A Long Walk

A Pittance for the Boatman

Theme song: The Islander by Nightwish

Shocked at the death of the only friendly soul known to them, the party seek answers but find none. Agamedes is tight-lipped about the circumstances of her death. Erthim hopes to speak with Roswitha's associate Alpinula, but she is distraught and under lock and guard. Erthim takes the matter to the town guard captain Garros Amris, who agrees to allow Erthim and company visitation if they promise not to bring up the murder out of consideration for the grieving Alpinula.

Upon visiting Alpinula, they find her quite despondent, but still offering of services and supplies. After completing their business, they ask if there is any service they could perform for her, but she says they can likely do nothing that hasn't already been done, short of traveling to her home, Gallia, and delivering the news themselves. Helpless to change the facts, the party resolve to finish their business in Chaméno Méros and be on their way.

They present Wuvroth's head, still floating on Lin's magic disk, to Dagania after being invited to her office. Suspecting trouble, Erthim warily studies her every word, but believes her only motive to be getting rid of the do-gooders that may tilt the balance of power in her secretive community. Dagania is ready to lead them away at once. They travel by foot for nearly half a day before she delivers them to a small pier on the River Styx where a boatman awaits in a long, low gondola. The party tries to say their goodbyes to Dagania, but she rebuffs them and states she wishes to never cross them again.

As they try to board the boat, its gaunt, silent ferryman bars them and demands payment either in souls or gold. Of course, they select gold. The boatman states a price of 500 gold pieces per soul after Lin explains they intend to travel to Krangath. Despite the considerable cost of steerage, Lin remarks "to get away from this place? A pittance!" They place their payments into the boatman's outstretched hand and board the small vessel.

As the ferryman silently steers and poles the gondola down the river, the party gaze out at the waters, seeing the ghostly and deformed souls of the damned writhing and twisting just below the surface of the murky waters. They decide to take watches, needing rest after a long and eventful day. As Erthim watches, the blasted and swampy wasteland slips away behind them, and a gray, frozen taiga takes its place at the riverbanks. The watch passes to Bren, who bundles and braces himself against the biting cold, seeing naught of living creatures, save the occasional howl of a distant wolf. Tired, cold, and soulsick, Bren can no longer fight off sleep and slips off into a dreamless slumber.

Ivellios and Lin awake, somewhat suddenly, and look around. They are no longer on the boat – the whole party has been left ashore near another pier in some other place. Certainly not Oinos, but the gray, featureless sky indicates it's still some part of Hades. They wake the others, and bicker about why they have not been delivered to their intended destination. Erthim sees the folly in such discussions with no information to go on, and delivers a rousing speech to rally his friends to continue their journey by foot if need be.

Channeling his religious studies, Erthim recalls this place as Pluton, yet another layer of a home of wicked dead. Pluton's rolling, rocky hills and copses of dying poplar and willow are a sight for sore eyes, despite the continued malaise. They set off down a woodland path, diverging to crest a tall hill and get a better look around. In one direction, they see the base of a huge mountain, hundreds of miles across, stretching up into the gray haze of the sky. Before them, they see an unimaginably long, pale, straight wall that itself must stretch hundreds of miles. Erthim recalls it as some sort of forbidden underworld of another culture. Opposite the first mountain, the see yet another colossal mountain in the distance – dark and foreboding, yet occasionally flecked by pinpricks of colored light, like hot orange and red sparks from a flame. Despite the relative proximity of the great wall enclosing the underworld, Lin is overcome by this barely-remembered display of such vivid color, and suggests that be their destination despite its distance. They set off once again on the tattered road winding through the hills.

Later, Bren spots a pair of creatures in the distance, one hulking and walking like an ape, one like some giant skittering insect. They decide it wiser to avoid the strangers, and diverge from the path to avoid overtaking them. As they continue to march for the dark mountain on the horizon, they encounter a drained and gray soul, hardly opaque, shuffling along the path toward him. They greet the man, who seems to recall being a soldier in some army. He seems utterly despondent, neither engaging with the party nor ignoring him. Hoping to do a bit of good, Lin offers to show him a magic trick. Drawing the soul's attention with mention of color, he causes a bright shimmer of blue, purple and green to radiate and sparkle across Erthim's newly purchased magic cloak. The dead soldier seems transfixed, and lifts his eyes, thanking the party and proceeding on his way at a revitalized pace. Bren could swear he looked just a little more opaque as he walked away.

Satisfied at having made visible progress toward their goal, the party decides to camp, and Lin tucks the magic cabin into a hillside. Out the window, Erthim observes some activity upon a distant hill, later noting that a small hole or burrow exists where he had seen movement.


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