Montresor 14 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I hope Jonah got clear of that mess yesterday without too much trouble.  But also I don’t really care you know?  It’s like when you see a yak crossing a river frequented by dracodolphins, you’re cheering for the yak to make it across but if it gets slaughtered by a dragon-porpoise hybrid you just shrug go about your day.  You know what I mean?  I think you do.  I suppose either way Jonah’s career as a proxy duelist is over, which I think we can all agree is for the best.  He wasn’t cut out for that line of work.  The worst thing about that grand melee is that I lost my crossbow in the press.  Seems like every time I get a nice shooter something happens to it.  I guess that could be the one good thing about magic, no one can take it from you.  All they can do is break your hands and rip out your tongue so you can’t cast spells. 

I found the road today and was mildly taken aback to arrive in Ardint instead of Tybhurst.  I guess I got a little off course.  No big surprise there eh?  I arrived there just as the markets were closing down (a place like Ardint has no night markets) and was able to get a replacement crossbow and a nice bracelet as well.  Not bad for a quick shopping trip in a place like this.  I was surprised to find that the place wasn’t swarming with soldiers, since the last time I had been here I alerted them to a Vielander plot to infiltrate the Lodge Woods and conquer the entire region with the help of dirty traitors.  Maybe the soldiers all in the forest slaughtering Vielanders gloriously.  I didn’t even hear much chatter about the sacking of Malgareth.  For a town basically on the front lines the Ardintites don’t seem to be taking the war too seriously. 

After my hasty trip to the market I found the only decent inn in town – I believe it used to be student housing for the third rate university they have here so it was much larger and kind of an odd layout for a hostelry.  They had done some renovations to create a common room and when I walked in who did I see sitting at a table but the Missplitters – Peronell and his wife, who probably has a name.  Remember how bent out of shape I used to get about women being called just Miss Their Husband’s Name?  And now here I am doing the same thing.  Shame on me.  It’s undoubtedly the worst thing I’ve ever done. 

Since things didn’t work out for them in Three Rivers (you know because of me) they must be fleeing to Heathgrove to throw themselves at the mercy of Psyhundt and his hairy chest.  Peronell looked much the same, being a shabby wizard or alchemist or whatever kind of potion making schlep he is but his wife was dressed in common traveler’s garb.  Gone was the magenta lace and tulle gown and the crystal wine glass and she didn’t look happy about that fact.  I on the other hand took great amusement in that fact. 

When I spotted them I immediately took on a difference appearance but it was too late – they had both swung around and made me the moment I walked in.  I’ll give this to Peronell he’s a decisive fellow – he instantly ordered his drug addict goons and slovenly bodyguards to grab me.  They surged forward as I dashed out the door, swapped appearances again, and circled back around.  While they thugs were searching the area I walked right past them back into the converted dormitory.  I had forgotten how annoying this Peronell guy is though, even disguised he clearly knew who I was and did some sort of magic shenanigans at me – two things happened.  One I felt like I was punched in the chest, getting knocked against the wall and to the floor.  Two, my disguise melted away and somehow my ability to generate another was blocked.  Although since his goons only ever saw me in a different disguise anyway I’m not sure what good that did.

The ladywife Missplitter overturned a table and ducked before it for cover with shrieking in a most unladylike way for the remaining thug to “kill that little bitch”.  Which I take exception to, I am not little.  Said goon leapt into action at his mistress’s command and started whirling about a length of chain covered with barbs.  I’ve heard about these things but I’ve never seen one before.  Seems like a nonsensical weapon even for a gladiatorial performance, and those people use fucking nets.  A sword has a sheath, an axe you kind of just strap on your back, a spear you just hold but that’s fine because it’s like a walking stick – how the Hells do you even transport an eleven foot length of spiked chain?  Where do you put it?  And how do you “draw” it?  Seems like it would get tangled up ALL the time. 

Notwithstanding how do you even learn to use the damn thing?  Seems like the first time you swung it you’d rip your own face off and then maybe decide to get a real weapon.  This fellow, wearing a chainmail and leather number and possessing an oddly bestial face, had it all figured out however it happens.  He flicked that thing out like a dancer’s ribbon and caught me around the lower leg.  As he dragged me towards him the spikes dug into my ankle so far I could feel them touching bone.  I believe I said something like “Ah, my fucking ankle!”  I say things like that in combat far more often than witty quips.  I should work on that.  Winning is one thing, but poise counts too.

Peronell came over and stood directly over me like a jerk to cast a spell – didn’t seem to do anything.  That would have been a perfect time for a wisecrack about impotence but there’s just no time you know?  Instead I called upon the magic of my Stole and blasted him in the face with some razor shards courtesy of the refrain from “A Kiss At the End of the World”.  He fell back with a bloody face and his goon snapped the chain entangling me like a dockworker trying to shake out a knot and got the chain around my throat as well.  You know what’s worse than being strangled with a chain?  Being strangled with a chain that has GODS DAMN SPIKES!!!

I managed to get a hand up on the front of my throat to prevent a spines from going through my jugular (and whatever else important is in there) but they were still digging into the back and sides of my neck.  I didn’t care for that at all.  I expressed this displeasure by retrieving my Belt Sword and stabbing the chain wielder through the groin.  Which is what he gets for wearing a chain shirt instead of the full deal.  A groinful of rapier dampened his enthusiasm for chain swinging and I managed to wriggle loose.  I was gulping down some healing potion when the Missus clobbered me with a chair.  Looking up at her I’m not sure I’ve ever seen more hatred in a person’s eyes.  I guess that I of all people should know what kind of ire is stirred up when you’re dragged out of a life of luxury and prominence and thrown down to wallow in the mud with everyone else.

She swung at me again but I rolled out of the way and got a hold of her – she wasn’t much of a fighter she was just enthusiastic about bashing my skull in.  I got the tip of my sword under her chin as Peronell was regaining his wits, clutching at his horrendously bleeding eye with one hand.

“Alright, everybody be cool or the dame gets it.”

I halfway (maybe three-quarters) expected him not to care about the fate of his wife, but he seemed very concerned.  Peronell took a step back and waved off his goons as some of them came running back into the common room.  The chain wielding man remained bleeding and crying on the ground.  I’ve been stabbed a good many places at this point, but never the crotch.  I’m grateful for that.

Peronell’s one eye glared at me “What are we going to do here?”

“How about we call this one a draw?  Your wife and I are going to slowly back out of here while you and your men stay here and once I’m clear I’ll let her go.  Sounds good right?  We can conclude out business a later date.  Assuming that Psyhundt doesn’t skin you alive in the meantime.”

“What guarantee . . .”

“Do you have that I’ll let her go?  Let’s not get into that whole thing, you have no choice.”

It looked to me like he was starting to cast a spell but just then several watchmen burst onto the scene and started shouting for people to drop their weapons and such.  Their leader was quite a statuesque fellow.  He looked like the watch captain from a romance novel, in real life they tend to look more like human bulldogs.  Or disapproving tutors.  But this fellow was handsome as you like.  After quickly taking a measure of the situation he looked me in the eye.  His voice was strong and commanding, the kind that could make you weak in the knees if you let it.

“What’s going on here?”

“Would you believe that we’re rehearsing a play?

Montresor 11 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Halflings tend to the same size of livestock as everyone else so why would they make barns that are half the dimensions?  They don’t have special Halfling sheep the size of dogs.  Or do they?  No, no they don’t.  Don’t get me wrong, a half sized barn is still pretty big, I’m just saying that waking up in one is a little disorientating.  Did I grow to twelve feet tall is what you wonder until you figure it out.  I suppose the explanation is that shirefolk being so much small don’t raise as many animals and therefore they don’t need as much room?  Yeah, that makes sense, giants (if they had barns) would make them bigger even though their animals would be the same size because they need more of them.  Excepting cloudgoats of course which are very large indeed. 

Normally I’d be pretty upset about being tossed in a barn but I have a little touch of a soft spot for shirelings.  They’re so little and everyone is so mean to them and yet they still just cheerfully go about their business and overcome through perseverance.  You have to admire that in a heartbreaking kind of way – they got the short end of the stick (not a pun) and they don’t bellyache about it, they get to getting.  Not unlike myself.  Despite the fact that I am impressively tall, I have a lot in common with the smallfolk.  Which is probably why when I ran until I collapsed they came upon me and stuck me in a barn.  Which I don’t blame them for doing, it’s not like they could drag me into their little badger-hole homes. 

Moments after I crawled out of the half-sized barn a smiling welcome committee of Halflings were there to greet me with overflowing baskets of tea-cakes, banana oat muffins, lemon poppy seed cake, toast with jam, jam with toast, and enough other pasties and sweets to choke a mongoose.  They assumed I was Baroness Saltwheel on account of I had the Saltwheel staff of office clutched in my hand when they found me passed out in the dirt – and on account of my elegant clothing and noble manner.  You can’t blame them really.  I saw no reason to correct them.  They surmised appropriately that I had fled from the Saltwheel country manor due to violent unrest.  They clucked their tongues about the foibles of the bigfolk – always fighting and feuding when we should be getting down to drinking and eating and making merry.  They’re not wrong about that.

We were having a gay old time until my tattoos started shining through my clothing like a brilliant star.  Should I be happy that I have these to warn me, or is their very presence what it making these abominable things come after me?  It’s a chicken egg situation.  I stood up from my cross-legged position on the ground and dusted crumbs off my jackets (lucky birds!).

“Sorry my friends, but trouble is coming and I need to be on my way.  I don’t suppose you have a fast horse around here do you?  A fast horse suited for someone of my stature?”

They did not.  Did you know that the word sheriff comes from Halflings?  I didn’t, although I suppose I should have known – Halflings live in shires, hence shire reeve, contracted to sheriff.  Although they say it shirriff.  When I suggested a hasty departure the little folk wouldn’t hear of it – if there was danger the shirriff’s would protect me.  They were four little men wearing feathered hats, jackets, and waistcoats each with a stout club.  One of them was wearing a cravat for the Gods’ sake.  Now I know why I so often catch people off guard when it comes to combat – you don’t seem threatened at all in fancy clothing.

I told them that I appreciated it but this was trouble they couldn’t handle.  They wouldn’t hear of it – what kind of hosts would they be if they allowed me to come to harm?  My plan was to ignore them and run anyway, but it was already too late just with that small amount of back and forth.  A field of darkness appeared in the hilly meadow and out of it strode three forms.  Two I recognized from the carnage yesterday.  One was the horned man, although I saw then that what I thought was a robe the day before was in fact more of a leather jerkin and kirtle type scenario worn over trousers.  In one hand he held a short crooked stick carved with sigils and topped with what appeared to be a still functioning eyeball.  His other hand already danced with magical flame.

The second familiar face was one of the women I saw stark naked and covered with filth yesterday – now heavily garbed in a blue and purple robe and dress combination.  Makes sense, you wouldn’t want your cult robes to be damaged in battle.  She was startlingly white, pale as chalk she was, and she had some kind of crude writing tattooed on her arms and face.  She held in her hand a long staff topped with the skull and horns of a goat.  The newcomer with them had the appearance of a young nobleman, handsome as you like and dressed to the nines albeit with clothing that was several seasons out of fashion.  His boots in particular were immaculate and shiny.  The only thing ruining the effect was that nasty little human-faced rat monster clinging to the lapel of this overcoat.

I turned to the Halflings who were standing in shock at the dramatic appearance of the devilish trio “You need to run my friends.  Run and hide.  And don’t come out.”

The horned man sneered and rasped in the voice if a nightmare “Yesssssss, run away little morssssssssels!”

The woman all but rolled her eyes at him and the dandy fellow smiled apologetically, he spoke in that slow sleepy voice that some nobles affect for reasons unknown “Don’t mind him, he gets excited.  No one needs to get hurt, just give us the necklace.”

“Are you kidding me?  All this has been about that stupid ugly necklace?” I tossed the chunky crude thing at their feet “Here, you could have just asked, there was no reason to attack the Saltwheel house with your freak legion.”

The woman smiled as the sharp dressed man picked up the necklace and tucked it into his vest pocket “Freak legion, I like that, what better name for the brave fighting men and women of the dark goat of the woods?”

“Sounds like you’re done here, best be on your way, I’m sure you have all sorts of rituals you need to conduct involving goat piss and the blood of virgins and so forth.”

The dapper dandy mirrored his lady friend’s smile “Well, being totally honest, retrieving the necklace wasn’t our only reason for coming here.”

At this point the horned man released his magic fire in a Hellsish vortex of fiery death that would have engulfed me and burned me to death if not for the fact that the gold stitching on my Greatcoat flared to life and cancelled out his magic.  I’m not sure if I knew that it could do that.  Good purchase past Ela.  The magic absorption made the jacket sparkle in a pleasing way, it would have been a great time for witty quip if I was into that sort of thing, but the problem with real life fights to the death is your opponents never give you time to banter.  In the novels when the hero is fighting with the big bad guy there’s always several minutes between thrusts for them to trade insults and explain whose great-grandfather stole whose land and so on and so forth.  Murdering people in the real world is sadly allows for far less exposition.

Although I was doing very little murdering.  I shot with my crossbow once, which was deflected by a gust of wind and then pretty much the rest of the time I was running for my life, dodging and ducking and diving as they hurled spells at me.  It hardly seems fair to send three spellcasters to kill one normal person.  I suppose that’s the point though.  The horned man flew up into the sky and was lancing out with burning shafts of light all around me.  I feel like I could have shaken them and made a run for it without him hovering above and spotting me like hunting bird out no matter where I ran.  The woman with the ram-stick preferred summoning bolts of lightning at me but the dandy dresser was the real jack of all trades.  He summoned a wall of spinning blades, he blasted me with freezing wind, he summoned a massive rain of sleet, he had all manner of tricks up his fashionable sleeves. 

It wouldn’t even really be fair to call it a fight, it was more like a fox hunt – and if you know anything about fox hunts it’s that the fox never gets away.  I’ve said this once before but I’ll repeat it now because it’s probably the best advice I can give you about fighting, aside from don’t.  Only morons die like heroes – accepting their fate with a brave face.  When you’re been beaten like a dog act like a dog – beg, grovel, whine for mercy, show your belly.  Do whatever they want, offer them anything they want.  Do whatever humiliating revolting thing you need to do to gain yourself one more precious second of life.  You wouldn’t think that would work with these lunatics but they found my abasement amusing.  They stood smirking as I pleaded for my life.  They laughed when I offered them my womb for their twisted monster-babies.  They sneered as I cried so hard I choked and blew big bubbles of snot. 

And then they died when the earth beneath them opened up and they plummeted into the forty foot wide maw of a Shoddy Hills land serpent, also known to some as death worms, and until that very moment not something I thought existed.  Looking down its throat (do worms have throats?) in total shock it looked like a striated flesh-cave ringed with thousands of shark-teeth the size of my head.  My tormentors and their dirty rat friend were shredded as they were swallowed alive, being ripped to bloody shards in a manner of seconds.  The creature’s emergence had been so swift and sudden it threw up a cloud of dirt like the water from a breaching whale. As shocked as I was by its appearance I was even more stunned by what happened next.  That massive worm-maw closed, making it look like just a huge brown leather rope and the Halflings emerged to start patting its hide like it was a prize pig!  I swear to you one of them fed it a bushel of corn!

It took me several tries to find my voice “What . . . what . . . . just what?”

One of the shirriff (sans club) looked over at me “Oh this is just Sally.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Behind the curtain: Ela hit level 17 taking another level of Rogue, making her Rogue 15/Master Spy 2 is anyone interested in the details of her leveling up?  Nah.  I’ve been playing pathfinder forever and I just found out there’s a Noble Scion prestige class.  I’m thinking about rebuilding her for that.  If nothing else I can get another rip-off OOC post out of it.   

Funds: 53,940 platinum, 27,309 gold

XP: 1,329,951

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

Noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring,  pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (631), gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, disguise kit, covenant ring, tiny diamonds (26), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring, diamond and pearl lover’s knot tiara,  Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three), darkwood and platinum music box, silver bracelet set with bloodstones, platinum ring set with fire opal, silver and moonstone bracelet, holy symbol of Kozilek, dwarf journal

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

Montresor 10 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

What kind of name is Saltwheel anyway?  I feel like I heard of an ocean-going paddlewheel ship one time but if one of this guy’s ancestors invented it, and it was a noteworthy invention, why aren’t they all over the place?  In what other context would a wheel be salty?  Can you make a waterwheel on the ocean shore?  What would be the point of that?  All barons are bad, but is Saltwheel worse than other baron?  All he did was lock me in a bedroom which is a pretty feeble response to my defiance.  Maybe he had more convincing inducements to come but I wasn’t going to stick around to find out. 

With my Boots I was out the window and up the side of the wall before you could get a knife from the barn.  It’s an expression.  The next window I climbed in just so happened to be that of the good Baroness Saltwheel.  Given the late hour she was abed and the room was dark so she was little more than a lump and a mass of curly brown hair on a pillow to my eyes.  Taking on the form of the Baron (in what I imagine are Baronial pajamas) I slipped slyly into bed aside her.  She made a noiseless not awake noise (it makes sense!) and rubbed her feet together as I snuggled up to her and started favoring her with manly baronial caressing.  Eventually she rolled over sleepily and our lips met, filled with Baronial passion.

That’s when I changed forms again to that of one of the snakemen (or snakewomen) that had hauled me here.  At first the Baroness’s lips puckered like when you bite into a bad spot on a mango.  Then her eyes fluttered open and even in the dim light she knew something was wrong.  Mainly that she was smooching on a lipless snake-face.  I flicked out my borrowed snake-tongue.

“What’s wrong baby?  Your husband said you would be down for this.”

I tell you this much, that woman can scream, my ears were still ringing several hours later.  I slithered back out the window and down to the lawn where I took up the appearance of the Baron again.  I started shouting for men under arms to attend me and then rushed them over to the outbuilding where the adventuresome four we housed – explaining to them all how my ladywife had been assaulted in my very own matrimonial bed!  They were in no mood for shenanigans by the time they broke the door down and adventurers being adventurers the fighting started instantly.  There’s not much they don’t react to with deadly force. 

Once things were well under way I climbed back into my locked room to watch and listen to the chaos and shouting and people rushing about with torches.  In the melee one of the buildings was set on fire – it’s a classic move.  When you’re not sure what to do burn some shit down.  I saw both snake people dragged dead into the middle of the courtyard.  I saw the former knight Harweal angrily challenging the Baron to a duel and when the Baron laughed in his face I saw the former knight Harweal cut down six soldiers before he was impaled through the leg from behind by a spearman and captured.  I saw no sign of the one eared woman.  She must have escaped. 

As I watched this deadly scene play out I wondered what is the appropriate revenge for the Baron.  Merely denying him his necklace seems too thin.  But I can’t go around killing everyone on the list can I?  It just doesn’t seem very elegant, there has to be some more creative revenges I can come up with right?  The problem is I simply don’t have the time.  What I should do is spy on him for a few weeks and find out what he really cares about and then hit him there.  But I don’t want to hang around here for a few weeks.  Not at all.  No one ever told me this revenge business would be so mentally taxing.  Maybe I should get in touch with Kralten the god of revenge, if nothing else he has to have some good ideas about different forms of revenge.  Although all of the Kralten people I’ve meet have been very boring – they were all about murder.  Maybe I just don’t encounter the subtle ones.

I decided to sleep on it, wondering if with all the excitement in the night I would be forgotten about in the morning.  I was not.  Before dawn I was rousted and after an insulting short amount of time allowed to make myself presentable was escorted back to the Baron’s study.  As sickly as he looks normally it was hard to tell that he was haggard and sleep deprived as well but the signs were there.  After some obligatory nonsense he apologized for the commotion, which I obligingly and lying said I hadn’t noticed, and he again restated his insistence that give him the necklace.  I gave a pretty speech about how because of the commotion, which of course I didn’t notice, I would relent and give him the necklace.  I produced instead the very nice silver and moonstone number I’ve had for a while.

His face was impressively impassive “That is a fine piece my lady, but sadly it is not the necklace I’m after.” He sighed “It seems those vondrooks have betrayed me in more ways than one.  I should have known better than to place my trust in a disgrace like Harweal, he was once such a loyal knight, it’s such a pity how base he’s become.”

I tucked the necklace back away “Good help is so hard to find My Lord.”

He started to say something and then stopped, giving me a quizzical look “What are you doing?”

“Pardon me My Lord?”

“Your skin appears to be glowing, stop that at once!” 

I looked down and saw the tattoos of Hadar blazing through my clothing “Oh shit!” I jabbed my finger in Baron Saltwheel’s face “Are you an abomination from beyond the stars?  You have to tell me if you are!  That’s the law!”

The door flew open as if from a stout kick and in lurched/hopped/galumphed a nude man.  An unexpected nude man is bad enough, but this fellow’s surprising appearance was made all the less welcome by the fact that he had a massive growth on his left shoulder.  Have you seen a hunchback?  It was like that only instead of the back it was on the side.  At first you think that’s the head but then you’re like “oh no, that smaller thing next to it is the head”.  That head wasn’t doing him and favors either.  Have you ever seen someone who was fat and then lost a bunch of weight and was left with a big flap of loose skin around the belly?  It was like that only on the head – he had a face it just wasn’t attached to the skull, it was hanging loose a good foot to the south.  Did I mention that he had three arms?  I mean the additional arm on the right side wasn’t much of an arm, but it was still there.  That’s one more arm than most people no matter its quality. The axe clenched in its two right hands with blood and chunks of hair on it was possibly the least disturbing thing about him. 

“Blllaaaaaaaargheseshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

That’s what it “said” by way of introduction while I dodged and ducked and scrabbled and slid out of the way of the swinging axe.  The Baron, to some credit, did draw his pussified courtier’s sword and make one attempt at a strike before trying to use me as a human shield – which was annoying because I was trying to go out the window and he was holding me back.  We stumbled into the mutant freak and I managed to pin the axe between our attacker and the Baron.  The “man’s” clacking teeth were trying to bite the Baron through a veil of its own droopy skin.  I wish I never saw that.  I managed to maneuver/stagger us to the window and we all fell through. 

The mutated axman hit the ground and bounced up like it was nothing.  I don’t know why exactly but I kept one hand on the Baron’s belt as I stuck to the wall with the rest of my limbs.  This turned out to be one of my less good ideas as my shoulder was torn out of its socket.

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH FUCK!”

That’s what I said when I let go of him on account of the agonizing pain.  Which seems like a pretty good reason to let go of someone if you ask me.  The Baron caught me around the waist, squeezing the life out of me and nearly yanking me off the wall with his extra weight.

“Climb you scar-faced whore!”

Those were his words of encouragement as we dangled precariously on the side of the building.  I would have shaken him off if I could but there was no way.  Here’s the fun thing about these Boots, they only allow me to climb and cling like a spider about a minute.  So as much as it hurt I had to climb as quickly as I could.  Which was not very quickly.  It was only about ten feet to the roof but it took a good thirty seconds.  Once I was within grasp the fucking Baron started climbing over me to get to the roof himself.  I tried to grab his foot and shake him off but he stepped directly on my face.  I managed to haul myself over the side where I immediately clutched my mangled arm to my chest.

“I’ll assume that’s your way of thanking me for saving your fucking life!”

I don’t think he even heard me.  He was standing on the edge of the building, jaw gaping open, staring down.  I took a drink from my Flask to heal my shoulder, and another to calm my nerves and then sat up to see what he was gaping at.  It was certainly gapeworthy.  It was like the chaos of the previous night multiplied by a factor of seventeen.  A mob of stark nude people, both normal and those with ghastly mutations, covered with mud and bearing various forms of ram-head staves and sticks were attacking the complex, viciously hacking and tearing at the Baron’s staff.  I saw with them a black goat as large as an elk with horns that glinted razor-sharp.  Among them I saw a bloated flabby winged creature with elements of ant and bat on a human frame.  I saw several heavily armored men and women with a triple headed goat symbol on their shields.  I saw a savage minotaur dressed in the clothing of a civilized man while humans ran and ravened like beasts.  Directing the chaos was a robed man with curling horns and on his shoulder clung the rat-beast I saw the day before – whispering into his ear with its filthy humanish face.   

I gave the Baron a ‘wake up’ shove as I retrieved my crossbow “Snap out of chief, the day has taken a real turn here for both of us, it’s time to either get to fighting to getting the Hells out of here.  I know which one I vote for.”

His mouth moved wordlessly for a moment before he could speak “What do we do?”

“Run for our fucking lives.”

“How?”

“A distraction would be helpful.”

“What kind of distraction.”

“Something like this.”

I shoved him off the roof into the waiting clutches of the . . . whatever these people are.  Cultist of some kind I assume.  It’s always Gods damned cultists.  Half the world must be in some cult or other just waiting for the signal to start killing everyone.  As he toppled over the side his cane flew out of his hand directly into mind as if he was tossing it to me.  The hordes below fell upon him like squealing hogs chasing after corn.  I saw the minotaur and the horned man gazing at me calmly.  Even the little rat-beast turned its eyes on me.  I fired at them with my crossbow but the bolt was blown aside by a gust of wind – they didn’t even flinch.

I took a deep breath, climbed down the opposite side of the building, managed to fight my way free and ran until my tattoos stopped glowing.  And then I ran some more.  I always thought “run yourself ragged” was just an expression.  It isn’t.  I guess death will have to do for the Baron after all. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 53,940 platinum, 27,309 gold

XP: 1,297,951

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

Noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring,  pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (631), gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, disguise kit, covenant ring, tiny diamonds (26), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring, diamond and pearl lover’s knot tiara,  Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three), darkwood and platinum music box, silver bracelet set with bloodstones, platinum ring set with fire opal, silver and moonstone bracelet, holy symbol of Kozilek, dwarf journal, cruddy gold necklace

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

Macendamandel 27 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 2

(Author’s note – if you experience giantism for more than six rounds please consult your potion brewer)

Once I explained to my scabby new friend where I wanted to go her interest increased by the same factor the interest of the Daga in taking me anywhere decreased.  Turns out they have a major “thing” about not trampling over burial grounds and messing with dead bodies.  Go figure huh?  Crinna, that’s scabby, seemed to be getting increasingly frantic about making this happen which I found off-putting.  Why was she all of a sudden so excited about going to an ancient tomb?  Is she one of those death-obsessed freaks?  Or a tomb raider?  Or worse, an adventurer?  I was about to ask her what he deal was but she was pacing around talking at a rapid pace, her everfull tankard forgotten for once.

“Okay, okay, here’s what we do.  This is what we need to do.  What we’ll do is we’ll go to the tavern.  Yes, to the tavern, but not to drink.  No, not to drink.  What we’ll do is we’ll ask Had.  We won’t drink we’ll ask Had.  Well we’ll drink a little.  Had knows what’s going on around here.  Had is fence but he knows the score.  He’s like an information merchant.  Yes, we’ll go and ask Had, at the tavern.  We may have a couple of drinks while we’re there but that’s not why we’re going.  We’re going to talk to Had.  To ask him.  Had knows.  He’ll know someone like me who knows the ways but isn’t all stuck in the past like those superstitious . . .” it was at this point that an arrow slammed into her chest, causing her to look down “. . . hey!”

I turned my Ring for invisibility and hit the dirt as more arrows started flying seemingly from every direction.  Crinna grabbed the arrow in her flesh and angrily tried to pull it to no avail as more arrows clattered around her.  Another hit her in the shin and at that she yelped and ran for cover – of which there was very little, there seemed to be archers on every “street”.  She solved that problem by leaping head-first into the door of a hut/shack and smashing her way in and through.  The archers themselves looked to be disparate collection of local thugs with mismatched and dilapidated arms and armor, although clearly effective nonetheless.  They continued to fire arrows for a moment, either out of pure excitement or trying to hit me with blind shots.  One with a greased-up mohawk and the head of some dead animal attached to his armor was shouting excitedly.

“I got her!  I got her right in the neck!”

A wide-bodied fellow with one of those stupid cooking pot looking helmets came up beside him “You hit her in the chest fool not the throat.”

I woman with a red jacket and tattoos around one eye twitched up to them as well “I think I shot her in the leg.  I was just trying to aim, I accidentally let go.”

Pot-helmet smiled indulgently “That happens.”

I heard a fourth voice shouting from a distance “Where did she go?!”

Mohawk yelled back “I got her!”

Pot-helmet scowled and looked like he wanted to swat him “No one got anyone!  She hid in one of these houses, start looking for the one with the bashed in door.”

Another distant voice came shouting “What happened to the other one?”

The first voice replied “Who cares?  Concentrate on the target.”

While they were searching I invisi-crawled into hiding myself since the invisibility only lasts a short while.  Also while they were searching in listening to them shouting back and forth I realized that they thought Crinna was me!  How could they make that mistake?!  They clearly were after the person who had turned down their immortal (although I’m going to kill her so I guess not) ghost mistress from the distant past and they thought that was Crinna!  I’m not sure I’ve ever been more insulted in my life.  If nothing else I’m like a foot taller than her!  Not to mention our different hair color and the fact that she’s a scruffy mangy little shrimp who’s about as attractive as a multi-limbed crustacean whereas I am one of the Kingdom’s top five beauties!  Top ten at least.  I mean sure my clothing is a little ragged right now and I have this scar and I haven’t done anything with me hair lately, but come on people!  I was so insulted that I smeared the shadow essence I took off that sleeping assassin and shot mohawk in the back, quickly hiding again.

Mohawk threw his bow up in the air hysterically “I’m hit!”

Pot-helmet cursed at him “Get some cover damn it!”

Mohawk leaned against a building as the poison started sapping his strength “I don’t feel so good.”

He felt even less good when Crinna popped out the window of that building and hacked into his neck with her sword.  He sagged to the ground like a deflated wineskin as she ducked back inside.  It probably felt good to strike back but it marked her position.  Pot-helmet and Tattoo kept scanning the area, probably for me, as six other bowmen (and women) converged on the hut and prepared to storm the place.  I smeared my oil of Fire Trap onto the door of another hut and used my voice abilities to mimic Crinna’s voice coming from inside that building calling to me for help.  Half of them looked at each other in confusion but the other three run to the new hut and were blasted by a massively disappointing amount of fire from the magical trap.  It was less than a small campfire’s worth of magic fire.  Why would you even waste your time making that!  Magic is the worst.

That tiny puff of smoke did result in the occupants of the shack coming out hopping mad, or at least hopping because of pants around the ankles.  One fella I didn’t get a good look at because he lit out for the hills bare ass naked, an expression people often used incorrectly to mean completely nude – I literally mean that his ass was bare, he did have a grungy shirt on.  The other fella looked like a man-sized wolverine that had been shaved and fitted for a pair of spectacles.  How anyone in this dirtwater town can afford spectacles with a silver rim is beyond my ken.  Once he kicked away the pants around his ankles he was naked as the day he was born – which is the proper way to say that someone wasn’t wearing a stitch.  He wasn’t covered with blood like the day someone is born at first but he changed that quickly on account of he was swinging a hammer that was taller than me.  I don’t know if it was a weapon or a tool but the difference was lost on the archer whose head he cracked like an egg.

He was a little but upset about being interrupted I gather.  As the archers regrouped to fill his naked body with arrows I downed a potion for increased size and battle rage and then changed my appearance to that of a vicious cave giant.  I dropped my invisibility and laid into them with my sword – if you were observant and thinking clearly you would have realized that a fancy mithril short blade is an unlikely weapon for a brutish cave giant but that’s generally not the kind of thing people notice when they’re fighting for their lives.  With a roar naked hammer man dashed another archer to the ground before falling with a good dozen arrows in him.  Crinna dashed out for a backstab on another and they decided that running away screaming was the better part of valor.  By this point the townsfolk were turning up with a hodgepodge of weapons to confront the giant attacking their town and I dropped that illusion ad held up my hands.

“No, no, no need for any of that.  Not a real giant, just a very talented lady.  I’m not even this big really, it just takes a moment for the potion to run out.  Just give me a minute here . . . any moment I’m going to shrink down . . . I swear, just a minute and I’ll be normal.”

Half of them looked like they wanted to skewer me anyway but I was able keep things from escalating out of hand.  It did help once the potion wore off and I returned to my usual, but still impressive, height.  Crinna wouldn’t stop bellyaching about her wounds until I gave her half my healing potions and even then she was whining about getting an infection.

I looked around “Do we need to get out of here before the law shows up?  I assume there has to be some kind of law even out here.”

Crinna rubbed at her now non-existent leg wound “That was the law.”

“The mob?”

“No, the people trying to kill me.”

“Well, that changes things.  And for the record they were after me, they just thought you were me.”  She laughed and I grinned “I know hilarious right?  Wait a minute, why are you laughing?  You should be flattered.”

“Oh, I am, I’ve always wanted to be a undernourished stork.”

“I will kick you right in the chest.”

She gingerly got to her feet “That would be something to worry about too with those ridiculously long stork legs.  So much momentum.”

“Can you actually help me find this tomb or is all you have to offer inaccurate insults?”

She waved me forward “Like I said we need to talk to Had.  He knows all the ways.”

“We should watch out for more attacks.”

She unhooked her tankard from her belt and took a long quaff “Well that was the whole of the lawmen in town, I doubt they’re be wanting to go another round with half of them dead.” She looked over at the dead naked man, laying ass-up on the ground riddled with arrows “Although we’ve lost out back-up so maybe we should keep an eye out.”

Funds: 6919 gold

XP: 1,277,751

Inventory: Bag of Holding, +2 Distance Light Crossbow, traveling outfit, Ring of Invisibility, potion case, potions (Protection from Evil, Cure Moderate Wounds x4, Invisibility x2) Blessed Robes, Vampire Hunter’s Cloak, +1 Mithril Holy Undead Bane Sword-Cane

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

Macendamandel 13 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Three days into fomenting (that’s a word right?) rebellion I think things are going pretty good.  I’m not sure how long it normally takes to overthrow a corrupt oligarchy but hopefully I can get it done in just a few more days.  This safehouse is lame.  Early this morning Martialla, Hessenmeel and I appeared at the start of the Widow’s March to give some speeches and whatnot using our actual faces without any kind of disguise.  I still don’t know for sure if they’re looking for Martialla or not but Hessenmeel and I making an appearance in public certainly causes quite a stir.  Hessenmeel and Martialla made sure to be well gone before any consortium goons showed up and I ducked around the corner to change my appearance to that of random widow #37 (you know the sexy kind) and joined the march.  I was expecting the consortium to respond with swift and blinding violence, and was prepared to instigate some violence if they didn’t.  But the consortium restrained themselves and as I was marching I changed my mind – why not let this play out for a few days before setting the barn on fire?

After the march I headed to the free market – so called because it’s the only area where you can find anything other than company stores.  They’re still controlled by the consortium of course, but it’s more like a pyramid scheme than direct control.  It’s just nice to be gouged by good honest crooked merchants for a change instead of company sycophants.  Hessenmeel’s contacts had given me some names of people who might be able to get me some more sweetdream.  On the way where I dipped into a few pockets to get some funds but what I forgot is how Gods damned expensive sweetdream is.  I got supremely lucky and nabbed a red gem from someone that I managed to trade for one measly dose, and that was even with my legendary haggling skills. 

Interestingly I also lifted the contract of an indentured servant that’s supposed to be arriving via transport on the Pipestone River in a few days.  I’m no lawyer but I’m pretty sure however holds the contract is the master of the servant.  Like how all you need to do to be king is to put on the crown.  We’ll see what comes of that.  In search of more funds I thought it would be a wise idea to rip off a magic merchant.  This turned out not to be the case. 

The storefront was normal looking, could have been any kind of business that’s on the up and up aside from the sign promising “arcane trinkets and secrets from the outer planes at reasonable prices”.  Inside was a tidy, well-kept storefront with an area cordoned off by shelves of scrolls and various magical baubles. Stairs ascend on the left, with a door underneath heading down down into the bowels of the earth. The room was heavy with a rush of aromatic incense that was probably supposed to be welcoming but made me sneeze like a bastard. 

The master merchant was an older fellow with long, wavy, brown hair, blue eyes and odd pale skin that looked bumpy.  Like he had been left with some kind of marks from a pestilence rash, or maybe an acid burn.  He was short and round and had a triangular face perched precariously on his bulbous body.  He was dressed like a “normal” prosperous merchantman but had a blue and white robe over that just in case you forgot he was a magic guy.  A very unfriendly looking cat sat on the counter in front of him. 

But the most interesting thing that happened is when walking in my illusionary disguise slipped away like water off a duck’s ass.  He looked at me, I looked at him, and in half a second there was a glimmer of recognition in his eyes.  I don’t know how the consortium is circulating my appearance around but whatever they’re doing is highly effective for this guy to peg me so easily.  He had a whistle around his neck on a thong and he immediately started blowing it, he literally blew the whistle on me.  What kind of bullshit move is that?  I’ve known watchmen that carry whistles sometimes to summon other watchmen but what kind of chickenshit normal citizen walks around with a whistle on their neck?  I mean normal’s a stretch because he’s a wizard, but you know what I’m getting at.

I dashed forward to shut him up and the surly cat jumped down to intercept me.  Which would not have been a big deal, I have yet to meet the housecat I can’t best in a fair fight, if not for the fact that it had transformed into a jet black mastiff the size of a small horse.  I managed to turn my lunge into a diving flip over the snapping jaws of the cat-mastiff and very elegantly smashed headfirst into the counter the wizard was cowering behind.  Okay he wasn’t cowering, he was loading a crossbow but he had a whistle so I’ll call him a coward anyway.  I scrambled for the stairs and the catstiff sunk its jaws into the meaty part of the back of my thigh – you know the part I mean.  I stabbed at it awkwardly behind me but it wouldn’t let go.  It was at his point that the counterman shot me in the back like the dirty weakling he is – all the while blowing on that damn whistle.

I fell backwards off the stairs with all of my weight (as scant as it may be, I’m very petite you know) on the wizard’s familiar,  stunning it for a moment and then charging at the counter as the man in the blue robe frantically tried to reload his crossbow still hysterically blowing on his whistle.  I swung across the counter with the pommel of my dagger and smashed that Gods damned whistle down his throat.  I could still hear it trilling slightly with each breath as he collapsed to the floor.  I leapt onto the counter as the dog came at me again and I jumped for the stairs as it went around to check on its master and growl at me ferociously – and I mean ferociously, I could feel the stairs shaking underneath me.

Although maybe that’s not as impressive as I thought initially because the stairs were wobbling and shaking underneath even my miniscule frame as I ran up them.   Like they might collapse at any moment.  The stairs led to a single room that was a claustrophobic nightmare.  Books and potted plants were stacked everywhere, as were dozens of lit candles.  I knocked over any candles in reach, starting a merry blaze and then ran out the window.  And I mean that literally.  I had forgotten that I didn’t have my magic boots and instead of taking a hard angle and scampering up to the wall nimble as a roof rat I plummeted to the street like a wet sack of dead mice. 

I got the wind knocked out of me for a moment but fortunately you don’t need wind to magically disguise yourself.  Outside of whatever dispelling field the shop has I quickly assumed the appearance of random Three Rivers maiden as I saw several consortium knuckledraggers running towards the place.  Once I was able I got to my feet and shouted at them “It’s Hessenmeel!  I just saw him, he ran that way!”  This didn’t work nearly as well as I would have hoped, one of them started scanning the street the way I pointed, another came over to me, and two of them entered the store.  The one that came over to me, a stingy haired fellow with a long face, grabbed me roughly by the arm and demanded to know what was going on.  While I was babbling to him about how I was on my way to the market when I saw Hessenmeel standing outside this store, the wizard, his familiar and the two other men came out of the store with the lack of concern of men who saw a fire magically extinguished.

Stringy gave me a shake “She says that she saw Hessenmeel.”

The wizard shook his head “It was the Juost woman who came into my store.”

“They were probably together, Hessenmeel was standing watch while that horrible woman went in.  He ran off when you started blowing your whistle.  That was very brave of you sir, these two are terrible dangerous.”

He narrowed his eyes at me “What’s your name?”

“Nuria Jancy sir, I was just on my way to the market and . . .”

He snapped his fingers at his familiar, which transformed into a lean hound and came towards me nostrils flaring.  I shrieked and shied away, trying to hide behind the guardsman still holding onto me.

“Please no, I’m terrified of dogs!”

One the other guards (white hair, oddly shaped eyes) told him to get his beast back, but just then the third guard (thin face, gangly arms, long hair in a ponytail) pointed at the ground.

“Ma’am why is there blood pooling at your feet?”

I gasped in shock “A gentleman doesn’t ask such questions about a lady!”

They didn’t go for it so I ripped my dragger across the throat of stringy-hair and made a run for it.  I changed my appearance again and mixed in with the market crowd but the bloody running down my leg was an issue.  I could see them forcing their way down the street following the sniffing familiar following the drops of blood.  I ducked into an through a couple drinking dens, changing my appearance each time and binding up my leg as best I could with borrowed rags and such.  Once I was somewhat confident that I had the bleeding under control and had a good lead on my pursuers I doubled back to the now unprotected shop and dipped in to grab a few things.  And set the place on fire again.   I suppose the good thing about building your city on a river delta is that you have some natural firebreaks.  I limped back to the safehouse and had Damrow brought in to fix me up with some healing magic.  As he was doing so he gave me a strange look.

“This reminds me of the first time we met.”

“Sure, except that I’m really hurt this time, not tricking you like the clever girl that I am.”

“I’m surprised you’d put yourself in a vulnerable position like this with me, given our history.”

I smiled “Who’s vulnerable?  Besides, you work for the powerless and the downtrodden right?  I can’t think of anyone that fits that bill more than me.  I bet that your lord and master Cycnus arranged for us to meet just do that you could help me give a voice to the voiceless.  I’m just a spoke on the wheel Damrow, I know that, but with your help I can get these people to understand that no matter how many of the rich people’s brass rings they grab things are never going to change because they’re not real.  It’s all part of the plan.  Work hard, achieve, make your life better, it’s impossible because the game is rigged.  Those brass things they’re all imaginary.  The only thing that’s real is me.”  I took his hand in mine “Let me help me help you help them Damrow.”

He just shook his head and walked away, some people have no vision. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Rebellion: Rank 2 – Treasury 769 Gold, Notoriety 0, Loyalty 6, Secrecy 4, Security 2

Demagogue – Ela, Recruiters – Milani and Damrow, Sentinel – Martialla, Strategist – Hessenmeel

Teams –Peddlers, Street Performers

Active Safehouse  

Actions – Earn Gold, Guarantee Event

Event – Successful Protest

Funds: 1200 platinum, 758 gold, 43 silver

XP: 1,190,751

Inventory: Whiterock family signet ring (Ring of Binding), Dagger, mirror, compass, contract for services, +2 Animal Bane Short Sword, Ring of Tactical Acumen

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

Mantelderith 29 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 1

In case you’re ever in the area, the beds are the Curious Whatever Inn are clean at the least – nothing much else to say about them.  I’ll spare you my customary gushing but there’s really nothing like a few days on the road to remind you how wonderful a decent bed is.  It’s like the old adage about hunger being the best sauce.  It’s not true because honey mustard is the best sauce, but you get the point.  When I came downstairs the depressed and dispossessed golden knight was nowhere to be seen, nor was the cerulean eyed innkeeper.  Taking their place was a big fella with a rat nest beard wearing a chainmail hauberk I believe it’s called.  It was a knee-length number with three-quarter length sleeves – the kind of thing that only a crazy person would wear unless they were in the middle of a battle.  It had to weigh fifty pounds and all that weight is on the shoulders.  I suppose the good news is that adventurers die long before they get old enough to have to worry about spinal curvature. 

Blue eyes must have been about though because the table Chainmail was sitting at was covered with egg dishes and stacks of roasted meats and the like – and I mean that literally, there were more than a dozen serving platters on the table.  He had a fork in each hand and was attacking the food like he was charging the gap in a castle wall- viciously and without regard to his own safety.  A good twenty percent of the food was ending up on the floor, much to the delight of a smug looking rat the size of my foot underneath the table having a feast.  Another twenty percent was getting caught in the wire-trap of his beard.  Is there any sight more revolting than a man with egg in his facial hair?  Yes there is, many sights are worse, but it’s still bad.

“Well hello handsome, you must be the hero everyone’s been talking about, if I had known you were going to be here I would have done something with my hair.”

“You should have, your head looks like the shaved ass of a carnivorous ape!” He laughed outrageously, shooting eggs and food debris in a sixty degree cone a good three feet from his mouth.

I laughed demurely and waved my hand coquettishly at his insult “Oh you, you’re terrible!” 

“That I am, any my enemies would know it if any of them were alive!  Not get your boney ass back to that kitchen and bring me some beer!”  He belched thunderously and then grinned at me like this was some great accomplishment.

I went into the kitchen where I found the innkeeper leaning against the wall with a book in hand.  He looked up and pointed to the beer barrel.

“Charming fellow, where are his friends?”

“I never see any of them here besides him.  I know that the woman goes to the sawmill sometimes but I never see the other one – I think he stays in the fort all the time.  Rumor is he’s working on something up there.”

“What does the woman do at the sawmill?”

“I have no idea.”

“So what you’re saying is that were I to go out there and cut this guy’s throat right now none of his pals are going to be around the corner to attack me?”

“I don’t think so, but I wouldn’t recommend trying – he’s not as stupid as he looks, I think he’d break you in half before you got anywhere near his throat.”

“I’m pretty sneaky but I take your point.  What about that chandelier out there?  How do I bring that down on him?”

“I’d prefer that you didn’t break my chandelier, those things are expensive.  And I think everyone in the village would prefer that you not antagonize these people at all.  Things are bad enough as they are.”

“I’m not going to antagonize them, I’m going to murder them – it’s different.  How would you feel about a little poisoning?”

He raised an eyebrow but before he could respond Chainmail was bellowing for his beer so I dipped two large tankards and carried them out to him.  I sat down at the table to endure his abuse and listen to his boastful ravings while trying to stay out of the food-spraying zone.  When I was able to get in a word in edgewise I told him about the caravan and how it had been attacked twice already and how I was ever so afraid that it would be attacked again and how I’d be ever so grateful if he and his brave companions would accompany us the rest of the way to Cathars.

He grunted around a mouthful of sausages “What’s the pay?”

“Sadly we can’t offer you any money, but if you kill the wizard and track him back to his tower it’s sure to be filled with all manner of valuables.” He emitted a less enthusiast grunt “Look, here’s the deal, I don’t mean to tell you your business but you’re wasting your time here.  These people have no money.  Waiting around here isn’t accomplishing anything, they can’t pay you.  It’s time to cut your losses and move on to something more lucrative.  If you want to drag Lord Highandmighty into the town square and beat him to death for stiffing you so you don’t lose face that would be fine.  Can’t have people thinking your’e soft.  But just sitting around here waiting for money that’s never going to come doesn’t make sense.”

“The dwarf is working on something up at the castle, can’t leave til he’s done.”

“Well the thing is we’re leaving today, maybe you should talk to your friends and let them know about this opportunity.”

“I got a better idea, maybe you should go fuck yourself!” He grinned, showing about the same amount of food as teeth.

I ducked my head submissively “Sorry to have bothered you.”

When I got up from the table the innkeeper was standing in the kitchen door and pointing over behind the bar where the rope holding the chandelier was tied up.  He disappeared back into the kitchen as I walked behind the bar.  I tried to untie the knot until I realized that with the weight of the chandelier pulling on it that wasn’t going to work.  I retrieved my trust wire saw from my secret pocket and before I could get all the way through it the rope did that thing where is started to unravel itself and then broke.  The chandelier came crashing down, but not all the way down – there must have been a knot in the rope to keep it from falling to the floor.  It jerked to a stop canted at an awkward angle on account of the edge had clipped Chainmail on the back of the skull.  He went down like a ton of bricks (or some other less hackneyed metaphor) but his chair stayed upright and the chandelier set suspended from the rope at an angle on it.  Must have settled on the back of the chair just right.

Trading my saw for a dagger I sallied forth and cut the ugly brute’s throat.  But then a most curious thing happened – he didn’t die.  I’m an experienced enough cutthroat to know that people don’t expire right away when you slash the windpipe, but by curious I mean this – an amulet pinned his armored crumbled into dust and the wound on his throat closed up.  Instead of dying like a dog he was healed and getting to his feet to fight like a lion.  I amplified my voice to call upstairs but I want to be clear that I was NOT screaming.

“Martialla if you’re up there I could use your help right about now.”

As he was getting to his feet he managed to get tangled up (is that the right word, encumbered maybe?) by the chandelier – maybe because he was groggy from getting a chandelier to the noggin, maybe because he was piss-ass drunk at an hour after sunup, maybe both.  I took that opportunity to draw my sword and stab at him a couple times but it was deflected by his mail.  I know that’s a bit of poetic justice given what I was saying before but just because it worked out doesn’t make people that walk around in armor less crazy.  We’re trying to have a society here, you can’t be clanking around in mail at breakfast. 

With a roar he finally shoved the chandelier out of the way and with almost the same movement hurled the table with the effort it would take me to discus a tiny teacup.  I tried to duck dodge out of the way but I was bowled over nonetheless.  Suddenly my dirty bearded opponent had a massive double-handed axe in his hand.  Where the Hells did that come from?  Luckily before he could split me in half the chandelier swung back and hit him right on the side of the knee, staggering him.  I dashed forward with my blade in a classic thrust and he parried with his axe.  Did you know that someone could parry with an axe?  I didn’t.  I mean it’s an axe!  My blade was coming at him swift and true and he turned the axe like a spear and caught the edge of my sword with the top part of his axe thingy – I assume that has a name.  You know, that curvy part at the top.  It was really something to see, but he wasn’t done yet.  He caught my blade and rolled it to the side and into a counterstrike smooth as you like.  I’ve never see anything like it.  The man like look like a shithouse mole but he moved that decapitator like an artist with a paintbrush.

The good news is his strike didn’t come down on my meager flesh, the bad news is that his axe came crashing down on my sword and snapped it like a twig.  You know how when you grab two ends of a twig and bend it sometimes instead of breaking in half if breaks at two points and a third bit from the middle goes flying?  It was like that.  If anyone had been there I’m sure they would have said that he sliced my sword in half, but that’s wrong – it broke into three pieces from the force of the blow.  Get it right people.  When the sword was sundered it flared with magical light and I happened to be looking right at it.  Everything went not black but white – which is a strange sensation.  Stare at the sun for a while and then you’ll know how I was feeling. 

Hoping that the axeman was similarly blinded I dropped to the floor and started crawling towards what I hoped was the wall.  I could hear him bellowing and blundering around so either he was also blinded or he was just that drunk and stupid.  I found the wall by bashing my head into it and started feeling along towards what I hoped would be either the door or the stairs.  Instead after a few seconds of crawling what I felt was a boot.  I froze with my hand still out stretched and tried to be as silent and still as possible.  I could hear him snorting and wheezing like an old dying mule and even down low the stench coming off him was magnificent – somewhere in the proceedings I’m pretty sure he shit himself. 

I cast my voice in the area of what I thought was the bar but if nothing else was away from me “I’m over here you great blind idiot!”

Now when someone is hiding from you and all of a sudden appears and shouts “Here I am!” there’s no way that’s not a trap.  I don’t understand why anyone falls for it – but they do.  Time and time again.  He stomped away from me towards the sound of the voice and stumbled and slammed into something – a table or chair it sounded like.  By this point I my vision as recovering enough that I could see some dark blurry shapes in the general white blur of eyesight.  I used my voice to lead him around further until I could see well enough to come up behind him and favor him with a kick to the groin.  He spun around like he hadn’t felt and thing and swung his axe wildly – I felt the blade hit my hair as I sidestepped.  I pulled a lit lantern out of my Greatcoat and smashed him in the head with that.  Unlike the kick to the dick he certainly reacted to having his face impaled with glass shards and then set on fire.  That reaction was that he didn’t like it.   

Have you ever heard those old tales about the horseman with the blazing skull head that chases you down old country roads to kill you?  He looked something like that as he laid about with his axe.  Insert your own joke here regarding the phrase “running around like your head is on fire”.  The good news for me is that it seemed to be pretty hard to attack accurately with your eyeballs melting.  I dove behind the bar as he laid around with his axe in every direction.  After a moment the roaring stopped and I peeked out – but he wasn’t dead.  Instead he had extinguished the flames with a bucket of dirty water and was standing glaring at me with his one remaining bloody and scorched eyeball. 

I found a mace behind the counter and threw that at him as hard as I have ever thrown anything at anyone.  It hit him in the chest and stuck there in his blackened armor.  As he tried to come around the bar I dodged out the other side and hurled a chair at him – he smashed it to bits with his axe.  I made for the stairs but he cut me off and I swerved into the kitchen instead, grabbing a butcher knife and diving out the window.  Hitting the ground outside at a run I came around into the common room again through the backdoor just as he was in the doorway to the kitchen (I think he got fouled up with his axe in the doorframe) and up from behind where I slashed him across the throat again.  I hopped back, waiting to see what would happen, but the second time was the charm.  He stood for a long moment in the doorway and then collapsed to his knees, dropping his axe and holding his throat.  He crawled forward, his hands slick with blood and finally dropped to the ground and lay still.  Just to make sure I grabbed his axe and managed to raise it up and sink it down into his back with a crunch – which was probably the chainmail but could have been bone as well.

I leaned against the bar and took a long breath, looking at the blood and carnage around me. A moment later a woman appeared in the doorway who was wearing a very tight green undershirt and naught much else.  Her face looked like that of a tavern brawler – nose misaligned from constant breaks, missing bits of ear, and dark sports from repeated black eyes – and her muscles looked like they had been carved out of wood.

“Uh . . . hi.”

She flexed her legs slightly at the knees and all of a sudden she was flying through the air with her foot out in a flashing kick – I had a moment before she hit me to notice that her form was impeccable.  I’m no expert on these whacky empty hand fighting types but if you’re going to do a leaping kick that’s the way I think you’re supposed to do it.  I tried to get up but there was a part of my brain telling me instead “Lie down now, rest, and we’ll talk about this when you regain your senses.”  Seemed like a good idea to listen just then. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 47,040 platinum, 25,750 gold

XP: 1,161,951

Inventory: Hat of Effortless Style, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Ela’s Dazzling Garment, Belt of Physical Might +4, Ring of Urban Grace, Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Elegant Boots, Ela’s Extravagant Necklace, Brooch of Shielding, Headband of Subtle Misdirection, Antiquarian’s Monocle, Ela’s Stately Greatcoat

Noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring,  pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (700), gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, disguise kit, covenant ring, tiny diamonds (26), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring, tiara, masterwork red and black long greatcoat, Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three), darkwood and platinum music box, silver bracelet set with bloodstones, platinum ring set with fire opal, silver and moonstone bracelet, holy symbol of Kozilek, dwarf journal

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

Mantelderith 26 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 3

I was trying to remember if I’ve ever been to a séance before.  I seem to remember at some point back at court the Duke and his cronies brought in a charlatan ghost-caller but either I wasn’t there for that to see what happened or it was so uninteresting that I don’t remember it.  Or it didn’t happen.  Or something else.  I know that a few years before I arrived there was a big to-do with the ghost of a prostitute that the Duke’s father beat to death.  As the story goes she was haunting the place big-time and not the rapping on walls and making different spots feel cold kind of haunting, the possessing people to make them mutilate themselves and blood running down the walls kind of haunting. They had to bring in some professional ghost-killers to deal with it, or at least some people very effective at pulling off the hoax of being exorcists. 

Makes me wonder how ghost powers are doled out.  My first theory would have been that the more traumas or hatred or injustice they suffered in life the more powerful they were – but most of the ghosts I’ve meet got it pretty bad and they couldn’t do much of anything.  My next theory would have been that the more powerful you were in life the more ghost-juice you got – a mighty wizard would turn into a fearsome specter whereas a murdered peasant would be a lowly poltergeist.  But that doesn’t seem right either because it’s unlikely that Harriet “Hattie”Usǽmiligr, the murdered woman in question, would have had much in the way of temporal power and yet she became the ghost with many (if not all) of the gifts.  Maybe when you die and you’re making your case to the weird skeleton vulture monsters that control where your soul goes to make you a ghost you have to also pitch them on what powers you want and the interesting ways you’re going to use them.  That makes as much sense as anything.  I’ll ask next time I have a near death experience.  Should be soon am I right?

I wonder also if making the Duke believe that my unquiet spirit is haunting him would be a good form of revenge.  Not the whole revenge of course, that’s far too mild, but as the first stage of a revenge that might be something.  Drive him a little mad with the ghost hoax but not so mad that he can’t understand what’s happening when the real alive non-ghost me shows up to get some more revenge.  It’s worth thinking about.  I wonder how hard it is to pull something like that off.  You probably need someone on the inside for it to be truly effective.

Timora agreed in fairly short order that she had no better plans on how to proceed so she would attempt to contact the spirit of Grayton Taflor – the murder victim who had be visiting her.  No mention was made of contacting the fiancée who was also murdered, presumably because she wouldn’t be able to identify her attackers being a hysterical woman and all.  The scarecrow tried to dissuade her from this course on the grounds of it being too dangerous but after a long and monotonous conversation she declared that this crisis was too important and she was willing to risk herself despite its objections.  How touching. 

Once that tedious business was out of the she led me out of her house and into a large garden.  But not like a vegetable garden or anything like that, it was more like a tiny park.  Timora made a self-important comment about how her garden was grown to represent spiritual and philosophical ideals and promote “harmonious thought” instead of being optimized for visual appeal while.  Good thing too because it looked very plain to my eye – all greenery and rocks.  If you’re going to go to all this trouble how about a splash of color for the Gods’ sake?  She settled herself into the middle of the colorless garden as her scarecrow husband hovered by looking nervous – it’s amazing how much expression he’s able to get out of a rotting pumpkin face.

“What are we doing out here?”

“Just what you said, I’m going to see if I can call upon Grayton to tell us who his murders are.”

I looked around “Here?  Isn’t this supposed to happen in a tiny dark room full of candles and spirit boards and things like that?  Maybe an odd shaped skull with some dribbly black wax on it?  A stuffed crow sitting on a marble bust of some old dead guy?  Plus shouldn’t we wait until midnight when the boundary between worlds is weakest?”

She frowned slightly “What would the time of day have to do with the boundary between worlds?”

“I’ve heard people say that.”

“If only the spirits of the dead were as predictable as that.  Why would anyone want to conjure up a spirit in the dark?  These things are best done in the light of day where the sun and the natural world can bolster your willpower.”

“Does the natural world disappear after dark?  You said that this might be dangerous, if this guy came to you for help why would he hurt you?”

“It’s bewildering being a ghost.  For them trying to operating in our world is like trying to interact with something at the bottom of a deep pool of water.  You can see that something is down there but you can’t make it out clearly.  And the pool is deep enough that you can’t easily reach the things you can see even if you were able to observe them clearly.  You have to push your way down through the water – and doing so causes all kinds of ripples without you meaning to do so.  And you can only hold your breath for so long, as soon as you reach the bottom you may need to come back up for air after only an instant.  They don’t belong in our world and they can’t interact with it as they once did – I don’t think that most ghosts even realize that they’re terrifying their own loved ones.  This can be very frustrating so many ghosts lash out in anger over their circumstances as well – at least if they’re hurting someone they’re able to make a connection of sorts.  Ghosts are chained to our world by regret largely, it doesn’t make for a pleasant creature.”

“That doesn’t sound great.”

“No one asks to be a ghost, they would beg for their own destruction if they could.”

“Why can’t they?  I’ve known several ghosts that asked me for help in moving on.”

“No more questions please, I need to concentrate.”

“Sure, this reminds me though, when you make me my magic flask it would be great if it could make holy water too – for situations like this.”

Timora sat in the middle of her garden for a long time, doing nothing that I could register beyond breathing loudly with her eyes closed, and then she laid down with her arms out and started calling to the spirit to appear before her.  Definitely isn’t the way I’d attempt to call out a ghost, but I suppose she’s the expert.  Or maybe she isn’t.  I’ve never heard of witches having any special powers over ghosts – that’s what nethermancers do right? Or mediums?  She’s neither (I don’t think) so maybe this is all bullshit.  I didn’t get to find out because before anything happened the scarecrow shouted out a warning a moment before a Gods damn grizzly bear barreled into it and started ripping it apart.  If you thought that a magic scarecrow was a match for a bear you were wrong.  Very wrong.

Coming up around us out of the greenery (which I then realize was perfect cover for an ambush) were half a dozen masked and cloaked figures – do you think that cultists make their own masks and scary cloaks or could we nip a lot of this kind of trouble in the bud by making clothiers tell law enforcement whenever someone comes in for a bulk order of “cult robes”?  Along with them was a lean but absurdly muscled hyena-jackal-sandy fox creature that stood upright like a man and held in its hand a ridiculously heavy looking sword.  It was like an extended butcher’s cleaver.  I’m no weapon specialist but isn’t that terribly inefficient?  Axes are heavy on the end and have a thin shaft (if you know what I mean) because you want all the weight focused on the part where you hit people.  With a thick sword like this aren’t you exerting a lot of strength that’s wasted?  Let me know if you know. 

“Hey guys, I was just looking for you.”

The foxjackalhyena pointed its fat sword at me and growled (literally) “Kill them.”

I drew my sword own very small sword “Okay then, nice talking to you.”

The light shining off my sword seemed to cause the canine creature to flinch back slightly but otherwise didn’t seem to inconvenience it too much – like smell a strong bad odor.  It’s not great but it doesn’t really get in the way either.  Timora still seemed to be trancing out so I grabbed her and hauled her up as the cultists started chanting.  I gave her a good shake and then pointed her in the direction of the bear that was tearing her scarecrow pal to shreds.

She was understandably confused “What’s happened?”

“They’re here, time to do some witch shit!”

While she was still trying to get her bearings the cultists unleashed the mighty might of their spells.  I know they’re new to learning magic so I need to give them some slack but it was a pathetic effort.  As far as I can tell nothing happened.  I could feel some kind of tugging at my mind like when people try the enchantment spells but it was weaker than a newborn kitten.  The situation would have been laughable if not for the jackal monsters.  His action was quiet unexpected though, he didn’t attack with his sword or order his bear to attack or do any magic demon stuff as you might expect.  He started singing.  I guess it was a magic song though because Timora fell asleep in my arms and I felt a weird lethargy grab onto me like sticky tar.  Suddenly my limbs felt heavy and the sword in my hand seemed like it weight fifty pounds. 

The creature stopped singing to growl out more orders “She’s too strong for your magic, rip her to pieces!”

The cultists all produced sickles and other sharp farming implements from under their robes (how do they do that without cutting themselves?) and started to move in.  On the plus side the bear suddenly and inexplicably (at the time, later I would learn that it was being controlled by the Grayton-ghost) turned on its master and attacked it.   While the foxman was quartering the bear with his silly but clearly effective sword that left me to content with the cultist.  Here’s the deal, I’m nobody’s idea of a great warrior, but I’ve been hardened enough at this point that even in a six on one scenario I’m not going to have too much trouble with some taxidermists and tavern keepers brandishing sharpened chicken catchers at me. 

Here’s something you may not know about fighting – people don’t like getting stabbed with swords.  The first time it happens to someone it just plumb rattles some folks.  A guy came at me with a short-handled shovel and when I stuck him in the belly instead his mask fell off and he went to the ground with a true look of astonishment on his face.  It was like he couldn’t conceive of someone who he was trying to bash with a shovel defending themselves.  I can picture him running home sniveling to his aged mother saying “I was just trying to kill her and she just tried to kill me back!”  If they had all just rushed me and dogpiled on me they could have taken my out easy – I can’t outwrestle six people.  But no one ever wants to do that because it guarantees a couple of you are going to get stabbed in the process.  So instead they tried to skirmish and instead they all got stabbed.  Irony?  No, but it’s something.

Three of them were down with mortal wounds or already dead when the other three ran for the hills – coincidentally just about the time the bear was bashed to the ground as well.  I locked eyes with the hyena creature.

“Looks like your circle of jerks is ruined, how about we skip his next part and call it day?”

It shrieked and charged at me instead – no one ever listens to reason.  He didn’t even try to avoid my blade as he ran at me – and I soon saw why, my sword glanced off his belly like it was made of granite.  Its sword on the other hand hacked across my back as I tried to dodge away like it was made of frail human flesh. The scarecrow was in tatters but the gourd-head was still “alive”.

“You need a special kind of metal to hurt him!”

“Information that would have been useful before!”

I scrambled to my feet to parry his next blow but the sword that I had been mocking was so dense that doing so sent my blade clattering out of my hand to the ground.  I know this is going to sound stupid since I was being hacked bloody, but the pain in my fingers from having the sword ripped out of it was even worse.  Explain that.  I dashed and grabbed a scarecrow leg to use as an improvised weapon but that didn’t stop the jackal from whipping his sword down across my chest like a bolt of lightning – in addition to the searing pain of the gash I also felt like I had been hit with a hammer.  I was knocked to the ground as if I had been trampled by a bull moose.

I held the scarecrow leg up feebly “I surrender, I want to join your cult and learn magic, I love cults.  I’ll do whatever you want.”

The evil spirit in canine form knocked the stick out of my hands and pulled me up and off the ground by the throat in a classic bad guy move.  He put his snout right up next to my face and his breath stank like seventy seven gallons of sick-vomit mixed with the contents of a pigpen.

“I want you to die.”

That’s when I stabbed him in the side of the head with one of the special crossbow bolts from the pocket of my marvelous new count.  It’s not just incredibly stylish it’s also practical!  Unlike the “normal” metal (which is only full of useless MAGIC) that bounced off like a walnut thrown at a castle wall, the cold-forged iron of the crossbow bolt slipped into the creature’s skull and through the brain (if it had one) like a stick into water.  I thought about saying something witty like “You first” but what would have been the point?  Who I am I trying to impress?  A scarecrow?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 47,040 platinum, 25,750 gold

XP: 1,161,951  14400

Inventory: Hat of Effortless Style, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Ela’s Dazzling Garment, Belt of Physical Might +4, Ring of Urban Grace, Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Elegant Boots, Ela’s Extravagant Necklace, Brooch of Shielding, Headband of Subtle Misdirection, Antiquarian’s Monocle, +1 Glorious Undead Bane Short Sword, Ela’s Stately Greatcoat

Noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring,  pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (700), gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, disguise kit, covenant ring, tiny diamonds (26), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring, tiara, masterwork red and black long greatcoat, Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three), darkwood and platinum music box, silver bracelet set with bloodstones, platinum ring set with fire opal, silver and moonstone bracelet, holy symbol of Kozilek, dwarf journal

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

Date unknown – Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

You spend a few days in utter darkness and your mind starts to play tricks on you.  I’ve heard that sensory deprivation can cause you to hallucinate and that must be true unless a highly localized version of the Northern Lights was happening by me.  I suppose your brain gets bored with not having anything to see and just starts making things up.  Beyond dreams and lights though despite the fact that I’m pretty sure I’m in an old storeroom I started to convince myself that the room had no door.  That they sealed me in here somehow, with magic, or just normally with bricks like nobles too sometimes when they’re bored with their mistresses.  I’ve worked all around the walls several times and I only felt stone – nothing that felt like a door.  It would explain why no one has come to taunt me or throw food at me or anything since I’ve been here. 

But like I said, it was just my mind playing tricks, which was made apparent when the door opened today.  The very small amount of light that came in through the doorway was enough to sting my eyes like flying grit and start them to watering.  Once I was able to stand looking I saw Martialla coming in holding a candle and a pitcher, maneuvering the door with her hip – she’s more graceful than I give her credit for.  Sometimes. She handed me the pitcher and I took a drink (sadly of water) as she unslung a pack from over her shoulder and brought out some bread and cheese.

Martialla shielded the candlelight with her body “I figured you’d need to regain your strength.”

“I’m fine actually, I had a dinner date just the other night.”

“What?”

“I’ll explain later.  Have you made contact with Mord?”

“Would I be here if I hadn’t?”

“Don’t get touchy, I was just asking.”

“I think I’m entitled to get a little touchy since you fucking stabbed me.”

“I knew you wouldn’t die.  And we could go tit for tat on that, all the shit you pulled on me.”

“You said that it had to look real!  You said that they could be watching us at any time so . . .”

“I know what I said, I wasn’t the one complaining, I was just titting at your tat.  I won’t insult you by asking if you’ve identified the targets but can you at least tell me who they are?”

“The old lady is the main one we need to deal with, there’s a couple other women too – as long as we catch them by surprise it shouldn’t be a problem.  One of them is a real hardcase though, we need to be careful with that one.”

“Aren’t we always careful?”

“No.”

I took my gear out of the satchel and stripped off the peasant rag I was wearing to start getting dressed “You kept my clothes in the same bag as the cheese?  And you just wadded it into a ball?  You’re lucky this magically repels wrinkles otherwise you’d be in a lot of trouble with me right now.”

“What are you going to do?  Stab me again?”

“Good Gods are you going to keep bringing that up forever?  You kicked the shit out of me like ten times!”

She crossed her arms “I feel like an apology is in order.”

“I’m sorry I stabbed you.”

Her eyes widened slightly “That almost sounded like you meant it.”

“I do mean it, why would I want to stab you?  It was just for show, and I’m sorry.  I’d do it again in the same circumstances but that doesn’t mean I’m not sorry about having to do it.  I had to sell the story you know?”

“I just hope someone was watching.”

“So what’s the deal?  Why are these Kostelos taking orders from women now?”

“I don’t know really, something Kartak brought with him changed things for them – after he slaughtered their old shaman anyway.  Brutally slaughtered that is.  Apparently he brought about some kind of religious sea change that favored women.”

“And marginalized himself?”

“I’m just telling you what I know.”

“Well you know what they say, you can’t keep a good woman down.”

“Do they say that?

“They’re going to start.”

Once I was dressed in my clothes I felt a thousand times more calm and confident.  I’m sure I still looked like a scarecrow and smelled like a dockworker after a hard day’s work but even so I felt much better.  There’s just something about being properly dressed you know?  Also it was just nice to have boots on – my feet are going to need a lot of attention once this is all over.  I looked at Martialla as I slipped the Whiterock ring back on my finger.

“What do you think happened while I wasn’t wearing this?”

She shook her head slowly “Nothing I hope.  I agonized over that, I thought maybe I could slip it to you and no one would notice, but you said . . .”

“Yeah, I know what I said.  Why are you carrying a candle instead of using your magic?”

“Seemed a little too conspicuous.”

I didn’t understand her reasoning there but I let it lie.  She’s not pretending to be anyone other than she is, and they all know she’s magic so what’s the point?  I assume it made sense in her mind.  Martialla took on the appearance of the one of the Juost manor maids so I could copy it and then we were off.  The room I was being held in was indeed a tower, but I think from the outside it looks round and I know the room was square – I’ll have to check from the grounds when this is all over.  We went down a short staircase and across the upper halls to the master bedroom where the old Kostelos woman who’s causing all the problems had installed herself.  As we left the room where I was imprisoned I saw a guard sitting on the floor sobbing uncontrollable and covering his face in horrified sadness.

“What’s with him?”

“I learned a new spell.”

I shook my head “Magic is awful.”

When we walked into the room I had a flashback to the keep outside of Hillside.  Or was it Tall Elk?  Anyway, you know the one I mean.  The room had the same kind of stink infusing it and there were similar looking markings painted on the walls.  And while I am no expert, these seemed to be less of patterns to ward off evil spirits  so much as patterns to invite the evil spirits in to have a good old time.  One of them specifically I know is the reverse of a sigil that’s supposed to ward off death.  So draw your own conclusion there.  The Kostelos are not a large people generally and the women was shrunken with age, looking even more so in the comprehensively soiled former grandeur of the Baron’s massive bed.  Martialla grabbed her legs and I put a pillow over her face and in a couple minutes her days of evil doing were over.

Now you may not think that murdering an old woman in her sleep is not particularly heroic but you’d be wrong.  If an orc comes charging at you and you stand your ground and hit with a club that takes guts sure, but fighting against someone attacking you is one thing.  That’s an immediate reaction to something right in front of you.  But the cold blooded murder of a defenseless old-timer?  That takes some real courage.  And I’m not saying that murders are courageous, they’re mostly cowards, which is just the point I’m trying to make – I’m a normal person and I did this anyway because it needed to be done.  This weak old woman brought down ruin on thousands of people, she had to go – and I had the willpower to do it.  That’s a hero.

Not to mention what I had to go through to get the chance.  And what Martialla had to go through.  I wonder if she had sex with the Duke’s cousin.  I’ll have to ask her later.  As we headed for another part of the manor we heard fighting outside – Mord’s crew must be doing their part to keep attention down in the courtyard.  They’re a little early, but what can you do?  Timing is hard.  When we got to the next room the woman inside was out of bed and throwing on some kind of primitive animal-skin armor (looked like an armadillo but that can’t be right) and had an axe lying close at hand.  She wasn’t old, but she was ugly.  I don’t know if she was deformed or possessed or had a curse on her or what, but she didn’t look precisely human.  Her eyes were kind of oblong and set at an angle – like they were sloping down towards her nose.  It was unsettling.  And that nose itself was upturned like that of a bat.  Her hands seemed to be fifty percent too large as well.  I didn’t care for her whole vibe.

She snarled at Martialla “What’s going on down there?!”

Martialla affected a tone of fear “The peasants are revolting!”

I couldn’t help myself “Of course, but she asked what’s going on outside.”

They both turned to look at me, confused, and then Martialla extended her hand with the magical words of magic and assailed her with a line of fire.  This didn’t bother Batnose too much as she countered with some magic of her own and deflected the attack – sending up a huge wall of flame between us that bisected the room.  And set the bed on fire.  It was just a perfect plane of fire hanging in the air – I never saw anything like it.

“Huh, will you look at that.”

Martialla cast another spell to protect us from the fire and we dove through – which was quite exhilarating.  If you ever get the chance to walk jump through a giant wall of fire you definitely should.  I don’t know why we jumped instead of just walking, it just seemed more apt.  Batnose was waiting for us and blasted us with another pillar of fire which burned the Hells out of us even through Martialla’s protection.  She claimed later on that it wasn’t real fire, that it was divine energy that looked like fire but I think Batnose just had a better spell and it overwhelmed Martialla’s.  Martialla is always making excuses for her mediocre magical powers.  Batnose expanded in size to where she had to duck to avoid hitting the ceiling and then lay about with her axe but there’s the thing – she was big but she didn’t seem that strong.  She was four times my size but I was still able to pin her down with my Walking Stick while Martialla heroically stabbed her in the ribs until she died. 

It’s really nice to have my Walking Stick back in my hands.  More than anything else I felt naked without that.  There’s something about the heft of holding an item that you can really whack someone on the noggin with that makes me feel assured.  It’s like you can point your stick at the entire world any say “You, you’re in my way!”  I can see why rich people like it so much.  Well that and for beating poor people so badly that they go blind.  We stepped back through the fire just as another woman was coming in the door. She was wearing full armor, even the helmet, but you could tell that under all that metal she was a muscular slab of humanity.  She’s have to be to move so easily with all that weight – I tried a chain shirt on once and it nearly brought me to my knees, she had on plate mail and it didn’t seem to bother her in the least.  She had long ornately plaited blonde hair that hung down to her waist – that part looked like what opera people think that warriors look like.  We looked at each other at the same time and then Martialla and I hopped back through the flame wall.

“I assume that’s the dangerous one?”

“Yeah.”

“The one we need to take by surprise?”

“Yeah.”

“Why didn’t we go after her first?”

“I was just going by the rooms that were closest.”

“Okay, so we climb out the window and . . .”

That’s when the opera warrior came charging through the flames – she had no protection, she just didn’t care about running through a wall of fire.  She smashed Martialla into the wall with her shield and she was swinging a hammer at my head.  You know a warhammer, not like a hammer for carpentry.  I managed to get my Walking Stick up to block it – and by block I mean get in the way sort of.  You have your friend swing a sledgehammer at you and you try to block it with broomstick and see how that works out.  The good news is the hammer didn’t hit me in the head.  The bad news is that the Walking Stick was driven back into my head with enough force to knock me on my ass.  The even worse news is that the Walking Stick broke into three pieces.  I just got it back!

Scrambling to my feet as opera warrior hammered Martialla I grabbed a flaming blanket off the bed and tossed it over her head.  I tried to grab and hold her as well, but she shoved me off with one elbow like I was a silk ribbon trying to hold back a rampaging rhino.  At least Martialla was able to get in a few stabs while she was blinded by the blanket of fire.  At least I think she was able to, as an observer it’s hard to tell with all that armor if the strikes are getting home of just glancing off.  With no other bright ideas I double-fisted my Flask and my Tankard and then pulled out the axe I took off Greysmith.  Not being an AXEpert (come on that’s funny!) I don’t think I struck a single telling blow, but I did slice her shield in half – this thing is ungodly sharp!  And more importantly I distracted her enough for Martialla to stab her in that area between where the back of the breastplate (is the back of a breastplate still called a breastplate or is it a backplate?) and the armor that covers your ass.  Does ass armor have a name?  It must right?  That was that, and neither of us got our brains dashed out by a hammer in the process – but it was a close thing.

Martialla looked at me grimly “One more stop.”

I grimaced “I think I liked being a prisoner better.”

At this point servants and various other people were running in every direction not knowing what to do – which I understandable when there’s a fire in the building and you’re under attack by unknown partiers.  It’s not like they were under siege or anything, they went to bed thinking this was going to be a normal night.  Martialla and I made our way to a solid door that was locked up tight, but this dwarf-axe made short work of it.  One the other side, in a small bedroom clutching a book to her chest and looking scared out of her wits stood Baroness Juost.  I’m not sure what surprised her more, seeing her axe-wielding maid on the other side of the door or when I returned to my normal appearance.

She gasped “Cousin?”

“Are we still doing that?”

“I never expected to see you again.”

“Well you know what they say, you can’t keep a good woman down.”

She frowned “Do they say that?”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 53,040 platinum, 8,000 gold

XP: 1,070,851

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Ela’s Dazzling Garment, Belt of Physical Might +4, Ring of Urban Grace, Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Elegant Boots, Ela’s Extravagant Necklace, +1 Adamantine Dwarf Waraxe 

Noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring,  pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (700), gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, disguise kit, covenant ring, tiny diamonds (26), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring, tiara, masterwork red and black long greatcoat, Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three), darkwood and platinum music box, silver bracelet set with bloodstones, platinum ring set with fire opal, silver and moonstone bracelet, holy symbol of Kozilek, dwarf journal

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

Mantelderith 2 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Why is it so satisfying to tell someone “I told you so”?  There’s nothing worse than being right, so it must be purely the delight you feel in seeing someone else fail.  Which certainly isn’t an attractive quality by any means but it seems to be pretty common.  I suppose it stems partially from a sense of competitiveness – when someone doesn’t listen to you and then falls flat on their face you’ve proven yourself to be superior.  It’s a biological thing I guess, still rattling around in our brains from the old days when you had to fight your way to the top or die like a dog.  Actually I guess in that regard nothing much has changed.  That’s a question for the philosophers I reckon – all those animalistic tendencies that were so important to get where we are today now hold us back from progressing further, so how do we get rid of them?  Whiskey? 

My point is this, if we had gone to Margrain like I wanted to we never would have been captured.  Technically I was already captured but you know what I mean, Martialla and the cousins were captured and I was transferred to someone else’s captivation.  Turns out that the Bloody Jake that Martialla killed (pretty sure I wasn’t involved in that one at all) wasn’t a lone wolf – this was more of a family of killers scenario like those Harrow people from up in Verdal.  They had a slick operation, I’ll grant them that.  I don’t know if they had mystical backwoods shenanigans up their sleeves like their dead friend or if they were just really sneaky but they caught us completely unawares – and it’s a rare bastard that can catch Martialla and me one hundred percent off guard.  We’re pretty good at sniffing out ambushes you know – most of the time. 

There were three of them, one normal and two less so.  The normal one was a tall rawboned countrified roughneck with short curly dirty-blonde hair, he was actually fairly handsome, or would have been if he wasn’t going to kill me.   Friend number one was a short fellow whose face had that waxy look of someone who’s been burned but it also looked like it had been stretched somehow, like it was taffy that had been pulled into the shape of a face and then left to harden.  In addition to being short he was also slender as a maiden, a look that wasn’t helped by his overly loose puffy red pants and frilled shirt – he looked kind of like a scarecrow, only lighter.  Friend number two though was the main event.  His skin was not a color I’ve ever seen on a healthy person – a kind of green-grey, I’d say it’s similar to the color of the mold that grows on a peach if you leave it too long.  He was also oblong shaped – very skinny up top, then bulging in the middle only to taper away to scrawny chicken legs.  He was wearing dirty orangish trousers and that was it, which didn’t do anyone any favors.  Why is it that the only men that walk around without a shirt on are the one’s you’d never want to see shirtless?  It’s uncanny I tell you.

They sprung out of hiding and eliminated their only real threat immediately – Curly and Taffy seized Martialla and Chicken-legs put a sack over her head that had been soaked in something.  Smelled a bit like some kind of trumpet lily to me, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a floral perfume because Martialla went all rubbery legged (and rubbery everything else) in a matter of seconds.  I’m not a poison expert, but I know a few things about toxicology, and I’m telling you that whoever whipped that up knew their business.  Putting someone down like that, like a blown out candle, that takes some real skill.  The fight was over before it began, Parfinis and Betrei made an effort with their scavenged axes but there were two things hindering their effectiveness.  First if that while most people of a certain status have a passing familiarity with light blades, fencing lessons and so forth, very few fancy people are trained to fight with axes.  I don’t know where you’d even go to learn something like that.  Maybe ask a dwarf?  Is that racist?

So that was one problem, but the more pressing hindrance is that they are, at best, enthusiastic amateurs in the fighting arts.  All three of them managed to get captured by one of these Bloody Jakes when they had their own gear, what chance are they going to have when the odds are turned the other way about and they’re working with borrowed equipment?  Plus you have to consider the domestication factor.  The cousins are soft-hand types from the big city, not nobles, but not the kind of people that don’t have to empty their own night jars you know?  What chance are they going to have against wild creatures like these three?  You ever see someone’s pet dog tangle with a feral?  It aint pretty.  Civilization has many good qualities, but making you tough isn’t one of them.

Jesslin was completely useless.  She had a scavenged knife but she didn’t even try to use it.  I guess her magic isn’t the kind that’s useful when someone is attacking you, which seems pretty stupid to me.  Seems like one of the first spells you should learn is one that dissuades someone from ripping your lungs out.  Maybe that’s just me.  I don’t know what they teach you at magic school in Indlecastle but it clearly isn’t the kind of stuff I’m used to seeing Martialla to where people are doused with motel iron or blasted with acid or burned alive.  I guess even magic has a wild unruly dangerous side and a sedate weakling cultured side.  Seriously though, what’s the point of studying magic if you can’t even use it to crush your enemies?  Tell me that.  Parfinis and Betrei had the good graces to at least get wounded before they threw down their weapons and begged for mercy, Jesslin didn’t do anything – Chicken-legs just grabbed her by the elbow and she fainted dead away.  It’s embarrassing that we’re even distantly related.

“Well fought gentlemen, a great victory assuredly, I assume you’re here to rescue me?  Can we get these manacles off, my shoulders are killing me.”

Taffy chuckled and Chicken-legs shot him a vicious look “This woman killed our brother, don’t laugh!”

“Point of order sir, I didn’t kill anyone, the unconscious young lady over there with the bag over her head is the one you’re looking for, she’s the one you want to torture to death.  I witnessed it myself, I saw her kill your brother in cold blood, the rest of us were just innocent bystanders so you should probably just let us go.”

Taffy laughed again and Chicken-legs came over to breath his onion-rotting meat stink in my face “You’re all going to die!”

“Now then, let’s not be hasty shall we?  I’m sure we can come to some kind of agreement right?  Some manner of exchange of good or services?  My cousin over there, the one that’s fainted, she’s a real tiger in the sack you know?  I’m sure that . . .”

Chicken-legs was spitting mad “You will die!  Do you have any idea what you’ve done?  All the work that you ruined when you killed Vancher?!  Do you have any idea what you’ve unraveled here you gnat?  You worm!  You insect!  Our work here is more important than anything you can comprehend!  You’ll suffer for what you’ve done.  You will cry until there is nothing left wet in you.  You will scream and beg and pray to all the Gods until your throat ruptures and it will make no difference!  The pain will go on, you will never be released!”

“Okay, well, that’s your opening position, I would like to present my counter-offer where that doesn’t happen.”

Apparently he wasn’t interested in hearing the counter-offer because he kept ranting.  He went on at some length about how he and his family where some kind of cosmic guardians.  On their land they had found an old cave where some people that lived on this land before even the Kostelos had documented by cave-painting that there was manner of force that would devour the world if it was not appeased with human lives.  He really belabored the point that this was NOT some alien inhuman and incomprehensible being of the far universe, but rather just the opposite – a grotesque creation of pure, distilled, and entirely human hate.  He claimed that his family had for generations been the caretakers of the world by feeding this entity lives to keep it abated from annihilating everything.  He was upset because somehow they store up the deaths until they go into the cave and release them to the entity – and by killing Vancher we had “wasted” a bunch of souls or whatever and therefore put the entire world as risk.  He really went on and on about it.   

“Good gods, do you ever shut up?  I thought that the good thing about being captured by primitive country murderers would be that at least I wouldn’t have to listen to a lot of speeches about why they’re doing what they’re doing like with city murderers, but here we fucking are.  You’ve been talking non-stop for half an hour!  I get it, there’s an eldritch abomination that I’m responsible for too, I have this ring I have to wear or this creature my great-uncle summoned from beyond the stars will destroy the world.” I looked over at the injured cousins who had been kneeling in horrified silence this whole time “That reminds me, we should figure that out genealogically, to see if you’re related to the Whiterocks or not, it would be good to have a back-up for that ring in case something happens to me.  Although, if we’re being honest, it’s hard to care about the world ending if I’m already dead.”

Chicken-legs stopped ranting long enough to look at his brothers.  Curly stared at me for a moment and then nodded.

“I do see something.  Her rope is greasy.”

“My rope is greasy?  What the fuck does that mean?  Sounds obscene, and not the kind of obscene that I could ever be.  Although I met this woman one time who used to be a male gladiator and she was cursed so that . . .”

Chicken-legs grabbed me by the unbreakable necklace around my throat – which hurts more than you’d imagine “Show me this ring.”

“Sure thing chief, just get these manacles off me.”

Curly came over and did something behind my back, not like a normal something, some kind of backwoods magic bullshit – it didn’t sound like any spellcasting I’ve heard before and I’ve sadly heard a bit and this point – and the manacles popped off.  Chicken-legs grabbed my hand and pulled it up to his face like he was near-sighted or something which made it easy to stab him in the belly with my off-hand.  My secret pocket isn’t as handy as those magic tattoos were, but it’s pretty convenient to always have access to a weapon.  Well not always, but almost always.  Obviously there’s no way I would have taken these three on by myself even if I had all my gear.  I don’t know if Jesslin was faking it or if she had woken up from her swoon, but I had spotted her moving her hand a little and pulling the poison-sack off Martialla’s head from afar with her (not entirely useless) magic.  It took Martialla a long while to come around, but once she turned invisible and not one of the Bloody Jakes noticed I knew it was time to interrupt Chicken-legs monologue and get the party started. 

When I cut Chicken-legs across his bulging belly I halfway expected spiders or fanged worms or dirt or something to pour out, but it was just regular old blood.  Martialla reappeared as she ran Taffy through from behind, using a dagger in left hand her to cut his throat for good measure as well.  Chicken-legs threw me aside like a . . . thing that you throw aside and pulled out some kind of ugly piece of hooked metal to go after Martialla.  I screamed for Jesslin to help me and we tried to tackle Curly, but he was too strong even for the both of us – thankfully her brothers jumped in the scrum as well and we managed to drag him to the ground while Martialla and Chicken-legs were hacking each other’s bits off and doing magic shit to try and kill one another. 

I got a hold of the sack and shoved in in Curly’s mouth – there was enough juice left in it to knock him out but was clearly less potent at that point because we had to pin him down for a good long while.  Once he was out I sprang up and dashed in at Chicken-legs enough to distract him so Martialla could really lay in some good stabs.  We’ve done this kind of thing enough times that we have a good system worked out – I’m pretty good at getting someone’s attention hard enough that a better fighter can take advantage.  And Martialla is damned good at taking advantage.  She’s no great warrior, but she’s like a surgeon when she strikes someone from behind – which is always the best way to strike someone.  Once he was done for I went back to put my sword through Curly’s neck, finishing off the noble guardians of the earth.  I plucked a jug of shine off him and sat down against a tree to take a drink. 

“Oof, what a day huh?”

Jesslin was looking around fearfully “What do we do know?”

I looked over at Martialla “On to Alleene right?”

“No, I meant about what they said!  About the entity.”

I smiled slightly “You believed that shit?  Some inbred morons find some charcoal lines on a cave wall and they start killing people?  I wouldn’t worry about it.”

Betrei was pressing his bloody shirt against his stomach “So what you said about the ring that was just so they’d let you get free?”

“Oh no, that is true.  We really should figure out something about that.”

“I don’t see a ring on your hand.”

I looked at Martialla again and she shook her head “I believe that I’ve misplaced is just at the moment.  But it probably takes a while for a being to destroy the entire world so . . . you know.  It’s probably . . . . fine.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 1,025,251

Inventory: None

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

Behind the Scenes: One million experience!  That’s almost like an accomplishment. 

Montagem 26 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 2

I feel like with the number of them that have tried to ruin my day and hurt my feelings I should know more about hags.  What are they even?  It’s been implied to me that they’re a species (race?) of the fey folk (ironically sometimes called the fair folk) which seems like it maybe makes sense.  They’re definitely full of magicalness which a common characteristic of the fey.  They look spindly and sickly but you can wail on them all day with a whacking stick and it won’t hurt them and they’re stronger than a strong man (maybe a really strong man) so they don’t obey the laws of biology which is another earmark of faeries.  They’re whimsical in their own sadomasochistic way as well, whimsy being one of the hallmarks of the fey, so there’s some strong evidence there of them being fey.  On the other side of the coin though fey, even the evil ones, seems to be pro-nature and all the hags I’ve meet seem to love wrecking nature with their foul slimes and odors and tree-killing.  Plus fey, even the evil ones, seem to stick to the wilds far away from the hand of mankind whereas hags seems to be all up in our business.  So?  Dunno. 

I’ve also heard that hags are just witches who get all mutated and flagellated from doing too much witchy stuff.  The way it works is that a woman makes some kind of deal with the Lord of the Thirteen Hells (or maybe his secretary if he’s busy) to become a witch and then if you delve deep into the dark arts you turn into a full-fledged hag?  It’s like there’s stages you progress through – normal woman, then witch, then hag, then demon?  The only hag origin story I know is a witch who got sad because a boy didn’t like her and so she tore her eyes and tongue out which transformed her into a hag.  So that seems to support the hagification theory.  But a person can’t become a fey creature right?  Or is it like werewolfism?  You get infected with hagness? 

But wait, there’s more!  I’ve also heard that hags propagate themselves by using their rumors and trickery to have what I envisage is weird rough sex with mortal human dudes so they can get pregnant and then have hag-babies.  Or actually no, the babies are normal at first and they swap them with other babies so some sucker will raise their baby for them (I believe the hag eats the baby they stole) and then when that hag kid becomes an adult they turn into a hag.  If it’s a girl anyway, I think if it’s a boy they’re just an asshole?  Sidenote I would imagine the hags turn back into their normal forms right when the guy fills them up – which you have to admit is pretty funny.  Admit it!  This information does make it sound like hags are a “normal” race of things that need to throw down to reproduce, which doesn’t support either of the above theories.

I bet what happened is that way back in olden times there was a woman who’s beauty was renowned the world over (although keep in mind they didn’t bathe in olden times so, you know) and some jealous lady god (probably not Adariel because she doesn’t seem like the type but what other lady gods are there?) was like “huh, we’ll see about that!” and then slammed her hard with a curse that made her be ugly and haggish.  End of story right?  Wrong!  In order to facilitate her revenge on the world Kralten gave this woman magic powers so she could torment people and do evil shit.  Ugliness plus magic equals hag.  And then she created other hags by vomiting in a stew-pot and all the women that ate the vomit-stew turned into hags and all the men turned into . . . orcs or something.  Boom, did it, mythology mythologized. 

Anyway, back to the hag at hand.  After she was done snuffling over me like a truffle pig the bald hag grabbed the chain on my ankle and gave it a pull.  She wasn’t able to snap it instantly like a piece of string, she had to exert herself, but she did rip the mooring (is that the right word, the ring on the deck of the ship that held the chain) out of the wood.  It’s hard to imagine what it would feel like to be that strong.  I mean it’s crazy, she just ripped a metal chain out of the ground.  I suppose if you really wanted to analyze hags it shouldn’t be surprising that they do horrible things to us – they don’t look like us and they have abilities far beyond ours.  If you were strong enough to crush a goblin with one hand what kind of monster would you be?  There’s really nothing that brings out the cruelty in people like power.

I stood up and dusted off my crappy peasant dress “Well thanks for freeing me, I guess I’ll be on my way now.”

The hag was still holding onto the chain and gave it a yank, sending me stumbling and falling heavily to the deck of the ship – it was from the side too, which make it extra awkward and painful.  She cackled at the sight – it’s a stereotype for a reason, hags love to cackle.

“You’re funny, I like you.  What other tricks can you do besides telling jokes little flower?”

“I have to say, I find it annoying that you hags always call me little.  I’m very tall for a human lady.”

She stalked forward in a weird hunched posture – I’ve never seen an hag knuckle around like an ape before, it’s very unsettling, which is probably the point – and I thought she was going to slap me or something but she just laughed in by face, blasting me with a stench that made my eyes water worse than any slap. She poked a claw into my chest.

“You.  Are little.  You are a weak little thing that can be broken at any moment.”

I punched her in the stomach with all my strength, which didn’t amount to much – although in my defense I was sitting on the ground, you can’t throw a decent punch like that.  Also I never really learned how to throw a decent punch anyway.  She cackled madly again.

“Oh, I do like you, hissing like a little kitty.  I have ways of wringing away such deficiencies.”  She grabbed me by the hair and put a claw against my cheek under the eye “How about I flay off your pretty face for starters?”

“I got my face scarred up badly once before.  This big bitch kicked the shit out of me.  I’m sorry to say that I didn’t react very well to it, but at that time I didn’t realize that it can fixed if you have the money.  It’s not exactly easy, but it’s not hard either you know?  I wouldn’t like it of course, but I’ve learned to be a little more accepting of these sorts of things – there’s a lot more healing out there than you’d imagine.  There’s not a lot that can’t be repaired if you’re willing to pay for it.  It’s a real indictment of the way the Kingdom is run that people are walking around missing limbs with and with harelips and shit – it can all be fixed.  So, I would vote against you slashing my face to ribbons if I got a vote, but I would just get it fixed after you’re dead so it’s not a huge deal.”

She let go of me so should could step back and really laugh at that – sometimes you need your whole body to really give a good belly laugh.

She shook her head in a disquietly human-like gesture “You are something else little kitty.  But I believe I said that joke time was over, I told you to entertain me another way.”

I launched into singing the Ballad of Nanny Grunch, a happy little tale about a woman who becomes unsatisfied with her husband’s genitals so she turns him into a minotaur to get some sweet bull action.  This is course doesn’t sit well with the local populace so they chop off her head – she doesn’t die though, and through a series of grotesque events her head ends up biting the mayor’s wife on the ass and the wound becomes infected and she dies while having sex with the mayor and instantly turns into a ghoul.  The ghoul wife rips the mayor apart and then she and the head go on to further revolting and perverted adventures.  It’s not a good song for my register and the composition is a mess but seemed like the only song I know that might appeal to the interests of a hag.

She flapped her arms in a weird approximation of clapping “Magnificent!  Magnificent!  You’re not a little flower or a little kitty at all, you’re a little songbird.  I shall keep you in a cage and have you sing for me and feed you bread crumbs.”

“Does this body look like I eat a lot of bread?”

 “Another song!”

“I don’t really know any other songs like that, he only reason I know that one is because some drunkards were singing it a tavern one time – I’m more of a classically trained singer.  Besides, it’s about time.”

She bared her bent and broken teeth angrily “Time for what?”

Martialla was dry as a bone when she made her attack.  She must have clung to the side of the ship for a moment and used her magic to dry off her clothing – which was a clever move because even invisible it’s going to be hard to sneak up on someone when you’re sopping wet.  Too bad it didn’t work.  I don’t know how the hag detected her, maybe she could smell her, but she turned at the last second just as Martialla appeared in mid-thrust.  Instead of taking the twisted creature in the back the hag grabbed the blade of Martialla’s sword and shoved it to the side – losing three fingers in the process.  I’ve seen quite a bit of hag-blood at this point.  Sometimes it looks normal.  Sometimes it hisses and steams and gives off noxious vapors.  Sometimes it’s thick and tarry.  Sometimes it purple or green.  This hag’s blood looked like water with a reddish tint or like a really watered down wine, it dripped off her hands like a bucket with a hole in the bottom.  And because everything with hags has to be awful the severed fingered writhed on the deck of the ship like blind worms.

Can we take a quick moment for me to ask about invisibility?  Why does it go away the instant you attack someone?  It makes no sense.  It can’t be the physical motion because you can run and jump and make all sorts of wild motions while you’re invisible but it doesn’t go away.  You can even “attack” a training dummy or punch a wall without the invisibility going away.  But the second you come at a person, not even a person, a living thing, not even a living thing because it happens with undead too, the second you attack a . . . being, the invisibility goes away.  What kind of sick joke is that?  What does that even mean?  How does the “magic” know that you attack someone, and why does it care?  I don’t want to know much of anything about magical theory but I’d like an explanation of that.  Does “magic” think that it’s unfair to let people attack other people while they’re invisible?  Is magic a thing that can think?  It’s frustrating because there seems to be no logic, which I guess there isn’t because it’s magic.

Martialla fell back with a cry as the hag slashed at her with its claws and I dove forward to crash into the back of the hag’s knees.  We all went down in a chaotic tangle and I managed to get the chain around the hag’s neck as Martialla struggle to control her arms.  In this sense having the chain hooked to my leg was actually helpful since I could use my legs to help pull – with my two arms I was almost able to match one of the hags while Martialla dealt with the other one.  Martialla drew a dagger and stabbed whenever she could as well.  It was a slow messy awful death, the kind that happens often but that they never include in stories of heroic battlefield murder – I think it took a full minute before the hag was dead.  The tongue that lolled out of her mouth was obscenely huge, no joking it was probably as wide and thick as my arm and had to be close to a foot long.  It wasn’t even flat like it was supposed to be, it was round like a snake.  We rolled away from the hag and lay on opposite sides of her like exhausted lovers after a spirited roll in the hay.

“Just like old times eh?  Only best friends kill hags together.”

“Don’t . . . . just don’t Ela.  You could talk birds out of trees, in fact I’ve literally seen you do that, but you can’t get me Ela.  I’m ungettable.  This is . . . . this is just the way it has to be.”

“You’re pretty fucked up from the fight before, I could probably take you right now.”

She snorted “With that?  A chain on your leg?”

I pulled a short blade out of my secret pocket and popped up stabbing at her.  She was certainly surprised but she had reflexes enough that managed to get her knife in the way enough so that she only got stabbed in the hip instead of in the chest.  That was basically my only chance, I’ve never been the fighter that Martialla is – after she avoided that initial deathblow she was able to wrestle the blade out of my hand and strangle me half to death before stunning me with a hard kick to the back of the head.  She stood up wearily and gazed at the blade slick with her blood.

“Where the Hells did you get this?  I took all your magic pouches.”

On my hands and knees coughing I managed to choke out “You know me Martialla, I’m full of surprises.”

Funds: None

XP: 962,851

Inventory: None

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