Montumazin 1 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Sending a Vieland army to attack Three Rivers isn’t the most satisfying of revenge on the Lumber Consortium but I’m not confident that I’m going to secure any better.  I’m reluctantly crossing them off the List while reserving the right to further avenge myself on them at a later date.  I don’t feel great about it but they’re proving to be a tough nut to crack.  Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company was reckoned to be on be one of the movers and shakers in the Kingdom but I was able to completely ruin them without too much trouble.  It helped that they were complicit in treasonous activity but even so they had a lot of clout in the halls of power and they still went down hard.  The Lumber Consortium on the other hand I don’t think has any influence outside of the County, or very little, and they’re proving to be a far more stubborn opponent. Maybe the fact that their providence is smaller helps them?  K&B most likely had people trying to drag them down I gave them the chance.  Perhaps no one with enough power to do anything cares about the Lumber Consortium.

Point is I’m done with them for now.  I tried to the road back to Narhold and that displeased the collar around my neck forcing me northward.  And since the road north is crawling with Vieland soldiers (for some reason) I took off into the woods.  That always works well for me.  As you might imagine a gigantic warhorse is not well suited for picking your way through the trees and underbrush so I did significantly more leading than riding.  I had to use my Beastspeech several times to keep the big lummox moving.  In case you were wondering animals can be jerks.  And this guy is.  It’s probably not really his fault, I’m sure he was bred and trained to be like this, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying.  I’ve heard tell that  the savages that live out on the plains indulge in horse-fighting instead of  civilized bloodsports like dog-fighting or bear-baiting.  In my less charitable moments that’s where I feel this fellow belongs.

Since I can’t ride him and since he probably needs a ton of food and since I don’t really care about all that armor he’s carrying I was thinking about just turning him loose.  But just about the time I was convincing myself to do that was also the time when I noticed a form in the underbrush stalking after us.  Some folks call them stalhounds, others call them festrogs, they have many names – but a rose by any other name would smell as rotting.  Whatever you call them what they are is undead wolves with slack limbs and empty eyes driven by the needed to slaughter the living – and not just kill, terrorize and dismember first.  I would imagine it was keeping its distance on account of big hairy brute beside me, if I had been alone I’m sure it would have attacked.

Certain types, your intellectuals and academics and whatnot like to speculate on why the living dead spend all their time trying to kill us.  Is it because they envy the living?  Is it because of the dark magic that propels them forward?  Is it to avenge their own deaths against the entire world?  This is a great example of pointless conjecture – the undead want to kill us, does it really matter why?  I can assure you when you have a zombie wolf eyeballing you (metaphorically, as they have no remaining eyes) you don’t worry about its motivations in the least. 

The crossbow I stole from the commander was as huge and awkward as his stupid jerk horse.  It makes no sense for an officer to have something like this, it’s not like he’s going to be standing shoulder to shoulder with a unit of crossbowmen firing at the enemy, he should have a smaller weapon that he can keep around all the time in case things go sideways.  I managed to get it loaded once and fire at the skulking beast but I don’t think I hit it and I gave up on the idea of a second shot quickly.  I can barely raise the thing to my shoulder.  I suppose if it comes at me I can throw the crossbow at it, this thing weights thirty pounds it feels like.

The good news is with this murder-collar on me for once I can always make sure I’m heading essentially in the right direction – if I get turned around it lets me know by starting to kill me.  The bad news is that as the day wore on several more undead wolves turned up the join the very slow silent “hunt”.  Anticipating that they would eventually reach a critical mass where a single warhorse wasn’t going to keep them at bay anymore my first thought was to mount up and ride, despite the dangers of doing so in dense woods, but I quickly realized that was futile – the chances of enduring beyond the capacity of a living wolfpack is a tough prospect, and if there’s one thing the undead have going for them it’s that they don’t get tired and they don’t give up. 

Unfortunately I wasn’t coming up with a second thought very quickly.  It was hard to tell how many of the beasts there were as the day worse on since it was dark and they kept to the shadows, but I’m pretty sure there were at least six, and based on the stench there could have been more.  However many they were they were emboldened enough to get closer.  I think attack was imminent when I spotted a lumber camp in the distance.  I leapt onto Stanger’s back and set him to as fast as a gallop as I thought prudent given the terrain.  Still I was almost thrown away just by the force of him moving beneath me – it was a jolt to the spine when he started running in earnest.  I don’t think he liked those creatures sneaking about any more than I did.  They didn’t chase us, which is always unsettling.  Whenever you run away from a deadly menace and it just watches you go you have to wonder what’s you’re running towards.

The camp was abandoned, what with the war and all, but there were six men in a line in the middle of the place – hands tied behind them.  Five had been beheaded, one on the end had had his throat slashed, maybe the ax had gotten dull before they got to him but if anyone should have a good supply of sharp axes it would be loggers.  They weren’t wearing uniforms but I think they were Vielanders.  With that cheery sight revealed I headed for what is generally the most secure building in a place like this – the paymaster’s hut.  I tied the reins over the saddlehorn to make sure they wouldn’t get in Stranger’s way, refraining from touching him as I used the Beastspeech.

“If those things come up here stomp them in the head, keep your back to the wall here, make sure they don’t get behind you.”

He horse-snorted “I don’t need you tell me how to fight wolves female.”

See what I mean?  Jerk.  I went inside and checked the hidden compartment that I know now is usually in these places – I’ve been in a depressing amount of lumber camps at this point.  It was empty, the entire place had been cleaned out other than a massive desk that was probably too heavy to shift easily.  Even the chair for the desk was gone.  I took a seat to consider my options.

“I don’t remember inviting you in.”

The voice belonged to a shaggy wolfman that was couching in the corner.  It was covered with dark fur that was matted and tangled in ways that looked painful.  There’s no way I could have overlooked it but yet there it was catching me unawares.  When I think of a werewolf I think of a full wolf-head with a long snout but this being wasn’t like that – it was more like a wolf-skin face stretched over a flat noseless human skull.  It wasn’t a good look.  Not helping the overall appearance was the fact that this was clearly dead – not only were its guts splitting out of its belly like an apron but it had deep gouges across both arms and the back of the neck.  Whatever it was it was deader than a doornail, yet there it crouched.

“I let myself in.”

It made an odd coughing noise “Hasn’t anyone told you that’s very inconsiderate?  What would your mother say?  Not to mention it can be very dangerous as well, you never know who could be home.”

“Clearly.  I thought that werewolves turned back into humans when they died, how do you end up a zombie werewolf?”

“How should I know?”

“Because you are one?”

It made a raspy wheezing noise that I think was supposed to be laughter, sounded like it really had to work to push out that rattle “Zombie werewolf, that’s a good one.”

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. 

Montresor 20 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I expected that Ancin, Reda, and Wine would try to murder me in the night.  They’re pretty salty about getting fired despite the fact that it was entirely justified.  Or maybe that’s why they’re so peeved about it – people are weird like that.  I suppose there’s a lesson there about taking it easy on people.  I should have killed Ancin and Reda and dumped them in the Heathgrove sludge for the gators or eels or wamp trolls whatever the Hells is down there.  Wine probably wouldn’t have sought revenge without being roped into it by those other too.  Maybe leaving him alive was okay.  Seems like being alive is plenty of punishment for him.

I don’t think that Kellgale even put them up to it.  It seems as though she’s had a rough time of it, there’s not a lot of fight left in her.  She’s so abjectly afraid of me that it’s not even fun.  What’s the point of taking revenge on someone who’s been beaten down by life so much that you almost feel sorry for them?  It’s like the world stole my chance for revenge.  What can I do about that?  I can’t get revenge on the world.  I suppose what I should do is build her back up to some semblance of the cocky scam artist she once was and then ruin her so that it has some teeth to it when I do it.  But that seems like a serious commitment of time.  It’s a real pickle. 

But what other options do I have?  Forgive her?  That certainly doesn’t seem like something that I would do.  I’ll have to think on that – how do you solve a problem like Kellgale?  Anyway, when the three murders snuck up on the tent I had commandeered I was standing a ways off in the darkness.  I give them no points for subtly and high marks for enthusiasm.  They collapsed the tent and started wailing away on what was inside (nothing) with their weapons.  I don’t know about you, but I have a pretty good idea if I’m stabbing a human body or a pile of bedding, seems they do not.  I guess they were too excited to take notice.  I wonder what their plan was for after, if they had one.  Loudly murdering someone in the middle of a camp doesn’t seem like a good way to get away with murder to me.   

With the fire behind them it was pretty easy for me to see them, although they clearly had no idea I was there.  They picked up that something was going wrong when I shot Reda (or maybe Ancin, I don’t actually remember which is which very well).  I was aiming for the chest but he moved just when I loosed and I ended up hitting him high on the side in the ribs.  One of the Duke’s torturers told me one time that burning someone in the armpit is one of the more painful spots you can target.  I wonder if that’s true.   

Before I could get off a second shot the camp was up in arms – which is pretty damn good response time.  I’ve seen far worse from far more professional organizations.  I belayed (what does that mean actually?) taking another shot as someone lit up the night with magic and people were rushing about with weapons drawn.  I stowed my crossbow and carefully came out of “hiding” into the light while Ancin, Reda, and Wine were surrounded.   

Someone asked what was going on.  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a Striderian and based on the amount of grizzle going on I think it was one of the mercenaries rather than a bandit.  Mercenaries are often very grizzled whereas bandits tend to be hungrier looking like starving coyotes.  I told him what was going on was that these three men had stolen up upon me in the night intent on murder and I had barely managed to slip away from their depredations. 

They offered nothing in the way of a defense.  Although they did loudly complain about how I had fired them for incompetence.  Normally providing a motive for the crime you’re being accused of is a very risky legal move but I suppose since they were caught in the act there wasn’t must to be gained or lost no matter what they did.  I told the gathered assembly how I had dismissed them from my employ on account of their incompetence and drunkenness respectively and a tribunal was quickly assembled of the three leaders – the mercenary captain Blick Rissa, Stor Hairtail most senior Strider person based on whatever dumb system they use (most worn boots probably) and Pittacus Peatmoss the guy claiming to be a merchant who was clearly a bandit lord.  

They quickly decided that the defendants were guilty and the sentence would be death – carried out immediately.  Swift and arbitrary justice is much more enjoyable when you’re not on the sharp end of it.  I thought about asking for some manner of lenience for Wine since he’s more of an easy suggestible doormat than a stone cold killer, but what would be the point?  He’s the drunkest drunk I’ve ever encountered and I’ve encountered a few.  How he’s still alive I don’t know.  There was some talk about holding Kallgale responsible as well since they were in her employ but I put in a good word for her.  She was exiled from the camp but that’s fine since she’s coming with me to Graltontown anyway. 

There’s nothing like three men being decapitated before breakfast to start the day off with a bang. 

For some strange reason in the morning the rest of Kellgale’s hired swords decided they didn’t want to be around her anymore and made themselves scare.  Therefore it was just the two of us girls heading south full of light and promise and other good female stuff.  Late in the morning the stench of Graltontown came wafting northwards.  A couple of hours later the crouching toad of a town came into view.  Even from miles away it was clear that fustulent and brawling Graltontown was much changed since last I was there.  It seemed to have doubled in size and somehow gotten even shabbier and sadder.  I would liken it to an aged sow that somehow managed to become pregnant well past the day it should have been slaughtered out of pure mercy.  I suppose several thousands of soldiers passing through both ways along with all their hanger’s on will do that do you. 

Kellgale perked up enough to comment “What a shithole.” 

I snorted “What do you think it was before?” 

“Good point.” 

It’s hard to say at what point we actually entered the town, at one moment we were amongst a shanty town of tents and the next we were in amongst the glory and beauty of what has to be one of the worst cities in the Kingdom.  Aside from the population explosion (despite doubling in size it seems to have quadrupled in smelly morons) two other things were immediately evident.  Like in Cathars there were paintings of the Queen on the walls of many buildings.  There weren’t nearly as many but they were generally all of good quality, surprisingly.  Even more surprising though was that along with portraits of the queen were many paintings of none other than little Elth Belker herself.  She never looked so fine in real life as in those depictions but you have to make allowance for artistic license I suppose.   

The other interesting thing is the dozens of worgs we saw stalking through the streets.  Crowded though the streets were the beasts were given a wide berth – people flowed around them like fish around a shark.  A few of them were mounted by uniformed Shirelings like we saw before out on the plains but most of them were free and unencumbered.  I don’t know if they’re supplementing the town guard or supplanting them but they were doing more to keep people in line than that pack of lazy imbecilic fatheads ever did.  I saw a pickpocket get his hand snapped off to a bloody stump right there in the market.  Justice as swift and merciless as I saw that morning.   

Kellgale and I made our way to the Cardshire Arms – the place was hopping.  Mr. Conrad has really done well for himself with the influx of travelers.  The harried fellow at the desk told me that they had no rooms available and that none would be coming available.  I told him that I was old friends with the owner which seemed to really throw him off his game.

“You’re friends with Mister Moribond?”

“Who’s Moribond?  I thought Claire Conrad owned this place.”

“He sold the Cardshire Arms to Mister Moribond six months ago.” He tossed over his shoulder as he scurried off.

“Oh well, no matter, we’ll find him somewhere” I told Kellgale as we elbowed our way to a table.

We sat down ordered some food and drink and I started telling her about the many people in town we needed to take revenge on.  The many, many people.  I really had a hair trigger for putting people on the List back in those days.  I’ll forgive myself though because it was early on, I was still pretty angry about being drugged and left for dead in a provincial backwater.  Kellgale seemed to start coming alive a little as we discussed what contacts she still had in town and what kind of schemes we could get cooking.  Things were going well until I realized that the town watch – the normal town watch not the wolf monsters – had come in and were looming over us.

“Good evening gentlemen what can we do for you?”

The leader had that gruff voice that they must teach in watchman school “You’re wanted by Lady Cornelio.”

I put a hand to my chest “Little old me?  Tell me is ‘Lady’ Cronelio the broad who’s face is plastered all over the city next to the Queens’?  Has the country girl I knew by the name of Belker social climbed that high?”

He didn’t care for that.

Not.

One.

Bit.

Montresor 15 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

In retrospect I’ve given Peronel too much credit when it comes to not hesitating to employ swift and blinding violence.  With his magic as back-up I think he had enough men to take out the Ardint city watch.  I’m pretty sure that was the entire city watch since last time I was here they didn’t even have one.  He could have killed all the law men in Arindt and then taken over the entire town – which you may remember as the plot of the Eight Cavaliers.  I enjoyed that book but I think people give it too much credit for having one of the “cavaliers” character be Kostelos. 

First of all that character gets very little attention and undergoes no development of growth throughout the story, and secondly the character also in no way presents a shred of authenticity about the Kostelos experience.  IF anything what it really represents is the same stereotype of the subservient mystic barbarian who helps out the very people who are destroying his way of life.  But more importantly, even if that character was well done and a good representation of the Kostelos people who cares?  How does that help anything?  Kostelos don’t read and if they did why would they give a shit?  Having a character in a book doesn’t give them their land back.  Nor give them any status in the Kingdom.  Nor make them be alive again. 

But they’re dirty barbarians anyway so screw them.  Peronell missed his chance (maybe being a drug dealer doesn’t mean you’re willing to engage in mass slaughter of the legal authorities and the flouting of the King’s sovereignty) and we were all taken into custody.  I figured that would be fine since the mayor and I are old chums but he didn’t seem to be around.  Instead there was some pinch-faced magistrate that looked like a schoolmarm (gender aside) who seemed to be in charge of the situation.  Whatever they were going to do it seemed like it was going to take a long time so in the confusion I changed appearance (Peronell’s anti-changing magic seemed to have worn off) and walked away from that mess.  Just to be on the safe side I snuck (sauntered really) out of town and slept under a hedge like a dirty knight errant.

That’s two times now (or three depending on how you account for it) that Peronell has managed to avoid being revenged upon by me.  It’s starting to get annoying.  Maybe he’ll get hung and I won’t need to worry about it.  Once upon a time I was very strict that I had to be the one that took care of people on my list.  I’m not so worried about that now, with some of them at least.  There are just so many people that I need revenge against and I can’t be revenging all day you know?  Maybe I should make two columns on the list – a premium tier of people who I need to destroy personally and a lower level of miscreants who need to come to a bad end but it doesn’t necessarily need to be at my hand.  Then I can start contracting out some of the lesser revenge jobs.  Revenger smarter not harder.

Traveling the road to Graltontown there was nothing much going on and I was feeling a bit blue so I entertained myself with one of my old games.  As I was traveling I would take on a different appearance and persona with each fellow traveler I came across.  A group of young fellows were out running the road, training for a long distance competition of some kind, I talked their ear off as Lemiel the stuttering ratcatcher.  Buckleuck a greedy witch hunter came across a scruffy priest of Strider and a few acolytes.   They claimed to be roaming the the land helping those in need but you and I really know how those Strider people really are.   Buckleuck regaled them with grisly tales of witches and the terrible fates of their victims while bragging about his victories over such demonic enemies. 

A veteran back from the front on the way to visit the family farmstead got into a blistering row with Leoet Violetteus a nobleman disowned for his drunkardness – and if you know anything about nobles you have to be fantastically drunkardly to get disowned for that.  I was in my own form when I came across a skinny fellow drawing the scenery.  I accused him of being a Vielander spy and he ran away.  So I must have been right.  When I was tired I sat down on the ground with nary a comfort to be had, retrieved some rations from my Greatcoat pocket and chewed on the vile “food” and felt sorry for myself.  You can’t indulge in that too much or you become melancholy and gross but it’s okay every now and then. 

Emotions need to be stuffed deep down inside where they can’t interfere with your decision making but every now and then you need to trot them out and give them some air otherwise they fester and grow like things that live in caves.  Mushrooms?  Some like that.  Mold maybe.  You need to drag them up into the sunlight every now and examine them to make sure that they’re not undermining your tower of self-control.  Emotions hidden TOO well have a way of insinuating themselves into your mind all sneaky like and making you react in unproductive and unpredictable ways. Not giving your feelings a good kick occasionally can impact your ability to make reasonable, thoughtful decisions.

Think about someone who know who’s a real disaster (if you can’t think of anyone it’s probably you). That person is at the mercy of their emotions. They feel abnormal, weird and avoid sharing them. They feel lost and don’t know how to pull themselves out of their misery.  Feeling sorry for yourself can be helpful, just don’t go overboard with that bullshit right? 

It’s okay to moan and groan and think that the whole world is against you. Just be mindful that you’re doing it, and teach it who the boss is. You can cry and whine for about twenty minutes and then you’re done.  If you do feeling lousy right it can be quite cathartic and energizing. But the path to change and feeling better is action, feel crappy for a little while and then get over it and crack on.

This ends Ela’s book corner and self-actualizing workshop.  Fifty gold please.  No refunds.

Montresor 10 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

What kind of name is Saltwheel anyway?  I feel like I heard of an ocean-going paddlewheel ship one time but if one of this guy’s ancestors invented it, and it was a noteworthy invention, why aren’t they all over the place?  In what other context would a wheel be salty?  Can you make a waterwheel on the ocean shore?  What would be the point of that?  All barons are bad, but is Saltwheel worse than other baron?  All he did was lock me in a bedroom which is a pretty feeble response to my defiance.  Maybe he had more convincing inducements to come but I wasn’t going to stick around to find out. 

With my Boots I was out the window and up the side of the wall before you could get a knife from the barn.  It’s an expression.  The next window I climbed in just so happened to be that of the good Baroness Saltwheel.  Given the late hour she was abed and the room was dark so she was little more than a lump and a mass of curly brown hair on a pillow to my eyes.  Taking on the form of the Baron (in what I imagine are Baronial pajamas) I slipped slyly into bed aside her.  She made a noiseless not awake noise (it makes sense!) and rubbed her feet together as I snuggled up to her and started favoring her with manly baronial caressing.  Eventually she rolled over sleepily and our lips met, filled with Baronial passion.

That’s when I changed forms again to that of one of the snakemen (or snakewomen) that had hauled me here.  At first the Baroness’s lips puckered like when you bite into a bad spot on a mango.  Then her eyes fluttered open and even in the dim light she knew something was wrong.  Mainly that she was smooching on a lipless snake-face.  I flicked out my borrowed snake-tongue.

“What’s wrong baby?  Your husband said you would be down for this.”

I tell you this much, that woman can scream, my ears were still ringing several hours later.  I slithered back out the window and down to the lawn where I took up the appearance of the Baron again.  I started shouting for men under arms to attend me and then rushed them over to the outbuilding where the adventuresome four we housed – explaining to them all how my ladywife had been assaulted in my very own matrimonial bed!  They were in no mood for shenanigans by the time they broke the door down and adventurers being adventurers the fighting started instantly.  There’s not much they don’t react to with deadly force. 

Once things were well under way I climbed back into my locked room to watch and listen to the chaos and shouting and people rushing about with torches.  In the melee one of the buildings was set on fire – it’s a classic move.  When you’re not sure what to do burn some shit down.  I saw both snake people dragged dead into the middle of the courtyard.  I saw the former knight Harweal angrily challenging the Baron to a duel and when the Baron laughed in his face I saw the former knight Harweal cut down six soldiers before he was impaled through the leg from behind by a spearman and captured.  I saw no sign of the one eared woman.  She must have escaped. 

As I watched this deadly scene play out I wondered what is the appropriate revenge for the Baron.  Merely denying him his necklace seems too thin.  But I can’t go around killing everyone on the list can I?  It just doesn’t seem very elegant, there has to be some more creative revenges I can come up with right?  The problem is I simply don’t have the time.  What I should do is spy on him for a few weeks and find out what he really cares about and then hit him there.  But I don’t want to hang around here for a few weeks.  Not at all.  No one ever told me this revenge business would be so mentally taxing.  Maybe I should get in touch with Kralten the god of revenge, if nothing else he has to have some good ideas about different forms of revenge.  Although all of the Kralten people I’ve meet have been very boring – they were all about murder.  Maybe I just don’t encounter the subtle ones.

I decided to sleep on it, wondering if with all the excitement in the night I would be forgotten about in the morning.  I was not.  Before dawn I was rousted and after an insulting short amount of time allowed to make myself presentable was escorted back to the Baron’s study.  As sickly as he looks normally it was hard to tell that he was haggard and sleep deprived as well but the signs were there.  After some obligatory nonsense he apologized for the commotion, which I obligingly and lying said I hadn’t noticed, and he again restated his insistence that give him the necklace.  I gave a pretty speech about how because of the commotion, which of course I didn’t notice, I would relent and give him the necklace.  I produced instead the very nice silver and moonstone number I’ve had for a while.

His face was impressively impassive “That is a fine piece my lady, but sadly it is not the necklace I’m after.” He sighed “It seems those vondrooks have betrayed me in more ways than one.  I should have known better than to place my trust in a disgrace like Harweal, he was once such a loyal knight, it’s such a pity how base he’s become.”

I tucked the necklace back away “Good help is so hard to find My Lord.”

He started to say something and then stopped, giving me a quizzical look “What are you doing?”

“Pardon me My Lord?”

“Your skin appears to be glowing, stop that at once!” 

I looked down and saw the tattoos of Hadar blazing through my clothing “Oh shit!” I jabbed my finger in Baron Saltwheel’s face “Are you an abomination from beyond the stars?  You have to tell me if you are!  That’s the law!”

The door flew open as if from a stout kick and in lurched/hopped/galumphed a nude man.  An unexpected nude man is bad enough, but this fellow’s surprising appearance was made all the less welcome by the fact that he had a massive growth on his left shoulder.  Have you seen a hunchback?  It was like that only instead of the back it was on the side.  At first you think that’s the head but then you’re like “oh no, that smaller thing next to it is the head”.  That head wasn’t doing him and favors either.  Have you ever seen someone who was fat and then lost a bunch of weight and was left with a big flap of loose skin around the belly?  It was like that only on the head – he had a face it just wasn’t attached to the skull, it was hanging loose a good foot to the south.  Did I mention that he had three arms?  I mean the additional arm on the right side wasn’t much of an arm, but it was still there.  That’s one more arm than most people no matter its quality. The axe clenched in its two right hands with blood and chunks of hair on it was possibly the least disturbing thing about him. 

“Blllaaaaaaaargheseshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

That’s what it “said” by way of introduction while I dodged and ducked and scrabbled and slid out of the way of the swinging axe.  The Baron, to some credit, did draw his pussified courtier’s sword and make one attempt at a strike before trying to use me as a human shield – which was annoying because I was trying to go out the window and he was holding me back.  We stumbled into the mutant freak and I managed to pin the axe between our attacker and the Baron.  The “man’s” clacking teeth were trying to bite the Baron through a veil of its own droopy skin.  I wish I never saw that.  I managed to maneuver/stagger us to the window and we all fell through. 

The mutated axman hit the ground and bounced up like it was nothing.  I don’t know why exactly but I kept one hand on the Baron’s belt as I stuck to the wall with the rest of my limbs.  This turned out to be one of my less good ideas as my shoulder was torn out of its socket.

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH FUCK!”

That’s what I said when I let go of him on account of the agonizing pain.  Which seems like a pretty good reason to let go of someone if you ask me.  The Baron caught me around the waist, squeezing the life out of me and nearly yanking me off the wall with his extra weight.

“Climb you scar-faced whore!”

Those were his words of encouragement as we dangled precariously on the side of the building.  I would have shaken him off if I could but there was no way.  Here’s the fun thing about these Boots, they only allow me to climb and cling like a spider about a minute.  So as much as it hurt I had to climb as quickly as I could.  Which was not very quickly.  It was only about ten feet to the roof but it took a good thirty seconds.  Once I was within grasp the fucking Baron started climbing over me to get to the roof himself.  I tried to grab his foot and shake him off but he stepped directly on my face.  I managed to haul myself over the side where I immediately clutched my mangled arm to my chest.

“I’ll assume that’s your way of thanking me for saving your fucking life!”

I don’t think he even heard me.  He was standing on the edge of the building, jaw gaping open, staring down.  I took a drink from my Flask to heal my shoulder, and another to calm my nerves and then sat up to see what he was gaping at.  It was certainly gapeworthy.  It was like the chaos of the previous night multiplied by a factor of seventeen.  A mob of stark nude people, both normal and those with ghastly mutations, covered with mud and bearing various forms of ram-head staves and sticks were attacking the complex, viciously hacking and tearing at the Baron’s staff.  I saw with them a black goat as large as an elk with horns that glinted razor-sharp.  Among them I saw a bloated flabby winged creature with elements of ant and bat on a human frame.  I saw several heavily armored men and women with a triple headed goat symbol on their shields.  I saw a savage minotaur dressed in the clothing of a civilized man while humans ran and ravened like beasts.  Directing the chaos was a robed man with curling horns and on his shoulder clung the rat-beast I saw the day before – whispering into his ear with its filthy humanish face.   

I gave the Baron a ‘wake up’ shove as I retrieved my crossbow “Snap out of chief, the day has taken a real turn here for both of us, it’s time to either get to fighting to getting the Hells out of here.  I know which one I vote for.”

His mouth moved wordlessly for a moment before he could speak “What do we do?”

“Run for our fucking lives.”

“How?”

“A distraction would be helpful.”

“What kind of distraction.”

“Something like this.”

I shoved him off the roof into the waiting clutches of the . . . whatever these people are.  Cultist of some kind I assume.  It’s always Gods damned cultists.  Half the world must be in some cult or other just waiting for the signal to start killing everyone.  As he toppled over the side his cane flew out of his hand directly into mind as if he was tossing it to me.  The hordes below fell upon him like squealing hogs chasing after corn.  I saw the minotaur and the horned man gazing at me calmly.  Even the little rat-beast turned its eyes on me.  I fired at them with my crossbow but the bolt was blown aside by a gust of wind – they didn’t even flinch.

I took a deep breath, climbed down the opposite side of the building, managed to fight my way free and ran until my tattoos stopped glowing.  And then I ran some more.  I always thought “run yourself ragged” was just an expression.  It isn’t.  I guess death will have to do for the Baron after all. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 53,940 platinum, 27,309 gold

XP: 1,297,951

Inventory: +3 Thundering Distance Light Crossbow, Ela’s Fashionable Belt, Cerulean Sign Tattoo, 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, Saltwheel’s Cane 

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

Mantelderith 22 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Out of curiosity I tried the Gridrieu Halbtrocken to see if I could detect any hint of nixie in it over the bad taste of the win itself.  I don’t have to tell you folks that Gridrieu Halbtrocken is garbage wine for garbage people, but it tasted wonderful.  Instead of its usual acrid foulness it now had romantic raspberry elements and an explicit piquant finish that was a delight for the palate.  Who knew that straining booze through the body of a fey creature would make it better?  Maybe the wizard did and that’s why he put her in that wine cask in the first place.  Seems like a lot of work for the result but wizards are an anomalous bunch – most of their schemes make very little financial sense.  I wonder if there’s different results based on the different kinds of faeries.  Boggart Bock anyone?  Leprechaun Lager?  Atomie Ale?  Brownie Bourbon?  Gremlin Grog?  And so forth. 

I was curious how strong the powers were so I sent one of the Quiviras’s servants into their liquor cellar to bring me a barrel of Fat Bear whiskey to keep the nixie in while we traveled today.  He was mildly confused when I had him lug it out the front of the compound to the water feature where I stashed Melusine,  But that was nothing compared to the look he got when he saw Melusine pop out of the water at the edge of the fountain (or whatever it is) and snatch a pick-necked green pigeon in her maw like a frog eating a butterfly.  He looked like he was going to swoon like a high society dame.  I gave him a reproachful look.

“Get a hold of yourself man, haven’t you ever seen a water spirit before?” He gulped as I turned back to Melusine “Why are you swallowing a bird whole like a dirty water snake?  I thought you fey types were sustained by sunbeams and rainbows and the laughter of friends.”

Feathers puffed out of her mouth when she responded “Nope, birds.  And water snakes aren’t dirty, they’re fastidious about their scales.”

“I mean nothing by it, some of my best friends are water snakes.” I tapped on the side of the barrel “Your new traveling home, I thought you could use some more room to swim around, or whatever you do in there.”

She magicked herself into the barrel “What is this?  This isn’t wine!”

“Don’t worry, it’s better, you’ll like it.”

I gestured to the Quiviras servant to hammer the lid back on and load it up on one of the caravan carts.  After he did so he hung around awkwardly for a moment.

“What, you want a tip or something?”

“No ma’am . . . . I was just thinking.  This reminds me of an old friend of mine.  He used to talk about how he once worked at a tavern in Scirus that he claimed was beleaguered by what he called cask imps.  He said they lived in casks of ale and such, coming out at night to steal the best booze.  He said they could control the minds of men that were deep in their cups and would make them commit nasty acts.  I assumed he was tellin’ tales but seeing this now I’m not so sure.”

“A good rule of thumb is that any story that’s awful is probably true.”

“He did say that if you caught one of these buggers and bound them with chains of cold iron and immersed them in water it would turn into top shelf cognac.”

 “Oh, that’s definitely true.” I winked “That’s why they call them spirits you know.”

While the caravan was slowly getting underway – it takes these things times you know, there’s a lot of people and animals and stuff to wrangle – Martialla elbowed me and gestured at the two half-elf guards, who had been joined by two more half-elfs of similar mien.  That mien being armed to the teeth and dressed in a mismatched yet flamboyance fashion.

“Well that completes the set, now their mystic powers are increased sixteenfold.  We’ll have to keep an eye on them.  Until they abandon the caravan to look for treasure anyway.”

“How is if that half-elfs seem to be so much more common than elfs?  You hardly ever seen elfs about here in human lands so where do all the half-elfs come from?”

“The only half-elfs I ever knew were the progeny of the same elf who traveled around the Kingdom because he had the human fever.  You can’t blame them, elf maids are reckoned to be beautiful and I suppose they are in a way, but it you ask me it would be like making love to a canoe paddle.  Despite that obvious superiority of human women though apparently it’s a pretty shameful condition in elf culture.  Elfs live a long time, maybe they’re all the sons and daughters of that one super virulent elf making the rounds.  Or a small group of amorous outcasts.”

“That would be quite an accomplishment.”

“I know there’s an old orc in Gentzilhorm that’s the father of most of the half-orcs in the country, now that’s an accomplishment.  What starry eyed tavern slut isn’t going to fall for the charms of a handsome elf?  A fat ugly old orc on the other hand knocking up that many ladies – that takes some doing.”

“I stand corrected.”

The good thing about traveling at caravan speeds (when you’re not working on said caravan) is that you stop early enough in the day to do things like consult with the local mage and have dinner with the gentry who owe you big when you’re in town.  You have time to get some things done along the way.  The bad news is when you don’t have anything to get done there’s a lot of time waiting.  Good thing I had a freshly improved bottle of wine to split with Martialla as we sat and watched a stubborn donkey (that’s redundant I suppose) hold up the hold proceedings for over an hour.

Once we got underway on the road to Cathars the inevitable attack inevitably came today.  At mid-day a boulder (well a large rock anyway, to me a boulder has to be bigger) brained one of the wagon drivers.  One wonders why giant society has never progressed beyond thrown rocks.  Some of them are primitive idiots, I know that, but some of them are intelligent and numbered among the best craftsmen out there.  Why do those “civilized” giants still throw rocks?  I understand why they throw them at us, we’re smaller than them, but are they throwing rocks at each other?  That doesn’t seem like it would make sense, but I’ve never seen a giant with a bow or even a sling.  I guess I saw one throw a spear once.  At me.

Martialla and I looked at each other, deciding if we wanted to fight giants or take cover, but it turned out we didn’t need to do either.  The four half-elf caravan guards sprang into action and surprisingly did their job.  Not only did they kill two of the giants and send the others running one of them healed the waggoneer (there’s a name for that – teamster?  Shouldn’t that be someone who’s one a team?  Oh I get it , because of the team of horses).  He was up and around and doing great even though minutes before you could see his brains.  Magic healing is interesting, as long as you’re still alive no matter how bad the injury is it seems like you can be right as rain in an instant.  I often give magic a bad name, and most of the time I’m dead on in my complaints, but the healing injuries part they have down.  Not diseases or course as we know, but injuries magic can handle.  Once the crisis was over I turned to Martialla.

“I don’t have a crossbow otherwise I would have been shooting at them. What’s your excuse?”

“They seemed to have things under control, no reason to waste good magic.”

I nodded “They were surprisingly competent.  They didn’t even desert the caravan to follow the giants back to their lair and get their treasure hoard.”

“Should we follow them back to their lair and get their treasure hoard?”

“They didn’t kill all of them, the survivors are probably there licking their wounds, do you feel like fighting wounded giants?”

“Can’t you entrance them with your beguiling siren song while I steal all the gold?”

“No.”

“Then no.”

“How much of the Kingdom’s wealth is wasting away in the giant and ogre and medusa and dragon dens?”

“A good ninety percent I’d wager.  That’s why adventurers play such a vital role in the economy, injecting that money back into the system.”

“Bite your tongue.”

“Plus it sends the worst humanity has to offer out into dangerous situations where most of them die –it’s a good way to kill off the violent lunatics that don’t have the discipline for military service.  You can’t kill them all of course, some of them get so good at killing that they become lords, but it helps keep the numbers down.”

“Now you’re starting to talk sense.”

For a day featuring a giant attack it was a surprisingly humdrum day on the road.  There was no town or village to stop in so there caravan set up camp at the side of the road at the end of the day.  Martialla and I had no gear of our own but it was easy enough to talk our way into a supply tent – whatever they’re transporting it apparently warrants unpacking and covering with a bivouac of its own.  Must be sugar or something like that that you wouldn’t want to get wet.  We’ll have to be on the lookout for giant ants.  Once we were set up I popped the lid off Melusine’s barrel.  Instead of just hearing her voice her head and arms came out to hang over the edge of the barrel like some twisted magic trick or puppet theater.

Martialla glanced over “I’m not going to lie that’s an upsetting sight.”

“I walked around for a while but I couldn’t find a body of water, are you going to be okay in there?”

She shrugged her skinny fish-frog-lizard shoulders “Probably.”

“You seem awfully sanguine about the possibility of dying given how panic-stricken you were about it when I found you.”

She waved one of her fish-paws “I’m pretty fucked up right now.  Whatever is in here it’s strong.”

“I could probably find a horse-trough or something to stick you in for the night.”

She shook her head slowly “Its fine.  I already lived millions of years, if I die I die.  We fey are older than time itself.  Or something.”

“How did you end up in there anyway?  You said a wizard out you in a wine cask?  Why did he do that?”

She puffed out her scaly cheeks, sending her seaweed hair flopping wetly “Why?  Why do your kind do anything?  Pure orneriness.” She poked her webbed finger-thing at me “You humans are always wrecking shit for everyone else.”

“I’ve met some pretty ornery fey too.”

She poked at me more emphatically  “Cause of YOU.  The bad fey, the ones that are cruel and mean are a reaction to the coming of people to the old lands.  It’s an attack on our way of life – no, on our very existence!  They’re transformed by their malice and anger at the pillaging and destruction of the natural world.  Their hated as twisted their bodies into ugly false humans, their beauty twisted into ugliness and their minds turned to vengeance.  We’re not trapped in one shape like you pathetic monkeys – we’re transformed both by the environment and our own behaviors. Those fey have internalized the corruption wrought by you and your kind and in doing so have remade themselves in your image.  And they are ashamed because they have become what they hate most.  And that shame is what makes them perform vile acts.”

“That’s stupid.”

“Waddaya mean?”

“If the problem is that humans are mean being mean back to them doesn’t help anything – that’s just more meanness.  Don’t get me wrong, I am pro-revenge, but revenge is more about elimination and you can’t kill all the humans.  You can kill humans all the live long day and not make a dent – there’s always more humans.  If the problem is one of behavior meanness only begets more meanness.  The response should be to try and make us nice with more niceness.  I mean it wouldn’t work, but logically it makes more sense.”

“Yeah . . . well . . . that’s like your opinion lady.”

“So you didn’t do anything to this wizard?”

“I mean . . . I did lure his son into the pond and drown him.  Do you think that could be why he did what he did?”

“Hard to say, hard to say, humans are capricious and unpredictable.”

She fish-snorted “Don’t I know it!”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 53,040 platinum, 25,750 gold

XP: 1,147,551

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Ela’s Dazzling Garment, Belt of Physical Might +4, Ring of Urban Grace, Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Elegant Boots, Ela’s Extravagant Necklace, Brooch of Shielding, Headband of Subtle Misdirection, Antiquarian’s Monocle, +1 Glorious Undead Bane Short Sword, Nixie in a whiskey barrel  

Noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring,  pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (700), gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, disguise kit, covenant ring, tiny diamonds (26), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring, tiara, masterwork red and black long greatcoat, Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three), darkwood and platinum music box, silver bracelet set with bloodstones, platinum ring set with fire opal, silver and moonstone bracelet, holy symbol of Kozilek, dwarf journal

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

Montagem 14 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 4

Certain religious types spend a great deal of their time trying to catalog all the different demons.  Maybe because they think it will help people avoid those demons but probably because they’d rather sit and write in a book than actually help anyone – charity and compassion are a lot of work.  Trust me I know where from I speak on that.  Gastronok the demon that makes people sick.  Dozzeth the demon of people who sneeze without covering their mouth.  Arrrrlizz the demon that makes pine trees get sick and lose their needles.  Sarthronothronoth the confuser of migrating birds.  Drolgalos the demon that makes you grab a lady’s thigh under the table.  Stiffrenillious the demon who makes you want to put your hand into a fire.  Sharbinith the demon who wants you to cut yourself.  Urzorich the demon of suicide by hanging.  Jag’than the demon that encourages people to flick their boogers.  The defiler of graveyards, the urge to jump off bridges, the desire to fart in someone’s hat, etc. 

You have to assume that most of them are made up right?  The priest that writes these who’s who books of demons, maybe they start off with a possession in Briartown where Snaxiskics the lord of blue flies took over the body of a young girl but after the first few they’re probably just freestyling right?  How would a priest even know about Phimsham the demon of inaccurate cartography?  Doesn’t seem like the kind of demon that would be involved in the kind of world ending plots that attract people’s attention.  My point is this, there’s probably a book somewhere that names and gives vital statistics on a demon for poorly made beds, and a demon for being woken up early, and a demon for crusty morning eyes, and a demon for harsh sunlight when you first open your eyes in the morning but I bet it’s made up.  I bet there are no such demons.  OR IS THAT THEIR GREATEST TRICK ?!?!?

Although to be fair I woke up mostly because I was hungry.  Isn’t that weird how that can happen?  You can’t feel hungry while you’re asleep, you can’t feel anything, but somehow it wakes you up?  Explain that.  Demon? As I tried to failed (failed to try really if we’re being honest) to get up I realized Martialla was sitting in the corner.

“Were you watching me sleep?”

“No, I was gazing at you while you rested.”

“Oh, well that’s not weird then.  I assume you were standing by invisibility to help me this morning in case things went south?”

“Of course, that’s the great thing about invisibility, you can assume whatever you want and it can be true.”  She paused for a moment before continuing soberly “You know your luck is going to run out one of these days if you keep doing that.”

I snorted “What luck would that be?”

“I’m serious.  It doesn’t matter how sneaky you are, eventually you’re going to run into someone who can’t be snuck.”

“Good thing you’ll be lurking about invisibly to get me out of hot water.  I assume you’re the one that roasted one of the belt buckle brigade.”

She nodded “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“I’m sure it was.  You look around here?  Did Nilda leave anything good behind?”

“I found a folding bow that is actually really well made – normally those trick bows are garbage.  I think anyway, I don’t really know anything about bows.  That was it though, I think she was packed to leave at any time.”

“Smart girl.

“I did find a coded list that I think was people she was going to kill before you came along and solved her money problems.  If you ever want to finish that up.”

“In a way you have to admire a woman who resolves her money problems with contract killing rather than hooking, it seems commendable – but realistically shouldn’t be the opposite?  Making people feel good has to be morally superior to killing right?”

“Depends on the person.  Besides, no one pays you twenty five THOUSDAND gold for sex.”

“Depends on the person.”

She hooked her thumb towards the door of Nilda’s cottage “That guy who said you saved his life is out front, he’s been waiting to talk to you.”

“All this time?  Stalker.”

“Exactly, that’s why I was guarding you.”

“Sure.” I gestured imperiously “Send him in.”

Martialla nodded like the dutiful servant she isn’t and went to the door to escort in the tall fellow with the hammer belt.  He had acquired a hat somewhere, I think for the sole purpose of taking it off as he came in as a sign of respect.  I bet there’s a book that claims there’s a demon that makes people not take their hats off indoors.

“Sorry to keep you waiting my good man, what can I do for you?”

He wanted to thank me, which you know, whatever, and he wanted to tell me his tale – which wasn’t terribly interesting but I thought that it would have been rude to say so.  He had been indentured to one of the Duke’s military pals for seven years to do “lawful and reasonable works and labors” which covers quite a bit of ground.  One problem was that after the seven years was up they told him he had to work for them for another three years because of a clause in the contract about the condition of his boots.  When he complained to the authorities they gave him six months of hard labor for lying under oath.  Another problem was that the good Captain’s wife was something of an amateur loanshark and liked to send him out on collection jobs – and by collect I mean to rough people up.  Once she realized he was pretty good at that she started organizing “events” where he would fight other indentures or servants.  Also she started demanding sexual favors from him.  And when her husband found out she said she was raped.  There’s another five years on the tab there.  This is all in addition to the beatings and general humiliation.  Rich people do love their humiliations. 

“That must have been Sicar Gaudkroger, I remember hearing something about her little fight nights.  What a stone cold bitch.  I should probably kill her.”

Even though he was a strong man who’s clearly been in many battles and she’s hundreds of miles away he actually looked frightened at the mention of her name “I’m not sure she can be killed.” He trailed off, lost in thought for a moment “I was pretty shocked when I saw you last night, or this morning, whichever it was.  I feel like I have to do something to repay you.  You gave me my life back.”

“Well, and no offense, I’m not sure that skulking around in the woods ripping people off is that great of a life.”

“It’s a paradise compared to what I had before.  Now I’m free.”

“I understand that, sort of.  You saved me from your friends so I think we’re even.  Can you cook?’

He was clearly puzzled “Uh . . . what?”

I threw back the covers of the bed and stood up stiffly on my bad hip “I’m fucking famished, pardon my language.” I gestured to the kitchen “If saving me isn’t good how about this – if you can whip me up an egg dish all debts are paid.  I can’t cook for shit, pardon my language, and this one” I pointed at Martialla “is even worse.”

Martialla scowled “That’s not true at all, I can make food . . . of a sort.”

“Yes, well I admit that some of the things you’ve made have had some of the same qualities as food.”

Irori (as I learned his name was) glanced at the kitchen and then back to me “Uh . . . . what?”

I clapped him on the back “Don’t worry about it buddy, glad to do it, all part of the job, just passing through, think nothing of it, don’t mention it, etcetera and so forth.  I don’t mean to diminish the importance of your rescue or anything like that but let’s not make a big thing of it okay?  There’s no rewards for being a decent human being.”

Martialla grinned “She’s a humble heroine she is.”

“Shut up you.  I really am hungry if you can cook at all and there’s any food in here.  But there is something you can help me out with.  Because of certain events I put you and your friends on my list, and I don’t take people off my list – not ever, it sets a bad precedent.  But I don’t want to take you all out now that I know more of the story, so I think I need to amend the list a little.  Who was the guy doing the whipping?”

Irori pursed his lips “He’s the one what was barbecued last night.  Never cared for him myself.”

“Hmm, what about the guys that were doing the holding down for the whipping?  Keep in mind this isn’t a death list exactly, but something needs to happen to them.”

“Victor, Beharri, and Cebuano – they’re not the best, but they’re not the worst either.  I mean we are criminals, there’s no angels amongst our ranks.”

“Everyone’s a criminal in some way I’m sure.  Well, they’re going to have to go on the list, but the rest of you are off the hook.  And there’s nothing that says I have to cross them off the list right away.  I can save them for last.”

Martialla was rummaging around in the kitchen area “After a long draught you’ve really bulked up the list lately, you may not ever get to them the way things are going.”

“Time is the enemy of us all.  Seriously like a fried ham and cheese sandwich would be great, or a kabob, anything really.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 53,040 platinum, 9,605 gold

XP: 923,451

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Ela’s Dazzling Garment, Belt of Physical Might +4, Ring of Urban Grace, Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Extraordinary Walking Stick, Ela’s Elegant Boots, Ela’s Extravagant Necklace

Noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring,  pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (700), gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, disguise kit, covenant ring, tiny diamonds (26), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring, tiara, masterwork red and black long greatcoat, Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three), darkwood and platinum music box, silver bracelet set with bloodstones, platinum ring set with fire opal, silver and moonstone bracelet, holy symbol of Kozilek 

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

Montagem 7 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

In retrospect I guess I should have mentioned to someone that Auraluna knew that we were coming instead of just going back to sleep.  In my defense though I’m no military strategist, how was I supposed to know that she’d stage a counter-attack?  Wait that doesn’t sound right because we hadn’t attacked them yet.  What’s it called when you attack someone before they can attack you?  A preemptive attack yes, but I feel like there’s a specific name for it.  My first indication that something was wrong is when an arrow came through the tent and hit me in the elbow.  Have you ever been shot in the elbow?  I’ve heard people say that getting kneecapped is the most painful thing possible.  I’ll call bullshit on that unless any of those people have taken an arrow through the elbow and can compare the two.  Plus I was fucking asleep!  Waking up out of a dead sleep because you got shot?  In the elbow?  There was a moment there where if I had the means I would have amputated the arm just to stop the pain.  I guess it’s a good thing I don’t have an easy way to remove arms.  Who would have ever guessed I’d say that?

A good distraction from the pain was when the side of the tent was ripped open by one of those curvy elf swords and a grey skinned elf with coal-black eyes (it looked like that because it was undead you see) came in trying to kill me the way it killed my tent.  I rolled out of the way of its wild downward stroke with the bent elf-sword and it was such a powerful thrust that the blade got stuck in the ground.  I don’t know if these things are mindless, I suspect not since it cut a hole in a tent, but it wasn’t smart enough to do anything other than try and yank the it’s sword out of the earth.  I grabbed the holy symbol around my neck and thrust it into the ghoul’s face.

“In Adariel’s name I cast you out!!!”

This didn’t do a Gods damned thing.  I bashed it with my Walking Stick but I’ve learned that the walking dead are generally pretty resistant to blunt force trauma.  I assume because they they’re dead.  That seems like it makes sense.  The stupid undead elf was still trying to pull it’s sword out of the ground so I took a moment to slip my Sharpshooter’s Blade onto my Walking Stick and create the world’s shortest makeshift spear.  Even the undead tend to lose motivation when you impale them through the skull – and without motivation they just go back to being dead dead.  There’s probably a lesson of some kind there.  I don’t know exactly what happened next, either someone fighting outside the tent fell into it, or someone else (Martialla probably) inside the tent was also fighting and smashed into the side but the entire thing came down and I found myself trapped under all that magical canvas.

I know this is going to sound crazy but being wrapped up in that tent I think the closest I’ve come to dying.  I almost suffocated in there I did.  I tried the command word to make it “untent” itself but it must have been too ripped up to still work.  In the end I did manage to fight my way out before I choked to death, but it was honestly terrifying.  As soon as I got free I saw fighting all around.  Auraluna and her daughter (who looked great by the way, even better than before) and two other little spindly ashy looking broads were directing the attack of a score of undead elfs and festrogs.  It was a Hells of a melee for sure.  Baron Ridley and Kendrick had already slain (reslain?) half a dozen of the attackers and were rallying their men to counter-attack, which is the right term in this instance.  I saw the annoying Strider-priest call upon his divine power and disintegrate a charging pack of undead hounds instantaneously.  The strangest sight of all though was Ismail.  His arms had transformed into the freaky hook-things of a giant mantis and he was slicing his opponents in half when he was ripping bloody hunks of dead flesh off them.  That was a hideous sight for sure, it was like watching someone being ripped apart by a jigsaw.

While I was still on the ground half-suffocated, a festrog charged at me with its mouth hanging opening in a soundless howl.  Mostly by luck it impaled itself on my makeshift spear and I reached into my Vest and set it ablaze with a tindertwig.  Staggering away from the fire I was slashed across the back by another undead elf before I was able to whirl and stick it through the neck with my Stick-Blade.  This action however revealed the flaw in my jury-rigging because the Blade got wedged in the body and came off the Walking Stick pretty easily.  I’m probably the last person that should be improvising weapons, that’s pretty advanced murderology.  While I had a moment of not being almost killed I drank a Healing draught from the Flask and took a blast from my Tankard for fighting spirit (and booze). I picked up one of the fallen elf-swords but it was so awkward that I was much more dangerous to myself than anyone else so I abandoned it quickly.  With nothing else in the way of weapons I laid about at the undead with my Walking Stick for all the good it did.

As the fighting intensified I saw Auraluna take to the air (which hardly seems fair) and suddenly incinerate four of the Baron’s retainers with a massive blast of fire.  All that was left was their skeletons.  I know this because those skeletons remained standing, wreathed with fire and turned to attack the Strider priest with burning claws (which really doesn’t seem fair).  Next she swooped at me, absorbing my clubbing attack like it was a gentle breeze.  She slammed me to the ground and while in her withered state she was half as strong as she had been when she threw me around in Graltontown she was still plenty strong to dash me to the ground.  She bared her wicked fangs at me as she pinned me to the ground like a cruel child (so just a child really) with a bug.

“No machines now!  We’ll do this the old fashioned way!”

Remember that time that lake mermaid vampire tried to drink all my blood?  I do.  You don’t forget a thing like that.  I was just out for a pleasant walk and then a lake mermaid vampire tried to kill me.  Anyway, when Auraluna tucked into me at first it was a lot like that, like for maybe a second.  But then something very curious happened.  Curious in the sense that Auraluna recoiled in tremendous pain as beams of light issued forth from underneath her skin like some manner of holy force was burning her alive.  Which is what I figured was happening when I saw a massive light-wound appear on her chest in the shape of Adariel’s symbol.  The holy Symbol around my neck was hanging suspended in air as if held by invisible hands as light poured out of it into Auraluna’s body and light poured out of her body into the symbol – some kind of endless loop of destruction.  Well, not endless, it ended after about fifteen seconds when the symbol exploded – a piece of metal shrapnel digging into my stomach – while Auraluna simultaneously crumbled like old bread before my very eyes, leaving behind only a pile of black grit.

“Huh, that was something.”

Once Auraluna was dead the fight turned against team hag swiftly.  The other two dusty witch monsters were hacked to pieces quickly and all the various undead were sent back to their graves.  Auraluna’s daughter escaped but I’m sure she’ll just go somewhere far away and never trouble anyone again.  That seems likely right?  The survivors of the battle made their way to the village, which was decidedly less than jubilant at their apparent salvation.  Seems that Auraluna and her daughter had been there a while with some scaled down version of the Machine I saw in the Domiel manor basement-dungeon that they had been using on the village women to maintain Auraluna’s daughter.  And this wasn’t even the first village.  Remember that village the Baron ordered me to check out that had some manner of disease?  Turns out it wasn’t a disease, at least not in the literal sense.  The people there seemed sick because Auraluna was stealing their blood for her daughter.  Eventually they bled the entire village dry and then moved on to this place.  We arrived just in the nick of time, in the sense that only most of their young women had been killed instead of all.  That evening we bad a bonfire going in the middle of the town square enjoying the fruits of victory, in this case nothing.  Well that’s not true exactly, the villagers did bring us some fresh baked bread. 

I looked over at Baron Ridley “I suppose in the horrible monster hunting business this is what you’re used to right?  No joyous celebrations, no victor’s spoils, no fanfare, no warrior’s reward – just the slim comfort that there’s some traumatized people left to pick up the pieces.” 

“That’s a forbidding way to put it, but yes, our work isn’t the romantic quest of a knight errant.”

“Most knights as assholes anyway.  Speaking of grim business, when I was in Cauldron at the edge of the woods I saw some witches that had been nailed to trees and tortured.  Did you do that?”

He looked at me evenly “Yes.”

“Personally?”

“I had it done, that’s the same as if I pounded in the nails with my own hands.”

“Why?”

“Hags are hard to kill.  Sometimes extreme measures are necessary.  As you said it’s a grim business.” He was quiet for a while and I was about to say something but then he spoke again “You know what’s worse?  Finding men that are willing to do it.  Not just willing, but who do it without any qualms.  That’s what scares me sometimes.  How good I am at finding men who are skilled at doing atrocious things and don’t mind doing them.  I tell myself that at least thing way I’m using their violent desires for a good end, but I wonder if that matters.”

“Yeah, be careful with that shit, you’re one of the good ones – the world needs you to stay not evil.  He who hunts monsters and all that.”

He looked distinctly uncomfortable with these words and after a moment cleared his throat “Your friend and Kendrick seem to be hitting it off.”

I snorted “She’s a friendly gal.”

The good Baron seemed even more uncomfortable “I hope she’s mindful of his feelings.  For all his bravado and skill at fighting he’s rather fragile when it comes to those sort of things.  He plays himself as a bounder and cad but it’s just a way to try and protect himself.  Since we’re going to be parting ways I hope that things between them can end without any issues.”

“I’ll talk to her.”

“Your friend Ismail is quite a fighter.”

I shrugged “Yeah, I guess so.  That thing he did with his arms was pretty crazy.”

“I think we would have died without him.”

“Seriously?”

The Baron nodded “Yes.  He destroyed almost half of the attacking undead.  Even without that odd transformation of his body I’ve never seen anything quite like him.  He was perfectly calm, perfectly in control.  I’m not sure I’ve seen a more effective warrior.”

I looked around but Ismail was not in sight “Huh.  How about that?  Maybe I should start praying to a bug too.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 28,040 platinum, 47,545 gold

XP: 884,921

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Amulet of Dreams, Ela’s Traveling Outfit, Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Urban Grace, Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet, Ela’s Boots

Noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring,  pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (700), gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, disguise kit, covenant ring, tiny diamonds (26), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring, tiara, masterwork red and black long greatcoat, Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three), assorted hag pieces 

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  

Montalan 19 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Seeing no reason to continue on to Arbeven at this point I told Autane this morning that he could stick with us or head for home as he saw fit.  He didn’t need to be told twice – he packed up and was gone in a few minutes.  I can’t imagine what he thinks of me.  Actually that’s not true, it’s pretty easy to imagine what he thinks of me, I’m sure he considers me quite mad.  I suppose he’s correct in that.  Maybe when I first woke up in that dirty alley in Graltontown you could say that a quest for revenge made sense.  But since then I’ve amassed quite a fortune, I could settle down, forget the whole thing with the Duke and live a better life than I had before.  The way things stand now, I’m unequivocally better off – I have my freedom.  So what can you call it other than madness that I still pursue this course?  I’d call it justice.  And justice is a harsh mistress (and not in the good way if you know what I mean).  Justice is like an orchid – it need as a lot of attention because it is utterly fragile.

Orchids need a certain temperature with little variance allowed.  They need the full sun in the morning and shade the rest of the day.  When you water them you need to allow the soil to dry completely before watering again.  Once a month they need to be fed.  They need to be sheltered and cared for otherwise they will wither and die.  Justice is the same, it doesn’t spring up on its own like a weed, it only comes about after careful husbanding (wifing?).  Is it madness to put so much effort into sustaining such a delicate thing?  Perhaps.  But that doesn’t make it any less rewarding.  Stopping now and living the high life would be satisfying, but nowhere near as satisfying as having the Duke broken before me.  I want him to beg.  I want him to offer me anything.  I want him to abase himself knowing that I’m going to kill him anyway but so desperately wanting to believe that he can supplicate himself one more second of life that he does it anyway.  That will be something very grand indeed.

Since Martialla has been skulking around these woods being a bandit for a while I assume that she’s knows the way around pretty well but I got the distinct impression she only halfway knew where were going as we set out.  I can’t judge her too harshly though since she was nice enough to take on my appearance so I could see what my hair looked like and fix it.  I’ll never get tired of seeing myself in profile – I should be on a coin!  You never really know what you look like just from a mirror.  Even if you’re ugly (which you probably are) I recommend checking it out if you ever have the chance to see someone magically disguise themselves as you.  Granted that usually happens right before you get killed by that person but it’s still worth it.  After we had been walking for a while Martialla had the poor grace to bring up the reason why I had left in the first place.

“I couldn’t help but notice that you returned with no adventuring party at your back ready to plunge into conflict for us.”

“Indeed, when I got to their dumb hideout most of them were dead.  Which made their hiring price much lower but it hardly seemed worth it at that point.  And get this, the ones that weren’t dead were too poorly off to help us at all.  I had to save them!  I was very put out.  It’s just impolite is what it is.  People have no manners these days.”

“You often say as much.  Where does that leave us then?  You said you wanted to go back to the Manor, shouldn’t we head to Obsis to see if they have some adventuring party there?”

“Oh, I’m sure they do, but what’s the point?  They’ll just run off after some crystal sword or something as soon as I hire them.  Or they’ll get killed by the demon lord whose daughter they massacred in an airship.  I don’t know what I was thinking trying to hire those sorts in the first place.  They’re useless.”

“So we’re back to what?  The two of us and our wits against the entire castle?”

 “You don’t have to say it like that, look where our wits have gotten us so far!  I was thinking maybe we head into Alleene and get a whisper campaign going about the Baron being subverted by Kostelos devils, see if we can get some manner of uprising going.  Maybe there’s some Kostelos hate-group we can get on our side.”

“That sounds unpleasant.”

“When did you get so squeamish?  You’re the bandit queen for the Gods sake.”

“And quite a queendom it is.  I’d just rather accomplish our goals without resorting to race-baiting if possible.”

I snorted “Baby.”

After we had been traveling for several hours while Martialla was telling me a very amusing story about a wizard at a joust we started to hear the sound of a bell ringing – not like a church bell but like the bell you’d put on a sheep or some such.  Assuming that it was a trap we decided to investigate – better the trap you know about right?  I had forgotten how sneaky Martialla can be when she wants to move unseen.  I tried to do the same but after a while she got frustrated and just cast an invisibility spell on me.  Without even asking.  The nerve!  I would have agreed had she asked, but it’s the presumption you know?  Ask me before you put a spell on me okay?  Thus inveigled we continued on to find a string of mules and pack-beetles being led through the woods by one lone fellow.  The mules and insects were laden with all manner of goods.  The man leading them was a tough looking fellow dressed plainly except for a long black and red greatcoat of quality craftsmanship.  I signaled for Martialla to dismiss her spell and then remembered she couldn’t see me.  Feeling embarrassed I whispered for her to remove the invisibility and we strolled out.

“Good day to you sir, what brings you to these parts of the wood?”

He was quite startled to see a pair of twins appear out of nowhere and whirled around for a moment as if expecting more of us to appear as well before speaking gruffly. “Nothing to see here ladies, this is official kingdom business.”

“How impressive.  And what business might that be?”

He flashed a badge at us “I’m a tax collector, interfering with my duties is a hanging offense!”

I flashed my badge back at him “We’re well aware of that.  We’re with the royal auditor’s office.  Chief Inspector Gamache, this is my associate Inspector Wexford.”

Martialla nodded brusquely “We’ve had our eye on you for a while.”

“Indeed we have inspector, indeed we have.  You’re quite a ways away from your appointed rounds aren’t you?  What taxes are you collecting out here exactly?  Nuts from squirrels?  Honey from bees perhaps?  Do the bears owe the Crown some salmon?  Do the sprites pay you in pinecones?”

His look became desperate “Now see here . . .”

“There’s only one reason that I can see you being out here in the woods tax collector.  Malfeasance.”

Martialla nodded “Misappropriation of funds.  Fraud.  That’s also a hanging offense isn’t it Chief Inspector?”

“No Inspector, it’s a capital offense, but they find much crueler ways to be rid of rogue tax collectors that a simple rope.  Normal people are expected to steal now and then so they get normal punishments.  But a tax collector forsaking his duty and lining his own pocket?  That calls for something . . . special.  An example must me made you know?”

“Ah, of course Chief Inspector.”

The man’s face had gone pale as the summer moon “No you’re mistaken, I just . . .”

“Don’t compound things by lying man, your goose is already cooked, don’t make things worse by pissing me off.”

Martialla shook her head sadly “The Chief Inspector has a terrible temper.”

“That I do Inspector, because if there’s one thing I hate it’s a man who betrays his country.  Diverting royal funds?  That makes me sick it does.  Now before you spew anymore lies lead us on to whatever forest-hole you’ve taking your ill-gotten gains.  If you cooperate with us things will go easier for you.  You might even save your life.”

Martialla affected a hopeful tone “You still have a chance to get out of this with your skin intact.  But you can’t hide anything from us.”

Terrified, the fellow lead us on a ways to an overgrown hunting cabin that looked long abandoned – it looked enough like the Whiterock cabin to give me a frightening flashback.  I could feel the Whiterock ring throbbing on my finger but it always does that.  As a last gambit our traitorous tax collector bade us to enter first but we politely declined.  There were no protectors within but he did have some crude traps protecting his stolen bounty – a bear trap in a cut-out hidden under a rug, a swinging axe-blade, a pitchfork rigged to fall on your head, that sort of thing.  We ordered him to disarm them and then had him march around the place just to be sure.  The goods were below, through a trapdoor leading to the cellar, the opening of which really gave me a powerful false impression of being back at the Whiterock cabin and with its history of horror.  Did the ring throb more painfully?  I can’t say that it didn’t.  The tax collector stood miserably in the corner with Martialla’s rapier on him while I climbed down to check it out.  There was some money of course but it was largely made up of luxury goods that could be stored in such a place relatively safely – fine clothing, semi-precious stones, spices, liquor, tobacco, that sort of thing.

Coming back up I gave the tax collector an impressed whistle “That’s quite a nest egg you’ve built for yourself, how long have you been at this to amass such an impressive fortune?  Don’t answer that.  Answer this instead, do you have a family?   A wife, a couple kids, that sort of thing?” He shook his head wretchedly “You should have said yes, I’m looking for a reason to let you live sir.”

“You told me not to lie to you.”

“Yes I did, and a good man you are for listening.  Well, I suppose pure altruism is as a good a reason as any.  You richly deserve death my friend, not only for stealing from the Crown but also for being stupid.  Don’t you know this forest is full of bandits?  Bringing your ill-gotten gains here is foolish in the extreme.  But I shall show you mercy for I have no desire to kill you today.  Nor to drag you back to the capital to be tortured – which is what would happen.  Have you ever heard someone say that if they knew now what they knew then they’d do things differently?  This is your opportunity to do that.  I’m giving you a second chance.  The deal is you hand over your badge, we tell everyone that we found you dead – slain by bandits – and the bandits had all this stuff, which they obviously stole from you.  In death you will be a hero.  You go somewhere far away and tell no one about your former life.  Start a new one.  Get a job as a clerk or something.  Find yourself a wife.  Do things differently.  Forget about the greed that led you to this path.  And every day when you wake up thank the Gods that you are still alive because a lot of other people aren’t. Think about how you still have the opportunity to make different choices and how people that have died wish they had that opportunity.”

He didn’t need to think long about that.  He handed over his badge and I had him leave his coat as well because I like it.  He unloaded the rest of his stolen goods and then mounted up one of this beetles and led his now cargo-less train due west.  Once he was out of sight I tossed the badge to Martialla.

“Here, this might come in handy.”

“Getting caught with a badge like this when you don’t deserve it seems like a handy way to get yourself executed too.”

“You’re already an outlaw, what do you have to lose?  Besides, my advice?  Don’t get caught.”

“That’s good advice, I don’t know why more criminals don’t think of that.  Can we take all this stuff or do your seemingly limitless magic pockets actually have limits?”

“I guess we’ll find out.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 23,045 platinum, 52,143 gold

XP: 759,111

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, Cape of the Mountebank, Sandals of Sprinting, +1 Agile Rapier   

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, masterwork red and black long greatcoat, lots of luxury goods  

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  

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