Macendamandel 22 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 1

I had an uncomfortable but untroubled night’s sleep at the Strider shrine.  I asked Lashmi (that’s the priestess) if my unmolested dream state was because her God protected was those who sought shelter in his holy place and she just shrugged and said maybe.  Back at court there were many religious people who were not all that faithful, I didn’t expect to find them out here in the real world as well.  Although this seems different, those were second and third sons who took up the robes as a path to power and prestige – that’s clearly not this woman’s motivation.  There’s no power nor prestige to be had in hermiting it up by a forgotten shrine in the middle of nowhere.

Last night she had told me how she ended up out here – she had been a prostitute in Three Rivers and decided that she was done with that so she jumped in the river with a heavy chain around her neck.  Impossibly she had been swept upstream and deposited here at this shrine instead of drowning and moving on the next life.  Seems like the kind of thing you would ascribe to the God of the shrine you ended up at and that’s why you would take up his worship but she downplayed that as well.  She’s an odd one for sure.  Of course I don’t really know anything about the orthodoxy of Strider, perhaps they’re all this casual about their devotion. We headed north on the riverside together and after a couple hours of walking we saw a figure in the distance heading our way from the north.

I turned to my new traveling companion “You ever use those axes for anything other than cutting firewood?”

“I killed a worg once, although a centaur did most of the fighting and I came in at the end.”

“Why would you do that?  Worgs are usually good temporary allies, you can buy them off just with some cooked food.  Granted that backfired on me once, but otherwise treated with sentient wolf monsters has worked well for me.”

She gave me a very strange look as we continued towards our rendezvous with destiny.  Destiny in his case was hairy overweight fellow with chipped teeth, oily facial hair, and battered hat that looked like it had merged with his tangle of black hair.  He was holding some kind of stick that I think was the worst designed spear I have ever seen.  The blade looked like the bayonet I used to have for my crossbow, it was off-set in a way that a real spearhead never would be.  And the butt end of the stick also had a stock like a crossbow would.  On top of everything else it was incredibly short for a spear, maybe not even five feet.  It was the most useless looking weapon I think I have ever seen.   

He was wearing a thick cloak made out of the skins of giant rats.  How did I know that it was rat skin and fur?  Because there was a rat-head still attached to one of the pelts.  I like a good fur as much as the next person but I’ve never understood why some people prefer for the head to be made part of the garment.  It’s ghastly if you ask me.  Once I realized this was a man wearing a rat-cloak I understood that he was wearing a rat-hat as well.  Possibly rat boots too.  As soon as we were close enough to see his face he started grinning like a cat happening upon a nest of helpless baby mice.  He continued grinning all the way up to us, where I gestured with my crossbow that he had come close enough for my liking.

He whipped off his rat-hat in a half bow “Well hello ladies.  I never expected to find beautiful creatures like you out here, and two of you even, I like these odds.”

“And what is a prosperous rat farmer like yourself doing out here to find beautiful creatures like us?”

He crammed his hat back on his massive head “Rat hunter good madam, rat hunter, I don’t know as there’s much money to be made in farming rats.  Even though they are a good source of meat and hides.  It breaks my heart to think of all the starving people in the world that could be fed with rat meat – but for some reason people don’t like to eat certain animals.”

“Plague probably has something to do with it.”

He clucked his tongue disapprovingly “Rats don’t carry the plague the madam, the fleas on the rats do.”

“And the rats carry the fleas so what difference does it make?”

“They’re safe to eat is my point.”

“I’ve gotten deathly ill before from a rat-bite.”

“Well sure, if you let them bite you, I’m just saying that . . .”

“Look, I don’t want to debate the health concerns of rat meat with you, if you’re a rat hunter what are you doing out here?  I would assume that most of the money from rat killing would be in the big cities.”

“And you would be right in that assumption my fair lady, but I was called out on special commission by the blessed church itself to render my services at the abbey nearby.”

I looked over at Lashmi “There’s an abbey around here?” She just shrugged “What kind of exploration priests are you?  You don’t see to know where anything is in the area.  What exploring have you done?”

“I told you I’m just getting started.”

Rat-man nodded eagerly “There certainly is, a convent I guess it is, not any abbey, full of nuns.  Although I didn’t see too many of them when I was there, they were all locked away on account of the rats.” He grinned again “Or maybe my reputation proceeded me.  If you know what I mean.”

“They were hiding from the stink of your rat-vest?”

He laughed uproariously for a moment and then smiled even wider “I like a woman with a sharp tongue, usually means that tongue . . .”

I held up the crossbow “Hold that thought for . . . ever.  That must have been quite an infestation if they called you all the way out here.”

He nodded “It was, I’ve never seen worse in all my years.  Giant rats, big swarms of them, more than even and experienced and celebrated rat killer like myself could handle – I’m lucky to have gotten out of there with my life.  I think there must have been some wererats pulling the strings, it’s the only thing that explains their coordination, and the sheer volume of them.  Normal rats you might see in the hundreds, but it’s unusual to see this many rodents of unusual size all together in the same place.  Something must be going on.”

“So you just left the nuns infested with giant rats?”

He seemed unperturbed “I’m a normal rat fighter not a wererat fighter.  Fighting wererats is an entirely different discipline you see.  You need silver for that, which is mighty expensive.  Maybe wolfsbane too, although that probably only works on werewolves huh?”

“I hope you at least gave them the money back before you ran out of them.”

“I don’t charge anything for my services madam, I ask only that those I work for take a pledge not to use poisons for rat control nor to engage in any way with the rat-catcher’s guild.  I make my money off crafting and selling rat-furs and various other rat byproducts.”

Lashmi frowned “That sounds insane.”

He seemed delighted by this accusation “Far from it!  The manufacture of rat poison is ruining our waterways, I will gladly rid anyone of their rat problems if it means they will no longer suckle at the teat of the rat poison industrial complex.  There are solutions to every problem that don’t rely on destroying the environment, and spreading that message is my true calling in life.  And as for the rat catcher’s guild let me tell you something . . .”

He launched into an extensive airing of grievances against the rat-catcher’s guild, which I didn’t even know existed.  Mostly it was a semi-hysterical diatribe about how they were conspiring against him and keeping him down with their political clout.  Which is what guilds do by default – that’s the whole point.  Take control of the workforce and anyone not in the guild gets the shaft.  While he was ranting about the personal faults of the guildmaster I turned to Lashmi.

“So you want to check out this rat-infested nunnery?”

“Why would I want to do that?”

“You know for a follower of the exploration God you’re proving to be surprisingly skittish about going places and exploring.”

“My theory is that I should explore myself before I spend a lot of time exploring the world around me.”

“I would have thought that your self would have been thoroughly explored in your previous profession.”

“Don’t be crude, I meant explore my thoughts and emotions – really find out who I am who what my place is in the world.  I think you knew that.”

I turned back to the rat-man “What about you Ratso?  You want to head back and have another go at those rats?”

He stopped in mid-tirade “Huh?  What?  Go back?  Why would I want to do that?”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 6922 gold

XP: 1,196,951

Inventory: Bag of Holding, +2 Distance Light Crossbow, 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

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