Leaving the bandit camp without disguise was harrowing, but the thieves and were strangely disinterested. I suppose they don’t like being here anymore than we do – assaulting a city isn’t nearly as much fun as ripping off fat merchants. The only thing gave us some trouble was a band of goblins that start following us, jumping around and shrieking in demonic monkeys. I don’t know what they were saying because I don’t speak goblin but it was obviously both insulting and vulgar. I wonder why they’d bother, surely a goblin wouldn’t be interested in a human woman sexually. But I suppose if an orc-woman was being paraded through town for some reason human men would probably shout sexual insult at her as well. I guess it’s just an easy way to attack a woman verbally, most people aren’t that clever.
After a few minutes Martialla flattened one of them with her magic – literally – and the rest ran off, after cackling maniacally at the fate of their friend. When we were just about to leave the undefined borders of the enemy camp a troll loomed before us to block our way – it assaulted us with a stench that was part rotting meat and part infected wound. I have no idea what a healthy troll looks like but this one definitely didn’t seem to fit the bill. I’m pretty sure it had mushrooms growing on it. When it opened its mouth the reek almost literally bowled us over. I have no idea what it said either because I also don’t speak troll, but it lumbered off after it said its piece. This dragon must be quite the linguist to keep this group together. Although I suppose the language of being burned alive is pretty universal. We were both pretty shaky on the way back to Renwick.
“That didn’t go so badly.”
“I think I shit myself.”
“Yeah, that tends to happen with dragons. You’ll get over it.”
This time at least as we approached the city we were confronted by a handful of guardsmen. I told them to take me to whoever was now the ranking officer because I had found a way for us to resolve this conflict with honor and dignity. They were dubious, but I was able to convince them. With the good captain Madim dead through entirely unavoidable circumstances that were no one’s fault it seemed that one Lieutenant Stokering was in charge. At least he thought he was, it was bit of a chaotic situation. He was operating out of what looked like a tailor’s shop and was much more enthusiastic about organizing the city defense than his predecessor but he was even more in over his head. He took a break from shouting contradictory orders and furiously scribbling illegible notes to speak with us.
When I explained to him that the city’s salvation required us to turn over a single woman to be murdered he was predictably not interested. He hit all the old classics “we don’t trade lives”, “we won’t give up one person to this monster”, “death first” honor this and duty that and so on and so forth. As I said he was quite enthusiastic. I told him that of course I had no interest in obeying the dragon’s demand, but I did say that finding this woman should be our top priority – so we could protect her better, or maybe get her out of town. He was reluctant at first but I convinced him that there would be no attack today since the dragon was expecting his sacrifice to be served up to him tomorrow morning.
With the city in chaos and somewhat on fire I was surprised how quickly Stokering’s men were able to track her down. But maybe that makes it easier because everyone is out running around instead of in their homes? What do I know about it? She was smeared with soot and her clothes were in bad shape but under all of that was a fairly plain looking woman in her thirties. She did have very expressive eyes but otherwise hardly seems like the type you’d burn down a whole city for. Lieutenant Stokering immediately started pounding his fist into his hand decrying the fact that there was no way to get her out of the city because “all the ships were destroyed”.
“Not all the ships good sir, how do you think I got here?”
After rendezvousing with my stubborn sailing men at the temple the plan was set – after nightfall they smuggle her out of the city just like they smuggled me in. Nothing fancy there. Stokering and his men were standing guard around the temple while the three captains got their boat ready for action. There was a bit of a commotion when some of the soldiers who had been involved in the search figured out the why they had been looking for this woman and tried to break in and seize her to turn over to the dragon, but Stokering and his loyalists were able to drive them away. The two of us sat alone in the narthex waiting for nightfall.
“I can’t believe all this trouble is because of me.”
“It isn’t, it’s because of the dragon. Can I level with you Rauw?”
“Of course My Lady.”
“This isn’t going to be pleasant but I’m going to be honest with you because I think it’s important that you know the truth. Sneaking you out of the city isn’t going to accomplish anything. The dragon and his army are still going to attack tomorrow because even if we tell them you’re gone he won’t believe it. The city will be destroyed anyway. There’s only one way out of is, and that’s for you to turn yourself over to the dragon. Which is bullshit, you shouldn’t have to do that, but it doesn’t make it any less true. These men here, they’re willing to die rather than turn you over, they’re willing to protect you from their own neighbors and friends. These are good men. And you can save their lives. You can save the lives of everyone, even those assholes out there who would drag you by your hair to the wall and throw you to the dragon to save their own hides.
You have the power to save what’s left of the city, to save thousands of lives. And it’s unfair, and it’s wrong, and it’s everything else you want to call it – but that’s the reality of the situation. Those men out there will sacrifice all of that for you, but you’re the one who has the power to stop it. You can make the difference here. And that’s a horrible choice to force someone to make, their own life over the lives of others, especially when they did nothing wrong, but here’s something that might make it easier. You’re going to die no matter what. If we sneak you out of here and the dragon destroys the city what do you think it’s going to do next? It’s going to coming looking and being a couple miles downriver isn’t going to save you. It’s going to keep coming after you and more people are going to die and for what? So you can live a few more days or weeks terrified on the run? Is that worth it?
There’s no play here Rauw. There’s no way out of this. This is an enemy we can’t defeat, a battle we can’t win. There’s a small voice in your head that’s telling you to take your chances, to stay alive as long as you can – maybe some brave hero will be able to slay the dragon. Maybe the Queen will send her men to save you. Maybe some band of adventures will take on the dragon and send it packing. But those things aren’t going to happen. You can decide right now, if you want to save everyone or drag everyone down with you. This is a decision that no one should be forced to make but here we are. I don’t know you, so I don’t know if you’re the kind of person who wants to save others or the kind who would rather everyone else die too if they’re going out of the picture, but that’s what we’re talking about right here right now.
You got dealt a fucking bad hand Rauw, but you have to play. No one else can do it for you. I don’t know if this helps at all either, but a lot of people in this world get a bad draw – poverty, illness, violence, a staggering variety of ways to be abused and used, all the horrors that people inflict on one another – but most of them don’t get any kind of choice at all. It’s small comfort at best Rauw, small fucking comfort, but you have the luxury of deciding one thing for yourself. There won’t be songs or tales of this sorry affair if you choose to save everyone, this episode is too shameful for that – but you’ll be a hero regardless. And that’s not nothing.”
Tears had started streaming down her face halfway through the speech but she wasn’t sniffling or sobbing or crying really – just tears.
“Are you very religious My Lady?”
“I am, I believe that the Gods watch over us and that everything happens according to their plan.”
“Would you pray with me My Lady? Help me to ask for guidance and for forgiveness?”
“Of course I will.”
We prayed together in the temple for a good long while, and then when night was starting to fall we slipped out the back and made our escape from the well intentioned lieutenant, quickly losing ourselves in the dirty and riotous streets.
“What would you do if it was your last night on earth My Lady?”
“Get drunk, get laid, pretty much what anyone would do.”
“That doesn’t sound bad.”
Funds: 995 platinum, 159 gold
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, 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