Part 73 - Dawnstar

Stig Salt-Plank was more than a little embarassed to see Olfina in the Windpeak Inn at Dawnstar. He had his crew with him, and he just knew that Olfina would bring up the Uthgerd incident. They tried to ignore her, but Karita, who was thoroughly annoyed by the pirates, saw a sympathetic colleague in Olfina, and called for her help to eject them.

So it wasn't long before a brawl got started, with Stig on one side and Olfina on the other. Clarisse's crew kept Stig's people from interfering, and they cleared a space for them to go at it.

You'll pay for that!

Stig swung a haymaker at Olfina and she ducked, coming back up with a vicious uppercut to the point of Stig's chin. He fell back senseless into the arms of his crew. Clark brought him round by throwing the remains of his ale in his face.

"Prepared to tell us something more about the Blood Horkers?" he asked. "Don't tell me this collection is the entire operation."

"No, most of 'em are at Japhet's Folly. That's where Haldyn is, our 'secret ingredient' that makes us such a success."

"Who's Haldyn?" Clarrisse demanded.

"He's a battlemage. Keeps the island in fog, so we can't be found, and throws some nasty fire spells when we needs 'em. Seen him sink a ship single-handed, I has. Of course, we only does that once we've taken off anything worth taking."

Clark noticed Clarisse's glare when Stig mentioned sinking ships. "You don't get a second cargo from a ship that's on the bottom," she pointed out. "And it's too easy to put the shippers out of business, and lose all your income. Don't these idiots understand how it works? Keep them prosperous, and take your slice from a bigger pie. That's what they do with the legal taxes and duties, too. Too much, and you lose the trade."

Diablita remarked that she knew a shout to clear fog, or any other weather problems, and she knew that Clark's ward was equal to anything that Haldyn might be able to throw. "Let's get back to Windhelm, and see if we can figure out where this Japhet's Folly is."

Back at the East Empire Company, Orthus was being berated by his superior, an Imperial woman in legion armour. He introduced the party to Adelaisa Vendicci, who'd just arrived on a small ship to collect the cargo he didn't have.

Adelaisa knew where Japhet's Folly was, or at least she had a chart that showed it. "I've never been there," she told him. "There's always too much fog in that area for safe sailing."

"Don't worry about fog," Diablita told her. "We know why that's there, and I can do something about it."

"Is your ship large enough to take us all there?" Clarisse asked.

"Yes, since I don't have any cargo, there's plenty of room. How many of you will be going with me?"

"All of us," Clarisse answered. She turned to Clark and continued "I stopped worrying about Olfina when I saw how she handled Stig Salt-Plank."

Adelaisa lent Olfina a spare suit of her armour. She was reluctant to wear Imperial gear, especially here in Windhelm, but as Clark reminded her, she didn't have to put it on until they boarded the ship.

At the island, Diablita cleared the fog for long enough for them to anchor near the shore, but it appeared that Haldyn could replace it as fast as she dispelled it. "We'll need to deal with him as soon as we can."

"I think I saw a dock before the fog came back," Adelaisa told them. "If we can get a party ashore in a rowboat, and they deal with Haldyn and the fog, the main force will be able to reach the dock and join them. Now who should go?"

"Adelaisa should stay and command her own ship," Clarisse decided. "And I should leave her to it, and go in the longboat. If I stay on board, I'll want to take over. Being a captain does that to you."

"And I need to be there, as the counter to Haldyn," Clark pointed out. "We're counting on my ward to block whatever he has."

Diablita wasn't going to be left out either, and that didn't leave much room in the small boat. Hélène reluctantly stayed on the ship, as did Olfina.

The trio threaded their way through the ice and tied the boat up outside a small cave. "Looks like this is the way in," Diablita remarked. "I wonder if we're expected?"

Clark thought it unlikely. "But they'll have this route guarded, just in case. And probably trapped, too."

There was a single guard in the cave itself, and he hadn't seen them yet. "Does anyone have a bow, or a quiet ranged spell?" Clarisse asked.

Nobody did, but there was one possibilty. Diablita pulled the Bloodskal Blade from her back and positioned herself carefully. It wasn't the most accurate of ranged attacks, but a strong swing would unleash a magical force of some kind that cut like a blade. She swung sideways, so that she had a better chance of connecting and was delighted to see the guard's head go rolling off into a corner without calling out.

"We're bound to run into more inside, but at least they won't be expecting us, now."

"More chance to sneak and backstab once we're in the building," Clarisse reminded them.

"Haldyn's probably at the top of the tower," Clark deduced. "He'd need to keep watch for ships, so he doesn't have to keep this fog in place when there aren't any around. I'd expect his quarters have a view of the docks."

"We'd want to get up there to signal to the ship, too." Clarisse added.

"So what are we waiting for?" asked Diablita.

Haldyn was indeed at the top of the tower, and ready to greet them with shock spells. Since Clark had his ward up before they opened the door, they didn't have much effect, except to keep Clarisse and Diablita behind Clark, until they got fully into the room.

Once they cleared the doorway, they headed in opposite directions to flank the battlemage. Clark had a mean-looking sword in his other hand, so Haldyn was reluctant to to take his attention off the nearest opponent, and kept the torrent of lightning headed towards him. Nobody could keep a ward up for that long, could they?

Yes, Clark could, even if nobody else had the capacity. Soon Haldyn's ribs had a visit from swords on each side. and Clark could finally let his ward down.

Clarisse opened a window and sent up a flare spell to signal to the ship, and they headed back down towards the docks. The East Empire Company had brought along a battlemage of their own, and the area in between the tower and the docks was currently being hit by fiery explosions raining from the skies. That certainly thinned the ranks of the remaining Blood Horkers, but they still had to fight their way through a number of them before they met up with the rest of the crew.