The day was cool but clear, and the time passed quickly. Soon they were in Braunwurt and Theobald bid them farewell and turned north.
As they walked along the road Maewyn looked for herbs and anything that she thought might be helpful on the journey. She didn't actually go off the trail, instead searching by the road in a casual way that was obviously second nature to her. By the time they reached the Reik, she had gathered some wild onions and a few tubers, enough for several meals.
Although Marri chatted idly with Herger, and tossed sticks for Traveller, she watched Maewyn with interest as the small band walked along. Still a bit shy around the elf who had so recently joined their party, she asked eventually, "I am sure that there is much that is good to eat but an equal amount that is poisonous along the ways we will walk. How does one tell the difference, lady elf?"
Maewyn glanced over as she straightened up from the ground. Placing a small onion in her backpack she smiled with a friendly grin at Marri. "Since we will be traveling together I see no reason we have to be so formal call me Mae or Maewyn if you wish. As to the answer to your question most plants that are beneficial to us have symmetrical leaves those that are poisonous most often do not." Maewyn pulled a leaf from a nearby tree to illustrate her point, "See this leaf is the same on both sides the leaf forms a perfect oval. A poisonous plant would be odd shaped and its points would not be symmetrical one may be over here or here. The color of the plant would see a bit odd and the leaves may have a reddish tint or be shiny. A simple way to check is to watch the birds if you see them avoiding a plant that would be a good indication that it should be avoided."
Marri frowned in concentration as she listened and watched carefully. "Thank you... eh... Maewyn" she said, still hesitating a bit over using Maewyn's name. "I hope you will continue to instruct me as we travel."
Herger walked along with Maewyn and Marri with Traveller bounding around happily at their heels. He had been chatting about nothings most of the way with Marri, but as they drew nearer to the city his conversation turned more to serious matters. He said, "I am not a great traveller," with a pause to grin at the dog, "and I am not sure what supplies we should secure before looking for passage. We should not need to camp out in the open for quite a ways, I would think. Hopefully, the trip to Nuln will be cheerfully uneventful. Do you think we should get our own rations, or do you think they will provide such things on the river boat?" He reached down and adjusted the handle of his father's mace which was digging into his left hip. He had acquired it from his mother before their departure. He also had a slingbag over his shoulder which held various odds and ends.
"I do not believe that supplies will be provided on the riverboat I suggest that we pay for some supplies that we need in town and gather other from the bounty of the land. Our mother will always provide substance to those who seek her bounty," Maewyn commented.
"Herger, I believe I agree with Lady Maewyn. We have some bread, and I have some spices, a gift from our friend Jakk" she explained to Maewyn "and a cook pot that I procured before we left Altdorf. If we buy some meal, and some dried fruit and some dried meat," here she looked doubtfully at the elf, not being at all certain if elves ate meat, "I think we should do well enough. With the addition of some nuts, I can make a mush of the meal in the mornings, and with the dried meat and any found vegetables, we can have a bit of bread and stew for supper. And I still have a few apples. Oh" she grinned "we should pick up a couple of bottles of ale as well! A bit of ale in the stew and in the belly makes any meal taste better! Or so says my Father anyway!"
Around noon, they reached Altdorf proper. There were docks along both sides of the river, so they did not feel the need to cross, choosing instead to find a boat docked on this side. The dock area had many shops catering to the shipping trade and they identified several provisioners as they made their way toward the actual ships.
After stopping and asking a number of sailors and dock workers, they quickly narrowed their choices down to three. The Emperor Wilhelm they discarded as it was far beyond their meager means costing around 30 Crowns each, food not included. The River Mink was a passenger boat, and travel would cost 8 Crowns each, again food not included. The Reik Princess was a small cargo ship that also took on passengers, the fare would be 5 Crowns each, and for an additional 1 Crown each, they could share a single meal each day with the captain.
"Well it seems to me that it must be the Reik Princess" said Marri seriously after only a few moments thought. " For one thing, we cannot afford the others. And if we pay for the passages with the meals, we will still have 7 crowns left with which to buy a few other provisions to supplement the single meal they will provide." Marri looked distinctly unhappy at the prospect of only one meal per day. "And I suspect they will have the least objection to Traveller," who barked here at the sound of her name. "I wonder what I should buy for her food? Dried meat do you think? I cannot imagine the Captain welcoming her at his table!" she finished cheerfully.
Maewyn walked over allowing Traveller to sniff at her hand before she scratched the dog behind the ears, "I agree with you Marri the Reik Princess appears to be the best choice and a cargo vessel would not object to our friend here. As to what our little sister here may prefer to eat although I am sure she would prefer meat she is an omnivore so she is quite capable of eating vegetables as well. A strict meat diet would make her ill so you will not have to buy a lot of dried meat. Dogs like wolves are scavengers they eat what ever comes to hand be it plant or animal.
"Well..." Marri said, obviously impressed by the elf's knowledge in this area. "I suppose that means she can eat pretty much what we do. I'll simply pick up a little extra dried meat for her then. May I make a suggestion? As we don't know when the Princess will be leaving, perhaps we should split up. Herger, you and Maewyn can check with the Captain and arrange passage for us, and I'll go buy the provisions we will need? If you're agreeable, give me 5 of Theobald's crowns and I will meet you back here in... oh... two hours? If the ship is leaving today, we'll be ready and if it isn't leaving today, perhaps you can talk the Captain into letting us sleep on deck? A penny saved goes into the belly! Or at least that's what my Father used to say!"
Herger rubbed thoughtfully at his chin and nodded to Marri, "I cannot say that I would care to sleep on the deck, but I do sometimes have a kind of rapport with these layman types. I will certainly try and get us the best deal possible."
He unslung his bag and rifled through it for the purse Theobald had given up. He counted out 6 Crowns, just in case, and handed them over, saying, "I'll trust you to be able to find suitable supplies. It is food, after all," and he winked at his friend with a grin. He secured the purse again and re-slung his bag before he asked Maewyn if she was agreeable to the plan.
Maewyn nodded, indicating that she was agreeable with the plan.
Smiling back at her friend, Marri tucked the coins away securely. "In two hours then" she stated turning away. Traveller scampered along behind her.
Knowing she was unlikely to run into her brothers or any shopkeepers they knew in this part of town, Marri happily spent her time looking at, licking, poking, smelling, squeezing and then haggling over an assortment of food stuff. After making a final stop to pick up several pints of ale, she struggled back to the appointed meeting place with an overstuffed sack and a few minutes to spare. "I've done well" she thought smiling, "at least if the weight of the sack is any indication!"
Once she arrived, pleased to be settled beside the sack instead of under it, she finally had time to wonder how her companions were doing.
Herger had been negotiating with the Captain, Alaric Jurgens, and he and Maewyn had been arranging things on the ship. The Reik Princess was a small boat, with a single mast and a tiny cabin area. Jurgens had a load of ore on board, and he and Herger had shifted and retied this so that a tarpulin could be lashed over it to make a tent of sorts on deck for the passengers. As it was well past noon, Jurgen was willing to wait until morning to set sail.
Herger greeted Marri jovially and told her he had managed to save 3 Crowns on the journey, the extra meal per day included. He expressed his pleasure at the fruits of her shopping trip. He had no opinion regarding when the ship was to leave as that was in the captain's hands.
"Excellent!" she congratulated him. Marri jumped up and shoved the sack at Herger, who hefted it with a grunt. "As you can tell, I did well too! Such lovely fruit, the smell of it! And I got some nice *firm* carrots," gesturing with her hands, "and the sausages..." Marri kept up a continuous stream of food related chatter all the way to the deck of the Reik Princess.
"Overall, quite an acceptable day" she thought as she walked back to the tent and settled in front of it. "I wonder if Maewyn and Herger know if our meals with the Captain start tonight, or if I need to prepare supper?" Although she did not feel it was a critical enough question to actually move, Marri did look around for her companions from her place on the deck.
Herger had stowed his things in an out of the way location beneath the "tent" that had been erected. Afterwards, he moved around the deck watching the activity of the boatmen and those dock workers he could see from the boat. He also watched for any other passengers that would be going on the journey. The three companions would be the only passengers, it seemed.
Jurgens told them that they were welcome to sleep on the ship and they would depart at first light. Marri made a small meal for them and they settled in to sleep.
When the travellers awoke the next morning, it was to find that Jurgens had cast off and they were just moving out onto the Reik. "Ah, good morning, Master and Mistresses. We have a very fair wind and I wanted to take full advantage of it." Jurgens seemed a capable riverman, handling the sail and tiller well. "We should make Autler this evening and will tie up there for the night."
Herger smiled at the news and decided that it felt good to be casting off. After all, the sooner they left, the sooner he would be able to return to his dearly loved family. He said, "Herr Jurgens, what can you tell us of Autler? I have heard the name before but have never been there. Indeed, I am not widely traveled."
He found a comfortable place to settle as he engaged the captain in conversation. He laughed quietly to himself as he watched Traveller explore the small vessel.
"Little enough to tell," said Jurgens. "A fishing village, and a ferry. Well enough off for a village, I suppose. They'll have some fresh fish for our dinner tonight, and if we anchor nearby we'll be safe from any threat." Jurgens kept an eye on the river as they travelled, and seemed to know the twists and turns well. He commented now and then on things on the shore, and was happy to answer questions as the travellers asked them.
Maewyn had spent the early morning hours communing with the spirits of the Old Ones. Sitting on the boat feeling the rush of the water under her it was fairly easy to connect with nature not as easy as it would be in her forest but much easier than a city. Maewyn tried to feel the forces of the Old Ones tried to feel their presence around her. After she was done with a feeling of peace she looked around for the other in her party.
Maewyn spent the afternoon teaching Traveller simple tricks like come sit, lie and stay. Patting him and praising him for each time he did what she wish Maewyn with a smile spoke to the dog although it was more for the halfling's benefit.
"Good boy, you learned those commands well it will help you to be safe if we are ever in a situation where harm may befall you."
"Thank you lady... eh Maewyn" Marri said, as pleased with the attention Traveller was getting as was the dog. "I've never had a pet..." here Traveller gave a sharp bark and seemed to look a bit offended, so she corrected herself hastily "a companion before, so I did not think to try to instruct her. I will continue to enforce what you taught her today and if you think of anything else that it might be good for her to know, do tell me please."
Maewyn scratch the pooch behind the ears as she noticed how dark it had gotten and that the ship was approaching a town.
The day passed pleasantly enough, with the companions sharing bread, cheese, some fruit and a bit of ale at midday, and about an hour before dark, the Reik Princess made anchor near Autler. Almost immediately, a small boat pushed off from the dock and came near. Jurgens chatted with the boatman and bought some fish. "Dinner," he said and began to prepare the fish.
"Now that sounds like a good idea wouldn't you agree Traveler I am sure that your Mistress would," Maewyn said with a smile and a wink at the halfling lass, Marri. Traveller barked and went over to the Captain and sat down near him, intently watching the fish.
Marri, though still a bit shy around the beautiful elf, smiled back at Maewyn and then turned her gaze on the Captain. "Fresh fish always make an excellent meal" she stated happily. She had just launched into an enthusiastic monoloue on the 10 best ways to cook fish, when she noted the expressions on the faces of the 3 people around her, and came to an abrupt halt. Blushing, she muttered "Oh, by gracious Esmeralda's bounteous bosom! I quite forgot myself!" After a small hesistation, she cleared her throat as if to begin again and continued,"Captain, what else might we be having for supper? Perhpas I might assist with the rest of the meal?"
ll means help away, little mistress. I am an indifferent cook at best. I had thought to accompany the fish with wine," said Jurgens, obviously not a thorough menu planner.
"A light wine with fish! Yes! Yes indeed!" she cried.
Jurgens looked as though he might say something, but then he simply sat back and watched.
Marri jumped up and began to bustle about, rummaging through her packback and the sack of provisions; asking Maewyn for the tubers and onions she had foraged; and instructing the Captain over her shoulder on how to prepare the fish. Herger tended the fire and Traveller watched with interest for anything that might happen to fall. In a little while, she was setting out fish with wine raisen sauce, hot apple sauce, tubers cooked with onions and some bread and cheese from the provisions sack; Jurgens provided her with some wine at her request, but looked a little taken aback when she started to cook with it.
"Wine's for drinking not cooking," he said.
Marri had even managed to produce a sweet for the end of the meal using some thin boiled oats, sugar and sweet spices. She was rather pleased with what she had accomplished in the rough conditions and hoped her companions would be equally happy when she called out "Supper is ready everyone!"
Jurgens went back into the cabin and came out with four mugs of wine and handed them around. "You're quite the cook, Mistress Marri," he said.
Looking equally pleased and embarrassed, Marri dropped the captain a small curtsey. "Thank you sir" she said, accepting the wine, "thank you once and twice. Let's eat, shall we?"
They did, and over dinner, Jurgens asked them about themselves. "Mostly it's merchants and soldiers travelling up to Nuln, which are you?" he joked. "Are you stopping at Nuln or going farther? The Moot, perhaps?" He looked at Marri.
Caught savoring a mouthful of fish, it took Marri a moment to reply. She hestitated a little longer before deciding that any information about their "quest" was not hers to impart.
"Indeed, sir, my family lives in the Moot! Perhaps you have heard of Gold & Sons, Bakers? In fact, two of my brothers have just opened a new shop in Altdorf! They are doing very well I think!" She paused for a sip of wine. "But I lost...well we, Herger and I that is... we worked for the same magistrate in Altdorf, you see... we lost our last employer in a rather ...traumatic way and as most of my belongings were destroyed as well ... the city seemed not quite so welcoming after that... and a visit to my parents being long overdue in any case..." Taking a bite of cheese, she continued, thinking of her brothers " and Altdorf had recently started to seem a bit confining as well! Oh! And my sister's son and daughter were both born after I left home! I am *very* excited about seeing them!"
Traveller interrupted this rambling discourse to demand some cheese. Marri tossed her a few bits, before concluding, a little sadly "It *has* been a very long time since I have been home. I wonder if it will be as I remember it?" She fell silent, picked up Traveller and began stroking the little dog's head.
"I am sure you will remember it I have not been to my forest for many season but I still can smell the heather kissed by the morning dew. Once you arrive home you will find that it is the way it should be."
"As for me sir I travel where the road takes me there is always something over the next horizon an new herb to discover, or new friend to make on the way," this she said with a smile at Marri. My parents always teased me saying I must have some Gypsy blood in me by the way I do not seem able to settle down. I look upon is that our fair Mother is beautiful and I wish to see as much of her as I can before I settle in any one place."
Herger enjoyed his meal, though he had to admit that Marri usually cooked much better than this. Of course, that was while in the sumptuous halls of the magistrate and she had access to the finest and freshest ingredients in Altdorf. He couldn't really expect more. He thought it sad though that the 'free meal' was being supplemented from their own stores and wondered if it would shorthand them in rations later on down the river.
After dinner he passed a few friendly words with the captain but avoided mention of his quest. He didn't think it would help them at all bringing up Chaos and things of that nature with the other simple folk of the Empire.
Marri began to clean up after supper, and Maewyn helped proclaiming, "I will also help for as my mother always said many hands make light work."
Once the dinner was over she left to watch the water. Checking the dog over she smiled at Marri for a second and than retrieved a comb from her backpack handing it to the halfling with a smile, "You may wish to comb her with this it will keep her coat free from tangles."
Soon after this, Jurgens retired to his cabin, "I'll just fill out the log and then retire. We're up early tomorrow to make as much distance as we can during the light." The travellers could see candle light in the cabin for a few minutes after Jurgens entered it, and then it was blown out and there was darkness.
When the captain excused himself Herger said, "I could use some sleep myself. Everyone have a pleasant night." He then went off to find as comfortable a place to sleep as he could.
Marri and Traveller sat quietly on the deck for a bit, staring out at the water, before both retired to a corner of the tent, curled up together and lulled by the gentle motion of the boat, fell asleep.
Once Marri was snoring, Maewyn checked to make sure the halfling was covered. The elf sat watching the waves and as she did she pulled out her recorder playing a soft tune until she became tired enough to seek her bed.
Sometime in the night, a light rain began to fall and when the travellers awoke, it was to find the Captain pulling up anchor in a foggy drizzle. Most of the day passed in intermittant drizzle, and the gloom was compounded in the minds of all but the Elf as the Reikwald closed in around them, dark and forbidding. Conversation was subdued. Shortly before dark, Alaric dropped anchor somewhat near the cliffs on the southern edge of the river. "All I have for dinner is sausage," he said. "If you wish to perform your magic on it, Mistress Marri, make free." He dropped a large sausage, a loaf of bread and a hunk of somewhat dubious looking cheese on the crate that served as a table and returned to his cabin to fetch tankards of wine which he handed around as he had before. "I'm not much of a cook, but the wine adds savor," he said taking a swig.
The companions sipped their wine as Marri fussed a little with the food, unable to muster much enthusiasm or a good fire. Maewyn noticed an odd taste in her wine, and caught a glimpse of a strange expression on their host's face.
Maewyn took a sip of her wine it tasted a bit off that along with the look her host was giving her made a bad combination. Placing the wine down she tried to think of some way to warn her companions with out coming out and saying something that would sound like an accusation of poisoning.
"The food is quite well cook Merri but..." making a slight face Maewyn smiled, "My personal belief is that a good ale always makes a better combination with sausage than wine. Even with that in mind I hope you will not take offense Captain at what I am about to say this wine seems to have an especially bitter taste to it. Wine is so difficult to store I am sure it would be very difficult to do on a ship would not you say that Marri I am sorry to say that you must have done all that you could to store it correctly this bottle seems to have turn. So I believe I will forgo the pleasure, as will my companions. Bad wine does such dreadful things to one stomach and I am sure that such a congenial host as yourself would not wish even the possibility that your guests would suffer even the smallest of stomach upsets now would you."
Now that it had been brought to her attention, Marri also noticed something odd about the taste. Herger, less familiar with wine, realized there was a bitterness but hadn't realized it wasn't supposed to be there.
Both Marri and Herger were starting to feel drowsy, and Jurgens rose. "I'll fetch some ale, then."
Herger coughed, raised an eyebrow and set his cup down. He said, "You mean it isn't supposed to taste like this?" His eyes followed the captain as he left to "go get ale." After a moment he added, "I'm beginning to feel a bit drowsy. Maybe I'm just being paranoid."
Marri was instantly indignant that someone would actually let even a mediocre vintage such as this one go bad. She was about to give the Captain a piece of her mind on the subject when she yawned making her focus on the fact that this might not be just a good wine that was badly drawn. Having spent enough time as a young halfling sick to her stomach from too many berries, or too much honey, she immediately rolled over onto her knees, and stuck her finger down her throat.
Herger swallowed and gasped at precisely the same time as Marri turned a somersault and began trying to gag herself. Her chair (a handy crate) tumbled from beneath her with a bang. The result was that Herger inhaled his own saliva and began to cough violently, striving to take a breath.
While she was trying to make herself throw up what she was assuming to be wine drugged by the Captain, Marri had been working up a fine anger at the Captain - composed of equal parts annoyance that he had ruined a perfectly good (well mediocre) bottle of wine, and the fact that he had drugged them at all. And although she was still a little busy at the time the Captain returned with the ale, it occurred to her that if he was returning with ale, perhaps he hadn't drugged them. But if someone else had, why hadn't the Captain been affected by the wine the same way that they were? And since, as far as she knew, no one else was on board the vessel except for themselves and the Captain, by blessed Esmeralda's many chins, who *had* drugged them? And how?
Jurgens stepped back out of the cabin to see Marri with her finger down her throat, Herger looking somewhat stupified and Maewyn foraging in her herb bag. He was carrying a couple of bottles of ale and walked up to Maewyn. "What's going on?" he asked.
When Jurgens made his reappearance Maewyn stopped looking for the herb she remembered picking up earlier and grabbed for her knife that was lying in her pack glancing up their returned host.
Maewyn started to reply to Jurgens' question, trying to think of something to explain the halflings activities but nothing really satisfactory came to mind so she just replied with a shrug.
About this time, Marri's efforts paid off, and she stopped thinking for several moments, while she spewed the contents of her stomach all over the deck. Immediately after she was able to begin to breathe again, her first two thoughts were: "And why?"
"Where is that darned water bottle? If I don't find it quickly I shall be sick again!"
Herger looked around, and watched in a daze, Jurgens grabbed one of the bottles of ale and swung it at Maewyn's head. Maewyn, expecting something, shifted her weight and the bottle glanced off her shoulder, stinging but not causing any real damage.
Maewyn pulled her hand from her pack she was not holding a herb but a knife with a posture that said she had some idea of how to use the weapon in hand she glanced at Jurgens, "If I was you I think very seriously about my next action if I was you."
"Trust me, little elf, I have already thought about it, seriously," he stepped back and lifted a belaying pin from where it lay. "Drop the knife missy."
"No I do not think I will be doing that," Maewyn said out loud while thinking to herself. "I will trust to my luck to get us out of this alive rather than trusting to this ones sense of decency."
Herger staggered across the deck, arms wide to try to catch Jurgen in a bear hug. In his drugged state, he was unable to avoid a crack across the head with the pin and flopped down to the ground.
Jurgens turned back to Maewyn and began to close in.
Marri moved in and tried to stab Jurgens, but was too groggy to be able to do much. Things became a confusing whirl as the friends, none of them trained warriors, tried to bring down Jurgens.
Jurgens cracked Traveller cruelly with his belaying pin, knocking the little dog back. Then turned to Maewyn as she was undrugged and the greatest threat. He walked right onto her knife, turning at the last moment to avoid the worst damage. Marri, somehow, managed to close in and stab with her little knife at the same time, although the blow merely skated across Jurgens' boot, while Herger staggered to his feet. Maewyn put a cut on Jurgens' face and he stepped back, into Herger who went down with him in a tangle on top of Marri. Jurgens gave a scream. What Marri's arms could not do, his own weight could. He rolled clear clutching at her dagger buried hilt deep in his back, then fell and lay still.
Marri simply set there for several moments, staring at her knife buried in Jurgens' back, for once at a lose for words. "Well" she finally said. She tore her eyes away and looked around for Herger and Maewyn.
Then a picture flashed in her mind of a belaying pin coming down and she screeched "Traveller! Traveller!"
Maewyn looked around and than sat down with a thud taking a deep breath she composed her self. "Marri please my head. I am sure yelling at her will not help I will look at your friend give me a second to catch my breath and I will see to her."
Looking at Herger she replied, "I am afraid I will not be able to help you my skill lies only with animals and I do not have much in the way of healing even for them."
Herger slumped to the deck with a groan and rubbed his head. He said to Maewyn, "Thanks for the thought. I think I'll be allright. Poor Traveller.."
Marri was gently stroking the little dog, who hadn't yet stirred, and hoping that Maewyn would be able to help her. However, she looked up at Herger's words and gave him a tight, grateful smile.
He looked around the ship, wondering what could be done from here, "Well.. I don't think that we could explain our innocence at this point. From all angles it looks like we simply murdered the man. Any poison we find could belong to us. Any court in Altdorf would prosecute." He sighed and added, "We can take the boat, or abandon it. But we must find something to do with the body.."
Marri listened intently to Herger. Glancing reluctantly at the body, she answered "Thinking logically as usual Herger. As frustrating as it may be for us, I don't suppose there *is* any way to prove what really happened." Leaving Traveller to Maewyn's attentions, she got up and began quickly gathering their provisions. "I, for one, know nothing about sailing, and unless one of you has some knowledge of sailing that I'm not aware of, keeping the boat would do us little good and our clumsy handling of it might even draw more attention to us. Although" she continued thoughtfully, "if we let it loose in the river, perhaps it will drift far enough to make it more difficult for the authorities to figure out what might have happened to its owner." With a sigh, "We shall *have* to go overland. At least for awhile." Looking around the deck she said "Herger if you take down that covering we were using for a tent, we can wrap the Captain's body in it along with some of the ore, tie it all up, and push it overboard. That should at least delay its being found. Then we can throw some buckets of water over the deck. And we must make certain we take all our things!" At which point with a grimace, and a bit of a queasy stomach, she walked over to the body and pulled out her knife. "I don't want to leave it," she explained to her rather startled companions. Finding nothing better, she cleaned the knife on a relatively blood free part of the Captain's clothing. "Hurry!" she said to her companions. "I am going to look around the Captain's cabin and see if I can find anything useful or that might tell us why he did this!" Over her shoulder, she added as she walked quickly into the small cabin, "Whatever we do, we should hurry, so that we can be well away from here by morning!" With a last worried glance at Traveller, she disappeared into the cabin, and began searching quickly but thoroughly through the Captain's things.
Traveller was wounded, but not critically so. He was light enough that the blow sent him flying rather than killing him. Maewyn thought he would be allright if they could keep him from re-injuring himself.
Maewyn looked the animal over it seemed that it was mostly fright and a animals instinct to gain any advantage when it comes to sympathy from it two legged master. Seeing that the animal was resting and would survive Maewyn decided to check to see if the body held any clues to why they were attacked. Most Captains did not attack those that hired them it was not good for business.
"See if you can find anything to make it easier to carry Traveler," Maewyn called to Marri. "I would like to be away from her as soon as we can. You have the right idea about that Marri."
Marri found the cabin well-appointed and comfortable. There was a silver table service for two, which Marri recognized as being of good quality. There was a small locked chest in the tiny cabin. Since there was no logbook to be seen, she guessed that it was in the chest.
After deciding it would not be wise to take any of the foodstuffs, and looking around to make certain there was nothing else of interest in the cabin, she concentrated on the chest. "Ummmm... I wonder where he kept the key? Oh bother" she thought "its probably on him somewhere." Picking up the chest she walked out of the cabin to ask if one of her companions had searched the body, or to do it herself if she must.
When Marri returned from the cabin carrying the chest, Maewyn had finished searching the body of Jurgens. There was little enough to find, a few odds and ends in a pouch and a key.
The key fit the lock on the chest, and when the chest was opened it proved to contain a few pouches of money and Jurgens' logbook.
"Excellent" Marri said, taking the key. "I think we shall have to use my cloak if we need to carry Traveller." While her companions continued dealing with weighting and wrapping the body, Marri put the logbook into her backpack, thinking that she would read the book as soon as they were away from the boat. "I'll relock the box and put it back in his cabin. Herger, add this money to that you already have, and return the pouches to me. I'll burn them as soon as I can." When she emerged from the cabin the second time, she looked around the deck of the boat to see if they had missed anything of importance, or anything that might tie them to what had happened here.
Once the companions had finished and the body was sinking out of sight, Marri kneeled beside Traveller. "It would be much better if you could walk girl."
Maewyn watched in amusement as the halfling lass took control and before you knew it had everything in order telling both Herger and herself what she wished done. With a smile at Herger Maewyn inquired in a low voice to him, "Is she always like this. I hardily had a chanced to catch my breath while she is a busy as an eight-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs."
In a louder voice Maewyn called to Marri, "I believe that Traveler will be able to walk if we do not rush her if we need to hurry we can always result to carrying her on the blanket but I believe that stealth would avail us better than running from the scene like a thief in the night. Nothing draws attention more than running if we are walking along calmly no one would think it strange but running always seems to imply that you are guilty of something."
Herger slipped into servant mode and followed along as Marri asked him. Years of working as a servant for the magistrate had ingrained it in his blood. He made certain that none of the captains blood got on him and dumped him over the said with a look of disgust on his face. He looked like he was going to be sick. After dumping the body he walked to the other side of the boat and looked off into the trees crowding upon the bank.
When Marri came out and presented the box he gathered around to see what was inside. The key fit well. After receiving the money bags he hesitated and said, "Do you really think we should take all of this dead man's money? Maybe we should just take back the thirteen Crowns that we spent for the passage upriver. He attacked us, yes, but we killed the man. Even though it seemed to be an accident." He absently gestured towards the water, "I do not know if I would feel right stealing his money on top of that."
Marri looked startled at Herger's statement. "Killing him was an accident my friend. But," she continued a little sharply as she urged Traveller to move, and offered to carry Herger's backpack if he would carry the sack of provisions, "he drugged us! And who knows what else he might have done once we were asleep? Certainly that was not the act of a friend! Herger, this is your quest! Have you given no thought at all to what you may have to do to see it through? Its very likely going to be... " The strained look on Herger's face made her pause, and she finished up by saying only "It may be that you are right about the money my friend. I do not know the answer to that right now. But I am quite certain that even the goddess Verena would agree that this is not the time and most especially not the place to have a philosophical discussion. If it bothers you to carry the money, give it to me. We can get rid of it at any time if we decide it is best."
"So we agree, at least, to get rid of the boat," Herger said. "A good plan, but we are almost in the middle of nowhere right now. Maybe we should try and get the boat a little further upriver until one of the Empire locks is in sight, or a village or coaching inn. Some place .. well, safe."
"Safe? Safe! I do not think there is anywhere in the definition of quest that that word is included! Why in the world did you agree to do this if you were interested in staying safe?" Getting more and more antsy to get moving, Marri glared at her friend and snapped, "Can you sail this boat? I cannot! And even if you or Maewyn can, remember, the folks on the river know each other and each other's boats! When we get to a safe place where we can see a coaching inn or loch or town, they will also be able to see us!" Marri was toe to toe with Herger, waggling her finger in his face, when she demanded, "And when they do see us, exactly how shall we explain how we came by this vessel?" Quite suddenly, she stopped speaking, backed up a step, set down and began shaking violently. "Oh by blessed Esmeralda's generous heart, what have I done?" Sensing that something was wrong, Traveller came over to her. Marri grabbed the little dog so hard she yelped, then Marri buried her face in the dog's back and began crying as if her heart were broken.
Herger glanced out at the trees again as Marri slumped to the ground and started to weep. He said in a quietly diplomatic voice, "I was simply worried about the possibility of bandits. Just because I am on a dangerous quest does not mean that I should not worry about safety when I can afford it." He sat down on the deck next to the Halfling without watching her cry and set the money bags on the deck before him. He quietly began counting out thirteen Crowns before rummaging through his slingbag to mix them with the other coins he had. He said, "This money came from my Uncle and I feel that I deserve to take it back. This man was obviously a criminal and I cannot say from where his other gains have come. Mayhap it was taken from innocent passengers such as ourselves, or from other sorts like him in some kind of shady deal. On the one hand we have the money of innocents and without knowing who they are we cannot return it to them or their families. On the other there is ill gotten gold and taking it would put a mark on my mind which would grow and fester against my conscience. I feel that to complete my quest I must maintain my integrity and my morals and regardless of what others try to do to me I can only try to not sink to their level." He set the lightened gold bags on the deck and nudged them away from himself with a booted foot. "I cannot take the rest of the money. I am not made that way," he concluded.
After a moment of introspection he rose from the deck and said, "It was an accident. I do not doubt you. In my drugged condition I thought I saw you try to stab him, but my vision was blurred and I was not thinking straight. Forgive me, Marri. Do not think, though, that I would not draw a weapon to defend you, or myself, if that was required. You are my friend." He re-slung his bag and also gathered up the sack of provisions before going to peer over the side of the boat again.
With a sniff and a visible effort, Marri pulled herself together, stood up and looked her friend in the eye. "The fact that killing him was an accident does not mean I did *not* try to stab him. I did," she said steadily and firmly. "And I would do it again. He was attacking Maewyn! I am not certain what my intention was beyond stopping his hurting her... hurting us but I suspect it matters little now. He is equally dead whatever my motivation. If you cannot accept that, well.... " Looking away from Herger, she turned instead to stare at the place where Jergens' body had lain and continued " For my part I do not wish to stay on this boat any longer. I would continue to see his body there. And I am certain I could neither sleep nor eat staying near it. Still I see your point in wanting to get further upriver quickly, even though I think there might be danger in the river folk recognizing the boat and wondering where its captain might be." Making note of the distance to the shore, she said "In any case, I believe you and Maewyn can make the final decision here. I have made enough decisions for one day, and I do not think I can get myself and Traveller to shore unless the boat is brought nearer. This I cannot do myself. If you two decide to go on, I shall accept that decision. As for the money, well Herger, I respect your feelings, but I cannot say I agree with them. Perhaps because I have been so poor, or perhaps because my people are what is frequently referred to as 'money grubbing merchants', or perhaps because I am simply practical " here she shrugged "but the money is simply money and I do not see that from whence it came, changes the fact that it can help us on our way. And we go our way to do good, to save the world perhaps on this quest of yours? I myself do not believe that inanimate objects are in themselves either good or evil. So would it not make as much sense to say that now the good that we will do will balance out whatever evil may or may not cling to the coins? And" she continued a little defiantly, again looking Herger in the eye "the man that *I* killed certainly has no more need of them. And why I wonder are you more concerned about taking the coins, than killing the man? You have not suggested I turn myself in to the authorities for his death." She shrugged again, picked up the coins and stuffed them into her backpack, then sat down and hugging Traveller to her side appeared to lose herself in looking at the river.
Herger simply watched as Marri packed away the rest of the captain's stash. He said, "I was trying to stop him from attacking Maewyn, as well. But I had it in mind to detain him." He shrugged, "As you said, motivations matter not at this point, and if you're a 'money-grubbing merchant' then I'm a goblin." He did not say anything in return to the suggestion of trying to get her to turn herself in as he was sure their long friendship spoke for itself.
"I simply try to envision what I think Sigmar would do if he were here. I do not think that he would have tried to kill the man. I do not think he would take the money afterwards, either," and with pointing out his attempted emulation of the Empire's patron he felt his point was made.
He turned to Maewyn to ask, "Do you think we can bring the boat nearer to the shore for us to disembark?"
Maewyn looked at the sky; she did not like the idea of leaving so late.
"It is dark I do not believe that anyone will disturb us or discover what has happen tonight. I think we should wait until dawn take the boat down the river as far as we can and run it ashore.
"I believe that we should if discover claimed that we went to sleep and awoke to discover that the Captain was missing. We do not know where he went and the fact that all of his equipment is still here would make the fact that we are innocent after all would a guilty person kill someone and than stay around on his boat."
Marri said no more to anyone that night. She disagreed with her companions but she had stated her objections already, so she saw no reason to say anything else. She simply accepted their decision as she had said she would.
As she had predicted, she was unable to sleep, and simply sat, wrapped in her cloak, on the deck next to Traveller. The little dog had no problem at all falling asleep, although she did twitch a bit in her sleep from time to time as if dreaming of the belaying pin coming down on her again.
Marri pondered for much of the night the idea that the taking of a life seemed to bother her companions less than the taking of the money, but near dawn simply decided it was not something she would ever understand. Knowing they disapproved of her for taking the money, and knowing that she did not truly understand why, made her realize that she felt more alone now then she had ever felt in her life. Not even in the first few days after she had left her home had she felt so alone.
What she did understand though was that, accident though it had been, in killing Jurgens she had done something which fundamentally changed the recipe of her soul, something which went into the Great Mixing Bowl of her life, something that the gentle goddess Esmeralda would judge at the final Baking. Her mouth twisted in a tight smile as she thought: "I suspect that if I did wrong in taking these few coins in my backpack, it will be as a raindrop is to the ocean to the wrong of taking a man's life!"
Standing up carefully so as not to wake Traveller, she faced the dawn. "With all the respect I give the Lady Goddess Verena, it seems it is still to the Bountiful Bosom of Esmeralda that I come for comfort," she thought to herself. Then continued very softly aloud, " Blessed Esmeralda, the halfling who sees the sun rise this morning is not the same halfling who saw it rise yestermorn. I have sent a man back to your Great Cauldron. I acknowledge my responsibility for his death, and know that he and I are tied together now through time until my debt to him can be balanced. Oh my Lady! Though I know you shall dip him out and pour him back into the world again, and though he was not a good man, yet I am sad and upset by what I have done! And I suspect there will be more such before this quest is over!" Silent tears running down her face, she finished "Oh Esmeralda! Please may it be that we go to do good! Else, in the end, I shall not be able to bear it!"
With that she sat down again, pulled up the hood of her cloak so that she looked like only a little bundle on the deck and continued to watch the sun rise.
Maewyn yawned - the night had not been the best in her experience she hoped that the day would go better. Waking with the dawn, she turned towards the sun. Silently to herself, she began her daily prayer. Noticing the halfling also praying Maewyn did not interrupt her but after her morning devotion walked to sit at her side.
"Do not take the burden of his death all on yourself Marri for although yours was the killing blow I am just as much at fault for his death as you are."
With these words Maewyn placed a hand on the halfling shoulder, "Do you have his log maybe we should read it before we start this day's journey. In his writing the man may say something that shows his true nature and such evidence as that may be to our benefit to know."
To Maewyn's comforting words, Marri said only "Thank you." She was not yet prepared to be comforted, but she appreciated Maewyn's effort. Although she took note of Herger's efforts with the boat, she made no comment. Turning away from him, she continued to Maewyn "With everything that went on last night, I quite forgot the log. But of course your are right, it is very possible that something in here may tell us what motivated him to attack us." She pulled out the logbook and began to read.
Herger rose with the dawn and almost immediately began trying to figure out how to get the river boat to move up the river. He tried to put together the mechanics of the ship from common sense and from what he had seen the captain do in the days before he had tried to poison them.
Marri was extremely quiet for a time, longer than one might have expected for the size of the volume that she read.
Maewyn noticed that Herger was working on moving the ship up river it seemed a good idea to take the river as far as they could before debarking for the shore. Maewyn was comfortable in the woods but realized that not all had her love of trees and may wish to spend as little time under them as possible. Maewyn sat at Marri side for whatever she was reading was very obviously upsetting the halfling.
When Marri finally spoke it was well after Herger had gotten them moving upriver. He was beginning to feel as though he was getting the hang of the ship.
"I had to read it... more than once" she finally said to her companions "...in order to... convince myself... it was true." Obviously upset, her tone stunned she continued. "He... he... planned to... meet some people... with us... in five days. He... planned to... to sell us... to make us slaves! Serene Verena, he planned to sell us to slavers!" Wide eyed she stopped, unable for the moment to say more.
After hearing her announcement Maewyn held her hand out for the log. "If you do not mind I would like to see that as well. Does it say where he will be meeting with these people for we may not wish to take the boat too close to that location."
Glancing over at Herger Maewyn laughed, "If we had enough time you would make a very good boatman Herger you seem to catch on to what is need to pilot this ship very quickly." Handing the log book to Maewyn, Marri said "He describes in some detail the creek where he is to meet them... two days south of Autler."
Traveller chose this moment to nudge Marri, then she sat back with an expectant look in her eye. "I can see little friend that, though I may have no appetite, it does not mean that yours has deserted you" Marri said with a small smile. "I am pleased to see you hungry. It means you are well." Pausing a moment to throughly scratch Traveller behind her ears, she then looked through the provisions bag, and pulled out some dried meat which she tossed to the dog. "I do not think it safe to eat or drink anything of the Captain's" she said to her companions. "Nor am I in the state of mind to prepare food, but there is plenty to eat here" gesturing to the bag "if you wish something to break your fast." Marri then sat down on the deck again, and appeared to lose herself in looking at the river.
Herger did his level best to get the boat moving in the proper direction. It seemed to work, but he was not going to become over confident. He avoided the topic of of the captain's intentions but said, "I do not think that I should leave the boat unattended to grab a bite so I will keep it moving for at least a couple of hours, if possible, and then stop for some breakfast. I hope the boat is as easy to anchor as it seemed. Also, I think it would be wise to abandon the boat before we reach the meeting place mentioned in the log. That basically gives us the rest of today for travelling on the river. However, the water is wide and we could try to pass the slavers in the night and continue on to a better location than here in the woods." He gave an unconscious shrug. After speaking he managed to catch Marri's eye for an instant and gave her a smile before turning his attention back to the Reik's course.
Marri could not bring herself to smile back at Herger, though she recognized and appareciated his, and Maewyn's efforts to be supportive. She sat huddled on the deck of the boat, as far from the spot where the captain had died as she could manage. As the hours passed she gave Traveller food and water when the dog demanded it, but took only a few sips of water for herself. She would answer if spoken to, but otherwise did not speak.
As the day wore on they battled their way upstream. In the afternoon, they saw a cliff rising ahead of them and as they approached, it resolved itself into a clifftop castle. They realized that it must be Castle Reikguard which sat near the confluence of the rivers Tuefel and Reik. They stopped for the night just north of the confluence and over dinner, considered their options.
Marri did not participate in, or even seem aware of, the discussion of the best way to travel that Maewyn and Herger were having.
But she did finally said "I think we should sell this boat and the cargo too if we can. I know Herger" she said forestalling what she suspected would be an objection from him "that you will not wish to keep the money. Perhaps we should not. But I see no reason to waste anything. And we can put the money in the poor box of the first church we come to if you wish. We cannot help those he sold, but we may be able to help someone else and in a small way balance the evil he did."
Maewyn glanced over at Herger and than at Marri, "I agree with Marri after much thought leaving the boat and money behind would just mean that the next person who wander through would have a little gift from the gods. What is to say that we arrange it that we are the first wondering folk that discover a deserted boat that had been left for mysterious reasons."
Herger appeared momentarily confused and said, "You are right that I would not want to make profit from any of this business. But.. I thought that you said you wished to depart from this boat as soon as possible since someone may recognise it and begin investigating what happened to its captain? If we were the first ones to come across the abandoned boat and its goods then I think any magistrate would expect our first move to be reporting it and be hopeful at gaining some sort of reward for the find rather than trying to pass off the sale as if the goods and boat were ours automatically. I am not that familiar with the workings of the law, I am afraid, but that is what I think. I am still of the opinion that we should depart from the boat when we can see the road and allow it to drift back down the river, unmanned, towards Autler. I am certain that that is our best course of action, but if you both are of a mind to sail all the way to the next port then I will take us there."
The days soon fell into a regular pattern. Up near dawn, Herger would do his best to get the ship underway. Sometimes, Marri or Maewyn would help him. They would work the ship upriver, on good days making fair progress, on bad days making hardly any progress at all. Shortly before dark, Herger would anchor the ship and Marri would make dinner. They would eat and then Herger would collapse into his bed exhausted.
After four days, they saw the road through the tree cover, and after that occassionaly saw a coach travelling on it. Now and then, they would pass another craft. Usually small fishing boats, but at least once in the night, a darkened ship moved past and they guessed it to be smugglers. However, they were unmolested.
By the second week, Herger seemed to be getting the hang of things, their average speed increased. A few days after later, they arrived at Ostwald, an outlying village near Kemperbad, and the next day at Kemperbad itself.
Herger manned the helm, looking more at ease controlling the course of the boat than ever, as the buildings and dock of Kemperbad came into view. After almost a fortnight on the river together the tension among the group had eased and they had begun speaking freely again. The plan had been discussed and it was here that they would leave the boat and travel by road, either in coach or on foot. One thing had yet to be decided, still, and Herger voiced the issue yet again, "So shall we ditch the boat here and walk in through the gate, or dock the boat and hope that noone recognises it?" He peered around them from under the hood of his cloak looking for other ships and trying to remain as indistinguishable as possible in the event that someone espied them ditching the boat. He would not want to be recognised if someone came to investigate.
Although Marri had relaxed somewhat in the days on the river, she would still stare silently at the river for hours on end. And she was, if this can be said of a halfling, a bit thin. She ate and drank, not with her usual relish, only enough to sustain herself. And she avoided the place where Jurgens had died, neither going near it nor looking at it if she could avoid it.
Looking up at Herger's question, she nodded and said "I would think that having anyone recognize us or the boat would not be to our benefit. Still" she continued slowly as if working this out as she spoke "part of the point of us coming so far on the boat was to sell it. Not that I have so much experience in this area, but are not docks generally, well... rather unsavory places? And need we dock right in the middle of things? Perhaps Maewyn and I could leave the boat a little before we come near the docking area, and taking all our things, even Herger's, walk into town. Then Herger, if you docked... on the fringes of the other boats, so to speak, you could attempt to sell the boat and its contents to someone who would ask no questions." Noting the look of dismay on Herger's face, she said "I am sorry, my friend, but neither Maewyn nor I can handle this. We cannot guide the boat alone, nor, I think, would the folk you will probably need to deal with, deal as well with a female as a male. Besides, you are, as you have pointed out, good with negotiations of this sort." With a tight smile which was really little more than a grimace, she continued, "We are not, after all, concerned with making a huge profit, or any profit. Only with having a bit to give to the poor to help make amends for things done by this horrid man." Marri sighed deeply and paused before adding "And perhaps... for some things we have done and may do."
Herger nodded and said, "I'll do it for charity." He then began turning the boat towards the western bank of the river.
The women were dropped off a few miles outside of the village of Junbach and made their way toward Kemperbad on foot. Herger continued upriver. Marri and Maewyn found lodgings near the docks, inexpensive but fairly clean, and with a halfling cook, which cheered Marri somewhat. Then they headed down to the docks to find Herger.
Kemperbad was of a decent size, several thousand people. But to Marri and Herger, familiar with Altdorf, it still had a provincial feel. Herger sought a merchant to buy the ore and the boat, and quickly found buyers for both. After the sale and docking fees, he still had made 500 GC.
Marri and Maewyn found him and they retired to their lodgings to discuss their next move.
After the companions had retired to the privacy of their room, Herger had placed the bag containing the coins from the sale of the boat between them. Marri stared at it for some moments before saying quietly, "I suggest we simply put it in the poor box of the first temple we come across here. And perhaps, we might say a prayer for *his* soul... and ours." She got up and walked over to look out the small window in their room and continued as if the change in her position signaled a change of subject as well.
Maewyn nodded her agreement it seemed that the halfling need that solace to her conscious to appease the fact of what had happened. Maewyn was more of a neutral mind on the matter a soul reaps what rewards he sows and the individual reap the bounty of the harvest he had planted.
"We should replenish our supplies, but I do not think we should tarry here. I, for one, do not wish to take passage on the river again, but I suspect it might be faster than a trek overland. We would have to work our way through some miles of forest from here before we would reach a footpath that would lead us to the Moot. Instead we might continue on the Reik to Nuln, then find passage on the Aver or follow it on foot to the Moot. Traveling overland from Nuln is a bit easier going than starting from here. Perhaps... if we were to take passage on a bit better vessel, a passenger vessel carrying others besides ourselves... perhaps..." Marri hesitated and looked uncertainly at her companions. "I do not know... there seem so many choices and yet, at the same time, none... Right now all I see are possibilities for danger... Yet... I suppose the greatest danger is if we do not move quickly enough."
"I do not wish to stay in this city any longer than I have to I am uncomfortable around cities they are to noisy and crowed for my tastes. I agree with taking passage on a better vessel than our last hopefully they will not mind our four footed friend," Maewyn replies scratching Traveller behind his ear.
"Do not worry Marri we decide what is our first step and than go on to the next taking each as it comes. First supplies, second we visit a temple to make our donation, third we find out what ships are willing to take us aboard. We do not have to decide if we are to travel further on the river until we find out if any one is willing to carry us further."
As Marri listened to Maewyn, she thought, "Yes, one step at a time is generally best." Out loud she said "I think you are right Maewayn. Although I think perhaps we might be better served to rid ourselves of the money first, so no one is tempted to take it from us. Then find out how we will be traveling as that will influence the supplies I buy." Turning to her friend, "Herger, are you willing to take on the task of finding us another passage on the river?"
Herger noded as he laid himself out for a rest and said, "Tomorrow, I will put that on my list of things to accomplish; right at the top."
Although Kemperbad was smaller than Altdorf, it was still large enough to be a major stop for the riverboats travelling the Reik. Herger was able to learn that reputable passenger boats arrived every few days. He found the agent of one such shipping firm who told him that the next ship would be arriving the next day, and that he would be delighted to sell them passage. The passage was 3 Crowns and 8 shillings per person, and the dog would be another single crown. Food is available for purchase on the boat, but cooking facilities are not. The usual travel time is six days.
Herger smiled as he related the news to the rest of the party, "It sounds normal enough to me. As worried as I have become about dangers on the trail I begin to realise that our last enounter was out of the ordinary. I mean, in all my life I have not often heard tales of such underhanded treachery. Certainly not in relation to anyone that I know. Either people are not telling, or we were simply unlucky in our selection. You would think to hear more of such things if it were a common occurrence."
As he rested from his daily outing he continued, "I also managed to locate the local temple of Shallya. That would be an excellent place to rid ourselves of the funds from the recent sale."
One could tell that, although still a bit strained, Marri was feeling more like her old self. She munched an apple as she listened to Herger relate his day's activities. When he finished, she nodded. "Shallya, yes. Her priesthood will make good use of the gold. They always need money to run their infirmaries. And a goddess of mercy... yes." She nodded at Herger again. "An *excellent* use for this gold."
As she was still struggling with her feelings about their "last encounter" she decided it was probably best not to comment on that, so she said instead, "Although I cannot cook on this vessel, and food is available for purchase, I shall still get up early tomorrow and procure a few supplies for us. At the very least, some fruit, some more dried meat for Traveller, some ale and a bit of wine." Marri paused for a moment, obviously thinking back to Jurgens and drugged wine, but she continued, with only a little less than her normal enthusiasm, "A bit of wine in the stew and in the belly makes any meal taste better. Or so says my Father anyway."
With a plan in mind, the party drifted to sleep and their seperate dreams. In the morning Marri went shopping to refresh their supplies as the others did their packing. Maewyn also slipped out to pick up a few herbs which had been depleted from her stores.
When that was done, Herger stopped by the Temple of Shallya and dropped off the surplus money, then they all went to dock to board the ship.
The ship was a far cry from the ill-omened Reik Princess. Double-decked and double-masted she cut a proud figure on the dock. Their passage did not allow them cabins, but did provide them with individual beds in a common area. The beds could be curtained off for some privacy, and the trio found three beds together in a corner. Traveller hopped up on one and promptly fell asleep.
Maewyn walked over with a sigh - she was glad to be leaving the city, the buildings made her nervous for some reason. Sitting on the bed with Traveller, she scratched his ear as the dog made herself comfortable and fell asleep. Glancing over at Merri she waited for her to speak for the halfling always seemed to have something to say. Maewyn liked the lass but sometimes she longed for the silence of her forest - she was not use to all the discussion on what to do next. Among elves it was rare that a group would work together. When they had to, everyone knew their job so that their was little talk about what to do next.
"Shall I take that bed, Maewyn?" Marri asked, indicating the bed against the wall that Traveller had claimed. "She seems to have decided where I shall sleep." she added, giving the little dog a gentle pat as she too settled on that bed. Traveller stretched a bit under the attention from the two women, but did not trouble to wake up. Marri shoved her things under the bed. Dropping her voice a bit, she said "I do hope this journey to Nuln will be... uneventful."
Although she knew that money did not balance out cosmic debt, Marri did, in fact, feel a bit better knowing that they had given the money from the sale of Jurgen's boat to the temple. "Still," she thought, "the long way we have yet to travel is going to take far more money than we have at this moment. I should very much dislike not having enough money for sufficient food!" Aloud she said "Perhaps I shall be able to find some commissions among the other passengers. I might earn a bit of money and it will help to pass the time."
After such a rocky start, it was only fair that the next leg of the journey passed quietly. The ship made good time up the Reik, unmolested by any kind of trouble at all. After six days, they passed Grissenwald, the only major town between Kemperbad and Nuln, and three days after that the boat passed beneath the famous Grossebrucke and turned East onto the Aver to dock.
Marri stood on deck, and, as she watched the boat approaching the dock, and the town of Nuln, wondered idly whether her companions would wish to continue on the Aver to her home. She was happy enough to do so if that was what they wished, for this leg of the journey at least had been pleasant and uneventful. They had had no problems with Traveller, who had assumed herself welcome everywhere and had turned out to be a great favorite among passengers and crew. She was even getting a bit plumb from all the treats she had been given and was, at the moment, below decks napping on Herger's bed. Marri shook her head thinking that perhaps a trek overland might, at the very least, be better for the lazy little dog!
Sighing softly, she resigned herself to a stop at the Gold & Sons, Bakers here and to a visit with her brothers, Mace & Sugar. There was a wry twist to her mouth as she considered the two of them. Sugar, being the youngest, and she thought with a real smile, truly the sweetest, was her favorite brother. Mace, on the other hand, was by a long road, her least favorite. As he was only *second* oldest, he had determined to be *the* best, and had become, as a consequence, high-handed, officious and straight-laced, and was, therefore, *the* most annoying of all her brothers. This had only gotten worse when he, instead of Sage the oldest, had been chosen to open the first non-Moot Gold family bakery here in Nuln. She wondered from time to time about that decision of her Father's. Still... there was no excuse she could think of to pass through the the town without seeing them both. Besides, the truth was that she did love all her brothers, even the annoying ones. And of course their bread would be lovely to take along on the next part of the trip. Her mouth fairly watered at the thought!
And she was extremely excited about visiting Nuln's Temple of Verena. Like most halflings,she had loved and revered Esmeralda the Bountiful all of her life. But as a scribe, and as one who had become as dedicated to learning as she was to cooking, it had seemed right to her to reverence also the beautiful and dignified goddess of learning, and it had been in theTemple here that she had first begun her worship of Verena. She looked forward to spending some time in the peace of the magnificient Temple.
There would also be supplies to buy, whichever way they determined to continue their journey. The thought of spending a few carefree hours walking through shops, selecting some good fresh food and spirits, and haggling with the merchants of the city, brought another smile to her face. And as it did get a bit chilly on the river, perhaps a better quality cloak might not be amiss. Nuln was also a large enough city that she would be able to replenish her supply of parchment & ink.
Oh and a bath! All this water and no way to have a hot bath! Deciding she would definitely suggest a hot bath, she waited for her companions, continuing to watch the ship dock.
Herger inquired, "Where are we staying tonight? How soon do you wish to leave for the Moot, Marri? When we do depart I believe that traveling by coach would be to our advantage in regards to speed. I will find out what type of schedule the coaching companies have around here and which has the best rate."
Marri suggested they go to her brothers' bakery where they can probably get a meal and a place to stay. She wanted to spend at least two days in the city so that she can visit with her brothers a bit though not too much, spend some time in the temple and replenish their supplies.
Marri agreed to the idea of travelling by coach. "But Herger, I just remembered... aren't we supposed to meet your Uncle Theobald here?" Marri inquired. "Did he give you any idea how we might find him once we arrived?"
Herger said, "Now that I consider it we were supposed to meet my uncle here in the city. That was about two days ago, I believe. But Nuln is a large city, like Altdorf. How am I supposed to find out where he is staying? Any ideas, Maewyn?"
Maewyn said, "I do not know much about cities so I am not sure what help I can be."
"Perhaps" Marri ventured, "we might ask at some other Inns in the city? If he is in the city, I would suppose he will be staying at one. Or... there is probably a main square in the city. There tends to be a main square in every city. Perhaps one of us could wait there to watch for him while the other two search? Or... well... perhaps we could put up signs around town, telling him where to meet us? Or..." Marri trailed off. She was not sure that any of these ideas was especially good, so she stopped talking and waited to hear her companions' comments and suggestions.
"Maybe we should first find an in in Nuemarket try to see if any of the inns first. Maybe if we are lucky we may find an inn with a neame that might strike Theobald's fancy something like maybe the Greywolf or the halfling's rest. We can see if he is in one of those if not they we should try the market squares each going to one and meet back at the inn at a certain time to compare notes," offered Maewyn.
Herger nodded and scratched at his chin before saying, "He may have posted a notice for our benefit in one of the squares, as well. Let's check the squares first, then worry about searching from inn to inn. I can't believe that he would just let us wander about all of Nuln trying to locate him." Herger made the first step in the direction of the market by the docks. Knowing that they were traveling by boat, Uncle Theo may have posted something there to help them upon their arrival.
Maewyn had very few ideas of her own she was uncomfortable in large cities so she stayed away from them for the most part. Finding someone in the forest she would have a dozen idea or strategies but none would work in a city where the many people would make tracking a single individual almost impossible.
Having come up with half a dozen plans, the group decided to implement them on the morrow. For now, it would be enough to cross the Altebrucke into the upper city and meet Marri's brothers.
The view from the center of the bridge was justly famed, looking as it did down to water, north down the Reik and South up the Upper Reik. To the East could be seen the Aver. They enjoyed the view for a few moments, then hurried on to the Gold & Sons Bakery. They arrived just as the brothers were closing. "Marri," cried her brother. "We've been expecting you for days now, I hope you didn't have problems on the river."
"Sugar!" Marri squealed. Sugar was, amazingly, a little shorter even than Marri, and she bounced up to him and hugged him so tightly that he grunted. But he was smiling and he hugged her back was as matching enthusiasm. After they broke free of the hug, they stood and grinned at each other for a couple of moments, and she was about to begin introducing her companions, when his words registered with her.
"What do you mean you've been expecting us?" she asked with mounting excitement. "By Esmeralda's many dimples, you've seen Herger's Uncle Theobald, haven't you? This *is* Herger by the way!" she continued without letting Sugar get a word in. "And Maewyn! And this is Traveller! Isn't she the most wonderful dog! Sage gave her to me! Can you imagine? And whereever is Mace? And why haven't you answered my question about Master Theobald? This is important Sugar..." Marri paused to draw breath.
Herger smiled at Marri's greeting to her brother, offered a polite nod and a murmured greeting when he was introduced and patiently waited to see if Theobald had indeed already been here.
"You haven't changed, Marri," he raised a hand, "Shush! How can I answer if you don't let me get a word in edgewise? Yes, Herger's uncle was here. He left a note. Where did I put it?" Sugar dithered around the bakery for a few moments, then discovered it wedged between a couple of jars. "Here you go!" He offered the slightly stained note to Herger. Theobald had written:
My Dear Friends, I trust you are Well here in Nuln. You must make haste, the Dark Hunters are abroad. They do not yet know who they seek, but they will discover it soon enough. I will meet you at the village of Erikspall, at the southern foot of the Black Fire Pass. Good luck and Good Faring. Uncle Theobald PS If you go through the Mootland, stop at Hayfoot's Inn, tell him you are Friends of Alistair, and he'll treat you right.
Herger read the note and passed it to Marri, who responed in her usual hyperactive fashion. "Oh my!" Privately she thought she would have little time to spend shopping or in the peace of Verena's temple, but she decided firmly she was not giving up a hot bath! She said "It looks as though we had best leave as soon as we can! A coach will be the quickest way, but do you think it might not be safe to continue so openly? Safety or speed may be our choice. Shall we travel by coach or water or go inland?"
Maewyn stood by listening to the Halfling chatter when it seemed that the conversation was going to be long and rambling she found herself a corner out of the was to sit. She did not have much to add to the conversation and was willing to wait until all was quiet before she asked to see the note.
Herger accepted the note back from Marri and stepped over to the Elf's corner, passing the note to her as he did so. He rubbed his chin in silent agitation for a moment before saying, "We could afford to stay for two nights at the very most. As my uncle states, these fellows that are searching for me do not yet know my identity, or those that travel with me. The anonymity will keep us safe for now. If you can get everything you wish to accomplish squared away tomorrow, then we could leave after a single night, Marri. I am content either way, so take what time you need."
Marri smiled gratefully at Herger. "Thank you my friend."
She thought for a moment, and then continued, "A hot bath and a good night's sleep will go a long way toward fulfilling my needs! Then, once we decide how we shall travel, I'll spend the morning in the market place picking up what supplies we may need, its always best to shop in the mornings, and the afternoon in the Temple. We could then leave day after tomorrow. That is, if no one else has anything they need to do in the city? That will give me the rest of this evening, and tomorrow night with my brothers as well," she finished smiling at Sugar.
Herger returned Marri's smile and said, "I still think that traveling by coach will be our best option. I will also take a bath and I will spend tomorrow trying to hunt us up a good deal on passage to the Moot."
After a pleasant night and a fine meal with the Golds, Marri and Herger set out on their errands. Maewyn was uncomfortable in such a large city, and so elected to remain at the bakery.
Marri picked up a few items without much difficulty and was home by noon.
Herger's day shaped up to be more frustrating. Coach fare, he rapidly discovered was far outside their means. The best rate he could find was 250 Crowns each to Moot Crossing, although it was certainly the fastest means of travel. He looked up prices on riverboats and found that a reputable cargo ship, with a few cabins for passengers could get them to Moot Crossing for only 8 Crowns each, if they provided their own food. "Although, once we reach the Moot, we stop each night at the villages on the river and my advice is to eat in the Inns there," said the Captain, Hans Messer.
Herger returned in defeat to the bakery and revealed the new trip plans to Maewyn and Marri. "I guess we'll be traveling by boat, again," he said, as he scratched his chin in irritation.
Marri had been sitting and talking with Sugar when Herger came in. Sugar, much to their brother Mace's annoyance, had elected to stay home and visit with her, Traveller was curled up asleep nearby. She smiled at Herger and shrugged when she heard his news.
"Ah well. It is still a good bit easier and faster than walking. And the food at the Inns will be good. Halfling cooks you know!" Marri stood up as she was speaking.
"Sugar is going spend the afternoon in the Temple with me. Grab Traveller if she tries to follow though I doubt the lazy puppy will even notice we are gone! We'll be back in plenty of time to start dinner. Oh, Herger, I'm assuming we are leaving in the morning?"
Herger nodded and found a convenient place to sit, drawing one leg up onto his lap. He said, "Yes, leaving tomorrow will be best. I'll spend some time here at the bakery with your brother. You go ahead and make a day at the temple and I'll see you later tonight."
Marri made her way to the temple and paid her respects while Herger and Maewyn rested. She returned for dinner and after dinner, Sugar and Mace walked them to the edge of the cliff where they could look down on the rest of the town. To the north and east, across the Grossebrucke, lay the Unterstadt with the markets and docks where they had arrived. To the east, across the Upper Reik, was the Rechtenufer, and they just make out the smaller docks where they would take ship tomorrow, and Die Kustenbatterie, the gun emplacement aimed North down the Reik. On their own side of the river, they could see Burg Nuln, which Mace told them was rarely inhabited by the Countess, although it was her official residence. "It's cold and drafty, and she lives in the Schlosse Liebewitz."
They returned to the bakery and passed a pleasant enough night, rising early to cross the Altebrucke into the Rechtenufer and passing through the Studentheim, the university district to take ship on the Royal Otter. They had a cabin to themselves, and the cabin next to them was occupied by a Nulner merchant who had business in Moot Crossing. They were the only passengers, the rest of the ship being given over to cargo.
It would be seventeen days, more or less, to Averheim, said the Captain, Willy Dunkel, and about thirteen to Streissen, the first major town. The company settled in and waited for the boat to depart.