I should have known. I should have known that as soon as I asked Stionty for back-up what I was going to get. What other kind of violent lunatics are going to be available on short order to go on a wild goose chase? I knew as soon as I walked into the Rest Inn Peace, as soon as I laid eyes on them I knew – adventurers. Where do they come from? Any time a settlement reaches a certain size you get these types of troublemakers hanging around. It’s like some kind of immutable law, like there’s a certain threshold number of people that if you go beyond that adventurers starting springing up like mushrooms. Some day I’m going to found my own town and grow it just to measure when the adventurers show up so that I can present these findings to the Queen or whomever so we can put some kind of counter-measures into place.
I suppose it’s a symptom of the fact that for as settled as the Kingdom is there’s still so much wilderness out there – bugbears and dire wolves and giant plants that bite you and other crazy shit – that’s going to cultivate a certain sort. I suppose I should be grateful, without monsters to slaughter these people would all be serial killers. Makes you wonder what’s going to happen when the last monster is slain and all the wild places are tamed. What becomes of these people then? A plague of madmen slaughtering their neighbors? Once I asked one of these hoopleheads what made them different from any other murderer and she said “I know the difference between the monster that need to be killed and those that are just monsters because of what they are.” I have no clue that that means but I didn’t like the way she was looking at me when she said it.
When I walked into the RIP Stinty was talking to the four of them, there are always four, it’s some kind of natural law of adventurers. Four must be the sweet spot where you have enough people of varied abilities to murder and solve riddles (monsters love riddles) and disarm traps and have enough people to carry all the treasure. But any more than that and you start fighting amongst yourselves. It’s like a wolfpack, too few and you can’t take on the mighty elk, too many and there’s not enough elk to go around. No, not wolves, wolves are too noble to compare to adventurers – lets’ say a pack of rabid mongrel dogs. The kind you throw rocks at if they come to near your farm.
Two of them I actually recognized, one from Gisa’s band of treasure hunters – I recognized the ridiculous fur-lined coat he was wearing. That thing is what you’d need up North, not down here – it has to be sweltering in that thing and he’s a big fellow so he doesn’t need any extra help sweating his balls off. He probably uses some kind of magic to keep it cool which is utter nonsense. The other fellow I recognized as one of Captain Charum’s men from my escapades along the Compass River, a scrawny fellow with a shaved head that looked ill. The other two were an unassuming fellow with a maniacal grin who was dressed more like a basketweaver than a warrior and a Halfling that was all duded out in a way that combined with his small size made me think of a fighting cock – the way he was strutting around all aggressive like probably contributed to that sense as well.
“Stinty, normally I would lecture you about bringing these types on as my bodyguards but you’re going to get away with this time.” I clapped Gisa’s fat wizard on the back of his ridiculous coat “I happen to know a couple of these fellows and their solid reputations.” I nodded at Charum’s soldier “What’s your deal? Did you muster out of the army or did you desert?”
He looked around wildly “Desertion! Who said . . . . I mean . . . I wouldn’t . . . you see . . . what had happened was . . . ”
I chuckled “Don’t make no matter to me son, just making conversation. Well let’s mount up and go, I’d like to get there and back again today so let’s not waste any time with your ridiculous backstories, I’m sure they’re all appropriately tragic and laden with pathos. Or is it the other one? I always forget.”
The basketmaker frowned slightly “Don’t you want to discuss our fee?”
I clapped him on the back companionably as well “Not in the slightest! I’m sure Stinty has everything all worked out, he’s a very industrious fellow you know. Whatever he said will be fine.”
The basketmaker shrugged uncomfortably “But I . . .”
I gestured dramatically “To the stables! Sharbus awaits! I assume you procured a mount for me as well.”
They hadn’t, but I was able to borrow a steed from the stables for a nominal price – a placid chestnut mare with the odd name of Bund. I prefer a more spirited mount but what can you do? The Halfling, Dondarian Saltfoot looked even sillier mounted on his battle pony but despite appearances he was obviously the most accomplished rider by a wide mark and was the most interesting conversationalist to boot. The smallfolk often seem to be blessed with the gift of gab. When I asked the former solider what news he had of Captain Charum he got all flustered and tongue-tied again and moved his horse to the back of the pack top get away from me. Gisa’s man didn’t have much to say and the other new guy mostly made snobby comments about art and hummed annoyingly the entire time.
We had a little bit of trouble getting out of Beresford even though Baron Redmynd had given me special dispensation to do just that and we had to wait almost an hour while various messengers ran here and there and everywhere, but even so once we hit the road we were in Sharbus before mid-day. Dondarian and I were laughing and having a grand old time, such that Aurisks the humming art lover, told us to keep it down. We ignored him. Sharbus is the kind of nothing little village that you find around larger communities like a tick clings to the buttocks – a couple dozen farmer families and four buildings and not much else. The reeve Adriane Dekros was there to meet us – how she knew to expect us I have no clue – and she was pretty disappointed when I told her we were just there to check out the cabin and not to take Nacario with us back to Beresford. She was very anxious about having a murder in her custody and wanted to get rid of him as soon as possible.
“Huh, so there really is a Nacario? I assumed the whole story was made up.”
She frowned deeply “What? Why would anyone make up a murder?”
“Oh, you’d be surprised.”
“Do you want to talk to him first?”
“Nah, let’s go out to the cabin and get the ambush over with.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Just lead the way will you?”
It was a mere twenty minutes to reach the cabin in the woods, Adriane talking breathlessly the entire time about taking Nacario into custody and what had happened that night as if she was seeking reassurance that she had done the right thing. The cabin itself didn’t look to be in great shape and Adriane explained that the cabin was built more than eighty years ago by the Whiterock family and no one had lived there for years. They paid some of the Sharbusians to keep the place in good order but until Nacario and Rosalee came there hadn’t been anyone staying at the place for years. It would have been pretty nice if it had been kept up better, in addition to a parlor and a lounge there were two bedrooms and a full kitchen – most people don’t live in a place as large and well equipped as this “cabin”, these Whiterock people must be fairly rich. I poked around a little but it all seemed neat and tidy inside.
“Everything looks to be in order here, if you found Nacario wandering around outside what makes you think the murder even happened here?”
Adriane pulled back and rug to reveal a trap door in the floor “The blood is in the cellar, that’s where he must have killed her.”
I nodded “That makes sense, hide the cultists down there for the ambush.”
“Why do you keep talking about an ambush? Did I do something to offend you, I don’t . . .”
I waved her concerns away “Don’t worry about it. Alright folks, this is it, head down the ladder and . . .”
Adriane looked worried “It’s pretty cramped down there, I don’t think it makes sense for everyone to go down, there’s not a lot of room. You won’t be able to look around very well if you’re all down there I don’t think.”
I chuckled mirthlessly “Oh, of course, I should go down there alone right? Undefended and vulnerable?”
Adriane was getting annoyed “I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”
Aurisks and Gisa’s man both twiddled their fingers and did some wonky chanting, telling me that their magic didn’t detect anyone down in the cellar.
“Wait, you’re both wizards? That’s all wrong. You already have two warriors and now you’re telling me you have two mages as well?”
Aurisks piped up “Actually I’m not a wizard, I’m a sorcerer. Eldritch energy runs through my veins.”
“What’s the difference? Nevermind, don’t care. Alright Donadrian, let’s go – there should be enough room down there for me and one Shireling right? Plus you seem to be the only one in his group worth much of anything.”
The deserter was offended by this “Hey, that’s not fair, you . . .”
“Shut up.” I gestured to the hole “After you Master Saltfoot.”
With a grin he pulled out his tiny sword and an even tinier buckler – you know how small a normal buckler is? Now imagine that for someone not even four feet tall. It wasn’t much bigger than a playing card. How does that even make sense? Wouldn’t a smaller person want a bigger shield so more of them would be protected? With a spring he jumped into the hole, ignoring the ladder and plunging into the darkness.
“I admire his enthusiasm. Now that I think about it I should have sent one of you lot down there to get killed instead.”
Funds: 27,817 platinum, 44,850 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