My life since exile from court has been many things. Revealing. Brutalizing. Disheartening. Freeing. Terrifying. Character building. Character destroying. Damnedable. Many things. But one thing it hasn’t been is surprising. I’m met a lot of horrible people doing horrible things. I’ve met a lot of stupid people doing stupid things. I’ve meet greedy people doing greedy things. I’ve dined off the finest porcelain plates with silver cutlery and I’ve literally eaten dirt (it had sugar melted into it in my defense). I’ve killed and I’ve been almost killed myself. I’ve done unspeakable things and had things done to me that were just as appalling. I’ve done good. I’ve been generous and I’ve been petty to the verge of mental illness. I’ve been sick almost to death. I’ve gained and lost several fortunes. I’ve changed the course of people’s lives and that of the entire Kingdom. But all of that has been fairly by the book when you think about it.
All that adventure, all that excitement, that’s just life. The same scenes being played out across the world and throughout time. There are always heroes and villains and there’s always hardship and triumph. What that does though is it makes you forget is how bizarre life really is. It’s been famously said that real life is stranger than fiction because writers have to stick to what people will believe. Your life has not such restrictions. There are some things people just don’t want to hear no matter how real they are.
When you read a book you can be affected by it but you’re immune to it at the same time. It’s not real so whatever happens, however shocking, doesn’t impact us that much. But you can’t escape reality (well you can with drugs and booze but only for a while). When significant changes happen in the really real world we’re hardly ever prepared for it because we get hypnotized by the sameness of everything. Things people think are chaotic really aren’t.
Think about a soldier on the battlefield. They often talk about how confusing and jumbled up everything is “it was chaos” they’re say. But it’s pretty straight forward, a bunch of people are going to die and many of those that live will be pretty fucked up in the head for having lived. It’s been done thousands if not millions of times before. It always happens the same. There are no surprises there, who dies is just details. It’s not like you get to the battlefield and then suddenly everyone drops their pants and starts fucking. That would be a real surprise. That would be chaos.
At Indlecastle I saw a play (based on a real thing that happened I believe) wherein a man decided he was done with his wife and wanted her to go away so he could bang a younger lady. He didn’t have the balls to kill her though. So what he did was have a buddy of his hide in a secret room and sing a song every day, at first very quietly. And the wife would be like “Honey do you hear that?” and he would say “no, I don’t hear anything”. As time went by the hidden singer would sing a little louder and a little louder and the husband continues to deny hearing anything. The wife grows more and more anxious and paranoid and starts to lose her mind. Eventually she’s acting so strangely that her husband is able to send her to the looney-bin and shack up with his hot piece of side action. That’s actually when the play gets good because in the asylum she meets Mr. Smiles (who may or may not actually exist) a serial killer who teachers her how to live again. And how to escape and slaughter her husband, dress up as him, and torment his mistress.
I bring this up to illustrate the point that anything you can’t understand will drive you mad. So we create patterns and we think that there’s order. But there’s not really, it just seems like it. Our mind cannot comprehend too much of a thing, and it tries its level best to keep us sane but sometimes reality is more vicious than any fiction. What does this pseudo-intellectual nonsense have to do with anything? It’s just my preamble to saying that I ran into my husband today and it was very surprising. A true surprise.
Since there’s a mountain on my left for once there’s no real chance of me getting lost. As long as I stay out of the rocks I’m heading east and therefore towards Bryny. Literally nothing happened yesterday, I just walked and walked and walked and then walked some more. Today figured to be the same until I saw a ragged band heading west. One was mounted on a weary looking little mountain horse and the other four were on foot. They were all under arms and armor though so I did the smart thing and turned invisible and hid to wait for them to pass. As they got closer I saw the mounted man was a solid looking fellow who looked even wearier than the horse bearing him. He was wearing patchwork armor and helmless I saw that he was mostly bald with a completely grey mustache. He was probably only in his forties but he had the face of a man who had lived several hard lifetimes. There didn’t seem to be much life left in him at all.
The real shock came when I realized who it was though – Azul. You know my husband. “Ela you’ve never mentioned you were married!” Well I’m not sure we really are, the guy that performed the ceremony wasn’t a priest of any God with legal standing to bind to people in the Kingdom, the whole thing was a joke. I’ve mentioned before that rich people can indulge their whims, so they do. And that leads to a wild escalation of those whims. If you can have anything you want you start having some strange wants. The Duke set up this whole play scenario where I had a sham wedding to Azul to indulge some fantasy of his. If we’re being honest, and I feel like we are, I had forgotten the whole thing until the moment I realized who I was looking at. It was barely even a joke, easily forgotten.
I was so surprised though that I involuntarily said his name – being invisible that really had Azul and his four ruffians/men-at-arms on high alert. They had weapons out in a flash and were looking around wildly. I came out of hiding and became visible, which seemed to make them more skittish rather than less.
“Azul? Is that really you? You look awful.”
He narrowed his eyes, sword in hand “You have the advantage of me madam.”
I smirked “I know it’s been a couple of years but don’t you recognize your own wife?”
He frowned in a way that looked almost pained “Wife? I . . . . Ela?” I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone more incredulous.
I dropped him a sassy wink “In the flesh. What happened to you? Not to beat a dead horse, which it looks like you’re about to be sitting on, but you look awful – truly.”
He chuckled and gestured for his equally confused men to stand down their weapons “You don’t varnish your opinion anymore do you?”
“One of the few advantages of being kicked out of court and left for dead.”
“What happened to me? Just life. Just life. You on the other hand are more lovely than ever, being away from court suits you – you’ve got some color in your cheeks now. You need to eat though, you’re skinny as a rail.”
I laughed “Well bless you for a liar, I didn’t know you had it in you, I look terrible right now. I didn’t know knights were allowed to lie, even to flatter a maiden.”
“Well, I’m no longer a knight, so I can be a little more flexible.”
“Do tell, my fall from grace was utterly predicable, your position seemed more secure.”
He shook his head slightly “I never had any grace to fall from. I was joke at Paladore, I was a knight but they wouldn’t even call me Sir, they called me Master instead. There wasn’t a true knight in that entire rotten city that I ever encountered – just pampered lordlings more interested in assaulting laundry women than the enemies of their Kingdom. Their vows meant nothing.” He signed “And I realized that neither did mine. My family had been in service to the Duke for generations, but he was not worthy of my loyalty. I resigned.”
“I didn’t know knights could do that.”
“I was called an oathbreaker and a liar and a betrayer of the church – which is all true. But I knew that forsaking my vows was the right thing. Sometimes there is no easy path. I dedicated my life to Adariel in earnest, doing real good in the world, helping people. I found more happiness in simple service to others than I ever did before. I lived in a small town in these mountains, I assumed that I would remain there until the end of my days, doing the work of the Great Lady, the Mother of Us All. One night a storm came. The storm rained down sleet and hail and thunder crashed so loud I couldn’t hear the screaming. Dozens were dead and half the town was on fire before I realized that the mountain tribes were attacking during the storm. I found my sword and my shield, I hadn’t touched them in years, and I fought. But it was pointless, my home was already destroyed. For some time after I was overcome with hopelessness and despair, I have lost my faith in Adariel, but I can still do go in the world. My friends and I patrol these foothills to try and help anyone else that might run afoul of the highlanders.”
“That’s very noble of you.”
“That word doesn’t mean anything to me anymore. I try to help, I can do nothing else. But enough of my tale, you’re being here is even more incredible than mine – a fighting man can end up anywhere in the world. I never thought to see you again, but if I had I never would have thought to find you walking alone in such a desolate dangerous area. What are you doing here?”
I smiled “Oh, just stretching the old legs, having a bit of a stroll. Nothing important really.”
Funds: 6642 gold
Inventory: Bag of Holding, +2 Distance Light Crossbow, traveling outfit, Ring of Invisibility, potion case, potions (Protection from Evil, Cure Moderate Wounds x4) 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