You are assembled upon the shore with two poacher prisoners. The third poacher was killed by Rikard during the battle. It is dark, but the moon casts enough light to see fairly well.
Rikard Castleberry: So Koran, how hard would it be to lug that crossbow up on top of those rocks?
Koran Thelig: We could pull it up with a rope. Not too hard.
Rikard Castleberry: How long do you figure we would have before these folks are considered missing and others come to find them?
Koran Thelig: There’s no way to tell. Or even know if Huygens or Hoyt will care.
Bart: So (Thug with Balls) what is the signal that all is OK?
Mistress Bianca eerily traces the stitches in her belly again. Then stretches to the left and right to check their hold.
Poacher 2: Signal? What Signal?
Bart: You signaled when we attacked. That is the only signal?
Mistress Bianca satisfied that they will she sits down with her staff across her lap next to the water and begins to rest for as long as she can.
Poacher 2: Oh that. Well…that was a bluff. Pretty clever, eh?
Bart: It made us want to defeat you quickly – how is that clever?
Rikard Castleberry: Well Koran, I see 3 things we can do here. 1 is to “lose” them and continue on, 2 is to set an ambush here, and 3 is Bart’s plan
Poacher 2: Well, nothin’ ever goes right for me. I guess that’s one more thing.
Koran Thelig: There is a fourth. Ask them about Hoyt’s plans for the staff. I’ll stay over here in the trees. It would be interesting to learn what they say.
Bart: So you are tellin me reinforcements aren’t on the way?
Rikard Castleberry: If they even know the plans.
Koran Thelig: True.
Poacher 1 wheezes as he still catches his breathe and coughs, “Reinforcements…that’s a joke, you think that bastard would tell us anything? It’s just ‘Wait here until I call for you,’ Like we’re his freakin’ dogs!”
Bart: When he calls where are you supposed to go?
Poacher 2: Ain’t that God’s truth.
Casdegere Constantine: “Yes but you signaled with a flare. Obviously he told you something.
Poacher 2: Ha! He don’t trust us with that. We wait. It could be a day or a week.
Poacher 1: Are you deaf? The flare was a bluff, like he said.
Casdegere Constantine: “So you set up a flare…as a bluff, not knowing if we would come, knowing if it were The Jade leaf, it would not matter…try again.
Casdegere Constantine looks much angrier now.
Poacher 2: So, what’s the deal? What do you want to let us go?
Rikard Castleberry walks over in speaking range of everyone.
Mistress Bianca laughs a little as she shakes her head.
Rikard Castleberry: Have we determined if there’s any reason to keep these guys alive?
Poacher 1: You was already here fightin’ us when we set it off. You shit for brains, or what?
Mistress Bianca from a distance, “We cannot kill them, it is against the law.”
Bart: They do seem to have a death wish.
Rikard Castleberry rolls his eyes at Bianca, though she doesn’t see it, as he is not looking at her.
Mistress Bianca: Well death would be a release for them.
Poacher 2: That’s right. Let’s call it a draw. You killed Rake, that’s about even for your trouble.
Poacher 2: We didn’t do nothin’ to you.
Rikard Castleberry: Which one of you dropped rocks on me?
Mistress Bianca: My plan on the other hand has a certain…resolve though.
Casdegere Constantine: Hmm, back where I come from, the magistrate would have men held down under water to get information from them, sometimes though they drowned by accident.
Mistress Bianca jumps to her feet.
Neither poacher answers Rikard.
Mistress Bianca: That would be wrong and this is not where you come from.
Casdegere Constantine: Then do whatever your gunna do, but do it quickly.
Bart points at poacher 2 “He did.”
Poacher 2: Hey! What the heck.
Mistress Bianca: Strip, both of you.
Mistress Bianca: I will try not to laugh at your inadequacies.
Poacher 1: Now we’re talkin’. You first, honey.
Mistress Bianca: Mister Castleberry, cut off their clothes.
Rikard Castleberry walks over to a rock, picks it up, and stands over poacher 2.
Rikard Castleberry holds it up high, and lets it drop on his head.
Rikard Castleberry: Oops, it slipped.
Bart starts to drag Poacher 1 towards the water. “You need to learn some manners.”
Poacher 2: OK. Feast your eyes mask woman.
Mistress Bianca: Let me be the judge of that.
Poacher 2 removes his leather armor, tunic, and trousers.
Rikard Castleberry snickers.
Mistress Bianca reaches down and picks up a small blade of grass.
Mistress Bianca: Here, cover up.
Rikard Castleberry: Don’t you think that would cover too much up?
Poacher 1: Crap. What are you gonna do with us?
Mistress Bianca: Since we do not wish to spare rope, cut the trousers into strips. Please quickly Mister Castleberry.
Koran Thelig walks over to a vine covered stone in the ruins and leans upon it while watching.
Rikard Castleberry cuts long strips of their own clothing with their swords and hands them to Bianca.
Mistress Bianca Takes the strips and douses them in the water. Then she moves up to poacher 2 and tells him to hold out his hands, wrist over wrist.
Poacher 2 holds out his hands.
Mistress Bianca: Mister Castleberry I believe you are stronger than I, would you tie him. I would hate for them to come loose.
Poacher 2 smiles at Bianca and winks.
Mistress Bianca hands Rikard back the strips and moves up to poacher 1.
Rikard Castleberry takes the first strip and ties it over the poachers eyes, tying it just a wee bit too tight.
Poacher 2: I know what you need, honey!
Mistress Bianca: You are still dressed.
Poacher 1: Well, I was hopin’ you could give me a hand…or two.
Rikard Castleberry then pulls the poachers hands behind his back and ties his wrists together in a tight knot.
Mistress Bianca holds her staff with the fist on the end up to him.
Mistress Bianca: You mean this hand?
Rikard Castleberry cuts the shirt off of the first poacher, making a long strip with it.
Poacher 1 fumbles with his leather armor. He then takes some mud, packing the first poachers ears closed with it, then tying a strip over his ears, cutting off his ability to hear completely. He then proceeds with tying the first poacher’s hands behind his back, like the second.
Mistress Bianca looks quickly around for a tree that may be able to hold 2 men dangling from a single branch.
Bart: We can hang them from the tower.
You can find a tree.
Mistress Bianca: Nice.
Poacher 2: Hang? Hey, Thelig! You gonna let them hang us?
Mistress Bianca: Not by the neck…
Mistress Bianca: Again I do not want you dead.
Koran Thelig: Seems your luck may have run out boys.
Mistress Bianca: That would make me a killer.
Poacher 2: We agree on something.
Mistress Bianca: But I have no qualms in making sure your next few days are…interesting.
Rikard Castleberry: Well boys, anything else interesting to say?
Mistress Bianca: If we use the tower we may need to use alot of rope.
Rikard Castleberry: Or should I say, you, Mr. dropped rocks on my head.
Bart swims out the tower and seems to have mastered the climbing up it.
The poachers remain silent.
Rikard Castleberry: Silence is golden, as they say, Koran, any last questions for them?
Bart: We have some rope here that we can use.
Koran Thelig: Any last questions? How about any questions?
Mistress Bianca: Mister Constantine, think 10 feet of rope can be spared to string em up by their wrists in that tree? Draped over a branch?
Rikard Castleberry: By all means, although you didn’t ask any before.
Koran Thelig: I’ll pass, this is your show. You’ve invited me out here.
Casdegere Constantine nods and drops his pack. Quickly he opens the pack flap and pulls out the coiled rope. With his arm and elbow he winds out about 10 feet and then cuts it with a small knife.
Mistress Bianca motions for Rikard and Casdegere to do the honors.
Bart looks for any remaining flares.
Rikard Castleberry takes 2 more pieces of cloth and makes gags out of them, and gags their mouths. He then waves bye-bye to the one that can’t hear, and chuckles to the one that can.
They have no more flares.
Bart watches the far shore.
Rikard Castleberry: Alright Cas, let’s get these guys hoisted up, shall we?
Casdegere Constantine swings the rope over the branch then helps one of the poachers to his feet.
Casdegere Constantine with Rikards help ties one end of the rope to the first ones wrists, then he hoists him up so that his feet do not touch the ground.
Mistress Bianca: We will be back for you two to get you down. At least if we survive we will.
Casdegere Constantine holding onto the ropes other end he waits for Rikard to tie him up.
Rikard Castleberry ties the other poacher up and passes him off to Casdegere.
Mistress Bianca walks away from them laughing her creepy ruined voicebox laugh.
Casdegere Constantine lets go and allows the counter weight of the second to boost him off of his feet.
Casdegere Constantine backs away making sure they are both off of their feet and hanging nicely.
So now two poachers are hanging from a tree.
Rikard Castleberry: Well then, shall we keep going?
Casdegere Constantine moves over and picks up one of the poachers weapon belts and puts it on. He sheaths a short sword and collects the rest of his gear.
Mistress Bianca tosses the scraps of clothes into the water.
Mistress Bianca: Well we continue?
Bart looks for sign of a camp.
Casdegere Constantine nods “Lead on Bart.”
Rikard Castleberry treks to the other side of the river.
The only camp you saw was at the top of the pillar.
Bart looks for tracks.
The wind starts to blow gently. Bart finds two sets of tracks.
Bart: This way.
Casdegere Constantine waves over the others.
Rikard Castleberry follows Bart.
Mistress Bianca follows.
Casdegere Constantine waves.
Rikard Castleberry: Koran ol chap, you coming?
Koran Thelig: Certainly.
Rikard Castleberry: Splendid.
Bart sees that the tracks, at least here, closely follow the coast towards the northeast along the shore.
Bart: Koran, you know the land here. Why would they land their boat then walk here to swim across the river instead of just landing here?
Bart quietly follows the trail.
Koran Thelig: I suspect it all gets down to survival.
Mistress Bianca: On the water yer an easy pick?
Koran Thelig: We are close to home here. This place has seen skirmishes for decades between the Order and outlaws such as we just left behind.
Clouds stream across the sky in the increasing breeze.
Koran Thelig: I know Dorian has to weigh the cost of burying his men every time he sends a patrol here. It is likely that some on both sides will die, true, but the cost is high and the value low.
Bart looks at the clouds for omens.
After about ten minutes of following the trail, it ends at the shore. It looks like something large was on shore, judging by the crushed plants.
Koran Thelig: It is a good lookout point for any outlaw band, wouldn’t you say?
Koran Thelig: Now as to why leave a boat a distance away from where you intend….I think you know the answer to that.
Koran Thelig smiles.
Rikard Castleberry: I don’t like the feel of this place, it almost seems like we’re walking into something.
Bart: A storm seems to be brewing.
Bart: Koran, it looks like a boat was here. Any ideas where it may have gone?
A droplet of water strikes Bianca’s mask.
Mistress Bianca resists the urge to say something sarcastic with all her might.
Koran Thelig looks around the area and stares out at the sluggish moving water for a time.
Koran Thelig: walks over a few steps and kneels.
Mistress Bianca: Well if the trail ends here I guess it might as well rain too.
More drops begin to fall. Lightning cracks to the south. Sometimes, storms move in quickly.
Rikard Castleberry pulls his spear out to the ready position and looks to the south.
Koran Thelig: Two men pulled a skiff ashore here. A short time later the same two sets came and retrieved their skiff and went back into the water. All of this occurred in the last day or less.
Casdegere Constantine: Well if we fan out, could there be tracks that lead elsewhere?
Thunder booms. Jagged shafts of lightning illuminate the sky. The rain suddenly comes down hard, obscuring vision.
Koran Thelig: Not unless they fly.
Rikard Castleberry opens his mouth and drinks some rain.
Bart: We have lost some men between the boats and the poachers hut.
Rikard Castleberry: Do we know what general direction the hideout is?
The water washes away Rikard’s sins…and slakes his thirst.
Casdegere Constantine remarks at the rain “Well this…sucks.”
Bart: They seem lazy, any ruins close?
Mistress Bianca: Could it be assumed that the boat and boatmen were waiting here for those we follow? If so they had to land somewhere, and naturally it is raining to wipe out traces.
_ It is the rainy season, the beginning of summer in the swamp. You can expect a lot more rain in the coming weeks._
Bart: I am good but tracking a boat on water at night in the rain is a bit beyond my skill.
Rikard Castleberry: Perhaps we should keep following the shore and look for a camp.
Mistress Bianca: Welcome to the swamp Mister Constantine.
Mistress Bianca holds the hood of her cloak up with the fist tip of her staff so that it keeps much of the water from hitting her mask.
Rikard Castleberry: I recommend we keep going, staying still is just an invite to trouble.
The crash of thunder drowns all sounds and a flash of lightning lights up the area for a moment.
Mistress Bianca: I just had a thought… The other two are finally taking a shower.
Rikard Castleberry starts to poke the rest of the party into moving forward.
Casdegere Constantine: Now if you two could smoke us some fish, I would be impressed.
Bart: Forward to where?
Rikard Castleberry: Along the shore, until we can find something that sticks out, so to speak, I suggest.
Bart: We don’t know which direction they went.
Rikard Castleberry: No, but we know that we still need to find the main camp.
Casdegere Constantine: Which direction does the boat look like it was beached from?
Bart looks to the flattened grasses.
The lightning flashes again.
Bart: The spirits are unhappy.
Mistress Bianca looks across the water to the other shore waiting for the lightning to flash again.
Bart: looks like it came straight in and we are being watched.
Koran Thelig doesn’t seem to mind the weather; in fact, the only difference is he looks wet.
Casdegere Constantine: From where?
Bart: Across the water.
Rikard Castleberry mumbles something sounding like “I knew it!”
Casdegere Constantine looking at Bart and not across the water “can we swim it quickly?
Bart: It isn’t our quarry.
Casdegere Constantine: Who is it?
Bart: A swamp man.
Casdegere Constantine: Oh shit…well then what should we do…wave?
Rikard Castleberry: Let’s ignore them unless they prove a hazard to us.
Bart: We could ask for their help.
Casdegere Constantine: Well as I remember, they did already.
Again, lightning, and all who look see a Swamp Man silhouetted on the opposite shore, spear upraised.
Mistress Bianca lowers her cloak hood and covers up as much of her mask as she can with it while remaining able to see.
Rikard Castleberry holds his spear up in an imitation of the swamp man, a wave of sorts.
Casdegere Constantine: Does anyone here speak swamp man?
Bart approaches the water and holds up his hands in a peaceful gesture.
In the next round of lightning, the Swamp Man is gone.
Rikard Castleberry: I imagine he will show up again if he wants to, let’s continue on.
Mistress Bianca: He can’t know what I am.
Bart: That they mate with human women is only a myth.
Mistress Bianca: That I am…the way I am.
Casdegere Constantine: Well if they ever see you and you have offended them, they will most likely know who you are.
Mistress Bianca: It is because of their lore that I am an outcast in town, hated by most. Koran must understand.
Koran Thelig: Yes, I know about those beliefs.
Mistress Bianca starts to tremble slightly either from the cold of the rain or something else.
Mistress Bianca: I wish to go now.
Koran Thelig: If we cross where the water is narrow, we pass those poachers again.
Rikard Castleberry grins at the thought of another tussle with poachers.
Rikard Castleberry: Let’s do it!
Bart: Do we head back to town? If they took a boat it seems that they were traveling some distance. Traveling up the coast at night seems foolish.
Koran Thelig: I still don’t understand why they would camp so close to Kith’takharos. I travel at night all the time. But I agree, in general it is more dangerous for the average person.
Mistress Bianca: They aren’t average though.
Bart: It is not the danger but the likelihood of finding some trace.
Koran Thelig: No. Hoyt is not average. How bad do you want him? Has he done you personal ill?
Mistress Bianca: And if they move during the day they may be seen, if they go by land they leave tracks.
Rikard Castleberry: I think we owe it to ourselves to check it out further, we did not set out with the intent to harass a few nobodies and go back.
The rain ends just as suddenly as it started.
Bart: I have lived my whole life without meeting this Hoyt. If we head back to the tower he should come to us.
Rikard Castleberry: Unless of course, he is just waiting on time to finish whatever is happening with the staff, in which case, he doesn’t need to come to us yet.
Casdegere Constantine: Well we could prepare an ambush just incase like Rikard had suggested?
Bart: I know of no other way. Why even have the tower if it was not to guard something.
Mistress Bianca: I know Hoyt by rumor and reputation only, but I feel it in my gut that something bad is going to happen.
Koran Thelig nods.
Casdegere Constantine: I agree, and I don’t believe for a moment about the flare explanation.
Koran Thelig: Poachers lie easy as they breathe.
Casdegere Constantine: I think their camp is somewhere close by. Close enough for them to see it.
Bart: I saw no trace of a camp when I looked but if there was no fire…
Koran Thelig: I think you are a perceptive man when you are not angry, Casdegere.
Mistress Bianca: Let’s go back to the tower, tomorrow we can bring the poachers in to town and come back quickly. Dawn can’t be that far away.
Bart heads back to the tower.
Casdegere Constantine follows.
Rikard Castleberry: I suggest then that we leave someone on shore to watch from a lower view.
Do you plan to climb atop the pillar?
Casdegere Constantine: I’ll do it, I can’t shoot a bow.
Bart: Best place to see anything.
Casdegere Constantine hunkers down amongst the rocks.
Rikard Castleberry: I’m not particularly good with a bow, but I will sit up top.
Bart looks for the swamp men bait.
Casdegere Constantine looks for rocks he can lift to build them up a little higher.
Casdegere Constantine shifts them so that it would be difficult for someone to see him amongst them and keeping enough space between them for him to see between.
Casdegere can certainly make the stones high enough to lay down beside them and be hidden.
Bart pulls up the magic ladder.
You had not examined the top of this pillar closely. It was obviously once part of a bridge, with a low stone wall on either side. A shallow pool occupies the center. There is also a pail, some rope, and a covered brazier, as well as some dried fish. The ladder is fastened to spikes at one end of the pillar. It is composed of wood slats between two lengths of rope About 25 feet long and invisible. There are a few rock of about head size, probably paving stones.
Koran Thelig gestures to Bianca, “Let’s move into the tress over here.”
Mistress Bianca: Lead on Mister Thelig.
Koran Thelig hunches behind a tree.
Mistress Bianca does the same.
Mistress Bianca effectively trying to hide.
Rikard Castleberry munches on a dried fish, oblivious to everything else going on.
Bart: Rikard, Do you have a bow?
Rikard Castleberry: No, but I have some rocks here.
As the evening’s adrenalin fades, you grow weary. Even the moans of the hanging poachers cease. In short hours, the gray dawn slowly brightens your surroundings.
Koran Thelig nod approvingly.
Bart: Rikard, Do you see those bubbles?
Rikard Castleberry: No, what bubbles?
Bart points, “Those.”
Eventually, Rikard sees when Bart puts his finger beside a bubble.
Rikard Castleberry: Ohhh, that bubble, of course I see that.
Bart: Do you think this could be hollow?
Rikard Castleberry pokes the bubble with his spear.
Rikard Castleberry: Could be.
The spear strikes the rock, which echoes slightly with a hollow sound.
Bart lowers himself into the pool.
Rikard Castleberry: Yep, think you’re onto something.
The pool is only a few inches deep, a shallow area of worn stone.
Bart feels for a crack or latch of some kind.
Bart will start to look for a mismatching of stone that could mark an entrance.
Rikard Castleberry: Hey, how come you’re splashing around in a puddle?
Bart finds one block the moves slightly from side to side as he rocks it. The block is sizeable and difficult to grip.
Bart: Rikard, Can you pull up this stone? This one…follow my arm.
Rikard Castleberry: Oh sure.
Rikard Castleberry: Hm, slippery one.
Rikard Castleberry: Let me wipe off my hands and try that again.
With Bart’s expert help, Rikard finds the stone block. Together you can get enough leverage to pull it out. Now you see a much deeper pool of water about a foot on a side.
Rikard Castleberry: Oooo.
Bart feels in the hole.
It is deep. You have to get down on your stomach to reach down.
Bart lays down in the little puddle to feel down in the big puddle.
Bart fishes around. His fingers brush something and he tries to grasp it, something slippery, then his hand grasps some metal object.
Bart pulls it up.
It is the staff. You also realize the hole must be somewhat deeper.
Rikard Castleberry: Oh hey, Look at that.
Bart: Who would have thought there would have been two staves.
Rikard Castleberry: Maybe there’s a lot of them?
Bart: Could be. Should we tell Cas or let him keep hunting?
Rikard Castleberry: Is there anything else in the hole?
When Bart reaches in, his hand finds nothing else, but he can’t touch the bottom.
Rikard Castleberry: Anything?
Bart: Not unless I go swimming.
Rikard Castleberry reaches down with the butt end of his spear to see how deep it goes.
The hole is deep. Rikard has to stick his arm into the hole before the spear hits bottom…and strikes some metal object.
Rikard Castleberry: Hm I think there’s something at the bottom.
Bart lowers himself into the whole if it is big enough.
Actually, Bart can if he raises his arms above his head. Or someone could lower him down arms first.
Rikard Castleberry: I can grab onto your legs and lower ya in, or the other way around.
Bart takes off his shoes and climbs down into the hole allowing Rikard to hold his hands.
Rikard Castleberry grabs onto Bart’s hands as he lowers him down.
Rikard lowers Bart until the water covers Bart’s head. Bart, your toes brush against a square metal object.
Bart uses his toes to grab the object.
Bart grips the object between his feet.
Bart has Rikard slowly lift him up.
Once Bart is about halfway out, he can lift his legs to get the object out of the water. It is a small box of some gray looking metal. No rust, about 8 inches by 4 inches and 6 inches deep.
Bart: Shall we join the rest of the party?
Those on shore suddenly see a ball of orange flame erupt from the top of the pillar. A boom echoes over the water. See you in two weeks.