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.”
“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.”
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?”
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.”
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?”
“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
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