Episode 4: The Wine of Wrath - part 2
Outside in the mist, stalking the docks, were the Gatormen. The dark of night, ad the gloom and fog made what was already a dangerous situation much worse. Darcey needed the light to be able to hit the beasts with her rifle. Hurst, knowing this had a plan. He rushed out the door of the inn and slung a cinder bomb grenade at the Gatorman, engulfing it in fire.
The light from the flames revealed another of the Gatormen and another, but the third one wore a necklace of skulls and feathers. A bokor. It lifted the severed arm of one of the towns folk and drank the blood from the ragged stump. Darcey smashed the window of the inn and fired with her rifle, blasting out the brains of the burning Gatorman.
Gregore had already been at the front door and charged another of the Gatormen, his great sword hacking the beast and decapitating it. Brother Eckert also moved to support Hurst, calling down the might of Morror to smite the beasts.
The Bokor bellowed and an even larger Gatorman emerged from the mists. But magic was at work, as cruel runes appeared about the Bokor. The mist thickened and the Gators retreated and hid in the fog and night.
Hurst flung another grenade, hoping to immolate another of the monsters, but the grenade bounced and fell in the swamp, exploding with just a fizzle and pop. Hurst battled against the Gator that charged him fending off the beast and again made short work of it.
The bokor charged out of the swamp waters, its halberd carving into the meat of Hurst's leg. Its toothy snout snapped at Hurst, snarling and roaring. Hurst ducked and fought back, and gave Darcey an almost point blank shot, the blasted the brains out of the beast's skull. There was just the larger creature to fight. Eckert blasted the foul creature with a blaze of holy light, but it did little. The huge lizard, the Chieftain, stormed forward, crashing onto the docks, and with a sweep of it's massive halberd sent Hurst flying against the wall of the inn, leaving him a bleeding crumpled mess. Darcey fired but her shot bounced of the leathery hide of the monster, and Gregore engaged it, using a flurry of blows to hack at it. But still it stood. Eckert raised his staff and hammered down on the Chieftain's skull and the creature slumped down dead.
Looking over the bodies Hurst found that the Chieftain carried a leather sack, and within in were the rather fresh remains of a man. He also had with him a note, that had the name of the boat that they were travelling on, and a pouch of gold crowns. This was the remains of a messenger sent to hire the Gatormen to kill the troupe. The man also had some keys with him, keys stamped with the seal of Corvis University. Hurst was perplexed, but it was clear someone wanted them dead.
The towns folk were grateful for the defence of their town, and in gratitude they rewarded them with gator skins, fashioning a pair of boots for Darcey.
The journey continued for the troupe, leading them up the Black River, and away from the Bloodsmeath Marsh, and into the Kingdom of Llael and to the capital, Merywyn. The great walls of the city gave way to the river front palazzos, and decadent decorations on the homes, and the extravagant attire of the Llaelese. Their tall hair, gaudy coats festooned with gems, the wide dresses with their panniers.
From Merywyn they boarded the 'Metal Rose', a steam train, with first class tickets. The huge engine hurtled through the Southryne countryside, and onto Rhydden. The journey was a perculiar change of pace for many of the troupe, as they enjoyed hearty warm meals in the dining car, the finest Llaelese wine, and the best service from the servants of the train.
After the first day on the train, and with a stop for a refuel of water, Hurst was walking the length of the carriages, stretching his legs, when he noticed, in the back most first class carriage, a bloody finger print. He was then met by one of the occupants, who introduced himself as a member of a travelling troupe of performers, the Hellequins of Merywyn - and that they were heading to a wedding to perform at.
Hurst was perplexed and concerned.
Hurst returned to his cabin on the train and sat and spoke with the others. It was clear he needed to test the blood, that he had taken a scraping of. Performing a few alchemical analytical tests the blood was from a man, who had died within the last 5 hours, and that the victim had been drugged with a sedative. The blood sample had turned green and foamed with the reagents in the test tube.
Given the evidence, they needed to find out if anyone was missing. Darcey took the chance to ask around the dining car of the train, while Gregore tried his luck in the lower class carriages to the rear of the train. Eckert would speak to the train conductor.
After asking around it was clear no one had spotted that anyone was missing. They needed another plan. At the next refuelling station Hurst would fumigate the carriage, to make it appear it was on fire, and in the confusion snoop about.
His plan work, using a vapour to steam and cloud up the carriage. People exited, worried about the apparent fire. Hurst slipped into the performers' cabin and looked around. Nothing. Not a single thing to incriminate them. But Hurst had been caught red handed by the train guards and the conductor. The very formal man, dressed in the train companies uniform, was unimpressed by this case of burglary on his train, and would not stand for it. While Eckert was able to talk the man down, Darcey was unimpressed that she had to bear the humiliation of the event.
The train arrived in Rhydden, which compared to Merywyn was a far more simple city. Smaller, and less gaudy, it was quaint and pleasant, even in the cold of the early Spring. They could see the start of the intimidating woods that led into the elven kingdom of Ios, and could see the fields had been ploughed and the vines yards were ready for another season of grape farming. For Darcey this was a home coming and brought back happy memories of her mother.
Gregore was met as he exited the train by a man who greeted him with a simple phrase, 'In Corvis I hear that many people must walk in the fog', to which Gregore replied, 'Ah but they are ghosts who we call friends'. He shook the hands man and excused himself.
Gregore and the man, who wore extravagant clothing expected of a Llaelese merchant, walked some way, finding a secluded park. With no one in ear shot the man introduced himself as Cisban, a agent of the CRS. He explained that he required Gregore to ensure a secret message from New Umbrey made it to the court of the Duke of Voxsauny. It was critical to ensuring that the Llaelese can root out their own traitors. Of course that means the Gregore must also look out for agents of Section 3, the Khadoran secret service.
The next day the troupe took a carriage on to the town of Grymaldi, and to Dimiani estate.
About half way along their journey they were met by three mount men, dressed in regal Llaelese military garb. One of them took off his bicorne and was recognised by Darcey. it was her eldest brother, Vyctori. As the horsemen and carriage continued along Vyctori hand to the carriage occupants two bottles of wine from the estate and talked about how he had been in the north on the border to Khador, and that there had been more cuts to the military in favour of funding mercenaries.
They passed through the town of Grymaldi, and could see that even the town had decoration up, and flowers blooming, no doubt due to alchemical salts used to help them flower in the cold Spring. But it was here in the quiet township that Hurst's keen eyes spotted something. One of the performers, and now were seemed to be one of the townsfolk. This was bad. He explained what he saw to the others, and Gregore realised that the performers must have been Khadoran spies.
At the Dimiani estate, Dardani di Dimiani, Earl of Grymaldi, stood awaiting for the carriage. He was dressed in a military uniform and heavy fur coat, with his greying hair cut short and his a trim goatee. Upon arrival he greeted all the troupe and his daughter. After a brief discussion and pleasantries they were then joined by Vydori. Vydori compared to his brother and father was far more flamboyant and was smoking from a cigarillo, cracking jokes at Darcey's expense. But that did not stop her running into his arms and hugging her most beloved brother.