Curse of the Crimson Throne
Apprentice to Kiriam of The Alchemist’s Tavern
2 Alchemist of Cheliax
It was a bright summer morning and the first hauls of the day were starting to come in. The dock hands were milling about and finishing idle conversation as they were prepping themselves to get ready for work. Men were pulling up and strapping on overalls and positioning their carts to make for an easy transition. Boys as young as twelve and thirteen were getting the next carts ready by filling them up with ice. Most of the kids working at the docks were here because they had a father who worked here and for most of them, this would be the best opportunity life was going to give them.
I finished choking down the last bite of my biscuit, which was as dry as the desert is hot, and washed it down with a cold swig of coffee. The breakfast of champions. I stood up from the crate I was sitting on and flung the straps of my overalls over my shoulders and fastened them accordingly. Little did I know that as I started my decent down the ramp to my post that this was going to be the first day of the rest of my life.
“Morning Valek.” Squall said as he guided the first nets of cod from the ship. “Did you get any sleep last night?”
Squall wasn’t his real name. Come to think of it, I’m not sure that he ever told any o us what his real name was. Rumors had it that whenever he went out on a fishing vessel, it ended up getting caught in a nasty storm. Being as superstitious as seafaring men were, they eventually stopped taking him out and started calling him Squall. Soon, he had been blacklisted from every fishing vessel in the fleet and was relegated to dock duties.
“Morning.” I said with a barely audible grunt. “No, I didn’t get much sleep last night. Yo-” And before I could finish my sentence he cut me off.
“I didn’t get any sleep!” I was up all night if you know what I mean." Squall boasted as if it were something to be proud of.
" Damn it Squall." I muttered. “Maybe if you save your money instead of blowing it in a brothel, you could afford to buy stuff.”
“What do I need to buy?” he asked mockingly.
“Oh, I don’t know. How about your own damn lunch… so I don’t have to keep buying it for you.” I barked in return. “It’s not like I don’t have my own financial worries.”
Squall didn’t respond. He just stared at the cod. He rarely won an argument between us and he knew it. We didn’t really speak for the next fifteen minutes and went about our work stacking cod on the carts of ice. This one was just about full as one of the kids brought the next empty cart down to us and began the arduous task of pushing the full cart up the ramp.
The children worked hard and they knew the more cod we were able to transfer, the more they got paid. It wasn’t much but it was enough to buy a few loaves of bread for their families for the week. If they were lucky, they had a little extra for some candy.
“Hey Squall.” I asked. “Have you seen Drake?” Squall pretended he didn’t hear the question so I asked again.
“Hey Squall… deaf one!” I said in a stern voice “Where’s Drake?”
“How the hell should I know.” he grumbled. “I haven’t seen him since last nigh-” abruptly cutting off his answer as if he realized he was digging himself a hole.
“Drake was with you at the brothel?” I yelled at him. My eyes burning with anger. “How many times has he been told to stay away from there?”
Drake was a good kid. Youthful and a certain charm with the ladies. He also had a pension or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Last summer he was fingered- no pun intended- for passing off counterfeit money in a brothel. Not just any brothel of course. One that was under the protection of Gaedren Lamm.
Gaedren Lamm was a respected man among certain circles in the city of Korvosa and it wasn’t for being a model citizen either. People feared him and born out of that fear-respect. If there was a way to make easy money in Korvosa, Lamm had his hands in it. If you crossed him, chances were good that he was going to influence your life in one way or another. And one thing was for sure, it wasn’t going to be good.
“I know, I know.” Squall replied. “Drake was trying to stiff some of the girls and get out before paying them and when I found out what he was trying to do, I tried to get him to leave but-”
“But what?” I asked
“Gaedren Lamm was there and he saw Drake…” Squall turned pale. “Drake managed to jump a table and get out the back door and make a run for it.” “That’s the last I saw of him.”
“I can’t believe you went there.” "Of all the whorehouses in Korvosa, you two idiots went to the one he wasn’t supposed to be at. I bellowed. Anger and frustration were apparent in my facial expressions I guess because Squall didn’t look at me anymore.
By this point I could no longer focus on my work and I was falling behind. Two more carts of ice were ready to be loaded and this one wasn’t even half full. I looked over at the usually freckled, red-headed kid who was responsible for shuffling the carts back and forth and realized that his freckles were no longer visible. You couldn’t see them beneath his face flush with anger. I’d be pissed too, if I were him I though to myself. The less cod we managed to off load, the less he was going to earn.
“It’s OK though, I think” Squall tried to reassure me.
“And why do you think that?” I asked with a frustrated tone
“Because Lamm’s guys came back a few minutes later and he wasn’t really happy. He flipped a table over in the middle of a crowded room.”
“So you think he got away then?” I asked.
“Maybe.” Squall said a little pensive.
I managed to fill the cart and trade it with the freckled kid, who by this point had calmed down a bit. As we switched carts I told him that I would give him a few extra copper pieces from my share of the pay and he smiled and gave his thanks and began pushing the cart up the ramp. As i turned to start loading the next cart, I heard a creaking sound and turned back just in time to see the cart fall apart at the seam. Cod and ice sprawled all over the ramp and the overflow fell into the water below with a noticeable splash.
“Damn it.” I said. “Not your fault kid, I wasn’t paying attention. I’ll take responsibility for this.”
“Yes sir. Thank You sir.” he responded with what seemed like a sigh of relief.
“Hey squall, help this kid pick this mess up.” I shouted. “I’m going to the garage to grab some bindings to hold this cart together.” And I started to walk up the ramp.
The storage garage wasn’t too far away. It housed extra fishing nets and bindings. A few flotation rings for people who fell off the docks, which happened more often that you would think. Believe it or not, there were people down there who didn’t know how to swim. But work was money and Korvosians did what they could to make ends meet.
As I approached the garage, I noticed the door was partially open, which was odd. It was never left open for fear of people stealing supplies. I cautiously made my way closer to the garage and peered inside the open door. I saw a man pulling nets and bindings and piling them in the middle of the floor.
“I don’t think your supposed to be in here.” I said trying to assert as much authority in my voice as I could. “What are you doing?”
The man stood a shade under six feet with broad shoulders. His skin was grayish in color and if it wasn’t for his sheer size, you would think he was sickly. He didn’t answer. Finished what he was doing, turned, pushed me aside and walked away.
I watched him leave and disappear into a crowd. I entered the garage and looked around. Other than the mess on the floor nothing appeared to have been taken and I didn’t see him leave with anything. I started to pick up the bindings and hang them back on the hooks and as I did so, I stepped on something that felt out of place. I lifted my foot and looked down…. it was a hand.
A wave of nausea rolled over me. I started to pull back the nets and bindings against my better judgement. First the hand, then an arm, a shoulder. All of them had been badly bruised. I pulled back the last of the netting that revealed the head and I fell to me knees.
It was Drake.
I stumbled out of the garage falling over myself. I was drawing too much attention. I ran back down to the dock and over to Squall. I told him what I had seen. The man, Drake’s body, everything.
“That guy was on of the men who went after Drake last night.” He said nervously.
“You sure?” I asked looking around to make sure no one was watching.
“Positive.” Squall said reassuring me.
I sat there disgusted and feeling confused. Obviously my next move was to alert the proper authorities. I stood up and began to walk back up the ramp with the intentions of heading to the Korvosian guard outpost. It’s what I saw when I got to the top that shocked me and sent me fleeing for my life.
Standing outside the garage was three Korvosian soldiers with Gaedren Lamm. Gaedren saw me and pointed me out to one of the guards and the guard immediately started towards me weapon drawn.
“You there. Stop. You are wanted for questioning.” the guard said loudly drawing the attention of citizens who happened to be passing by. I turned and ran. I was being held responsible in the eyes of the law and I knew it. I was being framed.
I continued on running when I saw more guards up ahead who were obviously heading to the docks to secure the area but when they saw me running from the docks, they put two and two together and began to come after me. I darted down a narrow alley way tripping over barrels of garbage and various debris. Wow, why don’t you just tell them where you are I thought to myself. They can hear you from a mile away.
I managed to get a lead on them when out of nowhere I was grabbed by my collar and pulled into a doorway. Then everything just went black…
… when I came to it was dark. The room had a single candle lit. Shadows bounced and flickered off the walls. I was alone and I had no idea where I was or how I even got here. I just remember being chased by the guard and then I remembered Drake and then Lamm. Rage engulfed me and I hopped out of bed and fell to the floor. Just then the door to the room opened.
“Easy there kid.” A female voice said. “You got a nasty bump on your head and uh, sorry about that too.” “My name is Kiriam.”