I haven’t been sleeping much lately. With my Ring I don’t need to, but I’m starting to wonder if I should anyway. They say if you don’t dream your mind devours itself in madness and paranoia – that’s why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. I mean elfs don’t sleep and look what happened to them. Last night while everyone else was tucked in their beds in Baron Catos’ lodge I was walking around the dining room and den – around and around and around. After a while I started to feel like a ghost – invisible, intangible, forgotten. I had the urge to knock something off the fireplace mantle just to see if I could or if my hand would pass straight through it. That’s probably why apparitions are usually so malevolent – imagine doing everything your power to get someone, anyone, to pay attention to you but they can’t or won’t. Of course you’re going to start making blood drip down the walls – people sit up and pay attention to things like that.
It’s probably just too much time alone with my thoughts – the mind is a tool, use it too much and it gets rusty and weird. Maybe that’s why I’ve been off my game a little lately. Can a lack of sleep make you violent and stupid? Could be. Eventually I laid down on the couch in front of the fireplace and drifted off into a restless sleep. By the time I got up everyone else was packed and ready to go. How can you oversleep when you don’t need to sleep? Stupid magic. I resisted the impulse to rush to join them – it’s best to keep up appearances. Nothing makes people feel more superior than tittering up their sleeves as you rush to catch up with them – better to let them wait. Once I got out there I saw that Altos was carving a turnip or something into a hideous facsimile of a severed head under the watchful instruction of Tudos.
“What the Hells is that?”
“It’s Snap Apple Even tonight My Lady, did you forget?”
“Is that supposed to mean something to me?”
Otacvio stuck his head out the coach-door “Do you not know what Snap Apple Even is?”
“I feel like I just said that I don’t. Get rid of that thing.”
The two coachmen looked shocked. Altos glanced at Tudos before looking back at me with a very concerned expression. “My Lady, without the traditional lantern the Drawchaud will come to cause us mischief.”
Tudos have his young apprentice a comforting pat on the shoulder “You see my lady we light the beeswax candle and put it in the lantern so that . . .”
“I said get rid of it, it’s hideous.”
Otacvio frowned “Do you not know about Snap Apple Even?”
“Are you fucking stupid? I just said that I don’t twice!”
I heard Hardra pipe up from inside the coach “It’s a regional thing my lady, you’ve probably not had the pleasure.”
Tudos was scandalized to his very core “Regional?! How do they protect the souls of the dead and ensure their protection through the winter if they don’t build the special bonfires and go guising?”
I climbed aboard “Somehow we manage, keep your demon lantern, just shut up about it.”
“It’s not a demon lantern My Lady, it’s . . .”
“That doesn’t sound like shutting up.”
I closed the door and with much muttering and harrumphing from the driver’s seat we were off. Otacvio took my spot and I was forced to sit facing the wrong way. I hate traveling backwards – it just feels wrong. Otacvio instead of his usual drunken stupor seemed to be quite lucid today, even chipper maybe. He said it was bad luck to drink on Snap Apple Even and I snorted derisively. Martialla though seemed intrigued.
“So what’s this holiday all about?”
“Ignorant rural nonsense.” I growled.
“Since when did you become such a curmudgeon?”
I didn’t dignify that remark with a response. Otacvio was only too happy to explain – with only occasional corrections from Hardra. Snap Apple Even is the night when you light candles and say prayers for the souls of your departed friends and family, then you have a big feast and tell jokes and stories, then you dress up in costumes and go house to house singing and performing in exchange for food. There’s also a white mare and bonfires and all sorts of things – it sounds like a holiday that has too much going on if you ask me. You need to keep these things manageable. All of this was done to ward off the bad spirits and do something to the spirits of the dead and/or something about the winter.
It all seemed a little hodgepodge if you ask me. Exactly the kind of holiday country bumpkins would come up with. Back in civilization we did have a masked ball every year around this time to help our ancestors in their spiritual journey but it’s much more dignified than all this nonsense. Plus no one really worries too much about the spiritual aspect – it’s just an excuse to get plastered in a mask and have semi-anonymous sex. I mean sure, I would light a candle and say a prayer for my grandmother every year, because there’s no reason not to hedge your bets right? Thinking about that actually made me a little wistful that I was missing it. But visualizing the Duke and his wife in their stupid masks at their stupid party displaced that wistfulness with rage pretty easily.
Why is there no holiday for the wronged to wish vicious vengeance on the souls of those who wronged them? In the bitter watches of the night you speak your dark words into the night, when all life seems to shrink. Now that’s a holiday. I bet the Kralten people have something like that. I should look into it. Holidays must be a strange affair when you’re in a secret death cult.
As we traveled we passed all manner of people on the road in crude costumes – mostly bags over heads with charcoal faces drawn on them. If I was an evil spirit I’d haunt those people just for the lack of effort and creativity. I mean if you believe in this bullshit at least put in the effort to make a costume that looks like a shaggy demodand or a shoggoth or something. There were also people all along the road building up bonfires or waving torches or carrying those awful head-lanterns. These people are really into whatever is accomplished by this celebration.
When we stopped for the night instead of setting up a camp Tudos and Altos seemed intent on coming into the coach to sleep. When I told them in no uncertain terms that that wasn’t happening I got another earful about the Drawchaud and their “mischief” although I think murdering people in their sleep should be counted as a bit more than mischief. Martialla played mediator and convinced me to allow them to stay in the coach that ONE time so long as they set up a campsite for the two of us. The three men were all shocked that we would sleep under the stars on Snap Apple Even but Hardra just shrugged.
Martialla and I sat across the fire from one another as the four in the coach passed around a jug of cheap whiskey and sang and told stories late into the night.
“You know, for all their yammering on about this thing I never heard anything to make me understand why it’s called Snap Apple.”
“Isn’t the apple tree associated with Adariel as a symbol of fertility? I know up north they have some kind of deal where the young maidens try to grab apples floating in a tub with their teeth and then you put it under your pillow to get a husband or something. I believe that’s called snapping for apples.”
“Sounds like something stupid Northmen would do.”
“You can be a real sourpuss you know that?”
“Well, as long as you know.”
Martialla turned in and eventually the revels in the coach quieted and I was left alone to stare into the fire. After a few hours I reached into my special pouch and took out a candle, which I lit, and said a few words for my grandmother. No reason not to hedge your bets right? I assume by not doing it while wearing a mask I’ve damned myself to some ill fate or another, but I seem to be victim to those pretty reliably anyway so what’s the harm really?
Funds: 995 platinum
Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animated Riding Coat, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring, False Papers, Bag of Concealment, Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, Gem of Brightness, Potion of Invisibility, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Glove of Vampiric Touch, Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Holy Symbol of Kozilek, Ruby (2), Black Marketers’ Bag, 879 Garnets, crystal necklace
Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane,
Piltis Swine, Rince
Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle
the butler, Alice Kinsey , “ Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire
Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror,
Eedraxis, Skin-Taker tribe,
Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family,
Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale
Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna
Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee, Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer,
Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium
of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard