I used to go riding almost every day back at court. I wouldn’t say I was ‘born to the saddle’ but I’m an accomplished rider, if a bit rusty. That said, the pace being set by Captain Charum was blistering. Literally. We set out early and I was already feeling it when the sun was barely over the horizon. It’s been many years since I’ve developed riding bruises but I have a suspicion it’s about to come back in style. When you’re not used to hard riding you slip into a kind of trance where you’re not really paying attention to where you’re going – which is dangerous because riding horses are expecting you to be paying attention and guiding them. It’s odd, you’d think an animal would watch out for itself, but that’s what domestication does. It’s kind of the whole point.
I’ll blame this phenomenon for not noticing at first that the river was full of boats. Stretching for miles was a bewildering collection composed of everything from the small sailing boats, canoes, squat houseboats, rowboats, punts, as well as great barge. When I asked one of the soldiers what I was seeing he said that it was one of the river-cities of Sanpaw. I had always thought that the Sanpaw cities were riverside communities, not literally ON the river. It was quite a sight to behold.
One of the soldiers, a self-professed “river rat” in his youth, said that the Sanpaw people originated in an area of heavy rains, where a flash flood would destroy whole communities without warning. After generations of communities being all but wiped out, they began taking to the water in boats during the rainy season. Over time, this seasonal migration transitioned into a fully nomadic lifestyle, as they abandoned their homes for the freedom of the river. At night at a signal from the rivermaster the larger boats anchor themselves against the riverbank where the current is calmest, and one by one each boat is fixed to the others by means of a complicated tangle of ropes. Wooden walkways are pushed between the boats to form a network of bridges. With its lamps lit, the convoy resembles a village swaying in the current, a fleeting sight that will be gone by morning.
I had only a few minutes to observe the Sanpaw before we were riding past the front of the river convoy. They looked to be a small people – probably for the best when your home is a canvas-covered flatboat – with sunbaked skin, corded with lean muscle. “Jewelry” made of fish-teeth seemed to be common, as did wicked looking scars across the shoulders and face – clearly life on the waters was a hard one. At first I thought I saw no women at all, but then I realized that they were there – just as bare chested as the men and with hardly any curves to speak of – almost indistinguishable aside from large studs through the ears.
I’ve seen many things I never knew existed in the last few months, most of them horrible – this was something I was glad to see. Something unique and wonderful in its own way. Obviously I myself would sooner die than live in a riverboat like some kind of damp hobo, but it was a small wonder to witness.
When we finally stopped for the day, well past sundown, I wanted nothing more than to slide off my mount and directly to sleep. But a very humorless lieutenant insisted that I take care of the horses I had ridden before turning in myself. This was unexpected and unwelcome. I’ve always had grooms and stablehands for this sort of thing. I had no idea what to do which meant the whole process took four times as long as it needed to. I was too tired to even try and weasel my way out of it – which I think is the army way. In training don’t they run you to exhaustion so they can brainwash you properly?
I was scared I was going to have to set up my own bivouac as well but there was one waiting for me thanks to Eila and Prudence, I resolved to give them a raise right on the spot. Captain Charum was there waiting as well, looking as composed and kempt as she did before taking a fifty mile ride.
“I’m impressed, I had you pegged as a bellyacher.”
“Oh, you won’t hear a peep out of me Captain – taking a pounding in the crotch is what I’ve been training for all these years.”
“Umm, yes, quite. I wanted to go over your story again, cross reference with some of the affidavits, establish a timeline, that sort of thing. We don’t want any mix ups when we get to Malgareth.”
I stifled a yawn/groan “No we don’t Captain, no we don’t.”
Funds: 41,258 gold
Inventory: Ring of Many Garments, Bag of Tricks (tan), Cap of Disguise, Secure Pocket, Resplendent Diplomat’s Palette, Secure Paypack, Skeleton Key, Brooch of Shielding, Pouch of Magic Stones, Masterful Grey Gloves, Black Marketers’ Bag, Biting Bracelet (Endless Ammunition), Boots of Escape, Bracers of the Glib Entertainer, Ring of Animal Friendship, +2 Commanding Light Crossbow, Headband of Alluring Charisma +2, Handy Haversack, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion)
Signet ring, noble’s outfit, candlerod (9), masterwork dagger, succubi carving, Domiel family ring, walking stick, masterwork playing cards, spinel and peridot holy symbol of Kralten, antitoxin (9), smelling salts (3), sunrods (3), thieves’ tools, tindertwigs (6), various and sundry inebriants and intoxicants
Silver ring, gold bracelet, gold and pearl pendant, gold ring, platinum necklace (2), mithril hair clasps (3)
Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane,
Piltis Swine, Rince
Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle
the butler , Alice Kinsey , “ Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire
Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror,
Eedraxis, Skin-Taker tribe,
Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni
Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander,
Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother
Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee, Helgan
van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot