Mensa suggested they flip a coin. Unfortunately, he didn’t have one, and cursed the city guards (in Kah-zahd).
As the party neared the docks, Weslynn began her tale, after quickly gathering her companions into a huddle on the street corner, whispering her news to them quietly in the chill morning air.
“You all know my the tale of the theft of my wine, that brought me here to this city, and brought you all across my path. I have not been entirely truthful, I have suspected that the thief was more than simply using an ensorcelment and excess alcohol to bind me to sleep for three long days in my inn room. Ever since I awoke I have been filled with a gradually increasing sense of rage. A new voice whispered in my mind to slaughter everyone I met, tear them in half and feast upon their still-beating hearts. I have, through my long years working my family’s caravans, never killed anyone. Never wanted to. Until I awoke in that inn. The feelings gradually grew. I knew something was wrong with me, but I just felt I should hide it, so that I could seek blood. You all saw me try to eat bloody rare meat. I planned last night to slip away from the inn and hunt vermin in the alleys. Instead, because of my rising rage from the incomplete monster within me, I ended up locked in a guard cell all night, with Wulf. I was afraid if I waited any longer, I would go mad, berserk with bloodlust, and kill him. So…I drank his blood. He stirred and my feeding was not complete, but enough that I felt myself move towards completion. Wulf, finding himself bloodied and trapped into a cage, I think may have given in to despair, because he willingly allowed me to finish my feeding,meaning that for the first time in days I have a clear, calm rational mind again. I am myself. The thirst for blood is just that, a sated thirst, no different than that for water. I believe that now that I have completed my transformation that I will remain myself, but since I have come to trust you all in this past day, your varied wisdom of sword and sorcery, of road and folk.”
“I will say this plainly, I believe that I am a vampire, that the thief of my wine was the one who made me, though I recall little of how or why he did so, if he even said such. I pursue him, as much to find out why he turned me into this thing that I am, and enact revenge for my curse, as much as to recover the wine and my family honor. I ask you now, before we find ourselves on a river boat for days, trapped together, do you wish to travel with another monster? Judge me now, and decide my fate: shall we part ways, continue on, or will you try to cleanse my flesh of my strange new life? I ask you all to vote, quickly now, all save Wulf, for he is no longer to be trusted about me.”
Weslynn then bowed her head, struggling against instinct to entrust her fate to the others.
“Mensa help. Can use shovel to cut of your head. Wulf said that would fix vampire.”
Gronk realease a low, rumbling growl.
“Weslynn bloodsucker? Sucked Wulf’s blood? Gronk not happy…”
He scowled at Weslynn.
“Gronk go where friend Zhanh go, and Wulf go with Gronk, no matter what say Weslynn.”
Mensa growled. He would keep one eye on this bloodsucker. Which meant he’d have to follow them, and stick close to the girl. These were Wulf’s friends, which meant they were Mensa’s friends, and nobody would get to hurt them….not even the girl.
Her gaze shifted to Wulf, and became quite fragile. “I had hoped to bind him to me in an entirely different manner, though daydreams about children are perhaps a thing for my past, now..”
“Dwarf -friend OK? ”
He placed Mensa gently on the ground. He ignored Weslynn and turned to Zhanh.
“What we do, elf?”
“Hey! Which boat we sit in?”
To Weslynn he said ‘I fear that my father has been similarly infected and is, like you, a vampire. It would appear to run in my family now, if not my blood. At any rate, I am content to travel with you as a companion but would ask that you inform us immediately you are aware of the need for more blood.’
He clapped his hands togther at the sight of the boats and gave a little hop. ‘I have never travelled in such a manner before and hope that I do not suffer from the dreadful queasiness I am told afflicts all new mariners.’
“Friend Wulf need helmet! Pick one!” Mensa held up both helmets to Wulf, grateful that dwarf heads were about same size as humans.
“Uh-oh,” thought Mensa. “Friend-Wulf IS changing. Gotta be a way to cure him!” He kept remembering the word “Grisslegrin.” Wulf said he was a dwarf god. Maybe he would know what to do.
How could Mensa find this god?
Lumlas agreed. “I thought Blotar sounded like a better bet last night– Wasn’t that a lifetime ago?– and nothing I see here makes me change my mind.”
“Besides,” Zhanh continuned, “Gold is even scarcer now than it was last night, and we STILL haven’t purchased any group supplies for this trip. I think we need to buy what we can find right now, before we start upriver.”
Zhanh turned to Weslyn. “It would have been better if you had told us earlier,” he said. “But now we are here, and, well, blood lost to a vampire is not really any different from blood lost to a knife wound, as far as healing goes, and Lumlas and I can both cast healing spells. So we should be able to keep you fed without too much difficulty, if the rest of the group wants to continue. I am bound for Castle Greybat in any case, and the company of a friendly vampire is better than no company at all.”
Lumlas nodded. “Weslyn, I declared you my friend yesterday. Much has changed since then, but I am not inclined to take that back.”
He then focused all his attention on Weslynn. “Gronk going to be watching you, bloodsucker. You hurt Gronk’s friends, Gronk going to chop you in small pieces to feed fish at sea.”
“Perry, I give you my word, I will keep you all advised as to the state of my blood thirst. Though, I do not know how efficacious wizardly healing of my drinking would be, other than closing the puncture marks themselves… But my drinking does more than take blood, it forges a bond. It is not safe for me to feed from any of you directly, safe, Wulf. It may be that if you drain your blood into a glass or flagon it may not create the link when I drink it, but are you willing to experiment with yourselves in such a manner? If it is an emergency I would ask Wulf to allow me to feed, for we are already linked, for better or worse. I would suggest we acquire animals by whatever means for me to feed upon, we shall see if I can stomach fish ichor on this trip I imagine, if there are no rats to be caught in their hold.”
Weslynn’s gaze then returned to Wulf, and the chained sleeping Wolf within him, bound by chains of her own making. “Wulf, do you want me to set right what I did? It pains me to see you incomplete, but I will not trespass within your mind without dire need.”
Gronk snorted something unintelligible at Weslynn.
“Gronk hungry,” he said to nobody in particular.
Wulf said: “If I am fed meat regularly I can let you drink regularly. I am a quick healer. But I must have my wolf brother back. We have been together from my birthing, and losing him is like losing a much loved twin. He has always been there for me in the time of trials. But I think that if he is let out again, you will have to be cautious with him in all his manifestations. Like me, he will not go back willingly into any cage again. And he is even more violent in his rage than I am capable of being.” Then Wulf said to the group: “I had meant to tell you all that I am a Wolfman, able to assume the aspect of a wolf to my advantage in battle. Perry has seen it. Like Weslynn, I have a ‘monster’ inside me too. But I am your monster, and I am in your debt. You came to rescue me, when you could have left me to my fate. You are my family, my ‘pack’ now. No one will do you harm while the Wolfman lives to prevent or hinder them. If my lycanthropy is a problem for any here, I will leave at once, and never trouble you again. But let us decide, and get underway before the Watch catches up with us and renews the battle.”
Weslynn nodded sadly to Wulf. “Thank you Wulf for being understanding about my needs. I will do what I can to set you right.”
She moved in front of him, stared into his eyes, and concentrated upon the chains upon the Wolf half of his soul, and imagined those chains shattering as she directed her will upon them, visualizing them shattering.
Perry turned to Zhanh. ‘It would appear that we will be traveling with the good Captain Blotar. Can you tell me what his terms are? Will we get to sleep in hammocks? I am well used to such sleeping accommodation since we often swing freely in the forests.’
“We will need food, if the boat doesn’t have enough for us. If so, try asking other boats if they have excess. As for me, when I become thirsty, fish or rats from the hold might well do. Wild critters roaming the shores might be good targets also. Do we have wizards who could help with such things? Or summon live snacks for me, or rations for you all?”
Edurin sought to herd the party along, “I have a pack full of food, and we’ll earn enough to buy more food up river.”
“I do not remember how I became as I am, Edurin. I fremember being…persuaded to partake of far too much of my sample wines, and then I dimly remember being alone with the thief that night in my room. Then I awoke 3 days later with a bite on my leg and a slow building blood rage. If merely feeding upon Wulf would transform him, I believe he would be unconscious by now, as I was.”
“Not!” said Edurin, Weslynn, and Mensa all about the same time. “We’ve decided to ride with Captain Blotar on the Nainevver.”
“Hargh! That pirate! You’ll be sorry!” Phinqq turned angrily and went back to his boat. “Cast off!” he bellowed. Some riverboatmen pushed off with poles, and got the boat out into the current. It started to drift down stream, but then the men planted their poles on the river bottom and began to push the boat up against the current. One man who might have been a wizard stood in the rear of the boat and made constant pushing gestures. Phinqq’s Folly bucked the current and began moving upstream.
“Well, too much time talking, and not enough time getting our work done,” noted Zhanh. “Let’s get aboard.”
Edurin led the group over to the Nainevver. It was a large boat, 30 feet in length with a central cabin, and ten sets of oars on each side of the boat. It had a raised poop deck with a steering oar, and its prow narrowed down to a long thin point. Blotar already had some 14 crew members.
“Permission to come aboard, Captain!” called Edurin.
“Permission granted,” said Blotar, “and step lively. You, Eddie-boy, come talk to me. You other men,” he pointed at Wulf, Mensa, Perry, and Zhanh, take an oar. Passengers, stand in front of the cabin!”
“Now Eddie-boy, who’s working crew, and who’s paying passage?”
Given her unnatural strength, and the difficulty that would be involved in hiding it, in hiding it rowing the oars, Weslynn hoped that her apparent weakness as a woman would keep her off oar duty except in some sort of emergency.
Perry rolled up a sleeve and inspected his muscle or lack of it somewhat ruefully. ‘I am chagrined at my lack of attention to the more physical pastimes of the forest. I fear I would not keep to your stroke and would foul the rollocks or some such. Perhaps I could cook, clean or use my magic to aid the security of this splendid vessel?”
Whatever his duties, Zhanh was glad to be out of the city, and to have his pack safely stowed and off of his shoulders; this was the way things SHOULD be.
Lumlas realized that everyone else seemed to be looking for work to do, and decided that at least ONE of them ought to pretend to be a paying passenger, and it might as well be her. She found a quiet spot and got busy with a combination of napping and sight-seeing.
“This is a good hunting area, but Ranger Rau says the elves are getting too numerous around here.” Blotar told the crew. Then he noticed he had elves in his crew. I’m not talking about you civilized elves,” he looked at Zhanh and Lumlas when he said that, “but there are wild elves that like nothing better than to pick off a boatman or two with a long arrow shot.
“Let’s get back on board and out to the center of the stream. Rig the shields.”
A few minutes later the Nainevver was back in the main current and moving slowly upstream. The river was swifter here, and the rowing more difficult. Blotar manned the tiller, and his mate, an incredibly hairy man named Udd stood in the center of the rowers in front of the cabin and provided rhythm. “Heave! Heave! Heave! Rest! Heave! Heave! Heave! Rest!” Over and over and over.
Just before noon, a flight of arrows fell out of the sky onto the Nainevver.
Mensa didn’t mind the hardtack, but hated the biscuit, and tried to pass it to Wulf, who was much hungrier than Mensa. About then, Mensa heard the unmistakable sound of a sound he’d never heard before (whoosh, THUNK), but seemed to worry everyone else.
Wulf devoured the biscuit and thanked Mensa warmly. Later, Wulf, an experienced warrior, took the captains warning seriously, and added his large spike shield to the others. At the first hint of incoming missle fire, he dove for cover. [rolled 2+5 +2 for level on Luck 13 = 22 for SR] In an instant he was up, grabbed his shield and looked to see if Mensa or Gronk or any of the rest of the party was hurt.. “Furschluginna cowards,” he growled. “Hiding in the trees. If they come out here after us, I will give them a warm welcome!”
He gathered together extra rope, lashed one end to the boat railing. He grabbed an extra shield and mounted it at his station. Edurin looked to Captain Blotar, “Captain, how many elves might we face?” He then looked to Perry and Lumlas, “What do you think?”
Ouch! Mensa had to think again, and it was always difficult.
They were under attack – check!
It was arrows – check!
Bigguns were crouched down behind shields – check!
Mensa was short enough that he didn’t need to crouch – check!
Crazy pointy-ear lady was standing up, shouting “Elf!” and making herself a target – Wait! That wasn’t right! Mensa reached over to pull her down below the shields.
Perry had no idea yet what Edurin had in mind but he listened whilst hunkering down as best he could and instructing the Jeeves to hold whatever it could find that was solid and roughly shield-sized over his head.
Then he calculated the distance to the river bank and the place the bowmen were firing from. He knew it would do no real harm but (assuming they were no more than 100′ away) he cast Ice Storm to make life as uncomfortable as he could over a 20′ radius for his over-aggressive half-brethren (rolls 5,4 – makes L2 INT SR).
‘Chew on that, nancy boys!’ he yelled from what he hoped was a very safe place to cast gratuitous insults from.
Mensa pulled Lumlas down and held her. “Crazy pointy-ears gonna get killed stay down behing shield”
Wulf plied himself to his oar. If the fire was coming from one side of the river, he wondered, why not pull closer to the far side? But he had to admit he knew little about these elves and the range of their weapons. The elves he had fought with and against had been formidable bowmen. He also had to consider that there might be more archers on the far side waiting for them to draw nearer. He hated not being able to charge these foemen with his shield up and his ‘star whirring its death song!
“Oh, elves in trees all mate with birds and pigs.
That’s because they’re small where other folks are big.
They shoot from cover in the wood,
Too scared to fight as brave folk would!
Cry themselves to sleep each night,
Afraid they might get inna fight
Or hurt themselves by stepping on a twig!”
He ended with a loud Bronx Cheer. “That’ll rile ’em,” he said.
Zhanh took what cover he could, then looked into the woods hoping for a glimpse of a wild elf. He doubted that one would come within range of a TTYF, but maybe he could blast a tree somewhere along the line of sight; it would at least be a distraction. On the other hand, maybe it would be better to save his kremm for healing…
Blotar urged the men to row faster. Working like crazy they drove the boat upstream against the current.
Perry struck back at their unseen attackers by calling an ice storm down on one side of the river. When the ice started falling, the arrows rapidly stopped.
Just as Edurin was coming up with the idea to enclose the boat in a tunnel of ice, the arrows stopped falling. They had won past the ambush zone. It wouldn’t have worked anyway. Perry probably couldn’t create that much ice, and the current would have pulled it away from the boat in seconds.
“Any casualties?” bellowed Blotar.
“Looks like Bornding is a goner–took an arrow through the throat. He’s bleeding out now, I doubt if he can last more than another minute or two,” said Udd.
The blood gushing from the sailor’s throat made Weslynn hungry again. She wasn’t really hungry, but it seemed like such a waste.
“Probably better for him to die quickly,” said Blotar. “They say Elf poison is nasty vicious stuff.”
Mensa wasn’t sure what was happening. He couldn’t recall seeing anyone die before, and seemed unduly strange that Bording’s life would pour out like that. He had heard the group talking about bloodsuckers, and he guessed this must be blood. How very interesting. He wondered if carved dwarves could bleed. Goldy had said Mensa wasn’t – what did he sat? – not baked right or something?
He didn’t know how to help, and he hated feeling helpless. He removed his helmet, held it to his chest, and hoped the man wasn’t in great pain, because even Mensa knew that pain hurts.
“Gray clad Reaper, See this Brother.
Ease his suffering, guide him home.
There to rest with friends and loved ones
Never more away to roam.
Life is short and Fate is cruel.
Death is always near to all.
Offering his hand to guide us
When it is our turn to fall.”
The intermittently loquacious youth checked to see that Edurin would accept his succour (and perchance if he had fallen into slumbers) before casting Strawberry Fields Forever, a spell that summoned a fresh and nutritious meal, which when eaten would help restore health. Sometimes Perry wondered where things like food, and ropes and spirits came from, but he had no answers for those questions.
“Edurin, you’re scratched, I can smell it. If it is poisoned as they say, we can try to suck it out, as well as perform Perry’s spell craft.”
An argument broke out over whether ‘sucking out’ Elf poisons was effective or safe. Wulf waited patiently for a few moments, then shrugged. “If you want me to do it, you know where I am,” he said, and returned to his station with the other rowers. He was surprised to see the wounded sailor was still alive. Wizards creeped him out sometimes. He silently thanked Omvar for the miracle.
Blotar bellowed an order when he saw Wulf run over to volunteer to help the wounded Bornding. “Oarsman, stay at your post! We need to keep this boat moving upstream against the current, and dropping an oar can mess up the timing of the other rowers.”
“By Vrill!” swore Udd. “That’s twice now you’ve abandoned your post without orders. If you were a regular crewman you’d forfeit your pay for such activity.”
“I don’t plan to pay him anything, unless he proves more valuable to us than he has so far,” muttered Blotar.
“One more lapse, and I’ll ask the captain to put you ashore,” Udd warned the barbarian.
Udd started yelling at all the rowers again. “Heave you sluggards! We don’t want to drift back into arrow range again. We got off lightly this time.”
Edurin had his jerkin off and his chest bare as his comrades discussed whether they should try to suck the poison out or not. He looked down and saw a spot on his chest about the size of a gold piece that was just turning a faint greenish color. The flesh felt funny–kind of burning and thick.
Jakuk stepped up to the stern deck to talk to Blotar. “How long do you reckon those elves will keep shooting at us, Captain? It has been almost 2 years now, and it seems like they try to shoot us every time we go by.”
“They probably won’t rest until they wreck the boat, and kill us all,” said Blotar. “You know we probably shouldn’t have messed with their women, but all we wanted was a little fun, and they were on the river without any clothing to speak of. It was an honest mistake.”
“Gronk thirsty,” he said to Udd.
“ROW, ROW, ROW YER BOAT. DEMPSEY FOUND THE STRING!
MARY LEE, MARY LEE, MARY LEE, MARRY ME.
LIKE A BUTTER CREAM”
Mensa asked bloodsucker lady, “What’s a bard?”
Gronk did like Mesa’s singing.
“Sing more, little dwarf. Gronk like.”
Zhanh noticed the effect that Mensa’s song had had on the rowers, and decided another song was in order.
Oh, just what’s the use of this looting and pillaging,
Swinging my rapier through blood, guts and gore?
Raping and robbing and boozing grow boring;
The life of a pirate’s no fun anymore.
No fun anymore, no fun anymore,
It’s only a job, it’s no fun anymore.
It’s always the same all the planning and ambushing:
Pouncing, attacking, and hauling away.
The whoring and boozing and passing out afterwards;
It’s getting monotonous day after day.
Day after day, day after day,
It’s boring as hell fighting day after day.
I’ve got me a plan to go do something different:
Find a good farm and a nice buxom bride,
Raise some tall crops and a lot of fat babies;
Complacency’s one sin that I’ve never tried.
I’ve never tried, I’ve never tried,
Playing good citizen I’ve never tried.
Perry felt ashamed of himself. He had been so intent on rifling through all the spells he knew to impress his companions that he had quite ignored the strength that had won him the opportunity to study the arcane arts in the first place.
At last, he woke up to himself and smelt the coffee…and slipped over to Weslynn and placed his hand atop hers. ‘Fret not,’ he whispered. ‘I see your consternation. Your time will come and your new friends shall have sore need of you. We must all take our time at the tiller on still waters but we know not when the elements will demand our fiercest efforts to keep safe those we care for.’
He left a pressed heartbalm flower he had carried since he left his forest home in Weslynn’s palm.
Edurin wasn’t badly poisoned at all. He had a green spot on his chest about the size of a gold piece, and it felt a little different from the surrounding flesh. It might even be a conversation piece for him in the future. As the hours went by and Borndring didn’t die either, the party began to feel that they had gotten off quite lightly.
About an hour before sunset they came to the town of Huntcenter, a mostly human town carved out of the woods that blanketed both sides of the river here. Blotar had the Nainevver maneuvered up to one of the docks built out into the current and tied up.
“We will be spending the night here,” Blotar announced. “Morben and Dilgnordu, you two have guard duty. Norli, Dannn, Zolt, get those barrels of wine from the hold and come with me to the Big Buck tavern. We have a delivery to make. The rest of you, be back by dawn.”
Anyway, the boat came to dock and Edurin’s sailing habits kicked in. “Captain, let me and Weslynn help with the barrels.” Edurin wanted a good look at the barrels and this was a fine opportunity to learn how to transport and evaluate wines.
“Yes, let us hope the seals on the barrels are still good, and the hold is properly cool. Otherwise the wine will have degraded, or spoiled entirely.” Weslynn was hoping the Captain would agree, she’d not actually done anything in the way of work on the boat yet, and this was right up her alley.
“Friends,” said Wulf. “I will go with you into the village. “I have been a traveler for many years, and know how to behave myself in new towns. I am unfortunately without coin of any kind. I won’t be much use except to advise you and help keep the natives from abusing you if necessary.”
Blotar took Edurin by the arm. “Come with me, my young friend. We must talk.” Then he took a stand on the gangplank. Jakuk had already gone ashore to tie the boat to its anchor point, but everyone else was still on board.
“Pay attention!” shouted Blotar. “I wouldn’t have to say anything if you were all regular crew, but those of you who came aboard with Edurin, and the two I hired back in Khazan yesterday won’t know how things work.”
Norli, Dann, and Zolt continued to manhandle a tun of wine up out of the hold. It weighed as much as any two of them, but the barrel was stout and well banded in iron. The rest of the crew turned to see what the captain was saying.
Mensa wasn’t paying attention. He started to sing, “Marry me . . .” but a crewman frowned at him and said sharply “Shush your mouth, dwarf!”
Shocked by such rudeness, Mensa fell silent.
“I’m hungry,” said Gronk.
“You worked hard on the river, bull-man, but your work was to pay for your passage. Come to the Big Buck, and I will buy you supper.”
Blotar looked at everyone with a bit of a sneer on his heavy features. Then he started pointing “I don’t really have yer names yet, but you have earned supper and a drink–just one–by yer work. Barbarian,” he pointed at Wulf, “dwarf,” he pointed at Mensa, “woman,” he pointed at Weslynn, “elf for saving Borndring,” he pointed at Lumlas, “and you Eddie-boy. You two were basically passengers and owe me for the trip.” He waved loosely at Perry and Zhanh. “You make yer own arrangements for the night, but I wouldn’t advise you to sleep in the streets. Ya can sleep on the boat if ya wish. We leave again at dawn.”
“Get those two barrels ashore and wait for the wagon,” Blotar directed that command at the three who were straining under the weight of one large wooden barrel of wine. “Jakuk, Eddie, and I will go get it.”
Udd pulled Weslynn aside. “If you want to ask about wine, come to the Big Buck and talk to Shannazan,” he told her.
“You two stay with Gronk and the rest of us, we figure things out. Nobody alone here in strange town, we stay together. We all go to Big Buck for supper, then maybe sleep on boat. Everybody agree?”
Perry raised his fingers and twisted them adroitly, his face a mask of concentration. He cast Jeeves again, figuring the earlier spell that he had cast just before they left to free those in jail would expire before they returned to the boat. ‘To be without a Jeeves in such circumstances,’ he said to Wulf, ‘would be as you without your ‘star.’
While walking with his friends, Mensa tried braiding his beard using all ten thumbs. The beards he’d seen in the city looked So Cool braided. He tried to remember to look up every so often to make sure his friends hadn’t wandered off…
Gronk noticed Mensa walking blindly as he tried to tie knots in his beard. He picked the dwarf up and placed him on his shoulders.
“Dwarf can tie knots in beard up here.”
“Thank you to you, Friend-Gronk!
“Human friends live, though green. Good friends like you and Wulf and Bloodsucker Lady and elf-friends. Good life.
“Mensa most happier than ever tonight.”
“I see. My aunt gave me the impression every apprentice was taught such, though of course it may be that I misheard her, or misremember. It has been some time, after all, since she passed. Perhaps you can aid me Lumlas?”
As they passed a tavern called Red’s Place, a man came flying out through the door, about seven feet off the ground, and landed with a thud and a cry of pain. A voice bellowed, “And stay out!” The man in the street only groaned, and lay there.
Which might not be a very good plan because Weslynn’s wine wagon was approaching and it certainly looked like it would run right over him.
They usually looked disappointed when neither of the obvious elves responded to their signals.
“Stay close to Gronk, elf-friends.”
“Humph!” said Mensa. “Told you humans cranky.” He thought he would accept Lumlas’s offer to learn how to braid his beard, especially as he had all his fingers stuck in knots now and was trying to pry them loose.
He was happy for the presence of Gronk who alone would tend to discourage all but the stupidest pickpockets from an attempt to rob them. He was hoping the Inn they were headed for was a quiet one. He was worn out from tuggind and pushing on an oar all day.
“Certainly,” Zhanh added. “The question is, are you able to learn them? And I fear that unless you are a trained wizard, you will only have a one use pattern of the spell in your mind, which will fade once the spell is cast.”
Later, as they walked, Lumlas and Zhanh both noticed the odd gestures that some of the women seemed to be making. “Have you ever seen anything like that before?” Lumlas asked Zhanh quietly.
Zhanh shook his head. “No, but I have a feeling that there is some kind of black market in magic or maybe herbal remedies. We could always ask, carefully. And you are better at being charming than I am.”
Lumlas chuckled at that. The next time they saw the gesture from a woman who was not too near anyone else, Lumlas approached her. “You made this gesture,” she said, repeating the sign. “We are not from around here, and do not understand. What does it mean? Are you asking for something?”
Zhanh watched alertly, ready to react if something went wrong.
“Hey, you! Elf! Leave that woman alone, or I swear I’ll skewer you!” He lifted the bow and half drew the arrow.
“Not happen again, sir,” he called to the hunter.
He looked at Lumlas with fire in his eyes. “I told you stay near Gronk, humans afraid of elf-friends. Want whole village to stick us with arrows?”
Zhanh shook his head. “Except maybe to stay as far away from the locals as we can, no.”
Mensa whispered to Gronk (easily) and Wulf (required leaning out from Gronk’s shoulders). “Maybe Mensa should hit humans onna head with shovel?”
Weslynn was looking forward to a night with her companions, and certainly agreed with the idea of sticking togather and sleeping on the ship. But before she could do that, she needed to make sure this man she drug off was not dying. She had enough on her conscience already…
‘Maybe if we ask the Captain and tell him we can guarantee the man’s good conduct and usefulness…he might be the judge of whether or not this violent, drunken bully (it I read him aright) will be missed in this sort of town,’
With that, Perry looked for the Captain with the intention of asking him if he would accept another rower if they all vouched for his behaviour, the wizards offering their skills to underwrite this promise. He had no intention of straying from his friends if the Captain was not close by.
Lumlas looked at the fallen drunkard. “Does he NEED healing, Weslyn? I am sure I could help a bit.”
The man was unconscious. Her questions fell on deaf ears.
Lumlas came over and offered to help. It was obvious to the elfin healer that this man was badly injured.
The main group of walking boatmen, including Wulf, Gronk, Mensa, and Perry left Weslynn and the elves behind. They found themselves approaching a large sprawling building at the end of the street. There were hitching posts in front of it with a couple of mules tied to them. A lot of gray smoke came out of two chimneys at opposite ends of the roof. A stuffed figure of a 12-point buck stood near the front door, which was both wide and wide open. Fiddle music cackled inside, brisk, foot-stomping music.
Blotar and Jakuk and Edurin stopped for a moment in the doorway. A really large hand blocked their path. The captain put a coin into it, and the obstacle vanished. The three men strolled into the tavern.
As they vanished into the darkness, the sailors outside could see that the door guard was an ogre. Udd said, “Anyone with a gold piece to tip the door guard can go inside. I’ll just wait out here till the captain comes back.”
Two boatmen, Brundle and Sammik stepped up to the door, offered a coin, and were issued inside.
Lumlas decides to try to heal the drunk for five points of damage. (Level 2 saving throw, 23 INT plus roll of 6,2, total 31, made. Ten points of kremm spent.)
MEANWHILE, as Mensa hopped down from Gronk, he pointed: “I saw them. Thattaway.”
Mensa examined himself. How had he gotten good on himself?
Lumlas touched the drunk and poured her energy into healing him. The pallor left his face, and he stopped moaning, Then he opened his eyes and looked up into her lovely elvish face.
“Aaaaaaahhhhh!” he screamed in surprise. He rolled over and scrabbled away from her on all fours.
Wulf, Gronk, Mensa, and Perry came walking back down the street and joined them.
“Blotar promised us a meal at the inn,” said Weslynn, “and I don’t think Edurin will let him forget it. We need to get back to the Big Buck.”
Mensa responded to the drunk’s actions with a snort of disgust. “Humans cranky AND crazy. Yes, would druther sleep on boat than near them!”
He snorted at Lumlas and Zhanh, and cast a nasty look at Weslynn.
“Bloodsucker stop putting friends at risk over drunk strangers in the street.”
‘What are we going to do about food?’ Perry asked them all. His stomach was rumbling. ‘Can we buy something without having to go into that tavern or do you want me to create food for you on the boat?’ Then he remembered Edurin. ‘Do you think Edurin will be safe with Captain Blotar? If you do, perhaps we can go into the other tavern and all stick tight together while we eat and then go back to the boat to sleep. Wulf ought to be able to put an order for food in at the bar without getting into trouble. After all, he doesn’t have the curse of elf blood.’ Perry frowned and clasped his hands together in an effort to stay calm.
Weslynn walks over to Gronk and looks up at his eyes. “I have treated you all with basic respect, regardless of your origin, race, profession, or blood curses, save for the incident with Wulf, which I admitted to when I was able.”
She then takes a step forward, staring intently up at Gronk, focused on him alone, so their chests are almost touching. She makes her final points, punctuating them with firm taps on his chest as she does so.
“Letting the wagon run the sot over would have certainly gotten us into the local jail. Keep in mind, should I have hauled him out of the road, and walked off, and he died, I or we all could well have been blamed. Outsiders often are. I am not looking to cause trouble here in this new town. .”
“Now let us stay together and catch up to the captain & crew.”
She turned, gathered everyone’s gaze with her own, and moved towards the Captain’s choice of tavern.
“Yes, we all strangers two days ago, and I rowing up river for a few barrels wine, risking everything for you, because Wulf is my friend for long time, not two days, fight many battles together. I here for Wulf first, not you or any of the others, and you attack my friend and drink his blood. Gronk smell it in the cages. You only alive still because Wulf wants it. Dwarf and elfs my friends now, too. Next time, let wagon hit filthy human, not your wagon, not your human, not your problem. You put Gronk or friends at risk again for nothing, you answer to Gronk!” He snorted fiercely as he emphasized his name, and visibly squeezed the hilt of his axe. He then addressed all.
“Now we go back to find Edurin and Captain, eat our meal, and sleep on boat. Anybody not agree?”
“Nothing important, little friend. We go find Edurin and get food.”
“All in all,” he said to Friend-Gronk, “it’s been a good day.”
Zhanh caught Gronk’s eyes and threw up his hands. “Don’t look at me, Gronk; I was just following a girl.”
Lumlas scowled at Zhanh, and then said, “Fine. I was following Weslyn. And it is very hard for me to walk away from someone in pain. Though I doubt I will do it again for anyone in this village.”
Zhanh said, “Perry, all of the others, except you and I, have a meal and a drink waiting for them at the tavern. Perhaps the two of us should have stayed on the boat, and let your magic feed us, but we are in the middle of the town, now. At worst, we can eat conjured food and drink water once we are ALL back on the boat.”
“Gronk, how is committing murder on a drunk local watching Wulf’s back?”
Weslynn looked up at the minotaur. “If all you will do is wave your axe around instead of thinking, then perhaps I can do without your aid.”
Wulf rolled his eyes in frustration, and turned on the group. “Stop all this bickering,” he growled. “Gronk! You are a tower of strength to us here. Weslynn! We are committed to helping you. Why are we snarling and nipping at each other? We are in an unfriendly place surrounded by hostile people, and we make enemies of each other here? Get your heads and hearts together. Once we are fed, and have had a brew we will all feel better, and can argue then. On, to the Inn!” And he tried to herd this bag full of wildcats up the street to their destination.
“Bloodsucker need to back off, Gronk losing patience fast. You only one worried about human, men driving cart are eating food and drinking with Edurin and Captain right now! Gronk finished talking, if Wulf want Gronk to stay Gronk stays, or Gronk leaving!”
Gronk wanted to chop the bloodsucker in half, and just might have if Mensa hadn’t stepped between them.
Edurin paid the ogre the gold coin tip and followed Captain Blotar. He quietly joined the Captain and kept eye over the establishment, “Captain, we can tally the total owed after your business concludes. Your help has been greatly appreciated. Is this the farthest up stream you go?”
Zhanh nodded. “We need you, Gronk. At least I think so. Our chances of surviving this mission are much higher if you are with us,”
“Gronk stay with friends.”