Montresor 8, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

Travel to Malgareth Day Two – Erist was a good deal more talkative today.  I suppose after saving my life twice in the matter of a few hours last night made him feel better about having been bested by me before.  Ego can be a fragile thing like that.  It was mildly annoying but at least it made the time pass more quickly – yesterday had been quite a slog with no real conversation. I’m more convinced than ever that the only way to travel is by luxury coach.  And also that travel is silly anyway – just live somewhere good and stay there.

Late in the day we came upon the village of Hillside.  I actually knew this place because there was a knight in court that used to talk endlessly about how he had killed a bulette here even after it had eaten his horse and taken most of his lower leg.  I wonder if that story is true.  I tell you, it was quite scene – there were four dead people laying the town square, as pale and skinny and dirty as you like.  There were several other residents that looked little better lying about in various states if undress.

“You take me to the nicest places Erist.”

He immediately started asking about what plague afflicted them but I know addicts when I see them – and I’ve seen a couple.   I was right of course, one of the few residents who wasn’t too addled to speak said that a few months ago some outsiders had come into their community and flooded the place with a drug they were calling Black Widow – which isn’t very good marketing if you ask me.  Naming your pleasure drug after a deadly spider?  How does that make sense?  Seems like a bit of an odd strategy – you generally don’t get dealers out here in the sticks, but I suppose if you can get a whole town hooked there’s some money to be made there? 

Erist was all up in arms over what he was seeing and hearing – making a lot of noise about bringing these “miscreants” to judgement. 

“I didn’t know Strider had such a hard stance on recreational drug use.”

“Look at this place Ela!  Almost everyone here is drugged out of their mind – no one is taken care of themselves let alone the crops!  We have to do something!”

Looking around I’m not sure what could be done.  This place was ruined.  I’m no expert in agriculture but I don’t think you can take a few months off and then just pick and have everything be okay.  Not to mention the challenges that come along with weaning yourself off an addictive substance – I don’t see any fate for this place other than becoming a ghost-town. As Erist continued to rail against the dealers I noticed some rough-looking fellows with crummy black spider tattoos coming out of the woodwork. I elbowed Erist –

“How about you give it a rest with that?  Let’s get out of here and . . .”

At least point he noticed the tattooed thugs and started berating them – as more and more of them came out to face us.  More than a dozen in all.  And on top of that two more that were clearly the brains of the operation – they were definitely chemists or arcane types of some sort.  They just stood and stared as Erist harangued them until he went red in the face from effort.

“Okay buddy how about you shut up now before you get yourself killed?  You said your piece now let’s get out of here and leave these people to their business.”

He brandished his spear at the assembled mob “Leave these people be scoundrels!”

Oi.  I knew I should have just sidled away when I saw them coming to confront him.  Let that be a lesson to you – always follow your instincts.  He was calling me stupid and now here he is provoking a gang of violent criminals?  Since my exile from court I’m sad to say that I’ve been in a couple fights despite my best efforts – but nothing like this desperate melee.  In all honesty it was terrifying.  We would have been overwhelmed immediately if Erist had not summoned (ironically) a gaggle of giant spiders as he did when he was ambushed outside of Graltontown.  I produced a Firecat from my Bag of Tricks and we were off to the races. 

I used my Oil of Animate Dead as well, nothing helps confuse a battlefield like a free roaming zombie after all, and when my Firecat was killed I produced a boar from the Bag of Trick as well.  Other than that I mostly tried to stay out of the action – slitting the occasional throat when the opportunity presented itself.  Erist was fighting like a man possessed (which maybe he was, who knows what goes on with these religious sorts) laying about with his spear taking out dealers with powerful thrusts (if you know what I mean).  Even so we would never have survived had not a trio of the Hillsiders who were clear-minded enough to take up their pitchforks and join the fray to run their tormentors out of town. Which they did, leaving eight of their number dead along with a massive stash of their drugs.  Sadly Erist burned them all together in the middle of town while making a rousing speech to the townfolk about how they could get their lives back.

Such a waste.  I don’t know what the street value would have been but it had to have been a pretty penny.  The villagers claimed all their gear as well.  I consoled myself by saying they probably didn’t have anything good anyway.  The one time I actually fight straight up and I end up with no loot?  There’s a lesson for sure. 

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 15,267 gold

XP: 31,454

Inventory: Peasant outfit, wooden box, Signet ring, Ring of Many Garments, thieves’ tools, land deed, Bag of Tricks (rust), gold ring, Cap of Disguise, Secure Pocket, candlerod (9), masterwork dagger (2), succubi carving, Disguise kit (6 uses), Domiel family ring, walking stick, aquamarine, masterwork playing cards , +2 Studded Leather Armor, +2 Light Steel Shield, +1 Keen Shortspear, hematite armbands (2), mithril hair clasps (3), Sir Humperdinck memoir, Mazzmus’ Wand (unidentified), Brooch of Shielding, Potion of Invisibility (3), Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds (2), spinel and peridot holy symbol of Kralten, platinum necklace, Pouch of Magic Stones, flask of acid (2), alchemist’s fire (2), giant wasp venom (10), oil of taggit (2), alchemist’s kit, formula book, Potion of Cure Light Wounds (3), Potion of Spider Climb, powdered bloodroot (2), masterwork short sword, Handy Haversack, silver ring,  gold bracelet, gold and pearl pendant

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, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee

Rumors : Exiled noblewoman (Reoccurring), vigilante “Litheria”(Reoccurring), murderous Halfling (Reoccurring)

Teams – Labors, Brute Squad (Robbers and two teams of Soldiers)

Graltontown Buildings – Mill 

Montresor 7, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

Travel to Malgareth Day One – As I feared Erist was eager to get going before sun up.  One of the many annoying traits of men is their need to “make good time” when there’s absolutely no reason to hurry.  He must not have enjoyed the festivities too much or maybe his God handles that sort of thing for him?  That for once seems like a worthwhile benefit to pledging your service to a deity.  I halfway wanted to sandbag him but I figured we had just built up all this goodwill what with overthrowing a lawful lord and uncovering and enemy nation spy-ring and all so why not play nice?  Off we went, it was a pretty sunrise I’ll admit.

Erist insisted that he knew “all the shortcuts” and the “little known paths” which makes no sense to me since we’re not even following a road but regardless we were indeed making good time – say what you will about the Strider priesthood (and I have a few things to say) they know their business when it comes to overland travel. Unfortunately either Erist is still nursing a grudge or he’s just the laconic type because we largely traveled in silence despite my efforts to get some conversation going.  There’s little more boring to me than hiking about on foot with a companion that has nothing to say.

Things livened up a little bit when some soldiers were observing us from afar – they had the look of deserters to me – but ultimately they rode off without any interaction.  Erist claimed that they wouldn’t molest a man of the cloth – I’m sure they just figured we had nothing worth stealing.

Erist lead us to an abandoned winery used as shelter by traveling squatters and other such lowlifes – saying that he knew dozens of such bolt-holes all over the county as if that was something to brag about.  While he saw to his prayers and other religiousity I looked over the cellar – which was mostly picked over as you would assume but I was able to find a few bottles that are intact and still drinkable.  I also managed to fall in a pit trap which had spikes at the bottom.  Why. In. The. World. Would a winery have a pit trap at all, let alone one lined with spikes?  I can now add a spike through the calf to the list of things I never thought I would experience but did.

The pain was almost eclipsed by the humiliation of Erist flying down with his magic to fish me out and then healing my wound with a few words of supplication to Strider.  I wanted to say that our “issues” would never had happened if he had just been that competent when we first met but I managed to bite back that bile.  Even though he was unbearably smug about the whole thing.  On the plus side I managed to find among the rotting crates and mossy stones in the storeroom a sizable stash of gold.  I can’t believe no one else found it already.  Erist said that it was probably left over from a group of bandits that had taken up here in years past.

“What’s the point of banditry if all you do is horde your gold instead of spending it?  You’re not likely to live long so what are you saving money for?”

“Most bandits aren’t hardened criminals Ela, they save money because that’s what common folk always do.”

“Why do I feel like there’s a lecture coming on?”

“Because you’re a very perceptive woman when you want to be – pits aside of course.” He grinned.

He very solemnly pontificated on peasants exploitation by the nobility and how drought and famine causes farmers to take up arms which results in them being branded outlaws leaving them no other choice be to be outlaws and so on and so forth rambling on about societal welfare and the treatment of first time offenders and so forth. It was enough to make me nod off without even a bite to eat.

I awoke a few hours later, I’m not sure why, to see in the little bit of light cast by the embers of the fire a lupine beast crouching in the entryway to the winery with Erist silently standing with his spear at the ready in an uneasy stand-off.  He glared at me as I got to my feet and was waving his hand frantically.

“Don’t worry, I’ve dealt with worgs a time or two, I’m sure I can . . .”

At that moment the beast pounced and locked onto my shoulder with its powerful jaws, tossing me to the ground like a ragdoll.  Erist sprang forward with his spear and after a brief tussle the worg sprinted off into the night.  Once again Erist used his magic to heal my wicked wounds. 

“You’re not very smart are you Ela?”

What a rude thing to say.  He’s lucky I didn’t spit right at him. 

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 15,267 gold

XP: 26,944

Inventory: Peasant outfit, wooden box, Signet ring, Ring of Many Garments, thieves’ tools, land deed, Bag of Tricks (rust), gold ring, Cap of Disguise, Secure Pocket, candlerod (9), masterwork dagger (2), succubi carving, Disguise kit (6 uses), Domiel family ring, walking stick, aquamarine, masterwork playing cards , +2 Studded Leather Armor, +2 Light Steel Shield, +1 Keen Shortspear, hematite armbands (2), mithril hair clasps (3), Sir Humperdinck memoir, Mazzmus’ Wand (unidentified), Brooch of Shielding, Potion of Invisibility (3), Oil of Animate Dead, Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds (2), spinel and peridot holy symbol of Kralten, platinum necklace, Pouch of Magic Stones, flask of acid (2), alchemist’s fire (2), giant wasp venom (10), oil of taggit (2), alchemist’s kit, formula book, Potion of Cure Light Wounds (3), Potion of Spider Climb, powdered bloodroot (2), masterwork short sword, Handy Haversack, silver ring,  gold bracelet, gold and pearl pendant

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, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee

Rumors : Exiled noblewoman (Reoccurring), vigilante “Litheria”(Reoccurring), murderous Halfling (Reoccurring)

Teams – Labors, Brute Squad (Robbers and two teams of Soldiers)

Graltontown Buildings – Mill 

Montresor 6, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

After a delightful breakfast, as Grig and Bedeweir and those sorts prepared for our police action on Tall Elk, I gave the keep a good once over.  Looting some would say, but that’s such an unfortunate word- to the victor go the spoils right? I would have taken the bulk of Lady Grace’s apparel if I could but there’s only so much room in my Secure Pocket and I like to travel light.  Such a shame to leave all these beautiful gowns behind.  Thankfully I found one of those magic bags “adventurers” are always rattling on about to help me with the haul, paltry as it was. 

As I was exploring the underground passages and debating on entering the crypt I came upon a strange chamber that had a very ill feeling to it.  It was here that I encountered the ghost of a young woman.  Which is a very matter of fact way to say that, but it was a surprisingly not frightening experience.  She explained that she had been murdered by Lady Grace and was doomed until wander these halls until she received a proper burial.  Easy enough, I’m up to eyeballs in priests of Strider right now.  The hard part was digging through the stones to find her bones which had been sealed away.  I don’t envy the men I ordered to do that. 

After an early lunch we made all haste to Tall Elk.  Bedeweir wanted to go charging in sword in hand of course but I convinced him that maybe that wasn’t the best way to flush out a traitor.  Leaving my party of armed men over hill and dale I entered the city alone in the guise of your average countrified peasant girl – one detail people often forget when disguising themselves as poor people is to lengthen their stride, they’re used to stepping over crops in fields you see.

The place was quite busy for a small frontier village – being the focal point of trade for most of the small frontier villages in the area.  After a few hours of subtle inquiry I was directed to the home of one Deacon Gallows.  He was a bit cagey, I could tell he was waiting for a sign or codeword of some sort but I just told him that Captain Clapham and his men were outside of town and were worried about enemy soldiers in the area so they sent me ahead.  He asked all manner of questions but being the simple peasant girl that I was I had no answer for him – a tearful plea on account of several of the men being badly wounded helped.  He gathered a few of his co-conspirators and some supplies and we set out to where Bedeweir and company were waiting to grab them.

Once the scheme was uncovered it turned out that the entire city council and the sheriff were in on it – some of them being agents from Vieland itself.  An angry mob, swelled with national pride and violent lunacy, killed several of them vigilante style but we made sure to shield the actual spies from the townsfolk.  Now on top of everything else we have to get these people to the property authorities – doing good deeds never seems to pay off.  So along with everything else now Dario and Dalain are going to take the spies and traitors to Bothlar’s Hollow. 

Silver lining, the unmasking of collaborators is apparently a good reason for a party because the village of Tall Elk went all out that night – the wine and beer was flowing like water and people were having quite a time.  I lost count of the number of people I saw who couldn’t wait for the privacy of their homes or tents or shacks or whatever to start getting down to business.  As I stood in the flickering firelight drinking my Sister Abigail’s Red Label and watching the merriment around me I thought back to the many parties I had endured at the court – generally staid, boring affairs.  And even those that were entertaining somehow had a sense of desperation to them – all the fine folk in their rich clothes, it was like they were having an anxious kind of fun.  These people just seem happy.  I suppose when you work like a dog all day and night when you finally get a chance to cut lose you let all your worries fall away. 

It was almost enough to make me envy them. 

Almost. 

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 12,867 gold

XP: 26,944

Inventory: Peasant outfit, wooden box, Signet ring, Ring of Many Garments, thieves’ tools, land deed, Bag of Tricks (rust), gold ring, Cap of Disguise, Secure Pocket, candlerod (9), masterwork dagger (2), succubi carving, Disguise kit (6 uses), Domiel family ring, walking stick, aquamarine, masterwork playing cards , +2 Studded Leather Armor, +2 Light Steel Shield, +1 Keen Shortspear, hematite armbands (2), mithril hair clasps (3), Sir Humperdinck memoir, Mazzmus’ Wand (unidentified), Brooch of Shielding, Potion of Invisibility (3), Oil of Animate Dead, Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds (2), spinel and peridot holy symbol of Kralten, platinum necklace, Pouch of Magic Stones, flask of acid (2), alchemist’s fire (2), giant wasp venom (10), oil of taggit (2), alchemist’s kit, formula book, Potion of Cure Light Wounds (3), Potion of Spider Climb, powdered bloodroot (2), masterwork short sword, Handy Haversack, silver ring,  gold bracelet, gold and pearl pendant

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, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee

Rumors : Exiled noblewoman (Reoccurring), vigilante “Litheria”(Reoccurring), murderous Halfling (Reoccurring)

Teams – Labors, Brute Squad (Robbers and two teams of Soldiers)

Graltontown Buildings – Mill 

Montresor 5, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

I had a nice relaxing night in the master bedchamber of the former Lord Grace.  Good servants don’t miss a beat when their master if overthrown – they just keep on doing their duty.  This place has goods servants, if too few.  Sadly this was ruined by a lot of shouting and banging early in the morning.  Throwing on Lady Grace’s Halfling cotton and ermine robe I went out to see what all the fuss was about.  Sir Bedeweir was bellowing out orders and people were running hither and yon like madmen.

“What’s going on?”

“Preparing for the siege mum.  The Vielanders are right outside our gates.  Have you ever been through a siege my lady?  It’s a grim business.  I wish I could spare you this.  I’ve seen men . . .”

I put my hand on his shoulder “I feel like there’s a horrors of war speech coming on so I’m going to stop you there.  I don’t think there’s going to be a siege – I’m no military expert but what I see is about two dozen men on horses with no siege equipment and last time I checked horses can’t fly so I think we’re safe enough.  Besides which we’re leaving anyway if they want the castle just give it to them.”

He gasped like a new maid being groped for the first time.

“My Lady surely you can’t mean that!  Turn this fortification over to the enemy?  There is a war on!”

“So I keep hearing.  That’s probably why there’s no marmalade in the kitchen stores – rationing or something.  Look good Sir, they’re probably lost – we’re a hundred miles from the border, there’s no way a small group of horsemen is here to assault this keep.  It makes no sense.  Even if they were here to attack who cares?”

Another girlish gasp – “My lady, I have sworn to protect the realm in the name of the King!”

“Does this rockheap even have any military value?  Why do they even build these things?  What around here would anyone care about?  Heathgrove is a cesspit, Graltontown is basically two shacks and a three legged pig, Malgareth may be worth protecting a little, I think they have a guy there that makes leather belts or something. ”

Bedeweir launched into a loud and rambling speech about the strategic importance of the area – he said lynchpin at least fifteen times in three minutes. 

“Look brave sir knight don’t get your smallclothes in an uproar – I’ll get dressed and we’ll go out under a flag of truce or whatever and see what’s going on.  If they’re here to kill everyone you can have your siege and tell me all your sad stories about men’s heads being crushed by rocks and being forced to eat your own horse and all that.”

The Lady Grace had a good eye for a dress I tell you that.  I have to give her credit for putting together a decent wardrobe this far from anywhere.  I was looking quite dashing as we rode out in force to meet with our neighbors to the south.  They looked quite haggard and grimy.  Once we were in the reputable military distance four of them rode out to meet with myself, Bedeweir, Erist and Dario.

“Are you the lady of this holdfast?”

“Sure.”

He said that there had been a battle in the area of Bothlar’s Hollow and they had been separated from the main body of their troops and were chased north.  They had come here thinking that Vieland had some kind of depot in this area but either their information was wrong or they hadn’t looked in the right place.  They were several days without rations and trapped behind enemy lines – they wished to surrender.  The captain dismounted and offered up his sword.

“I graciously and magnanimously accept your surrender.” 

I gestured Bedeweir forward to take the sword – it’s a whole thing with these military types.  We took them back to the keep as we rode in they noticed the mass-pyre of burned orc bodies.

“We had a bit of a kerfuffle her yesterday.  Nothing to worry about.”  I turned to Bedeweir “So what does one do with military prisoners anyway?”

Over dinner that night we discussed our plans – Bedeweir would still take Grace to Fellstone and Erist and I would still be going to Malgareth but now Grig and his men would be escorting our prisoners to Graltontown.  We found a dusty old steward who agreed to take “command” of the keep until some kind of official word came down, with instructions to abandon the place if it actually came under attack.  He didn’t need to be told twice about that last bit.

And then there’s the matter of the Vieland outpost our new friends were looking for.  I questioned the Vieland captain about it and although he did his best to be vague I figured out that there’s a village in the area that’s secretly aiding and abetting the enemy.  Scandal!  My money is on Tall Elk – from what I’ve heard it’s always been something of a troublesome community and as a center for trade, not real trade – but poor people trade, there would be a lot of people coming and going.  I suggested that we take a trip there to root out the traitors.   Bedeweir seemed surprised and asked why I wanted to do that.

“For King and country of course.  There’s a war on after all.”

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 12,012 gold

XP: 23,544

Inventory: Peasant outfit, wooden box, Signet ring, Ring of Many Garments, thieves’ tools, land deed, Bag of Tricks (rust), gold ring, Cap of Disguise, Secure Pocket, candlerod (9), masterwork dagger, succubi carving, Disguise kit (6 uses), Domiel family ring, walking stick, aquamarine, masterwork playing cards , +2 Studded Leather Armor, +2 Light Steel Shield, +1 Keen Shortspear, hematite armbands (2), mithril hair clasps (3), Sir Humperdinck memoir, Mazzmus’ Wand (unidentified), Brooch of Shielding, Potion of Invisibility (3), Oil of Animate Dead, Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds (2), spinel and peridot holy symbol of Kralten, platinum necklace, Pouch of Magic Stones, flask of acid (2), alchemist’s fire (2), giant wasp venom (10), oil of taggit (2), alchemist’s kit, formula book

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, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee

Rumors : Exiled noblewoman (Reoccurring), vigilante “Litheria”(Reoccurring), murderous Halfling (Reoccurring)

Teams – Labors, Brute Squad (Robbers and two teams of Soldiers)

Graltontown Buildings – Mill 

Montresor 4, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

There was an attempted coup years ago at Duke Eaglevane’s palace – or so I was told, my only real indication that anything had happened was the tea service was late that day.  And the pile of corpses in the courtyard that afternoon.  It’ll be interesting to see one up close.  I figured it’s best to do your couping early so before dawn my three Strider friends and I gathered Sir Bedeweir and Eva Marie before heading to the master bedroom.  We passed a few guards along the way but they were tribesmen and did nothing to stop us – Grig must have gotten with the program.  There were two orcs standing outside the bedchamber itself but they were dispatched quickly by Erist and Bedeweir.  The door was locked but Dario produced some picks and had it open quickly. 

Lady Grace was still abed – and snoring like a drunken lumberjack – but the lord of the manor was sitting at a small table with scrolls and parchments overwhelming the tabletop and spilling onto the floor.  He was, as you might imagine, quite startled by this turn of events.

“What’s the meaning of this?!”

“Did it occur to you at any point that making an open invitation for inveterate gamblers to come into your home was potentially a bad idea?”

He yelled for his guards and with an arcane gesture hurled a wave of flame at us – that was quite unexpected, I had no clue he was a magical sort.  I was barely able to duck out of the way.  There was a bit of a fracas but he was subdued without too much trouble – the scuffle finally waking up Lady Grace.  She was understandably confused.

“My lady, I think it would be best if you retired to the sitting room just this moment – we have matters of state and so forth to discuss with your husband.  I’m sure it would bore you.”

She hurried off with the hem of her fine nightgown flapping about her like small wings – I think it was Shadowsilk, very nice.  Grace the Younger was ranting about how we were all dead, his guards would be coming and so forth but from the sounds of battle out in the courtyard we were hearing I didn’t think that was likely.  I asked him why he attacked Fellstone but he refused to say anything at first.  Things changed when Grig and a few of his men came in and dumped an armful of orc-heads on the floor – ruining a Krentish rug.  I sat down on the bed and helped myself to some wine.

“You see how it is.  So what’s the story?  Have you taken leave of your wits or why are you doing bizarre things like sending orcs to attack your own people and setting up this ludicrous contest?”

He sneered – and I’ll say this, the man has a heck of a sneer “Why should I tell you anything traitor?!”

“Seems pretty obvious, if you don’t we’ll kill you – if you tell us what’s going on maybe we won’t.  What do you have to lose?”

He cursed me for a while, then came the blustering, but eventually I was able to get it out of him – he was trying to find a tomb of some sort that was reputed to contain an item of power that he coveted.  He had asked for the documents at Fellstone but they had instructions from the Count himself not to share them so he had his men attack in the guise of raiders to steal them.

“But after the attack your men came directly back here – didn’t you think anyone was going to notice?”

Apparently he didn’t.  He had organized the gambling event specifically to lure in Sir Bedeweir – his agents were of the opinion that his sister’s new family had another part of the map he needed and he had intended on taking him as a hostage.  This got Bedeweir quite riled up – he gave a right pretty speech about Grace not being a proper liege lord at all and how he had betrayed the trust that the Count and the King placed in him with this scandalous behavior.

“I couldn’t agree more.  Well my friends, what are we to do?  The proper thing would be to take Lord Grace to Fellstone and hold him there, send word to Three Rivers for a magistrate and explain the whole thing.  But on the other hand, I have no idea what the political situation is – that may be asking for trouble.  We could just kill him ourselves and say that this keep was overrun by orcs.  That’s a nice convincing lie that won’t cause any problems.”

While they talked it over I went to check on Lady Grace – and found the sitting room empty.  How tedious.  These noblefolk and their gods damned hidden doors and secret passages.  I sighed and came back into the bedchamber. 

“Where did she go?”

Lord Grace the Younger grinned a shark-grin and I took out my dagger and slit open his pyjama pants. Much to the alarm of Sir Bedeweir.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m going to start cutting off one of his balls until he tells us.”

“Madam surely you cannot be serious!”

I never get to have any fun.  We dragged Lord Grace to the great hall and Grig and his men searched the keep room by room – rounding the confused gamblers up and moving them into the great hall as well.  In addition to Lady Grace the woman with the tattoo was missing, along with bull-neck and the chaplain who I had not met.  The passage from the sitting room lead underground where before the family crypt there were secret cambers where it seemed another passel of orcs had been hiding out. Lord Grace seemed to be quite dismayed that they were gone rather than battling through the hallways to rescue him. 

“Well my friend, can I ask you something – did this whole tomb thing you’re working on come from your wife by any chance?”

“Of course not, the new chaplain . . .”

“And where did the chaplain come from?”

“My wife said . . . I mean after the old chaplain . . .”

“Died under mysterious circumstances?  Had an accident of some sort? If it makes you feel any better she had me fooled as well. She seemed as dumb as a post when I talked to her.  I wonder where she and her orcs are off to now.  Wouldn’t it be crazy if she was a half-orc in disguise?  That would explain the snoring.  Tell me when you two were having sex did she bite you a lot?  I’ve heard that’s an orc thing.”

It was decided that Bedeweir and the Striders, except Erist, would take Lord Grace to Fellstone and call for the regional judge from Cathars – and hope that the political chips were in their favor.  Since the Lady was fled and all the household troops were gone this left who would be in charge of the keep ambiguous.  We were discussing this when a hue and cry came from Grig’s men manning the walls.  I stepped out onto the battlements and saw in the distance a body of Vieland soldiers on the march – heading straight for the keep.  Of course.  I tried to stifle a giggle and failed. Erist glared at me.

“How is this funny?”

“How is it not?”

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 12,012 gold

XP: 23,544

Inventory: Peasant outfit, wooden box, Signet ring, Ring of Many Garments, thieves’ tools, land deed, Bag of Tricks (rust), gold ring, Cap of Disguise, Secure Pocket, candlerod (9), masterwork dagger, succubi carving, Disguise kit (6 uses), Domiel family ring, walking stick, aquamarine, masterwork playing cards , +2 Studded Leather Armor, +2 Light Steel Shield, +1 Keen Shortspear, hematite armbands (2), mithril hair clasps (3), Sir Humperdinck memoir, Mazzmus’ Wand (unidentified), Brooch of Shielding, Potion of Invisibility (3), Oil of Animate Dead, Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds (2), spinel and peridot holy symbol of Kralten, platinum necklace, Pouch of Magic Stones, flask of acid (2), alchemist’s fire (2), giant wasp venom (10), oil of taggit (2), alchemist’s kit, formula book

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, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee

Rumors : Exiled noblewoman (Reoccurring), vigilante “Litheria”(Reoccurring), murderous Halfling (Reoccurring)

Teams – Labors, Brute Squad (Robbers and two teams of Soldiers)

Graltontown Buildings – Mill 

Montresor 3, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

I got up early and checked on my room.  Even though I was keeping nothing there I could tell that someone had searched it.  And the fact that I could tell means either they wanted me to know they had been there or it’s not something they normally do. Not sure which would be more alarming.  When I went down to the stables for my morning ride two tribesmen were there to escort me – for my safety the stablemaster said, claiming that Vieland troops had been seen not forty miles south of the keep.  I thanked him profusely for seeing to my safety while thinking of a way to ditch my two shadows.

As we rode out they were talking to each other in their native tongue and I could more or less understand it.  Maybe the moorland tribes are Kostelos as well or are related to them? I really should learn more about these primitive screwheads.  There’s definitely an advantage to not letting folk know you can understand what they’re saying but I didn’t see that there was time to slow-play this.  After a few miles I told them that it was good to hear the tongue of honest folk again. 

You could have knocked them over with the proverbial feather.  I adjusted my Cap and showed them my “true appearance” – of a Red Bone maiden.  They recognized me as one of their “forest cousins” – saying they knew something was amiss because I rode far too well for a city-dweller woman.  Clearly they don’t know how popular equestrian is with the aristocracy.  I asked them what they were doing so far south and they were only too happy to tell me how their tribe had taken in a handful of survivors from the Skin-Takers and one of them by the name of Kartak had the chief’s ear and they left because of all the honorless things they were doing.  I’m pretty sure by “left” they really meant were exiled or fled in the night to avoid death.

“And you’re trying to regain your honor by attacking defenseless villagers and consorting with orcs?”

They were clearly shamed by my words and made some small excuses about being on hard times and having to do what they could to get by.  I told them I wanted to meet with their leader and they rode off immediately.  They didn’t even ask who I was or what I was doing.  Typical.  This allowed me to meet up with Erist and friends – turns out that Dario did know Eva Marie but he claimed to have no notion that she was there and I believed him.  I told them that I thought things were coming to a head with Lord Grace and asked that they use their magic to fly into my room under the cover of night. 

After adjusting my disguise back to moderately successful merchantwoman I returned to the keep where my two new tribal friends took me to see their boss.  His room in the keep stank to high heaven and was defaced with crude tribal paintings on the walls – some kind of wards against evil spirits I believe.  He was a bruiser of a man, for all their war-like ways the Kostelos tend to be on the small side but this fellow was massive.  He reminded me of a granite grave-marker with arms and legs.  He had clearly been hit in the mouth with a mace or a morning star at some point based on the wreckage of his lower face.  

They introduced me to him as a shaman, which made sense from their point of view since they had seen me use illusion magic, but then went on to say that I had been sent by the Lodge Forest Kostelos to parlay with them.  Where did they get that from?  Wish fulfillment I suppose.  Might as well go with it. 

I put it to the leader, Grig, about working with orcs and the attack on Fellstone and after a bit of bluster about being called out by a woman admitted that he was not happy with his service to Lord Grace.  He said that the attack on Fellstone was to get the historical documents but that he didn’t know why.  I told him that Grace was going down and that if he wanted to regain his manhood he had to back my play.  He bristled, saying he had given his word to Grace but I countered by saying that word given to a liar means nothing – service to him was attacking defenseless women and children and orcish skullduggery?  If that’s what he pledged himself to he may as well kill himself now and preserve whatever shred of dignity he had.

My first match of the day was forgettable – some sourpuss dwarf – but the second was a good deal more “interesting”.  My opponent was the tattooed lady herself – and the judge was bull-neck.  This happens to be the first time the judge was armed as well.  What a fun twist!  She suggested that we play for a thousand gold a round and as we began gave me a cold stare –

“You went on quite a lengthy ride this morning.”

“It was such a lovely morning that I lost track of time a bit – you know how that goes.”

“Of course.  Your two escorts rode back in a hurry without you, quite a hurry – it was almost as if the Lord of the Thirteen himself was after them.”

“Who knows what sets those primitives off, probably they saw the wrong color bird and got scared.  Between you and me they give me the creeps.  Can’t you find proper men at arms out here?”

“Weren’t you concerned about being alone out there with Vieland soldiers in the area?”

“Oh, not at all, I feel very safe here under Lord Grace’s protection.”

She pursed her lips “Yes, very safe.”

She was a good player, very good.  But I’m better – at cheating anyway.  I took all three rounds and she and the “judge” left without incident.  I suppose they assumed they could just get the money back later after they kill me. 

That night every time the wind moved the curtains on my window I thought I was Erist, Dario and Delian coming as planned – it was well after midnight before they turned up, leaving me on pins and needles for hours. 

“What took you so long?!”

“We wanted to make sure we weren’t spotted.  So what’s going on?  Why did Grace attack Fellstone.”

“I have no clue, but we’ll ask him tomorrow.”

“That wasn’t exactly the deal.”

“Yeah well, life is full of disappointments – maybe if you pray hard enough you’ll get a vision from your god that will explain it all.  Otherwise tomorrow we ask.  Nicely of course.  So nicely.”

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 12,012 gold

XP: 23,544

Inventory: Peasant outfit, wooden box, Signet ring, Ring of Many Garments, thieves’ tools, land deed, Bag of Tricks (rust), gold ring, Cap of Disguise, Secure Pocket, candlerod (9), masterwork dagger, succubi carving, Disguise kit (6 uses), Domiel family ring, walking stick, aquamarine, masterwork playing cards , +2 Studded Leather Armor, +2 Light Steel Shield, +1 Keen Shortspear, hematite armbands (2), mithril hair clasps (3), Sir Humperdinck memoir, Mazzmus’ Wand (unidentified), Brooch of Shielding, Potion of Invisibility (3), Oil of Animate Dead, Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds (2), spinel and peridot holy symbol of Kralten, platinum necklace, Pouch of Magic Stones, flask of acid (2), alchemist’s fire (2), giant wasp venom (10), oil of taggit (2), alchemist’s kit, formula book

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, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee

Rumors : Exiled noblewoman (Reoccurring), vigilante “Litheria”(Reoccurring), murderous Halfling (Reoccurring)

Teams – Labors, Brute Squad (Robbers and two teams of Soldiers)

Graltontown Buildings – Mill 

Montresor 2, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

For the second day in a row I woke up rested and feeling refreshed – that hasn’t happened in a long time.  It feels good.  At breakfast everyone was talking about Blacktooth and how apparently he fell out the window and then was gnawed on by a coyote or something or the sort.  What a tragedy.  After a morning ride and a clandestine meeting with Erist and company I joined the Lady Grace for tea – they probably don’t get a lot of visitors out here on the plans and she was clearly delighted for the company.  She confided in me that few other women had shown up for the gambling but they weren’t the “right sort of people”.  I couldn’t have agreed more – what kind of woman would want to spend her time with liars and sneaks? 

The problem with using a dingbat as an asset is that while they’re easy to get information out of they don’t usually have much information.  Although I did feel foolish for a moment when she explained that the reason Lord Grace had resorted to orcs and wildmen as guards is because his personal forces were at the front – I should have guessed that.  She had no idea why her husband was holding this little contest nor did she know anything about Fellstone.  The only possible lead was that she mentioned her husband had developed a sudden and intense interest in history – saying that he spend all his time pouring over dusty old scrolls and books.  Maybe there was something of interest in the Fellstone archives?  But still, why attack the village to get it?

After another day mingling with the contestants I’m pretty sure that one of them is a plant for Grace – a very severe looking raven-haired women with a dark purple flower tattoo on her shoulder and neck.  Her observation seems to go beyond that of someone scoping out the competition to someone intensively interested.  But why?

My next game was against Sir Bedeweir.  I felt sorry enough for him that I didn’t even cheat a little – unfortunately the man’s a hopeless player.  It’s curious how many hardcore gamblers aren’t even good at it.  He had a common problem among men of his type – the inability to back down.  Good on the battlefield I suppose, terrible in gaming.  I was actually considering throwing a few rounds just to keep from taking all his money when he managed to string together a couple good plays.  After the game was over I asked him to stay a moment after the judge left.

“You don’t remember me from Duke Eaglevane’s court do you?”

After much apologizing and bland flattery and stammering I helped him “remember” that I was there as part of Baron Lefsor household for a time.  I asked him why he though Lord Grace was hosting this “event” and he blinked as if he never considered it before.  After much hemming and hawing he concluded that it was quite peculiar now that he thought about it.  I told him that I thought something potentially unwholesome was afoot and I confided in him about Fellstone.  His instinct was to rush off and confront Lord Grace of course but I bid him to hold that information in confidence. 

“I know you to be a true anointed knight – not one of those false Sirs who are no more than swaggering bullies with a title – when the time is right I’m going to count on you to help me uncover whatever crimes have go on here.”

“My lady on my oath to the King and the Gods I swear it.”

“I thank you” I looked him in the eye for a moment “Would a speech about how you need to quit gambling do any good?”

He shook his head sadly “No my lady.”

“Are you sure, because I’ve got a pretty good one ready.  Would inquiring after your sister do any good?”

He looked away in shame “No my lady.”

I patted him on the shoulder as I left the room – telling him it was alright and to keep his sword close.

My next match was against a priestess of Strider by the name of Eva Marie – I kid you not.  Was she associated with Erist somehow?  Were they working an angle?  Could it be a coincidence?  I don’t think I ever met a worshipper of Strider in the old days and now they seem to be coming out of the woodwork.  She was an average player at best and she talked too much but I was so distracted by this turn of events that I only took a lot of her money instead of all of it.   

Afterwards she said that she was here more for the experience than anything – her father had been quite the gambler and she wondered what the appeal was.  She seemed like more of an airhead than Lady Grace. 

That night I was invited to dine with Lord Grace.  We were joined by his cringing assistant, the woman with the tattoo and bull-necked fellow who was not introduced – he looked a lot like a man who was hung in the capital for strangling prostitutes with a leather cord.  Nothing was said beyond idle chit-chat and congratulations on my success so far – I have no idea how this is being scored by apparently I already have a spot in the “finals” assured.  Even so I couldn’t shake a vague feeling of being threatened. 

I asked Sir Bedeweir if I would stay with him – he insisted on sleeping on the floor while I took the bed, lying that as an old campaigner he was more comfortable there than on a fine mattress anyway.

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 8812 gold

XP: 23,544

Inventory: Peasant outfit, wooden box, Signet ring, Ring of Many Garments, thieves’ tools, land deed, Bag of Tricks (rust), gold ring, Cap of Disguise, Secure Pocket, candlerod (9), masterwork dagger, succubi carving, Disguise kit (6 uses), Domiel family ring, walking stick, aquamarine, masterwork playing cards , +2 Studded Leather Armor, +2 Light Steel Shield, +1 Keen Shortspear, hematite armbands (2), mithril hair clasps (3), Sir Humperdinck memoir, Mazzmus’ Wand (unidentified), Brooch of Shielding, Potion of Invisibility (3), Oil of Animate Dead, Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds (2), spinel and peridot holy symbol of Kralten, platinum necklace, Pouch of Magic Stones, flask of acid (2), alchemist’s fire (2), giant wasp venom (10), oil of taggit (2), alchemist’s kit, formula book

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, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee

Rumors : Exiled noblewoman (Reoccurring), vigilante “Litheria”(Reoccurring), murderous Halfling (Reoccurring)

Teams – Labors, Brute Squad (Robbers and two teams of Soldiers)

Graltontown Buildings – Mill 

Montresor 1, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

Today I woke up in a large four-poster bed – mahogany and Crathes – draped with silk curtains. Beside the bed was a tray of fruits and fine jellies and a carafe of rich Dwarfish wine. For the first time in a long time I felt like I was home.  But I’m not.  For instance the food made me think that a servant had access to my room – that made me uneasy.  Such a thought would never crossed my mind before. 

A proper breakfast was waiting in the dining hall where I met a few of the other competitors in what I soon gathered was some kind of gambling event with an open invitation – I found this as mystifying as the attack on Fellstone, why would Grace the Younger be inviting gamblers into his home?  This is all very odd.  I recognized one of my fellow competitors from court – Sir Bedeweir, a good and loyal knight with a crippling gambling problem.  Last I had heard he lost his family’s fortune betting on the Midnight Jousts and his sister had been forced to marry a ninety year old baron to keep them afloat.  He seemed happy enough at breakfast though – I suppose that makes sense, he’s not the one who has to submit to the leathery touch of a wrinkled old man-lizard. 

Since we apparently have the run of the place I helped myself to the stables and took a spirited young mare for a morning ride to meet with Erist and his pals.  They had a campsite set up in a glen a few miles away – in any well-functioning keep they would have been found by patrols within hours but somehow I had the feeling with orcs and wildmen manning the walls military protocol was a little lacking.

“Good morning friends, since its well after sun-up I assume you were just about ready to storm the castle and save me.”

I told them that although it took all of my cunning and guile I was in and that I should have no trouble sussing out what was going on – they just needed to hang tight and back me up.  I asked if they had any kind of magical charm or gee-gaw they could give me that would let me tell them if I got into trouble but of course they didn’t.  I’m not sure why anyone even bothers with magic.  Can it do anything? 

When I got back from my ride Akra – Lord Grace’s hangdog assistant – was waiting for me.  Turns out I was late for my first “match”.  She was highly displeased.  I was escorted to a small- and by small I mean tiny – private room where there was a table, my opponent and a judge.  The opponent was a short unpleasant looking fellow with stringy dark hair that called himself Blacktooth – not sure why poor dental hygiene is something you’d want to brag about.  The judge was a fussy looking fellow with a big head and clothes several seasons out of date – he had the look of a mortician about him.  Or maybe I just think that because he looks like a corpse himself.

The game in question is called Maids and Executioners by some, Skulls and Petticoats by others – a needlessly complicated interval betting game involving dice and cards.  It’s a game popular with young buck noblemen who like to think they’re gamblers but can’t handle a real game – it’s akin how some men can convince themselves that they’re a real lady’s man when all they’ve bedded is whores.  

I knew the rules more or less but I had never played before – thankfully if you have nimble fingers it’s one of the easiest games to cheat at, presumably why a judge is present.  It didn’t matter much though – Big Head did spy me pulling a maneuver once but I was able to play it off as a mistake simply enough.  I think I cleaned Blacktooth out.  Since this is an open invitation I wonder how many rubes there are going to be like him.  Maybe Lord Grace just needs the money?  Strange way to go about it – especially when you have goons and apparently have no qualms about using them to raid your own lands.

After the match I chatted with some of the other guests but that wasn’t netting me much in the way of information so I decided to do some snooping. I was in the chapel – which didn’t look like it got much use – when Blacktooth came in breathing heavily.

“Those stairs are a real bear aren’t they?  I recommend calisthenics every morning – I do a few deep knee bends every day when I wake up and before I go to sleep at night, it does wonders I tell you.”

“I want my money’ he wheezed “You cheated!”

I noticed at this point that he had an ugly shortblade clenched in his hand.

“There’s no reason to be a sore loser my friend, but I don’t think Lord Grace would appreciate his guests killing one another so in order to keep the peace I’ll give you half, how about that?”

He jabbed forward with the blade in a way I assume was meant to be menacing “All the money, now!”

I held my hands up “Fair enough.”

I reached into my Bag of Tricks and produced a wolf that latched onto his forearm and threw him to the ground.  He stabbed at the beast desperately with his knife – they’re men out there that can best a wolf in a struggle like that, this rotten toothed fellow wasn’t one of them. 

“I can call him off with a whistle but I never learned how.  My grandmother used to say just put your lips together and blow but that doesn’t work.” 

Once he was dead I managed to drag his body up and dump it out the window – calling to one of the guards to have a maid come in and clean up the blood.  He asked what happened and I told him that I had pricked my finger on my embroidery needle.  He seemed dubious but I assured him that I was fine.   

My second match was with an unremarkable wool merchant – I suppose there’s no other kind really.  He was a skilled player but what they don’t tell you is that cheating is usually defeats skill.  Little known fact.  I wonder if they have better judges hiding in the wings or if I can cheat my way through this entire event.

After the day’s events were over I spent some time mingling with the other contestants until Lord Grace the Younger made an appearance for dinner.  Maybe they should call him Lord Grace the Lessor because laying eyes on him he looks like a reduced, less attractive version of his uncle.  He didn’t have a lot to say – leaving most of the hosting duties to his very pretty and very vapid wife.  I doubt I’ll get anywhere with the Lord himself so the wife seems like a good place to start. 

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 8112 gold

XP: 23,544

Inventory: Peasant outfit, wooden box, Signet ring, Ring of Many Garments, thieves’ tools, land deed, Bag of Tricks (rust), gold ring, Cap of Disguise, Secure Pocket, candlerod (9), masterwork dagger, succubi carving, Disguise kit (6 uses), Domiel family ring, walking stick, aquamarine, masterwork playing cards , +2 Studded Leather Armor, +2 Light Steel Shield, +1 Keen Shortspear, hematite armbands (2), mithril hair clasps (3), Sir Humperdinck memoir, Mazzmus’ Wand (unidentified), Brooch of Shielding, Potion of Invisibility (3), Oil of Animate Dead, Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds (2), spinel and peridot holy symbol of Kralten, platinum necklace, Pouch of Magic Stones, flask of acid (2), alchemist’s fire (2), giant wasp venom (10), oil of taggit (2), alchemist’s kit, formula book

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, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee

Rumors : Exiled noblewoman (Reoccurring), vigilante “Litheria”(Reoccurring), murderous Halfling (Reoccurring)

Teams – Labors, Brute Squad (Robbers and two teams of Soldiers)

Graltontown Buildings – Mill 

Behind the curtain : There’s lots of different rules out there for adjudicating gambling and most of them allow Bluff to substitute for Profession (Gambler) which makes sense in terms of game design because usually someone will have Bluff and you don’t want the game to grind to a halt – but abstractly it’s kind of unfair (as much as that means anything in this context).  Ela’s Bluff bonus is mildly ridiculous. 

Ela leveled up to Expert 2/Rogue 4 (Phantom Thief) picking up Innocent Façade as her talent.  I was surprised to see that Phantom Thief still gets Uncanny Dodge since they give up most other combat abilities.  Ela has a +4 BAB now which doesn’t seem quite right.   

Macendamandel 30, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

We came in sight of Lord Grace the Younger’s small keep to the south before midday.  We observed from a distance for a while, Dario and Delian – claiming keen elfen vision – confirmed that the “guards” did appear to be orcs and tribesmen from the moors. 

“A bit far from home aren’t they?  It’s hard to believe that Grace the Younger has them openly manning the place like that.  Here’s my initial theory – he had a falling out of some kind with his uncle and the uncle withdrew all his troops from the Younger’s command.  Leaving him to make due with these dregs.  I wonder how he got them under his thumb though.  Well let’s head down there.”

Erist and company halted me in my tracks – they didn’t think it was such a good idea because we didn’t know what we’re dealing with.

“Right, that’s why we need to go down there and find out what we are dealing with.  We’re not going to learn anything from here.  I can con my way past some orcs as easy as falling off a log.  My grandma fell off a log once up in Castereal – they used to have a log riding contested you see and she was about to be caught in the bedchambers of the bishop so she jumped out the window and . . .”

“Ela it’s too dangerous.”

“There you go interrupting me again , that’s unspeakable rude Erist.  Now I’m not going to tell you the rest of the story.  But I might because it’s a pretty great story.  Anyway, it’s probably best if you lot stay here anyway – I’ll infiltrate the keep and get the lay of the land, if I’m not back by tomorrow morning storm the castle with your magic and your god-powers and the smiting and rescue me.”

They were reluctant to agree but since they didn’t have any better suggestions they didn’t have a lot of choices.  As I made my way to the large double doors that serve at the entrance to the keep I used my cap to disguise myself with the dress of a moderately successful merchant and prepared to smooth-talk my way past the two hulking orcish guards.

“You here for gamble?” one of them croaked gutturally.

“I am.”

And with that they opened the doors for me.  Gods damn Ela you’ve done it again! 

I’ve never actually been in a proper keep – you know a military installation – I’ve just been in the ornamental keeps in the middle of the country where it’s safe.  The real deal is much more crowded – I felt somewhat claustrophobic.  I was also reminded that we’re not that far from the Vieland boarder and there is a war on and all.

For a moment it seemed that I was going to be allowed to just wander the grounds unescorted but I was approached by a thin woman with long black hair – she had the posture of a woman who’s no stranger to a smack and immediately apologized for not being aware of my arrival.  I assured her it was no trouble at all.  She led me further into the keep.

“You are expected to compete twice a day, once at noon and again at eight in the grand hall, which lies east of the courtyard.  A magical chime sounds on each hour, and can be heard throughout the entire keep, so you should have no trouble keeping track of time. If you are not at the tournament at the scheduled time, I shall fetch you. But please don’t make me.  This shall be your chamber during your stay. You are free to explore the grounds, although there are some areas that are off limits.  If you have any questions as to where you are allowed, feel free to ask the guards. I don’t need to tell you that you are expected to be on your best behavior during your stay. Lord Grace is not generally a patient man, and it is rare and quite generous of him to open his home to strangers.”

“Lord Grace the Younger you mean?”

She went pale as a ghost and quickly scurried away ratlike.  I guess the younger Lord Grace doesn’t like being reminded of that fact.  Noble types can be so touchy.  The room was the nicest one I’ve had in a good long while – it paled in comparison to my suites back in Duke Eaglevan’s court but as they say any port in a storm, any bottle of wine while in port.  I knew I should do some snooping around but after laying down to feel a real bed for once I feel asleep almost immediately.   

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 7312 gold

XP: 22,944

Inventory: Peasant outfit, wooden box, Signet ring, Ring of Many Garments, thieves’ tools, land deed, Bag of Tricks (rust), gold ring, Cap of Disguise, Secure Pocket, candlerod (9), masterwork dagger, succubi carving, Disguise kit (6 uses), Domiel family ring, walking stick, aquamarine, masterwork playing cards , +2 Studded Leather Armor, +2 Light Steel Shield, +1 Keen Shortspear, hematite armbands (2), mithril hair clasps (3), Sir Humperdinck memoir, Mazzmus’ Wand (unidentified), Brooch of Shielding, Potion of Invisibility (3), Oil of Animate Dead, Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds (2), spinel and peridot holy symbol of Kralten, platinum necklace, Pouch of Magic Stones, flask of acid (2), alchemist’s fire (2), giant wasp venom (10), oil of taggit (2), alchemist’s kit, formula book

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, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee

Rumors : Exiled noblewoman (Reoccurring), vigilante “Litheria”(Reoccurring), murderous Halfling (Reoccurring)

Teams – Labors, Brute Squad (Robbers and two teams of Soldiers)

Graltontown Buildings – Mill 

Macendamandel 29, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

Unsurprisingly Erist is turning out to be a real stick in the mud in terms of a traveling companion.  Thankfully his two friends are a little more lively.  Two half-elfen brothers, Dario and Delian are a bit on the unattractive side for fellows with elfen blood which isn’t helped by their various battlescars but they make up for it with a ready laugh and a garrulous nature.  While Erist fumed silently the three of us chatted away – they with their tales of traveling the byways of Cymrile County and beyond and me with a few choice tales of my own.  They endeared themselves to me quickly by rankling Erist off and on about recruiting them help him apprehend a “violent and dangerous criminal”. 

On this second day of travel several boats did pass us on the river but unless there’s a reason for haste the followers of Strider prefer to walk everywhere – further proof that this is not the deity for me – and I am content to stay with them so the barges passed on with just some shouted conversation across the waters.

My new friends had planned for us to stay overnight in the town of Fellstone but when we got there we found the village in the process of being renovated after what was clearly an attack.  We quickly ascertained that a few weeks ago a mixed band of tribesmen from the moors and orcs raided the village and made off with a store of old books, maps and journals.  The mayor gathered the militia and set off on their tracks only to find that they lead to the keep of the Lord Grace the Younger.  Knowing there was no way to bring the lord to justice the people of Fellstone sadly set to rebuilding.  My traveling companions seemed to accept this story but it made little sense to me.  I didn’t get the sense that any of the Fellstone villagers were lying to me – and not just because they’re simple countryfolk incapable of coming up with such a tale – but it made no sense.  Why would a Lord bother sending raiders to steal anything when he could legally just come and take it?

Clearly an investigation is in order. 

The village folk rolled out the barrels – literally – and there was a bit of a celebration with food and music and dancing.  In theory to celebrate our visit but surely it was just an excuse to have some merrymaking to rid the memory of the attack and those lost in it.  The four of us bedded down in the town square along with maybe a dozen villagers whose farms were far enough away they didn’t want to walk home in the dark while half-loaded.  I’m sure a few wives will be bending a few ears tomorrow morning. 

Pleasantly warm and buzzed I gazed at Erist who finally seemed to have lightened up a bit.

“Can’t your god just tell you what happened here?”

“It’s not that easy.”

“Of course not.  Did you use magic to find me or did your fellow priest just tell you I was heading south along the river.”

“Both, he spotted you and we used magic.”

“Why is it that everyone seems to be able to use magic to find me but whenever I want to find someone the magic people tell me they can’t do it?”

“Why do you want to find these people Ela?  Do you wish them ill?”

“Does it matter?”

He turned over to sleep “There’s your answer.”

Harrumph I say.  What is magic good for anyway?  As I gazed up at the night sky I wondered if my men (and women) had made it to Malgareth yet and if so what misadventures they’re getting up to – given how hapless they are when I’m around I shudder to think how they operate on their own. 

___________________________________________________________

Funds: 7312 gold

XP: 22,944

Inventory: Peasant outfit, wooden box, Signet ring, Ring of Many Garments, thieves’ tools, land deed, Bag of Tricks (rust), gold ring, Cap of Disguise, Secure Pocket, candlerod (9), masterwork dagger, succubi carving, Disguise kit (6 uses), Domiel family ring, walking stick, aquamarine, masterwork playing cards , +2 Studded Leather Armor, +2 Light Steel Shield, +1 Keen Shortspear, hematite armbands (2), mithril hair clasps (3), Sir Humperdinck memoir, Mazzmus’ Wand (unidentified), Brooch of Shielding, Potion of Invisibility (3), Oil of Animate Dead, Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds (2), spinel and peridot holy symbol of Kralten, platinum necklace, Pouch of Magic Stones, flask of acid (2), alchemist’s fire (2), giant wasp venom (10), oil of taggit (2), alchemist’s kit, formula book

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, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee

Rumors : Exiled noblewoman (Reoccurring), vigilante “Litheria”(Reoccurring), murderous Halfling (Reoccurring)

Teams – Labors, Brute Squad (Robbers and two teams of Soldiers)

Graltontown Buildings – Mill