Montresor 28 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) part 2

The farther down you are on the socio-economic ladder the worse your shoes are – which is an issue because also the father down you are on the socio-economic ladder more important your shoes are.  When I was first drugged and left for dead in Graltontown I was pissed that my dress had gotten dirty.  Those were my priorities at the time.  I quickly discovered that when you’re down here in the mud and the guts with everyone else what you really need is a good pair of boots or shoes.  When I was given this potato sack to wear it came with “shoes” in the form of cloth to wrap about my feet, which is more common than you’d think.  It really tears you up.  Whenever I face a serious setback like the one currently occurring my first order of business is to get some proper footwear.  It was easy this time because I didn’t have to do anything.  The first step of Bolbec Forthwind’s plan was to give me some different clothes to wear.  A pair of sturdy boots, cloth skirt with an overtunic, a belt, a shirt with a terrible jacket, gloves, a scarf, and an ugly a wide-brimmed hat.  It looked terrible.  Sadly I’ve worn worse.

It’s a commentary on my life now that I didn’t even think about it – I just started changing right in front of him.  I wonder what kind of commentary it is that he didn’t even remark upon that fact.  Instead he started explaining the subsequent parts of the plan – sneaking out of town and going some number of paces this way or that and blah blah blah, I wasn’t really listening.  Once I was dressed in my slightly less crappy clothing I lay down on the bed in the shitty hostel with my hands behind me head.

“I appreciate it Bolbec but what I could really use is a whiskey sour and a nice juicy rabbit.”

He was understandably confused “But we need to go right now, we only have . . .”

I waved his concerns away “It’s no use Bolbec, they got me good.” I tapped the collar they saddled me with “This baby is all magiced up the wing-wang, there’s no getting away for me, not until I can figure out how to get rid of it.”

“That shouldn’t be hard, we just need . . .”

I sat up quickly as I felt the collar start to constrict “Stop!  Don’t say anything more about it!  Talk like that sets it off.”

He looked at me for a moment “They really got you don’t they?”

I laid back down “The hook is in deep this time my old friend.  And by old friend I mean someone I barely know.  Why is that you were going to help me?  Seems like you had this whole plan worked out in advance, what’s the skinny?  Were you secretly in love with me the entire time we were at court?  Were you pining away in silence, enraptured by my beauty?  I don’t blame you there Bolbec, I was quite something back then.  This is the part where you’re supposed to say how lovely I am still.”

“Huh?’

“Forget about it, just tell me what’s going on.”

“I volunteered for this assignment, from the beginning my plan was to help you escape, I did have things arranged beforehand.  Before I got here I spent some time working it all out.  I should have guessed that it wouldn’t be that easy.”

“Nothing ever is.  That doesn’t tell me anything about why you did it though.  Are you working for someone?  Do I still have allies at court?”

He shook his head “No, I did this on my own.”

“You’re being very cagey Bolbec, why is the question – what’s your angle?”

“I just didn’t think it was right what had happened to you.”

“I don’t believe that for a second but I won’t press the matter anymore, you can have your secrets if you want.  I supposed embarking on this shenanigan this is better than being on the front lines.  How is the war going Bolbec?  Seems like the Kingdom is losing a lot of territory given the fact that we’re supposed to be winning this thing.”

He smiled sadly “I’m sure it’s a tactical decision, all part of the plan.”

“I’m sure.  Tell me something Bolbec, if I snuck my way into Finchley’s room in the night and slit his throat and tossed him out a window how would that make you feel?”

His facial expression was hard to read, it looked like someone had stepped on his balls and he was trying now to show it “Are you capable of something like that My Lady?”

I snorted “Oh, I’m no lady anymore Bolbec, not that I ever was truly, I was the Duke’s dress up doll.  I’m still in the process of figuring out what I am.  It’s harder than you think.  Let me ask you this Bolbec, when the war is over and the Kingdom has won as it always does in war, there’s going to be a flood of people in society that have become killers.  Some of them will be pretty broken up about it but for a lot of them it will just be a thing they did.  Do you think having that many killers in society changes things?  Every time there’s a war is it followed by a weird period in the kingdom where society is made up of killers?  Seems like that would change things.  Forget the poverty and the hunger and all the other fucked up stuff about the war itself – afterwards there’s a whole generation of murderers running around.  It’s something to think about.”

“I . . . I don’t know what to say to that.”

“Don’t worry, I’m just thinking out loud.  I’m a killer now Bolbec. I’ve tried to feel guilty about it but I can’t seem to pull it off.  What do you think that means?  Am I doomed to the fiery pits of the Thirteen Hells to be tormented forever by Krolkoth the Awakener?  Seems a little harsh to be tormented forever no matter what someone did.”

“Uh . . . I’m not sure.”

“Sorry Bolbec you were expecting an exciting rescue, running through the night and hiding and horses in the night and shit and instead here I am dropping some heavy philosophy on you.  My apologies, I tend to get metaphysical whenever I lose everything.  It happens every seven or eight months.  Sometimes I can get the stuff back but I’m in a real bind this time Bolbec, I think my goose might be pickled on this one.  You’re a fighting man Bolbec, you were in the last war right?  How many men to you reckon you’ve sent on the next life?”

He seemed mightily uncomfortable “I couldn’t say My Lady, chaos of battle and all.”

I nodded “I know what you mean, after a while it’s hard to keep track right?  If you told me I had killed a hundred people I could believe it.  A thousand I don’t think so, but I can’t even really hazard a guess what the number is.  Some of them I probably wouldn’t even remember.  Most of the ones I straight up murdered in cold blood I could probably list if I tried hard enough but when you’re in the thick of battle and your blood is up you’re just reacting.  Afterwards you think, did you kill five people or seven?  It’s impossible to say.”

He abruptly headed for the door “I should get some sleep.”

“Sure, sure, you get some rest Bolbec.  How are we doing on that whiskey sour?”

Macendamandel 26 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Today I saw a wildcat of some variety chasing after a hare.  They flashed across my path for just a few seconds before disappearing into the scrub.  At first it looked like they were going straight for the river before they turned off.  Hares and wildcats are both renowned leapers but I assume they can’t vault over a river.  That would have been something to see if they could.  Nature is awful and should all be cleared away to make room for more cities but there are some things we can learn from it.  When a cat pounces at a hare the hare doesn’t complain about how unfair life is, it doesn’t whine about its hard childhood, it doesn’t bemoan the fairness of the world.  It runs for its fucking life.  And if it gets away it goes back to nibbling on summer lilac, butterfly-bush, and orange eye – it doesn’t dwell on the fact that it was almost ripped to shreds by cat claws.

And the bushy tailed wildcat doesn’t worry about morality or agonize over what to do – it needs to eat so it attacks.  The end.  It either lives or dies by its own wits and strength.  Either it eats the hare or it starve to death.  It doesn’t worry about the hare and the hare’s hopes and dreams and it’s little hare children.  I does what it does do and it doesn’t worry about it.  Life on the ragged edge.  Clearly human life is a little more complicated than that of a cat or a hre but there are still some gems to be gleaned there.  Don’t dwell on the past.  Keep moving forward.  Don’t hesitate.  As my grandmother used to say if you have to sleep with a disgusting man waiting isn’t going to make him any less revolting – if anything the opposite.

Being exceptional is not normal by definition.  I made the decision to be this way. I made the conscious decision to act and become this.  When the chips were down and everything was against me it would have been easy, so easy, to slink away into the darkness and never be heard from again.  No one wants to be uncomfortable.  No one wants a real challenge.  No one wants to be afraid.  But that’s what I have to do to reach my goals.  I can trace most of the real problems I’ve created for myself to silence and hesitation. I didn’t speak up when I should have.  I didn’t take action when I needed to.

This is the kind of self-indulgent philosophizing that I become prone to when I’m alone for too long.  Is there anything more ridiculous than talking about being decisive and taking action?  Thankfully shortly before sundown I trudged into Gib’s Tor.  It’s a nothing town on the ass end of nowhere (which to be fair is the more interesting end of nowhere) but at least there are some people here.   It was significantly bigger than I was expecting though – there were probably more than THIRTY buildings.  And it wasn’t a one horse town because I saw a stable that had four horses in it.  Adding to the mix were several Kostelos tents, Ples Del’mer wagons, and some kind of dome-shaped things made from mountain goat hides that must be the home of choice for the mountain people. It was a real hodge-podge of humanity.  Had quite the frontier feel to it. 

The hag had told me to meet “her man” here and no other details were worth forthcoming about who this person might be or how to contact them.  But first things first, I went to the tavern the soldier (sailor?  He was in the army but he was on a boat.  I guess he was a marine?) had told me about and ordered some of their “pretty good” brandy.  It was in fact pretty good.  The food was slop but at least it was warm slop.  That’s another thing to hate about travel, you get so sick of dried salted meat that you’re glad to have warm slop.  I got a few mildly curious glances being a woman traveling alone, but there was a time when every eye would have been on me – and lingered too.  Because I would have been looking like the nobbiest nob from nob hill.  Now I just look like another drifter, a devastatingly pretty drifter obviously, but still just a drifter.  I blame the scar.  And the shabby clothing.  And the lack of bathing.  And everything else.   

Amazingly I saw someone I knew there.  She was older and dressed more plainly (sounds familiar) but I recognized the copper hair and smashed nose of Anies Peutre.  Last I knew she was minting counterfeit coins in Paladore, which is not the safest of professions, which is probably what ended her up here.  She was sitting at a table talking to a Kostelos with a fox-fur on his shoulders.  Funny how the same apparel can appeal to dirty barbarians and fancy rich ladies.  I was debating going up to talk to her and staying to continue drinking brandy (the brandy plan was getting a lot of support) when a fellow with short blonde hair and a sharp angular face wearing a ragbag of different clothes approached my table.  His voice was raspy like he had just climbed out of a coal mine.

“I’m to take you into the mountains.”

I gave him a once over “You’re the guy then?” He nodded “How did she get you?”

“Wife got sick.”

“How do you communicate with her?  Does she come to you in your dreams?”

“Come to my house tomorrow, it’s the one with the green door.  I’ll take you into the mountains.”

He started to turn “Wait.  Our mutual friend said that she needed me to take action because the other one – the one in the place you’re taking me – was gathering followers here in the real world.  Does she have her people in town?  What do you know about them?  What kind of shitstorm am I walking into here?”

He didn’t even turn fully around “I don’t know anything, I just know I’m to take you into the mountains.”

I smiled and dropped a sassy wink “Well you know one thing then don’t you?”

He walked out of the place without another word.  When I looked over Anies was gone as well.  Which is too bad, it would have nice to be able to gather a little intelligence about who might be in town and looking to stick a poison dagger in my flat taut and toned belly.  On the plus side I saw a group of people at a table in the corner playing cards with decent stacks of coins sitting around them.  I tossed back the last of my brandy and made my way over.

“Evening fellas.  Got room for one more?”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 6919 gold

XP: 1,199,351

Inventory: Bag of Holding, +2 Distance Light Crossbow, traveling outfit, Ring of Invisibility, potion case, potions (Cure Light Wounds x3, Enlarge Person, Protection from Evil, Cure Moderate Wounds x2, Oil of Fire Trap, Rage) Blessed Robes, Vampire Hunter’s Cloak, +1 Mithril Holy Undead Bane Sword-Cane  

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