Mathanaya 14 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

As we traveled the former path of the river the farther west we got the livelier and healthier the plant life appeared.  On the way to Bowcrag we passed through some truly depressing terrain, but this was almost pleasant.  Corwyn claimed this was because of the influence of the hags and their inherent magicalness. 

“I thought hags were all about misery and spiders and grossness and big ugly warts.  Why would their influence help plants grow?”

“I’m no hagologist but hags are somehow related to the fey folk I think and they’re all about trees and grass and walnuts and shit right?”

“I thought they were mostly about tormenting people and stealing babies.”

“Well everyone needs a hobby.”

Things did turn muddier and more unpleasant as we turned north.  We followed the smoke of a small campfire and found one of Corwyn’s fellow surveyors cooking up a mess of spicy swamp crabs.  He was a scraggly looking Halfling in a red greatcoat that appeared to have been badly burned at some point.  Whoever this merchant was that was hiring these people must be really into diversity – so far in his employ we’ve encountered a Kostelos, a gnome, and a Halfling.  All men of course though, there’s a limit to how far tolerance goes.  Corwyn and this fellow, Giger, chatted for a while and he invited us to share his repast – there was no way I was going to touch swamp crabs but everyone else seemed to enjoy them.   Anflite and Filtan in particular were cramming the greenish little things in their mouths like greedy pigs. 

Shortly after this diversion we saw a carriage stuck in the mud.  The doors on the side facing us had been torn off and the whole thing was tilted slightly towards us, which was resulting in a thin stream of blood dripping off the floor into the muddy ground.  Nearby a woman in a muck and blood smeared white dress lay with her ankle snared in a bear trap.  Upon hearing us approach she looked up with a pale tear-stained face and started begging for help. The two sets of siblings were about to run forward when I stopped them with a whistle.

“Yeah, I don’t think so.  Why would a carriage be out here?  Or a bear trap for that matter?  There are no bears around here.  Plus where are the horses?  Carriages don’t get far without horses.”

The woman started sobbing and raspingly gasping about how much her leg hurt and how bad the pain was.  Anflite and Filtan looked like their hearts were breaking – I’m starting to wonder about their credentials as hired killers, seems like they should be made of tougher stuff.  They wanted to run to her aid but I commanded them to stay back.  Eventually the “carriage” disappeared, revealing itself to be merely a large roundish hammock.  The “woman” calmly stood up and walked a few paces our way.

“That’s close enough.  That was well crafted, but your choice was a little off for this terrain.  That would have worked great in more of a deep dark forest setting.  And what would have happened if we tried to help you?”

“You’ll never know will you?  Perhaps it was a morality test, to see if you would help the weak.”

“To what end?  I mean helping the weak sounds all well and good but the weak always need help you know?  It gets tiresome.  You save one person’s life and then it’s like you’re on the hook helping them for the rest of yours.  If we’re being honest I prefer to help the strong, they don’t come running back to you for more help all the time, plus their gratitude bears greater rewards.  I mean the weak, what do they have to offer really?”

“Well said.  What is it that you and your assorted band of friends are doing out here?  If I may ask.”

“We’re looking for the Tree of Woe.  Know anything about it?”

“Sounds like the kind of place best avoided.  What with the woe part.”

“You’re probably right, but going places that are best avoided seems to be my lot in life.”

The “woman” dropped the illusion, revealing a humanoid swine-type being.  Although it was pretty hairy so maybe it was more of a boar than a pig?  Although isn’t a boar just a name for a female pig?  Anyway, you get the idea – it had tusks and was grotesque. 

“I’ll tell them you’re coming.”

The swine-monster dropped to all fours and ran off in a way that looked awkward as all Hells but was very fast indeed. 

“Nothing at all unsettling about that.”

Corwyn decided at this point that we could find the rest of the way ourselves.  I tried to sell him on the thrill of coming face to face with a hag coven but for some strange reason he wasn’t into it.  He turned back for Bowcrag as we soldiered on.    Late in the afternoon we came across a half rotted river boat that was titled almost entirely on its side with the bottom (what’s the bottom of a boat called, the hull?  Or is the whole thing the hull?) sunk deep in a weedy mud bank.  I studied it for a good long while and saw no signs of it being an illusion, but you can never be sure right?  Last thing I want is to walk directly into the mouth of a giant crocodile or man eating snapper turtle.  Martialla tossed a rock at it which thumped into the decaying wood with an appropriate sound.

“If it’s an illusion it’s a good one.  You want to check it out?”

“Of course I do, what possible reason could there be for not wanting to crawl into a collapsing riverboat in hag country?  How do you think this got here?  Surely when they dammed the river everyone would have known about it ahead of time.”

Getting in turned out to be more difficult than I thought.  There was no good way to get inside so in the end I had Anflite and Filtan smash through the wood with their orc-axes.  Even then I was the only one slender enough to wriggle in.  Martialla could have probably fit as well but that would have been even more claustrophobic.  She did use her magic to make my signet ring glow with light so I could see my way around and so that any critters in here could see me coming and get the jump on me.  I’m not even sure what I was crawling through, unless this boat was made for pixies any corridor should have been much larger.   After a dozen feet or so I dropped down into a huge room that looked to have been a dancing hall or something of the like – clearly this was the pleasure barge of a noble or those that cater to them.  Seeing it sideways was a little disorientating.

Before I could look around much an apparition appeared before me – a woman in a dress that looked like it was made from the scaly hide of some monster.  It was made in as if it was a dress of the highest fashion but those scales have to be Hells on the nipples.  She would have been attractive it not for her empty eye sockets and the fact that her discolored skeleton could clearly be seen through her translucent “flesh”.  The cards of a deck floated around her like bees orbiting a flower.  Her voice was melodious in a haunting and low way.

“Fancy a game?  I’ve been waiting ages to turn the cards again.”

“It can’t be that long, this river only dried up a few years ago.”

“The Lady’s Luck sunk long before the river was drained.”

“Ah, that makes more sense now.  What’s your game?”

“High card.”

I laughed “Preposterous.  I thought you wanted a game, not a waste of time.”  Two tiny red lights appeared in her eye-holes and her ghost face twisted into a horrid parody of anger.  “High card it is.  What are we playing for?”

“Your soul.”

“I think that’s already spoken for but sure.”

“First to eight wins.  I win and your body is mine – your delightful body – we switch places and I walk out of here, you stay, bereft of form.  Powerless and alone.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time.”

Have you ever played cards with a ghost?  I have now.  The hard part is shuffling cards that have been covered with ghost syrup.  I think fancy educated types call it ectoplasm but I’m telling you that it’s exactly the same as mostly clear colored syrup – sticky and gooey in all the wrong ways.  I hit my eight high cards while she was still on three.  It was the funniest thing, every time she dealt I won about half the time, but whenever I did I always won.

“What do I get for winning?”

“I think you cheated.”

“That’s a very serious accusation, cheating at cards gets people killed.”

“I’m very much aware of that, how do you think I ended up here?”

“I’ve been meaning to ask you something, isn’t that dress horribly uncomfortable?”

“It was mostly for show.  Even though you probably cheated for winning I will reward you with knowledge.  The realm of the dead holds many secrets.”

“How do I get revenge on Duke Eaglevane?”

“Who’s Duke Eaglevane?”

“Okay then.  Actually there is something that you might be able to help me out with.  A friend of mine, well not a friend, she was a pain in the ass really – a work acquaintance of mine was killed recently and I’d like to bring her back.  Resurrection you know.  Return her from the land of the dead to my world.  How might I pull something like that off?”

“Seek the seven strings.”

“What the Hells does that mean?”

But she had disappeared.  After I cleaned the ghost snot off the cards I saw that the images on them had all changed to artwork depicting a woman that looked a lot like me in various forms of distress – distress like being tortured on a rack, or crushed by rocks, or being ripped apart by devils, that sort of thing.  It’s the kind of keepsake that you can’t pass up.  Scrounging around I found the woman’s remains which I gathered up, along with her scaly dress.  Beyond that there was nothing of value and there appeared to be no other bodies either – whatever happened here I think was a little more than a simple shipwreck.  I suppose a woman with a dress like that probably had an interesting life and death.

After crawling back out and allowing Martialla to magically hose me down (Drake didn’t even leer at me but I’ll chalk that up to concern over his sister) we gave the bones of the gambling ghost a proper burial. 

“You know this is like the third or fourth ghost that I’ve put to rest?  Fun fact.”

“Should we same some words?”

“What’s there to say?  She’s dead, we’re alive.  That’s pretty much it.”

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .021%

Curses – Marksman’s Malady, Unnerve Beasts

Funds: 8,676 gold

XP: 243,161

Inventory:  Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Pocketed Scarf, Wrist Sheath, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Ring of Protection +2, Assortment of Fake Signet Rings,  Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Black Marketers’ Bag, 852 Garnets, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow, Deck of Curses, Blue Dragoncloth Dress    

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, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo

Mathanaya 13 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Anflite and Filtan actually showed up which makes them more reliable than a good two thirds of the goons for hire in the world.  They immediately disappointed me by saying they didn’t really know anything about overland navigation – I knew I shouldn’t have hired such human looking half-orcs, they’re probably not barbaric at all.  Thankfully Lathal seemed to know what she was doing – I suppose we’ll find out if she really does when we either get where we want to go or die in the middle of nowhere.  For a while we traveled northwest along the river before striking out directly west and coming across the former bed of the river.  It was surprising, and for once it was a good surprise, unlike the path we took here which was a stinking mud infested brown strip this was a channel covered with small rocks worn smooth by the former waters.  It actually looked kind of like a road, other than its weaving path. 

Walking on pebbles all day is kind of hard on the old feet, but the truth is I’ve been on worse roads.  Anflite and Filtan were annoyingly active, always running off to “check for ambushes” and dashing off to investigate even the slightest noise.  Their high energy antics were exhausting, plus I could tell they were making Lathal anxious with their frenetic darting about and I didn’t need her going all wolfy on us.  I asked them to look with their eyes and stay a little calmer but they clearly didn’t have it in them.  Eventually I sent them to scout ahead and after a while Lathal breathed an audible sigh of relief.  It must be draining to be so tightly wound. 

After a few hours I saw what I thought was a kid coming towards us down the dry river bed, but turned out to be a gnome instead – a particularly hairy bugger, you couldn’t really tell where the hair started and the beard ended, I think there was a lot of ear hair contributing to the look as well.  If we’re being honest, and I feel like we are, on the rare occasion that I’ve encountered a gnome I’ve found them rather unimpressive.  It’s like the worst qualities of a dwarf and a Halfling combined.  But this fellow looked like a dangerous piece of business, I can’t say exactly why but I just had the sense this man knew how to handle himself.  It wasn’t his fashion sense which was as poor as any gnome, green and blue pants with a mauve tunic?  Awful.

“Hello friend, you didn’t happen to see two grey women did you, doing some sort of scout type activities?”

“I haven’t seen a soul until this moment.”

“Fantastic, they must be chasing butterflies.”

His name was Corwyn Illvar which is not even that stupid a name for a gnome.  He said that he was a surveyor on his way back to Bowcrag to report in.

“We crossed paths with a surveyor on the way in, or at least he said he was a surveyor.”

“Tall guy, big head, missing a nostril?”

“No.”

“Horse-faced guy with pointy teeth?”

“No.”

“Guy who looks like a cross between a hard-boiled egg and a melon?”

“No.”

“Pretty gal with a mess of braids, flat as a frying pan?”

“No, look as much fun as this little game is I’m going to stop you there – it was a Kostelos fellow wearing hides and a fancy vest .  How many surveyors are out here and what is there to survey in that greasy mudhole?”

“Quite a few, looking for a good route to the west.  Supposedly there’s going to be a project to build a road from Bowcrag all the way to Cathars, it’s going to revitalize all the little villages that dried up when they diverted the river they say.”

“Why didn’t they just leave the river where it was then?”

“The whole thing is a wild goose chase anyway, they’ll never get the money to build a road even one fifth that far.  And even if they did I doubt anyone would use it.  You don’t build a road to create traffic, the traffic dictates were you build the road.”

 “You must know the area pretty well then.  We’re trying to find a dryad that got snookered into a hag’s coven.”

“The Tree of Woe?  Why would you want to go there?”

“It’s political, complicated, it would bore you, but how about you show us the way?”

“No dice Long Tall Saillie, I’ve been out here for weeks – I want to get back to town, have myself a bath , get myself a nice meal, and then find myself some liquor and some gambling and not stop until it’s time to go back out again.”

“A gambling man eh?  How about a little game of chance?  I win and you show us the way.”

“And what would you have that would make me take those stakes?”

I pulled out a handful of garnets “This.”

His eyes gleamed “Now, there’s a neat trick.”

I tossed him one for inspection and put the rest away “It is indeed.  What’s your game?”

“Odds and evens.”

I laughed “I thought you said you were a gambler.”

“Pure luck, what would be more exciting than that?”

“Almost anything.  Chance is the providence of people who aren’t clever enough to do anything to improve themselves.  When you’re all out of options and have nothing to offer another solitary human soul that’s when you just stand outside and hope the Gods drop money on you.  A game with no skill is a game not worth playing.”

“How about a palm puzzle?”

“That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind but I’m game.”

He rolled up his sleeves and six coins appeared between his fingers out of nowhere – looking kind of like two sets of brass knuckles.  He grinned “Still want to play?”

“Oh, definitely.”

We decided on Lucre which is more or less sleight of hand dressed up as a game of shifting stones, or in this case coins and gems.  Some people liken it to checkers only there’s no turns.  Other people say it’s a competitive version of the shell game.  They’re both a little right.  He’s good.  I’m better.  At one point I saw him trying to weave in a little subtle magic to help him and I casually transformed on my hands into a massive lion paw.

“Oh my, how embarrassing!”

He smiled and stopped his subtle magic, we continued the game, but it was already a foregone conclusion – I ended up with all 8 gemstones and he had only seven coins, on account of I had switched one out for a rock without him noticing.  That’s about as complete a victory as you can get.

“Well my friend, I believe that’s game.  What do you think?”

“You’re more than meets the eye, that’s for sure.  You know now that I think about it taking a couple extra days to help you out wouldn’t kill me.”

At camp that night after everyone else was asleep (the half-orc sisters did turn up eventually if you were wondering) Corwyn and I stayed up all night swapping stories and jokes and tall tales about our deeds while we shared a bottle of roasted pecan whiskey I had picked up in Bowcrag and he unrolled the last of a packet of Northern Star pipeweed. 

“You’re a real peach you know that?  What did you say your name was again?”

“I didn’t, a girl has to have a bit of mystery you know?”

“No name huh?  That’s unusual.  I tell you, if you were three feet shorter you’d really be something.”

“That’s one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me.”

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .0195%

Curses – Marksman’s Malady, Unnerve Beasts

Funds: 8,676 gold

XP: 243,161

Inventory:  Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Pocketed Scarf, Wrist Sheath, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Ring of Protection +2, Assortment of Fake Signet Rings,  Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Black Marketers’ Bag, 852 Garnets, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow 

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, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo

Mathanaya 12 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I dumped Imma’s father at the camp and shortly thereafter Martialla was up and it was time to turn right back around and head into Bowcrag again.  It’s a good thing I don’t need to sleep otherwise I’d be very annoyed right now.  Or wait, I am.   We made the rounds, asked the right questions, flirted, gossiped, schmoozed, boozed, all the usual maneuvers and we weren’t getting anywhere.  When you want to get information quickly and you’re in a place that has enough people in it there’s a surefire way – but it comes with the potential of getting your legs broken.  Around noon Martialla and I were getting tired of pounding the payment so we headed to the main market square and started making some lifts. 

It’s tricky to do it well enough so that the marks don’t notice but not so well that that any other sharp eyes in the area do, but it was made much easier by working as a team.  I’ve never picked pockets with a partner before – it makes it so easy it’s almost criminal.  Half an hour later we were sitting at the patio of out of the way café when a young fellow with short spikey white hair wearing a fancy black shirt with ruffles sidled up to us – he was a heck of a sidler I tell you that.

“You ladies aren’t nearly as slick as you think you are.”

“Actually we’re exactly that slick in this case.  The purses are yours if you want the, we just wanted to get your attention.”

“Not exactly the smartest way to go about it.  If you were men you’d be getting stomped right now.”

“Good thing we’re aren’t then eh?  My sincerest apologies young master but we’re too lazy to learn all the right signs and who to contact so forth.  We need some information and I’m sure that an enterprising fellow like yourself or your friends can direct us to that information.”

“I don’t like wasting my time.”

“Nor do I, I wouldn’t dream of it assure you.  We know that good info comes with a price, we’re not here to jerk you around.”

“What is it you’re looking for?”

“Okay , this is an odd request, I’m just going to say that up front . . .”

Ruffles heard us out and then took us to see a craggly-looking barkeep with scarred forearms who then directed us to a portly street-hustler with long sloppy hair.  He took a break from hawking shoddy goods (and drugs to those in the know) to tell us that he could get unicorn horn and dryad hair but we explained we were looking for the live articles.  After an exchange of money (one way) he folded up his satchel of goods and took us to see a stocky middle-aged lass with terrible bangs.  The two of them got into a confusing argument that started with a stolen mule deer pelt and ended with accusations of who gave who what venereal disease.  Once that was all sorted out Bangs told us that she had some dealings with a smuggler who had a friend of a friend that might could help us out. 

Introductions were made, drinks were shared, bread was broken, etc. etc.  The smuggler took us to a poacher who took us out into the woods where we ended up taking to a woman in a cave.  It was a pretty cozy looking set-up for a cave.  I have no idea why you would drag a bedframe out of the city into a cave – I would think if you wanted to live in a cave it’s because you weren’t into the comforts of city life.  She was wearing a very unflattering loose-fitting cream and tan number, perhaps that’s why she lives in a cave – bats don’t have much in the way of fashion sense. As long as we’re being honest she had more than a few chin whiskers as well. 

She told us the tale of a dryad that had been the protector of the river before it was dammed.  When the dam project began she summoned her fey allies and the animals of the woods to try and stop it but as usual tiny butterfly winged people and a horde of squirrels wasn’t much of a match for armed men.  The dam was built and the dryad got sick and weak and was on the verge of death but luckily for her salvation was at hand – a couple of grotesque bog hags had taken pity on the poor thing and invited her into their coven, chaining her lifeforce into a wicked cauldron instead of a happy little tree.  Wasn’t that nice of them? 

“Well that’s convenient, we have dryads and hags all in one place, if the kissing doesn’t work we can always fall back on decapitation.  There wouldn’t happen to be a unicorn in the mix as well would there happen?”

Sadly there was not.  Since this sounded like a dangerous situation that would surely get someone killed we decided to recruit some muscle before heading out into the former river valley.  We ended up with a pair of half-orc sisters who aside from their grey (gray?) skin were some of the least orcy looking half-orcs I’ve ever seen.  They could pass for human if they wanted to, but since they were carrying orc-axes and had truly shocking boar tattoos they clearly were into the whole orc thing.  Their names were Anflite and Filtan or something like that.  We made plans to meet them in the morning and returned to the camp.

Imma was dead set on all of us going into the wild together, but her father and her inattentive husband were able to convince her that was a terrible idea – which was nice because then I didn’t have to engage with the little nitwit.  Before retiring to my fabulous new pavilion Martialla and I ended up sitting by the fire sharing a drink as we do from time to time.

“Have you ever read any of the books about Annabelle Spaulding?”

“Can’t say as I have.”

“She’s no shrinking violent, or wilting daisy, or flaccid pansy, but whenever it came down to the really rough stuff she had her boon companions Fransicus and Iyyov to do the dirty work.  Basically she’d solve the case and when it came time for grab the murder that’s when they’d come in to do the dangerous stuff.  How do I get something like that going?”

“Haven’t your hired goons before?”

“Yeah.  It hasn’t really worked out.  I did get a couple of good bodyguards right before I was kidnapped and enslaved.”

“They sound good.”

“My point is though, I don’t want greedy goons, I want bosom companions.”

“Didn’t you used to be a bosom companion?”

“Oh stop, the laughter is killing me.  I’m serious.  How do I get some loyal rough and ready types willing to lay down their lives for me?”

“Isn’t loyalty a two way street?  In order to have someone who’s willing to do anything for you don’t you have to be willing to do the same for them?”

“No, that’s a common misconception.  Look at dogs, they’ll die for you no matter how much of a jerk you are to them.  In fact it seems like the worse you treat them the harder they love you.”

“Perhaps, but people aren’t dogs.” 

“That doesn’t sound right.”

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .018%

Curses – Marksman’s Malady, Unnerve Beasts

Funds: 8,676 gold

XP: 243,161

Inventory:  Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Pocketed Scarf, Wrist Sheath, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Ring of Protection +2, Assortment of Fake Signet Rings,  Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Black Marketers’ Bag, 852 Garnets, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow 

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, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo

Mathanaya 11 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 2

On our way out of town Martialla and I picked up some wolfsbane in case Lathal wanted to give that a try.  We got to the camp outside of town where Imma was doing her best to be winsome and charming towards Drake who was doing his best to be solicitous and comforting to his sister who was annoyed by both of them.  Of Imma’s father there was no sign.  We told Lathal her options and she decided, over her brother’s protests, to give the wolfsbane a try.  Watching someone voluntarily ingest poison is quite an experience.  I mean I’ve seen religious people do it but they’re crazy so it doesn’t count.  I’m no poisonologist but I know a few things and I know that wolfsbane takes a while to kick in – still we couldn’t resist staring at Lathal the entire time. 

After ten or fifteen minutes she started sweating profusely and seemed to have trouble breathing.  Next she puked her guts out, the kind of wracking full body heaves that I imagine leave your ribs aching.  After that she reported feeling very weak and a sensation of burning, tingling, and numbness in the mouth and face.  For a while her face drooped like she had a palsy.  The worst of it only lasted a few minutes, although she clearly had stomach issues for a while afterwards, but she said that “it” was still there.  On the plus side she didn’t die.  The chirurgeon had told us that you could keep trying wolfsbane until it worked, but we didn’t think she would survive a second dose. 

“I guess we’re going to have to find a dryad, unicorn, or hag then.  Tomorrow we’ll go back into town and ask around.”

Imma seemed to have shifted her tactics – doting on Lathal – but Drake remained oblivious “Make sure you find father as well, we don’t want to leave without him.”

“He went into town?  I thought I made it clear everyone was to stay here.”

“We needed supplies, besides you shouldn’t be ordering him about anyway, he’s a grown man.”

Stifling the urge to smack the prim little girl upside her bonnet or to say something cutting (I wonder which would have upset her more) I set out back towards Bowcrag.  Martialla wanted to come with but I told her to get some rest, I should be able to find one middle aged man all by myself.  What I hadn’t considered is that after dark all the shops would be closed, trying to track him down would be a little more difficult.  Since the only things open were bars I had no choice but to start there.  It was a good lesson in patience for me – on account of my no-hair and branded forehead.  Men aren’t very restrained in the best of circumstances and after a few drinks all bets are off.  If I flew off the handle over every comment or question about my appearance the town would have been depopulated in short order – or rather I would have be facedown dead in an alley.

Eventually I was able to track down girlie’s little daddy at a house of ill repute called the Red Dress.  He was being watched over in a sideroom by a couple of burly lads.  The madam, an alluring blonde wearing an exquisite gold and lavender dress (not red) who looked like she should be working at the place rather than running it told me that he owed five hundred gold.  I glared at the shamefaced fellow in shock.

“Five hundred?  What kind of perverted shit did you want that cost fire hundred?”

The madam put her finger on my chin to turn my head back towards her “This is an establishment of the highest caliber, five hundred is nothing out of the ordinary.”

“First of all I will thank you madam, and I use that term literally, not to put your fingers on me for obvious reasons.  Second, I don’t mean to tell you your business, but isn’t it customary to get the money up front?  I don’t mean to imply that you’re bad at your job but how did you let this happen?”

“He left a gold ring with the cashier but it turned out to be a fake.  By the time we figured that out he had already incurred some billable charges.”

“And what were you going to do if no one came looking for him?”

“Someone usually shows up.”

“And what about the times they don’t?”

“That’s problematic.”

I was sorely tempted to leave him there, but I knew that Imma would fly to pieces and I doubted that Drake for all his taciturnity towards his wife was cold blooded enough to ditch her.  But there’s no way I’m paying five hundred for this asshole.  The madam and I got down to some serious negotiating over some ice wine and sweet apple cake.  We arrived at three hundred, which is still outrageous, but she had me at a disadvantage.  She turned out not to be such a bad sort, after I handed over the coin she mentioned that she had an array of wigs from back in her working days and I was welcome to pursue them to see if any caught my fancy.  I was so pleased that I could have kissed her – if I didn’t know where those lips had been.  

I did find a wig that I quite liked and fit rather well.  She wanted an arm and a leg for it because it was enchanted, but she was willing to take payment in gemstones so I was happy enough to pay (sort of).  Looking at myself in the mirror of her vanity adjusting the wig I felt like myself again.   I still have an ugly magic brand on my forehead but one step at a time.  I would never admit as much, but I was ecstatic that this randy old goat had got me to this outcome with his irresponsible behavior.  As we walked out of the city and back to camp he had the look of a man going to the gallows.  After a long bout of silence and about thirty times clearing his throat he felt the need to explain.

“My wife , ah hem, hurh, hah, my wife . . . . has been gone . . . . for many years, and . . .”

“I don’t want to know, I don’t care.”

After a long while he spoke again “You, harum, hurh, ah, ah, you wouldn’t . . . I mean . . . my daughter is . . .”

“I’m not going to say anything to her, why would I tell anyone about this?”

“I . . . appreciate your discretion.  Ahhrem, as it were.”

“What were you doing back there?  Were you trying to run a game on them or did you not know that ring was fake?”

“Does it matter?”

“I suppose not.  Can you pay me back the three hundred?”

“Well . . . . um . . . herm . . . mer . . . ahem . . .”

“Wonderful.”

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .0165%

Curses – Marksman’s Malady, Unnerve Beasts

Funds: 8,876 gold

XP: 243,161

Inventory:  Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Pocketed Scarf, Wrist Sheath, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Ring of Protection +2, Assortment of Fake Signet Rings,  Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Black Marketers’ Bag, 852 Garnets, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow 

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, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo

Mathanaya 11 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 1

Making my way back to Bowcrag was easy enough – when you’re in the vicinity of a city you just follow your nose.  I did manage to get turned around a couple times, but give me a break it was dark out.  As a fun bonus after I got maybe ten yards away from the camp where the bounty hunters and the Shadow Hounds were hacking each other to bits, I felt a hot flare on my forehead where Greatcoat had touched me.  That certainly can’t be good.  I assumed that it was some way for him to track me down, but as soon as I got into the city a stray dog came charging at me snapping and snarling.  I’m usually pretty good with animals but this cur wasn’t having it.  I activated my Beastspeech and asked him what his problem was and he proceeded to curse me out.  I’ve now been berated by a dog – add that to the list.  I passed by a stable and the horses started getting antsy and kicking at their stalls as well.  He must have but some kind of beast curse on me.  Jerk.

I started asking around after Martialla – it really makes thing easier when someone asks you what someone looks like and you can take on that person’s appearance to show them.  And it’s always fun to startle people as well.  What was less fun is when a rat ran out of an alley and tried to bite me on the back of the leg – good thing I have a sensible pair of boots.  I tried to stomp the little bastard but it skittered away – much to the amusement of early morning onlookers.  I tracked Martialla to a fine inn called Reigat’s and sweet talked my way past the staff and into her room.  It’s definitely the nicest inn-room I’ve been in since my exile – tiled mosaic floor, real mattress, fine linens, but the main event was the bathtub, which on command magically filled with nicely warmed and rose-scented water. 

I availed myself of this immediately.  I feel like I have weeks’ worth of grime to wash off, I can’t remember the last time I had a nice relaxing soak.  It’s curious how sitting in a vat of your own watery scum can be a journey to unique and scented self-discovery.  Some things just can’t be explained.  At the sound of my sloshing around I heard Martialla’s sleepy voice coming from somewhere under a mound of high quality sheets.

“What took you so long?”

“I stopped to save some orphans from a verbeek, ungrateful little bastards they were too.  Sometimes I don’t know why I bother being a big damn hero.”

“I thought it was verbeeg.”

“Whatever.  Did you do any work yesterday or did you waste time whoring and gambling?”

“I think I found your werewolf guy, but I managed to find time for whoring as well – you know how it is.”

“Of course.  A guy huh?  I don’t know how I feel about that, I don’t trust male healers.  Or is he a scholar?  Conversely I wouldn’t trust a female scholar of course because what woman in her right mind would read books?”

“He’s neither, he’s a chirurgeon.”

“Are you joking?  That’s the worst option.  What’s he going to suggest as a cure?  Trepanation?  Is he going to break out the fleams?  Should I start boiling some water to pour in the ears?”

“You wanted a werewolf guy, it’s him, I don’t know what to tell you.”

I continued grousing but she had fallen back asleep, or maybe she was just ignoring me.  After a nice long steep in the bath the staff brought breakfast to the room – stewed sausage, buckwheat biscuits, pinenut bread, and some delectable light brandy.  I noticed that Martialla kept glancing at my forehead.

“What’s that mark?”

“I don’t know, the bounty hunter did some kind of magic, you tell me.”

She concentrated for a moment “Its magic alright.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“It’s also not terribly appealing.”

“I’ve got no hair and a brand on the forehead, I’m a real catch.  Good thing I haven’t just been coasting by on my looks. How can you afford this place?”

“Didn’t I tell you, I’m one of the wealthiest women in the kingdom – I’m doing that thing where you pretend to be poor and wander around to see how the other half lives.”

“Whoever came up with that notion must have been poor.  A king going out amongst his subjects in disguise?  That’s a failure in concept because the king doesn’t care what the people think.  And even if he did he wouldn’t go among them.  Can you even imagine?”

“I shudder to think.  It’s only one night, there’s no harm in treating yourself once in a while.”

“Of course there is, but if we only did things that didn’t harm us what kind of life would that be?”

After breakfast we hit the markets to do some buying and selling.  I was able to find a buyer for a couple of my gemstones, unload the dresses, and pick up a few other odds and ends.   Then we went to see the chirurgeon.  I was expecting some horrid little blood-spattered shack where the twisted “doctor” hacked off limbs and maimed peasants, stitched up monstrosities laying on tables and clouds of black flies and the like.  But instead it was a normal looking house in a minorly upscale part of town.  The chirurgeon’s wife was a delight – serving us some kind of peach drink and scones before retiring to let us talk business.  The chirurgeon himself was normal enough looking in a white and red robe, aside from his mohawk, although I’m not one to talk about hairstyles at the moment. 

He was a soft spoken gentleman and seemed to know what he was talking about.  He gave us several options.  One was for the infected to swallow wolfsbane – which only has a chance to work and happens to be poisonous always.  A powerful divine spellcaster can break the curse, but only when the infected is in their animal form – and again it only has a chance of working.  Other options – the kiss of a dryad, the blessing of a unicorn, or – and this is my favorite – we could decapitate a hag and use her head in a ritual to summon a spirit wolf.  We thanked him for his time, politely declined an invitation to stay for lunch and took our leave. We were heading out of town to the camp where Halath and Drake were waiting when I heard from behind us a shouting.

“YOU!!!”

Turning I saw Greatcoat, although he had lost this blue greatcoat and looked much the worse for wear, bruises, blood, bandages, the whole deal.  Seeing the murderous look in his eyes bystanders scattered away from him – and me, the object of his ire.

“Good Gods, you don’t give up do you?”

He clutched in each hand one of this diminutive throwing daggers.  “You’re coming with me.  Now.”

“Don’t make me kill you.  You can’t get me, I’m ungettable.  Just give up.  You can’t win them all.”

“My god demands it!”

“Your god is stupid then.  You’re throwing your life away for what?  Just stop.  You act like you’re somehow being forced to do this.  You have the choice to just walk away.”

“The law . . .”

“The institution of a code of laws is an important moment in the history of every society, and it’s also the moment at when justice ceases.  The law is based on consistency, not justice.  The law is about maintaining order, the law exist in large part to keep people in their places.  The law maintains peace, but it doesn’t help the hungry get food, or the sick get healing, or the needy get help – it maintains the status quo.  The law tramples people into the dirt all the time.  And that’s what you want to die for?  If you were trying to serve justice I could maybe see that being a worthy cause, but the law?  The law?  What are you trying to accomplish with that?  If this is what your god wants for you then find a new god.”

He charged at me with a maniac scream of rage and Martialla knocked him flat with her magic, sending him rolling down the street a few times where he lay still.  We continued on our way out of town. 

“I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but I’m surprised that you can deliver a speech like that with a straight face.”

“Why’s that?  I believe every word of what I just said.  Just because I happen to be a murderer and a liar doesn’t mean I don’t have a point.”

“I stand corrected.” 

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .0165%

Curses – Marksman’s Malady, Unnerve Beasts

Funds: 9,176 gold

XP: 243,161

Inventory:  Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Pocketed Scarf, Wrist Sheath, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Ring of Protection +2, Assortment of Fake Signet Rings,  Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Black Marketers’ Bag, 868 Garnets, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow 

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, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo

Mathanaya 10 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Bowcrag is the city that grew to power after of the diversion of the river that destroyed all the villages I just came through to get here.  Its claim to fame is that some kind of wood they harvest here is coveted for the bowsprits of sailing vessels.  And yet it’s pronounced like bough rather than the thing an archer uses.  Explain that.  The other thing it’s known for, at least in certain circles is being a hub for contraband – which seems like the kind of place that might be good for finding a cure for werewolfism.  Halath and Drake set up a campsite outside of town – doesn’t seem like a good idea to bring the shapeshifting rage monster into a crowded and bustling city.  Imma and her father were intent on coming into town with us but I was able to persuade them to stay behind because I just know if they went into the city someone would try to grab her or the old man would be robbed or some other damn thing that I would have to get involved with.   I strolled into town with Martialla feeling good for the first time in a while. 

“We’ll make the rounds and see if we can find a sage or some other stuffed shirt type that can tell us about werewolves, but first we find a wigmaker and . . .”

I trailed off as I noticed that the street was mysteriously empty, followed quickly by the realization that that there were no side alleys to dodge down.  I sighed as my old bounty hunter friends Blue Greatcoat, Wolfcloak, Braids, and the Half-Orc stepped out from the door of dry goods store and blocked our path.  Behind us was another quartet of fighting types wearing black tabards with some kind of dog sigil on it.

“Every damn time.  Hello again.  I realize that I’ve bested you twice, but do you really need eight people to bring in one woman?  How much are you being paid for this?  You can’t be coming out ahead if you keep hiring more muscle.”

One of the black dog people shouted out “You got that right lady, because we don’t come cheap.”

Greatcoat shook his head “A contract is a contract, and it must be executed no matter the cost, this is a divine mandate.”

“I knew a dancer they called Divine Mandate, she wasn’t cheap either.”

“Enough of your saucy talk!  Surrender in the name of the law!”

“Speaking of the law, where is the city guard? I can’t imagine they allow hired assassins to operate with impunity.”

“We are not assassins, we are the law!”

“You’re hired scum, barely one step above slavers.  But don’t get all shouty and frothing at the mouth about it, I’m surrendering to you – you have me heavily out gooned.  Give me one second to say my goodbyes.”  I turned to Martialla “Well, I guess this is the end of the road for me.  Nice knowing you and good luck and all of that.  You take care of yourself now.”

I held my hand out for a shake but Martialla shook her head “No dice, I’m coming in for a hug.”

I can’t even remember the last time I hugged someone, you know, in a non-erotic type way.  It was nice if you’re into that kind of thing.  It was going on a little long though when Martialla whispered in my ear “This feels right” and started to rub her hands on me a little, I shoved her away and shouted “Get off me!” but we were laughing because it was all in good fun.

One of the black dog people shouted again “Quit playing grab ass and lets’ get a move on!”

“Don’t get your codpiece in an uproar chief, I’m coming.”

Martialla walked through the line of bounty hunters and into the city as I surrendered myself to Greatcoat.  He once again took out some shoddy piece of parchment and read the “charges” against me, which were the Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo paid them to kidnap me.  Which is legal somehow?  I should learn more about the law in my spare time.  After that he did some stupid religion stuff for his dumb god before formally asking me to hand over my weapons.  With mock solemnity I handed over my dagger and my crossbow.  Wolfcloak gave me what I assume was supposed to be a hardass look.

“Don’t forget the glove.”

“But then how am I supposed to check on the maid’s dusting?”

After handing over the life stealing glove Greatcoat made a big deal out of asking me to swear that I wouldn’t try to escape in the name of the Gods, particularly his god of law and contracts.  I raised my left hand, palm out.

“I swear on my honor as a knight.”

One of the black dog people sneered “You’re not a knight!”

I smiled sweetly at him “However did you see through my deception?  You must be ever so clever.”

I was taken around the corner where these was a wagon waiting with two drivers.  It was a sturdy wagon, looked to be very well made, what was most notable about it was the manacles built into the back.

“Good Gods, you hired these guys too?  Ten people on this mission just for little old me?  You must be taking a bath on this job.  Are you sure that I can’t pay you off?”

“Madam, a pact is a sacred trust between . . .”

“What about you dog people?  You seem very bribable.”

“We’re not dogs, we’re the Shadow Hounds!”

“Hounds and dogs are the same thing genius.”

“Are not!”

I was loaded onto the wagon and secured in place with the chains.  Braids and the half-orc jumped in back with me and we slowly made our way out of town where we met up with the rest of the party who were now mounted.  On the way out of the gates they stopped and chatted with the city watchmen for a while – seemed like shop talk.  I guess they are okay with murderous hired muscle rampaging through their city streets.  And yet when I do it people get all upset. That’s justice for you. 

“You’re taking me all the way to Three Rivers?  Isn’t that months away as the slow wagon rolls?  Can you keep me shackled like this the entire time?  Isn’t that in contravention of some treaty or other?  Cruelty to a prisoner or something?  Do I have grounds for a civil case?”

Blue Greatcoat didn’t even spare me a glance “You have rights and they will be honored.  You will be fed and given water, you will get to chance to stretch your legs under supervision, you will have the opportunity to take care of your necessaries.”

“Necessaries?  You mean shitting?  Who’s going to supervise that?”

This time he did look at me, like you might look at a scuttling roach “You are a foul woman.  You may dress as a woman of quality but you are common street trash.”

“I’m a country girl actually.  You know what that say, you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t stop her from milking the bulls.  Not to mention which, if I was street trash I would certainly be uncommon street trash by definition.  I mean look at this necklace, its worth more than your wife’s pussy.”

“You will keep a civil tongue in your head or you will be muzzled.”

“Is that legal?  I’d like see the precedent on that.  And that wasn’t an insult, it was just my professional opinion, I know a few things about the trade – you know the one I mean – and even though I’ve never met your wife I imagine that . . .”

“You will be silent!”

The two ladies and the half-orc didn’t like me goading their boss in the least, but the Shadow Hounds were snickering up their sleeves at the stodgy fellow – clearly this was a marriage of convenience, which is a recipe for adultery.  I’ll say this for a day on the road chained in the back of a wagon, it’s better than walking.  When we stopped for the day I was indeed given leave to “exercise” accompanied by Wolfcloak and Braids.  Braids had nothing to say, probably because Martialla stabbed her nearly to death at our last meeting, but Wolfcloak was a little more receptive.  I was able to convince her, since I was caught with no way of escape, to tell me how they found me yet again.

“We paid a wizard in Allene to look into the future and tell us where you’d be, then we went there and waited.”

“There are no wizards in Allene.”

“There’s one at least, huge man without a hair on his head, didn’t look like any wizard I’ve ever seen before.  I think he knew you.”

“Fuck me.  Last time we met during our casual combat banter you implied that you might be the leader of this operation rather than the other guy.  How do you feel about losing money on this job?”

She shrugged “We’ll make it up on another.  Plus his church does subsidize us to some degree.  I don’t really care about the money, for me it’s all about the hunt.”

“How much hunt is there in paying a wizard to find me for you?  I used to love fox hunting, but just for the riding and the dogs, the fox was usually so drugged it didn’t know what was happening – not a lot of sport in that.  This seems like that to me.”

For some reason after that she didn’t want to talk anymore.  After my fifteen minutes of “liberty” Greatcoat took out another wrinkled parchment and spent an eternity casting a spell from it – I don’t know what happened but I felt a flash of heat on my forehead once he was finally done.  I also don’t know if whatever he did usually takes that long or if he’s just really bad at magic.  Afterwards I was placed in my sleeping shackles – just the hands with no chain, instead they connected to rope that was attached to an iron spike that was driven into the ground.  Deep into the ground. 

The original four bounty hunters retired to their tents fairly early on, but the Shadow Hounds stayed up around the fire passing around a wineskin.  And then another.  And another.  And another.  I’m no comedian by any means, but I know a few jokes – especially the ribald kind.  For some reason, in the old days of my former profession, men thought I wanted to hear that kind of thing.  I started telling them and the Shadow Hounds roared with laughter.  The more they drank the funnier I got.  They were making so much noise that eventually Greatcoat came out to tell them to keep it down, but they paid him no mind and he retreated to his tent to sulk.

Eventually three of the Shadow Hounds turned in as well, but one was left to watch the dangerous prisoner.  Which he did.  He stared at me motionless like a lunatic.  He was staring right at me when he reached into his pack and brought out a cloth, which he carefully unwrapped – revealing of all things, a piece of lemon cake.

“I love lemon cake.”

He cradled the cake protectively “Good for you.”

“I’d do just about anything just for one bite.”

He laughed “You’re captured.”

“My legs aren’t shackled.”

“So?”

“So, you’re a man, and I’m a woman.”

“I don’t follow you.”

“Oi.  Sex, I’m taking about sex, give me a bite of cake and I’ll have sex with you.”

“You will?”

“Yes, that’s what I just said.”

“Do you have a wig?”

“No, don’t look at my head, just look at the rest of me.”

“Okay.”

He started coming over with the cake in his hand “Put that down, we can worry about that afterwards.” 

“Oh, okay.”

After carefully wrapping the cake back up he started to climb on top of me “Hold up there a second, you have to take your pants off first bud.  And my hands are shackled so you’ll have to do mine too.”

“Oh right, sorry.”

Once he was getting his act together with the pants I used my vocal talents to throw my voice into Greatcoat’s tent – making it sound like a scream was coming from outside, I think you know the kind of scream I mean.  He came out and saw a pantless Shadow Hound struggling to get my pants off.  He didn’t exactly run, I don’t know how I would describe it, but he was over there in a flash – grabbing the Shadow Hound by the hair and yanking him back and down to the ground in a maneuver that I’m surprised didn’t break his neck.  He started reading the downed man the riot act and calling for his fellow bounty hunters. 

Soon enough everyone was out of their tents and there was a lot of shouting and pushing – I have a feeling the drink was making the Shadow Hounds particularly confused and belligerent.  I almost felt bad when Shadow Hound #4 was protesting that “she wanted it” and I started sobbing and curled up into a protective ball.  Almost.  The look of betrayal and confusion on his face was pathetically heartbreaking.  Things really escalated when Braids slapped to the ground the lemon cake that the Shadow Hound kept trying to show everyone.  Its funny how something like that can lead to bloodshed.  I guess a spark isn’t dangerous on its own right?

Once they were embroiled in a full-fledged fight to the finish I trigged my tattoo to form a lion paw.  I didn’t know if this was going to work for sure but I knew it was going to hurt like hell either way.  I almost bailed out because it seemed like the expansion of my small wrist into a large paw might sever my hand instead but just before I did the manacles popped open. 

The last thing I saw as I slipped out of the camp was part of the cake sitting on the ground.  It still looked pretty good until I realized it was getting soaked in a puddle of blood.

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .015%

Curses – Marksman’s Malady

Funds: 900 platinum, 4251 gold

XP: 243,161

Inventory:  Pathfinder’s Gear (white) Pocketed Scarf, Wrist Sheath, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion),  Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2,  Assortment of Fake Signet Rings,  Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Holy Symbol of Kozilek, Ruby (2), Black Marketers’ Bag, 879 Garnets, bolt of silk, Pirate’s Eyepatch, dress (fancy, revealing) 2, dress (fancy) 6

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, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo

Mathanaya 9 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

On the way back to Long Avon Halath, the werewolfess, told me everything that she knows about the Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers.  This wasn’t much unfortunately.  Who would have thought that a low level employee wouldn’t be privy to the dirty secrets of their employer?  Assuming they have any.  Mostly she just talked about her trials and travails of being a lady lumberjack.  Which is admirable I guess but why bother?  Who’d want to be a lumberjack anyway?  That’s like fighting for a place in the vermin-catchers guild or the dungsweepers union.  It was close to midnight when we got back to the village but we rousted the mayor anyway – never let it be said that I don’t enjoy a good rousting.  For some reason she wasn’t overjoyed by being dragged out of her warm bed in the middle of the night and she was even less exciting to hear that she probably shouldn’t be burning Drake alive.   But eventually she came to see reason.

In the morning we met with the aggrieved rat-herders, Halath confessed her fake (but also real kinda) sins and the haggling began.  In the end it was decided that thirty six rat-things had been killed valued at two gold a piece – which for those of you playing along at home is seventy two gold.  For that a man was going to be burned alive.  For about the same price as a good book a man nearly lost his life.  Those were the stakes.  If there’s a conclusion to be drawn from that I don’t know what it is.  If you’re a rat-herder it is a big deal, but back at court food costing more than that is thrown away after every meal – including tea time.  It’s hard to know what to make of that.

The hard bitten rat-herders wanted Halath flogged or some of her fingers chopped off as well but I was able to talk them into a simple exiling – on pain of death should she ever return of course.  Once that was all squared away Drake was set free, there was an emotional reunion between siblings, blah, blah, blah.  My goal was to get out of town before the people that had come from miles around to see a public execution caught wind of the fact that they were going to be denied their grisly prize.  People can turn ugly when they find out their entertainment is being taken away.  Drake though was insistent that he talk to his wife, which took forever.  Despite the fact that they appeared to basically be strangers to each other Imma declared dramatically that she would come with us.  Then the father came in and forbade it and a whole new round of bullshit kicked off.  Once I was tired of their drama I whistled for their attention.

“Hey, werewolf and friends, we’re leaving in fifteen minutes.  You want to come, great, pack fast.  You want to stay, good luck to you.”

And so we ended up on the road to Bowcrag in the company of a werewolf, her twin brother, his wife, and her father.  Imma was wearing a lovely cream colored dress that was utterly impractical for travel, and that’s not to say anything about her shoes.  That’s what I must have looked like the first time I ventured out of Graltontown all those months ago.  No wonder people had a hard time taking me seriously.  But look at me now!  I mean things are pretty much the same, but at least I’m wearing some sensible boots.  It wasn’t long into the journey before we had to stop and Imma borrowed some more appropriate  travel clothes from Martialla.  And then her changing was a whole to do with blankets being held up and eyes being averted and all sorts of nonsense.  That sort of prudishness gets on my nerves – get over yourself people.

On the plus side Halath and Drake were outdoorsy types so we had a proper camp with a fire ring and tents and everything.  Imma tried to help as well which was amusing for me to watch.  I may avoid any real “work” as much as possible but at least I’m competent when I do it.  As we sat around the campsite with Halath frying up some kind of lard and nut ball for dinner Imma’s father, who probably has a name, told us about his own personal experience with werewolves.  In a village that he lived in eight villages back when he was a younger man, a girl came running into town to say that her mother had killed her father.  Upon investigation it was found that said mother had killed her husband with a silver sickle – she claimed it was because he had been bitten by a werewolf and asked her to put him down before he hurt anyone. 

Sounds to me like that would be a difficult claim to argue in court – if you ever ask someone to kill you make sure you leave a note to that effect, but thankfully for the court system the unquiet spirit of the husband possessed a scarecrow and killed the mother/wife a few nights later.  Which kind of cast some doubt on the idea that he wanted to die, but then again who I am to think I understand what goes on in the mind of a ghost?  The scarecrow then terrorized the town of course until some brave adventurers put it to rest, and now every year the town has a scarecrow festival – I guess to celebrate the deadly murder of two people?  The old man ended the story on a strange note as he talked at length about how the daughter became a lesbian because of this incident.  I feel like he was trying to make a point of some kind but it’s hard to fathom what it might be.  Ghosts turn women gay?  I’ve encountered a couple ghosts and I don’t feel like it’s had that particular impact on me.

After everyone else was asleep Martialla produced a flask she had picked up at some point and we shared a little nip – just to cut the cold night air a little.

“So lets’ see, you were on a mission to visit some nobles, which was sidetracked by a little bit of a war, which led to a sidetrack of revenge and possible resurrection which now has led to a sidetrack of curing some random woman of werewolfism.  All of which was a sidetrack from your revenge plot in the first place.  How many more sidetracks are we going to head off on do you think?”

“What can I say, I’m a doer of good deeds – I see people in trouble and I just have to help them.”

“You joke but there’s some truth to that.  You help people or you make your lives much, much worse – it’s a nice mix.  I haven’t quite figured out what determines who you help and whose life you ruin.”

“I’ve mellowed a bit lately, I guess travel really does broaden the mind.  I’ve learned that you can’t fly off the handle every time someone insults you.”

“And you get insulted a lot.”

“What can I say, I’ve grown as a person. 

“You’re like some kind of old trickster goddess, if things are bad you try to make them better, if they’re good you try and make them worse.  Is that spreading chaos or some kind of cosmic balance?  Wheel of fate and all that.”

“How much of this have you already had to drink?  I can’t deny that I have the skin of a goddess though.”

“Used to you mean.  Trust me , I know, it’s hard to maintain a disciplined facial care regimen when you’re constantly traveling country roads to fight bugbears and owlbears and man-bears.”

“Low blow Martialla, low blow.”

“At least I didn’t say anything about your hair.”

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .0135%

Curses – Marksman’s Malady

Funds: 900 platinum, 4251 gold

XP: 243,161

Inventory:  Pathfinder’s Gear (white) Pocketed Scarf, Wrist Sheath, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Assortment of Fake Signet Rings,  Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, 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, bolt of silk, Pirate’s Eyepatch, dress (fancy, revealing) 2, dress (fancy) 6

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, Forsaken Kin

Mathanaya 8 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 2

It was late in the afternoon by the time Martialla and I were able to head out into the woods for the lady werewolf showdown.  Martialla suggested that was the sort of thing that should wait for the light of  day, but I didn’t want to spend any more time in this no horse town so off we went. Yet again marching into the wilderness to face an unknown and possibly deadly threat.  Is there such a thing as time magic?  If there is I feel like I’ve been influenced by some spell to do the same things over and over again.  I tell you this now, when I settle up with Duke Eaglevane and I’m living a life of luxury I am never going to set foot outside of a city again.  Not ever.  If the city is on fire I’ll burn with it.   

“Can I renew my objection to heading out to meet a werewolf as night is coming on?”

“You may not.  Besides, there’s no such thing as werewolves.”

“What do you think we’re going to find out there then?”

“A hairy broad that likes slaughtering livestock.”

“And what if she is a werewolf?  What’s the plan in that event, unlikely though it may be?”

“Uh-no, I’ll come up with something.”

“How comforting.”

“You’re the magic expert, shouldn’t you know how to curse werewolfism?”

“I’ve heard that removal of the spleen can cure an afflicted wolfperson, the side effect is that they die but the good news is they aren’t damned to the Hells for being a sinful monster.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Surprisingly perhaps we were able to follow Drake’s directions to the letter and as the sun was going down we came across the luxury accommodations that he had secured for this sister – something akin to a trapper’s supply shack that may have been a whole six feet wide.  Martialla and I had come under the cloak of invisibility – metaphorically speaking, I mean we were invisible but you know what I’m saying, there was no literal cloak.  If you know where I can get a cloak of invisibility let me know because that would be really handy.  There was a fellow back at court that had one of those but all he used it for was wandering about the palace naked and molesting himself near the kitchen staff. The point is we came across the twin sister unawares chopping down a tree.  I would have never pegged them as twins because this one looked a good ten years younger – although Drake’s premature greying around the edges probably had a lot to with that.  She was wearing a simple red peasant shift that clashed horribly with her scarlet locks and a leather apron type thing over that.  She was wielding the axe with an expert hand and attacking the tree like it had stolen her virtue.

I became visible as we came up on her “Have you ever considered selling your hair to a wigmaker?  I think I’d look fine as a redhead.”

Startled, she spun around with her axe held menacingly “Who are you?!”

“Your brother sent us.  I’m surprised you weren’t able to sniff us out, or can you only do that when you’re in wolf form?”

She shook her head “He wouldn’t do that, he’d never send anyone out here!”

“Well he’s in a bit of a pickle.  The townfolk are about to burn him alive because you’ve been killing their aquatic monster rats.”

She growled, and I mean really growled – not like a human growls – and snapped the shaft of the axe like a stout twig. 

“Whoa, whoa, whoa there, hold on – don’t go wolfing out on us right this second, we need to talk.”

She turned her head up to the skies and screamed, a guttural primordial scream that made the tiny hairs on my shivering scalp stand up on end.  She slammed into the tree she had been hacking at like she was trying to tackle it and started hammering it with punches – splitting her knuckles open to the bone and sending blood flying with each hit.  After more than a minute she fell into a sitting position, exhausted and bloody handed.

“That was . . . something.”

“It’s not the moon, in the stories they say it’s the moon.  It’s not the moon.  It’s anger, or sadness sometimes.  It can happen even if you get really happy – not that that’s happened in a long while.  It’s a beast inside of you, waiting until you’re weak or just tired, and then it grabs you and it takes over.  You have to hold it back all the time – it’s like you’re trying to hold shut a trap door above you, but the weight pressing down never gets tired, it never lets up – but you do.  Eventually you can’t hold the weight anymore and it pushes you down, and it gets on top of you, and it gets inside you.  You’re never safe because it’s always with you. Always.”

“Well we’re here to help you.”

She looked utterly forlorn as she met my gaze “How?”

“We’ll figure something out.  But right now we need to help your brother.  Let’s get back to town, tell them that you’ve been killing the rats not because you’re a werewolf – that would be crazy – but because you’re selling the pelts or meat or whatever to poachers.  I’ll buy them off, you and your brother will get kicked out of town and then we can find a cure.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“Honestly I have no idea.  There’s something inside me too, it’s different though.  I feel like I’m a dog chasing its tail sometimes – I just do things.”

“Maybe you’re just a good person.”

Martialla snickered at that and I shot her a dirty look.  The three of us started walking back to Long Avon. 

“So, when you do your wolf thing are you a red furred wolf?”

“I don’t think so.”

“So what happens to your human hair?  Where does it go?  And how does it come back?”

“I have no idea.”

“That’s disappointing, I thought we might be onto something there.  Some kind of magical dimension of hair.  What happens to your tits when you turn?  Do they disappear or do you get more of them or what?”

“I’d really rather not talk about it.”

“Sure, sure, I mean it’s probably the only interesting thing you have to talk about but I get it.  So, you were really going to town on that tree back there.  Looks like you’ve cut down a lot of trees around here.”

“Physical activity helps me stay under control.  Plus before I got bitten I worked for the lumber consortium.”

“Of Three Rivers?”

“Is there any other?”

“I stand corrected, I’m very interested in that.  Tell me everything, in particular focus on any potential embarrassing or ruinous secrets you might know about them – anything that you would consider blackmail fodder.”

“I was just a woodcutter, I don’t know about anything like that.”

“We’ll see, just tell me everything you know, leave nothing out.”   

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .012%

Curses – Marksman’s Malady

Funds: 900 platinum, 4251 gold

XP: 243,161

Inventory:  Pathfinder’s Gear (white) Pocketed Scarf, Wrist Sheath, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Assortment of Fake Signet Rings,  Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, 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, bolt of silk, Pirate’s Eyepatch, dress (fancy, revealing) 2, dress (fancy) 6

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, Forsaken Kin

Mathanaya 8 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 1

Emerging from the Broken Oar Martialla and I found signs that the wounded swamp cat had been prowling around outside while we were cavorting drunkenly inside.  Just the kind of thing you need to make yourself feel like it’s going to be a great day.  Because that coward Jopha had abandoned us and we didn’t feel confident in our ability to retrace our steps to Gibson we decided to head east to Bowcrag – we just need to follow the muddy channel where the river used to be and we’ll get there right?  As we traveled the ground seemed to randomly get less peaty and more swampy and then back again – at times almost being solid.  It was another miserable day tromping through the wilderness. 

“Remind me again why we came out here.”

“You wanted to kill the people that killed Hardra.”

“Oh right.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Have you ever been this far east?  Are we even in Cymrile County anymore?”

“I don’t know.  We might be getting near the border of Vieland.”

“What?  Isn’t the border hundreds of miles away?”

“Not as of the last war, you know the one before the one going on now – we, and by we I mean the King and people like that, seized a swath of land from Vieland but there’s two bulges along the coast that still belong to Vieland.”

“We’re not anywhere near the coast are we?”

“No, but they’re big bulges.  If you know what I mean.  Besides which the land has just recently changed hand so who knows what the people think – maybe they’re on the lookout for a couple Kingdom ladies like ourselves to ravage – you know, to get back at the King.  Or the Queen I guess since the King is dead now.”

“Yes I’m sure she’d be devastated to hear about our ravishing.”

“That’s how wars are fought right?  I’m sure the kings and high priests and court wizards and so forth sit around in their throne rooms and read lists of all the peasants killed and weep over each one.  Otherwise what would be the point of killing them?”

“I always assumed it was something to do with the Gods, they need a war every now and then a something to watch from the Heavens.”

“That too.”

Eventually our slogging led us to a small stream that we followed south, that turned into a slightly larger stream – a creek it could even be called.  Following that took us to a small village by the name of Long Avon, named after its founder for reasons I’ll leave to your imagination.  Normally it couldn’t have been home to more than fifty people, but there were a lot more there because there was a festival on.  A fellow who was visiting from nearby Grimslan clued us in to what was going on – the Long Avoners had captured a vampire that was going to be burned at the stake, which is more than enough reason for a festival.  There were painted poles decorated with flowers and long ribbons, wandering minstrels singing, dancers dancing , prancers pranncing, vendors selling dubious wares, and general merriment – all the things you need for a good vampire burning. 

The semi-main event was an over nine foot tall “statue” made out of flash paper of varying colors that people called “the Sorceress” – the resultant lightshow of it being set aflame would signal that it was time for the vampire to burn shortly afterwards.  Right next to it was the vampire attached to his stake in the traditional arms chained over the head format which has to be Hells on the shoulders.  Seemed like a pretty average looking fellow – aside from his brawny arms.  His hair was nothing to speak of but I found myself envying it nevertheless.  I really need to find a wigmaker. 

“Do you see something wrong with this scene?”

“Well, since you ask, I’m no vampirologist but aren’t they supposed to die in sunlight?  Aside from being chained to a stake this guy seems fine despite the sun blazing away.”

“Exactly.  Do you suppose there’s something stupid happening in every village at all times or are we just the unluckiest people in the world?”

“Don’t look at me, I never encountered this kind of thing until I started following you around.”

I went to poke the “vampire” and asking him what was going on, but was blocked by a chunky fellow in mismatched and rusty armor with an antique halberd.  He told us not to bother the prisoner.  My initial instinct was to slap him in his corpulent face, but it’s time to return to form.  Instead of resorting to violence or childish name-calling I turned on the charm.  It was a simple matter to convince the guardsman to let us talk to the prisoner and a good reminder that this is the kind of thing I should be doing more of.  Unfortunately the prisoner had nothing much to say, you’d think if you were tied to a stake you’d want to chat just out of boredom but he refused to engage. 

Thankfully as we were trying to get the vampire to open us his wife came running over to us – she was quite a beauty for a country girl.  Curly wheat-blonde hair, milky white skin, soft pink lips – in another few years country life would leave her a wreck, but for now she was really something to write home about.  Sadly she didn’t have much information either, she just insisted her husband wasn’t a vampire and begged us to save him.  All she was able to do was direct us to the mayor – one Navomi Noik, who was pretty much an “after” portrait of the vampire’s wife Imma, a rough looking country lady who looked like she had risen to the position of mayor based on her ability to take a punch. She all but admitted that since Drake (the vampire) had come to town a few months ago livestock had started drying mysteriously and he was the scapegoat.

“What kind of livestock do you raise around here?”

“Coypu, they’re a sort of big semi-aquatic rat.”

“What would anyone want that for?”

“Their meat is . . . edible, and you can make clothing out of their pelts, sort of.”

“Why are you accusing this guy of being a vampire?  He’s out in the sunlight.”

“It was the best I could do.  All signs point to a witch, but everyone knows that only women can be witches so I had to come up with something.”

“That’s flawless logic.  When I tried to talk to the guy he wouldn’t say anything, has he denied this vampire accusation?”

“No, which makes my job much easier.”

“How long do we have to find the real reason your super valuable rats are dying?”

“Drake is the real reason of course.  He’ll be burned the day after tomorrow though if that’s what you mean.”

We went back to speak with Imma, but were blocked at the door to her hovel by her tall, stern, cadaverous father accusing us of her getting her “riled up” and complaining of her delicate constitution.  I was able to persuade him to let us in however and after an excruciating tangent about his wife’s death and how he was a self-made man we finally got to speak with the lovely Imma.  Despite her emotional pleas for her husband’s life it didn’t sound like she even knew him that well – saying that he had been rather cold and distant the entirety of their only months long marriage.  The father explained that he had arranged the marriage, which is what brought Drake to the village, but talking to these two was getting us nowhere slowly.  We went back to the horse’s mouth, where my new friend the rusty guardsman was only too happy to let us try and talk to the prisoner again.

“Here’s what I’m thinking.  The reason you’re not shouting your innocence to the Heavens is because you’re protecting whoever is actually responsible for the death of these swamp rats.  I’m sure that seems unspeakably noble to you, but here’s the problem – after they burn you to death and the rats keep disappearing what do you think is going to happen?  Eventually they’re going to find whoever you’re protecting and kill them too.  And then you died for nothing.  So how about you let us in on whatever’s going on and we’ll see if we can help you.”

He was a tough nut to crack, but cracking nuts is my specialty, if you know what I mean.  There’s no vampire of course, that would be preposterous, a werewolf is killing the watery rodents.  Drake has a twin sister who got the Bite of the Moon and is slowly losing her battle against her murderous instincts.  People were starting to get suspicious in their old village so Drake did the only sensible thing he could do – arrange a marriage to someone in a different village and then hide his sister in the woods alone, occasionally going out to visit her and try to control her desire to feast on people like so many sheep with prayer and inspirational beatings. 

“Since you’re chained to a post and hours away from death this probably doesn’t need to be said, but that wasn’t a very good plan.”

It took even more time to convince him to tell us where this sister of his is hiding out.  Despite what Martialla said yesterday I think the real issue is that stabbing someone is fast and it’s done.  Trying to get people to do what’s in their own best interest takes forever.  I don’t understand why people persist in not doing what I say without question, it’s quite vexing.

“Alright Drake, you hang here, were on the case.”

Martialla shook her head “Really?  A pun?” 

“That was unintentional, you know I would never do such a thing.”

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .012%

Curses – Marksman’s Malady

Funds: 900 platinum, 4251 gold

XP: 243,161

Inventory:  Pathfinder’s Gear (white) Pocketed Scarf, Wrist Sheath, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Assortment of Fake Signet Rings,  Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, 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, bolt of silk, Pirate’s Eyepatch, dress (fancy, revealing) 2, dress (fancy) 6

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, Forsaken Kin

Mathanaya 7 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Last night while Martialla slept Orl and I talked through the night – I don’t know if he’s nocturnal or doesn’t sleep or what his deal is.  It definitely got easier to understand him over time but frankly he didn’t have much interesting to say.  I imagine if a really smart dog could talk it would be like Orl – or maybe this is what orcs would be like if they weren’t violently savage maniacs.  Towards morning he talked at length about the Forsaken Kin killing his mate, seemingly just for the fun of killing.  I asked him if he had ever seen the dragon around here but he didn’t seem to know what I was talking about.  He did indicate that some kind of monster lives in the bog where the river used to be but it didn’t sound like a dragon, more like a massive frog-fish demon of some kind.  Best to be avoided whatever it may be. 

After Martialla woke up and broke her fast with some awful looking rations we were off on our noble quest for bloody murder.  Orl said that there were traps on what was once the trail to Latifero so we wouldn’t go that way, but I was curious to see what it was about so I asked him to take us there anyway.  Orl didn’t know if anyone came to check the traps but if you’re setting up traps you’re trying to catch something so I made the assumption someone would be by eventually.  We tossed a heavy limb to trigger your standard dug-out pit with sharpened stakes at the bottom and then hid to wait.  Orl scampered up a tree as nimble as a squirrel and disappeared instantly.  Martialla also melted into the foliage – she’s no woodsman but she’s a world champion hider.  I’m not so good at that sort of thing, Martialla kept calling out that she could see me until I told her to cram a stocking in it. 

Another boring session of waiting.  Hunters sometimes brag about waiting for their pray for hours or days at a time – not sure why they think that’s impressive, I’m pretty sure that just means they’re too stupid to realize how tedious it is.  On the other hand time passes more slowly when you’re bored so I guess they’re making their lives last as long as possible.  Thankfully it wasn’t much more than an hour before someone appeared – I used to the time to make a mental list of the tortures I would inflict upon Duke Eaglevane.  I haven’t done that in a while.  It’s just so easy to get busy with other things and forget about the tortures.  The fellow in question had a long blonde ponytail, shabby swamp-people type clothes, and a very odd pair of spectacles.  They were something like the blinders for a horse, it’s hard to fathom how he could see at all.  I’ve never been jealous of a man’s hair before, but with the proper care it would have been a prize winning set of locks.  Not that I would ever want to be a blonde.  

Ponyboy checked the trap and upon seeing a log instead of a creature in it started searching for tracks – I give him this, he knows his business.  I made sure that Orl was clear we needed to capture this fellow so we could talk to him rather than gutting him on the spot.  Still though, it didn’t quite work out.  As I was about to pounce Ponyboy was clobbered in the head by a rock thrown or dropped by Orl – he went all rubbery legged and then pitched over directly into his own spikey trap.  When we went to the edge to look down we saw him impaled through the sternum and somehow even more awfully through the kneecap.  He was still alive, but not for long. 

“Well, that didn’t pan out.”

“Maybe if we wait here someone will come looking for him.  We can take the whole band of them out one by one.”

“No harm in trying I suppose.  Orl, next time instead of throwing a rock how about you just jump out and grab them?”  He nodded eagerly. “The real tragedy is now I’ll never know why they made a trap like this.  Why go through all the trouble of digging a huge pit and then put spikes in it, if you want to capture your prey that makes no sense, and if you want to kill them why go through the trouble?  I mean look at this pit!  That’s got to be four thousand cubic feet if it’s an inch, it would take weeks to dig out!”

“Have you ever even held a shovel?”

“I bashed a kid in the head with a shovel once.”

“That counts I suppose.”

It was almost dusk before anyone else came, I thought about giving up on this plan many times throughout the day but always changed my mind at the last moment.  Good thing I suppose.  In the lead was a skinny redhead who was clearly the brother of the dead guy in the pit, with him were two big burly sons of bitches decked out in the height of swamper chic fondling ugly looking spiked clubs.  These three didn’t seem nearly as canny as their fallen compatriot – upon seeing him dead in the hole they assumed that he had fallen in, which garnered no small amount of joking amongst them.  If this skinny guy is indeed brothers with Pony they must not be that close.  As they debated whether to try and recover the body or just covering the pit back up, I used my vocal abilities to coordinate with Orl and Martialla – he’d grab the little guy and we’d take the two bruisers. 

Orl leapt down out of the tree sprightly as a cat, and grabbed his surprised quarry in a bearhug of sorts – and the immediately they both fell into the pit as he started struggling.  I came out of hiding and blinded thug one with my Gem as Martialla stepped out of hinding, burning the Hells out of thug two with her molten ball of metal.  That spell gives me the cold shivers – it’s an awful thing to do to a person.  I had to put all my bodyweight into it, but I was able to give the blind man a shove into the pit, losing my balance in the process and falling ungracefully to the ground.  Martialla smashed the other thug with a blast of magic and then did so again as he bull-charged at her bellowing like a wounded bear.  The second volley sent him down to the ground for good.

“We need to get away from this dang pit.”

Looking down Orl had managed to catch himself on the lip and was hanging on – his skinny wrestling partner wasn’t so lucky.  Martialla and I hauled Orl up and in doing so we realized that the thug I had pushed in managed to avoid the stakes and was kind of okay – although having taken a fall off a roof I know that it’s a relative term in this situation. Martialla tried her mind-magic on the pit-dweller but it didn’t take, thankfully my skills of persuasion worked just fine.  Another triumph of ability over magic, although I will admit that negotiating with a man in a pit does give you a pretty sizable advantage.  He confirmed that he and his kin, they’re all related you see, did attack Gibson at the dragon’s request – although he was fuzzy on the details.  He never saw the dragon himself but he did say that Craul was taking direction from who I think is the fellow with the cursed sword that died in Penside’s Ferry.

“Well I have potential good news, I don’t want to kill your entire family, I just want whoever killed my friend.  If you’re the one who killed her though, that’s bad news.”

“I didn’t kill no woman.  That was Grady and Geter.  They got some kinda sickness on them that makes them addled in the head, don’t act right no more.  Auntie and Mum have been trying to cure ‘em but it won’t take.”

“How did they get sick?”

“We raided some folks over by the new river and one of them says she’s a witch and she’s gonna put a hex on them.  I guess she did.”

“Alright my friend, it’s off to the next world for you, on the plus side I can guarantee that you won’t be lonely.”

It took an unreasonably long time for me to shoot him down with my crossbow but in my defense it wasn’t exactly like shooting fish in a barrel – he was running around like crazy down there.  In the end what happened was I hit him in the leg and he fell onto one of the spikes.  Martialla looked a little nauseated by the entire spectacle.  She’s a bit of a mystery – sometimes she seems hard as stone and other times she seems squeamish about a little thing like bolting a helpless man in a pit.  It wasn’t far from the pit to the outskirts of Latifero, where Martialla was able to spot another trap – some sort of springy type deal with a bunch of spikes on a pole.  The people really seem to like their spikes.  We triggered this one as well and Martialla and Orl hid themselves.  I used my disguise magic to cover myself with blood and lay down in the path of the trap and screamed.  It’s been a long time so I let loose with a good scream – it feels good in a way. 

Very quickly appeared flickering torchlight and then the mob holding the torches.  The leader was an even more massive fellow, although he was a bit more on the mass side than the muscle side, who was completely hairless but had a strange ridge down the center of his skull.  It was like his skull had a bone for a fin or something that didn’t exist.  With him was another pair of dumb ugly cusses, one of them wielding an ogre hook of all things, and rounding out the crew at the two that I assume must be Grady and Geter.  Even lit only by a couple of torches their skin had an unhealthy pallor and they were so emaciated it was hard to look at them – and they clearly used to be as bulky as their kin because they had skin hanging off them like drapes.  And as awful as all that was their faces were the worst – it was like all the fat and muscle underneath was gone and it was literally just skin stretched across their skulls.  Remind me never to let a witch curse me. 

Orl came shrieking out of the darkness with his hatchet going after the fellow with the hook – that must be the one that killed his mate.  With that the fight was on.  I’ve been saying for a while now that I need to start being smart again and not rushing into combat before it bites me in the ass.  I thought this was going to be that ass biting.  It really seemed like Martialla and I would both die.  And that led me to realize something.  I have no intention of giving up on my quest for revenge, because that’s for me, but I came to understand how hollow it must be to get revenge for the death or another.  If Martialla had died and I had killed the Forsaken Kin to “avenge” her it wouldn’t have meant anything.  She’d still be dead.  She’s a fine companion, but it’s not like we’re best friends or soul sisters or anything silly like that – but her wit, her skills, her level-headedness, everything that makes her a person worth existing would be gone.  And for what?

But we didn’t die.  Well Orl did, but who cares about that?  I’ve been in a few scrapes since the onset of my current predicament but most of those had other people to be up front to take the brunt of the melee while I was skulking about the edges.  This wasn’t that.  Between my crossbow and Martiall’s horrid liquid metal attacks Craul was down before the fight really got started.  But while Orl tangled with the big fellow and his ogre hook the other three came after Martialla and me.  They were smart about it, getting up close and using their size to try and bowl us down, and they were clearly practiced in working together.  We got battered and bruised and dented and bashed but we made it through.  In the stories they talk about fighting being this long drawn out affair, but it’s nothing like that at all – it’s thirty seconds of terror and then just aching pain.

To make matters worse a tigerish looking swamp cat joined the fray when it seemed like things had finally turned our way.  After sniffing at Craul’s dead body it pounced on Orl and ripped him to shreds.  I was afraid it was going to do the same to Martialla, it took her to the ground and mauled her badly, but I was able to get its attention but shooting it half a dozen times – I barely managed to lion-leap to the roof of an abandoned building before it got its claws on me as well.  Shooting at it from safety the greenish looking great cat got the message and ran off.  Climbing back down I went to Martialla and saw that she was slashed to ribbons, pretty much from stem to stern. 

“You’re not going to die on me are you?”

Martialla was panting heavily “It’s just a scratch . . . see that’s funny because . . . of the claws . . .”

I patted her on the shoulder “Hang on, I’ll get you help.”

I disguised myself as one of the Kin and ran to the Broken Oar, where I found a couple older swamp people being looked after by a topless woman with an eyepatch.  Why wasn’t she wearing a shirt?  We’ll never know.  I told them that Craul was messed up real bad and needed help, prompting two older woman and eyepatch to ran back with me.  They were confused when we got back to the site of the battle but they figured it out when I shot Eyepatch in the back of her head and dropped my disguise. 

“Help my friend and I’ll let you go.”

One of the old ladies with a snaggletooth and a staff covered with feathers stuck out her jaw pugnaciously “Why should we believe that?”

“Why not?  If you don’t help her I’m going to kill you, if you do maybe I won’t – seems like the better option to me?  What do you have to gain by not trying?”

She and the other old lady with a wonky eye and an incomprehensible tattoo around neck like a collar fed Martialla some potion that helped her wounds and took away her pain.  They followed that up some healing spells as well –leaving her not right as rain exactly but good enough to get moving.  I could have used some of that myself, but I wasn’t about to say so.  I didn’t quite catch what dirty swamp god they invoked for their magic – Gorgan or Gorgrunta or something like that.  But really how powerful can a god that cares about swamps be?

I shot wonky eye first and afterwards snaggletooth gave me a look of pure malice – it was pretty impressive.  As I aimed at her as well she spit at my feet and labeled me as a coward, a whore, a liar, and a murderer.

“Yeah, that about covers it.”

“I curse you vile woman!  You are an empty shell that will never know happiness or light and I lay a curse upon your head with my dying breath.  Anything that you grasp with your wretched hands, let it change into a serpent.  I curse you to be struck with palsy, and all for your nether regions to wilt and rot.  I curse you to languish in pain, to cry aloud for mercy, for your voice to turn sour, and for the flames of the Hells to consume you forever.”

“Save me a spot.”

After I shot down the second old woman Martialla managed to pull herself to her feet. 

“I think you’ve been hexed my good friend.”

“The world beat her to the punch by about twenty years on that.”

Martialla and I made our way back to the Broken Oar, but the old man and any other Forsaken Kin had cleared out.  It wasn’t much of a hideout, but it was indoors and had beds of a sort so it seemed better than staying outside.  We found some bottles of cheap wine which helped take the edge off – the rest of the so called loot these miscreants had accumulated was quite a random collection.  Boxes full of arrowheads, fishing nets, blocks of wax, things of that sort.  One of the more gruesome discoveries was a handful of bloody holy symbols of Adariel that had been defaced.  Gormoth or Gormutt or whoever these people sacrifice their swamp critters to must not be a fan of the Blessed Lady. 

We did find a bolt of extremely fine silk that was miraculously unmucked and unmired, a surprisingly well made map of the area with little Xs where presumably the Kin had made their attacks, and a whole roasted pig slathered in some kind of delicious swampy brine sauce just ready for the eating.  There was also a travel trunk of lady’s fancy dresses and underclothes.  After we had enough wine and pig-meat in us to forget about the fate of the owner of the trunk we broke it open and had ourselves a little fashion show.  We were laughing like children and having a gay old time – maybe it was the wine, maybe it was the pipeweed we found and smoked, maybe it was the blood loss, maybe it was the euphoria of almost dying and then not.

As the sun rose and we were wearing a crazy mish-mash of a dead woman’s clothing Martialla had reached the point of tiredness where you’re too tired to do anything but stay awake, the act of going to sleep is too much effort.  I of course was fine.  Aside from being a little drunk and high.

“Martialla, what do you think is my problem?  Why do I keep instigating these violent confrontations instead of figuring out a better way to get what I want?  Eight months ago I’m not sure that I would have raised a weapon even in my own defense.”

“You want to know what I really think?”

“Of course.”

“I don’t claim to be an expert, in anything really, but I’ve seen a few things and here’s what I know.  Even in an absolute struggle for life and death it’s really hard for most people to truly attack another living being without reservation.  They’ll hold back, if they can even strike at all.  You have no such compunctions.  I don’t know your history or what your life has been like, but I imagine that you’ve gotten by most of your life by being conciliatory and charming and subservient when it comes right down to it.  If someone was mad at you, threatened you, you appeased them – maybe you were plotting against them in your mind, but your actions were to please them.  Now you’ve seen the other side.  You’ve been hurt and you know it isn’t the end of the world.  You’ve hurt others.  There’s a seductive lure to violence, someone upsets you, insults you, stands in your way – whatever – and you make them pay immediately by your own hand.  There’s a satisfaction to that.  One that some people fall in love with.  And it’s the easy path, much easier than scheming someone’s downfall.”

“So what, I’m like addicted to fighting now?  I don’t even like it.”

“Most addicts don’t like the thing they’re doing, if they did they wouldn’t be addicts.  They’d just be people having a good time.”

“What an uplifting assessment.”

“Just one woman’s opinion.  If I’m right you better figure out how to get a lid on this genie bottle because you know the old saying – live by the sword, etcetera. 

“How is it that you’re so familiar with the topic?  I feel like you’ve implied that before your niece was killed you were normal.”

“What’s normal?”

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .0105%

Curses – Marksman’s Malady

Funds: 900 platinum, 4251 gold

XP: 243,161

Inventory:  Pathfinder’s Gear (white) Pocketed Scarf, Wrist Sheath, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Assortment of Fake Signet Rings,  Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, 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, bolt of silk, Pirate’s Eyepatch, dress (fancy, revealing) 2, dress (fancy) 6

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, Forsaken Kin