Montalan 14 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 2

After the fighting was over two of the more optimistic imposter lawdogs searched a couple of the orc bodies but they gave up soon enough, probably after getting their fingers bitten a couple times by whatever kind of orcish louse they carried with them in life.  That’s the final insult of being ambushed by orcs, they’re so nasty and brutish that they don’t even have anything worth looting – unless you’re looking to start a tooth collection or enjoy rotting meat.  Meanwhile the bandits now toothless leader (well not toothless but less toothed for sure) was eyeballing me as if trying to decide if they should still try to rob us.  I took another long drink from my Flask and then waved Rova’s rapier in his general direction.

“Go on, try me.  I would love it.”

He glanced at my three allies before turning back to me “I don’t think you would.”

“True enough, but that wouldn’t stop me from slaughtering you like . . . like . . . what’s something you slaughter?   A goat?  Chickens?  Anyway, you get the point.”

He pursed his lips “I suppose I do at that.”

“Also, I say this unto to you so harken up, give up your wicked ways.  Set aside your worldly desires and live decent and honest lives in this Kingdom.  Because you suck at being a brigand.”

“Actually being a brigand was working out great until I ran into you.”

I snorted “I’ve heard some variation of that so many times it’s started to lose all meaning.”

He gave me a curious look and then had and his men gathered up the surviving horses and left.  The orcs had killed both of our mounts and one of theirs was well.  There’s a lot of good reasons to hate orcs, but the one that I’d pick as my favorite is the gleeful way in which they go out of their way to attack and kill our fine hoofed friends.  The religious types will tell you that in the long ago far away whatever vile god spawned the orcish race killed some nature god as part of a godly power play.  Some manner of horse demigod that was pals with the nature god didn’t care for this and kicked the orc-god right in his face, knocking out one of his god-eyes.  Ever since then the one eyed jerk god or orcs has commanded that all his worldly minions to attack our loyal and helpful hoofed friends.  Seems like the kind of thing religious people would make up so I don’t know if it’s true but it’s as good of an explanation as any.

Rova came to stand over me “Shouldn’t get moving?  There may be more of them around.”

“I just need a minute you know?”

I passed her back her rapier and took another long drink from my Flask as she walked away.  I laid back and looked up at the sky for a few minutes.  It looks so peaceful up there.  Just fluffy white clouds and happy little birds and nothing but blue sky as far as the eye can see.  But I’m sure there’s some kind of monsters in those clouds.  And the birds are like some kind of shapeshifting terror that eats human grief.  Or some other Gods damn thing.  Maybe there’s castle in the clouds were giants live and the giants mount up on massive floating sky squids and go to war with each other over possession of magic harps that play themselves and white hens that are actually witches that give you good luck and endless sacks of giant potatoes and human women that they enslave and force to dance for their amusement.  And when the giants stab at each other and tear one another’s flesh apart with their sky tridents and scimitars the blood falls to earth and anywhere the blood hit trolls spring up out of the ground to hunt humans for food.  But it looks peaceful enough.

“Does anyone know if there are giants in the clouds?”

I heard Pragma’s scratchy voice “Yes.  They’re called cloud giants even.”

“Are they nice?”

“Uh, the only thing I know about personally is a cloud giant coming down here to kidnap a renowned chef and take them back to their cloud fortress.  It’s said that they’re really into gourmet cooking.”

“How does a cloud support a fortress?”

No one had an answer for that.  I continued lying in the road for a few more minutes and then with a long sigh I levered myself up and waved us forward.  With our horses murdered we were left to walk the road under our own power and our progress was even slower than before on account of Rova and Pragma being in bad shape.  Autane had gathered up the saddlebags from the horses with all our gear and tossed them over his shoulders and I could tell that he was struggling under the extra weight.  I probably should have told him that he could just toss all that stuff into one my magic bags but I didn’t.  We probably didn’t make it another five miles before Autane called a halt and started setting up camp.  Later while Pragma was in the Pavilion sleeping and Autane was cooking up some manner of plains grouse that he had throttled I noticed Rova looking at me thoughtfully from across the fire.  I smiled and gave her a little salute with my Flask.

“You don’t remember me drinking this much huh?  Trust me, I did, it’s just back then I did a lot of my drinking in private.”

She responded with a faint smile of her own “No, I just never thought I’d see you again.”

“I wager you never thought about me at all, but I know what you mean.  Quite a reunion wouldn’t you say?”

She nodded and then after a long moment of silence spoke again somewhat tentatively “I didn’t know you well back then but I can see that you’re very much changed.”

“The same goes for you.”

She shook her head “No, I am what I was before, I haven’t changed at all – this is the real me.” She was quiet for another moment “But you’re different.”

I shrugged “Maybe.  As you said you didn’t really know me.”

“The future tells us what the past was about. You make the past mean different things by the way you use the time that comes after.”

“What?”

“There’s something brewing inside you Ela, some kind of metamorphosis is taking place – something happens, something is taken away from you or someone gets sick, something happens, and then you’re something else.  You were one thing, and then it changes.”

I halfway laughed “Are you off your stump Rova?  Autane see if you can find some water, I think Rova’s drunk.  No more rice wine for you.”

“It was strange to see you again, but its stranger still to see that you’re not the person you were when I knew you.  What is it that you’re after Ela?”  I said nothing but somehow she divined it “The Duke?  You should let that go Ela.  Don’t let that past dictate your future.  You’re free now, just enjoy that, yu can anything you want now.  Don’t drudge up the bad old days.  Don’t delve into that unhappy time.”

“Are you trying to tell me that if you ran across Eccleshall Branting you wouldn’t kill him where he stood?”

“I wouldn’t.  He doesn’t mean anything to me now.  I won’t lie, there was a time when I gripped that anger tightly, but I’ve learned how to open that hand and let the anger float away.  As long as Pragma and I are together that’s all that matters.  And all the things that happened in the past led me to him so I can’t hate them too much as awful as they were at the time.  I see you rolling your eyes, and I know that it sounds hackneyed but it’s true.  I’m not sure I believed in love before, I certainly had never seen it.  But that’s something else really.  Ela, anger is like drinking salt water for thirst, it only increases the thirst.”

“Give me a break.  What platitude are you going to toss out next?  A good man’s anger lasts an instant, an average man’s for two hours, a evil man’s a day and night, a great idiot’s until death? Or what about this old chestnut – an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind?”

“See you are changed, I don’t remember you having this sharp of a tongue, you always talked so sweetly in those days.”

“I no longer have to varnish my opinion.  I agree that I am different, what was I back then?  A cringing nothing, depending on others for everything.  Holding onto anger has changed me, I’ll grant you that.  It’s made me stronger.  It’s tempered me into something better.”

“More dangerous perhaps, but don’t mistake that for an improvement.”

“You’re right, you haven’t changed, you’re still a stick in the mud.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 23,045 platinum, 19,788 gold

XP: 739,911

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, 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

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, locked chest (2)

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  

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