Why is it so satisfying to tell someone “I told you so”? There’s nothing worse than being right, so it must be purely the delight you feel in seeing someone else fail. Which certainly isn’t an attractive quality by any means but it seems to be pretty common. I suppose it stems partially from a sense of competitiveness – when someone doesn’t listen to you and then falls flat on their face you’ve proven yourself to be superior. It’s a biological thing I guess, still rattling around in our brains from the old days when you had to fight your way to the top or die like a dog. Actually I guess in that regard nothing much has changed. That’s a question for the philosophers I reckon – all those animalistic tendencies that were so important to get where we are today now hold us back from progressing further, so how do we get rid of them? Whiskey?
My point is this, if we had gone to Margrain like I wanted to we never would have been captured. Technically I was already captured but you know what I mean, Martialla and the cousins were captured and I was transferred to someone else’s captivation. Turns out that the Bloody Jake that Martialla killed (pretty sure I wasn’t involved in that one at all) wasn’t a lone wolf – this was more of a family of killers scenario like those Harrow people from up in Verdal. They had a slick operation, I’ll grant them that. I don’t know if they had mystical backwoods shenanigans up their sleeves like their dead friend or if they were just really sneaky but they caught us completely unawares – and it’s a rare bastard that can catch Martialla and me one hundred percent off guard. We’re pretty good at sniffing out ambushes you know – most of the time.
There were three of them, one normal and two less so. The normal one was a tall rawboned countrified roughneck with short curly dirty-blonde hair, he was actually fairly handsome, or would have been if he wasn’t going to kill me. Friend number one was a short fellow whose face had that waxy look of someone who’s been burned but it also looked like it had been stretched somehow, like it was taffy that had been pulled into the shape of a face and then left to harden. In addition to being short he was also slender as a maiden, a look that wasn’t helped by his overly loose puffy red pants and frilled shirt – he looked kind of like a scarecrow, only lighter. Friend number two though was the main event. His skin was not a color I’ve ever seen on a healthy person – a kind of green-grey, I’d say it’s similar to the color of the mold that grows on a peach if you leave it too long. He was also oblong shaped – very skinny up top, then bulging in the middle only to taper away to scrawny chicken legs. He was wearing dirty orangish trousers and that was it, which didn’t do anyone any favors. Why is it that the only men that walk around without a shirt on are the one’s you’d never want to see shirtless? It’s uncanny I tell you.
They sprung out of hiding and eliminated their only real threat immediately – Curly and Taffy seized Martialla and Chicken-legs put a sack over her head that had been soaked in something. Smelled a bit like some kind of trumpet lily to me, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a floral perfume because Martialla went all rubbery legged (and rubbery everything else) in a matter of seconds. I’m not a poison expert, but I know a few things about toxicology, and I’m telling you that whoever whipped that up knew their business. Putting someone down like that, like a blown out candle, that takes some real skill. The fight was over before it began, Parfinis and Betrei made an effort with their scavenged axes but there were two things hindering their effectiveness. First if that while most people of a certain status have a passing familiarity with light blades, fencing lessons and so forth, very few fancy people are trained to fight with axes. I don’t know where you’d even go to learn something like that. Maybe ask a dwarf? Is that racist?
So that was one problem, but the more pressing hindrance is that they are, at best, enthusiastic amateurs in the fighting arts. All three of them managed to get captured by one of these Bloody Jakes when they had their own gear, what chance are they going to have when the odds are turned the other way about and they’re working with borrowed equipment? Plus you have to consider the domestication factor. The cousins are soft-hand types from the big city, not nobles, but not the kind of people that don’t have to empty their own night jars you know? What chance are they going to have against wild creatures like these three? You ever see someone’s pet dog tangle with a feral? It aint pretty. Civilization has many good qualities, but making you tough isn’t one of them.
Jesslin was completely useless. She had a scavenged knife but she didn’t even try to use it. I guess her magic isn’t the kind that’s useful when someone is attacking you, which seems pretty stupid to me. Seems like one of the first spells you should learn is one that dissuades someone from ripping your lungs out. Maybe that’s just me. I don’t know what they teach you at magic school in Indlecastle but it clearly isn’t the kind of stuff I’m used to seeing Martialla to where people are doused with motel iron or blasted with acid or burned alive. I guess even magic has a wild unruly dangerous side and a sedate weakling cultured side. Seriously though, what’s the point of studying magic if you can’t even use it to crush your enemies? Tell me that. Parfinis and Betrei had the good graces to at least get wounded before they threw down their weapons and begged for mercy, Jesslin didn’t do anything – Chicken-legs just grabbed her by the elbow and she fainted dead away. It’s embarrassing that we’re even distantly related.
“Well fought gentlemen, a great victory assuredly, I assume you’re here to rescue me? Can we get these manacles off, my shoulders are killing me.”
Taffy chuckled and Chicken-legs shot him a vicious look “This woman killed our brother, don’t laugh!”
“Point of order sir, I didn’t kill anyone, the unconscious young lady over there with the bag over her head is the one you’re looking for, she’s the one you want to torture to death. I witnessed it myself, I saw her kill your brother in cold blood, the rest of us were just innocent bystanders so you should probably just let us go.”
Taffy laughed again and Chicken-legs came over to breath his onion-rotting meat stink in my face “You’re all going to die!”
“Now then, let’s not be hasty shall we? I’m sure we can come to some kind of agreement right? Some manner of exchange of good or services? My cousin over there, the one that’s fainted, she’s a real tiger in the sack you know? I’m sure that . . .”
Chicken-legs was spitting mad “You will die! Do you have any idea what you’ve done? All the work that you ruined when you killed Vancher?! Do you have any idea what you’ve unraveled here you gnat? You worm! You insect! Our work here is more important than anything you can comprehend! You’ll suffer for what you’ve done. You will cry until there is nothing left wet in you. You will scream and beg and pray to all the Gods until your throat ruptures and it will make no difference! The pain will go on, you will never be released!”
“Okay, well, that’s your opening position, I would like to present my counter-offer where that doesn’t happen.”
Apparently he wasn’t interested in hearing the counter-offer because he kept ranting. He went on at some length about how he and his family where some kind of cosmic guardians. On their land they had found an old cave where some people that lived on this land before even the Kostelos had documented by cave-painting that there was manner of force that would devour the world if it was not appeased with human lives. He really belabored the point that this was NOT some alien inhuman and incomprehensible being of the far universe, but rather just the opposite – a grotesque creation of pure, distilled, and entirely human hate. He claimed that his family had for generations been the caretakers of the world by feeding this entity lives to keep it abated from annihilating everything. He was upset because somehow they store up the deaths until they go into the cave and release them to the entity – and by killing Vancher we had “wasted” a bunch of souls or whatever and therefore put the entire world as risk. He really went on and on about it.
“Good gods, do you ever shut up? I thought that the good thing about being captured by primitive country murderers would be that at least I wouldn’t have to listen to a lot of speeches about why they’re doing what they’re doing like with city murderers, but here we fucking are. You’ve been talking non-stop for half an hour! I get it, there’s an eldritch abomination that I’m responsible for too, I have this ring I have to wear or this creature my great-uncle summoned from beyond the stars will destroy the world.” I looked over at the injured cousins who had been kneeling in horrified silence this whole time “That reminds me, we should figure that out genealogically, to see if you’re related to the Whiterocks or not, it would be good to have a back-up for that ring in case something happens to me. Although, if we’re being honest, it’s hard to care about the world ending if I’m already dead.”
Chicken-legs stopped ranting long enough to look at his brothers. Curly stared at me for a moment and then nodded.
“I do see something. Her rope is greasy.”
“My rope is greasy? What the fuck does that mean? Sounds obscene, and not the kind of obscene that I could ever be. Although I met this woman one time who used to be a male gladiator and she was cursed so that . . .”
Chicken-legs grabbed me by the unbreakable necklace around my throat – which hurts more than you’d imagine “Show me this ring.”
“Sure thing chief, just get these manacles off me.”
Curly came over and did something behind my back, not like a normal something, some kind of backwoods magic bullshit – it didn’t sound like any spellcasting I’ve heard before and I’ve sadly heard a bit and this point – and the manacles popped off. Chicken-legs grabbed my hand and pulled it up to his face like he was near-sighted or something which made it easy to stab him in the belly with my off-hand. My secret pocket isn’t as handy as those magic tattoos were, but it’s pretty convenient to always have access to a weapon. Well not always, but almost always. Obviously there’s no way I would have taken these three on by myself even if I had all my gear. I don’t know if Jesslin was faking it or if she had woken up from her swoon, but I had spotted her moving her hand a little and pulling the poison-sack off Martialla’s head from afar with her (not entirely useless) magic. It took Martialla a long while to come around, but once she turned invisible and not one of the Bloody Jakes noticed I knew it was time to interrupt Chicken-legs monologue and get the party started.
When I cut Chicken-legs across his bulging belly I halfway expected spiders or fanged worms or dirt or something to pour out, but it was just regular old blood. Martialla reappeared as she ran Taffy through from behind, using a dagger in left hand her to cut his throat for good measure as well. Chicken-legs threw me aside like a . . . thing that you throw aside and pulled out some kind of ugly piece of hooked metal to go after Martialla. I screamed for Jesslin to help me and we tried to tackle Curly, but he was too strong even for the both of us – thankfully her brothers jumped in the scrum as well and we managed to drag him to the ground while Martialla and Chicken-legs were hacking each other’s bits off and doing magic shit to try and kill one another.
I got a hold of the sack and shoved in in Curly’s mouth – there was enough juice left in it to knock him out but was clearly less potent at that point because we had to pin him down for a good long while. Once he was out I sprang up and dashed in at Chicken-legs enough to distract him so Martialla could really lay in some good stabs. We’ve done this kind of thing enough times that we have a good system worked out – I’m pretty good at getting someone’s attention hard enough that a better fighter can take advantage. And Martialla is damned good at taking advantage. She’s no great warrior, but she’s like a surgeon when she strikes someone from behind – which is always the best way to strike someone. Once he was done for I went back to put my sword through Curly’s neck, finishing off the noble guardians of the earth. I plucked a jug of shine off him and sat down against a tree to take a drink.
“Oof, what a day huh?”
Jesslin was looking around fearfully “What do we do know?”
I looked over at Martialla “On to Alleene right?”
“No, I meant about what they said! About the entity.”
I smiled slightly “You believed that shit? Some inbred morons find some charcoal lines on a cave wall and they start killing people? I wouldn’t worry about it.”
Betrei was pressing his bloody shirt against his stomach “So what you said about the ring that was just so they’d let you get free?”
“Oh no, that is true. We really should figure out something about that.”
“I don’t see a ring on your hand.”
I looked at Martialla again and she shook her head “I believe that I’ve misplaced is just at the moment. But it probably takes a while for a being to destroy the entire world so . . . you know. It’s probably . . . . fine.”
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
Behind the Scenes: One million experience! That’s almost like an accomplishment.