Chapter : Castlederg Quests
It took awhile for Tucker to fall asleep. Once he did, however, it was as if he had only been out of it for thirty seconds before shafts of sunlight hit him in the face and the sound of commotion up on deck pounded in his ears. There were no dreams; only a fade to black, and then back up again.
The sensation was strange, but then again, he didn’t feel tired, so opened his eyes and rolled out of the hammock.
An alert appeared before him.
Checkpoint: Shores of Castlederg.
He rubbed his eyes, but realized that this was only out of habit. There was no build up of sleep within them. He was as awake as he had ever felt before in his life. Perhaps sleeping in Acaedia was merely a form of energy regeneration. It would make sense, he decided, since this was really an RPG. What other usefulness was there for sleep?
Judging from the alert, they must have arrived at their destination. Garrick had mentioned the name Castlederg a few times, so Tucker wasn’t unfamiliar with it. He was curious more than ever what his first city - if it was even a city - looked like. So, with a brief glance in his Codex to be sure that all his stats were full, and they were, he made his way through the belly of the ship and up the ladder onto deck.
The sea breeze hit him in the face, and this time it wasn’t freezing as it had been out in the middle of the The Great Morean ocean. In this instance the wind was warmer and pleasant, rustling his hair and clothing, which were now fully dry. It was a rejuvenating experience.
A flock of gulls flew overhead. Their cackling grew fainter and fainter as they soared away from The Castine. Tucker followed them with his gaze until his eyes came upon their destination. His breath caught in his throat as he witnessed something that he had probably seen a million times in various video games - but, this time it was real. He was astounded.
“Castlederg,” said a voice behind him, and he felt Garrick’s hand on his shoulder. “Quite a sight, isn’t it?”
That was an understatement.
The shoreline was lined with sweeping wooden boardwalks and various docks that reached out into the water like thin fingers, giving the land the illusion that it was one straight line. Beyond the docks were lines of rough-hewn stone buildings. Some were made of brick. Others were gray slabs of whatever material was found in the surrounding area, but they all shared a common theme in appearance, and they were each butted up against each other, as if all the real estate on the shore was precious in commodity. Any alleyways that Tucker could see, which were few and far between, were so thin that he wondered if there was even any use for them besides hiding a waste bucket or storing some ship sails.
All around was the bustle of people. Many of these were sailors disembarking from other tall-masted ships that had docked along the boardwalk, but there were others who were helping to load supplies into smaller fishing vessels, as well as merchants selling their wares out front of their shops. More than a few had pop-up installations with items for sale. Tucker felt his poverty now more than ever since falling through the archway as he saw clothing and leather armor for sale at one shop. There was also a weapons store that looked like a medieval enthusiasts dream.
The more he observed, the more Tucker realized that the city wasn’t just a single strip along the shoreline. It actually rose up behind the line of shops until it crested over a hill that made the rooftops appear to be a continuation of the ocean’s rolling waves. From his vantage point, Tucker wanted to say that the city was shaped like a half circle, with the the outskirts wrapping around the oceanfront. It made sense since the port was their main source of income. That wasn’t a foreign idea to Tucker.
“We made it in one piece, I’m relieved to say,” Garrick continued as The Castine approached one of the spare docks. “A few leaks, but nothing that can’t be fixed with a little work. We will be out to sea again in no time, but I dare say that my men could use a little break from all the excitement. They’ve earned it.”
Within a few minutes the ship pulled gently into place and a handful of men leaped onto the dock to tie her off. Once she was secure, a wooden platform was extended from the deck down at a slant so that it reached the dock with no gaps. Men hurried onto shore with great smiles on their faces. A few, who had to call Castlederg their home, had women waiting for them. There were tears in a few of their eyes as they embraced and shared affectionate kisses. One even had a young son who stood stoically, dressed all in a deep navy wool outfit complete with a hat. He was scooped up by his father and given a bear hug.
“I’m glad that nobody was killed,” said Tucker. “Is your crew usually so lucky?”
“Mostly,” said Garrick. “I think the amount of men we have lost over the past couple years could be counted on one hand. Most of those were due to accidents. We certainly don’t encounter sea monsters every time we set out to sea. That was a rare occurrence. There are rumors, though, that the sightings are more frequent than we believe. That’s the good thing about pubs. Fellow captains and crew share stories about the things they’ve seen and heard. It’s a fair warning for what to expect when you set out on a mission. Never underestimate what you can find out from your fellow man. They’re not all crooks.”
Another entry appeared in Tucker’s Codex, alerting him with a pinging sound. For the first time since he was given the Codex, Tucker thought that now was a good time to check it out. There had to be a good bunch of entries within.
The latest one which had just appeared was titled Common Knowledge. Tucker read the entry, which was barely more than a small page, but it was interesting.
People throughout Acaedia have their own lives, histories, and experiences. Some will give you their experience freely, while others will require payment or even the completion of a quest. When in a new location, be sure to visit local gathering spots to keep abreast of what is happening locally, and also add to the greater picture of what is taking place in the whole of Acaedia. You may find yourself better equipped for your next adventure.
Points of interest include pubs, libraries, academic institutions, parks, and camps.
Once Tucker read the glowing text in its entirety, the words shimmered for a second, then turned a faded blue and glowed no longer.
“So, that’s how I keep track of what I’ve read,” muttered Tucker. “Interesting…”
He flipped through the Codex until he came to a list of possible objectives to pursue. It wasn’t a massive list at this point, but he had options. The more options he acquired, the greater thought he would need to put into his decision making. He didn’t want to get stuck this early in his adventures by taking on a quest that he couldn’t complete and lose what little he had of his health and energy.
His options so far were to earn some money by picking up local jobs; seek out struggles to the northern border of Frostweith; and seek out the Mages Guild.
Two of those options were out of his league at this point, so he decided that earning some money would be his first task. At the very least, once he had some money he could afford to upgrade his rudimentary clothing to something more protective and also perhaps buy a weapon for skirmishes. He couldn’t rely on his mage abilities for everything, especially when being ambushed, which he expected to be at some point.
With a good weapon, he could set out and find a way to level himself up a few more times before doing anything too risky. That was what he usually did when he was playing any RPG for the first time. Strength was everything. With enough of it, you could go anywhere and do anything you wanted.
Garrick cleared his throat to get Tucker’s attention.
“Have you decided what you’re going to do?” he asked. “My offer still stands. You’re more than welcome to join my crew if you’d like. I’d say you’ve more than proven your worth in a tricky situation.”
Another quest option added to the Codex. This one made Tucker smile. Out of all the people he had encountered in the crew so far, he never expected Garrick to be the one to warm up to him the most. He must have made quite the impression on the captain. It felt good to have at least one ally in Acaedia if he needed to fall back on that.
“I appreciate it,” said Tucker. “But, I think I need to do some work first and build up my finances before I do any real traveling.”
“Ah,” said Garrick with a nod, looking out at the city. “I figured as much. You’ve got great potential. Best not to waste it at sea. But, if you’re ever feeling the itch to go back on The Great Morean, then you can always join up if you wish. I would be thrilled to have you.” He gave a few of his lingering men a side-glance. “And I would be sure that you weren’t discriminated against.”
“Alright,” he said. “I will certainly keep that in mind.”
Garrick cleared his throat once more.
“Since I had a feeling you would be heading off, I decided to round up a few things for you. Call them gifts or whatever you like. I hope they will be useful to you. I definitely don’t have any use for them.”
It was an amusing way to cover his affection, but Tucker knew that Garrick was sad to see him leave. The captain handed over a small bag of rough waterproof cloth which contained a couple items. The first was a map which was rolled up and held shut by a red ribbon. Tucker unfolded the map and looked at it with interest.
As expected, most of the map was clouded out since he hadn’t arrived at any places besides Castlederg, but the entire city of Castlederg was illuminated and there were points of interest highlighted to make traveling easier for Tucker. He appreciated that greatly. The more exploring he did, the more of the map would be filled out. That was standard. As it was, Castlederg only encompassed a small portion of the map’s surface. Tucker was glad to see a red dot that represented The Castine’s docking point. He could use that to return to ship duties in the future.
Next in the bag was a worn leather belt from which the bag could be hung. That would make it easier for Tucker to carry items, and it would save his shoulders and allow him to move his arms freely in the event that he entered a fight, which was very likely if he was going to attempt any grinding.
Lastly was something that he did not expect, but something that made the uneasiness of setting out into the city simmer down a bit. It was a thick green scarf that had been handmade. It was clearly old, but it hadn’t been worn out. There wasn’t a single hole in the fabric to be seen.
“I gave you that,” said Garrick, “to mask your face. You were pretty concerned about being recognized as an orc, so I figured this would give you a bit of anonymity - at least until you can afford something more elaborate. It was from my mother. She gave it to me when I was a young lad first setting out on my adventures at sea. I’ve outgrown it now, but you can make use of it for sure. At least it will keep you dry should you find yourself stuck in any inclement weather.”
Tucker wrapped the scarf around his neck and made sure that it remained flat as he draped the warm fabric over the lower half of his face. Some text appeared in front of him.
So, it worked. He wasn’t obvious in his heritage, which was a relief. He unrolled the scarf for a moment to thank Garrick and the concealment alert changed to Disabled.
“Thank-you very much, Garrick,” he said. “I appreciate this more than you know. It’s actually one of the few nice things anyone has done for me in a long time.” He was thinking about his life back home in the real world, but Garrick had no way of knowing about any of that.
The captain blinked away a stray bit of moisture in the corner of his eye and sniffed.
“It’s nothing,” he said. “Don’t even mention it. They pale in comparison to how you helped us out with that monster. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some business to attend to. Safe travels, orc.”
Then he was off.
Tucker took another moment to look at his map. There were a few shops that were highlighted - most notably the one for armor and clothing. Also the weapons shop that he had spotted earlier. Then there was a bakery and a local tavern where information could be found. Perhaps that would be a good spot to start looking for work.
As Tucker was rolling up his map, he spotted Garrick down on the docks talking to Alton. The boy looked distressed, but Garrick had a firm expression and was clearly not backing down no matter what Alton said in defense. After a few moments of back and forth, Garrick turned and walked off towards the shops and left Alton standing there looking dejected.
Tucker went down the gangplank and approached Alton, who had his torso wrapped up to protect his ribs, which had been pretty bruised the night before. He was clothed in a bit dryer wear, however, and hung his head.
“What’s the matter?” asked Tucker as he reached the boy.
“Oh!” said Alton, caught by surprise. “It’s you, Tucker! I thought you were already long gone by now.”
“Not yet,” Tucker replied. “I’m still figuring things out. It looks like you’ve been dealt a serious blow?”
“Serious? Perhaps. It depends on how you look at it.” Alton looked off to the side, searching for something in his mind that Tucker couldn’t see. Then he continued. “The captain says that I’m being put on sick leave until I heal back up. My ribs hurt when I breathe too hard, and I can’t lift anything or pull on ropes without pain. I tried, and he caught me earlier. I got a pretty good talking to then, but I didn’t think that I would be dismissed.”
“It’s only temporary, surely?” said Tucker. He was trying to be comforting, but the dismay that Alton felt was contagious. He felt bad for the boy who he had rescued.
“That’s what I was told,” said Alton. “But, my family is depending on me to make money to help support us. That’s the whole reason I went to sea in the first place. We all have to make due with what we can do, and I am good at transporting goods by ship. Now…I’m not sure what I will do until I heal up. Like I said, I can’t lift anything. That rules out helping with land transport.”
Tucker felt even worse now. He wondered what Alton’s family was like. Were they in Castlederg?
“Where is your family?” he asked.
“Over in Sorrel,” said Alton, pointing into the city. “That’s west of here, further inland. We own a farm that does alright. But, with the drought we had last summer, things have been very tough. My father has accrued plenty of debts because we tried to live off of credit. Now, the creditors want to be repaid, but we don’t have the full payments. I was hoping to wipe out a lot of the extra debt with my wages.”
A quest option was added to Tucker’s Codex. He didn’t have to look at it to know what it would be about. Perhaps there was a way for Tucker to kill two birds with one stone. He could use the experience points, no doubt. Maybe completing two quests at once would help him to level up faster and build up his skills.
“Why don’t you let me help you?” he asked Alton.
The boy gave him a confused look.
“What do you mean?” Alton asked.
“What I mean is, why don’t you just go home to your family and rest like the captain ordered. I can look around for a few local jobs and earn some money. Then, once I have enough, I’ll come and meet you at your family’s farm. That way I can help you repay your family’s debts and also get some coins for myself at the same time.”
Tucker was sure that he could earn some quick money with his concealment. He was good at grinding in other games, and this would be no different, he suspected. There was always a good number of NPCs that needed help with things in a city like Castlederg, and judging by the size of the city on his map, there was a good amount of money that Tucker could earn if he just worked for it.
Alton seemed relieved, but he still protested.
“I couldn’t ask you to do that, Tucker,” he said. “I’d just be exchanging one debt for another. I already owe you my life. I can’t ask you to support me financially.”
“How about this?” suggested Tucker. “When I get to your farm, maybe you can sell me some goods that your family has no need of in exchange for the money? I have literally nothing to my name except for my map and disguise. I could use a few goods - especially some home-cooked meals. Maybe even some provisions for when I set out on my journeys. What do you say?”
Alton considered the proposal for a moment, then finally he nodded.
“I think that sounds pretty good!”
“Excellent,” said Tucker. An alert appeared in front of him.
Quest Updated: Deliver Funds To Digby Farm.
That sounded safe enough.
“Here,” said Alton. “Let me see your map. I’ll mark off where our farm is…”
He examined Tucker’s map and handed it back a moment later with a waypoint marked off in the clouded west. There was a dotted trail that wound through the unmapped territory to aid Tucker in his journey. He wondered what sort of things lay between here and Digby Farm. He would find out soon enough.
“Thanks,” he said and put his map away.
“I should be thanking you,” said Alton. “It seems to be a trend.”
“Don’t mention it,” Tucker replied. “Just rest up so that you can get back to The Castine. I’m going to look for jobs now.”
“Before you go…” Alton said, reaching around behind his belt. “Take this. You’re going to need something to defend yourself until you can upgrade your weapons.”
He handed Tucker the cutlass that he had used the night before to attack the sea monster. It wasn’t lost. In fact, it looked as if Alton had cleaned it for him.
“Thank-you,” said Tucker, attaching the hilt to his own belt. “I feel like I’m ready to start now.”
Alton bid him farewell and then was off, headed for a local cart for hire that was drawn by a single horse. The rider, who up until now had seemed incredibly bored, suddenly perked up at the notion of an actual patron wanting his services. Alton was helped aboard and he waved at Tucker as the cart pulled away and started on its journey to Digby Farm.
That was all the obligations that Tucker had up to this point. He was relieved to have everything squared away. Now he felt ready to go out and explore. There was nothing stopping him. He pulled the scarf over his features, enabled concealment, and started along the boardwalk.
He was pleased to see that he wasn’t the only one with their identity concealed. A group of three women were standing by an exotic fabric shop with shawls covering their faces. He could only make out the suggestion of their features as they talked and laughed with each other. Incense wafted around the storefront and gave the place an otherworldly feel.
There was fresh warm bread being baked and set out on an open window. It wasn’t fancy, but even in this game world, Tucker’s mouth watered. He felt as if he hadn’t really observed his surroundings before back in the real world. Perhaps that was because everything seemed so drab and mundane back there. In Acaedia it appeared that every shop was vibrant and alive. There was nothing electronic or modern. Everything felt locked back in time when times were simpler. Tucker loved that.
The street, which connected to the boardwalk, was paved with cobblestones that jutted out at odd angles. One had to be careful as they made their way down these streets if they wanted to keep their balance. Tucker found himself keeping his gaze aimed down at his feet a lot of the time because a couple times he caught the toe of his boot on the edge of one of the cobbles and nearly face planted.
“Watch yourself, lad!” said one passerby.
“Sorry…” Tucker muttered. He decided that it wasn’t worth it to spend any time window shopping when he was broke. There would be time to shop later once his coin purse was heavier.
He wound his way along until he came to a small, dark-stoned building with two floors and a large front deck. The roof was made of black shingles and the four-paned windows were highlighted as points of interest by the way that oil lamps within glowed.
This was The Missing Toe Tavern, as stated by a rustic sign swinging from a black iron post. Glancing down at the map that Garrick had given him, Tucker confirmed that this was the only tavern in the area (at least as far as the waterfront was concerned) and gritted his teeth as it was confirmed. This would be his best chance to find a paying job.
He rolled the map and returned it to his pack, then made his way up the wooden steps and through the front entrance.
Inside was the sound of eager conversation interspersed with laughter and high spirits. The air was clouded in a smoky haze that was created by all the long and short-stemmed pipes being smoked by the various patrons of the tavern. It was still early in the morning, but that didn’t stop folks from having a drink or two. More than a few massive pint glasses were half full and it seemed that the breakfast of choice was crispy bacon, juicy sausage links (if that was pig meat), and fried potato squares.
Tucker went up to the bar and rested his elbow on the shiny countertop. He was sure to keep his hands tucked away so the bartender didn’t see his orc skin.
A middle-aged gentleman was tending the bar and he turned to greet Tucker, but there was a hint of suspicion in his expression as he surveyed Tucker’s concealed face.
“Good morning,” said the bartender. “What can I get you today, traveler? Our meal specials are listed on the board behind me, and we have a wide selection of seasonal brews on tap if you so desire.”
“Thank-you,” said Tucker. “But, I’m not here to eat. I was hoping to find someone looking to hire an extra hand, if you know of any.”
The bartender chewed the inside of his lip a moment, then replied, “I might know of someone looking for help. But, they won’t be willing to hire anyone hiding their identity. There have been a few double crossers about lately, and I wouldn’t want to lead any unsavory types to the doorsteps of the vulnerable. You understand.”
Tucker’s stomach felt like it had butterflies in it. So, even with the help from Garrick, he wasn’t going to be able to find easy work. He tried not to let his disappointment show in his stance.
“I see,” he said. “Are you sure that nobody would be willing to take me on based on good faith? I have plenty of skills and a strong back.”
“So do a bunch of people around these parts,” the bartender replied. “I’m sorry.”
That was the end of that. Tucker knew that he wasn’t going to get anywhere at The Missing Toe, so he thanked the bartender and left.
“Great…” he muttered. “Now what am I going to do?”
As he returned to the cobblestone street a commotion was brewing at the far corner where the street wrapped around and met up with the waterfront. A small crowd was gathering and Tucker could hear a woman’s shrill voice calling out something, though at this distance he couldn’t make it out.
He hurried towards the crowd and sure enough he pushed his way to the front and saw a woman who looked beside herself. Her long working dress was half covered in mud, and tears made white trails along her dirty cheeks.
“Please!” she pleaded. “Please, someone! You must help me! I - I can’t leave him alone!”
She turned from one person to the next, searching for someone who would volunteer. But, everyone in the crowd stepped away when they were singled out. None of them were adventurers. They were townsfolk, running daily errands.
The woman wailed.
“Please! There must be someone!”
Tucker stepped forward, separating himself from the group, and went over to the woman.
“What is the matter, Miss?” he asked, reaching out to touch the woman’s arm. “Why are you so upset?”
“I told them!” she cried. “I told them not to go playing around there, but they wouldn’t listen! Now they’re trapped, and the whole thing will come down on them! I know it!”
Tucker looked the woman in the eyes.
“Who is trapped?” he asked.
“My sons! They went into an old mine not far from the city, and now the entrance has collapsed! They’re going to die in there - I can’t possibly move those boulders on my own!”
A shocked gasp rippled through the crowd and the woman broke down in tears.
“Will nobody help me?!” asked the woman.
Tucker nodded, pressing a hand against his chest.
“I will help you,” he said. It was at least something to do, and perhaps he would find some treasure along the way if nobody would hire him. This woman looked like she was at her wit’s end.
“Hurry!” she pleaded, grabbing him by the shirt as she led him through the crowd and down the street. “They might already be horribly injured. Please, hurry!”
Bio: I have been a writer pretty much from the time I could hold a pencil and scribble letters. I am looking to develop my craft and better my storytelling. I am a huge fan of fantasy and horror in all their incarnations. When I'm not reading, I'm usually hunting for Legos. You can find me trying to decipher the mini-figure blind bags at the local big-box store.