Of the many cold shoulders I’ve gotten over the last two years this one ranks as the most discourteous. I kill two vampires for these religious broads and they turn me out without so much as a how do you do? Disgraceful. Sure killing the vampires was easy but that’s because I’m magnificent. My magnificence shouldn’t be held against me. Lashmi abandoning me is no big deal, she was a Striderian after all so what else would I have expected? In truth I’m lucky that she didn’t try to kill me to win favor with her stupid shabby itinerate God. I mean seriously, what kind of occupation for a deity is traveler? Of course that ignores the even more interesting question of why Gods should have occupations at all. Does Demuren need to pay rent? Does Eltara need some scratch because she has an eye on whatever the forge-God makes and sells? Gods with jobs, there’s a horrifying concept that no one seems to understand – if the Gods have to work for a living eternally what hope is there for us?
Some say that death cancels all debts, but the priests of Odobenine and their Church of Deals goes quite the opposite way – to that faith there is no greater sin than dying with your debts unpaid. A sin that is punished with many lifetimes worth of servitude in the afterlife. It almost makes you think that Odobenine must be right because no person would create a mythos so bleak. No sane person anyway. The problem with insane people is they always catch you off guard because you can’t even imagine what they think. It’s like when Haimatt fought the Master of Many on the Bridge of Kumort – at first the Master was able to block Haimatt’s every attack because he was so skilled at reading the intentions of his opponents. Haimatt was only able to prevail when he unleashed the madness inside him and attacked without thought or pattern.
But all that mumbo-jumbo is neither here nor there (nor anywhere else) what’s real is that I am heading north along the Pipestone alone heading towards Gib’s Tor. I never thought of myself as one of those people that needs to be around other people – back at court I was never happy, but I was always less unhappy when I was alone. But that was an entirely different situation. I find now that trudging alone through the deforested wilderness gives me time to think and that’s not entirely welcome. Too much time to think turns to pointless rumination about what should be or what could have been done. And that manner self-flagellation does no good for anyone, except the religious types maybe. What is is what is and you just have to deal with it and move forward. There’s nothing for it.
Early in the morning I saw some Kostelos riders watching me far off to the northeast. Despite the good chance of decapitation I almost wished they would approach me just so I could have someone to talk too. Plus I might get a horse out of the deal. They were shaggy wild little things but I didn’t even know there were Kostelos that husbanded horses so that’s something. They didn’t come anywhere near me though, they watched for more than an hour probably and then rode off. That was the extent of the morning’s entertainment but things got interesting again later in the day.
From a goodly distance off I saw a ship up ahead. As I got closer I realized that it wasn’t moving. As I got closer still I realized that it was canted off center a good fifteen degrees or so. I assumed it was hung up on a reef (do they have those in rivers?) or rocks or whatever boats get hung up on in rivers but as I got closer still I saw that one side of the hull was staved in and protruding from that side was a massive fish. It was the size of a small watercraft itself and it was covered with hard scales like a crocodile as well as seemingly random boney knobs.
There were men in the water and on both banks, and more men climbing all over the ship as well – carrying supplies to the shore and hauling on ropes and generally shouting and cursing at one another. Some folks on the east shore were pulling on strands attached around the tail of the beast and with a last heave pulled it free to reveal that the piscine abomination had horns like a bull. Out of the many strange beings I’ve seen you wouldn’t think that a fish with horns would rate that high but it was the damndest sight.
When the colossal fish was pulled free I expected the ship to dramatically shift as a result and send men on the deck flying but it didn’t move at all that I could tell – must be run aground as well as fish-rammed. What did happen is the river was dyed dark as the bloody head of the dead creature was yanked free to run into the water. I approached the dozen or so shirtless and/or waterlogged men loitering on the east bank watching while other men continued to work and dipping cups into a barrel. Said shirts, hung out to dry or clinging to their owners, were those of the King’s Own. Or Queen’s I guess. Royal soldiers is the point. I directed my remarks to a mustachioed fellow who though bare-chested had his cap on, I took this to mean he was in charge. Hats equal authority eight times out of eleven.
“Having some trouble with your ship?”
He glanced at the listing holed boat in the middle of the river “No, no trouble, why do you ask?”
“I noticed that your flag was flying upside down, I thought that was a signal for help.”
He grinned “Come running to help us poor lads did you?”
“I could do no less, every citizen of the Kingdom must do their part and so forth and so on. What are the King’s men doing on this desolate patch of river?”
“Don’t you mean Queen’s?”
“Haven’t you heard? She’s remarried thank the Gods. Can’t have a woman in control of the country can we? What would become of us? Here’s what you’d get with a woman running the Kingdom. Murder. All the time. Everyone’s going to be murdering each other. And mail fraid. Your wives will lose their virtue, having sex willy-nilly all over the place with lots of different men.”
“Thank goodness that’s over. What we’re doing here is patrolling the river in case the Ulpine or the Vielanders try to sneak an army in by river.”
“Given that there’s an army of Vielanders sneaking in through the Lodge Forest right now that seems pretty unlikely – especially with all the great victories we keep hearing about our side winning. How many armies can they have left at this point?”
“I always sat the best place to look for the enemy is where they aren’t. You never know what kind of devious schemes our enemies are capable of, it’s only through our courage and the grace of the Gods that we’re still here at all – surrounded my enemies like we are, both at home and abroad.”
“And what are you doing out here that you were able to rush to our aid with such alacrity?”
“Hunting vampires. I’m a famous vampire hunter, you’ve probably heard of me – Baroness Cisastasia Sarovna tussenvoegsel Cobradefreytagy. Just yesterday I killed two vampires at a convent down the river.”
He touched two muddy fingers to his forehead “My Lady.”
“No, no, please, no reason to stand on ceremony.”
“Vampire hunting sounds like an even worse line of work than soldiering, how does one get into that field?”
“Oh, it’s a family thing. My grandfather was a successful vampire hunter and he passed on the business to my father. My brother was all set to take over when he choked on a clove of garlic ironically, what else could I do but step into the breach? I had to give up a very promising career as an opera singer don’t you know, but family comes first.”
“A most noble of sacrifices. How many vampires have you killed?”
I gave a world-weary sigh “Oh, I used to keep track when I first started, I even had all their vampire skulls in a room in my basement all organized and documented with the tale of their destruction. But after the first fifty or so it becomes a blur, you know how it is with work, after a while you don’t pay close attention anymore. Hundreds certainly. Thousands perhaps at this point. I’m undoubtedly the most prolific vampire killer the world has ever known.”
“Wow, that’s quite impressive. Were they all vampires or did a couple normal people sneak in there?”
“That’s the nice thing about it, legally anyone I kill is classified as a vampire – liability reasons and so forth. Can’t have my important work being interfered with now can we?”
He chuckled “Certainly not.”
“I’m heading to Gib’s Tor, looks like once you’ve got this scow right-side up you’re heading downriver.” He nodded “Well then, I guess I can’t ask you for a ride. Do you know anything about Gib’s Tor?”
“We stop there often. There’s no vampires that I’ve noticed but I don’t have a professional eye for them like you. It’s a nothing town on the ass-end of nowhere, not even sure why it is there. Lot of half-orcs there for some reason. I guess because there’s orcs in the mountains. There’s a tavern there that has terrible whiskey, worse beer, and pretty good brandy.”
“I wouldn’t have taken you for a brandy drinker.”
He glanced at his foundering vessel “Well, as they say, any port in a storm eh?”
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