Hurrah for updates! The reason this one has taken so long (aside from laziness) is that I have been agonising over Pagan 'slang'. Hopefully I've managed to come up with dialogue that sounds pagany (unfortunately it's been so long since I played Thief that I can't accurately recall any Pagan speech from the game). So I hope I nailed it. I've omitted my usual "Garrett Intro" for this chapter because I feel it would just be repetition of his thoughts and feelings from past chapters. So let's just jump right on in!
Garrett turned his eyes from the spires of Highfort as he heard Benji enter the apartment. The boy inclined his head at Garrett when he noticed him by the window, but no other greeting passed between them. Garrett returned his attention to the vista of the City as Benji busied himself with clearing away the remains of Garrett's last meal, laying the table with fresh food.
"If there's nothing else…" Benji began abruptly, already making for the exit, knowing that Garrett never desired his presence.
"Actually Benji." The boy froze in his tracks. Garrett beckoned Benji over to the window and the slender pickpocket hesitantly approached. "I wanted to ask you some questions about our employer." Garrett indicated that Benji should take a seat and the boy obeyed, keeping a wary eye on Garrett.
"You know I don't have any answers for you." Benji replied. Garrett knew this was true to an extent, it was clear Charlotte was keeping information from the boy. But that led Garrett to conclude that Charlotte was also keeping things from him.
"I know you to be a liar, Benji." Garrett growled and Benji flinched, remembering that Garrett had a sharp dagger and was not afraid to use it. Benji's foot tapped anxiously and Garrett caught his eyes flicking back and forth from Garrett to the clock on the mantelpiece. "In a hurry to be somewhere?" Garrett accused and Benji shook his head, his innocent expression unconvincing. Garrett grabbed him roughly by the tunic. "Where are you meeting? Tell me what you are up to!"
"It's not what you think." Benji squealed desperately in the face of Garrett's fury. "I just wanted to meet my friends at the tavern, before the curfew started." Garrett released his grip and scrutinized Benji in silence.
'The shifty little rat is partially telling the truth.' Garrett concluded as Benji cowered in his seat. "Well if that's all it is," Garrett smirked, "you won't mind if I tag along." Garrett rose in one fluid movement and headed for the door as Benji tried to stammer out a protest.
"You don't need to do that, I'm just meeting my friends." He pleaded. "It's not really your kind of place Garrett."
"If it serves alcohol it will suit me fine." Garrett opened the door and indicated that Benji should lead the way. "After the week I've had, I could use a stiff drink." Benji bowed his head in resignation and led Garrett out onto the street. Dusk was settling over the City, the last rays of the sun setting buildings alight with flickering red and orange. Garrett could feel the warmth of that light permeating beneath the protection of his hood. He caught himself instinctively seeking shadow but realized that would only call attention to himself. With Benji at his side, people would be less likely to think he was up to no good. From the general direction they were heading Garrett assumed their destination was at the Docks.
Which meant it was likely to be very much his type of place, despite Benji's protests. Someplace dark and dirty, where people never looked up at each other and everyone minded their own business. The incident with the City Watch at the Trickster's Tavern would never have happened in the Docks District.
'Which further begs the question of why Benji and his friends would be there.' Garrett mused as they entered Wayside. If the little street gang thought they had had trouble with a spineless bully like Brock, they were headed for a whole new world of danger at the Docks.
Garrett was further surprised as they turned and headed away from the main entertainment nexus at the Docks. The further they went the more dilapidated the buildings became. Greenery sprouted from everywhere, pushing its way up through the cobblestones, strangling lamp posts and tearing away at roof tiles. It was clear that they were moving deeper into reclaimed Pagan territory. Isolated patches, like this one, had been springing up throughout the City of late as the Pagans fought to reclaim the land. This reclamation was made possible only because of the internal power struggle between the Hammers and Mechanists. Since Karras' death the remaining Mechanists had been aimless and disorganized. Many had returned to the Hammer fold, bolstering the faith that had once seemed on the brink of extinction. Garrett had no doubt that sooner or later there would be open warfare in the streets as the renewed might of the Hammers came crashing down on the wood folk.
The City Watch would stand by and let the slaughter go unchecked because ultimately they preferred the rigid doctrines of the Hammers to the chaotic unlawfulness of the Pagans. Garrett felt a twinge of guilt, knowing that he had contributed much to the growing desperation of the Pagan's who had lost first their deity, the Trickster and more recently their cold hearted, yet honorable leader, Viktoria. Most keenly he felt Viktoria's death. Though it was not something he often dwelt upon, he knew, deep down that it was his pride, his selfishness that had caused her death. That she, an entity he had once considered to be purely evil, had sacrificed herself to save the entire City, Pagan and common folk alike, shamed him deeply. As time passed, so did the shame and he learned to shift the blame to others. To Karras for being a lunatic and the Keeper's, for knowing what was coming and choosing to do nothing.
"We're here." Benji broke Garrett's reverie. Garrett looked upward to the sign hanging lopsided above the tavern door. In rough, uneven letters was scrawled a name, The Goodsie Wood and below it was etched the silhouette of a Sycamore. "What do I say… about you?" Benji queried before they entered.
"I'm a friend of your Uncle, a trader in precious metals." Not too far from the truth, thought Garrett. "You offered to show me around while I'm in the City." Garrett figured that would be enough to satisfy the curiosity of Benji's friends.
They entered the tavern and it was exactly as Garrett hoped. A gloomy pit filled with a bunch of seedy people who just wanted to mind their own business. The regular patrons were a very subdued lot, which made it a simple matter to track down Benji's friends, who were making a ruckus as usual. They welcomed Benji to the fold and the boy casually introduced Garrett.
"This is Gert, a friend of my uncle, in town on business. He's a pretty surly bloke so don't expect much conversation, he just wanted to come out for a drink." Lying to his friends, Benji seemed relaxed and completely in his element. Garrett felt vindicated in always suspecting the boy of dishonesty. His friends swallowed the lie and welcomed Garrett without scrutiny. As he sat down at the end of the table a cup of ale was thrust before him.
Garrett ignored the chatter that swamped him on all sides and lost himself in his drink. He kept a careful eye on Benji but the boy seemed to have forgotten his presence entirely. Garrett began to wonder whether Charlotte was going to make an appearance after all. Perhaps he had misjudged Benji's reaction; maybe the boy wasn't trying to conceal a meeting with Charlotte. Had he been nervous because he planned to shirk his duties and meet friends, instead of watching Garrett?
"How long have you been in the City?" Asked the gangly youth on Garrett's right. He was all legs and could have easily towered over Garrett when standing.
"Since morning." Garrett grunted concisely, trying to deflect any further conversation.
"Ahh, so you would have missed all the recent excitement." 'Legs' beamed with delight. "I don't know if Benji told you, but we used to frequent a place called the Trickster's."
"We don't like it there anymore. It's full of tourists." Moaned another boy, whose ears stuck out from his head like handles on a chamber pot. Legs nodded in agreement.
"All kinds of people want to have a drink in the place where Garrett got caught."
"You have heard of Garrett, right?" Interjected Pot.
"Yeah." Garrett replied wearily.
"The Sheriff should start a paid tour of Pavelock's cells. He'd make a mint from people also wantin' to see where he escaped from!" Pot, Legs and several others at the table laughed scornfully. Clearly they didn't think much of the Cities finest. At least there was one thing Garrett could agree with them on.
"This place is nice enough." Admitted Legs. "The locals leave us to ourselves." The relief on his face was evident; they'd had enough of being bullied by Brock and his crew.
"But we think Charlie is going native on us." Suggested Pot who pointed toward the bar. Charlie was at the other end, talking to a couple of very feral looking Pagans.
"Leave Charlie alone." Sylvie had been quietly listening to their conversation and now began to berate her friends. "You don't know what it's like for him, having to live here in the City. He feels trapped by all this stone and metal." She looked to Charlie, heartfelt concern written clearly on her young face.
"Aww, Sylvie is sweet on our wild Pagan boy." Legs gave Garrett a knowing wink and Sylvie blushed in response.
"Yeah, ever since he dealt with Brock, eh?" Someone from the other end of the table called out.
"Tha's right. So does he get a discount then?" Asked Pot suggestively and Sylvie's blush deepened; Garrett had never met such a bashful prostitute. He studied Charlie's back as he wondered how the Pagan boy had fallen in with Benji and his crowd. He didn't really seem to belong with this rabble. Benji's friends were second rate pick pockets and whores; Charlie on the other hand was dangerous. His friends didn't seem to realize it, likely they had never met a professional jackablade before. That is what came to mind when Garrett looked at Charlie. How could they honestly believe that a humble farm boy could have the reflexes and knife skills that Charlie had displayed.
'They seem a simple bunch.' Garrett mused.
"Rhodes!" Pot shouted and Charlie, along with the rest of the patrons in the tavern, turned to look at him. "Your round nature boy!"
Charlie gave him a small lop-sided smile and idly waved his hand in assent before turning back to the two woodsmen. Garrett felt a prickling sense of unease on the back of his neck. He couldn't quite put his finger on it but there was definitely something unusual about young Charlie. Or perhaps it was the way the other patrons continued to stare at Garrett and the young troupe with distrust and even open hostility. The scrutiny was more likely to be what had triggered his unrest. Garrett had the feeling their presence was tolerated purely because they were Charlie's friends. Pot stood up to help bring the next round of drinks to the table and Garrett seized the opportunity for a private conversation with Legs.
"How did you meet Charlie?" Garrett asked Legs quietly, so that the rest of the group would not hear. Fortunately Legs seemed equally as cautious to keep his voice lowered and not draw Benji's attention.
"It was Benji who brought him by one night, quite a while back now." Legs squinted as he tried to recall when. "Can't remember exactly, he just kinda blended in immediately. Hardly even notice he's around most of the time."
"You don't know how he met Benji, where he came from?" Garrett couldn't believe how oblivious these kids were.
"We all just assumed he was a refugee, you know, lot's of people coming in from the wilds with the war going on. As for him and Benji," Legs lowered his voice even further and leaned toward Garrett, "they're real tight. Something about how Charlie did something for Benji, something that meant a real lot. Don't know the specifics though, Benji doesn't talk about it. And Charlie," Legs shrugged, "he don't talk much at all."
"He talks enough to those two men." Garrett nodded at the Pagans who were still deep in conversation with Charlie. From this distance it was impossible to make out what was said and difficult to even gauge the expressions on their faces.
'Looks like a heated discussion.' Thought Garrett. 'But whatever they're talking about, they're deferring to Charlie's wishes.'
"Yeah, who knows." Said Legs, clearly losing interest in the conversation. "Probably just relatives or something." Pot returned with the new round, paid for by Charlie and Garrett accepted the proffered drink. Garrett had an itch in the back of his mind, some essence of understanding in his sub-conscious that was trying to break out. He began to wonder if Charlie was really what he seemed. Pagans lived in a world of illusion and trickery. Maybe he wasn't even a dangerous knifeman masquerading as a dirty, scruffy looking farm boy. Maybe he was actually some horrible, ancient Pagan spirit who had come to the City to help his brethren in the fight against the Hammers. The thought chilled Garrett to the core. Hammers and Pagans beating each other about was one thing, it almost seemed like the natural course. But when these deities and spirits became involved it took the fight to an all new level. Garrett had stood on the brink of apocalypse twice already; he didn't relish the idea of going through any of that again.
Once again Garrett found it strange that Benji was involved with someone like Charlie. Unassuming, ordinary Benji certainly collected some interesting acquaintances. Charlie finished his conversation with the two Pagans and they immediately left the tavern. Their faces were set with grim intent and Garrett wondered what they could be up to. Charlie moved toward Benji's group but swept past the table, rather than taking a seat. He brushed Benji's shoulder on the way and Benji rose immediately to follow after Charlie. Sylvie watched them jealously and Garrett wondered just how intimate the relationship between Charlie and Benji was. Charlie's sharp gaze fell upon Garrett as he went by, noticing the new addition for the first time. Beneath the mop of curly hair, Charlie's eyes twinkled mischievously. Benji followed him to a secluded corner and Garrett decided he would also excuse himself from the table.
Benji's friends didn't even notice Garrett leave, one moment he was there, the next he had disappeared. Legs scanned the tavern briefly then shrugged and turned his attention back to his friends.
Garrett hugged the wall, slowly inching his way toward the darkness that concealed Benji and Charlie. Though the tavern was more subdued than most, Garrett still had to strain to try and make out their whispered conversation as he drew nearer.
"…attack you regardless. It's too late to give them Garrett, that won't placate the Hammers." Garrett's ears perked up at the mention of his name. Charlotte had never mentioned that the pagan boy was also in her employ.
'Either it's one more thing she's keeping from me, or little Benji is planning to betray her.' Garret smirked, there had to be a way to turn this situation to his advantage.
"Never our intents to give up the thief, our own punishings in store for him." Charlie whispered as Garrett's eyes peered into the inky darkness. He could make out their silhouettes at this distance but not much else. "Warnings be given, trappers be laid. Hammers seeks blood, bloods they be finding. Their bloods, their bones hammered!"
"Finally." Benji seemed exasperated. "How long I have waited for this revenge. I want to be there. I want to see it." Garrett had never heard Benji speak so viciously.
"Not for eyes to see, Benji. Hates build on hates, tears you to pieces. No comfort be's revenge." Charlie's voice was filled with sorrow, as though he spoke from personal experience.
"They killed my father; I want to see them suffer. They will never endure the pain, the anguish that he did." Benji's voice began to rise in volume and Charlie hurriedly silenced him.
"Father not wanting this world for Benji. Benji lead goodsie life, not to be's suffering and destroy himself with angers." Charlie put an arm around Benji, trying to soothe the rage in the young man. "We avoids fighting, not want be's risking lives. Only if Hammer's be's venturing too far, we trapsie them." Charlie closed his fist emphatically but Benji shrugged free of the smaller boy.
"So you're not even going to fight them, you're going to hide. Like you always hide. That hasn't worked before, you know that. They will find your people and you know what will happen then!" Benji was once again becoming animated.
"Shhhh." Charlie placated him. "Worries not Benji, Hammer's not find craftsie people. Hammer's heads full of lead, mind's of stonesie." Charlie tapped at his skull and laughed softly. "To our friends, return now Benji. Be's mindful only of the sneaksie thief and leave dark imaginings to me." Charlie rubbed Benji's shoulder and the young thief nodded in assent.
"He keeps asking questions, I tell him I don't know anything, but I don't think he believes me. He…" Benji's voice quavered and the boy turned his face away from Charlie in shame.
"This task of 'portance be's, Benji does well. Soon be's endings." Charlie said ominously and Benji nodded. As soon as Benji started toward his friends Charlie slipped away into the shadows. Garrett was hot on his heels, not waiting to see how Benji would react when he realized he was gone.
'I think I need to have a chat with young Charlie.' Garrett leaned casually against the wall of the tavern, watching Charlie scurry down the uneven street. They were the only two in evidence and Garrett didn't want the boy to know he followed. When there was ample distance between them Garrett started after him, ready to dive into the shadows should the pagan turn suddenly.
Through the twisting streets Garrett patiently followed his quarry, trying to discern Charlie's ultimate destination. He had expected the boy to head deeper into Pagan territory but instead he led him toward South Quarter. Garrett scowled as he began to pass by all too familiar shop fronts. Twenty minutes of chasing after Charlie and he was beginning to retrace their steps. Garrett was sure that the boy had not looked back once, could not know that Garrett was hot on his heels. Yet he couldn't shake the feeling that he was being toyed with and led around in circles. Garrett began to close the distance between them; the time for subtlety was over.
Charlie still gave no indication that he knew Garrett was behind as the thief lengthened his strides, bearing down on the slight pagan. His boots clattered on the cobblestones in haste, the boy was only moments ahead. Charlie stepped sideways around the corner of a building and Garrett ran the last few feet. He rounded the corner and prepared to catch hold of the boy. His hands swiped at empty air and Garrett stared down the alley in disbelief. He scurried down the passage, his feet splattering through the refuse and garbage that covered the ground. Garrett squinted as he peered at the far end of the laneway; there was no way Charlie could have made it out so quickly.
'No-one can run that fast.' Garrett spun around, looking high and low for bolt holes or sewer entrances. His frustration mounted, Charlie seemed to have disappeared into thin air. If he had been out in the wilds he wouldn't have been so surprised. In their element even Pagan's surpassed him in terms of stealth, the land granting them cover and ancient illusory magic. In the confines of the City though he hadn't expected they could duplicate such feats.
'Only Keepers have such power here.' He started to back out of the alley, nagging doubt creeping into his bones. 'Fool Garrett, you're lucky this wasn't a trap.' He chided himself for running blindly after his foe.
"Seems losters your prey, Cyclops." Garrett spun around at Charlie's mocking words. The pagan boy was lounging on a stack of crates grinning at Garrett like a jackal. He approached him slowly; wary now of Charlie's disappearing act he tried to discern where the boy had been hiding so that he could cut off any further escape attempts. Charlie rose to his feet and jumped from the crates, nimbly landing in front of Garrett.
"You stole my coin purse!" Garrett accused as realization struck him. That night in the Trickster's Tavern, it was Charlie that had knocked over Garrett, who had ample opportunity to slip his hand inside Garrett's shirt and lift his bulging coin purse. 'That means that you are one of her creatures after all.' Garrett mused. Charlie snickered gleefully, as though privy to some personal joke that was beyond Garrett.
'You won't be laughing for long.' Garrett thought as he closed in on the boy who continued to show no fear. Rather than throttling the lad Garrett paused, studying him, trying to figure out what made him so confident. 'I know he hides a dagger somewhere.' Not that Garrett considered one of Charlotte's minions would try to harm him, but who was to say the pagan didn't have an agenda of his own. Charlie bore this scrutiny with good humor, his mouth turning up into a familiar, teasing smile as he waited expectantly.
"Ha... I see." Garrett finally got the joke. "What are you playing at?"
"I told you Garrett, misdirection and suggestion, this is what I do." Charlotte sounded well pleased with herself. "Making others believe what I want them to, it's a powerful tool. To be honest though, I'm surprised it took you so long to recognize me. I am a little disappointed." She teased archly.
"I can hardly see you at all under all that dirt." Garrett replied and Charlotte wiped at her face, suddenly embarrassed under his gaze. "Why this deception though?"
"You think I want Benji to know who I really am. Can you imagine how disastrous that could be?" She shook her head as though the answer ought to be obvious. "I prefer to conduct my less savory business under an alias."
"What business would that be? Figuring out how best to dispose of me?" He accused.
"Garrett…" She simpered. "I wouldn't betray you, why can't you believe that?" Garrett grunted skeptically and she frowned at the insult to her integrity. "Haven't I trusted you with my true identity? Surely that counts for something."
"Your identity?" He scoffed. "Which I discovered quite by accident. How different would things be had I not? Would you be lying to me as you lie to Benji?" Charlotte cast her head down though it seemed to Garrett she was less offended by his words and more upset that he'd seen past her deceitful airs. "For all I know, everything you tell me is a lie." He ground out through his teeth. Charlotte was caught off guard by his accusations and he could see her mind whirling as she sought to defend herself. He scowled as he waited for her to speak, he couldn't wait to see what feeble excuses she would try to throw at him. He had already decided that it didn't matter what she said to him anymore.
'It's all lies and manipulation. She doesn't care for anyone or anything except her own aims.' He thought back to her meeting with Atticus and his heart grew even colder. Charlotte half turned away from him, unable to bear his scrutiny any longer.
"I know you hate me Garrett…" Her voice faltered as she tried to speak. "You have every right to. I've been such a foolish…" Charlotte's body was wracked by a great sob and she covered her face with her hands. "Such a stupid girl!" Garrett was taken aback by her muffled confession; he hadn't expected her to become so emotional. This wasn't like her at all and he began to feel uncomfortable as he watched her shaking and whimpering into her palms.
"Uhh…" He tried to speak but words eluded him. Charlotte, who seemed always in control, always plotting, was suddenly nothing but a vulnerable young woman. He didn't really know how to react to this different side of her. Suddenly she threw herself at him, her delicate hands clutching at his tunic. She was like a trembling bird and he didn't know what else to do but wrap his arms around her, awkwardly stroking her back.
"I jumped in over my head Garrett, I thought I had everything planned, that everyone would act according to my wishes." She shook her head, silently berating herself. "I made a deal with the devil; I let my quest for truth… no! My quest for vengeance, blind my judgment. Before I knew it, things were spiraling out of control. I have unwittingly unleashed the Hammers. What else could I do but warn the Pagan's about Atticus' plans? They need to be prepared."
"To fight? You're initiating a war and all for James. Is it really worth it?" Despite her confessions of stupidity Garrett still couldn't let her off so easily. She looked up at him, her eyes burning indignantly.
"They've been killing each other for centuries; they hardly need my help to do it." Charlotte raged in defense of her actions but Garrett scoffed at her feeble justification. The fury drained from Charlotte's eyes as quickly as it had appeared. What replaced it was unending sadness and guilt. "It may not have been my intention to shed blood, but there will be blood on my hands nonetheless." She closed her eyes, her expression pained as she whispered. "No-one is to blame but me." She collapsed against his shoulder.
"I thought I was being so clever, I had worked so hard to ingratiate myself to both the Hammers and the Pagans. Knowing where they're strengths lay, I would use the Hammers as my eyes and ears in the City, and the Pagan's for the untamed wilds beyond our borders. I didn't know this would happen; I didn't realize how deeply this hatred ran in the hearts of these people. I wanted to help them break free from the secret rule of the Keeper's, but I realize now there are some truth's that they don't want to see." She looked up at Garrett and he felt that she wanted to be assured that everything would be alright. "All I can think about is the innocent people who always get caught in the middle."
Garrett felt warmth spreading throughout his body. He realized it was more relief than desire. He was happy to know she did care about others. That she felt remorse for the deaths she would cause. She looked so vulnerable, tears gathering in her eyes, threatening to spill down her face. He didn't know what he would do if she actually cried, he couldn't bear the thought of it.
And though his insides twisted to see her in such anguish his spirits also soared because she was opening up to him in this way. It was clear she needed protection and guidance and he so desperately wanted to give her both. More than anything he wanted Charlotte to need him, to depend upon him. In the end all he could do was capture her mouth with his own for one sweet, fleeting kiss. For a moment it seemed she savored it as much as he, but then he felt her body tense and she struggled out of his grasp. The half-hearted slap she planted on his cheek came as no surprise but she looked away from him, her cheeks burning red.
"I'm sorry." She muttered; her brows drawing together as she struggled to regain her composure.
"Just what I needed to clear my head, Milady." He drawled.
"Garret please," She pleaded, "I don't need another… complication." She sighed and Garrett's eyes narrowed as he came to his senses.
'Another complication? So I'm just like Dorleac and Atticus.' He mentally kicked himself, how easily he had fallen under her spell. A few tears and sweet words and he was just another one of her puppets. He increased the distance between them and caught the surreptitious glance that Charlotte cast toward him. That one small look told him all he needed to know.
"Goodnight Charlotte." He growled, turning on his heel and striding away, leaving her wordlessly gaping behind him.