Update/repost/edit – Montagem 10, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

NOTE – Re-writing this old post to close a plot hole that I’m sure has been tormenting you all for over a year now.

Uncharacteristically for me I woke early today.  It’s hard to sleep late when your body is practically vibrating with nervous energy.  Actually nervous isn’t the right world, and neither is anticipation really – is there a word for a feeling you get when you’re about to experience something new that you know is going to be dangerous but you’d interested anyway?  Is there is what’s what it was.  I never thought I’d be anywhere near a battle in my life – watching one far away sure, but near a battle, like on the ground?  I would have lost money on that bet.  In addition to thinking that I would never be near a battle I also hoped that I never would.  Who in their right mind would want to be in a battle, those things are dangerous.  Nobody, that’s who.  And before you say that you know lots of people that love to fight please note that I said someone in their right mind.  I don’t dispute that a lot of people either because of brainwashing or insanity are ready to fight and die at the drop of a hat. 

Before I set out to meet up with my brave adventuring companions and charge into danger I figured I should give notice to the only God that I really care about.  That’s a thing that you’re supposed to do before you head into battle right?  Some manner of last obeisance to the Gods to make sure if you die your soul is going to be taken care of? 

In the old days worship of Kozilek was forbidden.  By necessity one assumes – you can’t have someone in your tribe who you can’t count on right?  But even then there were people that didn’t feel like the rules applied to them.  After all if you make a statue of a God and then tell everyone “now don’t look at this one” some people HAVE to do just that.  There’s a kind of strength to be found in disarray.  I have to assume that the tribal leaders looked the other way on that a bit – when you’re going to fight another bunch of savages over a lake of a date tree or whatever there’s no harm in having someone on your side that doesn’t have any problem not fighting fair.

In these modern times a lot of people claim that Kozilek isn’t even a proper God, that Kozilek is just a powerful being from outside of space and time that provides divine powers to its followers.  If you can explain to me how that’s different from a God please let me know, but while the distinction if lost on me it’s important to some people.  God or not worship of Kozilek isn’t forbidden anymore but it’s not something that anyone would admit to, it’s more like being really into visiting brothels – the people that do it are into it but they don’t go around advertising it.  Anyone who declared themselves to be a priest of Kozilek would be considered unstable and irrational – and they probably would be.  I mean it’s not like there’s temples of Kozilek where you go to services every week, that wouldn’t make a lot of sense.  What kind of trickster god would have people sitting in rows listening to sermons?  But there are people out there that pay homage to the Cypher Lord, it’s more of a personal faith.  It’s not a wearing robes and lighting candles and scared meal kind of a thing, it’s more of a do whatever you want and think “this one’s for you Kozilek, you want to help me out please do.”

Worshippers of Kozilek are considered to be fringe lunatics nursing grudges against the society that they couldn’t function in, which is mostly accurate, so I’m clearly not one of them – but Kozilek is the God that I can at least identify with somewhat.  I would sum up Kozilek’s Godly advice like this –

My life is my path, and none will sway me from it.

If you want something take it, but you know, but subtle about it, don’t be a goon – show some artistry about how you go about it, if you do it right no one will even notice. 

There’s no such thing as getting even – if someone wrongs you repay that slight on their head at least tenfold, more if you can swing it. 

Be the instrument of your own justice. If someone messes with you take matters into your own hands, aint nobody in this life going to do it for you.

Those are simple to the point tenants that I can get behind.  Or in front of, however that works.  There being no temple at which to pay my respects I wandered around town just taking in the morning and silently I gave thanks to the Butcher of Truth, the Great Distortion, the Confusion of Panic, the Trap of Enigmas , the Harrower of Thought, for helping to make me cunning.  I asked him to watch over me on this day.  I’m not sure what it means to have a trickster God watching over you, it may not even be what you want, but I’m a sucker for tradition. 

After fulfilling my very important religious obligations I met up with my companions at the edge of town, my friend with the eye-patch looking like he was coming off a night of hard drinking and low down dirty carousing.  His gaze lingered on me hungrily.  I felt like I needed to bathe again just at the “touch” of his vision. What a way to start a day.

We set out into the woods at a fair clip but I could tell they were showing me some consideration with their pace.  Obviously I am well versed in pretending to be interested in the stories of men, but I had my fill of their war-tales pretty quickly.  Yes it was winter and you had no boots, yes you were starving and ate rats, yes your friend had his legs hacked off by some doc sawbones, blah, blah, blah.  It’s all well-worn territory narratively speaking, and there’s nothing quite as boring as someone else’s misery.  Luckily this lot wasn’t very good at picking up on social cues and they construed my uninterested silence as rapt attention.

I will admit to being a bit winded when we came to a stop, I haven’t really lived a life that has me in condition to do a lot of marching around.  I showed them the spot where the woodsman met his grisly fate and they fanned out to look for tracks or other signs of the beast.  It was clear these men knew their business but to the untrained eye it seemed we wandered randomly, the method of what they were doing was lost on me entirely.  I realized quickly that this was unlikely to be a one day excursion, if we found the worg at all it could take days or weeks.  This was unexpected and dismaying.

At some point during the day eye-patch mentioned that we were being shadowed by the tribal folks of the forest.  Who can say why?  For all I know this great wolf was their sacred beast and they all took turns being married to it for a season.  I hate these primitive types, if your society can’t make a pleasant wine what’s the point of it?  I mean why even both right?

As night came on they built a rough camp and stirred up some awful oaty gruel-like mixture that I was nonetheless glad to have, I was famished after a hard day of traipsing around the forest.  I was semi-hypnotized staring into the flame when all of a sudden my four companions leapt to their feet, grabbing their spears and bows.  Off in the distance skulked the beast.  My heart fluttered in my chest but long tense minutes passed without anything happening, it was too far away to attack and came no closer.

Wanting to bring this confrontation to a head I did something very foolish, I convinced them to let me approach the beast saying I would bait it closer.  I’ve never been so frightened as when I stepped out of the campfire light into the shadows towards the low form of the worg.

The monster demanded to know what I was doing and I whispered that I had brought him “treats” as I had promised.  He declared they were too big and strong but I was able to appeal to his ego, seems as though males of all species are vulnerable to that ploy.  He paced about quite a bit, working himself up to it, but with my coaxing he finally slipped away into the night to prepare his attack. 

When the great beast burst into the camp a moment later, all Hells broke loose. In a flash the worg had borne one of the men to the ground and ripped his throat out. It was over for that fellow in half a second.  Just like that.  No chance to fight back, just alive one moment and the next not.  Makes you think.  With a mighty leap the word knocked over the leader and tore into him with his jaws.  Somehow he seemed even more massive than ever in that wild rush, must be a trick of the light.  Patch fired with his bow and missed as the other man charged forward with his spear, trying to help his boss who struggled on the ground with the worg.

The sound of the howl the worg unleashed when Patch scored with one of his arrows was ear-splittingly horrific.  I turned away from the awful scene, not half a minute later though, all was quiet.  Two men lay dead, Patch was terribly wounded, the leader of the little band was all over with blood but seemed steady on his feet.  The worg laying dying so near the fire that its fur smoldered.

While the leader was distracted I palmed my stiletto and came up on Patch with a strip of clothe as if to bind his wounds.  He had a look of grateful appreciation on his face until I stabbed him through the liver.  He fell to the ground silently without a sound.  The sole survivor (other than me) sat at the edge of the firelight for a long time, it seemed best not to bother him.  I picked up the spear of one of the fallen men, just to see what it felt like to have a real weapon in my hands.  So crude and rough – graceless.

“Your brother is avenged . . . . at a heavy price” he said to me finally.  He had a far-away look in his eyes that made me uneasy but we worked together to bury the bodies, the most back-breaking effort I have made in twenty years, and then fell into an exhausted sleep.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 75 gold, 25 Silver

XP: 1000

Inventory: Peasant outfit (with hidden pockets) , Signet Ring , Stiletto , Map case, quill pen, red riding cloak, candlerod (5) , dreamer’s star tea (4 servings) , poison ring, awful pendant, disguise kit (8 uses) , Fashionable Accessories, hollow heeled boot, poison locket

Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane, Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler , Alice Kinsey , “Patch”

Rumors : Murderous servants (25%) , exiled noblewoman (10%)

Behind the curtain: I used the vagabond stats from the Game Mastery guide for the 4 ex-soldiers, that worg was a real terror though, without a bow critical at the end I think the whole crew would have gone down.  I debated if Ela should get any XP since she all she did was hire people to fight for her – although thematically if you got XP like that it that would explain why mayors and lords and such are always hiring adventurers to do their dirty work, would also explain how they tend to be mid-level sorts.  In the end I decided to award her half XP like a cohort for this encounter since she was there and cohorts don’t always do a lot during combat. 

Out of character interlude – year one

You ever read Batman Year One? It’s pretty sweet.

A year ago yesterday I started this blog mostly as a joke and here still we are so I guess the joke is on me at this point. The origin is that my D&D group and I were talking about Dave the Commoner and we jested that we should each start a blog of the same kind with the other four NPC classes. Someone else was doing one for the Warrior and Adept seemed too “easy” so I went with Expert over Aristocrat because I wanted a rogue-like character.

Originally it was titled the Erotic Endeavors of Ela the Expert because I thought it was funny. Several people told me that they hated the title but I wouldn’t change it because I’m stubborn like that. But then one day a dude sent me a message about the erotic stuff he wanted me to write about and that finally motivated me to change it to a more appropriate title.

I’m pretty sure that half my “followers” are bots and I doubt that anyone reads regularly – as one of my buddies said “I just check in every few weeks to see who Ela is screwing over that day” but I have gotten some feedback. And by some I mean literally six or seven messages. I found this feedback perplexing.

Half the messages were from guys (ostensibly) who said that they liked the story but they didn’t like that it was about a female character. They said it was unrealistic for a woman to be shifty and murderous and cold blooded. One of them said that the only way they could read it is if they pretended that Ela was a man.

The other half of the messages were from women (ostensibly) who said that Ela was unrealistic because women aren’t like that – they’re empathetic and want to help people and aren’t murderous con artists. Furthermore, portraying women as such was bad for society and playing into negative anti-feminist stereotypes.

I didn’t know what to make of this feedback but after a very brief consideration of bailing I decided that I didn’t need to care about it because even if it was harmful it’s such a small scale that it didn’t matter. But then one of my friends pointed out that it doesn’t matter how small your reach is if what you’re doing is bad then it’s bad (they were making no comment on if the blog was bad or not because they don’t read it). But I decided that I like writing it so if I’m a horrible person I guess that’s just what it is.

I play D&D for real as well (or did before Covid) and whenever I’m the DM the feedback I’ve gotten is “I like playing your campaign (you have to say that first because DMs are fragile) but all your campaign worlds are awful places full of awful people”. I’ve never really understood that because I don’t consider my campaigns “dark fantasy” they just seem normal to me, but clearly my normal is awful to everyone else. My point is this, I don’t think it’s a gender issue so much as a issue of me making everything horrible.

Anyway I hope Ela lives long enough that this blog goes at least 479 days so it will be one day longer than Demolition’s first reign as tag team champions. Remember when they first came around and everyone dismissed them as a second rate Road Warriors knock off? But then by the end of the 80’s people thought that the Road Warriors were a crummy knock-off of Demolition? I do.

Myam 23 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I’ve never cared for the expression that postulates even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then because there was a blind squirrel in the garden at court that found nuts all the time – squirrels can smell you know.  The real issue that a blind squirrel has is not being able to see when an owl is coming to snatch them up and eat them, which is what happened to that squirrel.  The point is that while I don’t believe in luck up every now and then things line up just right to make your job easy.  When I got up today I was anticipating a long day or gathering information, shifting disguises, talking to disreputable folks for cold hard coin, the kind of thing I was doing all the time in the early days.  But instead as I was heading for the Rest Inn Peace I saw a blast from the past just walking down the street.  She had cut the hair short on one side of her head and left her tangle of dreadlocks on the other which made her even more repulsive looking if you can even believe it.  Her top lip was recently split right on that indentation thing (what’s that called?) but otherwise she looked basically the same as she did in Graltontown.  The only thing she was missing was her cherished sledgehammer, you remember – the one she used to crush my foot.

I immediately started following her, which isn’t really my forte, but it helps when you can change yourt appearance at will (sort of).  Some day I need to learn the key to shadowing people, there has to be an art to it since people do it to me all the time.  Speaking of, as I was following her I noticed that again some grubby seedy character was following me and in the process of losing him I almost lost track of Dreadlocks.  Luckily I had formulated the accurate assumption she was heading for a particular disreputable low class tavern and I caught up with her there just as she was entering.  I don’t know much about rebelling against the Crown, or the class system or whatever, but it seems like these people are always meetings in bars.  I feel that should make it easy for the guard to catch them, just stake out all the bars – but it must be more complicated than that because here we are. 

Going in after her seemed like a bridge too far so I loitered outside for a few minutes before I got worried about her slipping out the back way – because these kind of places always  have a back way out and she seems like a real backdoor slipper.  I was trying to figure out what street ran behind the place (give me a break, I don’t live here) when I saw another familiar face coming out the front door – one of Dreadlock’s goons from the aforementioned ankle-breaking.  He was one of those heavy looking jowly goons that sits right on the borderline between menacing and hapless – you don’t have to be smart to crack skulls.  I quickly decided to follow him instead, heading over a few streets where he met with someone dressed all in black with a hood pulled up over their face – nothing suspicious about that.  When someone puts on their all-black “covert” outfit and is just walking around like that what the Hells are they thinking?  Sidenote, I don’t know if it’s true but an assassin told me once that dark blue is actually better for skulking around at night – pitch black doesn’t really exist unless you’re underground in which case it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing.

Jowls and Mysterious Obvious Stranger exchanged a coin purse and a knife and then he looked around in that way that completely makes everyone know that you’re doing something shady.  In addition to dressing all in black that’s another thing people don’t seem to grasp – when you’re doing nefarious shit you need to not look nefarious.  Act normal you freaks.  Jowls and his bag of money headed over a few more streets and then went into a small shabby looking house.  I watched the place for about half an hour before I got bored and decided to approach – taking in the appearance of your standard door to door junk-seller or ragman.  I knocked and when there was no answer I tried the door and found that it wasn’t locked.  The small house was just a common room with a fireplace and a bedroom and had little in it – just a dilapidated bed and a wobbly table, neither of which looked like they had been used in a while. 

What there was though was a trapdoor in the floor that lead to a stinking tunnel.  I would have thought based on the stench that it lead to the sewers but Beresdord doesn’t haven’t sewers.  It managed to smell as bad as one though.  I could tell that the tunnel ran eastwardly and not wanting to crawl through a stink-tube I went outside and took a look at what buildings were to the east.  A couple more houses, and then an abandoned temple to a deity that I didn’t recognize.  Seems Adarielish but it had a statue  out front and Adarielites don’t make images of her, maybe it’s some old timey temple from back before they decided it wasn’t cool to depict their Blessed Lady with crude mortal instruments. Anyway this seemed like a likely candidate not only because rebels also seem to love old churches in addition to bars but also because digging a secret tunnel is hard Gods damned work, they rarely go more than a hundred yards or so.

I switched my appearance to that of Dreadlocks and headed through the decrepit double doors, the rightmost of which seemed like it was going to fall and crush me nearly as much as it was going to swing open.  I had only taken a couple steps into the dim front chambers when I heard a hissing voice right beside me.

“What are you doing?!”

I turned towards what I assumed was an invisible watcher “I just need to grab something.”

“Why are you coming in this way?!” I shrugged and started to continue forward and I felt a hand on my shoulder “Are you stupid, watch out for the trap!”

You see, this is what I’m talking about.  If you’re on guard duty, even if you see someone that looks familiar if they’re not acting right why aren’t you more, you know, on guard?  Someone comes in the wrong way and doesn’t know about “the trap” I don’t care what they look like you should probably stab them in the belly. 

I slapped the invisible hand off me, it’s harder than you think “Don’t speak to me that way you punk!”

“You’re the one that’s breaking protocol!”

“And what are you doing about it?  Everything I did was wrong and you were going to let me in anyway.  This was a test boy and you failed.  I could be anyone taking on this appearance with magic, I mean why the Hells do you think we have the protocols in the first place?  Show me your face now!”

The invisibility faded away to reveal a rough looking young fellow in studded leather armor with a red cloth over his face and a yellow hood pulled low with a small shield and a short blade held “backwards” in the fashion of an icepick.  I yanked the cloth off his face to reveal the petulant look of someone who’s both angry and afraid at the same time, the look of someone who thinks they’re in the right but is going to get in trouble anyway and can’t do shit about it.

I gestured impatiently “Go inside, I want to talk to you!”

“But I’m on watch, I . . .”

“Go, now.”

With a sneer he headed further into the temple, taking exaggerated care where he walked in the area around the passageway to the next chamber – which I marked and mimicked to avoid whatever trap he was talking about.  The main part of the temple had been converted into a barrack of sort.  There was a large scaffold in the northwest corner elevating  a meeting table off the grimy ground, another scaffold on the northeast where there was a nice bed and a desk, and then huddled together in the southeast corner were a bunch of blanks and bedrolls lain on the dirty ground.  You can’t help but be amused when rebels seeking equality have their own caste system.  The altar was gone and in its place a greatsword had been thrust into the stone, the guard was made to look like a screaming face, which probably makes it hard to hold onto the damn thing in battle.

But the most interesting thing was the little workshop set up in the southwest corner, which contained the chained up form of my old friend Rindol.  I was worried if I was going to be able to track him down before I had to return to Allenne and here he is.  Every once in a great while things just go your way.  Its best not to dwell on it, no reason to tempt fate, just enjoy it for a moment and then get on with your business.  I took Yellow Hood up on the table-scaffold and chewed him out for a while before sending him back to his post with instructions never to mention this failure to anyone.  The only other person who seemed to be in the place was the guy I had been following who was sound asleep in the “minion pile” of crude bedding on the ground.  I climbed down the scaffold and headed over to where Rindol was sullenly doing something with beakers and acrid smelling liquids.

He winced at my approach “I’m working as fast as I can, I swear, you beating me won’t . . .”

I retained the form of Deadlocks but used the speaking voice of Vablis “It’s me Rindol, keep your voice down.”

He frowned “What?  Who?”

I hissed at him “I said keep your voice down.   It’s me Vablis, I’m here to rescue you.”

The confusion on his face was quickly chased away by desperate hope “Thank Gods, please get me out of here!”

“I can’t right now, you just need to hang on for a little while longer Rindol.  Now that I know where you are I can send the guard here in force to get you out.  You just need to hang on for a couple more hours.”

He shook his head, terrified at the notion “I can’t, I . . .”

“Yes you can Rindol, you have to, this is nothing compared to what you experienced in the woods right?  Or in the riots. Compared to that this is nothing. Just keep your head down and don’t do anything to make these savages mad for a little while longer and I’ll have you out of here by nightfall.”

He started to say something else but I planted a kiss on him that shut him up.  Good thing no one was around to see that, I’m sure that would have raised some suspicions.  The look of shock and joy on his face made me wonder if that was his first kiss.

“I love you Mr. Rindol, and I swear that I’m going to get you out of here and then we can be together.”

He stood there looking stunned as I headed back out the front of the temple, where presumably an invisible guard was making invisible obscene gestures in my direction and hoping that I would screw up and get killed by whatever trap was there. I headed directly to the appropriated mayoral compound where Baron Redmynd was now gleefully making preparations for ingesting Beresford and the surrounding area into his demesne.  When he saw me he broke out into a huge toothy grin, but I waved it away dismissively.

“No time for pleasantries my liege, you need to summon the lord captain of the guard or the ranking military man or whomever, I found where the rebels are hiding.”

He looked more confused than a dog confronting it’s reflection for the first time “What?”

“The followers of Bride or the Widow or whatever you’re calling her now, the insurgents, the people who want to bash your noble head in, redistribution of wealth and anarchy or whatever their deal is.  I found them and I think if we want to grab them and put an end to this thing time is of the essence so call in whoever you need to crush these people.”

“You’re serious aren’t you?”

“Always.  You got any booze around here, I could use a drink?  The mayor had a nice selection, what happened to that?”

After a brief delay Redmynd called in his legbreakers and chosen men and so forth and I told them about the church and the hideout within.  I told them that it was mostly empty right now but if they put some watchers on it they should be able to find a good time to strike and get most of the revolutionaries.  I told them about Rindol and how he was actually one of the ringleaders of the entire operation and that he was cooking up all kinds of deadly alchemistical weapons and toxins even though he was pretending to be a captive.  I made sure they knew that those chains were just for show and that he was so dangerous that he should be killed on sight. I may have overdone it driving home the point that under no circumstances should they try to take Rindol alive, but in these situations it doesn’t help to be subtle.

After that my presence was no longer desired – after all I’m just a woman, what aid could I render to a military operation?  I retired to Crux Ansata for an idle afternoon.  Eramus Stutr invited me to have dinner with him as the city was no longer preventing people from coming and going as they liked and he was going to be leaving the next day.  It was during this lovely evening meal with my gangly neighbor when a messenger from the Baron arrived.  I excused myself from the patio where Eramus and I were dining to speak to the messenger who informed me that the operation had been a smashing success.  Rindol had been killed as had the bulk of the rebels, aside from the dozen or so that had been captured so they could be executed in public.  The woman with the dreadlocks wasn’t amongst them but you can’t have everything handed to you so easily right?  Eramus was afire with curiosity as I rejoined him.

“What was that about?”

“My sister’s dog had puppies.”

“The Baron sent a messenger to tell you that?”

I picked up my glass of fine red wine “What can I say, the man isn’t all that smart.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 23,067 platinum, 19,788 gold

XP: 680,101

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Badge of Last Resort, Stone of Good Luck, Tankard of the Drunken Hero,  Censer of Dreams,  potions of cure moderate wounds (5), potion of invisibility, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Deck of Curses (four cards used), Ring of Urban Grace,  Bewitching Gown, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Token of Summoning, Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Better Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet, Red’s Riding Hood   

Courtier’s Outfit, 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), severed hag head, 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, glass vials of something awful (8), disguise kit, covenant ring , tiny diamonds (27), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55)   

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