26th Ulriczeit 2511 (Late afternoon onwards): What now?; rumbled; a walk in the snow.

Everything went quiet at the table. Janna looked up into Salundra’s eyes. Gunnar and Ferdinand had been eating, but even that stopped at the revelation. Janna nodded slowly… the realisation that she had been lied to for the last six years sinking in. Her Grossmutti prided herself on being a straight talker, abhorring deceit of any form. Now it turned out she had been the arch deceiver. “What happens now?”, Janna asked meekly. “We need to get to you somewhere safe…”, Salundra said. “What about Neufaljung Castle? What about Wolfhenze?”, Janna asked halfheartedly. “They’re not safe”, her mother said with a sad smile, “You were snatched from Wolfhenze and who knows what agents are at work around the Graf”. Janna resumed her slow nodding… “Where then?”. The question hung, Salundra looking from Janna to her comrades.

She was about to attempt an answer when the flap of the “Red Queen Inn” snapped open in a gust of wind. Snow flurried in along with a couple of patrons. Gunnar and Ferdinand noticed something else… a feathered helm and bright uniform at the entrance. The sallow skinned man exclaimed some unheard and ran off quickly when his eyes met Gunnar’s.

”We need to go”, was all the explanation the Dwarf gave and all four stood as one. “Out the back”, Salundra whispered and they made their way to Klara. This obviously wasn’t the first time someone had had to make a quick, alternative, exit from somewhere she’d worked. Klara quickly untied a rear flap, opening it silently to let them out.

The snow was coming down much more heavily now and looked like it had been for the time they’d been in the Inn. Reasoning that the main entrances to Rumtown would be covered by the Estallians, they made their way towards the western fence. They thought about taking horses, but reasoned it was too risky, both in terms of the ground conditions and their relative inexperience with them, apart maybe for Salundra and Janna.

Gunnar aided everyone in getting over the fence, by boosting them up; Salundra first, with a graceful landing; Janna second with assistance from her mother; Ferdinand next with a less graceful, but nonetheless upright, landing; and finally Gunnar himself, climbing over the fence with ease. The fence encircled the camp, with entrances at the northern edge, near Neufaljungweg, and the south, not far from the river. The believed moving around the southern edge of the camp was the safest route and off they set, trudging through the heavy snow as the last light of the day disappeared from the sky.

The wind was picking up and if the light wasn’t gone, the snow would have caused visibility to drop to near nothing. Gunnar, with the best low light eyesight, guided the party. The cold was intense and it wasn’t long before Janna started to shiver. She had good hiking boots, but the coat she wore was too big – the abductors obviously grabbing the wrong one from the hunting lodge. A glow in the low light alerted Gunnar to something ahead – a guard smoking to keep warm. Gunnar edged the group away from the fence and proceeded when the next inhalation glow faded. The proceeded undetected.

The snow gave everything a hushed silence. For Salundra, Janna and Ferdinand their hearing and footfalls were the only sensations aiding their progress. They marched through the deepening snow, each with a hand on the other. The river was nearby, they could hear the strange flowing sounds, probably the result of water moving under ice. Gunnar kept them parallel with the river until they came to edge of the woods. He kept them out of it, forging a path between the woods and the river. Progressing eastwards, but knowing that the river and road, to the north, would diverge. The needed to follow the road, but didn’t want to risk detection.

A few hours into their trek the cold began to get the better of Janna. Gunnar carried her for a while, but with the wood between them and the road, they reckoned they could risk setting camp. The found some deadwood caught up in its former forest mates and made a small fire, sharing some dry rations. Salundra added a splash or wine to their water to ensure it wouldn’t freeze. The made watch, but the night passed without incident, the only sound was the falling snow. Between Salundra’s body warmth and the heat from the fire, Janna stopped shivering and fell into a restful sleep.

27th Ulriczeit 2511: It’s oh so quiet…; She ain’t heavy…; safe?

The night was uneventful. Estalian mob patrols along the road lost heart in the biting cold and heavy snow. The party set out at first light, soon encountering a raised outcropping of stone that separated the river, which turned southwards, from the road, which continued (mostly) eastwards towards Flussberg, and hopefully the waiting Deft Dancer. Janna was getting cold again and Salundra decided to carry her draped over her back, with a blanket over her again to try to keep her warm. This worked well, Salundra not feeling any burden at carrying the girl.

The headed north for a short while to reach the road. The snow was easing, but visibility was still poor. There were no signs of life on or around the road, not even any footprints to be found. They proceeded east along the road, soon encountering the roadblock from a couple of days ago. The sergeant questioned them half-heartedly; it was obvious he wanted to return to the warmth of their cabin. If he spotted Janna he made no comment.

The rest of their journey was uneventful. They were all hardy to the cold. The only curiosity was another traveller, walking a distance off the road, in the company of two large cats. Whoever they were they didn’t bother the party, but paralleled their path into Flussberg.

It was getting dark as they entered the town, the long day’s trudge making their steps heavy. They desperately hoped the barge would still be there, but it wasn’t… well, it wasn’t exactly where they had left it. It had been turned to face back down river and was now laden with cargo.

Gele, Felix and Yasmina were thrilled to see the party, their hearts raised to see a new, young passenger with them.

… and we’ll leave it there!

Until next time,