Muthuselan 25 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I was curious if any of my new friends had been gored to death or maimed by a minotaur (or the panicked mob) in an event that was a complete accident and no one’s fault so I went to the Macourek Theater early (for theater folk) but found no one there.  The door wasn’t locked so that gave me a chance to snoop around but I didn’t find anything of interest.  I came upon the gaggle of actors as few blocks away having a luxurious (where does their money come from?) patio breakfast and recounting their various ordeals at the bull baiting.  When they saw me coming they let forth a hue and cry that is suitable only for thespians.  They must come here often because none of the other patrons batted an eye at their antics.  After expressing their relief that I was still alive in the most self-centered ways possible, it’s tricky but they have the art down, they asked me how I had made it out and I spun a tale daring leaps and cunning tricks that had them all on the edge of their seat.  The key to dealing with theater people is to make your lies as outlandish as possible – the standard rules of deceit about keeping things simple don’t work well with people who are already removed from reality.  Throw in a few long evil twins though and they’re happy as clams in mud. 

According to the troupe after the rampage at the venue the minotaur had mauled a couple members of the watch until some helpful adventurers took it upon themselves to slay the creature.  Everyone (mostly the ladies) was all agog about a devastatingly handsome and dashing cavalier that heroically skewered the monster in the back with his lance while it was devouring a tobacconist.  Adventuring parties must be like fleas, you can’t see them but they’re everywhere.  There was also a lot of talk about the mysterious man in black who had purchased all the Shirelings and then disappeared.  Did he have anything to do with the murder of the Master of Chains and the resulting calamity?  I wish the authorities well in their search. 

The troupe was all gung-ho about continuing to rehearse their awful play, the show must go on after all, but I was able to beg off by saying that I was still traumatized by my tribulations last night.  They spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get me to come along and I realized that it’s because they’re used to dealing with each other – and amongst these sorts “no” means “beg me to come and kiss my ass or I will freak out on you”.  It makes disengaging with them tricky because they’re not used to an honest decline.  Eventually I was able to extricate myself though and make my way back to Josta’s Inn, which semi-miraculously looked about ready to open.  That Stinty is an industrious fellow I tell you what.

Vablis told me last night that Rindol was all horned up about helping her with her demon problem – so much so they he didn’t even ask why she had a demon problem.  Which is typical of those intellectual types, when they get excited about a challenge they often forget little details like why they’re doing it in the first place.  I assume that’s how alchemist’s fire was invented, someone was really into the task of making fire that wouldn’t be put out without stopping to think WHY someone wanted fire that was really hard to put out.  And a million burned corpses later here we are.  Anyway, Valbis had scheduled lunch with him at his house and I tagged along as her older sister Mètre .  When we got there his place was already covered with papers and drawings and he started rambling without introduction or small talk.

“The frame you see needs to be a great wooden beam which forms a circle. The beam must be three feet on all sides, and the circle should be at least thirty feet in diameter. The craftsman must cut a groove in the top surface of this beam, one inch wide and two inches deep.  Eight pillars, four feet tall by three feet square must be . . .”

“Pardon me good sir, but what sort of object are you talking about constructing?”

He blinked as if noticing me for the first time and then looked over at Vablis “Oh, pardon my manners, good to meet you Miss?”

Vablis curtsied neatly, she’s clearly trained even if she wasn’t the King’s mistress and gestured “Mr. Rindol, this is my sister Mètre, remember I told you about her yesterday?”

I gave him my hand to kiss “Yes, yes, of course, told me all about you she did.” He cleared his throat. “I assume you’re aware of the situation Miss Vablis, I mean the old Miss Vablis, I mean the older Miss Vablis, I mean . . . Mètre.  What I have designed here is a magic device that will trap a demon and hold it in place.  There’s groove for holy water you see, and an iron spike, and Adariel’s holy flame – all things that demons abhor.”

I put my hand on his arm as I leaned over to look at some of his scribbles “Very impressive that you could design such a thing.”

“Well to give credit where due, the concept design is something that I found in a book but I made quite a few improvements, yes, quite a few.”

Vablis smiled and took him by the other arm “Rindol is ever so smart isn’t he?”

“Oh yes, I hardly even know what I’m looking at here!” Vablis and I laughed prettily. “Excuse a silly girlish question Mr. Rindol, but how do you get the demon in the cage to trap it?”

He smiled indulgently “That’s the best part, when it’s completed you place an object that belongs to the demon on the spike and it’s instantly summoned into the device and trapped there.”

“Oh how delightful.  Do you think it will take to build?”

He seemed confused “Build?  Well now, I’m not a carpenter you know, I say . . . if you hired some men, to put it together, under my strict supervision perhaps it would take a month?”

“A month?!  Unacceptable.”

Vablis glared at me and kind of petted Rindol’s arm “Sister, don’t be rude.”

“Yes, of course you’re right, thank you sister.  My abject apologies Mr. Rindol, I didn’t mean to speak out of turn, it’s just the idea of this fiend out there doing God’s knows what filled me with terror.”

“Hmm, fiend you say?”

“Yes, you know, the demon.  That goes in the trap.”

Vablis tugged on his arm slightly “You remember, I told you yesterday, about the demon at the theater.”

He nodded “Of course, of course.  You have to understand though that I am a man of letters so I was thinking about this purely from an intellectual standpoint, need to shift my mindset here to practical application.  Of course if there is a danger in question a month is far too long, far too long indeed.  If you hired more men, the right men, it could possibly be done in a week – with a commensurate increase in cost of course.”

“How much are we talking?”

“Probably somewhere around fifteen thousand.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?!”

“Madam such language is not appropriate for a lady!”

 Vablis acted scandalized “Sister, how could you?!  Where did you hear such language as that?!”

After much apologizing and assuaging it was finally time for lunch – or at least it was for Vablis and Rindol.  My illusion was going to be wearing off before too long and I didn’t care for the repast he had set out which seemed to be black bread and some kind of pudding, so it was time for me to leave.  But there was one last thing before I left.

“Mr. Rindol, since the public good is at stake here is there any way you can think of to get the funds we need?”

He seemed uncomfortable “Well . . . Lord Wesel usually funds our efforts but . . .”

“Wonderful!  When do you think we could speak to him?”

“That sum . . . quite a bit more . . . it’s usually Murdane . . . does all the organization . . . . usually the one . . .”

I smiled brightly “Do you think we could meet Lord Wesel tomorrow?”

After leaving Rindol’s house I spent some time making the rounds to see where some skilled craftsmen might be found for this demon-box project as well as scoping out the local churches – seems like they should be interested in demon slaying.  Or at least demon trapping.  And while I was at it I spread some rumors about the Man in Black, just to keep in practice.  It was nightfall by the time I returned to the inn where I found Vablis sitting at one of the tables drinking some kind of pinkish soup.

“Did they finally get a cook in here?”

“Yeah, he’s not half bad either.”

“Nothing like at the King’s table though eh?”

She gave me a hard look “No, nothing like that.”

“Lighten up, you need to learn to look at these things philosophically.”

“Easy for you to say.  Can I ask you why we’re so worried about this demon?  How does that help us find the mayor’s brother?”

“Well mostly I don’t want to get killed by a demon while we’re finding him.  But once she’s out of the way I figure we can grab one of these others and kick them in the dick until they tell us what’s up.”

“That’s your plan?”

“I’ve learned that it pays to keep things simple.  Complex plans just go awry.  There’s nothing much that can go wrong with a good old fashioned dick kick.”    

Vablis snorted “I’m sure you’ll find a way.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 55,273 gold

XP: 523,101

Inventory:  Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Field Scrivener’s Desk, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Surcoat of the Night Wind,  Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, Ring of Invisibility, sunrod (4) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, dreamtime tea (2) Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style

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, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage 

Muthuselan 24 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

There’s an old saying, and by old saying I mean a saying that I am going to coin right now – when dealing with demons you need to bring in an expert.  My plan was for this to be Cladarielle, I had no specific reason to believe she knew about demons but who other than a righteous magical defender to consult on such a thing?  Sadly when I went to the Staelish house there was no one there – one of the neighbors told me that she and Bywin left town on some mission or other.  Which is highly inconvenient for me, I doubt they even considered that before they left.  So I thought why not bring in my old friend Rindol the Sage on this project?  He seems like the sort that would have academic knowledge about the fiends of the lower planes and if he doesn’t researching is his area of expertise so he can find out.  Plus, if something goes wrong he might lose his soul.  Everyone wins. 

I could have gone myself in disguise but I decided to send Vablis on that mission – might as well get some use out of her while I can.  Her reaction to this assignment was less than encouraging.

“How am I supposed to get him to help us?”

“The usual way, making him want you, and making him think that he might be able to get you.  This is pretty elementary stuff.  I don’t want to insult you here, but for a con artist you seem to be somewhat slow on the uptake.”

“I am not a con artist!  I’m a victim!”

“Of what?”

“Court intrigue!”

“Grow up.  Look, I get where you’re coming from, you were living the high life a few weeks ago and now you’re sharing a room with a better looking and more accomplished roommate in a pedestrian inn – which also happens to be under construction.  That’s a fall from grace.  Or not grace, but whatever, you know what I mean.  I’ve been where you are, except the part about encountering someone better, and it’s unpleasant.  But you got to get over and it move forward.  If you want to get back to living a life of luxury you’re going to have wallow in the mud for a while.  The sooner you accept that the better.  If all you have to do is flirt with an obnoxious pompous bookworm count yourself lucky.”

“And what are you going to be doing?”

“I’m going to go back to the theater to keep that thread alive.”

“So I have to spend the day with some moldy old scholar and you get to spend time with the troupe!?”

“Get to?  Trust me honey I would trade places with you in an instant.”

That was no exaggeration, spending the bulk of the day at the Macourek Theater helping those popinjays rehearse their stupid play is pretty close to my idea of Hells.  I’ve said a few times that if the Duke’s wife really wanted to torture me she should have done this or that – helping put on a play might be the new frontrunner in the how to torment Ela tournament.  Mercifully the rehearsal lost direction in the afternoon and turned into just a bunch of idlers idling.  They were all atwitter about a bull baiting event that night.  A lot of folk would expect that effete artistic types wouldn’t be interested in bloodsports but that’s a false assumption – many of them are bloodthirsty monsters.  They would never want to shed blood themselves, but they enjoy watching others bleed and die as much as the next person.  I had a very famous actor tell me once that he would love to go to war if his safety could be guaranteed.  So basically he was just saying he wanted to kill some people and get away with it.  What a fucking moron. 

I don’t care for such events myself, if you want to see cruelty just look out your window, but I feigned enthusiasm to ingratiate myself to this pack of nattering ninnyhammers.  The upcoming spectacle was all they could talk about at dinner, which was a laborious chore even though they took me to a very nice restaurant – actors are a very dramatic people as you might expect and it can be exhausting.  Even so, had I known what was coming I would have wished for that dinner to never end.  After eating we went to an open air amphitheater (is that a misnomer?  Are all amphitheaters open air?) that was a marketplace by day but after sundown once every two weeks was used for this awful display.  After we had been seated for a while before the event it became clear that Beresford does things a little bit differently. 

Not being content with animal cruelty Beresford “bull baiting” involves instead of a bull you pit an honest to Gods minotaur against not dogs but teams of Halflings.  I have no idea if minotaurs are sentient beings or just monstrous creatures but when they drug out the chained beast the murderous look in its eyes was chilling.  I’ve seen looks of hatred many times but this was something else – something older, something primordial and shocking.  You couldn’t look into those eyes for more than a second for fear of being struck dead on the spot.  And worse it was a cold fury, I expected the bull-man to rage and roar and strain against his chains as the crowd shouted and threw refuse at it but it didn’t – it was still as a stone.  Or no, not a stone, a volcano.  When retrained nothing to even notice, when the release comes?  Total devastation. 

“Is this legal?”

One of the actors, Wexley, a boorish oaf with a mush-mouth winked “It ain’t exactly allowed by the King’s Law but that’s part of the fun, it’s a Beresford tradition!”

“Are the Shirefolk gladiators?”

An actress they called Buttercup with a wide mouth and an awful hairstyle tittered annoyingly “A Halfling gladiator?  Who ever heard of such a thing?!”

Wexley nodded sagely “They’re indentureds, they earn enough money to buy out their contracts.  If they survive!”

Everyone in the theater troupe thought this was uproariously funny and I forced myself to laugh along with them.  I’ve seen some grotesque affairs in my day at Duke Eaglevane’s court but it’s been a long time and I have to admit that being out here in the real world has changed me some.  I’m not quite as indifferent to the suffering of others as I once was.  Plus that was in private, I could dismiss that as dreadful rich people being dreadful.  Having it out in the open with a crowd of “normal” people not only condoning it but cheering like it was a parade was stomach churning.  There was a part of me that wanted to learn the names and faces of everyone in attendance and make them all pay.  But I’m no avenging angel, I’m just trying to make my way in the world.

The first “bout” of the evening was a traditional bull versus dogs affair, an appetizer of sorts.  The host for the evening did a lot of showboating and speechifying throughout the night which stretched what would have been a brief engagement in a several hours long show.  In the second “match” I watched four wee little men get mutilated and disemboweled by the savage beastman.  I didn’t have much hope left for humanity at that point anyway, but whatever little shred I had died then I think.  Then came intermission.  I excused myself from my group claiming that I was overexcited and once out of sight changed my appearance to that of an imposing man in fine dark clothing and shaded spectacles. 

I had to work quickly but it wasn’t actually hard to find the holders of the contracts for the “fighters” that were going to be up in the second half of the evening.   I persuaded them to sell those contracts to me on the spot, which wasn’t as easy as you might think. For this disgusting display the contract holders had insurance that paid out of their indentureds died and they got a portion of the betting pool if they won – for them it was a no risk deal.  But I am nothing if not convincing so in the end I was the proud owner of the contracts of seventeen indentured Shirefolk.  When I went down to the holding area to tell them the good news they didn’t understand at first, they thought I wasn’t allowing to fight and therefore a chance at their freedom.

“It’s over, you’re free already.  Here are your contracts.  They’re yours.”

They looked on in awe as I handed over the pieces of paper that controlled their entire lives – or did until that moment anyway. 

“You lot better hustle on out of here, someone might shove you out there into the ring anyway – no reason to stick around.”

They still seemed stunned by this turn of events.   A freckled lady Halfling with an honest to Gods pot for a helmet clutching two tiny cleavers stepped forward.

“Where should we go?”

“Wherever you like, you’re free.  You were doing this for a chance to get free right?  You must have had some idea, some dream, some hope of what you’d do next.  Go do it.  Get out of here while you can.”

Step one complete.  For the next step I changed my appearance again – taking on the guise of one of those buxom milkmaid types that fellows seem to like – and went looking for the “Master of Chains”.  The guy that works the complex system of pulleys and weights and chains that keeps the minotaur from killing everyone in the crowd is a highly respected amateur.  It’s like being a deacon, only better because of the horror and death.  I found the Master of Chains in a little underground room with big wheels wrapped with chains and other clunky looking machinery.  He wasn’t supposed to allow anyone down there but the day I can’t flirt my way into a place like this is the day I release a minotaur to rampage through the streets killing at will.

The Master of Chains was a hairy overweight fellow who was strangely dressed quite stylishly.  As the intermission drug on he was overjoyed to show me how the whole operation worked – pull this lever here and pull this chain here and so on and so on – I pretended to be fascinated as hard as I could.  Here’s a fun lesson for you folks, when a man is taking down his trousers that’s a wonderful time to slit their throat.  They’re partially bent over and reaching down and their legs are encumbered – it’s a wonderfully awkward position.  Plus they’re so excited about what they think is coming next they’re not wary about what actually is going to happen.  I didn’t slit his throat though, I stabbed him through the ear – less blood.  He stood there for a moment in the awkward pants down hunch as if his brain was deciding if he was dead or not.  In the end it decided that he was and he toppled to the ground.  I took the keys off him and locked the door to his little “control room”.

I only had to wait a few more minutes for intermission to be over.  Since the Master of Chains needs to be fully aware of what’s going on there were little viewing ports out into the area floor – so it was more like a bunker I suppose than being underground exactly.  The master of ceremonies came out, I’m not sure if to announce the next exhibition or if someone had noticed the Halflings were gone and he was going to sadly announce that the show was over.  I’m not sure because it’s hard to do much announcing after a minotaur bites your head off.  The question I ask you is this – why would there even be a ‘release minotaur’ lever?  What possible use could that serve?

The crowd thought this was pretty funny at first, all part of the show, but they stopped laughing quickly.  From the floor of the amphitheater to the seating it was maybe ten feet, which wouldn’t present much of a challenge for an athletic human let alone an enraged minotaur.  It’s odd how close screams of delight and screams of terror really are, it takes some work to differentiate them.  Here’s the other interesting thing, if everyone in the crowd worked together and rushed the beast they could have overwhelmed it – some of them would have died of course, but even a minotaur can’t take on a hundreds strong mob and win.  But instead they ran, and in doing not only did the minotaur have the chance to attack them with impunity but also I grantee you more people died from being trampled by each other than from being gored by the monster.  It’s an odd paradox, you run because you don’t want to die but running is far more dangerous than fighting. 

I was trying to decide when it might be safe to open the door when I heard someone pounding on said door.  Very shortly after the pounding I heard the scraping of someone panickingly (is that a word?) trying to use a key on the other side.  Before I could do anything about that though I heard a terrific roar and then the door was almost shattered by a terrific impact.  I heard a crunching sound and saw the tips of two horns come through the door not even a quarter of an inch.  That’s when the blood started pouring in under the doorframe.  Doorjamb?  The bottom of the door.  I turned invisible and wedged myself under some chain-contraption as with a lot of snorting and snuffling the door was bashed to pieces by a mighty fist.  The creature stood with some poor sod impaled it’s horns and bits of door on top of that – so comprehensively covered with blood and gristle that it looked like it had crawled out from inside some larger creature.  Some manner of blasphemous birth. 

I curled myself into as small of a ball as possible and cursed the fact that as per usual no good deed goes unpunished.  It stood at the doorway for a LONG time sniffing at the air with its massive muzzle but instead of coming inside (it would have had to squeeze through the door but it could have made it) and yanking me out like a polar bear hauling a beluga whale out of the ice it wandered off.  The invisibility wore off shortly thereafter but I stayed under there for a solid hour just to be sure.  And even then it was really hard for me to crawl out from under there.  I heard some hoof beats in the distance but the immediate area was deserted.  Although just a few blocks away I encountered the standard night-time trickle of traffic.  When I got back to the inn Josta and Stinty and some of the lads were having a drink after the hard work of the day.  Josta did a bit of a double take when I walked in, which worried me that I had gotten some blood on my clothes after all.

“You look white as a ghost.”

“A vampire attacked me on the way here.  I said Adariel’s Prayer of Thanksgiving and it burst into flames because of the purity of my faith, but he did drain a little blood from me before turning to ash.  That’s probably what you’re seeing.”

She nodded “That’d do it alright.”

Stinty had a concerned look on his face “Some folks coming by said there was an issue at the bull-baiting tonight, did you hear anything about that?”

“Not a word.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 55,273 gold

XP: 523,101

Inventory:  Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Field Scrivener’s Desk, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Surcoat of the Night Wind,  Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, Ring of Invisibility, sunrod (4) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, dreamtime tea (2) Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style

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, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage 

Muthuselan 23 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I’m no expert on comparative religion, but in my experience two gods split the lion’s share of religious ecstasy – Adariel the just and kind lady of community and goodness and charity and Odobenine the greedy lord of greedy greed.  The common folk tend to lean towards Adariel while the aristocracy tends to favor Odobenine – which seems understandable.  My point is that even though Duke Eagelvane was not at all a religious man there were a few priests knocking about his court.  One of these Odobeninians cornered me one time and was telling me all about how there’s a different demon for each of the ten lethal sins.  The one he was most interested in was the succubus, because for some reason that seems to be the one all the men like.  He delighted in pointing out that the succubus is NOT the demon of lust as people commonly assume but rather the demon of vanity.  This he claimed is why the succubus is an exclusively female demonform because while lust afflicts men vanity is the providence of women.  I believe he passed out drunk in a fountain one night and drowned if I remember correctly. 

Why do I bring this up?  You may recall that for a while I was carrying a small ivory sculpture of two entwined succubi, looking back on it now it unmistakably was magic and was exerting some kind of subtle influence on my mind.  I’m not sure what would have happened to me had it not been stolen, nothing good I’m sure.  Lypara Emprenzo looked exactly like those succubi, you know, only without the horns and wings and fangs.  Coincidence?  Very unlikely.  Maybe whoever carved it knew or saw Lypara and based it on her.  It’s possible.  But what I think is that Lypara is actually a succubus and the subject of that carving.  And what kind of shapechanging demon would take on a form that was exactly similar to her actual form?  A prideful one. So maybe that drowned priest wasn’t totally full of shit is the point.

Vablis was up annoyingly early and wanted to head over to the theater but I assured her that theater folk aren’t early risers and went back to bed.  When I did get up she was itching to go and not in the good excited way more in the troubling nervous way.  I’m starting to realize that she may not be the smooth operator that I thought, she may be more of a desperate woman out of her element.  Probably like I was at the beginning of this “journey” but I like to think I hid it better.  I should have spent some time reassuring her and making her feel relaxed but I wasn’t in the mood.  Why am I always the one who has to keep everyone else from losing their head?  Doesn’t seem fair. 

The inn was still the home of frenzied activity as Stinty and his men continued with their renovations.  I got sick of Valbis asking me when we were going to go every few minutes and told her to go read the papers the mayor had given me.  I stood on the overlook with Josta watching Archum and the rest of Stinty’s crew work themselves into a lather, literally.  There’s something very satisfying about doing nothing while watching other people work.  Makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something.  Around mid-day Vablis and I headed to theater.   

Macourek Theater is a massive building for a city the size of Bereford, one of the largest in town I would wager.  It looked like it had been through some significant upgrades somewhat recently but there were still some signs of dilapidation about the edges – someone had spent a chunk of money fixing it up but hadn’t quite finished the job.  Not yet anyway.  The layout was odd for a playhouse, there had been some remodeling on the inside as well but still there were a lot of rooms that seemed to serve no purpose.  Unless I miss my mark I think in times past this was a tenement building or something of the like.  We were met in the lobby area by a tall grey-haired man in some sort of red fluffy jumpsuit.  That’s the problem with theaters types, you can never be sure if they’re wearing a costume or if they’re dressed like they are because they’re insane.  He said that they weren’t taking auditions currently, but between myself and Vablis he had no chance of keeping us out.  We’re winsome as fuck we were. 

We interrupted practice for an upcoming show of Dead in Infinity which is a dreadful play that continues to be performed for reasons that elude me.  There’s an odd phenomena where sometimes something that sucks becomes a “classic” and then just continues on even though nobody likes it.  The players almost looked relieved to have a distraction from going over the tired dialog and nonsensical turns of plot in Dead for us to showcase our skills.  We each sang a solo, we sang a couple duets, Vablis played her pipe, I demonstrated a little sleight of hand, and even though we hadn’t discussed it before Vablis went rogue and also danced a little.  Her steps were pedestrian but her cleavage was on point.  The assembled fops and dilettantes were very impressed and came close to fawning over us as they assured us that they would find us work soon.  

It was during this fawning period that Crawdore Van Saar came in with Lypara Emprenzo on his arm, accompanied by a gaggle of sycophants.  I recognized her immediately as the same “woman” on the carving.  I halfway expected her to sprout wings and fly after me to suck my soul, but she merely played the part of the demure yet sluttish paramour of the theater owner.  Upon hearing about our audition Crawdore insisted that we perform for him as well, which we did, but I couldn’t help but stare at Lypara.  I’ve unfortunately been in close proximity for a demon a few times now (add that to the list) but somehow it was much worse with a demon in disguise.  With a slavering red-skinned monster you know what to expect, but with one hidding in the form of a pretty brunette with blue ribbons in her hair?  Who the Hells knows what’s going to happen?  Eventually after much flattery and fame-whoring and facile chit-chat we were able to extricate ourselves and head back to the inn.

“Well, that was easy.  I thought this was going to be a whole big long thing.”

Valbis frowned “What do you mean?”

“Lypara Emprenzo is a bloodsucking shapeshifting demonspawn from the pits of Hells, obviously she killed the mayor’s brother when she figured out he was sniffing around.  Case closed.”

“How do you know that?”

“Trust me, I know these things.”

After depositing her back with Josta and Stinty I headed to the mayor’s compound.  I was so pleased to have this wrapped up nice and neat without any fuss that I wasn’t even annoyed that he kept me waiting for over three hours.  When I was escorted into his office I almost skipped I was so happy with the way things turned out.

He was messing about this some papers as important men must to show you how important they are “What is it?  I have a meeting in a few minutes.”

“Lypara Emprenzo killed your brother.  She’s a succubus in human form and she drained the life out of him like sucking the juice out of a mango.  Who do I need to see about getting my possessions back?  Do you have a ticket or something that I give to a guy for my stuff?  I don’t want to accidentally get someone else’s stuff.”

“No.”

“Then how does it work?  You just summon the guy or what?”

“I mean no my brother isn’t dead.”

“Trust me on this, she got him, she got him good, he’s dead.  She demon-sucked the life out of him and left him a dried up husk of a man – literally.”

“No, the divinations of the priests indicated that he’s still alive.”

“So what?  Fortune tellers and charlatans they are.  I can get you ten mediums here tomorrow that will tell you whatever you want to hear.”

“No.”

“No?”

“My brother is alive.  Don’t come back here without real information.  I’m not interested in your speculation.  Get out of my office.  I don’t like having my time wasted.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 61,244 gold

XP: 516,701

Inventory:  Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Field Scrivener’s Desk, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Surcoat of the Night Wind,  Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, Ring of Invisibility, sunrod (4) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, dreamtime tea (2) Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style

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, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage 

Muthuselan 22 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Last night was fun, but as my grandma always said fun is for babies and dullards, today it’s time to get back to work.  Or get too work rather I suppose.  I spent the morning doing a little more reading about the Macourek Theater and the “Dreamers” and came across a potential reason why the mayor was interested in them in first place and why they might be willing to kill to preserve their secrets.  The mayor’s missing (and probably dead) brother suspected that the Dreamers, aside from being moony drug-users were also importing and selling large quantities of bloodbrush extract.  Which is the kind of thing that the civic authorities tend to frown on – a populace that is tripping the light fantastic isn’t working and if you’re not working you’re not paying taxes.  It’s simple exploitation.  I mean economics.

Infiltrating a strange and possibly murderous cult on my own doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time so I decided to recruit some help.  I went to the west gate and talked to the guards on duty there as a beginning step to tracing down the whereabouts of Miss Vablis.  I worked my way up the chain of command until I talked to a corpulent watch-captain who told me that Iconia Vablis was exonerated of all charges regarding the theft of the lumber payroll and by a wild coincidence was staying at the home of that very watch-captain at his guest.  What a twist of fate!  I told him that I would ever so much like to pay a visit to my good friend Iconia and found myself that very day having lunch with Misses watch-captain and the lost little lamb herself in his large but very pedestrian home. After the second course Misses watch-captain went to scold one of the servants for dropping a plate and we were left alone on the veranda.

“So, have you had to sleep with that bloated elephant seal yet?”

She blushed like a champion “Whatever can you mean?”

“You can drop the act, it’s just us girls here, I’m not trying to wreck your swindle here, I’m just curious.”

Her voice suddenly became 98% less sweet “What are you trying to do then?”

“I need some help with something I’m working on and I think you’re the person to give it.”

“Why would I want to do that?”

“Money of course.  Plus this situation isn’t going to last.  Eventually you’re going to have to fuck the elephant seal which is bad enough on his, but there’s no way he’s going to keep his trap shut about it so his wife is going to find out and then you’ll be out on your firm little bottom.  You’ll have risked being crushed under that leviathan for nothing.  You probably got a decent score off the lumerjacks but then you must have spent most of that hiring all those guards just to get you here so I don’t imagine that you have much cash on hand to work with.”

“I’ll get by.”

“Probably you would, but why scrape by when you can get a leg up?  Why did you spend all that money to get here anyway?  Why Beresford?”

“There was someone here I thought I could count on.  It didn’t work out.”

“That’s always a kick in the tits.  Seems like counting on other people never works out well.”

“You’re asking me to count on you.”

I smiled “Sure, but I’m one of the truthworthy ones.  I’m not asking you to count on me though, I’m asking for your help, which is a whole different thing.”

“How much?”

“Ten.”

She scoffed “Ten gold?  Are you out of your mind?”

“Not ten gold, ten thousand gold little miss.” Her eyes nearly jumped out of her head. “Yeah, that’s some real walking around money eh?”

“What are we going to do, steal the crown jewels?”

“Nothing so dramatic, just a simple missing person case.”

She studied me for a moment “You’re serious aren’t you?”

“Always.  Can you sing?”

“Well enough, I’m better at playing the pipes.”

“That will work.  Are you in or out?”

She pursed her lips “Let’s say for the sake of argument that I was interested, how do I get out of here?”

“Nothing could be simpler, you just walk out with me after lunch.  I’m your old friend that came to visit and check up on you, and you, not wanting to impose on the good captain and his lovely wife any longer are going to come and stay with me.  The elephant seal will be disappointed of course, but he couldn’t really have expected anything else given what a pure and chaste young lady you are.”

“I don’t want to burn any bridges here.”

“You won’t.  Thank the good ladywife profusely for ‘putting up’ with you and thank and thank her again and then we go.  Trust me, it will be better if you’re just gone when the captain comes home – a goodbye gives the chance for closure.  This way you leave on good terms but he’s still thinking about you.”

“You said trust me, I never trust anyone who says that.”

“I knew I was going to like you.”

A few hours later we were upstairs in my room at the gravedigger’s inn talking strategy as the few workmen not too hung over to work were banging away downstairs.  Despite what she said Vablis was more than an average singer but her piping was very pedestrian, I can see why she might think otherwise though since the pipe was magic and was helping her out with some enhancements.  I wonder why she didn’t know that, or bothered to lie about it, a normal pipe can’t harmonize with itself. I suppose it’s possible that she actually doesn’t know that much about music – it’s an odd skill in that you can be good at it without understanding it at all.  And conversely many people who would consider themselves experts in the field can’t carry a tune nor play a single note.  Is there a lesson there?  Maybe.  It was late in the evening when we decided to call it a night.

“Well, I suppose it’s simple enough, tomorrow we go to the theater and audition.”

“And then what?”

“And then we see what happens.”

“You haven’t asked me why I came here.”

“I’m not the type to pry.  But it seems like you want to let it out so you can tell me if you like.”

Her claim was that she had been the King’s mistress and was married to a Lord at court in order to keep the affair a secret.  Said Lord wasn’t super excited about having a wife that he couldn’t have sex with, but what was he going to do about it?  The King dying had really thrown a monkey in the works though and her husband told her he was planning on divorcing her by way of accusing her of infidelity.  Which was bad enough, but then she got wind that the Queen was planning on having her killed on suspicion that she had birthed a royal bastard that was being hidden in the wings as part of some nefarious plot to displace her son from the throne.  She said that she had slipped out of the capital and had been making her way across the countryside by doing things like scamming the payroll of a lumber camp and telling a caravan master that she was the wife of a cruel baron fleeing his wickedness.  It was a tale convincingly told but what con artist can’t spin a good tale? 

“That’s quite a story.”

“You don’t believe me?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t decided yet, but the good news is that it doesn’t matter.  I don’t really care who you are.  But, if you were the King’s personal cock-warmer my question would be; do you think the Queen or your husband has sent anyone after you?”

“I wouldn’t think so, they just needed me out of the way and they got it, but I can’t stop looking over my shoulders anyway.

“That’s not a bad habit regardless.  Bad things often come from behind.  And from in front of you.  And from the sides.  And from above and below.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 61,244 gold

XP: 516,701

Inventory:  Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Field Scrivener’s Desk, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Surcoat of the Night Wind,  Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, Ring of Invisibility, sunrod (4) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, dreamtime tea (2) Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style

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, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage 

Muthuselan 21 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

The first order of business today was hitting the market and liquidating some of the gear I stripped off the plethora of assassins that had come to murder me as well as that of the anti-assassins that died sort of trying to protect me.  Can’t go after a theatrically themed cult without some operating capital no can I?  I tried on the chain mail shirt but even though it was much smaller than a lot of the mail armor I’ve seen people walking around with it still weighed a Gods damned ton so I ended up selling it.  I don’t see how people can prance around in those things – the pressure on the shoulders is crazy. 

And there is no way I am going to wear the leather armor – I refuse to walk around looking like a battle dominatrix.  I’ve come to realize from experience now (sadly) that the amount of money changing hands in the aftermath of one of these knockdown drag out murder affairs is truly staggering.  I’ve always thought of adventurers as providing little to no value to society but I realize now that weirdly I think they may be a grass roots way of redistributing wealth.  They go one place, kill a bunch of people and steal a bunch of gold, then they go somewhere else and get killed and the economy there has a boom.  If only there was a way to predict their comings and goings, you could make a fortune on speculating in adventurer futures. 

It’s also interesting how much time and effort it takes to resolve these sorts of transactions – it’s not like you can pop on down to the magic store and sell off whatever you have in bulk.  You have to talk to a guy who knows a guy whose cousin is in town who has a connection with an art dealer who knows a merchant who’s looking for a thing for his bodyguard and so on and so on.  By the time I got back to the inn it was already noon.  And there was a new addition – an “opening soon” banner along with a new sign – a smiling skeleton digging up a grave which contained a coffin within with was a still living man hugging a barrel of ale.  The inside was a whirlwind of activity with Archum and the rest of Stinty’s crew hammering and sawing and bashing things with sledges.  Josta looked on from the balcony with a stein in hand looking as impassive as ever.  I walked over to where Stinty was doing something workmanlike to the ladder downstairs.

“You don’t let grass grow under your feet do you?”

He stopped his work, wiping his brow and helping himself to a ladleful of water “That I do not.  I thought you were kidding when you said there was a hidden room down there.”

“You said the same thing about me giving you a new place, do I seem like a kidder to you?”

“No not a kidder, more of a wiseass.  For someone who claims to not be much of a fighter you have a real sharp tongue from what I’ve observed so far.”

“My grandma always said that hard words have never won a fight, but I can’t seem to help myself.”

“Your granny was involved in a lot of fighting was she?”

“No, she was smart enough to stay away from that sort of thing.  If only I had inherited that trait from her.”

“Maybe you take after your old gaffer.”

“I wouldn’t know, I never met him.”

“So who exactly knows about this hidey hole?”

“A bunch of smugglers, a couple prostitutes, a city watch lieutenant and some of her men, a few other random people – as I said I don’t know if you can really claim it’s a secret room anymore.”

“We’ll have to talk more about these smugglers, I’m going to be doing some remodeling anyway – I’ve got a few ideas.”

“So I noticed.  What’s with the sign?  I get the gravedigger theme because of Josta, but while that might be good for a low down dirty drinking hole this is a middle class inn, I don’t think people are going to want to stay the night in a place with a death theme.”

“You’d be surprised.  Besides, we don’t want a lot of people coming through here anyway, just enough to make things look legit.”

“I assume you know your business, I’ll leave you to it.”

I headed upstairs to my new room, the one that used to be Stella’s before she got killed protecting me, and I opened up the packet that the mayor’s attendant had given me.  The Macourek Theater was the center of the investigation which was purchased a few years back by one Crawdore Van Saar allegedly at the behest of his beau Lypara Emprenzo.  There was an extensive dossier on Van Saar – he invented some kind of new yoke or something and that apparently is enough to make you semi-rich.  The documents reputed him to be an artist and an inventor as well as a steel merchant, I assume this last one is what actually brings in the money.  There wasn’t much about Emprenzo other than that she seemed to be the one that brought Van Saar into the fold of the maybe cult.  The fold in question had something to do with an entity they called the Dreamer – the sense I got was that it was not a cult so much as just a bunch of dilettantes messing around with mystical bullshit and taking hallucinogens.  But it was something serious enough for the mayor to send his brother to investigate.  And possibly for the Dreamers to discover and murder said brother.

There were pages and pages on known associates and goings on at the theater but I had no appetite for digging into details reports of people’s movements and what plays were put on at the place when.  I did some skimming and then I found myself just shuffling papers around and not really looking at anything.  I wandered out onto the overlook with Josta and watched the workers down below for a few minutes. I glanced at the rail-thin former gravedigger, realizing that she was something like a coffin nail herself – lean and long and not much to look at but tough as they come.

“How’s the studying going?”

“I got the gist of it.”

“Is a special job for the mayor a ‘gist of it’ kind of deal?”

“You want to go get drunk?”

“Yeah.”

I yelled down to Stinty and his men “You guys want to get drunk?”

Stinty glanced up from using a lathe for something or other “It’s not even three bells.”

“Josta and I are going to get drunk, anyone who wants to knock off early can come with – I’m buying.”

In my old life I had a “colleague” by the name of Madeline, or at least that’s what she called herself – probably her real name was something different.  One day while nursing a hangover she confessed to me her jealously of my ability to over-imbibe and not end up in bed with someone by accident.  Being a courtesan is similar to walking a tightrope, one misstep and you’re facing a long drop, and having sex with the wrong person is a real misstep.  I told her there was no special secret to it because despite what everyone tells themselves nothing you do under the influence of drink is an accident.  Booze is not a magic elixir that makes you do things that you don’t want to do.  It’s an amplifier, it takes those little parts of you that you hide and it screams them out to the world.  If you’re an angry drunk you’re an angry person who manages to hide it most of the time.  If you’re a sad drunk you’re a sad person who manages to hold it together most of the time.

A drunk person’s words are a sober person’s thoughts – this is a fundamental truth.  You don’t end up in bed with someone by accident, some part of you wanted to be there.  You regret it later maybe, but that doesn’t make the motivation not be there.  I don’t spill secrets when I’m drunk like many people do because there’s no part of me that wants to tell my secrets.  I don’t act a fool when I’m drunk like many people do because there’s no part of me that wants to be a fool.  I don’t get belligerent with people when I’m drunk like many people do because there’s no part of me that wants to confront people directly.  And I don’t end up in bed with people by “accident” like many people do because there’s no part of me that wants to end up there.  So I didn’t end up in bed with anyone but as other people were off making their drunken “mistakes” I did end up at the end of the night sitting at a table with Stinty’s scar-faced redhead friend. 

“How do you wear that chainmail all the time without being horrible discomforted?  I tried it on and the stress on the shoulders in incredible.”

“There’s padding you put under it that helps, but mostly you get used to it.  It’s less discomfort than a spear in the belly.”

“I suppose it is at that.” I turned my head towards her “How does my ear look to you?”

“Not great, but I’ve seen worse.”

I sighed “It’s going to cost a fortune to fix.  I got my face slashed up one time and it was a major pain in the ass to get the magic needed to restore me to my original glory.  The worst thing about that is my fucking bodyguards didn’t do a damn thing about it.  I did learn a lesson though, make sure you have at least one female bodyguard, they don’t have any issue getting rough with a female attacker.  What’s your availability should the need aspire?  

“Aspire?”

“Sorry, arise.”

“I’m pretty happy with Stinty.”

“That’s fair, he seems like a solid citizen, in a crooked sort of way.”

“Could that magic you’re talking about fix my scars?”

“Yeah, but as I said it cost an arm and a leg, and finding someone to do it pretty hard too.  Magic is pretty fucked up.  As far as I can tell a first months student can kill someone with a word at a hundred paces but you need to be super advanced to make a scar go away.  It’s almost like the Gods don’t like us.”

“The Gods are assholes, if they aren’t why did they let my mother carve my face in the first place?”

“I’ll drink to that.” 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 61,244 gold

XP: 516,701

Inventory:  Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Field Scrivener’s Desk, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Surcoat of the Night Wind,  Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, Ring of Invisibility, sunrod (4) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, dreamtime tea (2) Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style

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, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage 

Muthuselan 20 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 2

The city watch was helpful enough to clean up in the aftermath of the running battle through the streets that resulted in nine people being killed – your tax dollars at work.  They didn’t even ask me any questions.  I’m not sure if it’s because they mayor told them not to bother me or if that was still the results of the assassins’ bribery or sheer laziness or what their reason was.  Miraculously Stinty was still alive.  Unfortunately Stella Roseback was not.  I’m not sure what that means in regard to Duke Lodvocka and myself, nothing good I’m sure.  Once again a promising developments turns into another disaster for old Ela.

After the ministrations of some gold and silver robed adherents of Odobenine who turned up Stinty was as good as new.  They handed me a receipt with my new “credit” total.  I admit I was a little dazed by the events that had just transpired, which wasn’t made any better by my lack of sleep.  I just stood there with the receipt in my hand was they walked away wondering if they somehow knew to show up because of their God or magic or whatever or if they just always turned up at the scene of a bloody battle looking to make some money off healing.

“How do they know?”

Stinty frowned “How does who know what?”

I pointed “The priests.  How do they know how much they owe me?  Even with magic it seems to be almost impossible to communicate over long distances efficiently.  How do they do it?”

“What are you talking about?”

“I don’t know anymore.”

Stinty looked around at the blood and carnage in the streets “What a mess.”

“Yeah.  Well, let’s go.”

“Go where?”

“I owe you an inn.”

We walked for what seemed like an hour, even though it was only a few blocks, to the scene of the murder solved by the great cat detective.  Josta was there behind the bar almost like she had been there the entire time I was gone, which she probably was – aside from breaks for sleeping.  She nodded as we came in the door.

“You’re back, that must be what all the shouting and people running through the streets in terror was about.

“Ta-dah.  Josta this is Stinty, Stinty this is Josta.  Stinty’s place burned down so he’s going to help you run this one.  There’s a secret room in the basement like you had in your old place, but a bunch of people know about it now so I don’t know if it’s worth much.  I’m going to go sleep for a while.”

“That one whore came back and is in the room you were using.”

I headed up the stairs “That’s fine, I can use the room Stella was in.  She won’t mind.”

Stinty called up to me “How did you get this place?”

“Last woman standing, isn’t that the way people normally get stuff?”

I went up and collapsed into the dead woman’s bed.  It’s funny, you never think about it, but the bed you sleep on at an inn has definitely been slept in by at least one dead person – law of averages and all.  Probably more.  But unless the person just died you don’t think about it.  My hands were shaking and my legs felt like they had no strength left in them.  I was so tired that I thought I would fall asleep instantly but instead I laid there for a long time – it was one of those situations where you’re too exhausted to even sleep.  Like the act of falling asleep itself takes a tiny little bit of energy and you’re so drained that you can’t even do that.  Eventually I burrowed under the covers and drifted off to sleep with a noseful of Stella’s perfume.  Jasmine I think.

Eventually I woke and wandered downstairs where I found Josta, Fiestia, Stinty, and another Halfling sitting at one of the tables in the common area having themselves a grand meal.  Ale stew, rooster and dumplings, cherry pie squares, shepherd’s pie, three-berry tarts, honey cakes, and lots and lots of bacon.  It looked so delicious that I actually felt a tear slip out of my eye and race down my jawline.  They seemed to be quite jovial and waved for me to join them like everything was fine, which I guess it was.  The other Halfling was introduced as Addalia Applebottom or some silly Halfling name like that and I noted that Fiestia was dressed normal, not like, you know, a sex worker.  I learned that despite my expectations she had gotten herself a job as an apprentice lutemaker. 

The four of them were getting along famously and I felt like something of a fifth wheel.  But that was fine with me, I just wanted to eat and recede into the background.  Despite what some people might tell you, I have no interest in being the center of attention – I only move to the forefront when I have something to say.  I was perfectly happy to let these four new friends gab and joke the night away while I stuffed myself with hachis parmentier and black bottom pie and drank more than a little wine.  Eventually in the wee hours of the night it was just Stinty and I left around the table and he was kind enough to share his pipeweed with me.  He sat back looking satisfying and blowing the occasional smoke ring.

“I admit, I thought you were joking when you said that you owed me an inn.  This place needs some work, but it’s got good bones.  You’re full of surprises aren’t you?”

“Oh yes, you never know what’s going to come about with me.”

“So what’s next on your agenda?”

“Well, I’ve been giving a very special mission by the mayor himself.  Once I finish that, and the seventeen other things that will sidetrack me along the way, I can get back to the reason I came here in the first place – finding Lord Wesel.”

“What is it that you do again?”

“I’m a courtesan, you know, I travel the land rescuing people and delving into tombs and fighting dire battles and feuding with powerful crimelords and freeing slaves and overthrowing corrupt regimes and parleying with dragons.  Normal courtesan stuff.”

“Indubitably.”

“You appear to be a man about town Master Stinty, with a network of comrades and informants and such – maybe you can help me out.  There’s a cult of some kind that operates out of a local theater that probably killed the mayor’s brother.  Do you know anything about them?”

“I can’t say as that I do, but then I’m not much of a theater goer.  Nor much of a cult joiner.”

“I should probably read that information packet I was given.”

“What stopped you?”

“A guy shot me with a bunch of arrows, you’re familiar with the rest.”

He nodded “Indeed I am.  But why didn’t you read about it when you were hiding out at my place?  Or when we were out in the woods?  Pretty much all you did the whole time is is complain about how bored you were.  Why didn’t you read it then?”

“Because . . . . because . . . . shut up, that’s why.”

He started packing up his pipe “Well, at least you have a good reason.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 5888 gold

XP: 516,701

Inventory:  Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Field Scrivener’s Desk, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Surcoat of the Night Wind, +2 Studded Leather (2), +1 Shock Composite Longbow, masterwork rapier (3), Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Cloak of Resistance +1 (2), Endless Efficient Quiver, Ring of Invisibility, Ring of Protection +1 (3), disguise kit (3), sunrod (4) +1 Leather Armor (3) +1 Heavy Crossbow (2), +1 Chain Shirt, +1 Composite Longbow, Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, masterwork longsword, masterwork falchion, masterwork heavy crossbow, +2 chain shirt, masterwork short sword, dreamtime tea (2), wand of restoration, +1 Quarterstaff, sap, Assassin Mask (2)

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, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage 

Muthuselan 20 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 1

For some strange reason being kidnapped by bizarre hybrid fey beasts really had Stinty on edge – we walked in the dark through the forest for hours before he realized that I was following him and he was just walking without pay attention to where we were going.  Once we got started back in the right direction the sun was coming up by the time we got back to the campsite.  And then I had to spend a good hour talking him down – he was so jittery it seemed like he was going to fly apart.  I have a lot of tools in my bag of tricks, but the one that I dislike using the most is gently reassuring someone that everything is going to be okay.  It’s not hard, staying calm yourself is the lion’s share of calming someone else down.  Speak in short simple sentences, give them a lot of (undeserved) praise, ask them what they need, say things like “You can do this”, “stay with me”, “what you are feeling is frightening, but it is not dangerous” – crap like that.  So it[‘s easy but it sucks because it takes time and all you want to do is to tell the person to get the fuck over it and be an adult.  But that’s counterproductive. 

Once Stinty was “okay” I was going to lay down for some sleep, but instead it was time to head to the secondary location. This annoyed me because if he had been thinking we would have just gone straight there and then I would be asleep right now but I couldn’t say anything because they could get him all riled up again.  So instead of sweet, sweet sleep we were stomping through the forest again – it was good four hours before we got to the second campsite where Stella was waiting for us.  The relief on her face was obvious as we slogged towards her.

“Thank Gods, I was starting to think something had happened to you two.”

“I wasn’t expecting to see you until tonight.”

She blinked in surprise “I thought you were going to be here last night.”

“Well whatever, sounds like we had a miscommunication there.  Tell Stinty the plan, I’m going to sleep – we had a rough night.”

“What?  No, we need to go now – everything’s ready in town, we’re going to be late as it is.”

“Late for what?  If you have the decoy why do you even need us at all?  Wouldn’t it make more sense for us to stay out here while the broad with the mismatched eyes kills the guy?”

“You said that you wanted to be there, that you wanted to be part of it!”

“Oh right, I did say that.  Ugh . . . . . fuck.  Let’s go then I guess.  Did you at least bring horses?”

Stella gestured “Look around, do you see any trails here?  It wouldn’t be much of a hideout if there was a road for horses.”

I yawned, mouth gaping open like a commoner “Don’t be reasonable with me.”

And so sleepless, we set off again – with Stella herding us along at what seemed like an unreasonable pace.  What’s the rush?  Is the assassin going to leave down before he tries to kill me?  She kept going on and on about how important timing was but that makes no sense – the killer is waiting on us, it doesn’t matter when I show up.  If I hadn’t been so tired I would have eviscerated her argument’s ass off but I was so I didn’t.  I don’t know how Stinty was able to keep up better than me with his little legs but he did, which only served to irritate me further.  It was late afternoon when we moseyed into Beresford.  It seems like I’ve been here forever.  Why did I even come to this stinking burg anyway?  What am I doing here?  I was so caught up in my negative thoughts that I realized Stella had been talking for a while.

“ . . . and then what we’re going to do” she stopped in mid-sentence on account of the arrow that slammed into her chest. He stared down at it, and touched it with her hand as if trying to make sure it was real.  “I . . . I’ve been shot.”

I knocked her to the ground as another arrow flew by and then scrambled into an alley to get out of the line of fire.  I saw no sign of Stinty, he must already be in hiding, but what I did see is an archer on a rooftop, looked like a woman with one foot up on the eave as she drew back an very impressive looking longbow.  I grabbed my dagger and watched helplessly as Stella was trying to crawl for cover and the archer coolly shot her in the back several more times.  Stella stopped moving and it looked like the archer was going to continue shooting at her fallen body so I dashed across the street to draw her aim, if only for a second.  I dove behind a trough but it I was trying to hide behind it the short way and they didn’t work very well – I was hit in the leg and gazed on the scalp.  I heard Stinty shout “make yourself fucking small!” and then saw a stick of some kind trailing big plumes of smoke come flying end over end and land on the roof where the archer had taken up their position.

Stinty ran out of wherever he had been hiding and under the cover of smoke, I helped him drag Stella’s limp form into the alley.  He was about to say something when I saw a disruption in the swirling smoke along the roof of the adjacent building and suddenly there was an arrow protruding from his shoulder – or at least the vanes were – the rest of the arrow was buried in his body.  I’ve never seen an arrow go so deeply into someone.  Stinty fell sideways, slamming his head on the ground with a sickening thud as above the archer’s invisibility dissipated and she took aim at me. I threw my dagger at her, not even coming close, and then flared my cloak out to try and conceal myself as I ran for all the good it would do.  But the shot never came.  Suddenly the archer was hit by a crossbow bolt – right through the eye.  She stood for a moment and then pitched over the side, bouncing off the opposite wall with her legs and landing in a heap. 

I looked and saw Sergeyevna Kostornaia and three men standing on a roof a several blocks away.  She was holding her crossbow upright and had a smug smile on her face as her cronies patted her on the back and told her how great she was.  I headed their way.

“That was your fucking plan?!  What happened to the decoy?  What happened to controlling the situation?  Why were your men up there with you instead of down here?!  What the fuck were you doing?!”

It looked she was about to say something when all of a sudden she was pin cushioned with arrows across the upper chest and neck.  With looks of horror her men tried to hold her up and tend to her, but they were being pelted with arrows as well and looked panicked – except for one man wearing a bearskin of some kind who roared with anger and started leaping across from rooftop to rooftop.  Before I could process this turn of events a masked man in black robes appeared on a rooftop between me and the building Kostornaia was on with a nasty looking crossbow – shooting me directly in the sternum with enough force to knock me backwards and off my feet.  I crawled back into the alley as he reloaded, taking cover behind the lifeless form of the first assassin.  The rooftop crowssbowman sent a few shots into the back of the first assassin and then gave up to move to a better firing position.  I quickly rifled through the first assassin’s bag and found a potion which I drank blindly – and I found myself turning invisible.  I grabbed an arrow from her quiver and ran, having no idea how long I was going to be unseen. 

As the crossbowman moved around the edge of another building scanning for me I found a horse tied up, saddled and ready to go.  I mounted up and then stood up on the saddle, using the horse to leap and catch the edge of the roof – I’m not ashamed to admit it was a real struggle to pull myself up.  Still invisible I came up behind the crossbowman as he scanned the streets below and jammed the arrow into his neck – it must have been enchanted because his neck exploded like it had been hit by a ballista, showering me with gore.  Falling down in surprise, I narrowly missed being skewered by a barrage of arrows.  Sliding to the edge of the building for cover I saw the original assassin who started this whole mess turning invisible – still partially blurry as he jumped to an adjacent roof.

“Why is everyone else in the world so much better at jumping and climbing than me?” I said to no one. “And where is the fucking city watch?!  Why don’t they ever show up when I need them?”

I slithered careful to the body of assassin #2 and drank whatever potions he had – which healed my wounds but really I was hoping for more invisibility.  I dragged his heavy awkward looking crossbow into my hands and then activated my scrivener’s desk, hiding behind it and grabbing the vials of ink.  I heard a voice shouting from some distance away.

“Is that a writing desk?”

“Yeah.”

“Well how odd.”

“Any chance I could bribe you?”

“Sure, come out in the open and we’ll talk about it.”

Assuming that the assassin was moving into position to fire at me enfilade (maybe, I’m not one hundred percent sure what that word means) I draped my cloak on the desk to hopefully make it look like I was hiding under there.  I doubt it would have worked at all if not for the fact that I kept talking and threw up voice to make it sound like it was coming from under the desk as I crab-crawled into cover between it and the low wall of the roof.  A barrage of arrows shredded the cloak and slammed into the desk and I spied the archer on the very next building in the process of turning invisible again – I dashed up and hurled two pots of ink at him.  My aim wasn’t great, but enough spattered on him that I could tell where he was.  He fired another volley of arrows as I dove behind the other side of the desk.

“Very clever.  If all your friend weren’t dead already you’d probably have the advantage now.”

“How many arrows do you carry around?  Haven’t you shot like a hundred by now?  When are you going to run out?”

“Never.  I have a magic quiver that never runs out.”

“I used to have a crossbow like that.”

“What happened to it?”

“The watch took it.”

“Fucking watch.”

I threw my voice so it was coming from directly behind him “Tell me about it.”

At the sound of a voice behind him the archer spun around and fired at nothing and I popped up from behind the desk and shot him in the back before dropping back down.  I couldn’t see him well on account of he was just an ink-spattered outline but it didn’t seem like that one shot bothered him too much.

“Nice.  How do you do that with your voice?”

“I’m a mermaid that drank a potion to turn into a human.”

“To pursue your true love?”

“To pursue revenge on the pelican that ate my family.”

“What’s your next trick?”

“Trying to figure out how to reload this fucking crossbow.  What the Hells is this thing?  There’s like levers on here and shit.  I thought the whole idea of a crossbow was that it was supposed to be simple to use, unlike a longbow.”

“Well you know how people are, they only thing they like more than simplifying something is making it more complicate.”

“Do you normally talk this much when you’re trying to kill someone?”

“No, but this hasn’t been a normal job.  When that desk appeared I had to know who you were.  You’re a tough nut to crack, but I think you’re about out of time.”

“Eventually the watch has to show up right?”

“Not this time I’m afraid.”

He was right, I was pretty much out of tricks.  One thought kept going through my mind, if only I could turn invisible again – and then all of a sudden I was.  Turns out that wedding coat they gave me was more than just stylish, it had some magic in it as well.  I carefully walked to the edge of the building expecting to be shot down like a dog, but I saw the ink-outline moving methodically back and forth as if scanning for an opening.  I made a terrifying jump to a very close building and pulled a short blade out of my secret pocket.  From that building I made it to where the archer was and approaching with maximum caution, I came up from behind and slashed him across the back of the neck – then giving him a shove.  I have no doubt without having taken a vicious blow to the back of the neck he would have agilely flipped to the ground and landed like a cat, but as is, he tumbled headlong into the ground with a hideous crack.  I pulled a rope and hook from my pocket and awkwardly slid down the side of the building where I stabbed him a half dozen more times to be sure.   It was at this point that I saw a few city watchmen peeking around as if checking to see if the coast was clear.

“Good response time guys!  Real bang-up work!”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 79 gold

XP: 516,701

Inventory:  Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Field Scrivener’s Desk, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Surcoat of the Night Wind

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, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage