Macendamandel 6 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Do you know how many people each year die because they’re gagged (proper gagged) and they throw up and then asphyxiate on the vomitus?  Me neither, what kind of lunatic would know such a thing?  What I do know is that I almost became one of them today.  Even before I nearly died I have very little to recommend about traveling at a high rate of speed while bound at the hands, blindfolded, and gagged.  It’s not great even when you’re lying still (as I unfortunately am well aware) but it’s particularly troublesome when you’re bouncing around on the back of a horse.  The drugs swirling around inside me probably didn’t help either.  After some number of hours being tossed around as we galloped (well, not really, horses can’t actually gallop for that long but you know what I mean) towards Three Rivers I felt that hot sweaty flush come over me that is the precursor to puking your guts out.  I tried to alert my captor to this fact by grabbing at his arm and generally freaking out but he failed to get the message.

Have you ever explosively vomited while your mouth was blocked by a gag or otherwise sealed up in some fashion?  And this was a real gag, not that bullshit where they tie a strip of cloth over your mouth like that does anything.  It’s one of the more horrifying experiences of my life so far.  Sadly that list of horrible things I’ve experienced keeps getting longer and longer.  It’s basically like instantaneous drowning.  The sensation of drowning is bad enough on it’s own, but usually you have a period of running out of breath first to prepare yourself.   This was instant “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit I’m dying!”  As I was suffocating on the contents of my own stomach I thought that based on all the things I’ve survived that this was a colossally stupid and mundane way to die.  I survived a dragon encounter more than once and now I’m going to puke drown like some fat old alcoholic wretch lying in the gutter?  The fact that I’ve had this thought more than once is a good indication of how great things are going for my life right now.

But there may also be a nugget of wisdom to be extracted from it – it’s the invisible dangers that you never think about that can lay you low.  A man with a knife coming to stab you?  That’s an easy danger to bring to the forefront of your mind.  On the other hand it’s hard to be vigilant about horseshoe maintenance all the time and then WHAM you get a horse with a bad shoe and your mount shies at the wrong time and you’re on the ground with a bloody broken neck.  They say it’s the little things in life and they’re right – it’s the little things that will kill you.  You have to be on your guard all the time if you want to make it through.  Which sounds exhausting, but there’s nothing for it.  If you want to live.  Which I do.  A lot.

Fortunately (I guess?) once I started dying the man was holding me on the horse realized something was wrong and pulled to a stop.  I don’t know if he threw me to the ground in a panic or if he just dropped me or what, but I definitely hit the ground hard and felt something crack in my shoulder.  No, not crack, it was more like the sound when you crush the shell of a walnut.  I guess that’s a crack.  The point is it was more of a crushing than a clean crack.  The good news is that the blinding pain of busting my shoulder distracted me from all the dying I was doing.  Never let it be said that I don’t look for a positive spin on things.

The next thing that happened was the blinding I experienced when the blindfold was ripped off – I would have gone for the gag first myself, but what do I know?  The gag was pulled off second and then someone push their dirty fingers into my mouth to try and clear things out.  I bit down on them as hard as I could mostly out of reflex/convulsing but also because get your damn fingers out of my mouth.  Next thing I felt was someone put their mouth over my mouth and nose and sucking with the power of a dozen back alley whores pull the vomit out of my airway.  You’re probably thinking that is a turn of phrase you never want to hear again – well I’m the one it happened to!  It saved my life for sure, but that doesn’t make it any less revolting.  Once I was done dry heaving, gasping, and writhing in pain in the dirt I did a goodly amount of screaming and cursing at the men standing around me.  Even though they were out of reach I kicked at them pointless as well.  I can only think of a few moments when I was more angry than I was at that instant.  I realize that this may come off as something hypocritical since I often complain about the lack of gratitude when I save someone, but since these people almost killed me in the first place I think this is different.  Once I had exhausted myself they tried to pull me to my feet and I involuntarily made a very pathetic mewling noise.

“You broke my fucking shoulder you fucking fuck!”  I tried to stop myself from sobbing and failed “Please, please, for the love of the Gods or whatever you find holy and good in this world do not blindfold and gag me again.  I can’t do any magic, I can’t do anything, please just don’t!”

I’m not sure I ever cut a more pathetic picture that I did just then.  Even back in Graltontown when I was sick almost to death and hiding in a tomb laying on the cold stone freezing and thinking that I wasn’t going to see the morning I don’t think I was as low as I was sitting in the middle of the road covered with vomit with a shattered shoulder crying my eyes out.  One of the men came over with a phial in his hand and offered it to me.

“Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.”

He jabbed it at me “Drink it, it will fix your shoulder.”

I started laugh-crying and blowing big gobs of snot and other grossness out of my nose instead.  I couldn’t help myself. 

“You’re trying to kill me.  Just do it, cut my head off, don’t torture me like this.  Don’t drug me and blindfold me and kill me like this.  I don’t deserve this, no one deserves anything like this.  I haven’t done anything to deserve this!”

He sighed, a sigh of a man who just wants to be done with his work. “This engagement hasn’t gone as planned for any of us.  Just drink this, it will heal you and then we can get you to Three Rivers as soon as possible.”

I laughed again “Where I’ll be executed?  I may not want to get there as badly as you lot.”

He gestured to his men “Hold her down.”

I did sort of a spring-hop-stand up and dash forward move and slammed the crown of my head into his groin.  This would have been a great idea if he hadn’t been wearing armor.  I think they call it a codpiece.  I don’t know why, it should be called a groinpiece.  What the Hells does a fish have to do with anything?  Slamming your head as hard as possible into a fluted piece of metal is not ordinarily a great thing to do, but at this point I was beyond feeling the pain.  No that’s not right, I felt plenty of pain, I was beyond caring about pain.  The headbutt to the metal groin armor did no damage, but it did knock him off balance and it certainly surprised him.  With a feral snarl I jumped on him, dragging us both to the ground as I got my bound hands around his throat.  I had the heels of my hands underneath his chin and I pulled back as hard as I could.  I never wanted anything more than I wanted to kill that man in that moment.  It was maybe a whole three seconds before the others pulled me off as easily as undoing a button.  There was barely even a red mark on his neck.

He locked eyes with me and help up the phial “This will help you, you want to drink it, drink it.  You don’t want to fine, but we’re moving on, if you want to ride in agony that’s your decision.”

Now that I could see them and had half a second where I wasn’t blind and dying, I saw that there was only one of the original crew from the coach in this little fellowship.  The fellow who was doing the talking was a broad muscular man with a shaved head and the standard cold look of a true mercenary.  One of the men holding me, the one that I think I was riding with, had to be a good six inches taller than me and would have looked very intimidating if not for his silly blonde mustache and his ringed balding head.  The third newcomer, who had a large sword drawn and ready to go, was another physical specimen who’s gaunt face and grey hair on the sides did nothing to make him look appealing. 

“I’ll drink it, just unbind my hands, I can’t hurt anyone, I can’t do anything.”

“You just tried to strangle me.”

“And it didn’t amount to much did it?  I lost control of my emotions for a moment, it won’t happen again.  I won’t cause you any trouble.”

“Any more trouble you mean.”

“I haven’t done shit aside from almost die!”

He gestured “Unbind her hands.”

The gaunt swordsman frowned “I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”

Shaved head grunted “Probably not, but this whole thing is already a disaster.”

That bothered me more than anything.  Okay, not more than almost dying, but it still bothered me.  I was the one being dragged to my death and he’s acting like he’s the one who was inconvenienced by the whole thing.  That really put some corn in my muffin.  Probably everyone in every job grumbles about it when things aren’t going well, but have a little perspective asshole – I’m the one who has the right to complain.  I did end up drinking the offer elixir and it really was a healing concoction of some kind – my shoulder still hurt put I could feel it sliding back into place and the worst of the pain was spared.  They all kept a close eye on me but I was allowed to ride on my own after that – they had several spare mounts.  In other circumstances I would have enjoyed the ride because they were truly top quality horses that had been bred for stamina and a smooth gait, but for SOME reason I couldn’t enjoy it. 

With the everwake serum poking at my insides like a stream of angry hornets I couldn’t really enjoy anything.  When we stopped the food they gave me tasted bitter and vinegary to the point where I couldn’t even eat it.  Not to mention that the drug keeps you from sleep but it doesn’t make you not tired – if anything I felt more fatigued than usual.  It was an awful feeling, like I was hung from an iron bar by my armpits – no way to fall but being held up wasn’t great either.  The halt was mostly for the horses as far as I could tell, to give them a rest and to give them a chance to eat – the Lodestoners kept me under heavy guard the whole night, only one of them sleeping at a time and for only a few hours.  They must be taking something themselves but I didn’t see what it was. 

Despite their constant vigilance and overall competence as I sat there against a tree stump in the darkness unable to sleep and with a sour feeling in my stomach I thought about trying to escape.  There’s no guarantee that Duke Lodvocka will even get my message or do anything about if he does.  Or that if he does it will happen in time – we’ve travelled a shocking distance every quickly, we’ll probably be in Three Rivers tomorrow.  Counting on the Duke to save me doesn’t sit well.  Not to mention which the Lumber people might just kill me anyway despite what he wants.  The problem is that if I try to escape and fail that means it will probably be impossible for the Duke to do much – authorities don’t like it when you escape from them, even when you’re innocent.  Which is a cruel joke, seems like if you were wrongfully imprisoned escaping should be fine.  But it’s not.

Plus if I did get away I’d be giving up all the stuff they took from me, and I had some great stuff. I should know better, that’s the trap of having a lot of great stuff – as much as it can help you it can also be an anchor around your leg.  Stuff should be expendable, you shouldn’t get attached to it.  But I had SO much money, it’s foolish to throw that away right?  It’s a real pickle.  Throughout the night there were several points where I was a half a second away from making my move but I always snuffed out that impulse the last moment.  The chances were too bad and the risks too great.  I’ll have to see what awaits me in Three Rivers.  I’ve gotten out of tighter jams than this.  I can’t think of one at the moment, but I’m sure that I have. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 1,190,751

Inventory: Whiterock family signet ring (Ring of Binding)

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, maker of the manacles

Macendamandel 5 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

If there’s a universal constant in the life of all intelligent beings it’s that one day you will have to take a long hard look at things and decide for yourself – do you want to let an ancient queen of a long gone decadent empire inhabit your mortal body or do you want to stay firmly entrapped in the hands of professional jailers taking you to a death sentence and hope that your lawyer is going to get a message to the Duke in time to stop it?  For me that time is now.  I went with the possession route but if we’re being honest, and I feel like we know each other well enough now that I can be honest, I don’t think it was a good decision.  The only real motivation that I had for doing it was imagining how pissed the dream queen would be when she floats or flies or slithers into my body, whatever dream monsters do, and found herself shackled and trapped.  That’s probably not a great motivation, but, as they say, what’s done is done.

When the queen disappeared so did her double-mawed spiderery handmaidens as well as the torture slab they were holding me down on, leaving me alone in and endless field of fog.  Not sure if she was so eager to get into my body (wouldn’t be the first time that happened you know?) that she forgot about my “punishment” or if that was the punishment.  It was certainly boring which is a decent punishment.  I walked for a long time but I never encountered anything, just more swirling white fog.  I thought maybe that I could create my own dream if I concentrated hard enough, but nothing happened no matter how hard I thought about – and I thought really hard.  For a moment it seemed like my efforts were making the fog was swirlier but it easily could have been my imagination.  I sat for what seemed like a long time, it’s hard to tell in a featureless dream, when a woman came walking out of the fog.  It was none other than Timora the witch-mayor of Cabshirement. The dream version of her was a little taller, a little more attractive, and much more self-assured. 

“Are you real?  And don’t give me any bullshit about how nothing and or everything is real.”

She nodded “I’m real, I’m using a spell to travel into your dreams.  I’ve been trying for a while but I haven’t been able to reach you.”

“I had a way to block out dream intruders, it didn’t seem like you were doing anything for me so I was using that before.  Although I don’t have it now so here you are I guess.”

“If you have a way to protect yourself what do you need me for?”

I gestured “Take a look around.  People have a very nasty habit of taking my things – without that magic item I have no protections from the various dream attackers I’ve acquired.”

“There’s more than one?”

“Oh yes, I have seem to have a real talent for getting under people’s skins.  Particularly people with bizarre magic powers that want to hurt me.  Although the one who’s hassling me right now I don’t think I did anything to.  She died hundreds of years ago so what could I have done to piss her off?  That’s what she claims anyway, he story is never quite the same.  The whole thing could be a snowjob.”

“Where is this adversary now?”

“Possessing my body.”

“How did that happen?”

“I made a deal with her.”

“That seems like an extraordinary bad thing to have done.”

“Yeah, I regretted it pretty quickly, but no use crying over spilled wine right?  So madam witch mayor what do you have for me?  You’ve come all his way into my dreams and so forth, I assume you have good news.”

“I’ll have to do some research.  I was just trying to establish contact with you.”

“That’s it?  That’s all you have?”

“I’m coming into this situation blind, I need to know what I’m dealing with before I can figure out what can be done to help you.  Am I going to be able to contact you tomorrow night?  And subsequent nights?”

“Seems like it, although I’m probably going to be executed sometime soon – I assume that will make it harder.”

She was taken slightly aback “Execution on top of dream attacks?  You must have a very active life.”

“That’s certainly one way to describe it.  Is there nothing you can do for me right now?  No kind of protection spell or anything?  Can you at least make it harder for these people to find me?  I don’t know how you find someone in a dream, is there some kind of supernatural ‘kick me’ sign on me or something?”

“I can place a ward on you but it will only last for a couple of hours.”

“It’s better than nothing, I’ll take it.  How the Hells does that work though?  I’m not really here, this is my dream, are you really here?  Either way since I’m not really here how can you cast a spell on me – the real me I mean – if this is a dream?”

She smiled slightly “It’s best not to think about it.  Magic isn’t an exact science and anyway magical theory has never been something I’ve been interested in.  As a witch I see magic as more of natural expression of . . .”

I sighed “Just get on with it.”

As soon as her spell was completed I woke up back in the real world like I had been doused with cold water – it was shocking and disorientating to say the least.  What I saw before me was a good sight more astonishing though.  I figured that old dreamy would just be trapped in my body silent raging that I had outwitted her – seeing as how said body was shackled and magically mind-fucked.  Turns out that that assumption was very wrong indeed.  I wasn’t inside the coach anymore, I was standing unshackled a few years away.  The coach itself was looking worse the wear, the horses were both dead and it generally looked like someone had gotten the carriage up to full speed and slammed directly into the wall of a castle.  One for the Lodestoners was on the roof firing the ballista at a massive creature made of earth in the general shape of a humanoid with two glowing gemstone eyes. Two of the others were struggling hand to hand with the blonde fellow I had been chatting with yesterday.  Blindie had a wild look in his eyes and was maniacally trying to murder his friends.  There was no sign of the fifth fellow.

It was a lot to take in.  This dream woman certainly knows how to cause some havoc in the real world when she’s gets the chance, I give her that.  Unfortunately as soon as I “returned” the earth-creature collapsed into just a pile of dirt and blondie came to his senses – although the other two clearly didn’t realize this right away as they dragged him to the ground and gave him a sold thwack on the noggin.   I thought about making a run for it but the fellow on the roof manning the ballista had eyes on me in a flash and swung it around to take aim at me.  I don’t like his chances of hitting me in the dark, but I wasn’t sure that was a risk I wanted to take either.  I was gauging my odds when one of the other guards retrieved the poison injector thing I had seen them take down Crookjaw with outside of Graltontown and head my way.

“Wait, stop, I know this is going to sound like the world’s worst lie but that wasn’t me that just did that.”

The fellow with the injector looked grim “Talk, fast.”

“There’s a dream hag that attacks me in the night when I sleep, I had a magic necklace that keeps her away but they took it away from my in the prison.  I asked if I could keep it but they wouldn’t let me because it does other stuff as well, they thought I could use it to escape.  Tonight when she came to me I let her take possession of my body, I didn’t know that she would do whatever she did here – I figured she’d be trapped and helpless just like I was.  I was just trying to fuck with her like she’s been doing to me for months.  I can’t really say that I’m sorry and mean it because you are taking me to die an unjust death but I did not intend for this to happen.”

To their credit (or maybe not) they didn’t immediately disregard the entire story as bullshit.  They ordered me back into the carriage, and I went, noticing as I did that those horrible shackles were broken on the ground.  I suppose the earth-monster ripped them off of her?  Or me I mean.  You know what I mean.  One of them kept an eye on me while the other three, including blondie, went off a little ways to huddle up and conference.  I could hear enough of what they were saying to gather that they were debating if the Cathars authorities had broken their contract by not telling them about this dream business (which they didn’t know about).  After a few minutes of discussion blondie took out what looked to be a ridiculously poor carving of a horse about the size of a child’s toy and set it on the ground – where it turned into a real live horse that he mounted and rode off.  The other two came to join the one eyeballing me.

“This only happens when you’re asleep?”

“Yes, only when I’m dreaming.”

He nodded and gestured to his friend “We need mage protocols.”

I shook my head “I don’t have any magic, that was all her – the other one.  I can’t cast any spells.”

I don’t know if he didn’t believe me or if he just didn’t care.  My hands were bound, I was gagged, and I was blindfolded as well – which seems like a pretty good way to neuter a mage to me.  They also injected me with something.  There was no way to know at first but I eventually realized that it had to be everwake serum based on the jittery energy that was running through my body.  Once it was fully in my system I could not stay still for even a moment, even restrained like I was I was still fidgeting and bouncing around as much as I could.  At some point I felt the warmth of the sun on my face – hours had passed just sitting there on the road.  Eventually the beating sound of horse hooves came our way and after a few minutes of discussion I felt myself lifted up into a saddle.  I was immediately worried that I was going to be dragged along on a horse, which when blindfolded and with bound hands carries a fantastic chance of falling and breaking your bloody neck.  Somehow this fear must have been communicated by my body language because I felt someone sweep up behind me and place an arm around my waist.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got you.”

They certainly did, and it was very worrisome.

Funds: None

XP: 1,190,751

Inventory: Whiterock family signet ring (Ring of Binding)

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, maker of the manacles

Macendamandel 4 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I was brought nothing to eat but I don’t feel hungry – they must have this place magicked up the wazoo.  The question is does said magic actually nourish you or just suppress your hunger?  If you stay here long enough do you die of starvation without ever feeling it?  It’s a smart move, if you never interact with the guards you don’t have a chance to pull any kind of shenanigans on them.  With them?  On them.  After my alleged lawyer departed – or at least stopped speaking, he was probably still watching me on the crystal ball or whatever hoping I would get nude – I was left with nothing to do but wait.  I leafed through the religious materials briefly – mostly the usual Adariel platitudes about forgiveness and salvation but there was also a small book that seemed to be subtle literature for a death cult of some kind.  I wonder how that got in here.  I’ve always wondered why they take such pains to try and prevent criminals from killing themselves, seems like it would save everyone a lot of trouble.  If you ask me a firmly secured noose should be installed in every cell.  I guess they don’t want to rob the people of the pageantry of a spectacular public execution.  The poor people need something to cheer them up.

As has become my tradition when incarcerated I took stock of things.  On the surface it doesn’t seem like I’ve made much progress, but getting out from under the thumb of the Juosts is significant – that was really holding me back.  And I was planning on going to Three Rivers anyway so no big deal right?  I would have liked to arrive less conspicuously, that would make overthrowing the cartel that controls the place easier, but we all have to make due right?  I need to get back in the habit to disguising myself more, I’ve been walking around as myself too much lately.  Keeping track of a bunch of different identities is annoying, but if overthrowing oppressive trade unions and brutally murdering Dukes was easy everyone would do it.  There’s only so much stock taking you can stock take though and eventually I went to sleep with a wadded up prison dress for a pillow and another for a blanket.  The magical lighting dimmed, which was nice, I wonder if that syncs up with the sunset or if it’s just on a time trigger of some sort.  I wonder how much gold went into building this prison and how many people could have been saved with that money.  Probably a lot.

I slept like the dead and in the morning the wall opened back up for a succession of expert armed people and magic types to transport me from the cell to a fortified courtyard outside were a coach was waiting – these people really aren’t messing around.  You’re not going to escape from here without a goodly amount of effort.  I recognized the coach instantly – it wasn’t the exact same one but it was clearly of similar make, looks like my old friends at Lodestone Security are going to be conveying me to my show trial.  There was a whole lot of paperwork and general standing around where nothing seemed to be happening for the transfer of one solitary woman so it gave me a chance to reacquaint myself with the tricky fellows from Lodestone.  There were five men standing around not in guard uniforms so I took them for the Lodestone crew – I didn’t recognize any of them but I only got a good look at two of them in our first encounter.  The two that kicked dirt in my face and called me a whore.  I chose a strapping blonde fellow with a tiny triangle of a beard who I think was the driver.

“Lodestone Security eh?”

He nodded shortly “Yes ma’am, how did you know?”

“I had some dealings with your outfit in Charterton, I recognize the modifications to your rig here.”

“You have a very good eye ma’am, we pride ourselves on being able to pass.”

“I assure you that it’s only because I know what to look for based on prior experience.  Everything went swimmingly with you chaps before, it’s quite an operation you run.  I’m glad to have you lads on my side.”

He raised an eyebrow marginally “Is that so?”

I smiled warmly “Oh yes.” I leaned in a whispered slightly “I’m not actually a prisoner, this is all a ruse you see.  I’m actually helping negotiate with the Consortium, I’m an envoy you see.  My employers figured this would be the safest way of getting me around – what with those Black Widow people causing mischief.”

He smiled faintly “Seems to be that if you were on a secret mission like that you wouldn’t mention it.”

I laughed prettily “Just so my boy, just so, however knowing Lodestone the way I do I know that I can trust you with my little secret.” I touched his hand and dropped him a sassy wink “You know how to keep a secret right?”

His smile got imperceptible wider, it wasn’t much but it’s a start – establishing rapport isn’t always as easy as I make it seem you know.  While we were waiting for whatever we were waiting for I was able to establish that Lodestone is based out of Cathars and have four such elaborate carriages in their “fleet” with two more under construction.  They’ve got a rota of close to a hundred “transportation specialists” working on various jobs at any given time.  Sounds like business is booming for them.  Also sounds like a much bigger operation that I had thought – taking them down is going to be more involved than blowing up a single coach and murdering a couple people.  But as some war criminal said, our enemies make us who we are more than anyone else in our lives.  I suppose that’s why I’m so great – I have the most deadly enemies. 

Eventually it was time to go after a lot of grandiloquent talk between the guards and the Lodestone people with “thees” and “thous” making it clear that the legal bailment had been created or discharged or whatever.  One of the other Lodestoners came towards me with shackles and I gave the maybe driver my most harmless and frightened look, with just a hint of “hey sailor” and asked if that was absolutely necessary.  He was unmoved.

“Sorry ma’am, its policy.”

He didn’t seem sorry in the least.  What a cad.  When they put the shackles on me I quickly discovered that it was worse than I thought.  The moment they turned the key on the central lock I felt a cold alien presence in my mind.  It was like a tiny little worm crawling up my back just out of reach, a worm of ice and anxiety.  I don’t mean to brag, but after the many mental assaults I’ve weathered over the past year and a half I’ve gotten pretty damn good at fighting them off.  There’s a trick to it but it’s hard to explain – it’s one of those things you have to learn for yourself.  You can tell someone how to swim – but it doesn’t mean much until they get in the water.  Kick your legs and move your arms?  That’s how you swim, that’s also how you flail around when you drown.  There’s no substitute for experience.  But despite that whatever these shackles were doing was something that you couldn’t fight off.  The force was weak, or at least it seemed so at first, but it was constant – kind of like being pressed, the pressure never lets up. 

I would equate it to a trial amongst certain Kostelos tribes.  Being the primitive savages that they are, sometimes to settle a dispute where they have a “trial” where the differing parties each hold out a basket full of rocks at arm’s length.  It only weighs ten pounds or so, but you can’t hold it forever even if it seems easy at first.  You have a limited amount of strength, gravity does not.  The magic of the shackles was like that – at first it was easy to shunt it to the side with sheer willpower.  But as the minutes and then hours went by its like holding up that basket – your arms start to shake.  You get worn down, the attack stays the same as you get weaker.  Then you start resorting to tricks – talking to yourself, breathing techniques, summoning up strong memories to help you focus – but eventually that runs out as well.  Your defiant thoughts grow silent and the tendrils of the enchantment start creeping in.

At first there was confusion, my vision seemed to swim, and then everything “clicked” into place.  I didn’t want to escape.  Why would I?  Escape would be improper.  I wanted to do whatever my captors told me to do, they knew what was right and safe for me.  And there was fear, fear that not doing what they told me was wrong.  Fear that thoughts of escape were unnatural.  You can say what you want about the things I’ve done (and will continue to do) that you think evil, but this to me is what evil really is.  In my book there’s no greater violation than bending someone’s thoughts to your will.  And you might be thinking “but you hang out with someone who does it” and I say to you – well it’s different when it happens to someone else.  They deserve it.  Probably.  Because they’re bad people.  Most likely. 

In this compliant mind-destroying haze I was loaded into the coach and happily went along my way to my doom in Three Rivers.  You’d think the bastards that made this would at least make the effect be pleasant, like being high on qat or some similar substance letting the day just drift by in an agreeable fog, but it was nothing like that.  It was more like an out of body experience – you see yourself sitting there smiling and doing nothing while “you” are screaming for yourself to move.  Honestly it’s one of the cruelest things that’s been done to me.  I’m going to find whoever made these things and I am going to do something to them.  Something bad.  Real bad. 

But wait, because the day managed to get even worse!  If there’s one thing I know it’s that things can always get worse.  At some point the door to the carriage opened and one of the Lodestoners poked their head in to tell me to go to sleep.  And I did so, sighing contentedly to be following orders.  It seemed like I had barely gotten to sleep when the dream attack began.  I was laying naked on a stone slab surrounded by grey-skinned women that had a second gaping tooth maw on their throat.  It looked they were walking around with slit throats until those horrible mouths opened.  One hand looked normal and the second hand appeared to be a legless spider – with two large vicious curved fangs functioning as “fingers”.  Their upper human mouths didn’t move but a bizarre chirping and clicking emitted from their lower slash-mouth filled with shark-like teeth.  For a moment they just stood looming over my but soon enough they started using their spider-hands to pinch and stab at my most sensitive areas.

I don’t know how this dream shit all works or what it means – I’ve told you before that when these attacks happen that it feels real.  I don’t know if it is real somehow or if your mind experiences it as if it’s real but nothing can actually happen to you or what, but the pain I felt that night was very convincing.  I screamed and thrashed and kicked at the vile women but they clamped down on me with merciless strength and held me still on the hard stone.  I heard a commanding voice tell them to stop.

“That’s enough for the moment ladies.”

I craned my neck and was able to see my visitor – the imperious looking woman with the ivory skin and the bright silver eyes.  For once she wasn’t reclining and smoking and luxuriating, she looked angry.  And I could feel her anger like a low note in the pit of my stomach.  Somehow beholding her angry look was worse than the vile creatures attacking me at her command.

She pursed her perfect lips “You’ve been hiding from me, that doesn’t make me happy.  I wanted us to be friends.”

“I wasn’t hiding from you Your Imperial Majesty, there’s a creature that haunts my dreams and wishes me ill – she’s the one that I was hiding from.”

“I’m aware of that creature, I told you that her power was nothing compared to mine – I could crush her with a thought.  Why didn’t you ask for my help?  Why did you hide?”

“I was confused, dreams are bewildering to me, I have a hard time understanding what’s real and what isn’t.  My mind isn’t strong like yours.  But I understand now, I want us to be friends.  I want your help.”

“Yes well, given the circumstances that doesn’t mean much now does it?  You’re like a thief that is repentant after they get caught.  You’re lucky that I am merciful and we can still be friends.”

“Yes very lucky Your Imperial Majesty.  Could you see it in your heart to have your servants release me so we can talk?”

She continue as if she hadn’t heard me “You must be punished however for hiding from me, for refusing me, it’s only fair – if the thief’s hand is not cut off what is their motivation to learn?  What would make you remember this lesson best?  Taking your youth?  Your beauty?  Your voice?”

“If I may be so bold Your Imperial Majesty, rather than just punish me why not also reward yourself?  As I understand it you’ve long been denied the pleasures of the flesh, why not take my body for your own?  To feel the air on your skin, to taste real food, to live again – that must be something that you would enjoy.  In the meantime you can leave me here in whatever format you choose to reflect upon my failures and how I can better serve you going forward.”

“An interesting proposition.  You were vehemently opposed to this transference before, one must wonder what has changed.”

“I’ve realized the errors of my way Mistress, I wish only to serve you now, if inhibiting my imperfect vessel for a few hours will please you that is what you should have.”

“So it shall be.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 1,190,751

Inventory: Whiterock family signet ring (Ring of Binding)

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, maker of the manacles

Macendamandel 3 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Damrow agreed to desert his band of muleteers and head south with us to Three Rivers – the day I can’t convince a priest of poor people to help me destroy a greedy band of plutarchs is the day that I commit ritual suicide to save face, only to come back more powerful than ever as an unquiet spirit.  When Damrow and I caught back up to the caravan it turned out that he and Martialla were already peripherally acquainted.  Somewhere in her sad tale of fathers being eaten by trolls, maternal abandonment, and teenage naval service they had crossed paths in Lagart.  They were both cautiously cordial to each other – the way people are when they meet an old acquaintance and they’re trying to remember what dirt that person might have on them.  As if anyone would care about their petty secrets.

The next morning, since Cathars the glittering jewel of the second worst county in the Kingdom, was looming we three brave friends ditched the caravan and went on ahead rather than sticking around for the several weeks it seemed it would take them to cross the last eleven miles.  Martialla and I said out thank-yous and goodbyes to Diarmaid Hücresel who was somehow still alive – we both would have lost money on that bet.  Although she’s not in Cathars yet – there’s still time for her to be disremembered by bandits or mongrelmen or mongelmen bandits.  I also took a moment to speak with the half-elf quartet that defeated the many dangers that assailed the caravan along the way (except the wizard, who was the most dangerous of course, I defeated that danger for free).  Honest and competent adventurers?  I didn’t think that was possible.  I had to let them know with them before leaving that I thought they were okay in my book. Sort of okay.

Despite all my crisscrossing of this Gods forsaken county I’ve never been to Cathars before – somehow all my travels have taken me north or east.  It is in kind of an odd position, usually the county seat is more centrally located.  I suppose maybe it was before Ulpine and Vieland stole all the territory to the south in one of their many immoral and unprovoked attacks against us, dastards that they are.  As I had been warned might be the case was city was being flooded with both merchants and revelers from the south road, from the mighty Umberlee, and even a goodly amount coming west from the Shoddy Hills.  There were more travelers entering the city than in nine-tenths of the communities I’ve been to lately.  It was quite a mass of humanity moving about.  Or a humassity if you will.  Oh, you won’t?  Fine, be like that. 

From what I saw on the way into town even with the influx of visitors Cathars is a nice orderly boring place – exactly what you’d expect for the capital of a dirtwater county like Cymrile.  What you couldn’t miss is that there were paintings and murals of the Queen everywhere.  They were of all styles and widely varying levels of quality but they were ubiquitous nevertheless.  Many of them were rather small, probably the size of the Queen’s actual face, but almost every building had one of them.  And there were a handful here and there that were true works of art.  I didn’t get a chance to go into many buildings but I saw that many of them had actual portraits of the Queen inside as well.  When the king died without an heir of age (yet) few people were excited about having a woman on the throne – predictions of doom and rapid collapse of the Kingdom were common.  But it seems like with the recent military victory the Queen has won the loyalty of at least the people of Cathars.  They seemed to be quite smitten with her.

I didn’t get much of a chance to enjoy the festivities though because shortly after we arrived in town I was arrested.  The quality of the city watch varies widely from city to city, even some of the most prosperous communities have a constabulary that looks slovenly at best – appearing like half-starved dogs in borrowed armor.  I suppose it just depends on the largess and attitude of the local lord or mayor or whoever’s in charge in giving them money.  I have no idea if they’re actually an effective (although since they nabbed me so quickly I have some evidence) law enforcement body, but they certainly look the part – very spit and polish. 

A group of ten guardsmen approached us looking very snazzy in rich red and pale champagne pink  tabards over fine chainmail (mithril even maybe) with a substantial looking badge/amulet around their neck that combined the seal of the Kingdom, the county, Cathars, and unfortunately Vultar as well.  They calmly and firmly informed me that I was being placed under arrest for “obstruction of commerce or the movement of articles or commodities in commerce”, vagrancy, consorting with fey creatures, and transportation of dangerous magical goods.  They informed me that they were prepared to use deadly force if I resisted but were very reasonable about it. Martialla and Damrow continued walking like nothing was happening.

 Damrow looked back at me, surrounded by law enforcement officers “Shouldn’t we do something?”

I heard Martialla’s voice disappearing into the crowd “She’s fine, this happens all the time.”

I surrendered myself without incident and was led to what looked like a guard barracks rather than a jail.  I was turned over to another crew of professional looking ladies and lads in red and blue who meticulously recorded of everything that I had on me as I turned it over to them to be tagged and hidden away where I couldn’t use it to menace anyone.  When I told the grizzled bearded fellow leading the operation that I couldn’t take my Ring off because if I did it would unleash an eldritch horror to run amok he was nonplussed.  He dispatched a smart-looking female courier and a moment later a bald headed watch wizard in an elegant blue robe came in to inspect the ring, cast a few spells, and then run something that looked like a riding crop over it that I think was actually a wand. He went over to Grizzled Beard and signed some papers and that was it.  GB looked me in the eye steadfastly. 

“According to our expert that ring poses no threat, but I am to inform you that if it has capabilities beyond what he was able to determine and if you use any of those capabilities you will face additional charges.  Do you understand?”

I nodded “Seems reasonable.”

“Please answer yes or no, do you understand that if the ring you are wearing is used in any capacity to create a magical effect that you will be subject to further criminal penalties?”

“Yes, I understand.  What would happen if I said no?”

“The ring would be removed and I would have to do a lot more paperwork.”

After I turned over all my stuff I was taken to a small room where under the supervision of two burly women – one of them wielding a mace – I changed into plain grey dress and my clothing was itemized and stored away as well.  After that I was led to a hallway by four guards who were then joined by another watch wizard in equally as extravagant red and blue robes.  There was no door to my cell – the wizard said some words and the stone opened up like it was runningwater.  I was instructed to step inside and the wall sealed up behind me – turning back into plain hard unforgiving stone.  The cell was large as cells goes, probably twelve by twelve and was magically illuminated and meticulously clean. 

There was an actual bed rather than a cot or just a pile of straw although it was rather short, my feet will hang off the end, and the pillow was just a lump sewn into the mattress.  I guess pillows are very dangerous in the hands of criminals.  There was a small desk bolted to the wall with a chair attached to it and several religious texts sitting on top.  There was even a small cubby type deal with several identical grey dresses in it and a large washbasin type deal where you could clean yourself up a bit.  As far as prison cells go it was one of the better ones I’ve been in. 

In a way it was kind of nice not to have anything to worry about and have a moment to think.  In another much more significant way it sucked a dick.  Last time I was arrested I had to get turned into a cat to escape.  Or was that the time before?  All I want is horribly murderous revenge on those who displease me.  Is that too much to ask?  With nothing else to do I wadded up one of the extra dresses and lay down on the bed, falling asleep for a couple hours.  If pressed I bet most people would assume that pillows came after beds but probably pillows were invented first right?  As soon as people were making sacks out of animal hides someone probably thought “hey, I can fill this with leaves or something and put my head on it” and then afterwards someone thought “hey, I can make a big sack with lots of stuff in it and lay on it”.  That’s probably how that went down.  I wasn’t assailed by the various dream entities that are after me so the prison must be warded against even that kind of contact – which shows a lot of foresight.  I was awoken by the prodding of a gentle but persistent voice.

I lifted my head blearily “Whatis?”

The voice seemed to be coming from nowhere “Sorry to wake you but we need to talk.”

I sat up on the bed and looked around “Are you a ghost?”

A short laugh “No, I’m your lawyer Calvados Eure, I’m an associated at Lampblack and Brimstone.”

“First of all that is a ridiculous name and I think it’s made up, secondly where are you, and thirdly how did you become my lawyer?”

“All names are made up.  I am in another room, they have some magic rigged up here so I can see and hear you – and I can speak to you with a little silver cone thing.”

I made an obscene gesture “You can see me huh?  Good thing I’m not naked.”

“The wardens assure me that they never observe prisoners without first warning them.”

“Except that’s what just happened, you were watching me sleep like a pervert.”

“Er, well yes, but I’m here to help you.  Your friend Martialla retained my services.”

“Alright bodiless pervert how are you going to help me?”

“Well as it turns out there’s not a lot I can do.  Tomorrow you will be transported to Three Rivers and once you’re there you’ll be turned over to Glilcus and Stolo.  I can represent you there but honestly that probably won’t mean much, there’s not a lot of justice in Three Rivers for people that have crossed the consortium.”

“You’re a lawyer?  Explain to me how a law firm can arrest me.”

“Glilcus and Stolo have been contracted by the government of Three Rivers to provide law enforcement services.  They serve as the city watch there.”

“Isn’t that insane?”

“If it makes you feel better you can think of them less as a law firm and more of a paramilitary organization.”

“How can they arrest me outside of Three Rivers?”

“Who’s going to stop them?  The Lumber Consortium has a lot of money and therefore a lot of influence in this part of the Kingdom.  The city watch here is a very professional organization and is reputed widely for being incorruptible – which is mostly true, but here they are acting as stalking horses for the consortium.  Probably because the mayor is a member.”

“The mayor of the county capital is beholden to a private company?”

“More or less, yeah.”

“In other words bite the pillow and take my fucking. How much are you getting paid for this sagacious legal counsel?”

“No charge, since there’s really nothing I can do.”

 “Can you get a message to Duke Lodvocka before I’m murdered by legal sanction in Three Rivers?”

“Unlikely.  Why do you ask?”

“He owes me a favor.  I figure a Duke has to have enough juice to keep me out of the hands of a regional timber felling conglomerate, even if it’s not in his region.  If you can get word to him in time I think that’s my best chance of not being sawed in half or however these timber people kill their political rivals.”

“Well now, that’s certainly interesting.  Why does Duke Lodvocka owe you a favor?”

“I saved his son.”

“That’d do it alright.  That changes things, you’ve just become a much better client, much better than a client who’s actually innocent.  There are ways to communicate magically but they’re expensive.  There’s no other way to get word to the Duke in time for it to do you any good.”

“I never spare any expense when it comes to saving my life, I’m just funny that way.  I don’t have access to my funds right now, but tell Martialla to front you the coin and I’ll square things up with her later.”

“I’ll get on this right away, time is of essence obviously, I’ll be in touch soon.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 47,040 platinum, 12,880 gold

XP: 1,190,751

Inventory: None

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

Out of character interlude – mailbag

I’ve had several blogs over the years, one of them was read by as many as SIX people.  One thing I did on all of them sometimes was answer my mail.  Those were always the posts that no one liked.  So why not bring that tradition back?  I’m too lazy to do any “real” writing today.

Helen, a 30 year old dental hygienist from Carbondale writes –

“You’re writing sucks.”

 That’s not a question but thanks for stopping by!  Also you used the wrong your. 

Danny, a 26 year old government politician who enjoys going to the movies, working on cars and meditation writes –

“Why do you suck at writing so badly?”

I think it should be bad instead of badly – that sentence as constructed means that I am bad at sucking right?  The easy answer is that I never learned how to write properly.  I took creative writing in HS but things didn’t really work out.  One time the teacher said “you need to learn how to write dialog” and I said “okay can you help me with that?” and they gave me detention for “sassmouth”.  Another time I got in trouble for “making stuff up”.  In creative writing class.  Another time she gave me a note saying I was a bad person because I wrote a story about vampires and vampires were “satanic”.  I think she presented this as a note because you’re not supposed to talk about religion in school.  I never thought I had a shitty education until I met my GF and she was aghast at all my stories like this. 

Another answer is that writing is hard.  To write something good you have to really work at it – you have to edit and re-write and edit and re-write some more.  To write something good you have to go over it so many times you grow to hate it.  No thank you.  Also you have to have talent. 

Esther Greenway a 40 year old former personal trainer, bus driver, painter, and golf instructor writes –

“I would like this story if the main character was a man.”

That’s not a questions but thanks for stopping by! 

Drako Pinkish writes –

“Ela is a terrible character, women won’t act like this.”

I don’t think a character has to be realistic to be interesting.  Also that’s a pretty broad statement that I don’t know if I agree with.  There’s probably some women that are like this – definitely some fictional women anyway.  It’s not typical behavior sure, but who wants to read about normal behavior?  Also, and I realize that this is a cop-out, but in fantasy writing is there any reason to expect people would act anything like what we think is normal? 

DJ Wario; Making music. DDR whore. Basically Wario. I wanna see your make believe; writes –

“What is this called erotic, there’s nothing erotic here.”

Good news, I changed the name a while back.  I thought it would be funny to called it the Erotic Endeavors because it was not erotic at all.  No one thought it was funny.  Also I got some gross messages about how my blog could be more erotic.  I guess the joke was on me.  I shouldn’t call those people gross I guess, they were just trying to help.  By being gross.  What’s DDR?

George Parker, a 32 year old ophthalmology student writes –

“Sites is horrible, I can’t even read it.”

Yeah, web design is clearly not my thing.  I tried to make it look okay.  Several people asked for archives so I added that as best I could but I don’t think it’s helpful at all.  I’ve heard that it’s super messed up on a mobile device.  I tried to fix that but what do I know about mobile apps?  Nothing.  Wouldn’t it be “hilarious” if paid someone a bunch of money to make my site better?  No.  It would not.  Also to make this even funnier I work in IT.  I know that lots of people in IT don’t know anything about web design, but to an outsider it makes it funnier because it’s all computers.  Also I don’t know shit about computers. 

HTW 35-year-old kitchen assistant and aspiring life coach writes –

“Is this a solo campaign?”

I never thought of it like that until I was a year in but I guess it is.  Or more accurately maybe it’s a narrative using Pathfinder/D&D as inspiration for writing prompts.  I bend the rules somewhat because of the representative nature of combat in Pathfinder/D&D and also because if you go by the rules as written Ela’s Bluff is so high she could pretty much convince anyone to do anything so I tamp that down.  It wouldn’t be very interesting if everyone just did whatever she said all the time.  Not that it’s interesting now, but you know. 

Kristin Roxy, artist and mother of Brent writes –

“Why is Ela called to as an expert when she’s a rogue?”

She started out as an expert.  I had thoughts about sticking with just expert levels all the way through but that would have been somewhat dull. 

The Tallnet; semi-professional sports person, I’m feeling 22!#swiftie, spread kindness like glitter, sparkles, TN notice x3; writes –

“This is offensive to women.”

That’s not a question but thanks for stopping by!  Also I hope that that my writing is not offensive to most women.  I don’t mean to be offensive.  Not sure that matters though.  What’s TN notice x3 mean? 

Macendamandel 2 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Dwarfish is generally agreed upon to be the first written language ever created.  Even elfs agree with that notion, which is odd since they claim to have been around for EONS UNTOLD before dwarfs even showed up on the planet (where did they come from?).  What most people don’t know is that modern dwarfish (which a somewhat amusing moniker given its ancientness) is nothing like that original dwarfish script.  The dwarf written language has been revised at least six times, and three of those times involved civil wars over the changes – that’s how humorless dwarfs are, they killed each other in mass multiple times over how the alphabet works.  They are an odd folk for sure.  If you ever visit a dwarfen fastness deep underground, which you probably won’t, you’ll see runes and writing and shit all over the place.  It’s less impressive when you realized that most of the dwarfs there can’t even read it themselves.    

“Ela this is boring, what does this have to do with anything?”

I’m getting to that.  Bonder’s journal is not written in “modern” dwarfish, being the crazy bastard that he was (or maybe as a security measure) it was written in one of the older forms.  And yet with the ring I liberated from a dead wizard I’m still able to read it.  Makes you wonder.  To make a ring that allows you to read dwarfish do you need to know all the forms of the language for it to work?  If you know them all why bother making the ring in the first place?  I’ve been told that there’s a relatively simple spell that allows you to read and understand all written languages.  Think about that for a moment.  That is a massive amount of information all unlocked with an elementary bit of magic.  Without magic it’s an impossible feat.  And yet the ability to fly via magic, something that billions of birds and bats and wyverns and nightgauts do all the time, is very difficult to pull off.  I’ve said it before and I say it again, magic doesn’t make any Gods damned sense.

I skipped to the end of Bonder’s journal to see if there were any entries that contained clues to the whereabouts of his companions – who also need to be revenged upon – but he hardly even mentions them aside from occasional threats to “kill the Halfling”.  It’s not even clear which one he meant.  I’m starting to wonder if I read this whole thing if I’ll end up as mad as he was.  Maybe that’s what happened to him in the first place.  He killed someone and took their journal and reading it made him lose his mind – and he was good and insane the journal blanked out so they he could record his own crazy ravings to poison the mind of whoever kills him and takes it.  That would be an interesting tale.  Diary of a Madman they could call it.  Or something better, I don’t know, I’m not a writer.

As the caravan churned inexorably onwards we did see many more folks heading north with supplies but it wasn’t the deluge I expected.  Although I suppose if the people we saw yesterday were the very early birds it’s going to be a while yet before the road really gets hopping.  One of these groups of fellow travelers was stopped at the side of the road – a mule train that looked to be transporting tea and spices.  Doesn’t seem like the kind of think that’s important in rebuilding a burned up city to me but then again who doesn’t enjoy a nice cup of tea?  I couldn’t tell why they were stopped but a woman in a leather jerkin and a merchant looking chracter seemed to be arguing about something while the rest of the crew (and the mules) lazed about.  Amongst the lazers I spotted a familiar face – thin man with slick dark hair, spectacles, and a grim countenance.  He had added a white and black overcoat to his brown robes, which was a much better look if you ask me.  I hopped off my box-throne to re-make his acquaintance.

Martialla looked down at me “Where are you going?”

“To chat, it’s not like I won’t be able to catch up.”

“You do run like a scared rabbited when you want to.”

“These long legs aren’t just for show you know.”

“That’s good because I’ve seen those stork-legs without pants.”

I shook my head “One of these days Martialla.”

I heard her voice as the wagon based behind me “I look forward to it.”

I walked up to the stagnant mule train, and their lone guard – who was clearly a veteran just back from the front –  didn’t even glace at me.  I suppose I don’t look much like a bandit, but then again that’s how the bandits get you now isn’t it?  I used my fancy new gloves to tap Damrow on the back before I was even in reach of him – never a bad idea to alert someone to your presence before you’re right behind them.  I mean unless you’re planning on stabbing them of course. 

“Well if it isn’t my favorite priest of Sickness, and as far as I know the only priest of Sickness.”

His face fell so hard when he saw me that I’m surprised the momentum didn’t knock him down to the ground “It’s Cycnus.”

I clapped him on the shoulder “So it is, so it is.  Fancy meeting you out here on the high roads, you doing some scouting for your bandit friends?”

His head whipped around right and left “Say that a little louder will you?”

I looked around “What?  Are these people not aware of your place of honor as bandit priest in the bandit camps?”

He made a move like he was going to put his hand over my mouth, but then seemed to remember something and dropped it limply “Would you stop saying bandit?!”

I punched him playfully on the shoulder “I’m just busting your balls Damrow.  And don’t worry, I’m not here to arrest you for murder or get revenge  on you for the two men your friends killed or anything.  Even though they were soldiers and that’s treason I’m pretty sure.”

Before Damrow could say anything the guard came over, a shiny blade at his hip drawn a few inches “What’s that you say?”

I put my arm around Damrow “I’m just catching up with my pal Damrow here.  We had some lively times out east some time back, more than a year ago I think.” I gave him a good squeeze/shake “Lively times indeed!”

The guard pushed his sword back into the scabbard and took his hand off “Who are you?”

“Argentinia Cabersaft my good man, I’m a famous singer don’t you know?  I don’t blame you for not recognizing me, I’m from the Three Sisters you see, so that’s where I did most of my performing.  I did come down to Bowcrag for a performance once, although I can’t say as I cared for the place.  However as I’m sure you know the land about the Three Sisters is a bleak and barren one, what I needed was a change of pace, so I came to Cymrile – country green and fair!  I know some folks are worried about the war and all, but I’m sure our boys will show their boots to the asses of those Vieland dogs soon enough – pardon my language.  I was traveling to Cathars and I saw my old friend Damrow here plain as day.  Well you could have knocked me over with a feather you could, I haven’t seen him in a dragon’s age and here he is – just like that.  Can you beat it?”

“Uh, no ma’am.  You’re a singier you say?”

I elbowed Damrow “He’s asking if I’m a singer, what a goose!  Is the sun hot my friend?  Is water wet?  Is mother the name of the Gods on the lips of all children?  Would you like to hear something my fair friend?  How about the Lamentations of the Flame Princess?  Or maybe the Exile of the Moon Elfs?  What about the Lies of Locke Lamora?  That’s one of my personal favorites.  Just give me a moment to warm up.”

I started with some vocal exercises and he assured me that it wasn’t necessary and hurried over to where the man and woman were still bickering.

“Well that’s insulting, I really am an excellent singer.”

Damrow looked at me sourly “Did you come here just to rattle my cage or what do you want?”

I gestured expansively “What I want my friend is to turn you sad sorry life around.”

“I’m going to Renwick to minister to the survivors there – there’s nothing sad or sorry about that.”

“Perhaps not, but I came from Renwick right after some brave woman killed the mighty and powerful dragon that was plaguing it, I was there during the whole scouring.  And here’s the deal Damrow, they’re basically fine.  If you really are supposed to be helping the downtrodden and the dispossessed, the poor and sick, the huddles of disgusting masses yearning to be free, where you should be going is to Three Rivers with me.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Damrow have you ever been to Three Rivers?  It’s a company town for eponymous the Lumber Consortium.  That’s not just where their headquarters is, most of the people there are lumbermen and their families and they depend entirely on the company for their livelihoods – and you better believe that they bend those poor suckers over the barrel.  Not in the whip you across the back way but in the fuck you up the ass way – just to be clear.  Actually it’s both.  The people there buy their goods from the company store and they living company housing, and what law there is in Three Rivers is the law of the company.  The only other people that go there are wretched outcasts who have nowhere else to go – it’s a grim life that is in desperate need of Cycnus’ love.  What’s going on there is little better than slavery Damrow, and at best it’s a form of social engineering.”

“Why do you want me to go there?”

“Because of all the things I just said.”

“I only met you once before but I certainly formed the opinion that you were a heartless bitch who didn’t care about the suffering of anyone.”

“First of all, ouch.  Second of all, it just seems like that to you because I killed a bunch of your friends.  Third of all, I admit that I have a certain pragmatism that some people would mistake for ruthlessness but in my heart I am a woman of the people.”

“That’s a hard line to swallow when you’re wearing several thousand gold worth of jewelry.”

I laughed “More like several TENS of thousands.  Bottom line Damrom, whatever my motivations what I’m telling you is true.  Renwick is going to be fine, people are flooding the place with relief efforts right now.  But no one is helping the people of Three Rivers who toil under the heavy boot of their company masters.  You ever had a boot right on your neck?  It sucks.”

“So what?  You’re going to get everyone all riled pretending to care about workers’ rights and cause a big riot so you can rob a bank or something?”

“No, nothing like that.  The Lumber Consortium crossed me.”

“So?”

“So they’re going to go away.  It’s going to happen, so why not come along for the ride and make some people’s lives better along the way?  It’s true, I don’t care about the people of Three Rivers, not really, what I care about is destroying the Lumber Consortium.  Something is going to rise its place – get in on the action now and you can shape what that is.  Otherwise it will just be some other group of rich exploitative assholes.  You have a chance to change things for the better here.”

He made a disgusted noise “Why would I throw in with you, your motivation is terrible, you just said that you don’t care about the cause.”

“Wrong, I have the best motivation you could want.  People that want to do good, to help other people?  That’s fickle Damrow, that comes and goes.  But I tell you this, once I decide that someone has to go, they’re as good as gone.  The Consortium is on my List and that means that I will never stop.  Not ever.  Join up with a bunch of other do-gooders or those Black Widow psychos and who knows what you’ll end up with.  Throw in me with and you know exactly what’s waiting at the end – the Lumber Consortium’s ruin.  Period.  Nothing else.  Except what you make of it.”

“Did you think this all up when you just saw me now?”

“I have a gift for these things.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 47,040 platinum, 12,880 gold

XP: 1,190,751

Inventory: 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, Brooch of Shielding, Headband of Subtle Misdirection, Antiquarian’s Monocle, Ela’s Stately Greatcoat, Ring of Eloquence, +1 Dagger, +1 Thundering Light Crossbow, Cheating Gloves  

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

Macendamandel 1 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

After two days (or a day and a half, whatever, what am I a calendar . . . . checker?) in North Yokelville Township the caravan staggered back into motion today.  After yesterday’s rains the road was a real mess and our progress was even slower than normal.  Several times as the waggoneers were busting their balls to get a cart we were sitting on out of the mud they looked at Martialla and I like we should be helping them.  Good one guys.  I think by mid-day we have traveled about three miles – if I squinted I could still see Hamletshire Villagetown in the distance.  Pretty sure I could still smell it at the very least but that may be the stink that attached itself to the caravaneers while we were there.  The slow progress got bad enough that even I was thinking that maybe we should have stayed in Countryside Crossing Community another day to let things dry out.

Despite the poor road conditions as the mud-splattered and exhausted caravaneers were eating their dried onion and liver paste sandwiches for lunch a couple wagons passed us going north.  Looked like a professional outfit.  A while later a long train of Halfling wagons went by as well.  Not less than an hour after that another wagon was coming out way.  A veritable deluge of traffic compared to what we had seen so far on the road to Cathars.  I whacked Martialla on the shoulder, waking her from a deep sleep – I have no idea how she can doze off stacked on boxes like that, it has to be terrible for your spine.  Whatever other flaws she may have (and she has many) that girl can fall sleep like a champion.

I pointed “Hey, magic float me over there, I want to talk to that guy.”

She lifted up the dumb straw hat she found to cover her eyes “Why?”

“I want to know what’s going on, fifteen wagons just went past us.”

“It’s a road Ela, wagons go on roads.”

“Just do it you lazy cretin.”

“I’m lazy?  You’re the one that wants me to magic you over there.”

“That’s because the road is all muddy not because I don’t want to exert the effort of walking.”

She laid back and put her stupid borrowed/stolen hat back over her face “Why?  Are you worried that that your magic automatic self-cleaning clothes will get dirty?”

I kicked her in the side of the leg “My boots don’t clean themselves off!”

“Whose fault is that?  Besides, I can’t ‘float’ you anyway, have you ever seen me float anything?”

“Yes, tons of times.”

“Okay, fair point, but those things were all small.  I can’t lift you with magic Ela, even as sprightly and dainty as you are you’re way too heavy for my mage hand.”

“You are the worst wizard ever.”

“Since I’m a sorcerer that’s absolutely true.”

I thought about snatching that hat off her and throwing it in the mud but I decided in the end that it would be unbecoming for a lady of my stature – it’s important that I don’t allow myself to be dragged down to Martialla’s level.  I climbed off the wagon and into the mud, but by that point in the day it wasn’t so bad anymore – I’ve seen thoroughfares in cities that were worse and in those places it’s not all mud you know?  The wagon I was approaching looked to me more of a very large coach really than anything else, not that I’m an expert in these things.  It was massive and the roof was lined with probably twenty large barrels, in addition to which there were all manner of goods strapped to the sides with cargo nets like it was a hull (hold) of a ship.  The thing must have weighed a ton, how it wasn’t getting swamped in the mud I don’t know.  There must have been some magic in play there.  It’s hard to imagine a form of magic simultaneously more useful and more boring than preventing a wagon from getting stuck in the mud.

One side of the wagon was opened up/folded down to create a sort of market stall, but the proprietor was outside of it anyway.  He was a blandly attractive fellow in a grey tunic over an odd whitish garment that looked either very baggy or like it was individual strips of cloth, with a matching grey hat with a jaunty purple feather.  A sign on the back of the wagon declared him to be Choquette – merchant, tinsmith, alchemist & troubadour.  I could tell by the way that he was carrying on with one of the caravan drovers, extoling the virtues of some small green vial, that you could add liar and swindler to that list as well.  I have an eye for these sorts,  Some criminals get by my hiding their true selves, some develop a “straight” persona, some just avoid talking to normal people as much as possible. 

But then some, like Choquette unless I miss my guess (which I don’t) just look and act like criminals and rely on somewhat dubious charm and audaciousness to see them through.  You ever have a friend that whenever someone else meets them you end up saying “if you knew them better you’re see that . . .”?  Choquette is that friend.  You know he’s not going to pay you back but you end up loaning him money anyway.  He sleeps with your lady but you decide you weren’t that into her anyway so be kind of did you a favor.  He stole all the silver and booze but he needed it more than you anyway.  He’s that guy. 

While I waited for him to finishing fleecing his current customer I was surprised to see a woman inside the wagon manning the counter.  I would have pegged Choquette as a lone operator.  She had all the earmarks of a highborn lady lain low – reduced to poverty but still in possession of her dignity and sense of superiority.  She was probably mid-forties with pale blue eyes and apple-red hair, she had peeling skin on her face from a sunburn despite the parasol she was holding.  She was dressed like a common wanderer but she had an extravagant signet ring on one hand and a gold band with an emerald on the other – along with an absurd primitive looking necklace with a hunk of bloodrock around her neck that has to be magic.  It’s probably not unlike what I have looked like at times – accessories not appropriate to the clothing at all.  Since Choquette was still swindling I approached her.  She asked in a quiet voice what I was in the market for.

“Information today.  I’m curious about all the traffic on the road.”

She smiled politely “Information is one of the few things Choq doesn’t charge for.  The Count is sending relief to Renwick, what you’ve seen on the road today is just those who were quickest to get underway.  There’s going to be a lot of materials heading north along this path over the next few weeks and months.”

“The Count or the council in Cathars?”

She nodded knowingly “The Count himself has ordered it.  He made an appearance in Cathars to give a speech about the importance of rebuilding Renwick.”

“Will wonders never cease?  I never would have expected the Count to do anything as crass as governing the County that the Crown has entrusted him with governance over.  I would have expected any supplies to come from Peerana, actually I would have expected everyone to let Renwick rot, but since they aren’t that seems like the best place to offer help.”

“I don’t know the politics behind it but the Count was clear that Cymrile would be leading this effort.”

I glanced at her ring “I think you probably know more than you’ll admit.”

She hid it well but I could tell she was slightly wistful “In truth I do not, I have no insight into that world anymore.  If you’re heading to Cathars I can tell you as well that the city is likely to be filling up right now.  Not just with merchants heading to Renwick but also with revelers – there’s to be a celebration in honor of the great victory the Queen’s forces won.”

“Good to know, so you two are hauling supplies for Renwick then?”

“No, just looking for opportunities – Choq is much more of a freebooter than a merchant.”

I glanced over at him, still pitching his snake oil, now to several caravaneers “Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.  Well with all these people converging on Renwick I’m sure he’ll find ample prospects to get himself into trouble.  With all these goods about to be on the road is would be a fine time to be a bandit.”

“The Count has promised forces to patrol the roads.”

I couldn’t help but smile “I’m sure he has, help is such an easy thing to promise after all.  What sort of name is Choquette?”

“Tobriandos.”

“Pardon?”

“We’re both from Tobriandor.”

“Is that a city up north?”

She seemed mildly embarrassed that I was asking “No, it’s a kingdom, one allied to yours actually.”

“Are you fucking kidding?  This is the second time in as many days someone has claimed to be from a country I’ve never heard of.  How is that possible?”

“No offense, but perhaps you’re not as worldly as you think.”

I smiled warmly “Don’t worry, I don’t take offense easily – and when I do I don’t tend to hold grudges.  What have you got back there?  Doesn’t look like a lot of room for cargo in there so I assume that you specialize in high end type items, perhaps of the enchanted variety?”

She (or they I guess) did indeed and surprisingly in the small offering there were a couple items I needed.  I purchased a dagger and a new crossbow (finally) for when things get rough and a handsome pair of gloves for everything else. I chatted with her and Choquette until my caravan finally got moving again and I bid them farewell to clamber onto my box-perch with Martialla.  After I spent several minutes pointedly trying to stomp mud off my boots over the side of the wagon she sighed and cleaned them off with a wave of her hand and a magic word.

“Was that so hard?”

“No, but it would help if you asked instead of just glaring at me while you kick mud on everyone.  So what’s the news?”

“The Count is sending supplies to Renwick.”

“Good time to be a bandit.”

“I said the same thing.  Also it turns out that the Queen’s men won a big battle down south, sounds like we should have this whole war thing wrapped up in a few months.”

“Another one for the good guys eh?”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Behind the curtain: As always I rolled randomly for what was available and one item that came up is the Cloak if the Bat.  It’s a good item, but I just couldn’t see Ela skulking around in a Batman cape.  It’s a real problem with gearing Ela up – most magic items are so terribly gauche that she would never be caught dead in them.  A ring of protection is fine, but unless you look damn good wearing it why bother?

Funds: 47,040 platinum, 12,880 gold

XP: 1,190,751

Inventory: 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, Brooch of Shielding, Headband of Subtle Misdirection, Antiquarian’s Monocle, Ela’s Stately Greatcoat, Ring of Eloquence, +1 Dagger, +1 Thundering Light Crossbow, Cheating Gloves  

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

Mantelderith 30 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Yesterday after the successful murder of the annoying adventurers and the stalker wizard the town (what’s this town called again?  It had a really stupid name) decided to have a celebration in my honor.  Probably Martialla’s honor too, dubious as it is.  The caravaneers were just as happy to be free of their menace and were excited about the victorious slaughter of the goblins so they were only too happy to agree.  All the villagerfolk came out of their shanties and mudholes with their finest moonshine jugs and smoked meats clenched in their fists to mingle with the Hücresel Merchant Company (both of them) and their hirelings.  Even the half-elfs who have thusfar been universally been dour and workmanlike joined in the rowdy low-class fun.  There was much picking and singing along with wholesome activities like frog jumping and barrel races.  I won’t say that I didn’t enjoy some moonshine and some ribs, because I did, but it was a waste of time.  I don’t blame anyone for celebrating the death of wizards, but I feel like we’re only twenty miles from Cathars – probably Martialla and I should just continue on alone, we could be there tomorrow.

The worse part of the night was when Lord Yellowshirt the Cowardly came to me in a drunken miasma and sobbingly confessed that he’s not a real knight, nor the lawful lord of whatever this town is (Grumpshunshire?  Harmtonvilletown?  Something like that) saying that the whole thing was a con.  I’m not sure why he thought that I would care.  Or maybe he’s craftier than I think and that’s exactly why he was blubbering the whole thing to me – it let him unburden himself in a way that also let him continue to scam everyone because why would I bother to tell anyone?  I’m not sure I should give him that much credit though.  Regardless it was a revolting spectacle – is there anything more disgusting than when a man cries like a baby?  Yes there is, but it’s still pretty bad.

To make matters worse when we got up today these was a steady rain falling so since everyone was hungover anyway madam Hücresel said we’d stay put another day.  We might be setting a land-speed record for the slowest passage from Alleene to Cathars.  Someday storytellers will tell a rabbit and tortoise style parable about this journey.  They’ll probably leave out all the killing.  Or maybe not, there’s a lot more violent murder in children’s stories than you remember.  With nothing much to do Martialla and I were hanging around the inn with blue eyes – who’s name apparently is Zanya, which sounds like a woman’s name to me, but what do I know.  The chandelier was still hanging down in the middle of the room, there were bloodstains on the floor and most of the chairs were smashed but at least it was dry.  We tried to play cards for a while but none of us was really into it.  Zanya was futzing with something behind the bar and Martialla took to tossing the cards and then making them dance through the air with her magic.  The ring I had taken off the wizard, the good one not the one who tried to run away, gave me the ability to ready dwarfish so I decided to check out Bonder’s journal.  After a while Martialla was making a card orbit around my head and I irritable swatted it out of the air.

“Do you mind?”

She flipped another card into the air “Not at all.”

“Sorry, what I mean was, fucking stop that, I’m trying to read.”

“Anything good?”

I closed the book with a sigh “Not so far, unless you count self-important boasting as good.  Turns out that Greysmith was in the right and all the people against him were wrong.”

Martialla feigned surprise “You don’t say.”

“Shocking I know.  Also he claims to be the rightful king of some dwarf-hole or other and that’s the real reason he was exiled – not for the people he murdered.”

“Aren’t you a dwarf clan princess or something?  What was that?”

“I don’t know, I return their ancestral weapon to them so they did some long boring ceremony – I guess I had to be made an honorary dwarf otherwise it would have brought shame to their clan for a hundred generations.”

“And dwarf generations are long.”

“Exactly.  But since that magic mirror removed all those runes they put on me as part of that deal I don’t know if I get to be a dwarf anymore.  I suppose we’ll find out next time we’re underground a thousand miles away.  I’m glad to be rid of them because you don’t mar a beauty like mine but I can’t deny that those lion-powers were pretty useful.”

Martialla flung the remainder of the cards into the air and let them rain down around us “I’m bored.”

“My grandmother always said that if you’re bored that means you’re boring.”

“Your grandmother had a lot of sayings.”

“That she surely did.  She was a wise woman, she seemed like she had a bit of advice about just about everything.  Talk about a woman who got a hard hand in life and made the best of it – that was her.  I don’t like to think about what would have become of me if she hadn’t been around to tell me how the world is.”

“And how is it?”

“Hard.  You have to watch out or it will kick you right in the ass.”

“Or worse than kick.”

“Or worse than kick.  What about you?  What’s your family situation?  I know you have a sister and had a niece obviously, but where did your parents go wrong?  How did you end up like this?”

“Like what?”

“Rootless, shiftless, murderous, the comically inept bumbling sidekick of a dashing young courtesan on a journey of revenge.”

“Bumbling?  Wasn’t I the one who killed both wizards yesterday?”

“With my help sure, before that I killed the dude in this very room all my myself while you were getting cored like an apple.”

“Is that what sex is like to you?  No wonder the Duke fired you as is mistress.”

“And that’s not to mention I also defeated the warrior monk lady who could shatter stone with her very hands.  The killing art she had and I bested her nevertheless.”

“Meaning you ran away and managed to live long enough for them to be undone by pure chance.”

“That’s my fighting style.  I let my opponents defeat themselves.  It’s very advanced stuff.  I use their strength against them, like the water flows around a boulder.  I call it the way of a harmonious spirit.  I’m thinking about writing a book about this revolutionary technique that has brought me victory in one hundred battles.”

“That doesn’t make any sense, water wears down boulders over time.”

“Well I’m still workshopping it.  So what’s your story?”

“My family is from Etherasawn, this was before half of it was wrecked in the last war.  Or maybe the one before that.  Technically I think that means I was born in Vieland?  Maybe I’m not even a citizen of this grand Kingdom.”

I feigned putting a hand over my mouth “Gasp.”

“I know we went to the Protectorate when my sister and I were pretty little, I remember that because our father was eaten by a troll.  My mother didn’t seem too broken up about it though.  I think she told us specifically that we would be better off without him.”

I nodded “Ah, and that’s why you’re such a slut, you grew up with a father figure.”

“Probably that’s why I’m such a slut.  Although I mostly grew up without a mother figure as well, I don’t remember a lot of what happened when I was a kid but mostly what I do remember is me and my sister being on our own.  I remember traveling with her from town to town trying to get back to Etherasawn.  I knew that there were some religious houses that that would take kids in, but by the time we finally got there the war had happened and the place was fucked.  Silver lining, the streets were full of urchins who were banding together to steal shit and fight each other and try to stay alive.”

“What good fortune.”

“Indeed.  When I was twelve I signed on as a cabin boy on the ship Overzealous.  Boy was the first mate surprised when he tried to molest me.”

“And where was the sister while you were at sea disappointing pedophiles?”

“I got an advance on my cabin boy money and used that to get a loan to buy her an apprenticeship as a scullery maid.  Those were back in the times when a ten year old indentured servant wasn’t a big deal.”

I shook my head “Child labor laws are ruining this Kingdom.”

“Anyway by the time I was fourteen I was reckoned an ‘able seaman’ even though at that point everyone knew I was a girl.”

“How?  I’m still not sure myself.”

“Hilarious.  After that stint I signed on as a mate on the Dead Philosopher but in our third voyage we ran into trouble.  I never did get the story of what was going on there exactly.  Our ship was attacked, not even sure by who, and for some reason the captain decided to fight instead of surrendering even though we had no chance.  Someone claimed it was become they were a dragon egg in the cargo but that seems like the kind of bullshit sailors would make up.   The ship was captured and I was sold to Captain Lansquenet operating out of Lagart.”

“You were a pirate?!”

She shook her head “Ela I’ve told you that literally a dozen times and every time you act like it’s the first.  If you find it so interesting why can’t you remember it?  Anyway, after about a year I was made a full crew member and then I managed to sneak away.   Once I found my sister I saw that she was betrothed and didn’t need me to look after her anymore so I gave up my life on the high seas.”

“Why?”

“Because it sucks.  There’s a reason they have to press-gang sailors, and there’s a reason why it’s basically legal to do so – there would be no navies in the world if they had to rely on volunteers.”

“Then why do retired seamen talk about the honor of their service so glowingly?”

 “Because they’re retired.  They just like remembering when they were young.  As you told me your grandma told you, the older you get the better your life before seemed – even the awful parts.  I remember that because I actually pay attention when you talk.”

“Who could blame you?  I’m very engaging.”

“Anyway, after my sister was married I rattled around the Kingdom doing various odd jobs.”

“Very odd as I understand it.”

“Until my niece was killed and I came looking for you to help me kill her killers – the ones that you didn’t already kill anyway.”

Zanya was standing behind the bar listening raptly “That is a Hells of a story.”

I gestured at him “What about you?  What’s your deal?  You don’t seem like the rest of these yokels.”

“I’m not from around here, I’m Swardish.”

I frowned “Swardish?  What is that?”

 I half-laughed “It means I’m from Swardland.”

I looked at Martialla and she shrugged “Never heard of it.  Is that up North somewhere?”

He looked and sounded offended “Never heard of it?  Swardland is one of the Kingdom’s staunchest allies, how could you not have heard of it?”

“I’m sure the Kingdom tells all its allies that they’re the important ones – it’s like pillow talk, I wouldn’t take it personally.  Now hows about you sashay your pretty little self back into the kitchen and make us some lunch?  I’m famished after all that active listening I just did.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 47,040 platinum, 25,750 gold

XP: 1,190,751

Inventory: 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, Brooch of Shielding, Headband of Subtle Misdirection, Antiquarian’s Monocle, Ela’s Stately Greatcoat, Ring of Eloquence

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

Mantelderith 29 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 3

I don’t know a lot about magic and I already know more than I ever wanted to.  If there’s one thing we can agree on it’s that magic is for losers.  That being said here’s what I do know.  You say some special words and you move your hands in a special way and you think real hard and then someone across the room (or even farther away) dies.  That’s magic in a nutshell.  Given that how the Hells did anyone ever figure it out?  So there’s this energy in the universe that’s invisible and intangible and in no way detectible unless you already how to use it.  And this energy can be used to affect things in a way that is also undetectable.  And you manipulate this energy by speaking words that no one speaks and moving your hands in ways that are unnatural and wishing real hard.  This is impossible for anyone to come up with on first principal.  So how did it happen?  How did something impossible to learn without someone else already knowing it and teaching you become one of the fundamental pillars of our society?

Elfs claims that they knew magic and taught it to humans.  I call bullshit on that because elfs claim they did everything first and taught it to humans.  If you ask me the defining characteristic of elfs is cultural narcissism.  Elfs tend to be taciturn (at least around the ‘lesser’ races) but once you get them talking all they have to say is about how great everything used to be before humans and dwarfs and reptilians screwed everything up.  Their magic was more potent, the threats the faced were more dire, their food more tasty, their art more beautiful, their sex more spiritual and fulfilling, etc.  They did everything first and they did it better.   I don’t believe it, but if it is true that elfs knew magic and taught it to the other races that has to be by a huge margin the worst idea they ever had.  That’s like teaching chimps how to use crossbows – you’re for sure going to get hurt out of the deal in more proportion to any benefit that you could reap.  Why would elfs teach the most destructive and awful plague on this land a skill that’s main use seems to be setting shit on fire and killing people?  Explain that next time you’re in masturbatory reverie about the old days elfs.

Regardless that notion obviously doesn’t explain anything anyway because how did the elfs know magic to teach it to anyone else?  I reject outright any notion that they somehow figured it out from scratch.  I suppose the most likely culprit is that a demon brought the knowledge of magic into the world.  The Gods created everything so they surely knew about magic and how it worked, and demons are like their unruly children or something (theology isn’t my strong point) so they must know about it too.  Probably what happened is some wily demon took on the form of a comely elf maiden with big melons (which is not a good way to disguise yourself as an elf maiden but you know how demons are, they can’t help themselves) and sneakily and subtly nudged the first elf magicians into figuring out how it all worked.  And over time the horrors of magic were unleashed on the world.  It’s the only theory that makes sense if you ask me.  Which you are.

The first known account of a human doing magic is close to six thousand years old.  As they say it a woman named Eireyene appeared in the “court” of an old warlord and is said to have decapitated a bird and then put the head back on and brought the bird back to life.   It’s also claimed that she made a small pebble disappear into a cup.  I’m no magic expert but one of those things seems way more impressive than the other.  The problem is that there’s magic and then there’s sleight of hand – did she really do anything or was she just a con artist with some quick fingers?  I can do some much more impressive tricks just with fast hands and some fancy patter than any apprentice wizard with “real” magic can.  I would imagine that at first wizards were all show, but slowly over time they learned how to do the real thing.  There were would have been an interesting bit in the middle of that evolution where wizards did know some real magic but were primary doing shit like pulling rabbits out of their hats.   What a life huh?

All of that isn’t terrible helpful to think about though when a wizard appears out of nowhere to kill you by draining the heat from your internal organs.  Martialla and I were heading towards the fort and we saw that the dwarf was kind enough to be coming out to meet us.  This is what’s known as a distraction.  I’ve developed a very keen sense of danger, it’s pretty difficult to catch me off guard, but there’s not much you can do when an invisible wizard who was standing stock still is waiting to blast you.  Unless maybe you have a good sense of smell.  The fellow who appeared on our flank was short and had a red pointy mustache that was wider than his head.  Was it magic that held the mustache out like that or wax?  Or magic wax?  We may never know.  He was wearing a green tunic but to make sure you knew that he was a wizard he had goggles and a staff as well, not to mention a bat hanging off his shoulder.  Fucking big one too.

When he cast his spell Martialla leaped out of the way like a jackrabbit – she has a real knack for avoiding deadly spells.  I on the other hand was completely flatfooted, I’m pretty sure I would have died right then if not for my Greatcoat.  All that would have been left of old Ela is a freeze-dried corpse.  Maybe I could have become a mummy with my body that well preserved.  But instead some normally invisible sigils on the fabric flared to life and the magic parted around me like water around a boulder.  I said a silent prayer to Kozilek thanking him for giving me the wisdom to purchase such a fashionable garment.  I think they were expecting to take us both out with that massive first strike – instead Martialla retaliated with a blast of flame herself – although the fellow with the yard-long mustache didn’t seem to be hurt by it at all and she missed the dwarf in front of us altogether.  It wasn’t a great endorsement for the combat effectiveness of magic.

This wasn’t helped by the fact that the dwarf hurled a volley of glowing green magic energy at me which was absorbed harmlessly by my Brooch.  Oh for three on the magic attacks so far.  Wishing that I had a crossbow or any decent weapon I retrieved a rapier from my secret pocket and moved up (advanced I think they call it in military terms) on Mustache.  Martialla conjured and flung a molten orb at him but it also seemed to do nothing – for a wizard fight there was a whole lot of nothing going on.  With a curse she gave up on sorcery and drew her rapier.  Some wizards learn spells that conjure creatures to fight for them and shield them, some learn spells that protect them like armor, this guy must have focused on murder spells only – which is fine as long as your murder spells do their thing.  Martialla and I pincered this guy and carved him up like a holiday ham.  The dwarf was shooting fire at us and the bat was flying around annoyingly, but it didn’t amount to much.  In about ten seconds we had punctured Mustache fifty times it seemed and that was the end of him. 

We turned to the dwarf and he did something I’ve never seen a wizard do – he ran.  With his feet.  He didn’t snap his fingers and disappear, he didn’t jump on a flying carpet, he didn’t summon a giant eagle to ride on, he didn’t fly off impossibly, he just kicked up his feet and ran.  Martialla and I exchanged a glance.

“Huh, will you look at that.  Now I really wish I had a crossbow.”

“I don’t think this guy is nearly as good a wizard as the other fellow.”

She was proven correct as she sent out a tendril of fire that burned him alive.  Or rather burned him to death.  Do those mean the same thing?  He was turned from life to death by being burned – lets’ say that. 

“Who was that other guy?  Where did he come from?”

Martialla peering at him “I think that’s the wizard that was attacking the caravan – he must have been surveilling us and that led him to this other guy and they hit off and decided to kill us together.”

“Sure, it’s a tale as old as time.  Where the fuck are the half-elfs?  They’re supposed to deal with this guy.”

“I think they’re busy.”

Martialla pointed away from the town (such as it was) to where the caravan had set up for the night – and where the four brave heroes were currently in the process of fighting off a rampaging horde of goblins.

I clapped my hands together “I told you, I fucking told you it was going to be goblins!”

“That’s is a LOT of goblins.”

“Eh, they’ll be fine, they’re only goblins.  Let’s go see what this donkey-faced son of a bitch was up to.”

We headed into the fort – which was really more of a medium sized watch tower than a fort in my book, and as I said it wasn’t in the best shape.  But as they say, any fort in a storm.  There was a “great” hall and beyond that a storage room that had been converted into an evil lair of evilness.  There was a summoning circle chalked on the floor, candles, incense, runes on the walls – the whole nine.  There was a book of magic looking nonsense propped open in the corner – I guess that’s why it was taking so long, the first time you summon a being from the depths of the Hells you probably want to make sure you do it right.

“Well this is disappointing, I was hoping for something new and interesting.”

Martialla scuffed out part of the circle with her boot “Wizards are nothing if not predictable.  Looks like he was trying to summon a hellhound.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?  All this trouble just for a Gods damned hellhound?  Not even a proper demon?  He was going to sacrifice a human life so summon a mean dog?  I can get you a beast of fighting dog fifty gold.”

“You’ve gotten pretty jaded about deadly monsters, a hellhound is a little but more than a mean dog.  The village of Foraleese was destroyed by a single hellhound.  Longshoeu was very nearly destroyed by a pack of hellhounds as well.”

“Any village that can be wiped out by a wolf with firebreath deserves to be wiped out anyway.”

“I think you’re being unfair but I don’t see any reason to argue this with you.”

“All I’m saying is that if you’re going to go through the trouble of human sacrifice it should be for something worthwhile.”

“I think you’ve lost some respective.  I mean didn’t you convince a guy to sell his soul for a sword that was barely even magic?

I sighed “I never should have told you that, you always throw that soul selling stuff back in my face.  I was in a tight spot, what was I supposed to do?”

“Not condemn innocent souls to eternal damnation to save your own skin?”

I frowned “Innocent?  Innocent of what?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Behind the curtain: If the spell resistance of the Greatcoat hadn’t worked the Cone of Cold would have killed Ela.  Just for fun I rolled the dice to see what would have happened and she failed the save too lethal damage and then failed the stabilization rolls as well.  I’ve been pretty faithful to the die rolls, but now that I’m a year and a half into this narrative/solo-play/whatever I’m a little more invested.  I wonder what I would do if Ela dies.  The easy answer is that Martialla could have someone cast Raise Dead on her, but that’s too cheap.  I’ve considered a lot of options, I think what I would do is start a new story with Ela in a new setting – pulp adventure maybe?  Or maybe I could just sell the domain name to one of the many English Language Arts groups out there.  If I cared about/thought about anyone ever googling my site I definitely would have given Ela a different name.  There aren’t a lot of good lady names that start with an E though.  Eleanor the Expert?  Erica the Expert?  Elizabeth the Expert?  Emily the Expert?  Doesn’t sound quite right.

Funds: 47,040 platinum, 25,750 gold

XP: 1,190,751

Inventory: 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, Brooch of Shielding, Headband of Subtle Misdirection, Antiquarian’s Monocle, Ela’s Stately Greatcoat

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