Early afternoon entry.
Our group was roused early this morning. I was awake and finishing meditation as a knock came at our door. The messenger brought orders from Gavin. Gavin wanted us to take passage aboard a cargo barge and follow the trail of what may be smuggled goods. It will be a three day journey to the next major town down-river. Once there, we are to find the link between the murder of the couple in the warehouse and the apparent smuggling operations. And learn what is being smuggled and to whom.
Our conveyance was to leave in an hour; we had to make haste. We dressed, made ready, bundled all our possessions and took on a supply of basic good and rations from the Guild House quartermaster. Enough for a week for the lot of us.
Gavin met us at the House entrance, with a fearsome, hulking companion. It was only then that we noticed Alex was missing. Gavin told us that Alex had been excused to attend to some matter, something that seemed to trouble our Guild steward. In Alex’s stead, Gavin then presented Wilhelm, a Guildsman who would accompany us. At first blush Wilhelm looked all the part of a barbarian; he stands like a tree, moves like a fox, has the eyes of a hawk. But he was dressed in civilized fashion and looked more refined than the wildmen of lore. In fact, he was quite polite and even said hello. Still, Spiritz and Reece have given him a wide berth.
We got to the wharf before mid-morning; at the appointed place we found our transport. It is a long, flat construction; a barge perhaps one hundred and some feet long, forty or fifty feet wide, deck about four feet off the muddy water-line and more below. There is an area at the center of the deck which is covered with canvas sheets fixed to poles; this tented area is the closest we will have to an “indoors”.
Polemen occupy the four corners of the barge, and a captain oversees operations from near the bow. Crates, barrels, and boxes cover the scow in orderly rows and columns, stacked taller in the center, shorter at the periphery. The barge is fully loaded for a drift down to the next market.
I put my complete faith in a weathered old plank, which was the gangway from the wharf to the barge. The river is brown and flows lazy, opaque an inch below its surface. As I expected, also reeking of outfall from Callia’s gutters and sewers. To fall in would be a hideous experience. The plank bounced and bowed dangerously underfoot, but held. Ever since boarding, I have remained at the very center of the barge.
We launched, cutting loose the lines and pushing away from the wharf piers to let the river current shoulder the barge. Our group is assembled under the generous shade of the covered area. It is clear that our assistance is not needed; the barge moves at a snail’s pace, nudged in line by the rivermen who work as crew. Even the captain spared us no more attention than to make words of caution for our safety, then leave us be.
All the hurry of the morning, the scramble to get ready, and make our way to the barge mere minutes before it cut loose, only to find ourselves lazing about. It is nice, I must admit. The day is scorching hot already, we are pleasantly shaded and heavy with provisions for snacking. The water is undoubtedly a bit less septic as Callia shrinks behind us, and tributary flows join the river at odd intervals from the farmlands and untended wild. Still, I’m not going near it.
I will write more come nightfall, when we take to shore.
Journal of Dr. Marcus Grant
Healing Cleric of Pelor, Order of St-Jude Academy (Silabrek)
11th Day, 1st day down-river from Callia, territory of Ælim.