There is one thing I’m going to miss about being a cat – the ability to curl up and fall instantly into a deep and untroubled sleep anywhere at any time no matter what is going on. Sharing a tent and sleeping on a thin bedroll laid out on the lumpy ground in the middle of the woods is not a great way to spend my first night back to being myself. But you know me, I’m not one to complain. It would have been nice if someone had thought to bring me some more practical traveling clothes as well so I didn’t have trip over my dress all day but I won’t complain about that either. What I will complain about is this. On the way out here, you know when I was a cat and could probably hide away from any trouble, we had no issues other than being eyeballed by a boar. So of course now that I’m back to being a much less stealthy and more attackable human we had an issue.
Four women in green robes with leather belts appeared out of nowhere and accused us of stealing some rock from their scared grove or stepping on a baby squirrel or something – they were so strident in their blaming that I didn’t catch exactly what the issue was initially. They claimed that a group of adventures had attacked them and made off with their pile of leaves and acorns or whatever treasure they were after and that this group included a Halfling and a half-elf so naturally they assumed it had to be us. I was able to calm them down enough to use some impeccable logic. Such as they had been attacked by five people and had killed two of them so they should only be looking for three people and there were seven of us. Also, they got a good look at the one woman who attacked them and she looked nothing like either Cladarielle or me. And, this one was a hard sell, there is more than one Halfling and half-elf in the world.
This air-tight case seemed to only partially mollify them so I told them that we’d help them track down the actual guilty party, a promise which I had no intention of keeping, but I hadn’t counted on the fact that the Five Torches would really want to do it. I had forgotten that adventuring parties love attacking one another – they have the best loot and it means less competition for work when the mayor’s daughter gets kidnapped by shaggy, sadistic goblinoid terrors. Even Cladarielle wanted to look for them, being the humanitarian that she is – a miscalculation on my part. The worst part is that we had the perfect chance to ditch them. The Green Robes refused to go farther south because of their purity or the lack of purity in the land or something. We could have walked away and never had to deal with them again as easy as you like.
Instead we spent the day wandering through the woods with no trackers of any kind looking for signs of three people who may or may not be there. No less than four times Rubast shouted out that he had found the tracks of the offending Halfling only for us to figure out that they were Neddly’s tracks. Four times. Once, sure, maybe. But four times? Rubast and Kief’s father sounds like he’s a pretty sharp character so his mother must be a real dolt to have given birth to this genius. It was late in the day and we were just about to give up when I spotted a Northern woman, a half-elf, and whistling Halfling twirling a sling on his finger. I gave some thought to not saying anything, some serious thought, but I knew that would just result in us staying out here longer so in the end I pointed them out to the Torches and Cladarielle.
The two groups met and there was the traditional tense, is a fight going to start standoff, but the three of them saw they were outnumbered and had injuries from their skirmish with the Women In Green so they didn’t start any trouble. What they had stolen was an antlered headdress and the reason they had stolen it was because my old friend Rindol the Sage had hired them to do so. It was intended to be the centerpiece of some speech he was going to give to his society of uppity know-it-alls in a few days. I laid out my plan, we return the headdress to the Greenies, apologize and all that, and then we construct a fake that we pass off to Rindol. There’s antlers all over the place, just grab a pair and slap them on a headdress and call it good.
They were reluctant at first, but once I assured them that I would cover their fee if Rindol saw through the ruse and didn’t pay them they got on board quickly. Next I had to smooth things over with the Emerald Ladies. They were glad to get their stupid horns back but they demanded blood for having been attacked. I pointed out reasonably that they had already killed two of the interlopers and that should be plenty of blood for whatever moon spirit or flat rock they worship. I was able to talk them down to just an apology from the three remaining attackers. Said apology almost sounded sincere. That’s the interesting thing about adventurers, they’re true mercenaries, as long as they get paid they really don’t care – it really isn’t anything personal with them. Which doesn’t help after they’ve hacked off your arm at the elbow for a handful of silver, but maybe it a way it does.
Sadly by that point it was almost dark and we ended up spending the night with the wild women of the forest. Once night had fallen those green robes disappeared real quick and our hosts proceeded to dance naked to the beat of drums around raging bonfire. Offerings of milk, honey, and succulent meat were made to the stupid antler-hat while they gave us pine needle soup and muddy water. And here’s the thing about people who dance naked around a fire – it’s rarely the people you want to see dancing naked around a fire. You know what I mean. Pesh and the barbaric Northern woman got along famously, boasting and roaring with laughter at each other’s wacky stories of dismemberment and ribcages as they passed back and forth a horn of some disgusting Northern alcohol. Neddly was similarly happy to talk with his fellow Shirefolk, but the two half-elfs didn’t pair up at all. I guess there’s no racial bond between bastards.
This other half-elf looked pretty much like an elf to me, the only thing giving him away as a streak of grey in his braids – I’m sure there’s some subtleties there I’m missing that Kief would be happy to point out about his disgusting human heritage. He had the light armor and fancy accoutrement of one of those types who trains to fights but knows some magic as well. There seem to be a goodly number of half-elfs who pursue that course – I’m sure some would say it’s due to their conflicted nature. Seems a little too simplistic to me. Half-elfs are known to be level headed diplomats and skilled orators but this fellow hadn’t said a word since we met I don’t think. Between him and Keif they’re really shattering that stereotype. I regarded him over the fire – not the naked dancing bonfire, a smaller one for camping.
“What did you say your name was?”
His eyes were cold “I didn’t.”
“O . . . kay, my mistake. Would you like to tell me your name? It’s a good place to start a conversation I’ve found, maybe you’re familiar with the concept.”
“Those women killed two of my friends. And then we had to apologize to them?”
“To be fair I don’t recall you making any sort of apology. You did steal their stupid hat so I would say they were justified in trying to get it back. I don’t know who threw the first magic ray of fire but I don’t know of it matters exactly. Were you going to give them back their stupid hat if they asked nicely?”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that you have a dangerous job. You chose to come out here and steal shit for money, you chose that. I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to get bent out of shape when the people you steal from try to protect their property. Even if they are moon-brained dirt worshippers.”
“So what, my friend’s deaths are on my conscious?”
“I didn’t say that, but it sounds like you are. Occupational hazard right? I brought someone back from the dead once because I felt responsible for them having been killed. It’s not easy, but it’s easier than you think right? If you care so much about your friends bring them back. I’m sure you and your pals had a grand old time before this – you guarded a caravan, killed some kobolds, maybe you rescued a couple maidens from an ogre or something, got a big ass chest of gold and a magic sword with weird runes on it – and it was all fun and games. You probably thought that the five of you together could take on anyone and anything. And then you ran into some half naked broads that kicked your ass. And you found out that you’re not what you thought you were. You’re not the baddest toughest mother fucker around. Finding that out breaks a lot of people. You think you’re one thing, then you find out you’re something else. Run from it, hide from it, it doesn’t make it not true. The question is what are you going to do now?”
He stared at me for a while “You talk too much.”
“That’s a matter of opinion, at least I have a nice voice. Now if you ask me, and I understand that you aren’t, who you really should be mad at is Rindol. Why if I were you when I got back to town I’d beat eight of the thirteen Hells out of him.”
He frowned “The scrawny guy who hired us?”
“None other. Tell me this, did he tell you how dangerous these Priestesses of the Green Faith were? Did he tell you about the dark magic powers given to them by the lords of the archfey and the old powers of the woods? If he had would you have taken the job? How much are you even getting paid for this job?”
“Two hundred measly gold.”
“Oof, and for that two of your friends are dead. I wouldn’t say you got swindled, but I can tell you this – I was just at an inn the other day where Rindol was spending gold like it was water. The finest food, the best wine, and the women he had keeping him company? Wooo boy, women like that don’t come cheap. And then I saw him pass off a heavy sack of gold to a watch captain. Who even knows what that’s about. Those sages are all wealthy you know, they dress like crap because that’s the scholastic fashion, but you should see their homes. The fact that he was only giving you two hundred is criminal if you ask me. Which I know that you are not.”
Inventory: Extravagant noble’s outfit
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
Behind the curtain: I decided to break out the old Social Combat Cards for today. Still kind of lame. Also at this point Ela’s charisma skills are all so high I don’t think she can fail any of the checks.