Cythera Chronicles: Rogan's chronicles, part one, chapter two

  • Part 1:2: Friend

    The morning sun found its way through an opening in the curtains and down on my bed. Only the sun is capable of waking a man that pleasantly, with the possible exception of a beautiful woman sleeping soundly in his arms. I tucked myself further in, savoring every comfortable moment.
    Outside, the city had just come to life. I could hear people walking, speaking, dogs barking and hundreds of other sounds that blended with each other. Just lying there trying to make out all of the sounds made me think of the everyday stress we were all subjected to; too much time had passed since last time I was able to lie down and relax, without the worry of time-schedules, exams and monetary problems. The only thing I had to worry about was my boots... possibly smelling even more rank than the evening before, I was now convinced: I desperately needed a new pair, before the smell started to attract angry neighbors armed with sledgehammers.

    "Inventor to try the impossible! Read it all here!" a voice yelled, just outside my window, breaking my concentration on the boots.
    I pulled the curtains aside and opened the window.
    A boy, perhaps fifteen years of age, stood some few meters away from my window. Seeing that little child holding the bunch of newspapers in his hand reminded me of myself, back in Odemia... young and eager, working for every little obol. Every summer, there were these bazaars held in Odemia, where people from all over Cythera would come to trade and barter goods. Needless to say, this was paradise for a young boy such as me. I used to sit by that old gate by the road, opening it for anyone passing by. Most people found my antics amusing, and paid me accordingly. It wasn't much, but I was happy for every obol earned.
    When I got tired of opening gates, I went to the bazaar to spend my hard-earned money.
    The bazaars in Odemia served as a meeting place for many interesting people, and many of them had traveled quite a distance to trade their goods. There, elves and dwarves and halflings alike could blend with each other, and the occasional fight always broke out; mostly because of a drunken ogre looking for trouble. The only race that was completely lacking were the gnomes, I guess that the thought of acquiring something at a bazaar sickened their aristocratic minds...
    Oh, the adventures of youth! There, relaxing in my bed, I came to think of my days as a child in Odemia... a time of joy, a time worth remembering. A tear escaped my eye and ran down my cheek as the thoughts came to my parents. I realized how much I missed them. Too much time had passed since the last time I saw my dear mother and father... of course, nothing prevented me from seeing them again, they were both alive and vigorous.

    "Hey, over here!" I got the boy's attention. He turned around and looked at me.
    "Want to buy newspapers, mister?" he approached me with an expectant look in his eyes.
    "Yes." I reached for my pouch of oboloi.
    "Is a fee of five oboloi okay, sir?"
    "Certainly." I put the money in his hand. He smiled. I could see the joy in his eyes when he received the money. Again, I was reminded of my own childhood. But back then, the prize was a mere oboloi.
    "Thank you, sir!" he quickly went over to his spot again. "Inventor to try the impossible! Read all about it!"

    I sat up in my bed and opened the newspaper. It didn't take me long to realize that something was missing: Breakfast. And coffee. For what is the morning newspaper without breakfast and coffee? The answer is obvious: Nothing.
    I reluctantly forced my body out of the bed and into some clean clothes. I padded bare-footed across the floor and unlocked the door. Opening the door, I noticed Mr. Poone sitting in the very same corner as last night, like he hadn't moved at all.
    "Good morning." Eyeing the floor, I started to regret not putting any socks on. And the sweet smell of freshly made coffee was obviously missing. Instead, the indescribable blend of snuff and sweat invaded my nostrils again.
    "Say... how's breakfast around here?" I dared ask him.
    He looked at me. "Well, I haven't received my... er... supplies this month, so we're running critically low on food here," he said, looking at an empty crate standing in a corner, "but there's a place a few alleys down..." he pointed, "...'s called 'The Rat-lizard's Pub and Eatery'."
    I nodded. The name didn't sound too inviting. "Is it... recommendable?"
    Poone laughed. "You won't find any Elven nobles down there, if that's what you mean." He reached for his snuff box. "Friend of mine runs the place," he mumbled while chewing on a notoriously huge pile of snuff, "he's not the best chef in town, but what can you expect?"
    "I'll give it a try, thanks." I smiled and headed back into my room.
    After putting on some socks and my old boots, I grabbed my newspaper and went out. Opening the door, the morning sun warmed even better than before. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, filling my lungs with fresh air.
    "Say hey to G�rg for me then," Poone said as I left.

    Like most other things in this part of Cademia, the sign was rusted. "The Rat-lizard's Pub & Eatery" was not that easy to make out, but the sign shaped as... well, a giant rat, caught my attention. I opened the wooden door and went inside. The smell of smoke was overwhelming. Behind the counter was a mountain of a man, huge even by orcish standards. His eyes fixed at me as I entered.
    This pub had seen better days. At least I hoped so, for the pub's sake... at that moment I was convinced that the Cademian health-inspectors were crooked, or at least threatened to silence. However, this little place had atmosphere. Windows overlooking the street, and only a few tables. Four barstools along the counter. Apart from me and the big man, there was only one other person in the pub. He was sitting in a corner and, as far as I reckoned, he was enjoying a pint of beer. A cigarette laying in the ashtray told me that he wasn't that picky; it is well known that most people smoke the pipe, while the "seedier" of us enjoy cigarettes. Apart from that, he looked quite average. I found myself staring and, remembering my manners, quickly sat down on a barstool.
    "Whatcha want?" the man behind the counter grunted without lifting his heavy gaze. He sniffed at me. I guess those damn boots had caught his attention.
    "You must be Mr. Rat-lizard?"
    My joke was lost on him.
    I tried again. "Anything edible this morning?"
    He turned around without a word and went into a back room. I looked into the room and as far as I could see, there was no kitchen staff. This guy obviously made the food himself. Hence not a good idea trying to socialize with him, as I could quickly end up with a substantial load of something unpleasant hidden somewhere in my meal. Judging from the appearance of both pub and bartender, I could never be on the safe side anyway, but bugging the cook was definitely not a clever move. No further jokes.
    Moments later, he returned with a piece of paper which he handed me. It didn't take me long to study the menu;


    "Hmm... tough choice... I think breakfast. And coffee. Definitely coffee."
    I didn't dare to ask for sugar.

    He took the "menu" and returned to the back room. Moments later, I heard a sizzling noise. My best guess was butter in the frying pan, and I certainly hoped so. I opened my newspaper and looked at the front page.

    The Cademian
    Inventor to try the impossible!
    "Yesterday, renowned inventor Adrian Ramsey announced his attempt on the impossible: Creating a successful, fully-functional item by combining magic and technology!"

    "He must be joking," was my first thought. I had heard tales of this Ramsey fellow, but his skills would most certainly not be enough to combine magic and technology. As a student of the magical arts, I was well-versed in the colleges of magic - and had also learned much about the disciplines of technology reading books in the Pnyx library. Therefore, I knew exactly why the blend of magical arts and natural law could not be. And I quote one of my teachers:

    "Magic and technology are two different sides of one coin. While technology is bent on using nature for its purposes, magic twists nature to achieve the desired effect. Imagine a mage casting a bolt of lightning. He will have to manipulate the electrons in the air around him and the target area in order to effectively conjure this bolt of pure energy. The technologist however, relies on the ability of his weapon, a weapon that uses the electrons in the process of effectively hurling a bolt of lightning at his. This is just one of the thousands of millions of examples on why magic and technology can never co-exist."

    Flashbacks from the lecture halls in Pnyx made my head spin; I remember my teacher, always so bent on assuring us technology was something evil. The fact is, magic is gradually losing influence to technology and the old mages and elves have become bitter, refusing to acknowledge the facts. I do not pretend to understand much of the aspects of technology or natural law - I use magical spells and make my alchemical potions through means of magic - but I do respect this technological "revolution," and do not in any way loathe it.

    "I'd love to see that madman pull that off," a voice got my attention, breaking my chain of thought. The man that had been sitting in the corner was now sitting on the bar stool next to mine. I had been too absorbed in my newspaper to notice.
    "You're some daredevil, I'll say," he chuckled, "most people don't address half-orcs that way."
    "I beg your pardon?" the man was smiling, exposing signs of unusually bad dental hygiene. It also confirmed my theory of the extreme misuse of snuff in these parts of town.
    "The 'Mr. Rat-Lizard'-joke!" he gestured at the backroom door where the bartender was preparing my breakfast. "Ya know, half-orcs have ripped the heads off guys like you for less than that." He chuckled again, still smiling. I fought bravely to preserve my appetite.
    When I looked closer at this man, he appeared sleazier than before; he couldn't have washed his hair for months, and he really needed a shave - and he smelled of alcohol and cigarettes. It figured, drinking beer at this hour is generally frowned upon.
    "Guess I lucked out, then," I answered, "I don't believe we've met?"
    "G�rg ain't the brightest one around, that's for sure," he chuckled again and stretched out a hairy, sweaty hand. "Name's Dunne... Casper Dunne."
    I reluctantly shook hands with him. "Rogan Edwards."
    He looked me over and repeated my name. "Rogan, aye...". He paused for a moment before he said, "You're not from around here, are you?"
    "No, I'm new here in town, just arrived."
    "That figures... only Edwards-es I know hail from Caladon..." he looked me in the eyes, "I have a score to settle with them types."
    "I have no relatives in Caladon, at least not that I know about," I answered, "You'll have to look elsewhere, Mr. Dunne..."
    His gruff expression changed into a clever smile as he noticed my worried demeanor. "Only joking with you, friend!" he smiled and gave me a pat on my shoulder.
    I breathed a sigh of relief.
    "What died, anyway?"
    My boots were fast building up quite a reputation.
    "Say... you may just be the one I've been looking for!" he said, his face lighting up.
    "How's that?"
    "Well, you see, I had hired a guy to do a kinda 'special mission'-thingy for me, but he never showed up. I think the authori... er... I don't think he made it to Cademia, let's just leave it at that."
    Whatever it was he needed me for, he didn't want to say it to me directly. However, I looked straight through his phony hesitations. Clearly, he was involved in some petty form of illegal activity. Whatever it was, I didn't really feel any great urge to partake in it. But then again, I didn't know any people in Cademia yet and could most certainly benefit from any information this Dunne fellow had to share. It couldn't hurt just hearing what he had planned, so I replied: "I might just be the man you're looking for. What's your plan?"
    He opened his mouth to say something, but apparently reconsidered his words. He took a moment before he spoke, "Er... well, all righty then!" He smiled at me, obviously a little surprised that I had accepted his proposal without hesitation. "I need someone to obtain some objects of... special interest to me... you see..."

    Casper immediately stopped talking when the back door opened. In came the bartender with a plate, obviously my breakfast. He placed it on the counter next to me, along with a cup coffee. I handed him the oboloi and started examining my food; despite the amount of time it took before the breakfast finally made it to its final destination, that egg couldn't have been in the frying pan for more than a minute. I poked it with my fork. Some green objects I didn't have the expertise to identify decorated the plate along with a loaf of bread.
    I turned to face Casper, and noticed him back in his corner, motioning for me to come over. I took my meal and joined him by his table.

    "Food's not his strong side either... unless it applies to eating only," he said, eyeing my breakfast.
    But at the time, I was so hungry that everything - with possible exceptions - counted as food. I grabbed my first bite as Casper continued, "Yes, I need these things for my... special collection. They're arriving by ship this afternoon and I want you to lift them before they reach the buyer."
    The first bite went down after a little struggle. When it first slipped, it wasn't that bad. I took another one.
    "Slow down a little," I said through a mouth full of breakfast, "what sort of items? And who's this buyer?"
    Casper looked at me. "Sssshh!" he practically sizzled, "you want the whole world to know about our little business here?" He calmed down and continued; "I can't tell you any more now, except the ship arrives this afternoon and the things will fit into a sack - you'll have no problem carrying them."
    He rummaged through the pockets of his jacket, eventually finding a small piece of paper. He discreetly handed it to me. "Says when and where the ship will arrive, as well as what items to look for. There's also the address to a guy that can provide you with whatever stuff you need." He was whispering now.
    I was about to look at the note when he interrupted, "Ah! Not here! Finish your meal, get back to Poone's and then read yer instructions. You'll find me here sometime tonight, bring the stuff then."
    He looked around and out of the window, like he was afraid someone was watching him.
    "How do you know I live at the flophouse?" I asked, but I received no response to my question.
    "Gotta go!" he said, got up from the chair and left in a hurry. I could see him dodging into an alley a few moments later. Strange fellow. But nevertheless, I followed his advice and hid the note.

    I must admit, that note made me quite curious and more than one time during breakfast, I felt the urge to look at it. I finished my meal quickly and put the plate aside. When I was finished, the coffee had the perfect temperature. I savored every drop. Unlike the food, the coffee was quite tasty... strong but not too strong. It looked like I had found G�rg's area of expertise.
    I leafed through the newspaper, and couldn't really find much interesting beside the main article about Mr. Ramsey and his foolhardy attempt of combining magic and technology. I decided to browse the ads section later, looking for a job and place to stay. At the time, I was too curious about that note Casper had given to me.

    "Excellent coffee," I said as I left, "by the way, Poone said 'hi'"

    The door shut behind me, and I started walking back to the flophouse. Who would have known, I had been in Cademia for only one night and I had already got myself a friend. And what a friend...

    (This message has been edited by moderator (edited 05-13-2003).)

  • I enjoyed this chronicle. It is well written and humorous. The picture of The Rat-lizard's Pub and Eatery was a nice touch, too.

    Slayer's guide to Cythera:

  • How did you do the picture, anyway? No NPC's are colored like that, and I don't know of any building shaped like that, either.

    "On two occasions, I have been asked (by members of Parliament), 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able to rightly apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
    -- Charles Babbage (1791-1871)
    Inventor of the "Analytical Engine", the first computer.

  • Quote

    Originally posted by Big Joe:
    **How did you do the picture, anyway? No NPC's are colored like that, and I don't know of any building shaped like that, either.


    Well, here goes: Lots of spare time, the knowledge on how to make screenshots with a Mac, Adobe Photoshop 7.0 and a copy of Cythera!
    I enjoyed tinkering with it and besides, since there's no editor for Cythera, that's the only way of making your own world :)

    Never underestimate the predictability of stupidity.

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