Montalan 29 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

One year ago today I woke up in a dirty alley (as opposed to a clean alley) in Graltontown.  It took me a long time to wake up fully.  For a good while my body was limp like a shirt on a clothes line.  My mind was foggy worse than any hangover in the recorded history of the universe.  At first I had no clue where I was or what was going on.  It certainly didn’t cross my mind initially that I wasn’t in Paladore anymore, let alone that I was in an armpit like Graltontown.  But I started to catch on to what had happened.  For obvious reasons the Duke’s wife and I weren’t the best of friends, but as long as we ignored one another everything was fine.  Out of sight out of mind right?  Their marriage wasn’t a love match by any stretch so why not allow the Duke his whims?  Within reason of course.  But something had happened that pushed that boundary too far.  In retrospect he Duke had been more shameless than usual in parading around with me on his arm in the months preceding my exile.  Maybe he was trying to upset her, maybe he was just getting careless, maybe it was one of any number of other reasons.  Regardless of why, he went too far and his ladywife complained enough that he felt he had to get rid of me.

He could have sent me off to one his other holdings.  He could have given me to one of his cronies.  He could have just said “hit the road kid”.  He could have killed me.  He could have cast me out into the streets of Paladore.  He could have set me up with a nice retirement.  He could have done many things.  But what he did do was drug me and toss me away like garbage.  Was this supposed to be a mercy?  He couldn’t bring himself to kill me?  Or was it a cruel joke?  One final laugh at the expense of good old Ela?  Either way he had to have assumed that I would die shortly after being abandoned.  Or at worse that I would end up a corner girl and be dead within a few years either from too much pipeweed, suicide, or some other nasty end.  So if it was kindness that stayed his hand it was a curious kind of kindness indeed – but I know better than anyone that the righteous Duke isn’t much of one for kindness. 

I can admit now that along with the anger I felt, and there was a lot of anger, I also initially felt despair.  My immediate thought, that the Duke was going to pay and pay dearly, no matter what by any means needed, was bravado.  At first.  It was the crying of a child who has been denied what they were promised – sound and fury only.  But it didn’t take long for it to become very real.  Without a doubt it’s the most genuine and true feeling that I have ever had.  At that moment I could have turned away very easily.  In fact most of who I am was screaming for me to do that – turn away, look away, don’t seek out what is likely to be your own destruction.  Run, run far away and never look back.  There’s a large part of me that begged me to do that.  And I could have done it, I could have listened to that voice.  And everything would have been fine.  I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I had to follow this path, that I had no choice.  I take responsibility for myself and what I am doing.  I know who I am and what I am doing. 

There’s no such thing as redemption, no such thing as second chances.  I’ve already been where we go when we die.  We’re shadows dressed in costumes of skin and bone.  Nothing you can see is going to last for long.  I don’t believe in destiny or fate or karma or whatever you want to call it – our lives are not written in the stars, we’re not stones thrown at our birth traveling to a destination with no altering the flight.  But despite all that, when I woke up in that alley, my path became horrifying clear.  And nothing, nothing, will stop me until I face him.  Nothing.  I will drown this world in blood if I have to.  I will tear down civilization itself if I have to.  I’ve said this before, when I say that I will do anything to have my revenge I mean anything.  Nothing that I can ever do to the Duke will be bad enough to satisfy me.  But I’m going to give it my best shot.  I mean someday I will when I stop being distracted by whatever I’m doing now.

Turns out that Aubesh doesn’t know any of Generous’ other girls, for some reason she’s not tight with his crew, so there wasn’t much to do today other than wait for the appointed time they would check in a Gentlemen Jack’s.  It gave me time to reflect on the last year and all the awful things that I saw and did.  I got really good at mundane disguises.  And guys, I mean really good.  It took time but the end result was flawless.  I could disguise myself as a specific person, as a different gender, as someone much older – you name it, I could do it and look perfect.  Then I learned how to do it instantaneously with magic and that skill became completely useless and all that time I spent learning it was a massive waste.  Which is magic in a nutshell.  I learned how to shoot a crossbow pretty well, and then shot a bunch of people, most of whom died.  But they were all bad so it’s fine.  I spoke to several worgs and only one of them tried to eat me.  That’s pretty good.  I rode a pegasus which was fucking amazing.  I started cursing.  I got sick and very nearly died.  Twice.  I made my first friend.  I made probably a million enemies, conservatively estimating.  I got lost many times.  Turned into a cat.  Was cursed several times.  Got super rich.  Some kind of old lady vampire put me in a cage and I was almost killed by her demon dog.  Thinking back on it it was really quite a year.  I wouldn’t recommend drugging yourself and having someone toss you in the street somewhere far away with nothing but the clothes on your back but it’s certainly a way to shake things up in your life.

Once I got bored of intimate self-reflection I went over to Martialla’s room to kill time, maybe play some cards or just chat but she was banging some guy (where does she find the time to meet anyone?) so I went to a stable and rented a horse for an afternoon ride.  Petro was a fine looking steed but he was a too ornery and finicky for my taste.  If there’s one thing I don’t care for it’s a horse that has its own ideas.  Still it was nice to go for a ride, seems like ages since I’ve been able to do that.  Once I got back Martialla was done with her dalliance and we had a long luxurious dinner since we had to nowhere to be until late.  Once it was appropriately late we staked out Gentlemen Jack’s and waiting for Generous’ ladies to show up.  The first one we tried to grab actually wasn’t a prostitute at all.  Boy was there egg on our faces.  In our defense though you should have seen the way she was dressed.  There were no mistakes the second time though, Martialla used her magic to put our target to sleep and then I assumed her appearance to go in and pass along her hard earned coin to Generous – and to pass on the information that one of “my” tricks was a Black Sheep who was bragging about taking out Dulphistos’s apprentices.  This almost turned ugly because Generous had forbade his crew from fraternizing with the Black Sheep, but I figured out that was just for appearances, the G man making it known that he’s a bad scary man but also being glad for the intel.

We let the next couple pass by unmolested and then repeated the process with the fifth girl to come by (sixth if you count the one we accosted by mistake).  Generous was nice enough to ask if “I” had heard anything about the Black Sheep and Dulphistos’s apprentices so I let him draw it out of me and feel like he was a genius.  After that we carted our two new friends to Adelis’ for safekeeping and then made our way back to the Song and Dance.  I can see now why serial killers are always targeting prostitutes – it’s so easy.  I mean that and the whole sociopathic sadistic sexual thing.  After a hard night of kidnapping and lying Martialla and I took to the veranda with some dwarfen fire ale to enjoy the moonlight.  Not normally my kind of drink but I’ve found that oddly the beverage intended to get you all riled up has a calming effect on me and acts as a sleep aid.  Maybe it works differently on different species. 

I offered my glass up to Martialla “Here’s to a job well done.”

She touched her glass to mine “I’ll drink to that I guess.”

“Clearly this isn’t what I expected to be doing with my life, how about you my old friend?  What did you think you’d be doing?”

“You’re asking about my life?  Are you confused?  Did you forget that I’m not you?  I can’t see any other reason that you’d be interested.”

“Hilarious.”

I could see her grin in the gloom “No, I didn’t expect to be snatching whores off the street at all, not even for a good cause.  Well not a good cause maybe, but a neutral one at least.  I figured I’d just eke out a life moving from town to town like everyone else.  When my niece was killed the entire trajectory of my life changed radically.”

“Were you two close?”

“No, which sounds strange maybe.  That I’d set off on a two year quest for revenge on account of a relative that I didn’t know well, but my sister deserved better.  We were close once and her daughter dying broke her.  Seeing that nearly broke me.  In a sick way it’s made my life much better, following you and taking up your scraps has earned me more money than I ever could imagine.  And my power with my magic has grown to be more than I ever thought it could.  Who would have guessed that the key to becoming a mighty sorcereress was killing?”

“I would have.  You know, I do owe you quite a bit of money, all joking aside.  Not that you shouldn’t have your vengeance as well, but she could be brought back.  Before I wouldn’t have believed it, but now . . . now I know that it can happen.”

Martialla was quiet for a while “The thought has crossed my mind.  You hold onto the money for now.  Once the whoreson who killed her is well and truly fucked then we’ll talk.”

“Now that sounds like a plan.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 28,040 platinum, 53,601 gold

XP: 795,911

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Amulet of Dreams, Ela’s Traveling Outfit, Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Ring of Urban Grace, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet

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 (700), 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, tiara, masterwork red and black long greatcoat, Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three) 

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  

Montalan 28 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Last night on the way back to the Song and Dance last night I bought a nice bottle of Kurniwan ’68.  I wasn’t in the mood to sleep so I stayed up most of the night and had a good chat with the wine.  Aubesh’s speech about my murderous ways bothered me a bit, not because she’s right by any means – she’s a babe in the woods she doesn’t know anything –  but because I have wondered myself from time to time if I can “go back”.  For the last year I’ve been in survival mode, and surviving means that you can to do things that would be frowned upon in polite society and that’s fine.  But how far can you go down that path before there’s no turning around?  We’ve all seen the guys that come back from the front lines and they just can’t do it anymore.  Normal life is beyond them.  Something and simple as going to the market to by bread has become foreign to them.  They’ve become something else.  I don’t want to reach the point where I can’t live a life the way I want.  What’s the point of revenge if you can’t enjoy it afterwards?  Don’t get me wrong, if the only way to get the Duke is to become the type of monster from which there’s no turning back that’s what I’ll become.  Revenge is job one obviously.  But if there’s a way to get what I want and not become a post-human lunatic clearly that’s the best case scenario.  It’s important to have priorities lest you lose your way.

I met up with Martialla and Aubesh for breakfast at one of the many eateries catering to the late night/early morning gambling crowd across the bridge, surviving off the largess of those who’ve hit it big and the “Well I’ve lost most of my money anyway” cynical spendthriftism of the everyone who didn’t.  We had barely sat down at our table by the dirty window before Aubesh was hissing at me urgently. 

“Did you do it?  Did you kill him?”

I glanced around “Say it a little louder will you?”

Martialla looked around as well “I think they’ve heard worse here.”

Aubesh lowered her voice maybe one half of a percent, good thing she already talks quietly “Just tell me what happened.”

“I didn’t kill him.” Martialla raised a surprised eyebrow as Aubesh’s face turned white “I told him that I killed you.”

Aubesh’s fright turned to confusion “What?  Why?”

Martialla seemed slightly confused as well “You seemed pretty intent on ending his life yesterday.”

I sighed “Oh, you know, when I got there and I looked at him I don’t know what happened.  I just wasn’t in the mood anymore.  I can’t explain it, killing a pimp is pretty much a public service.  Anyway, since I wasn’t going to kill him I figured that telling him you were dead accomplishes the same thing. 

Aubesh thought for a moment “Did he believe it?”

I nodded “Yeah, he believed it, I’m very convincing you know.  Obviously if you hang around town that’s lie is going to unravel itself pretty quickly.  You’ve got the five platinum in your pocket that I gave you plus whatever you managed to squirrel away on your own.  If you can’t make your way out of Preen with that and set yourself up somewhere else there’s nothing else I can do for you.”

“Where should I go?  What should I do?”

“Whatever you want.  You’re free.  Aside from not being able to stay in Preen, which is like freedom only better if you ask me.  Start a new life, or go back to your old one, whichever suits you.”

A dark look came over her face “My old life is what got me here in the first place.”

“You know what I mean.  Just go.  Make something of yourself, if you want to.  Whatever calamity got you here, it’s time for you to leave all of it behind. Just get out of town. Don’t look back. Go somewhere far away and start a new life.  I really think that would be good for you.  A clean slate.  You could get a job as a singer if you wanted to.  You could meet someone, start a family. Your life is just starting Aubesh. If I could, I’d trade places.  A whole lifetime ahead of you with a chance to start over again, to do things differently.  In a few years, this might all feel like nothing more than a bad dream.  The choice is yours.”

Aubesh was pretty shaky so we stashed her with Adelis, which also gave us a chance to update Adelis on the situation.  We didn’t update her on everything of course, but we confirmed that her suspicions were correct about our loverboy mage.  After getting Aubesh situated Martialla and I returned to the Song and Dance to attack a bottle of Niswani wine and plot.

“Alright so here’s what I’m thinking.  What we need to do is to get Dalphios . . .”

“Dulphistos.”

“. . . whatever, you know who I meant.  We need to get that guy and his oh so deadly team of mercs out of this house and then we go in and rescue Bethlalia . . .

“Cathédala.”

“. . . whatever, you know who I mean quit busting my chops!  The point is that we need to arrange it so that we can we get in his house and get her out while he and his murder squad aren’t there.  Piece of cake.”

“But you’re the one who said that rescuing her wouldn’t matter because Dulphistos would just find her and kidnap her again.”

“I know what I said, but Preen is awful, it’s time for Adelis to move on anyway.”

“Nice of you to decide that for her, you’re always so considerate.  That sounds like a great idea, but how are we going to get a famously reclusive wizard with no outside connections to leave his house?”

“We pin the deaths of his assistants . . .

“Apprentices.”

“. . . of those three guys, on someone else.  He’ll come out with his Bravos to kill the people we frame and that’s when we make our move to rescue Cathledendzia.  We’ll go to his house in disguise and say that we were at the casino and that we saw Dross and the others get into an altercation with whoever we decide to frame.  We’ll play up how they, the one’s we’re framing, were talking about taking them out.  The smart mage can draw his own conclusions and then we’ve got ourselves a runner.”

“Why would whoever we’re pretending to be do that?”

“Because we want to curry favor with the great and powerful wizard.”

“I think that’s a terrible plan.  I think if he’s any kind of wizard he’ll see through our disguises and even if he doesn’t if any of his men go to the casino to confirm our lies it’s not going to check out.”

“Do you have a better idea?”

“Yes, I think it’s safe to assume that the Lumber people came to some kind agreement with Dulphistos when they took over the town, even if it’s just to stay out of each other’s way.  We use them as the go-between.  We go to them and tell them that three broads lured Dulphistos’s assistants into an ambush.  Said broads were working for whichever gang is causing the Lumber Consotrium the most trouble because they’re making a power play and they want to make sure Dulphistos doesn’t come into the fray on the side of whichever gang they’re trying to knock off the top of the ladder.  The Lumber people will help sell it because even if they don’t believe it or don’t care they want the gang that’s causing them problems taken out and if someone else does it for them so much the better, plus if anyone checks at the casino they will say that Tarver was there being wooed by three ladies that had no business wooing him.  Because he was.”

“Hmm, that is a better plan.”

“Assuming that Dulphistos and the lumber people have at least a non-aggression pact, we also need to figure out which gang to pin it on.  But with that information I feel like it’s a pretty good plan.”    

“I guess we better get to work then.”

Martialla raised her glass “I guess we better.”

Switching disguises often Martialla and I made the rounds of all the dives and gin-joints and other establishments of ill-repute to get a rough draft of the underworld hierarchy of Preen post-Razmiran.  The local Lumber Consortium bigwig is a Halfling by the name of Premum Anypoint who by all accounts is not happy about that fact and is looking to settle things as soon as possible so he can move on from Preen – which shows quite a bit of common sense in and of itself.  When Razmiran fled the city the bulk of his lackeys and minions quickly switched their allegiance to someone else or got out of town themselves.  But some of them banded together to try and hold his little empire together, and the leader that emerged of this band was none other than the anvil-faced guard who tried to cave in my chest during the robbery, whose name is seems is Velké Dářkos.  This group had tried to dub themselves the Assassins or something manly and stupid like that but was saddled instead with being called the Black Sheep by popular acclaim.  They failed to retain control over most of Razmiran’s assets but endure as a persistent thorn in the side of new powers that be.  And even better, one of the only groups allied with the Black Sheep is the Gallows Girls, desperation, bedfellows, etc.  As I had assumed most of the other gangs used the chaos as an excuse to strike against them and they’re barely hanging on by the skin of their tits.  Putting this all together had taken the rest of the day so Martialla and I returned to the Song and Dance for a nightcap.

“The only thing that would make this plan better is if we had someone else that could finger the Black Sheep-Gallows Girls for us.”

“I was thinking the same thing, but we don’t have those connections.  Unless you think there’s a way we can use Generous.”

“That would give me a good excuse for not killing him.  I’m not sure how to pull it off though, unless we can get some of his other girls to filter the information up to him.”

“That could get messy, I never like relying on someone else to tell lies for me – other than you of course.”

“Of course.  Maybe we don’t need to rely on them.  Aubesh has to know some of the other girls, even though she was never really in the ‘trenches’ with them – so to speak.  Maybe we have her tell us who else is on Generous’ payroll and then we snatch them and replace them to pass along the information ourselves – as them.”

“Now we’re kidnapping prostitutes?  I thought we were saving them.”

“Eh, case by case.  Besides, I’m sure they’ll be better off getting out of town with Adelis than they are with Generous.”

“There you go again, you have a real knack for deciding what’s best for people without their input.”

“Yes, it’s one of my many fine qualities.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 28,040 platinum, 53,613 gold

XP: 795,911

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Amulet of Dreams, Ela’s Traveling Outfit, Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Ring of Urban Grace, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet

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 (700), 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, tiara, masterwork red and black long greatcoat, Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three) 

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  

Montalan 27 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 4

I’ll hand it to Dross, Tarver, and their unknown blonde pal in this sense.  They were clearly expecting an easy outing to kidnap some dizzy dames to take back to their sex dungeon.  But upon encountering resistance – namely me shooting Dross in the ribs – they didn’t fold up their tent and bail, they raised up on their hind legs to fight.  I’m not sure if that kind of courage is to be admired but it’s not what I expect from spellcasters so it’s something.  Although, they are just apprentices, maybe they don’t teach you the appropriate level of wizardly cowardice until to graduate to being a full . . . whatever, non-apprentice?  While the apprentices three were still shocked by our resistance to their opening salvo Martialla cast a spell of her own but I saw no visual indication of it doing anything. Dross was the first to recover and he reacted by pulling out a canvas bag and setting it on the ground, which seemed very strange until I saw two shambling corpses climbing out of it.

Activating my Amulet for metal skin I charged forward with my Crossbow Blade, bypassing the dead things as they staggered out of their bag and stabbing down into the collarbone of a startled Dross as he was still halfway crouching from setting the bag down.  This seemed to be an even more startling turn of events for Tarver who turned invisible with a yelp of surprise.  Martialla cast another spell of her own which again didn’t seem to do anything but it must have interfered with Blondie’s spell because he did some frantic hand waving and eldritch word yelling and then looked confused and afraid when nothing happened.  The two dead bodies walking started muscling in on me and in the melee I grabbed for Dross’s beard to steady myself and it came off in my hands!  That fucking forked monstrosity was a false beard!  What sort of lunatic wears a false beard?!  Especially one like that?!  I suppose in the wizard community it’s possible there’s a lot of peer pressure and beard shaming.

Dross rolled/fell/staggered backwards clutching at his wounds as his two zombies grappled with me but he had enough fortitude to call upon his magic and conjure up a wide pit beneath my feet.  If his dead minions didn’t have a hold of me I probably could have jumped out of the way but as it was all three of us tumbled a good twenty feet down – although my metal skin mostly absorbed the impact on me (don’t ask me how) it didn’t do any favors to the zombie that I landed on, which exploded like a ripe melon.  A ripe melon full of rotting meat.  I grabbed the other zombie by the hair/scalp/skull and bashed it to redeath against the wall of the shaft and then made to scamper up the wall before remembering that I left my Slippers with Vetovia.  Grumbling, I took out my Badge and transformed it into a rope and grapping hook.  I hurled the hook up and over the edge of the pit lip hoping to catch something and was surprised when I heard someone cry out and then a muffled thud as I put my enhanced weight on the rope.  Pulling harder I saw Blondie come failing into my line of sight and then falling over the side with the hook around his leg.  He clutched desperately at the edge but with my metallic transformation I have to weigh more than three hundred pounds and his arms quickly gave out – sending him plummeting basically on top of me. 

You know what wizards aren’t good at?  Fist fights with a metal woman at the bottom of a pit.  Terrified, Blondie was trying to weave his magic but it turns out that’s pretty hard when someone is on top of you slamming a metal fist into your mouth.  I stopped punching when he stopped moving.  Listening carefully I didn’t hear the sounds of anything much going on up above.  After a moment I saw Martialla’s head poke over the edge.

“Are you done fooling around down there?  I’ve won the battle up here so it’s safe to come up now.”

“Help me with this hook.”

“If I had a gold coin for every time I heard that.”

“What?”

“It’s a joke.”

“Are you sure?”

Martialla affixed the grappling hook to something but even so I had a pretty difficult time trying to get up.  I mean have you ever tried to climb a free standing rope against a wall?  It’s fucking hard.  You try climbing out of a twenty five foot pit and then come talk to me.  In the end I had to swallow my pride and ask Martialla to get me out.

“How am I supposed to do that?”

“Can’t you magic me out?”

“You’re too heavy for that.”

“Excuse me?!”

“Have you ever seen me ‘magic’ anything bigger than an apple?”

“Fine, wake up Aubesh and then you guys can haul me out of here with the rope.”

“Ugh, that sounds like a pain.  How about this, I can climb down there and . . .”

At that moment the pit disappeared and suddenly I, along with the two zombie bodies and Blondie, were standing on the street with Martialla.  The magic must have worn off.  It was so abrupt that I almost lost my balance and fell over for no real reason.  About that same time Aubesh was coming around from her slumber.

“ . . . or not.”

Aubesh groggily looked around “What happened?”

“Things took a bit of a turn.  The good news is that you get to learn how to dispose of a body.”

Martialla was knelt down to examine Blondie “Good Gods Ela, did you have to cave his whole face in?  What did you hit him with, an anvil?”

Aubesh looked over and then whipped her head back the other way to start vomiting noisily.  That’s probably just the after effects of the magic though.  Turns out there is one good thing about Preen, it’s really easy to take care of bodies on account of all the channels and waterways.  We hucked them into the mud and they started to disappear instantly.  Not to mention some kind of slimy eel-snake-fish things came swim-crawling out of the muck to start nibbling on them before they were even submerged.

“Remind me not to fall in these canals.”

Aubesh was pretty shaken “What do we do now?”

“Let’s go back inside, a triple shot of rum with some lime juice should calm your nerves.”

“You just killed three people!”

“Yeah, so?”

We went back into the Red Hearts and found our way to a table where a few of the Red Heart Specials – raspberry and cherry rum punch – failed to do much for the shell shocked Aubesh but they were doing me a world of good.  When I was on my sixth one Martialla had to be her usual wet blanket self.

“Gods almighty Ela, slow down, are you trying to get completely wasted?”

“I think I sprained my ankle when I fell in that damn hole.”

“Maybe you should pour the rum directly on your foot then.”

“Maybe I will.”

Aubesh was shaking her head slowly “It doesn’t seem real.  We were just here talking to that man . . . and now he’s gone?  He’s just gone  . . . ?  I don’t . . . it doesn’t . . . . how can you do that?”

I shrugged “It was self-defense.  They attacked us.  What do you think would have happened to you if we didn’t do anything?  Do you think you would have woken up anyplace nice?”

She looked at me intensely, her eyes shining “How can you say it was self-defense when you were talking about kidnapping and killing him?”

“The only reason we were going to do that is because his master is holding a woman against her will.  You think they were blameless in that?  They’re surely helping him and if not at the least they knew about it and did nothing.”

“So what are you saying?  That they deserved to die?”

“I’m saying grow up.”

Aubesh looked utterly disgusted “How can you say that?  How can you live with yourself?”

“I just take it one day at a time.  The matter before us now is what should our next move be.  The problem is we don’t know if Tarver contacted Dulphistos, otherwise maybe we could pretend that they were still alive and that we wanted to work out some kind of trade.”

Martialla pursed her lips “Maybe we could pass ourselves off as a third party of some kind that knows what happened to them.  What was that lady group you dealt with here last time?”

“The Gallows Girls.”

“Right, maybe we pass ourselves off as them and say we know what happened to Tarver and Dross and work it from that angle.”

“Maybe, but we’ll have to make sure they’re even still around – I don’t like the chances of an all-female gang surviving the kind of underworld war that apparently happened when Razmiran skipped town.”

Aubesh’s voice was flat and dull “What about Generous?”

“What about him?  You think we can involve him in this?”

She shook her head sharply “No, I’m supposed to go see him soon, what are you going to do about him?”

I finished the last of my drink and called for another “We’ll worry about that later.  Tonight didn’t go exactly as planned.”

She shook her head more slowly “I can’t not show up, you said that you’d deal with him, that’s the only reason I came.”

“Well you’ll just have to meet with him tonight, later we can . . .”

She clutched at the table like she was afraid of falling “No!  No, I can’t see him!  I can’t face him now.  He’ll know.”

I frowned “Know what?”

She took a big swallow from her drink “I can’t . . . I can’t . . . . I can’t.”

Martialla reached across the table to take her trembling hand and looked me in the eye“You did say that she wouldn’t have to see him again.”

“Fine, so don’t go, stay with us tonight.  He won’t . . .”

Her voice had turned wretched “No, he’ll be looking for me.  If I don’t show up . . . . you don’t know what he does to people.”

“Look, there’s no way that . . .”

“You promised me.  You have to kill him tonight.”

“Oh sure, ten seconds ago you were whining about it and now you want me to kill someone?  Those are some flexible morals you have there girly.”

Martialla frowned “Come on Ela, lay off her.”

Aubesh looked me in the eye fiercely “What does it matter after what you’ve already done?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

She looked slightly afraid of her own words “You’re a killer.  What do you have to lose by killing?”

I snorted and picked up my new drink as it arrived “That’s not what I am, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Martialla took Aubesh to a room at a nearby inn across the bridge and somehow I found myself taking on Aubesh’s appearance and walking into Gentlemen Jack’s.  There was an open kitchen in which a little older fellow was bustling around, and in the front sitting at a table was the man himself.  Generous as I now know he’s called was wearing the same lubricious get-up although it appeared to be newly made – which means that he got that same horrible outfit tailored again in finer detail.  He was paler than I remembered but somehow looked healthier in a way I can’t quite define.  Leaning on the chair next to him was a swagger stick with a serpent’s head on the end, I’m not sure why but I knew that it must be magical.  The two promised goons lounged by the door, forcing you to walk between them to hand over your money to Generous – they too looked like a cut above the gutter scum that he had at his beck and call previously.  Sitting at the next table over with several small sacks of coins was a short wavy-haired man with spectacles and a ledger on the table in front of him.  When I walked in a giant shark-grin split Generous’s face and he held his arms out wide.

“Lily, my favorite, I was starting to wonder if you weren’t going to show up” he gestured with his stick at one of the goons “Beetle here said that he thought you had run off.  You wouldn’t do that do me would you Lily?”

I sat across from him demurely “Of course not, what would I do without you?  You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”

His grin turned even more predatory “You wouldn’t last long without my protection and that’s a fact.  Now what do you have for me tonight sweetheart?”

I reached into my pockets and started dumping out handfuls of gold coins into the table, dozens upon dozens of them clattering onto the table, some of them spinning and others rolling onto the floor.  Generous’s smile disappeared, replaced by a combination of unbridled greed and a fair amount of trepidation.

He rubbed his stick nervously “Where did you get all this?”

“It wasn’t easy, well it was in a way but it wasn’t you know?  What I did is I decided that I would have a sale – I told everyone that today only my price was just a silver.  I had ‘em lined up around the block to have a go at me.  I must have fucked more than a thousand men today.  It was a heck of a promotion if I do say so myself.”

He slid his chair away from the table “Who are you?”

I laughed and returned to my normal speaking voice “Isn’t this what you want?  It looks like you’ve really moved up in the world since the last time I saw you, no more hustling at bridges for you eh?  Generous they call you?  That’s cute.”

He regained a bit of his composure “Things always work out for me, I know which horse to back.  Why are you here?”

I sighed and looked around the room “Oh, when I came to town I thought about looking you up, I have to admit I’m a bit sore about our last meeting.  I decided against it, no reason to go looking for trouble right?” I gestured broadly “But here I am.  I guess I just can’t help myself.”

“You’ll have plenty of trouble if you mess with me.  What happened to Lily?”

“I decided to help you out.  I could tell that she was a thorn in your side.”

“She would have come around eventually.  They always do.”

“Maybe, but an important man such as yourself?  You don’t have time for that kind of headache.  So I took care of her for you.” I gestured at the money I had spilled out “Consider this repayment for the loss of her services.”

“You presume quite a lot.” He gazed at me for a moment “You’re different.  I remember you.  But you’ve changed.”

“Oh well, you know what they say, change is a part of life.  It’s the one constant in the human experience.  Or something.” I stood up and nipped the edge of one of the fallen coins with the tip of my boot – flipping it into the air and catching it to place it on the table “I’m going to be in town for a couple of days.  It would be best if we didn’t bump into each other wouldn’t you agree?”

His words were emphatic but hollow “This is my town, I go where I want.”

“Of course you do dear, of course you do.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 28,040 platinum, 53,663 gold

XP: 805,311

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Amulet of Dreams, Ela’s Traveling Outfit, Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Ring of Urban Grace, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet

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 (700), 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, tiara, masterwork red and black long greatcoat, Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three) 

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  

Out of character interlude 3 – The worst one yet!

Is the third movie of a trilogy always the worst? Yes.

I created a magic item page for my own benefit but the response has been so overwhelming that I’m thinking about occasionally posting some game material. You know, for the people that are still playing an outdated game rule-set that already has a metric ton of digital content. Digital content doesn’t weight anything? I know, that’s how much pathfinder 1st edition content there is!

There’s a dude in my gaming group that often advocates for 5th edition D&D and to a lesser extent 2nd edition pathfinder. I assume if and when covid is “over” and we start playing again I’ll have to bow to progress and play one of them. But I hear that the Midwest is horrible at preventing the virus spread so that could be a while.

I’m not entirely sure were my reluctance comes from because I buy tons of games all the time. I guess I just don’t like new editions of things. I’d still be playing 3rd ed if my friends hadn’t strong armed me, and I’d still be playing 2nd ed if they hadn’t dragged me to third. And second edition was terrible.

Anyway, the “sea elfs” as Ela calls them were not exiled because of any political machinations as they said but rather because of their corrupted bloodline.

Yeah that’s right, even better this “new” material is a race. Because pathfinder doesn’t have enough of those.

Exile Aquatic Elf

Racial Traits

Ability Score Modifiers: +2 Constitution, +2 Wisdom, and –2 Charisma.

Size: Exile aquatic elves are Medium creatures and receive no bonuses or penalties due to their size.

Type: Exile aquatic elves are Humanoids with the elf, deep one, and aquatic subtypes. Creatures with the aquatic subtype can move in water without making Swim checks. Aquatic creatures always treat Swim as a class skill.

Base Speed: Exile aquatic elves have a base speed of 30 feet and a swim speed of 30 feet.

Deep Sea Dweller: Exile aquatic elves can survive safely at any ocean depth and have cold resistance 5.

Deepsight:  Exile aquatic elves have darkvision with a range of 90 feet and while underwater ignore concealment from silt, muck, and murky water.

Slow Aging: It takes exile aquatic elves twice as long to reach middle age, and three times as long to reach both old age and venerable

Other Racial Traits

Amphibious: Exile aquatic elves can breathe both water and air.

Weakness Racial Traits

Water Dependent: An exile sea elf’s body requires constant submersion in fresh or salt water. Exile sea elves who spend more than one day without fully submerging themselves in water risk internal organ failure, painful cracking of the skin, and death within 4d6 hours.

-2 to Dexterity score while out of water

-2 on Perception checks while out of water

Montalan 27 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 3

I loaned Aubesh my Ring of Disguise and showed her how to use it.  She was astonished that all she had to do was think about how she wanted to change her appearance and then it would happen.  I suppose it is pretty fantastic.  It’s somewhat depressing how blasé you get about wondrous feats of magic.  On the other hand magic sucks so who cares?  Since there was some time to kill before things got really hopping at the Red Heart I left Aubesh in the room with Martialla to practice with the Ring and headed to what Aubesh said was the market district.  As a frontier town of sorts Preen has more of an active trade area than you’d expect but it’s still a large town in the middle of nowhereland – you’re not going to find anyone who can fork over thousands of gold like it’s no big deal.  Still I managed to unload all the goods we liberated from the crooked tax collector one transaction at a time.  I was giving some great deals because had I stopped to haggle with these people I would have been there for weeks.  It galled me to come out on the short end like that, not because I cared about the money SO much but because I don’t like people thinking they got over on me – unless that’s what I what them to think.  You know the deal.

Once I had cut all the mundane deals that I could stand I went in search of Vetovia, a purveyor of arcane merchandise, or so Aubesh had told me.  Her building was right on the edge of the district, and I mean that literally, it looked like there was some foundation damage and it was about to slide into the muddy river.  Aside from the fact that it looked like it was about to collapse and kill everyone inside it was a nice looking place.   Which is a pleasant change – usually these magic merchants have weird little dungeon-holes filled with stuffed lizardmen and skulls with black candles in them and shit.  The front courtyard was bursting with flowerbeds and little wooden arches covered with flowering vines.  The plants were so lively and effervescent that she must be using some magic on them.  On the downside there were also a bunch of little stone statues of griffons and other monsters that looked like crap.  I’ve never sculpted anything in my life and I think I could do about as well. Vetovia herself was a tall drink of water who would have been quite pretty if she didn’t have one of those stupid white stripes in her dark hair.  If that’s fake she’s a fool for putting it in and if it’s real she’s a fool for not covering it up.

I sold her a couple extraneous items, she probably ripped me off on the gauntlets and the staff since I don’t know what they are, but what can you do about that?  I explained to her that I was tired of lighting incense all the time to protect myself from bad dreams and she was able to swap me an Amulet that accomplishes the same thing for my Censor, along with a small large fee of course.  I traded her the Cape as well, because despite its utility it’s ugly as balls, in return for commissioning some new boots.  My Slippers are really handy and they look quite nice but fur slippers aren’t the kind of footwear that you want to be wearing to schlep mile after mile through the countryside.  Not to mention in their impracticality in deadly deadly combat.  You need some supportive footwear if you’re going to be routinely stabbing people completely in self-defense as unfortunately I often seem to be.  With that done I returned to the Song and Dance to collect Martiall and Aubesh to head for the Red Heart.  They had both taken on the appearance of fancy young society ladies out for some a little bit of a mischievous night on the town. Even though they were both in disguise I knew which one was Martialla from her postuyre and the way she carries herself.  She’s pretty good at crafting disguises but I’m pretty at picking up on those kinds of queues.  Plus I could see through the illusion anyway. 

“Don’t get too attached to that Ring, this is just a loan.”

Aubesh held up her disguised hand in amazement “How does someone get a ring like this?”

“Not by singing on street corners.”

Martialla gave me an appraising look “How do you disguise yourself without that ring?”

“You’re the wizard, you tell me.”

She sighed “I’m not even going to bother correcting you anymore.”

When people hear gambling parlor (people who have never been to one I mean) usually they think of two scenarios.  One is a ramshackle bar near the waterfront where drunken losers, smelly gasbags, and scarred unshaven mercenaries play cards across wobbly tables and every few minutes a bar brawl breaks out because someone accuses someone of cheating.  On the other end of the spectrum they think of a gigantic glittering monument to greed and bad decisions with mostly nude dancing girls and illusionary cavorting creatures and a wait-staff made up the finest slaves money can buy.  And those places do exist, especially the first one, but most of gambling halls are modest arrangements where there’s enough booze and pretty ladies to help separate people from their money but not the kind of wild extravagance people might anticipate.  Who can afford that sort of overhead?  As a result most gambling halls are pretty staid – inasmuch as the term applies to a den in inequity.  Red Hearts Gambling Palor was one of middle of the road places, although it was a good deal lager than many I’ve seen, three levels and a large patio for dining and carousing.

One interesting thing they had going on was that one of areas up front was used as showcase for folks that had invented their own games.  Tonight it was one of the serving girls there that had come up with a card and wheel game that she called Ladders although I couldn’t figure out why.  It was somewhat interesting, it was a trick taking game of sorts where the cards in your hand might change from round to round via the wheel.  I assume the house takes most (or all) of the money and but the game is successful they buy it from you.  Or maybe you end up in the river, depending on the level of ruthlessness inherent in the owner. We spread out to start seeing what information we could dig up on Tiller.  Martialla went her own way but I kept Aubesh close to me at first.  After a while it became clear that she knew what she was doing when it came to this sort of work so I let her drift away as well. 

We reconvened in a couple of hours and had a pretty clear picture of Tiller.  As you can imagine this area of town is too lucrative for anyone one criminal enterprise to control outright without a state of constant warfare of pyrrhic levels, so each establishment has their own individual “captain” that oversees the place for whichever band of criminal screwheads they work for.  Tiller is so called because he was once a part of a now defunct smuggling/highway robbery band that used farm terminology as a dumb code.  He now works the Red Heart for the group that has most solidly bent themselves over the barrel for the Lumber Consortium.  He hangs out at the Heart almost every night enjoying free drinks, hassling the female staff and generally making a nuisance of himself and knowing that he’s going to get away with it.

But all of that turned out to be moot anyway because Tarver himself happened to be there that very night and by all accounts is a frequent visitor.  No reason to pay the local criminal assholes for information when you can go straight to the source.  I adopted a disguise of my own and the three of us descended to Tarver – a tall, very thin, balding man with an odd star-shaped plague scar on his cheek and an annoying hoarse voice.  He looked like he had died and gone to the Heavens, and why shouldn’t he with a trio of beauties hanging on his every word and being alluring?  Wizards are reputed to be wise and intellectual and all that but in my experience they’re often very stupid at the same time.  I don’t want to say that it’s a book smarts against street smarts thing because that’s just something morons say to comfort themselves but it has to be something like that.  I could have worked him fine by myself, but it would have taken all night at the very least – probably a couple days.  With Martialla and Aubesh helping me out it was criminally easy, he was as helpless as an overturned turtle. 

We established that Cathédala is indeed being held against her will by Dulphistos.  He decided they were in love so why should he have to pay for her services any longer?  I got the impression that while it wouldn’t be absolutely impossible to cut a deal for the girl’s return it was impossible enough.  Later in the night once he had enough booze in him and had been lavished with our attention Tarver started giving up the really interesting stuff.  Namely that Dulphistos is the secret mastermind behind a group of outlaws operating in the area, some of which he keeps at his house as protection.  But as Tarver was glad to brag about they weren’t the big man’s only protectors.  Although is it bragging when it has nothing to do with you?  The bandits were more like glorified servants while his real protection came from a group of mercenaries known as Manzar’s Bravos.  Tarver went on at length about how deadly and awesome they were, not sure if he thought that would impress us or if even learned wizards aren’t immune to boyish infatuation with hired murderers.  When he staggered off in search of more drinks we conferred.

Martialla leaned forward, even loud as it was, concerned about eavesdroppers “What do you think?”

Following her lead Aubesh leaned forward as well “We could lure him to some place nearby and then tie him up.  Maybe Dulphistos would trade the girl for his apprentice.”

“I doubt it, who would trade the love of their life for that raspy jerk?”

Martialla glanced to where he was standing at the bar “So what do you want to do?”

“I say we tell this turd it’s time for a fourgy and have him take us back to his place, which is really his master’s place.  Once we take care of him then we slip over to wherever it is Dulphistos sleeps and take him out too and then get the girl and retire into the night.”

“When did you get so bloodthirsty?”

“Once I figured out that it’s the only plan that actually works.”

Aubesh face was ashen “I want no part of that.”

Martialla shook her head “Did you miss that part about all his guards?  Plus he’s a wizard, how much luck have we had with them?”

“Some.”

“The two of us against a wizard and his entire crew?  That’s madness.  I was joking before but I really a, starting to worry about how reckless you’ve become sometimes.”

“Look, they’re mercenaries, once Dulphistos is dead why are they going to care?  Maybe his apprentices love him so much they’ll want revenge but if this guy here is an example of what you need to worry about with a wizard apprentice I’m not worried.  Like at all.”

Aubesh perked up “Why do you need to kill anyone?  Unless he’s got the girl with him at the time once you have Tarver sneak you in can’t you just get the girl and then get out?”

Martialla  nodded “Now that’s a good idea, Dulphistos doesn’t know who we are so that’s perfect.”

“But he knows who Adelis is and when the wizard wakes up without his love slave where do you think he’s going to look first?  Adelis won’t give us up to him , probably, but that doesn’t make her problems any less serious.  And either way then he just takes Cathédala back and what has been accomplished?”

“Maybe we should talk to Tiller, maybe his people can help with this.”

“Maybe they could.  But it would cost a fortune, and that’s assuming they don’t just fuck us over and take our money.”

“What about the bandit angle?  There’s no law here, not any real law anyway, maybe we could contact the county authorities.”

“That would take weeks, if not months.  But there could be something there.  If the bandits are going after the Lumber Consortium then we have a card to play.  Assuming we could prove it somehow.  Let’s ask our buddy Tarver more about that.  But you know, subtle like.”

Aubesh looked around “I think he left.”

“What?  Why would we do that?”

We’d find out shortly why.  After waiting for a while we asked the bartender in that part of the Heart where Tarver had gone and then followed him out into the night.  Turns out that he wasn’t as dumb as I thought.  Dross was at the casino with Tarver and while he was away from the table he had his buddy use his magic to listen in on our conversation.  When we exited Tarver and Dross – a fellow in a purple robe with one of those stupid forked beards – were waiting for us with a third man, a handsome (for a wizard) blonde who looked unhappy to be there.  Not reading the “room” and still being in charm and disarm mode Aubesh walked forwards with a saucy remark but at a gesture from Dross she dropped to the ground unconscious.  I felt the magic tugging at me as well, as I assume Martialla did, but the days when we could be ensnared by that kind of simple spell are gone.  He seemed surprised when we didn’t go down.  He was even more surprised when I took out my crossbow and shot him.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 28,043 platinum, 53,843 gold

XP: 789,511

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Badge of Last Resort, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Amulet of Dreams, Ela’s Traveling Outfit, Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Ring of Urban Grace, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet

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 (700), 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, tiara, masterwork red and black long greatcoat, Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three) 

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  

Montalan 27 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 2

The Red Hearts Gambling Parlor wasn’t hard to find.  Actually, scratch that, it wasn’t hard to see but it was very hard to find a way to get there.  No matter which street we took or what bridges we went across there didn’t seem to be a way to actually get to that section of the city.  It was frustrating enough that I decided to pay someone for directions, even though I know full well most people offering their services to show you around town, especially a town like Preen, are bilko artists – and not even the good ones.  As I was steeling myself to deal with some dirty street urchin with sticky fingers I saw a young woman singing on a corner.  She was wearing a simple tan dress and her auburn hair was a fright, but her voice was rich and full and her technique was strong.  It was familiar enough that it gave me a flashback of my early days in Graltontown.  Martialla and I stopped and listened for a moment.

“What’s the date?”

“The twenty-eighth I think.” She stopped and counted on her fingers for a moment “No, the twenty-seventh.”

“Two days.”

She frowned “Two days what?”

When the singer finished her song – The Swimming Stars – I applauded politely and held out a platinum coin for her.  Eyes wide she reached for it, then stopped herself with a suspicious look.  Her speaking voice was very quiet and low, quite a contrast to her powerful register. 

“What do I got to do for that?”

“That’s for the song.” I pointed to the maddeningly elusive casino that looked like it was just a block away “Show me how to get there and you’ll have another.” She took the coin and examined it closely, frowning. “It’s real.  Besides if you can’t tell a fake from the real thing what difference does it make?”

She flipped the coin into the pocket of her dress and spoke grimly “Trust me, if there’s one thing I know it’s how to detect debased coinage.  You can only get to the casinos from the north, there’s a single bridge that takes you there.  They like to keep all the casinos and whorehouses and dive bars penned in together so the decent and honest folk aren’t offended by them accidentally.”

“There’s good and honest folk in Preen?”

“So I’m told, I’ll let you know if I meet one.” She motioned for us to follow and started walking to the west “Technically the place is open now but there won’t be much of anyone there at this time of day, it’s not the kind of joint where you find the most desperate and wretched of gambling addicts that would be throwing their money away at this hour.  Before long it will be hopping though.”

“What’s your story?  You’re too good a singer to be begging on street corners.”

“I couldn’t agree more, yet here I am.”

“So what happened?”

She gave me a sidelong look “I don’t know what your game is but regardless I’m not dying to spill the details of my life story to you.”

“Fair enough, if you’re still here tomorrow after I lay two platinum on you I suppose that’s your own fault.”  She didn’t say anything, but I could read in her face that she wouldn’t be keeping that money “So that’s the deal huh?  Not enough to skip town I suppose?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“How much do you normally pull in?  Fifteen silver maybe?  So hand over some silver and stash the rest until . . .”

She scowled “Look lady, I don’t need your help.”

“Of course you do, you’re just afraid, no one has reached their hand out to you that wasn’t hiding their other hand behind their back to crack you across the face if you took it.  I’m not trying to scam you for real.  Right Martialla?”

She shrugged “Remains to be seen.”

“Shut up you.” I turned back to our guide/singer “Clearly something went down that ended you up here, and I know that underneath all that armor you’ve built up to protect yourself there’s a part of you that wants help.  Not just wants but is desperate for it.  Well I’m here to help, take a chance why not?”

She looked incredulous “Who are you?”

“I’m your fairy fucking god-mother.” We reached the bridge and I tossed her the second promised coin “Now, you want to slink back to your corner or do you want to accept my help?”

She turned away “It wouldn’t matter, Generous would never let me go.”

“That’s your pimp?  He calls himself Generous?”

She rounded angrily “I never turned a trick!  I make my money singing!”

“Maybe, but that’s not what he sent you out here for right?  Now let me ask you something, does this Generous person happen to be a skinny asshole with an overly toothy smile wearing a stupid top hat and a dumb purple and green outfit?”

She blinked “How did you know that?”

I grinned and put my arm around her “Oh, every now and then things just work out.”

Making sure to note how to get back to the “vice district” Martialla and I took our new friend back to the Song and Dance to chat.  The name she gave was Aurbesh and she was very impressed by my room, although not so much that I would think she had never seen such luxury before.  I had some wine brought up and we had a few drinks before getting down to business.

“Where can I find Generous and does he have any bodyguards worth worrying about?”

Aurbesh held her glass nervously “Why?”

“Because I’m going to kill him.”

She nearly spilled her wine but managed to recover “Why?!”

“Because last time I was here he ripped me off.”

Martialla helped herself to some complimentary fruit “That’s not exactly what happened.”

“Quiet you, I mean he extorted me at the very least.”

She nodded before biting into a peach “That’s more accurate.”

Aurbesh’s was suspicious but hopeful “How are you going to kill him?”

Martialla nodded again “That’s a fair question since he kicked your ass last time.”

“He never did!  That’s not what happened!  You’re remembering it wrong.”

Martialla raised an eyebrow “O-kay, if you say so.”

Aurbesh looked confused “Do you have a man that’s going to kill him for you?”

“What?  A man?!  No, I don’t need . . .”

Martialla looked at the peach in her hand “That is what you would have done back in the old days, tricked some dope into doing your dirty work for you.  You were a lot more careful then.  I don’t think this is ripe.”

I sighed and took a moment to calm my nerves “Look, all you need to do is tell me where he is and decide if you want to be there when he dies.”

Aurbesh looked horrified “Why would I want to be there?”

Martialla gestured “See, that is the reaction of the normal person.  Back in the old days you realized that unlike you most people don’t want to see another person, even their enemy, slaughtered before their very eyes.  You’ve lost touch with the people Ela.  Your revenge lust has really messed you up in the brainpan.”

I pinched the bridge of my nose to stop a headache “I am starting to remember why I operate alone.”

Martialla smiled sweetly “Because of your crummy attitude?”

“I hate you.”

Aurbesh didn’t know where Generous lays his head or even where he operates from but she did say that at the end of the night he expects his girls to turn up at Gentlemen Jack’s to turn over their hard earned cash.  She claimed that the set-up was always the same, the cook from Jack’s would be cleaning and closing the place up while Generous would be accompanied by two of his goons and another fellow who handles the money for him. 

“Alright, so we have ourselves a nice dinner, then we head over to the Red Heart Casino and make contact with this Tiller person, then we end the night with a visit to Gentlemen Jack’s.  Sound like a plan?”

Aubesh raised her hand like she was in school “You want me to come to the casino with you?”

“Yes, if you want to, you can help us schmooze and gather information.  I’m very generous with those people I employ.”

Martialla snorted “You’ve never paid me anything.”

“You don’t work for me, we’re friends.”

She nodded “Ah, so only people who you aren’t friends with get money.”

“Exactly.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 23,043 platinum, 49,843 gold

XP: 789,511

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Badge of Last Resort, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Censer of Dreams, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Ring of Urban Grace, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Better Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet, unknown gauntlets, mysterious staff, Cape of the Mountebank, Sandals of Sprinting, +1 Agile Rapier  

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 (700), 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, tiara, masterwork red and black long greatcoat, lots of luxury goods, Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three) 

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  

Montalan 27 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 1

This is the way morning should be.  Wake up whenever you feel like it.  Have yourself a nice massage and a soak.  Pop on lovely silk robe.  Enjoy a light breakfast (smoked warpig sausage, silver goose eggs, deep dwarf blue cheese, roasted breadfruit, and a spinach rice bowl with steamed egg and spicy potatoes) with a couple Sweet Bloody Marys . Retire to the veranda to smoke some flayleaf and take in the cool clean morning air before everyone gets out there and starts breathing all over the place.  This is the way morning should be for people like me anyway, somebody needs to be digging ditches.  I wonder how ditch digging became the go-to activity for describe manual labor, are there really that many ditches that need dug?  Martialla joined me and we were in theory discussing our plans to head north – should we get horses, take the river up to Obsis, hire a coach, etc. – but mostly I was just procrastinating.  I am not looking forwards to getting out on the road again.  Not one bit.  As we were chatting there was a polite knock on the door and one of the Song and Dance staff bowed their way in tell me that I had a visitor.

“You mean assassin?”

The poor fellow looked quite perplexed “Uh, pardon?”

“Just joking, sort of, send them in.”

He ducked his head fawningly as he made to back out if the room “Very food madam I’ll give you a moment to get dressed and then send them in.”

I waved my hand carelessly “Just send them on in, its fine.”

He literally gasped “Madam, surely you can’t mean that.”

I dropped him a sassy wink “Surely I can.  If my bare legs are an affront to them and sends them running for the hills I doubt they would have anything interesting to say anyway.”

Martialla gave the fellow a look “You may as well do as she says, you can’t argue with her.”

I looked over at her as the attendant slunk away “People argue with me all the time, sometimes it seems like that’s all they do.”

“You know what I mean.”

After a moment joining us on the balcony was an elegant dusky skinned woman in a tasteful yet stylish magenta traveling dress with bronze accents.  She walked with a slight limp, almost such that you wouldn’t noticed, but it slightly marred he otherwise elegant and picture perfect “appropriate” demure lady court stride.  I know for a fact that she’s more than forty but she makes many a young maiden pale by comparison. 

“Well if it isn’t Adelis Breakspear, I didn’t suspect that I’d ever run in you again.”

She nodded with a very slight smile “I was very surprised to see you breeze into town yesterday myself, almost as surprised as I am that you remember me now.”

“How would I forget the only woman in court who could hold a candle to myself?”

Her smile became a bit more genuine “You’re too kind.  I don’t remember you dressing quite so casually in those days.”

I flicked the butt of my flayleaf over the railing of the balcony “Those were different times.  Besides, there’s no reason to stand on ceremony in a pigsty like Preen is there?  What brings you to this pathetic hamlet?  Did Reginleif grow weary of your charms?  Seems impossible that any man would do so.”

For an instant only a dark look came over her face “It was simply time for a change.  Always best to leave while you’re still on good terms.”

I laughed wryly “I wouldn’t know about that.  I assume you didn’t come to reminisce about old times, is there something that I can do for you Adelis?”

She glanced at Martialla and then back to me “Perhaps.  I run a small operation here and one of my girls, Cathédala, is overdue to return.  She agreed to stay with a local of some repute for a month, that was four months ago and I haven’t heard from her since she was due to be back.”

“I assume there’s no reason that I need to ask if you’re sure that she just hasn’t taken up with this fellow never to return?”

“There is not.”

“Do you think that some harm has befallen her?”

She looked pensive “I wouldn’t think so, but this man is . . . strange, so I couldn’t rule it out either.  I think mostly likely he decided he wanted to keep her without paying anymore.  Not exactly kidnapping but in that arena.”

“And even if there was a real city watch here, which there isn’t, they’re not going to care about a prostitute maybe being held against her will by a rich man.  If you’re running an outfit here you must have some breakers on the payroll for this kind of thing, or at least some friends that do that sort of work.” 

“This isn’t that sort of work, this client needs a more diplomatic approach.”

“What is it that you want me to do exactly?”

“Whatever you can do to help.  Investigate, make sure Cathédala is okay, maybe help broker a deal of some kind.  I know you just got into town, but you had a knack for making connections both high and low.”

“And what makes you think I would be capable of something like this even if I wanted to help you?”

She glanced at Martialla again and took a moment before speaking “At the time I bought into your performance completely, you fooled me, and I say with all humility that if you folled me I’m certain that you fooled everyone.  But since leaving court I’ve ran into two different people that told me a different story.  From personal experience they pegged you as an associate of a certain . . . network of philanthropic individuals.”

“Altruism?  Me?  People have been telling you tales Adelis.  Regardless, I could do a little digging around for you, no promises of course.”

She nodded “Of course.  In terms of compensation I was considering . . .”

I waved away her concerns “Don’t worry about it, consider it a favor.”

This broke her composure for a moment “Do you really mean that?”

“Sure, why not?  We’re not exactly old friends, but we’re old something right?  We have to look out for each other, I mean who else is going to look out for us?”

She seemed just a hair shy of being gobsmacked “That’s very generous of you, thank you Ela.”

I stood, gathering my robe “Think nothing of it, after all, I haven’t actually done anything yet.”

By “strange” Adelis meant that the man of the hour was a wizard.  Had I know that, well I still probably would have agreed, but I would have grumbled about it a lot more.  I love a good grumble.  He’s called Dulphistos the Fantabulist or something stupid like that and like seemingly all wizards he’s a mysterious figure that no one really knows much about.  He came to Preen a decade ago and has rarely been seen since.  The rumor was that he lent his magical support to Razmiran but didn’t seem to care too much about him being essentially deposed, which means if there’s any truth to it at all that rumor he was a hired arcane goon rather than a fast friend.  People were very concerned about Dulphistos getting involved in the recent “troubles” on one side or the other but as the wizard’s way he did nothing.  All Adelis could tell us is that the deal had been brokered by Dulphistos’s assistant who has the unfortunate moniker of Dross.  Armed with this wealth of information Martialla and I were off into the mean streets of Preen, after lunch of course.

“Is this what we do now?  Track down misplaced sex workers?  Or is this just you finding a way to stick around town a while longer?”

“Can’t it be both?  If you want a justification to make you feel better how about this one – if we do this for Adelis in return maybe she can get us some reliable back-up for the Juost Manor scenario.”

“That does make me feel better, so long as I don’t think about how if she had any back-up like that she wouldn’t need us to be doing this so obviously she doesn’t.”

“There you go, just don’t think about it.  Now you’re getting it.”

Ruby’s Scriptorium looked the same as before, although the cabinet maker next door didn’t seem to have weathered the civil unrest as well, as it was all boarded up.  For someone that can read and write for themselves I seem to end up interacting with a lot more scribes than you’d think.  Clearly bookbinding and copying manuscripts is a shadier business than I thought.  Perched behind her counter like a gargoyle Ruby and her disreputable wig looked the same as well.

“Hey Rube, how’s business?”

After a moment she looked up from the book she was hunched over “Do I know you?”

I put my hand over my heart “Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, you wound me.  How can you not remember me?  How many people come in here threating to snatch that mop-head off your pate and kick your face in for sassing them?”

She grunted sourly and closed her book “More than you might imagine.”  She pointed up at some bewildering placard half hidden behind a stack of books “Those are my prices, what do you want?”

“Information”

She snorted derisively “Not on the list.”

I took out one of my diamonds and placed it on the counter “How about now?”

She was about to make some remark about it being fake, but then looked closer and quickly snatched it away, stashing it somewhere down by her feet.

“What do you want to know?”

“Last time we chatted so companionably you bragged about having protection.  Assuming that wasn’t just you talking shit, I need to know who’s in the protection business.”

“Don’t matter, they’re gone now.” She shook her head “Everything has changed.  Those revolutionaries fucked up everything for everyone, now we have those Lumber Consortium bagmen everywhere.”

“Oh, things never change that much.  Your friends weren’t smart enough to get on board with the Lumbermen but someone was, and I assume they’re who you deal with now.”

She gave me a hard look for a moment “Tiller.  You can find him at the Red Hearts Gambling Parlor most nights.  And if you talk to him you don’t know me.”

“What kind of name is Tiller?” She shrugged “You copyist types seem to deal with wizards sometimes, have you ever had any dealings with Dulphistos or his assistant Dross?”

She shook her head and appeared to be about to say no more, but then grudgingly spoke up “His man Tarver has been in here a few times to buy special paper.”

“And who’s he?”

“I think that Tarver is Dross’s assistant.”

“The wizard’s apprentice has his own apprentice?”

“They all do.”

“So it’s some giant pyramid scheme of wizardry?  That can’t be true, if every wizard had their own apprentice and those apprentices had apprentices then eventually everyone in the world we be someone’s apprentice.”

Martialla looked thoughtful “Maybe the apprentice twice removed only gets a non-apprentice lackey until they move up the chain and that lackey then becomes and apprentice and gets their own lackey.”

Ruby looked at us both bitterly “You can leave my store now.”

I raised an eyebrow “Do you know how much that stone was worth?  I should probably own your store now.”

She folded her arms resolutely “Out.  Now.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 23,045 platinum, 49,843 gold

XP: 789,511

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Badge of Last Resort, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Censer of Dreams, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Ring of Urban Grace, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Better Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet, unknown gauntlets, mysterious staff, Cape of the Mountebank, Sandals of Sprinting, +1 Agile Rapier  

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 (700), 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, tiara, masterwork red and black long greatcoat, lots of luxury goods, Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three) 

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