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.”
“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, 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.
“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
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