The remainder of yesterday’s travel was rife with suspicious looks and threatening glances between the caravaneers and the lumbermen but when it came time to stop for the day we formed a single encampment for the sake of safety – apparently there have been several attacks on travelers by redcaps on this road recently. Honestly, is there a road in this Godsforsaken part of the Kingdom that isn’t being vexed by some bandits or stingmoggies or some other damn thing? Aren’t there supposed to be road wardens to deal with these sort of problems? The road wardens were probably all eaten by mantis bears. The caravan guards are very protective of their ward, far beyond the loyalty that can be bought with coin – she must really have them wrapped around her little finger.
Eventually though I was able to verbally shimmy my way past their defenses to speak to her for a few minutes. She was pretty good at keeping up appearances and has a pretty solid gasp on the art of being evasive without seeming evasive. I could have cracked her without too much trouble but I decided to stick with a light touch – no reason to stir the pot at that point. I’m curious to see what play she’s going to make as we get closer to Beresford.
It turned out to be none. Today we traveled without incident (shockingly) and upon reaching Beresford around noon Cladarielle and I explained the situation to the gate watch who summoned some other official looking fellows and she was taken into custody with Fangere and Nogeta trailing along behind them like little brothers trying to catch up to their older sibling and their friends. She must think that she can talk her way of the whole thing. That takes some serious confidence, but then again, that is why they call it a con.
I thanked Cladarielle for all her efforts and tribulations on my behalf, wished her luck in whatever nonsense her husband was mixed up in and we parted ways. Before returning to the inn to check in with Stella I decided to see if I could track down Rindol and pay him a visit. Turns out it’s much easier to track someone down as a fetching woman in fine clothing than it is as a fluffy black cat. Who knew? Less than an hour later I was at his house where I sang a quiet song to myself as I pulled a crowbar out of my secret pocket and used it to pry the door open.
Rindol’s house was small tidy place with no sign of female inhabitation. I had no expectations of what a scholar’s place would look like but it seemed right on the money once I saw it. I found Rindol in the kitchen sitting at a table so engrossed in reading something that he didn’t notice I was there until I dropped the crowbar on the table in front of him with a thud. He started from the noise as I sat down at the table across from him.
“You’re a smart guy Rindol, or at least your job is to be smart, I don’t know if you’re actually smart. If you are smart maybe you can help me out with something. I find myself in situations where people wrong me and I need to get payback but the issue is that I have trouble finding interesting and appropriate ways to get back at people. Take you for example, I could have bashed your head in with that crowbar there, not being a man accustomed to physical activity of any kind I could probably take you down even if you were aware of me coming, which you were not. I saw you out in the woods, I know we’re pussified. But what good does that do really? Then you’re just dead. What did anyone learn from that? Sometimes a revenge killing is the only way to go, but often times it doesn’t really fit the bill. I mean where’s the suffering? And it’s not like I can keep a torturer on staff is it? How do you think torturers learn their trade? Is there a school for that or is it an apprenticeship type of thing? Or do they just grab some asshole who likes kicking dogs and tell him he can work on people now?”
Rindol’s only response was to stare and stammer.
“You’re not getting the head-dress that you hired those people to steal for you, which is something, you’re going to be embarrassed in front of your scholar friends, but that’s pretty minor I think. Obviously what would be best is taking away the thing you value most in the world but without doing any research on you, just off the cuff, I assume that what you value most is your intellect. And even if I hired some goon to lobotomize you that doesn’t really cut the mustard because taking away your intelligence would also make it so you didn’t know what had happened. It’s a real pickle. So what do you think smart guy? What’s the best revenge that I could get on you?”
After more stammering he managed to form a sentence “How did you get in here?!”
I chuckled “I just threw a crowbar on your table. Maybe you aren’t so smart. Now that I’ve had a moment to think about it probably the best way to get at you is cut off your funding. Murdane said that you lot get your money to hire and send adventurers to their deaths from Lord Wesel, so that’s the angle I should take. I need to talk to him anyway, so I’ll just tell him what an asshole you are and then where will you get your gold from for your expeditions? Yeah, that makes sense. Oh, and also I’m going to rob you. Just for good measure.”
I gestured “Come on, show me where all your valuables are so I can take them. Or you can pick up that crowbar or grab a kitchen knife and try to stop me. I would love that Rindol, I truly would.”
After visiting Rindol I returned to the inn where Josta was standing behind the counter nursing a beer more or less exactly the same as when I left. If nothing else you have to admire her consistency. Or wait, not admire, take note of I guess. She glanced at me as I walked into “her” establishment.
“I’m sorry your Ladyship we’re not open at the moment.”
“Yes, I’m well aware of that Josta.”
Her eyes bugged out slightly as she recognized my voice. “You?! You never told me you were a Lady!”
“The societal notion of being a ‘lady’ was a mindfuck from the get go Josta. It was a fun and easy way to make women socially and sexually second class citizens, while making them think that they were winning. After all, what man would want a woman who is not a lady? By shoving down our throats the idea the only way for women to reach their full potential, which of course is to marry a rich man, is to act a certain way and be ‘ladylike’, it creates a hierarchy of women. Those that achieve the status of ladyhood are better than those that don’t right? Being a lady means being classy, elegant, graceful, poised, demure, pure – and it means that you’ve bought into a system built on your own exploitation. Don’t buy into it Josta it’s all a scam.”
She frowned “What?”
I winked “Don’t worry about it. Josta good my friend, since I gave you this inn would it be too much trouble if I were to avail myself of one of the rooms for however so long I desire? Have you gotten a maid yet? Because I don’t like to pick up after myself.”
Before she could answer Stella came striding down the stairs.
“Good, you’re back, and also back to yourself. I have some great news.”
“I love great news, Josta, a bottle of your finest please, we have great news to celebrate!”
Stella joined me at the bar as Josta poured drinks from whatever random bottle she hadn’t emptied yet.
“You’re free and clear. I was able to quash the bounty that Glilcus and Stolo put on you and smoothed everything over with the Church of Vultur, they won’t be bothering you anymore.”
I raised my glass to her “Miss Blackrose you’re a credit to shady under the table operators everywhere. Cheers.”
We touched our glasses together and I took a good long drink of pretty crummy booze.
“Am I going to get all my stuff back? I had managed to accumulate quite a lot of stuff.”
“Yes, but there’s a catch there. The watch has your possessions but before they return them to you the mayor wants a meeting.”
“I wonder what that slippery bastard wants, last time we talked he clearly stated he never wanted to hear from me again. Small price to pay though, eh? I suppose then you’ll be escorting me back to the Juost compound to continue my exile or whatever it is?”
“Only if that’s where you want to go.”
“As I told you, I don’t work for the Juosts, I was just on loan to them to help you out of your legal issues. Duke Lodvocka owes you a great deal. The question is what do you want?”
I raised an eyebrow “Well, I’m not used to people that I help you being grateful and offering me anything other than abuse and cruelty in return. I have to admit that I’m not familiar with Duke Lodvocka, he must be a real straight shooter if this is how he settles his debts.”
“He’s a man who believes in honoring his obligations.”
“I’ll drink to that. Now what can you tell me about the relationship between Duke Lodvocka and Duke Eaglevane? Are they pals, bitter enemies, are they nothing to one another? What’s the nature of their relationship, Duke to Duke?”
Funds: 1282 gold
Inventory: Extravagant noble’s outfit, collegium ring, spidersilk cloak, Field Scrivener’s Desk
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