The terrifying woodland fastness of the mad wizard was pretty unimpressive. It looked like a palisade and a log cabin had made sloppy love in the back room of a low class tavern and nine months later given birth to this rickety sprawling eyesore. Seeing it did make me feel better, given my continual perplexity at finding expertly-crafted buildings in the middle of nowhere. Strangely there was a jaunty flag flying on the front-part of the pile of wood, looked like the personal banner of some lord or other. Even more strangely though was the circle of standing stones that stood not far away. Once we were in sight I shot our loyal guide Steel-Bite in the back of his wolf-head, killing him. I gestured at the stones.
“How do they make those things? Those rocks have to weigh a ton.”
Arien the Explorer had an answer “They find a giant and ensorcell them to do the heavy lifting.”
“Yeah, there used to be a whole empire based on magic giant slaves. They even bred new kinds of giants they were mind-slaves from birth.”
“Gross, add giant-breeder to the list of jobs I’ve rather avoid. Was that the Old Empire?”
“No, this was thousands of years before that.”
“Gees, how many empires were there? If it wasn’t boring I’d have you give me a quick history lesson before we part ways but it is so I won’t.” I turned to Martialla “Can you magically compel giants?”
“I’ve never tried, but I mean, probably right?”
Strongarm unlimbered his Warhammer and started swinging his arms around in some kind of stretching exercise but I think it was mostly for show. Some men are like that, they need everyone to pay attention before they go into a fight.
“So what’s the plan?”
“I’ll climb up a tree and if I see anyone I’ll shoot them. If they come out to try and get me you guys get them instead.”
“I like it, nice and simple.”
Arien frowned “Shouldn’t we try to talk to them?”
“I used to think that, but I’ve learned it’s better to just make with the killing, that’s what’s going to happen in the end anyway – why beat around the brush?”
“Isn’t the expression ‘beat around the bush’?”
“What does that mean? Why would anyone beat around a bush?”
“What does beat around the brush mean?!”
Martialla interjected “Didn’t the deer say there were ‘nice people’ in there too? I assume you don’t want to shoot them do you?”
I sighed “Fine, you guys hide, I’ll go up and talk to them and when they inevitably try to do something perverted to me then can we kill them?”
Strongarm’s back cracked as he stretched “I liked the first plan better.”
My companions hid, magically or otherwise, and I took on the appearance of a woodcutter and approached the compound. Knocking seemed pointless so I shouted ‘ahoy’, because that seems like something that a woodcutter might shout. After a few minutes a head popped up over the pointy things on the wall – I’m sure those have a name. He was a wide-faced but pleasant looking fellow going grey around the temples of his dark hair.
“Well met stranger, what brings you to our homestead?”
“I was part of a convoy heading to a new logging site to the north, I stopped to take a piss and then next thing I know everyone else is gone. I must have gotten turned around trying to catch up with them. I was hoping that I could impose upon you for some water and maybe some directions.”
“Of course, we don’t get a lot of visitors out here, it’s nice to have someone to talk with.”
If there were gates, it’s hard to tell with this poor of construction, they didn’t open – instead he threw a rope over the wall and climbed down only somewhat awkwardly. His dress was appropriate to a woodland fort but it was high quality stuff, although in need of some repairs. He offered me a skin of tepid and not great tasting water and we talked for a bit about logging and directions and such before getting to the good stuff.
“Thank you ever so much good sir. May I ask, whose flag is that I see flying there?”
He smiled proudly “Why mine of course. That’s the House Oeracea coat of arms, and I am none other than Lord Oeracea.”
I bowed deeply “Of the Beresford Oeraceas? My humble pardons Lord, I never would have adopted such a familiar tone with you had I known who you were!”
His smile turned into that indulgent look rich people get when they allow poor people common courtesy “Think nothing of it my good man, out here in the wild there’s no reason to stand on ceremony now is there?”
I bowed some more “Certainly not My Lord, certainly not. If I may be so bold as to ask, what are you doing out here? This structure doesn’t look nearly as grand as your holdings in Beresford must be.”
A look of mild confusion crossed his face and he looked back at the crude wooden ramparts for a moment. “You know, now that you mention it I’m actually not sure . . .”
Before I could say anything else another head popped up over the wall – a pale man with no nose whose skin was blotchy and whose hair was thin and unhealthy looking. His voice though was a strong as his appearance was feeble.
“What are you doing down there?! Who are you talking to?!”
I stepped forward “I was just asking for directions and a little aid, you see . . .”
“Who are you?!”
“Porchard good sir, I am but a simple woodsman and . . .”
The man on the wall spoke some arcane words and with a gesture I felt all the air driven out of me, and my gasps could draw no more in. I’ve had the misfortune to be choked a time or two, one time almost to death, but that takes a long time all things considered. Whatever magic this was acted instantly, I collapsed and darkness washed over me mere seconds later. I imagine this is what it must feel like to be dragged underground by a land serpent. The next thing I knew I was laying in the dirt and Arien was hovering above me coming in for a smooch, what a debauched freak. I pushed him away feebly.
“Is that what you’re into?”
“It’s called the kiss of life, your lungs stopped working so I was blowing air into you to keep you alive.”
“Sure thing pal.”
I tried to get up but was overcome with a dizzy spell and then shortly thereafter a bout of dry heaves. Arien helped me to my feet and pounded me on my back which was more annoying than helpful. Eventually I managed to croak.
“Your friend and Togra chased that nasty fellow who attacked you off the wall. That guy you were talking to was under some manner of magic compulsion that Martialla was able to break and then he showed them a back entrance into the fort. They’re in there now.”
“What are you doing out here then?”
“I had to look after you.”
I snorted “Is that what you call what you were doing?”
“It was the kiss of life!”
“Whatever you say.”
I had no time to look around for hidden back entrances so I squirrel-scampered over the wall and into the compound, such as it was. There were only a few buildings but the overall construction made into a kind of maze small though it was. Thankfully Martialla and Togra weren’t hard to find, just follow the sound of combat. Several men in purple and red robes (very handsome) were dead on the ground and several more appeared to have been reanimated as very fresh zombies – which Togra was battling without too much success. A warhammer isn’t the best weapon for dealing with the walking dead, it makes me sad that I know that. Up on a low wooden wall was Blotchy-Face, who I could see was now dressed in some kind of heavy leather get up, in addition to looking awful it has to be hot as balls. He was mostly just cackling and watching his undead minions in action. Martialla, must have been enchanted somehow because she was just standing there doing nothing.
Calling on the power of my new tattoo I blindsided Mr. Leather with a massive bolt of lightning that, if we’re being honest, was so potent that it caught me a little off guard as well. He was fried nearly to a crisp but managed to stay on his feet, although the stench of his boiling flesh was horrid. He retaliated by summoning a skeletal hand that groped after me and started draining my life force but I managed to sprint away from it long enough to use my Walking Stick to cause the wall he was capering on to collapse. He took a bad spill and I pounced on him, pushing the Walking Stick against his throat and down with all my (magically enhanced) strength.
“See how it feels asshole?”
I don’t know why I said that, I hate in novels when the hero says something “witty” as they murder the villain. What’s the point of sassing someone who’s going to be dead in ten seconds? Best case scenario they die and you got be a big shot for ten seconds except the only person who heard it is dead, worst case scenario they don’t die and then they throw it back in your face. What a waste of energy. But I suppose I can be forgiven the occasional lapse.
As I mentioned it takes a long time to strangle someone, so when I looked up I halfway expected Strongarm to be zombie food, but instead Oeracea and some other man were there with him taking out the last of the zombies. The other fellow was dressed in rags and covered in bruises and cuts, but he cut the dashing figure nevertheless. White hair makes some people look old, others look distinguished, and a very few look striking – he was in the last category. For a man in his middle age who had clearly been mistreated he still had the flexible and muscular body of a dancer. After he sliced through the last zombie with his stolen blade I looked him full on in his piercing grey eyes.
“I’m not sure who’s rescuing who here.”
He greeted me with a smile and a courtly bow “I’ve never been rescued by a beautiful woman before, I have to say I rather like the experience.”
Arien turned up as the three others went through the fort to slaughter any of the robed folks who were skulking about. We examined Martialla, she didn’t appear to have any wounds, and it seemed like she recognized me, but she couldn’t or wouldn’t speak and did little beside allow herself to be taken by the hand and lead around. I don’t know if it was her intellect or her will that had been sapped but she didn’t seem to be able to do anything other than follow simple directions.
“Have you seen anything like this in your travels?”
“I’m afraid that I have. It’s an awful spell that crushes the spirit of the victim.”
“Does it wear off?”
“No, only powerful healing magic can undo this effect.”
“Of course, just wonderful.”
Oeracea’s memory was foggy on what exactly was going on and all the handsome prisoner, Bywan Staelish, could say was that he had been seized from Beresford and brought here to be tortured. I suppose in the end it scarcely matters what this lunatic was up to. With the number of people out there in the world kidnapping and sacrificing it’s hard to understand how there’s anyone left alive. I guess I shouldn’t complain next time I see some bedraggled parents dragging eight kids down the street, that’s the only thing keeping the species alive. Although sometimes I wonder why that’s a good thing.
Our two rescued friends accompanied us back to Bixton and the wagons. In the end it turned out to be easier to just carry Martialla than it was to lead her as she kept stumbling and falling. I can’t say exactly why but it sent a cold shiver up my spine to see her manhandled like that, staring blankly like she wasn’t even a living thing. I think part of it was just how casual they were about it – just carrying a woman with her mind destroyed here, no big thing. Men are like that you know.
Hair regrowth progress : .09%
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), 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