March 1-17, 2016
Checking out the Shadowshore
Thursday October 26
The late afternoon streets of Essanos are beginning to clear out a little as many merchants and consumers head home for the evening meal. The cloud-covered sky is beginning to darken considerably though the temperature is still pleasant, the sea is thick in the air. Seeker and Moonscar step off the gondola and onto a sturdy wooden dock. There are several small boats tied up in various states of loading and unloading. Nearly every hand working or standing on the dock looks up and gives the two Canines the once over. Several look as if they are about to speak, but no one does. About halfway down the dock toward the shore, a broad shouldered, shirtless Dwarf stops what he is doing and watches the Wolfen, the Kankoran and his large timber wolf approach. Past the Dwarf, a large, ramshackle building can be seen jutting up from the base of the dock. It is a three story affair, though it looks as if the top two floors are bound to fall down into the harbor at any moment. Loud shouts, the sound of raucous music and all manner of good times can be heard coming from the building’s many open doors and windows. A battered and weathered sign hangs crookedly above the pier. The sign portrays a featherless parrot or other type of bird smoking a cigar and bearing a black eye.
Seeker sniffs the air as he strides down the dock. He gives a nod to the Dwarf as he passes. “So, brother, fancy a drink? This looks like as good a place as any.”
The Kankoran nods, “Seems good. Probably watered down enough to keep our wits sharp as well.”
Seeker shrugs. “I figure we may be here for a while. Might be worth getting some sort of work. Gives a better alibi than ‘traveller’. We’re just gonna see what’s what.”
“Sounds like a good plan - we can try tavern first and see if we can get a better sense of which streets are best to ask around on. If we're just look for the Vanderb's then this part of town will likely give us, if anything, whatever poor people didn't like about the rich family - especially in the tavern. Might still produce some interesting leads from a different side of the picture though because of that. . . First round’s on, and in honor of, Uncle Colwyn” the druid replied.
The tavern, the Plucked Parrot, is a loud and riotous place. Sings to Moon passes on approaching the building and instead slips off the pier and disappears underneath it. Quite a bit of debauchery and depravity can be seen before even fully entering the establishment. Before Seeker and Moonscar make it to the bar, they have both been splashed with, hopefully, drinks and been jostled and bumped into several times.
“On Colwyn, eh? I can get behind that.” He shrugs. “I don’t expect to find our prospective agent anywhere near here.
“Do you have any other trails in mind to sniff out?” The Kankoran asks, then tries to suppress a giggle, mostly successfully. “That’ll be a real challenge here” wrinkling his nose slightly.
“Well, general tone for the place. Happy? Seething with unrest? Beaten down? Optimistic?” He pushes open the door into the cool, dark interior. “After you.”
“Perhaps losing sleep at the prospect of a coming mad-mage apocalypse? Nah. Do you think you got a good enough morale picture when you were here before to notice changes?” the Kankoran asks. “So, who do we have to bite to get a drink here?”
Seeker grins at the diminutive Canine’s brass. “Well, I think so. Plus if we get established here, we’ll want to find some folk who know how to keep their ears to the ground. Might as well start that search as soon as possible.
“Agreed. If we spot any good prospects we should probably have Uncle Ironfist meet them as well - or at least give us overwatch on our next contact. If I understand his former trade correctly then his insight could help us a lot, and perhaps spot trouble signs we might miss.” Pointing his nose across the room, “Want to start at the bar or get a table?” As a glances around he adds, “Assuming we can find one that isn’t left empty for the foolish and unaware.” The crafty canine stops a moment mid-stride and tilts his head to once such empty table, “Then again, we *could* see about making that work for us. We’ll have to make sure we can reach the door readily through it the trail gets too rocky. . .”
The Plucked Parrot
As the two sit at the empty table, both of them scan the surrounding area, looking for the nearest several exit paths. They are not far from the front door, which leads out to the pier near where it hits the shoreline. There are several windows along the front of the building as well, each of them large enough to leap through, and none of them containing any glass, just partially opened shutters. Another narrow door can be seen on the opposite side of the room, which would be facing out over the water of the bay. Assumedly there is a walkway or ladder or something on the other side. At the end of the bar lies yet another point of egress from the bustling tavern. A large square hole, about 4 feet across, has been opened in the floor, below which is the water of the bay. A couple of drunken sailors sit at this hole with their feet dangling into the hole, both holding what appear to be fishing poles, though only one of them bears a fishing line. The drunk without the line does not seem to realize that his line is missing, yet he appears to be enjoying the sport just the same. Several large fish sizzle on spits thrust into a nearby fireplace must be the rewards of the fishermen’s hard work.
There is an open doorway behind the bar leading into what must be a storage room, though it couldn’t be very big based on the outside architecture of the building. The only remaining exit from the room is a rickety, narrow staircase leading up into the next level of the tavern.
Both Seeker and Moonscar feel the weight of many eyes upon them as they sit down. All of the stares are hard and penetrating, though no one does or says anything aggressive. No servers are visible in the room and the bartender is paying no mind to the newly arrived pair. At the near end of the bar, a long-haired Half-Orc musician strums some form of wide guitar while a strange being stands next to him, singing a jaunty sailor song in a deep baritone voice. This being is tall, easily taller than all the Humans in the room and possibly taller than most Wolfen, though probably not taller than Seeker. His skin is dusty violet and his hair appears to be thick, dark braids or tendrils. This singer looks something like one of the monks the group met at the Library, though Aki was blue-skinned. His race was known as a Quorian, though that was all anyone ever found out about him. Several patrons are singing along with him, though not paying much attention to the words, melody or rhythm of the song at all.
Keeping his eyes open, Moonscar quickly spots the shirtless Dwarf from the Docks enter the establishment. He squints as his eyes adapt to the darkened room and looks right at the two Canines before sliding along the wall toward a table of rough looking characters.
With a nudge of his companion Moonscar cocks his head slightly recognizing the newcomer. He waits til the song ends then calls to the musicians in Gobbley, “Ass-kicking! Hey, do you guys know ‘The Wreck of the Gerald Edmundson’?”
Seeker shares his approval also in Gobbley, while trying to surreptitiously keep an eye on the Dwarf.
“So, what sorts of things do YOU think we need to be looking for? Colwyn said that a ‘certain something’ would be passing through here. Should we try to learn more about who runs the smuggling ops around here?”
“Well,” Moonscar replied thoughtfully, “It can’t hurt but I get the feeling Uncle Ironfist would have the best chances of reading trail sign there. Unfortunately we really have zero information regarding what it really looks like. We can’t safely assume just because of it's name that it's something a jeweler would have interest in or even that it's as small as that.
Track this and tell me if I’ve overlooked any spoor: It’s value to our adversaries, being it’s function, is far too high and sensitive to entrust to outsiders. There are simply too many things that can happen to risk not being able to spot and respond to problems. In the other paw, their last group of couriers probably failed because our associates were tracking them as much as their package. They may have means to watch and act from afar - they recently stole one such means of looking. We don’t know if the agents used to do that were put in place from a distance or close proximity, possibly even a handler in the same room. If they’re using others to carry it then they’re still close by in some fashion and the greatest advantage which doing that would provide them is in baiting a trap for us.
If it's small, it takes little to no skill to move it into this city - consider everything we might have brought in with us when disembarking. They have no reason to employ smugglers to get past the harbor “security” unless it’s very conspicuous and suspicious looking. I think that again, we need to look for the transport team, not the package. Checking the smuggling market is a matter of thoroughness but not likely to turn up any leads. If it does, then we need to spot and counter their overwatch before moving on the couriers. I would expect only one or two of them to avoid notice. A second would likely only be as backup - mainly to try and complete the delivery if the first is taken out - so they might not even travel explicitly together. At least that’s my SOP for documents.
What to look for? I think for today, just the lay of the land. Too many docks spread out all over this city to really try asking around about something we can’t begin to describe. Odds of getting anything are miniscule while the odds of attracting unwanted notice, at least you and I, are already near certainty. We should be very careful about what we ask or say to anyone. By morning half the people in this room will have repeated it to someone else. Of course, that’s something else we might play to our advantage.
Tonight, Sis, Cousin Magpie and I should employ our particular skills. Let’s let them focus on our friend while I pursue this trail. When it comes to mixing false appearance with reality, Moon is the expert.”
As Moonscar and Seeker confer, the Quorian singer calls out in the affirmative and the two musicians break off into a moving piece about an ill-fated timber ship that sunk in the Inland Sea.
The legend lives on from the Wolfen on down
Of the water they called th’ Inland Sea
Algor, it’s said, never gives up his dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of timber many hundred tons more
Than the Ger Edmunson weighed when empty
That good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed
When the killer winter’s teeth ‘rived unexpectedly early
While speaking to his companion, Moonscar keeps an eye on the shirtless Dwarf nearby. He watches him speaking in quite, but forced words. The Dwarf then grabs a glass from the table, down its contents in one gulp, let out a bit of a yell and slam the glass, upside down, back on the table. The others at the table all cheer and slap each other on the back before getting up and all heading for the door. Several of them stealing glances over at Moonscar and Seeker while they leave. None of them seem to notice the sideways glances of Moonscar watching them over his shoulder.
The ship was the pride of the Llorian side
Coming back from some port up near Ladden
As the big ships a go, it was bigger than most
With a crew and good captain well seasoned
Concluding some turns with a couple a soothsayers
When they left fully loaded for Lopan
And later that night when the ship's bell rang
Could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'?
After a moment, Seeker throws up a nod as one of the recently departed associates of the Dwarf re-enters the Plucked Parrot and heads toward the bar, moving directly past the Canine’s table before pulling up a tall stool and ordering another drink.
Meanwhile Moonscar passes a small tube and a hefty little bag under the table to his friend. Head tilted he appears to be cleaning his ear with the tip of his tail while commenting casually, “Found a great big Daisy recently. It had thorns too!” followed by a second, seeming identical pair he describes as “Let’s out a huge cloud of pollen and then those damn thorns. . .” then shrugs as if dismissing his comments with, “Flowers bug me out.” He sucks on his tail absentmindedly as they watch the traffic and then asks, “Anything else catch your attention? If not, perhaps when the song is done we should tip the entertainment and be on our way.”
Seeker looks puzzled as he surreptitiously handles the strange objects under the table, but after a moment gives a quick nod to his diminutive friend. “I think we may be here too early in the day. Too quiet. We should come back, see if there’s a party going on later.” He stands to leave, then turns to Moonscar. “Give me a second, I wanted to see about some work.” Seeker goes up to the bartender. “Any ideas where a guy could go around here for some action? Pick up a little scratch? I’ve done bodyguarding before, even a little arena combat.”
The grizzled Human bartender looks up at Seeker, grinds his teeth and says, “You’re looking for money? I sure as Set hope ya gots enough to cover your tab here, stranger. Ya look a might big, an I bet that frightens off the chattel, but you don’ scare me with yer “I’m a body-guard, I want to arena fight” words, Wolfie.” He narrows his eyes and studies Seeker, noticing how his words gain no reaction from the tall Wolfen.
Seeker looks startled. “Of course I have money. Although you would have had to serve me a drink before you can ask for payment. Since you didn’t, I’ll take my money elsewhere. Although if you’re nice, I might bring it back here later tonight.” He grins back at the surly fellow.
The bartender’s face reddens a bit and looks around the place, “Dammit, where the Hells is that girl! Better be making me money somehow!” He turns back to Seeker, “Sorry friend, didn’t mean anything by that, it’s been a long day, my apologies. Let me get you and your little friend there a drink. Whatcha havin?”
“I’d ask for something to put hair on my chest, but, well…” He grins. “An ale for me and I think an ale for my friend. And a glass of water, too.” He leans against the bar as the bartender sets to work. “And I really am looking for work. Just got into town. Been awhile since I was last here. Oh, and if someone is looking for someone to do salvage work, I’m your guy, too.”
The bartender puts three mugs up on the bartop. Seeker peers into them and can’t quite tell the difference between the ale and the water. “Well, there’s lots of opportunity for work around Essanos. Ye say yer inta salvage and such? The Dredgers Guild are the ones that keep the canals and harbor clean. I suppose they’re the ones that be doing most of the salvage around here to, though from what I know, the coastline anywhere bouts near here is pretty rough and seabed aint no better. Deep sea salvage aint one that gets a lot of talk around here. Oh, but yea, there’s the Pearldivers Guild over in Azure. That might be something fer ya. Didn’t know that Wolfen were too overly fond of the water in that way though. Ehh, ya learn somethin new every day.” He steps away for a second to serve a round of drinks to some other patrons then turns back to Seeker. “Now, if yer lookin’ fer a little muscle work, there are a few options. The Notched Axe and Black Shield Company are both mercenary groups here on the Shore. Then of course there’s them Horns of Zelkarune up in Champion’s. Them’s the ones that run tha Arena up there. Fights goin’ on in there pretty common, though most of us from down on the Shore don’ make it up there all too often.” He snarls a bit and spits on the bartop, wiping it up with a dirty rag. “That’s the best way to get yerself some “sword-for-hire” work in Essanos, I’d wager, unless of course yer looking to do it off the books, well, then, hmm, I just might know a few folk.” He taps his fingers in a rhythmic pattern on the counter.
While the the Wolfen orders drinks his companion pulls a small mirror out of his webbing and, holding it up close to his nose, proceeds to examine his left eye intently. Blinking and pulling the lids back he appears to look for some irritant while checking on those at the table behind him and the area around and through the door he's so “carelessly” put his back to.
The table behind Moonscar consists of a group of sailors from the southern lands, possibly Timro or the Land of the South Winds, and a ragged looking Orc. They are speaking in a language Moonscar is not familiar with and do not seem to be paying any attention to the two Canines or anyone else in the bar.
Seeker thanks the bartender, tipping even though the drinks were on the house. He carefully carries them back to the table, setting them in front of Moonscar. He lifts one and sniffs it, and takes a pull, hoping it is one of the ales. “Bartender gave us a round on the house. I wasn’t sure if you wanted ale or water, so I got both. I’ll drink whichever one you don’t choose.”
He leans forward, lowering his voice to a quiet rumble. “So, I think I could find work if we need some income. Hopefully we can kill bad guys and sell their stuff, too. This seems like the part of town where there would not be too many questions asked.”
He leans back. “So, should we look for another place to stay? A bolt hole or backup rendezvous? In case things go pear-shaped, we should have a plan B. Let’s wander this area, see if we can turn something up. If not, maybe we can wander over to Azure.” He stands and stretches, “Ready for a bit of a walk?”
His companion sniffs the mugs and replies, “I think you get both whether you ask for it or not.” Then downs both and notes, “The water has more flavor. Trouble is, I can’t work out whether that’s a good or a bad thing. . .” He stands up, quickly checking his gear and replies, “Fall back position makes sense but do you want to have to take a boat to reach it? If we can work up the coins though that makes an excellent second point. If it weren’t for our last encounter I’d think it excessive. Now, I’m not sure if too many contingencies are enough.” He fishes a few coins from his purse and glances at the entertainers saying, “I’ll meet you at the door. Nod when you get there if I should use the window. . .” and then circles around to tip the house band with a smile and a nod before exiting.
After exiting the Plucked Parrot, the two Canines change their minds about skulking around the Shadowshore this close to dark and hitch a ride back to the Merchant District to catch up with their friends and get some dinner.
This session was an online, Continuing Story, taking place between two live sessions on Roll20. At the end of the previous live session, the party decided to split up into 3 different groups to take care of random things around town. Normally, as a sane GM, I am against "splitting the party" but the format in which we play between sessions is perfect for this sort of thing. I set up 3 separate docs on Google Drive and shared each one only with the characters that were involved. They all played out their separate parts over the course of 2 weeks, then we brought the party back together and they "shared' their individual experiences with each other via me sharing the documents with everyone. It was quite fun, if not a bit hectic, for me dealing with the three different stories. The only thing I needed to do was to make sure that none of them went over (or fell very short) of the time I had chosen to bring them back together.
All three stories:
Cast of Characters:
+Arne Jamtgaard plays Seeker, a teenage Wolfen Warlord
+Amergin O'Kai plays Moonscar, the esoteric Kankoran Druid
and +Jason GURPS as the GM