I saw that the staff had left several notes for me in my room when I woke up this morning. One was from the Lord Captain of the city watch thanking me for killing the transforming snake-monster while also criticizing me for destroying part of the market, apparently that building that was ruined was a historical site of some kind – some treaty or another between some dead guy and some other dead guy had been signed there. He requested that I meet with him that afternoon. I tossed that in the fire.
The second was from Baron Redmynd’s personal assistant informing me that Baron Juost had arrived last night and my presence was required at the convention of the two barons that afternoon. More importantly it stated that they hadn’t been able to find Rindol but that the word on the street was that he had been taken by the rebels of the Widow (they had moved on from calling her the Bride) and was being held by them outside of town. What wasn’t explained is why they would want to hold him, it’s not like anyone’s going to pay a ransom for him. The last note was crudely written and riddled with spelling errors – it said that “they” had my cousin and if I wanted to see her alive I should meet them at midnight at some place or other. That one I also tossed in the fire.
I’ve clearly stayed here too long since I’m starting to get mail. The good news is that now that Baron Juost is here I should be able to get back to . . . whatever it is that I’m doing. Revenge sure is a winding path, if I’ve learned nothing else it’s that. When this business all gets sorted out I really need to get back on track with ruining the Duke and crushing my enemies the lamentations of the women and so forth. Where does the time go you know? I had the Crux Ansata staff bring in a masseuse for a nice relaxing massage – it’s surprisingly how much tension you retain in the muscles after battling a snake-behemoth in the town square – and then spent the rest of the day beautifying myself for the afternoon. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, splendor takes time. It’s like painting a masterpiece, only once you’re done you have to do it all over again the very next day if you want the same visual. So it’s like painting a masterpiece on a magic canvas that wipes out your work every day like a real dick.
The Baron’s carriage arrived to transport me to the noble villa he had appropriated (they were a few vacant ones due to current events) where I had a lovely lunch with Baron Redmynd and his lackeys. He had his mistress with him at this event, his wife being safe and sound back wherever he comes from, and I could see through her young and vibrant illusion to see the gray-haired older woman behind the magical disguise. I wonder if there’s any more complicated con going on there than just the standard reason any woman is engaged with a man of power and wealth. Not my problem. It would have be amusing though to dispel her magic while she and the Baron were mooning on, I should see about getting some kind of illusion destroying item, that could come in handy for more than just revealing gold digging older ladies. Nothing much of substance was discussed, just idle rich people being vacuous, but I did mention to the Baron that I had found our recently that I might be related to the Whiterock family and he agreed to dispatch one of this scholarly types to look into it.
After lunch and several more slothful hours of chit-chat we retired to the formal sitting room to meet with Baron Juost. Or so I thought, instead the party that we received was led by Chaplain Stenton and neither the Baron nor the Baroness were there at all. The shock though was not who wasn’t there but who was. With Chaplain Stenton were two Kostelos, or rather I think one Kostelos and one half-blood. The woman, who I think has some Satander in her ancestry, was the one who was dressed in full barbarous Kostelos fashion – animal skin dress, some kind or reed-woven band in her hair, of course no cosmetics to speak of, and it looked like she had groundhog pelts for footwear. She looked utterly ridiculous in this formal setting. The other one was dressed in the style I’ve come to think of as “renegade” Kostelos where they’ve adopted the trapping of civilization while keeping some “flair” of their native dress, beads and gewgaws and the like, for a synthesis that I find quite repulsive. It’s like smearing mud on a white dress – it’s just wrong.
What’s even stranger is that it was the Kostelos man who did the bulk of the talking. Chaplain Stenton seemed rather subdued, although I can’t say as that I’m all that keyed into his moods so I would be mistaken. The spokesman had an unpleasant craggy face and a poorly trimmed beard but he was a smooth talker for sure. He introduced himself as Tamand and claimed that after the Baron’s troops had routed the Sky Thunder tribe the survivors and the other hillfolk had come together to hammer out a peace treaty with Baron Juost, pledging their loyalty to him and expressing their desire to “become civilized”. Part of that deal involved Tamand becoming the Baron’s ward and he claimed that they had become close as family – the Baron serving as a father to him since his own was killed in the clan-feuds of the hill tribes. Chaplain Stenton affirmed that Tamand had the authority to speak for the Juosts with their full faith and credit.
After this things got even more bizarre. Tamand said that the Juosts wanted to turn over all of their lands south of the Baku Woods to Baron Redmynd, claiming that they had always had trouble governing them appropriately from their seat at Alleene due to the lack of good travel routes through the woods. He said that with the inclusion of the northern Kostelos under the authority of the Juost family they didn’t feel they couldn’t appropriately govern their southernmost holdings any longer and asked Redmynd to take over authority of them. Baron Redmynd was overjoyed, so much so that he couldn’t fully contain himself as proper decorum demanded. He had been prepared to use me as a hostage to try and leverage some kind of concessions out of Juost and instead he had been handed more than he ever dreamed on a silver platter.
I think it’s important to emphasize how preposterous this is. The only time nobles give up their land is when they have a knife at their throat, and I mean that literally. A starving man is more likely to hand someone a loaf of bread unsolicited than a member of the aristocracy is to give up one acre of their lands. I’ve never met a noble of the landed class that wouldn’t gladly chop off any part of their body rather than part with any of their land. It makes absolutely no sense, the entire goal of life is to get land and become a noble, not give it away. I mean why is the Kingdom currently involved in two different wars and goes to war every few years like clockwork? The acquisition of land. It’s worth killing over, it’s worth dying over, it’s not something that you just toss away for no reason. People defend their land, they defend their homes, they don’t give them up without a fight.
This was suspicious enough that I used my Hood to take a sneak peek at the three Juost envoys but they were exactly as they appeared – an underdressed halfblood, a battered but charming Kostelos man, and an unresponsive old priest. Baron Redmynd and Tamand continued talking for several hours about the details of the arrangement, almost all of which were to the Baron’s favor but there was enough token deference to the Juost’s interests that it wasn’t entirely transparent that they were giving away the farm. After that it was dinner, where the Baron was practically gushing and his sycophants were falling over one another trying to congratulate him. I managed to eventually take a seat next to Chaplain Stanton and spoke to him quietly.
“This is quite a concession Baron Juost is making, very generous, almost inconceivably so.”
He took a moment to gather himself to answer, like a man on his last legs “With Beresford as it is the Baron felt that the cost of rebuilding wasn’t worth the effort. What with the battle against the Sky Thunder tribe the Baronial coffers are a little thin at the moment.”
“That’s certainly rational, but giving away all the lands south of the woods? Seems a little bit like tossing the baby out with the bathwater.”
He adjusted himself in his seat as if he were uncomfortable “Travel has always been difficult through that area, it’s for the best I assure you.”
“I was hoping to see Martialla, I thought she might be coming as part of this meeting of the minds.”
He frowned slightly “Martialla? Oh, yes, your friend. I believe she’s up north on some business or other for the Baron, I couldn’t really say.”
“You’re his advisor and you don’t know?” He merely shrugged in response “I’m also surprised that no one has asked after Miss Roseblack, I’m sure she must be very overdue to check in by now.”
“I can’t say as that I’m familiar with that name. Another friend of yours?”
“No, she was here on behalf of the Juosts, on loan from Duke Lodvocka she said.”
He looked away, his eyes distant “Oh yes, Lodvocka, I remember hearing something about that. If you’ll excuse me I need to speak to the Baron for a moment.”
He quickly got up and walked out of the room even though the Baron was sitting at the head of the table laughing boisterously with his toadies. I saw Tamand looking at me with a friendly smile and invited him over to join me. I greeted him in the Kostelos tongue as he sat down beside me, which cause him to raise an eyebrow.
“That’s quite an accent you have there, you must be from down south near the trees.”
“I’m from all over, but I did learn to speak Kostelos from a tribe in the Lodge Woods. This must be quite a change for you, one month you’re raiding villages and the next you’re the Baron’s factor in important negotiations. It’s almost beyond credulity.”
He smiled easily “There was no raiding amongst my people, the hill tribes aren’t like the ones in the woods near the border – they’re pure savages, we’re more like you, although we obviously have a lot to learn still about being truly civilized.”
“The Sky Thunder tribe certainly seemed savage. I heard they wiped the settlement of Londel completely off the map, killed every man and woman and took all the children as slaves.”
“Yes, well as I believe you know, that sort of evil behavior didn’t start happening until one of the southerners took over and corrupted the Sky Thunders with his violent ideas. Kartak I think his name is. The Sky Thunder tribe was as peaceable as any before that.”
“And what became of my old friend Kartak? The Baron’s campaign was obviously a smashing success.”
“I believe he was taken prisoner.”
“And hung? Burned at the stake? Drawn and quartered? The Baron had all kinds of fun ways he thought he would visit on these Sky Thunders.”
“Words spoken in anger I’m sure, cooler heads have since prevailed. There shouldn’t be war between our people, we’ve become servants of the Baron now, just like you.”
“How does that work exactly? Are the Kostelos even considered part of the Kingdom? I know you live here, but are you under the protection of the Queen’s law? I’m no legal expert but I believe I could take this knife off the table and stab you in the throat and I wouldn’t even be charged with anything. Except ruining a tablecloth maybe.”
“What a thing for a Lady to say.”
“Didn’t my dear cousin the Baroness warn you about me and my sharp tongue?”
“No, but the Baron has decreed that you are to return with us when we leave. We’ll be in town a few days to handle some other matters for the Baron, but you should be ready to travel when we call upon you.”
I rose a glass to him “I look forward to it. It will be nice to return home.”
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