Martialla’s rebuke stung more than I would have imagined. I’ll grant you that trying to sleep under a wagon in the rain when you have a headfull of messed up dream stuff going on isn’t going to work out well regardless, but her hard words kept my up as well. I still think she’s being unreasonable, there’s nothing I could have done, and I’m here now right? It can’t be easy being my friend but I always thought I would be there if she needed me. And I wasn’t. Maybe it doesn’t matter if it wasn’t really my fault. Maybe she has a right to be a little unreasonable.
My grandmother always aid that vanity and recklessness were the worst sins, even more than ignorance and she hated ignorance. I’m guilty of both on a regular basis. Despite my grandmother’s wisdom, vanity I can live with, but as I’ve said several times before I recognize that I have become hasty and careless but I can’t seem to do anything about it. I keep doing the same things. Two years ago my problem was that I thought too much before I would act, I wanted to be sure and you can never be totally sure. Now I have the opposite problem. I’m like a loaded crossbow – and little bump and suddenly someone is bleeding and crying on the ground. I don’t know what to do about it.
I think about my grandmother often, but I don’t think about my parents. And not because I’m trying not to think about them, I just don’t remember them much. Some of the other kids at court would cry themselves to sleep at night because they missed their parents. It never really concerned me to miss them, I had too many other things to worry about. I don’t remember my mother at all, just a fleeting image of a reddish dress. I remember my father a little more, I remember his hands – they seemed gigantic and they were rough and work-worn. I remember that he was always worried and usually looked a little sad but he would always smile at me and tell me how pretty I was and what a hard worker I was.
Laying in the mud under that Gods forsaken Ples Del’mer wagon slung so low to the ground I felt like I was in a coffin I wondered what my parents would think of me now. Their little girl with her hands stained red with blood. I wonder if that would bother them more or less than me being the Duke’s playtoy. I had never stopped to think before what they might have felt when the Duke said that I was to go and live at court. Were they crushed? We they happy to get rid of another mouth to feed? I know that my grandmother never sent them any word about me, she said it was a mercy to keep them in the dark, did they forget about me after a few years? Did they agonize over my fate until the very end?
I can’t imagine what meeting them now would even be like. I feel like we’re not even the same species anymore. What possible good could come from us seeing each other now? A tearful hugging reunion and then I help them plow fields and marry some meaty corn-fed tub of guts and muscles? No. They come to live in the city with me and my riches? That would be like putting trousers on a duck – it just doesn’t fit. I don’t pine for my parents, I don’t feel alone for having lost them, but that night I wondered what they would make of the woman I am now. And what would I think about them?
Before dawn I talked to the Ples Del’mer chief, a bony woman of indeterminate age who stood straight as an iron rod. She told me they weren’t interested in hiding a fugitive any longer than necessary. I passed her some gold and told her that if she showed me the way into the city and back I would get Martialla out of their hair. She whistled up a teenage girl as bony as she was – with the addition of being boyish and gawky was well. She twitched like her skin didn’t quite fit her. But she was quiet and sure as she led me through the forest paths far away from the work crews back to Three Rivers. I told her that I would be back after nightfall and she nodded and darted away like a fawn.
When I entered the city I had no intention other than getting some magic healing aids for Martialla. But as I was walking I saw the (or at least as branch of) the Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo. It was a very pleasant looking slim three story building made all of very solid brick. Being a lumber town almost everything in Three Rivers is made of wood, which made it look even more extravagant. There were three doors on the bottom level and three windows on the second and floor about the same size. It gave the impression that there was no front wall at all. On a whim I walked through the middle door. There was a small desk there with a small blonde woman sitting at it reading a book – the Marked Token. A pretty good mystery, but I don’t like books where everything revealed at the end is new information, I like clues that give me a chance to figure it out.
Oddly she was wearing a soldier’s cap, maybe a symbol of affection from a lover at the front? She looked up from her book when I came in and so our eyes were locked when I shot her in the chest. The force of the bolt send her tumbling backwards over her chair, although I think she had been leaning back slightly too. I could hear her moaning and gurgling as I reloaded my crossbow. A man dressed in a dark suit like an undertaken poked his head in to see what the noise was and I shot at him too, but he dodged back around the corner with a frightened shout. I turned invisible and walked a few blocks away.
I have no idea who she was, she never did anything to me herself, but Glilcus and Stolo are my enemies and she worked for Glilcus and Stolo so she was my enemy too. And killing your enemies is what you do right? It’s natural and proper to kill your enemies isn’t it? Who could argue with that? Pacifists? As a wise man said pacifism is nothing to hide behind. A few streets and a couple bridges later I saw a tonic salesman set up with a cart outside of the free market. That’s illegal, a merchant isn’t allowed to operate outside the free market and he’s probably doing it because he doesn’t have a permit. I took care of that by running him through from behind with a rapier while he was putting the moves on three giggling women. They wailed like banshees when I cut this throat just to make sure. I ransacked his cart and found that conveniently he had his real wares hidden in a compartment under his bottles of snake oil. I couple consortium goons ran towards me as I picked up his satchel but I turned invisible and walked away across another bridge and to another section of the city.
Going down into the lower city I found another one of Peronell Missplitter’s little shops with two guards outside. I took cover down the street a few shops and started sniping at them with my crossbow. They couldn’t seem to locate me and after taking a couple hits one of them fell to the ground and his buddy dragged him inside yelling for help. I don’t know what the shop I was hiding in front of was other than cramped, poorly lit and gaudily decorated. An incredibly skinny man with a wild mop of wheat-blonde hair came out the front door to scream at me. I bashed him in the face with the butt of my crossbow and he went down in a fountain of blood. I considered shooting him as well, much to his dismay, after all I’m at war with the consortium and Three Rivers is the consortium for all intents so therefore anyone in Three Rivers is my enemy right?
I didn’t do it, but if I had it would have been a morally good act in service of justice. If justice can be achieved without violence, it ought to be. If war must be fought, however, anything you do to the enemy is fine. Shooting that innocent man in the face would have been a morally good act in service of justice. By accepting my actions morally, I can still find respect for myself. And who deserves respect more than me? I went across and back up to the topside of the city, intent on making my way out, but I saw a group of consortium goons hassling some protestors so why not take a few potshots? The why not turned out to be because they almost caught me, but I managed to get away in the end. I’m very good at getting away with things.
Potshot is a weird term. It’s usually employed as an insult, taking a shot at someone who doesn’t deserve it but as I understand it the idea is that a potshot is a shot for the sake of getting an animal for the cooking pot rather than shooting just for the fun of it. So the usage really makes no sense. I apologize for my poor choice of words, even if I was just following societal conventions.
Once I was clear of the city I went back to the spot where the Ples Del’mer girl had led me but it was well before dark so she wasn’t there. Although it turns out that she was never coming back anyway. I managed to retrace the steps on my own (small miracle right) but those dirty Ples Del’mer bastards had pulled up stakes and carried on, leaving Martialla to lie in the dirt like a wounded animal. Which I guess she was since she was wounded and humans are animals. People tend to forget that. She looked unconsciously or maybe dead, but when she heard me approaching her head popped up. I picked up her cursing softly to herself. The effort of raising her voice clearly was tiring in and of itself but she managed.
“Go away Ela!”
I kept walking towards her “Don’t be stupid. Be pissed at me if you want but I have healing potions for you, it makes no sense to turn me away.”
She held her hand up and I saw the magical energy starting to gather in her palm – and also sweat starting pouring down her ashen face immediately from the effort “Stay away from me Ela, I mean it!
I sighed “Look if you hate me now fine, but there’s no point in laying here to die – let me help you and then you can go back to hating me hale and healthy.”
Her hand was shaking like that of an old man “I’m serious Ela, if you take another step towards me I’ll burn you.”
I gestured casually “Go ahead, take your shot, maybe it will make you feel better. Work out some of your anger.”
She didn’t say anything so I continued towards her and I hadn’t taken three steps before a searing beam of fire erupted from her hand. It forked like lighting, one of the branches missed badly, but the other sliced me across the ribs. Explain that will you? How can fire cut you? But that’s what it felt like. Magic is crazy. There was enough impact to spin me around and knock me to my hands and knees – where my eyes started stinging from the dark smoke coming from my own singed fleshed. I realized after a moment that my short was on fire and I desperately beat it out. I’ve seen Martialla do that to other people many times, now I know what it feels like. Bad. I had dropped the potion case so I pulled it over by the strap and started riffling through it.
“If this was a novel I’d crawl over to you to give you a potion before I drank one myself, as some kind of ill-conceived apology.” I popped the cap and downed the potion like it was fine spirits. “Wouldn’t that be silly?”
I crouched and no further arcane artillery fire was incoming so I felt like that was a good sign. When I walked over I saw that she had passed out from the exertion of casting her spell. I like to think that she wouldn’t have attacked me again either way. I poured one potion down her throat, which healed her enough to start struggling against me. Half the second potion was wasted as I tried to force her to drink it as well before scooting away in exasperation and then hurling the third potion at her.
“Fine, here, drink it your Gods damned self.”
She muttered something about it probably being poison by drank it anyway. It didn’t make her hair grow back, but she ripped the bandages off her head and the splints off her legs and crammed her stupid hat on her head so she must have been mostly fine.
She glared at me as she got to her feet “This doesn’t change anything.”
“I know that.”
She stared at me for a long while “It isn’t easy for me either you know.” I didn’t know and was about to say so when she continued “You like to talk about how bad you had it growing up in the lap of luxury but I had it way worse than you. I was on my own.” She gestured expansively “Out there. I had my sister to worry about and keep safe. You think your life is such a fucking tragedy because you had a bed to sleep in every night and all the food you wanted and stables and tutors? I’ve been working since I was a fucking child! Who was looking out for me? Fucking nobody! You complain all the time about how you can’t trust anyone, you think it’s easy for me to trust anyone?”
“I never thought about it.”
“Exactly. Ex-fucking-actly. You’re selfish, and you’re cruel, and you treat me like a servant. What kind of friendship is that?”
“The only one I’ve ever had.”
She took a breath like she was steeling herself before plunging into cold water “I think we’ve reached the end of the trail Ela. I can’t afford to be your friend anymore. I think it’s best that we go our separate ways.”
The words came a lot easier than I expected “Please don’t leave me. I know I’m a bad friend, I wish I could say that I’ll change but I don’t know if I will, or if I can. I don’t deserve your loyalty, but I’m asking for it anyway. Don’t leave me alone.”
After what seemed like an eternity she spoke “Let’s go to Graltontown, do what you said you’d help me do when the first met. Show me that my concerns matter to you at all. Then we’ll just see what happens after that.”
I shook my head “I can’t. I have to go to Gib’s Tor.”
“What will happen if you don’t?”
“I’ll die.” She sighed again wearily “Are we going to be okay?”
“I don’t know, it’s hard to see how we could be.” She frowned “Why is there blood all over your clothing?”
“I think there’s something wrong with me Martialla.”
I couldn’t tell if her laughter was bitter or not.
Funds: 6922 gold
Inventory: Bag of Holding, +2 Distance Light Crossbow, ruined nobles traveling outfit, Ring of Invisibility, potion case, potions (Cure Light Wounds x3, Enlarge Person, Protection from Evil, Cure Moderate Wounds x2, Oil of Fire Trap, Rage)
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, Nightmare Hag