Looking at myself/cousin Emmalina/whatever it is sitting at the table across from me I came to the realization that when I disguise myself as a woman I probably make myself too striking much of the time. I mean think about it, how many people in the world are attractive? Not many. And out of that small population of attractive people how many are actually beautiful? Even fewer. It’s a percentage of a percentage is my point. I’ll have to keep that in mind going forward, there’s reasons to adopt a memorable disguise sometimes of course, but when I’m just creating a persona to pass without any specific purpose in mind I need to remember to tone it down a bit. Perhaps I am a tiny bit vain.
Whoever it was that was sitting across from me seemed to be at a loss at this point, and if they were putting on act it was a great one. I’m damn good at telling when someone is lying and I wasn’t getting that sense. I’m not saying that I can’t be fooled of course, but I’m starting to wonder if maybe whoever this is isn’t in on the joke. I don’t know how or why but the thought is bubbling up that maybe this “person” actually thinks they are cousin Emmalina. Maybe someone is manipulating them – which magic it seems like anything is possible. Anything horrible anyhow.
“Alright, for the sake of argument let’s say I believe you – what is it you want me to do?”
“I’m just a lawyer Ela, I know the law – anything else” she made a vague gesture “anything out of the ordinary that’s your world. Mother always said that you were too clever by half, I want you to use that cleverness and your . . . uh, ‘other’ qualities to help me find out what really happened to my client’s wife. I know he didn’t kill her but I have no alternative suspects or theories.”
“Mother huh? What mother would that be?”
“Your aunt Needi.”
I nodded mockingly “Of course, of course. Now things are taking an interesting twist. Do you have an entire made-up family history? Are there other cousins and uncles and people that I don’t know about? I tell you, I could maybe see someone who doesn’t know any better trying to impersonate a fictional cousin but now you’re just plainly making things up. What on earth could be the point of that? What possible reason would there be for me to buy that? There is no aunt so why pretend that there is?”
It banged its fist on the table “Ela, I don’t know if you’re high or if the crotch-rod has spread you’re your mind and made you insane now but whatever you’re talking about I don’t understand it. If you’re not going to help me just say that so I can quit wasting my time!”
I grabbed its arm across the table “You know, I’ve found there’s one pretty good way to see what someone really is when they’re playing games with taking on forms.”
It scowled “What are you talking about?”
Inside the Haversack I unattached my Sharpshooter’s blade and brought it out like a knife – stabbing it through the creature’s forearm and into the table, pinning the arm there. I thought that it would reveal it’s true form, or at least react naturally in that moment, something that would give me some signal as to what it was. But it didn’t. It screamed just like a real woman would scream upon being impaled through the arm and then started panicky weeping. It was a very impressive performance but I wasn’t buying it. I dashed around the table and grabbed the creature by the hair that might not even actually exist – slamming it’s head down onto the table.
“I admire your commitment but you can’t fool me! What are you!? Tell me!”
Blubbering and wailing it acted like it was in incredible pain “I don’t know what you’re talking about! Why are you doing this to me Ela?! What did I do?!”
I gave the “hair” a good shake “Who are you?! What’s your angle?! Tell me or with the Gods as my witnesses I will skin you alive!”
It was at this point that some of the bar patrons came rushing up the stairs to see what the rhubarb was – I mean sure from their point of view it looked like I was torturing a sobbing woman for no reason, but they were in no position to make that call. They had the temerity to surge forward like a mob and try to restrain me.
“Get your hands off of me you maggots! That’s not a woman, it’s something. I don’t know what but I can show you if you just . . . don’t touch me! No, don’t! No! Just please! Please wait just one second! It’s out to get me, let me show you what it is! Bring me a real knife!”
I was fighting and kicking so much that they picked me up bodily and in the confusion they almost pitched me over the side of the overlook accidentally. What an ignominious end to my tale that would have been – neck broken by a horde of morons dropping me on my head. As it was they dragged me kicking and screaming, literally, into one of the rooms nearby and hurled me in like a common drunk, slamming the door and holding it shut like I was going to try and beat it down. I sat on the bed calmly and waited while there was a lot of commotion outside. I could hear the thing acting like a badly injured woman doing her best to put on a brave face and failing heartbreakingly. Whatever this thing is it’s a great actor. Eventually the door open and Stinty came in, arms wide.
“Ela, what the fuck?!”
“Look, I don’t know what that thing is or what its agenda might be but I do know . . .”
“Ela, why are you stabbing your cousin in my place?”
I jumped to my feet “I have no cousin! Well, I mean I have cousins, but there is no cousin Emmalina I mean and even if there was that’s not here, which there isn’t.”
“Ela you sound crazy.”
I walked to the window and gazed outside “Maybe that’s the plan, send this thing to me to make it seem like I’m crazy, get me locked up in the booby hatch. Or maybe it’s actually supposed to drive me insane.” I turned back to Stinty “You said this monster had been here for a few days, when exactly did it show up? Who else was around? Did you see anyone talking to it?”
He shook his head “Ela, the guard is coming, you need to get your shit together. We’ll tell them you were drunk and you had an argument with your cousin . . .”
“There is no cousin! It’s a creature of some kind, I don’t know what kind yet. But I’ll find out.”
He jabbed his finger at me angrily, managing to look menacing even though he’s legitimately three feet shorter “Hey, listen to me! I know that you’re used to doing whatever you want without caring about the consequences but you can’t do that here. If you don’t want to smooth this over you need to get lost before the watch shows up and not come back. If that’s what you want to do fine, but don’t stick around and spew this garbage about creatures. Do you want to help fix this or do you want to leave right now?”
Stinty had a friend or acquaintance of his – a priestess of Strider – turn up in short order to heal “Emmalina” with her divine spells. While that was happening the watch turned up, none other than Sergeant Karta and three bully boys. I got the impression that she’s arranged to keep half an eye on this place and make sure that she’s the one that turns up here if there’s any reason for the city watch to come around. I went along with Stinty’s polite fiction about quarreling cousins and did my level best to downplay the whole thing. Karta gave me a dressing down about brawling like a tavern whore, which galled me, but in the end she seemed willing to accept the doctrine that that no real harm had been done so there was no reason to arrest anyway. “Emmalina” came forward looking wan but brave, holding her recently healed arm like it was still injured.
“It’s okay sergeant, I don’t want to press any charges against my cousin, it was just the heat of the moment. My cousin and I haven’t seen each other in a long time and some old family stuff came up kidn of out of nowhere. You know how it is.”
Karta nodded sagely “Yes, I see it all the time.” She fixed me with a stern look “You just keep your nose clean you hear me?”
I was appropriately contrite “Of course officer.”
Emmalina smiled “I think things are going to be just fine between us from now on.” She looked me in the eye, smile gone “As long as she helps me with my case everything should work out fine.”
Karta asked what case she meant and they were off having themselves a wonderful little chat about law enforcement. I slipped away and headed down to the common room where the priestess – a weather-beaten woman with an athletic build and silvery hair – was just finishing up a cup of wine and appeared to be heading out. As seems to be the case with those of her order she wore no vestments, just traveler’s guard – without the holy symbol around their necks you’d never know a Strider priest for a normal person.
She held up her hand as I approached “No need to thank me for helping your cousin.”
“No problem there, tell me your holiness, you have special magical sight or clairvoyance or something right? What do you see when you look at my ‘cousin’? Not when you look with your eyes, when you look with the powers that Strider gave you.”
“I don’t understand, what . . .”
I held out a few coins “Just look would you?”
She deftly pocketed the money without a word and then took up her staff/walking stick that the Strider people seem to always have at hand – she spoke a few soft words and her eyes took on a subtle bluish glow. She looked up an “Emmalina” for what seemed like an eternity.
“Well, what do you see?!
The glow faded from her eyes “I just see a woman, nothing else.”
I grabbed her arm “So you’re part of it huh? I should have known, I’ve had run-ins with your kind several times before.”
She pulled her arm out of my grasp “You need to batten down the hatches on your crazy ship lady.”
I shook my head as she walked out the door “I’m not crazy. No I’m not.”
Funds: 27,817 platinum, 44,853 gold
Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Badge of Last Resort, Stone of Good Luck, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Censer of Dreams, potions of cure moderate wounds (5), potion of invisibility, 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, Deck of Curses (two cards used), Ring of Urban Grace, Bewitching Gown, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Nymph’s Favor, Token of Summoning, Tidy Trunk
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, bottle of elfen absinthe, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55)
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