I heard her self-righteously clomping footfalls coming up the stairs before she even got to the door. I considered at first ambushing her with a crossbow bolt to the face as she came through but in the end I decided instead to see what she was going to do. And I know what you’re thinking “Ela you’re so Gods damned lazy, you just didn’t want to get up!” which I take exception to because it’s only partially true. Like thirty percent. I’m not lazy, I’m like a cat, I conserve my energy for when I need it. Speaking of, remember that time I was a cat for a while? What was that about?
Anyway, she opened the door somewhat quietly and then closed it behind her, although not all the way, before coming to stand at the foot of the bed – resting a greatsword before her with the crosspiece right at tit-height. I suppose I can’t blame her for her lack of stealth, it has to be hard to creep around slyly with a thirty pound hunk of steel like that. She had cut off the rest of her nasty dreadlocks and put on a maid’s dress which is a pretty paltry disguise but the sad thing is it doesn’t take much. Dress like a servant and hardly anyone looks at you – even other servants.
“Looks like you’ve upgraded from your hammer, makes sense, who’d want to drag that heavy thing all the way from Graltontown?” She started at the sound of my voice, obviously thinking that I was asleep but recovered quickly “How long were you going to wait there for me to wake up? Could have been hours, and I tend to sleep late if we’re being honest. You should have come closer to dawn if you were going to wait around for me to wake up before you killed me. Since that is what you were going to do I assume you have a speech prepared? I know I cut you short last time, which I apologize for, but I was in a hurry and there was no time for oration. I’ll make it up to you right now though, I’ll listen to your rhetoric for as long as you like.”
She shook her head in the darkness “No speeches.”
“No? Are you sure? I bet you’ve got some good ones. Something about how you are everywhere and we’ll never see you coming. How you’re the people that we depend on, that there is no us without you. You’re the people who cook our meals, raise our children, nurse us when you’re sick, guard us, protect us, and so on. A real barn burner of a speech about the rights of people and so forth.”
“You told me you were one of us and I believed you, and now you betray us. I already know, but I wanted to ask, before you die, whose side are you on?”
I smiled, although I’m not sure she could see it “You see, there, right there, you fell for it. I don’t blame you, most people do, almost everyone in fact. You think there are sides, there aren’t. Rich against poor, north against south, church against crown, Vieland against the Kingdom, whatever – it’s not real. If you and your friends ever throw down the monarchy and slaughter the Queen and her son like the rich pigs they are what’s going to happen? The same thing. You’ll call it something else, but there will be people at the top and people on the bottom – those you have everything and those who starve and work. It’s inevitable. Redistribute all you want but there’s not enough to go around – and when you don’t have enough for your belly, or your children, or whatever – well, you’re the one with the sword right? So who deserves the last loaf of bread more? You, who fought and bled for ‘freedom’, or some other jerk who profited off your blood and sweat and sacrifice? You do of course, and you’re the one with the sword so what can the jerk do about it? So we’re right back where were started, haves and have nots. There are no sides, you just do the best you can – and by best I mean you do the worst things that you can live with to get as much as you can and call it a life.”
“No, there has to be more to it than that.”
“Why does there have to? Because you want it? Because the alternative makes you sad? That’s a pretty poor reason for anything. You see the truth all around you, what the world really is, and you want it to be different, but what good does that do? I can want the sun to be the moon, but it never will be no how hard I wish it to be so. It is what it is.”
“I’m fighting to make things different.”
“Are you though? When I first met you what were you doing? You were going to smash the leg of some ponce because he was rich and your brother was poor and he got his leg smashed working in a warehouse. That’s doesn’t make anything different that’s just revenge.”
“Not revenge, justice.”
“Revenge is justice, naked of pretense and stripped of finery. Hanging a murderer, cutting off the hand of a thief, taking away the freedom of a poacher, what are those acts but revenge? They say that justice is the process of making the victim whole, but that’s impossible – all that can be done is to take a bloody chunk out of the person who did it. And that’s fine, I’m working on my revenge right now, but let’s not pretend that justice is anything else. You want to bash rich people because you’re mad about your brother do it, I wish you luck , rich people are assholes by and large – but dressing it up as anything else is a poor use of your mental energy.”
“I’m going to make a world where what happened to my brother doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
“How? Are there going to be no barrels in your world? No warehouses? How are you going to move your beer and pickled fish around without barrels? How will you store them without warehouses? Sounds like kind of a crappy world to me. Someone has to do the shit work right? No one wants to spend their life digging trenches and washing clothing but if you want trenches and clean clothes someone’s going to have to do it. How’s your revolution going to change that? Are we going to live in caves and eat berries from the forest? There are not enough berries for too many people out there, so a lot are going to have to die, but then again that’s why you have the sword right?”
“I’m not sure why I even bothered, your words are meaningless.”
“I don’t know why you bothered either, killing someone in their sleep is much safer. Although you might find this interesting, I’m actually the leader of your whole deal technically. I’m the Bride or the Widow or the Maid or the Washerwoman, whatever you’re calling her now. I did that whole thing in Graltontown on the hanging-day. I recruited some ruffians to pretend to be revolutionaries and I gave a great speech and kicked off the whole thing. If you gave me a minute I could probably remember why, some scheme or other I was working on. And I don’t want you to get me wrong, I’m not saying this to belittle or mock your movement because it doesn’t matter how it got started, you believe in it, and that’s what matters. I just thought it was an interesting historical detail. I mean isn’t it funny? I did that as cover for something else and here we are eight months later two hundred miles away and it’s turned into its own thing. You can’t help but laugh about it.”
“Even if that was true, I was fighting long before that day.”
“Maybe, but I’ll wager I’ve been doing a lot more fighting since then. When you first had your men grab me up so you could cripple me I have no doubt that you could have knocked the tar out of me. Maybe I could have ducked and dodged and gotten away if I was lucky, but no way could I have fought you. But things have changed eh? Now? Now I could challenge you in the coliseum of Pylna and I wouldn’t be worried at all. And that’s even funnier than the other thing if you ask me.”
She actually did laugh shortly at that “You princess? You think you can fight me?”
“Well, I doubt it’s going to be much of a fight.”
With that I flung the Censer at her from its place beside my bed, she ducked out of the way – people have a tendency to do that when you hurl something at their face – and by the time she recovered I had rolled up and leapt off the bed with a flying knee that caught her on the nose and eye socket with a nauseating crunch. She collapsed to the ground with the massive sword I had jumped over still standing upright behind us. I glanced back at it as she groggily tried to get to her hands and knees.
“Is this the same sword from the church? It must be magic, does it do anything other than stand on its own like that? You should have had it in your hands instead of posing like you did. It did look cool but look how it turned out for you.”
She started to mumble something woozily but I grabbed my Tankard and smashed her in the mouth with it underhand style like I was bowling on a green, which in addition to knocking a handful of her teeth out stopped her from answering.
“This is magic too. It can do other things but it’s also hard and heavy as a mace-head, which makes it good for bashing if you want. I don’t know if that was intended or if it’s just a side-effect of the magic. You never know with magic right?”
I don’t know how many more times I hit her in the head with the Tankard, not more than a dozen I would wager, but when I was done her head was mostly gone. Well, that’s not true, it wasn’t gone so much as it was transmuted into a glob of bloody slime. Once I was done I looked over and saw that two servants – a man and a woman were standing in the doorway with a lantern watching in shocked horror, frozen in place.
“Don’t worry, she’s not a real maid, I don’t treat domestics like this – honest. She was just dressed like that to get in here.” I tossed the blood (and other stuff) smeared Tankard towards the man but he didn’t even react to catch it, it hit him in the stomach, sullying his shirt with gristle and then dropping to the floor with a solid thunk. “Be a pal and clean that off for me would you? And can you please get the owner or manager or whoever runs this place? I’d like to have a little word with him about security. I expect a little better than this for the price I’m paying. I don’t want to be a bear about it, but I think it needs to be discussed. Oh, and also the bed is on fire, can you take care of that before the entire building goes up? Some embers from the censer got spilled.”
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