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

Mathanaya 6 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

As we traveled today there was a noticeable change in the plant life – the trees became more spread apart and spindlier and uglier, although they also got taller.  The ground cover became brushier and there was a lot more of it.  Jopha said that we were heading towards Blackroot Fens.  He guessed that the tracks of our quarry would lead us to the abandoned village of Latifero.  Latifero had once been a small up and coming community on the shore of some river or other but the river had been damned – like they built a damn not like a demon did some unspeakable to it – and that was all she wrote for Latifero.  Jopha said that if we headed northeast there was no way we could miss it.

Why was he telling us this instead of leading us like he was supposed to?  Because the coward quit on us.  He claimed that he couldn’t track them anymore in the peaty soil and that even if he could it was safe to assume they were going to Latifero but he clearly just didn’t want to go any further.  I considered trying to sway him to solider on but I figured a reluctant guide would be more trouble than it was worth.  He gave us several days’ worth of disgusting provisions and dashed off like a crafty jackrabbit never to be seen again.  Or maybe I will see him again, how would I know?

A few hours later as we made our way through the increasingly depressing woodlands we heard a fellow calling out to us from up a mostly leafless tree.  He was standing on a thick branch and leading on the trunk as casually as a merchant in the city square.  His enunciation was heavily Kostelos, so I responded in the tongue of those backwards primitives. He wasn’t terribly impressed. 

“Your accent is atrocious.”

“I was told I spoke very well.”

“Whoever said that was probably trying to flatter you.”

“Your vernacular sounds a little strange to me as well, I’m sure I’m speaking flawless just in a different dialect.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“Why are you up a tree?”

“There were some harpies after me so I climbed up here.”

“Can’t harpies fly?

“I didn’t say it worked.”

The man stepped off the branch as clam as you like and fell a good eighteen or so to the ground, landing on his feet seemingly unharmed.  It didn’t even look like he made an impression on the soft clayish ground.  He was wearing a jaunty white and blue striped vest that had seen better days, but the rest of this outfit – leggings, short and such – were pure barbarian buckskin numbers.  He did have a good pair of sturdy “city” boots though.  If he hadn’t been covered with primitive tattoos and scarification he would have been a handsome fellow.  But he was.  So he wasn’t. 

Since Martialla couldn’t understand our savage grunting speech we switched back to the proper tongue.  He claimed to be some manner of surveyor for a merchant company out of Bowcrag but when I asked what he was looking for he just shrugged.  I couldn’t tell if he was mildly stupid or one of those types who just kind of floats through life without every really knowing or caring what’s going on.  He may have been high as well – he was chewing some kind of root and I know the Kostelos love their narcotics. 

Since he was wandering about the area I asked him if he knew where our quarry might be and he confirmed that a bandit group operated out of Latifero.  They called themselves the Forsaken Kin because you can’t be a bandit without a whacky appellation.  Someday I’m going to explain to one of these groups that when you’re breaking the law the idea is for no one to know who you are – not for you to advertise with catchy names and flashy gimmicks.

He said that they inhabited many buildings in Latifero but that mostly they squatted in an old tavern called the Broken Oar.  He was cagey about how many of them there might be, sounds like their membership fluctuates, but he said he didn’t think there were enough of them to attack even a small village.   According to him they were led by a man called Craul.

“Crawl like a baby?”

“No, with a U.”

“I hate him already.  You’ve been suspiciously helpful, what are you after?”

“I’m just a helpful fellow.  Although, if you can break curses that would help me out.”

I glanced at Martialla and she shook her head “Sorry, sounds like we can’t.  Is this one of these true love’s first kiss type deals?  Because Martialla will give it a shot if that might help.”

He shook his head “Nah, it’s a little more complicated.”

Martialla smiled “Your loss partner, I’m a pretty good kisser.”

We chatted for a few minutes before our treefriend continued on his way to survey whatever he was surveying and Martialla and I continued on our way to Latifero.

“So which cliché do you think we’re going to encounter with these Forsaken Kin people – will they have pet gators or use strange swamp magic?”

“It’s not really that swampy around here, I’m going to go with inbred mutants.”

“Dang, why didn’t I think of that?  I mean Forsaken Kin?  That name screams mutant.”

We continued on until nightfall and then made camp.  Sort of.  Jopha had left us some other supplies – including a flint and tinder, and we were able to get a fire going.  Sort of.  I was expecting it to be eerie here at night, haunting even, but it was actually pretty calm.  No wild cacophony of chirping insects, no weird animal cries in the distance, no ominous winds.  The effect was somewhat ruined through when we spotted lurking at the edge of the firelight a wolflike mongrel creature with mattered hair and malnourished frame clad in ragged scraps of dirty cloth.  It was kind of a pathetic looking creature, but still seemed menacing. 

“What the heck is that, a werewolf?”

“I think it’s a skunk-ape.”

“What’s a skunk-ape?”

“It’s like an ape only it stinks like a skunk.”

“Gee, thanks.  I don’t smell anything bad besides you, plus it looks more wolfish than apey to me.  And it has clothes on, sort of, do skunk-apes wear clothes?”

“I mean, probably.”

“You don’t know.  I don’t have any silver, shoot it with magic and kill it.”

“Why?  It doesn’t seem to be threatening us.  It looks like it just wants to be by the fire.”

It did want to be by the fire.  It had a muskrat or a river otter or something that it had mauled and wanted to cook over the flame.  It couldn’t speak every well, but it could talk.  I asked him (it was definitely a him, know what I mean?) what he was and he said “Orl” but I think that was his name.  I asked him where he came from and he said “here”.  I guess he’s not a werewolf but I have no idea what he is.  As he was eating his critter, which was not cooked so much as just warmed up, with blood streaming down his face and splattering everywhere in a disgusting spectacle I told him what we were doing there. 

A look of both anger and fear came over his simple wolfy face and he ripped a chunk of gristle off the haunch he was gnawing on and threw it into the darkness with a snarl/curse.  I couldn’t entirely make out what he was saying, I think he had a mate that was killed by the bandits maybe, but he didn’t like them one bit whatever the case was.  I asked him if he could help us find the Kin and get the drop on them and he eagerly agreed.

“When we get to these folks I need to know, are you a peaceful creature or a savage one?”

In response he open a pouch on his makeshift belt and took out a battered old hatched with a broken handle – but it was clearly sharpened to a deadly edge and appeared to have bloodstains on the wood.

“There’s a good lad.”

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .009%

Funds: 900 platinum, 4251 gold

XP: 234,561

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, Forsaken Kin