When I returned to the party with some number of rescued children in tow (they kept moving around and they all looked the same so it was hard to keep track, I think there were somewhere between ten and fifteen of them) a couple very annoying things happened. First of all everyone was absolutely devastated that Duel wasn’t coming back. Devastated. Do you understand that? A couple of them were clearly holding back manly tears. Because of Duel. Who, may I remind you, had all the charm of a humanoid goat – a goat with brain damage that had fallen into a middens and rolled around in there for several years. Not to mention the fact that they had only know her for a couple of days.
I was so flabbergasted by this response that I thought it must be a joke initially. One of them went so far as to start composing a couplet (sonnet? What do I know about poems?) to her “beauty”. Which is an action so astounding that it would take an entire collegium of professors several decades just to begin to understand it. Now, I’ll grant you this – if she had known anything about how to dress (which she did not) or personal hygiene (which she did not) or had any aptitude or ability to present herself in a pleasing manner (which she did not) and you had never heard her speak or seen her do anything, then yes, Duel could be reckoned attractive in a certain way. If her death was causes this kind of consternation I can only imagine that if anything had happened to me, anything at all such as coming back with a tiny scratch on the hand, they would have committed suicide on the spot.
When they made some noise about trying to retrieve her body for a property burial and/or extracting revenge on the giant hag that killed her I explained to them that after death she had been swallowed by a giant constricting serpent with a scorpion’s barbed stinger. Which may even be true, that seems like the kind of thing that could happen in a witch-village. Once I managed to head off that nonsense though it became clear that they expected ME to take care of the children, you know since I was the only woman about and that’s clearly womanly duties. My first, second, and third instinct was to tell them that I was about as willing to care for children as they were to suck a cock on the summer solstice but I had to instead act conciliatory since I need them on my side for now. Trying to nursemaid those kids while the men strutted around camp not doing a damn thing the rage inside me was so furious that I’m halfway surprised that I didn’t burst into flames. The good news is that the kids were so traumatized by almost being witch-food that they were pretty listless and therefore it wasn’t that bad trying to wrangle them. I’m sure soon enough they’re be the little terrors that children are everywhere. Why society hasn’t come up with a better system for rearing the next generation I don’t know – these little sociopaths have no business living amongst civilized people.
The bad news is that only four of them were from the village of Seefand like the kid who started this whole mess – the rest are from various other villages around the area. The knights all gathered together very seriously and earnestly to make some kind of oath that they were see all these children returned to their parents and far more importantly to them that the elf that kidnapped them would be hunted down and brought to justice (you know, murdered). They all held their swords in the air and touched the tips and everything while saying some words in Old Imperial that I am confident they didn’t understand. Unless they really did mean to vow that every eel in the windmill would be smothered in butterscotch. I wish them well in their children’s crusade but I assume it will be about a successful as their oath to join up with Baron Juost and send the Sky Thunder barbarians packing. People love swearing oaths, which is fun, actually doing them is a drag though.
Speaking of the good Baron Juost, I was able to convince Sir Krajeo that the best thing to do would be to send the kids along to Seefand with some of their retainers while the fighting types headed straight north to get to the Manor sooner rather than later. This morning one group split off west one foot while the six knights, Chaucier, Nasso, Chaplain Stenton, myself, and a handful of the more robust servants headed north with the horses. Probably north. More or less. Not one hundred percent sure we were going dead north through the woods but I wasn’t about to trust Rudo to guide us any further.
The day passed without incident until we neared the edge of the woods where we came upon a tower-hut of sorts that looked like it was constructed, or grown perhaps, out of brambles and vines with saw-toothed leaves. There were a great many crows in the trees nearby but they none of them seemed to have any interest in the bodies about the ground. There were half a dozen of them or so and they looked to be Shirefolk mixed with rats in the least pleasing way possible, not that there’s a way that would be terribly pleasing regardless of how you did the mixing. Even in death they looked feral and vicious, a sharp contrast to the soft and genial features you normally see on Halflings. While they lay on the ground three other bodies were impaled on the trees – the twisted features of distorted hags made no more agreeable in death. Among their various deformities one of them appeared to have no eyes at all, while another seemed to have borrowed them – sporting four eyes, none of which were where they should be. The crows made no sound as we approached, merely watching us as if standing vigil for the dead.
I didn’t even bother with my warnings since I knew that they would be ignored. The knights and soldiers poked about and reported that there had been a fight (you don’t say?) and that some of other party’s number had been killed as well but those bodies had been removed. The witches were hung on the trees with spikes made of silver (or rather alchemically treated silver probably since an actual silver spike would have a hard time being nailed into anything harder than cheese) and had been doused in holy water they claimed, in addition to being partially flayed. It was as grisly a scene as I’ve seen and I’ve seen some grisly shit lately. This of course got all their lips flapping about the fictional “Silverlight Order” that Duel had been gassing on about. They decided that it must be a secret order of the most pious of Adariel’s anointed knights that wage a secret war against those foul creatures that make dark magic pacts with the lords below. I didn’t even bother to mention to them that Duel didn’t know her head from a hole in the ground or that devout Adarielites wouldn’t be all that enthusiastic about crucifixion or torture – I’ve reached the point where I’ve given up on trying to be the voice of reason. They were mucking about there so long I have no doubt they’re cursed now, I assume come nightfall the crows will come to pluck their eyeballs out. Which would be inconvenient for me since I need them to help fight the Kostelos. Which I have to assume is made harder by the absence of eyeballs.
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), 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, 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