26th Ulriczeit 2511: A brawl, a killing, a reacquaintance.

Salundra waited outside the tent, waiting to see what would happen. Light snow serenely floated to the ground. It felt strange given violence could be happen mere feet away, but Salundra was reluctant to insert herself into the business of strangers. Meanwhile, Ferdinand was actively resisting having another drink. It was calling to him, but so due was the duty he felt for his friend. Gunnar knew his presence could complicate things with the Estalians presumably looking for someone who met his description exactly. He was hiding out in the tent, waiting for the Honorary Manling Slayers to come back.

Salundra could hear clear sounds of a fight in the tent, muffled at first bit becoming heated. A grunt of pain was followed by a deep voice shouting “Anka gerroff!”. This was clearly audible to Gunnar who was a couple of rows away. The fight spilled into the ‘street’. A knife flashing within a desperate grapple, then the knife-hand pinned, followed by punishing punches to the face delivered by the big man to ‘Anka’. They don’t even notice Salundra or the red haired dwarf that joins her. Ferdinand arrives soon after, the scene unfolding making little sense to him. It was clear that the man had overpowered his attacker and Gunnar decided to finish the fight by deftly placing his axe between them, preventing another punch to the face. This got the man’s attention, though ‘Anka’ was thoroughly dazed from the blows. He moved onto knees, raising one hand, but keeping her wrist firmly gripped. Despite being dazed, Anka reacts to a firm order from Gunnar to release the knife. The man tosses it away and raises his other hand. 

With the noise of the fight passed, they can clearly hear Estalian voices, not too close, but somewhere in Rumtown. The kids arrive on the scene. “Whoa! Cool!” exclaim Kal and Schneck when they see the woman’s bloodied nose and Shadowspliter being held with dangerous intent. Perle isn’t at all fascinated by the sight, becoming woozy at the sight of the bloodied Anka. The man stands slowly, hands in the air and makes a clumsy attempt to close the tent flap with a leg, using his body to block any view into it. Salundra is instantly intrigued, but he has regained some of his composure, simply saying it’s none of their business. The Estalians are getting closer. The man can see their distracted by the voices. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of her”, his says, nodding towards the prone Anka. “That’s what I’m afraid of”, responds Salundra and Gunnar comes in to take the stricken woman away with them. The man thinks about drawing a weapon, but restrains himself. They take a circuitous route to their tent, leaving him and whatever secrets that tent held. 

Back at their tent, Salundra and Ferdinand administer care staunching the bleeding and helping Anka regain some of her senses. As soon as she can Anka bodily resists, attempting to draw a knife. They restrain her, but she bucks under them. Being thoroughly overpowered, she eventually calms, though her bloodshot eyes are a pure anger.

Perle arrives at the tent looking for “Mr. Gunnar”. The kids spied on the other tent and are now following the big man – he’s carrying another woman and dragging a big bag. They think he’s leaving and wanted to tell the Slayer.

The party hurriedly gather their gear and leave their tent and Anka behind. It’s not long before they spot the man, who is very much slowed by what he’s carrying and dragging. Something moves in bag and they don’t hesitate in confronting the man, Salundra quickly drawing her sword and holding the point to his throat. She asks Ferdinand to check the bag, a look of panic crosses the mans face. Carefully Ferdinand cuts the strap and lowers it to the ground. Any fuzziness he was feeling from the earlier drinks dissipated instantly as a young girl was revealed within. He’s blindfolded, bound and gagged, but is strong enough to struggle and make as much noise as is possible to with the gag. Realising his situation is bad, the man drops the woman, hoping to get a weapon, but Salundra has no patience for games and puts the sword through his throat without a moment’s hesitation. Perle screams and faints. 

Schneck and Kal aren’t grinning and messing now. They’re ashen faced at the sight of the man bleeding out and blood splashed across Salundra. They ask to check on Perle, Kal blocking her view to the gruesome sight. She vomits all over Schneck. “I’m not sure I want to be an Honorary Manling Slayer anymore”, he says as they carry Perle away.

It’s not long before Neufaljung liveried guards appear. The sergeant takes in the scene: a body bleeding out, another woman unmoving, a bound, blindfolded and gagged child in a bag, another unconscious and a woman holding a bloody blade. Salundra argues that he was about to attack and only a bad guy would have a child in a bag. It takes a little convincing, but he concedes it looks bad for the dead man. The sergeant orders that the girl be freed. She is defiant and announces she is Janna von Sigismund, 2nd cousin to the Graf and she demands to be returned to her family. She asks who they are, an imperious tone projecting authority, even from a six year old. Salundra is deferential, but at the same time shows her courtly manners. She bows to the girl saying, “all is not as it seems, we should talk”. Her tone and sincerity are clear and Janna nods. The sergeant orders the dead man brought to Morr’s Garden and that the barely alive woman, who smells strongly of gangrene, be brought to Martha. They ask where they might find him later, but he says the guards will be up by the entrance, but he could be off duty, though muttering that he’d really like to see how this turns out!

The party and Janna go to the Red Queen ‘inn’ and sit. Janna has never been anywhere like this and eyes the place with equal contempt and curiosity. Janna is hungry and when Karla comes over she jokingly asks for a menu. Salundra picks up on the joke and the girl eats heartily, albeit in a dignified manner only a noble could manage in a place like this.

They talk, Salundra trying to build a rapport with the girl. She recounts what happened to her, displaying remarkable strength of will throughout. She describes the abduction, though she was blindfolded early on, only really seeing some dead house guards before being taken away on horseback. They travelled through the next day and made camp some distance from Wolfhenze, but she had no idea where they were. They fed her and treated her well. She listened to the different voices, counting seven abductors. That night or the one after, she wasn’t sure, they camped. Afire warmed her and she slept, but they were attacked, by goblins, she thought. Only three survived and the horses all were either dead or gone. They slogged through the snow to Rumtown, one of the women groaning from an injury. They’d been in Rumtown a few days at least, but Anka and Marius, that was the mans name, had begun arguing. Anka claimed they needed to ‘deliver the goods’, but Marius wanted Gerwig, the injured woman, looked after. It was that arguing that drew the attention of the people she was sitting with now in this strange tent-inn.

The party listened to everything Janna said, amazed that a child of six could be so composed and so clearly spoke.

Salundra places a hand on Janna’s and describes a toy, a rag doll called Sali. She has every detail etched into her mind. It is made out of scraps, badly stitched and patchwork. It’s padded with cloth so is lumpy. It has hair made from random strips of cloth. No proper colours, all mismatched materials. But it was made with love. Janna’s face is all wonder and awe. She knows the doll’s every detail… 

Janna reaches into a fold in her dress, revealing it, careworn, but exactly as described. Salundra says that Sali is something she made for her daughter before she was stolen away from her. Janna looks from the doll and into Salundra’s eyes, tears welling. “They told me my mother died”, she all but whispers. Salundra takes both of Janna’s hands and the doll in her’s, “No, Janna, I’m your mother”.

… and we’ll leave it there!

Until next time,