(This entry refers to Session Summary 9)
Something kinda weird happened on the way to Zantric’s wedding (which was itself on the way to the Desolation).
While making our way through the Hungry Mountains (named ‘cause they look kinda like a bunch of teeth, I guess?), we found an overturned wagon at the top of a pass, looking like it had been knocked aside by a giant arrow with the force to, like, you, knock it aside (and I can vouch for Meryk not doing it with his crazy bow skills, he was with us the whole time until we got there!) Anselme and I scoured the place, and found the remains of some people scattered pretty evenly with the remains of the cart and whatever was inside. The occupants had been torn to shreds, the marrow sucked clean from their bones; if the kid weren’t already a “raging sociopath,” as Pandora puts it so well, I’d worry about that stuff having scarred him.
Anyway, we tried to find some sign of what had gone down, and though it looked like there were no tracks, I realized that instead there HAD been tracks, and they’d been covered up by somebody who really knew what he or she was doing. And also fired arrows as long as me. Great. Anselme did his Form Of EAGLE thing, and managed to find some tracks about two-thirds of a furlong away from the trail. We had the rest of caravan huddle up while we tracked it several miles into the mountains, and finally made our way up to a cottage and farm house. Somebody’s summer home, maybe?
Padora snuck her way inside, while I tried to be kinda tactical and move to intercept anything making its away out of the house. Sadly, the thing that proceeded to kick our butts could turn invisible, so it managed to jump Pandora and it took me a while to get back with everybody and close enough to engage. This was my first time seeing a troll, and also my first time seeing a vest made of crying, screaming human faces (I think there was a cat-person face in there too, also a first).
Anyway, here’s where the really weird part happened: I was trying to keep up front, but I was hurt pretty badly, with a stall wall keeping me from being able to back up. I didn’t have Krant’s Joy with me (we’d seen a bunch of metal stuff rusted up over by the overturned wagon), and I just couldn’t hurt this bastard fast enough, so I just keep on stabbing… and I saw the Man in Metal! I wasn’t sleeping, or even hurt so bad that everything goes all wobbly and red around the edges (I think Pandora says my eyes get kind of cloudy when I’m like that, but I never remember to pull out a mirror and check), I saw him when I was totally awake! He was standing next to me, his gauntlets resting on my hands, helping thrust again, helping me keep going. I think the break in my stabbity cadence threw the troll off, as I got my best hit in against him right then. Not good enough to drop the sunvabitch, though, while his next blow caught me in the temple and I was out like a candle. By the time I was up he’d made his way out the back door, and the only one of us who could keep up with him in the woods was Anselme, who barely managed to avoid getting obliterated by giant arrows.
We managed to keep everybody alive, including the little girl who’d been taken alive to be eaten later, but I was pissed. On a personal level, one of those things that eats away at you for a long time. We searched the house, and found a letter with the bastard’s name (Ichor Humansbane, now on my short fecal roster), inviting him to Tsar, so I’m pretty sure we’ll meet again. We also found a tannery… after we’d searched the place, I burned the fucker down, because nothing cleans quite like fire.
He’s been tailing us ever since, taking pot shots at the caravan and generally being a fuming shit. One good thing about his being troll, once we finally take him down I can cut off his dick a dozen times and make him eat a goddamn bag of his own goddamn dicks before finishing him off…
Sorry, had to take a breather. Where was I? Oh yeah, Zantric’s wedding!
We had a chance to do some shopping for his wedding (I gave him my Ring of Blood’s Shield, at the bottom of an Everfilling Mug, and I gave the new Mrs. D’Larric a bottle of Absolom perfume), and in the course of shopping I found a guy who was arm wrestling all takers. I thought I was pretty strong, but this dude managed to take me three times out of four, and even when I filled my pockets full of masonry he was able to flip me out of my chair and into the wall like twenty feet away! I learned a lot about strength there, like the fact that there are people out there would could probably dead lift three tons!
The wedding was lovely. Zantric looked dashing, the bride was the epitome of beauty, and when the priest of Orcus showed up to fill the place with skeletons I got to see a roomful of dwarves wrecking stuff! Dwarven weddings are awesome! The hangover the next morning, I could have done without. I feel like somebody explained something really important to me over that night, but I just can’t remember. I did promise Zantric and his bride they could keep in touch with Taes’s help at least weekly, but I don’t think that’s it…
Anyway, our next trip was through Ustalav. That place is freakin’ CREEPY! Most of the people there seem to have some combination of skin condition, broken posture, horrible smell, and/or crazy cult brainwashing. The architecture isn’t much better, it’s all steeples and crumbling brickwork and raven’s roosting everywhere.
The one big town where we decided to stop was well known for having been the site of a prison and insane asylum that had burned down, with all the guards and occupants still inside. And they give tours! AT NIGHT! It was pretty cool actually, if you ignored Brother Vang’s constant muttering about these souls being stuck in eternal torment. And besides, one of them (The Butcher) got invited out to a stagecoach with a headless driver. Meryk said these things are known to take the dead to their final reward, but somehow I think we might see him around Tsar. Even if I CAN punch ghosts, I’m not looking forward to that.
Oh, and there was a candy shop there too! They had my favorite, Katapesh Fish!!! But apparently my hands are dirty with sin or something (I’d even bathed that day!), or so said the lady who ran the place, so she only let me buy a bag with like five pounds instead of the whole case. I’ve got to make these last.
Oh, one more thing in Ustalav, we had another encounter with that hag that had been stalking Brother Vang. She had her face cut off by a certain face-collecting jerk, and her corpse was stuffed under the wagon as a message or something. I buried her with all the pomp and circumstance anyone was willing to muster, while Brother Vang went to the local church to try to atone for feeling bad about not feeling too bad about the whole thing. Sometimes I really don’t quite get him, but what are you going to do?
The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful, as was the landscape. Everything just got flat, tan, and lifeless as we finally made our way to The Desolation, and the only sign that we’d finally arrived was The Camp. Pandora called it a “wretched hive of scum and villainy,” and I’m inclined to agree. If we weren’t all on the same side (Team Has A Pulse), everybody would probably be killing everybody else. Orcs, and outsiders, and lots of other typically nasty guys who are probably seeing this as a chance to make some money.
Joke’s on them, I guess. The Usurer (I was the only one to know what that name implies, go vocab flash cards!) was, indeed, a money lender and trader. The only money we’re allowed to use in the camp are these iron bits, with a 5 gold to 1 bit exchange rate, but 2 bits to 1 gold if you want something you can spend elsewhere. I hope somebody besides us decides to break that rule and get caught, because I’m curious as to how a guy who looks pretty much like any other merchant I’ve seen manages to keep what must be a really unpopular law enforced in a place like this.
Just as we were getting our camp site paid for, a crazed, scarred, raging hill giant came rushing out from the depths of the Desolation, and seemed intent on bashing in my skull. Wanting to make a good first impression, I stood my ground as the guy leapt like twenty feet up into the air and brought what felt like a small mountain range down right on my head. Everybody else joined in, but I was happy to keep standing my ground and trade blows. His next exchange would have brought me down… if I hadn’t been training myself to have a body like steel! Okay, maybe not that hard… yet.
My next swing took him down, and he fell hard, kicking up a cloud of dusty sand all around us. We figured he was a local, so Brother Vang began to patch him up while I turned around to see if Mr. Usurer was the least bit impressed. I was rather surprised to see the slightest nod of approval. From the Man in Metal. While I was awake. Again.
I’m wondering if I should be telling anybody about this, if I’ve taken one hit to the head to many and, like, something’s come loose? The dreams are weird enough, and I’ve been having the same one again most nights now…
Actually, it’s not quite the same. It’s still with the Man in Metal, all huge, and each time once he’s done preparing his tools and fire he comes over to grab me. But this time I feel his gauntlet wrap around me, which means there must be a ME to feel it wrapping around, I guess? Then he turns, and takes a step back toward the forge… and that’s as far as it’s gotten so far, but I think he’s been getting a little bit further as the night goes by. I’m kind of afraid about what’s going to happen when he gets there…
But not as afraid as I am about people thinking I’m weird, or crazy. Well, not PEOPLE people, but these people, my friends. If they thought I was some kind of, like, liability or something? Or just crazy, and didn’t want me around anymore? I just don’t think I could take that. I’m just going to keep this to myself. I’ll probably have to do a better job of hiding this journal, or just start keeping it on me instead of in the caravan.
Oh, that reminds me, Anselme says tomorrow he’s going to make a wooded glen full of fruit trees with a swimming hole! That’s going to be AWESOME! Maybe we can invite some of the cooler, less evil-looking people in The Camp over for breakfast and a swim, and there’re these two really cool merchants we met today (an angel, and an otyugh!) who’d be cool to be pals with, let alone how nice it’d be to get on the good side of some of these merchants!
Tomorrow, after a nice fruit salad, our descent in The Desolation finally begins! I can’t wait!