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

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Upon investigating talk of a man disturbing the townsfolk, our pair meet Tobias Mistmantle, who is searching for his missing brother. Thinking they can kill two gulls with one shot–helping the man find his brother, and seeing him off for the townsfolk once they do–Gotthold agrees to help. Now they just need to figure out what happened to his brother without being kicked out of the town themselves.

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“Where do you think we start our search?” Gotthold asked, as the town came back into view.

“It is my understanding that records are kept in libraries or clerk offices, friend Gotthold,” Quirk said. Despite her much shorter stature, the mechanical nature of her legs let her keep up with Gotthold’s longer stride with ease.

Gotthold responded with a rumbling hmm, as he rubbed  a thumb along his jaw in thought. “I don’ think this place has a library or clerk’s office–it’s not big enough.”

“Then the closest approximation would be the town hall.”

He snapped his fingers and grinned. “Good thinkin’, Quirk. Now we just gotta make sure that Ebonlocke don’t catch wind of what we’re doin’.”

“Why would that matter, friend Gotthold? We are attempting to help a citizen, perhaps even two.”

He grunted and shook his head. “Look, these people got the feel o’ Drustvar about them, and that makes them mighty superstitious. If their anchors are twisted in a knot over this Stalvan guy, chances are they won’t wanna talk about him, for fear of bringing something bad down on their heads.”

“That behavior is illogical, and unhelpful,” Quirk observed.

“That’s just people for you.”

“What does this have to do with Commander Althea Ebonlocke?”

“Well, I don’t fancy she’ll want us pokin’ our noses in this business. It makes people mighty angry, scared, or both. When it comes to her, my money’s gonna be on angry if she finds out about this.”

“It has been my observation that sentient beings, who exhibit such emotions in the face of their illogical behavior, are likely to be both angry and scared, rather than one or the other,” she said, her softly glowing eyes illuminating the darkness in front of her.

“Aye, you’re not wrong. Anger like this stems from fear, but I still don’t want to cross the commander,” Gotthold said. ‘Or say anythin’ like that to her face,‘ he thought with a grimace. People aren’t made commanders in forlorn places like this without knowing their way around a fight, and the commander’s blade looked sharper than her tongue.

As they made their way back into town, Gotthold kept his one good eye on the lookout for the commander, but she didn’t appear to be in the square right at that moment. When they made it past the fountain and into the entrance of the town hall with neither hide nor hair of Ebonlocke showing up, Gotthold breathed a sigh of relief.

“Perhaps this human with the unkempt mustache and tube brush eyebrows can tell us what we need to know, friend Gotthold,” Quirk offered.

“I beg your pardon?” Tube Brush asked.

Quirk’s description was, as usual, incredibly accurate. It was why he never asked her what she saw when she looked at him. He wasn’t a vain man by any stretch, but her observations could be brutal at times, even for him.

“And our pardon you have,” Gotthold said, ignoring the man’s affronted expression. “We’ve come here on business, and were wondering if you might know where we could get our hands on some local records.”

The man sniffed, and lifted his nose in the air to look down it. “I am Clerk Daltry, and any information you might seek would come through me.”

Gotthold suppressed a groan and the desire to pinch the bridge of his nose. “Of course you are! You’re clearly a man of prominence, which was why thought it best to speak with you about the matter,” he said, trying to recover the ground they’d lost with Quirk’s comment.

Clerk Daltry’s watery blue eyes narrowed. “Is that so? You wouldn’t say it’s because I’m the first person you came across once you entered the town hall?”

“Ah…” Gotthold fumbled. He wasn’t a smooth talker, but even for him this was awkward.

“Clerk Daltry,” Quirk said, thankfully addressing the man by his name this time, “we come here seeking information on one Stalvan Mistmantle. Any help or documents you are able to provide will be conducive to our search.”

Fear flashed through Daltry’s eyes. He took a small, involuntary step backward, and brought the ledger he was holding up to his chest, as though to hide behind the blue, leather-bound book.

“You want to know about Stalvan?” he asked, his voice strained.

“Aye. His brother asked us to help track him down, and we decided to help, if for no other reason than to get an answer and get him out of everyone’s hair.” That wasn’t the real reason, of course, or at least not the main one. If they were going to spend a substantial amount of time here, getting in good with the locals was never a bad thing. What he said didn’t have to be completely true, just not a complete lie.

Daltry lowered the ledger and glanced between the two of them. “You’re not the first, you know–outsiders looking to help, that is.” Then he sighed, and looked around his small space, occupied by more barrels and pots than books. “Even if I wanted to help, you’re out of luck. Worgen broke into the town hall the other night, tore the place to shreds, and stole most of my archives!” There was outrage there, tempered by sadness. This was a man who liked what he did, and in his eyes monsters had taken that away.

“Oh!” Quirk said, her exclamation as close to excitement as she got. “We recently returned from helping disperse the worgen of Brightwood, and I discovered these documents while we were there. I thought they might be important,” she said, digging in her pack.

Gotthold had to suppress another groan. “Quirk, you think everything you find while we’re out is important. If you weren’t a mechagnome, you wouldn’t be able to haul that pack around without tipping over.”

“Was I not correct in my assumption, friend Gotthold?”

Despite how innocent the question sounded, there was an undertow of gloat there ready to drag him under, so he just glowered at his companion.

“By the Light! You were able to return from confronting those monsters? I must admit I’m shocked,” he said, gingerly taking the papers from Quirkheart. They were a little worse for wear, but the sheen in Daltry’s eyes proved that didn’t matter to the clerk. “Thank you for returning this to the archives.”

“Your thanks are not necessary. Will these tell us what we need to know about Stalvan?” she asked.

Daltry hesitated, then leafed through the pages. “Not completely.” He looked back up, then between them. “If the two of you are that serious about this, I’ll help you.”

“Sounds good. What else do you need?” Gotthold asked.

“The beasts gather in another place–the Rotting Orchard.”

“Sounds delightful,” Gotthold said sourly.

“Indeed. The other documents I need might be there, if they haven’t eaten them, or what have you,” Daltry said distastefully. “Find those, and I just might be able to give you the information you need.”

Gotthold nodded. “We’ve got a plan, then. We’ll be back with your documents, Daltry. Let’s go, Quirk.”

“I wouldn’t lay any wagers on the success of this,” Daltry said.

Gotthold just laughed, and clapped him on the shoulder, making the clerk stagger. “You Duskwood folks keep sayin’ that, and we’re gonna keep provin’ you wrong.”

With that, the two of them left the town hall.

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