Journal of Miyara Kyosuke (22)

    After dinner, Rabena treated Omi's broken arm -- he stayed in the girls' room that night to be close to the healer.
    I was to be on the first watch with Miyara, but plans changed when we received unexpected help from the townsfolk.
    Benito Sangiovese and his wife, along with his brother Guido Sangiovese entered the Black Eagle after the dinner had been cleared away.  These people were Tai Lins; Benito owned and operated the Red Bull Inn, which I have previously pointed out was a much superior place to the one in which we were staying.  The inn immediately fell quiet, as Johann the landlord welcomed them loudly and started to chat amicably.
    Soon, all three of them arrived at our table.  Benito bowed and enthusiastically greeted each one of us.  Miyara translated for me -- he thanked us for the services we had rendered to the town, and expressed his dismay that so many others in the town had been so cowardly.  He offered his assistance to us this evening, and said that he would stand watch all night if need be, although his brother was too young for that.  Miyara and I exchanged glances -- Guido was certainly old enough at 20 to do his duty.
    Benito himself was dressed in ostenstatious gear, but had all the right equipment.  I turned a calculating eye to him and judged him to be too overweight to be the Tai Lin assassin that assisted in Bastia's death -- although Guido could possible fit the requirements.
    They all chattered for a while, and determined that Benito would stand second watch; the three of them then left.  Immediately the Lady Murderer (as Miyara described Dagoma Tausika to me) stood up and volunteered for the third watch, and started a wave of "me too" volunteers as the other barbarians in the inn childishly did not want to be left out.  It was with much relief to them that Miyara chose a couple of obviously qualified people from among them, and told the rest to remain in reserve if needed.

    The first watch passed quietly, observing the drunken bargement wandering around on their way back to their boats.  There was no traffic of town regulars tonight -- all probably frightened of the imaginary beastmen.  We returned to the inn to rest; our group also maintained a watch over our rooms.
    Immediately after dawn, Jeison woke us all in some distress.  He dragged us all to the rvier, where we could see that the water was red, up and downstream as far as we could see.  The people from the town were also starting to gather, and the more elderly among them began to wail something.
    Miyara told me they were saying "the curse of the Reichenbachs."  This was referring to an incident many years ago in which that family was killed by a mob of barbarians from the town.  The curse apparently calls for beastmen, the river running red with blood, and the dead waking.  A vampire walked in Krutzhofen then, along with these events, and that is when Sigi's grandfather left town.
    Ashu and Hosei were quick to respond to this new development, and they left town quickly, headed upstream.
    In the meantime, the superstitious barbarians were looking at us fearfully.  There was widespread panic and despair as no doubt outrageous and ridiculous explanations were invented.  It was clear that they blamed this Curse, and also the two men who went into the Ghostwood.
    Eventually Hosei and Ashu came back, and told us that the red color started about a mile upstream, with no indication of what it was or why.  There was also no sign of anyone having been there on this side of the river.  They suggested that someone had simply poured something in the river, and that it would clear soon.  Ashu stated with certainty that it was not blood.  They then crossed the river at the bridge, and repeated their trip on the opposite bank.  There too they found nothing, and came back to wonder if it was the Tai Lin barge that left in the early morning.
    We had all returned to the Black Eagle when Hosei came in with a somewhat confused expression.  He had been to talk to Gretchen, who looked after the docks with her son, and had found that a barge called the Canaglia had left this morning after staying only one night.  It had lots of rowers and carried no cargo, riding high in the water.  Hosei had followed up by talking to Peitra, the waitress in the Red Bull, and Benito's wife Elenora.  They had told him that two had arrived from the boat, but three returned to it, the extra man being carried as if drunk.  No-one thought this was unusual, although Hosei wondered if this was how the Tai Lin assassin escaped.

    In mid morning, we discovered the truth of the matter.  Benito stormed out of the Red Bull cursing, while Elenora yelled, screamed, and shouted.  Of course I thought this nothing unusual for barbarians, but Miyara told me that this was a serious matter -- Guido was missing.  She added that Benito had headed for the wharfs, and thought that some of his enemies from Tai Lia had taken him.  Miyara had agreed to help, yeilding to Elenora's begging, and so we rushed off to the docks too after confirming with the Dorufurikata that we were permitted to assist in this matter.
    Benito was acting very effectively for a barbarian -- perhaps the Tai Lins are more intelligent than is usual here -- but dashing around in a frantic manner.  He quickly hired a barge and rowers, and several of us went on board to help his mission.
    Pireseri and Jeison stayed behind to look after the chest, while Miyara, myself, Omi, Carimera, Rabena, Hosei, Goru, and Ashu hurried on board the barge.
    It was now about four hours after dawn, and the red water had cleared out quite some time ago.  The barge set off at a rapid pace, Benito rowing like a man possessed until he was eventually dragged off the oars as fresh rowers replaced the first shift.
    Benito moved to the front of the boat, where Hosei approached him for a conversation.  I could tell that emotional subjects were being discussed, but of course they were talking in a barbarian tongue.  Miyara told me later that Guido was really the sole survivor of a Tai Lin family called the Fulvini, who ruled a place called Merigliano until the Duke was murdered with his family by the Cornutti family.  Since then, the new rulers had been searching for Guido to capture him and bring him back to be killed -- only then could they be certain they had seen the last Fulvini killed.  The Feccia family were assigned the task, and it was presumably them who had performed the abduction.  Guido was not of course therefore Benito's brother.

    After about six hours, we caught up to another boat on the river.  Although they initially sped up to outrun us, we soon overtook them.  When we'd closed to about 50 yards, the captain of the other barge and Benito had a conversation, and it was clear that this was not the barge we sought.

    We kept rowing through the night, not slowing down at all.  When I offered to help see our way in the dark, Miyara told me that they knew the river and didn't need help.  She added that we would reach something called the River of Echoes at around midnight.
    Indeed, at midnight we approached a rock face ahead, out of which emerged the river.  This was a tunnel that goes through the mountain, and is apparently maintained by the Syndicate and their syndicalistas.  Navigational lanterns marked the way; again I offered to help see the way, but again I was declined.  We turned to the hold to sleep while the rowers continued their efforts.
    Later we were awoken by Benito and all went up to the deck quietly to see the lights of another barge a couple of hundred yards away from us.  It seemed he was sure this was the one we had been pursuing, as the crew were handing out crossbows to all who would take them.  We were to fight in the darkness of the tunnel.