Amazing Grace – A Pale Horse

CUT TO: 

INT. MAIN TEMPLE – DAY 

The main temple is much the same as Lust’s shrine only bigger and more elaborate with even more outrageous scenes of debauchery and torture on the walls featuring Sevensworth. The sexy lady goons are holding Grace on her knees before Universe/Sevensworthand his two accomplices PRIESTESS, think Danai Gurira, and TOWER, think Aya Cash.  There are some others in ceremonial garb as well.  

AMAZING GRACE 

So what’s the spell? Opening a portal to hell?  If you’re going to be killing millions of people it must be something big. 

UNIVERSE/SEVENSWORTH 

Why would I want to open a portal to hell? 

AMAZING GRACE 

I honestly don’t know, but that’s what people like you are always trying to do. 

UNIVERSE/SEVENSWORTH 

There are no people like me. 

AMAZING GRACE 

Groan. Did that come right out of the evil wizard playbook? This whole thing has been paint by numbers you basic bitch. Please for the love of God tell me that you’re going to kill everyone in LA for something good. Are you going to open up the portals to the Martian pyramids? That at least would be helpful to NASA. We could get some of those rovers back too, those things cost a fortune. Plus I hear they’re lonely up there.  Have you heard about that one that sings itself happy birthday?

 
UNIVERSE/SEVENSWORTH 

There are pyramids on Mars?

AMAZING GRACE 

Why don’t you just tell me what your evil plan is so I don’t have to guess. 

UNIVERSE/SEVENSWORTH 

Gladly. I know you’ll appreciate this.  Once the preparations are complete and the bombs are triggered I will harness that energy of those deaths to enact the Conbulum Mectrotitium and expand my natural life span by 150 years. 

AMAZING GRACE 

(shocked)

That’s it? You’re not going to become a god or something? You don’t need to kill twelve million people for that! I took out a blood mage once that could do that with just six people! You are seriously wasting a lot of lives dude.

PRIESTESS 

You killed him? 

AMAZING GRACE 

Yeah, the spell doesn’t make you invincible, you can still be killed, it just keeps you from aging. 

UNIVERSE/SEVENSWORTH 

(annoyed) 

Silence!  Don’t, don’t listen to her, she’s just trying to confuse you and lead you away from our preordained mission. The bombs aren’t going to blow up the entire city anyway, you’d need a nuclear weapon for that. 

TOWER

Or a lot more bombs. 

UNIVERSE/SEVENSWORTH 

Or a lot more conventional bombs. We’re only going to kill a couple thousand people, and that’s for immortality for five people. That’s efficient.

AMAZING GRACE 

(stubborn)

The spell doesn’t make you immortal, all it does is  . . .  

UNIVERSE/SEVENSWORTH 

(annoyed) 

Do you know anything blood sacrifice? Because I don’t think that you do! There’s never been a blood mage that could pull of what I’m about to do with just six sacrifices, you don’t know what you’re talking about! The number of people we’re about to kill is totally appropriate for the spell we’re going to be enacting! The priests of the Aztec Empire . . .  

AMAZING GRACE 

Oh my fucking god, enough with the Aztecs! Please don’t tell me you’re one of those dark wizards who claims that the Aztec empire spread across all of North America conquering everyone and their power was based entirely on a system of blood magic sacrifice.  

UNIVERSE/SEVENSWORTH 

It was! Don’t act like I’m a flat earther or something, the archeological evidence is there! 

AMAZING GRACE 

I thought you were way into Crowley, not made up Aztec bullshit. What does an old British dude have to do with the Aztecs? Why not go full Hellboy and toss Rasputin in there too?  That guy got a bad rap, all he wanted to do was smash puss and somehow people decided that he was an evil wizard.  I guess he did smash a lot and he was a fuggo, maybe that warrants some questions.

UNIVERSE/SEVENSWORTH 

Shut up about Rasputin!  I think you’re failing to see what I’ve accomplished here.  I’ve improved upon Master Crowley’s works. 

AMAZING GRACE 

(pan to show that her bullet wound has healed and her back is writhing with blue magical energy, Godzilla power-up style) 

With cultural appropriation? 

Before he can answer Grace uses magical super strength and hurls off the women holding her like Neo in the Matrix throwing the Agent Smith copies. Climactic magical fight scene. Grace summons several copies of herself to hold off the goons as she goes for Universe/Sevensworth. The other leader types intercede and she takes them out one by one, think Scarlet Witch against the Illuminati in Multiverse of Madness.  

Priestess transforms into a massive snake in an homage to Conan. Make sure that’s not racist somehow, I don’t think it is but if that’s a problem have her turn into tiger instead. Grace is narrowly able to avoid the attacks of the massive serpent as her copies fight with the sexy lady goons in the background. Finally Grace is able to transform her hand into a butcher’s blade just like the man that attacked her outside of the occult shop and uses it to decapitate the snake, which then turns back into Priestess, dead.  

Universe/Sevensworth working with Tower sends a column of water blasting into Grace’s face, drive itself into her mouth and nose like tentacles. She chokes for a moment and then expels the liquid like a water tower blowing up. 

AMAZING GRACE 

Your ninjas already tried to down me in your pool, use a new element already. 

(rolls out of the way of a blast of flame like the breath of a dragon from Tower) 

No one ever uses earth. 

Grace dodges more dragon’s fire and then is attacked by the lead goon that shot her and Tower in melee combat, all of her copies are been shattered. Little pieces of those copies lay on the ground still “alive” like Mantis in Infinity War.  

Grace struggles to contend with her two attackers as Universe/Sevensworth moves around on the edge of the fight trying to get an angle for a spell. The tide turns when Universe/Sevensworth unleashes his blast of flame but Tower shifts right into the path and is burned to death instantly.  

The head sexy lady goon redoubles her attacks with a battlecry, driving Grace back, but Universe/Sevensworth summons a cloud of small daggers and hurls them at Grace’s back with a gesture. Grace takes control of them and send them into the head sexy lady goon, pincushion her. She stands there for a moment impaled by extreme prejudice. 

LEAD GOON 

You idiot! 

UNIVERSE/SEVENSWORTH 

How dare you speak to me that way! 

Lead sexy goon topples to the ground dead, Grace smashes Universe/Sevensworth with a blindside kick by shadow jumping. No magic now, she pummels him with strikes as he tries vainly to protect himself. He’s clearly not a fighter. 

UNIVERSE/SEVENSWORTH 

(on the ground, bloody, throws hands up) 

Stop! Stop this! Join me . . .  

AMAZING GRACE 

And together we can rule the galaxy? Is this the part where you talk about how because we’re magic we’re better than everyone else and their lives don’t matter as much as ours and we can do whatever we want? That we should join together and do evil magic shit together? 

UNIVERSE/SEVENSWORTH 

(desperate) 

Our lives are more important than theirs!  You have to know that!  The things we can do, the powers we wield . . .  

AMAZING GRACE 

No sale guy with no nose from Harry Potter. Tell me where the bombs are or how I turn them off or whatever I need to do. 

UNIVERSE/SEVENSWORTH 

And you’ll let me live? 

AMAZING GRACE 

No. 

Universe/Sevensworth licks his palm and starts chanting in Latin. Grace lightly touches him on the chest and it explodes outwards like in Alien, his heart flying into the air in an arc to slap down wetly on the floor. She spits on the corpse. 

AMAZING GRACE 

Look what you made me do! I hate that spell! 

(she looks around at the blood and carnage) 

I’m going to hate this even more 

CUT TO:

INT. KITCHEN IN SEVENWORTH’S MANTION – DAY

A pile of viscera sits on the counter.  Grace is rummaging through the sleek rich-person refrigerator.  She comes out with a couple bottles of fancy imported beer (product placement).  She pops the top of one, drains half of it, and sets the bottles down by the bloody mess.  Upon closer look there’s brain matter in the clump. 

Grace takes a deep breath and then shoves a gob of the bloody viscera into her mouth.  She fights for a moment not to gag, bracing herself against the counter.  After a moment she starts to mumble a spell around the disgusting lump in her mouth.  Blood spatters off her lips as she speaks with her mouth full.

Eventually the spits out the bloody gob with a coughing fit.  She drains the last of the first beer and most of the second before spitting some more and another coughing fit.  She turns on the water in the sink, sticks her mouth in the stream for a moment before pulling back and finishing the second beer and taking a big drink of the third.  She spits again angrily.

AMAZING GRACE

Fucking fuckers!

(she blows her nose on a towel expelling some brain, takes another drink of beer, slips out her phone and dials)

Yeah, you need to get in touch with the bomb squad, I have the locations of four bombs that have been placed around the city.  Yes, I have the exact locations, I can give them to you when you’re ready.  I don’t know, they can be triggered remotely but I don’t know if there’s a timer involved.  No, I’m not the one who put them there.  No, I don’t know what demands the people that did put them there had.  No, you can’t speak to them, they’re all dead.  I mean, I think so anyway, maybe some of them got away but most of them are dead for sure.  Yes, I can stay on the line.  Yes, I have the exact locations.  Yes.  Yes.  Uh huh.  Me?  I’m nobody, don’t worry about it.

(spits, looks around, softly to herself)

There must be a spare toothbrush in this place somewhere.  No, sorry, I wasn’t talking to you.  No, I don’t want to tell you where I am.  Terrorists?  I guess, what does it matter who they were now?  I just know okay.  Yes, I know this is very serious, I assure you this is not a prank of any kind.  If you don’t find any bombs where I tell you feel free to try and find and arrest me.  Yes.  Uh huh.  No.  I mean, yeah, kinda.

CUT TO: 

EXT. SUNNY BEACH – DAY 

Grace and MMA Dude are sitting at a picnic table drinking some White Claw (or other product placement) and digging into various containers of take-out.  Grace is wearing a classic lady jean-shorts and bikini top combo, showing that her legs and torso are covered with gnarly scars, livid bruises, and other blemishes – think Batman in Dark Knight.   

MMA GUY

So you actually know how to do the Dim Mak?

AMAZING GRACE

(around a mouthful of food)

Yeah, I hate it.

MMA GUY 

Huh.  I thought that was just a cool name.  Do you eat like this all the time?  You must work out a ton. 

AMAZING GRACE 

(laughs) 

Hell no, you know how many calories I burn casting spells all the time?  I basically ran a quadruple marathon and then climbed Mount Everest and then went fifteen rounds whoever is big in boxing right now the past few days.  I’ve almost died of exhaustion more than once, almost magicing myself to death.  Anyway, like I was saying I’m no phys-ad but my friend 42561 is one of the best and she will be there and she’ll be able to help you through it. 

MMA GUY 

Why is her name a bunch of numbers? 

AMAZING GRACE 

Long story.  Actually it’s not a long story at all, it’s just stupid.  This just a bug hunt so you’ll be fine. 

MMA GUY 

It’s not dangerous? 

AMAZING GRACE 

Oh no, it’s incredibly dangerous, there’s a very good chance that you will be killed.  I just mean that you’ll be fine, you know? 

MMA GUY 

I have absolutely no idea what you mean. 

AMAZING GRACE 

(answers her phone) 

Hey Ranni.  Yeah it’s all taken care of.  I saved the entire city and probably the world yet again, hooray for me!  Yeah.  I know.  I should have talked to that gold-digging widow about it.  I bet she sent the money to Dash’s account and now Ela is going to get it and put it up her nose or use it to hire mercs to try and kill me. 

(laugh)

Yeah.  Yeah, I know.   

(sigh) 

I’m sure.  I’m sorry Ranni, I don’t know how it works, if it’s genetic or what, no one knows really, but some people are magic and some aren’t.  I can’t teach you to do what I do.  I wish I would, I need all the help I can get, that’s just not how it works sadly.  Yeah.  Yeah.  I know.  It sucks.  Good to meet you, keep in touch, all that.  Yeah.  Yeah.  See you Ranni.  Stay tight. 

CUT TO: 

INT. RANNI’S APARTMENT – DAY 

Ranni is on her couch, a copy of the Necronomicon ex Mortis lays open before her.  The shadowy ghost of ALEISTER CROWEY, think Jonjo O’Neill, lurks nearby.

Aleister Crowley’s ghost

(otherworldly)

She’s lying.  With my method anyone can work magic.

RANNI

(thinks for a moment)

How do we begin?

FADE OUT:

“Season of the Witch” plays over end credits.

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

Mathanaya 14 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

As we traveled the former path of the river the farther west we got the livelier and healthier the plant life appeared.  On the way to Bowcrag we passed through some truly depressing terrain, but this was almost pleasant.  Corwyn claimed this was because of the influence of the hags and their inherent magicalness. 

“I thought hags were all about misery and spiders and grossness and big ugly warts.  Why would their influence help plants grow?”

“I’m no hagologist but hags are somehow related to the fey folk I think and they’re all about trees and grass and walnuts and shit right?”

“I thought they were mostly about tormenting people and stealing babies.”

“Well everyone needs a hobby.”

Things did turn muddier and more unpleasant as we turned north.  We followed the smoke of a small campfire and found one of Corwyn’s fellow surveyors cooking up a mess of spicy swamp crabs.  He was a scraggly looking Halfling in a red greatcoat that appeared to have been badly burned at some point.  Whoever this merchant was that was hiring these people must be really into diversity – so far in his employ we’ve encountered a Kostelos, a gnome, and a Halfling.  All men of course though, there’s a limit to how far tolerance goes.  Corwyn and this fellow, Giger, chatted for a while and he invited us to share his repast – there was no way I was going to touch swamp crabs but everyone else seemed to enjoy them.   Anflite and Filtan in particular were cramming the greenish little things in their mouths like greedy pigs. 

Shortly after this diversion we saw a carriage stuck in the mud.  The doors on the side facing us had been torn off and the whole thing was tilted slightly towards us, which was resulting in a thin stream of blood dripping off the floor into the muddy ground.  Nearby a woman in a muck and blood smeared white dress lay with her ankle snared in a bear trap.  Upon hearing us approach she looked up with a pale tear-stained face and started begging for help. The two sets of siblings were about to run forward when I stopped them with a whistle.

“Yeah, I don’t think so.  Why would a carriage be out here?  Or a bear trap for that matter?  There are no bears around here.  Plus where are the horses?  Carriages don’t get far without horses.”

The woman started sobbing and raspingly gasping about how much her leg hurt and how bad the pain was.  Anflite and Filtan looked like their hearts were breaking – I’m starting to wonder about their credentials as hired killers, seems like they should be made of tougher stuff.  They wanted to run to her aid but I commanded them to stay back.  Eventually the “carriage” disappeared, revealing itself to be merely a large roundish hammock.  The “woman” calmly stood up and walked a few paces our way.

“That’s close enough.  That was well crafted, but your choice was a little off for this terrain.  That would have worked great in more of a deep dark forest setting.  And what would have happened if we tried to help you?”

“You’ll never know will you?  Perhaps it was a morality test, to see if you would help the weak.”

“To what end?  I mean helping the weak sounds all well and good but the weak always need help you know?  It gets tiresome.  You save one person’s life and then it’s like you’re on the hook helping them for the rest of yours.  If we’re being honest I prefer to help the strong, they don’t come running back to you for more help all the time, plus their gratitude bears greater rewards.  I mean the weak, what do they have to offer really?”

“Well said.  What is it that you and your assorted band of friends are doing out here?  If I may ask.”

“We’re looking for the Tree of Woe.  Know anything about it?”

“Sounds like the kind of place best avoided.  What with the woe part.”

“You’re probably right, but going places that are best avoided seems to be my lot in life.”

The “woman” dropped the illusion, revealing a humanoid swine-type being.  Although it was pretty hairy so maybe it was more of a boar than a pig?  Although isn’t a boar just a name for a female pig?  Anyway, you get the idea – it had tusks and was grotesque. 

“I’ll tell them you’re coming.”

The swine-monster dropped to all fours and ran off in a way that looked awkward as all Hells but was very fast indeed. 

“Nothing at all unsettling about that.”

Corwyn decided at this point that we could find the rest of the way ourselves.  I tried to sell him on the thrill of coming face to face with a hag coven but for some strange reason he wasn’t into it.  He turned back for Bowcrag as we soldiered on.    Late in the afternoon we came across a half rotted river boat that was titled almost entirely on its side with the bottom (what’s the bottom of a boat called, the hull?  Or is the whole thing the hull?) sunk deep in a weedy mud bank.  I studied it for a good long while and saw no signs of it being an illusion, but you can never be sure right?  Last thing I want is to walk directly into the mouth of a giant crocodile or man eating snapper turtle.  Martialla tossed a rock at it which thumped into the decaying wood with an appropriate sound.

“If it’s an illusion it’s a good one.  You want to check it out?”

“Of course I do, what possible reason could there be for not wanting to crawl into a collapsing riverboat in hag country?  How do you think this got here?  Surely when they dammed the river everyone would have known about it ahead of time.”

Getting in turned out to be more difficult than I thought.  There was no good way to get inside so in the end I had Anflite and Filtan smash through the wood with their orc-axes.  Even then I was the only one slender enough to wriggle in.  Martialla could have probably fit as well but that would have been even more claustrophobic.  She did use her magic to make my signet ring glow with light so I could see my way around and so that any critters in here could see me coming and get the jump on me.  I’m not even sure what I was crawling through, unless this boat was made for pixies any corridor should have been much larger.   After a dozen feet or so I dropped down into a huge room that looked to have been a dancing hall or something of the like – clearly this was the pleasure barge of a noble or those that cater to them.  Seeing it sideways was a little disorientating.

Before I could look around much an apparition appeared before me – a woman in a dress that looked like it was made from the scaly hide of some monster.  It was made in as if it was a dress of the highest fashion but those scales have to be Hells on the nipples.  She would have been attractive it not for her empty eye sockets and the fact that her discolored skeleton could clearly be seen through her translucent “flesh”.  The cards of a deck floated around her like bees orbiting a flower.  Her voice was melodious in a haunting and low way.

“Fancy a game?  I’ve been waiting ages to turn the cards again.”

“It can’t be that long, this river only dried up a few years ago.”

“The Lady’s Luck sunk long before the river was drained.”

“Ah, that makes more sense now.  What’s your game?”

“High card.”

I laughed “Preposterous.  I thought you wanted a game, not a waste of time.”  Two tiny red lights appeared in her eye-holes and her ghost face twisted into a horrid parody of anger.  “High card it is.  What are we playing for?”

“Your soul.”

“I think that’s already spoken for but sure.”

“First to eight wins.  I win and your body is mine – your delightful body – we switch places and I walk out of here, you stay, bereft of form.  Powerless and alone.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time.”

Have you ever played cards with a ghost?  I have now.  The hard part is shuffling cards that have been covered with ghost syrup.  I think fancy educated types call it ectoplasm but I’m telling you that it’s exactly the same as mostly clear colored syrup – sticky and gooey in all the wrong ways.  I hit my eight high cards while she was still on three.  It was the funniest thing, every time she dealt I won about half the time, but whenever I did I always won.

“What do I get for winning?”

“I think you cheated.”

“That’s a very serious accusation, cheating at cards gets people killed.”

“I’m very much aware of that, how do you think I ended up here?”

“I’ve been meaning to ask you something, isn’t that dress horribly uncomfortable?”

“It was mostly for show.  Even though you probably cheated for winning I will reward you with knowledge.  The realm of the dead holds many secrets.”

“How do I get revenge on Duke Eaglevane?”

“Who’s Duke Eaglevane?”

“Okay then.  Actually there is something that you might be able to help me out with.  A friend of mine, well not a friend, she was a pain in the ass really – a work acquaintance of mine was killed recently and I’d like to bring her back.  Resurrection you know.  Return her from the land of the dead to my world.  How might I pull something like that off?”

“Seek the seven strings.”

“What the Hells does that mean?”

But she had disappeared.  After I cleaned the ghost snot off the cards I saw that the images on them had all changed to artwork depicting a woman that looked a lot like me in various forms of distress – distress like being tortured on a rack, or crushed by rocks, or being ripped apart by devils, that sort of thing.  It’s the kind of keepsake that you can’t pass up.  Scrounging around I found the woman’s remains which I gathered up, along with her scaly dress.  Beyond that there was nothing of value and there appeared to be no other bodies either – whatever happened here I think was a little more than a simple shipwreck.  I suppose a woman with a dress like that probably had an interesting life and death.

After crawling back out and allowing Martialla to magically hose me down (Drake didn’t even leer at me but I’ll chalk that up to concern over his sister) we gave the bones of the gambling ghost a proper burial. 

“You know this is like the third or fourth ghost that I’ve put to rest?  Fun fact.”

“Should we same some words?”

“What’s there to say?  She’s dead, we’re alive.  That’s pretty much it.”

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .021%

Curses – Marksman’s Malady, Unnerve Beasts

Funds: 8,676 gold

XP: 243,161

Inventory:  Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Pocketed Scarf, Wrist Sheath, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Ring of Protection +2, Assortment of Fake Signet Rings,  Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Black Marketers’ Bag, 852 Garnets, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow, Deck of Curses, Blue Dragoncloth Dress    

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