This is the first Acqua Alta main post. The next main post will appear by 11:00 pm, Thursday, April 9th.
Traveling from Byswell Town to Beilston was supposed to take three days, but when you reached the top of the great locks leading down to the Beil Valley early yesterday evening, it became obvious that you were going to make it in two. The next morning, when your boat traversed them and set forth from the bottom lock, in the Beil Valley at last, a nokk popped his head out of the water. "Better hurry," he cried out cheerfully, "for if you don't make it by tonight, my kinsfolk may be having you over for supper!"
Every year, the opening of the Path of Storms spectacularly heralds in the summer. This fearsome convocation of violent, rainy weather blows from east to west across Aucothia, drenching the land for one final, sodden fortnight before the dry, hot days truly set in. The very moment the first sequence of storms in this brief season let up, the lot of you rushed to the harbor, hoping to find a river boat captain daring enough, or greedy enough, to agree to take you on your way, and beat the coming of the next onslaught. Luck was with you, and for a few more precious coins from your dwindling reserves, you found yourselves headed eastwards, to Beilston. At least this was better than whittling away your remaining wealth in some ramshackle Byswell inn while the rains poured.
The pilot in question was a halfling, with tousled brown hair peeking out from a large hat that obscured his face down to just above his constant, mordant grin. Four of his six crew were also halflings, which gave the impression of the barge being overrun with solemn, bustling children.
Unsurprisingly, the river flowed fast and freely, engorged by both the runoff and the snow melt from spring. Many times, you spied the crew paddling against the current, to save the barge from running against some shoal, buried tree, or other debris. In between these panicky bouts of activity, the master of the boat still found time to trade half-hearted insults with the captain of the one other barge to brave the waters, carrying its load of passengers, including a single dragonborn who was obviously a devotee of the Great Master, towards the Temple Landing, further down the river. The two barges spent the length of the trip traveling close enough together for one to notice if the other ran into trouble.
It is now the afternoon of the day after the one that saw your dawn departure from Byswell. The bright, hot sun, Lord Pelor's Bright-Gold, shines high in the sky, not nearly far enough from the zenith to suit any of your tastes, and still completely unobstructed by the spectacularly tall, white, storm clouds that billow into the air from both the west and the east.
Within the past hour, a frightfully strong wind picked up, blowing counter to the Yu's current and raising whitecaps that wash over the bow, rocking the boat ominously. It is still laden with the heat of the day.
The sound of the wind and waves, mixed with the grunts and cursing of the crew as they bail to keep the barge afloat, drowns out the cries of the river fowl swooping low over the water and the croaking of the frogs on the bank, noises that had accompanied the party for most of the journey up to this point. Even more alarmingly, those of you looking out over the sides of the barge definitely catch glimpses of submerged trees still aleaf, and even what you're certain are buildings.
To your great relief, you spot a low, walled mound of grayish-black rock on a thin promontory of land up ahead. Numerous wooden rooftops and tower peaks rise upwards from its bulk. A sense of disappointment assails those of you who have not been here before: however dense and crowded it looks, the place cannot be as large as Byswell Town. However, the barge's pilot pauses in his duties long enough to explain that what lies ahead is Beilston Mound, nothing more than a keep attached to the city. It is here, though, that the inhabitants of the lower-lying reaches of Beilston go to seek shelter in times of flooding, such as these.
A long, blue stone jetty is spied, thrusting outward from the nearby, southern bank, perhaps a half-mile from Beilston Mound. The pair of barges maneuver towards it, and you see that there are about a dozen figures waiting there, all of them human, or passing for such. The crews paddle frantically to slow the vessels down as ropes are tossed from the jetty, and the barges brought close and secured.
"I don't know where you are headed, but your journey stops here, at least for now!" calls out one of the people on the jetty, a young and (perhaps by human standards) beautiful woman wearing a brown half-cloak over her official-looking garb. She bends forward and continues to shout in the direction of the wind, with both hands cupped around her mouth, "That storm to the east has already crossed into the valley. You won't make it to Temple Landing except in pieces." Standing next to her is clearly a bodyguard wearing mail and carrying a pole arm, with a crossbow at his side. The other people are dock workers, who are busy at work bringing the boats around to the sheltered side.
"Beilston is where we're headed, ma'am!" replies your captain in a high, clear voice that carries surprisingly well. "That's where we're headed as well, at least as of this morning," shouts the pilot of the other barge. The dragonborn stirs from its contemplative position near the center of that boat, perhaps a sign of dissatisfaction, but remains seated.
Once the barges are steadied and still against the east side of the jetty, the woman and her bodyguard step aboard and ask the pilot to provide his license and declare his cargo. When her back is turned, you notice a large, orange circle emblazoned on the half cloak, the symbol of the Ministry of Trade. Taking the pilot's word at face value, she assesses him a duty of five staters which he quickly pays, looking mildly surprised, and happy for the first time since the rest of you paid your fees to him. She glances at all the rest of you, wide-eyed and obviously curious, but she doesn't approach or question anyone else. Instead, she turns around and proceeds to the other barge with her cloak whipping about her in the wind, and the guardsman in tow.