Last night on the way back to the Song and Dance last night I bought a nice bottle of Kurniwan ’68. I wasn’t in the mood to sleep so I stayed up most of the night and had a good chat with the wine. Aubesh’s speech about my murderous ways bothered me a bit, not because she’s right by any means – she’s a babe in the woods she doesn’t know anything – but because I have wondered myself from time to time if I can “go back”. For the last year I’ve been in survival mode, and surviving means that you can to do things that would be frowned upon in polite society and that’s fine. But how far can you go down that path before there’s no turning around? We’ve all seen the guys that come back from the front lines and they just can’t do it anymore. Normal life is beyond them. Something and simple as going to the market to by bread has become foreign to them. They’ve become something else. I don’t want to reach the point where I can’t live a life the way I want. What’s the point of revenge if you can’t enjoy it afterwards? Don’t get me wrong, if the only way to get the Duke is to become the type of monster from which there’s no turning back that’s what I’ll become. Revenge is job one obviously. But if there’s a way to get what I want and not become a post-human lunatic clearly that’s the best case scenario. It’s important to have priorities lest you lose your way.
I met up with Martialla and Aubesh for breakfast at one of the many eateries catering to the late night/early morning gambling crowd across the bridge, surviving off the largess of those who’ve hit it big and the “Well I’ve lost most of my money anyway” cynical spendthriftism of the everyone who didn’t. We had barely sat down at our table by the dirty window before Aubesh was hissing at me urgently.
“Did you do it? Did you kill him?”
I glanced around “Say it a little louder will you?”
Martialla looked around as well “I think they’ve heard worse here.”
Aubesh lowered her voice maybe one half of a percent, good thing she already talks quietly “Just tell me what happened.”
“I didn’t kill him.” Martialla raised a surprised eyebrow as Aubesh’s face turned white “I told him that I killed you.”
Aubesh’s fright turned to confusion “What? Why?”
Martialla seemed slightly confused as well “You seemed pretty intent on ending his life yesterday.”
I sighed “Oh, you know, when I got there and I looked at him I don’t know what happened. I just wasn’t in the mood anymore. I can’t explain it, killing a pimp is pretty much a public service. Anyway, since I wasn’t going to kill him I figured that telling him you were dead accomplishes the same thing.
Aubesh thought for a moment “Did he believe it?”
I nodded “Yeah, he believed it, I’m very convincing you know. Obviously if you hang around town that’s lie is going to unravel itself pretty quickly. You’ve got the five platinum in your pocket that I gave you plus whatever you managed to squirrel away on your own. If you can’t make your way out of Preen with that and set yourself up somewhere else there’s nothing else I can do for you.”
“Where should I go? What should I do?”
“Whatever you want. You’re free. Aside from not being able to stay in Preen, which is like freedom only better if you ask me. Start a new life, or go back to your old one, whichever suits you.”
A dark look came over her face “My old life is what got me here in the first place.”
“You know what I mean. Just go. Make something of yourself, if you want to. Whatever calamity got you here, it’s time for you to leave all of it behind. Just get out of town. Don’t look back. Go somewhere far away and start a new life. I really think that would be good for you. A clean slate. You could get a job as a singer if you wanted to. You could meet someone, start a family. Your life is just starting Aubesh. If I could, I’d trade places. A whole lifetime ahead of you with a chance to start over again, to do things differently. In a few years, this might all feel like nothing more than a bad dream. The choice is yours.”
Aubesh was pretty shaky so we stashed her with Adelis, which also gave us a chance to update Adelis on the situation. We didn’t update her on everything of course, but we confirmed that her suspicions were correct about our loverboy mage. After getting Aubesh situated Martialla and I returned to the Song and Dance to attack a bottle of Niswani wine and plot.
“Alright so here’s what I’m thinking. What we need to do is to get Dalphios . . .”
“. . . whatever, you know who I meant. We need to get that guy and his oh so deadly team of mercs out of this house and then we go in and rescue Bethlalia . . .
“. . . whatever, you know who I mean quit busting my chops! The point is that we need to arrange it so that we can we get in his house and get her out while he and his murder squad aren’t there. Piece of cake.”
“But you’re the one who said that rescuing her wouldn’t matter because Dulphistos would just find her and kidnap her again.”
“I know what I said, but Preen is awful, it’s time for Adelis to move on anyway.”
“Nice of you to decide that for her, you’re always so considerate. That sounds like a great idea, but how are we going to get a famously reclusive wizard with no outside connections to leave his house?”
“We pin the deaths of his assistants . . .
“. . . of those three guys, on someone else. He’ll come out with his Bravos to kill the people we frame and that’s when we make our move to rescue Cathledendzia. We’ll go to his house in disguise and say that we were at the casino and that we saw Dross and the others get into an altercation with whoever we decide to frame. We’ll play up how they, the one’s we’re framing, were talking about taking them out. The smart mage can draw his own conclusions and then we’ve got ourselves a runner.”
“Why would whoever we’re pretending to be do that?”
“Because we want to curry favor with the great and powerful wizard.”
“I think that’s a terrible plan. I think if he’s any kind of wizard he’ll see through our disguises and even if he doesn’t if any of his men go to the casino to confirm our lies it’s not going to check out.”
“Do you have a better idea?”
“Yes, I think it’s safe to assume that the Lumber people came to some kind agreement with Dulphistos when they took over the town, even if it’s just to stay out of each other’s way. We use them as the go-between. We go to them and tell them that three broads lured Dulphistos’s assistants into an ambush. Said broads were working for whichever gang is causing the Lumber Consotrium the most trouble because they’re making a power play and they want to make sure Dulphistos doesn’t come into the fray on the side of whichever gang they’re trying to knock off the top of the ladder. The Lumber people will help sell it because even if they don’t believe it or don’t care they want the gang that’s causing them problems taken out and if someone else does it for them so much the better, plus if anyone checks at the casino they will say that Tarver was there being wooed by three ladies that had no business wooing him. Because he was.”
“Hmm, that is a better plan.”
“Assuming that Dulphistos and the lumber people have at least a non-aggression pact, we also need to figure out which gang to pin it on. But with that information I feel like it’s a pretty good plan.”
“I guess we better get to work then.”
Martialla raised her glass “I guess we better.”
Switching disguises often Martialla and I made the rounds of all the dives and gin-joints and other establishments of ill-repute to get a rough draft of the underworld hierarchy of Preen post-Razmiran. The local Lumber Consortium bigwig is a Halfling by the name of Premum Anypoint who by all accounts is not happy about that fact and is looking to settle things as soon as possible so he can move on from Preen – which shows quite a bit of common sense in and of itself. When Razmiran fled the city the bulk of his lackeys and minions quickly switched their allegiance to someone else or got out of town themselves. But some of them banded together to try and hold his little empire together, and the leader that emerged of this band was none other than the anvil-faced guard who tried to cave in my chest during the robbery, whose name is seems is Velké Dářkos. This group had tried to dub themselves the Assassins or something manly and stupid like that but was saddled instead with being called the Black Sheep by popular acclaim. They failed to retain control over most of Razmiran’s assets but endure as a persistent thorn in the side of new powers that be. And even better, one of the only groups allied with the Black Sheep is the Gallows Girls, desperation, bedfellows, etc. As I had assumed most of the other gangs used the chaos as an excuse to strike against them and they’re barely hanging on by the skin of their tits. Putting this all together had taken the rest of the day so Martialla and I returned to the Song and Dance for a nightcap.
“The only thing that would make this plan better is if we had someone else that could finger the Black Sheep-Gallows Girls for us.”
“I was thinking the same thing, but we don’t have those connections. Unless you think there’s a way we can use Generous.”
“That would give me a good excuse for not killing him. I’m not sure how to pull it off though, unless we can get some of his other girls to filter the information up to him.”
“That could get messy, I never like relying on someone else to tell lies for me – other than you of course.”
“Of course. Maybe we don’t need to rely on them. Aubesh has to know some of the other girls, even though she was never really in the ‘trenches’ with them – so to speak. Maybe we have her tell us who else is on Generous’ payroll and then we snatch them and replace them to pass along the information ourselves – as them.”
“Now we’re kidnapping prostitutes? I thought we were saving them.”
“Eh, case by case. Besides, I’m sure they’ll be better off getting out of town with Adelis than they are with Generous.”
“There you go again, you have a real knack for deciding what’s best for people without their input.”
“Yes, it’s one of my many fine qualities.”
Funds: 28,040 platinum, 53,613 gold
Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Amulet of Dreams, Ela’s Traveling Outfit, 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), Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s 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 (26), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring, tiara, masterwork red and black long greatcoat, 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