Riding into town in the small hours of the night is starting to become my signature move. I was stashed at a guard barracks while the Captain and her men started doing whatever it is military types do to run things up the flagpole. I wasn’t thrilled to be left in the care of the Malgareth guard – city guards can be very unreliable, but I had Prudence and Eila with me so I felt a little better. I had a little heart to heart with them.
“I know that I’ve sent a bit of a mixed message by hiring you as my bodyguards and then immediately running off alone into dangerous situations, but now we’re in the thick of it. Going up against Królewna & Bonifacja is going to be wildly dangerous and I need you by my side at all times from hereon in. If you’re not interested this is the time to bail.”
They both reaffirmed their commitment to keeping me safe. Thankfully we weren’t there long. I had just lain my head down to sleep when the watch-captain and ten guards came to escort me to the mayor’s office. He looked even more weary and disheveled than I did – his muttonchops were a disaster. We spoke at length about destruction of the gem and the resulting misadventures. Saying it all out loud in once I found myself somewhat shocked even though I had been through it all – when you’re in the thick of it you don’t really stop to think about what’s happening. He was quite saddened by the news of Arastara’s death and to be honest I teared up a little myself. But in the larger picture it wasn’t nearly as important as the news about Królewna & Bonifacja and the Vieland operations in the Scarlands. I got the distinct impression that he was glad that as a simple mayor he wouldn’t have to be the one to deal with all of this.
I was given a room in the mayor’s mansion and finally got a good night’s sleep in the kind of luxurious surroundings that I deserve. I woke around noon and joined the mayor’s plain wife and a couple of her ladies in waiting for lunch. Roasted lamb with dried onions, braised veal with curd cheese, and raspberry tarts. It was the best meal I’ve had in ages. I think the chefs and cooks back at court are gaining ground on my bed back at court as the thing I might miss the most. It probably wasn’t even that great of a meal but if there’s one adage that’s true it’s that hunger makes the best sauce.
After eating I stuck around and chatted with the mayor’s wife and her entourage. They had absolutely nothing of interest to say, but I was in the mood for that sort of thing. It’s nice to just talk about nothing for a while. It’s also nice not to worry about being killed by a wyvern or a chimera or some other damn thing. Late in the afternoon the mayor and several other officious looking types came and told me the good news – tomorrow I would be meeting with the Countess herself to receive my reward. I thanked them ever so gratefully and then retired to my quarters where I quickly packed. Much to the confusion of my bodyguards.
“A meeting with the Countess? I don’t think so. We need to get out of town now. Thankfully I know someone who can smuggle us out.”
We made haste to one of Vory Mishka’s establishments but it was too late. All of sudden the street we turned down was completely empty – we turned back and our path was blocked by a dashing looking fellow with a bushy mustache and several rough looking characters. A quick look behind us confirmed we were being surrounded. Mustache called out in a friendly manner.
“You’re a hard woman to find Ela.”
“Not hard enough apparently.”
“You need to come with us Ela.”
I produced a grizzly bear from my Bag of Tricks but it wasn’t much of a fight. We were enshrouded by magical darkness and then entangled in a magic web on top of that. I used my Boots to escape and activated my Lion Tattoo for extra speed but there was no chance of escape. After I was grappled one of Mustache’s men came forward and spoke some magical words, touching my forehead and sending me into a deep and dreamless sleep. Have I mentioned how much I hate magic? When I came to I was in a small windowless room shackled to a table that was affixed to the floor. I was groggy enough that I don’t know how long it was before Mustache came into the room and sat down across from me.
“Which is it that you’re interested in Ela, reparations or retribution?”
“Why not both?
“I had a feeling you were going to say something like that. You’re smart Ela, but you’re not as smart as you think you are.”
“People keep telling me that. And the way they say it, it’s like they think they’re doing me some kind of favor – like when you tell someone that they have food on their shirt. I suppose the idea is that you’re assuming that I can’t match you physically so you want to make me think that I can’t outsmart you either.”
“You can’t. Ela, you’ve become problematic. And you’re smart enough to know what happens to problems.”
“And yet here we are talking.”
“Yes, you’ve done a great service for the King, even if you didn’t mean to. It wouldn’t be proper to kill you. But we can’t have you running amok out there either. There’s a war on you know, and everywhere you go chaos follows. This roaring rampage of revenge you’re on has to stop Ela, there are bigger things at stake here than your ego. Which is hard to believe I know.”
“That seems a bit overly dramatic.”
“Does it? It hasn’t even been five months Ela and how many lives do you think you’re ruined? Dozens? Hundreds? I don’t want to hear any of your justifications either, it was rhetorical. Are you suicidal Ela? Would you rather die than live an ordinary life? You can’t seem to stop getting yourself into impossible situations.”
“Back at court there was a duelist. As I’m sure you know rich people love dueling but they don’t like bleeding, most of them anyway, so they use proxies – there’s nothing like having someone else die for you to settle a ‘matter of honor’. People said that he had fought more than hundred duels. I don’t know if that’s true but he had been in a lot for sure. We would talk from time to time and once he told me that the longer he was in the game in the more often he wished that when his opponent’s sword was coming for him that he would miss his parry so it could all be over and he wouldn’t have to do it anymore. But he never did. He always blocked their attack, no matter that part of him wanted desperately for it to just end.”
“There’s nothing more justified than revenge at the right time.”
“Here’s what’s going to happen Ela. You’re going to live in the household of Baron Juost, the story will be that you’re the Baron’s wife’s cousin who’s come to stay with them. You will live in the lap of luxury, your every need will be catered to, and you will stay there. You’re never going to leave Ela, you need to make yourself accept that. You will never bother the Duke or cause anyone any trouble again. You will live out the rest of your days as a minor noble far away from the capital. And what you need to realize Ela is that this is what you wanted all along. You did it Ela, you made your back in – a life of leisure and indulgence – that’s what you really wanted all along right? The Duke’s wife took that away from you and you were mad about that, but now that you have it back there’s no reason to hold a grudge. Will you do that Ela? Will you just accept your good fortune and not cause any more trouble?”
“Absolutely I will.”
Inventory: Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion)
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