I was distracted is what it was. Although I can’t say what exactly was distracting me. Is it possible to be distracted by nothing? Maybe distracted isn’t the right word, perhaps unfocused is better. The point is that I wasn’t paying close enough attention and by the time I knew what was happening the street had cleared out of all the “decent” people and I saw that I was surrounded. Well maybe not surrounded, but at least encircled, I mean how many people do you need to surround someone? There were six of them which doesn’t seem like quite enough for a surrounding, unless you count the buildings as part of the surround – which maybe you could, but the doors were probably open. Plus there’s windows if you’re really desperate. Unless they already took care of that by dealing with the people that own them. Probably you need nine people to really surround someone?
They were your standard roadway scum, long coats and kerchiefs and too many daggers and scars and all that stuff. I recognized one of them as the fellow on the road with the mop of curly black hair and bushy sideburns although his smirk was gone which made his face seem seventy percent less punchable. His fancy clothing was also gone of course on account of I took it, and he was dressed in the ragged fashion of the rest of his pals. He had at the very least found himself a battered yet jaunty tricorn hat that had some manner of shiny buckle on it that looked like it was made of highly polished amber.
“I know you, you survived huh? Good for you! That’s really something.”
His eyes were grim “No thanks to you.”
“Well obviously, I’m the one who left you for dead. Did you gut it out on your own or did your friends here find you and rescue you?”
He slashed his hand through the air angrily “None of that matters now! All that matters is that I have you.”
“You have me? What does that mean? Are we betrothed now? This is an odd way to go about it but I admit fully that I’m not familiar with the customs of this backwoods slum.”
He shook his head slowly “You had a real smart mouth before too didn’t you, but now . . .”
“Now you’re going to shut me up? Yeah, I’ve heard that a time or two, I guess it’s not your fault for being derivative because you weren’t there those other times so you don’t know that it happened. But really it’s kind of an obvious thing to say, if you want to have a snappy conversation you should think a moment about how tired your quips may be.”
“I’m not here for a conversation, I . . .”
“Look, I get it, you’re upset because I had my magic snake-stick bite you a bunch of times and left you to die, but look at it from my point of view. You were very rude to me.”
“And so you tried to kill me?!”
“Yeah, what else was I supposed to do? I mean consider the situation, consider the power dynamic. If I told you that I wasn’t interested in your smarmy remarks what would have happened? I’d wager you would have become even smarmier right? Probably you would have put your hands on me eventually. I mean I don’t know if you’re a flat out rapist or just an asshole, I suspect the latter, but regardless that was going nowhere good right? Now I suppose an argument would be made that I didn’t need to come at you so hard, that I could have just bloodied your lip or whatever and left it be, and maybe that’s what should have happened – but I know this, for me and the position that I’m in if I come at someone I have to come hard. Otherwise it just makes things worse.”
One of the other goons sneered “Things are worse!”
I nodded “Indeed so, most indeededly. I didn’t figure you had friends, I thought being a highwayman was a solitary path, but maybe you’re a bandit. So what do you want to have happen here?”
Curly hair grinned humorlessly “I feel it only fitting that we leave you the way you left me, naked in the middle of the road.”
I dropped him a sassy wink “Sure, who wouldn’t want to see that? But there are two problems there, one is that I have an appointment to keep in a little while and that seems like a whole scenario, and two that means giving up my stuff and I need my stuff.”
“MY stuff you mean.”
“Oh no, I threw most of your stuff in the trash where it belonged. I sold some of it, but all that shitty knife-jewelry you had, I had them melt that down because it was hideous. I don’t know you really love knives or if you were just trying out a persona as the ‘knife guy’ or what but those pieces were junk. I understand that as a dirty thief you kind of need to keep all your wealth on you because it’s not like you can invest it, but at least get something that looks decent. What you did there was take an amount of gold and make it worth less by turning it into something stupid. It’s like a silver chamber pot – all the time and effort that went into making it actually turned it into something less valuable. Do you understand that?”
“Good point, very thoughtful and well-reasoned, I’ll really have to consider that. But here’s the deal Curly Q, as a highwayman bandit robber I’m sure that you’re no stranger to the rough stuff, but really how tough are you? I mean the key to robbing people is finding the ones that won’t fight back right? As they say there’s old bandits and there are bold bandits but there are no old bold bandits. So how much fighting have you really done? I’m sure things don’t always go smooth and you’ve been in a scrape or two and come out the other side obviously, but if you’ll remember I handled you pretty easily before. And yes, I know what you’re thinking, I caught you off guard and now you have all your buddies backing you up and all that but it’s not going to matter. I don’t look very dangerous, I grant you that, but somehow things seem to work out for me. I don’t really believe in luck or fate or divine intervention or anything like that, but I’m starting to wonder if there’s something going on with me. Like maybe I’m magic somehow?
I don’t really know, I can’t explain it, but what I do know is that I always seem to come out on top – I mean I killed a dragon one time, can you even imagine? It was a big sucker too. Lots of people have tried what you’re trying right now and you know what? They’re all dead. Or most of them anyway, the one’s that aren’t dead aren’t happy. So ask yourself is it really worth it? Your pride is hurt and here you are all full of fire and vengeance, but it’s not going to work out the way that you want. So why bother? Instead of turning this into a blood feud how about it becomes just a funny thing that happened? Maybe it’s a wakeup call, an indication that you should change your ways. I don’t know if you go glad-handing around with your crossbow and sword because it’s fun or because your parents died or because of what, but why not settled down and start a family? Take up hatmaking, I hear that’s a lucrative trade. Or if you want to be crooked still sell drugs, people love drugs, of be a fence or something like that where you don’t have to put your ass on the line in combat.
If you and your friends all rush me you can probably get me the ground and strip off all my gear and then leave me the way I left you, but you know that I’m going to have to come after you then right? And how do you think that’s going to go? Maybe you’ll best me again, but I doubt it, either way though then you have that to deal with. So you’re going to have to kill then if you want this thing to be over, are you prepared to do that? Because then I’m going to have to fight even harder to stay alive and maybe then you won’t get me. Not to mention which you’re taking a big risk just be being in the city right? You must be wanted, and I’m sure you’ll be hung if caught. The watch is probably on their way right now, I mean how long have we been talking? Even if you grab me it’s going to take a couple minutes, and then what? You’re going to take on the city watch also? Those are even worse odds, since right now there army and all sorts of other people are in town on account of rioting and all that.”
He grunted “You talk too much.”
“Hey, you’re not giving me anything here man, I’m just trying to fill the empty spaces in the conversation. Don’t worry about your pride buddy, I know that’s a hard lesson to learn but pride is useless, it’s worse than useless, it’s dangerous. I used to have a boatload of pride and what did it lead to? My downfall, and now here I am down in the muck with people like you. Now I have no pride, and its fine. Pride, honor, dignity, whatever it’s all stupid – what does it get you? Nothing, in fact it takes things away from you. You want me to cry and beg at your feet I’ll do that, I don’t care, and I’m great and seeming heartfelt when I do stuff like that. It doesn’t cost me anything. But I’m sick of fighting Curly, I really am, last night I bludgeoned a lady to death with a cup – it had to be done, she deserved it, but it’s made me realized how much I hate all this. A year ago I couldn’t even imagine fighting anyone, and now I’ve done it so much that I can hardly stand it anymore. So I want avoid a fight as much as possible here, so what can we do? Let’s work together and find a way out of this.”
“I said what I want, I want you left like you left me – helpless and humiliated.”
“And ass to the wind as I recall, I’ll reject that opening offer, but this is good, now we’re in negotiations, now we’re using our words, now we’re getting somewhere. You want money? You must want money right, you’re a thief, how much is your wounded pride worth?”
“You can’t buy me off.”
“Oh come on, sure I can! Let’s give a try. I bet I can buy off your friends at least right? Speaking of, you probably worry that if you don’t do something to me you’ll look weak in front of them, and maybe that’s true, but Curly if that’s the kind of friends they are , consider, are they really your friends? Hmm?”
He stomped his foot like a child “Stop calling me Curly!”
“Well what’s your name son?”
“That’s not important, enough of this, grab her!”
A couple of the men took a few steps forward, but another one held out a restraining arm – a lean fellow with a hungry look dressed (sigh) all in black.
“Hold on a minute lads, lets here more about this proposed payoff.”
I smiled “See, this guy gets it.” I reached into my Haversack and tossed a handful of coins into the street, their eyes going wide at the sight of platinum. “And there’s plenty more where that came from, let’s make a deal here shall we? There’s no reason for violence or petty name-calling is there? I bet if we got to know each other we’d be good friends, why I’m sure tonight we’ll all be at a bar together sharing a drink and laughing about this whole thing.”
Curly raised his crossbow at me “Okay, the price is all the rest.”
“You drive a hard bargain sir, but if that’s what it is that’s what it is, you’ve got me at a disadvantage here – I’m helpless as a babe.”
I reached into my Haversack, tossing out another handful of coins but also palming my potion of invisibility. The sight of all that platinum was too much, and one of the men rushed forwards to start picking it up, which made the rest of them all run forward to grab their share. Curly yelled at them but he took his eye off me and in that moment I drank the potion. It was just a moment but when he looked back I was gone. His eyes darted around wildly as I stepped quietly up to him with my crossbow, shooting him through the neck. Before he fell I stabbed him through the ear with the bayonet Blade as well. He dropped to the ground, stone cold dead, as his fellow robbers looked up in shock, their hands still clutching their coins.
“I actually do hear the watch coming, you better get that money gathered up and get out of here.”
I was a little late for my appointment with Yanik but the big man didn’t seem to mind. He talked for a while before showing me the ring that Baron Redmynd had commissioned on my behalf but when he finally did reveal it the ring it was worth the wait. It wasn’t like my old ring of course, there’s no way you could replicate it exactly from a description but it was very close and very lovely without being ostentatious or extravagant. It can’t replace the ring that was lost, not really, but it’s certainly a fine substitute. I was so pleased that I gave the sasquatch of a man a hug after I slipped it on and saw how pleasing it felt and looked on my finger.
“How did you get it done so quickly? There’s no way this could be done in a few days, it’s magnificent!”
He chuckled indulgently/annoyingly “Oh, I have my ways.”
My expression soured somewhat “Magic?”
“Just a bit here and there around the edges, no magic in the crafting that’s all my skill, just a couple tricks to make the work go faster. I take pride in my work, no magic can do so well.”
I held it out to look at it on my hand “Well, I suppose I can forgive you that just this once, it is quite a sight.”
“I couldn’t help but notice, and pardon me for asking, but is blood on your shoes?”
I smiled dreamily at my new ring “Yeah. I cut myself shaving.”
He frowned “But . . . how would . . .”
“Oh sorry, I mean I walked past a slaughterhouse. Thank you, honestly, this is wonderful work.” I clapped him on his massive back “Good on you sir, good on you.”
Funds: 23,045 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), 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) personal signet ring
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