If you had told me nine months ago that I would be going into a network of caverns to clear out (clear out is a fun euphemism for murdering non-humans, it makes it more palatable to the sensitive types) a clan of orcs I would have had my facemaid tell the butler to have one of the footmen go down the kitchens and have one of the scullions spit directly in your eye. Yet here I am now. I don’t know what to make of it. I’m no warrior, that’s not something I would ever want to be, but I’m definitely a killer now. I can’t say as that I’ve developed a taste for it by any means, but it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you dip your toe in and then forget about. Once Duke Eaglevane and his cronies have been ruined and I’m living the high life what kind of person will I be? What will I do? Clearly I’m not going to go back to being someone’s kept woman. And while I will certainly want the luxuries of life at court will I be able to tolerate the tedium and the nonchalant cruelty of those people now?
Are these the kind of thoughts other people have when they’re slogging through a cave massacring orcs? Probably not, I doubt my journey to this kind of appointment is the experience most people have – they were most likely violent lunatics from the get-go and this is what they should be doing. Someone ought to write a book about the journey that leads someone to be a so-called adventurer – I mean what kind of upbringing results in someone skulking around underground looking for statues with gem-eyeballs they can pry out? I think that would be a best seller. Or maybe not since people wouldn’t like to hear about how their beloved celebrity murderers are actually assholes. Who could have guessed?
Killing all the orcs didn’t turn out to be very hard, the Heroes had been hounding them and picking them off for weeks and the batch that Martialla and I took out yesterday represented a goodly amount of their remaining strength. I did manage to get bitten by a giant ferret – who even heard or such a thing – so I probably have giant rabies now with my luck. The Heroes of course had no issue slaughtering whatever orcs they found – even the ones that you might call non-combatants if you were civilized – but there was a bit of a hiccup when we found a couple juvenile orcs (that’s what you say instead of kids to make things more palatable to the sensitive types). Korvosa Foxglove and her friends initially wouldn’t hear of allowing any harm to come to them but I was able to convince them to leave things to the Heroes. I mean what were they going to do? Adopt them and return to town and raise orcs as their own? What would the city fathers say?
It’s a nasty business and better left to people like the brave Heroes of the Lost Sword. I made sure that the three noble ladies focused on the people that we saved, for in those orc-caves we found some real folk as well. A dwarf by the name of Dalmuir who the orcs seemed to have kept purely for the joy of torturing an dwarf, Herrifal Fatfeet a Halfling from a local farm who had been captured to be eaten, Sithwae another captured farmer who appeared to be destined for making half-orcs, and two priests from Stallionfrad who had been taken when the orcs burned their temple and were being held for sacrifice to whatever despicable god cares about orcs. They still seemed a little shaky after coming out of that wicked hole in the ground so I spent a goodly amount of time talking with them and trying to help them come to terms with what had just happened. Just for practice, not because I cared.
While the Heroes were pawing through the meager treasure they had pulled out of the orc-hole like the greedy swine they are, Rokia and Nomen headed out to start looking for any signs of the cultists. The pile the brave adventurers were dividing up was mostly made up of items stolen from the temple but Raqmia and Alaric seemed too traumatized by their captivity to take notice that their holy relics were being divvied up amongst those lowlifes. I put Foxglove and her friends in charge of making sure that the captives were well taken care of – I thought that giving them a task would help take their mind off things. Martialla and I opened another bottle of wine to celebrate our grand victory.
“Was that tall thing with the claws an orc?”
“I think it was a troll of some kind.”
“I thought trolls were reputed to be hard to kill.”
“Some of them are I guess, there’s like a million kinds of trolls.” She glanced over at Korvosa and the other two noble ladies with the rescuees “That was some nasty business down there huh?”
“Not everyone is cut out for the life of adventure. Makes we wonder how they’re going to handle it though if we do find their murderous heretics.”
“I’m sure they’ll be fine, having revenge for a motivation makes it easier.”
“I’ll drink to that.”
Nothing much else of interest happened during the daylight hours. After nightfall and everyone else retiring Belle and I were left as the only two around the fire again.
“Do we have to wait for midnight or something fanciful like that or can we do this now?”
“We must go into the high places.”
I followed her out of the camp and into the hills noticing that she was even more twitchy than usual, and I don’t mean twitchy like nervous or anxious, I mean twitchy like sudden foot-stomping and spasms of the arms and face. Once we got to a sufficiently desolate and sinister hilltop we stopped, although she didn’t turn to face me – she stayed facing the other way panting creepily and occasionally making what I can only describe as biting noises.
“Are you going to kill me?”
Instead of answering, or maybe by way of answering she slowly drifted up off the ground and hung in the air – not like she was flying, more like invisible hands were holding her up. Her whole body startled trembling and patterns started glowing on her skin, so brightly they were visible even through her clothes. He head dipped down and she started barking out in a voice like thunders speaking in the Dark Tongue. I’ve had the misfortune to hear Darkspeech a couple times now and it truly is shocking, I can’t even imagine getting used to hearing it. It’s like an assault on your whole body, it’s not like you’re hearing it, it’s like it’s wrapping itself around you and trying to smother you. I closed my eyes involuntarily for a moment and when I opened then again standing before me in a pale orange light was a tall “man” with an oversized mouth full of needlelike teeth. His ears looked like crusty anthills made of flesh and his shoulders and chest were covered with black marks that looked vaguely like scabs or maybe scales. He was hairless but occasionally flaps of skin would move on his head like hairs as he talked. His voice was inappropriately gentle.
“So you’re looking to bring someone back from the dead.”
“I’m looking into it, I wouldn’t want to commit to anything without more details.”
“Very wise. It’s simply done.
“Really? I’ve been working on it for a while and it doesn’t seem simple at all.”
“Your kind likes to overcomplicate things. Anyone can be brought back, it’s a small matter, but there is a cost as there always is.”
He shook his head, a human gesture which only made things more horrible “No, nothing like that. There must be balance. For one life to be returned another must end. Breath for breath, life and death in an endless circle. All we have to do is close the loop.”
“Yeah sure, no big deal.”
“People usually struggle with that a bit more.”
“They do? Who are these people? People kill each other all the time for much less – for nothing sometimes. I once saw a man beat another man to death because he stepped on his heel. If all you have to do to bring someone back from the dead is kill someone else I’d have thought you’d have people lining up for miles. Most people are just begging for a reason to kill someone they don’t like. I mean what’s the catch? Is the person I have to kill the Queen or something? Or my firstborn son? What’s the evil twist?”
“Whoever you want, there just needs to be a life traded for a life.”
“I get to pick? Man you are just giving this away. Alright, let’s do it, do I need to sign something in blood or what?”
“Not so fast. I said that it was easy to do, not that I would do it. First I need to get to know you a little better.” He made a gesture with his intensely long fingers and a dark mark appeared on the ground in the shape of some manner of mind-bending sigil. “Step in and answer my questions and then we’ll see. This will prevent you from lying.”
“No it won’t.”
“Your magic won’t work on me. I can lie to anyone.”
“Just step in the circle.”
“Alright, but I’m telling you that it won’t work.” I stepped forward “See, I’m now in the circle. Are you ready? Ahem. Check this out. This circle has no effect on me. See, did that trigger anything?”
“No, but if you believe something is true that’s different, you can’t . . .”
“Fine, how about this – I am forty feet tall and made out of solid gold and also I founded the Kingdom and am from nine thousand years in the future.”
“Well that’s odd.”
“Yeah, I told you, this crap doesn’t work on me. But I’m going to do you a solid and answer your questions truthfully anyway. I’m asking you for a favor so the least I can do is be honest with you. Fire away buddy.”
“Well this is highly unusual but I suppose we can proceed. Have you ever killed anyone.”
“Yeah, loads of times.”
“Who was the first person that you killed?”
“I don’t know if I ever knew his name, if I did I forgot it. He was a solider back from the war and like many of that sort he was having a tough time fitting in back in society. I hired him to kill a wolf for me, no wait, I lied and told him that we were going to rescue my sister and just arranged for the wolf to get into a fight with him and his friends. After the wolf was dead he was badly injured so I made like I was going to tend to his wounds and stabbed him in the liver.”
“Why did you kill him?”
“When I was hiring him in the first place he said something along the lines that I could pay him with sex. I found this to be very rude.”
“But wait, I thought you were setting him up from the beginning, but he didn’t insult you until you were already hiring him?”
“Look, I don’t remember exactly what happened – that was right after I had been kicked out of the Duke’s court and those times are kind of a blur. What I do remember is that he was vulgar towards me and so I killed him. That much is certain.”
“How did it feel?”
I shrugged “No big deal.”
“You’ve got to give me more than that.”
“There is no more. I thought that I would feel something, guilt maybe, or joy at taking revenge – but I didn’t. Some of the old soldiers around the Duke’s palace would get drunk and hold court with the young squires and such, rambling about how killing was a stain that you had to live with no matter how justified you thought that it was. That it haunts you and gives you nightmares and that whole thing, but that hasn’t been my experience. Maybe that comes later, but for now it doesn’t bother me usually. I had to do it and I did it and that was that.”
“You didn’t have to kill a man for making a coarse comment.”
“At the time I felt like I did. You’re right technically, but that was how I felt at the time. I will say this as long as we’re on the topic. Men say things like that to women all the time without any thought, but they generally don’t break bad with one another unless they’re ready to start a fight. Maybe if men did get stabbed in the liver more often when they say something like that to a woman the world would be a better place. If I wanted to I could certainly frame that as me doing a good thing. Plus he was a solider, dying is what they’re for right?”
“Whoa, that is messed up.”
“Sorry, let’s move on. You said that it usually doesn’t bother you, when does it bother you?”
“I was at a party one time and some protestors broke in, there was a class war going on at the time, and I had a jungle cat rip one of the protestors to shreds. I do feel some regret about that because although that guy was probably an asshole anyway he may have just been a poor person who made stupid choices.”
“And how does that make you feel?”
“I just told you, I feel some regret about that. If I had to do it again I probably wouldn’t do it, but what’s done is done, no reason to get all weepy about it. You learn and you move forward.”
“I think we’re done here.”
“Really? I figured this was going to be an all-night thing where you grill me for hours and try and break me by probing into my most deeply held beliefs.”
“I think I got the gist of it.”
“So are we on?”
“Yeah, we’re on.”
“Great. Hey, will you let this girl go from being possessed or whatever is going on here if I kill someone else too?”
“You are a real piece of work lady.”
Hair regrowth progress : .054%
Funds: 817 platinum, 55,776 gold
Inventory: Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Belt of Giant Strength +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, Feather Token (tree), +1 Human Bane Dagger, Bewitching Gown, Grappling Scarf, Wyvern Skin Robe (Robe of Arcane Heritage), Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Ela’s Walking Stick (Rod of Ruin/Agile Alpenstock) Bag of Concealment, Bag of Holding, Black Marketers’ Bag
Pocketed Scarf, wrist sheath, assortment of Fake Signet Rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), 852 garnets, severed hag head, gold necklace with jade pendant, white squirrel fur slippers, ivory combs, receipt, tax collector’s badge, Calastar (Superior Riding horse, Horseshoes of Speed, Endless Feedbag), Wine (expensive) 5 bottles, Gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays
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