The False Shopkeeper

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: House of Ghosts

Chapter 5 (v.1) - Vanilla Scented Brawls in the Town Hall

Submitted: April 23, 2017

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Submitted: April 23, 2017

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Chapter Five - Vanilla Scented Brawls in the Town Hall.

 

A week had passed since my eventful trip to the library and I had been hard at work on saving my financial future. Greybear had mostly left me to my own devices. He seemed to have personally given up on the possibility of paying back the debt. Either that or he was just too lazy to act regardless of whether he cared or not. I had been spending my days with my head down. Frequent library visits had allow be to get through a number of relevant books and I finally had a plan of action. That plan of action was why I now found myself standing in front of the Adventuring Hall. An overbearing mass of stone, reminiscent of the coliseums from my own world, stood at the far edge of town. It was the gathering place for local adventurers and the perfect place to recruit some partners in crime.

 

As I entered the hall I was greeted with silence, stares, and just animosity in general. It was similar to turning up to church and eating pizza during communion. I felt a little out of place. It was clear that nobody was going to offer a hand so I made my intentions clear.

 

“Eh, can anyone point me towards the shadiest guy the the room?”

 

I received an overwhelming response of hand gestures. Every single person in the room pointed towards a secluded table at the back of the room.

 

I weaved my way through the masses of sturdy wooden tables, all housing a variety of adventurers. A few faces I knew from the shop but the majority were unknown to me. Idleburg and the surrounding area was apparently a very prosperous area for adventuring. Plenty of monsters and rare goods to be found.

 

When I arrived at the back of the room I found the physical embodiment of shadiness and quickly understood why the hall was in unanimous agreement. His dirty, heavily worn leather garments blended together with the wooden table he sat on. His greying hair flopped unevenly to one side due to the eye patch covering his left eye. His beard was rough and thick and, like his hair, was starting to lose its youthful shine. His eye analysed me with vicious scrutiny before he spoke.

 

“What do you want?” His voice sounded like he’d been smoking a hundred a day for his entire life. It was like listening to the wind make sounds with gravel. It certainly suited his image anyway. He had perfected the old-rogue look.

 

“I’m looking for a business partner. If things go well you could be looking at a lot of gold.”

 

The man just laughed. “Kid, the only money I expect from you is whatever your organs would fetch me on the black market. Now scram before I loose my patience.”

 

“Honestly, patience doesn’t seem like your strong suit but that’s fine. The job will be anything but boring.”

 

“Do you have a fucking death wish? I said scram punk!” He vigorously shooed me away with his heavily scarred arms.

 

“Okay, so that probably wasn’t the best approach. I’ll cut to the chase. I want to sell magus stones.” My words came out ina whisper as I sat across from him, it wasn’t the kind of thing I wanted everyone to hear.

 

“So, you're just a merchant looking for muscle eh? Not interested, it ain’t worth the danger thanks to your shitty Trade Guild.” He shrugged his shoulders and took a large gulp from his tankard. The waft of alcohol hit my senses and reminded me that I hadn’t had a proper drink since the night I ended up in Idleburg.

 

“I’ll have two of what he’s having.” I caught the attention of a passing waitress as I made myself comfortable.

 

“Are you not listening, kid? I said get lost, you fucking stupid or something?”

 

“I mean, that’s debatable. I like to think I possess some intelligence but I’ll admit to several counts of stupidity.”

 

Before our conversation could continue I experienced the swiftest service I’d ever seen. Two tankards of whatever the fuck the alcohol here was called appeared before me.

 

“Magic sure is useful, eh?” I took a sip from one of the tankards. It had an unusual taste but it felt somewhat reminiscent of drinking vodka straight from the bottle. My throat burned, my eyes watered and my soul felt at peace.

 

“Well. that’s a surprise,” said the rogue. “You have any idea what you're drinking there?”

 

“No, is it not just the usual drink around these parts?”

 

“Like hell it is. That ain’t no watered down ale your drinking. That’s premium Vulkan Spirit!” His demeanor quickly changed into something halfway between savage murderer and grumpy old man. It seemed that I would be able to find some common ground.

 

“Vulkan Spirit?”

 

“Sourced from the great Vulkan Peak to the west of Procrast! Distilled in the famous Merlin Emporium and distributed to every corner of Procrast and beyond! Vulkan Spirit is one of the strongest drinks in the land. No ordinary man can drink it so casually stay standing! Forgive my earlier remarks, seems you’re more than just a kid.” The aged man was forced to take a breath after his continuous explanation.

 

“Ah, so this is the good stuff then? Makes sense.” I took another mouthful. The oddly satisfying feeling of killing my insides made me feel at home. “You could say that I come from a tribe who specialises in the art of alcoholism.”

 

“Intriguing, your people treat it as an art form? How marvelous!” His personality had done a complete shift, I wasn't even sure if it was the same guy anymore.

 

“If you don't mind me saying, your tough act kind of fell apart there.”

 

“Ah, yes. I’m not actually the fiend that people make me out to be. My looks and voice spurred on most of the rumours. However, I’ve found reasonable success in playing up the role. Reputation helps a lot in this business.”


“Huh, I get you. You’re like the popular rugby captain who plays D&D at the weekend.” I finished off my first tankard.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Ah, never mind.” The first tankard was beginning to hit me, it was certainly a strong spirit. I had to finish the discussion before things got out of hand.

 

“So, about those magus stones,” I brought the conversation back on topic. “I’ve heard the area they’re harvested from are often infested by monsters. I’d like to hire a group to harvest some for me.

 

“That’s all well and good but magus stones are rare for a reason. The Trade Guild have exclusive rights to sell them. They control the market. They pay adventurers shit money for harvesting because we have no one else to sell them too. Not many adventurers are willing to do such dangerous work without proper pay. Thus the Trade Guild merchants are able to raise the price of the stones even more because of the short supply that they themselves are responsible for creating. Bunch of scum, no offence to you.” His explanation was laden with alcohol infused hatred. It was clear that he’d had some misgivings with the Trade Guild before.

 

“Well, luckily I am not a member of the Trade Guild. I’m willing to give a fair share to the adventurers after I take my cut.”

 

“What? Are you insane? If you’re not in the Trade Guild then selling magus stones is illegal.”

 

“True but if someone like me was to sell them for lower than market price then we’d make an absolute killing.” I started drinking the second tankard, signaling for a refill while I was at it.

 

“You can’t spend your gold in prison kid, what you're suggesting isn’t worth it.”


“Look, you’ll get paid regardless of what happens to me. If you were ever questioned just say I fooled you with a forged guild membership while you were half pissed. I’ll make sure I’m the only one in a position of danger.”

 

My bravado was increasing with each sip of the wondrous Vulkan Spirit. I had gone from slothful student to potential criminal in a very short space of time. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying the newfound thrill. I was literally in a new world, nobody knew me. I had the chance to go down any path I wished. It just so happened that financial circumstances had pushed me down a different road than expected.

 

“Look if you wanted to do this, and I ain’t saying I'm on board yet but we’ll need three things.”

 

“What are they?” I asked.

 

“First we need a gang of crazy adventurers willing to partake in a dangerous and potentially illegal job. Then we need a place to actually sell the stones, the black market would be the best bet for this. Lastly, we need someone foolish enough to take the risk but you seem to have that part covered already.”

 

“Well, let me tell you my pan before you make a decision. The market rate for a single magus stone is twenty gold. The average gathering expedition of five adventurers usually brings back about twenty stones. Due to the Guild, you guys get totally ripped off and are only paid a couple of gold at most. I plan to sell the stones for around fifteen gold, massively undercutting the official sources. I’ll ask for half the profit due to the legal risk and give the adventuring party the remainder to split.” I finished my explanation with another hard swig.

 

The one-eyed -actually not scary-rogue sitting across from me suddenly perked up when he heard the numbers. “Bloody hell, for twenty stones that’d be about thirty gold each for each adventurer.” The pace of drinking seemed to pick up as he pondered. “But like I said, the reason the money is so good is cause it would be a crime, no getting around that.

 

“What if there was?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“What if I had a way for us to get around the whole illegal thing.”

 

“If that were the case I’d say you have the devil’s luck.”

 

“I don’t know much about the personal traits of the devil but I do have a plan. I’m going to pin this little crime on someone else. So, do you know a guy named Samuel Frankford?” I took an extra large helping from my tankard as I finished speaking.

 

“Aye, I’ve heard the name. A local loan shark if I remember right. Now I understand, you need money for a debt, eh?”

 

“Originally that was the plan but I thought getting rid of the debt without spending money would be a much better idea.”

 

My drinking partner started laughing wildly at my response! “You’re an odd one but I can’t say I dislike you. I don’t know what’ll happen but, what the hell, I’m in! The name’s Welker!”

 

Welker stuck his hand out in front of him. I responded to his gestured and exchanged a lively handshake with my first business partner. “I’m Furio, and now that business is done, shall we drink?”

 

“Are we not already drinking?”

 

“This can hardly even be called a warmup.”

 

“Spoken like a true man, another round!”

 

**

 

Three hours later.

 

I clenched my fist as hard as I could. Inflicting pain was the only goal I had. The solid crack of my fist connecting with another man’s jaw made for a satisfying victory.

 

“Eyyy, I keep telling you, paper always beats rock!” My voice was experiencing a variety of pitches as I engaged in drunken conversation.

 

“It...it makes no sense. Why would paper beat a rock? Ya must be cheating!” My equally drunk companion, Welker, struggled to find his balance before toppling to the floor.

 

I looked around the hall and admired my latest masterpiece. A group of grown men and women playing a modified version of rock-paper-scissors where the loser gets a punch to the face. It was a drunken brawl, but an organised one. How exactly I had instigated the latest fad amongst adventurers is hazy but I vaguely remember telling the crowds about my birthplace after my ninth tankard. That then somehow turned into an explanation of rock-paper-scissors and before I knew it, orderly chaos ensued. The hall was filled with laughter, violence and an occasional flying tooth. It was definitely an atmosphere I had missed since arriving in Idleburg.

 

Welker seemed to be out for the count so I decided to make my way outside for some fresh air. Such a simple task proved more difficult than expected as I dodged oncoming fists and tumbling drunks on my perilous journey to the front door. Just when I thought victory was within grasp I stumbled through the already open door and made accidental love with the ground outside.

 

“Ahh…,” I grumbled.

 

“Are you okay?” I heard someone speak.

 

I looked up and saw an angel. Figuratively speaking, it wasn’t the librarian.

 

“Hayley, so nice to see you again! You look beautiful as usual.”

 

“What? Oh, Furio? What on earth are you doing here? Also, what do you mean, as usual?” We’ve only met twice.” She gave me a hand getting back to my feet.

 

“Well, on both occasions you’ve looked beautiful, thus a common trend has been established.” I balanced myself against the wall with my hand.

 

“Thanks for only answering the least important part of my question,” she sighed. “Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.”

 

I seemed to phase in and out of consciousness as Hayley dragged me to a nearby building. The strong smell of cleanliness forced my eyes open. Judging by the cabinets of medical supplies and general layout of the place, I was in some sort of infirmary room. Hayley sat in front of me as she sorted through a first aid box.

 

“This will sting.” She mercilessly dabbed the cuts on my face with a damp piece of cloth.

 

“My mother used to say that love was painful, I guess this is what she meant.”

 

“Do you have a serious bone in your body or are you always this foolish?”

 

“It’s about a 70/30 split in favour of foolishness.” I winced slightly as she continued to clean my wounds.

 

“What were you doing at the adventurer hall? I won’t even ask what the hell was going on in there but I get the feeling you were involved somehow.”

 

“I was just having a drink. The better question is why were you there?”

 

“I received a noise complaint.” She applied a cream to the cloth and continued to nurse my face.

 

“Does the Deputy Mayor need to bother with such small complaints?”

 

“Not really but it’s an election year and the Mayor is running for another term. I’m just trying to make sure we avoid any major incidents.” She applied a strip of gauze to my cut. “All done.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

“Now, time for you to return the favour.”

 

“Oh? Well, I thought it would be too soon for us but if you insist-”

 

“Not that you moron. I want information.” She rebuked me with a sigh. She was cute when she was angry.

 

“Information? Well, I’m a Pisces for starter and-”

 

“Furio!”

 

“Aha...sorry. What do you want to know?”

 

“I saw you talking with Welker. He has quite a reputation. Tell me, what are you planning?”

 

“Oh? Were you spying on me? Well, that just fills me with joy. Sadly I have nothing interesting to report. We just happened to be fond of the same drink. I’m not as exciting as you appear to think I am.” I tried my best to dodge her suspicious gaze but she was too pretty, looking away felt more sinful than staring.

 

“I just have a hunch. You don’t seem as ordinary as you try to appear. At least, that’s how it seems to me.”

 

“Thanks for the compliment.”

 

Hayley shook her head, a small smile was trying to force its way into existence. “You really don’t take anything seriously. Well, just don’t do anything you’ll regret.” She packed away the first aid kit and headed for the door.

 

“I won’t regret it,” I said.

 

“Let’s hope so, for your sake.” She closed the door behind her.

 

I had succeeded in the first step of my plan. Welker would take care of the actually gather the magus stones. Now I just needed somebody to sell them too. Not to mention I needed a way to pin the blame on my favourite rat-faced loanshark. The path of ahead of me was unclear, I wasn't sure if the events I was setting into motion were an act of genius or insanity. However, there was one thing I could say for sure.

 

Hayley’s perfume had a pleasant vanilla scent and that knowledge was worth a few cuts and bruises.




 

 









 


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