Myam 8 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

What’s the worst way you’ve ever woken up?  Barking dog?  Hang-over?  In bed with someone gross?  House collapsed on you?  The Massacre at Eagle Eye Peak comes to mind as a pretty bad one but technically those people never woke up so that doesn’t count I guess.  I have a new contender.  There I was in my dumb cot in my dumb tent in this dumb refugee/prisoner camp sound asleep when the next thing I knew I was knocked to the ground with a slashing pain in my side.  And what do I see standing over me?  A Gods damned boar, snorting and bristly and tusky, you know a boar.  It charged at me again, slashing the cot to pieces as I used it as a shield of sorts.  Then the dogs came at me.  That’s a little bit worse than the time you woke up because the roof was leaking right?

While I was wondering where the Hells my bodyguards were I grabbed for my Walking Stick but one of the slavering attack dogs grabbed it like we were playing fetch and ripped it away from me – meanwhile his friends where biting and snapping at me like crazy.  My only goal was not to get pulled down, as long as I’m on my feet I have a chance, if they drag me down I’m dead.  What a way to go – killed by a pig and a pack of damn dogs.  I was able to grab my Flask and took a mouthful of Growth tonic, springing up to giant size, well not giant, but ogre at least, and once again knocking the tent down with sudden enlargement.  The tent collapsing turned out pretty well though because I was able to get the cloth at the edges and pull it together like a net of sorts, trapping most of the dogs.  The boar came charging at me again, but with my increased size I was able to boot it away like a woodchuck – sending it flying and crashing into another tent.

It was at this point that a tiny little demon bastard appeared.  It wasn’t much bigger than a rabbit but it had horrible bug-eyes and buzzing insect wings to go along with relatively large black curving horns and general demon-ness.  The nasty little creature hocked a wad of phlegm that I swear was bigger than its head right in my face, which was bad enough as is but also it stank like the middens of a thousand stables.  This distracted me enough for the only free hound to clamp onto my knee like a chicken bone.  Have you ever been bit on the knee?  It fucking hurts.  I could feel my kneecap sliding around underneath the savage pressure of its jaws.  Wiping the demon-snot away with one hand I grabbed the dog with the other and squeezed it.  It’s yelping and crying was horrible but I was too pissed off to care, I threw the carcass at the flying asshole but it flitted out of the way and held out its hand, summoning another gross little demon with a ray of putrid yellow slime.

This one was bloated and piggish but upright like a hideous man with huge floppy donkey-like ears.  It was covered in its own drool and slime and looked like it wished it was dead.  I know I did.  It stumbled towards me with claws out but its true assault was the stench that it projected – even worse than the foul spittle of the first one.  I gagged as it slashed at me with its freaky spider-leg looking talons but one slap with my ogre-hand caused it to explode in burning green acid-tar, a fleck of which went in my fucking MOUTH!  As I was trying to spit away the searing pain on my tongue the flying demon hit me with a centipede the size of a galley oar.  Are you understanding what I’m telling you?  It hit me with a giant squirming centipede like it was a massive club!  The thing can’t weight ten pounds, how was it even strong enough to swing the damn thing?  The centipede head stabbed into me with its fangs and its head snapped off, leaving it lodged and biting in my flesh.  I screamed in inarticulate rage as the little monster started flying away, disappearing as it turned invisible.

Of course by this point the guards and various other people in camp were all running over.  One them was screaming about how I had killed their dogs on account of during my staggering around I guess I stomped on the ones trapped under the tent.  I would have killed the screamer too only by this point I had reverted to my normal size and the crowd was able to hold me back as I lunged at the dog owner.  Eventually I calmed down enough to gather my possessions from the wreckage of the tent but as I was doing so some of the soldiers came over to me and said that I needed to come with them.

“Fuck you, I’m not going anywhere.”

At a gesture the soldiers rushed me and in short order had me bound.  My struggling against them did about as much good as that of a fish caught in a net (or a dog in a tent).  As they led me away I saw someone in the crowd making off with my magic boots.  They carried me bodily to the southeast section of the camp and tossed me into a large round tent.  Have you ever been thrown to the ground with your arms bound behind you?  It sucks.  Baron Berlixwhouse was there looking as sallow and unpleasant as ever along with two other fancy boys that I hadn’t seen yet.  The two of them grabbed me by the arms and hauled me up to my feet as Berlixwhouse took out a fabulously lacquered darkwood box reverently.  The box was full of live wasps, which I was afraid were going to be tossed on me, but instead he took out a little wooden implement and started mashing them into a paste.  Once they were thoroughly pulped into paste he put that slime on one of those curvy knifes that demon people seem to love and came my way.

“Now hold on a minute, we can talk about this.  You’re upset about Lypara but you’re not seeing the big picture.  This is an opportunity for you to take over.  You don’t have to take her directions anymore, you can . .  .”

He clearly wasn’t interested in listening.  I started kicking at him but the two men holding me pushed me down into a sort of painful kneel as Berlixwhouse came forward with his bug-guts knife.

“Don’t you fucking touch me you freak, don’t . . . “

He tore open the bodice of my dress and very carefully carved into my chest, it felt like the delicate slice of a razor.  I stopped struggling because I didn’t want to drive the point of the dagger in deeper, but I should have because as soon as he was done his two friends let go and I was lifted into the air by some manner of invisible force.  I was flipped upside down, hanging at an awkward angle against the roof of the tent and then I felt like my body was being twisted by a pair of massive hands – like a giant was wringing the neck of a chicken.  I’ve felt pain before, even agony, but this was indescribable – it was like my bones were breaking from the inside.  I was barely cognizant as Baron Redmynd and some different orange-clad soldiers ran in with weapons drawn.  The force disappeared as the fighting started and I was dropped on the back of my head and shoulders.  If I hadn’t managed to tuck my chin I would have broken my neck and been dead.  Just like that. 

I rolled and crawled and squirmed out under the tent canvas, getting stepped on and kicked as the men were fighting to the death above me.  Once outside I managed to get to my knees but with my arms trapped kept falling over when I tried to get to my feet.  There was fighting in other parts of the camp and there was chaos everywhere, people running and screaming and just flat out panicking.  As I was struggling to get up again I saw, of all people Writha Corune looking around wildly.  I called out to her and she ran over and knelt beside me.

“Help me up!”

As she was trying to undo the cords binding me she was clearly frazzled “What’s going on?”

“I think the Alliance of Barons is fraying a bit around the edges.”

Corune was able to get the bounds off me and we ran for the edge of the camp trying to avoid any knots of people fighting, or actually just people in general.  In the “alley” between tents though we found ourselves trapped between wildly panicking horse behind us and one of the soldiers in front of us.  He got that sneer/leer on his face that let me know, know for certain, that he was going to say “well look what we have here” but he didn’t get the chance because I hurled dagger at his face.  Lucky for him dagger throwing isn’t really my thing, unlucky for him the hilt hit him right in the teeth.  Have you heard the sound of metal smashing into tooth at a high rate of speed?  It’s not great.  The blade glided back into my hand as we ran past the man who was doubled over with his hands on his bloody mouth.  Corune looked horrified.

“How do you always manage to have a weapon?”

“My grandmother told me ‘always be prepared’ it was like her motto.”

We jumped over the little wooden wall-let that marked the confines of the camp and by turns ran and skulked our way essentially in a random direction.  A few hours later, still early in the morning we found ourselves in a wooded hillock watching the camp – which was on fire by now of course, there’s always fires – fall apart.  As accompaniment fighting had started up in the city as well, but not just in the “riot” quarter this time, along the border too.  The people in the shanties outside of town had rushed the northern edge and more men were called into try and hold them back.  Why would anyone want to force their way INTO a town under martial law?  No clue.  I was standing drinking freely and frequently from my Flask while Corune sat on the ground with her knees drawn up and her arms around them.  She scowled at me.

“Doesn’t that thing ever run out?”

“No, it’s magic, you saw that a few days ago.  You have a pretty bad memory for a law . . . whatever you are.  You are a real peach you know that, I save your life and you chap my ass over a little booze?  You are something lady.”

“I saved your life!”

“That’s not how I remember it.  So what do you see down there law lady?  Doesn’t look like Vultur is doing too good of a job.  I mean what’s your deal anyway?  Do you think that people want order?  Look, look at what’s going on down there.  This is what people want.  Anarchy.  You’re swimming against a strong tide.”

“You’re wrong, it’s civilization that corrupts the natural good inside people.  At least the civilization that people like you create.  The first person who planted a flag and said ‘I own this’ and found a bunch of other people dumb enough to buy into it, that person is the real corrupter – not all the demons in the Thirteen Hells.  Crime, wars, and murders, horrors and misfortunes, they’re all the result of people trying to own things.  Once you try to own something morality is undone.  If you forget that the fruits of the world belong to us all, and the world itself belongs to nobody you’ve already lost.”

“Those people aren’t dumb, they’re just doing what comes natural.  People want to have stuff, and more importantly they want to make sure other people don’t have as much.  There’s nothing you can do about that.  It’s human nature.  And dwarf nature too I think.  Also Halfling nature.  Elf nature is a little trickier, who knows what their pointed eared freaks wants?”

She shook her head “I don’t want to talk about this with you.”

I gestured with my flask “What the Hells else do we have to do?”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 53,775 gold

XP: 573,301

Inventory:  Courtier’s Outfit, Noble’s outfit (5), Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, sunrod (2) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, masterwork disguise kit, covenant ring,  Ring of Disguise, Ring of Jumping, Walking Stick (Rod of the Viper), map, Badge of Last Resort, Healer’s Satchel, 28 tiny diamonds, +1 Returning Dagger, Headband of Alluring Charisma +2, Ring of Protection +2, Saryah Phidaner gown, Crown of Conquest, signet ring, Stone of Good Luck

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 3 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) – Part 2

In the end of course we came down out of the shattered remains of the rugmaker’s and joined the captives?  Resucees?  Hostages?  Potential sacrifices?  Whatever the group of traumatized people being driven along is.  What else were we going to do?  Try and fight two crossbows against a hundred warriors?  That only works in stories, and not even then most of the time – I’m not the brave last stand type.  There was only ever three possible outcomes, either the riot ends, I sneak out of town, or we come up against a group that’s too big to defeat.  For the tenth time I told myself that as soon as I get to any town where I’m going to be staying for long I need to learn my way around so I can get out quickly if I need to.  That’s a lesson I don’t ever seem to learn.  Although I present in my defense the fact that I generally don’t intend to stay anywhere long and usually getting out of town is pretty easy – pick a direct and keep going until you’re out.  Somehow things never seem to work out for me though.  But I struggle on like the great hero I am.

The men in orange and white asked for our weapons, which we turned over, except for mine of course safely hidden away, and then quickly groped us over to make sure we didn’t have anything hidden. With that we were one with the flock of lost lambs moving on to the next house.  The nondescript leaders of this unit folks had a map and lists and seemed to know where all the houses with people in them were.  Some of those people came running out of their shelters weeping tears of joy and greeting the men like saviors.  Some were wary and had to be coaxed out.  And a few decided they didn’t want to join up.  The first such group to decline was in a two-story building very similar to the one we had been in, and had the first floor blocked off.  The orange crew simply threw grappling hooks and yanked the building down.  It was shockingly easy.  A dozen men pulling on a few ropes and the building fell over like a drunken sailor.  At their command some of the civilians in the crowd rushed forward and started picking through the rubble to drag out the dazed and grimy survivors and pull them back to join the group. 

At first I couldn’t believe that anyone was stupid enough to try and stand up to this overwhelmingly superior force, but then I realized that anyone who had survived three days of a violent civil uprising by fighting off all comers probably was able to do that at least in part because of the kind of stubbornness that isn’t easy to turn off.  There aren’t many people like myself who are blessed both with hardnosed determination and pragmatic logic.  Truly my gifts are many and varied.  And yet here I am at the mercy of these unknown men just like everyone else.  That’s certainly some kind of lesson, I’ll let you know when I figure out what kind.  It was well after dark by the time we were tromped out of town so it was hard to tell how many people they had rounded up, but I would guess it was probably close to the same number of armed men doing the rounding – perhaps a hundred or so. 

Again because of the dark it was hard to tell the full scope or where we were being taken to, but it looked like a few farm buildings were at the center of the operation with dozens upon dozens of tens set up around it in somewhat orderly looking “blocks” – military style tents not your run of the mill traveler’s tent.  They had each area sectioned off with half-height pavises (is that the pural or is pavise pural?  Pavi?  Paven?) that while presenting not much of a real obstacle were helpful as a psychological tool to tell people where they were supposed to stay.  People are funny like that, if you do something as simple as just laying out a rope on the ground something like forty percent of folks will be reluctant to cross it.  It’s some mental thing ingrained in us I guess.  Well not me, but other people. We were directed towards one of these sections where a half dozen women were waiting to give us our tent assignments.  They weren’t soldiers like the ones who brought us here but I didn’t get the impression they were Berefordian’s drafted into service either.  Aska looked at me with her default expression – terror.

“What should we do?”

“Do whatever they tell you, they’re in charge now.”

The five of us were sent to separate tents, not sure if that was deliberate or just chance but if it was deliberate it’s a smart move, people are less likely to be truculent when they don’t have their fire-forged friends at their back.  The tent I ducked into contained two cots, a stool, and a wash basin which isn’t bad accommodations as far as tents go.  I was followed in by a tallish woman in a hooded cloak that had a large bloodstain on back of the hood, must not have been from her because I don’t think you can survive losing that much head blood.  She seemed to be wearing a gambeson and some kind of leather greaves but then she had a maid’s skirts on over that.  Which means that she put the skirts on after putting the armor on.  What kind of person would do that?  She was clutching a kingbolt like her life depended on it, I guess that didn’t qualify as a weapon even though it also had signs of blood on it.  I saw a drover beaten half to death with a kingbolt once, never could talk right after that.  I laid down on one of the cots and took a hit off my Flask while she hovered nervously.

“What do you suppose they’re going to do with us?”

“I don’t have a clue.”

“Do you know who they are?”

“No I do not.”

She shifted the kingbolt to her other hand and stuck her right out at me “My name is Getva.”

I shook without getting up, her grip was full of nervous strength “Nice to meet you Getva.  Looks like we’re going to be bunking up for a while.  You don’t snore do you?”

She left her hand hanging there for a while before pulling it back slowly “Why are you so calm?”

“Oh, I used to be pretty high strung truth be told, but I’ve learned lately to take things as they come.  There comes a time in your life when you realize that you can’t control everything, or even much of anything it seems, so there’s no use in getting all riled up about things.  This all seems a little too draconic to be a straight out rescue but maybe it is.  But it’s pretty strange for rescuers to be so coy about who they are.  But you never know what people’s motivations are, they could be completely on the up and up and they’re just acting weird.  You never know.  Maybe everything will be fine.  Maybe they’re going to sell us into slavery.  Maybe they’re going to relocate us to Barden County.  Maybe they’re going to force us to dig a ditch and then tell us to get in the ditch and then massive swarms of spiders eat our faces off.  Maybe they’re going to give us each a chicken and a bag of gold and send us on our way.  Maybe we’re going to be sent to colonize the wild frontier.  Whatever’s going to happen we’ll find out soon enough.”

She looked around the tent as if expecting spiders to come flowing in “Do you want to pray with me?”

“To who?”

She looked at me like I was mad “To Adariel, who else would you pray to?”

I took another solid swig from the Flask “You’d be surprised.  No thanks, but you go ahead if you want it won’t bother me, toss in a good word for me will you?”

She gave me another incredulous look and then made Adariel’s sign before kneeling beside her cot and praying quietly.  Only a moment later she jumped up in surprise when the flap of the tent snapped open revealing two of the men in orange and white along with a elegant fellow with very feminine features wearing a black and gold parade uniform of some sort.  his wavy hair fell across his face like a veil when he didn’t push it out of the way.  He did it so often that I’m surprised he didn’t have a servant just to hold his hair back.  His voice was smooth and commanding despite his mildly absurd appearance.  It’s a trick of the true nobility, they can garner respect even when they look like peacocks.

“This is the one that said she was kin to the Juosts?”  One of the men holding the tent flap nodded and then he looked at me “Is that true?”

I winked at him “Is it true that I said it or is it true that am it?”

He frowned “What?”

“The Baroness and I are cousins, we grew up together in fact.  She used to pull my hair when I’d beat her at chess and sometimes I’d pull the legs off her dolly when her parents favored her over me but overall we got along like a house afire.”

“You don’t look like a Lady.”

“I’ve been in the shit for three days pal, trust me I clean up real nice.”

He tutted like an old woman “You don’t talk like a Lady either.”

“Please forgive me Mister whoever you are, it’s been a trying time.  Why just this morning I had to beat a man in the ear with his own shoe to get a crust of bread.  And it turned out to be rye bread.  Who’d want to eat that?  We both had a good laugh about it afterwards.  Or really only I did, but he would have laughed too if he was alive though, I’m sure of that.”

Fancy pants didn’t seem to know what to make of me.  “Do you have any proof?”

“I do, I have a letter from the Baroness herself instructing me to come to Beresford to speak with Lord Wesel, among other errands.  The Baron is off fighting the horrible barbarians of the hills you see so she had to send me, her poor female cousin ill-suited to such mannish work, out into the cruel world to keep the barony going.”

I produced the Baroness list from my Haversack and he examined it closely for much longer than you’d need to determine anything useful.  I think he was hoping that if he looked at it long enough it would somehow reveal itself to be false by magic.  He shook the paper at me like a lady waving a handkerchief at a departing lover.

“How can I know this is real?”

“I don’t know, how can you?  Several people have done magic on it, do you know magic?  Beyond that you either believe me or you don’t.  What else is there?”

“Stand up.”

I took another drink from my Flask “Why?”

“Stand up you insolent . . .” he visibly calmed himself “You need to go talk to the Barons.”

With a smile I stood up and curtsied politely “Well why didn’t you say so?  Let us be off!” I walked over and linked my arm with him “Which Barons are we going to see?”

He led me out of the tent and down the “alley” between the sections of the camp without answering as the two soldiers fell in step behind us.

“This is quite a set-up, how did you get this all in place so quickly?  For that matter how did you get her so quickly?  It almost seems like you were waiting for this to happen doesn’t it?”

He glanced at me, the moonlight reflecting off his eyes “You’d be well served to keep your questions to yourself . . . My Lady.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 50,874 gold

XP: 554,101

Inventory:  Noble’s outfit, Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, sunrod (2) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, dreamtime tea, Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Masterwork disguise kit, covenant ring, Everwake Amulet, Ring of Disguise, Boots of the Winter Jarl, Ring of Jumping, zerk (2), scour (2), Walking Stick (Rod of the Viper)  

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 

Myam 3 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) – Part 1

I had assumed that our guests were together but it turns out they were just strangers in the night.  The woman said her name was Chalon and that she and her friend – the one who didn’t make it – had been fleeing from the former horseman skulking outside who she said was Caqueles Atur.  They were servants in his employ and when his house was attacked by a mob they ran for their lives.  Apparently Mr. Atur interpreted this as them breaking their employment contract and trying to escape his household and further determined that this was a violation worth tracking them down and killing them.  While they were making their way through the chaos in the streets they had come across our other guest who said his name was Isger but was lying.  Chalon immediately fell into an exhausted sleep after telling her tale but Isger wasn’t so trusting.  He hovered by her sleeping form eyeballing me.

“So her I get, but why were you holding hands with the manservant while you were running?

His voice was quite deep for one of the smallfolk “He grabbed my hand when we started running, your people are like sometimes, it’s like you think we’re children.”

“I don’t think you’re a child.”

His voice was cool “No, I don’t get that sense from you.”

“How’d you get hooked up with these two?  What errand had you out and about on a night such as this?”

“Just coincidence, right place, wrong place, however you want to say it.”

“You got any weapons on you?”

“Maybe a dagger or two, nothing you need to worry about.  I mean if you don’t see it does it matter if it’s there?”

“That’s good, it’s dangerous out there, I could use some back-up if something happens.”

“Something already happened.”

“Too true.”

I could tell that he was going to try and stay up as long as I was awake but that’s a contest that he couldn’t win.  After a couple hours he sat down against the wall near Chalon and I could almost see the words in his mind “I’ll just close my eyes for a minute”.  He did that thing where you head dips and then you jerk awake for a moment but soon enough he was out like a light.  At some point I could hear Atur creeping around downstairs as well as a man in full plate can creep – not very – but there was no further activity from him after I heard him jangling away.  Not long afterwards I heard some awful ripping noises and looked out the window to see that some dogs were availing themselves of the dead horse down on the street.  I felt sick to my stomach not just because of the ravening but because I was the one responsible.  Is there any more proof you need of how disgusting people are than the fact that we send these animals into battle?

As the sun was starting to creep up I took some of the zerk and some of the scour and mixed it together and rubbed it into the inside of Aska’s cheeks, letting is dissolve and seep into her system.  I figured if that wasn’t going to wake her up nothing would.  Just when I figured it was nothing doing and was considering putting an end to things she bolted upright like one of them corpses the necromancers zap with electricity to get them going again.  The scream she let loose literally rattled the building – ear-splitting doesn’t begin to describe it.  The hounds outside still picking at the horses were scatted by the wail and needless to say everyone inside was woken up. After her breath ran out Aska collapsed onto her side with great wracking sobs.  Corune grabbed her crossbow and was looking around wildly.

“Good news, Aska woke up.”

Even though my knee was killing me I gave Aska the daily healing draught from the Flask which helped her immensely, not just with the crack on the head but also with coming down from the drugs I had introduced into her system.  Chalon and Isger were overjoyed when I demonstrated the true “endless” nature of my flask but they were less excited when I passed out the food.

“This is the last of it folks, do with it as you will.  You want to try and make it last a few days feel free, but there’s no more coming.  I’m curious what future plans anyone might have, are you content to stay up here for the foreseeable future or is anyone thinking about making a break for it?  I wasn’t expecting this to drag on the way it has and I’m starting to wonder if it’s time to get out of town.  The business I came here for doesn’t seem so important anymore.  Anyone know a good route out of here?”

Aska and Chalon looked alarmed at even the mention of leaving.  Isger looked like he was thinking about the idea but said nothing.  Corune is the only one who spoke up, saying that she was thinking about trying to hook up with the lawful authorities to help them quell the rioting.

“How exactly does that work for you?  What determines who the lawful authority is?  If the rebels win and take over do you enforce their laws with blind fanaticism then?  Seems awfully wishy-washy.  Or are the laws of men unimportant and you have some secret book of divine laws that you enforce on people without them knowing about it?”

“I know you don’t really care and you’re just baiting me again, but the lawful authority is whoever is appointed by the Sovereign and they themselves are bound by the laws of the Kingdom.”

“But you’re not even from here, isn’t your church international?  When Ulpine loses territory to us then the Kingdom’s laws swing into effect?  Might makes right?  That seems like the most unlawful thing possible.  You just take something and it’s yours?”

“Even wars have laws.”

“Enforced by who?  War is war, there’s no such thing a legal or illegal war.”

“There most certainly is, if you . . .”

Isger cleared his throat “I don’t mean to interrupt but how is this debate helpful?”

“First you clearly did mean to interrupt, second did you have a more useful activity for us because if so I’m all ears.”

“Well you just said that was the last of the food, shouldn’t we scrounge around for more?

I gestured to the window “Be my guest, I’m not going down there unless someone has a plan to leave the town completely which it doesn’t sound like anyone is interested in.  I’m going to conserve my energy for the six to ten bands of violent looters that are going to wander by and attack us today – plus the angry knight who’s after your friend.  Speaking of, there’s some horsemeat up for grabs down there if you know how to butcher a horse.”

He must not because he didn’t go down to check it out.  No one had much to say that morning, Aska and Chalon sat across from each other near the hole and stared at nothing and Isger paced around in circles in the middle of the room as Corune and I watched out the window.  The streets were quiet, quiet enough that I wondered if “it” was over, but I didn’t see any soldiers or guardsmen so I wasn’t sure.  Several hours after sunup we had our first visitors – it was the sporty blonde with short hair and a green tabard over chainmail and her goon squad.

“Good morning, nice to see you’re still alive and kicking in all this mess.”

“It’s not so bad when you know your way around and have a dozen armed men at your back.  I see you picked up a new friend.”

“I’ve been bringing in strays the entire time you were gone, I just can’t seem to help myself, I’ve got a kindly heart.”

“Must be getting crowded up there.”

“Absolutely, we’re sleeping three deep in the bed but in times of trouble we all have to look out for each other right?  I assume you’re here about Sperry, I have to come clean on that – when you visited the first time he had my friend at knifepoint and was instructing me to feed you bad information and send you off on a wild chase.  He’s dead now, his body should be down below unless some dogs or a sneaky cadaver-humper dragged it off.”

“Did you take anything off the body?”

“Yes, I took anything that seemed useful.  We already ate all the food.”

“I don’t care about food, I’m looking for coin.”

“He had a shitload of silver on him, which I thought was weird.  It weighed a fucking ton, I don’t know how he was lugging that around with a non-magic bag without getting a hernia.”

“Did you touch it?”

“I did, I’ve got it on me right now.  You want it it’s yours.”

“I do, but we need to take precautions.”

They tossed up a large sack which I dumped all the coins into, and then they sent up another canvas bag that I put the first sack into – each of which was tied shut with a coarse length of sturdy twine.  I lowered down the bag to one of Green’s thugs who was holding open another bag that looked big enough to put a person in, which was then folded over several times and wrapped in a tarp behind being placed in a small barrel which then had the whatever you call the top of a barrel carefully sealed.

“I have to say the care with which you’re handling that silver is damaging my calm.  You want to tell me what I’ve gotten myself into?”

“You want to tell me what happened to Lage?”

“I killed him.  He spotted Sperry when he was up there so I did what I had to do to save my friend.”

“Where is she?”

“Sperry killed her anyway.  So it was all pointless.”

“Let that be a lesson to you.”

“Yeah, tell me about it.”

She waved to her men that it was time to head out “Good luck to you and all your strays.”

“You’re not going to tell me what’s up with that money?  Would it make a difference to you if I told you that months ago I met a man who insisted in paying me only with silver coins?  He said ‘silver for silver’ like that was some huge revelation.  I assume he was just mad but now I wonder if that’s got any relevance to whatever is going on here.”

She gestured for her men to pause “Where was this?”

“No, you first.”

“The coins are debased, it’s part of a plot to weaken the economy of the Kingdom.”

“Right, and you’re so worried about touching it because counterfeit coins hurt you somehow?”

“Some of them have other properties as well.”

“That’s not terribly helpful.”

“I’m not feeling all that helpful since you killed one of my men.”

“The man I met was in the market at Graltontown, he looked like a traveling trader not one who was established there.  He talked in rhymes half the time, like I said he seemed insane.  He was skinny and had curly hair that was grey.  The skin around his eyes was strange, like maybe it had been burned but there’s no way you could get burns there and still have eyes.  His clothes looked like they were too big for him, or maybe were just ill fitting.”

“Did he tell you his name?”

“No.”

“If that was months ago you would have noticed if you had touched one of the special coins by now.”

“What if one of Sperry’s coins is ‘special’?”

“I guess you’ll find out won’t you?”

With that she and her crew left.  That’s what I get for being helpful.  Great, now that’s one more thing for me to worry about – what the Hells did those coins do to me?  Why did I even bother for silver!  I made me think back to when I met that crazy rhyming trader and I was grubbing for every copper I could get my hands on.  So I’ve made some progress at least.  I don’t feel cursed.  No more cursed than usual anyway.  Isger was giving me a hard look after that exchange.

“What was all that about?”

“Just catching up with an old friend, nothing to worry about.”

Corune gave me a sideways glance as well but she didn’t say anything.  After that interlude a large part of the day passed without much activity – outside or in.  Isger finally stopped pacing and sat listless with Chalon.  What’s wrong with these people?  They just got here last night and they’re acting like they’re dead already.  I’ve been there for three days, fighting for my life mind you, and I’m full of vim and vigor.  Do I have to be the moral officer too?  Do I have to do everything? 

“Chalon do you know any stories?  The Shirefolk I’ve known have been pretty good with a tale.  As a matter of fact I rode out a situation much like this one in a boarding house with a group of your people and it was really pretty fun.  We gambled and talked and ate good food all night long.  This is a little different of course but we can share some stories at least can’t we?  Keep our spirits up, maintain a little optimism.”

Chalon looked like an animal caught in a trap – I don’t know if she’s usually this skittish or if this civil “issue” has really messed with her head but I could tell it was going to be hard work getting her to say much of anything.  Before I could embark on this campaign though Aska spoke up.

“I know a story.  Years ago there were three sisters and they were out working in the fields when they found a magic ring turning over dirt with a plow.  They started fighting over the ring because it was made of gold and they didn’t want to share it but as they did so in a flash of light an angel appeared.  It had been trapped in the ring by an evil wizard.  The angel told them to stop fighting and love one another and said that because they had rescued him that he would grant them each a wish.  The first sister spoke up and said that she wanted her other two sisters to be devoured by a lion.  So the second sister said that she wanted her sisters to be burned to death by dragonfire because a dragon is mightier than a lion.  And then the third sister said that she wanted her sisters to meet their death at the hands not of a mighty beast but by an ignominious one so she wished that her sisters would be nibbled to death by a goat.  The angel was disgusted that they wished death on one another but decided to answer all their wishes at once – he created the chimera and it killed them all.”

“That was a little more grisly than I was hoping for, but it’s a better theory on why those dumb beasts exist than I’ve heard before.  At least we’re talking right?  Let’s keep the ball rolling.”

Isger told the story of the Alligator and the Apple Farmer which is one I’ve heard many times but it was a good comedic telling of the old tale and I made sure to laugh when appropriate and encourage the others – I’m better at fake crying but I have an impeccable fake laugh as well.  I sung the story of the Priestess and the Deer Prince which had Corune scowling and Chalon blushing furiously but she was also laughing along with Aska and Isger.  It was mostly Isger and I trading back and forth but eventually Chalon piped with the tale of the Ghost and the Watermelon and Aska chimed in from time to time as well.  Isger told a story about the king of Vieland and his humorous foibles that legitimately had tears rolling down my face.  As I wiped them away I turned to Corune.

“Surely you have some moralistic parable that you could share with us.  I think we’re having too much fun now, your services as a wet blanket may be needed.”

She nodded out the window “Someone’s coming.”

Talk about a wet blanket.  It was starting to get dark but was not yet sunset when I looked out the window to see several dozen armed and armored men in orange and white livery with what I thought was a weird very stylized looking lion on their shields but then realized that it was the Old Imperial way of writing the number ten.  They had a hodgepodge of people trailing along behind them clutching at random possessions and looking bewildered.  I noticed that behind the civilians, herding them together, was another body of orange and white clad soldiers.  

“Ahoy there friends, I don’t recognize your crest, whom do you serve?”

One of the men, looking no different from the rest spoke on their behalf “This part of the city is being evacuated.  Get whatever you need that you can carry and come with us.”

“My name is Ela, I’m cousin to Baroness Juost, here on an assignment from her husband.  Who am I speaking to?”

“You need to come with us.”

“I think you meant to say ‘you need to come with us My Lady’ and I think you also meant to introduce yourself because otherwise that would be unspeakable rude.  Criminal in fact I think, my friend here can check on that she’s super into legal stuff.  I’d like to know where you’d be taking us and who you are.”

“Who I am?  Someone who doesn’t like to be questioned.  You’ll have your answers when you have them.  Get out here now.  I won’t ask again.”

I turned to Corune “Well law expert, what’s the legality of this?  Shall we file a petition or something?  A writ maybe?”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 50,874 gold

XP: 554,101

Inventory:  Noble’s outfit, Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, sunrod (2) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, dreamtime tea, Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Masterwork disguise kit, covenant ring, Everwake Amulet, Ring of Disguise, Boots of the Winter Jarl, Ring of Jumping, zerk (2), scour (2), knotted rope, Walking Stick (Rod of the Viper)  

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 

Myam 2 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) – Part 5

After night fell there was an initial lull in the activity out in the streets but unlike last night night it was only temporary.  An hour or two after sunset it seemed like all Hells broke loose.  I heard the sounds of fighting and shouting carrying through the darkness from all around.  I’d see a man with a lantern run across one way, then another group with torches heading back the other way, and that doesn’t even consider all the people skulking around without a light source.  At one point when my eyes had adjusted and the moonlight was strong I swear that I saw an orc slouching down an alleyway.  This frightened me more than anything I had seen so far.  Things are really getting out of control if humanoids are creeping into the city unabated.  Although the more likely and awful notion is that someone is bringing them in intentionally to shift the power of whatever is goingon.  The rugmaker’s ornate chest had been tossed down the stairs as an obstacle but I made sure to secure the flayleaf before that happened.  Just the thing to help calm the nerves on a long night’s watch.  I shielded the tiny flame from the tindertwig as I lit up but it must have been visible because I heard Corune’s coming from the bed.

“Is there a vice you don’t have?”

“Actually until recently I didn’t have any vices and now I only have one.”

“Self-delusion?’

“Is that a vice?  I’d consider that more of a character flaw.  You should be sleeping.  You need your rest after the day you had.”

“And you don’t?

“Nope.  As they say no rest for the wicked and according to you I’m the wickedest around.”

“I’m having a little trouble falling to sleep considering where I am and what’s going on.”

“I’m keeping watch.”

“That’s what’s keeping me up.”

“You don’t trust me to spot trouble?”

“I don’t trust you not to cut my throat while I’m sleeping.”

“Don’t flatter yourself Princess.  You think I would need to take you unawares or do you think I could handle you in a fair fight?”

“I hadn’t thought about it.”

“Bullshit, I’m sure you’ve thought a lot about it.  I suppose it doesn’t matter, I would never fight fair anyway.  You know what’s interesting?  Our backgrounds are  very similar.  I was taken from my family at a young age and I was trained to serve someone, I wasn’t a literal slave but I had no say in what I was doing.  Then I was given to someone as a companion.  And yet you turned out like you did and I turned out like I did.  I suppose the difference is the church of Vultur got their hooks in you and brainwashed you when you were young.  If that hadn’t happened you’d probably be just like me.  Only less charming and attractive.”

“The difference is that I have a moral compass and you are a sociopath.”

“Do you though?  If your so-called morality comes from an external source, from the church or from Vultur himself or whatever, is that really morality?  Or is it just slavish devotion to whatever comes down from on high?  At what point are you doing awful things because you’re ‘just following orders’?  If Vultur sent an angel, or whatever he has that tells people to do things, to tell you that you had to kill someone because they were going to commit a horrible crime – but hadn’t done anything yet – what would your reaction be to that?”

“I’m not interested in hypotheticals.”

“Go to sleep then.”

“I would if you’d stop talking.”

“You’re the one who started talking to me!”

I don’t know if she fell asleep but she stopped talking at least.  I knew that rescuing her would be a bad idea but I didn’t realize how annoying it would be.  If I didn’t know better I’d swear that everyone I come across makes it their personal mission to irritate me.  I’ve often been critical of people on watch or guard duty or whatever you want to call it and how easily they’re distracted or fooled.  But I’m starting to understand it now.  Even in the face of potential violent horrifying death at any moment there’s only so long you can stay on alert.  Once the fear and heart-pumping anxiety fade away all you’re left with is boredom, your mind starts to wander.  You stare at the same thing for enough hours and you stop seeing it, which is the opposite of what you want when you’re supposed to watching for trouble.  When there’s an ambush or a night-time massacre or something it’s often blamed on a guard falling asleep, but I would bet that half the time they’re there awake and just not noticing someone walking right up on them until it’s too late.  It’s a wonder there’s anyone left alive at all really.

In the dead of night I heard the hammering of hooves on the cobblestones coming from the south.  It was an overcast night but there was enough light for me to see a moment later three figures come running into view like scared rabbits.  At first I thought two of them might be children , especially because they were holding the hands of the “normal” sized figure but after a second I realized they were Halflings.  As soon as they came into view a horseman came pounding up behind them wearing full plate and wielding one of those double-ended spears you see cavalry types with sometimes.  As soon as they were all within view the horseman struck, skewering the figure in the middle and sending the two smallfolk tumbling to the ground to the right and left.  The tip of the spear seemed to pass through the body without resistance, like a stick through water, and hit the stone underfoot with a clap like an ironsmith hammering an anvil.

I could hear the choking sound coming from the impaled victim, dangling on the long spear like a spiked fish being drug out of a pond.  Both Halflings, rather than running, lay on the ground looking stunned.  They continued to do so even while the horseman struggled to kick the dying person off their weapon.  I fired at the armored man, the bolt deflecting off his heavy plate like I had thrown a toothpick at a stone wall.  The “ping” noise of the strike seemed to finally snap the two smallfolk out of their reverie and they scrambled to their feet to run.  I know they’re under stress but why didn’t they split up?  Instead they first ran to each other, giving their pursuer the chance to follow them both.  Why do people do that?  When one person is behind you sticking together only makes sense if you’re going to turn and fight, not if you’re going to run.  Use your heads people.

The horseman finally got his weapon free and made to pursue, but I hurled the thunderstone that I had taken off one of the attackers right at the feet of his mount.  Even the best trained warhorse is going to react to that and this steed as no exception, rearing up and making the rider struggle both to hang on and to control his animal.  Aggravatingly though at this the two Shirelings stopped and looked around as if they were trying to figure out what happened.  I wanted to scream at them to keep running but I didn’t want to give away my position.  As the horseman was getting back under control I cracked one of my sunrods, shielding it in my hand, and tossed it into the alleyway across the street.  The horseman wheeled towards the light but only for a second, dismissing it as the distraction that it was quickly enough. He turned back to his prey still frozen in the middle of the street and cursing under my breath I fired at him a few more times with my crossbow, my shots bouncing off his armor uselessly.

The good news (?) is that he turned to face my side of the street and although I ducked down in the window for cover he spotted me quickly.  It was at this point that I realized that with the height of his charger and with the reach of his weapon he could probably attack me even up here.  As he turned to do just that I employed the shitty but time honored tradition used when facing cavalry – I shot his horse.  It’s a real dick move, the horse didn’t do anything wrong, it can’t, it’s a horse, but it’s a sad fact of life that sometimes you have to do it.  It was too well trained to react with much more than a whinny, but I was hoping the poison would slow it down some.  He came trotting forward at a good clip and stabbed not through the window but through the wall beneath it, narrowly missing me as I dodged backwards – and by dodged I mean fell ass over teakettle. 

In doing so my knee pain went from a tolerable throbbing to a blindly intensity and I hit the floor.  Nevertheless, being the big hero that I am I lunged back forward to grab at the part of the spear that was sticking through what I now saw were shockingly thin boards of the wall facing the street.  All that bought me was some scuffed knuckles as the man outside easily yanked it backwards, slamming my hand into the wall and out of my grip.  Corune rolled out of bed looking around wildly and whispering intensely.

“What’s going on?”

“I have no idea!”

I heard the voice of the horseman from below, echoing strangely inside of his greathelm “This is none of your concern.”

“I couldn’t agree more, sorry to have disturbed you, I thought you were someone else.”

The spear came stabbing in at an angle through the floor and even though it wasn’t really that close to me I couldn’t help by yelp in surprise and scramble further back, almost falling through the hole in the floor behind me.

“Shit!  Those two Halflings are probably getting away right now, why are you wasting time with me?”

“They’re already gone, because of you.  I’ll pick them up again without too much trouble though, they can’t hide from me.  But you need to pay.”

“How much?”

“Your life.”

“That’s a little steep, how about a nice rug?”

I gestured with my head for Corune to cover me as I used my ability to throw my voice to keep bargaining/begging for mercy in the room while I kicked the rope through the hole and climbed/slid/fell down to the first floor.  I did my best to land with my weight on my left leg but still the explosion of pain when I hit the ground made me bite my tongue to keep from crying out.  Limping forward intently, I saw the horseman through a hole in the wall head tilted up taking to “me” and I hurled a looted javelin at his neck as hard as I could.  Instead of plunging into his neck it deflected off that weird little round thing knights have on their armor sometimes, it’s called a gewgaw or a guisare or something like that – anyway I guess this is why they have them.  The deflected javelin did knock his helm askew though and while he was trying to right it – not easy with reins in one hand and a people-stabber in the other – I shot his horse a few more times, pumping in more poison.   I then jumped back on the rope and struggled my way up, Corune reaching down to haul me in the last bit.

I heard the man outside cursing as his mount labored and founded under him.  I crawled over to peep out the window and saw the poor horse frothing at the mouth, its legs giving out underneath it.  The man dismounted and after cursing and kicking at the horse for a while did the merciful thing and put it out of its miser with a stab through the skull. He stood by the dead animal seething with rage.

“Whoever you are I’m going to find you and I’m going to kill you.”

“That’s a pretty pedestrian threat, you could have at least said you were going to skin me alive or something like that.  Get creative with it.  People try to kill me all the time, it’s kind of lost its luster.”

 “Do you know who I am?!  I . . .”

I sat up and chucked a looted throwing axe at him as hard as I could – I’ve definitely done more throwing things as hard I could the last two days than I have in my life before now.  It didn’t penetrate his platemail but it did hit with enough impact to knock him flat.  I stood tall, reloading and shooting with my crossbow as fast as I could while he turtled.  Eventually he rolled to his side and clattered to his feet awkwardly running into the same alley as the sunrod to take cover.  All of my bolts banged off his armor but I was hoping that one might at least scrape against some flesh to poison him.  I stepped out of the window as he produced a longbow and fired back.   

“Good Gods how can you even draw back in that metal lobster suit?”

He declined to explain but I could see Corune looking at me in the darkness “What do we do now?”

“You want to go down there and flank him while I keep him busy?”

“No.”

“Me neither.”

For a few minutes I was trying to think of something while occasionally trading shots with the armored bowman and I had pretty well decided to just ignore the situation since there was no way for him to get up when I heard an urgent “psst” noise coming from downstairs.  I dropped down and belly-crawled to the hole where I saw the round frightened faces of the two Halflings looking at me.  I saw now that it was a man and a woman.

“Are you fucking kidding me?!  Get the fuck out of here!”

“Let us up!”

“I feel like I’ve done plenty here, you should be running right now.”

“Running to where?  There’s nowhere to run, let us up.”

As I was about to say something else Corune dropped the rope down to them and they scooted themselves up with enviable nimbleness, it I’m sure it helps that they’re so diminutive. Once they were in and Corune was hauling the rope back up I fell heavily into the corner and took a pull off my Flask.

“Welcome to the party.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 50,874 gold, 2000 silver

XP: 554,101

Rations – 5 days

Inventory:  Noble’s outfit, Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, sunrod (2) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, dreamtime tea, Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Masterwork disguise kit, covenant ring, Everwake Amulet, Ring of Disguise, Boots of the Winter Jarl, Ring of Jumping, zerk (3), scour (3), knotted rope, Walking Stick (Rod of the Viper)  

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 

Myam 2 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) – Part 4

There was a part of me that didn’t want to get up.  A part that told me to stay there, close my eyes and let go, let whatever was going to happen next happen and just accept it.  Put my fate in the hands of the Gods.  No more struggle.  No more strife.  Let things unfold and assent to the results.  But you don’t listen to that part of yourself.  You block out the seductive voice in your mind that says that it cannot be done, that you’ve done enough, that it’s time to rest.  Because there is only one sin that cannot be forgiven, and that is giving up.  I’ve done a lot of things people would consider damning but the only thing I could ever do that would disappoint me is stopping.  There is no line between perseverance and insanity, don’t ever let anyone tell you that there is.  Life is a meaningless struggle, and that’s fine, you do it anyway.  If you’re going to do something you do it.  The end.  So I counted to four and then I hauled myself to my feet and went over to see what the dead man had on him.   As I grabbed him by a handful of clothing to flip him over I looked at Corune.

“You’re a legal expert, in a time of civil unrest isn’t there some manner of suspension of law when it comes to doing what you have to in order to survive?  Or is this still theft and you’re going to arrest me and confine me to the closet?”

She looked dazed “There is no closet.”

I couldn’t help but laugh, somewhat deliriously “Good point.” I gestured to Aska “Is she alright?”

She looked after at the unconscious form next to her without really seeming to see her “I don’t know.”

“Can’t you use magic to heal her?”

She shook her head slowly “No.”

“You dedicate yourself to your stupid law God and he doesn’t even give you magic?  Seriously, what are you doing with your life?”

This seemed to bring her into focus a little “Can you say two sentences without insulting my faith?”

“I’m sure that I could but what’s my motivation?  Face it honey you lost the God lottery when you got saddled with Vultur.”

Aside from his weird sword/tool the deadman had hit of Zerk and Scour on him, which explains a lot, there aren’t many men that can take a crossbow to the face and not even blink with a chemical enhancement.   He had a few other odds and end on him but most critically of all he had a coil of rope.  If you had told me that someday I would be over the moon about getting my hands on a length of rope I would have thought you were off your rocker.  I dumped about a gallon of sake on Aska but it didn’t wake her up so I put Corune to knotting the rope while I stood watch out the window.  At one point a dozen knights rode by and I called out to them but they weren’t interested in distressed damsels today.  I thought about using my Beastspeech to call out to one of their horses just to see what they would do but ultimately decided that was a terrible idea.  Knights have a terrible sense of humor, I think it’s part of their vows.

Corune did a piss poor job with the rope but honestly I can’t say that I would have done any better so I didn’t chastise her.  There was an exposed wall-beam that seems sturdy so we attached the rope to that and I floundered my way down through the hole to loot the rest of the bodies.  There’s no reason to expect them to have any food on them but I was still disappointed when I found none.  After gathering weapons and tossing them up to Corune I started handing up broken furniture and other wreckage that she threw into the stairwell to help block it off.  After that I tried to hack through what was left of the loom to remove that as a way to climb in but it was ineffective.  The bits that were left were thicker than my waist, even with an ax it would have taken hours to take it apart.  I had found a bag of caltrops on one of the raiders and Corune had the idea to hammer them into the main part of the loom under the hole that I had been climbing on, which I have to admit was a canny notion.  Once I was done she tossed the rope out the window.  I thought it would be easier to climb up against the wall but it wasn’t, still I managed to drag myself up, soaked through with sweat by the time I made it up. Not only that but in the melee I must have twisted the wrong way because my knee was throbbing something awful.  I couple long pulls from the Flask helped tamp down the pain.

Corune looked at me coolly “Don’t you think you should cool it with that?”

“No, but I do think you should shut about it.  Last time I checked booze isn’t illegal even when society isn’t falling apart.”

“It should be.”

“That sounds dangerously like an independent thought.  Is that allowed in your order?  The law is the law isn’t it?  And you enforce it, unquestioningly, unthinkingly, un . . . some other un-word that fits there.  Unabashedly?  No, that doesn’t sound right. ”

“You don’t know anything about my order.”

“So tell me.  Give me a crash course.  We’ve got nothing but time.”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“Good chat, very informative.  No fooling, how did you end up with this as your life?”

“I am immune to your mockery.”

“I’m not mocking you just now, I’m honestly curious.  Someone becomes a blacksmith or a cooper or a crier or what have you that makes sense.  But I’d like to know what led to you dedicating your life to Vultur.  I really am sincerely interested, and we really don’t have anything else to do.  You in particular are mystery because you’re a Corune!  How did a member of one of the most powerful noble houses in the Kingdom end up as a glorified bounty hunter?  No offense.  Tell me your story.”

“We should be keeping watch.”

“I can listen and watch at the same time.”

“Writha Corune is not the name I was born with.  My mother was Ulpine but my father was Modenese.  When my mother died I my father took me to live with his people – are you familiar with the Modenese?  They’re savages that live along the southern coast.   After a Modenese tribe loses a battle with another tribe, its common, even expected for the surrendering tribe to be sold into slavery, with the buyer being a mark of respect or disrespect to the defeated foes.  When a Modenese chieftain despises their conquered foes, they sell them to the city-folk, the Ulpine.  I was sold to a slaver who then sold me to a family in Caracalla.  I was treated . . . harshly by them.  The Church of Vultur took me away from them when I was fourteen and trained me as an acolyte.   I was an attendant to a diplomat that traveled to Indlecastle often as part of his duties, when the war broke out – not this one but the last one – Rilga Corune took me into her household.  I married her son Lacobian for . . . reasons that I won’t go into, but it is a marriage in name only, my dedication is to the church and to Vultur.”

“And the family you married into doesn’t care that you’re running around the Kingdom . . . doing whatever it is that you do?”

“It’s better if I’m not there.  I’m sure they probably don’t tell people exactly what I’m doing.”

“If you want to keep that a secret you probably shouldn’t go around telling people your name is Writha Corune, that’s bound to attract attention.”

“It’s my name.  Lying doesn’t come as easily as everyone as it does to you.”

“Oh Gods, get over yourself.”

“You probably think that your lies aren’t damaging but they are.  Society is based on trust and the more you lie the more you erode that trust.  The ability to make free and informed decisions is the cornerstone of moral conduct and if you actively and intentional deceive people you’re taking away their ability to act with freedom.  Lying is a bad act and when you regularly indulge in bad acts you’re corrupting yourself, you make yourself more comfortable with doing other bad things.  Lie enough and stealing doesn’t seem so bad, steal enough and maybe murder is on the table.  Communication is a gift from the Gods, given to us so that we can share our thoughts, so do otherwise . . .”

“Alright enough.  You can’t tell me that lying about your name is going to cause the collapse of society.  What it’s going to do is make your life safer, and help the people that took you in and cared for you when you needed it.  What you’re doing by refusing to just say one thing instead of another isn’t being righteous or devout it’s selfish and stupid.”

“Just because something is expedient doesn’t make it right, if you always take the easy path . . .”

“Don’t waste your breath with that high-minded slippery slope bullshit.  I would wager that my lies have done more good, saved more people than you have riding around shooting poor people with your crossbow with your little friends in blue coats.”

“Now you’re just trying to upset me, and I don’t know why because we’re in this together now.  If you don’t like something, if you don’t understand something you make light of, you respond with insults.  It’s childish.”

“You and your gang of mercenaries would have taken me to Three Rivers to be tortured to death by another gang of rich assholes who paid you to bring me to them, I think I’m entitled to be a little pissed off about that.”

“We had a legal and binding contract to . . .”

“Fuck your contract!  I can write up a contract for you to burn to death right now, that doesn’t make it right!”

“Quit interrupting me!  Your lies have never done anyone any good other than yourself.  What it has done is encourage other people to lie, weakened social cohesion, and yes, if eventually no one can believe anything anyone says then society does collapse!  You walk through life doing whatever you want because people like me are there to fix the damage that you do.  If everyone acted like you we’d still be living in caves!  You are the problem, you are the cancer.  There must be order for the world to exist.”

“And because of your order I have to die.  For what?  What crime did I commit?  That contract of yours that so precious to you, what was it exactly?  What possible law gives a solicitor the right to kidnap me?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

I laughed bitterly “Any time I bring up something you don’t want to talk about you fall back to that, and I’m the one that’s childish?  When you dragged me in chains to Glilcus and Stolo what did you think they were going to do to me?  Nothing fucking legal I can guarantee you that.”

“You have to keep your word, that’s the one thing you do in life above all others, otherwise what is it all for?  You abuse people and you hurt people and you don’t care.  It’s a game to you.  Life is sacred but you treat it like a joke and I think on some level you know what and you hate yourself for it.  If you had a decent bone in your body you’d take it out on yourself instead of everyone else.  But you don’t.  You’re the worst person I’ve ever met.  And I’ve met the worst humanity has to offer.  I brought in a pimp once who had traumatized his women so badly, controlled them so methodically, abused them so absolutely, that they killed themselves rather than be without him.  I would let him and people like him go a hundred times over if I could bring you in instead.”

“But at the core what’s really going on is that you’re jealous because I’m prettier than you right?”

“I knew there was no reason to talk to you.”

“In all honesty I’m sorry about your hair.  I’ve gotten my ass kicked several times now and it sucks, but bruises fade and wounds heals and the pain goes away.  That hair though was magnificent and that is a real loss.  I know that your whole deal is putting on this stick up the butt façade but with hair like that there has to be some part of you that desires to have one little thing that’s outside of the norm, something that makes people look at you admiringly, something that makes you feel good.  Just for yourself.”

“The only thing that matters is looking presentable.  Excessive pride in one’s appearance is counter-productive to the mission.”

“I see, it’s okay to lie but only to yourself.” For a long while neither of us said anything.  Eventually I jabbed my chin in the direction of Aska’s still unmoving form. “Is she going to wake up?”

“I don’t know. . . . . probably not.  What happened to her?”

“She got knocked around during the fight pretty bad.”

“She would have already been dead if it wasn’t for you.  So would I.  I have to admit this much, you’re quite the killer.”

“That almost sounded like a compliment.”

The sun was starting to dip when the next group came around.  They would have been a hard-looking bunch in normal times but for a time of lawless riot they were just normal looking.  They did have a hook though, they were carrying ladders.  Actually it looked they had taken a single siege ladder, those things are huge you know, and cut it into three smaller sections – much better for assaulting a two story building instead of a thirty foot curtain wall around a fortress.  I was sitting in the window with my crossbow as they rolled up.  Like all these little bands of brute-brothers they had a leader who did all the talking.  I wonder how they decide who the leader is.  Is there a vote?  Does someone just call it?  Or is it the guy with the most memorable appearance?  This one was a thick-set fellow whose arms, legs, and head all seemed to be the same circumference – which is a lot weirder than it sounds.  He was shirtless but was wearing some kind of studded leather vest.  I often mock women for their sexy armor choices but this is probably the least effective protection I’ve ever seen.  I guess it protects you from attacks coming from the rear or targeted at your nipples.

“Sorry boys, we’ve already been hit a bunch of times today, we’re all tapped out – we got nothing for you.”

“You’re up there, that’s enough for me.”

“Not interested.” Corune came to stand behind me with her crossbow visible as well “Neither is my friend.”

“How many people you got up there?”

“Well let’s see, beside the two us there’s, the rest of our crossbow regiment – it’s a new thing they were testing out, all female army units.  What’s the world coming to right?  But with the war on and all you know.  Plus Sir Anders the Decapitator, Sir Jellic the Mutilator, Sir Hellionch the Destroyer, the Impalement Brothers, the Butcher, the Blade, the Bunnykiller, a couple dozen other knights, a few war wizards, a pack of werewolfs, and the entire Skulltaker orc clan.  Oh, and a few adventuring parties – the Order of this and the Fellowship of that, you know how they like to give themselves fancy names.  One of them even has a dark elf!  Can you imagine?”

“Okay, okay, stupid question.”

“All you need to know is that there’s one window and two of us with crossbows right here – that should be plenty for you to scoot along to the next house.”

“You sure you know how to use that thing sweetie?”

“If you look around down there you’ll find a couple corpses that show that I do.  I’ve developed my own system where I aim for the uvula, even if you miss by a couple inches you’re still doing pretty well.”

“Maybe you can shoot, how many bolts can you have left though?”

“Good point.” I started pulling bolts out of my Quiver and tossing them over my shoulder “Here’s one, here’s another, there’s another one, oh look, here’s one, oh man here’s a whole handful of them, and a fistful, and another, does this this ever run dry?  It’s like one of them magic tricks with the scarfs.”

“Maybe we’ll check back in a few days when you’re running a little lower.”

“You do that, and have yourself a good night and you be safe out there boys.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 50,874 gold, 2000 silver

XP: 551,901

Rations – 5 days

Inventory:  Noble’s outfit, Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, sunrod (3) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, dreamtime tea, Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Masterwork disguise kit, covenant ring, Everwake Amulet, Ring of Disguise, javelin, thunderstone, throwing axe, Boots of the Winter Jarl, Ring of Jumping, zerk (3), scour (3), knotted rope, Walking Stick (Rod of the Viper)   

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 

Myam 2 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) – Part 3

Yesterday I was up here with two people to whom I boldly proclaimed that rationing wouldn’t be necessary.  Now they’re both dead.  Which means two things.  One thing it means is that the food they ate was completely wasted.  But more importantly it means I can think about rationing without feeling foolish.  I initially figured that one way or the other I wouldn’t be hanging around here for long but now I’m not so sure.  Based on what I saw this morning this riot seems to be turning into a full-fledged revolution, and those tend to take a while to work themselves out. 

Several times now I’ve been lost in the wilderness without much in the way of supplies and with one exception I never really seriously considered that I might die.  How dramatic would it be if I starved to death instead in the middle of a city?  Aska crawled out from under the bed long enough to scarf down her share of the dwindling pile of rations.  If you’re not familiar with rations they consist of things like little discs made out of wheat flour and beef powdered, dried meat, hardtack, cheese that looks and tastes like a rock, and things of that nature.  It’s the kind of thing that soldiers on the campaign eat, partially to keep them alive but mostly to make them not care if they live or die.  Rations are the main reason for cannibalism.  It’s been proven.

I woke Corune up to eat and drink as well.  Or maybe not woke up because she was more unconscious than asleep exactly, maybe roused is the correct word.  She ate as slowly as Aska did quickly – everything she did was in that very deliberate way you move when every part of your body hurts.  I know she had a bad night and all, got roughed up pretty good, but I was starting to think in the back of my mind that she needs to get over it.  After this grand repast Aska scuttled back into hiding like a crab under a rock and Corune lay back down to sleep/pass out. 

The rugmaker had mentioned that she had some food downstairs which was probably already gone but the idea that it might be down there got stuck in my head and eventually I couldn’t help but crawl down to check it out and make sure.  There was nothing left in the kitchen area and even worse I saw movement outside.  I scrambled back up to the second floor as quickly and quietly as I could (not well on either count) and rushed to the window where I saw a group of men outside a building much like this across the street and two houses down.  Most of them were carrying torches.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone with a torch in the daytime before.  It’s more menacing than you’d think.  Someone with a lantern in the daylight would be a loon, but someone carrying around a naked flame in the broad sunshine – that person has plans.  The door to the building across the way was evidently barricaded and the one window was boarded up.  I’m sure if you wanted to you could smash those boards away pretty simply, but this crew was content to stay outside and shout.  After a moment a woman appeared in a second story window much like the one I was watching from.  She was wearing a standard peasant smock and looked as haggard was I felt – her hair hung down around her face like it was sopping wet even though it appeared to be dry as a bone.  I couldn’t hear what was being said but there was clearly a negotiation of some kind going on, one that resulted in the woman in the window becoming increasingly frantic.

In the end the man on the street that had been doing all talking for the group shook his head and several of his men started hurling pots of oil onto the building.  The woman starting weeping and pleading with them – I could read her lips at one point saying that she would do whatever they want.  The man said something and a minute later the door opened and the woman came out with another woman and two men.  The torchbearers handled them roughly, taking anything they had on them before two of them went inside, only to emerge moments later looking disappointed.  At the leader’s command two things happened – one was that his men threw a couple torches onto the building, setting it aflame.  The second was that they forced one of the men who had come out of the building to his knees and cut his throat right there in front of the other three.  I’ve had the misfortune to see a lot of death since my ejection from the Duke’s court, but this was one of the worst.  This wasn’t anger, this wasn’t battle, this wasn’t anything other than expediency.  The two men that forced him to the ground and the man who did the killing, none of them had any particular interest in what they were doing.  This was just work, this was just what they were doing today – it had no more meaning to them than a butcher slaughtering a hog. 

The other man looked like he wanted to try and fight but the women begged him not to – since it was clear they were perfectly willing to kill him as well if he wanted to cause a ruckus.  The leader came over and leaned close to him, saying something, and all the fight went out of the man.  At the leader of the torchbearer’s gesture the three of them stumbled off together, stopping frequently to look back at their burning shop.  After this display they moved on to the house directly across the street, skipping over the one in between, which would indicate that they’ve scouted out which places have people in them.  There was some conversation through the door and then after a moment the door flew open and a wild-eyed man came charging out swinging a fireplace poker.  The men stepped away from his attacks and one of them doused him with oil, another stepping up and setting him on fire as easy as you like.  The blazing man rushed at one of his tormentors but he was knocked to the ground and quickly was just a burning corpse on the ground.  A couple men went inside the building, coming out with a couple items of value before they came across the street.

Getting a good look at the leader of this band of murderous pyromaniacs I saw that he had a heavy brow and strangely thick eyelids, his face framed by thin but long sideburns.  He hitched his hands through his belt as his men lit more torches and fondled their flasks of oil.  He called up in a voice that was better suited for shouting across a country field than the streets of Beresford – I can’t believe I couldn’t hear him before with that voice.

“What have you got for us love?” I pulled one of the Rings off my finger and tossed it down, which he caught adroitly and put up to his eye, squinting “It don’t look like much.”

“Its magic friend, it’s worth more than this building.”

“How am I supposed to believe that?”

“Put it on and give it a half-turn to the left.”

“Don’t look like it will fit on my finger.”

“It will resize, that’s part of the magic.”

He was amazed when the ring did in fact shift to fit on this thick finger, but not nearly as amazed as he was when he turned invisible.  His voice came even louder after he disappeared, as if he thought that because I couldn’t see him I wouldn’t be able to hear him as well either.

“Why are you still here if you had this?”

“It only works for a couple minutes.  Turn it back the other way to become visible again.”

He did so, his weather-beaten faced appeared again “This will do.  It’s been a pleasure.”

“I can’t help but think that with that fire you started over there the whole block is going to go up.  I don’t mean to tell you your business but maybe you should lean more on just the threats than the actual fires if you want there to be a city left to squeeze.”

“Who says I want there to be a city left?”

He and his crew moved on to another house up the street and across the road again but I couldn’t stand to watch what happened.  I was pretty shaken but that encounter, there’s not much you can do against a foe that’s willing to burn the world to the ground.  There’s no real way to reason with that type.  It’s barely past half-light and already that’s two encounters that could have easily tuned violent.  How many more can happen in one day?  And how many more can I endure?  What sprang to mind was a scene I witnessed at Threegates.  There was a gladiator there that had somehow displeased the Count so they just kept sending in more beasts and fighters to take him on.  It didn’t matter how many bouts he won because they sent in another opponent for him.  He was always going to lose eventually.  How many of these situations can I deal with?  And how many more are coming?  It’s a simple matter of arithmetic – if one is larger I’m okay, and if the other is larger I’m dead. 

I watched the fire spread across the street, but thank the Gods for small favors, after the third building it seemed to sputter out rather than spreading any further.  I was so on edge that I felt like I was continuously tensing my muscles, like I was hanging off the side of the cliff by my fingers and I need all of my strength to hold on.  I knew that I was going to exhaust myself so I tried to calm down, but I just couldn’t compose myself no matter what I did.  Every minute it seemed like something horrible was going to happen.  Eventually I activated my Flask for another draught of healing and gave it to Corune.  I passed her the chain shirt I had taken off Sperry and told her to shrug it on.

I took a long drink from the Flask as she was getting the armor on “No more lying around princess, I know you’re not one hundred percent but I need you to help me – things are not getting better out there, they’re getting worse. I keep telling myself that I’ve been in worse jams, that I’m going to make it through this, that everything’s going to be fine. Nothing’s fine. You’ve been asleep so I don’t know if you noticed this, but everything’s been getting worse, every second.”

“Maybe you should lay off that if things are so bad.”

I laughed “This is the only thing keeping me from screaming right now.  Besides, it’s all we have to drink.”

A couple hours later a group of men came sprinting towards the building.  A full out sprint directly at us.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone running that fast in all my life – and they were carrying broad, flat blades with a hook on the back edge.  They looked more like some kind of tool for clearing vegetation than dedicated weapons.  I tossed my Walking Stick to Corune and moved to the hole in the floor.

“How the fuck does everyone know we’re here?!  Corune cover the window, Aska get the fuck out here right now and help us!”

I heard her voice from behind me, clearly still underneath the bed “I can’t, I’m too scared!”

“You’re scared of dying?  Well you are going to die right now if you don’t get out here!  Get over here and if you see a face in this hole smash it with your fucking hammer!”

I heard her come out from under the bed but she didn’t come over to me.  I could hear Corune speaking to her softly, I was going to shout at her some more but then I saw through the massive hole in the floor two men come hurtling into the bottom floor of the shop.  They didn’t even pause, with blades still in hand one of them leapt onto the broken stairs and started to climb with the other started scrambling up the loom-frame as I had done a half dozen times at this point.  I tried to move to a point where I could see both men but the one on the stairwell was out of my sight, what I could see was Aska standing frozen in the middle of the room.

“Get the FUCK over here!!!”

A hand came through the hole, grabbing the floor, and I moved to the edge where a snarling man was pulling himself up.  I shot him through the cheek right below the eye at point blank range but he didn’t even flinch, he kept hauling himself up through the hole.  I reversed the crossbow and slammed the stock into the crown of his head as hard as I could but that didn’t seem to bother him in the slightest either.  In a simultaneous action he yanked himself through the hole and launched himself at me – slamming into me and then slamming me into the floor as well.  The crossbow was trapped between our bodies as his free hand searched for my throat while I strained to control his blade-hand with both my hands.  I was hoping that the crossbow poison would make him weak but his grip was like iron and he felt like he weighed a ton pressing down on me.  He leaned his elbow on my face, turning my head to the side so that I was looking at Aska still standing like a statue in the middle of the room.  I could see Corune hanging out the window fighting with someone climbing up the side of the building.  My voice was so filled with desperate terror that I didn’t even recognize it as my own.

“Help me GODS DAMN IT!!!”

As I was shouting the man’s finger slipped into my mouth and I bit it as hard as I could, my mouth filling with blood instantly.  Choking, I let go of his blade-hand and snatched out my dagger, stabbing him just above the thigh.  He raised his sword-tool to cleave my head in two and Aska finally moved, although rather than caving his head in with her hammer she dropped it and dove forward to grab his arm, checking his swing.  I managed to shove my knife in through the soft part under his chin and as he finally staggered back I kicked at the hilt with both boots – driving the blade into his brain like a tent stake.  Even this damage it seemed like he was going to ignore for a second before he keeled over stone cold dead.  I scrambled to grab my crossbow and load it while I saw the second man emerge at the top of the stairs on the other side of the hole.  He gathered himself for a leap and a hurled Aska into his trajectory – he jumped over what had to be an eight foot hole as nimbly as a deer and crashed into Aska awkwardly.  I heard their skulls bang together like two butting mountain goats, Aska flew back into an unconscious heap with blood streaming down her head while the savage attacker was stunned long enough for me to load the crossbow and send a bolt through his sternum.  As he staggered forward I shot him again and a third time before he collapsed backwards through the hole to the ground.

I moved forward to see a third man down below looking around wildly.  I shot him as well but he ran out of my line of sight.  I turned around just in time to see Corune going flailing through the window, falling with a man draped over her and grasping at her hair.  I rushed to the window to see the two of them lying in a heap on the street – a third attacker already dead a few feet away.  As they came apart Corune was still on her hands and knees, dazed as the man popped up like a jack in the box and grabbed his sword.  I grabbed the Desk out of my Haversack and held it out the window – activated the magic to expand it to full size and send it crashing down on the man’s head.  The Desk as smashed to bits, but it was still in better shape than the man it landed on.  Another man came running at Corune but she was back on her feet and between the two of us we were able to bash and shoot him to death.  Corune dashed back inside and I helped her climb back up to the second floor through the hole where we both collapsed next to the unmoving form of Aska.

“It’s not even three bells.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 50,874 gold, 2000 silver

XP: 551,901

Rations – 5 days

Inventory:  Noble’s outfit, Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, sunrod (3) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, dreamtime tea, Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Masterwork disguise kit, covenant ring, Everwake Amulet, Ring of Disguise

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 

Myam 2 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) – Part 2

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to speak to animals?  I can tell you from experience that it’s pretty disappointing.  How many people have you talked to that had anything at all to say that was even slightly interesting?  Not many right, now take into account that even the dullest human is smarter than any animal that ever lived and you’ll realize what I’m talking about.  I’ll grant that some of the really intelligent horses can give the very stupidest of people a run for the money brainpower-wise but it’s a draw at best.  The point is that most animals have nothing much to say, how could they?  Their lives are pretty straightforward.  Although I’ve never encountered a monkey since I learned the trick of speaking to animals, that might be your best bet when it comes to finding a decent conversation in the animal kingdom.  Despite this fact, when a crow landed on the windowsill I decided to activate my Beastspeech – they’re supposed to be pretty clever and what else did I have to do?

“Hey bird.”

“Hey yourself human.”

“What’s the news?”

“Good day out there today.  Lots of juicy eyeballs for the taking.  Delicious, delicious eyeballs.  Don’t let anyone tell you that slaughterhouse refuse or grain is the best eating, eyeballs are where it’s at let me tell you.  I mean grain is good, but then you have to deal with that terrifying man who stands out there guarding it all day.  How does he do that?  Doesn’t he need to take a break?  But he never leaves the grain unguarded, never.  He’s always out there, always.  It’s uncanny.”

“That’s fake brother.”

“WHAT?!?!  What do you mean?!  Explain!”

“It’s just a bunch of straw in the shape of a person with clothing on it, they call it a scarecrow.”

“That is SICK.  A scarecrow?  What is wrong with you people?”

“How much time have you got?  Thanks for the update on the eyeballs but I was hoping you could tell me more about what’s going on out there.”

“What do you mean?”

“With the riots.”

It cocked its bird-head quizzically “I don’t know what that means.”

“You know, violence, people running around and breaking shit and setting things on fire and killing one another.”

“Oh.  Isn’t that what you’re always doing?”

“Sure, but it’s a matter of degrees.  You must have noticed there was more shouting and fighting and so forth lately.”

“Hmm, can’t say as I have.  Seems the same to me.”

“That can’t be true, what about all the fires, that’s not normal.”

“Humans make fire all the time.  Every house is on fire every day.”

“They’re not ON fire, they just have fire in them.”

“I’m pretty sure if you have fire inside you you’re on fire.”

“No, it’s under control usually, this is fire that is out of control.  I mean someone still lit the fire so it’s on purpose but the other person didn’t want them to do it.  So . . . it’s different.”

“What person?”

“Forget that part, it’s like the difference between using a tool and a forest fire.”

“Ah, so they were hit by lightning.”

“No, there was no lightning, someone started the fire like they would normally only . . . well forget it, just trust me things are different than usual.”

“Alright, no worm off my beak.”

“Do you want to carry a message for me?”

“No.”

“But I’ll give you food if you do.”

“Why would I care about that?  There’s food everywhere, I just you about the eyeballs.  Are you slow or something?”

I thought about shooting him as he flew away but taking umbrage to (from? of?) an insult from a bird was a bridge too far.  I heard Corune asking me who I was talking to but I told her that I was just chatting with a crow and she should go back to sleep.  After clearing out last night the streets were alive again today.  It was more of an organized chaos now though.  Yesterday people were just running around like crazy for the most part – now they were taking advantage of the situation.  Scores were being settled.  Long simmering feuds were bubbling to the surface.  Looting was more organized and there was a lot less mindless smashing.  Most disturbing of all though was the groups moving through the streets wearing black armbands and face-masks that were clearly torn from cloth of an elaborate black dress.  The first small group that I saw pass by with these accessories didn’t really register with me, but once I saw a few more bands of armed men with the same black trappings I dawned on me what I saw seeing.  One fellow was even carrying a makeshift standard that had a crude drawing of woman wearing a funerary gown on it.  Although confusingly “the Bride” was scrawled above it. 

You could have knocked me other with a crow feather when I saw that.  That was eight months and hundreds of miles ago.  How could that protest in Graltontown have traveled to Beresford?  And why?  After seeing that I turned the idea over and over and over in my mind and it still made to sense to me.  I suppose to the people who weren’t in on the joke a phony protest is no different from a real protest.  I was also seeing a lot more groups of guardsmen, brute squads, the personal men at arms of various nobles, and most puzzling of all The King’s Own, or Queen’s Own I guess.  How did they get here so quickly?  Unless there just happened to be an element of the Royal army nearby there’s no way they could be here so fast, and I think I would have known if there was.  So where did they come from?

Eventually one of these groups of masks and armband sorts run into a cadre of guardsmen and the personal troops of Lord Gotiach.  As the two groups confronted one another the black masks started chanting “Whickter and Whilhye, Wickter and Whilhye” in a rhythmic manner and waving their mismatched weapons.  The guardsmen shouted at them to lay down their arms and disperse but Lord Gotiach’s men weren’t in the mood to negotiate.  In their defense I don’t think the black armbands were entertaining at all the idea of not committing violence.  They charged into the fight with a battlecry of “For Rago and the Bride!” which was chilling.  It looked like the rebels were going to be subdued pretty easily – that’s what usually happens when unarmored men with clubs and old spears try to fight professionals but out of nowhere (literally) there appeared a man in a garish silver and green robe that included a face-covering hood.  There was a symbol on his chest that looked like a griffon only the bird-section was a lowly vulture instead of a noble lion, clutched in its vulture claw was a trident that only had two prongs.  A bident?

The man in the fancy robe cast a spell and many of the guardsmen dropped their weapons and ran in abject terror.  He cast another spell and the revolutionaries were clearly influenced to attack like madmen, losing any sense of personal safety or regard for their own lives and hurling themselves at their enemies like Northern berserkers.  One of Lord Gotiach’s men was shouting orders and organizing the battle for his side and fancy robe cast another spell that engulfed him in greasy black smoke that looked thick enough to stand on.  He fell to the ground choking and in fact the smoke was staining his clothing black so it must have been some kind of mist.  After this the mysterious vulture-griffon spellcaster disappeared but he had more than evened the odds.  After a brief ugly skirmish the forces of the lawful authorities were routed and ran for their lives with their ragtag attackers hounding them and howling like demons of the Hells.  Almost immediately a group of men and Halflings showed up to quickly and efficiently loot the bodies – and I mean everything, they stripped the dead (and dying) men nude before they moved off as rapidly as they appeared.

I was still trying to make sense of what I had seen in the late morning when we had visitors.  A wagon pulled by two mules turned up with half a dozen men following along.  They went into the first floor of the rug-shop and started passing out and loading the rugs into the wagon.  A fellow with baggy pants and tattoos covering both arms came around to the side where he could address me in the window.  Despite being hairless as an ox (oxen don’t have hair right?) he would have been a handsome fellow if not for the gouge/scar across the front of his lips and on through to the nose.  I don’t know if whoever gave him that was striking to kill or to disfigure only but if there we going for the latter they succeed to the utmost. It rendered what would have once been a disarming smile hideous to behold.

“We’re not going to get any trouble out of you are we pretty lady?”

“Not at all, please help yourself to whatever you like, make yourself at home.”

“What happened here?  Looks like a trebuchet sent a stone through the roof but I don’t see any stone around.”

“It was actually a giant ball of ice, it melted this morning, that way there’s no evidence.”

“Smart.  How are you doing for supplies?  You got food up there?”

“Yes actually, we have enough suckling pig and dark rum to feast an entire household for weeks.  Also the entire treasury of the county is up here and one hundred and one comely virgins – each one more sexually permissive and flexible than the last.”

He chuckled “Fine, fine, no harm in asking eh?  We could come up there and check.”

“You could, but then I’d have to shoot you, and that would probably create a rift in our burgeoning friendship.  I don’t think either of you want that.  You look prepared so I think that it’s safe to assume you came for the rugs and you’re getting them, no reason to get greedy right?  Just stick to the plan.”

He held up his hands “When you’re right you’re right.”

“What’s happening out there?  Are they getting this thing under control?”

“Hard to say at this point, we’re early in the day so it’s not even clear who ‘they’ are.  The fact that we’re here is good indication that we’re still in the thick of things not being exactly under control no matter how you slice it.  Do you have any idea what set this firework off?”

“I think that was me inadvertently.”

He smiled “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, I’m afraid that might be the case.  I went to the market yesterday morning and a gust of wind blew up the hem of my dress and exposed my chemise for a moment.  Everyone in the market just lost their minds.  Things spiraled out of control from there.”

“Everyone?  Even the women?”

“Especially the women.”

He whistled “Yeah, that would do it.”  He glanced to his side “Looks like we’re wrapping things up down here.  Now, as a way of thanking us for not coming upstairs to poke around it would be gracious of you to reward us with a little something.  Just a token of thanks of some kind, for the effort.”

“You know I would love to do just that, but the sad fact is that there’s nothing up here, nothing at all.  Nothing that would interest a fine fellow like yourself anyway.”

“Now you see, with the way you’re dressed I can’t help but think that you’re overlooking something.  I feel like one of those rings would fit the bill nicely.”

I retrieved my crossbow “I could definitely send you down a crossbow bolt if you want that.  Be careful though because it’s going to be coming a little fast.”

He chuckled again and then winked “I’ll see you around doll.”

He bowed and then jumped backwards into a sitting position on the now run-laden cart just as it came around the corner with the rest of his crew.  He waved the entire time they were in sight as the cart rattled away, his repugnant split-lipped grin on his face.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 50,874 gold, 2000 silver

XP: 523,101

Inventory:  Noble’s outfit, Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Field Scrivener’s Desk, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, Ring of Invisibility, sunrod (3) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, dreamtime tea, Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Walking Stick (Rod of the Viper), Masterwork disguise kit, covenant ring, Everwake Amulet, Ring of Disguise, +1 Mithril Shirt

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