I read a book once that claimed there are a group of people who practice transcendental sleeping. People in some unspecified far away non-verifiable place, you know, where all the interesting things happen. The idea of transcendental sleeping is that by learning how to sleep the right way eventually you can become untethered from your physical body and exist in the realm of dreams as a spirit of some kind. If you get really good at it you can achieve a form of immortality because your dream-spirit exists forever and whenever you want to visit the world you can reform your body. There’s tales of these immortal sleepers going into caves so sleep and what people think happen is they just lay in there for eighty years or whoever long and then wake up. But what actually happens is their body dies and they just recreate it later when it’s time to wake up. I mean it’s so obvious people.
Of course nothing can be all roses and rainbows so in the dream world there’s some kind of nightmare realm that doesn’t like these sleeping immortals messing with their evil plans so there’s a whole battle going on there – and of course this nightmare realm has mortal agents in the real world as well, a cult of dream worshipping fanatics who will stop at nothing to blah blah blah whatever. I assume somewhere in this mix there’s a dream god on one side or another. Anyway I don’t believe this for a variety of reasons, one being that allegedly a key component of making this dream transformation is engaging in sexual acts without achieving climax – and if that was the case most of the women in the world would be halfway where am I right? But I wish that it was true because I would study this technique and sleep for a good thirty years. Seems very restful. Plus then the Duke would be older and easier to wail on. The risk of course would be that someone else would kill him in the meantime, or he would just die of syphilis – and that’s no good because I’m the one that has to do him in. I worry about that a lot, he has many enemies and many unhealthy habits, not to mention random chance. If he dies before I can kill him I really don’t know what I’ll do.
It’s a little easier to sleep in manacles than staked to the ground but it was oppressively hot last night and there were mosquitoes and other bloodsucking monsters attacking me relentlessly – for some reason they were going after the ass more than anything. My left cheek looks like it has porridge pox. Between that and my aching shoulder it was another sleepless night for old Ela. When I woke up, or rather stopped trying to fool myself that I was asleep, I heard Kartak and Martialla arguing about me again. She was upset because he was suggesting that they not travel today so I would have some time to recover. Martialla was screeching about how we should have made the road by today and instead we haven’t even crossed the river yet. I never realized how shrill her voice can be until now. She reiterated her opinion that I was faking my injury to intentionally slow our progress. Kartak lost his temper pretty quickly and it seemed like they were on the verge of fighting. She’s too smart for that, but it would be helpful if she slipped up and Kartak and his men slaughtered her like a goat. Without her nagging them all the time about how I’m going to turn them against one another it would be easier to turn them against one another.
The best case scenario would be for Martialla to lose her temper, kill Kartak, and then be forced to flee by his men – leaving one of these other yahoos in charge. That would make things very easy for me, the only problem is that Kartak is on my list so if Martialla killed him that would ruin everything. So while it would be convenient it would cause problems later on. Martialla must have won the argument because they did sit me on a horse and we set off at a sedate pace, but after an hour of me pretending to pretend that I wasn’t in pain and whimpering with every jolt of the saddle Kartak called a halt and sent a couple of his men to find a wagon for me to ride in. Two of the Baron’s men helped me dismount and set up a camp chair for me to sit on while everyone else milled around waiting. Martialla stayed nearby and scowled away anyone who tried to come within six feet of me.
“You’re going about this all wrong you know.” Martialla’s only response was a disgusted noise “You shouldn’t be butting heads with Kartak and screaming like a harridan all the time. What you should be doing is damage control. You helped them catch me but nobody likes a traitor Martialla. It’s a real conundrum, as the ruling authority you want people to turn in your enemies, but if someone is willing to turn on their closest friend they prove themselves to be untrustworthy so what are you do with them? It’s surprising that more turncoats don’t figure that out. They seem to be shocked when the people they betray their friends or family to treat them like crap.”
“Shut up Ela.”
“So you already had a lot of ground to make up and you’re not doing a very good job of it – you’re just digging yourself deeper. The Kostelos are an even more patriarchal society than ours – I’m surprised one of Kartak’s men hasn’t tried to put you in your place yet, or tried to take him out for letting you. Even for ‘civilized’ Kostelos they’re showing an amazing amount of forbearance. You know what the Kostelos think about us? They see Kingdom men as dog’s running to follow their women’s commands. It’s pretty funny that they think we tell men what to do, but it’s an indication of how male dominated their society is. Not only are you alienating Kartak but you’re making him look bad in front of his men.”
“I said shut up.”
“But really what’s more worrisome for you is that you’re making me the victim in the eyes of the Baron’s men. You weren’t there the first time I was there, I was playing the dutiful noble woman, they don’t see me as a threat no matter what you say, they see me a helpless woman who needs their manly protection – they don’t like what’s happening here at all. Not only are you building their sympathy for me, but you’re also creating a divide between them and the Kostelos. I doubt they’re happy about taking orders from Kartak anyway and now you’re giving them me and my mistreatment to rally around. If you keep it up I wouldn’t be surprised if they try some kind of coup all on their own. You’re setting yourself up to look like the brute while I’m a broken little bird. A fragile delicate little thing that garners all kinds of compassion – but you know, the masculine kind of compassion where they want to fuck me.”
“I said shut up!”
“The real question mark in all of this is the Satander exiles though. I have no idea what their part of this is, or what their reaction would be if the Kostelos and the Baron’s man started fighting. What . . .”
Martialla came over and with a shove and a kick to the chair sent me sprawling to the ground. As I hit the ground with a cry I grabbed at my bad shoulder. Almost immediately a couple of the Baron’s men and one of the Kostelos ran over and got embroiled with Martialla in a shouting match. She wanted to gag me again and restrain me as well, they accused her to being a cruel and heartless she-bitch. I couldn’t help but smile as I saw them wrangling. Well, that’s not true, I could have very easily not smiled – but I wanted Martialla to see it. Kartak came to get into another loud discussion with Martialla, but she angrily walked away – which is probably just as bad. Turning your back on a man like that? Very disrespectful. If she was smart she would have let him rip her apart verbally in front of everyone to start rebuilding that relationship. Martialla has a lot of good qualities but her ego is a real issue.
A couple of hours later the Kostelos came back with a wagon. There was no blood on it so hopefully they just took it via threats rather than murdering whoever had it before. In the back of the wagon were some sacks of apples and some jugs of moonshine which really improved the morale around the camp. However Kartak decided that at that point they might as well just stay put for the rest of the day anyway – I’m pretty sure just to piss off Martialla. He probably wanted to give her a chance to blow up at him again so they he could smack her down and reestablish his authority. She didn’t take the bait though. Once Kartak made it clear that they weren’t going any farther she dramatically left the camp, which only served to make things worse. She really doesn’t understand how people work.
It wasn’t until after nightfall that things really got interesting though. Martialla had returned to chain my good arm to a small tree before disappearing again so once again I was wide awake. Which allowed me to see two of the men on watch duty get shot down from the darkness. That’s the problem with being on guard duty if you ask me, you’re lit up so that anyone out there can see you but there’s not enough light so that you can see them. It’s a real pickle. Once the guards were down a woman and two men slunk out of the darkness towards the wagon. That must be a really important wagon. They were trying to steal it but there were more than two people on guard duty so they didn’t get very far. In short order the whole camp was alerted and they were swarmed. Martialla appeared out of nowhere (literally, she must have been skulking around invisible) and had her sword on me like I was going to try something as the thieves were subdued.
One of the men was killed in the fighting and the other was so badly wounded he was going to die anyway, but the woman was intact enough that they got to decapitate her for attacking them. I wonder what that was all about. Killing two men for a wagon, I could maybe see that, but they had to know that coming into a camp of this many people was more or less a suicide charge. Seems like a lot to risk just for a wagon. Although, based on what I know about the Skin-Takers she got off very easy with merely losing her head – I wonder what would have happened if the Kingdomers and the Satander hadn’t been around. Or maybe they really have changed. I guess Kartak is the only Skin-Taker anyway, maybe the Sky Thunder tribe isn’t as reprehensible. But I doubt it.
Martialla looked at me coldly “Another day lost and two men dead. You won’t get away with it Ela. You won’t win this time.”
“Have some respect Martialla, five people just lost their lives, this isn’t some game to win or lose.”
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