After dinner, as we were all sitting around as usual, the Sangioveses came in. Johann pleasantly greeted the three. We were their misison, though, and they came over to our table as soon as they had finished speaking with Johann.

Benito bowed to Miara and called her "honored lady," which she obviously appreciated, and then greeted the rest of us. Benito thanked us for our services to the town, and also called the rest of the villagers cowards. He said he'd stand watch with us tonight, although he said Guido was too young to do so. Guido certainly looked old enough to me, but perhaps he's careful of his younger brother. They decided which watch he'd join, and then they left.

Apparently shamed by Benito, Dagmar stood up and said she'd stand watch, too, then left to get ready. That started a wave of villagers boldly volunteering to stand watch. Most of them would be more hindrance than help. Before the watch turned into a disaster, though, Miara stood up and said they didn't need an entire army to keep watch. She selected a few who looked somewhat useful and told the rest to be ready to come to the defense of the town if necessary. An obvious wave of relief swept through the room.

With all the combatants standing watch for the village, we set up a watch over the rooms. One person in the hall to watch all three seemed enough. Omi was still sleeping in the room with me and Carmella and Miara. He still believed his arm was broken, and he slept quietly in the far corner of the room.

Early in the morning, Ash woke us up, pounding on the door. He said the river was running red. We looked out the window at it, and he was right. Villagers were starting to gather at the river, wailing. I recalled that this was one of the things that had happened when the mob burned the Reichenbach's mansion. Could the curse have been reawakened somehow? Why?

We got dressed quickly and went to the river's edge. I kneeled down and looked at the water, scooped some up and smelled it. It looked and smelled like water and I couldn't tell what had dyed it red. I was certain it wasn't blood, though. The river itself was water, not pure blood, and the amount of blood needed to color an entire river red would have been obvious to the nose. Even Ash couldn't detect the scent of any blood.

The hysterical villagers were wailing about the curse of the Reichenbachs and didn't listen to me at all. In fact, they were looking at us with suspicion and fear. Ash and José had disappeared upriver.

When they returned, we gathered with the dorfrichter and José told us what they'd found. Further upstream, they found the origin, where it was obvious someone had dumped some kind of red dye into the water. They said it would clear out in a few hours. Now it seemed clear that someone unknown was trying to convince the village that the curse was back. The dorfrichter said the villagers believed in the curse, and they wouldn't believe us without a lot of evidence.

On his watch, Ash had seen a few men stagger out to a barge, which left in the early morning hours. We spoke with Gretchen, the dock master, about that barge. She said the Canaglia came in last night with little cargo and no passengers, but many rowers. It came from upstream, stayed the one night, and went back upstream before dawn. More Tyleans.

José went to the Red Bull, where the bargemen had emerged, and chatted up the barmaid. Midmorning, we gathered again and he told us what he'd learned from her.

The bargemen didn't drink last night, which is odd in itself, and she didn't see them this morning. Although Guido is usually the first one up, he hadn't appeared yet this morning, and Benito was also still in bed. José did talk with Eleanora, Benito's wife. She said there were two of them (although Ash had seen two men assisting a third) and they'd stayed in a private room instead of the common room. Apparently the higer-ranking bargemen make pretty good money. They call themselves Sindicalistas, which just can't be good. Tyleans are mostly a collection of thives and gangsters, from all I've heard.

As we were discussing this, Benito burst out of the Red Bull cursing up a storm, Eleanora following him, screaming and imploring. In their agitation they had reverted to their native language and I couldn't tell what they were saying. Benito headed for the docks, but Eleanora, seeing us, came to us and tearfully asked José to help him. He calmed her enough to tell us in rather stressed Imperial that Guido was missing and Benito thinks that some of Guido's enemies from Tylea came and took him last night.

She begged us to go with Benito and both help him and keep him from doing something stupid. The dorfrichter released us to go with him.

We gathered ourselves quickly, while Benito arranged for a barge. Prestley and Jason stayed behind, but the rest of us decided to accompany Benito.

José cast his language spell and joined the bargaining between Benito and the barge captain. More rowers were hired, and we all got on the barge and cast off.

For the first couple of hours, Benito rowed himself, like a madman. The other rowers desperately kept pace with him, and the barge nearly flew over the water. But they couldn't keep that up for long, and someone finally dragged Benito off the oars. The rowers took up a more reasonable pace, still very swift. Benito stood in the front of the boat, looking absolutely miserable. José joined him and commiserated with him.

José's spell behaved differently this time. I eventually realized that although he spoke normally, each person heard him in his native tongue and responded in kind. But we did learn the back story of the Sangioveses.

Years ago, the Ravinis rulled over Marigliano, a Tylean duchy, and they ruled well. The Ravinis were mysteriously murdered and the Cornuti family took over. Benito spat in disgust each time he mentioned them. However, one Ravini child survived, unknown to everyone. He had been adpoted by the Sangiovese family and raised as Benito's younger brother, Guido.

Somehow, the Cornuti had discovered Guido's true identity and they had moved here to stay safe for a while. Information had travelled, though, and the Cornuti had dispatched others, probably the Fecchia, to bring Guido back to them.

Since we were obviously heading into a battle, I healed myself completely and Omi as well, although I didn't inform him of that fact. I also acted as though I were still hurt. José made lunch for everyone, and Carmella distributed their ration of rum.

After six hours or so, we saw a boat ahead of us, and we gradually caught up to it. When they saw us coming towards us so swiftly, they became alarmed and sped up, but their laden boat was no match for our empty one with so many rowers. We eventually caught up to the boat, and their captain yelled out to us, asking why were coming at them so quickly.

Benito shouted out in reply, "Marigliano is on fire!" The other captain immediately understood this rather cryptic statement, and asked, "Benito?" From then, the conversation was in Tylean.

José translated for us. Benito quickly explained about Guido having been kidnapped. He obviously didn't believe this was the kidnappers' boat. The others hadn't seen anyone else; they left about 2 hours before we did, and the other one about 4 hours before we did. And they're moving much faster than this boat.

It was going to be a while before we caught up to the other boat. I devoutly hoped we wouldn't have to go all the way to Tylea to find them. I went through my medical case and found I still had springwort. I gave it to José and instructed him how to include it in the dinner he cooked for the rowers. In small amounts, it's a useful stimulant.

After the sun set, the two moons, just past full, gave us plenty of light to continue along our way. The captain said we'd reach the tunnel soon. Around midnight, we entered the dark tunnel. There were lanterns, but just enough so boats don't run into the walls. Although half the tunnel is in the Empire, they don't keep a presence here: the Sindicalistas maintain the tunnel.

The warriors lay down to sleep for a while, so they'd be ready for a fight. Towards morning, Benito woke everyone up and told us to be quiet. We could see the lights of another barge up ahead, and we were still in the tunnel. They handed out loaded crossbows to everyone, so we could get a volley off before coming alongside the other barge. I declined, of course, and I stepped to the back of the boat, out of the way of the coming battle.

Ravenna, A Monk of the Biancan Order

Part the First:
Blood and Mud

Part the Second:
Murder and Mayhem

Part the Third:
Puzzles and Crystals

Part the Fourth:
Dwarves and Rocks

Part the Fifth:
Diplomacy and Daggers

Part the Sixth:
Crystal and Chaos

Part the Seventh:
Sheer Insanity

~ The End ~