Let me knife you a question

About half the Wyomins left of their own accord went up into the mountains to try make it on their own.  A couple asked for a lift to Crow, a couple managed to integrate themselves into one of the bands on our side, and the rest resigned themselves to a life of mudding in Bosstown.   

Nemecrie was one of the contingent that she wanted to go to Crow, I was halfway considering asking her to join us since she seemed to know what was up but my enthusiasm for that project was dampened when she tried to stab me.  Martialla and I (and Paul) were sitting by J-Lo enjoying the bounty of our victory – cooking up some mashed dick-potato soup and enjoying the lights in the sky – when Nemecrie approached us with a ceramic jug of a wine-like liquid that was horrid but pretty good by the standards of the day.  She joined us for a bit and we chatted and drank and then when she was passing me the jug she lunged at me with a blade.   

I flopped back and she took a strip out of my jacket instead of my flesh.  Martialla tackled her and she had a brief moment to rant about how the Invincible were unbeatable (or invincible if you will) and that Duke Eagle was going to make me his personal slave and so on and so forth before Paul hobbled over and twisted her head like a soda bottle cap.  I guess she was a little more of a partisan for the Invincible than she let on before.

I nudged her dead body with my foot “You know if there’s one good thing about the world of tomorrow . . .” 

Martialla interrupted “Which there isn’t.” 

I nodded “Which there isn’t, but if there was it would be that there doesn’t seem to be a glass ceiling anymore.  Possibly because it’s kind of hard to tell a lot of time what gender people even are.” 

Martialla picked up the jug carefully to avoid spilling any more precious horrible wine “Here’s to you Emmeline Pankhurst, we did it!  Sort of.  And all it took was the total collapse and destruction of all society everywhere. 

“Good work bodyguarding guys” I said as I examined the hole in my jacket. 

Paul’s head snapped around and he stared me with strange wet eyes.  I couldn’t tell if he was going to jump on me and bite my jugular vein or if he was pleased or what was going on behind those crazy eyes.  After holding my gaze for a moment he kind of bobbed his head like an ostrich and then set about dragging the corpse away so it wouldn’t disturb our great feast.  Martialla sat back down and continuing stirring her punch bowl of potato moosh bisque.   

She glanced at his figure retreating into the shadows “I don’t think Paul’s gotten much positive reinforcement in his life so far.” 

I shook my head “I’d be locking my door with that guy around if I had a door.” 

Martialla shook her head absently “He’s harmless, well not harmless he’s killed tons of people, but you know what I mean.” 

“I have no idea what you mean.  So, why do you think this place is here?  Everywhere we’ve been there’s usually there’s some resource like mud or grass or stinking dead fish or some reason why people would want to live there.  I don’t see crops or anything, and it definitely isn’t a trade town so what’s the appea; of this place, why was anyone here?” 

She thought for a moment “That’s actually a good point.” 

“What do you mean actually?” 

Martialla made a vague conciliatory gesture “I just mean that . . . you know . . . usually you don’t . . . you know . . . uh, anyway maybe we should take a closer look around in the morning.  I’m sure they looted this place good but they may not have noticed some things that might be interesting to us.” 

“Speaking of, when the looting stage of the battle began I’m surprised that our side didn’t start fighting amongst themselves.” 

Martialla snorted “What makes you think that they didn’t?  Not all our casualties came during the fighting.  Not even most of them maybe.” 

“Wonderful.  Well, at least we got this campaign off on the right foot with a victory, that’s what matters right?  Good for morale and so forth.” 

“And what’s the next stage in the campaign fearless leader?”  

“We saw a couple Invincible towns or strongholds or whatever when we were scouting right?” 

Martialla raised an eyebrow “Stay on the attack?  Could be a good idea.  I think the general military opinion is that of offense over defense.” 

“Is that why the Lakers never play any defense?”

“Derek Fisher is a solid defender, and Shaq lead the leagues in blocks!”

I snorted “Blocking shots is not defense, you play defense with your feet not your hands.”

Martialla snorted right back “You don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

I nodded my head “True.  My original thinking was that if we provoked the Invincible they’d mobilize more strongly against us and then we could use that to rally people to our cause, but I think now that if we’re going to keep this rabble together we need to stay on the move.  Like a shark we have to keep swimming or we’ll die.” 

“Except the nurse shark.  And the sand tiger.” 

“Shut up Martialla.” 

Montagem 13 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 3

Since we’ve been running on short on sleep Martialla and I tried to catch some shuteye before it was time to sneak out of town and away from all this drama (which we caused).  It’s surprisingly easy to sneak past a an incomplete military cordon under the cover of night when you can turn invisible and can disguise yourself as anyone you want.  Get your act together military!  I tried to convince Martialla to sleep on the floor with her face pointed towards the door so if anyone came in it would smack her in the head and wake her up but she wouldn’t go for it.  She’s my oldest (a couple months) and dearest (only) friend but she never listens to my great ideas.  Even though she was lying on the bed in the coach-house right next to me and breathing like a jerk I fell asleep almost instantly and when I woke up it was dark out.  I know that it was after sundown because the shutters on the window were open.  I also know that they were secured when we went to sleep. After my eyes adjusted to the dark I saw standing in the corner a slender figure cloaked and sticking to the shadows.

“What?”

I wasn’t speaking overly loudly, but I wasn’t speaking especially quietly either – regardless Martialla didn’t even stir.  I swear that woman could sleep through . . . you know . . . something . . . loud.  I want to say thunderstorm but it’s actually pretty easy to sleep through thunder for some reason.  I wonder why that is.  I was assuming the figure in the corner was a woman based on her silhouette and I was proven right when she spoke.

“I came to warn you.”

“Go ahead, warn me then.”

“Coppercoat, the dwarf merchant, tried to hire me to kill you and your friend tonight.  He’s working with one of the soldiers and a smuggler that have come into town to take the money and frame you.”

“Well thank you for not killing me.  Why aren’t you killing me?”

“Local politics, it would bore you I’m sure.”

“Fair enough, you kill people for money then?  How much would it cost for you to kill the commander of those soldiers out there?”

Even in the dark I could tell by her body language that this caught her off guard “That would be very difficult.”

“I’ve give you twenty-five thousand gold.” This really took her my surprise “I am not joking in the slightest.  I have the money.  I don’t want to tell you your business but this seems like a pretty good opportunity despite the obvious difficulties.  I’m going to assume that you left things open-ended with the dwarf rather than just saying no, I’m no assassin but that seems like the smart move, tell him that the deed is done.  The various conspirators must have some plan to meet up and divide up the money.”

“He probably won’t be there.”

“But some of his men will, enough to ensure there’s no funny business.  Probably four I would bet.  He doesn’t have that many men left and some of them will probably still be trying to watch for anyone trying to sneak out of town.  Wherever he is he’ll be alone or maybe with just one man.”

“Even so it won’t be easy.  I can tell he’s a fighter, not a commander who’s never seen action, just taking him by surprise won’t guarantee anything”

“People rarely get paid twenty five thousand gold for anything easy.” I slipped out of the bed and started counting out coins on the bench at the foot “I’ll give you five thousand right now if you agree and the rest when it’s done.  What do you say?”

Martialla finally stirred and blearily asked what was going on before I shushed her.

The mysterious visitor held up a hand “Stop stacking up that money here.  Can you follow me out the window?  Quietly?”

I scooped the money back into my pocket without so much as a clatter (it’s a talent I have) “We can be quiet as a church mouse.”

She waved for us to follow and then threw her leg over the windowsill and was gone into the night.  I punched Martialla in the calf.

“Ow!”

“Just making sure you were fully awake.  It’s time to go, there’s been an interesting development.”

Martialla turned us both invisible and we scampered down the side of the building to follow our mysterious benefactor/potential murderer to a small cottage – she was pretty startled when I whispered invisibly in her ear that we were right behind her.  She stashed us in the dark cottage and then told us to wait.

“Before you go how much did the dwarf offer you for my death?”

“Five hundred gold.”

“How insulting.”

“I’m not sure you understand how much money that is here.”

Once she had skulked off into the night I explained to Martialla what was going on.  She wasn’t too keen on just waiting there, suggesting more than once that we just skedaddle while the skedaddling was to be skedaddled.  I was getting a little antsy myself when our early night visitor returned – with two friends that stayed outside while she crept in.

“I’ll take the five thousand now.”

“What’s the situation?”

“Shortly the soldiers are going to be in the coach-house to take the money, we’re going to head out and take a shot at their commander like you said.  The five thousand is ours either way.  If we can’t get him we keep the five.”

“Fine.  Who’s going to be at the coach-house?”

“One of the soldiers is already in town coordinating, three more men are coming into town with the smugglers – I would imagine Coppercoat is going to have all this guards with him.  There can’t be a lot of trust there.”

“Where’s the constable during all of this?  The one with the limp?”

“I don’t know, I was told he wouldn’t be problem.”

“What about the two men he had watching the money?”

“I don’t know.”

Once she and her friends were gone into the night on their mission of murder Martialla and I crept back coach-house where several lanterns were blazing away merrily in the holding area where the coach was.  The one armed militiaman was there, slumped on the ground with a bloody face and his one arm tied awkwardly to his side.  Standing by the couch were two roughnecks with massively wide belts that had crazy buckles on them – I’ve never see the like.  They were talking the way men do about – about taking the money and disappearing into the night with the understanding that it was just talk and they’d never do it.  At my nod I took on the form of the blue-blonde from the coach and Martialla took on the form of her friend in the servant dress and we walked in.

Buckleman #1 was taken aback “You made good time, where’s the coach?”

“Busted wheel, they’re working on it.”

Buckleman #2 laughed “And as usual you made yourself scarce when there was work to do.”

“You know me.  I thought there were two guards, what happened to the other guy?”

Buckleman #1 joined in the laughter “He pissed himself and ran as soon as we walked in.”

“And you let him go?”

His laughter died “Our concern was the money.”

“And what do you think he’s doing?”

“Hiding around the corner and shitting his pants probably.”

“Or he’s getting reinforcement.  Go find out, we don’t need any surprises tonight.”

Buckleman #2 frowned “How are we supposed to find him in the dark?”

“Since you’re the one’s that lost him you can figure that out how to find him yourselves.”

Buckleman #1 came forward to menace me with his bulk and stale sweat stink “We don’t take orders from you.”

I stood up on my tip-toes to kiss him on the forehead – I’m not sure anything else could have surprised him as much as this.  He took a step back like he had been kicked by a mule and put his hand to his head.

I dropped him a sassy wink “Just go would you?  We’ve got the money covered.”

The two men looked at each other for a moment, utterly at a loss, and then walked out of the coach-house.  After a moment we resumed our normal appearances and I went to the coach to start switching out the money while Martialla untied the militiaman. 

He sat up , trying to squeeze some life back into his one arm “I could have wriggled out, I was just waiting for a chance to make my move.”

“I believe you.  I think this is your chance.”

“What are you doing?”

“Safeguarding the Queen’s tax revenue.  I think you should check on your boss – I don’t know if they were going to kill him or what but they seemed to think he wasn’t going to be a problem for them tonight.”

Martialla helped him to his feet “Regardless you should get out of here, I think a lot of armed people are going to be here shortly.”

He seemed torn as he watched me switching out the money in the chest but ultimately he left the coach-house as well.  It takes a while to pack and unpack hundreds of pounds of precious metal but not as much as you might think – it does a number on the shoulders though.  Once Martialla and I had all the platinum and filled the chest with the gold that I couldn’t hide away we made our way back to the cottage.  As we sat back down in the dark I took a drink from my Flask and passed it to Martialla. 

Martialla took a long drink and handing it back to me “Why are we still here?  Shouldn’t we be sneaking away like thieves in the night?”

“And run out on my bill?  Bite your tongue.  I want to see how the assassination turned out.  We may have some more work to do.”

“You want to take out those soldiers?”

“Maybe.  I feel like killing them would make the world a better place.

“As long as it’s not too dangerous.”

“As long as it’s not too dangerous.”

It was probably a good hour later when our host and another woman with short copper hair plastered to her face with sweat banged through the door supporting a red-haired fox-faced fellow between them who was white as a sheet and bleeding buckets.  Both women were injured as well but not nearly as badly as the fellow they were dragging in.  The assassin called for us to light a lantern but Martialla simply conjure some magic light instead – giving me a look at her.  Our friend had lank looking brown hair but startling bright blue eye and an incongruously young-looking face for a contract killer.  They laid their friend down with a grown and started fussing with bandages. 

I moved closer with my Flask “Here, let me try this.”  I gave him a Healing draught which abetted the blood loss and brought him around a little at which point I backed off and let the two ladies move in with their first aid nonsense. “Did you get him?”

Blue Eye’s voice was grim “Yeah, we got him.”

“Just him?”

“One of his men too.”

I looked over at Martialla “Two down, four of them at the coach-house.”

She put her hand on her rapier “Let’s go.”

“I put your money under the bed, take a look before we leave.” Blue-Eyes slide over to the bed and looked at the glittering gold underneath. “You want to count it?”

She looked over at her sweating and bleeding friend and shook her head “Where are you going?”

I reached over and took Martialla’s hand “Just a moonlit stroll with my gal.”

She yanked her hand away “You know I don’t like it when people think that!”

“Prude.”

Is there anything honorable about sneaking up on someone in the dark and stabbing them in the back?  Of course not, but it’s hard to see what honor has to do with much of anything – and especially when it comes to murdering assholes.  I suppose honor is just another tool created to help control people.  Maybe someday when I’m rich and retired I’ll bring all the great philosophers in the land to explain to me why people are so happy to participate in their own exploitation.  Honor demands that I give my stuff to the King?  Okay, sounds good.  I guess it’s just because they want to belong to something.  Well, I figured it out on my own, cancel the philosophers.  Using stealth and guile and other synonyms Martialla and I killed the four men out doing their best to keep anyone from sneaking out of town one by one.  While Martialla was honorably digging through the last dead man’s pockets I looked back towards town.

“I wonder what’s going on in the coach-house.”

“I would imagine once they saw the fortune had been reduced ninety percent there was a blow-up of some kind.  Whoever those people with the giant belt-buckles were probably got the blame.”

“Probably, but why would they still be standing there like idiots if they took the money?”

“When people think they’ve been ripped off they usually don’t show that kind of rational thinking in the moment.”

“True enough.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 53,040 platinum, 9,605 gold

XP: 914,921

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Ela’s Dazzling Garment, Belt of Physical Might +4, Ring of Urban Grace, Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Extraordinary Walking Stick, Ela’s Elegant Boots, Ela’s Extravagant Necklace

Noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring,  pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (700), gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, disguise kit, covenant ring, tiny diamonds (26), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring, tiara, masterwork red and black long greatcoat, Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three), darkwood and platinum music box, silver bracelet set with bloodstones, platinum ring set with fire opal, silver and moonstone bracelet, holy symbol of Kozilek 

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