It was quite a while before anyone found us. As I said we watched the sun rise yesterday and it was dark before a couple grim faced blood-splattered soldiers came marching up the stairs to our not very secret secret hiding place. You’d think that checking the perimeter (or whatever) would be one of the first things that you’d do once the fighting was wrapped up. You’d also think that finding your wife would be a pretty high priority. But the old Baron has just been freed from the malevolent depraved mind control of Kostelos witch so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt – it’s probably akin to be hung-over, you’re not at your best. Takes some time to get your wits about you and make good decisions again.
The soldiers escorted us and we escorted the Baroness to an almost genuine looking teary reunion with the good Baron – much hugging and exchanging of pretty words. He explained sorrowfully to us all that his mind was not his own when he was betraying his sacred wedding vows. Although I felt that message was undercut somewhat because he spent a good deal more time going into detail about how the witch turned herself into a comely young woman for these couplings. There was no mention of any of his other violations of the wedding vows which if you ask me was a missed opportunity. Were I the Baron I would have taken that chance to explain that the witch had been messing with my mind for years – which caused all the infidelities of the past. I also would have elucidated that there was still a little witch magic rattling around in here that was to blame for the infidelities I had planned in the future.
Since Martialla and I had robbed the Baron of his revenge by killing the witch and the shaman and the witch-shaman (and possibly a shaman-witch) he had to settle for a mass hanging of the handful of Kostelos warriors that had been captured. A popular thing for rich and powerful people to order in these scenarios is to leave the bodies to rot on the walls as some kind of lesson but that presents all manner of logistical problems. Rotting corpses aren’t very handy to have hanging around (pun). To make him feel better about not getting to execute any Kostelos women I presented him with Greysmith’s dwarf-axe saying that it had been the weapon of mightiest Kostelos warrior in the battle.
The good news is that Zedkath had been captured. With very little prompting he said that the goal of the Kostelos-Satander alliance was succession from our beloved Kingdom and the creation of a new kingdom dedicated to their God and their cultural whatevers. I got the impression that Zedkath had gotten mixed up in the scheme out of boredom rather than any manner of religious ecstasy, a theory which Martialla backed up. I guess that’s what you get when you send an ambitious young asshole warrior to guard a mountain pass instead of to the front lines where he can make a name for himself. Although I suppose that was the point, the Duke doesn’t need any rivals.
I explained to the Baron how I saved him and all his lands making sure to downplay everything I had done and emphasize that he had mostly broken free of the spell himself and had probably only fallen under it in the first place because of something someone else had done. I told him how his lands had fallen into disarray and that many of his holdings have been either given away in his name or were being usurped – particularly usurped by Baron Saltwheel and Baron Harmenkar. Since the Kostelos had done such a good job of stripping him of his loyal fighting men I suggested that Mord’s crew of warriors would help him start righting the ship – they’re not your typical baronial sworn men but these aren’t typical times and they had proven themselves effective in doing their small part to help him had they not?
After all that talking it was late and I was dispatched with Martialla to my old room – someone else had been living there clearly but the man (either a very casual soldier or a servant with a weapon) that escorted us assured us that they wouldn’t be coming back. I wonder how many “innocent” bystanders got the shaft in this whole fiasco. I had a weird sense of repetition being back in that room – even though it was full of someone else’s possessions. For a weird moment it felt like I had never left. Before I banished it I was overwhelmed with the helpless feeling of being trapped here that I had when they first demonstrated that they could track me with the necklace they’ve sealed around my neck. But things are different now. So many things are different now. Things such as waking up in a bed – a nice bed. A nice bed a place that is safe (sort of) and has good food and clean water and zero lurking rays (probably). Case in point when I woke up Martiall was sitting by the window eating breakfast corn and having herself a morning cocktail.
She nodded over at me as I stirred “How were the nightmares? Soul crushing or just spirit destroying?”
“I’m not even sure it was a nightmare. I dreamed that Auraluna Domeil’s daughter was working with a group of blood wizards to turn the Queen into a vampire with their blood ritual so they could control her with their vampire controlling amulet.”
“Ah yes, who doesn’t have one of those?”
“Exactly. Of course I was the only one who had the cure and I needed to get it to the Queen before it was too late.”
“Where was I?”
“Absent. I assume you sacrificed yourself to the Blood God in order to get the cure.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Why would I try to save the queen? It’s a dream, they don’t have to make sense. Speaking of, I promised to tell you about a new development. The ghost or spirit or something of an ancient Emperoress has visited me a couple times and wants me to help her come back to life or something.”
“How tedious. Also it’s Empress.”
“You mean it’s impressive.”
“No, it’s Empress, you said Emperoress. That’s not a word.”
“Impress who about what?”
“No, not IMpress, EMpress.”
After breakfast the Baron gathered everyone in the town square and made a grand declaration that in three days’ time there would be a great feast in honor of his victory so everyone better get off their ass and fix up all the damage that had been done in the fighting. That’s a pretty good example of how life works for these people. You work like a dog all day and then suddenly out of nowhere there’s fighting and fires burning in your home. You hide or run or do whatever and manage to survive the night – congratulations now you have to clean it all up! Oh, and also this extra work that needs to be done right now! And these are the privileged ones – they’re lives are much better than the farmers out in the countryside. It’s almost enough to make you feel like those Black Bride/Widow/Whatever people are onto something. Almost. Remember how I accidentally created that movement? Well not accidentally, but unintentionally.
After that I “got” to attend to the Baroness since all her ladies in waiting had been killed or fled or killed while trying to flee. Things were so dire that even Martialla was impressed into service as one of the Baroness’ attendants. Martialla clomping around the Baroness’s sitting room? That’s how bad things were. After a couple hours on Baroness duty I managed to slip away and leave Martialla to attend to her needs by herself – which is probably the worst thing I’ve ever done to her. And remember that I stabbed her a few days ago. It might be the worst thing I’ve ever done to anyone. Maybe not.
I went to see the Baron and who did I see by his side but Hellerhad. It took me a moment to recognize him since he was dressed in fine clothing now instead of being draped in animal guts, but a man that size with that stupid of a mustache? You don’t forget a sight like that. What’s the world coming to when a man like that is a wizard? He’s got to be close to seven feet high and he looks like he could pick up a manatee like a sack of grain. Or at least a dugong.
“Good morrow My Lord, I thought all your enemies had meet their final disposition.”
He frowned “Speak plainly woman, what can you mean?”
I lowered me head demurely “Sorry My Lord, I just assumed that Master Hellerhad being the powerful man of magic that he is could have long ago broken the witches spell that affected you rather than leaving you to struggle free triumphantly as you did. Much hardship and loss could have been prevented if he had defended you as one should their liege lord. Ergo I assumed he was your enemy by proxy.”
The Baron’s frown turned into a look of curiosity as he glanced at his advisor “Do you know this woman?”
He nodded “We met briefly while you were away My Lord.”
“Yes, met when I went asked for his aid in protecting the Baroness, and in helping her to manage the land in your absence.”
“And what was his response?
“Why don’t you tell the Baron what response you gave to my supplication Master Hellerhad.”
His face turned to stone and he paused before speaking “My Lord, it was purely a case of bad timing, you see . . .”
“Very bad timing I must imagine, for there was no response at all My Lord. Master Hellerhad sent me on a fool’s errand and then fled like a thief in the night, leaving not so much as a word to me or your good wife.”
Hellerhad was halfway out of his chair before the Baron waved him back irritably.
“This is a serious accusation. Do you deny it sir?”
Hellerhad stopped glaring at me to look kindly at the Baron “It’s not quite that simple your Lord, the situation is more complex than a woman . . .”
“How convenient. I think it’s very simple, I came to you for help and you ran on account of your cowardly soul.”
The Baron gave me the stink eye “That’s twice you’re interrupted when it is not your place to do so. Don’t do it again.”
I curtsied retiringly “Apologies My Lord, it’s been an eventful few days, all the excitement has made me forget myself.”
“Hmm, yes, quite so. Well, this is a troublesome problem isn’t it? I shall need good councilors around me in the days to come and they are sadly in short supply just now. I was counting on Hellerhad to advise me on many matters, many matters indeed. But as you say his absences before now is rather damning.”
Hellerhad now did stand to address the Baron “My Lord all I can say is that I am here to provide you all the wisdom I have to offer.”
“My Lord, if I may, two relations of mine have traveled here with me, I would suggest that they could provide much better counsel than this vondrook and would be happy to do so.”
The Baron was shocked by my language “Madam, you forget yourself!”
I ducked my head in apology once again “I’m sorry My Lord, but the sight of a blackguard sitting at your strong right hand quite inflames my passions.”
Hellerhad spun on me “Blackguard?! How dare you madam? How dare you?!”
The Baron gestured at him “Sit down my friend. Perhaps you should remove yourself until your passions are calmed Lady.”
Another bloody curtsy “I shall My Lord, again my apologies for any upset I have caused. Before I retire however I would like to bring up one thing. You spoke of a boon for the small part that I played in your return to your faculties. I would request that it be banishing this scapegrace from your court.”
“I’m afraid that’s out of the question.”
“How about a duel My Lord?”
He looked like a rabbit had just ridden by on the back of a giraffe “A duel?”
“Yes My Lord, a contest of some sort. If I win Master Hellerhad is exiled. If he wins I shall apologize and never speak ill of him again. We’d have to figure out some fair competition of course, clearly I cannot match magic with him just as he’s no match for me physically.”
He was incredulous “What? I could break you in half with one hand!”
“So it would have to be something where we had an equal chance – letting the Gods decide as is the intention of these things.”
The Baron’s surprised turned to deep thought “An interesting proposal. I shall think on it.” He waved his hand airily “You may go now. And in the future don’t turn up in my chambers unannounced.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it My Lord.”
Funds: 53,040 platinum, 8,000 gold
Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Ela’s Dazzling Garment, Belt of Physical Might +4, Ring of Urban Grace, Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Elegant Boots, Ela’s Extravagant Necklace
Noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring, pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (700), gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, disguise kit, covenant ring, tiny diamonds (26), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring, tiara, masterwork red and black long greatcoat, Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three), darkwood and platinum music box, silver bracelet set with bloodstones, platinum ring set with fire opal, silver and moonstone bracelet, holy symbol of Kozilek, dwarf journal
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