Despite those blundering idiots bursting in on me (well I guess I did open the door) in the middle of the night, I woke up feeling well rested and ready to face the day. The allure of staying in the city, even a third rate city like Cathars, was strong. But I wouldn’t be the mighty hero that I am if caved into allures all the time. I had Teremana saddled up and ready to ride while the sun was still on the horizon. Well the groom at the stables did most of the work but I told him to do it. He was a surly little bastard too – no tip for him. He’s lucky I didn’t give him a thrashing with my belt for his insouciance but there simply wasn’t time. You get so caught up in life you never make time to thrash people with belts. It’s sad, it really is.
Riding out of Cathars I tried to remember what enemies I had in Tybhurst or what people there might have it out for me. Surprisingly I don’t think I have any of either. Even more surprisingly I traveled completely unmolested. I saw patrols of the new Queen’s road wardens several times. Some groups looked more competent than others but they were out there, sometimes that’s all it takes. I wonder how long it will take for them to be corrupted as badly as all other government arms. It would be an interesting social experiment to see how long it takes for a newly formed power group of the Kingdom to go from proficient and sharp public servants to crooked and pathetic criminals.
As it was getting on towards dark I stopped at a crossroads where a number of other travelers had set up camp – road wardens or not there’s always a benefit in safety of numbers. Okay usually there’s a benfit. Well sometimes. It was quite a gathering, smallfolk and traders and wanderers in the dozens. It’s always interesting when you come across one of these impromptu gatherings that is made up of more people than a lot of villages – where are all these people going? And what are they doing? You could probably write an interesting book just walking the land getting people’s tales. That’s what the Strider people should be doing instead of . . . what is it they do again? Oh right, nothing. Except harass me for one measly little murder.
There was a lot of talk about Malgareth being sacked. That would be big news in any event but here’s the kicker – it was sacked by the Kingdom’s own armed forces. Elements of the 8th Army “The Cardinal’s Spear” and some detached units from other divisions felt like they weren’t receiving enough supplies to continue fighting on the southern front so they decided to help themselves to what the people of Malgareth had. If you’re not familiar with politics and statecraft your own military attacking one of your cities is not good. But the really juicy rumor is that this attack was orchestrated by a Captain of the King’s Own. Scandal! The common knowledge that no member of the King’s Own has ever acted against the Crown is bullshit, but it’s uncommon enough to bring about an that old wives tale like that.
More important than the war though was that I saw several women wearing their corsets on the outside of their clothing. I thought that was just something that shabby drunk in Gib’s Tor was doing on account of she was drunk when she got dressed. But apparently it’s a fashion statement! It’s completely nonsensical. The whole point of a corset is smash your belly fat into your boobs. Well that plus torture and enforced femininity. I hope this is one of those trends that didn’t start in the capital and the spread outwards – it’s outrageous it is.
There were some folks playing cards, but it was lackluster stuff like Schrum-Schrum and Fish, childish games you couldn’t even gamble on if you wanted to. Which you wouldn’t because those games are for babies. I lifted a deck of cards and set myself up in a good spot for some Find the Lady. I didn’t think I would find enough people in this crowd for a real card game. Find the Lady is a personal favorite of mine because everyone knows that it’s a scam, or they should anyway, the real trick is not getting people to pick the wrong card, that’s a foregone conclusion, the trick is getting people to play.
Being a pretty girl (that knows how to properly wear UNDERgarments) doesn’t hurt, but what you really need to do is just be personable. Some people just want something to do. They know they can’t win, or they don’t think about it, they just want someone to talk to for a few moments. Those people are like shills you don’t have to pay. Because once they start playing the herd mentality sets in. When other people see someone playing they want to watch what’s going on and then eventually they want to participate. At first they feel smart watching and laughing at the unintentional shill playing a rigged game, but then you let them win. Suddenly a few people in the herd are thinking “hey, maybe this isn’t a scam.” What’s best is when they decide that it is a scam but that you aren’t doing it right and they take rip you off. The best scams are run on people looking to get over themselves but aren’t smart enough to bring it off.
Once you have them on the hook it doesn’t matter if the game is crooked or not – everyone comes up with their own justification for what they’re doing. I knew a con artist back in the old days that used to say that there wasn’t really anything wrong with what he was doing because those people he took off were going to be taken advantage of no matter what so it might as well be him taking their money rather than someone really bad. It’s bullshit, but it’s as good a justification as any. There are people that just can’t resist a line like “I can feel it, your luck is about to turn around!”
There wasn’t much loose coin to take but what there was I took. Why would I do that when I have a fortune already? It’s fun. What other reason is there? There was a young woman that had lost several times in a row when she decided that it would be wise to bet the hideous gold necklace she had on. I even went so far as to say “are you sure?” Which in the confidence trade is basically bending over backwards. Turns out she was sure. I didn’t want the ugly thing but what was I going to do? Not take it from her? That goes against everything that I believe in. She was pissed when I turned over the card she picked and then slipped the necklace off her. I give her points for this at least, she didn’t cry and try to get her husband or brother to come intimidate me – she screamed at me her own self. That’s not nothing.
Once she saw that loud talk wasn’t going to get her the necklace back she went with another tactic. She claimed that the necklace (though ugly) was an important historical artifact. I didn’t catch all the details because she talked forever but back in olden times, which apparently is when everything interesting happened, some nation or other was mad at some other seafaring nation and there were sea elfs involved and trade dispute that and honor this and queen such and such and illegitimate sons and blah blah blah. She said that the necklace (though ugly) was made by a famous dwarf magic crafting guy and it ultimately resulted in the destruction of both kingdoms. It’s no longer magic but of interest to certain sorts so her master hired some adventurers dig up whatever tomb it was in and steal it. They turned it over to her and she was bringing it to him.
I gave her a curious look “What did you hope you accomplish with that story? You just told him this hunk of metal is far more valuable than it seems, why would that incline me to give it back to you.”
She crossed her arms with a smug look “You haven’t heard who my master is yet.”
“Well don’t keep me in suspense.”
She leaned in and half-whispered “Baron Saltwheel.”
I laughed and laughed and then laughed some more. Next she threated me by saying that I should fear Baron Saltwheel’s wrath because he could send the adventurers that got the necklace in the first place after me. I laughed so hard I got a stitch in my side.
I wiped away some literal tears of laughter “Please stop, you’re killing me.”
Funds: 53,940 platinum, 27,309 gold
Inventory: +3 Thundering Distance Light Crossbow, Ela’s Fashionable Belt, Cerulean Sign Tattoo, Satchel of Plentiful Feed, Horseshoes of Surety, Teremana (light warhorse), Hat of Effortless Style, Ela’s Wonderful Flask, Ela’s Dazzling Garment, Ring of Urban Grace, Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Ela’s Elegant Boots, Ela’s Extravagant Necklace, Headband of Subtle Misdirection, Antiquarian’s Monocle, Ela’s Stately Greatcoat, Ring of Eloquence, Cheating Gloves, Clothier’s Closet Rod , Singer’s Stole
Noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring, pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (631), gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, disguise kit, covenant ring, tiny diamonds (26), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring, diamond and pearl lover’s knot tiara, Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three), darkwood and platinum music box, silver bracelet set with bloodstones, platinum ring set with fire opal, silver and moonstone bracelet, holy symbol of Kozilek, dwarf journal, cruddy gold necklace
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