Remember when I was first “exiled” to Juost Manor and they yoked me with that ugly silver necklace? Of course you do, I talked about it a lot. “They” could use it to track me down somehow, as evidenced that first night when I escaped and they immediately caught me and brought me back. With extreme prejudice. Looking back on it now I realize that the impact of those events had more psychological effect on me than the actual magic of the necklace was useful to them. Because of that experience the first night the notion got in my head that I couldn’t get away from them until I got rid of that necklace. But it wasn’t true really. Once the Baron was off fighting his war, and then later was the willing sexual pawn of a wizened old crone, the things got pretty chaotic. The Baroness herself sent me off on many a wild goose chase. I could have wandered off at any time and it’s unlikely much would have been done about it. I’m sure she would have sent someone after me, but I could have dealt with it. It’s rather embarrassing in retrospect that I put so much importance on that trinket.
They’ve upped their game this time. I could kid myself and say what they fitted me with this time is a choker, but let’s call it what it is – a slave collar. A very nice slave collar made of silver and gold, nice enough you would think that it’s jewelry of some kind, but a slave collar nonetheless. They demonstrated to me that if I try to remove the collar before I get to the North – directly or by encouraging others to do so for me – it tightens and chokes me until I fall unconscious. Have you ever been choked unconscious? I don’t recommend it. Why some people find that enjoyable I can’t fathom. They also enjoyed showing me that they could make it strangle me whenever they felt like making it do so. Yesterday they seemed merciful and stupid, today they were leaning heavily on the cruel post in the fence. They explained that any day I didn’t make progress towards the North the necklace would also make me get very sick, and progressively so until I died after a few days. No demonstration but I believe them.
Once the strangulation portion of the evening was concluded the Duchess said to me “All you have left is memories and if you cross me again I’ll take those away from you as well.” I don’t know what she meant but that was a pretty cool thing to say. I admit that even more than Elth I misjudged the Duchess. All this time I’ve laid (lain?) all the blame for my current predicament on the Duke, but clearly she was more involved in this than I anticipated. I honestly didn’t think she had it in her. She always seemed like a timid powerless woman. I had a hard time imagining her doing so much as speaking sharply to one of her maids, let alone putting together some manner of black bag squad to drug and kidnap me. I suppose I should give me some credit for that. Not much, but some.
Of course if the trio holding my fate in their hands was truly cruel they would have just slapped me with the collar and then tossed me out on the street to make my way north on my own as best that I could – that would have been something. It’s what I would have done were I am. Well no, if I was them I would have killed me on account of I am far too dangerous to be left alive, but if I was going for this whole exile thing that’s how I would have done it. But even in their spiteful vindictiveness they were rather civilized about it.
They booked me passage on a ship heading north. And I mean way north. The Umberlee River is the big swinging dick of rivers as far as most of the Kingdom is concerned. If you follow The Umberlee north you come to the Scale River, which is still a pretty big deal as far as rivers go. But if you follow that north you come to the so-called River of the Sun (if it can so be called) which is THE river. Any river that’s any river has . . . you know whatever. That metaphor got away from me there. Our primitive stupid ancestors called it the River of the Sun because they thought one of their stupid primitive river gods piloted the sun up and down it each day on canoe while fighting off hippos and river walruses and Bokrug The Great Water Lizard with a long stick or something. Our ancestors were so stupid. The sun doesn’t travel north and south, how did that ever make sense to their puny primeval brains?
Anyway, I guess it was called the River of the Sun for so long no one bothered to change it even though it’s a pretty bad name. Point is the River of the Sun empties into the Sea of Shatai and right across that august body of water is “the North” which is another stupid name. People can’t even be bothered to call it the Northlands or something slightly less silly, they have to say “the North”. It’s childish is what it is. So this riverboat is taking me all the way across the continent to Etherasawn where I can catch a ride to my new exile home. Although last I heard Etherasawn was in the hands of the dirty Vielanders so I guess we’ll see how that goes.
Unless of course I can figure out a way to get this collar off and escape before we get there. Which I probably will. I’m pretty slippery you know.
Since the Compass river is now in the hands of the enemy I will be transported to Three Rivers overland by a contingent of the Duke’s guards to embark on this grand journey. Which I think we can all agree is a pretty good use of manpower during a time of war. Given my history with the Lodge Woods and with Three Rivers itself I wonder if I’m even going to make it to the boat (ship?). Imagine that you’re a guard whose job it is to get someone on a ship (boat?) taking them into exile– how hard are you going to fight to make that happen if you’re attacked by Kostelos savages that want to kill your ward? Or if the legal authority of a city wants to execute them? Do you really care that much about making sure an exile is exiled or are you glad to just get them off your hands?
Not to mention that by the time we get there Three Rivers may also be in enemy hands. I would imagine the Ulpine fleet is on their way there right now. I’m not militarian by any means , but my understanding is that the main defenses of the county were Castle Leastwhal, the Three Keeps, and Fort Obrinth – since the Ulpine fleet is already here that means they’ve been crushed. What defenses are there to keep them out of Three Rivers? A bunch of lumberjacks on floating logs with really big axes?
It’s going to be an interesting journey.