ARC 2 - Chapter [19]: Reckoning

Tucker’s breathing was hoarse and his heart thumped a mile a minute as his accomplishment sank in. His eyes were studying Gray’s body as it shrank back to normal size, and the wounds that decorated it appeared more intense than they had only a few moments ago.

While this was taking place, Kiara struggled to her feet with a cry of anguish. She hurried forward, pushing past Tucker, and fell to her knees beside her lover.

“Gray! No - this isn’t happening. No!”

It was a heartbreaking display - Tucker couldn’t deny that. Even if the girl was on the wrong side, she still displayed emotion and the tears were flowing. No matter the tears, Gray was gone.

Stat screens appeared in front of Tucker, blocking his view of the scene.

Congratulations! You have reached Level 5. 1 Experience Point has been added to your Codex. Additionally, there are new abilities available for purchase. You may browse these at your leisure.

“At last…” he muttered. It felt like forever since he had risen a level. The additional Experience Point would also come in handy since now he could purchase more than one ability, or even a single high-priced ability at once.

Additionally, his health meter had been granted more points. He was now allotted 30 HP, which was a considerable jump from what he was at before.

It felt wrong to him to stop everything and browse his stats at that very moment, so instead he quickly scanned the names of the abilities that had unlocked.






Each of these cost 2-3 XP. There were still a few lower-level abilities that he had neglected to purchase. He decided that there would be time later to decide on what to purchase, but for now his attention was needed in the orchard.

Gray’s crumpled form lay at Tucker’s feet like an animal taken down in the woods after a hunt. His face was still locked in a grimace. Kiara continued to sob uncontrollably.

“This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen! We were supposed to be free from this place…”

Without warning, J.D. came up behind them all and spoke.

“Not to be insensitive,” he said as he wiped his sword on his pant leg, “but, I think you have it pretty good here. And we gave your boyfriend every chance to back down. He refused. This is what happens when you turn to violence over negotiation.”

Tucker appreciated the stance, but J.D.’s bedside manner could use some finesse if they had any hope of getting additional information out of Kiara. Judging by all the noise that their battle with Gray and the henchmen had made, it was only a matter of minutes before staff from the house would descend upon the scene. There was little time to waste if they were going to gather up evidence and information before it was tampered with.

Tucker crouched beside Kiara and spoke to her gently.

“There’s still a chance for you, you know. We can clear your name with your family and you can mend the bridges you tried to burn. As harsh as it sounds, J.D. is right. You have it pretty good here compared to many others in Acaedia. Plenty of property; clothes; and a roof over your head and warm meals in your stomach at night. Why would you want to give all that up for a fling with a guy who, by all accounts, probably didn’t even care about you the way you cared about him?”

Through her tears, Kiara glared at him. The wet streaks dripped down her dirty face and dropped onto the collar of her nightgown.

“What do you know about what’s good for me? You don’t know me. Who are you, anyway? Nobody! Someone who comes in and destroys everything when we were so close to getting away from all of this.”

“To be fair, your mother hired us. If she didn’t want anyone to interfere in her troubled business, we wouldn’t even be here. If you want to blame anyone, blame her. But, something tells me you’ve already blamed her for everything.”

Tucker paused for a moment, trying to figure out the best way to proceed. As he ran through the different tactics at his disposal, a bit of floating white text appeared before him.

Persuasion Initiated. Points awarded will be determined by your success in gaining information from the target.

You have three different approaches at your disposal. These are:

Harsh Approach.

Sympathetic Approach.

Indifferent Approach.

Each has their own strengths and weaknesses. Choose wisely and proceed.

Tucker considered the three approaches and compared them to how Kiara was behaving emotionally. Her guard was up, and there was a clear barrier between Kiara and the two of them.

Moving forward harshly did not seem like it was the best fit. Maybe if he was in the middle of a rowdy pub, or a horde of other orcs, it could work. But, belittling and ruffling a grieving girl did not seem like it would yield the best results.

That left the other two seemingly similar approaches: Sympathetic and Indifferent.

Hadn’t he already been sympathetic? That didn’t exactly get him anywhere fast. Which led him to the final one. What did it mean to persuade someone with indifference? Was that like using reverse psychology?

Tucker mulled it over and at last decided to give indifference a try.

“You know,” he started, “honestly? It doesn’t matter to me if you talk to us or not. But, whatever you do, you are bound to deal with your parents - in particular your mother, who I’m guessing will be out here in no time to see what all the ruckus was about.”

He turned to look over his shoulder and saw that the upper floor windows of the manor were lighting up as people were roused and preparing to investigate.

Kira’s eyes also locked onto the glowing windows, and the harshness in her shoulders softened. It was slight, but at least it was progress.

“I…I can make up whatever I want,” she said in a wavering, resilient tone. “I can run from here right now and sneak back inside. There are other entrances. All it would take would be a few minutes of rushing and I’ll be back in my room. Nobody will be the wiser.”

Tucker’s brow lowered over his eyes in a stern, firm look.

“That’s not exactly true,” he replied. “I’ve been in your room, remember? I’ve seen your letters between you and Gray. All it will take is for me to alert your mother and she will send people inside to search your room. I can make it a fast investigation since I know exactly where that stack of correspondence is hidden. Besides, you and I both know that I have the power to hold you in place until we turn you in. You saw what I did to your lover’s cohorts? With the ice? I can do that to you. And I guarantee you that I am a good aim. You won’t make it three feet before I ice you in place.”

Kiara’s expression softened even more at that. She appeared to be cracking under the exhaustion of the whole evening.

Persuasion Skills Increased. You are making progress.

Tucker heard voices from inside. He knew that time was rapidly running out.

“So?” he pressed on. “What do you say? How about a little cooperation? Make things easier on yourself.”

Kiara tried for a split second to resist, but in the end she gave up. Tucker was right. It was easier.

“I don’t know what you want from me,” she started, “but I don’t know much at all. I wasn’t the planner, despite my position. I will tell you what I know if you promise that you won’t ruin me in front of my mother.”

Tucker had to try not to smirk, because even with his lower face obscured, he didn’t want to insult Kiara with his eyes.

Persuasion Complete. Skills Increased! You are gaining a better grasp on getting what you want through speech. Keep at it.

Perfect, thought Tucker. Let’s see what Kiara knows.

“Let’s start off with the easy one,” he prompted. “You were in on the entire thing?”

Kiara nodded, wiping the wet streaks from her face. “We were in love. I’ve been unhappy for such a long time. When I met Gray at a family dinner, I realized that he was just like me. We were both suffering from our families trying to engineer our futures. It was only a few months ago that we decided to go for it and set out on our own.”

“And you planned to steal some of your family’s business to fund your new future.”

Kiara stared him down. “I think I’m entitled to at least something. After all, they wanted me to take over this whole thing. Why shouldn’t I take a few trees and make what we could off of them? We couldn’t start off with nothing.”

“So, you moved the trees by hand.” Tucker observed the destruction in the orchard. “I’m guessing this isn’t the first time that Gray used one of those elixirs to gain his enormous size and strength?”

Kiara shook her head.

“He’s been using them for a while now. Getting people to help us do the heavy lifting was too much. Nobody wanted to be on the wrong side of my family. We’re one of the big businesses in West Arran, after all. If we were to get caught, they would be blacklisted from the area forever.”

Tucker grunted.

“Looks like that all worked out as you say. I doubt Sigor and Baldwin are going to be needing work in the future. One’s dead, and the other one is essentially finished.” He looked her directly in the eye. “Where did Gray get these elixirs?”

This time Kiara shrugged.

“I don’t know. He wouldn’t tell me. There were a lot of things he didn’t tell me, even though I asked him. I don’t know where he got the elixirs, and I don’t know where he’s keeping the stolen trees and Anthroot. He said that he needed to keep it a secret because if someone got to me, they would find out. Less leaks.”

Tucker raised his eyebrows.

“Either that, or he was planning to ditch you and take everything for himself.”

“I don’t believe that,” Kiara shot back. “He would never do that to me.”

“Are you really so sure about that?” J.D. added. “The guy seemed like a really shady scumbag to me. All it would have taken is one boat ride out of Castlederg and you would have never seen him again. He’d be off living his new life without you, and you’d be left here with the ruin of your family.”

“But, we were in love…”

From her tone, Tucker knew that she truly believed it. Why should she keep up the charade now that Gray was dead before them?

He tried once more to see if Kiara’s story would change.

“Truly, you don’t know where he got the elixir, or where he’s hiding all the stolen goods?”

“I’m sorry. I don’t have any idea. Like I said, Gray kept his secrets. If you want the answers to those things, you will have to go looking for yourself.”

At that, an alert popped up in Tucker’s vision.

Quest Updated: Track and detain the cause of destruction and theft at Thorne Manor. Positively identity the culprits - COMPLETE.

Outstanding: Detain the culprits to prevent further property damage.

Side-Quest: Locate Gray Fielding’s hiding place. Return the stolen items and gain reputation points.

So that settles it, said Tucker. There was no more information to get out of Kiara. Within moments, the staff of the house was going to descend upon the scene. Kiara was going nowhere.

This left Tucker free to grab what little evidence he could.

“Here,” said J.D., handing Tucker a small vial. “Drink this potion now before anything else happens. I think we’ll need all our strength to get through the rest of tonight.”

Tucker nodded, thanking his companion before downing the liquid. His HP meter rose back to the top, fully illuminated with 30 points. J.D. did the same, healing his minor wounds. Now they were set for a night of presenting the results of their investigation.

Searching Gray’s pants pockets, he didn’t find much. However, there was one additional vial of glowing elixir, and also a set of very thick bronze keys.

Items Received:

  1. Elixir of Massive Growth
  2. Bronze Key Ring

These were added to his inventory. There was no time to truly examine them right then because the large back door where the servants entered and exited the orchard gave a creak and opened to reveal Royce. He emerged holding a lantern, followed by a few other servants dressed in coats over their sleeping clothes.

“Kiara?” said Royce with disbelief. “What in Acaedia are you doing out here?”

Kiara didn’t say anything. She simply got to her feet and brushed the dirt from her clothes as best she could.

“The time of reckoning is upon us,” Tucker muttered.


About the author


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.

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