How long after the invention of speech did it take for meetings to form like the soap-scum on a wash basin? Was it a lengthy process or right after people moved on from grunting and pointing to words did they start saying things like “We’ll need to discuss that over lunch next week.”? I think we can all agree that the world would be a much better place if everyone just did what I said, but sadly no one seems to understand that, so meetings. My first of the day was with Adrist Tomin, a priestess of Adariel. The church of Adariel isn’t big on hierarchy, what with their goddess being all about niceness and good-natured doormattery, but I was able to gather that she was more or less the second in command of the church not only in Beresford but of all the communities south of the Baku Woods and north of the river. She was a stern looking woman, which was incongruous with her Adarielistic congeniality and politeness. There was a part of me that was hoping when I told her about the demon of the theater she would dispatch a church-party of demonslaying warriors and fighting clerics to take care of it but she did not. She also wouldn’t hand over a small fortune right then either – she wanted to talk to Rindol first. Another meeting!
Then I met with Fergus “Stone” Chane, some manner of labor organizer who (whom?) I was led to believe could get me the men Rindol needed to build his crazy contraption, assuming that I could get the money to pay them. I considered just scamming the guy into doing the work and then skipping out on the bill, but I decided against it, although I reserve the right to scam him later. We met in his clapboard house that was the size of a barn infested with children and women like woodlice. Either this dude has a harem or he lets a lot of widows hang around. I pretended to like some awful cake his washed-out looking wife dragged to the table while he rambled on about his days in the navy and then his time as a dockworker. It was even more boring than it sounds. You expect a navy man to at least have some good stories about hanging pirates or getting venereal diseases but old Stone was a real disappointment on that front. He said he would be able to get the men though, so it wasn’t a total waste.
After that it was time to meet up with the Macourek Theater troupe just to make sure they didn’t forget about their new friend. Tedious, but necessary. Speaking of tedious, the next appointment was to meet with Murdane, Rindol, and their fellows. Sorry, I mean Fellows. They gassed on for an absurdly long time about Rindol’s “invention” – I guess all you need to do to invent something these days is copy what you saw in a book and slap some new paint on it. It took all of Vablis and my (mine and Vablis’s?) combined powers to get them off that snoozefest to start talking about going to Lord Wesel to beg him for the money. I was able to maneuver them into going to beseech him for funds that very day, but then I realized that I was just about out of disguise magic for the day. This was a conundrum, I didn’t want to let them pitch on their own, but the idea of waiting even another day made my teeth hurt. In the end I let them go, hoping that Vablis could handle Wesel and keep these windbags in line on her own.
Annoyed by this turn of events I headed towards the market intent on purchasing another item (you know like the one I already own and is being held hostage) that would give me more disguising ability, but on the way I was shocked to see a familiar face. The last time I saw Kalisha Shaan she was wearing blue and white robes and carrying a stack of books as she followed the Duke around writing down his memoirs. She had her blonde hair in a tight bun always – I never saw her with her with a hair out of place, let alone with her hair down one time in all those years. She was never a great beauty but seeing her now she looked like a wreck – her clothing was little more than rags and her hair looked like a haystack, or it would if haystacks were capable of having big chunks of them missing. Oh, and some big fella with frizzy hair of his own and a bit of a paunch had her by the front of her “dress” and was shaking her like a dog that had a chicken by the neck. I walked up as he graduated to punching her in the stomach.
“Pardon me sir, but what’s going on here?”
His head snapped around like he was going to shout at me to mind my business but once he saw me he changed his tune and after looking me up and down managed to doff his cap while still holding onto Kalisha.
“Beggin’ your pardon ma’am, I suppose I shouldn’t be carryin’ on in the street like this, we’ll take our business indoors.”
“Is this your wife? She must have misbehaved quite badly to earn such treatment.”
His eyes bugged out “Gods no! I wouldn’t have such a woman as this as mine. No, this is simply a matter of commerce.” He gave her a shake “I paid this strumpet two silver to write a letter for me and she bodged the job! All I want is my money back but she won’t hand it over.”
“Hmm, I don’t want to intrude, but it hardly looks like she has two silver to me.”
He grinned “Oh, I’ll get two silver worth out of her. Um, beggin’ your pardon.”
“Yes of course. Well, you seem like an upstanding sort, and I hate to see you so inconvenienced by a charlatan like this.” I pressed a coin into his hand “How about you take this and we’ll call it even?”
He glanced at the coin in his palm and finally let loose of Kalisha, she dropped to a sitting position like a sack of sugar. He looked to me and back at the coin several times.
“For real ma’am?”
I touched him lightly on the shoulder “Certainly my good fellow, can’t have a salt of the earth type like yourself getting taken advantage of now can we?”
He ducked his head several times “No ma’am, no, we cannot.”
He ran off, and I mean that literally, clutching the gold in his hand he sprinted away like he was worried someone was going to take it from him. I knelt down by Kalisha who seemed only vaguely aware of what was happening – and I could tell why, she had the wet eyes and twitching muscles of a Shiver addict.
“Gods, if you’re charging two silver a pop you must be writing hundreds of letters a day to keep yourself high, you should have picked a cheaper drug to get addicted to. I mean what’s wrong with just being a drunkard? If your only goal is to get shit-faced you can do it pretty cheaply.”
She mumbled something and seemed to blink about a thousand times through the hair covering her face “Do I know you?”
“I’m shocked that you’d remember me even if your brain wasn’t being melted by dream-spider venom extract mixed with whatever else they put in there, I want to say cumin? We didn’t cross paths too much in the old days. I’m not sure we ever even spoke to each other.”
He head lolled back and I had to grab to keep her from toppling over “Never forget a face . . . . who . . . who . . . . where am I?”
I stood up and took a drink from my Flask “Can you walk? Let’s get you back to my place and chat.”
She thought she could walk but she was wrong, I give her credit for trying though. Eventually I was able to flag down a coach to take us back to Josta’s. Once there I had Archum carry her inside where I gave her some dreamtime tea and set her down in my bed for a couple hours. The place still wasn’t open for business but Stinty and company were putting on the finishing touches as Josta watched on. She frowned slightly at me.
“Who was that you brought in?”
“Is this a flop house for pipeheads now?”
“Of course not, she’s a Shiver addict.”
Vablis returned to inform me that Lord Wesel was interested in our little experiment but not fifteen thousand gold interested but she had shown some initiative and set up another little gathering the next night to try and rope in some of his rich friends – and investment scheme of sorts, only one with no possibility of payout. So a normal investment scheme I suppose. After dinner a bewildered Kalisha wandered down the stairs and joined me at one of the tables in the common room.
“I thought I dreamed you.”
I winked “How many times have I heard that?”
“You know, because I’m so dreamy? Forget it. Joking aside that has to be a hazard of being addicted to a hallucinogen though right? How do you know anything is real?”
“It’s actually fairly easy to tell – if I’m unhappy it’s real.”
“That’s horrible yet accurate. How did you make your way from the halls of power to end up a dirty drug addict living in the streets?”
“I had an . . . issue . . . with the Duke’s cousin.”
“Really? His standards must have really gone downhill. No offense.”
“No taken. I didn’t say a word about it but I guess Lucien expressed something to the Duke and I was informed that my services were no longer needed. No one in town would hire me for fear of displeasing the Duke. I got to a pretty low place, no money, no place to live, and a friend thought that some Shiver would help me feel better. After that it’s pretty hazy what happened.”
“Yeah, Shiver will do that.”
“ I’m not even sure what city I’m in.”
“Yeah, but at least it’s not Graltontown.”
“Forget I mentioned it. Here’s all you need to know, the Duke and I did not part company on the best of terms. It would please me if he were inconvenienced. And I feel like you can help me with that. Is that something you’d be interested in do I have to coerce you?”
“Me? What could I do?”
“I knew the Duke intimately, I knew him better than most, but in a way I didn’t know him at all – you don’t confide certain things in your mistress. But you were his personal secretary, you may not know all his secrets, but I would wager that you know a lot that can help me. Assuming you haven’t completely burned your brain to the ground.”
She thought for a moment “I know a lot about the Duke and his dealings. But what can we do with that information?”
I smiled my first genuine smile of true happiness in a good while “Oh, we’ll come up with something.”
Funds: 55,271 gold
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, 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