October 16, 1973 – Burning down the house

It’s easy to get a little blue when you’ve been blown up, left for dead, turned into a science project gone horribly right, kidnapped, threatened, starved, kidnapped again, almost murdered, stuck in a place where you can’t watch the Tropics games and seventy percent of the people around don’t speak a language you know, you haven’t had a solid bowel movement in a month, you’ve got split ends like a bastard, and your most comfortable pair of shoes are ninety-four hundred miles away.

But as my grandma said, it can’t rain every day.  Which I think isn’t true if you live in a rain forest but the point is well made.  If you don’t look at the bright side, you create your own demons. The bad news is now this Mr. X character and his deadly assassination squad are probably after me in addition to the Shadow Lords and probably some pirates.  But the good news is that I’ve discovered a new power that probably makes me a really great bowler. 

I dashed into the kitchen while Betty and Veronica were tending to their fallen psychopathic beau.  The big guy came after me, but he was so big he had to slow down to come through the door sideways.  That has to be really annoying.  While he was doing that, I hurled a 1963 Cavalier Coca-Cola machine at his melon.  I believe it was the CS-55-E model which was the first push button multi-select Coke machine.  We had one at the diner I worked at when I was in HS.  I’ve seen that from time to time, I guess they’re kind of cool, but why would you want a vending machine in your house?  It makes no sense to me.  You want Coke around, keep it in the fridge.  I dated a guy in Memphis for a while that was crazy into Coca-Cola memorabilia.  He got into a big fight with his parents because he sold a Christmas gift they gave him so he could buy more Coke shit.

The big man was knocked out cold by the machine, as cold as the delicious soda inside of it.  Irony?  No.  I flipped on a couple burners and tossed some towels onto the flames, figuring that a good house fire would help cover my escape.  I dated a guy back in Chi-Town who turned out to be a big time flamer.  We were at dinner one night and these dudes in trench coats came in and dragged him away.  He was terrified because he thought they were mobsters, but it was the FBI.  I think he ratted out a bunch of people and ended up somewhere in Taiping under an assumed name.  He was way too enthusiastic in bed.  Calm down dude, act like you been there before.

I turned left three times and right once, finding myself in what I assume is the bedroom of one of Mr. X’s private security force/murderous gang.  I slipped on some way too big around the waist pants (good thing I have long legs or I would have been tripping too) an obligatory “I’m a faceless goon” black t-shirt and some extra shoes (good thing I have big feet or they would have been slipping off).  A belt would have been nice but the place was starting to fill with smoke – and not the good kind that comes from cigarettes, the bad kind that kills you – so I ran in a crouch holding a fistful of pants-wad to keep them from sliding down my ass.

I was coughing pretty soundly when I found myself in a room with a window.  I annihilated said window by throwing a hideous couch through it (one handed, not to brag).  It must have been a custom job because the ends (What is the end of a couch called?  Must have a name) looked like sexy cat ladies.  I mean they were supposed to look sexy.  They didn’t.  I knocked out the rest of the glass with an ugly yellow vase and hopped through to freedom.  And by freedom I mean two dudes wearing armor vests pointing assault rifles at me.  Despite the fact that I may have been wearing one of these guy’s spare clothes, I admit that I had kind of forgotten about all the armed men I had seen standing around outside when I was brought here.  But as my grandma said, when the plane is going down, you jump and worry about a parachute later.

I gestured wildly (and pulled up my stolen pants) “People are killing your boss, what the fuck are you doing out here?!”

Neither one of them moved.  It’s hard to find good goons these days isn’t it?  Although the plume of ugly black smoke coming out of the window may have been a factor as well.  I shoved one of the men towards the window admonishing him to go do his job and protect his boss, and he very tentatively crawled inside.  Where most likely he was immediately overwhelmed with smoke.  His friend was still giving me the evil eye though and when I made to get out of there, he jabbed his gun at me.  I don’t know why he did that.  The bullets come out buddy, you don’t need the barrel right against my ribs to shoot me if that’s what you’re going to do. 

My intention was to snatch the rifle away from him like Kwai Chang Caine grabbing a pebble but I hadn’t counted on the strap.  When I yanked the rifle in a downward motion, his head came with it.  I’m not sure exactly what happened but he passed out instantly.  Is that what whiplash does?  I kind of thought that whiplash was just something people said to get more money out of a personal injury lawsuit.  Is it really that easy to smack your brain around?  Seems like it should be better protected.  Although on the other hand, I am as strong as twenty very strong men. 

I probably should have grabbed the rifle, to sell if nothing else, but I just boogied on out of there.  At one point, I jumped over a low wall and tried to roll like they do in the movies.  I tell you this much – it’s a bunch of bullshit.  I hit the ground like a drunk duck.  I think I messed up my shoulder bad.  If only I was as tough as twenty very tough men.  I didn’t cry though.  Anyone who says they saw me crying is a damn dirty liar. 

I had a horrifying vision of skulking around the rich part of Madripoor for days trying to find a way out but serendipitously I saw Say’s friend Meylupa coming out of a nearby mansion where she works as a maid.  I’m surprised she remembered me since we only met once, but I suppose I am pretty memorable around these parts.  Using a pidgin of French, English, and what little Malay I’ve picked up (pantomime helped too, some gestures are universal), I told her I had been making sweet, sweet love to a rich man nearby when his wife came home and I had to make a run for it.  Hence my makeshift clothing and my disheveled appearance. 

I’m pretty sure she said something about me being a whore but she said that I could hide in the laundry room until she was done with her work.  I told her that if she found me some clothing, I could help her out and she’d be done that much faster.  It’s a funny old world you know?  One moment you’re fighting a lunatic and his motley crew of killers in a battle to the death, and then an hour later you’re pulling a wad of hair out of a shower drain.  There’s probably a lesson there. 

Once we were done at mansion number one, Meylupa and I walked over to another mansion and helped out her friend working there, and then the three of us headed to another mansion to repeat the process.  At the end of the day, this left us with an hour to stand around and gab (well they gabbed, I missed 90% of the conversation) until a fellow came to pick them up in a 1961 Checker Marathon that had been repaired so thoroughly I wonder how much original car was in there.  Seeing that car made me understand the “grandfather’s axe” thing one of my teachers droned on about. 

You see, this is what I’m talking about.  Even in a place like Madripoor that seems like a total indictment of the human race as a whole, you find good people.  Some folks like to say that people are only as good as the world lets them be, but that’s hogwash.  Plenty of people get the shaft and they don’t get bitter about it.  We’ve only got one life to live and we’re all here together, don’t be an asshole.  Whatever mistakes you’ve made or compromises turned you away from your original path, that’s fine – just turn back.  It’s not so complicated. 

I started out the day with a kidnapping and I ended up at a bar on the beach getting drunk (well, they were getting drunk, I think I’d need several gallons of high proof booze to do anything to me these days) with new friends.  You never know how things are going to turn out. 

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