After my capture Vulture Claw and the Vieland squad packed up their camp and were ready to go in short order, showing an anomalous mixture of military efficiency and half-ass slackery. It’s tough to get a read on what exactly it is that I’m dealing with – they aren’t cautious and crafty enough to be scouts nor do they seem like normal army either. My best guess is that they’re the survivors of the battle everyone was celebrating in Cathars – a makeshift unit of whoever made it out alive working to try and get back to their own side of the battle lines. But if that was the case why are we heading north? I realize that my sense of direction is nothing to be relied on but I’m fairly confident that we’re heading away from the river and means we’re heading north. More or less.
Vulture Claw keep a sharp eye on me while the Vielanders seemed largely indifferent to my presence, I suppose they didn’t expect there was any chance that I would to escape. After traveling with them for a while it seemed to me that they were heading for a specific destination, that coupled with the fact that my disguise was going to fail in a few minutes anyway prompted me to “come clean”. I asked the Sergeant if I could have a word with him. As is mandated by metaphysical law the Sarge was a beat-up squared shaped fellow that you knew by looking at him keeps his head in the ugliest of situations. And while he may be a bully and a blowhard, he gets the job done while never ordering his men to do anything he would not be willing to do himself. He raised his eyebrow when I asked to speak with him in the King’s Tongue.
“You’re a pretty good actress but I had a feeling you could understand us.”
I nodded “It’s harder than you think to pretend that you don’t understand someone, I’m a little out of practice.”
We moved a very short distance away to a spot where he could still keep an eye on his squad and call for their aid should it be needed. He didn’t see me as a threat, but he was not a man to take chances.
“I need to confess something to you Sergeant, this is not my true appearance. As it turns out I actually am I spy but not the kind you might think.”
He was relatively nonplussed as I returned to my actual appearance “And what kind of spy are you?”
“It’s a bit complicated, I’m guessing that you’re not overly familiar with the political maneuverings of the Kingdom, the bottom line is that I’m working for Baron Juost and some friends of his who feel like their loyalty to the Kingdom has become more trouble than it’s worth.”
I smiled mirthlessly “And let me guess, they want to come over to our side?”
“No, they’re not too fond of your kingdom either, although it’s the Ulpinese that they really hate. The plan is for the Satander exiles and the Kostelos and the Baron to form their own independent nation. I was sent to make contact with the Kostelos tribes and serve as an envoy of sorts, but I ran into some trouble in Three Rivers and was captured by the King;s agents, or Queen’s, whatever you know what I mean. I was being shipped downriver to Fort Obrinth but I managed to escape.”
“And what happened to Kopfn?”
I made a show of looking concerned “That part was as I said. I used the name Uncle Pongracz because of my disguise, but I don’t know what it was – other than it was a fey being of some sort. I stumbled across your man as he was struggling with the bearded fey thing and he was killed right before you all come running in.”
“So you’re a liar, a spy, and a shapechanger. Anything else you want to confess?”
“No, I just wanted to make sure that I told you before we got wherever we’re going.”
He shook his head shortly “No use trying to earn goodwill with me, I’m not going to decide your fate regardless of what you are.”
Maybe an hour later there was a small break in the trees and I saw a hunting lodge that matched almost exactly the one where Lord Gatz (and others) met his bloody end. It was so similar that for a bewildering moment I thought that it was the same hunting lodge and I was in an entirely different part of the forest than I thought. I had an alarming flashback to that time – the fear and the horror. That experience with the Skin-Takers and everything that happened afterwards was the first time I was truly and utterly scared for my life. But it was also the moment that I realized that I am powerful, that I can find a way out of anything. Up until that moment in my heart of hearts I didn’t really think that I would ever get revenge on Duke Eaglevane. It was bold talk even in my own head. But after I escaped from the clutches of the Skin-Takers and sent into motion their destruction and those that had put them up to their wicked deeds I was forever changed. I knew then that my revenge was inevitable.
As we approached the palisade the gate swung up and we were admitted into the inner courtyard where several forester types were standing around looking menacing. A woman with a fierce bun and an even more severe expression (ruined somewhat by the little curly strands of hair escaping by her ears) with a deep scar on the side of her forehead came out of the Lodge. She was wearing a grey spidersilk number that must have cost a small fortune came out and immediately started yelling at the Vielanders for wearing their uniforms. One of the Vielanders who seemed particular inept at military tasks came forward to speak with her and they quickly went back into the lodge together.
I was taken inside as well and stashed in one of the bedrooms upstairs – quite nice if you like a lot of wood in your décor. There was no guard so I was wondering how hard it would be to climb out the window without the aid of my magic boots when the door opened and in came an older woman with grey streaks in her think auburn hair – she wasn’t quite the spitting image of the lady in the spidersilk but the resemblance was unmistakable. She had pearl earrings and a brooch that looked to be worth enough to buy your own hunting lodge. She observed me coldly.
“You’re a spy.”
I curtsied politely, not a court curtsey but a maid’s curtsey to her mistress “Yes ma’am working for Baron Juost.”
“And why would the Baron send you as a spy to the Kostelos?”
“His ladywife is my cousin ma’am, and I’m very familiar with the Kostelos. My father had extensive business dealings with him and I even lived with them for a while after he was killed by the Skin-Taker tribe.”
“I find that very difficult to believe.”
“Well ma’am your guests have a Kostelos guide with them, I’m sure that he could confirm that I can speak the language and my general familiar with their customs – although he’s not from a tribe that I have personal experience with so there are bound to be some variances from what I’m acquainted with.”
“And why should I trust a filthy forest dwelling savage like that?”
“I couldn’t say ma’am, but I can imagine no other way to verify my claims.”
“Your claims are irrelevant! I will decide your fate. You admit that you are a spy and you expect to believe that you’re not here to report on this very meeting? Who are you working for? Nyzaru? What does she hope to accomplish with this little game? Are you an assassin?”
“No ma’am, I’m just a loyal servant of Baron Juost.”
She smiled grimly “What will you report to Baron Juost about Vieland soldiers meeting with me?”
“That’s not my mission ma’am.”
She laughed, an odd high thin laugh like the barking of a small dog “Oh come now dear, surely you don’t think me that stupid do you? Your very life is on the line and that’s all that you can come up with?”
I sighed and sat in the plush chair in the corner “Honestly at this point all I really want is some dry clothes, some warm food, and a bed to sleep in. I’ve no training to be a spy, I was only sent on this mission because I speak Kostelos, I don’t know anything about statecraft or politics. They didn’t send anyone along to help me and I have no idea what I’m doing. The whole thing has been an unmitigated disaster. I don’t want to be a spy, I don’t want to tell anyone anything, I just want my old life back. I don’t know what’s going on here and I don’t care. If you came to take my measure that’s it – this is all above me and I wish I had never left Juost Manor.”
A look of satisfaction came over her face “At last, some truth.”
She smiled the smile of someone who really wants to tell you more about how fucked you are but knows that it’s not a good idea. We talked a little more and I got her measure, she’s the kind that likes to leave people twisting with vague threats and then watch them squirm. After she left she went I went to the window and saw a guard down below. Various plans for escape were turning over in my mind but they weren’t enough to keep me from nodding off in that chair in the corner. It’s my own fault for sitting down in something so obviously comfortable. That’s when my troubles realty started.
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