Chapter 31 - Winter Is Coming
After the harrowing encounter in the streets, the party makes its way back to the Prince of Fishes. Here, Vasilisa awaits them, having returned from her business (or break from Sasha). Here, however, are more unpleasant meetings and meetings. The captain of the city watch from several days ago returns, with claims that there were witnesses of the altercation in the streets. Many local residents and bystanders were apparently hurt or killed as a result, and claims of foul magic being used have been lodged. The @captain is sending people around to learn the truth, but for now, it is certain that the party must come before the magistrate in the coming days. To make sure that they appear, he takes Tumma with him to the citadel, despite Chonkorchuk protestations. The plans to depart the city are thus delayed, especially as it had been decided to go through Kaverinka - who but Tumma knows the way there? While the party sets up for the night, they are approached by a grizzled stranger, who overheard part of their conversation with the captain of the watch. His name is Drazhan, and he has traveled from the southern steppes to the North, in search of freedom, work, and perhaps, to get away from his old life. Fortunately, he also seems adept trekking through the wilds, so in case Tumma faces a long imprisonment, he might be a worthwhile replacement. Drazhan drinks late into the night, which causes Chonkorchuk to muse that though he might be a replacement, he still liked Tumma better. Vasilisa finds the behavior somewhat irresponsible as well. The following day, Chonkorchuk goes to the citadel to negotiate for Tumma's release. The captain fairly openly solicits a bribe, but the party has been spending money at a fast clip, and Chonkorchuk can only ensure that the party will not have to appear before the magistrate; but Tumma remains imprisoned. He tells Chonkorchuk to hit the road, and tells him that he will catch up when he can. While Chonkorchuk is thus engaged, Vasilisa completes her own shopping, buying armor and some daggers. Sasha, for her part, goes to the mansion of chilliarch Iudita Shcherbatova, where Reznikov is staying, in order to find out if he has been able to sell the apple. However, she is not admitted, and it appears that he has left, with no intention to return either the apple or the money. After finishing their errands, the group reconvenes. It is probably a good time to go, but Sasha does not want to leave town until she has fulfilled Baba Yaga's request, and gotten a tattoo to display her loyalty to the crone. Vasilisa knows that one place to do that would be a seedy neighborhood where gang members congregate. Looking for such a neighborhood results in yet another unpleasant and highly unexpected encounter - some shady characters offer to take Sasha to place where tattoos can be applied, but they lead the party into an alley where they are suddenly confronted with Lionia the Red - an old enemy of Chonkorchuk's and Plamen's. Lionia quickly gives them the slip, and pursuit seems senseless, but as the party makes its way out of the neighborhood in order to escape unpleasantries, a group of a half-dozen toughs who are likely Lionia's associates jump them. Fighting them off is not terribly difficult work, though Chonkorchuk is forced to retreat, and Sasha is somewhat worse for the wear. Aside from a small money pouch taken from one of the toughs, there are no rewards as a result of the confrontation, and the party thinks better than remaining in this part of the city any longer. The city in general is becoming quite dangerous, and more street fights are bound to end badly, if the debacle of the previous day is any guide. It is time to leave town, but there is still the matter of Reznikov to deal with. At the docks, the companions learn that someone matching his description was ferried to the opposite side yesterday. Unlike Reznikov, the party lacks mounts, but Drazhan seems to have some capacity in moving quickly through the wilderness. He is sent up ahead to see if he can pick up the scent. The rest of the party completes Sasha's mission - they find a smith, who, after three tries, makes a branding iron that does the job that the tattoo was supposed to do. Meanwhile, the road north from the princely Big Nest estate on the opposite side proves well-traveled, but after an hour, Drazhan does pick up a set of singular horse tracks that looks promising. He follows them as best he can, but the weather worsens, and at a certain point, he feels the air getting very cold, and hears a storm approaching. Incongruously, it starts snowing, despite this being summer. Drazhan goes to investigate the blizzard, and finds himself in a blinding whiteout. He turns back, but runs into a wall of ice - he is trapped! As he turns back, he sees a fur-clad maiden approaching him.
- Vasilisa purchases armor, daggers, and fletching materials
- Small coin-purse taken from toughs
- Captain bribed to avoid having to appear in front of magistrate
- Sasha gets branded