21 September 2000. The Vistula River, Poland.

Maks sent Wojciech and a new crewmember – ex-quarterback Eric Benson – in the freshly-repaired inflatable boat to the wreck of the Rzeka Ksiezna under the cover of night. 

Benson had a bad leg from an injury sustained before the debacle at Kalisz, but was still an experienced diver, and Wojciech was something of a jack-of-all-trades. Maks was suspicious of the wreck, given that Adam’s first tug had been ambushed by pirates a few months prior.

The pair rode the current quietly downriver. Near the wreck however, they heard boat motors approaching from downriver. They watched through their night vision. It had been a cool, cloudy day, and it was a dark night.

Even with night vision, Wojciech and Benson could just make out three boats motoring upriver. It was strange, as the boats were very close together, hulls in contact or nearly so. It was a risky venture to travel at night, given the river hazards, and so this encounter warranted caution. The pair retreated to the Krolowa upriver and reported their contact.

The boats turned out to be refugees, not pirates. Their three fishing boats were lashed together; the middle boat was unpowered, and all were in rough shape from bullet holes, impacts, and poor maintenance.

Another one of those random encounters I mentioned last post:

“Boat-1: A 15-meter motorized barge passes, heading south. It is crowded with refugees, dirty and ragged people with fear in their eyes and few possessions. If hailed, they will claim to be Czolno Lud, or “River People” from the “Floating City” at Warsaw, but say that a pirate attack has scattered much of the fleet and driven them to seek refuge to the south. They have heard that conditions are peaceful in Sandomierz, and they are hoping to find sanctuary there. They will ply the characters with questions concerning conditions up the river and in Sandomierz.”

They were led by a man named Bogdan. They exchanged information, and Bogdan told them to name-drop him if the party visits the Floating City. Maks gifted the refugees with 100l of alcohol for their boat motors, and told them to name-drop him at Sandomierz as well.

22 September 2000

In the morning, the Krolowa pulled up alongside the wreck of the Rzeka Ksiezna. It was burned and looted, but Adam said there may be salvageable parts below the waterline. Benson made repeated dives, reporting back to Adam what he saw, and received further instructions. From the process, Adam said that the rudder, both screws, and her drive shafts could be salvaged as spare parts for the Krolowa. Maks asked how long it would take to remove them. Adam replied “2d6+4 hours”. [OK, a little metagame humor there…]

Vistula Queen b

The salvage process ended up consuming 7 hours, but it felt worth it as the rudder, screws, and drive shafts were critical parts for the Krolowa.

Continuing downriver, it was a strange sight. The Vistula had changed course from its pre-war channel at Puławy.

“Puławy was once an important town of 15,000 inhabitants on the Wisla River 145 kilometers from Warsaw, a major crossroads on the Lublin-Radom main road. The war destroyed many industrial facilities along the river, including the flood control levees and dams which had tamed the once shallow and unpredictable river. Extensive flooding of the land between the Wisla and the Wieprz rivers over the last several years finally resulted in a change in the river’s course. The Wisla has moved westward from Puławy by about 10 kilometers.”

Pirates of the Vistula, page 30

Where the Lublin-Radom road crossed the new channel of the Vistula, the Polish government at Lublin had built a wooden bridge. When the Krolowa approached, it was clear the bridge had been damaged by an attack, and work crews were repairing the span. A couple of guards casually watched the workers, and the security concern was clearly focused on the downriver approach. So it happened that Krolowa was practically at the bridge before the guards jumped to attention. They shouted at the tug in Polish to stop for inspection, but Maks ordered full steam ahead.

The bridge retreating behind them in the distance, Maks decided to make it a long day, and pass Deblin – also said to be under the central government’s control – at night.

21-23 Sept 2000 area

It worked. The Deblin bridge was out. If there were any guards, they didn’t show themselves as the Krolowa glided past.

The refugees had warned them that the Vistula turned into a shallow, obstructed mess for 20 kilometers after Deblin, so Maks decided to drop anchor for the night.

23 September 2000

It was a quiet night. At daybreak, the tug made its way through the paltry waters. The land in the region was flat as a pancake. Their only encounter was desperate-looking primitives watching them from the soggy shore.

The river was empty after that. They were in No-Man’s-Land now.

Approaching the Góra Kalwaria bridge, Maks narrowed his eyes.

gora kalwaria bridge - view toward bridge

It looked quiet, with no sandbag emplacements or other suspicious developments. As the tug closed the distance, a few figures were visible. They were wearing civilian clothes. A few were armed. They appeared to be local townsfolk, and were waving down the Krolowa.

Maks, still wary, made contact via the inflatable boat as before. The people seemed to be what they claimed, residents of Góra Kalwaria, a deeply religious community, led by a Father Andre. And they had marauder problems.

“Marauders in the area have demanded tribute of “taxes” from them on five occasions in exchange for not putting the town to the torch. It is rumored that these bandits were part of Baron Czarny’s “army”…

…The most recent incident was five days ago; marauders appeared and demanded gold, ammo and food; the townspeople gave them what they could, but it was not enough. The marauders will return in two days to collect additional ammunition — at least 5000 rounds of any calibers — or they promise they will take five of the town’s women.”

Pirates of the Vistula, page 32

Maks was leery of being drawn into every town’s misfortunes, but this here smacked of a good opportunity for the party: Ambush! Knowing the time and place where the marauders would show, Maks’ men could overwhelm these troops from the Black Baron on their own terms.

23 Sept 2000 Warsaw region