Montalan 17 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I was tempted to strong-arm (or charm) some answers out of Prelate Redmau (who was studiously avoiding me as we traveled) about Hardra but decided that I could get those answers easily enough once I get back to Juost Manor.  You know, once I deal with the whole Baron being controlled by barbarian witches thing. Easy.   I don’t like leaving the good prelate thinking that he got away with putting me off (which he did) but there’s nothing for it right now.  At mid-day as the assorted people of Uthden continued south towards Preen, Autane and I turned east to skirt the forest edge and head for Alleene.  I wasn’t sure what Rova and Pragma’s plan was at that point but they made to come with us.

“It’s not my place to tell you folks what to do, but I think the better idea for you would to be continue on to Preen.  You’re not recovered yet, you don’t need to spend any more time marching about the countryside with the only thing waiting at the end is a fighting.  A fight with poor odds.  Head on to Preen and get yourselves fixed up.”

Rova and her husband looked at each other briefly “We owe you, you saved our lives.”

“I wouldn’t make too much out of that.  It’s not like I knew you were in trouble and came running to find you, it was a mere coincidence.  The situation with the Baron is tricky, even if you were healthy I’m not sure what help you’d be.”

“But you came to hire us.”

“A reasonable point, but then when I got there most of you were dead.  I hate to say it, since magic is the worst, but I was looking mostly for some magical aid, and your magic guys are unavailable on account of they died.  I don’t think two blades aren’t going to make much of a difference where I’m going.  I know that as adventures you’re used to killing people by the score but I don’t think I can kill my out of this situation.”

Pragma looked grave “You did save us though, we can’t just pretend that didn’t happen.”

“Sure you could, you don’t want to but you could.  Look I get it, you want to pay your debts, once you’re back on your feet and adventuring around again I’m sure we’ll meet again and I’ll probably need your help then.” I smiled wryly “It seems like I’m always up to my neck in some catastrophe or other so I’ll probably need help with something.  If you want to come with me now that’s fine, I’m not saying you can’t, you can do as you like  of course – I’m just suggesting that continuing on to Preen is probably the smart move for you two.”

After some minutes of tedious jibber-jabber about how grateful they were that I rescued them and this and that they finally agreed to head for Preen with the rest.  Saving someone is almost more trouble than it’s worth.  Either they’re not grateful at all or they go too far the other way.  If someone saves your life just say you owe them one and get on with it (or kill them if you don’t want to be in their debt) I hate all this drawn out “it has been an honor” nonsense.  I mean Rova hugged me for the Gods sake and Pragma wanted to shake my hand and all this other crap.  Have some dignity people.  I should give lessons to people on how they really need to act – not all that etiquette and comportment bullshit, the real practical information a staggering number of people seem to lack on how to deal with everyday situations like someone saving your life from centipedes that hatch inside you and control your dead body until the heads falls off.  A few hours later as Autane and I were walking alone I noticed him staring at me again.

“Don’t get any ideas champ.”

“Ideas?  Ideas about what?”

I held my hand up “You see this ring?  Means I’m taken, off the market, not available.  Savvy?”

“What?  Oh you thought . . . no I didn’t . . . not that you aren’t . . . an . . . attractive woman . . . you’re very . . . I mean to say . . . it’s not that . . .  it’s like . . .”

“What are you eyeballing me for then?”

“I can’t figure you out.”

“Well you you’ve only known me a couple days and it’s not like we’ve had any deep meaningful conversations.  And I don’t meant to be offensive, but you don’t seem like you’re especially skilled at figuring people out.  Plus, you know what they say.”

“What?”

“You never really know someone until you see them at their worst.”

“Who says that?”

“It’s an expression.  People say it.”

“How do you know when you’ve seen someone at their worst?”

“That’s the gag, it can always get worse.”

We traveled the rest of the day without incident, shockingly.  We halted for the day by what looked to be a semi-significant body of water which didn’t really match up to my expectations of what I know about the geography of the area.  I looked at the flowing water for a while as Autane was gathering wood for a fire.

I pointed “That’s not the Scale is it?”

Autane glanced “No, that’s Tremor Creek.”

“Huh, never heard of it.  How long is it going to take us to Alleene from here?”

“Ten days maybe.  Give or take.”

“Ten days?!  I figured we would be close tomorrow.”

“We came west and south a lot farther than we intended when we set out.  Plus . . . whatever you red devil lady did.  And now we’re taking the long way around the edge of the woods.  We’d travel faster on the road but the time we’d gain would be lost heading straight east stop get to the road so it would probably end up being the same travel time more or less.”

“That’s unacceptable.  Can’t we just head north through the forest straight to Arbeven and then over to Alleene?”

“I don’t know of any way through the woods specifically but we could try to make our way through.  That would probably cut the time in half.  Assuming we don’t get killed by bugbears or recaps.  Do you think if a bugbear wore a redcap’s cap that it would be even more powerful?  Or does the magic only work for the redcap?  I wonder what would happen if I put one on.”

“I think the whole world is working against me.”

“I’m not sure the fact that distance exists is as personal attack against you.”

“Don’t be reasonable with me Autane.”

Autane scrounged up some dirt and nuts for dinner but I declined to eat the meager results of his foraging.  While he enjoyed his baked grass and leaves sautéed in mud I decided to see what was in the chests I stole from the Steel Saviors.  Silver Saviors?  Saviors of Steel?  Whatever they were called before six eighths of them got themselves killed.  Looting usually gives me a pick me up.  I used my Walking Stick to weaken the lock on the first chest and then pulled it off– which caused Autane to literally jump up, losing half of his gross “food” into the fire.

“Did you just pull that off with your bare hand?!”

“Yes, I’m very strong.”

“How?!”

I dropped him a sassy wink “It’s all in the wrist.”

The first chest was rather disappointing but I suppose adventures keep most of their wealth on them in the form of weapons and wands and the like.  There were a few coin purses and a bejeweled tiara and they were also a book of very detailed and accurate (I assume) pornographic drawings of dwarfs which I tossed in the fire immediately.  The second chest I think might be where they put things they found (and by found I mean took off dead bodies) that they knew were magic but didn’t know exactly what they did.  Makes you wonder how smart their mage actually was.  There was a pair of gauntlets, an oak staff with a tiny glyph carved on each end, and a sword made out of a large tooth.  And I mean large, you know, large enough to make a sword out of.  I would have thought that it was a dragon tooth but I don’t think dragon teeth are serrated based on what I’ve seen.  Then again I have no idea what kind of creature has three foot long teeth that are sharp on the edges.  Doesn’t even really make sense based on how teeth work.  Not a great loot haul, but it made me feel a little better.  As I dumped the chests into the fire I asked Autane what he thought.

“About what?”

“A few coins, a couple weird magic items, this is what the lives of six people amounted to.  This is what they left behind.  All the work their parents did to raise them up and keep them alive, all their years of struggle and decisions and working to make something – this is what they left behind.  Not terribly impressive is it?”

He shrugged “They’re just things.  I don’t think the possessions you leave behind matter much.  The one thing I’ve learned in this life is to enjoy each day and look at what the Gods have given us as a gift. As long as your intent is true and you try your best to do the right thing nothing else really matters.”

“I wish more people thought like that, if they did there’d be more good stuff for me.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 23,045 platinum, 21,920 gold

XP: 739,911

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Badge of Last Resort, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Censer of Dreams, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Ring of Urban Grace, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Better Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet, unknown gauntlets, mysterious staff, tooth-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 (27), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring, tiara

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  

Muthuselan 20 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 2

The city watch was helpful enough to clean up in the aftermath of the running battle through the streets that resulted in nine people being killed – your tax dollars at work.  They didn’t even ask me any questions.  I’m not sure if it’s because they mayor told them not to bother me or if that was still the results of the assassins’ bribery or sheer laziness or what their reason was.  Miraculously Stinty was still alive.  Unfortunately Stella Roseback was not.  I’m not sure what that means in regard to Duke Lodvocka and myself, nothing good I’m sure.  Once again a promising developments turns into another disaster for old Ela.

After the ministrations of some gold and silver robed adherents of Odobenine who turned up Stinty was as good as new.  They handed me a receipt with my new “credit” total.  I admit I was a little dazed by the events that had just transpired, which wasn’t made any better by my lack of sleep.  I just stood there with the receipt in my hand was they walked away wondering if they somehow knew to show up because of their God or magic or whatever or if they just always turned up at the scene of a bloody battle looking to make some money off healing.

“How do they know?”

Stinty frowned “How does who know what?”

I pointed “The priests.  How do they know how much they owe me?  Even with magic it seems to be almost impossible to communicate over long distances efficiently.  How do they do it?”

“What are you talking about?”

“I don’t know anymore.”

Stinty looked around at the blood and carnage in the streets “What a mess.”

“Yeah.  Well, let’s go.”

“Go where?”

“I owe you an inn.”

We walked for what seemed like an hour, even though it was only a few blocks, to the scene of the murder solved by the great cat detective.  Josta was there behind the bar almost like she had been there the entire time I was gone, which she probably was – aside from breaks for sleeping.  She nodded as we came in the door.

“You’re back, that must be what all the shouting and people running through the streets in terror was about.

“Ta-dah.  Josta this is Stinty, Stinty this is Josta.  Stinty’s place burned down so he’s going to help you run this one.  There’s a secret room in the basement like you had in your old place, but a bunch of people know about it now so I don’t know if it’s worth much.  I’m going to go sleep for a while.”

“That one whore came back and is in the room you were using.”

I headed up the stairs “That’s fine, I can use the room Stella was in.  She won’t mind.”

Stinty called up to me “How did you get this place?”

“Last woman standing, isn’t that the way people normally get stuff?”

I went up and collapsed into the dead woman’s bed.  It’s funny, you never think about it, but the bed you sleep on at an inn has definitely been slept in by at least one dead person – law of averages and all.  Probably more.  But unless the person just died you don’t think about it.  My hands were shaking and my legs felt like they had no strength left in them.  I was so tired that I thought I would fall asleep instantly but instead I laid there for a long time – it was one of those situations where you’re too exhausted to even sleep.  Like the act of falling asleep itself takes a tiny little bit of energy and you’re so drained that you can’t even do that.  Eventually I burrowed under the covers and drifted off to sleep with a noseful of Stella’s perfume.  Jasmine I think.

Eventually I woke and wandered downstairs where I found Josta, Fiestia, Stinty, and another Halfling sitting at one of the tables in the common area having themselves a grand meal.  Ale stew, rooster and dumplings, cherry pie squares, shepherd’s pie, three-berry tarts, honey cakes, and lots and lots of bacon.  It looked so delicious that I actually felt a tear slip out of my eye and race down my jawline.  They seemed to be quite jovial and waved for me to join them like everything was fine, which I guess it was.  The other Halfling was introduced as Addalia Applebottom or some silly Halfling name like that and I noted that Fiestia was dressed normal, not like, you know, a sex worker.  I learned that despite my expectations she had gotten herself a job as an apprentice lutemaker. 

The four of them were getting along famously and I felt like something of a fifth wheel.  But that was fine with me, I just wanted to eat and recede into the background.  Despite what some people might tell you, I have no interest in being the center of attention – I only move to the forefront when I have something to say.  I was perfectly happy to let these four new friends gab and joke the night away while I stuffed myself with hachis parmentier and black bottom pie and drank more than a little wine.  Eventually in the wee hours of the night it was just Stinty and I left around the table and he was kind enough to share his pipeweed with me.  He sat back looking satisfying and blowing the occasional smoke ring.

“I admit, I thought you were joking when you said that you owed me an inn.  This place needs some work, but it’s got good bones.  You’re full of surprises aren’t you?”

“Oh yes, you never know what’s going to come about with me.”

“So what’s next on your agenda?”

“Well, I’ve been giving a very special mission by the mayor himself.  Once I finish that, and the seventeen other things that will sidetrack me along the way, I can get back to the reason I came here in the first place – finding Lord Wesel.”

“What is it that you do again?”

“I’m a courtesan, you know, I travel the land rescuing people and delving into tombs and fighting dire battles and feuding with powerful crimelords and freeing slaves and overthrowing corrupt regimes and parleying with dragons.  Normal courtesan stuff.”

“Indubitably.”

“You appear to be a man about town Master Stinty, with a network of comrades and informants and such – maybe you can help me out.  There’s a cult of some kind that operates out of a local theater that probably killed the mayor’s brother.  Do you know anything about them?”

“I can’t say as that I do, but then I’m not much of a theater goer.  Nor much of a cult joiner.”

“I should probably read that information packet I was given.”

“What stopped you?”

“A guy shot me with a bunch of arrows, you’re familiar with the rest.”

He nodded “Indeed I am.  But why didn’t you read about it when you were hiding out at my place?  Or when we were out in the woods?  Pretty much all you did the whole time is is complain about how bored you were.  Why didn’t you read it then?”

“Because . . . . because . . . . shut up, that’s why.”

He started packing up his pipe “Well, at least you have a good reason.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 5888 gold

XP: 516,701

Inventory:  Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Field Scrivener’s Desk, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Surcoat of the Night Wind, +2 Studded Leather (2), +1 Shock Composite Longbow, masterwork rapier (3), Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Cloak of Resistance +1 (2), Endless Efficient Quiver, Ring of Invisibility, Ring of Protection +1 (3), disguise kit (3), sunrod (4) +1 Leather Armor (3) +1 Heavy Crossbow (2), +1 Chain Shirt, +1 Composite Longbow, Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, masterwork longsword, masterwork falchion, masterwork heavy crossbow, +2 chain shirt, masterwork short sword, dreamtime tea (2), wand of restoration, +1 Quarterstaff, sap, Assassin Mask (2)

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