Muthuselan 13 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

The remainder of yesterday’s travel was rife with suspicious looks and threatening glances between the caravaneers and the lumbermen but when it came time to stop for the day we formed a single encampment for the sake of safety – apparently there have been several attacks on travelers by redcaps on this road recently.  Honestly, is there a road in this Godsforsaken part of the Kingdom that isn’t being vexed by some bandits or stingmoggies or some other damn thing?  Aren’t there supposed to be road wardens to deal with these sort of problems?  The road wardens were probably all eaten by mantis bears.  The caravan guards are very protective of their ward, far beyond the loyalty that can be bought with coin – she must really have them wrapped around her little finger. 

Eventually though I was able to verbally shimmy my way past their defenses to speak to her for a few minutes.  She was pretty good at keeping up appearances and has a pretty solid gasp on the art of being evasive without seeming evasive.  I could have cracked her without too much trouble but I decided to stick with a light touch – no reason to stir the pot at that point.  I’m curious to see what play she’s going to make as we get closer to Beresford. 

It turned out to be none.  Today we traveled without incident (shockingly) and upon reaching Beresford around noon Cladarielle and I explained the situation to the gate watch who summoned some other official looking fellows and she was taken into custody with Fangere and Nogeta trailing along behind them like little brothers trying to catch up to their older sibling and their friends.  She must think that she can talk her way of the whole thing.  That takes some serious confidence, but then again, that is why they call it a con. 

I thanked Cladarielle for all her efforts and tribulations on my behalf, wished her luck in whatever nonsense her husband was mixed up in and we parted ways.  Before returning to the inn to check in with Stella I decided to see if I could track down Rindol and pay him a visit.  Turns out it’s much easier to track someone down as a fetching woman in fine clothing than it is as a fluffy black cat.  Who knew?  Less than an hour later I was at his house where I sang a quiet song to myself as I pulled a crowbar out of my secret pocket and used it to pry the door open. 

Rindol’s house was small tidy place with no sign of female inhabitation.  I had no expectations of what a scholar’s place would look like but it seemed right on the money once I saw it.  I found Rindol in the kitchen sitting at a table so engrossed in reading something that he didn’t notice I was there until I dropped the crowbar on the table in front of him with a thud.  He started from the noise as I sat down at the table across from him.

“You’re a smart guy Rindol, or at least your job is to be smart, I don’t know if you’re actually smart.  If you are smart maybe you can help me out with something.  I find myself in situations where people wrong me and I need to get payback but the issue is that I have trouble finding interesting and appropriate ways to get back at people.  Take you for example, I could have bashed your head in with that crowbar there, not being a man accustomed to physical activity of any kind I could probably take you down even if you were aware of me coming, which you were not.  I saw you out in the woods, I know we’re pussified.  But what good does that do really?  Then you’re just dead.  What did anyone learn from that?  Sometimes a revenge killing is the only way to go, but often times it doesn’t really fit the bill.  I mean where’s the suffering?  And it’s not like I can keep a torturer on staff is it?  How do you think torturers learn their trade?  Is there a school for that or is it an apprenticeship type of thing? Or do they just grab some asshole who likes kicking dogs and tell him he can work on people now?”

Rindol’s only response was to stare and stammer.

“You’re not getting the head-dress that you hired those people to steal for you, which is something, you’re going to be embarrassed in front of your scholar friends, but that’s pretty minor I think.  Obviously what would be best is taking away the thing you value most in the world but without doing any research on you, just off the cuff, I assume that what you value most is your intellect.  And even if I hired some goon to lobotomize you that doesn’t really cut the mustard because taking away your intelligence would also make it so you didn’t know what had happened.  It’s a real pickle.  So what do you think smart guy?  What’s the best revenge that I could get on you?”

After more stammering he managed to form a sentence “How did you get in here?!”

I chuckled “I just threw a crowbar on your table.  Maybe you aren’t so smart.  Now that I’ve had a moment to think about it probably the best way to get at you is cut off your funding.  Murdane said that you lot get your money to hire and send adventurers to their deaths from Lord Wesel, so that’s the angle I should take.  I need to talk to him anyway, so I’ll just tell him what an asshole you are and then where will you get your gold from for your expeditions?  Yeah, that makes sense.  Oh, and also I’m going to rob you.  Just for good measure.”

“What?”

I gestured “Come on, show me where all your valuables are so I can take them.  Or you can pick up that crowbar or grab a kitchen knife and try to stop me.  I would love that Rindol, I truly would.”

After visiting Rindol I returned to the inn where Josta was standing behind the counter nursing a beer more or less exactly the same as when I left.  If nothing else you have to admire her consistency.  Or wait, not admire, take note of I guess.  She glanced at me as I walked into “her” establishment.

“I’m sorry your Ladyship we’re not open at the moment.”

“Yes, I’m well aware of that Josta.”

Her eyes bugged out slightly as she recognized my voice. “You?!  You never told me you were a Lady!”

“The societal notion of being a ‘lady’ was a mindfuck from the get go Josta. It was a fun and easy way to make women socially and sexually second class citizens, while making them think that they were winning.  After all, what man would want a woman who is not a lady?  By shoving down our throats the idea the only way for women to reach their full potential, which of course is to marry a rich man, is to act a certain way and be ‘ladylike’, it creates a hierarchy of women.  Those that achieve the status of ladyhood are better than those that don’t right?   Being a lady means being classy, elegant, graceful, poised, demure, pure – and it means that you’ve bought into a system built on your own exploitation.  Don’t buy into it Josta it’s all a scam.”

She frowned “What?”

I winked “Don’t worry about it.  Josta good my friend, since I gave you this inn would it be too much trouble if I were to avail myself of one of the rooms for however so long I desire?  Have you gotten a maid yet?  Because I don’t like to pick up after myself.”

Before she could answer Stella came striding down the stairs.

“Good, you’re back, and also back to yourself.  I have some great news.”

“I love great news, Josta, a bottle of your finest please, we have great news to celebrate!”

Stella joined me at the bar as Josta poured drinks from whatever random bottle she hadn’t emptied yet.

“You’re free and clear.  I was able to quash the bounty that Glilcus and Stolo put on you and smoothed everything over with the Church of Vultur, they won’t be bothering you anymore.”

I raised my glass to her “Miss Blackrose you’re a credit to shady under the table operators everywhere.  Cheers.”

We touched our glasses together and I took a good long drink of pretty crummy booze.

“Am I going to get all my stuff back?  I had managed to accumulate quite a lot of stuff.”

“Yes, but there’s a catch there.  The watch has your possessions but before they return them to you the mayor wants a meeting.”

“I wonder what that slippery bastard wants, last time we talked he clearly stated he never wanted to hear from me again.  Small price to pay though, eh?  I suppose then you’ll be escorting me back to the Juost compound to continue my exile or whatever it is?”

“Only if that’s where you want to go.”

“Go on.”

“As I told you, I don’t work for the Juosts, I was just on loan to them to help you out of your legal issues.  Duke Lodvocka owes you a great deal.  The question is what do you want?”

I raised an eyebrow “Well, I’m not used to people that I help you being grateful and offering me anything other than abuse and cruelty in return.  I have to admit that I’m not familiar with Duke Lodvocka, he must be a real straight shooter if this is how he settles his debts.”

“He’s a man who believes in honoring his obligations.”

“I’ll drink to that.  Now what can you tell me about the relationship between Duke Lodvocka and Duke Eaglevane?  Are they pals, bitter enemies, are they nothing to one another?  What’s the nature of their relationship, Duke to Duke?”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 1282 gold

XP: 454,301

Inventory:  Extravagant noble’s outfit, collegium ring, spidersilk cloak, Field Scrivener’s Desk

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 

Mathanaya 22 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Turns out my long-held belief that magic is useless isn’t exactly true – it’s just really expensive.  So I wasn’t really wrong when you think about it.  Martialla found a wizard who was able to magically send a message to Tudos in Gibson with instructions to dig up Hardra’s body and meet us in Allene for just the price of a king’s ransom.  Well, not a king, but certainly a minor lord of some kind.  A baronet perhaps.  You’d think with all that money rolling in this wizard would have been able to afford a comb, or pants, or a robe that closed in the front but you’re be wrong.  The next order of business was getting me uncursed because for this plan to work we need to travel fast and that means horses.  Or flying cauldrons I guess but that ship has sailed.  The good news is we heard tell of a fellow in town by the name of Fynwar the Cursebeaker, which seems promising wouldn’t you say?

It didn’t take us long to track him down at the small Temple of Odobenine, a plain-faced fellow in elaborate robes sitting like a toad behind an even more ornate (and ugly) desk.  I explained to him what I was looking for and he said in a grave and somber voice that it could be done for a price, as is always the case with servants of the Merchant Lord.  We made arrangements to meet tomorrow to get down to the cash for magic exchange. Before we left I did have one question that had to be answered.

“I couldn’t help but notice that you don’t cast a shadow.”

“Yes, a hag stole my shadow.”

“That seems very similar to a curse, which I have to say puts a bit of an element of doubt to your credentials.”

“What good is a shadow anyway?  Why would I use any resources getting it back?”

“Hmm, I suppose.”

With little else to do that day Martialla went to find us some mounts while I decided to see what else you could do with severed hag heads.  For some reason most people seemed to find this topic off putting – particularly when I took the head out of the bag to show them I was serious.  And I thought they looked bad when they were alive.  I’m not sure why I kept pursuing this thread but I did and eventually found myself in the worst part of town talking to an alchemist who seemed likely to fall apart at any moment – in addition to missing a leg, a mass of facial scars, a metal hand, an eyepatch, and a mostly bald (from burning) he seemed to have trouble holding his head up exactly straight – it was like the muscles on one side of his neck were working too hard and pulling it over.  I asked him what you could do with the head of a hag and he was off to the races – what couldn’t you do with a hag head?!

I think he could have gone on most of the rest of the day if I had let him, but I interrupted his one hundred and one gross uses for a hag’s head speech and asked if he just wanted to buy them.  He did but he also wanted to pay me in manticore guts and troll eyeballs which isn’t the kind of exchange I was interested in.  Annoyed that I hadn’t thought of it earlier I tracked down the portly street-hustler with long sloppy hair who had offered to sell me unicorn parts, figuring that he would be interested in buying monster bits as well, he has to get them from somewhere right?  He was short on funds as well (why doesn’t everyone have tens of thousands of gold lying around?) but we worked out a much better trade for a wyvern skin robe that was quite fetching for one head.  I figure I can keep the other head in case I ever need to summon the great wolf of the air or whatever it was.

I’m pretty good at spotting illusions and seeing through disguises, and I’m very good at sensing when people are lying to me or just getting a general sense of what they’re thinking and feeling.  Where my perception isn’t as good is detecting ambushes.  There must be some trick to it that I don’t have the hang of yet – I should ask someone about that.  I’m going to give myself a break though, because one guy was hiding in a puddle in the street.  And I mean that literally.  I was walking along, minding my own business, when a full grown man leapt out of a puddle of water maybe six inches across and not even an inch deep.  It’s quite the trick, I tell you what.  I was more than a little startled by this turn of events.  I was even more started when he shot me in the sternum with his crossbow which was clearly poisoned as well, I started feeling weak almost instantly.

The other five people that sprang out at me were just employing standard hiding techniques so you can castigate me for not spotting them if you want but I’m having a real rough day all of a sudden so cut me some slack will  you?  A wild eyed woman who appeared to be wearing a blue wedding gown of all things seized me by the arm and I felt magic coursing into me, robbing me of my adroitness.  At this point four rough looking fellows started beating the shit out of me with cudgels.  It was nicely done, I’ll give them that, I had no opportunity to resist.  I was never exactly unconscious but I was certainly knocked for a loop.  I was wrapped up in something and carried off – maybe a rug?  You know for all those times a group of people is legitimately carrying a rug down the street in the middle of the night.  It was hard to breath in there whatever it was and I may have passed out. 

I heard the woman chanting again and was struck both blind and voiceless – these folks weren’t taking any chances.  The next thing I was cognizant of was being on the floor of a room with a very nicely woven carpet.  I think it was wool.  I heard a voice but my head was still ringing and I couldn’t make out what it was saying – I don’t think it was anything good though.  After a moment of silence my eyesight was returned as was my voice – revealing a small room, it seemed like it was one of those turret style rooms that you see from time to time.  The time honored tradition of turning a useful military fortification into an annoying architectural style. 

Standing before me was none other than of Fynwar the Cursebeaker who was now proudly displaying the symbol of Kralten the Spiteful, Lord of Revenge, Dweller in the Darkness, the Hated One.  At this side was wedding dress lady, some other woman I hadn’t seen who for reasons as inexplicable as wearing a wedding dress was clad in a black corset; and surrounding me were a goodly number of club-wielding ruffians. Fynwar gestured imperiously.

“Well, how do you respond?”

“I missed the whole thing you were saying.  I think one of your men bashed me in the ear, I feel like I have a burst eardrum or something.”

I tried to stand up and one of the goons came forward to kick my legs out from underneath me – sending me down in an even more awkward fall than usual.  I rolled over onto my back aching all over.

“On your knees wench!”

“Oi, how many times have I heard that?  Kneeling isn’t very comfortable, I think I’ll just stay here.”

Another goon came forward about to deal me a blow with his stick but Corset held out a restraining hand. “No, we need her alive!”

I leaned my head back to glance at him upside down “Yeah idiot, they can’t kill me if I’m dead.  Also you really need to trim your nose hairs – have some pride.  What would Kralten think?”

Fynwar’s face turned instantly tomato red with anger “You will not speak the name of our Lord!”

“You’ve got me all wrong Fynwar, I’m one of you.” I pulled out my holy symbol of Kralten “See?  I pledged myself to the Lord of Revenge a few months back, we’re all on the same team.  You know that’s the problem with a secret cult, you might be kidnapping other secret cultists without knowing it.  We should come up with some kind of hand signal or passphrase or something to avoid situations just like this.  We can bring it up in the next meeting.”

Wedding Dress sneered spitefully “We know who you are.”

“How?  I had one run-in with some Kralten people months ago and now you all seem to be on the lookout for me.  What’s your communication network?  It’s very impressive however you manage to do it.  Do you have like trained messenger birds or what?  Is it semaphore?  Do you have holy signal flags?”

“Since you refuse to answer . . .”

“I didn’t hear the question.”

“Since you refuse to answer, you shall be lain bare .  .  .”

“Wouldn’t be the first time you know what I’m saying?”

“Stop interrupting or you will have your tongue ripped from your blasphemous head!  You will be laid bare before Kralten and you will be sacrificed to the Hateful One.  Your soul will be consigned to him for eternal torment at his whim.”

“Eternal huh?  Sounds like a bad deal.  Before we get to the eternal damnation I’d like to join up.  I have all kinds of things I want revenge for, there are a lot of people that need to be taken down for what they did to me.”

“Why should we entertain that idea?”

“I don’t mean to tell you your business, but I believe you’re required to hear my grievances before you decide if I’m Kralten material.”

“That may be true, but . . .”

“Let’s get underway, there’s this butler in Graltontown that was very rude to me.  I definitely want to ruin his life, not kill him probably, but ruin him somehow.  There’s a group of so called adventurers that grabbed me and turned me over to the guard when I was robbing people, as is tradition there are four of them.  I don’t know a ton about them so I’ll have to do some more research before I can plan what I want to do with them but definitely at least one of them needs to die.  Two of them are women and two are men so the best case scenario would be that they’re two couples and I kill one half of each – that tends to put people off their feed.  But that’s just the beginning, then I would work to make the two survivors find comfort in each other’s arms and then really hit them with the shame factor on that, like they were betraying their dead lovers.  That can really fuck people up.  Then what I would do is . . .”

I went on for several hours cataloging the real and invented slights I needed to avenge.  If I’m being honest I was hoping that during this filibuster Martialla would burst in with some mercenaries and save me.  Which is a little galling, what has become of me that I was hoping that someone else would get my hide out of the fire?  Doesn’t make it any less true though.  I should probably ditch her, it’s not good to get dependent on someone else.  Assuming that I manage to survive that is.  I suppose if they carve out my lungs in the name of Kralten it won’t be an issue regardless.   Eventually I ran out of steam and the assembled Kraltenites voted on letting me into their club.  For some reason I didn’t even get one vote.  It hurt my feelings a little bit. Fynwar proclaimed that I would be killed in the name of the Lord of Hate tomorrow night.

“Why not kill me now?  For that matter why not kill me in the street?  Don’t you hate it when you’re reading a story and the villain has the good guy at their mercy but instead of killing them they put them in a death trap or something?  It’s just lazy writing.  Why is the villain always so stupid, giving the hero a chance to escape.  It would be more satisfying if the hero was able to defeat a credible opponent.”

“This isn’t a murder, this is a sacrifice – preparations must be made.  Besides, you’re no hero.”

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .036%

Curses – Marksman’s Malady, Unnerve Beasts, Melancholy, Maladroitness   

Funds: None

XP: 261,961

Inventory: Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion)

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