22nd Ulriczeit 2511 (from midday): Clean skies clear minds… for most; a quiet night on the Teufel

The crew worked quietly as the Deft Dance moved westward. The strangeness of the last few hours hung heavy on them, but some fresh air, a bit of food and the prospect of moving forward cleared their minds. Gele commented on the change in the weather as Ferdinand brought some lunch to her. The sky was clearer, everything looked crisper, more frozen, and the wind had shifted southerly. The latter brought much colder air from the mountains and everyone wrapped up against its biting chill. Despite the clear skies, Ferdinand’s mood was dark, the Urn seemed to be affecting him somehow.

The sailing was a little slower, but it was smooth. As they gathered for their evening meal, Gele described Fussberg. Only Salundra had visited it before, but she had a poor memory of it. The captain described is as a small, but relatively prosperous town built on trade. It had a waystation, a couple of large cranes and facilities to load and unload goods coming from and to The Duchy of Black Rock. Trade had changed significantly since the Graf was deposed, most of Black Rock’s coal now moving north up the Hagercryb Canal instead of east to and past Ubersreik. She mentioned the Helmsman’s Arms as the best and only place in the small town to get a drink.

The boat moored for the night, but they were still a day short of Flussberg. Ferdinand fancied finding a pub, but where they had stopped was in the middle of nowhere, only the twinkling lights of a few distant farmhouses to indicate any life. Mannslieb was at half moon, casting decent light in the clear sky. The party and Felix set a watch, but the night passed peacefully.

23rd Ulriczeit 2511: Flussberg; a ‘quiet’ drink; unwanted attention; an offer of help

The next day started colder, the wind having picked up. The travel to Flussberg was uneventful, their meals offering a measure of time and their steady progress. They made the town as the light was fading from the day. The Flussberg docks were busy with stevedores loading boats for a morning departure; several barges containing coal. Gele was either distracted or tired, as her attempt to dock was clumsy. Felix grabbed a boat hook and aided the boat in.

The party decided to check out The Helmsman’s Arms, which was easily found in this small town. The sign hanging outside showed strong arms steering a boat and sported a tattoo of a guild of some form on the right arm. The pub was busy and full of chatter. No one stirred, even when the unlikely trio of soldier, mage (not that most people would know that) and slayer walked in.

Helmut Reif, the one-eyed, one-armed, elderly barman attended to them instantly. Salundra, who certainly had his attention, took an ale, as did Ferdinand. Gunnar sought something stronger and was given a dark beer. While Salundra and the smitten Helmut chatted, the other two downed their drinks – the ale hitting Ferindinand hard, the strong beer being somewhat watery to Gunnar’s palette.  Helmut spoke of rumours and strange many strange groups who’d passed through Flussberg, seeming to be heading towards Neufaljung, where the Graf was gathering forces. Two groups from the last week were worth mentioning, a troop of spectacularly dressed Tilean mercenaries and somewhat disquieting group. This group had been dressed for outdoor travels and, while not interfering with the Helmsman’s patrons, nonetheless caused everyone to quieten. They had a dangerous air about them, one of the women leading them getting a little raucous after a few drinks. Gunnar wanted another stronger drink, but Helmut was enjoying telling these stories to his audience (of one) and simply handed a bottle to the dwarf. This is swallowed back to no ill effect, despite the claim it was the ‘good stuff’.

Helmut was surprised to see the bottle emptied and quipped that he hoped Gunnar could pay for that… the price for the bottle being one gold crown! Given that he considered it barely alcoholic Gunnar questioned the steep price. There was now a stand off over the bill. Pleasant conversation was one thing, but refusing to pay a bill wouldn’t do. Helmut was willing to settle for ten silver, but the slayer wasn’t budging. Helmut knocked twice on the bar and all conversation stopped, many of the patrons shifting in their seats anticipating trouble. Gunnar placed his hand on his axe, but before things could escalate an older woman moved quickly to the bar, placing a gold crown on it.

She turned to Ferdinand, expecting him to recognise her, if not for who she is then for what she is, but being a little tipsy he was clueless. She leaned in close, suggesting that they had something to discuss, and asking that he follow her to her home nearby. Sensing the change in mood in the pub, he decided to go, Salundra and Gunnar following.

The woman, who introduced herself quietly as Agata on the street, led them a short distance to her home in the town. It was narrow, sandwiched between the adjoining buildings, but it was comfortable. Upon entering it was clear she had been in the middle of eating when she left for the Helmsman’s Arms. She asked them to sit and offered tea, much to Gunnar’s disdain. She sat close to Ferdinand and asked what he had brought to Flussberg. She said people around her know her as Eustacia, but the name she had previously known by, and that he might recognise, is Agata Prinz. This name triggered a vague memory of Ferdinand’s, one of a scandal in an Altdorg College of Magic with some connection to the Ruinous Powers. He believed she was implicated, albeit tangentially, but he didn’t know the details.

She asked about what he had brought to Flussberg. She knew something dark, something dangerous had arrived with them. She asked to see it, but Ferdinand refused. The conversation ran dry. Was she trying to help or did she have an unhealthy interest in the magics emanating form the Urn? They left, her home, the atmosphere having turned quite awkward.

Back on the Deft Dancer, they decided to establish a watch again, but the night passed quietly apart from the occasional drunkard singing in the streets. 

24th Ulriczeit 2511 (until midday): seeking some elevation; Specht!

Salundra slept poorly. Now that they were in Duchy of Black Rock, what did she mean to do? If the letter was to be believed the abductors had a 4- or 5-day head start. She decided waiting in Flussberg, as a primary point of exit and entry from/to the Duchy might be the best plan. Seeking a lookout point, they checked out the Mannan temple, one of the taller structures in the town. It was tall enough, but there was no obvious way to access the highest point. There were also cranes on the docks, but these were in continuous use.

They decided that the boat’s crows nest may be suitable. The party decided to tell the Deft Dancer crew the key elements of what was going on; that they were looking for a group that may have taken a young girl captive. The crows nest is quite exposed, so they decided to cover it in with some tarps from the hold. While working on the makeshift observation post, Salundra spotted a cloaked man, the surprised Josef Specht, the bursar for the Karstadt-Stampf family. He quickly realising his hiding place wasn’t as discrete as he’d wanted it to be and fled. Salundra yelled to Gunnar to give chase, but the starting gap was too big. Specht disappeared. Thoughts ran through their minds as the others caught up with Gunnar, looking from alley to doorway to window hoping to spot Specht. What was he doing here? Salundra and Ferdinand had discovered the weird alter with its vile trophies, thirteen thumbs, and a disturbing knife. Ralf’s floating corpse was missing a thumb. Is his presence here related? 

The party were about to return to the Deft Dancer when Ferdinand hears the pounding hooves leaving the town a little north of them. They all glance at each other, but the plan is made in an instant. They will pursue him.

… and we’ll leave it there!

Until next time,