No more of them have come out of the water to murder us. Some of us sleep while others remain vigilant. I am not on watch but I am not about to close my eyes, so I write this.
Yesterday afternoon was Dusty’s outburst. Our group was in an uncomfortable mood between that time and when the evening set in and the rivermen steered us to shore at a waypoint. No-one knew how to address Dusty’s revelation which, depending on whom one asks, was either no surprise at all, or well-suspected but dismissed as unlikely. Dusty himself stayed apart from the rest of us. Not knowing what else to do, we gave him space.
We pushed up on the muddy banks as the evening set in; the western sky was just catching fire. Our journey down-river will take three days; this first night we have stopped up-river from a stretch of narrows. At the narrows the river runs considerably quicker, and it may only safely be navigated in full light of day.
There is a permanent encampment on the banks of this landing; a house and barn, and small outbuildings. A farmer, something of an amateur merchant, lives here. He buys and sells from river traffic when it stops for the night, provides meals and supplies at a cost, passes on gossip, and comments on the obvious.
The rivermen of our scow bound heavy lines to deep-rooted trees above the grassline, set down a gangway to shore, and moved about the business of locating and offloading deliveries to this stop.
( Right now, I am writing this by torchlight very early the next morning. I must stop frequently to look at the edges of the barge-deck. Each time I expect to see something wet and terrible crawl up to assail us again. It was last night that we landed. My last, quick entry was after midnight, a few hours ago. I am trying to put events in proper order for this journal. )
The farmer was a pragmatic walnut of a man, careful with words and ready to put a price to any request. We looked over his offerings and parted with coins to purchase fruit or baked goods, to establish goodwill if nothing else. Pulp made indirect talk of recent river traffic, meaning to draw out suggestion of the last shipments to pass this way. The farmer only squinted against the setting sun, shrugged, wiped sweat off his face with a worn rag, and then quoted BOB a worse price for a bundle of carrots than he had offered Spiritz a few moments before.
We withdrew to the barge, set ourselves down for dinner. Twilight came out of the woods and the shadows swallowed the world. The air was fresh and warm, long after the sky went dark. Insects buzzed about, torches glittered from the farmer’s dwelling, a half-moon appeared to float up out of the rambling hills. Our group shrank as some of our number went off to sleep, intending to take a later watch.
We do not know who heard them first. Some heard sounds that did not seem right, coming from over the yawning edge of the barge, down in the frightfully dark, murky river. Others caught glimpses at the edge of our light, stirrings right below the surface, upwelling from the deep, unwelcome suggestions of movement.
When they appeared they appeared quickly, inhuman horrors rising up over the edge of our platform, all the sound that of wet claws and slick limbs on worn wood, the fall and splash of water, a slight hiss, a flash of reptilian eyes and sharp teeth.
There must have been a dozen, maybe fifteen; lizardfolk all, like alligators raised to bipedal stance, crude armor wet and foul from the river, makeshift clubs and spears, hunched over, long tails writhing for balance. Half came at us from the river-side; half came at us from the land-side up out of the shallows. Eerily quick and determined. Terrifying.
A cry of alarm went up from our side; fighters took up their close-set arms, arrayed for battle, pushed against their lines to protect our noncombatant numbers in the center, engaged the fight. Lunk must have a particular hate for lizardfolk, or a particular lust of battle. He landed so crushing a club upon one lizardman, that the reptilian’s head ruptured clean open like a rotted log, with a sound to match. It was a spectacular display; I was fortunate to have seen it amid the fray.
BOB, Dusty, Calum, even Pulp went furious into the mix, double-teaming lizardfolk, keeping their forces off-balance, dropping a reptile then advancing to the next. Wilhelm was particularly adept; while I found Alex intriguing, I am grateful to have the massive bulk of this fighter-barbarian Wilhelm on our side.
Dusty’s effort in battle was unaffected by yesterday’s incident. He fought skillfully. He was a brilliant asset. He moved into a breach in the line, and held off two lizardfolk. Then suddenly, Dusty seemed to disappear. I don’t know where he went, as I was attending to Reece’s healing needs at the time. Dusty just seemed to vanish, to up and leave before the fight was done, leaving a considerable gap in our rear guard. I will grant that it was late and we were tired from the natural course of our day, but one might think that if cause came to bow from a fight, it would be done in such a way as to not leave others in a lurch ?
Efforts were redoubled; the lizardfolk had surprise, but we had superior skill and more than a dose of luck. Lizardfolk are of intelligence below that of humans, clever in their own right but scarcely above primitive in disposition and tactics. When they realized they were overpowered, there was no time for retreat. Our fighters bashed in their heads and kicked their corpses back into the river. No quarter. I wonder how much fear had translated into fury on our side.
We regrouped, healed, set ourselves wary of the treacherous river, and waited. Right now we continue to wait. I will finish this entry for the moment, and take a turn near the edge to take watch the water. There is faint light to the East; Pelor’s light cannot return soon enough.
Journal of Dr. Marcus Grant
Healing Cleric of Pelor, Order of St-Jude Academy (Silabrek)
12th Day, early 2nd day down-river from Callia, territory of Ælim.