I got a man hanged today.
It wasn’t what I wanted. It wasn’t even what I expected. I was trying to help, but maybe that’s not how things work around here.
I’m a seasoned adventurer. I know how this goes. Civilians, or ‘peasants’ as this land so unkindly labels its non-military, non-monstrous populace, are completely incapable of resolving their own problems, and instead rely on the faint possibility that a musclebound man will ride into town and do it all for them. He’s gruff but kindly, he finds a fair solution, everyone sees the error of their ways and then festoons him with cash and trinkets which they really should have put towards getting whatever the issue was sorted out sooner.
I got a man hanged.
I’d parted ways with my associate/instructor as soon as I could, although despite taking a circuitous route around the countryside, including a failed attempt to break into a windmill (I have a spell specifically dedicated to knocking down wooden obstacles, but it is useless in the face of a cheap door lock), I somehow wound up back in the same village as him anyway. Fortunately, there were quests here.
One of these was pretty much all you’d ask for from a quest. A ghost was putting the frighteners on a local family, and the spook was too damned violent for them to do anything about it themselves. I duly trotted out to where it was, but stabbing seven shades of hell out of it didn’t get me too far. The trouble was it – she, in fact – was bound to this world, and I needed to find out why. I’ll spare you all the details, but it involved a grisly treasure hunt revealing this poor woman’s fate, and then a big old scrap which necessitated the use of particular spells. I returned to the village bursting with pride. I was a hero: I’d saved the family, I’d liberated a sad spirit from a wretched post-life, and I’d had a cool fight to boot.
Then I got a man hanged.
This land is not a happy one. Humans and dwarves and elves exist in a state of suppressed enmity, which too often becomes very much unsuppressed. My next quest revolves around one such instance; the local armourer, a dwarf, has had his forge burned down by an unknown arsonist, apparently due to the humans feeling he profits from selling kit to the oppressive imperial army. The dwarf tells me that he only gives provisions to the army under extreme duress, and isn’t paid for it. No-one believes him, because their latent prejudices are coming to the fore despite his long years in this community.
He’s put up with much, but the loss of his business is the final straw. He’d like me to track down the arsonist for him, because I’m
the Goddamn Batman a Witcher, my weird animal senses making it easy for me to find and follow the culprit’s trail.
Using WitchervisionTM I trace the burning man’s footsteps through town – which at one point involves a scrap with angry mermen because why not? – and find him cowering in a nearby house. When challenged, he shouts some racist nonsense and is about as a remorseful as a cat which broke into a hamster cage.
Even so, he’s not keen to face the armourer, and tries to buy me off instead. No, I’m not having that. If I want short term wealth, I’ll burgle you instead. Uh, already have, in fact. That’s kind of my thing. Look, I know how this works – I take you to see the guy you wronged, play King Solomon, everyone comes to an agreement, I’m a hero and someone gives me a sword to say thank you.
I got a man hanged.
I just stood there while the dwarf refused to show even the slightest mercy in the face of the arsonist’s protests that he was drunk and didn’t mean anything by it. I just stood there as the armourer called the militia over. I just stood there as they dragged the arsonist off to the gallows, as punishment for his disruption of their supply lines.
I got a man hanged.
I didn’t say ‘stop.’ I couldn’t say ‘stop.’ I didn’t like that I couldn’t say ‘stop.’ A man hanged because of me.
Then I said something glib about ‘harsh punishment’ and did some trading with the dwarf. This means I’ve got a fruity new shirt now: