The entire village turned out to watch the conquering heroes depart – which was easier since a bunch of them had been killed by the bloodlust (literally) of a very old woman and her daughter. Baron Ridley and what was left of his men (and women) were headed north along the tree line to visit the village that Auraluna had killed, I guess to bear witness to its destruction? Hard to say why exactly. Life as landless nobleman monster hunter is pretty inexplicable across the board. There was a little bit of that “it has been an honor” bullshit but not enough to be annoying. I suppose it’s as good a way to say goodbye as any. Once the Baron and I had said our farewells and Martialla did the same with Kendrick they made their out of the village with no ballyhoo and then all the villagers went back to work. I’m sure that’s some kind of symbolism or lesson or something. We went to join Ismail where he was waiting a little ways out of the village.
“Do you want to come with us to Alleene and help us save Baron Juost.”
“No? That’s it? Just no? You don’t want to know who we’re saving him from or what the situation is? Usually people have all kinds of questions when I make a boldly provocative statement like that out of nowhere. You don’t want to know anything?”
“We didn’t go to Cauldron so aren’t you still on the hook for the debt or whatever you have with Premum Anypoint which he transferred to me?”
“I owed you one fight. I fought yesterday.”
“I feel like that that was more along the lines of self-defense. Really all you did is fight back against people, and things I suppose, that were trying to kill you. That wasn’t like the scheduled deal that you were supposed to do. What I’m saying is that was more of a free time type fight than a work thing.”
“No. I could have escaped without being hurt. I fought them because I knew you wanted me to.”
“Did I though?”
“Okay fair enough, I did want you to fight them, I’ll grant you that, but that’s like half credit right?” He shook his head “Okay, okay, but you’re a mercenary or an assassin or something right? I can pay you. Between you me and the ants on the ground I’m loaded.”
“That’s not how this works.”
I scowled “What is this? Some kind of warrior’s honor code bullshit?”
“There’s nothing honorable about killing people for money.”
“Sometimes there is.”
This elicited a slight smile. After packing up his meager possessions he turned and squared his shoulders to mine.
“It was nice to meet you Ela. I wish you well in your travels. Would you mind if we shook hands?”
I extended my hand and we shook “If I start worshipping a butterfly will I be able to fly? Is there a kind of bug that can make me a better singer? Some kind of chirping beetle? Can I learn to disguise myself as a leaf?”
I saw him walk to Martialla, say a few words and then shake her hand as well before walking off with his sack over this shoulder.
Martialla watched him disappear into the distance “Now there’s an odd duck.”
“Gee you think?”
“Don’t be a crab Ela.”
“I have to go with my strengths.
I’ve crossed Auraluna Domiel off my list, saved a village (some of it anyway) and gathered up the disgusting ritual components that Vetovia needs to rescue her friend from a fate worse than death. And it feels like just another day putting one foot in front of the other. After all that and we’re just walking back to Preen and you have to wonder what it all means don’t you? I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been almost been killed, I’ve probably forgotten some of them. My old life was all rules and order and guards and safety. Now I live without any of that. To live or die as I can, on my own. Some people would say that’s truly living. Life on the razor’s edge. I wouldn’t count myself as one of those people. I don’t want to go back, not to what I was, but safety? A good bed? Good food? I’ll sign up for that right now. Well not right now, but once the Duke is demolished, you know what I mean. Excitement? Adventure? People forget to tell you how boring those things are. I’ve killed one measly dragon and I’ve probably walked three thousand miles. They never talk about how much walking there is in the old tales of heroes and high adventure. Well except for the Tale of Tuuvo Fatfeet and the Very Long Walk. Which is better than you think.
After a few hours of adventurous walking Martialla looked over at me “I’m glad that I met you.”
“Met? Didn’t you hunt me down like a dog to ask for my help in a revenge murder?”
“Yeah, isn’t that what people mean by met? Seriously though, I know how you hate sincerity but I am glad that I met you. Most people never know what they are, which is good probably because when they come under the hammer they break. When they come under pressure they can’t hold their shape. You though. As you’re so fond of saying you’re no warrior. You’re a creature of cleverness and money and comfort. But the quality of your metal has been revealed by the hammer. You’ve been made strong by the forge. I watch you and I wish that in some ways I was more like you. Roll your eyes all you want Ela, I’m immune to your mockery.”
“So I’m a piece of metal huh?”
“Yes Ela, that’s the takeaway from what I just said, I think you’re a piece of metal.”
“Don’t go getting all mushy on me Martialla, any moment now we’re going to be ambushed by wyvern-orcs riding giant spinehawks or we’re going to fall into an enchanted underground realm where human livers are currency or we’re going to be attacked by a woodlouse the size of an elephant that shoots wolves out of its ass and I need you ready for action.”
“I’m always ready for action Ela, you know that. What, no snide comment about my promiscuity? I set you up for that one.”
“What can I say, the boredom of travel makes me introspective.”
“And what has your soul-searching revealed?”
“After I’ve destroyed the Duke, killed everyone who ever liked him and ruined everything he ever did I think what would really make me happy is being vastly wealthy and having a lot of stuff. Like an insane amount of stuff. So much stuff that I could never enjoy it all. I’m talking about owning property that I forget about because I have so much of it. I’m talking about having a level of stuff that makes other people want to die because I have so much. Not because I care about their reaction, that’s just a measure of how much stuff I want.”
“So basically all the stuff in the world?”
“No, that’s too much, but most it. I’ve also come to recognize my exile as the blessing in disguise that it is. I wasn’t doing anything to improve my situation and I probably never would have. I had resigned myself, without even knowing it, to living a life where I was wholly dependent on the good graces or someone else. I was nothing and nobody. I still wish that it hadn’t happened but what I wish even more is that I could go to my old life back knowing what I know now. I could have done so much more. I’m disappointed in myself that it took this catastrophe to make me realize that. I wish that I could have realized I was wasting my life without such a drastic event.”
“Nothing happens unless you make it happen, it’s a hard lesson to learn.”
“Nothing good you mean, all manner of bad things happen to you without any participation on your part.”
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, Ring of Urban Grace, 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), assorted hag pieces
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