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Chapter 4 - The City


With the ancient staff in your left hand, and The Mapmakers map in your right, you have walked and walked for days on end. But at last, you can see this part of your journey soon coming to an end. Just a short distance down the road you finally spot the massive walls with its high towers. And in the middle of it all, the castle stands tall, adorned by banners and flags in the royal colours. Without a change of pace in your steps, you walk through the tall gates into what you hope to be one of the final stops on your journey - The City

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You look around you amazement as you walk through the main street of The City. Buildings in all forms, colors and shapes tower up all around you. It’s early morning when you come in, but the city has already woken up - that’s for sure. Noise from stables, markets, craftsmen and salesmen arise all around you, but despite the lively nature of the streets you walk along, you still do not feel at ease. Something feels… off.

Glancing down at the note the mapmaker gave you, you try your best to locate yourself. The only thing you have got as a guide is the scribble of the blacksmiths symbol - an anvil and a hammer. You try to get people's attention and show them the note, but it seems like everyone is in a hurry - barely giving a second thought towards the lost stranger beside them.

An hour has now gone by, and you almost feel like giving up. Noone - NOONE in this city has the heart to help you. You sit down on one of the benches that are placed along the main street, feeling sorry about your situation you sit there hunched down with your hands in your pockets. You start fidgeting with the notes, folding them inside your pocket. It takes a few seconds for you to realize, but suddenly you feel something odd. Didn’t you only have one note before? You pull the second note up, and see a message written on it:

“Hello my new friend! Here’s the directions to the blacksmith. Best of luck on your journey! - The Mapmaker”

He must’ve slipped it in there when you departed from his house! You instantly jump up from the bench and start following the notes directions - out on the main street again, walking towards the castle. A short bit up the road you see the general store, where you turn right. Now on a small and dark alley, you follow your new path until you reach the third turn. You round the corner, and there, you see the sign from the note!

 

The Forge!

 
 
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You slowly walk towards the small building, looking up at the huge chimney blowing thick black smoke up towards the cloudy sky. As you approach, you can hear the continuous metallic sound of the blacksmith's hammer hitting the anvil - you feel relieved, at least you know that he’s in there!

You walk through the opening into the forge, into the ash filled room, lit entirely by the furnace standing in one of the corners. Chains are hanging down from the ceiling, and there seems to be tools and supplies on every single empty space in the entire forge. By the anvil in front of the furnace, in the middle of it all, you see a robed figure. He must’ve heard you approaching, as he stops his work, and turns around.

 

And now, finally. There he is, standing right in front of you.

 

The Blacksmith!

 
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“Welcome”

That is all he says. You both stand confused for a few seconds, silently looking at each other.

He clears his throat, and hesitantly starts talking again, in a deep monotone voice.

“I am - just like you, it seems - not a huge talker. I’ve heard from far away about you and what you are here to do, so no explanation needed. So I say, let's get to work.”

He slowly approaches you, and hands you a small leather pouch. With a lower voice than last time, starts talking again.

“First of, I am here to give you the keys to the cellars. That is where you will get into the castle. Down there you will encounter some… let me just say failed experiments. You will see yourself, but I highly doubt you could take them down in combat.

He stares at you with a serious face, and you can feel sweat starting to drip down your face. Partly from the challenge that is in front of you - partly because the blacksmith seems to have zero problem with the fact that you are both standing just a few steps from a fully lit furnace.

This leaves us at a choice - If I start now, your armor can be done tomorrow at this exact time. You however will need to decide how you want it:
Either I can make you a light stealth robe, which will make it easier to get past both experiments and guards unnoticed. Or, I can make you a metal armor if brute force sounds more like your approach. You decide, but hurry up - I am urgent to start my work as soon as possible!

 

You need to make a choice, which type of armor do you want to be made?

68% Chose Stealth Robes

 

With hundreds of thoughts going through your head, you waited with your answer for what felt like an hour - which in reality was just a few seconds. But the blacksmith, on the other hand, didn’t hesitate even for a second.

“Come on, lets go! We need wool thread, mithril chains and grey dragon hide, and I know just where to get it.”

He storms out the door before he even finishes his sentence, and you follow him in a hurry to keep up. Your mission to infiltrate the castle has just begun…

 

•••

 

Finally, it is complete.

 

Apart from the few hours spent sleeping, you have been constantly moving around for the whole day and night - but now, your hard work has finally paid off.

In front of you hangs a grey robe, which at first glance might not look any special at all. And that, according to the blacksmith, is the whole point. Using materials gathered from what must be the shadiest businesses and alleys in the whole city, your stealth is now complete. Lightly grasping the cloak with your hand, you have never felt something so light, yet sturdy.

 
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“Come on, put in on”

You turn around to look at the blacksmith with a surprised expression. You had almost forgot that this masterpiece that is hanging in front of you, was indeed, made just for you!

You slowly turn back to the cloak, and pull it down from its hanger. Putting in one arm at a time, careful not to leave any traces of use, you put the cloak on. And then and there, you feel… nothing! Really, really nothing. You have to check twice to make sure that you are in fact not standing completely in the nude.

And it is then that you notice the next attribute of the cloak. It is not only that you barely feel the cloak on your body - looking down at your legs, they almost seem to blend into the ground under you.

“A work of art indeed”

The blacksmith stands a few steps away, slowly examining the cloak.

“Now, we just wait for the night, and then it is your turn to do the work”

Feeling just a tiny bit hurt from the fact that the blacksmith hinted at your enormous amount of help not counting as any work, you hang back the robe, and start planning your next move. It’s soon time to strike.

 

Letting a few hours go by is not a hard task in the city, and before you know it, the sun has started to set. Before it gets too dark, you and the blacksmith sneak out the main gates with the cloak hidden in the blacksmith’s satchel. He leads you around the city walls, until you encounter a small hut on the side of the wall, leading down to a huge metal door, fully covered with cobweb. You keep some distance to it and he leads you away, behind a hill where you’re out of sight from the city towers

“Here, our stories part ways again. I need to get back until the gates close, but I truly wish you all the luck in the world. Here, you’ll need this to get past the guard towers unseen”

He hands you the cloak, and you put it on, handing him your old cape.

“I promise you will get it back after you’ve completed your mission. And I think you’re looking pretty content in your new rags”

He gives out a deep chuckle, and gives you a last stirn pat, before starting to make his way towards the city gates again.

 

It is now starting to get real dark, and as soon as you see the stars starting to emerge high up in the sky, you slowly walk towards the hut, careful to keep yourself as low to the ground as possible.

 
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As soon as you have stepped down the few first few steps into the hut, you give out a sigh of relief - you’re now completely hidden from the guards above. Now focusing on the door in front of you, you pull away all the cobwebs and debris covering the entrance to the cellars, and then put your huge brass key into the lock. You turn it around, and the door slowly opens with a creek.

As you enter, you quickly close the door behind you. In front of you is a narrow corridor, fully illuminated in a yellow sheen. You look around with a baffled look on your face - the only light in here should be the moonlight shining through the small barred window openings that are placed along the walls facing the outside of the castle. Taking your look away from the room, and towards yourself, you see that the light is in fact coming from your staff! You recalled before that you thought to have seen it give out a light shine at one instance, but you just brushed the thought off. It must sense that you have come closer to your goal!

Looking down at the mapmakers map, you see the whole cellar cystem in front of you, and you can clearly see your goal - the throneroom. You start walking inwards, and not before long, your met with the first trace of these experiments that the blacksmith was talking about. Looking down at the damp rocky ground of the cellar, you see footprints in all sizes and shapes. You start to follow these steps throught passages, corridors and stairways, almost forgetting to aim for what you really came here for.

You walk and walk and walk, and after what feels like a whole night, you emerge into a huge room, filled with passages coming from every direction. Your eyes scan around the room, and widen as you’re met with a horrible sight!

 
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In front of you, the whole room is covered with what looks to be undead creatures, standing upright and completely still. Humans, orks, golems - even ents and dragons - creatures that have not been seen for centuries! A thousand thoughts goes through your brain - who put them all here, who turned them into this repulsive state of living, and why are they all here?

They must have not heard or seen you, but looking closer at them from afar, you can see them breathing, yet still standing completely still with their eyes closed. The staff is now shining so bright that you almost have to look away in order to not get blinded - you must be very close to reaching the corrupted king!

Looking down at your map again, you realize - you are right now straight under the throne room. In the middle of the room, slightly to the right above a huge black golem, is a hatch which you assume would lead you right to the king. You stand completely still, and look around the room for different options to reach your goal of reaching the hatch - it’s so close, yet so far away.

 

You need to make a choice - what do you do to reach the hatch?

72% Chose to climb the sleeping golem

 

You silently walk towards the golem, careful not to disturb any of the other sleeping creatures around you. You walk around the rocky giant, closely studying it, looking for where to safely place your feet.

Where did this thought come from, you ask yourself.

Is this really a good idea?

 
 
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Without much thinking, you start your ascent up the golem, and quickly reach the top where the hatch is. You reach out your hand to open it up and… it’s locked! Still balancing on top of the golems shoulder, you take out your brass key and put it in the keyhole of the hatch. With a click, you hear the ancient locking mechanism turn around.

Second time's the charm you think as you reach out to pull the handle again, and… still nothing! You can feel it moving, but it must have gotten stuck from years of not being used. You stand up to be able to use all your force to pull it open, and you pull!

The hatch flies open, but the force of the pull pushes you backwards. You can feel the golem starting to move under your feet. And that is not the only thing that is moving. The noise of the hatch being pulled open has awoken the whole army around you, and you can now see them all slowly turning their heads towards you.

 

The golem is now slowly waking up, and you can see it lifting its hand to reach for whatever it is that is disturbing its peace…

 

…but at the last second, you gather your last bit of strength…

 

…and you jump!

 

You are in the air for what feels like an eternity, but you manage to hold onto the edge of the open hatch. You pull yourself up right as the creatures start to scream, and the last thing you see before quickly pulling the hatch closed is the golem with its red open eyes smashing through the air where you stood just a few seconds ago.

 

With your heart beating like never before, you lie down on the floor to rest. Still lying down, you look around to try and locate where you’ve ended up, and you find yourself in a small empty room. Certainly not a throne room you think to yourself, and it doesn’t take long to figure out that this is a totally different type of throne you are looking at - you’re inside the kings private toilet!

Jumping up on your feet almost quicker than from the monster army a few seconds ago, you brush yourself of with a disgusted face as you start to try and figure out a plan. You carefully push the door ajar, and look out into the real throne room, where you see the king surrounded by his guards. From what you can see, there is no way you could get past them unnoticed. You look down on yourself again, barely noticing yourself standing there in your new cloak - as strange as that sounds!

You can easily get out of the toilet and into the throneroom - but getting to the king, that’s the real problem!

 


You need to make a choice - how do you get to the king?

53% Chose to throw your key to lure the guards away

 

You silently step out of the toilet, and you’re now standing in the open, on the left side of the kings throne. Sneaking forward a few steps, you pick up the brass key from your pocket, and HURL it away, towards the other side of the room.

The moment it hits the ground, the whole room turns silent…

 

You can see the guards turning their heads towards the noise, and they all gather in groups of 4 to look for it. Nobody expected you coming from the side, especially not from the toilet!

You wait for a few seconds, until all guards have passed, and then start your way up the sloped floor, towards the throne. In order to get up, you have to step out into the light, exposing you to the sun. And now. The king sees you. He gives out a scream for his guards, who immediately start running back, right towards you.

Running with all the speed your short legs can take you, you sprint towards the king who’s still sitting in his throne. You look backward, and the guards are catching up quickly. You make it closer and closer, one step at a time, and already, guards patrolling surrounding rooms have started to come inside. 

They are now emerging from rooms behind the throne, and you catch yourself completely surrounded - there’s no way out now! You keep sprinting forward, and you can almost feel the guards in your back. You’re now right in front of the throne. And just as you are about to arrive at the feet of the king...

 

...You feel a hand on your shoulder.

 

The guard grabs you just a step away from the king, and lifts you up in the air. Guards have now swarmed the entire room, and have started to surround the king. The guard throws you up on his shoulder, and turns away to lift you up on the room, making you face the king from your elevated position.

 

In a last effort to finish what you came so far to achieve, you lift your ancient staff…

 

…and throw it with all the power that’s left in your little arm.

 
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The moment the ancient staff hits the kings shoulder, everything turns white. A light ringing sound can be heard in your ears, and you almost do not feel the guard falling over, dropping you on the ground. You immediately jump back up on your feet, and rush up to the king.

Still dizzy from the light, you look around you to see some of the guards in the room starting to come back to their senses. But the king, he looks like he has never been more awake.

“Thank you, young Shepherd!!”

With a huge grin stretching over his whole beard-filled face, he lifts you up in your arms! Dangling there, you get the longest hug you’ve ever received. You feel part honored and part humiliated by this treatment, but this is not really the time to complain!

 

He screams at his guards to line up and to leave the room, and asks them to stand by for future orders. They quickly leave the room, leaving you two alone there.

“I honestly don’t know where to start. I remember now, oh so clearly, the day I was lost. My time since then, is a mess, but I would love for you to update me, and to help me turn things back to how they should be. How does that sound, my friend?”

With a nod, you pull the guest chair out from the left side of the throne, and sit down in front of the king.

This is the start of the end of your journey!


The 5th and final chapter of The Shepherds Journey:

The Herd

goes live 8PM CEST on August 28th!

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