Take it from me folks, there’s really nothing that can put you in a good mood like bearding a mighty wizard and getting away with it one hundred percent completely free and clear. It’s a great feeling. Those pointy hat types think themselves so superior with their spells and their books and their stupid robes but what are they really? A bunch of weirdoes living in towers and kidnapping women because that’s the only way they’ve ever get to touch another human. As my grandmother used to say they’re no better than they should be. I don’t know what that means really but it sounds good. After soundly humiliating the all-powerful and all-knowing Dulphistos I turned in early last night and slept the calming and relaxing sleep of the righteous and awesome. If you ever get a chance to take on a wizard you should do it. Probably you’ll get turned into a frog because you’re not me, but it’s worth it on the off chance that you come out ahead. I was still basking in the glow the next morning as Martialla and I had breakfast on the veranda of my room at the Song and Dance.
I took a deep breath “Ah, what a wonderful day. It’s the kind that almost makes you feel good to be alive.”
“And so now we’re going to go back to Cauldron and pick a fight with a hag? That’s the plan right? Remind me why we’d do something like that again.”
“Oh, you know me and my flights of fancy. If you want to be practical about it though having a craftmage on our side wouldn’t be the worst thing now would it?”
She shook her head “You just want . . .”
She trailed off in mid-sentence and then a strange look came over her face – and I mean that literally, in that her face looks strange not that she had an odd expression. I’ve seen her disguise herself with magic illusions many times, hundreds probably, and this was a little like that only it was still her own face. It was like someone who had seen her was trying to put an illusion of her face over her actual face. It was rather unsettling. Next thing I knew she was extending her arm, mumbling her magic words and twin beams of deadly fire were roiling towards me. I managed to avoid one, but the other punched me back out of my chair and into the railing of the balcony – you know, in addition to burning the Hells out of me. I saw her stand up calmly with another spell on her lips and I rolled awkwardly over the railing, getting my Boots on the underside of the balcony and walking upside down out of her line of sight. I managed to disengage the Boots and tuck myself into a flip to land on the ground without breaking my neck.
Not that long ago I would have just assumed that Martialla was betraying me and thought nothing else about it, but now I thought about that strange change that came over her and figured she was being controlled somehow. I know what you’re thinking “If you love Martialla so much why don’t you marry her!” That is childish, you are a child. But it’s not even that, it’s not that I’m more trusting, it’s that I’m more paranoid. About things like wizardly mind control. I saw a couple of Dulphistos’ goons hanging around on the street and one of them made a rush for me – getting a Walking Stick-full of snakebite in his face for his troubles. I’ve seen men falling to the ground clutching at a snakebitten face many times now and I’ll never get used to it. Once time Martialla asked me why I always go for the face when I use my snake-stick. Why wouldn’t I? I took out my crossbow and shot one of the other goons as he was standing across the street looking stupid, but then I saw the mailed axeman and the lizard-guy coming to box me in. I was thinking about making a break for it when Martialla floated down to block off the other path – which I’m pretty sure is not a thing she can do. I’ve never see her float before.
The voice that came out of her mouth was not her own – it was the voice of a weak man “You have something that belongs to me.”
“Last time I checked slavery is illegal in the Kingdom. But perhaps you meant ‘belong’ in a less literal sense, more of a being chained together by the bonds of love, something like that. Two faces of a coin or some such. The problem with that notion is . . .”
Martialla’s hand came up, palm out, cracking with magical energy “Where is she?”
“Look man you got to get over it, there’s plenty of women out there for all of us right? You’re getting hung up on this broad for no reason. I haven’t seen you but I assume you’re a decent looking man. And you’ve got all this cool magic power and bandits under your thumb and shit. Women like that kind of thing, I tell you what . . .”
I flash of light jumped out and struck me in the chest, in addition to being painful as all get out I’m also sure that my heart stopped for a moment.”
Her hand shook with invasive anger “Where IS she?!”
“I don’t know, she’s gone and I don’t know where. I didn’t want to know, I don’t care where she went okay? I was just doing a favor for a friend. My father and her father are pals and they were talking one night at the bar and . . .”
“LIES!!! Her father is dead.”
“Not her birth father obviously, the guy married to her mother now. He never had a chance to have a relationship with her you see and my father owed him a favor from the war and . . .”
Martialla’s arm cut awkwardly through the air in what should have been an imperious gesture “Silence! Tell me where she is or die.”
“I don’t know where she is. I just know she left town. You’re a mighty wizard right? You should be able to track her down what with your mighty magic and all. I realize that my friend and I have caused you problems, I didn’t understand who you were, like I said I was just doing a favor. You know how it is with family right? Now that I know who you are I am abjectly and completely sorry. Give us a chance to make up it to you, give us a task or a quest or something, let us . . .”
“You will die, and your friend will be tortured until I find my love. She will beg for her own death.”
“Hey, what about this, what if I take her place?”
Martialla’s face twitched as if the person controlling her as confused and it didn’t quite transmit “You want to be tortured?”
I shook my head, biting off a cutting remark “No, not in the murder-torture plan, let me take the place of whatshername, Cathasomething.”
“Right, her. You want a woman? I’m it. I got a look at old Cath and let me tell you something straight, she was pretty sure, but look at me. I mean am I right? Plus she seemed like one of those uptight types you know? I’m sure she was kind of lame in the sack. I can guaranty you this, I know how to please a man. I don’t mean to brag but . . .”
The controller’s sneer crawled its way onto Martialla’s face “You think this is about something as venal as sex? This is about love. Something that I doubt you know anything about! Sex without love is like food without taste. Why would I welcome you into my bed when my love has been taken from me? The crass skills you brag of mean nothing to me. My love meant more to me than . . .”
“Venal? I think you meant venereal right? Look if you’ve got the crotch-rot that’s kind of a deal breaker for me. There are ways to work around it sure, but I’m just not into it you know? I have to tell you, I’m not surprised really, when I saw Cathadela I could tell she was a filthy, dirty, disgusting, brutal, janky, bottom-feeding, trash-heap whore. Sometimes just by looking at someone you can . . .”
The voice issuing from Martialla’s mouth screamed with rage, but instead of being annihilated by arcane energy I stood unharmed as she began to twitch like a marionette that has two different people working the . . . handle things. I bet those have a name. You know what I mean, the little wooden things that work the strings. Martialla flopped to the ground convulsing as I activated my Boots for extra speed and charged at the lizard, transforming myself into metal form via Amulet and hurling myself at him like the world’s sexiest javelin (beating out the Winged Harpoon of Delarch Malguyre). The crown of my head hit him right on his long lizard snout and he was walloped with the full force of a woman turned into metal slamming into his lizard face. Have you ever wondered if lizardfolk can be knocked unconscious? Wonder no more, they can.
I scrambled to my feet and saw the axeman coming towards me, but then pause as if heeding unheard instructions. This allowed me to get my crossbow up and fire but it deflected off his armor as harmlessly as a pebble. I felt a strange crawling sensation on my skin, like some manner of slick liquid was trying to crawl underneath it and grasp onto my bones, but I willed it away. I took careful aim at the axeman, going for the eye-holes in his helm, but again my bolt clattered away harmlessly. Martialla was getting to her hands and knees and he stood over her with his axe poised to strike.
The strange hollow voice of a man in a greathelm issued forth “Surrender or I’ll cleave her head in two.”
I carefully put down my crossbow “Okay, I surrender, now what?”
Those giant helmets are great for protecting you from getting shot in the head, but they’re terrible at letting you look around to see which of your boss’s bandit-minions are still around. The Axeman had to turn fully to see who was still about to issue his commands to and at that moment Martialla rolled onto her back and slipped her rapier into the gap between the armor on the inside of the thigh and the groin. Someday they’re probably make a kind of magic armor that has no gaps you can attack. I wonder what will happen then. It’s not like we’re going to stop killing each other. I suppose they’ll have to make magic weapons that boil you alive from the inside right through armor.
The Axeman was clearly a robust individual but getting stabbed through the inner hip-area tends to take the wind out of your sails. Even so when I came at him he walloped me with his axe hard enough to cleave through my metallized skin. If I had been unprotected he would have slaughtered me like a butcher. I was knocked down and away like a leaf battered by the wind but Martialla skidded up behind him and conjured a glob of motel metal right in the grill of his helmet. The screams that echoed out of that metal cage will haunt me for some time. I’ll have to remember that one for when I get my hands on the Duke. In his pain-maddened panic the Axeman tore his helmet off and Martialla put a dagger into the back of his skull. And that was the end of that fellow. For good measure she pulled her rapier out of the dead man’s inside thigh area – with no little effort – and impaled the lizardfolk as well. The rest of Dulphistos’ lackeys wisely ran for their fucking lives. My metal skin wore off and I started to gush blood out of my axe-hole but a healing draught from my Flask brought it down to acceptable levels of bleeding to death. Martialla walked over cleaning the blood off her blade.
“Remind me not to get on your bad side.”
“Thanks for not killing me when I was possessed.”
“I’m not sure that I could. If the two of us ever came to blows for real that would be a Hells of a fight.”
She gave me a chilling look “Thankfully we’re the best of friends that would never happen.”
“Well, I guess we better go finish this.”
“Meaning let’s head back to Dulphistos house and kill him while he’s weak.”
Martialla crooked her head to the side “How is he weak exactly?”
I motioned “We, mostly you, just killed his two best goons. He’s shown here that he’s not going to let this go, I think this is our best chance to strike.”
“Except that all his other mercs should be there. We don’t even know these are his best goons, this lizard guy is probably just the tracker.”
“Maybe, but this other one was his personal bodyguard I would guess. Regardless what other options tdo we have? Wait around for him to attack us from the spirit world again? Sidenote, I just want to make it known that he tried to possess me too and I was able to resist him. So don’t get any ideas.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.” She sighed “I guess you’re right, we better make a move. I think it’s a bad idea but it’s the best idea we have right now.”
“That’s the spirit!”
Funds: 28,040 platinum, 47,550 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, Ela’s Boots
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, eyeless hag