By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 7 - Iriaebor Harbor - All Aboard
Iriaebor, 1371 DR, Eleint, 6th day, afternoon
After the long and weary journey from Amn, the caravan has finally arrived in Iriaebor. Except for a few skirmishes the outriders had, the journey on the trail was rather uneventful, but wearisome spending days in the saddle. Besides the trade goods, several people traveled with the caravan as well. Now, in Iriaebor, most cargo will be transferred to two river barges for further shipment to Berdusk. Having arrived late in the day, the travelers accompanying the caravan spent the night in ‘The Old Talking Ox’ just about an hours ride from the gates of Iriaebor. After a good night’s rest in a real bed since the journey started in Eshpurta, all feel refreshed and ready to travel on towards Berdusk. After a good breakfast, the caravan saddles up the horses and pack animals, and everything is ready for the last leg to the harbor. Early in the afternoon the barges will set sail down the Chionthar towards Berdusk.
Approaching the ‘City of a Thousand Spires’ the morning sun glistens on the rooftops as the caravan passes through the south gate and straight to the harbor. The two barges can be seen, and when you arrive on the quay, the unloading of the pack animals begins. Duvarra, the half-orc caravan guard helps move the large beer wagon aboard. The muscles in her arms bulge as she tries to get the big draft horses on board. With the help of Tharkas and Sara, two of the outriders wgo seem bound for Berdusk, the three of them manage to get the team and the wagon aboard. The rest of the loading proceeds more smoothly. A small commotion on the dock near the barge draws some attention. One of the sailors is picking up some of the cargo he was carrying, and looking dark at, what appears to be a small girl standing there. “Hey, watch where ye’re goin’” He growls at her.
“I’m sorry, Tall-Man.” The small girl says, “It is the utter excitement of seeing your lovely barges that made me forget where I was. Oh, such a beautiful barges. Don’t let me be on your way and please accept my apology. Still, I’m small and the backpacks are so heavy… I have no money and my back hurts. I was a fool to ever leave Corm Orp. No one wants to help a pitiful halfling. And I only need to get to Berdusk. Can you… perhaps help me? You handsome Tall-Man?”
Some light-hearted music that had sounded from the bow stops, the small musician shifts her attention to the sailor and the little girl. A little woman tucks away her fiddle as she looks at the scene unfolding on the quay. “Such a bunch of oafish brutes, these humans.” She mumbles to herself, “Had the ship not been moored here, they would for sure drop the cargo in the river.”
A young man, Grim, who had traveled with her since the caravan departed smiles at the gnome’s comment, while moving slowly towards it in a casual way, as if not paying attention at all to the small row. When he is close enough to follow the conversation, he stops to look around a bit, every now and then letting his eyes slide over the source of the commotion. It may not look like it… but he definitely is paying attention to it.
The sailor on the quay looks angry and confused at the small girl. He pauses a moment, and then says: “Oi, just wait here miss, I’ll see what I can do fer ya.” He walks over to the captain and comes back. “It’s ok miss, just hop aboard and join the other little girl in the prow, the one with the fiddle. We’ll get yer stuff aboard.” The halfling woman giggles softly and replies “Oh, thank you, kind saer. I won’t forget this.” The sailor turns toward the boat and sees Grim standing there, doing nothing. “Hey you!” He yells, “Yeah you, you get this girl’s luggage aboard. I have that wagon to unload.” And without waiting to see if Grim complies, he turns around and walks over to the wagon he was unloading.
Grim quickly decides that the best choice for him will be to help her get her luggage aboard. “Hi there.” He says, “Let me help you with that.” He gets hold of the luggage, which weighs heavier then it appears, and walks towards to barge looking for a place to dump the luggage and then to find a nice spot for him to sit down. “My name is Grim by the way and I am also on my way to Berdusk.” He says. “I guess we’ll be traveling together then.” The small woman looks at man slowly. Letting her fingers touch her brooch she replies “Oh, is that so? Charming. My people call me Calathra, you call me whatever you like. Now, get on with those backpacks. I’ll wait here for a few moments. It’s interesting. Lots of careless Tall People around. Ehm… thank you.”
“As you wish.” Grim walks away with a faint smile on his lips. On board he looks for a place to dump Calathra’s packs. Next to the musical gnome woman seems to be more than enough room so he walks that way. “Mind if I leave this here?” Without really waiting for a reply Grim wanders of to find himself a spot where he can sit and observe.
The gnome woman fixes her companion with a haughty stare, “Actually I do mind, so I suggest you just store them in the passenger quarters below decks. But not near my bunk, ‘cause the smell of beetle blood and bat’s wing still lingers about!” Then she picks up her fiddle and resumes her music. Totally unaware of Dixie staring at the back of his head Grim walks away. “Sorry Dixie, captain’s orders!” He then settles himself in a nice comfy spot on top of some crates and starts enjoying the nice view of the river. “Don’t fall of the prow Dixie… they told me the water is very wet around here.” After sending a last friendly smile towards her, he lies back softly whistling the merry tune along with Dixie’s fiddle.
When the last cargo is carried aboard, the captain makes his last round on the dock. He walks back from the second barge to the first, where everyone seems to be waiting for departure. “Lines loose!” He yells, and quickly several sailors hasten to untie the barges from their mooring points. With poles they maneuver the crafts into the stream of the Chionthar, which pulls them slowly at first, but soon more steady downstream toward Berdusk.
On board, a man wearing a long robe-like garment and a headcloth, approaches Calathra, “Good business. Be welcome, oh new guest. I hope you find your pearl on this journey. We’ll take delivery of the same, I suppose!” Although the man speaks Chondathan, there is an accent which indicates a southerly origin; from Amn or maybe Tethyr, which seems to fit with his outlandish clothes. Hearing the southerner’s strange words, Calathra replies “Oh, why you are such a handsome man, shorter then most but so exotic. Me, I’m Calathra. Just a halfling I’m afraid, but don’t let that remind you of Yondalla and the boring way of life. Why, I’m actually looking for adventure. I’m sure you’re full of stories, mister…”
“Kalil, Kalil of Gildenglade.” The man answers with a smile, “And thank you. I don’t often get compliments from your kind – no insult intended. Yes, indeed, I just may be full of stories. Bought that! But I’m sure you got some good tales to tell yourself, or am I wrong? You say you are looking for adventure, what might that be then, adventure? Where do you plan to find it, anyway?”
Calathra thinks about the man’s words for a moment, eventually replying, “Oh, my, what could that Gildenglade be? I sure would like to hear stories about Dark Tall Folk from Gildenglade. What is an adventure? Well, it sure is a common word, mind you. A-D-V-E-N-T-U-R-E! You sure you’re following me. An adventure would be if you fall in love with me and follow me on my way trough the perilous mountains and angry beasts. Still, I’m no cryptic halfling; I’m an adventurer just for the thrill of it. I’m not sure for how long, though. And when it comes to the matter of life and death I would like having you watch my gentle back, Tall Man. I really would. You seem like a merchant, not knowing adventure. And a merchant sure would not go on an adventure like this without good coin, would he not? Perhaps a shining plate or somet similar marvel could be found there for a halfling like me?”
“Foreclose that! What are you trying to ‘smooth talk’ out of me?” Below the headcloth the southerner’s eyebrows rise in wonder, “Company or just money? This is a gold joke… I reckon you’re looking for your pearl, but are in such a haste to find it that you simply won’t, no matter how hard you search. I might look like a merchant to you, but maybe I’m not what I look like. Then again, maybe I’m just a merchant. If you believe so, why would I travel with you to watch your gentle back? Why should you want me to?”
“Why, me trying to smooth talk? Perhaps, but at first. At least I was honest to you, TallMan. You were right to call it a joke. It is company I now seek of you. That, and your help merchant. These bags are oh, so heavy for my poor halfling back. And you ask me, why? Well I was never comfortable with male halflings. Male humans are different, if you know what I mean” Calathra says giggling a little.
Kalil looks at the halfling with a gentle glance. He faintly smiles and shakes his head in disbelief. “Ehm, is that in your true books? Hmmm, I’m sold that it would me nice to take delivery of someone I can trust. I have never been here before. Have you?” At that, Kalil stands up, and takes the bags from Calathra. “Indeed, these are heavy…” He says with a laugh, “…what in Waukeen’s name have you put in here?” He drags the bags towards his chest. Then he sits down and makes a gesture that indicates Calathra to sit down as well. “Please, give me the honor of your company. Do tell me about your business so far and your plans!”
Sitting on the crates Grim watches lazily as the barges slowly make their way down-river. Nothing betrays any interest in the conversation going on. At the moment Grim is content to listen to Calathra and Kalil talking. Displaying an impressive yawn Grim lies back on the crates so that only his feet can be seen.
Calathra sits down. “Oh I had many people who I could trust. They were ordinary, unexciting people. They knew what adventure is, TallMan but they never cared to go there. Come to think of it, perhaps I could trust them in case of hot meal… I doubt they ever thought of really watching my back. They would back away if someone endangered me, for sure. Now, with you, I’m not so sure. You’re most charming, merchant, though you still told me nothing of you. What have I put in backpacks? Why rough rocks, dead rats and grandma Nacatha’s nails of course. You can find a head of gnome there too if you know where to look.
At the moment Calathra mentions the head of a gnome, Kalil looks thoughtful towards the prow where Dixie sits and clicks his tongue. Dixie, if she heard the comment at all, seems to ignore the conversation and continues playing some tunes on her fiddle.
“And if you anyone asks about it too much you could put their own heads there. No, joking now.” Calathra says with a serious expression on her face, “This is after all a cruel world.” Kalil nods once. “And I think that’s where I want to find adventure in.” Then Calathra stands up and sits on Kalil’s knees. At this, Kalil looks surprised and somewhat flabbergasted. He raises his right eyebrow… “Now, is it business and my plans you wanted to talk, handsome stranger?” Calathra stands up from Kalil’s lap and utters: “Now wouldn’t that be great of us to love each other? Buy me a rose, and you bought my heart, TallMan. Or I am just joking, merchant. Really, what do you do here, instead of trying to seduce a poor halfling?”
Kalil relaxes, and puts his hand behind his head. He just stares at the halfling, and starts to smile. He takes his time to reflect on the situation. Finally, he says, “Be an adamantine girl and who knows what might happen?” He leans towards Calathra and whispers something to her; “You’re looking for adventure, right? I’m looking for a way to stay out of it… but that’s something I don’t want everybody to know.”
“A regular secret”, Calathra replies softly, “Don’t worry, go on, it will remain between the two of us. I am thankful for your trust, human merchant. It seems I won more then your attention” Kalil smiles. “Actually, I’m on the run. My recent past is written in red ink. Anyway, I’m trying to get to a place where no one knows me. And I’ve got a secret: I’m very curious. What’s in your bags?”
“I can relate to your troubles, Tall Man.” Calathra replies. “Seriously, I am an outcast of sorts, too. But I’m better then my folks. It’s the weapons, spade and other stuff that’s in the bags. Nothing special, though I would like you to have something of me. I asked for a rose. What would you take?”
Kalil smiles once more. It’s clear he’s having a good time. “Well, I’m not exactly an outcast, you know… I just ran to foreclose that. But what about your folks? What did they do, or just neglected?” Kalil looks at the bags for a moment and says “Spades and weapons? Are you some kind of bronze undertaker or something? What would you do with those things?”
After that he pauses for a while. He looks troubled, as if he is thinking about how to solve some difficult riddle. “What would I like you to deliver me? Hmmm, hard question. It wouldn’t have to be something expensive. Wealth is important, but sometimes trust is harder to earn… I would like you to give me a token of your trust…” Kalil looks expectantly at Calathra, curious to find out her reaction to his answer.
“My folks never did anything. That is why I left them. As for spades and weapons – I am no bronze undertaker. I am a common girl who does not know how to watch her back. Or a little more, perhaps? You’ll see. A token of my trust? Oh, you will have to earn it, TallMan. But I’m tired and want to take nap, we’ll talk this later, merchant.”
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