Date Unknown

Well it turns out that I misjudged Elth slightly.  I thought when I verbally tore into her she’d crumble.  Which technically she did, so I was right in a way, but she didn’t fall apart enough to keep her from having her goons throw me in a deep dark hole.  And if there’s one thing Graltontown has in abundance its holes – both of the ass and deep dark variety.  That and mouth breathing freaks.  It’s really a toss-up between the holes and the freaks.  That’s what it always comes down to in the end. 

If my reckoning is correct this is the third time I’ve been thrown on a lightless stone pit and I have to say it’s not an experience that improves the more you do it.  I’m going to be controversial here and say that I would be glad to never be thrown into a lightless pit ever again.  There, I said it.  On the other hand though it is probably the only form of torture that comes with a silver lining – it gives you time to think.  Time to plot.  Time to scheme. 

I don’t know how long I was down there, but I didn’t die of dehydration so it couldn’t have been more than a couple of days.  Sadly at this point I’ve become accustomed enough to a few days without food, but there’s not a lot you can do without water.  Except get really tired and have your mouth feel like it’s full of gross slime even though it’s so dry your tongue starts to turn into a piece of leather.  I knew a rent boy back in the day called Leather Tongue.  He wasn’t very popular.  That’s probably why he had to resort to robbery to get by and ended up being executed for robbery. 

It’s been a while since I pulled a proper robbery, I should do that one of these days just to keep in practice.  I loot dead people all the time, but that’s not the same at all.  That’s just taking stuff.  I haven’t picked a pocket in a good little while either.  I need to keep my skills sharp on these things.  Remember back in the early days when I stole twenty gold from the butcher shop and that was a big accomplishment?  It really was too, I mean I was singing on the street corner for silver at the time.  Look how far I’ve come. 

I wonder if Elth really did kill Martialla or if she was just saying that to try and get under my skin.  Clearly they must have encountered one another otherwise how would Elth have known about her?  I think she was lying though, Elth doesn’t have cold blooded murder in her bones, not just to potentially get back at me anyway.  She didn’t even have it in her to kill me, so probably Martialla is still alive.  Or if she’s not it’s because of something else.  Beyond my feelings about her on the personal level if would be a real tragedy if a useless pair of tits like Elth killed someone as wily and valuable as Martialla.  That would be a real shame.

When they finally came to drag me out of the hole the light stabbed at my eyes like a thousand burning needles.  You know the feeling when you’re hung over and some jerk throws back the window shades to flood you with sunlight?  It’s much worse than that.  I swear that dehydration does something to make your eyes more sensitive on top of the whole being in total darkness for three to four days thing.  Maybe someday I’ll be trapped in a dark room for a while with access to water so I can compare.  I hope that I’m not, but the way things go for me it would be a step up.

I moved to get up far too slowly for the liking of one of the goons.  I think I was moving pretty well considering the circumstances.   This fellow disagreed and expressed his counterargument by kicking me a few times.  I’m going to make another bold statement – I don’t like getting kicked.  It hurts so much more than getting punched.  His fellow goon pointed out that kicking someone on the verge of death wouldn’t make them go faster it would make them go slower.  But this guy has an answer for everything, he said “I know, I just like kicking women when I get the chance”.  You can’t argue with that.

When they hauled me up and dragged me out of there I very much wanted to pull a knife out of my secret pocket and stab the kicker in the face until his face was done and he was dead but I figured that was likely to result in me being thrown back into the hole.  I’ll just have to do something to him later.  After a long while without a lot of expansion on the List we’re about to have a slew of new names.  Sometimes I think my work is never going to be done.

I have no clue where they keep the hole they throw people in, but where it was I was taken to a small room with naught up a skinny table and a couple of chairs – I suppose it’s an interrogation room or something of the like.  They sat me down at the table and a trio of women came in to replace them.  One of them looked like a carnival strongwoman who was starting to turn to flab.  One of them was a lean half-orc woman who looked like a coiled spring.  And one of them was my old pal Stek.

“Well you’re moving up in the world aren’t you?  Are you a prison guard or what is your role here?  I’ve heard that pays a decent wage.”

She furrowed her brow for a moment and was just about decided to clobber me when she recognized me “Ela?”

I smiled thinly “The very same.”

Her face twisted into a mask of horror “My Gods what happened to you?  You look awful.

“Well thank you, it’s good to see you too.”

I jokingly asked if she could get me out of there but of course there was no chance of that.  She and her beefy pals searched me thoroughly a couple of times and then gave me a sackcloth “dress” to wear.  Stek sat me down at the table and gave me some broth to drink – apparently that’s better for rehydrating yourself that water.  Or at least that’s what she said.  Once I was lubricated enough to breath without getting a nosebleed she brought me some small bitter apples and some hard bread.  Even that small amount of food made my stomach roil.

“Thanks Stek, what I could really use is some whiskey though.”

She grinned “That’s not a good idea, alcohol just dries you out more.”

“Oh, that’s just an old wives tale.”

Despite her words she took a flask out of her shirt and poured me a capful which I eagerly downed “How did you end up here?”

I passed the cap back to her for some more “Oh you know, fighting against the established order, trying to stand up for the common folk, that sort of thing.  They don’t like it when you do that.”

“Strange, I figured you to be on the other end of the ladder when the class war started.”

“You want to know my secret?  I stay right in the middle of the ladder, that way when it flips I end up in the same place.”

She chuckled and looked around pointedly “Yes, clearly things are going well for you.”

“You know what they say, the night is darkest before the dawn.”

“They do say that but it makes no sense, the night it darkest hours before dawn.”

“True, so are you and your friends going to kill me or just beat me senseless?  If you’re going to beat me could you hold on the kicks?  I’ve had my fill of kicking for a while.”

“Neither, now that you’ve soften up a bit we’re just making you presentable for your audience with our benevolent and kind master the Baroness.”

“Master?  Don’t you mean mistress?”

“I thought a mistress was a woman having sex with a married man.”

“It is  a confusing term.  How about we say mastress?”

“Isn’t that a woman who makes masts?”

Once I was “presentable” I was loaded into a coach and returned to Wardsmeadow Manor where I was escorted under heavy guard to the solarium – if they did that on purpose to hurt my eyes it was a stroke of genius.  Baroness Elth was there but she wasn’t alone.  With her was another Baroness – the Lady Juost.  For a split second I was relieved, I thought she was there to speak on my behalf, but then I saw the coldness in her eyes.  There’s no way she could have figured out that I killed her husband but I suppose she could have guessed it.  In the cold light of day knowing what she knows about me and given the givens that’s what I would have assumed were I her. 

But that wasn’t the only special guest in the audience, along with the two Baronesses was none other than Duchess Eaglevane herself.  Seeing here there was so incongruous that for a moment I couldn’t believe what my eyes were telling me.  It’s like seeing a cow on the roof of a building in the city – it makes no sense so it takes a moment for your mind to agree with what your eyes are seeing.  The Duchess was never a great beauty, although she was no sideshow bearded lady either, and she was often in ill-health which didn’t help anything – but standing there before me that day she looked both healthsome and toothsome.  Her hair looked great.  She had grown it out and had some nice little curls going.   Maybe it was the dehydration talking but I don’t think she ever looked better.

They brought me there to grovel for my life and that’s what I did.  I’ve talked about this a couple times before so there’s no reason to rehash it, the bottom line is if you get a chance to beg for mercy there’s no reason not to take it.  Have you ever seen someone on the gallows lift their chin defiantly and say they won’t give the person condemning them to death the “satisfaction” of pleading?  Those people are idiots.  Dead idiots.  I knew Baroness Juost to be a religious woman, and I assumed that Elth was a well, being a country bumpkin that she is, so I leaned on that.  How I was a wretched sinner and ashamed of the things I had done and so on and so forth.  I apologized for everything I had done, I threw myself on their mercy, the whole nine yards.  I’m damn convincing at that sort of thing when my life is on the line. 

Aside from the three aristocrats there were a few other sycophants and fawners about who observed my display and clucked their tongues and said things like “disgraceful” and “have you no pride?”  Pride?  What the Hells good does that do anyone?  You can’t drink pride. You can’t eat it.  You can’t buy anything with it.  You can’t fuck it. The more of it you have the less good it does you.  If you’ve got none at all you don’t miss it.  There’s no shame in being a truckler if that’s what the situation calls for.  Okay there’s shame in it but that’s fine. 

The three women in their beneficence and mercy said that my life would be spared and I would be exiled to the North, never to trouble the good people of the Kingdom again.  I wept at their compassion and goodness and thanked them submissively.  I would have kissed their feet if they wanted.  I’m glad they didn’t because feet are gross but I would have done it. 

And so instead of death merely exile.  How stupid are these people?  Do they really think I’m going to quietly disappear never to be seen again?  Am I really that good of a liar?  I may have my flaws but one thing I don’t do is hesitate to put someone in the ground when I have the advantage.  It’s one of my best qualities. 

Myam 25 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I was distracted is what it was.  Although I can’t say what exactly was distracting me.  Is it possible to be distracted by nothing?  Maybe distracted isn’t the right word, perhaps unfocused is better.  The point is that I wasn’t paying close enough attention and by the time I knew what was happening the street had cleared out of all the “decent” people and I saw that I was surrounded.  Well maybe not surrounded, but at least encircled, I mean how many people do you need to surround someone?  There were six of them which doesn’t seem like quite enough for a surrounding, unless you count the buildings as part of the surround – which maybe you could, but the doors were probably open.  Plus there’s windows if you’re really desperate.  Unless they already took care of that by dealing with the people that own them.  Probably you need nine people to really surround someone? 

They were your standard roadway scum, long coats and kerchiefs and too many daggers and scars and all that stuff.  I recognized one of them as the fellow on the road with the mop of curly black hair and bushy sideburns although his smirk was gone which made his face seem seventy percent less punchable.  His fancy clothing was also gone of course on account of I took it, and he was dressed in the ragged fashion of the rest of his pals.  He had at the very least found himself a battered yet jaunty tricorn hat that had some manner of shiny buckle on it that looked like it was made of highly polished amber.

“I know you, you survived huh?  Good for you!  That’s really something.”

His eyes were grim “No thanks to you.”

“Well obviously, I’m the one who left you for dead.  Did you gut it out on your own or did your friends here find you and rescue you?”

He slashed his hand through the air angrily “None of that matters now!  All that matters is that I have you.”

“You have me?  What does that mean?  Are we betrothed now?  This is an odd way to go about it but I admit fully that I’m not familiar with the customs of this backwoods slum.”

He shook his head slowly “You had a real smart mouth before too didn’t you, but now . . .”

“Now you’re going to shut me up?  Yeah, I’ve heard that a time or two, I guess it’s not your fault for being derivative because you weren’t there those other times so you don’t know that it happened.  But really it’s kind of an obvious thing to say, if you want to have a snappy conversation you should think a moment about how tired your quips may be.”

“I’m not here for a conversation, I . . .”

“Look, I get it, you’re upset because I had my magic snake-stick bite you a bunch of times and left you to die, but look at it from my point of view.  You were very rude to me.”

“And so you tried to kill me?!”

“Yeah, what else was I supposed to do?  I mean consider the situation, consider the power dynamic.  If I told you that I wasn’t interested in your smarmy remarks what would have happened?  I’d wager you would have become even smarmier right?  Probably you would have put your hands on me eventually.  I mean I don’t know if you’re a flat out rapist or just an asshole, I suspect the latter, but regardless that was going nowhere good right?  Now I suppose an argument would be made that I didn’t need to come at you so hard, that I could have just bloodied your lip or whatever and left it be, and maybe that’s what should have happened – but I know this, for me and the position that I’m in if I come at someone I have to come hard.  Otherwise it just makes things worse.”

One of the other goons sneered “Things are worse!”

I nodded “Indeed so, most indeededly.  I didn’t figure you had friends, I thought being a highwayman was a solitary path, but maybe you’re a bandit.  So what do you want to have happen here?”

Curly hair grinned humorlessly “I feel it only fitting that we leave you the way you left me, naked in the middle of the road.”

I dropped him a sassy wink “Sure, who wouldn’t want to see that?  But there are two problems there, one is that I have an appointment to keep in a little while and that seems like a whole scenario, and two that means giving up my stuff and I need my stuff.”

“MY stuff you mean.”

“Oh no, I threw most of your stuff in the trash where it belonged.  I sold some of it, but all that shitty knife-jewelry you had, I had them melt that down because it was hideous.  I don’t know you really love knives or if you were just trying out a persona as the ‘knife guy’ or what but those pieces were junk.  I understand that as a dirty thief you kind of need to keep all your wealth on you because it’s not like you can invest it, but at least get something that looks decent.  What you did there was take an amount of gold and make it worth less by turning it into something stupid.  It’s like a silver chamber pot – all the time and effort that went into making it actually turned it into something less valuable.  Do you understand that?”

“Shut up!”

“Good point, very thoughtful and well-reasoned, I’ll really have to consider that.  But here’s the deal Curly Q, as a highwayman bandit robber I’m sure that you’re no stranger to the rough stuff, but really how tough are you?  I mean the key to robbing people is finding the ones that won’t fight back right?  As they say there’s old bandits and there are bold bandits but there are no old bold bandits.  So how much fighting have you really done?  I’m sure things don’t always go smooth and you’ve been in a scrape or two and come out the other side obviously, but if you’ll remember I handled you pretty easily before.  And yes, I know what you’re thinking, I caught you off guard and now you have all your buddies backing you up and all that but it’s not going to matter.  I don’t look very dangerous, I grant you that, but somehow things seem to work out for me.  I don’t really believe in luck or fate or divine intervention or anything like that, but I’m starting to wonder if there’s something going on with me.  Like maybe I’m magic somehow?

I don’t really know, I can’t explain it, but what I do know is that I always seem to come out on top – I mean I killed a dragon one time, can you even imagine?  It was a big sucker too.  Lots of people have tried what you’re trying right now and you know what?  They’re all dead.  Or most of them anyway, the one’s that aren’t dead aren’t happy.  So ask yourself is it really worth it?  Your pride is hurt and here you are all full of fire and vengeance, but it’s not going to work out the way that you want.  So why bother?  Instead of turning this into a blood feud how about it becomes just a funny thing that happened?  Maybe it’s a wakeup call, an indication that you should change your ways.  I don’t know if you go glad-handing around with your crossbow and sword because it’s fun or because your parents died or because of what, but why not settled down and start a family?  Take up hatmaking, I hear that’s a lucrative trade.  Or if you want to be crooked still sell drugs, people love drugs, of be a fence or something like that where you don’t have to put your ass on the line in combat.

If you and your friends all rush me you can probably get me the ground and strip off all my gear and then leave me the way I left you, but you know that I’m going to have to come after you then right?  And how do you think that’s going to go?  Maybe you’ll best me again, but I doubt it, either way though then you have that to deal with.  So you’re going to have to kill then if you want this thing to be over, are you prepared to do that?  Because then I’m going to have to fight even harder to stay alive and maybe then you won’t get me.  Not to mention which you’re taking a big risk just be being in the city right?  You must be wanted, and I’m sure you’ll be hung if caught.  The watch is probably on their way right now, I mean how long have we been talking?  Even if you grab me it’s going to take a couple minutes, and then what?  You’re going to take on the city watch also?  Those are even worse odds, since right now there army and all sorts of other people are in town on account of rioting and all that.”

He grunted “You talk too much.”

“Hey, you’re not giving me anything here man, I’m just trying to fill the empty spaces in the conversation.  Don’t worry about your pride buddy, I know that’s a hard lesson to learn but pride is useless, it’s worse than useless, it’s dangerous.  I used to have a boatload of pride and what did it lead to?  My downfall, and now here I am down in the muck with people like you.  Now I have no pride, and its fine.  Pride, honor, dignity, whatever it’s all stupid – what does it get you?  Nothing, in fact it takes things away from you.  You want me to cry and beg at your feet I’ll do that, I don’t care, and I’m great and seeming heartfelt when I do stuff like that.  It doesn’t cost me anything.  But I’m sick of fighting Curly, I really am, last night I bludgeoned a lady to death with a cup – it had to be done, she deserved it, but it’s made me realized how much I hate all this.  A year ago I couldn’t even imagine fighting anyone, and now I’ve done it so much that I can hardly stand it anymore.  So I want avoid a fight as much as possible here, so what can we do?  Let’s work together and find a way out of this.”

“I said what I want, I want you left like you left me – helpless and humiliated.”

“And ass to the wind as I recall, I’ll reject that opening offer, but this is good, now we’re in negotiations, now we’re using our words, now we’re getting somewhere.  You want money?  You must want money right, you’re a thief, how much is your wounded pride worth?”

“You can’t buy me off.”

“Oh come on, sure I can!  Let’s give a try.  I bet I can buy off your friends at least right?  Speaking of, you probably worry that if you don’t do something to me you’ll look weak in front of them, and maybe that’s true, but Curly if that’s the kind of friends they are , consider, are they really your friends?  Hmm?”

He stomped his foot like a child “Stop calling me Curly!”

“Well what’s your name son?”

“That’s not important, enough of this, grab her!”

A couple of the men took a few steps forward, but another one held out a restraining arm – a lean fellow with a hungry look dressed (sigh) all in black.

“Hold on a minute lads, lets here more about this proposed payoff.”

I smiled “See, this guy gets it.” I reached into my Haversack and tossed a handful of coins into the street, their eyes going wide at the sight of platinum. “And there’s plenty more where that came from, let’s make a deal here shall we?  There’s no reason for violence or petty name-calling is there?  I bet if we got to know each other we’d be good friends, why I’m sure tonight we’ll all be at a bar together sharing a drink and laughing about this whole thing.”

Curly raised his crossbow at me “Okay, the price is all the rest.”

“You drive a hard bargain sir, but if that’s what it is that’s what it is, you’ve got me at a disadvantage here – I’m helpless as a babe.”

I reached into my Haversack, tossing out another handful of coins but also palming my potion of invisibility.  The sight of all that platinum was too much, and one of the men rushed forwards to start picking it up, which made the rest of them all run forward to grab their share.  Curly yelled at them but he took his eye off me and in that moment I drank the potion.  It was just a moment but when he looked back I was gone.  His eyes darted around wildly as I stepped quietly up to him with my crossbow, shooting him through the neck.  Before he fell I stabbed him through the ear with the bayonet Blade as well.  He dropped to the ground, stone cold dead, as his fellow robbers looked up in shock, their hands still clutching their coins.

“I actually do hear the watch coming, you better get that money gathered up and get out of here.”

I was a little late for my appointment with Yanik but the big man didn’t seem to mind. He talked for a while before showing me the ring that Baron Redmynd had commissioned on my behalf but when he finally did reveal it the ring it was worth the wait.  It wasn’t like my old ring of course, there’s no way you could replicate it exactly from a description but it was very close and very lovely without being ostentatious or extravagant.  It can’t replace the ring that was lost, not really, but it’s certainly a fine substitute.  I was so pleased that I gave the sasquatch of a man a hug after I slipped it on and saw how pleasing it felt and looked on my finger.

“How did you get it done so quickly?  There’s no way this could be done in a few days, it’s magnificent!”

He chuckled indulgently/annoyingly “Oh, I have my ways.”

My expression soured somewhat “Magic?”

“Just a bit here and there around the edges, no magic in the crafting that’s all my skill, just a couple tricks to make the work go faster.  I take pride in my work, no magic can do so well.”

I held it out to look at it on my hand “Well, I suppose I can forgive you that just this once, it is quite a sight.”

“I couldn’t help but notice, and pardon me for asking, but is blood on your shoes?”

I smiled dreamily at my new ring “Yeah.  I cut myself shaving.”

He frowned “But . . . how would . . .”

“Oh sorry, I mean I walked past a slaughterhouse.  Thank you, honestly, this is wonderful work.” I clapped him on his massive back “Good on you sir, good on you.” 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 23,045 platinum, 19,788 gold

XP: 701,701

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),  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 (four cards used), Ring of Urban Grace,  Bewitching Gown, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Token of Summoning, Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Better Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet, Red’s Riding Hood   

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), garnets (700), 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, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring

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