Any time you’re making a plan and you say “hopefully” it’s not a good plan. Sometimes you have no choice though. It’s easy to think that maybe if we left the money behind that would have resolved the matter – on horseback they’d be mightily hampered if they tried to take the coin with them. But if I was them I would have just buried it and come back for it later after killing the witnesses. Once those morons driving the coach stopped for the deserters the die was cast. As we traveled yesterday it became clear that even with several hours head start there was no way we were going to lose Colonel Ciarán’s men. Maybe if I had any experience with driving a coach we would have, maybe not – but our progress was probably not half of that that it would have been with a veteran coachman at the reins. I thought that it might be helpful to switch out horses at one point, but looking at the harness I had no clue how to work it all. I probably could have figured it out but that’s time we didn’t have.
Once night was coming on I debated stopping, since driving at night based on first principal skill level seems dangerous but in the end I decided against it – I have to assume that our pursuers aren’t going to stop and they would definitely overtake us in the night. Our progress was even slower after dark but any forward momentum at that point was better than nothing. After midnight I gave Martialla another draught of healing from the Flask and she felt strong enough to take over driving for a while so I could rest fitfully in the back. We went through Sirasee in the night and considered stopping there to try and hide, deciding against it in the end. In the morning I was driving again and could see the Colonel’s men behind us and Cataola in front of us. I knew we weren’t going to make it.
Martialla and I switched places and I mounted up on the spare horse. I used my Beastspeech to explain to the team pulling that wagon that the driver didn’t know what she was doing but that they needed to get to the town ahead as fast as possible or they were all going to die. Have you ever seen a horse look dubious? I have now. They say that an experienced team knows their business better than a novice driver – I hope that’s true. They took off at a much faster pace than before, much to Martialla’s dismay, almost toppling her off the driver’s seat. I stayed with them a while to encourage them as best I could and make sure everything was “okay” relatively speaking before spurring my mount on towards Cataola. Galloping with a rider isn’t what coach-horses are bred or trained for but I still outdistanced the coach quickly.
Once I was a mile or so away I used my vocal abilities to start shouting that bandits were on the way. The response from Cataola wasn’t terribly impressive. A couple people came out to see what the shouting was about and one fellows started to mount up a horse but I was there before he even got in the saddle. I came skidding to a stop so abruptly that my horse nearly sat down on its horse-ass to slide in. I addressed my remarks to narrow-faced fellow still in the process of getting ready to ride.
“They’re right on the tail of that coach, where are your fighters?”
I looked at the four other fellows standing by, they were dressed in buff coats and had spears but only one of them looked like a real hardcase, and he was missing an arm (and had an odd bent sword instead of a spear). One guy was ill-looking and seemed out of breath already and the other two looked scared out of their wits. Once narrow-face was finally ready to ride he waved his arm at me and took off back down the road. I followed, wondering what exactly he was expecting to do. At this point the Colonel’s men were closed enough to the coach some of looked to be contemplating leaping aboard but they turned off when they saw us coming. Narrow face and I accompanied Martialla into town where the exhausted coach horses were immediately seen to by the coaching house staff. The Colonel’s men sat on their horses looking towards town maybe a quarter mile away.
“You need to get everyone out there now, anyone who can hold a weapon – hammers, shears, pointed sticks, whatever they got get them and get everyone out here now.”
Narrow faced regarded me coolly “Those men appear to be under the arms of Tarl Ciarán not bandits.”
“Call them whatever you want, either they’ve gone rogue or the Colonel is playing some game because they’re attempting to steal from the Crown. In that wagon is the tax revenue from Cathars, they’ve already killed at least sixteen men and right now they’re deciding if they want to ride in here and kill us too.”
“I don’t suppose you have any sort of proof.”
I draw out the tax collector’s badge from my pocket “The man in charge of this money gave me this before he died.”
At his command Sicko and the Scaredy-Cat twins ran off to start yelling for everyone to grab whatever weaponish things they could and come outside. In a few minutes a crowd gathered outside, maybe three dozen men and older boys with a hodgepodge of implements. Three older fellows turned up in buff coats with spears that looked hard as nails for all they were creaky and iron-haired. A soft looking dwarf merchant patted an ornamental mace that looked like it would fall apart if you so much as swung it but he had four doughty guards standing behind him. Martialla and I went into the coach-house where she conjured the images of half a dozen crossbowmen in the windows and then we came out a moment later – I covered with the illusion of a massive northern mercenary and she taking on the form of a large, shaggy, fur-covered humanoid with clawed hands and feet. Two long, upright tusks protruded from her borrowed mouth and her ugly yellow eyes spoke of horrible violence. This appearance quite disturbed the crowd until Narrow-faced yelled at them to settle down.
Only a few real fighters in the bunch but it was enough to make the Colonel’s men think twice about charging in. Even mounted against footmen you have to be a pretty salty dog to take on five to one odds. It was probably the illusionary crossbowmen that turned the tide though. They were far enough away and their horses worn down enough that covering that distance under fire would have been not fun. After a few minutes a couple of the horsemen rode close enough to shout they wanted to talk and upon not being shot down came closer. Their spokesman was wearing a long coat and large hat that concealed his features like he was worried about the sun – I think he was even wearing goggles. His voice was dusty and parched, like you tend to be after a hard ride.
“Who rules here?”
Narrow-face moved his mount slightly forward “I speak for Cataola at this time.”
He nodded “Good, that’s good. I don’t know what those women have told you but you seemed to be all riled up about it. They’ve stolen a large amount of money from Colonel Ciarán and we’ve been sent to bring it and them back to face justice.”
I kept my fake mercenary lips shut and threw my voice to come from the building with the illusionary crossbowmen “We’ve both made some pretty serious accusations, I think the best thing to do is to send to the magistrate in Obsis and let him sort this out.”
Since these folks were killing to make sure there were no witnesses I knew they couldn’t be up to any legitimate business – either they were looking to keep the money or the Colonel had ordered them to do some ugly business. He was a pretty good liar, but he hesitated and that Narrow-face all he needed to know. A good lie has to come without hesitation, unless there’s some reason why you would be reluctant to tell the truth. Goggles was a game deceiver but he made it too obvious that he was thinking of a lie so the game was up.
Narrow-face waved his men forward “You boys are obliged to stay with us while we fetch the magistrate. Otherwise I’m sorry to say that you are not welcome in our town just now.”
I’ll grant them this, they didn’t give up. Just around the time everyone was thinking “how long to we got to stand out here like this?” Braids himself came to chat.
“I don’t know what those two thieves have told you, but this is the situation. There’s a lot of money in the coach that you just took in. Money that no one is going to miss. I won’t lie to you, we were trying to take it for ourselves. We saw that money and what we saw was retirement. What we saw a little bit of the good life. We’re sworn to the banner service of Colonel Tarl Ciarán, he’s a good and honest master. But he’s a master. What we get we get so long as we work hard for him, and what is there at the end? The Colonel never has to worry about himself or his family. He’s never been hungry. Never worried about what the next day will bring. That’s the kind of life I wanted for myself and for my wife and for my two daughters. Peace of mind. I’m not kidding myself here, I was trying to take money that didn’t belong to me – I won’t claim to be in the right, but I’m not entirely wrong now either.
What I’m saying now is that there’s no reason that we can’t all share that money. There’s more money in there than everyone in this village combined will ever see in their life. We can all have a share, that money would do everyone a lot of good. Like I said no one is looking for that money, no one knows about it except us, no one is going to come looking for it.”
I made my voice emerge from the coach-house again “And why is that? Why is it that no one knows about this money? Don’t worry, I know the answer to this one – because you killed them.”
He nodded “We did, they were enemies of the kingdom, we’re soldiers – that was our duty.”
“And taking this money for yourselves? Is that your duty too?”
“No, I don’t claim the moral high ground here, I’m just offering everyone a chance to prosper – is it better that two thieves have the money or all of us?”
“This money is the property of the Crown and it’s our duty to see that it returns to the proper authorities.”
“I’ve said my piece. Decide if you want to make your lives better or hand over a fortune to a couple of con artists.”
He rode back to his men and the gathered townfolk start talking excitedly amongst themselves. Many of them moved to look in at the coach, but Narrow-face and his men kept them back. Once Narrow-face dismounted I saw that he walked with a limp, which is probably why it took him so long to get mounted. He looked after at Martialla and me in our disguises.
“This is quite a heap of trouble you’re brought to my town. I guess I better go and have a look at that money.”
“Alright, but the money itself doesn’t have any marks on it if that’s what you’re after.”
He grunted and after a moment we were joined by a woman with messy blonde hair wearing a brown dress and spectacles with silver rims. Dogging her heels was a younger fellow clutching at a holy symbol of Odobenine around his neck. I took them to be the mayor and her assistant. We showed them the chest of coins and the mayor’s eyes danced with delight, until Narrow-face dashed her hopes.
“I don’t know which story I believe, doesn’t matter really, either way the best thing to do is send for the magistrate and let them sort it out.”
She looked at her assistant for support “But wouldn’t we . . .”
His tone was firm “No.”
“Hold on a minute Mirran, think about all the good that money would do for the town. Think what . . .”
“There’s no use in thinking about what can’t be Eryn.” He looked to me “I’m taking custody of this money and sending to Obsis for the magistrate.”
I let my disguise fade and nodded “Sounds like a plan.”
Funds: 28,040 platinum, 59,605 gold
Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Ela’s Dazzling Garment, Belt of Physical Might +4, Ring of Urban Grace, Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Extraordinary Walking Stick, Ela’s Elegant Boots, Ela’s Extravagant Necklace
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), darkwood and platinum music box, silver bracelet set with bloodstones, platinum ring set with fire opal, silver and moonstone bracelet, holy symbol of Kozilek
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