Monday, July 30, 2007
Walking into Norg the leathery faced outlaws half glanced up at us without making eye contact. They were used to occasional adventures coming here because of the tenshudo in Lower Jeuno but that didn’t mean they trusted us and the feeling was mutual.
More of a cave than a village it opened to the open ocean to allow the boats to come and go secretly from their shady voyages. Dark and damp it was lit by intensely hot torches that left black smoky residue on the ceiling of the cavern and the heavy smell of burning fuel.
Feeling it was my turn to be in charge I knew right where I might find the kind of information I wanted. Jumping down on the wooden planks around the dock I intentionally steered a bit clear of the large torches. Fire always made me a bit uneasy though I didn’t really know why I saw no need to take any chances.
Twenty feet in the air a watch man glared hard down on me with a scowl. The last thing we needed was an entire village of angry ruffians chasing us. I’d be fine but Gurok couldn’t run as fast and there is a limit to how many he can take on at once. We’d have to be careful not to draw too much attention. Five of them or so I could take one handed but making trouble with these people was not my goal.
Continuing up the stairs I pushed open the heavy oaken door to the left. Inside were the usual group of drunken fools. Gurok grabbed the first hume by the back of his shirt and lifted him a foot off the ground. “This one looks like he knows things.” Gurok grinned.
“Washu!” I smiled widely and hugged my old family friend who stood near the kitchen door.
“Child you are too thin! How is your mother? Oh, hold that thought.” As she scurried into the kitchen Gurok let out a loud groan of disappointment and set the hume down on his feet. The startled man chose to leave as quickly as possible without a peep instead of retaliate or ask any questions of the looming galkan attacker.
When Washu came back she had a basket full of the hot steaming buttery biscuits that she knew I loved when I was a child. “Oh Washu you’re heaven sent.” I gave one to Gurok who seemed like he felt a little left out and took one for myself tearing off one little piece at a time to put in my mouth and savor.
“Mother is well but I come with solemn news. My husband was murdered by a galka and I am here to find his killer and bring him justice.” I said matter of factly. “I really hope you can help me find out where Pete the Meat can be found.”
Her countenance fell. “Yes dear, I do know where he and his gang can be found. I’m so heartbroken to hear about your husband. Pete the Meat is known for being quick to anger and deadly. His gang likes to creep about Sea Serpent Grotto in search of lost adventures to mug. As accomplished as you look, you really should bring more help with you. His group varies in size and strength but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. I don’t want to be the one to bring your mother bad news.”
“Very good biscuits mam. Thank you.” Gurok complimented as he sprayed crumbs with a mouth full of his third for fourth biscuit.
She smiled warmly and brushed crumbs off his whiskers. “Sweet boy.”
“Thank you for all your help Washu.” I hugged her tightly.
“I have one more bit of help. I can’t go with you but I want you to take my friend Kallo with you. He knows all of Pete the Meat’s favorite hiding places and every twist and secret of Sea Serpent Grotto. He’s always coming around here looking for something to eat. He’s a bit of a scoundrel but invaluable in these sorts of situations and he owes me a favor or two. Kallo, I know you’re ease dropping again. You might as well and say hello.”
“I wasn’t ease dropping, I was eating lunch.” He said as he sat up from a nearby table. “and yes, I’d be happy to help if it allows me to check off one of those favors I owe. This one should be easy as stealing...” The evlaan thief trailed off and bowed low to kiss my hand without breaking eye contact.
Washu beat him with a hand towel. “Knock that off! Her husband just passed. Show some respect. She’s not one of your girls you understand me boy?!”
“Yes Madam!” He shouted mockingly for mercy as he winked at me.
Gurok had already turned his back to call my linkshell. “Yes, it’s time to gather.” I heard him say in a low voice. Turning back around he gave Kallo a hard glare and stood between us. “Let’s go meet everyone at the gate.”
Washu tucked a warm box of her biscuits in my bag and the three of us waved goodbye and headed off together to finish what needed to be done.
Friday, July 13, 2007
“We’re going to Norg.”
I rubbed my eyes. The sun wasn’t even fully up yet. “Gurok?” I mumbled.
“Of course it’s me. Who else? I have good news for you. We found out that Pete the Going-to-be-Dead-Soon makes Norg his home. We’re going to pay him a visit.”
“Norg? Should we gather help then?”
“No, if we need back up we can call for it. I don’t want to scare him into hiding and lose him again.” Tossing my clothes at me he grinned as he stopped to look at me then left my room.
The morning was still cool and dewy when we arrived at Kazham. I always loved the beauty of this island. Lush and in full bloom year round the exotic fragrance and musical wildlife made it a thrill for the senses.
Racing out of the small port town on rented chocobo I urged my bird to go faster cutting down the route the best I could. Competitive by nature I often turned the casual ride into an undeclared race.
“You may be able to win a foot race against me but on chocobo is whole new game.” He called ahead to me. He was on to my game.
“Well then why am I winning?” I grinned.
Turning hard around a blind corner my chocobo leapt over a goblin. Stunned the goblin turned to curse at us only to be kicked off the path as Gurok came racing behind me. Laughing hardily I forgot for a few moments the unpleasant reason for this trip.
Holding the saddle tightly I braced myself as my chocobo plunged down a dark hole near the outpost nearly unseating me as we landed. I always hated that part of the trip. Through a tunnel we ran towards the light that opened into a green damp valley with waterfalls coming down a cliff wall and a crystal clear lake. It was breath taking here.
Feeding his chocobo a speed apple it called out loudly and pushed into its bridle surging past me in a cloud of kicked up dirt and vegetation. Racing behind a waterfall Gurok vaulted off of his mount and let it run back to the stables.
Coming up behind him I patted my chocobo gratefully and gently slid down. “You cheated!” I accused.
“You must be rubbing off on me.” He laughed and turned to walk inside the cavern hidden behind the falls.
Inside was damp and dramatically cooler. In the dark I stumbled a bit until my eyes adjusted to the low light. The creatures that lived there looked up at us but didn’t bother challenging. They were an easy kill for seasoned veterans like us and they knew it.
Turning right and climbing the incline to the secret community of Tenshodo I resisted the urge to put Gurok between me and the skeletons that often wandered outside the gate. I knew they couldn’t do me any real harm but they still gave me the creeps. Without thinking I reached out and grasp the edge of Gurok’s armor as one turned and stared at me with his hallow eyes.
“Time to do some questioning.” Gurok smiled as he turned his head to look down at my fingers wrapped around his mantle. “Are you ok?”
If I were honest I would have told him my head was spinning and I felt sick ever since I got off that chocobo. Huffing I let go and straightened myself. “Of course. Save the silly questions for some pirate or something.”
“Hum... Yes, good idea. I can think of a pirate that I’d like to question with the edge of my sword.” He grinned in a rather frightening manor as he turned his blade in his hand. I had the suspicion that the pirate he wanted to use his sword on wasn’t going to be in there.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
“So why did you tell Kjarbo that my life may be in danger? What happened on that boat?” Beldin asked as he handed me a cookie. Cookies have a very positive effect on me and this one I think was meant to sooth me. Everyone kept expecting me to come unwound again but I had done my crying and I didn’t intend to burden anyone anymore with it.
“Our histories are more connected than you realize.” I nibbled the edges of the ginger cookie and sucked the strong flavor out of the pieces more crushing it with my tongue than chewing.
“Meaning?” he asked.
“You killed a galka dark knight in a tavern a long time ago. I was there. I was working with him. I hated him and the story is more complicated than I need to tell right now but he was my partner for a job. His name was Bruto.” I looked up to try to read his face.
“He wanted to kill me.” Beldin said with a raised eyebrow.
I nodded and looked down at my cookie. “It seems Pete the Meat was his brother of sorts. He said I turned him over to you to die.”
“I didn’t know.”
“I know. I kinda hoped it might stay that way.”
“Well I ‘kinda’ wish you had told me now.” He said a bit exasperated. “Maybe I could have…” he stopped himself and we sat quietly for a few minutes that felt like eternity, both of us looking down at the valley below us.
“The ferry captain said a small boat picked up the galka before he could get to port. They just don’t have the security on those ferries to stop attacks during transit.” He paused and rested his hand on my shoulder. “We will find him Alison.”
I smiled weakly. I wasn’t sure I had the heart for more death and it seemed only blood would satisfy our angry friends.