Chapter 3: Shame and Updates and More Shame

Sorry about not being on time. No excuse. I literally forgot that I had to post on Wednesday. On the plus side, I also hadn’t finished the chapter, so it gave me the opportunity to do that. Anyways, this post is called “Shame and Updates and more Shame,” so here’s the “Updates” part of that.

Chronicles of Koeleth: the River’s Tale
Chapter III
Tavern Troubles

“So,” the farmer inquired, “what happened after that?”
“Huh? Well. We just kind of hung out… Oh, you mean after Tom and Aaron rolled into town?” the old man chuckled.
“Yeah, that. And what do you mean ‘we?’” the bartender inquired suspiciously.
“Well, the next couple of days were pretty dull, let me tell you,” completely ignoring the young man’s question.

“Wake up, ya lazy bums!”
The voice that pierced Tom’s dreams was not that of an angelic maiden, but rather the hellish cry of a certain redheaded barmaid.
“Tom, if ya don’t hurry, ya’ll are gonna miss breakfast!”
“Good morning to you, too, Cleo,” Tom groggily responded as he got up to answer the door.
“Wake up, freak!” Cleo shouted at Aaron as she barged her way into the room.
The room exploded with light as she pulled back the curtains on the windows.
“Freak?” Aaron muttered to himself as he stirred from his bed.
“Did a bear get a hold of you two? You look awful!”
The young woman seemed especially fiery this morning. After harassing the two men a little more, she left the room, presumably to prepare the breakfast she had previously mentioned.
“She seems feistier than usual today,” Tom pondered aloud, directing his gaze towards Aaron. “And not in a good way. Wonder what that’s all about.”
When the warrior finally locked eyes with his thieving companion, it took everything he had to not fall off the bed in a fit of spastic laughter.
“What,” Tom started, when he finally regained his composure, “is that?”
“Oh, this?” Aaron replied, pointing to a recently blackened eye. “That young lady certainly has the hots for you, let me tell you.”
“Why don’t I like that answer?”
“After you went into the tavern yesterday, I scouted the town for potential valuables to steal, but concluded that the only place likely to have any actual wealth was the bar. Thus, I resolved to do all that was in my power to crack into the safe. While I was sitting at the bar, I observed that Cleo had access to the safe, and that she had stored the key in her back pocket. I began flirting with her in an attempt to allow myself to get close to her, but when I reached around and slipped my hand into her back pocket, she felt it. Next thing I knew, I was on the ground with a bruised eye.”
“You absolutely deserved that. That would explain Cleo’s mood, though. Anyways, let’s be off. I take Cleo’s threats seriously, and she’s an excellent chef.”
“Oh, I managed to steal your safe box full of gems,” Aaron said, tossing the small container to his unwitting friend. “Couldn’t get it open, though. Whoever made it is an impressive locksmith. I hate them already.”
“Ah, yes. Rosethorn and Sons Locksmith Co. A small company based in the Thorn Crown Mountain Territory. I did some guard work for them, and they gave me this on top of the agreed upon payment. Can’t get it open without a key, and you’ll never find the key. Also, you took that in my sleep, didn’t you? I feel so…violated.”
“You’ll live. I smell food, and I happen to be hungry, so let’s go.”
Tom rushed down stairs, driven by hunger, with Aaron lagging behind, despite his own appetite. The bar was adorned with two plates of steaming hot food. The delicious odor of bacon mingled with the delectable aroma of fried eggs, but it only served as a prelude to the savory fragrance emanating from the piles of thick-sliced ham. It took no time for the two of them to polish off their plates.
“You’ve outdone yourself this time, Cleo,” Tom extolled. “It tasted absolutely fantastic.”
“Yessir, I have. Now, this kind of quality ain’t cheap,” Cleo remarked, wearing a mischievous grin. “It’s gonna cost ya. Now, I understand if ya can’t pay. That’s not a problem. Ya’ll just have to go on a date with me instead.”
“I assure you, madam, I can afford whatever price you can offer.”
“Are ya now? What would ya say if I said it’ll cost ya fifty kelons? That’s right, fifty pieces of lovely, lovely gold.”
“Only fifty? Please, honey, you’ll have to try harder than that.”
“Well, I nevah. Hmph. 100.”
“I can swing it.”
“200.”
“Doable. A rip-off but doable.”
“A thousand!”
“Here! Have a ruby!”
“Is that a proposal?”
“No.”
“Curse ya and yer undefeatable stubbornness. One wilk.”
“A pleasure dealing with you, milady.”
“Get a room, you two,” Aaron interrupted, whose presence had largely gone unnoticed. “Seriously. There’s a whole building full.”
“Right. We, uh, we best get going, then.”
Tom quickly helped Cleo clean the bar, while Aaron began to pack his belongings. When the both of them were ready to leave, Tom turned to Erwin.
“Here. One final gift for you before I leave.”
“Oh?” the portly barman uttered. “What might this be?”
“A Geisterblut ruby. This will get you through the next couple years, probably, for what it’s worth.”
“No, we can’t take this! It’s too valuable! Surely this is too great a gift even for you.”
“No, don’t worry. I have more. I want you guys to not have to worry about anything. You guys are in a bit of a bind right now, and you could use some funds. While you’re at it, bring someone in to fix up the building. Hire some help. Hell, go on a vacation. Do whatever you need to with that.”
“Are ya sure? This is really ours?” Erwin blubbered, gently taking the gem as if it were a newborn child and securing it in his safe. “Thank ya! We’ll put it to good use, I assure ya!”
“Do ya really have to go so soon? Couldn’t ya stay just a bit longer this time?” Cleo begged with pleading puppy dog eyes.
“Afraid not, Cleo,” Tom replied. “I have places to be, things to do, dates to not go on. And you know that look doesn’t work on me.”
“Phooey!”
“Don’t be like that. You know I’ll be back.”
“Bring back a souvenir.”
“Alright. I’m headed to Ramsthrone next. Any requests?”
“Somethin’ super expensive, Mr. Money Bags. Can’t afford a date, but I bet ya can afford some nice diamonds.”
“We’ll see. I make no promises. Maybe I’ll bring back a little tiny string bracelet with wooden beads on it. That should be a decent enough compromise, no?”
“I am offended by yer insolence, sir!”
“Don’t go doin’ nothin’ too dangerous, now,” Erwin said, rejoining the conversation. “We’d like to see ya back here some time.”
“I’ll try not to, Erwin. I haven’t died yet, though, so I guess I’m doing okay.”
“If you intend on goin’ to Ramsthrone to meet that pain in the rear we call a duke, ya bettah get goin’ soon. Aim for William’s Knoll before sundown. I’ve heard they’ve had some trouble there durin’ the night.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard the same. I was planning to get there quickly. Which means you and I need to get going, Aaron.”
“Bettah get goin’, Tom. We’ll see ya soon, I hope.”
“See ya!” Cleo chimed in. “Come back soon, lover boy!”
“Stop calling me that!” Tom shouted at the mocking girl.
Tom said his final farewells and set out on the road with Aaron. He knew their next stop well. William’s Knoll was only slightly larger than Pasture’s Edge, but due to its proximity to Ramsthrone, it was better off than Pasture’s Edge and had a more powerful police presence.
“So, how did you get into the thieving business?” Tom inquired several minutes into the journey.
“I am so glad you asked!” Aaron answered with mock enthusiasm. “When I was but a wee lad, I got involved in a bad crowd, and it turned my innocent heart to the life of crime and evil.”
“I smell bullshit.”
“You’re right. I just don’t care. I started thieving for a living because it was a way to alleviate the ever pervasive boredom of my life. Unfortunately, Apathos saw fit to equip me with the most obnoxious weapons for a thief to have. Spears are loud and hard to disguise. I always have to find a hiding space for them. The most adventurous job I’ve ever had was when I was contracted to steal the Star of Isolati from Coldwraith Keep. I actually ran into Dustin Frost, the paragon of Isolati. He was on a completely different mission in Coldwraith, so our meeting was entirely coincidental. Naturally, I avoided him when possible. I almost died several times, was courted by a woman, and a goat bit me in the ass.”
“I’m sure it was all deserved, too.”
“You aren’t necessarily wrong.”
“Was your mission a success?”
“Maybe…”
“So, no.”
“I would offer a response, but I don’t care enough.”
“You never do.”
“Nope.”
“Good to know I have a shoulder to cry on when I need it.”
“Do I detect sarcasm?”
“Is that a rhetorical question?”
“Is that?”
“Is the sky blue?”
“Is the sun yellow?”
“Do fish swim?”
“Do birds fly?”
“…You win,” Tom relented.
“I’d brag, but I just don’t care enough.”
“Is that your catchphrase?”
“Trademarked.”
“Thou art a villain and a devil.”
“Lo, I am pierced unto death.”
After a little more banter, and several more hours of travel, a large green hill with buildings scattered all around it rose into view.
“That’s our destination. Be careful. Something’s been off about the townsfolk for awhile now.”
Tom was nervous as he voiced his concerns. Upon entering the town, Aaron understood what Tom was saying. The atmosphere was tense and the townsfolk watched the two wanderers with suspicion. Tom headed straight for the inn, “Bill’s Hill”, as it was late in the evening and he was uncomfortable with the environment. Aaron felt it was wise to stick close by, and he followed Tom.
“Hello, Oslo,” Tom greeted the innkeeper. “How goes life?”
“As busy as ever.” The man returned Tom’s politeness with an unfriendly glare. “How may I be of assistance?”
“Uh, we would like to know if you had a room which we could purchase for the night. Preferably, one with two beds.”
“We only have single bed rooms available.”
“We would like two rooms, then.”
“Thirteen wilks a person.”
“Seems fair…”
Tom and Aaron each paid for their rooms.
“This way.” Throughout the entire process, the man’s expression had never changed. “Lock your doors overnight.”
“What’s his deal?” Aaron asked after the barman had disappeared.
“Don’t mind him. He’s been like that ever since his brother and co-owner of the inn disappeared. He really is a nice guy. Or he used to be.”
“Huh. Well, goodnight, I guess.”
“Yeah, see you in the morning.”
Aaron could here the clanging of metal as Tom locked his room. Aaron did not follow suit, however. Instead, this shady business caught his attention. He went down to the bar and ordered a drink.
“Why are you down here?” Oslo asked.
“Just getting a little drink in me, that’s all. Nothing so wrong with that, is there?”
“Hm. Don’t stay down here too late. It could get dangerous.”
“Alright, I’ll keep that in mind.”
Aaron did not heed this advice, however, and the next morning he awoke to Tom pounding on his door.
“Hey! You awake?”
“Yeah, hold on,” Aaron mumbled, rousing himself to life to unlock his door. “My head hurts. What happened last night?”
“You tell me. Oslo woke me up to help him carry you to your room.”
“Don’t remember much. It’s highly possible I may have started a bar fight, but I certainly don’t recall doing such a thing.”
“You’re so much trouble. At any rate, let’s get food and leave as soon as we can.”
“I actually agree with that.”
“Let the records show that we agree.”
“Yeah, whatever.”
The two followed through with their plan, and it was successful until a certain farmer noticed Aaron leaving the bar and heading to his room.
“You! I never got my proper fight with you!”
In a drunk and belligerent rage, the man rushed the currently unarmed Aaron. Tossing him onto a table, the man riled up a few more of the bar patrons. Before long, a massive bar fight was wrecking the inn. Tom knocked a few heads, while Aaron did his best to dodge the flurry of blows raining down on him. Oslo grabbed a couple of brawlers himself and settled them down. Others were not so complicit, and the innkeeper had to take a more assertive approach. When the fight had finally settled down, Oslo rebuked both Aaron and the farmer, taking the repair costs out of their respective wallets.
“I’ve gathered all of our stuff. We’re ready to go once Oslo finishes with you.” Tom said, after repeatedly apologizing to Oslo, who insisted that it was a minor matter. “He can be quite reasonable, if you don’t cause too much trouble.”
“Three more tables to clean,” Aaron offered in answer a question that had not been asked.
After he had finished cleaning the tables, Aaron rejoined Tom, who, true to his word, had his pack readied, his halberd in hand, and Aaron’s spears strapped to his back. Taking his spears back, Aaron rushed out the door, eager to avoid further adventure. Tom, after another hasty apology, followed him.
“Please don’t cause trouble when we get to Ramsthrone,” Tom implored. “That city’s been good to me, and I would hate to be banished.”
“Yes, Mom.”
“Don’t pull that attitude with me.”
“Yes, Mom.”
“I hate you.”
As with the day prior, they had a rather eventless journey to Ramsthrone. The first thing to come into sight was the massive, richly adorned, wall that surrounded the city. Approaching the gate, Tom reached into his jacket and pulled out an iron badge in the shape of a ram’s head. Upon seeing it, the guards immediately allowed him and his partner to enter the city. Passing through the small crowd of people still trying to sort out their travel papers, Tom and Aaron entered the plaza of the western marketplace of the city.
“Well, I’m off to finish my job. You can do whatever you want. I’m sure you’ll find me when you need to. Behave yourself.”
“Yes, Mom.”
With that, Aaron faded into the environment.
“Now, where was it?” Tom whispered to himself.
His eyes set upon the stone mansion atop a large hill in the near distance. The grandeur of the palace defined the relatively large city. After trekking through the sleepy city, he finally reached the lord’s mansion.
“Halt! State your business!” the guard demanded, performing his duty admirably.
“I have a delivery for Lord Dorian Ramsrest.”
“Allow me to inspect the package.”
“It was requested that Lord Ramsrest be the only one to handle the package.”
“Allow me to see your badge, courier.”
Tom produced the iron ram’s head from before.
“My apologies. If Lord Ramsrest himself has requested your services, then I shall no longer delay you. Please, proceed.”
“You have my thanks, good sir.”
Tom proceeded as directly as he could to the lord’s throne room. He required some direction, but he reached his destination with ease. After repeating the process with the guards here, he entered the chamber.
“Who enters my hall?” a rotund man atop an ornate throne inquired.
“Your humble servant, Thomas Riversedge of Lilly Pond, Sorowa’s Cradle,” Tom said, respectfully genuflecting.
“What brings you here?”
“Several weeks ago, your lordship requested that I retrieve a certain rare item.”
“Ah, yes. I recall. You are the strange mercenary, are you not? Come! Bring it to me!”
Tom approached the throne, and he was once again stopped so a guard could check his badge. The guard, a cheerful young woman garbed in steel armor, politely requested he hand over the badge. He complied and was allowed to advance.
“Let me have it!” the noble excitedly demanded.
“As you wish, my lord.”
Tom handed over the package. Too impatient to wait, Lord Ramsrest grabbed it from Tom’s hands. Producing a key, he unlocked the strong box that held the item.
“Good, good! Lilly! Present the good man with his reward!”
The guard once more approached Tom with another badge in her hands. It was shaped the same as the iron badge, but was formed out of gold, and sapphires sat were the eyes would have been.
“I, Captain Lilly Flowermaiden, on behalf of the good Lord Ramsrest, present you with the official signet of Ramsrest, the Fat Ram. I also present you with four Despar diamonds and one thousand kelons.”
“Thank you, my lady.”
The captain explained the various benefits of the signet to Tom, including the ability to buy property, appeal to the lord, etc. After all rewards were given and all technicalities explained, Tom made the long journey back to the market and found himself a tavern to stay the night in.
“So, what did you get?” Aaron inquired, appearing out of nowhere.
“A thousand gold pieces, four diamonds, and the key to the city,” Tom said, no longer shocked by Aaron’s shenanigans.
“Seems like a good deal.”
“Yeah. I might buy a house tomorrow. Maybe I will laud my wealth over the poor folk.”
“That seems evil for you.”
“Yeah, I’m too nice for that. Tomorrow is going to be a big day, though.”