I could feel that the magic of the Amulet had been recharged and was ready for more sleepless nights but I slipped it off and stashed in with the rest of my gear because I wanted to rest anyway. I don’t know how that all works, no one does with magic, but on account of my poisoning getting a good night’s sleep seemed like a fine idea. Fairly early last night I mixed up some of dreamtime tea to ensure that I had an untroubled night’s sleep. And I know what you’re thinking “Ela, doesn’t that mean you’d be vulnerable should the assassin choose to strike again?” It was a risk absolutely, but I felt so dreadful that I adjudicated it was a necessary risk, plus I had my two guards to watch over me – and they did such a good job yesterday . . .
I sleep through breakfast again, which is probably for the best anyway, but when I did get up I was feeling immensely better. When I poked my head outside of the tent I saw that my two guards had been replaced by two women who looked almost as similar. At first I thought that it was the same pair from yesterday, but the differences, though subtle, were there.
“Alright now this is just too much, what’s the deal? Do they raise you a farm somewhere?”
New Lefty frowned slightly “I’m not sure what you mean.”
“What do you mean you don’t know what I mean? Did they find quadruplets to guard me?”
New Righty shook her head “I don’t follow you.”
“Fine, whatever, yesterday, before I was almost murdered but managed to survive on account of my great stamina and physical perfection, there was some mention of new clothing?”
“Of course My Lady, one moment.”
Much like yesterday when the other two brought out the small table and chair one of them went around the corner and then returned with a tailored dress (not tailored to me, but close enough) with the appropriate accessories not to look like a gormless fob. Not that I would ever look like that no matter what I wore, but you know what I mean. I handed them my old clothing to be laundered or burned as appropriate and got dressed. There’s something very satisfying about putting on a new outfit, especially one that you didn’t pay for, it just gives you that feeling that maybe everything is going to be alright. That maybe, just maybe, the world isn’t a never ending nightmare of disappointment and tragedy from which there is no escape besides grim death. Have you ever been drug behind a horse? A nice new set of clothing gives you the opposite feeling of that. I came out of the tent and took a long breath of fresh clean non-country air.
“I tell you ladies, some days it almost feels good to be alive. You two ready to find the culprits behind the dastardly attack on my person?”
They glanced at each other “I don’t think you’re supposed to move around the camp too much.”
I chuckled lightly “Well of course I am, it’s not like I’m a prisoner.”
“Uh, that’s exactly what you are.”
I put my hand on her shoulder companionably “Well of course, but I’m not a prisoner prisoner you see? I’m more along the lines of a prisoner in the sense that the Countess’s cat Martor is a prisoner, technically he can’t leave but he’s pampered and indulged more than most human children. I tell you this ladies, that cat runs the household and that’s a fact.”
“I don’t know, I think . . .”
“Thinking? Thinking?! It’s too fine a day for thinking! Today is a day for doing! And we’re off!”
I started walking and they fell in beside me as I hoped that they would. They say when you’re trying to find out who’ve behind a plot you should think about who stands to benefit. So, the question becomes, who stands to benefit from my death? Unfortunately that’s a lot of people. And I mean a LOT of people. So that doesn’t do any good. They also say follow the money. I think by that they mean follow the money involved in the plot, but I decided to take it more literally and just talk to the people that have money. There weren’t many people in the “rich” section of the tent city and they all seemed to just be loitering aimlessly around the front of their tents so it seemed like the perfect time for a visit.
Several tents over (there seemed to be a wide space of empty tents in all directions around mine) I met a merchant by the name of Wolcen. He seemed confused by my call but was quick to open up, like most people at this point I think he was just looking for someone to talk to. A former seaman, he had made his riches in importing-exporting after a lucky day where he captured a notorious pirate and was granted a small fortune as a prize. You’ll find most rich people started out with a small fortune to begin with – funny how that works. It’s almost like having money makes it easier to get more. I allowed him to go on at length about how worried he was about his three daughters still in the city, almost as much as he was worried about his extravagant estate. I’d wager he’d give up at least one daughter to the mob to make sure that his house was relatively undamaged.
The woman at the next tent over was watching us, afire with curiosity, but made no move to come join us. I waved her over heartily and her reluctance was apparent, but I was able to coax her over. I’m quite good at coaxing you know. She said that her name was Fessliia and much like Wolcen was an up-jumped commoner. She was an artist of renown (or so she said, I never heard of her) who came to the attention of the important people in life when she painted a scene of her now husband, Sir Bazzaker, rescuing her from the clutches of a demented owlbear when she was just a simple peasant. She was very tidy looking and seemed very distressed that she had no servants to order to clean something. I invited an older fellow down the way to join us, he was a jewelry-maker, and once the ball was rolling more or less the entire population of the “rich” section was gathered about chatting and complaining. Mostly complaining. There were maybe two dozen in all.
Interestingly there didn’t seem to be a noble among them. Perhaps it was just because of the part of town that was evacuated. Once they were socializing and carrying on I largely slid into the background and observed, only stepping in occasionally to grease the conversational wheels when things were starting to slow down. After a while I had picked out my target – a pale half elf with a battered hat that smelled vaguely of herbs. He had an annoying habit of peppering his speech with foreign words to try seem intelligent and had a man with him who was obviously a bodyguard of some kind. I nudged one of my minders and gestured subtly at the guard.
“One of yours?”
“No My Lady, he’s just a refugee like everyone else.”
I suggested that since we were all having such a lovely time that we should have our meager lunch together and everyone (well almost everyone) thought that that would be a delightful idea. Word was sent and before long some of the women from the not-rich camp were setting up tables for us to enjoy our pedestrian food. As everything was getting settled the two things I heard a dozen times were people thanking me for “breaking the ice” and good-natured/mean-spirited comments about the food. This is when I made my move and approached the half-elf as people were being seated.
“Pardon me sir, I believe I heard you name was Zala, is that correct?” He nodded, looking at my guards nervously “Good, Mr. Zala, I have a feeling by looking at you that you’re the kind of man who prides himself on being in the know. And I further submit to you sir, that even in a temporary living situation like this there are always people that seem to know how to get things. I believe that you could probably direct me to such a person.”
His face went even more pale and he became visibly more nervous, his eyes shifting back and forth to my two guards “I’m sure I wouldn’t know anything about that madam.”
I took his hand gently “Oh come now, there’s no reason to be modest. You see sir, I’m not looking for anything untoward, this is more along the lines of the kind of comforts that people of our status have become accustomed to and can’t be provided by our kindly hosts. You see sir, I have a delicate constitution and the food here simply doesn’t agree with me. I was hoping to procure something a little more to my liking and a little less damaging to the bowel.”
He licked his lips like an odd lizard “Well there is one man . . .”
There’s always a man. Doesn’t matter the situation, prison, a ship at sea, a military unit on the front lines, a city under martial law, there’s a man who knows how to get things. If you want it, there’s a way to get it as long as you’re willing to pay for it. They don’t ask questions and they don’t double-deal, they don’t need to, they’re the ones with all the power. They’re the man. Sometimes this man operates with a wink and a nod from the people in charge because he helps to keep people happy – well not happy, but less miserable – and sometimes he operates under the potential to be hung as a traitor. But he always operates. Some people can see the opportunity in anything, and some of those people have the bones to do something about it.
This particular man was called Kisha and it just so happens that that very night he was hosting a little get together in the poor-tent section, after they were done with their forced labor, wherein there would be weasel-fighting and a bare-knuckle boxing match. I would wager my not unsubstantial fortune there would also be made available whatever kind of stomach-churning booze he was able to make by fermenting a rotten potato in an old boot as well as some of the camp women who were willing to trade their favors for extra food or some additional bedding. No society can survive for long without bloodshed, booze, and bonking. This is a universal truth. That’s why elf society failed and has receded into the dim mists of history. This event was by invitation only naturally but the day I can’t finagle an invitation to a weasel-fight is the day I start a bunch of tents on fire and kill everyone in a devastation of flame and smoke.
Then I sat down to lunch and spent the rest of the day whiling away the hours with my fellow VIP prisoners. I asked about a game of cards but no one had a deck so I came up with a game on the spot involving our eating utensils and plates that involved shuffling them around and hiding them and then guessing. It wasn’t much of a game really, but it doesn’t take much to entertain people in the best of circumstances honestly. And they found using these crude instruments for amusement ever so droll. Rich people are like that sometimes, I bet you could make good money taking them on a “safari” into the poor part of town to gawk at the less fortunate like zoo animals. At some point my guards switched out for the original two, at least I think so, maybe they were two more almost identical women.
Around sun-down when the working stiffs of the camp were marched back into the human paddock I retired from the revelry to get some time alone to rest in my tent before the big weasel fight. After a nap I addressed my blue and silver shadows.
“I feel like showing up with you is going to cause issues, can I leave you or will you be looking for me?”
“We’re supposed to stay with you My Lady.”
“Can you at least ditch whatever those outfits are for civvies?”
They gave each other a concerned look but turned back up wearing identical maroon and black clothes fit for a craftsman of some kind, er, craftsperson. They included heavy looking bracers, somewhat like archery bracers but made entirely of a thick cloth.
“What is with you two? If I found the other two of your right now would they be wearing this exact same thing? Are you some kind of mirror people?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
The event was on the far side of the camp on the other side of the farm complex where there were a lot less tents – and this specific tent in question was kind of in a hollow where the light couldn’t be seen unless you were coming at it straight on. This tent was one of the large supply tents and there were about forty or so people in there, mostly men of course, milling around a crate where the weasels would rip each other apart, and the makeshift still where the appalling rotgut I knew was doing to be there was being served. My appearance caused quite a commotion which is sure to be followed eventually by disappointment when they realize that I’m not on the menu.
Zala introduced me to Kisha, who was the kind of middle aged nondescript fellow that you’d never look at twice if you passed him on the street. Usually organizers or fixers or scroungers or whatever you want to call them slant that way. Flamboyance is for someone else, these folks have shit to do. I flattered him a little bit on his ingenuity and resourcefulness but I got the sense that he was immune to that sort of puffery, even from a skilled flatterer like myself. He of course had a couple of the bigger fellows in camp hanging around as his goons and I’m sure they had a knife or the like on them somewhere but they had no obvious weapons. I stayed as far away from the booze as possible but I endured as much of the weasel-fighting and boxing as was demanded by the etiquette of the situation before asking Kisha if we could speak in confidence about a business opportunity. The two of us and our guards moved into another smaller tent nearby to talk shop.
“Could you get me some rainbow jellyfish venom?”
His face betrayed nothing “Well now, that’s a tricky request, you see . . .”
“Actually, scratch that, I don’t want the venom I want to know who you got it for yesterday.”
He did betray a hint of irritation at that “Madam, you can’t expect . . .”
“Oh I can expect quite a bit.” I tapped my Walking Stick on the ground to turn the head into a hissing snake and held it close to his face “I believe that you’re quite good at getting things, but I’m better.”
I grabbed his shirt as he tried to backpedal and his two goons came forward goonishly, one of them producing a knife and the other coming up with a set of brass knuckles. I glanced back at my escorts.
“Ladies, aren’t you supposed to be guarding me? I seem to be under threat.”
They glanced at each other and then one of them shrugged slightly. They moved forward as one and the first of them lashed out with a leaping twisting martial arts kick to the sternum of the knuckles goon, knocking him for a loop. The knife goon lunged at her doppleganger who responded with a wrist-grab and a one of those fancy throws these types like where you can toss someone twice your size to the ground with the ease of dropping an empty sack.
“Oh I get it now, you don’t carry weapons because you’re those weird empty hand fighter types. Is that why you all look like? Do they imprint you with that form magically at the mountain monastery or something?”
Kisha leaned back as far as he could from the snapping snake-head “You wanted to know about the jellyfish poison?”
“Venom if you want to be pedantic, but yeah.”
Funds: 50,874 gold
Inventory: Courtier’s Outfit, 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, 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