Muthuselan 22 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Last night was fun, but as my grandma always said fun is for babies and dullards, today it’s time to get back to work.  Or get too work rather I suppose.  I spent the morning doing a little more reading about the Macourek Theater and the “Dreamers” and came across a potential reason why the mayor was interested in them in first place and why they might be willing to kill to preserve their secrets.  The mayor’s missing (and probably dead) brother suspected that the Dreamers, aside from being moony drug-users were also importing and selling large quantities of bloodbrush extract.  Which is the kind of thing that the civic authorities tend to frown on – a populace that is tripping the light fantastic isn’t working and if you’re not working you’re not paying taxes.  It’s simple exploitation.  I mean economics.

Infiltrating a strange and possibly murderous cult on my own doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time so I decided to recruit some help.  I went to the west gate and talked to the guards on duty there as a beginning step to tracing down the whereabouts of Miss Vablis.  I worked my way up the chain of command until I talked to a corpulent watch-captain who told me that Iconia Vablis was exonerated of all charges regarding the theft of the lumber payroll and by a wild coincidence was staying at the home of that very watch-captain at his guest.  What a twist of fate!  I told him that I would ever so much like to pay a visit to my good friend Iconia and found myself that very day having lunch with Misses watch-captain and the lost little lamb herself in his large but very pedestrian home. After the second course Misses watch-captain went to scold one of the servants for dropping a plate and we were left alone on the veranda.

“So, have you had to sleep with that bloated elephant seal yet?”

She blushed like a champion “Whatever can you mean?”

“You can drop the act, it’s just us girls here, I’m not trying to wreck your swindle here, I’m just curious.”

Her voice suddenly became 98% less sweet “What are you trying to do then?”

“I need some help with something I’m working on and I think you’re the person to give it.”

“Why would I want to do that?”

“Money of course.  Plus this situation isn’t going to last.  Eventually you’re going to have to fuck the elephant seal which is bad enough on his, but there’s no way he’s going to keep his trap shut about it so his wife is going to find out and then you’ll be out on your firm little bottom.  You’ll have risked being crushed under that leviathan for nothing.  You probably got a decent score off the lumerjacks but then you must have spent most of that hiring all those guards just to get you here so I don’t imagine that you have much cash on hand to work with.”

“I’ll get by.”

“Probably you would, but why scrape by when you can get a leg up?  Why did you spend all that money to get here anyway?  Why Beresford?”

“There was someone here I thought I could count on.  It didn’t work out.”

“That’s always a kick in the tits.  Seems like counting on other people never works out well.”

“You’re asking me to count on you.”

I smiled “Sure, but I’m one of the truthworthy ones.  I’m not asking you to count on me though, I’m asking for your help, which is a whole different thing.”

“How much?”

“Ten.”

She scoffed “Ten gold?  Are you out of your mind?”

“Not ten gold, ten thousand gold little miss.” Her eyes nearly jumped out of her head. “Yeah, that’s some real walking around money eh?”

“What are we going to do, steal the crown jewels?”

“Nothing so dramatic, just a simple missing person case.”

She studied me for a moment “You’re serious aren’t you?”

“Always.  Can you sing?”

“Well enough, I’m better at playing the pipes.”

“That will work.  Are you in or out?”

She pursed her lips “Let’s say for the sake of argument that I was interested, how do I get out of here?”

“Nothing could be simpler, you just walk out with me after lunch.  I’m your old friend that came to visit and check up on you, and you, not wanting to impose on the good captain and his lovely wife any longer are going to come and stay with me.  The elephant seal will be disappointed of course, but he couldn’t really have expected anything else given what a pure and chaste young lady you are.”

“I don’t want to burn any bridges here.”

“You won’t.  Thank the good ladywife profusely for ‘putting up’ with you and thank and thank her again and then we go.  Trust me, it will be better if you’re just gone when the captain comes home – a goodbye gives the chance for closure.  This way you leave on good terms but he’s still thinking about you.”

“You said trust me, I never trust anyone who says that.”

“I knew I was going to like you.”

A few hours later we were upstairs in my room at the gravedigger’s inn talking strategy as the few workmen not too hung over to work were banging away downstairs.  Despite what she said Vablis was more than an average singer but her piping was very pedestrian, I can see why she might think otherwise though since the pipe was magic and was helping her out with some enhancements.  I wonder why she didn’t know that, or bothered to lie about it, a normal pipe can’t harmonize with itself. I suppose it’s possible that she actually doesn’t know that much about music – it’s an odd skill in that you can be good at it without understanding it at all.  And conversely many people who would consider themselves experts in the field can’t carry a tune nor play a single note.  Is there a lesson there?  Maybe.  It was late in the evening when we decided to call it a night.

“Well, I suppose it’s simple enough, tomorrow we go to the theater and audition.”

“And then what?”

“And then we see what happens.”

“You haven’t asked me why I came here.”

“I’m not the type to pry.  But it seems like you want to let it out so you can tell me if you like.”

Her claim was that she had been the King’s mistress and was married to a Lord at court in order to keep the affair a secret.  Said Lord wasn’t super excited about having a wife that he couldn’t have sex with, but what was he going to do about it?  The King dying had really thrown a monkey in the works though and her husband told her he was planning on divorcing her by way of accusing her of infidelity.  Which was bad enough, but then she got wind that the Queen was planning on having her killed on suspicion that she had birthed a royal bastard that was being hidden in the wings as part of some nefarious plot to displace her son from the throne.  She said that she had slipped out of the capital and had been making her way across the countryside by doing things like scamming the payroll of a lumber camp and telling a caravan master that she was the wife of a cruel baron fleeing his wickedness.  It was a tale convincingly told but what con artist can’t spin a good tale? 

“That’s quite a story.”

“You don’t believe me?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t decided yet, but the good news is that it doesn’t matter.  I don’t really care who you are.  But, if you were the King’s personal cock-warmer my question would be; do you think the Queen or your husband has sent anyone after you?”

“I wouldn’t think so, they just needed me out of the way and they got it, but I can’t stop looking over my shoulders anyway.

“That’s not a bad habit regardless.  Bad things often come from behind.  And from in front of you.  And from the sides.  And from above and below.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 61,244 gold

XP: 516,701

Inventory:  Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Field Scrivener’s Desk, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Surcoat of the Night Wind,  Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, Ring of Invisibility, sunrod (4) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, dreamtime tea (2) Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style

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 

Muthuselan 21 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

The first order of business today was hitting the market and liquidating some of the gear I stripped off the plethora of assassins that had come to murder me as well as that of the anti-assassins that died sort of trying to protect me.  Can’t go after a theatrically themed cult without some operating capital no can I?  I tried on the chain mail shirt but even though it was much smaller than a lot of the mail armor I’ve seen people walking around with it still weighed a Gods damned ton so I ended up selling it.  I don’t see how people can prance around in those things – the pressure on the shoulders is crazy. 

And there is no way I am going to wear the leather armor – I refuse to walk around looking like a battle dominatrix.  I’ve come to realize from experience now (sadly) that the amount of money changing hands in the aftermath of one of these knockdown drag out murder affairs is truly staggering.  I’ve always thought of adventurers as providing little to no value to society but I realize now that weirdly I think they may be a grass roots way of redistributing wealth.  They go one place, kill a bunch of people and steal a bunch of gold, then they go somewhere else and get killed and the economy there has a boom.  If only there was a way to predict their comings and goings, you could make a fortune on speculating in adventurer futures. 

It’s also interesting how much time and effort it takes to resolve these sorts of transactions – it’s not like you can pop on down to the magic store and sell off whatever you have in bulk.  You have to talk to a guy who knows a guy whose cousin is in town who has a connection with an art dealer who knows a merchant who’s looking for a thing for his bodyguard and so on and so on.  By the time I got back to the inn it was already noon.  And there was a new addition – an “opening soon” banner along with a new sign – a smiling skeleton digging up a grave which contained a coffin within with was a still living man hugging a barrel of ale.  The inside was a whirlwind of activity with Archum and the rest of Stinty’s crew hammering and sawing and bashing things with sledges.  Josta looked on from the balcony with a stein in hand looking as impassive as ever.  I walked over to where Stinty was doing something workmanlike to the ladder downstairs.

“You don’t let grass grow under your feet do you?”

He stopped his work, wiping his brow and helping himself to a ladleful of water “That I do not.  I thought you were kidding when you said there was a hidden room down there.”

“You said the same thing about me giving you a new place, do I seem like a kidder to you?”

“No not a kidder, more of a wiseass.  For someone who claims to not be much of a fighter you have a real sharp tongue from what I’ve observed so far.”

“My grandma always said that hard words have never won a fight, but I can’t seem to help myself.”

“Your granny was involved in a lot of fighting was she?”

“No, she was smart enough to stay away from that sort of thing.  If only I had inherited that trait from her.”

“Maybe you take after your old gaffer.”

“I wouldn’t know, I never met him.”

“So who exactly knows about this hidey hole?”

“A bunch of smugglers, a couple prostitutes, a city watch lieutenant and some of her men, a few other random people – as I said I don’t know if you can really claim it’s a secret room anymore.”

“We’ll have to talk more about these smugglers, I’m going to be doing some remodeling anyway – I’ve got a few ideas.”

“So I noticed.  What’s with the sign?  I get the gravedigger theme because of Josta, but while that might be good for a low down dirty drinking hole this is a middle class inn, I don’t think people are going to want to stay the night in a place with a death theme.”

“You’d be surprised.  Besides, we don’t want a lot of people coming through here anyway, just enough to make things look legit.”

“I assume you know your business, I’ll leave you to it.”

I headed upstairs to my new room, the one that used to be Stella’s before she got killed protecting me, and I opened up the packet that the mayor’s attendant had given me.  The Macourek Theater was the center of the investigation which was purchased a few years back by one Crawdore Van Saar allegedly at the behest of his beau Lypara Emprenzo.  There was an extensive dossier on Van Saar – he invented some kind of new yoke or something and that apparently is enough to make you semi-rich.  The documents reputed him to be an artist and an inventor as well as a steel merchant, I assume this last one is what actually brings in the money.  There wasn’t much about Emprenzo other than that she seemed to be the one that brought Van Saar into the fold of the maybe cult.  The fold in question had something to do with an entity they called the Dreamer – the sense I got was that it was not a cult so much as just a bunch of dilettantes messing around with mystical bullshit and taking hallucinogens.  But it was something serious enough for the mayor to send his brother to investigate.  And possibly for the Dreamers to discover and murder said brother.

There were pages and pages on known associates and goings on at the theater but I had no appetite for digging into details reports of people’s movements and what plays were put on at the place when.  I did some skimming and then I found myself just shuffling papers around and not really looking at anything.  I wandered out onto the overlook with Josta and watched the workers down below for a few minutes. I glanced at the rail-thin former gravedigger, realizing that she was something like a coffin nail herself – lean and long and not much to look at but tough as they come.

“How’s the studying going?”

“I got the gist of it.”

“Is a special job for the mayor a ‘gist of it’ kind of deal?”

“You want to go get drunk?”

“Yeah.”

I yelled down to Stinty and his men “You guys want to get drunk?”

Stinty glanced up from using a lathe for something or other “It’s not even three bells.”

“Josta and I are going to get drunk, anyone who wants to knock off early can come with – I’m buying.”

In my old life I had a “colleague” by the name of Madeline, or at least that’s what she called herself – probably her real name was something different.  One day while nursing a hangover she confessed to me her jealously of my ability to over-imbibe and not end up in bed with someone by accident.  Being a courtesan is similar to walking a tightrope, one misstep and you’re facing a long drop, and having sex with the wrong person is a real misstep.  I told her there was no special secret to it because despite what everyone tells themselves nothing you do under the influence of drink is an accident.  Booze is not a magic elixir that makes you do things that you don’t want to do.  It’s an amplifier, it takes those little parts of you that you hide and it screams them out to the world.  If you’re an angry drunk you’re an angry person who manages to hide it most of the time.  If you’re a sad drunk you’re a sad person who manages to hold it together most of the time.

A drunk person’s words are a sober person’s thoughts – this is a fundamental truth.  You don’t end up in bed with someone by accident, some part of you wanted to be there.  You regret it later maybe, but that doesn’t make the motivation not be there.  I don’t spill secrets when I’m drunk like many people do because there’s no part of me that wants to tell my secrets.  I don’t act a fool when I’m drunk like many people do because there’s no part of me that wants to be a fool.  I don’t get belligerent with people when I’m drunk like many people do because there’s no part of me that wants to confront people directly.  And I don’t end up in bed with people by “accident” like many people do because there’s no part of me that wants to end up there.  So I didn’t end up in bed with anyone but as other people were off making their drunken “mistakes” I did end up at the end of the night sitting at a table with Stinty’s scar-faced redhead friend. 

“How do you wear that chainmail all the time without being horrible discomforted?  I tried it on and the stress on the shoulders in incredible.”

“There’s padding you put under it that helps, but mostly you get used to it.  It’s less discomfort than a spear in the belly.”

“I suppose it is at that.” I turned my head towards her “How does my ear look to you?”

“Not great, but I’ve seen worse.”

I sighed “It’s going to cost a fortune to fix.  I got my face slashed up one time and it was a major pain in the ass to get the magic needed to restore me to my original glory.  The worst thing about that is my fucking bodyguards didn’t do a damn thing about it.  I did learn a lesson though, make sure you have at least one female bodyguard, they don’t have any issue getting rough with a female attacker.  What’s your availability should the need aspire?  

“Aspire?”

“Sorry, arise.”

“I’m pretty happy with Stinty.”

“That’s fair, he seems like a solid citizen, in a crooked sort of way.”

“Could that magic you’re talking about fix my scars?”

“Yeah, but as I said it cost an arm and a leg, and finding someone to do it pretty hard too.  Magic is pretty fucked up.  As far as I can tell a first months student can kill someone with a word at a hundred paces but you need to be super advanced to make a scar go away.  It’s almost like the Gods don’t like us.”

“The Gods are assholes, if they aren’t why did they let my mother carve my face in the first place?”

“I’ll drink to that.” 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 61,244 gold

XP: 516,701

Inventory:  Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Field Scrivener’s Desk, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Surcoat of the Night Wind,  Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, Ring of Invisibility, sunrod (4) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, dreamtime tea (2) Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style

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