The Lodestoners stopped for only a couple of hours last night before we were moving again. Riding at that fast pace at night is usually dangerous – horses can’t see in the dark any better than we can – but they were unconcerned to the point where there must have been some magic at play to smooth things over. Not being privy to whatever that information was I found it pretty nerve-wracking. We rode into Three Rivers maybe an hour before sunrise. I’m not familiar with this part of the county, but it has to be more than a hundred miles from Cathars to Three Rivers and here we are – probably not record time but it was a Hells of a speedy trip regardless. The Lodestone people eagerly passed me off to the “authorities” in Three Rivers, which for some reason I’m still having a hard time comprehending are thugs in the employ of the Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo. It’s hard to imagine a bigger conflict of interest than having a law office enforce the law (somehow even criminals enforcing the law themselves makes more sense to me) but here we are.
Remember how despite their corruption I was commenting on the steadiness (is that a word?) and competency of the Cathars city watch? This militia or private army or whatever you want to call them in Three Rivers was a fun reverse image of that. I was handed over to four fellows in somewhat similar civilian clothing who had clearly provided their own weapons. I don’t know if there’s anything about having uniforms and matching equipment that actually makes you more effective at fighting or whatever job you’re doing, but it certainly makes you seem more professional. I think they had pins or badges of some kind but only one of them was visible – I saw a flash of metal inside the coat of one of the others so maybe they had them inside their coats, or maybe they didn’t have them at all. The one with the badge showing was large and hairy, his gut had make him a good three feet from navel to spine, with a thick mane of hair and what looked like perpetual stubble that would never turn into a beard. I would have thought that he was the leader if not for the fact that I didn’t think they had even that small amount of discipline slash organization.
I looked up at him, something I rarely have to do “Which one are you Glilcus or Stolo?”
His words emerged slowly as if it was something he rarely bothered with “I’m just a real estate and banking law specialist. Don’t ask me about contract law though, I was sick they day they taught that in lawyer school.”
“How do you feel about bribes?”
He looked at my plain prisoner dress and bare feet “What would you have to bribe anyone with?”
I smirked “I can think of three things.”
He cracked the tiniest of smiles “Wrong tree girlie, get moving.”
He poked me with a single finger. A poke that staggered me a half of a step. People sometimes mistake any big man for a strong man, but they’re not always the same, some big dudes are just big. This guy was not one of them. He had a lot of extra weight on him but he was strong as an ox and knew how to get his weight behind a poke. If you know what I mean. As the ragbag bullyboys led me through the streets I got to see Three Rivers as the sun came up. I was expecting it to be a collection of cramped shacks overrun by squatters covered with dirt and grime. I also imagined soot everywhere for some reason even though lumber processing doesn’t involving burning anything as far as I know. But it wasn’t like that at all – it was actually quite beautiful. Building a city around the waterfall convergence of three rivers is probably not very practical, but it does give you a nice foundation for an appealing city layout.
I’m sure it’s a pain in the ass going up one of those lift conveyances from the lower city to the upper, as is needing to cross a bunch of bridges once you’re up there, but it sure is pretty. All the merrily turning waterwheels were rather nice and soothing themselves. Most of the houses were small but they were all in good shape and seemed to be evidence of a real pride of ownership – it was actually contractual obligation because the Consortium owns them all and fines you if you don’t keep up the property to their exacting standards but if you didn’t know that it looked very much like civic pride. The point is that it looked nothing like the squalid Hellshole that I was expecting, it looked very pleasant. It was kind of a letdown, like when you have a friend you think is a fuck-up and then you go to their house and see that it’s actually pretty great.
I hadn’t noticed it in the dark but the road split between the two levels some ways back and we were coming in on the upper portion of the city – I knew that we were riding uphill but I didn’t realize how much we had climbed until I saw the city laid out before and below me. The upper portion of the city covered both banks and the three islands (are they still island in a river?) where the rivers came together – it was a clear progression for the houses getting bigger and nicer the closer you got to the center island. After crossing many a bridge to get the central island I was taken to a house that was not quite a mansion but was knocking on the door of mansionhood. Bigman and his pals handed me off to some liveried fops with rapiers on their hips that looked like they were we made of spun sugar. They led me through a few rooms into a splendid dining area overlooking the falls encased in enough glass to build a greenhouse.
Sitting at the table at a sideways angle with his back half to the glorious view of the falls was one of the judges from Newberry where this all started. The impartial judges that made up that panel were pretty much all hard looking bastards, except the Halfling who were merely hard to look at, so it doesn’t no good to say this was the hard looking one. This was the one who wasn’t bald, the one with the dark hair and sideburns framing a face that looked like a strip mine full of scree. He was dressed more like a gentleman than the last time I had seen him and he was reading a curious little volume that looked like a bunch of broadsheets fastened together somehow. Kind of like a very thin book with no cover. There was quite a repast on the table for one man so I sat down and enjoyed some fresh blueberries and honeyed bread.
He glanced over his papers at me “No, please, help yourself.”
“I didn’t see any reason to stand on ceremony, given the givens, past history and so forth.”
“One might think that’s the exact reason you should want to get in my good graces.”
I sighed “Oh, I know that I should try to cozy up to you, but I’m just too tired to care right now. I didn’t catch your name when last we met.”
He folded his papers and set them down, taking a long drink of steaming hot coffee and making a satisfied noise “Farvin Mitzegarld, and who might you be? You who’ve caused me so much trouble? Not Cirthana Juost I don’t think, since there is no such person.”
“That name will do as well as any. What trouble have I caused you? I remember being acquitted at your trial in Newberry.”
“There’s acquittals and then there’s acquittals. My friends didn’t like being shown up like that, especially not by a woman.”
I gestured with a crispy piece of bacon “You didn’t mind though? You’re a more enlightened type?”
“I’m a business man, enlightened don’t enter into it – there’s not a lot of money in revenge.”
I nodded “I used to think that too, but now I’m not so sure. Speaking of which, what are the chances that I can go for trial by combat again? I can’t pull that same trick I did in Newberry but I’ve acquired quite a bit of money in my revenge quest and I could probably hire a Hells of a champion with it.”
“They’ll be no trial this time, as soon as the others have arrived to watch you die that’s what you’ll do.” He pointed “Out there in the world we have to play by the rules to some degree, here in Three Rivers we can do what we want. Having a trial would send people the wrong message.”
“What message would that be?”
“That they have rights, that we can’t kill them whenever we wish for any reason we want.”
“Well that’s definitive. Did you bring me to your lovely home just to talk or what’s the purpose of this friendly breakfast chat?
“I wanted to get a good look at you, things happened pretty quickly in Newberry I didn’t get a chance to study you, you don’t seem like someone who could have caused us all this trouble.”
“You know what they say, it’s the punch you don’t see that knocks you out.”
“Who says that?”
“People that go around punching other people I would wager. I feel like you have a number of such people on your payroll, you could ask them.”
“I’ll take your word for it. I have to say you look a good deal worse for the wear than the last time I saw you.”
I snorted “Give a girl a break, I’ve been awake for three days straight because of the drugs your goons injected me with. Not to mention being dragged across country by those selfsame goons thugs. I don’t know how much you know about beauty but it takes work. I assure you that I clean up pretty good. What I need is a bath and some clean clothing.”
“Why did they give you something to keep you awake? I would have assumed they’d want the opposite.”
“Normally probably they would have, but I get possessed by a dream-demon sometimes when I sleep and it gave them the business something fierce. I think one of them was killed that first night by the dream possession maneuver. After that they took measures to make sure it didn’t happen again.”
He raised an eyebrow “Dream demon? Interesting. Is that a true thing or are you insane?”
“From my point of view it doesn’t much matter does it, the result is the same. You know what they say, sanity is what you make if it.”
“Who says that?”
“Crazy people mostly. How long until the rest of the gang shows up and I’m ripped to pieces in front of a roaring crowd by some piece of timber processing equipment?”
“Hard to say for sure, a few days at least, once Bandsitta gets here he won’t want to wait for the others – he’ll demand you be killed immediately. He’ll probably want to do it himself. Strangle you or beat you with his fists.”
“Is that the screaming guy who took his shirt off at the trial?” He nodded “Can you hold him off?”
“I could, but usually it’s easier just to give him what he wants when it’s not something important – when you die isn’t something important.”
“I respectfully disagree. I have word out to Duke Lodvocka that you lot are going to kill me. If you dismember me before he has a chance to weigh in I think that could cause you a lot more problems than I ever did.”
“You’ve stepped up in the world of who you’re claiming to represent. The Duke is certainly someone with a lot more juice than Baron Juost. Are you his cousin too? Or maybe his favorite niece? I don’t think he has any daughters.”
“He has four actually, five if you count effeminate sons, but I’m not one of them – he just owes me a favor. Hopefully you’ll be hearing from him soon.”
“Noted. I think we’re done here.” He gestured for his frilly thugs to take me away.
“So soon? I thought we were going to hang out, really get to know each other.”
“Sadly business precludes me from indulging in lazy days like that.”
“Sad indeed, but I understand, poor people aren’t going to oppress themselves.”
Inventory: Whiterock family signet ring (Ring of Binding)
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, maker of the manacles