A slightly younger old-timer stood up from one of the benches with some grunting and loud cracking of joint, pulled a spear out of the ground and walked up to Prof. From so near Prof noticed a patch with an unknown coat-of-arms on the left sleeve. Oh, an Official!
“Welcome to Smallgrovewell” The official hadn’t used that name, but the Bergian word composition of Small, Grove and Well. In Bergian it sounded better. Thank you [Speech: Bergian] for even giving the meaning of the names of places! “I’m the captain of the guard of the noble house of Jotabor, Bela. Who are you and what is your purpose here? Sir.”
“My name is Hegyesi Ferenc, but everyone calls me Prof” He introduced himself. Prof doubted that the “Captain of the Guard” had more than one or two subordinates, the place didn’t look all that wealthy. He almost pitied the old soldier, but than remembered something important: everyone on Arkadia can level, and even common folks reach Level 6 around the age of thirty. Since he was obviously some kind of soldier and even more obviously old, the Captain, Sir, had to be at least Level 15, probably even more. Meaning, he would probably able to mop up the muddy wallow they called the Main Street with Prof, without breaking a sweat. While asleep. “My purpose here is to ask around, if there is some work I could do, and ask for directions to nearby villages, towns and interesting places. Captain, Sir”
The old captain took a good look at Prof, than turned to the other pensioners with some unspoken question. The most ancient finally gave a small nod. Bela turned back to Prof.
“You spoke well and haven’t even forgotten about courtesy, Kid. It’s not that common now-days. I can’t give you any tasks, that’s in the power of the Lady. You see the manor over there? You can talk to her there.”
Prof didn’t forget to thank the Captain for the pointers, said his goodbyes to the Welcoming Committee, and took his leave. The manor was situated on the other side of the village, on a small, low, but quite steep outcropping – it included a one-storey wood-framed house, built on strong looking stone foundations, a few wooden annexes on the yard and a low log wall, or rather a tell fence. The whole compound was in stark contrast to the village, it was clean (as far medieval standards went) without a refuse pile anywhere in sight, flower boxes in the windows, and even a flower bed at the side with a few stone benches. Whoever made their home there took every effort not to live out in the booneys – despite living out in the booneys. Prof wandered into the manor through the open gates and was greeted immediately by a stern looking armed woman in a well-made dark green dress. She wasn’t your classical beauty, but was not a willendorfer Venus either – all in all she was quite average, but had a cute upturned nose. Prof took her for about thirty.
“Who are you, and what are you doing here?” Snapped the woman. From the clothing, the sword and the behaviour Prof pegged her as the Lady of the Manor. In contrast to Lady Jotabor he didn’t forget his manners.
“Greeting, milady. My name is Hegyesi Ferenc, and Captain Bela told me to talk to you about quests or tasks. I also hope to find some lodgings here.”
“Ah, a dressed up hobo wants to enter into my employ! Why do you think, I have use for one of your like?”
Prof expected a somewhat warmer welcome, and not such an open contempt. He completely forgot, that he is just a parvenu – it didn’t take long for the Perk to rear it’s head. He had no better idea, but to still try to argue politely in his favour. He even bowed.
“Milady, there are always dangerous or hard tasks to accomplish, where it would make more sense to risk a stranger and not your own people. And, of course, I would pay for the lodgings. Of course, it is in milady’s purview to decide if my services are needed.”
“It is clear, it’s my decision, since I’m the Lady here! Right, let’s see what you can do besides talking fancy! There is a Dire Wolf in the forests to the West that sometimes prey on my sheep. Bring me it’s head ad you can stay! You have two days!”
“As you wish, milady.” Prof bowed and took his leave. The whole situation was not to his likeing. First, he had to humiliate himself and second, he just got a dangerous quest where his only reward would be that he was not thrown out. But, to be fair, he was just an armed stranger asking to be let into the house. It was only natural, that he would need to rise his acceptance! Wait a minute! He definitely remembered, that there were Perks in the Rule Book that made you be liked more! That hinted at a reputation system being in place – and probably it even worked with… Points… Prof could maybe... harvest! Not so terribly bad after all.
Since he had no clue, where in the “Western Forest” he could find that terrible animal, the two days time wasn’t much. This wasn’t some computer game, where the stuff you needed to find was indicated by the classical X on the minimap, but hard reality. (Prof had some recollections about seeing Perks in the list that in fact did so – talk cheat powers) Since he wasn’t going to get help from the System, than he would do it manually! It was time for another chat with the old warrior. Luckily the captain was still sitting beneath the willow, talking to the Old Men’s Club.
“Captain Bela, Sir! Do you have a few minutes for me?” After the captain motioned for Prof to come closer, he continued “Lady Jotabor tasked me to hunt down the Dire Wolf in the Western Forest. Unfortunately, I’m new here and don’t know about either the Western Forests, or the usual haunts of the wolf. Who could help me out with that?”
“Heh, so you need to kill Spots, Kid? It was time someone had the guts to do it! Not that he caused so much damage, but you can not allow an animal like that near a village! Unfortunately there are only three of us with high enough Level and weapon Skills to tackle it easily. That being the Lady herself, my son and me. If adventurers would even come here, they still demand a too high price. I would say, you should talk with Kendrik, the Lady’s ranger. He probably could help you find Spots, but if he does, it would be your responsibility the ensure his safety. Do you understand, Kid?”
Prof thanked him for the advise and promised to look out for the ranger. He also noted, that he was exploited, real adventurers wanted money (probably a lot of) and here he was, doing the hunting for free. He really hoped, there really was a reputation system, and it really operated on Points. Let’s see who exploits whom! As it transpired, Kendrik lived on the edge of the village with his wife, the village’s medicine woman in a log cabin, but was due only in the evening. At the time Prof arrived, only the wife, Hajni was present. As for her looks, Prof could only use the word “plump”. She was nice enough to let Prof wait on the porch, but rejected his advances to help her. Prof spent his time reading his Character Sheet, making plans for his next level-up – his discussions with the Lady made it clear to him that he needed [Etiquette] and [Convincing] above 100% as fast as possible – and though about how to make money. Hajni was kind enough to give Prof some porridge-like food for lunch, which he reciprocated by offering up one pair of sausages. It wasn’t an even trade, but the thought was what mattered. They started chatting afterwards, and Prof learned that Hajni was Kendrik’s second wife (the first passed away a few years before), she was thirty five and neither she, nor Kendrik were originally from here. Smallgrovewell was located at the western edge of the kingdom while the Western Forest was theoretically already part of the next country, that is the Elven Domain (but were the exact border was, was a mystery for the Locals) – luckily the Bergians and the Elves got along well in the last generations (meaning the Bergians left the elves alone and the Elves kept to themselves), and the Elves were shut-ins – so the life in the village was quite peaceful. Not counting the occasional wild animal, monster or troublemaker, but those were mostly dealt with by the Lady (Prof found out, her name was Ilona), Captain Bela or his son – who by the way, was his only subordinate – Little Bela. According to Hajni the next village was Pinehill (yeah, that also sounded better in Bergian) about eight kilometres due East, and the nearest town, Gaborh’s Castle – from the description it was rather a larger market place and not a real town – about twenty kilometres in the East over of Pinehill. According to Hajni there was not much to learn in the village. She herself concentrated on healing herbs; Prof probably could learn Skills in connection to hunting and the forest from her husband; Old Bela was good in weapon Skills and a few inhabitants were passable in handcrafts. If you discounted digging dirt and raising animals. Which Prof did, without remorse.
Right before dusk a man in green clothes and a bow on his back showed up, whom Prof assumed was Kendrik the Lady’s ranger. To judge from his sharp features, lithe body and slightly pointed ears one of his ancestors was probably an Elf. Either that, or a lot of his ancestors were very closely related over multiple generations. Or maybe both. You have to remember that in medieval times the genetic pool in little villages out in the booneys was a bit shallow. Shallow as in: even a mouse doesn’t need a snorkel to wade through it. Prof hurried up to meet him half ways to the porch.
“Good evening, Master Kendrik” Prof gave the Bergian Salute before offering a hand-shake “My name is Prof, and I wanted to talk to you.”
“First is dinner, second is talk. Come on!”
The ranger had an interesting accent, much like if he tried to sing why speaking and used more diphthongs than Bergian words had. Prof could place it – probably his [Speech: Bergian] wasn’t high enough, or the Skill didn’t include knowledge in placing accents – so he just shrugged and followed the ranger into the house. The cosy interior was dominated by drying herbs, pelts and parts of animals, from bones to bottled internal organs, claws to testicles (the last one Prof didn’t want to know why they were there. Probably the same reason rhino-horns were so sought after). Dinner was composed of the usual unidentifiable medieval porridge but this time with a stew made of some unknown wild bird (but was probably seasoned chicken) and a horrible home-brew beer. No micro-breweries back then. Before drinking individualistic stuff to set you apart from the masses got trendy, humans were just trying to put some alcohol in liquids so no one got the runs from drinking bad water. You remember the issue with medieval canalisation? Good. Connect the dots. So, if you wanted good beer, you went to the multinational companies, i.e. the monasteries. But, back on topic). That particular beer was probably made by filling up a horse with the rejects of a bad brewery and catching the run-out in a barrel. It still was, however, recognised as “beer” (i.e. alcohol) so Prof could check one portion of his mandatory weekly allotment out. Not that he enjoyed it. He probably needed to find some quality… passable… drinkable booze in the future.
After dinner was done, Kendrik sat back in his roughly hewn chair and looked at our hero.
“All right, Prof. What did you want to talk about?”