Montagem 10 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 2

I suppose in retrospect I should have guessed that the hag might send a minion instead of coming herself.  I hate when my enemies don’t have the good graces to fall into my obvious traps, it’s simple rude it is.  I tell you this much, I don’t have a sister, but if I did have a sister and I wanted to murder her I’d do it with my own hands.  I wouldn’t send someone else to do my dirty work for me.  I’m just old-fashioned that way.  The thing was screeching louder than a two copper whore so we dragged it inside as Elania trailed behind us looking ill.  Rem was about to shout something but when he saw what we were dragging in he fainted dead away behind the counter.  It would have been funny under other circumstances. Okay it was funny anyway.   Elania stayed far away in the corner, keeping a table between herself and the screaming creature.

“So that’s her?  That’s my sister?  And you can fix her?”

Martialla and I exchanged a glance “No, this is just her hunting dog.”

We tried to question the thing about where its mistress was but even if it understood us (which I wouldn’t swear to) all it did was shout at us in the grating demon-language.  We had Elenia send her staff home and we dragged the thing into the back and drowned it in a big pot of water.  So yeah, now I’ve done that.  Once it was well and truly dead I spoke the command word to turn the bands of banding back into a ball and we tossed the body in the cold storage with the other meat. 

Martialla frowned slightly “How come I got soaked and you’re barely wet?”

“A little thing called grace.”

“Grace or a little thing called me doing all the work?”

“Fine, I promise you the next time we drown a shapeshifting jackal monster in a kitchen pot I’ll be sure to hold up my end.”

“What now?  We head back out and see if she shows up herself once her minion is overdue?”

“Let’s head back to Vetovia’s and see if maybe she has another idea.”

“What if Vasya attacks while we’re on the way?”

“Then we’ll get her then, doesn’t matter much.”

Elenia was sitting on a stool in the corner looking wan and distressed “What about Rem?”

“Don’t worry, we’ll put the closed sign up on the way out.”

On the way to Vetovia’s shop Martialla also took on the form of Elenia just in case we were ambushed along the way, making it better odds that the real target wouldn’t get attacked.  You’d think people had never seen triplets before the way people stared at us.  Once we got to the shop Vetovia didn’t blink at the site of three identical women, but she was distraught nonetheless.

“Why did you bring her here?!”

“The plan didn’t really work, Vasya sent a scout.  We were wondering if there’s anything else you could do to draw her out.”

She looked around worriedly “I’m sure she’ll be here soon enough!”

“Calm down.  Clearly Vasya has marked Elania with some kind of magic mark right?  It seems like she knew immediately when Elania came out of the Halfling’s hole.  Can’t you backtrack that to where she is with your magic?”

Vetovia blinked “Yes.  I can.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.”

“Right so figure out where Vasya is, then pop a little magic circle around Elania here to shield here and then we’ll go grab her.”

Vetovia warded Elania first and then insisted that she prepare the ritual of reverse hagification first before performing the divination.  I saw no reason to argue with this, but it turned out not to be a great idea because as I sat on the counter being bored watching Martialla help Vetovia with her magic rigmarole a half dozen of those nasty gnome bastards came charging in with their sharp farm implements.  You would expect the shop of a craftmage to be filled with all kinds of arcane traps and magic defenses but nothing happened.  I rolled backwards off the counter and came up reaching for my holy symbol to scare them off again when I remembered that it had exploded when it killed Auraluna.  I took up my Walking Stick to fend off the blighters, I got in a few hits but mostly I just ducked down as Martialla and Vetovia destroyed them with spells.  They might act like redcaps but they’re not resistant to mage the way the real things are – I wonder which was worse for the crazy little buggers, dying horribly or dying horribly being a reminder that despite their fervor for imitating fey killers they’re actually just gnomes?

Hot on their heels came Vasya – looking as bizarrely disfigured and warped as ever.  Seeing her the second time what came to mind was a fellow that I saw fall victim to a paralytic poison back at the Duke’s court.  Once he was “frozen” the poison continued to eat away at him, turning him into a cracked and grey monstrosity.  That’s what she looked like, sort of.  Her eyeless face was streaked with black bile and her toothless mouth was flapping wildly.  Vetovia yelled not to let her touch me as I threw the capturing orb at her – as if I didn’t know what would happen if she touched me.  The iron bands wrapped around the hag and she strained against them with all her incongruous beastly strength.  I was amazed to see them start to give a little, so immense was the power in her thin fissured limbs, but iron doesn’t get tired and her strength was spent before she was able to burst the bonds.  Vetovia and Elenia looked at the now pathetic figured trapped on the floor with horror but Martialla got them back to business soon enough.

The ritual was a lot of chanting and candles and the waving about of burning herbs.  Some kind of vile concoction made of the hag bits was poured over Vasya with a lot of arcane words being said and then Vasya started both shrinking and filling out – changing from a manically thin seven foot monster to a normal looking woman with dark hair.  Tossing a blanket over her nudity was my only contribution to the ritual.   All three women were crying and embracing and emoting all over the place as Martialla and I looked on awkwardly.

“You want to get a drink?”

“Hells yeah.”

We went to a nearby bar, it was a sedate kind of place given the neighborhood we were in and seeing as how it was mid-afternoon we pretty much had the place to ourselves.  After a couple hours of cooling our heels and drinking some mid-range booze we figured the tearful reunion was over and we headed back to Vetovia’s shop.  They thanked us excessively for saving Vasya from a fate worse than death and yada yada yada until I managed to divert them.

“Yes, yes, you’re all very welcome.  Now, Vasya, do you remember where your ‘lair’ was?”

She shook her head “It’s like a bad dream, I don’t really remember specifics, and I never want to.”

“Vetovia, by chance did you do your magical tracing before things got kicked off here?”

“Why do you want to know?”

“Well, not to bring up harsh memories from the bad dreams time but I have to assume that when you were . . . different you killed many people, and there’s probably a stash of valuables wherever you laid your hag-head down at night.”

Vetovia nodded “I did.  I’ll tell you, but you must return here – I have gifts to give you for saving my friend.”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

The hag-hideaway was the same building where we first encountered her.  Martialla had investigated it before but some portions were magically hidden – from her anyway, I could see through the illusions easily.  The hag had accumulated quite a nest of bowls and chalices in both gold and silver.  There were two goblets with the royal mark on them!  And a book written by Saint Swailing himself.  Where do they get this shit from?  And why?  She didn’t even have eyes to enjoy looking at it.  I guess I should just be grateful that crazy monsters horde this stuff for no seeming reason.   After scooping it all up there was just enough time for Martialla and me to hit the market and sell what I didn’t want off at disgustingly low prices.  Once we were back at Vetovia’s shop she presented me with a new amulet and an outfit that were both magically impressive.  Turns out that you can get decent magic things – all you have to do is save the friend of a mage from a life of as an evil hag.  It’s just that easy folks.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 28,040 platinum, 59,608 gold

XP: 912,121

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 Extraordinary Walking Stick, Ela’s Elegant Boots, Ela’s Marvelous Amulet  

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

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

Behind the curtain: Ela hit 16th level, taking another level of rogue.  She took Charisma for her stat bonus.  For her rogue talent she took Skill Mastery with Bluff, Disguise & Ride

Myam 13 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Waking up in a bed, in a building, a building that’s not smashed to bits or on fire no less, in a city (well Beresford but close enough) I felt better than I have in a long time.  The mind is a funny thing, you just need a little sense of the familiar and suddenly all the beatings and terror and stabbings and harsh language and bad food and deprivations and ugly people doesn’t seem so awful anymore.  I had the powerful urge to loiter in bed but I was still famished and I didn’t want to miss breakfast so I hurled my grubby sweaty commoner clothes out the window and cleaned myself up as best I could without a bath.  Breakfast was simple fare, eggs and onions wheat porridge but it came with a tea that was tasty as you like, I think it was infused with huckleberry.  However what really made me feel like this was a good day and that everything was going to turn out alright was that in the common room as I ate I saw two youngsters going around pulling the old scam where they were collecting money for the widows and orphans.  It must makes you feel good to see some young go-getters out there fleecing people and trying to make something of themselves.

They were presenting themselves as a brother and sister but the little signs and body language they were putting out there made me lean more towards believing them lovers.  The girl was clearly in charge of the operation which might seem odd to you, but it’s actually the norm when you have a male-female team.   A man who makes his living on the grift usually works alone or with another male pal, they don’t tend to recruit a woman for their two-person cons because obviously they can’t be trusted.  When they do use a lady in their scams she’s usually a prop and often ends up being scammed as well – and usually is  left to take the fall.  A lady scammer is more likely to get her man to go along with her schemes somewhat as a partner but more often just as some muscle, or a handy distraction in case things go wrong.  He was doing his best to keep up but she was the one bringing in the money for “charity”.

There’s an expression that you can’t fool a fooler, which is incorrect, and neither is it exactly true that you can’t work someone who’s paranoid about being taken advantage of because that very paranoia is something you can advantage of, but it is interesting how obvious these scams are once you’ve been around the block a time or two.  Even if you think most people are morons, which I do, it’s strange to be reminded just how susceptible people are even to the simplest of cons.  A pretty girl asks for you’re a couple coins to help out the less fortune?  Most people can’t reach for their money fast enough.  And yet, for all her smiles and dimples if you looked her in the eye, I mean really looked, you’d see a coldness there that would be all the more disturbing for the innocent and sweet package carrying it around.  Unfortunately she misinterpreted my amusement at her antics as interest in being taken in by them and she approached me, smiling sweetly, giving her pitch and holding out her bonnet for the donation.

I smiled back “Well aren’t you just a doll?  I would to love to help out the poor little orphans, but all I have is a gold piece and I need some silver to buy thread at the market.  I don’t want to reach into your funds there, would you be a dear and count me out nine silver and then I’ll put in the gold?”

You can see where this is going, the old short count.  I was mostly just curious if she would fall for it, but there is always something of a charge you get when you swindle a swindler.  I suppose that’s the feeling duelists get when they slice someone’s belly open on the “field of honor”, killing someone normal is whatever, but killing someone who’s a professional killer – now that’s something.  Besting someone at what they’re supposed to be good at is more fun than just getting over on some normal person.  Once all that hoopla was concluded I left the Randy Weasel or whatever that place is called to head to the temple of Odobenine but in short order the pair of con artists accosted me in the street – the girl’s once demure yet alluring face twisted into a mask of rage.

“Gimmie back muh money!”

I smiled as sweetly as she had been before “Why whatever are you talking about?”

She tried to body up on me and I gave her a little shove – and I mean little, I barely touched her, but she was off balance and I just happened to push her at just the right time to send her falling on her ass.  The look of surprise and outrage on her face was almost comical.  You’d thinking that getting knocked on her butt was the worst thing that had ever happened to her.  Her “brother” just stood there with his mouth open like he was seeing a volcano erupt for the first time or something.

“Watch your step dear.”   

I turned to continue on my way, which was probably not the smartest thing to do, but I didn’t expect that she was going to try something out here in the street.  It was early enough that there weren’t a lot of people about, but it’s not like I was in a deserted alley.  The point is before I had taken two steps there was a garrote around my throat and I could feel her on my back like an especially murderous gibbon.  Not that long ago in the grand scheme of things if someone was throttling me like this I would have had no idea what to do.  I would have died most likely.  Violence is an odd thing, when you’re not used to it, when you’re not a violent person, it seems like there’s nothing you can do when someone attacks you.  It’s just a frightening and unusual occurrence that you don’t fight back even if you could, it doesn’t even cross your mind.  A lot of people, well men mostly, think they if someone “tries them” they’ll bow up and get all manly and throw fists, but usually it’s the opposite – instead of raising up on the back legs like a bear they bolt like the cowardly rabbit. 

But once you’ve been around violence and it’s been demystified it’s a different story.  I guess it’s good that I’m no longer in the first camp, but it’s depressing that that’s where my life as lead me.  I would prefer to be the kind of ivory tower type that never has to learn those lessons, but if the alternative is being dead I’m glad I turned out this way instead.  As much as I’ve been banged around and almost killed by this and that and every other damn thing I’m certainly not going to let a teenage girl strangle me to death.  The “brother” had a pained look on his face as if to say “here we go again!” but that didn’t stop him from coming forward to grab my arms.  Fun fact, strangling someone is much better accomplished with two, although he would have been much better served to go for the legs.  But he didn’t so it was a swift and blinding knee to the crotch for him.  Once he was down on the ground, since his “sister” was conveniently providing me with a post I favored him with a double stomp to the chest as well – which is never a bad idea.

Next I stepped back to put my foot back behind her foot, calf to calf, and then with a quick snap forward she was on the ground again and I was unwrapping her knotted cord from around my neck.  If someone is trying to choke you you may be tempted to arch your back but don’t – if you lean back, you lose your balance, which is bad.   Fighting is a lot more about balance than you might think.  Once I had the cord in hand I whacked her in the noggin with it as she was flounder to get up.

“You walk around with this thing?  Do you want people to think you’re a murderer?  If you want to strangle people at least do it with a scarf.  I knew a gal once who had a string of beads that was specially modified . . .”

She came to her feet with a small blade in her hand, but by this point the few people that were out on the street were gathering around and/or paying rapt attention – there’s nothing that gathers a crowd like a catfight. 

I chuckled “You are a vicious little polecat aren’t you?  You want to stab it out in front of all these people buttercup?  We should at least charge admission if that’s what’s going to happen.  You know how rare a lady knife-fight is?  I saw one once in Bürstner but that was . . .”

Seeing that she had an audience she and her boyfriend beat feet, at which point one of the brave looky-loos came forward to ask me what was going on.

“Oh nothing really just a little family dispute, you know how kids get in their teenage years, rebellious and all.  My daughter’s a good girl, really she is, but she’s still in that phase where she tries to solve all her problems by stabbing.  You have kids, you know what I’m talking about right?  She’s pretty as a picture though, and I’m looking for a good match for her.  Do you have a son perhaps?  A son that doesn’t freak out about a little cut here and there?”

He must not have because her hurried away as if the boogedyman was on his heels.  After that little dust-up I made my way to the nice part of town and to the fortress-bank-temple of the Odobeninians where in short order after providing the number and passphrase Corune gave me I was back in possession of my possessions.  I was surprised to see that absolutely nothing was missing since it was in the hands of the Church of Greed and all, but I suppose their ability to sell their services as a storing place for valuable goods wouldn’t really be viable if they were skimming off the top.  Smart greed knows that you make more money in the long run playing it straight.  Sort of.  I was also somewhat shocked to remember the sheer volume of magic crap I’ve accumulated, not to mention the friggin’ fortune I’m sitting on.  I could retire right now and live out the rest of my days in luxury, but I cannot – not until the Duke and all the rest get what’s coming to them.  The black and white and gold robed attendant asked me if there was anything else that the servants of the Lord of Coin would help me with.

“Actually yes, a couple things, first off since the town is in a bit of disarray the markets are probably not up and running at their usual clip I was wondering if you’d be interested in purchasing a few items.”

“We’re not a mercantile madam, we occasionally buy and sell premium goods but we’re not a clearinghouse for . . . shall we say, items discovered.”

“Of course, I wouldn’t waste your time with mundane items I’m talking purely about arcane objects.”

“I can direct you to our procurement office, what else did you have for us today ma’am?”

I fished the receipt from the Bowcrag Odobeninians out of my Bag and presented it to her. “I’d like to cash in on this credit.”

“I’ll have to verify this in our records, but that should be no problem, what services were you thinking about requesting?”

“I’m not sure, I just kind of want to use this thing and stop worrying about it.  What’s on the menu?  So to speak.”

“Aside from religious observations of course we offer our banking and investment services as well as spellcasting for hire.”

“Tell me about this spellcasting.”

“Well we have a large number of acolytes on hand at all times for minor healing spells and blessings and the senior staff are available on appointment for more advanced magical rituals.”

“But what can you do?”

“That’s an extremely broad question ma’am, many things are possible with magic, there’s thousands of different manifestations we can call upon from our Lord.”

“Are any of them actually useful?”

“I don’t follow you ma’am.”

“Can you make me immune to physical blows?”

“No ma’am.”

“Can you curse my enemies?”

“We only offer legal services ma’am, placing curses is prohibited by law.”

 “Which means you don’t do it or it costs more?”

“We only offer legal services ma’am.”

“Okay, what about this – people seem to jump out of brushes and alleyways and off bridges and such to ambush me all the time – I can’t really rely on normal bodyguards because of the inherent trust problems there.  Can you summon a genie to protect me?”

“Genies aren’t real ma’am.”

I snorted “Are you fucking kidding me?  Vampires and wolf-whales and malicious tree stumps and varcolacs and wendigos and every other damn thing is real but genies are made-up?  Where do all these wishes people make that backfire on them come from then?” 

“I couldn’t say ma’am, but for the amount of credit you have we can certain bind an outsider in a token that will allow you to summon it when needed.”

“Outsider?  What do you mean?”

“A creature from another plane of existence.”

“Like a demon or an angel?”

“We don’t deal with those fanatics in our church ma’am, but yes, creatures of a similar planar nature.”

I have no clue what that means but I agreed anyway and she led me to another part of the temple where I met with the procurement priest.  Normally I’m used to the process of buying and selling being a lively affair – the chatter and excitement of the marketplace, the give and take of bargaining, the random insults and pickpockets – but this was a dull affair indeed.  The procurement priests examined everything in depth, often casting spells upon the items, and then consulted with various ledgers and books and receipts that were stored in a massive catalog behind him.  And even when he did want something the price was the price, there was no bartering.  Those hours were undoubtedly the most boring of my life.  So far anyway. 

After surviving that brush with almost being bored to death (the obscene amount of money I walked away with helped) there were a few hours left before dark so I had the good folks at the Temple of Consecrated Covetousness refer me to a local craftmage, for a fee of course.  When I went to visit him his assistant kindly told me he was available by appointment only, which I was granted immediately by way of a hefty handful of gold.  I’ve only met a couple craftmages but this one seemed to be different in the sense that he wasn’t stark raving mad – he just seemed like a guy who made magic stuff for money.  Go figure right? I told him what I wanted and he said that definitely possible and would take about a week but that he had other projects in the line in front of mine.  Although mine jumped to the head of the line quickly when I started dumping gold out on his table.  I do so appreciate a man who knows how the world works. 

With a hard day’s work under my belt I found the most extravagant lodgings in the good part of town – Crux Ansata – and rented out a suite for the next week.   The amount of money I handed over would have been eye-opening on any other day, but today was quite the day. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 27,817 platinum, 44,659 gold

XP: 635,101

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Badge of Last Resort, Stone of Good Luck, Tankard of the Drunken Hero,   Censer of Dreams,  potions of cure moderate wounds (5), potion of invisibility, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Deck of Curses (two cards used), Ring of Urban Grace,  Bewitching Gown, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Nymph’s Favor, Token of Summoning

Courtier’s Outfit, 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), 700 garnets, severed hag head, 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, glass vials of something awful (8), disguise kit, covenant ring , tiny diamonds (27), Saryah Phidaner gown, darkwood lute, masterwork buckler, bottle of elfen absinthe, assorted jewelry, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55)    

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 

Behind the curtain – Ela hit level 15, taking another level of Rogue.  She took Extra Rogue Talent yet again and Another Day for that talent.  I must love Rogue talents more than everyone else because almost every stat block I see they’re using the talents that basically trade for feats which I find lame.  I guess it’s probably just to make the stat block easy, like how it seems they give half the NPCs and monsters in the world Alertness which is also lame but it’s one less thing you have to think about as the GM.