Peronell Missplitter was caught wrong-footed by my revelation, which is a bad look for someone that (who?) prides themselves on being the smartest person in the room at all times. His muscle and wizard friends looked unsure what to do next, they were ready for a knock down drag-out fight to the finish, or a festive curb-stomping at least and instead they were left standing around uncomfortably while Missplitter worked his jaw in that way people do sometimes when they’re really thinking about something. In the end he did the only thing he reasonable could do – he sent for Psyhundt’s local contact while the goon squad stood around awkwardly in full armor. Eventually a woman with short curly ginger-colored hair in a blue and white leather number turned up with a sardonic smirk and established my “bonda fides” such as they were.
Peronell was clearly disappointed that he wasn’t going to get to watch mm be tortured to death by the Lumber Consortium, but what was he do to? If there’s a cardinal rule for exporting drugs is has to be not to cross the person you’re exporting them to. The customer is always right. It’s also best to stay on that customer’s good side when he’s the head of a sprawling criminal enterprise that reaches across the county and enforces its will with brutal murders. That helps too. Curly Sue said that she could dispatch a message to Psyhundt to see what he wanted to do with me, which really pissed off Missplitter – he didn’t relish the idea of holding onto me for an undetermined amount of time and trying to keep me under wraps.
I called up to the balcony where he and the ginger with knives were discussing the issue “You could let me go. Just let me know when you get word back from Psyhundt and I’ll return myself to your custody. You can release me on my honor like they do with noblemen and such when they’re on trial because they murdered too many of their maids that they got pregnant.”
Ginger knives chuckled but Peronell was predictably not amused. He became even less amused when his hirelings figured out that there was going to be no reward for turning me in to the Consortium, a reward they were planning on sharing in. I waited for them to be done expressing their displeasure and then turned to the most vocal goon, a burly fellow with a head like a bucket and one of those mouths that look like you’re always smoking a cigar even when you aren’t.
“What I would do is take custody of me yourself and turn me in for the reward, why let this old man double-cross you?”
Missplitter yelled for someone to shut me up (no one did) and then assured everyone that they would still get paid the promised amount, just that it would take a little longer. I nodded sarcastically and then winked at another goon – a blonde big chinned man wearing a fancy blue shirt and a natty red scarf. It’s impressive how much information you can convey with something as simple as a wink. I was conveying to blondie that the fix was in and he was getting screwed and he was only too receptive to that message. It helps when you tell people what they want to hear – that’s a key factor in a plausible lie.
Blondie made a move towards me, bucket-head got bristly with him and then Peronell tried to shout this authority at everyone. This was the wrong move. The problem with hiring violent mercenaries to do your bidding is that they’re violent mercenaries. You have to tread a very fine line of making it worth their while to obey your commands without throwing so much money at them that they decide they could be richer if they take you out themselves. You have to be authoritative enough to keep them in line but you can’t push it so far that they decide to kick your ass for disrespecting them. Normally you can juggle all this, but when something unexpected happens like this that’s when things get tricky.
To make matters worse Peronell’s two wizard pals decided this wasn’t their problem anymore and got the fuck out of there, leaving him with no back-up all of a sudden. Curly Sue took that moment to announce to everyone that she was sending word to Psyhundt no matter what and that word was going to be that I was in the custody of Peronell Missplitter and that if anything happened to me before the man with the golden chains could respond they would all be in for a world of pain. That dampened everyone’s enthusiasm. And then she left with a pretty chuckle.
I sat down at one of the Percival’s Lodge tables and helped myself to some small beer “So where are you going to stash me Missplitter? Remember that I’m a wanted felon so you’ll need to be careful.” I looked around the room “Hopefully no one here goes tattling to the Consortium – you’d be getting in from both ends then huh?”
What he decided to do was to stash me under heavy guard in what was left of the store that I had burned. On the way there we encountered a patrol of the consortium’s legbreakers who were ecstatic that I had been captured. They were eager to take me into their custody, but Peronell was able to wheedle and wheeze at them with assurance that he was talking me straight to the consortium bigshots himself. The ragtag patrol reluctantly allowed itself to be convinced. I think that officially means that he’s burning his candle from at least four different ends now.
The basement of the first store was intact, it’s hard to “burn down” a stone cellar after all, and I was stashed here with a couple of disgruntled goons. I thought about going to sleep, being nightmare murdered in their custody would really fix them, but instead I stayed awake and contended myself by taunting my minders about how fucked they were – Peronell was ripped them off, they’ve crossed the consortium, they’re going to be in trouble with Psyhundt, plus I made up some stuff about how the Black Widows were going to be coming after them as well. They were having a real bad night for sure.
Before sunup I was bundled off (literally, they rolled me up in a rug – you know because people carrying around rugs like a battering ram is normal) the lower city and unfurled into a boat on the Compass River. Apparently Missplitter had decided that the best move he could make was not to wait for word from Psyhundt and just pack me off down the river to him. The crew was a mix of renegade Kostelos, outcast Sanpaw, and your typical dockside riff-raff, but coming along as well to make sure I got where I was going was none other than Mrs. Missplitter and a hard-worn looking fellow in ragged crimson armor that I assume is his most loyal goon. Looked like he might be a pipehead, which is one way to ensure loyalty when you’re a drug kingpin – as long as you’re not too worried about efficacy as well.
Gone was Mrs. Missplitter’s elegant gown and in its place were what looked like newly acquired traveler’s gear – sturdy simple boots, durable breeches with unmatching shirt, a wide belt, and a voluminous hooded cloak for forever getting in your way and tangling around your legs. She saw me snickering at her highly unfashionable wardrobe and gave me an evil look.
“It’s a fine day for a river cruise wouldn’t you say Lady Missplitter?”
The boat was that I think they call a scute, a simple flat bottomed affair mainly used to transport booze and other barrel-worthy liquids, so there wasn’t much room for Madam Missplitter to get away from me but she managed to stay out of my sight almost entirely. The pipehead was keeping a close eye on my though, watery dull eye, but an eye nonetheless. The crew was initially suspicious of me, do doubt having been warned what a dangerous criminal I am, but it was easy enough to win them over with my easy manner. A few hour in and we were singing ribald sea (river?) shanties and trading jokes and insults in a pidgin of Kostelos, the King’s tongue, and some mish-mash of other languages that I was picking up. The Sanpaw captain, a woman (I think, it’s hard to tell with them) that looked as skinny and tough as an old tree root had us roaring with laughter telling a story about how her husband had lost his leg to island cannibals in the Claws when Misses Missplitter re-appeared to glare at us.
“Quiet this commotion at once!” She jabbed her finger at the pipehead “Skador what is the meaning of this?! I want you to make sure she doesn’t say a word this whole journey!”
While her druggie backup withered under her gaze I lounged back on the prow of the boat in a provocative way and waved away her concerns “Relax, we’re all friend here. Psyhundt wants me dead right now but once I talk to him we’re going to the best of friends again, I have an offer that’s going to mend everything between us. He’s a businessman and when there’s money to be made he’s as easy to forgive as it he is to get angry in the first place. I’m not going to try and escape, I’m going exactly where I want to go. It’s a beautiful day to be on the water, the sun is shining, the breeze is breezing, birds are singing, bees are trying to have sex with them. It’s a perfect day. Take it easy will you?”
She put her hand into her pocket, clearlying taking something up that granted her a measure of comfort “Why are you trying to destroy my husband?”
I feigned surprise “He’s evil. Did you not know that?”
She scoffed “And what are you? An avenger?”
I put on a serious countenance as a couple crewmen chuckled “Oh yes. When I was a small girl I was walking beside a wheat field on the family farm and suddenly before me shined a shiny angel in the middle of the road. She had long flowing white robes and three pairs of snowy white wings with feathers as delicate as those of a royal swan. And she had a set of knockers on her that you would not believe. Normally angel are very wispy and insubstantial but this one had a pair you could really grab onto you know? Hot in the face, an ass you could hammer steel on, she had it all going on. And she said to me, in voice so sweet that it may have been Adriel’s herself, that the world was full of evil and that I had been chosen by all the Gods of good to stand against it.
Naturally I was awed by this, but I had to ask – am was just a small girl and there is so much evil in the world, what could I do against it? She said that I had been gifted with a scared power, and that with that power came the terrible responsibility of using it. For evil must be stopped, whatever the cost. When you find evil, you have to fight it. You can’t bargain with it, you can’t ignore it, you can’t wish it away. Evil doesn’t play by the rules, so neither can you. I told her that my parents would be afraid if I did this and she said that I must never listen to what anybody else tells me. The angel told me that I had to be willing to give up everything, because if I did nothing evil would take everything from everyone anyway. She said that’s what people don’t understand, they’re so afraid to lose what they have that they don’t realize that trying to protect themselves from loss is what makes them lose it all anyway. I needed to show them that people that do evil and people that do nothing are equally contemptible. When you encounter evil you fight, because it doesn’t matter if you win. All that matters is that you fight.”
She scoffed even scoffier “And what evils have you fought?”
“When I was twelve the angel revealed to me that a man in the village was a vampire who was preying on mourners in the graveground. I entered his home during the day and found him resting in his coffin but I wasn’t strong enough to drag it outside into the sun. I prayed for the power to move that wooded box but I could not – I had to find another way. I climbed up the outside of his house with a ladder and with a great effort I managed to clear away the thatch – my little hands and fingers were bloody and raw by the time I managed to make a hole in the roof to let the sun shine in. The sun was sinking low by the time I was able to climb down the throw the coffin open.”
I shook my head somberly.
“It’s not like they say, vampires don’t scream and burst into flames and turn to ash – it’s more like rendering the fat off a slaughtered hog. I puked my guts out at the sight of that foul thing turning to bloody sludge but I knew that it was the right thing I had done. When I was fourteen I learned that a man in the neighboring village attacked travelers with his ax, killing and robbing them – when he was away I hid in his cupboard and then snuck out while he was eating dinner and sunk my own small hatchet so deep into his head he had to be buried with it in. A year later I used a knotted cord and a stick to strangle a demented midwife that killed mothers to take in ‘orphans’. The next year I burned a wicked man with troll-blood who feasted on the bodies of his neighbors. I married a man who had chained his previous eight wives in his basement and left them to starve – I was his last wife, I left him hanging with the ghosts of his victims.”
During this speech Missplitter had turned on heel and disappeared into the scute’s small cabin, the crew largely returned to their work, but one dark haired woman who looked to be of a southern Kostelos line hesitated and looked at me cautiously.
“That’s not true is it, you were just telling tales.”
“You course it’s true, otherwise I’d be a murderer. If I wasn’t the agent of divine retribution on earth killing all the people I’ve killed would be a sin. Good thing I have a holy mission huh?”
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, Calvados Eure, Law Offices of Lampblack and Brimstone, Peronell Missplitter