Back at court I had a lot of time to think, but I rarely did. I’ve made a petty big deal about how awful and repetitive and zombie-like the life of the Baroness and women of her ilk is but if I wanted to be completely fair (which I don’t) my days as a kept woman to the eighth most powerful man in the Kingdom weren’t terribly diverse either. I’d say maybe one day in three I was with the Duke and doing whatever he wanted to do. Those days weren’t boring in the sense that it was like walking a tightrope, one misstep and you’re dead, but they weren’t not boring you know? It was stressful and demanding but it wasn’t thought-provoking, not usually anyway. There’s a reason jaded high society types are so jaded. The rest of the time I was left to my own devices but that wasn’t all that exciting either now that I think back on it. Don’t get me wrong, I was the in lap of luxury, but I couldn’t really go anywhere – I was expected to be ready to answer the Duke’s call at any time. And as strange as it seems there wasn’t much to do really.
I had no one to talk to, the real nobles wouldn’t give me the time of day unless the Duke was around when they would kiss my ass shamelessly – I guess they thought they could win his favor that way. Boy were they braking up the wrong tree there. And anyone else had enough of their own troubles – I wasn’t going to be one of those people that forced the servants to listen to their bullshit problems. I went riding a lot, I went into town to buy stuff occasionally, and I would be reading a book more often that I thought, but mostly I drank. Martialla busts my tits sometimes about how much I drink now, but it’s nothing compared to back then. I suppose if you wanted to be one of those types you could say that I was a functioning alcoholic. It’s pretty easy when your function doesn’t involving doing much. Those same sensitive types would probably tell you that I was drinking away my pain and sorrow, and maybe there was a little of that going on, but mostly it was just something to do.
I remember the early days after the Duke dumped me in Graltontown, I think I spent half of what little money I was able to scrounge up on booze. I’m pretty sure I bought a hundred gold bottle of wine that first week or so. Stupid. I could have been drinking for free, it’s not hard. So maybe at that time I had a bit of a problem with drinking. The point is though that I have a lot less time to think now but I definitely do a lot more thinking. I don’t know if I’m more curious now or if constantly almost getting killed sharpens the logical muscles but whatever it is I wonder about a lot more things now. Some of it is planning, figuring out what my next move should be, but some of it is just idle curiosity. I guess when you’re at the top of the pyramid (or adjacent to the top anyway) and all the stuff is flowing do you it’s easy not to think how it gets there. But once you’re down in the muck and the mud you really have to wonder how it all works. Like a village blacksmith – how is there enough blacksmithing for them to get by? How many people need a horse shoed on a weekly basis? Or a buckle of nails? And how do the farmers pay them? How do they turn their crops into money? And how did they afford the horse in the first place? Those things are expensive.
And don’t even get me started on the economics of magic items – that makes no sense. Anyway, these are the kind of things you have time to think about while you’re traveling by caravan. Melusine wasn’t dead so I transferred her to my Flask – I was curious what would happen there since that’s magic on magic. After she was out of the whiskey barrel I dipped myself a shot. It was better, but not tremendously better like the wine had been. Fat Bear is a middle of the road whiskey and it was improved to being a pretty good whiskey. So a poor quality wine was made into a great wine and an okay whiskey was made into a decent whiskey. I wonder if the potency of how bad the booze is directly relates to the transformation – so the worse it is the better it ends up. Such as, maybe if I stick her in a decanter of Six Roses single barrel it wouldn’t change at all because that’s already high quality. I can’t wait to try this out with other kinds of booze and get more information. I guess I can see why wizards do shit like this – it’s interesting to experiment. On the other hand that’s how we ended up with owlbears and lizardbats and boaraffes. I saw a boaraffe gore a gnome once – it was pretty fucked up.
Late in the afternoon Martialla and I were sitting on our stack of boxes on wagon number seven watching the countryside slowly go by. I had tried to find a comfortable reclining position but it turns out that boxes don’t make fodder for a good recline.
I sighed “Can’t you summon up lounge chair of some kind?”
“I think you’d fall off the wagon trying to sit in something like that up there.”
“I meant a magic lounge chair.”
“Ah, no, I can’t do that. I could make you feel profoundly stricken with intense grief.”
“A generous offer, but I think I’ll pass. So are you a mind mage or what? You have some spells like that that mess with people’s heads but you also turn invisible and conjure illusions and burn people alive like an illusionist or a normal murder wizard.”
“I’ve told you a dozen times, I’m not a mage, I’m a sorcerer.”
I made an exasperated noise “Yes you have told me that a bunch of times, but what is it supposed to mean to me? You get all bent out of shape about it, but how am I supposed to know what you’re talking about? I didn’t go to magic school.”
“Neither did I!”
“How do you learn horrible spells that make people suicidally depressed then?”
She looked aggrieved “I don’t learn any spells Ela, they just come to me.”
“How, come to you from where? Or from what? Wizards learn magic from dusty books, witches make deals with demons to get their magic, what about you – where does you magic come from?”
“It’s just inside me. When I was a kid little things just started happening around me, like there was a poltergeist or something. Over time I learned how to control it. I know for some sorcerers its part of their heritage, there’s a dragon or some other magical being in their family tree back somewhere that is the source of their powers. For me I don’t know where it comes from, there’s nothing like that in my family that I know about. Some people think that originally sorcerers came from fey curses but no one really knows.”
“How is being able to do awesome magic without having to learn it a curse?”
“If you don’t learn to master it the magic consumes you. It still can even if you do. It’s like a burning flame in a house – as long as you keep it under control you can use it for all kinds of things, but if you can’t the house burns down.”
“That still sounds better than any of the curses I’ve been hit with. So what you have to mediate or something or you’ll explode and rip a fabric in reality?”
“No, it’s more like learning to walk, you can’t really explain it it’s just something you do.”
“Sure you can, lift your foot up, move your leg forward and then put it down again.”
“But how do you do that? How do you lift up your foot? You just do it.”
“Hmm, I suppose. That still doesn’t explain where your spells come from. Are you able to mess with people’s heads because that’s what you do without magic? You were manipulating people with your words and actions so your magic got in on the action too? And you learned to turn invisible because you were always sneaking around?”
“No one knows Ela, you just reach for your magic and sometimes there’s something new there.”
“There has to be a reason why you can turn into a yeti instead of something else. Aren’t there thousands of spells? Why do you know the handful you know? Does a wizard have to invent the spell before a sorcerer can know it? How the Hells would that make sense? Or can you do stuff they can’t? Aren’t a lot of spells basically useless? Why don’t you know any of those? Are there sorcerers out there that suck and can’t do anything good?”
“I know some of it is shaped by the ancestry, if you had an ice dragon in your family ten generations ago you tend to know more ice spells, but it’s not like you only know ice spells. It’s not a strict thing Ela. No one really understand how it works.”
“As per fucking usual. Why hasn’t anyone studied this? Hmm, so maybe you have a progenitor creature of some kind in your family history and you just don’t know about it. Let’s think about what you can do. You can bend, influence, and crush the minds of the weak. You can turn invisible. You can burn people alive and make them miserable. What kind of creature does that sound like to you?”
“I’m sure I wouldn’t know.”
I smirked “Come off it Miss Monster Expert, that sounds like a succubus to me. Clearly someone in your family got down and nasty with a vanity demon and lived to tell the tale.”
“That doesn’t make any sense Ela, even if that happened, the succubus would be the one that had the baby not my ancestor.”
“Bah, they can take human forms of either gender – I’ve seen it. Probably your great-great grandpappy was a demonic entity in disguise.”
I patted her on the shoulder “Don’t worry Martialla, I won’t look down on your because your demon heritage or your family history of summoning demons for the purposes of sexual exploitation.”
“I do not have demon blood!”
“Prove it. Say the Third Blessing of the Holy Mother without bursting into flames.”
The fellow driving the wagon turned round to look at us “What’s that you say about the summoning demons for the purposes of sexual exploitation? Can you do one of those ones with the claw hands and tail? Just asking for a friend.”
Martialla scowled at him “Shut up and turn around!” She folded her arms sulkily “I hate you Ela.”
“I’m just trying to learn more about you Martialla. You’re the one who’s always complaining that I’m self-centered but whenever I try to get closer to you you shut down. Quit playing hard to get Martialla, let me love you. I know you’ve been hurt before but I’m here for you.”
“You’re a terrible person Ela.”
I shook my head sadly “That’s just the demon blood in you talking Martialla, you have to fight it. Do you want to pray with me Martialla?”
She tried to kick me but I was able to dodge out of the way – although I was laughing so hard I fell off the wagon anyway.
Funds: 53,040 platinum, 25,750 gold
Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake (with Nixie) 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
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