Mede 16 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

There isn’t a road between Crosseneller and Beresford but there is a trail of sorts.  A couple of wagons laden with goods were heading that way as well so we bade farewell to Udi, who disappeared into the woods, and joined with them – because nothing ever goes wrong when I’m traveling with a caravan.  I doubt however demented and senile I become I will ever forget the terror of the Skin-Eaters and their attack on the caravan to Three Rivers.  In a sick way I hope that I never forget it.  Something like that should never leave your memory. 

I suppose it’s natural to want to purge your bad memories but it an urge you should resist.  There’s a difference between being unable to stop thinking about a painful experience – which is an issue – and making the conscious attempt to reflect on your past and try to learn from it.  As my grandmother told me love is a good teacher, pain is a great teacher.  If you blot out the bad things in your mind you’re voluntarily blinding yourself – and I need my eyes wide open.  Ignoring bad memories can let them take control over your thoughts, can make you feel helpless and vulnerable – it’s important to drag them out of the shadows and into the light, so you control them rather than the other way around. 

Sometimes you don’t entirely remember what happened, or you understand what happened but not why it happened.  Having unanswered questions, or having information that you find unsatisfactory, can create incredible frustration. That’s why it’s important to get to the root of your dark memories and find the through line, the truth if you want to call it that.  Doing that sucks, but the only way forward is to forge ahead.  

It should go without saying, but people often forget that we are shaped by our experiences, which of course includes the negative ones. Whether your bad memories are rooted in decisions you actively made, or things that happened to you over which you may not have had any control, it’s important to learn from them. What could you have done differently?  How can you avoid it happening again?  If it’s potentially unavoidable what will you do when it happens?  No matter the scenario, there is always room to learn from the experience.

Naturally though the most important reason to think about the horrible things in your past is so that you can parcel out revenge appropriately.  Just think how mad you’d be if you missed your chance for vengeance only because you forgot about the people that slighted you.  You don’t want that do you?  Most of us only have one life, and it’s important to understand the horrible things that happened to us as fully and richly as possible, so we can better understand ourselves and our decisions, and make those responsible for all of it pay. 

But enough with the touchy-feely jibber-jabber, as I said the caravan was only a couple of wagons, but unpredictably there were a couple interesting folks on the crew.  The leader/owner/whatever was an almost famous explorer by the name of Arien Stolar.  He had published a book no one read about his voyage exploring the islands of the North, the north part of the North.  People down this way often think of “the North” as the end of the world, but there’s a whole bunch of stuff up there – even some people.  I knew of him not because I read his book, but because we had met briefly at court when he was there to beg for money for another expedition – I think that one was to find an ancient city of frog-people or some malarkey like that.  He gave no indication that he remembered me but I suppose I can’t fault him for that.

His dress was that of a milksop, all silks and finery, but I knew that anyone who had made the voyages he had was nothing like the pushover he appeared to be.  He wasn’t a half bad storyteller and regaled us with stories of his travels that were probably only thirty percent bullshit.  Also among them was Togra Strongarm, one of Gisa’s ‘treasure hunters’.  I had already heard his only interesting story about saving a wild pig from a Kostelos feast, but I knew that he was a capable fighter so it was nice to see him.  After turning down my very generous offer to get killed by a dragon Gisa had taken her crew south where they had a disastrous tomb-raiding expedition that prompted her to take a break from the “adventurer” life and take a job cataloging and appraising the finds of other less traumatized thieves, I mean  heroic delvers. 

Bixton took an immediate shine to Togra, as often is the case with squire-types and actual fighting men, and was eager to listen to all his tiresome reports about killing this monster and that monster in highly tedious detail.  When we made camp that night I felt it was my duty to explain to the boy how the real world works.

“That Togra is really something isn’t he?”

“Oh yes, he’s so brave!  Did you hear him telling about how he massacred that whole village of unseelie goblins with nothing more than a hookspear, a healing potion, and a bottle of whiskey?”

“That was a trap, and you fell for it like an imbecile.  Togra is a fool.  Don’t get me wrong, we need fools like that, but you are a gentleman Bixton and that sort of low brow roughhousing is beneath you.  Adventure?  Bah!  Excitement?  Fie!  Fighting for money and glory is for poor people, and you’re the upper crust in case you’ve forgotten.  Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be violent, because you absolutely should, but it has to be for the right reasons.  There is nothing like violence for articulating the intensity of your emotions.  It can communicate your anger, frustration, determination, or resolve.  It can be explosive and sudden or habitual and relentless, but however passionate an outburst of violence may be there still must be control – for twisting and using it to your advantage.  You don’t use violence to save people or get gold, you use violence to establish your own power and authority or to destroy someone else’s.  Violence can be a defense, provocation, or retaliation, but it must always be measured.  You can’t strike out wildly like a tavern brawler, you must be cool and deliberate in your application of violence.”

“The things you tell me are a lot different from what the knight I was attending and the Duke’s master at arms tell me about the world.”

“They have their point of view and I have mine.  I think you would do well to consider the source of this advice.”

“Well you’re a vagabond so far as I can tell and they’re rich and powerful so I should listen to them?”

“I like your instincts, but there’s one exception to the rule that whoever has the most money knows the most and that’s me.  Although to be fair I am also quite wealthy.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Go to bed kid.”

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .0885% 

Funds: 1817 platinum, 70,604 gold

XP: 328,851

Inventory:  Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Enchanted Tattoo (Storm) Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow, Deck of Curses (two cards used), Ring of Urban Grace, +1 Human Bane Dagger, Bewitching Gown, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Ela’s Walking Stick (Rod of Ruin/Agile Alpenstock) Bag of Concealment, Bag of Holding, Black Marketers’ Bag, Handy Haversack, white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Knave’s Robes +4, Nymph’s Favor

Pocketed Scarf, wrist sheath, assortment of Fake Signet Rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), 842 garnets, severed hag head, gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, receipt, tax collector’s badge, Gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, 5 gold trade bars, 3 diamond in amber coins, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, glass vials of something awful (8) 

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, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán

Mede 15 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

At the end of our travels today we came upon the village of Crosseneller, an isolated community that can be reached only by virtue of a single bridge.  Both scenic and idyllic Crosseneller is blessed with an abundance of fresh water and wildlife, making it prosperous off hunting and the working of hides.  There’s probably a name for that.  Hidening?  All this non-threatening niceness made me highly suspicious.  When something seems this safe at any moment someone is going to turn into a monster, or a ghost is going to push someone off a roof, or they entire village is going to be revealed as existing on some other dimension, or some other damn thing.  I said as much to Martialla.

“I think you’re being a little paranoid.”

“Of course I am!  When’s the last time we went anywhere without something insane happening?”

“We do seem to have more than our fair share of calamities.”

“No good will come of this, you mark my words.”

“Like in a diary or something?”

“Shut up.”

That night the villagers had a celebration in our honor – it was the kind of place where having any visitors is a reason to have a party.  I sat sourly watching the merriment and entertainment while everyone else joined in like morons.  Even Bixton shook off his young person melancholy and got into the spirit, dancing with some of the village maidens.  Boy were they barking up the wrong tree.  At first I refused to touch any of the great feast spread out before us, but eventually I caved – it did look good and no one was keeling over and clutching at their stomachs from deadly poison.  Yet.  The food was fairly pedestrian but the brandy and coffee was excellent. The headwoman of this village, called Meagan, came over to sit by me while I scowled at the dancing and merry-making.  She was a small woman with a mass of brown curls that looked they weighed half as much as she did.  I think she might have been a half-elf but I couldn’t see he ears with all that hair.

“You don’t look like a woman who’s having a good time.”

“I’m just waiting for the other boot to drop.”

“Been having a rough time of it lately?”

“Only since I was born.”

“No offense, but you’re wearing jewels worth ten villages of this size, you can’t complain that much can you?”

“I can and I will.  So what’s the story?  Was this place the site of a massacre back in the old days?  When the moon comes up are the dead going to rise and slaughter us all?”

“The moon’s already up.  They did have some trouble with bandits about fifteen years ago.”

“Ah-ha!  I knew it!  And they swore that they’d come back on this very night and cut everyone’s noses off and shove them up their various holes?”

“Not that I’m aware of.  No one’s seen them for more than ten years now.  That’s why I’m here actually, I came with some friends of mine to run off the bandits and I decided to stay.”

“So you and your friends killed the bandits and their unquiet spirits will be back for revenge from beyond the grave?  They’ll attack us where we can’t defend ourselves, in our dreams.”

“A couple of them did get killed but most of them just ran away.  Probably to just bandit somewhere else.  That’s a hard career to shake I imagine.  If they were going to get revenge I think they would have done it by now but if it makes you feel better don’t go to sleep tonight.”

“I never got to sleep!”

“O . . . kay.  Congratulations?  I have to say you’re a much stranger conversationalist that thought.”

“You didn’t have to say it.  You haven’t caught me at my best.  I’m starting to feel a little run ragged.  There’s no days off you know?”

“I used to know, my days are pretty serene though now.  Whatever you’re after maybe you should think about if it’s really worth it.  My friends and I used to gallivant around and get into all sorts of mischiefs, it was all terribly exciting at the time but when I think back on it I don’t miss it.  I wish I had learned earlier that it’s better to live a simple life and help people out, like I have here.”

“It’s worth it.  How did you deal with these bandits?  I should know better than anyone that looks can send you off the wrong trail but you don’t seem like a fighting type.”

“Some of my friends were warriors, my part was summoning beasts to do fighting for me.  And some other spells as well.”

“Magic eh?  Over the past few days in these woods I’ve run into a wise woman, a wizard, a witch, and now you.  Is this some kind of magic forest?”

“Yes, actually.  There are places saturated with magical energy, the result of which is that arcane magics more potent and easier to manipulate.”

“Why isn’t there some grand magic academy here then?”

“There was in the days of the Old Empire but the intensity of this magic energy ebbs over time, and this process is accelerated by human habitation and environmental damage, which I guess are kind of the same thing.  On top of which, the energy is effected by tragedies and other forms of human misery that come along with lots of people being around. If you believe the history texts the magic around here ran dry in times past which caused its abandonment.  It’s recovered enough to attract some folks attuned to such things but it will never be what it once was.”

“I can relate to that.”

“I wonder if some day there will be so many people and places that all the magic will be gone from the world.”

“We can only hope.”

“Why do you say that?”

“From what I’ve seen magic is mostly a tool of destruction and enslavement.  And don’t give me that old malarkey about magic just being a tool and its people that decide what to do with it – from what I’ve seen magic corrupts and dements those that wield it.  No offense.”

Meagan nodded towards Martialla where she was sitting with a couple handsome fellows laughing and sharing a drink “Your friend seems neither corrupt nor demented.”

“She’s one of the good ones.”

“Well if it does happen I don’t think it will happen for hundreds of years so I suppose there’s nothing to us to worry about, but I think it’s a shame that future generations might live without it – magic can do wonderful things.”

“If you had seen what I had seen just the other day I don’t think you’d be so sanguine.”

“I saw some pretty perverse things in the old days, but I still hold out hope.  Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

I thought she was going to join the party but instead she stood up and made like she was going to jump into the table, turning into an owl in mid-air and then flying off into the night.  I suppose that was supposed to impress me or help me see the wonder in magic.  It didn’t work. 

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .087% 

Funds: 1817 platinum, 70,604 gold

XP: 328,851

Inventory:  Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Enchanted Tattoo (Storm) Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow, Deck of Curses (two cards used), Ring of Urban Grace, +1 Human Bane Dagger, Bewitching Gown, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Ela’s Walking Stick (Rod of Ruin/Agile Alpenstock) Bag of Concealment, Bag of Holding, Black Marketers’ Bag, Handy Haversack, white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Knave’s Robes +4, Nymph’s Favor

Pocketed Scarf, wrist sheath, assortment of Fake Signet Rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), 842 garnets, severed hag head, gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, receipt, tax collector’s badge, Gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, 5 gold trade bars, 3 diamond in amber coins, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, glass vials of something awful (8) 

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, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán

Mede 14 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Scampering around in trees yesterday to avoid barbarian outlaws gave me an idea.  At first light I shimmied up the tallest tree in the area and from that vantage point was able to spot a small cluster of buildings to the southeast.  Bixton was able to keep us on course, more or less, to arrive there a few hours later.  It was a hunting encampment, not a hunting lodge for fancy rich folk, but a kind of temporary deal for people who actually hunt for a living.  You know, hunters.  A couple of wagons and some canvas tents and the like – and a bunch of dead animals.  You never saw so many dead animals.  Well maybe you have but I haven’t.  Seeing twenty dead wolves strung up a rack is a little depressing, seeing a live worg in a cage destined for the fighting pits is even more depressing.  I gave half a thought to setting it free but it didn’t seem like a wise idea. 

One of the hunters was more than happy to sign on to lead us greenhorn tenderfoot city slickers out of the area as he was in the middle of some kind of dispute with the other hunters over antlers rights.  He didn’t even ask for any money, I think he just wanted an excuse to leave.  He had the unfortunate name of Udi Ladycraig and he was much more of a spit and polish looking fellow than you would expect from and outdoorsman – he was wearing a blue and silver number with nary an animal hide garment to be seen.  He had the dull eye color and scarred hands of a survivor of the Grey Plague.  The seven of us clustered around him as the other hunters watched him pack up with crossed arms and tight lips.

“What is the closest settlement?”

“Beresford is the nearest place that’s anything more than a couple houses and a storage shed.”

“Beresfords!  Isn’t that south of the Baku Woods?  How did we get so far off course?”

“I couldn’t say ma’am.  Alright you lot, we’re going to have to step real quiet out there because there’s savages in the area.  We’re going to head quite a ways south to try and avoid them but even so what you need to do is . . .”

“You mean the outcast Kostelos?  I took care of them yesterday.”

“What?  What do you mean you took care of them.”

“You know, ‘took care of’.”

“I don’t know, what did you take care of?”

“I mean they’re dead, I fucking killed them, gees take a hint man.”  I looked to my companions “It was clear what I was implying right?”

You killed them?”

I placed my hand over my heart “I may not look like much but I’ve got it where it counts.”

“You’re serious aren’t you?  Did any of you see this?”

Murdane and the other scholars all started speaking over each other in a rush and Udi listened, agog, for a moment before waving for them to shut up.

“Alright then, I guess we can take the direct route.”  He gave me a strange sideways look. “If you’re so deadly what do you need me for?”

“Directions.  I get lost all the time.  Plus I assume you can dig up some roots or pick some berries for this lot – they’re always complaining about needing food.”

“What about you?  Don’t you need food?”

“No.”

“Who are you?!”

“No one of consequence.”

While we were traveling along an old lumber trail I had Murdane tell me all about Lord Wesel.  The story goes that he was something of a family embarrassment, although the reasons for that are unknown, which is why he was so far removed from the situation that by the time he turned up to claim his birthright it had already been given to the Juost family.  This was quite a blow because at the time Wesel was not doing well.  After disappearing for a few years he turned up in the North acting as an agent for merchants and nobles looking to do business with the Northmen.  He passed himself off as an expert in Northern culture which appears not to be true, but he did have some contacts with the Northmen.  He was able to parley this success into running a prison camp for the crown and turned this modest contract into a fortune.  No one is sure how, but there’s no way it was done legitimately. 

When the most recent war against the Northmen broke out he fled south and kept on fleeing until he landed in Beresford where he used his vast wealth to buy up everything he could to make money the old fashioned way – by already being rich.  Late in the afternoon we had stopped for a rest when a dark pebbly looking toad hopped up to me and sat staring at me for a good long while.  I activated my Beastspeech to see what its problem was.

“Do you need me you kiss you and turn you back into a prince?”

“Yuck, no, and I’m already a prince.  This is good, Chattox told me you’d be able to speak with me.”

“What’s a Chattox?  Some kind of threshing machine?”

“Chattox is the witch of the woods.  She divined your coming and sent me to task you with . . . a task.  Charge you with a task?  Task you with a quest.”

“What’s in for me?”

Have you ever seen a toad laugh?  I have now.  “She said you’d say that!  It’s uncanny.  She really is great at divining.  Chattox can create magic tattoos, which she says you want, you do this for her and you get a sweet tattoo.”

“What’s the job?”

The toad puked up a small crystal vial.  Do toads puke?  Maybe ejected is a better word.  “There’s an ent around here, take this potion and pour it over its roots.”

“What’s an ent?”

“It’s a tree, but you know one that’s alive.”

I gestured “Aren’t all these trees alive?”

“You know what I mean wiseass, it walks around and talks and drinks beer.  It’s like a treeman of sorts.”

“Sure, sure.  And this tree guy is violent and dangerous or why is she trying to get me to do this?”

“Basically.  Ents are normally only mean to people who abuse the natural world, but this one has a fey curse on him that’s making him act like a real jerk.”

“Can’t your witchress break the curse?”

The toad patted the vial with its little toad leg “She can, with this potion, you just need to deploy it.  Now here’s the good news.  Birchlock, that’s the ent in question, has a thing for human ladies.”

“What?”

“Don’t take that judgmental tone.  Are you not familiar with the tale of Jarsali and the Ent?  Jarsali Oaklimbs was an elf of the truest stock —even to the point of shunning others of her race, preferring instead the company of the woodlands well over that of her fellows. How her heart came to be full of suspicion and bitterness at her mortal comrades, no one knew; they only knew that Jarsali was a strange girl, even for an elf.  Nothing assuaged the sorrow in her soul save the nearness of the primordial trees. Her wanderings from camp took her deeper and deeper into the virgin forest . . .”

“No, shut up.  I don’t want to hear about some skinny elf humping a tree.”

The toad shook its head, which is impressive since they don’t really have necks. “You are so narrow-minded.  Love is love is love, it transcends all things – even species.  My girlfriend is a mushroom and there’s nothing wrong with that you bigot.  The physical aspect of love is not even . . .”

“Shut up, for real.   Just to be clear, you want me to seduce and poison a treeman?”

“Those are your words.  You’re the one making this out to be something ugly and crass.  I think you need to take a good long look at yourself and take a personal inventory of why you equate . . .”

“Give me the damn potion.  How do I find this horny conifer?”

“I’ll show you.”

Martialla walked up as I took the small vial.

“Were you talking to a frog?”

“Yeah.”

“And he gave you a little gift?”

“Yeah.”

“Is something freaky happening?”

“Yeah.  It’s about to anyway.  You stay here with this lot, I need to go seduce a pinecone.”

Have you ever seen a tree leer?  I have now.  These days my life is an endless cavalcade of new and disgusting experiences.  This must be like when an animal is trapped and taken out of its natural environment to live among humans – there’s plenty of surprises, none of them good.  I suppose if you want a silver lining I now have the knowledge that your standard temptation techniques work just fine on a barky lothario.  Point is that I got the job done and that night we were guests of Chattox the so called witch of the woods. 

Her witch-shack was as rustic and tumbledown as you’d expect but it was sitting in the middle of a pecan orchard which throws you for a loop a little bit.  Chattox herself was very much on brand – wizened, warty, mushroomy smelling, prone to cackling, the whole nine yards.  And nothing says ‘witch’ like a toad hopping around like it owns the place.  My traveling companions were enjoying some pecan pie while I disrobed for the tattooing.

“I was thinking about something like the white tree with seven stars and a crown floating about it.”

“It’s not necessary or wise for you to be naked.”

“Meh, its fine.  Now my other idea was . . .”

“That’s not how this works.  The magic will decide what form your marking takes.”

“What does that even mean?  Magic is a force, it’s not a thinking being, how can it decide anything?  That makes no sense.  Ow!  What are you doing back there?”

“I’m inserting ink into your skin with a sharpened needle.”

“Mother of pearl that hurts!  When the dwarves did this I didn’t feel a thing.”

“They probably used magic.”

“You’re a witch, why aren’t you using magic?!”

“Do you want a handkerchief to bite down on?”

“For the pain?”

“Sure.”

I ended up with a tattoo of a sycamore tree being shattered my lightening, its quality work but you know how I feel about tattoos.  As long as I can keep them covered up I suppose it’s not a big deal, but if it ever gets to the point where I need to get one below the elbow or above the breastbone I’m really going to be annoyed.  I hope once Duke Eaglevane and all his cronies are dead and buried in the cold, cold ground I can get rid of all these blemishes.  In the dark hours of the night I was outside on the witch’s porch drinking her witch-wine when she came to join me.

“Shouldn’t you be out stealing souls and whatnot?  This is the witching hour isn’t it?”

“Is that what witches do?  I thought we just spoiled milk and enchanted men into cheating on their wives.”

“You have to have a high regard for the guy that first came up with that.  He gets caught nailing some milkmaid and somehow he spins it into his female neighbor getting burned at the stake.  You have to admire that.”

“You don’t have to.”

“Your toad friend was bragging about what a great seer you are.  Which normally I wouldn’t put much stock in, but you did know I was going to be here.  So what do you see?  What’s my future?”

“I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise.”

“Figures.  Any hints?”

“You’re in for a bumpy ride.”

“Sounds about right.”

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .087% 

Funds: 1817 platinum, 70,604 gold

XP: 328,851

Inventory:  Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Enchanted Tattoo (Storm) Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow, Deck of Curses (two cards used), Ring of Urban Grace, +1 Human Bane Dagger, Bewitching Gown, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Ela’s Walking Stick (Rod of Ruin/Agile Alpenstock) Bag of Concealment, Bag of Holding, Black Marketers’ Bag, Handy Haversack, white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Knave’s Robes +4, Nymph’s Favor

Pocketed Scarf, wrist sheath, assortment of Fake Signet Rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), 842 garnets, severed hag head, gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, receipt, tax collector’s badge, Gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, 5 gold trade bars, 3 diamond in amber coins, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, glass vials of something awful (8) 

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, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán

Mede 13 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I thought that traveling with a teenager would be agonizing.  I thought that traveling with a heartsick teenager would be unbearable.  If you had asked me yesterday to lay wagers on me wanting to bash the little twerp’s skull in by now you would have made a nice profit (which I would have stolen back).  In defiance of these expectations Bixton Lodvocka isn’t a bad sort.  I suppose when they send you to be a squire the whole idea is that they beat the insolence and moodiness out of you.  I could tell that he wanted to fall into the old routine of squiring for us, but since we don’t have horses, our camp magically sets up and breaks down in ten seconds, and I don’t eat there wasn’t much for him to do.  About all the squiring he could manage is to insist on going first as we beat out way through the underbrush.  I hate traveling like this, why haven’t we cut down all these forests yet and replaced them with good wholesome cities with their streets full of garbage?  It’s criminal. 

“Is there magic that can create roads wherever you want to travel?”

“Probably, but why would you bother when you can fly or teleport?”

“You can’t do either of those things!”

“Neither can you so get off my back.”

“Why don’t you learn some more useful spells?”

“I don’t learn any spells, they just sort of show up.  One day you’re minding your own business and a new spell is there.  Kind of like a venereal disease, you didn’t ask for it but there it is – where did it come from?  Impossible to say.”

I was about to say something else when a shaggy looking fellow with wild eyes who appeared to be wearing blue harem pants stepped out from behind a tree about twenty yards ahead of us.  This was pretty noteworthy in and of itself, but they really caught the eye is when he raised a crossbow and prepared to fire.  I kicked the kid in the back of the legs to send him tumbling down which meant that I nearly got hit instead.  What kind of instinct was that?  There was something between me and the bolt and my reaction was to move that thing out of the way?  Something’s gone wrong in my brain.  Bixton crawled into a thornbush while I jumped behind a tree.  Martialla had disappeared, either magic style or maybe just mundane skulking.

“What the Hells are you shooting at us for fancy pants?”

The voice returning was a little nasally and toneless “Who goes there?!”

“Perippolytia, queen of the nymphs and ruler of this forest.”

“What?”

“It’s traditional for the gentleman to introduce himself before asking a lady for her name.  Who are you?  You don’t look like a bandit.”

“I’m not a bandit!”

“Prove it, introduce yourself.”

“How does that prove that I’m not a bandit?”

“Because of the formality, bandits are notoriously informal.”

“What are you even talking about?!”

“Martialla are you ready?”

I heard her voice coming from back behind the crossbowman in the blue puffy pants. “No, there three more dudes back here.”

I heard panic in Blue Pant’s voice “Who’s that?!”

“That’s my pixie minion, Endoria the spirit of the forest.  Do the other three look dangerous?”

“Not really, they look like elegant lads.”

I could hear Blue Pants crashing around “Where’s that voice coming from?!”

“Alright buddy, I’m going to come out from behind this tree okay?  Don’t shoot at me.  If you shoot at me I’m going to have to shoot back at you and I’m much better at it.  Plus my invisible monster will eat your dick.”

“Grrr!”

After a short non-tense stand-off we all came together to talk.  These four were scholars who had come out here to study some plant or other but their pack animals had been killed been what they called “wild women”.  Their bodyguards and guides had also been killed but they barely mentioned that.  In a way I can’t blame them, they were clearly famished and were in no way equipped to be surviving on their own – which I can relate to very well from my early days.  Based on their descriptions of the women that attacked them they must be Kostelos, and ergo they must be renegades because there’s no Kostolos tribes this far northeast.  Renegades usually come in two kinds – those who turn their back on their traditions and their way of life to enjoy the perks and racism of modern society, and those who are so violently insane that they get exiled from their tribes.  And trust me on this, it takes a LOT of insane violence to get exiled from your tribe.  The fellow in the odd blue pants said his name was Murdane and was desperate for us to lead them to safety.

“Sure thing, which way is it to safety?”

“Don’t you know?”

“Don’t you know?

“How can you not know the way out of here?!”

“Look asshole you don’t know either so why are you breaking my balls?”

He grabbed at my arm frantically “Please, please, help us!”

I jerked away from his grasp “Don’t paw at me!  We don’t have much in the way of supplies so there’s nothing we can do for you.”

Bixton looked on earnestly “It’s the duty of every knight to render aid and . . .”

I silenced him with a glance “I’m not a knight, and neither are you.  We have enough problems without these charity cases slowing us down.”

Martialla piped up “Are we really going to leave these sad sacks to die?”

“You too?!”

And with that three became seven.  At least this gave the kid someone to look after – and this quartet needed a lot of looking after.  We continued wandering southward, maybe.  We were definitely wandering anyway.  I asked Murdane and his friends if they had any details on how they got here but they were useless. 

“How exactly does one making a living as a scholar?  This plant you’re studying is it like a medicine or a drug or something and you’re going to sell it?”

Murdane was shocked to his very core “What an outrageous suggestion!  The pursuit of knowledge is the noblest endeavor that a man can embark on, and it stands apart from crass concerns of commerce!  Give me learning madam and you may keep your black bread.”

“That’s an interesting comment given your current predicament.  I don’t think you can pay for things with knowledge, how did you afford pack animals and bodyguards to be killed if you don’t make any money?”

“Lord Wesel funds our endeavors.”

“So you’re a beggar essentially?  You’re right that’s much more dignified.  More importantly you know where Lord Wesel is?”

“Of course I know where he is!  He’s our patron!”

“Are you always this loud?”

“Ahem, sorry, all those years of teaching at university – you really have to shout to keep the back rows from falling asleep.”

“Of course.”

Late in the afternoon we came upon a spider web that encased several trees in their entirety – and sitting on one of those trees was a spider the size of an ogre.  Here’s something that I never wanted to learn but now know, giant spiders, while terrifying in appearance actually aren’t that dangerous all things considered.  Unless you’re caught in their web they’re not very effective fighters – an actual ogre would have been much more threatening.  The point is that I shot the massive spider right through its massive spider head and it plummeted to the forest floor like a massive sack of wet leaves.  Martialla and the kid stabbed it a few times as well because it was still moving but I think those were just death twitches. 

Deciding to call it a stop for the day Bixton sprang into action squire-style and harvested the edible bits off the spider and started frying them up for dinner.  I’ve never seen a more conflicted set of faces than I did that afternoon.  Murdane and his fellow scholars were SO hungry but also they had NO intention of gnawing on roasted spider legs.  They were in quite a pickle.  In the end of course they tucked into those fried spider-bits like they were prime steak because as anyone who’s been to a brothel knows if you get hungry enough you end up doing all sorts of things you never thought that you would do. I was just about to make a comment about them being careful not to overeat when they suddenly threw down their hairy spider-pieces and ran for their lives.  I looked back and saw why, the “wild women” were coming.

First of all only one of them was a woman, but since Kostelos men favor long hair and are beardless I guess maybe I can forgive that mistake, fog of battle and all that.  But that one was quite the woman indeed.  I rarely have to look up to another woman but I would have been hard-pressed to come up on her shoulder.  Kostelos women are a rough bunch but she had the kind of muscularity that I’ve never seen on a woman – outside of a statue.  She was wearing no fewer than three blood-splattered soldier’s jackets along with some manner of animal pelt and nothing much else.   Her hair was a tangled mat of course, but her feet are what I found most disturbing – running around barefoot in a forest must really do a number.  It would be an exaggeration to say that they looked more like hooves than feet but you wouldn’t be entirely wrong either.  Where the dirt began and the blood ended I couldn’t tell you, but they were both making very good friends with calluses and scar tissue.  The thing she was holding looked like a stick with a bunch of antlers tied to it, which I’m not sure is a real weapon but she was sure grasping it like one.

Her three followers, she was clearly in charge, all had birthmarks on their faces – which is considered to be an ill omen among some Kostelos tribes.  Their tribes must be among those I have to assume because well, here they are.  Other than that they looked like pretty standard savages besides the fact that they all had similar scars around their mouths – it looked kind of like they had given themselves little goatees with a knife.  I addressed them in Kostelos.

“Welcome friends, would you like to share the comfort of our fire?”

The woman shook her antler-stick in a provocative manner “BLOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!!!!!!”

“I guess not.  Martialla get the kid out of here and keep him under wraps.”

“Are you insane?  You’re going to fight them?  Alone?”

“What else am I supposed to do?  Run?”

“Yes!”

“I don’t run Martialla.”

“Yes you do, you run away all the time!”

“Well not this time, go on, get out of here!  Shoo!”

Martialla grabbed Bixton and ran off, leaving me to open things up by using my Walking Stick to weaken a tree and push it over on the marauders.  Pretty good opening move huh?  Unfortunately the three men skittered out of the way, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway because the woman dropped her antler-stick and caught the tree.  Are you paying attention?  She caught the tree.  It was so impressive that I almost neglected to shoot her while she was roaring in anger triumph.  Almost.  Getting shot in the chest made the tree drop a little lower but as I shot her again she threw it aside like a lord tossing an empty wine bottle.   They came after me and I squirrel-scampered up a tree, shooting down at them until Tree-Tosser found a rock that should be tossed out of a catapult and threw it towards me with remarkable accuracy, although she still missed. I lion-leaped down and slashed one of the fellows across the face – adding some more scars and ruining whatever effect he was going for.

They charged at me again and I scrambled up another tree – and so it went.  Staying mobile and using the advantage of height I (and their lack of ranged weapons) picked off the three men, all the while the woman was roaring insults at me in Kostelos about being a coward and a dastard for not fighting her face to face. I suppose that’s the drawback to being a frenzied berserker, even when you’re not able to effectively fight back you still run around like a maniac giving it a go.  She tried to climb up after me a few times, and she was a ridiculously fast climber, but still it doesn’t matter when I can just jump to another tree.  In the end after I shot her more than a dozen times she did eventually try to run away , but I shot her in the back several more times and she tumbled to the dirt. Although when I went up to check out her corpse it turned out she was actually still alive.

“You must have lived an interesting life.”

It was a real struggle but she managed to spit out a curse in her native tongue.

“See you around.”   

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .084% 

Funds: 1817 platinum, 70,604 gold

XP: 328,851

Inventory:  Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow, Deck of Curses (two cards used), Ring of Urban Grace, +1 Human Bane Dagger, Bewitching Gown, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Ela’s Walking Stick (Rod of Ruin/Agile Alpenstock) Bag of Concealment, Bag of Holding, Black Marketers’ Bag, Handy Haversack, white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Knave’s Robes +4, Nymph’s Favor

Pocketed Scarf, wrist sheath, assortment of Fake Signet Rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), 842 garnets, severed hag head, gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, receipt, tax collector’s badge, Gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, 5 gold trade bars, 3 diamond in amber coins, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, glass vials of something awful (8)  

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, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán

Mede 12 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Something has been nagging at me about last night’s festivities.  I haven’t seen him in a few years but I could swear that among the revelers was the son of Duke Lodvocka.  The son of the Duke being here amongst these river mongrels makes about as much sense as a flower garden being on the moon, but as you know I have a memory for faces and the fellow hanging all over the captain of one of the barges was the spitting image of Bixton Lodvocka.  I woke up Martialla early and quietly. 

“Do me a favor will you old chum, see that kid over there?  Do that thing where you mess with someone’s head and make them think their your friend.”

“Why might I be doing that?”

“I want to find something out and I’m too lazy to trick him into revealing it with my magnetic personality.”

Martialla worked her magic and after a moment the kid looked over at her with that expression people get on their faces when they’re trying to remember who someone is.  Martialla smiled and waved him over.  The moonshine boys were eager to get underway so I told them to continue on without us, which seemed to puzzle them slightly but they took it in stride and continued on their way down river.  The kid came over and we started chatting, he was clearly lying about everything but the day I can’t cozen a teenager that thinks they’re clever is the day I start getting information but cutting off toes with a hot pruning shear.  He revealed eventually that he was indeed Bixton Lodvocka traveling incognito.  He had been sent to be a squire under some lord in Cathars but had run away and fallen in with this river captain – you know the way I mean.  I ensured him that his secret was safe with us and he returned to fawning over his lover.

“Okay, what do we do here, we need to nab this kid and take him with us back to the Baroness.”

“Can’t you just convince him to come?”

“Are you kidding me?  He’s a teenager in love.  You’d have more luck convincing a rock to turn into a strawberry tart.  Which now that I say it is probably something that you can do with magic.  Why don’t you make me more tarts?  Okay here’s the plan, I’ll lure the kid away and then you take his place with your illusions.  Once the barge is underway and downstream a ways then you fly back to shore and we’ll keep making our way south.”

“Have you ever seen me fly?  What makes you think that I can fly?”

“Gods damn it, is there anything your magic can do?”

“Hey, I just ensorcelled the kid, what do you want from me?”

“I want you to be able to fly!”

“Well you better come up with something fast because it looks like they’re about to get underway.”

I hustled over to the captain in question and quickly flashed my badge at him and asked him to join me away from the others for a private chat.

“I’m just going to cut the quick here.  I’m an agent of the Waycombe and Axmar Detective Agency, I’m sure you’re heard of us.  I’ve been retained by Duke Lodvocka’s seneschal to find the Duke’s son, and now I have.  I’m sure you had a whole plan set up here to hold the kid for ransom but I found you and now I know who you are and the scam is up.  I’ve got a couple other agents here with me also in disguise and maybe we could take the kid away from you and maybe we couldn’t, but I don’t want to risk that.  So I’m going to offer you a chance to get away from this with something instead of walking away with no money and a death sentence.  I give you two hundred gold and you leave the kid and walk away with your freedom and your life – slightly better off than when you started this plot.  Or you can try your luck in extorting a ransom and getting away with it.”

He seemed to be balking at the idea so I continued.

“You have no chance here captain.  Do you think my being here is a coincidence?  Do you think that tree just happen to fall in the river yesterday?  I’ve been on your trail for a while now and I have your number.  If you want me to send you up a flume I can do that, but I’d much rather just settle this now and be done with it.  Do you want two hundred gold or do you want trouble to be raining down on you the rest of your life – which is likely to be very short.”

He didn’t like it be he saw that I was right.  That didn’t stop him from trying to negotiate though and I let him talk me up to two twenty five just to make him feel better.  The next step was for him to dump the kid.  I’ve occasionally been involved with letting someone down not easy for one reason or another, but this was brutal – the captain told Bixton in no uncertain terms that he never loved him and the whole thing was a lark.  Tears streaming down his face, Bixton tried to get on board the boat anyway and the captain had some of his men hurl the kid to the shore like a sack of grain.  Given how emotional teenagers are normally I’m surprised he didn’t collapse into some kind of dimensional rift of super-angst right on the spot.  I helped him up out of the mud and gave him a comforting pat on the shoulder.

“Don’t worry kid, you were too good for him anyway.  Better to have loved and lost, etcetera.”

Sniffling he looked up at me “Who are you?”

“You can’t just run away from your obligations son.  A squire who abandons his master normally would get into a lot of trouble but we’re going to keep this quiet.  We’re going to get you back to Cathars and pretend like this never happened and your father never needs to know anything about it.”

“You don’t look like a sheriff.”

“That’s kind of the point yeah?  Some big dude strapped with a bastard sword on a war-horse comes pounding into town and all the rats scurry into their holes.  Someone who looks like me has a much better chance of catching the bad people with their pants down.  So to speak.  Or literally.  Regardless boy it’s time to go home.  You had your little adventure but now it’s back to reality.”

In the meantime the other two barges had left as well, leaving us by the side of the river.  I didn’t want wait for another boat to come by so I decided that we should head overland the rest of the way.  Having this kid with me could turn out very well but it could also blow up in my face, I hope to avoid any interactions that I can.  The chances of any else recognizing him are slim, people never look for things out of context usually, but you know my luck.   We start making our way around the woods looking around for a trail or any sign of human passage and come up empty.

“Where the Hells are we anyway?

“By the river.”

“Gees, thanks.”

“You’re the one who told our ride to leave without us, don’t get cross with me.”

“Okay let’s just head south then.”

“Sounds good.”

“Which way is south?”

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .0825% 

Funds: 1817 platinum, 70,604 gold

XP: 316,251

Inventory:  Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow, Deck of Curses (two cards used), Ring of Urban Grace, +1 Human Bane Dagger, Bewitching Gown, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Ela’s Walking Stick (Rod of Ruin/Agile Alpenstock) Bag of Concealment, Bag of Holding, Black Marketers’ Bag, Handy Haversack, white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Knave’s Robes +4, Nymph’s Favor

Pocketed Scarf, wrist sheath, assortment of Fake Signet Rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), 842 garnets, severed hag head, gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, receipt, tax collector’s badge, Gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, 5 gold trade bars, 3 diamond in amber coins, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, glass vials of something awful (8) 

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, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán

Mede 11 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

The magic ring that I picked up is definitely one of the better acquisitions I’ve made.  Not having to worry about food and water or sleep has made everything significantly more bearable.  But it comes with a strange side effect.  As you all know drinking to excess isn’t something I normally indulge in but every now and then it’s obligatory.  Where things get strange though is when you don’t need to sleep you experience the phenomena of being drunk turning into a hangover, which is not something we were meant to feel I don’t think.  Normally you get drunk, pass out, and when you wake up you have a splitting headache and wish you were dead – you don’t feel the transition.  But last night I felt it.  It’s really quite something.  I wouldn’t recommend it personally.  Although I must have fallen asleep at some point because I had a nightmare about the brothers being wereotters and gnawing off my arms and legs in the night.  Otters look cute but they’re predators you know.  There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere.

All of the brothers had a variety of tattoos of various levels of quality, even the runty one, but today I noticed the middle brother – you know the one Martialla hooked up with – who they call Silver, touch one of his tattoos and summon up some magic to move the raft back towards the middle of the river when it looked like we were going to get hung up some debris near the bank. 

“That’s a neat little trick.”

“It comes in handy from time to time.”

“If you didn’t mind me asking where did you happen to pick up enchanted body art?”

“There’s a gal in Eronigh, she’s like a mystic or fortune teller, something like that.  Don’t know exactly where she’s hails, she doesn’t look she’s from the Kingdom to me.  She’s a bit out there, you know in the head, but she does good work.”

“I’ve been thinking about picking up something like that.”

“You don’t seem like the type.”

“I’m not but I seem to keep running afoul of people that want to snatch me off the street and take all my stuff – it’s nice to have a hidden surprise for them.  What kind of prices does this gal look for?  Is she reasonable or does she really try to give you the old screw job?”

“I don’t think she charges, she didn’t charge me anyway, and I’ve heard that’s not really her game.”

“She’s giving away free magic tattoos?”

“Not exactly, she gave me this because we helped her out once – she says that she only gives them to people that are part of some cosmic plan that she can see pieces of.  I’ve definitely seen her turn down money and refuse to ink someone who didn’t fit in with whatever strings of fate or destiny she thinks she can see.”

“Wonderful.  What’s her name?”

“How did you know that?”

“How did I know what?”

“Her name.”

“I asked you her name.”

“What?”

“Huh?”

After several moments of that horrible comedy routing I figured it out.  Turns out that the name of the broad IS Wonderful.  Or at least that’s what people call her.  I’ve heard some stupid nicknames in my life but this one is beyond the pale.  Pine was telling us an amusing anecdote/tall tale about the terrible curse that befalls anyone who eats the salmon out of a certain stream when our relaxing float down the river was interrupted.  Ahead of us a downed cottonwood tree had resulted in a smaller boat capsizing, which then either by negligence or jerkassery another boat had slammed into causing more of a snarl – and then a third boat got caught in the mix.  There were a variety of people on the boats and on the shore and even some in the water all shouting over one another and making various anatomically impossible threats. 

The brothers guided their keelboat over to the shore and through a combination of my legendary tactful diplomacy, Martialla’s mind-influencing magic, and Silver’s auctioneer’s like patter we were able to calm everyone down and get them working together to untangle all the boats and haul the dead tree out of the river.  But even with all the river trash and watery ruffians working together getting the path clear took several hours, by which point it was getting dark anyway and everyone took to the shore for the night.  Everyone was still surly and holding on to hurt feelings until the brothers rolled out a couple of their barrels of moonshine – that loosened things up considerably.  The night took a turn for the festive.  I favored everyone with a few songs, Martialla entertained with some illusions, a couple fellows had a friendly boxing match, there was the telling of tales, friendly insults and outrageous claims about prowesses, sexual and otherwise.   All in all it was a good old time, if you’re in to that sort of low down countrified entertainment. Late in the evening Martialla and I sat some distance removed watching a couple fellow dancing around the fire making fools of themselves and loving every moment of it.

“I’d make fun but I’m not the best dancer myself.”

“Isn’t that required of proper young ladies at court?”

“Of course, but that wasn’t what I was.”

“It’s nice to be reminded that there is good in the world.”

“Yes, which is why we won’t talk about the fact that if we hadn’t come along to smooth things over these people who are making merry with each other would have been stabbing each other to death over a few boats getting tangled up.”

“Yes, we won’t mention that at all.  Because people can be decent if you give them half a chance and it’s good to remember that.” 

“Three quarters chance maybe.”

“Three quarters maybe.”

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .081% 

Funds: 1817 platinum, 70,829 gold

XP: 316,251

Inventory:  Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow, Deck of Curses (two cards used), Ring of Urban Grace, +1 Human Bane Dagger, Bewitching Gown, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Ela’s Walking Stick (Rod of Ruin/Agile Alpenstock) Bag of Concealment, Bag of Holding, Black Marketers’ Bag, Handy Haversack, white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Knave’s Robes +4, Nymph’s Favor

Pocketed Scarf, wrist sheath, assortment of Fake Signet Rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), 842 garnets, severed hag head, gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, receipt, tax collector’s badge, Gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, 5 gold trade bars, 3 diamond in amber coins, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, glass vials of something awful (8) 

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, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán

Mede 10 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 2

Sophoniba arrived at the wizard’s house of horrors a few hours later, which is impossibly fast.  She was nonplussed by the terrors at hand – I suppose any woman that takes it upon herself to trap and decapitate a cannibal in the woods has to have some hard bark on her.  She took the lone survivor into her care and we helped her take the woman outside where she used a scroll to summon a wagon and a team of horses to take her away.  Have you ever seen a bird look sad and anxious?  I have now.  Our feathered friend perched on the side of the wagon looking defeated. I have no idea if birds like the feel of the human hand, especially talking birds, but I touched it gently in a way I thought would be reassuring.

“You did your mistress proud, she’s going to be fine.”

It looked up at me with its tiny eyes filled with anguish “I’m too small to protect her.”

“You protected her the best way you could, you found us.  No one is so small that they can’t make a difference so long as you don’t give up.”

“Why do things like this have to happen?”

I’m not ashamed to say I wiped away a tear “I don’t know, I really don’t.”

Before they left we asked Sophoniba what we should do with the glass vials but she didn’t have any idea, other than to suggest that destroying them was probably a bad idea.  Once they were on their way back to Sophoniba’s cabin Martialla and set the wizard’s lair ablaze.  The bird flitted back to me and gave me a ribbon as a token of the lady’s favor, I’m not much of one for ribbons but it’s nice enough.  I wonder if that means I’m a knight now.  Martialla and I stayed and watched until we were sure the thing was going to burn to the ground.  Then we kept heading southeast.  That’s really the most outlandish part of these situations.  Something insane and awful and violent happens and then when it’s over you just keep on going.  Nothing has been solved, nothing has been changed, you just keep going.  As dreadful and terrible as it was once it’s over it might as well just be an entry in a journal.  Life goes on.

We reached the river and were wondering how long we would have to wait for a boat to come by when we saw that there was a boat on the shoreline – a large flat bottom raft type deal that was being loaded with barrels.  The men loading it looked like three bothers from a fairy tale of some kind, one was huge and muscular carrying two barrels at a time over the shoulders, one was shrimpy and weedy struggling to roll a barrel on his own, and one was in between and seemed to be overseeing the operation.  I could tell just by looking at them what sorts they were – these are the kind of country boys who head to the city and raise some hell every now and then but would never stay there.  The kind that folk like to see when they arrive but after a few months are wondering when they’re going to leave and stop raising up a ruckus. 

Some country folk get all flustered and apprehensive when dealing with big city types and treat them like they’re the Queen Herself, some of them are kind of judgy and bristly, thinking that the only honest and good people are out in the fields – but then there’s the third type, which these boys were, who just don’t care.  People are people and they afford everyone the respect they deserve and the niceties they give to everyone.  We went down and chatted with them, finding out that they’re loading moonshine to take down to Eronigh and sell, then they pick up work digging peat or working a cut for a few months before wandering their way back up north and doing whatever work they can find along the way.  They were only too happy to offer us a ride. 

I’m definitely not one to partake in shine often but I needed a drink for sure – and their stuff isn’t half bad considering that at best moonshine tastes like swallowing a bag of dirty nails.  Once were out in the river Martialla and I helped ourselves but the boys mostly obtained – since they were trying to keep the boat from cashing and so forth.  We were both pretty far gone by the time they pushed the raft over to shore to make camp for the night.  Not long afterwards Martialla and the not too big not too small brother retired over a hill and behind some bushes to keep the good times rolling.  The bantam brother had disappeared somewhere leaving me around the fire with the big fella. 

“I’m sorry, what did you say your name was again?”

“Folks call me Pine.”

“Cuz you’re tall as a tree I suppose.  Tell me something will you?  Big man like you, does that make people avoid getting into fights with you or does it make more people try to start shit with you because they want to take down the big man?”

“Both probably.”

I nodded, and the world kept nodding on its own for a while even after I stopped “Probably.  I would normally never ask something like this, but I admit this to you – I’ve been drinking a little – in all these fights have you ever killed anyone?”

“A couple times.”

“How did it make you feel?”

He sighed “It’s a shame that things like that happen but if you start fighting with people that’s going to happen sometimes.  I don’t want it and I don’t like it but it is what it is.  It’s a tough world sometimes and if I don’t protect myself and my brothers and whoever else needs it what good does that do?  If you do evil you get what you got coming.”

I gestured vaguely “You see, see, there?  That’s what I’m talking, talking about.  You’re a big rough dude and you could be a monster and fuck up all kinds of shit and do horrible things, but you don’t – you’re just a big damn stuffed bear.  You’re not going to be killing people for money, or just for fun, or doing vile shit to women.  Why are you like this and other men like you are something else?  There has to be a reason.”

He shrugged “I guess we were just raised right.  Our papa was not a bad man but when he was our age he was mixed up in a life of bloody business and that kind of thing, he did some dark deeds, but he always told us that our momma cured him of all that.  I think if that if you have love in your life you’re probably going to turn out okay.  Pa was tough on us, but he loved us, maybe that’s all that matters.”

“Maybe.  Seems like plenty of people with love in their lives turn out to be shitheels anyway.”

“You’re kind of a dark lady aren’t you?”

“Buddy you have no idea.”

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .0795% 

Funds: 1817 platinum, 70,829 gold

XP: 316,251

Inventory:  Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow, Deck of Curses (two cards used), Ring of Urban Grace, +1 Human Bane Dagger, Bewitching Gown, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Ela’s Walking Stick (Rod of Ruin/Agile Alpenstock) Bag of Concealment, Bag of Holding, Black Marketers’ Bag, Handy Haversack, white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Knave’s Robes +4, Nymph’s Favor

Pocketed Scarf, wrist sheath, assortment of Fake Signet Rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), 842 garnets, severed hag head, gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, receipt, tax collector’s badge, Gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, 5 gold trade bars, 3 diamond in amber coins, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, glass vials of something awful (8)  

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, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán