It was late by the time I got to my tent last night and has Josta had promised me the Amulet ran out of juice today. I’ve heard people say they were asleep before their head hit the pillow but I thought that was just hyperbole, I didn’t know it was actually possible. I’m usually a pretty slight sleeper, a restless sleeper even sometimes, but I was out cold until the sun was high in the sky. When I did finally come around for a moment I didn’t know where I was immediately, which is unlike me, but that’s how groggy I was. The tent was much like the one they had sent me to yesterday, but as promised I was alone. I sat up, still feeling bone-weary, and took a few long pulls off my Flask – making sure one of them was a healing draught since my knee was bothering me. I’m not sure which was more pleasant, the warm feeling of booze in my belly or the warm surge of healing magic kneading my aches and pains away.
After puttering around for a bit I open the tent flap to see that I had an “honor guard”, two women that looked similar enough that they must be kin – short dark hair, muscular build, honest peasant faces – and they were dressed the same as well, in a tight fitting dark blue uniform-esque number with silver sleeves. For all that they looked to be guards I saw no weapons on them. They both glanced over as I poked my head out, the one of the left speaking up.
“We were starting to wonder if you were ever going to rise.”
“It’s been a rough couple of days, and you know how important that they say sleep is for healthy skin.”
Righty stifled a smile “Of course, it’s all we think about.”
I nodded “And rightfully so. What’s for breakfast?”
“You’re about half a day too late for that My Lady, but we should be able to find you some lunch.”
They brought a small table and a chair out in front of the tent for me, I don’t know where from, and in short order I was presented with a grand feast of a cured hamhock, a small wheel of hard cheese, some crumbly dry bread and some poor quality wine. All I can say is that it was better than rations. Which is like saying that a kick in the stomach is better than a kick in the face – it’s true, but does it really matter? Questionable at best. As I availed myself of this elegant banquet and enjoyed some sunlight I looked out after the vast sea of tents and the long line of people waiting at a central point to be served some kind of brown slop out of bucket.
“So what does one do in a prison camp?”
“This is a refugee camp My Lady.”
“Even for me? I thought I was a political prisoner.”
“You’re something of a special case.”
“I suppose there’s no law that says you can’t be a refugee and a political prisoner. What I’m getting at either way is does everyone just sit around here all day or what?”
“No, anyone able-bodied is put to work helping out around the camp, or clearing away rubble and debris at the edge of the city where things are safe.”
“Sounds like prison work to me.”
“Well you won’t have to worry about that, you’re an honored guest, our orders are to see that you get a bath and that you’re given some proper attire.”
“You’re going to give me a bath? What’s the deal, there’s a hole in the tent and it costs a silver a peek?”
Lefty raised her eyebrow “No, nothing like that, just let us know when you’re ready.”
“I was also promised some better lodging.”
“We’re still working on that My Lady.”
As I ate I saw that for all that the rows of tents and their little wooden barricades looked identical there was clearly a method at play. The section I was in had a handful of men and women milling around in what at least used to be fine clothing – these are the people you don’t dragoon into pulling bodies out of collapsed buildings or chopping firewood, these are the people you just let be idle. Then there was a section where the soldiers were and a handful of the women in blue and silver, this is where most of the supplies appeared to be kept, this is the section where I paid the late-night visit to Master Sergeant Costell Monague. The smallest of the special sections looked to be one where the injured and sick were being cared for by a couple priests of Melmoth and their helpers. It was strange to see them here, typically you find disciples of that hoary old deity only out in the most remote rural areas where the traditional ways haven’t died yet.
Once I was finished picking at my slightly better than rations meal I had my two new friends lead me back up the appropriated farm complex. There was a toolshed that had been cleared out to house a truly massive bathtub that I assume was dragged into place by an elephant. It was already filled with steaming hot water, so I have to give these people points for logistics – I don’t know how they signaled the bucket brigade or how they swung into action just in the few minutes it took us to walk up here but I appreciate it nevertheless. The temperature was one tiny iota below being intolerably hot which is just the way I like it, as I slid in I felt like I was melting and becoming one with the water. Maybe that’s how nereids or water nymphs or whatever those watery fey tarts are called were formed in the first place. I let out a long sigh of contentment as I sunk into the warm embrace of the bath. I’ve never had guards in the room before when I was bathing, I like it, makes you feel consequential.
“You got any of those magic salts you can toss in here? Verdant salts I think they call them. Feels like an army of tiny people is massaging your ever muscle.”
Lefty smiled slightly “Every muscle?”
Righty shook her head “No, we don’t have anything like that.”
“I didn’t figure that you would but as my grandmother always said you don’t get anything without asking for it. You know what would really hit the spot right now? Huckleberries. And I know what you’re thinking – huckleberries at this time of year would be too tart – but here’s what you do, sprinkle a little confectioner’s sugar on there and you’re ready to experience something. It’s like an explosion of flavor in your mouth, you know what I’m talking about, but in a good way. You ever hear someone use the expression ‘that’s a huckleberry over my persimmon’? What the fuck is that supposed to mean? What even is a persimmon? Is it like a parsnip? I remember one time I was picking huckleberries when I was a kid and then all of a sudden . . .”
I stopped when I heard some kind of commotion outside – sounded far off but it also sounded like something I’ve become very familiar with over the past few days, an angry mob.
“I should have known, why should I be allowed a moment’s peace?”
I closed my eyes with a world-weary sigh so I’m not sure which of my attendants spoke, their voices were almost indistinguishable from one another.
“I’m sure it’s nothing my lady, but we’ll take a look.”
I heard them leave and then only a moment later I heard someone else come in. I assumed it was one of them but when I opened my eyes to ask them what the commotion was I saw instead a very slender woman with a massive pile of white curls wearing the skirts of a maid. She would have been exactly what you’d expect in a manor house but seems wildly out of place here. I started to say something to her but she walked up to the tub and dumped some kind of green slime out of a vial into the water and then winked at me. I sat half-way up in shock.
“What the fuck was that?!”
She put her finger to her lips and backed out of the tent. I had half a mind to leap out of the bath and tackle her but I’ve learned from at least two different circumstances that being nude and soaking wet is no way to win a fight. Which is a real shame because for a change that was probably someone that I could have overpowered. Just once I’d like be the throttler and not the throttlee. I shrugged and lay back down in the now slightly yellowish water. A few moments later the blue and silver twins came back in.
“That’s very odd, there’s nothing going on out there. I don’t know how to explain that shouting we heard.”
“I do, someone cast a spell to create an auditory illusion in the hopes that it would draw you two away. Which is did. And then that person came in here and dumped some kind of potion or poison into the bathwater.”
“Shouldn’t you get out then?”
I snorted “Whatever it’s supposed to do is already did, it’s happening as we speak, I might as well enjoy my bath.”
“What did this poisoner look like?”
“It doesn’t matter, it wasn’t their real appearance. It was also an illusion, a disguise, I could tell but I couldn’t see through it. Could be the demon that’s after me, she’s a shapeshifter. I think she might be behind this whole thing too.”
“Yeah, I got a lot of irons in the fire, various projects and so forth. It’s really annoying.”
“You really should get out of the water My Lady, there’s no telling what’s in there now.”
I waved irritably “Just get one of those crusty old priests over here so heal me with the magic of their obsolete God, assuming they still get any power from him, and let me enjoy this for a couple more minutes.”
That wasn’t to be, as I was finishing that sentence I started to feel a prickling on my skin – all of my skin. After the prickling came a sharp pain like being stung by a wasp, only instead of one point it’s all over your body and it doesn’t stop. I tried to climb out of the tub because I was beginning to feel numb but I had to have my two minders drag me out. After a few more minutes it felt like I was being burned with invisible fire all across my skin. And the worst was the lips. I never would have expected that but pain across my lips was some of the most agonizing I’ve felt. I had the urge to lip them off just so that pain would be gone. I was starting to shake badly enough that the sisters were holding me down when the Melmothian came in looking unkempt and pastoral. By this point my vision as so blurry I didn’t get a good look at him but I clearly saw that his fingernails were filthy, just filthy.
He invoked his dumb God and was able to counteract the poison – turned out to be jellyfish toxin if you were wondering – enough to stop the vicious pain and the tremors but I still felt nauseated and weak the rest of the day. I was supposed to have dinner with some of the Barons that night but instead I lay in my cot guzzling rice wine while I endured cold sweats and alternated between trying not to puke my guts out and wishing that I would.
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 , unknown poisoner