So, we get to Nuln. It’s a BIIIG city, and we leave the ship together. Riding to the city gates on the back of Lucky, I keep near Uncle Ozric who is carrying a lot of his money. We don’t want any local thieves picking his pockets and making off with our hard earned gems.
Nym decides to fight the law, refusing to pay the Ear Tax required of elves almost everywhere in the world, except the elfy places. Its amusing watching her refuse and argue with the tax man. When she starts ripping down the “Elves must pay Ear Tax” posters as if to deny that they exist, I have to turn away or risk laughing aloud. It’s like something I would do, and I’m 9!
Eventually she ends up threatening the gate guard. This is not going to end well. I wonder how many guards she will kill before they take her down. I hope not many. They are only doing their job, after all.
Bored with this now, I wander on to find Ozric, but get sidetracked when a guard comes to me, and tells me that the Old Man wants to see me. I look at him blankly for a moment, until He pulls his lower lip down, revealing a tattoo of a black fox on the inside of the lip. That must have hurt! At least I know who he means now. Spek wants to see me.
Waving to Ozric and asking him to please be aware of what is going on around him, I follow the guard to the prison tower near the middle of the city. Following the guard into the main block. Spek is waiting for me in a cell, and I make myself at home on the comfy stone floor and listen to him. Apparently he is ready for the tests to determine who he is going to hand over the reins of the Guild to, and I’m his favourite. That means I get all the easy jobs… What? What do you mean I get the hardest jobs, to prove myself more, because he likes me. That’s just not fair! Him liking me should make it easier, not harder.
He tells me the first test is to get a lock of hair from each of six ladies he has had the pleasure of knowing… whatever that means… when he was younger. I have a great idea how to get it, which wont involve committing any real crime, just a little con trick. When he has finished explaining the rules of the test (which thankfully do not include having to break into their bedrooms or anything stupid like that) he has the guard take me back out again, so I can get started.
I immediately go to the market and buy some supplies. Paint, brushes, canvasses, charcoal, an easel, a pair of tiny, but very sharp scissors, and some small silk bags (for putting the hair in afterwards), and then I head to Leo. On the way, I meet up with Rosie, who asks for 5000 crowns, for shopping. I shrug and give it to her. I can’t seem to refuse that girl anything. When I get to Leo, I tell him that I want him to accompany me on the ball that the local countess is holding in our honour, and for him to draw the pictures of a few of the ladies there, to make us even MORE popular, and to give them a gift that is unique in all the world, a charcoal portrait of them drawn by a brilliant artist. We peruse the known guests and I “randomly” pick eight ladies (well, I randomly pick 2, and then make a show of randomly picking Andrea Vixis, Petra Ogana, Laina Fascisha, Claudia Aver, Julia Belina, and Janna Qual, Speks chosen targets).
While waiting for the ball, I find out that Magnus has also been given a task by his order. He has to kill people! Well, finding out that one of the people he has to kill is Claudia Aver complicates things. The other two are a housekeeper at the palace where the ball is being held, and Count Rogen, a noble with 6 fingers on his left hand. Inigo will be very interested in hearing about that one. I’ll tell him about it just before the ball and make Magnus’ job easier. It’s not their fault that I am the one that was born with all the smarts. Plus, this additional piece of information about Magnus, has given me even more dirt on him now. If I ever need to make him do stuff, I have plenty to ensure it’s done. I hand him one of my cheesewires to use a s a garotte, just to let him know that I know, that he knows, that he owes me.
The night of the ball arrives, and Nym isn’t dead yet. Damn the guards in this city are slow. Leo and I move through the crowd, finding our subjects for his sketches. As he sets up, I talk each of them (and in some cases, their husbands) into letting us pose them and draw them, to bring out the best side of them and make the picture even better. One of the women, Andrea Vixus seems to know what I am doing and just gives me a lock of her hair, out of the blue. The other five, I palm the scissors, and while making them pretty for the sketch, I sneak a little snip and a lock of hair from them. No harm done and no victims!
I leave Leo to finish the portraits and head back to Ozric and Inigo. Inigo can barely restrain himself from outright killing the Count. He recognised him instantly, and started pacing the floor like a caged lion. Ozric and I explain to Inigo that we knew he would want satisfaction, but he cannot just kill the count. His father wouldn’t want his life to end after he finally gets his revenge. So we hatch a plan, where Inigo turns on his considerable Estalian charm, and woo’s the Counts wife, right in front of him.
The plan works, and the Count, lost in jealous fury, challenges the ‘rude’ Estalian to a duel. The very fight Inigo has been training for all his life. The Count tries to get Inigo to fight a Champion at dawn the next day, but after some goading about cowardice and how little of a man his wife must think he is, not to want to defend her honour himself, he is eventually stupid enough to lead Inigo into the garden.
As Inigo clears the doors to the ballroom, the Count pulls a throwing dagger from his boot and sends it flying at Inigo, hitting him square in the gut. Staggering back for a moment, it looks like Inigo is going to fail. Then the count makes the mistake of taunting him, saying “You must be that little Estalian brat I taught a lesson to all those years ago. Simply incredible. You’ve been chasing me your whole life only to fail now? I think that’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard. How marvellous.”
Inigo slides to the floor, clutching at the dagger in his belly, and quietly prays to his father for strength. He pulls the small blade out of his flesh, and tosses it to the side, looking at the Count the whole time. He struggles to stand, and Count Rugen stands over him (well, when I say over him, I mean a little back from him. The man IS a coward after all), and says “Good heavens. Are you still trying to win?” Inigo manages to stagger back to his feet, leaning heavily with his back against the wall. “You’ve got an overdeveloped sense of vengeance. It’s going to get you into trouble someday.” finishes the Count as he draws his sword. Inigo slowly, painfully, does the same as the Count approaches. The Count lunges with his rapier, and Inigo almost manages to parry. The tip of the blade nicks Inigos shoulder a little. A second thrust from the Count, is parried back the other way, by a barely moving Estalian. That strike also just clips Inigo, this time on the other shoulder. An overhead swing by the Count is deftly blocked by the handsome Estalian. The blows are almost beneath his notice though as he seems to be regaining strength by the second.
Inigo looks at the Count, a calm coming over his face for the first time this evening as he regains his footing, and starts to speak. “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to Die.”. As he speaks he slowly shuffles forwards towards the obviously unnerved Count, one hand holding the wound in his stomach. The shuffle turns to a step, and the step to a swagger as he slowly speaks his heartfelt vow to the Count. A few steps in, the pain of his wounds catches him off guard, and he falls against a stone planter, causing the Count to lunge again, and again Inigo parries and blocks. Not a single nick getting past his defences this time. He straightens up, and repeats the phrase. A little more calm and confidence in the words this time as he almost whispers “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to Die”.
The count slices with his sword, and is met by another block, and again, and another parry. A third and fourth follow, each more unskilled than the last as the Count becomes increasingly upset by his lack of ability to land a hit on what appears to be a seriously wounded man. On the last blow, Inigo almost manages to disarm the Count, who is becoming more and more flustered, knowing he is not only losing the fight, but is losing face in front of all the powerful people at the ball. Inigo grins wolfishly and repeats the vow more forcefully … “HELLO, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to Die”. The Count, scared and angry demands that he “Stop SAYING that!” and lunges for him again.
Inigo knocks the blade aside and sticks his own sword into the Counts shoulder. A look of shock crosses the counts face, rapidly followed by anger, as he swings at neck height to try to behead our crewmate. Inigo ducks easily, and stabs him in the other shoulder, taking the offensive, a tirade of easy to parry blows raining down on the Count, the footwork forcing him back, as he repeats it again, shouting it to the crowd as he pushes the Count ever backwards… “HELLO, MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA. YOU KILLED MY FATHER. PREPARE TO DIE”. He knocks the Counts sword cleanly out of the way with a flick of his wrist and gives him a scar on his left cheek. The obviously terrified Count loses almost all fight, and stands, trembling, looking at Inigo as the swordsman pins him against a low stone wall.
“Now, offer me money..” growls the enraged Estalian. “Yes” the count replies quietly. “Power too, promise me that…” says Inigo, matching the scar with one on his right cheek. “All that I have and more,” whimpers the Count, willing to say anything, DO anything to save his life. “Please.” he finishes. Knowing he has him now, Inigo raises his sword into a fencing stance and growls “Offer me everything I ask for…” A dark grin spreading over his face. The Count, without thinking, responds “Anything you want.” as he responds instinctively to the fencing stance, and a moments bravery. He makes one last desperate lunge at Inigo, but the Estalian has trained for too long for such a weak attack to find its mark. As he pushes the point of his sword into the Counts stomach, he holds the enemies sword arm up, and his face goes stony cold.
Inigo looks him in the eyes, and with words that drip with malice, he simply says “I want my father back, you son of a bitch”. He drives the sword through the Count and pushes him back, letting him collapse, dead before he hits the floor.
He returns to the ship, almost aimless now, as he admits something we knew all along. He has no sailing experience, he was merely using us to help find the six-fingered man. We offer him a place to stay and to help him find a purpose now that his twenty year vendetta has finally been completed.
I quickly nip to the Prison to see Spek, and give him the bags with the hair in. He is proud of me. That feels good. Then he hands me envelopes with the next 2 challenges in. That doesn’t feel so good. Oh well. I’ll get on to them soon.
After we all get back to the ship and start preparing to go, it is mentioned to Griselda that it might be useful to have more dwarves on board, and she mentions that there’s one dwarf in this very city that she would love to have on the ship. Her son, Griswald.
Osric and I head to his last known place, the College, to talk to him. His mentor says that he is leaving to become a Slayer. That’s not good. We offer our services to help change his mind, and are ushered up to Griswalds bedroom. It seems that because his mom did something against the mores of the dwarves, he was bullied by the other dwarves and has to go commit suicide fighting big bad creatures. I tell him about all the things we have faced, since meeting up with his mother, how brave she is, and how lonely. we also tell him how we risk death every day, but do it surrounded by people to fight for, making us better fighters for it. There is nothing stopping him seeking a violent end, but why not do so while learning about this only real, surviving family. His eyes mist up, lost in the tales I am spinning about the creatures we have encountered, and I can see I have struck a chord. I put a brotherly arm around him, and we lead him to the ship for the reunion with his mom.
I think Griswald, like Magnus, is gonna make for a useful mark, they both have somewhat obvious tells and handles I can use to make them do things. But Griswald will also earn me some brownie points with our Ships engineer and owner. We got him to come home to mom. That’s gotta be a small miracle, right there.
Just as we lift the anchor, Rosie appears, saying that the money she wanted, was to have some local wizards research a spell to break the curse that’s making me forget my past. They are ready to cast it, and its gonna need all my allies wandering around in my head, reliving, and experiencing my memories, to unlock them.
I don’t mind Magus, and Daddy going in there, and Rosie of course, but I don’t want the nutter and the scary elf in my head, what if they mess with stuff??
Rosie calms me down, and I relent, I guess they cant do much damage to memories, as long as that’s where they stay…
(To Be Continued)