The sun was more than half way to the tree tops when Heinz was moving again. He began to wonder if he would have to find some bushes to sleep under or if he would reach Stormwind first when the backdrop of trees finally broke to reveal something new. 1555 More Words
The sun was more than half way to the tree tops when Heinz was moving again. He began to wonder if he would have to find some bushes to sleep under or if he would reach Stormwind first when the backdrop of trees finally broke to reveal something new. Heinz could see buildings – some of wood construction, some stone. A town or village was ahead. He quickened his pace.
Several strides later he emerged into the village. People milled about, some bustling from one building to another, others standing near the roadways talking. His own road skirted along one side of the village and continued into the forest. Another intersected it and led north, with several buildings on either side of it. A pair of mail-coated men with long spears and shields and clean, blue tunics eyed him warily. They said nothing though as Heinz approached the village and did his best to appear harmless.
One large building dominated along the road heading north. He read the sign for the Lion’s Pride Inn, and decided to start there. Heinz stepped to the side as a formidable woman in leather armor and a sword strapped behind her back walked out, then he went in.
The inn bustled with patrons and waiters moving about - drinking, laughing, eating. Heinz’s stomach reminded him he had not eaten in some time. He had nothing to pay with, though. Unless this sword would be worth a roast chicken. It might be, if he did not need the sword later.
One of the waitresses gave him a disgusted look as she passed him, her nose visibly crinkling. Even with a quick face wash he must look and smell awful. No wonder the guards had given him such a hard look. He hoped someone would even talk to him.
Deciding the larger bar man was the most likely not to be bothered by his appearance, Heinz wound his way to him behind the bar. The big man gave him his own hard look but said nothing as Heinz approached.
“G- Good day..” Heinz tripped over his first gravelly words. It had been some time since he last spoke. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Good day.” Better, if still raspy. The tender watched him and grunted in reply, more dubious than unwelcoming. “I’m hoping you can help me. What town is this?”
“Goldshire.” Came the terse reply. His expression now said the answer was simple enough it was strange for Heinz not to know.
“I see.” He managed quietly. He recalled Goldshire on the list of stops for the caravan, the first after Stormwind. He must be close then. “Has a merchant wagon from Southshore come through? It would have been carrying ale from Hillsbrad.”
This seemed to have helped, the barkeep seemed less severe and more on familiar ground. “It did, came through yesterday morning. We bought two casks, if you care for some?”
“Thank-you, I.. don’t have the coin to pay for it.” A damned shame. One of those casks might help him to lose the mental images of the last two days. “Did they leave this morning then?” If they weren’t too far, he could catch them on the road.
“Light, no. They were gone before mid-day yesterday. They had just been in Stormwind the night before, no point in stopping after such a short trip to Goldshire. They went on to Sentinel Hill in Westfall.”
Something in his expression must have shown the flashbacks entering his mind. “Look, we’re pretty full up, but if you have a copper or two I can find you some space in the stables, and a bit of bread or something. Have you got that much?”
Heinz only hesitated a moment before shaking his head. He hadn’t anything but dirty and stained clothes worse than rags and an old sword. The barkeep’s eyes rested on the sword.
“Why don’t you take that over to the blacksmith and see if he’ll give you a couple of coppers. Maybe the metal will be useful to him. It looks like its days are about done anyway, eh?”
Heinz processed that a moment, then muttered “Thanks.” He stepped away, feeling the barkeep’s gaze on his back. Other eyes followed him as he made his way out.
Back out front he stood a moment, thinking about the bar man’s suggestion. On the one hand, the sword was not much immediate use, and he must eat. He could sleep under a bush again, but he needed food more than he needed a sword. But could he use the sword to get money? Would another merchant take a stranger on as guard? Was there a spot in the local militia? They might not pay well, but maybe they gave out food. Still, he ought to test his options. With that in mind, he stepped over to the blacksmith across the way.
Heat radiated out before he even crossed through the door. He began to sweat once he did go in. Smoke, oil and other scents filled the air. Toward the back, a brightly lit fire glowed a brilliant orange-yellow. Two thick-chested men worked to either side of the large, single room. A third seemed to be sorting through equipment along the wall where tools, weapons and armor were arrayed.
“Can I help you?” The closest of the large blacksmiths asked without pausing his work. The tone of his voice sounded suspicious, likely for the same reason everyone had reacted to him that way. He did not look like he had much coin, certainly not enough to spend on new equipment from a blacksmith shop.
“I was wondering..” he hesitated a moment, then lifted up the sword by its hilt, the point facing down, “how much might this be worth?” He knew it was old and of poor quality, but seeing it near their newly made blades really made the question seem ludicrous. “At least for the metal anyway.”
The smith stared at him a moment, an appraising look on his face as he took in the sword, then Heinz himself. He finished fastening pieces of a tool together, then set it down and stepped over to Heinz. Without a word he took the sword and gave it a glance. His eyes moved up and down the weapon, but did not seem focused. Finally, he handed the hilt back to Heinz, who took it.
“Look,” he said, “I can’t say as I really need the little bit of metal that is in that thing, not to mention the metal’s quality.” He paused. “You willing to take on some odd jobs to earn a bit of coin instead?”
The question caught Heinz off guard. He blinked, his brain trying to process what the guy meant. He certainly was no blacksmith, but what did ‘odd jobs’ mean? “Yes, I would.”
“I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but there have been a few troubles lately. Stormwind guards keep the roads safe, but some parts of Elwynn just aren’t safe anymore. A few locals and some travelers like yourself are helping out, but they could always use an extra hand.”
Troubles? Heinz’s mind recalled images of red bandanas and call powerful beasts eating human corpses. He nodded, and the blacksmith continued.
“Well, if you want to know where to start, head up the North Road a bit. Lakeshire Abbey is up there. Marshal McBride can be found at the Abbey, and is looking for some extra hands.” He glanced at Heinz’s attire once more. “And he might be able to help you get better set with some things.”
“Ah, ok. Thanks.” Heinz replied, still a bit uncertain. His mind was still stuck on those beasts. Would he have to face those nightmares again? He wasn’t sure a few coins would be worth that. What choice did he have though? “Thank-you.” He repeated, more firmly. He moved his sword hilt to his left hand and offered his right.
The blacksmith shook it, nodding. “Oh, one more thing. Hal, fetch that shield the guy left behind.” After a moment, the shop helper came over with a round shield. The wood slats were bound together with metal bands, but several nicks and gouges decorated the surface. It looked like it might come apart at one more blow, or simply by dropping it. “Here. I know it isn’t much but.. take it. Customer bought a new shield and just tossed this out front. Perhaps you can use it.”
Heinz imagined the materials on the shield were worth even less than his sword, but he took it gratefully. It was a kind act of generosity. “Thank-you again.” He nodded, looking to include the other two men in the shop. After a moment, he turned and stepped back out into the road. Behind min the sounds of work resumed.
Out of the shop, he turned, his eyes following the road as it wound its way north. What awaited him if he went? Where would the road take him? He was already so far off what he thought he was doing when he left his siblings and home behind. How much further would this take him? Could he even get back home?
His stomach reminded him that whichever way he chose, there needed to be food at the end of it. Still not completely certain, he took a step forward. Then another. Tucking his sword behind his shield and carrying them to his left, he began his journey.