Other stuff post – #1 With a Bullet

I remember turning on the TV and seeing my dad fighting King Bullet.  It’s probably stupid to start by saying that I remember the most influential moment of my life, but I’m not sure how to start this.

That was the first and only time I ever saw my dad on TV.  He wasn’t on the national news often like Omega or Bluebird, but in the Midwest he was on the news all the time.  My mom never let me watch it.  She always turned off the TV or changed the channel.  I knew my dad was a superhero but that was the first time I ever saw him in action.

The only reason I saw it then is because my mom was on the phone.  Back then a phone was a thing that you had on the wall of your kitchen.  It had a curly cord that was like a little slinky covered in plastic.  I used to spend time fixing the cord after my sisters got it all tangled up.  I liked straightening it out. 

Point is that she was in the kitchen when I turned on the TV.  I almost changed the channel right away because I wanted to watch GI Joe, but then I realized that was my dad flying around above a big bridge.  I had seen his white and gold super-suit in the house before but never saw him wearing it until then. 

I wish that I had felt proud or excited about seeing my dad doing superhero stuff but I was just confused.  I couldn’t reconcile seeing my dad like that.  He was just a guy who could never start the grill and always bought the wrong thing at the grocery.   I don’t think kids can handle seeing their parents out of context.  I wonder if kids with parents who are pro athletes or famous actors have the same thing at first.  It probably takes a while to get used to.

It wasn’t even thirty seconds after I turned it on that he fell out of the sky.  At that point I had no idea that he was dead.  I think most kids, even if they kinda understand death at that age, can’t imagine their parents being vulnerable to anything.  And then throw in your dad being a literal superman on top of that?  There’s no way you can really understand what’s happened. 

Despite that, I was worried about what I saw so I ran in and told my mom that dad was on TV.  I don’t think she really heard me at first.  She gave me the “don’t bother me while I’m on the phone” look but I said that that dad was on TV and he fell into the water.  The look on her face scared me more than I’ve ever been scared before or since in my life. 

Seeing my mom so scared made me feel like the entire world was going to end or something.  I tried to grab onto her leg but she kind of shoved me off and ran into the living room.  I used to tell people that she picked me up and ran in with me because when I said that she pushed me, people would look at me like my mom was a monster.  But that’s not the truth.

My mom is the kindest nicest person ever.  People have said that if she did that, she must have been abusive.  If you judge her for that one moment of panic and fear, you’re wrong.  You weren’t there.  You don’t know what it was like.  You can’t say that. 

When I came in, she was on her knees in front of the TV switching the channel back and forth.  This was before TVs had remote controls, you had to change the channel on the actual TV with a knob.  After a little while she started to cry.  Not sobbing or anything like that, but tears streaking down her face.  I know this is a weird thing to think/remember, but what really struck me is how ugly it made her look.  Up until then, she had been the prettiest women in the world.  In that moment, it was like she had turned into a witch or a monster.  That scared me pretty good too.

She told me to go to my room and when I did, she shut the door behind me, which she never did.  She always wanted to be able to see me, make sure I was okay.  I hunched over by the door and listened for a while but eventually I started reading some of my books.  I was still freaked out, but I went about my little kid business.  It’s hard to explain what it felt like.  Maybe because I didn’t understand what I was feeling at the time. 

I remember that my aunt (my dad’s sister) and a neighbor came over with their kids and we were playing in the backyard while they talked in the living room.  I knew that something was on, but I felt like it was grown up stuff.  One of my cousins asked me what was going on and I said that I thought maybe my dad was in trouble.  But that was the extent of it.

The strangest thing of all to me at that time is when my mom left and my aunt stayed over with me.  I had stayed at her house before, but it was very weird to me that she was there in my house without my mom or dad.  She took me to MacDonald’s for dinner which wasn’t right either.  I told her that we only had that after church on Sunday.  She said that it was okay, but that really upset me. 

The next day, my mom told me that I wouldn’t see dad anymore because he had died.  She really tried and I think she said all the right things, whatever that means, but I still didn’t really understand. For a long time after, I expected him to come home.  I think I was ten before I really got it.  And even then there was a part of me that still thought he was out there somewhere.

I talked to a couple different child therapists over those years, but it never helped.  I don’t blame them, I doubt there’s much anyone can do, but talking to these strangers about how my dad was never coming home just made me more confused. 

I was 12 when I did what any good red-blooded American kid would do, I swore that I would grow up and become a superhero myself and I’d get revenge on King Bullet for killing my dad.  When I told people that, some of them said that superheroes don’t kill people.  I asked them, what about Skull Malone?  Or Crosswire?  Or Red Skurge?  They killed bad guys all the time.

I become a connoisseur of those who killed the killers.  They didn’t get talked about on TV as much, but there were magazines all about the heroes that killed.  I knew I couldn’t have them in the house but I’d buy them at the drug store, read them, and then throw them away before I got home.  People said those men weren’t heroes, they were vigilantes.  Fine by me, I’d be a vigilante then.  And King Bullet would pay for what he did.

In my memory, I didn’t see my mom much after that.  I know that’s wrong, I know that she still spent a lot of time with me, but I can’t help but remember it the other way.  Even though I was only with my aunt or a neighbor a few nights a week, in my mind it was most of the time.  Memory is funny like that.  I felt abandoned so that’s what I remember even though it wasn’t strictly true.

In HS, I was writing a paper about my dad and I asked my mom who she was on the phone with that day and she got very upset.  I didn’t get it at the time, but she felt guilty for not protecting me.  Part of the reason it didn’t feel like she was always there when she was, is because she had her own problems.  And I was a real asshole to her.  I guess you can’t help that when you’re a kid.   

I know more than one summer, I went to live with my cousins in Idaho because she was in rehab.  The really sad thing is when she finally did get herself straight for real and tried to reconnect with me, I was an angry teenage douchebag and I pushed her away.  We barely had any kind of relationship for several years.  All my doing.

Most kids grow out of the revenge thing, or at least sublimate it into some other kind of self-destructive behavior, but I didn’t.  I didn’t have powers like my dad, but I figured that was okay because there are plenty of heroes without powers.  The Archer.  Wraith.  Ultraweapon and Nighthawk don’t have any powers and they’re founding members of the freaking Sentinels!

I actually did become pretty good with a bow, but where the hell do you get exploding arrows?  Let alone arrows that turn into a giant net or release sleeping gas.  Plus, as I found out, even a hunting bow isn’t durable enough to be running around getting into fights with.  That’s just not what they’re made for.  Go figure, right?

I tried bodybuilding and training in martial arts but it became clear pretty quickly I was never going to be able to forge myself into a living weapon.  It helped me realize that when a kid from my gym got beaten so badly trying to be a vigilante himself that he never walked without aid again.  There’s a reason there’s only a few people like Wraith out there. 

I read somewhere that being rich is the best superpower and I came to the bitter understanding that that’s true.  Whoever Nighthawk is in real life, he has to be rich as hell to afford to design and build all those gadgets.  And Ultraweapon runs a Fortune 500 company.  Unless I won the lottery, I wasn’t going to be a tech-hero either.

Someone asked me why I never just loaded up on guns and threw on a flak vest like Skull Malone or all those other killers I was once so eager to read about.  Honestly, it never occurred to me.  I think deep down in my soul, I knew that my dad wouldn’t approve of that, that they weren’t real heroes so I shouldn’t be like them.  Strange but true. 

Not that the path I did go down was any more heroic. 

After Ace and the Four Kings were brought down, other villains kept popping up who had some (usually less effective) version of the Megatron Serum that Ace had invented (or stolen depending on who you believe).  If anyone knows why a highly addictive super-steroid is named after the leader of the Deceptions, let me know.  I figured that was my path to super-powers.

After HS (I did graduate despite what Wikipedia says) I made it my mission to get my hands on some “meg”.  A 19 year-old kid from the suburbs looking for some illegal super drugs?  That went about as well as you can imagine. 

The first time I got a hold of what I was told was a version of meg “only better,” all it did was make me crap my pants and give me awful night terrors for three weeks.  Which is luckier than most kids like me.  A lot of people died trying to do exactly what I was doing. 

Much has been written and said about how searching for super-drugs led to my own issues with substance abuse, but that’s not right.  I was angry and depressed and looking for an escape.  The two things have nothing to do with each other.

I spent the next several years doing fuck-all other than getting high and mooching off everyone I knew.  I got a lot of mileage out of the “poor me, my dad died” act.  I got a lot of people to give me a lot of money.  I feel sick about it now.  Hell, I felt sick about it then, but I still did it. 

I still talked loudly and longly about how I was going to get my revenge on King Bullet to anyone who would listen, but it was all just talk.  I wasn’t going to do shit other than party and then feel bad about it.  The funny thing about it is when I sobered up, things actually got much worse. 

Getting clean gave me the motivation and clarity I needed to actually make progress.  If you want illegal stuff, you need to make contacts with criminals.  I knew plenty of dealers after all, and some of them I hadn’t ripped off.  I may not be Wraith or Nighthawk but I knew enough about the practical applications of violence to be useful.  More than anything, what you need is the willingness to do violence.  People would be surprised how many folks involved in the drug trade don’t have the stomach for that. 

In honesty though, I rarely had to actually mix it up with anyone.  Just standing there and looking tough is usually enough to prevent any issues, most criminals aren’t looking for a fight, they’re looking for an easy mark.  Just having some back-up makes a world of difference. 

The final irony of all of this is that I’m 90% sure I had a line on some legit meg when I heard that King Bullet was dead, killed in that mess in Cincinnati. 

It wasn’t like a weight being lifted off my shoulders.  It was more like an itch that you can’t help scratching suddenly being gone.   For a while you keep scratching that spot anyway because that’s what you’ve always done, but ultimately what’s the point?  The itch is gone.

I was very afraid that I would fall back into my old bad habits, but I was able to work around that.  I got a real job.  I talked to my mom and my sisters for the first time in years.  What really helped me is meeting my nieces.  It’s a total cliché but it made me feel hope for the future. 

It would be nice if you could just turn a corner and then everything would be fine after that, but it doesn’t happen.  Your problems and issues are still there, under the surface, and you have to figure out every day how to keep moving forward.  As someone said in group once, there’s no solution to life, every day is a new challenge.  It’s easy to roll your eyes at someone who says that they’re a work in progress, but we all are really.

Sometimes I feel like my life has passed me by, that I’ve wasted all my time and it’s too late for me to do anything.  But I’m not that old.  There’s still time.  It’s never too late to do some good in the world. 

Once more with feeling – a day in the life of Lucien aka Big Blue

Lucien doesn’t need to lie in the sun to thermoregulate.  Despite appearances he’s not really a lizard, hot mammal blood pumps through his veins just like the rest of us.  Most of us anyway.  He doesn’t lie in the sun because he needs to, he does it because it feels good.  The feeling he gets is not a sensation he can describe to anyone.  Until he was turned into a lizard monster, he had no frame of reference.  It’s like a dog trying to explain what a patch of grass smells like – it wouldn’t make sense to anyone but another dog.  And there’s no one else like Lucien.

The sensation is especially cherished because Lucien doesn’t feel much anymore.  And not in some metaphorical emotional way, literally he can’t feel very much.  Because of his thick skin and altered nerve endings it takes a significant amount of force for him to feel anything.  It’s another thing that only makes sense in context.  People don’t realize how much they’re feeling things all the time.  Your brain edits it into background noise.  The air on your skin, someone brushing past you in a crowd, a handshake, the rustling of your clothing – unless something strange is going on, you don’t even notice how much you feel things.

Until it’s gone.  It’s not exactly like waking up blind but it’s not unlike that either.  Not being able to feel the ground under your feet, or the chair you’re sitting on, or someone tapping you on the shoulder.  Lucien doesn’t often even feel a strong blow from a normal person.  More than once, someone has attacked him in Madripoor and he didn’t notice.  So the time he spends lying in the sun, actually feeling something, is extra special.  Particularly because Madripoor is not a place where you feel special often.

As he was basking on the edge of the building, Lucien opened an eye to peer at Ela under their “home” – that is the tarp.  Ela dragged a wooden chair she stole from somewhere up there and was sprawled out on it dead asleep.  It didn’t look very comfortable to Lucien but Ela was always worried about bugs crawling on her so she would never lie on the ground.  Most people could never sleep in a chair like that but Ela was out cold, Lucien had never met someone who could sleep so well.  Ela is a world champion sleeper.  She had a pack of cigarettes grasped in both hands in her lap like a primate holding onto a baby asleep in a tree.

Watching her sleep, Lucien was reminded about a furry white and black cat they had back on the farm.  It slept like that too.  Sprawled out in the sun on the porch dead to the world.  That cat had unwittingly taught young Lucien a valuable lesson.  It seems like the laziest beast in the world but whenever a bird or critter came into its eye line, there was an instant change.  That furry little ball that sat on his chest and rumbled its purrs turned into a killer.

That lazy beast became totally focused, totally engaged – and when it made its move it was faster than you’d ever believe watching it laze around as a ball of fluff.  Sometimes the field mouse or ground squirrel would run into a hole or get away, but not often.  That soft fluffy sunseeker was merciless and quick.  And it didn’t even eat them, just killed and left them lay and went back to snoozing.  Death for no reason other than to do it.

Lucien didn’t smile because he can’t smile physically – you need lips for that – but he was smiling on the inside.  He never had a friend like Ela before.  Truth be told, he never had a friend before.  In the service he kept to himself because of the horrible secret that he didn’t like girls.  After that he was working with criminals he couldn’t stomach, no friends there.  And working as a mercenary?  Not a lot of comradery there either.  Not unless you’re a real piece of shit.

Ela is something else though.  She is completely self-absorbed and demanding, and she seems to have an addiction to mouthing off to the exact wrong people.  But she is also disarming and fun and at her core cares about people.  Cares about Lucien.  Which was something he isn’t used to.  It’s been a long time since anyone care about Lucien.  Maybe never. 

Just the other day someone asked Lucien “Who’s that you’re always hanging out with it?” and all he could think to say was “So that’s this woman, Ela, you see . . . . and uh . . . I think you’d like her.”

She’d hate it if she knew how much Lucien wanted to protect her.  She’s strong enough to push over a building but she seems so fragile – Lucien feels that if he put one finger on her she’d burst apart like a dandelion and the bits of her would float away.  Lucien sees her as a cannon made out of ice, dangerous for sure, but not able to withstand its own power.  And that’s just the physical part, she’s lived a soft life in the CSA, she isn’t ready for this kind of shit.  Martialla is wrong about her, Lucien thinks, she does complain a lot, but she’s adjusting well to her new reality given the givens and assuming the assumptions.  Most people like her wouldn’t have lasted a day kidnapped and dropped in Madripoor. 

Some of it she brings on herself, but Lucien would be the first to say that Ela seems to be a magnet for disasters and bad luck.  Sometimes it seems like she can’t walk down the street without being accosted by someone or something.  Maybe the Shaow Lords are the ones behind all her “bad luck”. 

Martialla was already gone when Lucien woke up.  She doesn’t seem to sleep much.  Two or three hours at most, and even when she’s asleep she seems kind of awake.  Lucien wishes she and Ela got along better.  Even though they came from different places and served in different ways and she speaks French with a terrible accent, he has so much in common with Martialla.  He loves talking to her, even more than Ela sometimes, Ela didn’t know anything about guns or vehicles of military history.  Plus Martialla has way more amusing stories about grenades and bloody ribcages. 

Lucien’s first stop of the day was breakfast with the Nightwitch.  They don’t do it every day, but they often check in with each other to trade news and gossip.  She’s much more plugged in of course, but Lucien fulfills the friend in really low places niche and usually has a few tidbits that she doesn’t know.  Lucien has found that his real talent lies in networking.  As “hired muscle” he can interact with pretty much anyone.  And because of his appearance people have a habit of thinking that he’s stupid and say things around him they shouldn’t.  Although in their defense, the only two other lizard guys Lucien has met were dumb as bricks.

After business was done, Lucien delicately apologize to the Nightwitch about how things went down with Serpentina.  The Nightwitch played it graciously, but Lucien knows that he owes her one now.  He’s racking up the favors owned and calling in what few markers he had trying to keep Ela alive.

Next was a meeting with a smuggler who might be willing to take them out to Baron Iorgu’s island.  After that, some light collection work for Devil-Tail Lucy.  Lucien has a lot more cash than he lets Ela know about, she’d spend it all in a day on something or other if she knew.  After that, Lucien made the rounds of all the restaurants and food carts that they hadn’t already burned to see what scraps he could beg borrow or steal.  One place gave him a giant bag full of day old buns, a good score that Ela would go through in one sitting and still be hungry.

Lucien wondered, if he and Ela were to turn themselves over to some eggheads to study them if they could come up with a scientific explanation why he was huge and barely needs to eat anything while Ela has to each as much as an entire platoon every day.  And still she looks like she’s losing weight.   And she didn’t have a lot to lose to begin with.  Sometimes Lucien is shocked when he notices how skinny she is now.  It reminds him of some PSA they used to run on channel 4 about anorexia.  Lucien hates the people that did that to her almost as much as the aliens that turned him into a monster.  Their day is coming, all of them.

After that, Lucien headed over to shoot the breeze with a crew working on a new hotel on the border to uptown but on the way he bumped into an old comrade from his days in Africa.  Lucien always liked Amerigo.  Amerigo had a reputation as being slippery and untrustworthy, which is an odd thing that happens when you’re a total pro but keep to yourself.  If you’re not into the jocular back-slappery of men, they feel like they can’t trust you even when you always do your job.  Lucien knows what that’s like.   Amerigo didn’t seem too happy with whatever he was doing there but then he never really seemed that happy.

After a few more stops to chat and arrange and network, Lucien was back on the roof to get a last little bit of sun before Ela woke up.  He wasn’t really asleep, he never would have felt her kick if he was, he was just pretending. 

“Wake up you lazy lizard!  It’s time to get to work.”

OOC – I have become old

Normally I would post this on my rambling blog but being the super macho alpha male that I am I’d be mildly embarrassed if my friends saw this.  So I’ll hide it here.

I’ve never really understood nostalgia.  Whenever someone was pining for our days of youth I thought they were crazy.  Generally speaking your life gets better over time.  It didn’t track to me why would you look back with fondness.  I don’t miss the days when I had a crappy temp job and lots of debt so I lived in a trailer because I couldn’t afford an apartment and ate disgusting generic pizza rolls because I could get a giant bag of them for five bucks. 

Sidenote I don’t mean to imply my life was ever really that hard, I was still a white boy in the easiest country to live in in the world, I’m saying that my life is much better now.

But today for the first time I got an inkling of what people mean why they reminisce.  I think you don’t really miss your youth, you miss the way your friendship used to be. 

Whereas, today I was putting together a new computer desk and I thought about how in the old days one of my friends would have been delighted to take my old one.  Now of course no one would touch it with a ten foot clown pole.  We’re all adults, if someone wants new furniture they just get it.  No one needs (or wants) hand me downs anymore.   I mean, also no one would want it anyway because I’m the only person in the world who still has a desktop computer, but that’s beside the point.

In the old days any time anyone got anything it set of a chain reaction.  One of my friends got married right after HS so they had TWO incomes and therefore they usually got stuff first.  They’d buy a couch and then friend B would get their old couch, and that second couch would go to friend C, and so on.  Someone was replacing a couch they found in a ditch by their uncle Skeeter’s out in Minden. 

Back then it wasn’t just that we had less responsibility, there was also more of a sense of community in a small scale.  We depended on each other.  Now if someone moves they just hire movers, which is better, but it’s also kind of a bummer because it’s a signal that we’re all kind of our own entities now.  Moving a bunch of shit and bickering with your friend’s GF because she didn’t drain all the water out of the waterbed like he said and those things are GD heavy was kind of a drag but it was also kind of fun.  Plus afterwards you’d eat the cheapest pizza in town and play basketball.

Now as adults we don’t need each other like we did then.  We still hang out and we’re still friends, but we’re not a team anymore.  We’re just people living lives.  So I understand missing that a little now.  I’m not sure why I never thought about it before.

Last summer here in the Midwest we had an inland hurricane (who knew that was a thing) and many people were without power and had lots of property damage.  That was the first time a long time any of us really needed each other.  And honestly even that was pretty minor.  Because we’re adults now.  Even in a crisis most adults handle their own shit.  These days if one my friends really needed me it would probably be because something truly horrible was happening. 

Anyway, I kind of understand what people mean now when they sigh and talk about old times.  They don’t miss their old lives exactly, because our lives our better, they miss the way we were all in the same boat trying to bail out water.

My favorite comedian of all the times, Paul F. Thompkins, has a bit about how you should never talk about your therapy because no one wants to hear it.  But I will anyway.  Years ago I saw a therapist at work for a while because it was free.  I don’t know if I really buy therapy but I was curious.  Which I realize now is kind of a dick move, I should have left that free therapy for someone else. 

Anyway, one time I told the lady how it bummed me out that I didn’t hang with my friends like in the old days and she said (in a nicer way) “yeah, you’re adults, that’s how it works, grow up buddy”.  Which was depressing in and of itself but is true.  Things change. 

Montresor 8 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

There were three of them which speaks poorly of their organization right at the start because as we all know adventurers should come in fours.  FOUR against darkness, not three.  And don’t give me any bullshit about the Six from Shadow, that was made up bullshit for a book chumps, I’m talking about real life here.  Miloai Laizirs admitted he made up the whole thing in 862 as an excuse to whip up anti-Danelanders sentiment.  There never was any such person as brave and noble Sir Rieckard – cry about it babies.

One of the trio was a snakeman (or snakewoman how would you know the difference?) which is interesting.  Never seen that before.  Adventurers are widely known for their lack of uniformity, but I have to wonder how that works.  If you’re a weird monster from some other continent and you come here to raid tombs and kill “bad guys” why don’t people freak out about that more?  I imagine that someone screams because a seven foot tall winged lion-eagle man comes into their village and one of the other villagers calms them down by saying “it’s okay, they’re an adventurer”.  People are odd.

The snakeman (or snakewoman) had legs so how did I know it was a snakeman (or snakewoman) rather than a lizardman?  No tail.  A lizardman would have a tail right?  Also forked tongue.  It certainly wasn’t a dragon person because . . . . well it just wasn’t okay?  I’m the one who saw it so just take my word for it.  Accompanying the snake guy was a woman who looked to be in her forties, which is ancient for an adventurer.  Well, for a human adventurer anyway.  Most of them either die or get rich well before thirty.  I wonder if that means she’s really good adventurer or a really bad one.  She had her head shaved, for lice control I assume, and was missing an ear.  Most of the ear anyway.  Which is a nice change of pace from the standard eye patch look for wounded freebooters.  I wonder why you never see an adventurer with a hook hand or a peg-leg.

The third member of their little band looked more like a shoemaker than a murderer for hire.  I don’t know exactly what about his appearance made me think that but something just said “shoemaker” about him.  Cobbler I guess they’re called.  His armor looked to be about one hundred years old and he would have been attractive it not for dozens of tiny scars on his face.  I wonder what did that.  Looks like he fell face-first into a pit of spikes a couple dozen times. 

They rode up hard behind me and I had a lapse in judgement – I assumed they weren’t after me and moved aside to let them pass.   Instead they surrounded me, as much as three people can surround someone, and shoemaker stared off into space like a loon while snakey and one-ear told me they worked for Baron Saltwheel and I should give them back the necklace because of the fate of the world depended on it.  Also they would kill me if I didn’t.  These kids are master of subtle negotiation.  The stick is murder and the carrot is also murder.  I told them that people shouldn’t bet anything they aren’t willing to lose.  A sure thing is never a sure think you know?  Chaos is the natural order of the world.  And that I wasn’t giving back anything.

One-ear made to grab the reins of my mount and Teremana bite her hand.  Have you ever been bitten by a horse?  It fucking hurts.  Based on the amount of blood I wonder if she lost a finger to go along with her missing ear.  Teremana is a well-mannered mare but she is trained for battle – you can’t just go around grabbing at her and not expect consequences.  I wheeled and we galloped off.  They pursued but none of the three were more than an average rider and their steeds were nothing to get excited about so I was able to lose them easily enough.  It was quite exhilarating, I haven’t really had a chance to ride like that in ages.  Nothing wrong with having a bit of fun here and there.

But if there’s one thing we know about adventurers it’s that they’re persistently annoying.  Well if we know one thing about adventurers it’s that they’ll beat you until an eyeball pops out for six silver but if we know two things it’s that and the persistence thing.  A few hours later and I saw them on my tail again.  Probably they’re using fucking snake magic to find me.  I remember when this used to happen all the time.  People are always using magic to track me down and foul up my day.

This is the problem with traveling by horseback.  I can disguise myself with a mere thought, but I can’t disguise Teremana and she’s pretty distinctive.  I should have thought about then when I was picking out a horse.  Oh well.  It probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway, I’m sure the adventurers would have slaughtered anyone they found on the road just in case it was me.  I thought about shooting them to death and riding away from any counter-attacks but these kinds are tricky.  Sometimes they can breath fire or fly up into the air or Gods knows what else.  I reserved the right to shoot them later but it seemed too risky.  I stopped about a mile away and used my vocal abilities to speak with them.

“Alright, you want the necklace?  Fine.  Ten thousand gold.  I’m sure a fine fellow like Baron Saltwheel can afford that with all the shakedowns he’s running along the river up north.” I saw their mouths moving and waved my arms angrily “I can’t hear you morons, you’re too far away – just nod if we have a deal.”

One-ear shook her head furiously, seems we did not have a deal at all.

I shrugged “Alright, but the price only goes up from here.”

I rode away from them again and this time their pursuit seemed like a token effort at best.  And why not, since they can just snake-magic out my location whenever they want?  Friggin’ magic.  I hate it so much sometimes.  One I was out of their sight I decided to abandon by path to Tyburst and head for Eree instead, on the off chance that they were just using normal tracking methods.  There’s rumored to be death worms in the Shoddy Hills, but shirelings live there by the pile so it can’t be true.  Besides I’m going to skirt the hills anyway. 

This turned out not to be the greatest idea either.  I saw a rider coming towards me, which I thought was the snakeman (or snakewoman) with an illusionary disguise but when I changed course to avoid them the other snakeman (or snakewoman) was behind me with the other three.  Turns out there had been four of them all along.  How the fuck this one got head of me and knew where I was going I don’t know.  I wasn’t exactly boxed in, but I was boxed in enough that I didn’t want to make a run for it without good reason.  When they were about a hundred yards away I threw my voice their way again.

“Alright, looks like you have me on the ropes here, how about this – I would like to speak with the good Baron anyway.  I won’t hand over the necklace and I just so happens that I have it in a magic satchel that cannot be opened if you kill me.  So how about we all just go have a nice chat withthe Baron and work something out here?”  I saw their mouths moving and sighed “You have to shout, just because you can hear me doesn’t mean that I can hear you.  I thought we covered that before.”

In the end a deal was struck, there wasn’t really much else they could do.  Killing me wouldn’t work and that’s all they know how to do.  Why didn’t I just give up the necklace?  The necklace that is ugly and I don’t want anyway?  I’m not standing on principal here.  I’m not the kind of person who has a lot of rules for life.  Living life by a set of rules is abdicating your responsibility to think about what you should be doing.  But there are some things you have to stand by if you want to have a life worth living.  You don’t let anyone take something from you, even if you don’t care about it.  The old saying give someone an inch and they take a mile – that’s true.

It’s like this, two watchmen beat one of the Duke’s pages to death once and the reason that happened is when the page was busting the balls of the first watchman he let it go.  But that just made the page act like even more of an asshole to the point where the watchman couldn’t let it go anymore without losing all credibility on the street.  So he and his buddy dragged the dude behind a laundry and kicked him until he was dead.  And then they both got executed for murder.  If the watchman had just slapped the shit out of the page in the first place like he should have all three of them would still be alive.  If people get over on you fine, they got over on you, but you can’t let them do it.  That’s a recipe for disaster.

The Baron of course is in the exact opposite direction I want to go, that’s a given, but it’s not that far away.  Which for me is about as much of a win as I ever get.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 53,940 platinum, 27,309 gold

XP: 1,288,351

Inventory: +3 Thundering Distance Light Crossbow, Ela’s Fashionable Belt, Cerulean Sign Tattoo, Satchel of Plentiful Feed, Horseshoes of Surety, Teremana (light warhorse), Hat of Effortless Style, Ela’s Wonderful Flask, Ela’s Dazzling Garment,  Ring of Urban Grace, Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Ela’s Elegant Boots, Ela’s Extravagant Necklace, Headband of Subtle Misdirection, Antiquarian’s Monocle, Ela’s Stately Greatcoat, Ring of Eloquence, Cheating Gloves, Clothier’s Closet Rod, Singer’s Stole 

Noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring,  pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (631), gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, disguise kit, covenant ring, tiny diamonds (26), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring, diamond and pearl lover’s knot tiara,  Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three), darkwood and platinum music box, silver bracelet set with bloodstones, platinum ring set with fire opal, silver and moonstone bracelet, holy symbol of Kozilek, dwarf journal, cruddy gold necklace

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