It’s been a good while since I had to share a bed with anyone. I feel like it wasn’t that long ago that I would have gotten the bed and Martialla would have slept on the floor like a servant. What happened? How did things change so drastically? I feel like the most fundamental freedom of human existence has to be getting a bed all to yourself. Not that Martialla is particularly annoying sleeper, but when you’re in bed with someone you learn quickly that it’s possible to resent the way someone breathes. You know, the thing that all living things need to do all the time to not die? And it didn’t help that she had no problem falling asleep at all. I found myself starting over at her wishing she would die. There’s that old wives tale about cat’s sitting on your chest and stealing your breath while you sleep? I was thinking about that happening to her. Would I be sad? Of course, but at least I could have gotten some damn sleep. Sidenote that’s actually not completely made up, there’s a fey creature that does sit on your chest and steals your breath while you sleep and they often transmogrify themselves into the form of cats. Sleep tight kids!
Remember when I had that magic ring that made it so I didn’t need to sleep? That was really something. I think it’s probably good that it was stolen from me though because I think it was messing up my brain. That’s the problem with magic, you never really know what’s going on. Maybe the magic is that it lets you not sleep but you still NEED sleep and it’s slowly driving you mad. Remember when I had that magic tattoo that let me shoot lightening out of my hands? Man, I used to really have some good stuff. Now I don’t even have a crossbow anymore. I need to remember to buy a new crossbow before I head out of town.
Since I couldn’t sleep anyway I was up before dawn and decided to check out Double B and see how easy it would be to kill him. Premum had told us that he was staying at an inn near the guildhall that was run by a former lumberman and hooked them up with cheap rooms. I saw that his window was open and scampered up the side of the building with my Boots. Remember back in the old days when would have had to charm my way into his room? I don’t miss that. Some folks really get off on manipulating other people, I’ve grown to loath it. Maybe it’s because that was my job back in my old life, but now I find something very unsatisfying about having to wheedle others to do my dirty work for me. Wow, there’s a thing I never thought I’d think. Anyway, once I got to the top and was crouching in the window like a dirty vampire I saw Double B in bed, arm around a plain looking gal with an overly wide face and curly blond hair that looked like it had been combed by a blind baboon. This is particularly interesting because yesterday when Premum was mooning on about Glory he mentioned her long dark hair many times in various annoying ways.
Slipping back down the wall I crossed over to the lumberman’s guildhall and broke the door down with the magic of my Walking Stick. I made my way to what I assumed was Premum’s office and took a seat in his chair to wait. Surprisingly I fell asleep on the desk and was rudely awoken some number of hours later by a confused looking fellow with slicked-back hair and limp spider-like hands.
“Um . . . can I help you?”
I blinked sleepily “Why do you hold your arms against sides like that? It makes you look weird.”
“What are you doing in here?”
“I thought this was Mr. Anypoint’s office.”
He pointed down the hall with his filthy spider-leg of a finger and I headed down that way to find Premum hard at work shuffling papers around. If I’ve learned one thing in this world it that’s important men have a lot of papers they need to move around desks. He looked up as I entered.
“Did you already kill him? That was fast.”
I sat down across from him with a yawn “Better. He’s banging some other broad, I saw it with my own eyes. If you kill the guy then Glory’s going to be sad right? She’s not going to want to jump in the sack with you right away. And some people grieve for a long time, who knows how long you’ll have to wait for her to be ready to love again? Not to mention, no offense, you might move in too soon and ruin the whole thing. But on the other hand we if expose Glory’s husband as a philanderer she won’t be sad she’ll be pissed. And what better way to get back at an unfaithful husband than getting together with his best friend. It’s perfect, she’ll think about how she should have married you in the first place. Trust me, I know how women operate.”
His mouth hung open “B is cheating on Glory? I can’t believe it! What did this other woman look like?”
I overlaid myself with an illusion of the woman in the bed “Like this.”
He found this even more astonishing “How did do that?”
“Who cares? Just tell me where Glory is, I’ll go there right now like this and confess the whole thing and in a few weeks you two will be plowing like crazy. Or do you still want to go with the murder plan? I think this is better plan but you’re the man in charge so just tell me what you want.”
In the end Anypoint saw the wisdom in my idea. He wanted to come with me to tell Glory, he wanted to say that he found out about the scheme but I convinced him that was not a good idea. It’s better if he’s merely the sympathetic friend – riding in like the white knight is often a terrible idea. Keep that in mind folks, if you find out the object of your desire is being cheating on don’t tell them yourself – it’s not going turn out the way you want. I popped across town to tell Glory that “I” had been getting it on the sly with the man that pledged before the Gods to love only her and forsake all others. How “I” was being torn apart by guilt and I needed her forgiveness. Such forgiveness was not forthcoming. She slapped me so hard I was seeing double for a moment. It took all my self-control not to kick the shit out of her but I managed it. So that’s personal growth I guess. She called “me” every name in the book, following me down the street and shouting abuse as I tried to get away from her. In order to get away from her I did end up having to shove her into a horse-trough, but that should just help add fuel to the fire.
Once that whole situation was squared away I went to pay a call on Vetovia at her shop and let her know that operation save your friend from hagdom was about to launch. She was pretty surprised, one that I was following through at all (why don’t people trust me when I promise insane things?) and two that it was happening so quickly. She seemed willing to come with us at first but then started to worry about her shop being left attended. She was going to see about getting someone else to watch it, but I told her not to worry and just stay – there’s no one in Preen I would trust to guard an empty bucket. A couple hours later Martialla and I were a ways outside of town ready to travel and waiting for the promised pit-fighter to join us.
“I sincerely hope I never have to return to Preen.”
“You say that about every town we go to.”
“And I mean it too.”
“There’s something I’ve been wondering about. How do a Shireling and a normal person . . . you know.”
I raised an eyebrow “Normal person? Whoa, I had no idea you were a bigot Martialla, this very revealing.”
She mad an exasperated noise “You know I’m not like that. I just . . . that lumber guy is so little.”
“Love is love you monster.”
Eventually we saw a figure walking out to meet us. He was plainly dressed and had a sack over his shoulder, looking very much like any other peasant out for a day of peasant drudgery. As he came closer he failed to cut any more impressive of a figure. He just looked like any of a thousand other countryfolk only slightly less downtrodden. His main distinguishing features were a scar on the chin and a tattoo on each arm – a dragonfly and a spider.
I frowned slightly “Are you the guy?” He nodded. “And you know where we’re going?” He nodded again and I looked over at Martialla “I think we’ve been fleeced.”
She smiled and reached out to shake his hand “Don’t mind her, my name is Martialla.”
She shook her hand quickly, like touching her was unpleasant to him “Call me Ismail.”
“Because that’s your name?” He nodded and my scowl deepened “Then why did you say it like that? You know what we’re going to do right? You’re a pit fighter?” He nodded again maddeningly “You’re not on a word count limit here buddy, you can use your words. Are you any good at fighting?”
His only response was to shrug.
Martialla clapped him on the back “Look, he’s alive right? What better evidence could there be of success in the pits than that?”
I looked at him dubiously “I suppose. I don’t see any weapons. Are you one of those empty hand types? With the kicks and the jumping and the ‘ki-ya’ all that?”
“Not exactly. You clearly aren’t very impressed, but can I ask you a question – how many pit fights have you won?”
I smirked a little “Just the one.”
“That’s impressive, one more than most people.” He adjusted his sack on his shoulder “My understanding is that it doesn’t matter if I win, just that I fight. So what does it matter if I’m any good? I’m willing, that’s enough.”
“That’s true, I guess.”
As you may have predicted our new friend didn’t have much to say while we traveled – just following along a few steps behind Martialla and me. On the plus side he didn’t complain either, so all in all a pretty neutral traveling companion. When we stopped for the day he finally did something noteworthy. Unwrapping his bundle, among a few other odds and ends was a crude wooden idol – if you squinted real hard it looked like maybe it was a mantis. He set it down on a red piece of cloth facing the sun and then sat behind it.
“What are you doing?”
“To a bug?
“To an archetypal representation of a bug, to the philosophical concept of the ideal form of a bug.”
“Doing so allows me access to unique and useful abilities. This reverence gifts me with innate physical advantages in speed, strength and endurance. Prayer allows me to manifest these abilities more and more over time. Think of it as mediation if that helps.”
“Helps what? Me think that you’re not insane.”
He closed his eyes “Oh, I’m quite insane. What sane person would intentionally seek out a path where you fight and kill other living things?”
“Fair point. So you’re a great warrior, let me run something by you. Some people talk about rage and passion and fury being the key to winning a fight, but I think those people have never been in a fight. I think people who have been know that training and discipline are the way you win fights. But I’ve been in a few scrapes now, too many for someone as pretty as I am, and I think that they’re both wrong. I think it’s mostly luck. Not blind luck, but more along the lines of taking advantage what presents itself. Realistically I should have been killed in the first battle I was in, having little to no training and no real desire to fight anyone. Yet here I am victorious, because of what? Resourcefulness? Good luck? A combination of circumstances, events, actions and personal willpower operating by chance to bring me a good outcome?” He didn’t speak so I prompted him “Well, what do you think of that?”
“I think you’re looking for meaning where there is none to be found. You won your fights because you won them.”
I snorted “How helpful. I thought the path of the true warrior was self-reflection. I won because I won, you’re a regular philosopher.”
Funds: 28,040 platinum, 47,545 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, 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