Part 18: The Black Gate - Stop Snitchin: An Ultima After-School Special
Stop Snitchin: An Ultima After-School Special
Paws is out to the south of Britain, so it's off we go.
Paws is a farming town, and the fields are about the only thing between it and Britain anymore. A little backstory to this is that a big drought hit Paws seven years ago, which has made the already-poor town one of the most destitute places in Britannia and is part of the reason Britain is so much larger now (everybody moved there).
Kids play on the roadside. Asshole kids.
You see a jovial young man who gives you a friendly greeting.
"A pleasant day to thee, Avatar," says Garritt.
"Who's the kid?"
"I am Garritt, the son of Feridwyn and Brita. I am too young to learn a trade of mine own yet, but I do assist my parents in running the shelter. I hope to be a counselor in The Fellowship one day. Or a professional whistle panpipes player."
"I think you should stick with something plausible and not stupid."
"Plenty of beds are available if thou wouldst like to stay in the shelter," he says with a condescending tone. "My father works for The Fellowship helping the poor people in Paws. He tries to recruit them, but most refuse. My father was once the head recruiter in Britain until they moved him here. I once heard him talking to mother about how The Fellowship was wasting its time here."
"Your mother is Brita?"
"Oh, she is just my mother. She does whatever my father doth tell her to do."
"A boy your age in the Fellowship?"
"I am a member and I am proud to say I recruit for them as well. Oh, I can tell thee all thou dost need to know about us!"
"Actually, I do not like this town very much. The people here are all poor and the only one mine own age is Tobias. He and his mother are poor and stupid and I do not like them. And," he adds, "there is a thief here. My father says that the poor people reject The Fellowship because the Triad of Inner Strength requires strength of character. My father says the poor are weak of character and that is why they are poor. They do not have to be. They are just too lazy to work. Dost thou agree?"
"Are you retarded?"
"Then thou must be a person of weak character, also."
"Urge to slaughter with Arcadion, rising."
"Master, even I have standards. You don't need my help to kill this brat."
"You're such a prude, Arcadion."
"There is a thief in this town! Our merchant Morfin had some valuable silver serpent venom stolen from him. The culprit is still free. So be wary!"
Ahhhh, the Fellowship. This is their homeless shelter. If you die, you wake up in here, and the people who run it tell you that Elizabeth and Abraham brought you here. This is kind of intriguing if you know how the game ends, but if you don't, just keep it in mind. It's also a good way to get a hint if you forget where you're going; you'll be told that Elizabeth and Abraham dropped you off "on their way to" wherever they were going next.
Good old-fashioned gargoyle racism. This is seriously uncalled-for. There are maybe six gargoyles living outside their island of Terfin, which nobody in Britannia wanted to live on anyway. Who the hell are they hurting? Who runs a place like this?
You see a small man with twisted, sloped posture. He looks you up and down before deciding he will speak to you.
"I had gotten word that thou wert coming to our town. I have been expecting thee. I must admit, though, that I find it difficult to believe that thou art truly the Avatar. My name is Feridwyn. I run the Fellowship shelter with my wife Brita and my son Garritt here in Paws."
"It's a surprisingly decent little place, except for the brainwashing and blatant racism."
"This is the only place in all of Britannia designed for the aid and care of the poor. It is hard work, but then one strives to be worthy of that which we wish to receive."
"That your wife over there? She's... well, she's a woman I guess."
"A wonderful woman. Thou shouldst meet her."
"Mine husband is such a flatterer. The truth is that our work for The Fellowship has brought us closer together."
"Thankfully, we have been able to raise our son properly by emphasizing the teachings of The Fellowship. Garritt shall not be trapped in the poverty of his surroundings. He shall be intellectually, spiritually, and morally superior. He's talented, too! He plays the whistle panpipes extremely well for a lad his age! Brita and I are very proud. He could probably attend The Music Hall in Britain when he is older!"
"I used to know a kid who was talented at his age. She's dead now."
"About Elizabeth and Abraham. We were told that they were here."
"I am so sorry! Thou hast just missed them! Elizabeth and Abraham were here delivering funds, but they have gone now to Jhelom. There is currently no Fellowship branch there, so they are taking the Triad of Inner Strength to lands west!"
"Ain't that just a bitch."
"Avatar, there is a matter I must inform you of. One of our members, a local merchant named Morfin, had a shipment of silver serpent venom stolen from him. Not that I care about the venom itself, but is it not shocking? I have never seen any myself. I have no idea what it does to someone, but it cannot possibly be good!"
Oh. These two run a place like this.
The shelter only has three residents right now: Alina, the wife of Weston (the guy in jail in Britain), her baby daughter, and a man named Merrick.
You see a simple peasant woman. Her face is etched with sorrow.
"Good day, Avatar," says Alina.
"Are you Weston's wife?"
"I am. I am Alina. I am waiting for mine husband, Weston, to return from Britain. And I have good news, Avatar! Mine husband was pardoned by Lord British. He even provided Weston with short-term employment so that he may return to me with money enough in his pockets to feed us for some time! Excellent news, no?"
"Don't thank me, I wasn't even going to do it until somebody reminded me."
You see a nervous man who constantly blinks. He sees you and looks like he is in a snit.
"Who art thou?"
"Who art thou?"
"I am Merrick. I used to be a farmer here in Paws. Now I suppose I work for the Fellowship. I live in their shelter."
"So you're homeless."
"Well... yes. I was a farmer; of course, that was before the seven year drought. Komor, Fenn and myself were reduced to paupers."
"Who are they?"
"Komor once owned one of the largest farms in all of Britannia. He was born to wealthy parents. After he lost his farm he took to sleeping along the road. One night a gang of bullies wanted to steal his gold. He had none so they beat him until he was lame. He is a very bitter man. Tragic. Fenn was a farm laborer, and one of Komor's most trusted friends. With the farm gone Fenn just did not have any place to go or any way to live. For years Komor, Fenn and I lived off of the rubbish of others, sleeping by the side of the road. Then I found The Fellowship and my life was changed for the better. I have tried to share my newfound fortune with my friends but I fear they hate me for being more resourceful than they."
And speaking of which!
You see a beggar leaning on a crutch. His eyes shine like diamonds with sheer bitterness.
"Happy days, Avatar?" Komor asks.
"It's going okay, how are you guys?"
"My name is Komor, and I'm doing about as well as thou wouldst expect."
"What are you up to?"
"I am a dancer, Avatar." He cannot keep a straight face and almost falls off his crutches.
"Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! 'Tis a ripe one, Komor!"
"I was not always a beggar. Like Fenn and Merrick, I used to be a farmer, too. But times got worse, and times are always bad in Paws. Yet Fenn and me are chums and will be to the day we die. We share in each other's vast expanses of wealth."
"Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! With thy wit thou shouldst be on stage!"
"Fenn and me have been friends since we were little tiny babes. I would bet thee that thou didst not think we would end up like this. Eh, Fenn?"
"Not in me wildest dreams, Komor."
"Yea verily, Fenn and I share all that we own. Which, in its totality, is the clothes on our backs and the snot in our throats!"
"Merrick told me he used to hang out with you guys."
"A royal rotten egg, he is. Merrick turned his back on us and now spends each night in a warm, cozy bed. Which is more than either one of us have had for some time. The only thing worse than this miserable existence is having Merrick sniff around and try to recruit us! The bloody parasite!"
"Why not join him?"
"Merrick sleeps in the shelter run by The Fellowship. They feed him, too. He had to join before they would help him. 'Tis the large building filled with fawning hypocrites. Thou shouldst have little trouble finding it! We could have joined, but they are a foul lot. Anybody acting so bloody nice must be up to no good. There are some compromises we will not make, even to survive."
This is the butcher's house. That chest is resistant to damage and won't open when picked. There's a key in the house, which we'll take (you can see it under the plant), but it doesn't open that chest. So what does it open?
You see a man whose eyes slowly shift back and forth as a crooked smile curls his lips. He walks up to you, looks you up and down.
"Oh, there must be a travelling show in town!" he says sniggering. "That is a very nice clown costume! Who art thou?"
"I'm Steve the Avatar and I'm very, very hurt."
"Hah, no. We look like a bunch of pride parade rejects, it's true."
"Very well, Avatar. What dost thou want?"
"Just meddling as usual. What's news?"
"My name is Morfin. I am a merchant who operates one of the most thriving businesses in Paws, which includes the slaughterhouse. I sell a little of this and that, here and there. Wherever there is a demand, I try to supply it. There is quite a demand for the venom of the silver serpent in certain areas, for instance."
"You trade in serpent venom?"
"I keep a small stock of silver serpent venom from time to time which I sell to the apothecary in Britannia for a modest profit. The government is trying to control sales of it until they can determine how dangerous the effects are."
"Huh. I wonder why Kessler needs a supplier of venom?"
"I do suppose my ventures are profitable enough for me to afford to move to Britain, but things are so much less expensive here. Of course, the theft has me a bit wary."
"The stench in here has left me a bit wary."
"I take it thou hast noticed the smell. If so I do apologize." He shrugs his shoulders, grinning, and holds his palms upward."I think of it as the smell of success. Thou mayest purchase some meat if thou so wishest."
"We were informed that you were robbed, it seems."
"A terrible crime, causing me no small amount of monetary distress. It has caused the surrounding community to worry about their possessions as well. I would be thine humble servant shouldst thou help investigate the matter. Wilt thou?"
"The culprit has stolen a quantity of my valuable silver serpent venom! Its effects are widely known. Silver serpent venom is a reagent that, when ingested in small doses, temporarily enhances one's physical strength, stamina and quickness along with bringing a feeling of euphoria. After the effects wear off, the subject feels quite drained. This tends to make them want to take it again. Prolonged use in such a fashion will bring about a condition that deteriorates the skin, eventually causing it to rot away."Finally, too great a dose, or too great an accumulation of doses, is fatal, as the venom is a deadly poison."It may very well have some healing properties when used in other ways we have yet to discover, but any user of the venom should not do so without caution. I do not believe I have noticed anyone in town who is showing the symptoms of venom use. From now on I shall keep watch, so thou shouldst ask again later."
The key we found opens the door to Morfin's back room, but there's yet another chest we can't get into easily. We'll get to that in Cheater's Corner today. For now, we need a lead in the venom theft case.
"Well, that's convenient. Let's go talk to Tobias and his mother then!"
Camille and Tobias live north of the shelter. If you can't find them, odds are they're at the tavern across the river at the southeast corner of town.
You see a farm woman. She rubs her hands, which are covered with dirt and lines drawn by toil.
"My dreams have become reality. Thou art the Avatar, art thou not? I recognized thee immediately!"
"Nice to be appreciated once in a while."
"I appreciate you, Steve."
"You don't count."
"My name is Camille, Avatar. It is an honor to meet thee."
"Always good to meet a fan. How's life?"
"I run a small farm here in Paws with my son, Tobias. I am a widow. I grow a few crops. Especially carrots and wheat. Life is hard here in Paws. It is a town of poor people with all the ills that poverty brings. At least The Fellowship brings us some relief."
"So, about your son..."
"He is basically a good boy. He works hard and misses his father. He has been wrongly accused! He is no thief! And I cannot believe a vial of venom was found in his possession. I truly believe it was planted there! Please -- I beg thee! Please clear my son's name. He has done no wrong! I know my son Tobias has suffered for not having a father. I have tried my best on mine own to raise him well, but this farm requires so much work that I fear I do not have enough time to devote to him. But I know in mine heart that my son is not a thief. Might I suggest that thou speak with Morfin again. He may have recognized signs of usage of this foul substance in other members of the village."
"Planted? What is this, a Fellowship plot?"
"I am not sure whether I trust The Fellowship. It has undoubtedly done some good things in this world so it cannot be all bad. Or, at least, the people in it cannot be all bad."
She seems convinced of her son's innocence, but then who wouldn't be? Let's ask the alleged culprit himself.
You see a sulking lad, who doesn't seem to want to look you in the eye.
"Just what I need. Another Avatar," he mumbles under his breath. "What dost thou want?" Tobias asks.
"You're not helping your case here, kid."
"I am Tobias. I suppose I am to believe thou art someone important. I am too young to have a job. I just help my mother on the farm."
"Yeah, we spoke with her."
"Her name is Camille. She speaks of thee. Or rather she speaks of the Avatar, is what I meant to say. Some people in town think she is mad because she still believes in the Eight Virtues."
"You don't think I'm the Avatar?"
"Art thou truly the Avatar?"
"Eh, it comes and goes."
"I think that thou mayest have a little bit of the way of the Avatar about thee. There is a little bit of the Avatar in everyone, or so my mother says. My mother once took me to the Shrine of Sacrifice when I was younger. That was soon after my father died so I do not remember it very well.I do not think it is there anymore, for she never talks about going back. I think that perhaps she does not want to mention it because there are so many in town who belong to The Fellowship. And because it makes her sad." For the first time he looks you in the eye. "I hate The Fellowship! The only other person in town mine own age is that cretin Garritt and it is all he ever talks about! He is always trying to convince my mother to join." He clenches his fist angrily. "Please do not mention them again."
"Sounds like you hate the little twerp's guts."
"He is the only other boy in town anywhere near mine age. His parents do not want him playing with me because they think that 'associating with those kind of people' will 'hamper his education' or some such rubbish. I cannot stand the little bastard. And I hate the way he plays those stinking whistle panpipes!"
"I like this kid. Spark, you could learn a few things."
"Those bloody Fellowship people know that everyone is never more than a meal away from being penniless. They say that they want us to join immediately because the shelter is intended to help only Fellowship members. If we ever need to live there they may have to turn us away in favor of other Fellowship members."
"So you think the whole venom thing turning up in your drawer is their fault?"
"I do not know anything about the stolen venom. I am falsely accused! That is right! Garritt did it. I just know it. He was in my room the other day when I came in from the fields. He said he was looking for a ball, but I do not believe him. Thou canst believe me or not, I do not care. But if thou art truly the Avatar, thou wilt know I am telling the truth. That spoiled brat Garritt must have planted the venom in my room! He is usually lounging about, even if his parents disapprove of him playing with me. I know he is up to something no good! Thou shouldst look in HIS room!"
"Well, I guess we don't really need an excuse to do that."
No excuses, but we do need a key. Let's see if Morfin has noticed anything unusual.
"I am not so sure Tobias was the one who stole the venom. I have not seen any of the signs of venom use in Tobias and I am quite familiar with its symptoms. But, now that I think about it, I have noticed that Garritt has appeared very tired lately. He seems hyperactive one moment and unhealthy the next. Perhaps thou shouldst make a search of Garritt's belongings! Which reminds me-- I saw him earlier playing near the slaughterhouse. He dropped this key. Perhaps it opens something... significant. Here it is."
"Well, that's convenient."
"Of course, I do wish for thee to return my venom to me if thou hast recovered it."
"Uhhuh, sure thing."
"Oh man, this is even better than I expected."
"Thou hast found me out! Yes, it was I who planted the venom on Tobias. He did deserve it! I beg thee, please do not tell my parents! I may not have told the truth about Tobias stealing the venom, but I know that he is up to no good. He shall come to a bad end, just thou wait and see!"
"What, that's it? You just wanted to ruin somebody else's life? What the hell are your parents teaching you?"
"I stole the venom from Morfin so I could put the blame on Tobias. I do not know why Morfin has it or what he does with it. I only knew that it was valuable and that it would cause everyone worry if it were stolen." Garritt does not meet your eyes. You instinctively know he is not telling the truth and may very well be using the venom.
"You should never sample the merchandise, kiddo."
Garritt shuffles his feet and frowns. "Well... I tried it just once. I am sorry. I will never use it again."
"Still, why go to all the trouble? Were you just born a dick?"
"I thought that if Tobias were accused of stealing something that everyone would notice, his mother would join The Fellowship and force him to join, too. It would improve their lives and force them to see the truth about themselves. Wilt thou tell my parents?"
"That you're using drugs? Hell yes, you little shit. You're going down."
"Thou art weak of character! Or otherwise thou wouldst understand what I tried to do!"
"I was just gonna tell your parents, but now I'm also gonna kick you in the junk."
"They're magic boots, so look out, they sting."
And so we rat him out:
"Thou dost say my son has admitted to stealing the venom?! I do not know what to say. My thanks, Avatar, for uncovering the truth. I promise thee, I shall apply the necessary discipline to my son to insure that this bad habit he has picked up from the local riffraff will not trouble this community again."
You tell Camille how you discovered that Garritt was really the thief and that her son Tobias has been cleared. "I want to thank thee for finding the thief in our town and clearing my son's name. It does mine heart good to see that the Avatar has returned to us once again and that thou dost care enough about the people of Britannia to help solve our local troubles here in Paws. Again Avatar, I thank thee."
"You know, there's something slightly fucked up about you guys needing me to constantly address all your problems. What do you do when I'm not here?"
"Just drink, mostly."
You tell Tobias how you discovered that Garritt was the thief. "Thank thee, Avatar, for not believing I was the guilty one. I am not sure if thou art truly the real Avatar but thou dost certainly have the way of the Avatar about thee."
"So I guess the moral of this story is never report crimes, or they might backfire on you?"
"Pretty much. You just can't trust the authorities."
"I'm not sure that's the lesson we're meant to take from this, Steve."
There's some decent loot in Paws. Sure, the place is poor, but robbing its most prosperous resident will do.
"How did you find that key? Who would look under a bucket of congealed blood?"
"Who but the Avatar?"
The chest has a ledger. Morfin is turning a pretty good profit on this venom stuff.
"Huh, how about that, Morfin is getting twice what Kessler pays me. Wonder what that means."
And in other news: JACKPOT. Five vials of venom at 50 each, five gold bars worth 100 each. Pretty good haul for a subplot.
You tell Morfin that you have seen his ledger. "Wait, Avatar! I admit I do sell Silver Serpent Venom to other places besides the Apothecary. But what I am doing is not -precisely- against the law! My supply comes from some old friends in Buccaneer's Den. Where they get it, who can say? But I have a notarized contract with the Britannian Mining Company. They use it to keep their gargoyles working longer hours. It seems gargoyles have a greater resistance to the effects of Silver Serpent Venom. Poor devils." He grins maliciously at his own joke.
"I would kill you right now if you weren't a good source of cheap mutton."
"I hope you get to the bottom of this soon."
"With you supplying me? I don't think we'll be seeing an end for a good, long while."
"The good thing about money in this kingdom is it's all unmarked and unsecured. Nobody cares if I took it from somebody, or got it from an extradimensional entity, or transmuted it from lead, doesn't matter. How does this kingdom even function?"
And we've got us a tidy sum. What can you do with that much money?
Use it to earn even more, mostly. There's not a whole lot to spend it on.