I need you and I want you cause I know you from before

We came to a point where the brush cleared out enough to give us a good view of the surrounding area from on high.  We saw a low sprawling complex that Martialla thought might be the Sierra Army Depot. An army depot seemed to me like the kind of place we would want to check out, but Martialla said that if there was anything there, it would have been looted a long time ago.  She sure has a lot more opinions now than she did back in the real world.  I went along with it, because why not?  There may not have been anything there regardless since Martialla said that she thought that it was a facility where the EPA made sure the government decommissioned military explosives in an ecologically friendly way.  Who knew that was a thing? 

I pointed at a low sludgy-looking body of water in a vaguely ragged W shape “I don’t remember any big lakes around here, have we traveled farther than I think?” 

Martialla shook her head “No we haven’t gone far, but things are bound to be different after a hundred years.  Topography changes a lot more than you think.” 

“It has NOT been a hundred years.” 

She looked over at me “Why do you refuse to believe that?” 

“Mostly because I don’t want it to be true.  But if you want logic, there’s no way that facility could have survived a hundred years without anyone around doing maintenance.  Things don’t last long, as you keep telling me.”  I gestured. “Not even the landscape it seems.” 

“Lasting a long time is kind of what it was designed for.  Plus we don’t know what happened Ela, maybe people were living there until a few years ago.  What do you reckon?  Head for the disturbingly dirty-looking water?  Or that?” She lifted her chin in the direct of a curl of smoke lower down the hills. “Or keep on the trail?” 

“As long as the trail is going vaguely in the same direction as both of them, we might as well stay on it.” 

The trail wound down in a switchback until the vegetation petered out and tipping plants gave way to slipping rocks.  Scree I think they call that.  At that point there was no real trail anymore.  Which left us standing there with no real direction.  We both looked around for a while, I think we were both waiting for the other one to say something.  I was about to suggest turning towards the water (without having a good understanding of where it was) when I spotted movement crashing our way through the brush overland.

There had been a disturbing lack of animal life.  There were a few bugs, but not enough.  Not that I love bugs but you know what I mean.  You walk through the wilderness, tons of bugs should be jumping on you.  I didn’t see or hear a single bird either.  It was unsettling.  As long as there are plants, and there are tons of those, there should be an ecosystem right?  Little critters eating the plants and bigger critters to eat them.  It was a surprising relief just to see something else besides us that was alive (besides plants, I know plants are alive, I’m not an idiot).

I pointed it out to Martialla “Is that a horse?”

She put her hand up to her mask to peer “I’d say a deer maybe, except with no neck.  I think it belongs to someone, whatever it is.”

“Why do you say that?”

“It has cloth on its hooves.”

I squinted through my dusty mask and saw that it did have some kind of coarse sacks on its legs “Oh yeah, why would you do that?  To muffle the noise of hoofbeats?  Is it a stealth horse like a stealth bomber?”

“Uh, I guess if you don’t have horseshoes maybe you’d do that?”

“How do you think they ever came up with horseshoes anyway?  Who figured that it would be fine to put nails in a horse’s foot?  And how did they get that first horse to go along with that program?  How many people were kicked to death before they got that right?”

“They probably tried it with a dead horse first.”

“After beating it?”

Before she could answer (if she was going to) we saw the presumed rider of the beast clamber over a boulder into view.  It moved slowly and spindly-ly like one of those rain forest frogs you see on the TV very slowly walking up and down trees instead of hopping around like a normal frog.  I guess it was a person but it looked more like that Gollum monster from the Lord of the Rings.  Only with clothes on.  And let me tell you, if there was anyone who should have been wearing a shirt in those movies it was Gollum. 

Martialla whispered to me “Now, we don’t want to spook him . . .”

I lifted my mask enough to cup my hands “Hey you!”

He was startled.  To put it mildly.  His reaction was like he had never heard a noise before.  It was like what I imagine someone would do back in the old days of the electric chair when they threw the switch.  After he was done freaking out he jumped on his deer-horse (no saddle) and it looked like he was going to gallop away but instead he came racing at us at what I would call a breakneck speed. 

Martialla sighed “Good job not spooking him.”

“Hey, it worked didn’t it?”

She drew one of the guns “Remains to be seen.”

Retro Ela throwback post/rip-off

I swear I won’t ever do this again, I know how SUPER invested you all are in 70s Ela story.  Ela Classic was written ad hoc based on random charts and whatnot, rules turned into a narrative, but I did wake up late one night and write this bit about her being forced into a battle in THE NORTH.  I think I had it for more than a year waiting to fit it into the “story”. 

I figured I’d post it because I’m lazy and clearly I have to stick to the pretend schedule I came up with of posting Monday, Wednesday, Friday. 

Why was Ela forced into this battle?

Who is Keorl Thunderhand? 

Is it still called polygamy if you have wives and husbands?

We’ll never know. 

I’ve never seen a battle down south and I hope I never do, but from what I understand it’s quite an affair.  Huge blocks of men lumbering around in ragged squares getting into lines.  Banners and pennants and tents and guys with big hats and all kind of shit like that.  I’ve heard that the reason army people get up at dawn is it takes them until lunch just to get everyone to the battlefield and ready to kill one another.  There’s barely enough hours to even get on with the slaughter before it gets dark.  And you can’t fight in the dark.  It’s too scary.

Clearly things are a little more loose up here.  People seemed to be milling about and wandering down to the front lines like it’s a county fair.  Some people were already killing each other when I got up.  Others were still asleep.  Seems like it would have been the perfect situation to avoid the battle and just say you were there after the fact but I don’t think I can fool magic like that.  Always the damn magic.  So Instead of doing the smart thing and staying under cover until all the killing and dying was over, I went in search of Keorl Thunderhand, finding him in a heap with his wives and husbands.

I tossed a bucket of . . . something on him “Come on, the battle’s starting and it’s a race between which is going to freeze off first, my nips or my nose.”

Grinning, he disentangled himself from the pile and came out of his tent shrugging on a chain shirt and slapping on a helmet “That’s the problem with you southern women, too skinny.  You need some blubber on your bones to stay warm.”

I rubbed my hands together and blew on them “I don’t see how you people get so big up here with the warmed up dogshit you call food.”

He laughed and led me over to the “cavalry wing” which was a bunch of dudes and horses just as disorganized and chaotic as the rest.  He motioned for me to mount up on a grey and black beast that was eyeing me as dubiously as I was it.  These northern horses are so small and shaggy they’re more like sheep than equines if you ask me.

“Shouldn’t I put on some armor or something first?”

He shrugged “Sure, grab that cmail and slip it on.”

I grabbed the pile of metal he gestured to and could barely lift it “Okay, never mind, point taken.”

“Yes, and a fine point it was too.  Put on that helmet.”

I picked it up gingerly “Seems too big for me.”

He shrugged “Better than too small.” He surveyed the half-battle going on below as we mounted “Do you have any battle training?”

“Minimal.”

“How good a rider are you?”

“Excellent.”

“Good, that’s more important anyway.  If you want to survive, and you’ve certainly made it seem like you do, there’s two things you need to do.  First, stay mounted.  That may seem obvious, but I need to emphasize this because footmen do most of the dying.  You do not want to be anywhere near the earth in that mess.  Mounted, you have two things someone on foot doesn’t – vision and mobility, and that’s what you use to stay alive.  Don’t get near the middle, stay on the edges of the action where you can see what’s happening and react.  React meaning ride away of course.

If you get knocked off your horse get back on immediately, don’t worry about anything else – get back in the saddle.  If your horse gets killed, find another.  I’ll deny ever saying this but if you have to take one from someone on your own side, do that.  People tend not to expect their battle-brothers, or sisters in this case,  to kill them and take their horse so you can catch them off guard.  Your horse is your best armor and your best weapon.  Keep it between you and the people trying to kill you.  If you can, use it to crush them, if you can’t, let it take the hits for you.  How do you feel about horses?”

“I love them.”

“Will that prevent you from using one to keep yourself alive?”

“No.  I’ve done it before unfortunately.”

“That’s good. Horses are fine animals but they’re not worth risking your life over.  I’ve seen men in the middle of battle trying to save a horse.  You can imagine how well that goes.  If someone wants to take time to murder your horse, that’s time they’re not using to murder you – let them use it while you find another mount.  What you have to avoid is getting down in the melee with the foot soldiers.  You may have heard some old veteran waxing nihilistic about the chaos and blood and horror of being in the press of combat and you may have dismissed it as bold talk – it isn’t.  It is the absolute worst thing you can ever be involved with.  Call it nightmarish, call it Hellish, call it whatever you want, just avoid it. 

When you’re up on your horse, unless a man has a spear or a pike they’re going to have a hard time striking at you effectively.  Once you’re on foot they won’t even need to bother, at your size you’ll get knocked down and trampled to death.  It’s a risk for even a strong man – you got a dozen men behind you pushing you into another man who’s got a dozen men shoving him into you.  You’re pinned together so that you can’t even fight unless you have a knife.  Men trapped like that bite at each other like dogs.  It’s no lie that in the crush of battle, you don’t even know who you’re attacking. 

That’s first.  The second thing is don’t take your helmet off.  Not ever.  It’s heavy and it makes it hard to hear and it cuts off your vision and it’s going to get so hot in there you’re going to feel like you can’t breathe.  But don’t take it off, not even for a second.  If your helmet gets knocked off, find it, or another, and get it back on as fast as possible.  Don’t worry about anything else.  If it gets knocked askew and you can’t see, don’t try to take it off and put it back on, just turn it around.  If you can’t get it back right way around you’re almost better off being blind than taking it off, it’s a hard call.

There’s filthy weakling healers around that can heal you as long as you don’t get stabbed directly in the heart or in one of the main bloodlines in your thigh.  You have a chance to survive most wounds long enough to get healed.  What you can’t survive is getting your brains bashed in or an arrow through the skull.  If you get hit in the helmet it’s going to make you dizzy, you’re going to want to pull it off – do not do this.  If you lose your helmet and you can’t find another, you may be tempted to pick up a shield to protect your head.  Don’t.  If you can even lift it, you’re not going to be able to hold it high for long and then you’re just going to be tired.  You’re better off shielding your head with your weapon or even your arm – even if you’re not wearing armor.  You can live just fine with one arm, you don’t have a spare head.  Not to mention you’re rich you can regrow a new arm magically.

Stay mounted, protect your head.  Horse, helmet, that’s how you stay alive.”

“Got it.  What about attacking the enemy?”

He laughed “I wouldn’t worry about that, you don’t look like you could break an egg.”   

Mantelderith 15 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 2

Since I’m going to be diving into a tomb, which of course is going to be filled with undead monsters, I figured I should get a weapon of some kind.  I headed down to the Juost armory and no one seemed to be guarding the place.  It was crammed with all kinds of new stuff stripped of the dead bodies of the people killed in the fighting but it was just hurled about willy-nilly.  I guess whoever was in charge of the armory got killed and no one has been appointed to take over.  That’s that person called?  Sergeant of arms?  Or master of arms maybe?  Point is that’s probably a position that you shouldn’t leave vacant for long.  Anyone could walk in and get a people destroyer.  Like I walked in and picked up a short sword that seemed to be made of gold.  It glowed as well which should come in handy since tombs tend to be dark as well as infested with zuvembies. 

At noon I headed into the woods for a legally sanctioned grave robbing contest.  Which seems odd but for all I know it happens frequently.  Rich people are weird, who knows what they get up to when no one is looking?  I took the path through the gardens just as I did eight months ago (or so) when I was here the first time.  I guess I thought that since I had already killed the vampiric fey monster that way I would be safe.  In retrospect that probably doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Lightning doesn’t strike twice (usually) but if you go into a bad part of town and you get mugged you’re not safe if you go there again are you?  That’s a mixed metaphor but you know what I mean probably. 

I couldn’t swear to it but I feel like I was in the same area of the woods by tranquil forest pond when suddenly there was a well in my path.  You know the top part with the stones in a ring.  I should learn what that’s called, it has to be called something.  It was odd, but I didn’t think too much of it until I moved to take another path to bypass it and suddenly there it was in front of me again.  Two wells?  No, I looked back and there was no well where it was before.  I get it now, I see what we’re doing here.  Rather than dashing off breathlessly and flailing my arms only to find the well in front of me no matter what I just waited.  After a minute I saw the grey-white hand appear over the side of the well cap (is that what it’s called?) as the sounds of the forest went dead silent and an eerie susurration began. 

Over the past year I’ve seen some damn creepy things, but for some reason the awkward lurching of these well fey crawling out of their holes still sends a shiver up (down?) my spine.  There’s something about the herky-jerky way that it slithers out of the well dripping foul water that just gets me you know?  And of course it doesn’t help that they have that wall of hair falling down over their faces.  I have this thing about people (or whatever) that have no visible face.  I’m just funny like that I guess.  She did that thing where they stand still for a moment and then are right in front of you in the blink of an eye without seeming to move.  They may not be water-logged corpses but they sure smell like them.

“What?”

Her voice was phlegmy and bubbly and kind of hard to understand “You are under arrest.”

“Arrest?  That is not what I expected at all.  Are they making faeries road agents now?  Are you a member of the guard?  On what authority are you arresting me?”

“You are will answer to the Miletduchglimmenidd Court for your crimes.”

“What the Hells is that?”

“In the Bittersweet Yeteryears when the elfs first came to this land in the vigor of their youth the Miletduchglimmenidd Costenhojima Eriguldin was already eons old.  The elfs settled the forest during the Age of Kittenclandeubs and at that time Queen Reuithfatfengins exerted her power over the land and formed the Treagous Nunnehei.  Four thousand years later the clans declared the forest forbidden after . . .”

“Good Gods, forget about it, sorry I asked.  What crimes is this in relation to?”

“You stand ACCUSED . . . of the mortal murder of the glaistig Accordance and of the satyr Colper.”

“Hey, he was alive when I left him.  I did shoot him but . . .”

Her arm swung up to point imperiously, splattering me with foul water (and other stuff) “You will face judgement now or . . . you will die.”

“Ugh, this is kind of a bad time for me, can’t I face judgement later?  I’m kind of in the middle of something.”

“The time of your people has no meaning to the Queen!  She is eternal and immortal, you will wither and dry like a leaf and she will continue on forever!”

“So . . . . is that a yes?  We can do this later?”

She didn’t say anything, just stood there being creepy, so eventually I walked around her and continued on my way.  I guess if I dry drown in my sleep tonight I’ll know that wasn’t okay.  It took me a few hours to find the Wesel family crypt.  I didn’t see any sign of Hellerhad, I assume his plan is to wait for me to get find the magic stick and then ambush me on the way back and take it.  That’s what I would do if I was him.  Maybe it wasn’t a crypt, maybe it was a mausoleum, I forget which one is above ground and which one is underground.  I don’t care for these sorts of places.  I know what you’re saying “Ela no one does!” but you remember that time I was super sick and almost died and I was lying in the Sonst family crypt basically waiting to die?   I do.  It still ranks as the worst moment of my life.  So far anyway, I’m sure something worse is on the way. 

I wonder whatever happened to Lord Sonst.  I should keep better correspondence with my old pals like that.  Of course since I was usually using a fake name and appearance in those days it would be tough to keep it all straight.  Plus I have no fixed address.  There’s a lot of hurdles to overcome there.  The Wesel family crypt/mausoleum was built with giant stone blocks that had to be four feet square – it must have been a massive pain in the ass to construct.  There was moss or mold or something green growing in the cracks though – I guess as long as water can get in something plants can grow anywhere.  The “door” was a massive slab maybe seven feet high that I couldn’t have moved an inch but the good news is that the stones had shifted and it had fallen over – leaving the mouth of the place yawning open like a grave.  See what I did there?  That’s some good metaphoring. 

The front part of the tomb was all carved with a horse motif.  I guess the Wesel family was really into breeding horses.  Or maybe they just liked horses.  I don’t really understand burial structures at all, but this type of thing especially doesn’t make sense.  It’s not like you can enjoy it when you’re dead.  This place wasn’t made to be visited so who are all these horse carvings for?  With the light of my new blade showing the way I went in where there was a big room with wall paintings of the various Wesels valiantly riding horses into combat.  I think one of them was a woman.  Or maybe just a man with a very unfortunate haircut.  There was even some sort of magic effect that made me hear the snorting of horse noses and the clomping of horse hooves.  I swear I would even smell the horse-sweat.  What a weird thing to do huh?

Beyond that was a big room where there was a statue of a horse and murals on the walls of what I think was the same horse.  I guess they really liked this horse in particular.  It’s hard to tell because I don’t know what a horse grave looks like but I think maybe its bones were buried there.  I think these people really liked horses.  I love horses but I wouldn’t make a statue of one.  That’s entirely missing the point.  That’s like a statue of food – it does no one any good.  At that point I started going into tombs randomly.  One wasn’t a tomb at all, at least I don’t think, it was filled with giant sized weapons and armor and had some stone tablets carved with tales of some Wesel killing giants.  Another tomb was completely collapsed and filled in with dirt and rocks.  Towards the south end (I think) a sinkhole had opened up and a bunch of bodies had fallen into pit of water. 

The water must have been tremendously cold because the bodies all looked perfectly preserved – just suspended there like they were flying.  The water was so clear it really did look like they were flying.  There were lights at the bottom of the water that you could barely see.  It’s always a bad idea to follow lights, but anyone who followed those specific lights deserves to never be seen again.  I found another tomb that had a dude and a horse in it, said he was a diplomat of some kind, and another for a general in some war that had four horses buried with him.  Enough with the horses, I get it, you like them.  Makes you wonder if they killed the horses just so they could be buried with their masters – which would be a very odd expression of love. 

When I turned around from the four-horse tomb I saw a corpse with burning red eyes standing behind me.  People seem to be very concerned about ghosts, but in my experience ghosts seem to be rather harmless.  They’re usually just sad people that want to be set free.  I’ve never met one that seemed capable of hurting anyone if they wanted to.  Dead bodies walking around on the other hand – that’s what I worry about.  I’ll take a ghost over a barrow wight any day.  And especially any night.  His voice was the “typical” grave rasp of the unquiet dead.  I hate when their jaws move, I much prefer when their voices just issue forth from nowhere impossibly.

“Why do you disturb my resting place?”

“I’m here for Mariscalcus Wesel’s staff of office.” I held my hands up “I was told that is about yay long and made of darkwood with mithril caps on both ends with six blue gemstones on it.  I assume sapphires but I wasn’t told that, he just said blue gemstones.”

“Then you shall die like the others who come to steal my treasures.”

“No, it’s not stealing.  Your family is all dead.  The King gave these lands to another family so legally they get all your stuff, including the stick.”

His eyes burned brighter and redder, I guess that’s how undead monsters show anger “Betrayed by my own King?!”

“If it makes you feel better he’s dead too.” He said nothing for a long time “So, uh, can I get the stick then or . . .”

“I wish to return to my spirits of my family.”

“Okay . . . . safe travels?”

“You must help me.”

“There it is.”

“I was disturbed in my slumber by trespassers, intruders, graverobbers like yourself.  The ancient powers of the land woke me in response to their impertinence to destroy, and I did, but now but I cannot find peace.  My ancestors tell me that my only path to rejoin them is through resurrection and a second death.  Now that I have been stirred form the grave I cannot be destroyed, only reborn to die again.”

“Alright, give me the stick and I’ll bring you back.”

His eyes glowed even more brightly “Such oaths are not sworn lightly to the dead.”

“I’ve done it before, it’s not easy, but you hand over the stick and it will be done.  I’ll swear on whatever you want.”

“The deal is struck, you have until the next full moon to fulfil your part of the bargain.  Fail and your life is forfeit – I shall destroy you wherever you are.”

“Wait a minute! I didn’t say anything about . . .”

But he was gone.  Maybe he is a ghost, I’ve never seen a flesh undead disappear like that.  Are there ghosts that can manifest in corpse form?  What am I dealing with here?  The jerk didn’t even bring me the staff of office or anything, I still had to root around for an hour until I found the right tomb where it was laying with a bunch of other stuff.  I won’t lie (about this) I thought about taking the other items as well mostly out of spite.  But I have enough issues without adding a grave curse on top of everything.   

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 53,040 platinum, 25,660 gold

XP: 1,096,451

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, Ring of Counterspells, Brooch of Shielding, Cloak of the Hedge Wizard (Abjuration), Headband of Subtle Misdirection, Antiquarian’s Monocle, Unbalanced Scales, +1 Glorious Undead Bane Short Sword

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

Mede 1 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

With our four new equine companions in tow we adopted a more sedate pace today but even so we should be able to reach Wrybry without an issue.  Well, aside from this issue.  A few hours after dawn we came to a crossroads where four men were waiting with their mounts.  A smallish ugly fellow with incongruously long luxurious dark hair stepped forward as we trotted up. He was backed up by a similarly diminutive effeminate looking bloke with way too many daggers, and two largish individuals – one with the smashed nose and swollen face of a pugilist and the other with a mildly ridiculous horned helmet. 

“Stop in the name of Colonel Ciarán!”

“Of course good sir, what can we do for you?”

“Where did you get these horses?”

“These two we’re riding were given to us in Bowcrag by the head of the church.  These other four we purchased just this morning from the most charming man.  Wasn’t he charming Arbrella?”

Martialla managed a blush “Ever so charming, I was quite beside myself I was.”

“It was the strangest thing, I tell you, we were camped by the road and this fellow just trotted up with four horses that he was looking to sell.  Can you even imagine!  Arbrella didn’t I say to you that this was the strangest and luckiest thing that has ever happened to us?”

“You did, you said that very thing to me.”

“It’s ever so lucky because our master sent us to Wrybry to buy flax but we were able to buy these horses instead and I just know that he’s going to be so pleased with us!  I don’t know anything about horses but these ones look magnificent don’t you think?  Arbrella was worried that he would be cross with us for not following his orders but I think he’s going to be very pleased once he sees what we were able to do with the money he gave us.”

Horns piped up at this point “Why are you two ladies out on an errand like this alone?”

“There’s a war on you know, such a terrible war, just the other day my cousin Regella found out that her son Jerrick lost an eye in the fighting!  And he was tailor you know, so it’s all very sad.  I mean what’s to become of him when he comes back from the front.  No one is going to want to hire a one-eyed tailor will they?  Pardon my language but I don’t care for those Vielanders at all, no I do not care for them one bit, causing all this trouble and causing our boys to come back with only one eye.  Not to mention with all the men off fighting poor Arbrella and I have to pick up the slack.  We’re only too happy to do it of course, everyone must do their part of course, but it’s not proper is it?  We should be working on our needlepoint and giving birth to more babies to fight for the Kingdom, not riding around and handling money and so forth – that’s men’s work you know.  But we all have to do our part.  You boys are quite a ways away from the front, is this Colonel Ciarán a quartermaster of some kind?  It seems a shame for able-bodied fighters like yourself to be so far from the fighting.  Are you on a leave of some kind?  Will you be back in the thick of things soon?  I do hope you’re careful, I would hate for one of you to come back without an eye or some other important part.”

The quartet seemed flummoxed by this turn of events.  After asking us to go over the details of the fictional horse-trade and describe the non-existent man who perpetrated it in more detail they excused themselves to a short distance away to put their heads together and discuss.  As they did so Martialla leaned in towards me.

“Who’s Colonel Ciarán?”

“A horse thief and a cradle robber.”

“Do you go out causing trouble every night when I’m asleep?”

“No, not every night.”

Once their discussion was concluded the four goons came back over to us, Ugly came forward again looking slightly sheepish.

“Ma’am I’m afraid I have some bad news.  These horses here were stolen from the Colonel last night and they were sold to you under false pretenses.  We’re going to have to reclaim them, they’re rightfully property of the Colonel.”

“But . . . but . . . but, the money.  Oh please sir, you mustn’t.  If we arrive in Wrybry with no flax and no money we’re going to be in such trouble!” I started up the waterworks “Master Limious will be so cross with us!  We’re likely to get such a spanking we will!”

Martialla teared up as well “If we’re lucky a spanking, he’ll probably take the rod to us for this.”

I nodded, sobbing “Yes, I can just imagine, he’ll have us bent over with our tender asses just waiting to pulverized by his mighty rod.”

Smash-Face nodded “I can definitely imagine that.”

Ugly winced “Look ma’am, I’m very sorry but .  . . “

At this point Martialla and I both started bawling inconsolably and hugging each other for support and he trailed away.  I’ve said it before and I say it again now, it’s inconceivable how many burly warrior types can be unmanned by a few tears.  Ugly cleared his throat uncomfortably several times.

“Look, the Colonel will be here in a few hours, maybe he can give you some money back for helping us to catch the man who stole the horses.  How much did you pay for them?”

Sniffling I made a show of trying to gather myself “F-four . . .”

“Four hundred?  Well that’s not so bad, I think . . .”

“Four thousand.”

Ugly was very dismayed “Four thousand!  Honey, I hate to tell you this on top of everything else but you got taken for a ride.  These horses aren’t worth one thousand gold let alone four.  You really shouldn’t be . . .”

He trailed off again in the face of another crying jag. 

“Oh no, whatever shall we do!”

Martially shook her head mournfully “Master Limious will certainly tie us to the bed and thrash our delicate asses mercilessly with a hairbrush.  We won’t be able to sit down for a week!”

“But wait, perhaps not!  I have an idea.  Good sir you need these four horses for your Colonel, we need four horses for our master, what if we trade?  We take your four horses and you take these one’s back to the Colonel and then he can reimburse you for yours.  Oh yes what a wonderful idea!”

It took some convincing but the swap was made.  Martialla and I rode off with the horses of the Colonel’s men and then rendezvoused with the horses the Colonel had stolen, for you see I had used my Beastspeech ahead of time to explain to them to ditch those losers and meet back up with us.  It wasn’t easy, have you ever tried to arrange a meeting place with a horse?  But it was worth it as Martialla and I relaxed that night drinking wine and admiring our mini-herd.

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .0495%

Funds: 817 platinum, 69,176 gold

XP: 266,361

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) Black Marketers’ Bag, 852 Garnets, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow, Deck of Curses (two cards used), Blue Dragoncloth Dress, severed hag head, Ring of Urban Grace,  gold necklace with jade pendant, Feather Token (tree) , white squirrel fur slippers, +1 Human Bane Dagger, ivory combs, Bewitching Gown, masterwork lute, Grappling Scarf, Wyvern Skin Robe (Robe of Arcane Heritage), receipt, Bag of Holding, tax collector’s badge, seven string mandolin, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Calastar (Superior Riding horse, Horseshoes of Speed, Endless Feedbag), Wine (expensive) 9, riding horse (8) Ornate wooden chest, +2 chainmail, 3 tourmalines, well made tapestries (7)

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

Montresor 27, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

I woke today feeling a stabbing pain in my chest – mostly because I was being stabbed in the chest.  Under the cover of the trees (such as it was) I was finally able to get some decent sleep but now a tiny figure with luminescent wings and ridiculously long ears stood on my chest poking with a wee little trident about the size of a shrimp fork.  Shimmering iridescent light emitted from the diminutive being in a manner both pleasing and distracting. 

“Why are you jabbing me little one?”

Its miniscule face screwed up in tiny rage “Every day more lies!  Your heart lays bare to me and I see your duplicity!”

It made to jab me again so I swatted at it like a mighty bear but it flitted away quick as you like – landing softly a foot away and holding its trident out menacingly, I mean it would have been menacing if I was like a field mouse or something.

“What’s your problem pixie?”

“Sprite!”

“Whatever, why are you hassling me?  I didn’t do anything.”

“Invaded my home you did!  This is a place of great power, yes it is.  Magic flows here like the waters of a mighty river, and I accept these mysteries as gifts to be cherished!  I do not seek to peel the layers away like the skin of an onion!”

“Okay then.  I’ll just be on my way then, I won’t bother your onion.”

“Lies!  Lies and innuendo!  I see your soul and it is black with the darkness of a thousand million mendacities!”

“Boy you’re really hung up on this lying thing.  I thought you fey folk were mischievous tricksters, I didn’t know honestly was a big virtue in the faerie realms.”

“Well sure, but our tricks are more along the lines of stealing someone’s baby and then leaving one of our babies in its place so the parents raise it and then flip out because their kid is a recap or a hobgoblin or whatever. Or something like cursing someone’s nose grow real long, you know making them an outcast and a freak – stuff like that.  But lying, that makes the Gods cry.”

“So I’ve been told.  Hey, I found a scary goat-mask and a whip here, do you know what that’s about?”

With a startled gasp the little fey being’s light was snuffed out instantly and then it quickly became invisible – I could hear its miniature wings as it frantically flew away.  I suppose that means nothing good but I had pretty much already assumed that.  People don’t put on masks and carry whips to hand out bread and wine to the poor.  Well, one guy did back at the capital but he had some mental issues.  I should have tried to get the little bugger to lead me north.  But then again maybe a flighty trickster spirit is not a good guide anyway.

I tried to be more careful today, stopping often to check my bearings, but I don’t know if it did any good at all.  I wonder why I keep drifting to going east instead of north.  Maybe there’s some kind of incline to the terrain?  Maybe that’s just what people do naturally? 

After a few hours of walking I crested a hill and came across a very startling sight – at a small brook a magnificent pegasus stallion stood watchfully while a half dozen equally stunning pegasus mares drank their fill.  It was such an unexpectedly glorious spectacle that my breath caught in my chest for a moment.  I’ve encountered a handful of the ultra-rich that managed to get themselves pegasus mounts and while they were quite impressive they paled in compassion to these majestic wild specimens.  They seemed like freedom given form.  As a bit of a hippophile just seeing something like that was quite a treat.

But I thought back to what Brigid had told me, which is the only actual information I have about pegasi – she claimed that although they couldn’t speak they could understand speech well enough and were as smart as people, which isn’t always saying much depending on the person but you’d have to assume a flying horse has a little more sense than some.  Figuring this was my chance I approached them as slowly and nonthreateningly as I could – which was quite a bit.  I’m very nonthreatening.  If I do say so myself.

Even so the stallion let out a snort and all the mares flew behind him as he pawed at the ground – seeing them take flight for even a brief moment made my heart leap into my throat.  I talked to the stallion in a clear clam voice explaining that I was lost and needed some help.  I could tell right away that it understood everything I was saying.  It was a little jarring if I’m being honest.  I’ve encountered some very smart horses that almost seemed like they could understand human speech, but actually encountering a beast that could understand every word I said was wild. 

He was initially very wary of me, which I suppose I can’t blame him for, probably their only interactions with people are when they’re trying to steal their eggs or capture them.  But eventually I was able to convince him to give me a lift – there’s some kind of commentary to be made that a flying horse is more willing to take pity on a lost traveler than most people are.  But I’ll leave that for the philosophers.  Once he agreed I realized for the first time what was actually about to happen – I was going to fly!

Years ago at a party the Duke had some potions of flying brought in, but in all honestly I was so drunk I barely remember it at all – other than seeing Baron Underhill’s cousin spinning around in mid-air like a top vomiting in all directions.  It was like the ribbon of a rhythmic dancer – only vomit. Hopefully this will be a little more remarkable.

I approached the pegasus with more than a little anxiety – I hadn’t ridden bareback in years and I was never all that good at it.  Not to mention we were going to be flying!  Mounting a horse without stirrups isn’t easy either, but he kind of genuflected to make it easier – which sent another little shiver through my body.  It almost didn’t seem real.

Once I was settled, which was quite strange what with the wings and all, I was about to ask if I could grip his mane since there was no bridle nor saddlehorn but the words died in my mouth as he leapt into the sky and with a few flaps of his wing it seemed like we shot into the sky like a catapult stone – at that point it didn’t matter, I was clinging to that mane like a shipwrecked sailor to a barrel of rum.  I couldn’t have loosened my grip if I wanted to. I was worried I was going to rip the hair off the back of his neck but there wasn’t anything I could do.

The sensation is not something I can compare to anything else.  Being free of the earth and soaring high above?  It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve experienced a thing or two.  For the first time in a long time I felt nothing other than joy.  It’s almost enough to make you feel glad to be alive.  Almost.  It was frightening and satisfying in equal measure, one of the most intense things I’ve ever felt.  I shed a couple tears, not only at the amazing experience itself, but also at the thought of these creatures being made to serve as mounts for people against their will.  There can be no greater loss of freedom than that.  I’m not sure I can bear to see it after this feeling. 

I flew with the herd for only an hour or two, but I covered far more ground than I had walking so far.  They banked to the ground and I could tell that my time with them was over.  I was hoping they would carry me all the way to Malgareth or to the river but I suppose that was too much to ask.  It’s a miracle that I got to have this exhilarating experience at all.  I gingerly dismounted, it felt strange to be on the ground again even after that short flight.  I thanked the stallion and all his ladies profusely, I may have cried a little again, and they winged off – disappearing into the wild blue in a matter of minutes.

It took me a good long while to regain my composure.  And when I did I noticed that the land around me was hardscrabble and scrubby rather than the rich grasslands south of the river.  I realized that this meant I was probably near the Scar.  Which is to the east!  Those Gods damned flying horses took me east!  I mean sure, they’re horses so maybe they don’t know where Malgareth is but they have to know where the river is!  I was so angry I literally kicked at the ground until my foot was sore. 

You can’t trust anyone in this world.

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 9,863 gold

XP: 59,003

Inventory: Ring of Many Garments, Bag of Tricks (rust), Cap of Disguise, Secure Pocket, Resplendent Diplomat’s Palette, Secure Paypack, Skeleton Key, Brooch of Shielding, Pouch of Magic Stones, Masterful Grey Gloves, Black Marketers’ Bag, Biting Bracelet (Endless Ammunition), Boots of Escape, Bracers of the Glib Entertainer, Ring of Animal Friendship, +1 Falchion, +1 Greatclub, +2 Commanding Light Crossbow, Headband of Alluring Charisma +2, 4 potions of unknown wickedness, Manual of Quickness of Action, Bracer of Fire Resistance (10), Spear of Piercing Thunder

Signet ring, noble’s outfit, candlerod (9), masterwork dagger, succubi carving, Domiel family ring, walking stick, masterwork playing cards, spinel and peridot holy symbol of Kralten, diamonds (14), silver crown, waterskins (10), trail rations (10)

Potion of Invisibility (3), Potion of Spider Climb, Potion of Eagle’s Splendor, Potion of Jump, Potion of Reduce Person 

Silver ring, gold bracelet, gold and pearl pendant, gold ring, platinum necklace (2), mithril hair clasps (3), 4 small diamonds

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

Rumors : Exiled noblewoman (Reoccurring), vigilante “Litheria”(Reoccurring), murderous Halfling (Reoccurring)

Graltontown Buildings – Mill 

Behind the curtain – I decided to use the Earn XP downtown action to see if that would get anything going and I got 7 pegasi, so then of course I also got an encounter as well with a sprite.  Pegasi can detect good and evil and their stating attitude is based off that – I’ve often debated with myself if Ela if evil or if I could claim she’s neutral.  I suppose she’s probably evil but I’ve never really made a decision.  Anyway, I had the pegasi start off with a hostile attitude regardless but she made her Diplomacy check by enough to bring them up to indifferent and then she also made the check to request a favor.  For the record they were taking her towards a river just not the one she meant – I’ll be adding another map soon.