Ludo followed Maruc down to the Quay. Mister Plattermann had kindly offered two of his employees to help Ludo transfer the purchased supplies to the Quay, which when they arrived was placed at the landing jetty for the next boat due to head up river to Threshold. Ludo paid off the two men but was concerned when one of them asked his for his destination. Was he being paranoid? He wasn’t sure, but he did his best to disguise his concerns.
“Kelvin”, he muttered and then paid them off for their labours. He was sure that Golthar was watching and plotting against their every move. It was a worrying situation. He was pleased to see the group all gathered at the wharf where they all moved in to gather their supplies and rations for the journey to Threshold.
Its was close to noon and, after the hearty lunch, Ludo was tired. Facing the unknown of when Golthar would strike next made relaxing impossible. While he waited for the boat to arrive and to start loading, he got out his wetstone and sharpened his sword and daggers, he had a feeling they would be needed soon.
“A beautiful bird Lord Hasan. I have never seen its like and I have been by a river most of my life.” Maruc grinned, the beer had put him in a good mood. As he stared at the bird his eyes crossed the sturdy vessel that could only be the passenger boat of which the innkeeper had spoken. The priest waited patiently as the riverboat crew helped the passengers off the boat and handed up their baggage.
“Captain,” Maruc asked, ”could we purchase passage to Threshold?”
“Aye lad, how many will be traveling?” he replied.
“Myself and five companions and our gear.”
“Come aboard lad. My name is Scylla, and I’m the captain of the Mudlark. It will be 16 crona each.”
Maruc nodded and handed coins over as the boatsmen started loading their supplies. Maruc continued, “We are advised that we should be there in two days time. Is this correct?”
“Hah, Stubbs playing his old tricks again? Aye just after nightfall, sooner if we can get the sail up but the winds a bit slack, but we’ll see. Sooner we start the sooner we’ll get there.” he turned to the deckhand, “Come on! These fine lords are in a hurry and there’s no pay for slackers!”
Miklos eyed the bank suspiciously. He half expected to see Jolenta darting between houses in her search for them. Confidently, he perched himself at the prow of the boat and stared, basilisk – like at western shore and surrounding woodland trying with pure force of will to penetrate its shadows and learn its secrets.
Stephan surveyed the loading of the supplies Ludo acquired. He could tell his mates were eager to go, just as he was. It seemed to take a lifetime for the ship to be ready but at last the ferryman called for the ropes to be undone and they were off.
Breaking connection to the wharf was decidedly discomforting. He could see that Feldard was none too pleased with the situation either. Keeping an eye on the banks as the riverboat progressed, Stephan tried to remain calm.
Feldard kept his eyes on the shore of the river and his grip on his crossbow. It was difficult for even him to tell whether he was more tense because of Jolenta or because of the river they traveled.
Hasan paced the barge’s portside railing, scanning the shoreline and hoping the party’s last unnerving river ride would not be repeated. He smiled grimly at Maruc on occasion. The boat’s crewman would not return his gaze.
A few hours into the journey, the boat passed an unsettling sight. The corpse of a female human floated by, killed by three black-feathered arrows.
As the sun was setting, Hasan’s keen eyes caught a glimpse of a mounted figure in the distance on the skyline behind them.
* * * * *
It was an uneasy night for the companions, but it passed without trouble. They continued to look for signs of the rider who trailed them, and discussed all manner of strategies for the unknown dangers that lay ahead.
It was midday when that danger finally found them. Another riverboat emerged from the concealment of a side stream, and moved to cut across the bows of the Mudlark. A group of 10 archers drew black-feathered arrows. Another 8 fighters were poised to attempt to grapple the boats. All the while, a strong looking man in plate armor barked orders to the brigands.