Angus had been fighting the currents of the Chionthar his whole life. Whether it was fighting against them on the trip upriver or trying not to let them sweep him past his destination when he was headed down river, there was always some challenge the Chionthar was ready to throw at him.
As night began to settle, it wasn’t the river he was worried about though. Recent experience had shown him how much worse the things you could find on it could be.
Life had been good. That should have been his warning, Angus decided. He had a crew of three, one of the biggest he’d ever managed to afford, and together his deckhands had a collective IQ that was higher than the oars they were using to paddle against the current with! It was like some deity or other had lost track of miracle and it had landed on Angus’s boat!
Like all good things though, the miracle couldn’t last. Angus knew that and he’d planned for it, stocking up funds in Baldur’s Gate against the inevitable day when his luck dried up.
The inevitable day which, of course, came sooner than he’d expected.
One minute his crew had been pulling into a beach Angus had a fondness for using for overnight stays, and then next Gerald, the smartest of his deckhands, had an arrow where his throat was supposed to be.
The brigands took everything. Angus and the other deckhands didn’t bother putting up any kind of a fight. They were outnumbered and half the brigands were shifty looking kobolds with a hunger for human meat in their eyes.
That had been where everything in Angus’s life started to fall apart.
“Sorry boss, I’m gonna try to find some safer work,” Larrep said after they’d limped up to Elturel and made their final docking. “I don’t think the river life is for me.”
Angus scoffed, “Ain’t no life safe, but get on with ya. I got no time for quitters.”
He did the calculations in his head. With one deckhand he could still manage a small cargo. He’d have to haul for someone else, and that was a dicey proposition. Arguments over the condition of the goods always seemed to arise, and he’d been in more than one court case over who was required to cover the new fees that arose from time to time. Hauling a small load for someone would reduce his exposure, but it left a bitter taste in his mouth regardless.
Bitter was better than the taste of ash that soon followed it though.
“I’m getting out too,” Durmpel said. “I know a guy in the watch here. I think he can hook me up with something.”
And that was it. There was nothing for Angus in Elturel anymore. Nothing left to do but to slink home with his boat and his tail between his legs. He could start up again with the money he’d squirreled away, but was it worth it?
Probably not. If everyone else was too weak and afraid to travel down a river why should he? Angus was considering just pushing off and seeing where the current took him when one his regulars came racing down the street to the docks.
“Angus! Angus! Oh thank Torm! You’re still here! Are you leaving tonight? Can you leave tonight?” Bob asked.
“Was just asking myself that same question,” Angus said, wondering what had put Bob in such a state.
“Good. Good.” Bob struggled to catch his breath. The boy had a nice shiner on the side of his face. Typical practice scuff from his Order of the Gauntlet. “Ontharr wants to hire you.”
“What for?” Angus asked.
“He’s got some people who need to be in Baldur’s Gate as soon as possible,” Bob said. “He said he knows you’ve done night trips in the past and to ask if you’d do one tonight. For a premium rate.”
Premium rate. That usually meant trouble. No, Angus corrected himself. That always meant trouble. And did he really want any more trouble? He looked at the river, his river, and sighed.
“Yeah, tell Ontharr I’ll take ‘em.” He was a fool. He knew that. “Payment in advance though.” Even a fool needed to get paid after all.