Rise of the Runelords

Runelord Reflections 10

“I’ve got it,” I exclaimed. “I know exactly what we should do.”

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The room was filled with well dressed people, mostly men but a few women scattered throughout the first level of our recently acquired home. As people made their way in, some recognized me, others recognized stories they’d heard about me, probably regarding my amazing hair and outrageous dress.

Self-consciously, I adjusted the ultratight snakeskin top, looking down at the supple black leather gloves that ran nearly to my elbows and smiling in self admiration. The combination with the matching thigh-high boots was definitely eye-catching, but many of the looks trended more towards shock than amazement.

I watched a man lean up against the immense hearth of the unlit fireplace, then recoil with a look of horror, glancing down at his sleeve. WIth a curse, he rubbed at a stain that marred the white cloth, his expression furious as, if anything, his efforts made it worse.

I must have laughed out loud, because he and his buddy glanced over at me with a look of annoyance. Whoops. Realizing this guy was here for a reason, I approached the pair. “Is there a problem?” I didn’t mean for it to come out so aggressively, but there you have it.

“Your home is filthy,” the man said, holding out his arm as if I were in any way inclined to inspect it.

I casually slapped his wrist away, hard, and shrugged. “To be fair, we only recently acquired it.” Inside, I was seething at the notion of this man walking in here and judging us, but realized that is what nobility did. Plus, I didn’t want him leaving in a huff, and certainly didn’t want to hurt him, cause a scene and panic the other guests.

“Well, you should-”

“Wasn’t this,” the man’s friend interrupted, “ah… who was it. You know the guy.” He poked at the complainer’s shoulder. “The snappy dresser.”

“Aldern Foxglove,” the man with the dirty sleeve confirmed, eyes narrowing suddenly. “Say,” he said, turning to me, “whatever happened to Aldern?” He looked around, a light of sudden recognition in his eyes.

Again, I shrugged. “You’ll have to ask the Lord Mayor for the official story,” I said breezily, glancing around at the other guests with excessive nonchalance.

The man snorted. “Whatever you say,” he challenged derisively. “If you don’t know just say so.”

My armored fist impacted full-on with his mouth, knocking out teeth and crushing the cartilage and shattering the bone of his nose, pressing the mess into the man’s ruined face. Spurting blood and teeth, he staggered backwards, a scream of pain ending abruptly as he stumbled, head connecting with the edge of the mantle. Crumpling to the floor, he sprawled awkwardly, face down in a growing pool of blood. The room was deathly silent, and then a woman screamed-

I sighed, unclenching my hands. Too bad I wasn’t wearing my armor. The man was staring at me, expectantly but also warily. His friend looked nervous, too. “In the spirit of… friendship, I guess, I’ll overlook your rude dismissal of my word.” My voice was low, for his ears only, but my eyes conveyed the deadly earnestness of my words.

“You expect me to believe-” The complainer broke off, his friend whispering something in his ear. For a moment his expression froze, and then slowly he seemed to deflate a little bit. I arched an eyebrow, and he flinched a bit, so I knew our reputation had started to get around. The smugness I felt supplanted any lingering anger at having my word questioned in my own home, and I slapped him, hard, on the shoulder.

“Unfortunate, about your shirt,” I smiled. “Maids must be out of town.” I turned to leave.

“When will they be back?” he asked, unable to contain himself, apparently. I stopped, slowly turned, seeing his wiser friend slowly edging away.

“Uh… They won’t be back,” I sighed. “We had to kill them.”

“You… what-?!”

“Well, they were monsters after all.” I looked up, thoughtful. “Maybe even demons.”

“Demon maids?” the man asked, incredulous again. “But… tonight… I thought the Sandpoint Devil was what you were-”

“Yes yes,” I waved, walking away before having to talk anymore. I refreshed my drink, ready for things to get started.

The manor was filled with several rows of assorted chairs, the best we could do on such short notice. As people began to take their seats, I glanced at the makeshift stage, thanking Foxglove opulence for the vaulted first floor ceilings. Something big was draped with a long sheet.

Everyone knew what it was, of course, but nobody had actually seen it. I rubbed my hands together in anticipation.

I took the stage, glancing to my sisters for support. Sadly, they choose to remain aloof, despite the charity of the deed. I knew that these trophies represented an opportunity that we had to take advantage of, and who better to benefit from it than the community this monster stalked for so long that it was named after them.

“Good citizens of Magnimar,” I began, “noble representatives of all of the families I see here tonight-”

“Excuse me,” a portly man interrupted, standing in the front row with hands across his massive chest. Other people stopped being seated, and those already sitting decided to stand up to see what was going on. The room got quiet, fast. According to Skalmold, who at least stayed for the snacks, the sudden silence was in part due to the expression on my face. “Ma’am, I have a question before you begin.” For long, long seconds I stood open mouthed for a moment. I glanced behind me, catching sight of Rainbow, who shrugged and Zeyara, who looked vaguely amused.

“Uh, okay,” I agreed, trying not to sound too sour about the imbecile’s very existence.

“Where is Aldern Foxglove?” the man asked. “You claim this is your house, but I happen to know it has been in the Foxglove family for-”

“It’s ours,” I snarled, looking around to see if anyone else was daring to accuse us of… something. Stealing a house, I guess. Dozens of people were staring around the room with great interest. “No more questions.”

“That’s not-”

“Are you calling me a liar?” I asked, or maybe yelled. People’s interested looks suddenly took on an uncomfortable expression. I spun as something poked me from behind. “What?” I asked, staring at Zeyara, who was shaking her head.

“You’re losing them,” the fetchling warned. The crowd had begun to mill about.

“Aldern Foxglove is an upstanding citizen of high moral character, a man many of us here call friend.” The large man was looking around, but nobody appeared to be meeting his eye, let alone lending their voice to his proclamation. He paused, clearing his throat.

I didn’t want to talk about Aldern. Tonight was about the trophy. “Who cares about Foxglove?” I asked, addressing the restless crowd. “Or were you here to learn how the Sandpoint Devil met its end… and then try to obtain its unique corpse for yourself?”

Rekindling the bidder’s interest, I tried to move on. “Before I was so rudely interrupted-”

“You still haven’t answered my questions!” the man retorted. I took a deep breath.

“All of you here tonight are about to see legend unveil itself before your eyes. Your generous donation to the reward for the killing of the Sandpoint Devil spurred a group of heroes into finally confronting and taking down the beast. Just last week-”

The standing man interrupted, again. “Excuse me, ma’am, but I as a member of one of the prominent families, I…” Drop dead, asshole. There was an unpleasant murmur rippling through the several dozen other spectators. The pause was excruciating.

“Yes?” I prompted. I could guess what he was getting to, but was annoyed enough to be petty. The man swayed a bit on his feet, staring off into space. I leaned forward over the makeshift podium I’d insisted on, since it made it seem more official.

“Ahh-” he tried, his mouth working once, then hanging open. “Uhhhh.” His eyes rolled up into his head, and he dropped to the floor like a sackful of dead cats.

Someone screamed, eerily similar to my daydream. Holy shit, I thought. Did I just kill that guy with my mind? I thought back. People had alternately gathered around the fallen man or fled some distance away, eager to remove themselves from a potential disease-carrier or assassin’s victim. I watched one man seem to stumble over nothing as he hastily made his way to the refreshment table, glancing around at the empty area in confusion.

“He’s dead,” someone shouted, and I sighed, walking over to the prone man. “Clear aside,” I commanded sternly, using my elbows to enforce the request. I looked at the fallen man, who certainly looked dead.

Reaching out, I touched the man’s forehead with a glowing beam of light that emanated from a black-gloved fingertip, drawing a few gasps from the crowd. The healing had no effect.

“He’s dead,” I confirmed, getting up. Thinking fast, I scanned the room before heading back to the podium, passing the trophy and poking my head through the doorway, seeing Skalmold helping herself to a refill out of a cask of local ale. Zeyara blinked into existence next to the barbarian, pouring herself a generous portion of what looked like elven firewine from a small bottle with an obscene amount of flowery etching. I frowned, not remembering that on the list of items I’d requested her to gather for this evening. She gave me a sly nod, and a wink, glancing back out the door I straddled.

What? Did she…? Shaking my head, I remained focused on dealing with the situation at hand. “Skalmold,” I whispered urgently. “I need your help.”

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The site of the hulking blonde woman carrying out the obese, deceased gentleman over her shoulder caused several seconds of excitement amongst the remaining, living guests.

“Well, that was exciting. Poor man.” I saw several of the audience actually shrug. “A lesson to us all, to cherish the life we have. There are things we can’t fight, like-” Zeyara’s death touch? I wondered, but aloud said “unknowable deaths like what’s-his-name. You know, the guy that died over there,” I stated, pointing. “There are also things out there, enemies who wish you harm.” I saw the numerous nervous glances, people putting hands inside of jackets and overcoats to check for mysterious contents as paranoid glances flitted around the room, always coming back to me. Suspicious bastards. “Monster enemies. Goblins attacked Sandpoint not long ago. But there has been an evil plaguing both your cities. Countless lives and who knows how much gold have been lost to the foul beast you know as the Sandpoint Devil.

“Just last week, the merchant caravan that was utterly destroyed… such terrible suffering and destruction will plague the roads no longer! Not from the Sandpoint Devil, anyway. See for yourselves, the fiend is no more!” I shouted dramatically, motioning Rainbow to pull away the heavy cloth covering the main attraction. More like a rug, actually. Her tiny body strained as she gave several desperate tugs, but then her two-foot tall fairy pitched in and down it came, revealing the reason everyone was here.

There were gasps and even a few screams, and suddenly I was glad there were noblewomen there to make it more dramatic. The beast was hideous, its hoof-claws pawing at the air as it reared up, its elongated head a hideous mixture of equine and draconic. Wings furled out to the sides, leathery and claw-tipped.

“We are thankful to those families who enabled this endeavor,” I acknowledged, listing all of the potential donors, of which the Scarnetti were conspicuously absent. “Your investment reaped great rewards. The horrible truth of the matter is that there was not one Sandpoint Devil, but four, and your families had a hand in killing them all!!” I took a breath, giving a dramatic pause as I sipped from my drink.

“One of the creature’s remains has been gifted to the town, to serve as a monument against evil in one of the city buildings, the names of the families who arranged for the creature’s destruction etched into a plaque. The second went to the Lord Mayor’s private residence. The third was acquired by the generous Kaijitsu family in Sandpoint… speaking of, if you liked the stained glass in the entryway, that was work done at Sandpoint glassworks…” I shook my head. “But I digress.”

“Tonight, we are raising funds and awareness for the people of Sandpoint, who have had a rough time of it recently. The trouble with the goblins and the recent ghoul outbreak have been major blows to the people of the region.

“For the people of Sandpoint, and the honor of obtaining the only privately owned stuffed remains of the legendary monster, the Sandpoint Devil, we will start the bidding at… one hundred gold.”

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Zeyara had been convinced that starting low would net more profit, as people’s competitiveness and impulsiveness would get in the way of their rational reasons for budgeting. I’d been thinking of asking for several thousand and hoping to get more, but had to admit it would be pretty terrible if nobody at all bid on the thing and we ended up just wasting the night.

Luckily, I’d taken the assassin’s advice, because after some exciting bidding that lasted about two minutes, we ended up selling the thing for two thousand gold. I quickly shook hands, and sacks of cash were sent for. Or, as it turned out, a single, modest sized satchel.

Overall, I took the evening as a success. Sandpoint got a couple thousand gold, we got to throw a party in our new vacation home, and undoubtedly made an impression on some of the important families. Being heroes and badasses goes a long way towards seeming impressive.

Rakonia expressed surprise that I was not keeping the money for myself. “Do you know me so little?” I asked, shaming her as best I could. “This is for people who took us in, who we have come to know, if not appreciate in equal measure.” I shook my head sadly, disappointed with her lack of regard for my character. At least I wasn’t disappearing with strange half-elves, leaving my Sisters to go off in the wilderness on their own.

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