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Under Providence Bridge (Lightholder River)


Two large and thick stone columns engraved with friezes of carts piled high with merchant goods rise about twenty feet from the jade-green water of the Lightholder River to support the Providence Bridge, which spans the river and links the Imperial Thoroughfare on its way between Lightholder Crossroads and the Market District.

Althea Weaver's Keelboat attempts to pole towards South of Providence Bridge via South, but collides with an obstacle, causing total damage to its port hull.

Althea Weaver's Keelboat cracks open with a loud wrenching noise, and begins to quickly sink.

Althea's keelboat has crashed into a rock and sunk. Rapido has panicked, leaped into the water and now swims desperately for shore. Markus, heavily burdened by armor, is quickly sinking like a stone. Althea is lighter, but can't really swim all that well. The water's about twenty feet deep. The curb of the underside of the bridge is perhaps 20 feet away.

Althea attempts to keep her head above water, flailing toward shore, sputtering.

Markus Kahar struggles against the tide and is quickly gurgling downwards. So this is how a Vozhd Duke ends. Perhaps futilely, he struggles against his armor with one hand while the other grapples towards the shoreline, attempting desperately to grab a log or overhang - anything.

Markus is unable to grasp anything. He's sinking too fast and he's too far from anything that might save him. He goes down quickly, takes in water, and loses consciousness. He's close to drowning as his plunge continues through the silent depths of the river, past the puzzled glances of curious river eels and fingurglers. Althea isn't having any better luck. Her flailing accomplishes nothing - no forward motion, she just goes in desperate circles and starts sucking in water. She's close to sinking herself.

A bright remembrance flares through Althea's mind and a calm over takes her. With great deliberateness, she reaches out to the Duke and takes a hold of the back of his armor and allows her self to bob to the surface. Once she is standing on the water, she coughs water, but still she drags the duke up, clearing his head. With great effort, the weaver steps along the water, as if it were solid ground, dragging the unconscious man behind her. Tired, she moves to use both her hands, pulling and yanking the man to the shore.


Shoreline


A jetty of blunt black stones stretches out into the river from this rocky strand of soil along the murky green edge of the river. The shore slopes gently upward as it leads away from the waterline. A misty swamp expanse festers beyond the ridge of the shoreline.

Markus Kahar is entirely unconscious, waterlogged, and without any other possible recourses to action. His face is soggy and pale, and his eyes are rolled back in his head. Althea manages, by virtue of her Shadow-Touched gift, to drag Markus safely to shore. But he remains unconscious, his lungs full of water.

With chilled wet fingers, Althea begins to unlace the Duke's armor around his neck. Finally working the metal gorget away, she rolls the man to his side.

Althea works the breastplate and backplate loose, then rolls the Duke completely on his front. She pushes against his back with rapid strokes attempting to force the water out of his lungs.

At first, no reaction, then a strong convulsion shakes Markus' body. As she pushes on the back of his lungs, pounding furiously on his back, Markus somehow expels the water from his lungs... as well as much of today's breakfast. He heaves and coughs, screaming vile obscenities as he wretches riverwater.

Althea stops, and settles back on her haunches watching worriedly. "Your Grace," she says. "Your Grace, are you well?" Her voice breaks as tears run down her face.

Markus Kahar's bleary eyes open into slits, peering up at the sky above. He hears a voice - Altheas? "... happened... wh.. is this the... world to come... I am a shade?"

The chill wind whips along the shore, blowing through a roiling misty white fog that blots the landscape. Rapido shivers and grunts nearby. Icy river water laps at the shoreline. Althea and Markus have been saved from the river, but the elements may yet kill them.

Althea shivers wiping her face. "No Your Grace," she says. "We are very much alive. Can you ride? We must get to shelter quickly."

Markus does not, in fact, look able to ride. In fact Markus looks barely able to keep the spark of life inside him burning. Markus doesn't answer, but only returns to wretching up seawater. Rapido snorts cautiously nearby, pushing at her owner with her nose.

Althea searches the surround. "Where the Light are we?" she whispers, her body now taken completely by shivers.

Somewhere along the shoreline of the river is the best question. Markus, having emptied both his stomach and lungs, carefully tries to sit up. His eyes the world around him wildly, before calling out half-choked, "R... *coughsputter* RAPIDO"

Althea continues to shiver, arms wrapped about her. "We must try to ride out, Your Grace," she says. She tries to stand and collapses back down in a heap.

Markus Kahar weakly, Markus attempts to stand. His legs seem not to co-operate, however, and he crumples back down. All he can do is sit and rest. "I... I cannot move. Let us just... lay... gather our strength..."

Althea can only manage to nod. "Yes," she says. "I'm so sorry Your Grace. This is my fault." She buries her head in her hands and sobs.

Markus Kahar wipes his face with the edge of his tunic; life and death aside, Markus still has his Ducal dignity. "We... we've got to get out of these clothes or... we'll freeze." His voice is barely above a whisper. "We've... got to get somewhere warm. Out of the cold." Markus nods, before taking a look around for the first time, trying to get a sense of their direction. "... last I remember we were at the Boars Road in the Imperial Huntswood... where are we now. I don't remember anything after the hull breach."

Althea nods then looks up to the Duke. "Removing our clothes would do no good without dry ones to change into," she says. "Do you have a flint? Perhaps we should build a fire." She begins to wring out her cloak with weak hands.

Markus Kahar has not the strength to argue, only resting a hand on Althea's knee while recovering his senses, "Di... dinnae fear, we are alive and that is enough. Save your tears for another day. I have no flint only... what you see on my person. I have nothing. But we need to get away from the shore. S... somewhere, we have to find some shelter."

Althea struggles to her feet, failing once, then with a grunt, starts off to gather kindling. Dropping her cloak behind her and stripping to her underthings, she begins to gather wood for a fire.

Markus Kahar lays his cloak on the ground, shuffling out of his armor and dropping all but his tunic and underbreeches to the ground. Somewhat better, he is nevertheless wet, and does his best to stagger up and assist in the search for kindling.

Althea turns at the sound of a THUMP and stumbles back to the Duke. "Your Grace!" she exclaims putting a hand to his forehead. Seeing him cold and chilled, she forces herself away to find more wood.

Althea gasps, a chill running through her, and tries to roll the Duke closer to the fire.

Rapido follows after the weaver dragging Markus, huffing, hot breath breezing over Althea's knuckles as the horse sniffs her.

Markus Kahar is, in whatever the case, passed out. Apparently the search for kindling was in of itself too much of an exertion, and Markus simply shivers. His face redefines pale.

Althea looks up at Rapido, a darkness over coming her senses. A tear rolls down her check. "You love your master, no?" she says quietly. She urges the beast to kneel next to the Duke.

Rapido eyes Althea suspiciously, snorting.

Althea grimly works the saddle off Rapido then pats him one last time. Taking her short sword, she plunges it into the beast aiming for the heart.

Onto the shore washes a fairly decent chunk of the keelboat hull, upturned, probably large enough to provide some shelter from the relentless wind.

The end of an Era. For nearly a decade, Rapido, Markus' most loyal and beloved steed, carried her Duke into battle and peace. They shared the good times and the bad, and in the tradition of the great horses of yor, were the best of friends. In Markus' lowest hour, he still sat upon his horse, that never questioned his intentions or ideals. Who never thought ill of him. This is not a fitting end for so noble a beast. Ingloriously, Rapido lets out a horrifying scream followed swiftly by a exhausting whinny. Kicking and crawling, the animal slowly crumples to the ground, succumbing to the darkness that brings relief from the pain.

Rapido has been removed to the Shadowrealms.

Althea raises her hands reflexively as the great beast falls, then after a moment, removes her sword with a heave. Nearly gagging with the effort, she opens the beasts gut and rolls the Duke into the gore. Stumbling back, she throws up and sobs alternately.

Markus Kahar stirs not, still mercifully unconscious. If he were aware of the fact that he was being inserted into the spilled innards of his beloved horse, he might not react well.

Althea crawls back toward the Duke and horse and rests herself between it and the fire. Head spinning from a day gone from beautiful and bright to darkness devoid of light, she continues to cry.

Markus Kahar stirs slightly amidst to the horse innards, but resumes his peaceful slumber.

Althea gathers heat from the beast looking toward the fire and back again.

Some time later…

The fog has cleared and the wind has died down, although it remains quite cold. The fire, the shelter of the upturned boat and the innards of the sacrificed horse have kept Markus Kahar alive. Now, in the fading twilight, another boat can be seen passing on its way to the Market District docks.

Markus Kahar stirs lightly, his senses having recovered somewhat with some sleep. His eyes are still closed, and he himself still half-sleep, however he calls out: "... a... Althea... Althea!"

Althea stares out into the water, eyes red and dry. As the shape of a boat approaches, she pats the Duke gently. "Rest your, Grace," she says. Stumbling up to her knees she grabs a flaming brand from the fire and begins to wave it. "Here!" she yells weakly. "Over here! Help!" She tries to get up to her feet.

The weaver's voice - and the glow of her brand - carries across the water, getting the attention of the keelboat pilot. He poles the river, maneuvering the boat so it angles toward the shore, and calls, "Any injured?"

Markus Kahar settles back into the warm confines of Rapido's spleen, oblivious to all in his weakened condition.

Althea struggles to her feet. "We were both nearly drowned," she calls back. "The man with me is the Duke of Vodhz. Please hurry, he is barely conscious and in need of a healer." She sways and stumbles her knees.

"Duke of Vozhd?" the keelboat pilot inquires as the boat noses ashore. He steps off the bow, setting the pole aside, and signals for three strongback cargo handlers to join him in helping the castaways. "No sense holding that against him, I suppose." He wipes his runny nose with the back of his left hand, chuckling, and watches as the workers move to carry Markus aboard.

Althea allows herself to be picked up by one of the sailors, but watches carefully as the blood soaked Duke is taken aboard. Her lips pressed tight, she has cried her last tear, and instead groans with every shift of her body.

Markus Kahar is hefted from the bosom of Rapido's warm gut-embrace to the cold of the river once more. Markus feels himself being lifted and grunts slightly, "... Althea... Rapido... stable her in... Vozhdya..."

The keelboat pilot eyes the ruined carcass of Rapido, licking his lips. He glances over his shoulder at Althea as she's helped away, asking, "This horse been dead long?" He scratches his chin, returning his attention to the dead horse. "Doesn't matter really," he mutters. "Cold's preserved the meat, I wager. Couldn't hurt to see if the Hawk and Dove needs a good stew meat."

Althea turns her head and dry heaves. Closing her eyes as she is set in the bottom of the boat, she shakes her head. "Leave her in peace," she says. "And speak naught of Rapido to the Duke. The shock may well kill him." She shudders once more as a rough piece of oil cloth is draped over her.

Markus Kahar goes limp once more, and simply slumps into a comfortable place on the riverboat.

The keelboat pilot just rolls his eyes at Althea. "What his fanciness don't know won't hurt him." He nods to a couple of the strongbacks once they load Markus aboard. "Stow the carcass. Might as well make a little profit from our diversion."

Althea closes her eyes tightly, her pain nearly too much to overcome her anger. "Leave her, I said," she growls, setting up weakly. "I'll pay you triple her worth once we are back in Vozhd."

Markus Kahar does nothing, just sleeps.

“None o' your tricks," the keelboat pilot snaps. "Triple nothin' is still nothin'. But meat's got value." The strongbacks begin loading the carcass of Rapido in the cargo hull. The pilot braces against the bow, preparing to push the keelboat back out.

Time passes, and eventually the duo is delivered to Vozhdya harbor...

Vozhdya Harbor (Forest District)

The smell of seawater permeates the air as the cityscape gives way to Vozhdya's yawning docks. Shaped like a cove, tall columns of milky-white marble rise from the canal's murky depths to support long biinwood piers. Burly longshoremen manipulate weighted wooden pulleys, heaving goods on and off the riverboats.

Armored port officials traipse along the boardwalk registering ships. On the bluffs above the quay, salmon-pink stucco townhouses look down on the commotion. Light glints in their windows and the wind whips the tall banners above. A long stone walkway curls upwards from the docks to the city square. The canal waters ripple lightly.

At the Dock, an entire host of Guardsmen are waiting in fevered anxiety. As the boat approaches, one calls out, "There they are! There's the Duke! Quick, fetch the healers!"

Althea feels herself being raised out of the boat and groans with the movement. "See to His Grace!" she says. "I just need to go home and sleep."

A few householders rush to Althea's aide as well, all doing their best to assist the scene. They quickly take them to their homes - Markus to his Keep, Althea to her Townhouse.

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