Martialla and I spent the night in one of the huts of the villagers up in the hills cleaning out the tomb/portal– I’m sure they would have wanted it that way had they known. Countryfolk are practical, no reason to let a hut go to waste. There was some chatter in the morning about how Tanara had apparently moved on already instead of staying for a while as he usually did, but they was mostly overshadowed by the pending convention with the hillfolk and the news about the portal in the hills. As the delegation was gathering to traipse out to speak to the savage hill people I was not looking forward to the day.
“How about I head north and start tracking down this possessed dancer while you stay here and mediate, forging an alliance between these two groups of rabble?”
“Complex social dialogues aren’t my strong suit.”
“What are you good for then?”
“I’m pretty stealthful and athletic, I can open locks and disarm traps – which I’m pretty good at spotting as well. I can do magic and I know which end of a sword to hold. I’m a motivated self-starter and I learn quickly, I’m punctual and can handle a high-stress work environment, I’m passionate about the challenges you’re solving, I’m an organized problem solving hard worker and my weaknesses are that I care too much and I work too hard.”
“You forgot the bit about being good at multi-tasking.”
“How about you stay here and get yelled at and I’ll head up to Wrybry and find Belle. What is she possessed by anyway? The ghost of the dead guy or was the mandolin cursed or is there a demon in the mix or what? Also why do you think she can even help?”
“The ghost said so, maybe.”
“Well, at least you have a good reason.”
In the end of course both of us were at the meeting place – a rock called the Maid’s Outpost because it looked like a table or something. Why wouldn’t you call it The Table? I have no idea. The contingent from Heller’s Hills was the usual assortment of suspicious country types, but there was one fellow who seemed to be a bit sharper. He was wearing expensive clothes (although they were covered in cat hair) and a fancy hat that cried out for attention. More than the others he seemed to get that things had changed and the best thing to do was to direct the course of that change rather than fight against it. On the hillfolk side it was usual assortment of “barbarian” types including two shamans who droned on endlessly about the “desecration” of the tomb, but there was a woman on their side who got with the program. She was covered in tattoos of course, being the savage that she is, but she too figured out this was an avalanche coming down the hills and there was no use standing in the way.
Even with a reasonable person on each side it took hours of hand holding from Martialla and me to get them to forge an alliance of sorts. The hillfolk would be sending four of their not-best-but-pretty good fighters with us through the portal to see what was what. Rum-Monkey the Awful and Bloodcat the Angry and other names like that, I wonder at what point in a society’s evolution they realize that they’ve had fifteen guys called the Terrible and just start using proper surnames. Probably around the same time they decide to start pissing in pots I suppose. Progress?
Martialla and our four barbarous friends made the trek up the hill where at least the villagers had managed to move the four Ironholders out of the tomb and into the ruined temple, which has to be a better place to convalesce than a spiderhole full of magical radiation. None of them were well enough to travel but they could talk and revealed themselves as one Lady Enoxia Nightdove, her seneschal, the captain of her personal guard, and a knight of her acquaintance. So whatever the woman in the green dress is up to it clearly is directed at this Nightdove house, which I can almost forgive just based on the name alone. Other than that they had nothing much to say other than to communicate a bunch of useless information about Ironhold.
We continued our way up the trail to the tomb where it didn’t look like much progress had been made clearing out the harpy-dung and spider-webs. I can’t really blame them for not being overly enthusiastic but that didn’t stop me from giving them a tongue-lashing regardless. When you get the short end of the stick you got to just take it and wave it as hard as you can. Or whatever it is you do with short sticks. After admonishing the clean-up crew we proceeded on to the portal room. Martialla suggested that we have someone who can sing the song on this side to close it up behind us but there’s no way I’m going to allow that. I’m not getting trapped over there. And if I’m dead then who cares what happens over here? That’s logic that can’t be disputed.
I was wondering what it would feel like to pass through the portal, I figured most likely it would either be some horrible gut-wrenching experience or something with lights and weird colors like being on hallucinogens. Turns out it was neither, it felt like nothing. One moment we were in a weird magic tomb and the next we were in a very mundane storage basement. It was a bit of a letdown. As Martialla had described outside there was a short hallway and a staircase, what she didn’t mention (or notice) was a small bedroom on the other side. Not a bedroom, bedroom, it had more of a place to sleep when you need to lay low kind of vibe. Heading upstairs the building was decent sized and was split – one half was set up for food preparation but it clearly wasn’t a restaurant. Catering I guess? The other half looked to be set up for bookbinding of all things. Most curious.
There was no one around which was surprising, I was expecting the people on this side to be ready to murder anyone who came through. That’s what I’d do if I lost control of the other end of my magic portal. Martialla and I told the savages to stay and guard the place while we went out into the city. It was marvelous to be back in a real honest to Gods city again. Ironhold isn’t the jewel of the Kingdom by any means, but it’s a city. The hustle, the bustle, the indifference, the poor air quality, the crushing income disparity, the liveliness, the cursing and shouting, all of it – I felt really animated for the first time in a long time. I took a deep breath of the disgusting non-clean air.
“Aaah, this brings me back.”
“So what? We find out who owns the building?”
“Sure, sure, but first we enjoy what a proper city has to offer.”
What it had to offer in this case was Elysium Paradisio Spa and Wellness. The cost was obscene and it was worth every copper. Magically treated saltwater hot tubs, enchanted steam rooms with alchemically grown gum tree leafs, thermal mud treatment with soil from the elemental plane of earth, kraken skin body wraps, full immersion illusionary mindscapes, I could go on and on. It was delectable and I felt eight months younger and a thousand times less beaten/stabbed/clawed/burned with magic when I walked out of there. Martialla was somewhat less impressed.
“I didn’t know I had so many places mud could get in.”
“I’m sure you did you just never really thought about it.”
“So we head to the records office now?”
“How about we just ask the neighbors first?”
Next to the peculiar food and book making emporium was a shop that sold dinnerware and table accessories. That’s all they sold. This was not some bullshit general store with a few plates along with sacks of grain, lantern oil, women’s corsets, and post-hole diggers for sale – this was a store that exclusively sold dinnerware. I love being back in a city! The proprietor told us that all the buildings along this street were under the management of a fellow called Rebus, who was a retainer of the wealthy Cravington-Evensworth family.
“Surely this can’t just be some rivalry between noble houses can it?”
“You tell me, you’re the expert. Should we pop back across and ask Lady Duskhawk?”
“Nightdove, and yes, but first we need goons – and this is the kind of place where you find quality goons.”
You’re probably thinking that we went to a tavern and found some ruffians lying about waiting to be hired on. Well you can go straight to the Thirteen Hells, each one of them, in order – you can skip number four though because what is that one even about? We went to the very nice but understated offices of a “crisis consultant” who put us in touch with a fellow by the name of Shin who was the purser for a mercenary conglomerate. An hour later we were having tea in a nice café with Shins and two agents representing one Blevin Stene, a mercenary captain. We chatted, we laughed, we discussed the issues of the day, and an hour after we left we returned to the store with the magic portal with ten men at arms, their sergeant and their support staff.
I halfway (three quarters maybe) expected that we’d find the hillfolk warriors slaughtered and hostile forces occupying the store but nothing had transpired. The mercs didn’t ask why they were guarding a kitchen/bookbindery because they didn’t care, they were hired to do a job and they were doing it – questions are irrelevant. That felt almost as good as the spa did. No, wait, it was great but still not NEARLY as good. I left Martialla in charge and crossed back through the portal, heading back to the ruined temple to discuss with Lady Nightdove. Her family had some run-ins with the Cravington-Evensworth family over the years but she was shocked that they might be involved with her being tossed through a portal and fed to a spiderthing.
Heading back down the hills and into Heller’s Hills I gathered the council of farmers and ranchers together for a little heart to heart.
“It’s time to start making some decisions folks. The first thing I would suggest is you abandon this idea of everyone just doing whatever and it all works out and get yourself a leader – elect a mayor or do something to put someone in charge. You need one voice here. But regardless you need to start moving on this because I do not want to hang around here much longer and shepherd you through this. You have a great opportunity here and you also have great chance to being ruined so you need to take the bull by the scrotum.
This Lady Nightdove person seems decent enough so I would try and get something set up with her – I’ve got some people on the other side ready to do violence if that’s necessary, I would suggest that you set up a contract with them as well. Whatever you do though you need to commit and see it through, no half-measures here folks. When you decide to go, you go all the way, it’s like swimming across a river, when you’re in the water you just gotta go, turning back means that you drown.
But that’s all for you fine folks to decide. What we need to talk about now is my payment. I found the portal and I killed the monsters guarding it, and I went through and secured the other side. This is going to bring unimaginable wealth to your community and I’m directly responsible. Even if you scraped all the money in the town together and handed it over it would be nothing really. So all I ask of you is that you remember me and what I did. Because some day I’m going to come back, and when that happens I’m going to want my fair share.”
There was a mixed reaction to this, as there was to the presence of the portal at all, but the villagers did grant me by way of a down payment of sorts a magic holy symbol which once belonged to a priest that retired to the village. They claimed he had been a vampire hunter. What a ridiculous notion.
Hair regrowth progress : .0465%
Funds: 747 platinum, 69,176 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, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) 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