When I got up this morning I checked my Flask to see how the nixie (and the Flask) was doing but there was no response from her. I dumped out a gallon of rice wine to see if she would appear, but there was nothing. So I guess she’s dead or gone or something. Apparently putting magic being into a magic bottomless flask of wine was not the best idea. I’ll shoulder most of the blame on this one. But look on the bright side, if I hadn’t come along she would have died several days ago – when you’re facing your last moments you want every second you know? So I did a good thing.
Today our caravan ran smack into another caravan – one of those Shireling ones you always hear about. Although I guess if they travel around all the time they’re not from the Eight Shires and aren’t really Shirelings. You know what I mean, they were little people. But you know not like humans who are short, I mean they to look mostly like very short humans, but you know what I mean. I was told one time that the reason that the Eight Shires is such a nice place is that every so often they take a whole family (and Shireling families are big) and kick them out so that they can avoid over population. Of those not-quite-exiles some of them come into human lands to settle and mostly get treated like crap. Others decided instead to wander eternally in nomadic caravans like this one. It seems like an easy choice but you have to factor in how many of these caravans you don’t see because they’ve been swallowed by trolls.
Arbeven must be on a secret Halfling migratory pattern since this is the second time I’ve seen one in this area, but it was definitely not the same one. The one that I sold a ring to lo those many months ago was a relatively small affair populated with lean hardnosed smallfolk that you kept your eye on. This had more of a small village on wheels vibe. Most of the wagons were pulled by robust Shire ponies but the lead wagon was instead being dragged forward by two animals that looked like hornless rhinos – not like their horns were cut off, just that they didn’t have them. They kind of had beaky mouths too – not like bird beaks but like a turtle you know? I never before saw whatever they were. How do you find and tame something like that? That wagon the not-rhinos was pulling was massive as far as wagons go, not as massive as that ridiculous merchant “land-ship” that I was once, but it looked like a Halfling hole had been dragged out of the ground and mounted on a frame.
The Hücresel Merchant Company (all both of them) were more than happy to stop and swap at this serendipitous meeting. It was a long enough delay for Halfling children to turn out by the wagonload running about and riding on their burly hound and playing some manner of stick-game similar to lacrosse only it seemed that you could just throw the ball as well. Looked very much like the kind of thing that would result in human children losing an eye or two but they seemed pretty adept. The master of the caravan, Mr. Big Jobo Hairyfoot (if I have one complaint about the Shirefolk it’s their heavy dependence on foot or feet in their surnames) was more than happy to show me to their heavily guarded (relatively speaking) premium goods.
Jobo, who true to his name was well over four feet tall, showed me a few trinkets and charms that I had little interest in but then he showed me a long duster style overcoat that was a real find. It was a double-breasted number with wide lapels (but not too wide) and both a storm flap and buckling straps around the wrists. This is important to keep water from running down your forearm when you raise your arm in the rain – I HATE that. If you’re going to make a waterproof coat you better have it seal up so water doesn’t get INSIDE of it Gods damn it! The lining was fine piece of seamstressing and it fit me like a dream – coming down to just above the ankle, which is long enough to keep you dry but not so long that you’re getting tangled up. I have a hard time finding lady’s coats like this that reach beyond the knee on account of I’m so tall and magnificent. Sometimes I have to resort to a man’s coat which swallows me up like a troll eating a Halfling, but this was clearly made for a fine lady such as myself. The horn buttons were just the icing on the cake. It cost a fortune because it is all kinds of magic, but it was worthy it just for the style alone. I look great in this thing.
Speaking of cake and icing, the best thing about doing business with a Halfling caravan is they invite you to lunch. And they know how to eat well on the hoof, so to speak. Instead of the beans and refried mush I’ve been treated to by the “cook” Hücresel Merchant Company (who’s a nice enough fellow despite being terrible at his job) Jobo invited me to his table to enjoy stuffed pork loin, poached guinea fowl, oysters and liver, wild truffle and bleu cheese salad, and a fluffy buttercream cake that had such a preponderance of icing that it made your teeth hurt just looking at it. I have as much of a sweet tooth as the next gal, but it was a bit much for me. I was able to manage with just some chocolate pudding pie and strawberry mousse. It wasn’t easy but that’s why I’m renowned as being so heroic – I manage under such challenging conditions.
Once business (and lunch) was concluded the Halflings were packed up and back on the road with marvelous alacrity. The children and dogs disappeared back into the wagons with admirable discipline and the whole caravan was underway within a matter of minutes. I noticed then that a couple of the out-riders (or whatever you call them when they’re on foot and not riding) were humans. I certainly didn’t notice them when it was time for happy faces and the brisk back and forth of trading. They must be the real heavies with sordid pasts who wander the land with these folk to avoid their troubles. There should be a series of books about that, its fertile ground for melodrama. It took quite a bit longer for the Hücresel Merchant Company to get going even though they had a third as many wagons and one tenth as many people (although they were bigger of course). Although I will say in their defense that everyone was stuffed to the gills with rich Halfling cuisine so they were a little sluggish. Once again Martialla and I were perched on our boxes watching as the teamsters and drovers struggled to get things moving.
“All I’m saying is that they mostly sell to humans right? You’d think they’d have one crossbow the right size for me.”
“I find it odd that they had crossbows at all, I’ve never known a Shireling to use one, their big thing seems to be slings.”
“Slings? Who can you hurt with a sling? No wonder the trolls get them all the time.”
“Have you ever been hit with a sling?”
“Of course not.”
“Well I have and it hurts.”
“But you’re still alive huh? Ergo my point is proven.”
“You’ve been shot with a crossbow a bunch of times and you’re still alive.”
“I’ve been shot buy ever Gods damned thing under the sun it seems like. And I am still alive but that’s not a commentary on the effectiveness of the weapons that’s a testament to my legendary fortitude.”
“I thought that was about how much you could drink and not get drunk.”
“That too. My point is that I’m tougher than . . . something that is very tough.”
“Good one. Tell you what, I’ll get a sling and you let me nail you between the eyes and then you tell me how you feel.”
“Do you think you could make that shot? Slings don’t seem like very accurate weapons to me and I’m guessing you’ve never used one – I doubt you could hit me in the head at all, let alone between the eyes. I would bet heavily against that happening.”
“I might take that bet. How have you dreams been lately.”
I patted my Necklace fondly “Just fine since I got this baby back.”
“How do you tell the difference between a normal nightmare and when you’re being dream attacked by a hag?”
“I’d say the easiest thing to identify is that you wake up feeling like you got tramped by an angry mob and instead of feeling rested you feel even more tired – and like you might die at any moment from sheer exhaustion. Beyond that the dreams themselves are remarkably vivid and awful. There’s really no mistaking them for the real thing.”
“Hmm, I’m starting to wonder if some of the dream horror coming your way is being deflected onto people around you. I’ve had some pretty bad dreams the last few nights and I’ve heard other people complaining about the same.”
“That’s a shame.”
“That’s all you got?”
I shrugged “What else do you want from me? I’m no dreamweaver. There’s probably a god of dreams right? Find one of his or her priests and maybe they can help.”
“How about you just take the necklace off tonight?”
“Why on earth would I do that?”
“If you sleep without it and no one else has nightmares tonight then we’ll know that’s what’s happening.”
“And then what? What good does that information do?”
“Well, if the hag nightmare attacks are ricocheting off your shield onto everyone else don’t you want to do something about it?”
“Something like that? What can I do? I did my part, I protected myself, am I responsible for everyone else’s dreams now?”
“Maybe you could force the nightmare hag into some kind of final confrontation in the dreamworld and defeat her.”
“How? She’s the one with dream powers, I can’t do anything. That makes no sense, why would you want to confront a monster on their home grounds? If anything what we’d want to do is to confront them in the real world were presumably they have no power. Or at least less power. How am I supposed to defeat something in a dream?”
“With the power of imagination?”
“I’ll think about it, maybe there’s something we can do. I think there are some drugs you can take that are supposed to help you with lucid dreaming.”
“I know dreamer’s star tea is supposed to give you pleasant dreams but I’ve never heard of it letting you control your dreams.”
“I was thinking of Gold pesh maybe or one of those other kinds.”
“Isn’t pesh terribly addictive and horrible for you?”
“What do you care, you smoke flayleaf all the time!”
“Not ALL the time, only when it’s available, it’s not like I seek it out. Most of the time I don’t I mean. And flayleaf is barely even bad for you, the Duke’s physician told me so once. It’s basically like medicine really. Calms the nerves.”
“So that’s why you’re so leveled headed.”
Funds: 47,040 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, 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