“Land!” the watch cried out, as Aveline pulled me aside and informed me that if Carver got sick on her one more time, she was going to throw him overboard.
All of us were all ready to get off this boat.
We were all tired, hungry, filthy, and grumpy. Strange golden statues lined the cliffs of the channel into the harbor, carved so that their hands and feet were bound together. As we passed under the shadow of one of them, Mother shivered and muttered something sadly to herself. I don’t think that Kirkwall was going to be an easy place to live, but we had to make the best of it.
We disembarked, the sailors all but shoving us land dwellers off their ship. Looking back at the harbor, at the other ships coming in, a chill passed over me as I realized only a few ships survived that voyage, when so many others set out that day. We turned to go into the city, and saw a huge crowd gathered in front of a few guards lining the entrance to a stairwell I assumed led up into the city. Aveline quickly picked out the highest ranking guardsman, and we headed towards him, Mother making exclamations about how many people were standing about, waiting to get into the city.
“Bah, I’m just here to keep you refugees from climbing the walls,” the guard said gruffly, jerking a thumb over his shoulder, telling us that if we really wanted to get inside, to go and talk his commanding officer inside. Inside we went, Mother was fuming, saying that our family was a very respectable one, and we shouldn’t be treated like this. Carver was trying to calm her down, but she kept glaring at the guards as we passed them. We came into a courtyard, one man covered in dirty rags jokingly welcomed us to the Gallows proper. Making our way up to the lone guard stationed at the base of the stairs, we noticed a group of well armed men crowding towards him. They were shouting that their coin was perfectly good, why not let them into the city. I had us go to one side of them, where they had left an open space towards the right of the guardsman.
After a brief conversation, he told us that he could possibly find our uncle Gamlen, but at those words the leader of the other group yelled out that was unfair, and unsheathed his weapons. A steely resolve drew over the guardsman’s features as he readied himself for a sorely outnumbered fight.
I didn’t hesitate, and neither did Carver or Aveline. We threw ourselves into the fray, defending the guardsman, and then ourselves, against this group of ruffians. (note, yeah I just said ruffians ^.^) After a brief but bloody battle, the guardsman breathlessly thanked us, then turned the rest of his ire on the guards who just now had come running up the stairs and across the courtyard to ‘help’ us. After shooing them away, he informed us he would indeed find Gamlen for us, but warned us that the Gamlen he knew was quite poor, and not some nobleman like Mother claimed.
Days later, we were in our usual spot, tucked away in a corner where we could still see the stairs leading into the city. A middle aged man, wearing a patched together, threadbare ensemble of what used to be finer clothes, made his way over towards us. Noticing him, Mother ran over and embraced him, saying his name with joy. He didn’t seem all that happy to see us, but did look pained when we told him what happened to Bethany. He was quick to get to the point, and told us it was a lot of coin to get into the city, and he didn’t have that kind of coin sitting around. He made allusions to the family name not carrying the weight it used to, that even my mother’s family home was gone, the estate sold to cover a debt. It smelled suspicious to me, but I was exhausted from the voyage as well as not really having anything to eat or much sleep since arriving in Kirkwall.
Gamlen said there was one option, but a couple different ways we could go about it, to get us into the city. Basically, Carver and I had to sell ourselves into servitude for a year to pay ours, and Mother’s way into the city. Aveline said she wouldn’t let us get into debt on her behalf, and Gamlen, I could never call him my uncle, not truly, never felt like family, said he didn’t see how that would matter, as she looked as if she could take care of herself. Our options were to work for a smuggler named Athenril, or a mercenary named Meeran. After a quick discussion with Mother, who absolutely reviled the idea, but Carver and exchanged a grim look and knew this was our only option.
We went off to speak to both of them, Aveline tagging along because she didn’t want us getting into anything too illegal, and Mother out of sheer worry. We went to see Meeran first, but he gave me a bad feeling immediately upon engaging him in conversation. His men had their helms pulled low so you could barely see their eyes, their mouths turned down in a fierce scowl. Their armor was very fine quality, but was also very well worn, with scrapes and tears in the leather. I told him diplomatically that we would think about it and get back to him, as we turned and walked away Carver asked me if we were really going to work for that creature for a year. I told him I hoped not, that we would talk to Athenril and see what she had to say.
Athenril had spunk. An elf, which was rare for one of them to lead a smuggling crew, so I surmised, she was very straightforward and businesslike, and her work, while dangerous, was just this side of legal. Her mention of keeping me and my apostate status a secret seemed more kind hearted than Meeran’s cool offer, and Carver and I exchanged another look between us. We told Athenril we were hers for a year, ignoring Mother’s gasp behind us. We completed one small task for Athenril, gathering her payment from a merchant stationed in the Gallows, and we shook hands and the deal was done.
One year. How long could it be? We were free to go into our new home.