Mede 14 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Scampering around in trees yesterday to avoid barbarian outlaws gave me an idea.  At first light I shimmied up the tallest tree in the area and from that vantage point was able to spot a small cluster of buildings to the southeast.  Bixton was able to keep us on course, more or less, to arrive there a few hours later.  It was a hunting encampment, not a hunting lodge for fancy rich folk, but a kind of temporary deal for people who actually hunt for a living.  You know, hunters.  A couple of wagons and some canvas tents and the like – and a bunch of dead animals.  You never saw so many dead animals.  Well maybe you have but I haven’t.  Seeing twenty dead wolves strung up a rack is a little depressing, seeing a live worg in a cage destined for the fighting pits is even more depressing.  I gave half a thought to setting it free but it didn’t seem like a wise idea. 

One of the hunters was more than happy to sign on to lead us greenhorn tenderfoot city slickers out of the area as he was in the middle of some kind of dispute with the other hunters over antlers rights.  He didn’t even ask for any money, I think he just wanted an excuse to leave.  He had the unfortunate name of Udi Ladycraig and he was much more of a spit and polish looking fellow than you would expect from and outdoorsman – he was wearing a blue and silver number with nary an animal hide garment to be seen.  He had the dull eye color and scarred hands of a survivor of the Grey Plague.  The seven of us clustered around him as the other hunters watched him pack up with crossed arms and tight lips.

“What is the closest settlement?”

“Beresford is the nearest place that’s anything more than a couple houses and a storage shed.”

“Beresfords!  Isn’t that south of the Baku Woods?  How did we get so far off course?”

“I couldn’t say ma’am.  Alright you lot, we’re going to have to step real quiet out there because there’s savages in the area.  We’re going to head quite a ways south to try and avoid them but even so what you need to do is . . .”

“You mean the outcast Kostelos?  I took care of them yesterday.”

“What?  What do you mean you took care of them.”

“You know, ‘took care of’.”

“I don’t know, what did you take care of?”

“I mean they’re dead, I fucking killed them, gees take a hint man.”  I looked to my companions “It was clear what I was implying right?”

You killed them?”

I placed my hand over my heart “I may not look like much but I’ve got it where it counts.”

“You’re serious aren’t you?  Did any of you see this?”

Murdane and the other scholars all started speaking over each other in a rush and Udi listened, agog, for a moment before waving for them to shut up.

“Alright then, I guess we can take the direct route.”  He gave me a strange sideways look. “If you’re so deadly what do you need me for?”

“Directions.  I get lost all the time.  Plus I assume you can dig up some roots or pick some berries for this lot – they’re always complaining about needing food.”

“What about you?  Don’t you need food?”

“No.”

“Who are you?!”

“No one of consequence.”

While we were traveling along an old lumber trail I had Murdane tell me all about Lord Wesel.  The story goes that he was something of a family embarrassment, although the reasons for that are unknown, which is why he was so far removed from the situation that by the time he turned up to claim his birthright it had already been given to the Juost family.  This was quite a blow because at the time Wesel was not doing well.  After disappearing for a few years he turned up in the North acting as an agent for merchants and nobles looking to do business with the Northmen.  He passed himself off as an expert in Northern culture which appears not to be true, but he did have some contacts with the Northmen.  He was able to parley this success into running a prison camp for the crown and turned this modest contract into a fortune.  No one is sure how, but there’s no way it was done legitimately. 

When the most recent war against the Northmen broke out he fled south and kept on fleeing until he landed in Beresford where he used his vast wealth to buy up everything he could to make money the old fashioned way – by already being rich.  Late in the afternoon we had stopped for a rest when a dark pebbly looking toad hopped up to me and sat staring at me for a good long while.  I activated my Beastspeech to see what its problem was.

“Do you need me you kiss you and turn you back into a prince?”

“Yuck, no, and I’m already a prince.  This is good, Chattox told me you’d be able to speak with me.”

“What’s a Chattox?  Some kind of threshing machine?”

“Chattox is the witch of the woods.  She divined your coming and sent me to task you with . . . a task.  Charge you with a task?  Task you with a quest.”

“What’s in for me?”

Have you ever seen a toad laugh?  I have now.  “She said you’d say that!  It’s uncanny.  She really is great at divining.  Chattox can create magic tattoos, which she says you want, you do this for her and you get a sweet tattoo.”

“What’s the job?”

The toad puked up a small crystal vial.  Do toads puke?  Maybe ejected is a better word.  “There’s an ent around here, take this potion and pour it over its roots.”

“What’s an ent?”

“It’s a tree, but you know one that’s alive.”

I gestured “Aren’t all these trees alive?”

“You know what I mean wiseass, it walks around and talks and drinks beer.  It’s like a treeman of sorts.”

“Sure, sure.  And this tree guy is violent and dangerous or why is she trying to get me to do this?”

“Basically.  Ents are normally only mean to people who abuse the natural world, but this one has a fey curse on him that’s making him act like a real jerk.”

“Can’t your witchress break the curse?”

The toad patted the vial with its little toad leg “She can, with this potion, you just need to deploy it.  Now here’s the good news.  Birchlock, that’s the ent in question, has a thing for human ladies.”

“What?”

“Don’t take that judgmental tone.  Are you not familiar with the tale of Jarsali and the Ent?  Jarsali Oaklimbs was an elf of the truest stock —even to the point of shunning others of her race, preferring instead the company of the woodlands well over that of her fellows. How her heart came to be full of suspicion and bitterness at her mortal comrades, no one knew; they only knew that Jarsali was a strange girl, even for an elf.  Nothing assuaged the sorrow in her soul save the nearness of the primordial trees. Her wanderings from camp took her deeper and deeper into the virgin forest . . .”

“No, shut up.  I don’t want to hear about some skinny elf humping a tree.”

The toad shook its head, which is impressive since they don’t really have necks. “You are so narrow-minded.  Love is love is love, it transcends all things – even species.  My girlfriend is a mushroom and there’s nothing wrong with that you bigot.  The physical aspect of love is not even . . .”

“Shut up, for real.   Just to be clear, you want me to seduce and poison a treeman?”

“Those are your words.  You’re the one making this out to be something ugly and crass.  I think you need to take a good long look at yourself and take a personal inventory of why you equate . . .”

“Give me the damn potion.  How do I find this horny conifer?”

“I’ll show you.”

Martialla walked up as I took the small vial.

“Were you talking to a frog?”

“Yeah.”

“And he gave you a little gift?”

“Yeah.”

“Is something freaky happening?”

“Yeah.  It’s about to anyway.  You stay here with this lot, I need to go seduce a pinecone.”

Have you ever seen a tree leer?  I have now.  These days my life is an endless cavalcade of new and disgusting experiences.  This must be like when an animal is trapped and taken out of its natural environment to live among humans – there’s plenty of surprises, none of them good.  I suppose if you want a silver lining I now have the knowledge that your standard temptation techniques work just fine on a barky lothario.  Point is that I got the job done and that night we were guests of Chattox the so called witch of the woods. 

Her witch-shack was as rustic and tumbledown as you’d expect but it was sitting in the middle of a pecan orchard which throws you for a loop a little bit.  Chattox herself was very much on brand – wizened, warty, mushroomy smelling, prone to cackling, the whole nine yards.  And nothing says ‘witch’ like a toad hopping around like it owns the place.  My traveling companions were enjoying some pecan pie while I disrobed for the tattooing.

“I was thinking about something like the white tree with seven stars and a crown floating about it.”

“It’s not necessary or wise for you to be naked.”

“Meh, its fine.  Now my other idea was . . .”

“That’s not how this works.  The magic will decide what form your marking takes.”

“What does that even mean?  Magic is a force, it’s not a thinking being, how can it decide anything?  That makes no sense.  Ow!  What are you doing back there?”

“I’m inserting ink into your skin with a sharpened needle.”

“Mother of pearl that hurts!  When the dwarves did this I didn’t feel a thing.”

“They probably used magic.”

“You’re a witch, why aren’t you using magic?!”

“Do you want a handkerchief to bite down on?”

“For the pain?”

“Sure.”

I ended up with a tattoo of a sycamore tree being shattered my lightening, its quality work but you know how I feel about tattoos.  As long as I can keep them covered up I suppose it’s not a big deal, but if it ever gets to the point where I need to get one below the elbow or above the breastbone I’m really going to be annoyed.  I hope once Duke Eaglevane and all his cronies are dead and buried in the cold, cold ground I can get rid of all these blemishes.  In the dark hours of the night I was outside on the witch’s porch drinking her witch-wine when she came to join me.

“Shouldn’t you be out stealing souls and whatnot?  This is the witching hour isn’t it?”

“Is that what witches do?  I thought we just spoiled milk and enchanted men into cheating on their wives.”

“You have to have a high regard for the guy that first came up with that.  He gets caught nailing some milkmaid and somehow he spins it into his female neighbor getting burned at the stake.  You have to admire that.”

“You don’t have to.”

“Your toad friend was bragging about what a great seer you are.  Which normally I wouldn’t put much stock in, but you did know I was going to be here.  So what do you see?  What’s my future?”

“I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise.”

“Figures.  Any hints?”

“You’re in for a bumpy ride.”

“Sounds about right.”

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .087% 

Funds: 1817 platinum, 70,604 gold

XP: 328,851

Inventory:  Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Enchanted Tattoo (Storm) 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

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