So I headed out toward Dwarf country. Never quite ran into any dwarves though. Before I got there, the inclination to keep going turned into an inclination to not keep going. There were a group of others who seemed to be in the same boat even though there was nothing where we ended up. It was just a mountain. We identified ourselves to each other, some giving more information than others. The little one who calls herself a ‘kender’ – Amber, her name is, until I decide what might work better for her – went on and on. It was a little hard to understand her. I consider myself reasonably intelligent, but it takes a special kind of mental agility to follow someone who talks that quickly. I don’t have it. Eventually, I tuned her out as background noise; she seemed like less of a headache that way and I don’t think I missed much.
The others weren’t as willing to offer their life stories, but I at least got a name out of each of them. That’s all I offered, and not even my full name. Just “I’m Bet.” These were all strangers and some of them looked downright unsavory. The less they knew about me the better. Bad enough the Baa people knew as much as they did.
After some time spent fruitlessly searching the area for what we were supposed to be here for, Horse (I claimed I was reasonably intelligent, not creative) tensed beneath me and I noticed that there was a rat amongst our group where there hadn’t been a rat before. Swords were drawn (a bit of a jumpy group I found myself amongst – I generally don’t consider killing rats worth the effort of cleaning the blade afterwards) and then the rodent turned into a ratty little man (on occasion, I do consider myself moderately amusing). My hand was already on Bet’s Blade’s hilt – like I said, unsavory strangers – and so I kept it there, but he urged us to peace. He was the Baa people’s representative.
He brought us to a solid rock and walked right through it. The kender followed immediately and the others followed her with a bit less enthusiasm but a lot more decorum. I tried to get Horse to go through after them, but he was having none of it. I had to back him tail first. I gathered the others were snickering about it behind my back, but I got him inside. We were in an underground corridor, and the ceiling lowered far enough down that I had to dismount. Grabbing hold of his bridle, I pulled Horse along behind me as we were led deeper into the mountain. He didn’t really like the dark narrow space, but he didn’t give me any issues.
I was offered the chance to stable him, but I didn’t take it at first. If I needed to make a fast getaway, I wanted my horse nearby. We were shown to a room that the lot of us would be sharing. I don’t know how I feel about that. I’m not the only woman, and I feel confident of my ability to defend myself, even from sleep, but I will not be sleeping well in this company. Even aside from the fact that I trust them all about as far as I can throw Horse, I suspect the kender talks in her sleep, the men probably snore, and one of them has this horrible odor that lingers around him. I am hoping for fast advancement to a single room.
We were provided with maps and told to make ourselves comfortable and explore the place before we met with the boss man. Deciding I didn’t want to lug around all my belongings to the mess hall, but that they weren’t remotely safe in the kender’s company, I brought Horse down to the stable and settled him in with a bag of oats and told him to protect his saddle and saddle bags with his life. So far as I know, he didn’t understand a word of it, but it never hurts to keep stable hands a little nervous about getting too near your horse, and I still wasn’t too comfortable leaving him alone here yet.
But I was hungry, so I ate something, and then went to check out the training room. I like to get in a little sparring whenever I can to keep sharp, and if they’ve got the facilities, there’s no sense in not taking advantage of it. One of the fellows there tried to get on my nerves, but he wasn’t very good at it. Implied I didn’t know how to use a sword, but I knew he was just trying for a reaction, so I didn’t give him one. I’m contrary like that. Used the woman line, too, when that didn’t work and I just raised an eyebrow. Please. Like I haven’t heard that before. If I got upset every time some idiot called me a girl I’d never get any real work done. Once I figure out the hierarchy around here better and know how much trouble I can get in for messing with that guy, I may try to make things difficult for him, but it might be more entertaining to just keep treating him like he’s beneath my notice. That seemed highly effective. He’s probably more used to hot-headed and fragile-egoed elitist fighters who get off on proving themselves. Me, I’m just a professional merc.
Speaking of which, the immediate rewards are not awesome. When we went to talk to Boss Man, we were sent after a group of questing adventurers who were encroaching on Baa territory. No compensation except what we looted off of them. Granted, it was just a trial run, more to earn membership than a real job, but I spent all my money replacing the potions I had to use. Net zero. On the other hand, Boss did dangle out a sweet magical item incentive. Not just any magic items, but the ones best suited to each of us individually. Good ones. Ones that make little enchantments like what I’ve got on Bet’s Blade look like child’s play. I’m intrigued enough to stick around long enough to get that.
In the mean time, the number of potions I’m going through is going to greatly hinder my ability to save up for that keen enchantment I want to put on my Blade. Now, we’re out on another job, this one hunting succubi, and I’ve already used up the potions I bought and we haven’t even found the succubi yet. Frankly, it’s not promising.
Worse, the people I’m with are a little deranged. These are the sort of people the guards come after with prejudice. Now, I’m not a nice person. I like to pretend I’m good, but I’m not even close. But I’m downright cuddly next to some of these guys. I was contemplating a mercy killing for our prisoner during the first skirmish we had – when the rest would be distracted and she could conceivably be killed by the enemy – but she took care of the problem herself and committed suicide as soon as her keepers were otherwise engaged. I respect her for that. It was by far the best option available to her.
And I thought I was intimidating before I knew what these guys did to people. I bet I can make our next prisoner beg for death even faster than I made that cleric piss his pants while we were finding out what that first adventuring party was doing in Baa’s territory. At that time, I was still under the illusion that death was the worst thing that could happen to a person and the phrase ‘make you wish for death’ was more of a melodramatic threat than an actual truth. I’ve always been a good bluffer, so I guess I made the cleric believe it, but now that I do, I think I can do even better.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not squeamish. I’m not against killing and slashing people to make a point. I’m a mercenary. I’ll do whatever my employer pays me to do. But the fact is, we’re not getting paid to torture anyone, and the way that Ghauntree elf guy was eying up the prisoner just gave me the creeps. I’m not going to shed a tear if one of the succubi get to that one. Not that I’ve shed a tear in recent memory. Let’s rephrase that. I won’t pretend to say a prayer over his soul to a god I don’t believe in if that one gets the life sucked out of him by a succubus.
Rhom, on the other hand, would get that service. I’d probably address it to the god of Death. Rhom seems to like Death. He certainly smells like it. He also delivered Death to the arrow demon that would very likely have killed me if it got one more shot off. As a rule, I like people who save my life regardless of what they smell like. Likewise, the fellow with the healing spells (I should figure out what his name is), also, would get the courtesy. I might even feel a little sad on his behalf if he passed on – he’s been doing a fair job of patching me up and keeping me from spending an even bigger fortune on healing potions than I already am.
The rest, I’m still undecided about. Norris seems fairly professional. Amber seems excitable but capable. I’m still working on putting names to faces on the others. But none of them have yet earned my respect as Rhom and Healer Guy have.