Chapter Four
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Traveling during the day and resting at night, the group journeys in and out of the forest; eventually finding themselves on a road heading towards Wonera’s capital. To shorten the time getting to the capital city, the party passes most if not all villages, towns, and cities along towards it; only stopping occasionally to let Lauren rest so that she doesn’t become over encumbered by fatigue. After days, then weeks, and finally months pass; the monotonous journey finally nears its end as the party comes within view of their destination. Stopping, the group takes in the view as the sun shines down from the cloudless sky. Fields of golden brown with a slight tinge of summer green accented by a marble white wall that hides a luminescent castle behind its sturdy facade as a quaint river flows through it; providing a serene atmosphere. 

“Is that the capital, Mr. Sasse?” asks Lauren as she strains her eyes to take in the sight. “It sure is… breathtaking…” she notes as she awes in wonder.

“Yeah… that’s Bistin. Wonera’s magnificent capital city,” states Harold as he lays his eyes upon it from a distance. “We should move along though. We already spent two months getting here. We shouldn’t waste anymore time.” After saying so, Harold then gives a non-verbal command to Nightingale. Making the horse move slowly. Lauren watches him and silently nods in agreement as she quickly follows after the two; moving onwards towards Bistin.

Passing the fields of wheat and getting closer and closer to the city’s entrance, Lauren notices a line of people, carts, and wagons waiting to get in as they bunch up in front of a posse of guards. “ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT GET BACK INTO LINE!! GET BACK INTO LINE, I SAY!! AND HAVE YOUR IDENTIFICATION PAPERS READY!!”  yells out a guardsman, letting everyone in the vicinity know. “OKAY!! NEXT IN LINE!!” he shouts once more as the line of people start to shuffle forward. 

“Uh… Mr. Sasse? Do we have papers to let us get in?” Lauren asks quietly as they get into line; nervously looking around with her eyes as she turns and pivots her head.

Looking at the girl and seeing her worried expression Harold gives a slightly uneasy response. “Relax… and don’t worry. I have it handled.”

“If… if you say so…” 

For the rest of their duration in line, Lauren would occasionally hear the guardsman yell; letting her know that it was time for her to move up a position in the queue as she fidgets around. Gradually and eventually, the party finds themselves next to be examined as they stand in wait.

“Mr. Skittleman, your identification papers seem to be in order. You may proceed,” the guard states as he hands a bundle of papers back to its owner.

“Oh. Thank you. Thank you. Then if you may, I will excuse myself,” says the retriever as he takes his documents back. He quickly takes his hat off and proceeds to give a quick bow to guard before he passes him by.

“Alright. Next in line come up with your identification papers,” the guard orders as he motions for the party.

Harold, hearing the guard refer to them, proceeds to dismount Nightingale, hands his reins to Lauren, and leaves them as he goes towards the guardsman by his lonesome. Walking up towards the guard, he reaches into a pouch hidden at his side. Covering what he had retrieved, Harold discreetly places two gold coins into the guardsman’s hand upon arrival as he says, “Here are my papers for me and the girl.”

Surprised by what was given to him, the guard stays silent as he looks at the two coins in his hands. Maneuvering his body in a way to keep what he had hidden; the guard rubs the two coins together; listening to how they slink against one another. He then looks over his right shoulder slightly as he pockets the coins unnoticed. “Alright sir… your documentation looks legitimate. You may proceed,” he states stoically as he waves his hand to direct them to the waiting area; making sure not to make eye contact with them. 

“We’ll be on our way then… Come on. Let’s go,” he states with a nod as he jerks his head; commanding Lauren to move. Nervously watching with anxiety, Lauren sees the interaction between Harold and the guard. Seeing him motioning for her, Lauren tightens her grip on the reins and timidly steps forward with Nightingale as they start to make their way to the waiting area with Harold leading.

Speeding up to walk alongside Harold. Lauren then gets closer to his side as she leans in; speaking to him in a low voice. “Did you…” she nervously says as she looks back for a bit; watching the guard closely. “Did you… did you just bribe him?” she finally whispers to Harold as they exit earshot distance.

“I showed him our identification papers.”

“But… but it looked like you just gave him money? Wouldn’t we get caught later if that guard comes looking for us asking for more?”

Harold shakes his head and looks at Lauren. “I can’t tell if you are stupid or just ignorant,” he states with a sigh. “Didn’t I tell you to relax and not to worry about it?”

“You did say that…” she meekly responds. “But it’s hard to relax or stay calm when it looks like we are going to get into trouble…” 

“You… you’re a handful you know…” Harold states taking his eyes off her.

  Lauren frowns as she stays silent besides him. The guard then cups his mouth with his hands and shouts, “OPEN THE GATE!!”

“OPEN THE GATE!!” echo back multiple voices as what looks like to be a sturdy bulwark then suddenly starts to shift heavily upwards as it shakes and creaks. It opens completely and like a flood, the people around Lauren start to flow into the gate like rushing water. Harold grabs the reins from Lauren surprising her and quickly jumps onto his saddle. He starts to move with the crowd Leaving Lauren to herself.

“Hurry up if you don’t want to be left behind,” he states as Nightingale trots onward. Lauren adjusts her bags and soon follows after him into the gate. Passing through the wall’s shadowy parts, she is met with beams of sunlight that hit her retinas at the right angle. Lauren closes her eyes painfully in response as she blocks the sun with her hand. Hearing the bustling of a crowd, she opens her eyes to be greeted with a lively scene of the city’s residents moving on the streets and walkways. Lauren can see the people laughing without a care as they walk through the crowds. Children running and playing about while their mothers shop for tonight's dinner. Multitudes of buildings of different sizes, shapes, and colors. And shouting from vendors trying to sell their wares and produce to those who pass by and beyond. Sunny. Bright. Colorful. Bistin looked to be picturesque in every meaning of the word. But as though sick of the view, Harold quickly navigates his way through the streets as Lauren tries to match his pace and keep her curiosity in check. 

“I’ve… I’ve never been to Bistin before… but… it’s… it’s a lot prettier inside than it does from the outside,” Lauren comments as she marvels at the multi-storied buildings that surround her.

“Yeah. Well that’s what money can get you. A nice house in a safe place,” Harold comments sarcastically. “But with my experience: the prettier the facade… the cruder the underbelly is…” 

Feeling the omnity from those words, Lauren swallows her saliva. “Um. Uh. Where are we going now? I mean we’ve arrived in the capital and it’s still bright out, so I think we can probably go see your informant person soon if anything.”

“It’s not the appropriate time yet. Plus, I still need to do some errands before we can go see her.”

“What are these errands that you need to do?”

“Did you forget about the bags that you are holding?”

“Oh… Right. I almost forgot about them. Haha…” she laughs drully as she follows Harold. They continue walking down the street, passing by various businesses and eateries as people give them scornful looks as they part to let the dreary party through. Though, it goes unnoticed by them. Not making any detours, the black knight ignores what fascinates Lauren. Bakeries. Expensive clothing shops. Toys and book stores. These were things absent from Norbury Village: things that Lauren partially yearned for back when she still lived there. Lost in those thoughts, Lauren soon notices that they have made a number of turns since their entrance. With Harold leading the way, he brought the party to a non-descript location that has little traffic passing by. Stopping at a distance, they arrive at their destination. A single-story building built with brick with black smoke billowing out of its large and tall chimney. A simple wooden sign hangs over its lone red door as wind blows the curtains of its only window. “Nel’s Smithy and Armory? Is this the place that you wanted to take us?” she reads aloud, asking Harold.

“That’s right. Been working with this particular dwarf for years now. A bit of a sourpuss, but he’s alright.”

Lauren looks at him with a slightly disgruntled face. “Is that so?”

“Yeah. The man always has some sort of gripe with me every time I come by,” he says with a grunt; dismounting and turning towards his horse. “Nightingale, you stay outside. Lauren, you’re coming with me.”

Nightingale nods its head as Lauren follows after Harold. Opening the door, a chime could be heard as it jingles lightly. Inside the smithy, Lauren can see that there aren’t many things inside. A couple of mannequins showcasing armor sets with varying prices attached to them and a barrel of various weapons labeled, “discount items.” With a door behind the reception desk, there is no one manning the front; making it seem that the store had been abandoned.

Knocking on the hardwood desk, Harold yells, “HEYYYYYY NEEEEEEEL!! YOU HERE? I GOT SOME SHIT TO SELL!!”

Metal and heavy objects fall over as someone shuffles in the back. “WHAT?! WHO’S THAT?! SOMEONE HERE!?” a gruff growl answers back as heavy steps could be heard through the door. It then slams open soon after as if someone had kicked it. Out comes a long bearded man, no taller than Lauren. Boisterous, bare chested, and burgundy hair all over. He presents himself to the current patrons of his store. “Nelmulim Kegforged at your service! How can I help you today!” Nel states as he greets his customers. His happy expression though, sours with disappointment upon seeing Harold. “Oh. It’s just you.”

“What? Not happy to see me?”

“I’m never happy to see you, Harry. You’re a goddamn nuisance.”

“Ahh. Come on, Nel. Don’t be like that. I have some things to sell to you,” he says eagerly. He thrusts his hand out in front of Lauren motioning for the bags on her shoulders. Lauren quickly squirms off all the satchels digging into her shoulders, keeping the one with the rations and water, as she hands them all to Harold.

“Gah… you always have something to sell,” Nel retorts crossing his arms. “What’s with the girl? She wasn’t with you the last time you were around.”

“Ahhh… it’s a long story…” he says slowly; grabbing a bag and turning its insides out. The action causes everything that had been thrown into it to immediately fall out with a clang as a multitude of bladed weapons hits the reception desk. He does the same with all the other bags. Emptying out their contents to reveal multitudes of leather armor and various other weapons such as clubs and maces. Harold covers the entire surface with what he had gathered thus far. “What can I get with this?” Harold asks as he hands the empty bags to Lauren.

Nel rolls his eyes as he grabs a sword; inspecting it on the spot. “Harry… Why is it that you always bring me TRASH thinking I can give you something for it?”

“Because you have before,” he answers coolly. “Is it not satisfactory? Cause I think it is.”

Thrusting the blade into Harold's face; Nel shows the amount of damage that is all over its edges. “THIS FUCKING SWORD IS ALL CHIPPED, HARRY!! AND SO IS THIS ONE AND THIS ONE!! AND THIS LEATHER BREASTPLATE HAS A BIG ASS HOLE IN ITS CHEST!! LOOK AT IT!!” Nel loudly lectures Harold as he puts his hand through the aforementioned hole. Throwing the breastplate aside, Nel continues his tirade. “ NOT TOO MENTION HALF THE ARMOR THAT YOU’VE SHOWN ME HAS DRIED BLOOD ALL OVER IT!! STOP BRINGING ME LITERAL SHIT!! BETTER YET!! JUST STOP COMING TO MY STORE!! YOU FUCKING IGNORAMUS!!”

Waiting for him to stop yelling, Harold stands there as he is buffeted by Nel’s shouting. “So… you’re not going to buy the goods?”

“FUCK NO!! NOW GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!!” he growls. Pointing at the door.

“Oh come on now, Nel. I’m just trying to make a profit. Can’t you just give me something for my troubles?” he states without budging.

Nel scowls at Harold for a moment before a look of angry resignation falls over him. Turning his back, he stomps into the back and comes out moments later with a tied pouch. Without hesitation, he uses all of his strength to chuck the pouch at Harold’s face right as he walks through the wooden frame. The pouch travels the distances as it hits Harold’s helmet with a clink as it drops to his feet below. “THERE!! NOW GET THE FUCK OUT!!” Nel screams with a red face.

Harold bends over by the hip and scoops up the pouch with his hand. “Nice doing business with you as always, Nel. I’ll see you around next time,” he states; walking out the front door as he waves farewell.

“Get bent you prick,” Nel snarls as he watches Harold leave. Hearing the door chime once more, he lets out a breath of discontent. He then notices Lauren’s gaze as she was still standing next to the reception desk looking at him surprised. “DIDN’T YOU HEAR ME!? GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!!”

“Oh! Oh… I’m sorry… if… if you would excuse me then…” Lauren apologizes as she scuttles towards the exit. 

Coming out of the building, Lauren sees Harold with the pouch open as he counts the contents inside. “47… 48… 49… 50… Ahhh Nel. You stingy asshole,” Harold sighs as he drops the silver coins into the pouch one by one.

“Is… is he always like that? Yelling at the top of his lungs?” Lauren asks as she approaches.

“Huh? Ahh. Yeah. Nel’s always like that. Especially with me for some reason. Don’t know why though,” he answers as he puts away the coinage given to him.

“I see…” Lauren says as she looks at Nel’s store and back to Harold. “How much did he give you by the way? It looks like a lot.”

“He didn’t give me much. For everything that I brought him today: he only gave me 5 GP worth in silver.”

“That seems like a decent amount though.”

“If you were a peasant. Do I look like a peasant to you, Lauren?”


“Yeah. I thought so. This is a pitifully small amount of money, but it did make up what was used early today. So I guess it’s not all bad.”

“So, it was worth it in the end. Isn’t that nice?”

“More like decent. But whatever.” Harold looks towards the sky to ascertain the position of the sun. “I sold everything I needed to sell, but it looks like it won’t be for another three or four hours till night turns.”

“Why are we waiting till night? Wouldn’t it be better to go now since everything is done?”

“My informant’s schedule revolves around the night. So seeing her now won’t do anything.”

“Then what will we do till then?”

“We wait.”

“Wait? But wait where though? Shouldn’t we go to an inn to rest?”

“I’m not paying money for an inn,” Harold states as he gets onto Nightingale and leaves the area without Lauren. 

Lauren quickly follows after him asking, “Then where are you going? What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to the riverbed and I’m just going to stare at the pretty water till it’s night time.” Lauren stays silent as she smiles wryly at what he had planned as she follows him through the streets. 

Following him from behind, she stares at the ground lost in thought. Watching the ground, Lauren gets lost in her own thoughts as she keeps Nightingale in her peripherals. Her train of thought is broken though, when Lauren begins to notice the looks and stares that she’s been receiving the moment she hears the indiscriminate whispering and chattering about her. 

“Oh my… look at that girl… she’s… she’s filthy…”

“Is… is that blood on her skirt? Oh wait, it's all over her! My goodness!”

“Mommy… is that girl sick? She looks hurt.”

“What’s wrong with that girl?”

Hearing comments and questions about her, Lauren becomes conscious of how she looks as she scrunches up her body. She walks closer to Nightingale’s side in efforts to hide in his shadow.  But, it doesn’t stop the whispering nor idle chatter she hears. Staring and looking, the crowd around keeps a distance as Harold and Lauren pass by; making the girl more aware of herself. It is like this the entire way towards the riverbed, but the closer they got to it; the less cramped it became. Making their way out of the crowd, Lauren finally hears peace as the whispering died and the chatter shifts as she sees a wide clearance. Grassy hills with a yellowish hue, white light shimmering off the crystal water, and trees to provide shade from the sun. Opposite to crowded and bustling streets, the riverbed is serene and unpolluted. Harold jumps off Nightingale and goes towards the river’s edge. Nightingale being freed of its rider starts to roam and graze as its master stands idly by the flowing water. 

Lauren moves to one of the trees and sits down under its shade. Resting her back on the trunk, she brings her knees to chest as she hugs her legs. She feels tired, more so than usual. Was it because of the things she heard that were about her? Or was it because it has been a long day? Longer than usual that’s for sure. Either way, Lauren doesn’t know. All she wants to do now in this brief respite is to close her eyes, but she keeps them open regardless as she looks towards the river. She hears the leaves swish above her as the wind blows gently. She rests her head on her arm as she watches scenery. Blinking repeatedly, she feels herself dozing off as the relaxing atmosphere starts to affect her. Eventually she closes her tired eyes as time passes her by.

“Wake up. Time to go,” Lauren hears as she opens her eyes. Feeling something lightly tap her foot, she looks upward to see Harold standing over her as he lightly kicks her repeatedly. “Come on. Get up already.”

“I’m… I’m awake,” she states as she struggles to stand using the tree as support as she feels her legs still sleeping. She notices that the surroundings have dramatically darkened as the river reflects a waxing half-moon on its surface. Watching Harold back off to make room for her; she asks him, “Is it time to see your informant now?”

“That’s right. Time to move,” Harold answers her as he heads towards Nightingale. Leaving, the party crosses the river’s bridge and heads towards a different city district. The darkness lightens with a reddish hue as torches and lamps start to illuminate the streets. Soon, Lauren starts to see that there are still droves of people walking about the city though, it drastically different in comparison to this morning. Men slovenly all over women as they push them back angrily. The smell of alcohol, piss, and puke in the air. And sounds of tables and chairs breaking in the distance as someone is flung out a door.

“Uhhhh… Mr. Sasse… where… Where are we… This… this… doesn’t look safe…” she says before feeling something latch onto her.

“Ohhhhh hey there sweet stuff… how much are you for sale…?” a drunken man asks as he grabs Lauren’s wrist from behind. The girl instantly freezes as she feels her blood drain from her face. He gets closer to Lauren as she turns around to face him, smelling the cheap booze on his breath. Lauren looks like she is going to vomit as she rapidly breaths in and out. “Oh come here baby… give me so-” he gasps before being kicked and sent back a few meters by Nightingale, making the drunkard groan on the ground as the horse and its rider continue onwards. Lauren, frightened by what happened, sticks close to Harold and Nightingale as they continue their way through this district as she darts her eyes back and around to stay vigilante.

“Mr. Sasse… please… where are we…? I… I… don’t like this place…” Lauren squeeks; feeling suffocated by her surroundings.

“We’re in Bistin’s Red-Light district.”

“Red… Light district? Why… Why here?”

“My informant is a special lady. A big honcho in the kind of business that involves drugs, gambling, and sex. She probably has more under her belt, but I’m not really the kind to ask questions.”

“Can… Can we see her soon? Being outside here is…” she tries to finish, but cuts herself off with a small scream as she dodges the drunken men stumbling in her way.

“Well we are almost there. It’s just up ahead and around this corner.”

Trotting to the end of the street and turning right, the party comes to see a large building that is five stories high. All the windows are lit as shadows can be seen moving through the frames. Men going in and out of the facility as scantily clad women beckon for customers.

“Hey!! Come and visit the girls at Pixie's Kiss!! We can make all your worries go away!!”

“Come to the Pixie’s Kiss!! Where beautiful women are waiting for you!!”

“Enjoy a night of passion and lust at the Pixie’s Kiss!! For a Price of course!! Hehe!!” shout out the girls out in front as they shake and jiggle, trying to seduce patrons to come in.

“Pixie’s… Kiss? Is… is your informant here? But… but why? Isn’t this… isn’t this a brothel?!” Lauren questions as she becomes more and more baffled by the antics of these call girls.

“I mean it’s her job,” Harold stoically answers as he dismounts. “If you want to. You could stay outside since Nightingale is here.”

Listening to what Harold had said, Lauren looks around to observe her surroundings quickly and notes that it’s dark, unfamiliar, and there are many drunken men tottering about. She holds her shoulders and states looking away, “I… I would rather come inside with you…”

“Okay then. Let’s go inside,” he states nonchalantly as he leads the way towards Pixie’s Kiss. Entering the building, Lauren’s nose is tackled by a strong scent of lavender and chamomile lurking in the air. Couches, chairs, and tables to wait by and sets of stairs hug the walls to the left and right as they lead to floors above. Lights are all dimly lit as the lounge is filled with anxious men of varying levels of soberness waiting to be called. Manning the front desk is an attractive woman with long brunette hair tied in a ponytail as an exit stands behind her. 

“Welcome to the Pixie’s Kiss. How can I help you make your night a memorable one?” she says with a wink and coy smile. She then recognizes who had come in. “Oh? Mr. Sasse? It has been too long since we last saw you here. What brings you to the Pixie’s Kiss this time?”

“Business. As always. Where’s your madame? Relaxing on the fifth floor I suppose.”

The receptionist chuckles lightly. “You know our madame well. Excuse me as I send someone to tell the madame that you are here.” Stating so, she leaves the reception desk and disappears in the back. 

Lauren is looking around with an uncomfortable face, she becomes increasingly conscious of the atmosphere here as she notes the people. There are normal, typical everyday men here, but at the same time she sees roguish and unscrupulous characters too. This makes hairs on Lauren’s skin stand up as she keeps a watchful eye on her immediate surroundings. But that soon loosens the moment a woman appears coming down the flight of stairs. With her hand on the rail, the pixie takes her time as she takes one step after the other. Wearing a burlesque nightgown, the kind in which you can see the lacey lingerie that is not so hidden beneath it, she walks down the flight of stairs in a pair of high heels that accent her hourglass form. Hair long, curly, and red. Her make-up is impeccable with no smudges to be seen as her skin glows without blemishes. This pixie then opens her mouth as a seductive voice flutters out.

“Is Ben Peters still here?” She asks coyly. 

“O-oh! Yes! Th-that’s me!” says a young man flushed with alcohol as he quickly stands up.

“I’m so sorry to keep you waiting, Love,” the pixe says, walking towards the young Ben Peters. Grabbing his hand, she says with a coquettish smile, “Why don’t you come with me and I’ll show you who is available now…” 

“O-okay…” he says shyly as he obediently follows her with an excited grin on his face; staring at her bosom. 

The Pixie giggles at his response. “Oh my. You’re cute one. Makes me want to take you for myself…” she flirts as they leave for the second floor. An audible gulp could be heard around as the drunken men around collectively swallow their saliva at once; watching the pixie and the young Ben leave. 

“Are… are all the girls like that?” says another young man. “She… she was mystifying…”

“Ohhhhh!! I can’t wait for my turn!! Oh damn! I am so glad I saved up for this!”

“Whoa there, kiddo! Settle down!! We’re all eager! Especially after that little tease…” a middle aged man states. The men start to clamour as the first customer of the night has been taken up.

Lauren keeps her eyes on the stairs as she scowls slightly. Are all men like this? She thinks to herself as she looks at the excitement in the lounge. Luaren looks towards Harold to see what his reaction is, but he remains standing with his arms crossed. “Do… Do you enjoy places like these?” she asks.

“I used to… but… that kind of passion and lust died out years ago. Now it’s just… eh… who knows,” he answers dryly.

Lauren becomes confused by Harold’s statement; furrowing her brow in response. The receptionist then shortly returns after the clamouring started as she walks out from the back and motions for the black knight. “Mr. Sasse. The madame can see you now. She also says you can bring the girl that you brought.”


Harold follows the receptionist to the back room as Lauren tags along. She brings the duo to a hidden set of stairs as she leads the two up them. Leading them up several flights, the group come to a hallway with a double door entrance at the end.Silk curtains, luxury carpets, and porcelain vases; the hallway shines with an ostentatious velvet and gold sheen.  It has two men in butler uniforms acting as bodyguards to the entrance as they stand staunchly with their hands folded in front of them. 

“I bring Mr. Sasse and his compatriot to the madame,” the receptionist announces, approaching the entrance guards. Nodding wordlessly to her, the butlers open the double doors in unison. Smoke bellows out as the doors open as the initial view is obscured. Lauren starts to have a coughing fit as she breathes in the smog, waving her dominant hand in front of her in efforts to ventilate her surroundings.

“Holy shit, Kay. Are you hotboxing your fucking pent suite?” Harold asks in amazement as the smoke begins to clear. 

“Do not question my decisions, Harold. This is my property and I damn well use it as I please,” snarkily replies a woman’s voice. With most of the cigarette smoke clearing, Lauren comes into view of a buxom woman in a purple silken dress. Long blond hair tied in a semi-messy bun. Heavy eyeliner, incredible eyelashes, and lipstick matching her dress; lays a woman sideways on a luxurious cushioned couch. She has a sharp glare as butlers and maids alike serve her foot and nail: feeding her grapes and wine directly, massaging her feet with perfumed oils as light plucking of a harp plays in the background. Holding her long ebony cigarette holder she takes a long drag from it making the tobacco burn an orange glow. She breathes out a cloud of smoke at Harold and Lauren. “What do you want this time?”

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