Part 12: Bandit Hunting and Blackmail
Lord Hagen had little time for me. Once our short chat was over, I quickly left. I had a new goal but at this time I didn't feel like I was ready for it.
On my way out of the upper quarter, the merchant Fernando stopped me.
"Hey you - wait a minute. You are headed for the Valley of the Mines, aren't you? Here's a bargain. You give me a report of what's going on with the ore, and for that I get you a ring that increases your life energy."
"I'll see what I can do." I said.
I decided that today I'd go find out the results of the drinking contest. It'd been several days now and it was almost certainly over by now.
I stopped by Vatras before I left to see if he had anything for me. He did.
"I have a message for Master Isgaroth. He guards the shrine in front of the monastery. If you run this errand for me, you get to choose your own reward."
"I'll do it." I replied.
"Good., then take the message and choose one of these spell scrolls. When you have delivered the message, I shall reward you accordingly."
Vatras gave me a choice of healing scrolls, ice arrow, and light. I chose the ice arrow scroll. I had plenty of torches for light, and healing scrolls but I was lacking in offensive magic.
"Is there anything that could help me with my search?"
"You are very persistent, young man. But I actually can think of something that could make your tasks easier for you. I shall give you this ore amulet. You'll certainly be able to use it. It is an amulet of the searching will-o'-the-wisps. There are only a few of them. The will-o'-the-wisp that inhabits this amulet has very special properties. It can help you find things that normally elude the naked eye. You summon it by simply wearing the amulet. If it loses its power or you cannot find it, simply put on the amulet again and it will reappear. The will-o'-the-wisp can detect weapons. It could be very helpful to you in investigating the weapons deliveries to the bandits. Treat it will, and it will never fail you."
"Can the will-o'-the-wisp do more than that?"
"More than look for close-combat weapons? Not unless you teach it. I think Riordian knows how to teach these beings. He is one of us, currently traveling with Saturas. Perhaps he can tell you more. "
"A will-o'-the-wisp in an amulet?"
"Will-o'-the-wisps are admirable creatures. They consist of pure magical energy. They are bound to the magical ore in this world. It is their origin. It gives them their strength. I am not surprised that you never heard of them. They only appear to the person who bears the ore to which they belong. Will-o'-the-wisps living in the wild have been forcefully removed from their sources. They will attack anyone who approaches them. There is no way to help those pitiful creatures. You had better stay away from them."
"Thank you! I shall take good care of it."
I said my farewell to Vatras and made my way to the eastern gate.
I was stopped yet again. This time by the merchant Hakon.
"There you are again", he said loudly "Harad has finally finished that damn assignment for the paladins. That mans I can now offer you some new weapons. Are you interested?"
I browsed his things but it was all out of my ability and price range.
Once outside town I walked along the eastern road. A few wolves blocked the road but I managed to deal with them. Off to the left of the road I saw a small hill that had what appeared to be large human footprints.
I followed the prints and they took me to a cavern. I cautiously walked inside with my weapon drawn.
A skeleton was just inside the cave with its belongings scattered around him. I picked through it and found a few useful items such as scrolls and potions. On the other end of the cave there was a small tunnel. A torch was lit. I expected to find some more bandits so I readies my weapon and creeped over.
I snuck over to the torch and peeked around a wall. My eyes widened with what I saw: a fully armed and armored Orcish warrior. It hadn't seen me and I was very grateful for that fact. I slowly and quietly creeped out of the cave.
I sighed in relief once I left the cave. I hadn't expected an orcish warrior this close to town. Despite my recent close call, I was still intent on exploring. I spotted a ledge behind the cave and climbed up.
I found yet another skeletal corpse. This one appeared to be much more recent than the one in the cave. Chunks of muscle and fat still clung to the bone, and many bones appeared broken. I picked through the things and found a potion, some rings and, most importantly, a militia issue sword. I assumed that this was one of the men that Pablo had lost to bandits.
I took the sword and sheathed it and pocketed the other things.
I looked up to see where the body could have come from. Predictably, there was a cliff just above me. Most likely this militiaman had been killed by roadside bandits, and then the corpse or wounded man was then thrown off the cliff. If I was going to find any bandits, I figured it would be up there.
A narrow pass took me alongside the road. I crossed it and found myself facing Akil's farm.
I turned away from Akil's farm and continued down the forest road. I encountered some enraged animals but it was nothing I couldn't handle.
Just ahead off the side of the road I could see another cave. I crept closer with my weapon readied.
The cave was lit with torches and part of the room was blocked by a wooden structure. I snuck closer and peeked through the doorway. There were two men dressed in leather with clubs, and one in hide armor with an axe. I rummaged through my things and pulled out a few scrolls before jumping up.
I tossed a fireball and two ice arrows at the bandits. The two lightly armored men died from the magics but the more archer survived.
I hopped over the bodies and charged the surviving bandit. We fought for several minutes, but I eventually emerged the victor.
The bandits' camp here was relatively sparse. Around the campfire I found a few bottles of wine and a sheep skin. There was no sign of any weapons here.
There was a single unlocked chest that I opened. Curiously, it only contained about two dozen gold pieces and four fish. One of the fish was a bit odd and seemed to have been stitched closed.
I dug my fingers into the fish and tore the stitches apart. Inside the belly of the fish I found a smelly note. I unfolded it and looked it over.
I didn't think this was related to the weapons shipments but it meant someone else was supplying the bandits. Considering the amount of fish I'd found I had a good idea of who it was.
The inside of the cave was picked clean and the bandit bodies were left to rot. I turned left just outside and climbed a rock to get a better look of my surroundings.
The road from Akil's farm forked ahead. Presumably one of the paths would take me back to Khorinis, but I had no idea where the other would take me. At any rate, there were too many beasts around to consider following either path at the moment. I turned around and headed back to Akil's farm.
From the farm, I went down the stone staircase and passed under the bandit infested bridge back to The Dead Harpy.
Orlan greeted me as soon as he saw me. It seemed that the competition was over.
"There you are, finally. I've been waiting for you. The drinking contest is finally over."
"Who won?" I asked. I'd not forgotten how much I had on the outcome.
"Once again, Rukhar has gotten Randolph pickled. It was only to be expected. So, well, I hope that was the last time. I don't want that kind of to-do in my house ever again, remember that."
I walked by Randolph on his way out. "Hangover?" I asked.
He groaned. "This is the mother of all hangovers, and I can't get rid of it. I'll never touch another drop, I swear. Your money is gone. I'm sorry."
I was convinced that Rukhar had somehow cheated me, even if I countered his previous plan of spiking the beers with gin. "I want my money back." I demanded.
He grinned. "Gambling debts are debts of honor, pal. You should have thought it over before."
I muttered angrily and left the inn. I still had Vatras' note to deliver and didn't want to delay.
From the tavern I started to follow the path to the Monastery, taking only a short break to offer a gold donation to Innos. Oddly enough, I felt more relaxed and limber afterwards.
I found Isgaroth at the shrine just outside the monastery. "I carry a message from Vatras." I announced.
Isgaroth rose to his feet and turned to me. "What is this message?"
I removed the sealed note from a pocket and gave it to the Magician. "It's a letter. Here."
"Good, you can tell Vatras that I have received the message. Take these potions as a reward for your service, they will surely be of use to you. May Innos watch over you always."
I had no more business up this way so I made the long trek back to town.
As soon as I arrived, I made sure to tell Hakon of the good news. "I took care of the bandits." I said.
The merchant looked skeptical. "Really? Anyone could say that. Do you have proof?"
Sighing, I replied. "Should I go back and cut off their heads?"
Hakon answered quickly, likely thinking about the repercussions of having me bring the decapitated heads of bandits to the marketplace. "No - I don't think that will be necessary. I believe you. You have done the merchants and the city a great service. Here is the money you were promised."
I headed down to the harbor next. I wanted to speak with Halvor.
However, as I searched for him, the shipbuilder Garvell caught my eye. I'd finally heard what the Paladins were here for and I'd promised him I'd find out.
"I know why the paladins are here." I told him.
"Really? Tell me!"
"The paladins are here to get the magical ore from the Valley of Mines, not because they expect the orcs to attack the city. As soon as they've got the ore, they're going to return to the mainland.
"Thanks for the information. The way it looks, we have all the time in the world for building our ship."
Next, it was off to see the fishmonger. With the smelly scrap of paper in hand, I approached him. "I think this piece of paper belongs to you."
Halvor grabbed the note out of my hand. "What...? Let me see."
He began to read and became increasingly more nervous as he did so. "Er... OK. Let's stay calm about this - er … listen. I have resold the goods I got from the bandits. But there's no reason to take this straight to the militia, right? I'm sure we can come to an understanding, can't we?"
I looked him right in the eye. "Make me an offer, then."
The fish merchant warily glanced to each side before leaning in closer. "All right. I'll tell you something. I can sell you more than just fish. If you hand me this piece of paper and, er … forget about the matter, you and I can become the best of trading partners."
"Oh really? What kind of goods would those be?"
"Well, I could offer you... quite special fish, you see. Not just the plain ones for eating."
"You mean like the one that contained your hidden message?"
"You've got it. I have several of those... fish."
"All right, it's a deal. I think we can keep this little matter between ourselves. " I handed the letter to Halvor.
"Thank you. Just drop in the next time you happen to be in the vicinity. I'm bound to have some interesting things for you."
I met with Vatras next, informing him that I delivered his note. "I delivered your message."
"Accept my thanks. And now pick your reward."
Vatras gave me the choice of an ore nugget, a ring of skill, and a sprout of king's sorrel. I wasn't sure of what to take, but I knew that King's Sorrel was difficult to find. I took that.
Since I was now a member of the militia, I had the luxury of being able to use the bunk house in the militia headquarters. I set off to the bunkhouse to take a rest. Once I arrived, however, I decided to liberate the bunkhouse's chest of a few supplies. Of note was a key with the word "tower" inscribed upon it. I made sure I was not being watched and then tucked it away in a pocket.
Then, I found a bed and fell to sleep. Tomorrow I would finally get some training and also dig further into the thieves' guild and swampweed.
Other: The note's contents: Here
Fencing Bowman will be the path I go down. Here's hoping for the best.