The scouts were overdue to check in with their unit or squad or whatever so half of them left along with Marsh and some of his men as the rest of us continued to plod along. There should be a better way to travel by now. We should have some kind of magic roads that sling you to your destination at breakneck speeds. Just another example of how magic sucks. As we were traveling we saw a strange surging in the ground ahead – it was like a ripple of some kind, very perplexing. As we got closer we saw that it was a herd (swarm?) of grasshoppers the size of pumpkins. I’ve never liked grasshoppers – they don’t seem to be able to control where they’re jumping. Their attitude seems to be “well I’m going to launch myself into the air in a random direction and hope for the best”. Point is I don’t like being jumped on.
The horror of finding out that giant grasshoppers exist and encountering them was quickly overcome by the horror of seeing people run out and start taking them down with slings – not because they hated them like a normal person but because they wanted to eat them. The column came to a halt for an impromptu grasshopper roast. Have you ever seen someone biting into a fried grasshopper leg like a chicken drumstick? I have now. But what was worse was the smell – the stench of cooking thorax was too much for me, I had to slip away and vomit until my ribs ached. But in a ladylike way. Since everyone was happy I didn’t throw a wet blanket on the affair but I wanted to scream like the Hells at them. There’s a certain kind of perverse pride people taken from eating disgusting things. People are weird.
Not long after that revolting spectacle was over we got moving again we overtook a barge heading upriver. They claimed to be bringing supplies to the fort building effort but that makes no sense – the Compass isn’t navigable past the ruined forts which leaves no place for supplies to be coming from. Supplies would be coming downriver from Malgareth if anything. I didn’t really care but the lead scout, who had taken command of the soldiers (whose name turned out to be Barich) asked me if I could suss out what they were about. Keeping him happy seems like a good idea so I agreed to turn my considerable talents to the task.
I was pretty sure they weren’t river pirates for same reason I was sure they weren’t bringing supplies – there’s no traffic on this part of the river. Pirates need stuff to pirate. So I will admit to being a little curious myself. I convinced them to “dock” and come ashore to mingle. And mingle they did. They seemed quite relived to be off that boat, almost as if they had been on it for weeks or months – which further supported the theory that they were lying. Maybe they came up the Needle and portaged around the forts? Why would anyone do that? And where would they be coming from? There are no settlements down there.
The “captain” of this vessel Lotar Zoege seemed pretty shrewd so I stayed away from him and concentrated my efforts a fellow called Grellus – I’m a pretty good judge of character and he seemed like the kind of handsome lech that I could have wrapped around my finger after a few drinks and a little flirting. There was something of a festival atmosphere as people took the opportunity to blow off some steam. It wasn’t long before Grellus confided in me that they weren’t really ferrying supplies.
“Why Mister Grellus, whatever can you mean?” I gasped, fanning myself in shock and surprise.
He snuck me aboard the barge, and by snuck I mean he winked at the men left to guard it who grinned and winked back. With wildly exaggerated stealth he took me below decks. It took me a moment for my eyes to adjust and then they did I waited for them to adjust some more because what I saw on the hold of the barge large centipede like creatures stacked like cordwood. I thought maybe they were dead but the wicked mandibles of one twitched slightly and another moved a little from side to side – asleep maybe or I some kind of torpor?
“You thought showing me this would get me in the mood? You’re really bad at this.”
“Yes he is.”
I turned to the sound of the voice, Lotar coming down the stairs behind us. Close on his heels was the winking guard who shrugged apologetically. Grellus started to stammer an apology or excuse or some such but the captain silenced him with a quick gesture.
“Timbers grab her.”
“Now hold on a second there’s no reason we can’t be reasonable about this.”
“Gag her too, she seems like a talker.”
The winking guard came towards me and got shot in the chest by my Bracelet for his troubles – although he didn’t seem too inconvenienced by it. Praying to every god I had heard of I activated my Lion tattoo for a little extra oomph and jumped out onto the “cargo”. Have you ever tried to land and balance on the back of a giant bug carapace? It’s harder than it looks. But I made to the side of the ship and had the wall to help me steady myself. The creature flinched slightly but didn’t stir – I had assumed they must my magically subdued somehow and thanked my lucky stars that I was correct.
Lotar scowled at his two minions “Well, go after her!”
After a long moment of reluctance Timbers gingerly stepped down onto one of the creatures – which snapped into his leg almost instantly. I guess I’m light enough not to rouse them, they on the other hand are not. The mandible snip was bad enough, but what was worse is that there was some kind of corrosive involved as well. Grellus frantically pulled the other man up and his leg was mutilated beyond belief. He lay on the deck moaning.
The captain regarded me coolly “We seem to be at a stalemate.”
“Not as much as you might think” I retrieved my crossbow and shot him in the hip. The two men grabbed Timbers and tried to drag him up the stairs out of my sight but under fire from me they abandoned him and got out of the line of fire. I could hear them whispering on the stairs so I went into my Bag of Tricks and produced a tiger. I started whistling the Lady or the Tiger as I instructed it to head up the stairs. I carefully picked my way across the backs of the bugs as the tiger attacked the two men on the stairs with much shouting and confusion – and shrieks of pain.
Grellus was torn to pieces as I came around to see up the stairs, Lotar frantically trying to fend off the tiger.
“Call it off, call it off!!!”
I did so, taking the captain prisoner, and then secretly signaled to Barich to round up the rest of the crew. Turns out these people were some variety of Vieland “black bag” operation and their plan was to release their burrowing killers in the area of the fort that was being built to bring construction to a halt.
“Is this the kind of harebrained scheme that goes on in a war? This plan is insane.”
Barich seemed almost embarrassed and mumbled something about how war makes people do crazy things before heading off to make sure the prisoners were secure. He didn’t even thank me. Typical.
Funds: 39,858 gold
Inventory: Ring of Many Garments, Bag of Tricks (tan), Cap of Disguise, Secure Pocket, Resplendent Diplomat’s Palette, Secure Paypack, Skeleton Key, Brooch of Shielding, Pouch of Magic Stones, Masterful Grey Gloves, Black Marketers’ Bag, Biting Bracelet (Endless Ammunition), Boots of Escape, Bracers of the Glib Entertainer, Ring of Animal Friendship, +2 Commanding Light Crossbow, Headband of Alluring Charisma +2, Handy Haversack, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion)
Signet ring, noble’s outfit, candlerod (9), masterwork dagger, succubi carving, Domiel family ring, walking stick, masterwork playing cards, spinel and peridot holy symbol of Kralten, antitoxin (9), smelling salts (3), sunrods (3), thieves’ tools, tindertwigs (6), various and sundry inebriants and intoxicants
Silver ring, gold bracelet, gold and pearl pendant, gold ring, platinum necklace (2), mithril hair clasps (3)
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