Out of curiosity I tried the Gridrieu Halbtrocken to see if I could detect any hint of nixie in it over the bad taste of the win itself. I don’t have to tell you folks that Gridrieu Halbtrocken is garbage wine for garbage people, but it tasted wonderful. Instead of its usual acrid foulness it now had romantic raspberry elements and an explicit piquant finish that was a delight for the palate. Who knew that straining booze through the body of a fey creature would make it better? Maybe the wizard did and that’s why he put her in that wine cask in the first place. Seems like a lot of work for the result but wizards are an anomalous bunch – most of their schemes make very little financial sense. I wonder if there’s different results based on the different kinds of faeries. Boggart Bock anyone? Leprechaun Lager? Atomie Ale? Brownie Bourbon? Gremlin Grog? And so forth.
I was curious how strong the powers were so I sent one of the Quiviras’s servants into their liquor cellar to bring me a barrel of Fat Bear whiskey to keep the nixie in while we traveled today. He was mildly confused when I had him lug it out the front of the compound to the water feature where I stashed Melusine, But that was nothing compared to the look he got when he saw Melusine pop out of the water at the edge of the fountain (or whatever it is) and snatch a pick-necked green pigeon in her maw like a frog eating a butterfly. He looked like he was going to swoon like a high society dame. I gave him a reproachful look.
“Get a hold of yourself man, haven’t you ever seen a water spirit before?” He gulped as I turned back to Melusine “Why are you swallowing a bird whole like a dirty water snake? I thought you fey types were sustained by sunbeams and rainbows and the laughter of friends.”
Feathers puffed out of her mouth when she responded “Nope, birds. And water snakes aren’t dirty, they’re fastidious about their scales.”
“I mean nothing by it, some of my best friends are water snakes.” I tapped on the side of the barrel “Your new traveling home, I thought you could use some more room to swim around, or whatever you do in there.”
She magicked herself into the barrel “What is this? This isn’t wine!”
“Don’t worry, it’s better, you’ll like it.”
I gestured to the Quiviras servant to hammer the lid back on and load it up on one of the caravan carts. After he did so he hung around awkwardly for a moment.
“What, you want a tip or something?”
“No ma’am . . . . I was just thinking. This reminds me of an old friend of mine. He used to talk about how he once worked at a tavern in Scirus that he claimed was beleaguered by what he called cask imps. He said they lived in casks of ale and such, coming out at night to steal the best booze. He said they could control the minds of men that were deep in their cups and would make them commit nasty acts. I assumed he was tellin’ tales but seeing this now I’m not so sure.”
“A good rule of thumb is that any story that’s awful is probably true.”
“He did say that if you caught one of these buggers and bound them with chains of cold iron and immersed them in water it would turn into top shelf cognac.”
“Oh, that’s definitely true.” I winked “That’s why they call them spirits you know.”
While the caravan was slowly getting underway – it takes these things times you know, there’s a lot of people and animals and stuff to wrangle – Martialla elbowed me and gestured at the two half-elf guards, who had been joined by two more half-elfs of similar mien. That mien being armed to the teeth and dressed in a mismatched yet flamboyance fashion.
“Well that completes the set, now their mystic powers are increased sixteenfold. We’ll have to keep an eye on them. Until they abandon the caravan to look for treasure anyway.”
“How is if that half-elfs seem to be so much more common than elfs? You hardly ever seen elfs about here in human lands so where do all the half-elfs come from?”
“The only half-elfs I ever knew were the progeny of the same elf who traveled around the Kingdom because he had the human fever. You can’t blame them, elf maids are reckoned to be beautiful and I suppose they are in a way, but it you ask me it would be like making love to a canoe paddle. Despite that obvious superiority of human women though apparently it’s a pretty shameful condition in elf culture. Elfs live a long time, maybe they’re all the sons and daughters of that one super virulent elf making the rounds. Or a small group of amorous outcasts.”
“That would be quite an accomplishment.”
“I know there’s an old orc in Gentzilhorm that’s the father of most of the half-orcs in the country, now that’s an accomplishment. What starry eyed tavern slut isn’t going to fall for the charms of a handsome elf? A fat ugly old orc on the other hand knocking up that many ladies – that takes some doing.”
“I stand corrected.”
The good thing about traveling at caravan speeds (when you’re not working on said caravan) is that you stop early enough in the day to do things like consult with the local mage and have dinner with the gentry who owe you big when you’re in town. You have time to get some things done along the way. The bad news is when you don’t have anything to get done there’s a lot of time waiting. Good thing I had a freshly improved bottle of wine to split with Martialla as we sat and watched a stubborn donkey (that’s redundant I suppose) hold up the hold proceedings for over an hour.
Once we got underway on the road to Cathars the inevitable attack inevitably came today. At mid-day a boulder (well a large rock anyway, to me a boulder has to be bigger) brained one of the wagon drivers. One wonders why giant society has never progressed beyond thrown rocks. Some of them are primitive idiots, I know that, but some of them are intelligent and numbered among the best craftsmen out there. Why do those “civilized” giants still throw rocks? I understand why they throw them at us, we’re smaller than them, but are they throwing rocks at each other? That doesn’t seem like it would make sense, but I’ve never seen a giant with a bow or even a sling. I guess I saw one throw a spear once. At me.
Martialla and I looked at each other, deciding if we wanted to fight giants or take cover, but it turned out we didn’t need to do either. The four half-elf caravan guards sprang into action and surprisingly did their job. Not only did they kill two of the giants and send the others running one of them healed the waggoneer (there’s a name for that – teamster? Shouldn’t that be someone who’s one a team? Oh I get it , because of the team of horses). He was up and around and doing great even though minutes before you could see his brains. Magic healing is interesting, as long as you’re still alive no matter how bad the injury is it seems like you can be right as rain in an instant. I often give magic a bad name, and most of the time I’m dead on in my complaints, but the healing injuries part they have down. Not diseases or course as we know, but injuries magic can handle. Once the crisis was over I turned to Martialla.
“I don’t have a crossbow otherwise I would have been shooting at them. What’s your excuse?”
“They seemed to have things under control, no reason to waste good magic.”
I nodded “They were surprisingly competent. They didn’t even desert the caravan to follow the giants back to their lair and get their treasure hoard.”
“Should we follow them back to their lair and get their treasure hoard?”
“They didn’t kill all of them, the survivors are probably there licking their wounds, do you feel like fighting wounded giants?”
“Can’t you entrance them with your beguiling siren song while I steal all the gold?”
“How much of the Kingdom’s wealth is wasting away in the giant and ogre and medusa and dragon dens?”
“A good ninety percent I’d wager. That’s why adventurers play such a vital role in the economy, injecting that money back into the system.”
“Bite your tongue.”
“Plus it sends the worst humanity has to offer out into dangerous situations where most of them die –it’s a good way to kill off the violent lunatics that don’t have the discipline for military service. You can’t kill them all of course, some of them get so good at killing that they become lords, but it helps keep the numbers down.”
“Now you’re starting to talk sense.”
For a day featuring a giant attack it was a surprisingly humdrum day on the road. There was no town or village to stop in so there caravan set up camp at the side of the road at the end of the day. Martialla and I had no gear of our own but it was easy enough to talk our way into a supply tent – whatever they’re transporting it apparently warrants unpacking and covering with a bivouac of its own. Must be sugar or something like that that you wouldn’t want to get wet. We’ll have to be on the lookout for giant ants. Once we were set up I popped the lid off Melusine’s barrel. Instead of just hearing her voice her head and arms came out to hang over the edge of the barrel like some twisted magic trick or puppet theater.
Martialla glanced over “I’m not going to lie that’s an upsetting sight.”
“I walked around for a while but I couldn’t find a body of water, are you going to be okay in there?”
She shrugged her skinny fish-frog-lizard shoulders “Probably.”
“You seem awfully sanguine about the possibility of dying given how panic-stricken you were about it when I found you.”
She waved one of her fish-paws “I’m pretty fucked up right now. Whatever is in here it’s strong.”
“I could probably find a horse-trough or something to stick you in for the night.”
She shook her head slowly “Its fine. I already lived millions of years, if I die I die. We fey are older than time itself. Or something.”
“How did you end up in there anyway? You said a wizard out you in a wine cask? Why did he do that?”
She puffed out her scaly cheeks, sending her seaweed hair flopping wetly “Why? Why do your kind do anything? Pure orneriness.” She poked her webbed finger-thing at me “You humans are always wrecking shit for everyone else.”
“I’ve met some pretty ornery fey too.”
She poked at me more emphatically “Cause of YOU. The bad fey, the ones that are cruel and mean are a reaction to the coming of people to the old lands. It’s an attack on our way of life – no, on our very existence! They’re transformed by their malice and anger at the pillaging and destruction of the natural world. Their hated as twisted their bodies into ugly false humans, their beauty twisted into ugliness and their minds turned to vengeance. We’re not trapped in one shape like you pathetic monkeys – we’re transformed both by the environment and our own behaviors. Those fey have internalized the corruption wrought by you and your kind and in doing so have remade themselves in your image. And they are ashamed because they have become what they hate most. And that shame is what makes them perform vile acts.”
“If the problem is that humans are mean being mean back to them doesn’t help anything – that’s just more meanness. Don’t get me wrong, I am pro-revenge, but revenge is more about elimination and you can’t kill all the humans. You can kill humans all the live long day and not make a dent – there’s always more humans. If the problem is one of behavior meanness only begets more meanness. The response should be to try and make us nice with more niceness. I mean it wouldn’t work, but logically it makes more sense.”
“Yeah . . . well . . . that’s like your opinion lady.”
“So you didn’t do anything to this wizard?”
“I mean . . . I did lure his son into the pond and drown him. Do you think that could be why he did what he did?”
“Hard to say, hard to say, humans are capricious and unpredictable.”
She fish-snorted “Don’t I know it!”
Funds: 53,040 platinum, 25,750 gold
Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Ela’s Dazzling Garment, Belt of Physical Might +4, Ring of Urban Grace, Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Elegant Boots, Ela’s Extravagant Necklace, Brooch of Shielding, Headband of Subtle Misdirection, Antiquarian’s Monocle, +1 Glorious Undead Bane Short Sword, Nixie in a whiskey barrel
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