Part 7: Hunting, Gathering, and PiratesSorry for the delay!
I hesitated as I approached Nagur. I'd briefly considered whether or not to bring the package to him or not, but in the end I'd decided I would be better off for it. Not only would I receive a larger reward, It would aid me in my plan to locate the thieves guild.
I approached Nagur and handed him the brown wrapped package that I'd been sent to acquire.
"Well done", He said. "I'll see to it that I sell it. Come back tomorrow."
It was quite dark out and I was exhausted. I returned to the inn and quickly fell asleep for the night.
The next morning I ventured back toward the harbor and spoke with Nagur. Unfortunately he hadn't had any time to actually find a buyer and I'd need to wait until tomorrow.
I had the rest of the day to kill. I wandered back into the lower quarter of the town. I saw the guard Pablo making his rounds. Recalling that I had need to speak with him, I hailed him and asked about the bandits.
"What do you know about the bandits?"
"They've all come from that blasted mining colony. But there are several splinter groups. Some have holed up in the mountains, and others have joined up with Onar, the landowner. But it's the bandits outside of town who cause the most problems. They're the reason that none of the merchants venture beyond the city gates now.
"Where did the bandits who had my wanted poster come from?"
"We picked them up near the landowner's place but they don't look like Onar's people. I think they're part of a smaller group which has holed up in the mountains near Onar's farm. If you intend to go there, let me warn you: Those cutthroats make short work of everyone!"
I nodded. "I'll remember that. What do you know about the bandits who robbed Hakon the merchant? Oh, THAT matter. Don't remind me. As far as we know, they're responsible for a lot of attacks on merchants. Those rats have crawled into their holes and don't dare come out again. Once we were able to track them down and follow them. But we broke off pursuit in the woods outside the city. " There's too many beasts roaming around there, it's much too dangerous. But there's one more thing: A few of the stolen goods have shown up in Khorinis. "
"This means that they know how they can smuggle the wares into town and sell them." I stated.
"Yeah, we suspect they have a fence in the city. But we haven't been able to catch the guy yet. If you find out anything about the business, remember Lord Andre has posted a bounty for the fence."
Pablo's information was useful. I wasn't sure I'd recovered enough to go investigating bandits just quite yet. Instead, I focused my efforts on completing the requirements to become an apprentice.
Just outside the eastern gate was a small swarm of Bloodflies. To my surprise, they didn't pose that much trouble. My leather armor was thick enough to absorb most of the stingers' impacts.
I unrolled the scroll that Constantino gave me. I took an inventory of my plants. I possessed at least one of each plant with the exception of King's Sorrel and Healing Root.
Directly north of the eastern gate was a small, secluded valley. I'd passed it earlier when I took the dirt path up toward the lighthouse but I didn't have time to explore it. It looked to be the sort of place where one could find some plants, so I set off to do just that.
A few large rats blocked my path but I successfully dispatched them and continued on.
I wondered if this small basin had once been filled with water. The old remains of a boat of some sort could be seen sticking out of the ground. Nearby was the skeleton of a human, the weapon that had previously killed him was still there. I took it.
I looked around a bit more but could not find any of the plants I needed. Too bad.
As I turned to leave, something caught my attention from the corner of my eye. I walked closer.
It was a cave and there was a human skeleton hanging above the entrance. Some large rats immediately charged but I was able to kill them.
The cave was empty, with the exception of a large, orcish axe that was stuck in the dirt in the center of the cavern. A passage branched off, lit with torches. Someone else was in here.
I snuck over toward the torches and pressed my back against the wall. Peeking around the corner I could see two armed men standing by a camp fire. The chances were that they weren't friendly. I didn't want to risk a confrontation so I left.
The basin was useless for finding useful plants, but there was still the place that Zuris had told me about.
Instead of continuing north toward the lighthouse, I turned south and followed the path up the hill.
From this height, I could see a fair deal of the city.
Up ahead there was a man sitting on a bench. He greeted me as I neared. "Did you run away, too?" he asked.
That was an odd question to ask. "What makes you think that?"
"Why would you come here all alone? There's NOTHING here."
"I only wanted to have a look around."
"Okay, be my guest. Would you like a piece of meat?"
He handed me a piece of molerat meat. "Here, the finest leg of molerat. According to my own recipe."
"So why are you here?" I said, nibbling on the meat.
"I can get a bit of peace up here. I always feel so restricted in the city."
"Don't you have to work?"
"Everything I need, I can get for myself. I cut the arrows and nature provides the meat."
"So you're a hunter."
"Yes, if you want to call it that. But I only hunt what I need for myself, not to earn money."
He'd offered to teach me about handling a bow, but I had no need of such training at the time. I said goodbye and then went on my way.
I followed the path further up the hill. Surprisingly, I found a good deal of equipment laying on the ground up here. Several scrolls, a magical ring, and a handful of potions.
The hill had a very nice view of the surrounding areas. As I searched it I eventually came across one of the two plants I needed.
With one plant down, I went back to the city. I still needed a healing root to complete Constantino's list but I had what Harad wanted.
I hefted the heavy orcish weapon up to show Harad. "I've got the orc weapon you wanted."
"Show me" he said. I handed it off to him.
"It's been awhile since I've had a weapon like this in my hands - I was a soldier back in the Orc War. Those were tough times, I can tell you. I didn't think you could do it. I'm impressed."
"When can I start as your apprentice?"
"We can really use a man around here who can beat an orc. As far as I am concerned, you can start here right away."
"Good. I'll think about it." I said. I still wasn't sure who to sign up with, if anyone.
"Take your time. Brian will still be here for a while."
Next I went to Bosper's shop. He was the only Master who I did not have permission from.
"Will I get your approval to sign up with a different master?" I asked.
Bosper sighed. "All right! You shall have my approval - but on one condition. Work for me, at least, for a short time. That way you can find out for yourself whether you will like my craft or not. And who knows - maybe you'll end up liking it, and you'll stay with me."
I would have argued, but something about Bosper made me feel bad. "What do you want me to do for you?"
"I will teach you how to skin an animal, and you will bring me - let's say - half a dozen wolf skins. Then I'll know that you have learned your trade" That sounded fair, though rather difficult at this point. "If it doesn't take you forever and if the skins are in acceptable condition, I will take you on if you like." He sighed heavily. "Or you can start with one of the other masters - if that's what you really want."
If I was going to find any skins, I'd need to learn how to properly cut them first. "Teach me how to skin animals" I asked.
"Right. Listen. It's quite easy, really. You take a sharp blade and cut open the animal's belly. Then make a few small incisions on the inside of the legs, and you can peel off the skin. Bring me a few wolf skins and we shall see."
I knew exactly who I was going to get to him me find the wolf skins, but first I had another quick detour to make.
I still had Hilda's pan and had forgotten to give her it. She wasn't pleased, but she accepted it.
I re-entered town and headed toward the tavern. The man I was seeking was Bosper's former apprentice, Bartok. I found him drinking free beer outside.
I tapped him on the shoulder and said "Why don't we go hunting together?" It wasn't like he had anything better to do.
He thought it over briefly in his head. "Hmm. With two it isn't so dangerous, that's true. Do you know anything about hunting, then? I mean, do you know ho to skin an animal?"
I nodded. The fact that I now had knowledge of skinning was enough this time. Bartok offered to take me hunting for 50 gold. I agreed and handed it over. I followed him out of the southern gate.
[Dialogue lost, sorry]
Just to the east of the southern gate Bartok and I encountered some bloodflies. He dispatched them with his bow. Bartok led the way, taking me further south.
A few moments later we came across a pack of six wolves. Anticipating trouble, I withdrew some of the scrolls I'd found earlier. I unleashed three fire spells on the pack of wolves but they kept coming. I ran in circles as Bartok slowly picked them off of me.
I then skinned the carcasses and we continued on.
Up ahead Bartok hesitated and then turned to me. "So, what do you think. Should we go farther into the woods or not?"
We'd barely encountered anything out here. "Let's go on" I said.
Bartok led the way and a minute or so later I discovered what Bartok was afraid of finding. An orc charged from out of the brush and attacked me. I managed to parry each of its blows while Bartok finished it off. If this orc had been anything more than a mere scout, we would have been in trouble.
The hunter looked at me, trembling with both fear and excitement. "That's it! I think I'm going back to the city! It's just too dangerous out here for me - even with the two of us. An orc right outside the city - holy shit."
Bartok went back to the city. I did the same, but I decided to take the longer way in order to search for plants.
Instead of going back in the northern gate, I circled around the wall toward the eastern side. This detour paid off as I encountered the last required plant on my way there.
My first stop in the city was Constantino. "I've got all the plants I was suppose to bring you!" I said, excitedly.
Constantino was surprised. "What? You're pulling my leg, right? By Adanos! It's there all right. Who knows, maybe some day you could make a decent alchemist after all."
I took that as confirmation, and jogged over to Bosper's shop.
I placed the six skins on his table. "About those skins... I've got them. Here."
"Great! I knew you would be suitable for the job. Here's the pay I promised you." Bosper handed me a pouch of sixty coins. "And? What do you think? Isn't this better work than banging away at swords all day, or filling little bottles in a dusty chamber?"
It really didn't, but I chose not to say anything. I departed the shop.
With the favor of each master, I'd wondered if Thorben would finally teach me about locks. He agreed to teach me at the cost of 200 coin.
"All you need is a lock pick. If you move it carefully left and right in the lock, you can unbolt the mechanism. But if you move it too much or too fast in the wrong direction, it will snap off. The more adept you become, the fewer lock picks you are going to need. That's all there is to it, really."
After the training was over, I sold some of my surplus goods and purchased some lock picks. I'd be able to put my new skills to the test soon.
I went down to the docks to check on Nagur, but the fool still hadn't sold the goods. I wandered around with nothing to really do when I saw an older man sitting alone on a bench. I approached him.
"Ahoy, you landlubber, looks like you're stranded here. You look a bit pale around the gills. Never mind, my lad. All you need is a good stiff sea breeze."
"What are you doing here?" I asked.
"Back when I was a young man, I went to sea and rode through many a big storm. Many years ago, I settled here and took care of the Khorinis lighthouse for a long time. No big deal. Not at all. But that old tower came closest to what I would call a home. I haven't been up there in ages."
"Ever since those scallywags took over my lighthouse, I haven't dared get closer to it than twenty feet. Really bad rabble, that. They're criminals from the valley of the mines, you know." Jack said. I didn't tell him that I knew. He continued. "There was this big bang on the other side of the mountains, and then they swarmed all over the land like flies. Now they're hiding out everywhere - even in my lighthouse. I think they're on the lookout for a ship they can raid. Ha! Let them. At least they'd be out of my tower then."
"Do you come to town often?"
"I always say, a town is only as good as its harbor. A harbor is a gate to the world. That's where everyone meets, and where everything starts. Once the harbor goes to the dogs, the rest of the city will follow soon."
"Tell me about the harbor." I requested.
Jack slowly shook his head as he reminisced. "The harbor of Khorinis isn't what it used to be. There's nothing but riffraff hanging about, the ship's don't come in anymore and the trade is dead. This harbor's about to go under."
"Why are the ships no longer coming?"
"They all say that, once the war is over, everything will be like it used to. That's a load of bilge water. I tell you, a sailor can see when a town's going downhill. A sailor feels that in his blood. And I tell you, forget about this harbor. Its heyday's over."
"So why don't you leave?"
"Nobody would take an old sea dog like me on his ship these days. Most people think that Old Jack's got the gout in his rotten old bones."
"And? Are they right?"
"Balderdash. Once I've got those planks below my feet again, I'll feel like a young whippersnapper."
"What do you mean by riffraff?"
"Look at them, the lazy rabble. Most of them don't even know what work is. All they do is drink all day and spend their last pay at the brothel. I tell you, stay away from them." Jack sat back down and looked out over the waves, occasionally mumbling to himself.
I looked over the harbor and thought about what Jack said. Suddenly, I recalled the information I'd heard from the fisherman about the secret harbor to the north. I dove into the water and began to swim.
Like he said, I found the hidden harbor just north of the city and it even appeared to be inhabited. I left the water and began to cautiously look around.
A man in odd clothing saw me sneaking about and waved me over.
"There you are at last. I've been waiting here for hours." He paused to look me over. "Just a moment. You're not a merchant from town, are you?" He grew angry. Where's Baltram?"
"Who are you?" I asked.
"I don't see how that's any of your business. But if you must know, my name is Skip. Does that ring a bell?"
"Are you telling me you've never heard of Skip? Holy shit, where do you live? I'm one of Khorinis' most wanted criminals. Me and my boys have been the scourge of the waters around this crummy island for years. Come on, you must have heard of me."
I hadn't. "Should I know you?"
Skip made a fist. "Mind that mouth of yours, lad, or old Skip will give you what for."
I didn't want a fight, as I would surely be beaten yet again, so I changed the topic. "Baltram? You're waiting for a merchant?"
"Smart kid, are you? That's what I just said, isn't it? That good-for-nothing junk merchant seems to have forgotten me. If only I could get my hands on him."
"Where do you come from?"
"You want to know where our hideout is? If I tell you that, I might as well invite the militia to arrest me. And, in case you would like to pay us a visit, it wouldn't help you in the least. The island of Khorinis is large, and no-one ever gets to where we are anyway. Unless they have a cog or some other ship. And then you'd have to find your way through the cliffs as well. Nobody gets through there, unless they know the secret path. There are only two people who know the path and you're not one of them."
That was quite a lot of information for not telling me. "A lot of citizens are missing. And everything seems to indicate that you're not quite innocent in the matter."
Skip looked flustered. "Er... dammit. It's not what you think it is. Do I look like a slave trader to you? No, I only transport goods. What they are and where they come from is no concern of mine. We have shipped all kinds of things for those swine. First it was regular stuff. Well, sometimes it may have been contraband. But then they started to kidnap the inhabitants of the city. No idea what they're planning to do with them. All we did was ferry them across. "
"Who are you talking about?"
"The bandits, of course. Who else? The filthy scum are making themselves at home all over the island. And not just around Khorinis."
"Just 'bandits' is not good enough for me. I want a name."
Skip knew that I could alert the militia to his presence and that they would come if he was even a bit of what he said he was. "A name? You want to know who's leading the bandits? Dammit... what was that bastard's name again. Mmh. I just can't recall his name. Even if it wasn't all that complicated. But I can show you where to find the boss of the gang in this part of Khorinis. Have you got a decent map?"
I shook my head. "No."
"Then I guess I'll have to give you a description. There's a very big farm far to the east. The farmer's name is Onar, I think. He's got some fairly large fields. To the south of those fields, there's a small fortress on a high cliff. That's where you'll find your man. I remember his name now. Dexter. Yes, I think they called him Dexter."
I knew that name. Both Dexter and I were in the penal colony. Dexter was one of the Shadows under Diego in the Old Camp. Why he now led a group of bandits I didn't know. "Where did you take those people?" I asked.
"I already told you - I'm not going to tell you where our bay is."
I couldn't get any more information from Skip so I swam back to the city. It was time to pay Baltram a visit.
First I made a stop to meet with Vatras to let him know what I've found so far.
"About those missing people" I said.
"Yes?" Vatras said, interested.
"I have found out that the bandits are responsible for the disappearances here. The leader of the bandits is named Dexter. He is responsible for the kidnappings. I knew Dexter back in the penal colony. He was working for the ore baron Gomez then. "
"He will certainly remember you. You should be careful. I think you're on the right track. Carry on."
I went to the marketplace next, and casually walked up to Baltram. "You're doing business with pirates?" I said, leaning against his stall.
Baltram's eyes widened and he looked around suspiciously. "What? Who told you that?"
"I talked to one of them. He seems to be waiting for you in his bay."
"What can you do? These are hard times. Everybody has to look after his own. "
"Weren't you afraid of getting caught?"
"That could happen. You found out, too, didn't you? But you'll keep your mouth shut, right?"
"What is it you're trading?"
"I mostly supply them with food. And for that, they give me the finest rum that is to be had in Khorinis."
I grinned. "I could take care of this deal for you."
"That would be great. I cannot leave Khorinis at the moment. Here, take this package and tell Skip not to be so stingy with the rum this time. It should be at least three bottles."
I took the package and walked inside the Inn. I said I would deliver it, but it'll wait until the morning.
Soon, I would also need to choose if I wanted to actually become an apprentice here. While it would allow me access to the upper level of the city, I doubted it would allow me to see the Paladin's leader. For that I would need to align myself with a major faction. Nevertheless, it would bring in some coin and much needed training. My choices were Harad, the blacksmith, Bosper, the bowyer, or Constantino, the alchemist. They each had something to teach me. Harad could teach me to be stronger and how to smith my own weapons, Bosper could teach me how to hunt, and Constantino new recipes and alchemical techniques.
This isn't really a major decision at all but I didn't want to make it on my own. To progress the story I need to side with one of the camps. Regardless, it's still fun and sometimes good for money to join with one. I'm pretty sure (though sheep goats will correct me if I'm wrong) that none of them offer anything unique in terms of skills, either.
Other stuff - I was GOING to have a video of Khorinis up for this update, but for some reason Viddler isn't being very nice with me. It's constantly crashing for me in Firefox and won't upload anything. If it doesn't work later I'll try a new site.
And a question: To those who actually read this, would you like to me lower the amount of screen shots? It seems quite screenshot heavy compared to most other SSLPs. I took more in Gothic 1, with several per dialogue, but decided to lower it this time around. Right now I'm currently using shots for anything of interest or when I get to a new area for the first time or two.