Montresor 12 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

(Note – I suddenly became annoyed by the inventory and list at the end every post and moved those to their own page. For anyone who cares.)

After watching the elder statesmen (and one stateswoman and one statesrat) of a cult dedicated to sexual deviancy, human sacrifice, and cannibalism be devoured by a massive death worm I was tempted to spend a few days with the Halflings of the Shoddy Hills – seeing that kind of thing with your very own eyes makes you want to rest and relax for a while.  You know how it is.

But as they say, no rest for the gorgeous.  I didn’t get terribly familiar with the philosophy (is that the right word?) of the goat cult people while they were busy trying to kill me but as I understand it they believe they can live outside of the natural cycle by emulating the Dark Mother who is her own food and her own parent – some manner of cyclical self-cannibalism and incestuous restitution.  So maybe for them being eaten by a giant worm is not that bad of a way to go.  Best not to speculate on the motivations of such people.   

The Halflings shook their head in sorrowful reproof of my haste to leave.  One of the shirriff’s commented that we overly large folk are “Always in a big hurry to get from something foolish to nothing at all”.  Once again they’re not wrong, but revenge is a stern mistress.  And not the fun kind with leather clothing.  I asked them if they could lead me through worm-tunnels to Eree and they looked at me like I was insane.  They’re the ones that were snuggling up to a beast the Kostelos call “the Clan Eater” like it was a tame petting goat and somehow I’m the crazy one?  Typical.  They did lead me back through the hills on worm-safe paths and sent me off with several rucksacks full of sweetened dried fruit, aged sausage, hard sharp cheese, honey cakes, and a mixture of roasted grains, nuts, and molasses.  They believe that a full belly strengths your resolve – there’s a lot to like about these little folk.

Once the Halfling ballyhoo was ballyhooed I headed south towards Tybhurst, as was the plan before I got diverted by all this nonsense.  Sometimes I really do think that some God or Gods is taking measures to keep from ever making progress on my goals.  Mostly though I think Gods have better things to do.  What those things might be I can’t imagine, but they have to have them.  Right?  As I traveled I saw an owlbear prowling around at the edge of the hills but I stayed well away from it.  I have no desire to be ripped to shreds by one of those things.  How is it that replacing the head of a bear with that of a tiny bird somehow resulted in a creature that is stronger and more vicious?  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – magic is crazy.

I never found the road so I must not be heading the right away, or I’m misremembering the topography of this area, but despite that fact I still somehow managed to encounter a large gathering of people.  I must be drawn to them unconsciously by the longing in my soul for civilized areas.  The reason for this gathering in the middle of nowhere was odd, although I guess there isn’t a reason for a gathering in the middle of nowhere that would be normal. 

Dueling is illegal is most jurisdictions although enforcement is spotty at best – people love watching two rich guys hack each other to bits.  Those duelists that are concerned about getting in trouble with the law simply meet outside the city limits to carve each other into bloody chunks, unless a forest warden happens along who’s going to arrest you?  Two fellows from Caeptil who should be old enough to know better decided upon a duel on account of one of them cheated the other in a deal or some kind and then someone’s wife was dishonored and this and that and so on.  Word got around, as it does, and the mayor put his foot down – they would be no dueling in or AROUND the city.  In order to bypass this the rare show of law enforcement the aggrieved parties decided to head south of the Shoddy Hills to spill blood.

A lot of people had no intention of missing this duel so they also made arrangements so travel south of the city to watch it go down.  A group of wandering players heard about this and they decided they would turn up and put on a performance beforehand.  Then a traveling circus heard about it and joined in and next thing you know you’ve got yourself a festival going.  Usually they don’t end with two gentlemen stabbing at each other, but there’s a first time for everything.  Except things that never happen.  There’s not a first time for those things.

Normally these festivals are crawling with low class types but this was an upscale affair – after all it’s not like your average person can afford to go haring off at the drop of a hat to watch a duel.  The crowd was mostly compromised of merchants and the retinues of the two dueling lords – who did their part to support their lieges by giving each other dirty looks and stepping on each other’s boots as they waited in line for candied apples.  One such merchant was more than happy to let me borrow his fine pavilion and actual bed for the night while he slept under a tarp with his manservant.  I’ve gotten so skillful at talking people into acting against their own best interest it’s almost not even fun anymore.  Almost.  It was a delightful surprise to get the sleep in a fine bed in a decent pavilion rather than on the ground like a filthy mole. 

After securing my lodgings for the night I wandered the merchant stalls and other perused the offerings of the opportunist and then headed to the “grand concourse” to watch the players mount a decent effort at the first act of Dawnflower’s Gold and laugh internally at a singer that couldn’t hold a handle to me.  She was pretty, very pretty, but she couldn’t sing worth a damn.  I was leaving when I spotted a face from the past – one Jonah Hillless.

Jonah is cursed with one of those babyfaces, last time I saw him he was eighteen and looked like he was eleven.  Now all these years later he looks like he might be all of seventeen.  He was a pawn in the tradition of fostering that nobles sometimes like to do – the ritual exchange of hostages dressed up all fancy like to be something else.  Some lords take their duties as surrogate father very seriously.  Others play more into the hostage aspect and treat their wards little better than prisoners.  The Duke couldn’t be bothered to care about Jonah.  He was basically left on his on (sound familiar?) and was usually so meek an unassuming that people forgot he was there at all.  He probably would have starved to death if the kitchen staff and the servants in general didn’t adopt him as a mascot of sorts. 

He was wearing those same cheap spectacles that the girls used to tease him about.  He’s slightly cross-eyed without them but I don’t understand why he doesn’t buy a better pair.  His family has plenty of money.  He was one of the only nobles at court that was truly devoted to his faith – attending Adariel’s services religiously (pun) which served to make him all the more liked by the lower class types.  He was kind and generous and totally out place in the Duke’s court.  It’s a good thing he was so inconspicuous, if anyone took notice if him he probably would have ended up a pawn in someone’s game and then ended up dead shortly thereafter.   Even though his face was still that of a boy he had grown tall and athletic where once he was soft and weedy.  As he was heading back to a tent of his own I fell into step beside him.

“Fancy meeting you here.”

When he looked over her literally tripped over his own feet in surprise, but managed to avoid falling just barely “Ela?”

I held my arms wide like a magician revealing a trick “The very same.”

He was incredulous “But . . . how . . . everyone said that you were dead.”

“Oh I am, can’t you tell by the decay ravaging my body?  I’m a revenant you see, back from the grave for revenge.  Come kiss these rotting lips.” He blushed furiously at the very idea and took an involuntary step backwards.  I laughed good-naturedly. “Good to see you haven’t changed.  What are you doing all the way out here?  The Jonah I knew isn’t the kind to be interested enough in a little bloodshed to travel all this way.”

“Well, duty calls.”

“You’re not in service to one of these fools are you Jonah?”

“Not in the way you mean.  I’m here as the proxy for Lord Hovecraft.”

I was almost as surprised by that as he was to see me “You’re joking.”

He shook his head “I’m afraid not My Lady.  My family has fallen on . . . hard times.  The only asset we have at this point is my skill at battle.”

I put my hand on his arm “Don’t take this the wrong way Jonah, but I don’t remember you having much in the way of skill at battle.  Didn’t one of the kitchen boys beat you senseless with a broom one time?”

He winced “I’ve gotten . . . better . . . since then . . . somewhat.  My father’s sword is very powerful . . .” he shrugged helplessly “It’s all I can do.  Things . . . are . . . not going well.”

“Good Gods Jonah, how is you getting killed going to help your family?  If you have this great sword and you need money why not sell it?  I’ve learned that people pay a lot for that sort of thing.”

He gasped as if I asked him to sell his mother’s virtue on the street corner – even Jonah isn’t immune to the stupidity of the aristocracy.  Better to hang onto a family heirloom than your life.  I bet if I offered him money he wouldn’t take it either, because of “honor”.  What a bunch of crap.  These are the people we’re putting in charge of the world? 

He turned to enter his tent “It’s good to see you Ela, but I really need to rest up for tomorrow.”

I grabbed his shoulder “Wait a minute Jonah, is Lord Brandymoore fighting himself or does he have a proxy too?”

He gulped “Elkin Brevoy is fighting for Lord Brandymoore.”

“Wow, he must have learned how to fight with his left hand.  Good for him.”

Jonah looked confused “How did you know about his hand?”

“I’m the one who fucking took it!”

His confusion only deepened “What are you talking about?  After defeating Fenrir the Fearless Brevoy cut off his own hand because no one could match him and he wanted a challenge.”

“Ha!  Talk about spitting shit onto gold eh Jonah?  I tell you plainly that I bit off his hand and ate it.  It’s a whole story.” I put my arm around him and walked him into his tent “I’ll tell you all about it while we discuss the plan for the duel.”

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

Mantelderith 24 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

When I got up this morning I checked my Flask to see how the nixie (and the Flask) was doing but there was no response from her.  I dumped out a gallon of rice wine to see if she would appear, but there was nothing.  So I guess she’s dead or gone or something.  Apparently putting magic being into a magic bottomless flask of wine was not the best idea.   I’ll shoulder most of the blame on this one.  But look on the bright side, if I hadn’t come along she would have died several days ago – when you’re facing your last moments you want every second you know?  So I did a good thing. 

Today our caravan ran smack into another caravan – one of those Shireling ones you always hear about.  Although I guess if they travel around all the time they’re not from the Eight Shires and aren’t really Shirelings.  You know what I mean, they were little people.  But you know not like humans who are short, I mean they to look mostly like very short humans, but you know what I mean.  I was told one time that the reason that the Eight Shires is such a nice place is that every so often they take a whole family (and Shireling families are big) and kick them out so that they can avoid over population.  Of those not-quite-exiles some of them come into human lands to settle and mostly get treated like crap.  Others decided instead to wander eternally in nomadic caravans like this one.  It seems like an easy choice but you have to factor in how many of these caravans you don’t see because they’ve been swallowed by trolls.

Arbeven must be on a secret Halfling migratory pattern since this is the second time I’ve seen one in this area, but it was definitely not the same one.  The one that I sold a ring to lo those many months ago was a relatively small affair populated with lean hardnosed smallfolk that you kept your eye on.  This had more of a small village on wheels vibe.  Most of the wagons were pulled by robust Shire ponies but the lead wagon was instead being dragged forward by two animals that looked like hornless rhinos – not like their horns were cut off, just that they didn’t have them.  They kind of had beaky mouths too – not like bird beaks but like a turtle you know?  I never before saw whatever they were.  How do you find and tame something like that?  That wagon the not-rhinos was pulling was massive as far as wagons go, not as massive as that ridiculous merchant “land-ship” that I was once, but it looked like a Halfling hole had been dragged out of the ground and mounted on a frame. 

The Hücresel Merchant Company (all both of them) were more than happy to stop and swap at this serendipitous meeting.  It was a long enough delay for Halfling children to turn out by the wagonload running about and riding on their burly hound and playing some manner of stick-game similar to lacrosse only it seemed that you could just throw the ball as well.   Looked very much like the kind of thing that would result in human children losing an eye or two but they seemed pretty adept.  The master of the caravan, Mr. Big Jobo Hairyfoot (if I have one complaint about the Shirefolk it’s their heavy dependence on foot or feet in their surnames) was more than happy to show me to their heavily guarded (relatively speaking) premium goods. 

Jobo, who true to his name was well over four feet tall, showed me a few trinkets and charms that I had little interest in but then he showed me a long duster style overcoat that was a real find.  It was a double-breasted number with wide lapels (but not too wide) and both a storm flap and buckling straps around the wrists.  This is important to keep water from running down your forearm when you raise your arm in the rain – I HATE that.  If you’re going to make a waterproof coat you better have it seal up so water doesn’t get INSIDE of it Gods damn it!  The lining was fine piece of seamstressing and it fit me like a dream – coming down to just above the ankle, which is long enough to keep you dry but not so long that you’re getting tangled up.  I have a hard time finding lady’s coats like this that reach beyond the knee on account of I’m so tall and magnificent.  Sometimes I have to resort to a man’s coat which swallows me up like a troll eating a Halfling, but this was clearly made for a fine lady such as myself.  The horn buttons were just the icing on the cake.  It cost a fortune because it is all kinds of magic, but it was worthy it just for the style alone.  I look great in this thing.

Speaking of cake and icing, the best thing about doing business with a Halfling caravan is they invite you to lunch.  And they know how to eat well on the hoof, so to speak.  Instead of the beans and refried mush I’ve been treated to by the “cook” Hücresel Merchant Company (who’s a nice enough fellow despite being terrible at his job) Jobo invited me to his table to enjoy stuffed pork loin, poached guinea fowl, oysters and liver, wild truffle and bleu cheese salad, and a fluffy buttercream cake that had such a preponderance of icing that it made your teeth hurt just looking at it.  I have as much of a sweet tooth as the next gal, but it was a bit much for me.  I was able to manage with just some chocolate pudding pie and strawberry mousse.  It wasn’t easy but that’s why I’m renowned as being so heroic – I manage under such challenging conditions.

Once business (and lunch) was concluded the Halflings were packed up and back on the road with marvelous alacrity.  The children and dogs disappeared back into the wagons with admirable discipline and the whole caravan was underway within a matter of minutes.  I noticed then that a couple of the out-riders (or whatever you call them when they’re on foot and not riding) were humans.  I certainly didn’t notice them when it was time for happy faces and the brisk back and forth of trading.  They must be the real heavies with sordid pasts who wander the land with these folk to avoid their troubles.  There should be a series of books about that, its fertile ground for melodrama.  It took quite a bit longer for the Hücresel Merchant Company to get going even though they had a third as many wagons and one tenth as many people (although they were bigger of course).  Although I will say in their defense that everyone was stuffed to the gills with rich Halfling cuisine so they were a little sluggish.  Once again Martialla and I were perched on our boxes watching as the teamsters and drovers struggled to get things moving.

“All I’m saying is that they mostly sell to humans right?  You’d think they’d have one crossbow the right size for me.”

“I find it odd that they had crossbows at all, I’ve never known a Shireling to use one, their big thing seems to be slings.”

“Slings?  Who can you hurt with a sling?  No wonder the trolls get them all the time.”

“Have you ever been hit with a sling?”

“Of course not.”

“Well I have and it hurts.”

“But you’re still alive huh?  Ergo my point is proven.”

“You’ve been shot with a crossbow a bunch of times and you’re still alive.”

“I’ve been shot buy ever Gods damned thing under the sun it seems like.  And I am still alive but that’s not a commentary on the effectiveness of the weapons that’s a testament to my legendary fortitude.”

“I thought that was about how much you could drink and not get drunk.”

“That too.  My point is that I’m tougher than . . . something that is very tough.”

“Good one.  Tell you what, I’ll get a sling and you let me nail you between the eyes and then you tell me how you feel.”

“Do you think you could make that shot?  Slings don’t seem like very accurate weapons to me and I’m guessing you’ve never used one – I doubt you could hit me in the head at all, let alone between the eyes.  I would bet heavily against that happening.”

“I might take that bet.  How have you dreams been lately.”

I patted my Necklace fondly “Just fine since I got this baby back.”

“How do you tell the difference between a normal nightmare and when you’re being dream attacked by a hag?”

“I’d say the easiest thing to identify is that you wake up feeling like you got tramped by an angry mob and instead of feeling rested you feel even more tired – and like you might die at any moment from sheer exhaustion.  Beyond that the dreams themselves are remarkably vivid and awful.  There’s really no mistaking them for the real thing.”

“Hmm, I’m starting to wonder if some of the dream horror coming your way is being deflected onto people around you.  I’ve had some pretty bad dreams the last few nights and I’ve heard other people complaining about the same.”

“That’s a shame.”

“That’s all you got?”

I shrugged “What else do you want from me?  I’m no dreamweaver.  There’s probably a god of dreams right?  Find one of his or her priests and maybe they can help.”

“How about you just take the necklace off tonight?”

“Why on earth would I do that?”

“If you sleep without it and no one else has nightmares tonight then we’ll know that’s what’s happening.”

“And then what?  What good does that information do?”

“Well, if the hag nightmare attacks are ricocheting off your shield onto everyone else don’t you want to do something about it?”

“Something like that?  What can I do?  I did my part, I protected myself, am I responsible for everyone else’s dreams now?”

“Maybe you could force the nightmare hag into some kind of final confrontation in the dreamworld and defeat her.”

“How?  She’s the one with dream powers, I can’t do anything.  That makes no sense, why would you want to confront a monster on their home grounds?  If anything what we’d want to do is to confront them in the real world were presumably they have no power.  Or at least less power.  How am I supposed to defeat something in a dream?”

“With the power of imagination?”

“Yeah, thanks.”

“I’ll think about it, maybe there’s something we can do.  I think there are some drugs you can take that are supposed to help you with lucid dreaming.”

“I know dreamer’s star tea is supposed to give you pleasant dreams but I’ve never heard of it letting you control your dreams.” 

“I was thinking of Gold pesh maybe or one of those other kinds.”

“Isn’t pesh terribly addictive and horrible for you?”

“What do you care, you smoke flayleaf all the time!”

“Not ALL the time, only when it’s available, it’s not like I seek it out.  Most of the time I don’t I mean.  And flayleaf is barely even bad for you, the Duke’s physician told me so once.  It’s basically like medicine really.  Calms the nerves.”

“So that’s why you’re so leveled headed.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 47,040 platinum, 25,750 gold

XP: 1,147,551

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, 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