My ostentatious guide and his two men led me through the tent village to the farm complex in the middle of the encampment. Even in the dark of night as we walking through I was able to tell that there seemed to be far more tents than I originally thought when I arrived. Hundreds, perhaps, rather than dozens. Whatever is going on here it took a great deal of planning. This isn’t the kind of thing that springs up overnight without a lot of foresight and preparation. As we walked I continued to try and engage mister parade uniform in conversation but he wasn’t having it. I asked him increasingly outlandish questions and eventually I could hear the guards behind us snuffling, trying not to laugh, which irritated the fellow enough that he stopped and spun on heel to ask them what was so funny. I took that opportunity to dip into his pocket where I found a key. I have no idea what the key is for, but hey, free key.
The tents all around in every direction were dark, as were most of the buildings, but they led me a large storage facility that had an adjoining workspace where lights were flickering. When I was taken inside I saw that the light came not from torches, or lanterns even, but from alchemical lights hanging from the ceiling joists. All the tools and crafty materials had been cleared away to make room for a round table and several matching chairs, beyond which were assorted trunks and chests, and best of all an elaborate cart filled with bottles of fine liquor. Three men were standing around the table, despite the chairs, deep in discussion about some piece of paper or other. You know how important men love their papers.
One was a muscular dark-skinned fellow with a caterpillar like mustache. Along with him was a sallow looking man with the red splotches on the face of a porridge-pox survivor. Those two were both dressed elegantly and expensively, although their clothes were clearly in some state of disarray due to long hours of staring at papers. The third man though was dressed in the doublet of a common merchant that also happened to be an unpleasant sickly green color. He had a petulant and pained expression on his face like someone was standing on his foot but he was too cowardly to say anything about it. My escort gestured vaguely.
“This is her.”
I smiled winningly “That wasn’t much of an introduction.” I executed an elaborate curtsey that some low class types call the Dummar Dip “It’s so nice to meet you gentlemen and I would love to thank you properly for getting me out of that dreadful city and here under your safe auspices. Who do I have the pleasure of addressing?” I nodded towards pox-face “I recognize Baron Berern” I giggled girlishly “That’s a mouthful, but I don’t believe I’ve had the good fortune to make the acquaintanceship of your friends Baron. My sincerest apologies gentlemen, usually I’m very good with all the local men of import but I’ve been out of the loop a little lately.”
Mustache gallantly introduced himself as Baron Redmynd and Ugly Green limply and unimpressively wheezed that he was Baron Berlixwhouse. I fanned myself with my hand.
“Three Barons right here before me, my heavens what an occurrence! And here I am dressed like a ragamuffin. Sadly I haven’t had a chance to freshen up, not to mention which all my fine clothing was lost in the, ahem, troubles in Beresford. It’s a shame it is, they were probably stolen by some vagabond for his shrill ermine-faced wife. One shudders to think of it.”
The guide and his two men were sent away with a dismissive flick, my friend in the parade uniform giving me a dirty look as he clomped away. I was invited to sit, apologized to for the late hour and the rudeness of the surroundings, and given a glass of excellent ’77 Budgrundian wine. We chatted lightly about nothing much at all for quite a while, as if we were at a spring ball instead of in the middle of a refugee/captive tent city outside of a city tearing itself apart in sectarian violence. Eventually they got down to business, although of course they wouldn’t burden a silly woman like myself with much in the way of details. The most I could glean was that they were some alliance of barons who were making a power play of some kind. The difference between a power play and treason is how well you do it. That explains why everything is so organized, this has clearly been in the works for a while. Which raises the question – if the riot was part of the plan and the demoness caused the riot is she part of the alliance? Is she behind the whole thing? Seems like something a demon would do doesn’t it? Although technically I don’t know that she sent those fellows to kick off the riot, it just seemed the most likely.
After this initial discussion Mustache awkwardly broached the subject, with much hemming and hawing, that Baron Juost was not part of this alliance and technically what they were doing was challenging the sovereign rights granted him by the crown. I decided to throw him a lifeline.
“Oh, I completely understand, absolutely I do. Am I to assume then that I shall be held as a hostage against the Juost family?”
Pox-face blinked in surprise “Uh, yes . . . actually.”
Mustache raised his eyebrows, which are just smaller mustaches when you think about it “You’re okay with that?”
I waved my hand flippantly “Oh of course, of course, I know how this all works. I’m just glad to be in your custody, all this politics is above my head, I just want to do my part. I assume naturally that you’ll be keeping in accommodations befitting my station, we can’t have hostages of noble blood being mistreated now can we, that’s the sort of thing that causes head to roll. Power can be taken when the one holding it isn’t able to hold on but people of a certain stature must be treated a certain way if we’re to remain a civilized society and not grunting barbarians. I understand of course that our situation here is less than ideal so I won’t expect luxury but I am assured that gentlemen such as yourselves have prepared for a honored guest like myself.”
Mustache shifted uncomfortably “Um . . . yes . . . of course. We weren’t expecting . . . . we’ll make sure your accommodations . . . are to your liking.”
“I should hope so, it’s no more than decency requires after all. Now let me ask you this question if I may be so bold, what are your plans regarding Lord Wesel?”
Pox-face looked even more confused “In regards to . . . ?”
“He’s the true heir to these lands, I’m not sure how many people know that, but his uncle was the original caretaker of this area, appointed by the King himself – may his soul rest in Paradise – but he tragically died with no direct heirs and Lord Wesel didn’t appear in time to assert his claim before the Juost family was granted the title. I’m not a legal scholar but I would think that he would still have some assertion he could make, if properly backed up by gentlemen of quality. I wasn’t sure if that was part of your plan or not.” I laughed delightfully “I know he’s not a baron but maybe you can allow him into your alliance anyway!”
Berern and Redmynd seemed stunned and perplexed by this pronouncement but Berlixwhouse pounced like a diving hawk. Do hawks pounce? Anyway, he was interested. At his request I told them the whole sad tale of original lord of this land and the murderous feud between his sons and how the Juosts came to be in charge. I actually have no clue how tenuous that claim is legally speaking but what I do know is that it doesn’t matter, for some reason the aristocracy loves to cling to legal fictions. Not sure why. If you want to start a war, start a war, what difference does it make if you find some nineteenth cousin six times removed to say that you have some kind of claim to something before you start killing everyone? It doesn’t make them less dead and it doesn’t make you any more right. We talked for a while longer before I feigned weariness (which wasn’t hard since I was weary) and they fell over themselves apologizing for keeping me up. They then profusely apologized that for tonight I would have to stay in a tent while they arranged better housing for me, but they assured me that they would move me to one without anyone else in it. I told them it was no matter, in times like these we all need to make sacrifices.
“If you don’t mind good sirs, can you tell me the name of that man who brought me here and where he might be? I’d like to thank him for delivering me into your caring hands.”
They told me the popinjay in the parade armor was Master Sergeant Costell Monague and called in a couple of men to escort me to his tent. Once it was clear where they were leading me I told them to take a hike and once they were out of sight I took the appearance of Baron Redmynd and barged into his bivouac. Costell’s tent was a little nicer than the one I had been in but only a little. He came up out of sleeping in his slightly nicer cot blustering at the intrusion until he saw who it was (well, who it looked like anyway) and fell into a shocked silence. I proceeded to dress him down for treating me so rudely, Ela me not me as I look now, you know what I mean. I’ve never really gotten to dress someone down before, insult them sure, abuse them of course, but I’ve never really pretended to be part of a chain of command before. It’s pretty fun.
“I want you to find her and apologize right now!”
He stumbled about trying to get dressed in the dark “Where is she?”
“Did I tell you to get dressed son? I told you to move your ass, when I say now I mean right Gods damned NOW!”
“But surely you don’t . . .”
I grabbed him by the front of his night-shirt, getting a goodly amount of chest-hair as well “Surely you don’t mean to question me boy.”
“I just . . . that is to say . . . . I mean . . .”
He stumbled half-dressed towards the tent-flap and ran off into the night. I saw a foot locker at, well at the foot of his bed, and I figured I’d try the key I took off him earlier. And what do you know, it was a perfect fit. After tossing his dumb clothing and uniforms out of the way inside I found a map, a badge of some kind, a canvas bag of medical supplies, and most interestingly of all a little black bag filled with very small but very high quality diamonds. And who deserves to have those more than me? No one that I can think of. I reverted to my normal appearance and stepped outside, finding a couple guards to guide me to my tent.
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), map, Badge of Last Resort, Healer’s Satchel, 28 tiny diamonds
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