After barely escaping with her life Martialla made sure I was secured with manacles to avoid any more nasty surprises. I think that was my one shot to take her out, she’s not going to be caught off guard again, not easily anyway. As badly injured as she was (and still is) I think that was my best chance, it’s hard to see a better opportunity coming down the mountain, besides I’ve never been one for second guessing. After making sure that I was secured she looked from bank to bank as we slowly floated backwards down the river – towards the ship of pirate whose captain we just killed.
“Whatever you’re going to do, you better do it soon.”
“You expect me to help you?
“I expect you to help yourself stay alive.”
“Toss the hag overboard and impersonate her. Get on the pirate ship and have them take you upriver and then slip away or some up with an excuse to leave. Easy.”
She thought about it for a moment and thenshook her head “That will never work, I can’t impersonate people like you can.”
“Let me do it then.”
She laughed mirthlessly “What a great idea, I’ll let you go and put you in charge of a murderous band of pirates right now, no way that can turn out bad for me.”
“I don’t see a lot of other choices.”
Apparently she did, or at least one other choice – dragging me to the side of the boat and tossing me into the water. With my hands manacled and a chain attached to my foot I sank like a stone. This was one of the most terrifying moments I have ever experienced. I’ve been in bad spots before, some really bad spots, a couple times I thought that I might die, but being in the water like that – weighed down and restrained, that is the only time I felt utterly helpless. No tricks to pull, no one to sweet-talk, no way out, nothing to do but wait for water to fill my lungs. It was only ten or fifteen seconds, but those were the worst seconds of my life – so far anyway, I’m sure there’s something worse coming. I’ve heard it said that when you’re about to die your life flashes before your eyes – it’s not true. There’s nothing, just a yawning black darkness coming to envelope you and make it so that you never were.
I was convinced that Martialla had given up on her mission and was just going to kill me, but I realized later that makes no sense – she’s only doing this to get in with the Duke’s cousin, if she can’t bring me in there’s no reason for her to kill me. Despite all her threats to the contrary she needs me alive. Given that I shouldn’t have been surprised when a scaly arm grabbed me and pulled me through the water, but I was drowning at the time so I’ll give myself a pass on that. It seemed like it took this new creature-form of Martialla’s maybe two strokes to shoot us to the edge of the river. She hauled me out onto the muddy bank and dropped me like a sack of wet clothing. I could now see that she had taken the form of a scaly fish-eel-lizard with webbed claws and an odd fan-shaped head. I’m sure your average fisherman or country woman washing clothes on a rock down by the creek would have found it terrifying, but I thought it was actually a noble looking beast, whatever it is.
“Now I get it , you studied all about monsters so you have more choices of what to turn into with your magic. Nicely done. Can you turn into a centaur and carry me all the way to Juost manor next?”
Even in her monster piscine form her voice was the same, which would have been funny in different circumstances “Centaurs never let people ride them. They’re intelligent beings, do you let people ride you?
“I used to.”
She reverted to her normal form “Shut up Ela.”
“So what now, you’re going to drag me all the way to Alleene? I don’t think you’re going to make it in the shape you’re in. You got tore up something awful in that fight. What you need is healing, and the pirates are probably your best bet. Here’s what you do, stash me somewhere and then shadow them back to their pirate-lair. Hope they have some healing potions that you can sneak in and steal.”
“Everything about that plan is terrible.”
“I don’t hear you coming up with any ideas, don’t just shoot down everting I say if you don’t have anything better. I suppose what you could do is look around for a village or faRM and hope they have a healer but what are you going tell them about me? You can’t haul a woman you’ve kidnapped into town and expect people not to ask questions.”
“So what if they do? What are they going to about it?”
“Not help you for one, which is the reason you’d be going there. And you never know, there could be a roving knight or more competent than usual sheriff about. Or they could just set me free. There’s all sorts of ways that could go wrong.”
“I could gag you.”
“You think that’s going to make people less curious about me?”
“I could break your fucking jaw.”
“You know that wouldn’t matter Martialla, I can throw my voice. Funny thing about that, I thought that learning now to speak with animals would be very helpful in my endeavors but just being able to have my words come from somewhere else has been far more useful. It’s the little things you don’t think about you know? The trick to it is . . .”
“Shut up, I’m trying to think.”
“Try harder. The pirates are probably on their way back right now, we shouldn’t be hanging out two feet from the water when . . .”
Martialla’s face twisted in rage “Shut up! Just shut up! Do you ever stop talking? EVER?! I’ve known you for six months and I’ve heard you say more than most people do in a hundred years! In their whole lives Ela, their whole lives! Whatever you have to say I don’t care Ela, I don’t care about anything you have to say! I’ve heard it, I’ve heard everything, just stop!”
“You asked for my help.” Martialla waved her hands in that strange dancing girl way people do then they cast spells and uttered the magical words of power – I felt a little sleepy for half a second but nothing happened. “Congratulations you made me yawn. What else do you have? Do you know a sneezing spell? How about a spell that causes your arm to feel like you hit your funny bone?”
She pointed “Get up, walk.”
“If you wanted me on my feet you shouldn’t have thrown me on the ground with my arms shackled behind my back.”
“One once in your Gods damned life Ela, just do what you’re being told. Just do it Ela, just do what you’re being told.”
“You’re being very put out for someone who’s betrayed and kidnapped me to hand me over to deadly enemies. How are you the aggrieved party in this scenario? Besides, isn’t it the first duty of a prisoner to annoy their captors?”
“Escape Ela, the first duty of a prisoner is to escape.”
“You have to start somewhere.”
She tried to drag me up by the hair, but my hair was wet and slippery and it’s actually not a good way to get leverage on someone in the best of times – I just kind of twisted around and she slipped in the mud and almost ended up falling herself. There was much cursing about that. Eventually she managed to haul me to my feet and we started stumbling away from the river, me because I still had a heavy chain around one foot and my arms behind my back and she because of the many wounds she had taken in the fighting. She had a fistful of my tattered peasant rag dress but I wonder how much of that was her keeping me under control and how much of it was her needing support.
“Those wounds are probably going to get infected, that water was filthy, and then you were sliding through the mud like an eel. A mud eel.”
“I’ve been in many fights Ela, none of my wounds ever got infected.”
“Why is that do you think? I’ve heard that more soldiers in battle die from infections than from their actual wounds. What makes you so special? An infected wound is no joke, even if it doesn’t kill you that infected blood gets into your brain and fucks you up forever. There’s no coming back from that Martialla.”
“Thanks for the advice, I’ll be sure to have my personal physician examine them as soon as possible.”
“Funny story about the Duke’s personal physician, there was this baker at court – she didn’t work there like in the kitchens but she would come in as the Duke’s pastry chef for special occasions and one time when she was making blintzes . . .”
She gave me a half-shove “Just walk Ela.”
“Sure thing, you’re the boss, but let me ask you this, do you think you can take this chain off my foot? It’s not really servicing any purpose at this point and it’s making it hard to keep up a good pace. It’s very unbalancing it is. Plus the cuff thing is really rubbing at my ankle, and if I get a cut there the rusty edge could . . .
“I don’t have the key Ela.”
I chuckled “Come on Martialla, don’t be coy, we both know what you don’t need a key, I’ve seen you pick a dozen locks at this point. Probably more. Let’s see, the first one was when we ripped off that clothing store in . . .”
She sighed “How is annoying me going to result in your escape?”
“I don’t know yet, but at least I’m trying something.”
A light rain continued to fall off and on throughout the day so my clothes never got completely dry – which is irritating. Not as irritating as having your arms trapped behind your back and having a chain dragging on your leg that makes you feel like you’re going to trip and fall at any moment though. I’ve had worse days, but not many. After a couple hours of walking Martialla was really laboring – I think if I just wait long enough she’ll keel over and then I’ll be free. Free in this sense being in the middle of nowhere with manacles and no gear. Eventually she did call a halt to our death march and we both just sat on the ground in the tall grass – no bedrolls, no fire, not tents, no food, no nothing.
“You’re sitting on an anthill, ants are crawling in your wounds.”
“It’s too bad I don’t have that magic flask anymore, I think right now getting drunk would be a really great idea. I had a really nice selection of stuff put together, really nice.” I sighed “I miss my stuff, I love stuff.”
“The things you own end up owning you.”
I couldn’t help but laugh “Good Gods Martialla, what kind of childish bullshit is that? You got any other pieces of ‘wisdom’ to share with me? A copper saved is a copper earned? Anything like that? You must really be messed up if you’re spouting that kind of hoary old naive crap. I know that you’re mad at me but if you’re thinking like that, I think you’ll see that you’re mad at you too. Who are you trying to impress anyway? We’re the only two out here.” I chuckled “The things you own end up owning you, good one Martialla, I needed a laugh after the day we had. It’s good that even with things the way we are we can still share a joke.”
“I hate you Ela.”
“I remember when you used to not mean that.”
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