As Stubb’s refilled Stephan’s stein, he remarked “Oh, I believe ye have a mate here. The fellow o’re there,” he gestured. “In the robes.”
Stephan turned to see Miklos. The mage, maintaining a low profile, had escaped his notice upon first entering. He had expected Ludo and Maruc since they’d entered town with him. But the others were to meet up on the north side of town.
“Ah! Yes,” Stephan said while trying not to show too much recognition. “I met the bloke on the road. Easy enough traveling companion. I’ll have to go say hello.” Stephan nodded at Miklos and made eye contact. ‘I don’t think we should linger here long,’ his inner voice warned.
Stubb’s eyed the woodsman. “Aye. Me thinks he wanted to ‘av a word with ye. Ah! But here be yer grub laddie. Eat up first!”
Stephan gladly accepted the steaming bowl of stew.
Miklos walked over to the woodsman. “Well met again Stephan. I trust you trading went well. Did my advice help? Did you get a better deal?” The woodsman grinned. “Excellent, Pyotr will be pleased,” he eyed the halfling, “Might I have a private word?”
Plattermann took the hint and wandered back to the bar. When Miklos was sure they would not be overheard he continued. “There is a tall dark woman with ‘piercing’ blue eyes on our trail by the name of Jolenta. She was the one the merchant saw in Kelvin with Golthar and has been here not seven hours ago. She had our descriptions, but more importantly she had your name.”
Miklos rubbed absently at his stubbed chin.
“She knows, or guesses our direction, the chances were with the horses we were likely to come here to sell them. As she arrived first and she knows we have not yet passed through she will no doubt be watching Rifllian for us, if she hasn’t spotted us already. Our northward journey is looking more hazardous the longer we wait. My advice would be to travel by river as soon as possible.”
Maruc hadn’t sat down. The beer was very good and he drained to last mouthful. Miklos’s hushed advice seemed their best course of action. “Ahh Mister Plattermann, do you perchance know for anyone reputable who is traveling northward on the river today?”
“You be in luck. The weekly passenger vessel pulls into port in an hour,” Stubbs answered. “Ye can board then and arrive at Threshold two days hence.”
Ludo tucked in to the finest food he had eaten in days, the food was excellent as was the ale. He glanced around, there seemed to be no one who stood out from the crowd apart from he chuckled to himself, most of his traveling companions. Oh well he sighed, it was good to have them nearby.
Still he was worried, the journey to Threshold would be dangerous, he pondered the issue, by river or by land. The river would be quicker, but would be watched he was sure of that. The Iron Ring truly did have its eyes everywhere. Even now he could sense that Golthar knew their location and was just waiting for a chance to strike.
He helped himself to another ale, burped and whispered to Maruc “I think we should travel up the river, speed now is the key, Golthar is well aware of our description and has his spies searching for us, even now I think they are close. If we can get to Threshold before Golthar, we can then resupply and move into the wilderness before he can gather his forces against us.” Those damn horses slowed us down – but they are gone now so we can move more freely and quickly”. Its a pity that fancy boat was not going up stream – maybe we could have begged a ride with its owner. I wonder if Hasan knew who was the boat’s owner” With that final comment, he tucked back into his lunch.
Stephan was a bit nonplussed at Miklos’s asking Stubbs for privacy. He’d know the halfling a long time and didn’t want him to feel slighted. He listened to Miklos.
“Yes, I agree. We should leave and fast. River is fine with me. But let’s try not to throw our names around too much. And maybe we should change our looks. You gots any spells for something like that?”
He spied Maruc, who had been at a nearby table moments ago, talking to Stubbs at the bar. “Looks like our priest is asking questions. Maybe he’ll find us quick passage out of town.”
He finished his stew and left two more coins on the table. “I’m heading out, we’ll meet at the quay in a few minutes.”
It was too late to improve Feldard’s mood, even with a pint of ale. The news of this Jolenta asking of them had soured his outlook. While the others talked together , he sat alone in the corner of the pub and eyed the rest of the crowd. No doubt there was at least one in the crowd that had been queried by the woman and was now putting two and two together and coming up with a notion of a handful of crona for his information.
Stephan crossed to where Stubbs and Maruc were talking. “Pardons,” he injected with a respectful nod to Maruc. “Master Stubbs I am sorry to eat and run but I must.”
“Master Sukiska! Safe travels. You’ll be picking up your mount at Prestelle’s?”
“Yes.” And in a casual but low voice that he hoped only Stubbs and Maruc would hear, “Might have to run by the quay real quick. I’m off!” Stephan exited the Silver Swan pulling his hood over his head and starting a circuitous route to the quay.
Hasan waited for his friends by the quay. The elf watched the blue-black water amble past the wooded shoreline. The river was no more than 100 handspans wide at its widest point, just 50 from good cover on either side. The elf was uneasy. They had already been ambushed once, traveling on the river. They would need to keep a sharp watch out. A splash pulled the elf from his reverie, and he saw a steel blue bird explode up from the water, a silvered fish flinging tiny rainbows caught in his mouth. “Look, Maruc,” the elf pointed, as the human stepped heavily on the dock. “The King’s Fisher. It is a rare sight. Let us hope that we are he, and not the fish, as we enter the river.”