Montresor 18 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) part 2

The “fun” thing about battle fury is when it ends.  One moment I’m jumping around swinging my sword like man and then all of a sudden I was thinking to myself “why am I running onto this ship instead of hiding back on shore shooting with my crossbow?”  It’s great.  One of the sailors (are they still sailors on a river?  I guess the boat did have a sail.  What do you call people that work on a sail-less vessel?  Seamen?  But what if they’re not on the sea?  Or men?) came at me with a hook (not like a hook for a hand a tool of some kind) but I managed to grab her by the horn-antlers and knock her off balance.  Also I stabbed her through the stomach.  I should have said something like “nice rack!” but a guy with a sword (I think they’re called cutlasses when you’re on a ship – which is not good since I’m a lass and I don’t like being cut) was coming at me and he looked pretty pissed.

I managed to parry his first stroke but then I was reminded that fencing isn’t really my thing.  I’m more comfortable stabbing people in the back.  Preferably while they’re asleep.  Also it would be good if someone else was doing the stabbing while I was watching from a safe distance and drinking champagne with orange-flavored triple sec liqueur and cranberry juice.  He backed me up with his swinging cutlass (if you know what I mean) whereupon I tripped over some kind of nautical thing that had ropes tied to it.  Did he do that on purpose?  That’s some pretty crafty fighting using the environment to his advantage like that.  As he loomed over me I used my Stole and a few bars of The Farewell Aria of The Red King Bajazet to fill his face with jagged shards – pretty sure one of them went in his eye.  I could have done without seeing that. 

I poked him through the heart (you know with my sword) or at least somewhere close to the heart and he went down to the deck.  I looked him dead in the eye and said “I hope you already got paid for this voyage because the rent in the Hells is paid in advance!”  Now that’s a quip.  I need to make sure that I work on something really good for when I finally kill Duke Eaglevane.  What’s better than killing your most hated enemy? Sending them into the afterlife with your voice in their ears and the knowledge of your victory in their head, that’s what.

Another sailor came at me with her horns but I was able to sidestep and direct her over the side.  You’d think an able seawoman (riverwoman?) would know better than to run at someone with their head down like a goat on the deck of a ship.  An officer looking fellow started playing a fife which seems like a pretty silly thing to do in a fight but I assume that he was doing some kind of magic.  I advanced on him but another horned woman came forward to lash at me with a whip.  I’ve talked about the insanity of using a whip in combat before, they were a combat duo to beat a full house for sure – the fifist and the whip master. 

Despite my scorn the horned whipper managed to entangle my sword and send it flying into the river which is annoying because that thing was expensive.  I wonder how many valuable magic items are lying at the bottom of rivers after skirmishes like this.  Seems like you could make a pretty good living going around and gathering them all up with water breathing magic.  The fifist contributed concussive blast that knocked me back and over the side of the ship myself.  The question is – is the fife itself magic or did he just use it to cast a spell of his own?  Sadly we’ll never know.    

If you ever have someone cast a water walking spell on you here’s something to keep in mind – if you fall (or dive) into the water that’s like slamming into solid ground.  I was a little dazed tumbling over the side of the landing craft onto the hard, hard water but not so dazed that I wasn’t able to get out my crossbow and shoot the whip wielder in the face as she came over to look.  I clambered back on board where the fifist and the few other people still around all jumped off and started swimming towards another ship.  I’m generally not someone who gets hung up on fighting fair or honorable combat obviously, but there is something discomforting about shooting someone in the back of the head while they’re swimming away.  I still did it but I don’t feel great about it.

I hurled a blazing lantern from my Greatcoat onto that ship as well (why didn’t I do that from the start?) and then walked out onto the water to take stock of the situation.  The blazing fishing boats were drifting downstream towards the greater body of the Ulpine fleet but they weren’t doing much other than bottling up the river – the Ulpinese had smaller boats out in front pushing the fireships away with long poles or just extinguishing the fires.  The landing party had left dozens of bodies in the river, looks like they got mauled coming out of the water, but they had numbers on their side and were in the process of flanking the defenders and overwhelming them.  Grigori was in the mix fighting with a staff like a lunatic – must mean he’s out of magic.  There are a lot of reasons to disdain magic, foremost among them is its limited nature.  My crossbow never runs out of bolts. 

“Ela isn’t that because of magic?”

Shut up you!  As I dashed for the shore I saw a fucking shark tearing into one of the bodies in the river.  A shark!  In a river!  Nobody told me there was such a thing as river sharks!  And you know what else?  It was right at that fucking moment that the spell failed and I belly-flopped into the water.  You know, where the FUCKING sharks are!!!  As you know I’m not a very strong swimmer and having a longcoat on certainly doesn’t help – and you know what else doesn’t help?  Knowing that there’s a GODS DAMNED SHARK IN THE WATER!!!

Thankfully I was close to the bank anyway and I was able to clamber back into land quickly before any sharks murdered me.  I wanted to lay there for a moment to catch my wind, people underestimate the cardiovascular demands of fighting for even a couple minutes, but things were looking dire.  As they say no rest for the beautiful.  I called upon my Stole and blasted the backs of the marines with a quick sea shanty the name of which I forget – it’s about salt and sea and womanizing shame but I suppose they all are.  I would have liked to stay back and done some crossbowing but unfortunately I have to get pretty close for the Stole to do its thing so I waded into the melee with the Baron’s Cane.  Just in time to turn the tide like a big damn hero. 

The Ulpine marines tried to retreat to their boat only to find that their boat was gone and also was on fire.  With no other choice they looked like they were steeling themselves for a last stand on the riverbank but I used my voice amplification once again and told them they should swim for it – we were granting them safe passage.  Once they were in the water I start shooting at them, as did the dwarf after a moment and one of the villagers who had a hunting bow.  One of the other surviving villagers, whose hand was mangled and bloody, ran over and asked in horror what we were doing.

“We’re killing those guys who came to murder you and your entire family.  What did you think we were doing?”

Regrouping, a good half of the villagers had been killed, but the dwarfs and the two casters were still alive and kicking although much worse the wear.  I saw the witch attending the wounded and healing them with her magic.  I turned to Grigori.

“Since when can witches heal people?”

“That’s one of the main abilities of witches.  The role of witches is smoothing out life’s little aches and pains and helping people with their day to day lives.  They’re like wizards for the common people.”

“Since when?  All I ever see witches do is turn people into pig-monsters and build weird huts in trees that look like screaming faces.”

“I think that you’re thinking of hags rather than witches.”

Before I could respond I was interrupted by a building behind me exploding – knocking me face-first into the dirt and showering the backs of my legs and ass with debris and splinters.  Which for the record I don’t care for.  When I managed to sit up, I saw the culprit – another ship had swung into position by the shore with a couple of ballista on the deck.  I didn’t know they had ballista bolts that would make buildings blow apart like they were filled with smoke power but I guess I do now.  I am confident beyond all reasonable doubt that the purpose of this fleet is to destroy the bridge to the north – they’ve probably been burning the boats of any village they come across along the way just as a matter of practicality.   And just for fun too most likely, military people being what they are.  But by standing up to them a little bit it probably pissed off the commodore or admiral or whoever’s in charge of a river force enough that he ordered the place smashed to the ground.  It’s a real bastard of a choice – let the soldiers fuck you up and hope that they’ll have some mercy or fight back and know that then they’re going to really fuck you up.

I staggered to my feet and waved the others forward “Time to go gents.”

The dwarf with the crazy eyebrows frowned at me “What’s wrong with your skin?”

I looked down and saw my tattoos glowing brilliantly, shining through my clothes as they like to do “Are you shitting me?!”

Montagem 19 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

After a couple hours of walking today Martialla said that we needed to cross the river.  It was at this point I noticed that we were on the  side of the river.  How the Hells did that happen?  I know we were on the left side before – Obsis is WEST of the Scale River, the West I say!  Assuming that’s the river we’ve been following.  There’s too many damn rivers around here.

“What happened?  Did we get lost following a river?!”

“No, it’s just the asylum is across the river.”

“But the river is on the other side!”

“The other side of what?’

“We were heading north along the river and the river was on our right.  How did it get on the left?”

“The river bends to the east, besides this isn’t the river this is Turkey Creek, which splits off from the Hairpin river, which splits off from the Lower Scale which splits off from the North Umberlee.”

“You don’t know, you’re not a river . . . . . woman.  I wanted to say oceanographer but that’s for oceans.  What do you call a river expert?”

“A loser.”

“But how did we get on the other side?  If this is the Turkey Creek why is on the left and which way are we going?”

“We crossed the river, the other river I mean, yesterday.”

“We did?”

“Do you really want to talk about this?” She pointed “There’s the asylum right there, it’s on the other side – can we just go?”

I peered into the distance “Huh.  Is there a bridge somewhere?”

“How would I know?”

“Is this a ford?  Can we just walk across?”

“How would I know?”

“Well what do you know?!”

She held up a fist “One of these days Ela, one of these days.”

“You wish.  I’m not the greatest swimmer in the world.  I don’t love the idea of trying to paddle across if the water is deep.  This looks pretty big for a creek if you ask me, more like a river.  Is there a way to tell where a good place to cross a river is?”

“Probably there is, but I don’t know it.  Do you want to put your arms around my neck while I swim like a little kid?”

“Actually yeah.”

She was taken aback “You do?”

“I know you were mocking me but I think it would be a good idea.”

“Wow, I . . . wow, okay.  Let’s do it.”

Here’s what I’m saying.  We saw a caravan cross the river unmolested.  We saw a couple boats and even a dumb canoe and they were all fine.  As soon as we were in the water and far enough away from the shore for it to be an issue I saw a dark shape in the water coming towards us.  I am not kidding, the MOMENT that we were in deep enough that we were swimming (well mostly Martialla, you can kick your legs when you’re clinging to someone else but it doesn’t help a ton – plus I was all tangled up in my coat) I saw it.  Like it was waiting for us.  Me specifically.  A million idiots could have crossed this river just fine but the moment I step foot in the waters something is trying to eat me. 

As you all know I don’t believe in fate or luck or anything like that, BUT curses are real – I know because I’ve been cursed like fifteen damn times.  And Gods and demons and otherworldly “things” are also real and can take an interest in fouling up your life.  Is there some inhuman creature that loves the Duke and knows that I’m after him and is taking measures to throw obstacles in my way?  If there is why don’t they just tell the Duke so he can send a hundred men to kill me?  Is that against the “rules”?  It gets into that whole territory of “why don’t the Gods just tell their followers what to do instead of being all coy?”  If you’re a devout and true cleric why do you have to cast a spell to talk to your God, and when you do why are their answers all cryptic and infuriating?  Some people speculate that the Gods have a compact with each other to only influence mortals to avoid a universe destroying God-fight.  That’s too convenient an explanation for me.  I think it’s more likely that the Gods aren’t as powerful as people think, they don’t really know what’s going on and they don’t have time to worry about everyone.  And I think even more likely than that is that irrespective of power they don’t really care enough to bother with us all the time.

“Crocodile!  Swim faster!”

“Yeah, grab me harder around the throat – that should help!”

I let go because I saw immediately there was going to be no way to escape – if there’s an aquatic animal slower than a swimming human I’ve never heard of it.  I mean beavers look like they can barely move on land but they can still swim circles around the best human swimmer in the world.  We don’t belong in the water.  It wasn’t a crocodile, it was a canoe-sized fish with a bunch of sharp teeth.  I don’t know what kind of fish it was, I’m not an icthologist, ictheologists, ickythorigst . . . I don’t know about fish.  I thought about grabbing Martialla’s rapier as I floated away, but trying to swim with a sword in your hand is a degree of difficulty I don’t need.  I probably would have lost it in the water.  I hadn’t really noticed a current before, but once I was on my own I quickly saw that I was being swept downstream faster than I was making it towards the shore. 

Martialla was thrashing in the water and wrestling with the giant fish (gar?  That’s a big killer fish right?) and still managed to make it to shore well before I did even after engaging in an aquatic knife against tooth fight.  She probably had to walk a half mile along the shore to catch me and drag me out of the water.

“What the Hells was that?”

I struggled to haul myself up, I felt like I had half the river soaking my clothing “I told you, I’m not the strongest swimmer.”

“You can say that again.”

“Get off my back, I’m not exactly dressed for swimming a river.  What was I supposed to do, strip naked?”

“You could have at least taken your jacket off.  You know, it would have been so easy to drown you just then.  Did you think about that?”

“Yes, it’s all I ever think about, use your magic to dry me off before I catch my death.”

She tied a strip of cloth around her bloody arm “Of course, of course, priorities.  I’m fine by the way.”

The asylum was a couple miles away from the river.  I didn’t see any kind of trails so I wonder how they get their supplies.  Also who bothers to pay for a bunch of crazies anyway?  I assumed that it was so far out of the way to protect people from the plague of madness but as we got closer I saw the place was huge.  It looked like a fortress, because it was at one time.  I tend to forgot how often the Kingdom is at war with whoever’s available and how much of the land has changed hands.  Fifty years ago (I think) this place would have been on the border with Vieland – and you need forts to keep those dirty Vielanders at bay.  Since the border is now far away (although not as far as when the current war started – I should see how that’s going) the fort apparently was turned into a nuthouse.  I guess that’s better than leaving it abandoned to become home to a clan of bugbears.

The two fellows at the front door were confused, they don’t get a lot of visitors here and never any unscheduled visitors (how do you schedule a visit?  Send a letter?) but they rallied quickly and went to find an administrator.  As we waited I turned to Martialla.

“So what do you think, is the place haunted and we’re going to be attacked by giests or are the unethical doctors turning the patients into monsters and we’re going to have to fight them?”

“What’s a giest?”

“It’s like a ghost only meatier.”

One of the guards or orderlies or escaped patients wearing the face of a guard or orderly showed us to an office where we were introduced to a surprisingly attractive lady doctor which long dark hair.  I would have thought working in a place like this you’d keep your hair short so the lunging lunatics couldn’t grab it.  If it wasn’t for her disgusting heterochromatic eyes she would have really been something.  We told her that we wanted to visit Hardra, and also we wanted to know why Hardra was there.  She took us to see another doctor, who I swear said that her name was Dr. Sugarcane – which upon hearing it I filed away as a great name for a drug dealer.  We repeated our request and then were taken to see Dr. Oathsday who then took us into another office to wait for the big bossman.  Three lady doctors on the staff, but a man’s in charge.  It’s so commonplace it’s almost not even worth commenting on.  As we waited I picked up some curious instrument off the desk and examined it.

“What does it mean to be a doctor?”

“That you went to school I guess.”

“I went to school, does that make me a doctor?”

“Maybe it has to be a doctor school.”

The head administrator, or warden, or owner, or escaped mental patient wearing the face of the head administer or warden or owner was an old man whose face was so saggy that it pulled his wrinkles smooth.  It was odd.  We was wearing spectacles but they were so dirty and smudged I don’t see how he could see – it would have been like looking out a filthy window.  We talked for a while and he flat out admitted that they were keeping Hardra there because they had been bribed to keep her there.

“Well, that’s a startling admission, usually I have to pull that kind of information out of people.”

He held is hands up helplessly “Running this facility is very expensive.  And the poor woman isn’t exactly well.”

“What’s wrong with her?”

“Being dead and then coming back to life is a traumatic experience.  She’s not adjusting well.”

“Are you helping her with that?” He rocked his hand back and forth in an “eh” gesture. “Aren’t you worried we’re going to tell someone?”

He shrugged “Who would care?  And if they did I would honestly be relieved if I was taken away from here.  Even to prison or the gibbet”

“So why do you stay?”

“Someone has to.”

“That’s crazy.”

“Well I’m in the right place for it.”

“That woman works for Baron Juost and we’re here to take her away.”

He nodded slightly “That’s fine.”

“It is?”

“I’m sure she’ll be better off with her friends.”

“What about the people that paid you to keep her here?”

He gave me a surprisingly shrewd look “I have a feeling they won’t be a problem anymore.  I’ll send someone to bring your friend.”

“Just tell us where she is, we’ll go and fetch her.”

“That wouldn’t be wise, there are some very dangerous people here.”

“Is this a prison too?  I thought this place was just for loons.  And of course people you’re paid to unlawfully incarcerate.”

“There are several people here who have committed murders of a ritual nature.”

“You mean serial killers?  What?!  Why?!”

“They were deemed to be mentally divergent, and therefore not responsible for their actions.  Executing them wouldn’t be just.”

“So what, you’re going to fix them and then turn them loose?”

“No, they’ll never leave her.”

“So then what’s the point?  It’s wrong to execute them so you just lock them up forever?”

He had no answer to that so we sat in silence for a while until two nurses – one of whom looked just like a vocal coach I worked with back at court – brought in Hardra.  I didn’t recognize her at first, I thought maybe they were trying to pull a fast one on us, but the eyes told me it was her.  Instead of blocky she was gaunt, which strangely had rounded off her hard features rather than making them stand out as you would expect.  Her perpetually frowning face looked tight and weathered, yet also younger looking somehow.  She was wearing a grey bodysuit type thing with a thick white sleeveless dress over it.  She didn’t look happy to see me. 

At all.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 53,040 platinum, 8,000 gold

XP: 953,251

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Ela’s Dazzling Garment, Belt of Physical Might +4, Ring of Urban Grace, Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Extraordinary Walking Stick, Ela’s Elegant Boots, Ela’s Extravagant Necklace, +1 Adamantine Dwarf Waraxe  

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