4/11/14 – Session 4: Birds and Boats.
Anders, Davvie, Heat of the moment, Ana and Lady, Genevive and Crown, Tobyn and Yarn, Toby, Carmine, Williams, Eliza, Clarence and Bruce set off from Wolfwater on the Steady Ship in the early hours. Captain Steadiship summons the four wielders, as the obvious ringleaders, into his cabin to discuss their reason for fleeing, the addition of Toby to an already overcrowded boat and to stress his displeasure with the idea of any danger being drawn to his boat or his cargo. Ana manages to satisfy him that they are seeking to avoid danger as much as he. Back on deck, it rapidly transpires that keeping a secret on a small boat is as tricky as it sounds. Toby divulges that Bruce Chanter has a crate under his bed that he keeps closed, but checks regularly.
Days pass. Partway on the journey to Wildrun, a large flock of starlings appears, flying in abnormally repetitive formation, staying within sight of the boat. Ana uses some of her animal magic, granted by the Lady, to try to listen to them. Amongst the hundreds of bird voices communicating about the wind, food, predators and other usual bird things, she hears snippets describing the Steady Ship, its location, heading and the passengers and crew visible on deck.
The wielders are arguing over the wisdom of trying to scare the birds off, find out who is controlling them, or if they are even a threat, when around a bend in the river they sight a second barge. Its stern is submerged in the water whilst the bows are lifted clear at a steep and precarious angle. However, it is quickly obvious that no sandbar is to blame for the boats foundering, as burned sails hang in tatters, and what can be seen of the deck is in disarray. Suspecting an ambush, Anna points out a likely hiding space for bandits. Whilst everyone arms themselves and get prepared for attack, Toby Clip runs forwards offering to help – Ana sends him below decks to “protect” Williams. Anders then uses the power from Heat of the Moment to destroy the fallen tree they think is hiding their ambush. However, no one is behind it, and as they draw level with the other boat, no signs of life, bandit or otherwise, can be seen.
The other ship is called the Skylark and seems totally abandoned. Anders seeks Steadiship’s permission to throw a plank across. Tobyn follows reluctantly, nervous, but eager to prove himself. The Skylark seems completely empty, no cargo in the hold. Anders enters the cabin portion, which is mostly underwater, and finds the corpse of the captain Mr Featheringdale – he has a crossbow bolt through his collarbone and he is bloated from time in the river. Following the traditions of the river, they sew him in to canvas and drop him into the water.
Genevive uses The Crown’s power to raise the Skylark out of the water, mending it. The broken hull knits back together and the previously tattered sails unfurl, flying a flag with the De Caius coat of arms, surmounted by an Iron Crown. They cut a deal with Captain Steadiship – if he will overlook the trouble that their presence will bring, they will give him the newly mended ship.
They sail The Skylark on in to Wildrun, where the captain changes cargo and they spend the night in a dockside Inn. They speak with the harbourmaster, finding out that Skylark, belonging to Mr. Featheringdale, was expected to stop here a few days previously and that only two other ships have passed through in the past few days – The Bearhunter and the Raging Horn. Eliza steps out into the city to deliver her messages and to gather more; and the party chat with Bruce Chanter about his plans – he seems happy to wander north and preach the word of The Golden King and he tells Ana a little about the ways of his faith.
Just then, Clarence nearly begins a bar-brawl by using loaded dice against the locals and a huge red-bearded docker threatens to start a fight. Ana and Anders calm the situation by a combination of bribery negotiation and intimidation and offer Clarence up to be roughed around a little; and take him out into the street where the docker lays in a few punches. Genevive uses the distraction to sneak upstairs and rifle through Bruce’s luggage – he is carrying a strange implement bedded in straw – a long tube of wood, with a metal bowl on the end and clay pots that sound like they are filled with sand. She speaks with the Crown about it, who waxes lyrical about it – it must be a flute of some kind, that puts people to sleep, that must be regularly fed sleeping dust in order to keep it asleep.
After another day spent sailing The Skylark around the docks, learning how to pilot it, the party set off again, now split between two ships – with Eliza piloting the Skylark and Captain Steadiship piloting the Steady Ship. The cloud of starlings are gone, vanished in the night.
A day upriver, the party see two ships ahead that slowly begin to turn sideways in order to cause a blockade and on either side of the bank behind them, groups of armed ruffians drag nets and chains up out of the water and fasten them to stakes, blocking their way downriver.
It’s a trap…