After my first good night’s sleep in what seems like a year and a hearty, if bland and boring, breakfast dished up by the Adarielites Corune and I hit the road to head back to Beresford. At the advice of some of the Adrinistites we took the road (more of a path really) north, which we were told would jog back over to the west and take us to Beresford. This should help us avoid the various humungous insects and insect-like creatures that apparently occupy the land we just came through. Another adventure in walking. I used to never walk anywhere really, just to the drink tray and back if I felt ambitious – unless I was out riding it was carriages everywhere, even a palanquin once – now it seems like I’ve walked the length and breadth of the world fifty times over. It’s too bad the church of Strider screwed me over and I had to murder some of their priests – otherwise I think I’d have enough walking under my belt to be their pope by now. Or at the very least an archbishop.
“I knew this opera singer once, very famous. She traveled the world, she sang for the King of Ulpine back when that meant something. I heard she went across the sea and sang for some foreign emperor. And this was all relatively early in her career, she was still improving, still learning – she hadn’t yet reached her full potential. Then a jealous lover punched her right in the face, just hailed off and blasted her. That side of her face got so swollen that you couldn’t even see that she had an eye, at the time it was one of the more disgusting physical things I had ever seen. The bruise got infected and the infection spread into her sinuses and all that sludge dripped down into her throat, because of that she developed polyps on her vocal cords and her voice was ruined. Not just her singing voice, she talked like an old man trying to swallow a lizard made of sand. After that she traveled the world just as much, looking for a healer or magician or something that could help her. She drank all kinds of potions and tonics and elixirs and spent a fortune trying to fix herself. Nothing worked though, probably it made things worse, although it hardly mattered, she was already below what you might call rock bottom. I’m not exactly sure what happened to her but I heard she involved in a scheme to blackmail a mercenary captain for seventy-six thousand gold and I don’t think anyone saw her after that. Have to assume she’s dead. I’m not sure why she thought that blackmailing a professional killer was a good idea but I guess she was broke and desperate at that point.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Just making conversation. It doesn’t seem like things ever work out for famous opera singers. That’s what I wanted to be when I was a girl, I guess I dodged an arrow there huh?”
“That’s your idea of conversation? Do you know any stories that aren’t depressing?
“No. Here’s the funny thing about that story, now that I’ve been out in the world I bet it would have be really easy for her to fix her voice had she known about what’s really going on. Sell your soul to a devil or make a deal with hag or something – it’s easily done. Living in polite society you’re somewhat ignorant of all the irrational magical shit going on out here. I bet there’s a fey queen that would restore your voice not even for your first born child, for like your fourth or fifth. It’s quite a world we live in when you think about it. Tell me something will you, how come your beloved and eternal Vultur wouldn’t fix that lady but some mystical creature harvesting souls would? What kind of message is that?”
“Because Vultur wants us to have a safe world, a happy world. He wants there to be enough food for everyone, freedom for everyone, the end of the tyranny of the powerful over the weak.”
“You lost me.”
“There are no shortcuts Ela, we have to do it.”
“What a load of shit.”
“All those times where someone makes a deal with a devil, either literal or proverbial, does it ever end well?”
“It wouldn’t make much of a story then would it? For all I know it works out fine sometimes, or most of the time, but you just don’t hear about that. What would be the fun of a story where someone wishes for great wealth and didn’t end up getting fucked over? People want blood and guts and tragedy – not some boring story about someone getting what they want.”
“The correct answer is that they don’t have a happy ending.”
“So what? What’s Vultur doing to help?
“He gives us the guidance to achieve a better world. It’s all written down, it’s all ready for us, we just need to execute his plan.”
“So if people like me just got with the program and did what Vultur wanted everything would be fine?”
“And the other day you accused me of being insane? What about the other Gods? They’re just wrong and Vultur is right? What about Adariel, our lady of geniality and being friends with everyone and ponies and rainbows? Her plan doesn’t lead to world peace where everyone gets a stout-hearted mule and bag of potatoes?”
“Vultur has an agreeable relationship with Adariel, her influence is favorable to the further advancement of civilized life, but her philosophy is flawed because it doesn’t take into account the natural inclinations of sentient beings. If people were inherently good and helpful we wouldn’t even need laws – everything would be great as is.”
“So you just happen to worship the one God who’s right about everything? You realize that’s a level of intellectual narcissism that’s beyond delusion right?”
She gave me some side-eye “You’d be the expert on narcissism wouldn’t you?”
I was about to retort when Writha Corune did a very odd thing – she slumped and almost fell over like a tree that had instantly withered. She immediately took on an ashen and very unhealthsome pallor and doubled over as if her stomach was suddenly causing her tremendous pain. My head whipped around and I saw on the road behind us was that tiny flying insect-demon from the camp, and he had friends. He was buzzing around the shoulders (not head because its head was actually lower than its shoulders) of a massive slab of putrid demonflesh that looked like a frog, a bulldog and a pile of garbage had a threesome and this is what puked out. The stench emitting from it was bowel-churning. Why did a succubus have so many minions that stink with the furry of a thousand dead skunks bursting in the summer heat? Shouldn’t her minions be other sexy lady demons? It makes no sense.
That wasn’t all though, clustered around the frog prince were four awkward vulture looking demons that were shedding swarms of botflies off their flesh like flakes of skin. They were infinitely more filthy and diseased looking than your standard non-demon non-humanoid vulture. They surged forward as I ran the other way but Corune was stunned or paralyze or whatever her issue was and they seized her – the four vulture demons pulling on her arms and legs like they were trying to tear her apart as the bulldog/frog demon gurgled with syrupy hacking laughter.
“Wait, stop!” I addressed my comments at the little flying lizard-snail since he seemed to be the brains of the operation “You want revenge for your mistress, I get that, I love revenge – ask anyone – I didn’t know that demons had this kind of loyalty but live and learn right. But here’s the thing, I didn’t just kill her – I’m not stupid – I trapped her essence so she couldn’t reform in whatever Hells you guys hang out in. You kill my friend and I’ll never let her go, she’ll be gone for real.”
The little flying creature started to respond, but the massive frog-demon swatted it out of the air like, well like a fly, and burbled at me in a voice that was so much like he was gargling tar that it was hard to make out what the words even were.
“You let go! Or we kill!”
“No, that’s not how it works bub, you kill her and you’ll never see your beloved mistress again.”
The toad fiend screamed in inarticulate rage and bashed one of the vulture demons out of the way, seizing Corune and shoving her in his mouth like a kid smashing a stolen cookie in his fat face. As he slowly and horrifyingly swallowed her the little flying demon shrieked in impotent rage and ordered the vultures to turn and attack. Maybe there isn’t as much loyalty among demons as I thought. The vulture demons were clawing and biting at the big demon but more than anything it looked they were trying to reach into its mouth like they could pull Corune back up. During the fracas while the small demon-fly was distracted I took out my crossbow and shot him in the back – right through the wings, sending him falling to the ground with a sodden thud. As the other demons were tearing each other apart the little demon tried to do some magic but I waited until just the right time and then shot him again, ruining the spell.
As he was screeching and flopping around on the ground like a wounded duck I walked up and beat him to death (well not to death but back to the Hells I guess) with my cane. In that short time the froghemoth had torn two of the vulturelings in half (literally) and while they scrapped I shot indiscriminately in the melee. Bloody (assuming that urine-colored glowing sap was blood) but victorious the stinking hulk was the last one standing. Although in another way I was the last one standing because I shot him in the head a few times and killed him. And that’s when things got weird. After his massive rubbery bulk slapped to the ground like two people rutting in a dirty alley, a moment later Corune crawled out from between his froggy lips like some kind of awful birthing. Which is saying something considering how awful a normal human woman giving birth to a little baby is. She was covered with some kind of blue-green slime that seemed thick as cold jelly and was gasping for breath to the point where she may have been hyperventilating.
“Well fuck me, you were alive in there?!”
She didn’t answer because she was on her hands and knees vomiting and then dry heaving for a while, but eventually she gestured weakly at the corpse.
“There’s . . . . a bunch of equipment . . . . in there . . . and money and shit.”
“I don’t think Vultur would approve of that kind of language.” She collapsed onto her stomach utterly exhausted “Well if there’s stuff in there one of us should get it. No reason to let it go to waste right? And I mean since you were already in there . . . no reason for both of us to get dirty right?”
Funds: 53,775 gold
Inventory: Courtier’s Outfit, Noble’s outfit (5), 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, Ring of Jumping, Walking Stick (Rod of the Viper), map, Badge of Last Resort, Healer’s Satchel, 28 tiny diamonds, Headband of Alluring Charisma +2, Ring of Protection +2, Saryah Phidaner gown, Crown of Conquest, signet ring, Stone of Good Luck, Onyx (55), Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Altar of Adariel, Cauldron of Brewing, Censer of Dreams, Bowl of Conjuring Water Elementals, Companion Mirror, darkwood lute, +3 buckler, celestial shirt, +1 Frost Demonbane Shortsword
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