In the end of course we came down out of the shattered remains of the rugmaker’s and joined the captives? Resucees? Hostages? Potential sacrifices? Whatever the group of traumatized people being driven along is. What else were we going to do? Try and fight two crossbows against a hundred warriors? That only works in stories, and not even then most of the time – I’m not the brave last stand type. There was only ever three possible outcomes, either the riot ends, I sneak out of town, or we come up against a group that’s too big to defeat. For the tenth time I told myself that as soon as I get to any town where I’m going to be staying for long I need to learn my way around so I can get out quickly if I need to. That’s a lesson I don’t ever seem to learn. Although I present in my defense the fact that I generally don’t intend to stay anywhere long and usually getting out of town is pretty easy – pick a direct and keep going until you’re out. Somehow things never seem to work out for me though. But I struggle on like the great hero I am.
The men in orange and white asked for our weapons, which we turned over, except for mine of course safely hidden away, and then quickly groped us over to make sure we didn’t have anything hidden. With that we were one with the flock of lost lambs moving on to the next house. The nondescript leaders of this unit folks had a map and lists and seemed to know where all the houses with people in them were. Some of those people came running out of their shelters weeping tears of joy and greeting the men like saviors. Some were wary and had to be coaxed out. And a few decided they didn’t want to join up. The first such group to decline was in a two-story building very similar to the one we had been in, and had the first floor blocked off. The orange crew simply threw grappling hooks and yanked the building down. It was shockingly easy. A dozen men pulling on a few ropes and the building fell over like a drunken sailor. At their command some of the civilians in the crowd rushed forward and started picking through the rubble to drag out the dazed and grimy survivors and pull them back to join the group.
At first I couldn’t believe that anyone was stupid enough to try and stand up to this overwhelmingly superior force, but then I realized that anyone who had survived three days of a violent civil uprising by fighting off all comers probably was able to do that at least in part because of the kind of stubbornness that isn’t easy to turn off. There aren’t many people like myself who are blessed both with hardnosed determination and pragmatic logic. Truly my gifts are many and varied. And yet here I am at the mercy of these unknown men just like everyone else. That’s certainly some kind of lesson, I’ll let you know when I figure out what kind. It was well after dark by the time we were tromped out of town so it was hard to tell how many people they had rounded up, but I would guess it was probably close to the same number of armed men doing the rounding – perhaps a hundred or so.
Again because of the dark it was hard to tell the full scope or where we were being taken to, but it looked like a few farm buildings were at the center of the operation with dozens upon dozens of tens set up around it in somewhat orderly looking “blocks” – military style tents not your run of the mill traveler’s tent. They had each area sectioned off with half-height pavises (is that the pural or is pavise pural? Pavi? Paven?) that while presenting not much of a real obstacle were helpful as a psychological tool to tell people where they were supposed to stay. People are funny like that, if you do something as simple as just laying out a rope on the ground something like forty percent of folks will be reluctant to cross it. It’s some mental thing ingrained in us I guess. Well not me, but other people. We were directed towards one of these sections where a half dozen women were waiting to give us our tent assignments. They weren’t soldiers like the ones who brought us here but I didn’t get the impression they were Berefordian’s drafted into service either. Aska looked at me with her default expression – terror.
“What should we do?”
“Do whatever they tell you, they’re in charge now.”
The five of us were sent to separate tents, not sure if that was deliberate or just chance but if it was deliberate it’s a smart move, people are less likely to be truculent when they don’t have their fire-forged friends at their back. The tent I ducked into contained two cots, a stool, and a wash basin which isn’t bad accommodations as far as tents go. I was followed in by a tallish woman in a hooded cloak that had a large bloodstain on back of the hood, must not have been from her because I don’t think you can survive losing that much head blood. She seemed to be wearing a gambeson and some kind of leather greaves but then she had a maid’s skirts on over that. Which means that she put the skirts on after putting the armor on. What kind of person would do that? She was clutching a kingbolt like her life depended on it, I guess that didn’t qualify as a weapon even though it also had signs of blood on it. I saw a drover beaten half to death with a kingbolt once, never could talk right after that. I laid down on one of the cots and took a hit off my Flask while she hovered nervously.
“What do you suppose they’re going to do with us?”
“I don’t have a clue.”
“Do you know who they are?”
“No I do not.”
She shifted the kingbolt to her other hand and stuck her right out at me “My name is Getva.”
I shook without getting up, her grip was full of nervous strength “Nice to meet you Getva. Looks like we’re going to be bunking up for a while. You don’t snore do you?”
She left her hand hanging there for a while before pulling it back slowly “Why are you so calm?”
“Oh, I used to be pretty high strung truth be told, but I’ve learned lately to take things as they come. There comes a time in your life when you realize that you can’t control everything, or even much of anything it seems, so there’s no use in getting all riled up about things. This all seems a little too draconic to be a straight out rescue but maybe it is. But it’s pretty strange for rescuers to be so coy about who they are. But you never know what people’s motivations are, they could be completely on the up and up and they’re just acting weird. You never know. Maybe everything will be fine. Maybe they’re going to sell us into slavery. Maybe they’re going to relocate us to Barden County. Maybe they’re going to force us to dig a ditch and then tell us to get in the ditch and then massive swarms of spiders eat our faces off. Maybe they’re going to give us each a chicken and a bag of gold and send us on our way. Maybe we’re going to be sent to colonize the wild frontier. Whatever’s going to happen we’ll find out soon enough.”
She looked around the tent as if expecting spiders to come flowing in “Do you want to pray with me?”
She looked at me like I was mad “To Adariel, who else would you pray to?”
I took another solid swig from the Flask “You’d be surprised. No thanks, but you go ahead if you want it won’t bother me, toss in a good word for me will you?”
She gave me another incredulous look and then made Adariel’s sign before kneeling beside her cot and praying quietly. Only a moment later she jumped up in surprise when the flap of the tent snapped open revealing two of the men in orange and white along with a elegant fellow with very feminine features wearing a black and gold parade uniform of some sort. his wavy hair fell across his face like a veil when he didn’t push it out of the way. He did it so often that I’m surprised he didn’t have a servant just to hold his hair back. His voice was smooth and commanding despite his mildly absurd appearance. It’s a trick of the true nobility, they can garner respect even when they look like peacocks.
“This is the one that said she was kin to the Juosts?” One of the men holding the tent flap nodded and then he looked at me “Is that true?”
I winked at him “Is it true that I said it or is it true that am it?”
He frowned “What?”
“The Baroness and I are cousins, we grew up together in fact. She used to pull my hair when I’d beat her at chess and sometimes I’d pull the legs off her dolly when her parents favored her over me but overall we got along like a house afire.”
“You don’t look like a Lady.”
“I’ve been in the shit for three days pal, trust me I clean up real nice.”
He tutted like an old woman “You don’t talk like a Lady either.”
“Please forgive me Mister whoever you are, it’s been a trying time. Why just this morning I had to beat a man in the ear with his own shoe to get a crust of bread. And it turned out to be rye bread. Who’d want to eat that? We both had a good laugh about it afterwards. Or really only I did, but he would have laughed too if he was alive though, I’m sure of that.”
Fancy pants didn’t seem to know what to make of me. “Do you have any proof?”
“I do, I have a letter from the Baroness herself instructing me to come to Beresford to speak with Lord Wesel, among other errands. The Baron is off fighting the horrible barbarians of the hills you see so she had to send me, her poor female cousin ill-suited to such mannish work, out into the cruel world to keep the barony going.”
I produced the Baroness list from my Haversack and he examined it closely for much longer than you’d need to determine anything useful. I think he was hoping that if he looked at it long enough it would somehow reveal itself to be false by magic. He shook the paper at me like a lady waving a handkerchief at a departing lover.
“How can I know this is real?”
“I don’t know, how can you? Several people have done magic on it, do you know magic? Beyond that you either believe me or you don’t. What else is there?”
I took another drink from my Flask “Why?”
“Stand up you insolent . . .” he visibly calmed himself “You need to go talk to the Barons.”
With a smile I stood up and curtsied politely “Well why didn’t you say so? Let us be off!” I walked over and linked my arm with him “Which Barons are we going to see?”
He led me out of the tent and down the “alley” between the sections of the camp without answering as the two soldiers fell in step behind us.
“This is quite a set-up, how did you get this all in place so quickly? For that matter how did you get her so quickly? It almost seems like you were waiting for this to happen doesn’t it?”
He glanced at me, the moonlight reflecting off his eyes “You’d be well served to keep your questions to yourself . . . My Lady.”
Funds: 50,874 gold
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 (2), scour (2), 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