If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time for far (and there’s not, there’s tons, guys I know a lot of stuff) it’s that life takes some funny turns. One moment you’re crouched in a dark windowless storeroom waiting to be blown to bits and the next moment you’re onboard the flagship of an invading fleet having lunch. The food wasn’t much to get excited about but Commodore Cottonwood (more military men should seek out an alliterative rank) at the least provided a nice bottle of Lisken wine.
The commodore was dressed in the manner of a common sailor and had the strangest pattern of baldness that I have ever born witness to. He had the standard receding hairline leaving a stark peninsula of wispy hair jutting out in the front, but then on either side he had another little dip and a sandbar of hair as well. It was like he had sideburns above his ears. I’ve never seen anything like it. When I first saw him I thought maybe he shaved his head to look like that for some incomprehensible reason but as we chatted through lunch I realized that’s just what his head is doing. It’s something you have to see to believe for sure. His head looked like a shoreline itself with little coves. Maybe that’s why he became a navy man.
He had wanted to know who had organized the defense of Peacevast and once he found out it was a woman he simply “had” to meet me. He was a tedious man. The majority of his conversation was “I can’t believe you’re a woman” rephrased in slightly different ways. This is especially odd given the fact that his executive office is a woman as are the bulk of his sailors. Not to mention the fact that the defense of Peacevast was little more than telling everyone who could to get weapons and fight. I guess the part with the ships was worth a little something but it was really just common sense. It was a tiresome afternoon but I played along.
In the olden days I had an unlimited capacity for going along to get along, that was my job after all, and I was pretty good at it. Also my life depended on it, which really helps motivate me. But these days I really get myself worked up into a lather when I have to play a role for one of these preening jackasses. What I wanted to do was stab him in the face until he was dead and then make a run for it. I probably could have gotten away with it too, but probably isn’t good enough odds. I like definitely more than probably. And assuredly is the best. So instead I smiled and laughed and acted the way he wanted me to act – defiant but not too defiant, just the right amount of challenge for him to “overcome”. But I wanted to stab him in the face a lot. I just want you to know that.
I’m sure that his intention was to keep me as his prisoner on his ship and then throughout the rest of the war trot me out whenever he felt like having chat and that in his mind eventually I would become his mistress and fall in love with him. Then when the war was over we could have some teared-eyed embrace on the docks of whatever Ulpinese shithole he lives in as he goes back to his wife because of his dumb kids of whatever. Despite this fantasy it was easy enough to convince him to let me go. I’m pretty good at convincing people of things too.
I told him that I was born in a house of ill-repute (but you know one of the fancy ones) and never found out which one of the women working there was my actual mother. I told him how I was set to earning my keep at an early age, not in the way you think – cleaning, cooking, and running errands. I told him on my sixteenth birthday they had a big celebration with a cake and presents and everything – that had never happened before. And at the end the party when everything was nice and warm and rosy the fellow that owned the place declared that it was time for me to start working for real or to get the fuck out.
I told the commodore that I quickly found out how hard it is to make a living alone on the streets of Indlestacle. With nowhere to stay, no guaranteed meals, and no one looking out for me things had taken a turn. But if I had learned one thing it’s that that a bit of flattery works on just about anyone. I told him that I had lived by my wits, which is a nice way to say that I conned people. I specialized in religious fakery, telling people what they wanted to hear and reinforcing what they wanted to believe. The Gods wanted people to be successful, but there were evil forces aligned against them. I could show them the way to the prosperity the Gods wanted them to have.
I told him about how doing this led to me to having an actual transformation of faith. I had told people so often about the glory of the Gods that I started to believe it myself. I joined to the church of Adariel as a novitiate but ended up not taking my final vows of priestesshood because I had fallen in love with the most wonderful boy in the world. And when he died in the last war I thought that I would die myself, but when I didn’t I only became more convinced that the Gods had a plan for me and for everyone.
I told him how I used my skills as a healer traveling from town to town helping in any way that I could. It was a sappy story but that worked out well because the commodore was a sap. I swear that he cried at one point. He went on some long winded soliloquy about war and duty and this and that, I guess he was trying to say something about how great I was for not hating him after the death of my fictional beau. After talking for a long time and saying nothing he said that was all well and good but how was I able to organize an effective defense against his attack?
I dropped him a sassy wink, completely out of character for what I had been portraying him “Adariel helps those who help themselves.”
I don’t even really know what that was supposed to mean but he looked at me for a moment and then roared with laughter like it was the funniest joke ever told. He pounded the table so hard that a fork flew onto the deck of the ship and his Halfling page had to scurry out and pick it up. Probably a slave. Ulpine isn’t civilized like the Kingdom, they have slavery there.
I not only convinced him to let me go, I convinced him to let all of the survivors go. The ones that hadn’t already been tossed overboard to the monstermen anyway. After all the villagers were just defending their homes, they’re not even militiamen, so they’re not soldiers they’re just noncombatants really. And the dwarfs, they were just at the wrong place at the wrong time, they didn’t even know what was going on. The witch and the wizard were nowhere to be found, probably they had escaped with magical means. Which begs the question of why they were fighting to defend the village in the first place of they had the means of getting away.