Mede 16 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

There isn’t a road between Crosseneller and Beresford but there is a trail of sorts.  A couple of wagons laden with goods were heading that way as well so we bade farewell to Udi, who disappeared into the woods, and joined with them – because nothing ever goes wrong when I’m traveling with a caravan.  I doubt however demented and senile I become I will ever forget the terror of the Skin-Eaters and their attack on the caravan to Three Rivers.  In a sick way I hope that I never forget it.  Something like that should never leave your memory. 

I suppose it’s natural to want to purge your bad memories but it an urge you should resist.  There’s a difference between being unable to stop thinking about a painful experience – which is an issue – and making the conscious attempt to reflect on your past and try to learn from it.  As my grandmother told me love is a good teacher, pain is a great teacher.  If you blot out the bad things in your mind you’re voluntarily blinding yourself – and I need my eyes wide open.  Ignoring bad memories can let them take control over your thoughts, can make you feel helpless and vulnerable – it’s important to drag them out of the shadows and into the light, so you control them rather than the other way around. 

Sometimes you don’t entirely remember what happened, or you understand what happened but not why it happened.  Having unanswered questions, or having information that you find unsatisfactory, can create incredible frustration. That’s why it’s important to get to the root of your dark memories and find the through line, the truth if you want to call it that.  Doing that sucks, but the only way forward is to forge ahead.  

It should go without saying, but people often forget that we are shaped by our experiences, which of course includes the negative ones. Whether your bad memories are rooted in decisions you actively made, or things that happened to you over which you may not have had any control, it’s important to learn from them. What could you have done differently?  How can you avoid it happening again?  If it’s potentially unavoidable what will you do when it happens?  No matter the scenario, there is always room to learn from the experience.

Naturally though the most important reason to think about the horrible things in your past is so that you can parcel out revenge appropriately.  Just think how mad you’d be if you missed your chance for vengeance only because you forgot about the people that slighted you.  You don’t want that do you?  Most of us only have one life, and it’s important to understand the horrible things that happened to us as fully and richly as possible, so we can better understand ourselves and our decisions, and make those responsible for all of it pay. 

But enough with the touchy-feely jibber-jabber, as I said the caravan was only a couple of wagons, but unpredictably there were a couple interesting folks on the crew.  The leader/owner/whatever was an almost famous explorer by the name of Arien Stolar.  He had published a book no one read about his voyage exploring the islands of the North, the north part of the North.  People down this way often think of “the North” as the end of the world, but there’s a whole bunch of stuff up there – even some people.  I knew of him not because I read his book, but because we had met briefly at court when he was there to beg for money for another expedition – I think that one was to find an ancient city of frog-people or some malarkey like that.  He gave no indication that he remembered me but I suppose I can’t fault him for that.

His dress was that of a milksop, all silks and finery, but I knew that anyone who had made the voyages he had was nothing like the pushover he appeared to be.  He wasn’t a half bad storyteller and regaled us with stories of his travels that were probably only thirty percent bullshit.  Also among them was Togra Strongarm, one of Gisa’s ‘treasure hunters’.  I had already heard his only interesting story about saving a wild pig from a Kostelos feast, but I knew that he was a capable fighter so it was nice to see him.  After turning down my very generous offer to get killed by a dragon Gisa had taken her crew south where they had a disastrous tomb-raiding expedition that prompted her to take a break from the “adventurer” life and take a job cataloging and appraising the finds of other less traumatized thieves, I mean  heroic delvers. 

Bixton took an immediate shine to Togra, as often is the case with squire-types and actual fighting men, and was eager to listen to all his tiresome reports about killing this monster and that monster in highly tedious detail.  When we made camp that night I felt it was my duty to explain to the boy how the real world works.

“That Togra is really something isn’t he?”

“Oh yes, he’s so brave!  Did you hear him telling about how he massacred that whole village of unseelie goblins with nothing more than a hookspear, a healing potion, and a bottle of whiskey?”

“That was a trap, and you fell for it like an imbecile.  Togra is a fool.  Don’t get me wrong, we need fools like that, but you are a gentleman Bixton and that sort of low brow roughhousing is beneath you.  Adventure?  Bah!  Excitement?  Fie!  Fighting for money and glory is for poor people, and you’re the upper crust in case you’ve forgotten.  Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be violent, because you absolutely should, but it has to be for the right reasons.  There is nothing like violence for articulating the intensity of your emotions.  It can communicate your anger, frustration, determination, or resolve.  It can be explosive and sudden or habitual and relentless, but however passionate an outburst of violence may be there still must be control – for twisting and using it to your advantage.  You don’t use violence to save people or get gold, you use violence to establish your own power and authority or to destroy someone else’s.  Violence can be a defense, provocation, or retaliation, but it must always be measured.  You can’t strike out wildly like a tavern brawler, you must be cool and deliberate in your application of violence.”

“The things you tell me are a lot different from what the knight I was attending and the Duke’s master at arms tell me about the world.”

“They have their point of view and I have mine.  I think you would do well to consider the source of this advice.”

“Well you’re a vagabond so far as I can tell and they’re rich and powerful so I should listen to them?”

“I like your instincts, but there’s one exception to the rule that whoever has the most money knows the most and that’s me.  Although to be fair I am also quite wealthy.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Go to bed kid.”

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .0885% 

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

Mede 15 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

At the end of our travels today we came upon the village of Crosseneller, an isolated community that can be reached only by virtue of a single bridge.  Both scenic and idyllic Crosseneller is blessed with an abundance of fresh water and wildlife, making it prosperous off hunting and the working of hides.  There’s probably a name for that.  Hidening?  All this non-threatening niceness made me highly suspicious.  When something seems this safe at any moment someone is going to turn into a monster, or a ghost is going to push someone off a roof, or they entire village is going to be revealed as existing on some other dimension, or some other damn thing.  I said as much to Martialla.

“I think you’re being a little paranoid.”

“Of course I am!  When’s the last time we went anywhere without something insane happening?”

“We do seem to have more than our fair share of calamities.”

“No good will come of this, you mark my words.”

“Like in a diary or something?”

“Shut up.”

That night the villagers had a celebration in our honor – it was the kind of place where having any visitors is a reason to have a party.  I sat sourly watching the merriment and entertainment while everyone else joined in like morons.  Even Bixton shook off his young person melancholy and got into the spirit, dancing with some of the village maidens.  Boy were they barking up the wrong tree.  At first I refused to touch any of the great feast spread out before us, but eventually I caved – it did look good and no one was keeling over and clutching at their stomachs from deadly poison.  Yet.  The food was fairly pedestrian but the brandy and coffee was excellent. The headwoman of this village, called Meagan, came over to sit by me while I scowled at the dancing and merry-making.  She was a small woman with a mass of brown curls that looked they weighed half as much as she did.  I think she might have been a half-elf but I couldn’t see he ears with all that hair.

“You don’t look like a woman who’s having a good time.”

“I’m just waiting for the other boot to drop.”

“Been having a rough time of it lately?”

“Only since I was born.”

“No offense, but you’re wearing jewels worth ten villages of this size, you can’t complain that much can you?”

“I can and I will.  So what’s the story?  Was this place the site of a massacre back in the old days?  When the moon comes up are the dead going to rise and slaughter us all?”

“The moon’s already up.  They did have some trouble with bandits about fifteen years ago.”

“Ah-ha!  I knew it!  And they swore that they’d come back on this very night and cut everyone’s noses off and shove them up their various holes?”

“Not that I’m aware of.  No one’s seen them for more than ten years now.  That’s why I’m here actually, I came with some friends of mine to run off the bandits and I decided to stay.”

“So you and your friends killed the bandits and their unquiet spirits will be back for revenge from beyond the grave?  They’ll attack us where we can’t defend ourselves, in our dreams.”

“A couple of them did get killed but most of them just ran away.  Probably to just bandit somewhere else.  That’s a hard career to shake I imagine.  If they were going to get revenge I think they would have done it by now but if it makes you feel better don’t go to sleep tonight.”

“I never got to sleep!”

“O . . . kay.  Congratulations?  I have to say you’re a much stranger conversationalist that thought.”

“You didn’t have to say it.  You haven’t caught me at my best.  I’m starting to feel a little run ragged.  There’s no days off you know?”

“I used to know, my days are pretty serene though now.  Whatever you’re after maybe you should think about if it’s really worth it.  My friends and I used to gallivant around and get into all sorts of mischiefs, it was all terribly exciting at the time but when I think back on it I don’t miss it.  I wish I had learned earlier that it’s better to live a simple life and help people out, like I have here.”

“It’s worth it.  How did you deal with these bandits?  I should know better than anyone that looks can send you off the wrong trail but you don’t seem like a fighting type.”

“Some of my friends were warriors, my part was summoning beasts to do fighting for me.  And some other spells as well.”

“Magic eh?  Over the past few days in these woods I’ve run into a wise woman, a wizard, a witch, and now you.  Is this some kind of magic forest?”

“Yes, actually.  There are places saturated with magical energy, the result of which is that arcane magics more potent and easier to manipulate.”

“Why isn’t there some grand magic academy here then?”

“There was in the days of the Old Empire but the intensity of this magic energy ebbs over time, and this process is accelerated by human habitation and environmental damage, which I guess are kind of the same thing.  On top of which, the energy is effected by tragedies and other forms of human misery that come along with lots of people being around. If you believe the history texts the magic around here ran dry in times past which caused its abandonment.  It’s recovered enough to attract some folks attuned to such things but it will never be what it once was.”

“I can relate to that.”

“I wonder if some day there will be so many people and places that all the magic will be gone from the world.”

“We can only hope.”

“Why do you say that?”

“From what I’ve seen magic is mostly a tool of destruction and enslavement.  And don’t give me that old malarkey about magic just being a tool and its people that decide what to do with it – from what I’ve seen magic corrupts and dements those that wield it.  No offense.”

Meagan nodded towards Martialla where she was sitting with a couple handsome fellows laughing and sharing a drink “Your friend seems neither corrupt nor demented.”

“She’s one of the good ones.”

“Well if it does happen I don’t think it will happen for hundreds of years so I suppose there’s nothing to us to worry about, but I think it’s a shame that future generations might live without it – magic can do wonderful things.”

“If you had seen what I had seen just the other day I don’t think you’d be so sanguine.”

“I saw some pretty perverse things in the old days, but I still hold out hope.  Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

I thought she was going to join the party but instead she stood up and made like she was going to jump into the table, turning into an owl in mid-air and then flying off into the night.  I suppose that was supposed to impress me or help me see the wonder in magic.  It didn’t work. 

_______________________________________________________________

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