How often do you do things without understanding your own motivation? I assume not often, otherwise you’d be crazy I suppose and I don’t talk to crazies. Last night I had one of those moments. I decided to spend the night downstairs – you know, in the creepy hidden basement with human-sized cages in them. Sophoniba wasn’t strong enough to haul them up the stairs and in any case they wouldn’t even fit through the trap door – which begs the question how did they get down here in the first place? Did the guy bring them down first and then build the cabin over it later?
People doing horrible things is bad enough but the amount of planning and foresight that goes into some of those things is truly disturbing to ponder. As I said I don’t know why exactly I did this but I laid down in one of the cages and tried to imagine what it must have been like for those victims. Which wasn’t hard since I had been in a cage in a basement waiting to potentially be eaten not that long ago. It’s quite the miracle that I’m still alive. I wonder which God loves me or hates Duke Eaglevane that much.
Ironically the only God I can think of that would support my roaring rampage of revenge is Kralten and I doubt the Lord of Hate has that kind of sense of humor. Sophoniba applied some magic healing to Martialla to supplement her poultice and after a hearty breakfast of radish mush we were ready to go. Sophoniba told us that if we headed southeast through the woods we should come across the Scale River and there would likely be a barge or something we might be able to hop on rather than slogging the whole way on foot. As we were about to leave the cabin in the woods I had a few final words for the wise woman.
“I’m not used to people helping me without an agenda, I feel somewhat off balance.”
“Shay helped you without expecting anything in return too. I think if you look through the world with less cynical eyes you’ll find that it happens more often than you realize.”
“Aren’t you the one who moved into an isolated cabin in the woods because you’re sick of the world and everything in it?”
“Yes, however I’m pretty sure that out of the two of us I’m the one what has more hope for the future.”
That seems like an unfair conclusion to me. I have plenty of hope for the future – otherwise why would I be doing this? After I ruin the lives of thirty to forty people everything should be great for me. I have a hard time imagining a more optimistic outlook on life than that. They say that having a goal to work towards really helps you keep a positive attitude and they’re certainly right.
As we made our way through the woods we saw a stag beetle as big a horse crashing through the underbrush. How do things like that even exist? Is there enough rotting wood to support one of those things let alone enough to support an entire species? Don’t even get me started on chimeras – you have to find enough grass for a giant goat, enough meat for a giant lion, and enough virgins for a dragon? Impossible.
It was late in the day when a little sparrow flew up to us and started talking. No preamble, no warning, just flew up and started talking like that was a normal thing. Since I can talk to animals anyway I had no issue with this but Martialla was a little stunned – which is odd in my opinion since she’s a sorcerer. When you can make illusions and mess with people’s heads why would you be taken aback by a simple talking animal? You just never know how people are going to react to things do you? The bird settled on a tree branch at about eye level to address us – it’s voice tiny and piping but quite audible.
“Good afternoon ladies, might I trouble you for a moment of your time?”
“Why of course, what can we do for you?”
“I was on my way to see Sophoniba to ask her for aid on behalf of a friend of mine but you two ladies look like highly capable individuals so maybe you can help. How would you feel about rescuing a fair maiden from the clutches of an evil wizard?”
“I do hate wizards and am at least somewhat favorably inclined towards maidens as a default position, what’s the situation? What kind of clutches are we talking about?”
Have you ever seen a bird look uncomfortable? I have now. “I shouldn’t care to say, it’s not proper behavior.”
“Oi, one of those huh? What do you think Martialla are you up for killing a perv?
She blinked “Is that bird talking?”
“Alright, let’s go.”
Our new bird friend led us to a rocky ridge of sorts that we had quite a time traversing. My Slippers helped a bit but it turns out that they don’t have a lot of juice in them, and Martialla had no aid at all – neither one of us being overly great at climbing it made for a harrowing afternoon. This was made all the worse when we got up on the ridge and saw that to the south there was a very easy path up to the top. I suppose you can’t blame a bird for not knowing the best path for walkers. After making it up we took a moment to rest and I asked the bird if the wizard had minions but it didn’t seem to know what I was getting and trying to explain quickly got frustrating so I gave up on that – we’ll find out soon enough.
The home of the alleged adductor wizard was a round observatory type structure that looked wildly out of place in the middle of the woods. As always when comforted with this kind of thing I wonder how it got built – can you just magic up a whole building? Doesn’t seem like you can. But how are you going to get a team of carpenters out here in the middle of nowhere? I guess if you’re the kind of wizard that kidnaps maidens you can kidnap carpenters too. Funny, I never hear about anyone going to rescue a middle aged carpenter though. Not like ‘haha’ funny but you know what I mean.
Martialla turned invisible and I knocked on the door which was opened immediately, like the buy behind it had been standing there waiting for someone to knock. He was kind of a squirrely looking fellow, even for a wizard, but his blue robe was extravagant as you like – and I mean real class not the gaudy crap with dumb symbols on it that your arcane types normally go for. Over his shoulder I saw there was just one large central room kind of divided into four sections by bookshelves – there was a massive telescope in one, and in another were several women strapped to bizarre copper machines.
“Wow, you’re not even trying to hide what you’re doing are you?”
He looked around suspiciously as if expecting someone else “Who are you? What do you want?!”
I flashed my tax collector’s badge “Bollina Simmas sir, this is official Kingdom business. Are you aware of the tax on kidnapping maidens in this jurisdiction? I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you aren’t because otherwise that would mean that you were intentionally withholding funds from the Queen and you would never do that would you sir?”
“No, I . . . can I see that badge?”
“Of course sir.”
I handed it over and he peered at it intently, turning it over and over before eventually giving me a sly look and then casting a spell on it – whatever happened it made his face fall and he mumbled something I couldn’t make out as he handed it back.
“Taxes huh? Yes, well, I suppose we must all pay our fair share. Do come in please. I’m not mad at you personally but this is exactly the kind of thing that made me move out of the city in the first place. Always there some regulation or other that you’re in violation of, only certain kinds of magic allowed here and there and zoning issues and paperwork. I thought that I had gotten away from all that out here, but I guess not.”
“No sir, the Queen has agents everywhere. I am curious how you managed to build this structure all the way out here.”
“It’s simple really . . .”
I never got to find out what was so simple about it because that’s when Martialla’s rapier burst out of the man’s chest. The weird thing about it was that it didn’t go through the front of his robe – the robe popped out like he was pointing at me with a massive nipple. As her invisibility faded Martialla slashed his throat for good measure – and I mean deep. With that cut you could probably have pulled the guy’s head off if you worked hard enough on it. He dropped to the ground into a quickly expanding pool of his own blood. It just goes to show you that hokey religions and mystical nonsense don’t mean much when you have a dagger at your throat. I wonder if you ever can get magic enough that a good old fashioned backstabbing doesn’t bother you. I glanced at Martialla.
“Well, that was easy.”
The hard part was what came next. The bird started frantically flying around and chirping by one of the women, I don’t suppose I can blame it for forgetting it can talk – it was pretty grim over there. The contraptions looked vaguely like a spinning wheel with little black circles standing out in stark contrast to the shiny copper. There’s no motivation in the world that could have induced me to touch those black circles but to the eye they looked like they were some kind of thick oil suspended inexplicably. In addition to the myriad of straps designed to keep the victims in place there was a brass nozzle of sorts that went in the mouth, right next to this part was a small vial about the size of a small vase. The woman the bird was fluttering around was still alive, the others weren’t so lucky – or maybe they were the lucky ones. They were discolored a sickening shade of gray and they seemed to have shrunk about twenty percent – their hair and nails here completely gone and their lips, eyelids, and ears were barely more than hints of what was. By each of the dead women the glass tube was filled with a greenish gas that spiraled around of its own volition. Life energy? Essence? Souls? Who the Hells knows?
“This is pretty fucked up right here.”
“Do you ever wonder why we bother, why we don’t just put an end to this sad joke we call life? If this is what’s going on in the world what is even the point?”
“It’s a funny old world for sure. We rarely think about the point except in those situations when we question if there is one. Is there a point? What is the point of getting up in the morning? What is the point of a moth bursting from its chrysalis and fluttering off to find a bat to mate with? What is the point of going to eating, of working, of killing you enemies, of being kind, of asking for wine instead of whiskey of riding a horse through a grassy meadow, of training a dog to hunt down criminals?
We have no objective, irrefutable, immutable point that drives us all except, perhaps, the point of keeping our worlds in the states we are satisfied with. Anything that lives, in order to continue living, must do this. The business of keeping experiences constant in the context of changing environments is a process of control. There is no creature that is separate from the process that does the controlling. The creature itself is a control process.
So the point is control, and the point of control is to continue controlling by keeping any difference between the standard and the experience as small as can be. If making lots of gold has a point to you then you’ll follow that point. If there’s a point to you in growing orchids then there’s a point. For different people at different times there’s a point to: putting your name down on the roster march off to war for the Kingdom; or making the world a better place; or restoring your damaged reputation; or tatting a lace handkerchief edge.
Points are highly individualized. You can’t give a point to another person or tell them what their point should be, but sometimes people can establish points based on what they’ve learned from others. And there is no inherent pointiness in anything or anyone. The point exists in the mind of the controller. It is the restorer who creates and experiences the point.
Those people who are not bothered by the point of it all will just keep on going, controlling whatever is in their mind to control. Some people, however, occasionally lose sight of their point, or forget what it was, or wonder if they ever had one anyway. At times, these points will pull you in different directions, leaving you feeling stretched, or stuck, or defeated.”
“What a load of crap.”
“It sounded good though.”
We had a hell of a time getting the one survivor extracted from the machine, it was clearly not designed with any thought of anyone ever being taken out. A bird hysterically trying flying around our heads didn’t help either. In the end we had to try and cut her out which was tricky because of how tight the straps were, even then had a Hells of a time. Once we had her free we sent the bird to fetch Sophoniba, Martialla and I aren’t any kind of healers and this woman had some seriously wrong things happen to her. Thankfully she was unconscious. Martialla and I were putting around the building looking at the assorted wizard jumble and trying to ignore the dead women when I saw a massive humanoid with emerald scales and a bizarre rhino-like horn come through the doorway. It looked like a dragon in human shape but I’ve never heard of such a thing.
The beast saw the wizard dead on the floor and roared in a pale imitation of a true dragon but it was still plenty to scare the shit out of me, not to mention leave me half deaf. It charged with grasping claws and snapping jaws and I dodged around a bookcase, swiping at him with my Lion claws – it had about as much effect as a house cat swatting at bear. As it slashed at me I was able to knock the bookshelf over on it which slowed it down long enough for Martialla to try and put it to sleep with her magic – which had no effect. Have I mentioned lately how much I hate magic? The dragon creature hurled the bookcase into me, knocking me back into the wall and down to the ground both dizzy and breathless. As it came forward I threw a sheaf of papers into its path, blinding it for just long enough for Martialla to dart in with a stab from her rapier.
In the chaos of Martialla and I used my Walking Stick to weaken some manner of large iron orrery and was able brace myself against the wall and push it with my legs until it collapsed over and smashed into the dragonman. He was pinned for a moment and Martialla stabbed at him mercilessly but he still managed to drag the ironworks off of him and toss them aside, getting back to his feet. Martialla turned invisible but he could sense her somehow and slashed her with his claws. I tried to entangle him with my Scarf but he ripped it to shreds without any trouble. With little else left to do I attack with claw and Walking Stick, and for my trouble he clamped his jaws down on my upper arm. The pain was excruciating and I immediately felt all the energy drain out of me, it was so intense that I felt paralyzed for a moment. But that gave Martialla a chance to stab him in the lower back and he instantly went down like a marionette with cut strings – she must have severed his spine. She helped pull me out from underneath his corpse and back to my feet. I looked around at the insanity.
“What the fuck was going on here?
Hair regrowth progress : .078%
Funds: 1817 platinum, 70,829 gold
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
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
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
Behind the curtain: Ela hit 13th level, taking another level of Rogue (Phantom Thief). She took Extra Rogue Talent as her feat and Hard Minded as that talent. There’s a lot of debate about if Extra Rogue Talents allows you to take an Advanced Rogue Talent or not, I would say that it probably doesn’t as written but I would allow it my game so I’m going with it. For those of you keeping track.