We sailed for Kym’s Harbour, and found a flower tournament-festival-thing on. Mel was absolutely thrilled about the idea of combining flowers and fighting, and made puppy (Roderick?) eyes at the rest of us until we agree to take part. As luck would have it, a cactus came bouncing up to us… Chirreep! It seems Lady Sir Agatha the Kind was running a team – the Tulips – and we were invited along as extras. We were given wooden swords, then kitted out in costumes: Mel became a gladiolus, Cog a pansy, Al a poisonous toadstool, and Maul a water lily… and thus we elegantly combined tournament fighting, flower costumes and typecasting. Actually, it was all quite good fun.
And Cog bought his costume, so no-one will ever again accuse Cog of not being a pansy.
We then went searching for a boat to take us upstream. A ride on a pig boat would have cost just 10gp, but we decided to spring the extra 10gp for the upgrade to a wool barge (drawn by cart-horses) – well worthwhile for the week or so it took to go upstream.
Hoatie Wallace and Bluefish helped pull the barge too.
Along the way we spent much of the time watching countryside which might have been scenic apart from the muddy trudged-up paths of the cart-horses (although Maul spent most of her time just looking at the river itself). In the evenings, we learned some of the songs of the vulgar boatmen (not all of them, I’m sure, but there were a few recurring themes).
While on the boat, we also spoke with the folks about the region we were headed to. Rumour has it that there can be dangers in the passes, and there has been some particular trouble lately although the boatmen couldn’t give us any specifics. At last, we reached the black lake (amidst some geological debate about what makes it black).
Trade-wise, the mountains export mountains (in small convenient chunks) and occasionally flatgoat (if they can find a buyer); meanwhile, they import food, firewood and textiles. So you have to ask yourself one question: “Do I have wood and grain for ore?” Well do ya, punk?
We got off the barge, saddled up the mounts and walked on to Blackwater Port – a town with a distinct frontier town feel to it. Arriving in town, we elected to stay in the Trading Post, run by a scrawny guy named Vernon. He set us up a couple of rooms (pretty basic, but no fleas), and his wife will made us a meal. We also learned from an old bloke (named Jonathan) that some travellers have gone missing recently… but it seems no-one had any idea how.
So the next morning, off we trudged. Then, as we approached a rather steep and difficult bit, we noticed something duck down and vanish. We tried calling out, but with no response. And then… something else. And then… fight! A bunch of ugly creatures popped out from behind cover – about 7 foot tall, milky eyes. Bugbears. Four of them. Pretty nasty. Al got hit a lot and went down, but was healed back up a bit. One of the bugbears got stuck in tanglefoot and still somehow managed to repeatedly dodge a flaming sphere sitting on top of it (presumably with a bugbear version of Extreme Twister™)
The leader of the group we managed to subdue without killing (at least, at first… Al had to be persuaded to hold back). He told us – under some duress – that Ugrug is their boss, and meets periodically with a guy who takes what they steal from travellers and keeps them supplied with weapons. He asked to be set free in exchange for telling us how to sneak up on the cave, but we decided (over Maul’s protestations) that it was too big a risk. Cog executed him.
In an unrelated coda to the day’s activities, it occurred to the group that Al has the ability to speak with animals, and could therefore ask the donkey directly whether he prefers “Wallace” or “Hoatie”. So she asked. And received an answer. Which greatly amused Al, and will be kept secret from the other members of the party until it is of greatest advantage to Al to reveal it.
Next time: We’ll head towards the bugbear cave, and set up camp along the way. Time to rest and prepare!