Asher’s Journal: Days 12 – 17

Day 12: The Heist

In the wee hours of the morning, Sparrow and I were utterly ransacking the ex-gladiator’s home. I was stuffing stuff into my bag. For all Sparrow’s skill at stealth and such, this seemed to be her first burglary. No worries, though. I definitely snagged the championship belt, decorated to illustrate that it was a title held by the gladiator for 20 years. Impressive, I’ll admit. I felt that I could probably ransom it from him if he ever bothered me from prison. Maybe back in the Greenbelt, I’ll wear it and make the other refer to me as Heavyweight Champion Stag Lord. Jack would think it’s funny, in any case. We grabbed gems and bars of platinum and artwork. (Sparrow kept her haul private while we were in the house. I wouldn’t learn of her loot until later. I’m not sure why.) There were, however, some oddities in the house. There was a beautifully displayed, pitch black set of leather armor. It was very out-of-place, something an assassin would wear, not a gladiator or a gladiator’s drunken whore of a wife. Speaking of which, another oddity was that wife and husband had separate bedrooms, each with their own locked chest. For some strange reason, the wife kept two vials (top-shelf poison, I’d later learn) in the chest. Stranger still were the fine silken women’s clothes in the gladiator’s chest. Sparrow suggested they were probably tokens of his extramarital conquests, kept hidden away from his wife. Sounds reasonable. There was also an interesting key, and envelopes from Restov Royals. And a nice-looking dagger. And a journal. Never in all my life have I had a haul so fantastic!

We set the house ablaze with all the lamp oil we could find, and slipped away into the night, separating, and meeting back up at the tavern.

Day 12: The Score

We shared an early-morning breakfast with Jack and Reyes. Reyes knew we’d been out all night, and had heard about the fire and the gladiator’s arrest. He didn’t want to know, but now he knows. Poor fella. I thought he might be interested in some of the great stuff we found, but nope! Straight off to grand-pappy’s forge. So Sparrow and I brought Jack up to his room and asked him to see if any of our gear was magical, as we had a suspicion much if it was. I promised Jack the jewelry in exchange for his services.

And wow, much of it was indeed magic, and powerful. I didn’t realize it, but almost all the jewelry I gave Jack was enchanted. Shame, had I known that I’d have kept more for myself. Sparrow, noticing this, wisely kept her platinum bars to herself. Jack even pointed out that the armor was magic, and known as the “Armor of the Shadow Lord.” I immediately decided that Shadow Lord was a fantastic fit for my new title. While he worked on identifying the details, I went down to the forge and canceled the order for my mithral shirt. When I returned to the tavern, Sparrow pulled me aside.

She told me that Jack had said the belt was powerfully magic too, and called it a “Belt of Distraction.” She said that he would lie and tell me it was ordinary, because he wanted it for himself and hoped I’d let him have it. This was very weird indeed — why wouldn’t he be honest? I wouldn’t wear that garish, giant gold belt for anything other than a cheap laugh. I’d likely trade it to him happily for some of the magic rings he now possessed. But Sparrow thought that the belt would be more useful in my hands. I asked her what its function was, but she didn’t know. She had a plan, nonetheless. There was rumor of some woman a few towns over prophesying about the return of the king or some such nonsense — dangerous nonsense she knew I’d be happy to kill. Her plan was to head over, have me use the belt to distract this prophet woman, and she’d be able to score a kill – her first real assassination. She seemed really excited about it. I shrugged. Prophecies make me uneasy, due to all the shit they can start. And while I’d be happy to murder an oracle, I also didn’t want to detour further away from the Greenbelt. We were on a strict timeline, after all. Any screwups could jeopardize our chances of earning a better charter.

So we went up to the room and I informed Jack that I had decided to keep the belt. As Sparrow predicted, he told me it was mundane… but he didn’t press the issue. Merely a shrug. I wonder what his game is? Very odd for Jack. He moved on to describe the Shadow Lord Armor. He said it’s very powerful armor, but it’s also sentient, of a sort. Now this was very concerning. I’d heard tales of possessed or cursed armor corrupting the people inside, bending them to their own will. Jack, through much giggling, assured me this was a different sort of sentience. It was only after both he and Sparrow swore to help me out of the armor should anything go wrong that I felt secure enough to try it on.

Luckily, no ill effects. Whew.

We didn’t have a chance to get to the envelopes or journal, because Sparrow wanted to do more shopping. And I certainly didn’t want her out alone in a city loaded with so many goodies, so I went with her. She wanted to cash in all her platinum bars at the bank, but I warned her that liquidating 1.4 million gold coins from Restov’s coffers would absolutely crash the economy and dangerously destabilize the region. And that’s assuming that the bank even had that much money to begin with! Didn’t I say before that I worry that my friends don’t see the big picture? In the end, she only cashed in one bar, and happily went shopping. Despite being filthy rich, she still insisted on bargaining with a particular magic shop keeper. Women, right? Can’t just walk in to a store, buy what they want, and walk out, oh noooo…

She wound up pimping out Jack in exchange for a rebate. I’d complain, but I was going to get some free feather tokens out of the deal for myself, too. Why not? There’s much utility in being able to instantly summon a tree or ship anchor. Night fell, and with Jack gone on his business, I decided to just enjoy myself some more at the tavern. My thoughts turned to my daughter, and I didn’t feel like working any more that night. The envelopes and journal remained in my bag of holding; the questions about the gladiator’s treasures were gone from my mind.

Day 13

Today was Bernard Orlovsky’s execution, at dawn. Jack, despite being bleary-eyed and tired, wanted to attend really badly for some reason. I, too, wanted to attend, to make sure the deed was done. No loose ends. I stood in the crowd in my dark armor, hood pulled low to cover my face in shadow. The poor man went to the noose pitifully whimpering “I did nothing wrong…” Be at peace now, Sir Bernard Orlovsky. Your death served to place me in the right place at the right time, and the world has need of me yet. Know you died an honest man. And know I’ll reap my own just judgment at the end of all things, too. You won’t have to worry about me in whatever paradise you’ve gone to.

Sparrow and I collected our rebate funds from the shopkeeper’s assistant, who was oddly nervous. Jack, Sparrow and I spent the day wandering around town, listening to the gossip. It was all about Bernard or the gladiator or the prophet woman. It was late at night before I realized I still hadn’t read those damn envelopes or that journal. I decided to pen this entry in my journal right now, and then go to sleep. Big day tomorrow – I understand Reyes will finish his armor.

Day 14

FUCK EVERYTHING!!!!!! Ah, ok, let me back up.

Indeed, Reyes joined us for breakfast and we set out back to Oleg’s. Reyes said that perhaps the prophet was talking about him. I think he fancies himself the rightful king of the Greenbelt, for some reason. Perhaps he has some royal blood way back in the family tree? Or perhaps they are delusions of grandeur. I warned him of the dangers of prophets – especially false ones – but he waved my protestations off. Sparrow and Jack agreed that the prophet would have to be silenced if she ever became a problem for us, though. I’m glad they see it my way.

The horse ride out into the country was peaceful and quiet. Jack was adorned with jewelry now, and was staring very intently – creepily so – at Sparrow’s back. Well, I figured now was a good time to see what this Belt of Distraction could do. My goal was to snap it on and cause a distraction for Jack to break his hardcore concentration on Sparrow.

But as soon as I clasped the belt shut, I realized what I had done. No sooner had the belt’s “click” reached my ears than everything suddenly clicked at once in my head. The separate rooms, the women’s clothing, Sparrow’s gentle goading, Jack’s giggling after I told him I’d be keeping the belt… This was no mere belt. It was most certainly a Girdle of Opposite Gender.

I had just enough time to roar out a mighty oath, sending startled birds shooting from their perches into the sky. And then, my world went black.

When I came to, I was disoriented. And a woman. Reyes, unaware of the prank, took pity on me. But I’ll be the first to admit it – I was in a blind rage for the rest of the day. Wouldn’t you be? I mean, many years from now I’ll look back and laugh, and take pride in my mates’ ability to pull such a clever ruse on ol’ Asher. But in the moment, I was downright wrathful. I tried to rip Sparrow from her horse to beat the shit out of her, but I hadn’t yet adjusted to my new body. So then I tried to kill Jack, but was distracted by a horrible warm trickle running down my leg. Of course. Between the disorientation, the quickly growing cramps, the moon blood, and the uncontrollable emotions, I was an absolute wreck. I wobbled to and fro shrieking, waving my dagger in their faces, demanding we return to Restov at once and have the clerics of Sarenrae remove the curse. So we returned to Restov, and spent the night at the same inn.

Day 15

Sleep was difficult, except for the sweet dreams in which I murdered Sparrow and Jack. But it seems these damned cramps have me nearly crippled. I knew Jack and Sparrow took extreme measures to protect themselves from a hypothetical Asher night attack, but I was in no condition to kill them. Besides, death is too easy for those assholes. Ugh. I was having trouble getting out of bed, and Sparrow came in to check on me, and decided to try and shove some rags into my crotch instead of helping me out of bed. She’d been with me for over two weeks now. I’m no stranger to walking around covered in blood. She refused to help me out of bed, so I stabbed her in the hand. Then she had the nerve to get all indignant with me! Unbelievable. Clenching my teeth, I half crawled out of my room on my own. Oh, the look on the patron’s faces eating breakfast was priceless – watching this bloody woman, grunting in pain, purposefully crawling down the stairs, a dagger clenched in a white-knuckled fist.

We spent all day at the temple of Sarenrae, the party trying to calm me down (honestly? I’d like to see them remain calm) while I tried to slash the throat of anyone who was not willing to help me immediately. But it soon became evident that the only person who could help was the high priestess, who was currently traveling around spreading religiosity to the fuzzy-wuzzies or some such. Sparrow even tried to find scrolls of Remove Curse, but to no avail. I think my non-stop malevolence was making Sparrow and Jack regret the whole prank.

But I at last wore myself out, screaming and trying to kill people. I resigned myself to heading back to Oleg’s and continuing our work in the Greenbelt. The high priestess, after all, would come up through Oleg’s Trading Post on her way to Restov, it would just take a week and a half. And we really couldn’t afford to look in other towns. So we went back to Oleg’s arriving at night. Again, Sparrow and Jack took every precaution against me attempting to kill them in their sleep. Again, I dreamt of killing them in their sleep. Funny how that works out, right?

Day 16

We agreed on an approach to mapping out the Greenbelt, and went to the area west of Oleg’s first thing in the morning. After we cleared this area, we’d head into the forest, to make sure it was clear of all threats. But all we found in this 12-mile region was a lone trapper. He warned us about where he placed his traps, and offered little help with the rest of the countryside. But it turns out he was Crazy Joe’s brother. I point-blank told him I had killed Joe. And wouldn’t you know it? He doubted me. He called me a liar. So I killed him, to prove to him that I can, in fact, kill idiot fur trappers. He won’t make that mistake twice. Reyes groaned, knowing he was a dead man from the instant he called my homicidal abilities into question. Who the fuck taunts someone who freely admits to murder? Ugh. And just now, as I’m writing this, I realize that in all my hysteria and anger, I still haven’t read those envelopes or journal. I bet I know what they say, though. I’m guessing the gladiator used to be a woman, and a rival cursed her championship belt, turning her into a man. Unable to remove the curse, since the high priestess of Sarenrae was away on her travels, the gladiator tried to adapt to life as a man, even taking a wife to keep up appearances. But the wife, probably, was hoping to kill the rival who cursed the belt – which explains the Shadow Lord Armor and poison. She had money to afford such luxuries, being married to the gladiator. And she had motive – I’m sure life was hell being stuck in a forced marriage with someone who isn’t who they appear to be. I would feel bad, except that’s just a theory.

Day 17

We headed into the forest from the North, and encountered Boggarts. They’re ugly toad-like creatures who tried to eat us. We defeated them easily. You know, today felt pretty normal. During the fight with the boggarts, in fact, I was able to forget, if for a few brief minutes, that I was now a woman. I’m still bitter about it, but I think I’ll be alright for a week and a h- oh no. Another late night and I still haven’t done any reading. ARGH! Tomorrow, diary. I promise.

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