OUR HEROES: Tira Wolfsdaughter Hank Woodman Haiku Odsdottir Gustav Mahler Persia


10. Karkul

The Columbia asks and is granted permission to enter Karkul Harbor. Warily, Crockett steers the paddlewheeeler through the narrow causeway between the seawall and Karkul Rock. Their progress is marked by three defensive towers on the heights as well as a uniformed band of otter soldiers at the waterline. Karkul it seems is serious about defense of its harbor.

As they dock, the River Master has the canine quartermaster Keno give the passengers a few words of advice concerning Karkul. Although no one specifically mentions Mahler, Keno notes that the riven are absolutely not tolerated in Karkul. Also, although there are more beasts in Karkul than in Tallon, they exist nearly entirely as a servant class. Finally, he warns them that women are likewise second class citizens in Karkul. The sight of a woman warrior would be considered provocative towards violence.

Nevertheless, after these words of caution, the crew and passengers are given leave to go ashore for awhile. Mahler refuses to leave the ship, and indeed decides to stay below decks and out of sight. Karkul is the place where he was attacked years ago, the night that Purists burned the circus sideshow where he grew up. He has a mortal fear of the place and no desire to visit it. Haiku and Tira also decide that it would be best to stay aboard.

Hank goes on a quest looking for wood for arrow shafts. Although there are stores on the Columbia, the wood is far too good to use for fletching. After a few false starts, he discovers a man at the Harbor Master's office who can help him. The city official is very suspicious and asks many questions about why he wants the wood and where he is from. He overcharges Hank for the wood criminally, but Hank pays anyway, being flush with cash from Haiku's share of the sword sale.

While at the Harbor Master's office, Hank encounters Preston, the squirrel Bosun of the Columbia, and Tip the otter who accompanied them during their adventure in Nemo's Court. They say that Crockett has allowed them some shore leave and ask if Hank is so inclined. The manikin politely declines.

In the meantime, Persia has been napping in the crow's nest and idly watching the waterfront, making notes of the area should she ever need to ply her thieving skills here. She is startled to see a familiar figure pass beneath a street lamp of lumina. The barbarian warrior she encountered in Tallon is now in Karkul! Kamlak of the Shattered Isles has indeed left the Jewel of Merrikia and traveled to Karkul, the City of Stone.

She quietly leaves the ship in pursuit. She finds trailing him difficult due to the nature of Karkul's architecture. Every street and building seems to be carved from the natural bedrock. There aren't many clues to follow. Nevertheless, she tracks him to an area where three small waterfront inns overlook the harbor. Each one is lit and raucous, despite the lateness of the hour.

After several tries during which she is mistaken for a job applicant, she discovers that Preston has been captured by some ruffians who have tied him to a door and are betting to see who can throw a knife closest to the tiny squirrel without hitting him. Horrified by the cruelty, yet realizing that she cannot fight five or six armed men, she runs back to the ship at top speed. She does not see or hear Hank, coming back from the harbor Master's, nor does she hear the police whistle directed at her as she races through down he waterfront. When she relates the story to Ships Helm Maia, she is overheard by Gustav. The giant loses all fear upon hearing that his friend is in danger and bursts from the hold. He is about to storm the city before Tira grabs his arm and asks what is going on. Mahler hurriedly explains while Haiku also comes on deck. Mahler runs after the retreating Persia and Tira follows him. Haiku is determined not to let Tira out of her sight.

As they follow Persia's trail, they encounter the guards who had ordered the feline to stop. The guards also order the giant to stop, but he bowls past them, receiving a minor cut in the prcoess. Tira attempt to explain to the guards, but they seem more intent on escorting her back to her ship than saving her squirrel friend, so she breaks away from them in exasperation.

Persia encounters Hank on the way back to the tavern. She fills him in on the situation and as they approach they see a body hurled from the front door. Persia peeks in through the same window as before and sees Kamlak locked in combat with the ruffians who were menacing Preston. As she watches he thunders, “That is what happens to those who menace a friend of Kamlak of the Shattered Isles!” This perplexes Persia, who was not aware of any connection between the two.

While Kamlak continues to fight, Persia sneaks in to free poor Preston. She shushes him when he calls out her name. Utilizing some fast talk, she distracts one of the ruffians while she dives through the window, carrying the squirrel. Tira and Haiku arrive now, just in time to see Kamlak drop another rascal. Mahler barrels past them, imapcting the wall in his haste. Tira, seeing the guards approaching and quickly grasping the situation yells to Kamlak that the police are on the way.

Kamlak replies, “Kamlak of the Shattered Isle waits for no man, not even the city guard!” Then he dives through the same window as Persia. Mahler searches for Preston, and hears a weak voice coming from behind the door to which the squirrel was tied. Tira and Haiku run around the side of the building just before the guards show up at the front door. The only person in the room still standing is Mahler, whom they order to drop his club and place his hands over his head. Mahler slowly obeys but tells them about the voice from behind the door. The guards investigate and discover Tip, bound hand and foot. Apparently the ruffians were planning on using Tip for entertainment after Preston wore out. The guards consider arresting Mahler on general principles but realize that Mahler didn't have time or the proper weapons to commit the carnage in the room. They decide that rather than attempt to subdue and arrest the giant, investigate the crime and chase down a lot of suspects, it would be far easier to just tell them to get back to their ship.

Meanwhile out in the alley, which has gotten rather crowded, Tira also thinks that they should get back to the ship. She thanks Kamlak for his help but tells him that the guards will doubtless be looking for him. Flexing his mighty thews, the barbarian nimbly mounts to the roof and takes off. Persia decides to follow. Leaving the alley, they encounter Mahler and the guards, who follow the party at a discreet distance to make sure they embark in a timely manner.

Persia has decided to shadow the mighty swordsman, but is swiftly detected. Kamlak recognizes her from the tavern in Tallon. “Ho, Miss Kitty,” he exclaims, “Are you so infatuated with Kamlak of the Shattered Isles that you have followed me all the way from Tallon?”

Persia swallows a guffaw and decides to play to his vanity. She claims that she wishes to learn from him, to be his apprentice. He is naturally suspicious but plays along. He takes her across the waterfront to a much nicer establishment than the one they have just left and tells her to announce him. She does so, with some mortification. For a moment she is afraid he has tricked her and she will have made a fool of herself, but he enters soon afterward and arranges the finest room for himself. His new apprentice can sleep in the stables. Persia readily agrees.

Later that night she sneaks from the stables and through his third story window. She pads her way across the room to where he lies sleeping. She believes that his belt pouch, which he still wears, may contain the ruby belonging to Gamina's father. She has to crawl into his bed to reach it and as she places her hand upon it, Kamlak immediately whips a knife from under his pillow and brandishes it at her. She is flustered and goes through a series of ill-conceived lies about noises that scared her, and an attraction for his broadly muscled chest, but Kamlak will not play along this time. He accuses her of thievery and draws his sword. Persia leaps from the window, trusting in her feline reflexes to take her lightly to the roof of the stable. Unfortunately, the roof gives way and she lands in a large pile of manure.

The last thing she hears as she flees the area is the hearty laughter of Kamlak of the Shattered Isles.

After taking the time to clean herself thoroughly, she returns to the Columbia, where she very sheepishly reports to Crockett. All bed down for the night.

The next morning cargo is loaded and the paddlewheeler leaves Karkul. “Good Riddance,” is the reaction of many.

Hank spends the day making arrowheads, Tira practices using her spirit sight while Persia is very close-mouthed about her doings of the night before. All she will say is that she believes that Kamlak has already pawned the jewel, since the sword and armor he bore were of exquisite quality.

While Tira is practicing, she notices a large mass moving towards them underwater. She has detected a Kraken and alerts the crew. All hands report to battle stations and a pitched battle is fought with some tentacled horror of the deep. Its many limbs exude a stinging chemical, so they fight with great care to avoid the ichor that spurts from the wounds. Nyra is grabbed, but Mahler's great strength pulls the tentacle open and returns her to the deck. Not so lucky is crewman Thomas, who is pulled to a watery grave. Having snagged its dinner and most likely repelled by the armed resistance of the crew, the Kraken retreats.

The Columbia continues on in a much more somber mood until some time after sun down the ship churns into the port of Orodon. (12/8/01)