We only rode for half the day yesterday until we reached a border community of the Baku woods called Bathal, which like all border communities was a big handful of nothing. I was glad to see it though because I was feeling progressively worse throughout the day. Even though it was fairly cool weather in short order I was sweating, which was joined by a stabbing headache right on its heels. Normally riding is one of my great joys in life but what I learned is that it’s not very helpful when you’re trying to fight off a sickness. The swaying and jolting was really working a number on my back and was doing nothing to help the pounding in my head. At one point I saw Tamad and his half Kostelos wench whispering about me with worried looks and I resolved to straighten up and ride more elegantly, but that resolved lasted all of a few minutes – why should I be concern by what they think? By the end of the day I was bouncing in the saddle like I had never ridden before and clinging to the saddle horn like . . . like . . . like a person who’s bad at riding. There has to be a word for that doesn’t there?
I had to have one Tamad’s soldiers help me down out of the saddle when the stopped which would have been utterly humiliating had I cared at all. The only good news is that Bathal, despite being a rustic hellhole, did have an inn with actual beds and everything. I skipped eating anything and fell into one of those said beds fully clothed and slept for more than half a day. When I woke up my eyes were crusted shut with scum and I felt like I was being baked in the mid-day sun. My clothes were soaked through with sweat but I didn’t bother to do anything about it I felt so wretched. I’m sure I looked quite a sight as we prepared to head into the Baku woods. After I mounted up I looked at Chaplain Stenton blearily.
“Are you sure you don’t have any healing magic? Just a little bit hidden away maybe for emergencies?” He shook his head “Well what the Hells good are you then?” I looked next to the Kostelos woman who as usual was giving me a dirty look “What about you lady? You’re probably a witch or a shaman or something right? Can’t you rub some gross mustardy poultice on me and call upon your ancestor spirits to heal me?”
She scowled and road off without saying a word. The good chaplain suggested that maybe they could wait to travel until I felt better but Tamad gaily dismissed that idea and off we went. I should have been figuring out which of his men was the least loyal and/or the most suggestable and working on getting them on my side in case something went wrong but I was feeling so poorly I couldn’t even think about such things. I was using what little concentration and energy I had just to stay on my horse. It’s a good thing it was a well-trained and even tempered beast, a more spirited mount would have been troubled by having such a slug for a rider. I started to wonder if maybe Tamad or his wench had poisoned me somehow. I halfway expect them to try and murder me as soon as we’re in the woods so it would make sense that they would want to weaken me first. I’m quite dangerous you know. I was so intent on just not being thrown that I didn’t realize for a moment that Tamad had asked me a question.
I shook my head, trying to wake myself up “I’m sorry, what was that?”
“I asked if you had ever been to the Baku woods before.”
“Yeah.” I licked my lips which were getting depressingly dry and cracked “I came her a while back with a bunch of adventurers and lady who’s a hero in her own right but everyone calls her the wife of some guy, I was a cat at the time as I seem to recall. We went to a ruined city that had a giant snake skeleton where I used a magic mirror made by an old god that no one cares about to turn from a cat back into being a human lady. Then on the way back some naked women nature wizards attacked us because some other adventures had attacked them and that turned into a whole thing. Then some tree people had me put on a concert for some giant talking wolves. Then there was a whole scenario with a con artist and some loggers but I think we were on the road by then and not in the woods proper anymore.”
Tamad looked at me for a moment and then started laughing “Very good, the Baroness told me that you were a teller of tall tales.”
“Did she now? You and the Baroness chat a lot do you?”
“Not so very often, but the Baron is some of a father figure to me so that makes her my mother in a way.”
“How touching. Tell me, did she mention the mission she sent me on? I was to assess the loyalty of several of her subject lords and ladies, and a few other things besides – matter of state and so forth. I made quite a mess of it I have to admit. I talked to a couple of the people on her list and then things just seemed to sidetrack me one after the other. It seemed very important to her.”
“No mention was made of that My Lady, sounds like quite an undertaking and I’m certain that you did your level best.” He smiled easily “I’m sure now that the Baron is back you won’t need to worry about that any longer. No doubt it will be a great relief to you to return to your normal womanly duties.”
“No doubt. If you don’t mind me saying so you speak the King’s tongue very well, certainly better than I speak Kostelos. What tribe did you say you were part of again?”
It was almost imperceptible but his smile falter for a moment “I didn’t My Lady. I’ve been traveling around the foothills of the mountains since I was a small child, I didn’t really grow up anywhere in particular. I’m between the two worlds in a way. I’ve spent as much time in your lands as I have in those of the parents or close to it.”
“And yet here you are leading the Kostelos into a brave new alliance with the Baron.”
“I wouldn’t say that, my contributions are small My Lady, but whom better to bridge the two peoples than someone like myself?”
I nodded towards the half-breed in full Kostelos regalia “And what’s her story? For someone of mixed heritage she seems more Kostelos than Kostelos if you take my meaning.”
He considered this for a moment before speaking “I wouldn’t want to speak on the behalf of someone else, her story is hers to tell. I’m sure if you asked her she’d be happy to tell you herself.”
“I doubt it, she doesn’t seem to like me much.”
“I’m confident that’s not true, she’s just a little standoffish is all. My people aren’t overly friendly folk and as you say she’s more Kostelos than Kostelos.”
“You seem to be quite friendly.”
“I do try.”
With that he spurred his horse to the head of the group and seemed to be deep in consultation with one off his servants. By the time we stopped for a mid-day meal and a little rest for the horses I felt like I had been pounded flat and then reinflated with a bellows. I crawled out of the saddle like a creaky old woman and sat heavily against a tree, drinking all I was offered but waving away any food. I waited until the good chaplain and I were the only ones within earshot.
“So you can’t help me with my illness, but you can tell me what the Hells is going on. Here’s what I’m expecting since they haven’t killed me already. The Baron and his men rode out and the Sky Thunders killed them and instead they’ve taken over Juost Manor. Kartak is in charge now and he sent these people to bring me back so he can torture me to death. They’re just pretending that Baron Juost is still around. Or maybe they captured him and made him their slave or something to keep up appearances.”
He blinked in surprise “What? No, the Baron is fine. We routed the barbarians easily.”
“So tell me what did happen! Because none of this makes any Gods damned sense. Why would the Baron send these people to speak on his behalf, and why would he give away a third of his territory literally for nothing. Aren’t you his advisor? What the Hells is going on?”
“Everything is as Tamad said it was, the Baron has taken him as his protégé.”
“So are you part of it or are you being blackmailed or what’s you deal?”
He made some comment about how the fever was making me talk nonsense and then moved away. Shortly thereafter we mounted up again and started picking out way through the forest. It seemed like I was getting hotter and hotter with every step of the horse’s hooves. After a while it was a wonder to me that the saddle hadn’t burst into flames underneath me. I was laboring quiet badly and I believe they halted early because of it. I would have fallen off my mount immediately if I wasn’t clinging on so stubbornly. Have you ever fallen off a horse? It hurts. I’ll have to be in really bad shape before I allow that to happen. I was lifted off my steed again and put into the care of the useless chaplain who didn’t seem to have much to offer other than a wet cloth to put on my scorching forehead.
“The real question is this mister holy man, since I know this is a trap why am I still here? Once I was away from the city I should have just made a run for it.”
“Because of the necklace My Lady, you wouldn’t be able to get away. And also because you seem to be too sick to run away.”
“Oh right, the necklace. So you made this thing but you can’t cure a simple disease? Doesn’t seem quite right.”
“I didn’t make it My Lady, its power is beyond me, I’m not sure anyone knows how to make those anymore. Not anyone around here anyway.”
“Well, I guess I don’t need to try to seduce you then. You should have kept your mouth shut.” I gestured to my dirty sweat-slicked and feverish body “All this could have been yours.”
He smiled faintly “Such a shame.”
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