I had assumed that our guests were together but it turns out they were just strangers in the night. The woman said her name was Chalon and that she and her friend – the one who didn’t make it – had been fleeing from the former horseman skulking outside who she said was Caqueles Atur. They were servants in his employ and when his house was attacked by a mob they ran for their lives. Apparently Mr. Atur interpreted this as them breaking their employment contract and trying to escape his household and further determined that this was a violation worth tracking them down and killing them. While they were making their way through the chaos in the streets they had come across our other guest who said his name was Isger but was lying. Chalon immediately fell into an exhausted sleep after telling her tale but Isger wasn’t so trusting. He hovered by her sleeping form eyeballing me.
“So her I get, but why were you holding hands with the manservant while you were running?
His voice was quite deep for one of the smallfolk “He grabbed my hand when we started running, your people are like sometimes, it’s like you think we’re children.”
“I don’t think you’re a child.”
His voice was cool “No, I don’t get that sense from you.”
“How’d you get hooked up with these two? What errand had you out and about on a night such as this?”
“Just coincidence, right place, wrong place, however you want to say it.”
“You got any weapons on you?”
“Maybe a dagger or two, nothing you need to worry about. I mean if you don’t see it does it matter if it’s there?”
“That’s good, it’s dangerous out there, I could use some back-up if something happens.”
“Something already happened.”
I could tell that he was going to try and stay up as long as I was awake but that’s a contest that he couldn’t win. After a couple hours he sat down against the wall near Chalon and I could almost see the words in his mind “I’ll just close my eyes for a minute”. He did that thing where you head dips and then you jerk awake for a moment but soon enough he was out like a light. At some point I could hear Atur creeping around downstairs as well as a man in full plate can creep – not very – but there was no further activity from him after I heard him jangling away. Not long afterwards I heard some awful ripping noises and looked out the window to see that some dogs were availing themselves of the dead horse down on the street. I felt sick to my stomach not just because of the ravening but because I was the one responsible. Is there any more proof you need of how disgusting people are than the fact that we send these animals into battle?
As the sun was starting to creep up I took some of the zerk and some of the scour and mixed it together and rubbed it into the inside of Aska’s cheeks, letting is dissolve and seep into her system. I figured if that wasn’t going to wake her up nothing would. Just when I figured it was nothing doing and was considering putting an end to things she bolted upright like one of them corpses the necromancers zap with electricity to get them going again. The scream she let loose literally rattled the building – ear-splitting doesn’t begin to describe it. The hounds outside still picking at the horses were scatted by the wail and needless to say everyone inside was woken up. After her breath ran out Aska collapsed onto her side with great wracking sobs. Corune grabbed her crossbow and was looking around wildly.
“Good news, Aska woke up.”
Even though my knee was killing me I gave Aska the daily healing draught from the Flask which helped her immensely, not just with the crack on the head but also with coming down from the drugs I had introduced into her system. Chalon and Isger were overjoyed when I demonstrated the true “endless” nature of my flask but they were less excited when I passed out the food.
“This is the last of it folks, do with it as you will. You want to try and make it last a few days feel free, but there’s no more coming. I’m curious what future plans anyone might have, are you content to stay up here for the foreseeable future or is anyone thinking about making a break for it? I wasn’t expecting this to drag on the way it has and I’m starting to wonder if it’s time to get out of town. The business I came here for doesn’t seem so important anymore. Anyone know a good route out of here?”
Aska and Chalon looked alarmed at even the mention of leaving. Isger looked like he was thinking about the idea but said nothing. Corune is the only one who spoke up, saying that she was thinking about trying to hook up with the lawful authorities to help them quell the rioting.
“How exactly does that work for you? What determines who the lawful authority is? If the rebels win and take over do you enforce their laws with blind fanaticism then? Seems awfully wishy-washy. Or are the laws of men unimportant and you have some secret book of divine laws that you enforce on people without them knowing about it?”
“I know you don’t really care and you’re just baiting me again, but the lawful authority is whoever is appointed by the Sovereign and they themselves are bound by the laws of the Kingdom.”
“But you’re not even from here, isn’t your church international? When Ulpine loses territory to us then the Kingdom’s laws swing into effect? Might makes right? That seems like the most unlawful thing possible. You just take something and it’s yours?”
“Even wars have laws.”
“Enforced by who? War is war, there’s no such thing a legal or illegal war.”
“There most certainly is, if you . . .”
Isger cleared his throat “I don’t mean to interrupt but how is this debate helpful?”
“First you clearly did mean to interrupt, second did you have a more useful activity for us because if so I’m all ears.”
“Well you just said that was the last of the food, shouldn’t we scrounge around for more?
I gestured to the window “Be my guest, I’m not going down there unless someone has a plan to leave the town completely which it doesn’t sound like anyone is interested in. I’m going to conserve my energy for the six to ten bands of violent looters that are going to wander by and attack us today – plus the angry knight who’s after your friend. Speaking of, there’s some horsemeat up for grabs down there if you know how to butcher a horse.”
He must not because he didn’t go down to check it out. No one had much to say that morning, Aska and Chalon sat across from each other near the hole and stared at nothing and Isger paced around in circles in the middle of the room as Corune and I watched out the window. The streets were quiet, quiet enough that I wondered if “it” was over, but I didn’t see any soldiers or guardsmen so I wasn’t sure. Several hours after sunup we had our first visitors – it was the sporty blonde with short hair and a green tabard over chainmail and her goon squad.
“Good morning, nice to see you’re still alive and kicking in all this mess.”
“It’s not so bad when you know your way around and have a dozen armed men at your back. I see you picked up a new friend.”
“I’ve been bringing in strays the entire time you were gone, I just can’t seem to help myself, I’ve got a kindly heart.”
“Must be getting crowded up there.”
“Absolutely, we’re sleeping three deep in the bed but in times of trouble we all have to look out for each other right? I assume you’re here about Sperry, I have to come clean on that – when you visited the first time he had my friend at knifepoint and was instructing me to feed you bad information and send you off on a wild chase. He’s dead now, his body should be down below unless some dogs or a sneaky cadaver-humper dragged it off.”
“Did you take anything off the body?”
“Yes, I took anything that seemed useful. We already ate all the food.”
“I don’t care about food, I’m looking for coin.”
“He had a shitload of silver on him, which I thought was weird. It weighed a fucking ton, I don’t know how he was lugging that around with a non-magic bag without getting a hernia.”
“Did you touch it?”
“I did, I’ve got it on me right now. You want it it’s yours.”
“I do, but we need to take precautions.”
They tossed up a large sack which I dumped all the coins into, and then they sent up another canvas bag that I put the first sack into – each of which was tied shut with a coarse length of sturdy twine. I lowered down the bag to one of Green’s thugs who was holding open another bag that looked big enough to put a person in, which was then folded over several times and wrapped in a tarp behind being placed in a small barrel which then had the whatever you call the top of a barrel carefully sealed.
“I have to say the care with which you’re handling that silver is damaging my calm. You want to tell me what I’ve gotten myself into?”
“You want to tell me what happened to Lage?”
“I killed him. He spotted Sperry when he was up there so I did what I had to do to save my friend.”
“Where is she?”
“Sperry killed her anyway. So it was all pointless.”
“Let that be a lesson to you.”
“Yeah, tell me about it.”
She waved to her men that it was time to head out “Good luck to you and all your strays.”
“You’re not going to tell me what’s up with that money? Would it make a difference to you if I told you that months ago I met a man who insisted in paying me only with silver coins? He said ‘silver for silver’ like that was some huge revelation. I assume he was just mad but now I wonder if that’s got any relevance to whatever is going on here.”
She gestured for her men to pause “Where was this?”
“No, you first.”
“The coins are debased, it’s part of a plot to weaken the economy of the Kingdom.”
“Right, and you’re so worried about touching it because counterfeit coins hurt you somehow?”
“Some of them have other properties as well.”
“That’s not terribly helpful.”
“I’m not feeling all that helpful since you killed one of my men.”
“The man I met was in the market at Graltontown, he looked like a traveling trader not one who was established there. He talked in rhymes half the time, like I said he seemed insane. He was skinny and had curly hair that was grey. The skin around his eyes was strange, like maybe it had been burned but there’s no way you could get burns there and still have eyes. His clothes looked like they were too big for him, or maybe were just ill fitting.”
“Did he tell you his name?”
“If that was months ago you would have noticed if you had touched one of the special coins by now.”
“What if one of Sperry’s coins is ‘special’?”
“I guess you’ll find out won’t you?”
With that she and her crew left. That’s what I get for being helpful. Great, now that’s one more thing for me to worry about – what the Hells did those coins do to me? Why did I even bother for silver! I made me think back to when I met that crazy rhyming trader and I was grubbing for every copper I could get my hands on. So I’ve made some progress at least. I don’t feel cursed. No more cursed than usual anyway. Isger was giving me a hard look after that exchange.
“What was all that about?”
“Just catching up with an old friend, nothing to worry about.”
Corune gave me a sideways glance as well but she didn’t say anything. After that interlude a large part of the day passed without much activity – outside or in. Isger finally stopped pacing and sat listless with Chalon. What’s wrong with these people? They just got here last night and they’re acting like they’re dead already. I’ve been there for three days, fighting for my life mind you, and I’m full of vim and vigor. Do I have to be the moral officer too? Do I have to do everything?
“Chalon do you know any stories? The Shirefolk I’ve known have been pretty good with a tale. As a matter of fact I rode out a situation much like this one in a boarding house with a group of your people and it was really pretty fun. We gambled and talked and ate good food all night long. This is a little different of course but we can share some stories at least can’t we? Keep our spirits up, maintain a little optimism.”
Chalon looked like an animal caught in a trap – I don’t know if she’s usually this skittish or if this civil “issue” has really messed with her head but I could tell it was going to be hard work getting her to say much of anything. Before I could embark on this campaign though Aska spoke up.
“I know a story. Years ago there were three sisters and they were out working in the fields when they found a magic ring turning over dirt with a plow. They started fighting over the ring because it was made of gold and they didn’t want to share it but as they did so in a flash of light an angel appeared. It had been trapped in the ring by an evil wizard. The angel told them to stop fighting and love one another and said that because they had rescued him that he would grant them each a wish. The first sister spoke up and said that she wanted her other two sisters to be devoured by a lion. So the second sister said that she wanted her sisters to be burned to death by dragonfire because a dragon is mightier than a lion. And then the third sister said that she wanted her sisters to meet their death at the hands not of a mighty beast but by an ignominious one so she wished that her sisters would be nibbled to death by a goat. The angel was disgusted that they wished death on one another but decided to answer all their wishes at once – he created the chimera and it killed them all.”
“That was a little more grisly than I was hoping for, but it’s a better theory on why those dumb beasts exist than I’ve heard before. At least we’re talking right? Let’s keep the ball rolling.”
Isger told the story of the Alligator and the Apple Farmer which is one I’ve heard many times but it was a good comedic telling of the old tale and I made sure to laugh when appropriate and encourage the others – I’m better at fake crying but I have an impeccable fake laugh as well. I sung the story of the Priestess and the Deer Prince which had Corune scowling and Chalon blushing furiously but she was also laughing along with Aska and Isger. It was mostly Isger and I trading back and forth but eventually Chalon piped with the tale of the Ghost and the Watermelon and Aska chimed in from time to time as well. Isger told a story about the king of Vieland and his humorous foibles that legitimately had tears rolling down my face. As I wiped them away I turned to Corune.
“Surely you have some moralistic parable that you could share with us. I think we’re having too much fun now, your services as a wet blanket may be needed.”
She nodded out the window “Someone’s coming.”
Talk about a wet blanket. It was starting to get dark but was not yet sunset when I looked out the window to see several dozen armed and armored men in orange and white livery with what I thought was a weird very stylized looking lion on their shields but then realized that it was the Old Imperial way of writing the number ten. They had a hodgepodge of people trailing along behind them clutching at random possessions and looking bewildered. I noticed that behind the civilians, herding them together, was another body of orange and white clad soldiers.
“Ahoy there friends, I don’t recognize your crest, whom do you serve?”
One of the men, looking no different from the rest spoke on their behalf “This part of the city is being evacuated. Get whatever you need that you can carry and come with us.”
“My name is Ela, I’m cousin to Baroness Juost, here on an assignment from her husband. Who am I speaking to?”
“You need to come with us.”
“I think you meant to say ‘you need to come with us My Lady’ and I think you also meant to introduce yourself because otherwise that would be unspeakable rude. Criminal in fact I think, my friend here can check on that she’s super into legal stuff. I’d like to know where you’d be taking us and who you are.”
“Who I am? Someone who doesn’t like to be questioned. You’ll have your answers when you have them. Get out here now. I won’t ask again.”
I turned to Corune “Well law expert, what’s the legality of this? Shall we file a petition or something? A writ maybe?”
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), 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