Beresford has no walls but since the city is under martial law it doesn’t seem like a good idea to try sneaking in – that’s the sort of thing that tends to piss off the people enforcing the martial law. They’re funny like that. We approached from the north not only because it’s farthest away from the riot zone but also because that’s the only part of town that I’m even somewhat familiar with. I took on a form similar to that of my seven bodyguards and flagged down the first patrol that I saw – four men on horseback lazily making their way around the perimeter of the city. As you might imagine they were taken significant aback by the appearance of eight nearly identical women in vaguely uniform-looking attire appearing out of the night.
Their orders were to keep anyone from coming into or leaving the city – it was at this point that I noticed a hastily erected (if you know what I mean) shanty-town of disappointed merchants and the like to the north – but the day I can’t sweet-talk my way past a random night-patrol to kill a demon is the day that I use my magic Boots to turn into a giant and lay waste to Beresford. Soon enough we were making our way through the deserted streets heading for the Rest Inn Peace. There was a curfew in effect of course, but our friend the border patrolman had given me a pass that said it was okay for us to be wandering around. We were stopped a few times but once we presented our paperwork everything was fine and dandy like shine candy. It’s good to know that sometimes the system can work.
Honestly I was expecting the RIP to be burned to the ground, that seems to be the way my luck goes, but it was perfectly intact even though it wasn’t all that far from the epicenter of the “troubles”. The place was deserted aside from Josta, who was behind the bar as usual, and Stinty who was sitting at a small table looking glum. Stinty’s glumness was replaced by shock when he saw me walk in but Josta was nonplussed.
“I was wondering if you’d ever turn up again.”
“Are you going to say that every time I disappear and then come back?”
“Probably. Have my years of wild hedonism finally caught up with me or are there seven identical women behind you?”
I waved my hand dismissively “Don’t worry about them. What I need right now is . . .” It was my turn to be astonished as Stinty sprinted over and hugged me, which is even more awkward coming from a Halfling “What is this, what’s happening?”
He started up at me with honest to Gods tears in his eyes as I maneuvered him away from me with my knee “We thought you were dead!”
“So? So? We’re friends! I was upset!”
“We are? Didn’t helping me result in your life’s work being burned down and one of your good friends being killed?”
“Well yeah, but . . .”
“Look I don’t mean to be rude Stinty, but I don’t really have time to talk right now – we can discuss our friendship later – I’m on a tight deadline.” I turned back to the seven non-sisters “Will you guys really kill me if I don’t go back?”
One of them, I think one that I haven’t seen before, shrugged “I guess. I don’t know who’s really paying us but that guy with the lady name seems like he can stop us from getting paid.”
I reached into my Haversack and dumped out a handful of gold “How about now?”
One of the others raised an eyebrow “Maybe we wouldn’t kill you.”
“Good to know, we’ll deal with that later.” I turned back to Josta “What I need to know is where Crawdore Van Saar lives.”
Stinty nearly jumped into the air “I know where he lives! I can show you the way. But what about the curfew?”
“Don’t worry about that, I have a piece of paper that says it’s all fine like cherry wine.”
And just like that we were off. We headed towards the northwest portion of town, not that far from the home of the Staelishs but firmly across the invisible line between the GOOD portion of town and the portion of town where the good people used to live. We were quickly stopped by another patrol and when I was presenting them with our pass I had a great idea.
I looked to the leader of the patrol adoringly “Captain, can I ask you for a favor?”
“I’m just a lieutenant ma’am.”
I laughed and touched his arm “Just a lieutenant you say, it sounds very important to me. My apologies lieutenant, it’s just that you have a very captainy presence you now – a natural leadership quality you see.”
His glowing smile of appreciation was so typical it almost made me sad “Just doing my job ma’am.”
“Of course of course, we must all do our part. I have a very important message that I need to get to Master Van Saar, which is the reason I have this temporary permit to break curfew, but I’m concerned that there may be footpads and other unsavory sorts about, despite the best efforts of the fine men of the city watch such as yourself. Would it be possible for you and your men to escort us? As you can see my only protection from misfortune is women and one of the smallfolk, they do their best of course but they can’t hold a candle to a real righting man like you. I’d feel so much better if you could see us safely to our destination.”
The lieutenant was overjoyed to do just that, although his men seemed less sanguine about it. As we walked with our new sheepdogs Stinty sidled over to me and whispered.
“Is this a good idea?”
“It’s a great idea.”
“It’s just that general you’re doing things where it’s not a great idea to have witnesses.”
“That’s an unfair characterization. Regardless though, I figure a rich man is going to have guards of his own in times of trouble and turmoil such as these – these fellows will help get us in to see him. Probably.”
“And then what?”
“And then if they stick around witnesses will be fine, better than fine in fact, depending on what’s going on exactly.”
“You don’t know what’s going on exactly?”
“Not as such no.”
The home of Crawdore Van Saar was fancy enough but it was still out of place in this neighborhood – it was a low sprawling affair with walls and iron gates and courtyards connecting to courtyards, very segmented and cluttered looking it was. Whoever designed it likes to feel confined I think. It was ugly but not in the way that extravagant homes are usually ugly where there’s just too much or it’s garish – this was ugly more along the lines of a battle-axe made out of platinum. Certainly a lot of money went into it, but it wasn’t designed to please the eye. The place was lit up with lanterns and even a few magical lights and there were two guards outside the gates – and two more within. The watchmen talked to them and then they talked to the footman and then the footman talked to the butler and notes were passed and so on and so on. Eventually we were granted entry and were met by the dashing Crawdore Van Saar himself, who looked like he was dressed to receive the Queen herself even at this late hour.
My “attendants” as he called them were left to cool their heels in the servant’s quarters while Van Saar and I retired to the sitting room, where mulled wine was waiting for us. After some exquisitely polite chit-chat he got down to the business and hand and asked me about the message. I told him that it involved his “companion” as well and that it would be best that she join us. A bell was rung and a servant was dispatched and minutes later “Lypara Emprenzo” entered the room with dainty yet fetching steps, looking a vision even with her tousled hair and hastily-thrown on receiving gown. Maybe because of them.
Van Saar’s face betrayed the first hint of annoyance as he crossed his legs “Now then, what’s this message you have for us?”
I took out my crossbow and shot “Lypara” in the chest with one of the special bolts I had been given. For a horrifying second I thought that I was wrong, or that even with a demon-killing bolt in her flesh that she could maintain her disguise, but after a moment her fake appearance fell away and Crawdore Van Saar was left sitting on a loveseat with an angry hissing demoness. Seeing her true form in a dream did not prepare me for seeing it in the real world. The combination of apex female beauty with the most base and foul demonic features was confounding. She was concurrently impossibly abnormal and shamefully intriguing, both repulsive and nearly impossible to turn away from. Looking directly at her stabbed at your eyes like looking at a bright light, but turning away caused a longing in the chest that hurt even more. And the whole effect wasn’t helped by the sick pale blue ichor pouring out of the grievous wound on her chest – whatever it was it reminded me of a terrible cold mushroom soup I was served once.
I was hoping to the gods that Crawdore was just a manipulated dupe rather than a willing participant, and based on the way he screamed and dove to the floor with his hands over his head gave me a good indication that for once my hopes had been fulfilled.
“Yeah buddy, that’s what you’ve been having sex with, it’s best not to think about it.”
I was also hoping that “Lypara” being a creature of deception and seduction wasn’t used to physical pain and she would be stunned for a moment, which she was, but not for as long as I hoped. I had my crossbow loaded but before I could fire a second time she squealed out in the demon language and in a sickening blast of malodorous smoke there appeared before her a demon lion. Curious what a demon lion looks like but don’t want to die and burn in the Hells to find out? Allow me to tell you. Take a normal lion and then starve it to death, only it doesn’t die, so it looks basically like a literal bag of bones in the shape of a massive cat. Only unlike an actual starved lion it doesn’t look weak at all, it looks like one giant horrible coiled muscle ready to tear your soul away. Then make its face look partially like a human face, but not in the sphinx way where it kind of looks okay – in the worse way possible. Just stretch out an actual human face over the face of a lion, which is ten times bigger than a human face mind you, and you’ll be close. Then paint what little wiry fur is left with blood and entrails and add in asymmetric spikes and spurs and exposed bits of bone and you’ll be pretty much there.
Is what I said as I fired, hitting the succubus again who let out a horrific screech, and scrambled backwards away from the withered yet menacing beast. The lion lunged and I grabbed Van Saar by the collar, throwing him forwards into the teeth and claws of the beast – and act for which I don’t feel sorry at all. Anyone would have done the same with that whirlwind of horror coming at them. I backed towards the door as I reloaded the crossbow and one of Van Saar’s men came barging past me, stopping in shock at the sight before him.
“Save your master!”
Is what I shouted as I helped him along with a kick in the ass. He rushed forward with the ingrained servility of a thousand generations of exploited workers, yanking his sword out of its scabbard. The lion stopped savaging Van Saar and its bizarre head swiveled up as if to roar at the charging man but there was no roar, there was more of a squeaking sizzling like of noise – I would imagine that’s what it sounds like if you toss a mouse onto a hot frying pan. I didn’t see anything come out of the demon lion’s mouth but the man flinched backwards like he had been hit with something and then his skin literally started to boil and bubble off his bones. Here’s a fun fact, I can still shoot a succubus with a crossbow while I’m vomiting violently. Which is good to know. She howled like a stomped bandicoot as the third bolt slammed into her and ran for the door on the other side of the room with me chasing at her as several guards poured into the room – both mine and Van Saar’s. His household men were stunned into inaction but my blue and silver ladies immediately started wrestling with the skeletal gore-encrusted demon lion like that was a normal thing to do. I suppose that’s the benefit of all that mountain-top training, not that you can fight unarmed as well as a man with a mace or a spear, but that you don’t hesitate when confronted with some mindbending crazy shit.
As I came around the corner into a tiny parlor-type room the succubus ambushed me with a stab in the side, I’m not even sure from what, didn’t feel like claws though. I bashed her with the stock of my crossbow but it had zero effect, which doesn’t seem fair. Why does she get to look lithe and ethereal but be tough as dragon turtle? Just because she’s an immortal embodiment of evil and sin? I call bullshit on that. She grabbed the crossbow and as we were struggling for it I felt the crushing pressure of her mind trying to dominate mine. She couldn’t of course, but the distraction did allow her to hook her legs around mine and trip me to the floor, gaining superior position. Didn’t to her a ton of good though when I grabbed the bolt that had fallen out of the crossbow and stabbed her in the side of the head with it. It seemed to stun her more than anything but it gave me a chance to slither out from under her while she was kneeling there seemingly in a trance I grabbed her by the hair and swung her head into the wall a few times, driving the bolt completely through her head, the tip peeking out the other side.
She toppled to the floor and then after a moment the four magical crossbow bolts slid out of her as if they were being pushed from the inside – because they were, by large black snakes. In fascinated horror I watched as the four snakes emerged from her wounds and turned their snake heads to face me. They spoke in unison with one voice, a voice that was harsh and raspy, a voice that sounded ancient and unknowable.
“You are doomed.”
After that pronouncement the four snakes started devouring the corpse at the hands and feet, not swallowing like actual snakes but tearing and swallowing huge chunks of demon flesh like sharks. They consumed the entire body in maybe thirty seconds. At the very end as they were ripping her head into equal fourths one of the household guards came in to watch in shock. After the corpse was gone the snakes simply disappeared. I turned to the guard.
“That was something huh?”
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, Ring of Disguise, Boots of the Winter Jarl, Ring of Jumping, 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, Essa