The Only Thing I Can Upgrade is Strength chapter 121

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I had to find Kazik, but I didn’t actually have a description of him or anything. I was just told that I could find him in the guild… so I had to ask around. I couldn’t really bet on any random person speaking Othyan, so I went up to the guild counter. They had a better chance of speaking Othan, anyhow. “Excuse me, do you know where Kazik is?”

The man tilted his head. I had the feeling perhaps he didn’t speak Othyan.

“Kazik?” If they knew him, just his name would help.

The receptionist frowned, then pointed to the corner, “Kazik.”

I turned to see a man sitting at a table… no, lying face down in a pile of tankards on a table. He was a small man, perhaps a halfling, so he fit entirely on the table. I looked around to make sure I wasn’t missing someone… but he was the only person in the area.

I sighed and approached over that way. I was hoping that Timmy had recommended the best contact he had in the area… but apparently not. Actually, that might not have been true. It was still entirely possible that he was the best, as long as he was the only one. “Are you Kazik?” I asked the prone figure.

“Whosh whaskin’?” the figure almost yelled as he rolled his head to the side to look at me. With that, I could see he was not a halfling but a gnome… the giant red nose on his face giving him away. “I got- I gotsch at leasht a few more drinksh before the coinsh I gave run out.”

“I’m Llyr Merrick. Timmy said you would be able to help me.” Being polite wouldn’t hurt… even if he probably wouldn’t remember this happening. I was pretty sure this was Kazik, if only because he still spoke pretty good Othyan while blind drunk.

Kazik squinted his eyes, then sat up, knocking a few tankards off the table while still needing to lean on one arm to support himself. “Izzat so? You’re taller than I expected.”

I blinked, “Uh, really?” Nobody had ever said I was taller than they thought before.

“Yeah. From the description I almost thought you were a halfling or something. Instead you look like a skinny dwarf. Timmy’s not great with people smaller than him, though… which is just about everyone.” That didn’t actually make me feel better about myself in the end. “So, I hear you’re looking for a friend?”

I noticed Kazik wasn’t speaking loudly anymore… nor with any sort of slur. Maybe this would go better than it first appeared. “Right, she was… taken by a group of people we suspect to be from around here.”

“Tell me the details. Oh, and buy us a couple drinks, will ya?”

I hoped the drinks were some sort of cover… but honestly one additional drink wasn’t going to make a difference anyway. I wasn’t a big fan of the taste of alcohol, so I barely sipped my drink. Since there was clean water available, I usually had that. As I sipped and he chugged from the tankard that was the size of his head, I explained all of the details of what happened. It seemed he hadn’t gotten everything in the message.

“He dropped his guild card? How careless… or lucky.”

“Maybe. I’m not sure if anything there can be described as lucky.”

“You’re not dead. Your friend shouldn’t be dead either. Plus you got the card. Could be a trap though.”

“Yeah? I had sort of thought about that but… what good would it do?” I shook my head, “I guess he could track down whoever had it. Should I get rid of it?”

Kazik shrugged his small shoulders. “No idea. Depends on whether he even knows. We’re pretty sure they didn’t go through any official border crossing, so he might not even know it was missing.”

“What about cities?”

“What about them? He might have avoided them too. Carrying captive people around is rather suspicious. For unrelated reasons… it’s likely he knows a secret way into and out of Inassass. It might involve some bribery as well, but in that case people would know him and wouldn’t really need to see his guild card. I guess the real question… how would you rate your friend’s Luck against his? Or, if it’s a sneaky plan… what is it for? What would it accomplish?”

“I… have no idea what his Luck is… but Kantrilla should have more. Unless Shadow Priests have lots of Luck?”

“Not generally. There’s no indication of that, or that he has a Blessing of Luck or any other. More relevantly… it would be better for him not to be even hinted at as being involved. He maintains a pretty good surface level reputation around these parts.”

“Surface level?”

“Right. I’d actually been looking at him in relation to a few things… the guild here doesn’t care much, but he’s been tangentially connected to a number of incidents in Othya. You remember the attacks on clerics?”

“Of course! I was involved in dealing with a couple of them. Is he related?”

“Maybe. Probably. This is all speculation, but I have details to back it up. It’s likely they didn’t actually care if they killed any clerics. In fact, they might prefer not to. They were looking for those with exceptional attributes… Blessings, even. That’s the theory, anyway. It’s not always publicly known who has Blessings, but clerics are more likely to have them. Or rather, people with Blessings are more likely to become clerics. Of course, they become other things as well, but it’s easier to tell a cleric with exceptionally high Strength apart from a warrior with even higher than normal Strength.”

“You’ve got like… 150?” I had been looking him over, “That’s surprisingly high for someone your size.”

“I forgot you were a Martial Apprentice… with Analyze Strength, no less. Yeah, you’re about right. It’s a lot of work, without investing bonus points. Anyway, after the attacks a number of people with Blessings or who the guild suspected had blessings disappeared. Your buddy Enok Csorba was found to be connected to a few cases- again, very tangentially.”

“Couldn’t Timmy do anything?” If he already knew that, it must have been months ago. This whole thing could have been done.

“You think he wouldn’t? If we had even a sliver of hard evidence, Timmy would have marched in here and tore the place up, if they wouldn’t hand him over. However, without evidence, all we can do is watch. There’s a difference between what we know, and what we can prove. Here in Escait, there’s mostly just me… and I can’t do much anyway. I got eyes and ears and a massive nose, but not much else to help.”

“…Does the nose help?”

“Only to make people underestimate me. Now then… I know a few things that might help you. I should mention… they might not be entirely correct. I would advise against acting on them right away. You’re a… man of action, yeah? We could actually use your help, but we can’t force you.”

Hmm. I thought for a few moments. No wonder Timmy had been so accommodating. He needed my help too. That didn’t mean he didn’t want to help me, but he wasn’t just being nice either. “Well… what do you know?”

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