This next section of the adventure was, once again, a short section (cut short by sleepiness in all parties involved), but more interesting (I think) by far than the first section.
On their way out of the Guild Security Office, Baudolino and Bamph are made to sign contracts (neither read the fine print). They are then given instructions and two tickets- they are to catch the departing 9 o'clock train at Heiblin Street Station.
They immediately head to the nearest pub (Baudolino's idea), a suspect establishment bearing a sign that reads: "The Pig and Stethoscope". Baudolino takes the first table, and proceeds to recoil from hitting on the hideously deformed barmaid, who has an extra eyelid on her forehead. Bamph, on the other hand, disassociates himself from the rowdy gunslinger, but in the process strands himself at a table bearing a crowd only slightly less rough. Grumbling in peasant speech, (OOC: I use British accents for Simblians such as these, so the rich and well-born Mr. Tuneustorm speaks with a fine high-class British accent, while the factory workers and lowborn sellswords who frequent this tavern have thick Cockney speech) they do not take to him until he purchases them a round of ales.
While Baudolino proceeds to become progressively drunker and drunker, Bamph drinks sparingly, and notices an old, faded heliotype on the wall, hidden amidst the wafting clouds of smoke. He goes to examine it. The picture is dated roughly one-hundred years back, and shows the wreckage of the structure which stood before the Pig and Stethoscope, a tall towerblock apartment building which was destroyed in a great fire. The heliotype shows crowds of people, among them the crossbowmen and city guardsmen of the Lord Provost, examining the ashes and toppled bricks of the towerblock. But what really attracts Bamph's attention is a figure, standing and facing sideways to the heliotypist in the picture, who bears an exact likeness to one Professor Anz Breughlii (previously encountered in the Security Office), down to all-black clothing and tattooed scalp.
Several hours later, both adventurers exit the pub into the busy Simblios night, the raging drunk Baudolino leaning upon Bamph. The streets are lit by flickering gaslight, and overhead, aerostats and zeppelins soar, highrails squeal along steel cords, and shouts echo from the tops of buildings. Pushing through the vast crowds (headed to night-shifts at factories or to night markets), the two arrive at Heiblin Street Station just as vast crowds of Blauphagn folk searching for work disembark from the train. Boarding, they are led to seats in the finest seating car. Baudolino immediately falls asleep.
At about midnight, the train reaches the tiny stop where the two are to disembark. It is a miniscule thorp in the midst of rolling hill-lands in the Tar Epar Van (the vastly fertile lands to the north of Simblios), all shut up for the night, and dark, a crumbling old village of medieval half-timbered, hay-roofed houses. Moving down from the old, rickety train station, the alert Bamph and the bleary Baudolino move towards the central square.
In the square, a carriage awaits them, half-shrouded in the darkness. A group of figures converse in low tones next to it. Horses stamp, echoing through the little square. As the two adventurers approach, a man comes close, a scarred warrior of nondescript appearance, and asks if they are the last of the mercenaries to arrive (they answer yes).
Their luggage (with exception of the case in which Bamph carries his special fencing plate) is loaded onto the back of the carriage. Baudolino, exhausted, climbs the steps of the carriage, and is about to get in, when the door swings open, and a man inside, heavily armored, clicks the hammer of a flintlock in his face.
"I'm sorry, my good man, but that is far enough. My employers state that none are to see the cargo," the man says, waving Baudolino off. The man then shuts the carriage door, leaving Bamph and Baudolino to ride on the front seat with the driver. Other mercenaries walk or ride alongside.
The ride lasts a very long time. Traveling across rolling hills, down highways between the boughs of deep, silent forests, and up into the rocky foothills of the mountains, the carriage rolls on.
As they travel, Bamph, the more aware of the two, sometimes notices odd echoes, and sounds of movement which the others don't seem to notice, off in the woods to either side.
The First Ambush
The carriage begins it's ascent into the mountains. On a rutted track through deep forest, it rolls on. Bamph takes the time to strap on his fencing plate, while Baudolino catches much-needed rest.
Suddenly, as the carriage rolls up the mountain track, musket shots ring out, and steel balls fly from the eaves of the forest to the road's right. It is an ambush! The carriage is immediately and desperately forced to a stop and the mercenaries drop down into defensive positions, loading muskets and pistols. Baudolino, awakened by the shots, follows his first instinct and clumsily leaps from the coach-seat, falling to the dirt and rolling down underneath the carriage, while Bamph crouches in the footwell of the seat and loads his double-barrelled pistol.
Baudolino, utilizing his binocular goggles (the lenses roll on gears into place) picks out green-clad armsmen amidst the forest eaves, nimbly avoiding the returning fire of the guards of the carriage. Preparing a shot, he takes close aim, and fires a dead-eye blast which is spoiled at the last moment by a ducking movement on the part of the target. Bamph, shooting in the dark, as it were, fires the first shot from his double-barrel, blasting one of the ambushers from it's feet.
There is a ring of steel, and from the other side of the forest, green-clad warriors with broadswords and axes assault from the weaker-defended side.
Responding with absolute celerity, Bamph acrobatically flips from the coach-seat, landing and drawing his rapier with a flourish. He meets the first attacker with a wild slash across the throat, and the second with a proficient stab. Nearly missed by a chopping attack, he snaps his blade towards a third fighter, when, as if by an invisible signal, the green-clad attackers retreat, both gunmen and warriors, melting into the wood and leaving the defenders of the carriage to wonder what has happened.