Montalan 9 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

We started to come across farms and homesteads on our travels today and at my eminently useful suggestion the sirs approached some of these countryfolk to see where we were.  Turns out we weren’t heading towards Preen as much as they thought, we were headed more in the direction of the Grumare homesteads – which is where Rudo said that he was leading us when really he wasn’t.  It’s definitely a comfort to know that I’m not the only one who has issues finding their way around in the wilderness.  You’re probably think that I would also be comforted by the fact that we would be bypassing Preen, seeing as how it would make more sense to head for Owlwick given our current position.  And I would be if that’s what we were doing.  However, Sir Krajeo decreed that instead we would backtrack (sort of) and head for Preen anyway.  When I suggested to him that it made no sense to head away (sort of) from our ultimate destination he dismissed my concerns.  When I asked why he wanted to visit Preen so urgently he responded to me only with equivocation. 

“Well then, I guess this is where we part ways then.  I had hoped that you would help me rescue Baron Juost but I see no sense in following your course.  I thank you for what protection and aid you have rendered in passing through the Baku Woods.  Mister Chaucier, Mister Nasso, Chaplain, shall we direct ourselves to the northeast?”

Chaucier’s countenance became pained in that annoying way when someone wants you to know for their own selfish reason that they’re conflicted.  Like they think it lets them off the hook. “Actually My Lady we think it’s best that we stay together.  With all the Kostelos at the manor we think Sir Krajeo and his fellow knights are our best bet for a positive outcome on that quest.”

“So I go on alone then?  So be it.”

Sir Krajeo was scarcely even looking at me when he spoke “We can’t in good conscious allow you to continue on alone, you’ll be coming with us to Preen.”

“Since when it is your provenance to allow or disallow me to do anything?”

It took a while for those words to sink in, as if I had been speaking in a foreign language – when they did pierce that skull he did finally swing his head around to look at me “Surely you don’t want to travel on without protection.”

“I don’t want to no, but I will, it’s not a big deal.  I can protect myself well enough.  If you want to go to Preen, go to Preen, have a grand old time – make sure you visit Gaddeye’s pub, they make a great highball there.”

He frowned “You’re not thinking sensibly, you’ll come with us, it’s decided.”

I couldn’t help but laugh shortly “Decided?  Is that so?  I’m fairly certain that I decided to go one way and you decided to go another, which is different from us staying together – it’s the opposite in fact.  I know that’s a difficult concept for your sort so I won’t hold your confusion against you.”

He was frozen in place for a moment as if he was witnessing something impossible – like a pig doing a backflip.  Sir Wrythley decided to render his opinion at this point.

“She’s clearly hysterical.” He turned to his squire “Just bring her along will you?”

The squire made a move to take the reins of my horse and I stopped him with a look “You touch those and I will put my bootheel right through your eye you poxy maltworm.”

The squire reeled back as if he had been kicked in the chest and Sir Krajeo gasped like a vestal virgin walking into a men’s bathhouse.  Sir Wrythley’s face twisted into an ugly scowl – which was something since he’s already quite ugly.

I gestured to Sir Krajeo “You.  Don’t decide anything for me.  I know that you’re used to people falling all over themselves to obey you, since you’re a knight and all, but you forget yourself.  I am not yours to command.”

“You are in my care, you will do what I say.”

“So we come to it at all.  What’s the deal?  Have you been playing me untrue this whole time?  Are you some minion of Razmiran?  Is that why you’re so ardent to drag me to Preen?  How much are you getting for this kidnapping?  I’d hate be sold cheaply, it’s so depressing how little people will sell their convictions for sometimes.”

“Madam!  You . . .”

“Don’t take umbrage with me good sir knight, it’s no more than the truth.  Your oaths don’t seem to mean much.  You abandoned your oath to fight with the Baron readily enough.  Then you dispatched with your oath to see those children safely home as soon as you swore it.”

His face flushed with anger “You’re the one that . . .”

“So it comes as no surprise me to me that you now foreswear your oath to help me and help the Baron.  You are a false knight sir, I knew that from the first when I met you and you were here instead of fighting the enemies of the Kingdom on the battlefield as it the knight’s charge.  You are the worst kind of knight, you enjoy the privileges but you think nothing of your duties.  I’d say that you’re no more than a hollow suit of armor, but a hollow suit of armor while useless would also be harmless – you on the other hand cause harm, you are naught up a bully and a tyrant.”

He was so flabbergasted that he could do little other than stare and move his mouth like a fish out of water.

“I can tell you’re searching your mind for what the appropriate response is when a knight is insulted by a lady.  You can’t challenge me of course, that wouldn’t be fitting.  And I have no husband or father or chaperone – other than yourself – to challenge in my stead.  It’s a unique situation, I grant you that.  Probably if you wanted to stretch your purported code of honor what you’d want to do is the challenge the Baron – but since you’re not heading to the manor that’s out the window huh?  So what are you going to do?  Give me a good thrashing perhaps?  That’s for commoners, you can’t lay your hands on a lady of my standing.  It’s a real dilemma.”

“You are no lady!”

“I’ve been told that a time or two, yet here we are.  Being the violent murderer that you are, I see your hand twitching for your sword.  I say go for it.  Cut me down for insulting you, or for having the audacity to contradict you, or just for having a dissimilar opinion, those are all acceptable reasons for warriors to kill one another right?  Or for warriors to kill others, and my others I mean their lesser, which of course means poor people.  Prove me right, take up your sword and cut me down where I sit, silence me and prove me right all with one stroke – show all these people that a tallowcatch yaldson you truly are.  Go ahead, I want you to do it.  I want you to kill me.  Whatever death holds will be worth it to expose you for what you really are.”

Chaplain Stenton, pale faced, rode closer to us “I think what we need to do . . .”

“Shut up, this doesn’t concern you.”

Sir Krajeo’s eyes bulged dangerously towards falling out of his skill “You cannot speak like that to a man of the cloth!”

“And yet it seems I can because I just did.  What are you going to do about?  Give me a spanking?  I’m sure everyone would enjoy that.  Take me over your knee and give me a good smack on the ass.  There’s really only one thing you can do – leave.  Go your way and let me go mine.  Pretend this never happened.  Or just tell everyone that I went crazy.  Your sorts think women are crazy anyway so that will be easy to sell.  Tell people whatever you want.  Or don’t say anything, I doubt anyone here is going to snitch on you regardless.  Forget about the whole thing.”

At this point one of the other knights, Sir Damareil – a quiet man who hadn’t said much the entire trip so far – barged his horse between us and reached for me.  I’m not sure what he was trying to do.  It looked like he was thinking about grabbing me by the waist and lifting me entirely out of the saddle – which would have been nigh impossible but I can’t rule it out.  I shifted my steed adroitly out of his reach and urged my mount into a quick turn.  Catching him wrong-footed I dealt him a blow with my Walking Stick that rang loudly off his helm – not to damage him but to send the helmet askew.  While his vision was obscured I touched the girth of his saddle with my Stick and activated it to instantly rot the leather away.  All it took was a little push on the back to send him crashing to the ground with a tremendous clatter, his saddle falling atop him.  The entire thing took maybe five seconds. 

“Shall we call that a joust?  I’d say that I’ve earned my passage by winning wouldn’t you?  Good travels and safety my friends, may we meet again soon.”

I turned my horse and rode off calmly and deliberately and no one followed.  Of course no sooner was I out of sight of them then I saw a pack of beasts streaking towards me – it was almost as if they had been stalking me out of sight and were just waiting for me to leave the safety of the ground.  They were clearly some kind of canine but they were thick and blocky like boars and their black fur was shaggy like that of an unshorn sheep, except on their faces, which were naked dark skin only.  The lack of hair on their muzzle made their heads look somewhat skull-like.  They neither bayed not barked nor made any noise, they just charged over the hill and towards me with wicked speed and a clear murderous intent.  My horse was faster, but only just, and it was obvious that this pack of beasts had the stamina to run my poor mount into the ground.  This is how when the sun set, a handful of hours after leaving my guards, I found myself sitting in a tree while shaggy pig-dogs devoured my dead horse like ravenous ghouls and then stood patiently waiting for me.  Watching me silently with eyes that betrayed far too much intelligence.  

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 23,045 platinum, 19,788 gold

XP: 725,701

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Badge of Last Resort, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Censer of Dreams, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Ring of Urban Grace,  Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Token of Summoning, Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Better Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet

Courtier’s Outfit, noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring,  pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (700), gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, disguise kit, covenant ring , tiny diamonds (27), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring

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   

Montalan 8 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Despite my wish to avoid Preen Sir Krajeo decided that we should veer that direction, probably so that he and his fellow sirs can tell everyone what a great thing it is they’re doing.  After all, what’s the point of being heroic if no one knows about it?  If I ever had control of this situation I’ve lost it now.  I should be working Sir Krajeo, getting him to dance to my tune but right now I’m weary of constantly having to manipulate everyone.  You work and you work and you work at manipulation and what do you have to show for it? Just vast wealth and one third of your enemies brought to ruin.  It’s almost enough to make you question why you even bother manipulating people in the first place.  It’s like swimming against a river current, it’s not that you don’t make progress, it’s simply that every little bit of progress you makes comes at such a high degree of effort that it seems like you’re never going to reach your goal. 

Not to mention the fact that even when I manage to get my way things still seem to go sideways seventy to ninety percent of the time anyway because of factors outside of my control.  I’m not one of those wheel of fortune sad sacks who thinks they can’t effect their own lives, but more and more it seems like planning is by and large a waste of time – just go to the place and see what happens and react.  Which is dangerous thinking, and a good way to end up dead in a ditch dressed unstylishly, but it’s nice for a little while just to go with the flow.  Sir Krajeo wants to go to Preen where potentially the richest man in town (well not anymore) wants to kill me dead?  Okay.  We’ll do that.  Let’s just see what happens shall we?  If nothing else they sell a fine lemon liquor there.  Taking a break from controlling everything is not a good idea, but it’s what I’m going to do rightnow.  I need a break from being in charge all the time.  Plus none of these people seem to be much better at navigation than I am so who knows if we’ll even reach Preen.  We’ll probably end up in Peerana. 

As we rode I ended up in the proximity of the knight who’s heraldry is so poorly done it looks like a blue colored blob.  I can’t make out if it’s supposed to be a bird or a flower or something else.  A bat maybe?  Are bats blue?  Maybe it is actually supposed to be a blob.  As crummy as his standard was his armor was elaborate – I’m always suspicious about filigreed armor with lots of flaring embellishments and tintings, it makes me wonder how well it would really stand up to actual attack in battle – but there’s no disputing that it looks very impressive.  The knight inside the armor was fairly plain looking and both his hair and his beard were in that annoying zone where they’re both too long and too short to be pleasing to the eye at the same time.  Pick a length and go with it, none of this halfway shit.  He was saddled with the moniker of Sir Jerzankurn and he was the one who is composing verses for the dearly departed Duel.

“How’s the poem coming along?”

He looked startled by the question “I’m having some trouble with the third stanza but I’ll get it.  I assure you it will be a fitting tribute to your friend.”

“Friend?  I thought . . . oh yes, right Duel.  We were . . . close.  Since you’re a sensitive type I have an idea for a play that I’ve been thinking about for a while.   It starts off and there’s a great battle, it’s good to kick off your play with a big set piece right?  Get the people excited.  Anyway, a solider on the losing side survives and tries to make his way home.  There’s a quick bit about his hardships but the point is that it takes him years to finally get back and all along he’s removed from society so he doesn’t get a chance to cut his hair.  By the time he does finally get back to his own city his hair is as long as a maiden’s.  I think you see where this is going.  The soldier performs as a dancer at a masque for the wedding of a local lord – people love seeing masques in plays, I don’t know why but they do.  Maybe because of the costumes?  Like I said I don’t know.  A baron attending the wedding becomes entranced by the dancer – who because of the hair thinks that he’s ogling a woman.  Right there he snaps off a letter to be delivered to the dancer stating his love and proposing marriage.  People like that kind of thing in their entertainment – people fall in love hard instantly and they don’t fuck around about it, they make their move. 

The soldier receives the letter, and on account of being a man somehow decides that it’s actually from a Baroness that was at the wedding – because clearly it couldn’t be from who the person that delivered the message said right?  So he writes “back” to the Baroness that he thinks wrote him saying “yeah we should get married but let’s get to know each other first” and the Baroness who’s getting this letter out of nowhere is like “With the what now?”  So there’s letters flying back and forth and due to comedic elements getting sometimes delivered to the wrong person so in the end the Baron thinks he’s wooing a dancer who’s actually the soldier and the soldier thinks he’s wooing the Baroness who’s clueless and the Baroness is just trying to figure out what’s going on.  Enter the courtesan.  A wily courtesan has figured out what’s going on and she gets in the mix – convincing the Baron that the dancer he’s wooing, whose face he’s never seen mind you, is actually the Baroness.  And then she lets slip that the soldier is making the move on the Baroness as well.  Now you may be thinking, that doesn’t make sense, the Baroness was at the wedding, but that’s the kind of thing people never think of – they’re swept along by the story.  But if need be we can add in a bit of dialog about how she was gone during the dance or something.

So of course it’s time for a duel, which is another thing people love in their plays – a good mock duel really has people on the edge of their asses.    Meanwhile the courtesan goes to the Baroness and tells her what she – the Baroness – should marry the Baron on account of a common soldier is beneath her station and that she – the courtesan – will marry the soldier.  The courtesan will “admit” that it was her that wrote the original letter to the soldier rather than the Baroness.  The baron and the soldier duel and the soldier figures out that he could easily win but that he’s sick of killing and doesn’t want to do it.  The Baron figures out that he’s outclassed and concedes. But just as they’re whining about the situation the courtesan shows up and explains that everything is fine – she’s the soldier’s actual love and the Baron and Baroness – no relation – are free to get hitched.  This is kind of a puss out on the duel but people won’t mind.

So there’s a double wedding, the courtesan and the soldier siphoning off some of the glamor and wealth of the Baron and Baroness so they can feel special before they two nobles come in and really get the party started.  This will be a whole big scene with great costumes and dancing and singing and everything – a real showstopper.  But aha, the courtesan has other plans in mine.  She uses this double wedding situation to stage a double bed trick.  I don’t have to tell you that people fucking LOVE a bed trick and to double it up?  That’s taking things to a higher plane.  Unlike masques it’s clear why people love the old bed trick – it gives them hope that some day they’re be able to have sex with someone who’s not their wife and it will be fine because they didn’t know.  They didn’t know, wink-wink.  So then the courtesan reveals the whole thing and both men are executed for committing adultery on their very wedding night. Then she steals the Baroness’s jewels and gets away with it.  Maybe the Baroness ends up whoring, not sure about that bit.”

“That’s . . . . quite a tale.  Are you going to write it?”

I shook my head “No, I’m not much of a writer, I don’t have the patience for it.  I just thought I’d put the idea out there since you’re a writer.”

“Hmm, well I’ve never written a play.  That does sound like an interesting challenge.”

 “So what do you think?’

“The first part is pretty good, it kind of falls apart when the courtesan comes into the story though.  She’s absent for the first two thirds of the play but she ends up as the primary character at the end.  Plus she’s a villain, it doesn’t seem right for her to come out on top like that.  Also what’s her motivation?  Why does she get involved at all?  And why does she condemn two men to death?”

“It’s fun, she doesn’t need another reason.”

“That’s an awful message.  People aren’t going to like that.  If the courtesan was somehow wronged by the soldier and the Baron in the first act maybe then it would add up, but I think it would be even better to make the courtesan end up paying for trying to outwit her betters.  Maybe instead the other three all figure out what she’s doing and she’s the one who ends up losing her head.  That’s something that people can understand, that’s a true life situation not some abstract craziness.”

“Okay maybe the courtesan needs to be established earlier but she needs to be the protagonist of the story.  I don’t think the motivation needs to be any different though she’s taking down two lustful men, what could be more motivating than that?”

“But she’s a courtesan, she exists to give pleasure to men.”

“And you think that makes her happy?  Her very existence is her motivation”

“Why would anyone care about her happiness?  She’s a courtesan.”

“Fair point, I don’t know what I was thinking. What about a musical where everyone is a cat?”

“Now that’s the first good idea you’ve had all day!”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 23,045 platinum, 19,788 gold

XP: 725,701

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Badge of Last Resort, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Censer of Dreams, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Ring of Urban Grace,  Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Token of Summoning, Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Better Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet

Courtier’s Outfit, noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring,  pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (700), gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, disguise kit, covenant ring , tiny diamonds (27), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring

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   

Montalan 7 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

When I returned to the party with some number of rescued children in tow (they kept moving around and they all looked the same so it was hard to keep track, I think there were somewhere between ten and fifteen of them) a couple very annoying things happened.  First of all everyone was absolutely devastated that Duel wasn’t coming back.  Devastated.  Do you understand that?  A couple of them were clearly holding back manly tears.  Because of Duel.  Who, may I remind you, had all the charm of a humanoid goat – a goat with brain damage that had fallen into a middens and rolled around in there for several years.  Not to mention the fact that they had only know her for a couple of days. 

I was so flabbergasted by this response that I thought it must be a joke initially.  One of them went so far as to start composing a couplet (sonnet?  What do I know about poems?) to her “beauty”.  Which is an action so astounding that it would take an entire collegium of professors several decades just to begin to understand it.  Now, I’ll grant you this – if she had known anything about how to dress (which she did not) or personal hygiene (which she did not) or had any aptitude or ability to present herself in a pleasing manner (which she did not) and you had never heard her speak or seen her do anything, then yes, Duel could be reckoned attractive in a certain way.  If her death was causes this kind of consternation I can only imagine that if anything had happened to me, anything at all such as coming back with a tiny scratch on the hand, they would have committed suicide on the spot.

When they made some noise about trying to retrieve her body for a property burial and/or extracting revenge on the giant hag that killed her I explained to them that after death she had been swallowed by a giant constricting serpent with a scorpion’s barbed stinger.  Which may even be true, that seems like the kind of thing that could happen in a witch-village.  Once I managed to head off that nonsense though it became clear that they expected ME to take care of the children, you know since I was the only woman about and that’s clearly womanly duties.  My first, second, and third instinct was to tell them that I was about as willing to care for children as they were to suck a cock on the summer solstice but I had to instead act conciliatory since I need them on my side for now.  Trying to nursemaid those kids while the men strutted around camp not doing a damn thing the rage inside me was so furious that I’m halfway surprised that I didn’t burst into flames.  The good news is that the kids were so traumatized by almost being witch-food that they were pretty listless and therefore it wasn’t that bad trying to wrangle them.  I’m sure soon enough they’re be the little terrors that children are everywhere.  Why society hasn’t come up with a better system for rearing the next generation I don’t know – these little sociopaths have no business living amongst civilized people.

The bad news is that only four of them were from the village of Seefand like the kid who started this whole mess – the rest are from various other villages around the area.  The knights all gathered together very seriously and earnestly to make some kind of oath that they were see all these children returned to their parents and  far more importantly to them that the elf that kidnapped them would be hunted down and brought to justice (you know, murdered).  They all held their swords in the air and touched the tips and everything while saying some words in Old Imperial that I am confident they didn’t understand.  Unless they really did mean to vow that every eel in the windmill would be smothered in butterscotch.  I wish them well in their children’s crusade but I assume it will be about a successful as their oath to join up with Baron Juost and send the Sky Thunder barbarians packing.  People love swearing oaths, which is fun, actually doing them is a drag though. 

Speaking of the good Baron Juost, I was able to convince Sir Krajeo that the best thing to do would be to send the kids along to Seefand with some of their retainers while the fighting types headed straight north to get to the Manor sooner rather than later.  This morning one group split off west one foot while the six knights, Chaucier, Nasso, Chaplain Stenton, myself, and a handful of the more robust servants headed north with the horses.  Probably north.  More or less.  Not one hundred percent sure we were going dead north through the woods but I wasn’t about to trust Rudo to guide us any further.

The day passed without incident until we neared the edge of the woods where we came upon a tower-hut of sorts that looked like it was constructed, or grown perhaps, out of brambles and vines with saw-toothed leaves.  There were a great many crows in the trees nearby but they none of them seemed to have any interest in the bodies about the ground.  There were half a dozen of them or so and they looked to be Shirefolk mixed with rats in the least pleasing way possible, not that there’s a way that would be terribly pleasing regardless of how you did the mixing.  Even in death they looked feral and vicious, a sharp contrast to the soft and genial features you normally see on Halflings.  While they lay on the ground three other bodies were impaled on the trees – the twisted features of distorted hags made no more agreeable in death.  Among their various deformities one of them appeared to have no eyes at all, while another seemed to have borrowed them – sporting four eyes, none of which were where they should be.  The crows made no sound as we approached, merely watching us as if standing vigil for the dead.

I didn’t even bother with my warnings since I knew that they would be ignored.  The knights and soldiers poked about and reported that there had been a fight (you don’t say?) and that some of other party’s  number had been killed as well but those bodies had been removed.  The witches were hung on the trees with spikes made of silver (or rather alchemically treated silver probably since an actual silver spike would have a hard time being nailed into anything harder than cheese) and had been doused in holy water they claimed, in addition to being partially flayed.  It was as grisly a scene as I’ve seen and I’ve seen some grisly shit lately.  This of course got all their lips flapping about the fictional “Silverlight Order” that Duel had been gassing on about.  They decided that it must be a secret order of the most pious of Adariel’s anointed knights that wage a secret war against those foul creatures that make dark magic pacts with the lords below.  I didn’t even bother to mention to them that Duel didn’t know her head from a hole in the ground or that devout Adarielites wouldn’t be all that enthusiastic about crucifixion or torture – I’ve reached the point where I’ve given up on trying to be the voice of reason.  They were mucking about there so long I have no doubt they’re cursed now, I assume come nightfall the crows will come to pluck their eyeballs out.  Which would be inconvenient for me since I need them to help fight the Kostelos. Which I have to assume is made harder by the absence of eyeballs.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 23,045 platinum, 19,788 gold

XP: 725,701

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Badge of Last Resort, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Censer of Dreams, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Ring of Urban Grace,  Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Token of Summoning, Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Better Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet

Courtier’s Outfit, noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring,  pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (700), gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, disguise kit, covenant ring , tiny diamonds (27), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring

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   

Montalan 6 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

“Do you ever get tired of being wrong always?”

Duel’s attempt at a mocking sing-song tone only made her incompatibly deep voice all the more jarring.  She stood there gaping at me with her awful jeer as we came up to the outskirts of the bandit-hold of  Cauldron.

“What the Hells is wrong with your mouth?  Your teeth are a child’s nightmare.  When that belt transformed you did it leave your teeth the same or have you done that much damage already? Do you know anything about taking care of your oral hygiene?”

She guffawed “You’re just jealous because I was right!”

“You are right, and I am wrong, plainly there’s a settlement here.  But that does not change the fact that you are a waste of human skin.  I’ve traveled a lot recently and I can safely say that you are the worse person in the Kingdom.  You’re stupid of course, but what’s worse is that you’re willfully stupid – you seem to revel in your own stupidity.  The more stupid the thing is that you’re doing the more joy that it seems to bring you.  You’re joyfully stupid.  You are uncouth to the point where I would much rather invite a flea-ridden dog to dine with me, which mind you would be far more hygienic than you are yourself – even after this theoretical dog has rolled in filth and eaten its own shit.  You have absolutely nothing interesting to say yet you never shut up, as far as I can tell you can’t do anything – and I’m not even saying that you can’t do anything useful, I’m saying that you can’t seem to even accomplish the day to day tasks of being alive without a lot of trial and error.  I’ve seen you trip over your own feet a dozen times a day stone when cold sober.  How you haven’t killed yourself out of shame and sadness at your own existence I’ll never know.  Anyone who meets you is worse off for having done so, they are a worse person – you made them worse.  You have snot running down your face constantly, there’s bird shit that’s been in your hair for several days, and you slobber like a dying hog.  You are a malodorous pervert and just thinking about you makes me want to throw up.”

She had her hand to her chest like she was having a heart attack “That . . . . was uncalled for.”

“Let’s go before your breath makes my hair fall out.”

Once the group of us got close enough to see that there actually was something ahead we decided that Duel and I would go alone – assuming that knightly types are probably not welcome in such a place.  I’ve never seen an elf-city (and I never want to) but I’m given to understand that they build their homes in trees like squirrels.  I guess somehow this is supposed to be respectful to nature?  Elfs are fabled to be big into nature and trees.  They’re reputed to masterful architects (although they’re reputed to be master everythings so who knows?) that use magic to make their tree-villages into works of art, the beauty of which would cause mere mortal humans to weep at the very sight.  I don’t know if Cauldron was modeled after one of these elf tree villages but either way it looked to be largely a failure in concept.  A bunch of rickety tree-houses connected by bridges that looked about as sturdy as the head on a mug of beer.  It was hard to tell how many of them there were or how big the place actually was because trees that can hold up that much weight are not that close together so the “town” was very sprawling.  Those trees that did have ramshackle huts in them were not doing well – maybe the elfs and their magic work it better but as you might imagine building a house on tree isn’t great for the health of the tree.

These cheeky buggers had crude signs posted all over the place most of which said “Death to the King” and a few of which read “You are now leaving the Kingdom and entering self-governed territory”.  The handful people that we saw either clinging desperately to rope-bridges and looking terrified or sitting outside on the edge of their elevated shacks smoking ditch-leaf and drinking moonshine were a universally sullen and ill-looking bunch.  They almost looked like they were another species, some manner of degenerate humans that time had left behind that had wandered out of their caves and into the trees.  There were some buildings (I use the term loosely) on the forest floor but they were of even worse quality than those clinging to the branches like mold.  Out of one of these collections of loose timber and tar came a welcoming committee of a half dozen thugs. Clattering up to join them on hooves was a creature that looked like a massive hyena maybe mixed with a badger with long horse legs.  It carried with it a stench that could raise the dead and then send them back into their graves again.

One of the goons growled “What’s yer business hare?”

I pointed “I just wanted to let you know that your signs need to be updated.  The king IS dead so they should be changed to say ‘death to the queen’ I suppose.”

One of the other goons, a tall fella with no nose spoke up “The queen reagent is of no concern!  There is a King on the throne young that he may be!”

“That’s a surprisingly coherent argument.  I guess the signs are fine then.  As long as we’re here though I guess we want to rescue some children that were kidnapped and sold to a witch.”

The beast laughed, well like a hyena, but when it finished chortling its voice was astonishingly polished and proper “Do you always announce your rescues?”

I shook my head “No, not always.  We’d like to talk to the witch that purchased these children if possible.  We can buy the children back maybe or come to some manner of arrangement.  Or, my friend here is a pit-fighter, she can battle for them in your arena or pit or whatever.”

Duel’s voice went so high-pitched that for once it was almost appropriate to her appearance “What?!  I never said that!”

I smiled sweetly “You killed a tarek right so it should be no problem.”

The beast hyena-laughed again and then invited us to follow it – as it turned lashing out with its back hooves and knocking one of the goons to the ground for no apparent reason other than pure meanness.  We followed it a goodly distance away and as we walked and I saw more of the place I saw that not all the buildings were human bird nests that would dump their inhabitants to their deaths at the first sign of a moderate breeze, a minority of them did look sturdy if not precisely well made, and like the fabled elf-homes seemed to be partially grown into or out of the trees themselves – those trees were the worst off of all though, either looking completely dead or oozing with sickly looking slime.  While there was a tangle of rope-bridges from most of the other houses these better class of buildings typically were not part of the network of sky-walks. The creature led us to one tree in particular that looked enough like the hag-tree in Blackroot Woods that I had a little shuddering flashback to the awful battle there and all the terrible charms and collections of the hags themselves.  Not to mention those poor bastards they turned into swine monsters.  After a moment I turned to ask the badger-horsyena what we were supposed to do but it was already walking away so I turned to the other monster nearby instead – Duel.

“You’re the expert on this place, what happens now?”

“I never said that I was an expert, I was only here once, and I was drunk most of the time.”

“You know, if I were going to wager on this I would bet that you’ve never actually been here – I’d bet that someone told you about it and you were talking out your ass and you just coincidentally happened to be right.”

“You’re just jealous.”

“You keep saying that but that doesn’t mean what you think, jealously isn’t . . .”

I was interrupted by someone shouting down at us from above.  Looking up I had a momentary experience of vertigo – for some reason seeing a being that tall above me even farther had my head swimming for a moment.  It’s hard to be sure because I was seeing it from below but it had to be over nine feet tall with blue-grey skin and talons that looked like actual steel.  I would that thought that it was a female ogre but they’re reputed to usually be enormously obese and this creature was definitely on the other side of that equation – being just short of painfully thin.  It looked like bruise-colored leather stretched over a frame of iron instead of a skeleton.  I can’t say why exactly but its hair made me think more of a horse’s mane than of human hair – maybe just due to the length, it had a braid that was probably almost as long as I am tall.  Where its talons were actual metal its teeth were cracked and soft looking as it smiled down.

“What’s the matter little girl, you never seen a true beauty before?”

“I have to confess that your dress made of living spiders is quite fetching.  We’re here looking for some lost children, the badger-thing led us here.”

“There’s no lost children here, just those that I buy, and I know where they all are so none are lost.”

“Lost to their parents though eh?  Those are most likely the ones were after.  We were hoping that we could get them back.”

“Which ones?”

“All of them, whatever you have in stock.”

“All of them!  You must be mad you must be!  What would you offer in trade for them?”

I retrieved one of my least valued possessions, the severed head from the hag of the Blackroot Woods “How about this?”

She cackled “Is that supposed to scare me?

I shook my head “No, I just thought it was neat.  I hear you can do magic stuff with it, you seem like the type that would enjoy a good magic severed head.” Next I pulled out one of the vials I picked up at the wizard-torturer’s hut during my mad escape from Colonel Tarl Ciarán’s compound “I also have these, they’re like souls or essence or spirits or something.” 

There was a loud clang as she clapped her hands together, her talons colliding like spear heads on shields “Now that’s something worth talking about!”

She leapt down like a twenty-something foot drop was nothing to her (which apparently it isn’t) landing so close to me that I involuntarily reeled back and ended up stumbling, although I managed to catch myself before spilling to the ground.  She reached towards me, her fingers looking double their length because of the claws, I rapped her arm with my Walking Stick which did nothing to dissuade her from grabbing me in her long leathery hands – her strength was such that she could have crushed me like a ripe peach but even so I don’t like being man (or whatever) handled.  I turned my Stick into a serpent and had it strike her on the forearm which merely made her giggle.

“Mmm, sweet venom, thank you little girl.”

I flicked the snake-head towards her eyes, which did make her flinch back that I was able to wriggle out of her grasp but only because she barely had a hold of me.  For lack of any other ideas I pulled out my Adariel holy symbol and presented it boldly, which did seem to make her very slightly concerned.

“You want to trade?  Don’t put your hands on me.”

“Your trinket won’t stop me if I decide that I want you.”

“Then don’t decide that.”

She cackled again and then licked her putrid split-lips with a tongue that seemed like a blind wriggling worm “What other treasures have you for me?”

“That’s it, the head and eight vials for the kids.  Fair deal.”

She slowly curled her fist into a gnarled knob larger than the head of a mace and slammed it into one of the ubiquitous sign-posts, shattering it like a pile of matchsticks. “Too thin!  Around here deals are sealed with blood!  You want the children someone has to bleed!”

“No problem, my friend here is a renowned gladiator, she looked different at the time but she killed a tarek called Marrow-Eater in this very place.  I’m sure you remember that, I’m told is was a legendary battle.”

Duel’s hands shot up “Wait a minute, I . . .”

The massive towering hag shouted to the heavens “I accept these terms!”

This time I did fall backwards.  You expect a lot of things from witches.  Curses of course.  Turning people into frogs or pigs or whatever, absolutely.  Fog and illusions and trickery and cruelty, all perfectly reasonable things to expect in this situation.  But what I didn’t expect was for this creature, even being as large as she was, to produce a battle-axe out of nowhere.  It was the worst crafted weapon I have ever seen – the hilt wasn’t anything even close to straight, it almost curled about like a shepherd’s hook – and the axe-head was just a sharpened piece of scrap metal I believe.  But that didn’t stop it from being effective, just based on the size of the damn thing it would probably kill you merely from the weight.  The hag-giant swung this abomination at Duel, who’s only attempt at defense was raising her hands uselessly.  She was smashed top the ground, broken like a doll with one swipe.  If I hadn’t tumbled I would have been killed as well by the same huge swing. The monstrous humanoid dropped to all fours to hover over me like a cat over a mouse.  She could have ingested my enter head into her mouth. Her breath was bizarrely sweet like sugar candy.

“Looks like I won the contest wouldn’t you say?  Now we trade.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 23,045 platinum, 19,788 gold

XP: 725,701

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Badge of Last Resort, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Censer of Dreams, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Ring of Urban Grace,  Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Token of Summoning, Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Better Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet

Courtier’s Outfit, noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring,  pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (700), gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, disguise kit, covenant ring , tiny diamonds (27), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring

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   

Montalan 5 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

After seeing the wanted poster (who draws those do you think?  Does the magistrate keep an artist on staff to draw pictures of people for posters?  That has to be a good gig) I probed Sir Krajeo a little about the murderer they were after but it was clear that he didn’t think it was an appropriate topic to discuss with a lady so I let it drop.  I believe he showed me the poster just as a little bit of illicit titillation in his mind.  This morning after a couple hours of observation I decided that the best target was the ferret-faced fellow that had gotten so upset with me (in another persona) when we originally met – Sir Wrythley.  I cozied up to him and he was only too eager to tell me about the dangerous outlaw they were chasing.  The story was that Baron Juost had taken Martialla into his household, being the generous and great lord that he is, and she betrayed his trust and stole from him – as you may well expect from someone of her common blood.  When she was confronted by this malfeasance she killed the Baron’s master of arms and fled – taking up the mantle of outlaw and striking at the good and innocent peasantry.

While this was all very interesting what confused me is that he kept talking about how she and her dirty brigand friends were striking at people on the road to Alleene both from the north and the south passages around the woods.  After talking to Sir Krajeo and a couple of the other Sirs it became clear to me what had happened – they were searching the wrong forest.  Assuming the story is true at all Martialla must be in the Irontimber Forest not the Baku Forest.  I’m not going to sit here and tell you that all knights are stupider than a box of broken hammers but there’s six of them here in the wrong forest so what does that tell you?  I made some subtle inquiries to some of the retainers and obviously those of them that are doing the actual tracking and searching know full well that we’re in the wrong place but they were smart enough not to say anything.  It’s a rare knight that will tolerate being contradicted by their servants.  Not to mention which they probably don’t care anyway – most likely they’re perfectly happy to not be in the place where the violent murderous bandits are.

Sir Wrythley claimed that in addition to gathering lowlife criminals to her illicit banner that Martialla had also made somehow forged an alliance with a tribe of repulsive bugbears.  His theory one the how this had happened was that she had embarked on some manner of repugnant cross-species sexual escapades to seduce the bugbear chieftain.  He expounded on this theory in GREAT detail.  I’ll give you this, the man has a heck of an imagination when it comes to maidens coupling with sub-human monsters.  If there was a genre of writing for that sort of thing he would have a great career to pursue – however good he is at knighting it can’t hold a candle to his prodigious inventiveness and endless creativity when it comes to aberrant humanoid sex.  I got the impression that he had been waiting quite a while to be able to divulge this information on someone.  Duel overheard some of this and she was VERY interested in hearing more about it.  I left the two degenerates to talk and turned my thoughts to how I could make contact with Martialla.  Even if that story is total bullshit she has to be out there somewhere.   

As the day wore on it seemed like the trees were starting thin out a bit so hopefully we’re finally getting near the perimeter of this horrible forest.  I feel like I’ve been here for half a year.  Maybe that means that Rudo wasn’t intent on playing me for a fool.  Maybe.  But of course no day in the wilderness would be complete without encountering some kind of foolishness.  Today’s variety was a boy we found stumbling through the woods scared out of his mind and sobbing so hard I thought he was going to hyperventilate. Predictably the attempts of the knights and other idiots in the party to calm him down only caused him to become more hysterical so against my better judgement I shooed them away and did my level best to comfort him.  I knew otherwise we were going to be there all day unless I stepped in.  I went to him and he clung to me like a baby sloth.  It was awful.  Eventually I was able to get something halfway coherent out of him.  He claimed that he and several of his friends had been abducted from Seefand by an elf and taken into the forest where they were sold to a witch.  The witch was taking them back to her home to be cooked and eaten of course, witches being legendary child-eaters, but he managed to escape.  Chaucier and Sir Krajeo and the various foresters and squires were all looking at each other grimly.

“You guys aren’t buying this are you?  Kidnapped by a witch?  How gullible are you?  Obviously he just ran away from home and got lost.”

Duel held her finger up as if making an important point “A witch didn’t kidnap them, he said that an elf kidnapped them and sold them to the witch.”

“Yeah, thanks for clearing that up, that’s very helpful.” I looked to Rudo “Is Seefand anywhere near here?”

He nodded “Yes, Seefund is the southernmost point of the North Umberlee as it heads towards the woods from Preen.”

I shook my head “Wait a minute, I thought you said you were taking us to the Hairpin River.”

He held his hands up defensively “Okay, okay, don’t get mad, I know you think that I’m misleading you but just got my geography a little confused.  We’re where I said I was taking you but I got Gumare and Seefand mixed up in my head.  Or actually the Vitti Homesteads . . .”

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

“What do you want me from, I’m a lumberjack not a wilderness guide!” He immediately shied away “Sorry, sorry, I didn’t mean to lose my temper, I just thought . . .”

“Shut up, if it makes you feel better I no longer think you’re a turncoat I just think you’re an idiot.”

Chaplain Stenton interjected “That doesn’t matter now, if this boy’s friends are in trouble we should help them.”

“There are no friends, he’s clearly lying, kids lie all the time.  Even if he was telling the truth what are we going to do about it?  He said the witch was taking his friends to a cauldron, how does that help us?”

The kid shook his head resolutely “Not to a cauldron, to Cauldron.”

“That’s not how grammar works kid, but either way . . .”

“No, not a cauldron like the pot I mean to the place Cauldron.”

“Don’t interrupt me you little bastard or I’ll smack you so hard . . .”

At this point several people started talking about a local legend about a town of witches and outcasts that some people said was named Cauldron.  Once the topic was brought up everyone felt the need to share the tall tale they had heard about the place. 

“I heard that the witches there not only eat children but they kill adult men as well to use their livers to make love potions.”

“Yes, well that’s very interesting but . . .”

“I heard that the witches send out their familiars all across the Kingdom to encourage people to rebel against the crown.  They hate men and want to see a woman on the throne.”

“There is a woman on the throne, not to mention which . . .”

“I heard that the witches there make demonic pacts that give them healing powers, so you can go there to heal any wound or disease, even to regrow a limb, but then you’re damned to the Thirteen Hells when you die.”

“All witches make demonic pacts, that’s their whole . . .”

“I heard that you can buy anything there, it’s where all the assassins get their poisons.”

“Assassins? What does that even . . .”

“I heard that the dark fey have a portal there that they come through to trade the witches magic rings for the souls they harvest.”

“I don’t think . . .”

“I heard that everyone there is on drugs.”

“That’s what people say about . . .”

“I heard the witches can conjure and control succubbi that they use to seduce men away from their wives.”

“You don’t need a demon for . . .”

“I heard that . . .”

“Everyone shut the Hells up about it!  This place does not exist!”

Duel sniffed loudly and then spat, striking what I assume was supposed to be a casual pose  for cool confidence “Cauldron is real.  I’ve been there.”

“You shut up with that you.”

She shook her head “It’s all true.  I was there for a blood-fight against a tarek they called Marrow-Eater, he had slain eleven men in the pits and they said that he was unkillable.” She adjusted her chest in an uncouth manner “Well, I proved that wrong didn’t I?”

“You’re never fought anyone, tareks aren’t even real.”

She laughed unconvincingly “You wouldn’t say that if you were there, it was a Hells of a battle it was.  Cauldron is as real as the noses on your faces boys.  You see in ages past a wizard built a tower out here in the woods and when he died it sat abandoned for many years.”

“You people aren’t listening to this drivel are you?”

“Eventually a coven of witches fleeing from the King’s elite witch-killers, the Order of Silverlight, took up residence in the tower in the woods.  Other witches and outlaws from all over the Kingdom came to live in this ungoverned woodland and eventually a small village emerged around the tower – a village made up the vilest scum that ever walked the land.  The Order of Silverlight and a unit of the King’s Own assaulted the place, intent on wiping it out, but the witches and their dark men were able to fight them off.  To this day the King has offered a Baronetcy to anyone who’s able to dislodge the bitter old hags and establish a village on that land.”

“Order of Silverlight?  You’re just making this all up aren’t you?  Chaplin Stenton, you can’t tell me that you believe this right?  Just the other day weren’t you telling me about some villages that were founded around here for logging?  The ruins were we found this moron stuck in a well.  You’d have heard of this witch-village if it existed right?”

Stenton looked concerned “Well, it’s true that I’ve always considered the rumors of Cauldron to be just that – rumors, but if there’s any chance that . . .”

“No, no, NO!  We’re almost out of this damned forest!  We are not . . .”

Duel snorted “So don’t come.”

“What?”

“As you said we’re almost out of the forest.  You don’t want to go to Cauldron then don’t go, keep on heading back to Alleene, who’s stopping you?”  She grinned her horrible grin “The boys are me are going to have an adventure aren’t we?” She nodded to the kid “We’ll find your friends and we’ll make sure nothing bad happens to them.  Those witches won’t know what hit them.  And hey, if we get a barony out of it so much the better right?”

“Even if any of this was true how are you going to fight an entire village of witches?”

A smug look came over her face “With honor and glory, right boys?”

“That doesn’t even make . . .”

My response was drowned out by the cheering of the assembled knights and soldiers and other men under arms.   Duel crossed her arms, awkwardly, and soaked in their adoration.

I looked around for someone with an ounce of common sense “I . . . I . . . . Gods damn it.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 23,045 platinum, 19,788 gold

XP: 725,701

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Badge of Last Resort, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Censer of Dreams, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Ring of Urban Grace,  Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Token of Summoning, Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Better Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet

Courtier’s Outfit, noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring,  pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (700), severed hag head, gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, glass vials of something awful (8), disguise kit, covenant ring , tiny diamonds (27), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring

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   

Montalan 4 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Once back in the old days I had a dress made for a ball, not a costume ball exactly but the kind of event were a certain amount of flamboyance was expected.  I designed it very specifically to be a multi-layered affair all in vibrant reds and lively  oranges to evoke images of flame and bright feathers – people assumed that it was inspired by the mighty phoenix but it was actually a picture I saw of a fire crane that inspired it (I wonder if that’s a real creature or just the fancy or some artist).  It took six weeks with three seamstresses working on it daily and when it was done it was absolutely gorgeous.  Obviously at the Duke’s court you’re going to see some top quality gowns, but I would put this number in the top five without any reservations (number one will surprise you!).  At the time dark colors were “in” and everyone else was wearing more muted, yet still extravagant tones, which made me the center of attention.  When someone made mention how out of seasons I was I remarked that everyone was going to be looking at me anyway so I may as well give them a good reason.  Which you have to admit is a pretty good line.

Because I had done something different from everyone else wearing this dress was regarded as “crazy”.  Crazy is a label that people are very swift to slap on behavior that isn’t the same as theirs.  I suppose it’s an easy way to deal with things – just say someone’s crazy and then you don’t have to try and understand why they’re doing something.  I wore a dress that was a different color and because of this there were people who absolutely thought that I had lost my mind.  It’s a way to bypass the reasoning of someone else and just dismiss them altogether.  I may have my vices (MAY) but this kind of intellectual laziness isn’t one of them.  I call people out for acting crazy all the time, such as when they put themselves in dangerous situations for literally no reason, because that is crazy.  But what I don’t do is assume that someone is crazy because they act contrary to what I would do.  I don’t understand the reasons why primitive jerks like the Kostelos act the way they do, but I don’t deny the fact that those reasons exist.  They aren’t “crazy” because they have a different culture than us – that culture is stupid clearly, and I judge it for being so, but I don’t dismiss it as insanity.

Why do I bring this up?  Did I point a crossbow at a sleeping man an accuse him of working against me?  Absolutely I did, and I would have killed him too if I had to.  And can we stop for a second to highlight the fact that I was right that he WAS in fact not leading us the way he said he would?  Why isn’t anyone focusing on that piece of information?  But because of this everyone is looking at me askance like they did after the “dress incident” as some called it.  This annoys me for several reasons, foremost of which is that there was nothing crazy about what I did.  Craziness is acting contrary to logic and what I did was eminently logical – the man appeared to be betraying me and therefore in order to extract information from him I threatened him with violence.  This happens all the time and no one says anything.  Well, they say things, but no one thinks it’s a crazy thing to do. In fact the entire system is built on it – why does anyone do what the Crown wants them to do?  Because otherwise they have their soldiers kill you.  It’s as simple as that.  Peasants serve their lords because otherwise knights chop their heads off in the town square.  It’s the most natural thing in the world.

And yet when I do it suddenly I’m crazy.  Now, I don’t want to lay this entirely at the feet of gender issues but clearly I would be crazy if I ignored that aspect of it.  If I was a man (which I am not) and I did what I did yesterday would anyone think that I was mentally ill?  No.  They might think that I’m a dangerous asshole that they don’t want to be around, but no one would ever think that a man is crazy for threatening another man.  Except a crazy person paradoxically.   But a woman threatening a man upset the natural order.  I point one little old crossbow and one little old face and suddenly everyone loses their shit.  And I’m not crying about how this is “unfair” because as you well know I know that there is no such thing as fairness.  Things happen (things like a woman threatening you with a crossbow for mostly legitimate reasons) and you have to deal with them, fair doesn’t enter into the equation.  Last time I checked when someone is dying of the plague them whining about how it isn’t fair doesn’t make them well.  Fairness is some made-up bullshit to comfort people who can’t hack it without some kind of mental crutch.

And what happens to you if people think you’re crazy?  They stick you in an asylum – where being locked in a cage and treated like an animal and abused by the guards does drive you crazy.  And then everyone goes “see, look how crazy they are, good thing we put them in there”.  There isn’t much that gets under my skin (not really) but the way my traveling companions are acting now is one of those things.  I heard Chaplain Stenton and Chaucier whispering about what they would do if I had another “episode” and I wanted to shoot them both down right there.  But not because I’m crazy, I ensure you of that.  And the worst part is that the only who isn’t acting weird towards me is fucking Duel – who should be locked away somewhere and beaten by guards for maligning my entire gender. She was riding too close to me just as everyone else was riding too far away.

“So the hunter says to the bear . . . no wait the bear says the hunter . . .uh, wait, have I said anything about the bishop yet?  Right, because the bear is wearing the bishop’s hat when they come into the whorehome.”

“Whorehome?  That’s not even a word, you mean whorehouse.”

“Home, house, what’s the difference?  It’s the same word, it even sounds the same.”

“Get away from me before I beat you to death.”

“You know the way you’re always threatening me you seem to be forgetting that I am a pit fighter, I’d tear you up like a handkerchief at a snot party.”

I glanced at her “If you’re a gladiator I’m the queen of the moon.”

“Well your majesty then how go things on the moon!”

“Look at you, you’re the clumsiest person I’ve ever met.  You can barely stay in the saddle, you fell in a Gods forsaken well just walking around.  Just this morning I saw you knock yourself into a bush trying to put your shirt on.  Not to mention you seem to be drunk the majority of the time.  I can’t see laying good odds on your fighting your way past a half-dead rooster.”

“Roosters are vicious fighters so thanks for the compliment complimenter!  You know I met a feller that said he went to the moon one time with magic.  Said that there’s a jungle up there inhabited by a whole tribe of nude women, but they were the bad kind like they were demons or cannibals or something.  Wouldn’t that be something?  A whole moon full of naked ladies.  Can you imagine?”

“I’m going to ride away from you now.”

After doing so Rudo came up to me to give me an exhaustive amount of details on why we were traveling the way we were going and what direct we were going and where that was going to lead us to.  His reaction to my “insanity” was to constantly be giving me updates on our progress so I wouldn’t “freak out” on him again.  He was in the middle of doing so when I heard the heavy sound of hoofbeats – and not our hoofbeats.  I called for everyone to stop and after a moment we heard the sounds of another party crashing their way through the woods.  Rudo gathered everyone together as Nasso, Chaucie and I moved to the forefront.  I guess I’m not so crazy when it comes to the rough stuff.  Annoyingly Duel also came forward almost getting knocked out of the saddle by a branch in the process.

“Get back you idiot, this could be trouble!”

“I’m a fighter!”

“You’re not even carrying a weapon.”

“Yeah, I lost my mace in the well.  Luckily for you I’m just as good with the lads here.”

She proceeded to kiss her fists and name them as “iron” and “thunder”.  Booming towards us appeared the war-steeds of several knights, and following behind their retainers mostly on foot.  It took me a moment to recognize one of them as Sir Krajeo from the road outside Arbeven.  The knights were doing the customary exchange of clipped words and suspicious looks with Chaucier and Nasso when I decided to get things moving around.

“Pardon my interruption, but don’t you already know each other?  Sir Krajeo weren’t you going to join up with Baron Juost to fight the barbarians in the west hills?  These are Baron Juosts men who were with him on the expedition.”

He was so surprised that he looked like he might fall out of his saddle “How could you know that?”

“My half-sister encountered you acting out the Passage of Honor on the road north of the Irontimber.  She sent me a letter about the meeting and mention how you were bravely going to join battle with the Baron against the savage men of the hills.  I have to say that in person you’re even more gallant looking then she described.  I think she was quite smitten with you if it’s not too bold for me to say.”

A strange look came over his face that I couldn’t interpret, I imagine that’s the look someone has on their face when they stub their foot in the dark “Er, no.  Well yes . . . that is to say that my fellow knights and I did head west but we were diverted before we met with the Baron.  Trouble in Chemnost you see.”

“Of course, how good of you to help out.  What, good sir, may I ask brings you to these benighted woods?”

He seemed to be badly wrong-footed by this turn of events but pushed on “We’re searching the woods for a suspected murderer, we’re executing a warrant on behalf of Lord Saltwheel.”

“Aren’t these Baron Juost’s lands?  Shouldn’t that sort of thing be under his auspice?”

“Well . . . yes . . . . um, ma’am . . . but the borders of the forest . . . it’s somewhat of a jurisdictional . . . um . . .” 

“Well I won’t worry about that, I’m sure you know what you’re doing.  Now lord knight, I’m not a fine lady like my half-sister, but being the brave cavalier that you are I wonder if I could prevail upon you for a favor.  We’re heading to Alleene and our travels through these woods have proven to be quite hazardous indeed.  Would it be possible to suspend your search for this murderer to order to escort us to safety?  I’m sure that Baron Juost would be very grateful, and I know that I would be feel much safer in your strong hands.”

After a lot of flowery bullshit he agreed and our small party became a somewhat less small party with the addition of six knights and their score or so of attendants.  Knights need a lot of help doing anything other than riding a horse and killing people – and even the riding a horse part they need some help with.  I have to believe it was their retainers who were doing the bulk of the searching – riding around in platemail is not a good way to find anyone hiding in a forest.  Probably it would have been much more effective to just send the retainers but that’s not how things work. Everyone was overjoyed by these new faces, and more importantly but their superior stock of supplies, except Chaucier and Nasso who seemed put-out by the new arrivals.  As we (and by we I mean they) were setting up camp that night Nasso was shaking his head.

“We don’t need them, I could have protected you.”

“Maybe, but who would protect me from you?” I held up my hand to forestall his protests “Kidding of course.  You wanted a plan, well here it is.  You got six knights and some assorted other fighting-types.  Now if we really want to storm Juost Manor maybe we can.”

“I guess.”

“You can be a real sour apple you know that?”

That evening Sir Krajeo hosted me in his pavilion for dinner.  He had intended to invite Duel as well, chivalry and all, but I told her in no uncertain terms what would happen to her if she showed up.  The meal was astonishingly good for being on the trail – I have no idea how you travel with roasted duck but they figured out a way and I approve whole heartedly.  The wine was second tier at best, but you can’t have everything.  I was really starting to hate these woods with a passion but this tiny slice of luxury really made me feel better.  After eating while we enjoyed some desert and sherry I asked him about this murderer he was after.

“It’s actually a woman if you can believe it, a lowborn sort of course, but still I wouldn’t have thought it possible.”

“My my, what is the world coming to?”

“Yes, with the war dragging on it seems like the worst is coming out in people.”

He snapped his fingers at his tent-servant who fetched me the bounty poster of the murderer in question – I didn’t know those were even real, I thought they only existed in books.  It wasn’t a great likeness but it was good enough.  The person with a five hundred gold piece reward on their head was Martialla. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 23,045 platinum, 19,788 gold

XP: 725,701

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Badge of Last Resort, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Censer of Dreams, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Ring of Urban Grace,  Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Token of Summoning, Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Better Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet

Courtier’s Outfit, noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring,  pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (700), severed hag head, gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, glass vials of something awful (8), disguise kit, covenant ring , tiny diamonds (27), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring

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   

Montalan 3 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

How far away from someone do you need to be for a crossbow to work?  Obviously if you have it pressed right up against them it’s not going to work very well is it?  I’m no engineer but it seems like it needs some room to get the momentum of the bolt going for it to do any damage.  But on the other hand if all the force in the arms is transferred to the bolt what difference does it make?  Shouldn’t it punch through anyway?  Is a foot away far enough?  Two feet?  Just to be on the safe side when I was standing over Rudo I was standing at full height – it’s probably more intimidating to have the point of the bolt right in their face but it’s less effective if you have to fire isn’t it?  Regardless I guess he’ll get the message.  My original idea was just to wait for him to wake up but I gave up in that quickly because crossbows are heavy so I gave him a little kick to wake him up.  Based on the look of shock in his eyes at seeing the crossbow pointed at him he must not have ever considered the mechanics of the minimum crossbow distance either.

“You thought you could fool did me?  I’m on to you.  What’s the plan huh?  It’s the lumber consortium right?  Somehow you’re in communication with them and they’re setting up an ambush but they need time to put it all together so you’re leading us around out here in the woods until they give you the word.  Is that it?  Probably you put yourself in that cage knowing that I would rescue you.  The whole scene was probably staged.  You took advantage of my charitable nature.  Am I close?  Speak up, you have nothing to lose now, you’re going to die anyway, so you might as well tell me.  Where’s it going to go down?  What forces are they bringing?  I grant you this sir, that look of terror in your eyes is very convincing, but why don’t you answer me?  Because you’re trying to think of a lie!  You can’t fool me!  I see right through you!  The only thing stopping me from putting a bolt through your head right now is the information you’ve got so you better spill it real quick.  Otherwise you’re useless get it?  Who are you working for?  Where are you leading us?  I’ll shoot you right now and not think twice about it, believe me on that.”

I had started off talking quietly enough, but I inadvertently had gotten a little loud and I saw Nasso and Chaucier looming in the periphery of my vision, approaching me cautiously like you would a crazy person wielding a crossbow – as if that was the case.

Nasso held his hands out and talked in that faux calming way people do that is actually very provocative “What are you doing Ela?”

“He’s been leading us WEST, I know it, I want to know why.  He’s an agent for someone, probably the lumber consortium.  They put him out here so I would find him and he could infiltrate our ranks.  They knew, they knew what I would do.”

“Why would a lumber consortium be out to get you?”

I chuckled mirthlessly “Oh, we’ve had our issues we have.  That’s just the most likely suspect though, it could be anyone really.    All sorts of people want a piece of me, they want me dead.  He’ll tell us though, no reason to speculate.” Chaucier started edging towards me. “Get back you!  I haven’t ruled out that you’re working against me either.”

Chaucier stopped but didn’t back up “Think about what you’re saying Ela, that doesn’t make sense.  We helped you fight against Kamad and our own men.”

“Oh no?  It makes perfect sense, what better way to gain my trust?  The more I think about it the more it makes sense.  Kamad was a disposable lackey, a pawn sacrificed so that you two could get on my good side.  And four soldiers?  Well soldiers are made to die right?  Who cares about that?”

Nasso was carefully picking closing as well “So you think we’re working for the lumber people too or is Rudo helping us?”

“I don’t know, but it’s what I’m going to find out.”

Rudo finally found his voice “How could I be leading you into an ambush?  How could I be in contact with anyone?”

I nearly ran him through with the Blade on the crossbow right then “MAGIC of course!  Always magic!  Sorcerers and seers and wizards alchemists all plotting against me with their ungodly powers.  They think that can do anything they want to people like me, normal people, GOOD people.  When the lumber consortium had me as their prisoner they had a mind mage come in and scan me, they learned everything about me, they looked into my thoughts and they took it all.  I was studied by their pet mages.  Then, they took everything about me and they did a spell where they created a perfect copy of me. The recreated me and that me told them every thought I could possibly ever have.   Which they then used to perform divinations to determine everything I was going do in the next twenty years.  So you see, Rudo here knows my entire history before the thought of the thing I’m going to do ever even occurs to me.  He knows everything I’m ever going do before I know it myself.  All through the wonders of magic!  That’s how he knew where I’d be.” 

Chaucier reached out hesitantly “If that was true though wouldn’t he have known that this was going to happen and have prepared for it?”

“Don’t patronize me!  No he couldn’t have known that, because I bested them!  They thought they plumbed the depths of my mind but they didn’t know just how deep it went!  You can’t read my mind fools, I’ve got memories hidden so deeply I can barely remember them myself!  You can’t anticipate what I’m going to do!”

The next voice I heard was that of our newest add-on, the body-shifted pit fighter who calls himself Duel “Well that’s certainly true.”

My head whipped around to see her leaning against a tree digging at her belly button with one finger while slurping from a wineskin with the other hand “Good Gods woman, show some comportment!”

She rolled her eyes and switched to digging in her ear “Yeah, I’m the one who’s acting poorly.”

“Stop doing that, it’s disgusting, you’re making us all look bad!”

She stopped digging and flicked something to the forest floor, which she followed up my spitting “Look, first of all I told you already I’m not a woman, I just look like one temporarily.  Secondly of all you need to settle your tea kettle lady, you’re flying off the handle over nothing.  You need a drink is what you need, loosen you up, you’ve got a major stick up your butt.”

I spun and loosed my crossbow at the foul woman but she dodged out of the way with a mannish yelp and my bolt thudded into the tree.  Rudo scrambled away as Chaucier and Nasso rushed at me.  I activated my Amulet for mental skin but that didn’t turn out to be all that helpful in a wrestling match.  I got a couple good shots, drawing blood, but they had me pinned to the ground in short order. 

“What now?  You kill me?  Prove me right?  It was Kartak all along right?  You killed your own men at his command just to trick me right?!  Go on, do your master’s bidding you cowards!”

Duel shook her head “She’s hysterical, you know how women get, dunk her in the creek – that should bring her out of it.  Or maybe a good hard slap.”

“I’ll kill you!”

Her mouth dropped like her feelings were gravely injured “Me?  What did I say?”

Chaucier and Nasso clearly had no idea what to do so they just continued holding me down for a few minutes while everyone else stood there equally clueless.  Eventually Chaplain Stenton came over to “talk me down” and I made a show of appearing like he was doing so.  After I was “calmed down” they let me up and told them that when I forget to use my Censer I have terrible nightmares that lack of sleep sometimes makes me act a little crazy.  I apologized profusely and begged everyone’s forgiveness and asked that they help me make sure that I never forget to use my Censer.  Rudo in turn apologized and admitted that we weren’t going directly north.

“You said that you wanted to avoid Preen and I thought it would be better if we came out of the woods near the Hairpin Run rather than by the Locust.  I wasn’t trying to deceive you I promise you that My Lady.  I owe you my life, I would never betray you.”

There was a lot more lip flapping and endless apologizing back and forth from all directions, except from Duel of course, and by the time everything was “settled” it was mid-day and “we” decided that instead of traveling that day to just stay put and rest.  I nearly bashed Chaucier in the face when he said that it was because someone was “overtired” and looked right at me.  It was one of the more vexing experiences of my recent life – which has been full of vexation as you all know by now.  But that was just the beginning.  Later when I went down the creek to freshen up a bit Duel appeared out of nowhere – for a clumsy oaf trapped in the wrong body she can be surprisingly stealthy.

“Get the Hells away from me.”

She leaned against a tree and took another drink, this time from some manner of dirty jug “That was bullshit, I saw you light your little drug machine before you went to sleep.”

“It’s not drugs, its magic incense!”

She grinned awfully and winked “Yeah, ‘magic’, I got it, mum’s the word.  Look I don’t care, if you want to ge high or if you want to to skewer that guy with a crossbow, go ahead do whatever you please, I just need to ask you a question.”

“I’m not interested in your question.”

“It will only take a second, there’s no one else I can ask . . . . it’s about lady stuff.”

I stood up and moved close to her, looking her right in the eye “I want to say this clearly so you don’t misunderstand me.  If you say one more word about whatever you want to ask about or anything relating to anything like that I will get on my horse and trample you to death.  And I mean that literally.  You will be killed by the hooves of a horsing crushing you into the ground.  That is what will happen if you continue down this path.  Is that clear?  I want that to be clear.”

“Sure, I just mean that when things are happening . . .”

“No.  Not.  Another.  Word.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 23,045 platinum, 19,788 gold

XP: 725,701

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Badge of Last Resort, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Censer of Dreams, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Ring of Urban Grace,  Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Token of Summoning, Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Better Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet

Courtier’s Outfit, noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring,  pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (700), severed hag head, gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, glass vials of something awful (8), disguise kit, covenant ring , tiny diamonds (27), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring

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