I learned my lesson about taking roads so the farmer’s wife and I cut through the forest to reach the Uthan Homesteads and return her to her humdrum life of washing and cooking. I considered taking a moment to talk to her about how she most likely has the spark of magic in her and she should try to nurture that or cultivate it or whatever one does with a spark of magic but why bother? I’m not her fairy godmother. She has an actual fairy mother-mother, so why would I get involved? Well did have anyway. Ahem. After delivering her into the scaly-arms of her fish-face husband I took a moment to check out the map that Tario had “misplaced”. If it’s a fake, which is likely is, it’s a good one. I debated heading down to Preen to connect with Tario but I figured the Baroness was likely worried about her dear cousin so I headed east.
I got maybe four miles before a party of armed men came for me. Isn’t there supposed to be a war on? Why are there so many fighters just roaming the land causing me trouble? I swear to you if you ever need to hire some men at arms just come to me and say “Ela , would you walk ten feet in any directions” and guarantee you that some will appear. Although these weren’t professionals so much as excited amateurs. A group of six men with woodcutting axes spotted me and ran like crazy while I waited patiently. The leader took a moment to catch his breath before shouting wildly.
“You! You’re under arrest!”
“You can’t arrest me, I’m the sheriff.”
This confused them for a moment but they rallied. A slender, stoop shouldered fellow who nonetheless was carrying some wiry muscle came forward.”
“Don’t try your fey trickery on us!” He brandished a cheap piece of parchment. “We have a warrant from Sheriff Martin right here to arrest you!”
“Gentlemen I wouldn’t dream of trying to trick you. Can I take a look at that?” Slenderman cautiously handed over the parchment like he was worried I was going to bite him. I took it and pretended to peruse it for a moment. “Everything looks in order here. However this is outdated.” I pulled the false papers Tario “left” behind out of my pockets. “I have a pardon right here, which as you can see is dated just yesterday.”
Slenderman gave me a humorless tight lipped smile “Nice try, but I can read.”
I countered with a winsome smile of my own as I put the papers away “Well you can’t blame a girl for trying can you? So, I’m arrested am I? And where will you fine gentlemen be escorting me?”
One of the others gave me a little shove with the handle of his ax “To Newberry, and don’t get any ideas!”
I dramatically fell to the ground with a flourish of flailing arms and started weeping and sniffling. The one who shoved me looked so embarrassed that I thought he might die right on the spot. The others hardly looked any more comfortable. After a long moment of them looking away and shuffling their feet one of them came to help me.
“There, there lass, Aern didn’t mean anything, he just . . .”
As he reached out to help me up I flinched away with a gasp like I thought he was going to hit me and doubled down on the crying. He recoiled away as if he had been struck himself and looked around at his fellows helplessly. It’s funny, these fellows would likely ax me to bits if they had to but a few tears and they’re all unmanned. I bravely struggled to my feet and wiped my face, drying my eyes. I looked Slenderman dead in the eye.
“To Newberry then.”
A few hours later I was back in Newberry, the forgettable country village, with my new friends. However there seemed to be quite a few extra people in town and a veritable flurry of activity – for a place like this anyway. I spotted Yelf or whatever is name is flipping flapjacks on a griddle over a fire in a makeshift camp in the center of town. When he saw me he growled like a wounded bear. That didn’t bother me, what did bother me is when I saw Gilthar Trueblood and Kent Richard sitting at a makeshift table that had been brought out to the camp. Kent frowned but Gilthar smiled slightly and gave me a little nod.
I was taken to the small community building where several more Lumber Consortium toughs were milling about. Sitting behind a desk with a quill pen in one hand and a bottle of rum in the other was a heavy-set fellow with a face like a slab of granite. He was hairless and seemed to have little shaving cuts all over his chin and jawline.
“You must be the bigwig around here. I have to tell you I haven’t seen many women in your little organization. You really should think about some initiatives to increase your diversity. The more different points of view you have the stronger you become as a team.”
Without looking up he spoke “Hellmouth, shut her up.”
One of the goons took a step towards me. ”Hellmouth? Is that really what they call you? Is it because you’re a crotch-biter?” He stopped, confused.
The man at the desk shook his head and put down his pen and his booze, standing up to come around the desk and look at me.
“I heard you had a knack for talking people down – or maybe just talking down to people. How about I put you in a room with Bruiser and Knuckles and see how you do then?”
I looked at him coolly “Do you all have fun little nicknames? Like at a fancy boy’s school? What’s this all about?”
“Interfering with the operations of a working lumber camp.”
“That’s a crime?”
“Around these parts? It’s the kind that can get you hung. Now, are you going to behave for a couple hours while I round up the judges or do I got to hog-tie you and stuff a gag in your mouth?”
They wedged me in a shack by the paper mill to cool my heels for a few hours – that was a nice touch. Have you ever been near a paper mill? Trust me, you don’t want to be. When they came to get me they yanked and shoved me to the town square were a long bench of sorts had been knocked together – looked awful but then I suppose they’re lumbermen not carpenters. I wonder if there’s a carpenter’s union and if there is are they allies with the lumbermen or is there bad blood there?
At the bench were five men – Granite-face, who for reasons unknown had taken his shirt off to reveal ugly squiggles of tattoos on his shoulders. One his left flank was a similar looking fellow who was blocky rather than round, had a few hints of fuzzy blonde hair (and was decent enough to wear a shirt) and next to him was an ugly Halfling on a high stool. To the right was another hard looking bastard with a full head of dark hair and sideburns to match, which framed a scarred craggy face. On the end of that side was yet another burly looking bald man with a bushy black beard. It was quite a collection of rough looking freebooters.
Granite-face pounded his fist for attention and then looked down at me “What is your name?”
“You’re arresting me and you don’t even know my name?”
He glared at the murmuring crowd “Just answer my questions! You backtalk me and you’ll face the consequences! What is your name?”
I looked around for Trueblood’s face in the crowd “Gilthus what name did I give you? I can’t remember. I’ll just go with that one.”
Gilthus blanched like someone had walked over his grave as all eyes turned to him. Granite-face beat his fist for attention again. “Just tell me your name wench!”
“Wench? That’s hurtful. I’m the Baroness’s cousin, that’s the entire name you need.”
A gasp ran through the crowd but the “judges” seemed unconcerned.
“The Baron is off fighting. That means no one is in charge, which means it don’t mean anything whose relations you are.”
“The Baroness is in charge.”
Scattered laughter from the crowd. “A woman? What’s she going to do about it? All the soldiers are off fighting.”
“Whatever, can we get on with this?”
“You can call me Cirthana. Cirthana Juost.”
He rose to his feat ponderously “Cirthana Juost, you stand accused of consorting and conspiring with the fey folk of the woods against the lumber operations of the guild!”
Much harrumphing and grumbling from the crowd. “Which is it? Consorting or conspiring? Because I happen to be an expert in consorting and I think I’d know if I did that sort of thing with a wee little man. And as for conspiring? I just don’t have it in me, I have trust issues. I think it all stems from the fact that I grew up without a father figure. I never learned how to drink or smoke or steal the right way. Will you be my daddy?”
More fist pounding “SILENCE! How do you plead to these charges?” After a moment “How do you plead?!”
“Oh, sorry, I thought I was supposed to be quiet.” I cleared my throat and spoke clearly “Not guilty your worshipfulness.”
“Very well, then there will be a trial. The five of us will decide your guilt.” He pointed to the red-haired tree-trunk armed fellow from the camp “Relf will serve as your advocate. The evidence . . .”
“Pardon your graciousness, but if it please the court I should like to invoke the privilege of my noble right.”
He glowered like a champion. “Meaning what?”
“I request trial by combat.”
The crowed was stunned silent for a moment. “You?!”
“I’ll have a proxy fight in my stead of course.”
The five “judges” conferred for a moment and then Granite-Face spoke for them “Who?”
“I am under no obligation to reveal that information, but I will tell you – because I’m such a good sport – that they’re already right here in this gathering. Let’s say tomorrow, mid-day, after breakfast has had some time to settle but without interrupting people’s lunch.”
Granite-face was nearly apoplectic “You got it!!!!!!!!!!”
Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring, Map, False Papers, 2 carnelians
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