Montresor 16 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I arrived at the Compass River today.  I’ve had bad luck with river crossings what with the pirates and monsters and undead beasts, so I was not looking forward to the ferry but when I got there I saw that a brand new bridge was ready and waiting for me.  I guess because of the all the troops moving through here (you know the war and all) they decided it made sense to toss up a bridge.  It’s startling when presented with actual proof that the government can accomplish things when they want to.  And building a bridge is no easy task – they must have really busted the asses of some indentured servants to get this completed so quickly.  I’d like to take this moment to remind everyone that slavery is illegal in the Kingdom. 

It wasn’t some rickety little country affair either – this was a Hells of a bridge.  I mean if you like bridges.  You could have marched a whole platoon (I have no idea how many people are in a platoon) across it with room to spare for their train of cooks, laundresses, bootleggers, nurses, prostitutes, and war profiteers.  Truth be told it was far more bridge than you would ever need on the road to a place like Graltontown but fighting wars is mostly about building bridges I’m pretty sure.  The ferryman’s little shack was still nearby but the ferryman himself was nowhere to be found.  I assumed he hanged himself once the bridge was completed and now haunts it at night, strangling travelers unlucky enough to be crossing under the light of the moon with the very ropes with once he made his livelihood. 

As I crossed over this new construction I passed a man pushing an overburdened cartful of cabbages accompanied by a girl dressed in boy’s clothing stooped under a pack bigger than her.  I think it wasn’t just dressed, I think it was supposed to be a disguise, probably as an attempt to dissuade potential rapists.  Surely they couldn’t have been planning on taking those cabbages all the way to Ardint but where else would there be to take them?  I was almost curious enough to ask them.  Almost. 

Aside from cabbages the other thing I wondered about was how I crossed this river the first time.  Five hundred and twenty seven days ago I woke up in that garbage-strewed alley in Graltontown being molested by a diseased mongrel.  What happened before that?  Was I whisked there by magic?  Was I bound and gagged and drugged the entire time, did the ferryman watch as the Duke’s goons manhandled by unconscious form onto his skiff?  Was my mind overthrown by enchantment and I was going there “willingly”?  I suppose before I finally kill the Duke I’ll wring that answer out of him, just for my own curiosity.

On the other side of the river a man was waiting for me, leaning against the bridgehead (is that a thing?) the kind of lean where you need support rather than want it.  He was mostly dressed in dilapidated traveler’s garb, several layers of such in fact, but had added a few items.  Some puffy culottes, a frilly light violet dressing gown, and a horribly clashing floppy red hat with a sad feather really added something to the ensemble.  What that something is I’ll leave for each individual to arrive.  He had a very unmasculine long neck and a disgrace of a beard.  About the only thing that recommended him was the bottle of Oldlaw whiskey he was working on as he leaned at an awkward angle.

“Aren’t you hot under all those clothes?”

He peered at me from under his hat as if trying to assess if I was real “I have a skin condition.”

“And sweating your balls off makes it better?”

He took a moment to consider that “Yes?”

“You also appear to be wearing women’s trousers.”

He took a drink before corking his bottle and tucking it away without offering me any like a real asshole “No such thing madam.  Women won’t wear trousers so there can be so such thing as women’s trousers, ergo and therefore all trousers are men’s trousers.”

“I’m a woman and I’m wearing trousers.”

He frowned and then leaned forward preciously to examine me for a moment “Yes . . . . it seems that you are.  Hmm . . . . this changes things.”

I carefully pushed him back into a more upright position before he fell on his face “I could go on at some length about your fashion choices but in the interest of brevity let me ask what it is you need from me.  It appeared you were waiting for me.”

“Yes . . .” he nodded as if he had just decided “Yes, I talked with a Shepard of the Wandering God and his disciples, he was called Dormus, and he told me of a meeting with a witch hunter by the name of Buckleuck.  It’s him that I was waiting for but it appears that you are him.”

“Good eye, most people would never peg me for Buckleuck since I look nothing like him and also he doesn’t really exist.”

“Existence is not as black and white as people think.  And appearances can be deceiving, I try not to rely on anything so undependable as vision if I have other options.”

“And do you?”

He nodded slowly “Oh yes, I’m quite a powerful wizard.”

“You look like a vagrant.”

“I’m that too.”

“I suppose you must be a wizard since here you are in front of me when the people you said you talked to yesterday are now far behind me.”

He looked around, confused “They are?  I admit that directions and geography aren’t something I’m good with, I have the bad tendency to get turned around.”

“That’s something we have in common.  I have to tell you my shabby new friend, I don’t get on with wizards very well.  They have a disturbing tendency to live in isolated towers where they can kidnap and torture women without being bothered by angry mobs.”

“I don’t blame you there, most wizards are real stiffs.  I can assure you that I have no problem with women.  I love women, why else would I pay them thirty silver to have sex with me?”

“You don’t look like you have thirty silver to spare very often.”

A sighed sadly “True enough, wizarding is not a very lucrative profession.”

“Disagree whenever I buy anything magic it costs a fortune.  I feel like you’re just a bad wizard and that’s why you’re poor.”

“Maybe, but it takes a lot of money to make those things too.  The overhead is substantial.  And it takes forever.  One measly little magic ring takes months to create.  It’s crazy I tell you.  Plus I never really mastered the art of crafting magic items, mine had the bad habit if not working which doesn’t do much for your reputation.”

 “That is pretty strong mark against any merchant – your competitors can say mean things like ‘at least my stuff actually works’ and what can you say back?”

“Exactly.  That’s why so many wizards get drawn into the tawdry and ugly world of adventuring, there’s just not a lot of other ways to get rich using your skills of setting people and things on fire at fifty paces.”

“But you can do other things with magic other than killing right?”

“You’d think so wouldn’t you?”

“We seem to have gotten sidetracked again, what is it you want from me?”

“I need a witch hunted, what reason would there be to look for a witch hunter?”

“Maybe you want one of those big hats they seem to love so much.”

Montagem 24 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I’ve met some mismatched adventuring parties in my day but this one takes the cake (and sells it in town to buy a magic cleaver so they can take more cake from people to buy a bigger cleaver so they can take more cake . . .)  First and most obviously there’s six of them, when everyone knows that the magic number is four.  Even beyond that their composition is all off.  Two wizards is one wizards too many (possibly two) and as far as I can tell they have no warriors or religious types.  It’s surprising how many groups don’t have a divine specialist – how do they expect to get the sweet magic healing?  It shouldn’t be surprising since that’s the one occupation in the bunch that comes built in with responsibilities that don’t include wandering around murdering people on a whim but holy warriors are traditionally considered part of the iconic adventuring group mix.  I suppose priests of Adariel are too nice, priests of Strider wander off too much, and Odobeninians want too large a share of the booty (if you know what I mean).  I think the elf implied that s/he was a fighting type at one point but everyone knows that elfs are too willowy and ethereal to be warriors.  Plus I saw her/him cast a spell – make up your mind elf, it can’t be both.  Can you imagine an adventuring band with three wizards?  It’s sheer madness. While the tiny woman went to speak with the commander of the Harmenkar forces I spoke to the other five.

“Thanks for the rescue folks but I need to get away from here as fast as possible.” I plucked at the silver chain around my neck “This bad boy is a magic homing beacon and as soon as they figure out that I’m gone they’re going to able to find exactly where I am.  And you saw how many of them there are.  I know that you’re used to facing long odds and coming out the victors but this is different, these are legitimately dangerous people.  There’s one woman over there in particular that’s as ruthless as they come.  The best thing I can do is put as much distance between them and me as possible before they realize that I’m missing.”

The Shirelings were so similar looking that I could tell them apart only because one had a shield and the other did not.  I hope they’re siblings or something and I’m not just totally racist.  The one with the shield asked me why they had a magic tracker on me.

“I really need to get out of here so I don’t want to get into a deep conversation, in a nutshell what happened is that I found out that the Królewna and Bonifacja Trading Company were betraying the King – he was still alive then – and the King’s advisors decided to hide me away rather than letting that information become general knowledge.  I rabbited on them a couple times so they saddled me with this ugly thing so they could fine me.”

The other Shireling had a thoughtful expression “I never did hear a convincing reason why K and B was getting pulled apart, I assumed the King just needed money for the war.”

One of the wizards (you can tell because he was wearing robes) snorted at this “And I told you that made no sense, the tax revenue the Kingdom makes off of a trading company of that size would far out-strip any short term gains they’d get from seizing property.”

“Look guys, I really need to get moving, I don’t mean to be rude.  So thanks again, but it’s time for me to go.”

The other wizard, who strangely was wearing a helm, motioned for me to wait “There’s no need to rush off in the night.  May I examine that artifact?”

He said artifact like a total douche but I nodded my head anyway.  He came forward, putting his face right next to mine while he examined the silver necklace the Baron yoked me with – he could have stood to the side instead of being obtrusive and weird but you know, wizard.  His breath smelled like an old garment that has been stored in cedar chest for years.  How would you even accomplish that kind of mouth smell if you wanted to?  After a while he muttered some arcane words and the chain glowed for a few seconds while he stared at it sightlessly like I’ve seen Martialla do when she’s checking out magic shit.  He nodded and then called the other wizard over to stand too close behind me – they had me bracketed pretty good.  The second wizard took out a scroll and carelessly grabbed the necklace as well, choking me a little, as he cast a spell.

“That will misdirect them several hours, time enough for us to come up with a plan.”

“You mind backing off there champ?”

He blinked in surprise and then took one giant step backwards like a weirdo.  I slipped away and to the side to get away from the other one who was still breathing on the back of my neck like a freak.

“I appreciate that, but I couldn’t ask you to do any more behalf, you’ve already done more than I could ever expect.”

The Halfling without a shield grinned “Nonsense, we love this kind of stuff.  This is what we do darling, this is what we do.”

I have to imagine that the commander of the real soldiers was livid to find out about this little side trek his hirelings went on, but when the tiny woman returned she seems unperturbed.  I suppose adventurers are used to doing whatever they want and getting away with it because they can kill you if you cry about it.  That’s probably why real military people hate them.  She said that her name was Diatala and we all talked for a few minutes (except the elf who was probably out doing mysterious elf things) before she suggested that I get some rest as I was “clearly exhausted”.  How rude.  Rude and accurate.  I reiterated my opinion that I needed to run as far as I could while their magic locator was blocked but she shook her head resolutely.

“You’re under our protection now.  You’re stuck with us until we figure out a way to get that necklace off of you.”

It’s kind of nice to have the insane stubborn intractability of adventurers on my side for once.  I didn’t point out that they were basically holding me captive for my own good just like the people I’m running away from.  Those kinds of details tend to me lost on these sort of people.  The wizards promised me that they would put their heads together and come up with a solution.  When I mentioned that my shoulder was fucked up they gave me a potion that tasted like crap but fixed me up eighty-eight percent.  So much for the legendary stinginess of adventurers, I guess it’s different when you’re their rescue.  All they had for me was a bedroll, but after the last few nights it was as welcome as a feather bed in a luxury suite.  I fell asleep immediately.  The funny thing is, not funny ha-ha but funny like when a mule falls off a cliff, is that it’s actually probably good that I haven’t been able to sleep.  Without my necklace to protect me I was assaulted by nightmares throughout the night.  I still woke up feeling better though, that’s how tried I was.

The sun was high in the sky by the time I woke up, I must have slept for more than ten hours.  Diatala was sitting nearby fiddling with a kind of little puzzle that was made up of little rings of metal that fit together in some fashion.

“I won’t ask if you slept well, I know that you didn’t.  Bad dreams?”

“The worst.  There’s some kind of magic bullshit that makes me have nightmares all the time.”

“Królewna and Bonifacja really did a number on you didn’t they?”

“You can say that again.”

“Your captors have been combing the area on the other side of the river looking for you.  They asked Baron Saltwheel’s men about you but they were uncooperative, I doubt they really think that you’re in their camp.  Ibix used another scroll on your necklace to keep it from signaling your location but that’s the last of them.  Before sundown they’re going to know exactly where you are.  But we have a plan.”

“You really don’t need to take any more risks on my behalf.”

She held up her hand to stop my protestations “Just accept that we’re going to help you.  Emam and Sarpol put their heads together and they have a way to get that necklace off you but it requires some components they don’t have.  The good news is we’re not far from the home of Archbaroness Relonge and she owes us a favor.”

“Oh, Relonge you say?  Have you spoken to her recently by any chance?”

We didn’t get to continue that conversation because there came a hue and a cry.  Isn’t a hue a color?  Anyway, Baron Saltwheel’s men and Kartak’s men were coming across the bridge looking grim.  Kartak must know (or at least suspect) out that I’m over here and made some manner of alliance with Saltwheel’s goons.  Martialla probably figured it out actually, she’s pretty sharp.  The Harmenkar soldiers looked uncertain what to do, but the adventurers jumped on the bridge ready to fight – you have to give them points for bravery if nothing else.  The commander of the Harmenkar soldiers looked horrified.

“Wait, stop!  Don’t do anything you’ll regret, just hand me over to them.”

Seeing reason the adventuring party admitted that they couldn’t fight that many enemy soldiers, but that didn’t mean they gave up of course.  They backed off the bridge and wizard number one hit it with a massive fireball while wizard number two attacked with a stroke of lightning.  Even the elf got in on the action using its elf-power to warp the wood like it had been sitting underwater for decades.  The men on the bridge sprinted back to safety as the wizards continued their arcane assault and the bridge collapsed with a massive sprout of river-water.  Martialla barely made it off the bridge and I saw her standing, wet as a duck’s ass, on the other side of the river staring a hole in me.   

I know that it worked out for me in this case but this is a good example of how insane adventuring types are.  You know how hard it is to build a bridge?  You know how important they are to the local community?  And they just blew one up to save one person that they don’t even know.  Although, that’s not even why they did it – they didn’t really do it for me, they did it because they wanted to win.  At the core of every adventurous soul there is the belief that they are better than everyone else – even the nice ones think that without realizing it themselves.  Working a job and obeying the law and being normal is fine for other people, lessor people, but they are too important for that.  They have a destiny.  They could never live the kind of humdrum boring exist of people like you, although they mean no offense by saying so. 

So destroying a bridge to stop their opponents makes perfect sense to them.  It doesn’t matter that without this bridge here the local populace with suffer.  It doesn’t matter that for all they know I am a violent criminal who was being held legally.  It doesn’t matter that they just screwed over the guy that hired them.  All that matters is that they won.  Adventurers would rather be alive then dead of course, but they would definitely rather die than lose – what would be the point of living if a normal person bested them? 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 953,251

Inventory: None

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