If you like Ela the Expert you’ll be wildly indifferent about Amazing Grace!

I’ve decided that sitting in a computer chair for 10-12 hours a day is not enough! So I’ve started a second blog (third but the other one is super secret – you can tell because I’m mentioning it).

I love wrestling. I can’t explain why exactly. I don’t even watch it much anymore because there was too much behind the scenes stuff coming out about how horrible the business is. And because ROH isn’t that good anymore. And because NXT isn’t that good anymore. And because I’m too lazy to go to live shows much anymore.

So my new blog is about a woman trying to make her way as a greenhorn tenderfoot in the world of wrestling. And also magic. Because why not?

Even with WordPress dummy mode on I still can’t make the site look great. I’m working on that, but it has some sweet art! If you have any tips on making my site not crappy please let me know.

If you like wrestling or if you like magic or if you like crappy writing or if you like following blogs and never reading them in the hopes that they’ll follow you back or if you’re a Russian bot check out https://cultissuchanuglyword.wordpress.com/

Great name , terrible URL eyeball feel!

Forty bucks weeknights

Macendamandel 12 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I spent the rest of the day yesterday slogging around Three Rivers finding and talking with the lumberjack widows.  It was slow and boring work.  One thing that I hadn’t counted on was all the bridges – they’re perfect chokepoints for the consortium thugs that happen to be looking for little old me.  I kept an eye out for anyone peering through a magic crystal or anyone who looked like a wizard or anything like that but the consortium doesn’t seem to have a lot of arcane resources to bring to bear.  Makes sense, you don’t need a lot of magical firepower to keep some blue collar slugs in line.  

My illusions should keep me safe for now – they did yesterday anyway.  I was hoping that I would encounter one of those “den mother” types who’s all up in everyone’s business and is always organizing the neighborhood so she could do the legwork for me but instead it was mostly just a lot of sad and very tired women.  The prostitutes I talked to seems much healthier and, well not happier, but less sad anyway.  That’s something to think about isn’t it?

When I returned to the safehouse (that’s too grand really, safehole maybe?) Martialla had failed utterly to recruit any criminal scum but Hessenmeel did say that a few of his trading contacts were still interested in supporting the cause – although they probably aren’t aware that the cause has changed slightly.  Martialla and Hassenmeel seemed intent on talking “strategy” deep into the night so I took my sweetdream and went to sleep.  For some reason I couldn’t remember any of the dreams I had that night, maybe because of the mind-erasing narcotic that I was taking.  The next morning it was time to start getting serious.  I sent Hessenmeel to see if more of his old gang was interesting in keeping the flame of hope alive, which he did grudgingly, while I sent Martialla to collect some seed money from our new mercantile contacts.  Meanwhile it was time for me to start finding some real money. 

Gambling and prostitution are both legal in Three Rivers, as you might expect since its main purpose is keeping a rowdy workforce docile, but it’s also one of the only places in the Kingdom where bloodsports are also perfectly permissible.  Spectator combat has a weird quasi-legality in a lot of places that make it a chancy business but here in Three Rivers it’s all fine.  Most of the action here is your run of the mill ratting, bear baiting, and brawling between two local oafs cranked up on whatever drugs they have at hand, but it sounds like occasionally they have more exotic events.  I heard specifically about a yearly affair where they brings fucking trolls in the city to tear each other to bits.  You can never underestimate people’s capacity for watch other people (or things) in pain.

But there was no need to find anything so exotic for my purposes.  I perused a couple of the lower-end pugilistic affairs and found one that was perfect.  Clearly it had started out as a pair of brothers setting up fist-fights but had grown to the point where they had a small “arena” behind a shitty restaurant and a shitty bar with some shitty wooden bleachers set up.  But they hadn’t yet realized that they had outgrown their humble beginnings and were still just taking bets ad hoc and holding onto the money themselves.  The only security they had was whatever fighter they had on the payroll that wasn’t busted up and wasn’t working at the moment. 

I hung around their little fight club until I heard they were having a “show” that night, then I went looking for an accomplice.  The lands that are all now being clear cut used to be where a couple Kostelos clans lived.  I don’t know what the difference between a Kostelos tribe and a clan is, but I know what’s left of the Kostelos around here get very uptight if you call them a tribe.   Even though the word is the same in their language.  Explain that.  Anyway, once the Kingdom started taking over all their shit some of them tried to make war against the Kingdom and some of them tried to assimilate into it.  They both failed.  I think Three Rivers most beloved hero “Whiskey” Jankin Ortun became famous mostly for being really good at killing Kostelos warriors (and women and children of course).  Most people seem to think he was one of the founders of the city but I know that’s not right.

Anyway, the civilized Kostelos are crowded into the lower part of the city on the west side of the Compass River where they live in appalling conditions and are sometimes attacked by the few remaining “wild” Kostelos in the forest looking to strike back at the people stealing their land.  There’s two kinds of people that you find on the bottom of the heap, subservient spineless weaklings and tough as nails bastards who know they’ve got the short end of the stick and want to try as best they can to beat anyone within reach with that short end.  I took on the appearance of a half Kostelos woman (which is a nice mix I realized, very nice skin tone) and headed down to the Kostelos slums to find myself the second kind.

I was expecting to get some sneers and cold shoulders because of my “southern” Kostelos accent but most of the people there couldn’t even speak it (unless they were sandbagging me).  Especially the younger people, who also barely seemed to be able to speak the King’s Tongue (should we be calling it the Queen’s tongue now?  There’s a brothel in Indlecastle called that so probably not – wouldn’t want people to get mixed up) which made me wonder, is it possible for a people to lose the skill of speech entirely over time?  There were enough bitter older people that spoke Kostelos though to direct me to exactly who I was looking for.  Coming in with one of the timber crews and heading to one of the truly deplorable “taverns” in the area was a man that looked like a small tree himself.  I’ve seen a big warrior or two in my day, but this fellow was a real brute.  He was shaven-headed, shirtless with what looked like dozens of knife scars, and built like a granite hammer.  I whistled to get his attention and shook the bottle of firewine I had procured for just such an occasion.

[Translated from Kostelos]

“Don’t waste your time with that piss, come have a drink with me.”  He smiled and came my way, reaching for me like a fat kid reaches for a sugar pie – I gave him a short stab in the hand with the dagger I had procured for just such an occasion “Uh-uh-uh, none of that just now.  Plenty of time for that later, now we talk business.”

I tossed him the bottled which he drained in three gulps and explained to him that I needed him to come with my to wail on some “civilized” types.  He smashed the bottle on the ground to lick out the remaining drops of booze and then looked at the empty shards sadly.

“Doesn’t seem fair to beat on those little men.”

“FAIR? Who cares about fair? The world isn’t fair. Truth is fair. Is it fair that you were born like this? NO! They’re not expecting somebody like you in there. They’re expected one of those pink slugs. You’re different. You’re weird. You’re a mutant. You’re a killer.”

It didn’t take much more than that to convince him.  What almost turned into an issue though is a score or so of his pals deciding to come with us – we almost got into a half a dozen fights with the fine and genteel lower class people of Three Rivers on our way to the actual fight.  By the time we got to the back alley fighting ring I felt like I was at the head of a traveling civil disturbance.  The Kostelos were drinking and shouting insults at passersby (we were passing them so maybe we were the passers?) the whole walk through the streets.  I saw a pack of consortium goons deciding if they were going to do anything about it and ultimately slinking away down another street.

We made quite an entrance when we arrived at our destination.  The big man walked in the middle of a fight in progress and smashed the two competitors heads together and threw them aside declaring that he Faetor the Fighting Man (it sounds better in Kostelos) was the strongest man in the city and that no one could best him.  Since he was speaking in Kostelos I don’t think anyone understood the words but they definitely understood what he was saying.  His pack of friends surrounded the stands and started shouting and howling and a riot very nearly broke out.  The two brothers barely managed to keep things from exploding, in large part by one of them pulling out a vicious looking curved sword and threatening to start slicing off people’s nuts.

Once order was restored (marginally) a volunteer came out of the crowd to take on Faetor and subsequently get knocked out in one punch to much cheering and jeering.  With racial pride on the line someone ran to get “Jagger” who presumable is the king badass of this particular shithill.  The brothers wanted to continue on with the rest of the fights that had planned but Faetor refused to yield the fighting floor until someone beat him and with me translating (and adding my own embellishments) continued to incite the crowd.  For a timberman he has a real flair for the dramatic.  I suppose given the chance to scream abuse at the people above you on the pyramid of getting fucked over you have a lot to draw on.

During all the commotion at some point the younger brother (or at least the smaller brother) put down the bag he was holding the money in.  I don’t know anything about running a bloodsport business, or any kind of business, but I think a pretty solid rule for any enterprise – criminal or other – is keep your eyes on the damn money.  Talk about making it easy for me, I just grabbed the bag when no one was looking and made my way out of the mob, switching my appearance and walking away.  Not exactly a criminal caper worthy of story and song, but then that’s not really want you want right?  A good crime is one where no one knows about it.  It’s strange how many people don’t seem to know that.

After that diversion I spent the rest of the day rounding up more widows for the protest march.  The good news is that word had started to spread on its own.  With the consortium on the rampage trying to find me they seemed to think this would be the perfect time to draw attention to their plight.  That makes no logical sense to me, I would think the opposite if anything, but since it serves my purposes who cares?  Back at the safehouse we were joined by Milani and Damrow, which was good since I was down to my last dose of sweetdream.  I explained to them my issue and they said they would see what they could do.  That night Hessenmeel disappeared so it was just Martialla and I in the cramped and blistering hot safehouse laying in the dark.

“When you were a little girl did you ever think this is what your life was going to be?”

“When I was a little girl I was mostly trying to keep my sister alive.”

“Quit bringing up your rough childhood, we all have problems lady.”

“Okay but I feel like you’re the one who brought it up.”

“When I was a girl, before I was sent to the Duke’s court, I wanted to be one of the King’s Messengers.  I thought it would be quite grand to ride the best horses all across the Kingdom delivering the word of the King himself.”

“Do they have women in the messenger service?”

“They do now, I met one once, and by met I mean that I found her horse after she had been killed by goblins and her body halfway eaten by a bear.”

“Your stories always have such uplifting endings.”

“What did you want to be when you were little?”

“Alive.”

“Oh gees.”

“You asked.  When I was a sea sometimes I would daydream about being a seamstress.  Make fun of my ragged wardrobe all you want now, but then I was enamored with pretty dresses.  I thought it would be a fine life making clothes for fancy ladies in their carriages.”

“Such humble dreams and look at us now.”

“We’ve come a long way baby.  I am sweating my nips off here, do you mind if I take my clothes off.”

“Yes, very much.”

“It’s dark, you can’t even see me!”

“It’s the principal of the thing.  If you take off one stitch of clothing I will knee you in the face.”

“You wish, if you tried to lay a finger on me I would destroy you Ela.”

“One of these days Martialla, one of these days.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Rebellion: Rank 2 – Treasury 34 Gold, Notoriety 0, Loyalty 6, Secrecy 4, Security 2

Demagogue – Ela, Recruiters – Milani and Damrow, Sentinel – Martialla, Strategist – Hessenmeel

Teams –Peddlers, Street Performers

Active Safehouse  

Actions – Earn Gold, Recruit (Street Performers)

Funds: 688 gold

XP: 1,190,751

Inventory: Whiterock family signet ring (Ring of Binding), Dagger

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, maker of the manacles, Calvados Eure, Law Offices of Lampblack and Brimstone

Macendamandel 11 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

The safehouse of the wannabe union organizer turned out to be a hidden shrine of Adariel.  Apparently the Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers has a very dim view on religion and no religious gatherings of any kind are allowed.  Seems a bit backwards to me.  If I was working at oppressing the masses I would want them to have religion as a sweet balm for the wounds I dished out.  The message of religion overall is “hey your life sucks here, but in the afterlife things are going to be great so keep taking your licks”.  Seems like the kind of message that you would want the people you’re grinding into the dirt to have.  Adariel must present a more hopeful message about life in the material world than I realize.  I guess that’s not surprising since I don’t really know anything about religion.  The occasional services that the Duke had were more a perversion of the holy rites than a faithful recreation.  Sacrilege is one of the pleasures of the rich. 

And when I say this place was hidden, I mean hidden.  First we went to a bar where some secret signs and code phrases were exchanged which gave us access to a secret door with took us to a secret room in a gambling parlor where another secret passageway took us to a secret room in brothel where another secret passage took us to an interior room with no other access points inside a warehouse.  A give high marks for secrecy and low marks for fire safety.  There was a small Adarielite altar and a few bedrolls and that was pretty much it aside from the occupants.  Surprisingly Damrow was in there, I assumed he had rabbited back in Cathars.  With him were a man and a woman.  The woman was clearly and Adariel priestesses even though she wore no vestments.  She had her dark brown hair done up in two huge thick braids that hung down past her waist.  If she ever takes them out her hair has to hang down to the ground.  It was really quite something.  She had the normal Adariel quality of niceness and compassion about her but I could tell that she had a little fire in the belly as well.  Her left arm was covered with a mass of scars on the forearm and bicep.

The man was one of these burly types that carry all their power in the upper body which makes their legs look skinny and thin even though they’re normal.  He had a thick but small mustache and a variety of dockworker tattoos on his muscly arms.  As is apparently required for anyone involved with a union he was wearing suspenders and a dark cap.  Introductions and thank yous and all that were done – the priestess is called Milani and the union man Hessenmeel.  After arriving we chatted for a while and I explained to them that I wasn’t just passing through, that it was time for a change.  Trying to organize in Three Rivers was dangerous at the best of times so Hessenmeel’s network was small to begin with, after he and several of his key followers were arrested and scheduled to be killed that pretty much scared everyone off.  After Martialla rescued them and they escaped from the prison they all pretty much told Hessenmeel that he was on his own.  I told that that the five of us would be plenty – that all you need for things to change is to take action.  Sounded good.

Damrow, not being wanted as far as anyone knows, and Milani having a solid cover identity slipped away while the other three of us stayed put.  I took my sweetdream and pulled up a bedroll for some much needed sleep. My dreams were a bit different than the night before.  I wasn’t horribly attacked by nightmare monsters so I guess the drug was working, but they weren’t the pleasant dreams of the night before.  I dreamed that I was visited by my future self, warning me of how I was going to die in times yet to come.  I discussed with myself how to avoid this fate and no sooner was that conversation over that another future version of me showed up to explain the new way I was going to die even farther in the future after I avoided the death I was just talking.  We’d discuss how to avoid that death and then another would show up and on and on.  There’s no reason to suspect that it’s anything other than a dream but just in case I’m going to make sure that I never journey to the North.  Not sure why I ever would go there, but a lot of those future mes died on the icy plains of the Northlands.  When I woke up Martialla and Hessenmeel were sharing some dry rations and chipped jug of water.  I groaned.

“I can’t get away from this stuff, even in town I end up eating this crap.  Why couldn’t you put your safehouse in the back of a restaurant?”

Hessenmeel raised an eyebrow slightly “Why do I have a feeling that you’ll do a lot more bellyaching than being a revolutionary?”

Martialla snickered “Because you’re a very perceptive fellow.”

I reached unenthusiastically for some of the dried mung “Ignore her, although the fact is that I’m not a revolutionary, I’m just trying to even the playing field.  Change starts with you, and by you I mean me, you know what I mean.  Are there any of those Black Widow lads about that I can contact to kick things off?  They’re always good for some revolutionary zeal.”

Martialla shook her head “No, they avoid his place like the plague on account of the consortium ruling by fiat and taking a very sharp interesting in killing them on a whim.”

Hessenmeel looked at me sharply “I wouldn’t have them in my town anyway, their violence is counter-productive to the cause.”

“Your city huh?  Looks to me like it’s the consortium’s city first second and third.  You think you’re going to dislodge those assholes without resorting to violence?

“Maybe, but even if violence is needed there’s a time and place for that kind of action, random brawling in the streets doesn’t do anyone any good.”

I clapped him on the shoulder “I couldn’t agree more, that’s why we’re going to start with a nice peaceful protest for the wives and orphans.  There’s no way anything like that could turn violent.”

“That’s going to be difficult, we’re the two most wanted people in the city.  Not sure about your friend here but they could be looking for her too.”

Martialla passed me the jug “No one saw me at the prison, or in the street afterwards, no one left alive anyway.”

I took a drink and then grimaced at the vinegary taste “True, but they tried to kill you in Cathars so clearly they know who you are.  I assume they’re looking for you as well since they know their assassination failed and then all of a sudden the prison break happened.  But the good news for you Mr. Hessenmeel is that that doesn’t matter anyway since we are both experts at disguise.  We can travel all about the city looking like other people.”

Martialla shook her head “Not me, not anymore, not since you lost my hat.”

“That was magic?” She nodded “I thought you just had a spell that disguised you.” She shook her head.  “I guess I shouldn’t have tossed it away then huh?”

She had a sour expression “If you can find me somewhere to work I can make another one.”

“You can make magic items?”

She sighed “Yes Ela, you know that, I’ve made them for you before.”

“That doesn’t sound familiar, clearly you’re lying about that.  You’re good at keeping a low profile anyway, you should be fine.  And Hessenmeel you clearly have enough people around willing to sneak you out for a while because look where we are.  I need you to make contact with some of your old pals and make sure they’re still down with the cause.  Martialla you round up some criminal types that can help us with the dirty stuff, the first thing we need is money.  Revolutions aren’t cheap so we’re going to have to pull off a heist.”

“How am I supposed to do that?”

I frowned “How should I know, you always seem to find the local villains though, there’s no real law here – just oppression, there must be all sorts of criminals here you can cozy up to.”

Hessenmeel looked aggravated “And what are you going to be doing besides complaining about the food?”

“I’m going to start organizing the widows.”

“And where exactly are you going to find them?  Are you going to go door to door asking for widows?”

“No, first of all I assume a good union man like yourself knows who’s croaked on the job lately.  I’ll start there, plus we were just in a brothel, those are fertile grounds for widow hunting as well.  Once a get a couple widows by way of prostitutes under my belt they should be able to help me find more.”

“We don’t need those sorts.  That’s despicable.”

“What is?  The inconvenient truth that a woman whose husband dies and has children to feed often has no other option but to sell her body to make money?  That is certainly despicable but isn’t that what we’re trying to change?”

He spat and left the room.

Martialla look over at me “You two are going to make quite the team.  You haven’t lost your way with people.”

“You know what they say about revolution and strange bedfellows.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Rebellion: Rank 1 – Treasury 10 Gold, Notoriety 0, Loyalty 6, Secrecy 3, Security 2

Demagogue – Ela, Recruiters – Milani and Damrow, Sentinel – Martialla, Strategist – Hessenmeel

Teams –Peddlers

Active Safehouse   

Daily Actions – Recruit (Peddlers), Recruit (Sneaks)

Behind the curtain: It’s been a while since I toyed around with any of the min-rules sets for Pathfinder so I’m trying out the Rebellion Rules from Hell’s Rebels, using days for each “turn” instead of weeks.  The roll to recruit Sneaks failed. 

Funds: None

XP: 1,190,751

Inventory: Whiterock family signet ring (Ring of Binding), Sweetdream (2)

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, maker of the manacles, Calvados Eure, Law Offices of Lampblack and Brimstone

Macendamandel 10 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I don’t remember anything about the prison escape (I’m certain that I did something awesome) and I have only a few flashes of what happened once we were out on street.  I have a flash of being hustled/dragged through the streets by Martialla and my former cellmate (well not cellmate but cell-adjacent mate), at one point I remember Martialla taking on the form of a watchman (such as they are in Three Rivers) and talking to a squad of Consortium skullbusters.  Later I definitely remember Martialla roasting someone with her magic and then engaging in swordplay, fighting at the side of someone I didn’t recognize.  I feel like I was shoved through a crawlspace at some point.  What I do remember is the pleasant, fanciful dreams that I had once I was finally set down and drifted off to sleep – and by drifted off I mean sank like a rock.  I’ve never had such enjoyable dreams in all my life.

When I woke up it was dark but that’s because I was indoors somewhere without any light.  I thought that I was in a closet for a second, but realized after a moment that I was up high in some kind of coffin sized alcove.  Maybe it’s some kind of storage space of some kind?  Its intended purpose eluded me.  I had the impression that I had been asleep for quite some time but I still felt groggy – I think the only time I felt more out of it was when I first woke up in that alley in Graltontown.  I was propped up on a pile of blankets and pillows but closing my eyes and feeling the rough wood beneath me made me feel more stable.  My rustling around must have alerted someone that I was awake because I heard a voice down below.  A frantic voice.

“She’s awake!  You got to get her out of here now.”

I heard Martialla’s voice respond “Shut up.”  After a moment I heard someone climbing a ladder and opened my eyes to see her face peering at me over the edge of wherever I was in the darkness. “How do you feel?”

My mouth was so dry it took me a moment to find any words “Never better.”

“Yeah, you look it.  Our host is desperate to get you out here, the Consortium has people going house to house looking for you.”

“I’m flattered.”

“Do you feel up to moving right now?’

I wanted to say yes, I almost did say yes even though it was a bald-faced lie, but I did something that I rarely do, I told the truth. “No.”

“That’s fine, if they come there though you’re going to have to disguise yourself in whatever way you do that you claim is not magic, can you do that?” I nodded. “Good, I’ll bring you something to drink.”

She did, and I was shocked to discover that it was water.  I probably have dysentery now on top of everything else.  The good thing about the distilling process is that you kill all the nasty little buggers in there along the way.  Plus it tastes delicious.  I stayed awake for a couple minutes drinking the water slowly and enjoying the feeling of being tired and knowing that I could sleep.  That’s not a sensation that you’re likely to encounter often but it’s nice.  Once the water was all gone I lay back down and instantly fell back into a deep sleep filled with dreams of dancing and rainbows and sweetness and light.  When I woke up again I was rested enough that I almost felt human again.  There was a light coming from down below so I clambered down the ladder into a surprisingly spacious building that seemed to be half apothecary, half spice shop, and half beauty products – that’s three halfs because of the building was half again the size of a “normal” shop. 

Martialla was lounging in the front window like a stray cat and standing behind the counter looking alternately like he was going to pass out, throw up, or drop dead was a pinch faced fellow with a long skinny nose wearing a stupid white hat that looked like a wimple.  It made him look far more feminine that he really was.  I don’t know if he was too preoccupied with trying not to have a heart attack to hear me or if I was just moving so slowly that I unintentionally stealthy but he about jumped out of his skin when I spoke.

“This is quite a fancy place for a timber town.”

Martialla glanced up as Mr. Wimple was clutching at his heart “Probably all the Consortium bigwigs need their ground chimera horn to make their dicks work.”

I looked over at the maybe dying maybe just panicking man “I assume this is Wolfie’s friend?” Martialla nodded “Where did Wolie himself get to?”

She smiled grimly “Are you kidding me?  You’re the most wanted person in the city, he lit out of here before we even hauled you up the ladder.  Which wasn’t easy mind you, you’re much heavier than you look.”

“Thanks.” 

“I’m surprised he did even as much as helping bring you here.  Like I said before, they’re literally searching house by house looking for you.  There’s roving mobs of lumberjacks wandering the streets hoping to drag your scrawny ass in for the reward.”

“How much?”

“Last I heard eighteen thousand gold and a piece of the company.”

“Shit.”

She nodded “Yeah.”

By this point Nosy had recovered enough to come over and grab at me “You have to leave right now!”

I shrugged him off “We’ll leave soon enough, another couple of minutes won’t make a difference.”

Martialla came over to stand opposite the counter from me “And where shall we be going exactly?  Seems to me like this would be a lovely time to leave the city.”

“Perhaps, but we’re here now, I’d prefer to finish up my business with the Consortium while we’re here rather than having to backtrack later.”

“That business being bringing them to ruin.” I nodded and Pinch-face made a distressed noise and all but ran into another room “I thought you might feel that way.  Could I convince you that we should regroup and worry about the Consortium later?  Things are pretty hot and heavy right now, maybe it would make sense to move on to other business and come back later.”

“You might be able to convince me of that but it would be hard – I don’t like leaving loose ends behind me.”

“You leave loose ends behind you all the time.”

“Yeah but I don’t like it.  We’re here now, I say let’s just take a couple days to bring down the most powerful mercantile outfit in the county before we move on.  Should be easy, I already did it once with Królewna & Bonifacja and I barely even had to try.”

Martialla reached over and counter to grab a little bag of some pearlescent powder “I think it’s a terrible idea, but I’ll back your play like I always do.”

I watched as she snorted some of the powder then pinched her nose and shook her head “Why do you always back me up?”

“I’m your friend Ela, that’s what friends are for.  You can always count on me, in good times, in bad times, for sure.  I’ll be on your side forever more, because that’s what friends are for.” She offered me some of the powder and I waved it away. “Well you’ll need this.”

She handed me another little silken baggy “What’s this?”

“Sweetdream.”

I eyes widened “That memory erasing narcotic that rapists use!” 

She frowned “It also has medicinal uses.” She poked me in the chest “For people plagued by nightmares or insomnia.”

“That’s what you gave me?! No wonder I can’t remember what happened yesterday.”

“Well that and you were delirious from sleep deprivation.  Our nervous friend didn’t have much in stock so we’re going to have to figure something else out in a couple of days.”

I looked at the bag dubiously “Isn’t this stuff horribly addictive?”

“Only psychologically.” She shook her head “You know there’s no pleasing you, I break you out of prison and save you from dream-murder and all you can do is give me dirty looks about how I did it.”

“Good thing we’re such close friends or that would bother you.”

“Yes, good thing.  Since you’re intent on staying and risking your life and mine on your quest for revenge there is a place we can go.  A safehouse of sorts.  As I was escaping you from prison I followed your drug-addled and sleep deprived idea of opening any other cells along the way.  Several of them happened to be inhabited but local malcontents.  Specifically a union organizer who was number on the consortium kill list until you showed up.”

“They should be more careful with the people they want to murder.”

“They didn’t expect someone as skilled and powerful as me to turn up working against them.  Anyway he and his people were quite pleased by my daring rescue and I implied that we were sympathetic to their cause – which is technically true in a way.  They said we could lay low with them for a while.  They claim to have spots the consortium will never find.”

“Sounds good, but we won’t be laying low, I have a plan.  Everyone here already hates the consortium they just need a spark to get them going – an inciting incident I think they call it.  And I have a good one in mind.  Lumberjacking is a dangerous profession, there have to be a good number of widows around here – we find them, convince them to march to demand some kind of death benefits or pension and then let nature take its course.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning the consortium has their goons beat up a bunch of widows in the streets and that incites a riot which leads to open revolt.”

“That’s . . . . pretty awful.”

“Well as they say revolution isn’t a tea party.  A few broads get knocked around is a small price to pay for making the world a better place.”

“That’s easy to say when you’re not the one getting kicked in the ribs.”

“It sure is.”

Martialla sighed “As your friend I have to say I worry sometimes that you don’t mind burning the world down to get your revenge.”

“I don’t, the world has it coming.” 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 1,190,751

Inventory: Whiterock family signet ring (Ring of Binding), Sweetdream (3)

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, maker of the manacles, Calvados Eure, Law Offices of Lampblack and Brimstone

Macendamandel 9 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

The everwake syrup those Lodestone humps gave me is finally starting to work its way out of my system and the weird marionette feeling of being held up by strings in a drug-fueled frenzy (it’s hard to explain what it felt like – everything felt “yellow”) I was feeling is now being replaced by the weird dying dog sensation of being dragged down by massive anchors on my limbs.  Anchors made out of . . . whatever that really heavy metal is.  You know what I mean.  Why are anchors made of metal?  Doesn’t that mean they’re going to rust?  Shouldn’t it be a big hunk of stone instead?  Stone doesn’t rust.  But metal is stones right?  I guess the chain would still be made of metal and that would rust so you may as well go whole hog right?  There’s a drink called a rusty anchor, its gin, lemon juice, whiskey, honey, and then a bunch of herbs and spices.  It’s awful. 

Since I feel like there’s a better than decent chance that I’ll die (by dream murder) if I fall asleep I continued trundling around my tiny cell switching the goal from burning off excess drug energy to staying awake.  But as the night wore on I was feeling more and more drained until the point where my weary shuffling was too much to even to think about.  I ended up just clinging to the bars trying to keep myself upright.  I made a fun game of it, pretending that I was hanging onto the side of a cliff and if I slackened my grip at all I would fall and be dashed to pieces on sharp rocks below.  After a while my labored breathing started bothering the woman in the other cell and she asked me impolitely to shut the hell up.  I couldn’t even gather the energy to open my eyes to look at her as I nailed her with this stunning retort.

“You’ve said two things in two days and they were both shushing me so you could sleep – what do you need so much sleep for?”

Her voice was full of recrimination “Because I’m pregnant!”

I nodded as best I could with my head pressed against the bars, that small movement made my head swim “That would do it.  You look great for a pregnant lady.”

She scoffed and or sneered and next I heard Wolfy’s voice from the other cell the other way “You’re looking pretty weary there, any particular reason you’re clinging to those bars instead of getting some sleep?”

“If I fall asleep I’ll die.  A witch put a curse on me because I said her shabble was stupid.”

“That sounds like something an insane person would say but coming from you somehow I believe it.”

“The truth often sounds crazy because the world is crazy.  Some people that think they’re going insane aren’t going insane, they’re become lucid in a very crazy world.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“Five days.”

“Well, you look great for a woman that’s been awake for five days straight.”

“Thank you.”

“I have a bucket of my waste over here, do you want me to throw that on you to wake you up?”

“No I do not, but thanks for the offer.”

“If you change your mind the bucket isn’t going anywhere.  There’s these monks in Dorumt that practice a form of mediation that allows them to recover just like they’re sleeping.  They go into this trance where they’re still awake and aware of everything around them but in their minds they’re reliving experience from their life so they can learn from their mistakes.  Too bad you can’t do something like that.”

“Yes it is, although I don’t make mistakes so that part would be lost on me.”

“Of course, your being here is all part of the plan.”

I don’t know how much time passed, it could have been a couple minutes or it could have been a week – time lost all meaning as I wrapped my arms around those cold rough bars and hung there like my life depended on it (which it did coincidentally).  When I first heard Martialla’s voice I assumed that I was hallucinating, auditory hallucinations are much more common and visual ones you know.  A guy told me that once.  You look like him.  But he wasn’t either.  I conjured up the fortitude needed to open my eyelids even though they weighed seventeen thousands tons.  Standing before me was one of the guards – filthy padded armor, ill-fitting helmet, jowly unshaven face, filthy little rat eyes – but the voice coming out of “his” flapping piggish lips  was Martialla’s.

“I said that you look like shit and you have no response?”

“You need to learn a spell that alters your voice, your disguises suck.”

“I’ll get right on that, they’re fine when I’m with you since I can never get in a word edgewise or any otherwise.  What are you doing there?  Making love to those bars?”

“Yes, I have that syndrome where you grow to love your abuser.”

“Is that what happened to me with you?”

“You’re free to leave any time you want and no court and prove otherwise.”

“Well let’s get you out of there.”

“Does that mean the Duke isn’t going to come through?”

“The Duke?  You mean the guy you’re trying to kill?  Come through with what?”

“No, the other Duke, you know . . . the one.  I guess that ugly little bastard was telling the truth.  When I was in Cathars someone came to visit me and said that he was a lawyer, he said that he’s work with you to contact Duke Lodvocka and see if he could get me out of this jam.  But once I was here one of the lumber jerks said that that lawyer guy was their plant, and also that they had murdered you.”

“Some guys did try to kill me but I made it clear of them, after that I got here as quickly as I could.  Ironically it’s a good thing they transferred you here because this never would have worked in Cathars, that place was buttoned up tighter than a fatman’s cumberbun.”

“Cummerbund not cumberbun you yokel, and they don’t have buttons.”

She scowled with her borrowed face “Begging your pardon miss high and mighty, you want to get rescued or not?”

“Not sure, as soon as I fall asleep I think I’m going to die.”

“Sure, sure, I read that book about the girl that couldn’t go to sleep because of the monsters.  Didn’t you get the end though?  It turned out there were no monsters and she was scared for nothing.  Her mom said all about it.”

“That’s what the monsters would like for you to believe.  And don’t pretend you can read you low class . . . . . person.”

She snorted “What a devastating turn of phrase.  Dream stuff huh?” I nodded wearily “Well we’ll figure something out, no use in hanging around here to do it huh?”

Wolfy practically jumped through the bars of his cell “I can help with that, I know an apothecary who’s no friend to the Consortium.”

“He’s probably lying but let’s bust him out anyway, and the annoying preggo too.”

Martialla threw up the meaty arms of the guard who’s appearance she was stealing “Sure, let’s let everyone out in all the other rooms too, that should make getting away easy!”

“That’s not a bad idea, turn all the criminals loose and sneak away in the chaos.” 

“You and I have very different definitions of what a bad idea is.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 1,190,751

Inventory: Whiterock family signet ring (Ring of Binding)

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, maker of the manacles, Calvados Eure, Law Offices of Lampblack and Brimstone

Out of character interlude – Let’s blog

It’s not in my nature to participate in things being the resentful misanthrope that I am, but I’m trying to turn over a new leaf and be less Crabapple McSourpuss so here we go.   Thanks for nominating me jernahblunt and a tip of the cap to the creator Renee’s Corner.

Here are the rules.

Rules of Let’s Blog

Mention the creator of the award and the blogger who nominated you.

Copy paste the rules.

Answer the 10 questions sent by the nominator.

Write your 10 questions for the nominees.

Nominate 5 bloggers for this award and let them know via comment on one of their posts.

Keep the thumbnail as the thumbnail of this post.

Answer your own questions.

First I answer the questions –

  • When did you first decide to make a blog?

Not sure exactly, 2003 maybe.  Depending on what you call a blog maybe even before that.  I was on a dating site and I saw that it had a place where you could blog as well – which is pretty weird for a dating site.  I had nothing much to do at the time and I like writing so I started putting stuff there.  It did not fit in with the other blogs at all, but some people liked it.  Not very many but some. 

  • How long did it take for you to figure out what kind of content you wanted to make?

I’ll answer this for my current blog since my older blogs were a random mish-mash of whatever I felt like writing.  As I have mentioned I stole this idea from Dave the Commoner.  The gang and I were sitting around the table before or after or during a D&D (Pathfinder, but you know) game and my pal was saying that he was to start a blog like Dave’s about a warrior.  I said that we should all do it for each of the NPC classes, I was joking but one of my classic “bits’ is doing something that I was clearly joking about.  I picked expert because commoner and warrior were also taken and I thought adept and aristocrat were too “easy”.  

  • Do you find blogging to be satisfying immediately or did you need to put some time into it before you got invested?

I find writing to be satisfying, the blogging part is not really important to me.  I fully expect that no one reads much of this, I just like writing it.  Or at least that’s what I tell myself, clearly if I didn’t really care if anyone read my stuff I wouldn’t post it in the internet right? 

  • Have you ever written an article that you found to be exhausting or stressful?

I was prepared to say no and move on, but thinking about it made me realize that it’s not true.  Some of the posts were Ela gets the shit kicked out of her or is just humiliated make me wonder if what I’m doing is harmful to society.  Which sounds grandiose since at best a couple people read this, but it makes me wonder about myself and what kind of person I am if that’s what I write.  I used to comfort myself by saying “well no on reads this anyway” but a friend pointed out that doesn’t matter – someone who writes something terrible still wrote it even if no one read it.  Thanks for that . . .

  • Aside from blogging, what do you do to unwind?

I tricked my girlfriend into liking board games – good ones like Agricola and One Deck Dungeon not crap like Risk.  I read a lot (especially now).  I used to play RPGs before covid.  I also watch TV.  For some reason that’s like a shameful thing to admit even though most people do it a lot.  It’s weird. 

  • Is there a subject you consider yourself highly knowledgeable on?

No,

  • If you could re-write one article that you’ve done, which one would it be and why?

I’d re-write everything, all of these posts are rough drafts at best.  But to answer in the spirit of the question I’ve already re-written the first post once and I still don’t like it.  The wording is still awkward and clumsy. 

  • What is a story you think everyone should experience? (Movie, game, book, anime, whatever)

Just because I read it recently I’ll say Madam Fourcade’s Secret War.  I don’t go ga-ga for true stories like some people do, but there is something to be said for reading a crazy amazing story and stopping occasionally to think “this actually happened, people actually did this.”  It’s kind of a downer because there aren’t a lot of happy endings for spies in occupied France, but it’s a story about real heroism, the kind you hope you have inside you but also hope you never find out that you have inside you. 

  • Would you rather live in a sci-fi world (with spaceships and aliens, stuff like that) or a fantasy world (with magic and fantasy creatures, stuff like that)?

Sci-fi, which a cop out answer I suppose because I say that because it’s essentially the real world.  We do have spaceships, they aren’t very cool yet but they’re getting better.  A sci-fi world would make sense to me.  Living in a fantasy world sound awful.  Ogres and dragons and shit?  No thanks.  Plus they’re all kind of based on the real world several hundred years ago.  I don’t want to live before toilet paper. 

  • How much time do you spend exploring your imagination?

I don’t really know what this means, which probably means not enough. 

And now I ask the questions! (and also answer them because the rules say so)

  • How much is too much?

Too much is never enough

  • Why are you crying?

I’m cutting onions, I’m making a lasagna for one

  • Are you ready to trust robots?

Yes, but that doesn’t mean have full confidence in them.  I’ve been led to believe (by insurance industry propaganda) that if we instituted driverless cars with the technology we have right now today automobile deaths would be reduced by half.  People would still die but not as many.  When it comes to robotic automation people seem to want perfection/zero mistakes, which is odd because people are colossally fallible.  A robot that can do it better should be good enough, but it’s not.  I suppose it’s the illusion of control.  Such as, I take the stairs because I hate elevators, but way more people get hurt or killed falling on stairs than by malfunctioning elevators.  I know this intellectually but I still hate elevators and always take the stairs because there’s another part of my brain that doesn’t like logic and says “Other people might trip but YOU won’t.”  Extra funny because I tripped on the stairs at school in HS and got fucked up once.  And another time at work.  And I only got trapped in a malfunctioning elevator once.  2-1 in favor of elevators and yet I still take the stairs.

  • Shouldn’t we know better by now?

We do we just don’t act on it.

  • If countries were people, which country would be your best friend and why?

My best friends are standoffish and a little bristly and reluctant to allow new people in.  Once you crack through that hard chocolate shell though it’s pure nougaty goodness.  So I’ll say . . . . China before the rise of communism? 

  • What conspiracy are you the closest to believing?

Of course I don’t believe in any of them being the rational and logical person that I am.  Of course not.  But the one that I almost maybe could believe is that JKF was killed by some element of the CIA on the orders of someone in the government because they were worried he was going to pull out of Vietnam (Marilyn Monroe joke here) and they really thought that communism was going to spread across the land and destroy everything. 

  • What small insignificant thing makes you unreasonably mad?

When someone makes a right hand turn from the right lane into the left lane when I’m in the left hand land trying to make a legal turn into the left lane. 

  • Does that commercial for AT&T 5G where Lily from AT&T talks about sourdough bread kind of make you want to destroy the entire world and everyone in it?

Yes, but then the other day I saw a story about how people were dummying up fake sexy photos of her and being jerks so then I felt bad about hating that commercial so much.  Which is an unreasonable as hating it in the first place. 

  • What animal gets you Darwin award for best evolution?

I’ve been told that I can’t pick humans, so I’ll go for the bombardier beetle.  An insect that can spray scalding hot oil on your face?  That’s some messed up impressive stuff evolution.  Runner up to the flying snake.  A snake that can jump is crazy enough to begin with and then you add in flying!

  • Why do people get so mad at squirrels for eating bird food when squirrels are a hundred times more interesting than birds?

I guess because there’s only one kind of squirrel (as far as I know) in each area.  You can’t have a book of different kind of squirrels and check them all off as you see them.  I saw a squirrel sitting on a branch holding a small notepad once.  Outside of work I saw a squirrel dragging an unopened 12 pack of hotdog buns down the sidewalk.  Those things are delightful.  I’ve never seen a bird do anything remotely interesting.  Sure, sometimes squirrels peg me with nuts while I’m mowing the lawn, but that’s also amusing in a way. 

Now the hard part, because I don’t really interact with anyone – the five nominees.  Sidenote all their websites look better than mine.  

dabdownjack – this guy does a variety of rules light solo play-throughs, British?

ann – Gaming and miniature painting

ethanmcintyre – Gaming and comics, also anime if you’re into that

1somniac – One of the only shadowrun blogs I’ve ever found, also is good

rashead – Gaming and origami and music!

Macendamandel 8 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

As rampant as crime is, and just ask anyone its very rampant, most communities don’t have a place to lock anyone up.  Makes sense, why go through the trouble and expense of building something that isn’t going to be used most of the time?  Why give dirty criminals free room and aboard?  Generally when a perpetrator is caught they just get their ass kicked and they’re turned loose or they’re hung and that’s the end of it.  When an area does have a “jail” it tends to come in two forms.  The first and far rarer is like the Tower of Woe/Midnight in Beresford –  a very expensive deal that’s intended to keep people who are too important to kill but can’t be allowed to run around free.  Princesses of foreign enemies and popular rebellious Earls and the families of political opponents and people like that.  Usually they aren’t even criminals, just victims of circumstance, and there aren’t many of them.  The second kind of place is when they take an abandoned flophouse or warehouse and slap some bars in it where you throw people in there to live in their own filth.  It’s very expensive to imprison a large number of people so it’s important to cut as many corners as you can.  The prison in Cathars I was briefly in is a real anomaly – someone put a lot of effort and resources into building a secure and humane place to lock people up there.

After my conversation with Farvin Mitzegarld (what the Hells kind of name is that anyway?) I was taken to a holding facility more towards but not fully below the squalid death prison side of the spectrum.  It looked like a store room of some kind that had been portioned out into closet-sized cells (I’ve actually seen many closest that were much larger) that were just free standing bars, no walls oy anything.  I don’t know if that was a deliberate thing to deny you your privacy/dignity or it was just easier to build.  Each one contained a pile of straw with cloth kind of in the shape of a mattress and a stool and that was pretty much it.  I would have loved to have fallen on that mattress lump, even vermin infested as I assume it is, desperately tired as I, was but thanks to the everwake in my veins I knew there would be no sleep forthcoming.  Instead I paced ceaseless around my cell like a jungle cat trapped in a pit.

Everwake was never intended to be used as a torture tool and as far as I know it never has been used that way, but I’m starting to realize how effective it could be in that capacity.  I’d do or say quite a lot at this point just to be given a chance to sleep.  Maybe that doesn’t work because there’s no counter-measure that turns it off.  Of course the fun part is when the serum wears off (and I can feel it starting to do just that finally) and I fall into a deep sleep I’ll probably be killed.  I can’t imagine that my dream visitor is very pleased about what I did and I have no idea if Timora has been able to come up with any counter-measures.  Maybe it’s just what happens when you’ve been forced awake by drugs for ninty-six hours straight but I was coming down with a real bad case of “I’m so fucked” syndrome.  Which is not helpful, but I couldn’t concentrate long enough to think about anything else other than how bad things were. 

At first I was alone in there, I know that, but at some point during the night they must have brought someone else in because in the early hours I saw a sleeping lump in one of the other cells.  It disturbed me that somehow I missed them bringing in another prisoner while I was doing my closet-waltz, sure it was dark in there, but that just means they had to have a light when they did it which makes me not noticing even more disturbing.  Once morning had broken and enough sunlight filtered in to see I resolved to study the lump-form of my new compatriot but before I could the guards brought in other prisoner.  He was wearing an odd red garment that almost looked like a dress (it wasn’t) with a leather jerkin over it and he had a lean wolfish face – not the mean kind though, the somewhat handsome kind.  He looked exactly like the kind of lumberman that you’d fine in a place like Three Rivers being tossed in jail for being drunk on the job, aside from the fact that his hands were smooth and his eyes were clear.  He said something to the jailors that I didn’t catch and they sneered at him.  Once they were gone our eyes locked across the non-crowded incarceration facility.

He raised an eyebrow “I’ve never seen a lady in a prison cell before.”

“And I have the distinct impression that you’ve had a lot of chances to see the inside of a prison cell.”

He smirked “I had a feeling I was going to like you.  What are you in for?”

“I assassinated the King a while back, I’m surprised you didn’t hear about it, it was all anyone could talk about for a while there.”

“I heard it was dyspepsia that got him.”

“Well of course that’s what they would say, they can’t have people knowing that a mere woman killed the divinely mandated leader of the only just and moral nation in the world.  That would be bad for morale.”

“It certainly would at all.  How did you kill him?”

“Simple really, I disguised myself as a game hen that was going to be served to him at a reception for the Swardish ambassador, when he went to take a bite I kicked the fork back at his mouth and bifurcated his uvula.  Which as you know is fatal of people of royal blood.  Something with the breeding you know, that’s their weak spot.”

“Of course.  Why did you do it?”

“Oh, you know, I was at the pub with the lads having some drinks and one of them told me I couldn’t assassinate the ruler of the world, the only part of world that matters anyway, and that got my hackles up.  I have one of them complexes where I just have to prove people wrong.”

“In that case I don’t think you can break me out of here.”

I looked around “It’s funny you should mention that because I’ve been wondering for a while now if I should escape or not.  I have powerful friends that may be working to get me out here, in which case it would be very embarrassing for them were I to escape in the meantime.  But I don’t want to wait until it’s too late in case they can’t come through.  Communication, that’s always the problem.   Who knows what and when do they know it?  It’s a real issue.”

 He nodded sagely “That’s why I work alone.”

“That and other reasons I wager.”

He put his hand to his chest “You wound me.  Aren’t you going to ask me what I’m in for?  You wouldn’t want to break out of prison with a murderer or worse, a tax cheat, would you?”

I snorted “I know what you’re in for, I can tell a conman when I see one and . . .” I pointed at him.

“I’ll have you know that I’m here for transporting a barrel of herring over the Visgoth with an improper bill of lading.”

“Sure, we’ve all been there.”

We were interrupted in our bantering by a visit from another one of the judges present at the Newberry trial – the ugly Halfling strode in smoking a huge human sized cigar that looked massive next to his tiny head.  I know that “the ugly Halfling” isn’t very descriptive but there isn’t much else to say, he was just an ugly Shireling.  When it comes to ranking the comeliness of the various races (don’t pretend you don’t do it) no one puts Halflings at the top but they’ve never at the bottom.  Overall they’re just a pleasantly unremarkable bland looking people.  So when you see one that’s ugly as a mule’s teat it’s startling.  He sauntered over in a cloud of smoke and tossed a hat that hit the bars and flopped to the ground sadly.  Whatever drama was meant to be conveyed by that gesture was completely lost on me.

“Good to see you again mistyer whatever your name is, I’m surprised to see you – I don’t remember you saying a word at the trial yet here you are to wish me well.”

His voice was shockingly deep “Yer friend’s dead.”

“I don’t have any friends.”

“My men killed her before she could get your message out, no one’s going to save you.”

I reached through the bars and picked up what looked like Martialla’s battered naval cap “The touch of blood on the brim here is a nice detail but even if she was dead, which I doubt, the lawyer was the one who was going to contact the Duke for me anyway.”

He grinned, showing yellow smoke-stained teeth “That swindler that came to visit you in prison?  Who do you think send him?  We followed him right to your girl and he kept her busy while we cut her fucking head off.  You wanna see it?  I can have it delivered.”

“That would be more convincing than a hat.”

He look at me for a moment, clearly disappointed, and then blew out a massive cloud of noxious cheap tobacco smoke “You don’t scare easy to you?”

“There’s not too much that hasn’t already been done to me, intimidation is like a bar of soap – the more you use it the less there is left to use the next time.”

“We’ll find something to make you squeal.”

“I would make a remark about how a close look at your face could do the trick but I won’t sink to that level of childishness.  But thanks for coming to tell me that my friend is dead.”

He stood there for a long moment, I’m pretty sure he was trying to think of a comeback, but eventually he clomped off in a cloud of smoke.  Once he was gone I examined the hat closely, if it’s not Martialla’s they did an obsessively good job of faking it.  It’s possible that they stole it just for this ruse, but it’s hard to see why they would bother to do that.  Even though I couldn’t sleep I still lay down in my cell and put my feet up on the bars, covering my face with what was probably Martialla’s hat to rest for a moment.  I heard the wolfy conman calling over to me.

“That sounded dire.”

“The Consortium and I go back a ways, there’s some bad blood there.  I’ve made a vow to destroy them and that hurt their feelings.”

“How’s that working out for you?”

I gestured at our surroundings “Everything’s going perfectly to plan.”

I heard another voice, a woman’s voice, coming from the direction of the only other occupied cell “Would you two shut up?  I’m trying to sleep over here.”

“You better be nice to me or I won’t set you free when I break out of this joint.”

“If you don’t take me with you I’ll scream for the guards.”

I heard Wolfy rejoin “She’s got you there.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 1,190,751

Inventory: Whiterock family signet ring (Ring of Binding)

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, maker of the manacles, Calvados Eure, Law Offices of Lampblack and Brimstone

Macendamandel 7 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

The Lodestoners stopped for only a couple of hours last night before we were moving again.  Riding at that fast pace at night is usually dangerous – horses can’t see in the dark any better than we can – but they were unconcerned to the point where there must have been some magic at play to smooth things over.  Not being privy to whatever that information was I found it pretty nerve-wracking.  We rode into Three Rivers maybe an hour before sunrise.  I’m not familiar with this part of the county, but it has to be more than a hundred miles from Cathars to Three Rivers and here we are – probably not record time but it was a Hells of a speedy trip regardless.  The Lodestone people eagerly passed me off to the “authorities” in Three Rivers, which for some reason I’m still having a hard time comprehending are thugs in the employ of the Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo.  It’s hard to imagine a bigger conflict of interest than having a law office enforce the law (somehow even criminals enforcing the law themselves makes more sense to me) but here we are.

Remember how despite their corruption I was commenting on the steadiness (is that a word?) and competency of the Cathars city watch?  This militia or private army or whatever you want to call them in Three Rivers was a fun reverse image of that.  I was handed over to four fellows in somewhat similar civilian clothing who had clearly provided their own weapons.  I don’t know if there’s anything about having uniforms and matching equipment that actually makes you more effective at fighting or whatever job you’re doing, but it certainly makes you seem more professional.  I think they had pins or badges of some kind but only one of them was visible – I saw a flash of metal inside the coat of one of the others so maybe they had them inside their coats, or maybe they didn’t have them at all.  The one with the badge showing was large and hairy, his gut had make him a good three feet from navel to spine, with a thick mane of hair and what looked like perpetual stubble that would never turn into a beard.  I would have thought that he was the leader if not for the fact that I didn’t think they had even that small amount of discipline slash organization.

I looked up at him, something I rarely have to do “Which one are you Glilcus or Stolo?”

His words emerged slowly as if it was something he rarely bothered with “I’m just a real estate and banking law specialist.  Don’t ask me about contract law though, I was sick they day they taught that in lawyer school.”

“How do you feel about bribes?”

He looked at my plain prisoner dress and bare feet “What would you have to bribe anyone with?”

I smirked “I can think of three things.”

He cracked the tiniest of smiles “Wrong tree girlie, get moving.”

He poked me with a single finger.  A poke that staggered me a half of a step.  People sometimes mistake any big man for a strong man, but they’re not always the same, some big dudes are just big.  This guy was not one of them.  He had a lot of extra weight on him but he was strong as an ox and knew how to get his weight behind a poke.  If you know what I mean.  As the ragbag bullyboys led me through the streets I got to see Three Rivers as the sun came up.  I was expecting it to be a collection of cramped shacks overrun by squatters covered with dirt and grime.  I also imagined soot everywhere for some reason even though lumber processing doesn’t involving burning anything as far as I know.  But it wasn’t like that at all – it was actually quite beautiful.  Building a city around the waterfall convergence of three rivers is probably not very practical, but it does give you a nice foundation for an appealing city layout. 

I’m sure it’s a pain in the ass going up one of those lift conveyances from the lower city to the upper, as is needing to cross a bunch of bridges once you’re up there, but it sure is pretty.  All the merrily turning waterwheels were rather nice and soothing themselves.  Most of the houses were small but they were all in good shape and seemed to be evidence of a real pride of ownership – it was actually contractual obligation because the Consortium owns them all and fines you if you don’t keep up the property to their exacting standards but if you didn’t know that it looked very much like civic pride.  The point is that it looked nothing like the squalid Hellshole that I was expecting, it looked very pleasant.  It was kind of a letdown, like when you have a friend you think is a fuck-up and then you go to their house and see that it’s actually pretty great.

I hadn’t noticed it in the dark but the road split between the two levels some ways back and we were coming in on the upper portion of the city – I knew that we were riding uphill but I didn’t realize how much we had climbed until I saw the city laid out before and below me.  The upper portion of the city covered both banks and the three islands (are they still island in a river?) where the rivers came together – it was a clear progression for the houses getting bigger and nicer the closer you got to the center island.  After crossing many a bridge to get the central island I was taken to a house that was not quite a mansion but was knocking on the door of mansionhood.  Bigman and his pals handed me off to some liveried fops with rapiers on their hips that looked like they were we made of spun sugar.  They led me through a few rooms into a splendid dining area overlooking the falls encased in enough glass to build a greenhouse. 

Sitting at the table at a sideways angle with his back half to the glorious view of the falls was one of the judges from Newberry where this all started.  The impartial judges that made up that panel were pretty much all hard looking bastards, except the Halfling who were merely hard to look at, so it doesn’t no good to say this was the hard looking one.  This was the one who wasn’t bald, the one with the dark hair and sideburns framing a face that looked like a strip mine full of scree.  He was dressed more like a gentleman than the last time I had seen him and he was reading a curious little volume that looked like a bunch of broadsheets fastened together somehow.  Kind of like a very thin book with no cover.  There was quite a repast on the table for one man so I sat down and enjoyed some fresh blueberries and honeyed bread.

He glanced over his papers at me “No, please, help yourself.”

“I didn’t see any reason to stand on ceremony, given the givens, past history and so forth.”

“One might think that’s the exact reason you should want to get in my good graces.”

I sighed “Oh, I know that I should try to cozy up to you, but I’m just too tired to care right now.  I didn’t catch your name when last we met.”

He folded his papers and set them down, taking a long drink of steaming hot coffee and making a satisfied noise “Farvin Mitzegarld, and who might you be? You who’ve caused me so much trouble?  Not Cirthana Juost I don’t think, since there is no such person.”

“That name will do as well as any.  What trouble have I caused you?  I remember being acquitted at your trial in Newberry.”

“There’s acquittals and then there’s acquittals.  My friends didn’t like being shown up like that, especially not by a woman.”

I gestured with a crispy piece of bacon “You didn’t mind though?  You’re a more enlightened type?”

“I’m a business man, enlightened don’t enter into it – there’s not a lot of money in revenge.”

I nodded “I used to think that too, but now I’m not so sure.  Speaking of which, what are the chances that I can go for trial by combat again?  I can’t pull that same trick I did in Newberry but I’ve acquired quite a bit of money in my revenge quest and I could probably hire a Hells of a champion with it.”

“They’ll be no trial this time, as soon as the others have arrived to watch you die that’s what you’ll do.” He pointed “Out there in the world we have to play by the rules to some degree, here in Three Rivers we can do what we want.  Having a trial would send people the wrong message.”

“What message would that be?”

“That they have rights, that we can’t kill them whenever we wish for any reason we want.”

“Well that’s definitive.  Did you bring me to your lovely home just to talk or what’s the purpose of this friendly breakfast chat?

“I wanted to get a good look at you, things happened pretty quickly in Newberry I didn’t get a chance to study you, you don’t seem like someone who could have caused us all this trouble.”

“You know what they say, it’s the punch you don’t see that knocks you out.”

“Who says that?”

“People that go around punching other people I would wager.  I feel like you have a number of such people on your payroll, you could ask them.”

“I’ll take your word for it.  I have to say you look a good deal worse for the wear than the last time I saw you.”

I snorted “Give a girl a break, I’ve been awake for three days straight because of the drugs your goons injected me with.  Not to mention being dragged across country by those selfsame goons thugs.  I don’t know how much you know about beauty but it takes work.  I assure you that I clean up pretty good.  What I need is a bath and some clean clothing.”

“Why did they give you something to keep you awake?  I would have assumed they’d want the opposite.”

“Normally probably they would have, but I get possessed by a dream-demon sometimes when I sleep and it gave them the business something fierce.  I think one of them was killed that first night by the dream possession maneuver.  After that they took measures to make sure it didn’t happen again.”

He raised an eyebrow “Dream demon?  Interesting.  Is that a true thing or are you insane?”

“From my point of view it doesn’t much matter does it, the result is the same.  You know what they say, sanity is what you make if it.”

“Who says that?”

“Crazy people mostly.  How long until the rest of the gang shows up and I’m ripped to pieces in front of a roaring crowd by some piece of timber processing equipment?”

“Hard to say for sure, a few days at least, once Bandsitta gets here he won’t want to wait for the others – he’ll demand you be killed immediately.  He’ll probably want to do it himself.  Strangle you or beat you with his fists.”

“Is that the screaming guy who took his shirt off at the trial?” He nodded “Can you hold him off?”

“I could, but usually it’s easier just to give him what he wants when it’s not something important – when you die isn’t something important.”

“I respectfully disagree.  I have word out to Duke Lodvocka that you lot are going to kill me.  If you dismember me before he has a chance to weigh in I think that could cause you a lot more problems than I ever did.”

“You’ve stepped up in the world of who you’re claiming to represent.  The Duke is certainly someone with a lot more juice than Baron Juost.  Are you his cousin too?  Or maybe his favorite niece?  I don’t think he has any daughters.”

“He has four actually, five if you count effeminate sons, but I’m not one of them – he just owes me a favor.  Hopefully you’ll be hearing from him soon.”

“Noted.  I think we’re done here.” He gestured for his frilly thugs to take me away.

“So soon?  I thought we were going to hang out, really get to know each other.”

“Sadly business precludes me from indulging in lazy days like that.”

“Sad indeed, but I understand, poor people aren’t going to oppress themselves.” 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 1,190,751

Inventory: Whiterock family signet ring (Ring of Binding)

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, maker of the manacles

Macendamandel 6 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Do you know how many people each year die because they’re gagged (proper gagged) and they throw up and then asphyxiate on the vomitus?  Me neither, what kind of lunatic would know such a thing?  What I do know is that I almost became one of them today.  Even before I nearly died I have very little to recommend about traveling at a high rate of speed while bound at the hands, blindfolded, and gagged.  It’s not great even when you’re lying still (as I unfortunately am well aware) but it’s particularly troublesome when you’re bouncing around on the back of a horse.  The drugs swirling around inside me probably didn’t help either.  After some number of hours being tossed around as we galloped (well, not really, horses can’t actually gallop for that long but you know what I mean) towards Three Rivers I felt that hot sweaty flush come over me that is the precursor to puking your guts out.  I tried to alert my captor to this fact by grabbing at his arm and generally freaking out but he failed to get the message.

Have you ever explosively vomited while your mouth was blocked by a gag or otherwise sealed up in some fashion?  And this was a real gag, not that bullshit where they tie a strip of cloth over your mouth like that does anything.  It’s one of the more horrifying experiences of my life so far.  Sadly that list of horrible things I’ve experienced keeps getting longer and longer.  It’s basically like instantaneous drowning.  The sensation of drowning is bad enough on it’s own, but usually you have a period of running out of breath first to prepare yourself.   This was instant “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit I’m dying!”  As I was suffocating on the contents of my own stomach I thought that based on all the things I’ve survived that this was a colossally stupid and mundane way to die.  I survived a dragon encounter more than once and now I’m going to puke drown like some fat old alcoholic wretch lying in the gutter?  The fact that I’ve had this thought more than once is a good indication of how great things are going for my life right now.

But there may also be a nugget of wisdom to be extracted from it – it’s the invisible dangers that you never think about that can lay you low.  A man with a knife coming to stab you?  That’s an easy danger to bring to the forefront of your mind.  On the other hand it’s hard to be vigilant about horseshoe maintenance all the time and then WHAM you get a horse with a bad shoe and your mount shies at the wrong time and you’re on the ground with a bloody broken neck.  They say it’s the little things in life and they’re right – it’s the little things that will kill you.  You have to be on your guard all the time if you want to make it through.  Which sounds exhausting, but there’s nothing for it.  If you want to live.  Which I do.  A lot.

Fortunately (I guess?) once I started dying the man was holding me on the horse realized something was wrong and pulled to a stop.  I don’t know if he threw me to the ground in a panic or if he just dropped me or what, but I definitely hit the ground hard and felt something crack in my shoulder.  No, not crack, it was more like the sound when you crush the shell of a walnut.  I guess that’s a crack.  The point is it was more of a crushing than a clean crack.  The good news is that the blinding pain of busting my shoulder distracted me from all the dying I was doing.  Never let it be said that I don’t look for a positive spin on things.

The next thing that happened was the blinding I experienced when the blindfold was ripped off – I would have gone for the gag first myself, but what do I know?  The gag was pulled off second and then someone push their dirty fingers into my mouth to try and clear things out.  I bit down on them as hard as I could mostly out of reflex/convulsing but also because get your damn fingers out of my mouth.  Next thing I felt was someone put their mouth over my mouth and nose and sucking with the power of a dozen back alley whores pull the vomit out of my airway.  You’re probably thinking that is a turn of phrase you never want to hear again – well I’m the one it happened to!  It saved my life for sure, but that doesn’t make it any less revolting.  Once I was done dry heaving, gasping, and writhing in pain in the dirt I did a goodly amount of screaming and cursing at the men standing around me.  Even though they were out of reach I kicked at them pointless as well.  I can only think of a few moments when I was more angry than I was at that instant.  I realize that this may come off as something hypocritical since I often complain about the lack of gratitude when I save someone, but since these people almost killed me in the first place I think this is different.  Once I had exhausted myself they tried to pull me to my feet and I involuntarily made a very pathetic mewling noise.

“You broke my fucking shoulder you fucking fuck!”  I tried to stop myself from sobbing and failed “Please, please, for the love of the Gods or whatever you find holy and good in this world do not blindfold and gag me again.  I can’t do any magic, I can’t do anything, please just don’t!”

I’m not sure I ever cut a more pathetic picture that I did just then.  Even back in Graltontown when I was sick almost to death and hiding in a tomb laying on the cold stone freezing and thinking that I wasn’t going to see the morning I don’t think I was as low as I was sitting in the middle of the road covered with vomit with a shattered shoulder crying my eyes out.  One of the men came over with a phial in his hand and offered it to me.

“Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.”

He jabbed it at me “Drink it, it will fix your shoulder.”

I started laugh-crying and blowing big gobs of snot and other grossness out of my nose instead.  I couldn’t help myself. 

“You’re trying to kill me.  Just do it, cut my head off, don’t torture me like this.  Don’t drug me and blindfold me and kill me like this.  I don’t deserve this, no one deserves anything like this.  I haven’t done anything to deserve this!”

He sighed, a sigh of a man who just wants to be done with his work. “This engagement hasn’t gone as planned for any of us.  Just drink this, it will heal you and then we can get you to Three Rivers as soon as possible.”

I laughed again “Where I’ll be executed?  I may not want to get there as badly as you lot.”

He gestured to his men “Hold her down.”

I did sort of a spring-hop-stand up and dash forward move and slammed the crown of my head into his groin.  This would have been a great idea if he hadn’t been wearing armor.  I think they call it a codpiece.  I don’t know why, it should be called a groinpiece.  What the Hells does a fish have to do with anything?  Slamming your head as hard as possible into a fluted piece of metal is not ordinarily a great thing to do, but at this point I was beyond feeling the pain.  No that’s not right, I felt plenty of pain, I was beyond caring about pain.  The headbutt to the metal groin armor did no damage, but it did knock him off balance and it certainly surprised him.  With a feral snarl I jumped on him, dragging us both to the ground as I got my bound hands around his throat.  I had the heels of my hands underneath his chin and I pulled back as hard as I could.  I never wanted anything more than I wanted to kill that man in that moment.  It was maybe a whole three seconds before the others pulled me off as easily as undoing a button.  There was barely even a red mark on his neck.

He locked eyes with me and help up the phial “This will help you, you want to drink it, drink it.  You don’t want to fine, but we’re moving on, if you want to ride in agony that’s your decision.”

Now that I could see them and had half a second where I wasn’t blind and dying, I saw that there was only one of the original crew from the coach in this little fellowship.  The fellow who was doing the talking was a broad muscular man with a shaved head and the standard cold look of a true mercenary.  One of the men holding me, the one that I think I was riding with, had to be a good six inches taller than me and would have looked very intimidating if not for his silly blonde mustache and his ringed balding head.  The third newcomer, who had a large sword drawn and ready to go, was another physical specimen who’s gaunt face and grey hair on the sides did nothing to make him look appealing. 

“I’ll drink it, just unbind my hands, I can’t hurt anyone, I can’t do anything.”

“You just tried to strangle me.”

“And it didn’t amount to much did it?  I lost control of my emotions for a moment, it won’t happen again.  I won’t cause you any trouble.”

“Any more trouble you mean.”

“I haven’t done shit aside from almost die!”

He gestured “Unbind her hands.”

The gaunt swordsman frowned “I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”

Shaved head grunted “Probably not, but this whole thing is already a disaster.”

That bothered me more than anything.  Okay, not more than almost dying, but it still bothered me.  I was the one being dragged to my death and he’s acting like he’s the one who was inconvenienced by the whole thing.  That really put some corn in my muffin.  Probably everyone in every job grumbles about it when things aren’t going well, but have a little perspective asshole – I’m the one who has the right to complain.  I did end up drinking the offer elixir and it really was a healing concoction of some kind – my shoulder still hurt put I could feel it sliding back into place and the worst of the pain was spared.  They all kept a close eye on me but I was allowed to ride on my own after that – they had several spare mounts.  In other circumstances I would have enjoyed the ride because they were truly top quality horses that had been bred for stamina and a smooth gait, but for SOME reason I couldn’t enjoy it. 

With the everwake serum poking at my insides like a stream of angry hornets I couldn’t really enjoy anything.  When we stopped the food they gave me tasted bitter and vinegary to the point where I couldn’t even eat it.  Not to mention that the drug keeps you from sleep but it doesn’t make you not tired – if anything I felt more fatigued than usual.  It was an awful feeling, like I was hung from an iron bar by my armpits – no way to fall but being held up wasn’t great either.  The halt was mostly for the horses as far as I could tell, to give them a rest and to give them a chance to eat – the Lodestoners kept me under heavy guard the whole night, only one of them sleeping at a time and for only a few hours.  They must be taking something themselves but I didn’t see what it was. 

Despite their constant vigilance and overall competence as I sat there against a tree stump in the darkness unable to sleep and with a sour feeling in my stomach I thought about trying to escape.  There’s no guarantee that Duke Lodvocka will even get my message or do anything about if he does.  Or that if he does it will happen in time – we’ve travelled a shocking distance every quickly, we’ll probably be in Three Rivers tomorrow.  Counting on the Duke to save me doesn’t sit well.  Not to mention which the Lumber people might just kill me anyway despite what he wants.  The problem is that if I try to escape and fail that means it will probably be impossible for the Duke to do much – authorities don’t like it when you escape from them, even when you’re innocent.  Which is a cruel joke, seems like if you were wrongfully imprisoned escaping should be fine.  But it’s not.

Plus if I did get away I’d be giving up all the stuff they took from me, and I had some great stuff. I should know better, that’s the trap of having a lot of great stuff – as much as it can help you it can also be an anchor around your leg.  Stuff should be expendable, you shouldn’t get attached to it.  But I had SO much money, it’s foolish to throw that away right?  It’s a real pickle.  Throughout the night there were several points where I was a half a second away from making my move but I always snuffed out that impulse the last moment.  The chances were too bad and the risks too great.  I’ll have to see what awaits me in Three Rivers.  I’ve gotten out of tighter jams than this.  I can’t think of one at the moment, but I’m sure that I have. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 1,190,751

Inventory: Whiterock family signet ring (Ring of Binding)

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, maker of the manacles

Macendamandel 5 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

If there’s a universal constant in the life of all intelligent beings it’s that one day you will have to take a long hard look at things and decide for yourself – do you want to let an ancient queen of a long gone decadent empire inhabit your mortal body or do you want to stay firmly entrapped in the hands of professional jailers taking you to a death sentence and hope that your lawyer is going to get a message to the Duke in time to stop it?  For me that time is now.  I went with the possession route but if we’re being honest, and I feel like we know each other well enough now that I can be honest, I don’t think it was a good decision.  The only real motivation that I had for doing it was imagining how pissed the dream queen would be when she floats or flies or slithers into my body, whatever dream monsters do, and found herself shackled and trapped.  That’s probably not a great motivation, but, as they say, what’s done is done.

When the queen disappeared so did her double-mawed spiderery handmaidens as well as the torture slab they were holding me down on, leaving me alone in and endless field of fog.  Not sure if she was so eager to get into my body (wouldn’t be the first time that happened you know?) that she forgot about my “punishment” or if that was the punishment.  It was certainly boring which is a decent punishment.  I walked for a long time but I never encountered anything, just more swirling white fog.  I thought maybe that I could create my own dream if I concentrated hard enough, but nothing happened no matter how hard I thought about – and I thought really hard.  For a moment it seemed like my efforts were making the fog was swirlier but it easily could have been my imagination.  I sat for what seemed like a long time, it’s hard to tell in a featureless dream, when a woman came walking out of the fog.  It was none other than Timora the witch-mayor of Cabshirement. The dream version of her was a little taller, a little more attractive, and much more self-assured. 

“Are you real?  And don’t give me any bullshit about how nothing and or everything is real.”

She nodded “I’m real, I’m using a spell to travel into your dreams.  I’ve been trying for a while but I haven’t been able to reach you.”

“I had a way to block out dream intruders, it didn’t seem like you were doing anything for me so I was using that before.  Although I don’t have it now so here you are I guess.”

“If you have a way to protect yourself what do you need me for?”

I gestured “Take a look around.  People have a very nasty habit of taking my things – without that magic item I have no protections from the various dream attackers I’ve acquired.”

“There’s more than one?”

“Oh yes, I have seem to have a real talent for getting under people’s skins.  Particularly people with bizarre magic powers that want to hurt me.  Although the one who’s hassling me right now I don’t think I did anything to.  She died hundreds of years ago so what could I have done to piss her off?  That’s what she claims anyway, he story is never quite the same.  The whole thing could be a snowjob.”

“Where is this adversary now?”

“Possessing my body.”

“How did that happen?”

“I made a deal with her.”

“That seems like an extraordinary bad thing to have done.”

“Yeah, I regretted it pretty quickly, but no use crying over spilled wine right?  So madam witch mayor what do you have for me?  You’ve come all his way into my dreams and so forth, I assume you have good news.”

“I’ll have to do some research.  I was just trying to establish contact with you.”

“That’s it?  That’s all you have?”

“I’m coming into this situation blind, I need to know what I’m dealing with before I can figure out what can be done to help you.  Am I going to be able to contact you tomorrow night?  And subsequent nights?”

“Seems like it, although I’m probably going to be executed sometime soon – I assume that will make it harder.”

She was taken slightly aback “Execution on top of dream attacks?  You must have a very active life.”

“That’s certainly one way to describe it.  Is there nothing you can do for me right now?  No kind of protection spell or anything?  Can you at least make it harder for these people to find me?  I don’t know how you find someone in a dream, is there some kind of supernatural ‘kick me’ sign on me or something?”

“I can place a ward on you but it will only last for a couple of hours.”

“It’s better than nothing, I’ll take it.  How the Hells does that work though?  I’m not really here, this is my dream, are you really here?  Either way since I’m not really here how can you cast a spell on me – the real me I mean – if this is a dream?”

She smiled slightly “It’s best not to think about it.  Magic isn’t an exact science and anyway magical theory has never been something I’ve been interested in.  As a witch I see magic as more of natural expression of . . .”

I sighed “Just get on with it.”

As soon as her spell was completed I woke up back in the real world like I had been doused with cold water – it was shocking and disorientating to say the least.  What I saw before me was a good sight more astonishing though.  I figured that old dreamy would just be trapped in my body silent raging that I had outwitted her – seeing as how said body was shackled and magically mind-fucked.  Turns out that that assumption was very wrong indeed.  I wasn’t inside the coach anymore, I was standing unshackled a few years away.  The coach itself was looking worse the wear, the horses were both dead and it generally looked like someone had gotten the carriage up to full speed and slammed directly into the wall of a castle.  One for the Lodestoners was on the roof firing the ballista at a massive creature made of earth in the general shape of a humanoid with two glowing gemstone eyes. Two of the others were struggling hand to hand with the blonde fellow I had been chatting with yesterday.  Blindie had a wild look in his eyes and was maniacally trying to murder his friends.  There was no sign of the fifth fellow.

It was a lot to take in.  This dream woman certainly knows how to cause some havoc in the real world when she’s gets the chance, I give her that.  Unfortunately as soon as I “returned” the earth-creature collapsed into just a pile of dirt and blondie came to his senses – although the other two clearly didn’t realize this right away as they dragged him to the ground and gave him a sold thwack on the noggin.   I thought about making a run for it but the fellow on the roof manning the ballista had eyes on me in a flash and swung it around to take aim at me.  I don’t like his chances of hitting me in the dark, but I wasn’t sure that was a risk I wanted to take either.  I was gauging my odds when one of the other guards retrieved the poison injector thing I had seen them take down Crookjaw with outside of Graltontown and head my way.

“Wait, stop, I know this is going to sound like the world’s worst lie but that wasn’t me that just did that.”

The fellow with the injector looked grim “Talk, fast.”

“There’s a dream hag that attacks me in the night when I sleep, I had a magic necklace that keeps her away but they took it away from my in the prison.  I asked if I could keep it but they wouldn’t let me because it does other stuff as well, they thought I could use it to escape.  Tonight when she came to me I let her take possession of my body, I didn’t know that she would do whatever she did here – I figured she’d be trapped and helpless just like I was.  I was just trying to fuck with her like she’s been doing to me for months.  I can’t really say that I’m sorry and mean it because you are taking me to die an unjust death but I did not intend for this to happen.”

To their credit (or maybe not) they didn’t immediately disregard the entire story as bullshit.  They ordered me back into the carriage, and I went, noticing as I did that those horrible shackles were broken on the ground.  I suppose the earth-monster ripped them off of her?  Or me I mean.  You know what I mean.  One of them kept an eye on me while the other three, including blondie, went off a little ways to huddle up and conference.  I could hear enough of what they were saying to gather that they were debating if the Cathars authorities had broken their contract by not telling them about this dream business (which they didn’t know about).  After a few minutes of discussion blondie took out what looked to be a ridiculously poor carving of a horse about the size of a child’s toy and set it on the ground – where it turned into a real live horse that he mounted and rode off.  The other two came to join the one eyeballing me.

“This only happens when you’re asleep?”

“Yes, only when I’m dreaming.”

He nodded and gestured to his friend “We need mage protocols.”

I shook my head “I don’t have any magic, that was all her – the other one.  I can’t cast any spells.”

I don’t know if he didn’t believe me or if he just didn’t care.  My hands were bound, I was gagged, and I was blindfolded as well – which seems like a pretty good way to neuter a mage to me.  They also injected me with something.  There was no way to know at first but I eventually realized that it had to be everwake serum based on the jittery energy that was running through my body.  Once it was fully in my system I could not stay still for even a moment, even restrained like I was I was still fidgeting and bouncing around as much as I could.  At some point I felt the warmth of the sun on my face – hours had passed just sitting there on the road.  Eventually the beating sound of horse hooves came our way and after a few minutes of discussion I felt myself lifted up into a saddle.  I was immediately worried that I was going to be dragged along on a horse, which when blindfolded and with bound hands carries a fantastic chance of falling and breaking your bloody neck.  Somehow this fear must have been communicated by my body language because I felt someone sweep up behind me and place an arm around my waist.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got you.”

They certainly did, and it was very worrisome.

Funds: None

XP: 1,190,751

Inventory: Whiterock family signet ring (Ring of Binding)

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, maker of the manacles