I wasn’t a good rider initially. Even though I liked horses when I first started learning to ride I was kind of afraid to get close to them – they’re bigger than you think. And those hooves, one of those comes down on your foot and you’re going to be laid up for a while. Horses, domesticated horses at least, can be pretty finicky. They can pick up on your good and if you’re afraid it makes them skittish. I also found out later that the horse they gave me to learn to ride was naturally nervous anyway – not a good choice for a beginner. This was done on purpose, as everything at court is, but that’s a story for another day. The point is that I got thrown a few times and just generally banged up when I was first learning to ride. But that allowed me to learn another lesson, an even more important lesson. Never let them see you hurt.
Who is them? Everyone. People talk about sharks being able to smell blood in the water from miles away – they have nothing on humans. Show any weakness and they’ll be on you faster than you can blink. You get thrown from your horse and bust your ass? You get up, smile, and walk back over as if you’re complexly fine. “Took a little tumble there” you say lightly. I’m not saying that I’m king badass of the world, by no means, what I’m saying is that I’ve known for a long time how to act like everything is fine even when it’s not – at all. That’s how when I disguised myself as a person who was not bleeding to death I was able to walk down the street perfectly calm and normally even though I was honestly wondering if I was going to lay down and die right there at that second.
At my suggestion Stella kicked a hole in the wall of the bakery into the adjoining business – it looked to be some kind of store that makes spectacles, it was hard to tell exactly on account of the blood loss and wooziness. There was no one there, they’re going to in for quite a surprise when they come to open up. Emerging from next building over isn’t the best way to throw our invisible assassin off the scent but it was the best we could do – between that and my appearance I was able to walk out without being immediately shot down like a dog. Stella turned herself invisible and went head to make arrangements. It was only a few blocks but it was easily the longest walk of my life. I was so unsteady on my feet I was surprised I didn’t fall over with every step. It felt like I was stepping on loose rocks. But I made it to a large timber and brick building named Stinty’s, which is stupid name for an inn. A Halfling standing on “battlement” of sorts behind the bar, perhaps the titular Stinty himself, gestured for me to go upstairs and flashed me three fingers. He did it with his thumb and forefinger together as if saying everything was “okay”, which it was not.
I used the railing on the stairs to haul myself up and staggered into room number three, the door shutting and locking behind me. I collapsed onto the bed, thoroughly soiling the sheets with blood, as Stella’s invisibility dissipated and I saw her standing by the door.
“You’re tougher than you look.”
My voice sounded weird in my own ears “I’d pretty much have to be.”
“I need to go get some things to fix you up. Are you going to be okay here on your own?”
“No, but what choice do we have?”
“You need to sit up in case you pass out, otherwise blood could settle in your lungs and you’ll drown.”
“I don’t think I can.”
Stella helped me roll over and then dragged me into a sitting position, stuffing pillows behind me as best she could. I was left tottering there on the bed as she slipped out and somehow managed to lock the door behind her from the other side. This broad clearly has more going on than I thought. I never really lost consciousness but I wasn’t exactly with it either – it was a strange twilight zone that I hope to never experience again. My vision was swimming but my ears were working just fine. Some undetermined amount of time later I could clearly hear someone downstairs asking if “two women” had just come in “one that could be wounded” along with a pretty fair description of yours truly. I forced myself to my feet , somehow made my way to the door, and after what seemed like hours of fumbling with unstead hands I was able to get the door unlatched.
I lurched out onto the stairwell, remembering to disguise myself as a tall man with a yellow ascot at the last moment, where I saw a nondescript looking fellow talking to Stinty. I also saw what I thought I saw on the way in – a narrow faced fellow with dark hair wearing chainmail with a massive sword set leaning on the chair beside him. He was drinking a mug of something and looking dour. I looked at him and pointed at the man talking to Stinty.
“I’ll give you a thousand gold if you kill that man right now.”
For emphasis I tossed a handful of coins onto the stairs with a metallic ping as they hit the ground and variously rolled and ricocheted about. Narrow Face didn’t hesitate for a second, he was out of his chair and swinging his sword before one of the coins stopped spinning. The other man ducked out of the way and produced a now familiar thin blade which he plunged into the other man, his strike being deflected by the mail. Narrow Face swung wildly with his two-handed sword again but again the other man dodged the huge swing and jabbed at his opponent, who now would be on the ground bleeding to death if he wasn’t protecting his vitals with links of metal. There’s a lesson I could learn. Stinty hurled some weird little star-shaped throwing knife at the guy from behind, but even unwares he was able to partially duck out of the way – although his wig was knocked off and a lot of blood and skin with it. This allowed my new best friend to finally catch him with one of his big swings, slicing him badly across the chest. Still though, he managed to dart out the door without any trouble.
“Thanks for the hand guys.”
I shoveled most of the gold out of my purse in their general direction, then grabbing the railing to keep from falling over.
“Now he knows where I am . . .”
I felt a swoon coming on but I was able to fight it off. Stinty said something to Narrow Face and he carefully stowed away his weapon before coming up the stairs. He looked at me gravely.
“Do I have permission to touch your body? It’s not sexual. Not that you’re not an attractive woman. You’re actually a very attractive woman but I’m just trying to help you right now. If you feel uncomfortable I can . . .”
“Touch away buddy.”
He lifted me into his arms without an effort and carried me back down the stairs and around sharply to the left where Stinty was holding open a concealed door that went into a short staircase down under the staircase – which was an odd sight. He carried me down to a small room that had little more than a too short bed and a wash basin. He set me down on the bed gently and then turned to leave.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be safe down here.”
This killer gets high marks on disguise and persistence but he totally fails at vocal alteration – I could tell it was him up above pretending to be a city watchman talking to Stinty and the other man – whose name is Archum apparently – they told him that after the fracas I had left in the company of three men armed to the teeth and bearing a symbol of an green eye pierced through with a long needle. This Stinty isn’t a half-bad liar, and I know from liars. I don’t know if the assassin bought it, but he left either way and felt myself fading. I actually did feel like there was fluid in my lungs so being worried about downing like Stella said I crawled into a sitting position on the floor with my upper body draped across the bed. Even in that awkward crouch I fell asleep almost instantly, or passed out, six of one, etc.
Some time later Stella roused me and fed me healing potions until was completely fine. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I will never get used to that. One moment you’re on death’s door, the next you’re not even injured. It’s more than your body can reconcile. I took one last long drink out of the weird squat little canteenish bottle and tossed it on the floor with the others.
“Why can’t someone make a potion that doesn’t taste vile?”
“It’s harder than you think.”
“Obviously. Well, I think I know what boon I need from your employer – whoever this talented fellow is I need him taken care of if I want to keep being alive. Which I do. A lot.”
Funds: 79 gold
Inventory: Bloody Ruined 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