21st Ulriczeit 2511 (late): Reservoir Dogs; Deft Dancer; Sleep

Salundra, Gunnar and Ferdinand made to leave the Red Moon Inn, a place of warmth and hospitality. They were dressed and prepared for a potentially long journey. Salundra was in a new winter coat, a backpack slung over her back with the provisions needed for their travels. Ferdinand was wearing his long grey coat the hood pulled over his head to ward off scrutiny and the light snow, his scythe hidden as best he could. Gunnar was sporting new tattoos: a human skull with cracking ice below it on one shoulder and the long tentacled arm of an octopus wrapping the length of his other arm. The only supplies he needed was a bottle of hard liquor.

They made their way through the snowy streets to the Deft Dancer. It was moored not far to the north of where the Red Moon Inn is. They would stay the night on the barge so that Gele could set sail at first light. When they reached the boat it was a scene of frantic activity. There were at least two people working with Tele to prepare the boat for departure. It was clear that the Deft Dancer had not left its mooring for quite some time, but Gele was doing everything she could for the journey to Black Rock. Salundra asked to board as they reach the gangplank. Gele waved her on saying that she need not ask permission. She also pointed to the cabin at the aft of the vessel, saying that she had prepared a place for them to sleep. They did not want to disturb her efforts so they made their way to the cabin. Sure enough there were three hammocks slung ready for them. Otherwise the room was quite spartan. They stowed their gear and got ready to sleep, the last few days I’ve been draining. Sleep came quickly despite the continuous scuffling and movement from the deck.

22nd Ulriczeit 2511: Breakfast Delivery; Wight on Time; Gate Crasher; Restless Dead

They all woke to the motion of the boat in the morning, a weak light seeping in through the small window at the rear of the vessel. Each was content to lie and rest. That was until they heard yelling outside. A voice they recognised calling from what seemed to be the dockside. Gele barked orders at someone named Felix and someone else named Yasmina, and the barge swung back towards the dock. As the party emerged from their quarters, they saw on the dockside Eugen laden down with a heavy basket. The boat moved to the dock, Gele ordering Felix to tie off as the boat lost momentum against the Teufel’s flow. Eugen hopped athletically aboard, panting slightly. “I was afraid I’d missed you… here…”, he said handing over the basket, “Ma made this for you”. The smells emanating from it made now doubt as to what it was – one of Maglyn’s excellent breakfasts and by the weight of the basket, a lot of it! “Oh, I have this too”, he said reaching into his shirt. He pulled out a wax-sealed letter and handed it to Salundra. Bleary eyes and the strange context meant it took a moment for her to realise what it was. It was a letter of safe passage from Rikard Fischer, evoking the Gran von Neufaljung by name and displaying the family’s coat of arms prominently. Eugen gulped and said, “I best get back to the inn”, tears clearly welling up in his eyes. Salundra said, “don’t worry, we’ll see you in a few weeks”, and tossed a coin to him. With his watery eyes he missed the catch, but quickly scooped it up from the deck. He nodded and hopped from the barge.

Gele came down from the poop deck, “Okay. Are we good to depart”. Salundra nodded and Gele began barking orders again. Felix seemed to be doing something wrong and was getting on Gele’s nerves. As the Deft Dancer got underway again Ferdinand spotted something, well someone in the water. It was Rolf, the man who’d tried to extort Salundra claiming to have information about Janna. He’d been stabbed and dumped in the water… one of his thumbs conspicuously missing.

They shared out the breakfast and it was as delicious as it smelled. Salundra half slipped heading up to deliver some food to Gele, but otherwise there were no more surprises as they departed Ubersreik – a place that had brought mixed fortunes to them. The boat cleared the western gate of the river and the city began to slowly fade away. The fog of the last few days had lifted, but only to reveal heavy clouds. The wind was gentle, but favourable allowing the barge to make slow progress towards Flussberg, a journey that should take about two days. Gele let them know she’d need to take the relatively new Hartsklein Canal, a two-mile shortcut that cut out about five miles of a slow U in the river. She explained that the water moved so slowly in the U-bend that it froze at this time of year, barring traffic. The canal was kept ice free by the addition of salt from a nearby mine. The canal had been constructed to allow year round trade between Ubersreik and Black Rock, but the recent unrest had significantly impacted all travel too and from the Duchy.

As the morning passed, Ferdinand to sit in the forecastle to take in the winters scenery, his cloak wrapped tight against the cold. Gunnar decided to get a feel for Shadowsplitter, swinging it about, getting a sense of it’s reach and balance. Salundra rested for a while and decided to take a walk on deck in the mid-morning. As she looked from the boat, movement on shore caught her eye. It was hard mot discern, but it looked as though something was pacing alongside, weaving through a small forest that now covered the bank. She went to Gunnar, knowing how keen his eyes are. He followed her pointing arm, spotting immediately that it was the wight, Rojas. The last they saw of him was him plunging into the Teufel around the time they destroyed the necromancer. The Urn seemed to awake in Ferdinand’s cloak… it didn’t move or change physical state in anyway, but he sensed a change. Salundra went up to Gele and ask that she subtly bring the barge closer to the bank. Rojas continued to flit between and around trees, Gunnar watching his every step.

The wight disappeared in a dense patch of copse and didn’t seem to emerge on the other side. Gunnar couldn’t catch sight of him again. Gele brought the Deft Dancer in carefully, never sure what might lie unseen beneath the river’s surface. It came to a stop at a slight angle to the bank monastic bull reeds, about 10 yards from the bank itself. Their eyes scoured the surroundings. It was Gele who spotted something anomalous. Something was moving through the water towards the barge. Gunnar seized a crate a climbed to the poop deck, positioning it to give him a step. He then stared intently at the moving shape in the water, timing its advance. The Slayer backed up, counting quietly down in his head. He then sprung into action, sprinting a few strides to the crate, stepping on it, stepping on the rail and he was gone, plummeting towards the shape. He hit the water hard, barely missing it, but the slam of the water made his eyes blurry. Something stabbed in his side, but he couldn’t right himself in the water. Shadowsplitter was still in hand, but he wasn’t finding the surface. Something caught him under the arm… Gele, Salundra and Ferdinand hauled on the boat hook… the sodden dwarf emerging slowly from the water, a small trickle of blood coming from his side. Getting him aboard was slow going.

A scream disturbed the rescue and they all turned to see Rojas holding Yasmina at blade-point. “Zee Urn… give it to me”, was his simple demand. Salundra put her hand out towards Ferdinand and he gave the foul item to her. “Release her or I destroy it”, she intoned, holding the Urn above her head as though to smash it towards the deck. He chuckled. “Zer is nothing you can do to destroy it”, he responded, his eyes not leaving the Urn. Ferdinand had positioned himself with a good view of the wight, all the while giving voice to an incantation. A mauve dart shot from his hand, clipping Rojas on the cheek. Yasmina was transfixed, but seizing the moment, Salundra and Gele moved quickly towards the unwelcome guest; the captain vaulting from the poop deck to the main deck, boat hook in hand, and Salundra launching down the steps, drawing her sword. Ferdinand released another dart, this one catching Rojas in the chest. Rojas thought the better of fighting them and jumped into the river. They searched for him, but he wasn’t to be seen. “W…w…w…what was that thing?”, Yasmina managed to splutter out, her whole frame beginning to shake. Felix went to her and led her to the fore storage room.

Reasoning it was better to keep moving than to stay still, Gele asked for help hauling the boat from where it was wedged. She handed a small anchor and length of rope to Gunnar who threw it to precisely where it was need – a minute of pulling freed the boat and with the assistance of Ferdinand and Salundra, the Deft Dancer was underway up the Teufel again. As she guided the boat, Gele confessed she’d thought she’d never see Rojas again… assuming he had been destroyed with the necromancer who had promised so much to her.

Despite progress being slow they soon arrived at where the Hartsklein canal had been cut into the northern bank, its first lock visible just 50 yards along it. Gele banged on a simple wooden drum to announce their arrival as she issued commands to Felix and Yasmina, who had emerged, and brought the barge to a stop. A Halfling, who Gele referred to as Henrietta emerged from the lock house. “Haven’t seen you in quite a while, dreary”, she said by way of greeting. “‘Ang on a second… I need to fill the lock”, she said while opening a sluice. It wasn’t long before the lock gate itself opened and they used ropes to tow the boat through. The gate closed and the water began to go down, lowering the boat down to the level of the water in the canal. Gele hopped from the boat as is descended and paid the toll. She and Henrietta chatted easily as the watched the boat drop. Once it had found the level Gele boarded and issued orders for the sail to be prepared. Ferdinand and Gunnar helped with one of the gates and boarded as soon as the Deft Dancer had cleared the lock. They bade farewell to Henrietta and …

… they hit something. A lock gate!

“You nincompoops! You half-baked pies! If you’ve damaged the gates, I swear on all the pastry in Mootland I’ll … I … Wait. What?”, Henrietta was dumbstruck. The Deft Dancer was back before the gate where it had entered the lock.

Moans and scraping emanated from over the side of the barge. Ferdinand called everyone together in the centre of the deck and concentrating hard he conjured a hemisphere of translucent purple and silver around them. Decaying hands and rusty weapons soon emerged from over the side rail, undead corpses clambering towards them. The first came to the hemisphere and was stopped. Yasmina whimpered…

… and we’ll leave it there!

Until next time,