《The Butcher of Gadobhra》Chapter 11: Whiskey Run


Despite having the Courier Class, Ben had yet to deliver a message or been used for that job at all. After two days of digging ditches he'd badgered Billy a bit about what a courier actually did. It turns out that couriers mostly dug ditches. No official messages to run meant he was going to be on the end of a shovel for quite some time.

Ben didn't object to the work, only the surroundings. He'd happily dug ditches and lined them with stakes during the 'Seige of Orleans.' And the time he had spent tunneling into the Scarlet Bastille to rescure Cardinal D'arctangeant was a fond memory. But digging irrigation ditches to carry water to fields was a bit on the boring side. He spent a lot of those two days thinking up ways to get out of it. Sedgebeast hides turned out to be the solution.

A side effect of killing hundreds of sedgebeasts for meat was a growing pile of hides. The army would buy them, but only after they were tanned. This project had been going slowly. It needed more than just assigning two people the tanner skill. Despite having the specialty that allowed them to tan hides and do light leatherworking, neither person had much of a clue as to how to go about it beyond the basic recipes.

Benedict had suggested to Billy that he could help out Althea and Clyde, the two tanners. Ben knew the setup for bark tanning and had done extensive leatherworking in EQO3. That knowledge plus showing Billy that he also had some specialty leather working skills from the courier class eventually got him assigned to tanning and off of shovel duty.

It took some coordination to get things going. Althea and Clyde had recipes and directions from the game, but weren't sure how to set things up to start with. They knew they need a pit with ground limestone and water to dump the hides in to loosen the hair. Once they told Ben the recipes he knew how to proceed. Step 1: "HEY BILLY, I need to borrow two lumberjacks."

With five people, the work went quickly. Five pits got dug. They were ten feet square and about four feet deep. The lumberjacks felled some of the larger trees with thick bark. Wood was cut and the pits were lined with split logs, bark facing out. More bark was stripped from trees. They took the bark to the grist mill where it was ground down into smaller pieces and bark dust. This was dumped into three of the pits. The final pit was left empty for now. It would be filled with water later to store finished hides waiting to be pressed and dried.

Benedict borrowed Ozzy and his hammer for an hour to beat up chunks of limestone. He quickly pulverized it to dust before going back to pulverizing sedgebeasts. The limestone dust went into the first pool. The majority of the hides were then dumped into the limewater. A day soaking in the limewater was good enough to loosen the fur and it could be scraped off.

The large pile of hair was saved. It could be used to make traditional daubing for houses. Ben was NOT going to get involved with that. That recipe also called for goat shit and clay, and the mess of stuff was thrown or smeared onto the lattice framework. Ben had done it once to build a replica of Shakespears first stage. That was enough goat dung for a lifetime.

The cleaned hides got dumped into one of the three pits with bark tannin. They'd varied the mixture a bit. The first used oak bark, the second Hollywood bark and the third a mixture of everything available. The recipe in the game just said 'bark dust'. But for smoking the sedgebeast meat it very specifically needed hollywood. They might as well see if there was a difference.


The next week the hides would become leather from the effect of the tannins in the bark. They'd be cleaned and scraped again and then put into the water pit. It was important the leather stay wet until pressed. One by one the hides would be taken out and put on a flat table. A heavy wooden roller made from a huge tree would be moved back and forth to even out the leather and remove much of the water. Then a light coating of oil was applied and the hides went to hang in the smokehouse to dry. After that the Legions got the leather and ACME got some gold coins.

Billy was happy when the tanning operation was up and running. Both smoked meat and now leather was accumulating, and as soon as the Legion took it's first loads, his operation would have a positive revenue stream. That was good enough news that he finished his weekly report early Saturday morning. Now to send it down the road.

"Ben, good job getting the tannery set up. I'm sure that you know what the reward is for a job well done." Ben knew exactly what his reward was. "Let me guess - another job." Billy just smiled and nodded while handing Ben a satchel of letters and pointed him over to the Courier's Office.

The Courier's office sat next to the livery stable. One dusty window adjacent to a wooden door gave a poor view of the room. Ben opened the door and wandered in looking around. He'd tried the door before and peered in the window, wondering what it might have to do with his class specialty, but no one had ever seemed to be inside. The small room had a desk with minimal paperwork on it. Several maps were nailed to the walls; they were done on buckskin with a hot needle - a technique that took some time but made for a durable map. They showed a good level of detail; far better than the maps that were shown online. A leather drape over a door leading to another room was moved aside and an older man thumped into the room. 'Thumped' because his left leg was missing from the knee down, replaced with a wooden peg.

"Another new one. I figured they'd quit sending me people to train when no one showed up for a couple of years. Come on in and we'll go over the basics. Just grab a seat by the stove while I get my spectacles. Name's Mattias by the way."

"I go by Benedict, Ben for short. Thank you for having me in. I have a lot of questions about what I'm doing."

This room was considerably nicer. The wooden paneling on the walls was old and dark. Three heavy leather-covered chairs were arranged in front of a small fireplace, with an iron stove sharing the same chimney. One wall had several shelves full of books. A sword, bow, and heavy jacket hung from pegs by the door. More maps were on the walls. A small kitchen at the far end of the room was below a loft area reached by a slanted ladder. Ben assumed sleeping quarters would be up there. A wooden door was on one wall, and Ben suspected by it's placement that it might lead into the livery stables.

Mattias grabbed two mugs from the kitchen, put a spoonful of honey in each and a measure of tea, the smell already making its way over to Ben. How had he been able to operate these last mornings without tea? This man was a little point of civilization among the barbarians it seemed. After pouring hot water from the kettle and handing over one mug, he had a seat and looked Ben over.


He saw an athletic man in his late 20's. A handsome face with bright brown eyes, curly brown hair, mustache and goatee. He was of average height and lean for his frame. His words and carriage seemed to indicate he hadn't always been a common worker.

Ben looked Mattias over at the same time. The man was in his 70's with greying hair and trimmed beard, but his blue eyes seemed alert and his movements had no hint of awkwardness, even with the missing foot.

"Yep, the new ones always have a lot of questions. Mr. Billy told me he was paying your wages so his outfit would have access to a courier. A bit odd, but these are odd times what with all the new folk arriving. Did they give you any training?"

"No sir. None. But I have some knowledge of horses and riding and am used to fending for myself."

Mattias nodded at the answer. "But did they let you keep that knowledge? The powers that be seem a bit fickle about what a new comer can do, and I haven't been impressed by what I've seen so far of you 'Contract Workers.' Seem to be good at just a few things and like babes in the woods on everything else.

Ben ran a hand through his hair and exhaled. "That's, well, - that is probably a very true statement sir. I believe I have some skills that apply to being a courier, but I'm a bit confused by them. There is mention of manuals?"

Mattias retrieved a leather bound volume off the book shelf and handed it to Ben. "You can read? Good, good. Why don't you start working your way through that first volume. There are others, but you won't be able to read them until later. Just part of the rules that we are bound by. Later you can help me with the animals and I'll introduce you to Beatrice, a fine animal you'll be spending some time with."

Ben relaxed with his book and tea. Courier was already paying off with some nice benefits. Nothing like digging ditches, sleeping on the ground, and eating groat muffins to make you appreciated a nice chair and a cup of tea.

The book gave an overview of the history of the couriers. They were similar to the old Pony Express from the American Wild West era. All the various Courier posts were sponsored by the local rulers, but Couriers were free to move about the provinces and kingdoms while on official business. They took mail and messages all over the kingdoms, often running into trouble, and then mostly running from it. He'd come back to the history later, for now he really needed to know about these abilities he had on his character sheet. The short descriptions were confusing.

Courier Manuals: These magical books are used to train new couriers in their special skills, or to upgrade them when they achieve a higher tier. There exist manuals corresponding to the normal skill tiers: Apprentice, Journeyman, Veteran, Master, Celebrated, and Legendary. A courier only has access to the manuals for his tier and lower. Ben would be restricted to this first manual until he somehow advanced to level 5 courier and then was judged competent to move past apprentice and into journeyman at level 6.

The Courier Rings: Each Courier is given a special ring crafted by high mages at the main guild hall. These unique rings bond to each Courier and cannot be removed. They are a badge of office, a pass to enter other kingdoms, and a sigil used to identify each individual Courier. They could not be removed without taking off the finger they were attatched to, and even then disappeared immediately, alerting the Couriers Guild that a member was in trouble.

At each stop the ring would be used to put the Couriers mark in the log book to track his movements. And if asked to witness the signing of a document, it was the sigil they used to sign with.

The rings also had a magical function: the storage of important documents. If a physical object conveyed information, it could be stored: books, papers, strips of leather with coded numbers, clay tablets with talley marks, loveletters made of flower petals. The weight did matter though. As a level 0 Courier, Ben's ring would have one inventory slot that held up to 1 lb of written material. The book was very specific about not attempting to place a larger object inside. This overstrained the magic and the difference came out of the courier himself. Carrying a few extra pounds would kill even a veteran courier in a few hours. A large coffee table book would kill Ben in just minutes. But while in the ring, messages were secure. The Courier could willingly remove the objects, but it couldn't be forced.

Travel: Couriers were known to be excellent horsemen, and many could sail boats, drive carriages, and navigate tunnels with trained moles. The Travel skill enhanced these abilities, making them quicker and enhancing whatever type of movement they were using.

Ben was put off that his only choice at this point was 'Drive Cart'. More ACME bullshit?

Carry Tidings: Often the Courier was witness to current events, huge battles, monster incursions or turnip festivals. Whether martial or mundane, they carried the news to the next town. They could recall huge amounts of information, eventually having what amounted to a photographic memory. They could scan papers quickly and then write them out exactly for someone else.

Maintain Conveyance: This is a Jack-of-all-trades crafting skill. A courier could make and maintain his tack and saddles, fix wagon wheels, stitch sailcloth, and polish scales on a dragon. Whatever form of travel they were skilled in, they were also given the crafting skills to maintain that form of travel.

The last skill was odd...

Quest Mob: Couriers play a part in many stories. From the brave messenger taking battle plans to a general, to the errand boy taking secret love letters across town. Because of this, it was not uncommon for them to be the objects of quests. An enemy spy might need to switch the battle plans, an assassin could be tasked with making sure a plea for help never arrived, and bandits might want to aquire the leather bag full of taxes being sent to a counting house. Because of the danger and complexity this added to a Courier's job they gained two benefits: increased Experience, and decreased penalties for death.

Benedict set the book down and tried to figure out if this was an awesome job full of adventure, adversaries, secret missions, and daring escapes - or total bullshit. It felt like at higher levels there were elements of Spy, Bard, and Secret Agent. Of course, he was pretty sure he was going to get ganked half a dozen times a month by bandits and assassins. Then he remembered who he was carrying messages for primarily. Crap. Make that a dozen times a month. Some of the other corporations had assassins as department heads. Hell, some of them were all assassins. You didn't really have to ask what Murder Inc. had for a main product.

But the clothes! The back of the book had diagrams and recipes for donkey harnesses and wooden wheels - and everything else he might need to make for his first few levels. Including some stylish full length leather riding jackets, tri-corn hats, and knee-high riding boots. It would be so good to ditch this embarrassing sack-cloth outfit and get something stylish. Eventually - he needed some money and time. Certainly not happening today.

Matthias set a plate in front of him with a ham sandwich on it. "Eat, then I introduce you to Beatrice and we get you on your way. It's a quick run, just up to Rowan Keep and back. Something simple for your first time out. Let you and your mighty steed get aquainted."

Entering through the livery, Ben was stunned by the sight of a beautiful roan gelding contentedly munching hay. He'd been groomed until his coat shined. Those long legs were made for speed and he....he...."Why did you name a gelding Beatrice?"

"Didn't. The roan is named Mudhead. Has a tendency to like to go swimming or roll in muddy parts of the pasture. A pain to keep clean. Not like Beatrice, now she's a lady and a pleasure to work with." So saying he opened the second stall and an aging grey donkey walked out and looked Ben over, sniffing him once. She rolled her eyes and looked sideways at Matthias.

"I know girl, he ain't much now, but give him a chance. You get him trained up and I'm sure he'll work out."

Not knowing how to reply to this turn of events, Ben mostly stayed silent and listened as Matthias hitched Beatrice to a small wooden cart and showed him how to hook up the harness.

"Like I said, a milk run. Here's the ACME package, toss that in your ring. This pouch has a bit of correspondance and orders from the townsfolk. Granya needs some things from the merchants at the Keep, make sure to fill her order. Try not to stop. But if you have to, like someone in your way, don't start a fight. Most of the time you can talk your way past by showing your ring. In an emergency, just let Beatrice handle things."

And with that Ben climbed on the small seat of the cart, flicked the reigns and he and Beatrice started down the road at a fast walk.

It was about 10 miles to Rowan keep along the winding dirt road. Donkeys moved about as fast as a human when walking and Ben was expecting about a 3 hour trip, but as soon as they cleared the town, Beatrice neighed once and then picked up the pace quite a bit and moved into a gaited walk that was closer to a trot in speed. That would cut the trip down to about two hours if she could keep it up. Ben wondered if Beatrice had some Courier level herself and the Travel skill was responsible.

After traveling about six miles, they came around a corner to the sight of several small green humanoids blocking their way. They were armed with shields and spears, but didn't seem very hostile at first. They quickly surrounded the cart, but since Beatrice didn't seem too worried, Ben didn't try anything. The goblins jabbered and pointed to the right and Ben saw a wide path between the trees. Steering the cart that way while surrounded by a lot of spears should have been frightening, but he got the distinct feeling that the donkey knew the path. They climbed around a hill and after a half-mile came into a camp of goblins. Several teepees surrounded a large fire.

A huge goblin nearly six-foot tall stood by the fire. Beatrice stopped and a goblin child ran forward and gave her an apple. The chief scratched her between the ears. "You return, Greydeathfourhoof, it is good. I have need of your services. He handed Ben a small pouch of copper. "Bring 12 bottles of Red Fire. Oh, and take back these empties". A sack of empty bottles labled 'Red Wizard Whiskey' was placed in the cart. The lable showed a long bearded wizard tossing a fireball.

Beatrice started to turn around and the goblins escorted them back to the road, waving to them as they left. Ben was glad for the instructions to "don't start a fight." That encounter could have gone badly. They made it to the Keep without further problems. A sergeant at the gate showed him where to put outgoing correspondance and pick up things going back to Sedgewick. He was handed a sealed packet bearing the Acme logo. Ben brought the ACME documents out of his ring and replaced them with the new package. There was only one other thing going to Sedgewick, and that was a pamphlet, 'The Perils of Pauline chapter 173.' There was a tag on it listing Granya as the recipient. Ben put it in his pouch and went looking for a whiskey merchant.

The merchants were by the back gate. Ben found the one selling alcohol, and in an easy transaction, secured a case of the red colored whiskey and returned the empties. The merchant was a large bearded man named Oakly. "Ok, lets see if the Chief counted right this time. Good customer, but goblins don't have much sense of coinage." Indeed, it turned out the Chief had overpaid a bit, sending along an odd assortment of coins. "Ok, I think this comes to about 143 copper. His whiskey is a silver a bottle, and that leaves 23 left over. We'll split what's left three ways. Seven for me, seven to you Mr. Ben, seven for Miss Beatrice, and I'll toss the odd two to Sergeant Givers. Good for all of us to keep him happy. That all work for you? Beatrice and Ben both nodded. Oakly passed Ben his copper and placed Beatrices in a small pouch that was tied to her harness. With nothing left to accomplish they turned to head for home.

Keeping an eye out for the turn off to the goblin camp, they came up behind a group for four players walking along. Only players would be wearing such a mis-mash of different armor types and be over-burdened with weapons. The players noticed him, but didn't move to get out of his way. In fact, they stopped walking and half surrounded the cart. Ben held up his ring.

"Hi fellows. Official Courier, mind moving out of the way? Thanks." No one moved.

"Well, not sure what a Curry-ar is, but I don't like anything official. What about you boys?"

"Nope, I'm with you Blacky, 'Official' just sounds like rules to me, and I hate rules. Thank god this game has classes like Bandit. Makes it all so much easier."

The one called Blacky took a look at the cart's cargo. "So, here's what I think happens. Mr. Official Currycomb here is going to give us his whiskey, his pouch, and his old donkey, and then he can strip naked and run for the fort back there. Then if you..."

That was enough for Ben, he flipped the reigns, yelled as loud as he could, and hoped Beatrice could follow his lead. She did, and more than followed. One bandit in front got a hoof to his shin, which dropped him bellowing. Blacky lost a chunk out of his arm from her teeth. She surged forward in a fast gallop that had Ben holding on tightly lest he be knocked off. The cart went bouncing down the road with the Player/Bandits running behind in their heavy armor and swearing at him.

It wasn't far to the turn-off and Beatrice had a head of steam up. Ben had lost his fight to hold on and fell back into the cart. Beatrice didn't need him on the reigns. She took the turn and started up the hill to the camp, slowing as she hit the grade. Ben went out the back and helped push the cart into the camp. Yelling loudly as they entered he pointed back down the road. "Whiskey thieves trying to steal from the Chief!!"

This had an immediate effect on the camp as the goblins went from laughing at their entrance to furiously grabbing weapons. When the four players came running into the camp, it was to find two dozen armed goblins and a very upset goblin Chief. "No mercy for whiskey thieves!!"

The fight was brutal, but the goblins had the numbers, and the Chief was a monster that plowed into them at a charge, knocking them off their feet. A few goblins were injured, but the humans were quickly killed. Within a minute they were replaced by four headstones, leaving a chainmail shirt, a shortsword, and a pouch on the ground.

It took Ben until almost nightfall to get back. The Chief had insisted on him sharing in the first couple rounds of drinks. The Chief tossed Ben the pouch and had the armor and sword put in the cart, along with a bag of apples for Beatrice. The goblins looked forward to more loot when the headstones decayed in a day. They already had scouts laying ambushes in case the Players came back for their gear. Clapping Ben on the back he escorted him down to the road himself. "Smart move. Saved my whiskey and brought us some pre-drinking fun. You come back anytime. Bring more 'friends' if you can." Ben could hear the Chief laughing as he went back up the hill.

After stabling and feeding Beatrice he rubbed her down and fed her a couple of apples. "Thanks girl, learned a lot today."

Congratulations on your first successful Courier run. You accomplished the following:

-Delivered official correspondence to Rowan Keep and Back.

-You completed the side mission "Whiskey Delivery".

-You earned bonus EP for causing the death of four whiskey thieves. +100 EP in Courier.

-You may allocate EP to your subskills.

-You have increased your overall Courier skill to Level 1.

Treasure this experience. They won't all be this easy.

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