Part 30: Bandit Camp Conspiracy- Bandit Camp Conspiracy
The next morning I immediately began with the questioning of people who may have seen or heard things relating to Esteban's attack.
I decided to check in with that Skinner fellow first. As his shack was near Esteban, I figured he may have seen something. I walked next to the man and gently shook him awake. He rose, quite visibly annoyed.
"Why did you wake me, eh? I bet you don't even know. No - don't say anything. It's too late for excuses. Now you have two choices. You can fight me and try Betty, or you can try to run away." Skinner unsheathed his finely decorated sword. "In your place I'd run away."
The bandit lunged as I withdrew my own weapon. Skinner was ridiculously skilled with his blade, but not enough. I managed to get him pinned against the wooden back of his hut, restricting his mobility greatly.
Yet, he refused to yield. His wounds became too much for him to handle and he crumpled weakly to the ground.
I picked up the bandit's weapon and looked it over. It was a remarkable piece of weaponry. Finely balanced and lavishly decorated. I walked away.
Once I'd recovered from the fight I continued with my investigations, starting with Lennar.
"About the attack on Esteban... do you have any idea who was behind it?"
"Let me tell you" I bet that Emilio is behind this! He always ran to the mine like a crazy man. He dug as much as he could but since the attack he's been sitting on his bench, not budging an inch. It's obvious! To get into the mine, he has to have a red stone from Esteban. I bet he doesn't dare look him in the eye."
"What would Emilio get out of Esteban's death?" It didn't quite sound like Emilio had a good motive.
"What do I know? Maybe he has a pal in the mine who would take over Esteban's place then. Yeah, that would make sense."
Despite Lennar's ramblings, I thought I should go speak with Emilio next.
"What do you know about the attack?"
"Hey, man, I didn't have anything to do with it!"
"Lennar told me a bit about you." I told him.
"Lennar? That guy's an idiot. You must have noticed."
"He said you haven't been in the mine since it happened."
"I... don't know anything! You are working together with that Senyan! You're both in cahoots with Esteban. I heard exactly what you were blabbing about! Up to now Esteban hasn't given a damn about us. Why should I trust his people? Leave me alone!"
Emilio was acting rather suspicious for someone I thought had no motive. Maybe he did have a part in the attack. I made a note to question him again.
Senyan was nearby, I thought it would be a good idea to see if he'd come across any new information in his own search for Esteban's killer.
"I've talked to Esteban." I told him.
"And did he tell you about the attack?"
I nodded. "He ordered me to find out who sent the assassin. Do you know anything about that?"
"No more than you do. I'm also on the hunt for the guy behind it. And now we come to the interesting part."
"Let's hear it." I said.
"I want you to do your job well. I want you to find the traitor. And when you have found him - I want you to kill him for me. Then I will pocket the reward. I have your wanted poster - don't forget that. Do your job and do it well. You can figure out what will happen otherwise."
"I don't really have a choice." I didn't like being blackmailed, but if I was going to get near Raven I'd need to keep my identity a secret.
"I knew we would come to an agreement. When we find out who the guy is - we'll kill the tick together. And now beat it!"
I walked away as calmly as I could. People were watching and I did'nt want them to know anything was going on.
Finn, another digger, was sitting on the bench opposite Emilio.
I got to the point, there was no more dancing around it. People knew who I was working for and what I was doing. "About the attack on Esteban..." I said.
"Yes?" Finn replied.
"Do you know who's behind it?" I asked.
"What do you want to know?"
"I want to talk to the guy."
"So? And what do you want from him?"
"I have some interesting information for him."
"You're in cahoots with the guy who ordered it, aren't you?"
"Absolutely not!" I lied. Though, I supposed, it was partially true. I had no attachment to Esteban.
"Good." Finn leaned in closer and began to speak, his voice lowered. " I'll tell you what I know. When the attack took place, I was trying to get my pickaxe from Huno the smith but he wasn't there. Usually, he's ALWAYS there. VERY suspicious, if you ask me."
Since I was already close, I left the inner part of the camp and went to speak with the Miguel, the plant harvester in the swamp.
"Fortuno is pretty confused and could use a potion to restore his memory." I said. Miguel was my only chance. For anyone else I'd need to return to
The hunter rubbed his chin. "Fortuno? That's Raven's servant, no?"
I nodded. "He was. Now he's just a wreck and it's Raven's fault."
"Raven? Until now, I thought a lot of him. Hm, all right. But here in the swamp, I can't brew any potions."
That wasn't any problem for me. "I could brew the potion. There's an alchemist's bench in the camp. I just need the recipe."
"Be careful with this recipe. Brewing this potion could be dangerous. If something goes wrong in the brewing or one of the ingredients isn't right, the potion will be deadly." Miguel pulled out a piece of parchment and tore off a scrap which he then gave to me.
I looked over the recipe. Of all the things on the list, the red pepper might be the only thing that I didn't actually have.
I returned to the camp and made my way to the second floor of the tavern. I brewed up some potions for myself, as well as mixing the liquor that Snaf wanted. I thought to attempt the memory potion, but I realized I, infact, had no pepper. When I had the opportunity I'd need to return to Khorinis and see if I could find any there.
I walked down the stairs into the bar area.
"I distilled the booze." I told Snaf.
"Excellent, then I'll finish it." The cook walked over to his work area and spent a few moments working on his recipe. A few minutes later he returned. "Here, you can try a portion right away. That'll put some strength in your arm. Oh, and if I can help you again... for you, all information is free from now on."
"What do you know about the attack?"
"The thing with Esteban? You know how it is. The barkeeper hears everything but never takes sides."
"If you were in my place, what would you do?" I wondered.
"I would think about what I know about the guy behind it. First, it was probably one of the bandits, that means he is here in the camp. Second, that he's here in the camp means that he is watching you. Third, as long as he thinks that you're on Esteban's side, he'll never reveal himself to you. So the INTERESTING question is: what are you chances of finding your man?"
"What do you think of Esteban?"
"Whoever talks about him is soon dead."
"What about Finn?"
"A good digger. He has a nose for gold."
"What about Fisk?"
"Fisk is Fisk. He pays his share to Esteban and distributes the goods he mostly gets from the pirates. I don't think he really cares about Esteban" Snaf replied while cleaning some glasses.
"What does Huno think of Esteban?"
"Ah! Huno. I know almost nothing about him. That information is, of course, free."
"What about Paul?"
"I don't think he particularly likes Esteban. Since he's been working for Huno, he'll never get into the mine."
"What are my chances of finding my man?"
"They're pretty dim. Some people have noticed that you're involved with Senyan. You'll have to break off your connection with him, otherwise you'll never have a chance of finding the one responsible for the attack."
"Hey! I didn't tell you anything you didn't already know, got it?"
It sounded like everyone knew that I'd been in contact with Esteban. If I was going to get anywhere near the would-be assassin then I'd need to cut off contact with Senyan. I walked outside.
Senyan was there smirking as I exited the building.
I walked right up to him. "I've changed my mind. We aren't working together any more!"
That made him angry. He turned and began shouting in the direction of the inner camp."Then what do I still need you for, you bum? Hey, people, look who we have here!" When he was done yelling he withdrew his sword and attacked.
Senyan was driven by anger and his lack of focus was apparent. He was making stupid mistakes. It was only a matter of time before I was able to exploit that and take him down.
He had nothing of value, but my point was made. I began to walk away from the scene when Emilio stopped me.
"Tell me, WHY did Senyan yell, 'Look who we have here'?" he questioned.
"Unpaid debts." I said dryly. "Do you have a problem with that?"
"No, man, I don't have a problem with it. Quite the opposite. The bastard worked for Esteban"
"What do you have against Esteban?"
"All that swine thinks about is money. Every few days one of us gets eaten by a crawler. But Esteban just won't send any fighters into the mine. And why? Those guys belong to 'Raven's Bodyguards' and Esteban is scared shitless to tell them. He'd rather let us get killed!" Emilio spit on the ground.
"Help me find out who was behind the attack!"
"No! I don't want anything to do with it!"
"If an idiot like Lennar notices that you're behaving oddly, it won't take long before Esteban finds out, too."
"I... shit." He sighed. "I'll tell you one name. Nothing more."
"Huno... go to Huno. He must know something about this business."
Huno was in the middle of forging a weapon so I thought not to bother the man holding molten iron. Instead, I first questioned his apprentice.
"What do you know about the attempt on Esteban's life?" I asked.
"Nothing, man! I didn't have anything to do with it! What do you want from me?" Paul looked nervous. There was something he wasn't telling me.
"Huno is suspected of having something to do with the attack..."
"I don't know anything about it!"
"But you work for Huno! So you do know something!"
"I know nothing - honest! I have to go now!" The apprentice put his head down and focused solely on my working, shutting me out completely. It was time to question Huno.
Huno had seen and heard my conversation with Paul. He stood watching nearby, his arms folded.
"About the attack on Esteban..."
"What do you want from me?" he asked angrily.
"I'm looking for the person behind the attack."
"And why are you coming to me about that?"
"I thought you might know something about the business."
The smith raised his voice."I don't know ANYTHING!"
"I've heard a few things about you."
"I heard that you weren't in your place when the attack occurred!"
"Emilio spat our your name! You definitely know something about the attack!"
It probably hadn't been a great idea to give out the name of my informant but I didn't' exactly care much for his safety."You've been having a chat with old Emilio, eh?"
"And he isn't the only one who suspects you!"
"What's that supposed to mean, hm?"
I leaned in and lowered my voice. "I want to join forces with the assassin."
"Against Esteban? Really? Then prove it. I've been waiting for too long to get a delivery of steel from the pirates. I suspect that Esteban captured it in order to sell it to me later at a higher price. Of course, he won't do that to himself. A couple of bandits in the swamp are on his payroll."
"How do you know that?"
"Drunken bandits talk too much."
"Does this talkative bandit have a name?"
"His name is none of your business. But the guy you're looking for is called Juan. Anyway, I haven't seen him in camp for a long time. You'll have to look for him in the swamp."
I already knew that Juan was working for Esteban and I knew that "Okay, I'll do it for you!"
"Good. We'll see if you can be trusted."
I had a good idea where I could find Juan. I'd already searched a fair bit of the swamp with an exception of a bit to the east.
From the camp gate I headed toward Edgor's camp.
Instead of heading south from the hunters' camp like I'd done before, I slogged eastward through the murky waters.
Eventually, I came across the cave I was looking for. Juan and one of his friends sat around a campfire inside.
I walked right up to the bandit. "How's it going?"
"What do you want? Have you got anything to say to me? If not, you can just go away. Otherwise my friend will make mincemeat of you. So what is it?"
"They say you have interesting wares to offer." I told him. I'd have preferred if I could simply buy the wares from him.
"So what? Esteban wants to jerk me around, eh? I do all the work and hide away here for days in this miserable hole and he just sends someone to fetch the stuff? I'm not a warehouse!"
"Yeah, and? That isn't my problem." It's true. It wasn't. I just wanted the goods he'd stolen.
"But I'm making it your problem. You want the delivery - fine, you can pay for it! Get the gold from Esteban or Raven or I don't know where. I don't care. Whoever wants these goods will pay for them!" He rose and showed me to the packages. The prices he was asking were way higher than they should have been. 300 gold pieces for each package. While I was by no means poor, I wasn't about to pay that much for a handful of stolen supplies.
"I don't come from Esteban!" I told him, my hand on my hilt.
"Oh? Well, then... eh.. just a moment! Hold still for a bit, you have a critter on your shoulder." Juan unstrapped his axe and lunged.
Despite his earlier threat, his friend made no move to help him. Infact, I think I'd even seen him smile. Juan didn't seem to be a well liked man.
Now that Juan was dead I was free to take the two packages back to their original owners. I downed a healing potion and made my way back to camp.
Back in camp, I decided to pay a visit to Fisk first.
I placed the jingling package on fisk's counter. "I have your package."
"Indeed!" he said, smiling. "What about Juan?"
"Good, then he can't cause me any more trouble. As far as you are concerned, I have a pretty good relationship with Huno. I'll see to it that you get your armor cheap from now on. Also, I'll give you one of my weapons." Fisk walked into his home momentarily and returned with a bearded axe. "One hand washes the other - that hasn't changed since back then." This entire experience was making me nostalgic for the Old Camp. While the old guard were scum, some of the diggers and hunters, such as Fisk, had been stand up guys.
I tossed the pack of goods toward Huno. "I have the steel." I said.
"And? Was Juan there, too?"
Huno rubbed his hands together. "I knew it. That rat Esteban was behind it."
"Now, what about our agreement?"
"The man you want to talk to is waiting for you in the bar. Talk to the barkeeper. "
I walked up to the barkeep and leaned in."Huno sent me." I said quietly.
"Looks like you found your man. Go on up to the next floor, someone's waiting for you."
A shadowy figure greeted me as I emerged on the second floor.
"So YOU were behind the attack." I said.
"Yes. Esteban is in the way of my business. He won't let any of the bandits who work for me into the mine. He's making sure that EVERYONE works for him - and only for him. That way, he can pocket a percentage of every deal and control the whole camp." Now that I'd heard the voice, it was unmistakenly Fisk.
"Do you want to take his place?" I wondered.
"No, I'm a trader - I just want to go about my business in peace."
"I could sell you to Esteban."
"And then? What do you think will happen then? Do you think he'll give you what you want?" Fisk had a point. Esteban was scum. If I aligned myself with him I'd just become another pawn. "Forget it - I have a better plan."
"What are you planning?"
"We'll get Esteban out of the way. That means YOU will kill him and take his place."
"As long as his bodyguards are with him, I don't have a chance."
"Then we'll have to get them to leave - by telling the truth."
"You have done your job. You know that I was behind the attack. Tell Esteban and he'll send his boys to kill me. I'll them here. When they're gone, you can deal with the bastard and I'll take care of the guards.
That sounded like a plan. Esteban was cocky enough to leave the vicinity of his guards, but not for any extended period of time. If he were to think that he had nothing to worry about then he'd be a sitting duck. It was time to take out Esteban.