After wrecking the bridge they were hired to protect (well, blockade but I feel like not destroying the bridge was implied when they were hired) Diatala and her friend had a falling out with Baron Harmenkar’s men. The Baron’s squad left in a huff to much indifference from the adventurers. With no one to fight and no loot to take I’m sure the mighty heroes were bored by this job (which no one forced them to take). They’re probably glad that things have been livened up by my presence. That night around the campfire I told them that I was pretty sure that Archbaroness Relonge was no longer in a position to do them any favors (which was no one’s fault) but they resolved to head north anyway. Who can say why? The nightmare attack was only terrible last night instead of unbearable so I managed to get a decent amount of sleep. I wonder how long I can go without wearing the Whiterock ring before the world is devoured by a madness creature from beyond the stars. I should probably try to get that back.
At the rise of morning Baron Saltwheel’s men took their leave as well since there was no bridge left for them to blockade. There appeared to be no small amount of ill-will between them and Kartak’s band. I assume they were promised an easy victory and a nice payout and instead they got nothing. Nevertheless Kartak and his men were in it for the long haul and ready to shadow us from the other side of the river.
“We should probably move away from the river, that way they won’t be able to see where we’re going. I know that Kartak has sent riders upriver as well to look for another way to get over the river. If they cross and then double back we’ll run right into them.”
Diatala shook her head “We’ll stick by the river, that way we can keep an eye on them. As long as you have that necklace you can’t hide from them anyway.”
I was thinking what a stupid decision that was, but she actually had a point. Heading away from the river and then turning north makes no sense since they can find me whenever they want anyway. I must really be short on sleep if I’m being outwitted by an adventurer. Our party was smaller and theoretically could travel faster, but we were on foot while Kartak’s men were mounted so it was a wash. It’s very strange to travel with your enemies a hundred yard away directly to your right. It’s unnatural to be this close to the people trying to kill you without either running away or fighting.
Unnatural or not the day passed largely uneventfully, it wasn’t until late in the day that things got interesting. Coming downstream from the north (except the sun was behind them which doesn’t make any sense, which way does this dumb river go ?!) was a boat (ship?) that looked ungainly to me because it had those runner floaty things on each side. However the elf claimed was a “river runner” designed for rapid transit so it must be pretty fleet, assuming the elf knows what it’s talking about. Everyone agreed that it was a patrol boat, but what does that mean? Who’s in charge of rivers? I never heard the Baron say anything about having naval (is it naval on a river or is that just for oceans?) forces of any kind. I guess I would have thought that river people would be royal troops but the flag they were flying wasn’t anything I’ve ever seen associated with the King. Er, Queen.
I hailed them from our side of the river while Kartak did the same. That was a mistake, he should have let Martialla do it with one of her illusionary guises. I mean if you were being hailed by a comely lass on one side and a half-savage looking marauder on the other which side are you going to head for? The ship (boat?) floated over to our side and on the foredeck stood one of the most overdressed men I have ever seen in my life – and I’ve seen a few. If he fell in the water there is no way that he wouldn’t drown. He had a fancy cloak and fancy overcoat and fancy this and fancy that all the way down, he had to be wearing at least five layers. Setting aside drowning concerns he also had to be sweltering in that get up. He had a massive beard streaked with grey (gray?) and one of those little square hats you see sometimes – but even with all that cranium accessorizing I could still clearly see his smug face. I don’t know why but he was very pleased with himself. Very.
He introduced himself as Captain Bergamot (how big does a ship need to be before it has a captain?) of the Black Swan (I think the ship was made of white birch, it certainly didn’t look black) and listened inattentively to my tale of being detained illegally by Kartak. Once he was done not really attending to my story he proceeded to drone on at length about how they were looking for boats moving contraband. I did my best to flatter him but some people are so self-centered that you can’t even kiss up to them because they’re not paying any mind to what you’re saying – it’s an odd thing. I asked for his aid but he said that such matters weren’t within in jurisdiction. I made a little joke about how if I came onboard it would be in his dominion but he didn’t think it was funny. All that elicited was a five minute lecture about the intricacies of inland maritime law. I could see that several of the sailors aboard were sick to death of this blowhard, I wonder how hard it would have been to get them to mutiny. Probably pretty hard, but I bet I could have done it.
After offering a tepid non-apology for not helping me Captain Bergamot bid the Black Swan to continue on their mission of looking for unspecified contraband (I guess he didn’t feel the need to hear Kartak’s side of the story) but they didn’t get far. Someone on Kartak’s bank snagged the Black Swan with a grappling hook. I have to assume Martialla was involved with her magic because while I’ve never thrown a grappling hook in my life I can’t imagine that you can throw one that far unaided. I would wager maybe forty feet is about as far as you can hurl one of those things. For that matter how did they even have a rope that long? Also why did they even have grappling hooks at all? They had a couple horses yoked up to the ropes help them pull the boat into the middle of the river where they tossed on a couple more hooks. I don’t mean to disparage Captain Bergamot but I feel like they should have been able to do something about that. It wasn’t a fast process, it took a while, couldn’t they cut the ropes or something?
I wonder of this was Kartak’s idea or Martialla’s. I have no idea who these river constables are, but they have to be a legal authority of some kind – attacking them seems like a bold move. All on account of little old me. Whether it was Martialla’s idea or not I saw her on the shore transformed in a shaggy white brute to haul on a rope with monster strength. At least until the boat was yanked close enough for someone on board to hurl a pot of some kind of weaponized glue on her. I’ve heard of such things but I never really believed in them, some kind of alchemical nonsense. I have to admit that it was pretty satisfying to see Martialla stuck to the ground like an ant drowning in honey. It didn’t last long because she changed forms again into some kind of frog-lizard beast and slithered out like it wasn’t tacky at all, but you have to take those little moments of amusement when you can find them.
Despite the best efforts of throwers (they had other things besides glue-pots) the boat was pulled to the shore and Kartak’s men swarmed aboard. As his men were fighting for their lives Captain Bergamot stood on the prow (that’s a thing on a ship right?) belting out an inspirational song. I’m sure it inspired them to wish they had a captain that could fight. He had some manner of sissified court blade on his hip but he never even drew it – not even when Martialla stabbed him through the side of the stomach. While all this was going on I suggested to my new friends that this would be a good time to make ourselves scarce but Diatala said that she wasn’t worried. In truth I wasn’t too worried either, because seizing a ship and then actually making it go are two different things. But I underestimated Martialla. She used her magic (instead of one of her boring stories) to put several of the sailors to sleep and then charmed them, also with magic, not by being actually charming. So in short order (relatively) the Black Swan was headed back our way with a magically entranced crew carrying Martialla and a half dozen of the Kostelos.
Once they landed and charged us Diatala and her crew put up a Hells of a fight, but I have to say being on the opposite side of Martialla is a real experience – the woman is a terror. I stood there helpless with no weapon and nothing to contribute while a brief savage battle was waged in front of me. After everyone else was dead the wizards both asked for mercy but there was none forthcoming. After Martialla murdered them both she also backstabbed the last man still up on her side as well.
“Why did you do that?”
She started picking over the bodies “Adventurers have good loot and I don’t want to share.” She gave me a hard look “I learned from the best when it comes to sharing.”
“Seems risky, someone across the way might have seen you.”
“I doubt it, it’s quite a distance, and you know how chaotic combat is – who knows how anyone died in a melee? Doesn’t matter anyway, I’m not going back across.”
“Are you going to kill me?”
“No, I’m going to bring you in myself. Kartak is an idiot, and now he’s an idiot without any men – all that’s left over there are the Baron’s soldiers and those weird foreigners. If I took you back you’d take him out and turn the whole thing on its head within twenty four hours.”
“For someone who said that I was nothing without them you’re pretty worried about me.”
She picked something shiny off one of the dead men and held is up to look at it “You can have a powerful effect on the weak minded, I don’t deny that. You’re no threat to me though. I’m taking you back to Juost Manor and then I’m going to get on with my life and forget about you. It will be like you never existed.”
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 Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa, eyeless hag, Baron Saltwheel, Baron Harmenkar, Colonel Tarl Ciarán’s wizard soldier, Victor, Beharri, Cebuano, Mayor Eryn, Chimera Trading Company