Stinty made some kind of healing sludge from leaves and dirt and whatnot that he said would help with me ear. I figure I’m going to need magical restoration anyway so why not try it? Aside from the possibility of infection and blood poisoning of course. There are a lot of things to hate about nature. Insects. Mud. Itchweed. Bogs. Wildebeest stampedes. Man-eating porcupines. The sun. Malaria. Dirt-worshipping boneheads. Bone-worshipping dirtheads. Lakes of fire. Land sea serpents. The list goes on and on. But one of the worst things about nature is when you’re attending to certain necessary business – you know the kind I mean – and a bird flies down and looks you dead in the eye. And it just sits there, staring at you. As happened to me this morning. And it wasn’t a cute little bird either, it was a razorcrow the size of a Taxfeast turkey – the branch it landed on creaked like it was going to break. Somehow that makes it worse.
I flipped a hand at it vague “Shoo, get out of here you greasy son of a bitch.”
“We need to talk.”
I sighed “Does every talking animal in the world just come directly to me?”
“You have to do something for me.”
“No, what I have to do is pull my pants up. Then I’m going back to my campsite forget that I saw you. I don’t have time for this shit right now.”
And that’s what I did. But of course the bird followed me. I was hoping that Stinty would be there to throw a rock at it, I’ve heard Halflings are good at throwing rocks, but he wasn’t – probably out scouting again. That little guy is truly paranoid. I made an exaggerated show of laying down on my bedroll and closing my eyes.
“Follow me if you want but I’m ignoring you.”
The shiny black bird flapped over and landed right by my head “We have your son.”
I snorted “I don’t have a son, nice try though.”
“Whoever that kid was who was at this camp, we grabbed him.”
“You mean Stinty? He’s not a child he’s a Halfling.”
“I don’t care what he is, we have him – and unless you do what we say he’s going to die.”
“Yeah, tell me what you want me to do.”
He cocked his bird head to the side “I thought it would take a lot more convincing.”
“Sorry to disappoint you, so what’s the deal? What do you want from me that’s worth kidnapping over?”
“There’s a farm not far from here. There’s many humans there, it’s a gathering, I need you to go there and poison the male human with the blonde braid.”
“Alright, where’s the poison?”
“Don’t you want to know why you’re poisoning him?”
The bird led me to meet with one of his cabal of plotters – a vaguely man shaped clump of rotting vegetation with antlers. I don’t know if the antlers were part of it or if they were just discarded antlers that got caught in its festering rotten head-mound. One thing I can tell you is that it stunk with the fury of a thousand dead skunks in the summer sun. It’s a good thing I hadn’t had anything to eat that day. The compost heap turned it’s “head” to the razorcrow and spoke is a burbling voice that was somehow even more gross than its odor.
“Is she the one?”
I snapped my fingers “Yeah, yeah, I’m the one, you’re the poison guy? Give me the thing.”
The rotting mass raised its “arm” and dropped a big asymmetric furry looking plant into my waiting hands – or it would have if I hadn’t pulled my hands back and let it drop to the ground. I nudged it with my foot.
“What am I supposed to do with this? Are there berries on it that are poison or is there sap or something?”
The bird spread its wings momentarily in what I imagine was a display of anger “He needs to eat it.”
“The whole thing?! This is like a branch. How am I supposed to trick him into eating this? What part of it is poison and how much do we need? I feel like you’re not answering me because you don’t know. Do you even know what you’re doing?”
The vegetable man’s “face” turned into an exaggerated scowl “We know exactly what we’re doing!”
“Do you? Do you really? Look, let’s not get upset about this I don’t want to bicker, are you just trying to kill this guy or is there some specific reason you need him to eat an entire small tree?”
The bird and the stink-pile looked at each other “He just needs to die.”
“Well then get me a knife and I’ll cut this throat, you can save this tree limb for a rainy day.”
The bird cawed like a normal crow before speaking “Garic is a great warrior! You’ll never defeat him in combat!”
“I’m not going to fight him, I’m going to uses my wiles and take him unawares.”
“You don’t seem very wily.”
“Do you have a damn knife or not?”
The bird led me back the direction of the campsite and then to a small low cave filled with bones – including human skulls. The bird gestured with one wing.
“What? You want me to go in there? Won’t I be killed by the giant centipede or whatever turned all these people from alive into piles of bones?”
“There’s nothing in there, this is just were we keep our bones.”
“Dig around in the pile and you’ll find a weapon. Probably.”
Yeah, that’s exactly what I wanted to do today. You can now add to the list of things that I never thought I, or anyone else would ever do, that I have done – ploughing through a pile of bones. Thankfully they were picked clean, no gristle or anything clinging to them. That is where my level of thankfulness is these days – that at least the bones I’m handling are clean. I was worried about pricking my hand on whatever sharp things might be in the pile I was using a long bone to kind of poke at the pile in a not very efficient manner.
The bird stomped its little bird foot angrily “Come on, we don’t have all day!”
“What’s the rush?”
“The gathering may end!”
“So what? I can kill this guy whenever.”
Eventually I did find either a long dagger or a short sword. I’m no expert on these things but it looked superbly made even though it only had an edge on one side. The metal looked slightly blue, which probably means something to people who know about metal – it just made it look pretty to me. By this time the bird was fuming.
“Cool your beak bird.”
The bird took the lead again, barking at me to go faster the entire way, taking me into a cleared valley where instead of forest there were fields and buildings and other farm stuff. There was a main building that was decked out for festivities and there was a bonfire out front around which several drunken partygoers stood slapping each other on the back and laughing at what were probably dumb jokes.
“So the guy is down there?”
“Yes, the one with the blonde braid. Kill him and return to me with proof and your son will be returned to you.”
“I told you he’s not my son, he’s like sixty year older than me.”
And go I did. I was fairly sure that it was a wedding feast and when I got down there I saw that I was right. I also saw a couple humping in the dirt behind one of the grain storage huts. Why is it that you never walk in on anyone that you want to see having sex? It’s some kind of universal rule. As I walked to the main building several people hailed me heartily as if we were good friends – that’s the kind of goodwill you get at these kind of parties. The beer probably helped with that as well.
Inside there were flower garlands and a blushing bride and the whole thing – not to mention several tables dangerously overladen with enough food to feed an army. A small army but still. Sitting at the head table beside the aforementioned blushing bride (in a BLUE dress, you know what that means) was a burly jovial fellow who was crass enough to wear some kind of military outfit for a wedding who happened to have his long blonde hair in a braid. Which is even worse if you ask me. I approached the table of the laughing drunken wedding party and popped off a quick courtesy.
“Congratulations you two. I hope you have many years of happiness. But getting down to the nitty gritty here a bird sent me here to kill you. I don’t know what kind of beef you have with a bird but I would take care of that if I were you. Anyway, the bird has kidnapped a friend of mine so would you mind if I cut off your stupid braid and took it to him so as to make him think I killed you? Otherwise I’ll have to kill you for real.”
After a brief pause they all burst out laughing uproariously as only drunk people can. It took me a little while to convince them I was serious but only because they were so drunk. This valley used to be home to some fey creature that now is trying to get revenge and the bird works for him and so on and so forth. It took me even longer for me to convince the bridegroom to let me hack off his braid but here the booze worked in my favor. What really made him cave in was the bride’s drunken admission that she thought long hair made him look like a maiden. He truly looked wounded by this drunken candor, some of which was the drink in him, but some of which was that I think he really took pride in his hair. And why shouldn’t he? It was a good head of hair, it just belonged on a lady.
I hacked off the braid and stayed for a while to eat, drink, and be merry. I even favored them with a few songs – accompanied by a fiddler who wasn’t half bad. Wedding songs are all dreadful, but you have to give people what they want. Well you don’t have to, but you know what I mean. I caught the bouquet – you know what that means, seven more years of war! For not murdering the groom on his wedding day they gifted me with a very fine women’s surcoat. Black isn’t really my color but it would have been rude to refuse. Wishing everyone the best of luck, I returned to the woods where I found the razorcrow waiting anxiously.
“What took so long?!”
I tossed the braid at his bird-feet “How about a little gratitude?”
“You did it? He’s dead?”
“As dead as dead can be, now for your part of the deal.”
It was dark by this point so it was hard to follow a jet black bird flitting around, but his insults and abuse helped me pinpoint where he was. He led me into a forest clearing where Stinty lay in a circle of weird glowing mushrooms. Outside the circle was an array of hodgepodge beasts – something with the body of an egret with the head of a meerkat, a reindeer with the head of monkey sporting a single horn, a humanoid with the head of a sperm whale, a falcon with some bits of jellyfish and sea urchin on it. And those weren’t even the weird ones. The bird flew into the middle of the gathering.
“Garic the Despoiler is dead!”
The assembly made a cacophony of hybrid animal noises that I sincerely hope never to hear again. Once that awful noise died down the egret-meerkat gestured with a wing-paw and whatever magic was holding Stinty down was dispelled. He jumped up, looking around wildly, before hopping over the mushroom circle and running over to me.
“Alright freaky beasts of the forest, good luck to you and your war against humanity.”
Stinty looked like he wanted to dash off into the night but since neither humans nor Halflings can see in the dark I set a more sedate pace.
“I went to a wedding today, what did you do?”
Funds: 79 gold
Inventory: Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, spidersilk cloak, 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