The Tales of Quirkheart & Gotthold: The Longest Night ~~ Duskwood Chapter Three

~~~~

After completing the tasks set by the townspeople, Quirkheart and Gotthold retire to the local tavern for a well-deserved rest. However, Gotthold’s unease lurks in the back of his mind. The more time the pair linger in this town full of whispers, secrets, and dark glances, the more Gotthold is determined to get to the bottom of what’s haunting Darkshire.

~~~~

“These wolf kebabs aren’t half bad,” Gotthold said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “Though, I don’t think I care for Duskwood spider any more than I do Drustvar spider.”

The Scarlet Raven Tavern wasn’t terribly lively, but given the state of the area, Gotthold hadn’t expected it to mirror the bustling establishments of Stormwind. Still, the food was hot, the moonshine had a decent kick, and the roaring fire drove away the air’s perpetual chill.

“They are not as satisfying as Mecha-Bytes, but they are sufficient for keeping one’s energy levels within acceptable parameters,” Quirkheart said in pseudo-agreement.

When the food was brought to them, she’d pulled a canister from her pack and sprinkled something that looked suspiciously like rust flakes onto the meat. Gotthold had seen what passed for ‘food’ on the floating isle of junk, and it wasn’t anything fit for consumption by anyone but the mechagnomes and their ilk. Instead of commenting on Quirk’s opinion about the food, he raised his empty bottle toward the barkeep, asking for another. The barkeep nodded, and Gotthold turned his attention back to his food.

“–stirring up trouble again. I wish he’d just leave,” grumbled a patron behind Gotthold.

He slowed his chewing and stilled his movements. His mother had taught him eavesdropping was impolite, but his nan said that’s only the case if you’re caught.

“Have you said anything?”

“No! Of course not.”

“You’d think he’d get the message by now. Hasn’t that family caused enough pain?”

At that point, the tavernkeep walked up to their table, and put a new bottle of moonshine on the table.

“Everything turn out okay?” Tavernkeep Smitts asked, removing the empty bottle. The man was stiff as clothing covered in seawater and left to dry in the sun, and his expression was pinched.

“Aye,” Gotthold said, a pleased smile cracking his craggy features. “Best wolf I’ve had in ages, and the moonshine is almost as good as the brews back home.”

The tavernkeep’s shoulders relaxed, and a wan smile graced his face. “Well, it’s hard to compete with someone’s homeland, but I’ll pass the compliments along.”

“Thank’ee,” Gotthold said, picking up the new bottle and giving the man a nod.

Once he’d walked away, Gotthold stood up.

“Is it time to leave, friend Gotthold?” Quirkheart asked, looking up from her meticulously clean plate.

“Not quite yet, Quirk — I need to check on something,” he said, and headed over to a table with three men hunched over their plates.

They looked up at Gotthold’s approach, their eyes narrowing and mouths flattening to thin lines.

“Hello, gents. Fancy a chat?” he asked, waving the moonshine bottle at them, and laying on his thickest Kul Tiran charm.

The biggest one of the lot, who was furthest away, with a face ugly enough to scare an ogre, said; “No.” His tone was deader than his dark eyes, and almost as menacing as the hams the man had for hands.

“Now hold on a minute, Detlev,” the fidgety man closest to Gotthold said. His bloodshot eyes were darting between the bottle of moonshine and the man–Detlev. “There’s no harm in chatting.” The man already reeked of liquor, and his words held a slurred edge.

Gotthold would need to tread carefully here. It didn’t take much to incite restless and dissatisfied townsfolk toward reckless action, and he didn’t want to start any fires he couldn’t put out.

Keep ’em in hand, Got, or you’ll be drownin’ in fists and blood. The words of his old mentor echoed through his mind, from one of their many tavern trips in his younger days.

“Of course there’s no harm!” Gotthold said, clapping the man on the shoulder.

The fidgety man wheezed in response, his eyes widening just a hair at slight show of strength.

“I just couldn’t help but overhear your conversation, and thought my companion and I could be of some help,” Gotthold said, and put the bottle firmly down on the table.

The fidgety man, and the other who’d been quiet during the whole ordeal, both looked to Detlev. If looks could kill, Gotthold would be as skewered as those wolf kebabs, but Detlev must have seen something in his companion’s expressions, because he waved a hand for Gotthold to sit.

“Thank’ee. Now, who’s this person who’s causing problems?”

~~

The cabin in front of them was a shabby, one-room affair on the outskirts of town, not far from the gryphon roosts. As the two approached the front door, there was movement inside–a steady thunk of boots, moving back and forth in the small space.

When Quirkheart knocked on the door, the steps stopped, and there was a long moment before a man opened it. He was handsome enough, with blond locks and blue eyes, but his face was lined with worry, aging him beyond his years.

“Yes? What do you want?”

“Name’s Gotthold, and this here’s Quirkheart,” he said, jerking a thumb toward Quirk, who waved. “And we heard you was causin’ a spot of bother for the townsfolk.”

The man’s expression immediately turned to fury, setting off a spark of life in his eyes that wasn’t there before.

“I have done no such thing! They refuse to tell me anything about my brother, and I’m just trying to find out what happened to him,” he shouted at Gotthold. By the end, his chest was heaving, and he’d taken a step toward Gotthold without realizing it.

Gotthold kept his expression calm, and he could tell the moment the man realized he was nearly close enough to bump…well, not chests. Gotthold was getting a bit round in the middle these days, but the principle was the same. The man’s eyes widened, and he took a step back, covering his face with his hands.

“I’m at my wits end here,” he said, shoulder shaking. “I received this letter from my brother, and when I showed up, the townsfolk told me he was dead, but refuse to say anything else on the matter.”

Gotthold’s heart twisted. He wasn’t sure there’d be a town left standing if he’d been treated the same in regards to his sister.

“The people of this town would very much like you to vacate the premises,” Quirkheart stated, when Gotthold said nothing. “How can we bring this situation to a peaceful conclusion?”

The man looked up from his hands, face wet with tears, and sighed. “I will not leave until they tell me my brother’s fate, and they refuse to do so. Perhaps the two of you could be mediators and look into this? I’ll be more than happy to get out of everyone’s hair once I know the truth.”

Quirkheart and Gotthold shared a look, then both of them nodded.

“Aye, we can do that. What are your names, by the way? They refused to tell us.”

The man scowled once again, but said; “I’m Tobias Mistmantle, and my brother is Stalvan. They act as though speaking my name or my brother’s is some kind of curse.” At that, he cleared his throat and straightened his shoulders. “Thank you, by the way. It’s been a while since anyone has spoken to me with any kindness.”

“Bein’ kind costs you nothing in the long run. There’s always room for mean later,” Gotthold said with a grin.

The man managed to crack a small smile in return. “Too true.”

“Should we depart, friend Gotthold?” Quirkheart asked, heading toward the door before he could respond.

Instead of answering, Gotthold waved to the man and followed Quirk outside. Once they were out of earshot from the cabin, Gotthold shook his head.

“He spoke of a curse, and I can’t say I disagree. This whole town’s got a bodement hanging over it, mark my works,” Gotthold said, then spat on the ground and made an X across his heart.

“Do you have data to support your hypothesis, friend Gotthold?” Quirkheart asked.

“Of course not, Quirk,” he said, rolling his eyes. “It’s just a gut feeling.”

“Then there is nothing to substantiate this ‘bodement’ you speak of. It is likely just the lack of sunlight I mentioned earlier effecting your brain chemistry. We should focus on gathering all information related to one Stalvan Mistmantle, so that we may assist the townspeople and the outraged crying man in the most efficient manner possible,” she said.

Gotthold just sighed and said; “As you say, Quirk.”

Author: lotwordsmiths

Hello, there! I'm Toni, and I've been writing and reading primarily fantasy stories most of my life. What really set me on the path to be a writer was my 6th grade English teacher, Mrs. Thomas, who told me she could see me as an author some day. I made Legends of the Wordsmiths to share my stories, and hopefully, (someday), the stories of others, too.!

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