11. The long shadow of the Chopper
29th of Rova – Starday
Morning, the Rusty Dragon
If Vidarok had been groggy the morning before, then we were half-dead the next. We were still bearing the marks of the fierce battle the evening before, but before noon, we all got up and down to the Rusty Dragon’s main hall.
Ameiko, looking better by the day since we had saved her from her half-brother Tsuto, asked about how the trip had went. We let Vidarok tell and gloat a bit – afterall, it was he who had put down both Lyrie and Nualia in the end (especially after my help, that is). I didn’t care really. My thoughts were still at the river. Before leaving us, Ameiko hinted that she might need our help in the near future. We naturally promised to help, even I felt compelled. She continued to show kindness and respect to us and offered us a roof over our heads and food for free, and I, having travelled quite a bit through better and worse lands, could appreciate that.
There was still no sign of Frank the barbarian. He had been gone for two days. Nonetheless, over at the table, we decided to sell most of the loot we did not put to use immediately. Frank would get his share, possibly, when and if he got back.
Our first stop was Daviren Hosk, the stablemaster. He was happy to pay for new goblin ears. Harsk, bound to the contract he had made with the brewer Gaven Deverin, a cousin of the Mayor, and which he was more than happy to honor, remained at the brewery and began his ‘studies’ of brewing ales. More likely he and Deverin just got drunk like two old bards. The rest of us headed to Vorvashali Voon’s shop for magical items.
For the magical kukris of the Lamashtu statue in Thistletop, I bought myself a ring of protection and still got a large sum of coins for us to share. I think Voon got the better deal, but I was feeling happy to get rid of them. I had steered clear of magical weapons for years – granted, the powers the others wielded made me reconsider my position about magic and magical weapons, but still I wanted to be absolutely sure that the powers of the equipment I used would not come to bite me from behind. And I really wasn’t sure about the evil kukris.
Vorvashali was happy to buy our excess magical equipment. We had a quite a selection of normal martial, master-wrought weapons to get rid of too, so we headed out next to blacksmith Das Korvut and the Red Dog Smithy.
Now Korvut was always a gruff and very impolite man, but that time he behaved like a presumptuous, outright hostile bastard.
“Hmm, you return”, he noted from his workbench as we arrived, setting aside a sword fresh off the forge. “Are these heroes, Alphonse?” He asked me, still unable to recall my name or not giving two shits about it (I suspected the latter), regarding Ilori and Vidarok, who I realized hadn’t visited Korvut’s shop earlier. I flashed a smile, remembering our previous discussion the day before. “Yes, I could say they are heroes.” Both the sorceress and the druid looked at me puzzled. “Well are you or are you not?” Korvut, irritated, asked them as he noted their hesitation. Vidarok shrugged. “I’ve never considered myself a hero.. but we’ve done good things for the town.” Ilori stayed silent. Korvut mumbled something to himself, then spoke aloud. “Hmmph. I guess that’ll have to do. I don’t need to remind you of the details of the story of the Chopper who plagued Sandpoint five years ago, do I?” Vidarok was first to respond, with the polite tone he typically used. “No master Korvut, you do not.” We were quite familiar with the story of the mass murderer who had roamed unchecked in the town before being, according to common knowledge, killed by the former Sheriff at a place called Chopper’s Isle. The blacksmith crossed his arms. “Good. The thing is”, he started, lowering his voice even though there was no one in the vicinity but us who could hear, “my young son, Simon, nine years old, ran away from home six months ago and I haven’t seen him since.” Asking for help obviously was very difficult for the smith, even beyond him, it seemed to me. Vidarok nodded. “Do you have any idea where he might have gone”, he asked. Korvut spat on the ground. “The others, Hemlock especially, thinks he has run off town to join a party of bards or a circus, but I’m positive he’s gone to the Chopper’s Island.” I frowned. “The island north of Old light?” I asked. Korvut looked at me like I was an idiot. “Yes, that island. If you are heroes”, he turned to Ilori and Vidarok, “then go over there and find my boy, and bring him back.”
“Well,” Vidarok started, a bit taken aback by the tone of the blacksmith, “we’ve just returned from a very demanding journey to Thistletop and we still need to recover from that and sell our loot. If you could look at these swords..” He gestured towards pile of weapons at the cart we had brought with us but was interrupted by increasingly agitated Korvut. “Are you heroes or not? Go find me my son!” I frowned again but kept my temper in check, letting the druid speak. “Of course, we can consider it and travel to the island at a later stage”, but he was again cut short by the ill-tempered smith. “Consider and consider. Either you do this now or I will not do any business with you, ever.” Vidarok was lost for words, and I interjected coolly. “You know, that tone of voice will not help to win us over.” The smith narrowed his eyes and turned his back to us. “Bugger off then!”
“What a piece of work”, Vidarok wondered aloud when we left. Apparently, there now was yet another shop in town that refused us entry.
We continued to Savah’s Armory, where I sold some excess bows that we had acquired, and bought a brand new master-wrought longbow designed to fit my strength perfectly, dismissing my previous plans to save gold for and order an enchanted longbow. Having just almost lost my life, I realized planning too far into the future was a fool’s errand. I needed a better bow, now.
As we left Savah’s, I had an idea. We agreed that Vidarok and Ilori could go ahead to inform Hemlock and Deverin about what we had found in Thistletop, while I excused myself, telling the others ‘I had personal issues to attend to’. I remembered hearing about a shop that did business on fine wares, like jewelry, and had a rough idea about where it was. Walking north, I found the place easily near Northgate.
Maver Kesk’s Jewelry shop was guarded by two brutes and I interrupted a heated argument between the shopkeeper and his wife as I entered. Consequently Kesk was more than happy to serve me. He bought Tsuto’s silver earrings, master-wraught flute and the dagger with the pearl-coated pommel I had found in Thistletop. Satisfied, I pocketed the gold. If the others keep the magical items and the dwarf hoards the enchanted swords, then I’ll keep all gold I can get my hands on for my purchases, I thought to myself.
Sheriff Hemlock was yet to return and Mayor Deverin was not to be disturbed, so Vidarok and Ilori had visited the town hall for naught. I met them near where we separated, and we went to see High Prient Zantus instead.
Zantus received our news with a heavy heart. I think he had believed us at some level the first time we suggested Nualia had been behind the attack, but he was still visibly sorrowful as we recounted our venture to the depths of Thistletop. As further proof, we showed her the aasimar’s notes, and he asked us to leave them to him, so that he could study them in detail. We gladly left the books, happy that someone took the time to go through them, allowing us to spend the time more beneficially.
The day had reached afternoon, and Ilori excused herself. Vidarok and I still had some business to attend to – we both wanted to visit the tannery, so we continued our day trip to Larz Rovanky’s shop. Rovanky was surprisingly pleased to see us.
“Ah, such a good luck to have you come by now. Please, help me, I’ll need you at the back”, he urged us pointing to whatever lied behind his tannery. We were still travelling with the cart Harsk had got us from the brewery and a pile of weapons, shields and armor, so I offered to stay back and watch the cart as Vidarok jogged after the tanner.
There was not a single soul anywhere, so after a while, I raised my voice and shouted at Vidarok. “What do you have there?”. The druid’s reply was immediate. “You should come and see this.” Relatively sure no-one would steal our equipment, I left the cart and paced to the backyard behind the tannery. The tannery was at the bank of Mill Pond, and behind it, a single, tall oak stood alone like a guardian. Rovanky and Vidarok both stood at its foot and were looking up. I raised my gaze and saw what they were looking at.
A young firepelt puma male was sitting at one branch, its head sideways, regarding us with a curious look. What made it unique, beautiful even, was its white, silver and grey fur – something very different from the typical colours I knew the area’s firepelts had. This was a snowpelt, I mused.
“It’s been sitting there peacefully since morning. A pack of its kind drove it there. I scared them off but the beast hasn’t come down”, the tanner explained. “I get these a lot, they’re attracted to the smells of my tannery, but they don’t normally come so close.” Curious. Vidarok, most attuned to the wild and its inhabitants of us, had already tried to lure it down, but to no avail. I tried to call for it as well, but it just stood there, not making a sound, not showing any signs of aggressiveness nor fear. Such calmness was admirable.
It looked a bit worn out and hungry, so I got an idea. Telling the others to back down a bit, I reached in to my back pack, took out a trail ration and from there, a piece of salted pork meat. I waved the meat over my head. The beast noted it immediately, sniffing air. I allowed myself a smile.
I gently lowered the meat to the ground and took a few steps back. The fire pelt jumped one branch down, then a second, and in a moment it was back on solid ground, munching at the piece of meat. Rovanky nodded to me in approval. “You always know how to appeal to others’ baser appetites”, Vidarok quipped. I snorted, and decided to test the animal. It was acting strangely already, so what the hell, I though and took a step forward. The animal saw me but didn’t react. I took a second. Still nothing. Third. I was only three feet away then. I didn’t fear the animal, and neither did it fear me. I crouched, examining it closely as it fed. It looked me in the eye like me sitting there was the most normal thing there ever was. “I had a wild lynx as a pet when I was little”, I shout out to the tanner and the druid, “I found it alone when it was very young, but it was just like this firepelt, totally fearless of me.” I stood up, and the animal rose as well, like it was mimicking my moves. As if our matters were concluded, it started to jog away. I turned to leave as well. “Please give it another piece of meat if it shows up. I’d like to see it again”, I told Rovanky.
For our help, the tanner awarded us with combat scabbards for our daggers and Vidarok got a bandolier for his potions. We finished our day trip at different potionmakers before we returned to the Rusty Dragon.
Bethana, Ameiko’s helping hand, brought us dinner at the table. Over dinner, we discussed the day and what we had been able to sell. I was displeased with the situation with Korvut – we had a lot of wares that could be turned into gold and further into actually valuable equipment. Harsk, a bit in his cups, had returned from the brewery, wasn’t at all dissappointed. He was eager to put into use the shields and swords we had gathered. Typical.
Ameiko showed up as well and joined us. She told us that she had decided to continue his father’s businesses and restart operations at the Glassworks. As a part of that, she had contacted and subsequently hired a new glassmaster from Magnemar, a man named Narsius. Ameiko’s problem however was that Narsius wasn’t willing to travel to Sandpoint without escort. Therefore, she asked one of us to travel to Magnemar by ship, fetch him and return to Sandpoint.
I recognized a fine chance to spend some private time, but first urged Ilori to go, just to spite her. “You can go see Aldern and see if you can milk him for some money”, I had poked fun at her. She was absolutely unwilling, of course, so I volunteered. Ameiko promised a nice compensation for my efforts, and we agreed that I’d leave the next day or the day after that, depending on availability of ships in harbour.
We told Ameiko about our problems with Das Korvut. She wasn’t surprised, and shared some information about Chopper’s island: how it would be best to go there during the morning when the tide was low; how the former sheriff had tracked the Chopper to the island; how Hemlock had found them both dead and how subsequently Deverin and the sheriff had prohibited anyone in town to go there. The place, like people said, was haunted.
As we weren’t officially citizens of Sandpoint, and we were still interested in the fate of Korvut’s son, even if the man had been a complete ass, we decided to go there at dawn and investigate. Just because we really seemed unable to keep our noses out of trouble.