Even though the terrain is not similar looking walking towards Preen today made me think of walking along the Compass river after I killed Erist and how awful it was to be alone. It made me realized how comfortable I’ve become traveling with Martialla. It’s nice not to travel by yourself AND also not be worried about your traveling companions wanting to hurt you in some way. I’ve never say this to her face of course but Martialla is the perfect traveling companion. She doesn’t talk so much so that she’s annoying but she talks enough to help the time pass – and more importantly what she has to say is rarely tedious. And even more importantly she lets me dominate the conversation, which only makes sense because I have a lot of great things to say. She decently suspicious of being attacked so she has eyes up but she’s not all twitchy about it like real paranoid types. She always (usually) has provisions, which are disgusting but that’s not really her fault. She knows enough woodcraft that we don’t die (right away) but she’s also not one of those gross woodsy types. She’s quick with a joke, she doesn’t mind backing me up, she’s sharp on the uptake, and she doesn’t mind stabbing someone in the back.
Maybe she’s not literally the perfect traveling companion because she can’t navigate for shit, she can’t sing at all, and she’s full of magic, but it’s a sliding scale. Once we spotted the river we realized that we were slightly off course and were somewhat north of Preen, but for us that’s not bad when it comes to overland travel. Instead of turning south we saw a bridge slightly to the north so we headed for that. This turned out not be a great idea. The bridge itself was pretty normal and bridge-like, but as we got closer we saw that on either side of the bridge there were small camps. Camps full of people with weapons and armor. There were at least a dozen men on our side in awful pink and green livery with insignia that looked like a merchant’s scales that only had one bowl, or whatever those things are on a scale. I bet they have a name. As we approached the soldiers watched us with interest. I suppose we should have disguised ourselves first. Oh well.
I addressed a fellow with one of those cooking-pot type helmets that had a sergeanty feel to him “What the Hells is this?”
Even though I was showing nothing he stared unabashedly at me like he hadn’t seen a woman in years “No one crosses by order of Baron Saltwheel!”
I looked at Martialla “Saltwheel? Isn’t that the idiot Sir Krajeo said he was serving under until he got distracted by a butterfly?” Pot-head growled. “What? Are you and Baron Saltwheel close personal friends?
Little flecks of spit flew out of his mouth “Baron Saltwheel is a great man!”
“What has he ever done that’s so great?”
One of the men behind him grinned “You should see his wife.”
Pot-head shot him a furious look but had no other commendations for his beloved Baron.
Martialla frowned slightly “I thought Krajeo said that Saltwheel was a Lord. Did he get promoted?”
“A Baron is lower rank than a Lord.” Pot-head growled again “What? That’s just a fact buddy. Sir Krajeo must have been using Lord in the honorific sense, in the way that all nobles are lords.”
“Well that’s just confusing.”
I shook my head “How many freaking Barons are there in this county? Every six miles we seem to be tripping over some Baron or other.”
“We did just see the disintegration of an entire alliance of barons. Probably some of the landless ones decided to stick around and grab what land they could since no one seems to be in charge of anything here.”
“Is there anything worse than landless nobles?”
Pot-head started shouting again “Baron Saltwheel is not . . .”
He stopped in confusion “What?”
“How much of a bribe to you need to let us across?” I could tell that one of the men behind was about to say something lascivious so I pointed my Walking Stick at him. “No. Do not.” I turned back to pot-head. “Look, we could just wait until night and sneak past you, but I’m not in the mood to cool my heels for hours waiting until night falls. Just tell me how much of a bribe you want. If you’re here on this shit duty you can’t be getting paid much. Just name a price and let’s all get on with our day.”
For a moment it looked like he was going to feign umbrage, but he quickly changed his tune “One gold a man.”
“How many men are here?”
He licked his lips quickly “Twenty.”
“That’s a lie but I don’t care. Twenty gold it is.”
I handed over the money and he was positively giddy that had had gotten one over on me. He practically started capering right before me. He ordered his men to clear out of the way and they actually cheered when we stepped onto the bridge. As we crossed we saw pot-head and all his men watching us with gleeful anticipation.
Martialla glanced back “What’s that about?”
I sighed “I suppose we’re going to find out.”
And find out we did in about ten seconds. At the other end of the bridge there was a larger camp and from it came two men under arms in purple and green livery with a three-headed fish sigil accompanied by two dirty adventurers. How did I know they were adventurers? I’m wise to their act. One of them had a fucking whip with a hook on the end for the Gods sake, no self-respecting person would have a weapon like that. Plus they were wearing studded leather which is not armor so much as the uniform of the wandering sellsword. The other one was a female half-orc and I’ve not encountered the military force that would allow a recruit like that. Even for a half-orc she was weird looking, her skin wasn’t grey or green or even bluish – it was the color of a bruised peach. One of the soldiers held their hand out imperiously.
“Stop! No one is to cross the bridge by the order of Baron Harmenkar!”
At this proclamation back on the other side of the river pot-head and all his men started laughing riotously. Some of them were laughing so hard they had tears rolling down their faces. The one who mentioned Baron Saltwheel’s hot wife cupped his hands to shout as us.
“You want off the bridge on this side its ten gold a man!”
This witticism kicked off another round of laughter, one man laughing so hard that he fell over.
Gritting my teeth I turned back to the purple and pink fish-man “How much to pass?”
The other solider looked back nervously at the half-orc while his buddy answered sadly “Baron Harmenkar has decreed that none shall cross the bridge. So no one will cross the bridge.”
“Surely we can come to some kind of . . .”
The half-orc grunted and hefted her stupid weapon “He said no one’s gonna pass, so they aint gonna.”
“Is that a stick with axe-heads on both ends? That cannot be a practical weapon. There’s no way anyone would wield something like that.”
She grinned, showing off several broken teeth “Come on over and find out for yourself you prissy little bitch.”
Martialla snorted “That’s what bothered you?”
The guy with the whip held up a conciliatory hand “Don’t mind Afra she hasn’t had her day whiskey yet so she’s a little testy.”
Martialla snorted again “Sounds like someone else I know.”
I glared at her “Shut up you.”
Mr. Whip continued “We’re been hired by Baron Harmenkar to help his men make sure that no one crosses and that’s what we’re going to do. It’s nothing personal.” He glanced at his half-orc friend “There’s no need to be unpleasant.”
On queue one of the unpleasant fellows on the other side of the river shouted a comment about me “getting it from both ends” and there was much raucous laughter again.
I smiled gaily “Of course there’s no need for unpleasantness, I’m sure it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I came across just to talk to whoever is in charge here. If we can’t work something out cordially my friend and I will be happy to return to the bridge.”
The two other members of the party (because adventurers always come in fours by metaphysical law) where a shaven head fellow with a greatsword on his back and a burly mastiff at his side and an odd looking gnome with vibrant red hair and a great busy beard. Baron Saltwheel and Baron Harmenkar both were claiming the bridge for the purpose of extracting tolls but they weren’t ready to shed any blood over it yet so for now they had both ordered their men to stop anyone from crossing while they “figure it out”. It was actually fairly easy to convince Mossus, the fellow with the big sword, that there was no harm in letting us pass since there was another bridge a few miles to the south. I sounded them out about leaving this stupid job and coming with us to Aleene to do some proper adventuring instead of waiting around a bridge but he didn’t seem interested. What’s the world coming to when adventurers would rather guard a bridge from no one than try to save a nobleman? You really can’t count on them for anything.
Funds: 28,040 platinum, 47,525 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, Baron Saltwheel, Baron Harmenkar