Martialla Journal (date unknown)

After I secured Ela to the bed with the manacles I did my best to hurriedly search the closest buildings for anything edible or useful – which wasn’t much.  I was reluctant to leave her alone again but she was right about one thing, we weren’t going to make it very far without some kind of supplies and all that oaf she clobbered had on him was lice and stink.  I came up with a bottle of spiced wine, some jars of honey and some sacks of animal feed – which sadly was a haul that I was overjoyed with.  Even better luck, when I return to the mostly intact house I had picked out Ela was still there securely restrained.  It was a hard decision which would make her complain less – starving her or feeding her some oats smeared with honey.  That woman has many gifts, foremost among them is griping.  I know she’s just doing it to get under my skin but knowing that doesn’t make it any less effective. 

This effort is turning out to be a hundredfold times harder than I thought.  I knew that Ela would be a handful, to put it mildly, but what I hadn’t counted on was everything else possible going wrong.  I hate to say it, but I’m starting to now understand why Ela is so paranoid and seems to think that everyone and everything is out to get her.  When you’re trying to do something that really is very simple in the overall nature of the world and yet you run into roadblock after roadblock your mind naturally starts to think that there’s some malevolent force working against you.  I need to guard myself against that kind of thinking.  If you’re not careful your subconsciously develop a victim mentality. It happens quietly and without warning, like all bad things.  Or at least the bad things that don’t happen loudly and without warning.  For once in my life I just want something to work out for me – is that too much to ask?

I slept sitting up in the corner, unlike Ela who constantly complains anytime she doesn’t have a high quality bed to sleep in (and even them sometimes too) I have no trouble falling asleep anywhere at any time.  Sleep is too important to be picky about it, I don’t know what her problem is.  If she’s so tired why doesn’t she just sleep?  In the morning I cast my mage hand cantrip and shook her awake, I’m taking no more chances with her.  At this point it wouldn’t surprise me if she sprouted fangs like a vampire and bit into my neck like an ear of corn.  She has a real way wriggling out of any traps, not unlike a flying snake.  Which is actually just gliding but that’s still pretty impressive for a snake if you ask me.  Once she was awake and done complaining I tossed her the keys to the manacles.  I kept my distance and told her to unlock herself and then move against the wall with her hands out.  I was had a spell ready to blast her if she tried anything.  It’s exasperating how blasé she is about this situation – I wish I could just kill her because she is seriously damaging my calm. 

Once she was pressed up against the wall with her arms out flat like I said I drew my sword and moved closer – pressing it right up against the back of her neck, one little push and that would be the end of Ela.  Yet still she didn’t even seem scared.  Keeping my eyes up as best I could I used my free hand and my mage hand to manacle her arms behind her back again – there is no way in the Hells I’m going to get caught off guard by her again.  She must still have a storage device hidden on her somewhere, nothing else makes sense, but I’ll be damned if I know here it could be.  Well, I know a couple places it could be but those would preclude her from  getting access to it quickly which I’ve already seen that she can do.  After that procedure was completed we both stood for a moment and looked at the man she had “accidentally” waylaid yesterday.  He was still alive in a sticky pool of blood but he hadn’t woken up, and odds are that at this point he never would.  That could very easily have been me – that’s the kind of woman I’m dealing with here.  

She talked to me like we were just two friends traveling “So, this guy was the village priest and after whatever happened here happened he decided to stick around and drink himself to death?”

“Looks like.”

“Where does the booze come from?”

I shrugged “Maybe his God sent it to him, seems like the least she could do.”

“Never thought of Adariel as much of a drinker.  Did you figure out what happened here from looking around?”

“Nothing good.  Let’s move.”

Keeping Ela ahead of me and on the left we crossed one of the bridges over what Ela insists is a river (it isn’t) and headed north (I think) on a trail that seemed pretty well used.  I have no idea where I am or where it leads but at least I have a trail now.  That’s something. No sooner had we crossed the bridge though before we spotted a dark figure lurking in small grove of trees – I think it was a pecan orchard maybe.  Is it still an orchard if it’s not for fruit trees?  What do you call a nut orchard?  I once again Martialla begged me to unshackle her hands for what she called “the inevitable attack” but that is not going to happen.

She whined as only she can “You can’t leave me defenseless like this!”

“You’re not defenseless, you have me to protect you.”

“What if you get killed?!”

“You better wish me good luck then huh?” I called out ahead of us into the trees “Hey you, we see you, what’s your business?”

A lanky figure slouched out of the shadows chewing on a fistful of pecans (or whatever they are).  He had the sad and hopeful look of a cherished pet abandoned in the woods.  This would have elicited a lot more sympathy if not for his shabby appearance.  He had a thin face with a scruffy unintentional beard and was overall dirty as a hog.  He wore a long coat grey that looked kind of like the one Ela had been so proud of only his had been patched dozens of times and was mostly just a net of patches now.  Beyond that he wore not much else, just some tattered memories of clothing – specifically telling he had no boots or shoes, his feet were a dirty scabby mess.  Bare feet are a true sign of destitution. 

His voice was rich and strong despite his raggedness “You don’t want to head that way.  There’s bandits up that way.”

I remarked sourly “Is there a part of this county that doesn’t have bandits?  That seems to be our main industry right now.”

He paused to spit out some shells “Yeah well, these are rough times, what with the war and all.  Man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.”

“What about a woman?”

He shrugged “I wouldn’t know about that.”

“Where are we?”

“Aubesh.”

“Where’s Aubesh?”

He tapped his chest “No, me, I’m Aubesh, that’s my name.”

“I didn’t ask you for your name I asked you were we are.”

He gazed at us for a long time before answering, then poking his chin in Ela’s direction “What’s she?  Your slave?  Is slavery legal now?”

“She’s my prisoner.  I’m a bounty hunter.”

He squinted for a moment “What kind of hunter is that?  Don’t bounty mean a lot of food?”

“A bounty hunter captures fugitives or criminals for money, they call that money a bounty.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.”

He eyed Ela not in the way most men do, but more like a scholar looks at an old book, as he shoved some more pecans in his mouth “Who pays you for that?”

“Various parties, religious associations and city councils, even the crown sometimes.”

“Don’t they got sheriffs and road wardens and such for that?”

“There’s a lot of bad people out there, they need all the help that they can get.”

“Hur, never heard tell of such a thing.  I guess that’s what women do then when times get tough.  Men come to banditry and the women hunt them down for money.  I doubt that works out too good for the women most of the time.  What did she do?”

“Poisoned her husband.”

He looked over at Ela “That true lady?  You a criminal being brought to the religious councils and city associations for money?”

She shook her head “Of course not, I’m being kidnapped.  My cousin’s husband was planning on killing her and then forcing me to marry him so I ran away.  This woman here pretended to be my friend and then betrayed me to bring me back to her for a reward.”

“Hur, sounds like you got the short end of the stick either way.”

 I looked across the woods “Can you tell us how to get to Alleene?  Or show us the way, I can . . .”

“I was part of a choir myself.  We used to travel all around singin’ for the nice people.  Hymns in such.  Old songs sometimes.  Up north on this path is Bedshaw, that’s where the choir went last before things went sour.  The bandits took that whole place over, made everybody there their slaves.  They came here and killed this place when they found out about it.  That way no body would tell.  At first I swore revenge on their leader, said I was gonna kill him.  I meant it to back then.  Now I just want to survive and get out of here.  Sometimes I think about killing myself.”

“Oh . . . kay  I take it that means you don’t know how to get to Alleene.”

“If I knew how to get anywhere I wouldn’t be here.  I tried to go south but I ran out of food and had to some back here.  Can’t go north, I just told you about that.  I seen you come across the bridge.  You run into that crazy priest?”

“Friend of yours?”

“No, I found a cellar full of wine up on the hill, I used to trade him for food when he was sober and not crazy enough to trade.  But I think it ran out.  He don’t never have food anymore.  I been eating these nuts but it’s not enough to stay hale.  I feel like I’m dying.  Something about me isn’t right on the inside, man can’t survive on nuts alone.  We ain’t squirrels.”

“I don’t think you’re going to see him anymore.”

“You kill ‘im?”

“No.”

“How’d you end up here not knowing where you are?”

“Our ship was attacked by pirates.  We had to jump overboard.”

“So you’ve had a rough time of it too eh?  I tell you what, this whole Kingdom is coming apart at the seams.  I don’t ever remember it being this bad – pirates on the rivers, bandits taking over whole towns.  I think it’s because there’s a woman in charge.  Once the King died and they put that woman on the throne everything that was stared to coming apart.  If she don’t get herself married soon we’re all going to be in trouble.”

“Yes well . . .”

“You got any food on you?”

“No, I told you we . . .”

“You must have some food on you, you look well enough.  Too skinny for my taste but you don’t seem skinny in a sickly like way, like you’re dying.  How about you share some food with me and I help you with your prisoner.  You can’t watch her all the time by yourself.  How about we search the village together for whatever there is to be searched and then we can head south.  I didn’t get far because I didn’t have no food but together we can make it somewhere I reckon.”

“No thanks, we’re going to be heading north.”

His eyes turned hard “I told you you can’t go that way.”

“Thanks for the warning, but we’ll be fine.”

He took a step towards us “You must have some food, now come on and . . .”

I summoned arcane energy to my hand and held out my palm, letting him see the crackling lines of light “Stay where you are.”

He cocked his head curiously “Huh, so you a witch huh?  I guess maybe you might be a booty hunter then, using your hexes to catch dangerous ladies what off their old men.  Maybe I can help you and then you give me a little of the booty.”

“I don’t need your help.”

His mouth was a tight line “I’m trying to be polite woman.  The fact is that I need food or some money and you have it, just let me help you and then there won’t need to be any trouble.  I don’t want there to be no trouble less there has to be.”

I released the energy, five glowing bolts of force flew faster and more accurately than any arrow and slammed into his chest.  It’s a simple spell, one of the first true spells taught to young mages.  That spell has taken probably tens of thousands of lives over the years, and in doing so it has spared the lives of many whose hands are too weak to hold a sword or shield.  Such a simple thing, a few words and a gesture and someone is dead.  It’s almost too easy.  It shouldn’t be that easy.  He collapsed like a damp gunnysack and didn’t move.  He’d never move again.  So easy.

Ela whistled “Wow, that was cold blooded.”

“Why do you say that?”

“You could have just put him to sleep, instead you murdered a starving wretch.”

“You’re just trying to get at me Ela, it won’t work.”

The fact is it never crossed my mind to use the sleep spell – too risky.  It doesn’t always work, and then where am I?  In a fight, and anything can happen in a fight, doesn’t matter who you are.  Besides, if I put him to sleep what happens then?  Then I have to worry about him following us, trailing us and waiting for a chance to attack us.  Too risky.  Easier just to kill him.  Easier all around.  I cannot wait until I get Ela back to the manor and this is all over and I won’t have to think like that anymore.  Not ever. 

Montagem 27 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I’ve never been a stomach sleeper.  My grandma always said only afternoon farmers and gentlemen of four outs sleep on their faces.  But when your arms are chained behind your back there’s not many other options, so face-down it was.  I was so exhausted I didn’t even have any nightmares because I didn’t dream – it takes energy to dream you know and I had none left.  So that was a good I guess, in a silver lining kind of way.  Martialla wrapped the end of the chain attached to my leg around her hand so I wouldn’t be able to slip off in the night.  My plan was to wake up when she was sleep and put my knee on her throat and suffocate her, but the problem is I didn’t wake up when she was asleep.  By the time morning rolled around she was already up and around.  While she looked pale and clammy she no longer looked like she was about to drop dead at any moment – I guess a good night’s sleep is all you need to recover from being clawed by a hag, hacked with axes, and shot with crossbows.  All those disabled war veterans are real whiners it turns out.

I was so thirsty when I woke up that I tried my best to suck the water off the grass around me – it was a whole lot of work for maybe two thimbles full of water.  It’s amazing when you consider the number of times I’ve done insanely dangerous things that probably should have gotten me killed but I came out the other side fine that it seems like starvation or dehydration are the things are likely going to get me some day.  After I finished my grass licking I managed to lever myself up in the awkward way that you do when you don’t have the full use of your arms. 

“Gods, my shoulders are killing me, can’t you move these manacles to the front while we walk?”

Martialla was looking around like she didn’t know where to go, the usual “No.”

“Look, I won’t try anything, you have my word.”

Her look was rightly incredulous “Do you honestly think that I would put any weight in your word?  All you do is lie.  Why on earth, now when you’re at your most vulnerable, would you tell the truth about anything.”

“I never lied to you.”

“You lied to be all the time Ela, and even if you didn’t why would that matter?  Are you suggesting that if you had been honest with me in the past that should mean that I would believe you when your life is on the line?”

“Please Martialla, this is awful, what can I do to convince you?”

“Nothing.” She waved her are vaguely “Let’s go.”

“Can you at least take this chain off?”

She pointed “Walk.”

I started shuffling through the grass with her “Do you even know where you’re going?”

“No.”

“Why haven’t you ever bought a map or something by this point?  You get lost all the time.”

“What good would that do?”

“Uh, what kind of question is that?  Maps tell you where to go.”

“How?”

“Are you being intentionally stupid?  People find their way with maps all the time, that’s why they make maps!”

“How Ela?  How do people find their way with maps?  If we had a map how is that going to tell us where we are?  And if we knew that how is the map going to tell us what direction we’re going exactly and how fast we’re traveling?  Assuming the map is even accurate, which most of them aren’t.  Even if you know where things are how do you translate that into a picture on a piece of paper?  How do you know when the river turns and by how much?  Or how long it is?”

“I just . . . . I mean . . . . people use maps all the time.  You need a compass right?  And then . . . you just figure out what direct you need to go?  By looking at landmarks . . . . I guess.  People get places so it must work!”

“Do you see any landmarks around here?  Do you think a map would even be that detailed?  People get places by following roads Ela, or by hiring guides, all the people you’ve traveled with have you seen any of them using a map?”

“Well . . . no, I guess now that I think about it.  But someone had to build the road, and the guides had to figure it out somehow!”

“Well when you figure out how they figured it out let me know.”

“I think we should head back to the river.  At least then we have water and we can just follow that back to Obsis and then we can take your precious road from there.”

“We’re not going backwards Ela, you’ve already delayed things for a week.”

“What’s the fucking rush?  Do you have any food or water?  I hate to break it to you but we’re going to be real slow if we both die on the way.  How about a few extra days and we stay alive?”

She had no response to that.  After the rain yesterday it turned hot today and it seemed like we were slogging through a swamp even though there was grass all around.  I guess it’s tall enough that the ground doesn’t dry out quickly?  I don’t know, I just know it was like walking in mud, because it was mud.  Add in swarms of biting bugs and the fact that I couldn’t even swat at them and it made for a miserable day.  Did you know that bugs love eyeball juice?  I didn’t.  After a couple wretched hours of slogging through the grass the vegetation thinned out to more normal looking, you know whatever, the kind of land where farms and shit are.  We stopped for a rest and after a moment I was able to focus my eyes and I realized that a fox was sitting maybe twenty yards away and looking at me curiously.  I used my Beastspeech to ask it what was going on but it dashed away instantly and disappeared.

“Martialla you have to unlock me right now.”

She signed wearily “I’m tired of this, don’t bring it up again or . . . I’ll do . . . . something.”  

“I’m serious, a fox was just staring at me!  Don’t give me that look!  It’s probably a werefox or a fox shapechanger or some kind of thing in the shape of a fox that’s going to come back and attack us!  Isn’t there some kind of fey that takes the form of a fox and then rips your heart out or something?  There’s no way it’s just a fox.”

“Ela, sometimes a fox is just a fox.”

“Please, please don’t let me get killed like this, not like this.  Not chained up and helpless.  If I’m going to die I’m going to die, but don’t let it be like this!  Unlock me please, if there is anything left of our friendship in your heart, any part of you that still feels any sympathy for me, please don’t let me get attacked while I’m chained up.  I’m begging you!”

“The tears are a nice touch but I’ve seen you do better.”

I tried to make a stand by not standing, saying that I wouldn’t go any farther until she unshackled me so I could defend myself.  That lasted maybe eight second until Martialla punched me in the liver.  If you’re never been punched in the liver I hate you, but also just so you know it takes your breath away.  I don’t know how, because while I’m not anatomist, I’m pretty sure that your liver has nothing to do with respiratory process.  It’s a good way to get a reluctant person moving but not a fast way because it took me a couple minutes before I could get my legs underneath me and catch my wind enough to get up and move. No fox demon attacked us but I’m sure that it’s out there just waiting for its chance.  As soon as Martialla turns her attention elsewhere it’s going to pounce and slaughter me while I’m defenseless. 

Later in the afternoon we came across several fields that had gone to seed and we saw in the distance some horses clustered together eying us suspiciously that clearly used to be domesticated – the shoes are a pretty good tipoff, they don’t usually come born with those.  A little while later we came across a tiny village made tinier by the fact that half of it was burned and the unburned half was ringed by a makeshift wall that was been torn down in several places.  Add in the weed choked patches that used to be gardens and what was clearly the signs of a mass grave and the creepy picture was complete.  A couple mean looking dogs came out to snarl at us until Martialla sent them running away with a magical splash of acid. 

“So what’s the plan, stay here tonight and get killed by whatever comes out of that grave pit after sundown?”

“You’re the one who was crying about wanting food and water, there has to be something around here.”

“Oh, I’m sure there’s something alright.”  I gestured as best I could with my elbow at the bridges leading out of the village “Now what the fuck river is that?!  There shouldn’t be any river here unless we’ve been on the wrong side of the Scale and heading south!”

“It’s just a stream Ela, there’s streams coming off the river all over the place, don’t get in a panic about it.”

“Looks like a river to me.”

Martialla found a mostly intact house outside of the wall close to the water where she seemed intent on chaining me to a bed while she had a look around.  Despite the fact that this would take the pressure off my shoulders I was terrified that a zombie was going to wander in and feast on my flesh while I was trapped.  Martialla didn’t seem to care at first, but I’m not proud to say that I got pretty close to hysterical – which seemed to move her somewhat.  After all the scrapes we’ve been in I think seeing my panic like that that rattled her some, she made a comment about how I was faking it but I don’t think she believed her own words.  She still chained me up but she didn’t shackle my hands together so I guess at least I would have some chance at warding off a zombie.  It wasn’t much, but I’ll take it.   

As soon as she was gone I got out my wire saw from magic land and started working on the headboard where the shackle was attached.  In a couple of minutes I was able to weaken it enough for a good kick to break it and I was free – although now trailing a chain on the foot and shackles on the wrist.  One step at a time.  Unfortunately just as I was free I heard footsteps coming back, I thought about going for the window, but there wasn’t time.  I hid by the door and waited – although the person who came through and got clobbered by the chain wasn’t Martialla.  A man came through the door looking like he had been buried under a dung heap for a couple weeks and then thrown into a bramble patch.  He was dressed in rags that look like they had once been Adariel robes and the smell of cheap liquor coming off of him was powerful enough to cover up the stench of his body.  When the manacles hit him in the face he went down like a sack of wet garbage, bleeding all over the floor. Before I could even see what the drunkard had on him that I could take Martialla appeared with sword in hand.

“Back up.  I knew I couldn’t trust you.”

I moved against the wall “And yet you left me anyway.”

“Everyone makes mistakes.  Who the Hells is this?”

“I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure his nose was smashed before so don’t blame me for that.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 962,851

Inventory: None

Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane, Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa, eyeless hag, Baron Saltwheel, Baron Harmenkar, Colonel Tarl Ciarán’s wizard soldier, Victor, Beharri, Cebuano, Mayor Eryn, Chimera Trading Company

Montagem 26 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 3

After barely escaping with her life Martialla made sure I was secured with manacles to avoid any more nasty surprises.  I think that was my one shot to take her out, she’s not going to be caught off guard again, not easily anyway.  As badly injured as she was (and still is) I think that was my best chance, it’s hard to see a better opportunity coming down the mountain, besides I’ve never been one for second guessing.  After making sure that I was secured she looked from bank to bank as we slowly floated backwards down the river – towards the ship of pirate whose captain we just killed.

“Whatever you’re going to do, you better do it soon.”

“Any suggestions?”

“You expect me to help you?

“I expect you to help yourself stay alive.”

“Toss the hag overboard and impersonate her.  Get on the pirate ship and have them take you upriver and then slip away or some up with an excuse to leave.  Easy.”

She thought about it for a moment and thenshook her head “That will never work, I can’t impersonate people like you can.”

“Let me do it then.”

She laughed mirthlessly “What a great idea, I’ll let you go and put you in charge of a murderous band of pirates right now, no way that can turn out bad for me.”

“I don’t see a lot of other choices.”

Apparently she did, or at least one other choice – dragging me to the side of the boat and tossing me into the water.  With my hands manacled and a chain attached to my foot I sank like a stone.  This was one of the most terrifying moments I have ever experienced.  I’ve been in bad spots before, some really bad spots, a couple times I thought that I might die, but being in the water like that – weighed down and restrained, that is the only time I felt utterly helpless.  No tricks to pull, no one to sweet-talk, no way out, nothing to do but wait for water to fill my lungs.  It was only ten or fifteen seconds, but those were the worst seconds of my life – so far anyway, I’m sure there’s something worse coming.  I’ve heard it said that when you’re about to die your life flashes before your eyes – it’s not true.  There’s nothing, just a yawning black darkness coming to envelope you and make it so that you never were. 

I was convinced that Martialla had given up on her mission and was just going to kill me, but I realized later that makes no sense – she’s only doing this to get in with the Duke’s cousin, if she can’t bring me in there’s no reason for her to kill me.  Despite all her threats to the contrary she needs me alive.  Given that I shouldn’t have been surprised when a scaly arm grabbed me and pulled me through the water, but I was drowning at the time so I’ll give myself a pass on that.  It seemed like it took this new creature-form of Martialla’s maybe two strokes to shoot us to the edge of the river.  She hauled me out onto the muddy bank and dropped me like a sack of wet clothing.  I could now see that she had taken the form of a scaly fish-eel-lizard with webbed claws and an odd fan-shaped head.  I’m sure your average fisherman or country woman washing clothes on a rock down by the creek would have found it terrifying, but I thought it was actually a noble looking beast, whatever it is.

“Now I get it , you studied all about monsters so you have more choices of what to turn into with your magic.  Nicely done.  Can you turn into a centaur and carry me all the way to Juost manor next?”

Even in her monster piscine form her voice was the same, which would have been funny in different circumstances “Centaurs never let people ride them.  They’re intelligent beings, do you let people ride you?

“I used to.”

She reverted to her normal form “Shut up Ela.”

“So what now, you’re going to drag me all the way to Alleene?  I don’t think you’re going to make it in the shape you’re in.  You got tore up something awful in that fight.    What you need is healing, and the pirates are probably your best bet.  Here’s what you do, stash me somewhere and then shadow them back to their pirate-lair.  Hope they have some healing potions that you can sneak in and steal.”

“Everything about that plan is terrible.”

“I don’t hear you coming up with any ideas, don’t just shoot down everting I say if you don’t have anything better.  I suppose what you could do is look around for a village or faRM and hope they have a healer but what are you going tell them about me?  You can’t haul a woman you’ve kidnapped into town and expect people not to ask questions.”

“So what if they do?  What are they going to about it?”

“Not help you for one, which is the reason you’d be going there.  And you never know, there could be a roving knight or more competent than usual sheriff about.  Or they could just set me free.  There’s all sorts of ways that could go wrong.”

“I could gag you.”

“You think that’s going to make people less curious about me?”

“I could break your fucking jaw.”

“You know that wouldn’t matter Martialla, I can throw my voice.  Funny thing about that, I thought that learning now to speak with animals would be very helpful in my endeavors but just being able to have my words come from somewhere else has been far more useful.  It’s the little things you don’t think about you know?  The trick to it is . . .”

“Shut up, I’m trying to think.”

“Try harder.  The pirates are probably on their way back right now, we shouldn’t be hanging out two feet from the water when . . .”

Martialla’s face twisted in rage “Shut up!  Just shut up!  Do you ever stop talking?  EVER?!  I’ve known you for six months and I’ve heard you say more than most people do in a hundred years!  In their whole lives Ela, their whole lives!   Whatever you have to say I don’t care Ela, I don’t care about anything you have to say!  I’ve heard it, I’ve heard everything, just stop!”

“You asked for my help.”  Martialla waved her hands in that strange dancing girl way people do then they cast spells and uttered the magical words of power – I felt a little sleepy for half a second but nothing happened.  “Congratulations you made me yawn.  What else do you have?  Do you know a sneezing spell?  How about a spell that causes your arm to feel like you hit your funny bone?”

She pointed “Get up, walk.”

“If you wanted me on my feet you shouldn’t have thrown me on the ground with my arms shackled behind my back.”

“One once in your Gods damned life Ela, just do what you’re being told.  Just do it Ela, just do what you’re being told.”

“You’re being very put out for someone who’s betrayed and kidnapped me to hand me over to deadly enemies.  How are you the aggrieved party in this scenario?  Besides, isn’t it the first duty of a prisoner to annoy their captors?”

“Escape Ela, the first duty of a prisoner is to escape.”

“You have to start somewhere.”

She tried to drag me up by the hair, but my hair was wet and slippery and it’s actually not a good way to get leverage on someone in the best of times – I just kind of twisted around and she slipped in the mud and almost ended up falling herself.  There was much cursing about that.  Eventually she managed to haul me to my feet and we started stumbling away from the river, me because I still had a heavy chain around one foot and my arms behind my back and she because of the many wounds she had taken in the fighting.  She had a fistful of my tattered peasant rag dress but I wonder how much of that was her keeping me under control and how much of it was her needing support.

“Those wounds are probably going to get infected, that water was filthy, and then you were sliding through the mud like an eel.  A mud eel.”

“I’ve been in many fights Ela, none of my wounds ever got infected.”

“Why is that do you think?  I’ve heard that more soldiers in battle die from infections than from their actual wounds.  What makes you so special?  An infected wound is no joke, even if it doesn’t kill you that infected blood gets into your brain and fucks you up forever.  There’s no coming back from that Martialla.”

“Thanks for the advice, I’ll be sure to have my personal physician examine them as soon as possible.”

“Funny story about the Duke’s personal physician, there was this baker at court – she didn’t work there like in the kitchens but she would come in as the Duke’s pastry chef for special occasions and one time when she was making blintzes . . .”

She gave me a half-shove “Just walk Ela.”

“Sure thing, you’re the boss, but let me ask you this, do you think you can take this chain off my foot?  It’s not really servicing any purpose at this point and it’s making it hard to keep up a good pace.  It’s very unbalancing it is.  Plus the cuff thing is really rubbing at my ankle, and if I get a cut there the rusty edge could . . .

“I don’t have the key Ela.”

I chuckled “Come on Martialla, don’t be coy, we both know what you don’t need a key, I’ve seen you pick a dozen locks at this point.  Probably more.  Let’s see, the first one was when we ripped off that clothing store in . . .”

She sighed “How is annoying me going to result in your escape?”

“I don’t know yet, but at least I’m trying something.”

A light rain continued to fall off and on throughout the day so my clothes never got completely dry – which is irritating.  Not as irritating as having your arms trapped behind your back and having a chain dragging on your leg that makes you feel like you’re going to trip and fall at any moment though.  I’ve had worse days, but not many.  After a couple hours of walking Martialla was really laboring – I think if I just wait long enough she’ll keel over and then I’ll be free.  Free in this sense being in the middle of nowhere with manacles and no gear.  Eventually she did call a halt to our death march and we both just sat on the ground in the tall grass – no bedrolls, no fire, not tents, no food, no nothing.

“You’re sitting on an anthill, ants are crawling in your wounds.”

“Yeah.”

“It’s too bad I don’t have that magic flask anymore, I think right now getting drunk would be a really great idea.  I had a really nice selection of stuff put together, really nice.” I sighed “I miss my stuff, I love stuff.”

“The things you own end up owning you.”

I couldn’t help but laugh “Good Gods Martialla, what kind of childish bullshit is that?  You got any other pieces of ‘wisdom’ to share with me?  A copper saved is a copper earned?  Anything like that?  You must really be messed up if you’re spouting that kind of hoary old naive crap.  I know that you’re mad at me but if you’re thinking like that, I think you’ll see that you’re mad at you too.  Who are you trying to impress anyway?  We’re the only two out here.”  I chuckled “The things you own end up owning you, good one Martialla, I needed a laugh after the day we had.  It’s good that even with things the way we are we can still share a joke.”

“I hate you Ela.”

“I remember when you used to not mean that.” 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 962,851

Inventory: None

Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane, Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa, eyeless hag, Baron Saltwheel, Baron Harmenkar, Colonel Tarl Ciarán’s wizard soldier, Victor, Beharri, Cebuano, Mayor Eryn, Chimera Trading Company

Montagem 26 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 2

I feel like with the number of them that have tried to ruin my day and hurt my feelings I should know more about hags.  What are they even?  It’s been implied to me that they’re a species (race?) of the fey folk (ironically sometimes called the fair folk) which seems like it maybe makes sense.  They’re definitely full of magicalness which a common characteristic of the fey.  They look spindly and sickly but you can wail on them all day with a whacking stick and it won’t hurt them and they’re stronger than a strong man (maybe a really strong man) so they don’t obey the laws of biology which is another earmark of faeries.  They’re whimsical in their own sadomasochistic way as well, whimsy being one of the hallmarks of the fey, so there’s some strong evidence there of them being fey.  On the other side of the coin though fey, even the evil ones, seems to be pro-nature and all the hags I’ve meet seem to love wrecking nature with their foul slimes and odors and tree-killing.  Plus fey, even the evil ones, seem to stick to the wilds far away from the hand of mankind whereas hags seems to be all up in our business.  So?  Dunno. 

I’ve also heard that hags are just witches who get all mutated and flagellated from doing too much witchy stuff.  The way it works is that a woman makes some kind of deal with the Lord of the Thirteen Hells (or maybe his secretary if he’s busy) to become a witch and then if you delve deep into the dark arts you turn into a full-fledged hag?  It’s like there’s stages you progress through – normal woman, then witch, then hag, then demon?  The only hag origin story I know is a witch who got sad because a boy didn’t like her and so she tore her eyes and tongue out which transformed her into a hag.  So that seems to support the hagification theory.  But a person can’t become a fey creature right?  Or is it like werewolfism?  You get infected with hagness? 

But wait, there’s more!  I’ve also heard that hags propagate themselves by using their rumors and trickery to have what I envisage is weird rough sex with mortal human dudes so they can get pregnant and then have hag-babies.  Or actually no, the babies are normal at first and they swap them with other babies so some sucker will raise their baby for them (I believe the hag eats the baby they stole) and then when that hag kid becomes an adult they turn into a hag.  If it’s a girl anyway, I think if it’s a boy they’re just an asshole?  Sidenote I would imagine the hags turn back into their normal forms right when the guy fills them up – which you have to admit is pretty funny.  Admit it!  This information does make it sound like hags are a “normal” race of things that need to throw down to reproduce, which doesn’t support either of the above theories.

I bet what happened is that way back in olden times there was a woman who’s beauty was renowned the world over (although keep in mind they didn’t bathe in olden times so, you know) and some jealous lady god (probably not Adariel because she doesn’t seem like the type but what other lady gods are there?) was like “huh, we’ll see about that!” and then slammed her hard with a curse that made her be ugly and haggish.  End of story right?  Wrong!  In order to facilitate her revenge on the world Kralten gave this woman magic powers so she could torment people and do evil shit.  Ugliness plus magic equals hag.  And then she created other hags by vomiting in a stew-pot and all the women that ate the vomit-stew turned into hags and all the men turned into . . . orcs or something.  Boom, did it, mythology mythologized. 

Anyway, back to the hag at hand.  After she was done snuffling over me like a truffle pig the bald hag grabbed the chain on my ankle and gave it a pull.  She wasn’t able to snap it instantly like a piece of string, she had to exert herself, but she did rip the mooring (is that the right word, the ring on the deck of the ship that held the chain) out of the wood.  It’s hard to imagine what it would feel like to be that strong.  I mean it’s crazy, she just ripped a metal chain out of the ground.  I suppose if you really wanted to analyze hags it shouldn’t be surprising that they do horrible things to us – they don’t look like us and they have abilities far beyond ours.  If you were strong enough to crush a goblin with one hand what kind of monster would you be?  There’s really nothing that brings out the cruelty in people like power.

I stood up and dusted off my crappy peasant dress “Well thanks for freeing me, I guess I’ll be on my way now.”

The hag was still holding onto the chain and gave it a yank, sending me stumbling and falling heavily to the deck of the ship – it was from the side too, which make it extra awkward and painful.  She cackled at the sight – it’s a stereotype for a reason, hags love to cackle.

“You’re funny, I like you.  What other tricks can you do besides telling jokes little flower?”

“I have to say, I find it annoying that you hags always call me little.  I’m very tall for a human lady.”

She stalked forward in a weird hunched posture – I’ve never seen an hag knuckle around like an ape before, it’s very unsettling, which is probably the point – and I thought she was going to slap me or something but she just laughed in by face, blasting me with a stench that made my eyes water worse than any slap. She poked a claw into my chest.

“You.  Are little.  You are a weak little thing that can be broken at any moment.”

I punched her in the stomach with all my strength, which didn’t amount to much – although in my defense I was sitting on the ground, you can’t throw a decent punch like that.  Also I never really learned how to throw a decent punch anyway.  She cackled madly again.

“Oh, I do like you, hissing like a little kitty.  I have ways of wringing away such deficiencies.”  She grabbed me by the hair and put a claw against my cheek under the eye “How about I flay off your pretty face for starters?”

“I got my face scarred up badly once before.  This big bitch kicked the shit out of me.  I’m sorry to say that I didn’t react very well to it, but at that time I didn’t realize that it can fixed if you have the money.  It’s not exactly easy, but it’s not hard either you know?  I wouldn’t like it of course, but I’ve learned to be a little more accepting of these sorts of things – there’s a lot more healing out there than you’d imagine.  There’s not a lot that can’t be repaired if you’re willing to pay for it.  It’s a real indictment of the way the Kingdom is run that people are walking around missing limbs with and with harelips and shit – it can all be fixed.  So, I would vote against you slashing my face to ribbons if I got a vote, but I would just get it fixed after you’re dead so it’s not a huge deal.”

She let go of me so should could step back and really laugh at that – sometimes you need your whole body to really give a good belly laugh.

She shook her head in a disquietly human-like gesture “You are something else little kitty.  But I believe I said that joke time was over, I told you to entertain me another way.”

I launched into singing the Ballad of Nanny Grunch, a happy little tale about a woman who becomes unsatisfied with her husband’s genitals so she turns him into a minotaur to get some sweet bull action.  This is course doesn’t sit well with the local populace so they chop off her head – she doesn’t die though, and through a series of grotesque events her head ends up biting the mayor’s wife on the ass and the wound becomes infected and she dies while having sex with the mayor and instantly turns into a ghoul.  The ghoul wife rips the mayor apart and then she and the head go on to further revolting and perverted adventures.  It’s not a good song for my register and the composition is a mess but seemed like the only song I know that might appeal to the interests of a hag.

She flapped her arms in a weird approximation of clapping “Magnificent!  Magnificent!  You’re not a little flower or a little kitty at all, you’re a little songbird.  I shall keep you in a cage and have you sing for me and feed you bread crumbs.”

“Does this body look like I eat a lot of bread?”

 “Another song!”

“I don’t really know any other songs like that, he only reason I know that one is because some drunkards were singing it a tavern one time – I’m more of a classically trained singer.  Besides, it’s about time.”

She bared her bent and broken teeth angrily “Time for what?”

Martialla was dry as a bone when she made her attack.  She must have clung to the side of the ship for a moment and used her magic to dry off her clothing – which was a clever move because even invisible it’s going to be hard to sneak up on someone when you’re sopping wet.  Too bad it didn’t work.  I don’t know how the hag detected her, maybe she could smell her, but she turned at the last second just as Martialla appeared in mid-thrust.  Instead of taking the twisted creature in the back the hag grabbed the blade of Martialla’s sword and shoved it to the side – losing three fingers in the process.  I’ve seen quite a bit of hag-blood at this point.  Sometimes it looks normal.  Sometimes it hisses and steams and gives off noxious vapors.  Sometimes it’s thick and tarry.  Sometimes it purple or green.  This hag’s blood looked like water with a reddish tint or like a really watered down wine, it dripped off her hands like a bucket with a hole in the bottom.  And because everything with hags has to be awful the severed fingered writhed on the deck of the ship like blind worms.

Can we take a quick moment for me to ask about invisibility?  Why does it go away the instant you attack someone?  It makes no sense.  It can’t be the physical motion because you can run and jump and make all sorts of wild motions while you’re invisible but it doesn’t go away.  You can even “attack” a training dummy or punch a wall without the invisibility going away.  But the second you come at a person, not even a person, a living thing, not even a living thing because it happens with undead too, the second you attack a . . . being, the invisibility goes away.  What kind of sick joke is that?  What does that even mean?  How does the “magic” know that you attack someone, and why does it care?  I don’t want to know much of anything about magical theory but I’d like an explanation of that.  Does “magic” think that it’s unfair to let people attack other people while they’re invisible?  Is magic a thing that can think?  It’s frustrating because there seems to be no logic, which I guess there isn’t because it’s magic.

Martialla fell back with a cry as the hag slashed at her with its claws and I dove forward to crash into the back of the hag’s knees.  We all went down in a chaotic tangle and I managed to get the chain around the hag’s neck as Martialla struggle to control her arms.  In this sense having the chain hooked to my leg was actually helpful since I could use my legs to help pull – with my two arms I was almost able to match one of the hags while Martialla dealt with the other one.  Martialla drew a dagger and stabbed whenever she could as well.  It was a slow messy awful death, the kind that happens often but that they never include in stories of heroic battlefield murder – I think it took a full minute before the hag was dead.  The tongue that lolled out of her mouth was obscenely huge, no joking it was probably as wide and thick as my arm and had to be close to a foot long.  It wasn’t even flat like it was supposed to be, it was round like a snake.  We rolled away from the hag and lay on opposite sides of her like exhausted lovers after a spirited roll in the hay.

“Just like old times eh?  Only best friends kill hags together.”

“Don’t . . . . just don’t Ela.  You could talk birds out of trees, in fact I’ve literally seen you do that, but you can’t get me Ela.  I’m ungettable.  This is . . . . this is just the way it has to be.”

“You’re pretty fucked up from the fight before, I could probably take you right now.”

She snorted “With that?  A chain on your leg?”

I pulled a short blade out of my secret pocket and popped up stabbing at her.  She was certainly surprised but she had reflexes enough that managed to get her knife in the way enough so that she only got stabbed in the hip instead of in the chest.  That was basically my only chance, I’ve never been the fighter that Martialla is – after she avoided that initial deathblow she was able to wrestle the blade out of my hand and strangle me half to death before stunning me with a hard kick to the back of the head.  She stood up wearily and gazed at the blade slick with her blood.

“Where the Hells did you get this?  I took all your magic pouches.”

On my hands and knees coughing I managed to choke out “You know me Martialla, I’m full of surprises.”

Funds: None

XP: 962,851

Inventory: None

Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane, Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa, eyeless hag, Baron Saltwheel, Baron Harmenkar, Colonel Tarl Ciarán’s wizard soldier, Victor, Beharri, Cebuano, Mayor Eryn, Chimera Trading Company

Montagem 26 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 1

As someone who’s experienced it firsthand (but now has built their mental defenses to unassailable levels so don’t even try it chump) being the victim of mindbending magic is quite disorienting.  When the spell takes a hold of your thoughts you feel like the person that cast it is your best friend – they don’t control your mind but most people are going to be accommodating to their best friend.  That has to be a real shock though when a mindbender runs into a true blue sociopath who doesn’t care about friendship, that’s probably how most of them meet their end.  They’re lurking out there like . . . like . . . something that lurks.  Like a crocodile?  Anyway, eventually the spell wears off and when you don’t feel like that person is your best friend anymore.  At first you’re just confused.  Why were you being so nice to that person who you don’t even know?  Why did you lend them money?  Why did you let them stay in your house?  Why did you let him in the castle when you were on guard duty?  If you don’t know anything about magic that’s probably as far as it goes, you write it off as a slip of the mind. Everyone does things they don’t understand sometimes. 

But if you know the potential with magic to influence people eventually you figure it out, eventually you start to catch on to what has happened.  At that point most people are probably terrified and do everything they can to avoid the person that victimized them.  You can’t blame them either, because realizing that your thoughts can be manipulated like that is very frightening.  The other option is that you get angry.  Real angry.  Anger like you can’t believe.  The kind of anger that makes your head feel like it’s going to split open if you don’t do something about it.  That’s why aside from the Duke himself Kellgale Nickoslander is the person on my list who’s going to suffer the most.  She got over on me but she didn’t even come by it honestly like a con artist with a shell game or Find the Lady, she just cast a spell.  That’s what really stings, she didn’t even have to work for it.  I can appreciate someone swindling me fair and square, but magic mind control?  That’s not something that I can forgive.

The simple kind of charm that Martialla can do isn’t even the worst of it.  People who are really good at it (I think they call themselves mesmerists, but I refuse) can sometimes modify your memory with their magic.  So they entrance you, make you do stuff, and then make you forget that you did it.  That shit is terrifying.  If it happens to you frequently enough you begin to lose touch with your own sense of self, of your own personality.  You forget what your own thoughts and desires are.  You no longer know exactly who you are.  Your mind slips away like the sands in an hourglass.  I’ve met one of these wretches and it is truly a pathetic and horrific fate.  That seems like a fitting doom for Kellgale but the problem is she wouldn’t know that had happened to her – in which case there’s no point in doing it.  Coming up with a fitting revenge is harder than you think.  I wonder if I can get in contact with whoever comes up with the fiendishly ironic tortures in the Thirteen Hells and have them help me come up with a fitting punishment for her.  It’s probably a union thing though.  Labor guilds are ruining this kingdom.   

The remaining sailors of the Black Swan are still firmly charmed (you know magically like I was just talking about) by Martialla so they were getting the ship (boat?) ready to go while Kartak paced on the other side of the river.  I have to admit, the look on his face when the craft headed upriver instead of across to deliver me to him was priceless.  I guess Martialla’s plan is head to north until the river converges with the road to Aleene?  That doesn’t make a ton of sense to me, but she’s never been a great planner – that was always my job.  Kartak and his men continued to shadow us from the river bank which proves that that whole grappling hook trick was assisted by Martialla’s magic, otherwise they would have just tried it again. I’ve never wondered which is faster a ship (boat?) sailing upstream or a party of mounted men but now I know.  Kartak and his men didn’t have any trouble keeping up. It’s hard to judge exactly but I think the ship was going about as fast a slow runner. 

The speed of the Black Swan didn’t inconvenience them but Kartak and his men did run into an issue when we passed by a thick patch of woods on the bank – mostly hackberries I think.  They probably would have been well-served to go around, it’s not like they didn’t know where we were heading, but they slowed down to pick their way through the trees.  In addition to slowing them down this turned out to be a bad idea on account of they were attacked by huge hairy humanoid creature wielding a large tree branch for a club and it’s pet (friend?  Wife?) boar that was the size of a small boat itself.  The creature was vaguely apelike and for all its bulk was a stealthy son of a bitch.  It came out of nowhere and dashed one of the Satander exile’s brains out with its branch-club before you could blink.  A second later its tusky friend came charging out of the underbrush and ripped the stomach of a horse wide open.  That was one of the more gruesome sights I’ve seen lately.  I think Kartak has about half of his original force at this point, which is probably enough to take on a whatever that thing is and it’s war-pig, but they were having a real hard time gathering themselves to counter-attack in the thick of the vegetation whereas the creature seemed to be unhindered.  Something that big should have has similar problems but it moved through the brush with the grace of a dancer.  By the time the Black Swan floated out of eyesight I think half a dozen men and horses and been put to the ground.

“Whoa, what the Hells was that?”

Martilla’s mouth gaped “I don’t know, I’ve never seen anything like that.”

“The great monster expert is stumped?  I’m not sure which is more surprising, that or the fact that you said something other than ‘shut up Ela’.  That was a Hells of a thing to witness.”

She nodded “Yeah . . . anyway, shut up Ela.”

Since she has just seen how poor of a swimmer I was I wondered if Martialla would count on that to keep me in place, but she was too smart for that and had me chained to the deck by the ankle.  I definitely would have jumped, the odds of me drowning are pretty slim, I’m not that hopeless a swimmer but it would have taken some convincing.  It’s an odd thing when you have to do something that you don’t want to do and you balk the first few times but eventually you do it.  What’s going on inside your head?  One moment you can’t make yourself grasp the hot iron or leap from a rooftop or murder a horse to save yourself and then the next moment you do it.  What happened in the interim?  What sort of transformation took place and how did it happen? 

One moment you’re walking around in circles and muttering inspirational insults to yourself and then next moment you’re able to do it.  What happened?  How is it possible to talk yourself into doing something?  Aren’t you you always?  If you’re able to motivated yourself to do something that you’re afraid of why did you have to do it in the first place?  If it was “in” there why did you have to “find” it?  Why does imagining yourself doing something help you do it?  Why does someone telling you that you can’t do it make you more likely to be able to do it?  If the ability is already there why can’t we just access is consciously?  Why do we have to trick ourselves?  By the same token have you ever seen someone psych themselves out and fail at something they can do?  How does that happen?  There’s some weird stuff going on in our brains – I’m not sure we’re even on the same side.

A light rain fell off and on most of the day, and there was a low patchy fog hanging on parts of the river.  Heading upriver we passed a small fishing boat with two men working away.  What would have happened if I called out to them for rescue?  Assuming they cared what would they have done?  What could they have done?  Headed back to shore and tried to find a sheriff or someone like that.  And by the time they did the ship would have been long gone.  They could have provided a description but what good would that have done?  Would the memory haunt them?  Would it drive them mad?  A beautiful woman drifts by on a barge, the prisoner of an evil sorceress, she calls out for help – and you can’t do anything about it.  That seems like the kind of thing that could mess you up in the head.  Assuming they cared at all.  They may have just had a good laugh at my expense, you never know with people.

I’m not sure when is a good time to encounter river pirates, but when you’re chained to deck of the ship you’re on is definitely not a good time.  Late in the afternoon one of the sailors spotted a large tree that had fallen into the river partially blocking it.  Not blocking things so much that you couldn’t get around it, but there was already a ship caught up there.  When they spotted what looked like an official patrol boat of legitimate law enforcement people they started shouting for help saying that river pirates were around the bend of the river and coming their way.  I saw that there was a bloodhawk circling in the air above them and occasionally diving down to scatter and harass the crew of the entrapped vessel.     

You see here’s the problem with using magically influenced people to do your bidding, because the sailors actually ARE part of the river patrol and naturally they want to help people in situations just like this.  They may think that Martialla is their long lost best friend because of her spells, but they’re still themselves and they still want to do their job.  If your friend tells you not to rescue people when rescuing people is your thing you better have a damn good reason why not otherwise your friend is going to ignore you.  And that’s exactly what happened.  Martialla wasn’t able to convince her good buddies to pay no attention to the plight of the trapped river people.  I could have done it absolutely, but that goes without saying.

I at least give her credit for this much, once it became clear that her crew wasn’t going to budge Martialla got on board (pun!) with their rescue mission.  I’m sure she wanted to get done with it as soon as possible.  She chased the bloobhawk off with some magic beam (I could have killed it with a crossbow) and they got to work roping up the other ship so they could break out the oars and drag it off the watery tree obstacle.  The two crews were discussing the possibility of repairs (much to Martialla’s annoyance) when the river pirates appeared around the bend.  You know they were pirates because their keelboat was in such poor condition – it had a real makeshit piratey look to it.  You’d think that pirates might keep their shit in better shape just so that people wouldn’t know they were pirates right away but I suppose they’re probably drunk most of the time.  I know I would be if I were a pirate.  Which I am not.

The other ship they just rescued literally cut and ran, heading downriver as fast as they could while the Black Swan was left facing the wrong direction – that’s what you get for helping people out.  The pirates swung around and opened up with their crossbows, forcing everyone to dive for cover – you know except me since I was chained to the ground.  Martialla, being the clever gal that she is, was prepared to surrender – after all pirates are more interested in booty than mayhem and it’s not like she cares about this boat – but this wasn’t your ordinary pirate crew.  Because of course it wasn’t.  While the sailors were running up the white flag of cowardly but prudent surrender an adorable river otter climbed onto the Black Swan away from the action – I think I was the only one who saw it.

The delightful little furry-faced scamp dashed across the deck of the ship and then expanded, transforming into a gnarly-limbed, boney, thick-skinned green-blue crone.  Usually hags have a big knotted mess of hair for spiders and maggots to live in but this one had shorn all her hair off (or it fell off because of hag-diseases) and it’s knobby malformed skull was on full display, made all the more horrible by the water running off it like tiny rivers through the head-creases.  I only saw it for a moment before it turned invisible and the next thing I heard was Martialla’s shout of pain.  I saw the hag standing with bloody claws in the middle of the ship, her bloodhawk pet swooping down to slash at Martialla’s face. 

Hag’s like stuff as much as pirates as far as I know, but they seem to like bedlam better.  I could see the fear in Martialla’s eyes – she’s a pretty cool customer but that one time (or two or three) a hag almost killed us both shook her up pretty good, it left a mar on the inside.  Even so, she rolled to her feet and came up with her sword and dagger to fight – she’s many things, but a coward isn’t one of them.  With seven sailors as fodder I would have liked Martialla’s chances against the hag, but the bulk of the men on the pirate ship were still firing their crossbows and any target that presented itself.  And that wasn’t the worst of it. 

Two other pirates jumped across to the Black Swan, not men though.  Man-like beings with cloven hooves, muscular bodies and horned bestial heads.  Their matted hair was encrusted with blood and excrement, and served as home to a rippling mass of fat ticks and fleas.  In theory you might say they were goat-men, but goats are pretty nonthreatening and these things were monstrous.  That probably made it worse.  A lion-man you expect to be a killing machine, but a goat-man?  That’s just disturbing.  The axes they were swinging around were pretty disturbing as well – what with the blood spraying and the hunks of flesh being ripped out and so forth. 

I pulled my wire saw out of my secret pocket and started working on the chain holding me but the entire fight was over in maybe thirty seconds.  I have no idea how long it would take me to saw through a chain, if it’s even possible, but it’s certainly a lot more than thirty seconds.  Martialla was bleeding buckets of blood when she finally gave up and dove into the water to escape.  Probably not the best plan since that’s where the hag came from originally, but she wasn’t pursued.  Quickly establishing that there was nothing much of value on the patrol boat the hag ordered her men to pursue the fleeing merchant ship while she stayed on the Black Swan.  She crept over to me on all fours and sniffed me over thoroughly like a hound dog.  Her voice was smooth and consoling despite her awful appearance.

“It looks like your friends have abandoned you my pretty little flower.”

I smiled “Good thing you’re here, now I have a new friend.”

She let loose with an enthusiastic cackle.  No one can cackle like a real honest to Gods hag. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 953,251

Inventory: None

Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane, Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa, eyeless hag, Baron Saltwheel, Baron Harmenkar, Colonel Tarl Ciarán’s wizard soldier, Victor, Beharri, Cebuano, Mayor Eryn, Chimera Trading Company

Montagem 25 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

After wrecking the bridge they were hired to protect (well, blockade but I feel like not destroying the bridge was implied when they were hired) Diatala and her friend had a falling out with Baron Harmenkar’s men.  The Baron’s squad left in a huff to much indifference from the adventurers.  With no one to fight and no loot to take I’m sure the mighty heroes were bored by this job (which no one forced them to take).  They’re probably glad that things have been livened up by my presence.  That night around the campfire I told them that I was pretty sure that Archbaroness Relonge was no longer in a position to do them any favors (which was no one’s fault) but they resolved to head north anyway.  Who can say why?  The nightmare attack was only terrible last night instead of unbearable so I managed to get a decent amount of sleep.  I wonder how long I can go without wearing the Whiterock ring before the world is devoured by a madness creature from beyond the stars.  I should probably try to get that back. 

At the rise of morning Baron Saltwheel’s men took their leave as well since there was no bridge left for them to blockade.  There appeared to be no small amount of ill-will between them and Kartak’s band.   I assume they were promised an easy victory and a nice payout and instead they got nothing.  Nevertheless Kartak and his men were in it for the long haul and ready to shadow us from the other side of the river.

“We should probably move away from the river, that way they won’t be able to see where we’re going.  I know that Kartak has sent riders upriver as well to look for another way to get over the river.  If they cross and then double back we’ll run right into them.”

Diatala shook her head “We’ll stick by the river, that way we can keep an eye on them.  As long as you have that necklace you can’t hide from them anyway.”

I was thinking what a stupid decision that was, but she actually had a point.  Heading away from the river and then turning north makes no sense since they can find me whenever they want anyway.  I must really be short on sleep if I’m being outwitted by an adventurer.  Our party was smaller and theoretically could travel faster, but we were on foot while Kartak’s men were mounted so it was a wash.  It’s very strange to travel with your enemies a hundred yard away directly to your right.  It’s unnatural to be this close to the people trying to kill you without either running away or fighting.

Unnatural or not the day passed largely uneventfully, it wasn’t until late in the day that things got interesting.  Coming downstream from the north (except the sun was behind them which doesn’t make any sense, which way does this dumb river go ?!) was a boat (ship?) that looked ungainly to me because it had those runner floaty things on each side.  However the elf claimed was a “river runner” designed for rapid transit so it must be pretty fleet, assuming the elf knows what it’s talking about.  Everyone agreed that it was a patrol boat, but what does that mean?  Who’s in charge of rivers?  I never heard the Baron say anything about having naval (is it naval on a river or is that just for oceans?) forces of any kind.  I guess I would have thought that river people would be royal troops but the flag they were flying wasn’t anything I’ve ever seen associated with the King. Er, Queen.

I hailed them from our side of the river while Kartak did the same.  That was a mistake, he should have let Martialla do it with one of her illusionary guises.  I mean if you were being hailed by a comely lass on one side and a half-savage looking marauder on the other which side are you going to head for?  The ship (boat?) floated over to our side and on the foredeck stood one of the most overdressed men I have ever seen in my life – and I’ve seen a few.  If he fell in the water there is no way that he wouldn’t drown.  He had a fancy cloak and fancy overcoat and fancy this and fancy that all the way down, he had to be wearing at least five layers.  Setting aside drowning concerns he also had to be sweltering in that get up.  He had a massive beard streaked with grey (gray?) and one of those little square hats you see sometimes – but even with all that cranium accessorizing I could still clearly see his smug face.  I don’t know why but he was very pleased with himself.  Very.

He introduced himself as Captain Bergamot (how big does a ship need to be before it has a captain?) of the Black Swan (I think the ship was made of white birch, it certainly didn’t look black) and listened inattentively to my tale of being detained illegally by Kartak.  Once he was done not really attending to my story he proceeded to drone on at length about how they were looking for boats moving contraband.  I did my best to flatter him but some people are so self-centered that you can’t even kiss up to them because they’re not paying any mind to what you’re saying – it’s an odd thing.  I asked for his aid but he said that such matters weren’t within in jurisdiction.  I made a little joke about how if I came onboard it would be in his dominion but he didn’t think it was funny.  All that elicited was a five minute lecture about the intricacies of inland maritime law.  I could see that several of the sailors aboard were sick to death of this blowhard, I wonder how hard it would have been to get them to mutiny.  Probably pretty hard, but I bet I could have done it.

After offering a tepid non-apology for not helping me Captain Bergamot bid the Black Swan to continue on their mission of looking for unspecified contraband (I guess he didn’t feel the need to hear Kartak’s side of the story) but they didn’t get far.  Someone on Kartak’s bank snagged the Black Swan with a grappling hook.  I have to assume Martialla was involved with her magic because while I’ve never thrown a grappling hook in my life I can’t imagine that you can throw one that far unaided.  I would wager maybe forty feet is about as far as you can hurl one of those things.  For that matter how did they even have a rope that long?  Also why did they even have grappling hooks at all?  They had a couple horses yoked up to the ropes help them pull the boat into the middle of the river where they tossed on a couple more hooks.  I don’t mean to disparage Captain Bergamot but I feel like they should have been able to do something about that.  It wasn’t a fast process, it took a while, couldn’t they cut the ropes or something?

I wonder of this was Kartak’s idea or Martialla’s.  I have no idea who these river constables are, but they have to be a legal authority of some kind – attacking them seems like a bold move.  All on account of little old me.  Whether it was Martialla’s idea or not I saw her on the shore transformed in a shaggy white brute to haul on a rope with monster strength.  At least until the boat was yanked close enough for someone on board to hurl a pot of some kind of weaponized glue on her.  I’ve heard of such things but I never really believed in them, some kind of alchemical nonsense.  I have to admit that it was pretty satisfying to see Martialla stuck to the ground like an ant drowning in honey.  It didn’t last long because she changed forms again into some kind of frog-lizard beast and slithered out like it wasn’t tacky at all, but you have to take those little moments of amusement when you can find them.

Despite the best efforts of throwers (they had other things besides glue-pots) the boat was pulled to the shore and Kartak’s men swarmed aboard.  As his men were fighting for their lives Captain Bergamot stood on the prow (that’s a thing on a ship right?) belting out an inspirational song.  I’m sure it inspired them to wish they had a captain that could fight.  He had some manner of sissified court blade on his hip but he never even drew it – not even when Martialla stabbed him through the side of the stomach.  While all this was going on I suggested to my new friends that this would be a good time to make ourselves scarce but Diatala said that she wasn’t worried.  In truth I wasn’t too worried either, because seizing a ship and then actually making it go are two different things.  But I underestimated Martialla.  She used her magic (instead of one of her boring stories) to put several of the sailors to sleep and then charmed them, also with magic, not by being actually charming.  So in short order (relatively) the Black Swan was headed back our way with a magically entranced crew carrying Martialla and a half dozen of the Kostelos.

Once they landed and charged us Diatala and her crew put up a Hells of a fight, but I have to say being on the opposite side of Martialla is a real experience – the woman is a terror.  I stood there helpless with no weapon and nothing to contribute while a brief savage battle was waged in front of me.  After everyone else was dead the wizards both asked for mercy but there was none forthcoming.  After Martialla murdered them both she also backstabbed the last man still up on her side as well. 

“Why did you do that?”

She started picking over the bodies “Adventurers have good loot and I don’t want to share.” She gave me a hard look “I learned from the best when it comes to sharing.”

“Seems risky, someone across the way might have seen you.”

“I doubt it, it’s quite a distance, and you know how chaotic combat is – who knows how anyone died in a melee?  Doesn’t matter anyway, I’m not going back across.”

“Are you going to kill me?”

“No, I’m going to bring you in myself.  Kartak is an idiot, and now he’s an idiot without any men – all that’s left over there are the Baron’s soldiers and those weird foreigners.  If I took you back you’d take him out and turn the whole thing on its head within twenty four hours.”

“For someone who said that I was nothing without them you’re pretty worried about me.”

She picked something shiny off one of the dead men and held is up to look at it “You can have a powerful effect on the weak minded, I don’t deny that.  You’re no threat to me though.  I’m taking you back to Juost Manor and then I’m going to get on with my life and forget about you. It will be like you never existed.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 953,251

Inventory: None

Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane, Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa, eyeless hag, Baron Saltwheel, Baron Harmenkar, Colonel Tarl Ciarán’s wizard soldier, Victor, Beharri, Cebuano, Mayor Eryn, Chimera Trading Company

Montagem 24 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I’ve met some mismatched adventuring parties in my day but this one takes the cake (and sells it in town to buy a magic cleaver so they can take more cake from people to buy a bigger cleaver so they can take more cake . . .)  First and most obviously there’s six of them, when everyone knows that the magic number is four.  Even beyond that their composition is all off.  Two wizards is one wizards too many (possibly two) and as far as I can tell they have no warriors or religious types.  It’s surprising how many groups don’t have a divine specialist – how do they expect to get the sweet magic healing?  It shouldn’t be surprising since that’s the one occupation in the bunch that comes built in with responsibilities that don’t include wandering around murdering people on a whim but holy warriors are traditionally considered part of the iconic adventuring group mix.  I suppose priests of Adariel are too nice, priests of Strider wander off too much, and Odobeninians want too large a share of the booty (if you know what I mean).  I think the elf implied that s/he was a fighting type at one point but everyone knows that elfs are too willowy and ethereal to be warriors.  Plus I saw her/him cast a spell – make up your mind elf, it can’t be both.  Can you imagine an adventuring band with three wizards?  It’s sheer madness. While the tiny woman went to speak with the commander of the Harmenkar forces I spoke to the other five.

“Thanks for the rescue folks but I need to get away from here as fast as possible.” I plucked at the silver chain around my neck “This bad boy is a magic homing beacon and as soon as they figure out that I’m gone they’re going to able to find exactly where I am.  And you saw how many of them there are.  I know that you’re used to facing long odds and coming out the victors but this is different, these are legitimately dangerous people.  There’s one woman over there in particular that’s as ruthless as they come.  The best thing I can do is put as much distance between them and me as possible before they realize that I’m missing.”

The Shirelings were so similar looking that I could tell them apart only because one had a shield and the other did not.  I hope they’re siblings or something and I’m not just totally racist.  The one with the shield asked me why they had a magic tracker on me.

“I really need to get out of here so I don’t want to get into a deep conversation, in a nutshell what happened is that I found out that the Królewna and Bonifacja Trading Company were betraying the King – he was still alive then – and the King’s advisors decided to hide me away rather than letting that information become general knowledge.  I rabbited on them a couple times so they saddled me with this ugly thing so they could fine me.”

The other Shireling had a thoughtful expression “I never did hear a convincing reason why K and B was getting pulled apart, I assumed the King just needed money for the war.”

One of the wizards (you can tell because he was wearing robes) snorted at this “And I told you that made no sense, the tax revenue the Kingdom makes off of a trading company of that size would far out-strip any short term gains they’d get from seizing property.”

“Look guys, I really need to get moving, I don’t mean to be rude.  So thanks again, but it’s time for me to go.”

The other wizard, who strangely was wearing a helm, motioned for me to wait “There’s no need to rush off in the night.  May I examine that artifact?”

He said artifact like a total douche but I nodded my head anyway.  He came forward, putting his face right next to mine while he examined the silver necklace the Baron yoked me with – he could have stood to the side instead of being obtrusive and weird but you know, wizard.  His breath smelled like an old garment that has been stored in cedar chest for years.  How would you even accomplish that kind of mouth smell if you wanted to?  After a while he muttered some arcane words and the chain glowed for a few seconds while he stared at it sightlessly like I’ve seen Martialla do when she’s checking out magic shit.  He nodded and then called the other wizard over to stand too close behind me – they had me bracketed pretty good.  The second wizard took out a scroll and carelessly grabbed the necklace as well, choking me a little, as he cast a spell.

“That will misdirect them several hours, time enough for us to come up with a plan.”

“You mind backing off there champ?”

He blinked in surprise and then took one giant step backwards like a weirdo.  I slipped away and to the side to get away from the other one who was still breathing on the back of my neck like a freak.

“I appreciate that, but I couldn’t ask you to do any more behalf, you’ve already done more than I could ever expect.”

The Halfling without a shield grinned “Nonsense, we love this kind of stuff.  This is what we do darling, this is what we do.”

I have to imagine that the commander of the real soldiers was livid to find out about this little side trek his hirelings went on, but when the tiny woman returned she seems unperturbed.  I suppose adventurers are used to doing whatever they want and getting away with it because they can kill you if you cry about it.  That’s probably why real military people hate them.  She said that her name was Diatala and we all talked for a few minutes (except the elf who was probably out doing mysterious elf things) before she suggested that I get some rest as I was “clearly exhausted”.  How rude.  Rude and accurate.  I reiterated my opinion that I needed to run as far as I could while their magic locator was blocked but she shook her head resolutely.

“You’re under our protection now.  You’re stuck with us until we figure out a way to get that necklace off of you.”

It’s kind of nice to have the insane stubborn intractability of adventurers on my side for once.  I didn’t point out that they were basically holding me captive for my own good just like the people I’m running away from.  Those kinds of details tend to me lost on these sort of people.  The wizards promised me that they would put their heads together and come up with a solution.  When I mentioned that my shoulder was fucked up they gave me a potion that tasted like crap but fixed me up eighty-eight percent.  So much for the legendary stinginess of adventurers, I guess it’s different when you’re their rescue.  All they had for me was a bedroll, but after the last few nights it was as welcome as a feather bed in a luxury suite.  I fell asleep immediately.  The funny thing is, not funny ha-ha but funny like when a mule falls off a cliff, is that it’s actually probably good that I haven’t been able to sleep.  Without my necklace to protect me I was assaulted by nightmares throughout the night.  I still woke up feeling better though, that’s how tried I was.

The sun was high in the sky by the time I woke up, I must have slept for more than ten hours.  Diatala was sitting nearby fiddling with a kind of little puzzle that was made up of little rings of metal that fit together in some fashion.

“I won’t ask if you slept well, I know that you didn’t.  Bad dreams?”

“The worst.  There’s some kind of magic bullshit that makes me have nightmares all the time.”

“Królewna and Bonifacja really did a number on you didn’t they?”

“You can say that again.”

“Your captors have been combing the area on the other side of the river looking for you.  They asked Baron Saltwheel’s men about you but they were uncooperative, I doubt they really think that you’re in their camp.  Ibix used another scroll on your necklace to keep it from signaling your location but that’s the last of them.  Before sundown they’re going to know exactly where you are.  But we have a plan.”

“You really don’t need to take any more risks on my behalf.”

She held up her hand to stop my protestations “Just accept that we’re going to help you.  Emam and Sarpol put their heads together and they have a way to get that necklace off you but it requires some components they don’t have.  The good news is we’re not far from the home of Archbaroness Relonge and she owes us a favor.”

“Oh, Relonge you say?  Have you spoken to her recently by any chance?”

We didn’t get to continue that conversation because there came a hue and a cry.  Isn’t a hue a color?  Anyway, Baron Saltwheel’s men and Kartak’s men were coming across the bridge looking grim.  Kartak must know (or at least suspect) out that I’m over here and made some manner of alliance with Saltwheel’s goons.  Martialla probably figured it out actually, she’s pretty sharp.  The Harmenkar soldiers looked uncertain what to do, but the adventurers jumped on the bridge ready to fight – you have to give them points for bravery if nothing else.  The commander of the Harmenkar soldiers looked horrified.

“Wait, stop!  Don’t do anything you’ll regret, just hand me over to them.”

Seeing reason the adventuring party admitted that they couldn’t fight that many enemy soldiers, but that didn’t mean they gave up of course.  They backed off the bridge and wizard number one hit it with a massive fireball while wizard number two attacked with a stroke of lightning.  Even the elf got in on the action using its elf-power to warp the wood like it had been sitting underwater for decades.  The men on the bridge sprinted back to safety as the wizards continued their arcane assault and the bridge collapsed with a massive sprout of river-water.  Martialla barely made it off the bridge and I saw her standing, wet as a duck’s ass, on the other side of the river staring a hole in me.   

I know that it worked out for me in this case but this is a good example of how insane adventuring types are.  You know how hard it is to build a bridge?  You know how important they are to the local community?  And they just blew one up to save one person that they don’t even know.  Although, that’s not even why they did it – they didn’t really do it for me, they did it because they wanted to win.  At the core of every adventurous soul there is the belief that they are better than everyone else – even the nice ones think that without realizing it themselves.  Working a job and obeying the law and being normal is fine for other people, lessor people, but they are too important for that.  They have a destiny.  They could never live the kind of humdrum boring exist of people like you, although they mean no offense by saying so. 

So destroying a bridge to stop their opponents makes perfect sense to them.  It doesn’t matter that without this bridge here the local populace with suffer.  It doesn’t matter that for all they know I am a violent criminal who was being held legally.  It doesn’t matter that they just screwed over the guy that hired them.  All that matters is that they won.  Adventurers would rather be alive then dead of course, but they would definitely rather die than lose – what would be the point of living if a normal person bested them? 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 953,251

Inventory: None

Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane, Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa, eyeless hag, Baron Saltwheel, Baron Harmenkar, Colonel Tarl Ciarán’s wizard soldier, Victor, Beharri, Cebuano, Mayor Eryn, Chimera Trading Company

Montagem 23 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Night three with essentially no sleep.  I’ve heard the claim made that skipping one night of sleep results in a condition almost the same as being drunk.  I don’t think I buy that, but string a few nights like that together and then you’ve got something.  After a while your mind just feel sluggish – you kind of feel like you are asleep somehow even though you’re not.  Which would be bad for you, but just imagine how awful it is for someone as quick-witted as me.  I think what happens after a few sleepless nights is that your brain does start sleeping for a couple seconds here or there and your body just keeps going.  Someone says something and you realize you have no idea what it was even though you responded, which you also don’t remember.  You think to yourself “man, I really have to piss” and then a few minutes later you’re somewhere else and you don’t have to go anymore.  What happened?  Did you piss and forget about it instantly?  It’s not a fun experience. 

One of the Satanders (Satanderians?  Satandish?) brought me a little cup of some delicious coffee liquor but I barely got one sip before Martialla came over and kicked it out of my hand (I was sitting on the ground chained to a tree you see).  The man that gave it to me looked at her like she was some kind of bug.  I know very little about Satander culture overall, so I have no idea how they normally treat women.  There was no shouting, no words exchanged even, he just glowered at her for a moment and then walked away.  Martialla noticed a couple of the Baron’s men giving her the evil eye and she did stop to curse them out before making to unlock the chain holding me to the tree.

“You have a real talent for winning people over.  I think I realized what it is though.  Until you teamed up with me you worked alone for so long that you don’t think that you need allies.  What it is is . . .”

“Shut up Ela.”

She didn’t even bother to unlock the cuff on my wrist, using the chain to drag me over to the wagon.  She was disgusted to find that someone had made a little blanket-nest for me to ride in in the bed of the wagon.  I think she really wanted to jump up and toss it all out but she didn’t – showing some restraint for a  change.  She just herded me in and locked the other end of the chair under the seat.  Clearly her intent was to drive the wagon herself, which she doesn’t really know how to do, but since she’s also a crappy rider I guess it’s a toss-up.  While the rest of the camp was mobilizing I used my Beastspeech to talk to the horses pulling the wagon.  I was curious if they knew what was so important that three people were willing to kill and die to get it back but they didn’t.  I mean they’re horses, they don’t really know much.  I love horses but they’re not the brightest.  Speaking to animals is helpful sometimes but overall it’s kind of a letdown.  It’s tough to communicate beyond the very basic level because animals don’t really think about things the same way that we do – a lot of common human concepts are beyond them.  It can make for some frustrating dialogues. 

Eventually Martialla realized what I was doing and once again was pointing her sword at me “Stop that!”

Kartak was sitting on his horse nearby “What’s the problem now wašičú?” (Wašičú is a Kostelos word that’s hard to translate into the King’s tongue, it’s kind of like calling someone lazy but it’s more like a person who just can’t manage to do anything)

“She was talking to the horses.”

There was some general laughter at this and even Kartak couldn’t help but smile “She was talking . . . . to the horses?”

“Don’t laugh, there’s nothing funny about this!  It’s something she can do, she can communicate with animals!” She pointed at one of the Baron’s men “You!  You know right?  Didn’t she spend a lot of time with the Baron’s kennel master taking care of the dogs?”

He looked startled to be singled out but before he could say anything one of the Kostelos made a comment in his own language and they all started laughing.  The guy I think is the leader of the Satander exiles smiled as well so he must be able to understand them at least.  Martialla was fuming but she didn’t lose focus – locking her eyes with mine.

“Don’t do that again Ela.”

I held my hands up in mock surrender “Of course, I won’t plot against you with the horses nor any other animals that come along.  Raccoons or fluffy bunnies or so forth.  Nothing to worry about there.”

It wasn’t really that funny but it set off another round of laughter anyway.  When you’re bullying someone what you say doesn’t actually have to be very humorous, people just want to make someone else feel small so they usually get on board.  One of the Kostelos rode up and said that there was a chipmunk that Martialla should watch out for.  I thought she was going to run him through but she finally managed to grit her teeth and sheath her sword and sit back down to wait.  Eventually we lurched off and even at wagon-speed we managed to make the bridge by mid-day.  Well before we reached the bridge though I saw that our old friends, the Baron’s Saltwheel and Harmenkar had their bridge interdiction crews out doing their work.  The set up was similar to what I had encountered on the way to Preen so it must be the strategy – Saltwheel with regular forces and Harmenkar leaning more on adventurers.  So either Harmenkar must have less men or he just likes adventurers.     

Martialla came into the back of the wagon to threaten me with impalement once again “Don’t speak to any of these people.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

The two barons must not have had this bridge blockaded when Kartak and company came south to get me because they didn’t seem to know what was going on.  Kartak and a few others rode forward to remind these fellows that this was Baron Juost’s land and they had no authority to be doing this, but this is where setting Juost up as an ineffectual puppet failed them.  Baron Saltwheel’s men clearly didn’t give a shit – they even specifically invoked the time honored tradition of noblemen stealing each other’s land when one of them fails to hold up his obligations.  Kartak was clearly stymied, he had more men, but not enough more to make intimidating his way through a sure thing, and once you play that card and they call your bluff you’re in real trouble.  I could have pulled it off of course, but no one asked me.  Martialla stopped menacing me to join the conversation about what to do, or to try to anyway, they seemed intent on freezing her out.  Eventually she was able to convince Kartak to speak to her privately.

“I’ve dealt with these assholes before, all we need to do is bribe them.”

“With what exactly?  I don’t travel with the Baron’s treasury on me.”

“There’s a literal fortune in Ela’s pouches.  The amount of money she’s managed to amass is indecent.  But only she can get it out.”

“So how does that help?”

“Make her get the money.”

“How am I supposed to do that?”

“You’re the torture expert, figure it out.  I know you’re not supposed to hurt her, I’m sure you know some ways to fuck people up that won’t leave marks.  There’s a river right there – can’t you drown her until she agrees to get the money?”

“I assume you wanted to speak in confidence because she really does have a lot of money, enough to concern you about people’s loyalty when they find out.  Even if I thought this was a good idea what’s to stop her for pitching out the entire treasure horde and inciting the kind of frenzy you’re worried about?”

“Figure it out, do I have to come up with everything?  If you don’t want to kill these people, who are violating the sovereignty of your lord, bribing them is the only way.”

They must have realized they were close enough that I could hear them, but they were still both surprised when I spoke up.

“You have quite the fortune yourself Martialla, if getting across is that important why don’t you pony up for the bribe?”

Kartak was on board with that notion but Martalla was not.  She can be very tight-fisted that one.  It’s probably because of her dirt-poor commoner background.  They had quite a discussion about that, which ended with Kartak deciding that they’d head north to find another crossing.  Martialla was not super pleased but this plan.

“You must be joking, we’re already three days behind schedule and now you want to head north?  Do you even know if there’s another bridge within a hundred miles of here?”

Kartak stared her down “I have had enough of your insolence.  You are not in charge here.  You are not in charge of anything.  I’m not interested in your input.  Going forward keep your opinions to yourself.”

“The Baron . . .”

“The Baron isn’t in command of anything!  Why are you even here?  You want to return to the compound then go, no one here is going to miss you.”

“I am the only reason you have Ela and if it wasn’t for me she would have escaped already!  I am the only one keeping her here!”

Kartak snorted and looked at me bundled in the back of the wagon “Oh yes, she’s terrifying.”

Kartak sent a couple scouts upriver to look for a crossing while the rest set up camp on a hillside near the bridge.  Between the three groups there have to be over a hundred fighting men here – is there even still a war going on?  Maybe the war ended and no one told me – that would explain why I seem to find so many bodies of armed men roaming the countryside with no specific agenda.  Kartak put one of his men, Baru, “in charge” of me.  Not sure exactly what they means but I assume that it was another move designed to tweak Martialla’s nips.  It certainly worked.  The Sky-Thunders are a little taller than most Kostelos, who are a shortish people, but Baru was pretty squat.  He made up with it with a six inch mohawk somewhat though.  His first order was that I wasn’t going to be chained up at night anymore – after all where was I going to go even if I did get away.  Martialla pointed out reasonably that that may have been true before but now there were two groups of armed men within spitting distance that I could insinuate myself into if I got loose.     

Baru was not interested in taking this detail under advisement.  Martialla managed to choke down an explosion at that point but shortly thereafter she yelled at me for chatting with Baru in Kostelos and then there was a blow-up after Baru told her to go fuck herself.  I think she would have killed him if he didn’t have twenty other dudes to back him up.  I never knew that Martialla had such a temper.  Kartak was clearly done with all of this and told Martialla she was banished from the camp.  The look on her face was priceless.  I was installed in the back of the wagon as my sleeping place for the night, with Baru slumbering loudly in the driver’s seat (that has a name right?  Like the buckboard or something?).  When I felt the wagons shift slightly I thought that it was Martialla coming back to murder me in the night.

But what I saw instead was the round apple-cheeked face of a Shireling peering at me through the darkness.  After the incident last night the guards around camp had been doubled, but this little fellow and his friend had managed to slip right past then anyway.  Halflings can be pretty sneaky, some of them anyway.  He beckoned for me and I crawled carefully off the wagon where they helped me to creep out of the camp – aided by someone else distracting one of the guards.  A short distance away we met with an elf whose skin looked blue in the moonlight and a human woman so small that I thought she was also a Halfling for a moment.  The five of us crept down the hillside where two more compatriots of theirs were waiting.  One of them cast a spell to cloak us in darkness and the other did the same to silence our moves.  We made our way quickly to the river, where, and I kid you not, the elf took what looked like a folded piece of paper out of a pack and when they set it into the river it turned into a full sized rowboat.  It was a tight fit with seven of us, but we were on the Baron Harmenkar side of the river in no time.   As they were bringing me into their camp I had to ask.

“Why are you doing this?”

One of the Shirefolk got a lopsided grin “We’re heroes, what better reason could there be?”

The elf was more solemn in speech “You were clearly being held against your will.”

I never thought I would say this, not ever.  Thank the Gods for adventurers and their reckless ignorant glory seeking. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 953,251

Inventory: None

Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane, Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa, eyeless hag, Baron Saltwheel, Baron Harmenkar, Colonel Tarl Ciarán’s wizard soldier, Victor, Beharri, Cebuano, Mayor Eryn, Chimera Trading Company

Montagem 22 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I read a book once that claimed there are a group of people who practice transcendental sleeping.  People in some unspecified far away non-verifiable place, you know, where all the interesting things happen.  The idea of transcendental sleeping is that by learning how to sleep the right way eventually you can become untethered from your physical body and exist in the realm of dreams as a spirit of some kind.  If you get really good at it you can achieve a form of immortality because your dream-spirit exists forever and whenever you want to visit the world you can reform your body.  There’s tales of these immortal sleepers going into caves so sleep and what people think happen is they just lay in there for eighty years or whoever long and then wake up.  But what actually happens is their body dies and they just recreate it later when it’s time to wake up.  I mean it’s so obvious people.   

Of course nothing can be all roses and rainbows so in the dream world there’s some kind of nightmare realm that doesn’t like these sleeping immortals messing with their evil plans so there’s a whole battle going on there – and of course this nightmare realm has mortal agents in the real world as well, a cult of dream worshipping fanatics who will stop at nothing to blah blah blah whatever.  I assume somewhere in this mix there’s a dream god on one side or another.  Anyway I don’t believe this for a variety of reasons, one being that allegedly a key component of making this dream transformation is engaging in sexual acts without achieving climax – and if that was the case most of the women in the world would be halfway where am I right?  But I wish that it was true because I would study this technique and sleep for a good thirty years.  Seems very restful.  Plus then the Duke would be older and easier to wail on.  The risk of course would be that someone else would kill him in the meantime, or he would just die of syphilis – and that’s no good because I’m the one that has to do him in.  I worry about that a lot, he has many enemies and many unhealthy habits, not to mention random chance.  If he dies before I can kill him I really don’t know what I’ll do. 

It’s a little easier to sleep in manacles than staked to the ground but it was oppressively hot last night and there were mosquitoes and other bloodsucking monsters attacking me relentlessly – for some reason they were going after the ass more than anything.  My left cheek looks like it has porridge pox.  Between that and my aching shoulder it was another sleepless night for old Ela.  When I woke up, or rather stopped trying to fool myself that I was asleep, I heard Kartak and Martialla arguing about me again.  She was upset because he was suggesting that they not travel today so I would have some time to recover.  Martialla was screeching about how we should have made the road by today and instead we haven’t even crossed the river yet.  I never realized how shrill her voice can be until now.  She reiterated her opinion that I was faking my injury to intentionally slow our progress.  Kartak lost his temper pretty quickly and it seemed like they were on the verge of fighting.  She’s too smart for that, but it would be helpful if she slipped up and Kartak and his men slaughtered her like a goat.  Without her nagging them all the time about how I’m going to turn them against one another it would be easier to turn them against one another.

The best case scenario would be for Martialla to lose her temper, kill Kartak, and then be forced to flee by his men – leaving one of these other yahoos in charge.  That would make things very easy for me, the only problem is that Kartak is on my list so if Martialla killed him that would ruin everything.  So while it would be convenient it would cause problems later on.  Martialla must have won the argument because they did sit me on a horse and we set off at a sedate pace, but after an hour of me pretending to pretend that I wasn’t in pain and whimpering with every jolt of the saddle Kartak called a halt and sent a couple of his men to find a wagon for me to ride in.  Two of the Baron’s men helped me dismount and set up a camp chair for me to sit on while everyone else milled around waiting. Martialla stayed nearby and scowled away anyone who tried to come within six feet of me.

“You’re going about this all wrong you know.” Martialla’s only response was a disgusted noise “You shouldn’t be butting heads with Kartak and screaming like a harridan all the time.  What you should be doing is damage control.  You helped them catch me but nobody likes a traitor Martialla.  It’s a real conundrum, as the ruling authority you want people to turn in your enemies, but if someone is willing to turn on their closest friend they prove themselves to be untrustworthy so what are you do with them?  It’s surprising that more turncoats don’t figure that out.  They seem to be shocked when the people they betray their friends or family to treat them like crap.”

“Shut up Ela.”

“So you already had a lot of ground to make up and you’re not doing a very good job of it – you’re just digging yourself deeper.  The Kostelos are an even more patriarchal society than ours – I’m surprised one of Kartak’s men hasn’t tried to put you in your place yet, or tried to take him out for letting you.  Even for ‘civilized’ Kostelos they’re showing an amazing amount of forbearance.  You know what the Kostelos think about us?  They see Kingdom men as dog’s running to follow their women’s commands.  It’s pretty funny that they think we tell men what to do, but it’s an indication of how male dominated their society is.  Not only are you alienating Kartak but you’re making him look bad in front of his men.”

“I said shut up.”

“But really what’s more worrisome for you is that you’re making me the victim in the eyes of the Baron’s men.  You weren’t there the first time I was there, I was playing the dutiful noble woman, they don’t see me as a threat no matter what you say, they see me a helpless woman who needs their manly protection – they don’t like what’s happening here at all.  Not only are you building their sympathy for me, but you’re also creating a divide between them and the Kostelos.  I doubt they’re happy about taking orders from Kartak anyway and now you’re giving them me and my mistreatment to rally around.  If you keep it up I wouldn’t be surprised if they try some kind of coup all on their own.  You’re setting yourself up to look like the brute while I’m a broken little bird.  A fragile delicate little thing that garners all kinds of compassion – but you know, the masculine kind of compassion where they want to fuck me.”

“I said shut up!”

“The real question mark in all of this is the Satander exiles though.  I have no idea what their part of this is, or what their reaction would be if the Kostelos and the Baron’s man started fighting.  What . . .”

Martialla came over and with a shove and a kick to the chair sent me sprawling to the ground.  As I hit the ground with a cry I grabbed at my bad shoulder.  Almost immediately a couple of the Baron’s men and one of the Kostelos ran over and got embroiled with Martialla in a shouting match.  She wanted to gag me again and restrain me as well, they accused her to being a cruel and heartless she-bitch.  I couldn’t help but smile as I saw them wrangling.  Well, that’s not true, I could have very easily not smiled – but I wanted Martialla to see it.  Kartak came to get into another loud discussion with Martialla, but she angrily walked away – which is probably just as bad.  Turning your back on a man like that?  Very disrespectful.  If she was smart she would have let him rip her apart verbally in front of everyone to start rebuilding that relationship.  Martialla has a lot of good qualities but her ego is a real issue.

A couple of hours later the Kostelos came back with a wagon.  There was no blood on it so hopefully they just took it via threats rather than murdering whoever had it before.  In the back of the wagon were some sacks of apples and some jugs of moonshine which really improved the morale around the camp.  However Kartak decided that at that point they might as well just stay put for the rest of the day anyway – I’m pretty sure just to piss off Martialla.  He probably wanted to give her a chance to blow up at him again so they he could smack her down and reestablish his authority.  She didn’t take the bait though.  Once Kartak made it clear that they weren’t going any farther she dramatically left the camp, which only served to make things worse.  She really doesn’t understand how people work. 

It wasn’t until after nightfall that things really got interesting though.  Martialla had returned to chain my good arm to a small tree before disappearing again so once again I was wide awake.  Which allowed me to see two of the men on watch duty get shot down from the darkness.  That’s the problem with being on guard duty if you ask me, you’re lit up so that anyone out there can see you but there’s not enough light so that you can see them.  It’s a real pickle.  Once the guards were down a woman and two men slunk out of the darkness towards the wagon.  That must be a really important wagon.  They were trying to steal it but there were more than two people on guard duty so they didn’t get very far.  In short order the whole camp was alerted and they were swarmed.  Martialla appeared out of nowhere (literally, she must have been skulking around invisible) and had her sword on me like I was going to try something as the thieves were subdued.   

One of the men was killed in the fighting and the other was so badly wounded he was going to die anyway, but the woman was intact enough that they got to decapitate her for attacking them.  I wonder what that was all about.  Killing two men for a wagon, I could maybe see that, but they had to know that coming into a camp of this many people was more or less a suicide charge.  Seems like a lot to risk just for a wagon.  Although, based on what I know about the Skin-Takers she got off very easy with merely losing her head – I wonder what would have happened if the Kingdomers and the Satander hadn’t been around.  Or maybe they really have changed.  I guess Kartak is the only Skin-Taker anyway, maybe the Sky Thunder tribe isn’t as reprehensible.  But I doubt it.

Martialla looked at me coldly “Another day lost and two men dead.  You won’t get away with it Ela.  You won’t win this time.”

“Have some respect Martialla, five people just lost their lives, this isn’t some game to win or lose.” 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 953,251

Inventory: None

Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane, Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa, eyeless hag, Baron Saltwheel, Baron Harmenkar, Colonel Tarl Ciarán’s wizard soldier, Victor, Beharri, Cebuano, Mayor Eryn, Chimera Trading Company

Montagem 21 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

This probably won’t come as a big shock to you fine people but it turns out that you don’t sleep very well staked to the ground like a dog surrounded by murderous torture cannibals.  Honestly I think I slept maybe twenty minutes last night.  Between that and my balance still being thrown off by Martialla busting something inside my ear I could barely get in the saddle when they packed up camp and dragged me to my feet.  I’ve fallen off a horse a time or two, and believe it or not there’s definitely an art to doing it – well not “safely” but less dangerously.  The key is to protect your head and your wrists.  Our dumb bodies have the instinct to throw out our hands to try and break our fall – which is bad.  What you want to do is bend through the body and bring your arms across your chest – keep your head tucked in and your chin down.  Try to roll so the impact skews throughout as much of your body as possible.  It’s counter intuitive but you want as much of yourself to make impact with the ground as possible (except your head).  Think about it like this, would you rather be stabbed with a spear or poked with a metal rod?  And what’s the difference?  The area of impact.

I’m not great at falling off a horse but I’m good enough to make due.  I mean normally I’m such an accomplished rider that it doesn’t come up.  Although here’s a fun fact, expert riders actually tend to fall more often than those at an intermediate skill level because we’re going faster and pulling fancier moves.  The point is this, because I was exhausted and my equilibrium was messed up I fell more today than I have in my entire life up until this point.  The first couple of times I managed to do it “right” and “just” get the wind knocked out of me to go along with some bumps and bruises.  But my luck didn’t hold out – eventually I landed badly on my shoulder and I heard a noise.  It wasn’t like a crack or a snap, the kind of sound you might expect from a shoulder being obliterated, it was more like the sound of a wet piece of cloth being ripped.  The pain was so intense that for a few seconds I was doing that weird there were you’re kind of hiccupping but really you’re hyperventilating. 

I grabbed my shoulder helplessly writhing on the ground “Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me, oh Gods it hurts!!!”

Martialla rode over by me looking exasperated “Get up Ela, no one is buying this act.”

All I could do was moan and grind my face into the dirt to hide my tears.  Martialla dismounted (awkwardly I might add, she can’t ride for shit) with a curse and stalked over to drive her heel into my shoulder causing me to scream in anguish.  My eyes were clenched shut put I could hear Kartak admonishing her.

“Stop that, she’s injured!”

Martialla gave me a kick/nudge and then took her foot off, I rolled away gasping.

“She’s faking it.”

“She looks pretty hurt to me.”

I could hear the frustration in Martialla’s voice “This is what she does!  I told you this, I told you exactly how she was going to play this.  Don’t buy into it!  This is how she gets to people and twists everything around.  She’s slowing us down and the longer we’re out here the more chance she has to get someone on her side.  She plays on people’s sympathy.”

“No one here is going to have any sympathy for her.”

“Don’t say that!  That’s what everyone thinks and then the next thing they know they’re bleeding from a knife-wound in the ribs they never saw coming and she’s walking away to the next sucker.  You know what she is!  Don’t let her get in your head.  I’ve seen it a hundred times.  People that know she’s a liar, that know they need to watch out for her still get taken in by her bullshit.  I don’t see how you of all people can fall of this tried routine.  She killed your entire tribe, everyone you knew!”

“People keep saying that but she didn’t actually kill anyone herself.  All she did was convince other people that . . .”

“That’s what she does!  She manipulates people into doing things for her!  That doesn’t make your people any less dead does it?   You sound like one of those idiots who says things like ‘well the snake didn’t really kill him it was the poison’, this is how she does it!”

“Venom.”

“What?”

“Snakes have venom not poison.”

“Are you even fucking listening to me?!  I know this woman, I’m the only person in the world who knows her!  I know what she’s done.  Don’t let her turn your own men against you.”

“My men . . .”

“Fuck your men!  You don’t know what’s in their heads.  And even if you did what about all these other guys?  You don’t know them, you don’t know what they’re capable of.  YOU, didn’t I hear you say that you knew her when she was at the Juost compound?”

I heard a new voice, one that was clearly unhappy to be the center of attention “I just, I mean, I was saying . . . . we only talked a couple times is all, it wasn’t . . .”

“And how do you feel right now seeing her down here rolling around?  I can see it in your eyes!  You feel sorry for her!  It’s already starting to work!  A couple more days and she’ll wink and smile at this dummy and shaker her little ass at him and he’ll be setting her free in the middle of the night!  You people cannot possible be this stupid!  I told you, I told you all that . . .”

“Enough woman!  I won’t be lectured by you!  The Baron said that she wasn’t to be harmed.”

“I’m telling you, she’s fine!”

Martialla grabbed my arm to drag me up and the pain was so penetrating that I blacked out instantly.  When I woke up it was near sundown and I was resting on a makeshift cot/hammock/thing at the side of the camp underneath the shade of a tree.  Doesn’t look like we travel much more than a mile from where my final fall took place.  One of the Baron’s men brought me a plate of some kind of chicken and vegetable pie and a jug of whiskey and helped me eat and drink my fill since my arm was screwed up.  I saw Martialla sitting across the way in a camp chair staring daggers at me.  Once I was done and the soldier was gathering up the dishes (such as they were) she stomped over to us.

“Search her.”

He looked confused “But I have everything.”

I was slightly amused “You think I’m going to kill you with a fork Martialla?”

She pointed a finger at me that was brimming with the beginnings of a magical ball of acid “You don’t speak.  And YOU, humanitarian, I said search her so search her!”

His face was a warring admixture of defiance and offense and fear and subservience.  He looked her in the eye for a moment and then looked away, putting down the plate and the jug and the fork and then mumbling an apology before running his hands over my shoulders and ribs.

“There. Are you satisfied now.  Ma’am?”

Martialla looked like her head was on the verge of exploding “Are you fucking kidding me with that?” She pointed “Get under those skirts!  You think she’s going to hide something by stuffing it into the side of her shirt?  I saw her stab an old woman to death with a piece of broken crockery.  Do you want that to be you boy?!”

“I can’t . . . . I . . . . you . . . . it’s . . . .”

She shook her head with a sigh “Get the fuck out of here.” She yelled after him as he scurried off.  “I hope she kills you first!”  She turned back to me with a humorless laugh/bark “You are a piece of work you know that.  I knew you were good, but I didn’t think they would make it this easy for you.  You know what that moron Kartak wanted to do?  He wanted to stop at an inn in Strandpoint and find you a bed!  And let me guess, that’s where your whore friend Adelis went right?  She and all your little whore friends have been there laying the groundwork for you right?  It almost worked Ela, it almost worked.  But you are not going to escape.  No matter how much these morons unwittingly help you I will not allow you to escape.” She held up a hand, snapping with magical fire “If it looks like you’re going to get away I’m going to burn you Ela.  I’m going to burn you alive.  I don’t care what the Baron wants, he’ll get over it, but you will not get away Ela.  You can’t.”

“So are we talking again now?  Because I tell you Martialla, I had the weirdest dream last night.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 953,251

Inventory: None

Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane, Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa, eyeless hag, Baron Saltwheel, Baron Harmenkar, Colonel Tarl Ciarán’s wizard soldier, Victor, Beharri, Cebuano, Mayor Eryn, Chimera Trading Company