October 28, 1973 – Missionary Impossible

[Editor’s NOTE – as you avid readers all know, normally I do world-building stuff on Wednesday but nothing really needs to be explained at this point germane to the story, so you get more narrative instead. Sorry. Sad face emoji.]

I’ve never cared for blonde men.  I make no bones about that.  Something about them just doesn’t seem right to me, it’s a woman’s hair color, why is your hair like that man?  For a kid, sure, a little blonde boy running around?  Adorable.  But an adult man?  No thank you.  Especially if they have long blonde hair.  Parker Stevenson is hiding something.  I bring this up because Travis, aka Captain USA Super Patriot USA #1, is blonde as a wheat field.  Or some other kind of field that’s more yellow.  It’s not long of course, that would be un-American, his hair style is appropriately conservative and butch, and somehow threatening. 

When Martialla and Blue didn’t come back to the bar, I got worried.  I guess I was worried about LBK too. But if we’re being honest, and I think we are, it’s harder to get worked up about him being missing.  He just kind of glommed onto us.  Speaking of, that ingrate Russian/Polish/Romanian/Whatever barman told me not to come back there anymore.  I asked him how he could do me like that after all I had done for him.  He pointed out that what I had done was drink his booze, eat every scrap of food that presented itself in two seconds flat, and bring a bunch of mutants around drawing attention to the place.  Which I guess is a fair point. 

I spent a couple days wandering the streets looking for Blue (because he stands out more in a crowd, and also because I like him more than Martialla) and sleeping in alleys until I realized that wasn’t going to work.  I came to this realization after I had broken into the kitchen of Via Emilia Jardin and was sitting on the floor eating some kind of fancy sauce out of what looked like one of those big white buckets that painters have.  I could see my distorted reflection in the shiny metal freezer door dipping whole loaves of bread into the delicious gloop and then devouring them like a duck with breadcrumbs and I thought – something needs to change here. 

So I asked myself, if I was a USA super patriot, where would I stay in Madripoor?  Not in the best hotel around town, that would be too un-American.  The only US company I’ve seen around here is Derecktor, so I went down to their shipyards at the end of the day and then followed men in suits until one of them went to a hotel.  The Goodwood (heehee) Park Hotel was built by an English guy for German expatriates and looks like a castle – definitely the kind of place Staties would be hanging out.   

I was loitering outside trying to figure out my next move when I saw a woman I thought might be from the CS walking up with an armful of shopping bags.  She looked so much like Angela Dorian I thought it might be Angela Dorian for a minute.  I approached, apologizing profusely, as is our tradition in the CS, asking if she had a moment to talk.  When she smiled and said “Of course sweetie, you look like you’ve been through the wringer” in a pure Saint Louis accent, I knew I was golden.  You see, in the Coalition States people help one another, we don’t stab each other in the back like people from the US.   

A few minutes later, I was in the bathtub in her suite eating room service Beignets while she was looking through her clothes to see if she had anything that would look nice on me.  And I hadn’t even asked her for anything yet.  That was just the result of me asking her if she had a minute to talk.  I told her that I had come with my boyfriend but then he ran off on me and left me penniless and passportless.  She had a thing or two to say about that kind of bounder.   

I told her that I thought he might be staying in this hotel and gave her a general description of the Stars and Stripes fellow who got mixed up in that casino dustup.  He was wearing a mask of course, as all heroes do that don’t want to get their butts sued for the extensive physical and structural damage they cause, but I described his build and his blonde aggressive haircut.  She knew exactly who I was talking about, her lips tightened and she said “Oh, the Statie”.  Turns out that he was staying there and was downstairs at the front desk complaining about something or other every few hours.  She even knew what room he was staying in. 

Over lunch, she said that if I couldn’t get my passport back from my ex, she could smuggle me home in her husband’s company’s private jet.  Said husband is a bigshot in some manner of industrial cooling company.  Or coolant maybe.  Or cooling pipes maybe.  Whichever.  It was an appealing idea, go home and forget all this, but I politely declined.  I told her I still had to find and kill the world’s most notorious terrorist before I headed home.  She laughed in delight at my “joke”, almost as much as she did after she remarked on how “healthy” my appetite is. 

After lunch, we parted ways with a hug.  For a moment I thought her hands drifted south of the line of propriety, but that must have been my imagination – we don’t do that sort of thing in the CS.  I went up to Captain Bald Eagle Flag Waver’s suite and the door wasn’t even locked.  Which was disappointing because I was looking forward to breaking it.   

His suite wasn’t quite as nice as Maggie’s was, but it was still pretty swanky.  I guess being a government sponsored superpowered-assassin pays pretty well.  I heard what sounded like a weightlifter grunting his way through a set of squats, but was actually Mr. USA plowing away at a bored looking local woman. 

Missionary of course, god bless the USA!  He had a surprisingly saggy ass for a covert US superman.

“Gees man, calm down, I don’t think the goal is to drive her pelvis through the mattress.” 

He yelped and jumped off the bed, covering himself with a sheet in a surprisingly girlish move – and leaving his partner stark naked.   

“Here’s another tip, Romeo. Close your mouth, you were spitting all over her face with your weird grunting.” 

His face was a competing mask of outrage and confusion and shame “Who are you and why are you my room!?” 

“My code name is Lady Liberty and I need your help with a mission critical to the health and prosperity of the nation.” 

 His eyes darted nervously to his companion “Mission, what do you mean?” 

I nodded “Oh right, secret identities, mild mannered Clark Kent and all that, we should speak in private.  I can wait in the other room if you want to finish up here first.” 

Mantelderith 18 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Warning – this post is super duper sexy and erotic. Anyone with a heart condition or women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should not read it!

I heard the necklace hit the ground and then felt the chain sliding against my neck after the fact – like I was experiencing time in reverse for two seconds.  It made a chiming sound like tapping on a crystal glass with a silver fork.  Which doesn’t make sense, the floor is wooden.  It shouldn’t have made a sound like that.  The sound should have been flatter and lower.  There was a kind of a thumping sound when the clasp unlocked as well – a sound like when you close a book.  Not slam it shut, but when you just close it a little harder than you meant to.  Kind of a soft slapping sound.  That also makes no sense, but that was sound was magic so you can forgive that, there are no rules for magic.  But the necklace hitting the floor I can’t explain that.  I’ve dropped necklaces on wood floors before, that’s not what it sounds like.  I don’t know what that sticks in my mind. 

My first instinct was to run, to get as far away from Juost manor as possible.  The only reason they found me the first time I rabbited on them was because of the necklace that isn’t a problem now.  I’m pretty hard to find when I want to be.  Not to mention which it would take them time to start looking.  Their first assumption probably wouldn’t be that I was the murderer.  Matter of fact they may never come looking for me at all.  While the desire to run is natural when you find yourself sitting by the bed of a dead guy covered with blood that only makes you look guilty.  If someone turns up dead and you’re riding away on a horse in the middle of the night that’s a confession.  There’s no reason anyone would suspect me, so running would be the worst thing I could do.  And yet I was a fraction of a second away from doing just that.  I had all but decided to get up and flee the scene before the rational part of my mind raised its hand.

The smart move is to merely return to my room like nothing happened.  Even if anyone saw me come in here, which I don’t know if they did, what reason would they have to suspect me?  The only people that knew I was coming here were my friends.  Well, not my friends, but one friend and two hirelings.  Rakhaj I think I can count on not to rat me out, Belzegara on the other hand is more of a question mark.  All I know is that she’s in it for the money – if she thought that there was more money to be made in snitching on me there’s no reason I see that she wouldn’t.  I could probably make sure that retraining me as a paymaster was the more attractive path for her to go down.  To be totally safe I should kill them both.  But I can worry about whether or not to kill them later. 

I certainly hadn’t come here expecting to kill anyone.  In the morning I had sent Martialla and Belzegara to pick up some things for me while I took Rakhaj with me to the old church to look at some of the records they had been telling me about.  The old clerk they had mentioned turned out to be fairly hale.  Don’t get me wrong he was old, but I tend to reserve calling people old for people that are enfeebled by age and he seemed to get around fine.  It was mildly amusing to see Rakhaj pawing through crumbly old documents with his giant hands – he’s got a surprisingly delicate touch.  This was mostly to kill time but it never hurts to get more information about the problem you’re trying to deal with.  I was hoping at that point that the necklace would come off later in the day but I wasn’t sure.  I certainly never thought that the millstone around my neck would be released the way it was.

After I had lunch with the gang we spent the afternoon shooting the shit.  Rakhaj seems a lot more comfortable around women just talking and hanging out than a lot of men.  Maybe because he’s not interested in them sexually.  His tales were as gruesome, as you might expect from a gladiator, but some of them were actually pretty funny.  A mark in his favor is that unlike a lot of men who hack people’s arms off for a living he hasn’t totally lost perspective of what’s amusing to normal people who aren’t desensitized to violence.  Or at least people like myself, Martialla, and Belzegara who aren’t totally desensitized to violence.  I’ve found that a lot of those types mistake grisliness for entertainment value.  Rakhaj understands that a story about a guy getting his head chopped off isn’t funny in and of itself, the guy has to be naked or something.  Belzegara is a much better weaver of a story, but for someone who was in the army and then became a bounty hunter she had a surprising dearth of good material.  Maybe she just saves the good stuff until she knows you better.  Some people try to win you over with their best stories right off the bat, but some people hold back the good stuff until they feel you deserve it.

In the late afternoon I took a nap to make sure I would be well-rested for my rendezvous with destiny.  After I woke up I took a nice long bath and then while everyone else was eating dinner I started my preparations.  I usually skip eating in this scenario because you don’t want to be bloated when it gets down to business time.  At least I don’t, there’s probably some weirdoes out there that do.  I know what you’re thinking “the meeting with the Baron wasn’t until midnight!” but here’s the deal, I’ve told you this before, beauty takes time.  Obviously I’m gorgeous no matter what, but the ultimate beauty of a diamond only comes out after you polish it and set it on the right ring the right way you know.  This was an important event, there was no reason not to look my absolute best. 

 And I say this without a hint of ego – I was looking ravishing.  The queen is reckoned to be a great beauty, but that’s all blowing smoke – I know who the truly eye-catching women are in the Kingdom are and on that night there’s only a handful that could have held a candle to me.  No brag, just fact.  About an hour before midnight I took a little wine – not enough to get tipsy (although it takes quite of bit to get my tipsy these days) but enough to kind of smooth things out you know?  I’m not one of these people who advocates getting stinking drunk before having to do something you don’t want to do, but a couple drinks never hurts the situation.  Calm the nerves a little bit, nothing wrong with that.  Twenty minutes before midnight I spritzed on a little scent – that’s enough time for it to dissipate enough not to be overwhelming, what you want is just the hint of the perfume.  Or a suggestion of the perfume if you will.  Martialla and Belzegara hadn’t been able to find any of my usuals in town but what they brought back was good enough.

A few minutes before midnight I made my way the Baron’s bedchamber.  It really is too bad that no one saw me (probably) as I made my way through the halls because as I said I was looking very fine indeed.  It’s the kind of thing that really should have been captured in a painting.  For posterity.  A hundred years from now people are going to want to know how great I looked on this night.  And yet, sadly, they cannot.  It’s a real shame.  When I went through the door he Baron was already lying on the bed with the possessive/dismissive/admiring/degrading smirk that men like him always have in situations like this.  I’m used to it, but there’s a part of me what would love to wipe those smirks of all the faces of all these men in the world.  I guess I did this time, although I didn’t know what then.

When I first got saddled with his surveillance necklace I thought about seducing the Baron as a way to get it off but there was just never time.  Is it ironic that in the end he called for me?  No, but it’s something.  Serendipity?  No, I think that’s for good things.  I’m sure there’s a word for it. 

It’s been a while, but I fell back into the old routine easily.  After all, this is what I do.  Or did anyway.  I brought him his booze, I lit his flayleaf, I tittered when it was appropriate to titter, I was demure when it was time to be demure, and I was bold and provocative when it was appropriate to be so.  Nothing I hadn’t done many times before, it was all old hat for me and probably for the Baron as well.  Or maybe not, maybe he’s mostly just dragging his maids in here and hasn’t worked with a pro.  I suppose we’ll never find out now.  Which is fine.

He told me to undress for him.  This is a pretty standard thing but it’s one of the steps in the dance that I’ve come to loathe.  Which isn’t to say that I’m not good at it, I’m fucking great at it!  It just reinforces the power dynamic – it’s not enough that you’re going to have sex with them first you have to perform for them.  And that performance better be just what they fucking want or there’s going to be trouble.  The only thing that I hate more is when they ask me to sing for them.  Thankfully that’s pretty rare, most men don’t have time for that nonsense. 

Everything was going great up until this point, it was a by the book affair that promised to culminate in what I expect would have been by the book sexual congress.  But I noticed that as I was undressing sensually for him that I wasn’t getting quite the reaction that I was expecting.  I told you, I am GREAT at this.  I didn’t expect him to sit up and pant like a hound, but I know the (not) subtle signs of when a man is getting what he wants and they were just a little off.  I didn’t think much of it though, no big deal right?  It was about to turn into a very big deal.  Once I stood before him in my fully glory – and I don’t mean to belabor the point but there was a fuckton of glory to be beheld – he didn’t seem pleased.  In fact he seemed to be scowling slightly. 

My first thought, honest to Gods, was that some monster was behind me.  Given all the crazy shit and bad luck I’ve had lately when I saw his face what I envisioned was that there was a giant spider monster on the wall behind me.  Or that Wesel ghost had raised out of the ground rotted face and all.  Or a skin hag had flown in the room.  Or Kartak was standing there with a sword in hand having just climbed in the window.  Something along those lines. 

“What’s wrong My Lord?” I asked while subtly trying to turn my head and look for monsters with my peripherals.

He made a face like someone who’s been served an inferior bourbon and is going to drink it anyway because what are they going to do?  Not get drunk? 

“Oh, it’s just your body . . . it’s not quite what I was expecting.  I can deal with it though.”

I still didn’t understand at that point.  Without trying to be obvious about it I tried to look myself over for some weird magic mark or a hag’s brand or something like that – some bizarre magic blemish or mutatation that had just appeared on my body or that I had somehow managed to overlook.  It seems strange to say that perhaps, but it’s easier to overlook an odd thing on your own body than you think.  Even if you stand in front of a mirror nude you don’t get the same view as someone else – and who the Hells stands in front of a mirror nude?  I asked him what he meant.

“I thought you were a proper lady.  But you have sun lines on your arms and neck like a peasant girl.  And you have scars.  Did you father do that do you?  How did you come by all those scars?  And you have . . . . muscles.  I can see them on your stomach and on your legs.”

He said muscles as if that was the most disgusting thing that anyone could ever possibly observe – like in the totality of the universe.  Honestly he put more revilement and repugnance into that one word than I have ever heard before.  I doubt he could have found it more grotesque if live snakes had been slithering out of my pussy onto the floor.  I was stunned and shocked and astonished and speechless and whatever other word you want to put in the mix.  That was not a reaction I would have ever anticipated in a thousand lifetimes.  In a million lifetimes. 

Don’t get me wrong, I know full well that with all the physical activity I’ve had over the last year that my physique is a little more athletic than the courtly ideal (which I assure you I nailed on the noggin before).  And yes I do have a few very tiny scars that you can’t really notice.  The tan lines thing I’ll give him but when you’re outside all the damn time there’s not a lot you can do about that. 

I’ve been poised before, and drugged.  Not to mention the times I’ve been rendered insensible by magic.  A handful of times I’ve gotten drunk enough not to remember what I did.  Although it’s never happened to me, I’ve been in enough fights to understand battle-rage or “wearing the bear shirt” as the Northmen call it.  But up until that point I never really believed the people who claim that they blacked out and murdered someone.  Someone claims that they sliced up their wife and tossed her in the bog but they don’t remember it?  I always called bullshit on that before.  And maybe most of the time it is bullshit. 

But what I can tell you is that I remember standing there in front of the Baron completely paralyzed by his words and the next thing I remember is sitting in a chair beside his bed with a knife in my hand and the necklace falling off.  There was blood on the knife, there was blood on me, there was blood on him – the bed was soaked with blood.  And I mean that literally, it was so saturated with blood I could hear it dripping through onto the floor underneath.  The Baron was dead as dead can be.  I’ve seen a lot of dead people over the past year and I can unequivocally say that he was the deadest dead guy I’ve ever seen.  I must have stabbed him fifty times, well after the point where he was dead.  He was deader than fuck is my point.

After the necklace fell off I said to no one “Well that was easy.”

You probably think that I killed this man out of pure vanity.  And maybe I did, I can’t say what was going on my mind because I can’t remember.  But I don’t think so.  I think that was only part of it, that was the trigger maybe, but I think what was really behind it was everything.  The Duke’s wife getting me thrown out of court.  The Duke tossing me aside like garbage, leaving me in an alley to die.  All the shit that’s happened since then.  All the trauma, all the horror, all the violence, all the schemes and the lies and the scams.  And probably, if you want to get philosophical, it was all the stuff that happens to me before I even went to court.  Leaving my family at a young age, the training, the struggle, life at court itself, all of it.  My whole life.  I don’t think this was me murdering a man because he said I wasn’t attractive enough for him, not entirely.  I think it was me murdering a man because of all the things that have happened to me.  His words released a dam.  Or an avalanche.  Whatever metaphor you want to use. 

I stabbed a man to death, apparently quietly enough that he didn’t scream and bring everyone running.  And then I kept on stabbing him.  Based on the blood on my legs I climbed into him and was stabbing him like that at one point.  And then I sat down on a chair.  And I don’t remember any of that.  This is troubling.  I don’t think this sort of thing is likely to happen again, a straw can break a camel’s back only once right?  And even if it were to happen again I doubt it would be a regular occurrence.  But I don’t know that.  And in any event it doesn’t feel good to know that you were out of control for a moment even if it never happens again.  I don’t know what you do about that.  How to you combat your own mind?  Maybe I need to be more in touch with my feelings?  I don’t know.

The Baron?  Who gives a shit.  He was an asshole anyway.  And at least I the necklace is off now.  All things considered it could have gone worse. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 53,040 platinum, 21,660 gold

XP: 1,147,551

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

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

Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane, Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa, eyeless hag, Baron Saltwheel, Baron Harmenkar, Colonel Tarl Ciarán’s wizard soldier, Victor, Beharri, Cebuano, Mayor Eryn, Chimera Trading Company