What was Tervan thinking, sending me into this reeking cesspool of a city? Survival in the woods is easy — fresh food and water is always plentiful and close, even in lean years. Animals can be calmed, trespassers can be avoided. In Gofeld, ale is more plentiful than water, and putrid water more plentiful than not. Smells and noises overpower Timeria’s and my senses alike — horse dung, body odor, and night soil; the clamber of hooves, shouts of merchants, crying of babies. Streets follow no particular pattern, and not even moss dares grow to aid in direction. The city feels closed in… dark… it is not a feeling I like reliving. Order, chaos, good, evil — the city has all in plenty, yet everything still feels off. There is no balance here, no clues to guide how I must act. Basic necessities like shelter and food cost money, and I have little of that with what Tervan left me. Was this his plan; make me a pauper fighting to survive?
Whatever Tervan’s plan, I doubt even he predicted the company I have fallen into. With little money, I was forced to hire part of a common room at a local inn occupied by an olive skinned human, Percival, and a roguish looking man, Boros. I slept with one eye open and my scimitar close at hand.
Thankfully the nights passed uneventfully. So did my days. The sheer boredom must have driven me to accept the pair’s invitation to share a drink with them in the bar the third night.
Boros seemed a bit of a blowhard – he talked big but rarely had to back his mouth with his fists. He also had a raven-like desire for gold and plunder. And a penchant for drink. The combination must be what drove him to challenge the largest man in the bar with the biggest sword to a drinking game. The wager: the man’s greatsword for… wait, ME?? (Boros is going to have a talk with Timeria and me when the time comes.) Before I could object the drinks were slammed and, soon enough, the big man was down for the count. Boros took the man’s greatsword and gold, and then left to pawn the blade before the man woke up.
Being an unwilling part of the wager and believing this man would be rightfully pissed upon gaining consciousness, I felt it was best to take my leave as well. Percival and I followed Boros to a local blacksmith’s shop where, after a fair bit of unhelpful haggling, Boros sold the sword to Jerrie the blacksmith for an extra gold and a lead on work. Apparently a local merchant, Mallard Vernum, was looking for a bit of hired help. This was more eventful than any of my other days, so there seemed little harm in tagging along; if only I had known.
Apparently, Mallard Vernum fell victim to a burglary, losing a prized ring that had been in his family for generations to a local street-rat named the Longman (or so we thought). Mallard was offering 2000 gold as a reward for finding this ring. Having less than 2 gold, and seeing how exorbitant the fees were in this city, I, with Percival and Boros, accepted the job. I would not have thought I would be doing mercenary work. That sounds wrong. So let us just call this an adventure and us adventurers.
I guess we were all fairly new to this “adventuring” since we left Mallard without a description of either the ring or the Longman, just his most recently known location – the Dirty Skirts down near the docks.
The name fit the establishment. Still, the people inside were as helpful as we could hope for, stating our suspected “Longman” was last seen trying to peddle something down the street at the Golden Wares. Leaving the Dirty Skirts, we noticed a seedy looking man dart away from us and into a nearby alley. Convinced we just found our “Longman” we set off in pursuit while I whistled for Timeria to join me – it has been too long since we ran – the hunt was on!
That is until the man darted through a door and locked it. Damn it. The forest does not have doors. Having failed at his attempts to pick the lock, Boros used his brute strength to break open the door. Boros’s intrusion was met with a dagger hurled at his head by the sneaky man. The man’s aim was poor, but he was probably less than concerned with his three brutish looking friends barreling towards Boros. Proving his worth in battle, Boros fell the first with a flurry of his swords, only to have his head rattled by the club of the second. The club did what the drink could not, and after a pitiful attempt at retribution, Boros fell to the street unconscious.
With what took big balls, the remaining two charged towards the bristling wolf and the now spell-protected mage. It took a matter of moments for Timeria to kill the first while Percival fell the second. Perhaps a little less full of himself, the Longman disappeared inside – but one does not simply flee from a huntress. Timeria took off after the Longman while I but briefly stopped to heal Boros’s wounds before giving chase, running by a surprised shopkeeper on my way out the front door.
Perhaps it was the thrill of the chase, the feeling I was back in my woods hunting prey alongside Timeria, but I gave little thought to the appearance of an elf and a large wolf chasing after a man in the middle of the city. That was the first of several mistakes I would make today. It was not long until Timeria caught the Longman and pinned him to the ground while Boros and I caught up. Percival was mysteriously absent…
In our initial attempts to interrogate the Longman on the street (second mistake), we learned nothing of use. By this time Percival had caught up and suggested we return to the shop… that he was now in possession of a key for. Odd. The reasons became apparent upon our return, where the unconscious shop-keep lay strewn upon the floor.
It was in this instance I started learning the true nature of my companions. Boros dragged the brutes in from the alley, only to slit their throats. Survival of the fittest is a fact of nature, had these men died during our fight, it would have been the simple way of things, but, at this point, there was no need to end the lives of these fellows. Feeling a need to reevaluate the day, and knowing how little we actually knew about the Longman, I decided to return to Mallard to ask some additional questions. On this walk, it dawned on me on how conspicuous I must now seem with Timeria at my side, so I took the opportunity to lead Timeria out the city gates, instructing her to wait near the sunlit hilltop for my return.
Boros and Percival surprisingly make it back to Mallard’s before me. I did not get much out of them, but it sounds as if they were paid a visit by the guards, and the Longman may have suffered the same fate as his brutish fellows. They said no additional information was gleaned from the Longman during his interrogation… and I felt I should leave it at that.
We finally asked Mallard what the Longman looked like – it turns out his name was Rick Tulong. Ok, that was our first mistake. Rick Tulong was “not dissimilar” from the now deceased Longman – young, dirty, black hair. But what does that mean?
We decided to retire to a nearby tavern to plan our next moves. The brutes and the Longman were never searched – meaning the ring could be on them and now be under guard, or they could be completely unrelated to Rick Tulong. After Boros donned a disguise beard (an elf of many talents, although beards are not common amongst elves) and Percival and I put our hoods up, we headed to the Golden Wares. The white haired peddler provided little information of worth, and it was at this time we realized we did not even know what the ring looked like (mistake number… does it even matter anymore, mistakes were made).
It was evening by the time I, once again, headed back to Mallard. Turns out the ring was a man’s gold ring with scroll work and a big, round purplish gem in the middle. It was kept in a safe box behind his counter until it was burgalled the other night. I returned to the Dirty Skirts under the night sky where I met up with Percival and Boros… just in time for two guards to walk through the door. My heart was racing… I was not going to be captured again. I tried to play it cool and inquired at the bar about possible work at the Dirty Skirts, hoping to get a tour and find the back door, when a guard approached me and the second approached Percival.
They had our descriptions from eye-witnesses from the street chase this morning. We were to be escorted out the front to somewhere for questioning – I knew I had to comply, but was working out how to get away. Percival, the first out the door, beat me to the punch and slammed the door into my face (the bastard) in an attempt to run away. His guard was faster, however, and grabbed his cloak. I took the opportunity to run back into the Dirty Skirts to look for the back door. Boros attempted to trip the guard giving chase (he may be a brute, but he is loyal), but failed. My hurried cries to a drunk in the back to tackle my pursuer must have similarly failed as the guard was fast out the door and into the alley.
These damn streets – my hurried attempts to escape the guard led me back out in front of the Dirty Skirts, where Percival was struggling under the weight of the first guard. Thinking, “may the bastard suffocate under his weight” I took off down the street and along the docks, looking for an escape. I was outpacing the guard in his heavy metal armor, but he had a trick up his sleeve – literally a clay pot that smashed to produce a high whistle. This was presumably to call in help. Knowing I had scant time, I raced to a nearby skiff, leapt aboard, slashed the rope and began to pole myself out into the river, thankful for salvation. However, this was a clearly guard from one of the four Hells; he flung himself off the end of the dock towards my boat, missing it by only feet. I thought that was the end – surely he would drown in his armor. The hand that grasped the edge of the boat told me otherwise.
One thought came to my mind as the guards fingers parted from his hand and he slipped back into the icy river: I have felt like prey only once before in my life, I did not like the feeling, and I was not going to be put into another dark cell…
But that is the way of the world – the hunter does not always win. Neither order nor chaos is to dominate in either the natural or “civilized” world. Our existence needs good and evil; life and death. But it was not my death this night. Perhaps this was the start of Tervan’s lesson…
I do not know how or if I will meet up with Percival and Boros again, nevertheless I have the feeling I may need to. What has happened to them after we parted is a mystery. But, at the moment, I have a dark riverbank looming in front of me, a city to escape, and, strangely enough, the orange and red blaze of a fire springing to life at my back…