A certain point of view? Day in the life of Martialla

Martialla hadn’t liked Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi from day one.  Martialla is in favor of protecting the oceans as much as anyone (more than most actually) but she looks dimly on anyone who brags about being an “eco-warrior”.  Making things worse though was the fact that Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi clearly had no idea what she was doing.  When they first met she was bragging about sinking an oil tanker and when Martialla asked how she prevented the oil in the tanker from spilling into the ocean Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi just stared at her like she didn’t know what she meant.

So they didn’t get off on a good foot and things just went downhill the more Martialla learned about her – namely that her most frequent acts of “eco-warrioring” were attacking the crews of shipping vessels and drowning them.  Not being a fan of casual murder in general this was bad, but given that Martialla had also worked on such a vessel for years herself you can imagine she didn’t love what Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi was doing. 

Martialla was mostly convinced that Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi was not just stupid, but also that she didn’t even truly care that much about the cause she professed to be doing it for – that she was just using environmentalism as an excuse for doing what she wanted to do anyway, wreck stuff and hurt people.  And if we’re being honest, and I think that we are, Martialla is just little bit racist against pacific islanders.  She would tell you that it’s because of some bad experiences she had but people always have an excuse for their ugly little prejudices don’t they?

So when Rusalka told Martialla that Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi was causing some kind of trouble for the Shachi undersea mobile research facility, which was nearby at the time, she went to check it out not because she cares a whit about the Empire of Japan and their aquatic research projects, but because she wanted and excuse to take a strip off Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi and be in the right doing so.

The Shachi mobile complex looked to Martialla’s eye vaguely like an aircraft carrier underwater, although more symmetrical and sleek than a real surface dwelling one.  It was resting on the ocean floor which she was pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to be doing, and the bodies of several Japanese sailors were handing in the water which was also a tip off that something was not going the way everyone expected.  One of them was being nibbled at by a trio of circling whitetip sharks. 

Funny story, when she was an able seaman (woman but you know) she wasn’t afraid of sharks.  She never really even thought about sharks.  Why would she?  It’s not something sailors think about.  But now that she’s an undersea super person she hates sharks.  And she knows that it’s completely irrational because even if a shark did try and take a bite out of her (which it wouldn’t) she’s not only much faster than any shark in the sea (even the short fin mako!) and could get away, even if it did get close to her. when she’s underwater she’s fast and strong enough to catch it and tear it in half like a sadistic little boy with a minnow from the bait shop.

So she kept on eye on those harmless to her sharks as she approached the Shachi and entered through the submarine bay.  Some people call it a wet dock, but Martialla finds that term crass and suggestive.  There was no one at the C&C center as she came out of the water and no lights on, which wasn’t a problem for her fish eyeballs.  Looking around she did notice a woman in diving gear laying on the floor in a supply area and trying not to be noticed.  After initial language fumbling they were able to communicate in Russian. 

Im Geum-ja started off by begging Martialla not to eat her (offensive) but once they got over that explained what she knew.  Im Geum-ja had been outside the station doing routine maintenance when she saw several of her fellow navy people swimming around without any sort of gear.  That would have been strange enough, but then they planted explosives on a supply sub and blew it up that really got her attention.  She fled back to the Shachi as best speed where she found her comrades beating the shit out of her commanding officer. 

She watched in horror as they held her commander up while a “green water devil” came into the bay and ate his head.  Literally just bit his head off, crunched it up and swallowed it.  They tossed the headless body into the water and sauntered off.  She had been laying there ever since paralyzed with fear. 

Martialla told her to get a fresh tank and head for the surface and Madripoor.  When Im protested that this was a secret facility Martialla told her if she wanted to live it was time to leave.  When Im asked her if it was safe outside Martialla, not one to mince words, told her “probably not”. 

Martialla made her way through several maintenance bays and the head (where she found a dead sailor with his throat slashed) into the officer’s quarters where she found a man tied to as sink and badly beaten.  Im, who had been trailing her unobtrusively, called him Kurokodairu and immediately untied him – even as he seemed to be shouting abuse at her. 

Im stood downcast as he shouted at her until Martialla demanded to know what was going on.  A three-way translated conversation from Japanese to Russian ensued.  The Senior Chief Petty Officer was not happy that Im was there without a mark on her while mutineers ran free.  He made a big deal of showing off his wounds and said that the only reason he was still alive is because the “monsters” needed his knowledge of the ship. 

Martialla remembered idiots like him from her time in the military and her civilian jobs jobs as well – guys who seem to really want to go down with the ship and take everyone else with them.  She had worked with a guy named Fitzroy that was a former close combat instructor and worked as an “anti-piracy specialist”.  Ass.  Hole.  Even though she couldn’t understand what he was saying she knew this guy was a Fitzroy.  In a way it was comforting to know that as different as Canada and the Empire of Japan are you still find the same kind of people.

Martialla was tempted to tie him back up, especially when he started talking about how Im needed to find a weapon so they could take back the ship, but she didn’t.  Instead she locked them both in the room and continued on her way.  She passed a few sailors that had undergone some kind of transformation – their skin having the blue pallor of a body that’s been left in the water for weeks or months.  They didn’t pay her any attention. 

One the bridge she found Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi, Tiger Shark, the aforementioned “green water devil” who looked more like  lizard guy than a fish guy, and someone else she didn’t know that looked like a whale crossed with a catfish crossed with a guy.  Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi rolled her eyes like you do when you’re trying to impress your friends with your new skates and your little sister runs over with her stupid pogo stick for stupid babies. 

Even though he looked like a lizard the green guy called himself the Great White (are these any water guys that don’t name themselves sharks?) and he seemed to be the brains of the operation.  He started blathering on about created a new world where everyone lived under the water.  He said that he had released a gas that was turning the loyal crew here into mer-people and they were quashing all opposition.  

Over Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi’s objections he invited Martialla to join in his grand vision of a better world – a world under the sea.  Martialla shot him in the head.  Martialla chased after the Tiger Shark and shot him a couple times too but he escaped into the water and she knows from experience that he’s a fast healer. 

When she got back to the bridge Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi and the catfish-whale guy were gone.  Martialla went back to let Im and Kurokodairu loose and explain to them that it was time to abandon ship.  Kurokodairu was a real pill about it at first but eventually was convinced there was no way to get things back on track.  Together the three of them gathered up a half dozen other loyalists and headed out to sea.  Some of the newly made mer-people tried to stop them but their only power the gas gave them seemed to be the ability to breath under water, they couldn’t even swim any faster – they were no match for Martialla. 

Martialla coming out of the water onto the beach has become a common enough sight that people don’t flip their lid about it anymore, but doing so with eight Japanese Navy divers raised a few eyebrows.  Once they were on land Im revealed that she was less of a Japanese navy woman and more of a Korean unwilling conscript.  Martialla shrugged and told her she was in Madrpoor now, she could be whatever she wanted.

Twenty minutes later Martialla met up with Ela and Lucien at a seaside café where Ela was doing what she’s always doing – stuffing her face with food she didn’t pay for and giving Martialla judgmental looks. 

“Why are you late?  What were you doing?!”

Martialla picked up a menu “Nothing.”

Madripoor – People at their most beautiful, humanity at its ugliest

As part of my continuing promise to deliver significantly less content with 70s super-Ela than D&D Ela I think what I might do is make narrative posts on Monday and Friday and have Wednesday for backgrounds posts.   When I was thinking about where to kick this story off I thought of someplace like Madripoor.  Then I decided to just call it Madripoor.  It’s already an expy of Singapore, no reason to get meta-removed another level.  Unless I get sued by Marvel.   

Madripoor 

The city of Madripoor is the capital and lone urban area of the Kingdom of Madripoor, located in the southern portion of the Strait of Malacca, southwest of Singapore.  There is no official data but most estimates put the population of Madripoor around 9 million, making it one of the most densely populated places in the world.  

Madripoor is controlled by a cartel of influential individuals and families that reestablished the government after the death of the King and the dissolution of the parliament during the Japanese Empire’s invasion in 1942.  A treaty constructed under the influence of the United Nations in the early 50s secured Madripoor’s sovereignty, ending years of occupation.  

After independence Madripoor saw a population explosion as refugees from other Japanese Imperial conquests, having lost both home and property, flooded into the “free” city.  Madripoor does not extradite criminals making it a haven for people fleeing political or criminal issues as well.  

Dutch political scientist Amelia Guttmann described Madripoor as a “non-aligned crypto libertarian pseudo republic”.  Heiress Robin Hayworth said that Madripoor was “a great place to be rich”.  Travel author Kimble Anders called Madripoor “the closest thing I’ve seen to Hell on earth away from an active battlefield”.

Languages

The major languages spoken in in Madripoor are Indonesian, Malay, English, French, and Filipino.

Economy

Madripoor is home to the most luxurious and expensive hotels and high-end service industry in the world, while also possessing one of the most severe wealth inequities in history. This economic polarization has effectively divided the city into the ultra-modern haven of the very rich and powerful, and the domain of the hopelessly poor.

Madripoor grew prominent as a transshipment hub port during the days of wind-powered shipping. In modern times this aspect has declined but it remains a duty-free port with a high volume of re-export trade.

For several years, Madripoor has been one of the few countries with an AAA credit rating and the only Asian country to achieve this rating.  Madripoor attracts a large amount of foreign investment as a result of its location, skilled workforce, low tax rates, and advanced infrastructure.  Despite market freedom, Madripoor’s government operations have a significant stake in the economy, contributing 44% of the GDP. It is a popular location for conferences and events.

Montresor 16 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) part 2

“I’m not really a witch hunter.  I’m just an poor girl from a poor family roaming the countryside looking to put right what once went wrong.”

He shrugged “That’s fine, you’re the next best thing.”

“How so?  I admit that I do hate witches – one of them would be infesting my dreams with horror right now if I didn’t have magical wards keeping them out – but that hardly qualifies me to take on the somber duties of witch hunting. Isn’t that a government thing?  Part of the Royal Inquisition or some such?”

“Well you’re here so you’ll have to do.”

“Will I?  I don’t see any particular reason why I should care about your witch.”

“If you help me with your witch I’ll help you with yours.”

“Fair enough, but I would like to state for the record that I don’t believe you can actually help me do anything.  I think you suck at magic and I’m just going along with this out of curiosity.”

“Let the record so reflect.” He took a deep breath “Alright, we’ll go in a second, just give me a minute to catch my breath.”

“You’ve been standing here doing nothing, why are you so weary?”

“Trust me, I’m doing all sorts of magic things that you aren’t even aware of, it takes a toll it does.”

“I’m sure.”

We stood there wordlessly staring at each other and then after a minute he waved his hand and we crossed back over the bridge and headed downriver.  Despite taking a moment to rest he was wheezing like an old man.

“Why were you waiting for me on the other side of the bridge?  Also where are we going?”

“I thought you’d be coming from the other way.  We’re going to Peacevast, it’s a fishing village up the way.”

“Why are we going there?”

“That’s where the witch is.”

“If you know where she is what do you need a witch hunter for?”

He didn’t respond to that, not sure if it’s because he was too out of breath or because he had no answer for me.  Peacevast wasn’t more than a mile down the road, which makes you wonder why there was ever a need for a ferry crossing here in the first place.  It was your standard flyspeck of a village with one mildly interesting feature.  Outside of town (in as much as you can call two dozen buildings a town) there was a statue buried in the ground so that only the top of head was poking out.  The dirt covered it up about to the lips.  That protruding portion itself was a good two feet in height so based on that forehead the entire thing must have been massive.  My companion pointed at it with an incongruous tone of pride.

“No one knows who that’s a statue of, or how it ended up in the earth like that.”

“That’s King Harad the Fourth.”

He stopped in dismay “What?  How could you know that?”

“I’d recognize it anywhere, they have that same statue all over the place in Indlecastle and Paladore.  Municipal buildings and parks and such.  Even from just the top of the face I’m sure that’s what it is.  They made them out of a special kind of alabaster that I don’t think was ever used for anything else, that’s why it’s kind of sparkle like that.  Bit effeminate if you ask me but I think it’s supposed to be the shining of his moral righteousness or something.”

He stared at me like his entire worldview had been shattered “Well . . . how did it get in the ground?”

“I have no idea.”

That seemed to satisfy him “I didn’t think so.”

Once that odd little exchange was over we continued into the village and I saw the other distinguishing characteristic of Peacevast – the woman they had rigged up in the middle of town.  She wasn’t tied to a stake, as is tradition with witches, it was more like they had her hanging from a very large sawhorse.  Or a drying racking maybe.  You know what I mean.  Not like hanging upside down by the ankles, she had been lashed to the crossbeam (?) like a suckling pig on a spit.  It was hard to tell with all the ropes across her but she looked like a pretty normal woman in a gaudy purple dress.  Her dark hair hung down like a veil about her head, almost touching the floor.  The wandering wizard pointed.

“There she is.”

“Looks like they got her, seems like my job here is done.  Now for your end of the bargain.”

He shook his head “No, you need to set her free.”

“First of all you were looking for a witch hunter because you wanted to set a witch free?  Second of all I don’t even think she is a witch, she looks normal enough to me – witches are all misshaped and lumpy.  Third of all you’re a wizard and you can’t untie a rope?  I’m starting to suspect you don’t know what you’re doing.”

He sighed like this all just too much for him “Just get her down will you?”

I laughed shortly “Oh I’m sorry, am I inconveniencing you?  Somehow now I’m wasting your time?  Look at all that fucking rope, it must have taken them hours to tie her up like that.  I don’t want to undo all those knots.  Maybe we can burn the ropes off her.”

“How are you going to do that without killing her?!”

I scowled “You’re the one with magic!”

A weak voice came from the direction of the hair “Grigori is that you?”

He moved to kneel by the contraption and grabbed her bound hands “Yes my love, I’m here for you.”

“You two know each other?  Are you incapable of telling the truth?  Why didn’t you just say you wanted my help rescuing your lover?”

“You’re here aren’t you?”

“You are a nitwit.”

The hair quivered with fear “Grigori you have to get out of here before they find you. It’s too late for me, save yourself.”

He clutched more desperately at her hands “I’ll never leave you again, and don’t worry, I brought reinforcements.”

I walked over “That would be me.  As you can tell from my boots I’m very heroic and great.  Maybe if we lift the pole off this . . . whatever it is then we can slip it out and then maybe she can wriggle free of the ropes.”

Grigori glared at me “Why don’t you just untie her?”

“Why don’t you just untie her?”

“Oi, what are you two doing over there!”

That was the voice of a beardless dwarf with outrageous eyebrows (they looked like a waxed mustache) who was coming out of one of the buildings.  He was dressed in golden mail and he brandished some manner of sword/axe/thing that was longer than he was tall.  I think it was an elf curve blade.  I feel like this is the third time I’ve seen a dwarf wielding one of those.  What gives?  I thought dwarfs and elfs didn’t get on.  Maybe that’s why these dwarfs are exiles.  Coming out behind him was another beardless dwarf who was also hairless – his head looked like a fleshy boulder.  He was pointing a crossbow at us that looked like it was made of the finest darkwood with gold filigree and silver.  It was a beautiful looking killing tool aside from the fact that it looked like it had a long spyglass attached to the top.  What a ridiculous notion.

I gestured “We were just discussing the best way to untie this woman.  Would you mind not pointing that crossbow at me?”

His ludicrous eyebrows twitched like the antenna of a cave cricket “Untie her?!  She’s our captive!”

I nodded “Yes, and a fine job you did of it too my good sir. “I flashed my badge at him “I’m here to take her off your hands.”

“And who are you?!”

His back-up lowered the crossbow slightly so I would just be shot in the stomach instead of the chest if he loosed “What about our pay?”

“Marguerite Bennett, Captain of the Cathars Chapterhouse.  You’ll get the full amount promised you from Baron Harmenkar, you’ll just have to go get it.”

The crossbowman frowned and lowered his weapon a tiny bit more as eyebrows turned red in the face “That isn’t what we were hired for!  We were told . . .”

“Look, I’m sorry, but things have changed.  There’s been an organization reshuffling and you got caught in the shuffle it looks like.  It a bad hand but that’s what it is, no use bellyaching about it.  Baron Harmenkar is overseeing funding this entire region under the supervision of Colonel Tarl Ciarán.  You have a complaint, take it up with him.  I’m just here to remand your prisoner unto my custody.”

The crossbowman’s bolt thrower dropped to the ground in dismay “But what about our money?”

Eyebrows looked like he was about to grab me by the shirt “We need that money!”

I coolly moved his hands away from me with the Baronial Cane “Don’t get grabby with me sir, there’s no reason to turn this into something ugly.  You got a raw deal here but you’re still getting paid, it’s just going to take a little longer.  How about you act like professional instead of mewling children and roll with the punches?  If it will keep you from yapping I’ll write a letter to Baron Harmenkar suggesting that you be awarded additional funds for your trouble.”

Eyebrows growled “Who are you calling a child?”

A light came back into the crossbowman’s eyes “How much additional?”

I looked the angry dwarf in the eyes “Thirty percent.  You want the letter or not?”

Mantelderith 21 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Yesterday when the caravan ground to a halt I took a little walk around and found a lovely bubbling (not babbling) stream to dump the nixie wine into.  I never really thought about what a nixie would look like before that moment but if I had I would have been expecting that like most watery fey that lure men to their deaths she would be tarted out.  She was not.  Her hands and feet were both webbed froglike monstrosities bigger than dinner plates and her skin/scales were a glistening grey color that looked very unhealthsome.  Her seaweedish green-brown hair was about the best thing about her, certainly her giant all white eyes were not.  I guess unlike water nymphs nixies entice people to drown with their personalities.  Once she was released straight away she started complaining.  This wasn’t HER pond, it wasn’t a pond at all!  Seems to me like a stream would be a much nice place to live than a pond but when do I know about it?  While she was whining at me I wondered for the seven hundredth time why I ever help anyone.  They never appreciate it.  If there’s a number one bullshit saying out there it’s that beggars can’t be choosers – they sure as Hells can and they do all the time. 

“Aren’t you fairies supposed to have some old forgotten by mortals code of hospitality?  I just saved your life, instead of being verbally abused shouldn’t I get a wish or something?”

If she could blink I think she would have, but she had no eyelids “A wish?”

“Yeah, like I wish to be reunited with my parents but somehow you twist things around so that my wish backfires.  Like I’m back with my parents but they’re mean and beat me or something.  That’s not a good example, but you know what I’m talking about – monkey paw type shit.  You know, the old saying that the best curse is to give someone exactly what they want?” She seemed to be staring at me but with those eyes it’s hard to tell “Forget it, look, I don’t know what to tell you – this is the only body of water around.  Can you live in there or what?  Because if you can’t I guess you’re going to die.”

Her disturbing lips twisted into a fish-pout “I guess I can live here.”

I sighed “I’m not promising anything but where is your pond?”

She smiled dreamily and started maundering about the virtues of her watery home – I’ve heard poets on drug trips make more sense.  She waxed romantic for several minutes about the way the water tasted between her toe flaps and how the light smelled.  I would say she not only loved that pond but also that she was in love with it.  It got uncomfortable after a while.

“That’s not terribly helpful.  Is where the dragonflies dance in the rainbow light in the cool morn north or here or what direction?”

She fish sneered at me, which is really something to see “My people are as old as the land itself, your petty directions mean nothing to the Old Ones.”

“I’ll take that to mean you don’t know where it is.” I turned to leave “Have a good life.  Or immortal whatever you people have instead of lives.”

“Wait stop!  Please don’t leave me here.”

I turned back around “Look, here’s what I can do for you.  I’m heading south, if you want to hop back in that wineskin I can see if there’s a better body of water to let you out in.  I’m not going to go haring all over the land looking for your home though.  This is the best I can do.”

Her voice was quiet “Alright.”

“Are you sure?  You said you were dying in there.”

“I’m sure, anything is better than living here.”

I’m not sure why she hated that stream so much she would risk her life to get away from it, it seemed fine to me.  Maybe there was an eel in it or something.  Or a snail.  Snails live in water right?  But don’t gardeners always complain about snails?  Are snails amphibians?  I’ll have to check on that.  They’re gross, I know that for sure – give me a good honest slug over a shifty snail any day.  Rather than putting her back in a wineskin I went back to the caravan and nabbed a bottle of Gridrieu Halbtrocken ’76 which incorporates heavy licorice flavors and a hedonistic mango-fandango aftertaste – which is why it’s more fit for nixie housing than drinking.  I dipped the neck in the stream water and she magicked herself back inside.  Afterwards I popped the cork back in.

“What happens if I drink this?”

Her tiny voice could barely be heard with the cork in “I’d die.”

“What about me though?  Would I get some kind of magic powers from ingesting a fey creature?”

“No, you would die too.  In horrible agony.”

Sounds like a cock and bull story to me, I bet I would get magic powers.  I’m pretty sure that if I drink this I’ll have the powers of one human woman and one nixie – which isn’t bad if you ask me.  But there’s no reason at this point to murder a thing just for more power.  Before I sipped the bottle in my Trunk I found an inkwell and pen and wrote across the label “Nixie inside, do not drink” just in case I forget or a dreamhag eats my memories or something. 

Despite the eminent attackability of the caravan we passed to Arbeven today without molestation.  I paid a visit to my old friends the Quiviras and took advantage of their hospitality for a third time.  Now these are people that understand how you treat someone after they save your life.  They’ve told me I’m always welcome in their home and I bet they kind of mean it – I am sure I could come here six or seven more times at least before they start getting snotty about it.  They had a water feature that I dumped Melusine (that’s the nixie) into but she didn’t like it at all.  There’s really no pleasing her, it’s a perfectly lovely fountain waterfall well type thing.  I don’t know what you call it, it’s one of those things where the water comes up somehow and then pours into a thing that then dumps the water into another thing when it’s full.  You know what I’m talking about. 

Once I had things squared with the Quiviras I went to see my old friend Maudi the wizard.  He’s never nearly as happy to see me even though I saved his life even harder than I did Lady Quiviras.  He’s happy enough to take my coin though, that’s a nixie style of gratitude if ever there was one.  I wonder if I could get the expression “as ungrateful as a nixie” to catch on.  He bought up some of the items I took from Hellerhad fair and square as greedily as a pixie (another new expression – try it out and if you like it pass it around) but he had garbage for sale.  I want a new crossbow but all he had for weapons was a warhammer that he said would protect your allies which is useless on two fronts being as that I can’t swing a giant hammer and the person I want to protect is myself.  The other “weapon” is what looked like a miner’s pick that he was trying to pass off as a military item.  He squealed like a baby about how most of his work in on commission so I shouldn’t be mad at him and tried to wheedle an invitation to the Quiviras’ compound.  I told him that I’d be glad to introduce him as soon as got some decent wares.  There wasn’t even a place in town where I could get a non-magical crossbow, but I’m not the type to complain.

After striking out with Maudi I went back to the Quiviras to have a nice dinner with their guests while Martialla was out seeking whatever low class diversions she entertains herself with when I’m not around – probably betting on weasel trousering or participating in blood pig or something.  She’s my oldest and dearest friend but sometimes she so common she makes my hair hurt. 

People in the good part of the Kingdom like to make mock of the country gentry, and rightfully so in large part, but the Quiviras know how to do it right.  I showed up here out of the blue without any prior notice (I know that’s redundant but shut up about it) and they still managed to throw together a decent dinner party.  Nothing that anyone back home wouldn’t turn up their nose at, but I’m at the point where I appreciate good food and decent company for what it is.  None of their guests were very annoying, and that’s taking into account that one of them was a Strider priest.  He was a Shireling though so maybe that mitigates the normal boorishness of Striderians.  A local “artist” did drone on for an improbably amount of time about a lost goat – I’m not even sure if it was a story or a joke or a cry for help or some kind of parable.  But other than that it was a plainly enjoyable evening.  I certainly enjoyed myself to five eights of a good bottle of rye whiskey.  For most people a little drop helps them sleep, I tend to go the other way – for reasons unknown being a little tipsy tends to keep me up.  I was still awake and sitting in the window smoking some leaf when Martialla came clomping in smelling like a newly cut wheat field.

“Where have you been?”

“There’s a company of adventurers in town, I wanted to see if they were one of the many that want you dead or that you want dead.  Or if they were going to attack the caravan.”

“Do adventurers do that?  I thought the one valuable service they provided to society was guarding caravans.”

“They must right?  They attack everything else.”

“So?”

“So what?”

“So what did you find out.”

She waved her hand idly as she set down to take off her boots “Oh, I never made it, I got distracted.”

“Nice work, thanks for bringing it up.  How long do you think will it take to get to Cathars?”

“At caravan speeds?  Ten days, two weeks maybe.  But once it get destroyed by marauders we’ll go faster on our own, once we escape from the clutches of said marauders anyway.  Or escape from the slavers they sell us to.”

“Where do all the slaves go do you think?”

“Ulpine right?  Slavery is legal there.”

“Good Kingdom peasants toiling under the lash of dirty Ulpinese slavemasters?  Now I’m glad we’re at war with them.  We’ll give them what for”

“How’s the war going anyway?”

“I keep forgetting to ask.  When the caravan gets destroyed who are you going to shed a few quiet tears in private for?”

“Diarmaid Hücresel, I like her, she seems like a tough broad.  Her husband and sons were all killed the last war you know.  And yet she carries on the family business and she doesn’t take guff from nobody.”

“Maybe they were just taken as slaves.”

“Is that better?”

“It is if they escaped together weeks ago and after a harrowing journey where the father learned that he can rely on his sons as men and the boys learned that their father would sacrifice anything to save them and their love for one another grew deeper than they ever thought possible and then they return to their wife and mother on this very night.”

We both stopped and listened for the sound of a joyful reunion but there was none.  Maybe tomorrow night. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 53,040 platinum, 25,750 gold

XP: 1,147,551

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

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

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

Montagem 23 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Night three with essentially no sleep.  I’ve heard the claim made that skipping one night of sleep results in a condition almost the same as being drunk.  I don’t think I buy that, but string a few nights like that together and then you’ve got something.  After a while your mind just feel sluggish – you kind of feel like you are asleep somehow even though you’re not.  Which would be bad for you, but just imagine how awful it is for someone as quick-witted as me.  I think what happens after a few sleepless nights is that your brain does start sleeping for a couple seconds here or there and your body just keeps going.  Someone says something and you realize you have no idea what it was even though you responded, which you also don’t remember.  You think to yourself “man, I really have to piss” and then a few minutes later you’re somewhere else and you don’t have to go anymore.  What happened?  Did you piss and forget about it instantly?  It’s not a fun experience. 

One of the Satanders (Satanderians?  Satandish?) brought me a little cup of some delicious coffee liquor but I barely got one sip before Martialla came over and kicked it out of my hand (I was sitting on the ground chained to a tree you see).  The man that gave it to me looked at her like she was some kind of bug.  I know very little about Satander culture overall, so I have no idea how they normally treat women.  There was no shouting, no words exchanged even, he just glowered at her for a moment and then walked away.  Martialla noticed a couple of the Baron’s men giving her the evil eye and she did stop to curse them out before making to unlock the chain holding me to the tree.

“You have a real talent for winning people over.  I think I realized what it is though.  Until you teamed up with me you worked alone for so long that you don’t think that you need allies.  What it is is . . .”

“Shut up Ela.”

She didn’t even bother to unlock the cuff on my wrist, using the chain to drag me over to the wagon.  She was disgusted to find that someone had made a little blanket-nest for me to ride in in the bed of the wagon.  I think she really wanted to jump up and toss it all out but she didn’t – showing some restraint for a  change.  She just herded me in and locked the other end of the chair under the seat.  Clearly her intent was to drive the wagon herself, which she doesn’t really know how to do, but since she’s also a crappy rider I guess it’s a toss-up.  While the rest of the camp was mobilizing I used my Beastspeech to talk to the horses pulling the wagon.  I was curious if they knew what was so important that three people were willing to kill and die to get it back but they didn’t.  I mean they’re horses, they don’t really know much.  I love horses but they’re not the brightest.  Speaking to animals is helpful sometimes but overall it’s kind of a letdown.  It’s tough to communicate beyond the very basic level because animals don’t really think about things the same way that we do – a lot of common human concepts are beyond them.  It can make for some frustrating dialogues. 

Eventually Martialla realized what I was doing and once again was pointing her sword at me “Stop that!”

Kartak was sitting on his horse nearby “What’s the problem now wašičú?” (Wašičú is a Kostelos word that’s hard to translate into the King’s tongue, it’s kind of like calling someone lazy but it’s more like a person who just can’t manage to do anything)

“She was talking to the horses.”

There was some general laughter at this and even Kartak couldn’t help but smile “She was talking . . . . to the horses?”

“Don’t laugh, there’s nothing funny about this!  It’s something she can do, she can communicate with animals!” She pointed at one of the Baron’s men “You!  You know right?  Didn’t she spend a lot of time with the Baron’s kennel master taking care of the dogs?”

He looked startled to be singled out but before he could say anything one of the Kostelos made a comment in his own language and they all started laughing.  The guy I think is the leader of the Satander exiles smiled as well so he must be able to understand them at least.  Martialla was fuming but she didn’t lose focus – locking her eyes with mine.

“Don’t do that again Ela.”

I held my hands up in mock surrender “Of course, I won’t plot against you with the horses nor any other animals that come along.  Raccoons or fluffy bunnies or so forth.  Nothing to worry about there.”

It wasn’t really that funny but it set off another round of laughter anyway.  When you’re bullying someone what you say doesn’t actually have to be very humorous, people just want to make someone else feel small so they usually get on board.  One of the Kostelos rode up and said that there was a chipmunk that Martialla should watch out for.  I thought she was going to run him through but she finally managed to grit her teeth and sheath her sword and sit back down to wait.  Eventually we lurched off and even at wagon-speed we managed to make the bridge by mid-day.  Well before we reached the bridge though I saw that our old friends, the Baron’s Saltwheel and Harmenkar had their bridge interdiction crews out doing their work.  The set up was similar to what I had encountered on the way to Preen so it must be the strategy – Saltwheel with regular forces and Harmenkar leaning more on adventurers.  So either Harmenkar must have less men or he just likes adventurers.     

Martialla came into the back of the wagon to threaten me with impalement once again “Don’t speak to any of these people.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

The two barons must not have had this bridge blockaded when Kartak and company came south to get me because they didn’t seem to know what was going on.  Kartak and a few others rode forward to remind these fellows that this was Baron Juost’s land and they had no authority to be doing this, but this is where setting Juost up as an ineffectual puppet failed them.  Baron Saltwheel’s men clearly didn’t give a shit – they even specifically invoked the time honored tradition of noblemen stealing each other’s land when one of them fails to hold up his obligations.  Kartak was clearly stymied, he had more men, but not enough more to make intimidating his way through a sure thing, and once you play that card and they call your bluff you’re in real trouble.  I could have pulled it off of course, but no one asked me.  Martialla stopped menacing me to join the conversation about what to do, or to try to anyway, they seemed intent on freezing her out.  Eventually she was able to convince Kartak to speak to her privately.

“I’ve dealt with these assholes before, all we need to do is bribe them.”

“With what exactly?  I don’t travel with the Baron’s treasury on me.”

“There’s a literal fortune in Ela’s pouches.  The amount of money she’s managed to amass is indecent.  But only she can get it out.”

“So how does that help?”

“Make her get the money.”

“How am I supposed to do that?”

“You’re the torture expert, figure it out.  I know you’re not supposed to hurt her, I’m sure you know some ways to fuck people up that won’t leave marks.  There’s a river right there – can’t you drown her until she agrees to get the money?”

“I assume you wanted to speak in confidence because she really does have a lot of money, enough to concern you about people’s loyalty when they find out.  Even if I thought this was a good idea what’s to stop her for pitching out the entire treasure horde and inciting the kind of frenzy you’re worried about?”

“Figure it out, do I have to come up with everything?  If you don’t want to kill these people, who are violating the sovereignty of your lord, bribing them is the only way.”

They must have realized they were close enough that I could hear them, but they were still both surprised when I spoke up.

“You have quite the fortune yourself Martialla, if getting across is that important why don’t you pony up for the bribe?”

Kartak was on board with that notion but Martalla was not.  She can be very tight-fisted that one.  It’s probably because of her dirt-poor commoner background.  They had quite a discussion about that, which ended with Kartak deciding that they’d head north to find another crossing.  Martialla was not super pleased but this plan.

“You must be joking, we’re already three days behind schedule and now you want to head north?  Do you even know if there’s another bridge within a hundred miles of here?”

Kartak stared her down “I have had enough of your insolence.  You are not in charge here.  You are not in charge of anything.  I’m not interested in your input.  Going forward keep your opinions to yourself.”

“The Baron . . .”

“The Baron isn’t in command of anything!  Why are you even here?  You want to return to the compound then go, no one here is going to miss you.”

“I am the only reason you have Ela and if it wasn’t for me she would have escaped already!  I am the only one keeping her here!”

Kartak snorted and looked at me bundled in the back of the wagon “Oh yes, she’s terrifying.”

Kartak sent a couple scouts upriver to look for a crossing while the rest set up camp on a hillside near the bridge.  Between the three groups there have to be over a hundred fighting men here – is there even still a war going on?  Maybe the war ended and no one told me – that would explain why I seem to find so many bodies of armed men roaming the countryside with no specific agenda.  Kartak put one of his men, Baru, “in charge” of me.  Not sure exactly what they means but I assume that it was another move designed to tweak Martialla’s nips.  It certainly worked.  The Sky-Thunders are a little taller than most Kostelos, who are a shortish people, but Baru was pretty squat.  He made up with it with a six inch mohawk somewhat though.  His first order was that I wasn’t going to be chained up at night anymore – after all where was I going to go even if I did get away.  Martialla pointed out reasonably that that may have been true before but now there were two groups of armed men within spitting distance that I could insinuate myself into if I got loose.     

Baru was not interested in taking this detail under advisement.  Martialla managed to choke down an explosion at that point but shortly thereafter she yelled at me for chatting with Baru in Kostelos and then there was a blow-up after Baru told her to go fuck herself.  I think she would have killed him if he didn’t have twenty other dudes to back him up.  I never knew that Martialla had such a temper.  Kartak was clearly done with all of this and told Martialla she was banished from the camp.  The look on her face was priceless.  I was installed in the back of the wagon as my sleeping place for the night, with Baru slumbering loudly in the driver’s seat (that has a name right?  Like the buckboard or something?).  When I felt the wagons shift slightly I thought that it was Martialla coming back to murder me in the night.

But what I saw instead was the round apple-cheeked face of a Shireling peering at me through the darkness.  After the incident last night the guards around camp had been doubled, but this little fellow and his friend had managed to slip right past then anyway.  Halflings can be pretty sneaky, some of them anyway.  He beckoned for me and I crawled carefully off the wagon where they helped me to creep out of the camp – aided by someone else distracting one of the guards.  A short distance away we met with an elf whose skin looked blue in the moonlight and a human woman so small that I thought she was also a Halfling for a moment.  The five of us crept down the hillside where two more compatriots of theirs were waiting.  One of them cast a spell to cloak us in darkness and the other did the same to silence our moves.  We made our way quickly to the river, where, and I kid you not, the elf took what looked like a folded piece of paper out of a pack and when they set it into the river it turned into a full sized rowboat.  It was a tight fit with seven of us, but we were on the Baron Harmenkar side of the river in no time.   As they were bringing me into their camp I had to ask.

“Why are you doing this?”

One of the Shirefolk got a lopsided grin “We’re heroes, what better reason could there be?”

The elf was more solemn in speech “You were clearly being held against your will.”

I never thought I would say this, not ever.  Thank the Gods for adventurers and their reckless ignorant glory seeking. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: None

XP: 953,251

Inventory: None

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