The deal I struck with Mord was that after finishing up with the dumb touranment he’ll take his crew to Alleene and not cause any problems, waiting for Martialla and I to show up to start the rescue mission. I made it very clear to him that this plan depended on him keeping his nose down and his people out of trouble, so I’m sure by the time we get there everyone will be in prison. I know what you’re thinking “Ela, won’t you guys get there ahead of them if you’re leaving right now?” I like how you’re able to remain optimistic like that. It’s not overly intelligence but it’s endearing. It’s axiomatic at this point that any traveling I do will take ten times as long as normal due to kidnappings or falling through dimensional rifts or civil unrest or what have you. I was tempted to buy (or steal) Mord’s carriage off him since he’s ruining it with his commoness, but in the end I decided that it was too much baggage. I do hate to see such a fine thing in his fat grubby hands though.
Martialla and I got moving early and traveled without incident (!) arriving in Obsis late in the day. In the four or five months since we had passed through before Obsis has undergone quite a transformation. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a nothing town, but it had swelled to a nothing town of twice the size that it was before. There are plenty of new buildings – the inn where I had been refused a room (that guy’s lucky he’s not on the list) had been expanded and turned into a church. And the dance hall where I had actually ended up staying had also been converted into a church. I guess so they can have services at one while they clean the other one? Hard to say. I’m not an expert in religion. Adariel’s symbol was everywhere, as was what I assume is the symbol of the order itself – kind of a stylized image of Adariel’s symbol with angel wings added. There were also a lot of paintings and murals that I think are supposed to be Hardra – although I can tell you that the real Hardra never looked so serene and wholesome – she was more waspish and mean looking. I was examining one of these murals that seemed to be showing the styory of Hardra’s resurrection when one of the many people wearing blue and white robes came up to me.
“This isn’t right.”
The woman was startled that I beat her to the punch conversationally “Pardon me?”
I gestured “I don’t see me on here. Adariel seems to be getting a lot of the credit but I’m the one that actually brought Hardra back to life. I made a deal with a demon, I killed someone and that brought Hardra back – it was pretty simple in the end.”
The woman gasped “Blasphemy!”
“Hmm, I don’t think so. I’m not sure what they call it when you violate the tenants of a religion. Heresy? Or is that just when you have another religion you like? Does it matter if I’m not part of the sect in question?”
The woman hurried away frightfully as a man in a green and white robe came up almost as hurriedly. He had a little chin-beard and one of those high on the back of the head ponytails – neither of which did his scarred and ugly face any favors.
“Holy day to you pilgrims, I see that you’re admiring some of our iconography.”
“Yeah, I was just telling that lady it’s missing some parts. I’m not sure you people know the full story of what happened there.”
He smiled “It’s impossible for anyone to know the full story.”
“Sure. Who’s in charge here?”
He smiled beatifically “Adariel.”
I couldn’t help but roll my eyes “Right, but who’s the person in charge? I heard something about some kind of Heralds.”
This launched him into a lesson on the different levels of being a Hardraian Adarielist and the grand and glorious history of his three month old religious order. At no point did he say anything about who was in charge though. Not everyone in town was berobed (is that a word?) but the people that were dressed in normal clothing weren’t interested in talking – even to someone as amiable as me. That was until I was approached by a tall (even taller than me) mannish woman with short blond hair and a jaw most men would kill to have. Her voice was oddly high given her appearance.
“Why do you want to know who’s in charge?”
“I was friends with Hardra . . .”
Martialla snorted “What?”
“. . . I mean I knew Hardra. I haven’t been able to find out much about what happened to her after I brought her back to life, other than that his order that seems to be mostly men in a traditionally female leaning religion was founded based on the miracle of me facilitating her demonic resurrection. I was hoping that someone in charge could tell me where she is.”
The woman looked at my eyes searchingly for a moment before speaking “You better come with me.”
The last time we were here there was no taproom or tavern – now there was. A low windless shack with a couple mismatched tables. When we walked in there was no one inside. Our guide went behind the rickety bar and helped herself to something that looked more like porridge than alcohol.
She grimaced as she drank it down “You want to know the details or just the deal I’m offering?”
“What’s the deal?
“You get my daughter back and I’ll tell you where Hardra is.”
“Where’s your daughter?”
“They took her once they had the town firmly under their thumb. The Heralds have an eye for the pretty ones. And yes, she actually is pretty, she takes after her father. I know what I look like.”
“Why did they take her?”
She gave me an incredulous look “Why do you think?”
“That doesn’t seem like something even a fringe group of Adariel people would do.”
She shook her head “I don’t know these assholes even believe the bullshit they spout or if it’s all just a con but this group would have to walk a lot of miles to get into spitting distance of any kind of Adariel orthodoxy. It’s a wealth doctrine.”
“Seed faith? Are you kidding me? Why would anyone even bother? We already have a god of wealth. Probably a couple.”
She snorted bitterly “Yeah, but Odobenine is a greedy and corrupt god for the aristocracy and their bought and paid for lackeys. This is Adariel, the lady of goodness and family – and all you have to do to be rewarded with riches and treasure is join up and give away all your possessions and pledge your life to them forever.”
“Hardra did this?”
She gave me another apprising look before answering “You’re going to get me my daughter back right?”
I glanced at Martialla who nodded “We’ll give it a go.”
“I’m trusting you here, I’m giving away some of the details up front. Hardra didn’t do anything – when she was raised from the dead people lost their minds. Most of them anyway, some people who know more about magic know that it does happen from time to time and it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with miracles. These assholes just seized on that. They seized her too, literally. At first I think they probably planned on just controlling her the normal way, but after she came back she had . . . . problems. So they locked her away. Saints are much easier to capitalize on when they’re not around anyway.”
Martialla asked “How do you know so much about them?”
She looked Martialla square in the eye “They took my daughter.”
“Fair enough. Where are they keeping her? And what kind of opposition are we likely to face?”
She shook her head “I don’t know, they move her around a lot – between the two temples mostly but sometimes she’s not in either of them and I don’t know where they take her. About half the town has brought into this fuckery or at least is pretending to, but they ran off everyone who could actually fight from before. Their figurehead is a woman, but I don’t know what her deal is – she seems loyal enough. She’s a magus.”
Martialla made a face “A real magus?”
Our host nodded “I think so.”
“What’s a magus?”
Martialla blew out a long breath “Trouble. A magus is someone who’s a trained warrior and learned magic too, and knows how to channel spells into their attacks.”
“Isn’t that what you are?”
She shook her head slowly as our host continued “Aside from her there’s four heralds, they’re dangerous folks as well, along with half a dozen priests and maybe twice that many acolytes. They’re not all that dangerous but they’re fight if they have to.”
“And they’re all divine spellcasters?! That sounds incredibly dangerous!”
“No, none of them are.”
“Wait, why does anyone think they’re legitimate Adariel people if she doesn’t answer their prayers with spells?”
“Their lack of divine magic is explained at length in their articles of faith, it’s actually the priests that can do magic that you need to be wary of, do you really want to know the particulars?”
“I suppose not.” I looked at Martialla “So what do you think, to find this girl do we need to infiltrate this group or just sneak in and grab her?”
Before Martialla could answer the door flew off its hinges and red smoke started rolling into the small building. Coming up through the smoke were three men in black robes – that make sense, black robes for your heavies – but what makes no sense is they their robes were hanging open and all they were wearing otherwise was breechclouts. I mean sure, they were all in pretty good shape, but they weren’t chiseled like statues to the point where you’d want to walk around as naked as decency allows. What I’m saying is that for your enforcer squad it’s not all that intimidating to be nearly nude. Or maybe it is, you know, because of the implication. I was about to tell them that but I started coughing in the smoke almost– it stung the eyes like a bastard as well. It’s a good thing I had my Necklace to protect me because I could tell that Martialla got woozy and weak almost immediately.
The lead goon, you could tell he was the leader because he was in the middle and had is hood back, raised his adulterated symbol of Adariel and I could feel some tugging at my mind as he cast some kind of enchantment but it was weak and pathetic – I’d be surprised if you could control the thoughts of a toad with that bullshit. Martialla tried to cast a spell of her own, but either because of the smoke or the effects of the smoke (or something else) I’m pretty sure it misfired (spells can do that you know) because the place was suddenly filled with bees. Which is not something I’ve seen her do before or since – as a tip off was they started stinging the shit out of her just like everyone else. I tell you this much, our black robed friends regretted dressing like Pentarri dancing girls once the place was swarming with bees.
I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I’ve been told that there’s a sect of people that worship a pain goddess (or demon, what’s the difference honestly?) because they see the experience of pain as a pathway to transcendence of the mortal experience. The idea being (allegedly) if you can mutilate yourself and control your feelings – turn agony into joy – that’s the first step on a spiritual journey to becoming a luminous being of the universe instead of a lump of flesh. They call this Uncaging or something like that, assuming any of its true. Here’s a fun little song about her –
Torture-daughter of Tunori,
Sitting on the mount of anguish,
At the junction of three rivers,
Turning rocks of pain and torture,
Turn away these fell diseases
Through the virtues of the blue-stone;
Lead them to the water-channels,
Sink them in the deeps of ocean,
Where the winds can never find them,
Where the sunlight never enters.
My point is there’s some religions that are about sacrifice and endurance and suffering as a pathway to salvation. Clearly these Hardraians are not one of them given the way the black robes squealed like maidens as the bees got at them. I suppose in their defense it does hurt pretty bad to get bee-stung on the nipples. What I learned is that it’s pretty easy to clobber someone with a Walking Stick when they’re frantically waving at bees like frightened little girls. After they fled I grabbed Martialla (she had passed out at this point) by the legs and dragged her out of the poisonous smoke cloud. I looked around but I didn’t see our new friend anywhere – she must have lit out as soon as the black robes showed up. Which you have to admire. I stomped on Martialla’s stomach the way you’re supposed to and she came to with a wrenching coughing fit – one of those deep hacking deals where it sounds like someone’s chewing up their own insides. Hideous.
Martialla looked at me with red watery eyes “Why didn’t you pass out?”
“Because I’m not a baby.”
Funds: 53,040 platinum, 9,005 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, Colonel Tarl Ciarán’s wizard soldier, Victor, Beharri, Cebuano, Mayor Eryn, Chimera Trading Company