Mantelderith 15 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 2

Since I’m going to be diving into a tomb, which of course is going to be filled with undead monsters, I figured I should get a weapon of some kind.  I headed down to the Juost armory and no one seemed to be guarding the place.  It was crammed with all kinds of new stuff stripped of the dead bodies of the people killed in the fighting but it was just hurled about willy-nilly.  I guess whoever was in charge of the armory got killed and no one has been appointed to take over.  That’s that person called?  Sergeant of arms?  Or master of arms maybe?  Point is that’s probably a position that you shouldn’t leave vacant for long.  Anyone could walk in and get a people destroyer.  Like I walked in and picked up a short sword that seemed to be made of gold.  It glowed as well which should come in handy since tombs tend to be dark as well as infested with zuvembies. 

At noon I headed into the woods for a legally sanctioned grave robbing contest.  Which seems odd but for all I know it happens frequently.  Rich people are weird, who knows what they get up to when no one is looking?  I took the path through the gardens just as I did eight months ago (or so) when I was here the first time.  I guess I thought that since I had already killed the vampiric fey monster that way I would be safe.  In retrospect that probably doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Lightning doesn’t strike twice (usually) but if you go into a bad part of town and you get mugged you’re not safe if you go there again are you?  That’s a mixed metaphor but you know what I mean probably. 

I couldn’t swear to it but I feel like I was in the same area of the woods by tranquil forest pond when suddenly there was a well in my path.  You know the top part with the stones in a ring.  I should learn what that’s called, it has to be called something.  It was odd, but I didn’t think too much of it until I moved to take another path to bypass it and suddenly there it was in front of me again.  Two wells?  No, I looked back and there was no well where it was before.  I get it now, I see what we’re doing here.  Rather than dashing off breathlessly and flailing my arms only to find the well in front of me no matter what I just waited.  After a minute I saw the grey-white hand appear over the side of the well cap (is that what it’s called?) as the sounds of the forest went dead silent and an eerie susurration began. 

Over the past year I’ve seen some damn creepy things, but for some reason the awkward lurching of these well fey crawling out of their holes still sends a shiver up (down?) my spine.  There’s something about the herky-jerky way that it slithers out of the well dripping foul water that just gets me you know?  And of course it doesn’t help that they have that wall of hair falling down over their faces.  I have this thing about people (or whatever) that have no visible face.  I’m just funny like that I guess.  She did that thing where they stand still for a moment and then are right in front of you in the blink of an eye without seeming to move.  They may not be water-logged corpses but they sure smell like them.

“What?”

Her voice was phlegmy and bubbly and kind of hard to understand “You are under arrest.”

“Arrest?  That is not what I expected at all.  Are they making faeries road agents now?  Are you a member of the guard?  On what authority are you arresting me?”

“You are will answer to the Miletduchglimmenidd Court for your crimes.”

“What the Hells is that?”

“In the Bittersweet Yeteryears when the elfs first came to this land in the vigor of their youth the Miletduchglimmenidd Costenhojima Eriguldin was already eons old.  The elfs settled the forest during the Age of Kittenclandeubs and at that time Queen Reuithfatfengins exerted her power over the land and formed the Treagous Nunnehei.  Four thousand years later the clans declared the forest forbidden after . . .”

“Good Gods, forget about it, sorry I asked.  What crimes is this in relation to?”

“You stand ACCUSED . . . of the mortal murder of the glaistig Accordance and of the satyr Colper.”

“Hey, he was alive when I left him.  I did shoot him but . . .”

Her arm swung up to point imperiously, splattering me with foul water (and other stuff) “You will face judgement now or . . . you will die.”

“Ugh, this is kind of a bad time for me, can’t I face judgement later?  I’m kind of in the middle of something.”

“The time of your people has no meaning to the Queen!  She is eternal and immortal, you will wither and dry like a leaf and she will continue on forever!”

“So . . . . is that a yes?  We can do this later?”

She didn’t say anything, just stood there being creepy, so eventually I walked around her and continued on my way.  I guess if I dry drown in my sleep tonight I’ll know that wasn’t okay.  It took me a few hours to find the Wesel family crypt.  I didn’t see any sign of Hellerhad, I assume his plan is to wait for me to get find the magic stick and then ambush me on the way back and take it.  That’s what I would do if I was him.  Maybe it wasn’t a crypt, maybe it was a mausoleum, I forget which one is above ground and which one is underground.  I don’t care for these sorts of places.  I know what you’re saying “Ela no one does!” but you remember that time I was super sick and almost died and I was lying in the Sonst family crypt basically waiting to die?   I do.  It still ranks as the worst moment of my life.  So far anyway, I’m sure something worse is on the way. 

I wonder whatever happened to Lord Sonst.  I should keep better correspondence with my old pals like that.  Of course since I was usually using a fake name and appearance in those days it would be tough to keep it all straight.  Plus I have no fixed address.  There’s a lot of hurdles to overcome there.  The Wesel family crypt/mausoleum was built with giant stone blocks that had to be four feet square – it must have been a massive pain in the ass to construct.  There was moss or mold or something green growing in the cracks though – I guess as long as water can get in something plants can grow anywhere.  The “door” was a massive slab maybe seven feet high that I couldn’t have moved an inch but the good news is that the stones had shifted and it had fallen over – leaving the mouth of the place yawning open like a grave.  See what I did there?  That’s some good metaphoring. 

The front part of the tomb was all carved with a horse motif.  I guess the Wesel family was really into breeding horses.  Or maybe they just liked horses.  I don’t really understand burial structures at all, but this type of thing especially doesn’t make sense.  It’s not like you can enjoy it when you’re dead.  This place wasn’t made to be visited so who are all these horse carvings for?  With the light of my new blade showing the way I went in where there was a big room with wall paintings of the various Wesels valiantly riding horses into combat.  I think one of them was a woman.  Or maybe just a man with a very unfortunate haircut.  There was even some sort of magic effect that made me hear the snorting of horse noses and the clomping of horse hooves.  I swear I would even smell the horse-sweat.  What a weird thing to do huh?

Beyond that was a big room where there was a statue of a horse and murals on the walls of what I think was the same horse.  I guess they really liked this horse in particular.  It’s hard to tell because I don’t know what a horse grave looks like but I think maybe its bones were buried there.  I think these people really liked horses.  I love horses but I wouldn’t make a statue of one.  That’s entirely missing the point.  That’s like a statue of food – it does no one any good.  At that point I started going into tombs randomly.  One wasn’t a tomb at all, at least I don’t think, it was filled with giant sized weapons and armor and had some stone tablets carved with tales of some Wesel killing giants.  Another tomb was completely collapsed and filled in with dirt and rocks.  Towards the south end (I think) a sinkhole had opened up and a bunch of bodies had fallen into pit of water. 

The water must have been tremendously cold because the bodies all looked perfectly preserved – just suspended there like they were flying.  The water was so clear it really did look like they were flying.  There were lights at the bottom of the water that you could barely see.  It’s always a bad idea to follow lights, but anyone who followed those specific lights deserves to never be seen again.  I found another tomb that had a dude and a horse in it, said he was a diplomat of some kind, and another for a general in some war that had four horses buried with him.  Enough with the horses, I get it, you like them.  Makes you wonder if they killed the horses just so they could be buried with their masters – which would be a very odd expression of love. 

When I turned around from the four-horse tomb I saw a corpse with burning red eyes standing behind me.  People seem to be very concerned about ghosts, but in my experience ghosts seem to be rather harmless.  They’re usually just sad people that want to be set free.  I’ve never met one that seemed capable of hurting anyone if they wanted to.  Dead bodies walking around on the other hand – that’s what I worry about.  I’ll take a ghost over a barrow wight any day.  And especially any night.  His voice was the “typical” grave rasp of the unquiet dead.  I hate when their jaws move, I much prefer when their voices just issue forth from nowhere impossibly.

“Why do you disturb my resting place?”

“I’m here for Mariscalcus Wesel’s staff of office.” I held my hands up “I was told that is about yay long and made of darkwood with mithril caps on both ends with six blue gemstones on it.  I assume sapphires but I wasn’t told that, he just said blue gemstones.”

“Then you shall die like the others who come to steal my treasures.”

“No, it’s not stealing.  Your family is all dead.  The King gave these lands to another family so legally they get all your stuff, including the stick.”

His eyes burned brighter and redder, I guess that’s how undead monsters show anger “Betrayed by my own King?!”

“If it makes you feel better he’s dead too.” He said nothing for a long time “So, uh, can I get the stick then or . . .”

“I wish to return to my spirits of my family.”

“Okay . . . . safe travels?”

“You must help me.”

“There it is.”

“I was disturbed in my slumber by trespassers, intruders, graverobbers like yourself.  The ancient powers of the land woke me in response to their impertinence to destroy, and I did, but now but I cannot find peace.  My ancestors tell me that my only path to rejoin them is through resurrection and a second death.  Now that I have been stirred form the grave I cannot be destroyed, only reborn to die again.”

“Alright, give me the stick and I’ll bring you back.”

His eyes glowed even more brightly “Such oaths are not sworn lightly to the dead.”

“I’ve done it before, it’s not easy, but you hand over the stick and it will be done.  I’ll swear on whatever you want.”

“The deal is struck, you have until the next full moon to fulfil your part of the bargain.  Fail and your life is forfeit – I shall destroy you wherever you are.”

“Wait a minute! I didn’t say anything about . . .”

But he was gone.  Maybe he is a ghost, I’ve never seen a flesh undead disappear like that.  Are there ghosts that can manifest in corpse form?  What am I dealing with here?  The jerk didn’t even bring me the staff of office or anything, I still had to root around for an hour until I found the right tomb where it was laying with a bunch of other stuff.  I won’t lie (about this) I thought about taking the other items as well mostly out of spite.  But I have enough issues without adding a grave curse on top of everything.   

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 53,040 platinum, 25,660 gold

XP: 1,096,451

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 Elegant Boots, Ela’s Extravagant Necklace, Ring of Counterspells, Brooch of Shielding, Cloak of the Hedge Wizard (Abjuration), Headband of Subtle Misdirection, Antiquarian’s Monocle, Unbalanced Scales, +1 Glorious Undead Bane Short Sword

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

Muthuselan 25 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I was curious if any of my new friends had been gored to death or maimed by a minotaur (or the panicked mob) in an event that was a complete accident and no one’s fault so I went to the Macourek Theater early (for theater folk) but found no one there.  The door wasn’t locked so that gave me a chance to snoop around but I didn’t find anything of interest.  I came upon the gaggle of actors as few blocks away having a luxurious (where does their money come from?) patio breakfast and recounting their various ordeals at the bull baiting.  When they saw me coming they let forth a hue and cry that is suitable only for thespians.  They must come here often because none of the other patrons batted an eye at their antics.  After expressing their relief that I was still alive in the most self-centered ways possible, it’s tricky but they have the art down, they asked me how I had made it out and I spun a tale daring leaps and cunning tricks that had them all on the edge of their seat.  The key to dealing with theater people is to make your lies as outlandish as possible – the standard rules of deceit about keeping things simple don’t work well with people who are already removed from reality.  Throw in a few long evil twins though and they’re happy as clams in mud. 

According to the troupe after the rampage at the venue the minotaur had mauled a couple members of the watch until some helpful adventurers took it upon themselves to slay the creature.  Everyone (mostly the ladies) was all agog about a devastatingly handsome and dashing cavalier that heroically skewered the monster in the back with his lance while it was devouring a tobacconist.  Adventuring parties must be like fleas, you can’t see them but they’re everywhere.  There was also a lot of talk about the mysterious man in black who had purchased all the Shirelings and then disappeared.  Did he have anything to do with the murder of the Master of Chains and the resulting calamity?  I wish the authorities well in their search. 

The troupe was all gung-ho about continuing to rehearse their awful play, the show must go on after all, but I was able to beg off by saying that I was still traumatized by my tribulations last night.  They spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get me to come along and I realized that it’s because they’re used to dealing with each other – and amongst these sorts “no” means “beg me to come and kiss my ass or I will freak out on you”.  It makes disengaging with them tricky because they’re not used to an honest decline.  Eventually I was able to extricate myself though and make my way back to Josta’s Inn, which semi-miraculously looked about ready to open.  That Stinty is an industrious fellow I tell you what.

Vablis told me last night that Rindol was all horned up about helping her with her demon problem – so much so they he didn’t even ask why she had a demon problem.  Which is typical of those intellectual types, when they get excited about a challenge they often forget little details like why they’re doing it in the first place.  I assume that’s how alchemist’s fire was invented, someone was really into the task of making fire that wouldn’t be put out without stopping to think WHY someone wanted fire that was really hard to put out.  And a million burned corpses later here we are.  Anyway, Valbis had scheduled lunch with him at his house and I tagged along as her older sister Mètre .  When we got there his place was already covered with papers and drawings and he started rambling without introduction or small talk.

“The frame you see needs to be a great wooden beam which forms a circle. The beam must be three feet on all sides, and the circle should be at least thirty feet in diameter. The craftsman must cut a groove in the top surface of this beam, one inch wide and two inches deep.  Eight pillars, four feet tall by three feet square must be . . .”

“Pardon me good sir, but what sort of object are you talking about constructing?”

He blinked as if noticing me for the first time and then looked over at Vablis “Oh, pardon my manners, good to meet you Miss?”

Vablis curtsied neatly, she’s clearly trained even if she wasn’t the King’s mistress and gestured “Mr. Rindol, this is my sister Mètre, remember I told you about her yesterday?”

I gave him my hand to kiss “Yes, yes, of course, told me all about you she did.” He cleared his throat. “I assume you’re aware of the situation Miss Vablis, I mean the old Miss Vablis, I mean the older Miss Vablis, I mean . . . Mètre.  What I have designed here is a magic device that will trap a demon and hold it in place.  There’s groove for holy water you see, and an iron spike, and Adariel’s holy flame – all things that demons abhor.”

I put my hand on his arm as I leaned over to look at some of his scribbles “Very impressive that you could design such a thing.”

“Well to give credit where due, the concept design is something that I found in a book but I made quite a few improvements, yes, quite a few.”

Vablis smiled and took him by the other arm “Rindol is ever so smart isn’t he?”

“Oh yes, I hardly even know what I’m looking at here!” Vablis and I laughed prettily. “Excuse a silly girlish question Mr. Rindol, but how do you get the demon in the cage to trap it?”

He smiled indulgently “That’s the best part, when it’s completed you place an object that belongs to the demon on the spike and it’s instantly summoned into the device and trapped there.”

“Oh how delightful.  Do you think it will take to build?”

He seemed confused “Build?  Well now, I’m not a carpenter you know, I say . . . if you hired some men, to put it together, under my strict supervision perhaps it would take a month?”

“A month?!  Unacceptable.”

Vablis glared at me and kind of petted Rindol’s arm “Sister, don’t be rude.”

“Yes, of course you’re right, thank you sister.  My abject apologies Mr. Rindol, I didn’t mean to speak out of turn, it’s just the idea of this fiend out there doing God’s knows what filled me with terror.”

“Hmm, fiend you say?”

“Yes, you know, the demon.  That goes in the trap.”

Vablis tugged on his arm slightly “You remember, I told you yesterday, about the demon at the theater.”

He nodded “Of course, of course.  You have to understand though that I am a man of letters so I was thinking about this purely from an intellectual standpoint, need to shift my mindset here to practical application.  Of course if there is a danger in question a month is far too long, far too long indeed.  If you hired more men, the right men, it could possibly be done in a week – with a commensurate increase in cost of course.”

“How much are we talking?”

“Probably somewhere around fifteen thousand.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?!”

“Madam such language is not appropriate for a lady!”

 Vablis acted scandalized “Sister, how could you?!  Where did you hear such language as that?!”

After much apologizing and assuaging it was finally time for lunch – or at least it was for Vablis and Rindol.  My illusion was going to be wearing off before too long and I didn’t care for the repast he had set out which seemed to be black bread and some kind of pudding, so it was time for me to leave.  But there was one last thing before I left.

“Mr. Rindol, since the public good is at stake here is there any way you can think of to get the funds we need?”

He seemed uncomfortable “Well . . . Lord Wesel usually funds our efforts but . . .”

“Wonderful!  When do you think we could speak to him?”

“That sum . . . quite a bit more . . . it’s usually Murdane . . . does all the organization . . . . usually the one . . .”

I smiled brightly “Do you think we could meet Lord Wesel tomorrow?”

After leaving Rindol’s house I spent some time making the rounds to see where some skilled craftsmen might be found for this demon-box project as well as scoping out the local churches – seems like they should be interested in demon slaying.  Or at least demon trapping.  And while I was at it I spread some rumors about the Man in Black, just to keep in practice.  It was nightfall by the time I returned to the inn where I found Vablis sitting at one of the tables drinking some kind of pinkish soup.

“Did they finally get a cook in here?”

“Yeah, he’s not half bad either.”

“Nothing like at the King’s table though eh?”

She gave me a hard look “No, nothing like that.”

“Lighten up, you need to learn to look at these things philosophically.”

“Easy for you to say.  Can I ask you why we’re so worried about this demon?  How does that help us find the mayor’s brother?”

“Well mostly I don’t want to get killed by a demon while we’re finding him.  But once she’s out of the way I figure we can grab one of these others and kick them in the dick until they tell us what’s up.”

“That’s your plan?”

“I’ve learned that it pays to keep things simple.  Complex plans just go awry.  There’s nothing much that can go wrong with a good old fashioned dick kick.”    

Vablis snorted “I’m sure you’ll find a way.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 55,273 gold

XP: 523,101

Inventory:  Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Field Scrivener’s Desk, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Surcoat of the Night Wind,  Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, Ring of Invisibility, sunrod (4) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, dreamtime tea (2) Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style

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 

Mede 7 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 1

Last night the kindly deformed turnkey – even though he’s human he reminds me of my old Graltontown friend Crookjaw – made the very courteous offer to bring me bread for breakfast this morning if I serviced him.  What a champ.  I gave some consideration to using my lion-paw to rip his dick off but in the end I decided that maiming a jailor would probably get me additional charges.  There’s really nothing you can do in this world without the damn legal system getting involved.  Point is my breakfast was a bucket of slop this morning same as everyone else – luckily I didn’t feel the need to eat it.  Martialla and I were discussing our legal strategy through the wall when Stannum growled at us from his cell where he remained in a heap on the floor.

“Shut up will you!  My head is killing me.”

“Probably because you got clubbed in the skull.  Why exactly were you struggling anyway?  They already had you, it was over, what did you hope to accomplish besides earning yourself a crack on the nob?”

“What the Hells else was I supposed to do?”

“Save your fighting for when it would do some good.”

“And when would that be?”

“Later today maybe, or tomorrow at the latest, they usually move these things along pretty swiftly.  You see my very good friend you’re an unclean commoner, and as such you have no rights in the legal system really, but I am a member of the aristocracy and as such I shall be requesting trial by combat and you will be my champion.  If you win we’re both off the hook, it’s a fun little loophole that most people don’t know.”

“You’re a noble lady?”

“But of course, my cousin is Baroness Joust.”

“She’s the Baroness, but what are you?”

“Trust me it’s fine, I have the same rights.  My cousin Emmalina is a lawyer and she told me all about it.”

“Why should I help you?”

“Mostly because of that part where you’re also saving yourself from being hung.  I believe stealing from a place of worship is a capital offense, although they may just commute your sentence to eternal bondage since the church of Adariel is all about mercy and all that.  But also because we fought side by side and that makes us blood brothers.  Er, sisters?  I guess you’re my blood brother and I’m your blood sister.  Isn’t blood sister something else though?  Those are gladiator women down south right?  Blood siblings I suppose.  The point is we’re fire-forged friends now.  But the mostly the other thing where you’ll die if you don’t do it.”

Later that day I was brought out into the courtyard where a quartet (quadumvirate?) of judges was handing out “justice”.  Most of the judges that I’ve known have been ancient bald men with white beards who could barely lift the gavel – these four were young looking strapping fighting types.  Not sure why they were wasting their time with this sort of thing while there’s a war going on.  Actually I know exactly why, wars tend to be dangerous and sentencing poor people to hang by the neck until dead for stealing a goose is pretty safe.  And fun probably. Colonel Ciarán was there, looking smug surrounded by his four cronies and several other liveried lackeys and hangers-on.  The short ugly guy with the fancy girl-hair looked very angry when they trotted me out.  I suppose he feels bad about me lying and stealing his horses and making him appear the fool.  Some people, I tell you.

The head judge who was called Poitoupett explained the charges against me and went on at length about the testimony and evidence against me.  When I was finally given a chance to speak I invoked my right to trial by combat to much harrumphing and muttering from the gallery.  Poitoupett silenced them and turned back to me.

“Anyone can claim to be a noble when it suits them.  What proof can you offer?”

“In my affects you will find a letter from Baroness Juost to me giving me instructions to meet with several of the Juost family vassals on her behalf in which she clearly identifies me as her cousin.  And to clarify I claim rights by relation only, I do not lay claim to a noble title myself.”

One of the other judges leaned forward “Your affects were searched and we found no such letter.”

“I’m sure whatever mutant gaoler you had paw through my underwear had a gay old time but I assure you it’s there.  One must take precautions to protect their valuables.”

The second judge seemed annoyed by this “Your items were thoroughly searched.”

Poitoupett dismissed him with a look “Bring her things.”

One of the jailers jogged out with my various bags and rucksacks from which I produced Baroness Juost’s instructions and handed them to Poitoupett.  He and the other three judges spent a great deal of time examining it and one of them did some magic on it as well.  He seemed disappointed by whatever his divining told him.  Poitoupett returned the letter to me and I returned it to my Bag, handing it back over to a bailiff or whatever a judge’s minions are called.  A third judge jumped in at this point.

“What else do you have hidden in that satchel exactly?”

“Nothing that would concern an august body such as this.”

“You may be carrying contraband.”

“I invoke also my right to confidentiality as befits my station.  I am under no obligation to reveal my personal possessions to you.  In truth you have already violated my rights by searching my things without my leave but since you couldn’t know at that time I was of a protected class I won’t hold it against you this time.”

He started to speak again but Poitoupett cut him off “You know the law My Lady.”

“I believe that it’s very important to be familiar with your rights. These rights are the foundation of our legal system and are in place for the protection of every subject of this great Kingdom. Failure to know and utilize these rights leads to their erosion and then where are we?  No better than lawless Northmen or unjust Vielanders.  It is every person’s moral duty to know the law and their place in it.”

Poitoupett nodded with the tiniest hint of approval “Well said.  When will your champion be ready?”

“He’s ready now Your Honor.”

As I was being led back to my cell Colonel Ciarán jogged over to me (quite sprightly for an older fellow) and grabbed me by the arm.

“You think you’re smart?  My man Auttaine is going to make short work of whatever tavern-brawler you’ve seduced into helping you and then you will hang.”

“Mr. Jailer this man is grabbing me by my arm, which is a violation of the terms of my imprisonment, please break his nose.”

The look on the jailer’s  face was priceless – the look of a common man with a shit job who’s just realized that he had carte blanche to wallop a rich man in the face.  Sadly the Colonel saw the look too and quickly snatched his hand away from me as if I had turned into a serpent.  I dropped him a sassy wink as I was being led into the prison.

“How are things going with your wife Colonel?”

Once I was placed back in my cell across the way Stannum was up and grasping at the bars like a drowning man in river man clutching at a shoreline tree root. 

“Well?”

“We’re set.  I hope you can do more than kill orc women and children because I have to assume a retired military Colonel has a few rough characters in their entourage and I’d hate to see you get hurt.”

A few hours later we were back in the yard for the trial by combat.  Auttaine was apparently the name of the fellow at the crossroads with the silly horned helmet because he was the one waiting when Stannum and I came out.  Stannum was given his gear back and a few minutes to get ready in which Horns gave me a dirty look like Uggo Girl-Hair did – when did people get so sensitive about someone lying right to their face?  I mean grow up people.  I had no idea if Stannum would win but I figured either way it would work out for me.  Either he’d win and I’d be free or he’d die and then I’d escape. 

They were pretty evenly matched, Stannum was the better fighter but Auttaine was a warrior-priest of some kind and his magic made up the gap.  I won’t bore you with the blow by blow – these things are all much the same, two jugheads in plate mail battering away at each other with swords.  Not my idea of a fun afternoon.  In the end, though grievously wounded, the former Hero of the Lost Sword was victorious, vanquishing his opponent by ripping off his stupid helmet and stabbing him heroically through the bridge of the nose.  Two onlookers had to help him pull the sword out of the poor guy’s head.  After that the judges said some stuff and some papers were signed and so forth and we were let go.  I keep most of my valuables in various hidden compartments but I always have some loose change – when I got my items back I realized that a handful of coins were gone. I turned to say something to Martialla and then realized that she wasn’t there.

I flagged down one of the jailers “When are you going to let my friend out?  I’ve got places to be.”

“She’s not being let go.”

“What?  What do you mean?”

“She’s not a noble, she’s not entitled to trial by combat.”

“What, that makes no sense.  We were accusing of stealing horses together, if I’m innocent how can she be guilty?”

He just shrugged and walked away.

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .0585% 

Funds: 817 platinum, 54,799 gold

XP: 277,451

Inventory:  Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Belt of Giant Strength +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow, Deck of Curses (two cards used), Ring of Urban Grace, Feather Token (tree), +1 Human Bane Dagger, Bewitching Gown, Grappling Scarf, Wyvern Skin Robe (Robe of Arcane Heritage),  Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Ela’s Walking Stick (Rod of Ruin/Agile Alpenstock) Bag of Concealment, Bag of Holding, Black Marketers’ Bag, +2 Keen Short Sword (2), Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, +1 Flaming Light Crossbow

Pocketed Scarf, wrist sheath, assortment of Fake Signet Rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), 852 garnets, severed hag head, gold necklace with jade pendant, white squirrel fur slippers, ivory combs, receipt,  tax collector’s badge, Calastar (Superior Riding horse, Horseshoes of Speed, Endless Feedbag), Wine (expensive) 4 bottles, Gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, 5 gold trade bars  

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, Prison guard thief, Colonel Tarl Ciarán

Mede 3 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

With our tracker and her trusty hound out looking for the Heroes there was little for Martialla and I to do but sit around the campsite drinking wine and lamenting the lack of magically portable lounge-chairs.  We probably should have burned the orc-bodies or something like that but you wants to drag a bunch of orcs into a burning pile?  We’ll just move the camp when they start to smell.  Smell more I mean.  We were a bottle and a half through the day and thinking about going for a ride (kids don’t drink and ride) when we heard hooves coming our way.  Martialla looked at me.

“Do orcs ride horses?”

“I think they eat horses.”

To our surprise the hoofbeats came from the horses of a trio of ladies in dressed in high quality hunting attire.  Although it’s debatable as to who was more surprised, as they were quite taken aback to find the two of us sitting out in the middle of the wilderness with a fine pavilion drinking wine as well.  We invited them to join us and they accepted.  This would present an even more befuddling scene for anyone that stumbled across it – five women in the middle of nowhere having a leisurely drink.  They introduced themselves as Korvosa Foxglove and her two friends Annett and Annan Wayette (no relation).  Why were they out here?  I’m glad you asked for it’s quite the tale.  Korvosa’s husband and two sons had been killed by cultists that bore some manner of eternal grudge against his family and instead of sitting at home crying or remarrying and forgetting about it she was trying to hunt them down.  I’m sure she’s in over her head but so I was when I woke up in Graltontown.  You have to admire her moxie.  Well I suppose you don’t have to, but I do. 

Generations ago one of the Foxglove ancestors was an anointed knight that thwarted the plots of some minor evil god or demon lord or what have you and ever since then his few mortal followers have had it out for the Foxgloves.  That’s the problem with bearding an immortal entity – they have plenty of time to come back at your entire family line.  I wonder how long it takes a devil to get tired of tormenting one lineage and move on to some other scheme.  Maybe never.  After all they have eternity to fill and after enough time passes you’re probably looking for any form of entertainment to break up the tedium of immortality.

“Are you searching the area just in case or do you have reason to believe around here?”

“A few folks came into town that survived an attack from the cultists so they could still be in the area or maybe this is where they have a hideout.”

“How would you feel about teaming up?  We have a tracker helping us find some people and there’s strength in numbers.”

When Rokia and Nomen returned to camp later that afternoon she didn’t remark on their being three new people with us.  Not sure if I should chalk that up to professionalism or indifference – perhaps they’re one in the same in a way.  She had found signs of the Heroes in many places but hadn’t been able to track them down yet – she speculated that they’re also combing the valley looking for wherever the orcs have made their home.  I gestured at the dead orcs strewn about.

“This lot has left some pretty fresh tracks, how about we follow them and see what’s what?”

It was a capital idea, even if I do say so myself, and in its execution we came upon the camp of the Heroes near sundown who were on the same trail.  In addition to Belle they had  added to their ranks a renegade Kostelos. Smilarly to the surveyor we encountered in the marshes he was dressed in a hodgepodge of proper city clothes and barbarian finery.  Introductions were made all around and I gave them the same speech about joining forces and strength in numbers.  They were suspicious of course, adventurers always are – when you make a living killing people and stealing their possessions it’s an occupational habit – but we were able to strike a deal.  We help them with the orcs and they help us with the cultists.  Everyone wins. 

As we were sitting around the fire that night one of the Heroes kept giving me a look.  He was a slight man with close cropped hair, elaborate spectacles, and a small neatly trimmed goatee, wearing a luxuriant blue outfit that looked vaguely like a uniform of some sort with a highly fancified/sissified silver rapier on his hip. I smiled at him.

“See something you like?”

“Have we met before?  You seem very familiar to me.  What did you say your name was?”

“Elsa.  Elsa Redstone.  I don’t know if we met before but I saw you a few times at Guernica in Graltontown.” 

He didn’t seem convinced “That must be it.”

Later in the evening after everyone else had turned in it was just me and Belle across the fire.  She was clearly the kind of beauty you’d expect from a top girl at a high class dance joint (as much as the term applies) but she just as clearly needed to run a comb through her hair and bath six to twelve times before she would be even considered presentable.  Not to mention her clothing, which was mismatched to begin with and had clearly been torn and badly patched many times.  She had two short blades in sheaths not on her hips but on the front of her belt in a way that seemed awkward.  She seemed to touch the hilts every few seconds as if checking to make sure they were still there.

“Who are you?”

“Belle Thurnin.  Did you not catch my name before?”

“Are you though?  Or are you Clancy?  Or someone else altogether?  How many of you are there in there?”

“I’m certain I haven’t any idea what you’re talking about.”

“I have to admit to you that I fibbed a little bit earlier, the real reason I’m out here is to find you.  Whoever you are, I suppose it doesn’t matter really who.”

“Why?”

“I need someone brought back.  Can you do that?”

“No, I can’t.” Long pause.  “But We can.”

“How do I make that happen?”

“Tomorrow night.  We’ll talk.”

“Assuming we survive the assault on the orc stronghold.”

She said nothing in reply, just stared at me, her eyes reflecting the flickering flames in a way that seemed to amplify them.  I had a feeling if I were to look into those eyes for long enough that I would start to see things.  Bad things.  After all the eyes are the windows to the soul right?  And I have a feeling some ruthless things are going on in that particular soul right now.  I excused myself to seek solace in my pavilion and she continued to sit there, staring at nothing.

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .0525%  

Funds: 817 platinum, 55,776 gold

XP: 269,611

Inventory:  Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion),  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow, Deck of Curses (two cards used), Ring of Urban Grace, Feather Token (tree), +1 Human Bane Dagger, Bewitching Gown, Grappling Scarf, Wyvern Skin Robe (Robe of Arcane Heritage),  Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Ela’s Walking Stick (Rod of Ruin/Agile Alpenstock) Bag of Concealment, Bag of Holding, Black Marketers’ Bag

Pocketed Scarf, Wrist Sheath,  Assortment of Fake Signet Rings,  , Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), 852 Garnets, severed hag head, gold necklace with jade pendant, white squirrel fur slippers,  ivory combs, receipt,  tax collector’s badge, Calastar (Superior Riding horse, Horseshoes of Speed, Endless Feedbag), Wine (expensive) 6 bottles

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

Mathanaya 2 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I fell asleep last night.  That probably doesn’t seem very noteworthy “I fall asleep every night” you may be saying to yourself.  It is remarkable in this case though because as you all know due to magical shenanigans I don’t need to sleep.  Not only that but I was lying (laying?) outside against a tree without any kind of comforts.  There was no reason that I should have fallen asleep and every reason that I should have stayed awake.  I’m going to say that a pooka cast a sleep spell on me.  You can’t prove it didn’t happen.  I’m surprised more people don’t try that.  There’s Gods damned magical creatures everywhere getting up to all kinds of mischief , it doesn’t get used as a scapegoat enough.  Cheat on your wife?  You were enspelled by a water nymph.  Murder your neighbor?  A redcap did it.  Steal the crown jewels?  An invisible ogre is framing you.  

I bring up this sleeping scenario to set the scene for waking up and seeing Big Ears grinning at me in the early morning light backed up by his merry band of skulking deserters.  Four of them had bows at the ready, not drawn of course – who’d want to hold that – and prepared to demolish Martialla where she lay sleeping in a very comfortable looking bedroll with a fluffy fleece pillow.  When he saw that I was awake Big Ear’s wolfish grin turned into a grotesque caricature of a human smile – it was like his face had split in half crossways.  I’d call it a shark grin but that doesn’t even do it justice.

“You know, I just knew that there was something off about you, I just knew it.  The boys thought that I was crazy, but I just had a feeling that following you was going to be a good idea.  And look, look what the Gods have provided!  What a bounty.”

“I’m sorry, have we met?”

“Ha, nice try, but you left an easy trail to follow – something tells me that fieldcraft isn’t your strong suit.  Tell me, are you both illusionists or did just one of you manage to make you both look like crusty old codgers?”

“Neither, we’re both shape shifting demons.  Mess with us and we’ll not only bite your head off but we’ll also condemn you to the Thirteen Hells.”

“I’m sure you will.  That jewelry you have on should be enough to set us up for life.  And we’re going to have a lot of fun getting it off you as well.  I assume they shaved your head and kicked you out of town for adultery so it should be a lively time indeed.”

“What’s your name?”

“Boere.”

“Look Boere, we both know the deal here, can we skip the part where you make an escalating series of lecherous comments about what’s going to happen to me that become more and more violent and belligerent as I verbally destroy you with my witty retorts?  We both know what the deal is here, can we just get on with it?  I’m sure that part of the fun is menacing and terrifying your victims but I’ve had a week you know?  I’d rather not go through that old song and dance routine just now.”

He seemed at a loss for a moment “Wow, I wasn’t expecting you to be so docile, that’s a nice surprise.  I’ll just pop these pants off and we can get started.”

I stood up, brushing off my leggings “Oh, I didn’t mean get on with that, I meant get on with the part where I shoot you in the stomach.”

He stopped in mid depantsing “Uh, you do that and my friends turn your friend into a pincushion. Except you know, with arrows not pins.  So an archery butt I guess.”

I pulled my crossbow out of my Bag “Here’s the thing though, my friend doesn’t have a bedroll or a nice pillow.”

A look of confusion came across his face “What does that mean?”

I raised the crossbow to my shoulder “This.”

I didn’t hit him in the stomach but I did put a crossbow bolt through his left side right above the hip – and I mean that literally, it went right through him and out the other side.  It was the damnedest thing.  The real Martialla appeared from where she had been lurking invisibly and conjured a fist-sized ball of molten metal that she propelled into Big Ears.  Have you ever seen someone splattered with motel metal?  You can probably go down to a smelting facility and see it if you wait long enough, but I sure as Hells wouldn’t recommend it.  Big Ears went down hard, never to get up again.  His four friends loosed their arrows into the illusionary sleeping Martialla while the fifth guy just stood there gaping like a trout on land. 

Martialla summoned another molten orb and blasted it into the group of the four – which then splattered searing pain over all of them.  I activated my tattoo for Lion jaws and roared at them with the fury of, well, a lion.  A good lion roar is pretty intimidating, most people never learn that because if you’re up close enough to really get the full effect you don’t live to tell about it.  These four would though, because at this point they decided they had had more than enough.  You can’t really blame them, their leader died in four seconds, they were speckled with burning metal, and they were facing down a werelion or some other monstrosity.  They ran away from the army to avoid just this kind of thing.  As his four friends ran away as fast as their legs could carry them the fifth man continued to stand in shock – unable or unwilling to flee with his pals.  Martialla walked right past him as she came into the “camp”.

“I didn’t know you could do illusions like that.”

“It’s something I’ve been working on.”

“You had time to cast spells but not to wake me up?”

“I thought you were playing possum.”

“Is that ball of liquid metal new too?” She nodded “It’s gruesome.”

“Yes, magic is an awful, appalling miracle.  Did you know there’s thousands of spells to hurt people but only one that can make people feel better when they’re sad?  It’s pretty twisted.  Although I suppose that says more about people than it does about magic.”

“Didn’t elfs invent magic?  Maybe they’re the messed up ones.”

“Nah, all elf magic does is make dancing lights and turn flowers different colors and shit.  Humans are the ones who thought – hey what if there was a way to make someone be on fire who was hundreds of feet away, wouldn’t that be neat?”

I nodded at the remainder deserter “Did you do something to him?”

“No, I think he’s just frozen the normal non-magic way.  He seems pretty young.”

Now that I got a good look at him, he did seem younger than the others – and then quickly I felt stupid for not realizing right off the jump what was going on.  The beardless face and bountiful dark curly hair was because “he” was a she.  I whistled to try and get her to snap out of her trance. 

“Hey, its fine, we’re not going to hurt you.”

Martialla glanced at me “We’re not?”

“Well, I mean maybe we are, but not right now is my point.  What’s your deal girly, why were you with those cutthroats?”

“Girly?” Martialla leaned in for a closer look “Ah, girly.”

At first I thought she might be mute, but eventually she explained herself – sort of, her story was kind of a jumble of words.  She had one of those high piping voices that I couldn’t decide if it was annoying or melodious.  I suppose it could be both.  Her father is a hunter, a bear hunter she said but that can’t be – no one hunts bears do they? Said hunter father was out, you know, hunting, when the troubles in Renwick started and she wisely got out of dodge to try and find him.  She didn’t, but she did run into the band of deserters who assumed that she was a young fellow – which is kind of ridiculous given her angel face but that can happen when you wear “man clothes” and don’t have “womanly curves”.  Not that I would know of course, but I’ve read about it.  They had conscripted her in their band as a servant/asshole in training .  She had been pretending to be mute since her voice would give her away instantly and had spent several days living in terror in the company of men.  Which now that I think about it is kind of how most women are living all the time. 

Martialla and I were both worried that she would ask us to help her find her father, because how can you say no to that?  And it would have dragged on into a whole thing – how you going to find one woodsman in a warzone?  But to our mutual relief she had no interest in asking for help at all – which is admirable.  Probably not that smart, but admirable.  We wished her luck and went our separate ways – after taking a decent amount of gold off Big Ears’ corpse of course. 

“You see, this is what I’m talking about!  If they had all this money why were they out here harassing us?  Once they stole this seed money they should have headed to Allene or some other town and gotten themselves set up with an ongoing concern of some kind, this is more than enough to get started!  This is probably more money than they ever had at one time in their old lives, I mean what were they doing out here?”

“They were probably worried about being hung as traitors.”

“No one down there would know them, just get some new clothes and come up with a fake name and no one is going to be the wiser.  These people have no sense of vision and it drives me crazy.  All they can think to do is waylay travelers.  And for what?  For what Martialla?  Can you tell me?”

“I think you’re overlooking one important factor.”

“What’s that?”

“Men are stupid and violent.”

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .003%

Funds: 995 platinum, 4259 gold

XP: 234,561

Inventory:  Pathfinder’s Gear (white) Pocketed Scarf, Wrist Sheath, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Assortment of Fake Signet Rings,  Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, Gem of Brightness, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Glove of Vampiric Touch, Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Holy Symbol of Kozilek, Ruby (2), Black Marketers’ Bag, 879 Garnets

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

Excerpt from Ishavar’s Histories Volume 12

Moreavan 30th in the year 887 by the New Imperial calendar (Wodemōnap 77th in the year 753 by the old calendar) was an usually cool morning in the area of the city Renwick in the Mauska region of northwestern Cymrile county.  Mist rolled in from the Upper Scale River but quickly disappeared before sunrise.  The sunrise itself was largely obscured by heavy cloud cover, dark flat clouds that promised rain that never fell.   The sunlight also struggled to penetrate the persistent smoky haze that clung to the city, there were no active fires anymore but a untiring oily kind of “air grease” that hung low to the ground.  This would later be attributed to the wide use of nerium fir trees in the construction of buildings in Renwick which burned during the fighting. 

The river around the city was littered with the blackened husks of dozens of boats of various sizes creating a significant hazard to navigation through the area.  Most of the charred bodies had already floated downstream, but there were still dozens pinned up against the docks or trapped amongst the wreckage.  The western third of the city, called Ford Village by some at the time, was devastated – with nearly every building destroyed, even those made of stone.  It was said that the stone was shattered by the intense heat of dragonfire.  There was a stark line where the old city wall had prevented the fires from spreading to the rest of the districts.  Even so in the other two thirds of the city there were several small clusters of burned buildings with one larger instance in the middle of the government district were a dozen buildings had been badly damaged. 

There were signs of fighting in and around Renwick.  Impromptu fortifications had been set between buildings on the west and north sides and there were bodies strewn throughout the streets – mostly concentrated along the outer wall of the blackened Ford Village – including the bodies of non-humans, mostly goblins, but a handful of trolls as well.  Civil authority had been abandoned in Renwick with roving gangs of angry citizens traveling the streets while the few remaining soldiers and guardsmen attempted to mount a defense.  Rumors were that the only ranking officer left was a third lieutenant and the defense effort was ad hoc and disorganized.  

Before the sun was fully over the horizon an army appeared outside the city, although the term is applied loosely in regards to this incident.  It was in truth a union of outlaws from the Faith Woods.  Notable among them was the so called Bandit-King Nidus, whose band was reputed to be number more than a hundred, Sobolov the half-Kostelos renegade who led his band of outlaws with the help of his sister, a priestess of the Burning God, the rebel wizard Gemlin, Felara the turncoat road warden, and the goblin tribes of the Fellmar.  Their exact numbers are unknown.  Some scholars say there were more than two thousand brigands, others claim there were as few as four hundred – generally it’s assumed that there could have been no more than seven to eight hundred operating out of the Faith Wood at that time.  This is still a staggering number of active bandits in one district.

This band was forged and held together solely by the personal power of Urra Bakor, the One with No Remorse, called also the Doom Wing.  True name Ethotarthonhestimm in the Dragontongue, Urra Bako was at least two centuries old at this point, believed to be sired by Ethlore the Flying Flame and laid by Bias Iwan the Boiling Queen, somewhere in the mountains of the Northlands.  Prior to this incident Urra Bakor is known to have destroyed the mountain fastness of Bysmar in 799 NIC over a perceived slight by the lord of Bysmar – it is from this episode that he earned the moniker the One With No Remorse.  Anecdotal tales suggest that even for a fire dragon he was extraordinarily prideful and cruel.  The one other fact known about Urra Bakor is that he sired, by unknown means, a great number of half-dragon offspring who were initially deployed as minions but were later abandoned.  This reason for this is unclear, but there is no known instance of contact between Urra Bakor and one of these progeny later than 850 NIC. 

Shortly after the outlaw army had assembled outside of Renwick Urra Bakor appeared and settled among them – legend says that in doing so he crushed several of his own men, but this was not confirmed by any eye witness to this event.  A few minutes after the appearance of Urra Bakor a lone woman walked out of the city and towards the deadly dragon and the mob of cutthroats.  The identity of this woman is hotly debated. 

Many claim that she was Rouwen Arbequina, the grand-daughter of Sibbin Greenblade the known dragonslayer.  Advocates of this theory insist that Urra Bakor was on a quest for revenge, already having killed Sibbin and all his known decedents other than Rouwen.  Several contemporary accounts confirm that the city guard did look for a woman matching the description of Rouwen Arbequina but these same sources contend that she was sent out of the city under cover of night on a smuggling ship.  The official position of the Renwick city government is that the woman could not have been Rouwen Arbequina. 

Some scurrilous rumors suggest that Rouwen did not flee the city but that she could also not have been the women who appeared at the city outskirts because at the time of the appearance she was passed out drunk in a high class (in as much as the term applies) establishment that offers sex for pay.  There does seem to be some legitimate information that indicates that a woman of Rouwen’s description was in the city and was observed to be heavily intoxicated in the late hours of the previous night.  

There is a stubborn minority that promulgates the rumor that the woman who appeared outside of Renwick to confront Urra Bakor was the cousin of the Baroness Cisarovna Helandra Juost (nee Castrovel).  They can give no name this this alleged cousin because she does not exist.  Records show that the Baroness had no cousins who survived to adulthood as has been repeatedly confirmed by the Baroness herself.  The reason why this type of pernicious rumor is so hard to stamp out as are other forms of peasant superstition will be explored in an upcoming work of mine. 

There are a few records of a con artist who pretended to be the cousin of Baroness Juost during this time period but all indications are that she operated farther to the south and in any case what possible motivation could there be for an individual of such low character to confront Urra Bakor?    

What is known is that after the woman appeared before Urra Bakor and his army the great red wyrm spent several minutes in self-aggrandizing speech – declaring that he was invincible and threatening a variety of deaths on any who dared oppose him.  Certainly to those in in Renwick it seemed like these statements were simple fact and not boastfulness of any kind. 

The details of what happened next are unclear.  The dragon stopped his speech and became agitated.  Some eyewitness accounts claim this is because of something the woman did, some say it was become of something she said, others claim that the woman attacked the dragon – this last item can be dismissed out of hand as implausible.  What is known is that the dragon’s ire was raised and it quickly moved to deploy its deadly fire breath on the woman. 

Her reaction is also unclear.  Some say that she cast a spell.  Others say that she disappeared.  A few foolish accounts even state that she dove into the dragon’s gaping maw.  The story that seems to be most likely true is that as the dragon drew in its breath to release fire the woman threw something into its mouth/throat.  Certain scholars whose names are not worthy of mentioning maintain that whatever the woman threw in the mouth of the dragon blocked its throat and caused a fatal blockage of the rheem – the flammable vapor that allows the dragons to enact this devastating maneuver.  And while they correctly surmise that the dragon’s fire is biological and not magical as many believe, this notion is laughable naive.  The force at which the rheem travels is far more than enough to expel any item small enough to block the passageway in the throat.

Even more ridiculously some claim that the item thrown was a Necklace of Fireballs.  Why this tactic would not be effective against a fire dragon is patently obvious.  Few know that there is a similar item called by some the Necklace of Crystals which is a similar item that creates magical cold based attacks.  If you could deploy it in such a manner this would be an effective manner of harming a fire dragon of course.  This is not to mention that any number of magic items would be instantly destroyed by dragonfire and could potentially explode releasing all of their magical energy.  The green dragon called Eunnurth the Mammoth, was killed in just this manner by Forjada Derro utilizing a magic staff of great power, which cost the brave warrior his own life as well.  This however is the only confirmed instance of this phenomenon.

Regardless there is no confirmation that the woman threw anything so speculation on what might have been thrown is pointless.  While her actions are unknown the effects are not.  Urra Bakor was slain instantly by a detonation that was either internal or at extremely close range.

(Editor’s note, this assertion has since been proven untrue by Grgish Vicso – although Urra Bakor was badly wounded by whatever happened at this event he was not killed and is known to have escaped at least initially to the Faith Wood.  Since he was never spotted again after this it is assumed he later died from these wounds or while weakened was attacked and killed subsequently by parties unknown.)

The woman was not seen again and no remains were found – it’s highly probably that the massive devastation of the explosion itself combined with the releasing plume of dragonfire disintegrated her completely.  After an initial moment of shock the warriors of Renwick surged out of the city to counter-attack the men that had besieged them in the prior days.  After a token resistance most of them threw down their weapons in surrender – the goblins were slain of course, and the trolls were able to flee the battlefield but most of the human outlaws were taken into custody.  Their fate is covered in detail in the works of Neth Averdale regarding justice in the 9th century.  

Behind the curtain – I wasn’t sure how I wanted to write this bit so I changed up the format.  Interesting?  Writing cheat?  Both?  You be the judge!  Or you know don’t, I’m not the boss of you. 

Moreavan 27 Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

Turn out I’m not as lazy as I thought, trust me, I’m as surprised as you are.  Tudos and one of Gisa’s thugs knew enough about carpentry that they thought they could repair the bridge so we stayed and worked on repairing it.  And by we I mean everyone else but me.  I know what you’re thinking ‘if you didn’t do any work that still sounds pretty lazy’ which is accurate, but I thought I was so lazy that I wouldn’t even make someone else do it.  So there. 

The rough hand types dragged the pirate’s keelboat out of the river and onto the shore as far as they could and started tearing it to pieces – looked like hard work.  Real hard work.  One foppish fellow of Gisa’s dressed all in black kept trying to say that he could help more by playing music instead of ripping up boards but no one was having it and he was set to work like all the rest.  I’ve scarcely seen someone look more miserable in all my life – and I’ve seen people tortured to death.  During a break in the work he was fussing over his hands getting bistlered and I whistled him over to the carriage were I was enjoying some spring apple wine and candied raisins. 

“You’re a musician?”

He beamed “Yes My Lady.  I am accomplished in the lute, the harp, the lyre, the crumhorn, the sackbut . . .”

“You made those last two up.”

“And more than accomplished with the flute and the mandolin.  I’m not a bad singer either My Lady, if I do say so myself.”

“You do.”

“They call me the Black Bard My Lady, you’ve probably heard of me.”

“Can’t say as I have.  Isn’t one of your other companions called the White Bear?  And wasn’t one of them nicknamed something something the Blue?  Do you have a whole color theme going on?”

“Uh no My Lady, it’s merely a coincidence.”

“Why does a band of treasure hunters need a flutist?”

“I’m not just a musician my lady, I’m something of a jack of many trades.”

“Not all?”

“I’ve been known to do a bit of fencing, I dabble in magic from time to time, I speak twelve languages, I can decipher many other scripts as well, I’m highly versed in research and cartography, I’ve got a silver tongue and a platinum voice, and I can step softly when there’s a need for that, I’m quick with a joke and not a bad hand at gambling to boot.  I have a knack for finding things and people as well.  I’m just an all-around useful fellow to have around.  Between you and me Goose would be utterly lost without me.”

“I’m sure.  I met a lady recently who is wearing all black until the husband’s killer is found – what’s your backstory?”

“It just looks cool.”

“Grab your mandolin champ, I’d like to hear a little something.”

He ran off as eager as eager can be, returning shortly with a mandolin that looked like it had started out as a masterpiece but had seen better days – I suppose a life of treasure hunting isn’t conducive to instrument maintenance.  I’m pretty sure it had been used as a club at one point based on the head-shaped dent in it.  Even so he managed to get a good sound of it – which spoke highly of this skill.  He played the Littlest Flower well enough but his singing was mediocre. 

“Do you know the Fall After Pride?”

“Of course my lady.”

He played himself in but when he was about to sing I jumped in and he wisely differed to me – it’s a much better song in my register anyway.  I was a little rusty but it was good enough that the small throng was quite shocked.  I think this every time I do it, I should sing more, but I never do.  There’s just no time.  Once I was warmed up we did Darling My Kisses, Goodbye Amusement, and Belong To You.  The Black Bard seemed overjoyed and we got a little round of applause which was nice.  He was less happy when I told him break time was over and it was back to the grind.  I think he thought his talents would get him out of any more real work.  As they started carrying scrap lumber to the bridge to start on the repairs I saw Otacvio eyeballing me.

“What?”

“Nothing My Lady.”

I snorted.  “Don’t nothing me, you think I’m a bitch and you’re wondering how someone like that can sing so pleasantly.”

“Well, you said it.”

“I got news for you buddy, most of the really great singers I’ve met – the really great ones?  Fucking psychopaths.  Legitimately.  Their talent feeds their darker side and everyone just kisses their ass instead of telling them how fucked up they are so it just gets worse and worse.  I’ve never met a one of them who had any clue how the world works outside of their bubble of fame.”

“How does the world work?”

“I’ll tell you later, now pick up your wood.”

A few hours later we saw why the bridge was in such poor shape.  I have to admit, I was surprised, I really thought those pirates had smashed it up as part of a  money making scheme.  Lurking in the water was a creature that seemed half crab and half crocodile with a good measure of pike or gar or some other monster fish thrown in as well.  Not to mention the spines.  It was hard to say for sure because the water can mess with your perception somewhat but it seemed as big as the coach I was lounging in.  Gisa shouted a warning and everyone rushed off the bridge to the shore to grab weapons and/or hide in terror.  I came down to the river edge to get a good look.

“You don’t see that every day.  What is it?”

No one knew, not even the Black Bard – jack of trades my sweet ass.  It clearly was perturbed by the presence of the bridge though, and didn’t seem to like us being there too well either.  I retrieved my crossbow and looked at Gisa’s men with bows.

“Well, what are we waiting for?  Let’s get this thing going.”

Gisa glanced at me without taking her eyes fully off the beast “What are you suggesting?”

“That we kill it of course.  You’re the ones who’ve been busting your humps to fix this bridge, you want that thing to tear it apart again?”

“We don’t even know how dangerous it is though.”

“Looks pretty dang dangerous to me, but it’s probably not very fast on land, if things go south I’m sure we can hoof it.  Plus it probably has treasure that you can hunt.”

“Why would it have . . .”

I was already taking my shot.  When it surged out of the river at us is displaced so much water it bowled us over like a wave, there must have been some magic involved there, there’s no way that make sense hydrologically.  For some strange reason the beast was fixated on me and ignored everyone else.  This is not what I like to happen in a fight.  It got me in one of its massive crab-claws and would have fed me into its gaping crocodile maw if two of Gisa’s men hadn’t pried me out.  I activated my tattoo and lion-jumped on top of the coach to try and get out of its reach.  It kept after me, which gave everyone else a good chance to attack it from the sides and behind.  The battle was fierce but brief.  And also terrifying.  I’ll admit I was pretty jittery for a while there afterwards.  Once I finally came down off the roof of the carriage the Black Bard was able to heal my crab-smashed ribs with some magic words.

“You really are a man of many talents.”

He swept off his floppy black hat with black feather and bowed “At your service My Lady.”

“What God are you a servant of? 

“None My Lady, I’m not really the religious type.”

“Really?  I didn’t know that was possible.  I thought healing was reserved only for those who enslaved themselves to the Higher Powers. 

“Not entirely My Lady.”

“Now that’s interesting.”

I let him sit with me for a while – ostensibly to make sure I was okay as he said.  But after that I sent him back to work with the others.  No reason to let him think he’s going to get special treatment after all.  After the bridge was as well repaired as well as we could make it, one of Gisa’s men dove into the water and actually did find some treasure.  There was quite a bit of material strew across the river bottom – either there were people on the bridge when the monster attacked it or maybe the pirates did dump some people over the side.  They pulled up some gold and some other odds and ends that seemed to make them happy. 

Not a bad day’s work all in all. 

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 995 platinum, 159 gold

XP: 186,561

Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animated Riding Coat,  Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring,  False Papers, Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, Gem of Brightness, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Glove of Vampiric Touch, Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Holy Symbol of Kozilek, Ruby (2), Black Marketers’ Bag, 879 Garnets, crystal necklace

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

Moreavan 26 Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

The villagers of Gibson were so happy with their lost friends being returned to them that that supplied Gisa and her crew with an abundance of foodstuffs as well as their own wagon.  Never mind the fact that I was the one who actually saved everyone so I should be the one getting a reward.  There’s no way Gisa and friends could have kept up with our coach in said wagon, but we slowed down a bit to stay with them – I’d rather reach Renwick tomorrow afternoon than late tonight anyway.  I exiled Otacvio to travel with the treasure hunters and invited Gisa to ride with us in the coach.  He didn’t care for that at all and whined like men do when they don’t get their way.  I suggested that we have a sobriety contest to see who deserved to ride in comfort and he looked like he was going to belt me.  I would have liked to seen that.

Gisa had a few interesting stories about her work as a tomb robber and most importantly she was in full control of her bodily functions.  Her sense of style is awful but you can’t have everything. 

“How does one get into your line of work?”

“All you need is a thirst for adventure and a taste for excitement.”

“Couldn’t hold down a real job?”

“Something like that.  As you know women have to make their own opportunities in this world.  If you don’t want to be a wife or a priestess you’re not left with a lot of options that don’t put you on the fringe.”

“You seem reasonable enough, why do you dress like that?”

“Dress like what?”

“Never mind.”

The day passed uneventfully until (there’s always an until) we reached a river crossing – I don’t know this area well but I assume it’s some tributary of the Upper Scale.  Or maybe the other one.  Distributary?  I forget.  Anyway, the point is that there was a bridge but it was badly damaged, so much so that you wouldn’t want to try it with a heavy coach or wagon.  Even on foot would be a little nerve racking.  Thankfully there just so happened to be a group of enterprising men there with a keelboat offering to take people across for gold.  How lucky!  I approached the skiff with Martialla, Gisa, and one of her burly friends. The captain was a fellow balding fellow with long stringy hair and one of those beards with no hair on the upper lip.  There’s a name for that I’m sure.  Besides stupid. 

“Nice racket, you smash up the bridge and then offer to take people across for coin.  Is there enough traffic around here to make that worth the while?”

He crammed a ragged hat on his head angrily “Madam, I assure you we would never do any such thing!  The bridge is as we found it and we’ve taken it upon ourselves to help people across.  And in doing so there’s no reason that we shouldn’t be compensated for our time and effort.”

“Sure buddy, whatever you say, and what exactly were you doing when you just happened upon this broken bridge?

“Looking for swamp onions.”

“Sure why not?  How much to take us across?”

“Two hundred gold.”

I laughed, it was honestly one the funniest things I’ve heard in a while “Good one.  I could buy my own boat for that.”

“Funny, I don’t see any place to buy a boat around here.”

“I see a boat right there, are you looking to sell?”

“You want to go across its two hundred, a special price just for you and your smart mouth.  You don’t want to go across here?  That’s fine, head south for about a week and you should find a place you can ford it.”

Gisa and Martialla took over the negotiations at that point and talked him down to fifty which is still outrageous, and I had to pay of course since I’m the only one that ever has any damn money.  This is a good example of what I’ve been saying lately though – my strength is talking to people, negotiation and persuasion.  I should be the one coming to patch things up when someone else can’t talk their way through, not the other way around.  I shouldn’t have been butting heads with that jerk, I should have been sweet-talking him.  I’m not sure what’s wrong with me and I’m not sure what there is to do about it either.  But I don’t like it.

Gisa’s friends took their wagon across first and then we went across second with the coach – which the captain cast an admiring eye on.

“This is a real peach of a ride you got yourself here.”

“There’s one thing we can agree on anyway.”

“Welp, we’re about halfway across, I suppose it’s time for me to ask for the rest of the money now.”

I shook my head “You asshole, if you were going to rob us anyway why did you make such a fuss about the price?”

“Didn’t want to give in too easily, makes folks suspicious.  Plus I don’t like you.”

“Well I’m not too worried about you and your merry band of pirates here, I think we can kill you and get the rest of the way across ourselves.”

“Maybe.  But I have this boat rigged to dump you and your fancy carriage into the drink with one pull of a lever.  You can probably swim to shore if you don’t get all tangled up in those fine clothes of yours but you really want to see this beauty at the bottom of the river?”

“I’d rather see everything I own hurled into a volcano than give you a bent copper.”

He pulled out a vicious looking punch-dagger “I had a feeling you’d be as dumb as you are unpleasant.”

“What about your magic lever?”

“That was a bit of a bluff.”

Turns out that Gisa, Martialla and myself are more than a match for six scurvy river pirates – especially with a couple of Gisa’s folks pitching in with bow fire from the shore.  Getting the boat across the river turned out to be much more challenging.  No one aboard knew anything about boats and apparently they don’t jet go on their own.  It didn’t help that the fight got the horses all antsy and I was doing my best to help Tudos keep them calm while the rest of them floundered about with ropes and rudders and such.  Honest to Gods we were probably a mile down river by the time we made the shore – and it was too rocky there to get the coach off.  In the end we had to use the horses to haul the keelboat back upriver almost to the bridge before we could get everyone and everything unloaded.  Everyone was exhausted and the entire rest of the day was wasted. 

I turned to Martialla “This is the point where you tell me you could have used magic to fly the coach across.”

She grinned. “You know better than that, magic is useless don’t you know?”

“If I wasn’t so lazy I’d suggest we use the wood from this damn boat to fix the bridge.”

“But you are right?”

“Oh yeah, don’t get me started on how lazy I am.”

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 995 platinum, 159 gold

XP: 186,028

Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animated Riding Coat,  Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring,  False Papers, Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, Gem of Brightness, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Glove of Vampiric Touch, Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Holy Symbol of Kozilek, Ruby (2), Black Marketers’ Bag, 879 Garnets, crystal necklace

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

Moreavan 18 Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

There was part of me that expected this morning for a magic portal of some sort to open up via the holy symbol of Kozilek spilling forth some deadly cadre of jerks to make a mess of things.  Like a third of a part of me.  But there was nothing of the sort.  It was a little disappointing honestly.  But only a little.  The Archbaroness’s manor was abuzz nonetheless as all the maids and such were dragged before the master of the guard and questioned about the incident yesterday.  I really need to figure out what is wrong with me – I could have talked my way out of that situation so easily, and yet I threw a dagger at a man without thinking about it.  Maybe if should talk about my thoughts and feelings with a peer.  Of course I’d need to find a peer first.

I wanted to get on the road as soon as possible but it took figuratively forever to find Otacvio passed out under a hedge.  Silver lining he’s the kind of drunk that wakes up after you kick him just the one time – which is nice.  I pretended not to notice and kept kicking him anyway but that was for other reasons.  We finally got on the road barely two hours before mid-day.  The original plan was that we would continue on our goodwill tour, but since the first person on the list turned out to be a traitor and I had the proof it seemed best to head back to Juost Manor.  We drove hard and got back “home” that same day.  I know I’m repeating myself but this coach is a dream – I don’t know how much magic involved or if it’s just extraordinarily well-made or both but this thing really flies.  And by really I mean metaphorically – allegory is tricky when magic is about.  I hope I find a way to steal it when I get out of here.

The Baroness was surprised, and dismayed if we’re being honest, that we were back so soon but once I showed her the Archbaroness’s letter she understood why we had hurried back.  She looked very concerned, understandably.

“Aren’t you worried that the Archbaroness is going to notice the letter missing?”

“What difference could it make?  Unless you think she’s going to try and assassinate you or raise an army in rebellion what is she going to do?  If we’re lucky now that she knows the cat is out of the bag she’ll run away and we won’t have to deal with removing her.”

“Could you have arrested her?”

“Unlikely, not by force, I could have cooked up a scheme maybe but I wasn’t sure if that’s what you would want.  You know that’s going to be a real issue in this whole process not being able to communicate.  You don’t have some magic stones or a mirror or something that can let us talk to one another?”

She shook her head. “I don’t think there is such a thing.”

“I used to think that too, but I picked up something from the woman who had taken over the keep – you know the one I liberated for you free of charge – and it definitely allows communication over a distance.”

“With whom?”

“I don’t know, some friends of hers I assume.  Can we retune it or recajigger it or something so we can keep in touch while I’m out winning hearts and minds for you?”

“Stenton was our advisor on magical things and he’s away with the Baron.” She thought for a moment “There is another option . . . maybe.”

“How oblique.”

“There’s a small community north of here where a wizard lives.  He may have the expertise needed but . . . he’s difficult.”

“So what, he’s one of your subjects isn’t he?  Tell him to help you or wham!  Off with his head, that whole bit.”

“Come now cousin, one can’t rule so callously.”

“Why not?”

“This isn’t a debate, we’re not going to threaten him.”

“Why is it you have no issue getting tough with me?  So you say this guy is difficult, what do you mean by that?  Is he a serial killer?  You never hear about a magic serial killer but I bet they’re out there and they just never get found out.  Think about it, if you can turn invisible and blast someone with a bolt of force that leaves no trace of anything how’s anyone ever going to solve that?  I don’t care if you’re Annabelle Spaulding you’re not going to figure that one out.”

“Who’s Annabelle Spaulding?”

“A famous investigator.  At least I thought she was, the fact that you haven’t heard of her makes me question that now.  Maybe that was from a book a read.  So is he a serial killer or what’s his ‘difficulty’?”

“Well he doesn’t like magic.”

“I like him already.  But that’s a bit strange for a wizard no?  What an interesting twist!”

“I don’t know if it’s true or not but the tale people tell is that he and another wizard were wooing the same woman and things got out of hand which prompted him to give up magic.”

“Wizards like girls?”

“Be serious cousin.”

“Anyway, I’ll go talk to the guy, maybe he doesn’t want to do magic anymore but that doesn’t mean he can’t help his liege lord, er, lady.”

“No threats.”

“Of course not, of course not, I’ll just talk to the guy – it’s what I do best.  I’ll go right now.”

“It’s well after dark, by the time you got there it would be far too late to come calling.”

“Fine, but I don’t want to waste a lot of time on this, I want to get back on the road as soon as possible.”

“It was your idea in the first place!”

“That’s not how I remember it.”

Martialla had been given her own rooms thankfully so I didn’t have to listen to her complaining, but I was pacing around in my chambers for hours.  I’ve been more or less keeping to a normal schedule despite my ring because even though I don’t need to eat or sleep with it on I like eating and sleeping.  But on this night knowing that I wasn’t tired and knowing that I had a task hanging over me had me too out of sorts to eat.  I should pick up a hobby that I can work on when everyone else is asleep.  I tried to think of what I like.  Night-singing would be annoying to my neighbors.  Night-riding isn’t really a thing.  Night-drinking leads to day-hang overs. 

My grandma always told me that if you’re bored that means you’re a boring person.  And I’m not a boring person of course, so there must be something I can come up with. 

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 995 platinum

XP: 162,028

Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animated Riding Coat,  Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring,  False Papers, Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, Gem of Brightness, Potion of Invisibility, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Glove of Vampiric Touch, Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Holy Symbol of Kozilek, Ruby (2), Black Marketers’ Bag, 879 Garnets, crystal necklace

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

Moreavan 1 Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

I invited Maudi and Sir Vario to join me at the Quiriva’s for a delightful late breakfast.  Buttermilk Pancake Layer Cake With Malted Pecan Buttercream, Oysters Benedict, Shredded Oxtail and Red Pepper Hash, Candy Apple Lacquered Quail, and the most refreshing Watermelon Rosemary Lemon Liqueur this side of anywhere.  Tt was the best meal I’ve had in months, not that there’s been very stiff competition.  Sitting back on the patio of a luxurious (for a nothing town like Arbeven) mansion, after having had a full night sleep in a comfortable bed, with a cocktail in one hand and a full stomach –that was the most satisfied I’ve felt in a good long while.  For a while I forgot all about the Duke.  For half a second I even considered what the mysterious agent of the crown had said to me – give up on revenge and stay here, live a life of luxury.  Do whatever I want. 

But just for half a second.

I thanked Lord and Lady Quiriva expansively for once again putting me up and giving me some proper clothes as befits my fake standing, but honestly it was nothing in the face of the fact that I had saved the good lady’s wife.  Not to mention as the Baroness’s cousin they’re my subordinates anyway.  But there’s no harm in being gracious.  Usually. 

Maudi was overjoyed while simultaneously hilariously ill at ease.  He swung wildly between trying to maintain his aura of “aloof mage” and fawning over the Quirivas like the inveterate social climber he clearly is – I get the impression that he had been angling to get in good with the Quirivas for years.  Sir Vario was less than delighted – probably because he had to keep his contempt for all things that aren’t Sir Vario (or his horse) in check for the most part.  After the Lord and Lady had excused themselves to pursue the important daily tasks of the idle rich I explained to Maudi what I wanted from him as my reward.  He was rather perplexed at first but eventually he warmed to the idea.

“I should be able to do something like that my lady.  Very interesting.”

“Before you scuttle off there oh great and powerful wizard, what do you make of this map?” I handed him the map I had acquired.  “Doesn’t mean much to me but I assume it’s a fake.  I got it from a fellow who’s a known huckster and flimflammer, and as I’ve learned recently the old selling a fake map to adventurers bit works shockingly well.”

He gazed at the map intently “Where did you get this?”

I scowled “I literally just told you.”

“Remarkable . . .”

“Are you even listening to me?”

“Yes . . . I mean no, I mean yes!” He shook his head like a wet dog. “This looks to be a map to the house of Ather.”

“What’s that, some sort of drug-den?”

“No . . . no!  Ather was a wizard.  My mentor knew him well.  Baron Juost was not the original master of these lands.  Do you know the tale of how he came to rule these lands?”

“Oh Gods, is this going to be a whole thing?”

“Years ago . . .”

“It’s a whole thing,”

“ . . . this land was ruled by Marshal Wesel.  His son Travar aspired to learn The Arts and so he was apprenticed to Ather.  Travar was cruel and vindictive and only wanted to learn the dark magic so that he could dominate and humiliate his rivals – including his brother.  Ather tried to teach him the ways of responsible magic and the path of the good mage but it was no use, the boy had a heart full of sin.  When Athar refused to teach him anymore Travar had his allies attack and kill him.  My mentor tried to intervene he was nearly killed as well.  Marshal Wesel and his older son Rikka gathered their soldiers to arrest Travar and his followers and in the confrontation Rikka was killed – an act for which Marshal Wesel executed his own son – leaving him with no heirs.  Marshal Wesel re-married but he and his second wife produced no offspring, when he died the land was given to Baron Juost to manage.”

“You could have just said it was some old dead wizard’s house.  Why would there be a map to it?”

“The location of Ather’s house was known to few – it’s reputed that he had collection of very powerful magical books.”

“Oooh, tantalizing.” I threw back the last of my delicious liqueur “How long will it take you to make my coat?”

“What?  Oh, six days. Probably.”

“Great, Sir Vario, you want to go check out some old dead man’s house in the woods?”

“Why would I want to do that?”

“There may be magic books or something.  I’m just looking to kill time.  Do you have anything better to do?  The map is probably a fake, but if it’s not I’m sure the place is going to be infested with zombies or severed hands crawling around or animated suits of armor or some damn thing.  You can hit them with your sword.”

“Morningstar.”

“Whatever.  I once knew a prostitute who called herself Morningstar – I always wondered what that was about.  Anyway, are you in or are you out?”

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 240 platinum, 7 gold, 6 silver

XP: 138,228

Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring, Map, False Papers, carnelians (2), Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Protection +1

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

Behind the Scenes : I posted a new map a few days ago and forgot to mention it.