Doneday, sometime before breakfast
-Yesterday was, at least once we managed to get a ride, blissfully uneventful. The river barge is slow but that's fine, let Kringle stew thinking were dead for a day or two. The jokes on him. Almost jumped overboard yesterday and swam for it while Ru was below deck changing out of her armour but the steersman saw what I was thinking and advised me of the huge amount of landsharks that live in these waters. He said they don’t even carry life buoys for people who go over board because the landsharks eat those also. This morning we docked in Ryle Poke, a small river village they had trades to make with that sits on the delta between the Tork and the River Fawn. The three of us are going to find some breakfast while they unload. Would rather it was just me and the lad, I have a list of questions for him as long as my right arm but Ru won't let us out of her sight for more than a moment. Whatever this Fragment she's part of is, it's put the fear of Roork into Karndal
The briste was wedged between two fishmongers, a couple of dusty tables outside were already occupied by other crew from the boat so they filed in through a door so low even Greiip had to stoop. What looked like a small building from the street actually turned out to be also tiny inside, which was unalarming and went without notice. They crowded around a table which appeared to be part of a boats hull nailed to a fencepost and looked at the menu, which was painted onto the 'tables' surface.
“Plenty of choice” said Karndal “look, boiled Greenfish, grilled Greenfish, poached Greenfish, hang on, it's all Greenfish”.
He leaned back and called over to the counter.
“Hey, do you sell anything that isn't greenfish?”
The lady there gave him a dirty look and turned away.
“Great, well we can't eat here now” said Greiip
“Yeah good going mate” said Ru
“I'm sorry boss” Said Karndal with a slight flinch.
Searching around was fruitless, there wasn't much to the village to see and time was getting on. They boarded the barge with rumbling stomachs. Soon the river banks began to drift by again. Greiip stood and watched the reeds and ryether blowing in the gentle breeze. Things were getting complicated for him but at the same time he felt he was learning from it. Things were also getting, albeit slowly, slightly better. It was just a case of applying himself, thinking around problems rather than through them. With this bag of loot he could maybe afford to cut Kringle and his incompetent ways loose for a better sponsor. What about Karndal though? The lad was as much a liability as he was an asset, but fifty fifty was a staggering leap from when they had first met. Not to mention he had grown to like him, in his own way. More in a business sense than friendship but the boy had his good points. A bushel of bracken rustled on the bank and a flock of Tussleharps took flight. Greiip watched them dance through the air up to lofty heights and wondered what the world would look like from there. The bush rustled again and Greiip began to focus on the disturbance. That was when a lifetime of being shot at was suddenly remembered and instead of stick his head towards the thing he was suspicious of and squint, he jumped sideways. The arrow missed him and he almost felt the surprised annoyance radiate from the hidden bowman.
“BANDIIIIITS” came up a cry from the steersman as everyone began to bustle below deck. However with a sudden commotion Ru came running up from inside and charged through the throng with an axe in one hand and a knife in the other. Before anyone could stop her she dove overboard.
“Keep going” she yelled in mid air before slipping into the water without so much as a splash. The arrows stopped hitting the deck as everyone watched the ripples bounce across the surface where Ru had entered. Moments later a plume of water erupted from the bank and Ru charged up the small incline into the bracken. Sounds of metal clanging marked a brief but brutal scuffle. Shortly Ru came back out of the bush with a spray of blood blotted across her soaking clothes and beamed a broad smile.
“There was only three, the last one ran off” she shouted and again, before anyone could warn her, jumped back into the water.
“Did you tell her about the landsharks?” asked the steersman.
“Nope” said Greiip furrowing his brow. None the less a slender arm appeared from the murky water a few moments later and they reached down to help her back up.
“Hang on” said Ru “I brought supper”
With a grunt she dragged her other arm out of the water to reveal a landshark the same size as her skewered on her long knife.
“I've heard it's delicious”.
The thing was so big they couldn't cook it all at once. The boat had a crew of seven and wasn't meant for long voyages away from civilisation. They roasted a thigh and some of the belly over a small stove next to the pantry and Ru agreed on a fair price for the rest with the steersman. Back up on deck the sun was on the wane and the three tucked into their food diligently. Greiip noticed the crew were giving them a rather wide berth now but he didn't mind. He was recognising certain land features and could see lights several manstrides ahead on the water.
“Almost there” said Karndal seeming to read his companion. Ru looked up from her steak along the river with them.
“It's too late to meet my contact” she said distractedly, “I assume you have lodgings?”
“I need to pay up for another dosenwan but I doubt we'll have been locked out yet” answered Greiip.
“Good, the fewer people I have to see the better”.
The riverdocks were quiet . The three bid farewell to the crew and left, heading into town along the main street. It was a standard Doneday night in Fawnwater, already the revellers were out and music filled the streets but they were all too tired to care.
“We should drop the loot of with Kringle, safer with him and he's probably worried about us” said Greiip.
“Okay, but be quick” said Ru pulling her hood up.
Kringle was rather startled to see them but let them inside anyway. His building was as sweltering as ever.
“Keep your cloaks on if I was you” said the portly businessman as he shovelled some coal onto the fire “I just can't seem to get it warm in here”. Greiip couldn't tell if he had gotten fatter or just put more layers on. Kringle sat down at his desk with an annoyed frown across his face. Karndal and Greiip joined him.
“You seem discombobulated Kringle, is anything the matter?”
“Well yes, I'd assumed you both had died, it's rather inconvenient you turning up really. If you had been killed it would be a lot easier to sort out this mess we made with the wrong...”
He was cut off by a loud chorus of deliberate coughs and splutters from both Greiip and Karndal. He looked at them and up to Ru, still hidden inside the hood of her robe. She had stayed standing, ominously. Kringle tipped his head as if he were trying to look under the hood then shrugged.
“So what did you want?”
“You ungrateful bastard” said Greiip “I've half a mind to boycott you on the loot we found”.
Karndal's eyes glowed brightly in their bony sockets for a moment.
“Loot? Like gold and what have you?”
“I didn't mean we found a small stringed instrument”. Said Greiip
“That's a shame” said Kringle “Lutes fetch a good price, if you ever see a lute while your looting you should take it”.
“Noted” said Greiip “but it's late and I cant be arsed to go through a load of business stuff at this time. I just assumed you had some secure storage, don't really want to keep it at the bedsit”.
“Well I have a safe, some of my dirty washing is in there at the moment but I could probably find somewhere else to put it. How much do you have?”
“In the sack” said Greiip. Kringle looked over the desk and sat back down, scratching his beard. After a moment he stood back up and peered at the sack again.
“The whole sack?” he said.
“Yes” said Greiip “the dungeon was seriously undervalued, we got more than four hundred grains”.
“Well of course you did that's how it works, but you got a lot more. Yes, my washing can go in the sink, this is excellent”.
He looked at them, his beard forming a crescent shape “I knew you two would come through, yes old Kringle's always had faith in you two. Come back tomorrow and we can work out everyone's share then”.
Back at the bedsit the landlady had gone to sleep and greeted their incessant knocking with a loud curse and an airborne door key. The item hit Greiip on the nose and clattered to the floor.
“And you need to pay up for another dosenwan” she yelled as her door slammed shut. The room was as they left it save for a fresh layer of straw on the floor.
“Aww look at that” said Ru “she put down fresh straw for you two”
“What do you mean?” asked Karndal.
“She means she's taking out beds” said Greiip.
Karndal looked abashed “why do you need both?”
“I like to spread out” said Ru pushing the twin beds together.
Greiip didn't mind the floor, he wasn't planning to stay there long. For all his halfwittedness Karndal could sense an escape when one was forming and had stayed awake without having to be prompted. After some time, as Ru's breathing dropped to a steady slow cadence Greiip rolled over and gave the faintest whisper to Karndal.
“That's long enough, you ready”
“I was nodding”.
They got up silently and padded to the door. Without a sound they slipped out and both stifled a scream. Ru was standing in the corridor, full armour, arms folded across her chest.
“I have to hand it to you two, you're persistent. Now I'm going to chalk this up to you not knowing who I really am, but honestly, this is your last warning. You work for me now”.
Greiip opened his mouth to speak.
“And don't tell me you were both going to the privy or I'll make that a function you don't need hands for”.
“I was going to ask, who's asleep in our room then?”
“I am” said Ru
“Then, who are we talking to now?”
“Me” she said taking off her helmet for confirmation.
“Magic?” asked Greiip.
“No, well, sort of. It's complicated, try not to over think it, you might end up like Karndal there”.
Greiip looked to see Karndal had fainted.
“Oh dammit you've gone and confused him”.
He picked the lad up under his arms and dragged him bodily back into the bedroom.
“Nighty night” said Ru with a grin as the door swung shut. Dumping Karndal down Greiip tentatively approached the figure sleeping in the bed. He went to lift the corner of the sheet to see who was there but changed his mind at the last second and lay down. Needless to say he didn't sleep a wink that night.