25 Do The Creep, Do The Creep

     "Well, this isn't really what I was expecting from the first accessible city after clearing the valley but it'll have to do. I don't suspect we'll sell many special products here but maybe, at the very least, we can find some kind of lead on that mysterious Gryphon incident." Troy commented.

     He and his riding companions were sitting atop the Lab Wagon's driver bench, while Gilly, as per usual, was sitting comfortably inside. They had just arrived in Murivel and were riding slowly and carefully through the small cramped streets towards a nice comfortable inn.

     "Yeah, this place is definitely a bit of a disappointment but honestly, after all those products we sold in Ban Glean, that super sketchy Gryphon attack is really the only thing I'm currently concerned about. Even if we don't sell any here, I don't think I'm going to be able to sleep that well, until we at least make some efforts to investigate this matter. That incident was just entirely too bizarre, it's been nagging at me constantly, ever since it happened." Geralt responded, as he turned his gaze from the surrounding store fronts to Jorgen, who seemed to be lost in thought.

     "Whaddya say, Jorgen? You have any thoughts on the matter?"

     Jorgen was roused from his musings and finally responded. "Mmn, oh, yeah, definitely a strange occurrence. We should probably look into it, whenever we get the chance." He stated with very little enthusiasm and a distracted gaze that suggested he was only halfway paying attention.

     "...You got anything in particular on your mind there, Jorgen? You seem a little bit out of it."

     After hearing this, Troy turned to give Jorgen a quick inspection. He'd been too focused on driving the cart to notice Jorgen's condition. Once he had a good look at him, he could clearly tell his mind had been elsewhere, as Jorgen brought his attention back to his companions.

     "I'm fine. I've just been thinking about this new lifestyle that we're leading now and its implications for our practice. While I haven't been considering anything as drastic as giving up my witchering ways, I have been thinking about taking up a hobby. Perhaps even one that could provide us with even greater benefits in the future."

     "Really? That actually sounds quite interesting! Did you have anything specific in mind?" Troy probed.

     "I've been considering a few things but haven't really settled on anything specific yet. Don't worry. I'll be sure to let you know when I do. 

     "With that being said, however, are you going to be initiating this investigation with the same magic tricks you used to flush out Raleigh?"

     "Some of them, yes. Although, something tells me I'll need a much subtler touch this time around. I have no idea what that nonsense was all about but my gut is telling me that it's nothing as simple as a hungry Gryphon out for a bite."

     The four potioneers arrived at their selected inn just after the sun had fully crested the horizon. Although they were curious about the event with the Gryphon and although as witchers the effects of sleep deprivation were much less severe for them, they each decided, with the exception of Geralt, that they would begin their investigations after a good long nap. They had, after all, been traveling all through the night after having resumed their travels in the early morning of the previous day.

     Geralt, however, simply couldn't get the thing out of his head and, now that he was here in Murivel, he felt compelled to begin looking into this matter immediately.

     Strolling through the streets, he began straining his senses in order to catch on to any relevant snippets of conversations, detect any unusual smells, or spot any abnormal behaviors.

     All day he spent roaming from one side of the city to another and walking its perimeter, yet there was very little suspicious activity. Sure there were thieves and various criminals going about their business but those kinds of things happened everywhere and were unlikely to be related to the Gryphon.

     As the day drew to a close and he was ready to return to the inn feeling as though he'd wasted an entire day, his medallion suddenly began humming.

     Stopping dead in his tracks, he quickly scanned the area to try and locate the source of his medallion's reaction. 

     Then he noticed her!

     A dark figure clad in black robes exiting a nearby building. Her face, almost completely concealed by her hood, so much so that even Geralt with his enhanced witcher vision could just barely distinguish that face as being female.

     The suspicious female, being the only one close enough to him to cause such a reaction, suddenly noticed that someone was watching her and performed her own scan, almost instantly spotting Geralt staring at her. Realizing that she was being watched, she quickly activated some unknown magic and disappeared completely from Geralt's vision.

     'Hmph...so there are shenanigans afoot here! And whatever it is it's probably best handled by Troy. I'm completely in over my head when it comes to magic. Likewise, trying to investigate further without knowing where that person is will most likely only confirm any suspicions that she has about me. Probably best just to act confused and take the long way back to the inn.'

     Having arrived at this conclusion, Geralt affected his best 'befuddled peasant' face and scratched his head, while looking around a bit. Feeling satisfied with his performance, he promptly made his way back towards the inn.

     A little more than halfway back, Geralt spotted Jorgen standing across the street from a smithy watching intently as the blacksmith performed his tasks.

     "Sooo...this new hobby of yours? Is voyeurism? I'm not really seeing how that's going to be all that useful, especially when you're being so obvious about it." Geralt teased Jorgen.

     "Blacksmithing."

     "Come again?"

     "Blacksmithing. I want to learn Blacksmithing and maybe even some leatherworking. I'm just waiting for him to finish what he's working on before approaching him."

     "Really? Well, I have to say that's a bit unexpected but, of course, the utility of such a hobby is pretty obvious. The only question is how would you go about practicing such a hobby, unless you plan to rent out someone else's smithy every single time?"

     "Simple, I'll use the profits from our next special products sale and pay Troy to build me a Smithing Wagon." Jorgen responded, as he began walking towards the blacksmith.

     Geralt was slightly surprised by this response but he couldn't deny that it was a good idea.

     As Geralt began making his way back to the inn while considering this new path that Jorgen was starting on, Jorgen arrived in front of the smithy and addressed the blacksmith.

     "Good evening, Blacksmith!"

     "Ahhh, so you've finally plucked up the courage to propose, have ya. I was starting to think you were gonna stand over there gawking all day. Although, I have to say, 'Greetings, Blacksmith!' is a little unimpressive. If you wanna make me blush, you'll have to do better than that."

     "Hahaha! No, you see, I was simply interested in your craft. I'm looking for someone to teach me and I thought you'd appreciate the extra coin. If you agree to instruct me, I'll pay you the full price of every weapon that you or I work on through the course of said training. You'll, of course, keep the weapons. The payment is simply for your troubles not the weapons."

      "You don't really have the look of a smith about you. Folk don't normally take to smithing just out of fancy. It's hard honest work and it takes years to master. What exactly would a man like yourself want to learn smithing for? Speaking of which, what exactly are ya anyways? That doesn't look to be soldiers' armor. Do you be some type of mercenary or something?"

     "No, I won't lie. I'm a witcher. Does that bother you? Most people can tell by the eyes."

     "A witcher, eh? I figured as much whiles you were watching me but couldn't imagine why a witcher would be at all interested in the likes of me. Still not sure I'm understanding what in the world you wanna learn smithing for."

     "Well, I'd say it's the same reason you learned smithing, in order to be capable of crafting weapons, armor, and other metallurgical artifacts. The only difference being, you practice your craft to earn your living whereas I will be practicing your craft partly for my own satisfaction but also for the benefit of myself and my friends."

     The blacksmith looked off to the side as he seemed to be considering Jorgen's words momentarily. Looking back at Jorgen, the blacksmith responded. "Alright, as long you're paying, I don't suppose it could hurt to teach you a thing or two. To be honest, I'm not particularly fond of your type but I don't really hold anything against yas either. I hear a lot of talk, both good and bad, but I can't rightly say whether there's any truth in any of it. Not to mention being paid twice for anything we work on is a pretty sweet deal.

     "You've got the Crowns on you I suppose?"

     "Ahhh, yes! I just visited the exchange this morning. My friends and I will probably be in Redania for a while, so we're all in on crowns. Won't be needing any Ducats for some time I'd imagine. Here you are?" Jorgen replied, while handing over a number of crowns he knew would be more than enough to cover his first lesson.

     Whenever the smith saw the fat pile of Crowns land on the display table, his eyes began shining greedily as he scooped them up and gestured for Jorgen to join him.

     "Come! Well start with the basics! Hot Cuts, Hole Punches, Forge Welding all of the essentials!"

     Jorgen was satisfied when seeing that the smith was amenable to his request and gladly joined the man at the forge to begin his first forging lesson.

-----

     "A cloaked female? And you're sure there was nothing else around that could've set off your medallion?" Troy inquired, as he and Geralt conversed quietly from a nearby alleyway that gave a proper view of the Lab Wagon.

     "Positive! If you're unsure, you can take a look around the place but I suspect that the building she came out of was a place she visited regularly. Of course, if I were to show up around there again, anyone they might have on the lookout would certainly recognize me." Geralt replied.

     "Yes, sadly the same is true for me as well. We may have different facial features but the similarities between us, not least of which being our witcher eyes and hair, would make any potential lookouts immediately suspicious. 

     "Then there's the potential problem of 'what if we're dealing with sorceresses' and I suspect that we are. If they're already suspicious and have their guards up, it's likely that they'll sense any enchantments that I might use to disguise my appearance, if I get too close. Of course, that added distance would prevent me from investigating properly.

     "It's a tricky situation, for sure, but I suspect I'll just have to risk the disguise and hope that they aren't home when I show up. If they are home but they aren't in an accommodating mood, then I'll simply speak the truth and play the part of the aggrieved party. We were strangely attacked by a stray Gryphon after all. I'll simply inform them that we're investigating the origins of the attack and that we demand an explanation for the unprovoked attack against us.

     "It's not the best of plans I'll admit but, given the circumstances, I think it'll have to do unless we want to spend an inordinate amount of time on complex and expensive preparations."

     "Well, magic is your area of expertise so I'll defer to your judgment but surely you don't plan to reveal our true intentions if there turns out to be more than one?"

     "Certainly not! Well, if there are only two, then perhaps but I decided upon this course of action based on the premise that there will only be one presumed sorceress. So, fear not. I know when I'm in over my head and I'll be sure to retreat or remain hidden at the first sign of more trouble than I can handle."

     "Good! Then I'll look after Gilly and the Lab Wagon, while you do your thing. By the way, that new hobby that Jorgen was talking about taking up. It's blacksmithing. He's at the smithy, as we speak, getting his first lesson."

     'Blacksmithing, really? Now that is an unexpected development, although I can certainly see it bearing fruit for our little business. I'll be sure to speak with him later.' Troy considered, as Geralt resumed his post near the Lab Wagon.

     Troy then returned to his room, donned his Cloak of Cleverus Snape, and went out into the streets just as the horizon began to take on a tinge of red.

     Troy gave the place that Geralt had described an unnecessarily wide berth. He didn't want to go anywhere near it just yet.

     He found an inconspicuous place to take to the rooftops and, through a combination of his various abilities, he traveled from rooftop to rooftop while keeping the building in question right on the edge of his enhanced witcher vision.

     Using his Chaos to conceal himself, to increase the distance of his jumps, and also to lighten his landing, he continued gliding effortlessly across the rooftops of Murivel to readjust his perspective of the target building until nearly midnight.

     'Although, this little escapade has actually been quite a bit of fun, running across rooftops like a Naruto ninja, I really don't think I'm going to learn anything at this range. I haven't seen anything unusual yet and, if there's anything to be found, it'll most probably be inside the building itself. 

     'Let's just hope that I can get some alone time inside of it, come tomorrow of course. I'll head over there first thing in the morning, after a warm hearty breakfast.' Troy thought, as he began roof-hopping his way back towards the inn.

-----

     The next morning, after Troy had left to investigate the target building properly, Jorgen had talked Geralt into taking over his shift guarding the Lab Wagon for their entire stay in Murivel so that he could focus on his new hobby.

     Although Geralt had quite readily agreed to this proposal, Jorgen's adoption of blacksmithing as a side hobby had actually gotten Geralt to thinking about adopting a side hobby of his own. He didn't currently have a clue what it might end up being but, once he decided upon it, he'd be sure to call that favour in, since Jorgen now owed him one.

     Thus Geralt had resumed the same duties that he'd attended the day before, while Jorgen returned to the blacksmith and Troy carefully neared the location where Geralt had witnessed the sorceress disappear.

     As Troy watched the building from a nearby alleyway, he very slowly spread out his Chaos Sense, ready to retract it at the slightest hint of magic. His Chaos Sense finally reached the building and continued forward until the entire building was covered.

     Nothing. The building seemed completely normal under the scrutiny of his Chaos Sense. No abnormal levels of Chaos, no magic, whatever this building might be hiding was clearly going to require him to actually go inside to discover it.

     Luckily, his scanning had indicated that the building was devoid of lifeforms and so whoever was using it wasn't home. This revelation gave him hope for a non confrontational and possibly fruitful investigation, as he checked his surroundings before making his way casually towards the seemingly empty building.