Myam 17 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Last night  before I left the Rest Inn Peace I let Stinty believe that he had convinced me to play along with “cousin Emmalina” but we’ll see where it goes.  The question is why is he so hellsbent on putting the two of us together?  I can’t rule out the possibility that’s he’s involved too.  But involved in what?  I still have no idea what the goal of this scam might be.  There are times when a con artists for one reason or another tries to get by on pure audacity – they walk into town and announce that they’re the new mayor, something no one should believe, but by sticking to their guns and effecting an air of being totally committed to what they’re saying sometimes they can skate through.  If you pretend to believe in something hard enough there’s some people that will get on board.  So maybe that’s what’s going on, but I can’t understand why.  Yet.  I’ll get to the bottom of this, don’t think I won’t.  I got up early to head over to the RIP and catch Stinty at breakfast before the place opened up.

“Alright, I’ll go along with this for now but I don’t want to be alone with that thing.  Lend me one of your goons until I figure out what’s going on.”

He scowled over some lumpy looking Halfling egg dish with leeks and capers “Goons?  What goons?”

I scowled right back “What do you mean what goons?  You have a whole network of people at your beck and call.  Give me the broad with the sliced up face.  Or the guy with the beard.  Or that one who attacked the assassin right before your place burned down in an incident that was no one’s fault.”

His tone turned sour “That would be a neat trick since he’s dead.”

“Occupational hazard right?” 

“Maybe I would be more willing to ask one of my friends to watch your back if you weren’t so cavalier about their lives.”

“Come off it Stinty, they’re hired muscle, they know the risks.  I can pay if that’s the issue.”

He snorted “Pay with what?  I’ve seen you scam a blind beggar out of the coppers in his bowl.”

“First of all, no you haven’t.  Second of all, he wasn’t really blind.  Third of all, I don’t rip people off because I need money, I have plenty money, believe you me – I rip people off because they deserve it.  Or sometimes just for fun.  Or because I’m bored.  Or because . . .”

He held up his little Halfling hand “Yeah, I get it.  I’ll find someone to protect you from your cousin.  I mean you stabbed her but clearly you’re the one that needs protecting.”

I shouted at Stinty’s back as he took his dishes to the kitchen “It’s not my cousin!”

I was too agitated to eat anything so I went upstairs and paced while drinking from my flask.  Eventually Josta came up to tell me that it was “time to go” and I came down to find the thing that looks like Emmalina talking with Stinty and the Strider priestess from yesterday.

Stinty gestured to the priestess “Ela this is Vanara, she’ll be going with you guys like you asked.”

“I don’t remember agreeing to go anywhere, also if this is the back-up you got for me you can think again.”

Stinty seemed aggrieved “Vanara will watch out for you guys, I trust her.”

“I don’t, I’m pretty sure she’s part of it.”

Stinty threw up this hands “Part of what?!”

I pointed at Emmalina-thing “Look, this is a shapeshifter or an imposter or something.  Even if you do trust Vanara how do you know that she hasn’t been replaced as well?”

“How do you know that I haven’t been replaced as well?”

“Exactly, I don’t!  Now you’re taking things seriously!”

Stinty sighed “Ela, the whole world is not out to get you, I realize that that may sound hollow considering the circumstances under which we met – there are some people out to get you, but not everyone in the world is conspiring against you.”

“I know that, I’m not stupid, but when a cousin that I made up shows up in the flesh something is wrong.  Not to mention the church of Strider has tried to kill me at least three times and every time I meet a Strider priest they seem to know about it.  They have some secret way of communicating long distance and they ARE all out to get me.”

Vanara spoke up “If I can say something, I . . .”

“You can’t.  So I can’t trust her no matter what even if you do.”

Stinty scratched his chin “What if you forgot.”

“What?”

“Maybe you really do have a cousin Emmalina and forgot.  I have dozens of cousins, I can’t keep track of all of them.  Maybe you thought you made that up but really you were just remembering . . .”

I held up a hand “Don’t even go down that road.”

“You’re going to have to trust someone if we’re going to get through this.”

“I don’t have to trust anyone.  Look, okay, let’s just talk about whatever the Hells ‘this’ is and we can go from there.”

Stinty directed us to the overlook like he wasn’t going to come along but I told him in no uncertain terms that he was coming too.  We sat there awkwardly for a while before “it” finally started in with the alleged task at hand. Its alleged client Nacario and his wife Rosalee got out of the city after the rioting started but before they locked the place down.  They went to an old family cabin not ten miles away near a village called Sharbus.  A few days later the Nacario was found wandering around the outskirts of Sharbus disoriented and covered with blood.  Rosalee was nowhere to be found and Nacario could offer no details of what had happened, the local reeve was called in and placed him under arrest for suspicion of murder.  As soon as the situation in Beresford is under control they’ll move him to the city to be tried, where “it” thinks that he’ll be convicted and sentenced to hang.

“Assuming for the moment that I believe any of this, why are you so sure Naca didn’t croak his wife?”

The thing bit its lip in a very convincing show of mild shame and contrition “I know that Nacario didn’t kill his wife because on the night she disappeared he was with me.”

I laughed “Fuck you.  You almost had a tiny little part of me believing this story until just then.  This isn’t a mystery novel.  There aren’t plot twists in real life!”

Stinty nodded “And because you’re his lawyer no one would believe you if you provide the alibi.”

I glared at him “What is wrong with you Stinty?  You’re not this stupid.” I turned back to the priestess and the imposter “So what’s the idea?  You get me out at this cabin then kill me?  That seems a little convoluted, why not just kill me here in the city?  Is it a cult thing?  Do you need me at that cabin because it’s a Hellsmouth or something?” I snapped my fingers “That’s it!  You must be some kind of Kralten people and you want to sacrifice me on account of I broke your messiah’s dick and got all your people arrested and executed.  Where was that?  Was that in Wryby?  I mean I’ve exposed so many of your cults it’s hard to keep track.”

Vanara spoke up “I can assure you that . . .”

“Shut up you.  I know that Kralten people like to assume covers as priests of other religions, and that makes perfect sense – if you were really a Strider person you wouldn’t have already know about me with their secret communication network, but you didn’t because you’re really a Kraltenite masquerading as a Stridarian.  How and why you cooked up this Emmalina imposter I don’t know but it’s clear to me now.”

Stinty shot Vanara an apologetic look “Ela, what . . .”

“No, hold on a minute Stinty, tell me ‘cousin’ what help did you want from me?”

It did a good job of pretending to look trapped and stressed “Well . . . I wanted you to go to the cabin and . . .”

I smiled smugly “Is that a fact?” I turned to Stinty “Paranoid am I?  Acting crazy am I?  Looks like I hit the nail right on the noggin there doesn;t I?” I turned back to the thing “Why would you even ask that?  What good would me checking out the crime scene do even if this was a real request?”

“You have a knack for uncovering things that people don’t want uncovered” it pretended to shift uncomfortably “Especially things that involve . . . magic . . . stuff.”

“Right sure, that makes total sense, bring my in as a magical troubleshooter to solve the case.  That totally tracks.”

Stinty shifted in his chair “What harm could come from just going to take a look?’

“What is with you?!  Why do you care about any of this?!  What’s your angle?  What harm could come?  How about the part where I get murdered?  They lure me out into the countryside and then it’s a knife in the ribs and a shallow grave for me.”

It pretended to cross its arms and mutter “You’re the one that stabbed me.”

“I wish I would have stabbed you in the throat, that was my mistake – your kind always reverts to their natural form when they die, that would have solved all this right there.”

The thing made a big show of gasping like it was shocked and frightened by the suggestion that I should have killed it and things degenerated from there.  Vanara left with the annoyed visage or someone’s whose time had been wasted and gave Stinty a dirty look as she went out the door.  The thing once again put on an appearance of a woman who was at a loss for what to do.  I’m becoming more and more convinced that whatever or whoever it is doesn’t know what the plot against me is, it was just told to come here and get me to go to the place and the since I won’t its flummoxed.  I sat around stewing for a while until I decided there was no point hanging about and made to leave.  Stinty ran up before I could get out the door.

“Ela, can I please talk to you for a moment?” I allowed him to lead me into the storeroom off the kitchen “Can you please just help me out here?  That sergeant, Karta, she’s holding me responsible for this – me and Josta.  If your cousin goes back to her and tells her that you didn’t hold up your part of the deal . . .”

I looked at him coolly “I don’t remember making any deal.”

“Can you please just do be this favor?  Things are going to go bad for me if you hang me out to dry.  I gave you a chance to bail, and you chose to stay.  You said you were going to help smooth everything over.”

I laughed incredulously “Are you insane?  You’re asking me to walk into an ambush!”

“Now you don’t know that, you . . .”

“Alright, here’s what I’ll do Stinty, as a favor to you.  I’ll go out there, without that thing – but I need some protection, some real protection, not the bullshit you tried to pull today.  I need some real fighters that I can trust.  Because whatever is out at that cabin, it’s waiting for me.  You want me to walk into an ambush?  Fine, but I need some real killers on my side.  And if I get out there and anything seems at all shady I’m leaving immediately.”

“I don’t really know anyone like that Ela.”

“You better figure it out then.  In a couple of days I’m leaving town, you have until then to make arrangements for my safety on this suicide mission you keep trying to send me on .”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 27,817 platinum, 44,853 gold

XP: 635,101

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Badge of Last Resort, Stone of Good Luck, Tankard of the Drunken Hero,  Censer of Dreams,  potions of cure moderate wounds (5), potion of invisibility, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Deck of Curses (two cards used), Ring of Urban Grace,  Bewitching Gown, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Nymph’s Favor, Token of Summoning, Tidy Trunk

Courtier’s Outfit, 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), severed hag head, 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, glass vials of something awful (8), disguise kit, covenant ring , tiny diamonds (27), Saryah Phidaner gown, bottle of elfen absinthe, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55)    

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 

Myam 16 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 1

I had another lazy morning but since I’m stuck here until Baron Juost shows up there’s not much I can do to advance my schemes anyway.  And I know what you’re thinking “Ela, you’re a resourceful and intelligent woman you can get out of town if you want” which is entirely accurate, but I don’t need another enemy and I do need to reconnect with the Juosts and see about getting rid of this monitoring necklace they’ve hung around my neck like an albatross.  With that in mind I slept late and then puttered around my suite for a while, so sue me.  If it makes you feel better I was up and out the door in time for lunch – roasted chicken with ginger and cashew, cranberry torts, strips of braised duck served on waybread, and sautéed eel skewers – now that’s something worth waking up for.  The wine was pedestrian but what can you do?

After stuffing myself (elegantly, like a lady) and enduring the small talk of my fellow suite-renters I made my way over to the Rest Inn Peace, which was miraculous still standing and looking very fine as I walked up.  Stinty and his crew have made a real effort to give this place some curb appeal.  Even though it was late afternoon the common room was packed with people drinking and talking and generally carrying on, I guess with the city being on lockdown there are a lot of people without much work to do – why not drink?  Behind the bar dealing out mugs of ale was not Josta or Stinty, but a heavyset plain-faced fellow with a receding hairline and ruddy cheeks.   

“Who the Hells are you?”

He folded his arms truculently “Who the Hells wants to know?”

I drew myself to full height “I’ll have you know that I’m the owner of this establishment sir!  Unless Josta sold it anyway, then I’m just some person.”

“You must be Ela, Josta and Stinty are downstairs.  Oh, and your cousin’s here.”

“Oh shit, she must want her soul back – which one?”

“The pretty one.”

“They’re all pretty . . . now.”

He moved his mouth in a weird way like he was trying to chew up the memory “She said her name was Emmalina, something like that.”

I rolled my eyes “Hilarious.”

I made my way into the store-room off the kitchen and shouted down the ladder-hole before climbing on.

“Put your clothes on, I’m coming down!”

I’ve never much cared for ladders but I negotiated my way down well enough and then made my way to the basement store-room where the “secret” door was hanging up and Stinty was trying to level up a table that had some manner of gaming wheel on it while Josta stood by impassively, as always, with a mug of beer in her hand, as always.  She glanced at me as I walked in, but I beat her to the punch, mimicking her unharmonious voice perfectly.

“I was wondering if we were going to see you again.”

She nodded “Yes, that.”

I returned to my normal speaking voice “What have you got going here?”

Stinty continued squinting at the table and shifting it up and down imperceptibly “Since people know about this ‘secret’ room I’m going to turn into an illegal betting parlor.  That way they won’t be suspicious about the second secret room that I built for my real business.”

“Hmm, I’m not sure if that’s genius or moronic.  I came to collect Kalisha.”

Josta shook her head “She’s gone.  When the riots started she thought you were dead and got spooked, left town the next day.”

“I have no fucking luck, I tell you.  Did she leave behind a detailed plan for destroying my mortal enemies?  Or at least tell you where she was going?”

“No.”

“It’s annoying how people don’t just wait indefinitely for me to come and use them for my own personal goals.  It almost makes me wish that I hadn’t gotten her off the drugs.”

“I think I was the one who did that.”

“Maybe you did the heavy lifting but I got the ball rolling.  Wherever she is she’s probably turning copper tricks to get money for shiver now anyway, what else is she going to do?  Besides try to blackmail the Duke and maybe get killed.”

Stinty was finally satisfied and stepped away from the table dusting his hands off “What do you think?”

“I think it’s way too busy, you got numbers and colors and balls and wheels spinning around – it’s too much.  People are stupid, and gamblers are especially stupid, you need a game they can easily grasp.  Dice and cards, shit like that.”

“Aren’t you a gambler?”

“It’s not gambling when you cheat.”

Josta finished her beer and looked at the mug sadly “Did Paideyn tell you your cousin has been waiting for you to show up?”

I snorted “Emmalina?  Yeah, a lame joke even for you lot.  I mean what’s the punchline?”

Josta and Stinty looked at each other “Why is that a joke?’

“Because she doesn’t exist.  I must have mentioned that persona when we were playing cards one night.  What baffles me is that somehow you thought that I wouldn’t remember something that I made up.  Or what was the gag?”

Stinty glanced up at the ceiling as if looking through it to the common room above “There’s a woman waiting for you up there who says her name is Emmalina, she’s been here for a couple of days.”

“You’re serious aren’t you?”

Josta nodded “You want me to have Jernah and Bobble run her off?”

I sighed “No, I better go see what the scam is, just be prepared for the place to burst into flames or for an earthquake or something.”

Stinty was dismayed “No, you wrecked my last place and I just got this one looking decent!”

As I headed back up the ladder I made a mental inventory of everyone who knew about “cousin Emmalina” – Alice Kinsey, Percy Ringle, the Ladyheads, Vendriana Leisaro, Crookjaw, and an assorted few other courthouse types.  But out of all of them the only one who knew that there was no Emmalina was Crookjaw and he wouldn’t have been up to any kind of plot even if he wanted to, which he wouldn’t be because he loves me.  Although he certainly could have spilled the beans, I suppose I should have killed him before I left Graltontown, but then again I expected that I would be back in just a few days and that was months ago.  Who could have guessed that I would so thoroughly distracted from that pigsty of a community?

Josta and Stinty clambered back up with me and directed me to the private area on the second floor balcony where I was told Emmalina would be waiting.  Even though I was only here for a short time walking up the stairs gave me a very odd feeling of familiarity.  I suppose with my itinerate lifestyle now anyplace I stay for more than a couple of days starts to feel “homey”.  On the second floor overlook was the table where I had whiled away a few nights with Stinty and Josta now occupied by a single individual.  Whoever they are I have to give them credit – they put together a mirror image of myself when I was disguised as cousin Emmalina.  I tell you this much, if you like blondes, cousin Emmalina is a stone cold fox – having only ever seen the appearance in a mirror before I never got the fully glory of her countenance before.  Is it possible to be jealous of yourself?  That’s a weird thing to think about.

If it’s an illusion it’s a good one, and by good I mean fantastic – I’ve gotten pretty damn good at seeing through magic trickery.  This doesn’t make it impossible of course.  I’m not one of those people who thinks they can never be fooled just because they’re good at not being fooled most of the time, but it does make it less likely.  The more likely explanation is that I’m dealing with a shapechanger – I can’t see through that because it’s not a trick, it’s an actual physical metamorphosis.  And what shapechanger have I dealt with recently?  Ergo the most likely explanation is that the succubus had a little succubus friend who’s out for revenge and taking this form.  But that doesn’t seem all that likely either considering that the aforementioned demon-whore would have no clue about Emmalina.  Although she did try to read my mind several times, so who knows?

When “she” saw me a beautiful smile lit up her comely face.

“Ela!  I was starting to think you weren’t going to come!”

I sat down across from it “How could I miss this?”

“I don’t want to be rude cousin but there’s no time to catch up right now, I need your help with a case.”

“Rrrright, because you’re a lawyer.”

A small frown came and went across its face “Yes.  I’m representing a man whose been accused of murdering his wife.  I know that he didn’t do it but there’s no real evidence of anything, I’m concerned that without knowing who did . . .”

“I admit, I don’t get what the play is here.  Is the idea to make me trust you so that you can get close to me for some reason?  If that’s the goal why not shapechange into someone that I already trust?  Granted that’s really only one person.  And even that is a little shaky.  I guess if you wanted to take me out what you should do is impersonate Cladarielle.  That would be a better way to lure me into whatever trap you have set up.”

A real deep frown now “Cousin, what are you talking about?”

I laughed “Don’t cousin me whoever you are.  How about this, if I guess who you are will you drop the act?  Are you Vendriana?  She didn’t seem to be a magic user but she seemed to know how to use magic items and had a source for getting them.  I don’t have a great theory, but maybe that’s it, you’re her and you have a magic nose ring or something that doesn’t disguise you, it actually allows you to change shapes.”

Now a world-weary sigh “Ela, you’re talking nonsense, are you drunk?”

“Not drunk enough to fall for this horseshit.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 27,817 platinum, 44,859 gold

XP: 635,101

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Badge of Last Resort, Stone of Good Luck, Tankard of the Drunken Hero,  Censer of Dreams,  potions of cure moderate wounds (5), potion of invisibility, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Deck of Curses (two cards used), Ring of Urban Grace,  Bewitching Gown, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Nymph’s Favor, Token of Summoning, Tidy Trunk

Courtier’s Outfit, 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), severed hag head, 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, glass vials of something awful (8), disguise kit, covenant ring , tiny diamonds (27), Saryah Phidaner gown, bottle of elfen absinthe, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55)    

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