Martialla picked me up and at first I thought she was just going to keep going, trying to carry me the whole way, but even in my poison-addled mind I realized quickly that she was looking around for the Bloody Jake’s hidey-hole. Even being as slim and attractive and well-proportioned as I am I was surprised that she was able to pick up and carry me so easily. She’s probably wearing my magic strength belt like a dirty thieving bitch. I thought she was crazy to look for his hideout, I thought that it could have been miles and miles away, but it was actually very nearby and she found it easily. Seems lazy at first, but then again if you had the ability to mystically alter people’s paths so that they would get endlessly lost walking in a circle forever wouldn’t you make it so they were doing that right by your house? It’s just convenient to live nearby to where you work, that’s all.
I don’t know about you but I expected a dirt-covered murder tramp to live in a tarpaper shack infested with botflies and baby raccoons. That wasn’t the case at all. The murderer’s shack wasn’t a shack at all, it was a proper cottage. Dare I say it practically looked homey. I wonder if he built it all by himself out here of it he had people help and then killed them. Either way it would have taken months, I say having no idea how long it takes to build things. It creeps me out to think about the mundane logistical background of the many murder-dens I’ve encountered in my travels – like someone going to market to buy nails for this house of horrors. Actually, now that I think about it probably what happened is that some nice couple built the cottage to live in with the aid of their friends and family and then this dude killed them and stole it. That makes more sense.
Martialla carried me inside, heedless of traps (luckily there were none but that woman needs to be more careful) and set me down on the hard kitchen table instead of the nice comfortable bed. The place was tidy and well-maintained, but not TOO tidy you know? Sometimes when you walk into a place and everything is completely organized you know the person that lives there is bonkers. Messiness is a sign of a disorganized mind, but also there’s a limit to the amount of neatness that sanity can bear. Martialla started rummaging around in the kitchen/poison brewing area, I guess looking for some kind of anti-venom (anti-poison? No, antidote, that’s the word) but I was more interested in the three people tied up in the floor. No special torture chamber or murderer hole, just tied up and laying on the floor in the normal house. They were hog-tied which is a term that has never made any sense to me because you can’t tie a hog like that.
Three bound people in a murder’s home would have been interesting regardless, but what I found especially intriguing is that one of them was the spitting image of my grandmother, you know, when she was young. Being ravaged by poison like I was It was hard enough for me to speak that I threw my voice to Martialla even though she was only a few feet away, she started, which is understandable because it would have sounded like I was right behind her whispering in her ear.
“Hey, what do you think of them?”
She whirled around, thinking I was behind her as I said, and then spotted the three captives. Her first reaction was to go over to them.
“Wait, hold up, if there is something that can help me find that first – they’ve been here a while, a few more minutes won’t hurt.”
She grumbled something about me not being in charge but she returned to her search and found something that she poured down my throat without asking – which is unspeakably rude. It did make me feel six hundred percent better but that’s not the point. I sat up on the table but was too woozy still to hop off.
“Now what are the chances of that? That the guy who poisons you would have a potion of neutralizing nearby?”
“I’ve say one to one if the person is smart. You want something like that on hand in case you make a mistake when you’re smearing poison on your arrows – those things are sharp you know, and the poison doesn’t know whose side it’s on.”
“Huh, that’s a good point actually.”
“I do occasionally have them. The question is what to do with these people.”
“Is there a reason you wouldn’t let them go?”
“Yeah, you. I don’t want you suborning them with your wiles. Speaking of which.”
Under threat of magical annihilation I sighed and obeyed her command to put the manacles back on.
I held my chained hands up “There, now are you going to let them go?”
“I’m still deciding. If I hadn’t come along they’d be dead anyway so doing nothing is kind of just allowing nature to take its course.”
“That’s some good self-deception there, and you said you weren’t a good liar.”
“I never said that, I said that I wasn’t a good actor.”
Martialla is a practical sort, and she can be ruthless (especially when it comes to me apparently) but she’s not quite so cold blooded as to let three presumably innocent people die for no real reason. The woman as I said looked very much like my grandmother in her younger days, or at least what a painting of her looked like – maybe the artist was being nice. She was a tall dark haired woman with features that were just this side of sharp, staying in the attractive range rather than being frosty. Unlike my grandmother’s easy charm and self-assuredness though she had a severe and somewhat fragile expression. Along with her were a fellow with the pouty lips of a maiden matched up with scraggy sideburns and an overly large nose and a haunted looking companion who was balding and had small ears.
After the initial panicky rush of thanks and crosstalk about what had happened they explained that they had been captured at least a week ago and when they had been brought here there were two other men who were already tied up there. After a couple iof days the Bloody Jake took one of them out of the house and they weren’t seen again. A few days after that he did the same to the other man. They were in awe of Martialla that she had killed him which doesn’t seem quite fair since I’m the one who came up with the plan and executed it and got shot over it. I never get my due. Once the opening salvo of jibber-jabber was over I got down the important matter at hand.
“Pardon me Jesslin, but would you mind giving me your surname? Actually no wait, can you give me your grandmothers maiden names?”
She frowned slightly like this was some kind of trick “Why?”
“Just humor me would you?”
She glanced at Martialla who shrugged before answering “Wylcott . . . . and Castrumfield.”
I nodded “That explains it, your grandmother is my great aunt I think. You look just like her, my grandmother I mean, it’s uncanny.”
She blinked “That’s why we were out here, because she died.”
“What? My grandmother has been dead for years.”
She was as confused as I was “No, not your grandmother, our grandmother – your great aunt. She died in Renwick and the will was destroyed by the fires as well. She named us her heirs but without the will our uncle is asserting priority. We heard that there might be another copy on file with Archbaroness Relonge so we were headed to her compound.”
“Wow, that’s quite . . .
Martialla barged in the way with her hand on her sword hilt “Wait a minute, so you guys are cousins?”
Baldy small ears jumped in as well “Aren’t we first cousins once removed?”
Lady lips got in the fray next “Our mother was her first cousin once removed so that would make us . . .”
Martialla had the look she gets when things are going south and it’s time to maybe start killing in her eye “What the fuck ever, the point is you’re related?!”
Jesslin and her brothers exchanged glances before she answered “Sounds like maybe we are.”
Martialla whipped out her sword and summoned her ‘look I have magic’ ball of threat-energy to her hand “Back up all of you! Get on the other side of house!”
They were all startled, Lady Lips especially, but Jesslin seemed to have a little more grit in her – and she threw up her hands like she was going to cast a spell of her own.
Lips looked at me “What’s going on here? Why are you chained up?”
Martialla let some stray magical force leak out at them “I said back up!”
I ducked my head “You better do what she says, she fried a dude yesterday for less than this.”
Martialla moved around behind me to use me as cover and to put her sword against my back, I could see from her shadow that she was shaking her head in disbelief “I don’t know how you fucking arranged this Ela, but it’s not going to work.” She shouted at Jesslin “You, put your hands down or I’ll slice your cousin in half! I fucking mean it!”
Baldy helped out “Second cousin you mean.”
I glanced back at Martialla as best I could “Look, everyone just calm the fuck down. All right, everybody, relax. Calm down. Just calm down. Everything is fine, we’re all friends here. I didn’t arrange anything, I know you’re afraid of me because you know what I can do, but I’m not this good. It’s just a coincidence.”
I could feel her tension hitting my back like a wave of energy “You expect me to believe that?”
“If it was part of my plan they would have just jumped you from the get go right?”
“Unless they’re trying to earn my trust!”
“If they were trying to do that why would I have asked them about their grandmother in the first place? They would have played it coy.”
“Maybe you’re not even related, maybe you’re playing them hoping they’re going to help you!”
“Sure, there’s a lot of things that could be going on, but what is going on is that I bumped into some distant relatives who don’t know me – I doubt they’re going to risk their lives for me based on the fact that our grandmothers were sisters. I know I wouldn’t risk my life for them because of that, no offense. But that doesn’t really matter because they can’t hurt you anyway, look at them, they’re just people with no weapons or anything. They’re no threat to you.”
“That one was going to cast a spell! She’s arcane!”
“Jesslin, is that true?”
Her eyes were darting around as she answered “I studied magic at Indlecastle. B-but I don’t have my spellbook. H-he burned it.”
“Spellbook?” I looked back at Martialla “I’ve never seen you studying a magic book.”
“That’s because I’m a fucking sorcerer!”
Jesslin took a half step forward “A spellbook is how a wizard does magic, you have to memorize the spell before you cast it.”
I glanced at Martialla again “And you can just do it without a book? What a rip-off. So there you go, she can’t do any magic on you, they’re harmless.”
Martialla jerked her head at the door “Fine, you’re free, now get out. Go wherever you’re going and if I see you I’m going to assume you’re coming for Ela and kill you.”
They started to move towards the door but stopped when I spoke “Now wait a minute, that’s hardly fair, if you send them out there without any supplies or weapons they’re just going to die anyway. Why bother to save them if you’re just going to condemn them anyway? You may as well just kill the now.”
Baldy threw his hands up “No, no, we’ll go, we don’t mind!”
“No stop! Look Martialla if you chase them off now they’re going to wonder what the fuck is going on and maybe they will come back to try and help me and then you’re going to have to kill them – and I don’t want that. Let’s just figure out a way we can part company without anyone worrying about anything. Can I tell them what’s going on?”
She laughed bitterly “Which version?”
“The truth. Jesslin, two male cousins who’s name I’ve forgotten but don’t take it personally because I’m under a lot of stress, this is the situation. For political reasons I was made the ward of Baroness Juost, I didn’t like that so I ran away and Martialla here was tasked with taking me back to Juost Manor. This is all legal and everything is on the up and up, I don’t like it but I’ve accepted it for what it is – I ran out on my responsibilities and now am going to pay the price. Everything is fine and she’s not going to hurt me.”
Jesslin had a little bit of tough bark in her eyes “She looks like she wants to hurt someone.”
“She’s just trying to scare you.”
Baldy nodded “It’s working.”
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