Saturday, October 26, 2013

PBM: Chapter 1: Arriving in New Phlan: Part 6

Welcome to the Slums.

The party arrives at the Parkside Gate, leading to the slums and other uncivilized sections of Phlan. The palisade wall here is heavier than on the sea-ward side, easily four-feet thick, comprised of several sharpened spars stacked together and reinforced with stone salvaged from older buildings. The double-gate is just wide enough for a large wagon to pass through and guarded by ten soldiers in heavy, double-linked chain coifs and hauberks. A heavy wooden bar rests to one side, ready to drop into slots on the gate to bar it, and several angled braces for additional support also stand nearby. Seeing you approach, one of the guards steps forward. "Papers please."

Donovan hands the gate-captain their charter, looking at Amara distractedly. "How much does a candle cost?"

Amara shrugs at Donovan.  "I dunno."

Lyra shifts her backpack to her other shoulder.  "It depends really.  They can be pretty basic, or fancy and dyed with incense embedded in it, or marked to tell time.  Mother has a lot of that kind."

The guard looks at the charter for a long time, pulls out a quill and punches a small hole in it, then hands it back. "First day, huh? If you're going shopping in the market, keep a tight hand on your purse. And keep a sharp eye out--the last group through mentioned that the Redhands have been out in force of late..." The guard sets his halberd against the wall and draws a broadsword from his belt, another does likewise. The two then take hold of the large iron latch-bars and begin to pull the gates open, as the others fan out with their halberds ready and pointed towards the gate, as if expecting a rush of enemies at any moment. When the gate is opened, your noses are assaulted by the stench of garbage, mud, and offal, carried on a sickeningly warm breeze. A press of beggars--children, the blind, the infirm, goblins, orcs, half-breeds, and other unrecognizable things--waits immediately outside the gate. The guards lower their halberds and march three steps forward in unison, forcing a break in the crowd. The guards with the swords wave you through. "Good luck..."

When the gate is opened, Amara wrinkles her nose.  "Ew....stinky!"

"Maybe it will smell better if you're a little above the crowd," Gendry picks Amara up and places her on his shoulders again. He then walks through the gate and begins edging his way through the press of beggars, one hand steadying Amara, the other on his sword. He begins scanning the crowd, looking for anyone shifty among the beggars--anyone hanging back and not pressing the alms-bowl hard (spies), anyone near the front keeping the hand not holding the alms-bowl low and hidden (ready to pick a pocket), anyone playing up their injuries far too obviously (faking an injured arm or leg or peeking out from under a blindfold), or anyone with a the tell-tale bulge of a weapon hidden under their rags...

Donovan tucks the charter safely into his left, inner vest pocket, says "Thanks," to the guards and follows Gendry's wake through the gate. Seeing the press of the poor and downtrodden, he reaches into purse and tries to press a silver piece into every outstretched hand and bowl he can reach--while keeping a tight grip on his backpack where the actual valuables are stored.

After detailing his schematics for the self-cauterizing-bone saw to the clerk and following the group to the gate, Shuddup grimaces at the stench of the masses takes a deep breath and follows in Donovan's wake.

The guards gently nudge everyone past the gate with their pole-arms, then quickly shut the gate behind them, leaving the party adrift in a sea of unwashed humanity.

As Donovan begins handing out coins, Gendry notices a man in the middle of the pack edging towards Donovan. His hands are down, out of sight, rather than upraised in the typical begging posture. His face is horribly scarred and his left ear is missing.

Donovan continues to press coins into every upturned hand and bowl, quickly exhausting his supply of silver. You are fairly certain that some of the beggars received two or even more, as there is no way to keep track of individuals in the forest of outstretched hands. As it becomes clear to the crowd that the purse that held the silver has been emptied, they begin to disperse. One ancient-looking goblin tugs on Donovan's sleeve and croaks out in Common. "Huafk has a school. Behind the horse-seller. Tell him Huafk sent you. He'll teach you to fight good." You're certain, contextually, that he said two different names there, but you feel that you don't know enough goblin to distinguish them...let alone pronounce them correctly.

The rest of the party looks around, past the crowds. A twisted warren of shacks, lean-tos, and crumbling ruins stretches out in all directions. The palisade on this side is covered with graffiti--lewd drawings and slogans in a hundred languages, carved or drawn in chalk, blood, feces, or whatever else was available at the time. The ancient Parkside Road continues to parallel the river here, running north-west, but shows minimal upkeep. The cobbles immediately outside the gate are cracked and worn, and just a few blocks on it dissolves into a mud path with the occasional island of old paving. The road looks barely passable, choked with garbage, debris, and people. Indeed, just a cursory look at the people (and things) milling about on this one street leads you to estimate the population on this side of the wall at at least ten times that of "New Phlan".

Gendry steps directly into the crowd towards the skulking man with the unfortunate face. As the beggars scatter, he grabs one of the man's hand and presses something into it--a black silk domino mask wrapped around a single copper piece--and whispers to the man, "The Shadowlord must have his due. Where shall I dump my cargo?" He then lets go and takes a long step backwards out of the mob.

When the man sees the minotaur coming towards him, he turns to flee. The big meaty hand grabbing his wrist nearly pops his shoulder out of joint, then he notices the bundle he's been given and stops. He turns back and gives Gendry a quizzical look. "Ah, guv'na bull, if'n ye wants t' be makin' a donation, finds yerself a well and don'tcha be afraid t' take a swim, eh." He jerks free and bolts. Gendry's superlative ears just hear him whisper, "An' he sees all 'at 'appens secret..." before the man vanishes down one of the numerous side alleys.

Lyra's eyes go wide in shock as she follows closely behind Donovan, and holds her pack tight against her chest under her cloak.  "How long has it been like this here?  That smell....  Is it because the river is fouled and there's not enough water?"

Donovan finishes handing out coins, and pushes his way past the crowd before turning to Lyra. "Oh, three centuries or more, at least. Phlan has been sacked, burned, and rebuilt more times than I can count, and most of the old city is just ruins on top of ruins on top of more ruins." He walks, carefully, up the road as he begins lecturing. "These slums are the result of the last few years. When New Phlan was started, the Council came in with military force and retook the old docks and quickly fortified the reclaimed section of the city. Settlers started trickling in, overland from Zhentil Keep and the Dales to the west and Melvaunt, Thentia, and Thar to the east, or else by ship from the south. Civilized Phlan soon reached a limit on space, and expansion seaward has been slow work, so newcomers were forced to build their homes outside the wall--or occupy and try to renovate existing ruins more often..."

He pauses talking to step over a pile of refuse, then resumes. "Any progress the new settlers have made here is quickly washed away by the old city's long-time inhabitants. Several gangs of monsters run these slums--like the Redhands the guard was talking about. Orcs and goblins have infested these ruins for hundreds of years and they don't know any other way to live--filthy creatures. Walk around here long and you're guaranteed to see goblins crapping in the streets. Settlers that manage to build a half-way decent house outside the walls quickly find that they are targets for burglary, vandalism, arson, and beatings. Everyone living out here pays protection money to one gang or another--though I here the goblins are more likely to actually deliver than the Orcs of Kobolds. The adventurers occasionally manage to get rid of one gang or another, but unless someone can make a concerted effort to knock out all of them in short-order, more beasties will just keep coming to fill in the gaps..."

He ducks a low-hanging beam jutting from an old building. "The Council claims that clearing the monsters out of the slums and civilizing it are their top priority right now. BUT, the Council is made up of a bunch of old merchants--not real governors. They refuse to levy taxes (even though they have a few on paper, none have ever been collected), have only one full-time municipal employee, Deborah...maybe two now...and are willing to invest only in the military endeavor of reclaiming the city. Well, that, and building nice public buildings for their own use. Even the military occupations they prefer to carry out via contractors, like us. Which leaves the settlers, citizens, and creatures of the slums to fend for themselves."

He gingerly steps over a goblin corpse, covering his mouth and nose with his hand to avoid inhaling one of the many flies buzzing around it. "The Council is making progress though. Most of us are just waiting for more of the city to be 'civilized'. We figure once a sufficient number of people and sufficient land are involved, then progress will accelerate, the people will organize, and the Council will have to concede in favor of a more traditional, service-providing, form of government."

"For now, most people out here try to keep a low profile and get on with their lives. Citizens can pass through the gates rather freely, but most real day-to-day commerce happens out here in the Market. Adventurers from the City, either passing through to go raid the richer parts of Old Phlan, or else actively slumming, provide the main way of transferring funds from the Council to the Slums. It's the worst for those wretches by the gates though. If you get injured or orphaned out here, there isn't really anyone to help you. Luckily the beggars are easy prey for the bigger monsters, which helps keep the population of the completely impoverished from getting too out of hand...."

"Luckily?!" Lyra says. "That's terrible!  Handing out silver, yet valuing their lives so little?"

Gendry reaches up to steady Amara again and make sure she's okay, "Let me know if you see any wells, eh?" Then rushes to catch up to the others.

Hearing Donovan's speech he grins. "Sorry Lyra. Really, the Council's politics sound a lot like my father's. It seems to me like being nice to the beggars is a good way to stick-it-to-the-man, by which I mean, redistribute the Council's wealth in a way they would disapprove of, which really has nothing to do with whether or not you care about the beggars' lives. Plus we just bought two good bits of intel for a handful of silver."

He looks around, trying to keep a lookout for any possible assailants, while trying to breath as shallowly as possible to avoid the stench. "If the Council isn't concerned with infrastructure or services, fixing thousand-year-old drainage systems seem the least of their worries." He grins evilly. "Hey Shaddup? Do you think you could design a drainage system that would deposit all of this soilage right next door to the City Hall?"

Donovan looks a little shocked at Lyra's outburst and back-pedals a bit, or thinks he is, though his tone continues with the same lecturing quality. "Miss Lyra, don't take it that way. I just meant that, you know, they aren't really contributing anything to the improvement of the city or our society. Sure, its sad that they are disabled and a lot of them are kids, but they are beggars, leaches really. You help who you can, but you can't save them all."

He steps around another pile of trash and smiles, as if enjoying a personal joke, or just recognizing the irony of his next statement. "Come on. Let's go find Amara's uncle and ask for that money he owes us for services not-yet-rendered..." He begins laughing a bit too loudly.

As you walk along, dodging trash and listening to Donovan's political rant, Gendry suddenly shouts a warning. At the same time a high-pitched, scratchy voice yells out in some unrecognizable, guttural language. "Pooš! Sovetkot!" Donovan turns a little too quickly to see the source of the noise and trips, landing seated in a large tub of filthy water. An ancient-looking woman with waist-length white hair, the sleeves of her dress rolled up past her elbows with a soaked apron over it, stands over him, pointing a loaded crossbow at the bridge of his nose. She continues to scream. "Pooš! Pooš! Pooš!"

The road here is filled with large tubs of water, some dark and filthy, others with a heavy head of soapy foam. Above, the area is criss-crossed with a spiderweb of ropes, from which hang clothes in various states of disrepair, all soaked and dripping. From the old-woman's stance, you can easily tell that she is trying to block you from approaching a ramshackle old wooden and stone lean-to around which the laundry supplies appear to be arrayed. Her home, such as it is, has a heavy, moth-eaten, woolen blanket for a door and a cloud of black smoke coming from a hole in the roof.

She keeps the crossbow leveled at Donovan's face and continues to scream. "Pooš! Pooš! Pooš!"

Lyra slips a dried apple out of her bag carefully, so as not to spook the old woman with the loaded crossbow in Donovan's face.  She smiles apologetically, and holds out the apple for the old woman to take, holding up her other hand to show she's unarmed.  She speaks softly, with an apologetic smile.  "We're sorry, we didn't know this was your home.  If you'll just let him get up, we can be leaving."

Donovan looks from the woman to Lyra and back again. He then looks at his clothing, dripping with the filthy water of her used washtub. "Excuse me, Ma'am. But, how much do you charge for a cleaning?"

He slowly extricates himself from the tub, sliding himself awkwardly backwards, away from the readied crossbow. He then says, quietly, in Elvish to the others, hoping that at least one of them understands--and that she doesn't. "I think she's speaking Orc...or maybe might want to keep your eyes peeled..."

The woman takes a step back, her eyes darting around. She half-lowers the crossbow, but keeps it pointed in Donovan's general direction. "Sorry miss," she addresses Lyra, "I heard this'n talking..." she gestures at Donovan with the crossbow, "...and thought ye were 'venturing types come t' steal me laundry agin." When Donovan addresses her, she finally lowers the weapon completely. "Oh, ye're cust'mers!" She takes a step back and looks at the horrible purple-brown splotches covering Donovan's clothing. "Giv'n that ye just dumped yerself in a tub o' discharge...a copper if ye wants it t' be brown, or a gold if ye want it to be whatever color it was fore ye took yer bath. An' I can't'nt make no promises on the secon' 'un..."

The woman's voice is cut off by several deep voices shouting "Sovetkot!" as four orcs come charging from the alley behind her house. "G-ube!" The woman looks absolutely shocked that anyone actually responded to her cry for help...

Gendry swings Amara down off his shoulders with his left hand, drawing his sabre with the right, the perfectly sharpened silver blade gleaming in patchy sunlight peaking through the smog overhead.  "Everyone stay behind me," he yells.

Lyra moves between Amara and the oncoming orcs and continues trying to de-escalate the situation rather than killing orcs that were nice enough to respond to an old woman's cries for help. "She was just calling for help, and they came!  Either they're here to help an old woman protect her home or she's all paid up on protection money and they're upholding their end.  Either way, they aren't the kind of orcs we need to be cutting down in the street!  Gendry!"

Donovan circles around towards the middle of the washtubs and clotheslines, hoping to put some obstructions between himself and the oncoming orcs.

He then casts a Sleep spell at the orcs, whispering softly under his breath, dropping some sand to look like dirt he kicked up, and concealing the gestures in his dodging--trying not to draw attention to himself as a caster. Three of the orcs stumble and pass-out, their momentum carrying them forward, leaving one face-down in the washtub from which Donovan had so recently extricated himself, the second tangled in a clothesline, and the third snoring peacefully at Gendry's feet.

Lyra breaks out into song to try to calm the orcs down. Amara lets Lyra be her shield and peeks around.  She waits to see what happens, tapping her foot to Lyra's tune.

_Step one: wear a smile._

_Step two: say hello._

A bit late, Shuddup follows the very sensible advice of getting behind the large minotaur, works his back to a corner and drops to a crouching position readying a large metal and wooden tube across a wooden beam jutting out about knee high in the ruins, and touching a match to an opening on its top.

As the lead orc runs past Gendry, the minotaur executes a perfect, deep sideways lunge, driving the point of his sabre into the back of the orc's left leg. He then slashes upwards, tearing through muscles and tendons to sever the orc's femoral artery. The orc collapses to the ground in a heep at Lyra's feet, blood spurting in all directions.

_Step three: introduce yourself,_

As the last orc falls to Gendry's blade, a massive ogre runs, skidding around the corner into the alley behind the orcs. It bounces off the wall of an old house, knocking several stones loose, then fixes its gaze on Gendry, its blue-black eyes bulging grotesquely.

To someone you wanna get to know.

Step four: have a conversation,

Ask a question or two.

Making friends can be so simple,

All you have to do is just be you.

You gotta have friends to make you laugh,

Help you feel better when you are sad.

You gotta have friends to make you smile,

Help you feel calm when you are mad.

You gotta have friends so don’t be shy,

Go out and give it a try,

Anyone would be lucky, ooh-ooh,

To have a friend like......

Lyra's song is cut off by a deafening bang that leaves all of your ears ringing. With a small flash of light, something whizzes out of the end of Shaddup's tube-thing, right over the heads of the fallen orcs, and catches the oncoming ogre in the stomach. The huge creature is knocked backwards, crushing a small lean-to.

The ogre claws its way upright again, looks at the gaping hole in its midsection and the orcs lying on the ground, and runs weeping back around the corner from which it came...

The old washer-women faints, her crossbow splashing into a foamy washtub beside her.

Gendry steps over the hamstrung orc, casually stabs it in the throat to put it out of its misery, and begins going through its pockets. "Sorry Lyra. I think you're right about the latter--the old woman probably paid them protection money. Armed gangs don't just help little old ladies out of the kindness of their hearts. Demanding protection money usually just translates to 'pay us a regular fee or we burn your house down.' Dad used to demand 'protection money' from merchants all the time. I've been involved in my fair share of extortion rackets, and 'protection' tops the list of the classics." He kicks the dead orc for emphasis. "No finesse..."

Everyone can see Gendry's mouth moving, but all you hear is a high-pitched "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" and the low-pitched, thrumming echo from Shaddup's portable explosion device, .

The orcs each appear to be wearing makeshift armor, made by sewing or riveting bits of scrap metal to a hide backing, and are carrying a variety of weapons. In addition, each appears to have a bloody rag tied around their left hand. The one Gendry slew has armor that appears to be made from the recently harvested hide of a black and white cow, not even cured, with a large number of nails shoved through it, is wearing a pair of nice steel bracers, was carrying a spear (more a long, pointy stick with no real head on it), and has a decent quality shortsword tucked into its belt.

In the orcs pockets you find 4 electrum coins, 8 silver, and 7 copper.

Donovan slaps his hands over his ears a little too late to avoid the blast. He stands, dizzy and confused, for a few minutes before he starts asking, "Can you hear me now?" When the ringing has subsided sufficiently, he kneels down and begins stripping the orcs of their cash and grabbing the crossbow, and, as an afterthought, fishing the old woman's crossbow out of the tub and taking it too. "Never hurts to have a spare..."

As he looks to see if they have any ammunition beyond the one bolt each, he addresses (more yells at, since he still can't hear well) the others, "That boom will probably attract a lot of unwanted attention." He looks meaningfully at the heavily guarded gate, less than three blocks away, and the, presumably, fleeing mob of beggars. "And the ogre might come back."

"Anyone want the bracers?"

Amara blinks and sticks her fingers in her ears trying to figure out why she can't hear.

Lyra stands there looking shocked as Gendry finishes off the fallen orc and starts rifling through his pockets.  She shakes her head, and seems to come to her senses, motioning for Donovan to hand her a crossbow.

As you look around, you see the guards up on the wall holding their ears and watching you, but they otherwise have the unconcerned look of people who have to watch killing in the streets from a perch where they cannot intervene every day. The beggars and other slums residents on this street dispersed to whatever hidey-hole they crawled out of as soon as the flow of coins from your purse ceased. Looking up and down the Parkside Gate Road in both directions, the street appears to have been largely vacated, save for a few brave souls peaking out of huts a few blocks up to see what the noise was.

Donovan hands Lyra the better-looking of the two crossbows, and three of the bolts. He pauses for a second, then hands the other one to Shaddup. "Here, you might try using'a a lot quieter and if you keep it loaded you can usually count on getting the shot off before they all drop."

Lyra hands the bolts to Shaddup, and places the crossbow down next to the old woman, glowering at Donovan.

Donovan looks disapprovingly at Lyra. "Whatever..." he sighs. "You're going to be wishing you had that once we're crossing the swamp." He grabs the bracers and tries them on, then starts walking.

Amara tugs on Gendry's tunic.  "I gotta pee!"

Shuddup eyes the crossbow for a moment, "I need a small glass or ceramic ball no more than two inches in diamiter, and pea-gravel or ball bearings. Anyone want to drink a potion, or six?"

Gendry grabs the shortsword and tucks it in his belt, "for backup" he says to himself. He checks the other orcs weapons, casually holding the one orcs face in the washtub until it stops bubbling, but finds them all to be lacking some way. He then tears down a clothesline and ties the two, still-sleeping, orcs back to back in the middle of the road before heading after Donovan.

As he starts walking he looks down at Amara tugging on his tunic, then waves a hand at the refuse in the road. "Go wherever you like, I guess. Looks like that is what everyone else here does..." He then jogs back and grabs the practice sword, thinking maybe he can teach Amara some basic moves while they are traveling.

You hurry away from the old washer-woman's house. While the road officially runs strait, you find yourselves forced to divert down alleys and back again to bypass numerous sinkholes, cesspits, collapsed buildings, and areas where people have built their shacks right in the middle of the road. The overall feel, as you skirt around streams of filth and hastily slapped-together buildings made of litter, is one of completely, unrepentant chaos.

Rounding a corner back onto the Gate Road, Aumry's Tower comes into sight just a few blocks further on. The tower rises seven stories, each floor smaller than the one before, like a circular ziggurat, but leans precariously out over the road. A large scaffolding has been erected around the thing, and numerous workers and guards hang about, most idly chatting, a few sleeping on elevated platforms, and only two or three actually appearing to be engaged in any serious labor.

Nearer at hand, perhaps a block before the tower, on the right-hand side of the road is a relatively new-looking wooden building with a large fenced-off yard, filled with herd animals of all kinds. A triangular sign by the road declares horses, donkeys, cattle, oxen, sheep, and camels for sale.

Nearer still, between yourselves and the stables, five orcs with ashen-gray skin, dressed in rags stand over a body lying in the middle of the road. A large pool of blood spreads out over the ground around the man on the ground. The orcs are arguing loudly in their own tongue, one of them waving a fistfull of papers.

"...eda od ove ora da bde toa!"
"Ḱe se ovde!"
"E, vescte se o!"
"Što? T dur e ože da se pročta!"
"Zošto treba da se od da g ubJat a sveštekot?"
"ToJ e b n g zleč!"
"Da g odese do Mace, toJ ḱe zaat što da pravat."
"E, Mace ḱe g prezee ste ple za sebe."
"O ožeb Mace ože da se zleč."
"A Xvimlar kogaš e se zleč ekoJ bez zeaJḱ aaluvaje..."

Gendry looks around at his companions, "Ok, guys, two questions. One, does anyone speak Orc? Two, there seemed to be some tactical disagreement last time. Anyone care if I charge in there before that guy bleeds out?" He draws his sword.

As they walk, Donovan's pants and boots make a quiet sloshing sound. His gate widens as he tries to keep the wet cloth from clinging to his nether-bits and chafing, and his face seems to have adopted a permanent scowl. "Drink potions for what, Shaddup? Do you have potions we should be drinking?"

When they round the corner and see the orcs, he scowls even more. "Sorry Gendry, no, I don't speak Orc. Given that these ones are not charging us, and we don't know the situation, I vote that we try non-lethal measures first." Donovan begins casting another sleep spell at the orcs.

All five of the orcs collapse mid-argument.

Shuddup looks at Donovan, "No, should I have brought potions ? I just need the bottles." He raises the crossbow, "I'm inexperienced with this type of weapon and can't vouch for my accuracy.  With some small bottles I could have modified some arrows to compensate.  Nothing to  extravagant, just some powder, pea-shot, and a fuse.  It's not like I was going to try to replicate uncle Aldrich's void arrow experiment."

Gendry blinks, "Woah you're fast at that. How often can you do that?"

As the orcs drop, Gendry runs forward. He gently rolls the fallen man onto his back and leans in to check his breathing (and his pockets). He begins chanting a prayer to Mask, to stabilize the man.

Lord of Shadows, Father of Thieves, He who sees all that happens in darkness, hear my prayer.
Look with favor on your servants, these brave souls who would come here to this dark town so that they might line their pockets.
Give us this day our daily loot, and let your will be done in light, as it is in darkness.
Lead us into temptation, and deliver us from the hands of the law-men.

A man lies fallen, gloriously wounded by the treachery of your servants.
Let your grace fall upon him and let him be healed that he might live to steal again.
Staunch his wounds and fill his pockets, that he might in turn fill your coffers.

On closer inspection, the man (who is indeed human) appears to have been stabbed several times, though he is still breathing shallowly. You turn him over to find that he is dressed in, now badly bloodstained, white robes with the holy symbol of Tyr emblazoned on the front. As you pray, the worst of his wounds close. He appears stable, though he remains unconscious and his breathing weak.

The orcs lying asleep around him don't look much better off. Their skin has an ashen-gray pallor and is rough, and scaly, almost like tree-bark, with small chalky-white splotches and lesions. Three of them have knives loosely gripped in their hands, one of which is still wet with the man's blood.

Searching the man, you find a silver chain around his neck with the silver hammer and scales of tyr, a long-handled footman's mace by his hand (apparently unused in his recent altercation), and a scroll case that looks like it was opened a little too forcefully, which is empty.

Lyra picks up the fallen set of papers and looks them over.  "I can understand a little Orcish.  There were a lot of orcs in Waterdeep.  But there was a lot of everything in Waterdeep.  Poos is 'help'.  Mace is a name.  Does it sound familiar, Mr. Donovan?  The closest thing to a sentence I could make out was "Well, Mr. Mace will have assumed the tribes for themselves.", and a word I think is 'heal' came up a lot.  I'm pretty sure I misheard the bit about food and dances."

Lyra shakes her head and hands the papers over to Donovan.  "Can you make anything of this?  It's not one I'm familiar with."

Donovan gives Shaddup a sideways glance as he's examining the orcs. "You seem to be a pretty good shot, and the principles of the thing--point and click--seem reasonably similar to your boomstick. In cases where being quiet is preferable, it may make a reasonable back-up. Also, anything involving powder and a fuse seems likely to defeat the purpose of being quiet..."

"No I have never heard of this Mace fellow," he says turning to Lyra. "What was that about food and dances?" Donovan accepts the proffered papers and takes a look. It appears to be some sort of clerical notation. He hands the scrolls to Gendry, "You should probably keep these. Just let me know what pocket they're in--I have some facility with magical devices and might be able to use them if you're the one that needs healed."

Lyra replies, "As far as I could tell their conversation was something like:
' from these dances be it!'
'He will be here!'
'Well, something about!'
'What?  Major something something to something!'
'Why should that of Mr. something something?'
'It is something heal!'
'To go to Mr. Mace, he will something you to make any.'
'Well, Mr. Mace will have assumed the tribes for themselves.'
'Oh something Mace something to heal.'
'A something something be heal something without something something.'
"I don't actually speak Orc, but I've heard enough bits and pieces to pick out that much.  I'm mostly worried about the "He will be here" bit, which implies they are expecting someone, and the 'Mr. Mace will have assumed the tribes for themselves'.  Is this Mace trying to organize the orc tribes?  And what does any of that have to do with stabbing a cleric of Tyr?"

Gendry takes the scrolls, returns them to their case, and attaches it to his belt. He begins searching the orcs, casually kneeling with his full weight on one's throat as he goes through its pockets. "What should we do about this fellow?" He gestures to the unconscious monk. "I'm not a big fan of Tyrants, but having a few grateful contacts in the law is always helpful..."

Amara goes over to look at the orcs and inspect their odd pallor.  She sets Whiskers down, who sniffs at one of the bodies and then looks at her.

The orc that Gendry kneels on quickly suffocates. The orcs wear only rags and have no valuables. Between the five of them, you come up with a half-dozen knives, one a long skinning knife, none of good quality, a butcher's gut-hook, and a flint-bladed dagger for weapons. Getting this close to them, Gendry's superior bovine nose detects a smell of decay about them, strongly vegetative, almost like peat or compost.

Donovan, nods to Lyra, "I thought I heard something about "Xvimlar". That's a common appellation for worshipers of Iyachtu Xvim, a significant rival of Tyr's...being the actual god of tyrants." He scoops up a few of the knives. "If this Mr. Mace is a priest of Xvim, and is organizing the orc tribes..."

Gendry sighs and picks up the unconscious monk. "Alright..." He draws his sword and stabs the other four orcs. "Let's get out of the street and revive this guy...see if he knows what's up with this Mace fellow." He looks around. "Coast clear? There seem to be a lot of orcs on this street...any ideas where to take him?"

Lyra gestures towards the large tower.  "Professor Aumry's tower is where we're headed anyway, and appears to be well guarded."

Shuddup upon hearing "well guarded" gets excited and moves to point.  "Ooooh, well guarded usually means traps.  What kind do you think we'll see?  I hope they have spring-razors they have some of the most fascinating clockworks..."

Gendry shrugs and heads towards the tower.

Archivist's Note: This attempt at a more cohesive prose will be abandoned in future posts as being too time consuming.

Friday, October 18, 2013

PBM: Chapter 1: Arriving in New Phlan: Part 5

It's official! We're adventurers!

You walk across the square to City Hall, where, thankfully, the line of people waiting to get in seems to have dissipated. His long stride bringing him to the head of the group, Gendry pushes open the door to the Council Clerks office before anyone can point out that the sign on it reads 'Out to Lunch'. The inside of the office is dark, quiet, and relatively cramped. The room is dominated by a large oak desk, piled high with papers and ledgers, with two chairs behind it, and barely enough room for the five of you to squeeze in and stand in front of it. A smaller door exits on the north side of the room. The larger of the two chairs behind the desk is empty, the smaller one is occupied... Faelana, who is sorting through a stack of papers and writing comments in a large notebook open before her.

Shuddup exits the training hall after redesigning the machine in his head half a dozen times to catch sight of the party entering the clerks office. He takes off after them as quickly as his little legs will carry him.

Gendry does a double-take on seeing Faelana at the clerk's desk, and turns to Lyra. " didn't tell me your mom was the clerk?" He backs out the door, "How 'bout we leave the negotiating to you then."

He steps outside, and seeing Shaddup running up, pulls a handful of slightly-linty sausages out of his pouch. "Here, I saved you some lunch..."

Shuddup pauses long enough to notice his gently rumbling stomach and accepts the sausages grinning sheepishly, "Thank you.  Did you say your father turned you into a minotaur? How did that happen? My cousin Winifred, Gond rest her soul, once made a machine to transfer consciousnesses between two bodies using a crystal array she picked up at s great price from a wandering psion.  She was really close to perfecting it before she stopped talking to everyone and started hoarding nuts..."

The door chimes as the door closes behind the minotaur.  Half a minute later, the door chimes as Lyra steps outside. "Mother said the office is closed, and that we should form an orderly queue outside until lunch is over in ten minutes.  Mother doesn't really ... negotiate."  Lyra sighs.  "She might be a little more helpful with the paperwork if we tell her we're fetching spell components for Professor Aumry, though.  The only thing she's more obsessed about than raising me into a proper lady -- is magic."

Amara sniffs, playing with her necklace.

"Great...I guess we'll just act like a bunch of Brits then." Gendry queues up by the door, and does his best to look intimidating (not hard for a seven foot tall minotaur), lest anyone try to cut in line ahead of them.

Donovan waits in line behind Gendry, leaning impatiently against the wall, for what seems like forever. Finally, figuring that ten minutes have passed--not that he has any way to tell time--he steps around the minotaur and opens the door. "Excuse me, Madame Beragaion, is your lunch quite finished? I'm delighted to see you here--I didn't know the Council was hiring a new Clerk--but I'm afraid your daughter, myself, and our companions are in rather urgent need of papers so that we might escort the child Amara to her nuncle's tower outside the city gates." He walks in and lays his own proof of citizenship on the desk.

Faelana completes what she was writing and looks up.  "First, I need a completed set of customs forms for each of you."  She produces a stack of papers for each person. "For papers to go through the gates, you and your companions will need a valid adventuring charter.  It requires proof of citizenship, a completed and notarized citizenship application, or a completed and notarized noncitizen adventurer addendum for all parties, as well as all associated fees to be paid in full.  Those applying for citizenship must also register for the militia, or complete an exemption form."  She adds more papers to the stack.  "Each form must be completed in triplicate.  Falsifying information on any official document is punishable by fines of up to ten thousand gold pieces."

Amara wanders off towards a nearby alley, looking intently at something.

"Wait. Militia exemption form? I thought the adventuring charter automatically exempted one from militia duty?" Donovan shakes his head, takes the stack of papers, and looks around at the others. "Do you know someone with access to a copy or dictation spell?"

Lyra takes one of the stacks of forms and whispers to Donovan "Mother probably does.  She's been doing magical research for .. seventy years?  At least 50.  It's why she left Evereska.  I have NO idea why she's behind the clerk's desk, though."

Lyra walks over to the desk and grabs a pencil from a cup near the front of the desk.  "Mother, what did you mean by fees?  Isn't the council encouraging settlers and adventurers?"

Faelana straightened a stack of papers.  "They are.  However, the council wishes to retain certain ... expectations ... after the initial growth period.  As such, waivers are available for import tariffs of livestock, seeds, and certain categories of trade goods, contingent on a valid application of citizenship.  There is also a waiver available for the citizenship application fee itself."

Amara hums to herself.

Faelana hands another stack of papers to Lyra, with the personal property import tariff waiver, the citizenship application fee waiver, and the adventuring charter fee waiver.  As an afterthought she adds an arms permit and magic permit.  She creates another stack of papers and pushes it towards Donovan.

"Yes, a valid adventuring charter is one of the ways to qualify for militia duty exemption.  Paragraph twelve, subsections six through ten detail the conditions for maintaining the validity of the charter after issuance."

Donovan sits on the edge of the desk and begins filling out papers. "Yeah, I know, as long as the charter is in effect, no other employment within the city of Phlan is allowed. And where is the usual clerk?" Donovan looks up. "Its fine if you feel that you're supposed to mess with your daughter, but I've been advtersisting the rules around here for over a year. Both the adventuring charter and the citizenship application are supposed to grant immediate exemption from all taxes. Likewise..." he says, looking at the application, "the magic and arms permits are already included in the application, we don't need separate ones..."

He looks over at Lyra, then back to Faelana. "You're just messing with your daughter, aren't you? If you have some objection to her registering as an adventurer, you're better off voicing them plainly than trying to bog her down with fake paperwork..."

Gendry walks inside and crawls his clumsy "G" on a paper that Donovan hands him, then walks out into the alley wondering where Amara went to...

Faelana keeps her expression carefully neutral.  "The Clerk should be returning shortly, but in the meantime, I am the Under-clerk on duty.  As for my daughter, given her age, my objections, if any, matter little."  She finishes straightening the papers displaced by Donovan.  "Call it a test of determination."

Whiskers reappears, curling around Amara's leg, her fur standing on end and delivering small static shocks with every rub against the little girl.

Donovan finishes filling out the applications for citizenship and asylum for Gendry, citizenship application for Shaddup, and the adventuring charter registration for the five of them. He looks at Lyra and hands over the charter for her signature, "You doing okay with all of those? I think I have everything actually necessary squared away for the others. Including immigration documents for the minotaur and the gnome--I figure Amara won't need them since she's a minor and already has family here." Once Lyra has signed, he wanders outside to get the others' signatures. "Hold the line, will you Lyra? I'm just going to get the others to sign this and then we can get out of here..."

Shuddup scans over the documents then signs his name in precise Gnomish lettering.

The Head Clerk, a red-haired woman--her hair done in very tight cornrows--whose dark-circles under the eyes and numerous care-lines make her age almost impossible to determine, walks in, another large stack of papers in her arms. She dumps the papers in Faelana's lap, the beginnings of a smile--equal parts relief and cruelty--playing about her lips. "Everything going well?" she asks as she drops herself heavily into her seat, with no attempt at decorum. She tugs uncomfortably at the collar of her blouse, though you suspect that the polished, metal corset-like thing she is wearing over it is the real source of her discomfort, and looks around at the people standing about the room with piles of papers in their hands. "What have you been doing while I was out?"

Faelana immediately begins sorting through the new stack of paperwork.  "A few more applications for citizenship, an adventuring charter, and one application for asylum.

Gendry turns to see Donovan approaching, rolls his eyes in that very disturbing way that only a cow can, and scrawls a few more "G"s in the indicated places. Hearing a purring noise, he turns back to see Amara's cat reappear. "Ok," he says to her, "what is it with your toys and pets disappearing? Do they just turn invisible or are they actually going somewhere?"

Amara giggles, "That tickles Whiskers!"  She picks the kitten up, placing it on her shoulders.  The cat purrs and licks her ear.  Amara giggles some more.  "Ooh that's a good secret!"

When Gendry asks her question, Amara replies, "My friends go to get me things Mr. Cow.  Then they come back with presents and secrets!"  She giggles again and twirls.

"Can we go shopping now?"  Amara asks.

Donovan looks at Amara, "Do you know how to write, Amara?" He kneels down to show her the documents. "If you can, we need you to sign your name here..." he points to a few different lines. "If not, just a picture is fine. Once we've all finished putting our names on this, we should be able to go shopping."

Lyra cracks open the door and sticks her head out.  "Are we almost finished?"  Her face lights up when she sees the kitten on Amara's shoulder.  "Oh, Whiskers is back!  Whoosa cute widdle ge....kitteh"

Amara draws a little handprint on the documents.

Whiskers purrs.

Donovan collects all the papers and walks back into the Clerk's office. "Here you go Deb. Need anything else?"

The head Clerk (Deborah) takes the stack of documents and gives them only a cursory inspection. "Umm-hmm..." she mutters to herself, "a minotaur who is a known pirate, another gnomish Gondsman, the new under-clerk's daughter, a minor, and..." she looks up, "Donovan. You know that accepting an adventuring charter invalidates your employment as herald, correct? We'll need the gnome to register any contraptions he may have brought with him, as well as any he creates in the future, with the chief technologist at the Training Hall...just to make sure he's not creating anything that could be catastrophically harmful to Phlan, its economy, or its citizens."

She shuffles through the papers again. "The citizenship, amnesty, and asylum requests look to be in order. Given the minotaur's proclaimed background, we would like him to make immediate report of any attempts made to contact by the buccaneers operating out of Stormy Bay, as a contingency of his being granted amnesty, and the Council may have additional requests to make of him should such contact be established. The girls' papers all seem to be in order..." She pulls a long roll of parchment and a stamp out of a drawer in her desk, unrolls it, records your names at the bottom, and then pours some wax from a candle onto it and stamps it. "Here is your official charter. You'll need to present this to the guards at the gate any time you wish to enter or leave the city through the slums gates. Please make sure a member of your group has this at all times."

She hands the rest of the stack of papers to Faelana, "Please file these..." then turns back to your group. "The charter gives you permission to bear arms and employ magic within the walls of New Phlan, however you will still be subject to legal action should you bring harm to any of citizen. Good luck, and have a nice day..."

Gendry, hearing people talking about 'the minotaur', pokes his head back into the office. "What's that?" He walks in. "So, you want me to let you know if I'm contacted by other pirates? And, presumably, spy on them if they do get in touch?" He chuckles, "Dad would looove that..."

He pauses, thinking for a moment, "Ok. No problem at all."

Amara starts tugging on Donovan's shirt.  "Can we go shopping now?  Huh?  Can we?"

Donovan sighs audibly, "Alright, Amara, let's go." He takes charter from Deb and heads out the door, making a bee-line for the Parkside Gate. He looks in his purse as he walks. "So, what do you want to go shopping for? Until we get that advance from your uncle I'm not exactly flush with cash..."

"I want to buy a candle for grandmother," Amara explains.  "It will make her feel better..."

Thursday, October 10, 2013

PBM: Chapter 1: Arriving in New Phlan: Part 4

Lunch time...

Lyra, Gendry, and Amara

Lyra gestures towards Amara.  "Pardon the interruption, but his niece has just arrived in Phlan, and is looking for him."

The man in the monk robes stops to correct a student's posture before turning to respond. "A blessed Tyrsday to you sirs...and ladies," he pauses and looks you over, "fresh off the boat are you? You would do well to direct such questions to the administration desk in the future. If you do not mind waiting, Professor Aumry is currently leading a practicum on advanced tactical invocations--second floor, third door on the right. He is normally accepting of observers, but I would recommend that you wait down here, given the high probability of being struck by a stray lightning bolt if you were to open the door at the wrong time. His class should be out within the hour."

Amara takes off, following the instructions, running flat out.

Gendry's arm shoots out as soon as Amara starts and grabs the back of her dress. "Ummm...lightning bolts." He lifts her easily back onto his shoulder. "Sorry miss, but maybe a more orderly approach would be in order." He walks up the stairs, keeping ahold of Amara, lest she bolt again. He heads to the door indicated, kneels down cups an ear to the door, listening for tell-tale crackling sounds before opening it.

Amara pulls Whiskers to her face and whispers to the cat.  The cat fades out from tail to teeth, purring the whole time.

Lyra comes up the stairs a bit behind Gendry, not trusting the construction with the weight of a minotaur and two girls.  "Should we knock?"  She looks at Amara "Or perhaps wait for your friend to get back?"

Amara shrugs, "We could wait for Whiskers, but it takes a while sometimes."


As the others go running up the stairs, Donovan walks over to the registration desk. "Good morning Taleah," he says to the woman behind the desk, smiling approvingly at the stylishly fake glasses. "I just got back in town and was wondering if you knew of any jobs that might be available?" He looks up the stairs after the others. "I met some promising youngsters on the boat over and was thinking about trying my hand at a few commissions. Any word from the students on where the action is these days?"

He sits on the edge of the desk and leans over it slightly, not disguising the fact that he's looking down the front of her shirt. "Also, I saw a job posting by Professor Aumry out front. I understand that he's with a class right now. Do you know when his office hours are?"

Taleah, who is indeed the woman behind the desk, rolls her eyes at Donovan and undoes the top button on her blouse so he can have a better view. "G'morning Don. And that's Professor Loughgren to you. You never did turn in your final report on Pre-Turcassan Cormyrian Symphonies, you know." She gives him a wicked smile and pushes the glasses tighter onto the bridge of her nose. "Professor Aumry doesn't keep office hours--he says they cut into his already limited research time, plus he's starting renovations on that old tower in the slums. If you need to speak with him, your best bet is to catch him between classes, or look for him at the tower. If you're just looking for work, Joyce is hiring some folks to guard the new crypts. Just the thing for you, long, late nights sitting alone in the dark while people have fun above your head..."

"Crypt huh? The notice I read said it was guarding the new temple--figures it would be the least desirable part." Donovan discreetly lays a small bag with 20 silvers in it on her desk. "Thanks Taleah, that was unusually helpful of you. Any chance you can give me directions to this tower? Oh, and may I just say, the sexy-librarian thing looks good on you. Though I miss the tail."

With a flash of silver fur, a long fox-like tail curls around the legs of Taleah's chair briefly, then vanishes. "Everything looks good on me Don, and if you ever want to take a class here again, you'll remember to call me Professor." She grabs the bag of coins and slips it into a desk drawer without looking at the contents. "To reach Aumry's tower, just head out the Parkside Gate and stick to the main road. It's right past Ernst's Stables. An ugly old lopsided thing, three-stories tall, you can't miss it." She gives him a less caustic smile. "Do take care if you insist on going after the easy-money like this. The town would hate to loose such a talented recruiter."

"Thanks professor, I didn't know you cared." Donovan slides off the desk, sneaks one last peak at the priestess' copious assets, and heads up the stairs.

"Hey guys. It looks like we might have a better chance meeting the professor if we just went to his home. Apparently he's renovating an old tower in the slums." He looks at the door with distaste. "I took this class ages ago. The good brother wasn't lying about those stray lightning bolts. I say we just leave a note that we're looking for him, go get a bite to eat, and then meet him at his place later." He turns to head back downstairs. "Oh, and the night watchman gig at the temple of Sune sounds like a total bust."

Lyra, Gendry, and Amara

Lyra smiles at Amara.  "Maybe we can wait just a little while longer, ok?"  Lyra walks over to the railing, observing the swordplay below and seeming lost in thought. Her mind reaches out to professor Aumry. "_I apologize for any interruption, Professor Aumry of Umber.  Your niece Amara is newly arrived in Phlan, and rather upset that she did not see her father at the docks.  If you've a moment to spare, she wishes to see you._"

Professor Aumry responds almost instantly, " draw the glass rod over the wool like so and pronounce the final...Oh? A telepath? Interesting. You say Amara is here? I'm afraid I am rather busy at the moment. This class should end promptly in thirty-seven minutes. Please bring Amara to the common room of the Cracked Crown at that time. Oh, and do be careful with the girl, she can be quite dangerous if she gets upset._" The message ends abruptly as the contact is terminated from the other end.

Lyra looks up from where she was staring off.  "Let's eat at the Cracked Crown."  She hesitates, just for a moment.  "I think I remember seeing it on the tour earlier, and I liked the sign."

Gendry, still keeping a, hopefully reassuring, hand on Amara, peeks into his purse. "You buying?"

Lyra considers for a moment, looking over the very well dressed minotaur with a very nice sword.  "You can pay me back out of our first job.  My purse isn't that much heavier than yours."

Amara's eyes get a little big.  "But he's right behind that door!"  Then her stomach rumbles.  "I guess I could eat, but we can come find him right after, right?"

Lyra crouches so she is eye level with Amara, her long dress pooling around her feet.  "We'll find him right after, I promise."  She stands up, smooths her skirt, and heads downstairs to join Donovan.  "We should have time to eat before class is out.  Now which way was the Cracked Crown from here?"


"Do you you think they have Behir steaks there?"  Amara asks.  "I love Behir steaks."

Donovan looks at Gendry and Lyra, "Don't worry, this one's on me. And the Cracked Crown is right next door." He heads for the exit. "I'm sorry Amara, I doubt they have behir. The Bitter Blade occasionally buys exotic corpses from adventurers to add to the menu, but that tends to be a whatever they find in the ruins kindof deal--imports of exotics into the city are still pretty limited. The Crown only deals in local meats--mostly pork since that is what the proprietor raises."

Shuddup seems to perk up at the prospect of leaving the training house and eating, "Food sounds great." Then adds under his breath, "as does not being in this building. The only thing more dangerous than a magic user is an untrained magic user."

As if queue by Shaddup's comment, an explosion rocks the Training Hall. One of the doors on the lower level bursts open, sending sparring warriors toppling and spraying the atrium with flaming shards of wood. A huge cloud of steam billows out of the opening, followed by a stream of heavily singed gnomes carrying scorched tools of all kinds. At the end of the string of fleeing gnomes comes a gnome wearing a leather apron, a broadbelt, and a welding mask, walking as calmly as anything. Once clear of the steam, she flips up the mask, revealing a face that would be beautiful even by elven standards, and shouts "Alright. Good work. Take the rest of the day off..."

Gendry turns his body to shield Amara from the blast and runs for the exit. "The fuck?!" He pauses, ever so briefly, just across the threshold, and stares awestruck at the very idea of a gnome being that beautiful, then runs for the Cracked Crown, telling himself that if a gnome is involved it must be some kind of trick or illusion. Maybe some side effect of that 'science' that Shaddup has been blabbering one about...

"So much for science being safer than magic.  Power, magic or otherwise, without responsibility is a great destructive force, and the repercussions of its misuse unknown until far too late to rectify."  Lyra takes on her mother's tone a bit as she recites the warning from memory.

Lyra looks around, making sure no one is seriously injured before following the others out.

Shuddup begins walking toward the stunning gnome, mouth agape, then proceeds past her trying to peer into the smoke, "Ooooh, what are you working on?"

The gnomish woman pulls out a strange-looking iron box with a large lever on one side and seemingly hundreds of raised keys. She doesn't so much as glance at Shaddup as she begins typing into it with one hand, creating a deafening clacking noise, punctuated by the occasional shrill whistle. "A class project. We're building a steam engine that should perpetually generate its own energy by smashing together magical stones from the deep Underdark at high velocity, collecting the energy released by the impact, which is then converted to heat, which runs the boilers. The pressure from the steam is then used to propel the stones towards each other again, thus repeating the process. Only 0.0000001% of the stone is fractured off by each firing, and the energy released is tremendous. Once perfected it could run for several million years on only the two stones. According to today's experiment, I think we need to attach a third cam-shaft to the secondary torsion sprocket on the quarternary accelerator and then reinforce the..." She continues talking as she walks up the stairs towards the far room, continuing to clack away on the box in her hands, and then slams the door behind her.

Lyra, Gendry, Donovan, and Amara

Donovan follows Gendry out the door and turns left towards the Cracked Crown and walks in. Scanning the crowd gathering for lunch for any other familiar faces, he walks up to the bar, orders five plates of sausages and mash, four pints, and a glass of milk, then looks for a table that will seat them all.

Amara looks at her plate and frowns.  "But I wanted bacon!" she whines.

Amara sits down and starts eating her mash and drinking her milk.  "When can we go to uncle's tower?"

Lyra sits at the table with her back to the door, taking one of the plates.  She prods the sausage gently, as if weighing odds on the meat composition, then takes a bite.  "He should be out of class by the time we're finished eating.  We'll find him after that."

Amara starts shoveling food into her mouth, talking around bites.  "If I eat faster, will he come out faster?"

Lyra sighs.  "It takes more than eating quickly to make time move faster."  She takes a sip of her pint and makes a face, clearly unused to drinking.

As everyone tucks into their food, another chair appears at the table out of nowhere, occupied by a rather portly middle-aged man in dark robes. "Amara! Welcome. You're a little late..." He sticks a finger in the air and a waiter hurries over with a large, steaming plate of roasted vegetables and a glass of rose-coloured wine as if expecting him. Aumry looks hard at Lyra, "I suppose you are the one who interrupted my class?", then around the table at the others. "Are these friends of yours Amara?"

Lyra shrinks a little under the scrutiny.  "Would you rather she interrupted class by running into it?  Because that's what she was getting ready to do."

Donovan very deliberately ignores the whining from the girls and eats his meal in as much peace as can be had. He carefully slices his sausages into bite-size pieces, makes a nest of mashed turnips on the back of his fork, piles the sausage bits on top, and then douses everything heavily with pepper before taking a bite. When Aumry appears, Donovan is so startled that he chokes, gasps, spits, and sends a spray of sausage and turnips across the table. He looks back and forth between Aumry and Lyra, curious about their brief exchange, then interjects, "Are you Aumry of Umbar? My companions and I met Amara unaccompanied on the ship over and agreed to escort her until a suitable guardian could be found. When her father did not appear at the docks, we thought it best to seek you out." Recovered from the surprise, he takes another bite. "We also wished to speak with you about the job you had posted outside the Training Hall."

"No miss, your approach was quite appropriate. The students were not disturbed and no damage was done." Aumry sips the wine, but pushes the plate of vegetable across the table to Amara. "Thank you all for bringing my...niece here, and welcome to New Phlan." He looks gravely at Amara, "My dear, I'm sorry to say but your grandmother in Melvaunt is unwell. She has asked for your company in these, which might be her last, days," then turns his attention to Donovan. "Actually, if you are interested in the job I posted, it would be most fortuitous. Its difficult getting quality spell components out here, so I had a large supply shipped to some relatives in Melvaunt. While mostly worthless to common-folk, they are extremely valuable to my work, and I would pay you handsomely to fetch them here. I say fortuitous, because if you would also escort Amara there to see her grandmother, I would be willing to double the advertised payment."

Gendry, who hasn't really touched his food either, perks up. "Double you say? Would the half-up-front still apply?" He downs his beer in one gulp and begins drumming his fingers on the table. "Where should we pick up these components for you? Do you have an address for these relatives? Have the items already been payed for? Need signed for?..."

Lyra finishes her last bite of sausage and delicately dabs her mouth with a napkin.  "Am I correct in assuming that we will need to acquire our charter before being able to accept the job?  Other than that, if expediency is an issue....  How long does the journey typically take, and what volume of goods will we be retrieving?  Are any of the reagents perishable?"

Aumry smiles, "All good questions. I'm glad you're all so interested. I, personally, do not care if you have a charter, your safe conduct of Amara here is enough assurance of your good-faith for me. You will need a charter from the Council in order to leave the city gates, however. The trip overland usually takes three days--baring incident or bad weather. I will provide a wagon and team to aid in transporting the goods. The reagents should all be properly preserved, but many may be in fragile containers and you will be responsible for their safe conveyance." He looks Gendry strait in the eye. "And, yes, you will still receive 50% up front to help cover any expenses you incrue on the journey or any personal supplies you may need."

"Well, Amara, if you're going to go visit granny on her deathbed, it sounds like you've got an escort. Lyra, Gendry, Shaddup--shall we go get ourselves a charter so that we can get through the gates?"

Gendry looks across the table at the empty chair and uneaten sausages. "Umm, I think Shaddup is still at the school investigating that explosion..."

Lyra giggles and sets down her empty pint glass.  "Or the pretty gnome that caused it.  Either way, he prob'ly needs to be there when we get the charter 'an we need the charter to get back in through the gates."

Amara tucks into the veggie plate with nom nom noises.  As she finishes and the conversation winds down, she says, "Thank you Lyra, that would be good."  Turning to Aumry she says, "I suppose grandmother will need her medication?  Where is the apothecary shop?"

Aumry finishes his wine and stands up. "I think your smiling face is all the medicine your grandmother will need, and, sadly, there is not a proper apothecary in town yet. However, if you did want to take along something to cheer her up, you might stop by Wollaeger the Chandler in the Slums Market, I hear tell his scents are quite remarkable."

"I have another class to attend to. This afternoon need to meet with the contractors overseeing the restoration of my new tower. Its in the northwest corner of the Slums, right on Parkside Gate Road. You can find me there once you are all cleared by the Council to use the gates." He walks around the table and kisses Amara on the top of her head, then turns to leave.

Lyra looks over at Amara.  "Don't you want to see your father before we have to leave?"  She looks back to Professor Aumry before he goes.  "She said her father has a shop here.  Could you give us directions? Unless of course he's traveled ahead to Melvaunt to care for your sick grandmother."

"A shop? Really?" Aumry chuckles. "You could say that I guess. Hasan does have a stall in the Slums Market, but he's seldom there. You'll most likely find him in the company of Councilmen Mondaviak arguing about import tarrifs, or else in one of the shops in the city or the slums trying to drum up support for his 'Merchant's Council'. Maybe if he were more concerned with tending to his business than with organizing the other shopkeepers politically he might actually be able to afford a storefront of his own..."

"He's a very busy man," Amara explains helpfully, "He won't have time to visit grandmother with us."

Donovan finishes eating, places a gold piece on his plate, and rises. He gives Amara a quizzical look, "...Weren't you just crying about him not meeting us at the docks?" then shrugs and heads for the door. "Alright, it sounds like we'll have to go slumming as soon as we've got our papers. Lets go collect Shaddup and get in line to face the bureaucrats..."

Amara says, "Well of course I want to see him, he just can't go with us silly."  She gets up.  "Let's go to the market, maybe he's there!"

Gendry grabs the uneaten sausages off of Shaddup's plate and shoves them in a pouch before following Donovan out. "Gnome's gonna be hungry..." he mutters to himself.

Friday, October 4, 2013

PBM: Chapter 1: Arriving in New Phlan: Part 3

We're off to get a charter.


You are all awakened by a loud clanking noise and the more vigorous rocking of the ship, as Nat and the captain crank the windlass to haul the anchors in. The sun is just cresting the ridge of the Galena mountains to the east, and the air is cool and moist. A light breeze blows from the west.

The other passengers also begin to rouse themselves. A few look like they've been up for a while. The farmers and settlers in the stern, especially, look like they have been up for a couple of hours at least--they've cleaned themselves up to the best of their abilities given the situation, their gear has been re-stowed, and their belongings ordered in anticipation of reaching land. Now, they bustle about tending to their animals; replacing their water and forage, shoveling the last day's waste over the rail, and calming those startled by the noise of getting the ship underway. If they've noticed that a few coins are missing, none of them has acted upon it.

Eddie's mother, decked out in the full rose-coloured regalia of a ranking priest of Lathander, stands in the prow of the ship, which has drifted to face the east, and recites her morning prayers. A number of the other members of that group sit or kneel behind her, listening and participating in turn--though the lizard man and the halfling appear to still be quite deeply slumbering.

With the anchor weighed, Captain Donal returns to the aft-deck, unlocks the rudder and begins to tack into the wind, turning the ship north-west around Thorn Island and into the bay.


Amara wakes, snuggled up to a small blue pony about the size of a small cat.  It has a flowing white mane which she begins to brush as she wanders the ship.  She picks up some leftover chalk and draws on the deck a little stable for her pony to play in.  She picks up a piece of Shaddup's charcoal and fills in details.  From a bag tied around her waist she pulls a blue stick and draws curlicues around the edges of her make believe barn.

When the Minotaur wakes up she addresses him, "Mr. Donovan, I'm sorry for being rude last night, I was just so tired I fell asleep.  Thank you for being so nice.  I would like it if you and your friends helped me find father.  Lightning here," she points to the horse prancing around in the stable. "Says you are nice and that I can trust you."  She smiles shyly.  "Maybe father will be able to help you with your adventures."


Donovan looks hard at the pony. "I'm glad Lightning likes me, but, where did it come from?" He yawns widely and sits up, looking around the deck. He stretches and stands up slowly--looking worn, bedraggled, and much older than his thirty-some years. He stretches again, does a couple of deep-knee bends, twists a few times to pop his back, then does a cartwheel across the deck. "Ah! That's better," he says, running his fingers through his hair and beard to straiten them. "Now, tell me about this remarkable friend of yours."


For the first time in a week, Lyra awoke in the same spot she'd gone to bed.  Or close enough to the same spot as the boat lazily drifted as far as the anchor would allow.  She placed one hand on the railing and stood in one smooth motion, barely hindered by her long dress and cloak after years of getting used to her mother's insistence on 'proper' attire.

She's a little surprised that Donovan is spry enough for a cartwheel, or that there's even enough room for one with several of the settlers still sleeping.

Lyra rummages through her pack for something to eat.  After yesterday's grand entrance, she didn't think she could wait until they reached shore.  Dried apples from somewhere in Cormyr, two days ago.  A loaf of sourdough from … somethingdale, the day before yesterday.  It would do.

With her own meal finished, she turns her attention to Amara and Donovan.  Lyra crouches next to the 'stable' and holds out an apple.  "Are you hungry?  I think I have enough for Lightning, too.  I've heard that ponies like apples."


The ship is well under-way by the time Gendry wakes. He throws a long, heavily muscled arm across his face to shield his eyes and tries to roll over, away from the sun, but his horns keep getting in the way. "Frack you dad!" He says to no one in particular. "Bad enough that you curse me with this bull's head, but now I'm forced to sleep on my back forever?!" He grumbles and rises, trying to work the stiffness out of his neck.

He opens his small belt pouch, hoping to find a bar of soap, but has no such luck. He then takes a look at the sails and notices that the boat is sailing at a good clip and realizes that a bath would be out of the question anyways. His stomach grumbles and he yells over the deck, "Hey Nat, I thought you said we'd be in town in time for breakfast?"

He sits back down and looks at his new companions. "So, I don't know about you guys, but I'm flat broke right now. If we get into Phlan early, what are the chances we can bust up some of those monsters in time to pay for a place to sleep tonight?"


Still watching the clearly magical miniature pony. "You have a good point Gendry. I'm not sure how long it takes to get a license and commission from the Council, but I suspect it shouldn't take too long, given the liberal policies--nothing like in Cormyr. Really though, all we need is the license. There are usually enough goblin gangs and general ruffians in the slums and other uncivilized districts near to New Phlan that its not that hard to acquire beer money just by taking a stroll out the gates and bashing some heads. There are also usually a few private opportunities as well--merchants, temples, and shopkeeps who have business that they need done."

"If we're talking about going out and getting ourselves in a fight this afternoon, it might help to discuss tactics..." He reaches into his bags and pulls out two large spellbooks. "I have a substantial arsenal of spells and incantations designed to weaken, tranquilize, or incapacitate foes, and always carry several such magics ready at any time. So, I can take care of crowd control--though you may want to hold your advances until after I've disabled as many as I can, as such spells are not, by nature, precise." He looks around at the others.
"Lyra, you mentioned that you could scout for us?"
"Gendry, are you confident enough with that sword of yours to keep any assailants away from those of us who are more mystically inclined?"
"Shaddup, what can you tell me about this 'flaming chain sword' of yours?"


Lightning nibbles on the proffered apple and whinnies, then unfurls iridescent wings from her sides and flies around Amara's head.  Amara smiles at Donovan.  Lightning is my friend!  Like Susalia, but she's a horse.  Lightning and Susalia tell me secrets.  Lightning told me how to make myself pretty.  She rubs her fingers over her eyebrows, spreading the coal dust, chalk and blue powder on them, then rubs it on her cheeks like rouge.  She prances around waving her arms and sings,

Sune will make me pretty,
if I sing this ditty!
All the other girls,
will be jealous of my curls!
Everyone will love me,
and think that I am pretty...

She trails off, and her eyebrows and cheeks sparkle like they're embedded with little sapphires.  "Isn't Lightning the best?" she squeals.


Everyone on the ship pauses and turns to look at Amara, as if seeing her for the first time. For a moment, at least, she seems to have the undivided attention of everyone on board.


Amara curtsies and says, "I would be ever so grateful for your help in finding my father."  Her eyes brighten and exclaims, "I forgot my uncle is also in Phlan!  He's a wizard!  we could look for him!"  She smiles brightly.


Donovan does a double-take and smiles, recognizing the components of one of his favorite spells. Despite realizing the effect is magical, he is no less impressed, perhaps even more-so, by the lovely little girl. "Well done Amara! Your uncle isn't the only wizard it seems." He bows to the girl. "We would be delighted to help you find your father and uncle, and assist you in any other way we may."


Gendry nods to Donovan. "I was taught to fence by some of the best pirates in the Dragon Reach, and the added reach from growing a foot doesn't hurt. I should be able to hold my own against anything we come up against, but I'm used to fighting with a full crew and a couple of bombards at my back, so I'll need you keep the numbers in check. Luckily this body doesn't bruise easily." He pulls a small strip of black cloth out of his pouch. "Also, by the grace of Mask, I am able to perform some small miracles, to heal us or bless our actions. I'll also volunteer for lookout duty--this body's not exactly inconspicuous, but it's senses are superb. I hardly ever get lost any mo..."

He trails off as he sees Amara. He had been convinced that she was just a little girl, but he suddenly realizes that she is the most beautiful creature he has ever seen. He considers proposing to her on the spot--surely she's old enough... Then he realizes what he's thinking and remembers that a pirate should never let himself be tied down, especially to a child bride. "Ummm..." His normally genteel tongue stumbles a bit. "Miss Amara. We were talking last night...before you fell asleep, remember. Parents suck. You don't need your father. Just stick with us, it'll be perfect!" He pauses, watching her for a reaction, then adds, "Please?"


Shuddup huffs and sighs, "lt's called a self cauterizing bone saw. Once I get it running a small engine runs a bladed chain around a bar and there's a trigger to inject fuel onto the chain which both lubricates it and causes it to ignite, but in a fight I typically either use a hammer or an arquebus." He looks around at everyone either displaying magical abilities or spell books, "Is everyone else here a magic user? You know that magic is dangerous and unpredictable. Science is by far the safer option."


Lyra interjects, "But magic is science, kind of.  The bounds of understanding expanded through rigorous research, and experimentation.  It's just that when an experiment goes wrong it can go REALLY wrong."

Lyra shuffles her feet.  "I haven't exactly finished my magical studies yet.  I mean, I can identify spells pretty well." Lyra inclines her head, subtly indicating Amara.  "But I can't actually cast any yet.  Like I said, I could scout.  And sing.  And play the harp, although I don't actually HAVE a harp here."

She sighs heavily, and thinks for a moment.  "If it takes a while to get our charter, there are less glamorous ways to work off lodging.  Mending clothes, chopping firewood, helping in the kitchen, or whatever other chores an innkeep or farmer need done.  I'm not very good at darning stockings, though."

She turns her attention back to Amara.  "Do you know where your father and uncle are in Phlan?  Was he going to meet you at the dock?  That's probably the first thing we should see to."


The other passengers begin to crowd towards where you are situated, clearly fixated on Amara. The crowd murmurs as they approach, "Awww..." "Dear child..." "I'll take care of you..." Just as it seems like you might be crushed by the press of adoring would-be parental figures, Nat's voice rings out over the deck, "Phlan ho!"

His voice seems to break whatever enchantment was laid upon the crowd and they instead turn and crowd against the port gunwale to get a first look at the city which will be their home.


"Thank you Mr. Donovan," she replies.  "That is most gracious."  She curtsies again.

Amara flashes a sparkly, dimple-filled smile at Gendry, "Well...maybe father will let me come play with you while you're in the city?  I'm sure if I had friends to keep me safe he wouldn't mind."

Turning back to Donovan she says, "I'm not a wizard like my uncle.  I just ask my friends for things and they tell me secrets that help!"  She holds her hand out to Lightning, who prances to a stop on her hand.  She leans down to whisper to the blue pony, "Remember when we made those pretty fireworks?  Let's show our new friends."

The pony, rears its legs, whinnies and trots around Amara's head.  A small blue disc about the size of a coins appears in front of its head, and the pony is sucked inside - its shape being distorted as if pulled through a wormhole.  The hole collapses upon itself behind the pony's rump with a small pop.

Amara replies to Lyra, "Father said he or uncle would meet me at the dock.  Uncle is an important man here, father says.  I think he counsels people or something."  She shrugs.  "Father will be there I am sure of it!"


Lyra looks over to where the throng of settlers are crowding, then up, to the gulls that should be wheeling over the docks, then turns back towards the railing, closing her eyes and gripping it until her knuckles turn white, chanting the words to her mother's divination spells almost like a mantra under her breath to help her focus.


As Valkur's Wake swings around Thorn Island and into Phlan Harbor, you get your first view of the city. The harbor is surprisingly quiet, the gulls, jaegers, and dolphins that had been following the ship abandon it as it passes into the sound side of the island, and dead fish can be seen floating on the water's surface. Wisps of smoke drift up from various parts of the city, whether from forge, or chimney, or arson is impossible to distinguish. The skyline is dominated by a massive castle of white stone,. a few spires lean precariously in places, but the whole is still gleaming in the early morning light. Donovan explains that Valjevo Castle is the heart of "Old Phlan", deep within the monster-occupied sections of the city. Around the castle, the once-great city sprawls broadly, split down the middle by a black, mist-cloaked river. The area of the bay near the river's mouth is a sickly gray color. The buildings that you can see are in various states of disrepair--with a number of large, ancient mansions visible on the north side of the river.

Donovan directs everyone's gazes away from the river and the old noble's district towards a small section of the city, not more than a four or five blocks across, near to the water's edge, which he identifies as "New Phlan". A high, wooden palisade wall, reinforced in areas by the remnants of much older looking stone towers, has been erected around three sides, with the fourth being the docks. Several large buildings are visible, and, judging from the scaffolding surrounding most of them, a significant amount of construction is still ongoing. The wall appears heavily guarded, with men stationed in twos and threes every thirty or fourty feet along its top. The docks, which you now approach, look like they comprise at least half of this section of the city, with buildings built almost haphazardly on the piers and pilings extending out into the bay. Even now you see signs of construction happening on the outer edges of the docks, leaving only one or two moorings available--not a problem since you see only a small handful of boats, and no ships other than your own.

To the west, just past the palisade, you see that a massive shanty-town, easily ten times the size of "New Phlan" has grown up, filling what look like some of the oldest and most run-down sections of the town and spilling out of the ruined walls of the old city and along the shore.


As Donovan finishes pointing out landmarks and the boat begins pulling up to the dock, he addresses his new companions. "So, step one once we dock, find Amara's father and or uncle. Step two, talk to the Council about commissions and making sure we aren't going to get arrested for carrying weapons or throwing spells in town. Step three, PROFIT! Step four, find lodgings." He grabs his walking stick and slings his bag over his shoulder. "Actually, before we deal with all that, would anyone like a tour of the city...the safe parts at least?"


Gendry looks at the dead fish in the water, the sludge pouring out of the river, the black cloud over Thorn Island, the fleeing sea-birds, the ruined walls--"Nice place," he remarks. He turns to Donovan, "Yeah, a tour would be nice. I heard that the Shadowlord has a temple somewhere in the city. If you have an inkling of where it is I could probably score us a place to sleep for the night."

"Also," he looks down at his feet, as if contemplating how far away they are, "how open minded are these Phlannars? You said they'd give me amnesty for being a pirate...does that extend to overlooking my head problem too?" He cocks his head and points meaningfully at his horns. "What're the chances that I'll start a riot just by stepping off the boat?"


Lyra's eyes widened as the flying pony disappeared.  She'd never dreamed of seeing one so close, even if it was not quite what she was expecting.

Wonder quickly gave way to confusion as birds and dolphin turn aside as the ship approached Phlan. "Surely there should be gulls at the dock, or crows picking over those who have fallen in the attempts at reclaiming the old city.  How long has it been like this?"

She looked over at the animals on the ship, waiting to see if they showed signs of unease or distress.


Sure enough, the animals start to cry and kick at their stalls as the ship tacks into the sound. Nat, hands on the mainstay, shrugs. "It's the river. It stinks of death. The animals just smell it from farther away. You'll find some birds--rooks, pigeons, and the like--deeper into the city, and in the woods, but they won't go near these waters." He points at the dead fish floating on the water. "Parasites or no, no self-respecting gull'd eat that, and no fisherman in his right mind would take a fish outa the sound--like to find yourself sprouting an extra head or something." He spits over the side yet again. "Cleaning up the river and the sound is top priority for the Council--anyone who could figure out how to do that 'll be swimming in gold. Of course, the Council has been saying that since day one, and no one's managed to do a thing about it."


As the animals grow increasingly agitated, Lyra's brow furrows in concern.  "Mr. Donovan?  You said you have spells to tranquilize, didn't you?  Would you be able to put them to sleep so they don't hurt themselves?"

Lyra approaches the panicking animals, singing softly to calm them.

Well, it's not far down to paradise, at least it's not for me
And if the wind is right you can sail away and find tranquility
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see
Believe me

It's not far to never-never land, no reason to pretend
And if the wind is right you can find the joy of innocence again
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see
Believe me

Sailing takes me away to where I've always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free

Fantasy, it gets the best of me
When I'm sailing
All caught up in the reverie, every word is a symphony
Won't you believe me?

Sailing takes me away to where I've always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free

Well it's not far back to sanity, at least it's not for me
And if the wind is right you can sail away and find serenity
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see
Believe me

Sailing takes me away to where I've always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free


Shuddup eyes the murky water pondering exactly what's contaminating it, and begins sketching a pumping system on the deck rail with soot on his finger.  "So what's in the water?"


As the animals begin to calm down, Gendry walks to the rail and takes a big sniff. He stumbles back, nearly gagging. "Talona's Tits! That's awful." He goes to cover his nose, then realizes it takes both hands to cover his large, bovine snout, and looks chagrined. "Remind me to look for a place selling satchets once we have some money." He turns to Shaddup, "Smells like a mixture of dead fish, sewage, brine, sulfur, and bad vinegar. There must be some monstrous pickle-factory up river..."


Shuddup's impromptu sketch moves on to include large sequential holding tanks, "Do we have access to any dragons, red or gold would do.  Dragon fire makes the best charcoal, really burns away impurities. What's the source of the pollution? " Anyone who can read Gnomish notices Shuddup writing "Project Purity" on the rail.


Amara runs to the rail looking expectantly towards the docks.  A purring noise starts coming from inside her cloak, and she reaches into a pocket and pulls out a small kitten that looks like a miniature blue and white tiger cub.  "Oh hello Whiskers," she exclaims.  Amara holds the kitten up to her ear and listens for a moment.  She twirls her dress and laughs delightedly and says in a singsong voice:

And now it's time do do our chores,
And when we're done something more!
Sing a morning work song,
To help the chores get done!

She begins giggling as little blue lights travel from the top of her head and crawl over her body, cleaning up dust, dirt and grime.  They leave a lemon-fresh scent behind.  She dances and twirls around her new friends as her little lights begin to crawl up their bodies one by one, repeating the same process.


Lyra smiles and curtsies to Amara as several distinct colors of mud disappear from her boots as the light travels upward.  "Thank you, Amara."  She looks at the kitten and curtsies again.  "And thank you, Whiskers."


Donovan shrugs at Gendry's question, "Given that the Council is willing to let goblins, ogres, and lizard-men in the city, I doubt a minotaur would create that much of a stir."

He then looks over at the animals, "It seems like you have them well in hand, miss."

Then back to Shaddup, "If anyone knew what the source of the pollution was, I'm sure the Council would have done something about it by now. If you're that interested in the problem, maybe we can take a hike up-river and see if we can find whatever is causing it. Of course, that would mean being in close proximity to the river for an extended period of time, and going through some of the worst sections of Old Phlan, AND then tracking through the Quivering Forest. All of which seem like bad ideas at this juncture." He looks at the plans the gnome is sketching, "What we really need is a boat that could safely traverse the river itself--and some way to protect us against the vapors coming off the water. Then we could just sail right up river until we found the source, and avoid most of the monsters."


Lyra starts to speak but is cut off by a sharp look from her mother.  She sighs, thinks for a moment and then looks over at Donovan.  "What about circling around the city and heading upriver, not following the river directly?  I understand the old city itself is still quite dangerous, but what about the surrounding area?"


Captain Donal steers the ship towards the wharf, as Nat tosses the mooring ropes to men waiting on the wharf. The ship is soon comes to gentle stop and is tied off. Nat removes a section of the gunwale and secures several planks to make a wide gangway extending down to the wharf. A half dozen men stand below and the settlers begin passing them the crates filled with their belongings, building supplies, and trade goods over the rail. Captain Donal passes the board with the passenger manifest to an officious looking halfling wearing a blue waistcoat. Nat motions that its okay to disembark and the other passengers begin to shuffle down the gangplanks, being careful to give Shaddup and his drawings wide berth on their way out.

The halfling stands examining the manifest for some time, occasionally making little humming noises to himself. Nat comes over to where you are conversing, "You folks are free to disembark at any time." He walks over and extends a hand to Shaddup and Gendry. "Thanks for your help. If you want that drink I owe you, stop by the Bitter Blade around sundown this evening. It's in the north-west corner of the new part of town, right by the Parkside Gate." He then turns and heads down to speak with the halfling and the captain, leaving the five of you on a mostly empty ship.


"Yes, m'lady, the old city is extremely dangerous--adventurers return daily with tales of vicious tribes of gnolls, bugbears, and even giants in the deeper parts of the old city, not to mention trolls, basilisks, and other horrors. Going around isn't much better though. Attempting to land to the west we'd have to contend with the pirates in Stormy Bay, the Zhentarim, and the various things that prowl the Grass Sea--mostly thri-kreen and prairie tigers. To the east, we'd basically be landing in the swamp, where we'd have to deal with man-eating lizard-folk and the undead that have been coming out of the old cemetery north of the city, not to mention the mosquitoes. They're worse than anything."

"I suppose if we wanted to circumnavigate the river and the forest that our best bet would be to sail west. If you don't mind dealing with buccaneers and slavers," Donovan looks meaningfully at Gendry, "then we could try landing in Stormy Bay and using Master Gendry's pater-familias' reputation to get the pirates to leave us alone. Then cut strait north, sticking to the edge of the forest until we reach the Dragonspines. Borrow a boat from one of the villages along Dragonden Pass, then sail south down the river until we find where the pollution starts. Such a circuitous route could easily take a month or more though."


Gendry looks at Donovan and shakes his head. "Pirates aren't a 'leaving us alone' kindof lot. My own dad turned me into a minotaur after all. Using his name with the locals would just be asking for trouble." He shakes Nat's hand and then follows him off the ship. "How 'bout that tour Don?"


Lyra looks over at her mother, now disembarked and speaking with the halfling.

"There are faster ways, but not entirely less dangerous."

"Nevermind, Mr. McPillflup.  It's ... complicated, and we'd have to know exactly where we're going first."  Lyra looked around at the settlers making their way off of the docks and moves to disembark.  "Amara, do you see your father or your uncle?  What do they look like?"


Donovan nods, "Yes, we can finish discussing our plans while we walk." He rummages in his bags and hands a sheaf of paper to Shaddup. "Here, you might want to make a copy of your drawings. I don't think we can take the Wake with us."

He walks down the gangway, looking around at the people on the dock. "Yes, Amara, which one is your father?" Seeing only a halfling and the handful of laborers, he begins to suspect that finding the girls father might take longer than he had planned. He mutters something under his breath and takes a harder look at everyone here.


Shuddup quickly copies his sketch into the paper and follows the remainder of the party down the gang plank whistling a Lantanan sea shanty


Amara stuffs Whiskers back into her cloak pocket and runs down the gangplank, looking around wildly.  "Father?"  Her voice rises an octave.  "Father!?"  Then her voice becomes tiny as she sobs out, "Father?"  Her eyes get round and her lip quavers, and like a flood gate opening, tears begin streaming down her face.  She covers her eyes with her hands, her shoulders shaking.  A purring sound starts rumbling in her cloak as if to comfort her.  "I don't see them!" she wails to Lyra and Donovan.


Shuddup taps Gendry on the leg, "Perhaps you should lift her up, sometimes it harder for people like us to find someone in a crowd."


Gendry stoops down and lifts Amara up onto his shoulder, tilting his head to keep his horns out of her way. "Don't cry, Amara. Maybe your dad just didn't get the news that the ship was coming in. I grew up in a port--there isn't really any way of knowing what day a ship will arrive, and if he's a merchant, he's probably too busy to come down and stand on the docks every morning." He begins shoving his way through the crowd so that she can get a good look at everyone. "Did he give you any kind of address or way to contact him?" Gendry asks, assuming the answer is know and thinking to himself _parents suck, why should she even bother._


Amara sniffles, "Maybe..."  My uncle is, "Aumry". She snorts, "Of." She gasps in a ragged breath, "Umber."  She takes a shuddering breath, "Beholderven".  Sitting on Gendry's shoulders, Amara pulls Whiskers out of her cloak and holds the cat up to her face to snuggle.


Donovan looks up at the girl and smiles. "I know this Aumry. He's an instructor at the Training Hall. If we're taking a tour we should go right past there." He steps into Gendry's wake and follows him through the crowd. "Actually, the Training Hall should also be one of our stops if we're looking for work, since they have a jobs board. We'll look for your uncle while we're there." He thinks for a bit and then says, half to himself, "Aumry. Amara." He looks up at the girl again, "Were you named after your uncle?"


Amara shrugs.  "Dunno," she says in a little voice.


Lyra and her mother fall in with the others.  "Mother will be needing to go to the Training Hall as well, if she's going to be offering her services as an instructor."


Donovan scans the crowd with his spell, noticing that most of the dock workers do not appear to have any strong affiliations. The halfling appears to work for the Phlan Council, perhaps as a member of the Port Authority, and the two dwarves, Captain Donal and Nat, appear to be devout worshipers of Valkur, and closely aligned with that church.


Gendry finishes pushing his way through the crowd, the rest of you in tow. Just as you step off the long wharf, Donovan steps into the lead and points to the right, "We are now on Parkside Gate Road, one of the two major thoroughfares through New Phlan. On our right is the Port Authority, which governs all ships entering or leaving Phlan Harbor, and most smaller vessels as well. If we ever need to catch a boat out of town, this is the place to go."

He turns a sharp left and walks along the docks. "As you can see," he says, pointing to workers hammering pilings into the bay, "much of the expansion of New Phlan has happened dockside. Due to the monstrous occupation of the old city, most of the settlers have been forced to build their homes out over the water, so the active docks keep getting pushed further into the bay. Luckily lumber is readily available from the forest." He sweeps an arm to the right, taking in a large pavilion containing an open-air market, "Here you can see the Dockside Market. Most merchants who haven't yet constructed their own premises can be found either here, or in the market in the slums outside the wall. Like Nat said on the boat, be wary of the fish-sellers, they don't always put out as far from the river as one would like."

You walk another few blocks past several wooden tenements and one large tavern, your feet echoing on the boards making up the road. "That's the Laughing Goblin. Probably the quietest dockside tavern in all the Realms, partly because no ships ever come to call, but mostly because they have a huge hulk of a bouncer. I stayed there last time we made port--the soup's not bad." Donovan then takes a right onto another broad boulevard, "This is Traitor's Gate Road. Parkside Gate and Traitor's Gate are both on the far west end of New Phlan and open into the slums. I usually prefer to take this way, as the orcs have been known to fire volleys of arrows across the river from the ruins on the north side. I don't think anyone has ever been seriously injured, it's a long shot, but you do want to watch your head if your take the Parkside Road. Many of the newer temples are on that side of town--including a temple to Gond which they were just breaking ground on when I was here last."

Two blocks to the west he stops in front of a large, impressive stone building. All of the stones look like they have been recycled from older edifices, but the building itself appears relatively new and well constructed. "This is City Hall. This is where the Council meets and most of the business gets done." You see the lizard-man and his companions standing outside the large double doors waiting to get in. "We'll need to stop by later to get our commission, but for now..." He waves his hand towards the wall beside the gates, where numerous officious-looking scrolls have been tacked up. "...we can at least see what they're paying for." He briefly reads off the various proclamations posted.

"Just behind it you can see the House of Justice, where the Council and the priests of Tyr try criminals and malcontents. Punishments range from fines (which are then used to pay adventurers), to being forced to perform a mission for the Council for free, to being thrown over the wall at night with no weapons (for the worst offenses). The Temple of Tyr is on the other side of that, not a great place for fun-loving folks like us, but the Bishop of Tyr is the only one in town able to perform major miracles--in case we ever have need of such."

Donovan walks you across the square from the City Hall to a large, ornate building, the old stones covered with new bas-relief carvings, and numerous fountains flanking the steps, which are strewn with flower-petals. You hear singing from within, "...that can't be saved. Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time. It's easy. All you need is love..." Donovan rolls his eyes, "This, of course, is the temple of Sune." He hangs a right and walks behind the temple to a long, low building that looks rather haphazardly put together, the walls patched and stuccoed over in several places, "And here, is our destination." He walks up to the large barn-like doors. "The New Phlan Public Training Hall. Inside you'll find instruction in all manner of dangerous professions...and hopefully Amara's uncle." Several signs have been tacked to the door. He stops and reads those aloud before entering.


Gendry listens as Donovan reads the job postings, then perks up. His head snaps around to look at Amara, almost skewering her in the process. "Hey! Did he say Aumry? That's your uncle right? Fifty gold a head isn't quite the thousands we were talking about on the boat, but half up-front will pay for a place to sleep tonight and a good meal before we take on any dangerous stuff..."


Lyra looks over the job postings as well.  "Melvaunt?  That's ... east?  How far is it, and what lies between for guards to cost so much?  The graveyard thing sounds easy; from the posting you just have to get close enough to look around and come back alive.  Why hasn't anybody just tried scrying it or something?"


Donovan nods, "Yeah, Melvaunt is about fifty miles to the east. The road between here and Melvaunt is pretty well maintained, since its our nearest trade partner, but they go right through the swamp. The paladins of Iniarv's Tower patrol the road regularly, but caravans are still attacked by swamp monsters and bands of goblins or ogres from Thar. So, yeah, caravan guards make good money, usually around 20 gold for a one-way trip. This one sounds like two-way--go there, pick up whatever it is, and bring it back--and it seems reasonable that whatever a professor of arcane arts would be shipping would be of greater than average value." He pauses, thinking to himself, "The promise of payment in magical scrolls is pretty tempting. More spells we could learn, or use in a pinch, would be very nice."

"As for the graveyard, the coming back alive part seems hardest. I don't know about the rest of you, but most of my best spells won't work on 'formerly living entities'. And we're not talking just a few zombies here. Reports about attacks from the graveyard always involve packs of ghouls and wights, things cunning enough and hungry enough to attempt to stalk you, surround you, and ambush you, not just shamble forward and let themselves be chopped up."

Donovan looks over at the temple next door, and a lecherous gleam comes into his eye. "You know, it may only be 3 gold a night, but making friends at the Temple of Sune wouldn't be a bad thing..."


Gendry smiles, "Getting into Sune's temple at night could certainly be profitable, though probably not in the way advertised. Seriously though, we have to go find this Aumry guy for Amara anyways, we might as well talk to him and see if he has any more details about the Melvaunt job." He opens the door and heads inside. "If it doesn't sound like a good idea, we can always fall black on plan A and go knock together some goblin heads to pay for our supper. Or heck, maybe we can get Nat to take us over to the evil island of creepiness--sounds the Council would pay a ton to know what's going on over there."


Lyra seems completely and utterly oblivious to Donovan and Gendry's intentions.  "Helping an order dedicated to spreading joy in the world certainly seems preferable to knocking goblin heads to me."

Faelana breaks off from the group with little more than a stern look at her daughter, to go see the council about a position in the training hall.


The large barn-like doors open onto a large, open-air atrium. Around the yard, two-dozen students, armed with a variety of swords and dressed only in their street clothes, are sparing in pairs, practicing a variety of parrying techniques. A pair of instructors wander amidst the students. One, an older man stripped to the waist to reveal impressive muscles and a mass of graying chest hair but wearing a bucket-helm with a large crest of red feathers, shoves his way between a pair of sparring partners, such that you're afraid he's going to get skewered. He shouts at the students for about a minute, for what you aren't sure, as they appeared to be doing quiet well, then moves on. The other instructor, a slight man dressed in a monk's habit, though with the cowl and scapular removed, comes in quickly behind him, praises the students and borrows the sabre from one, showing him an alternative grip and demonstrating a few cuts before moving on.

At the back of the atrium you see a large desk. A sign hanging over it reads "Registration" in common and several other languages, and a bespectacled woman sits behind it, looking up from a stack of papers rather vexatiously at the shouting instructor. Doors lead off from the Atrium to the left and right, and a rather rickety looking staircase runs along the far wall, leading up to a balcony surrounding the atrium, from which a number of other students appear to be watching, with more doors off of that.


Donovan waits until the shouting man is at the far end of his circuit of the room, then walks and strides up to the monk. "Excuse me Brother, do you know where we might find Professor Aumry of Umber?"