It’s been said that the only difference between the rich and the poor is that that rich can afford to indulge their whims. I don’t know if that’s true but I can tell you that the Duke was a man much given to indulgence of whims. He was a fickle fellow without a doubt, you may imagine that being his consort involved a lot of laying around on sedan chairs being fed grapes (and there was some of that) but it was a full time gig keeping him interested. During a period when he was playing at being compassionate and munificent he rousted all his worthless courtiers and dandies to go out amongst the refugees in the city from whatever war was on at the time (or maybe it was it was an earthquake, there’s so many disasters it’s hard to keep track) and give them bread and blankets. It would have be a great time to assassinate him. Amongst all those people? There’s no way to his men could have kept him safe really. If they even wanted to, which in retrospect I question. He wasn’t a great boss.
Anyway, during this temporary fit of benevolent behavior from the Duke I met and old man who had been this this refugee deal a couple times. He told me that what he had learned is that when it’s time to go don’t take anything with you. If you have to run away from the bad thing, just go. Whatever you have on you that’s what you have to work with. Don’t worry about valuables. Don’t worry about sentimental items. Don’t worry about food or drink or weapons or anything. Just go. Anything you carry is just going to slow you down. Anything you carry that is actually worthwhile in a survival situation is going to be taken from you and make you a target for whatever scavengers and assholes are around – and there will be plenty. You’re either going to make it or you’re not – based on a lot of factors outside of your control – trying to grab some stuff before you run for the hills isn’t going to make a lick of difference.
I don’t know if I buy that theory exactly, but it makes some sense. I would have much rather had more to work with then I woke up in Graltontown three hundred and forty five days ago than the clothes on my back. But I survived anyway so maybe he had a point somewhat. Why do I bring this up? The four of us were traveling so slowly that we were overtaken by a mob of displaced persons. Turns out that the orcs that attacked us were just a splinter group from a larger warband that is rampaging across the southern reachs of the Chemnost wastes. We saw them coming from several miles off and I had a good chance to study them as they slowly reached us. The amount of crap that some of them were trying to haul with them was nonsensical. The impulse is understandable, even when you heard that orcs are bearing down on your village to massacre everyone and turn your skulls into codpieces it’s hard to give up on all your shit. You worked hard for that shit (even if you didn’t) and you don’t want to leave it behind. That’s why I saw families with hand-carts that literally were piled with all the furniture in their house. That’s why I saw a husband and wife duo staggering along with a desk across their backs like they were some mutant camel with a wooden up and human beings for legs.
Some people had nothing, literally in one case – I saw a man walking with the group who was stark naked – and others had way too much. With all due respect to the nameless old man and his advice there has to be a middle ground doesn’t there? Actually now that I think about it what you should do is have a hideout prepared where you have some supplies stashed just in case. Of course most of these people can’t afford anything extra anyway. Once they caught up with us they started spilling out their tales of orcish atrocities with a weird kind of glee and one-upmanship that people display sometimes. Like there’s a competition for who saw the most hacked and violated bodies. Autane, Rova and Pragma were smart enough that once we were engulfed by this mob we stuck close together and kept our eyes open and our hands by our weapons. There’s nothing like a crisis to bring out the worse in people. After a few hours of traveling with the mob we split off to have a little chat.
“So what do you think? If there’s more orcs about do we stick to the road or head into the woods?”
Autane turned towards the trees to our south “We’ll travel much slower in there.”
“We’re already traveling pretty damn slow.”
Rova had a determine looked “We’re recovering, we can move faster than this if we need to.”
Pragma took her hand, keeping a sharp eye on the line of refugees “If we stay on the road we should press on tonight to get away from these people, if there’s an orcs about this target will attract them like flies to honey.”
“Do flies like honey?”
Rova looked briefly at the woods “I’m not sure we want to go in there, there’s bugbears around here I’ve heard.”
Pragma nodded “That’s true. This sounds much more serious than just some orcs out raiding, this sounds like an entire tribe out to wreak havoc. If they want to do the most damage they’re be heading for the Uthden Homesteads.”
“That’s good, that’s away from us.”
“What I was wondering is if we should try to warn them.”
“How? You’re in no shape to go running through the woods trying to beat an orc horde to their target.”
Autane looked even more afraid than when he was actually being attacked by orcs yesterday “If orcs attack the homesteads it will be slaughter. I don’t think they even have a militia down there.”
“Hold on, we don’t even know that here is an orc horde for sure, maybe this is just more raiding than usual. And if there is a horde we don’t know what it’s going to Uthden. And even if both those things are true there’s nothing we can do about it. If there is going to be an attack they probably already know about it. It’s not like orcs are subtle. People must be fleeing there as well. They’ll carry the word south. If there even is any word to carry.”
Rova’s look became even more resolute “We have to try.”
Pragma pointed “If we head straight southwest through the woods and push hard we can . . .”
“Are you two insane? You’re barely on your feet right now. You almost died. We don’t even really know what happened to you. You’d never make it. Even if you were healthy you’d probably never make it. Besides we don’t even know that there’s anything to warn anyone about.”
Rova repeated “We have to try.”
Pragma was adjusting a strap or something on his boot “You two should continue on to Arbeven, tell the Baron . . .”
“First of all the Baron is out of his fucking gourd, he’s been mind dominated by a Kostelos shaman – that’s why I came to find you in the first place, I wanted help with that. And we know how well that worked out. Second, I have something that might help us, don’t go running yourselves to death just yet.” I sighed and pulled out my Token of Summoning “I’m not even really sure what this this does, but let’s see huh?”
I broke the token in half as I was directed and it began vibrating so violently that it jumped out of my hands. I hope I wasn’t supposed to hang onto it for the magic to work. The skipped along the ground like a grasshopper for a moment and then stilled – expanding/melting into a pool of metallic goldish liquid that formed a perfect circle many times larger than the token itself had been. The brassy circle shimmered like air on a hot day for a moment and then I had a moment of wild vertigo as suddenly I was looking through a hole into an entire massive metal city from above. Like we were hundreds of feet up in the sky above this mad city and standing on a thin sheet of paper that had a hole cut in it. It was just for a moment but the sense of distortion was almost enough to pitch me off my feet.
A second later and the hole was gone and standing before us was a woman with pink-red skin who was twelve feet tall if she was a foot. Her scarlet skin was traced with elaborate tattoos or markings that looked to be gold somehow infused in her very flesh and she was encircled with dozens of delicate golden chains around the neck and waist, not to mention the scores of gold bracelets that stacked up her arms. Her ears were long and pointed, even more than any elf I’ve ever seen, they extended a good six inches above the crown of her head. Her eyes were a darker red than her skin and her pupils were a glowing orange. Her thick dark hair was banded into triple braids with more gold and extended almost all the way down to her ankles (more gold there FYI). The sudden appearance of this woman caused quite a stir, the line of refugees was a ways off to being with and they quickly moved even farther away. The word statuesque gets tossed around far too often, but in this case it was apt. Heat was blasting off her like I was standing next to a roaring bonfire several feet high.
“Whoa, so you’re like a devil or something?”
He scowl was like a thundercloud “No, I’m a malik, now what do you want it’s fucking freezing here and I want to get home as soon as possible.”
“What’s a malik?”
“It’s what I am! Tell me what you want right now or I’m leaving.”
“Okay, well you see there’s some orcs that maybe are heading for . . .”
“I didn’t ask for your fucking life story lady, tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it. I’m not here to chat.”
“What if what I want is for you to chat with me?”
“Then that is what I’m here for.”
“Is that what you want?”
“Lady you are seriously damaging my mood, I was having a good day until rightnow. I’m freezing my tits off here. The next words out of your mouth better be you telling me what you want or I am going to burn your face off.”
“Rude. Alright, can you get us to the Uthden Homesteads in a . . .”
Before I could finish my sentence we were somewhere else. Looking south at all the farms stretching out before us I have to assume that somewhere else is the Uthden Homesteads. Autane looked like he might faint dead away but Rova and Pragma being experienced adventuring types took it all in stride.
“I hope you’re right about these people needing to be warned because that thing cost me a lot of money.”
Rova raised an eyebrow “You hope there’s a mob of murderous orcs heading towards us?”
“You know what I mean.”
Pragma looked a little wistful “It’s too bad that our chests back at the guardhouse were stolen but that creature or it’s minions. We had a decent amount of money there, we could have paid you back.”
“Yeah, too bad. Well you can just owe me. For that and for saving your lives. And for all the heroic shit I’m probably about to do.”
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, 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, 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