After a couple hours of walking today Martialla said that we needed to cross the river. It was at this point I noticed that we were on the side of the river. How the Hells did that happen? I know we were on the left side before – Obsis is WEST of the Scale River, the West I say! Assuming that’s the river we’ve been following. There’s too many damn rivers around here.
“What happened? Did we get lost following a river?!”
“No, it’s just the asylum is across the river.”
“But the river is on the other side!”
“The other side of what?’
“We were heading north along the river and the river was on our right. How did it get on the left?”
“The river bends to the east, besides this isn’t the river this is Turkey Creek, which splits off from the Hairpin river, which splits off from the Lower Scale which splits off from the North Umberlee.”
“You don’t know, you’re not a river . . . . . woman. I wanted to say oceanographer but that’s for oceans. What do you call a river expert?”
“But how did we get on the other side? If this is the Turkey Creek why is on the left and which way are we going?”
“We crossed the river, the other river I mean, yesterday.”
“Do you really want to talk about this?” She pointed “There’s the asylum right there, it’s on the other side – can we just go?”
I peered into the distance “Huh. Is there a bridge somewhere?”
“How would I know?”
“Is this a ford? Can we just walk across?”
“How would I know?”
“Well what do you know?!”
She held up a fist “One of these days Ela, one of these days.”
“You wish. I’m not the greatest swimmer in the world. I don’t love the idea of trying to paddle across if the water is deep. This looks pretty big for a creek if you ask me, more like a river. Is there a way to tell where a good place to cross a river is?”
“Probably there is, but I don’t know it. Do you want to put your arms around my neck while I swim like a little kid?”
She was taken aback “You do?”
“I know you were mocking me but I think it would be a good idea.”
“Wow, I . . . wow, okay. Let’s do it.”
Here’s what I’m saying. We saw a caravan cross the river unmolested. We saw a couple boats and even a dumb canoe and they were all fine. As soon as we were in the water and far enough away from the shore for it to be an issue I saw a dark shape in the water coming towards us. I am not kidding, the MOMENT that we were in deep enough that we were swimming (well mostly Martialla, you can kick your legs when you’re clinging to someone else but it doesn’t help a ton – plus I was all tangled up in my coat) I saw it. Like it was waiting for us. Me specifically. A million idiots could have crossed this river just fine but the moment I step foot in the waters something is trying to eat me.
As you all know I don’t believe in fate or luck or anything like that, BUT curses are real – I know because I’ve been cursed like fifteen damn times. And Gods and demons and otherworldly “things” are also real and can take an interest in fouling up your life. Is there some inhuman creature that loves the Duke and knows that I’m after him and is taking measures to throw obstacles in my way? If there is why don’t they just tell the Duke so he can send a hundred men to kill me? Is that against the “rules”? It gets into that whole territory of “why don’t the Gods just tell their followers what to do instead of being all coy?” If you’re a devout and true cleric why do you have to cast a spell to talk to your God, and when you do why are their answers all cryptic and infuriating? Some people speculate that the Gods have a compact with each other to only influence mortals to avoid a universe destroying God-fight. That’s too convenient an explanation for me. I think it’s more likely that the Gods aren’t as powerful as people think, they don’t really know what’s going on and they don’t have time to worry about everyone. And I think even more likely than that is that irrespective of power they don’t really care enough to bother with us all the time.
“Crocodile! Swim faster!”
“Yeah, grab me harder around the throat – that should help!”
I let go because I saw immediately there was going to be no way to escape – if there’s an aquatic animal slower than a swimming human I’ve never heard of it. I mean beavers look like they can barely move on land but they can still swim circles around the best human swimmer in the world. We don’t belong in the water. It wasn’t a crocodile, it was a canoe-sized fish with a bunch of sharp teeth. I don’t know what kind of fish it was, I’m not an icthologist, ictheologists, ickythorigst . . . I don’t know about fish. I thought about grabbing Martialla’s rapier as I floated away, but trying to swim with a sword in your hand is a degree of difficulty I don’t need. I probably would have lost it in the water. I hadn’t really noticed a current before, but once I was on my own I quickly saw that I was being swept downstream faster than I was making it towards the shore.
Martialla was thrashing in the water and wrestling with the giant fish (gar? That’s a big killer fish right?) and still managed to make it to shore well before I did even after engaging in an aquatic knife against tooth fight. She probably had to walk a half mile along the shore to catch me and drag me out of the water.
“What the Hells was that?”
I struggled to haul myself up, I felt like I had half the river soaking my clothing “I told you, I’m not the strongest swimmer.”
“You can say that again.”
“Get off my back, I’m not exactly dressed for swimming a river. What was I supposed to do, strip naked?”
“You could have at least taken your jacket off. You know, it would have been so easy to drown you just then. Did you think about that?”
“Yes, it’s all I ever think about, use your magic to dry me off before I catch my death.”
She tied a strip of cloth around her bloody arm “Of course, of course, priorities. I’m fine by the way.”
The asylum was a couple miles away from the river. I didn’t see any kind of trails so I wonder how they get their supplies. Also who bothers to pay for a bunch of crazies anyway? I assumed that it was so far out of the way to protect people from the plague of madness but as we got closer I saw the place was huge. It looked like a fortress, because it was at one time. I tend to forgot how often the Kingdom is at war with whoever’s available and how much of the land has changed hands. Fifty years ago (I think) this place would have been on the border with Vieland – and you need forts to keep those dirty Vielanders at bay. Since the border is now far away (although not as far as when the current war started – I should see how that’s going) the fort apparently was turned into a nuthouse. I guess that’s better than leaving it abandoned to become home to a clan of bugbears.
The two fellows at the front door were confused, they don’t get a lot of visitors here and never any unscheduled visitors (how do you schedule a visit? Send a letter?) but they rallied quickly and went to find an administrator. As we waited I turned to Martialla.
“So what do you think, is the place haunted and we’re going to be attacked by giests or are the unethical doctors turning the patients into monsters and we’re going to have to fight them?”
“What’s a giest?”
“It’s like a ghost only meatier.”
One of the guards or orderlies or escaped patients wearing the face of a guard or orderly showed us to an office where we were introduced to a surprisingly attractive lady doctor which long dark hair. I would have thought working in a place like this you’d keep your hair short so the lunging lunatics couldn’t grab it. If it wasn’t for her disgusting heterochromatic eyes she would have really been something. We told her that we wanted to visit Hardra, and also we wanted to know why Hardra was there. She took us to see another doctor, who I swear said that her name was Dr. Sugarcane – which upon hearing it I filed away as a great name for a drug dealer. We repeated our request and then were taken to see Dr. Oathsday who then took us into another office to wait for the big bossman. Three lady doctors on the staff, but a man’s in charge. It’s so commonplace it’s almost not even worth commenting on. As we waited I picked up some curious instrument off the desk and examined it.
“What does it mean to be a doctor?”
“That you went to school I guess.”
“I went to school, does that make me a doctor?”
“Maybe it has to be a doctor school.”
The head administrator, or warden, or owner, or escaped mental patient wearing the face of the head administer or warden or owner was an old man whose face was so saggy that it pulled his wrinkles smooth. It was odd. We was wearing spectacles but they were so dirty and smudged I don’t see how he could see – it would have been like looking out a filthy window. We talked for a while and he flat out admitted that they were keeping Hardra there because they had been bribed to keep her there.
“Well, that’s a startling admission, usually I have to pull that kind of information out of people.”
He held is hands up helplessly “Running this facility is very expensive. And the poor woman isn’t exactly well.”
“What’s wrong with her?”
“Being dead and then coming back to life is a traumatic experience. She’s not adjusting well.”
“Are you helping her with that?” He rocked his hand back and forth in an “eh” gesture. “Aren’t you worried we’re going to tell someone?”
He shrugged “Who would care? And if they did I would honestly be relieved if I was taken away from here. Even to prison or the gibbet”
“So why do you stay?”
“Someone has to.”
“Well I’m in the right place for it.”
“That woman works for Baron Juost and we’re here to take her away.”
He nodded slightly “That’s fine.”
“I’m sure she’ll be better off with her friends.”
“What about the people that paid you to keep her here?”
He gave me a surprisingly shrewd look “I have a feeling they won’t be a problem anymore. I’ll send someone to bring your friend.”
“Just tell us where she is, we’ll go and fetch her.”
“That wouldn’t be wise, there are some very dangerous people here.”
“Is this a prison too? I thought this place was just for loons. And of course people you’re paid to unlawfully incarcerate.”
“There are several people here who have committed murders of a ritual nature.”
“You mean serial killers? What?! Why?!”
“They were deemed to be mentally divergent, and therefore not responsible for their actions. Executing them wouldn’t be just.”
“So what, you’re going to fix them and then turn them loose?”
“No, they’ll never leave her.”
“So then what’s the point? It’s wrong to execute them so you just lock them up forever?”
He had no answer to that so we sat in silence for a while until two nurses – one of whom looked just like a vocal coach I worked with back at court – brought in Hardra. I didn’t recognize her at first, I thought maybe they were trying to pull a fast one on us, but the eyes told me it was her. Instead of blocky she was gaunt, which strangely had rounded off her hard features rather than making them stand out as you would expect. Her perpetually frowning face looked tight and weathered, yet also younger looking somehow. She was wearing a grey bodysuit type thing with a thick white sleeveless dress over it. She didn’t look happy to see me.
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, +1 Adamantine Dwarf Waraxe
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, dwarf journal
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