Myam 13 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Waking up in a bed, in a building, a building that’s not smashed to bits or on fire no less, in a city (well Beresford but close enough) I felt better than I have in a long time.  The mind is a funny thing, you just need a little sense of the familiar and suddenly all the beatings and terror and stabbings and harsh language and bad food and deprivations and ugly people doesn’t seem so awful anymore.  I had the powerful urge to loiter in bed but I was still famished and I didn’t want to miss breakfast so I hurled my grubby sweaty commoner clothes out the window and cleaned myself up as best I could without a bath.  Breakfast was simple fare, eggs and onions wheat porridge but it came with a tea that was tasty as you like, I think it was infused with huckleberry.  However what really made me feel like this was a good day and that everything was going to turn out alright was that in the common room as I ate I saw two youngsters going around pulling the old scam where they were collecting money for the widows and orphans.  It must makes you feel good to see some young go-getters out there fleecing people and trying to make something of themselves.

They were presenting themselves as a brother and sister but the little signs and body language they were putting out there made me lean more towards believing them lovers.  The girl was clearly in charge of the operation which might seem odd to you, but it’s actually the norm when you have a male-female team.   A man who makes his living on the grift usually works alone or with another male pal, they don’t tend to recruit a woman for their two-person cons because obviously they can’t be trusted.  When they do use a lady in their scams she’s usually a prop and often ends up being scammed as well – and usually is  left to take the fall.  A lady scammer is more likely to get her man to go along with her schemes somewhat as a partner but more often just as some muscle, or a handy distraction in case things go wrong.  He was doing his best to keep up but she was the one bringing in the money for “charity”.

There’s an expression that you can’t fool a fooler, which is incorrect, and neither is it exactly true that you can’t work someone who’s paranoid about being taken advantage of because that very paranoia is something you can advantage of, but it is interesting how obvious these scams are once you’ve been around the block a time or two.  Even if you think most people are morons, which I do, it’s strange to be reminded just how susceptible people are even to the simplest of cons.  A pretty girl asks for you’re a couple coins to help out the less fortune?  Most people can’t reach for their money fast enough.  And yet, for all her smiles and dimples if you looked her in the eye, I mean really looked, you’d see a coldness there that would be all the more disturbing for the innocent and sweet package carrying it around.  Unfortunately she misinterpreted my amusement at her antics as interest in being taken in by them and she approached me, smiling sweetly, giving her pitch and holding out her bonnet for the donation.

I smiled back “Well aren’t you just a doll?  I would to love to help out the poor little orphans, but all I have is a gold piece and I need some silver to buy thread at the market.  I don’t want to reach into your funds there, would you be a dear and count me out nine silver and then I’ll put in the gold?”

You can see where this is going, the old short count.  I was mostly just curious if she would fall for it, but there is always something of a charge you get when you swindle a swindler.  I suppose that’s the feeling duelists get when they slice someone’s belly open on the “field of honor”, killing someone normal is whatever, but killing someone who’s a professional killer – now that’s something.  Besting someone at what they’re supposed to be good at is more fun than just getting over on some normal person.  Once all that hoopla was concluded I left the Randy Weasel or whatever that place is called to head to the temple of Odobenine but in short order the pair of con artists accosted me in the street – the girl’s once demure yet alluring face twisted into a mask of rage.

“Gimmie back muh money!”

I smiled as sweetly as she had been before “Why whatever are you talking about?”

She tried to body up on me and I gave her a little shove – and I mean little, I barely touched her, but she was off balance and I just happened to push her at just the right time to send her falling on her ass.  The look of surprise and outrage on her face was almost comical.  You’d thinking that getting knocked on her butt was the worst thing that had ever happened to her.  Her “brother” just stood there with his mouth open like he was seeing a volcano erupt for the first time or something.

“Watch your step dear.”   

I turned to continue on my way, which was probably not the smartest thing to do, but I didn’t expect that she was going to try something out here in the street.  It was early enough that there weren’t a lot of people about, but it’s not like I was in a deserted alley.  The point is before I had taken two steps there was a garrote around my throat and I could feel her on my back like an especially murderous gibbon.  Not that long ago in the grand scheme of things if someone was throttling me like this I would have had no idea what to do.  I would have died most likely.  Violence is an odd thing, when you’re not used to it, when you’re not a violent person, it seems like there’s nothing you can do when someone attacks you.  It’s just a frightening and unusual occurrence that you don’t fight back even if you could, it doesn’t even cross your mind.  A lot of people, well men mostly, think they if someone “tries them” they’ll bow up and get all manly and throw fists, but usually it’s the opposite – instead of raising up on the back legs like a bear they bolt like the cowardly rabbit. 

But once you’ve been around violence and it’s been demystified it’s a different story.  I guess it’s good that I’m no longer in the first camp, but it’s depressing that that’s where my life as lead me.  I would prefer to be the kind of ivory tower type that never has to learn those lessons, but if the alternative is being dead I’m glad I turned out this way instead.  As much as I’ve been banged around and almost killed by this and that and every other damn thing I’m certainly not going to let a teenage girl strangle me to death.  The “brother” had a pained look on his face as if to say “here we go again!” but that didn’t stop him from coming forward to grab my arms.  Fun fact, strangling someone is much better accomplished with two, although he would have been much better served to go for the legs.  But he didn’t so it was a swift and blinding knee to the crotch for him.  Once he was down on the ground, since his “sister” was conveniently providing me with a post I favored him with a double stomp to the chest as well – which is never a bad idea.

Next I stepped back to put my foot back behind her foot, calf to calf, and then with a quick snap forward she was on the ground again and I was unwrapping her knotted cord from around my neck.  If someone is trying to choke you you may be tempted to arch your back but don’t – if you lean back, you lose your balance, which is bad.   Fighting is a lot more about balance than you might think.  Once I had the cord in hand I whacked her in the noggin with it as she was flounder to get up.

“You walk around with this thing?  Do you want people to think you’re a murderer?  If you want to strangle people at least do it with a scarf.  I knew a gal once who had a string of beads that was specially modified . . .”

She came to her feet with a small blade in her hand, but by this point the few people that were out on the street were gathering around and/or paying rapt attention – there’s nothing that gathers a crowd like a catfight. 

I chuckled “You are a vicious little polecat aren’t you?  You want to stab it out in front of all these people buttercup?  We should at least charge admission if that’s what’s going to happen.  You know how rare a lady knife-fight is?  I saw one once in Bürstner but that was . . .”

Seeing that she had an audience she and her boyfriend beat feet, at which point one of the brave looky-loos came forward to ask me what was going on.

“Oh nothing really just a little family dispute, you know how kids get in their teenage years, rebellious and all.  My daughter’s a good girl, really she is, but she’s still in that phase where she tries to solve all her problems by stabbing.  You have kids, you know what I’m talking about right?  She’s pretty as a picture though, and I’m looking for a good match for her.  Do you have a son perhaps?  A son that doesn’t freak out about a little cut here and there?”

He must not have because her hurried away as if the boogedyman was on his heels.  After that little dust-up I made my way to the nice part of town and to the fortress-bank-temple of the Odobeninians where in short order after providing the number and passphrase Corune gave me I was back in possession of my possessions.  I was surprised to see that absolutely nothing was missing since it was in the hands of the Church of Greed and all, but I suppose their ability to sell their services as a storing place for valuable goods wouldn’t really be viable if they were skimming off the top.  Smart greed knows that you make more money in the long run playing it straight.  Sort of.  I was also somewhat shocked to remember the sheer volume of magic crap I’ve accumulated, not to mention the friggin’ fortune I’m sitting on.  I could retire right now and live out the rest of my days in luxury, but I cannot – not until the Duke and all the rest get what’s coming to them.  The black and white and gold robed attendant asked me if there was anything else that the servants of the Lord of Coin would help me with.

“Actually yes, a couple things, first off since the town is in a bit of disarray the markets are probably not up and running at their usual clip I was wondering if you’d be interested in purchasing a few items.”

“We’re not a mercantile madam, we occasionally buy and sell premium goods but we’re not a clearinghouse for . . . shall we say, items discovered.”

“Of course, I wouldn’t waste your time with mundane items I’m talking purely about arcane objects.”

“I can direct you to our procurement office, what else did you have for us today ma’am?”

I fished the receipt from the Bowcrag Odobeninians out of my Bag and presented it to her. “I’d like to cash in on this credit.”

“I’ll have to verify this in our records, but that should be no problem, what services were you thinking about requesting?”

“I’m not sure, I just kind of want to use this thing and stop worrying about it.  What’s on the menu?  So to speak.”

“Aside from religious observations of course we offer our banking and investment services as well as spellcasting for hire.”

“Tell me about this spellcasting.”

“Well we have a large number of acolytes on hand at all times for minor healing spells and blessings and the senior staff are available on appointment for more advanced magical rituals.”

“But what can you do?”

“That’s an extremely broad question ma’am, many things are possible with magic, there’s thousands of different manifestations we can call upon from our Lord.”

“Are any of them actually useful?”

“I don’t follow you ma’am.”

“Can you make me immune to physical blows?”

“No ma’am.”

“Can you curse my enemies?”

“We only offer legal services ma’am, placing curses is prohibited by law.”

 “Which means you don’t do it or it costs more?”

“We only offer legal services ma’am.”

“Okay, what about this – people seem to jump out of brushes and alleyways and off bridges and such to ambush me all the time – I can’t really rely on normal bodyguards because of the inherent trust problems there.  Can you summon a genie to protect me?”

“Genies aren’t real ma’am.”

I snorted “Are you fucking kidding me?  Vampires and wolf-whales and malicious tree stumps and varcolacs and wendigos and every other damn thing is real but genies are made-up?  Where do all these wishes people make that backfire on them come from then?” 

“I couldn’t say ma’am, but for the amount of credit you have we can certain bind an outsider in a token that will allow you to summon it when needed.”

“Outsider?  What do you mean?”

“A creature from another plane of existence.”

“Like a demon or an angel?”

“We don’t deal with those fanatics in our church ma’am, but yes, creatures of a similar planar nature.”

I have no clue what that means but I agreed anyway and she led me to another part of the temple where I met with the procurement priest.  Normally I’m used to the process of buying and selling being a lively affair – the chatter and excitement of the marketplace, the give and take of bargaining, the random insults and pickpockets – but this was a dull affair indeed.  The procurement priests examined everything in depth, often casting spells upon the items, and then consulted with various ledgers and books and receipts that were stored in a massive catalog behind him.  And even when he did want something the price was the price, there was no bartering.  Those hours were undoubtedly the most boring of my life.  So far anyway. 

After surviving that brush with almost being bored to death (the obscene amount of money I walked away with helped) there were a few hours left before dark so I had the good folks at the Temple of Consecrated Covetousness refer me to a local craftmage, for a fee of course.  When I went to visit him his assistant kindly told me he was available by appointment only, which I was granted immediately by way of a hefty handful of gold.  I’ve only met a couple craftmages but this one seemed to be different in the sense that he wasn’t stark raving mad – he just seemed like a guy who made magic stuff for money.  Go figure right? I told him what I wanted and he said that definitely possible and would take about a week but that he had other projects in the line in front of mine.  Although mine jumped to the head of the line quickly when I started dumping gold out on his table.  I do so appreciate a man who knows how the world works. 

With a hard day’s work under my belt I found the most extravagant lodgings in the good part of town – Crux Ansata – and rented out a suite for the next week.   The amount of money I handed over would have been eye-opening on any other day, but today was quite the day. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 27,817 platinum, 44,659 gold

XP: 635,101

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

Courtier’s Outfit, Noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring,  pocketed Scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), 700 garnets, severed hag head, gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, glass vials of something awful (8), disguise kit, covenant ring , tiny diamonds (27), Saryah Phidaner gown, darkwood lute, masterwork buckler, bottle of elfen absinthe, assorted jewelry, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55)    

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

Behind the curtain – Ela hit level 15, taking another level of Rogue.  She took Extra Rogue Talent yet again and Another Day for that talent.  I must love Rogue talents more than everyone else because almost every stat block I see they’re using the talents that basically trade for feats which I find lame.  I guess it’s probably just to make the stat block easy, like how it seems they give half the NPCs and monsters in the world Alertness which is also lame but it’s one less thing you have to think about as the GM.

Myam 10 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

After my first good night’s sleep in what seems like a year and a hearty, if bland and boring, breakfast dished up by the Adarielites Corune and I hit the road to head back to Beresford.  At the advice of some of the Adrinistites we took the road (more of a path really) north, which we were told would jog back over to the west and take us to Beresford.  This should help us avoid the various humungous insects and insect-like creatures that apparently occupy the land we just came through.  Another adventure in walking.  I used to never walk anywhere really, just to the drink tray and back if I felt ambitious – unless I was out riding it was carriages everywhere, even a palanquin once – now it seems like I’ve walked the length and breadth of the world fifty times over.  It’s too bad the church of Strider screwed me over and I had to murder some of their priests – otherwise I think I’d have enough walking under my belt to be their pope by now.  Or at the very least an archbishop. 

“I knew this opera singer once, very famous.  She traveled the world, she sang for the King of Ulpine back when that meant something.  I heard she went across the sea and sang for some foreign emperor.  And this was all relatively early in her career, she was still improving, still learning – she hadn’t yet reached her full potential.  Then a jealous lover punched her right in the face, just hailed off and blasted her.  That side of her face got so swollen that you couldn’t even see that she had an eye, at the time it was one of the more disgusting physical things I had ever seen.  The bruise got infected and the infection spread into her sinuses and all that sludge dripped down into her throat, because of that she developed polyps on her vocal cords and her voice was ruined.  Not just her singing voice, she talked like an old man trying to swallow a lizard made of sand.  After that she traveled the world just as much, looking for a healer or magician or something that could help her.  She drank all kinds of potions and tonics and elixirs and spent a fortune trying to fix herself.  Nothing worked though, probably it made things worse, although it hardly mattered, she was already below what you might call rock bottom.  I’m not exactly sure what happened to her but I heard she involved in a scheme to blackmail a mercenary captain for seventy-six thousand gold and I don’t think anyone saw her after that.  Have to assume she’s dead.  I’m not sure why she thought that blackmailing a professional killer was a good idea but I guess she was broke and desperate at that point.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Just making conversation.  It doesn’t seem like things ever work out for famous opera singers.  That’s what I wanted to be when I was a girl, I guess I dodged an arrow there huh?”

“That’s your idea of conversation?  Do you know any stories that aren’t depressing?

“No.  Here’s the funny thing about that story, now that I’ve been out in the world I bet it would have be really easy for her to fix her voice had she known about what’s really going on.  Sell your soul to a devil or make a deal with hag or something – it’s easily done.  Living in polite society you’re somewhat ignorant of all the irrational magical shit going on out here.  I bet there’s a fey queen that would restore your voice not even for your first born child, for like your fourth or fifth.  It’s quite a world we live in when you think about it.  Tell me something will you, how come your beloved and eternal Vultur wouldn’t fix that lady but some mystical creature harvesting souls would?  What kind of message is that?”

“Because Vultur wants us to have a safe world, a happy world. He wants there to be enough food for everyone, freedom for everyone, the end of the tyranny of the powerful over the weak.”

“You lost me.”

“There are no shortcuts Ela, we have to do it.”

“What a load of shit.”

“All those times where someone makes a deal with a devil, either literal or proverbial, does it ever end well?”

“It wouldn’t make much of a story then would it?  For all I know it works out fine sometimes, or most of the time, but you just don’t hear about that.  What would be the fun of a story where someone wishes for great wealth and didn’t end up getting fucked over?  People want blood and guts and tragedy – not some boring story about someone getting what they want.”

“The correct answer is that they don’t have a happy ending.”

“So what?  What’s Vultur doing to help?

“He gives us the guidance to achieve a better world.  It’s all written down, it’s all ready for us, we just need to execute his plan.”

“So if people like me just got with the program and did what Vultur wanted everything would be fine?”

“Exactly.”

“And the other day you accused me of being insane?  What about the other Gods?  They’re just wrong and Vultur is right?  What about Adariel, our lady of geniality and being friends with everyone and ponies and rainbows?  Her plan doesn’t lead to world peace where everyone gets a stout-hearted mule and bag of potatoes?”

“Vultur has an agreeable relationship with Adariel, her influence is favorable to the further advancement of civilized life, but her philosophy is flawed because it doesn’t take into account the natural inclinations of sentient beings.  If people were inherently good and helpful we wouldn’t even need laws – everything would be great as is.”

“So you just happen to worship the one God who’s right about everything?  You realize that’s a level of intellectual narcissism that’s beyond delusion right?”

She gave me some side-eye “You’d be the expert on narcissism wouldn’t you?”

I was about to retort when Writha Corune did a very odd thing – she slumped and almost fell over like a tree that had instantly withered.  She immediately took on an ashen and very unhealthsome pallor and doubled over as if her stomach was suddenly causing her tremendous pain.  My head whipped around and I saw on the road behind us was that tiny flying insect-demon from the camp, and he had friends.  He was buzzing around the shoulders (not head because its head was actually lower than its shoulders) of a massive slab of putrid demonflesh that looked like a frog, a bulldog and a pile of garbage had a threesome and this is what puked out.  The stench emitting from it was bowel-churning.  Why did a succubus have so many minions that stink with the furry of a thousand dead skunks bursting in the summer heat?  Shouldn’t her minions be other sexy lady demons?  It makes no sense. 

That wasn’t all though, clustered around the frog prince were four awkward vulture looking demons that were shedding swarms of botflies off their flesh like flakes of skin.  They were infinitely more filthy and diseased looking than your standard non-demon non-humanoid vulture.  They surged forward as I ran the other way but Corune was stunned or paralyze or whatever her issue was and they seized her – the four vulture demons pulling on her arms and legs like they were trying to tear her apart as the bulldog/frog demon gurgled with syrupy hacking laughter. 

“Wait, stop!” I addressed my comments at the little flying lizard-snail since he seemed to be the brains of the operation “You want revenge for your mistress, I get that, I love revenge – ask anyone – I didn’t know that demons had this kind of loyalty but live and learn right.  But here’s the thing, I didn’t just kill her – I’m not stupid – I trapped her essence so she couldn’t reform in whatever Hells you guys hang out in.  You kill my friend and I’ll never let her go, she’ll be gone for real.”

The little flying creature started to respond, but the massive frog-demon swatted it out of the air like, well like a fly, and burbled at me in a voice that was so much like he was gargling tar that it was hard to make out what the words even were.

“You let go!  Or we kill!”

“No, that’s not how it works bub, you kill her and you’ll never see your beloved mistress again.”

The toad fiend screamed in inarticulate rage and bashed one of the vulture demons out of the way, seizing Corune and shoving her in his mouth like a kid smashing a stolen cookie in his fat face.  As he slowly and horrifyingly swallowed her the little flying demon shrieked in impotent rage and ordered the vultures to turn and attack.  Maybe there isn’t as much loyalty among demons as I thought.  The vulture demons were clawing and biting at the big demon but more than anything it looked they were trying to reach into its mouth like they could pull Corune back up.  During the fracas while the small demon-fly was distracted I took out my crossbow and shot him in the back – right through the wings, sending him falling to the ground with a sodden thud.  As the other demons were tearing each other apart the little demon tried to do some magic but I waited until just the right time and then shot him again, ruining the spell. 

As he was screeching and flopping around on the ground like a wounded duck I walked up and beat him to death (well not to death but back to the Hells I guess) with my cane.  In that short time the froghemoth had torn two of the vulturelings in half (literally) and while they scrapped I shot indiscriminately in the melee.  Bloody (assuming that urine-colored glowing sap was blood) but victorious the stinking hulk was the last one standing.  Although in another way I was the last one standing because I shot him in the head a few times and killed him.  And that’s when things got weird.  After his massive rubbery bulk slapped to the ground like two people rutting in a dirty alley, a moment later Corune crawled out from between his froggy lips like some kind of awful birthing.  Which is saying something considering how awful a normal human woman giving birth to a little baby is.  She was covered with some kind of blue-green slime that seemed thick as cold jelly and was gasping for breath to the point where she may have been hyperventilating.  

“Well fuck me, you were alive in there?!”

She didn’t answer because she was on her hands and knees vomiting and then dry heaving for a while, but eventually she gestured weakly at the corpse.

“There’s . . . . a bunch of equipment . . . . in there . . . and money and shit.”

“I don’t think Vultur would approve of that kind of language.” She collapsed onto her stomach utterly exhausted “Well if there’s stuff in there one of us should get it.  No reason to let it go to waste right?  And I mean since you were already in there . . . no reason for both of us to get dirty right?”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 53,775 gold

XP: 628,701

Inventory:  Courtier’s Outfit, Noble’s outfit (5), Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, sunrod (2) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, masterwork disguise kit, covenant ring,  Ring of Disguise, Ring of Jumping, Walking Stick (Rod of the Viper), map, Badge of Last Resort, Healer’s Satchel, 28 tiny diamonds,  Headband of Alluring Charisma +2, Ring of Protection +2, Saryah Phidaner gown, Crown of Conquest, signet ring, Stone of Good Luck, Onyx (55), Tankard of the Drunken Hero,  Altar of Adariel,  Cauldron of Brewing, Censer of Dreams, Bowl of Conjuring Water Elementals, Companion Mirror,  darkwood lute, +3 buckler, celestial shirt, +1 Frost Demonbane Shortsword

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

Myam 7 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 2

Beresford has no walls but since the city is under martial law it doesn’t seem like a good idea to try sneaking in – that’s the sort of thing that tends to piss off the people enforcing the martial law.  They’re funny like that.  We approached from the north not only because it’s farthest away from the riot zone but also because that’s the only part of town that I’m even somewhat familiar with.  I took on a form similar to that of my seven bodyguards and flagged down the first patrol that I saw – four men on horseback lazily making their way around the perimeter of the city.  As you might imagine they were taken significant aback by the appearance of eight nearly identical women in vaguely uniform-looking attire appearing out of the night.

Their orders were to keep anyone from coming into or leaving the city – it was at this point that I noticed a hastily erected (if you know what I mean) shanty-town of disappointed merchants and the like to the north – but the day I can’t sweet-talk my way past a random night-patrol to kill a demon is the day that I use my magic Boots to turn into a giant and lay waste to Beresford.  Soon enough we were making our way through the deserted streets heading for the Rest Inn Peace.  There was a curfew in effect of course, but our friend the border patrolman had given me a pass that said it was okay for us to be wandering around.  We were stopped a few times but once we presented our paperwork everything was fine and dandy like shine candy.  It’s good to know that sometimes the system can work. 

Honestly I was expecting the RIP to be burned to the ground, that seems to be the way my luck goes, but it was perfectly intact even though it wasn’t all that far from the epicenter of the “troubles”.  The place was deserted aside from Josta, who was behind the bar as usual, and Stinty who was sitting at a small table looking glum.  Stinty’s glumness was replaced by shock when he saw me walk in but Josta was nonplussed.

“I was wondering if you’d ever turn up again.”

“Are you going to say that every time I disappear and then come back?”

“Probably.  Have my years of wild hedonism finally caught up with me or are there seven identical women behind you?”

I waved my hand dismissively “Don’t worry about them.  What I need right now is . . .” It was my turn to be astonished as Stinty sprinted over and hugged me, which is even more awkward coming from a Halfling  “What is this, what’s happening?”

He started up at me with honest to Gods tears in his eyes as I maneuvered him away from me with my knee “We thought you were dead!”

“So?”

“So?  So?  We’re friends!  I was upset!”

“We are?  Didn’t helping me result in your life’s work being burned down and one of your good friends being killed?”

“Well yeah, but . . .”

“Look I don’t mean to be rude Stinty, but I don’t really have time to talk right now – we can discuss our friendship later – I’m on a tight deadline.” I turned back to the seven non-sisters “Will you guys really kill me if I don’t go back?”

One of them, I think one that I haven’t seen before, shrugged “I guess.  I don’t know who’s really paying us but that guy with the lady name seems like he can stop us from getting paid.”

I reached into my Haversack and dumped out a handful of gold “How about now?”

One of the others raised an eyebrow “Maybe we wouldn’t kill you.”

“Good to know, we’ll deal with that later.” I turned back to Josta “What I need to know is where Crawdore Van Saar lives.”

Stinty nearly jumped into the air “I know where he lives!  I can show you the way.  But what about the curfew?”

“Don’t worry about that, I have a piece of paper that says it’s all fine like cherry wine.”

And just like that we were off.  We headed towards the northwest portion of town, not that far from the home of the Staelishs but firmly across the invisible line between the GOOD portion of town and the portion of town where the good people used to live.  We were quickly stopped by another patrol and when I was presenting them with our pass I had a great idea.

I looked to the leader of the patrol adoringly “Captain, can I ask you for a favor?”

“I’m just a lieutenant ma’am.”

I laughed and touched his arm “Just a lieutenant you say, it sounds very important to me.  My apologies lieutenant, it’s just that you have a very captainy presence you now – a natural leadership quality you see.”

His glowing smile of appreciation was so typical it almost made me sad “Just doing my job ma’am.”

“Of course of course, we must all do our part.  I have a very important message that I need to get to Master Van Saar, which is the reason I have this temporary permit to break curfew, but I’m concerned that there may be footpads and other unsavory sorts about, despite the best efforts of the fine men of the city watch such as yourself.  Would it be possible for you and your men to escort us?  As you can see my only protection from misfortune is women and one of the smallfolk, they do their best of course but they can’t hold a candle to a real righting man like you.  I’d feel so much better if you could see us safely to our destination.”

The lieutenant was overjoyed to do just that, although his men seemed less sanguine about it.  As we walked with our new sheepdogs Stinty sidled over to me and whispered.

“Is this a good idea?”

“It’s a great idea.”

“It’s just that general you’re doing things where it’s not a great idea to have witnesses.”

“That’s an unfair characterization.  Regardless though, I figure a rich man is going to have guards of his own in times of trouble and turmoil such as these – these fellows will help get us in to see him.  Probably.”

“And then what?”

“And then if they stick around witnesses will be fine, better than fine in fact, depending on what’s going on exactly.”

“You don’t know what’s going on exactly?”

“Not as such no.”

The home of Crawdore Van Saar was fancy enough but it was still out of place in this neighborhood – it was a low sprawling affair with walls and iron gates and courtyards connecting to courtyards, very segmented and cluttered looking it was.  Whoever designed it likes to feel confined I think.  It was ugly but not in the way that extravagant homes are usually ugly where there’s just too much or it’s garish – this was ugly more along the lines of a battle-axe made out of platinum.  Certainly a lot of money went into it, but it wasn’t designed to please the eye.  The place was lit up with lanterns and even a few magical lights and there were two guards outside the gates – and two more within.  The watchmen talked to them and then they talked to the footman and then the footman talked to the butler and notes were passed and so on and so on.  Eventually we were granted entry and were met by the dashing Crawdore Van Saar himself, who looked like he was dressed to receive the Queen herself even at this late hour. 

My “attendants” as he called them were left to cool their heels in the servant’s quarters while Van Saar and I retired to the sitting room, where mulled wine was waiting for us.  After some exquisitely polite chit-chat he got down to the business and hand and asked me about the message.  I told him that it involved his “companion” as well and that it would be best that she join us.  A bell was rung and a servant was dispatched and minutes later “Lypara Emprenzo” entered the room with dainty yet fetching steps, looking a vision even with her tousled hair and hastily-thrown on receiving gown.  Maybe because of them. 

Van Saar’s face betrayed the first hint of annoyance as he crossed his legs “Now then, what’s this message you have for us?”

“This.”

I took out my crossbow and shot “Lypara” in the chest with one of the special bolts I had been given.  For a horrifying second I thought that I was wrong, or that even with a demon-killing bolt in her flesh that she could maintain her disguise, but after a moment her fake appearance fell away and Crawdore Van Saar was left sitting on a loveseat with an angry hissing demoness.  Seeing her true form in a dream did not prepare me for seeing it in the real world.  The combination of apex female beauty with the most base and foul demonic features was confounding. She was concurrently impossibly abnormal and shamefully intriguing, both repulsive and nearly impossible to turn away from.  Looking directly at her stabbed at your eyes like looking at a bright light, but turning away caused a longing in the chest that hurt even more.  And the whole effect wasn’t helped by the sick pale blue ichor pouring out of the grievous wound on her chest – whatever it was it reminded me of a terrible cold mushroom soup I was served once. 

I was hoping to the gods that Crawdore was just a manipulated dupe rather than a willing participant, and based on the way he screamed and dove to the floor with his hands over his head gave me a good indication that for once my hopes had been fulfilled. 

“Yeah buddy, that’s what you’ve been having sex with, it’s best not to think about it.”

I was also hoping that “Lypara” being a creature of deception and seduction wasn’t used to physical pain and she would be stunned for a moment, which she was, but not for as long as I hoped.  I had my crossbow loaded but before I could fire a second time she squealed out in the demon language and in a sickening blast of malodorous smoke there appeared before her a demon lion.  Curious what a demon lion looks like but don’t want to die and burn in the Hells to find out?  Allow me to tell you.  Take a normal lion and then starve it to death, only it doesn’t die, so it looks basically like a literal bag of bones in the shape of a massive cat.  Only unlike an actual starved lion it doesn’t look weak at all, it looks like one giant horrible coiled muscle ready to tear your soul away.  Then make its face look partially like a human face, but not in the sphinx way where it kind of looks okay – in the worse way possible.  Just stretch out an actual human face over the face of a lion, which is ten times bigger than a human face mind you, and you’ll be close.  Then paint what little wiry fur is left with blood and entrails and add in asymmetric spikes and spurs and exposed bits of bone and you’ll be pretty much there.

“Holy shit!”

Is what I said as I fired, hitting the succubus again who let out a horrific screech, and scrambled backwards away from the withered yet menacing beast.  The lion lunged and I grabbed Van Saar by the collar, throwing him forwards into the teeth and claws of the beast – and act for which I don’t feel sorry at all.  Anyone would have done the same with that whirlwind of horror coming at them.  I backed towards the door as I reloaded the crossbow and one of Van Saar’s men came barging past me, stopping in shock at the sight before him.

“Save your master!”

Is what I shouted as I helped him along with a kick in the ass.  He rushed forward with the ingrained servility of a thousand generations of exploited workers, yanking his sword out of its scabbard.  The lion stopped savaging Van Saar and its bizarre head swiveled up as if to roar at the charging man but there was no roar, there was more of a squeaking sizzling like of noise – I would imagine that’s what it sounds like if you toss a mouse onto a hot frying pan.  I didn’t see anything come out of the demon lion’s mouth but the man flinched backwards like he had been hit with something and then his skin literally started to boil and bubble off his bones.  Here’s a fun fact, I can still shoot a succubus with a crossbow while I’m vomiting violently.  Which is good to know.  She howled like a stomped bandicoot as the third bolt slammed into her and ran for the door on the other side of the room with me chasing at her as several guards poured into the room – both mine and Van Saar’s.  His household men were stunned into inaction but my blue and silver ladies immediately started wrestling with the skeletal gore-encrusted demon lion like that was a normal thing to do.  I suppose that’s the benefit of all that mountain-top training, not that you can fight unarmed as well as a man with a mace or a spear, but that you don’t hesitate when confronted with some mindbending crazy shit.

As I came around the corner into a tiny parlor-type room the succubus ambushed me with a stab in the side, I’m not even sure from what, didn’t feel like claws though.  I bashed her with the stock of my crossbow but it had zero effect, which doesn’t seem fair.  Why does she get to look lithe and ethereal but be tough as dragon turtle?  Just because she’s an immortal embodiment of evil and sin?  I call bullshit on that.  She grabbed the crossbow and as we were struggling for it I felt the crushing pressure of her mind trying to dominate mine.  She couldn’t of course, but the distraction did allow her to hook her legs around mine and trip me to the floor, gaining superior position.  Didn’t to her a ton of good though when I grabbed the bolt that had fallen out of the crossbow and stabbed her in the side of the head with it.  It seemed to stun her more than anything but it gave me a chance to slither out from under her while she was kneeling there seemingly in a trance  I grabbed her by the hair and swung her head into the wall a few times, driving the bolt completely through her head, the tip peeking out the other side. 

She toppled to the floor and then after a moment the four magical crossbow bolts slid out of her as if they were being pushed from the inside – because they were, by large black snakes.  In fascinated horror I watched as the four snakes emerged from her wounds and turned their snake heads to face me.  They spoke in unison with one voice, a voice that was harsh and raspy, a voice that sounded ancient and unknowable.

“You are doomed.”

After that pronouncement the four snakes started devouring the corpse at the hands and feet, not swallowing like actual snakes but tearing and swallowing huge chunks of demon flesh like sharks.  They consumed the entire body in maybe thirty seconds.  At the very end as they were ripping her head into equal fourths one of the household guards came in to watch in shock.  After the corpse was gone the snakes simply disappeared.  I turned to the guard.

“That was something huh?”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 50,874 gold

XP: 570,101

Inventory:  Courtier’s Outfit, Noble’s outfit, Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, sunrod (2) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, masterwork disguise kit, covenant ring,  Ring of Disguise, Boots of the Winter Jarl, Ring of Jumping, Walking Stick (Rod of the Viper), map, Badge of Last Resort, Healer’s Satchel, 28 tiny diamonds

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

Myam 6 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 2

I’ve often wondered why someone would worship a demon or demons.  Seems like if you want to worship an asshole divine being and do bad shit there’s better options in the form of evil gods.  As I understand it Kralten and Enumu and deities of that ilk have something to offer in the afterlife.  Do enough malevolence here in the world on their behalf and after you die you get to go to their version of heaven.  I’m no theologian but if you’re a demoniac your ultimate reward is still burning in the fiery pits of the Thirteen Hells when you cash in is my understanding.  That doesn’t seem like a good deal to me.  So are demon-worshippers exclusively the insane alienate nihilists who don’t even care about their own fate?  Doesn’t seem to be the case based on the one’s I’ve met.  Are they all deluded fools who are trading an eternity of pain and suffering for a modicum of temporal power?  Maybe. 

I’d like to gets some good information on their motivations but for some strange reason you don’t often find a demon worshipper who’s willing to have a frank and honest discussion about their beliefs – partially because those beliefs result in them being burned in the stake but partially because they’re trying to eat your toes in the name of Sithvogamu’Herlenshib the Demon Lord of Bloody Feet or some other damn thing.  I suppose I may be assigning too much logic to people’s thinking processes, most demon kissers people do it for the same reasons people do anything – they didn’t really think about it, it was a thing to do so they did it. 

I bring this up because Essa’s response to my night-time intrusion was to shriek like a bat being swallowed by a flying toad.

“Shree blyushed amukh ta garve bardh orchid!  Orchid oblist knamesh kul carven kurn theabse!”

That’s the Dark Speech if you’re not familiar.  Does orchid mean the same thing in the Dark Tongue as it doesn’t in the King’s language?  Seems unlikely, why would she be shouting about flowers when assailed in her bed under the cover of darkness?  But even if it’s a different meaning it’s weird that it would even exist in both languages as a word right?  I couldn’t see her face too well because of the darkness but I could see enough to know that it was twisted with hate like these demon-types get as she was shouting.  They must teach you that in demon school, I don’t know how they get their faces to do that – they like literally twisted as if their faces were made of wax.  It’s pretty scary I grant you that, if you’re the kind of person that’s scared by facial expressions. 

At the sound of her screaming the two sides of the tent flew up as if by signal and four men rushed in with slim blades and attacked my companions.  The nameless lookalikes displayed pretty impressive reflexes but in this situation it was more along the lines of avoiding an instant death strike than avoiding the blows altogether, they got stabbed pretty good is my point.  I’m not sure if she doesn’t care about dying or if she’s smart enough to realize that if I’m asking questions I need her alive, but either way Essa didn’t seem concerned about the knife I had against her and started chanting – not crazy cult chanting but casting a spell chanting.   I the dropped the knife and shoved some blanket in her mouth, leaning on her face with my elbow to stop her from finishing the mystical words that would turn our blood into molten lava or whatever these damn magic types do. 

The four men were clearly well versed in working together and they were flanking and striking my bodyguards despite their acrobatic defenses.  Sometimes I wonder why these sorts spend years working on martial arts forgoing all the pleasures of life when you can just pick up sword and put on a breastplate, it seems to be about as good if not better.  I suppose the idea is to catch people off guard but I’ve never seen one of these high-kicking loud shouting empty hand people really blow anyone away with their fancy moves.  Doing my best to keep the struggling Essa pressed underneath me I turned my cane into snake-form and threw it at one of the swordsmen on the right, it landed close enough that he was bitten on the ankle by the snake-cane which has to suck based on the way he yelped.  I managed to wrestle my crossbow out and holding it one handed and kind of balancing it against my hip as Essa writhed beneath me (not like that perv) I shot at one of the swordsmen on the left.

The good news is that even in that awkward position I managed to score a hit, the bad news is that who I hit wasn’t my enemy.  That’s downside to having a magically poisoning crossbow, makes friendly fire a real bitch.  Since we were in the middle of a military camp, sort of, I also employed another tactic – screaming “they’re killing us, they’re killing us” – but if I’ve learned anything it’s that if help arrives it’s always after things are over.  These violent life or death struggles happen a lot more quickly than you’d think – usually you’re either dead or you’ve already won before your back-up has their pants on. 

There’s no way I can reload a crossbow one-handed so while I was trying to figure out what to do next Essa squirmed out from underneath me and managed to get her arm around my neck.  I pried her arm off (it’s nice to be stronger than someone for once) and the two us were grappling on the bed, thrashing around like two blackbirds being baked into a pie.  I managed to get the upper hand by grabbing a handful of her hair (very dry, she must wash it with something too astringent) pulling her head back and biting her on the chin.  I heard something crack, not sure if it was one of my teeth or her jawbone, could be both – but then next thing I knew one of the swordsmen was yanking me off her and stabbing me through the calf with his blade.  Essa came up and even in her darkness I could see that her face was a bloody disaster, which didn’t seem to inconvenience her overly much.  She spat some magic words and I felt something burning on my chest like acid.  Probably acid.

It was at this point that the desperation set it.  This is not how I thought my night was going to go.  The next thing I knew though, I felt a surge of magic energy from my Boots and suddenly everything was different.  At first I thought that I was floating in the air and that someone had put a sack over my head but after a moment I realized that the “sack” was the tent and I wasn’t floating, I was just tall.  Really tall.  I ripped the tent away and I noticed in order that I appeared to be bout sixteen feet tall, I could see pretty well in the darkness, and my skin was blue.  Did you know that snow giants can see in the dark?  I didn’t.  Oh, and also there’s boots that turn you into one of them.  This is apparently an astounding enough turn of events that even demonic lunatics stop to gawk at it.  One of my bodyguards was down (probably on account of me shooting her with a poisoned bolt) but the other one was the first to recover – knocking her opponent out (or maybe killing him, what am I a healer?) with a spinning kick to the head.  Remind me never to let anyone do that to me.

I picked up the man who had stabbed me, not like a child, more like one of those human-shaped cookies people make sometimes, and hurled him into the night end over end and saw him hit the ground and tumble like a drunk falling down the stairs.  Seeing that the tide had turned Essa made to run but I grabbed her and lifted her into the air like a kitten by the scruff of the neck.  Have you ever wondered why giants always let out such booming laughs after they grab someone?  I can tell you why, it’s very satisfying.  I’ve never heard my voice so deep before, I’ll have to keep these Boots in mind if I ever want to sing a true operatic contralto.  I’ve always wanted to try out The Maiden of Death but it’s not in my register.  The last swordsman tried gamely to attack me but the remaining bodyguard swept his legs out from under him and as he hit the ground I stomped on his head and chest, crushing him like a roach.  I know a few men who would have paid good money to see that.

Like clockwork, with the fight over, at this point soldiers and various other people came running up.  As you can imagine they were very alarmed by the presence of an ice giant in their midst and were preparing to attack me with long spears when I boomed out my massive voice at them.

“Be thou not afraid, it is I, Ela transformed into a giant by the will of Adariel to uncover a horrible witch in your midst” I gave Essa a good shake and boomed out another colossal laugh as grown men, soldiers and warriors, cowered in fear before me.

The boots didn’t react to my command to “un-giant” me but fortunately the effect was temporary and I shrunk back down to size before too long.  I gave my fallen bodyguard a healing blast from the Flask as more and more confused soldiers turned up.  My good pal the Master Sergeant Costell Monague showed up as the first authority figured on the scene but thankfully he was quickly displaced by an as of yet unseen Baron, at least I assumed he was a Baron based on the extravagant jacket he had thrown on over silk nightclothes and his easy assumption of power.

“What the blazes is going on here?”

 I curtsied neatly “My Lord I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure.  I was at my evening prayers when all of a sudden I was stunned by the appearance of one of Adariel’s angelic hosts appearing before me in my tent!  The vision before me told me that within this very camp there was a foul cancer, an attainted demonhost!” I pointed to Essa who was now being held by the arms in the grasp of two soldiers “The angel told me that I needed to do something about this horrible evil before it was too late.  Well, I was just beside myself, I had no idea what to do.  I’m no warrior, no priest, no exorcist, no inquisitor, just a godly woman observing the word of Adariel.  I said to my brave and loyal guards that we needed to tell someone about this but we didn’t know who to tell!  Knowing that there was no time to waste, I made my way this tent, guided by Adariel’s hand towards the source of the corruption.  I found this woman malingering in her tent with an ill look.  And I asked of her ‘Are you standing in the light of the blessed mother or have you strayed into the shadow?’ and her response was to snarl at me in the Forbidden Tongue like a lipless monster! 

All of a sudden her four accomplices appeared out of nowhere to assail my valiant and devoted protectors, attacking them from behind like the abhorrent cowards they are.  Left alone with the demon-witch she revealed a forked tongue and her eyes became that of a mantis and she said ‘I’ll suck your soul!’ in a voice from the pits of the Hells themselves!  I was sure I was going to die, for my stalwart and faithful guardians were being overwhelmed by the dirty fighting techniques of the witch’s familiars, but then, all of a sudden I felt the holy power of Adariel flowing through me!  And I was transformed into a mighty giant!  I heard the soft words of Adariel in my ears saying ‘Evil has no power in my sight, I am the mother of all peace and the creator of all mercy, but you must use my power now to strike down those who cannot be redeemed to save the innocent.  You are my vessel and my chosen one, strike now and save all those around you.’  Now, I am a simple woman, violence is foreign to me, but I was filled with the bravery of the Goddess Herself and her hand guided me to lay low these terrible villains  and deliver this awful witch unto you for Judgement.”

For a long time no one spoke, most people standing in awe, but finally one voice came from the crowd.

“Why would Adariel turn you into a frost giant?  That doesn’t make much sense.”

I heard someone smack the speaker upside the head and mutter something about blasphemy.

“Stay your hand good sir!  Adariel welcomes the questioners and the seekers, she is the Goddess of Knowledge and Wisdom, she doesn’t ask us to follow her blindly, she asks that we challenge and learn.  I do not know why Adraiel chose this form, for the way of the Gods of good are as ever a mystery to us.  I can only thank Her for the miracle that has transpired here tonight.  Will you join me brothers and sisters?  Let us kneel in thanks before the Great Lady, the True Lady, the Only Lady, and join hands and speak the prayer of Adariel’s protection and blessing against the dark night and the terrors that it hides, for her Light shall reveal all!  In her sight there is no shadow for evil to lurk in and we are all safe under her benevolent gaze!”

A good forty-five minutes later I was up at the farmhouse back in the little planning room with the Master Sergeant, the new Baron, Baron Berlixwhouse, Baron Redmynd, and some other people I didn’t know – presumably more Barons or their minions.  The new Baron who had spoken before, who I now saw to be a balding man with an impressive beard, addressed me again.

“What really went on out there?”

“Well you see, what had happened was . . .”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 50,874 gold

XP: 566,901

Inventory:  Courtier’s Outfit, Noble’s outfit, Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, sunrod (2) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, masterwork disguise kit, covenant ring, Everwake Amulet, Ring of Disguise, Boots of the Winter Jarl, Ring of Jumping, Walking Stick (Rod of the Viper), map, Badge of Last Resort, Healer’s Satchel, 28 tiny diamonds

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

Myam 2 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) – Part 5

After night fell there was an initial lull in the activity out in the streets but unlike last night night it was only temporary.  An hour or two after sunset it seemed like all Hells broke loose.  I heard the sounds of fighting and shouting carrying through the darkness from all around.  I’d see a man with a lantern run across one way, then another group with torches heading back the other way, and that doesn’t even consider all the people skulking around without a light source.  At one point when my eyes had adjusted and the moonlight was strong I swear that I saw an orc slouching down an alleyway.  This frightened me more than anything I had seen so far.  Things are really getting out of control if humanoids are creeping into the city unabated.  Although the more likely and awful notion is that someone is bringing them in intentionally to shift the power of whatever is goingon.  The rugmaker’s ornate chest had been tossed down the stairs as an obstacle but I made sure to secure the flayleaf before that happened.  Just the thing to help calm the nerves on a long night’s watch.  I shielded the tiny flame from the tindertwig as I lit up but it must have been visible because I heard Corune’s coming from the bed.

“Is there a vice you don’t have?”

“Actually until recently I didn’t have any vices and now I only have one.”

“Self-delusion?’

“Is that a vice?  I’d consider that more of a character flaw.  You should be sleeping.  You need your rest after the day you had.”

“And you don’t?

“Nope.  As they say no rest for the wicked and according to you I’m the wickedest around.”

“I’m having a little trouble falling to sleep considering where I am and what’s going on.”

“I’m keeping watch.”

“That’s what’s keeping me up.”

“You don’t trust me to spot trouble?”

“I don’t trust you not to cut my throat while I’m sleeping.”

“Don’t flatter yourself Princess.  You think I would need to take you unawares or do you think I could handle you in a fair fight?”

“I hadn’t thought about it.”

“Bullshit, I’m sure you’ve thought a lot about it.  I suppose it doesn’t matter, I would never fight fair anyway.  You know what’s interesting?  Our backgrounds are  very similar.  I was taken from my family at a young age and I was trained to serve someone, I wasn’t a literal slave but I had no say in what I was doing.  Then I was given to someone as a companion.  And yet you turned out like you did and I turned out like I did.  I suppose the difference is the church of Vultur got their hooks in you and brainwashed you when you were young.  If that hadn’t happened you’d probably be just like me.  Only less charming and attractive.”

“The difference is that I have a moral compass and you are a sociopath.”

“Do you though?  If your so-called morality comes from an external source, from the church or from Vultur himself or whatever, is that really morality?  Or is it just slavish devotion to whatever comes down from on high?  At what point are you doing awful things because you’re ‘just following orders’?  If Vultur sent an angel, or whatever he has that tells people to do things, to tell you that you had to kill someone because they were going to commit a horrible crime – but hadn’t done anything yet – what would your reaction be to that?”

“I’m not interested in hypotheticals.”

“Go to sleep then.”

“I would if you’d stop talking.”

“You’re the one who started talking to me!”

I don’t know if she fell asleep but she stopped talking at least.  I knew that rescuing her would be a bad idea but I didn’t realize how annoying it would be.  If I didn’t know better I’d swear that everyone I come across makes it their personal mission to irritate me.  I’ve often been critical of people on watch or guard duty or whatever you want to call it and how easily they’re distracted or fooled.  But I’m starting to understand it now.  Even in the face of potential violent horrifying death at any moment there’s only so long you can stay on alert.  Once the fear and heart-pumping anxiety fade away all you’re left with is boredom, your mind starts to wander.  You stare at the same thing for enough hours and you stop seeing it, which is the opposite of what you want when you’re supposed to watching for trouble.  When there’s an ambush or a night-time massacre or something it’s often blamed on a guard falling asleep, but I would bet that half the time they’re there awake and just not noticing someone walking right up on them until it’s too late.  It’s a wonder there’s anyone left alive at all really.

In the dead of night I heard the hammering of hooves on the cobblestones coming from the south.  It was an overcast night but there was enough light for me to see a moment later three figures come running into view like scared rabbits.  At first I thought two of them might be children , especially because they were holding the hands of the “normal” sized figure but after a second I realized they were Halflings.  As soon as they came into view a horseman came pounding up behind them wearing full plate and wielding one of those double-ended spears you see cavalry types with sometimes.  As soon as they were all within view the horseman struck, skewering the figure in the middle and sending the two smallfolk tumbling to the ground to the right and left.  The tip of the spear seemed to pass through the body without resistance, like a stick through water, and hit the stone underfoot with a clap like an ironsmith hammering an anvil.

I could hear the choking sound coming from the impaled victim, dangling on the long spear like a spiked fish being drug out of a pond.  Both Halflings, rather than running, lay on the ground looking stunned.  They continued to do so even while the horseman struggled to kick the dying person off their weapon.  I fired at the armored man, the bolt deflecting off his heavy plate like I had thrown a toothpick at a stone wall.  The “ping” noise of the strike seemed to finally snap the two smallfolk out of their reverie and they scrambled to their feet to run.  I know they’re under stress but why didn’t they split up?  Instead they first ran to each other, giving their pursuer the chance to follow them both.  Why do people do that?  When one person is behind you sticking together only makes sense if you’re going to turn and fight, not if you’re going to run.  Use your heads people.

The horseman finally got his weapon free and made to pursue, but I hurled the thunderstone that I had taken off one of the attackers right at the feet of his mount.  Even the best trained warhorse is going to react to that and this steed as no exception, rearing up and making the rider struggle both to hang on and to control his animal.  Aggravatingly though at this the two Shirelings stopped and looked around as if they were trying to figure out what happened.  I wanted to scream at them to keep running but I didn’t want to give away my position.  As the horseman was getting back under control I cracked one of my sunrods, shielding it in my hand, and tossed it into the alleyway across the street.  The horseman wheeled towards the light but only for a second, dismissing it as the distraction that it was quickly enough. He turned back to his prey still frozen in the middle of the street and cursing under my breath I fired at him a few more times with my crossbow, my shots bouncing off his armor uselessly.

The good news (?) is that he turned to face my side of the street and although I ducked down in the window for cover he spotted me quickly.  It was at this point that I realized that with the height of his charger and with the reach of his weapon he could probably attack me even up here.  As he turned to do just that I employed the shitty but time honored tradition used when facing cavalry – I shot his horse.  It’s a real dick move, the horse didn’t do anything wrong, it can’t, it’s a horse, but it’s a sad fact of life that sometimes you have to do it.  It was too well trained to react with much more than a whinny, but I was hoping the poison would slow it down some.  He came trotting forward at a good clip and stabbed not through the window but through the wall beneath it, narrowly missing me as I dodged backwards – and by dodged I mean fell ass over teakettle. 

In doing so my knee pain went from a tolerable throbbing to a blindly intensity and I hit the floor.  Nevertheless, being the big hero that I am I lunged back forward to grab at the part of the spear that was sticking through what I now saw were shockingly thin boards of the wall facing the street.  All that bought me was some scuffed knuckles as the man outside easily yanked it backwards, slamming my hand into the wall and out of my grip.  Corune rolled out of bed looking around wildly and whispering intensely.

“What’s going on?”

“I have no idea!”

I heard the voice of the horseman from below, echoing strangely inside of his greathelm “This is none of your concern.”

“I couldn’t agree more, sorry to have disturbed you, I thought you were someone else.”

The spear came stabbing in at an angle through the floor and even though it wasn’t really that close to me I couldn’t help by yelp in surprise and scramble further back, almost falling through the hole in the floor behind me.

“Shit!  Those two Halflings are probably getting away right now, why are you wasting time with me?”

“They’re already gone, because of you.  I’ll pick them up again without too much trouble though, they can’t hide from me.  But you need to pay.”

“How much?”

“Your life.”

“That’s a little steep, how about a nice rug?”

I gestured with my head for Corune to cover me as I used my ability to throw my voice to keep bargaining/begging for mercy in the room while I kicked the rope through the hole and climbed/slid/fell down to the first floor.  I did my best to land with my weight on my left leg but still the explosion of pain when I hit the ground made me bite my tongue to keep from crying out.  Limping forward intently, I saw the horseman through a hole in the wall head tilted up taking to “me” and I hurled a looted javelin at his neck as hard as I could.  Instead of plunging into his neck it deflected off that weird little round thing knights have on their armor sometimes, it’s called a gewgaw or a guisare or something like that – anyway I guess this is why they have them.  The deflected javelin did knock his helm askew though and while he was trying to right it – not easy with reins in one hand and a people-stabber in the other – I shot his horse a few more times, pumping in more poison.   I then jumped back on the rope and struggled my way up, Corune reaching down to haul me in the last bit.

I heard the man outside cursing as his mount labored and founded under him.  I crawled over to peep out the window and saw the poor horse frothing at the mouth, its legs giving out underneath it.  The man dismounted and after cursing and kicking at the horse for a while did the merciful thing and put it out of its miser with a stab through the skull. He stood by the dead animal seething with rage.

“Whoever you are I’m going to find you and I’m going to kill you.”

“That’s a pretty pedestrian threat, you could have at least said you were going to skin me alive or something like that.  Get creative with it.  People try to kill me all the time, it’s kind of lost its luster.”

 “Do you know who I am?!  I . . .”

I sat up and chucked a looted throwing axe at him as hard as I could – I’ve definitely done more throwing things as hard I could the last two days than I have in my life before now.  It didn’t penetrate his platemail but it did hit with enough impact to knock him flat.  I stood tall, reloading and shooting with my crossbow as fast as I could while he turtled.  Eventually he rolled to his side and clattered to his feet awkwardly running into the same alley as the sunrod to take cover.  All of my bolts banged off his armor but I was hoping that one might at least scrape against some flesh to poison him.  I stepped out of the window as he produced a longbow and fired back.   

“Good Gods how can you even draw back in that metal lobster suit?”

He declined to explain but I could see Corune looking at me in the darkness “What do we do now?”

“You want to go down there and flank him while I keep him busy?”

“No.”

“Me neither.”

For a few minutes I was trying to think of something while occasionally trading shots with the armored bowman and I had pretty well decided to just ignore the situation since there was no way for him to get up when I heard an urgent “psst” noise coming from downstairs.  I dropped down and belly-crawled to the hole where I saw the round frightened faces of the two Halflings looking at me.  I saw now that it was a man and a woman.

“Are you fucking kidding me?!  Get the fuck out of here!”

“Let us up!”

“I feel like I’ve done plenty here, you should be running right now.”

“Running to where?  There’s nowhere to run, let us up.”

As I was about to say something else Corune dropped the rope down to them and they scooted themselves up with enviable nimbleness, it I’m sure it helps that they’re so diminutive. Once they were in and Corune was hauling the rope back up I fell heavily into the corner and took a pull off my Flask.

“Welcome to the party.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 50,874 gold, 2000 silver

XP: 554,101

Rations – 5 days

Inventory:  Noble’s outfit, Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, sunrod (2) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, dreamtime tea, Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Masterwork disguise kit, covenant ring, Everwake Amulet, Ring of Disguise, Boots of the Winter Jarl, Ring of Jumping, zerk (3), scour (3), knotted rope, Walking Stick (Rod of the Viper)  

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 

Myam 2 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) – Part 3

Yesterday I was up here with two people to whom I boldly proclaimed that rationing wouldn’t be necessary.  Now they’re both dead.  Which means two things.  One thing it means is that the food they ate was completely wasted.  But more importantly it means I can think about rationing without feeling foolish.  I initially figured that one way or the other I wouldn’t be hanging around here for long but now I’m not so sure.  Based on what I saw this morning this riot seems to be turning into a full-fledged revolution, and those tend to take a while to work themselves out. 

Several times now I’ve been lost in the wilderness without much in the way of supplies and with one exception I never really seriously considered that I might die.  How dramatic would it be if I starved to death instead in the middle of a city?  Aska crawled out from under the bed long enough to scarf down her share of the dwindling pile of rations.  If you’re not familiar with rations they consist of things like little discs made out of wheat flour and beef powdered, dried meat, hardtack, cheese that looks and tastes like a rock, and things of that nature.  It’s the kind of thing that soldiers on the campaign eat, partially to keep them alive but mostly to make them not care if they live or die.  Rations are the main reason for cannibalism.  It’s been proven.

I woke Corune up to eat and drink as well.  Or maybe not woke up because she was more unconscious than asleep exactly, maybe roused is the correct word.  She ate as slowly as Aska did quickly – everything she did was in that very deliberate way you move when every part of your body hurts.  I know she had a bad night and all, got roughed up pretty good, but I was starting to think in the back of my mind that she needs to get over it.  After this grand repast Aska scuttled back into hiding like a crab under a rock and Corune lay back down to sleep/pass out. 

The rugmaker had mentioned that she had some food downstairs which was probably already gone but the idea that it might be down there got stuck in my head and eventually I couldn’t help but crawl down to check it out and make sure.  There was nothing left in the kitchen area and even worse I saw movement outside.  I scrambled back up to the second floor as quickly and quietly as I could (not well on either count) and rushed to the window where I saw a group of men outside a building much like this across the street and two houses down.  Most of them were carrying torches.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone with a torch in the daytime before.  It’s more menacing than you’d think.  Someone with a lantern in the daylight would be a loon, but someone carrying around a naked flame in the broad sunshine – that person has plans.  The door to the building across the way was evidently barricaded and the one window was boarded up.  I’m sure if you wanted to you could smash those boards away pretty simply, but this crew was content to stay outside and shout.  After a moment a woman appeared in a second story window much like the one I was watching from.  She was wearing a standard peasant smock and looked as haggard was I felt – her hair hung down around her face like it was sopping wet even though it appeared to be dry as a bone.  I couldn’t hear what was being said but there was clearly a negotiation of some kind going on, one that resulted in the woman in the window becoming increasingly frantic.

In the end the man on the street that had been doing all talking for the group shook his head and several of his men started hurling pots of oil onto the building.  The woman starting weeping and pleading with them – I could read her lips at one point saying that she would do whatever they want.  The man said something and a minute later the door opened and the woman came out with another woman and two men.  The torchbearers handled them roughly, taking anything they had on them before two of them went inside, only to emerge moments later looking disappointed.  At the leader’s command two things happened – one was that his men threw a couple torches onto the building, setting it aflame.  The second was that they forced one of the men who had come out of the building to his knees and cut his throat right there in front of the other three.  I’ve had the misfortune to see a lot of death since my ejection from the Duke’s court, but this was one of the worst.  This wasn’t anger, this wasn’t battle, this wasn’t anything other than expediency.  The two men that forced him to the ground and the man who did the killing, none of them had any particular interest in what they were doing.  This was just work, this was just what they were doing today – it had no more meaning to them than a butcher slaughtering a hog. 

The other man looked like he wanted to try and fight but the women begged him not to – since it was clear they were perfectly willing to kill him as well if he wanted to cause a ruckus.  The leader came over and leaned close to him, saying something, and all the fight went out of the man.  At the leader of the torchbearer’s gesture the three of them stumbled off together, stopping frequently to look back at their burning shop.  After this display they moved on to the house directly across the street, skipping over the one in between, which would indicate that they’ve scouted out which places have people in them.  There was some conversation through the door and then after a moment the door flew open and a wild-eyed man came charging out swinging a fireplace poker.  The men stepped away from his attacks and one of them doused him with oil, another stepping up and setting him on fire as easy as you like.  The blazing man rushed at one of his tormentors but he was knocked to the ground and quickly was just a burning corpse on the ground.  A couple men went inside the building, coming out with a couple items of value before they came across the street.

Getting a good look at the leader of this band of murderous pyromaniacs I saw that he had a heavy brow and strangely thick eyelids, his face framed by thin but long sideburns.  He hitched his hands through his belt as his men lit more torches and fondled their flasks of oil.  He called up in a voice that was better suited for shouting across a country field than the streets of Beresford – I can’t believe I couldn’t hear him before with that voice.

“What have you got for us love?” I pulled one of the Rings off my finger and tossed it down, which he caught adroitly and put up to his eye, squinting “It don’t look like much.”

“Its magic friend, it’s worth more than this building.”

“How am I supposed to believe that?”

“Put it on and give it a half-turn to the left.”

“Don’t look like it will fit on my finger.”

“It will resize, that’s part of the magic.”

He was amazed when the ring did in fact shift to fit on this thick finger, but not nearly as amazed as he was when he turned invisible.  His voice came even louder after he disappeared, as if he thought that because I couldn’t see him I wouldn’t be able to hear him as well either.

“Why are you still here if you had this?”

“It only works for a couple minutes.  Turn it back the other way to become visible again.”

He did so, his weather-beaten faced appeared again “This will do.  It’s been a pleasure.”

“I can’t help but think that with that fire you started over there the whole block is going to go up.  I don’t mean to tell you your business but maybe you should lean more on just the threats than the actual fires if you want there to be a city left to squeeze.”

“Who says I want there to be a city left?”

He and his crew moved on to another house up the street and across the road again but I couldn’t stand to watch what happened.  I was pretty shaken but that encounter, there’s not much you can do against a foe that’s willing to burn the world to the ground.  There’s no real way to reason with that type.  It’s barely past half-light and already that’s two encounters that could have easily tuned violent.  How many more can happen in one day?  And how many more can I endure?  What sprang to mind was a scene I witnessed at Threegates.  There was a gladiator there that had somehow displeased the Count so they just kept sending in more beasts and fighters to take him on.  It didn’t matter how many bouts he won because they sent in another opponent for him.  He was always going to lose eventually.  How many of these situations can I deal with?  And how many more are coming?  It’s a simple matter of arithmetic – if one is larger I’m okay, and if the other is larger I’m dead. 

I watched the fire spread across the street, but thank the Gods for small favors, after the third building it seemed to sputter out rather than spreading any further.  I was so on edge that I felt like I was continuously tensing my muscles, like I was hanging off the side of the cliff by my fingers and I need all of my strength to hold on.  I knew that I was going to exhaust myself so I tried to calm down, but I just couldn’t compose myself no matter what I did.  Every minute it seemed like something horrible was going to happen.  Eventually I activated my Flask for another draught of healing and gave it to Corune.  I passed her the chain shirt I had taken off Sperry and told her to shrug it on.

I took a long drink from the Flask as she was getting the armor on “No more lying around princess, I know you’re not one hundred percent but I need you to help me – things are not getting better out there, they’re getting worse. I keep telling myself that I’ve been in worse jams, that I’m going to make it through this, that everything’s going to be fine. Nothing’s fine. You’ve been asleep so I don’t know if you noticed this, but everything’s been getting worse, every second.”

“Maybe you should lay off that if things are so bad.”

I laughed “This is the only thing keeping me from screaming right now.  Besides, it’s all we have to drink.”

A couple hours later a group of men came sprinting towards the building.  A full out sprint directly at us.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone running that fast in all my life – and they were carrying broad, flat blades with a hook on the back edge.  They looked more like some kind of tool for clearing vegetation than dedicated weapons.  I tossed my Walking Stick to Corune and moved to the hole in the floor.

“How the fuck does everyone know we’re here?!  Corune cover the window, Aska get the fuck out here right now and help us!”

I heard her voice from behind me, clearly still underneath the bed “I can’t, I’m too scared!”

“You’re scared of dying?  Well you are going to die right now if you don’t get out here!  Get over here and if you see a face in this hole smash it with your fucking hammer!”

I heard her come out from under the bed but she didn’t come over to me.  I could hear Corune speaking to her softly, I was going to shout at her some more but then I saw through the massive hole in the floor two men come hurtling into the bottom floor of the shop.  They didn’t even pause, with blades still in hand one of them leapt onto the broken stairs and started to climb with the other started scrambling up the loom-frame as I had done a half dozen times at this point.  I tried to move to a point where I could see both men but the one on the stairwell was out of my sight, what I could see was Aska standing frozen in the middle of the room.

“Get the FUCK over here!!!”

A hand came through the hole, grabbing the floor, and I moved to the edge where a snarling man was pulling himself up.  I shot him through the cheek right below the eye at point blank range but he didn’t even flinch, he kept hauling himself up through the hole.  I reversed the crossbow and slammed the stock into the crown of his head as hard as I could but that didn’t seem to bother him in the slightest either.  In a simultaneous action he yanked himself through the hole and launched himself at me – slamming into me and then slamming me into the floor as well.  The crossbow was trapped between our bodies as his free hand searched for my throat while I strained to control his blade-hand with both my hands.  I was hoping that the crossbow poison would make him weak but his grip was like iron and he felt like he weighed a ton pressing down on me.  He leaned his elbow on my face, turning my head to the side so that I was looking at Aska still standing like a statue in the middle of the room.  I could see Corune hanging out the window fighting with someone climbing up the side of the building.  My voice was so filled with desperate terror that I didn’t even recognize it as my own.

“Help me GODS DAMN IT!!!”

As I was shouting the man’s finger slipped into my mouth and I bit it as hard as I could, my mouth filling with blood instantly.  Choking, I let go of his blade-hand and snatched out my dagger, stabbing him just above the thigh.  He raised his sword-tool to cleave my head in two and Aska finally moved, although rather than caving his head in with her hammer she dropped it and dove forward to grab his arm, checking his swing.  I managed to shove my knife in through the soft part under his chin and as he finally staggered back I kicked at the hilt with both boots – driving the blade into his brain like a tent stake.  Even this damage it seemed like he was going to ignore for a second before he keeled over stone cold dead.  I scrambled to grab my crossbow and load it while I saw the second man emerge at the top of the stairs on the other side of the hole.  He gathered himself for a leap and a hurled Aska into his trajectory – he jumped over what had to be an eight foot hole as nimbly as a deer and crashed into Aska awkwardly.  I heard their skulls bang together like two butting mountain goats, Aska flew back into an unconscious heap with blood streaming down her head while the savage attacker was stunned long enough for me to load the crossbow and send a bolt through his sternum.  As he staggered forward I shot him again and a third time before he collapsed backwards through the hole to the ground.

I moved forward to see a third man down below looking around wildly.  I shot him as well but he ran out of my line of sight.  I turned around just in time to see Corune going flailing through the window, falling with a man draped over her and grasping at her hair.  I rushed to the window to see the two of them lying in a heap on the street – a third attacker already dead a few feet away.  As they came apart Corune was still on her hands and knees, dazed as the man popped up like a jack in the box and grabbed his sword.  I grabbed the Desk out of my Haversack and held it out the window – activated the magic to expand it to full size and send it crashing down on the man’s head.  The Desk as smashed to bits, but it was still in better shape than the man it landed on.  Another man came running at Corune but she was back on her feet and between the two of us we were able to bash and shoot him to death.  Corune dashed back inside and I helped her climb back up to the second floor through the hole where we both collapsed next to the unmoving form of Aska.

“It’s not even three bells.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 50,874 gold, 2000 silver

XP: 551,901

Rations – 5 days

Inventory:  Noble’s outfit, Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, sunrod (3) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, dreamtime tea, Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Masterwork disguise kit, covenant ring, Everwake Amulet, Ring of Disguise

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 

Muthuselan 20 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 1

For some strange reason being kidnapped by bizarre hybrid fey beasts really had Stinty on edge – we walked in the dark through the forest for hours before he realized that I was following him and he was just walking without pay attention to where we were going.  Once we got started back in the right direction the sun was coming up by the time we got back to the campsite.  And then I had to spend a good hour talking him down – he was so jittery it seemed like he was going to fly apart.  I have a lot of tools in my bag of tricks, but the one that I dislike using the most is gently reassuring someone that everything is going to be okay.  It’s not hard, staying calm yourself is the lion’s share of calming someone else down.  Speak in short simple sentences, give them a lot of (undeserved) praise, ask them what they need, say things like “You can do this”, “stay with me”, “what you are feeling is frightening, but it is not dangerous” – crap like that.  So it[‘s easy but it sucks because it takes time and all you want to do is to tell the person to get the fuck over it and be an adult.  But that’s counterproductive. 

Once Stinty was “okay” I was going to lay down for some sleep, but instead it was time to head to the secondary location. This annoyed me because if he had been thinking we would have just gone straight there and then I would be asleep right now but I couldn’t say anything because they could get him all riled up again.  So instead of sweet, sweet sleep we were stomping through the forest again – it was good four hours before we got to the second campsite where Stella was waiting for us.  The relief on her face was obvious as we slogged towards her.

“Thank Gods, I was starting to think something had happened to you two.”

“I wasn’t expecting to see you until tonight.”

She blinked in surprise “I thought you were going to be here last night.”

“Well whatever, sounds like we had a miscommunication there.  Tell Stinty the plan, I’m going to sleep – we had a rough night.”

“What?  No, we need to go now – everything’s ready in town, we’re going to be late as it is.”

“Late for what?  If you have the decoy why do you even need us at all?  Wouldn’t it make more sense for us to stay out here while the broad with the mismatched eyes kills the guy?”

“You said that you wanted to be there, that you wanted to be part of it!”

“Oh right, I did say that.  Ugh . . . . . fuck.  Let’s go then I guess.  Did you at least bring horses?”

Stella gestured “Look around, do you see any trails here?  It wouldn’t be much of a hideout if there was a road for horses.”

I yawned, mouth gaping open like a commoner “Don’t be reasonable with me.”

And so sleepless, we set off again – with Stella herding us along at what seemed like an unreasonable pace.  What’s the rush?  Is the assassin going to leave down before he tries to kill me?  She kept going on and on about how important timing was but that makes no sense – the killer is waiting on us, it doesn’t matter when I show up.  If I hadn’t been so tired I would have eviscerated her argument’s ass off but I was so I didn’t.  I don’t know how Stinty was able to keep up better than me with his little legs but he did, which only served to irritate me further.  It was late afternoon when we moseyed into Beresford.  It seems like I’ve been here forever.  Why did I even come to this stinking burg anyway?  What am I doing here?  I was so caught up in my negative thoughts that I realized Stella had been talking for a while.

“ . . . and then what we’re going to do” she stopped in mid-sentence on account of the arrow that slammed into her chest. He stared down at it, and touched it with her hand as if trying to make sure it was real.  “I . . . I’ve been shot.”

I knocked her to the ground as another arrow flew by and then scrambled into an alley to get out of the line of fire.  I saw no sign of Stinty, he must already be in hiding, but what I did see is an archer on a rooftop, looked like a woman with one foot up on the eave as she drew back an very impressive looking longbow.  I grabbed my dagger and watched helplessly as Stella was trying to crawl for cover and the archer coolly shot her in the back several more times.  Stella stopped moving and it looked like the archer was going to continue shooting at her fallen body so I dashed across the street to draw her aim, if only for a second.  I dove behind a trough but it I was trying to hide behind it the short way and they didn’t work very well – I was hit in the leg and gazed on the scalp.  I heard Stinty shout “make yourself fucking small!” and then saw a stick of some kind trailing big plumes of smoke come flying end over end and land on the roof where the archer had taken up their position.

Stinty ran out of wherever he had been hiding and under the cover of smoke, I helped him drag Stella’s limp form into the alley.  He was about to say something when I saw a disruption in the swirling smoke along the roof of the adjacent building and suddenly there was an arrow protruding from his shoulder – or at least the vanes were – the rest of the arrow was buried in his body.  I’ve never seen an arrow go so deeply into someone.  Stinty fell sideways, slamming his head on the ground with a sickening thud as above the archer’s invisibility dissipated and she took aim at me. I threw my dagger at her, not even coming close, and then flared my cloak out to try and conceal myself as I ran for all the good it would do.  But the shot never came.  Suddenly the archer was hit by a crossbow bolt – right through the eye.  She stood for a moment and then pitched over the side, bouncing off the opposite wall with her legs and landing in a heap. 

I looked and saw Sergeyevna Kostornaia and three men standing on a roof a several blocks away.  She was holding her crossbow upright and had a smug smile on her face as her cronies patted her on the back and told her how great she was.  I headed their way.

“That was your fucking plan?!  What happened to the decoy?  What happened to controlling the situation?  Why were your men up there with you instead of down here?!  What the fuck were you doing?!”

It looked she was about to say something when all of a sudden she was pin cushioned with arrows across the upper chest and neck.  With looks of horror her men tried to hold her up and tend to her, but they were being pelted with arrows as well and looked panicked – except for one man wearing a bearskin of some kind who roared with anger and started leaping across from rooftop to rooftop.  Before I could process this turn of events a masked man in black robes appeared on a rooftop between me and the building Kostornaia was on with a nasty looking crossbow – shooting me directly in the sternum with enough force to knock me backwards and off my feet.  I crawled back into the alley as he reloaded, taking cover behind the lifeless form of the first assassin.  The rooftop crowssbowman sent a few shots into the back of the first assassin and then gave up to move to a better firing position.  I quickly rifled through the first assassin’s bag and found a potion which I drank blindly – and I found myself turning invisible.  I grabbed an arrow from her quiver and ran, having no idea how long I was going to be unseen. 

As the crossbowman moved around the edge of another building scanning for me I found a horse tied up, saddled and ready to go.  I mounted up and then stood up on the saddle, using the horse to leap and catch the edge of the roof – I’m not ashamed to admit it was a real struggle to pull myself up.  Still invisible I came up behind the crossbowman as he scanned the streets below and jammed the arrow into his neck – it must have been enchanted because his neck exploded like it had been hit by a ballista, showering me with gore.  Falling down in surprise, I narrowly missed being skewered by a barrage of arrows.  Sliding to the edge of the building for cover I saw the original assassin who started this whole mess turning invisible – still partially blurry as he jumped to an adjacent roof.

“Why is everyone else in the world so much better at jumping and climbing than me?” I said to no one. “And where is the fucking city watch?!  Why don’t they ever show up when I need them?”

I slithered careful to the body of assassin #2 and drank whatever potions he had – which healed my wounds but really I was hoping for more invisibility.  I dragged his heavy awkward looking crossbow into my hands and then activated my scrivener’s desk, hiding behind it and grabbing the vials of ink.  I heard a voice shouting from some distance away.

“Is that a writing desk?”

“Yeah.”

“Well how odd.”

“Any chance I could bribe you?”

“Sure, come out in the open and we’ll talk about it.”

Assuming that the assassin was moving into position to fire at me enfilade (maybe, I’m not one hundred percent sure what that word means) I draped my cloak on the desk to hopefully make it look like I was hiding under there.  I doubt it would have worked at all if not for the fact that I kept talking and threw up voice to make it sound like it was coming from under the desk as I crab-crawled into cover between it and the low wall of the roof.  A barrage of arrows shredded the cloak and slammed into the desk and I spied the archer on the very next building in the process of turning invisible again – I dashed up and hurled two pots of ink at him.  My aim wasn’t great, but enough spattered on him that I could tell where he was.  He fired another volley of arrows as I dove behind the other side of the desk.

“Very clever.  If all your friend weren’t dead already you’d probably have the advantage now.”

“How many arrows do you carry around?  Haven’t you shot like a hundred by now?  When are you going to run out?”

“Never.  I have a magic quiver that never runs out.”

“I used to have a crossbow like that.”

“What happened to it?”

“The watch took it.”

“Fucking watch.”

I threw my voice so it was coming from directly behind him “Tell me about it.”

At the sound of a voice behind him the archer spun around and fired at nothing and I popped up from behind the desk and shot him in the back before dropping back down.  I couldn’t see him well on account of he was just an ink-spattered outline but it didn’t seem like that one shot bothered him too much.

“Nice.  How do you do that with your voice?”

“I’m a mermaid that drank a potion to turn into a human.”

“To pursue your true love?”

“To pursue revenge on the pelican that ate my family.”

“What’s your next trick?”

“Trying to figure out how to reload this fucking crossbow.  What the Hells is this thing?  There’s like levers on here and shit.  I thought the whole idea of a crossbow was that it was supposed to be simple to use, unlike a longbow.”

“Well you know how people are, they only thing they like more than simplifying something is making it more complicate.”

“Do you normally talk this much when you’re trying to kill someone?”

“No, but this hasn’t been a normal job.  When that desk appeared I had to know who you were.  You’re a tough nut to crack, but I think you’re about out of time.”

“Eventually the watch has to show up right?”

“Not this time I’m afraid.”

He was right, I was pretty much out of tricks.  One thought kept going through my mind, if only I could turn invisible again – and then all of a sudden I was.  Turns out that wedding coat they gave me was more than just stylish, it had some magic in it as well.  I carefully walked to the edge of the building expecting to be shot down like a dog, but I saw the ink-outline moving methodically back and forth as if scanning for an opening.  I made a terrifying jump to a very close building and pulled a short blade out of my secret pocket.  From that building I made it to where the archer was and approaching with maximum caution, I came up from behind and slashed him across the back of the neck – then giving him a shove.  I have no doubt without having taken a vicious blow to the back of the neck he would have agilely flipped to the ground and landed like a cat, but as is, he tumbled headlong into the ground with a hideous crack.  I pulled a rope and hook from my pocket and awkwardly slid down the side of the building where I stabbed him a half dozen more times to be sure.   It was at this point that I saw a few city watchmen peeking around as if checking to see if the coast was clear.

“Good response time guys!  Real bang-up work!”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 79 gold

XP: 516,701

Inventory:  Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Field Scrivener’s Desk, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Surcoat of the Night Wind

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