As you pole further from shore, the sounds of pursuit fade. You must be at least a few hundred feet out on the Big Water. Everything is dark, and the stars give little light.
Constantine continues to pole due west.
Mistress Bianca presses hard onto her shoulder, stemming the flow of blood.
Casdegere Constantine calls out in fear, “Who’s hit!” with a ragged breath. He is covered from head to foot in filth.
You only know the direction of shore because it is slightly darker than the other directions.
Mistress Bianca: I have been hit. I look
forward to the day I may return the favor.
Rikard Castleberry steps over to Mistress Bianca and starts to work on her with some first aid.
Two spears lay at the bottom of the boat. Another juts from the prow where it stuck.
Casdegere Constantine: I smell blood…how
bad is it? Did you see who attacked us?
Casdegere Constantine continues poling quickly, panting heavily.
Mistress Bianca tastes the blood on her fingers.
Rikard Castleberry: It doesn’t look too bad. It could have been a lot worse.
Mistress Bianca: Tastes pretty good… I am fine, I have suffered much worse. Now where do we go from here?
Casdegere Constantine: Rikard…Bart? You hit?
Rikard Castleberry: They weren’t good enough shots to hit me.
Bart: I have been hooked like a fish.
Casdegere Constantine: Damn…I don’t know where I’m going, I’m just…going.
Rikard, as you minister to Bianca, you find that her injuries look much worse than they are. You think she will be OK without any assistance.
Mistress Bianca: See Mister Rikard? It
missed the bone and it only passed through the outer flesh.
Rikard Castleberry: Yeah, a lucky miss, it was quite close.
Casdegere Constantine: Well if Bart hadn’t brought the boat around, we’d all most likely be in a world of hurt.
Mistress Bianca: I would not argue that, but I would prefer if you do not wash my blood from that spear. I wish to hand it back to its rightful owner…as is.
Bart: I prefer to have very little acquaintance with any more spears.
Casdegere Constantine: Well those weren’t just lucky shots…at night, we were moving and they hit us twice. I thought I heard a swamp man grunt back at the temple.
The boat glides smoothly now that Casdegere has settled down. Your words sound very loud in the quiet surroundings, even though you do not shout.
Casdegere Constantine slows down to
Mistress Bianca: It also took what half…maybe a dozen spears to do so? Not that I am arguing, but even with those odds Rikard could hit once or twice.
You hear occasional splashes near and far. These are unnerving. Are they normal…or pursuit or predators?
Rikard Castleberry: Yeah I probably could
have….hey wait a minute.
Mistress Bianca: My Apologies Mister Castleberry.
Rikard Castleberry looks towards the water.
Casdegere Constantine says in a softer voice, "I hope we are still going west, I’m..I’m not sure.”
By now, every direction looks the same. Direction almost has no meaning. You might be headed west. Or even back towards shore if Casdegere got turned around.
Rikard Castleberry: Well, I think it’s
important that we keep moving. Sitting still won’t improve our chances.
Bart: Looks up from bandaging his leg at both the shore and the sky.
Rikard Castleberry: Here, let me help you with that bandage Bart.
Casdegere Constantine says in a soft voice "I wish I could see." He continues to pole, slowly.
Rikard helps cinch up the bandage with an expert touch.
Mistress Bianca: A moving target. To where?
Maybe into the pit of the demon world. Heh, heh, heh.
Bart: We are headed South.
Casdegere Constantine: "Oh oh…thats not good." He grunts and tries to turn the boat.
Casdegere levers the boat around.
Rikard Castleberry: So we should be going
West now, yes?
Bart looks for a landmark to help Casdegere with his steering.
Casdegere Constantine speaks softly as if to himself, "I shouldn’t of tarried there so long.”
Mistress Bianca: Maybe it would have been what they would have least expected Mister Constantine.
Bart recognizes the constellations and thinks he can guide the boat in whatever direction he chooses.
Bart: Where do we wish to go now?
Mistress Bianca: Good question Mister Bart.
Rikard Castleberry: Part of me wants to wheel around and flank those guys, but maybe that’s not a great idea just yet.
Casdegere Constantine: I’m not sure…is Kith’takharos…um….North?
Bart points off at Casdegere’s remarks.
Casdegere Constantine only nods and continues to pole.
Mistress Bianca: If we head straight west we will meet land, not at all connected to where the temple is. Will be the quickest way to land I believe.
Like some sort of grim machine, Casdegere poles hour after hour, occasionally asking Bart to verify he poles in the right direction.
Rikard Castleberry grabs a hold of a pole and gets in position for a long night or rowing.
After a few hours, the air grows cooler than the water and fog rises. Eventually it even obscures the sky above.
Bart: I will take a turn at the pole.
Casdegere why not catch some sleep?
Casdegere Constantine almost growls, "No…No, Mr. Bart, I am fine.”
Rikard Castleberry: Well, in that case, I’ll take a nap!
Bart takes over for Rikard instead.
Rikard Castleberry hands his pole off to Bart and leans off to the side and gets more comfortable.
Casdegere Constantine pauses long enough to remove his chain armor and pack it away.
Bart: Slow, we are by land.
Rikard Castleberry slumps down a bit and relaxes, breathing a bit deeper and more regularly.
Casdegere Constantine slows down.
Bart moves to the front of the boat.
The boat loses speed, and soon drifts among rushes that must be just off shore.
Bart: Do we want to camp or continue in the
Rikard Castleberry: Hmmm, ah wah?
Casdegere Constantine: Are we on the other shore? Um…across the Big Water?
Bart: We have hit land.
Mistress Bianca: I think it has been a long night. Misters Constantine and Castleberry may wish to rest.
Casdegere Constantine yawns, “I am fine, really.”
Rikard Castleberry looks up. "Are we home now?" He slumps back over, asleep.
Bart: I will know better at dawn as to where we are. If we continue now we may get farther from our destination.
Casdegere Constantine: Then why don’t you and the Mistress have a rest and recover a moment.I will take watch.
An animal cry pierces the darkness. Then all is silent.
Bart: Would you like me to tie up the
Casdegere Constantine: Yes please Mr. Bart.
Mistress Bianca: Then we wait for the fog to rise at least. I believe you have exerted yourself enough Mister Constantine. Rest now for you may not get a chance later. I will watch if Bart wishes to join me?
Casdegere Constantine: I am not wounded Mistress, I can take a watch.
Bart lowers himself into the water and leads the boat to a workable tie off.
Rikard Castleberry is sound asleep.
Bart ties the boat to a tree on shore.
Mistress Bianca: "I will not argue with you.
Although I am not what I would consider wounded. If you wish to be
fatigued when we may need a fighter, so be it." She prepares her things for a nap.
Casdegere Constantine bends over and collects all of the items he brought into the boat and organizes them to be carried in or on the backpack.
Mistress Bianca raises her cloak and exits the boat taking her prepared things with her.
Bart finds a dry spot within sight of the boat and goes to sleep.
Casdegere doggedly forces his eyes to remain open until the dark fog begins to brighten.
Casdegere Constantine feels as if he may
fall asleep. He steps over to Rikard and taps his shoulder.
Rikard Castleberry mumbles.
Casdegere Constantine taps him harder, "Your watch Mr."
Rikard Castleberry: Bah, that was such a good dream too. OK take a load off, I got the watch.
Casdegere Constantine steps forward without a word, finds a decent spot, and lays against his backpack.
In a couple more hour, the fog burns away, and you can see the water stretching away from shore. You see no village.
Bart awakens after the fog burns off and
starts to make a small circle around the camp to get his
Rikard Castleberry: Well Bart, I have absolutely no idea where we are.
Bart: "Kith’takharos should be that way." He points.
Mistress Bianca wakes up abruptly and bolts upright fist already clenching on her staff in her hands. "Oh, pardon me, must have had a bit of a nightmare."
Rikard Castleberry: Oh, morning Bianca.
Bart: I know of a root that would help with that.
Mistress Bianca goes down to the waters edge and removes her mask and sets it on the ground next to her. She reaches into the water and drenches her face. She ddries her face off on her cloak and dons the mask again.
Casdegere Constantine drifts to sleep quickly.
Rikard Castleberry: Let’s let him sleep a bit longer, shall we?
Bart: What are our plans now?
Mistress Bianca: Yes Mister Castleberry, it has been a rare treat to escape his dribble for just a little while. I believe we can return to Kith’takharos. But first… your lessons in wielding a staff perhaps?
Rikard Castleberry: Yes I believe we can, but I think we still owe whoever attacked us a return trip.
Mistress Bianca: I intend to.
Bart: Yes, My lessons.
Mistress Bianca (pauses): Someday.
Bart: I will tell the story of your trip to your loved ones.
Mistress Bianca: I don’t have any loved ones.
Bart: I am sorry.
Mistress Bianca: Now Mister Castleberry think you have what it takes to show Bart how to wield a stick?
Rikard Castleberry: Sure, it’s just like a spear, except there isn’t a pointy end.
Mistress Bianca: "Oh I see." She smiles behind her mask though no one sees.
Rikard Castleberry: We had some preliminary lessons at the last camp actually.
Bart looks ready for his lesson. Staff in hand.
Mistress Bianca steps a few paces away from the two and with a series of well choreographed twirls and thrusts of her staff she flourishes. "This does nothing in a fight Bart."
Bart: Then I won’t do it.
Rikard Castleberry: There are four main ways to attack with a staff, a straight jab, an overhand slice, and under to top slice, and a swing, hard on.
Mistress Bianca: It only looks impressive. Every move must be efficient and intended. I have found that when you open yourself up a bit, you can gain an upper hand in your attack. Potentially causing a greater wound. Rikard if I may demonstrate on you…
Bart: I can handle four and be intended. I don’t think I’ll go for the open bit yet.
Mistress Bianca: Ready Rikard?
Rikard Castleberry: By all means, give it a go.
Bart watches intently
Rikard Castleberry stands at ready.
Mistress Bianca performs a wild attack on Rikard. She raises her staff above her head and with a single full body spin comes down just below Rikard’s left ear with her staff. It stops a mere inch from the soft part of his skull.
Rikard Castleberry glances back toward Bart.
Mistress Bianca: I open myself up but, gain a greater chance to strike. Meryl told me to avoid using wild attacks unless it was out of desperation.
Rikard Castleberry: Now see this is a good attack, but she is vulnerable from many positions. If facing just 1 foe that is slow, it is wonderful.
Bart: "We have company." He points towards a boat.
Rikard Castleberry picks up a rock and tosses it at Casdegere. "Hey, wake up over there!"
Mistress Bianca recoils and turns to see.
Casdegere Constantine sleeps right on through.
Indeed, once you look, you see there is a boat some ways off shore. It is slowly coming in your direction.
Casdegere Constantine: What the!
In a few minutes, you see there are three people in it.
Rikard Castleberry: Morning sunshine, we
Casdegere Constantine rubs his cheek and tries to look in the direction of the hit. He moves groggily to gather up his things.
Bart heads a bit farther inland to have cover but still see.
Rikard Castleberry wonders to himself if perhaps he should have underhanded the rock, instead of a hard toss.
Casdegere Constantine tries to see what is coming.
Rikard Castleberry: Toss on the chain man, we don’t know what they want.
Now the boat is close enough that you see the men are wearing armor. A greenish armor you recognize: The Order of the Jade Leaf. A large crossbow sits on a post at the center of the boat. One of the men points it towards shore.
Casdegere Constantine: "We are
alright." He waves.
Mistress Bianca lifts up her mask enough to spit. "...You may be."
One man steps up to the prow and hails. "Stay where you are. We wish to have a word with you."
Rikard Castleberry: By all means, just aim that crossbow elsewhere.
The boat stops about 50 feet from shore.
Casdegere Constantine looks puzzled and
steps forward "Whats this now?"
Jade Leaf Scout: Please state your business.
Mistress Bianca: Why?
Rikard Castleberry: Our business? Didn’t you just approach us? What is your business?
Casdegere Constantine whispers at everyone, “What are you doing?”
The man stares hard a Rikard for a moment. Then his eyes touch on Bart.Casdegere Constantine looks out at the boat, "We’re on our way back to Kith’takharos but got turned around a smidgen."
Scout: I recognize you. Bart, isn’t it? You’ve never been in any
trouble. Why don’t you tell these folk to be reasonable so we can be
on our way.
Mistress Bianca (whispers): They, the Order, are not my friends.
Bart: Then it is best not to antagonize them.
You cannot help but notice the massive crossbow has not wavered. And it is loaded…
Bart: Sir, I do not believe they will be any
Mistress Bianca: We are not harvesting swamp plants, we are not killing anyone and we are not having sexual transgressions with swamp dragons.
Rikard Castleberry: Yes, we certainly are not harvesting plants or killing people.
Jade Leaf Scout nods. "Very good. Though I’d pay to see that last bit. I see you have one of Vladimar’s boats. Are you returning it today?"
Mistress Bianca: We are on our way back to town. Mister… didn’t catch your name.
Casdegere Constantine says nothing but smacks his head into an opened hand.
Bart: Are you heading in or away from town?
Jade Leaf Scout: My name is Xanthus Bome. I occasionally go out on patrol. Looking for smart-aleck miscreants. Glad I didn’t find any here. Me, I’m headed a little further up the coast. Heard of some poachers hereabouts. You seen ‘em?
Bart: No, poacher of what? Will you need assistance?
Mistress Bianca (whispers): If it is the Order it is about swamp plants.
Jade Leaf Scout shakes his head. "No, we’re OK. But I appreciate the offer." He waves you on. "Carry on."
Casdegere Constantine waves "good Hunting!"
Mistress Bianca grumbles.
Jade Leaf Scout gives a vicious grin. "Oh, we will find them if they’re out here."
Rikard Castleberry mumbles under his breath, “suck up!”
Casdegere Constantine gives them a thumbs up as he heads toward their own boat.
Bart prepares his offering to the swamp spirits in gratitude for the safe journey back.
Mistress Bianca: In a nutshell the Order tolerates the Transit Guild because it needs them. The Transit Guild "tolerates" the Order (she even does the quotey fingers thing) in spite of their stupid laws to monopolize the swamp plant trade. It is horribly unfair that what one finds in the wilds is not theres to keep even if the Order isn’t aware of it yet.
As Bart offers the swamp plants, a cool breeze dries the sweat from his skin.
Casdegere Constantine looks at her
thoughtfully. "I am not completely understanding of their motives but it appears a
small price to pay for their protection I should think?"
Mistress Bianca: I of course have to be extra careful because of my connections with the Transit Guilds’ leader here.
Casdegere Constantine: "Do you consider these men…without honor?" He looks at her questioningly.
Rikard Castleberry ’s eyes start to fog over from the really in depth conversation.
Mistress Bianca: To have honor is to live by a code. Their code is sour, but if they follow it they have their honor. May it cause pustules and boils all over their bodies for all I desire. Anyway… shall we be off?
Casdegere Constantine looks like he wanted to say more but doesn’t and only nods and turns toward the boat.
Mistress Bianca grabs her things leaving her staff stuck upright into the muck as she sets them in the boat. Only then does she retrieve her staff.
Casdegere Constantine gets into the boat, making sure not to slap anyone with his shield and spear in the process.
Bart checks the campsite once more to make sure it is clean then heads for the boat.
You steadily pole the boat towards Kith’takharos, reaching the village in less than two hours. You leave the boat with Vladimar Batu, who grumbles a bit about the gouged wood in the prow, but does not ask for damages. Casdegere carries the items recovered from the temple. Some people stare at the grinning skull atop the staff.
Casdegere Constantine says as he departs,
"Mistress, would you be good enough to tell Meryl I will see him
tomorrow? I wish a bath, real food and real sleep."
Mistress Bianca hastily makes her way away from the people near the docks and heads for the Transit Guild taking as many alleys and back paths possible.
Bart: Can we not get it done today?
Casdegere Constantine: "Tomorrow please, I shall be there early." He moves away.
Bart to Rikard "Well I guess he got to have his last say."
Mistress Bianca does not slow until she is within the compound.
Rikard Castleberry: Yeah it appears so. Let’s go get a drink then, ya? And maybe some roast eel or something too.
Bart does not look pleased at the thought of spending another night in the town. "Lead on."
Rikard Castleberry heads with Bart back to his favorite inn.
Casdegere Constantine heads to his house. He checks to see if he is being followed along the way, remembering the strange voice in the swamp.
Rikard Castleberry: I bring Bart with me to the salted eel for a drink and a snack.
Casdegere Constantine decides to wrap the items into a blanket and hide them in some loose floor boards…he will heat up some water, bathe, cook some food, and then get some sleep.
Mistress Bianca will take first a bath, then luncheon with Uncle, then who knows.
The rest of the day passes without event.
Casdegere bolts up from a sound sleep. For a moment he does not remember where he is or why he has awoken. Then he sees his bed is surrounded by dark shapes.Casdegere Constantine decides not to move, "What do you want?" He tries not to appear afraid.
One shape says, "Give us the staff and we will leave. Otherwise…well, we don’t really care how we get it. Just tell us where it is. We’ll fetch it." The shapes wear masks. Casdegere cannot see their features.
Casdegere Constantine: "I no longer
have it, I know nothing of such things so I gave it to someone who
One shape steps forward and swings a club. It cracks against Casdegere’s head and has him seeing stars. A gruff voice says, "Where is it!"
Casdegere rolls off the bed and onto the floor. Two clubs crash down
and just miss him.
Two clubs miss the rolling Casdegere. Casdegere is on the floor beside his bed, two dark shapes next to him.
Casdegere Constantine grabs at his spear on his way out of the house.
As Casdegere runs out the bedroom door, a club whizzes through the air and clocks him in the head. Casdegere stumbles and almost goes down, but manages to stagger towards the front door.
Casdegere is shaken from the blow but quickly recovers his wits.
Casdegere Constantine runs out the door.
Casdegere almost trips over something at about ankle level, but takes off down the street.
Casdegere Constantine runs west near the other houses and yells,”ALARM!”
Within a couple minutes, people poke heads out of doors. More impressively, a group of men in green armor trot up from the west.
Jade Leaf Scout: You can stop yelling now!
What’s going on?
Casdegere Constantine: "Three men in dark cloaks attacked me in my home just now! They may still be there!"
Jade Leaf Scout: Take us there.
Casdegere Constantine nods and begins to run toward his home.
Jade Leaf Scout: Keep to the rear. We’ll take care of this.
Casdegere Constantine follows them closely.
Jade Leaf Scout: The group quickly reaches the house. The Jade Leaf men motion for Casdegere to stay outside as they go in.
The group quickly reaches the house. The Jade Leaf men motion for Casdegere to stay outside as they go in.
Casdegere Constantine watches from the doorway.
Casdegere hears voices. "Living room clear. Bedroom clear. Looks like someone was looking for something. Stuffs all over the place.
Jade Leaf Scout: You can come in. No one
Casdegere Constantine steps in checking his head for blood.
His head is a little sticky.
Jade Leaf Scout: Can you check if anything
Casdegere Constantine looks at his home "They were trying to rob me!"
Jade Leaf Scout: No offense, but what do you have worth stealing? No one steals in Kith’takharos.
Casdegere Constantine steps around his home, he nonchalantly looks to see if the floorboard was turned up as he steps over it.
The floorboard has been turned up.
Casdegere Constantine: "I am poor, I
have almost nothing"
Jade Leaf Scout walks up to Casdegere and smells his breath. "Hmm. You haven’t been drinking."
Jade Leaf Scout: Then I ask again. Why would men come to rob you?
Casdegere Constantine shows him the blood, "No I have not, they had clubs and tried to subdue me."
Jade Leaf Scout holds up a hand. "I believe you. I’m just trying to get to the bottom of this."
Casdegere Constantine: "I don’t know, this is actually my uncle’s home, I haven’t seen him in weeks."
Jade Leaf Scout: Is anything missing? Could they have found the wrong man?
Casdegere Constantine bends down to look at whats inside the blanket, "I’m not sure."
Casdegere finds everything except the staff.
Casdegere Constantine: "I think they
might of thought this was someone else’s house. I really have nothing worth stealing."
Jade Leaf Scout: OK. We’ll beef up the patrols and keep an eye out.
Casdegere Constantine: "I will appreciate that sir"
Jade Leaf Scout: No problem. We take it as a matter of pride to keep the people safe.
Casdegere Constantine smiles and only nods in agreement.
Jade Leaf Scout: Do you need some medical care?
Casdegere Constantine: "I think I will be OK, thank you."
Jade Leaf Scout: I can send over a healer.
Casdegere Constantine: "No thank you and you all have a good evening, I hope you find the culprits."
Jade Leaf Scout nods and moves his patrol down the street.
Casdegere Constantine gets dressed, cleans up the mess, resets the floor board but hangs on to the rest of the items.
Morning arrives, and it’s time to meet Meryl.
Casdegere Constantine steps out toward the Transit Guild.
The Transit Guild guards let you all in and escort you to the same meeting room in which you last met Meryl. Meryl has not yet arrived. An array of refreshments sit on the polished wood table.
Mistress Bianca sits at the chair next to
Meryl’s unattended seat.
Rikard Castleberry stumbles up to the table and grabs the hardest looking drink he can find, and slumps in a chair, drinking it down.
Bart digs into the food. "Good Morning."
Casdegere Constantine takes a glass of water.
Mistress Bianca has been here for some time.
Rikard Castleberry: MmmmmMMMMMmmm, ya same to ya. Why is it so dang bright in here?
Bart: They call it sunlight.
Rikard Castleberry: Ugh.
Meryl enters the room and takes a seat at the head of the table, a broad smile on his face.
Casdegere Constantine sits down and stays
Rikard Castleberry wonders how Meryl can smile so much with it so blazingly bright inside.
Mistress Bianca: Good morning Uncle.
Meryl Dunestal heartily says, "Welcome home! "I heard you arrived yesterday, of course you must have been exhausted."
Mistress Bianca: I missed you yesterday, I was here available for supper. I assumed you were busy.
Meryl Dunestal smiles towards Bianca.
Casdegere Constantine tries not to look as angry as he feels.
Meryl Dunestal: Indeed, as you know there are many duties to attend to.
Rikard Castleberry turns his chair a bit so the sun isn’t coming as hard onto him.
Meryl Dunestal: So, tell me about your journey, leave nothing out. I am dying to hear of your adventure.
Mistress Bianca: Well, Uncle, I am pleased to say that we have found the body of Almus.
Bart finds the smelliest fish and sits down next to Rikard.
Meryl Dunestal sits and pours himself a glass of cool water from a wooden pitcher.
Mistress Bianca: We were chased off by some unknown people though.
Rikard Castleberry shoots Bart a patented WTF look at smelling the fish.
Meryl Dunestal: Nods sadly, “then you are confirming he is dead? How did it happen?”
Mistress Bianca: It was uniquely grotesque.
Bart offers some to Rikard.
Casdegere Constantine calmly sets the short sword upon the table in front of him.
Rikard Castleberry waves off the fish, looking a bit green.
Meryl Dunestal: Ah….
Mistress Bianca: There was a most puzzling room where the air was so frigid it stung flesh.
Casdegere Constantine:"Mistress, he already knows about the temple."
Mistress Bianca: It was adjacent to a room filled with rotting corpses of heaven knows what.
Meryl Dunestal: Stands to reach for the short sword and sits with it in his lap. "You know, I gave this to him a long time ago," says Meryl, it is not a question.
Rikard Castleberry wonders why everyone is shouting.
Mistress Bianca rests a hand on Meryl’s shoulder. "Casdegere didn’t you find another artifact?"
Casdegere Constantine nods, "Aye, I found a few."
Meryl Dunestal: Sets the short sword to a standing position besides his chair. “So you found more dead nearby, decayed by the sound of it? And, more from your account. Tell me what you found."
Casdegere Constantine: "We found an altar…something altogether sinister."
Mistress Bianca: Well the smell would curl your toes.
Meryl Dunestal turns to Casdegere.
Casdegere Constantine: "A man was there, dressed in leather and he wore this around his neck" With a flick of his wrist, he tosses the silver necklace upon the table.
Casdegere shows the silver necklace with the lopsided "8".
Meryl Dunestal frowns.
Casdegere Constantine: "And there was something else." He waits and observes.
Mistress Bianca fills her glass from a pitcher on the table and somehow removes the lower portion of her mask before raising the glass up to take a drink.
Meryl Dunestal: Carry on, you were about to say something Casdegere?
Bart feeds some of the fish to his cat.
The cat purrs.
Meryl Dunestal makes no move to touch the
Casdegere Constantine: "There was a wooden staff, about 5 foot long. With a gold head of a jester upon its end. There were also three men clothed in black. They attacked me last night and demanded it. I barely escaped with my life but they took it."