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Archives: Quest for Neria

Chapter 2: The Slums of Shinning Hill

    The walk to the ‘slums’ of Shining Hill was only a short one. As they walked, the houses and other buildings could be seen slowly becoming more run down as they went. The people who lived there were stayed mostly to themselves, but the trio could see an occasional movement though a shuttered window that let them know that their passage was not going unnoticed.

    “Most of these people still own their homes, they just don’t have the means to care for them. Maybe they were injured and couldn’t work anymore, or whatever job they did have dried up. Who knows,” Brynn was just rambling. “Where we are going is mostly just squatters; people who live in abandoned houses for shelter.”

    Sure enough, as they walked, the buildings began to seem as though they were abandoned. Sudden movement or perhaps the sound of distant footfalls let them know that they were not alone. No longer could they smell the smells of baking or the sound of children playing. Brynn seemed to pick a random structure and walked up to it. As he got to the porch, he tested each step carefully. If the wood was rotten, his heavily armored form would fall right though.

    “It would probably be easiest to just yell out ‘free food’, but we’d probably be swarmed.” He held up his care package to a hole in the door, and blew at it, attempting to push the smell into the building. “Hello in there. I am a cleric bringing offerings of food. Is there anyone who would come out and talk to us to get it?”

    Seeing the slums, Jereidon listened. These people lived in such poor conditions, but it seemed to him they loved their homes that much. Along the way, he looked around, knowing that these people had been forgotten by many and left here.

    “It’s a shame that they have nowhere else to go, but they manage it seems. Why has most of society been allowed to forget them and move on? In a small way they have been done an injustice,” he shared his thoughts on the matter. Once they arrived, Jereidon waited for a response. If there was someone here, then they should answer unless they were sick and couldn’t move.

    “Money is just a problem all together,” Katela said. “Elves don’t have money, and don’t have poverty.”

    “I couldn’t agree more, but I’m unusual in that aspect, for a dwarf,” Brynn whispered to Katela. “If someone insists on paying me for some work that I do, I insist that they give it to the local Temple of Myrii.”

    The talk of money must have aroused the curiosity of someone within, because there came the sound of movement somewhere in the building. A woman’s voice called out, “Whad’dya got there? Some old rancid food. Or maybe poison to get rid of us?” Those living in this area were obviously paranoid about not being wanted in Shinning Hill.

    “Its fresh and definitely not poisonous. I am a cleric of Myrii, just bringing out a care package in exchange for some information,” Brynn called back into the hovel. He then turned to Jereidon and Katela. “I’m glad I met the two of you today. Normally they are so suspicious of gifts that they do not want to take it. I end up leaving it at the door, and nine times out of ten some stray dog picks it up before those living there do. This way they can think of it as payment.”

    Once again the female voice called out, “I’m not going to open the door, so you’ll just have to ask your questions through the hole in the door.” It was difficult to tell the age of the woman speaking. She could be young and had lived a hard life, or older; her voice had a gravelly-ness to it.

    Jereidon listened to them both and thought about it, he did accept payment for what he did sometimes. Though he only would accept enough to pay for his travel expenses, anything more and he would not take it. “I sometimes help settle disputes as a neutral mediator, though I only ever accepted enough to pay for my lodgings and supplies. I do think the elves have a better system, but then not every race can be so blessed as to live with nature. Perhaps it was the will of the gods this happened, to find two trustworthy allies in one day is not a mere coincidence.”

    Hearing the womans reply, Jereidon cleared his throat, he would ask knowing what few details he had. Of course the information was vague, but it was worth asking about. “I’d like to ask you if you knew anything about a little girl who may have passed through this city. She would have been between three to five years old, auburn hair with brown eyes. I’m looking for my missing sister, she’s the only family I may possibly have left. Her name is Neria Thappis, I’m her older brother.”

    The woman was silent for a moment, then replied, “I don’t know nothing ’bout a girl. Lots of kids look like that.”

    Katela frowned slightly, but not at the woman’s response. It seemed like a futile line of questioning, and he seemed to be mixing up his facts. “Jereidon, isn’t she older than that?” Katela asked.

    “She’d be ten about now, but I was thinking that she might have passed through here earlier. I could easily be wrong, I wanted to try to find out.” Looking back to the woman he nodded and sighed, there was nothing really unique about her. He only could imagine what she looked like today, she was probably just like their mother. “Thank you, I appreciate you helping me out.”

    “We didn’t mean to be a bother. I’ll leave the food out here on the stoop, when we leave.” Brynn looked to Jereidon and Katela. “Are there any other questions for her? If not, then I suggest we move on.” Brynn squatted down to place the cloth holding the food on the dirty wood planks that were right in front of the door.

    From the opposite direction came a small girl, looking somewhere around the tender age of twenty years. She appeared to look just a tad bit under-dressed, with her simple attire of a pleated cloth skirt and a long, barely revealing top. To be walking around the slums of Shining Hill, she didn’t appear to blend in entirely well. Aquila looked like a traveler, to a point, excluding the fact she carried no weapons, as it clearly seemed. All that could be seen with the girl was a rather large sack, which most could guess carried the small, important items she needed while she traveled.

    It would have been wonderful if you could have trusted her being near you, but the minute she passed by one of the three travelers, her hand had been prepared to pickpocket right that minute. The blonde-headed girl hadn’t put her attention on anybody particular, or the fact that she’d be able to get away. Truthfully, she needed some money and right now, living off bread and water wasn’t cutting it nicely for her. The young girl didn’t like to ask, as she rarely ever spoke. While breaking through the group, he eyes didn’t even glance towards either one of them. Fearing she’d more than likely get caught, her pace was quickened, giving a vibe that something was wrong with this petite character.

    Being classified as a thief, rushing herself wasn’t a good choice of a demeanor. She was almost certain she’d given herself away and she would shortly find out, either if she got away with something that could have been valued, or just landing herself into a bad position.

    A girl cut through the trio, which Katela felt was quite rude. There was plenty of room in the street for her to go around! The half-elf spun around and shouted, “Excuse me!” after the girl who was quickly walking away, unaware as to the fact the girl had just pick-pocketed her.

    “Best to check out belongings,” Brynn said, patting himself down. “Remember what I said about the innocents of the slums not being so innocent.”

    If they had been walking down a crowded street and the girl had bumped them, he wouldn’t have thought anything of it. but the streets were empty. The young girl had gone out of her way to walk into them. The only things of real value Brynn carried were his holy symbol, and the cloths that he used to wrap up food. Luckily the holy symbol was still where he wore it, and if the girl wanted the cloths she could have them. Nope, they were also in their spot.

    Katela realized her purse was on her belt and reached for it, only to find out it was open and most of her coins were missing. While she would be willing to donate to the poor, she herself wasn’t exactly rich. The money was a gift from her step-mother for her travels, and she had no job to earn back what she spent—or lost. Katela turned and ran after the thief. “HEY! Come back here!” she shouted.

    Only focusing on making it far away from the group, she ignored the first yell coming from the red-headed female. Instead, she kept her pace quickened, her eyes staying straight ahead of her, not changing her destination. She didn’t feel bad for taking the coins from the lady’s purse. Aquila was merely starving and if you didn’t have any money, then you wouldn’t exactly find yourself with food, not unless you did something else to gain it. Sure, she had very little money, but it wasn’t enough to buy her a single scrap of food, truthfully.

    It wasn’t until she heard the voice of the red-headed girl once more, but it seemed to be coming closer to her. Looking back at her, she looked rather surprised and started to run once more. However, by that time she was too focused on getting away that she actually tripped over her own feet. Very smooth coming from somebody who lived off stealing other people’s things. She’d been slowed down from the fall, but seeing how close the now obvious half-elf had been, Aquila knew that she wouldn’t have been able to get away at this point. Still, she hurried herself onto her feet, but it hadn’t been quick enough.

    Now the young blonde-headed human faced the red-head. While she’d been running, she hadn’t managed hiding the money, it was still in her hands, though some of it had been tossed around on the ground. Knowing she’d been caught, she looked back at the two men who’d been a good ways down, then back to the other female. “Sorry,” she quietly apologized, just barely audible enough to be heard from a very close range.

    What came next happened rather quickly for Jereidon, and before he knew it he was checking his belongings as well. With everything in place he looked to Katela’s direction who had already given chase, maybe they should regroup and get out of here as soon as possible. “All of my stuff is safe. We should catch up to her and then finish up any business here quickly. I don’t think I’ll find anything here, it was worth a try.” He then went to catch up to Katela, keeping a pace so that Brynn would not be left behind.

    Katela was ready to give the thief a piece of her mind, but when the girl failed in her escape and apologized, she couldn’t bring herself to stay angry. She couldn’t just give up her money though, she needed it too much. Maybe they could help her though... “Alright now, you’re caught, hand it over,” Katela demanded, holding her hand out.

    At the sound of coins hitting the ground, several people had darted out of alleys and doorways to snatch up what was dropped. Katela couldn’t pursue each and every one, so she would only deal with the majority of her loss.

    “If you give it back, maybe we can work out something to help you,” she added in a more sympathetic tone.

    Indeed Aquila had been caught, in a rather embarrassing manner too; the fall wasn’t exactly fun, considering it scratched her up a little bit, but nothing major, considering it could have probably been much worse. Sighing with obvious disappointment, she gave a slight nod of her head, then handed the remaining sum of coins back over to the red-head, quickly pulling her arms back down to her side. She glanced at the rushing people, fighting over the few pieces of coins she’d dropped during her fall, “What a shame,” she mumbled under a deep exhale.

    “To help me?” Aquila asked the girl, glancing at her like something terrible had happened in her life. Other than trying to find herself some food to replace her previous load, there wasn’t much to do with helping the girl, besides looking for work. That had always been a plus with her. Well, there could have definitely been more to help her with, but not much she was accept from others. Aquila found it bad enough she had to become a thief to make a living, but her dancing only went so far to earn her just a tiny sum of money to buy the small petty items to live off of.

    After speaking, she looked off to the side, seeing the younger man coming near the two of them. A big gathering wasn’t something she enjoyed much of, not unless she was performing, which nowadays wasn’t so often. Due to her current traveling, she’d been too occupied with getting herself ready to set out once more. Aquila simply stood in her place, changing her line of vision to the very dirt she stood on, just barely being able to see those in front of her.

    “Well, we’re going on an adventure. If you think you’re up to it, we could use any help we could get,” Katela began. “We’re going to look for my friend’s missing sister.” However, the girl didn’t look much like the adventuring type, and she didn’t seem to be a good thief. “I don’t know...maybe it’s a bad idea...” she mumbled, second guessing herself.

    All Aquila could do right now was wonder why in the world all of this was being explained to her. She wasn’t much of a fighter, adventure she loved and obviously, she had just thrown her attempt at stealing the lady’s coins from her in just maybe a minute’s time. Aquila blinked, then looked at the two guys, “Well, that sounds rather interesting. I’m not very sure if I could help, or what I could help with though. You see, I just steal to live and during the other times of my own travel, I simply dance for money,” she explained. Wasn’t much about herself, but it was more than she usually explained to others.

    Brynn finally caught up, one simply did not run in full armor. “I take our meeting as more than mere chance. As a priest of Myrii, I tend to follow heroes. If fate put you here at the same time as the three of us, then you were meant to be with us. Your usefulness will show itself when the time is right.” This was pretty much Brynn’s motto on life; Trust in fate, it will put you where you need to be. “If nothing else, we’ll have ourselves an entertainer to pass the time.” Brynn smiled at the young girl, although looking at the ground she wouldn’t see it. “We should not linger here as Jereidon said. The spilled coins were like the spilling of lambs blood in the lions den. What do you say? Will you join us?”

    After hearing all the dwarf had said, she had finally lifted her head up, gently nodding her head, “Well, it sounds like a long shot for me, but I suppose it couldn’t hurt. Perhaps, if it’s alright with all of you, I would love to be able to accompany you all on your journey,” she replied, managing to stifle a small smile. Her green eyes looked around, noticing that all of the coins she’d dropped when she had fallen were now gone, while the people only looked towards the group. It was actually just a little freaky looking, to Aquila at least.

    “I believe leaving would be a very wise idea. Any ideas as to what direction? I’ve been wandering around in circles for the last couple of hours, been lost in this dump of a place,” Aquila said, keeping the last part of her sentence to a mere whisper.

    Jereidon looked to the girl and thought; she could be of use on their journey. Someone of her talents could possibly scout locations for them, since she did make money entertaining.

    “I feel you’d be an asset to the search, and Brynn here knows the way around. What is your name, I’m Jereidon Thappis,” he introduced himself. He knew that Brynn was their best bet for getting out of there, and the comment about heroes made sense. He was no hero, he was just a man looking for a part of his past he wanted some sense of resolution for.

    A warm smile came from the girl as she learned the taller man’s name. She’d completely forgot to introduce herself just a little while ago, but then it was hardly ever that she spoke enough to let anything personal about her out into the air. Aquila bowed her head just a bit, “Pleased to meet you, Jereidon,” she stated, “The name’s Aquila Carrows,” she finished, freely introducing herself into the group.

    Brynn turned to face those gathered. “All right, the show is over. If you need further assistance, please go to the temple of Myrii They can help you to find work and shelter.” His voice could project quite well when he needed it to. He probably would be heard over the sound of a roaring dragon, but the murmuring crowd was no problem.

    As those gathered departed, the mere mention of work was enough to turn their stomachs, Brynn turned back the small group. “The quickest way is out of town. Unfortunately that puts us farther into the slums before we get out. Otherwise, its back the way we came. I don’t think that we will have any more problems, but you never know...” He let his voice trail off. He had almost predicted Aquila’s meeting with them, he didn’t want to press his luck.

    “Umm...I say we go the other way,” Katela said, looking back at the needy beggars who had yet to leave the street. She shoved her coins back into her belt pouch, then began to walk in the opposite direction of the homeless crowd. She was beginning to realize how dangerous a desperate person was; she felt like they were stalking her like a pack of wolves, now that they knew she had money.

    “Good idea, if they tried to rush us I’d be the one who’d get caught. Aquila, I’ll tell you more about my search on our way, once we’re out of harms way,” Jereidon replied as he saw the people as well. Not wanting to take any foolish chances, he made sure to keep between the others for moving. He didn’t want to unleash something potentially devastating here, since he knew fire and lightning best. “If I knew any decent non-offensive spells I’d use it, but I’m mostly skilled with fire and lightning spells.”

    Everything has its place,“ Brynn answered Jereidon. ”There will come a time when your fire and lightning will be what saves us.“ He began to walk back towards town, and as they had only just entered the very bad part of town, it would only be a matter of moments until they got to relative safety. “They won’t follow, not during the day. If we were here at night, that would be another matter entirely. When you get around to the part of your story where you confronted the bandits to get your mother’s trinket back, see if you can remember any specific details about the men. Were they wearing a specific color head band or piece of cloth? That would suggest they could be part of a larger group. Possibly slavers or some such.”

    “I’ll try to remember more details, though it’s all pretty blurred since it happened so quickly and at night. How long till we’re out of here? This place is depressing,” Jereidon answered as he walked, starting to go back over that night in his mind. He was trying to see if there was anything that stood out, even a flash of something would help.

“That all depends on where we’re goin’,” Brynn answered Jereidon. “Is there anything that anyone needs to collect before we head out on our first adventure? I’m all set to go. I already paid tribute at the temple of Myrii, and I don’t own anything other than what I’m carrying.” Brynn looked at Katela and Jereidon. “We should probably gather some supplies. Trail rations and water skins and the sort.”

    “I’m ready,” Katela said. “I don’t really need to buy much anyway. It sounds like Aquila could use some supplies though.”

    “I’m ready. I have what little I carry with me. Neria will take care of food once our rations are finished, she has become quite the hunter. I’m not sure where to go next, maybe we need to find a place to rest and make a plan of action,” Jereidon replied. He was honestly unsure as to what to do next here. Of all the places to search, he would look close to home, maybe they should take the route his family took to see him. “Start at my master’s house and head towards where I grew up. Perhaps along there lies a long overlooked clue.”

    Brynn got a inquisitive look on his face. “First, you’d have to tell me where your master’s house is. I’m not a mind reader, ya know.” Brynn was teasing Jereidon, or course, knowing the the young mage would tell them the address. The dwarf was trying to keep the group’s spirits up. Their adventure seemed to lack a starting point. Many adventures started with a big event, and if you counted the attack on Jereidon’s family, then yes, this one did as well. They just needed to find which path they needed to be on. “Back tracking sounds like a reasonable plan.”

    “He lived almost two days journey from Alan, just outside a small village where we got our food and supplies from. I’m certain we can stay the night if we arrive after dark, he makes an excellent stew that I do miss. Once everyones ready I’ll take you there, don’t mind the clutter of books though,” Jereidon replied, laughing a bit. He thought the company around him was quite good. Together, they would have a great adventure, though it wouldn’t matter if they got sidetracked once or twice.

    “Well, lets get what we need and hit the road!” Katela proclaimed.

* * *

    The group left the old rundown district and made their way to the market place in the center of town. There were many shops and stands, offering a broad choice of goods and services.

    “Aquila, is there anything in particular you need?” Katela asked their new companion.

    Having heard the question clearly in her head a couple of minutes later she thought about it for a minute, but of course she needed things. However, the whole money thing was more of an issue with anything, as well as the fact that she had nothing to even attempt to trade with too, except maybe a front row seat to a performance especially for that person, but she wasn’t exactly up to that at the moment.

    “Yeah, maybe just a few, but I’ll have to figure out a way to do so,” she replied, making an attempt to force a smile upon her lips. Aquila was still trying to figure out how to gather up some things for the journey she was getting ready to go on with the small group. She’s obviously have to snatch things for people, but not all at once—it would make her too obvious. Hopefully she wouldn’t make a fool of herself though.

    Wandering from the group, Aquila found herself among a large group; perfect to pickpocket money, considering nobody was paying too much attention about it. Managing to get a decent sum, she looked around at the stands and shops. The girl needed food mainly, along with water. Depending on what she bought, it wouldn’t come up to a lot, or so she hoped.

    Having nothing better to do, Brynn watched Aquila pickpocket the crowd she moved through. He didn’t stop her or bring attention to her, but instead walked around to the vendor that she moved to. “There has to be a better way for you to make a living,” he whispered to her. “Besides you are part of our group now. We should look out for each other. If you needed supplies we could have worked together to come up with a way to pay for them.”

    Aquila agreed with his words, but it was a lifestyle she’d grown up with. With the way she grew up, she hardly ever wanted to go home, so it stuck her with learning how to simply steal. After blowing all that money, which made her rather uncomfortable Aquila nodded her head towards Brynn, then gave a slight shrug, “Well, it’s sort of hard for me to ask about things. I’ve lived this way for such a long while, that I don’t know how to do anything else to give myself an actual living, without having to break the rules,” she said. Unless it had been her step-brother, she’d never really asked for anything in her life, so there was a slight trust issue with her.

    “You’re right though. I need to learn how to ask for help,” she simply stated. It was true, but the fact of it being done by her seemed pretty slim, even though it could have possibly changed though.

    “That would have to be good enough,” replied Brynn. “Though I would just as soon not end up in a cell somewhere because you were caught, so if it can be avoided by one of of us helping, that would be the better choice.” With his lecture over he looked to see what Jereidon and Katela were up to.

    Seeing Aquila’s actions, Jereidon was a little surprised. He heading over to the two, looking back at Katela. He had a thought that he would suggest, so she could get properly equipped, “I think we could pool our resources to help her get equipped. My father worked as a scribe for the magistrate’s office in Alan. I find actions like that somewhat disconcerting, but her skills still could come in handy at times. What do you two think? Would that be a fair way of dealing with this?”

    “I agree, there is a time and a place where these particular skills come in very handy. This however is not one of them.” Brynn smiled at Aquila. He didn’t want her to think he was being too critical of her. He tried not to judge persons on their collection of worldly goods. “You just have to think about the people who that money belonged to. Maybe their families will go hungry tonight because they were not able to afford the food that the money would have bought. Jereidon’s idea is sound,” Brynn continued, “but alas I have no funds to contribute. When I need supplies I typically get them from the temple of Myrii, or I offer to help cure the ailments of the shop keeper and his family.”

    The half-elf followed behind Jereidon and Brynn, and she was equally displeased with Aquila’s actions, but she didn’t feel as if she was in a position to chastise her. “I don’t have a whole lot, but I could buy some things if you let me know what you need,” Katela said.

    After hearing the disappointing critique from what she had just done, Aquila seemed to have just gone completely silent. She knew that what she had done had been awfully wrong, but it was just something she’d been used to doing for such a long time now; one of those hard habits that were almost never easy to break, if at all. Taking a moment to pack up the little bit of goods she had—thanks to the helpless folks she’d taken them from, she peered around to figure out if anybody had plans on what to do after this.

    Katela’s words had almost went in one ear and out the other, before she turned her head in the direction of the half-elf. Being disappointed in herself, she simply shook her head for the time being, “I think I will be fine. Have to get over being greedy, as it seems to not be doing me any good in the long run. Won’t kill me to just chill,” she stated, giving a discomforting smile. She looked around the small group, “Any set ideas of where we might be going now?” she asked them, her tone still in a shy manner. Aquila didn’t like speaking up, but right now she just wanted to forget about taking the money and just leave off somewhere.

    “Well, we need to go to the Mercenaries’ Guild, I think,” Katela replied, glancing to Brynn and Jereidon for affirmation.

    “I don’t think it was greed. In fact, it hurts me to even hear you say that.” The dwarf cleric smiled at Aquila. “From what I have seen, you take only enough for your own survival. That is human nature, the need to survive. Greed would be desiring to take more than you need.” He hoped that his words comforted the young girl. Brynn then turned to Katela. “Hmm... I’m not sure we need a mercenary at this time. We are, after all, only investigating. It would be a shame to spend your hard earned and unplentiful money needlessly. I am confidant that our little group can handle anything that we come into conflict with, but I am not the leader of our merry band.” Brynn turned his gaze to Jereidon.

    Jereidon stayed silent as he thought about what Brynn had said. Survival was human nature and she had survived until now by doing that. He finally spoke after the issue of the Mercenaries’ Guild came up, a decision was needed from him. When he spoke, he addressed the group, so that they all knew the plan; “We could hire a mercenary now, but we also need to hang onto our money for traveling. I think that Brynn is right for now. If it proves too dangerous I will consider go to the Mercenaries’ Guild.” He knew that they would need one eventually, but until they had more money he would have to avoid the issue. “Let’s just get to my master’s place quickly. As soon as possible, I’ll send a messenger with a note about our arrival.”

    “Alright, I guess we’ll go as we are then,” Katela replied with a shrug. “Let’s hit the road!” The half-elf eagerly threw her fist into the air, and began walking southwards through the market, toward the city gate.

    “I see that one has a bit too much energy.” Brynn stuck his thumb out, pointing at Katela. “Must be that elven blood in her.” He smiled at the group and followed Katela towards the gate.

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