I woke up today feeling worse than I have in a long time – I might even have felt worse than when I was sick to death laying on the floor of a crypt in Graltontown. In addition to a sour stomach, a mind-slitting hang-over and feeling dope-sick I also had a massive purple bruise on my left side running from knee to hip. It almost looked alive, and angry. I must have fallen down at some point last night – and hard. Luckily, this caravan being a professional operation, has a priestess of Adariel and her attendants as part of the crew. She was so good and honest and wholesome looking it made my teeth ache. There must be some law that says any woman wanting to take up the healing arts has to be an unadorned beauty with an aura virtuousness and purity before they give you your snow white robe. How do they keep those ropes so clean anyway? I have a heck of a time keep my wardrobe tidy. Her magic mended me right up as the caravan was getting ready to heave into motion.
“You don’t look like a drunk.”
“What does a drunk look like to you?”
“Shirtless, hairy chest, flabby belly, scraggly beard, laying in a gutter with trousers half off.”
“You’re dead on, don’t revise that first draft at all.”
“Is this something you plan on doing every night?”
“What’s it to you?”
“Just trying to plan my days, there are people on this caravan who get hurt for real, I don’t want to waste magic on you if I don’t have to.”
“I appreciate your concern your holiness. I’ll be on the straight and narrow for the rest of the trip, I promise you that in the name of all the Gods.”
“Why do I get the impression that doesn’t mean anything to you?”
“Because you’re very perceptive for a religious type. You know, if you got laid a couple times a week you’d probably be a decent person. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
I joined Homar and his cronies in their traveling “carriage” which was a massive open air affair that was very reminiscent of a small pleasure barge on land. I’ve seen some decadence in my day, but this was almost beyond the pale. It took a team of twelve draft horses to move the damn thing and I’m pretty sure there’s also some magic involved as well. No reason not to enjoy it though. I took a seat on an overstuffed chair under a canopy and helped myself to some hard lemonade with peach slices. Hair of the dog and all that. Homar stood watching me with a guarded expression.
“That was quite a bender you were on yesterday.”
“I’ve always wondered where that term comes from.”
“I believe it’s a reference to bending your elbow to bring the drink to your mouth.”
“Ah, well there you have it then. You’re a good man Homar.”
“My Lady is this something you’re going to be making a habit of?”
“Your priestess was just asking me the same thing, what’s your problem?”
“This is professional operation, one of which you are a guest, this isn’t a noble’s pleasure trip into the countryside. You can’t be carrying on like that.”
I snorted “You’re going to say that to me while we’re on this behemoth of self-indulgence?”
“My lady . . .”
I held my hand up to stop him “Look, I’m not like that normally, I was feeling bad for myself and it got away from me a little, it won’t happen again. But it doesn’t matter anyway because I just need to get to the fort and we should be there today and then I’ll be out of your hair.”
Homar seemed dubious but he let the matter drop. I must have made quite a spectacle of myself because none of the other merchant wanks said anything to me beyond a few polite instances of small talk. Which was fine with me, I moved over to a low divan and quickly fell into a much needed sleep. The rocking of the massive carriage was rather soothing, almost like being in the hold of a ship. Some time later I was gently woken by Homar’s assistant/majordomo/mistress/bodyguard and taken to where Homar and his fellow merchant princes were circle murmuring. Homar in turn led me off the land-barge and to a group of guards who were talking with an older fellow with long white hair whose face was a bloody mess.
Turns out they had found a ranger from the keep skulking about. He confirmed, as I suspected, that it was not Ulpine troops that had seized the fort, but rather a group of mercenaries. It seems the commander had fallen under the influence of a wicked seductress who had convinced him to open the gates to the mercenaries who then slaughtered everyone inside, aside from this fellow who said his name was Belking. He had escaped through a series of secret passageways. I’ve been known to mock people who build secret tunnels and the like but I guess they aren’t totally useless. I asked him why his commander would have done this and he cursed the woman and said that she must have control of his mind.
“No, I don’t mean that, I mean what are they after? Is there a vault of gold in the keep or what would be her motivation for making this happen? They have to know someone’s going to do something about it and they won’t be there long so they must be looking for something.”
Belking didn’t have any thoughts on what they might be after, he clearly thought they wanted the keep itself – which makes little sense. Why would a small mercenary band want to seize a fortification and bring down the King’s wrath?
“Well this is simple enough, Belking you lead me in through the secret tunnels and I take out the woman, and the commander if we have to, then the mercenaries have no reason to stick around and the keep is rescued. Just like that. Still though, as a backup we should be prepared to storm the place. Homar, would you be willing to lend me your guards for a good old-fashioned keep storming?”
He was horrified to his core “Certainly not! The cost would be enormous!”
“I might be willing to pay that cost. Will you stick around for a few days while I suss it out?”
An equal amount of horror “Not in the least! We’re on a strict schedule, every day we’re late will cost us a small fortune!”
I gave him a pat on the shoulder “I understand.”
With that I jumped onto the carriage-barge and used my vocal tricks to project my voice across the entire group.
“My friends, it is time that I leave you. Even though we traveled together only for a short time I wish to thank you for your hospitality. I am embarking on a mission to take back a fortress from the enemies of our King. And although I go alone against an entire cadre of murderous sellswords, I have no fear in my heart because I love this Kingdom and its people and I will be glad to give my life in its defense. Please keep me in your hearts as you travel on in pursuit of your mercantile ventures while I go forth alone in the spirit of patriotism and love of the King. I know that you would come with me if you could, but that you have important work here guarding your turnips and whatnot.
Durkin Lezere, I know that you fought to reclaim our lands in the south in the ’84 campaign with General Gadius Lecmore himself – you would join me if you could, if not your obligations here. I know that and no one thinks any less of you for staying behind. Russ Akred, I know that you rode with the 17th Cathari Lancers back in ’83 and any man who rides with the Lancers and lives to tell the tell is a hard fighting son of a bitch! But I know that those days are behind you and that guarding these wagons and their footstuffs is your way of protecting the honor the Kingdom now. And that’s fine, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, it’s great – we all do what we can right? Chaiarch Urdenson, you stormed the walls at Herrinfold, first man up the ladder – first to live to tell about it anyway – no one can say that you haven’t done your part. No one can say that you haven’t earned a cushy job shepherding popinjays that could buy and sell you a thousand times over so they can make more money. No one can say that and no one would!
I go, it is likely that I got to my death, but shed no tears for me because this isn’t your fight – your job is here with your wagons. I thank you all for your brave service in the pursuit of commerce!”
Homar and his friends stood fuming as the guard-captains came to them and suggested that they supply me aid in this effort. They were smart enough to indulge them rather than face a mutiny. After they agreed to wait for three days to see if I could resolve the situation without resorting to an assault Homar came over with a face like a stormcloud to yell at me. I cut him off with a pat on the cheek.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be quick. Know what I mean?”
He didn’t appreciate my wink, which is wildly unfair because I am a great winker. Maybe the greatest of all time.
Funds: 1020 platinum, 11,154 gold, 6 silver
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, Map, 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
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