This replacement Martialla isn’t working out well at all. Lashmi doesn’t talk much and when she does she never has anything remotely interesting to say. I expected her to at least have some entertaining and grotesque and gruesome stories from her old days working the streets but she never talks about it. It’s like she wants to forget being a sex worker or something. I told her she should make a list of all the clients she had that were particularly unpleasant and then enact some form of petty, or not so petty revenge, on them but she wasn’t the least bit interested. What’s even worse though than her taciturnicty is that she doesn’t seem to realize how great all the stuff I’m saying is – and trust me what I’m saying is pure gold.
Here’s a good example of why she probably isn’t going to pan out as my new sidekick. Once I determined that we were dealing with a vampire I had the priestess superior roust all the nuns and herd them outside to see if any of them would burst into flames and die. They even wheeled Sister Agata out still strapped to her infirmary bed. None of them did burst into flames, but it’s an overcast day so maybe a vampire is among them, best to keep an eye on them anyway. I asked if anyone was missing and sure as shit they eventually figured out (took forever, I expected nuns to be more organized) that Sister Loke was not in the gathering. For some reason they all thought this meant she had been killed by the vampire rather than that was the vampire. People are strange.
At this point is Lashmi suggested that we search the abbey, which is foolishness because clearly we need to search the crypts – where else is a vampire going to be hiding? Martialla would have never suggested anything so stupid. The priestess superior insisted that we would not be allowed into the catacombs under any circumstances while she continued to insist just as strenuously that there is no such thing as vampires. I hate the part of the book where the protagonist is trying to convince everyone that they’re dealing with a vampire (or whatever) and everyone else insists on denying it even though all the evidence is in front of them. Seemed unrealistic to me, but here I am. I’m not even sure Lashmi believes there really is a vampire. Martialla would be sharpening stakes right now. She’d probably already have some pre-sharpened stakes in her bag.
“Fine then, we won’t disturb the dead yet, but I reserve the right to disturbing the dead at a later time if need be. Where do the secret passages go? That’s maybe where the vampire is hiding if they aren’t in the crypts, which they are.”
The old priestess scowled “What secret passages?”
“There are always secret passages, you’re in charge you must know where they are.”
I looked to Lashmi for support but she stood like blank-faced like she knew nothing about secret passageway or that I’m always right about these things. Martialla would have backed me up.
“Why would a religious order need secret passageways?”
“I don’t know, for secret lesbian love affairs, or to hide from the enemies of your seemingly ill-defined and amorphous faith, or from the old days when this was a fort – how should I know what you do with them? I just know that they’re there.”
The old priestess got herself all ready to huff and puff about it, but another priestess (or nun or novice or whatever) a pink cheeked gal with massive smile-lines and a thick neck came forward to say that there were in fact two secret passageways. I don’t know if the old broad was lying about it or if she just didn’t know – I couldn’t get a good read on it and I’m great at reading people. This whole group of nuns is weird as Hells, even for nuns. Cheeky Thick Neck led us to a tiny storage closet where you pushed on a panel to have a wall slide away and reveal a staircase. I was in the middle of smiling smugly and about to annihilate the good superior with a brutal comment about how I was right when a form lunging out of darkness knocked me to the ground.
That’s apparently what I say when I’m tackled to the ground by a blood-drinking nun (or novice or whatever). I didn’t get a good look at her when she was hurling herself at me, but she looked small – like barely five feet maybe – but she was strong. Not strong as a bull, more like something that’s good at wrestling. Something that can use it’s forelimbs to grapple you. Like a bear. But not as strong as a bear. She was as strong as a small bear. Not a baby bear, but like a sub-adult bear. Unlike a sub-adult bear though she was hissing like a bat and biting at me like a rabid wombat. She wanted my blood bad. I was able to hold her biting face away from my very fetching neck and was surely just about to make my move to turn things in my favor when Lashmi splattered the vampire nun’s head-goo all over my face with her hand ax. That much at least was very similar to something Martialla would have done.
I heaved the corpse off me and spat out some eyeball jelly “Thanks.” I clambered to my feet and looked down at the now mostly headless corpse “Huh, I thought they turned into mist or something when you killed them.”
The old priestess and Cheeky were horrified “Sister Reesblout!”
“I thought you said Sister Loke was the one that was missing.”
They looked at each other “Sister Reesblout must have been missing too. I don’t remember seeing her.”
“What kind of operation are you running here? Don’t you even know who’s on the roster?”
Lashmi crouched down to look at the ax-hole “So was she a vampire or what did I just kill?”
I grabbed a mop sitting nearby and used it to soak up some of the nun-sludge on me “Of course she was a vampire, did you see the way she lunged at my carotid?”
All the color had drained from Cheeky’s face “Maybe she was hiding in there from the vampire and just got startled.”
Oldy was resolute “There’s no such thing as vampires.”
“She was a vampire Gods damn it! You don’t try to bite someone’s neck because you’re scared!”
Lashmi and I went down the stairs which led to a very short tunnel that came to another staircase that led up and through another panel into a hallway by the dormitories. I feel like Cheeky could have told us that it didn’t really lead anywhere. I turned to Lashmi as we walked back around to the supply closet.
“You know in Morinly some vampires took over a bordello and were killing the people that visited it. What I don’t understand is how they got away with it for so long. Didn’t anyone notice that all the whoremongers were disappearing?” I wait a moment for a response “Do you have any thoughts on that?”
“Huh? Uh, no, I guess not.”
“You don’t think that’s strange? How do you think they were getting away with it? A whole nest of vampires had to be killing a lot of people don’t you think? Granted a lot of them were probably people that no one would miss but plenty of married men go to brothels, I think at least some of the wives would wonder why their husbands never came home.”
“Yeah, I don’t know.”
“Good Gods woman, I’m trying to make conversation here, give me something.”
She didn’t. We met back up with the two nuns and Cheeky led us into the head priestesses own office, much to her surprise and shock. Pushing back the desk and pulling out the rug there was a trapdoor underneath. We were greeted by a blast of cold air when the trapdoor was thrown up.
I look at the old priestess “You ever notice any vampires or giant rats crawling out of here when you were working?”
Lashmi cast a suspicious eye at Cheeky “How do you know about this?”
“There’s a map in the library.” After a beat “I’m the librarian.”
I leaned over the hole slightly “There’s a light down there, do vampires need light to see? Seem like they shouldn’t. Well, let’s go kill the damn thing, I suppose the rats will still be here but maybe without the vampire around they’ll wander off.”
Lashmi looked around nervously “Doesn’t it seem strange that we haven’t seen any rats?”
I pointed “They’re probably all down there. Or out in the courtyard killing all the nuns.” I put my hand to my ear “I don’t hear any screaming though, I feel like if you were a nun being eaten by giant rats you’d scream a lot.” I drew a rapier from my secret pocket “Anyway, let’s hit it New Martialla.”
At the bottom of the stairs was a large round room with a small pillar or pedestal in the middle. On the pedestal pillar was a wildly incongruous little pillow that had a deep indentation in it as if something had been sitting on it for years and years. Standing nearby in a bloody white nightshirt was a raven-haired young woman who was ghostly pale and clutching a skull to her chest like it was a newborn babe.
“Well this is unsettling. You would be Sister Loke them I presume?”
She smiled, overly large fangs glimmering in the lantern light, speaking in hushed towns like we were trading secrets at the opera “You want it don’t you? You came for it didn’t you? Well you can’t have it!”
“Uh no, I’m good on skulls, we just . . .”
Her fangs, already appearing too large to even shut her mouth lengthened and her eyes seems to shift shapes “YOU CAN’T HAVE IT!!!!!!!!!”
I was ready for the lunge this time and shoved Lashmi in the way. Maybe you think that’s a dick move, but she’s a priestess alright, why wasn’t she confronting the vampire with her holy symbol? What is the holy symbol of Strider anyway? I feel like it’s a boot and a walking stick maybe. Sometime dumb like that. Sister Loke and Lashmi went down in a heap and I carefully stabbed Loke through the kidney. She screamed and flailed around a lot and what seemed like eighteen gallons of blood came out of her but she died all the same. The skull clattered out of her hands and rattled to a stop as if was looking at me – jawless but with two large fangs on the top row of teeth.
“Huh, I though vampires were supposed to be harder to kill. What keeps the teeth in a skull after the body is dead anyway? Shouldn’t that root rot away? It’s not bone is it, it’s like whatever your gums are made of?”
Lashmi finally managed to yank one of her hatchets free and seemed to be brandishing it at me “What the fuck was that?!”
“A vampire obviously, maybe they’re weak at first and they get stronger over time.”
“NO! You fucking pushed me into her!”
“Yeah, I needed a distraction so I could backstab her. Calm down, Martialla and I used to do it all the time.”
“Who the fuck is Martialla?!”
I guess we’re not going to be friends at all since she left in a huff when I asked her to help me drag the body up the stairs for verification that it was Sister Loke. Have you ever tried to drag a dead body UP a staircase by yourself? Try it sometime and then tell me it’s not next to impossible. The old priestess confirmed that it was indeed poor Sister Loke and then after much badgering did a role call to make sure no one else was missing. I guess it was just the two vampires then. Or whatever they were. I never did see any rats. I wonder what that’s about. Maybe the Pied Piper of Illmarsh lured them away.
When I asked for a little something for the effort the good sisters invoked the whole vow of poverty thing, which doesn’t make a ton of sense since this place itself has to be worth a fortune. Cheeky did show me to yet another secret room though, where the gear of an old hero who had died in their care was hidden away. Seems like the kind of stuff that would have been helpful to get my hands on before fighting a horde (two is a small horde) of vampires. When I asked why they had a vampire skull sitting on a pillow in a special hidden room they all but gave me the bum’s rush. They didn’t even invite me to stay the night or feed me. That’s gratitude for you.
Funds: 6922 gold
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) Blessed Robes, Vampire Hunter’s Cloak, +1 Mithril Holy Undead Bane Sword-Cane
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