Here it is, ladies and gents! Matt has been pounding these out over the last few weeks, and it is my pleasure to share chapters 5 and 6 with you today. Enjoy!
Chronicles of Koeleth
A Stroll through Town
Tom awoke late the next morning. When he first opened his eyes, he was shocked by his surroundings and initially thought he had awoken in someone else’s home. He soon regained his bearings, however, and, realizing how late it was, began to prepare himself for the day ahead of him. There was still paperwork to sort out, being a new citizen of Ramsthrone, and his house was ill-furnished, having only the barest necessities. He groomed himself in much the same manner he had the day prior. He robed himself once more in his finer clothes, leaving his familiar, ragged travel attire hanging in the closet. Even his weapon he left leaning against the wall in his overlarge closet. Despite the silence of the house, none of the noise he carelessly made disturbed his housemate, Aaron, who was sleeping heavily in one of the guests rooms. Tom moved himself to the kitchen and prepared a large meal, knowing that it might be some time before he would get another chance to eat. After tending to his meal, he surveyed the mansion, planning what he wanted and where he wanted it. He grimaced when he noticed the small golden ram sitting in his gallery but decided it would only encourage Aaron if he removed it, and he left it alone. Having determined what he wanted done, he left through the large front door of the mansion. Tom’s first stop would be the municipal offices.
Shortly after noon, Aaron stirred from his sleep, feeling well rested and ready for another day of not caring. Realizing that he was hungry, the thin man meandered down into the kitchen, where he prepared himself a breakfast so small it could barely be called a meal. Unlike Tom, Aaron had nowhere he needed to be, so, to keep himself entertained, he began to rummage through the house, investigating anything of Tom’s that he hadn’t already seen. He was hoping to have another try at Tom’s strongbox, but he quickly discovered that Tom had taken it with him, wherever he went. Aside from a text written in Ekoalem that he could not read and an oddly shaped package that was addressed to a noble he had never heard of, Aaron found nothing of interest, and he soon grew bored. A thought had occurred to him at that moment: instead of toting around all those things he stole, why could he not use some of Tom’s space to store it until he felt like finishing the job? At once he went back to his room and grabbed his treasures. He dragged them all into to the gallery and began to grace the hall with his stolen trinkets. After he had placed roughly eight objects on pedestals throughout the room, he leaned back against the wall and let out a satisfied sigh. He was now unsure what he should do. He could go spy on Tom, possibly, but that was normally fairly uninteresting. Yesterday was an exception. Maybe that Lilly girl led an interesting life. That weapon of hers might pose a problem, though. No, that was not an option. For now, he settled on staring blankly at the fireplace in the grand hall. He had been doing that for some time when he heard a loud knock at the door. The visitor was probably there to see Tom, and that might be bad news for Aaron, if it was the wrong kind of visitor. Aaron silently made his way to a window and peeked at the front door. Standing there, decked out in her steel armor, was the very person he feared meeting: Captain Lilly Flowermaiden, attended by two steel clad guards. She looked serious, too. Which stolen item was she after? After several tense moments, the young captain of the guard gave up and left, much to Aaron’s joy. It seemed whatever business she had with Tom did not warrant home invasion. Breathing a sigh of relief, Aaron returned to his staring match with the fireplace.
Tom had just finished his day’s business and was preparing to head back to his home, a small crew of movers and cart full of furniture and decorations in tow, when Lilly came up to him in the street.
“Tom! Do you have a moment?” Lilly asked, sounding slightly winded, as if she had been active all day.
“I was just getting ready to head home and work on the place, but these guys can do it without me, I suppose. I’d bet my bottom kelon that Aaron’s still lying there, doing nothing, so he can handle it. What did you need?” Tom gave some simple instructions to the movers and sent them on their way.
“Remember how you told me you might be able to help with a robbery? Well, we got a strange one. Given the timing of it all, I figured you might be able to shed some light on the matter.”
“Yeah, I’ll offer any help I can.”
“Oh, good. Good thing you’re dressed up again. The victim is a noble, and they can be fussy.”
“Tell me about it. Explain to me what you know, and, when we get there, I’ll offer my opinion.”
“Alright. It doesn’t seem like the burglar entered through the windows or the ceiling. None of the locks seemed damaged, so either he was let in, or he acquired a key. He might also be a skilled lock picker. The only thing that was stolen was a golden ram statuette. According to the owner, it is the least valuable item he owns.”
Upon hearing this, Tom stopped dead in his tracks.
“I know exactly who stole that ram. Come with me.”
Tom led the somewhat baffled guardswoman towards the edge of the wealthy district. Upon reaching their destination, Lilly was utterly flabbergasted. Before her was the home of the very man she had gone to for aid.
Aaron had heard the mansion door swing open and saw the glint of clean steel. Tom’s voice could be heard, slightly perturbed. Aaron knew he was in trouble. He attempted to sneak away, but Tom was too sharp for him.
“Got you!” Tom shouted, as he grabbed Aaron’s hood.
“Damn.” Despite being caught, Aaron showed no emotion.
“I am willing to stay out of your business, as long as you don’t drag me into it, but you dragged me into it.” Tom’s reproachful tone didn’t faze Aaron.
“I would come back with a witty remark, but I just don’t care enough.”
“Wait,” Lilly interjected. “Are you telling me this goofball is the thief? The thief left no signs that he had been there, except that the ram was missing!”
“Believe it or not, he’s really good at his job,” Tom explained. “I can even bring you to the ram. Follow me.” He led them to his gallery. Much to his surprise, a number of items he had never seen before adorned his trophy hall. He didn’t mention anything, but he had a strong suspicion these were the other stolen goods. “Here is the golden ram in question. Take it. I don’t want stolen goods tarnishing my home.”
“I will. Thanks for all the help. We wrapped that up real quick thanks to you. There’s still some legal action that needs to happen, but that shouldn’t take more than a couple days to clear up, thanks to you.” Lilly was stilled a little bit rattled by how exceptionally quickly this case had been solved. Nevertheless, she had her guards arrest Aaron, who put up no resistance.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve been caught.”
“So, you admit your guilt?”
“Yeah. My policy is that if you’re not good enough to get away with it, you deserve to be caught. And I wasn’t good enough.”
“Well, at least, that makes it easier on me.”
“Take it easy on him,” Tom said. “He may be a thief, but he’s still a friend.”
“Thanks for all the help, ‘friend,’” Aaron sarcastically remarked.
“No problem,” Tom replied.
Tom watched the three guards take Aaron away in handcuffs and then returned to the business at hand. By the time the matter had been settled, the movers had shown up at his house. He helped them carry his new furniture inside, where they began the process of furnishing the mansion. The great hall was filled a number of plants and paintings to brighten it up. A couple more chairs and another small sofa were added to the hall, as well. The dining hall received new tables and chairs, to replace the old ones. The gallery received several new paintings, and a stone sculpture of the guardian Sorowa was placed in the center of the room. Tom added a couple tables and several chairs to the unfurnished library. The guest rooms were decorated with flowers and paintings, in case he should have any guests, though even he acknowledged how unlikely that was. When they finished, he paid the crew and let them go. Tom felt proud of himself for being so urban and civilized, but that quickly faded away. Tom went into his library and unloaded his travel pack. Before going shopping for furniture, he paid a visit to the local bookshop to peruse their collection, a rare opportunity and one he could not find traveling in the small towns and villages that he went through. He found a fair amount of interesting texts, including a few rare documents written in foreign languages and ancient Ekoalem. After having a hearty dinner, since it was late in the day, he began digging into his new literature. Several hours had passed, and he had not noticed when night fell upon Ramsthrone. He heard the doors of his mansion open and close, so he got up to see what was going on. Much to his surprise, Aaron was standing there, a free man.
“Who let you out?”
“I worked out a deal with the guard.”
“Yeah. Lilly couldn’t definitively prove it was me who stole the ram, and the noble wasn’t going to press charges as long as he got his precious artifact back. Therefore, we worked out an enticing deal. As long as I don’t steal from Ramsthrone anymore, she’ll leave me be. If I’m ever caught thieving in the city again, though, she’ll open a full scale investigation into all my crimes and I’ll be put away for quite some time.”
“Fascinating. Well, I’m glad to hear my house won’t be subject to repeated investigations. Well, I’m beat, so I’m off to bed. As usual, you’re free to do what you will, so long as I’m not an accomplice in your criminal hijinks. ‘Night.” Tom walked upstairs to his room and flopped onto his bed, worn down from the day’s activities.
Aaron was surprisingly exhausted from his mostly eventless day, so he followed Tom’s lead and holed up in the same guest room he had slept in the night prior.
The next morning greeted Tom with a bright, shining sun. He garbed himself in his travel rags, leaving off only the outer cloak, the battered steel breastplate, and the thick scarf. The relatively tidy undershirt, the torn up long sleeve shirt, the tattered pants, and the road weary leather boots composed his attire for the day. To look at him, one would be shocked to know that he was actually quite well off. He departed for the market once more, without notifying his lodger. His first stop was the town guard, where he confirmed Aaron’s story. He didn’t want to be the unwitting accomplice of an escapee from prison, after all. After that, he ran by a local shoemaker, as he knew full well his boots would not be surviving another adventure. The cobbler confirmed his suspicions that the trodden down leather was beyond repair and told Tom he could have him a brand new pair ready for him in about five days, if the price was fair. Tom agreed, and the cobbler took measurements and began his work immediately. Tom paid a visit to one of the many local armourers, where he commissioned a new steel breastplate, the best quality that could be managed in five days’ time. His armor was not in any better condition than his boots.
His final task took him by the tavern he had stayed at a few days ago. Bars are a great way to gather information, especially if one is looking for a job. The tavern also sported a quest board, where interested parties could take on a posted mission, if they so desired. Tom reviewed the jobs available to him and narrowed down his options based on his moral convictions. All that were left were a couple of escort missions for traveling merchants and a handful of personal bodyguard positions. The traveling missions were going to take him out of town for several weeks, and the personal bodyguards were full time jobs – neither of which seemed appealing to Tom. He was looking for something to occupy the next few days, until his new gear was finished. After some more digging, he found something that might do the trick. A traveling scholar was looking for a guard to take him out to the White Tower, one of a series of old watchtowers on the western edge of Ramsrest. Relics of a pre-Koeleth era, the watchtowers were largely abandoned now. It was not uncommon for scholars of historical studies to want to visit the towers, but it was often dangerous due to bandits, highwaymen and wild animals. The White Tower was one of two towers near Pasture’s Edge, positioned southwest of the small village, while the Shepherd’s Tower sat to the northwest of the village. While the towers were abandoned, the roads leading to them were well maintained and lead directly to them from Ramsrest, rather than winding through the hills like the road to Pasture’s Edge. With a pair of good horses, he and his client could get to the White Tower in a day and a half. Having considered all relevant factors, he decided to meet this scholar. The quest form mentioned that the scholar was staying in the tavern, so Tom consulted the bartender.
“I’m considering this job,” he began. “And I was wondering if you could direct me to the quest giver.”
“Really? That one? It doesn’t pay particularly well, given the nature of the job. Are you sure?”
“Money isn’t a big deal for me right now. I’m doing this for fun.”
“If you say so. See that man in the robes over there? He’s your man. Claims to be a scholar. When asked about what he studied, though, he gave the vaguest of answers. In his words, he studies ‘this and that.’ Odd fellow, that one.”
Tom headed towards a dimly lit corner of the bar, where the robed scholar sat. His robes were dusty, but Tom could tell they were once a clean, bright white. The man had sandy hair and sky blue eyes, and he carried a plain wooden staff, presumably a walking stick. His head was buried in some sort of document, but Tom could not tell what it was about.
“Excuse me, sir,” Tom politely said.
The man did not stir.
Again, no response.
“Sir!” Tom shouted.
“Agh! Don’t hurt me!” The man was startled by Tom’s intrusion.
“I’m not here to hurt you. Quite the opposite, in fact.”
“Oh! You’re here about my request, then!”
“Yes, sir. You need someone to guard you on your way to the White Tower, right?”
“Yes, that is correct. I am a scholar looking to study the architectural properties of the tower. I am afraid that I am no good in a fight, though. From what I‘ve heard, it’s a dangerous road.”
“It can be. For the price you were offering, though, you’re lucky I came along.”
“Being independent of a school or organization, I have few spare funds. Thank you for taking an interest. I don’t think I’ve introduced myself yet. I am Collin Softvoice, travelling scholar, follower of Lord Peaz the Serene.”
“I am Thomas Riversedge, guard for hire, blessed follower of Lady Sorowa, Maiden of Tears. If I may be so bold as to advertise myself, I have several years of experience, a blessed weapon, and a mild interest in the western towers myself.”
“Oh, you do? Excellent! That shall make the journey all the more interesting. Oh by the way, I also have a blessed artifact. My staff is called the ‘Arbiter,’ and its blessing is ‘tranquil breath.’ I can release a calming agent into the air that helps to ease tensions. What’s yours?”
“I have a halberd called ‘Hardened Tear,’ and it has the water wall spell. By the way, do you have horses? That would make our journey quite a bit easier.”
“I have a cart that I use to haul my equipment. It’s pulled by two horses. Does that help?”
“Can we both ride on it?”
“That should make things go quicker, then. I can take you by the straightest route to the tower, and it should only take us a day and a half to get there.”
“Thank you! I would like to stay out there for at least a day, if I could. Are you willing to stay long enough to get me back here?”
“I’d prefer to keep it under five days, but, yes, I will stay with you until we return to Ramsthrone.”
“Excellent! Then, can we begin tomorrow?”
“Sounds great. The earlier the better, though. Does dawn work for you?”
“The more time I get spend at the tower the better. That works for me. We have ourselves a deal, then?”
“So it would seem. I look forward to working with you, Mr. Softvoice.”
“And I with you, Mr. Riversedge.”
The two men shook hands and shared a few drinks to celebrate their temporary partnership. It was still the middle of the afternoon when Tom and Collin finished their rather tame celebration, so Tom suggested that they go back to his home, where Collin might be interested in some of Tom’s texts. It could also serve as a starting point for the next day’s journey, given that there was plenty of room for guests. Collin settled his tab with the bar and gathered his things. With Tom navigating, he made his way to the mansion that Tom called home and set himself up for the night. The two men then went into Tom’s study, where Collin engrossed himself in the study of Tom’s books. In return, Tom was welcome to explore some of the documents and texts that Collin had brought with him. Aside from a brief break for a meal and a short interruption by Aaron, this constituted the majority of the evening’s activities. Eventually, they called it a night and went off to their respective rooms.