Mindeleava 23, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 2

Who builds a temple underground?  That’s what I want to know.  Sir Galfrus said that the Nekharu lived underground but seriously what was their issue?  The initial chamber was circular in a twenty foot diameter and had three passageways leading off like spokes on a wheel without enough spokes.  Even with my cat vision is was very hard to see – I was annoyed thinking about how long I carried about those candlrods and never used them and now I’m left fumbling around in the dark.  I initially started down the eastward passage but I saw that after only forty feet it was collapsed.  Next I started down the south passageway but after forty feet it was blocked off with iron bars – not like a portcullis, they appeared to be built into the floor and ceiling.  Isn’t this ruin supposed to be thousands of years old?  Shouldn’t this be rusted away?

There was a large chamber beyond the bars but I couldn’t make out anything in it.  So westward it was.  After only a few feet there was a staircase – well, not really a staircase, just five stairs really – that lead to a long L-shaped corridor with seven chambers all in a row.  They were small, cell-like, and each had a person laying on the floor still as death.  One of them was Erza.  Another was the farmer’s wife.  Who the Hells knows who the other five are.  There were no doors, or maybe there were but they were invisible?   Why would anyone make an invisible door?  Point is I couldn’t reach them due to some magical force. 

Two other small stairwells led down from the L into a large chamber (the south passageway I didn’t take would have lead here also) that rather disturbingly had four spaces where the stone of the walls had collapsed leaving piles of dirt that had been pushed in.  But by what?  I have to be at least sixty feet down, there would be to tree roots down here would there be?  Maybe it was just the weight of the earth?  I’m no engineer.  It took me a few moments to realize that I was not alone.  All I could make out was long dark coat and a wide black hat – I attributed it to the gloom but somehow I knew that I wouldn’t see more of this fellow even if I was looking at him in the light of the noonday sun.

“I take it you’re Redgar then?”

One thing I did see clearly then, his teeth – they almost seemed to shine with their own light in the darkness – far too many and far too sharp.  His voice reminded me of the hiss of water falling into a fire, not exactly menacing but not very pleasant either. 

“You’re very brave to come down here.”

“Yes, I’m quite the hero, don’t make too much of it though because I’m very humble as well.”

“Down, down, down . . .”

“Uh, yeah.  So anyway Redgar, that is you right?  Anyway, I came to rescue those people back there.  So how do we do this?  Do we have a riddle contest?  Or do I have to promise you my firstborn?  I already guessed your name so are we good?  What’s the protocol?”

Even though I couldn’t really see him I could feel him crowing close to me. “I can’t read you.  Your thoughts, they’re hidden from me.”

“Yes well, it’s not polite to just go about spewing thoughts everywhere.”

I had the sense of something reaching out to touch me but I felt nothing and all I saw were the teeth, looming over me.  “You don’t flinch.”

“I assure you, I’m a world champion flincher.   When there’s something to be afraid of, do you know where I could find someone scary?”

Once when the Duke wanted to “slum it” we went to a tavern on the edge of the Coin district.  There the Duke and his cronies, poorly disguised, antagonized two men into a knife-fight.  After a lot of dancing around and shouting one man stabbed the other three times in the stomach.  Each time the knife went in he made a strange breathless “uht” sound.  Redgar made the same sound but I knew that it was his version of laughter. 

“There’s much to be afraid of.”

I felt a strange pressure on my chest “I’m sure that there is.  I’d love to chat with you all day Redgar but sadly I have a lot on my schedule today so can we get to the main event here?  What do I need to do to rescue these folks?”

I didn’t see anything but the teeth disappeared and I could sense him beckoning me.  He led me through a door, down another small stairwell and down a long passage way – I swear I could hear water rushing by through the stones.  As we walked I could hear his voice right by my ear.

“What’s your worst fear?”

“Being wealthy and powerful and living a long and happy life.”

More uht-uht-uht “laughing”.  Eventually we came into a rectangular chamber that looks like it was a shrine of some sort back in the day – now it was just piles of rubble.  I could just make out some of the few less damaged carvings on the wall – elaborately robed humanoid figures with the heads of foxes or jackals maybe.  Sitting on a large pile of rubble was a creature that looked like a hairless elf with arms three times the normal length ending in ugly ragged claws.  Even though it was clearly female, being nude and all, it seemed somehow genderless.

“Is this what you do?  Sit around in the dark on a pile of rocks?  I guess if you’re immortal you try everything eventually.”

Her voice was deep and masculine, with a hint of phlegm.  “Why do you bother me?”

“You had your man, here, are you a man Redgar?  You had your friend here kidnap some people, I want them back.”

“Why?”

“We were working on a play together, opening night is next week and the understudies are dreadful.”

Her voice turned into a wildly ear-shattering shriek “LIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!”

“Yikes.  Take it down a notch.  Why does it matter?  I want them so what are we going to do?”

“They’re mine.  I made them.  They are my seed.”

“Erza said something like that might be the case.  First of all you look great for having seven kids – there’s not an ounce of fat on you.  Honestly you’re a little too skinny.  Secondly, and I mean no offense here, how did you convince anyone to, you know . . .”

“I have many forms.”

“Would you mind switching to one of the other ones?  It’s a dark in here and all but I can clearly see your snatch and it’s kind of throwing me off.”

“How about THIS FORM!!!!!!!” In a flash she mirrored my own appearance.

“Oi, is that what I look like in this dress?  I have got to do something about this, I know it’s magic and all but this is just not a good color for me.”

“WHAT ABOUT THIS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” She rapidly aged before my eyes, turning into an imaginary version of me forty years older.

“Come on, please, inside voice, inside voice.  That’s fine.  So what do I need to do here to get these people out of here and back to their lives?”

She pointed with a freakishly long boney old claw-hand “Fight Redgar to the death!”

“I’m not much of a fighter.  How about the two of us have a sing off and Redgar can be the judge?”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“Good Gods lady you’re going to shatter my eardrums if you don’t lose your voice first.”

“They are mine!  I made them and I need them!  I planted the seeds twenty years ago and when the moon is full I shall harvest the power!”

“Aren’t you immortal?  What’s twenty years to you?  Name your price for these folks and then you can just start again – then twenty years from now have the power and the thing you name.  You’re not going to find a better deal than that are you?  Back me up here Redgar.”

A queer susurrus came from his general direction “That is a pretty good deal.”

Ramoisin’s face split into a wide smile – and I mean that literally, her face came apart like a sliced orange.  Her teeth were as crooked, ragged, and dirty as Redgar’s were glistening white perfection.  “A price yes.”

I waited for a moment “So what’s your price?  My voice?  Something with a spinning wheel, I forget exactly how that one goes.”

“Truth, give me the truth!”

“About what?”

“THE truth.  The price is THE truth!!!”

“Seriously lady calm down, I’m right here there’s no need to shout.  The truth huh?  Let’s see, love is fickle, hate is eternal.  That’s a good one.  Um. . . . oh Hells, nuts to this.”

I grabbed my Rope off my shoulder and flung it at her – it flared out and wrapped her up tight as you like.  She returned to her normal spindly form and strained so hard against the ropes that I thought she was going to break her limbs.  And the screaming – I thought she was loud before.  I had to cover my ears for a few moments but eventually she quieted down, although she continued to struggle mightily.  I took out my dagger and knelt beside her.

“Alright I guess it’s this kind of negotiation now.  Let those people go or I’ll carve your heart out.”

She chuckled, a sound like dry leaves crumbling “Your blade can’t harm me!”

“Oh yeah” I tried to stick her in the side and the blade deflected off as if she was made of iron. “Oh no . . .”

____________________________________________________________

XP: 99,028

Inventory: Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Rope of Entanglement, Enchanted Feycloth Dress (Green), Light Crossbow

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,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin

Mindeleava 23, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 1

The tree (yes I’m taking orders from trees now) wanted to make sure the loggers were leaving before giving up the location of the man in black so we were forced the spend the night in the woods.  Etraxia, our pixie sort-of-guide led us to her village, if you ever wondered what a pixie village looks like it basically looks like a normal village only at one fifth size.  I have to admit it was adorable. 

“So are you going to shrink us down or how does this work?  This isn’t a deal where we spend a night here and find out that twenty years have passed is it?”

She tossed her words dismissively over her shoulder as she crossed the threshold of her house. “There’s a cave over there.”

“Cave?”

She paused in the doorway of her wee little village house, handing her bow to her wee little husband inside “Yeah, isn’t that what you big people like?  Rocks?”

“What is your problem lady?  I’m not the one cutting door your tree friends, I haven’t done anything.”

“You’re worse, you live off those that do.  At least they work for a living.”

And with a tiny door slam she was gone.  I thought fey folk were supposed to be merry pranksters – what’s all this angst?  I turned to say something to Erza and saw that he was walking off.

“Where are you going?”

“I don’t like caves.”

“That doesn’t tell me where you’re going.”

He just shrugged.  I sighed and made my way to the cave.  And by cave I mean more of a crack in the stone face of an outcropping that you could sort of sit down in.  Sort of.  On the plus side that means there’s no bears.  I slept about as well as you can imagine.  Eventually, groaning, I slid out of the stony tomb just as light was starting to filter through the treetops.  Waiting patiently for me was a large pixie (well over two feet tall!) in rich gold clothing and matching armor.  He snapped off a deep bow that would be the envy of any court etiquette master. 

“Good morning my lady, I am Sir Galfrus, and I will be escorting you by order of Queen Larnaca.”

“What about Etraxia?”

“Her duties lay elsewhere my lady.  Can I offer you some refreshments my lady?”

“Is it going to make me grow or turn me invisible or something?”

He grinned and winked “No my lady, we save that for special occasions.”

I was expecting fey food to be delightfully delicious.  I was disappointed.  It was pretty bland fare – leeks and some tasteless berries.  I was also expecting Erza to show up which also didn’t happen.  Not sure if I should feel disappointed about that crazy bastard abandoning me or not. 

“Where exactly will you be escorting me sir knight?”

“Down in the valley my lady.  Ramoisin has taken up in a temple at the far end.”

“A temple, out here?”

“It’s abandoned my lady, a ruin I suppose you could call it.  It’s a Nekharu temple from the old days.”

“Who or what is a Nekharu?”

He seemed surprised by the question “They’re the people that made your people.  You may know them by another name.”

“Huh.  I was told the gods made us.”

“I don’t think so my lady.”

“Well anyway, sally forth and all that.”

My minute knight protector was the absolute soul of courtesy and not in the smarmy annoying way that some knights are – those that bother anyway – he wasn’t acting courteous he was courteous.  It’s a sad fact of life that most anointed knights are shitheels to the core – how could they not be, they’re professional killers, that’s not an occupation that attracts the best of the best.  If more knights were like this little fellow it would be a fine world indeed.  The path down into the gorge was quite treacherous but Sir Galfrus was there to aid me every step of the way.  The valley was wildly overgrown, but there were signs of some kind of inhabitation from long ago. 

“So this was some kind of Nekharu village then?”

“I don’t believe so my lady, I’m told this was where the humans lived – the Nekharu lived in caves or perhaps underground.  It’s not quite clear.  The Elders speak of the Nekharu coming out of the stones to give their commands to their followers.”

“And by elders you mean?”

“The oldest of the fey my lady.  Those that have walked this land for thousands of years, since before the coming of mortals.”

“Hm, I guess I never thought about that before.  Being immortal your people probably have a pretty accurate history of elves and men and so forth.  I wonder how well it would match up with what we have in our books.”

“I couldn’t say my lady.”

“Maybe that’s why we’re always cutting down your forests – no one likes to be reminded of the inglorious truth of their past.  That’s the nice thing about history, it can be whatever you say it is – you may not be able to give your children a future but you can give them a past that makes them proud.”

A few hours later we came to an open air stone structure – looked more like an archway on a platform of cobblestones than a temple to me.  In the center there was very dark shaft heading down.  Even activating my tattoo for lion vision didn’t allow me to see all the way to the bottom.

“Well sir knight, I suppose I have to go down there.  Are you coming along?”

“I wish I could my lady, but the Queen’s instructions were clear – escort you here but do not you help you in your quest.”

“Of course.  Can you hold this rope while I climb down?  Er . . . and I mean no offense, are you strong enough?”

He smiled “No offense taken my lady.  I’m sturdier than I look.  If it wouldn’t be too familiar my lady, I could fly you down myself.  No need to mess about with ropes.”

Sir Galfus was indeed sturdier than he looks – taking me around the waist (rather gingerly) with both hands he was able to lift off with his wings and fly me down into the grasping darkness.  He did struggle slightly but give the guy a break, his height could be measured in apples.  He set me down lightly in the middle of a circular stone room – a tiny circle of light above.

“Do I just call out when I need you come get me out of here?”

He seemed surprised “Do you imagine you’re getting out of here my lady?”

How reassuring. 

____________________________________________________________

XP: 99,028

Inventory: Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Rope of Entanglement, Enchanted Feycloth Dress (Green), Light Crossbow

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,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin

Mindeleava 22, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

I woke with a back as stiff as a board – a stiff board.  Sleeping out of doors has never been good for me and this was even worse than usual.  Erza came up on me as I was trying to stretch and said a few magic words before touching me on the shoulder – instantly I felt better.  As usual I was surprised by magic actually being useful.

“Thank you.  Also, don’t touch me again without asking.”

He looked at me very gravely “Absolutely.”

It didn’t take us long to reach the logging camp.  Where an angry looking logger ran up to us brandishing an ax.  His arms looked to be as big as the trees he cuts down.  He wasn’t exactly foaming at the mouth, but he was spitting so much as he shouted that his unkempt red beard had little flecks of white in it.

“You’re one of them ain’t you?!  Either that or damn city-rats!”

I was tempted to take a step back, mostly to avoid the barrage of spittle – but that’s not a good idea.  Instead a leaned forward slightly, not exactly eye to eye with the lunatic but close enough.

“Is that any way to speak to Lady Juost’s cousin?  Or a woman with a pack of wolves?”  At this point I realized there were no wolves about and I turned to Erza. “Where are the wolves?”

“I sent them away, I didn’t want them to scare the loggers.”

“Your little monster said everyone was dead!”

“Jinx isn’t always reliable.”

I was about to say something else but was interrupted by tree-arms shouting right in my face.  This was clearly a fellow used to getting his way through sheer bluster.  I can’t blame him, I suppose you have to use the tools that the Gods have given you.

“First of all if you spit on me one more time I’m going to stab you in the dick.  Second of all what are you yelling at me for?”

A couple of the other loggers came and halfway pulled, halfway coaxed big red away and another man came forward to speak – a bone-weary looking older fellow (for a logger) who was wearing a fur kilt of all things. He explained that “the lads” were on edge because the fey folk had attacked them.  I snorted.

“Oh yeah, what did they do?  Tie your bootlaces together?  Put holes in your waterskins?  Hit you with a mudball when you’re trying to piss?  Make your pants fall down?  What can a pixie or a nixie or a trixie or whatever do to hurt grown ass men?  Did they hurt your feelings?  Did they call you names?”

I’ve very rarely have cause to regret insulting anyone but this was one of those times.  The logging-master, Domico, lead us to a grove a few hundred yards away.  Honest to Gods my first thought was that it looked like a butcher shop set up in the forest.  Some number of men, it was impossible to tell how many, were nailed to the trees and had their entrails ripped out, strung up, and all tangled together in a revolting mess.  I can’t imagine ever forgetting that sight, but even if I do the stench will remain with me forever.  I’m not ashamed to say that I ran from the spectacle.  Ezra appeared completely nonplussed – that more than anything made me realize how insane he really is.   After a few moments Domico walked over to me.

“What did this?”

“The fey aren’t all little people with dragonfly wings and long noses m’lady, there’s dark ones too – they don’t have no souls you know, the Gods never gave ‘em any – so nothing they do matters.  Some play pranks.  Others do this.  We woke up one morn and they were gone – they had been entranced or enspelled or something.  Walked into this grove all on their own.  We didn’t hear a scream or nothing- just found this.  Seems like they been up here for days, if not weeks – but they was there with us in the camp the night before.  But they say the fey folk don’t know about time neither so it don’t effect ‘em the same as it does us.”

Erza came to join us “Well thank you for this delightful side trek!  Let’s get the Hells out of here!”

“We should go talk to the Tree.”

“Oh yes, by all means let’s talk to a tree!”

“Okay.”

“I didn’t mean . . . I was trying to . . . oh Hells, let’s go.

Tree-trunk arms insisted on coming with us, he said his name was Melf or Skelf or something like that.  He wouldn’t shut up the entire journey and what’s worse is all he talked about was logging.  Did you know that an Ulpine water wheel has two speeds?  Because I do now thanks to this braying jackass.  Of course it started raining as well.  Those were some of the most miserable hours of my life.  I’m no forester but even taking logging into account the health of this woodland seems quite poor. Autumn is a few months off but all the leaves seem to be on the ground, which was also littered with dead limbs.  It’s like the ground has been poisoned. The loudmouth was rattling on about something when suddenly he jerked to a stop grabbing at his face.

“I’m hit!”

Looking closely there did seem to be a toothpick sized arrow coming out of his cheek.  Maybe twenty yards away a tiny elfin figure with butterfly wings appeared with miniature bow at the ready.  For a being maybe thirteen inches high her voice carried quite impressively.

“Surrender or be destroyed.”

“We surrender.  Now what?”

“I’m not sure, I was expecting that I would have to destroy you.” 

Belf or whatever his name was howled like a wounded bear when he plucked the tiny arrow from his cheekbone.

“Shut up you!”  Before I could say anything else the insignificant archer flitted up near me and looked me over closely.

“Where did you get that dress?”

“I won it in a truth telling contest two forests over.”

“A likely story.  What are you doing?”

I glanced at Erza “We’re going to talk to a tree.”

I couldn’t quite tell but I think one of her dust-mote sized eyebrows went up “Larnaca?  Or one of the Eight Sisters?”

“Uh, the first one.”

“I better show you the way, you’ll just get lost otherwise!”

“Yes, you should.”

As we traveled we came across a putrid morass of mud.  Snelf loudly bragged about how a river used to run through here but he and his boys had diverted it so they could run their logs down the channel they had created to the Sandy Creek and down to the town of Preen.  Erza chimed in that it smelled so bad because of all the dead rotting fish trapped in the mud.  The pixie looked like she was about to shoot both of them, but it probably wouldn’t have amounted to much.  I was about to smooth things over, or at least disavow any involvement on my part, but at that moment there was a bubbling and a squerching sound as if a geyser was about to erupt.  But what came out of the mud was the saddest and most ill-favored looking river troll that I have ever seen.  Not that I’ve seen many, but it looked eight-nine parts dead out of ninety. 

Relf screamed and charged at it with his wood-ax and promptly got stuck in the mud.  Erza blasted it with a stream of magic acid and killed it more or less instantly.  That didn’t stop Pelf from chopping the dead body a few times for good measure once he finally pulled himself out of the muck. 

“I thought trolls were supposed to be hard to kill.”

“This one was sick.”

“You don’t say.”

Continuing on we came to a steeply rising hillside covered in loose rock and thick undergrowth with an immediate drop off to the north – making it something of rocky peninsula jutting out into a sea of air.  Eight tall perfect trees were arranged in a circle around another that had to be fifty feet tall at least.  It seemed especially wide and lush which almost made it look less beautiful than the others – like it was unnatural somehow. Our pixie escort flew up in the boughs of the tree and settled lightly to glare down at us. I was about to ask, stupidly perhaps, if this was the tree when there came a whisper on the wind.  And I’m not being poetic, I mean an actual whisper carried by a soft breeze.

“As always with your kind, you care not where you tread, you care not what you kill. You disturb the slumber of ancients who dwelt here ages before your ancestors were born. Your kind has been warned to leave this forest.  Go back and tell the rest of your kind they are not welcome here. If they do not they will surely die.”

“Will do, I’m actually not that concerned with logging myself, I’ll get those guys out of here.”  Yelf started sputtering but I silenced him with a glance “Quiet down trollslayer.  I’m looking for a fellow in black that seems to like trapping people in mirrors.  You know anything about that?”

“Redgar is the servant of Ramoisin, her mind has turned to rot and decay because of her ambition.”

I turned to Erza “I suppose that’s your mom huh?  Mind rot must be inherited eh?”  This time he didn’t even shrug, just stood there.  “So . . . tree, I’d like to find this Redgar character.  He, or it or whatever, has a friend of mind in that mirror and I’d like to get her back.”

“Banish the destroyers from this land and I will show you Redgar.”

I turned to Felf  “You hear that buddy, you and your pals are banished.  Now scram!”

“You just sold us out!  I thought you came here to help us!”

“Why?  Look man, either get out of here or whatever butchered your friends is going to come back for you.  That seems like a pretty simple deal.  Do you love hacking down trees so much that you’d rather die than not do it?  Cut down trees somewhere else.  Or do something else altogether.  Go back to your camp and tell all your friends that you’re leaving and never coming back okay?”

“You’ll pay for this!”

“Why me?  I didn’t do anything.”  I turned to Erza “Why does everyone always blame me?”

____________________________________________________________

XP: 99,028

Inventory: Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Rope of Entanglement, Enchanted Feycloth Dress (Green), Light Crossbow

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,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin

Mindeleava 21, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

“Is there any particular reason we’re heading this direction or are you just taking me into the woods to kill me?”

“Can’t it be both?  I performed an augury and it indicated that the man in black would be this way.  Maybe.  Magic isn’t an exact science.”

“Tell me about it.  So you’re a magic guy?”

“Yes.  These wolves don’t obey me because of personality.”

“What happened to that little bat-monster that was hanging on you?”

“Jinx?  She comes and goes.”

“You call your gremlin Jinx?  Doesn’t that seem a little on the nose?”

He just shrugged.  He does that a lot I’m starting to notice.  He never seems to talk unless I ask him something and half the time when do he just shrugs.  Sometimes I’m not even sure that he understands what I’m saying.  Otherwise he seemed normal enough, but then crazy people usually do – anyone who acts crazy doesn’t last long, so the crazies that are left out there are the kind you don’t notice they’re crazy until it’s too late. 

“So what are you going to do if we find this guy?”

“Ask him about my mom I guess.”

“What if he doesn’t want to talk?”

“Then I guess I use my magic to melt his face off.”

“I like the spirit but it doesn’t make a ton of sense to kill the guy that can tell you the thing you want to know.”

“I didn’t say I’d kill him.”

“I don’t have a ton of experience with face melting but I have to imagine that it’s generally fatal.”

Traveling with a pack of wolves is an interesting experience.  They’re enough like dogs that you can almost forget about it, but they’re not enough like dogs that you can’t.  Even the best trained dog tends to be a bit on the noisy side – these fellows float along silent as ghosts.  And when they look you in the eye there’s just something different.  Dogs like people, they like them more than they like themselves – that’s why they’re man’s best friend.  You can exploit them and not feel bad about it because they love it.  There’s nothing like that when you look into the eyes of a wolf.  There’s nothing recognizable at all.  They don’t know about you.  They don’t care about you. 

I wonder what it’s like for people when they look into my eyes.

“Could you summon a wolf that’s big enough for me to ride on?  I’ve done a lot of walking lately but honestly I’ve never gotten a taste for it.”

“Yes.”

“Would it be under your control?”

“No.”

“So what’s the point of that?”

He shrugged again.   I hope I don’t have to spend much time with this guy, that could get very annoying very quickly.  It’s interesting to be following someone who’s allegedly guided by magic.  We were following no road or trail but he was unerring in his direction.  Even the most experienced guide stops to check their bearings every once and a while.  Not so with Erza Gevan.  My grandmother told me that anyone who’s utterly convinced what they’re doing is correct is insane.  I guess she was right.

“You said yesterday that you’re addicted to sex.  If that’s true why aren’t you all over me?”

He gave me a weird sidelong glance “You’re not my type.”

I was about to say something else when his gremlin friend appeared seemingly out of nowhere.  It gave me a vile look and then rushed at me as if it was intended to run up me dress or something of the like.  I kicked at it and snatched out my dagger.

“Get away you little freak!”

It hissed at me, not like a snake or a cat but like a pig – pigs can hiss, I assure you – and produced its own tiny dagger out of thin air. 

“You want a piece of this?  I’ll slice your little ears off in two seconds flat!”

“Leave her alone.”

“Yeah, leave me alone!”

“I was talking to you.”

With a last hateful look the critter disappeared its dagger and clambered up Erza to sit on his shoulder and whisper in his ear.  Even though they were whispering I could hear the little monster was speaking in the Old Tongue.  I know four languages and twice now recently people have been speaking in one I don’t comprehend.  Seems unfair somehow.  I’ve only heard someone speaking the Old Tongue a few times.  Somehow it seems even more unsettling than the Demon Tongue.  The Demon Tongue seems like it’s trying too hard to be scary, the Old Tongue seems more foreign and unknowable.  After a moment the creature shot me a dirty look and then scampered off.  I waited but Erza wasn’t forthcoming.

“What did it say?  And why does it hate me?”

“Jinx is very jealous of me.”

“And why shouldn’t she be?  A mad exile in poorly tanned hides?  You’re a real catch.  What about the other thing.”

He took so long to answer I was about to ask again “Jinx says that there’s a logging camp not far away.  It might be related to our search.”

“Why does it think that?”

“All the loggers are dead.  The fey folk don’t like loggers.”

“Why is it that you only find faeries in forests?  Why don’t they like mountains or hills or rolling plains of wheat?  We’re going to cut down all the forests eventually, what are they going to do then?” He answered with a shrug and I waited but he didn’t speak. “Are we going to check out the logging camp then?  What does your magic say?”

“It’s unclear.”

“Of course.  Well we better check it out then.”

He nodded and we changed course.  Apparently “not far away” means farther away than several miles because we didn’t get there before it was time to stop for the day.  Erza’s wolves brought us several rabbits for dinner which he kind of cooked over a fire that he conjured briefly.  It was like it was warm but still raw somehow.  I could scarcely stomach it and gave up after a few bites.  I’ve had my fair share of awkward camping experiences lately but this one takes the prize – Eraa just stared at nothing and became uncommunicative and eventually I went to sleep.  It was probably after midnight when I woke and saw that he was standing over me, completely nude.

“Erza what are you doing?” I reached for my dagger.

After a long moment he answered “Sorry . . . . I got confused . . . . . . thought you were someone else.

I kept my dagger in my hand and slept very little after that.

____________________________________________________________

XP: 99,028

Inventory: Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Rope of Entanglement, Enchanted Feycloth Dress (Green), Light Crossbow

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,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin

Mindeleava 20, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

I spent the night in the hovel of the Everard family, reunited and safe due to my heroic heroism.  Heroninism?  Since the hill giant had clubbed half of their herd to death anyway they cooked up enough food to feed an army – Quinna was grumbling that we were spoiling his dogs but they helped me take on a giant while he cowered behind a rock so no one paid him any mind.  Samuwirth and the girl Charlotte were already on their way to becoming fast friends when we returned – you know the kind of friends I mean.  The only roach in the pudding was that the old woman who trigged all of this – Jasmi – had no idea what a giant would be stuffing her in a sack. The next morning I approached Samuwrith were he stood moodily throwing rocks at the edge of the pasture.

“I was thinking Samwise . . .”

“Samwirth!”

“I was thinking Samwirth, what if you stayed here?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean what if you stayed here instead of going back to Juost manor?  Training to be a warrior is fun and all that, but there’s no future in it.  I know in all the stories the farmboy wants to run off to be a solider but I guarantee you most soldiers would much rather be bailing hay and hailing bay or whatever it is farmers do exactly.  It’s an ugly nasty business.  Stay here, live a life where all you have to kill is chickens.”

He shoved his hands in his pockets “The Baron would never allow it.  My father sent me here to become a warrior.”

“The Baron doesn’t need to know.  I’ll tell him you died.  Besides, and I don’t mean this to hurt your feelings but I doubt he would even notice if you didn’t come back.”

He looked up at me with tears in his eyes and lip quivering “You would do that for me?  Lie?  A noble lady, telling falsehoods?”

“I think just this once maybe I can handle it.”

With that squared away Quinna, the pack of dogs, Jasmi and I headed back towards Newberry Hill.  She slowed us down a little but she’s a tough old bird – peasant women don’t really come any other way.  Not the ones that live to actually be old rather than just looking old anyway.  Of course a few hours after we started out I spotted an emaciated looking bat-eared little monstrous humanoid with a mouth full of needle-like teeth and large glowing orange eyes.  I was startled enough to point and exclaim.

“What the Hells is that!?”

The tiny creature shrieked and disappeared into the grass but Jasmi caught glimpse of it and declared it to be a gremlin.

“Gremlins are real too?!  Honest to Gods is there any damn thing that isn’t real?  What’s next?  A wolf that’s also half a killer whale?”

Quinna piped up “That’s called an Akhlut and they’re all over the place on the other side of the mountains.”

“How is anyone still alive!  Every monster exists!  What kind of sick joke is this world?!”

Jasmi had a concerned look “Why would a gremlin be following us?”

“I’m sure we’re going to fucking find out!!!”

Not long afterwards we saw a man approaching us with a pack of wolves at his beck and call.  Because of course he did.  After all I have dogs so why wouldn’t the guy coming after us have wolves?  And of course the ugly little bat-creature was hanging off his shoulder and grinning like a maniac.  The fellow himself was dressed in crude hunting leathers and although he didn’t seem to be much past twenty his stubbly beard was riddled with grey.  Before he got too close I called out to him.

“That’s close enough there friend, what’s your business?”

“I want to talk to the old woman.”

“Go ahead and talk then.”

“Can I come closer?”

“I think you’re good right there.”

“I’d rather not air my personal business in front of you.”

“Get used to being disappointed.”

He considered this for a moment and then sighed and shouted to Jasmi “I want to know who my mother is!”

Jasmi glared at the fellow, “Is that why you hired a giant to kidnap me?”

“Yes!”

I shook my head in disbelief “First of all you can hire giants to do things?  Second of all, are you INSANE?!  Why would you do that instead of just going and talking to her?”

“Yes.”

“Yes what?”

“I am insane.”

“You are?”

“Yes.  I get confused sometimes.  Under certain circumstances I have hallucinations.   I have some form of post-traumatic stress I think.   I display satyromaniac behavior.  I get obsessively attached to things sometimes and I’m a narcissist.  That’s why I got run out of the village, which is why when I was having one of my episodes I thought kidnapping the old lady would be a good idea.”

“Okay, I’m not used to crazy people having so much self-awareness about it. “ I turned to Jasmi “Do you know who his mother is?” She nodded “Is there any reason not to tell him?”

After a moment she pursed her lips “I suppose not.  After his wife died your father was taken in by some traveling hussie.  Nine months later you were left on his doorstep.  I knew there was something off about her so I followed her tracks back into the woods.  She’s one of the fey folk she is, a shapeshifter of some kind – which accounts for your, ahem, issues.  You’re not exactly human.”

“Whoa, that’s not the kind of thing you were probably expecting to hear.  Can I ask, why did you decide you needed to know who your mother is now all of a sudden?” 

“A man dressed all in black came and said that he could take me to meet my mother.  When I said I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do that he tried to suck me into a magic mirror.”

“Hold on now, that’s something of interest – we happen to be looking for an ebony clad mirror sucker.  Do you know how to find this guy?”

“Maybe.”

“Do you mean that or is that the insanity talking?”

He just shrugged. 

I turned back top Quinna and Jasmi “Well, that was quite a turn of events.  I feel like dogs and wolves aren’t going to get along well together so Quinna why don’t you escort Jasmi here back to the village and I’ll go off alone with this dangerous lunatic.”

He couldn’t say yes fast enough. I walked over to my new friend and asked which way to the mysterious man in black and his magical mirror – he silently pointed to the northwest and we started walking.  I activated my Beastspeech and addressed the wolf I thought was the alpha.

“Hey there champ, are you going to eat me?”

“No.  Not unless Erza tells us to.”

“Why does he tell you what to do?”

“He’s the boss.”

“Fair enough I suppose.  Can he talk to you like I can?”

“Sometimes.”

This should go great. 

____________________________________________________________

XP: 99,028

Inventory: Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Rope of Entanglement, Enchanted Feycloth Dress (Green), Light Crossbow

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,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin

Mindeleava 19, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

Newberry Hill is the kind of small farm community that’s so forgettable you almost forget about it when you’re there.  I wonder how many places there are like this across the world.  Millions?  Who knows?  More importantly who cares?  As benefits my status as a fake noble lady I was given the finest bed in town – which I believe means that the lice have pedigree papers.  Thankfully I was able to use the magic of my dress to delouse myself.  I wish I could say the same for the Marcher bastard – that little punk is crawling with the ugly buggers.

Talking with the townfolk this abduction seems nothing like the farmer’s wife getting sucked into a mirror.  The tale here is that a hill giant stomped into town, tore a hut open and grabbed the old lady who lived in it – stuffing her into a sack and stomping off.  Much like dragons, giants are something I’ve never had the horrible pleasure of seeing in real life.  Unlike dragons I’ve always known they were real because back at court every few months some knights would gather up and go fight some giants that had eaten an entire village such as this one.  Some of the knights would come back.  Sometimes.  Giants really seem to love eating people.  But it doesn’t seem likely that a giant would abduct one old lady just to eat her right?

“Quinna how do you think your dogs would fare against a hill giant?”

“About as well as a rat attacking a bear.”

“Wonderful.  I guess I’ll just have to charm the brute with my beauty and grace.”

The bastard managed to stop scratching long enough to chime in “Why are we even doing this?  This doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the farmer’s wife.”

“It seems quite silly to ignore one adduction over another.  With all due respect to Old Sheriff Martin someone has to keep the law around here – you can’t have giants carrying people off as happy as you like.  Even if they are old people.”

“He probably already ate her.”

“Probably, so then we avenge her!”

“How do you avenge someone with beauty and grace?”

“You’d be surprised.”

We headed out on a different trail, heading north and crossing the river again.  There’s an old wives tale that states if you cross the same river the three times in three days you’ll be granted good fortune.  Clearly these old wives haven’t met a ferryman – they’re generally a very misfortunate bunch.  There’s one good thing about tailing a giant – the tracks are easy to follow, just monitor the path of destruction.  Late in the day we came across a pasture where several cattle pieces lay in stinking bloody hunks.  It was enough to turn the stomach right quick.  The dogs enjoyed it though.

As we walked through the carnage a young girl came running towards us – she was around the same age as the bastard, tall, blonde, wearing a checked peasant dress and the whole nine yards.  She even had a bonnet on, I haven’t seen one of those in years.  I didn’t think anyone still wore those. The bastard was about to clock her in the head with his cudgel before I grabbed it away from him.

“What the Hells are you doing?”

“I thought she was attacking us.”

“With what, her dolly?”

She got a sour look on her face “I don’t play with dollies anymore!”

“Calm down, it’s a figure of speech.”

The girl told us that when the giant came through here just yesterday in addition to bashing cattle it also made off with her parents and two older brothers. 

“We’re on our way to rescue someone else that giant took so you’re in luck, we’ll rescue your family as well. 

She looked at us dubiously “How are you going to defeat a hill giant?”

“With pluck and determination.  Just kidding, I know a magic word that allows me to control giants.”

Quinna’s eye bugged out “You do?” I shot him a dirty look “Oh right, right, the magic word.”

The girl had three younger siblings she was looking after – two sisters and a brother – so we left the bastard with her to help out while Quinna and I pressed on.  He bellyached about it in only the way a preteen boy can.

“Look, play your cards right and this could be your future wife.”

“Girls are gross!”

“Sure buddy.”

“Alright, I tell you what, if you know my name I’ll stay here without complaint until you get back.  IF you come back.”

“Deal . . . . hm . . . . ssssssssssssss . . . . S something.  Sammy?  Sammmmmmmmmmmu . . . samu something.  Samuel?  No.  Something weird.  Samuwirth.”

“You got lucky” he grumbled.

“Yeah, you get to stay here safe and sound while I go after a giant – YOU got lucky.”

A few hours of walking later Quinna and I could smell cooking flesh on the wind. 

“What do you think, cow or human?”

Over a rise in a rocky area was one of the largest yet sorriest looking campfires I have ever seen – over which a haunch of something was being roasted by a female hill giant.  No one had mentioned the gender before.  Somehow that made it even more hideous.  Her arms were about twice as long as her legs, which were a little stumpy – you know, for a giant.  Said arms emerged from a very strangely rounded set of shoulders.  Her head seemed too small and was weirdly slopped on top of that.  The whole make-up just seemed slipshod and makeshift, like whichever God made these things was in a hurry.  Maybe they had theater tickets.  What made it even worse though is that her hair was incongruously thick and luscious looking, a most pleasing shade of red.  It almost looked styled. 

She was singing, which was awful (and LOUD) and drinking some kind of fermented concoction out of what appeared to be a shipping tun – the stench of which was assaulting my nostrils from sixty yards away.  There was a large sack on the ground beside her which appeared to be moving, so I guess this is our girl.  Quinna was trying to keep his dogs calm, which were clearly freaked out by the scent of this monster.

“What the plan?”

“I’ll use the magic of my dress to enchant her and we’ll grab the hostages, easy-peasy.”

“You have a magic dress?”

“Of course, why else would I wear this shade of green?  I’m a light summer, I look totally washed out in this.”

“I think it looks nice.”

“Well you don’t know what you’re talking about.  We can talk about this after the giant kills us, let’s go.”

We approached cautiously, moving from boulder to boulder (what happened here anyway, where did all these boulders come from?) and once close I stepped out and summoned the fey magic of my dress – which proceeded to do nothing. The giant had a ring on her finger that flared and I believe canceled out my magic.   She didn’t seem to notice this even happening, so I slipped back before the rocks. I ignored Quinna’s blathering and activated my Beastspeech.

“Alright dogs, here’s the plan, I’m going to go out there and distract this thing.  Mechas you sneak around and go for that sack, you see it?  If there are people in there you help them get out and then lead them away.  The rest of you stay ready in case things go bad.  But don’t try to fight this thing, it will swat you like flies – just run around and bark a lot and harry it.  If you can bite at it from behind go ahead but under no circumstances get in front of it in the reach of those arms.  You got it?”

Gale spoke for the pack “We won’t fail you master.”

Quinna was agog.  “You can speak with animals?!”

“I can do a lot of things, don’t worry about it.  You just sit tight.”

I stepped back out and approached the giant and her roasting spit a little closer but not much. 

“Excuse me, Miss . . . Giant.”

She finally registered that someone was there and swung her inappropriately small head around and boomed out in a voice that sounded like she had a mouthful of food even though she didn’t.

“Har!  Who are you?  There’s barely any meat on you for my fire!”

“Yes, I’m quite inedible.  I just happened to be walking by and heard your singing and had to come see who was making such incredible noises.”

She stroked her throat in a way that made me vaguely disgusted for reasons I don’t quite explain “Har!  Yes, it’s all in the wattle!  That’s why you ugly little people can’t sing, your smooth necks don’t allow for it!”

“I’m ugly?”

She leaned forward to peer more closely “Yes!  Looking at you makes me want to shit!  Your arms are so puny!  And your skin it’s all the same color!  No splotches or patches at all, and no hairy moles!  No hair anywhere but the top of your head!  Not to mention those breasts – they’re so tiny!  You’re revolting.”

“I mean , I think for my size my breasts are . . .”

“Har, no!  You’re awful to behold!  I’m surprised I don’t turn to stone just looking at you!”

Mechas had a heck of a time getting the bag open – untying a knot with your teeth is harder than it seems, trust me on that one – but the giant seemed to be having a grand old time insulting me so I was able to keep her occupied for several minutes.  Eventually the rope holding the bag slipped enough for the sack to open and one by one out wiggled two boys, a couple, and an old lady.  Thankfully they were smart enough to stay low and follow the dog once they were all out – and thankfully the giant was so loud I doubt she could hear anything but her own voice.  Once they were clear it was time to make my exit.

“Well this has been lovely, but I should get going.”

The hill giant heaved herself to her feet like a reverse avalanche of flesh “No, you’re too ugly to live, I smash you now!”

I have no idea if I can outrun a hill giant, and I didn’t need to find out.  I flung my Rope at her which wrapped her up tight – I wasn’t sure if it would hold her but it did.  For about twenty seconds.  I can run pretty far in twenty seconds though.  The dogs jumped in as well and lured the rampaging she-giant off to the west.  We all reconvened a few minutes later, one of the dogs even had my Rope – by which I mean I think the Rope latched onto the dog, which is interesting, is this thing intelligent?  Nevertheless I told the dog what a good boy it was and the rope what a good rope it was just to be safe.  This drew a strange look from Quinna.  In return I dropped him a sassy wink. I looked over the gathered former hostages.

“Now what’s what I call a rescue.”

____________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 99,028

Inventory: Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Rope of Entanglement, Enchanted Feycloth Dress (Green), Light Crossbow

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,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin

Mindeleava 18, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

Late last night several of the dogs started acting squirrelly.  There’s an old Northern expression that if a dog barks for no reason you should ignore it, but if it gets quiet for no reason you need to watch out.  I’ve never understood what that meant.  I calmed them down and stood half-crouched in the darkness of the farmer’s shack listening intently.  I definitely heard something moving around out there – moving stealthily.  I carefully awoke Quinna and whispered to him.

“Alright buddy it’s go time, there’s something out there.”

His eyes widened “What do you want me to do about it?”

 “Go check it out, take your hatchet.”

“What hatchet?  I’m a dog trainer, I don’t know anything about fighting.”

“What?  You’re a barbarian from the hills, you were arrested for poaching – you should at least have a throwing spear or something right?”

“My people . . . “

“Look, whatever man, just sic your dogs on whatever it is.”

Quinna turned loose his six attack dogs and they charged out of the hut with all the enthusiasm of trained murder beasts, but there wasn’t a sound after that.  No barking, no snarling, no sounds of bone cracking, nothing.  Quinna called for them to come back but nothing happened. I had the bastard fetch my crossbow and I activated my tattoo for night vision.

“Alright, I guess I’m going out there alone you coward.”

“Good luck!”

I crept out the door as silently as I could and was immediately presented with the six vicious war dogs sitting obediently at the feet of a woman floating a few inches off the ground – her hair was also floating lightly as if she was being buoyed by a light breeze.  You know how elf women (and men come think of it) are somehow a lighter and more ethereal version of a human woman?  This being was like the same thing only to an elf woman.   I’m sure many people would describe her as beautiful but that’s not quite right because she wasn’t like us – her beauty was that of a mountain spring or an autumn tree.  I have to admit I was taken a little aback.

“Er, hello.”

When she spoke it was in some musical language that I didn’t understand – I’ve been enspelled a time or two and listening to her speak was something akin to that, but not in a bad way.  When you feel a spell taking hold of you there’s a kind of sick feeling that accompanies it – this was similar to that but it felt comforting.  When I told her that I couldn’t understand her she gestured my dress – which by the way appears to never get dirty or ripped – so clearly she could understand me but was either unable or unwilling to speak the common tongue.

“Right, the dress.  I had a bit of a run in with what I think is one of your . . . kind.  But let’s not dwell on that, we’re here because this man’s wife was taken by someone with a magic mirror, do you know anyone like that?”

I’m not very practiced in reading the body language of faerie queens, but I’m pretty sure she did know – however her only response was to float away directly into a tree and disappear.  Quite rude if you ask me.  Once she was out of sight the dogs snapped out of their trace and seemed wildly confused.  I herded them back inside and lay back down in the farmer’s lumpy, scratchy bed.

“What happened out there?”

“It was a giant, don’t worry though, I killed it.” 

Usually a mid-night interruption like that will ruin the rest of my sleep but I slept like a baby and awoke feeling fresh as a daisy.  A fresh daisy.  Saying goodbye to fish-face, Quinna, the bastard, and I set out with the dogs hot on the trail of the mirror-wielding kidnapper, which seemed to be heading mostly towards the Upper Sandy Creek.

“I’m telling you Quinna, there’s going to be all kinds of mirror shit going on when we find this guy.  Like he’s going to create a bunch of reflections of himself and they’re all going to attack us.  Or we’re going to have to face mirror versions of ourselves or something.  I’m left handed Quinna so when I’m grappling with my mirror self and you have to decide which one to shoot shoot the one that’s right handed.”

“I don’t want to shoot anyone.”

“What kind of barbarian are you?!”

“Just because my people choose to . . .”

“I don’t want to hear it Quinna, after last night’s shameful performance you need to channel one of your ancestors who was a mighty warrior or something because I cannot do this alone.”

“I’m here too” piped up the bastard.

“Yes and a fine job you’re doing to – you have a long career ahead of you carrying stuff for better people.”

“Good Gods woman, do you have to speak to him like that?”  I gave Quinna a hard stare “Sorry, I mean, do you have to speak to him like that my Lady.”

“That’s better.”

The trail petered out after we crossed the river but I started talking to some of the locals while they were out tending their crops and several of them mentioned that a man had gone missing in Newberry Hill recently.  None of them mentioned anything about a man with a mirror, but it seemed like a decent lead.  By which I mean it was the only lead. 

We reached Newberry Hill shortly before dark so at least we don’t have to sleep outdoors tonight.

____________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 88,428

Inventory: Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Rope of Entanglement, Enchanted Feycloth Dress (Green), Light Crossbow

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,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin

Mindeleava 17, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

They call these woods Irontimber – I assume because the timber is hyperbolically hard as iron?  Maybe that’s why they look to be relatively untouched, cutting down a tree as hard as iron seems like a hassle coupled with a burden.  Quinna, the bastard, and the fish faced farmer all seem mildly terrified by this walk in firest.  I guess I had forgotten the fear that people hold for places like this.  It’s just another example of how backwards people are in their thinking.  The chances are a hundred times higher that neighbor in the next house is going to take an ax to your skull than you encountering some dark beast of the woods.  And yet people flock to cities for safety.  Flocking to cities for feather beds and warm pastries I get, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re less likely to die.  Or do, it’s probably happier that way.

My three human traveling companions barely said a word as we walked under the leafy canopy but as soon as we were on the other side heading towards the Homesteads the bastard started complaining. I had loaded him down with supplies which had dampened his enthusiasm quickly.

“Why are we even doing this?  Isn’t there a sheriff for this kind of thing?

“How should I know?  I’ve been here like a week.  You lot live here, you tell me.”

Quinna and the farmer exchanged a glance “Well technically there is, but Old Martin isn’t really up to doing much sheriffing these days.”

“Why is the still the sheriff then?”

“I believe it’s a lifelong appointment.”

“Of course it is.  Well when we get back I’ll talk to my dear cousin and maybe she’ll make me sheriff.”

It was said in jest but all three men, well two men and a boy, just about fell to the ground in fright.  I could swear one of the dogs even did a double take that but that has to have been my imagination.

“Relax boys, I was just kidding, obviously a woman sheriff would be ridiculous – I mean how could someone sheriff with these tits swinging around?  It’s ungodly it is.  So anyway Fishy what’s the story – did you just come home from a hard day of raking mud or whatever farmers do and your goodwife was gone?”

He somehow simultaneously pulled at this cap, forelock and belt as he answered with eyes downcast
“No my lady, we had just sat down to dinner when the door to our home flew open when a man dressed all in black, his face hidden by a wide hat burst in and held up a mirror.  My poor wife disappeared and all that was left was her reflection in the mirror, scratching desperately to get out.”

I stopped dead.  “What?!  Are you kidding me?  Why didn’t you mention any of this before?  I thought this was going to be a palms up rapist hunt not some freaky magic shit!  Do you realize what this means?  I guaranty you that we’re going to have to go into a damn mirror and it’s going to be some freaky backwards other dimension with a dude with like a hundred eyeballs or some other damn thing controling the place and we’re going to be confronted with our worst fears or some bullshit!”

“I wouldn’t know anything about that my lady, I just want my wife back.”

“Honestly what is going on in the world?  Why is it always a demon or a magic beast with the head of an egret and the body of an otter or some terror from the grave?  Why can’t it just be a normal rapist or murder or something?  What is going on?!”

Quinna looked around “Who are you yelling at?”

I took a moment to calm myself “No one Quinna, no one.  I hate magic.  I really do.  I don’t suppose you have any thoughts on why a mysterious man in black would want to suck your wife into a mirror do you?”

“No my lady.”

“Of course not.”

We reached the farmer’s shack and after chasing off a couple of squatters I set the bastard to cleaning up and making us some dinner while Quinna and I had the dogs check the area.  They found a trail pretty quickly and seemed apprehensive about it in a doggish kind of way.  I activated my tattoo for enhanced olfactory and took a sniff myself – the faint scent of the farmer’s wife and an overpowering scent of something not human.  It smelled strongly of mint mixed with eldritch abomination. 

“I’m telling you Quinna, this whole thig is going to go sideways on us – it’s going to get real weird real fast.”

“So what do we do?”

“We head out tomorrow and find this mackerel-looking son of a bitch’s daughter.”

“Wife.”

“Whatever.”

____________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 88,428

Inventory: Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Rope of Entanglement, Enchanted Feycloth Dress (Green), Light Crossbow

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,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin

Montalan 29th, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar) REWRITE

There are several kinds of drunks in the world. There’s the drowning your sorrow drunk, there’s the feckless loafer drunk, there’s the sad clown drunk, and so on and so forth.  One thing they all have in common is the experience of waking up somewhere and not knowing where they are or what they’ve done.  I’ve done my fair share of imbibing from time to time but I have never woken up and not known where I was or what had happened.  Until today. 

I felt like I woke up in parts – a tenth at a time, with each tenth taking about a minute.  It was a very odd and not pleasant at all sensation.  The first thing I was able to notice was that I was laying on something hard and cold – the ground it turned out.  There was very little light because as it turns out I was laying on the ground in an alley.  A filthy alley if you must know.  That may seem like a redundancy but I assure you around the palace there’s plenty of alleys that are clean as a whistle.  Are whistles even clean though?  Seems like they’d have a lot of spit in them.

At first I was angry because my dress was ruined but that anger was quickly eclipsed by the anger that I had been left here by the Duke and his cronies.  This was nothing compared to the white hot spike of anger that would run through me once I realized what was going on. 

My head felt foggy, but not drink-foggy, I’ve never been much of one for the pipeweed but it was more akin to that – but yet still different.  Everything felt heavy.  It was like the sky was pressing down on me and the ground was dragging at my arms and legs.  I managed to hoist myself to my feet and immediately fall forward – I tried to catch myself but my arms wouldn’t listen so I toppled headfirst into a wall.  I barely even felt it but I could see a little stream of blood running across my eye.  The thudding sound it make was highly disturbing.

After a few more chances I was able to stand up straight for a minute and eventually the fog lifted – it was like taking off a blindfold.  Up until this point I thought that I was in the Shambles but as I finally managed to look around I wasn’t so sure, nothing looked right.  At this moment I realized that a dog was licking at my feet.  I love dogs but this beast was the sorriest, mangiest cur you’d ever have the displeasure to meet.  It’s fur was not only matted, but also somehow slimy.   I tried to work up a kick to send it away but I was too dizzy to even make the attempt before it got bored and wandered off.  Lucky for it.   

Grasping at the wall of the alley like a mountaineer to a guide-wire I managed to make my way to the street and looked around.  I can’t claim to be intimately familiar with every part of the city but nothing looked familiar at all.  The people didn’t even look right.  I can’t say how exactly but they were different. 

I tried to dredge from my memory what had happened last night.  The Duke and I had attended the opera?  Or was that the night before?  Last night did we attend a ball.  I don’t remember any heavy drinking in the past few nights at least.  Nothing was making any sense.  I spied a lank-haired, dull-eyed, barefoot fellow carrying a dead pig under his arm walking past and I called out – my voice coming out as nothing but a croak at first.

“Where am I?”

For a moment he looked at the pig in astonishment as if it had been the one that spoke – I had to snap my fingers to get him to realize that I, and not a dead pig, was the one who had addressed him.  His answer made no sense, streets and places that I never heard of. 

“Am I still in capital?”

He seemed mightily confused “Cathars?  No, my lady.”

Cathars?  Isn’t that the capital of Cymrile County?  Where the Hells am I?

“What city is this?”

“Graltontown.”

I stood there for a long moment, long enough that pigman continued on his way.  Graltontown?  Why would I be in Graltontown?  That’s hundreds of miles away!  And no place anyone would ever want to visit on top of that.  Then I remembered the rumors.  That the Duke’s wife was growing jealous.  I had dismissed them of course, the woman was a weak as a newborn foal, I never thought she’s have the audacity to do anything about it.  But she must have had me drugged and dumped here.  It’s the only thing that makes sense. 

Graltontown. Of course it would be Graltontown. Where two slack-jawed locals having a slobbering contest was considered height of elegant society. She couldn’t have done this alone – the Duke’s wife can’t put her smallclothes on without the help of six to ten maids – the Duke must have authorized it himself.  They should have killed me if they wanted to get rid of me.  Dumping me here and leaving me alive?  What do they think I’m going to do?  The Duke is going to pay. All that he has will be brought to ruin. I will rain destruction down up the Duke and his family until he’s on his hands and knees like a beast begging for mercy. No mercy will be forthcoming.

Walking out of the alley I found a public fountain, although it wouldn’t be good enough for a horse-trough back in the city.   As I tried to clean myself up as best I could locals were staring agog at my finery like gasping decapitated fish heads. After cleaning from my dress as much alley-muck as I could, I took some time to walk around town and get the lay of the land. I found what passed for a fine lodging in a sty like Graltontown and used the bulk of my funds to get a room for the night, a passable meal – steamed octopus with roasted apples and a ravenberry tart – as well as a bottle of fine wine. A good use of my limited funds – having cheated death I need to replenish myself.

Before I turned in for the night I made a visit to a nearby temple where I swore before all the Gods that I would be avenged on Duke Eaglevane. An oath well sworn.

I fell into a deep drug-fueled sleep and dreamed of vengeance.

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 1 Gold , 1 Silver

XP: 0

Inventory: Noble’s outfit (100 gold), Signet Ring , Stiletto

Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane

Behind the Scenes – My first post was easily the worst of the bunch. At that point it was more of a joke, not like the SUPER serious writing that I do now. Anyway, I wanted to update it so I did. To the one person that actually reads this daily I’m sorry that you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for Ela’s next exciting adventure. Two posts in a day would be just too much excitement for anyone to handle.

Mindeleava 16, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

With much pomp and circumstance (what does that even mean really?) the Baron and his Chosen Men rode out today to face down the evil barbarians of the hills.  Women were waving kerchiefs, men were doing that thing they do with their hats where they just kind of hold them up in the air, children were doing whatever kids do (being loud mostly), it was quite the scene.  If you’re into that sort of thing.  There was an overblown carrying-on with various high-class ladies giving their “favors” to their champions, I have to imagine there were some favors being handed out last night as well.  There should have been anyway, you never know with these courtly types.   

The Baron only had two dozen knights with him, which doesn’t seem like enough to go up against the presumed sixty battle-tested warriors of the Sky Thunder tribe but maybe they’re going to pick up more along the way.  Not my business I suppose.  My business is now helping my dear cousin to run whatever it is a Baron runs.  A barony I suppose.  I’ve never heard that term used though.  I wonder what he’s really in charge of around here.  It’s probably marked on a map somewhere. I have to say though now that I’ve been wandering around Cymrile County for a while it certainly seems like ninety percent of the kingdom has no one in charge of it.  I bet you copper to silver that you could build a keep and just start bossing people around somewhere and no one would question it. 

It was no more than three hours after the Baron left that it was time for an emergency.  A farmer from the Uthden Homesteads had arrived complaining about his wife being missing.  The Baroness had no idea what to do but lucky for her, and for the farmer, I was there to take the moose wolf by the scaly tail.

“No worries, Quinna and I will just take some of the hounds and track her down.”

The Baroness was stunned “You will?”

“Sure, that’s why you have tracking dogs right?  I mean the Baron has them because he’s a fancy-lad and he wants to have them as a status symbol of sorts, but they can also be put to good use right?”

The Baroness bit her lip in a most undignified manner “Cousin, I don’t think that’s a good idea, it’s far too dangerous and we don’t have any men to send with you.”

“Oh, it will be fine.  She probably just ran off, I mean look at this guy – he looks like a trout with legs – who wouldn’t want to run away from that walleyed face?  And if she didn’t she probably just got grabbed by some rapist, no big deal.  Quinna is a dirty barbarian so he’s probably a decent fighter right?  If you’re worried though we can take that Marcher bastard with us.  I know he’s only twelve but they use kids younger than that as messengers and such on the front lines.  Plus bastards grow up faster anyway.  He’s a scrappy little bastard, I’m sure he can mix it up if it comes to that.”

“Cousin, language!”

“Oh shit, I’m sorry, do people not know that he’s a bastard?”

“People know about his . . . situation, but you don’t speak of it!”

“Whatever, Quinna and I will take the kid and a pack of dogs and track this lady down.  If she just ran off we’ll grab her and bring her back to the flapping fins of this fishy fellow, and if a rapist has her we’ll stab his face off.”

The Baroness was dubious but she didn’t have any better offers so the rescue mission was go.  Quinna didn’t seem to be any happier about being volunteered for this mission than the Baroness was to send us on it – what’s wrong with these people?  Where’s their sense of adventure?  I found the bastard stealing sherry from the kitchens and after whomping him upside the head with one of those bread shovel things I told him to grab his gear.  At least he was excited.  That may have been the concussion talking though.

We’d be taking with us the pick of the litter, literally sort of –  Gale an Alsatian tracking hound, Mechas a Malakanese herd dog, and six Cimmerian fighting mongrels all with names like Chopper and Ripper and so forth – Quinna is a heck of a trainer but he’s not much when it comes to names.  Although I suppose after you’ve named six or eight dozen dogs it kind of loses its luster. 

Quinna’s plan was to take the road ALL the way around to the Homesteads but I told him that was going to take too long – we should just cut through the forest instead.

“It’s going to be ten times faster.  If fish-face had done that on the way here his wife would already be rescued instead of whatever awful thing is happening to her right now.  I’d explain in detail what’s probably happening to her but it’s not something a kid should hear.  Not even a bastard kid.”

“I have a name.”

“That’s the spirit!  Now run and fetch me a crossbow from the armory will you?  Just in case.”

____________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 88,428

Inventory: Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Rope of Entanglement, Enchanted Feycloth Dress (Green), Light Crossbow

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,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin