The Savage Tide (Full D&D Campaign)

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Kelne
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The Savage Tide (Full D&D Campaign)

Unread postby Kelne » Sun Feb 18, 2007 5:38 am

The story so far:

The port city of Telsite represents one of the farthest outposts of civilisation on the continent of Argovia. On the outside, great jungles, savage races and desperate pirates lurk, while within, the subtle dance of politics and the less subtle but equally cutthroat clashes of various criminals can make Telsite an interesting place to live.

Some days ago, Orson Havender, Gillet Tarrym and Driscoll Kalzeheln were hired by Lavinia Vanderboren, a minor noble new to her position following the deaths of her parents in a fire aboard their ship.

Their task: To retake her ship, the Blue Nixie, from a man named Soller Vark, who was holding it, supposedly in the name of the harbourmaster. In actuality, Vark was using the Nixie to smuggle exotic animals, including some rather dangerous creatures.

The group was able to reclaim the Nixie, putting Vark to flight, and recover the key to the Vanderboren vault, hidden on board. The following day, they helped Lavinia gain access to the vault, only to find that virtually all of the family's wealth was gone. Pilfered, according to the clerk at the desk, by Lavinia's no-good brother Vanthus.

Now the three are on Vanthus's trail, canvassing the city for him.



Meanwhile, Vark's escape had not gone unnoticed. A bounty on him attracted the attention of Tristan Redford and Safiyeh Kiyankadah. After a spot of subterfuge on Safiyeh's part, the pair were able to arrange a meeting with Vark, and set an ambush for him with the help of a couple of local rogues.

With Vark dead (he was a bit too determined not to go quietly), it seems the pair have attracted the attention of someone from the harbourmaster's office who has further work for them.

----------------------------

A day had gone by since the death of Vark, and early morning saw Safiyeh and Tristan gathered with Sel and Kenner in the outer room of a small building on the merchant district docks. From the office further inside the building, raised voices could be heard. Or at least one raised voice and one voice maintaining the flat, even tone of someone determined not to stoop to the other person's level.

From what the group could hear, the conversation seemed to be about customs fees.

---------------------------

The search for Vanthus was not going particularly well. Orson, Driscoll and Gillet had been making discreet enquiries about the city for a couple of days now, without success. Vanthus was not, it would seem, living large on his ill-gotten gains. It was mid-morning of another day canvassing the Azure District when the three experienced what could be their first big break.

It came in the form of a rather skinny looking man who approached them in the street and, casting a quick glance about to see if anyone was watching, said in a low voice, "You the ones looking for Vanthus?"

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Unread postby Nakibe » Sun Feb 18, 2007 4:47 pm

Orson eyed the man coolly as he formulated his own response. "We might be... Depends. How much do you know about him?" With luck, Orson hoped, this was REAL info and not more bull. Because by now the wandering with little result was starting to grate on him.

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Unread postby Kelne » Wed Feb 21, 2007 7:37 pm

"I know he'd sell his own grandmother out if the price was right, that he's set his sights about as high as they'll go and," the man paused for emphasis, "I know where to find him."

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Unread postby Spleen » Thu Feb 22, 2007 6:29 pm

Gillet rolled his eyes. "How dramatic of you. Are you going to tell us where to find him, or are we going to have to navigate a cunning riddle?" The diminutive gnome grimaced. "I'd prefer not to have to deal with another one of those, if at all possible."

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Unread postby Kelne » Wed Feb 28, 2007 7:49 pm

"No, no. I can take you to where he's holed up. For a small consideration, of course."

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Yes, yes. I know it's quite long.

Unread postby Kai » Fri Mar 02, 2007 11:47 am

Safiyeh entered the building with her new allies at her side and looked around. As usual Sel and Kenner were more comfortable here than she was, but it was probably best that she follow along and attempt to see what was going on. From what she could tell, the local authorities were still not without problems of this kind, and perhaps, despite this not being her city in any real sense... it was her obligation to assist.

If this had been her own home, she would hope that passing travellers would take an interest in the well-being of her people, and it's possible that she would think somewhat less of them if they chose not to. Given that, it was highly likely that the only way to prevent such a judgmental stance from descending into hypocrisy that.... she really ought to pitch in here if she could.

Then there was the pay. As much as Safiyeh wanted to believe she was only doing mercenary work out of a desire to assist the local authorities in protecting their citizens, she was without any other apparent source of income, and other opportunities for temporary work had not suited her.

She'd briefly considered short-term employment in other areas, but most occupations for ladies passing through town were of a less than honorable nature and Safiyeh had to concede to herself that until something reasonable came along-- or until she moved on to another city or went home-- she might have to settle for what she could get.

Fortunately, though her first job had placed her in something of a compromised position she'd stumbled upon allies who seemed fairly reliable. At the very least they hadn't deserted her, and Kenner had certainly had a chance if he'd wanted.

She glanced over to the man. She felt somewhat guilty for doubting him yesterday. Allowing him to leave on his own had made her very nervous, but it was the least-hazardous plan she could think of at the time. It had afforded him an opportunity to betray her and Tristan, leaving even his acquaintance Sel to die at the hands of that miserable drug lord. The fact that her survival depended upon the questionable loyalty of a near-stranger had not been enough to stop her, though. There was quite simply no other way, and at the very least Sel and Kenner proved that they would not betray her at their first chance.

Then there was Tristan. From what she could tell he seemed to be an honorable man, a trait she respected greatly. He was also not without a sense of humor, given his performance in the bar intended to distract the patrons while Safiyeh made arrangements to meet with Vark. There was certainly a hint of bossiness in him from the way he ordered her to take it easy while seriously injured, but that was hardly unforgiveable. He had been correct and she'd received worse manners from better friends in the past, so Safiyeh saw no reason to condemn him.

She sighed and pulled the light blue scarf from her head, aware that it was not necessary indoors. Besides, she got the distinct impression that many people here removed head coverings when they entered a building. It was best not to disturb her allies by adhering imperfectly to their customs when it was avoidable. It was just so... dark in here. she sighed and lifted a hand to the mirrored Valthi sunglasses she wore to cover her eyes. Her fingers stopped when she reached the wire at the edge, and she lowered her hand once more.

I can hardly see in these, but I'm sure they think me strange enough as it is. I don't need to go glowing at them before I figure out how they'll react. I'm certain they wouldn't mind too much, given that Tristan mentioned it's quite obvious I'm foreign. Dark skin, foreign dress... hard to miss. Just the same... the fact that such a thing is obvious is troubling enough. I see no reason to make it worse.

That decided, she left her glasses on and pulled her braid out over her scarf so that it lay down her back. Sweeping one tail of the scarf over her shoulder, she finally felt a little bit more composed. Yesterday had been so chaotic that she wasn't entirely sure she'd gotten any closer to understanding these people who lived at the edge of this great sea. She noted regretfully that she'd not had as much chance to explore the water itself as she might have liked. Quite frankly a lot of it looked dirty and unsuitable for drinking. How could they allow it to get that way?

She frowned to herself. This was yet another difference she was going to have to get used to. These people felt very differently about such resources because it was highly-likely they had never gone without them. Most of the people she met in this city had no idea what it really meant to be without water. So they let it sit, rank and polluted in the bays and full of muddy footprints in puddles on the streets.

It was not that she worried for the city. They only acted this way because they had different needs and priorities than her people. If they were in any danger of losing access to their water supply they would act very differently. The only thing Safiyeh felt she really needed to be concerned about was the effect of such wantonness on her. What if she stopped being bothered? What if she stopped paying attention? What if she got so used to the ways of these people that she forgot her own and could no longer live among her people?

She pushed such thoughts out of her mind. She would have to be careful, that's all. She could learn about these people and begin to blend in a little better without totally sacrificing her own values. At least, that was what she hoped.

To distract herself from such pointless anxiety Safiyeh turned her attention to the conversation they were overhearing. It wasn't hard to imagine the frustration on both sides, but perhaps by listening closer she could learn a bit about what made people here get so plainly agitated. Was it really just money?

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Re: The Savage Tide (Full D&D Campaign)

Unread postby NamagomiMk0 » Fri Mar 02, 2007 7:20 pm

Walking in a bit behind his...well, for a lack of a better word, co-workers, was Driscoll. The blue-clad gray-elf was not exactly a stranger to urban happenings, despite being such here--crime happens daily; what was different was the locale, and more importantly, the fact that he was now directly involved in a number of dealings in the intricate politics of the nobility of this place.

...Not that he felt he was really worse-off for it. If anything, this was a step up from what he was typically used to; a relatively nice place to stay as opposed to spartan surroundings, and a consistent wage. If anything, those mattered more than whatever knowledge he could gain from this, or the fact that he was in a noble's family squabble.

It was actually coincidence how he had met his assistants, Orson and Gillet. The three had come upon a holdup scene, with a few thugs. Humorously enough, said thugs weren't particularly menacing at all once Orson and himself had their way with things. He had as much fascination with destruction as he did with arcane knowledge, often mixing the two with his spellcasting as he pleased. The results are, needless to say, particularly frightening to many who do not know about it--including those thugs.

He didn't particularly expect to receive a letter from one of Lavinia's underlings, and much less expected to be hired. Apparently news travels fast in the city...or maybe just so through the proper channels. Next he knew, the three of them were in a rowboat heading for the Blue Nixie...

Speaking of those two, his opinions varied on both of them. If nothing, he liked Orson. In particular, he was a no-nonsense man who knew how to fight when he needed to, and knew what to do when fighting wasn't necessary. A knowledgable man, although not in the same way as Driscoll was, and he would be lying if he didn't respect the other elf's combat prowess for what it was--that sword could hurt, and hurt quite a bit at that, as he saw it do so on the thugs and beast...

Gillet, on the other hand, was hit and miss to Driscoll. The rogue...whatever kind of short person he was; gnome, he thought, but they all look alike at times...regardless, he was useful for a few things. At the same time, though, he was annoyingly obnoxious, greedy, and paranoid at times, and to boot, astoundingly inept in a fight. He seemed like hit-and-miss amongst other things...

And then there was Lavinia. Driscoll didn't have too much to say about her, but he had a healthy respect for her as an employer and provider, amongst others...

To him, the raid on the ship went as smoothly as it could have to start. Taking out all the thugs almost immediately was, if anything, a plus. No alarm could have been sounded. At least, it went smoothly until Vark got out and escaped; and then it went downhill from there as they had to deal with that...creature. One that almost killed Orson at that--and if that happened...well, the job would get a hell of a lot more annoying. Thank the gods his magic was up to par for that fight.

Nonetheless, the trip to the vaults was...cute. A couple of security locks; the first of which was deceptively simple, and the second was, to him, almost as simple as basic arithmetic--sure, most nobles and thieves wouldn't be able to easily identify those sorts of monsters, but he wasn't exactly "most nobles or thieves."

Nonetheless, he had to take a short break while the other two gathered information about Vanthus. Something felt...not that good, and provisions were necessary for anything particularly nasty that could come up; if that beast was any indicator, he would desire some decent provisions before he joined in. No trusting Gillet to be that reliable, anyway.

And now, here Driscoll stood, alongside his two co-workers, in front of a man who reportedly had some knowledge of Vanthus. The other two were predictably impatient with this man, and the gray elf was sizing him and the surroundings up himself.

...So, a self-proclaimed source of information on that bastard, huh? Definitely not anything I'd trust at first glance, but it's a better lead than nothing. Better let Orson deal with this for now. He seems to be a bit better when it comes to getting what is needed from people than I, myself, am.

And so, with his head, the elven mage motioned over to Orson with a look; a slight cue, if anything...hopefully, he'd get the idea from that.

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Unread postby Kelne » Fri Mar 02, 2007 7:48 pm

It seemed the bother really was just about money. One man was claiming, rather loudly, that he'd already paid his docking fees to Vark, and the man had obviously appropriated them. The other, in more measured tones, was expressing doubt about this, particularly since he hadn't laid any complaints until now.

The argument finally came to a head, with the loud man swearing not to pay a thing and storming out, passing the group as he went. The other man stuck his head out the door, spotting the group. He seemed the well-to-do sort, tidily attired, but somewhat harried.

"My apologies for keeping you waiting. Please, step inside my office."

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Unread postby Archmage » Sun Mar 04, 2007 4:27 pm

"Most certainly," replied Tristan, sweeping his hand in front of his chest and bowing slightly. "It would seem that we have some business to discuss." The flamboyantly-dressed young nobleman did precisely as asked, moving inside the office and brushing off a bit of dust on the shoulder of his crimson blazer. "I must say, I definitely appreciate the opportunity to do further business with the city's authorities in the name of its good. These sorts of ruffians are an eyesore that cannot be overlooked."

Tristan, it was fairly certain, had lived a very different life from any of his compatriots. Sel and Kenner, as far as he could discern, were trustworthy enough, if only by necessity; the group had worked well together to capture Vark, and despite setbacks, it was evident that the mission's outcome would have been infinitely worse if the group were short any of its members. And Safiyeh...well, Safiyeh was foreign, clearly, but she was well-mannered and intelligent, and it was Tristan's belief that it was the job of the nobility to recognize and encourage good qualities in everyone, no matter who they were or where they came from. There was no good to be accomplished by leaving the city's "lower classes" feeling disenfranchised. That, Tristan believed, was how crime propagated, when large groups of the poor or underpriveledged decided that the nobility had no interest in their well-being. There were always going to be the brutish sorts who would be criminals no matter what, but Tristan saw it as his personal responsibility to contribute to a reduction in criminal activity by treating everyone who displayed common decency with the same respect in return so as not to foster the idea that everyone with an honorable heritage was completely distant and uncaring.

It was true that Tristan's outlook on life was probably at least partially resultant from the fact that he had done very little hard work in his time. He had demonstrated the gift of magic relatively young, and his family, overjoyed, used their prestige and money to make sure that Tristan had an opportunity to study his gift. It would bring a great deal of honor to his line, they believed, to raise him as both a talented spellcaster and a cultured gentleman.

But now, Tristan had gotten what could only be described as a taste of adventure. Having decided that there was a definite limit to what he could learn and how he could understand the world without experiencing more of it firsthand, he had planned to go out among the common-folk and investigate their way of life. Of course, now he had gotten involved in doing odd jobs for law enforcement. Not because he needed the money, unlike some of his companions, but because he needed the excitement. Until the previous night, Tristan had never felt that he was in danger. He had never felt the thrill of taking risks. And while his recollection of the entire experience was still somewhat surreal in his mind, almost too incredulous for him to comprehend, the feelings that accompanied his memories were all faintly enticing.

There was an unusual sort of nostalgia associated with way he had called upon his magic to attack another human being, the way he had rushed headlong into the fray unarmored and wielding only a wooden staff, and the way his allies' lives had seemed so fragile at the hands of their adversaries. In those fleeting moments, Tristan had felt more alive than he ever had in the preceding twenty-three-odd years.

It was quite possible that Tristan Redford had acquired an addiction to danger, and he had only taken one hit.

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Unread postby Kai » Mon Mar 05, 2007 1:08 pm

Safiyeh followed Tristan into the office and hung back behind him. Clearly the man was interested in being the center of discourse, as evidenced by the avalanche of words where "I'm here, what do you need," would have easily sufficed.

He called the criminal elements "eyesores," which suggested to Safiyeh that he had little personal investment in law and order other than his own convenience and perhaps a vague sort of pride in his city. Certainly someone of his obvious wealth and privelege would be the last to notice the effects of an increase in crime, so his own safety and prosperity were not at risk unless Tristan wanted them to be.

For some odd reason... he did. This came down to yet another question Safiyeh had often asked herself upon crossing the Shumans. It seemed to be the norm for people in her age group and below to take up odd jobs and mercenary work. This impression was so overwhelming to Safiyeh that her chief reason for continuing as a self-identified mercenary was that it, strangely enough, helped her fit in. Left to her own devices, Safiyeh preferred to minimize unnecessary risk to her own safety, but such desires seemed to be somewhat lacking in this population.

The more she thought about it, the closer she felt she was getting to an answer. Most of the people in this city had little realistic fear of starvation or thirst, and shy of disease or fire there were relatively few stresses on the population. It was probable that they were even able to keep most of their children, which was certainly nothing to complain about.

However, in the absence of environmental stresses on the population, Safiyeh supposed these urban dwellers needed to create their own. Instead of fighting together to survive, they fought one another, giving rise to crime. Crime itself was a risk, but also at risk were the mercenaries and law enforcement who dealt with criminals. The amount of crime created an environment that was likely no less hazardous than the harsh sands of Safiyeh's home.

Perhaps that explained Tristan's behavior. Perhaps he was responding to some subtle signal in his city that there were too many people and if equilibrium were to be restored, he must either kill criminals or be killed by them.

Given that... why was Safiyeh herself here? Did she really have a responsibility to this city to maintain its delicate balance between luxury and overpopulation? Perhaps, perhaps not. Whatever her part to play was in all of this, there was no doubt that the quickest way to be accepted with a minimum of explanation was to live as these people did and risk herself as they chose to do. If that meant working with this nobleman and these hired hands to aid foreign law enforcement, then that is what she would do. Otherwise she would certainly never gain any more understanding than she currently had.

This deliberation took Safiyeh only a few seconds, and in the time that it took for Tristan to speak and for Safiyeh to follow him into the office, she had made her decision. This would be her life for a while, at least until she understood the others already living it.

She nodded to the gentleman who had invited them in. "I am Safiyeh Kiyankadah. You called for our presence here. What can we do for you?"

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Unread postby Nakibe » Mon Mar 05, 2007 1:41 pm

At this rather lame reply, Orson sighed. It was worth wondering if this guy was just being the usual avaricious sort, or if he was hoping for something more. As far as the elf could tell, though, he didn't THINK they were enough of a pain in Vanthus' side just yet. Adjusting his cloak just a tad, Orson frowned at the man and said "Ain't really in the mood to play these games. How much you charging for your... help?"

Wonder if I should cart this one along with us he thought. Might be just my imagination, though. Maybe all he wants is a quick buck. Out of the corner of his eye, Orson barely saw that mage Driscoll giving him a bit of an eye. Heh. Seems like I'm not the only untrusting bastard here today

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Unread postby Kelne » Mon Mar 05, 2007 7:19 pm

"Seventy gold'll get you what you want to know," the man said. A bit of a high asking price, certainly. Then again, haggling might well be expected.

--------------------

The man made sure the door to the office was shut before taking his seat, "My name," he began, "is Aemon Ferringer. I've been with the harbourmaster's office for some ten years now, and by and large, Harbourmaster Islaran has run a tight ship." He sighed, "What I'm about to tell you is not to leave this room."

Aemon waited for nods of assent before continuing, "The Harbourmaster's health has been deteriorating over the past couple of years, and he no longer runs such a tight ship. There's nobody in his family who wants to take over, and although the Kellanis have been angling for the job, Heldrath Kellani and Lord Islaran have never gotten along, so there's not going to be an orderly transition."

"As a result of this, graft and corruption have been on the rise, and a number of less than reliable people have been hired to fill positions. Vark being a prime example of that. My fear is that the situation is even worse than it appears."

He paused to allow this revelation to sink in.

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Unread postby Archmage » Mon Mar 05, 2007 8:06 pm

Tristan raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "Are you suggesting that Sir Kellani may be involved in the intentional hiring of 'unsuitable' candidates, either to tarnish the reputation of Lord Islaran or to end his term as harbormaster prematurely?"

"Or perhaps," he continued, "you are simply referring to the fact that an unsavory element has begun to overrun the docks, and that there may be a more prevalent criminal infiltration than you previously believed?"

"In either case," noted the nobleman, "this is potentially the fallout of both Lord Islaran's failing health and the opportunistic action of his enemies. Since this is clearly sensitive information, given your present urging that we keep this conversation confidential, I must inquire as to what you would expect us to do with it. Are we to investigate Sir Kellani's possible involvement?"

I certainly hope, Tristan thought suddenly, that he isn't looking for any of us to take over the position of harbormaster.

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Unread postby NamagomiMk0 » Wed Mar 07, 2007 2:06 pm

'SEVENTY?! How utterly preposterous that this man expects such a price for that information. It's almost as bad as Gillet and his attempts to raise the reward money by however much.' was the first thought that came to Driscoll's mind at this statement. If anything, to him, this man was in no real position to argue such a high price; just as he felt Gillet was in no position at all to argue a higher price to their employer.

The "magical prodigy" glared death at the man, his amber eyes taking on a visage not quite of "that guy in the back" anymore, but genuinely threatening, while speaking low and quiet.

"Listen, and listen closely. I do not particularly know what kind of imbeciles you may take us for, but we are neither in the position nor in the mood to tolerate such delusional pretense as your expectence of us to simply hand you such a prodigous quantity of gold as of current. Likewise, you are in no position to believe we will simply accept any price you set. You WILL reconsider your price, or I believe my friend over there," he threatened, motioning to Orson, "will do it for you in the case you find yourself mentally incapable of doing so on your own, if I do not feel so compelled myself." As the warmage spoke, his glove-clad left hand slowly tightened into a fist, his brow furrowed, and overall, the gray elf became much more imposing than he typically appeared to be...

(In case you need to know, making an intimidate check. Need me to roll?)

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Unread postby Nakibe » Wed Mar 07, 2007 2:14 pm

Oh, great. He thinks he's gonna get a bit of cash out of us. Mentally Orson had to sigh at this pitiful man. But he had his own bills to pay, and getting this toad to tell them what he knew was the key to keeping the stomach full this month.

"Seventy? Heh. You mean 30, right?" And thus the haggling began. Orson wasn't as suspicious as he would've been if the guy HADN'T named a price, but he was still suspicious, and a plot was forming in his head. But was it really worth the trouble just yet?

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Unread postby Kelne » Thu Mar 08, 2007 12:13 am

"Thirty gold. Right you are, sir," the man said quickly, apparently sufficiently cowed by the big scary elves to forego further haggling.

-----------------

Aemon shook his head, "Not directly. As you say, there are a couple of possible explanations, and that's not the sort of accusation you make without proof. Lady Kellani," a slight emphasis on the 'lady', "Would be incensed, to say the least."

"There have been a number of irregularities recently, enough so that I've come to believe that there is some form of conspiracy at work. Whether it's just a few greedy men working to line their pockets, or whether there's something larger at work is impossible to say. Vark might have been able to name names, but he is sadly deceased."

"I do, however, have another potential lead, which is where you come in. While identifying Vark's body, I noticed a rather intricate tattoo, in the form of a serpent wrapped around a flower. It's a design I've seen before, on a suspected smuggler I had brought in for questioning some months back. A man by the name of Penkus."

"I couldn't pin anything on him at the time, but I've seen his name mentioned a couple of times in Vark's books, doctored though they surely are. There's a connection there, and Penkus may be the link to others within the office."

"So, that's the essence of the job. Bring in Penkus alive. Discreetly, if possible. The pay is 600 gold, plus reasonable expenses."

"Penkus, huh?" Kenner said in apparent recognition, "Yeah, I think we can bring him in. He's more of a small-timer'n Vark was, so less goons to worry about. And so long as he doesn't know we're comin', findin' him shouldn't be too hard."

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Unread postby Spleen » Thu Mar 08, 2007 1:11 am

Gillet said nothing further, but kept his eyes and ears open for anything suspicious in their environment.

Gillet originally didn't think he cared about his new associates, but wound up surprising himself when Orson was attacked by the creature on the ship and was then further surprised when Orson had come to his rescue against the vault guardian. Still, he knew he wasn't exactly a sunny personality and grated on people easily; he was just hoping he'd be able to bring his skills to bear more so he could pull his weight and not be a liability to his elven companions. The last few fights did not show him in fine form, for whatever reason, but he liked to think that he'd done some good for his group in other areas and could continue to do so, especially if stealth was required.

(OOC: Gillet will be making Spot and Listen checks (at a +5 each) for hidden people and anything else he can spot, in addition to glancing over everyone in plain sight. In case his gut has the opportunity to tell him something's out of place, his Sense Motive mod is a +3.)

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Unread postby Kai » Sat Mar 10, 2007 1:43 am

Safiyeh tilted her head, listening to Tristan speak with Aemon. The man was not discounting Tristan's theories outright, which is was somewhat disquieting on its own. It suggested to her that not only was Aemon not willing to conclusively state his opinion, but that perhaps he really couldn't be sure.

However, he claimed he had what he termed a lead. A lead to a potential conspiracy. The fact that he mentioned the problems with the Kellanis in nearly the same breath as this conspiracy betrayed potential suspicions on his part. The fact that this was a lead in a potentially-productive direction was a hint that the direction in question was straight to the Kellani family.

Vark's records were clearly unreliable, but he was apparently a lot sloppier than he'd have probably liked to think, and perhaps someone lower down the food chain would be more so. Therein lay the problem, though. If Penkus were even more of a small-time crook than Vark, they were technically moving down the chain and where was that lead likely to take them?

To employers, perhaps? It was Safiyeh's best guess. The most likely employer in this case was the Kellani family. They presumably had the means, and they would stand to benefit from a criminal element that could be "successfully routed" once they reached power.

Wasn't good to be hasty, though. Aemon seemed to understand this, which was a relief. However suspicious the Kellani family was allowing themselves to appear through accident or their own clumsiness, there was no real harm in establishing the connection between them and the criminal element before bringing accusations against them that would allow them to gain sympathy by playing the persecuted victim. Worse still would be if the Kellani family were not truly connected, but the evidence seemed to be running against them so far.

One question remained. She and her new allies had learned a bit about Vark's activities during the course of their last mission. Drugs have an obvious profit value, and are relatively low-risk trade goods. Something else was bothering Safiyeh, though. Why exotic animals? Why smuggling at all? Was it simply the most intuitive crime to sow in a port city, or was there some additional benefit to involvement in such trade?

She waited for Aemon to finish and gave the others a moment to speak first if they had pressing concerns. It seemed at the moment as if they didn't, so she raised a hand briefly to request acknowledgement from Aemon. She spoke slowly, her accent sharpening the enunciation of her words and subtly softening the tone of her voice.

"I see the logic behind bringing him in for questioning, and given his connections and activities, he likely would not come willingly," she began. "To that extent I know why we are here. But since you are the one with more information about criminals here, I am hoping you can answer for me this question. Vark and his..." she paused to search for the proper word in Common.

"...his... associates... dealt in drugs as we know well, but did he not also smuggle animals? Please to correct me if I am wrong, but this seems like a great deal of risk and maintenance of the cargo for a ....relatively limited market. At least... compared to more-certain income from addicted customers."

"Given that... do you have any information about that branch of his business?"

(Total gather information check is +16, while her sense motive check should he choose to withhold information is +17.)

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Unread postby Kelne » Sat Mar 10, 2007 7:43 pm

"In all honesty, I'm not entirely sure what Vark hoped to gain from trafficking in exotic animals," Aemon said, "You're right in that it seems higher risk for less profit than drug trafficking, and we did question a couple of Vark's men who survived the capture of the Blue Nixie. Unfortunately, it seems Vark kept the identity of his buyers a secret. All the men knew was that they were to rendezvous with a ship further down the coast and offload the cargo to them."

---------------

Seeing that nobody seemed inclined to pay him in advance for information of perhaps dubious quality, the man said, "Vanthus is holed up in some old smugglers' caves on Parrot Island. Perfect hiding place, since nobody's used them in an age."

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Unread postby Nakibe » Sat Mar 10, 2007 10:44 pm

"Huh. Parrot Island, you say?" Orson asked, a little suspicious that the man just volunteered the information. It was setting off a few alarm bells to him, and he stepped back a bit to Driscoll and Gillet in order to air his suspicions.

"Either of you two think this smells odd too? Maybe I'm just too paranoid." With a shrug and a check of his pockets, Orson started counting out the money. It was just so suspicious that it set him on edge. Perhaps that would be why he was thinking about just... Hm. Maybe now IS a good time for this, Orson thought. Orson waited for his associates' responses while he considered.

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Unread postby Spleen » Sat Mar 10, 2007 11:25 pm

"It's odd," Gillet confirmed. "But even if it seemed completely normal, wouldn't we be on our guard anyway? This is the only information we've gotten in all this time searching. Let's bring it back to Lavinia."

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Unread postby Kai » Sun Mar 11, 2007 5:22 pm

"Well, I should guess that he keeps the identities of those buyers a secret given the nature of his business, but if there are holes in his planning with a lower-risk, high-demand easy deal like the drug market, I would also guess that his trade in beasts would have even more."

Safiyeh took a deep breath and said nothing. Her eyes narrowed behind her glasses and she was once again glad for the concealment they offered.

This is absurd. They plainly have a problem that needs to be addressed, and it would make a world of difference to the investigation to look at the animal smuggling before the drug deals to sort this out. Limited market, great expense, difficult to eliminate evidence afterward. It's like chasing scorpions across the sand when a dragon is charging for you.

She pressed her fingertips to the bar between the lenses where it passed over her nose. Patience, Safiyeh, she reminded herself. Not everyone thinks as you do. You cannot force them to investigate this further. Their affairs are their own to conduct as they please, though it may seem short-sighted and foolish to you. They must have their reasons for leading us down the food chain instead of up, and they must have reasons for investigating petty drug deals instead of large-scale smuggling of-- She sighed. It still didn't make sense.

Animals would have to be found, which is one handicap and one potentially-traceable link in the chain. After that they would have to be captured, and either the criminals themselves did this or they hired someone, creating another traceable link. After that the animals would need to be held somewhere by someone, which is a link and a link.

After that someone would need to ship them, which provides several potential links. After that someone has to buy them, which is a clear link to someone with great monetary means and great motivation to use the beasts for some purpose. After that, the buyer would have to keep the beasts someplace, which provided yet another place for the criminals to slip up and leave information behind.

Then of course, was the most obvious link. Once the beasts were used by their buyer for whatever purpose they intended, the trail would pop up again and provide more clues. Safiyeh was dismayed by this potentiality, because it seemed to her that this was what the local authorities were waiting for, but of course... this meant that they were gambling the stability and well-being of their society... for... for what? For the sake of simplicity? For the sake of a short cut in their investigation.

She lowered her hand from her face and looked back to Aemon. She spoke slowly, choosing her words more carefully than even she tended to do. She was dismayed by their approach, and she would rather be investigating something more promising and potentially more interesting to boot. She also wished to stay involved with this project not because she thought that this job would itself lead anywhere, but because she wanted to maintain a presence here. Until such time as the local authorities shared her interests and priorities, she would wait for them to come around.

"Very well. If your priorities right now lie elsewhere, I will assist in whatever way I can with this branch of your investigation. Should it prove productive and should you still require assistance, I would be most interested in an investigation into their more... distinctive trades."

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Unread postby Archmage » Sun Mar 11, 2007 5:36 pm

Tristan shot a sidelong glance at Safiyeh and quirked an eyebrow. The woman is clearly dissatisfied by the way that this investigation is being handled, he noted. They are going about this in an odd fashion, I must admit. Seeking out potential small-time criminal links is one way to gain information, I suppose, but the amount of information we lack--and could use--is...considerable.

The young nobleman mentally shook off these preoccupations, deciding that at the moment the business of the city guard was the business of the city guard, and that it was not his place to tell them how to run their organization. He had no formal training in law, nor was he a detective by any means; at this point, he mused, that meant that he was functionally just an extra brain, set of eyes and ears, and a strange variety of hired "muscle." He was no more important or valuable to the city watch than anyone else was at present. There was something both humbling and infuriating about that issue, but Tristan, being an even-tempered man, was not likely to act on his minor frustrations. He was, after all, a novice "adventurer," being relatively unfamiliar with this kind of freelance work.

He was secretly glad that his own notions of common sense had been sufficient to keep him both alive and productive thus far. It was possible to rely on Sel and Kenner to do the kind of things he couldn't, and Safiyeh's malleable tongue could either furiously lash or smoothly entangle as necessary. Right now, it was Tristan's job to continue being his high-minded self.

"Of course, sir," replied Tristan with another slight bow. "I am certain that we can track down this ruffian and bring him to justice for the good of the city. Mayhaps his information will prove valuable in climbing the criminal ladder, so to speak, until we can ascertain the puppetmaster behind this show."

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Unread postby Nakibe » Sun Mar 11, 2007 5:42 pm

With a shrug and a sigh, Orson finished fishing out the cash needed to pay the man. "Here. Fourty gold, like we agreed. Pleasure doing business with ya." Orson said, his smile obviously forced. "With luck", he continued, "we'll find the place with no trouble." His eyes, however, seemed to suggest what ELSE he was thinking. Along the lines of Yeah, no trouble at all. Because if we DO have trouble, I'm remembering whose neck to break.

A quick sweep of his cape, and Orson started towards the door. "You guys got anything else to do, or can we go now?" If he wasn't working for Lavinia, there probably would be more said by the elf, too. He'd considered staying and "chatting" with the man for a while, or even dragging him along for the ride. Just as insurance he told himself. But another part of him felt that was a bad idea.

Orson sighed, sounding like a man who was thoroughly fed up, and the day had just started. Dammit, I just GOT this job and already this bullshit's hurting my head.

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Unread postby Kelne » Mon Mar 12, 2007 5:56 pm

The informer bobbed his head briefly in thanks, then went on his way, casting a couple of glances behind him to be sure they were really done with him.

Parrot island, as the three would recall, lay near Shadowshore. Getting there would be as simple as tracking down a rowboat.

---------------------

Aemon nodded, "Just to set your minds at ease, there are people in the Guard investigating the exotic animals angle. One look at the rhagodessa they pulled out of the Nixie's hold convinced them that they should have a word with Vark's suppliers. I'm told they haven't identified them yet, but it's still early days."

"If you happen to run down any other leads while looking for Penkus, then by all means, pursue them. But for the moment at least, Penkus is your priority."

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Unread postby NamagomiMk0 » Tue Mar 13, 2007 9:55 pm

Driscoll watched the informer, pretty much looking him in the eyes once with one of the parting glances, and then shook his head in response to Orson. "I currently have nothing else to do at the moment," he replied. This job, he felt, was already going to be a pain and a half. It was doubtful that Vanthus would simply come out, hands in the air, and as such, he was prepared for anything

Parrot Island...Parrot Island...perhaps there was something significant about it that he may remember in his studies. Conflicts, old occupants, or the like. Anything that might reveal something even remotely of use to him would be nice to recall at this moment. Knowledge is, of course, much better than brute-forcing one's way through, despite the irony of the elf's magic being exactly for that express purpose of blowing anything and everything up.

Some jobs, like this, were clearly annoying...but if anything, it's probably the only real way to get some money around here. At least with his talents. His very...limited...talents at blowing things up. Oh well, job's a job, he supposed. Take it or leave it...given the money involved, definitely take it.

Parrot Island...what else could be there... The gray elf started on the path back to Lavinia's, one hand in his pocket...

(Making a knowledge (History) check, if that can be applicable. Mod is +6.)

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Unread postby Kai » Tue Mar 13, 2007 10:15 pm

Safiyeh listened to Tristan's self-assured prattle, but beneath her vague confusion for the enthusiasm of her coworkers was a tone of relief that at least they seemed up to the job. None of them seemed doubtful of the group's ability to apprehend this particular criminal, which was encouraging even if Safiyeh felt that their energy was somewhat misdirected.

Most useful for now seemed to be Kenner. He had recognized the man's name and apparently had some level of knowledge of Penkus' activities. It would be up to Kenner to lead them for now, and it would likely fall to Safiyeh to be the front piece for whatever plan they came up with. It wasn't a role she always relished, but at the very least she could be assured a chance to contribute in some way. Tristan's financial resources might be helpful, but he was more likely to be able to assist as support in a potential fight.

Well, perhaps not, she chided herself. Just because that's what he did last time certainly doesn't mean he needs to be stuck in the role if it doesn't suit him.

She looked from Aemon to Tristan, noting that Tristan seemed content with the amount of information available and had no further questions. She looked from Tristan to Sel and Kenner, their current sources of insight on local events, specifically Penkus himself. Kenner offered no further comments, so Safiyeh concluded that for now he'd said his piece.

Her gaze drifted back to Aemon. The man seemed to have nothing further to offer them, either. He had given them the information he had, and had given them some cause for apprehending Penkus. Safiyeh had no further inquiries for him, and would save any more detailed questioning for Kenner at a later time.

For now she saw little reason why they should all sit in the harbourmaster's office staring at one another.

"Kenner," she offered, leaning around Tristan to address their comrade. "You seem to have an idea of where we can start. Perhaps, if you have the information you need from the harbourmaster we should be on our way. I am sure he has important work to be doing and there is no harm in starting our search as soon as possible. We can... how do you say it... hash out the details... on our own time."

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Unread postby Spleen » Tue Mar 13, 2007 10:17 pm

Briefly bemoaning, silently, the lost chance to follow the man back to his home so they'd know where to look for him if something went awry, Gillet hurried to catch up with Driscoll and Orson as they left for Lavinia's home. We'll need a boat, hopefully not stolen, this time, the gnome mused. I wonder if Lavinia has one to spare?

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Unread postby Kelne » Thu Mar 15, 2007 8:09 am

Reporting in to Lavinia went smoothly enough, though she had little to add to their speculations. She agreed that the situation seemed suspicious, but it was the only lead they'd gotten so far, and as a result it seemed like something they'd have to check out.

Which was how the three found themselves in a hired rowboat, bound for Parrot Island. Not a particularly historically significant site, as Driscoll was able to inform the others, but something of a haven for smugglers back before the drow occupation. The drow had come down rather hard on the place when they took over, one of the numerous 'examples' they'd made for the benefit of the criminal classes and those inclined to resistance alike. After that, the place simply hadn't merited any mention in the historical record.

There wasn't really much to reccommend Parrot Island. It was a rocky island, with sheer cliffs rising from the water and scraggly trees peppering the island's top. The group's destination was a small beach on the eastern headland, which looked to provide the easiest landing.

------------------

Meanwhile, another group looked out on Parrot Island from the docks of the merchant district. Kenner had spent the previous day checking in with a few acquaintances, mostly in the rather shady district of Shadowshore. It was an excursion on which his rather obviously upper-class and foreign companions hadn't been invited. Too much chance of somebody getting suspicious about them being out of place, or possibly deciding to knife them for some quick cash.

Now, Kenner was summarising what he'd discovered, "Seems Penkus has been movin' up in the world. Hasn't been seen in his old haunts much at all lately. Still, we're in luck. Seems he was spotted a few weeks back round Shadowshore with a small crew. They got a few supplies together - ropes, lanterns, oil - rented a couple boats, and headed off towards Parrot Island."

"My guess is he's been lookin' at openin' up the old smugglers' tunnels there. Nobody's been down there in an age, but it was a pretty good hideout back in the day. Another thing is that it's pretty close to the docks. Could be where they kept the animals before they got them onto the Nixie."

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Unread postby Archmage » Fri Mar 16, 2007 4:26 pm

"Smuggling tunnels on the island, you say?" Tristan frowned and nodded to Kenner. "Then we have no other option aside from that which is clear. We must get a boat to Parrot Isle and investigate. I suggest..." The nobleman paused briefly, trying to think of a way to phrase the next bit without being offensive.

"I suggest that if you have any contacts that can arrange us a boat rental where we will be asked relatively few questions, Kenner, that that would be ideal. However, at the worst, we can always be honest and announce our affiliation with the city guard. I am uncertain as to whether or not they want their investigation to be known, however. I imagine they would prefer that we keep a low profile."

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Unread postby Kelne » Fri Mar 16, 2007 7:10 pm

"No problems there, m'lud," Kenner said, nodding to a dark-skinned, dreadlocked man fishing further down the pier, "Dread there'll lend us a boat. Long as he gets his deposit, he won't care if we don't bring it back."

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Unread postby Archmage » Sat Mar 17, 2007 1:52 pm

"Excellent!" announced Tristan. "I will be more than happy to provide him with that, assuming I am carrying sufficient coinage." Tristan strode down the pier imperiously, head held high and clearly full of noble bravado; his very manner of walking seemed to cry, "stand aside, plebes! I am on most important business!"

As he approached the boatman, Tristan waved amiably and greeted him with a polite semi-bow. "I have come," he said, "to negotiate the terms of renting your boat. I have been informed that you are willing to do so for a suitable price. What do you believe is fair?"

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Unread postby Kelne » Sat Mar 17, 2007 5:54 pm

"Well, mon," Dread said, laconically considering his response, "Couple gold'll do it for the afternoon. Plus another 50 deposit so ya don't go runnin' off with it. Try an' have it back before sundown, ya, mon?"

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Unread postby Archmage » Sat Mar 17, 2007 6:02 pm

Tristan nodded in affirmation. "Certainly, my good man," he said, handing over the requested coin. "Fifty-two gold pieces. Your assistance is most appreciated," he concluded, looking at the small rowboat. It was not the ideal vehicle for a pleasure cruise, lacking certain amenities such as a full-service bar and a shuffleboard court, but this particular trip was for the purposes of business and adventure, not rest and relaxation.

"Well, then, let us proceed to the island!" After the group loaded themselves into the boat, Tristan began to gesture curiously and mutter as though reciting words in another language that he had memorized but did not truly understand. A few seconds later, the ship's oars were turning on their own, propelling the ship through the harbor. "Um, I seem to have forgotten to ask. Which way is the island, Kenner?"

(Tristan casts unseen servant and commands it to row the boat so he doesn't have to do any work. It'll persist for one hour. Hopefully that's enough rowing to get to the island!)

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Unread postby Kai » Sat Mar 17, 2007 6:32 pm

With a quizzical glance toward Tristan as he summoned some sort of... rowing spirit. The nobility here seemed to have a notably hands-off relationship with... well, with reality and every task or event in it. Nothing to be done about it, though. He seemed like a decent man for all that.

Safiyeh stepped down into the boat, trying and failing to prepare herself for the unfamiliar lurch of the deck under her feet as she added her weight. She sat down as quickly as possible near the edge of the boat and slung one arm over the side. She tried to move as little as possible to prevent destabilizing the vessel.

The gods never intended us to use the water for this, I swear, she thought. If this were natural I would not be overcome by the desire to vomit from the water sloshing below me.

In fact, as Safiyeh looked down into the murky depths of the water, two things kept her from pre-emptively becoming seasick. The first was that there was nowhere for her to safely give in to nausea but the water itself, and the idea horrified her beyond all measure. She would sooner allow herself to lose control of her bowels as allow herself to pollute the water by retching in it.

The other thing bolstering her resolve was the fascination the water itself held. She found herself somewhat distracted from her unease by the shifting light down in the water. It was one thing to know that water could stand as deep in an ocean as sand in the desert, but she sincerely hoped she would never tire of the novelty. she smiled when she saw something moving, and gave an amused little gasp to see it swim beneath their boat.

"Fish," she whispered to herself. She grinned. She was feeling much better and felt quite content to watch the water as they left.

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Unread postby Kelne » Sat Mar 17, 2007 6:54 pm

"Just over there, m'lud," Keller said, indicating the large outcropping of granite sticking out of the harbour. He seemed capable of controlling any urge to roll his eyes.

The trip out to Parrot Island passed uneventfully, with the magic-propelled boat making for a landfall on a small beach on the eastern shore. As they drew closer, it became apparent that the beach was already occupied. Two elves and a gnome were pulling a rowboat up onto the beach and securing it. Well, one of the elves was doing most of the work...

A few moments looking over the beach by the trio had revealed a slightly overgrown path leading up from the shore and into the interior. Driscoll, happening to look seawards, spotted another boat approaching. This one contained four humans, including two somewhat disreputable-looking men, a woman with dark lenses over her eyes, and an impeccably dressed man in the bow. Nobody seemed to be rowing, but the oars were moving. Witchcraft!

Could it be Vanthus and his cronies? Probably not. The man's hair colour was wrong, and he didn't seem to be sporting a beard.

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Unread postby NamagomiMk0 » Sat Mar 17, 2007 7:04 pm

Driscoll sat on what could arguably be the "back seat" of the rowboat, hand on chin, and simply thinking; it's not like he could, or would do much else. Commandeering a rowboat was not his forte in life, and neither was rowing the bloody thing across to Parrot Island. That was for Gillet and Orson, in respective order. It's not as if the warmage himself was lazy...but to be more precise, he'd be too tired to do anything once they got there if he was to row all the way.

If anything, the magician had never been on a boat until he had gotten to this city...at which point he had spent the greater part of a couple of hours on both a boat and on a ship, the latter of which was moored and anchored, sure, but still something new.

Ultimately, this would be a pain. He only knew that there were a number of tunnels there; not where they led or any natural denizens. Hopefully, it wouldn't be too much of a pain trying to find Vanthus.

But hopes were meant to be shattered. Bastard's not enough of an idiot to hide out in something easy to get to, that much is for sure.

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Unread postby Spleen » Sat Mar 17, 2007 7:54 pm

Gillet was able to help Orson with the boat far more easily than either elf probably expected him to be able to; it's worth noting that the little gnome bore a musculature similar to a half-sized Orson. Of course, there's no substitute for longer arms and more body weight, so Orson still bore the brunt of the work. The gnome finished by tying the boat to a small but sturdy-looking tree with the first foot and a half of a fifty-foot length of rope. "I don't want to cut anything off this coil, in case we ever need to use its whole length," he would have pointed out, if either elf cared enough to comment.

Gillet stood up from his finished work and brushed sand off his armor, clucking in annoyance at the fine dusting still sticking to the oiled leather of his greaves. "So, what do you know about this place, Driscoll?" he asked, glancing over at the warmage.

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Unread postby NamagomiMk0 » Sat Mar 17, 2007 8:36 pm

Driscoll looked over at where the other group of people on the beach are, or were with some suspicion. They were, needless to say...different. Wasn't Vanthus, but they could easily be some patrolmen hired by him...but if that were true, wouldn't they be busier trying to conceal their own position? Regardless, they'd be an issue worth being cautious about, nonetheless, but not worth worrying completely about; the job's about Vanthus, not his goons... regardless, they were at least worth noting.

"I'll explain on the way in," the elf started to Gillet, his eyes still on the path that the others took up. "However, we can't afford to stay. We're clearly not alone on the surface of this place." And he looked about for a path...one that would lead further inward, hopefully into the smugglers' tunnels, without the risk of running into the other group on the island.

They could be neutral to us, or even helpful, but I'm not putting any money on that chance for now. Last thing we need is someone else who's willing to kill us.

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Unread postby Nakibe » Mon Mar 19, 2007 12:24 pm

Orson hadn't counted on getting this much exercise today, but he looked over at his associates and quickly realized the simple truths. Driscoll probably would do a piss-poor job of moving the damn boat anyway, and would be too tired to wiggle his fingers, much less cast those rather nice spells like he did when trying to catch Vark. And Gillet rowing was pretty much out of the question. But just because it makes goddamn sense doesn't mean I have to like it, Orson finished in his head. So it was worth the minor amusement to see the little thief actually pick up and start trying to help. It surprised him slightly, of course, but some of the best things in life can be pretty surprising. Which brought his mind around to other surprises for a moment...

"We're clearly not alone on the surface of this place." Wait, was Driscoll saying someone ELSE was here? Orson shook his head and chided himself for not being more attentive. The others had it, but what if they hadn't? Quickly he responded. "Who knows why the hell they're here, so lets avoid em for now." Orson then looked over to his fellow elf. "Ya know a good and quick way in?"

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