibility by joining the ring." Little did he know that
"I do not let just anyone join who comes to us and asks. If you want to join the Ring, you will have to prove that you act like one of us."
"And that means?"
"Before we let a young man join our ranks, he must have done a great deed for the Ring. Only then can I begin to consider letting you help preserve the balance of forces on the island."
"I have vanquished the Sleeper. Isn't that a great enough deed?"
"My ears hear many a tale these days. Including the story about the banning of the beast called Sleeper. I have not heard that this was achieved by a single man, although your eyes tell me that you are convinced you did this. That confuses me slightly, but I cannot be sure that my senses might not deceive me sometimes. "
"I have freed many people. The barrier is gone."
"Even if you can REALLY claim responsibility for that, the great event in the Valley of the Mines has not only set free the Water Mages and other upright citizens. All the criminals of the entire country are roaming Khorinis these days, harassing the population. The bandits have already taken over large areas of land outside of the city. It has become all but impossible to leave the town and return unharmed."
"So what would be an appropriate deed that might convince you?"
"Khorinis is facing a great enigma these days. The number of people missing from the town seems to increase almost daily. If you can explain to me what happened to them, you shall have your place within the 'Ring of Water'. I consider it a matter of great importance. Speak to Lord Hagen."
"But Lord Hagen is not going to receive me!"
"Yes, he will, no doubt about it. PROVIDED you become a member of a powerful community first. The ring has far-reaching connections. We shall assist you in conveying your message as soon as possible. You should talk about this to Lares, whom I trust. He will help you. "
"What community should I join?"
"There are only three communities that have enough influence. The are: The city militia, the monastery of the Fire Magicians, and the troop of mercenaries on the landowner's farm. The choice is yours, son. Lares can certainly assist you with this difficult decision. Talk to him about it."
"I shall do that."
"If you see Lares, give him this ornament and tell him that it needs to be returned. He'll know what to do with it."
I'd met with Vatras, now I just needed to find Lord Hagen. I jogged over to the merchant's area.
It seemed that all merchants had gone to bed for the night, or at least were not at their stalls any longer. I did see Greg, however. He'd managed to get in after all.
I turned a corner and found a large cluster of people drinking and smoking near the barracks.
It turned out the beer was free! I helped myself to a mug or two while I was there.
It didn't seem that there was anyone else willing to talk at this late hour so I went to find Andre.
I found Andre just outside of his office.
He greeted me when he noticed my approach. "Innos be with you, stranger! What brings you to me?"
"I've got an important message for Lord Hagen" I said.
"Well, you stand before one of his men. What is this about?"
"It's about a sacred artifact - the Eye of Innos."
"The Eye of Innos - I have never heard of it. But that doesn't necessarily mean anything. If there truly is an artifact of this name, only the highest members of our order would know anything about it, in any case."
"That's why I have to talk to Lord Hagen himself."
"Lord Hagen receives only Paladins or those who are in service to paladins." I sighed, though to be honest I had been expecting a response like that. "It is beneath his dignity to waste his time with members of the common folk."
"Why are the paladins in town?" I inquired.
"The goals of our mission are secret. I can only tell you that there is no danger for the citizens of the town. You need not worry."
It didn't seem that Lord Andre wanted anything to do with me unless I was in his service. I had an idea. "I want to take up service with the paladins!"
"Good. I can well use every able man here. No matter what his reasons for joining us. If you place yourself in the service of the paladins, I shall help you get an audience with Lord Hagen. However, I have my orders only to accept citizens of the town in the militia. My commander is afraid that spies or saboteurs could sneak in. He wants to limit the risk this way. Therefore, you must first be a citizen of the town - whether this rule makes sense or not is disputable, but orders are orders."
I groaned. "Isn't there a faster way to join you?"
"Mmh. You're really serious about this, aren't you?" Andre rubbed his chin for a moment and then leaned in closer. "Good, listen. I have a problem. If you solve it for me, I shall see to it that you are accepted into the militia. But the most important thing is: you must not breathe a word of it to anyone."
I shrugged. "What's your problem?"
"Recently there have been a number of thefts in the city. Thus far, we have not been able to capture anyone, the thieves are simply too skillful. The scum know their business. I am sure that we're dealing with an organized gang. It would not amaze me if there were a thieves guild in Khorinis. Find the leaders of the gang and hunt them down. Then I shall see to it that you are accepted into the militia - regardless of whether or not you are a citizen. But you must say nothing about our agreement."
I agreed and went on my way. It was late at night and I had no leads. I decided to find a bed for the night and get started in the morning.
Luckily, an inn was just at the bottom of the ramp.
A bored looking woman with terrible shoes greeted me when I entered. "Ah, a customer - what can I do for you?"
"I'm looking for a room."
"You're in the right place then."
"One of the paladins told me that I could spend the night here for free."
"Yes, yes. Just go up the stairs. We still have one or two beds free."
I walked upstairs and promptly collapsed into bed. I was exhausted.
Sorry for the delay. Haven't had much time this week for the LP. Should have the second part soon.