Martialla has a good enough sense of direction to keep us headed south, more or less, but I realized that I don’t really have any clue where Gibson is. We were heading up the road to Renwick when we took a path that Tudos knew and ended up in an Old Empire ruin and from there headed south – but at the time no one even knew Gibson was there. If I didn’t know better, which I don’t, I’d think that it was some manner of hidden community. Religious zealots or something. Although they seemed normal enough when I was there. That’s the thing about cultists though, they act normal right up until their try to eat your genitals.
We found our way to the road and loitered waiting for anyone who might be able to give us directions. It’s a good thing we’re enchanting young ladies – a couple of men dallying by the road is usually the kind of thing you want to avoid. We met a group of traveling players who had no idea where Gibson is but they did stop and chat for more than an hour, clearly they weren’t in any hurry. One of the players, a woman with an incredulously ample bosom and a partially shaved head, seemed very familiar to me. Eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I asked her if we had met before. This seemed to make her slightly sad.
“I don’t believe so but it’s possible that you saw me perform in Indlecastle. I used to sing there quite often.”
I couldn’t help but gasp when it finally clicked into place. “You’re Mariacheva Antdallia.”
“I used to be, I don’t use that name anymore.”
I was speechless for a moment “I know this is unspeakably rude, but how did you end up with these losers?”
A fellow with a laughably tall hat and muttonchops felt the need to interject “Hey, we’re not losers.”
“Shut up you!”
Mariacheva waved the fellow away “I don’t need to go into the whole sad story, I fell out of favor for a variety of reasons, some of which were my fault, some of which weren’t. Once the work dried up and the money was all gone there wasn’t much else for me to do. My voice isn’t what it once was but it’s good enough for this sort of thing. And staying on the road helps me avoid some unpleasant people.”
I shook my head “I am just stunned by this. This is an honest to Gods tragedy. You were one of the best. I know that most people said that Setriava’s performance of A Lion In the Ropes was superior to yours but I always told people that . . .”
“I beg your pardon, but I’d rather not rake over old memories, the wound is a little too fresh.”
“Of course, of course, my apologies.”
As Martialla continue to swap stories and chat with the players I was wracking my brain to come up with some way that I could help Mariacheva Antdallia. It is criminal that she would be out here wandering the country roads singing for coppers with a bunch of degenerates. As the players were about to continue on their way I took her aside for a moment.
“I don’t mean to presume, but I would like to propose something. Head back south and go to Juost Manor. Tell my cousin the Baroness who are and what has happened to you and I know that she will take you in and give you a place to stay that’s worthy of your talent. I’ll send a letter with you explaining everything. And a second letter with some other information for the Baroness if you don’t mind carrying it for me.”
She seemed both shocked and wary “That seems too good to be true.”
“It does, but every once in a while something good happens – it’s rare, but when it comes around you have to grab it.”
“Would I have to travel alone?”
“No, of course not, my friend and I are on the way to a village – come with us and we’ll find some likely fellows to escort you safely to Juost Manor.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“I hate to see someone like you out here in the dirt and mud with lowlife actors. It’s not right. Casting pearls before swine and so forth.”
She was cautiously excited as she told her former troupe that she wouldn’t be going with them. They had a variety of reactions but the fellow with the tall hat didn’t seem happy by this turn of events. He glanced over at me with several evil looks as they talked, then argued. When he grabbed her arm I felt it was time to intervene.
“I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but unhand her you miscreant!”
His muttonchops quivered with anger “This doesn’t concern you! This woman made certain promises to me, she has obligations and she’s not going to be leaving us now.”
I flung a handful of coins at him “There that should cover it, now fuck off.”
A look came over his face, a look that I have become sadly familiar with over the past eight months. I should have been more conciliatory in my bribery but I find I have less and less patience for this kind of thing. I need to get my head right though because sooner or later I’m going to run into real trouble and I don’t want to still be in hot-head mode when I do. I slipped my dagger into my hand from my wrist-sheath as he tried to crowd me.
“I know what you’re thinking fella, you’re thinking that because I’m a woman you can get what you want but you can’t. I’ll cut your heart out right here and right now and I won’t think twice about it. I know you want to save face but you can’t. If you try to knock me around I will kill you. So pick up your coins and continue on your way and then tonight you can get drunk and take it out on whichever of these poor women lets you stick it in them for a bigger share of the pot. I’m guessing it’s that one, with the lazy eye.”
His eyes bugged out at the sight of the dagger and he held his hat in front of him like a shield “Are you crazy?! What kind of woman are you?!”
“I’m just a fan of the arts.”
The players moved on but Tall Hat lingered behind to shout abuse at me from what he thought was safe distance. Once I grew tired of it I took out my crossbow and he beat a hasty retreat. Mariacheva Antdallia seemed dismayed by all this conflict.
“Sorry you had to see that.”
“You said that you’re Baroness Juost’s cousin?”
“Yeah, I had something of a less refined upbringing.”
Martialla smiled “She’s the long-lost variety of cousin. Extremely long-lost.”
The next travelers were a young couple running away from home to elope. They also had no idea where Gibson was and were annoying concerned that we would tell their parents despite our reassurances that we didn’t know their parents nor cared what they were doing. Eventually it became clear this was that thing young people do sometimes where they’re doing something “bad” and they want you to make a big deal out of it. None of us were willing to play along but that didn’t stop them from offer to buy our silence by divulging the “secrets” of the people in their village.
“Hold up a minute, what village are you from?”
This seemed to make them nervous “Faireholme.”
“Tell us how to get there and we won’t speak a word of this to anyone.”
The morons took some more convincing but it was good convincing practice. A few hours later we were south of the road in Faireholme, which to our good fortune is a center of trade for all the little nothing villages around here. The Fairholmers themselves were extremely rude, but there were plenty of other people about – including a fellow from Gibson and his older kids that had come into town to sell goats. They said that they would be more than happy to show us the way when they return home tomorrow morning. There was also a decent sized merchant outfit in town buying up all the commodities being brought in and I was able to pay off the owner to divert them to Allene as their next stop taking on Mariacheva Antdallia as a passenger.
I gave Mariacheva Antdallia a small fortune to get her on her feet and wished her luck. She thanked me, but probably not as profusely as was warranted given the circumstances – I’ll chalk it up to still be shocked by this turn of events. With everything squared away I took the opportunity to do a little shopping. Normally a berg like this would have nothing of interest but there were several traveling merchant wagons with better quality goods. There was no wigmaker but I was considering purchasing a magic crossbow when Martialla brought something to my attention.
“Does anything about this place seem odd to you?”
“There’s a lot of half-orcs and half-elfs here. Everyone that’s actually from the village seems to have a half-orc or half-elf servant.”
“That’s a little weird, but what other kind of work is a half-orc going to get?”
“Sure but why would villagers have servants at all? And when have you see this many half-elfs in such menial jobs?”
I glanced around at all the tusked and pointed-eared faces that seemed to be doing all of the work while the Faireholmers sat back and supervised.
Martialla and I started subtly trying to talk to some of the half-folk when their overseers eyes weren’t looking but it wasn’t subtle enough. In very short order we found ourselves very politely escorted against our will to speak to the village headman – a finely dressed fellow with long well-styled salt and pepper hair and a thin mustache. In his well-appointed home that featured a vast array of iconography venerating Odobenine the Lord of Deals, he politely explained to us at great length that the village of Faireholme took a great interest in the helping the less fortunate and extoling the virtues of indentured servitude as a tool for uplifting the partially human. It was a highly revolting lecture. Martialla thanked him for his time and we excused ourselves.
“What do you think?”
“I think that if we dug into it we’d find out these people are probably straight up slaves. And what I would like to do is cause all kinds of trouble but right now we have other priorities.”
“We can always find someone else to take us to Gibson.”
“As much as I would love to destroy this society right here and right now, I think what makes the most sense is reporting back to the Baroness what’s going on here and handling this through legal channels. I’ve been flying off the handle far too much lately. It galls me, but I don’t think this is the right time to get involved personally. I think we pass on the heroics this time.”
“You’re the boss.”
I snorted “Since when?”
Hair regrowth progress : .0045%
Funds: 900 platinum, 4251 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