I spent the rest of the day yesterday slogging around Three Rivers finding and talking with the lumberjack widows. It was slow and boring work. One thing that I hadn’t counted on was all the bridges – they’re perfect chokepoints for the consortium thugs that happen to be looking for little old me. I kept an eye out for anyone peering through a magic crystal or anyone who looked like a wizard or anything like that but the consortium doesn’t seem to have a lot of arcane resources to bring to bear. Makes sense, you don’t need a lot of magical firepower to keep some blue collar slugs in line.
My illusions should keep me safe for now – they did yesterday anyway. I was hoping that I would encounter one of those “den mother” types who’s all up in everyone’s business and is always organizing the neighborhood so she could do the legwork for me but instead it was mostly just a lot of sad and very tired women. The prostitutes I talked to seems much healthier and, well not happier, but less sad anyway. That’s something to think about isn’t it?
When I returned to the safehouse (that’s too grand really, safehole maybe?) Martialla had failed utterly to recruit any criminal scum but Hessenmeel did say that a few of his trading contacts were still interested in supporting the cause – although they probably aren’t aware that the cause has changed slightly. Martialla and Hassenmeel seemed intent on talking “strategy” deep into the night so I took my sweetdream and went to sleep. For some reason I couldn’t remember any of the dreams I had that night, maybe because of the mind-erasing narcotic that I was taking. The next morning it was time to start getting serious. I sent Hessenmeel to see if more of his old gang was interesting in keeping the flame of hope alive, which he did grudgingly, while I sent Martialla to collect some seed money from our new mercantile contacts. Meanwhile it was time for me to start finding some real money.
Gambling and prostitution are both legal in Three Rivers, as you might expect since its main purpose is keeping a rowdy workforce docile, but it’s also one of the only places in the Kingdom where bloodsports are also perfectly permissible. Spectator combat has a weird quasi-legality in a lot of places that make it a chancy business but here in Three Rivers it’s all fine. Most of the action here is your run of the mill ratting, bear baiting, and brawling between two local oafs cranked up on whatever drugs they have at hand, but it sounds like occasionally they have more exotic events. I heard specifically about a yearly affair where they brings fucking trolls in the city to tear each other to bits. You can never underestimate people’s capacity for watch other people (or things) in pain.
But there was no need to find anything so exotic for my purposes. I perused a couple of the lower-end pugilistic affairs and found one that was perfect. Clearly it had started out as a pair of brothers setting up fist-fights but had grown to the point where they had a small “arena” behind a shitty restaurant and a shitty bar with some shitty wooden bleachers set up. But they hadn’t yet realized that they had outgrown their humble beginnings and were still just taking bets ad hoc and holding onto the money themselves. The only security they had was whatever fighter they had on the payroll that wasn’t busted up and wasn’t working at the moment.
I hung around their little fight club until I heard they were having a “show” that night, then I went looking for an accomplice. The lands that are all now being clear cut used to be where a couple Kostelos clans lived. I don’t know what the difference between a Kostelos tribe and a clan is, but I know what’s left of the Kostelos around here get very uptight if you call them a tribe. Even though the word is the same in their language. Explain that. Anyway, once the Kingdom started taking over all their shit some of them tried to make war against the Kingdom and some of them tried to assimilate into it. They both failed. I think Three Rivers most beloved hero “Whiskey” Jankin Ortun became famous mostly for being really good at killing Kostelos warriors (and women and children of course). Most people seem to think he was one of the founders of the city but I know that’s not right.
Anyway, the civilized Kostelos are crowded into the lower part of the city on the west side of the Compass River where they live in appalling conditions and are sometimes attacked by the few remaining “wild” Kostelos in the forest looking to strike back at the people stealing their land. There’s two kinds of people that you find on the bottom of the heap, subservient spineless weaklings and tough as nails bastards who know they’ve got the short end of the stick and want to try as best they can to beat anyone within reach with that short end. I took on the appearance of a half Kostelos woman (which is a nice mix I realized, very nice skin tone) and headed down to the Kostelos slums to find myself the second kind.
I was expecting to get some sneers and cold shoulders because of my “southern” Kostelos accent but most of the people there couldn’t even speak it (unless they were sandbagging me). Especially the younger people, who also barely seemed to be able to speak the King’s Tongue (should we be calling it the Queen’s tongue now? There’s a brothel in Indlecastle called that so probably not – wouldn’t want people to get mixed up) which made me wonder, is it possible for a people to lose the skill of speech entirely over time? There were enough bitter older people that spoke Kostelos though to direct me to exactly who I was looking for. Coming in with one of the timber crews and heading to one of the truly deplorable “taverns” in the area was a man that looked like a small tree himself. I’ve seen a big warrior or two in my day, but this fellow was a real brute. He was shaven-headed, shirtless with what looked like dozens of knife scars, and built like a granite hammer. I whistled to get his attention and shook the bottle of firewine I had procured for just such an occasion.
[Translated from Kostelos]
“Don’t waste your time with that piss, come have a drink with me.” He smiled and came my way, reaching for me like a fat kid reaches for a sugar pie – I gave him a short stab in the hand with the dagger I had procured for just such an occasion “Uh-uh-uh, none of that just now. Plenty of time for that later, now we talk business.”
I tossed him the bottled which he drained in three gulps and explained to him that I needed him to come with my to wail on some “civilized” types. He smashed the bottle on the ground to lick out the remaining drops of booze and then looked at the empty shards sadly.
“Doesn’t seem fair to beat on those little men.”
“FAIR? Who cares about fair? The world isn’t fair. Truth is fair. Is it fair that you were born like this? NO! They’re not expecting somebody like you in there. They’re expected one of those pink slugs. You’re different. You’re weird. You’re a mutant. You’re a killer.”
It didn’t take much more than that to convince him. What almost turned into an issue though is a score or so of his pals deciding to come with us – we almost got into a half a dozen fights with the fine and genteel lower class people of Three Rivers on our way to the actual fight. By the time we got to the back alley fighting ring I felt like I was at the head of a traveling civil disturbance. The Kostelos were drinking and shouting insults at passersby (we were passing them so maybe we were the passers?) the whole walk through the streets. I saw a pack of consortium goons deciding if they were going to do anything about it and ultimately slinking away down another street.
We made quite an entrance when we arrived at our destination. The big man walked in the middle of a fight in progress and smashed the two competitors heads together and threw them aside declaring that he Faetor the Fighting Man (it sounds better in Kostelos) was the strongest man in the city and that no one could best him. Since he was speaking in Kostelos I don’t think anyone understood the words but they definitely understood what he was saying. His pack of friends surrounded the stands and started shouting and howling and a riot very nearly broke out. The two brothers barely managed to keep things from exploding, in large part by one of them pulling out a vicious looking curved sword and threatening to start slicing off people’s nuts.
Once order was restored (marginally) a volunteer came out of the crowd to take on Faetor and subsequently get knocked out in one punch to much cheering and jeering. With racial pride on the line someone ran to get “Jagger” who presumable is the king badass of this particular shithill. The brothers wanted to continue on with the rest of the fights that had planned but Faetor refused to yield the fighting floor until someone beat him and with me translating (and adding my own embellishments) continued to incite the crowd. For a timberman he has a real flair for the dramatic. I suppose given the chance to scream abuse at the people above you on the pyramid of getting fucked over you have a lot to draw on.
During all the commotion at some point the younger brother (or at least the smaller brother) put down the bag he was holding the money in. I don’t know anything about running a bloodsport business, or any kind of business, but I think a pretty solid rule for any enterprise – criminal or other – is keep your eyes on the damn money. Talk about making it easy for me, I just grabbed the bag when no one was looking and made my way out of the mob, switching my appearance and walking away. Not exactly a criminal caper worthy of story and song, but then that’s not really want you want right? A good crime is one where no one knows about it. It’s strange how many people don’t seem to know that.
After that diversion I spent the rest of the day rounding up more widows for the protest march. The good news is that word had started to spread on its own. With the consortium on the rampage trying to find me they seemed to think this would be the perfect time to draw attention to their plight. That makes no logical sense to me, I would think the opposite if anything, but since it serves my purposes who cares? Back at the safehouse we were joined by Milani and Damrow, which was good since I was down to my last dose of sweetdream. I explained to them my issue and they said they would see what they could do. That night Hessenmeel disappeared so it was just Martialla and I in the cramped and blistering hot safehouse laying in the dark.
“When you were a little girl did you ever think this is what your life was going to be?”
“When I was a little girl I was mostly trying to keep my sister alive.”
“Quit bringing up your rough childhood, we all have problems lady.”
“Okay but I feel like you’re the one who brought it up.”
“When I was a girl, before I was sent to the Duke’s court, I wanted to be one of the King’s Messengers. I thought it would be quite grand to ride the best horses all across the Kingdom delivering the word of the King himself.”
“Do they have women in the messenger service?”
“They do now, I met one once, and by met I mean that I found her horse after she had been killed by goblins and her body halfway eaten by a bear.”
“Your stories always have such uplifting endings.”
“What did you want to be when you were little?”
“You asked. When I was a sea sometimes I would daydream about being a seamstress. Make fun of my ragged wardrobe all you want now, but then I was enamored with pretty dresses. I thought it would be a fine life making clothes for fancy ladies in their carriages.”
“Such humble dreams and look at us now.”
“We’ve come a long way baby. I am sweating my nips off here, do you mind if I take my clothes off.”
“Yes, very much.”
“It’s dark, you can’t even see me!”
“It’s the principal of the thing. If you take off one stitch of clothing I will knee you in the face.”
“You wish, if you tried to lay a finger on me I would destroy you Ela.”
“One of these days Martialla, one of these days.”
Rebellion: Rank 2 – Treasury 34 Gold, Notoriety 0, Loyalty 6, Secrecy 4, Security 2
Demagogue – Ela, Recruiters – Milani and Damrow, Sentinel – Martialla, Strategist – Hessenmeel
Teams –Peddlers, Street Performers
Actions – Earn Gold, Recruit (Street Performers)
Funds: 688 gold
Inventory: Whiterock family signet ring (Ring of Binding), Dagger
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