Chapter 2: Down by the River   Leave a comment

What Phinqq’s Phawlee might look like. A tight fit for a party of ten or more, with one of them a minotaur.

Weslyn, Edurin, and Algris reached the river docks by midafternoon. First they stopped at a Messengers Guild office where for 10 gold they guaranteed that Weslynn’s family would get her message. Edurin paid it. There were many small boats tied up along the docks but only a couple large enough to carry 9 passengers at once. One boat was called Phinqq’s Phawlee; the other was called Nainevver.

Before Weslynn sent the message to her family, she appended the names and a brief description of those who had chosen to aid her to her existing parchment note, so that there will be a record,

In the Messengers Guild Office, Edurin nodded his approval. “You are kind to think of the others.”

At the river docks, Edurin took a deep breath. Not quite the same as the ocean, not as fresh. “Let’s start with the cleanest boat. A well-run boat will be well-cared for.” He headed to the best looking boat large enough to carry the the group. He called out to one of the nearby rivermen, “Greetings fellow sailor, that boat looks large and reliable. What’s her captain like?”

Wulf had mentioned that he thought the boat they should take was called Phinqq’s Phawlee, but Weslynn had forgotten it. Of course the boat that Edurin picked was the other one, the Nainevver. The sailor’s question got a short answer from the riverman. “He’s like a Dwarf.” The riverman clammed up immediately. They had their own culture on the river, and they didn’t talk much to outsiders, and certainly not to anyone who just walked up and started asking questions.

After ten long minutes of confusion, Weslynn suggested  that they try the other boat, perhaps they had made a mistake.

Edurin looked around for an establishment captains might meet at. He turned to Weslynn, “On the ocean, captains come together to trade information. Usually at a tea shop. Would you know where river captains might come together? That would be a good place to learn more.”

While they talked, Edurin continued toward the Nainevver to evaluate the vessel.

Edurin noted that the Nainevver was a good-sized boat, at least 30 feet long with a square-built cabin in the center. A steering post at the rear of the boat controlled the rudder, and it was raised on a high poop deck that would allow the steersman to see over the cabin in the center of the boat, It would take a very powerful man to control the oversized steering post.

A single boatman was sitting near the bow, calmly fishing in the river. “You want something?” said the boatman? “Captain isn’t here right now.”

Meanwhile Weslynn and Algris had wandered over to look at Phinqq’s Phawlee. It was built like a scaled-down galley and seemed to have no hold at all. Benches lined both sides of the boat, and at each bench was a long, wide-paddled oar fitted into an oarlock. At the rear of the boat was a rudder, not very different from the one that the Nainevver showed, but not as large or heavy. In the center of the boat, and roped off from the rowing benches was a long narrow pit covered by a piece of canvas that was lashed in place. Obviously cargo rode in that area. The front of the boat had a figurehead–an amazing centaur figure that showed only the forequarters of the equine. A single boatman also manned that boat, and he was a great fat tub of a man who was sleeping under a canvas sunbreak.

“Look, tell you what, you talk to that boat there, and I’ll talk to this one, and we’ll see which is which quickly, Edurin.”
Weslynn approached the Phinqq’s Phawlee. “Ho, boatmen! I needs speak with your captain!”

“I was admiring your vessel. The Nainevver looks to be the best of my options. I represent a sizable group looking for passage upriver to Castle Greybat.” Edurin nodded approvingly. “Can you help me?”

Weslynn noted the silence from the boat she was hailing, and decided to take Edurin’s advice to heart. “Say, I am looking for a fine boat that a friend of mine had arranged to take me and my companions upriver in pursuit of thieves of my wine. I needs speak with your captain, if this is the boat, good sir.”

The sailor aboard the Nainevver turned to speak to Edurin again. “I’m glad you like the boat, but I’m just a crew member. If you want to book passage, you’ll need to speak to the Captain. He went into town for the night, said he was gonna sleep in a real bed. Probly went to his favorite tavern–a place called The Grinning Goblin. Now leave me alone, please. You’re scaring the fish.”

“I’m Captain Phinqq, and a big barbarian spoke to me this morning about a voyage upriver. I told him I’d be happy to take him up to Castle Greybat, but he’d have to give me 20 gold pieces and help with the rowing. It’s not easy to go up river, you know. The propulsion wizards charge a fortune.”

“Greetings Captain, greetings! I am Weslynn Janourn, vintner and subject of a woeful theft. I believe you have heard somewhat of my tale already, yes?”

Edurin nodded to the sailor, and went over to Weslynn. He politely listened while surveying the surroundings.

Phinqq looked at the two of them. “You’re one of them ocean sailors, ain’t you?” he said to Edurin. “Want to learn the inland waters, do you? What’s the matter? Do you get seasick? You won’t find river running any easier on the stomach.” He snickered in an infuriating manner, then turned his attention back to Weslynn.

“Your friend had some wild tale about chasing a stolen cargo upriver to Castle Greybat. I don’t normally go that far. It ain’t healthy. But cross my palm with enough gold, and I’ll take the risk.”

Edurin smiled nicely and pointedly ignored the jibe. He was beginning to understand why Samurai Kighe stuck to the seas, “Perhaps the Nainevver would offer a better price. I don’t see any risk to you travelling up river along your normal route. Going a little farther up river seems trivial enough.”

“My cargo of wine was stolen, the guard told me the thief said he was bound for Castle Greybat, upriver. I, and my companions who have gathered to me, are in pursuit. That tale is true enough.” Weslynn drew herself to her full height, and stared at the captain, trying with all her abilities to impress him with her seriousness.

“Pay me, or don’t,” replied Phinqq. I leave at sunrise tomorrow. “If you accept my terms, be here and ready to board. If you don’t, I’ll leave without you. Payment in cash, and you need to bring your own food for at least 2 days travel on the river.”

Captain Phinqq glared at them. He wanted it clearly understood that he was doing them a service, not the other way around. Privately he doubted that anything taken into Castle Greybat would ever be recovered, but he didn’t say anything. Still, there was a chance that the boat with the stolen wine had met some mishap on the river. Once one got more than a day’s travel beyond the city, the river grew dangerous in places. Bandits, bloodmoths, rebel elves, river trolls–he could always use more fighters and wizards in the crew.

“Agreed, we will leave at sunrise tomorrow. How many crew do you carry on your good ship? I’ll make sure my companions know to bring their own food, Captain. How dangerous is this trip of the river journey? I’ve made river journeys before but my business to and from Khazen is overland, so I have never traveled here in this way.

“Come on, we have shopping to do before tomorrow,” Edurin walked off heading back to the Grinning Goblin.

Phinqq looked at the backs of his new passengers. He had a bad feeling about those two, and their scarred barbarian friend. The woman looked a bit crazed. Didn’t she know that nobody ever got anything out of Castle Greybat? Her best hope was that the thief had stopped to sell his stolen cargo at one of the upriver towns–what did vampires need with wine anyway, although it would be a good treat for their human cattle. Still, his last couple of trips hadn’t made much profit, and he could use their cash along with the muscle. Perhaps he could offload them to Schnarg the Slaver in BuzHer’s Landing. Now that they were gone, it was time for him to recruit a few cronies who would be personally loyal to him. The Vangg brothers would be a good start.

(to be continued)

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