What kind of name is Saltwheel anyway? I feel like I heard of an ocean-going paddlewheel ship one time but if one of this guy’s ancestors invented it, and it was a noteworthy invention, why aren’t they all over the place? In what other context would a wheel be salty? Can you make a waterwheel on the ocean shore? What would be the point of that? All barons are bad, but is Saltwheel worse than other baron? All he did was lock me in a bedroom which is a pretty feeble response to my defiance. Maybe he had more convincing inducements to come but I wasn’t going to stick around to find out.
With my Boots I was out the window and up the side of the wall before you could get a knife from the barn. It’s an expression. The next window I climbed in just so happened to be that of the good Baroness Saltwheel. Given the late hour she was abed and the room was dark so she was little more than a lump and a mass of curly brown hair on a pillow to my eyes. Taking on the form of the Baron (in what I imagine are Baronial pajamas) I slipped slyly into bed aside her. She made a noiseless not awake noise (it makes sense!) and rubbed her feet together as I snuggled up to her and started favoring her with manly baronial caressing. Eventually she rolled over sleepily and our lips met, filled with Baronial passion.
That’s when I changed forms again to that of one of the snakemen (or snakewomen) that had hauled me here. At first the Baroness’s lips puckered like when you bite into a bad spot on a mango. Then her eyes fluttered open and even in the dim light she knew something was wrong. Mainly that she was smooching on a lipless snake-face. I flicked out my borrowed snake-tongue.
“What’s wrong baby? Your husband said you would be down for this.”
I tell you this much, that woman can scream, my ears were still ringing several hours later. I slithered back out the window and down to the lawn where I took up the appearance of the Baron again. I started shouting for men under arms to attend me and then rushed them over to the outbuilding where the adventuresome four we housed – explaining to them all how my ladywife had been assaulted in my very own matrimonial bed! They were in no mood for shenanigans by the time they broke the door down and adventurers being adventurers the fighting started instantly. There’s not much they don’t react to with deadly force.
Once things were well under way I climbed back into my locked room to watch and listen to the chaos and shouting and people rushing about with torches. In the melee one of the buildings was set on fire – it’s a classic move. When you’re not sure what to do burn some shit down. I saw both snake people dragged dead into the middle of the courtyard. I saw the former knight Harweal angrily challenging the Baron to a duel and when the Baron laughed in his face I saw the former knight Harweal cut down six soldiers before he was impaled through the leg from behind by a spearman and captured. I saw no sign of the one eared woman. She must have escaped.
As I watched this deadly scene play out I wondered what is the appropriate revenge for the Baron. Merely denying him his necklace seems too thin. But I can’t go around killing everyone on the list can I? It just doesn’t seem very elegant, there has to be some more creative revenges I can come up with right? The problem is I simply don’t have the time. What I should do is spy on him for a few weeks and find out what he really cares about and then hit him there. But I don’t want to hang around here for a few weeks. Not at all. No one ever told me this revenge business would be so mentally taxing. Maybe I should get in touch with Kralten the god of revenge, if nothing else he has to have some good ideas about different forms of revenge. Although all of the Kralten people I’ve meet have been very boring – they were all about murder. Maybe I just don’t encounter the subtle ones.
I decided to sleep on it, wondering if with all the excitement in the night I would be forgotten about in the morning. I was not. Before dawn I was rousted and after an insulting short amount of time allowed to make myself presentable was escorted back to the Baron’s study. As sickly as he looks normally it was hard to tell that he was haggard and sleep deprived as well but the signs were there. After some obligatory nonsense he apologized for the commotion, which I obligingly and lying said I hadn’t noticed, and he again restated his insistence that give him the necklace. I gave a pretty speech about how because of the commotion, which of course I didn’t notice, I would relent and give him the necklace. I produced instead the very nice silver and moonstone number I’ve had for a while.
His face was impressively impassive “That is a fine piece my lady, but sadly it is not the necklace I’m after.” He sighed “It seems those vondrooks have betrayed me in more ways than one. I should have known better than to place my trust in a disgrace like Harweal, he was once such a loyal knight, it’s such a pity how base he’s become.”
I tucked the necklace back away “Good help is so hard to find My Lord.”
He started to say something and then stopped, giving me a quizzical look “What are you doing?”
“Pardon me My Lord?”
“Your skin appears to be glowing, stop that at once!”
I looked down and saw the tattoos of Hadar blazing through my clothing “Oh shit!” I jabbed my finger in Baron Saltwheel’s face “Are you an abomination from beyond the stars? You have to tell me if you are! That’s the law!”
The door flew open as if from a stout kick and in lurched/hopped/galumphed a nude man. An unexpected nude man is bad enough, but this fellow’s surprising appearance was made all the less welcome by the fact that he had a massive growth on his left shoulder. Have you seen a hunchback? It was like that only instead of the back it was on the side. At first you think that’s the head but then you’re like “oh no, that smaller thing next to it is the head”. That head wasn’t doing him and favors either. Have you ever seen someone who was fat and then lost a bunch of weight and was left with a big flap of loose skin around the belly? It was like that only on the head – he had a face it just wasn’t attached to the skull, it was hanging loose a good foot to the south. Did I mention that he had three arms? I mean the additional arm on the right side wasn’t much of an arm, but it was still there. That’s one more arm than most people no matter its quality. The axe clenched in its two right hands with blood and chunks of hair on it was possibly the least disturbing thing about him.
That’s what it “said” by way of introduction while I dodged and ducked and scrabbled and slid out of the way of the swinging axe. The Baron, to some credit, did draw his pussified courtier’s sword and make one attempt at a strike before trying to use me as a human shield – which was annoying because I was trying to go out the window and he was holding me back. We stumbled into the mutant freak and I managed to pin the axe between our attacker and the Baron. The “man’s” clacking teeth were trying to bite the Baron through a veil of its own droopy skin. I wish I never saw that. I managed to maneuver/stagger us to the window and we all fell through.
The mutated axman hit the ground and bounced up like it was nothing. I don’t know why exactly but I kept one hand on the Baron’s belt as I stuck to the wall with the rest of my limbs. This turned out to be one of my less good ideas as my shoulder was torn out of its socket.
That’s what I said when I let go of him on account of the agonizing pain. Which seems like a pretty good reason to let go of someone if you ask me. The Baron caught me around the waist, squeezing the life out of me and nearly yanking me off the wall with his extra weight.
“Climb you scar-faced whore!”
Those were his words of encouragement as we dangled precariously on the side of the building. I would have shaken him off if I could but there was no way. Here’s the fun thing about these Boots, they only allow me to climb and cling like a spider about a minute. So as much as it hurt I had to climb as quickly as I could. Which was not very quickly. It was only about ten feet to the roof but it took a good thirty seconds. Once I was within grasp the fucking Baron started climbing over me to get to the roof himself. I tried to grab his foot and shake him off but he stepped directly on my face. I managed to haul myself over the side where I immediately clutched my mangled arm to my chest.
“I’ll assume that’s your way of thanking me for saving your fucking life!”
I don’t think he even heard me. He was standing on the edge of the building, jaw gaping open, staring down. I took a drink from my Flask to heal my shoulder, and another to calm my nerves and then sat up to see what he was gaping at. It was certainly gapeworthy. It was like the chaos of the previous night multiplied by a factor of seventeen. A mob of stark nude people, both normal and those with ghastly mutations, covered with mud and bearing various forms of ram-head staves and sticks were attacking the complex, viciously hacking and tearing at the Baron’s staff. I saw with them a black goat as large as an elk with horns that glinted razor-sharp. Among them I saw a bloated flabby winged creature with elements of ant and bat on a human frame. I saw several heavily armored men and women with a triple headed goat symbol on their shields. I saw a savage minotaur dressed in the clothing of a civilized man while humans ran and ravened like beasts. Directing the chaos was a robed man with curling horns and on his shoulder clung the rat-beast I saw the day before – whispering into his ear with its filthy humanish face.
I gave the Baron a ‘wake up’ shove as I retrieved my crossbow “Snap out of chief, the day has taken a real turn here for both of us, it’s time to either get to fighting to getting the Hells out of here. I know which one I vote for.”
His mouth moved wordlessly for a moment before he could speak “What do we do?”
“Run for our fucking lives.”
“A distraction would be helpful.”
“What kind of distraction.”
“Something like this.”
I shoved him off the roof into the waiting clutches of the . . . whatever these people are. Cultist of some kind I assume. It’s always Gods damned cultists. Half the world must be in some cult or other just waiting for the signal to start killing everyone. As he toppled over the side his cane flew out of his hand directly into mind as if he was tossing it to me. The hordes below fell upon him like squealing hogs chasing after corn. I saw the minotaur and the horned man gazing at me calmly. Even the little rat-beast turned its eyes on me. I fired at them with my crossbow but the bolt was blown aside by a gust of wind – they didn’t even flinch.
I took a deep breath, climbed down the opposite side of the building, managed to fight my way free and ran until my tattoos stopped glowing. And then I ran some more. I always thought “run yourself ragged” was just an expression. It isn’t. I guess death will have to do for the Baron after all.
Funds: 53,940 platinum, 27,309 gold
Inventory: +3 Thundering Distance Light Crossbow, Ela’s Fashionable Belt, Cerulean Sign Tattoo, 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, Saltwheel’s Cane
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