After night fell there was an initial lull in the activity out in the streets but unlike last night night it was only temporary. An hour or two after sunset it seemed like all Hells broke loose. I heard the sounds of fighting and shouting carrying through the darkness from all around. I’d see a man with a lantern run across one way, then another group with torches heading back the other way, and that doesn’t even consider all the people skulking around without a light source. At one point when my eyes had adjusted and the moonlight was strong I swear that I saw an orc slouching down an alleyway. This frightened me more than anything I had seen so far. Things are really getting out of control if humanoids are creeping into the city unabated. Although the more likely and awful notion is that someone is bringing them in intentionally to shift the power of whatever is goingon. The rugmaker’s ornate chest had been tossed down the stairs as an obstacle but I made sure to secure the flayleaf before that happened. Just the thing to help calm the nerves on a long night’s watch. I shielded the tiny flame from the tindertwig as I lit up but it must have been visible because I heard Corune’s coming from the bed.
“Is there a vice you don’t have?”
“Actually until recently I didn’t have any vices and now I only have one.”
“Is that a vice? I’d consider that more of a character flaw. You should be sleeping. You need your rest after the day you had.”
“And you don’t?
“Nope. As they say no rest for the wicked and according to you I’m the wickedest around.”
“I’m having a little trouble falling to sleep considering where I am and what’s going on.”
“I’m keeping watch.”
“That’s what’s keeping me up.”
“You don’t trust me to spot trouble?”
“I don’t trust you not to cut my throat while I’m sleeping.”
“Don’t flatter yourself Princess. You think I would need to take you unawares or do you think I could handle you in a fair fight?”
“I hadn’t thought about it.”
“Bullshit, I’m sure you’ve thought a lot about it. I suppose it doesn’t matter, I would never fight fair anyway. You know what’s interesting? Our backgrounds are very similar. I was taken from my family at a young age and I was trained to serve someone, I wasn’t a literal slave but I had no say in what I was doing. Then I was given to someone as a companion. And yet you turned out like you did and I turned out like I did. I suppose the difference is the church of Vultur got their hooks in you and brainwashed you when you were young. If that hadn’t happened you’d probably be just like me. Only less charming and attractive.”
“The difference is that I have a moral compass and you are a sociopath.”
“Do you though? If your so-called morality comes from an external source, from the church or from Vultur himself or whatever, is that really morality? Or is it just slavish devotion to whatever comes down from on high? At what point are you doing awful things because you’re ‘just following orders’? If Vultur sent an angel, or whatever he has that tells people to do things, to tell you that you had to kill someone because they were going to commit a horrible crime – but hadn’t done anything yet – what would your reaction be to that?”
“I’m not interested in hypotheticals.”
“Go to sleep then.”
“I would if you’d stop talking.”
“You’re the one who started talking to me!”
I don’t know if she fell asleep but she stopped talking at least. I knew that rescuing her would be a bad idea but I didn’t realize how annoying it would be. If I didn’t know better I’d swear that everyone I come across makes it their personal mission to irritate me. I’ve often been critical of people on watch or guard duty or whatever you want to call it and how easily they’re distracted or fooled. But I’m starting to understand it now. Even in the face of potential violent horrifying death at any moment there’s only so long you can stay on alert. Once the fear and heart-pumping anxiety fade away all you’re left with is boredom, your mind starts to wander. You stare at the same thing for enough hours and you stop seeing it, which is the opposite of what you want when you’re supposed to watching for trouble. When there’s an ambush or a night-time massacre or something it’s often blamed on a guard falling asleep, but I would bet that half the time they’re there awake and just not noticing someone walking right up on them until it’s too late. It’s a wonder there’s anyone left alive at all really.
In the dead of night I heard the hammering of hooves on the cobblestones coming from the south. It was an overcast night but there was enough light for me to see a moment later three figures come running into view like scared rabbits. At first I thought two of them might be children , especially because they were holding the hands of the “normal” sized figure but after a second I realized they were Halflings. As soon as they came into view a horseman came pounding up behind them wearing full plate and wielding one of those double-ended spears you see cavalry types with sometimes. As soon as they were all within view the horseman struck, skewering the figure in the middle and sending the two smallfolk tumbling to the ground to the right and left. The tip of the spear seemed to pass through the body without resistance, like a stick through water, and hit the stone underfoot with a clap like an ironsmith hammering an anvil.
I could hear the choking sound coming from the impaled victim, dangling on the long spear like a spiked fish being drug out of a pond. Both Halflings, rather than running, lay on the ground looking stunned. They continued to do so even while the horseman struggled to kick the dying person off their weapon. I fired at the armored man, the bolt deflecting off his heavy plate like I had thrown a toothpick at a stone wall. The “ping” noise of the strike seemed to finally snap the two smallfolk out of their reverie and they scrambled to their feet to run. I know they’re under stress but why didn’t they split up? Instead they first ran to each other, giving their pursuer the chance to follow them both. Why do people do that? When one person is behind you sticking together only makes sense if you’re going to turn and fight, not if you’re going to run. Use your heads people.
The horseman finally got his weapon free and made to pursue, but I hurled the thunderstone that I had taken off one of the attackers right at the feet of his mount. Even the best trained warhorse is going to react to that and this steed as no exception, rearing up and making the rider struggle both to hang on and to control his animal. Aggravatingly though at this the two Shirelings stopped and looked around as if they were trying to figure out what happened. I wanted to scream at them to keep running but I didn’t want to give away my position. As the horseman was getting back under control I cracked one of my sunrods, shielding it in my hand, and tossed it into the alleyway across the street. The horseman wheeled towards the light but only for a second, dismissing it as the distraction that it was quickly enough. He turned back to his prey still frozen in the middle of the street and cursing under my breath I fired at him a few more times with my crossbow, my shots bouncing off his armor uselessly.
The good news (?) is that he turned to face my side of the street and although I ducked down in the window for cover he spotted me quickly. It was at this point that I realized that with the height of his charger and with the reach of his weapon he could probably attack me even up here. As he turned to do just that I employed the shitty but time honored tradition used when facing cavalry – I shot his horse. It’s a real dick move, the horse didn’t do anything wrong, it can’t, it’s a horse, but it’s a sad fact of life that sometimes you have to do it. It was too well trained to react with much more than a whinny, but I was hoping the poison would slow it down some. He came trotting forward at a good clip and stabbed not through the window but through the wall beneath it, narrowly missing me as I dodged backwards – and by dodged I mean fell ass over teakettle.
In doing so my knee pain went from a tolerable throbbing to a blindly intensity and I hit the floor. Nevertheless, being the big hero that I am I lunged back forward to grab at the part of the spear that was sticking through what I now saw were shockingly thin boards of the wall facing the street. All that bought me was some scuffed knuckles as the man outside easily yanked it backwards, slamming my hand into the wall and out of my grip. Corune rolled out of bed looking around wildly and whispering intensely.
“What’s going on?”
“I have no idea!”
I heard the voice of the horseman from below, echoing strangely inside of his greathelm “This is none of your concern.”
“I couldn’t agree more, sorry to have disturbed you, I thought you were someone else.”
The spear came stabbing in at an angle through the floor and even though it wasn’t really that close to me I couldn’t help by yelp in surprise and scramble further back, almost falling through the hole in the floor behind me.
“Shit! Those two Halflings are probably getting away right now, why are you wasting time with me?”
“They’re already gone, because of you. I’ll pick them up again without too much trouble though, they can’t hide from me. But you need to pay.”
“That’s a little steep, how about a nice rug?”
I gestured with my head for Corune to cover me as I used my ability to throw my voice to keep bargaining/begging for mercy in the room while I kicked the rope through the hole and climbed/slid/fell down to the first floor. I did my best to land with my weight on my left leg but still the explosion of pain when I hit the ground made me bite my tongue to keep from crying out. Limping forward intently, I saw the horseman through a hole in the wall head tilted up taking to “me” and I hurled a looted javelin at his neck as hard as I could. Instead of plunging into his neck it deflected off that weird little round thing knights have on their armor sometimes, it’s called a gewgaw or a guisare or something like that – anyway I guess this is why they have them. The deflected javelin did knock his helm askew though and while he was trying to right it – not easy with reins in one hand and a people-stabber in the other – I shot his horse a few more times, pumping in more poison. I then jumped back on the rope and struggled my way up, Corune reaching down to haul me in the last bit.
I heard the man outside cursing as his mount labored and founded under him. I crawled over to peep out the window and saw the poor horse frothing at the mouth, its legs giving out underneath it. The man dismounted and after cursing and kicking at the horse for a while did the merciful thing and put it out of its miser with a stab through the skull. He stood by the dead animal seething with rage.
“Whoever you are I’m going to find you and I’m going to kill you.”
“That’s a pretty pedestrian threat, you could have at least said you were going to skin me alive or something like that. Get creative with it. People try to kill me all the time, it’s kind of lost its luster.”
“Do you know who I am?! I . . .”
I sat up and chucked a looted throwing axe at him as hard as I could – I’ve definitely done more throwing things as hard I could the last two days than I have in my life before now. It didn’t penetrate his platemail but it did hit with enough impact to knock him flat. I stood tall, reloading and shooting with my crossbow as fast as I could while he turtled. Eventually he rolled to his side and clattered to his feet awkwardly running into the same alley as the sunrod to take cover. All of my bolts banged off his armor but I was hoping that one might at least scrape against some flesh to poison him. I stepped out of the window as he produced a longbow and fired back.
“Good Gods how can you even draw back in that metal lobster suit?”
He declined to explain but I could see Corune looking at me in the darkness “What do we do now?”
“You want to go down there and flank him while I keep him busy?”
For a few minutes I was trying to think of something while occasionally trading shots with the armored bowman and I had pretty well decided to just ignore the situation since there was no way for him to get up when I heard an urgent “psst” noise coming from downstairs. I dropped down and belly-crawled to the hole where I saw the round frightened faces of the two Halflings looking at me. I saw now that it was a man and a woman.
“Are you fucking kidding me?! Get the fuck out of here!”
“Let us up!”
“I feel like I’ve done plenty here, you should be running right now.”
“Running to where? There’s nowhere to run, let us up.”
As I was about to say something else Corune dropped the rope down to them and they scooted themselves up with enviable nimbleness, it I’m sure it helps that they’re so diminutive. Once they were in and Corune was hauling the rope back up I fell heavily into the corner and took a pull off my Flask.
“Welcome to the party.”
Funds: 50,874 gold, 2000 silver
Rations – 5 days
Inventory: Noble’s outfit, Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, sunrod (2) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, dreamtime tea, Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Masterwork disguise kit, covenant ring, Everwake Amulet, Ring of Disguise, Boots of the Winter Jarl, Ring of Jumping, zerk (3), scour (3), knotted rope, Walking Stick (Rod of the Viper)
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