Part 2: The Old Camp
Update 2: The Old Camp
Beaten and bruised, I pull myself up off the ground and enter the camp. You're here. Your new life begins now, I suppose. Find the most important person here and make nice. Still unsure of my surroundings, I decided to walk toward the nearest gathering of people, a small crowd by the castle's gate. On my way there, I spotted a familiar face. It's Diego.
As I approached Diego, he looked up toward me and nodded.
"I made it" I said.
Diego nodded to me as I approached.
"Okay. What do I need to know about this place?"
"We call it the Colony. You'll already know we produce ore for the king. At least we do - in the old camp. There are three camps within the Barrier. The old camp is the biggest, and was the first. The other two camps split up to pursue their crazy escape plans"
I perked up at the mention of escape.
"There's the New Camp in the west of the colony, where the mages think they can just detonate the Barrier as soon as they've scraped enough ore together. And then there's the sect loonies in the east. Their camp is in the middle of the swamp and they're praying to their idol to set them free. " Diego laughed a bit to himself. "So far he hasn't responded."
"Tell me more about the Old Camp" I asked.
Diego leaned against the hut behind him. "It's the biggest and most powerful of the three camps. Gomez and his guys control the Camp and thereby the whole Ore trade. Once a month the King sends us everything we need. We've got the old guy in our grip, you understand?"
Completely. Before I was arrested, the war had only just started but we were still losing - badly. The tales I'd heard of the orcs were horrible. Whole hordes of them decimating the countryside and destroying or enslaving whole villages. The king is desperate, and the prisoners know it.
He rested his hands on the bench and continues. "He sends us wine, bread, meat, weapons... everything. You can also get some of it. All you have to do is join Gomez's people"
That's something to consider, but if there are two others camps I should see what I could learn there first. I changed the topic. "Who's this Gomez?"
"Gomez is the most powerful Ore Baron. He's the boss of the Old Camp - the most powerful man in the colony." Diego replied.
"And lets assume I wanted to join his people. What would I need to do?" I inquired. I have no intention of deciding what to do quite yet, but a bit more information couldn't hurt could it?
Diego pointed to the castle gates. "At the gate of the castle you'll find a man named Thorus. Tell him Diego sent you."
"And what about this Barrier you keep mentioning?"
Diego rubbed his chin. "There isn't much to say. It's impenetrable."
"What happens if I just walk out of here?" I asked hopefully.
Diego smirked. "The last one who tried that reached the other side a dead man. The damned barrier lets you in, but never lets you out."
Well, that's one idea down.
"If there's a way out of here, I'll find it." I said suddenly.
"You're already in a rush to leave? But you've only just arrived!" Diego responded, laughing loudly to himself.
I get the impression that he hears that a lot.
I look over to the castle. I assume that large armored man is him. I limped my way toward him.
"I want to work for Gomez" I said.
Thorus folded his arms and grunted in response.
"Diego says YOU decide who Gomez is interested in."
"Huh... If Diego thinks you're okay, why doesn't HE take care of you?"
He unfolded his arms and pointed at my chest, clearly annoyed. "Look, let me explain. Diego's going to test you. If HE thinks you're good enough, I'll let you in the castle to see Gomez. Whatever happens after that is up to you, okay?"
I backed away slightly, quite obviously terrified but doing my best to hide it. "I'll go see Diego. I don't suppose you let just anyone in the castle.
He nodded. "Only Gomez' men are allowed inside"
And to become one of Gomez' men I would need to pass this test.
"If I gave you a certain amount of ore, would you let me in the castle?"
Thorus gave a quick glance to ensure that no one was listening in and lowered his voice. "Well - it'd take a while to count the ore. Long enough to make sure me and my boys are busy counting while you slip by."
I need to get this letter delivered before it becomes a problem, plus the mages might be able to get me out of here.
"And how much would this cost?" I inquire, a bit too loudly. Some of the nearby diggers look our way.
"1000 ore." I sigh.
That sounds like a lot. I had one piece but the damned gate guard took it when he beat me senseless. It looks like it's back to Diego
"Well, you could join up with Gomez, that'd get you in the castle for free."
"There must be something you want done" I said.
"No. The things we guards deal with are a bit above you, kid. You just stick to the tasks your patron sets for you."
"I'm quite capable of doing anything you tell me to." I said as reassuringly as I could.
"Oh? So you're intent on failing. Eh... there is one thing that only someone who's not with Gomez can see to." He poked me hard on the chest. "But I'm warning you: You blow this, and you'll be in mighty big trouble. "
No, I'm really not. I just need to get this letter inside and you're the fastest way to it.
Thorus lowered his voice. "What I'm about to tell you is between you and me, and nobody else must ever hear about it. Understood?"
"We have a problem with a guy from the New Camp. His name's Mordrag. He's been stealing from the Ore Barons."
I nodded, beginning to now understand what he wanted of me.
Why do I get the impression that I will regret this? I can barely hold a sword.
"Of course that applies to a lot of the rogues in the New Camp but this guy has the nerve to come to OUR camp and sell OUR stolen goods to OUR boys! He's gone too far but he knows I can't do anything about it. Because he's under the protection of the Mages."
"Sounds to me like the mages are your problem" I said, shrugging.
"Yeah, but they're a problem that's hard to solve. A few years ago one of the Shadows tried to stab the High Magician of Circle of Fire while he was sleeping. They found him later in the Outer Ring - in fact, he was scattered ALL OVER the Outer Ring."
"Why are the mages protecting this Mordrag?" I inquired trying to keep my voice as quiet as possible.
"Because they use him as a gofer. Our local mages are in contact with the mages over in the New Camp. They often send gofers back and forth."
So this new camp has mages as well. Perhaps delivering the letter there will be easier.
"They're likely to become VERY unpleasant if I throw one of their gofers out of the Camp or have him killed"
"I'll take care of it" I said to Thorus, attempting to sound as tough as possible. I have no idea how I will take care of this Thorus waved me off and I made my way back to Diego.
I approached Diego, who was once again sitting on that bench. "I've talked to Thorus"
"And what did he say?"
"He says that I can join the old camp if YOU think I'm good enough."
"Looks like I have myself a new job." Diego responded.
He shifted his position slightly on his bench and continued "First, there are a few things you should know."
"What do I have to do to be accepted into the old camp?" I said unenthusiastically.
Why must it be so difficult to deliver a letter?
"If you want to join the camp you'll have to earn some brownie points".
There're a few influential people in the outer ring. Most of them are Shadows. If you manage to impress them, it'll earn you a few brownie points." Diego continued "Then you'll have to pass a test of faith. Besides there are a lot of skills every new arrival has to learn. The more you learn, the more valuable you'll be for us."
I flicked a large mosquito off my bruised shoulder. "What's the test of faith?" I asked.
"You have to go to the Old Mine. There you'll meet a guy called Ian. He'll give you a list. This list is important. It contains all the items the guys in the mine need from us. They'll get the stuff with the next convoy!"
I shrugged. "No problem"
Diego raised his voice. I flinched. "Yes! There is a problem! The new camp must not get that list!" he said loudly. "Like I said: The list is important. If you do it right, you'll get much further."
"If the list is so important, why should Ian give it to me?"
"Because you will say Diego sent you"
I walked a few steps before a realization hit me.
Where the hell is the old mine?
I turned to face Diego again.
"Where can I find the old mine?" I said, slightly embarrassed.
"Go to Graham. He's a cartographer. Tell him that I sent you and that you need a map. It'll show you the way to the mine. He lives to the left of the north gate" After Diego had finished talking, I did just that.
I started searching for Graham by talking with the closest cluster of men. I overheard someone say his name, so I approached him.
I open with my usual "Hi. I'm new here."
"I'm Graham. I draw maps. I haven't seen you here before. What do you want?"
Well, I just said I was new. Of course you haven't.
"Diego sent me. He asks you to give me a map with the route to the old mine."
The man named Graham grinned. "No problem." He sized me up. "For you... only 20 ore. "
"Hold on. Diego said you should GIVE me the map. Not that you should sell it to me." I put an extra emphasis on the give.
"But I'm not interested! Have you any idea how difficult it is to make a map like this? 20 is my special price for friends of Diego. Usually I take 50."
Annoyed, I loudly demanded "Give me the map or I'll take it!" Realizing what I had done, I quickly tensed up and waited to be hit.
Dammit, now you did it Vikt--Wait. That worked?
"Hey. Be cool, man. I don't want trouble. Here." Graham shoved a rolled up piece of parchment into my hands. "Takes the map and leave me alone."
Filled with a strange new sense of courage and pride, I proudly limped further along the outer ring.
A short ways later, I was stopped by a member of the guard.
"Hey you!" he yelled as I passed. I stopped and looked at him.
"I'm warning you! People like you can get into trouble awfully quick round here! And most of the guys they chuck in here are bastards!"
You're telling me. I continued listened to the stranger.
"They think they can do what they like to you. But we won't allow that.
"Gomez wants some peace in the Camp, and we guards make sure he gets it. But it's a job that doesn't come cheap."
He made a gesture to my pockets. "That's why I'm asking you for some ore. Look at it as a token of friendship. You help us, and we'll help you. If you get in trouble, we'll be there for you. "
I smirked and confidently respond. "Is that a threat?"
Bloodwyn shakes his head. "On the contrary! It's an offer of friendship."
Clearly, word of my bravery against the miserly Graham is spreading. This guard is quite terrified of me.
I responded smugly and with confidence. "You mean you want me to pay protection money?" I make a loud "HEH". "No thanks. I can take care of myself."
"Have it your own way, kid. You'll soon regret turning down a friendly offer!"
I turned my back to Bloodwyn, undaunted by his threats, and continued on.
A digger places a hand on my shoulder a dozen or so steps down the way from Bloodwyn. "Hang on! I hear you've spoken to Bloodwyn?"
I calmly nod. "Why? What do you want?"
"It was real cool of ya to refuse to pay him protection money!" he said. My mind filtered out the thick layer of sarcasm.
I'm already making a difference here! These lowly diggers... they no longer will tolerate the oppressiveness of the guards and this Gomez. Your example, will lead the way! I smiled, beginning at this point lose in my own thoughts and day dreams.
"It means we're all gonna have to pay your share as well! I'd make sure to remember next time he asks you." In a quick motion, the digger named Herek withdrew a club. Just as quickly the middle of the shaft is slamming into my head.
I awake a few moments later. That.. that wasn't how that was supposed to go.
Herek went back to his group and I laid there, very aware of the laughter that is occurring not far to my right.
I pushed myself back onto my feet and once the world stopped moving I unsteadily limped back toward Diego.
Maybe paying that protection money wouldn't be a bad idea.
On my way back to Diego, I was yet again stopped by a digger.
"Hey, you! I learned you didn't want to pay protection money to Bloodwyn?" I grimaced. I know what happens next
"What do you want?" I responded, bordering on tears at this point. Why won't people stop hitting me?.
"To warn you! Bloodwyn paid some people: They're going to do you in. I saw how he talked to people like Herek over there and god knows who else he hired. "
"Your warning about Herek is a bit late"
Jesse shrugged. "He must have talked to someone else as well, that much I know. So do take care."
Limping, I returned to the northern gate and then to the hut that Diego was at. Diego is no where to be seen but I am stopped yet again by another man in my search for him.
"Hey, you! Aren't you the one who wants to join the Camp?"
Wearily I nodded. "What if I am?"
"I could help you" the stranger replied.
"There are two guys sitting around outside the Camp and one of them has stolen something from the Ore Barons. It's a precious amulet, which should have arrived with the last convoy."
"One of them should still be in possession of the amulet. If we attack them together, we should manage - I couldn't do it on my own. What d'you say?"
I informed the stranger that I'll have to think about it and that I'll have an answer for him in the morning. I need to sleep. It has been half a day since I've arrived and I'm exhausted.
There has to be an inn or bed around here somewhere. I limp past an arena. Inside a man swings a sword against imaginary foes.
Just past the arena, I encountered a meatbug. The same sort that I had seen crawling around in the valley that I fell into. I angrily stamp it to death with my good foot. The screaming and expletives I shouted while doing so attracted the attention of nearby diggers who watched with curiosity. Most laughed and went about their business. I lifted my gaze from the dead, smashed meatbug and to the ruined building before me.
Maybe there's some shelter in here
There is! A bed, even. Oh Innos, thank you.
Exhausted I collapse into the bed, uncaring whether or not it is owned.
Tomorrow I'll decide what to do in regards to Mordrag, Grim's stolen amulet, and Diego's list from Ian.