Mantelderith 28 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

It wasn’t yet mid-day and already the caravan was stopped.  I knew this was going to be a slow method or travel but this is getting ridiculous. At the head of the line Diarmaid Hücresel and the half-elfs and some assorted others were speaking with a small part of armed men.  Martialla was standing up and craning her head to try and get a look.  I swatted her on the leg.

“Sit down, you look like a fool gaping about like that.  Plus you’re going to knock this box over with your giant feet and break both our bloody necks.”

She sat back down and pulled a flask out of her coat, just a normal one not a wonderful magic one like I had before a stupid nixie ruined it.

She took off the cap and had herself a long drinking before passing it to me “There was a gang in Cwabbmare that called themselves the Bloody Necks.  Never made much sense to me, I guess they were trying to say they would give their enemies bloody necks?”

“Gangs giving themselves names is senseless anyway.  It’s fucking criminal enterprise not a puppet show – have some dignity.”

“You’ve mentioned that before several times, I think you’re forgetting how violent and stupid most criminals are.  What do you think is going on up there?”

“Some local assholes trying to make some coin probably – collecting ‘tolls’ for some made-up lord.  Or a real lord who’s an asshole himself.  A standard shakedown.”

“Why does the Crown allow it?  They tend to get upset by anything that takes money out of their pockets and this is basically chipping away at their tax base.”

“They still get their pound of flesh – it just means that the people getting squeezed have to work harder, which isn’t their concern.  Plus what could they do anyway?  They don’t have the manpower to patrol all these roads even when there isn’t a war on.  Which there is.”

“Have you heard anything lately about how we’re doing?”

“We’re winning, just like we always do.  I believe it’s treason to lose a war so nobody ever does it.”

“That’s wise of them, I wonder why the other side doesn’t do the same thing, they must be too dumb to think of it.  My bosom is swelling with patriotic pride.”

“It’s about time it swelled with something, you look like a tall twelve year old – except for the chin whiskers.”

“Well we can’t all be as physically gifted as you.”

“And more’s the pity for that.”

“Shouldn’t we go down there so you can smooth things through with your silver tongue?”

“I’ve never understood that expression, who cares about silver?  Golden voice that makes sense, but silver tongue?  That’s almost an insult.”

“Precious metals of the ear, nose, and throat notwithstanding shouldn’t we help them?”

I scowled “Why are you so Hellsbent on helping these people?  We’re just tagalongs, let them handle things themselves.  This is their job, why do you always want to do everyone’s job for them?  What kind of socialist bullshit is that?”

“When did you get so lazy?”

“I’ve always been very lazy, you just haven’t had a chance to see it because we were always in the process of almost getting killed by someone or something so I had  no choice but to to apply myself unless I wanted to die.  Which I do not.”

“Speaking of, no Vultur people have tried to abduct you in a while – seems like you’re due.  I feel like we should expect to see their stalwart blue cloaks flapping in the wind any day now as they ride down to make you feel the salty sting of justice.”

“Bite your tongue.”

“Now if someone did have a silver tongue that would be really hard on the teeth.  Although on the plus side silver doesn’t rust so they wouldn’t have to contend with blood poisoning from their rusty tongue.  I knew a guy called Rusty Tongue once on account of he never spoke much.  The odd thing is though that whenever he did talk he’d usually say everything twice.”

“How uninteresting.”

The caravan ground to a halt that evening in a place called Hobrahellar which was a bit more than a waystation and a little less than a village.  There was a claypit that seemed to be their central asset and a couple other buildings of indeterminate usage.  There was a small fort for some reason, I guess to protect their clay.  It was one of those little wooden jobs and although I’m no expert looked like it needed some repairs or upkeep.  They call it a motte-and-bailey maybe?  What do I know about military installations.  But most surprising and shocking was they had an inn.  As the caravaneers were unhitching their wagons and setting up their hammocks and whatnot Martialla and I headed for the wide barn looking building that had all the earmarks of being a roadside inn to see what dubious comforts they had to offer.  Out front there was a sign with some kind of blob on it that said “the Curious” that looked like there had been another word but it had worn off over the years.

Martialla squinted at it “What is that?  A chicken?  The Curious Chicken?”

“I think it’s a tree.”

“What kind of name is the Curious Tree?”

“I don’t know but the Curious Cock would be a decent name for a male brothel.”

“Do they have those?”

“They’re rare but they exist.”

We went in to find a couple tables and a very sad looking man in a fine gold doublet sitting at a table staring at nothing with an untouched drink in front of him.  He looked like he was a tallish fellow but he was hunched over like someone was standing on his shoulders and had been for several years.  He had a droopy blonde mustache that matched his depressing droopy face – does the mustache look happy when he’shappy?  Can facial hair match human emotions?  That seems pretty advanced for hair.  I looked around but didn’t see anyone else.

“You don’t work here do you?”

It took a long while for him to realize that anyone was talking to him, his head came up slowly as the rising sun “What?”

“We want a room, and some food, do you work here?”

As slowly as he came around the first time the look of derision came on his face that fast “Work here?!  I should think not madam!  I am a knight and a lord not some lowly lice-ridden tavernkeeper!”

“Yeah, you look like you’re doing great, where’s the staff?”

He stood up abruptly like he was going to leave “I’m sure I wouldn’t know!”

He looked at the door but didn’t move a step, just stood there for a moment and then slowly sat back down.  Before I could lay into him with a richly deserved upbraiding (is downbraiding a thing?  Sounds dirty) a handsome young fellow with eyes like the deep blue sea and thick dark hair like crashing waves at night came into the room wiping blood off his hands.

“My apologies ladies, I was just slaughtering the night’s entrees, what can I do for you?”

What he could do for us was serve us some piss-poor ale, some barely acceptable barley beer, and a pretty good duck soup followed by a very nice pheasant dish and peaches and cream for dessert.  After he cleared away our dishes he sat down with us and brought up a very small bottle of Coldhome vodka to share with us.

“You’re not a half bad cook my boy but your alcohol menu could use some serious work.”

He shrugged slightly as he poured three glasses “I get what I can afford.  As you can see Hobrahellar isn’t getting a lot of traffic these days.”

“These days?  Was it ever?”

“Cathars is the county seat, there used to be a decent amount of traffic between here and Renwick before it got burned to ashes by a dragon.”

“And what is it that people around here think happened to that dragon?”

“A true and faithful virgin priestess of Adariel drove it away with the shining purity of her goodness.”

Martialla choked and sputtered on her vodka and then collapsed in gales of laughter – and I mean that literally.  She fell forward onto the table and then out of her chair onto the ground she was laughing so hard.  She was laughing so forcefully that she did that thing where she started hyperventilating and looking like she was going to die.  She started pounding her fist on her chest to try and get control of her breathing.

Ocean Eyes looked down at her with concern “Is she okay?”

“She’s fine, she just has these fits – got kicked in the head by a mule when she was sixteen, hasn’t been right since.  It will pass, don’t worry about it.” I gestured at the man with the golden garment “What’s the deal with Lord Autumnbottom?”

He looked over at the motionless man and then leaned in and half-whispered “He hasn’t been the same since he got kicked out the fort.  He just hangs around here all day – he hides in his room when they come around.”

“They being who?  Or is it whom?  Who.”

He looked over at gold shirt again to make sure he wasn’t listening “We had some trouble here a few weeks back.  Some Lumber Consortium legbreakers from Three Rivers came to town to lay low for a while and they weren’t being very cordial about it.  Sir Canelight called in a favor from a friend of a friend and some people came to deal with it.”

I shook my head “Adventurers?” He nodded “And let me guess, after they chased the lumber people out of town they wouldn’t leave?  So now they’re hanging around here harassing people and generally making asses of themselves?”

He sat back “Well as I understand it there was some misunderstanding about who would be paying them for their efforts.  Sir Canelight thought that his friend had compensated them and the friend thought that his friend had told them something else other and so on.  Honestly I think that Sir Canelight was hoping that once they were done they would refuse any reward like noble heroes.”

That should have set me off laughing as hard as Martialla but I, unlike her, am able to comport myself like a civilized being “Not much chance of that.  Adventurers are greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied they gather to themselves the wealth of all the nations and makes captive all the people of the land.  They never do anything out of the kindness of their hearts.”

Martialla had by this point crawled back into her chair “So they took over the fort until he pays?”

The innkeeper nodded again “Or as payment maybe.  I’m not sure.”

I raised my voice in the direction of droopy mustache “You’re in lucky my good sir knight, my friend and I specialize in removing rowdy adventurers.  We’ll have a good night sleep and then sort them out in the morning.”

He continued staring straight ahead “You will do no such thing.  They are my invited guests, nothing is wrong at all.”   

I snorted “Sure thing pal, everything is fucking great.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 47,040 platinum, 25,750 gold

XP: 1,161,951

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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