Anflite and Filtan actually showed up which makes them more reliable than a good two thirds of the goons for hire in the world. They immediately disappointed me by saying they didn’t really know anything about overland navigation – I knew I shouldn’t have hired such human looking half-orcs, they’re probably not barbaric at all. Thankfully Lathal seemed to know what she was doing – I suppose we’ll find out if she really does when we either get where we want to go or die in the middle of nowhere. For a while we traveled northwest along the river before striking out directly west and coming across the former bed of the river. It was surprising, and for once it was a good surprise, unlike the path we took here which was a stinking mud infested brown strip this was a channel covered with small rocks worn smooth by the former waters. It actually looked kind of like a road, other than its weaving path.
Walking on pebbles all day is kind of hard on the old feet, but the truth is I’ve been on worse roads. Anflite and Filtan were annoyingly active, always running off to “check for ambushes” and dashing off to investigate even the slightest noise. Their high energy antics were exhausting, plus I could tell they were making Lathal anxious with their frenetic darting about and I didn’t need her going all wolfy on us. I asked them to look with their eyes and stay a little calmer but they clearly didn’t have it in them. Eventually I sent them to scout ahead and after a while Lathal breathed an audible sigh of relief. It must be draining to be so tightly wound.
After a few hours I saw what I thought was a kid coming towards us down the dry river bed, but turned out to be a gnome instead – a particularly hairy bugger, you couldn’t really tell where the hair started and the beard ended, I think there was a lot of ear hair contributing to the look as well. If we’re being honest, and I feel like we are, on the rare occasion that I’ve encountered a gnome I’ve found them rather unimpressive. It’s like the worst qualities of a dwarf and a Halfling combined. But this fellow looked like a dangerous piece of business, I can’t say exactly why but I just had the sense this man knew how to handle himself. It wasn’t his fashion sense which was as poor as any gnome, green and blue pants with a mauve tunic? Awful.
“Hello friend, you didn’t happen to see two grey women did you, doing some sort of scout type activities?”
“I haven’t seen a soul until this moment.”
“Fantastic, they must be chasing butterflies.”
His name was Corwyn Illvar which is not even that stupid a name for a gnome. He said that he was a surveyor on his way back to Bowcrag to report in.
“We crossed paths with a surveyor on the way in, or at least he said he was a surveyor.”
“Tall guy, big head, missing a nostril?”
“Horse-faced guy with pointy teeth?”
“Guy who looks like a cross between a hard-boiled egg and a melon?”
“Pretty gal with a mess of braids, flat as a frying pan?”
“No, look as much fun as this little game is I’m going to stop you there – it was a Kostelos fellow wearing hides and a fancy vest . How many surveyors are out here and what is there to survey in that greasy mudhole?”
“Quite a few, looking for a good route to the west. Supposedly there’s going to be a project to build a road from Bowcrag all the way to Cathars, it’s going to revitalize all the little villages that dried up when they diverted the river they say.”
“Why didn’t they just leave the river where it was then?”
“The whole thing is a wild goose chase anyway, they’ll never get the money to build a road even one fifth that far. And even if they did I doubt anyone would use it. You don’t build a road to create traffic, the traffic dictates were you build the road.”
“You must know the area pretty well then. We’re trying to find a dryad that got snookered into a hag’s coven.”
“The Tree of Woe? Why would you want to go there?”
“It’s political, complicated, it would bore you, but how about you show us the way?”
“No dice Long Tall Saillie, I’ve been out here for weeks – I want to get back to town, have myself a bath , get myself a nice meal, and then find myself some liquor and some gambling and not stop until it’s time to go back out again.”
“A gambling man eh? How about a little game of chance? I win and you show us the way.”
“And what would you have that would make me take those stakes?”
I pulled out a handful of garnets “This.”
His eyes gleamed “Now, there’s a neat trick.”
I tossed him one for inspection and put the rest away “It is indeed. What’s your game?”
“Odds and evens.”
I laughed “I thought you said you were a gambler.”
“Pure luck, what would be more exciting than that?”
“Almost anything. Chance is the providence of people who aren’t clever enough to do anything to improve themselves. When you’re all out of options and have nothing to offer another solitary human soul that’s when you just stand outside and hope the Gods drop money on you. A game with no skill is a game not worth playing.”
“How about a palm puzzle?”
“That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind but I’m game.”
He rolled up his sleeves and six coins appeared between his fingers out of nowhere – looking kind of like two sets of brass knuckles. He grinned “Still want to play?”
We decided on Lucre which is more or less sleight of hand dressed up as a game of shifting stones, or in this case coins and gems. Some people liken it to checkers only there’s no turns. Other people say it’s a competitive version of the shell game. They’re both a little right. He’s good. I’m better. At one point I saw him trying to weave in a little subtle magic to help him and I casually transformed on my hands into a massive lion paw.
“Oh my, how embarrassing!”
He smiled and stopped his subtle magic, we continued the game, but it was already a foregone conclusion – I ended up with all 8 gemstones and he had only seven coins, on account of I had switched one out for a rock without him noticing. That’s about as complete a victory as you can get.
“Well my friend, I believe that’s game. What do you think?”
“You’re more than meets the eye, that’s for sure. You know now that I think about it taking a couple extra days to help you out wouldn’t kill me.”
At camp that night after everyone else was asleep (the half-orc sisters did turn up eventually if you were wondering) Corwyn and I stayed up all night swapping stories and jokes and tall tales about our deeds while we shared a bottle of roasted pecan whiskey I had picked up in Bowcrag and he unrolled the last of a packet of Northern Star pipeweed.
“You’re a real peach you know that? What did you say your name was again?”
“I didn’t, a girl has to have a bit of mystery you know?”
“No name huh? That’s unusual. I tell you, if you were three feet shorter you’d really be something.”
“That’s one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me.”
Hair regrowth progress : .0195%
Curses – Marksman’s Malady, Unnerve Beasts
Funds: 8,676 gold
Inventory: Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Pocketed Scarf, Wrist Sheath, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Ring of Protection +2, Assortment of Fake Signet Rings, Bag of Concealment, Belt of Giant Strength +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Black Marketers’ Bag, 852 Garnets, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow
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, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo