Apparently Boros, Percival and I had a similar idea; after a night of dodging through shadows and hiding from guards, we managed to meet back up in the common room of Charlie’s Tavern and Inn. While we waited for night to fall again, Percival regaled us with the tale of escaping his guard, also leading him to the western shore of the river. While less forthcoming about his motives to commit arson, we learned the night blaze was the result of the Nautical Shop where the street urchin had hid going up in flame. That man seems to thrive on chaos.
We set out as the sun set, hoping to make it across the river and out the western wall. That hope was short lived as we were forced to detour down an alley to get away from some guards on the bridge. It seems that luck was on our side, as behind the locked door at the end of the alley were some “friends” of Rick Tulong. Apparently the guy got around and had amassed a substantial gambling debt to a certain man named “Talow.” Turns out Talow was also looking for Rick, and he offered us 20% of the 500 gold debt if we brought Rick back within the week. More on that later, but that turned out to be a tall order.
Boros managed to find a use for some of his ill-begotten gains by buying a “drink” at the Dirty Skirts; a drink that came with information that Rick had set sail to Ashall on a ship called the “Swift River.” While debating whether we should pursue Rick by ship or shoe, Boros once again showed his knack for the spectacular when he tried to pickpocket a group of guards. Luckily they passed him off as a drunkard and let him go. In the end, shoe won out, as we made plans for what could have been a dangerous encounter at the city gates the following morning.
Turns out the guards could care less; we walked out of town through the East Gate without a problem. Hopefully, should we ever return, the misdeeds attributed to our little band will have been forgotten, along with our faces.
At least we were out of that cesspool of a city and back on the open road… or at least we would have if the road were not on the other side of the river. I could not leave Timeria behind, so the East Gate was our only option! Well, we had neither wagons nor horses, so what did it matter if we must do a little trailblazing?
Well, it apparently mattered. The east side of the river was patrolled by a band of brigands. It was not too long into the day when we were offered “help” by the merry band of seven from onboard their riverboat. When it comes down to fight or flight, this was a time for flight. I summoned a wall of fog to block our retreat while my brave cohorts took off (Percival at an astonishing speed). Luckily the archers’ arrows did not find our backs as we made a beeline for the forest. The lesson was learned, however, and we stayed closer to the tree line as we continued upriver and camped for the night.
It was not long into the next day when we encountered the boat from the day before pulled up to shore, seemingly abandoned. Considering the kind greeting from the day before, we felt no shame in deciding to part the brigands from their mode of transportation. Our attempt to sneak aboard the boat proved unsuccessful, as we found ourselves surrounded – three archers came running towards us from the tree line. These brigands were soon to learn you do not surround a wolf.
Boros, Percival, Timeria and I leapt aboard the boat. I called the vines and thistles of the field to entangle the archers running toward us while the three remaining bandits and the captain burst out from the cabin. Timeria bore the captain to the ground, while the archers realized their daggers were no use against our armed band. Boros finished off the prone captain, while Percival dropped two more into a deep slumber. The only other remaining bandit on the boat fell to the cuts dealt him by Boros and me.
During the commotion on the boat, one of the shore-bound bandits managed to get behind Percival, but his failed attack was quickly met with reprisal while one of my arrows found the heart of his comrade. The remaining bandit took off running, but Timeria was faster. There was no saving him by the time I caught up.
When I got back to the boat, I found one of the bandits tied up. After relieving the fallen of their possessions (the dead have no use of objects made for the living), noticing a wagon driven by a dwarf quickly pass by on the other side of the river, and setting the boat free (we are not sailors) we set about questioning the remaining man. He identified himself as Sumi and said he was only following the captain’s plan. The man was a half-wit and posed no threat alone, so I suggested we set him free.
Percival and Boros had a different plan. As I attempted to stop Percival from murdering the captive, Boros slit Sumi’s throat. I do not grieve for him, but the action was unnecessary. Best not to dwell on it.
It took another day or so but we made it to Ashmall and headed to the nearest shop to lighten our load. 200 GP richer, we bumped into the wagon-dwarf, name of Oedinn. It seems our dear employer Mallard had been making deals with other adventurers, as this fellow was also after Rick and his stolen “magic ring.” Well, that is news we pondered as we all made our way to the docks.
It turns out the Swift River docked two days ago, but Rick caught a second boat headed across lake Shaltpheesh to Nabon. It was at this point we realized there was no way we were going to get back in a week. But, that is ok. I do not want to return to that city anyway. Swift River was to depart herself for Nabon the following day, so we booked our passage. Oedinn happily parted with his donkey and wagon for passage plus a tidy 5 gp profit.
All that stood between us and our continued search for Rick was one uneventful evening. Well, it was uneventful for most of us. Boros decided he needed to acquire some herbs to craft poisons out of and headed into the night. He was not forthcoming on the details, but he found us on the ship the next morning missing all his gold and both his rapiers. Thanks to his newfound moneylender, Percival, Boros was able to re-equip himself for the rough two-day voyage that was ahead of us.
I prefer solid ground.
Still, we made it into Nabon, where Boros intimidated the captain of the Double Decker to tell us Rick headed to the Soiled Skirts – who knew there could be an even more disgusting whorehouse than the Dirty Skirts. The bartender said Rick left town and headed west, in the general direction of the ruins of Selca, so to the west we went.
We came upon the town at dusk and saw alone figure running toward a silhouetted keep. We approached slowly, but not very stealthily, as we made our way through the exterior walls and across the courtyard to the main keep.
The primal scream of pain and horror should have been our first alert to be careful. Lighting the way with magic pebbles, we drew inside the keep. The first few rooms were filled with cobwebs and in clear disrepair. We came to a decision point – either head down into the basement, or up the stairs and through the double doors at the top. The door downstairs bothered me, so I stayed in the rear. Despite, or maybe because of, the shuffling noise coming from inside, Boros kicked the door down as we are confronted with the dead eyes and rotting flesh of 15 “people.”
In a matter of moments, Boros fumbled his sword, losing it to the throng as Oedinn is bludgeoned unconscious. As I prayed to the Goddesses to stabilize Oedinn, Boros suffered the same fate. I stabilize Boros as I back away to the entrance of the keep calculating the odds of surviving these creatures who took out half our party. Percival cursed my name as he uncharacteristically attempted to drag Boros and Oedinn away from the creatures. Against my better judgment and throwing caution to the wind, I raced back calling my one healing spell for the day and grabbed at the nearest body. A creature cracks me across the back for my efforts.
Oeddin, brought back to consciousness, raced out of the keep and into the night, stopping at the gate. Feeling my injury and knowing we stand no chance against these odds, I shouted for Percival to drop Boros and run as Timeria and I ran to the door. Percival refused to drop his charge, dragging him through the gate just seconds ahead of the throng. Oeddin slammed the gate shut, but with no means of locking it, it was only time before the first hand clawed its way out the front.
I helped Percival drag Boros for a time, but as the creatures broke free and Oeddin ran screaming into the night, I knew what I had known before: we can stay in front of these creatures for a time, but we will tire and we will fall. I dropped Boros and raced away with Timeria.
Percival kept dragging Boros for a little while longer, but was, in the end, forced to drop him and preserve his remaining strength for his own escape…