Mantelderith 26 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 2

I’ve never built a scarecrow, and it’s hard to envision a scenario in which I ever would build a scarecrow but I’ve ended up doing a lot of things I never expected.  Just in case I was examining my new scarecrow friend as he led me to the witch’s lair.  My conclusion?  I don’t think this is a good example of how you’re supposed to make them.  If I were to create a scarecrow from first principal I’d put up some boards in the shape of a T and then put a shirt on it and then sew the pants and the other crap to the shirt.  Stuff with straw and stick a gourd on the head and there you have it.  But this scarecrow was different – and not just because it was walking around talking and smoking a pipe.  It basically had a crude skeleton made out of wood – with finger “bones” and everything.  It had joints and stuff which must have been a ton of work to craft.  So this wasn’t just a scarecrow that a witch animated, it was something that she and/or her swine-man mind slaves purpose built to be brought to “life”.  Which is pretty strange when you think about it.  If you know ahead of time you’re going to magic something up to be your minion why would you make it a scarecrow?  Doesn’t seem like it makes much sense. 

I guess maybe if you’re a scary witch it makes sense to do something like that so you stay on message.  That message being I’m scary.  I’ve never noticed crows to be overly concerned about scarecrows but they certainly seem to freak people out.  Worrying about them coming to live and carving your genitals off with a rusty hook seems not uncommon – possibly because it really happens from time to time.  I assume the distaste stems from the fact that they look sort of like corpses on a stick – anything that’s supposed to be human and isn’t always looks a little more frightening than the real thing.  And that smile – seems like a bad smile.  My straw-filled guide noticed me staring and asked about it.

“Just taking you all in my man.  Are you a man?  Does it depend on the gender of the heart of the condemned murderer that was used to bring you to life?”

Its fleshy triangle eyes narrowed slightly in a scarecrow squint “Heart of a murderer?  You have some troubling ideas about how magic works.”

“You are taking me to talk to your mistress about a circle of murderous blood magic practitioners.”

“Valid point, I don’t think they need to do that, it’s just easier.”

I noticed we were coming up upon a rather large village “What’s this?”

He gestured proudly with his stick-hand “This is the village of Cabshirement.  It was founded two hundred years ago, give or take, for silver mining.  Once the silver ran dry and the miners left new inhabitants moved in to sing and dance and ring in the new.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

He repeated the same expansive gesture as if he was showing me something wonderful “This is the domain of my mistress.”

“What?  She lives in a village?  I thought you were taking me to a witch-hut.”

“What’s a witch-hut?”

“It varies, sometimes if looks like the bottom half of a turnip set on end.  Sometimes it’s a cave filled with the souls of the damned, or like a living tree that’s been turned into a house and is constantly creaming in agony and bleeding maple syrup.  Or maybe just a big dead animal of some kind and the witch lives in the anus.  Witches are nasty.”

His pumpkin head rotated back and forth in a scarecrow headshake “I’ve never heard of anything like that, I think you’ve read too many books about witches.”

“This is all from personal experience bub.”

Walking through the village I realized that it wasn’t as big as I thought.  Or rather it was but it wasn’t you know?  There were way more buildings than people – I guess because of the silver boom/bust scenario.  It was a pretty sweet set-up, all the families had multiple houses and outbuildings all to themselves.  If you can find a ghost town you live in I guess you can really have a taste of the highlife.  In a way.  The few people that were out and about seemed to have no issue with a scarecrow walking through town – must be a normal thing.  He led me to a very un-witchy two-story house with massive glassless windows.  She must get a lot of birds and bugs in there.  At least that seems somewhat witchy.  Coming out to meet us was a woman in a high-necked long sleeved affair with her dark hair in a tight bun – she looked far more like a schoolmarm than a witch to my eye.  Her face was curiously smooth for a witch and she appeared to be wearing cosmetics!  And I mean real cosmetics not witch “cosmetics” like smearing salamander shit on your face.

The scarecrow did a weird sort of half-kneel half now “Behold, Timora, mayor of Cabshirement and my kindly mistress.”

She dipped her head politely “Welcome.”

“You’re not very ugly for a witch.”

“Um . . . thank you.  Would you care to come in for some tea?”

“Absolutely, toss a little dark rum in there if you have it.”

Her sitting room was perfectly ordinary, setting aside the fact that a witch shouldn’t have a sitting room at all – they should have a weird mushroom patch with capering little demons in it or something.  I kept looking around for human eyeballs growing out of the walls or snakes slithering under the rug but there was nothing.  The strangest thing going was the scarecrow bringing out the tea service.  On the other hand she had no dark rum so maybe she is a witch.  After taking a few mannerly sips she set her tea cup down and set her face with a determined expression.

“I should start from the beginning.  About a year ago a man and his fiancée came here . . .”

“Isn’t it funny how people always say it like that?  A man and his fiancée – never a woman and her fiancée or even two young people set to be married.”

“Um . . . yes, well, as I was saying. . .”

I set my cup down as well “I don’t mean to be rude but I’m going to stop you right there.  I’m not really interested in your troubles, and I mean no offense by that.  I just came to ask you to knock it off with your nightmare ‘call for help’.  And I was wondering if you could make me a magic item.  You made this scarecrow thing here so I assume you can do that.  I used to have this great flask, it wasn’t much to look at but it did produce an endless amount for rice wine, which I quite enjoyed.  Unfortunately it was ruined by a dirty nixie – and after I saved her life no less!  Can you make me something like that to replace the flask that I lost?  What would be good is one that could make a variety of different liquors and liqueurs.  And mixed drinks too, that would be fabulous.”

She glanced at her scarecrow butler “Wasn’t one of your fellow travelers taken?  I assume you came because you wanted him back.”

“No, that kid is a lost cause, I’m just going to tell everyone that he died.  I came to tell you to knock it off with the dream stuff.  And the flask thing.”

“How uncharitable.”

I picked my tea back up for a drink and sat back “Look, I’ve dealt with my fair share of cults lately – I don’t need to do it again.  It loses its luster pretty quickly.  You got a problem with kidnappers in your town, you’re the mayor and a witch right?  Deal with it.”

“That’s what I’m trying to do.”

“By asking me to do it for you?  I guess I can respect that.  What’s in it for me?”

“You were just asking me to make an item for you.”

“Okay now we’re getting somewhere.  I kill these people for you and you make the flask for me – the simplest bargains are the best my grandmother always told me.”

“You don’t need to kill them, I just want . . .”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever give me the rundown – and I don’t need a lot of bullshit about ghosts from the old mining days or the family history of everyone in town, just bottom line this for me, what’s going on what needs to happen.”

“Are you familiar with the curse of lycanthropy?”

“Werewolfs you mean?  Yeah, I cured one once.  You ever cure a werewolf?”

“Um . . . no.”

I folded my arms “Didn’t think so.”

“Right . . . anyway, have you ever wondered about the origins of werewolfs?”

“No, but I have a feeling you’re going to tell me about it.”

Turns out that there are these evil spirits that look like jackals or foxes or wolves that can take human form and they turn people into werewolfs just to be jerks.  Although this didn’t turn out to be related to anything, other than that one of these spirits was at the heart of the matter.  This spirit was not turning people into werewolfs, or at least not as far as Timora knew, he’s probably doing that on the side as well, instead it had recruited some of the townsfolks into a sleeper cell of sorts.  It was teaching them magic in return for their service – and it turns out that if you don’t have the magic inside you that’s okay, you can get it from other people by killing and torturing them under the supervision of an evil canine spirit. 

“Why are you just doing something about this now?”

“I didn’t know until the spirit of one of their victims came to me with the sad tale.”

“And why did you think spraying nightmares out across the land was a good idea to recruit help?  Why not send your scarecrow to tell someone?”

“Who is there to tell?  There’s no law enforcement group for magic users.”

“There should be.  Even so normal law enforcement generally takes a dim view of murder.”

“All I have is the word of a ghost.”

“That would be a tough case to prosecute.  So you just found out about this?  Pumpkin head here was talking like this was something you had known about for a while.  Long enough to know what their normal tactics were.”

“Assumptions made after the fact.”

“Alright, so what do we do?  Sounds like the coyote spirits is the problem.  How do we get it?”

 She shook her head “I don’t know where it is.”

“Do you know who the cultists are?  We can grab one of them and have your scarecrow stick them with a pitchfork in the ass until they give up the coyote.”

“I have some suspicions but I don’t know who is part of this for sure.  If they laid a trap for your friends they’ll be there.”

“Maybe, maybe not, if I was them I’d get someone else to do it – hired goons or bandits, there’s fucking bandits all over the place.  Or maybe they have their own army of scarecrow or animated mops or something.  Regardless walking into a traps is usually more of a last resort move when you have no other options.  Summon up this ghost who told you about the scheme, he can identify who killed him right?”

Her lips formed a thin line “I’m hesitant to do that, calling spirits can be very dangerous.”

“You’re very circumspect for a witch.  You know what else is dangerous?  Murder cults in your village.  Let’s get this ghost in here to tell us what he knows and then let’s get this show on the road, I don’t have all day for this.  Here’s something I’ve learned madam mayor, you want to take out a group like this you have to be willing to take some risks.  You think they give a shit about how dangerous what they’re doing is?”

“That’s not a very compelling argument – I don’t want to be like them.”

“Well unless you got another idea I’m saying its séance time.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 47,040 platinum, 25,750 gold

XP: 1,147,551

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, +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

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