Previously, the heroes made their way out of the ziggurat at the middle of Wyrmblood Lake with many of Kalauranthalasis’ riches. Despite encountering great reluctance, they managed to find passage to Rivermeet with an Acadian family who warned them of disease having broken out in Eastray.
Fifth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262
(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waning.)
Early in the morning, with only three days left until it was predicted that Dr. Arkenward would lose control of the curse that was placed on the young queen of Lyria, the heroes found themselves on the edge of Rivermeet, at the start of the large delta which would bring them to Eastray and, ultimately, beyond to Kingsport. There was one potential problem that stood in their way, and that was the large contingent of Red Custodians that were patrolling the hamlet and had taken control of the quay and all the boats there. It seemed that they had imposed a curfew and forced all the villagers into their huts, while simultaneously keeping any travellers corralled in a pen.
Quentin had observed the movements of the custodians, but could not discern any clear patterns in their patrols, which didn’t give him the confidence that the heroes would be able to sneak their way to the quay and take a boat. The heroes also realised that any documentation which might prove to the custodians how important their mission would be to the crown was still on captain Randal’s body, which they sank into the swamp outside of Blackbough after his untimely death at the hands of the foglet and the will-o-wisps.
As the heroes were lamenting being stuck in the swamp James remarked that it would be good to get back to Kingsport again, enjoying a warm bed, some good food, a strong drink. He said he’d buy everyone a whore upon return and at hearing that Quentin subconsciously reached out for his wrist where once he had tied a maiden’s handkerchief. He caught the move but had a puzzled look on his face, as if trying to recall something.
The heroes decided that the direct approach was going to work better than subterfuge and Quentin was volunteered to do the talking. They entered the hamlet and walked up to the quay and were soon stopped by two custodians, red-robed and carrying maces. They were brother Lem and sister Jane, who, after listening to Quentin’s explanation on why the heroes had to be granted access to a boat and make their way down river to the coast, deferred the decision to brother Canaan, who headed their mission in Rivermeet. It struck the others that Quentin would likely not have had the success in convincing the custodians that he did, had it not been for his station.
The heroes were lead to the pen in which the other visitors to Rivermeet had been kept, but because they were allowed to keep their weapons none of them felt particularly threatened by that so they complied. It did not take long before brother Canaan, an older, bearded custodian with a commanding presence. The man was sceptical at first, but proved no match against the collective charm and personality of the heroes and quickly consented to them taking a barge downriver in the interest of the queendom.
One of the people locked in the pen with the heroes was Hubert, a Fulham cattle breeder who was travelling with his prize-winning breeding steer and accompanied several lads who acted as his guards. Upon learning that the heroes were allowed to proceed on their way, the man became outraged and began to complain to the custodians. When the custodians ignored him, Emrys went to talk to him and leared several rumours about the area, as well as what was happening in Eastray.
Emrys leaned that the previous night, a winged, serpentine shaped had flown high overhead Rivermeet, startling everyone. It flew in from the north-west and headed deeper into the hinterland of Eastmarsh. It was dark and unclear on what it was, but the consensus among the people in Rivermeet was that it was a dragon, which hasn’t been sighted in a generation.
The situation in Eastray was dire; disease and pestilence everywhere, while house Ivel had barred their gates while people died in the streets of the bloody flux. The outskirts of the city were harassed by ratmen. The szygani camp had disbanded and moved away and the custodians were busy trying to burn the corpses and fighting an unknown threat.
The last thing Hubert was able to share was that a man had come to Rivermeet the previous day and was stopped from proceeding down the river by the custodians. The man would not be stopped and according to Hubert he had made the ground shake and the river rise and capsize the boats that the custodians were in before continuing on his way. Rumours were that it was the Old Man of the Estuary, a local hermit who was said to be a powerful druid.
Emrys was thankful for the information and gifted the man a handful of gemstones which he had found, which would allow Hubert to mitigate some of his losses by being held up in Rivermeet with his bull. After the initial shock had worn off, the man was incredibly grateful and likely would never forget the gesture.
Eventually, the heroes were released and assigned a barge and they went on their merry way. No longer being able to rely on their friend Astrid, the duties of punting the barge downriver fell to Quentin and James who quickly get a hang of it and did a spectacular job in avoiding terrifying crocolisks and treacherous sandbanks to get stuck on.
At the end of the day the heroes disembarked from the barge to the south of Eastray. To the north the dark skies above the city was glowing with the fires of the pyres where the custodians were burning the bodies of the dead. Thick plumes of smoke rose up over the rooftops of the huts and houses. There were no signs of the skaven the heroes had heard about, but occasionally some disturbing noises carried on the wind.
Curiously, they noticed a singular man, standing in a small boat in the middle of one of the arms of the river. The boat did not seem to be moving, despite the current. The man was as unmoving as the boat he was standing in, staring out to the west, across the water. It reminded the heroes of the woman in the blue cape which they had seen standing in a boat on the Bourne river, just after they had been attacked by drowners while traveling upriver on the Old Queen, from Bournemouth to Egremont.
To the west, in the distance, a small armada of ships could be seen through the fog where they lay at anchor in the gulf, intent on keeping the Eastray port locked up. There were a dozen large, royal war galleons laying alongside half a dozen smaller, faster deployment ships flying the flag of the Order of the Shield. They would have to find a way to signal to the fleet, alert them that they had urgent business in Kingsport and, crucially, had not been infected with whatever disease befell Eastray.
The bank the heroes had disembarked on was full of tall reeds, which proved to be a great bedding once cut down and stacked. It kept the soggy ground from soaking clothing and blankets as camp was made. A fire was made by Emrys using his arcane gifts to dry out the little bit of kindling they could find to make a fire.
While resting, the conversation turned to what the reason could be for the skavens’ appearance in Eastray, and Luca thought he had found a clue. He read the letter which he had found on the body of the skaven priest in the carceratum again;
The plague maidens are congregating, drawn by the pestilent potential of a potent, ancient magic. I have read the signs and portents and require the skavens of clan [unclear] to investigate and reveal the truth. I have gathered enough [unclear] that I may open a gate through the seal for a short time through which they may travel. Once verified, they will report and be given further instruction.
– Epidemius the Cataloguer, Lord of Decay, One of the Seven Proctors of Pestilence. Devoted Underling of Baalzebul the Calabite, Ruler of the Seventh, Lord of Maladomini.
While James and Quentin tended to their severely blistered hands, having had to work the barge pole all day, Emrys spent time investigating the scrolls the heroes liberated from the dragon’s hoard, finding some interesting spells inscribed on them.
The next day, the heroes would attempt to make contact with the fleet and find a way to convince them to help get the heroes to Kingsport. They only have two more days before Dr. Arkenward would lose control of the curse.