I had an annoying realization, I was assuming that because I didn’t have enough magic to disguise myself for long periods of time that I would have to miss out on some things, but of course I don’t because I happen to be really great at mundane disguises. That’s the problem with magic, it becomes a crutch and detriment to your true and natural abilities. You start to rely on it and then WHAM it abandons you at a critical juncture and your actual skills have atrophied in the meantime. From what I’ve seen one of the first spells that a mage learns is now to move small objects with their magic – so of course they all end up puny pathetic weaklings with the body of twelve year old boys because once they learn that spell they never use their actual muscles again. I’ve always been mistrustful of magic but even I fell for its allure. And why wouldn’t you? It’s just so convenient – with magic I can create a disguise in seconds instead of minutes or hours. Something to guard against.
The Rest Inn Peace is now officially open for business so there were actually a couple people down in the common room for breakfast. I suppose I’m going to have to be more careful about conducting my business here with all these ears about. For a moment I actually though about buying a house – I mean how long have I been in Beresford now? Seems like half a year. But that was a step too far, not to mention I had purchased a house in Heathgrove and look how that turned out. Anyway, I tried to keep my voice down while I talked with Kalisha, without seeming like I was trying to keep my voice down – nothing encourages people to eavesdrop like overt casualness.
“I don’t understand, if he’s the one collecting the taxes how can he be embezzling?”
“The Duke holds his lands on behalf of the King, Queen now I suppose, so it’s not really his money.”
“Sounds like tax evasion to me.”
“No, Duke Eaglevane pays his taxes, but he’s concealing the source of the funds to make it seem like he has less income. Well not income exactly, but production.”
“Doesn’t the King get pissed off about that? I’m sure there’s some measure of production that’s required right?”
“Yes but the amount that Duke Eaglevane is misrouting is not that much, not enough to draw attention, but consider what just one percent of the Duchy’s gross domestic product is.”
“Consider it, I don’t even know what I means! The point is though that Eaglevane is stealing from the Crown.”
“Not precisely, but sort of, yeah.”
“And you can prove this?”
I sighed “So why are we talking about it? You’re new to this so I get that you don’t fully understand what information is of value, but we’re looking for something actionable here. If you were going to blackmail the Duke what would you blackmail him with? Think of it like that.”
“I wouldn’t. If I tried to blackmail the Duke he’d just have me killed.”
“Sure, but IF you were going to, you get me?”
I’m not sure she did. I left Kalisha in Josta’s care, I figure she can keep her out of trouble at least, and headed back to the market this morning since I was interrupted yesterday. I was looking for an item to help with magical disguise but not because I needed it, just because it makes things easier. Annoyingly I was not able to find anything to help me with concealing my appearance but I did find a fine walking stick that should come in handy if I need to rap some insolent whelp on the noggin. After that it was back to the RIP to get to work on crafting a disguise the old fashioned way. I was a little rusty so it took a good forty-five minutes to become Mètre . I had allowed myself plenty of time so it was no trouble – only mildly exasperating.
The meeting between Adrist Tomin, her acolytes and the party of Murdane and Rindol’s sages was an odd gathering but it went smoothly enough. Rindol and Murdane oscillated between loudly and excitedly explaining their mechanism and remembering they were in a holy place and trying to modulate their voices. Adrist agreed to help with the project and pledged five thousand gold to the cause, plus whatever craftsmen volunteers they could scrounge up from the faithful. Again, there was part of me that was hoping she’d fork over the entire amount, but with any luck we can squeeze the rest out of Lord Wesel’s friends. Whatever amount we’re short I’ll have to cover myself, I want this to be over.
After that it was time to get ready for the party. I needed a new dress and on a whim I invited Fiestia to come with us shopping – no reason not to bring another ally to the gathering. Dress and jewelry shopping with Vablis and Fiestia took up the rest of the afternoon and then after a quick touch-up of my disguise it was off to Lord Wesel’s mansion to finally meet the man himself, the reason I had come to Beresford in the first place. For the dispossessed black sheep scion of a defunct noble family Lord Wesel has really done well for himself. His house was several degrees of magnitude too nice for Beresford, it wouldn’t have been out of place in the nicer parts of Cathars. The grounds were immaculate, the servants were numerous and well-behaved, and the décor was very fine indeed. If only there hadn’t been all those Beresfordians there it would have been a nice night.
I met with the Lord himself only for a moment. He was a large man with a thick dark beard and although he was the soul of courtesy and was dressed to the nines there was something of an air of menace about him. He seemed better suited to a battlefield swinging an axe than a fancy social engagement. Or no, not a battlefield, an executioner’s block – that’s where it seemed like he belonged. After chatting with him for a few minutes I was mingling with the movers and shakers of Beresford high society trying to get them to loosen their purse strings for the good cause. Vablis, Fiestia and I rendezvoused frequently to quickly compare notes and plan our strategy. By the end of the night half the nobles and rich pretenders at the party had said that they would contribute. At least half of that half of them will flake out on the payment, but even so we should be in good shape to get this contraption construction underway.
About halfway through the night Crawdore Van Saar and Lypara Emprenzo turned up to crash the event, which seemed to delight rather than offend the glitterati. I’m not too proud to admit that a soul-sucking demoness being in attendance put me rather ill at ease. And worse, when they came in our eyes locked for a moment and I got the impression that she was looking for me intentionally. I did my best to avoid her, and trust me, I am great at avoiding people at a social gathering, but it turns out that she’s even better at cornering people she wishes to speak with. As we exchanged the kind of meaningless pleasantries required in this setting it seemed like we were very far away from everyone else even though there was a crowd of people not ten feet away. I could feel something tugging at my mind, like the light touch of a butterfly. I shut it out, but over the course of the next few minutes as we talked without actually saying anything of substance the pressure became intense. It was like there was an invisible clamp on my head. Lyapara, the demon with the blue ribbons in her hair, made a concerned face.
“Are you quite alright my dear? You seem to be in some manner of distress.”
I smiled warmly “Just a little dizzy is all, you know how it is with these corsets.”
The pressure on my head became like a thundering hammer “Oh of course, although I have to admit, just between us, I’m not even wearing one.” She giggled “How naughty! If you’d like we can go into one of the bedrooms and I can help you loosen it a bit. Not too much of course, but enough to give you some relief your poor dear.”
It was all I could do to keep myself from gasping at the wrenching pain, forcing another smile “I couldn’t possibly impose on you like that, I’m sure I’ll be alright, I just need to sit down for a moment.”
Her return smile was halfway to being a smirk “You’re really quite something aren’t you Miss Vablis? Very strong-willed.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that.”
For half a second I thought that I saw horns on her head but they disappeared immediately if they were ever there. “Modesty becomes you my dear. Tell me, do you really think that this device of yours will work?”
My head felt like it was going to split open as I looked her dead in the eye “Absolutely I do.”
In a blink she was gone, as was the sensation. I was a little shaken up but thankfully the party was mostly over by that point and we left while it was still fashionable to do so. After the event we were all back at the RIP discussing the situation. Vablis seemed scared out of her wits.
“It didn’t occur to you that going around town talking about a demon at the theater might get back to her?!”
“Honestly no, it did not.”
“So what are we going to do?!”
“Well if you were her what would be your next move?”
“To kill us!”
“Wrong, Rindol is the threat, without him we can’t build the thing. If I were her I’d be over there seducing and murdering him right now. So you better get over there.”
“What?! Why would I want to be there if that’s where she’s going to be killing him?!”
“She can’t seduce him if you’re there. Or she shouldn’t be able to anyway.”
She was shaking her head “No, no way.”
I shrugged “Alrighty, well I’m going to bed, you do whatever you feel is right in your heart. If letting a man die is okay with you I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.”
“I want my money, I’m getting out of here right now.”
“You need to learn to take these things in stride. So a demonic temptress may be trying to kill us, so what? Plenty of people have tried to kill me and I’m still here. What does that tell you?”
“That I wish I had never met you.”
“I get that a lot.”
Funds: 40,464 gold
Inventory: Noble’s outfit, 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, Walking Stick (Rod of the Viper), Masterwork disguise kit, covenant ring
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