Mantelderith 15 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 1

Just in case you weren’t sure what I was doing to do, I didn’t give Hellderhad his ring back.  You probably assumed that I was just jerking his chain – giving him hope and then snatching it away – but I wanted to confirm that.  He didn’t freeze me with a blast of magic coldness and then shatter me like a glass statue so maybe Belzegara was right about him not being a wizard.  Oh, the lady with the stupid nosering is Belzegara or at least that’s what she said her name was.  I don’t know why someone might lie about a name that awful but I don’t know why people do a lot of things.   Anyway, I’ve taken all of Hellerhad’s stuff and I’m going to get him exiled from this Barony (what are it’s boundaries exactly?  No one knows) is that enough to cross him off the list?  It doesn’t feel like it, but at this point killing him seems like that would be going too far.  Now sure, in the old days I would have murdered him but I was a lot more bloodthirsty at the beginning of this adventure.  Some people get a taste for killing, me I’m just dipping my toe in. 

As you all know I struggle sometimes coming up with an appropriate revenge for those who wrong me badly enough to be revenged upon but not badly enough to deserve horrible horrible violent murder.  What’s to be done with Hellerhad?  I should probably dig into his background more.  Whatever went on with his sweetheart and a rival wizard that caused him to give up magic would probably provide some fertile ground for revenging.  Maybe I could take her appearance and say that I want to marry him and then ditch him at the altar. 

After Belzegara rubbed some kind of magic salve on Martialla’s petrified form she slowly reverted to being not-petrified (which is her usual state of being).  Seeing it for a second time was no less disturbing than in those ruins of the old empire (the second empire?) when I heroically rescued those dumb adventurers from their stony predicament.  Have you ever see normal human shins twitching and spasming because the leg above them is still stone?  And it doesn’t matter which end you start with because a normal head on a statue body is just as appalling.  Magic is gross.   Once that was all squared away and everyone was back to their normal fleshy forms the three of us had a late night chat over some cherry cordial and blackberry polite.  It was probably supposed to be for the feast tomorrow but I won’t tell if you don’t. 

Belzegara said that she had started out a simple country girl but aspired to more out of life so she joined up with the church.  They taught her reading and writing and arithmetic and such but when it came time for her to take her vows she balked – turns out she wasn’t really into the whole religion thing.  The church of Adariel being kind and generous and benevolent and full of niceness wasn’t happy about that but they didn’t do anything – which makes it a pretty good scam.  You aren’t going to get a free education like that from the Church of Deals.  She wasn’t sure what to do next with her life but the Kingdom was nice enough to decide for her – she would serve her country was a scribe/assistant/whatever to one Colonel Eugene Furnwood.  She was terrified to be sent to the front lines during a war (the last one, not the current one – or maybe the war before that one) but the good news was that Colonel Eugene wasn’t a lead from the front kind of officer. 

Colonel Eugene believed firmly in leadership from the rear and that the task of sending men into battle was strictly the province of majors and captains.  Working as the Colonel’s aide at a safe distance from the front lines Belzegara learned that her real talents lay in the direction of scavenging and scrounging and war profiteering – after all the King’s Army has a lot of stuff and is it really fair for the soldiers to get all of it for free when other people will pay good money for it?  Once her luck ran out with that scam and she managed to deflect enough blame to merely get drummed out of the service rather than hung she tried and failed at various ventures until came up with this bounty hunter idea.  Despite having turned someone to stone and back and creating illusions she claimed not to accomplish these cromulet feats of bounty huntry with magic.

“How is that possible?”

She shrugged “I’ve just picked up a few tricks is all.”

“That doesn’t tell me anything.”

Martialla snorted “You’re one to talk, you claim you don’t have any magic either.”

“I don’t!”

“Then how are you able to disguise yourself?  And how is it that you manage to pull items out of nowhere?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” I turned back to Belzegara “By any chance did you ever encounter a Colonel Tarl Ciarán?  At like a Colonel luncheon or some military soiree?”

She blinked in surprise “Yeah, I ran into him a few times in the service.”

“Do you have any dirt on him?”

“I’m pretty sure he killed his wife.”

“Hmm, anything else?”

She furrowed her brow “Murder isn’t dirty enough for you?”

“I mean something that’s going to get him in trouble.  Rich guys kill their wives all the time, it’s practically encouraged.”

“Um, then no.  Murder of the wife is the worst thing I know about him.”

“Figures.” I gestured “So how much was the bounty on old Martialla here?”

“Four thousand.”

“Gold?!  That’s outrageous.  How much is the bounty on me?

“Who are you?”

Martialla laughed and laughed and I decided that I had had enough for one night and went to bed.  My dreams last night were largely werewolf centered – you know being ripped to pieces and/or eaten alive by rampaging wolfmen (and wolfwomen).  Or just mutilated by them and threated/taunted with being ripped to pieces and or eaten alive while I lay helpless before them with shattered and bloody limbs.  It occurred to me that people don’t really understand werewolfs – the idea is that the beast is being unleashed in the human and that’s why they kill everyone they love.  But I’m pretty sure it’s the other way around.  Animals only kill for food or to protect themselves – humans are the ones that kill for laughs and fun.  The human thought of the werewolf is what causes the problems.  A wolf that could turn into a human, or a wolfwere if I can coin a term, would probably be fine.

I was dreading having to attend the Baroness again today, but thankfully I was awoken by a servant saying that the Baron requested the pleasure of my company over breakfast.  I spent a good hour getting myself all gussied up and was escorted to the Baron’s private dining chamber where he sat with a gaunt looking Hallerhad at a table with enough food for a dozen men.  He looked very pleased with himself for reasons unknown, I mean even more than usual for a Baron.  I helped myself to some Honey Nut Cake with Orange Marmalade, Strawberry and Banana Pastries with Sausage and Bacon, and some Mulled Cider while the Baron gassed on about whatever and I made the appropriate noises of response.  If you could get some kind of magic music box that could replicate my voice I bet I could record an occasional “Yes My Lord, how wonderful My Lord” and you could switch any number of noblewomen out with it  and their husbands or what have you wouldn’t even notice.  Add in a hole for them to have sex with and the whole institution of marriage might be over.  Eventually with much harrumphing and adjusting of the belt the Baron got down to business.

“I’ve given a great deal of thought to this idea of a contest, I shant call it a duel, that you have requested.  I have decided to allow it, although this is all highly irregular.  I can’t have my close advisor being at odds with . . . my wife’s cousin and her relatives.  However the terms are not even enough – banishing Hellerhad is much greater in consequence than you just having to apologize my dear.  For this contest to be a fair one the penalty must be equal on each side.”

“Just so my Lord.”

He grinned like a maniac “Therefore, if you choose to proceed, should you win Hellerhad shall be banished from my lands, but if Hellerhad is the one that prevails . . . . you shall marry him!”

He guffawed like this was some great piece of comedy.

I looked at Hellerhad who appeared nauseated “That sounds reasonable My Lord.  Well done.”

He laughed and pounded the table so hard I thought half the food was going to jump off onto the floor.  It took him a while to regain his composure.

“The original caretakers of this land before they were removed in disgrace, the Wesel family, were not renowned for their wealth but they were known for a certain ability in the mystical arts.  Before this great hall that you reside in was built they maintained a residence in the woods, it’s long gone now of course, but there is a crypt where many generations of Wesels were laid to their final rest in the sweet bosom of Adariel.  The area around this patch of land has an uncanny quality that seems to attract the  creatures of the fey realm, hence no on goes there overly much.”

“Why would they anyway My Lord?  The Wesel family is gone and forgotten, the Juosts rule this land now.”

“Quite right.  According to the records Mariscalcus Wesel, the grandfather of the last Lord Wesel to rule here, was interred in this crypt with his staff of office.  An object reputed to be imbued with certain interesting abilities that intrigue me.  When I was granted these lands that scepter should have passed to me by right, in fact it is mine by right, I merely need to take it into my possession.”

It was clear where this was going – the contest was to be a grave robbing challenge, whoever came back with the stick would be the winner but he belabored the point for several more minutes.  Graverobbing is both illegal and immoral of course, but when a Baron tells you to do its wrong not to do it.  It was also abundantly clear that the Baron expected that I would refuse this errand and give up on the whole thing and he and Hellerhad could go back to being best friends, he was both shocked and disappointed when I asked him when the contest would begin.

He pursed his lips outrageously, looking somewhat ducklike “Lady, I’m not sure you comprehend, travel through the forest to the Wesel Crypt will be perilous and fraught with peril both – to say nothing of the perils involved!  Why a mischievous pixie might tangle up your skirts!  It’s important that you understand this undertaking and the peril involved.”

He went on at length on that topic as well.  Trying to impress upon me the dangerousness of the wilderness such as getting the hem of my skirt muddied or seeing a mole or stepping on an acorn.  He really thought that he was getting over on me with this choice of contest.  He only stopped winging on about it once I was able to convey to him that while I was putting on a brave face now I would clearly quit immediately and Hellerhad would be the winner.  It was a subtle piece of chicanery but that’s why I’m the best at what I do.  Whatever that is.  

Once he was satisfied that the contest would be no contest at all he said that it would begin the day after his big feast, but I convince him to move it up to this afternoon – I said that way if I should happen to fail Hellerhad and I could be married at that same occasion.  He was quite amused by that and I’m sure that’s what convinced him.  He had a list of rules that he went over, but it’s hard to see how he thought he was going to enforce them.  It’s not like there’s a judge watching over a grave robbing competition.  Unless you count the Gods themselves.  I wonder if they care about graverobbing.  Seems like they wouldn’t.  They’re just after the delicious souls right?  Matter of fact I bet there’s a minor God OF graverobbing.  There seems to be some God for just about everything. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 53,040 platinum, 25,660 gold

XP: 1,096,451

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

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

Mathanaya 15 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 1

We had barely gotten underway when we were hailed heartily by two lumberjacks.  Tall and strapping they were with shoulders as wide as ox-carts and haunches bristling with the strength of a thousand porcupines.  Anflite and Filtan returned their greeting cheerfully, sinews all aquiver with appreciation but I irritably waved them back. 

“Nice try ladies but I’m not buying it.  The look is solid, although I would suggest that you vary things a bit more between the two of you – you nearly look like twins.  Your mistake is one of posture.  You look like beefy woodsmen but you’re still standing like women.  Yours legs are too close together for one thing – it’s an unconscious instinct for women to try and protect their business, men on the other hand, they’re hanging their shit out there for everyone to enjoy and compliment them on.  That’s the main thing, but the shoulders are a bit of a problem as well.  When you want to appear as a man you need to open up your shoulders a little bit, not a lot, the difference is subtle but it’s the difference between self-confidence and guardedness.  You never want to be too open as a woman right?  Men raise the head higher and bend the shoulders more forward than women, you see . . .”

“You’ll have to forgive us, usually we’re disguising ourselves as winsome maidens.”

“Think nothing of it, this is one of my area sof expertise, it worked just fine on these two obviously.  Was this an ambush and slaughter kind of masking or more of a feel things out kind of deal?”

“Play it by ear, you know how it goes.”

“Sure, sure.  I assume your pig-slave told you we were coming so let’s get right down to it.  My friend here was bitten by a werewolf, which is turning out to be a bit of an issue.  Our experts tell us that the kiss of a dryad can cure that sort of thing, and we heard that you two had a dryad on the payroll so to speak.  We’d like to see if we can work out a deal.”

“Our sister doesn’t receive visitors.”

“Yes, I’m sure after the whole thing with the river and the magic tree and the war against humanity she’s not super keen on engaging with humans and so forth but we were hoping that we could prevail upon her to help us anyway.  I’ve found personally that helping others is a way to find your own path to recovery after a traumatic event.”

They both dropped their illusions and revealed their true forms.  I’ve seen a river hag before, they’re reputed to be amongst the ugliest beings alive, and rightfully so, but they cross the line where they’re so surreally grotesque that is loses some of its impact.  They’re so far from anything familiar that it’s not as bad.  These two were worse because there was still some resemblance of a human appearance there.  They were both sickly looking, painfully thin, and olive-skinned with an explosion of dark, rotting rank hair knots but one looked almost woody, like her green skin was the gnarled bark of a tree and her talons were like thick branches.  The other, while still reedy was bloated at the joints, which were more of a fish-belly white color and were infested with leeches to boot.  As well the second hag had clothed herself in a patchwork of priestly robes that looked to be from at least a dozen different religions.  The first was horrifically nude.

“You are not welcome here.”

“Come now, surely there’s some kind of . . .”

“Begone!  You stretch already the bounds of our forbearance!  You come into our home, eat our food, wear our clothes, put your feet up on our table!  Your very presence disgusts us!”

“Now wait a minute, I don’t . . .”

“Silence!  Leave now lest you be thrice cursed!”

I retrieved my crossbow “I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

“May your veins weep!  May every beast of the earth and sky lust for your blood!”

“I thought you hags were supposed to be smart, yet here you are in my sights, where are all your minions?” 

I fired my crossbow, straight and true, and it passed right through the image standing before me – more illusions.  They both disappeared as a dozen pig-men came hurtling out of hiding and charging with crude rusty weapons.  Anflite and Filtan met them with their wicked orc-axes.  I swiveled to start firing into the mass and was splattered across the arms and upper body by hot tar hurled by one of the real hags appearing to my side.   The heat coming through my shirt was insufferable, but the places where the tar fell on my neck and bare hand were agonizing – I dropped the crossbow with a shriek.  Martialla started weaving a spell of her own, but the other hag appeared and with a gesture the ring on Martialla’s finger blazed white-hot.  Her spell forgotten with an agonized scream of her own she yanked the ring off, along with a majority of the skin on that finger and its two neighbors.

Before we could react the two hags joined hands and pointed at Lathal, spitting vile curses at her – causing her to drop to the ground convulsing violently.  At first I thought that they had wracked her with pain, but quickly their intent was made apparent.  Lathal bent over backwards in an excruciating lurch as the transformation began – tearing at her clothes with her clawed hands as she became the wolf.

The two half-orc sisters were cutting down humanoid swine with ease and the eyes of the hags turned towards them.  Gritting my teeth against the burning tar I shaped my hand into a lion’s paw and leapt with claws out – and the hag caught my arm, checking me as easily as a father would a tiny child trying to strike at them.  That spindly sickly looking arm contained strength that you wouldn’t believe.  She grinned, her mouth a disaster of crooked brown teeth, and squeezed – sending pain shooting up my arm as the bone flexed and started to crack.  Desperately I flung my Bead at her feet, a roaring campfire springing into life underneath her and to my satisfaction she leapt back with her own cry of pain. 

“How about a little fire?”

“A pox upon your soul!”

At her words an aching, itching rash appeared instantly covering me from knees to chin.  I grabbed at my crossbow and fired but I missed so badly I doubt an onlooker would have even known I was firing at her. Out of corner of my eye I saw that Martialla had turned herself invisible but that the other hag had no trouble finding her and ripping away her magic with her own – burning her with strange purple flames and sending her tumbling to the ground. Lathal, now in fullblooded werewolf form went after her brother with a vicious snarl.  He tried to run, but she pounced on him like a rabbit, seizing him by the back of the neck with her jaws.

The hag walked towards me, heedless of my crossbow, which upon firing I missed badly again.  She made a move to knock the crossbow out of my hands, but I dropped it willingly and seized her arm – using her strength against her to trip and roll her towards the merrily burning fire.  Grabbing a clump of her crusty hair I managed to shove her face into the flames for a split second before she tossed me off like a bull dislodging a bloodrat.  I landed badly, face and collarbone first, with all of my weight above and behind me.  The hag calmly walked up on me and slashed me across the back with her claws – it felt like being stabbed with a pitchfork.  In addition I felt the strength being magically sapped from my limbs.  With nothing much else to do I went for the Deck of Curses and flung a card at her, it sliced into her flesh like a tiny dagger and more helpfully appeared to strike her blind.

“A brave attempt dearie, but the darkness holds no terrors for me, I can still smell your rotting bitch womb.”

There was a part of me that wanted to respond with a witty rejoinder but it was overruled by the ninety-nine percent of me what was scared shitless and wanted to scramble as far away as I could.  Drake, covered with blood, had clambered up a tree to escape his sister but I saw her literally rip it out of the ground and send him tumbling through the air.  Martialla, blurred by some kind of partial invisibility, had resorted to going sword to claw against the other hag and was just barely managing to hold her own.  Taking the second hag by surprise from the blindside, I cuffed her across the back of the head, sending her stumbling into a gutting strike from Martialla.  I leapt on the hag with all my body weight, getting her in a chokehold as Martialla stabbed her repeatedly in the belly and thighs.  She slowly went to the ground as the other hag screamed as if she felt the same pain. 

Even blinded she came unerringly at us.  I shoved Filtan into the path of the hag, an act for which I feel no remorse.  Martialla blasted the last few swinefolk to dust with her magic as Anflite rushed to help her sister struggle with the hag.  Lathal had her brother by the throat and was choking the like out of him like a farmer strangling a chicken.  I looked to Martialla, seeing true terror in her eyes.

“Any ideas?”

She shook her head so I went to the deck of curses and tossed a card at Lathal.  Whatever effect it had, if any, was not apparent.  As Martialla and I looked at each other helplessly watching Lathal murder her brother Anflite and Filtan walked past us, throwing their bloody axes into the ground and limbering up their muscles as they moved forward.  Looking behind me I saw they had killed the other hag, and looking back to them I saw them each grab an arm of the werewolf and drag her off her brother – who miraculously rolled away gasping for breath still alive.  The sisters, amazingly, wrestled the rampaging shewolf-beast to the ground where Martialla ran forward and touched Lathal with a calming spell that slowly made her revert to her human form – passed out cold and sweat-slicked.

“Remind me to give you girls a raise.”

Filtan gave me a cool look “I was starting to think that you didn’t take us seriously.”

“That’s definitely not a road I’m going to travel down any further.”

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .0225%

Curses – Marksman’s Malady, Unnerve Beasts, Melancholy  

Funds: 8,676 gold

XP: 246,361

Inventory:  Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Pocketed Scarf, Wrist Sheath, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Ring of Protection +2, Assortment of Fake Signet Rings,  Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Black Marketers’ Bag, 852 Garnets, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow, Deck of Curses (two cards used), Blue Dragoncloth Dress, severed hag head (2)

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

Behind the Curtain : The curse card made Lathal barren.  Oops.  It’s not a great combat tool really.