A/N: I always loved the notes, passages, and books discovered throughout the game. They added a great bit of lore and atmosphere to the game, especially since not everything you found related to the missions/story at hand; they were just a great bit of flavoring.
For the basis of the passage that Erin reads aloud at the beginning I looked at older American Naval books (late 19th century to the mid 1940s) as well as a British treatise for the Royal Naval (circa 1703).
UPDATE: This chapter has been updated as of January 9, 2019.
An Honest Trade
The Twenty-Eighth Day of the Third Month, the Month of Nets, 1837
The Schauke Dockyards
The morning sun pulled itself free of the horizon. Dark clouds hung high in the sky over the dockyards, but for now the sunlight was unimpeded as it bathed Copton Lane in a cheery glow.
Not as large or expansive as Fhavre Square, the Schauke Dockyards still supported a good sized marketplace. Most merchants of the area used either large independent booths or smaller carts that they loaded with their wares at the beginning of every day, but there were a few permanent shops such as the one the Undertakers had taken over.
James propped open the door to the freestanding building that served as the Withers' Grocery. He took in the fresh air blowing from across the Wrenhaven with a hint of a smile as memories of his naval days surfaced ever so briefly.
Tuddleston unlatched and opened the front window, letting light into the gloomy interior where Erin sat upon a large barrel near the back of the store, a slim tome in her hand. As the rotund scribe prepared the daily ledgers, the Morlish girl read aloud from the book, A Historical & Political Treatise of the Royal Gristian Navy and the Men Serving in It.
"The Master d'arms is one of a ship's senior ranks," she began slowly, drawing out each word, alluding to her lack of literary skill. "He is in charge of discipline aboard ship, assisted by regulators of which he is himself a member. His duties include being responsible for keeping the ship's small arms and melee weapons in good working order, and to drill the ship's company in their use."
"The Master d'arms needs to be qualified in close order fighting under arms and able to train seamen in all forms of combat. When necessary, he is to conduct preventative measures to mit-" She paused and held the book up so Tuddleston could see the word.
"Mitigate," the merry gentleman said with a grin. Upon seeing the girl's queried expression, he further explained. "It means to make less severe, or alleviate a situation or thing."
"Ah, right," she said with a nod before continuing with the passage. "…he is to conduct preventative measures to mitigate hostile actions against personnel, resources, facilities, critical information, and citizens under his pur-" She pointed to another word.
"Hm? Ah yes. Purview. It means the range of operation, responsibility, authority, control, or concern."
The girl glanced back at the book. "So, the boss? Bein' the protector o' the ship, 'e was? Watchin' out fer everyone wot needs watchin' out fer?"
"Indeed," the large man said as he opened the top ledger and began making notes for the day's expected transactions.
"Been doin' it inna navy forever, 'e has," the girl mused then looked up as James came back inside. "And still be doin' it now fer those wot need it 'ere."
The dark-haired man noted the book in her hands.
"Planning to earn a commission in the Navy?" he asked as he examined the cover.
"Jus' catchin' up on me readin' is all," she explained. "Mr. Fancy Tuddles says its good fer me."
"Tuddleston," the large man corrected, looking up from the ledger with a raised eyebrow.
"Yep. Wot I meant. Tuddleston."
"Her reading skills have improved," the scribe noted with a satisfied nod. "Quite impressively."
The girl grinned smugly.
"There ye go! Off an' learnin' I am. Gon' be smart as you one day, eh, Mr. Fancy Tuddles?"
"Hm, I choose not to comment on that particular query."
"Wot was that?" she asked, her eyes narrowing.
"Despite your improved education," James said as he took the book and set it down on a shelf, "there're other things that need to be taken care of."
He pointed to a large bucket and four wooden trays of cabbages resting on the floor.
"There's a basin out back attached to the Withers' shed. Clean these and bring them back."
She blinked at him.
"'Spectin' me to wot? Clean'em?"
"Erin, don't argue. You know what you need to do."
"Och!" she said as she hopped off the barrel, and made a big show of grabbing up the empty bucket and the first tray of vegetables. "Dinna know I was ta be learnin' an honest trade now. If I were, wou'nae be grocerin' that I'd choose!"
She exited the building with a huff as Tuddleston glanced over at James.
"She'll do fine; I am most confident of her abilities," the large man said.
"Of that I have no doubt," his companion replied with a nod. "Then once everything is ready, we'll signal Rollo and Ademar."
"Yes, it is a bit worrisome having the latter two so far away, but appearances must be kept up I suppose."
The Clocktower chimed the nine o'clock hour as Erin refilled the large bucket once again. She returned to the fourth and final tray of vegetables on the path near the back alley, grumbling to herself.
"Be needin' ta wash the fresh greens, me arse."
She set the bucket down and squatted next to it, retrieving the first cabbage as she did so. She gently dunked it into the cold, clean water and gave it a slight shake.
"Make sure I dinna tear it apart this time, otherwise there be more scoldin' 'bout wot I'm doin' wrong."
She withdrew the cabbage from the bucket, shook out the excess water, and set it in the tray.
"Och! This be borin'!" she exclaimed as she scratched her nose on her sleeve. She reached for the second cabbage.
A footfall from further up the alley caught her attention.
"Who's there?" She stood and retrieved the paring knife from her belt, holding it out in front of her. "Gotta blade, I do."
A light chuckle emanated from the alley and a young man emerged. He was about twenty years old, with neatly trimmed dark hair that was slicked back. He had bright brown eyes, attractive features, and a disarming smile. His clothes weren't the best quality but they appeared well-maintained. In his hand he carried an apple.
Erin blinked and lowered her knife.
"Cor, yer a 'andsome one now, ain't ye?" she muttered.
The young man chuckled again.
"You work here?" he asked, indicating the Withers' Grocery behind which they stood.
"Ye ken say that," the girl groused as she slipped the knife into her belt and squatted by the bucket again. "Dinna be likin' it, though."
"But it's a living," he said as he took a bite of his apple. "Some people don't even have that."
"S'posin' that be true," she said, going about her duties.
"I've been in this area before," he admitted as he looked around, before fixing his gaze upon her. "But you're new right? I'm sure I'd have noticed a pretty girl working here before now."
Erin stopped and slowly stood back up as a smile crept across her face.
"Oh?" she asked. "Come 'round a lot do ye?"
"Yes, sometimes." He moved closer. "I'm looking for a job honestly. Need to make some coin. I'm Bradley by the way." He held out his hand.
"Erin. Erin Brannigan." She grasped the proffered hand.
"Enchanted to know you."
She giggled as she tucked a lock of red hair behind her ear.
"Gon' wit' yerself."
"Is this place hiring? The Withers, right?"
"Nae'anymore," she admitted. "Me boss be takin' it over. Makin' it 'is own, 'e is."
"Oh?" He seemed surprised. "They sold it? Maybe your boss'll hire me."
"Nope," she said quietly with a serious look upon her face. "Look some fings ain't right 'ere, y'know. There's this fella me boss wants to deal wit' and nae inna friendly way. A thug type. Be lookin' to knock'em down."
Bradley's eyes narrowed.
"Your boss work for the Watch or something?"
"Hah, no! That'd be a sight! I'd not be 'angin' wit'im if 'e was."
"Ah," he nodded. "Sounds dangerous though. This business your boss is doing."
"Me boss be a dangerous man. Sharp, too, you'll see. Dinna 'ave all 'is lads 'ere yet. But when 'e does…" She clapped her hands together. "Bop! It'll be over then."
"But still, a pretty girl shouldn't be mixed up in this." He reached a tentative hand up and gently brushed her cheek.
She looked down with another giggle.
"Here," he said as he reached into his pocket and withdrew another large apple. "Something for the trouble of answering my questions."
She smiled then indicated the smaller shack tucked behind the grocery.
"Y'know I sleep there tonight. Stuck inna shed, I am." She looked at the young man. "Be gettin' lonely an' a might cold at night, it does. Ye ken see yer way 'ere again if ye want. Maybe later?"
"Um, wouldn't that upset your boss? I don't want to start any trouble with a dangerous man."
"Och, no. Be settin' a trap fer this fella 'e wants. Some bright prim inna suit, goes by the name o' Murlyn. Me boss won' be 'ere tonight at all. Jus' me and Mr. Fancy Tuddles, the scribe. Though he gets ta be stayin' in the grocery itself, all warm."
She glanced over at the main building with a slight sneer on her face.
"Oh really? Just the two of you then?" He cocked an eyebrow. "Hm, maybe I will come back tonight after all. If you're sure."
"Ye been sweet ta me, unlike me boss. I like bein' sweet ta."
"Okay then." He smiled, then started off back down the alley. "I shall see you tonight, dear Erin."
She smiled back, holding his apple close to her face, and waved as he disappeared around the corner. She waited until the count of five, then her smile vanished only to be replaced by a scowl. She shook her head as she threw the apple aside.
"Chuffer," she grumbled, then a sly grin formed on her lips. "That be easier'n I figured it'd be."
"Thank you, dear lady," Tuddleston said to his newest customer as he handed back her change. "Do come again."
As the woman left with her purchase, James smirked.
"You seem to have an affinity for this sort of thing. Perhaps you should consider being a merchant."
"Mm, while I'll admit there are some merits to this occupation, I would not wish to have this as a full time position," Tuddleston noted as he turned to his comrade. "Stick me behind a desk, going over figures or writing up drafts. A bottle of sweet aged sherry from the fields near Saggunto within easy reach. My pipe on hand when I want a taste of my favorite blend. A locked door to turn away unwanted intrusions when I so desire. Give me that, instead of days filled with this drudgery."
James cocked an eyebrow.
"You've only been at it for about three hours. It's basically the same thing at the shop on Bleetmore."
"And we have what? Perhaps one client a month? The rest of the time I spend reorganizing my records, catching up on my perusals of obscure Gristian laws and documents, or sorting through my library."
He leaned against the front of the shop.
"I've had eighteen people already checking the wares today. They touch and poke, disturbing the displays, then I have to reorganize them again. And three have tried to bargain with me for a lower price. Quite audacious I must say. The prices are set fair enough, I assure you. Even cheaper than the vendors nearby. I know because I checked."
James found it difficult to hold back a laugh. He was about to make a remark when Tuddleston straightened and muttered quickly under his breath.
The navy man turned and scanned the large market area. It took him only a moment to notice his target, flanked on either side by two others. The man was just under six feet tall, with his dark hair severely combed to the side. He had a white button down shirt of good weave, black breeches, and dark leather boots of superior quality. The burgundy jacket finished his ensemble and gave him a distinctive if somewhat garish appearance.
"Time for introductions then," James muttered to his companion, as the leader of the Merry Boyz made his way to the Withers' Grocery.
"Well, hello hello," came the greeting from the gangleader. "Seems we have a bit of a change in venue today." He tucked his thumbs into the top of his breeches as the two men behind him watched James and Albert carefully.
"Indeed," was the quick reply from the navy man.
"The Withers doin' well? Hired on some extra help since old man Withers got his arm all shucked and such?" Murlyn asked with a chuckle as he eyed the two unfamiliar men.
"Theodore Withers is no longer a concern," James replied smoothly. "He was needing to retire anyway."
"Oh?" the man in the burgundy jacket asked. "Is that so?"
"It is. I thought this area seemed like an ideal place to make my mark. And I have you to thank for that."
The criminal tilted his head, curiosity evident on his face.
"In what way?"
"By clearing the waters. Culling the sheep and letting them know how things are to be run." He nodded. "Most impressive."
Murlyn scoffed and looked about casually.
"I truly have no idea what you are talking-"
"Please," James held up his hand. "We're all in on the game. And I'm smart enough to know who runs it." He turned to Tuddleston. "The special produce, my friend."
The scribe nodded and handed him a cabbage that had been hidden away.
"A gift," the dark-haired man said as he offered the fresh vegetable to the gangleader.
The criminal took the proffered cabbage, noting an odd clinking noise that emanated from it. He carefully opened the outer leaves. Tucked within were ten golden coins worth ten each. A hundred Coin total.
His eyes widened, then he glanced up as James smiled.
"Three weeks 'rent' in advance. Plus a little extra to let you know I appreciate your efforts. I'm hoping to make good with the Merry Boyz, maybe even expand my own business here. Start some of my own operations. With your permission of course."
"Well now, this is a surprise," Murlyn admitted. "You seem to have potential."
At that moment, a young man of about twenty with slicked back dark hair made his way over to the criminal leader. The two flanking men let him pass unimpeded.
"Ah Bradley, my lad." Murlyn turned back to James. "Give me just a moment while I speak with my associate."
The navy man nodded as the youth whispered quickly to the burgundy-clothed man while using exaggerated gestures. Murlyn's eyes narrowed then they focused grimly on James as the youth finished.
"Why yes, yes. It is." Murlyn stepped closer. "What was your name again?"
"Well then, James, I have no doubt that you'll get everything you deserve if you keep on your current path. In fact I guarantee it."
"Good to hear," he said with another smile.
"I must be off then, and make plans to… accommodate you." The criminal gave a vicious grin. "Hope yours is a profitable day."
James nodded in reply, then watched as Mr. Murlyn and his three associates turned and slowly made their way out of sight. He waited a few minutes then turned to Tuddleston.
"Alright let's go."
The large man nodded once then set out a placard announcing the shop was temporarily closed. He quickly followed his companion inside the building, then locked the door behind them.
Within they found Erin sitting on the barrel again, her feet swinging back and forth as she munched on a pear.
"Told'im," the young girl mumbled through her food. "Just like ye said."
"And you think he believed you?"
The girl nodded her head and smiled.
"Sent a pretty lad, they did. All proper. Thought 'e'd get me ta spill clean." She snickered.
"Probably the boy named Bradley that showed up," he said to Tuddleston who nodded in agreement.
"Bradley it was," the Morlish girl admitted. "Nae as crisp a pickle as 'e thinks 'e is. Lad mighta been good fer a few snoggins. Maybe even a tuss twixt the sheets fer a day a'fore I'd chuck'im."
The large scribe seemed taken aback at the girl's blunt remark.
"Well, I say."
The girl laughed.
"Dinna get ye cheeks all rosy now, Mr. Fancy Tuddles. Ken 'andle a chuffer like'im meself, I ken."
"Tuddleston," he corrected her again.
"Yep. Wot I meant. Tuddleston."
"Regardless, the trap has been baited," their leader interjected. "I'm sure we'll be properly welcomed by Murlyn's men late tonight. Probably a party of seven or eight to make certain. I'll fetch the others just before dusk and have them lay in wait. You two need to check your arms; I want everything in preparation."
Tuddleston nodded solemnly and went behind the back counter where a large rifle case lay tucked away on the floor. He hoisted the black container onto the table, undid the latches and opened it. Within lay his blunderbuss.
A nearly antiquated weapon, the blunderbuss was a large-bored gun with an expanded muzzle to scatter shot at close range. It required neither great skill nor aim as its spread-shot ammunition could do wonders with clearing entire areas of enemy combatants. Like most weapons in use, the scribe's rifle had been modernized and its shells were miniaturized whale oil tanks capped with brass hulls containing the lead pellets.
After scrutinizing and polishing the unique rifle, Albert finally said, "I believe all is in readiness on our end. Regardless of their numbers this should give them pause in their pursuits."
Erin smirked grimly as the large man hefted the weapon with pride.
"Cor, be a sight nae ta miss fer sure."
Bradley had done well and Mr. Murlyn was pleased.
The leader of the Merry Boyz had kept an eye on the troublemakers known as the Withers. The gang just couldn't properly function with such folk causing a ruckus. Mr. Withers had to suffer to get the point across and removing his arm, though a bit extreme for Bradley's taste, seemed to do the trick. Just to be sure though, his boss, being the sharp businessman he was, had told Bradley to watch for any changes in the Withers' activities. When Bradley spotted the young girl, Erin, working outside the shed, he decided upon a quick plan to charm her into giving up any information she may have.
He smiled to himself.
The ploy worked well too. She'd given up the secret plans of her boss, a criminal himself who planned to unseat Mr. Murlyn. Now Bradley had been sent back well after dark and with seven of the Merry Boyz to boot. He'd even been given Jenko, one of the toughest of the gang, as back-up!
The plan was simple. With only the scribe and the girl to worry about, they were to ransack the place thoroughly, looting it and burning it to the ground. The scribe was to be questioned and then dealt with quickly, possibly killed. That was Jenko's department though. The girl was to be nabbed and taken back to the den. Since he was the one who gathered the information, Bradley would be allowed to keep her.
She seemed feisty enough, and he was certain she'd last a while. Even better, he could rent her out to the others if he needed extra coin. Perhaps even sell her if the sum offered was high enough.
"Here we are," Jenko growled, bringing Bradley back to the task at hand. "A couple of hours before midnight, and the place is already asleep."
The rough-looking man scratched the day-old stubble on his scarred chin as he eyed the establishment, before turning his gaze back to the younger man.
"Well now, lad, what's yer plan?" the man asked in his gravelly voice.
"You and those three can take the main building," he said, tilting his head toward the grocery. "Wilts and these other two are coming around the back with me to deal with the girl."
"Should we wait fer yer signal before goin' in?" the veteran thug asked, an eyebrow raised.
"Um, yes," the younger man agreed. "That sounds like a good idea. Proceed when I give you the signal."
Jenko rolled his eyes as Bradley led his group away.
"Glad I could help."
Bradley led his men through the back-alley, coming out near the grocer's shed.
"Be careful with her, now," he said pointedly. "She is not to be harmed."
"Wot if she puts up a fight?" Wilts asked through his broken teeth.
The young man took a deep breath. "Okay, she can be roughed up, to be made compliant I guess. But nothing permanent, is that clear?"
They were about to proceed when a stray noise from the other side of the alley caught their attention.
The young man blinked in surprise at the familiar voice. Erin stood wide-eyed at the four thugs just outside the shed; he'd assumed she would be inside and not skulking about the alleyway.
"W-whatcha doin' wit' these others?"
A smirk twisted the young man's face.
"Coming back as I said I would. The boys just wanted a gander at the pretty girl I talked about is all."
"Nae, ye lyin' ta me," she muttered as she backed up, away from the alley and toward the rows of empty stalls making up the majority of the marketplace.
"Well, maybe they wanted a taste, too," he said in a cruel tone.
The girl's eyes widened in fear then she turned and bolted into the depths of the abandoned stalls.
"Get her," Bradley commanded as loudly as he dared, not wanting to draw too much attention this late at night.
The four men charged forth just as the girl ducked into the shadows. They spread out, canvassing a larger area, but staying within sight of each other.
"Keep your eyes open, she's rather small. And remember, nothing permanent."
They searched the area quickly, checking under tables, moving chairs aside, and pushing past carts all to no avail. After a few moments, Wilts came back to him.
"She's gone. What'll we do now?"
"No, no, no!" Bradley said in frustration. "Search again. She has to be here. She has to."
-clump- -clump- -clump-
A dull sound echoed somewhere from the darkness. Wilts tapped Bradley on the shoulder, and the young man nodded indicating he heard it too.
"Probably the girl," the thug said to him, his broken teeth showing as he grinned.
The four criminals gathered close again as the sound grew louder and seemed to be slowly heading in their direction. In the dark, it was difficult to discern exactly what it was. Suddenly, a stern and slightly muffled male voice called out from the blackness.
"Then Barrowe turned to find the cruel lot of them creeping amongst the shadows waiting to waylay the innocent, and the future High Overseer curled his lip in disgust…"
"Wot's that?" Wilts asked as the sound intensified.
-clump- -clump- -clump-
Bradley squinted to make out any movement, any shape as the steady noise echoed about their surroundings.
-Clump- -Clump- -Clump-
"And Barrowe spoke, "My brothers, this unclean filth fears the light. Let Holger's justice be swift upon them…""
A figure slowly materialized from the gloom, and Bradley realized the sound was the figure's heavy boots upon the packed earth. As he got closer, details could be made out: a thick blue longcoat, gold trident-like symbols embroidered on the sleeves, a heavy war sabre grasped in his right hand as the left readied a pistol, and a glint of light reflected off of the golden mask he wore.
"W-wha... I-it's an Overseer!" Wilts exclaimed in shock.
The figure drew nearer. Undeterred. Unafraid. He pulled the pistol up and paused only long enough to take aim at the stunned ruffians.
""…and suffer none to live!""
The steel projectile slammed into Bradley's left shoulder knocking him off his feet. The young man fell hard onto his back as the echoes of melee combat and desperate cries exploded about him.
"Gah! Ged'im, ged'im!"
"He's too quick!"
"Look out for his- AIIIEEE!"
A small -plumph- echoed and then Wilts' severed head rolled into view as the sound of swordplay suddenly ceased. Bradley blinked in surprise then paled as a heavy boot stepped right in front of him.
"So, it takes four of you lowly rabble to pursue one young girl? Pathetic."
He looked up into the graven mask of his attacker.
"M-mercy? Please, let me live."
The grim figure sheathed his sabre then hoisted the young man to his feet.
"Oh I'll let you live, you have my word on that," the Overseer promised, as ice-blue eyes filled with malice regarded him from behind the mask. "But mercy seems to be in short supply this night."
A pistol-shot sounded off somewhere in the distance.
"Stupid lad," Jenko grumbled with a shake of his head. "Drawing too much attention."
He looked down at the thug before him and nodded.
"That was the signal, Billy. Do it."
The thug was kneeling in front of the door to the grocery. With a quick smile he slid out two long thin metal wires and began working at the lock. After a few moments, Jenko whispered again.
"C'mon, lad, c'mon."
"Gimme a second," came the reply. "I almost… ah, there!"
With a sharp click, the lock was opened.
"Excuse me!" came a cry from the behind them. "I've already paid my 'rent' to Mr. Murlyn. Is there a problem?"
The two rear most thugs spun on their heels as a dark-haired man, sword in hand, moved toward them. Just then, a small scattering of soot fell from the rooftop above them. One of the thugs glanced up only to see a short rat-faced man wearing odd goggles peering down over the edge of the roof. In his hand was a loaded pistol.
"Greetin's to ya."
The thugs slumped down dead as Billy called out.
"Jenko, it's a trap!" he pushed the door of the grocery open and started to rise when movement inside caught his attention.
"We're closed," a rotund red-headed man said as he leveled a huge blunderbuss at the intruders.
Billy's face was obliterated and he slammed backwards, dead before he hit the floor. Jenko was caught in the leg by some of the pellets and fell down painfully. He heard another cry of pain outside, then a blood-stained sword blade tapped on his shoulder. He glanced up to see the dark-haired man standing above him.
"Mr. Tuddleston, some light if you'd please."
"As you wish."
A whale oil lamp was quickly lit and Jenko realized he was surrounded and apparently the only member of his four man crew still alive.
"What'll we do with'im?" the rat-faced man asked as he clambered down from the rooftop.
"First we'll see how Ademar fared," the dark-haired leader replied.
As if on cue, a grim Overseer came into view dragging a wounded Bradley with him.
"The only survivor of his lot," the golden-masked individual informed them.
"Yeah, we got one of them, too," the short man said with a chuckle as he removed his goggles.
Jenko finally worked up the courage to speak.
"What's next? You have us. You won. Now what?"
The leader squatted down next to him, a cold smile upon his lips as he glanced between the two wounded criminals.
"Now? Now one of you gives up the location of his boss. I want information. Number of men, traps in place, any and everything of importance."
He leaned in close.
"And that smart man gets to live while Ademar and Rollo deal with the other."
He indicated both the Overseer and the rat-faced man behind him.
"Sounds like a fair and honest trade now, doesn't it?"