After two days (or a day and a half, whatever, what am I a calendar . . . . checker?) in North Yokelville Township the caravan staggered back into motion today. After yesterday’s rains the road was a real mess and our progress was even slower than normal. Several times as the waggoneers were busting their balls to get a cart we were sitting on out of the mud they looked at Martialla and I like we should be helping them. Good one guys. I think by mid-day we have traveled about three miles – if I squinted I could still see Hamletshire Villagetown in the distance. Pretty sure I could still smell it at the very least but that may be the stink that attached itself to the caravaneers while we were there. The slow progress got bad enough that even I was thinking that maybe we should have stayed in Countryside Crossing Community another day to let things dry out.
Despite the poor road conditions as the mud-splattered and exhausted caravaneers were eating their dried onion and liver paste sandwiches for lunch a couple wagons passed us going north. Looked like a professional outfit. A while later a long train of Halfling wagons went by as well. Not less than an hour after that another wagon was coming out way. A veritable deluge of traffic compared to what we had seen so far on the road to Cathars. I whacked Martialla on the shoulder, waking her from a deep sleep – I have no idea how she can doze off stacked on boxes like that, it has to be terrible for your spine. Whatever other flaws she may have (and she has many) that girl can fall sleep like a champion.
I pointed “Hey, magic float me over there, I want to talk to that guy.”
She lifted up the dumb straw hat she found to cover her eyes “Why?”
“I want to know what’s going on, fifteen wagons just went past us.”
“It’s a road Ela, wagons go on roads.”
“Just do it you lazy cretin.”
“I’m lazy? You’re the one that wants me to magic you over there.”
“That’s because the road is all muddy not because I don’t want to exert the effort of walking.”
She laid back and put her stupid borrowed/stolen hat back over her face “Why? Are you worried that that your magic automatic self-cleaning clothes will get dirty?”
I kicked her in the side of the leg “My boots don’t clean themselves off!”
“Whose fault is that? Besides, I can’t ‘float’ you anyway, have you ever seen me float anything?”
“Yes, tons of times.”
“Okay, fair point, but those things were all small. I can’t lift you with magic Ela, even as sprightly and dainty as you are you’re way too heavy for my mage hand.”
“You are the worst wizard ever.”
“Since I’m a sorcerer that’s absolutely true.”
I thought about snatching that hat off her and throwing it in the mud but I decided in the end that it would be unbecoming for a lady of my stature – it’s important that I don’t allow myself to be dragged down to Martialla’s level. I climbed off the wagon and into the mud, but by that point in the day it wasn’t so bad anymore – I’ve seen thoroughfares in cities that were worse and in those places it’s not all mud you know? The wagon I was approaching looked to me more of a very large coach really than anything else, not that I’m an expert in these things. It was massive and the roof was lined with probably twenty large barrels, in addition to which there were all manner of goods strapped to the sides with cargo nets like it was a hull (hold) of a ship. The thing must have weighed a ton, how it wasn’t getting swamped in the mud I don’t know. There must have been some magic in play there. It’s hard to imagine a form of magic simultaneously more useful and more boring than preventing a wagon from getting stuck in the mud.
One side of the wagon was opened up/folded down to create a sort of market stall, but the proprietor was outside of it anyway. He was a blandly attractive fellow in a grey tunic over an odd whitish garment that looked either very baggy or like it was individual strips of cloth, with a matching grey hat with a jaunty purple feather. A sign on the back of the wagon declared him to be Choquette – merchant, tinsmith, alchemist & troubadour. I could tell by the way that he was carrying on with one of the caravan drovers, extoling the virtues of some small green vial, that you could add liar and swindler to that list as well. I have an eye for these sorts, Some criminals get by my hiding their true selves, some develop a “straight” persona, some just avoid talking to normal people as much as possible.
But then some, like Choquette unless I miss my guess (which I don’t) just look and act like criminals and rely on somewhat dubious charm and audaciousness to see them through. You ever have a friend that whenever someone else meets them you end up saying “if you knew them better you’re see that . . .”? Choquette is that friend. You know he’s not going to pay you back but you end up loaning him money anyway. He sleeps with your lady but you decide you weren’t that into her anyway so be kind of did you a favor. He stole all the silver and booze but he needed it more than you anyway. He’s that guy.
While I waited for him to finishing fleecing his current customer I was surprised to see a woman inside the wagon manning the counter. I would have pegged Choquette as a lone operator. She had all the earmarks of a highborn lady lain low – reduced to poverty but still in possession of her dignity and sense of superiority. She was probably mid-forties with pale blue eyes and apple-red hair, she had peeling skin on her face from a sunburn despite the parasol she was holding. She was dressed like a common wanderer but she had an extravagant signet ring on one hand and a gold band with an emerald on the other – along with an absurd primitive looking necklace with a hunk of bloodrock around her neck that has to be magic. It’s probably not unlike what I have looked like at times – accessories not appropriate to the clothing at all. Since Choquette was still swindling I approached her. She asked in a quiet voice what I was in the market for.
“Information today. I’m curious about all the traffic on the road.”
She smiled politely “Information is one of the few things Choq doesn’t charge for. The Count is sending relief to Renwick, what you’ve seen on the road today is just those who were quickest to get underway. There’s going to be a lot of materials heading north along this path over the next few weeks and months.”
“The Count or the council in Cathars?”
She nodded knowingly “The Count himself has ordered it. He made an appearance in Cathars to give a speech about the importance of rebuilding Renwick.”
“Will wonders never cease? I never would have expected the Count to do anything as crass as governing the County that the Crown has entrusted him with governance over. I would have expected any supplies to come from Peerana, actually I would have expected everyone to let Renwick rot, but since they aren’t that seems like the best place to offer help.”
“I don’t know the politics behind it but the Count was clear that Cymrile would be leading this effort.”
I glanced at her ring “I think you probably know more than you’ll admit.”
She hid it well but I could tell she was slightly wistful “In truth I do not, I have no insight into that world anymore. If you’re heading to Cathars I can tell you as well that the city is likely to be filling up right now. Not just with merchants heading to Renwick but also with revelers – there’s to be a celebration in honor of the great victory the Queen’s forces won.”
“Good to know, so you two are hauling supplies for Renwick then?”
“No, just looking for opportunities – Choq is much more of a freebooter than a merchant.”
I glanced over at him, still pitching his snake oil, now to several caravaneers “Somehow that doesn’t surprise me. Well with all these people converging on Renwick I’m sure he’ll find ample prospects to get himself into trouble. With all these goods about to be on the road is would be a fine time to be a bandit.”
“The Count has promised forces to patrol the roads.”
I couldn’t help but smile “I’m sure he has, help is such an easy thing to promise after all. What sort of name is Choquette?”
“We’re both from Tobriandor.”
“Is that a city up north?”
She seemed mildly embarrassed that I was asking “No, it’s a kingdom, one allied to yours actually.”
“Are you fucking kidding? This is the second time in as many days someone has claimed to be from a country I’ve never heard of. How is that possible?”
“No offense, but perhaps you’re not as worldly as you think.”
I smiled warmly “Don’t worry, I don’t take offense easily – and when I do I don’t tend to hold grudges. What have you got back there? Doesn’t look like a lot of room for cargo in there so I assume that you specialize in high end type items, perhaps of the enchanted variety?”
She (or they I guess) did indeed and surprisingly in the small offering there were a couple items I needed. I purchased a dagger and a new crossbow (finally) for when things get rough and a handsome pair of gloves for everything else. I chatted with her and Choquette until my caravan finally got moving again and I bid them farewell to clamber onto my box-perch with Martialla. After I spent several minutes pointedly trying to stomp mud off my boots over the side of the wagon she sighed and cleaned them off with a wave of her hand and a magic word.
“Was that so hard?”
“No, but it would help if you asked instead of just glaring at me while you kick mud on everyone. So what’s the news?”
“The Count is sending supplies to Renwick.”
“Good time to be a bandit.”
“I said the same thing. Also it turns out that the Queen’s men won a big battle down south, sounds like we should have this whole war thing wrapped up in a few months.”
“Another one for the good guys eh?”
Behind the curtain: As always I rolled randomly for what was available and one item that came up is the Cloak if the Bat. It’s a good item, but I just couldn’t see Ela skulking around in a Batman cape. It’s a real problem with gearing Ela up – most magic items are so terribly gauche that she would never be caught dead in them. A ring of protection is fine, but unless you look damn good wearing it why bother?
Funds: 47,040 platinum, 12,880 gold
Inventory: 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 Elegant Boots, Ela’s Extravagant Necklace, Brooch of Shielding, Headband of Subtle Misdirection, Antiquarian’s Monocle, Ela’s Stately Greatcoat, Ring of Eloquence, +1 Dagger, +1 Thundering Light Crossbow, Cheating Gloves
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, dwarf journal
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