Mantelderith 27 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Did you know that in many jurisdictions the penalty for wine fraud (selling adulterated wine or label swapping) is death?  That’s how serious people are about their wine.  Admittedly hanging someone for wine fraud is fairly rare – usually they’re just beaten almost to death.  By the order of state.  Which is really something to think about.  Your taxes at work – a man beating a helpless criminal almost, but not to, death for putting some water into a wine bottle.  Some people say that expensive wine and cheap wine tastes the same.  These people are stupid.  But they’re not one hundred percent wrong because beyond some very broad ranges there isn’t much difference.  There’s shit wine, there’s okay wine, and then there’s good wine.  That’s pretty much it aside from some very subtle gradations.  You can spend ten thousand gold (well not you, but other people who have lots of gold) on an extravagant bottle of wine but it’s honestly not going to taste better than any number of hundred gold wines I could find you.  Although at certain levels of society wasting money is the whole point – you can brag about spending 10k on a bottle of wine and show everyone what a whopping swinging dick you are. 

I was explaining this to Martialla as we sat on our boxes of merchant goods drinking a Revanchinist Classic ’72 but she barely seemed to be listening.  She was paying more attention to the reason that the caravan was stopped – namely that it was being assaulted by a wizard and his ogre lackeys.  The half-elf quadrumvirate of guards was engaging them and I have to admit it was quite a sight.  I’ve never been one for bloodsports but a wild magic-enhanced melee like this is pretty attention grabbing when you’re not in it.  I can understand why watching this would appeal to certain types.  The wizard wasn’t so much as flying as he was just hanging in the air like he was on wires and cackling manically as he blasted down below him with is spells.  If I had a crossbow I could have ended the whole thing with one shot.  And yet, sadly I did not.

I elbowed Martialla “Are you listening to me?  This is important information I’m giving you here.”

She waved her had at me vaguely “Yeah, yeah, you’re a bigshot who knows about wine, I get it.  Should we be helping them?”

Just at that moment an ogre cracked a greatclub the size of a fencepost in half over one of the slight half-elfs and sent them crumbling to the ground “Looks like they’re doing fine, I’m sure we’d just get in the way.  This is what they’re getting paid for, I see no reason to do their job for them.”

“What about for a share of the loot?”

“Bah, ogres never had anything but lice the size of mice – mice lice if you will.  And wizards are just as disappointing.  All they ever have is stupid wands with dumb stars on the end and shit like that.  They keep all the good stuff back in their towers.  Why do wizards love towards so much?”

“How would I know?”

“Well what to sorcerers do?”

“Travel around in caravans and watch epic fights without getting involved apparently.”

I snort “We’ve been in epicer.  And we almost died may I remind you, no reason to go looking for trouble.”

“You go looking for trouble all the time.”

“Right, so I know what I’m talking about.  I suppose wizards live in towers because they’re usually into star gazing.  They seem to be very interested in the positions of the stars and convergences of planets and things like that.  I suppose so they can open the gates of the Thirteen Hells and ruin everything for everyone.  Although the only wizard we ran into that actually had a telescope wasn’t in a tower at all – it was like a dome on the ground.  That doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Martialla shuddered quickly “Don’t remind me about that guy, he was seriously fucked up in the head.”

“Well he was a wizard so yeah.  Plus towers are a representation of arrogance and hubris so that makes sense, wizards being the way they are.”

“In their defense it’s hard to remain humble when you can bend the nature of reality to your will.”

“Is that what magic is?”

She shrugged “Sure, why not?”

“You seem humble enough.”

“Well, as you point out so often I’m terrible at magic so what would I have to be proud of?”

“Very true.  Looks like they’re wrapping things up down there, you want to wander over and have a gander?”

She did and we did.  All of the half-elfs looked very much worse the wear, but one of them looked like they had a broken neck.  Normally a broken neck is fatal, but when you’re a mighty adventurer it’s more like a sprained ankle.  One of the other half-elfs invoked the healing power of Cycnus and the head popped back into place like a dislocated toe.  It certainly looked like it stung in an eye watering way, but it wasn’t a big deal.  The divine healing magic of the Gods is a strange thing, millions of people die every day from preventable causes and then you have a handful of strange people that can come back from just about anything – as long as they win the day.  I was still pretty slashed up from my own personal battle with the wolf demon so I hopped in line for some healing too.  The half-elf who was doing the Cycnus invoking looked at me like I was crazy.

“You got any healing juice left for old Ela?  I’m still pretty hurt from yesterday.” S/he just stared at me “Okay, fair enough.  Look, does this seem strange to anyone else?  I know caravans gets attacked all the time, but usually it’s by bandits or animals or things like that – a giant attack and a band of mage-supported ogres in a span of a couple days seems like a bridge too far to me.  What do you guys think?”

One of the half-elfs who seemed more warriory than magicky nodded slowly “It does stretch credulity from a certain point of view.”

“I was thinking either this caravan has something far more valuable than we were told or maybe that wizard has an axe to grind with someone here.  Is he dead or did you guys grab him?”

The healer finally spoke “He escaped.”

“Well I think I’m going to have a word with madam Hücresel if anyone would care to join me.”

They huddled up to speak amongst themselves and I waited for a moment but it seemed like they were going to be a while so I went looking for Diarmaid Hücresel.  I found her doing a fair job of reassuring everyone that everything was fine and if they got attacked again their guards would protect them as they have done twice so far.  Allying people’s fears is an advanced kind of manipulation and she has a knack for it.  Once she was through comforting everyone that they wouldn’t be roasted alive and eaten by verbeegs I asked her for a private word.  It didn’t take much prodding for her to spill the beans – turns out it was both, the wizard has an axe to grind with her and the caravan has something worth stealing.

As the story goes the wizard was courting the daughter Hücresel (who probably has a first name) and in the process of said courting said daughter became convinced that the wizard was less interested in her and more interested in her family’s possession of a valuable fire opal of unstipulated magicalness.  Allegedly grandpappy Hücresel had brought it back from a campaign of some manner against a plague of necromancers that were raising zombies – the usual necromancer bullshit.  At least they’re predictable.  They didn’t know what it did, assuming that it brought them good luck after some vague manner, but the fact that the wizard was trying to romance it out from under them seemed like a good indication that it really is magic.  Maiden Hücresel rejected the advances of the wizard and then little things started happening – strange feelings of being watched, things moved around in the house, a fire at one of their holdings, etc. the kind of things you couldn’t track back to anyone.  At least until things escalated to a where a toothy little ugly humanoid thing (presumably a homunculus) stealing into their place to try and grab the gem. So while they were leaving for better business opportunities that wasn’t the only reason. 

“Wait, this was all happening in Alleene?  I thought Hellerhad was the only wizard in Alleene.”

Hücresel nodded “That’s him.”

I frowned “I didn’t get a great look at the guy hanging in the sky like a puppet but that didn’t look like Hellerhad to me, he looked kind of scrawny like a normal wizard.  Hellerhad is close to seven feet tall if he’s an inch and he’s built like . . . like . . . like something, well you know what I mean, he’s a big strong guy.”

Diarmaid looked confused and her daughter chimed in “You mean Ox the butcher?”

“Yes, people in town called him Ox once he gave up wizarding but his real name is Hellerhad. They have to be the same guy right?  There can’t be two wizards named Hellerhad in the same smallish town.  I never got the story, but he and some other wizard were wooing the same woman and somehow that led to him giving up magic.  Was that you?  How old are you?  I got the impression that this was years ago – were these wizards both pederasts?”

Martialla also looked confused “So was this gem thing you were talking about the same wooing?”

Both Hücresels looked at each other and then Darimaid said that they didn’t know what we were talking about.

“Does anyone even know if Hellerhad is a first name or a surname?  Maybe they’re brothers and they’re both Hellerhads?”

No one knew. 

Martialla piped up “It could be same guy, nobody knows better than us that changing your appearance is a pretty fundamental trick of magic.  Maybe he took on a different form when he was making his move on young lady Hücresel here.  Or vice versa, maybe he took on a different form when he was trying to pretend to be a butcher.”

“Why would he use the same name though?  That makes no sense if you’re trying to conceal your identity.”

“Well, Hellerhad can’t be the only wizard in Alleene anyway because according to your story he had a rival – maybe that other guy decided to call himself Hellerhad as some kind of weird screw you to the butcher.”

“The Baroness said that he was the only one around, maybe none of that even happened in Alleene or maybe the other wizard left with the girl.  This is all just speculation, and I suppose it doesn’t matter – next time he attacks Martialla will just kill him.”

“I will?”

I clapped her on the back all friendly like “You sure will, our half-elf friends here will engage his minions and you can blast him out of the sky.”

 Hücresel looked worried “You think he’ll attack again?”

I nodded “Oh yes, wizards always attack three times, he seems to be using up his minions in reverse order of uselessness – first the giants, then the ogres, so the good news is the next attack will just be goblins or something little and weak like that.  If we don’t kill him then that will probably be it, I doubt he’ll risk attacking on his own.  Assuming he doesn’t get desperate and summons some demons or something.”

Martialla had a sour look “Where do all these minions come from anyway?  Who has a clan of ogres on retainer?  And how does he move them around?”

“I don’t know, portals or some shit, evil wizards always seem to have portals.  Constructing a portal to travel around is clearly something that requires a lot of evilness.  As to where they come from I assume there’s some kind of middle management wizard who keeps tabs on all the humanoid tribes and brokers deals with the evil wizards who need to attack and/or kidnap someone.  You think wizards have the time to go out and make all these contacts themselves?  It makes no sense.  Plus have you met these people?  Any self-respecting giant would crush them with a boulder just on principal.”

“That doesn’t seem very likely Ela.”

“You explain it then smartypants.  No?  Didn’t think so.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 47,040 platinum, 25,750 gold

XP: 1,161,951

Inventory: 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, Ela’s Stately Greatcoat

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

Montalan 28 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Last night on the way back to the Song and Dance last night I bought a nice bottle of Kurniwan ’68.  I wasn’t in the mood to sleep so I stayed up most of the night and had a good chat with the wine.  Aubesh’s speech about my murderous ways bothered me a bit, not because she’s right by any means – she’s a babe in the woods she doesn’t know anything –  but because I have wondered myself from time to time if I can “go back”.  For the last year I’ve been in survival mode, and surviving means that you can to do things that would be frowned upon in polite society and that’s fine.  But how far can you go down that path before there’s no turning around?  We’ve all seen the guys that come back from the front lines and they just can’t do it anymore.  Normal life is beyond them.  Something and simple as going to the market to by bread has become foreign to them.  They’ve become something else.  I don’t want to reach the point where I can’t live a life the way I want.  What’s the point of revenge if you can’t enjoy it afterwards?  Don’t get me wrong, if the only way to get the Duke is to become the type of monster from which there’s no turning back that’s what I’ll become.  Revenge is job one obviously.  But if there’s a way to get what I want and not become a post-human lunatic clearly that’s the best case scenario.  It’s important to have priorities lest you lose your way.

I met up with Martialla and Aubesh for breakfast at one of the many eateries catering to the late night/early morning gambling crowd across the bridge, surviving off the largess of those who’ve hit it big and the “Well I’ve lost most of my money anyway” cynical spendthriftism of the everyone who didn’t.  We had barely sat down at our table by the dirty window before Aubesh was hissing at me urgently. 

“Did you do it?  Did you kill him?”

I glanced around “Say it a little louder will you?”

Martialla looked around as well “I think they’ve heard worse here.”

Aubesh lowered her voice maybe one half of a percent, good thing she already talks quietly “Just tell me what happened.”

“I didn’t kill him.” Martialla raised a surprised eyebrow as Aubesh’s face turned white “I told him that I killed you.”

Aubesh’s fright turned to confusion “What?  Why?”

Martialla seemed slightly confused as well “You seemed pretty intent on ending his life yesterday.”

I sighed “Oh, you know, when I got there and I looked at him I don’t know what happened.  I just wasn’t in the mood anymore.  I can’t explain it, killing a pimp is pretty much a public service.  Anyway, since I wasn’t going to kill him I figured that telling him you were dead accomplishes the same thing. 

Aubesh thought for a moment “Did he believe it?”

I nodded “Yeah, he believed it, I’m very convincing you know.  Obviously if you hang around town that’s lie is going to unravel itself pretty quickly.  You’ve got the five platinum in your pocket that I gave you plus whatever you managed to squirrel away on your own.  If you can’t make your way out of Preen with that and set yourself up somewhere else there’s nothing else I can do for you.”

“Where should I go?  What should I do?”

“Whatever you want.  You’re free.  Aside from not being able to stay in Preen, which is like freedom only better if you ask me.  Start a new life, or go back to your old one, whichever suits you.”

A dark look came over her face “My old life is what got me here in the first place.”

“You know what I mean.  Just go.  Make something of yourself, if you want to.  Whatever calamity got you here, it’s time for you to leave all of it behind. Just get out of town. Don’t look back. Go somewhere far away and start a new life.  I really think that would be good for you.  A clean slate.  You could get a job as a singer if you wanted to.  You could meet someone, start a family. Your life is just starting Aubesh. If I could, I’d trade places.  A whole lifetime ahead of you with a chance to start over again, to do things differently.  In a few years, this might all feel like nothing more than a bad dream.  The choice is yours.”

Aubesh was pretty shaky so we stashed her with Adelis, which also gave us a chance to update Adelis on the situation.  We didn’t update her on everything of course, but we confirmed that her suspicions were correct about our loverboy mage.  After getting Aubesh situated Martialla and I returned to the Song and Dance to attack a bottle of Niswani wine and plot.

“Alright so here’s what I’m thinking.  What we need to do is to get Dalphios . . .”

“Dulphistos.”

“. . . whatever, you know who I meant.  We need to get that guy and his oh so deadly team of mercs out of this house and then we go in and rescue Bethlalia . . .

“Cathédala.”

“. . . whatever, you know who I mean quit busting my chops!  The point is that we need to arrange it so that we can we get in his house and get her out while he and his murder squad aren’t there.  Piece of cake.”

“But you’re the one who said that rescuing her wouldn’t matter because Dulphistos would just find her and kidnap her again.”

“I know what I said, but Preen is awful, it’s time for Adelis to move on anyway.”

“Nice of you to decide that for her, you’re always so considerate.  That sounds like a great idea, but how are we going to get a famously reclusive wizard with no outside connections to leave his house?”

“We pin the deaths of his assistants . . .

“Apprentices.”

“. . . of those three guys, on someone else.  He’ll come out with his Bravos to kill the people we frame and that’s when we make our move to rescue Cathledendzia.  We’ll go to his house in disguise and say that we were at the casino and that we saw Dross and the others get into an altercation with whoever we decide to frame.  We’ll play up how they, the one’s we’re framing, were talking about taking them out.  The smart mage can draw his own conclusions and then we’ve got ourselves a runner.”

“Why would whoever we’re pretending to be do that?”

“Because we want to curry favor with the great and powerful wizard.”

“I think that’s a terrible plan.  I think if he’s any kind of wizard he’ll see through our disguises and even if he doesn’t if any of his men go to the casino to confirm our lies it’s not going to check out.”

“Do you have a better idea?”

“Yes, I think it’s safe to assume that the Lumber people came to some kind agreement with Dulphistos when they took over the town, even if it’s just to stay out of each other’s way.  We use them as the go-between.  We go to them and tell them that three broads lured Dulphistos’s assistants into an ambush.  Said broads were working for whichever gang is causing the Lumber Consotrium the most trouble because they’re making a power play and they want to make sure Dulphistos doesn’t come into the fray on the side of whichever gang they’re trying to knock off the top of the ladder.  The Lumber people will help sell it because even if they don’t believe it or don’t care they want the gang that’s causing them problems taken out and if someone else does it for them so much the better, plus if anyone checks at the casino they will say that Tarver was there being wooed by three ladies that had no business wooing him.  Because he was.”

“Hmm, that is a better plan.”

“Assuming that Dulphistos and the lumber people have at least a non-aggression pact, we also need to figure out which gang to pin it on.  But with that information I feel like it’s a pretty good plan.”    

“I guess we better get to work then.”

Martialla raised her glass “I guess we better.”

Switching disguises often Martialla and I made the rounds of all the dives and gin-joints and other establishments of ill-repute to get a rough draft of the underworld hierarchy of Preen post-Razmiran.  The local Lumber Consortium bigwig is a Halfling by the name of Premum Anypoint who by all accounts is not happy about that fact and is looking to settle things as soon as possible so he can move on from Preen – which shows quite a bit of common sense in and of itself.  When Razmiran fled the city the bulk of his lackeys and minions quickly switched their allegiance to someone else or got out of town themselves.  But some of them banded together to try and hold his little empire together, and the leader that emerged of this band was none other than the anvil-faced guard who tried to cave in my chest during the robbery, whose name is seems is Velké Dářkos.  This group had tried to dub themselves the Assassins or something manly and stupid like that but was saddled instead with being called the Black Sheep by popular acclaim.  They failed to retain control over most of Razmiran’s assets but endure as a persistent thorn in the side of new powers that be.  And even better, one of the only groups allied with the Black Sheep is the Gallows Girls, desperation, bedfellows, etc.  As I had assumed most of the other gangs used the chaos as an excuse to strike against them and they’re barely hanging on by the skin of their tits.  Putting this all together had taken the rest of the day so Martialla and I returned to the Song and Dance for a nightcap.

“The only thing that would make this plan better is if we had someone else that could finger the Black Sheep-Gallows Girls for us.”

“I was thinking the same thing, but we don’t have those connections.  Unless you think there’s a way we can use Generous.”

“That would give me a good excuse for not killing him.  I’m not sure how to pull it off though, unless we can get some of his other girls to filter the information up to him.”

“That could get messy, I never like relying on someone else to tell lies for me – other than you of course.”

“Of course.  Maybe we don’t need to rely on them.  Aubesh has to know some of the other girls, even though she was never really in the ‘trenches’ with them – so to speak.  Maybe we have her tell us who else is on Generous’ payroll and then we snatch them and replace them to pass along the information ourselves – as them.”

“Now we’re kidnapping prostitutes?  I thought we were saving them.”

“Eh, case by case.  Besides, I’m sure they’ll be better off getting out of town with Adelis than they are with Generous.”

“There you go again, you have a real knack for deciding what’s best for people without their input.”

“Yes, it’s one of my many fine qualities.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 28,040 platinum, 53,613 gold

XP: 795,911

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Amulet of Dreams, Ela’s Traveling Outfit, Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Ring of Urban Grace, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet

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) 

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  

Mede 2 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

This doesn’t happen often, never really if you think about it, but I was wrong.  I had it in my head that Wrybry was another nothing country village but instead I found a something straddling the line between a large town and a small city.  In my defense this isn’t an area that I’m terribly familiar with.  It did look like perhaps it was several villages that had grown together so maybe Wrybry used to be a one of them?  Doesn’t matter I suppose, other than maybe I was partially right which makes more sense really.  It was a pleasant surprise which allowed Martialla and me to do some trading – unloading the Colonel’s horses and whatnot.  I wasn’t in the market to buy anything but I saw a very fetching walking stick.  After I stole that walking stick from an old man in Graltontown I really enjoyed having one – it’s nice to have something to gesture and when necessary rap someone on the head with.  The one I picked up was not only fashionable, slim finely worked darkwood with silver, but it was also magic – and as you know most magic items are gaudy trash.  When I see one that actually looks nice I almost have to buy it out of principal.  

After our commerce morning it was time to start looking for the possessed dancing girl.  It was easy to track down her place of business – a dance parlor not far from the market district called the Good Man.  I guess that’s supposed to be a pun or a joke of some kind but if you ask me it’s a terrible name for a dance joint.  The owner was surprisingly neither a disgusting letch nor a villainous brute barely holding back violence but looked just like a boring old shopkeep or the like.  He told us that Belle Thurnin had been one of his more popular girls until Tanara Aluation had turned up a series of live performances.  The two of them were carrying on together for several days and when Tanara left Belle started acting strangely.  And strange quickly escalated to psychotic.  After getting fired for stabbing one of the customers (they tend not to like that, although I know a place if that’s your thing) she bounced around a couple lower class joints and eventually left town to avoid the hangman’s noose after stabbing a city watchman to death. 

And who would a dangerously deranged possessed murderer leave town in the company of?  Adventurers of course.  And not just any adventurers, my old friends the Heroes of the Lost Sword.  They had an engagement with a local merchant to root out a band of orcs and were looking for some help – and why wouldn’t they hire on a knife wielding maniac?  Taking on the appearance of rough looking mercenary types Martialla and I went to the offices of this merchant where his gossipy staff were more than happy to tell us all about it.  The merchant had suspended operations in the area of the Majestic Gorge because it had become infested with orcs.  As it turns out one of the “Heroes” by the name of Rikcard grew up around these parts and was friends with the merchant.  Ergo the deal was struck – Rikcard and his friends would come murder all the orcs and everything would be grand once more.

The next step was to find the best tracker in town.  No, the next step was to find the best morally flexible tracker in town.  The first tracker we found was so drunk he couldn’t even stand up so we moved on to our next choice and were shocked to find out that it was a woman!  A lady tracker?  Who ever heard of such a thing?  She had her hair cornrowed though, which to me indicates that she’s competent at woodcraft because no one who had a proper job in the city would ever do such a thing to themselves.  Plus her dog Nomen was a sweetheart.   We hired her to help us find the Heroes of the Lost Sword and not an hour later the three of us were riding out of town.

We reached the general area of the Majestic Gorge by late afternoon and Martialla and I set up camp while Rokia and Nomen started their search of the area. 

“What I need is some kind of magically transportable lounge chair.”

“Why not an entire mansion that you can shrink down on put in your bodice?”

“Now you’re just being ridiculous.  Plus wouldn’t everything inside be thrown everywhere when you picked it up and moved it around?  Once the mansion was returned to normal size everything would be a wreck inside.”

“What are you going to do when we find these people anyway?  There’s a lunatic that you want help from and a bunch of other people you want to take down.  How are you going to do both of those things?”

“I’ll come up with something I’m sure, I usually do.”

“I’m glad you didn’t say always.”

I was about to say something else when the wine bottle in my hand suddenly exploded.  Someone was shooting at us and they had the poor manners to kill my wine.  Two dozen orcs were rushing at us down the hill to the north.  I’ve seen plenty of half-orcs in my day but I’ve never seen a full blooded orc before – I never wanted to.  In the dark recesses of my mind I’ve always been afraid of orcs.  People can be depraved and violent and cruel, but there’s always a chance that you can talk your way out of trouble.  Even when I was enslaved by the Skin-Takers, people who are as close to demons in human flesh as I’ve ever met, I felt like my smooth tongue gave me some way to potentially get free – as it did in the end.  But orcs are worse than beasts because all they care about is destruction.  I mean the fact that I’ve met plenty of half-orcs sums it all up doesn’t it?  I wager a lot of fighting men view orcs as a somewhat dangerous nuisance, but for me their pure nightmare fuel.

I’ve always heard of orcs as being kind of a pukey green skin tone but these were definitely more blue-grey.  And I always pictured orcs with greasy long black hair but these ones had no hair at all.  The rest was as advertised, awkward looking underbite, jutting tusks, beady pig-eyes, and brutally muscular frames.

I was stunned for a second but Martialla cast a spell that sent half a dozen of them to sleep in mid run – have you ever seen someone running at a full sprint suddenly fall asleep?  It’s quite a sight.  It’s not exactly like being tripped, it’s more like suddenly throwing yourself face-first into the ground. Moments later I was fighting tooth and nail (so to speak) with a rampaging orc-horde, lashing out with lion-claws and my walking stick.  And honestly it wasn’t much of a fight – it’s strange to think that two non-warrior types like us could fight off a mob of orcs, but that’s what happened.  In truth Martialla did most of the heavy lifting with her spells and sword, but the point is we sent them packing.  It’s hard to see that happening with the Ela of nine months ago.  It’s a funny old world. 

After the fracas while Martialla was murdering the sleeping orcs I poked around at the ones already dead but they predictably had little of value unless you like crappy spears and shoddy armor.  Which I do not.  They say that orcs breed like rabbits but still it’s hard to see how they’re still around, seems like we should have wiped them out by now.  I suppose the Kingdom isn’t as settled everywhere as I’d like, there’s still wild places where vile races like this can flourish. 

“I guess in addition to a tracker we should have hired some muscle as well.  I wouldn’t mind having those sisters with us right about now.”

“Maybe, but who knows how half-orcs feel about fighting their kin.”

“I have to imagine half-orcs hate the non-human cousins.  Half-elfs are usually the result of some tragic love story with long poems and people standing in the rain and magical amulets being traded back and forth, half-orcs I gather come from an altogether different kind of tragedy.  I mean look at these things- who’d want to get into bed with that?”

“Do orcs even have beds?”

“Exactly.”

_______________________________________________________________

Hair regrowth progress :  .051%

Funds: 817 platinum, 55,776 gold

XP: 269,611

Inventory:  Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion),  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow, Deck of Curses (two cards used), Ring of Urban Grace, Feather Token (tree), +1 Human Bane Dagger, Bewitching Gown, Grappling Scarf, Wyvern Skin Robe (Robe of Arcane Heritage),  Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Ela’s Walking Stick (Rod of Ruin/Agile Alpenstock) Bag of Concealment, Bag of Holding, Black Marketers’ Bag

Pocketed Scarf, Wrist Sheath,  Assortment of Fake Signet Rings,  , Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), 852 Garnets, severed hag head, gold necklace with jade pendant, white squirrel fur slippers,  ivory combs, receipt,  tax collector’s badge, Calastar (Superior Riding horse, Horseshoes of Speed, Endless Feedbag), Wine (expensive) 8 bottles

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