The majority of the townfolk were perplexed and frightened by the tale of the portal in the hills, but I could see the look in the eye of a few who knew the potential. Assuming green dress and her people could be dealt with they were sitting on a goldmine, only better because mines play out eventually whereas a magical portal to a city hundreds of miles away is limitless. I mean I assume so anyway, what do I know about magic? There appeared to be no one in charge of Heller’s Hills but some of the “luminaries” were huddled together discussing this bizarre turn of events as I headed back into the hills with a couple healers (not real healers but they had bandages and herbs and stuff) and a half dozen others to start clearing the place out.
Things got off to a rocky start as we were blocked at the foot of the trail by a band of hillfolk who accused us (me mostly) of robbing their ancient tomb. I was able to keep things from getting out of hand and explained to the good hill people that their tombs had been defiled by vulture and spider-monster women already so it wasn’t a big deal for us to go in there. Two of them came along to verify what I had said, stone-faced warrior types who had little to say.
On the way up I saw a blue-pinioned falcon sitting in the tree I had put there yesterday. People could really take a few queues from animals – they don’t worry about a tree appearing out of nowhere, they just enjoy having a tree. The lesson being we all need to accept things as they come a little more. The two hill warriors knew about the ruined temple of course, but the townsfolk were astonished. They had never seen it, there weren’t even any stories in the village about it being here. It’s somewhat dismaying how little attention people pay to their surroundings. Once we reached the shaft the hillfolk insisted we stay outside while they went in. They came back very dispirited, as I suppose you might upon finding out that your hero chieftain of old was devoured by a harpy and his resting site thoroughly befouled.
Martialla and I helped them search thoroughly for any remains of their ancestors but between the harpy and the worms there wasn’t a morsel left. They didn’t know anything about the portal or even that it was there, they just knew in ages past that their shamans had known this to be a special place. They declared the whole thing to be attainted and accursed and got the hell out of there. Everyone else came in to start nursing the captives back to health and cleaning the place up while Martialla and I went back to town and gathered with the council of farmers and herders.
“This is the bottom line folks, I’m sure you want to talk about this for weeks before making a decision but we need to act now. I don’t know what the woman in the green dress and her friends are doing but it’s nothing good, and right now they’re figuring out how to get back in control of this thing. So we need to make a move.”
An older fellow with white stubble missing an eye (no patch) spoke up “We could never open the gate again.”
“That only buys you a few weeks or months at best. Ironhold is a long way away but it’s not on another planet. If you put your head in the sands on this whatever organization the women in the green dress is mixed up with – which involves kidnapping and spider-monsters remember – are going to show up here the old fashioned way.”
A lady who was either a baker or a powder addict suggested “We should talk to the bailiff again, he has to listen now.”
“You could do that, but then you’re giving up control – as soon as people hear about this portal they’re going to be horning in on the action. You want to keep the authorities out of this as long as possible. You want to have established as much control as you can before the high and mighty get involved. We need some muscle to do that and since Renwick is legless there’s really only one option. The kindly hillfolk.”
A corn-fed stocky type expressed the general outrage of those in attendance “What?! They drink the blood of their dead!”
I did my best to shepherd these yokels into the realization that they had no other options, but it still took several hours before the hillfolk plan was approved. And then we had to go out into the hills and find the hill people and go through the whole thing again with them. At first they took umbrage to the assumption that they would be mercenaries for the townfolk but I was able to convince them that they would be fighting back against those who had defiled the resting place of their honored dead.
Still by the time it was worked out to have a meeting between the two sides it was after sundown. The good news is that when we got to town under the flickering light of torches was none other than the seven string mandolineer Tanara Aluation. If you’re wondering what he looked like think of a stereotypical foppish dandy and then don’t revise your first draft at all. Wavy girlish chestnut hair? Check. Pencil mustache? Check. Massive floppy hat with a feather in it? Check. Overly busy crimson outfit complete with cape? Check.
The townfolk were quite enamored with his performance which was not very good. He had a decent enough singing voice, although his choice of songs was weak if you ask me, but his mandolin playing was amateurish at best. I was very tempted to interrupt and give these people a real singer to get excited about but since I need this guy’s help it’s probably not a good idea to piss him off. Once his pedestrian performance was complete he graced the assembly with a rambling speech that I think was about the importance of music in your life but was hard to follow and not well said. After that he was flirting with some enamored youngish girls when Martialla and I breezed in and dislodged them. He looked me up and down in a skin-crawling way.
“Well, well, well what have we here? Did you enjoy the show ladies?”
“Oh most certainly, it wasn’t unimaginative and poorly performed at all.”
His grin was sickening “I’m glad you liked it.”
“Yes, it was really quite something. But what we’d really like to know about is raising the dead.”
His face fell and turned three shades whiter “Why would you think I knew anything about that?”
“A ghost told us.”
“A ghost?” He took a step backwards “Are you one of them?”
I took two steps forward, getting uncomfortable close “One of who?”
His voice sunk to a whisper “Them . . . . . are you a succubus?”
I looked over at Martialla “Am I?” she shook her head “No, I’m not a succubus. I just talk to ghosts, I’m a medium, it’s no big deal. There’s a bunch of them around you right now and they don’t look happy. It’s probably because of all those graves you robbed. Do you think that’s possible?”
He collapsed to his knees and starting crying “I know, I can hear them!”
“Gees, I was kidding, have some dignity.”
Martialla and I got him up and got him into a nearby cottage where a few belts of moonshine got him fixed up enough to talk. He confirmed taking the mandolin from someone he was supposed to bury and that it had been inhabited by some kind of spirit but he claimed that just had just gotten rid of it – by sending it into the body of a dancing girl instead. And act for which his only regret was that he can’t play the mandolin very well anymore since the spirit was doing all the work.
“Well I suppose you did what you had to, it’s not like you should just throw away a perfectly good mandolin when you can just ruin a woman’s life instead.”
“I’m glad you see it that way, women are the fairer sex but they can be very touchy about these kind of things, a man’s livelihood is of the utmost importance.”
I took his arm in mine “Don’t worry, I’m a traditional gal, I know my place in society. How about we get some wine, you can give me all the details of this dancing girl, and then just see where the night takes us?”
“I like the sound of that very much.”
I glanced at Martialla “Don’t wait up.”
Hair regrowth progress : .045%
Funds: 747 platinum, 70,296 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) Black Marketers’ Bag, 852 Garnets, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow, Deck of Curses (two cards used), Blue Dragoncloth Dress, severed hag head, Ring of Urban Grace, gold necklace with jade pendant, Feather Token (tree) , white squirrel fur slippers, +1 Human Bane Dagger, ivory combs, Bewitching Gown, masterwork lute, Grappling Scarf, Wyvern Skin Robe (Robe of Arcane Heritage), receipt, Bag of Holding, tax collector’s badge, seven string mandolin, Calastar (Superior Riding horse, Horseshoes of Speed, Endless Feedbag)
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