I fell asleep last night. That probably doesn’t seem very noteworthy “I fall asleep every night” you may be saying to yourself. It is remarkable in this case though because as you all know due to magical shenanigans I don’t need to sleep. Not only that but I was lying (laying?) outside against a tree without any kind of comforts. There was no reason that I should have fallen asleep and every reason that I should have stayed awake. I’m going to say that a pooka cast a sleep spell on me. You can’t prove it didn’t happen. I’m surprised more people don’t try that. There’s Gods damned magical creatures everywhere getting up to all kinds of mischief , it doesn’t get used as a scapegoat enough. Cheat on your wife? You were enspelled by a water nymph. Murder your neighbor? A redcap did it. Steal the crown jewels? An invisible ogre is framing you.
I bring up this sleeping scenario to set the scene for waking up and seeing Big Ears grinning at me in the early morning light backed up by his merry band of skulking deserters. Four of them had bows at the ready, not drawn of course – who’d want to hold that – and prepared to demolish Martialla where she lay sleeping in a very comfortable looking bedroll with a fluffy fleece pillow. When he saw that I was awake Big Ear’s wolfish grin turned into a grotesque caricature of a human smile – it was like his face had split in half crossways. I’d call it a shark grin but that doesn’t even do it justice.
“You know, I just knew that there was something off about you, I just knew it. The boys thought that I was crazy, but I just had a feeling that following you was going to be a good idea. And look, look what the Gods have provided! What a bounty.”
“I’m sorry, have we met?”
“Ha, nice try, but you left an easy trail to follow – something tells me that fieldcraft isn’t your strong suit. Tell me, are you both illusionists or did just one of you manage to make you both look like crusty old codgers?”
“Neither, we’re both shape shifting demons. Mess with us and we’ll not only bite your head off but we’ll also condemn you to the Thirteen Hells.”
“I’m sure you will. That jewelry you have on should be enough to set us up for life. And we’re going to have a lot of fun getting it off you as well. I assume they shaved your head and kicked you out of town for adultery so it should be a lively time indeed.”
“What’s your name?”
“Look Boere, we both know the deal here, can we skip the part where you make an escalating series of lecherous comments about what’s going to happen to me that become more and more violent and belligerent as I verbally destroy you with my witty retorts? We both know what the deal is here, can we just get on with it? I’m sure that part of the fun is menacing and terrifying your victims but I’ve had a week you know? I’d rather not go through that old song and dance routine just now.”
He seemed at a loss for a moment “Wow, I wasn’t expecting you to be so docile, that’s a nice surprise. I’ll just pop these pants off and we can get started.”
I stood up, brushing off my leggings “Oh, I didn’t mean get on with that, I meant get on with the part where I shoot you in the stomach.”
He stopped in mid depantsing “Uh, you do that and my friends turn your friend into a pincushion. Except you know, with arrows not pins. So an archery butt I guess.”
I pulled my crossbow out of my Bag “Here’s the thing though, my friend doesn’t have a bedroll or a nice pillow.”
A look of confusion came across his face “What does that mean?”
I raised the crossbow to my shoulder “This.”
I didn’t hit him in the stomach but I did put a crossbow bolt through his left side right above the hip – and I mean that literally, it went right through him and out the other side. It was the damnedest thing. The real Martialla appeared from where she had been lurking invisibly and conjured a fist-sized ball of molten metal that she propelled into Big Ears. Have you ever seen someone splattered with motel metal? You can probably go down to a smelting facility and see it if you wait long enough, but I sure as Hells wouldn’t recommend it. Big Ears went down hard, never to get up again. His four friends loosed their arrows into the illusionary sleeping Martialla while the fifth guy just stood there gaping like a trout on land.
Martialla summoned another molten orb and blasted it into the group of the four – which then splattered searing pain over all of them. I activated my tattoo for Lion jaws and roared at them with the fury of, well, a lion. A good lion roar is pretty intimidating, most people never learn that because if you’re up close enough to really get the full effect you don’t live to tell about it. These four would though, because at this point they decided they had had more than enough. You can’t really blame them, their leader died in four seconds, they were speckled with burning metal, and they were facing down a werelion or some other monstrosity. They ran away from the army to avoid just this kind of thing. As his four friends ran away as fast as their legs could carry them the fifth man continued to stand in shock – unable or unwilling to flee with his pals. Martialla walked right past him as she came into the “camp”.
“I didn’t know you could do illusions like that.”
“It’s something I’ve been working on.”
“You had time to cast spells but not to wake me up?”
“I thought you were playing possum.”
“Is that ball of liquid metal new too?” She nodded “It’s gruesome.”
“Yes, magic is an awful, appalling miracle. Did you know there’s thousands of spells to hurt people but only one that can make people feel better when they’re sad? It’s pretty twisted. Although I suppose that says more about people than it does about magic.”
“Didn’t elfs invent magic? Maybe they’re the messed up ones.”
“Nah, all elf magic does is make dancing lights and turn flowers different colors and shit. Humans are the ones who thought – hey what if there was a way to make someone be on fire who was hundreds of feet away, wouldn’t that be neat?”
I nodded at the remainder deserter “Did you do something to him?”
“No, I think he’s just frozen the normal non-magic way. He seems pretty young.”
Now that I got a good look at him, he did seem younger than the others – and then quickly I felt stupid for not realizing right off the jump what was going on. The beardless face and bountiful dark curly hair was because “he” was a she. I whistled to try and get her to snap out of her trance.
“Hey, its fine, we’re not going to hurt you.”
Martialla glanced at me “We’re not?”
“Well, I mean maybe we are, but not right now is my point. What’s your deal girly, why were you with those cutthroats?”
“Girly?” Martialla leaned in for a closer look “Ah, girly.”
At first I thought she might be mute, but eventually she explained herself – sort of, her story was kind of a jumble of words. She had one of those high piping voices that I couldn’t decide if it was annoying or melodious. I suppose it could be both. Her father is a hunter, a bear hunter she said but that can’t be – no one hunts bears do they? Said hunter father was out, you know, hunting, when the troubles in Renwick started and she wisely got out of dodge to try and find him. She didn’t, but she did run into the band of deserters who assumed that she was a young fellow – which is kind of ridiculous given her angel face but that can happen when you wear “man clothes” and don’t have “womanly curves”. Not that I would know of course, but I’ve read about it. They had conscripted her in their band as a servant/asshole in training . She had been pretending to be mute since her voice would give her away instantly and had spent several days living in terror in the company of men. Which now that I think about it is kind of how most women are living all the time.
Martialla and I were both worried that she would ask us to help her find her father, because how can you say no to that? And it would have dragged on into a whole thing – how you going to find one woodsman in a warzone? But to our mutual relief she had no interest in asking for help at all – which is admirable. Probably not that smart, but admirable. We wished her luck and went our separate ways – after taking a decent amount of gold off Big Ears’ corpse of course.
“You see, this is what I’m talking about! If they had all this money why were they out here harassing us? Once they stole this seed money they should have headed to Allene or some other town and gotten themselves set up with an ongoing concern of some kind, this is more than enough to get started! This is probably more money than they ever had at one time in their old lives, I mean what were they doing out here?”
“They were probably worried about being hung as traitors.”
“No one down there would know them, just get some new clothes and come up with a fake name and no one is going to be the wiser. These people have no sense of vision and it drives me crazy. All they can think to do is waylay travelers. And for what? For what Martialla? Can you tell me?”
“I think you’re overlooking one important factor.”
“Men are stupid and violent.”
Hair regrowth progress : .003%
Funds: 995 platinum, 4259 gold
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, 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
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