This is going to be hard for you people to understand, probably impossible, but in a certain way I envy Martialla. Not her looks obviously, not her filthy bloodline polluted with magic, not her mannish peasant shoulders or her wide child-bearing hips. Definitely not her fashion sense. But while I am clearly the most alluring and interesting person in the world, I have a small amount of covertness for her easy-breezy low down dirty kind of charm with the subordinate classes. As you well know I can fit in with those sorts when I need to, being the master mimic that I am, but I have to work at it. I see Martialla and Kendrick talking and laughing and being good old countrified buddies (you know the kind of buddies I mean) after just meeting yesterday and I feel a little twinge of missing out. Trust me, I wouldn’t trade my many gifts for Martialla’s earthy pig-fed vigor, but there’s something there.
You probably haven’t noticed because I’m such an unreadable stoic cypher (while still remaining enthralling and magnetic) but I have a tiny tendency to keep people at a distance – what with the scorn and the abuse and the cursing and all. Most of the time this works out fine, better than fine really, fantastic I would say. But every once in a great while I can feel the tiniest bit lonely. Don’t get me wrong, on the whole keeping people at arms-length is the best thing for me. But you know, on a rare occasion I see Martialla carrying on like a fool and I wish that I didn’t have to be the unapproachable tower of dignified strength that I am. But I do so have to be the unapproachable tower of dignified strength there’s no use complaining about it. Nobody likes whiner. Nobody good anyway.
We traveled without incident today, probably because of the Baron and his men. I assure that if it had just been Martialla, Ismail and me we would have been trampled by a herd of gorgimeras or the earth would have come to life to swallow us or an intra-dimensional posse of tiger-headed demons would have appeared out of nowhere and turned us into Albardanian fighting crickets or some other damn thing. We stopped in the mid-afternoon so that we could approach the village early in the day tomorrow instead of arriving near dark today. Ismail brought out his ugly little statue to mediate or pray or whatever it is exactly that he does. Martialla and Kendrick disappeared together. A few of the Baron’s fighting men gathered about the Strider priest Farlain to listen to his nonsense but most of them set about the soothing/nerve-wracking pre-combat rituals of weapon and armor maintenance. I’ve been in many a fight at this point but they’re general ad hoc affairs. I’ve never really seen men (and women) in the lull before the battle. It’s interesting to see people who may be dead tomorrow going about their mundane tasks without much fuss. I suppose these must be true dyed in the cloth warriors for whom death is their constant companion. Not sure how I feel about people with that kind of fatalism.
I was hoping that the Baron would invite me to dine with him at as fine a table as can be assembled under this circumstances but he’s an aloof fellow and in any case barely seems to travel with any manner of Baronly extravagance. Left to my own devices there was little to do but while away the hours until night. Thankfully I’m a champion whiler. The night turned out to not be so restful though. You know that feeling when you wake up in the dead of night and you get the sense that there’s someone in the room with you? It’s distressing, but it’s not as bad as when someone actually is in the room (or in the case tent-section) as you. Without the magical lights on its pitch black in my Pavilion, but even so could tell that I wasn’t alone when I woke up. Softly speaking the word of command to summon light I was presented with a hunched and twisted figure. An ancient woman whose craggy skin looked like large patches of it had been dissolved with acid. Her mouth was overly wide and her eyes were less solid objects than tacky balls of white goo. Just for fun she was completely nude. I leaned up on one elbow to speak to her.
“Auraluna, you’re looking well.”
Her voice was stinging and papery, striking my ear discordantly “I knew it was you. I knew it would be you. I tasted your blood, I could feel it throbbing in your veins.”
“So you’re the hag that’s vexing the village? I wondered what had happened to you. I thought you were some kind of alchemical demon vampire not a hag.”
“You’re not frightened of me.”
“Well you’re not actually here, you’re just a projection, an illusion.”
She licked her lips dryly with a long dusty worm-tongue “You have grown more powerful. When our paths crossed before you were a scared rabbit. You’re no wolf yet, but no longer a rabbit. That’s good. I’ve never much cared for hunting rabbits.”
“You’re sticking around then? I figured since now you know I’m coming with all these hag-killers you’d run.”
“I shall run no longer. I thought that I could regain what you stole from me but it’s too late. The weight of years is upon me too heavily. I’m already dead. You killed me months ago, I just haven’t died yet. I see now that I have one pleasure left to me. My only desire now is to take you with me. Drag your rotten soul to the Hells to be tormented alongside me.”
“That’s nice, at least I’ll know someone down there, I hate being somewhere where I don’t know anyone you know?” She hissed like a punctured kettle “I don’t know if you came here to scare me or to see if it really was me or just to hear yourself talk, but before you go I have a question. How exactly did you come to this? I don’t know much about your history but I never heard anything about you learning magic or anything like that. How did you end up a bloodsucking nightmare beast?”
He smiled mirthlessly “Looking to turn back time? You are looking old Ela. This life doesn’t suit you.”
“I have no plans to start murdering young women and injected their blood into my veins to stay young Auraluna. I just wanted to know your story, since it’s going to die with you tomorrow.”
“You say that now, you’re still young enough. But you’re vain, as vain I ever was. If you weren’t going to die tomorrow soon you’d start to wonder what can be done to hold back the sands. Whatever money you had would be spent on treatments, and it would help, a little. But more time would pass and more and more money would be spent for less and less effect and then one day you’d see some young pretty girl with her smooth skin and her firm breasts – and she’d be laughing at you. Laughing at what you’ve become. A shriveled old prune desirable to no one. And you’d think ‘why does she deserve to look like that?’ It’s an easy step Ela, the only thing most people lack is the opportunity.”
“I have no doubt that’s true, but you mistake me Auraluna, which is understandable because you don’t know me. I’m prideful about my looks, overly so probably, but when the time comes the time comes. I have no illusions about what’s going to happen to me. My grandmother was reputed to be a real beauty when she was young but when I saw her she was ‘dignified’ or ‘handsome’ or the other words you use to spare the feelings of a woman who used to be attractive. For a woman in her fifties she looked great, but what does that mean really? Nothing. I learned at an early age you only get a short window where you look good. I intend to enjoy it but when the time comes I’m not going to hold on. When it’s time to go it’s time to go. I very much look forward to being a rich and powerful older lady who still gets what she wants despite the blush of youth being off. I honestly get a grin whenever I think about all those young studs lining up to jump my old bones because they want something from me. I find that more arousing than anything that could happen to me now. You don’t get a happy ending if you live forever Auraluna.”
She laughed, a maniacal hyena laugh “Even if I wasn’t going to kill you tomorrow you think that your life would have a happy ending?”
Before I could say anything the “door” to this section of the tent flapped over and Martialla stuck her head in – Auraluna disappearing in an instant.
“What the Hells is going on over here?” She looked around “Who were you talking to?”
“Turns out the hag we’re going to kill tomorrow is an old friend.”
“Fancy that. I thought for a moment that you had someone in bed with you.”
I snorted “What bed?”
“Can I ask you a serious question?” I waved her in and she sat on the floor in the corner. “For all your sexy talk I don’t think that I’ve ever seen you take anyone to bed. What’s your deal? Did you experience in your old life mess you up in the head?”
“That makes me sound like a victim.”
“How would you like me to victim you in the face?”
“Hmm, I don’t know what that means but it certainly has the cadence of a threat so I would imagine I wouldn’t like it all.”
“Sorry, what I actually meant was get the Hells out!”
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