Montalan 2 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I spent the morning sticking with Rudo so I could suss out what he may be up to.  I rode with him when we rode.  When he dismounted to look around I went with him.  When we took a break I chatted with him.  My goal was to get a sense of what he’s up to – is he leading us astray or are we on the right path?  Or is he just incompetent?  I couldn’t get any impression other than that he was legitimately doing his best to find a path through the forest.  Which means either he’s genuine and true, which I don’t really believe, or he’s better at prevarication than I am at reading people.  Which I also don’t really believe.  So that leaves us nowhere.  I was on the verge at one point of just asking him if we were heading west but I didn’t want to tip my hand if there was a hand to be tipped.  At one point I was also on the verge of shooting him in the spine just to be safe, but I didn’t because for fighting men Chaucier and Nasso have been really sensitive when it comes to random acts of violence.  Some people.

All that I can do is keep an eye on Rudo and try to be ready for the inevitable and sudden betrayal.  While waiting for said betrayal the guy with the stupid fur hat, whose name it turns out is Balec, pointed out that off in the forest there were the ruins of an old village.  Actually, ruins is far too grandiose a term for a couple of old hatched huts with the thatch long gone and the walls full of bird nests – let’s say the remains of an old forest village rather.  This isn’t really noteworthy in any way but Chaucier and Nasso insisted on checking it out for reasons that I assume only make sense to men.  I had to go with them of course because anytime anyone goes off without me they seem to die.  Chaplain Stenton came along as well as we left the horses with Rudo and the rest of the servants and beat our way through the underbrush.  As I was helping pull Stenton’s robe free from being snagged on a thorny tree he felt the need to enlighten me.

“This is probably the remains of one of the Hom villages.  I’ve read the records about them, it was eighty seven years ago that they tried to settle these woods and start up the logging trade on the north side of the river.”

“How fascinating, I assume they were abandoned due to a plague of giant spiders eating everyone.”

He looked stunned “How did you know that?”

“Is that what actually happened?!  I was just pulling a random horrible thing out of the air.”

He nodded gravely “So the records say.  Although they were no ordinary spiders . . .”

“Of course not, what fun would that be?  Why are we going to this place where giant non-ordinary spiders killed everyone?”

He stroked his chin “Well we don’t know that they killed anyone, no bodies were ever found, only . . .”

Only what I’ll never find out because we were distracted by Nasso shouting back at us.  In the middle of the ruined village were a few tumbled down stones that had once been the top of a well – what’s that called?  That has to have a name right?  A well is mostly underground but then there’s the part at top made out of stone and timber with the bucket.  Like the well is wearing a hat.  Anyway, he was standing by that thing.  Nasso was saying that there was someone down there and waving us forward.

“Are you stupid?!  Get away from there!”

Instead of getting away he leaned over and turned his head “I can hear someone shouting for help.”

I stomped up, leaving Stenton still entangled in the thorns – suppressing the urge to grab Nasso by the ear “Are you dense?  It’s obviously a trap!”

“That’s what you said about the wagon.”

“That was a trap!”

“Well yeah, but you said it was an illusion and it was real.”

“Sure, I didn’t get the particulars of the other trap exactly right, I was only right about it being a trap, so why listen to me now?  Look around, why would someone be out here to fall in a damn well?  It makes no sense.  We’re nowhere near anything.”

“We’re out here.  We found Rudo out here.”

“And that was also a trap!”

“Yeah but you didn’t see that one.”

I fought the instinct to grind my teeth – that’s very bad for them “How does that factor into anything?  What matters is that it was a trap.”

Chaucier walked up from the shell of a cottage that he had been examining “If there’s someone in there we should help them.”

“There’s no one in there!  It’s a trick.  Stenton just told me this whole place was massacred by trickster spider monsters so it’s probably one of those.  Or else it’s some kind of fey monster that lives in a well and lures people to their doom.  Or it’s like a giant pitcher plant that sprays out hallucinogenic spores to make it look like a well.  Or it’s a demon or a dragon or some other damn thing!  Best case scenario, best case, is that someone did fall down there at some point and they died after seven days and now they’re a well ghost that drowns people for laughs!”

Chaucier frowned slightly “Why seven days?”

Nasso nodded “Yeah, I mean it’s a well so there’s water down there, it would take a lot longer to starve to death than seven days.”

Chaucier snapped his fingers “Unless the water has gone bad.  Is that what happened?  Was the water fouled?  Is that why they died so quickly?”

“That is NOT the point!”

At this point I heard a voice echoing up from the well “Hey, I can hear you out there you know, I’m not a monster.  Just get me out of here.”

 I shouted down the well-hole “Shut up you, no one asked for your opinion!”

“I’m just a man that fell in a well.”

“You’re probably just some kind of translucent ooze that’s learned how to mimic human speech!”

The voice sounded offended “Am not.”

“Prove it, say something that you wouldn’t have heard to mimic!”

“I don’t know what that even means.”

“It means you’re a well witch or something!”

Chaucier put his hand on my shoulder “Well witch?  You’re shouting at a man trapped in a well.  Why don’t calm down?”

I jabbed my finger at his face “Why don’t you smarten up?  Everything is trying to kill us out here!  There are monsters and stalking beasts and goblins and vampire vines and exploding apples – it’s all out to get us!  I don’t even see how you’re still alive!  You can’t go rushing over to every ruin and monster infested thing out in the world!”

“You’re the one who rode their horse into a pit trap.”

Before I could retort Nasso spoke “What’s wrong with just throwing down a rope?  No one is saying that we jump into a well.  How could dropping down a rope hurt anything?”

“Because . . . because . . . maybe there’s . . . .whatever is down there might . . . .” I sighed “Fine, throw your rope down.”

They did thrown down a rope and after what seemed like an inordinate amount of hauling – seriously how long does it take to pull someone out of a hole – they dragged up not a man but an overly buxom peasanty looking woman dressed like a man (and not well either) with the worst haircut I have ever seen, it looked like she had hacked her dirty brown hair with a scythe. 

“What the Hells, I thought you said you were a man.”

She spoke in the same deep mannish voice that had been coming out of the well “I am a man, it’s a long story.”

“Is it?  Well you can tell it to us right now or I’ll toss you back down there myself.”

She snorted like she didn’t think I could (probably true) but answered anyway “I put on a magic belt and it transformed me physically into a woman, but I’m a man.  Huh, now that I say it aloud I guess it isn’t a long story.”

“Why is your voice the same?”

“How the Hells would I know that?  Do I look like a girdler wizard to you, I don’t know anything about magic belts!”

“You’re the one who put the thing on, what did you think it was going to do?”

“The guy who sold it to me told me that it would transform me into a fighting machine – stronger, tougher, faster, and more skilled in combat.” He swung his arms wildly in what I think was supposed to be some manner of fighting display “I’m a prize fighter, a pit-fighter, a gladiator of the bloody spectacle.”

“Even if I believed you I wouldn’t believe you.”

“I don’t even know what that means.”

“I have a feeling you say that a lot.” I turned to Chaucier and Nasso “There, you rescued this idiot, can we go now?”

Nasso glanced at the well “Don’t you want to know how he got down there?”

“No, I don’t.”

The supposed pit-fighter grinned, which looked inappropriate – a man’s grin on a woman’s face “I’d be happy to tell you.  I came to the Baku Woods in search of a powerful fey princess so she could use her magic fey powers on my behalf.  And then I fell in this well.”

“Wow, that a story!  You really know how to weave a tale.  So many surprises, twists and turns, I had no idea what was coming next!  Can we fucking go?!”

Chaucier was nodding “So you wanted to make a bargain with a fey enchantress to be returned to your normal body.”

She looked confused “What?  No.  I came so that she could enchant me with strength and agileness and fighting spirit!”

Nasso raised his eyebrows “So you want to stay like that?”

She shook her head vehemently “No of course not!  I just figured I could deal with that later, after you know, once I was a famous warrior.”

I snapped off a salute “Good luck to you in your journey, may the God watch over you, etcetera.  If you do find this fey queen while you’re at it ask her to give you a decent hairstyle, you’re making our entire gender look bad.”

She plucked at her hair like it was some foreign thing “Yeah, it kept getting in the way so I had a go at it with some sheep shears.  Cut myself something bad.  Anyway, I’m tired of trying to find my way around here, I’ll just come with you lot out of the trees, I can find some other way to become a better fighter.”

Before I could say anything Chaucier and Nasso had agreed to bringing her with us.  Later in the afternoon as we were riding I saw Nasso giving her several admiring looks – despite her ill-fitting man clothing and embarrassment of a head of hair.  I gave him a withering look.

“How can you with that voice?  She sounds like a field sergeant, a twenty year veteran about to retire.”

He looked away guiltily “What?  What do you mean?’

“I tell you another thing, when you’re sealing the deal watch out for those tits – I don’t think she has any control over them at all the way they’re swinging around on that horse – I realize that she’s new to all this but you could still end up with a broken nose if you’re not careful.”

 He spurred his horses away from me, face flushed a bright cherry-red.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 23,045 platinum, 19,788 gold

XP: 725,701

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Badge of Last Resort, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Censer of Dreams, 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, Ring of Urban Grace,  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

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