The Captain and I stayed up late into the night going over our “case” against Królewna & Bonifacja. I scarcely felt like I had lain my head down to sleep before I was being roused to head out. It was all I could do to drag one foot in front of the other, but Captain Charum looked fresh as a daisy as she helped her men pack up the camp in a matter of minutes. She doesn’t look like much but clearly this is a woman made of iron. Or steel. Or whichever one is stronger.
I’ve heard tales that the horsemen of the far south can literally sleep in the saddle – which in addition to being a bad idea I assumed was impossible. But I tell you, there were times riding today where suddenly an hour had passed without me being aware. I wouldn’t quite call it sleep, but it was a close relative. Although I wouldn’t call it restful by any stretch. Because of this semi-conscious state I didn’t realize for several minutes that we had stopped. Captain Charum was making concerned faces while talking to one of her outriders. I perked up a bit and trotted up to join them, the scout stopped talking once I was in earshot but the captain didn’t seem concerned by my presence. What she was concerned about was a party of men under arms bearing no flag nor insignia in the vicinity. She was worried that they could be after our prisoners – either under the auspice of Królewna & Bonifacja, Vieland, or both.
“If you’re worried about it, I’ll ride over and see what they’re about.”
They both seemed surprised “You will?”
“Sure. I’ve got a bit of the gift of gab, I can usually suss these kind of things out in short order.”
“It’s awfully risky.”
“I’m not too worried about it.” I turned to the scout “How many men are we talking about?”
“More than a dozen, but no more than twenty.”
“Eh, no problem. You want me to check it out I’ll be back in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.”
The Captain seemed stunned “I can’t ask you to do that.”
“You’re not, I’m offering.”
Eila and Prudence were dead-set on accompanying me, which is touching since that’s their job, but since I’m the one paying the bills they didn’t push it too hard. The outrider led me maybe a mile away and pointed me in the right direction. I used my Cap to take on the appearance of a scruffy old vagabond and started singing loudly and enthusiastically off-key as I rode. In short order I was confronted by two young men in greenish-lacquered armor with close shorn hair.
“What are you about old timer?”
I squinted at them comically “Well now, that’s the grand question of life isn’t it young fella? What are any of us about? I’ve traveled this land for moren sixty years now and I’ll be damned if I know. Most of that was on a mule rather than a horse though, I tell you boys there’s nothing like a trusty mule. I had this mule once, of probably goin’ on thirty years back now, I called him by the name of Prickly Pete. Now old Prickly Pete could an ornery cuss but he saved my bacon one time. Youseesir a goblin was sneakin up on me after I had a little bit of the moonshine and old Pete he kicked that sunagun right in the head, cracked his coconut like a tapman opening up a barrel of the good stuff. I tell you Prickly Pete he didn’t like no goblins, he’s as soon as kick one of ‘em as send em up a flume. Poor old Pete. Rest in peace buddy. You think mules go to some kind of afterlife? What would that even be like?”
They let me ramble on a while, clearly amused by the tales of an old man, but eventually they broke in.
“That’s quite a fine steed you’ve got there old timer. Where did you get her?”
“Oh, one place or another, I can’t rightly recall.”
“Looks like a military horse to me.”
“Oh well, could be, there’s a war on you know – lot of loose horses runnin about if you take the time to chase ‘em down.”
“Some call that theft old timer.”
I winked outrageously “Well I won’t tell if you don’t.”
“You must know this area pretty well, you mind talking to our commander for a minute?”
“Suren I would not” I smacked my lips “You boys got anything to drink up there? Immabit parched you see.”
Their leader was a fellow called Critchlowe and they were mercenaries. They had been hired on to watch over a textile merchant’s delivery to some town or another but they broke the contract due to a disagreement of some kind. They claimed to be looking for another assignment but it was clear to me that they were considering that all mercenaries do when down on their luck – resorting to banditry. When you’ve got weapons and no money what else are you going to do? It’s a risky move, besides the threat of being hung you stand to lose your charter to do that kind of work – the crown tends to frown on large groups of armed men roaming about unsupervised.
He asked me to tell him about the land around here but I dropped the garrulous old man act – although not the appearance.
“You’re at a crossroads here huh? You better be sure because once you start down that dark path it’s pretty difficult to come back.”
“What do you know about it old man?”
“A thing or two. Plus I’m not actually an old man, I’m a beautiful young maiden. Or maid, I forget which. ”
That elicited a weird burst of laughter “I’m willing to listen to the wisdom of a wise old man who’s really a gorgeous woman.”
“You want to know about the area? There’s a war on right? Seems like you should have no trouble finding work.”
“You’d think so, but the army doesn’t like hiring mercs – they don’t trust us for some strange reason.”
“The nerve. I tell you this though, you go a mile in that direction and you’ll find a very reasonable Captain who’ll listen to your offer. I’ll make the introductions and everything.”
“Is that so? What if instead I captured this Captain and sold him to Vieland for a hefty sack of gold.”
“Why then you’d be a traitor and an outlaw, living life on the run. But you wouldn’t do that of course, because you’re a patriot, just like me.”
“Gods save the King and all that.”
“And all that.”
I’m not sure who was more dismayed, Captain Charum when she saw me riding up in the company of armed men or Critchlowe when I dropped my illusion and he saw that I really was a stunningly attractive woman rather than a piney old wanderer. The Captain was not pleased at first but soon saw the wisdom of this course of action – after all between her men here and those escorting the civilians to Ridy Run she was down half her original force at the worksite. The two of them hammered out a deal and soon afterwards Critchlowe and his men were heading east while we continued to the west.
That night I was sitting against a tree massaging my aching thighs and drinking blueberry wine that I had gotten from one of Critchlowe’s men. I was supervising Prudence and Eila setting up my shelter when Captain Charum sought me out.
“You’re full of surprises aren’t you?”
“Oh not really, I just get lucky every now and then.”
“I don’t believe in luck.”
I winked and took a swig of my wineskin “But I do, and that’s why I’m so lucky.”
Funds: 41,258 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