Montalan 27 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 1

This is the way morning should be.  Wake up whenever you feel like it.  Have yourself a nice massage and a soak.  Pop on lovely silk robe.  Enjoy a light breakfast (smoked warpig sausage, silver goose eggs, deep dwarf blue cheese, roasted breadfruit, and a spinach rice bowl with steamed egg and spicy potatoes) with a couple Sweet Bloody Marys . Retire to the veranda to smoke some flayleaf and take in the cool clean morning air before everyone gets out there and starts breathing all over the place.  This is the way morning should be for people like me anyway, somebody needs to be digging ditches.  I wonder how ditch digging became the go-to activity for describe manual labor, are there really that many ditches that need dug?  Martialla joined me and we were in theory discussing our plans to head north – should we get horses, take the river up to Obsis, hire a coach, etc. – but mostly I was just procrastinating.  I am not looking forwards to getting out on the road again.  Not one bit.  As we were chatting there was a polite knock on the door and one of the Song and Dance staff bowed their way in tell me that I had a visitor.

“You mean assassin?”

The poor fellow looked quite perplexed “Uh, pardon?”

“Just joking, sort of, send them in.”

He ducked his head fawningly as he made to back out if the room “Very food madam I’ll give you a moment to get dressed and then send them in.”

I waved my hand carelessly “Just send them on in, its fine.”

He literally gasped “Madam, surely you can’t mean that.”

I dropped him a sassy wink “Surely I can.  If my bare legs are an affront to them and sends them running for the hills I doubt they would have anything interesting to say anyway.”

Martialla gave the fellow a look “You may as well do as she says, you can’t argue with her.”

I looked over at her as the attendant slunk away “People argue with me all the time, sometimes it seems like that’s all they do.”

“You know what I mean.”

After a moment joining us on the balcony was an elegant dusky skinned woman in a tasteful yet stylish magenta traveling dress with bronze accents.  She walked with a slight limp, almost such that you wouldn’t noticed, but it slightly marred he otherwise elegant and picture perfect “appropriate” demure lady court stride.  I know for a fact that she’s more than forty but she makes many a young maiden pale by comparison. 

“Well if it isn’t Adelis Breakspear, I didn’t suspect that I’d ever run in you again.”

She nodded with a very slight smile “I was very surprised to see you breeze into town yesterday myself, almost as surprised as I am that you remember me now.”

“How would I forget the only woman in court who could hold a candle to myself?”

Her smile became a bit more genuine “You’re too kind.  I don’t remember you dressing quite so casually in those days.”

I flicked the butt of my flayleaf over the railing of the balcony “Those were different times.  Besides, there’s no reason to stand on ceremony in a pigsty like Preen is there?  What brings you to this pathetic hamlet?  Did Reginleif grow weary of your charms?  Seems impossible that any man would do so.”

For an instant only a dark look came over her face “It was simply time for a change.  Always best to leave while you’re still on good terms.”

I laughed wryly “I wouldn’t know about that.  I assume you didn’t come to reminisce about old times, is there something that I can do for you Adelis?”

She glanced at Martialla and then back to me “Perhaps.  I run a small operation here and one of my girls, Cathédala, is overdue to return.  She agreed to stay with a local of some repute for a month, that was four months ago and I haven’t heard from her since she was due to be back.”

“I assume there’s no reason that I need to ask if you’re sure that she just hasn’t taken up with this fellow never to return?”

“There is not.”

“Do you think that some harm has befallen her?”

She looked pensive “I wouldn’t think so, but this man is . . . strange, so I couldn’t rule it out either.  I think mostly likely he decided he wanted to keep her without paying anymore.  Not exactly kidnapping but in that arena.”

“And even if there was a real city watch here, which there isn’t, they’re not going to care about a prostitute maybe being held against her will by a rich man.  If you’re running an outfit here you must have some breakers on the payroll for this kind of thing, or at least some friends that do that sort of work.” 

“This isn’t that sort of work, this client needs a more diplomatic approach.”

“What is it that you want me to do exactly?”

“Whatever you can do to help.  Investigate, make sure Cathédala is okay, maybe help broker a deal of some kind.  I know you just got into town, but you had a knack for making connections both high and low.”

“And what makes you think I would be capable of something like this even if I wanted to help you?”

She glanced at Martialla again and took a moment before speaking “At the time I bought into your performance completely, you fooled me, and I say with all humility that if you folled me I’m certain that you fooled everyone.  But since leaving court I’ve ran into two different people that told me a different story.  From personal experience they pegged you as an associate of a certain . . . network of philanthropic individuals.”

“Altruism?  Me?  People have been telling you tales Adelis.  Regardless, I could do a little digging around for you, no promises of course.”

She nodded “Of course.  In terms of compensation I was considering . . .”

I waved away her concerns “Don’t worry about it, consider it a favor.”

This broke her composure for a moment “Do you really mean that?”

“Sure, why not?  We’re not exactly old friends, but we’re old something right?  We have to look out for each other, I mean who else is going to look out for us?”

She seemed just a hair shy of being gobsmacked “That’s very generous of you, thank you Ela.”

I stood, gathering my robe “Think nothing of it, after all, I haven’t actually done anything yet.”

By “strange” Adelis meant that the man of the hour was a wizard.  Had I know that, well I still probably would have agreed, but I would have grumbled about it a lot more.  I love a good grumble.  He’s called Dulphistos the Fantabulist or something stupid like that and like seemingly all wizards he’s a mysterious figure that no one really knows much about.  He came to Preen a decade ago and has rarely been seen since.  The rumor was that he lent his magical support to Razmiran but didn’t seem to care too much about him being essentially deposed, which means if there’s any truth to it at all that rumor he was a hired arcane goon rather than a fast friend.  People were very concerned about Dulphistos getting involved in the recent “troubles” on one side or the other but as the wizard’s way he did nothing.  All Adelis could tell us is that the deal had been brokered by Dulphistos’s assistant who has the unfortunate moniker of Dross.  Armed with this wealth of information Martialla and I were off into the mean streets of Preen, after lunch of course.

“Is this what we do now?  Track down misplaced sex workers?  Or is this just you finding a way to stick around town a while longer?”

“Can’t it be both?  If you want a justification to make you feel better how about this one – if we do this for Adelis in return maybe she can get us some reliable back-up for the Juost Manor scenario.”

“That does make me feel better, so long as I don’t think about how if she had any back-up like that she wouldn’t need us to be doing this so obviously she doesn’t.”

“There you go, just don’t think about it.  Now you’re getting it.”

Ruby’s Scriptorium looked the same as before, although the cabinet maker next door didn’t seem to have weathered the civil unrest as well, as it was all boarded up.  For someone that can read and write for themselves I seem to end up interacting with a lot more scribes than you’d think.  Clearly bookbinding and copying manuscripts is a shadier business than I thought.  Perched behind her counter like a gargoyle Ruby and her disreputable wig looked the same as well.

“Hey Rube, how’s business?”

After a moment she looked up from the book she was hunched over “Do I know you?”

I put my hand over my heart “Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, you wound me.  How can you not remember me?  How many people come in here threating to snatch that mop-head off your pate and kick your face in for sassing them?”

She grunted sourly and closed her book “More than you might imagine.”  She pointed up at some bewildering placard half hidden behind a stack of books “Those are my prices, what do you want?”

“Information”

She snorted derisively “Not on the list.”

I took out one of my diamonds and placed it on the counter “How about now?”

She was about to make some remark about it being fake, but then looked closer and quickly snatched it away, stashing it somewhere down by her feet.

“What do you want to know?”

“Last time we chatted so companionably you bragged about having protection.  Assuming that wasn’t just you talking shit, I need to know who’s in the protection business.”

“Don’t matter, they’re gone now.” She shook her head “Everything has changed.  Those revolutionaries fucked up everything for everyone, now we have those Lumber Consortium bagmen everywhere.”

“Oh, things never change that much.  Your friends weren’t smart enough to get on board with the Lumbermen but someone was, and I assume they’re who you deal with now.”

She gave me a hard look for a moment “Tiller.  You can find him at the Red Hearts Gambling Parlor most nights.  And if you talk to him you don’t know me.”

“What kind of name is Tiller?” She shrugged “You copyist types seem to deal with wizards sometimes, have you ever had any dealings with Dulphistos or his assistant Dross?”

She shook her head and appeared to be about to say no more, but then grudgingly spoke up “His man Tarver has been in here a few times to buy special paper.”

“And who’s he?”

“I think that Tarver is Dross’s assistant.”

“The wizard’s apprentice has his own apprentice?”

“They all do.”

“So it’s some giant pyramid scheme of wizardry?  That can’t be true, if every wizard had their own apprentice and those apprentices had apprentices then eventually everyone in the world we be someone’s apprentice.”

Martialla looked thoughtful “Maybe the apprentice twice removed only gets a non-apprentice lackey until they move up the chain and that lackey then becomes and apprentice and gets their own lackey.”

Ruby looked at us both bitterly “You can leave my store now.”

I raised an eyebrow “Do you know how much that stone was worth?  I should probably own your store now.”

She folded her arms resolutely “Out.  Now.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 23,045 platinum, 49,843 gold

XP: 789,511

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, unknown gauntlets, mysterious staff, Cape of the Mountebank, Sandals of Sprinting, +1 Agile Rapier  

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 (26), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring, tiara, masterwork red and black long greatcoat, lots of luxury goods, Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three) 

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