Moreavan 19 Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

Before the sun was up I had chosen a fine steed from the stables and was heading towards Varshire at a steady trot – arriving in the tiny community just as the sun was rising.  I’ve seen plenty of sunsets but very few sunrises in my day.  The sun coming up over the horizon is a little more hopeful than the reverse, which is sappy but that doesn’t make it any less true.  Well, maybe a little less true.  The mighty wizard who gave up wizarding, Hellerhad, was making ends meet as a butcher – which was the only shop in this hamlet other than a general store of some kind.  Although I think a general store is supposed to have more than post-hole diggers right?  Otherwise it’s not a general store.

I’ve seen enough of the world to know that not ALL wizards are runty bookworms (just most) but I was still taken aback by the sight of Hellerhad.  I’m no short woman and I barely came up to nipple height on this man – and he was broad as a barn as well.  And while some of it was fat, most of it was knotty muscle.  He was bald as an egg but had a thick droopy mustache that twitched when he moved his lips.  It was uncomfortably reminiscent of the antennae of an insect grasping around.  As I came towards his miniscule open air shop where he was whacking some poor critter to bits he ineffectually wiped his bloody hands on a rag.

“You’re up early My Lady.  I don’t believe I’ve seen you around here before.”

“I’m new around these parts, newish anyway.  I’m the Baroness’s cousin.”

“Never knew she had any kin.  Does the Baroness’s cousin have a name?”

“Of course.  Just to be sure I’m talking to the right butcher you’re Hellerhad right?”

“No one calls me that anymore, they call me Ox now.”

“Sure, but you know what I’m getting at.”

“I don’t like where I think this is going.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you.  Now as I’m sure you know the Baron is off bravely fighting the barbarians of the hills leaving the Baroness to run things all alone in the world with only me her petite slip of a cousin to help.”

“And all the men up at the manor.”

“Sure but all the good ones are off fighting, those men are all rascals and mischief-makers, why just the other day one of them had the temerity to sneak a look at me while my bustle was askew.”

“Gods save us.”

“Indeed.  My point is we all need to step up and do our part.  And that includes you my fine bald friend.  We need some magical advice, and you’re the man to give it.”

He shook his head stoutly “I don’t work magic anymore.”

“You won’t have to.  Probably.  We just need your wise council.”

He crossed his arms “And if I refuse?”

“You won’t.  Because only a cad would refuse to help a lady in need, especially a noble lady, especially a noble lady who rules the land they live in.  Only a real fen-sucked applejohn would do something like that.  You know, a dyed in the wool harecop dunbeater of a bedswerver.”

He sighed dramatically “What do you want?”

I accidentally took the Kralten-symbol out my Bag instead of the Kozilek symbol “I want you to take a look at this and oh sorry, wrong one, I . . .”

He stepped back in fear as if I was holding a live cobra in my hand.  I found this quite alarming, as you can imagine.  Or maybe you can’t, how should I know what you can imagine?

“What?  Is it cursed or something?!”

“Do you know what that is?!”

“No, that’s why I came to you, what is it?!”

“That symbol . . .” he trailed off breathlessly.

“Yeah, it’s a symbol for Kralten.  Are you freaking out because of that or because it some kind of execrable magic that’s going to turn me into a donkey or something?”

He backed himself into the corner, his voice going hoarse “Where did you get it?”

“I took it off a dead Kralten lady.”

“You killed a follower of the Lord of Revenge?”

“No, not that one anyway.  Actually now that I think about it I don’t think I’ve killed any Kralten people.  Wait, were those people in Quillshire Kraltenites?  I think they were demon worshippers or something.  Although really what’s the difference between an evil god a demon lord really?  I did have one Kralten guy thrown off a castle wall but I didn’t kill him personally.  And some kid who was like the Kralten messiah or savior I kicked so hard his balls burst.  Which now that I think about it may have killed him.  A ball bursting could be fatal right?”

Hellerhad couldn’t even form words, he just shook his head oddly back and forth – not like a “no” head shaking, but more like he was trying to fling off a spider crawling on his face without using his hands. 

“Get a hold of yourself man, is it bad magic or are you just afraid of Kralten?”  I snapped my fingers in front of his face a few times. “Hey big man, seriously calm down, you look like you’re having a fit of some sort.”

In the end I resorted to a sharp slap across the face – I’m not sure I could have reached his face to slap it if he wasn’t halfway slumped in the corner.  This finally seemed to bring him around, although he looked about as healthy as the carcass splayed out on his butchering table.  I assume there’s a name for that.  People have names for everything.

Hellerhad took a deep breath “I can help you.  But I need you to do something for me first.”

“Of course you do, you’re a man.  Be quick with it, I’d like to get on the road today if I can.”

“The children of the surrounding farmlands have been being lured into the woods by a satyr, entranced by its flute playing.”

“Just a normal satyr?”

“Uh, I guess so . . . yeah.”

“No problem.  I killed a vampire satyr just the other day – so a normal satyr should be no challenge at all.  Point me in the direction of these woods and I’ll take out this goat legged bastard and then we’ll be in business.”

I spent the rest of the day going around to different farmhouses and talking to annoying grief-stricken parents about their children being stolen away by the piper of the woods.  Eventually I went into the woods and very quickly heard the sound of pipes being played and followed them to a sunny dell where a satyr was cavorting and gamboling about playing a flute of some excessively shiny metal. 

“Oh hello there friend!  Care to join me in my revels?  My name is Colper and these are my woods!  What’s your name pretty lady?”

I loaded my crossbow and shot him in the belly.

“OH GODS WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!”

Turns out the kids were just running away from home and were hiding in Allene – the satyr had nothing to do with anything.  I was pretty pissed off at this point because I spent my whole day on this nonsense.  However when I got back to the butcher shop my previous anger turned into blind rage because Hellerhad was gone – he had closed up the place and scarpered while I was on his wild goose chase.

What a pointless day.

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 995 platinum

XP: 162,028

Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animated Riding Coat,  Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring,  False Papers, Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, Gem of Brightness, Potion of Invisibility, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Glove of Vampiric Touch, Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Holy Symbol of Kozilek, Ruby (2), Black Marketers’ Bag, 879 Garnets, crystal necklace

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, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard

Moreavan 18 Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

There was part of me that expected this morning for a magic portal of some sort to open up via the holy symbol of Kozilek spilling forth some deadly cadre of jerks to make a mess of things.  Like a third of a part of me.  But there was nothing of the sort.  It was a little disappointing honestly.  But only a little.  The Archbaroness’s manor was abuzz nonetheless as all the maids and such were dragged before the master of the guard and questioned about the incident yesterday.  I really need to figure out what is wrong with me – I could have talked my way out of that situation so easily, and yet I threw a dagger at a man without thinking about it.  Maybe if should talk about my thoughts and feelings with a peer.  Of course I’d need to find a peer first.

I wanted to get on the road as soon as possible but it took figuratively forever to find Otacvio passed out under a hedge.  Silver lining he’s the kind of drunk that wakes up after you kick him just the one time – which is nice.  I pretended not to notice and kept kicking him anyway but that was for other reasons.  We finally got on the road barely two hours before mid-day.  The original plan was that we would continue on our goodwill tour, but since the first person on the list turned out to be a traitor and I had the proof it seemed best to head back to Juost Manor.  We drove hard and got back “home” that same day.  I know I’m repeating myself but this coach is a dream – I don’t know how much magic involved or if it’s just extraordinarily well-made or both but this thing really flies.  And by really I mean metaphorically – allegory is tricky when magic is about.  I hope I find a way to steal it when I get out of here.

The Baroness was surprised, and dismayed if we’re being honest, that we were back so soon but once I showed her the Archbaroness’s letter she understood why we had hurried back.  She looked very concerned, understandably.

“Aren’t you worried that the Archbaroness is going to notice the letter missing?”

“What difference could it make?  Unless you think she’s going to try and assassinate you or raise an army in rebellion what is she going to do?  If we’re lucky now that she knows the cat is out of the bag she’ll run away and we won’t have to deal with removing her.”

“Could you have arrested her?”

“Unlikely, not by force, I could have cooked up a scheme maybe but I wasn’t sure if that’s what you would want.  You know that’s going to be a real issue in this whole process not being able to communicate.  You don’t have some magic stones or a mirror or something that can let us talk to one another?”

She shook her head. “I don’t think there is such a thing.”

“I used to think that too, but I picked up something from the woman who had taken over the keep – you know the one I liberated for you free of charge – and it definitely allows communication over a distance.”

“With whom?”

“I don’t know, some friends of hers I assume.  Can we retune it or recajigger it or something so we can keep in touch while I’m out winning hearts and minds for you?”

“Stenton was our advisor on magical things and he’s away with the Baron.” She thought for a moment “There is another option . . . maybe.”

“How oblique.”

“There’s a small community north of here where a wizard lives.  He may have the expertise needed but . . . he’s difficult.”

“So what, he’s one of your subjects isn’t he?  Tell him to help you or wham!  Off with his head, that whole bit.”

“Come now cousin, one can’t rule so callously.”

“Why not?”

“This isn’t a debate, we’re not going to threaten him.”

“Why is it you have no issue getting tough with me?  So you say this guy is difficult, what do you mean by that?  Is he a serial killer?  You never hear about a magic serial killer but I bet they’re out there and they just never get found out.  Think about it, if you can turn invisible and blast someone with a bolt of force that leaves no trace of anything how’s anyone ever going to solve that?  I don’t care if you’re Annabelle Spaulding you’re not going to figure that one out.”

“Who’s Annabelle Spaulding?”

“A famous investigator.  At least I thought she was, the fact that you haven’t heard of her makes me question that now.  Maybe that was from a book a read.  So is he a serial killer or what’s his ‘difficulty’?”

“Well he doesn’t like magic.”

“I like him already.  But that’s a bit strange for a wizard no?  What an interesting twist!”

“I don’t know if it’s true or not but the tale people tell is that he and another wizard were wooing the same woman and things got out of hand which prompted him to give up magic.”

“Wizards like girls?”

“Be serious cousin.”

“Anyway, I’ll go talk to the guy, maybe he doesn’t want to do magic anymore but that doesn’t mean he can’t help his liege lord, er, lady.”

“No threats.”

“Of course not, of course not, I’ll just talk to the guy – it’s what I do best.  I’ll go right now.”

“It’s well after dark, by the time you got there it would be far too late to come calling.”

“Fine, but I don’t want to waste a lot of time on this, I want to get back on the road as soon as possible.”

“It was your idea in the first place!”

“That’s not how I remember it.”

Martialla had been given her own rooms thankfully so I didn’t have to listen to her complaining, but I was pacing around in my chambers for hours.  I’ve been more or less keeping to a normal schedule despite my ring because even though I don’t need to eat or sleep with it on I like eating and sleeping.  But on this night knowing that I wasn’t tired and knowing that I had a task hanging over me had me too out of sorts to eat.  I should pick up a hobby that I can work on when everyone else is asleep.  I tried to think of what I like.  Night-singing would be annoying to my neighbors.  Night-riding isn’t really a thing.  Night-drinking leads to day-hang overs. 

My grandma always told me that if you’re bored that means you’re a boring person.  And I’m not a boring person of course, so there must be something I can come up with. 

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 995 platinum

XP: 162,028

Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animated Riding Coat,  Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring,  False Papers, Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, Gem of Brightness, Potion of Invisibility, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Glove of Vampiric Touch, Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Holy Symbol of Kozilek, Ruby (2), Black Marketers’ Bag, 879 Garnets, crystal necklace

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, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers

Moreavan 17 Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

I’ll say this for the Baroness, the coach she gave us for this maybe suicide mission is really something.  It’s nice to look at sure, but that’s just the least of it.  It’s got some kind of magical suspension for sure because you can’t even feel the thing rattling around and it barely makes a sound.  I’ve been on my fair share of coaches, even the best of them tends to be a little bone-rattling and plenty loud.  Alchemically strengthened glass windows, extra-dimensional under bench storage, darkwood reinforced body – this bugger has the works.  It made me think of those Lodestone Security assholes and how they thwarted me.  I haven’t been making much progress on the List lately, it’s starting to get my ire a little bit.  Is that what you do with ire?  Get it?  Stoke my ire?  Anyway, you know what I mean.  

As we rolled north along the road to Renwick I perused the list (not The List the one the Baroness gave me) Viscount such and such and Archbaroness this and that and so on and so on, but there was one name on the list that was familiar, Lord Esau Wesel. 

“This Lord Wesel character, is he related to the Wesels that used to rule over this place?”

Otacvio  was passed out (seemingly, I think he was halfway pretending) and Martialla of course had no idea, but Hardra confirmed that he was indeed a distant relative of the family that had imploded over that deal with Ather the wizard.

“I thought the issue was that the old Marshall died without any heirs, which is why the Juosts took over managing these lands.”

“I don’t know the whole story my lady, but it’s something along the lines of this Wesel showed up too late and had too little prestige to do anything about it after the Juost family had already been installed.  He was a distant relation.”

“Huh.  Well I guess if anyone was going to be disloyal it would be him.”

Hardra turned away as if the topic offended her “I wouldn’t know about that My Lady.”

We made good time, very good time, and arrived at the homestead of Archbaroness Melody Relonge – sandwiched between the road and the Lower Scale River.  Hardra had apprised me that the Archbaroness had an avid interest in horse breeding and loved fox hunting but that she had an unhealthy interest in mercantile activities for a member of the elite, who of course should be rich but not sully themselves with the dirty business of making money.  She said also that the Lady Relonge was not happy here in Cymrile County and wished instead of be in the inner provinces.  If she also happens to be devastatingly attractive I’m going to suspect that we’re twins separated at birth.

I’m not sure how, but she was expecting us and knew the reason for our visit. Martialla, Hardra and I were treated to a lovely meal at the Archbaroness’s table with her various lackeys and attendants after which she stood before the Gods and everyone and pledged her undying loyalty to the Juost family.  If I wasn’t so good at spotting liars I would have almost believed it.  Although honestly I’m going to have a hard time swallowing any oath of loyalty no matter how sincere.  I mean loyalty?  Where’s the advantage in that?  Who would do such a thing?  I caught up with Martialla as we transition from desert to after dinner drinks in the sitting room.

“Alright M, here’s the plan, you take my image and finish this evening off – I want to snoop around.”

“M?”

“Just thought I’d try it out, now get moving.”

“How about a please?  I’m not your servant.”

“Are you not?”

She adjusted her cap and suddenly I was starting at myself – which is something you never really get used to.  Mirrors don’t really do it justice.  It’s strange, you think that you’re in the world doing whatever you doing and you don’t really even know what you look like.  If you ever have the chance to see yourself from a third party perspective you should take it – you really learn something.  I adjusted my appearance as well – random servant – and we were both off.

I’m sad to say that right out in the open on the Archbaroness’ desk in her bedroom was a half-written letter to the Queen’s Advisory Council stating that in order to ensure a smooth transition of power the Juost’s should be sent packing and she should be put in their place as liege of this land.  You know how I feel about people writing down their schemes. This is a little bit different I suppose, but if you write a letter like this it should be kept under lock and key at the very least.  Have some pride in your work.  I slipped the letter into my pocketses and turned to go, seeing that one of the footmen was leaning in the doorframe – a tall fellow who might have been handsome if not for his dopey haircut and slovenly clothing.

“You shouldn’t be in here.”

“Just tidying up a bit, I’ll be on my way now.”

He put his leg up to block the doorway “I don’t think you will.”

I retrieved my dagger and gave it a good toss – hitting him right in the side of the knee. Honestly I was expecting to scare him more than anything, I didn’t think I’d hit him cleanly like that.  Do you know how hard it is to hit someone in the leg with a thrown dagger?  It was a thousand to one shot.  He slid down to the ground, utterly shocked.

“You stabbed me . . . . I was just fooling around . . . . and you stabbed me.”

“Oh shit, I’m sorry man, you’re just like one of those guys who forces himself on maids aren’t you?  I thought you knew what I was doing in here and it was going to be a whole thing.”

“Why . . . w-why do I feel so . . . gross?”

“Ooh, that’s probably the poison.”

“A p-poison dagger?  Why would you . . .”

At that point he passed out, either from blood loss or from the poison coursing through his veins.  Probably both.  Cursing, I retrieved my dagger and dragged him out of the doorway into the Archbaroness’ bedroom, doing my best to mop up the blood trail with his shirt.  In search of reinforcements I hurried to Hardra’s room and throwing open the door was presented with an eyeful of hairy man-ass as she was presently being hammered by a burly fellow I think I had seen working in the smithy on the way in.

“What the Hells?  What kind of chaperone are you?!”

She hurled something at me, a shoe maybe, and shouted for me to get out.  I slammed the door shut and went in search of Otacvio but he was nowhere to be seen – the only one I could find was Altos, sitting outside the servant’s quarters happily munching on an eel sandwich.

“Kid come on, you got to help me now!”

“What?  Who are you?”

At this point I remembered I was still disguised as a random maid and dropped my illusion.

“It’s me Gods damn it, come on!”

He jumped to his feet and seemed for a moment like he was going to salute me.

“My Lady?!  What’s . . . . what?”

“Just come on damn it!”

We rushed back to the Archbaroness’s bedchamber where there were already several servants gathered by the door.  At the last moment I remembered to disguise myself again, this time as Hardra.  I watched as the butler and one of the footmen hauled out the bloody and unconscious form of the letch.

“What’s going on here?”

A older fellow drinking out of a flask answered first “Looks like old Rori got fresh with one of the maids one time too many.  Must have stuck him with a hairpin or something.  Handle of a brush maybe.”

“My heavens, is it safe for the Baron’s cousin here?”

Another better dressed fellow glared at the flask-drinker “I assure you madam, that sort of thing doesn’t happen around here, I mean what you must think of us!  I’m sure it was just an accident of some sort, nothing malicious in the slightest.  This must be quite a fright for you, come let me get you some cider to calm your nerves.”

Altos leaned in close “What’s going on?”

“Don’t worry about it.  Just keep your mouth shut kid.”

If you thought that was enough excitement for one day you’re sorely mistaken.  That night as I tossed and turned on the lumpy mattress in the tacky room the Archbaroness gave me to sleep in the holy symbol of Kozilek I picked up started buzzing or vibrating or something.  I fished it out of my baggage and as soon as my hand touched it once again I could hear a voice by my side clear as day.

“We need final confirmation that all is ready.”

“Ready on my end” I said to no one.

“Excellent.  See you tomorrow morning then.”

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 995 platinum

XP: 162,028

Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animated Riding Coat,  Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring,  False Papers, Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, Gem of Brightness, Potion of Invisibility, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Glove of Vampiric Touch, Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Holy Symbol of Kozilek, Ruby (2), Black Marketers’ Bag, 879 Garnets, crystal necklace

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, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers

Moreavan 16 Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

I took up residence in my old (by which I mean I had stayed there three nights a few weeks ago) quarters.  For reasons unknown Martialla seemed to think she would be sharing the bed with me!  I disabused her of that notion quickly and she was rather put out.  The nerve of some people.  She’s lucky she isn’t sleeping on the attic floor with the scullery maids she is and she’s going to give me guff about having the whole bed to myself even after I gave her some blankets and pillows to fashion herself a little makeshift bed in the corner?  I tell you, some people have no sense of gratitude.

In the morning I was wondering if I would be called back to the customary womanly routine of the manor but instead I was summed into the presence of the Baroness – I suppose in times of war even the very important duties of the housewife must be suspended.  Martialla and I barely had time to make ourselves presentable – although it’s pretty easy to cheat with magic these days.  Unlike yesterday the Baroness was perfectly composed and had abandoned her mourning gown for a very regal looking blue and silver number that was quite fetching on her.  She had at her side two men I hadn’t seen before – advisors of some sort one assumes. They had the supercilious and wormy look of advisors about them anyway. I offered up a textbook courtesy and Martialla followed suit, less gracefully though of course

“My Lady, I wish to apologize for yesterday, I . . .”

“No need for apologies cousin, consider it forgotten, we’re all family here after all, no earthly need to harbor grudges.  However, in all the excitement you forgot to introduce your companion.”

“Of course My Lady, how silly of me.  This is my lady in waiting Adrina.”

The Baroness’s eyebrow went up a fraction “You have a lady in waiting now?”

“Undoubtedly My Lady, it wouldn’t be proper for me to be wandering about unattended.  Adrina is most helpful Baroness, most helpful indeed.”

“Yes, I’m sure.  And she comes from only the finest of families?”

“Absolutely My Lady, unquestionably.  Now, if I may be so bold, what is the reason for your summons on this fine morning the Gods have granted us?”

She took a moment before replying “These are troubling times cousin.  The King’s death, although he has an heir, leaves the Kingdom in a certain amount of turmoil.  And there are always those who look to take advantage of turmoil for their own selfish ends.  With the Baron and most of the fighting men away we’re in a very vulnerable position here at the moment, and we need to make sure that there’s going to be no underhandedness under the Juost banner.  You have proven yourself to be most resourceful.  This is highly unusual of course but I need to send you on a mission.”

“Thank you My Lady, I wish only to serve.  What matters would you see me attending to?”

“We need to reaffirm the loyalty of our vassal lords and remind them of their commitment to the Juost family and to the Kingdom.  I would like for you to visit them and stand witness as they restate their oaths of loyalty.”

I eyed the two as of yet silent advisors “My Lady, will you grant me leave to speak freely?”

A look of suppressed anger crossed her face “It seems you do little else but speak freely cousin.” She nodded slightly.

“If I may your Ladyship, oaths are easily sworn, words are wind as some have said.  If you have concerns about some of your local lords and where their loyalties lie I would say just remove them and replace them with someone you know you can trust.  Why take the risk?”

“Surely cousin, you misspeak.  The oath of someone of noble blood is as good as gold, better in fact for its value never wavers, our word is bond – unlike those of common stock who, as you say, may speak to mislead.  That being said, I know you be a shrewd judge of character in addition to your other talents – I would value your input on any who might take their oath a little less seriously then someone of good breeding should.  In your opinion.”

“Of course My Lady.”

One of the advisors scuttled forwards with a parchment list that he handed to Martialla before dashing back into position by the Baroness as if he was afraid someone else would slide into that spot if he was out of it for too long.  Which is probably a valid concern.

“In addition I have three other tasks for you as well.  There is a social engagement in Cathars that you must attend on behalf of the Baron and myself since we are otherwise occupied, the details are spelled out on the sheet as well.  Secondly, there is a town called Bencaser on the road to Cathars that is suffering from a sickness.”

“I’m not healer My Lady, I don’t know . . .”

“Don’t interrupt me cousin.  The sickness I believe is not the result of a natural phenomenon but is the result of some variety of meddling.  Being something of a meddler yourself I am confident that you will be able to solve that problem.  And lastly, and this will be a challenge I know, the Deepmare pass must be closed.  There are disturbing rumors that with the King’s death and the war dragging on that the Santader exiles across the mountains may be planning on declaring themselves in rebellion against the Kingdom and we need to ensure that there is no method of their troops to come through into our territory should that come to pass.”

“Closing a mountain pass isn’t really the kind of thing . . .”

“I’m sure you’ll figure something out cousin.  You always do.  I’m asking a lot of you, I know that, but these are trying times and we must all do our best.  Now please excuse me, matters of state you know.”

As Martialla and I walked out of the great hall she turned to me.

“Is this a punishment of some kind for the flap yesterday?”

“I don’t think so, not entirely anyway, I think I’m just a useful but expendable resource.”

“I chose quite a time to hitch my horse to your wagon didn’t I?”

“Isn’t it the other way around?  Aren’t I the horse in this analogy?”

I thought I spied Quinna as we walked through the corridors of the manor house but whoever it was disappeared before I could be sure.  If it was him he didn’t want to talk to me for some reason.  Again, no gratitude.  Shortly thereafter we met the rest of the team. Our two coachmen – Tudos and his apprentice Altos – my chaperone Hardra, and our sole protector Otacvio.  Tudos was missing two fingers on his left hand which was also badly scarred, but otherwise seemed a likely enough fellow.  Atlos was a scrappy looking young fellow who seemed full of energy.  Hardra seemed like a mummer’s stereotype of what a stern chaperone would be – big and blocky and with a perpetual frown.  Otacvio had an inconsistently girlish face compared to his strong frame that wasn’t made any less so by his long feathery blonde hair.  I stood next to him as the coach as being loaded.

“How’d you get stuck with this detail?  Shouldn’t you be fighting with the Baron?”

“I drink too much.”

“Too much for what?”

“To be reliable.”

“What does that mean exactly?”

“Well basically it means that if read hard bastards try to get you I probably won’t be able to stop them.”

“What if it’s just normal bastards trying to get me?”

“Then I’ll kill them.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, I’m a pretty good fighter even when I’m drunk – which is most of the time – so yeah, if they’re not hard bastards I’ll probably kill them.”

“Are you drunk right now?”

He held out his hand as if trying to judge out steady it was “Pretty much.”

“Wonderful.”

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 995 platinum

XP: 162,028

Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animated Riding Coat,  Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring,  False Papers, Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, Gem of Brightness, Potion of Invisibility, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Glove of Vampiric Touch, Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Holy Symbol of Kozilek, Ruby (2), Black Marketers’ Bag, 879 Garnets, crystal necklace

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, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers

Moreavan 15 Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

Last night Martialla decided to join the Obsisians in their low quality revels – and just when I was starting to like her.  Good thing I found out now what she’s really like, there’s nothing worse than investing time in someone and then discovering they’re a low class sort.  Well, there are worse things, but you know what I mean.  I’ll grant you that she did look like she was having a gay old time down there in the dance hall rubbing elbows with the bumpkin crowd.  What with that entire ruckus going on I resolved to drink myself to sleep but I couldn’t even find enough hard liquor in this dirt-town to accomplish that.  Thankfully I’m getting pretty good at being so angry that it makes me fall asleep.  This is something that you can accomplish if you work at it.  But you have to practice.

In the morning after a steamed duck dish that I will grudgingly admit was pretty good, we struck out on the road to Juost Manor.  The day passed uneventfully although I found it curious that there were so few other travelers on the road – I assume there must be some measure of traffic from Allene, not to but at least through Obsis – but we hardly passed another living soul that day.  Once we got in sight of Allene we saw the potential reason why – the manor house was flying the black standards of mourning.

My initial thought was that the Baron had died fighting the hillfolk and the potential ramifications thereof – on the one hand I felt I could much more easily work with the Baroness to get out of here.  But on the other hand I was the one who sent him off to fight in the first place so there could be blame coming my way.  And I didn’t have a good enough sense of their marriage to know if his death would be welcomed by the Baroness or not.  I was uncertain what I would face as I entered the manor but in an exciting way – either way the Baron’s death was going to change things up.  However, my assumption was about to be proven incorrect.

I was led into the main hall where the Baroness sat in the Baron’s great chair alone, sobbing, decked out in some of the finest funerary garb I have ever seen.  I mean really great stuff.  I signaled for Martialla to stay back as I approached and kneeling by the great chair I took the Baroness’s hand.

“My Lady, I have returned to comfort you in your time of bereavement.”

She looked up, her eyes red and raw and her face ashen, and halfway fell-forward/halfway pulled me up into an awkward crouch-hug.  I tried to sooth her as best I could while also trying to keep up from falling in any direction and breaking our fool necks –it was a tricky balancing act, literally and figuratively.  I signaled Martialla forward and she helped me bundle the Baroness back into the seat from where her husband issued his grand proclamations or whatever it is a Baron does. Something with the harvest I think.

Her voice was shaky “I can’t believe he’s gone.”

I knelt back at her side “Of course My Lady, of course, it’s a blow to us all.”

Martialla took up position to her other side “Pardon my ignorance My Ladies, but who has passed away?”

The Baroness beat me to the punch thankfully, before falling into another fit of crying “The King!”

I was perplexed “The king?  The king of what? 

The Baroness glared at me like an angry beast “THE King!”

“The King of the Kingdom king?  Huh.  That’s a bit of a surprise.  He was no spring chicken but he wasn’t much over sixty I don’t think.  Last I knew he was in good enough health.”

More sobbing “Well he’s GONE!”

“What are you so broken up about?  Did you know him or something?”

She looked at me like I was dullard “We’re at WAR!  And the KING is dead!  What are we going to do?  What’s going to happen?”

“The Queen will take over I suppose.  I think the oldest boy is maybe fourteen so they’re not going to put him on the throne yet.  There will probably be an advisory council or something.  You need to get a hold of yourself, this isn’t a big deal.”

“How can you SAY that?!”

I frowned “What do you think a king does?  He wasn’t out fighting on the front lines that’s for sure.  And he’s not a general.  Realistically I doubt he has much to do with the war at all – aside from being responsible for starting it of course.  It’s not like he was a great king.”

The Baroness gasped “Blasphemy !”

“I think you mean treason.  And that’s only while the king is alive, once they’re dead you can say whatever you want.  If you think he was so great can you name me anything he accomplished as king?”

The Baroness made a weird honking sound, kind of like a goose being strangled “He . . . he . . . he was the King!”

“So what?  You of all people should know that just means he had the good fortune to be born the son of some guy who was already king – who was probably not all that impressive himself.  Surely you can’t buy into this nonsense about the divine mandate of kings – you’re part of the nobility yourself, you know it’s all bullshit.  There’s no right to rule received directly from a divine authority of the Gods.  That doesn’t even make sense, the Gods aren’t even on the same page about anything.  You think Adariel and the Burning God get together over dinner and agree on who should be king?  That’s childish.  And why would they like our king better than some other king?  There’s kings all over the place, they can’t all be chosen by the Gods can they?  Unless the Gods are real assholes and want us to fight each other.  Which is entirely possible.  Gives them something to watch I suppose.”

The look of pure rage on her face made me take a step back “GET OUT!!!”

“Look, I didn’t mean to . . .”

She leapt to her feet with an imperious gesture “GET OUT !!!!!!!!!!!!”

Martialla and I scuttled out into the hallway and then slunk away from the reproachful looks of the guards. Martialla gave me a sidelong glance as I stomped back to my quarters with a sour look on my face.

“So, that went well.”

“What’s the point of saying that, other than to needle me?”

“Well I had to say something.”

“Why? There’s nothing wrong with keeping your trap shut from time to time. Not everything needs to be commented on. I’m not over here panting away from your opinion on everything.”

“Gees, who died and put you in a such a bad mood?”

“Do you want to get slapped?”

“A little bit, I’m not proud of it.”

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 995 platinum

XP: 162,028

Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animated Riding Coat,  Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring,  False Papers, Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, Gem of Brightness, Potion of Invisibility, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Glove of Vampiric Touch, Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Holy Symbol of Kozilek, Ruby (2), Black Marketers’ Bag, 879 Garnets, crystal necklace

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, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers

Moreavan 14 Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

I know what you’re thinking.  Tario is the only one aside from Martialla who knows that I was the one who stole the gems, so why not kill him?  You people are cold hearted sons of bitches you know that?  I have a code and that code has served me well.  When you’re in on a scheme with someone you watch their back, you don’t betray them when it becomes convenient.  That’s what they want.  You know.  THEY.   The three of us didn’t waste any time – we got mounts (purchased in disguise) and headed out of town directly after we left Razmiran’s leafy pleasure dome.  No reason to hang about.

In theory no one should be looking for us, but there’s no harm in being careful so instead of taking the road to Obsis we headed north towards the woods.   We rode hard and once the forest was in sight we turned to the east and traveled throughout the night.  Once the horses were done in we stripped off their tack and left them to their own devices – continuing on foot.  As the sun was coming up I felt none the worse for wear thanks to my Ring but Martialla was flagging and Tario was in pretty rough shape.

I shook my head in disappointed as Tario came huffing and puffing to catch up with us “That’s the problem with you city crooks, you never have to run more than a few blocks so you don’t have any wind.”

He tried to retort but wasn’t able to catch his breath.

I put my hand to my ear “What was that?  I didn’t quite catch that Tario.  Repeat?”

He managed a lewd gesture at which I laughed and Martialla managed a tired little grin.

“Well, unless you want to go to Obsis for some reason there’s no reason for us to stick together anyway.  How about we whack up this money and you can fall down dead or whatever’s going on here and Martialla and I can be on our merry way?”

He was able to gasp “How much?”

“I believe the standard finder’s fee is fifteen percent.  Which seems more than generous to me since I fronted all the money, came up with the plan and did all the work.  More than generous really.  You did the legwork and for that fifteen seems fine.”

Tario was about to say something but I reached into the Bag and dropped a handful of garnets in front of him.  And then another.  And another.  And another.  You’ve heard people use the expression of someone’s eyes getting so wide they looked they would pop out of their heads?  I had serious concerns that Tario was going to blind himself as he saw that pile of rosy gemstones spill out before him.  He dove after them like a mother trying to catch a dropped infant and started stuffing the stones into his pockets, his shirt, down his pants, into his boots – everywhere but in his ears, and I wouldn’t even swear to that.  He may have even swallowed a few.

“Well my boy, you’re rich now.  Sort of.  You can’t really buy things with gemstones.  And no jeweler will be able to buy them all at their face value – not the kind of jeweler that would meet with someone like you anyway.  And if I were Razmiran I’d have all my men out looking for anyone trying to unload a bunch of gemstones.  Not to mention the fact . . .”

Tario sat on his knees gazing at two fistfuls of gems like a dying man in the desert looking at a cool pitcher of water “Shut up, just shut up, let me enjoy this for a moment.”

“What is your plan anyway?  You’ve been thinking about this score for a while, I have to assume you indulging in some fantasized about what you’d do afterwards.”

Tario climbed to his feet “Not really no, it was more like a dream than a plan.”

“That’s why they call me the dream maker.”

“I thought that was because of the thing you did with Lord Fallrhump.”

“Tario!  Not in front of Martialla!”

He laughed. “The first thing I need to do is find out where my brother’s at.  He was supposed to meet me in Preen long before you turned up.”

“You have a brother?  Does that mean you know who your parents are?  That’s a shock.”

“Hilarious.  I thought Vario could help with the jewels maybe but he must have gotten delayed.  Or maybe he just flaked on the whole thing.”

“Vario?  Would be a good looking guy if his mouth wasn’t all twisted on the sides?  Loves his horse a little too much?”

Tario blinked “You know him?”

“Just met him a few days ago on the north side of the woods.  He’s a real asshole, but he’s my kind of asshole.”

“That sounds like my brother alright.”

“Wait a minute though, he was complaining constantly about this father having too many kids so he wasn’t going to inherent a title or lands or anything.  You’re not some nobleman’s brat are you?  You seem like pure street rat to me.”

“It’s complicated.”

“Vario and Tario huh?  Do you happen to also have a brother named Dario?  A HALF-ELFEN brother?”

“Like I said, it’s complicated.”

“Is it?  It sounds like your dad just liked getting his wick lit, and as a result has kids all over the place of various socio-economic levels and ethnicities, which is pretty simple really.”

Tario scowled “Did he say anything about going to Preen?”

I shook my head “No, he was in Arbeven being a general pain in the ass and then he headed off to the west to join up with some knights going to fight with the Baron against the hill barbarians.”

“Typical.  More money for me I guess.”

“Indeed.  Well my friend, it’s been nice working with you but we need to hit the old dusty trail.  Don’t be a stranger.”

“We’ve been traveling for hours how can you still be going?”

“Oh, there’s no trick to it, I’m just a perfect physical specimen of the female form.”

Tario collapsed onto his back with a satisfied grin (how many times have I seen that before?) while Martialla and I continued making our way east.  We did stop a few hours later so Martialla could get some rest and catch a drink out of a small stream and clean up a bit – she was sweating like a goblin in a dwarf-hall.

“How are you able to keep going like this?”

I held up my hand with the Ring “Magic.  Why else would I be wearing this gaudy piece of shit?  You’re magic, can you tell me why magic people can’t make items that don’t look like chintzy garbage?”

“Learning magic takes a lot of time and effort, who’s going to also learn jewelrycrafting?  Or sewing?  Or blacksmithing?  How many people are great at even one thing let alone several?”

“That’s a fair point.  I’m great at lots of things but there’s no reason to hold everyone else to my high standard.  It’s just not fair.”

“Of course.  So, I’ve been wondering, am I going to be getting any of them gems?  I was involved in the plan and I will be just as dead if Razmiran finds out and sends his assassins after me.”

“I thought you were just in in for the revenge.”

“There’s not a lot of money in revenge.”

“Tell me about it.  I’m sure you deserve a couple stones, I’ll think on.  I tell you what, I’ll give you ten right now if you can tell me what this is.” I took the crystal necklace out of my Bag.

“Hideous.”

“Obviously.”

She stared at it intently for several seconds “Its magic.  Pretty powerful.”

“But what does it do?”

Martialla shrugged “I don’t know, what do I look like, a wizard?”

“But you’re magic!”

“There’s all kinds of magic, you can change your appearance, that’s magic and you don’t know what it does.  You didn’t even know for sure it was magic.”

“That’s different.  So how do I find out what it does?”

“I don’t know, put it on, see what happens.”

“That’s great fucking advice!  It might be cursed.  Useless, all you magic types are bloody useless!”

“You’re magic too.”

I pointed at her angrily “I am NOT magic.”

She laughed “Whatever you say.”

After a couple hours rest we got moving again and reached Obsis late in the afternoon.  My joy at reaching a settlement in daylight for once was quickly quashed by what a nothing town Obsis is – I’m surprised they even have a mayor to be humiliated by now one-handed duelist.  There is one small inn in town, but it was booked because they’re having a rutabaga festival or some other damn thing and the innkeeper was annoyingly not willing to turn out one of his current paying customers for the promise of more money from a beautiful young maiden.  What a moron. 

The only lodging we could get was on the second floor of the dance hall – which of course had some sort of vegetable themed hootenanny going on.  To make matters worse all I could find to eat was a beetroot sandwich and some ham and egg stew.  I’m richer than I’ve ever been and I’m sitting in the rafters of a dance hall choking down beetroot while a bunch of slack-jawed yokels manhandle each other to the off-tune wailing of a fiddle.     

Some folk have no luck at all.

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 995 platinum

XP: 162,028

Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animated Riding Coat,  Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring,  False Papers, Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, Gem of Brightness, Potion of Invisibility, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Glove of Vampiric Touch, Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Holy Symbol of Kozilek, Ruby (2), Black Marketers’ Bag, 879 Garnets, crystal necklace

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, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers

Moreavan 13 Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

Early to bed and early to rise – that’s me.  There’s something unnatural about being up before sunrise.  It seems like a mistake has been made.  It’s like showing up early to a party.  You’re there before everything is ready and then you feel off the entire rest of the night.  Or so I’ve been told, I have never shown up early for a party.  Sometimes I’m so fashionably late I forget to go at all.  Even though I woke up early I stayed in bed for a good hour feeling sorry for myself.  It’s rarely something I allow myself to indulge in – there’s nothing worse than someone who wallows in their own misery, aside from someone who shows up early to a party – but I’m in an indulgent mood just now.

But the sad fact of life is that nothing is accomplished lying (laying?) in bed so eventually I roused myself and got dressed.  I went across the hall to find Tario but at some point last night he and Martialla’s scheming had turned to something else entirely.  Seeing them laying (lying?) there asleep in each other’s arms  in a tangle of sheets and askew pillows made me want to toss a bucket of cold water on them.  But I didn’t.  Because I am a good person, one of the best really.  I merely closed the door and went across the street to get some breakfast in a crowded restaurant.  Just to make myself feel better I left without paying.  I walked around the neighborhood a bit watching the working folk scurry about to start their day at the mills and mud farms and whatnot until I saw the new couple come out the front of the boarding house yawning and stretching. You know the kind or yawning and stretching I mean. 

“Come on lovebirds, we have a fortune to steal.”

Moments later we were sitting on a rooftop café looking over the clean part of the river drinking what was actually some very tasty spiked tea – for a podunk lumber town I mean.  The view and the sunny weather was almost enough to make you feel good to be alive.

“Alright, let’s keep this simple.  Tario you take us to Razmiran and tell him you’re heading out of town, and you want to discuss wants he needs to smuggle into and or out of the city.  I’ll seduce him and once we’re alone I’ll poison him, open the vault and get the jewels.  No fuss no muss.”

“I told you Ela, Razmiran is . . .”

“Yeah, I know what he is, you told me about that – I’m not going to look like this obviously.”

Martialla pursed her lips “Hmm, do you think you can seduce a man?”

“Of course I can, that was my whole job, you know, before.”

“I know, but I mean a man like that.”

“Bah, men are men, they’re all the same.”

Tario shook his head slowly “I don’t know about this.”

“Are you going to seduce him?”

Tario’s eyebrows shot up “Me?  I mean . . . I-I . . . maybe . . . y-you know . . . I . . .”

“Yeah, so shut up.  Look, we go there and if he takes the bait he takes the bait and if he doesn’t we regroup and come up with a new plan and no harm done.  All we need is some poison and a magic something or other to hold all the loot and we’ll be fine.  Can you manage that?”

Tario cleared his throat “Well . . . I’m kind of . . . tapped out right now.”

I rolled my eyes “Yeah, I know that too, you just find the stuff and I’ll pay.  Speaking of, I’m getting deeper in the hole on this plan of yours by the second.  What kind of split were you thinking of?”

“Even?”

I shook my head “Try again.”

“Not even?”

“Correct.  Now get going.  Stick together so you don’t get jumped, this is a rough town.”

“I can’t believe some toughs knifed Joscar in broad daylight.”

“I know, what’s the world coming to huh?”

 While Martialla and Tario went out to comb the low class dives for poison and low class enchanters (which is still high class by most standards) for magic bags I saw to getting the other three unfortunates that Tario had dragged into this mess out of town.  I won’t lie, I thought about killing them. In talking to them I don’t think they even knew why Tario brought them here.  Clearly they knew it was for a scheme of some kind and if they really thought about it they could probably put it together if they later hear about Razmiran’s fortune going missing, but I’m willing to risk that.  They’ve had enough trouble. 

That’s the problem with a smooth-talker like Tario, he’s able to convince saps like these into coming out here but then he has nothing to follow through with.  There’s nothing worse than a charmer who gets in over their head.  Well actually there are lots of things that are worse, like someone who shows up early for a party, but you know what I mean.  I got them on a coach out of town with some reliable fellows.  They looked reliable enough anyway. 

Martialla and Tario found a weapons and armor merchant that happened to do some side business with other items and after handing over a small fortune I had an extra potent dose of liquid sweetdream and a new magic bag of hidden compartments.  The only hold-up there was that she was involved with an actual smuggling ring and Tario’s groundwork as a pretend smuggler had worked too well – she told him either he had to stop with that action or get with the program.  I assured her she would never see him again. 

After that I spent a good hour crafting my disguise – and a handsome devil he (I?) was.  Young but not too young.  Innocent looking but not too innocent.  Dashing, but not so handsome as to not retain an aura of mystery and danger.  The kind of scoundrel that makes women, and some men, weak in the knees.  Martialla disguised herself as well, taking on the appearance of the long gone Gareth since he usually had appeared at Tario’s side during these types of meetings.   I don’t often spend time walking around town disguised as a man, it’s an interesting experience.  No one pays any attention to you but they ignore you in a way that makes it feel like you’re getting respect.  It’s an odd feeling.

We three “lads” made our way to Razmiran’s compound.  Even though Tario had explained the layout to me I was startled by its appearance – it was more like a private park with a few small buildings in it than a mansion or the like.  I’ve seen some impressive gardens among rich folk for sure, but those are usually in addition to a massive house not instead of.  This Razmiran character must really love plants.  Makes you wonder why he chose to make himself the defacto ruler of a logging town.  Maybe I’ll find out. But probably not. 

There was a wall, of course, to keep out the common folk, and a few guards – they didn’t look like assassins so maybe he keeps them somewhere else.  Of course that’s the tricky thing with assassins, you never know who they could be masquerading as.  Razmiran met with us in an open air-gazebo type scenario.  He wasn’t an ugly man exactly but no one to get excited about – sharp features and something of a gloomy look overall.  His head wasn’t shaved but his hair was so short and dark that it looked like paint on his scalp.  Not a great look.  There was some chit-chat, some flattery about his “fine” city, some small talk, a lot of business talk, and then we got down to the serious business of shameless flirting. 

Razmiran ate it up like it was sweet candy.  In a way I’m disappointed whenever someone falls for this shtick.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m great at it, so you can’t blame him, but you’d think a few people would be smart enough to realize that the attractive stranger coming on to them probably wants something.  My grandmother rarely ever gave advice to anyone other than me, well not advice she really believed anyway, but I remember her telling an ugly fellow once that he should be very wary of any beautiful woman who was acting like she was interested in him.  I suppose people believe what they want to believe.

Razmiran enjoyed the sound of his own voice and it was a good little reminder for me to on how to be patient.  Even after we separated from Tario and Martialla (disguised as Gareth of course) he spent several hours taking me to different small open air buildings and talking all about how they were built and how the gardens were planted and maintain and so forth.  By the time we got back to his bedchamber I had almost forgotten the plan out of sheer boredom.  As he was lighting a candle by the bed I was about to say something funny/ribald when another man came in – a rough looking type with hands like anvils and a face to match. 

I chuckled “Oh, I didn’t know this was going to be one of those.”

Razmiran looked at the man with distaste “Don’t mind him, he won’t be joining us, he’s just here for my safety.  You wouldn’t believe the number of people trying to take advantage of me.”

“What is the world coming to?”

Here’s the thing about illusionary disguises, they look great – but they don’t really work when you start getting up close and personal you know?  If something isn’t there it isn’t there, even if it looks like it is.  You know what I mean?  Thankfully this is the kind of thing I was trained for, and I was able to fool around with Razmiran without really letting him get his hands on me too much and ruining the surprise.  I got a dram of sweetdream on my hand and kept it by his face until he started getting drowsy.  It was powerful stuff, I tell you that – I was getting a little light-headed myself.  I was hoping the guard would retire behind a curtain or at least look away respectfully but he was looking directly at us like a perv so I had to shield Razmiran from his gaze with my body and do some puppeteering as I poured the rest of the sweetdream down his throat. He didn’t choke on the slightest.  You can come up with your own joke about that.  He fell into a hard sleep pretty quickly.  I got off the bed and looked frowning at the guard.

“Does he always do this?  Usually they don’t fall asleep until after.”

The guard came forward to peer at his master and I sent my coat flying over his head with a whistle – covering his mouth to keep him from calling for more guards.  I drained him with my Glove and in response, even though his eyes were covered he responded by punching me three times in the chest and stomach in the blink of an eye.  I’ve been kicked by a horse.  I’ve been hit with a club.  I’ve fallen off a roof.  This was worse than all three.  The man hit like a meteor.  I fell back on the bed, unable to breathe, while the man cocked his head and listened for me like a damn owl. I rolled off the bed, avoiding another diving punch, and took cover underneath it – stabbing him in the foot with my dagger and hoping that the poison would work its magic.  Between being blinded, poisoned, and suffocated I was able to take him down – in a fair fight he would have killed me in about three seconds. That’s fun to think about.

Once they were both down and out I found the secret vault where Tario said it would be and used the Chime of Opening to, well , open it.  It’s a good thing it only have five locks and not one more because the chime was all used up.  I wasn’t sure exactly what I was expecting, words like “fortune” and “king’s ransom” can mean a lot of different things, but this was really something.  Dozens upon dozens upon dozens of high quality garnets.  It was quite a sight.  There was also a crystal necklace that was so ugly it has to be magic.  I grabbed it all and then slithered out the window like a sneaky snake – no reason to let the guard out front know the party’s over.

I found Tario and Martialla/Gareth still at the original gazebo-thing looking mildly bored and playing with their glasses more than drinking.

“I don’t know about you two, but I would like to get the fuck out of town right about now.”

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 1020 platinum

XP: 162,028

Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animated Riding Coat,  Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring,  False Papers, Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, Gem of Brightness, Potion of Invisibility, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Glove of Vampiric Touch, Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Holy Symbol of Kozilek, Ruby (2), Black Marketers’ Bag, 1004 Garnets, crystal necklace

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, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers

Moreavan 12 Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 2

The Gallows Girls operate out of a place called the Old Post – on account of it’s one of the buildings left over from the days when Preen was a trading post.  The Old Post is near the square where the public hangings are held, hence the pithy name.  I wonder how long it takes gangs to come up with their names – probably most gangs fall into fighting right there because they can’t decide on a name and never even get started.  What a shame.  I should have spent the rest of the day gathering information on the Gallows Girls – what their trade is, who their allies are, what their strengths were – but I didn’t.  I just went to the Old Post.  I knew it was not the best tactic as I was doing it but I did it anyway.  As I approached two young women appeared out of the shadows on either side of me.  They were skinny as rails with dirty hair that looked to have been cut with a butcher’s cleaver but they had blades on their hips and the look about them of someone who isn’t carrying a blade for show.

“Are you lost ma’am?”

“No, I need to chat with whoever’s in charge about my friend Tario.”

“Did you bring the money?”

“That’s what needs to be discussed.”

“Without the money there’s nothing much to talk about is there?  Especially with someone who looks like they’ve been wallowing in mud like a sow.”

I used my magic to make my clothing look as clean and impressive as the day they were stitched “Is that better?  Now go tell your boss that I’m here, I’m not going to waste any more of my time with the rabble that gets stuck on guard duty”

Inside the Old Post was a large common room with a firepit and several long tables through which I was taken to a smaller (but still large) room that appeared be a private dining area/office/storeroom that had a cot in the corner in case you wanted to also make it a sleeping chamber as well.  I was told to wait there and an insulting amount of time later four women came in – one pale with dark hair dressed in clothing that was very expensive and well-made but practical.  A somewhat homely looking bown-haired lass in a high-waisted number.  And two similar looking women with curly hair, one dark and one light, wearing frilly numbers with bulging vests. The pale one stayed standing by the door while the other three sat across from me.

“Is this really an all-female gang?  How does that work out?”

Dark Curly answered “We manage.  There’s a whole story behind it but I’m sure you’re as busy as we are so let’s get down to business.  You want Tario that’s going to be two thousand gold.”

“Two?  I was told a thousand.”

“That was before, the price goes up the longer we have to keep him around.  Holding someone captive involves a lot of overhead.  The more our expenses increase the more the price goes up.  It’s only fair.”

High Waist chimed in “Its simple economics.”

“The problem is while I want Tario back he’s not worth that much, nowhere close.  Two hundred would be questionable for him, let alone two thousand.  I mean you’ve seen him.”

“Oh no?  Even though he’s sitting on a scheme to steal a fortune from our beloved mayor for life?”

Blonde Curly got in on the action “Yes, he told us about that.  If it makes you feel better he didn’t give it up right away, only once he thought no one was going to get him out of here.”

“Let me guess, if I don’t pay then you turn him over to Razmiran for some kind of reward?”

Dark Curly smiled “Give this woman a prize, you got it first try.”

I didn’t say anything, there was nothing to say, I just started counting out on the money on the table as the three of them sat there smirking up their sleeves at me.  Unlike the other three the pale one didn’t react smugly at all, just leaving to come back shortly with Tario, looking only slightly the worse for wear.  When he first saw me a look of relief and pure joy came over his face, when he saw the money that I was handing over that look disappeared in a hurry.  I got up from the table and he came to stand beside me as High Waist swept the neat stacks of coins I had made into a small chest.

“Nice doing business with you.”

“Before I go, will you tell me, did you consider going after Razmiran’s stash at all?”

The pale one finally spoke “No.”

Blonde Curly explained “Razmiran doesn’t just own this town because he’s rich, money alone doesn’t equal power I’m sure you know, he also happens to have a cadre of assassins who take out anyone who messes with him.  Or just anyone he doesn’t like.  Or anyone he does like and he’s just tired of.  Or anyone who . . .”

“I got it.”

I was fuming by the time we got back to the boarding house and wasn’t much calmer when Tario, Martialla and I gathered in her room with a bottle of Red Goblin Ale to plan our next move.  Tario told me all about Razmiran’s compound and where he had the jewels stashed while I sat in the corner and stewed. Eventually he asked;

“How much are you into on this already?”

“Three thousand.” He winced and for a long time nobody spoke. “You know what’s really bothering me though?  I’ve changed, and I don’t really know who I am anymore.  Not that long ago I never would have considered violence as a solution to a problem unless all other options had been exhausted.  Because it’s a stupid clumsy way to solve problems that has a high chance of getting you killed even if you do it right.  I used to take my time and come up with plans, and I would charm my way through when I had to.  Today I could have easily, easily, talked those men down at the bridge.  I could have outsmarted that smarmy pimp asshole.  I could have some up with a scheme to get you out of the clutches of those dirty bitches.  But I didn’t.  I’ve lost all my patience.  I don’t like it and I don’t know what to do about it.”

After a moment Martialla spoke “The person who sets out on a journey isn’t the same one who finishes it.  The person you were before was based on where you were and what you were doing at that time.  You’re someone else now, because you’re living a different life.”

I lifted the bottle of ale to my lips and grunted sourly “Wonderful.  You two keep scheming, I’m going to bed.  Apparently I’m not the mastermind anymore, I’m the foot soldier.”

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 1020 platinum, 9,004 gold, 6 silver

XP: 162,028

Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animated Riding Coat,  Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring,  False Papers, Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, Gem of Brightness, Potion of Invisibility, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Glove of Vampiric Touch, Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Chime of Opening (5 charges), Holy Symbol of Kozilek, Ruby (2)

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, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers

Moreavan 12 Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 1

As seemingly is my lot in life, Martialla and I arrived in Preen in the long hours of the night.  Just once I’d like to arrive in a town when it’s early morning and the whole day is ahead of me.  I suppose though in order to do that I’d have to get up very early.  So maybe not.  Our intention was to try and find Tario at the Demon’s Bride Tavern but the idiot we asked gave us wrong directions and we were too tired from the journey to mess about with it any further – we got rooms at a boarding house and turned in.

Preen is a town that started as a trading post and became a small town and is now a large town trying to become a small city, all on the strength of the timber trade.  It certainly has enough mud and shit for a small city at least.  Like many of these kinds of places that have seen rapid expansion Preen is sprawling and chaotic.  On one side of the river you have people living in tents and cooking rats over an open flame, on the other you have nice brick buildings with beaten copper or slate roofs.  I’m not even sure which river the city is squatting on – I’ve heard people refer to the Sandy Creek, the Scale River, and the Umberlee all.  Decide which river you’re on people.

In the morning we found a peddler that gave us the right directions to the Demon’s Bride but he neglected to mention that we could go around the district that appeared to be entirely populated by sawmills – there was so much sawdust in the air it was like being in a blizzard.  Once we came through the other side Martialla and I were covered from foot to crown but she used her magic to summon up a strong wind and blow most of it off of us – which left my hair in a frightful state but you can’t have everything. The Demon’s Bride has a wildly pornographic painting on their sign but the bride was smiling so I’m sure whatever was going on there must have been fine, pitchfork notwithstanding. I inquired with the surly woman sweeping the floor after Tario but she just shrugged.

I was about to ask her if there was someone who wasn’t brain-dead working there when I spotted one of Tario’s crew in the taproom, the one with the knives who actually looked like a bodyguard.  He had a great lion-like mane of hair and even though it was early morning he seemed to be deep into his cups already.  As we approached the table he didn’t seem to notice.  Martialla and I exchanged a look before I gave his chair a nudge with my foot to get this attention.  He slowly turned his head to look at me with watery eyes.

“Can I help you?” he said listlessly.

“I’m looking for Tario.”

“Tario’s gone.”

“What do you mean gone?  He left?  Give me some details here pal, use your words.”

“I told you he’s gone lady.”

I was about to lay into him but Martiallia put a restraining hand on my shoulder and then quickly wove a spell.  The man’s demeanor entirely changed – after blinking for a moment he looked up at as with utter relief, like a man adrift at sea seeing a ship coming to rescue him.  I hate magic, and I especially hate magic that messes with your head – but it’s nice to have it on my side for a change.

Martialla sat down across from him “We’re friends of Tario’s, he told us to meet him here, do you know where he is?”

“He’s in trouble.  He got himself into trouble and then Gareth left I didn’t know what to do.”

“What kind of trouble?” He looked at me as if he hadn’t noticed me before, then turned back to Martialla as if she had asked the question.

“He was trying to work on a plan” he glanced around and lowered his voice “You know, about Razmiran.  He was trying to make a deal with the Gallows Girls but something went wrong and he didn’t come back from the meet.  Then one of them came and said that we had to pay them a thousand gold if we wanted to see him again.  That’s when Gareth quit.”

“What about Deacon and Dottlev?  And the squirrely looking guy with the spectacles?”

“Gurmet the scribe?  I sold him.”

“What do you mean you sold him?  Like into slavery?” He just shrugged.  I really hate it when people reply to me with a shrug.  “Look, what’s your name?”

“Joscar.”

“Joscar, I get the sense that you’ve had a real rough go of it here, but you need to talk to me alright?  You need to tell me what’s going on so I can help you.  Can you do that for me?”

Martialla reached across the table and took his hands in hers. “It’s okay, we’re here to help.”

He took a deep breath and then nodded, patting Martialla’s hand. “Tario’s been good to me so I wanted to try to come up with the money.  So I sold Gurmet to an old lady named Ruby for a hundred gold.”

“What do you mean, you can’t sell people.”

“I did, so I guess you can.”

“What did you do with Deacon and Dottlev?”

He gestured vaguely. “I have them out working.”

I was appalled “You mean working-working?  Alone?  They aren’t corner-boys.  You shouldn’t have them working the streets at all, but if you do you should be out there as their back-up.  For the God’s sake . . .”

Martialla waved for me to stop before I started getting really cross and gave Joscar a soulful look. “I’m sure you did the best you could.  How much money do you have now?”

He patted a pouch on his belt “Seventy . . . maybe sixty.”

“You just said you sold the scribe for a hundred!  How could you have sixty now?”

He held his hands out helplessly. “Expenses . . .”

I squeezed my eyes shut for a moment. “I am going to get such a migraine tonight from not cutting your balls off and letting you bleed out.  First things first.” I grabbed the bottle in front of him and took it away. “Are you sober enough to help us start unraveling this fucking mess?”

“Yes” he said resentfully.

“Good, up and at them then!”

Joscar was sober enough to lead us but not sober enough to remember exactly where the boys were working.  I suspect that he didn’t actually know.  We eventually found them by one of the many bridges over the mud-rivers that divvy up the lovely town of Preen.  They were being hassled by a small group of tough looking laborer types.

“Time to move along boys.”

One of them, a fellow with a blue leather apron and a small thick mustache turned to say something to me and I slashed him across the arm with my dagger.  I have to admit I thought this would send them running.  It did not.  At all.  The five of them grabbed ugly looking clubs and blades of their own intent on a fight.  I pulled out my Gem.

“Hold on, hold on, hold on!  That was my mistake, I thought I could intimidate you but clearly you aren’t anyone to be trifled with.  How about I give you this gemstone and we call it all even?”

Blue Apron started to growl something but all eyes were on the stone, which was the point, I activated its blinding flash and they staggered back clutching at their eyes. 

“Joscar, get them!”

At this point I realized that Joscar had sat down on a barrel against a building and fallen into a drunken slumber.  Cursing, I dashed forward and stabbed at Blue Apron while trying to avoid his blindly flailing arms.  As he went to the ground I saw that Martialla had taken out two of the others, but as they regained their vision she spoke a magic word and disappeared.  Edging backwards I grabbed Joscar by the front of his grimy shirt and tried to throw him forward into the path of a man charging at me.  All I managed to do was tip him face first into the mud, but thankfully he got tangled up in the feet of my attacker and they both went down in a tangle of limbs.  I stabbed him twice in the back as he tried to get up but then the final member of the group – an odd square looking fellow with the peach fuzz beard of a youth on the grizzled mug of a fortysomething man – clobbered me high in the chest with a stout cudgel hard enough to take me off my feet.

I fell to the mud, breathless, with stars dancing in front of my eyes as he advanced to finish the job – thankfully Martially appeared and blasted him with little bolts of yellow magical . . . whatevers.  She helped me back to me feet.

“I thought you were more subtle than this.”

I managed to catch my breath enough to answer “So did I.”

A new voice came from the direction of the bridge “That was quite a show.”

The source was a tall skinny fellow who’s tallness and skinniness was made even more pronounced by the white and purple striped longjohns he was wearing under a green jacket – to complete the ridiculous look he was wearing a top hat and had an outrageous handlebar mustache. He looked not unlike a circus clown.  Or any kind of clown I guess. 

“Glad we could be of service, now if you’re excuse me.”

A spike of malice ran through his smooth tone “Ah, but we have business.  You just ran off my boys.  That means you owe me.”

“Deacon and Dottlev?  In what sense were they yours?”

“In the sense that I was protecting them.”

I looked at the five men laying bloody on in the mud. “And a fine job you were doing of it to.”

“Oh, those men were just fooling around, they wouldn’t have done any harm – not without paying first at least.”

“You’re not getting any money from us pimp.”

A short blade slide out of his sleeve into his hand “Oh, but I am.”

Joscar had finally come to and regained his feet – pulling a knife in each hand he charged at the skinny man in the hat.  Said man nimbly kicked Joscar in the groin, doubling him over, and then grabbed him by the hair and sent him flying into the mud-river with a grin.  All without losing his hat.   

I reached for my coin “How much did you say you wanted?”

After bribing the annoying fellow and fishing Joscar out of the mud we went looking for Deacon and Dottlev – who wisely had run away when the fighting started.  It took us over an hour to find them.  I am having a really lousy day.   If you’re keeping track. 

Joscar managed, this time, to lead us mostly directly to the small shop of the scribe – a cluttered little box that seemed to have been crammed in between two other buildings (a cabinet maker and a clothing store if you were wondering) as an afterthought.  I doubt it was even six feet wide and it was packed with books and sheaves of paper. Sitting behind a counter that took up the whole width was an older woman wearing a very poor quality wig.  She looked like a little gargoyle perched on a castle wall.  She looked down her nose at me like I was a bug in her salad.

“Can I help you ‘madam’?”

“I’m not in the mood lady, so if you have Grumet stashed back there bring him out.”

“And why would I do that?”

I gestured “Joscar, break her jaw.” He didn’t move. “Joscar!”

“She’s an old woman!  I’m not going to hit an old woman!”

“You could at least have scared her, she doesn’t know that you won’t beat an old lady.

“Oh.”

“Yeah, oh.  Alright look, what’s your name?”

She pointed towards the front “The sign says Ruby’s can’t you read?”

I swallowed a cutting remark “Okay Ruby, this moron here says he sold you a friend of mine.  I don’t know what that means exactly but it’s over alright?  Hand him over.”

“Not sold really, more like indentured servitude.”

“Whatever, just bring him out.”

She crossed her arms “What about my money?”

“Lady, it is taking all my effort not to snatch that wig off your head and beat you until your skin falls off, don’t trifle with me.”

She was unimpressed “I’m not afraid of you, muddy little girl, whoever you are.  I have protection.  My money.  Now.”

After bribing the old scribe and collecting the shell-shocked Grumet from an even tinier room where he was making what I believe were counterfeit writs granting timber rights we returned to the boarding house and rented out the remaining rooms.  The three rescuees were utterly miserable and just wanted to go home – I can’t say that I blame them.  I told them to stay there with Martialla while Joscar and I took a walk.

“How are you feeling?”

“Still half-drunk, but better.  I know what you must think of me, I’m not a leader – I’m used to following orders.  Once Tario was captured and Gareth left I didn’t know what to do.  I did the best that I could.”

I patted him on the back “That’s all in the past now, just tell me where I can find these Gallows Girls.”

He told me and then managed a weak smile “I’m so glad that you’re here now.”

We turned down a corner and I had my Coat fly off and wrap about his legs like a bola – sending him crashing to the ground.  I put my boot on the back of his head and pushed his face into the mud until bubbles stopped coming up – and then for a minute more to make sure.

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 1020 platinum, 11,004 gold, 6 silver

XP: 162,028

Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animated Riding Coat,  Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring,  False Papers, Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, Gem of Brightness, Potion of Invisibility, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Glove of Vampiric Touch, Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Chime of Opening (5 charges), Holy Symbol of Kozilek, Ruby (2)

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, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers

Moreavan 11 Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

Homar and the caravan headed west and it was time for me to head east.  I debated with myself asking Belking to accompany me but he seemed determined to stay and do whatever it is a lone solider does in a fort.  I assume he’s probably going to hang himself.  But you never know, people surprise you sometimes.  Not usually in a good way, but still.

The only thing worse than traveling with a group is traveling alone.  But the road to Preen should be safe right?  Right?  At least I won’t get lost this time.  Probably.  There was a decent amount of traffic on the road and as I do from time to time when I’m on the move alone I took on different appearances and personas with everyone I met. 

I was a short woman with a shaved head wearing a distinctively ratty black coat named Eckroia – I was born to a wealthy family on the border but fled once the war started and now am trying to find work.  Then I was Joan, another short woman with chestnut hair in an odd sleeveless shirt.  I was very clingy and talked about my love of painting too much.  Then I was a scrawny bald man in a yellow shirt and ill-fitting pants named Gegir – I fancied myself a fortune-teller who hated rats and brought it up for no reason.  And so on. 

Preen was off in the distance when I heard someone call out behind me.

“Why Artia you’ve changed.  I had no idea that you could kick a drug habit in two hours.  And dye your hair.  And switch genders.”

I turned back to see a weather beaten half-elf with a fancy walking stick and an eye-patch.  I had no memory of such a person but before my eyes their form changed to that of a plain faced middle-aged woman with a prominent chin wearing a blue cap – who I did remember talking to earlier that days as Artia the slouching drug addict and failed big game hunter.

“Nice disguise.”

“Thanks, it’s all in the cap.  You are really Ela right, this isn’t another disguise?”

“You have me at a disadvantage madam.  Or sir.”

He held out her hand and shook in a forthright masculine manner “Martialla Dieme.  I’ve been looking for you a long time.”

“Ominous, how did you find me?  Magic?”

“I wasn’t easy, I assure you, but there was no magic involved – just lots of talking to folk and traveling.  LOTS of talking and traveling.  And I assure you there’s nothing to be worried about.  I bring you thanks.”

“It makes me very worried when people say there’s nothing to worry about.”

“I can’t claim to know you Ela, but I’ve learned enough about you to know that no amount of dissembling is going to put you at ease so I’ll just speak plainly.  Piltis Swine and two of his goons killed my niece.  Since you killed him I owe you my thanks.”

“I don’t know anything about that, I heard he died in some kind of duel.”

She smiled in an unsettling way “Yes, from what I’ve gathered you have a knack for getting other people to do your dirty work.  I killed one of the other men, Sockeye, in Narhold.  So I wanted to thank you, but also see if you would help me in killing the third man – Dirt-Tooth.”

“Dirt-Tooth?  Seriously? 

“Well some folk call him Fat Dick, but I prefer Dirt-Tooth.”

“You seem like a very capable individual, what do you need my help for?”

“He’s what I believe is called in the trade ‘a hard target’ I don’t think I can get him alone – not without dying anyway and I’m not prepared to go for that far.  Not yet anyway.”

“Well I’m sorry to tell you Martialla, but you’ve wasted your time.  As much as I’d love to help you kill a small time crime asshole I’m stuck her at the moment – something in the way of indentured servitude.  Of a kind.”

She looked at me for twenty straight seconds and when I asked what she was doing she shushed me very rudely – then reaching out and grabbing the silver chain around my neck and saying a few magic words, causing it to glow with a blue light for a second.

“Yes, I see the issue.”

“I thought you said you didn’t have magic.”

“I never said that, I just said I didn’t use magic to find you.”

“Well anyway, you see my predicament.”

“Maybe I can help you out from under it.”

“Is revenge worth that much to you?  That’s not a good thing Martialla.  You should try forgiveness.  Revenge reduces you to your worst self, it makes you just as bad as the person you hate.  When you pursue revenge you act in a destructive way antithetical to ever finding peace – what you should do instead is seek emotional freedom.  Let go of your anger, transform it into compassion.  You know the old saying – if you set out on a journey for revenge you should dig two graves.”

She looked at me for a moment and then burst out laughing – laughing so hard she doubled over and had one of those gross snot-bubbles forming on her face.  I guess it was pretty funny. Once she had recovered we continued on the road to Preen together. She handed me a small bag that continued two flawless rubies. 

“My thanks, for ridding the world of Piltis Swine.”

“Oh, no reward is necessary.” I said as I tucked the bag away.

“Where are we going?”

“First we go down there to Preen, to maybe pull off a heist, then back to Juost Manor – I’m sure my cousin the Baroness is worried about me.”

“So you’re the Baroness’s cousin now?  Good for you.”

“Yes, I’m really moving up in the world.”

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 1020 platinum, 11,154 gold, 6 silver

XP: 162,028

Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animated Riding Coat,  Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring, False Papers, Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, Gem of Brightness, Potion of Invisibility, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Glove of Vampiric Touch, Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Chime of Opening (5 charges), Holy Symbol of Kozilek, Ruby (2)

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, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers