Myam 1 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) – Part 3

There was enough left of the frame for a very large loom (I didn’t know they came that big, it took up half the bottom floor) that I was able to precariously clamber on it through the hole I had made and up to what was left of the second floor.  I had the vague notion of trying to travel from rooftop to rooftop to stay above the fray and get to safety despite the fact that I’m neither much of a climber or leaper.  Maybe I should travel with some acrobats for a while and learn their ways.  Of course then I’d have to be around circus folk. 

Pulling myself awkwardly through the hole in the floor/ceiling I found myself in a small bedroom where a woman was smoking flayleaf and looking out the remaining window at the chaos outside.  Her appearance was that of a shapely young woman in her early thirties with sparkling green eyes but I’ve gotten good enough at seeing through illusions that I wasn’t taken in by that.  The real woman underneath was pushing hard on fifty and was heavyset with the face of a longshoreman and a sprinkling of facial hair.  She glanced back when she heard me speak but seemed utterly unconcerned.

“You must be a Hells of a seamstress to be able to afford magic disguises.”

“I’m not a seamstress, I make rugs for rich people.”

“Is that why your loom is so massive?  I’ve seen ships smaller than that thing.”

“Seen a lot of looms have you?  Part of the reason is that it’s for rugs, but they’re just a lot bigger now – some new technology.  It used to be that you couldn’t weave anything bigger than the span of your arms.  With this apparatus you hold a stick attached by cords at both ends of the shed. With a flick the wrist, one cord is pulled and the shuttle is propelled through the shed to the other end, a flick in the opposite direction and the shuttle is propelled back.  It’s like magic, boring, boring magic.  I suppose the man who invented it is rich now.”

“The man who invented it is probably in an unmarked grave somewhere, the guy who was already rich and stole the idea after his goons killed the guy who invented it is probably a little richer than before.  You mind if I get a drag off that?”

“Yes, I don’t like sharing my smoke – that’s like kissing on the mouth – but there’s plenty more in the drawer over there.  Help yourself.”

I went over the single chest of drawers in the room (I think there was another but it fell in the hole and possibly lodged in my armpit temporarily) and rifled through until I found what had to be a solid three pounds of flayleaf in a waxy feeling bag.  Despite my nimble fingers I’ve never been good at rolling my own leaf but I managed.

“Can I get a light off you or is that also too intimate?”

Apparently it was because she flipped me a tindertwig instead.  A single puff starting calming my nerves immediately– before the drug could even take effect.  Which means that it was purely psychological.  Which means that my mind could have given me that same feeling at any time.  Once again the brain is a withholding asshole.  I came to stand beside her at the window watching a group of Adarielite acolytes struggling to try to upturn a sideways carriage under the watchful eye of a crossbowman.  You could faintly hear someone inside the carriage shouting hoarsely. 

“Did you know that flayleaf plants are almost always infested with an aggressive kind of spider?  Dozens of laborers each year are killed by swarms of flayleaf spiders.”

“No, but that doesn’t surprise me.  The people doing the work are always being killed by something or other.”

“So you can afford illusions, huge bags of drugs, and alchemical doodads?  Are rugs that lucrative?”

“The amulet was a gift, but yes, the rugs I make are that lucrative.”

“Is this what you looked like when you were younger or merely a random image?”

She snorted “I never had a figure like this, or skin this smooth.  I remember my old da telling me when I was twelve he was going to have to show me how to shave.”

“What an asshole.”

She shrugged “He wasn’t so bad, a lot of people have had worse.”

I nodded “It can always be worse.”

“This is just a woman from Narhold that I remember seeing around when I was a kid.  She may not have even looked like this, this is just what I remember.  All the men around thought she was a real beauty.”

“What happened to her?  Was she promised to marry her one true love but then some rich lord came to take her for his mistress?  Or did an ankheg chew her face off?”

She gave me a sidelong glance “No, she just moved away.”

Outside, a few blocks away on the other side of a building we should see that there was a bright flash, followed by a strange whistling noise and then dozens of shouts of pain.

“It’s really kind of a miracle that there are any cities and towns left in the Kingdom.  Just in the past few months I feel like this is the fourth or fifth community that I’ve seen being torn apart.”

“How many of them were utterly wiped off the map though?  People will rebuild.  And if not they’ll form a new town.  As long as there’s people there’s going to be settlements and there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of new people.”

“You have any kids?”

“Two daughters.  They both got married and had kids of their own years ago.  Don’t hear from them much.”

“Some manner of falling out?  Did you not approve of their spouses?  Did they convert to a weird religion?”

“Nothing so dramatic, it’s just hard to keep in touch.  Never learned to read so we can’t correspond with letters and such like your people.”

“Who are my people?”

“With that hat you’re wearing?  Upper crust people.”

“Sure, I’m as upper crust as they get.  You mind if I cross class boundaries and ride out this scenario here with you?”

“Why here?”

“Seems as good a place as any other.  The stairs are wrecked so I don’t think anyone can get up here unless they really want to.  Plus I’m already here which is a real selling point based on what’s going on down there.”

“Why are you here?  Are you the one that crashed through my roof?”

“No, that was someone else, I was running from a rape-gang and I saw that your door was open so I ran in and then up here.”

“Oh yeah, you got to watch out for the rape-gangs.”

For a good long while we stood watching the carnage out the window and not saying much, what else was there to do?  The streets would empty out for a while and then people would come surging back.  This may have started as a simple brawl between laborers but it had become something else.  Everyone has some kind of score they want to settle, some person they want to get at, some crime they want to commit – it was anarchy in the truest form.  Sometimes we saw guardsmen marching by in lockstep.  Other times we saw men in guard uniforms joining in the looting. 

Eventually we heard the sounds of rummaging below.  My host didn’t seem concerned and stayed at the window but I went to check out the hole.  I saw a man with long greasy hair in chainmail and a tattered grey cloak with the sigil of Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company on the back trying to climb what was left of the stairwell.  I retrieved my crossbow and waited at the edge, once he was almost to the top I moved forward and reveled myself – the point of a crossbow bolt maybe six inches from his face.  A very surprised face.

“I think that’s far enough.”

“Don’t shoot, I’m not one of them!”

“One of who?”

“I’m not . . . I’m not . . . I’m not anyone.  I’m not on either side.”

“Either side of what?”

I heard the voice of the rugmaker behind me “Oh, let him up.”

“Why?”

“Because I said so.”

“So what?”

“I guess you’re the one with the crossbow, do whatever you want.”

The man’s voice was strained “Can you make up your mind?  I can’t hold on for long.”

I gestured with the crossbow “Down.”

His voice turned desperate “But I . . .”

“Don’t make me boot you in the face.”

He slid/fell down the remains of the stairwell into the wreckage below.  Getting a better look at him I thought that he might be some manner of mongrel Northman mixed with southern blood.  He was one of those sorts who was almost handsome, looked like maybe they were supposed to be handsome, but the effect was ruined by an aura of sliminess.  There’s a certain type that can pull of handsome and slimy but he wasn’t it.  He glanced around nervously.

“Look, I get it, things are bad so it pays to be cautious, but I’d really like your help.”

“You’ve got a sword on your hip and a crossbow under your cloak, what do you need us for?”

“Doesn’t do much good when you’re alone against a mob.  Plus truth be told I’m not much of a fighter.  What can I do to get you to let me up there?  People call me Smiling Sperry, what’s your name?”

“They call you that on purpose?”

He scowled “There’s no reason to be nasty.”

“I disagree, I think this is the exact situation in which being nasty is the order of the day.”

He moved around and if he was trying to see what was behind me “I heard another voice up there, is this your place or someone else’s?”

“I’m not sure that it matters, in times of civil unrest I don’t know that property rights mean much – or any rights really.  It’s the law of the jungle.”

A hard look came in his eyes “Are you saying that you’d really shoot me?”

“Try me.”

He held his hands up “Look, we got off on the wrong foot here, I . . .”

“Why are you wearing that cloak?”

“What?  My cloak?  What about it?”

“I thought Królewna & Bonifacja were bankrupt.  Do you work for them?”

“I used to.  I got fired before whatever happened to them happened.  No reason to get rid of a perfectly good cloak though.”

“What did you do for them?”

“I was a translator and an agent.  I brokered deals and talked to people, I’m good with people.  I mean normally I am, clearly you haven’t taken a liking to me.  I speak eight different languages.”

I switched to Kostelos “Why did you get fired?”

He frowned “What?  I don’t know that language.  That doesn’t even sound familiar to me.”

I switched to Northern “How about this?”

“That sounds like Northern, I don’t speak that either, I . . .”

“You don’t seem like much of a translator to me.  I asked why you got fired.”

He shook his head “It’s complicated . . . political, you wouldn’t understand.” He smiled  “Did you work for them too?  Because maybe . . .”

“No I don’t work for them, they tried to have me killed.  They did kill my friends.”

His face fell “Oh . . . well I can assure you that I never had any dealings like that.”

“Sure, that’s why you’re both armed and armored.”

“That came later, it’s a dangerous world when you’re on your own.  I hear someone coming down the streets will you please let me up?  I’ll do whatever you want.”

“Okay, you can come up if you leave your sword and crossbow down there.”

“But then I’ll be defenseless!  And if I leave them down here someone will grab them.  If you let me . . .”

“You know what I’ve noticed, people will say that they’ll do anything and then the first thing you suggest they balk at.  I’m starting to wonder if I don’t know what ANYthing means.  It seems simple enough – like it’s just the word any and the word thing put together I thought, but clearly there’s some nuance that I’m missing.” 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 50,874 gold

XP: 523,101

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, Everwake Amulet

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 

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