After last night’s revels with the Green Ladies this morning the Five Torches and the survivors of the other group decided to merge and head to the desolated land around Chemnost in search of some fabled treasure or other. When I asked the Northern woman about their job with Rindol she shrugged the whole thing off and away they went with Pesh to the north. That’s exactly what I expect from adventurers – they take a job, get some people killed, then don’t bother to finish the job even though they very easily could, and then they can ramble off after some other vague promise of a payday and bloodshed. Mostly bloodshed I assume. Once they had wandered away I looked to Cladarielle.
“You know how to get back to Beresford right?”
She looked to the north, then to the south, then back to the north again. “I think so.”
Wonderful. I’m pretty sure the city is to the southeast but we headed mostly west, Cladarielle said that we would come across the road into town if we headed that way. I should be ecstatic to be back to my real body but instead I’m feeling put-upon. Its human nature to think that the whole world is against you, that any tiny accomplishment you achieve comes in the face of worldwide opposition and happened because you’re so determined and great at everything, but that’s merely vanity and narcissism. The fact is that the world IS against you, but it’s nothing personal. The world has nothing against you, it’s just that boulders roll downhill you know? You can roll your boulder up and up and up and then you trip and lose your grip and there it goes back down to where you started. And you can curse and kick the hill and pretend that the hill hates you, but it doesn’t – it’s not even aware of you – that’s just what happens. That’s what your relationship with the world is like.
It doesn’t matter if you roll that boulder for eight seconds or fifty years, the moment you let up it rolls back down, that’s just the nature of the beast. The hill has no sympathy for the fifty year guy, nor does it get a little chuckle out of the eight second guy, it’s just what happens. As my grandma used to say, the rain falls on the wicked and the innocent alike. Sidenote, some of the gals at the Four Queens Cabaret used to call one of their customers Mr. Eight Seconds. When he found out about it he grabbed the girl that coined that nickname. I bet she wished he only had eight seconds of activity in him then. I don’t think they ever found her head. I believe he had to pay some manner of fine for that, the court really came down on him hard on that one.
I after walking for most of the day I was starting to wonder if Cladarielle actually knew where we were going but just as I was about to say something to her I was distracted by one of the trees near us turning into a fifteen foot tall humanoid that was painfully thin by human standards. I’ve seen a tree-person or two at this point and they weren’t that, they didn’t look like trees, they looked like people with barky skin and twigs and leaves for hair. That probably doesn’t make a lot of sense but trust me there’s a stark difference. After the first several other trees revealed themselves to be these “people”.
The first creature that had revealed itself spoke in a voice that was resonant and hollow sounding “Silyri y rea, silyri y rea, y silur, sile o selui. Silyri silui neal rea, silyri silui neal rea, mea silu y kutae var silualbe.”
“Uh . . . what?”
Cladarielle spoke back to them in whatever language that was. I have a pretty good ear for languages but I had no idea what manner of tongue they were conversing in. Maybe it sounded something like feyspeech but making that comparison is grasping at straws. It’s been a long time since I’ve been excluded from a conversation because I couldn’t speak the language and it’s an awful feeling of helplessness. Cladarielle was nodding and seemed calm but for all I knew they were saying they were going to skin us alive and feed us to their bush-dogs. After a moment the massive but thin yellow eyes of the treekin all turned to me.
“Cladarielle what’s the uh . . . what’s the deal?”
“These are forest giants, they want to know if you’d be willing to sing for a mother worg that’s nearby to ease her pain.”
“What? I mean . . . what? I don’t . . . what?”
You’d think that I would be used to something like this now – tree giants appearing out of nowhere and asking me to sing for a pregnant wolf monster. This is just the kind of thing that happens to me now. But I have to tell you, this really caught me off guard. I agreed and Cladarielle translated but I was pretty much in shock, it’s one of those things where when you’re wildly off-balance you sometimes just agree to whatever someone asks of you. The giants moved smoothly and almost silent through the woods, leading us a good half mile away to what looked something like a beaver lodge on land. At first I wondered what kind of animal would have made it for the worgs to take over, but then I realized that they probably made it themselves – being sentient and all.
I’ve seen a few worgs at this point, they tend to have a sinister countenance even in the best of times , but the two sitting sentinel at the entry-hole seemed more noble than threatening and they were healthier looking than any I’ve seen so far. All the other worgs I’ve encountered were kind of malnourished looked and usually had bad scars – these two were a bit more regal. I glanced at the hole with apprehension.
“I don’t have to go in there do I?”
Cladarielle shook her head “No, in fact that would be a rather bad idea. She can hear you, go ahead whenever you’re ready.”
Cladarielle moved back and sat on a rock nearby with an encouraging smile. I felt pretty strange with two wolf beasts and four giant tree people staring at me – that’s not an audience you’re going to find at the Grand Opera House in Indlecastle. Not unless something has gone seriously wrong anyway. I rarely feel self-conscious about anything, but if you’re looking for a way to make me that way this would be it. I have no idea what songs a human woman would want to hear while being torn in half let alone a wolf so I sang Fitzwater’s March, Love is Pain (seemed appropriate), When I Left My Friend, and The Sleep of the Long Road. Once I was into it I felt much better about the whole enterprise. Why wouldn’t someone want to listen to me sing? I’m glorious.
I have no clue if it helped at all, but the tree giants were very appreciative – I think, hard to tell with faces like that – and they gave me finely crafted bow as way of thanks. I did wonder if it was made from part of them that fell off but that doesn’t bare thinking about. After that very strange interlude Cladarielle and I continued on our way through the woods.
“Well, that was certainly a unique experience.”
“You have a lovely voice.”
“Thank you, but how did they know that?”
“They heard you sing before.”
I literally stopped in my tracks “Excuse me?”
“Our voices carry on the wind, and the trees carry the wind – wood giants and other creatures like them, when they come across a sound they like can pass it from one to another over hundreds of miles. It could have been far away and years ago when you sang, but they heard you.”
“That’s amazing. And somewhat disconcerting as well. How did they know it was me?
“They recognized your voice.”
“Crazy. What language were speaking? Elfish?”
“No, Esperar, it’s the root language of Sunglari which is the root language of Elfish.”
“There are older languages than Elfish? I thought elfs love to talk all about how they were the first humanoid race and everything was cool until other races came along and ruined everything.”
“They weren’t and it wasn’t, but regardless some languages are older than humanoids.”
“Hmm, I guess I never thought about that.”
She dipped her head towards the bow over my shoulder “Do you know how to use that?”
“No. If you gave me a flatbow I might be able to hit the broadside of a ship but I don’t know what to do with this monster. But it was a nice gesture anyway.”
“I could teach you.”
“Sounds like a long process and now that this cat scenario is buttoned up I’ll be on my way before too long – assuming we don’t get ambushed by a forest drake or something and killed on the way back to town. Crossbows are more my speed anyway. It’s bad manners to sell a gift, but there’s nothing wrong with passing along a gift – for all the help you’ve given my I would like for you to have it if you’re willing.”
She smiled “That’s certainly a fair deal by any measure.”
A few hours later we did find the road which should hook around the south edge of the woods and get us back to Beresford. It’s farther than a straight shoot through the forest but it’s a road instead of tripping over gopher holes and crawling through thorn bushes so hopefully it will be just as fast or faster. Of course now what we’re on a road it was only a matter of time before we ran into some kind of calamity.
We heard the shouting from a ways off and as we got closer we saw a couple of wagons and dozen pack-horses being blocked from proceeding down the road by a party of rough looking woodsmen. A stocky fellow in a leather cap with an odd looking crossbow on his back was standing up in the lead wagon shouting back and forth at a woodsman who was a behemoth of a man. I’ve seen some burly fellows in my day but this guy takes the cake – each shoulder looked like a blacksmith’s anvil and his neck was probably as big around as my waist. Not the kind of person I’d shout at no matter what kind of crossbow I had.
“What seems to be the problem here gentlemen?”
All eyes swung to me as if I were an apparition that had floated out of the ether. I suppose they were so busy with their argument that they didn’t see Cladarielle and I walk up. And seeing what looks like a noble lady in a full length dress walk up to you on the road probably catches you a little wrong-footed as well.
Leather Cap pointed accusingly “They’re blocking the road!”
The Strongman nodded “Yes, because they’re harboring a criminal in their ranks.”
“Well you’re in luck because my friend here is Cladarielle Staelish, you’ve heard of her I assume?”
Leather Cap’s eyebrows went up “You mean Bywan Staelish’s wife?”
I swallowed a sigh “The very same. As I’m sure you know her husband is a renowned hero and man of honor – and she’s cut from the exact same cloth don’t you know? We can mediate as a neutral third party here and come to a resolution like civilized people, there’s no need for shouting or threats now is there? I’m sure if you do have a criminal in your midst it’s purely by accident and you’d like to find that out wouldn’t Caravan Master? And if not and this is all a mistake you’d want to know that wouldn’t you Master Woodsman?”
They agreed to be reasonable, at least at first, people usually do that assuming they’re going to be the one who “wins” and if they don’t then they decided to be unreasonable. The issue was that Nogeta – the caravan guy – in addition to his bales and bundles of whatever he was carrying had a single passenger. Fangere – the big fella – was claiming that this passenger was a woman who had scammed the lumber consortium out of their payroll for a nearby logging operation. Nogeta insisted that his passenger was a woman of quality and would have nothing to do such low class criminality.
“Mr. Fangere what makes you think that this is your thief?”
“There was a woman that had taken up the pay clerk in camp. Once we realized that the payroll was gone and so was she we started tracking her. We followed the trail to Batch where the locals told us that a woman had come into town and met up with this lot heading for Beresford. We cut through the woods and intercepted them here.”
“And you recognize her as the same woman?”
“No, but we didn’t spend a lot of time together at the camp and she may have changed her appearance. Based on the trail though I have every reason to believe this is the same woman.”
He shook his head solidly “Miss Vablis commissioned us to take her to Beresford weeks ago. We did pick her up in Batch but she wouldn’t have been involved in anything like he’s saying.”
“But she could have been in the camp, you don’t know.”
“There’s no way she would do anything like that.”
“Why do you think that?”
“I can’t say.”
“Well, that’s certainly unhelpful.”
“She paid us very well to transport her, look at all these guards, this is for her – how much could the payroll for a bunch of dumb stupid lumberjacks be? Why would she bother ripping them off when she can afford to pay this kind of money?”
“Let’s hold off on the name calling for now. I’ve heard a lot about this mystery woman, how about we hear from her?”
This simple request caused a great deal of consternation about the caravan faction. Eventually a young woman dressed in men’s clothing and draped in a voluminous cloak came forward with four of the caravan guards bracketing her so closely they were almost touching her. They had their hands on their weapons as if they expected an attack at any moment. Between the cloak and the crowd around her I couldn’t get a good look at her.
“What do you have to say young miss?”
“I’m terribly sorry to have caused all this trouble. I’ve never been to a logging camp, I don’t know anything that. I don’t think that Mr. Fangere would make up something like that but he must be mistaken. Everyone is so dreadfully angry and it’s all because of me. I’m so very sorry but I don’t know what’s going on. This is my first time on the road and this is all very confusing and frightening to me.”
It wasn’t a bad lost little lamb act, it was definitely good enough to fool all these manly men around – even Cladarielle bought it, being the kindly soul that she is, but I know a scam when I see it.
“Well this certainly is a pickle. The good news is that Beresford is just a stone’s throw away. It seems to me that the prudent thing would be to continue on together and let the city watch sort this out – I’m sure that everything will be brought to the a righteous conclusion here, after all, they’re professionals.”
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: Ela hit level 14, taking another level of Rogue and picking up Hidden Mind as the 12th level rogue talent.