Montalan 5 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

After seeing the wanted poster (who draws those do you think?  Does the magistrate keep an artist on staff to draw pictures of people for posters?  That has to be a good gig) I probed Sir Krajeo a little about the murderer they were after but it was clear that he didn’t think it was an appropriate topic to discuss with a lady so I let it drop.  I believe he showed me the poster just as a little bit of illicit titillation in his mind.  This morning after a couple hours of observation I decided that the best target was the ferret-faced fellow that had gotten so upset with me (in another persona) when we originally met – Sir Wrythley.  I cozied up to him and he was only too eager to tell me about the dangerous outlaw they were chasing.  The story was that Baron Juost had taken Martialla into his household, being the generous and great lord that he is, and she betrayed his trust and stole from him – as you may well expect from someone of her common blood.  When she was confronted by this malfeasance she killed the Baron’s master of arms and fled – taking up the mantle of outlaw and striking at the good and innocent peasantry.

While this was all very interesting what confused me is that he kept talking about how she and her dirty brigand friends were striking at people on the road to Alleene both from the north and the south passages around the woods.  After talking to Sir Krajeo and a couple of the other Sirs it became clear to me what had happened – they were searching the wrong forest.  Assuming the story is true at all Martialla must be in the Irontimber Forest not the Baku Forest.  I’m not going to sit here and tell you that all knights are stupider than a box of broken hammers but there’s six of them here in the wrong forest so what does that tell you?  I made some subtle inquiries to some of the retainers and obviously those of them that are doing the actual tracking and searching know full well that we’re in the wrong place but they were smart enough not to say anything.  It’s a rare knight that will tolerate being contradicted by their servants.  Not to mention which they probably don’t care anyway – most likely they’re perfectly happy to not be in the place where the violent murderous bandits are.

Sir Wrythley claimed that in addition to gathering lowlife criminals to her illicit banner that Martialla had also made somehow forged an alliance with a tribe of repulsive bugbears.  His theory one the how this had happened was that she had embarked on some manner of repugnant cross-species sexual escapades to seduce the bugbear chieftain.  He expounded on this theory in GREAT detail.  I’ll give you this, the man has a heck of an imagination when it comes to maidens coupling with sub-human monsters.  If there was a genre of writing for that sort of thing he would have a great career to pursue – however good he is at knighting it can’t hold a candle to his prodigious inventiveness and endless creativity when it comes to aberrant humanoid sex.  I got the impression that he had been waiting quite a while to be able to divulge this information on someone.  Duel overheard some of this and she was VERY interested in hearing more about it.  I left the two degenerates to talk and turned my thoughts to how I could make contact with Martialla.  Even if that story is total bullshit she has to be out there somewhere.   

As the day wore on it seemed like the trees were starting thin out a bit so hopefully we’re finally getting near the perimeter of this horrible forest.  I feel like I’ve been here for half a year.  Maybe that means that Rudo wasn’t intent on playing me for a fool.  Maybe.  But of course no day in the wilderness would be complete without encountering some kind of foolishness.  Today’s variety was a boy we found stumbling through the woods scared out of his mind and sobbing so hard I thought he was going to hyperventilate. Predictably the attempts of the knights and other idiots in the party to calm him down only caused him to become more hysterical so against my better judgement I shooed them away and did my level best to comfort him.  I knew otherwise we were going to be there all day unless I stepped in.  I went to him and he clung to me like a baby sloth.  It was awful.  Eventually I was able to get something halfway coherent out of him.  He claimed that he and several of his friends had been abducted from Seefand by an elf and taken into the forest where they were sold to a witch.  The witch was taking them back to her home to be cooked and eaten of course, witches being legendary child-eaters, but he managed to escape.  Chaucier and Sir Krajeo and the various foresters and squires were all looking at each other grimly.

“You guys aren’t buying this are you?  Kidnapped by a witch?  How gullible are you?  Obviously he just ran away from home and got lost.”

Duel held her finger up as if making an important point “A witch didn’t kidnap them, he said that an elf kidnapped them and sold them to the witch.”

“Yeah, thanks for clearing that up, that’s very helpful.” I looked to Rudo “Is Seefand anywhere near here?”

He nodded “Yes, Seefund is the southernmost point of the North Umberlee as it heads towards the woods from Preen.”

I shook my head “Wait a minute, I thought you said you were taking us to the Hairpin River.”

He held his hands up defensively “Okay, okay, don’t get mad, I know you think that I’m misleading you but just got my geography a little confused.  We’re where I said I was taking you but I got Gumare and Seefand mixed up in my head.  Or actually the Vitti Homesteads . . .”

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

“What do you want me from, I’m a lumberjack not a wilderness guide!” He immediately shied away “Sorry, sorry, I didn’t mean to lose my temper, I just thought . . .”

“Shut up, if it makes you feel better I no longer think you’re a turncoat I just think you’re an idiot.”

Chaplain Stenton interjected “That doesn’t matter now, if this boy’s friends are in trouble we should help them.”

“There are no friends, he’s clearly lying, kids lie all the time.  Even if he was telling the truth what are we going to do about it?  He said the witch was taking his friends to a cauldron, how does that help us?”

The kid shook his head resolutely “Not to a cauldron, to Cauldron.”

“That’s not how grammar works kid, but either way . . .”

“No, not a cauldron like the pot I mean to the place Cauldron.”

“Don’t interrupt me you little bastard or I’ll smack you so hard . . .”

At this point several people started talking about a local legend about a town of witches and outcasts that some people said was named Cauldron.  Once the topic was brought up everyone felt the need to share the tall tale they had heard about the place. 

“I heard that the witches there not only eat children but they kill adult men as well to use their livers to make love potions.”

“Yes, well that’s very interesting but . . .”

“I heard that the witches send out their familiars all across the Kingdom to encourage people to rebel against the crown.  They hate men and want to see a woman on the throne.”

“There is a woman on the throne, not to mention which . . .”

“I heard that the witches there make demonic pacts that give them healing powers, so you can go there to heal any wound or disease, even to regrow a limb, but then you’re damned to the Thirteen Hells when you die.”

“All witches make demonic pacts, that’s their whole . . .”

“I heard that you can buy anything there, it’s where all the assassins get their poisons.”

“Assassins? What does that even . . .”

“I heard that the dark fey have a portal there that they come through to trade the witches magic rings for the souls they harvest.”

“I don’t think . . .”

“I heard that everyone there is on drugs.”

“That’s what people say about . . .”

“I heard the witches can conjure and control succubbi that they use to seduce men away from their wives.”

“You don’t need a demon for . . .”

“I heard that . . .”

“Everyone shut the Hells up about it!  This place does not exist!”

Duel sniffed loudly and then spat, striking what I assume was supposed to be a casual pose  for cool confidence “Cauldron is real.  I’ve been there.”

“You shut up with that you.”

She shook her head “It’s all true.  I was there for a blood-fight against a tarek they called Marrow-Eater, he had slain eleven men in the pits and they said that he was unkillable.” She adjusted her chest in an uncouth manner “Well, I proved that wrong didn’t I?”

“You’re never fought anyone, tareks aren’t even real.”

She laughed unconvincingly “You wouldn’t say that if you were there, it was a Hells of a battle it was.  Cauldron is as real as the noses on your faces boys.  You see in ages past a wizard built a tower out here in the woods and when he died it sat abandoned for many years.”

“You people aren’t listening to this drivel are you?”

“Eventually a coven of witches fleeing from the King’s elite witch-killers, the Order of Silverlight, took up residence in the tower in the woods.  Other witches and outlaws from all over the Kingdom came to live in this ungoverned woodland and eventually a small village emerged around the tower – a village made up the vilest scum that ever walked the land.  The Order of Silverlight and a unit of the King’s Own assaulted the place, intent on wiping it out, but the witches and their dark men were able to fight them off.  To this day the King has offered a Baronetcy to anyone who’s able to dislodge the bitter old hags and establish a village on that land.”

“Order of Silverlight?  You’re just making this all up aren’t you?  Chaplin Stenton, you can’t tell me that you believe this right?  Just the other day weren’t you telling me about some villages that were founded around here for logging?  The ruins were we found this moron stuck in a well.  You’d have heard of this witch-village if it existed right?”

Stenton looked concerned “Well, it’s true that I’ve always considered the rumors of Cauldron to be just that – rumors, but if there’s any chance that . . .”

“No, no, NO!  We’re almost out of this damned forest!  We are not . . .”

Duel snorted “So don’t come.”

“What?”

“As you said we’re almost out of the forest.  You don’t want to go to Cauldron then don’t go, keep on heading back to Alleene, who’s stopping you?”  She grinned her horrible grin “The boys are me are going to have an adventure aren’t we?” She nodded to the kid “We’ll find your friends and we’ll make sure nothing bad happens to them.  Those witches won’t know what hit them.  And hey, if we get a barony out of it so much the better right?”

“Even if any of this was true how are you going to fight an entire village of witches?”

A smug look came over her face “With honor and glory, right boys?”

“That doesn’t even make . . .”

My response was drowned out by the cheering of the assembled knights and soldiers and other men under arms.   Duel crossed her arms, awkwardly, and soaked in their adoration.

I looked around for someone with an ounce of common sense “I . . . I . . . . Gods damn it.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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