In chapter four our rogues have returned. They have just arrived at the Bloodstone Gate in Vaasa and are just about out of gold (and for Caladin’s lifestyle that just won’t do). They go in search of work-the dreaded word that Caladin hates.
A New Town. A New Opportunity.
Caladin and Quinn pulled into Bloodstone, passing through its large gates, happy to be on the final leg of their long journey. Dusty and disheveled, the rogues wanted nothing more than to clean up, find a nice warm, comfortable bed, and a meal that consisted of more than beans and bread. They were forced to take in the sights and sounds of the new town from the vantage point of the back of a wagon, at least until they reached the stables in mid-town.
Once they reached their destination, Caladin stood up in the wagon and stretched as Quinn alighted over the side. Caladin then disembarked from the rear and began dusting himself off.
“Cousin, I’m going to need new attire. This outfit is simply dreadful. Full of dust and sweat. I would love to partake of a fine glass of wine…oh, and the company of a nice, young female. Nay, make that company of many nice, young females.”
“Well, we’re going to need gold then, and lots of it,” Quinn remarked, knowing that their funds had run very low.
“Might I inquire as to the amount we still have?”
“Enough for a room and a meal. A common room and basic meal. And for tonight, and tonight only.”
The potbellied head merchant, a man who belied his age as he looked several winters older than interrupted the cousin’s conversation. “Well fellas I got ya here as promised. That’ll be five silver pieces for each of ya for the ride and meals.”
“What kind of crap is this? We shouldn’t pay anything!” bellowed Quinn as he began to walk toward the merchant, his hands going the swords at his hips. “We were hired to help protect your wagon and its goods! Quid pro quo you bastard!”
“Quid pro what?” The portly merchant’s responded as he shied away from Quinn, retreating with a few hurried steps.
Caladin grabbed his cousin by the arm to stop him. He then addressed the merchant. “He means something for something. We helped to protect you and your cargo on the journey, and you in return, gave us food and a ride. That was our original compact good sir.”
Caladin’s calm demeanor helped to diffuse the situation and put Quinn at easy. “Here good sir,” and Caladin handed the merchant two gold pieces. “A gold piece for our travels. Exactly as you have requested. The additional coin being yours if you will point us in the direction of well-to-do establishment that has a comfortable bed, strong libations, and a hot meal to offer. We are new to this place and would greatly appreciate your assistance.”
Quinn grabbed Caladin by the arm and turned him away from the merchant. He chided in a loud whisper, “What in the hell are you doing?!”
“Tisk, tisk cousin. It’s only gold.” Looking past Quinn, Caladin could see that the merchant was enthralled with the gold pieces as he was briskly cleaning them with the sleeve of his shirt after having spit on them. Caladin took his cousin by the shoulder and turned him away from the merchant. He then whispered to Quinn in a more serious tone, “We can ill afford anymore issues. We are nearly at the world’s end out here. We have nowhere else to retreat to at the moment.”
Quinn responded in kind. “We can ill afford to give up two gold when we don’t have a pot to piss in. He owes us. He broke the covenant.”
“Don’t fret about finances cousin, we can always procure more. Sometimes the same coin that greases one palm ends up back in the purse from whence it came.” Caladin smiled and winked at Quinn.
Quinn’s eyes lit up and he returned a devious smile.
Turning back to face the merchant Caladin spoke loud enough for the merchant to hear. “You know what my mother, your aunt, use to say, ‘You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.’” He walked over and placed his hand on the merchant’s shoulder getting him to focus on him. “Please forgive my cousin he can be…hot headed at times. Please take no offense to his actions. It was a long, arduous, exhausting journey and I’m sure that he is just spent. Please, we prefer friends to enemies. I had a discussion with him and he would like to apologize for his behavior. Would that be alright?”
The merchant, looking at the two gold pieces longingly for a moment placed them in his belt pouch, then patted it as if he had just tucked his children into bed. “Of course. No offense taken. I would be most obliged to accept his apology. You’re most generous men.”
Quinn approached as if he was a child who had been lambasted by his stern parent for some transgression that a young boy should not commit. He walked up with his head down and his hands crossed in front of him. “I…I…I am…most…sorry for…my behavior sir,” he stuttered. “That outburst was unbecoming and most unnecessary. You were only trying to get what was rightful yours. I mean, without you, I just don’t think my cousin and I could have managed to find our way here. We may have been lost, or even killed out in that great wide world. I thank you for your hospitability. Allowing us to sleep in the dirt, stay up all night standing guard, and for making us that wonderful bean soup, night, after night, after night.” Quinn then extended his hand in a gesture of friendship, “Will you forgive me? Friends?”
The merchant took his hand willingly, “Of course, son. Friends. And no hard feelings.”
Quinn moved in closer and patted the merchant on the back as he shook his hand.
Caladin spoke up. “Uhm, good sir,” and the man turned to look at Caladin. At that moment Quinn struck, cutting the merchant’s purse from his belt and swiftly placing the “procured” item in his tunic. “You did agree to show us the way to a most fine establishment for the extra coin,” finished Caladin, as he smiled disarmingly.
“Of course. Of course,” responded the merchant jovially, a hop in his step as he walked toward Caladin to show him the way.
Once the merchant gave them the directions they were off. They didn’t head to the place where the potbellied merchant had suggested but instead headed for another establishment that Quinn had been told of by an “associate” in another town.
“How much did we unburden our colleague of cousin?” inquired Caladin.
“Felt like roughly twenty coins. Hopefully most aren’t cop per.”
“Well, we know two are gold for sure. Let us discover how much richer we have become.”
“I doubt that we will be able to define what we took from that greedy, fat merchant as becoming ‘richer,’” Quinn quipped as he emptied the contents into his hand.
Caladin could see a look of surprise on Quinn face. Quinn smirked. “It’s better than I had hoped. The chubby, little snot had mostly silver.” He pursed his lips and raising his eyebrows, giving Caladin the look of Not bad.
“Give me the two gold. I’m going to purchase our abode for the evening and then I will look into this gainful employment your contact has described. I shudder at the thought,” and Caladin visibly shook as if he was freezing cold.
Quinn just laughed at him. “It’s not like the job description was shoveling dung or laying brick. We’re just suppose to kill orcs and the like.”
“I know. I know. It’s just the word work gives me the shivers.” He stopped walking for a moment and stood there with a sour look on his face as he contemplated “work.” Coming back to the moment he said, “See what you can find out about this town. Who are the players? Is there a thieves’ guild here? If so, what kind of clout do they hold? I prefer to not be gainfully employed for too long, but I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes unless we think that we can cut them off or put a boot on them.”
“As always cousin,” Quinn turned and walked away.
“Cousin.” Caladin waited for Quinn to turn back to him. “No more of this.” He then jingling the merchant’s purse and tossed it to him. “Until we know the rules of this place. I know it is hard, but please refrain from using too much of it.”
Quinn caught the coin purse in a deft manner, then remarked, “Not yet it’s not. Maybe if I spend this coin in the right place it will be. And when the gods have blessed you, like they have blessed me, it makes it very difficult to refrain from using too much. There’s one of your…double entendres.”
“Ha, ha. You know what I meant, you licentious wretch. Use the money to garner information, not wenches, will you.”
Quinn had a bawdy smirk planted on his face. He turned and continued walking down the street as he said over his shoulder, “See you in about a movement of the sun for supper.” He then disappeared down an alley.
Caladin, shortly thereafter, entered an inn, and secured a room and a meal for the night. Within minutes he made friends with the innkeeper, pouring on the charm. The innkeeper pointed him in the direction of the gainful employment he so wished he could avoid. But, he and Quinn needed money and all the charm in the world wasn’t going to get them another night in the inn, no matter how much the owner liked him. Plus, they had other “necessities” and those required coin as well. So, it was off to find work, that dreaded word that he hated. No. Not the word. The act.
Caladin had no problem following the innkeepers’ directions to the run-down establishment that he hoped would secure him and his cousin the coin they needed. It was in the shadier part of town and the innkeeper had advised him against going there, even if he was looking for a job.
Normally, Caladin would have heeded that advice, not out of fear, but because he hated being in the seedier parts of town, as it usually meant ruining his outfit in some way or another. But he and Quinn were desperate. So, there he found himself, right where his new innkeeper friend had warned him not to go.
On the worn shingle hanging outside the tavern door were words that looked like they had been painted over several times. They read: The Golden Dragon. And below the words, if one look closely, there was a faded yellow dragon, with the paint chipped off of several body parts. “Probably going to get my wardrobe dirty here,” he said to himself, as he stepped through the door into the common room.
The door creaked loudly as he pushed it open. It was dark for the middle of the day, and he crinkled up his nose as the smell of must wafted up his nostrils. He surveyed the room. The furniture was old and dilapidated, and the floor was packed dirt. This gainful employer doesn’t seem to be making a grand killing on these orc hunts, Caladin thought. Especially if he is stationed out of this squallier. The only thing golden about this place is it shouldn’t cost any amount close to a gold to purchase anything coming from here. He removed his wide-brimmed hat and patted the dirt from his pantaloons.
“Hey! Hey! What’cha think yer doing getting my place all dirty?!” hollered a crusty voice from behind the bar. It came from an older man who was wearing a grease stained apron. The man looked like the shingle hanging outside the tavern, as if he was worn and beaten, and had lasted much longer than he should have. “Do that outside, will ya?”
“Oh. I’m terribly sorry, good sir,” Caladin replied as he approached the counter top. “It’s just I didn’t see,” pausing and glancing around at the tavern as he finished his thought, “much difference between the inside of your fine establishment and the outside. Well except that you have chairs and tables in here.”
The old man, through a furrowed brow and narrowed eyes, glared at Caladin with discomposure, as if he thought he had been insulted but wasn’t quite sure. “What ya having?” he grumbled as he continued staring at Caladin as if he had two heads. Not hiding his intentions, the barkeep kept looking Caladin up and down. Caladin could see the puzzled look behind his eyes. Caladin had the feeling that his foppish dress wasn’t the style around the lower town. Nor was it the choice of most lords and ladies of Bloodstone he guessed, knowing the town was built out in the wastelands.
“Are you contemplating a new ensemble, my good man?”
“Heh? No. Hell no! I wouldn’t want to be caught dead wearin’ tights.”
“You don’t find them becoming? They are all the rage in Waterdeep.”
“Let the ladies of Waterdeep keep wearin’ them there. Wat’cha havin’?”
Calaidn chuckled. “Your finest elven wine, good sir,” he answered knowing full well that this place did not carry anything fine, let alone wine, elven or not.
“Ain’t got no elven wine. Ain’t even got wine.”
“Hum…A Cormyrian ale then,” jested Caladin, just to amuse himself.
“I got Gate ale or Gate beer. My establishment don’t import nothin’,” was the old man’s vitriol filled remark, as if he were insulted by the very thought of anyone ordering anything other than a homemade brew.
“My, my. Quite the selection,” Caladin said facetiously.
The barkeeper just looked at him deadpan, waiting for him to make a choice. Seeing that the barkeep was not going to engage in the banter he said, “Well, since it appears that I have little choice in the matter, I shall try a homemade brew.”
“Whichin’ you want?” The barkeep’s response became more relaxed as they were getting down to brass tax- -buying his drink.
“I shall partake of your Gate ale, as it be.”
As Caladin waited for the barkeep to pour his ale, he turned his back to the counter, planting his elbows on it, and surveyed the room.
The old man placed the ale next to Caladin on the bar and he scooped it up. “Thank you, good sir, you are a life saver.”
He took a sip, smacking his lips together to get a taste of the ale. He then took a deeper draw. He smiled. He found the ale was better than he had anticipated. Of course, it was no elven wine, but what can one do when he finds himself at the world’s end. I should be thankful for a half decent beverage. Those weeks on the road left me wanting. Something is better than nothing I suppose. Or is it?
He was taken away from his contemplations by the old barkeep, “Two copper that’ll be.”
“Oh, my dear, what a generous price.” He tossed four copper on the counter top. “Where might I find the gentleman hiring for the orc slaying job?”
The barkeep, eyeing him in his high polished black boots, baby blue pantaloons, baldric, puffy, colorful, silk shirt, leather gloves, fancy cape, and black wide brimmed hat with a bright red feather in it, and gave him a perplexed look as he asked, “You applyin’ for someone else mister?” There was genuine disbelief in his statement considering how Caladin appeared.
“Well yes, and for myself.”
“Mister, you don’t look like you are capable of handling that type o’ work. And I doubt anyone one who runs in your circle could either. They go out into the wild for a week at a time. Huntin’ orc and goblin. You gotta be able to handle yourself. It’s dangerous work. Now I know you got your thin little sword there and that might intimidate a few farm folk, but these are monsters were talkin’ about,” the barkeep warned with veritable concern.
“I thank you for your worry, Caladin responded. “Normally I would not deign to do that type of wo…I mean, I would commonly not seek this type of employment, but you see, my cousin and I are in quite a bind. We ended up here, at the Bloodgate,” gibed Caladin as he looked around with his arms out, “and without a bag of gold to our names. So, it appears we must relegate ourselves to the circumstances aforementioned by yourself.”
The barkeep scrunched up his face in confusion, then glared at him through narrowed eyes, not quite comprehending all the words Caladin used, but getting the gist, he said, “Well, don’t do it for no fame or fortune, you won’t find neither in that line of work. At any rate, Asi is through there.” He pointed to an entrance to the back, “In the back room with his men. But even if you wanted the job, I think the docket is all full’d up.”
“Thank you….?” and Caladin paused to get his name.
“Uh…Jents…Jents Lare son. Owner. Operator. Of the Golden Dragon here,” he beamed with pride.
“Well Jents, it was a pleasure to meet you,” and Caladin downed his drink, placed the empty wooden cup on the bar, and began to walk away.
“That’s a might nice looking feather you have there in your hat, son.”
Caladin stopped, turned around, smiled, and tipped his hat at Jents. “Again, thank you,” and he strode into the backroom.