From Humble Beginnings

Morithes prelude

The weather in Verbobonc is typically lovely, but on certain days the weather is exceedingly nice. On days such as these Morithes likes to get off of the grounds and find a suitably pleasant location to meditate and reflect. Unlike many monastic orders, he was trained in the city and that makes him a bit of an oddity: a city-fied monk.

On one fine day Morithes is meditating in a secluded no-man’s land behind a row of buildings near the river shore. The spot is close enough to the open expanse of the river to get the strong breezes that blow off of it, and at the same time to have the low drone of the hustle of the city proper. There is the less than lovely smell that the riverfront typically brings, dead fish, unwashed people, and assorted mildew, but the breeze keeps it adequately ventilated for the most part. Many monks would find this eclectic mixture too jarring for serenity, but this is how he finds peace.

It is late in the afternoon and the dock work is slowing down just as the tavern life picks up. It is the most peaceful part of the afternoon. So it is that Morithes hears what sounds like an argument coming from nearby. Though the acoustics of the area make it difficult to tell, he concludes that the sounds are coming from another open space behind a few buildings down the street.

Morithes quickly but quietly moves along the void between structures in the direction of the noise. As he nears the source of the disturbance he notices that the clearing ahead is almost entirely enclosed by the surrounding buildings. Near the back door of a gambling house he sees two men arguing. One appears to be a dock worker and the other a rather ordinary looking man of middle class, judging by his clothing. The middle class man has the worker backed up against an outhouse and is brandishing a dagger in his face.

Morithes is too far away to make out more than a few words, but the dagger wielding man seems to be intimidating the worker. The dagger wielder has an air of annoyance about him.

“I hope I don’t regret this”, Morithes thinks to himself. “Couldn’t help but hear the commotion. The fight seems fairly one sided though. Anything I can do to smooth things out?” he says as he steps into view.

Both men turn their heads to look at him. The dagger wielder effects a mock grin and replies, “I doubt it. We’re just having a business disagreement. I’m sure Devic will see it my way and we’ll get it sorted out. Right, Devic?” Devic says nothing, just looks back and forth from the dagger to the monk.

“Well Devic, can you handle this or would you like someone to mediate? I’d rather not see blood shed if its all the same. Disturbs my meditation.”

Just as Devic looks like he’s about to speak, the dagger wielder cuts him off. “Well now this is a business discussion. Our business, as in the kind that’s not yours. Go back to where you came from, and I promise you won’t see any blood.”

“I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but I’m afraid that my faith wouldn’t allow me to leave in good conscience.”

The dagger wielder says, curiously “Your faith…” as he quickly observes the monk’s appearance in detail. As his eyes fix on the Cuthbertine holy symbol he curses, “Crap!”

Morithes moves quickly, faster than the assailant had anticipated. He promptly covers the intervening distance and delivers a glancing blow to the dagger, but not enough to dislodge the weapon. Recovering quickly, the dagger wilder strikes.

Devic stammers “No Kanley, wait…” as the dagger plunges into his torso right below the ribcage. He slides down the wall of the outhouse with a groan.

Morithes releases the staff and delivers a brutal palm thrust into Kanley’s chin. With a snap his teeth clack together as his head slams back. He stumbles a half step before his momentum spins him around and he lands face first on the ground. He wearily attempts to push himself up before collapsing.

Quickly, Morithes drops to one knee and examines the wound. He tears off pieces of Devic’s tunic and manages to staunch the worst of the bleeding. It wasn’t a proper bandage, but it would do until he could get the worker to help.

Morithes removed his sash and used it to secure the assailant’s wrists. Once he was satisfied with the restraint, he stood and eyed the gambling house. It was the only building adjacent to the clearing where the back door was open.

As he considered entering and inquiring if anyone knew either of the two men, Devic began to shake. Quick, powerful spasms shook the man’s body.

“Oh no, poison,” he muttered as he quickly diagnosed the victim again. He hurriedly lifted the agonized man onto his shoulder and began to move out to the street. He knew his only chance of survival was to get him to a healer, magical or mundane, immediately.

Devic convulsed one final time and went limp. Morthies recognized the sickening exhalation of death. He gently lowered the body back to the ground. He located Kanley’s dagger and placed it in his pouch, then lifted Kanley to a semi-upright position. He threw the limp man’s arm over his shoulder and dragged him to the nearby street. Glancing first one way, then the other, Morithes spotted a pair of city watchmen and moved to intercept them.

As the two men approached the guards, one’s face broke into a grin. “Cuthbertine, what’s wrong with your friend? Is he drunk already?”

“I’m afraid not. I encountered this fool threatening a dock worker just back there. I intervened but not in time to save the dock worker, a man called Devic, I believe. I was hoping that perhaps you could find out something about what would have been so important for him to kill a man over”.

Morithes recounted the events that had occurred just moments before in the secluded clearing as he led the guard to it. The jovial grins were replaced with somber reality.

“And you saw the stabbing, sir?”

“Aye. The man here was holding a knife to the throat of the other, making threats. I tried to disarm him, but was not fast enough. He seemed to recognize the symbol of St. Cuthbert and struck the other man instead of striking me. I subdued him and attempted to aid the other, but this man’s dagger seems to have had some sort of poison on it.”

“Dang, poison? Sounds like this was a bit more than loaded dice. We’ll take him to the magistrate straight away. If you could accompany us we could get your testimony done and have him dealt with before sundown.”

“I’ll be glad to come along. Frankly, I’m hoping that we can learn more about what this was over.”

A down cast look comes over the guard’s face, “To be honest sir, I doubt the magistrate will care. You being a Cuthbertine will likely be enough for him to take your word as to the sequence of events. But if you need answers for peace of mind, feel free to look into it.”

“Very well then.”

“The poison aside, this type of thing happens a few times a week.” Morithes notes a sense of sad acceptance in the guard’s voice.

“Well, I promise to lend a hand where I can.”

Sure enough, as the guard predicted justice is swift in Verbobonc. Kanley was sentenced to hang on the morrow. Morithes was back on the streets before sundown and headed back to the gambling house. By the time he got there, business was just picking up.

Being as discreet as he could manage, he moved about the room asking about the two men. The patrons did’t seem too fond of a Cuthbertine asking questions. Despite this, he does learn that Devic was a dock worker. He was hired on a per job basis. He didn’t have any family that anyone seems to know about. As for Kanley, either no one knew anything or they just weren’t saying. Neither was inside the gambling house today, as far as he could tell.

Eventually, Morithes managed to locate Devic’s home. It was a run down hovel of an inn outside of town. As he approached the dilapidated structure Morithes thought to himself, “Home was a bit of a stretch.” In fact, home turned out to be a cot, some blankets and a curtain. “He must have drank most of his meager income.”

Morithes began to search around the small space that Devic had once called his own. While he was poking around, a “neighbor” from another bed furtively glances out to the hallway before hurrying over.

“Hey, you the guy that found Devic?”

“Yeah. Seems like he made a bad business move. Any ideas?”

“Devic was a decent guy. He was lazy as all hell, but he never hurt nobody. I can’t imagine what he ever could have done to get stabbed over. That guy that killed him. What’s his name? Now he always struck me as the connivin’ type.”

“Well, Kanley, the guy who stabbed him will be hung in the morning. If he has partners, I’d rather find them before they come looking for me”

“Yeah, that’s him. I never saw him with anyone, but he sure talked to a lot of people. He even tried to hire me once to ‘keep my ear to the ground’ as he put it.”

“Anything he was wanting to know about in particular?”

“Don’t know. I found myself real busy every time I spotted him after that. Said he’d pay me 5 spires a week if I could tell him what he wanted to hear. I’m a barger, so I’m not in town that often or that long. Avoidin’ him was pretty easy.”

“Hmm, sounds like he had something in mind. How were you supposed to get in touch with him if you heard anything?”

“I never talked with him, he just talked at me like we was havin’ a conversation. I never liked the look of him and I don’t trust someone with that much money to give away for what seems like nuthin’. I’d wager that there are others who did listen though. Not sure if that does you much good.”

“So lets say I want to find out some more. Any idea who I should talk to?”

“Well, I saw him talking to a guard every once in a while. I’ll point him out to you, but I ain’t goin’ near him. You leave me out of it and I’ll point him out.”

“It’s a deal. Wouldn’t want you to get into any trouble yourself.” Morithes hands him a couple of spires. “I appreciate what you’ve told me.

“Sure thing. Like I said, Devic didn’t deserve what he got.”

Morithes was led to the North gate of the city. Inscribed over it was the city’s mantra, “Earth and Stone, Man and Gnome.”

“That’s him there. I think his name is Gurt.” He points to a guard lazily watching the sporadic foot traffic trickle in and out the gate.

“Thanks again. Now you’d better get moving before he notices you. I’ll do what I can to set things right.”

“Good luck, may Cuthbert guide you.”

As he approached the gate Morithes quickly tucked him holy symbol inside his tunic, then he applies a wide grin and addresses the guard.

“Good day, Gurt.”

Gurt perks up. “Huh? Uh, hello. Can I help you?”

“Sure can. I got some things that Kanley may want to hear, but he’s busy. Any idea who else I should be talking to?”

“Ha! Well Kanley’s up to his neck in trouble, from what I’ve heard.”

“That’s what I’m hearing too. Got any ideas about who else I should be talking to about making some extra coin?”

“Extra coin? Beats me. Kanley always was a nosey jerk. Smug too. He pay you for tips or something?”

“Not yet. Frankly, I’ll be glad to watch him swing tomorrow. Course I’m sure somebody ought to be taking his place don’t you think? All that money he was throwing around had to come from somewhere…”

“I guess that’s part of why he’s got a date tomorrow.” Gurt grins wryly. “That explains why he was always nosing about. Sort of anyway. You know, now that you mention it, I have no idea what he does. For money, I mean. Sure, he has a house, but it’s not exactly a mansion. I can’t imagine he’s the thrifty type.”

“Really? Way he talked, you’d think he lived in a palace or something. Where did he live, then?”

“Oh, he lives on Tarry Road, just east of Southgate Road. Look for the house with the dark blue shutters.”

“Heh. To be such a jerk, I expected a more upscale neighborhood. Well, he tried sticking me with a knife once. Sure wasn’t rust on the blade. So can’t say I’ll miss him. See ya round Gurt.”

“Yeah, nice to see you. Take care.”

Morithes proceeded through the gate, headed south, toward the location given him. He glanced back and saw Gurt with a look of consternation on his face.

“Hey, who was that,” Gurt inquired. The other guard shrugged lazily.



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