Mantelderith 13, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

I was awakened by the sounds of a muffled scream.  I felt light-headed, as if I had been drugged, a circumstance with which I am now sadly familiar. Slowly sitting up I saw that Quinine was painfully hog-tied and Phora was being man-handled by Ajo Hurmont while his wife Malin looked on eagerly.  Mags and Elth were laying still on the ground – not sure if they were still asleep, drugged, enspelled or dead.  Quinine’s crossbow was sitting against the wall on the other side of the barn, I didn’t like my chances reaching it, so as the patriarch of the Hurmont family was pinning Phora down and going to work with a rope I asked Malin what this was all about.

Malin said that we were to be sacrifices to her lord Kralten, as her son was coming of the age to be initiated into his dark mysteries.  Religious types are often very forthcoming with their schemes I’ve noticed.  All that proselytizing I suppose. I said that five sacrifices seemed like a bit much to me and suggested that she just take Elth but she was adamant that we all had to die for her lord.  Then I remarked that I thought Kralten was the god of revenge and mentioned that I happened to be on a quest for revenge myself, towards which I was willing to focus all my energy and commit any number of unspeakable deeds – could I possibly join them and swear allegiance to their dumb god.

Malin’s eyes shone with fervor at this offer.  Ajo had finished up with Phora and joined his wife – she asked him what he thought and he said they should kill me, but she was clearly the one in charge and was just as clearly interested in my tale.  She demanded that I recite the names of those who I wanted to get revenge on and list the horrors that I would visit upon them.  Half an hour later she stopped me and said that she was convinced – I hadn’t even gotten to Duke Eaglevane. She said that I had to prove my commitment to Kralten.  I helped tie up Elth and Mags who were not only magically compelled to sleep but also drugged – these people weren’t taking any chances.

Malin emitted a nauseating green light from her fingers and led us down a dark path through an overgrown area – Ajo carrying Elth (at my suggestion) over his shoulder like a dead pig.  We came to a very small clearing that had a dark tree stump in the middle- which was clearly tainted with blood.  Their creepy son was already standing there dressed in what I assume were his finest clothes.  The grin that came over his face when he saw Elth tied up and helpless was one of the more disturbing things I’ve seen in my life.

Elth came to and started struggling at that moment but it made no difference – Ajo had her tried spread-eagle across the stump in short order.  Malin lead the four of us in various maledictions and supplications to Kralten – like all religious ceremonies it went on FOREVER.  Finally she handed me a silver knife and told me it was time to become one with the Spiteful One, the Father of Hatred, the Lord of Bloodlust.  It still surprises me sometimes how gullible people are.  But as my grandma always said the key to lying is telling people what they want to hear.

I grabbed the creepy son and put the knife to his neck, just to show them I wasn’t fooling around I cut off most of his nose.  His screeching was very annoying – if you’re going to be an evil murdering priest you really should be more rough and ready.  Ajo grabbed up his axe but was frozen with fear.  Malin started uttering a spell-prayer but I pressed the knife into the son’s throat harder and her words fell dead in her mouth.  I told them to untie Elth but they refused.  This is the problem with a hostage situation, if you only have one hostage you can’t use your leverage without losing it. Ajo positioned his ax above Elth’s head and demanded I release their boy or she would die.  I countered with saying that he would die unless they release her.  It was a real stalemate.

It was probably a solid ten minutes of threats and shouting back and forth until finally a crossbow bolt came out of the darkness and hit Ajo square in the side of the head.  He didn’t die though, which was highly disturbing – just stood there with a crossbow bolt six inches into his skull. Quinine came into the clearing with her crossbow leveled while Mags and Phora brandished farming implements timidly.  Turns out I hadn’t tied them up so well.  Malin pulled the bolt out of her husband’s head and cast a healing spell while Mags untied Elth.

I suggested we call this one a draw and everyone could go their separate ways.  Malin said that I was cursed by Kralten.  No big deal, I’ve been cursed by the best of them.  It was a tense situation as we gathered our gear from barn, Ajo and Malin starting at us hatefully, at least the son stopped blubbering eventually. We told them to stay in the barn and we’d release the boy once we were a few miles away but Quinine was convinced that Ajo was on our trail and insisted in going away from the road and doubling back and doing some weird stuff with branches – I don’t know what was going on.  Eventually I turned the boy loose, he instantly started shouting profanities at me so I kicked him in the groin hard enough that I doubt he’ll ever become a real man.  I felt something burst with my foot. 

After that we continued stumbling through the darkness tripping over tree-roots and low bushes – I’m no woodsperson but I don’t see how this makes LESS of a trail than being on the road.  Quinine insisted though and we went even slower because of her “counter-tracking measures” – if this Ajo really is following us there’s no way he could miss our tracks.  Also I’m sure we’re hopelessly lost at this point. At daybreak, freezing cold and wet due to wading across a stream, we finally collapsed.  We didn’t even make camp, just slept on the ground.  Quinine insisted we set a watch and woke me up after what seemed like three minutes for my “shift”.  I took her crossbow and gravely said that I would be vigilant, and then as soon as she was asleep I went back to sleep again.

It was late in the afternoon by the time we were all awake.  Elth was sickeningly grateful for being saved, she even hugged me!  As I suspected Quinine had no idea where we were and she took the crossbow with her to scout the area while we set up a proper camp.  Of course this is when a worg with a badly scarred hide trotted out of the woods and regarded us hungrily. It didn’t attack immediately though, which I took as a good sign.  I admit to being somewhat smug at the terror of my companions as I treated with the beast.

Scorch, as the beast was called, was on the hunt but had learned to be wary of people – it’s hard to tell but he seemed interested that I was willing to talk with him. Hoping that one of my dear friends and traveling companions could paint, I told him that if he gave us a little time we could summon him such a feast as he could ever imagine.

Using the side of a tent as a canvas and the Marvelous Pigments, Phora was able to smear out one of the worst paintings I have ever seen in my life, but thankfully magic isn’t choosy and soon before us steamed a real life feast including a dozen roasted lambs that Scorch attacked with vigor.  Quinine returned to find us enjoying lemoncakes and fine brandy, much to her puzzlement. Scorch was so impressed that he agreed to lead us to the road the next day.  He fell asleep by the fire snoring so loudly I could feel it reverberating in my bones.

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Funds: None 

XP: 6866

Inventory: Signet ring, Ring of Many Garments, noble’s traveling outfit, thieves’ tools, silver dagger

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, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family

Anti-Revenge List: Dorehe the maid

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

Progress to Graltontown – 10 miles