A spirited inquiry
This was not good. My mind got cloudier by the second like a raging typhoon. I needed to figure things out before someone else found out about this. My arrival here had already marked this town. Something was still off about this place. A place so serene wouldn’t have survived all these years without someone protecting it and the secrets within.
Slowly, me and Sheena made our way through the forest while reminiscing about the latest discovery. The best option at hand was to assassinate the child before he ventured out into the world. A world so cruel and decaying which will devour him before he even gets to flap his wings. Sadly, that kind little bird won’t survive in its own nest for any longer. He had the misfortune of my sudden appearance. It won’t be long before the eagles come hunting and the vultures feed on what’s left of it.
I don’t have long but I have enough time to fix this. The forest started clearing up as I reached the end of the path and I was in the farmlands now. This town was pretty much structured like the last prosperous settlements on the continent. Farmlands on the outer circle, the housing ring inside it with the markets spread across them. The Lord and the prime merchants in the inner circle. Of course the difference is that the towns didn’t fortify each ring with huge walls. Every ring seamlessly merged with each other, eliminating most class differences. That was the difference between the grand cities and the timid towns. While the city folk distanced each other, the town communities were a single unit, living together as equals to sustain themselves and their own town. That’s what most towns were like back in the day. But since the Waynecastle massacre, the little prosperous towns have turned into putefying slums.
This beautiful exception was a breath of fresh air. I felt like I was reliving a pleasant, lost memory. It felt as if I was transported two decades back in time, back to the good times. The plush farms told me that these people had more than they needed. I didn’t want too much attention and luckily the sunny summer noon was keeping most folks inside. It took me no more than 20 minutes to get through the farmlands which made up most of the town. I still hadn’t seen as single soul outside. As the residential hub got closer, I could hear a dull afternoon market bustling. I got down from Sheena to keep my cover and avoid any unnecessary attention and made way through the shabby roadside markets.
There was enough noise and chatter to drift through these streets unnoticed but the townsfolk had clearly taken notice of me. Noises dulled and glances shot at me as I walked through. It was clear that these people weren’t used to visitors from the outside. One of the vendors made a run for the central market as soon as he spotted me. Word was about to spread of my arrival. I didn’t waste any time and walked into the nearest alley with Sheena. We walked through them and made our way towards the centre. A few turns and twists later, I found myself in the busy town centre. I pulled my hood up and kept walking at the edge of the giant circle till I found an inn. I tied Sheena by a pole outside and walked into the place.
It wasn’t too lively. This being the middle of the day, only a couple of drunks sat around chugging mead down their throats. The innkeeper was at the bar wiping away mugs at the counter. He slowed down when he noticed me and got back to what he was doing as our eyes met. I slowly pulled my hood down and walked up to him. He was a heavy-set man with a large hanging belly held together by his apron. His small semi-bald, egg shaped head looked odd on such a huge body but his thick bushy mustache made up for it. I took a seat at the counter beside a frail old man.
‘What’s the best mead you have?’ I asked the innkeeper.
‘We have some Jilliperbrew mead but if you want something on the stronger side, we have some Lancaster too’, he said.
‘Jilliperbrew will do’ I put three silvers on the counter which he swiped away. ‘One Jilliper coming up’. He had to walk into his stores as his barrel was dry.
‘That kiddy mead never gives me the kick’, the old man beside me muttered. He was simultaneously drinking two meads from two different mugs but it looked like he had just started his session for the day. This was the perfect opportunity for me to scoop some information out. ‘It just helps me warm up for the real stuff. What’s that you got there?’ I asked him.
‘I got bored with sipping the same shit all these years that I now have to drink two different things at the same time to keep me from getting bored. A thousand times I’ve asked this fat-ass to get me some new mead from a new place but all he’s ever done is disappoint me.’ He emptied one of his mugs and slammed it on the counter.
‘How do you like your spirits?’ I asked him to grab his attention. He looked at me with his eyes wide open. ‘Spirits? I’ll take any spirit that I can get my hands on. It’s been years since I’ve seen a spirit in this rotten place.’ An energetic retort slowly turned sad at the end.
‘You know, you’re in luck today old man’. I slipped my hand inside my cloak and pulled a small bottle out of my pocket. ‘This here is a small serving of Volosil. They are usually used to light up a fire in the most adverse conditions but they do make for a good drink. It’s a single shot but it’s enough to send you flying’ I put on a smirk as I knew I had already won him over. He zoomed in on the tiny bottle and looked up at me with big wide eyes. I gave him an affirmative nod and he took it out of my hands.
‘Bless you lad’ he said with enormous gratitude. ‘Never thought that I’d ever see a spirit again before I died here in the middle of nowhere. I’m gonna save this for a rainy day.’ He put it in his fanny pack and shuffled through his coins. ‘So, how much do I owe you?’
‘Ah, don’t be ridiculous. It’s on me. Just glad to fulfill another man’s age-old wish’ I told him in a very ludicrous tone to which he chuckled.
‘You don’t look from around here. Where are you from?’ he asked me to make conversation as a form of gratitude.
‘I come from the capital. Actually I’m here on business. I was looking for an old acquaintance of a friend of mine. Goes by the name of Forrest. I wanted to have a word with him.’
‘Forrest? That poor lad died 10 years ago. Murdered’ he sighed. ‘Such a shame. He was a newlywed. Left behind a pretty young widow and a 4-year-old son on their own.’
‘Murdered?’ I asked him while I put up my best “shocked” expression.
‘Yes. He was out on one of our caravan expeditions. He got separated from the rest of the crew while he was in the capital. They looked for two days and finally found his body lying by a drain with his throat slit across. He was buried in the capital as they couldn’t haul a rotting body for the 10 day ride back from the capital.’ He paused for a while. ‘We should have let him stay. He never wanted to leave the place, never wanted to go with the caravan. Always asked around for someone else to sell his produce but nobody ever bothered to help. He was a good man. A good young man who died too soon.’ He took a large gulp from his second mug till it ran dry.
‘I didn’t expect that things would go so bad’ I told him. ‘But I have something in my possession that belongs to him. I was planning to hand it to him but I guess it belongs to his family now. Where exactly do they live? I’ve never met the man himself before and I have no idea who his wife is either.’
‘You’re looking for Mirriam. She lives by the farms with her weird kid. She’s the only one who grows carrots around these parts so her house shouldn’t be too hard to find. It’s about time someone from their past showed up. As you know, Kenny was an outsider unlike us. Nobody has ever visited him or his family since he moved in here fifteen years ago with his newlywed wife. We don’t get much outsiders here in this place anyway. It’s locked up too deep inside the drylands.’
‘Thank you’ I told him as I got up ready to leave. He looked up at me curiously. ‘Hey, what about your Jilliper?’ he asked me with a look implying that I was committing a great sin by wasting good mead.
‘I’m running short on time. You can have it, that is if you don’t mind some kiddy mead’. We both laughed.
‘All right, I’ll take care of it. By the way, if you need anything else, come looking for me. I’m Wilson Fawk.’
‘Alright Wilson, I’ll be seeing you’, I said as I walked out of the place. I hastily walked up to Sheena. As I began untying her hitch from the pole, I felt shadows creep up on me from every direction. I looked up and men with clubs and axes had surrounded me. ‘Leave your horse here and come with us. Don’t try and stir up trouble, we don’t want any either.’ said the only one of the men wearing armour and wielding a battle hammer.
I knew that I couldn’t fight my way out of this. ‘All right, let’s get on with this’. I left Sheena tied to the pole and walked with the group of ten armed men towards the lord’s keep.
For the next chapter : Chapter 3 : A Convincing Bargain