27th Ulriczeit 2511 (Late afternoon onwards): A simple meal, company of friends, setting watch…

Janna just seemed unflappable. She had slept well during the travels and now she was helping Yasmina prepare food, though she had little experience with such things. Salundra gave Gele an overview of what was going, letting her know that Janna was her daughter, the visual similarity reinforcing that, but leaving out the other details. Gele agreed that they would leave at first light. Felix was very excited to show off his new blue and white striped trousers to anyone who’d give him a moments attention. He thought they were rather dashing! They all enjoyed a simple meal, enjoying the warmth of the food, surroundings and company. Gunnar could feel his extremities again. The spartan existence of a Slayer wasn’t very compatible with trudging through an icy landscape. Yasmina and Janna seemed to be getting on well, Yasmina offering to brush and plait the girls hair. Salundra sat back and watched this simple childhood moment.

They agreed an overnight watch would be prudent while moored in Flussberg. Ferdinand, followed by Felix, Gunnar and then finally Salundra was the agreed order. The others settled in to sleep during the first shift, Gunnar’s head barely hitting the sack before he started snoring. He slept in the Captain’s quarters with Gele. Janna, Felix, Yasmina and Salundra slept in the focsle. Ferdinand settled down on the poop deck, keeping his eyes peeled towards the town, the sounds of jaunty singing from the Helmsman’s Arms drifting to him.

28th Ulriczeit 2511: Hairy feet, grappling, bolts, a big axe, friendly blood…

Ferdinand stretched, his eyes squinting in the dim light. He touched something warm and hairy with his outstretched hand. He looked up to see Gunnar standing over him. “Did you have a nice sleep?”, he whispered with a smile that was anything but nice, “Salundra obviously trusts you, but if you ever put her or that child in danger again you’ll have me to answer to.” Ferdinand looked at him sheepishly and nodded. Gele woke and went to rouse Felix. It was time to get under way.

The wind conditions were less than ideal, but at least they were going with the flow. Felix released the ropes and Gele let the movement of the water bring the Deft Dancer out into the Teufel. Soon everyone other than Janna were awake. Yasmina started to prepare breakfast, the boat soon smelling of cooking bacon. Salundra went up to the wheel, Gele offering a small smile. “It’ll take two, maybe two and a half days, to get to Ubersreik, as the wind is poor”, she said. Salundra nodded looking back to Flussberg as it disappeared from view. Quickly the terrain gave way to farmland and patches of woodland, some coming to the endless of the river.

Soon everyone had bacon butties in hand, though it was clear that Janna, who had awoken to the smell of cooking, had never eaten from her hands like this before. The idea of placing bread around other food was quite strange to her.

The early morning light was obscured by clouds, but the snow hadn’t restarted. The heavy fall up to yesterday coated the world in a blanket of white. Looking to the towpath, Salundra noted a lot of footprints, obviously freshly made since the snowfall. A good number of people had passed this way, though whether it was from or towards Flussberg was impossible to discern. Ferdinand walked up to her and tilted his head towards a copse of trees on the northern bank they were beginning to move past. “There’s someone there”, he hissed, not wanting to give away that they’d spotted someone. A grappling hook, quickly followed flew towards the boat, catching it midships. It was followed rapidly by two more, though one fell short, splashing into the water. The ropes of the grapples midships and fore went taught, obviously tied off on trees in the wood. The Deft Dancer began to veer towards the northern, the ropes robbing it of the little momentum it had. Salundra and Ferdinand were quick to action, moving to cut the ropes and free the boat. They had only just cut them when another struck the aft, again seizing the boat, which was now starting to run aground near the back. Gele moved to cut that one, but no sooner had she freed them than a bolt caught her in the head and she went down, a lot of blood pouring from the wound. Ferdinand rushed to help her.

Gunnar had been teaching Janna to use a knife in the focsle. “Hide youngling. You too girl.”, he said, grabbing his axe and stepping out onto the main deck as the boat began to slowly move. “They’re in the trees,” Salundra said, keeping low, sword in hand. A torch spiralled through the air, landing perilously close to a large crate of coal. Salundra ran to if, but already the fire was spreading to the wood. Felix rushed in with a bucket, splashing water everywhere, but thankfully leaving enough to put out the fire.

Gele’s wound looked worse than it was, but there was a nasty gash on her forehead. Ferdinand used a bandage to keep the worst of the bleeding from her eyes. Felix rushed to the wheel, seeking to guide the boat back into the river, but the ropes had robed its momentum. Another grapple snagged the masthead and seemed to be pulled taught. Felix’s efforts couldn’t prevent the flow slowly pulling the aft of the boat into the flow, while the front remained grounded and tethered. A bolt flew, catching Felix in the left arm, rendering it at least temporarily limp.

Another torch spun towards the boat, this time bouncing harmlessly from the side. Ferdinand moved to the gunwale and spotted Joseph Specht in the woods, he was lighting another torch. Summoning his magics Ferdinand sent a dart flying towards the Purser, catching him ineffectually in the upper thigh. Specht dropped the unlit torch and tinder box, drawing a crossbow pistol in a fluid motion. He loosed a bolt towards the mage, but it missed narrowly, embedding in the wheel housing instead (Ed: this was the first Fate point the party have used. The original bolt did exactly enough to drop Ferdinand!).

Gruff looking men started to emerge from the wood, moving towards the front of the boat, where it was closest to the bank edge. A large man strode to the fore, two lackies following. They proceeded to try to boost him up over the front, but it was a struggle. Salundra rushed to the front, clambering up a ladder to get atop the focsle. She swiped at the large man, as he sought a handhold. He yelped and glared at her. He was about to utter an obscenity directed at her when a Slayer dove from beside her, double axe in hand. He dropped, cleaving the man in two, showing the lackies in blood. One started to jabber incoherently, but it didn’t last long as Salundra dropped in beside Gunnar and stabbed the man. The other man drew his sword and swiped at Gunnar, but his weak strike was batted aside and the axe made short work of him. Two more men emerged from where the boat had been tied off… foolishness more than bravery bringing them into contact with the blood soaked Dwarf and the warrior woman. Specht snarled and dropped his crossbow pistol, drawing a distinctive knife. It was one Salundra recognised as he strode towards her. It was the knife they’d seen at the profane alter in the attic of the Karlstadt-Stampf residence… the alter that also had the macabre trophies.

Ferdinand moved to the main deck and checked in on Janna and Yasmina. They sat inside the focsle, with knives drawn and outstretched towards the door. He tried to sell a lie that everything was fine and they’d simply run aground… neither bought it. Ferdinand moved up the ladder and jumped the side, landing on the other side of Gunnar. Felix, realising the wheel wasn’t responding, drew a gleaming sword and moved to the main deck also, proceeding to the gunwale to see what was going on. He was just back from and above Salundra when another bolt struck him, this time in the other arm. He dropped the sword into the water beside her and fell silently to the desk.

The other men reached Gunnar just ahead of Specht’s deliberate advance. The Slayer’s blood was up and two swings of his axe dispatched them. Salundra batted Specht’s first strike aside and proceeded to give him a lesson in sword(wo)manship. Her blade moved decisively and without hesitation. He was endangering her daughter and her friends. He attempted to dodge each strike, but his early confidence misplaced. Slice by slice she sapped his strength and his ability to fight… a strike to his arm causing him to drop the knife. Gunnar stepped forward and ended it, separating Specht from his head. The head landed beside the knife… Specht’s last thoughts and vision were of longing as his eyes faded.

Yasmina screamed, drawing everyone’s attention. Felix was still, apart from the blood that was pouring from him. Gunnar hoisted Ferdinand inelegantly up onto the boat. It was bad. The second bolt was causing a lot of blood loss. Ferdinand knew he had to do something and drew another bandage. Slowly the blood began to stop, but Felix was deathly pale. Ferdinand looked up as Gele appeared beside him. “Janna… stay in there”, she said pulling Yasmina into an embrace. “We need to get him help. Real help”, Ferdinand said simply.

… and we’ll leave it there!

Until next time,