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