Now anxious to get on their way, the group decides to depart Reiksguard in the mid afternoon rather than spend another night here. Elisabet prepares for departure and everyone looks forward to a 4 day trip to Altdorf.
The Edelweiss sets sail from Reiksguard, entering the busy river traffic on the Reik. Elisabet is kept busy, raising the sales, adjusting the lines and then frequently adjusting their heading to give a wide clearance with other boats and ships. The Reik is a busy river. At any one time, at least 10 water craft are visible going in both directions. Most are keel ships, similar or larger in size than the Edelweiss, but there are also occasional fishing vessels, with nets or lines dragging behind, small and large passenger boats and an occasional tall masted ship of war.
Their departure is in the late afternoon. The sun is low in the sky in the west, dropping towards Reiksguard to your aft. Ahead the sky is clear but darkening.
Elisabet tells you there is a small fishing village Fairdale about 4 hours down river. They will sail a little past sundown, but on the Reik she is more comfortable with evening sailing then she was on the River Teufal.
Night falls and the traffic thins. Elisabet sends Selena, who has become adept at climbing the mast while the men have been visiting the seas, scampers up the mast and lights the lantern at the top of the mast, and Elisabet asks one of one of the men to light the lanterns fore and aft. Other boats are doing the same thing and as night falls the lights of the boats on the river almost blend into the bright stars in the sky. The night has a waning moon low in the west, but the sky is so clear and the sky so filled with stars that seeing their way is not difficult. But over the next hour the traffic thins until only one or two boats are visible far to the fore and aft.
Soon however a glow comes into view ahead as you turn around a bend in the river. It is quickly apparent that a boat is on fire. As you approach you can see it is a large, luxury passenger riverboat. Those of you who have traveled the Reik before have seen boats like this before. They are not common, but are occasionally seen. Very flat and wide, with two, three or four decks, they look more like a floating town building than a masted boat or ship. They are generally driven by paddle-wheels in the rear. These are driven by dozens of men in the lowest deck, turning mechanisms that drive the wheel. Though some of you may have heard tell of such a craft driven by Dwarven engines driven by steam.
This is large such craft, with three decks. As it comes more into view you can see that it has a heavy list to one side, with the port deck already awash, while the raised starboard deck is awash in flame. Passengers stand screaming on the fore-deck and the upper decks, and others are visible in the water.
As you get closer the list becomes greater and the lower passenger decks port side is underwater, cutting off any escape through the windows, while the starboard is engulfed in fire. On the top deck are many passengers and several crew members can be seen apparently struggling to lower a life boat (there are several more in the water).
Aereon realizes with shock that this is the River Queen – a boat he was on just a month ago. He knows the interior, and realizes that on the lower deck, the only access is from the front and rear. Furthermore, the engine room deck is also accessed by stairs to the interior of the lower deck, so it is possible that quite a lot of people are trapped.
On the fore deck, a woman is screaming hystrically “my baby, my baby is inside!”. You see two men apparently trying to open a door on the front of the half submerged deck, but a collapsed mast is blocking it.
If asked, she will tell you that her cabin is on the port side 3rd from the rear. Near the stairs to the rowing deck.
Two tasks are apparent that the group could immediatly help with – unblocking the front door, and climbing to the top deck to help with the life boats. There are no stairs (they are on either side) but there are plenty of hand holds with the railings on each deck to climb up. A third option is swiming on the port side and tryign to get in through a window (though that could flood the ship, of course). Aerion tries this third, jumping into the water, but quickly discovers swimming in pitchblack water under a sinking ship to be harder than expected and he swims back to surface, pulling himself onto deck. Sigmarund jumps onto deck as soon as it is in reach, while Valdric follows, stepping more carefully with his bum leg. Barrick grabs rope and starts to use it to rescue passengers trying to swim in the dark water.
Sigmarund tries to get the screaming woman to tell him where her baby is, but his somewhat gruff and impatient manner with her just throws her further into hysterics. As Sigmarund moves on to help move the mast blocking the access hatch to the half submerged floor, Valdric manages to calm her and learns that the baby is in her stateroom, which is on the port side, third from the aft end of the passenger deck.
Sigmarund and Aerion help move the mast, (mainly the efforts of Sigmarund) and they open the hatch. They are practically bowled over by the mass of frantic passengers pouring out of the doorway. Once they pass Sigmarund pushes forward and moves left to go down the starboard passage way – the side of the fire. Aerion, on a mission to save Terunia, a beautiful elven cruise director he met on his earlier passage, tries to rush down the port passageway. He finds however that slogging through knee deep water on a tilting deck is harder than expected. He does make progress though, as Valdric follows. Valdric tries each locked door, while Aerion drives towards the back of the ship, unconcerned about human lives that might be at risk behind the closed doors. Sigmarund finds it somewhat easier to move down the starboard hallway, though breathing in the smoke filled space causes him to pause, his lungs racked with pain.
Barrick completes pulling as many people aboard the Edelweiss as possible. With it riding low in the water, he jumps off on to the deck of the River Queen. Thinking he should help the crew on the top deck lower life boats, he starts to climb the railings. But the dark, the listing of the boat, heat from the fires causes him to repeatedly miss hand and foot holds, or find himself stuck needing to try another climbing patch, and he finally gives up, dropping back to the deck.
Meanwhile inside, Aerion reaches the aft accessway leading down to the rowing deck – and finds it lock. Quickly picking the lock, he opens the door. It crashes open from the press of the paniced rowers behind it, and knocks him from his feet into the neighboring room. Not expecting this he goes under, taking a lungful of water. Once they pass, the elvin woman he sought emerges. Seeing Aerion struggling, she calmly pulls his head above water and starts to drag him forward.
Valdric successfully rescues the baby and moves foward. He is also almost knocked over by the surge of freed rowers, but he moves into a neighboring corridor and waits for them to pass. Struggling back into the corridor in water now up to his waste, he pushes forward. His bad leg gives out and he almost falls in – until he feels a strong but graceful hand pull him back. He turns and sees the elvin woman helping him forward as she drags the unconscious Aerion behind her. With her help he makes progress. As they approach the front of the passenger deck, the boat heaves over and he falls again, dropping the baby and knocking his head on the bulkhead.
Aerion and Valdric come back to consciousness on the foredeck. The River Queen lists more as the passenger deck continues to fill with water, and Sigmarund and Barrick help the two to their feet and onto the deck of the Edelweiss.
Onto the deck of the Edelweiss, which is already packed with people who were rescued from the water before. When they step on, its bow sinks ominously. Passengers move back and to the side to make room, but they unbalance the boat and it starts to list to starboard. The crowd trys to counterbalance, moving to port, but over compensates and the boat flips to port, its deck sinking slightly below the water. Elizabet crys out “Lighten the boat or she’ll sink!”. Everyone looks around for something to toss and boxes, crates and barrels start to fly over the side. Sigmarund and Barrick heft the heavy foregun overboard as well. Wally in the rear, shouts as he sees his inventory disappear below the waves, helpless to stop it.
The loss of the weight of the cargo is enough to make the boat safe again, and Elisabet turns her towards shore. Sigmarund in the bow sees 3 people in the water turn and swim towards them, hoping to be rescued. Realizing that just one more aboard could endanger everyone, he shouts at them to turn around. When they ignore him he raises his pistol and pulls the trigger, dread in his heart. The bullet practically splits the skull of the closest one, and the others, shocked, turn back to try to swim to shore.
Anchoring off shore, the passengers are helped to swim to the beach to join the camp of cold, exhausted but happy to be alive passengers that has formed.
The rest of the evening is uneventful…., well, all except for the goblin attack and the disappearance of Tharin…..