Montresor 6 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) part 1

Today I slept late.  When I finally got up I went to the market to do some wheeling and dealing.  I don’t know which I like better, the wheeling or the dealing!  Getting someone to pay a good price for something you’re selling feels great, but so does getting someone to sell you something for an even better price!  This is exactly what I needed.  I little rest, a little relaxing, a little commerce.  It made me feel human again.  I ditched a few magic items that were unquestionably useful for some things more fashionable.  What’s the point of being a daring globe-trotting heroine if you can’t look good while you’re doing it?  None.  None point.  I trade up my two now-redundant crossbows for one that will really knock your socks off.  Literally.  Stabbing those two goons was nice but I haven’t shot anyone in a while.  If you don’t know it’s very satisfying.

After spending all morning in the market I treated myself to a nice long soak.  Sadly there was no option for a private bath but I only had to share with one other woman who was leering at me creepily the entire time.  But let her leer I say, it’s not like she doesn’t have good reason.  I mean come on.  There’s a lot of reasons to hate being on the road, chief among them is not being allowed to feel clean.  Stepping out of that water I felt like a new woman. 

After that I should have hit the road, but I didn’t.  I walked around the city.  If there’s one good thing about my exile (there isn’t) it’s realizing that I love cities.  Pre-exile if you had asked I would have known that I would rather be in Paladore than out on the farm, but now I know that I need to be in metropolitan areas.  I don’t know which I love more, the hustle or the bustle!  Sure, I would be happier if I was in a good city instead of Cathars, but as they sat any port in a storm.  Back at court there was Lord who used to say that every time he was drinking port and then laugh like a red-faced donkey.  I wish he was in crossbow range right now. 

As I was wandering I saw the after-nuptials party of a wedding spilling out from two taverns across the street and merging into a block party of sorts.  It wasn’t a proper wedding of proper people but it wasn’t two peasants hopping into a grain sack together either.  Must be some of these new kinds of folk – unlanded wealthy merchants.  You see more and more of these sorts every day.  I’m not sure all this upward mobility is good for the Kingdom.  On the other hand what do I care about the Kingdom?  I’ve saved it from disaster at least three times and what have I gotten in return?  Nothing, that’s what.

I joined the revelry because who deserves a little more revelry than me?  Nobody that’s who.  At first I thought people were talking about the bride having fleas but eventually I realized that was her name.  Can you even imagine?  I mean okay, it was a nickname, but still what woman would allow themselves to be called Flea?  Fleanethia Rumpstan (ne Hillsfallow) apparently.  As I was drinking and chatting I noticed a fellow staring at me.  Nothing surprising there, who wouldn’t stare at me, but eventually he came over and was peering at me like a painting.

I gave the not-subtle ogler a pat on the shoulder “Sorry buddy but I’m not on the menu tonight.”

He continued staring at me, adjusting his spectacles “Pardon me ma’am, but you appear to be glowing.”

I noticed that the tattoos the Harad people put on me were glimmering brightly enough to be seen through my clothing “Oh my, how embarrassing.”

I noticed that the woman who had been staring at me in the baths was there was well – she pointed at me accusingly and shouted over the hubbub of the chattering voices “You!?”

I put a hand to my chest “Me?”

It was at this point that the bride, who had been doing some manner of salacious dance more suited to a South Seas strumpet in a ring of groomsmen, lifted off the floor and started emitting a light of her own.  Which is unusual if you’ve never been to a wedding before.  A yellow radiance started emitting from her and everywhere it fell the party guests doubled over or fell to the floor and started puking their guts out.  She looked at me, her eyes blazing with yellow light and raised her hands above her head, brushing the ceiling as she bobbed on the air like she was floating on water.

“Ya na kadishtu nilgh’ri stell’bsna Nyogtha, K’yarnak phlegethor l’ebumna syha’h n’ghft, ya hai kadishtu ep r’luh-eeh Nyogtha eeh,s’uhn-ngh athg li’hee orr’e syha’h!”

I frowned up at her “What?”

“I’ll suck your soul!”

The wedding dress blasted off her body like she was filled with smoke powder, as did a goodly amount of skin, revealing her twisted form.  He legs had fused together to form what I can only call a trunk – the trunk of a tree made of bruised flesh and bubbling with boils and buboes.  The feet at turned into a single massive claw.  The right side of her body had turned into a purplish mass of tentacles ending in snapping shark-mouths constantly spewing forth a brownish foul smelling smoke.  But what made it all the worse was that from her navel to the crown of her head on the right side she was completely whole.  One quarter of a blushing bride and three quarters of an abomination.  The yellow radiance glowed all the brighter and people fled the building empting their bowels as they ran, but the light stopped a few feet away from me – the shine from my tattoos and from her body combining to make an eerie angry red color.

She shrieked curses at me as she bobbed along in the air like a piece of scum on the surface of the ocean.  She wasn’t flying so much as she was like a floating bladder buffeted by the winds.  Her tentacles lashed out tearing wedding guests too stunned or slow to flee to bits but I was able to stay out of her reach.  I fired at her with my crossbow but my bolts went wide – when they hit the walls and ceiling they would explode with an ear-splitting thunder that would shatter the planks and boards like a giant’s club.  Two years ago I had never held a crossbow.  Now I’m a pretty good shot.  I’m no deadeye, but I don’t miss someone whose less than twenty feet away and not trying to get out of my way.  What I’m saying is that something else was bending my attacks around her.

Changing tactics I used my Fan to blow her into one of the intact corners.  Keeping her pinned there with gusts of wind I drew my sword and approached cautiously.  Keeping at the edge of her range one by one as her tentacles came for me I sliced off the mouths like knocking off the tops of cat-tails down by the creek.  Things were going well until the stupid Fan ripped itself to shreds.  The guy that sold it to me told me that might happen if I used it more than once a day but what a bunch of shit – who makes these stupid things?  She swooped at me and I called on the power of my new Stole blasting her with a quick stanza from the Wedding of Torm Ezral that turned into deadly sharp shards that deflated and send her tumbling to the floor.  Pulling herself up on one human arm and one mass of oozing tentacles she lolled a tongue at me that was half tongue and half writhing appendage.

“I’ll eat your heart!”

I thought about saying something witty like “smile you toothy bitch” but what would have been the point?   Instead I just shot her through the head, which promptly exploded, showering the room with gristle and brain.  I carefully packed my crossbow away and looked down at a cowering man lying in a combination pool of his own filth and the bride-abominations viscera.

“Nice day for a wedding.

The woman who had been staring at me, then pointing at me came crawling out from under a table. 

“It’s you!  You’re the one.”

“Look lady, I’m flattered, I mean I get it – look at this body – but you’re not my type right?

“What?  No . . . I . . . what?  That . . .  you’re the chosen one!  The one who’s come to defend us from the Great Doom.”

I found a still lit stick of flayleaf on the ground and picked it up, blowing off a bit of slime before taking a drag “Sorry lady, try selling that somewhere else, I got my own agenda.”

She grabbed at my arm but I shrugged her off. “All this is a show. And when the music stops, the rest is silence.”

I headed for the door, or at least one of the holes in the wall “Yeah well, good luck with that.”

She scrambled to block my path “That’s why you came here, you were drawn without knowing it to the corruption inside Fleanethia.”

I shrugged “I just wanted a drink.”

Her eyes burned with intensity “Tell me, do you have nightmares every night?”

I took another long pull and then flicked the butt of the flayleaf away “This Chosen one of yours is real hardass killer?” She nodded “Well then, if I’m her you should probably get out of my way huh?”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 53,940 platinum, 26,312 gold

XP: 1,288,351

Inventory: +3 Thundering Distance Light Crossbow, Ela’s Fashionable Belt, Cerulean Sign Tattoo, Satchel of Plentiful Feed, Horseshoes of Surety, Teremana (light warhorse), Hat of Effortless Style, Ela’s Wonderful Flask, Ela’s Dazzling Garment,  Ring of Urban Grace, Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Ela’s Elegant Boots, Ela’s Extravagant Necklace, Headband of Subtle Misdirection, Antiquarian’s Monocle, Ela’s Stately Greatcoat, Ring of Eloquence, Cheating Gloves, Clothier’s Closet Rod , Singer’s Stole 

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 (631), 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, diamond and pearl lover’s knot tiara,  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, maker of the manacles, Calvados Eure, Law Offices of Lampblack and Brimstone, Peronell Missplitter, Nightmare Hag

Montresor 2 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 3

Turns out that my hosts are a group that like to call themselves the Word of Hadar and claim to be an ancient sect of counter-reformists against the Church.  I know this because they ranted about it at length.  Apparently the modern church (I assume Adariel but they weren’t clear) staged a coup of some kind way back in olden times and something something with the king of this or that or some other blah blah blah assassination yada yada yada.  Whatever they were winging on about they certainly are enthusiastic about it.  Since seventy percent of them seem to be pagan barbarians I’m not sure how their theology works out – I’m sure it’s very complicated and all makes total sense.  The import thing to know about them is that they’re true believers and everyone else is wrong and they’re heroes and everyone else is bad.  

Oh, and also they’re the only ones keeping the entire universe from being destroyed.  Which honestly has to be exhausting.  All that responsibility on your shoulders?  Whoo boy.  Remember that shadow-beast that was causing all those problems out at the Whiterock cabin?  Sure you do, it was a whole thing.  Turns out there’s a lot of those things, like an infinite number of them, that live beyond the borders of reality (apparently reality has borders) that would like nothing more than to slip through cracks in . . . something . . . and come through to destroy our world.  Or corrupt it in some way.  Or corrupt it and then destroy it. 

They pontificated at length about how these things from beyonder don’t really exist in the way we understand it so that magic doesn’t work on them – except when it does, in which case it’s the only thing that can stop them.  Maybe you need to learn special magic?  These creatures manifest in a limitless variety of forms – from ravenous horrors that consume everything they see, to hyper-intelligent malign entities that feed off the negative emotions.  One thing they all common is their predisposition for causing pain to all living things.  But don’t worry, these Word of Hadar people keep them away with their heroism and specialness.  Aren’t we lucky? 

The woman who was haranguing me is called Heinmarkt (sounds like I surname but I heard her called nothing else) and the reason she looks like she’s deathly ill is because she is.  I was told that she’s a mighty wizardess and a killer of many unnamable horrors but she’s dying of a wasting disease that one of these abominations inflicted her with.  If you ask me that calls into question her status as a powerful doer of magic – if you can’t cure yourself of one measly wasting disease called down by elder evils what kind of mage are you really?  Anyway, even though she’s deathly ill (literally) they dragged her ass out here because of how important this mission is.

And what is that mission you ask?  Well as the dying lady with no first name tells it I caused this all by taking off the Whiterock family ring.  I explained to her that I didn’t take it off, it was taken from me on account of every four to six months all my shit it stolen either by the legal authorities or by some murderous cult or other but she still seemed intent on blaming me for some reason.  Once the ring was off the Whiterock creature (which they called alternatively the Faceless Butcher or the Faceless Devourer – point is it ain’t got no face) was free to start doing , you know, weird creature stuff that resulted in it calling down from the heavens a servitor creature.  All the metal shit around here from the not-meteor was the shell of that creature.  But don’t worry, it wasn’t killed, the shell is made to smash apart – it just protects it from the fall.  She went on to shriek at me that the creature had been sent here to kill me specifically.

“It doesn’t have very good aim them.”

She didn’t care for that comment “The Whiterock manifestation knew were you were going to be – it set into motion it’s minion arrival here weeks before you ever decided to come this way.  It knows what you’re going to do before you ever think about it!”

“But didn’t this thing crash here weeks ago?  That’s even worse aim.”

She cared for that even less “You have no idea the power of the entities we’re dealing with here!  You should be . . .”

I held up my hand to forestall any more hysterical lecturing about ancient, powerful, evil entities with power that rivals, or surpasses that of the Gods themselves, such that they could destroy an entire world with a sneeze “Fine, whatever, so who were those other people you were killing?  Minions of this Whiterock thing?”

Abolere took up the narrative “No, those men were the Circle of the Pure.  Nearly five hundred years ago, an aging dwarf inquisitor of Vultur was exploring these very mountains.  After spending a century bringing justice to the wretched scum of the world, he sought transcendent decontamination in the cold, desolate beauty of the natural mountains. As he was exploring deep within these hills he found something far stranger than cold rock, he found . . .”

“Good Gods, never mind!  I don’t want to hear anymore longwinded bullshit about your secret societies of space rock gathering, I get it you’re all very extraordinary, I’m really impressed.  But let me ask you this, if any of this is true why aren’t the Gods doing anything about it?

Heinmarkt barked a bitter laugh “Before the coming of man Eltara the Silent God tried to stand in the way of Ityak-Ortheel, commonly called the Elf Eater, and was blasted from existence!  Her Godly essence was absorbed Shothrogast the Voice of Hargat and gave birth to the twin abominations of . . .”

I held my hands up “Sorry, sorry, that one was my fault, I should have expected something like that.  Bottom line it for me folks, is the world screwed because the ring was taken from me?  It’s probably still in Three Rivers if you want to get it and bring it to me.  That would really be nice actually, make sure you get my other stuff too.  Most of it I don’t really care about but I had a sword, a robe, and another ring that were all magic as well.  Last time I saw them . . .”

Heinmarkt was literally spitting mad “You FOOL!!!  You should never be in a situation where the ring can be taken from you!  Never!  The fate of the world depends on it!  You should never travel anywhere, never even go outside!  You should be sequestered deep under the earth in a secret locale in the care of an order of monks, levitated off the ground perpetually with your hands bound in cloth so that . . .”

I sighed “Well the ring is gone, so is the world going to be fucking destroyed or what?”

She blinked “What?  No.”

“No?

“No.”

“Okay so we need me to help you find and kill this new monster?

Abolere shook his head “No, we’ve already slain the minion of the Butcher.

I gestured impatiently “So what is it that you people need from me?  What are we doing here?  Why are you strong-arming me into listening to this bullshit?”

“The Whiterock wizard barely even knew what he was doing! He had no idea the power he was meddling with.  The magic in that ring was only just strong enough to contain the evil and hedge it out of our world – we know the proper way to handle this.  We have studied the ancient texts and . . .”

I motioned for her to hurry things along “What do you need from me?”

“The Cerulean Sign must be inscribed on your body.”

“What like a tattoo?’ She nodded “Why the Hells didn’t you just say that?!  You’ve been screaming at me for hours about Himham and Blizblaz and King Blunrst shit that happened hundreds of years ago.  Next time just lead with ‘hey we need to give you a tattoo or the world will explode’ what the fuck is wrong with you people?”  I started undressing “Get your ink guy up here and let’s do this.”

Abolere looked startled “Uh, it’s not necessary, or wise, for you to disrobe.”

“I made my choice, now let’s get this show on the Gods damn road!”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 6642 gold

XP: 1,277,751

Inventory: Bag of Holding, +2 Distance Light Crossbow, traveling outfit, Ring of Invisibility, potion case, potions (Protection from Evil, Cure Moderate Wounds x2) Blessed Robes, Vampire Hunter’s Cloak, +1 Mithril Holy Undead Bane Sword-Cane

Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane, Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa, eyeless hag, Baron Saltwheel, Baron Harmenkar, Colonel Tarl Ciarán’s wizard soldier, Victor, Beharri, Cebuano, Mayor Eryn, Chimera Trading Company, maker of the manacles, Calvados Eure, Law Offices of Lampblack and Brimstone, Peronell Missplitter, Nightmare Hag