Wellentag, 9th Ulriczeit, 2512
I am always amazed by the inability of so many of our harbour workers to operate a jib boom properly. We had barely reached Graustadt’s singularly unimpressive dock when, out of nowhere, a pile of boxes only narrowly miss my head. Were it not for the timely intervention of my good friend Gunnar, I would have probably been in need of a new hat! Unfortunately, both Ferdinand and myself did fall foul of a couple of crates that got loose. But when the lout operating the jib had the affrontery to storm over and bark his sarcasms in my face, I simply stood my ground and gave him my icy stare. I’m delighted to report it didn’t take him any time at all to go scuttling back to his business, trailing apologies behind him as he went.
We secured passage along the Grey Lady Canal on a rather unassuming vessel owned by a vertically challenged Halfling merchant by the name of Aloysius Thorncobble III. I have no idea what his two predecessors were like, but he seemed amiable and honourable, which rather took me by surprise when he didn’t want to take a silver shilling for his troubles. It seemed he was much more interested in procuring our services as muscle should anything untoward happen on our journey to Ubersreik.
Now, I was always given to understand that Halflings like their food and drink. But let’s just say that whilst Thorncobble’s hospitality was generous and offered freely, it proved to be both bland and singularly unimpressive. Some might say almost unpalatable. The wine that accompanied it wasn’t any better either. A laclustre red vinegar might have been a more apt title for the label.
However, we had a very relaxing start to the journey, the winter sun offering little by the way of warmth, but at least it brightened our view. We had cleared a space for ourselves under the tarpaulin, rearranging some crates and shifting some of the straw with our boots rather than risk our hands. Ferdinand soon preoccupied himself with the reflections of sunlight on the water, no doubt lost in his thoughts. I kept a look out on the nearest bank, occasionally watching the ponies pulling us along, but nothing seemed to be happening. And then, when I was about to drift off, Thorncobble slows the barge to a halt at the canal bank. Someone, or something, had felled a tree across our path.
Without a thought for his safety, Gunnar lept from the boat. He stumbled as his foot made contact with the canal bank, but somehow turned it into a forward roll and landed on his feet. I waited until the boat had stopped and stepped off, followed by Ferdinand. While the two of them went to look at the tree, I kept an eye out for trouble.
I didn’t have to wait long.
Before we knew it, a ruffian had leapt the nearby fence, and begun racing towards us. With all the precision, strength and determination to hit first and ask questions later, Gunnar was upon him, practically cleaving his arm from his body. It was clear that he was a goner, so I turned my attention to the next one that came rushing at us. I demanded that he stop and explain what he was hoping to achieve. But he was a determined idiot, and before we knew it, he and another accomplice were upon us. Ferdinand found his scythe to be a little too dangerous to wield in the ensuing melee, so he inverted it and prodded the older of the two chaps in the ribs while I kindly sidestepped to allow him to do so. I got a hit on the man, just as Gunner tripped the other up and promptly sat on his head.
Unfortunately, that older ruffian ran off. So I decided to give chase. I was just at the point of contemplating tackling him to the ground when he tripped over some fresh air and managed the task all by himself. By now there were more idiots among the trees. Poor fools thought they could hurt me with a few base insults. I told the man who was studying the dirt up close and personal to stay there, but put my foot on his shoulders just to be sure. However, he had other ideas and somehow managed to shove me off. Well, I was having no more of his impertinent attitude, so I ran him through between the shoulder blades. It was at this point that those others stopped hurling their insults and turned and fled. I won’t deny I hurled an insult back at them.
As I returned to the man I had impaled, I saw that he was bleeding out. I rifled his body, whereupon I found eleven silver shillings for our troubles. I pocketed the coins and made my way back down the track to my friends.
When I got there, the captured ruffian was making all sorts of noises. But it’s hard to know what a person’s saying when their head has become a trollslayer’s footstool. So, I sat down in front of him, using my cloak to protect my uniform from the dirt, and began asking him a few questions.
Once his head was free of the dwarf’s arse (who by now was finding more comfort in sitting on the individual’s shoulders), I was horrified to learn that I was talking to a young boy, no more than fourteen or fifteen years of age. He told me he had been pressganged into the group, taken forcefully from his parent’s farm to raid passing barges. He was obviously terrified, and his bawling began to do my nut. I confess I told him to shut up, and was surprised to see him try to do as requested. I could see he had found himself in difficult circumstances. At my request, Ferdinand gave me a strip of material pulled from the armless youth who had first tried to get a jump on us, and I did what good I could to bind his wound. I gave him two shillings before telling him to be on his way to his parents, and to make better choices in the future.
Of course, any joy I might have had seeing him head home to a better life was quickly negated by Thorncobble who, upon coming out of hiding, took one look at the expired outlaw at our feet and promptly threw up. How that projectile vomit managed to miss me is a miracle I will forever be thankful to Sigmar for.
With the tree cleared, we were able to get underway once more, until night began to fall and we moored the vessel and set up watch.
Aubentag 10th Ulriczeit, 2512
Our journey to Ubersreik today was uneventful, and most of it, thankfully, under the speed of sail. However, we did catch sight of a patrol of soldiers in the distance. What concerned me was the colour of their livery: red and blue, the uniform of the soldiers of Altdorf. Why would such a small patrol be at least three weeks south of the capitol? It made no sense. There was no use calling out to them, for they were too far away to call on them. I hope to find out what they were doing in these here parts in the coming days.
As Thorncobble brought us under the impressive shadow of the Teübrucke bridge, he offered us payment for his safe passage. I wouldn’t take anything, but he did offer us a much better bottle of wine than he had the previous day. I even recognised the label. I thanked him, and made sure Ferdinand and myself had a good mouthful of the stuff before I handed the bottle to Gunnar. As I suspected, he didn’t return the favour.
As we pulled into the dock, I noticed another Halfling jumping up and down, waving a parchment over her head, and calling out Thorncobble’s name. This was a message from Thorncobble’s cousins Nom and Om Tumbleberry, who obviously knew he was due in that evening. It appeared that something terrible had happened, so I volunteered the three of us to go and see what the problem was. Before I knew it, we had arrived at their bakery situated in the middle of the merchant quarter. It was in a mess, the kind of mess that someone makes when they are searching for something. I might not have met them before, but I was concerned. Poor Nom and Om were, naturally, quite beside themselves…