Well it turns out that I misjudged Elth slightly. I thought when I verbally tore into her she’d crumble. Which technically she did, so I was right in a way, but she didn’t fall apart enough to keep her from having her goons throw me in a deep dark hole. And if there’s one thing Graltontown has in abundance its holes – both of the ass and deep dark variety. That and mouth breathing freaks. It’s really a toss-up between the holes and the freaks. That’s what it always comes down to in the end.
If my reckoning is correct this is the third time I’ve been thrown on a lightless stone pit and I have to say it’s not an experience that improves the more you do it. I’m going to be controversial here and say that I would be glad to never be thrown into a lightless pit ever again. There, I said it. On the other hand though it is probably the only form of torture that comes with a silver lining – it gives you time to think. Time to plot. Time to scheme.
I don’t know how long I was down there, but I didn’t die of dehydration so it couldn’t have been more than a couple of days. Sadly at this point I’ve become accustomed enough to a few days without food, but there’s not a lot you can do without water. Except get really tired and have your mouth feel like it’s full of gross slime even though it’s so dry your tongue starts to turn into a piece of leather. I knew a rent boy back in the day called Leather Tongue. He wasn’t very popular. That’s probably why he had to resort to robbery to get by and ended up being executed for robbery.
It’s been a while since I pulled a proper robbery, I should do that one of these days just to keep in practice. I loot dead people all the time, but that’s not the same at all. That’s just taking stuff. I haven’t picked a pocket in a good little while either. I need to keep my skills sharp on these things. Remember back in the early days when I stole twenty gold from the butcher shop and that was a big accomplishment? It really was too, I mean I was singing on the street corner for silver at the time. Look how far I’ve come.
I wonder if Elth really did kill Martialla or if she was just saying that to try and get under my skin. Clearly they must have encountered one another otherwise how would Elth have known about her? I think she was lying though, Elth doesn’t have cold blooded murder in her bones, not just to potentially get back at me anyway. She didn’t even have it in her to kill me, so probably Martialla is still alive. Or if she’s not it’s because of something else. Beyond my feelings about her on the personal level if would be a real tragedy if a useless pair of tits like Elth killed someone as wily and valuable as Martialla. That would be a real shame.
When they finally came to drag me out of the hole the light stabbed at my eyes like a thousand burning needles. You know the feeling when you’re hung over and some jerk throws back the window shades to flood you with sunlight? It’s much worse than that. I swear that dehydration does something to make your eyes more sensitive on top of the whole being in total darkness for three to four days thing. Maybe someday I’ll be trapped in a dark room for a while with access to water so I can compare. I hope that I’m not, but the way things go for me it would be a step up.
I moved to get up far too slowly for the liking of one of the goons. I think I was moving pretty well considering the circumstances. This fellow disagreed and expressed his counterargument by kicking me a few times. I’m going to make another bold statement – I don’t like getting kicked. It hurts so much more than getting punched. His fellow goon pointed out that kicking someone on the verge of death wouldn’t make them go faster it would make them go slower. But this guy has an answer for everything, he said “I know, I just like kicking women when I get the chance”. You can’t argue with that.
When they hauled me up and dragged me out of there I very much wanted to pull a knife out of my secret pocket and stab the kicker in the face until his face was done and he was dead but I figured that was likely to result in me being thrown back into the hole. I’ll just have to do something to him later. After a long while without a lot of expansion on the List we’re about to have a slew of new names. Sometimes I think my work is never going to be done.
I have no clue where they keep the hole they throw people in, but where it was I was taken to a small room with naught up a skinny table and a couple of chairs – I suppose it’s an interrogation room or something of the like. They sat me down at the table and a trio of women came in to replace them. One of them looked like a carnival strongwoman who was starting to turn to flab. One of them was a lean half-orc woman who looked like a coiled spring. And one of them was my old pal Stek.
“Well you’re moving up in the world aren’t you? Are you a prison guard or what is your role here? I’ve heard that pays a decent wage.”
She furrowed her brow for a moment and was just about decided to clobber me when she recognized me “Ela?”
I smiled thinly “The very same.”
Her face twisted into a mask of horror “My Gods what happened to you? You look awful.”
“Well thank you, it’s good to see you too.”
I jokingly asked if she could get me out of there but of course there was no chance of that. She and her beefy pals searched me thoroughly a couple of times and then gave me a sackcloth “dress” to wear. Stek sat me down at the table and gave me some broth to drink – apparently that’s better for rehydrating yourself that water. Or at least that’s what she said. Once I was lubricated enough to breath without getting a nosebleed she brought me some small bitter apples and some hard bread. Even that small amount of food made my stomach roil.
“Thanks Stek, what I could really use is some whiskey though.”
She grinned “That’s not a good idea, alcohol just dries you out more.”
“Oh, that’s just an old wives tale.”
Despite her words she took a flask out of her shirt and poured me a capful which I eagerly downed “How did you end up here?”
I passed the cap back to her for some more “Oh you know, fighting against the established order, trying to stand up for the common folk, that sort of thing. They don’t like it when you do that.”
“Strange, I figured you to be on the other end of the ladder when the class war started.”
“You want to know my secret? I stay right in the middle of the ladder, that way when it flips I end up in the same place.”
She chuckled and looked around pointedly “Yes, clearly things are going well for you.”
“You know what they say, the night is darkest before the dawn.”
“They do say that but it makes no sense, the night it darkest hours before dawn.”
“True, so are you and your friends going to kill me or just beat me senseless? If you’re going to beat me could you hold on the kicks? I’ve had my fill of kicking for a while.”
“Neither, now that you’ve soften up a bit we’re just making you presentable for your audience with our benevolent and kind master the Baroness.”
“Master? Don’t you mean mistress?”
“I thought a mistress was a woman having sex with a married man.”
“It is a confusing term. How about we say mastress?”
“Isn’t that a woman who makes masts?”
Once I was “presentable” I was loaded into a coach and returned to Wardsmeadow Manor where I was escorted under heavy guard to the solarium – if they did that on purpose to hurt my eyes it was a stroke of genius. Baroness Elth was there but she wasn’t alone. With her was another Baroness – the Lady Juost. For a split second I was relieved, I thought she was there to speak on my behalf, but then I saw the coldness in her eyes. There’s no way she could have figured out that I killed her husband but I suppose she could have guessed it. In the cold light of day knowing what she knows about me and given the givens that’s what I would have assumed were I her.
But that wasn’t the only special guest in the audience, along with the two Baronesses was none other than Duchess Eaglevane herself. Seeing here there was so incongruous that for a moment I couldn’t believe what my eyes were telling me. It’s like seeing a cow on the roof of a building in the city – it makes no sense so it takes a moment for your mind to agree with what your eyes are seeing. The Duchess was never a great beauty, although she was no sideshow bearded lady either, and she was often in ill-health which didn’t help anything – but standing there before me that day she looked both healthsome and toothsome. Her hair looked great. She had grown it out and had some nice little curls going. Maybe it was the dehydration talking but I don’t think she ever looked better.
They brought me there to grovel for my life and that’s what I did. I’ve talked about this a couple times before so there’s no reason to rehash it, the bottom line is if you get a chance to beg for mercy there’s no reason not to take it. Have you ever seen someone on the gallows lift their chin defiantly and say they won’t give the person condemning them to death the “satisfaction” of pleading? Those people are idiots. Dead idiots. I knew Baroness Juost to be a religious woman, and I assumed that Elth was a well, being a country bumpkin that she is, so I leaned on that. How I was a wretched sinner and ashamed of the things I had done and so on and so forth. I apologized for everything I had done, I threw myself on their mercy, the whole nine yards. I’m damn convincing at that sort of thing when my life is on the line.
Aside from the three aristocrats there were a few other sycophants and fawners about who observed my display and clucked their tongues and said things like “disgraceful” and “have you no pride?” Pride? What the Hells good does that do anyone? You can’t drink pride. You can’t eat it. You can’t buy anything with it. You can’t fuck it. The more of it you have the less good it does you. If you’ve got none at all you don’t miss it. There’s no shame in being a truckler if that’s what the situation calls for. Okay there’s shame in it but that’s fine.
The three women in their beneficence and mercy said that my life would be spared and I would be exiled to the North, never to trouble the good people of the Kingdom again. I wept at their compassion and goodness and thanked them submissively. I would have kissed their feet if they wanted. I’m glad they didn’t because feet are gross but I would have done it.
And so instead of death merely exile. How stupid are these people? Do they really think I’m going to quietly disappear never to be seen again? Am I really that good of a liar? I may have my flaws but one thing I don’t do is hesitate to put someone in the ground when I have the advantage. It’s one of my best qualities.