It’s been nearly six days since Mr Johnson left for Tarlick with no messages since the raven on the first day he’d left.
He’d said if he wasn’t back in Arling by tomorrow to go look into it, and… well with no further messages, I’m growing concerned. We’ve had no other customers approach us all week. On the other hand, Kara seems happier, a spring in her step without Mr Johnson around to grump at her.
Just in case, as the sun sets without any sign of Mr Johnson coming in, I pack a bag, it’s a decent walk to get to Tarlick, the better part of a day in fine weather, and now that winter's rolling in, travel’s slowed with the roads gaining patches of iced over mud.
Still though, I’m left with a few issues, how much money should I take? There’s a sizeable sum kept hidden in shelf, downstairs, enough to feed the for a few weeks, with more hidden in the spooks room itself, on the other hand, he’s told me explicitly not to dip my hand into the savings.
I’m also left with the issue of Kara, whether to leave her with Marmalade to watch the house, after suggesting she come along on jobs, she seems under the idea she’ll be tagging along.
>Take no money
>Take enough for a few days of food and board
>Take enough to a few weeks, who knows what you’ll need to buy?
>Kara should stay until she’s had some self defence lessons.
>Bring her along, it’s better if you know where she is.
>Take enough for a few days of food and board
>Bring her along, it’s better if you know where she is.
Without self defense, she's potential in as much danger on her own as she is with us.
I decide to just take enough to last a few days, before packing in some food for the road, while Kara bustles about, making sure that everything else is locked, just in case a break in gets past Marmalade.
“Just make sure you keep your hood on at all times.” I remind Kara, just before turning in too bed, “Never know when someone can surprise us on the road.”
She nods at the news, tying her hair back as she slips into her room.
Daylight comes much too early for my liking, and still no sign of Mr Johnson, no birds, no mail, not even so much as a footstep coming up the path to the house.
“Alright, we should get going.” I nod to myself, picking up my bag, leaving one small window ajar for Marmalade to get in and out of, I scratch between the cats ears, before locking the door and heading out, Kara behind me.
“It’ll probably take a day or two.” I mutter, “Tarlicks a fair walk.”
Kara tugs her hoods up, pointing in the direction of the river. “Couldn’t we pay to go by barge? Maybe Alison and her father would even let us ride for free?”
Now there’s an idea.
>Let’s ask Alison’s father
>Let’s try the first barge we see
>I’d rather walk, honestly
“Let’s ask Alisons father. I’m not gonna say no to a free ride if it’s available.”
We make our way into the village, detouring from the main road. Ash and his crew of soldiers left a few days ago, leaving the village quieter, nearly half the men having left to go fight for whatever this war is actually about.
We find Alison outside her hut, as she is most mornings, whittling away at a hunk of wood, “Mornin’!” She calls, spotting your approach.
“Hey, is your father around?” I ask, “We were wondering if we could get a ride to Tarlick, just down the river. We can pay, of course.”
She grimaces apologetically. “Sorry, old man’s out of town. Had to go off to Reaumont to deal with some mess with his taxes, according to them, he’s short changing them.” She rolls her eyes, “Bastards are trying to bleed the rivermen dry is what they’re doing, someone’s got to fund their army’s pissup.” She sighs.
“Damn, a ride would have saved us a lot of time.” I mutter under my breath.
Alison stares over at the small shed where they beach the barge. “Well, I could always take ya down there.” She offers. “Old man’ll never know, besides, it’s better than just letting the boat sit there.” She shoots you both a grin, “Tell ya what, even do it free of charge.”
>I think we’ll walk
>Sounds like a deal
I shrug, looking to Kara. “Sounds like a deal to me.”
She grins, “Go fetch the boat out then, I’ll get some things together.” Kara and I pull the barge down to the water’s edge, waiting for the redhead to return, dumping a rustling bag into the front of the river, she scoops up a bargepole. “I ye get then.”
The small barge makes decent progress downstream, the flowing of the river here giving a slight edge in speed over walking. “So, what’re you two going to Tarlick for then?” Alison snickers, “Little romantic getaway?”
“Actually, we’re looking for Mr Johnson.” Kara cuts in, “He told us to come looking for him if he was away longer than a week.”
“A week?” Alison muses, “That’s a long time. Something bad happened, he could be anywhere by now.”
I grunt non-commitally, “He could just have been injured, and needing to wait for something to patch up before he hits the road again.”
Both girls shrug, “S’possible.” Alison agrees quietly, banking the boat around a soft bend in the river. “Now, there’s some rapids up ahead, so hold on tight.”
She drifts around a few more bends, as the day slowly wends forwards, the trickle of the river growing in pitch, the speed of the barge picking up. I grab hold of my bag and staff, making sure they’re secured as we pass under a stone bridge.
A slow croaking noise catches your attention, and you glance around. There’s no frogs dotting the river bank, they don’t usually live in rapids…
You’re almost about to ignore it, when you hear it again, glancing around, you hear a quiet splash, a small blue limb disappearing over the side of the barge.
>Tell Alison to stop the boat.
>Go take a closer look
>Throw salt where you saw it
>Tell Alison to stop the boat.
Stay towards the center as much as possible. Throwing salt randomly, into moving water is pointless and wasting good salt. Have some at the ready, but hold till if the creature tries to attack outside the water.
“Alison, stop the boat.” You hiss.
She digs the pole into the riverbed, banking it hard towards the edge, the rapids still trying to pull us onwards, down the river. I grab a handful of salt from my bag, and ready my staff in my off hand, ready to strike if anything rears it’s head.
“What are we looking for then?” She asks, flipping her eyepatch up.
“You didn’t hear that?” You ask, she shakes her head, as does Kara.
“Nothing.” Kara adds, “And I would have heard it before you.”
I glance into the river, rolling blue depths blazing by, depths impenetrable, as Alison does her best to keep us anchored. “Get off the boat, pull it out of the river.” You nod to yourself.
The girls both look worried, jumping out onto the riverbank, the three of you haul it up.
There’s something in there,you know there is. That mottled blue arm you saw proves it. It could be waiting just inches below the surface for all you know. You make the others stand well back from the water’s edge.
>Toss some salt upstream, let it run down into the rapids.
>Have everyone throw stones, see if you can scare it off
>Looks like we’re walking.
I think this be our first crit fail gentlemen.
So long, Leon. At least we probably aren't the shortest amount of time listed behind the mirror. That's something, r-right?
“Come on, if we head upstream, we can dump some salt in the water, should cause enough pain to any creatures in there that it’ll scare them off.” I mutter, hurrying back towards the bridge we passed.
I fish some of the spare salt in my bag out, setting it down so we can all reach inside it, the three of us dumping a solid half pound into the water, watching the white grains run into the water, slipping away downstream.
I keep my eyes and ears trained forward, keen to anything coming up out of the river. “Where are you?” I mutter to myself.
“Leon? Are you sure you heard something?” Kara asks from my side.
I keep my grip on my staff, “Positive, it’s got to-”
I lurch forwards, off the bridge, something heavy tackling me around the waist from behind, tumbling down into the water face first, I plunge in with a heavy splash, sinking like a rock with whatever’s got hold of me.
I twist and shake, hear a bubbly laugh coming from behind me.
I struggle, my lungs near empty with how sudden the fall was, as I feel something hard bite onto my finger.
I manage to twist around, the creature freeing my waist now, it grabs onto my free arm, a squat green creature, the size of a child biting down on my hand, it’s skin dappled green and blue, with a hard shell on it’s back, it’s beaked mouth grinning wide around it’s mouthful of my finger.
You’ve got no idea what the hell this thing is, never even heard of anything like it in all your studies yet and your lungs are screaming for air already
>Kick it loose, you’ll get more power
>Jab it with the staff
I jab at it with my staff, hoping that it’ll work on this thing.
It doesn’t even wince on the first blow, biting down harder, teeth pressing into my flesh, before it lets go of my hand. I jab it again, more forcefully, this time in the face, and it backs off a little, before the bargepole jabs into the water, smashing me in the face in the process
I grab onto it, yanking, and it hurriedly yanks upwards, Kara and Alison hauling me up onto the riverbank, dripping wet, and clawing air into my lungs.
Kara grabs me under the shoulders as I collapse on the river bank, struggling to pull me backwards, as I cough water out of my lungs.
A green head breaks the surface, as I check my hand. It didn’t puncture the skin, but it’s blunted teeth have left indents, while blood pours from an open gash on my cheek. It waves a webbed hand, it’s face still twisted in a grin as both arms break the surface, flexing and babbling some gibberish noise.
“Bloody thing cut ya!” Alison growls, fetching something from the boat, that weird hand sized tube she likes carrying around. She levels it at the creatures face, one eyed squinted shut.
>Kill it Alison!
I'm just saying, it could have been wrestling, kappas liked challenging humans to wrestling, and it didn't actually break the skin
leons only bleeding cos he got bashed with a stick
“Kill it!” yelp.
Kara flinches as Alison’s stick flashes, an enormous crack ringing from it, as the creature screams, sinking back under the water, a cloud of red blood rising up to the waters surface, as a heavy silence fills the air.
Alison slowly tucks her weapon back into her belt, rubbing her wrist. “Hurts more than I thought it would.” She mutters quietly, peering out over the river. “I’m not sure if I killed it, but it’s not coming back up.”
More red blossoms up to the surface, before being swept away down the river.
“How’s your face?” Kara finally asks, brushing my sodden hair out of my eyes, inspecting the cut.
“Fine, fine.” I assure her, “Face wounds just bleed more than most, it’ll heal soon enough.” Thanks for the lesson dad I add mentally.
Kara seems keen on fussing overme a few more moments, as I shrug my cloak off, leaving it to dry in the weak winter sun.
After a solid ten minutes, the creature still hasn’t surfaced and Alison gives a nod. “Alright, alright, no time for lollygagging, help me get this thing back in the water.” She gives the barge a shunt towards the river, the rapids helping tug it out onto water, Alison keeping it anchored as she looks back to us. “Come on then.”
>Maybe we should walk, in case it had friends
>Let’s just get out of here.
I jump back to the boat, giving Kara a hand to help her step across, as Alison pushes off again. “Let’s just get out of here.” I shiver before stripping my shirt off, leaving my clothes to dry out.
We make our way down the river unimpeded, Alison expertly guiding us through some shallows and rocky sections of the rapids, not a single sighting of the creature, nor the sound of a croak to be heard.
Whatever that thing was… I’ll have to ask my master about it when we find him. I make a note of it, jotting it down in a small journal I’d brought, before setting it aside, breaking for lunch, as we pass a small ranch.
“We’ll have to stop here on the way back up.” Alison mentions, “Barge needs a horse to pull it upstream against the rapids, “Dad’s friends with the rancher though, so it should be fine if he sees me.” She peers at the horizon, a series of grey blurs raising on it, “Speaking of, we’re nearing Tarlick now. How’s that for saving time, eh?”
What would have taken the better part of two days only cost us about five hours. Not a bad idea, if you don’t say so yourself.
Where Arling is mostly wood and thatch houses, Tarlick is all stone and mortar, being closer to Oendal and close to a quarry, they can afford it far more easily, but it gives the town a claustrophobic feeling, stone houses built too close together.
But what really bugs you, as the barge curves down the river, on the final stretch before town, is that it’s dead silent. Not a peep to be heard, no smoke coiling from chimneys. Silent.
Alison banks the boat again, pulling it to a stop and peering out. No visible foot traffic, not even the noise of animals
>Check some of the houses
>Head for the town square
I strike out, weaving between the houses, heading for the centre of town, the hairs on the back of my neck rising slowly, as a pit of uneasiness sits in my stomach.
The complete silence is unnerving, Kara at my heels, we try to peer into any windows we can see, but there’s nothing to be found. The square is empty, but the stalls from the last market day are still standing. If Tarlick is like literally any other village, that means they’ve been standing for at least three days, fruit and vegetables starting to rot in the open air, crates of salted meat left in the sun.
There’s a lot strewn across the ground too, toppled and crushed fruit littering the streets, juices long dried into the dirt, ants crawling over their remains.
A bark breaks the silence, Kara literally jumping in surprise bouncing a good foot off the ground, as Alison swivels, hand jerking to her weapon again as you inspect the shaggy sheepdog watching you. It’s tail is wagging as it trots forwards, fur nearly hanging over it’s eyes.
“Hey boy.” Alison croons, squatting low. “Do you know what happened here?” It allows her to scratch under his chin, sitting patiently and leg thumping in appreciation of the attention, for a long minute, before it stands again, trotting a short distance away, it looks back, barking once, before trotting off.
>Follow the dog, see where it leads
>Take a closer look around the square
>Follow the dog, see where it leads
>other: Pick up some of that salted meat and throw it to the dog to see if it it'll eat some
If it doesn't want to eat something with salt, then we know to be on guard.
Let's also rub some salt on our hands, just in case.
I grab a cut of meat, tossing it towards the dog.
It barks happily, savaging the scrap for a few moments, before gulping it down. “Alright, well he checks out.” I nod, before turning to the others. “Just in case, rub some salt on your hands, it may well save your life.”
They nods, smearing their hands as I lead the way, following the dog through the maze of squat houses, until he comes to a stop, leaning up both paws against a door, he starts to scratch at it.
I try the latch and it swings open with a loud creak, the dog hurrying inside, nose to the ground, he stops, sniffing at-
“Oh god.” I wince, “You two may want to cover your eyes.” I warn them, “It’s not pretty.”
A young-ish man is laying on the floor, clear evidence of a struggle about the small building. Seems to be a small office of some sort, the better half of the left side of his skull caved inwards. Looks like brute force.
The dog is whining, poking his nose at the man’s corpse, sniffing over him, most likely his master, the leather collar on his neck poking out of his fur as the dog steps into some of the spilled blood.
Keeping a grip on my lunch, I step closer into the room, looking around.
>Take a closer look at the body
>Inspect the scene, might be a clue in the clutter
>Tell the others to stay outside
next thread, but Im making sure to be an asshole and include a cliff hanger
“You guys… you stay outside, alright? It’s pretty gruesome in here.” I clear my throat, pulling the dog away from the man’s body to take a closer look.
There’s little wooden beads scattered on the ground, around his body… curious. Still, I try to remember some of my father’s lovely discussions over dinner, “Check the eyes.” I mutter.
Well, eye. Single. There’s not much left of the other one, but it seems clear, if a bit yellow. The blunt trauma to the skull is pretty severe, bits of bone protruding up against the skin in places, breaking the surface at the back of the skull, explaining the pool of blood around his head.
Whatever did this, it must have more strength than the average man to do that. Judging from the angle of the indent, the blow landed square against the thickest part of his skull, and yet, it’s near caved in. Most likely a cudgel was used, something heavy and round.
Moving down, I inspect his hands, nothing under the fingernails in his right, but the left is bloodied, and has bits of skin under them. Seems he was scratching someone, but I get a large clue when I uncurl his fingers, the stiffened rigor mortis fighting at me.
The hand opens to reveal the source of the beads, a torn string necklace, bearing a holy symbol on it, the Church of Oendal’s eight pointed sun, fashioned from simple steel.
Things are falling into place. From how tight he was holding it, the evidence of the fight, the torn beads fallen from the necklace, and his death grip on the necklace itself, it seems that it was a church enforcer who attacked him.
“Hey, Leon?” Alison calls, poking her head inside and wincing at the sight, “I found something, you should probably take a look at this.”
She hands me a note, and I start to read aloud. “Let it be known, that the town of Tarlick is suspected to be harbouring a coven of witches, decrying all laws of man, nature, and the one true God; Oenda, they are suspected of child sacrifice, animal sacrifice, and working with a warlock to befoul the world for material gain. Oenda has sent us to purge these sinners, they shall be tried, and if found guilty burnt at the stake. May their souls find the light, in the cleansing flames.”
Alison twists her face up, “That warlock? Well…” She grimaces, holding out two lumps of wood. The familiar oaken knobs of Mr Johnson’s staff, snapped in two.
This isn’t good.
>End of Spook Quest 10
Fucking church. I knew that they needed to be rounded up and locked away with the Witches.
There is only one true religion you need, and it is not the Church of Oendal.