Curiouser and Curiouser
Arriving in Altdorf docks, the party quickly attended to the business of selling off their loot from the pirate attack. As they did so, a cheery voice hailed Master Adelbert as he oversaw the unloading of the Ventura's cargo. A bald-headed middle-aged man arrived on the scene and he and Adelbert were soon in animated conversation. Asking Adelbert how his trip had gone, the newcomer was treated to the full story of the pirate attack, with all the enthusiasm the Master of the Ventura could muster.
Hearing this story, the newcomer- who by now had been introduced as Jost Reichart, the master of the riverbarge Black Swan- looked with renewed interest at the PC's. So you're in the business of guarding riverboats, he asked. The party agreed that this was something that they'd been known to do. So Jost explained that he was another river trader, currently plying a run from Marienberg to Marburg and beyond.
The PC's expressed interest in journeying to Marburg, so Jost offered them the chance to work their passage as guards and general labourers. The party were keen to accept another chance of free passage, but not so pleased at the prospect of having to haul cargo as part of the deal. In the end only Grundi signed up for this deal. The rest of the party negiotiated a 6gc charge in return for not having to work as regular crew, plus 1s for each day's food provided by Jost. Ever conscious of each penny he was spending, Siegfried declined the latter in favour of eating his own trail rations.
And so the party hung around for a couple of hours while Grundi set to work with Audric- a brawny but dimwitted youth- to load up the cargoes Jost was buying from the various petty traders who frequent the Altdorf docks.
Jost Reichart proved to be a talkative man, filled with curiosity. He plied the PC's with questions as to where they were going, and why. He proved particularly intrigued by the sight of 2 dwarfs and a female elf travelling together. These questions were parried in a friendly manner with references to visiting an old friend and the fortunes of the road, and so on. Jost was happy enough to accept this, though he left the PC's with a newfound sense of the unusual spectacle they presented to the world at large.
Kemperbad was the first significant port of call on the trip up the Reik. The journey was uneventful- if cold due to unseasonal snowfalls, but was at least quick thanks to the winds which blew the snow into every nook and cranny aboard the Black Swan. Arriving at Kemperbad Jost explained that he would be trading before setting off again, so the PC's would have to stay in one of the local inns. He recommended the Clifftop Arms situated a conveniently short distance from the edge of town. Seigfreid and Mordrin grumbled at having to pay extra because they couldn't spend the night in the boat as they had been doing, but Jost was insistent that he needed privacy to pursue his dealmaking, so in the end the pair cheered themselves up with jokes at Grundi's expense as the aging dwarf sweated away hauling Jost's cargos.
Several hours later Grundi finished work and joined his companions who were by now settled in the Clifftop Arms. As he sat recovering from his toils the dwarf heard a friendly voice call his name. Expecting to see a member of his family, he looked round to see a prosperous ruddy-faced dwarf approaching. Grundi quickly enough remembered that this was Zamrig Skaninson, who had been a smith cum wheelwright responsible for maintaining coaches Grundi had ridden for a previous employer.
Pleased to meet an old friend, Grundi called for a round of drinks and passed the obvious remark: you didn't get that prosperous mending wheels and shoeing horses. No replied Zamrig, explaining with gusto that he had moved on into gemcutting, a far more lucrative line of work. The drinks having arrived, Zamrig was just about propose the first of what would have undoubtedly been many toasts to gold and its virtues when his manner unexpectedly grew icy cold.
Everyone was momentarily taken aback, and Seigfried was the first to realise what was up. He looked round and, sure enough: there was Alane, heading for the table after a visit to the privy. Siegfried's frantic efforts surreptitiously to divert the elf proved to no avail, and she arrived at her seat just as Zamrig exploded into a rant.
What kind of dwarfs share the company of an elf he demanded angrily. Grundi, Mordrin and the others tried all sorts of explanations: how dwarf and elf had stood together lately against evil at Middenheim; how Alane herself had proved her worth more than once; and so on. Their words were to no avail: Zamrig's tirade simply became more insistent. While Alane stood silently by, the enraged dwarf leapt to his feet, denounced Grundi and Mordrin as elf-lovers once more at the top of his voice, and stormed out of the inn.
A shocked silence reigned throughout the Clifftop Arms. The other patrons were sneaking nervous looks at the party. Some were muttering. Others were shifting in their seats. The landlord realised that there was nothing for it. He announced a round of drinks on the house. The atmosphere of incipient hostility was replaced by expectant calls for this or that drink. A couple of the PC's found themselves wondering if this might not be a neat trick for getting themselves free drinks in future. Meanwhile Grundi noticed Zamrig's tankard sitting on the table. Is anyone drinking this he asked.
The rest of the night in the Clifftop Arms passed quietly, though the PC's remained the centre of a nervous attention and the local steered a discreetly wide berth around their table.
Grundi rose early the next day for work loading the Black Swan, as did Seigfried- though his purpose seemed to have more to do with teasing his companion as he laboured. As the party assembled ready for boarding they saw Jost deep in conversation with 2 men. The conversation ended with all the signs of a deal agreed.
Jost came across and explained to the party that the 2 men had booked passage to Wurtbad. He added that they had booked full board, which would mean some reorganisation of cabins. The pair came forward and a very tall and gangly middle-aged man with a pox-marked face introduced himself as Luthor Machholt- a merchant seeking to trade in the fine Wurtbad port, accompanied by his servant Reinholt. The latter was a young, greasy-haired fellow, with heavy-lidded eyes that seemed to peer moodily out at the world, and a nose-ring.
The nose-ring immediately attracted the PC's attention and raised their suspicions. Grundi commented on how striking it looked, and asked if it had been painful. Reinholt answered these questions with as few words as possible.
Master Jost then instructed Grundi and Audric to take the new passengers' luggage to their cabin (which occasioned more jollity on the part of the other PC's), and the Black Swan set off up the River Stir for Wurtbad.
Once the barge was well on his way, Reinholt appeared and extended an invitation to the PC's to join his master in his cabin to sample a few of his wares. Receiving the nod from Jost, Seigfried, Grundi and Mordrin left Berthold and Alane on watch and repaired to Machholt's cabin.
Luthor Machholt proved to be a genial and chatty host. He offered the PC's drinks from the various samples he had collected in his travels, in which, he explained when asked, he was trying to set up a new venture trading in fine wines and other quality drinks. The dwarfs accepted his offer of a glass of port with a measure of reluctance. Sipping the sweet concoction they found themselves mystified as to why it should be so highly regarded. Fortunately for their palates, Machholt was able to offer them a fine ale instead.
As the conversation continued, the PC's once again found themselves subject to the scrutiny of the curious. Mordrin found himself suggesting that perhaps it was time that dwarfs put aside their traditional emnities against the elves. Machholt seemed mildly amused by this, and commented that he could empathise. After all he said, most of the people I want to deal with already have traditional trading partners, so you could say that I too want to change traditions.
Time passed in this vein for an hour or more: the PC's feeling themselves subject to gentle probing because of how their suspicions had been raised; Machholt being ever the genial host. This atmosphere was broken only by a single, trivial incident. Reinholt was bending over to pick something up while attending to his duties, and a small corn-doll dropped from his blouse to land on the floor.
Seeing Reinholt start at this, the PC's asked what was the matter. A look flashed between Reinholt and Machholt, as of a servant asking permission to speak. Go ahead said Machholt, unperturbed. Reinholt explained that the doll was a keepsake from his sister, which he cherished. This explanation was allowed to pass as sufficient, and the matter rested.
There was little contact between the PC's and the other 2 passengers after this encounter, and the rest of the trip passed in a routine manner. The foggy weather that had marked the departure from Kemperbad cleared after a day or two and crisp autumn weather took its place. The wind didn't favour the barge this time though, and the Black Swan arrived in Wurtbad on the afternoon of Konistag 29th Erntezeit, some 7 days after setting out from Kemperbad.
From Altdorf to Corman's Landing
- #2 The Plot Thickens
- The GM's confession: again I lament.
- Index:- My little Old World: Ashes of Middenheim