Mantelderith 26 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 3

I was trying to remember if I’ve ever been to a séance before.  I seem to remember at some point back at court the Duke and his cronies brought in a charlatan ghost-caller but either I wasn’t there for that to see what happened or it was so uninteresting that I don’t remember it.  Or it didn’t happen.  Or something else.  I know that a few years before I arrived there was a big to-do with the ghost of a prostitute that the Duke’s father beat to death.  As the story goes she was haunting the place big-time and not the rapping on walls and making different spots feel cold kind of haunting, the possessing people to make them mutilate themselves and blood running down the walls kind of haunting. They had to bring in some professional ghost-killers to deal with it, or at least some people very effective at pulling off the hoax of being exorcists. 

Makes me wonder how ghost powers are doled out.  My first theory would have been that the more traumas or hatred or injustice they suffered in life the more powerful they were – but most of the ghosts I’ve meet got it pretty bad and they couldn’t do much of anything.  My next theory would have been that the more powerful you were in life the more ghost-juice you got – a mighty wizard would turn into a fearsome specter whereas a murdered peasant would be a lowly poltergeist.  But that doesn’t seem right either because it’s unlikely that Harriet “Hattie”Usǽmiligr, the murdered woman in question, would have had much in the way of temporal power and yet she became the ghost with many (if not all) of the gifts.  Maybe when you die and you’re making your case to the weird skeleton vulture monsters that control where your soul goes to make you a ghost you have to also pitch them on what powers you want and the interesting ways you’re going to use them.  That makes as much sense as anything.  I’ll ask next time I have a near death experience.  Should be soon am I right?

I wonder also if making the Duke believe that my unquiet spirit is haunting him would be a good form of revenge.  Not the whole revenge of course, that’s far too mild, but as the first stage of a revenge that might be something.  Drive him a little mad with the ghost hoax but not so mad that he can’t understand what’s happening when the real alive non-ghost me shows up to get some more revenge.  It’s worth thinking about.  I wonder how hard it is to pull something like that off.  You probably need someone on the inside for it to be truly effective.

Timora agreed in fairly short order that she had no better plans on how to proceed so she would attempt to contact the spirit of Grayton Taflor – the murder victim who had be visiting her.  No mention was made of contacting the fiancée who was also murdered, presumably because she wouldn’t be able to identify her attackers being a hysterical woman and all.  The scarecrow tried to dissuade her from this course on the grounds of it being too dangerous but after a long and monotonous conversation she declared that this crisis was too important and she was willing to risk herself despite its objections.  How touching. 

Once that tedious business was out of the she led me out of her house and into a large garden.  But not like a vegetable garden or anything like that, it was more like a tiny park.  Timora made a self-important comment about how her garden was grown to represent spiritual and philosophical ideals and promote “harmonious thought” instead of being optimized for visual appeal while.  Good thing too because it looked very plain to my eye – all greenery and rocks.  If you’re going to go to all this trouble how about a splash of color for the Gods’ sake?  She settled herself into the middle of the colorless garden as her scarecrow husband hovered by looking nervous – it’s amazing how much expression he’s able to get out of a rotting pumpkin face.

“What are we doing out here?”

“Just what you said, I’m going to see if I can call upon Grayton to tell us who his murders are.”

I looked around “Here?  Isn’t this supposed to happen in a tiny dark room full of candles and spirit boards and things like that?  Maybe an odd shaped skull with some dribbly black wax on it?  A stuffed crow sitting on a marble bust of some old dead guy?  Plus shouldn’t we wait until midnight when the boundary between worlds is weakest?”

She frowned slightly “What would the time of day have to do with the boundary between worlds?”

“I’ve heard people say that.”

“If only the spirits of the dead were as predictable as that.  Why would anyone want to conjure up a spirit in the dark?  These things are best done in the light of day where the sun and the natural world can bolster your willpower.”

“Does the natural world disappear after dark?  You said that this might be dangerous, if this guy came to you for help why would he hurt you?”

“It’s bewildering being a ghost.  For them trying to operating in our world is like trying to interact with something at the bottom of a deep pool of water.  You can see that something is down there but you can’t make it out clearly.  And the pool is deep enough that you can’t easily reach the things you can see even if you were able to observe them clearly.  You have to push your way down through the water – and doing so causes all kinds of ripples without you meaning to do so.  And you can only hold your breath for so long, as soon as you reach the bottom you may need to come back up for air after only an instant.  They don’t belong in our world and they can’t interact with it as they once did – I don’t think that most ghosts even realize that they’re terrifying their own loved ones.  This can be very frustrating so many ghosts lash out in anger over their circumstances as well – at least if they’re hurting someone they’re able to make a connection of sorts.  Ghosts are chained to our world by regret largely, it doesn’t make for a pleasant creature.”

“That doesn’t sound great.”

“No one asks to be a ghost, they would beg for their own destruction if they could.”

“Why can’t they?  I’ve known several ghosts that asked me for help in moving on.”

“No more questions please, I need to concentrate.”

“Sure, this reminds me though, when you make me my magic flask it would be great if it could make holy water too – for situations like this.”

Timora sat in the middle of her garden for a long time, doing nothing that I could register beyond breathing loudly with her eyes closed, and then she laid down with her arms out and started calling to the spirit to appear before her.  Definitely isn’t the way I’d attempt to call out a ghost, but I suppose she’s the expert.  Or maybe she isn’t.  I’ve never heard of witches having any special powers over ghosts – that’s what nethermancers do right? Or mediums?  She’s neither (I don’t think) so maybe this is all bullshit.  I didn’t get to find out because before anything happened the scarecrow shouted out a warning a moment before a Gods damn grizzly bear barreled into it and started ripping it apart.  If you thought that a magic scarecrow was a match for a bear you were wrong.  Very wrong.

Coming up around us out of the greenery (which I then realize was perfect cover for an ambush) were half a dozen masked and cloaked figures – do you think that cultists make their own masks and scary cloaks or could we nip a lot of this kind of trouble in the bud by making clothiers tell law enforcement whenever someone comes in for a bulk order of “cult robes”?  Along with them was a lean but absurdly muscled hyena-jackal-sandy fox creature that stood upright like a man and held in its hand a ridiculously heavy looking sword.  It was like an extended butcher’s cleaver.  I’m no weapon specialist but isn’t that terribly inefficient?  Axes are heavy on the end and have a thin shaft (if you know what I mean) because you want all the weight focused on the part where you hit people.  With a thick sword like this aren’t you exerting a lot of strength that’s wasted?  Let me know if you know. 

“Hey guys, I was just looking for you.”

The foxjackalhyena pointed its fat sword at me and growled (literally) “Kill them.”

I drew my sword own very small sword “Okay then, nice talking to you.”

The light shining off my sword seemed to cause the canine creature to flinch back slightly but otherwise didn’t seem to inconvenience it too much – like smell a strong bad odor.  It’s not great but it doesn’t really get in the way either.  Timora still seemed to be trancing out so I grabbed her and hauled her up as the cultists started chanting.  I gave her a good shake and then pointed her in the direction of the bear that was tearing her scarecrow pal to shreds.

She was understandably confused “What’s happened?”

“They’re here, time to do some witch shit!”

While she was still trying to get her bearings the cultists unleashed the mighty might of their spells.  I know they’re new to learning magic so I need to give them some slack but it was a pathetic effort.  As far as I can tell nothing happened.  I could feel some kind of tugging at my mind like when people try the enchantment spells but it was weaker than a newborn kitten.  The situation would have been laughable if not for the jackal monsters.  His action was quiet unexpected though, he didn’t attack with his sword or order his bear to attack or do any magic demon stuff as you might expect.  He started singing.  I guess it was a magic song though because Timora fell asleep in my arms and I felt a weird lethargy grab onto me like sticky tar.  Suddenly my limbs felt heavy and the sword in my hand seemed like it weight fifty pounds. 

The creature stopped singing to growl out more orders “She’s too strong for your magic, rip her to pieces!”

The cultists all produced sickles and other sharp farming implements from under their robes (how do they do that without cutting themselves?) and started to move in.  On the plus side the bear suddenly and inexplicably (at the time, later I would learn that it was being controlled by the Grayton-ghost) turned on its master and attacked it.   While the foxman was quartering the bear with his silly but clearly effective sword that left me to content with the cultist.  Here’s the deal, I’m nobody’s idea of a great warrior, but I’ve been hardened enough at this point that even in a six on one scenario I’m not going to have too much trouble with some taxidermists and tavern keepers brandishing sharpened chicken catchers at me. 

Here’s something you may not know about fighting – people don’t like getting stabbed with swords.  The first time it happens to someone it just plumb rattles some folks.  A guy came at me with a short-handled shovel and when I stuck him in the belly instead his mask fell off and he went to the ground with a true look of astonishment on his face.  It was like he couldn’t conceive of someone who he was trying to bash with a shovel defending themselves.  I can picture him running home sniveling to his aged mother saying “I was just trying to kill her and she just tried to kill me back!”  If they had all just rushed me and dogpiled on me they could have taken my out easy – I can’t outwrestle six people.  But no one ever wants to do that because it guarantees a couple of you are going to get stabbed in the process.  So instead they tried to skirmish and instead they all got stabbed.  Irony?  No, but it’s something.

Three of them were down with mortal wounds or already dead when the other three ran for the hills – coincidentally just about the time the bear was bashed to the ground as well.  I locked eyes with the hyena creature.

“Looks like your circle of jerks is ruined, how about we skip his next part and call it day?”

It shrieked and charged at me instead – no one ever listens to reason.  He didn’t even try to avoid my blade as he ran at me – and I soon saw why, my sword glanced off his belly like it was made of granite.  Its sword on the other hand hacked across my back as I tried to dodge away like it was made of frail human flesh. The scarecrow was in tatters but the gourd-head was still “alive”.

“You need a special kind of metal to hurt him!”

“Information that would have been useful before!”

I scrambled to my feet to parry his next blow but the sword that I had been mocking was so dense that doing so sent my blade clattering out of my hand to the ground.  I know this is going to sound stupid since I was being hacked bloody, but the pain in my fingers from having the sword ripped out of it was even worse.  Explain that.  I dashed and grabbed a scarecrow leg to use as an improvised weapon but that didn’t stop the jackal from whipping his sword down across my chest like a bolt of lightning – in addition to the searing pain of the gash I also felt like I had been hit with a hammer.  I was knocked to the ground as if I had been trampled by a bull moose.

I held the scarecrow leg up feebly “I surrender, I want to join your cult and learn magic, I love cults.  I’ll do whatever you want.”

The evil spirit in canine form knocked the stick out of my hands and pulled me up and off the ground by the throat in a classic bad guy move.  He put his snout right up next to my face and his breath stank like seventy seven gallons of sick-vomit mixed with the contents of a pigpen.

“I want you to die.”

That’s when I stabbed him in the side of the head with one of the special crossbow bolts from the pocket of my marvelous new count.  It’s not just incredibly stylish it’s also practical!  Unlike the “normal” metal (which is only full of useless MAGIC) that bounced off like a walnut thrown at a castle wall, the cold-forged iron of the crossbow bolt slipped into the creature’s skull and through the brain (if it had one) like a stick into water.  I thought about saying something witty like “You first” but what would have been the point?  Who I am I trying to impress?  A scarecrow?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 47,040 platinum, 25,750 gold

XP: 1,161,951  14400

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