The Pursuit of Happiness

From the Journal of Vincent Lois

by Lurking Wolf

November the 19th, in the year 707, Cristos Reckoning

In the words of my father, a man cannot live forever, so it is best to strive to create a lasting impression. It’s a strange way to start a journal, I know, but it’s a way of doing things that my father impressed upon me while I was still very young. Not that my father was so great or anything. It was frequently joked in the village that, for all his maxims and proverbs, which he lavished liberally upon the inhabitants of our small village, he was the most sluggish man to have lived in at least six centuries. Yet, for all his sluggishness, he still managed to supply me with a good number of principles by which I have tried to live my life for my first 37 years on this earth.

This is, by all rights, the first true attempt at recording any of my exploits, unless some historian has as his specialty the history of the lower class or of obscure persons. I have never once in all my years taken up my pen to record my life. Indeed if I had, no one would have been able to follow the tales for, until now, my life has been one of uncertainty, wandering, and seeking. For what, you may ask? All will be told in good time.

For the sake of the continuing political stability and protection of all persons and places involved in the events contained in the exposition which is to follow, I will tell but briefly of my past life, as well as omitting certain facts and names that may cause strife. Yet, even a brief account of some proceedings may turn out to be much longer than a verbose account of others, so we will see what is to become of this tale.

It all began on a small farm in the southeastern Midlands in December of 670 CR. It was deep in the night of the 12th that my mother brought me forth into this world. As is common, I have little to no memory of this time in my life. All I know was passed on to me by my parents, and of this there is but little that is notable or worthy of mention. It was not until my sixth year, in the summer of 677, that my life took its first notable twist.

As was previously mentioned, my father, though wise in some ways, was a sloth when it came to work. When you are a wealthy aristocrat, such a lifestyle could lead to rebellion and loss of power, if not of your life. When you are a farmer, however, it is well noted by the powers that be that your life is not worth nearly enough to pay for the debts one accumulates through sloth. So it was that, when my father refused for the third time to pay his taxes, the lord of the land ordered his soldiers to take me until the debt was paid.

As it turned out, and as my parents already knew, it was not that my father did not want to pay; it was rather that he lacked the resources necessary. It had been a hard year, helped in nothing by the fact that my father had refused to till the soil, preferring to scatter the seed about the surface and see what would take. So, when it was discovered that I was to be in the lord’s custody for longer than originally anticipated, I was set to work about the manor that served as the lord’s home and stronghold against attackers. Little did I know just how long I would be serving there.

For the first year, I was assigned little work, mostly just serving in whatever area they could find for me. It was, after all, expected that my father would find some way to pay his lagging accounts to get me back. It was not to be, however, and I was, in the second year of servitude, assigned harder tasks.

In retrospect, none of the work I did there was particularly complicated, but to a lad of seven and a half years, they seemed as if I was being assigned to move mountains.

From the kitchens to the stables, I was given whatever work they could find for me to do. I do believe they were trying to make me work to the point at which they could release me, saying that I had been the one responsible for the repaying of the debt. It would seem to me somewhat likely, as that might incite my father to do some actual manual labor, so as not to have it said that his son worked harder than him. It was not to be, however. At the point that they were discussing my return, it came to them once again that my father had fallen behind. Somehow, his sloth had been able to keep him from even working to have his son returned. And so my third year in the lord’s household began.

It continued like this for some time. Four years I was at the point of release, and my father once again fell behind. It is a great wonder to me that they did not see fit to throw him in prison at some point here, but I suppose that that seemed to them as if they were sanctioning his laziness.

About the fifth year of my servitude, I overheard a conversation that the lord had with his treasurer. It seemed that he had finally figured that the final payment was never going to come, so he decided to have his household find a place for me. Sure enough, a few months later, at the end of my fifth year, I was given the job of carrying messages. They had noted that, though I had inherited some of my father’s nature, I had a side to me that was about to surface as soon as it was given ample opportunity. It had also been noted by some watchful eye in the household that, though still small, I could keep up with any of the master’s pages.

It took me little to no time to settle into my new job. I was given other duties when things went slow, but I immensely enjoyed running about through the manor, a sheet of parchment clutched in one small palm. In time (three more years, to be exact), they finally decided to let me run and give messages to the people in town who supported the household. One of my regular trips was the one between the manor and the baker’s. The lord had a taste for all things baked, so it was only natural that he sent me to order goods twice a day, or three times or more on holy days or during feasts.

I was fourteen at the time, and quite strong, even in my youth. The years of work had done me good. I have that to thank my father for, at least, but things started to get drab around my fifteenth year. So, I made it a point to quicken my pace, finally increasing it to the point where I could run to the silversmith’s and back and have time to sit around and watch the squires ply their trade. Had my master known what I was doing, I would have surely been flogged, but I made sure he didn’t find out. I had carefully planned routes which I used to come in by, and I was the only one who knew about them.

On one particularly slow day, I went searching for new ways, and to my great joy, I found a tunnel hidden in the wall and behind the ivy that climbed the walls. It probably took me an hour to navigate the tunnel to its end, but I was dead set on doing just that. At the end, I finally found the catch to the exit to the tunnel. To my great surprise, it opened in the master’s room. I now know that it was a last ditch escape route by which the ruling family could escape if needed, but then it contained nothing but the frightening prospect of coming in on my master at a bad time. I was lucky that he wasn’t there at that time, but it took me several weeks to muster the courage to actually explore the tunnel to any further length. When I did, however, what I found substantially increased my stealthy reentrance tactics.

The tunnel had further branches that led elsewhere, most notably, to several of the main training rooms. I frequented these during my last few years as a servant, and found myself entranced by what I saw. I had not uncovered anything that any regular squire was to ever see, however. What I had found was known to only a choice few.

As it turns out, the lord of the lands had heard rumblings of late. People had started questioning his leadership, his ability to effectively lead the village. These rumblings were not altogether unfounded, as the settlement, though close to thirty years established, was still definitely nothing more than a fledgling colony. It was not, of course, entirely the fault of the lord. More than likely, the lack of progress was due mostly to people like my father who preferred to watch the clouds pass than to try their hand at any craft. But, whatever the true reason, people, as is common in such situations, had begun blaming their master.

In short, there was a cell developing rapidly that had plans to replace their lord. Seeing this as an opportunity to seize power, some few had begun meeting in secret to discuss plans to overthrow him. Word had begun to leak out of these plans, so the lord took action.

What I found was a secret training area for spies and assassins, specially commissioned to fight against the perceived threat. The lord saw it better to dispatch with the power-hungry rebels quietly, rather than trying to put down the revolt by a show of force. The men who trained in these rooms were already warriors of some renown, mostly as swordsmen or scouts. Some, though, were squires in the household. These were, though younger than the rest, usually far more agile and smaller, suited more to the secretive work than most of the older men could claim to be.

This area became a regular visit for me. At night, when I had no messages to carry, I would slip into the room and hide in a corner, watching the men train in near silence. The men seemed to be perfectly silent to me, but the man who was charged with training this group of men constantly and sternly corrected some error that I could not comprehend. After a while, I began to notice exactly what he was correcting them about. Sometimes, one of the assassins would swing their dagger through the air towards their targets producing a quiet whistle. This was unacceptable. If they were to assassinate anyone, they would need to be able to do it noiselessly. They could not make free, open movement with their weapons, or the sound, however small, could alert the target. Instead, they were trained to hold their daggers so that they could muffle the sound. Sometimes, this was accomplished by wrapping the weapon in cloth; other times, it was just done by moving the weapon correctly so it would not create a noticeable disturbance.

I was enthralled by the ways they moved so that they would be silent. I began to try to mimic them in my own movements, but I lacked one thing that they used to their advantage. Their clothes were fashioned completely of cloth, with no trace of metal or leather except on their weapons. For this reason, they could walk without fearing that some piece of metal on their person would rattle, as well as being secure that they had no leather on their person which could give someone advanced warning by its creaking. All I had to wear was given to me by the lord of the manor, and so I could not escape wearing leather if it was provided by the master. I did sometimes find occasion to circumnavigate this difficulty, however. At night I sometimes went about barefoot through the halls. I thought that, at length, I had gotten quite good at it, but I was nowhere near the caliber or quality of the true assassins.

In time, the threat was averted, and the project abandoned. I found it almost depressed when I found out that they were no to return, but I managed to occupy myself rather well afterwards. The lord was now constantly sending messages. For the first time in his dominion over this village, he was giving slack to popular demand. The villagers complained that the village was not sufficiently protected against assault, its only defenses being the palisades that were placed round the town, slanted to deter anyone from trying to climb them. After several months of clambering for attention, the populous convinced the lord that he should begin the building of stone walls. So it was that I was sent hither and yon, placing orders for the materials needed, as well as my regular rounds. This was the most active time of my young life, and also near the end of my time with the manor.

It was in the fall of 688 CR that I was given my freedom, the reason being that my father had died two years past, and in his absence (as well as the absence of the debt that he continuously accumulated) I had, in the eyes of the household, earned my way out of service with the household. I was now seventeen, nearly eighteen in fact. They sent me away with a pair of clothes and a small bag of money. And so the first stage of my life was complete.

I visited with my mother for the next while. She now lived with a family friend, having sold the farm to get rid of the remaining debt. She was in poor health, having come down with an illness during the last winter and never having fully recovered. She died the night of my eighteenth birthday, leaving me, for all purposes, alone in the world.

It would likely have been much easier for me had I been allowed to live my life without serving in the lord’s household. When I was in the manor, I was kept to busy to actually form any true friendships. For obvious reasons, the baker and I had what might be termed a friendship, not surprising since I usually held the money that was required to purchase his wares, but he could never truly offer companionship or friendship in the truest sense. I had heard of true friendship in my youth, even the concept of best friends, but I lacked anyone to truly consider ‘friend.’ I became quickly depressed over my situation.

I had nowhere to stay after winter, as it had been made clear to me that the reason I had been accepted was for my mother, and the hospitality would end as soon as the weather was ‘favorable’ for being outside. As it was, they politely told me to leave two weeks before spring. I was able to find temporary lodging in exchange for doing odd chores, but as soon as winter broke, I left. Not truly caring where my legs carried me, I started to wander. I was ill-prepared for such a venture, having but a few crusts of bread to keep me until I reached whatever destination I was to encounter first.

As luck would have it, I was able to find a city only a few days out on foot, but my aching legs told me pointedly that such a trip in the future was not to be made without a horse. I looked for work in the city, but little was available. I spent a good deal of my money on a horse, and had soon nearly exhausted what I had managed to save. So, I left the city, traveling north and west and seeking a friendlier destination. I found another city, and once more sought work. I met with more success this time, but only for a time. I was taken in and given a small amount of pay each week for cleaning up for the local bartender, who had temporarily lost an employee to a bar brawl. As I had expected, I lost my job as soon as the man was well enough to take it back. With nothing else to stay for, I once more wandered without any set direction.

Looking back at those days, I can now see the folly of traveling so, but it was the only thing that kept me alive. My money bag was constantly empty, owed twice to a robbery, several more times my last coins were used for purchasing much needed food. I never found anything that gave me any sort of pleasure, no mater how small.

Off and on, I wandered a total of close to five years. Sometimes, I would be able to settle for as much as three months but then, either by my own yearning to travel once more or by the loss of my job, I would be back on the road. I lost four horses during this time, two sold to get money for food, one lame from the traveling, another which dropped dead halfway between two cities. It was a tedious life, but I pride myself in saying that I never once had to borrow money. Several times I went to sleep without food, yes, but I earned every coin I ever had.

At the end of five years, I was astounded that my path, after so much time, saw fit to lead me back where I had started. At first I did not know that I was back to where my life had begun. The walls had been completed, and a good deal of filling in had been done in the territory that the city occupied. I did not doubt the words of a trader that told me that it had tripled in population over the last five years. As cities went, it was now actually comparable to those which surrounded it.

As large as it was now, however, my ill fortunes could not be lost, even in the great winding streets of this strange city I had once called home. I was robbed again, this time of every coin I had. As desperate as my situation had become, I resolved not to be reduced to begging. As it was, I finally got a place to stay and some food to eat by working with the baker, who still remembered me and decided to help, though he already had all the employees he needed. I lived thus for a month, then was forced to take what little money I had and leave, looking for another place to work.

Setting off again was quite out of the question. My horse had come up lame (as previously mentioned) and refused to carry anything. I ended up selling him for the meat, but I received very little in return.

I do not recall exactly how my next employment came about. I believe that there was some idle conversation in the local tavern about the peasant revolt of so long ago, and a passing mention of the assassination of several of the key players therein. Then I mentioned that I held a sort of admiration for the intricate ways that assassins did their work. By mere slip of the tongue, I made mention of several of the specific techniques I had seen so long ago. Someone there heard it, and he took an immediate interest in me. While I was traveling to my abode for the night (merely the loft of a barn that had been provided by a local farmer) I was confronted by this man.

He asked me how I had come to know of the techniques. I immediately became defensive, refusing to tell him, but he wasn’t going to take no as an answer. His partner had been coming up behind me as we talked, and caught me with his dagger just beneath my throat. I was sure that they intended to kill me, but it was not to be.

They took me quietly to somewhere we could talk privately. Once there, they explained that they were part of a secret guild of assassins that had been quietly growing for the last few years. Many of them were the same men who had been in the service of the lord several years since, using what they had learned to secure profit. I had previously been convinced that they intended to kill me, but after a while of talking, they asked me to show them what I knew of the techniques. I found it hard to say no to that, seeing as one of them held a piece of sharpened steel as long as my head was high. They were pleased by what I knew, though they obviously knew that everything I did could have been better. What they did in the end caught me completely by surprise. They offered me employment, a way to earn a solid living by joining their guild. They were short on members at the moment, and they said that they felt that I could become an adept warrior with proper training. Undoubtedly, they also didn’t want one who could use their techniques to be outside, where I could do harm.

I accepted, not just because I needed money, though that was a factor. I wasn’t interested in death, and the blade that had been pressed against my throat before wasn’t an arm’s length away when they asked. As an unarmed civilian, you can’t refuse an offer made like that.

As expected by those who made the offer, I learned quickly, as I had already seen the techniques done before, and lacked only the knowledge of how to do them myself. I never got quite as good as my trainers, who alternated every so often to get me familiar with the men I worked for. They gave me a little money so that I could buy food, as well as small but adequate lodging.

Before long, however, I felt that I had been trained enough. What I had heard of the guild, such as their practice of splitting profits, was not good for my ambitions, and so I ran. Not quite literally, but I did escape from the guild’s hold, and was off down the road to the next town before they knew what had happened.

I’m not sure that they even made an attempt at getting me back. Once they were sure I had left the town, they probably settled back down to business. After all, that was one less person with which to split the profits.

As for me, traveling once more felt good, as though the road were to me as some substitute for home. I had gotten some exercise during my previous adventures, and the traveling didn’t effect me as it had before. I arrived at the next town and scouted around, looking for anything that I could do. Once more, I came up empty.

However, just when I prepared to leave, I finally did find work. I learned that, as it had been several years ago in my homeland, there was quite a bit of political instability in the area, and the peasants wanted their ruler removed, by any means necessary.

I first scouted the secret meetings they were having, working myself in as if I were an instigator of the rebellion. Then I offered my services in getting rid of their feudal lord. I didn’t specify how I was to accomplish my task, but they went for it. They didn’t much care how he was killed, they just wanted him dead. So, I set about planning my first assassination.

Yes, I did have apprehensions about doing this, but at the time I just wanted money, and no amount of danger would prevent my getting it. As it turned out, and to my profit, the lord was very corrupt, and even his own guards held secret meetings to discuss what they should do about him. Ironically, they had not yet gotten rid of him for fear that the peasants would be angered should it come to light.

This made my job incredibly easy. Once more, I started attending the meetings, disguised as one of the regulars. Once more I offered my services, and they were accepted. So, with no resistance whatsoever on the third of April 694, I performed my first job of many.

It was a cakewalk. In one assassination, I secured two payments: one from the townspeople, one from the guards. It was far more than enough to hold me for a few months, but my discovery of a way to make easy money made me greedy, and I began accepting new jobs. I didn’t care who it was that I was paid by, as long as I was paid. I was, in some morbid sense, very happy for the first time I my life.

My skills also increased as I continued. I learned how to use my own natural talents as assets. The strangest ability I ever put into practice during my work was that of throwing my voice, an ability I had gained while serving as an entertainer in my early years. By making someone think that I was somewhere that I was not, I could sneak up on them much more easily. Soon, I began to solidify my reputation, which had become my single greatest means of advertisement. The name Vincent Lois became synonymous with my work, so much so that I was finally forced to leave the city in which I had started plying my new trade.

For the next few years, I performed my work quietly, now keeping my name to myself, or substituting another name, but I always moved on when the work became slow.

In this line of work it is common to pick up a few battle scars, yet I managed to work at it for three years without picking up a scar that was commonly visible. The one noteworthy scar ran up the length of my forearm, and was gained during what was probably the most confused employment opportunity I ever received.

For this particular job, I was actually hired against another assassin who had come into the town just after I had. Unfortunately, I had failed to ask why, becoming careless in my lust for money. As it turns out, the people who had hired me were a powerful organization in the region, and were afraid to lose the power. They had been tracking both of us; that is, myself and the other assassin, for some time, and had finally made a way to get rid of the threats that they perceived us to be. As it turns out, I was not the only one who received employment that night. My counterpart was also hired to go after me. It seems that the organization was content to watch us go after each other, then accuse the one that survived of assassinating the other, solving their problems easily.

As it was, they created more problems than they solved. After some cat-and-mouse, we finally caught up with each other and became engaged in combat. Unfortunately for our mutual employer, my opponent was given to making comments as he fought, and made a seemingly idle comment that made everything suddenly make sense to me. It took some explaining, but I was able to get my attacker to join me in another job, which, though it did not promise money, promised something a great deal more satisfying: revenge.

So we made our plans. We set about tracking down the men who had hired us on each other, and were able to come away with the name of the organization. We tracked down their leaders, and rid the world of their scheming for good.

In time, I developed an interest in tales of political unrest, wherever they were. At one time, I even went so far as to learn another language to secure employment. That is how the most notable page of my life story came about.

It was the end of summer in 695. I had been assured by a fellow assassin that there was plenty of work to be had in the Southlands. I was skeptical; after all, it is best not to believe everything you hear from assassins. But, in time, I was able to verify that the Southlands were indeed politically unstable. So much so, that I felt sure that, should I be able to learn a few of the southern dialects, however bad my accent, I would be able to quickly make up the money I lost in my time of studying.

So it was that I set off in search of one who could teach me at least one of the dialects used to the south, but at every turn came up empty. Finally, in the middle of fall of the same year, I headed north, seeking knowledge at the one place that had been suggested to me many times.

And so my trail took me to Metamor Keep. It was said that this was the most advanced place in the Midlands, its inhabitants schooled in all of the arts, its scholars unrivalled. Here, also, there was a great library, with all varieties of books, containing knowledge of everything from the greatest books of reference ever published, to the works of masters of the craft of storytelling. At least that is what I was told of the Keep. Once more, it was with great skepticism that I approached the matter, but I was not to be disappointed.

When I first entered the great Keep, I was amazed at the grand scale on which this edifice had been built. I had seen many cities in my travels, but this was the master of them all, the towers at least twice as high as any I had seen in the Midlands. The walls were of solid stone. Some of these stones must have weighed several tons. I could not help but wonder how the builders had managed to place such blocks in their walls. Yet the inside of the Keep had more in store for me.

I secured lodging for myself soon upon my arrival. I would undoubtedly need it if I hoped to have any time to study that which I had come to seek. And so, without delay, I sought out the library.

Upon entering, I found that the stories I had been told about this Keep had indeed been true. In fact, the descriptions seemed to dim in comparison to the sight that came to me. The library was incredible, larger than any I had seen in my life. After a few moments of staring agape at the rows of books that stretched as far as the eye could see, I was able to regain control of my body. After some time searching, and some help from the librarian, I was able to find what I was looking for. There were several texts here, and though there was no book that had been written with the specific purpose of teaching people the Southern tongues, I was able to find several works which had been translated. Using the translations along with the original work in the Common Tongue, I began trying to find out exactly how the languages were spoken.

As it turned out, my ambitions nearly exceeded my abilities. As it turns out, not only are the words different, but, at times, the grammar can differ also, making sentences seem backwards. It took me more than half a year to feel that I could even write the language passably, seeing as the letters also differed from those of the Common Tongue. In the end, I gave up trying to speak any of the southern languages, and decided to continue as I had before, performing my work in familiar territory.

During my work, I did find time to have some diversions here and there. I developed a sort of routine, spending a good amount of time at the inn, where I would take a pint of mead and sit by the fire while I drank. After some time at this practice, I began to tell stories when I felt that I could get a good crowd. Most of them were actually true happenings that I had been part of, but I would change all of the names, including my own, and tell it as though it were but fantasy. Some of them were quite popular, and in time I began throwing elements of fiction into the mix to satisfy someone in the crowd. After the first three months, it was not uncommon for the stories to have become just that: stories.

All of the true elements now gone, I had much more freedom to move with the stories. In time, I grew to like making them up, and even put a few down on paper, though I expect that few would be those interested in reading them.

When it finally came time to leave in the fall of 696, I found my self profoundly saddened by what I felt as a great loss. For the first time in my life, I had had people who actually would call me friend. It was, in my reckoning, the only real home I had ever and, and I had spent the entire time staying in the inn. As you can imagine, I was quite low on money by this time, even with all the profits I had made, so I threw myself back wholeheartedly into my ‘work.’

After a while, what was left of my battered conscience got the better of me. So it was that in 698 I retired, unofficially of course, since I had never officially started work, but I could not bring myself to idle. Before long, I wanted something else to do, something to challenge me. I always did enjoy a challenge.

After wandering for some time in the south, I traveled back north, until I was just a few miles south of Metamor Valley. I had considered returning, but it didn’t seem to me the best thing. My proximity to the Valley, however, did offer me another opportunity. Some stray bands of miscreants from the Giantdowns, increasing in number of late, had been filtering down through the Valley. All those lucky enough to make it past the Valley often began raiding and sacking whatever villages were nearby. The village in which I now stayed was one of the more common places that this happened. The people had become used to the occasional party of lutins that would happen by, but were still enough affected by their raids that they would pay nicely to have them removed before they could reach the village. And so my new occupation began.

I hired a few men who were decent at fighting, and started hiring my party out to local farmers who wanted to make sure that they weren’t attacked unexpectedly. In return for every month that I was able to keep them from being raided, I could usually get quite a decent price. Nothing too extravagant, but enough so that, while patrolling a few farms at a time, I could usually pay my men and live without having to dig into my savings to pay for the costs of living. In this way I was able to keep my rather good sized savings at the same time as I had the challenge that I had so longed for.

It was the next year, 699, when it happened. Tales began to come from caravans that something had happened to the north. The stories varied, but the most widely accepted version was that some power-hungry wizard from the Giantdowns had attacked Metamor, unleashing some sort of curse on the inhabitants. Little was known of the specifics for almost a year, but details slowly filled in until I felt comfortable that I knew the whole story. This story, as I assume that you have lived some time in the Midlands, should be quite familiar to you, so I will not bother to go deep into details.

The effect that this had on the popular view of the Keep was devastating. The first time one of the cursed Keepers tried to come near the village, he was chased away and called a demon. That has become an all-too-common feeling towards the defenders of that once glorious Keep. Many feel that the Curse was the just judgment of the gods on the inhabitants of the fortress. For this reason do so many refuse to go near the cursed place. Others will go, but often come back telling horror stories that keep people from attempting the journey themselves.

I had not forgotten my time there, and it hurt me deeply to hear of the incredible sufferings that my adopted home was undergoing. Some even went so far as to say that they were now in league with the monsters of the north. This has been disproved since, several times in fact, but it is still one of the more common sentiments. For a time, I tried to defend them, but my own lack of knowledge was my downfall. After all, said my neighbors, I had never been to the Keep since the Curse. And so I was forced to silence.

For some years after, the number of lutins that ventured south became fewer. It is unclear why, though it has been theorized that they were spent during their battle with Metamor. At any rate, the payments were becoming few and far between. So, I expanded my horizons. After all, though they were common, lutins were not the only things that came south. Ogres, goblins, even an occasional giant would be sighted in the South and doors would be locked and windows shuttered at their mention. Perfect. Something once more had the public’s attention, and I would exploit it to my fullest profit. Though these other monstrosities were far less common, a man having slain a giant was one to be recognized and, if I had anything to say about it, to be rewarded.

So I set about training myself to face the more valuable enterprise that I hoped to undertake. Though few they were, I was right in my assessment of the situation. The first time I responded to a call, I made use of a new set of tactics, aimed more at the larger and more dangerous creatures. My men now carried bows in addition to their swords. They had to be paid more, but if we took a prize there would be plenty of money to go around. As I had anticipated, the small groups that the monstrous creatures were forced to compose to stay out of sight in the North were easily destroyed by superior numbers of human bounty hunters. Also, when money is at stake, men fight much more ferociously.

I continued doing such things for the next few years, expanding my ‘business’ every time a new threat appeared. I hunted almost everything that people saw as a monster, from the weakest of lutins to the largest of giants. I once heard rumors of a werewolf in the area, and prepared myself should I be called upon to face it. It was not to be, however. Of all people, a farmer killed it one night when it tried to attack his sheep. I find myself forced to conclude that the werewolf had been extraordinarily weak…

After a while, the news apparently traveled north of the deaths of so many of the creatures who ventured near this village, and they seem to have adjusted their path to avoid us. Or it could just be that the lutins have decided that it is to their best interests to try their luck up north. Whatever the reason, my work gradually disappeared, and in 704, I was forced to retire for the second time.

Over my years of doing some of the strangest jobs in the world, I have collected quite a number of oddities; from a golden plate that I salvaged from a recently deceased king’s treasury, to a completely black bow that I had taken off of a warrior just before I did him in. Of the artifacts I collected in my other job, the most interesting was the tooth of a dire wolf. No, I did not kill it. It was on a necklace that I took off of a lutin. It’s a pretty piece, and I keep it with me, though always sequestered in my cloak.

Through all my successes, though, I did sustain several injuries. The latest is the most visible. A particularly large a fierce lutin dealt me an interesting scar that runs from my right eyebrow all the way to the hairline. Actually, there are three scars dealt with one blow. The weapon he used was quite interesting and is one of those that I kept for posterity. It was strapped to his forearm like a bracer, but three long blades extended from it that passed his fist by a good six inches. It seemed to me unwieldy, but he proved me wrong in dealing me the blow. I was lucky to escape with my eye. On my arm, it barely comes three inches out from my fist, but I have learned a few ways to make good use of it.

To this point, not much else has happened of note. From where I stand now, I cannot help but marvel at the extreme luck that I had. To not have been given a task too hard for me in my first assassination attempt, to have started out small in my bounty hunting business, to have actually survived all of my encounters to date. The chances must have been good enough, because it all happened, but it still amazes me just how well my life has fallen together. True, I regret not having much time with my parents, and I regret the fact that I was an assassin, to some extent. Then again, had I not been an assassin I would never have seen fit to travel to the Keep, and I would have never found a home. Or at least, I would no have the prospect that I now pursue.

You see, I realized that the only place I’ve ever felt at home was Metamor Keep. So, I have pulled up the stakes in my former abode, and I now travel north. I joined a caravan headed to Metamor, and they agreed to give me free passage in exchange for working as a guard. There has been little to do, and they tell me that we now stand only about a day out. As it is, I don’t know what is to come. I could guess, but I would rather wait until it actually happens.

I believe I have told about all that there is to tell. Beyond this, there is little or nothing. Next time I write in this journal, I hope to do so from within the great walls of the Keep.

-Vincent Lois

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"The Pursuit of Happiness", copyright Lurking Wolf