Once back in the old days I had a dress made for a ball, not a costume ball exactly but the kind of event were a certain amount of flamboyance was expected. I designed it very specifically to be a multi-layered affair all in vibrant reds and lively oranges to evoke images of flame and bright feathers – people assumed that it was inspired by the mighty phoenix but it was actually a picture I saw of a fire crane that inspired it (I wonder if that’s a real creature or just the fancy or some artist). It took six weeks with three seamstresses working on it daily and when it was done it was absolutely gorgeous. Obviously at the Duke’s court you’re going to see some top quality gowns, but I would put this number in the top five without any reservations (number one will surprise you!). At the time dark colors were “in” and everyone else was wearing more muted, yet still extravagant tones, which made me the center of attention. When someone made mention how out of seasons I was I remarked that everyone was going to be looking at me anyway so I may as well give them a good reason. Which you have to admit is a pretty good line.
Because I had done something different from everyone else wearing this dress was regarded as “crazy”. Crazy is a label that people are very swift to slap on behavior that isn’t the same as theirs. I suppose it’s an easy way to deal with things – just say someone’s crazy and then you don’t have to try and understand why they’re doing something. I wore a dress that was a different color and because of this there were people who absolutely thought that I had lost my mind. It’s a way to bypass the reasoning of someone else and just dismiss them altogether. I may have my vices (MAY) but this kind of intellectual laziness isn’t one of them. I call people out for acting crazy all the time, such as when they put themselves in dangerous situations for literally no reason, because that is crazy. But what I don’t do is assume that someone is crazy because they act contrary to what I would do. I don’t understand the reasons why primitive jerks like the Kostelos act the way they do, but I don’t deny the fact that those reasons exist. They aren’t “crazy” because they have a different culture than us – that culture is stupid clearly, and I judge it for being so, but I don’t dismiss it as insanity.
Why do I bring this up? Did I point a crossbow at a sleeping man an accuse him of working against me? Absolutely I did, and I would have killed him too if I had to. And can we stop for a second to highlight the fact that I was right that he WAS in fact not leading us the way he said he would? Why isn’t anyone focusing on that piece of information? But because of this everyone is looking at me askance like they did after the “dress incident” as some called it. This annoys me for several reasons, foremost of which is that there was nothing crazy about what I did. Craziness is acting contrary to logic and what I did was eminently logical – the man appeared to be betraying me and therefore in order to extract information from him I threatened him with violence. This happens all the time and no one says anything. Well, they say things, but no one thinks it’s a crazy thing to do. In fact the entire system is built on it – why does anyone do what the Crown wants them to do? Because otherwise they have their soldiers kill you. It’s as simple as that. Peasants serve their lords because otherwise knights chop their heads off in the town square. It’s the most natural thing in the world.
And yet when I do it suddenly I’m crazy. Now, I don’t want to lay this entirely at the feet of gender issues but clearly I would be crazy if I ignored that aspect of it. If I was a man (which I am not) and I did what I did yesterday would anyone think that I was mentally ill? No. They might think that I’m a dangerous asshole that they don’t want to be around, but no one would ever think that a man is crazy for threatening another man. Except a crazy person paradoxically. But a woman threatening a man upset the natural order. I point one little old crossbow and one little old face and suddenly everyone loses their shit. And I’m not crying about how this is “unfair” because as you well know I know that there is no such thing as fairness. Things happen (things like a woman threatening you with a crossbow for mostly legitimate reasons) and you have to deal with them, fair doesn’t enter into the equation. Last time I checked when someone is dying of the plague them whining about how it isn’t fair doesn’t make them well. Fairness is some made-up bullshit to comfort people who can’t hack it without some kind of mental crutch.
And what happens to you if people think you’re crazy? They stick you in an asylum – where being locked in a cage and treated like an animal and abused by the guards does drive you crazy. And then everyone goes “see, look how crazy they are, good thing we put them in there”. There isn’t much that gets under my skin (not really) but the way my traveling companions are acting now is one of those things. I heard Chaplain Stenton and Chaucier whispering about what they would do if I had another “episode” and I wanted to shoot them both down right there. But not because I’m crazy, I ensure you of that. And the worst part is that the only who isn’t acting weird towards me is fucking Duel – who should be locked away somewhere and beaten by guards for maligning my entire gender. She was riding too close to me just as everyone else was riding too far away.
“So the hunter says to the bear . . . no wait the bear says the hunter . . .uh, wait, have I said anything about the bishop yet? Right, because the bear is wearing the bishop’s hat when they come into the whorehome.”
“Whorehome? That’s not even a word, you mean whorehouse.”
“Home, house, what’s the difference? It’s the same word, it even sounds the same.”
“Get away from me before I beat you to death.”
“You know the way you’re always threatening me you seem to be forgetting that I am a pit fighter, I’d tear you up like a handkerchief at a snot party.”
I glanced at her “If you’re a gladiator I’m the queen of the moon.”
“Well your majesty then how go things on the moon!”
“Look at you, you’re the clumsiest person I’ve ever met. You can barely stay in the saddle, you fell in a Gods forsaken well just walking around. Just this morning I saw you knock yourself into a bush trying to put your shirt on. Not to mention you seem to be drunk the majority of the time. I can’t see laying good odds on your fighting your way past a half-dead rooster.”
“Roosters are vicious fighters so thanks for the compliment complimenter! You know I met a feller that said he went to the moon one time with magic. Said that there’s a jungle up there inhabited by a whole tribe of nude women, but they were the bad kind like they were demons or cannibals or something. Wouldn’t that be something? A whole moon full of naked ladies. Can you imagine?”
“I’m going to ride away from you now.”
After doing so Rudo came up to me to give me an exhaustive amount of details on why we were traveling the way we were going and what direct we were going and where that was going to lead us to. His reaction to my “insanity” was to constantly be giving me updates on our progress so I wouldn’t “freak out” on him again. He was in the middle of doing so when I heard the heavy sound of hoofbeats – and not our hoofbeats. I called for everyone to stop and after a moment we heard the sounds of another party crashing their way through the woods. Rudo gathered everyone together as Nasso, Chaucie and I moved to the forefront. I guess I’m not so crazy when it comes to the rough stuff. Annoyingly Duel also came forward almost getting knocked out of the saddle by a branch in the process.
“Get back you idiot, this could be trouble!”
“I’m a fighter!”
“You’re not even carrying a weapon.”
“Yeah, I lost my mace in the well. Luckily for you I’m just as good with the lads here.”
She proceeded to kiss her fists and name them as “iron” and “thunder”. Booming towards us appeared the war-steeds of several knights, and following behind their retainers mostly on foot. It took me a moment to recognize one of them as Sir Krajeo from the road outside Arbeven. The knights were doing the customary exchange of clipped words and suspicious looks with Chaucier and Nasso when I decided to get things moving around.
“Pardon my interruption, but don’t you already know each other? Sir Krajeo weren’t you going to join up with Baron Juost to fight the barbarians in the west hills? These are Baron Juosts men who were with him on the expedition.”
He was so surprised that he looked like he might fall out of his saddle “How could you know that?”
“My half-sister encountered you acting out the Passage of Honor on the road north of the Irontimber. She sent me a letter about the meeting and mention how you were bravely going to join battle with the Baron against the savage men of the hills. I have to say that in person you’re even more gallant looking then she described. I think she was quite smitten with you if it’s not too bold for me to say.”
A strange look came over his face that I couldn’t interpret, I imagine that’s the look someone has on their face when they stub their foot in the dark “Er, no. Well yes . . . that is to say that my fellow knights and I did head west but we were diverted before we met with the Baron. Trouble in Chemnost you see.”
“Of course, how good of you to help out. What, good sir, may I ask brings you to these benighted woods?”
He seemed to be badly wrong-footed by this turn of events but pushed on “We’re searching the woods for a suspected murderer, we’re executing a warrant on behalf of Lord Saltwheel.”
“Aren’t these Baron Juost’s lands? Shouldn’t that sort of thing be under his auspice?”
“Well . . . yes . . . . um, ma’am . . . but the borders of the forest . . . it’s somewhat of a jurisdictional . . . um . . .”
“Well I won’t worry about that, I’m sure you know what you’re doing. Now lord knight, I’m not a fine lady like my half-sister, but being the brave cavalier that you are I wonder if I could prevail upon you for a favor. We’re heading to Alleene and our travels through these woods have proven to be quite hazardous indeed. Would it be possible to suspend your search for this murderer to order to escort us to safety? I’m sure that Baron Juost would be very grateful, and I know that I would be feel much safer in your strong hands.”
After a lot of flowery bullshit he agreed and our small party became a somewhat less small party with the addition of six knights and their score or so of attendants. Knights need a lot of help doing anything other than riding a horse and killing people – and even the riding a horse part they need some help with. I have to believe it was their retainers who were doing the bulk of the searching – riding around in platemail is not a good way to find anyone hiding in a forest. Probably it would have been much more effective to just send the retainers but that’s not how things work. Everyone was overjoyed by these new faces, and more importantly but their superior stock of supplies, except Chaucier and Nasso who seemed put-out by the new arrivals. As we (and by we I mean they) were setting up camp that night Nasso was shaking his head.
“We don’t need them, I could have protected you.”
“Maybe, but who would protect me from you?” I held up my hand to forestall his protests “Kidding of course. You wanted a plan, well here it is. You got six knights and some assorted other fighting-types. Now if we really want to storm Juost Manor maybe we can.”
“You can be a real sour apple you know that?”
That evening Sir Krajeo hosted me in his pavilion for dinner. He had intended to invite Duel as well, chivalry and all, but I told her in no uncertain terms what would happen to her if she showed up. The meal was astonishingly good for being on the trail – I have no idea how you travel with roasted duck but they figured out a way and I approve whole heartedly. The wine was second tier at best, but you can’t have everything. I was really starting to hate these woods with a passion but this tiny slice of luxury really made me feel better. After eating while we enjoyed some desert and sherry I asked him about this murderer he was after.
“It’s actually a woman if you can believe it, a lowborn sort of course, but still I wouldn’t have thought it possible.”
“My my, what is the world coming to?”
“Yes, with the war dragging on it seems like the worst is coming out in people.”
He snapped his fingers at his tent-servant who fetched me the bounty poster of the murderer in question – I didn’t know those were even real, I thought they only existed in books. It wasn’t a great likeness but it was good enough. The person with a five hundred gold piece reward on their head was Martialla.
Funds: 23,045 platinum, 19,788 gold
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