Last night the taciturn old man (why is it that old men only come in two models – bigmouth and laconic? Is there something about speaking a normal volume that isn’t conducive to longevity?) lead us deeper into the woods where his living cabin was – on account of we had blown up his distilling cabin (for which I reimbursed him handsomely so get off my back). There were ten of us packed into a one room shanty that was, estimating generously, possibly sixty square feet. After a couple hours I gave up trying to sleep in that dogpile and went outside to smoke the old man’s leaf and drink while simultaneously feeding a variety of blood sucking insects and reflecting on the bright vista of my life. Being a hero sucks. The pay is lousy and the people you have to deal with are a total snoozefest. I’m not sure when or how I started feeling compelled to go out of my way to help everyone but it’s really inconvenient. I need to do some seriously soul searching and remember how to be selfish.
About an hour before sunrise I saw a unicorn. I’m sure you don’t believe that because I was there and I hardly believe it. Had you asked me before I would have said that unicorns are no big deal – it’s just a horse with a horn on its head, which is kind of stupid when you think about it. But once you’ve seen a unicorm for yourself you can’t think that anymore. It’s not just a horse with a horn on its head, it’s something magical. And I know what sounds weird because I see magical shit all the time, but I mean magical in the sense of like wonderful. It had an aura of dignity and hope about it about it that was only slightly marred by the fact that it was splattered with blood and had one of those hideous goblin dogs impaled on its horn. I had a fantasy about pulling the dead monster dog off its horn and petting it tenderly (the unicorn not the dead dog) as it bestowed it’s blessing of grace and courage upon me, but it dashed off before I could even move.
There’s a lot of tales about unicorns, one is that they only appear to virgins – so obviously that one is not true am I right people? Another is that unicorns are a manifestation of Adariel’s joy and compassion, which ordinarily I wouldn’t put much stock in BUT I just smashed up a heretical Adarielite cult and then I see a unicorn? I mean maybe. On the other hand it doesn’t make a ton of sense to send a manifestation of joy and compassion to appear commemorating a victorious slaughter of heretics but maybe Adariel doesn’t have any warlike manifestations, being a God of niceness and harmony and clean clothes and fresh baked bread. Although she’s supposed to be a protector so shouldn’t she have some murder angels on staff? Then again shepherds protect sheep and they’re all pansies. Next time I meet a religious scholar I’ll have to ask.
Ronom (Tamarin’s mother) wasn’t excited about being stuck with the five other girls we rescued but since we saved her daughter from a grim fate it was the least she could do. She told us that the founders of the Sacred Order of Hardra had stuck their beloved living saint in in Brorrstone Asylum which is north along the river. I guess they like to be near the water so they can dunk the crazies when they get out of line – near drowning is a pretty widely accepted cure for all kinds of mental disorders I’m given to understand. Before we left in the morning the girls all came to thank us and try and hug us and all tiresome stuff – I mean get over it, we rescued you from a crazy cult but that was yesterday. One of them said she wanted to be just like me. Good fucking luck with that.
“Before we go Ronom what’s the big secret about Hardra? You said she had some kind of problem that ultimately made them toss her in the nuthouse.”
“Her behavior was erratic after she came back from the dead. She was highly . . . . sexual.”
A couple of the girls tittered at this remark “That’s it? She was like that before.”
“I don’t know about that, but as I heard it didn’t seem like she could control her . . . urges . There were some . . . incidents.”
“Well that’s nice and vague. Good luck, safe travels, if you ever need anything don’t hesitate to try and find me.”
Martialla and I set out heading north through the woods we thought, but when we reached the river it became clear that we were heading more eastward – although his turned out to be a good thing since as we traveled along the river we saw some of the fake Adarielists lying in wait where we would have been had we went the way we meant to go. I wonder how often that happens. It’s got to be hard to ambush someone who gets lost all the time – I should probably claim that I do it on purpose. There wasn’t much in the way of traffic on the river – probably because Renwick is mostly ruined (I think this river goes to Renwick). We saw a couple boats heading south which does us no good and the single small craft we saw going north merely responded to our hails by waving at us like idiots and continuing on their way.
With nothing else to do we walked. I estimate that since my exile from Paladore I’ve probably walked more than three thousand miles (I don’t claim it’s a good estimate mind you). I don’t even really understand what that means. How wide is the Kingdom? How tall is it? How big is the continent or the world? It’s not a scale you think about. How far away is the moon? Have I walked to the moon? And almost all of those three thousand miles have been in the same Gods forsaken rural county. I should be the foremost expert in Cymrile County geography by now given the amount of miles that I’ve traveled but I don’t think I’ve seen even most of it. All that walking and where has it gotten me?
If there’s one good thing about walking (which there isn’t) it’s that it gives you time to think. One thing that came to mind was the first time I really got hurt. And I mean really got hurt. It was in Heathgrove (or was it Malgareth? Whichever one is a shithole, well, MORE of a shithole) when that Hurk woman beat the Hells out of me – you remember, while by BODYGUARDS stood there and did nothing. Prior to that, in my old life I had fallen off a horse a couple times, which was as much as I had ever been injured. And after my exile but before Heathgrove I had gotten knocked around a bit, been injured in combat, but it was all relatively minor. That was the first time in my life that I had experienced true hope to die stick a needle in your eye pain. My face felt like it was so swollen it was going to fall off my head. My ribs ached like some demonic maid had cinched me into a spiked corset – each breath was an adventure in torture. But my hip was the worst of all. I still don’t think it’s healed properly even with all the magic “care” that’s been magicked into me. I mean how does magic healing even work? Does it move bones back into place? No one knows.
There are things that by necessity change your perspective. Waking up in a dirty alley as homeless woman with no job skills when the day before you were the kept woman of one of the ten most powerful men in the Kingdom is one of those experiences. But even more profound for me was that experience in Heathgrove. I remember lying in that crappy bed in that filthy house sweating through the mattress and internally screaming – how I didn’t get addicted to Heathensnuff or opium at that point I don’t know. And I remember thinking to myself “I will never give up”. I thought to myself if this is the worst the world can throw at me there’s nothing that’s going to stop me – aside from death of course. I’m not saying that’s the best shot that could be thrown at me, I know it can be worse, but it was a good shot and I took it.
Think about how many people want to be fighters and bad men and tough bastards and they train and do whatever and the first time they get fucked up, assuming they survive, they throw down their weapons and change their minds. They didn’t want to be rough and tough warriors after all. They just want to be the same as everyone else, living a boring stupid life that no one even cares about. They want a job they hate and a wife they resent and some kids they neglect and they never want anyone to hurt them again. And there’s no reason they shouldn’t want that, it’s a very reasonable reaction, some would say it’s the only logical reaction.
I just know that lying in that bed out of my mind with pain I never once thought about quitting – and I knew then that I never would. In a way I almost felt sorry for the old Duke – because he was done for the moment he threw me out of his court. At that moment I realized that his downfall was inevitable. I am inevitable.
We followed the river until it was starting to get dark, at which point Martialla looked at me expectedly.
She gestured “What do you mean what? Make with the magic pavilion.”
“What?! That’s been gone for more than a week. If I still had it why wouldn’t I have been using it?”
“I just thought you were being a bitch for some reason.”
“Why would I do that?”
She shrugged “Who knows what’s ever going to set you off? You’re mercurial you are. Touchy even.”
“That is a false accusation!”
“I mean you’re yelling at me right now.”
“That . . . . you . . .” I sighed “Are you telling me that we don’t have a tent?”
“I don’t have one, who knows what all you have hidden away in your secret holes.”
“Why do you always say it like that? Why don’t you say pockets or storage or even sacks?”
“Because that doesn’t annoy you.”
Funds: 53,040 platinum, 8,000 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