I’m tired of dealing with fake cousins and eldritch horrors and other foofaraw so today I slept late at Crux Ansata (for which I paid for another week’s lodging) and had a long languid brunch on the balcony – lemon blueberry poppy-seed pancakes, empanadas with eggs and razortusk bacon, skillet Modenese rice and Faragima chicken, peach sparkling wine, and all the grapefruit vodka you could ask for – which I’ll admit was quite a bit. The only fly in the ointment was a fellow across the street that went to relieve himself in the alley but the good news is I clocked him in the head with a champagne flute. I tell you, it was a million to one shot, I just flung it in a high arc not expecting to hit him at all – I just wanted to communicate to him to do his business out of my sightline – but it smashed right on the crown of his fat head and exploded in a shower of expensive crystal. It was a thing of beauty. I wish I could wake up to something like that every day. That’s how you start a day off right.
After that indulgence I went to see the craftmage, Kazza Whard, to pick up my new walking stick. I tell you, he’s not a bad looking fellow for a mage – he’s got a significant scar on the right side of his face but he’s one of those men that manage to make it look rakish and interesting rather than disturbing and sad. If you’re going to get cut on the face, which I wouldn’t recommend, there’s a couple ways to do it that don’t end up looking so bad. What you want to go for is a single straight light line, flush with the skin in one of the following places: across one cheek, down from beneath the eye, or up from the eyebrow. You get extra points for a scar straight over the bridge of the nose, which can look both cute and fearsome simultaneously. The ultimate is of course two scars forming an X on forehead. Anything around the lips is right out, as is having more than one scar unless it’s the aforementioned “hero X”. And obviously this is all for men, any woman with a scar is clearly a monster.
The cane is exactly as ordered and he had a few other items of interest that I picked up as well. I tarried there for a while shooting the breeze, which I think annoyed him slightly – not because I’m bad company (obviously) but because he’s got a lot of other work to do, which I jumped the line on. But since I just dropped more than sixty thousand gold on him he had the good graces not to be a dick about it. I did eventually have to leave though, because Baron Redmynd had left a note at Crux Ansata that I was to meet with his personally selected jeweler that afternoon.
When I first arrived I thought I was at the wrong place because the building looked like it had been built by a band of blind goblins, but I saw a sign that indicated that it was indeed “Yanik’s Fine Jewels”. The inside was organized at least, but I was even more taken back by the appearance of Yanik himself. Jewelers are often fusty mousy little men, kind of bird-like, but Tanik was a huge boisterous man who looked like he was going to lift me up in a bear hug on first meeting. Even for his size his hands were massive, they looked like two bear paws – and I mean the big bears out the deep woods not the little sissy ones you see around the forests where people go. It’s hard to believe that those massive mitts could do the delicate work of making rings but he clearly knew his stuff, for all that his speech was as low class as it comes. We talked for quite a long while about the signet ring that had been taken from me and what it looked like down to the exact detail.
I never really considered before why the Duke’s underlings didn’t take my ring when they left me for dead in Graltontown. They certain took all my other jewelry. I suppose it’s possible that they just missed it but that seems unlikely. I also never really stopped to think about how I got to Graltontown, to me it seemed like I was in the Duke’s court one night and the next morning I was there – I was certainly wearing the same dress – but it takes weeks to travel that far unless there’s magic involved. I know it was the twenty-ninth of Montalan when I woke up but what date was it the last day I remember before that? I didn’t really pay much attention to dates back then. Was I drugged and unconscious in the back of a wagon the entire month? Or was I just whisked there by magic? I don’t remember the Duke having a magic man on the payroll but I’m sure there were a few lurking about.
I suppose it doesn’t matter how I got there, the fact is that I did. Thinking about my missing ring made me angry about it being stolen all over again. If I hadn’t already killed him I would put the royal mystery man on the list for taking away the only possession I had left from my old life, not my old life but my old old life. Missed opportunity there, I killed him without thinking about it. I wonder what happens to things like that. When the royal secret police carry you off in the middle of the night never to be seen again what happens to all your stuff? Probably it’s destroyed, no reason to leave evidence lying around right?
Even though Yanik was an outgoing and engaging fellow talking about the ring made me moody so after leaving his ramshackle jewelry-hut instead of heading back to Crux Ansata I walked around the market for a while, not exactly enjoying the hustle and bustle per se but being somewhat comforted by it. No, that’s not right either, not comforted but distracted at least. Just as something to do I lifted a few purses and then planted them on other people. I wasn’t interested in buying anything else but I was browsing around, looking at a cheap pendant necklace, when I realized that someone was keeping eyes on me. At first I thought that it would be one of Baron Redmynd’s men but they were far too scruffy and disreputable looking for that. With I sigh I started to plan a way to leave the market and loose them, but just then I was interrupted by a grinning face.
At first I thought that it was a slender man, mostly on account of the completely hairless head, but I realized that it was a woman – I guess I shouldn’t assume given my past experience with hair. She was nicely tanned (if you care for that look) dressed in a light purple greatcoat with gold embroidering and was wearing some of the most elaborate and extravagant leather greaves that I have ever seen – not that I’ve seen many. She had a red scarf wrapped around her neck several times and her voice was smooth as elfen honey.
“See anything you like?”
I assumed at this point that she was a vendor and looked around for what stall she might be working out of, but she leered at me with a gesture and I realized that what she was selling was herself. She had a leer that was not only worthy of even the most lusty charmer but it was the equal of any three lascivious degenerates you’d drag out of even the cheapest cat-house this side of Malgareth. I laughed genuinely and whole-heartedly.
“Oh, thanks for that, I needed a chuckle – you just made my day lady.”
“Hey, that’s not all I can do, and the day is still young – name your price and I’ll give you a night you’ll never forget.”
I shook my head, still chuckling “I’ve been all across this Kingdom, seen a lot of strange things, but this here takes the prize. First of all what kind of outfit is this for a corner girl? I won’t even get started on your ‘hairstyle’ but this ensemble you have here looks like what you’d wear if you were a mercenary sniper not an alluring sex worker. But hey, style is an individual thing and if that works for you it works for you. However, trying to solicit another woman? That’s just unreasonable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there aren’t women who are into that, far from it, but those women aren’t in the market trolling for prostitutes. Is this your first day? I can understand the impulse, having sex with a strange man for money is much more daunting, but you’re not going to get very far with this act.”
She seemed confused “What are you talking about?”
“Actually, even if you weren’t a woman it would be rather bad strategy to try and solicit me – corner boys make their money off men as well.”
“Huh?” at that point she took a small mirror out of her pocket and upon looking frowned “Gods damn it, I did it again!”
“Did what again?”
She put the mirror back in her pocket “Sorry, I’m still learning human genders. I guess we’ll have to do this the other way.”
Back in the early days I had my mind messed with a few times before I learned how to shut it out. Since then a couple people (and things) have tried to enspell my thoughts, and it’s felt like a physical pressure – like someone trying to literally squeeze my way into my skull. The pressure, and the pain that the pressure sometimes causes I assume is a measure of how powerful the magic is. And I tell you this, what I felt was beyond anything I’ve experienced to date. It felt like a giant boulder had clobbered me in the head, I almost reeled away from it like it was a literal blow. Whatever magic this was it was strong indeed, very strong. But, I’m stronger. The devastating pressure couldn’t find even a tiny little hold in my mind. Based on the look of surprise on “her” face I could tell that this wasn’t usually how it goes down.
I activated the magic of my new Hood to give me the ability to see all things as they actually are. It was no illusion, the thing before he had taken on the form of a human woman, but it’s true self was that of a serpent. The strange thing was (because everything else is normal right?) that I was seeing it vertically like it was standing on the tip of its tail showing me its belly. It had to be more than eight feet long, its head was bluish-grey broken up from the rest of its olive-colored body by a distinct yellow-orange band of scales around its neck. The underside was more of a cream color with crescent-shaped black spots along the margins. I’m not particularly afraid of serpents but I have to say that this really caught me off guard and I stumbled backwards. It certainly didn’t help that I was seeing the serpent reality and the woman falsity superimposed upon one another.
“You resisted my mental domination attack! You must die!!!”
“Who talks like that?”
This thing does apparently. It shed its human form (see what I did there, you know because it’s a snake) and instead grew massively in size – taking on a shape as bizarre as it was terrifying. Emerging was an immense dragon-like beast the size of an elephant with a serpentine snapping maw at the end of a long, twisting neck, steam issuing forth from between its razor-sharp fangs. Scores of quills jutted from the beast’s flanks and spine, bristling outward with menacing intent above a set of blunt turtlish feet the size of milk pails. A powerful tail moved in rhythm with its bobbing head, displaying a wicked set of deadly spikes. It stomped forwards with menacing intent and if you thought I stumbled backwards before you ain’t seen nothing yet. I reel backwards into and through the size of a market tall as people starting screaming and justifiably panicking.
I heard someone shout from the fleeing crowd “It’s the shaggy beast of the Wuisne!”
I may have been heard shouting “fuck me, fuck me, fuck me” as I scrambled and scuttled away as best I could like a terrified crab, trying to extricate myself from the fabric of the market stall.
Its weird dragon-snake jaws opened wide, it’s thick purple tongue pointing out like a spear “Now you die mortal!!!”
It belched out a column of flame as wide as ten men standing hip to hip (why would they be standing that way? Beats me) setting everything in its path alight. Thankfully I was still tangled in the canvas of the stall and it was set ablaze rather than me, and I was able to scramble out from under it before I was scorched. Roaring in rage the beast flicked its tail and sent a deadly volley of quills at me like people think that porcupine’s can (they can’t). I was able to dive out of the way for the most part but one quill did hit me in the calf and I could feel the heat of its venom envenoming me and spreading up the leg. It swung around, somewhat ponderously, and flicked its mighty tail at me like the whip of a lion tamer – I managed to dodge again (mostly I fell out of the way by sheer luck if we’re being honest) and the tail slapped into the side of a heavy stone building –smashing those stones to powder like it was crushing a piece of glass with a hammer.
I heard shouting from afar “Go for the tail, it’s invulnerable except for its tail!”
This useless advice finally snapped me out of my fright and I dodged into an alleyway where the beast couldn’t fit. I activated my Amulet, sheathing me in skymetal, and scampered up the side of a building to the roof where I started shooting the beast with my crossbow. It certainly wasn’t invulnerable to my bolts but they weren’t having a lot of effect on a beast of that size either. With another inarticulate roar if flexed its tail and sent a barrage of quills at me, but they clattered off my burnished metallic skin like throwing toothpicks at plate mail. I was reloading and shooting as fast as I could as the creature rampaged through the market below me and propelled more spikes at me, even though they didn’t pierce my shiny new body they did hit with enough impact to knock the window out of me. At least there appeared to be no more quills on the beast.
“Ha, what are you going to do now?”
In response the snake-form shimmered for a moment and it transmuted itself again – into the same kind of beast, only with all its quills.
“Oh come on snake, that’s cheap!”
I scampered down the opposite side of the building as the creature sent forth another clattering of quills and quickly quaffed from my Flask and my Tankard – enlarging myself to ogre size and filling me with heroic power. You know the kind of heroism I mean, the kind where you’re good at killing stuff – HERO! I could hear the creature tearing into and through the building I was hiding behind and I jogged around behind it – stabbing my Sharpshooter’s Blade into the base of its tail with all my enhanced might. Even though my blade was tiny compared to the massively thick dragon-tail it dropped off like all that was holding it to the monster’s body was good thoughts and pixie dust – accompanied by a literal geyser of blood that drenched me comprehensively. The amount of blood pouring out of that tail-hole was obscene. The creature wilted like a fire deprived of oxygen and shrank down its comparatively small true snake body, which was missing the last foot or so of its tail. It struggled to lift its snake head off the ground and look me in the eye.
“You . . . . you defeated me . . . . that’s impossible . . .”
After this pointless declaration its head dropped to the ground, the beast dead, and a cheer rang out from the gathered crowd who had stopped their fleeing. A giant silver metal woman covered with blood standing over the defeated form of her foe? It must have been quite a site.
I looked around numbly “What the fuck just happened?”
Funds: 23,067 platinum, 19,788 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 (four cards used), Ring of Urban Grace, Bewitching Gown, 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, Red’s Riding Hood
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)
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