27 Aug 2000. Sandomierz.
The Wisla Krolowa limped into Sandomierz. The hull was buckled at the port bow from a mortar shell near-miss, and the pumps were working the crew overtime keeping the leak under control.
Sandomierz was like a mini-Krakow. It had its own ORMO defense force and welcomed whatever land convoys and passing trade along the Vistula River would come their way. The town had a sulfur mine nearby, and its principal export was gunpowder and black powder.
This was only 10 km downriver from the blockade at Tarnobrzeg, so the group was feeling cautious. They pulled up to the river docks. About a dozen sailboats of various makes were tied up there, as well as a paddle steamer, probably a luxury yacht of the prewar communist elite. They quickly learned that the paddle steamer was offloading bicycles from Krakow. They’d bought their way through the Tarnobrzeg cable line that the party had subsequently plowed through. The steamer crew wouldn’t divulge the price they paid.
The market at Sandomierz was flooded with bicycles, so Captain Adam wouldn’t be selling any of his own here.
Part of the group went into town for a looksee and rumor-gathering. They learned:
- Rumors have been circulating in the town for sometime about a huge cache of gasoline somewhere near their neighbor village. These rumors occasionally spark expeditions to recover the treasure, but nothing has come of any of these attempts. Well, that was familiar.
- Lucja, Cutler’s one-time girlfriend, found work at the bar in town, thanked the party and remained in the city to stay.
- The Soviets have the region around Lublin under their firm control.
- Most of the ORMO spoke Russian, not Polish. Turns out, these guys were from the same Soviet unit that mutinied (38th Tank Division), along with the marauders at Tarnobrzeg, and every other group of bandits on the west side of the Vistula River. The faction that took over at Sandomierz had a bit more vision, led by a guy called “Noz” (noosh). They booted out the previous rulers, and instituted a more progressive regime.
- Speaking of the marauders at Tarnobrzeg, word had it that the town was a hell of debauchery and violence.
Elizka (who joined the party after the failed raid) had a startling encounter in town. Two men approached. Walerian, a former love interest and employee of the Guz back in Krakow, and his Middle Eastern-looking bodyguard. Walerian told Elizka that the Guz wanted her returned back to Krakow. He wouldn’t detain her, but he’d be reporting her presence in Sandomierz to the Boss.
The boatyard was expensive, and Maks lacked trust, so they took the Krolowa downstream a few kilometers, beached the tug, and made their own repairs. The banging and welding was noisy. For the group on perimeter security, the metalwork lasted painfully long hours. But their only encounters were some hunters, and later a group of Polish soldiers that watched them from across the river.
They returned to Sandomierz. The group decided to follow up on Lech’s offer to split the mysterious cache. A few of them would circle back in the amphibious GAZ, driving on the west side of the river, cross, and emerge at Baranow Sandomierski.
It had the potential to be dangerous, but their only encounter was a group of deer on the way. The cache was impressive. Their share included 100 liters of oh-so-precious gasoline, indeed liquid gold, as well as a case of 9mmP, case of 8mmM, and various tools.
Lech loaded up his village’s share into a makeshift handcart, bid farewell, and made his way back to the camp that the survivors of Baranow Sandomierski had established upriver.
It was nightfall, and the group decided to take advantage of the darkness to recon Tarnobrzeg.
The town lived up to the rumors. It took little effort to sneak into the outskirts on foot. Drunken revelry, gunfire, and screams echoed through the buildings from the town square.
They made their way into an abandoned monastery… which wasn’t entirely empty. A monk was hiding, and he had a tale to tell.
Civilians who try to flee are ridden down by Krol’s roving, horsemounted patrols, captured, and killed for sport in bloody, long-lasting spectacles held in the Rynek, or village market square.
Most of the town’s original leading citizens have been killed. The citizens are represented before Krol by the Mowca (spokesman), an elected individual who receives the Krol’s edicts and demands and passes them on to the people. In six months, there have been eight Mowcas, and being elected to that position is considered to be the equivalent of a sentence of death. The Mowca is also the only person ever allowed near enough to the Krola to attempt to kill him; three of the past Mowcas died attempting just that. Audiences with the marauders are usually held in what once was the Mayor’s house near the market square.
The group began planning.