Mantelderith 5, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

I was awakened by a kick to the ribs and a shouting tribesman.  He was angrily insisting that I translate to Mags and ask her where his stone turtle was – this was the trinket I had moved yesterday.  She had been responsible for cleaning up his tent.  Even though she couldn’t understand what he was saying she cowered on the ground before him.  I gathered from his yelling that this was more than just a “thing” it had some spiritual importance.  Which makes sense, these people seem to have little interest in owning much so what they do have is probably significant. 

I lied and told him that I had cleaned his tent.  He grabbed me by the hair and shook me so hard my vision swam and said that if I lied to him he’d burn off my breasts.  I lied and told him that I hadn’t seen it, that it must have been gone before I went in.  Another man laughed at him for losing his soul-stone and they almost got into a fight, another man taking command of them and ordering them to stop.  While this went on I saw the shaman starring daggers at me.  I had seen her do real magic – it’s possible she could ferret out what I had done.  But what choice did I have?  I needed to start doing something.

This situation went on for hours, shouting and recrimination back and forth amongst the tribesmen – the women ignored the whole thing.  There seemed to be no one in charge at all, seemingly these people live in a state of anarchy.  Eventually both slit-nose and the old woman and her stick took us out of the camp and had us gather timber for fires, which was hard work but easy enough to understand, and then we tried to gather edible items which involved us guessing at random and then usually getting struck.

I could tell Mags and Phora both wanted to bolt but I told them that would be pointless – there’s no way we’d escape from these hunters if they came after us, which they would, and even if we did escape how would we survive and find our way back to Graltontown or to Three Rivers?  None of us knew anything about overland travel.  For talking in our own tongue too much slit-nose threw a rock at my head but I managed to avoid it. 

After that we were taken to the river where we were ordered to bathe our two tormentors.  Mags and Phora seemed to find this more awful than any of our other tasks to date but I’ll wash 1200 wrinkled old hags before I haul water.  I learned two things at this river-wash of the damned, first that these people are Kostelos but that there are different tribes.  The ones I knew were the Red Bones and these ones were the Skin Takers.  Second that Skin-Taker men had no interest in the womenfolk of outsiders – considering them unclean and unworthy.  Phora and Mags were relieved to no end but it would make things harder for me.

When we returned to the camp two of the men were gasping an antler with one hand and wildly stabbing at each other with knives with their other hands.  The blades were too small to cause a fatal strike, probably, but were sending droplets of blood flying in all directions.  I guess this is how they resolve conflicts when words fail.  The saga of the missing turtle continued.  It wasn’t appropriate for us to witness this apparently scared event so we were banished to a tent where our eyes wouldn’t sully this contest of two morons stabbing each other over a rock.

I slipped out under the back flap of the tent and started cautiously grabbing more supplies and hiding them with the others under a log a dozen yards away.  Moments later I was confronted by the old woman and her stick.  The look in her eyes said that this was going to be very bad.  I instantly fell to my knees and started begging for her mercy, which clearly amused her. She came forward and raised her stick and I slipped around behind her, coming to my feet and getting my arm around her neck.  I meant to choke her but her neck snapped with a little pop like a cork coming out of wine bottle.

I was so startled I wasn’t able to think for a second.  She was old but she seemed tough as a nail, I can’t believe her neck broke so easily.  I hefted her body to the river and tossed it in, praying that I had enough time.  I slipped back in under the back of the tent literally seconds before the front flap was thrown open and we were ordered out.

I’m not sure how these things are adjudicated but the aggrieved fellow with the missing turtle had apparently lost and therefore had no right to search the tent of the one he accused.  It’s quite a legal system they have going here. The loser seemed even more angry and surly despite the clearly fair judicial proceeding he had received and the whole camp was on edge.  Split-nose was nowhere to be seen and we were left sitting together for several hours doing nothing.  Eventually the shaman came and took us away from the camp to gather berries.  She didn’t hit us even once but she stared at me with a knowing look the entire time.

When we returned to camp there was an even greater uproar – the body of the old woman had been discovered. There seemed to be two sides , those who insisted that one of us outsiders must have killed her and those who insisted that we were in the tent and couldn’t possibly have done it.  At the crux of this issue was a young unblooded not-yet-warrior called Fleece who asserted that he was watching the tent and no one came out.  I wonder if he was trying to cover his ass or if he really believed it. 

I knew it was probably a bad idea but I stepped forward.  I said that I knew I had no right to speak but that the woman with the split-nose and the old woman had argued when we were away from the camp – where was she when the fight had happened?  The Fleece-supporters jumped on this instantly and even shielded me  away from the other group who tried to attack me – although it was more in the way a brother keeps a toy away from a sister than any kind of sincere protection.

I was jostled around and grabbed and pulled every-which way before being tossed aside in favor of more shouting.  It turns out that no one had seen split-nose in camp during the fight and they still didn’t know where she was. Some people went to look for her and at this moment the fellow with the missing turtle decided to search the tent of his rival anyway – which kicked up a whole other uproar.

I saw the shaman watching this worriedly, she clearly had some authority but trying to use it in a chaotic situation like this was risky, power rests were people think it does – one bad call and you could be left with nothing. Once split-nose returned to camp and then refused to say where she had been things got even worse. Hours later it was decided that they needed to move the camp soon, apparently they believe staying in one place for too long makes people quarrelsome and mean. Still I think many people will be sleeping with a knife in their hand tonight.

One of the main Fleece-supporters took us into his tent and bid us to sleep on the edges – I think to make sure we weren’t murdered in the night.

____________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 4800

Inventory: Signet ring, Ring of Many Garments, money belt, traveler’s outfit

Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane, Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler , Alice Kinsey , “Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Cardshire Arms manager, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe

Anti-Revenge List: Dorehe the maid

Rumors : Murderous servants (Reoccurring), exiled noblewoman (Reoccurring), vigilante “Litheria”(30%)

Caravan – Destroyed

Progress to Three Rivers – 67 miles

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