Look people I’m going to state this plainly so there’s no question – am I not a cannibal. As we traveled yesterday all afternoon people were giving me funny looks and acting weird. Even Martialla was giving me some unusual glances when she thought I wasn’t looking. I was merely pointing out that from a logical perspective once someone is dead eating them is no different from eating anyone else. Obviously I wasn’t actually going to do it. Okay, I was going to do it before everyone flipped out on me, but that doesn’t make me a cannibal. They didn’t know that it was human meat, they were just assuming that – based on nothing I might add – because they were scared. Obviously I would never violate societal norms and cultural taboos like that because I am a non-deviant upstanding member of the community.
Betrei (sounds like betray, what kind of name is that?) and Parfinis (the bald one), which are apparently the names of the two make distant cousins had armed themselves with axes from the murder’s cottage. Although if you ask me they don’t look like they’d be worth much in a fight. They’re far more useful as pack mules, Martialla scavenged quite a haul of supplies from the Bloody Jake’s larder (no meat though obviously because that would be WRONG) and it’s not like she was going to carry it all herself. Jesslin, despite her talk of spellbooks did seem perfectly capable of doing magic to summon a quick localized rain shower to gather water and emitting a spark to start a campfire – convenient but what a liar right? The cousins weren’t exactly old hands at wilderness travel but they did show us to a trail that they claimed should take us to the road that leads to Alleene. I suppose we’ll see.
I guess my mysterious dream benefactor was really a figment herself because last night’s dream-slate was back to regularly scheduled nightmarish torment – impalement, stabbings, being poisoned and thinking that you’re going to be okay and then not being okay, trampled by horses, mauled by bears, being tortured for information that I didn’t have, strangulation, being executed for a crime you didn’t commit, the usual. Although this last one was a twist because the method of execution was tied to a stake and then drowned, you know like in a cove where the tide is going in or whatever happens in coves. That at least showed some imagination rather than the usual burned at the stake. You ever visit one of those sea-side spots where you can still see the timeworn chains on the rocks from the bad old days of “giving people to the sea” to ensure bountiful fishing? It’s chilling.
With nothing much else to do as you’re marching through the countryside I took a good look at the cousins. Their clothing is definitely worse for the wear (literally) but it was fine enough in its prime. And of course if Jesslin was sent to Indlecastle to study magic that means they’re for sure not part of the lower crust. I don’t think they’re bigwigs of any kind, but I would mark them as prosperous commoners – that thin middle layer of people that aren’t really important but get to lord over the people on the bottom of the pyramid. The kind of people that don’t have enough money to hire other people to wander the countryside getting captured by Bloody Jakes but do have enough money to wander the countryside getting captured by Bloody Jakes inside of having to work like a dog every day of their life until they drop dead pushing a plow in their fifties. When they were talking about their bequest problems I assumed they fighting over nothing, but now that I’ve had a chance to scope them out better it’s probably something worth a little fuss. As we traveled today I decided to ask them about it.
“If you don’t mind my asking what kind of inheritance are we talking about? Enough to lure you out into the savage hills clearly.”
Parfinis was on my right, having appointed himself my watcher “Actually I do mind.”
Betrei laughed “I don’t. Our family has a couple lots of farmland that we rent out, as well as some city holdings – although our best personal home was in Renwick sadly. We’re part owners in several mercantile endeavors.”
“And why are you the heirs rather than your parents?”
Betrei started to answer but Jesslin cut him off “Normal family squabbles, nothing that would interest you.”
“And this uncle of yours what’s his story? Is he an asshole trying to steal your fortunes or does he have a leg to stand on?”
Jesslin interrupted Betrei once again “I’m sure the feels he’s in the right, it’s for the courts to decide, no use wagging tongues about it.”
“So you guys grew up, if not in the lap of luxury, at least on the shoulder of luxury – whereas my family were copperless dirt-farmers in the worst county in the Kingdom. How do you suppose that all shook out? Why the difference?”
Betrei laughed obnoxiously “Probably because our grandmother married a successful furrier while yours was a wanton.”
“Wanton? I didn’t think anyone said that in real life, I thought that was just a word that you see in books. Actually the only other time I remember hearing that is from my grandmother oddly enough – wanton kittens make sober cats was one of her sayings. She had hundreds of them.”
Parfinis gave me an odd look that I couldn’t interpret “You seem to have done pretty well for a copperless dirt-farmer.”
I raised my manacled hands and plucked at my tattered dress-sack “Yeah, things are going great for me.”
Betrei looked thoughtful “Present circumstances aside you’re clearly not a farmgirl.”
“I was pretty young when I left home, I . . .”
Martialla, being the big swinging dick of the group (so to speak) was leading the way, but as I was speaking she stopped and spun to face us, looking displeased.
She gestured “Stop.”
I looked around “What is it? Bandits? Owlbears?”
She pointed “No, you stop, stop talking. Don’t try gaining these people’s sympathy with stories of your sad childhood and how awful the world has been to you. Don’t weave us a tale of what terrible wrongs were done to set you on this path. No one wants to hear about how hard everything has been for you and how the world has been against you from day one. You want to talk? Talk about the weather. Better yet don’t talk at all.”
Betrei looked over at me “Wow, and you two used to be friends?”
“I don’t take it personally. It’s just business.”
What the cousins had neglected to mention is that this trail leads to the village of Dawn Plains, which was a highly disagreeable thing to neglect to mention as far as Martialla was concerned. Although being displeased seems to be her default state now. She was much happier before she betrayed me. Just pointing that out. Seeing a village kicked up her paranoia again, assuming that this was part of some plot against her, but clearly the cousins just didn’t think it worth mentioning – in their minds of course we would be staying in any village we could find. Despite being terrified of Martialla they offered a compromise – they’d go into town to get some more supplies and she could stay here any watch over me. In her suspicion though somehow Martialla talked herself into going into town and leaving the four us here – which makes no sense because if they were plotting against her to set me free this gives them the perfect chance. What she should have done is stayed here with me and Jesslin as a hostage and sent the brothers into town. I’ll forgive her through because she’s clearly under a lot of stress.
It was all moot anyway thought because not long after she left a man come walking up the path anyway – and older fellow with a wide face and a crazy wrinkled forehead who nonetheless had long lavish black-grey hair going strong. I tell you, I know from a good head of hair and that’s it. He had a fishing rod over his shoulder and a friendly smile on his face.
“Morning folks, what brings you to EEEGHHHA!!!”
That’s the noise he made when Martialla jumped out with sword in hand, we were all pretty startled by that. I retract my previous statement – that was a pretty good plan, pretend to leave and then lurk invisibly to see if anyone is plotting against you.
He clutched his hand to his chest only semi-teasingly “Ye Gods woman, you about gave me a heart attack!”
She gestured angrily with her sword “And who might you be?! Another conspirator?!”
He frowned, he had great eyebrows too “Conspirator?”
I scoffed “What? Are you worried he’s going to hit you with his fishing pole? He’s just an old man.”
His face was alive with mock outrage “Old? I’ll have you know that I . . .”
His good humor seemed to be making Martialla angrier “Shut up all of you!”
All the shouting brought another pair of fellows out to see what all the hubbub was and before long half the village was out there (it was a small village) shooting the breeze as best they could with an increasing aggravated Martialla blustering all the while. They clearly don’t get many visitors, which makes sense, there’s no a lot of call for traveling from nowhere to another nowhere. Eventually Martialla gave up and stomped off. The village people were very interested in us of course, but they were also eager to tell us their tale of woe – everyone loves sharing bad news. The bandits mentioned by that guy Martalla murdered in cold blood (possibly justified) were all anyone had anything to say about. Once they took over Margrain (the place to the north mentioned by that guy Martialla murdered in cold blood) and destroyed Hallkin (the place where Martialla murdered that guy in cold blood) they had moved on from banditry to setting themselves up as the local warlords, extracting “taxes” from all the surrounding communities. The Dawners had appealed to Baron Juost for aid but their call went unanswered. They had sent letters to Renwick (apparently their information is a bit outdated) and had even tried to hire an adventuring party to help them but nothing had worked.
After breathlessly telling us their tales of despair they invited us to stay with them, but by that point Martialla was back with her supplies and wouldn’t hear of it – insisting that we camp outside of town. Which was pointless, because most of the villagers just came out there and speak with us. And more importantly to bring us delicious downhome cookin’ including a huckleberry pie that I would literally murder a person in cold blood over just like Martialla did to that guy in Hallkin. Martialla sat stewing while the rest of us enjoyed an impromptu country jamboree. Although no one even asked me why I was shackled – why do you think that is? It was late in the night by the time the villagers returned to their shacks and shanties, leaving Martialla and I sitting across a fire – just like old times, regarding each other across the flickering flames. Only everything was different.
“So what’s the plan?”
For a moment it seemed like she wasn’t going to answer but eventually she spoke “Continue north until we hit the road.”
“No, I meant about the bandits.”
“Why would we do anything about that?”
“Why wouldn’t we? These people are suffering Martialla, didn’t you heard their crude homespun lamentations? It’s like when you see a rabbit stuck in a trap, either you let it go or you put it out of its misery.”
“Or you just keep walking because it’s not your business.”
“We have to do something, you know that we could, it probably wouldn’t even be hard – just a little trickery and shenanigans like we used to do. Remember Martialla? We used to be quite the team, and we could be again, if only for a while.”
“And blood, don’t forget about the blood. And the screams of pain. And the shit, you know when people are dying and they shit themselves. Don’t forget about that. You’re not in charge anymore Ela, you seem to have a hard time understanding that. I’m not sure what will make you understand but I’m thinking about it for sure. None of your pointless sidetracks, not anymore. It’s not my job to wander the hills setting things right that have gone wrong, my job is to take you back to the manor. And that’s what I’m going to do.”
“When did you become so cold?”
“Don’t pretend like you know me. You never knew me Ela, you never took the time to know me.”
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