The Pleasure Craft crew sits listening in rapt attention to Arno’s tales of the Wild Bunch, hunched forward, thoughtlessly devouring bunches of grapes, hanging onto the Changeling’s every word. Zephyr interjects for the few events he’s been around to witness, hanging just over Arno’s shoulder, keeping the drinks and food coming. The drow and elves simply look at each other in alarm throughout your stories, with raised eyelids and worried whispers. As Arno finally comes to a break in the scene, Orrian wordlessly goes to offer the pate plate, while the grung Bluurg very unsteadily gets to his feet to go find Michael…
One part of your story in particular Orrian the Elf focuses on. “…ate people, you say? Our proprietor, Mr. Pryce, had warned us about that! He called them “Twilight Cannibals”. Apparently, they’re a big problem out here, some sort of dread curse built into the Expanse itself that befalls desperate sailors. All the loss-of-self and selective memory of a werekind, combined with the ravenous hunger of a vampire that tears open the packaging when it eats! Mr. Pryce said he’s had a, eerm… “bitch of a time”, maintaining his “No Cannibals” policy while still allowing were…no, was it Wild? Wild-Kind…into the establishment.”
Orrian takes in your point about the dangers out here…he can see what you’re getting at. The Elf smiles sweetly (but still, rather dismissively) at Arno. “I appreciate your concern, Arno. We are not fighters or brave sailors, this is true. But what we have, is faith: faith in our mission, faith in our new movement of elves and drow, and faith in the God which has shined his blessing onto us! Silvanus said we would see much peril before we came to Chaff, but that we would come to none ourselves. This has proven true, despite the frequent strangers we have met, and strange weather we have travelled through…”
“However,” Orrian says coyly, smiling knowing at an older drow woman lounging nearby. “Our mission is about knowledge and learning, first and foremost. How about this…your crew remains with us until Chaff, sharing your tales and wisdom of this Twilight Expanse. Providing us protection, as we learn from you how to defend ourselves and what hidden dangers may lie in this place. And in exchange, we will provide you all the food and drink you can eat until we make port…and in addition, can gift as payment each and every one of your crew with a beautiful, hand-fished pearl.”
“Orrian!” gasps the drow woman. “Kind, but a bit rich, don’t you think? Not that I’m not wholly enjoying the company, dear…” she assures Arno.
Orrian shrugs. “It is the Celebration of Plenty, is it not? Decadence in song, dance, food, drink…even the gifts we may make to new friends!” Orrian smiles, and raises a glass and a toast to Arno and the crew of the Whispered Curse. “Besides, the chest was meant for emergencies or amenities between here and the Sea of Sighs. Once we begin work there, we shall want for nothing, for a long, long while…we can rebuild our resources again, for the day we finally decide to once more go home…”
“Now, please send for my chest, to whoever is below, and have it brought around,” Orrian says, a smile of pure enjoyment coming across his face. “And then send around another round of drinks! We have much to learn from our guests of this place and its people, before we make port!”
Ilmin Dach is fishing around her accoutrements for a paper and quill. “Here,” she tells Jack, finally procuring what she was looking for. “Your name was Jack, correct? And that Ship of yours is the “Whispered Curse”? Well, here is my information,” The drow woman hands you the note in beautiful, looping handwriting: Ilmin Dach; Sea of Sighs. “If I ever hear sign of “The Floating Table”, I’ll send you word over The Harrier Express! And feel free to drop me a line anytime you like as well…whether your group will be stopping in at Chaff and you wish to meet up, or just to say hello!”
“Now, if you don’t mind…” Ilmin says, as she begins to stuff a hard cream into a roll of bread the size of Jack’s head…
Keya sits silently, hearing what Urixes has to say, a kind gentle smile across her face the whole while. She joins him to stare sadly across the railing, lost in thought for a long time as she ponders the answers to Urixes’s questions. Finally she laughs, a sweet sound that has a distinct but subtle note of bitterness to it.
“It’s funny…you even sound something like him. My betrothed, Arel…he wanted to find the secrets to life’s greatest puzzle. He had seen a vision of his own death, you see, and became haunted by it. So he sought forbidden knowledge…and made a dreadful pact, with the “Lord of Bones”. He wished to find some way to subvert the will of the Gods, and avoid the demise which he felt lay imminent...”
Keya drinks her wine, rather sadly. Urixes can tell this is a story she hasn’t shared often, if ever. The maiden continues, “He spent the next three hundred years turning into a…well, I don’t have to tell you. I’m sure your imagination can fill in the blanks. Arel kept what he had become a secret from us, from me, for as long as he could. Too long. Until eventually, we were forced to…deal with him ourselves,’ the beautiful maiden murmurs grimly. “But,” she says, once more with lightness. “…as we found, he had come to discover the place he long sought: a hidden temple, on a simple island, "buried so deeply that the Gods cannot see inside, and locked with keys their hands cannot grasp". Inside of the temple is a great hole, where a man can delve so far, that he can fall into his very own Soul. You can see everything there: your pasts, your presents, your endings. But it is a *dangerous and twisted* landscape. The experience of travelling through it is supposed to be…incredibly shattering.” Keya shakes her head roughly, long pent up emotion still dwelling within her. She looks up, with caution but unique clarity, at Urixes. “It is forbidden knowledge, to seek the sights of paths you have yet to cross, and to break the chains of the Gods with enough strength to truly rend them, Tiefling. Seek such insight warily, and do not let it consume you like he did!”
Slowly, after some consideration, she continues her story. “As it transpired, the island he sought, ”Midlight’s Deep”, lay in another realm entirely, and further still inside a magical wildland: here, the Twilight Expanse! I know not its exact location, but Arel’s notes show that there were people at a massive library called “The Observatory” who would likely be able to pinpoint it from old maps or charts. However, if I were you, and I sought the Island, I’d start by visiting with Othro from Othro’s Oddities in Chaff first. Apparently, “The Observatory” folks are an incredibly secretive bunch, and only allow “privileged visitors” access to the library. According to the letters of Mr. Pryce, Othro does business with anyone in the Expanse who deals in knowledge, written or otherwise, so if anyone knew how to get on their Guest List, it would be he!”
Keya takes a deep, breath, and sighs for a long while: as if the poor woman had been holding her breath for many years. From off of her waist, she removes a tied red cloth which ends up being an exquisitely woven, large Red Sash “Here,” she says, offering the garment to Urixes. “I want you to take this with you. It was Arel’s, in the times before he became...the foul elf he eventually turned into. Back when he was still someone worthy of feeling sadness for. In the times previous to him becoming corrupted, he always said that when he finally found the island he sought, he would wear this as he arrived to the shore, and with it think of me. It’s ironic…he never made it here, but with his knowledge, I think with this crew, we've found what I’ve been looking for…and now, I can finally let him go.”
“But I want you to carry it with you, Urixes; he of the Sad Stare. I want you to use it as he did not: to remember not to always be looking over your shoulder for death, lest you come to find he has been always standing by your side. And to not let your obsessions and the pursuit of power turn you into something your friends would turn away from, ere’ the great end of things.”
Keya stands up on tippy-toes, and gently kisses Urixes on the forehead before she goes. She gives him a slight-smile, and then a sad, bittersweet nod of a farewell. Urixes can tell it’s genuine and from the heart, and that as she bids you goodbye, she is letting herself say goodbye to Arel for the last time as well…
The Celebration of the Elves and the Drow lasted loudly past the midnight; crept through the early hours of the morning; and was still going strong without any signs of abatement as the morning sun arose to greet the new day. The opportunities for sleep last night were nonexistent. The party flowed freely from one Ship to another, and even if you found the odd unoccupied bunk to lay down in, the sounds of music, laughter, mirthful shouting, and occasional intimacy made rest for anything more than ten minutes at a time an utter impossibility…
The Crew of the Love Revolution doesn’t fully depart the Curse’s Main Deck until the Cap’n finally emerges from her cabin, pulls a pistol, and *FIRES* it into the air. “Alright, everybody out! Party’s over! It’s been fun, but these scallywags got a Ship to ready for Port!”
The Elves and Drow, barely put off by the violent display, slowly make their way across the gangplank back towards their Ship, waving and wishing fond farewells to your Crew. As they depart, Captain Arabella shakes her head in disgust at her company, taking in the sad state of her Ship and its sailors.
“Well, hope you all had a good time!” she says gruffly. “We still got preparations to make, and daylight’s burning! I got Michael to prepare enough gruel and room temperature water for the whole crew, so grab a bowl and eat up’, cause’ you got five minutes before I wanna see all your asses to work!”
“But, Cap’n!” A protest comes up from the Rax’s Ravagers side of the Ship, each sounding more drunk than the last.
The Cap’n’s lips curl into a sneer. “Don’t like it? Tough shit…you got damn near a week to sleep it off in town, so you can lick your wounds once we’re there…”
As Jack gathers and packs supplies along the top of the Ship, he hears the familiar voices of Killian and Rax up on the Forecastle Deck. The pair seem to be attending to the Wyvern, who is currently being fed leftovers from the evening before while sheltering from the sun underneath an old tarp.
“Well, what can I say? S’been a busy week!” says Killian, throwing up his hands in frustration. “She hasn’t chewed through the Deck, or anymore tarps, at least…”
“Yesss, but look at her….you can ssssee the creature’sss ribsss!” Rax points out. “The Wyvern is only becoming more complacent, ssssimply becaussse sssshe is losssing her will to live!”
Killian looks down sadly at the creature, reaching over to pet its head gently. The Wyvern moves momentarily to snap at the hand…before morosely giving up and returning to her meal. Killian, looking contrite, turns and welcomes Jack as he approaches.
“Well, young’un…what do you think?” Killian lights a cigarette; puffs it sadly over the side of the Ship. “The Old Man had this idea in his head…dragonriders, something to keep an eye on the Ship from “up there”, ya know? But, it might’ve just been idle fantasy.” The Striker sighs.
“Well, we can’t releassse it like zis…za animal would likely try to kill usss, and *I* for one wouldn’t blame it! We ssssshould contact “Za Ark of the Exotic”. They have professssional handlers zere, who can remove za creature…”
As Jack sits on the Deck in thought that morning, a familiar voice of his own begins to speak to him, from down on the scabbard at his belt…
Urixes’s right-hand Rak’ta, Crude, finds Arno up taking a break from the Wheel as Derbin guides you all smoothly in to Chaff. The lizard pleasantly greets the trio each by name, then respectfully asks Arno if they may chat, whenever they can spare a second.
“Zis is, I know, a sssstrange requessst….” The handy Rak’ta nervously begins, as the Changeling steps down from the Captain’s Deck. “But I heard all about you, you ssssee. How you ssstayed with za Rak’ta in za mud pitsss of Far Aessston; helped uzzz work with za Chameleonssss and sssstop killing each uzzer on Villam. Sssso, zere sssseemed no one better to assssk…”
“You may have heard of my brood….my eggsss? Well,” the Rak’ta woman says, delight ringing in her usually hollow voice. “Zey finally hatched, sssshortly after za mirror ssstormsss! A trio of new lizardsss haff blessed me!”
“Za plan,” Crude explains. “What I haff agreed with za Captain, Isss to help vet candidates for za Curssse: my replacement for when I leave, and uzzers to fill za uzzer missssing roles aboard za Sssship. I am sssupposssed to do zis on our sssecond day in Chaff. But,” the Rak’ta says with consternation. “….I haff noone to keep an eye on my children! Zey cannot ssstay here….zey cannot come with me. I am at a lossss. So I zought, maybe, would you…?” Crude looks at the Changeling, hands pressed together and hopeful…
Shortly after Crude departs, Arno feels a source of heat slowly begin to build in one of their pockets. Reaching in, the Changeling withdraws a strange, mirror-like stone. It takes them a few moments to register it, but they eventually remember: the Spying Eye you all had found roaming the halls in the Grey Maw, that was riding a piece of hijacked ancient machinery and spying for the Little Witch.
Arno frowns down at the stone, still wrapped in the little bit of leather the bard Bern had tied it inside of. They remember the Mutineer Aloro, running away in the night, wrapped in the guise of the beheaded She-Witch and flying off Gods-knows-where. Wherever she is right now, whatever she’s doing, she must have found the Occulus (the lense through which one views the Spying Eyes), and finally worked up the gall to use it. So she was still out there, then, and checking up on you. Should the Wild Bunch be concerned, or….?
That morning, Oak, head ringing for hours now with song and hazy memories/tapestries of the night before, hears the crew around him bragging about their plans once they arrive at Chaff. Despite his building fatigue, the Shifter can’t help but hear and shudder at the open and proud announcements of planned debauchery/foolishness the crew seems to have planned for later:
- Fiver, in some monument to sublime idiocy, plans to drink himself “around the World” between the varying bars of Chaff, after procuring (from somewhere nebulous and only softly spoken of by the Crew) a ridiculous amount of Halfling-Weed, and something only whisperingly referred to as “a rough-fist of Blue Sand”
- Natali the Gravedigger will be donating her pay, down-to-the-last-coin, to a Children’s Charity inside of Chaff. Much like the Elves and Drow, she trusts wholly for the Gods to look out for her future
- Refi is getting a thousand-gold bottle of wine, a fellow from the Sea of Sighs, and spending the downtime away from the Ship on a boat within the Public Villa. The Old Gnome practically dares the crew to disagree with her
- Blacktooth Bart plans to rent a fine room at the Camel, purchase three nights worth of the highest quality accomodations ahead of time, and then bet the remainder of his haul on “Black” night one, along with his exposed rear-end upon the board. He supposes he’ll see where the winds take him after that
- Calvin Jenkins sounds to be buying a lot of specialized “outfits” for a lot of things that he describes as “play-action models”, but the other crewmen seem to understand as “dolls” or “action figures”. Unlike the others, no one has yet spoken up to attempt to correct what Calvin is choosing to spend his pay upon
- No one wants to discuss what the Captain plans to do in Chaff. She’s been quiet and withdrawn lately, to everyone except for, maybe, the Wild Bunch. There’s a lot of unspoken fear that the sudden disappearance of her friend Valtari (the former Tiefling Quartermaster, who dined with you on Villam but disappeared into nothingness “chasing her own Shadow”) affected your Captain much harder than she’s let on. And, that with all the stress and crisis-management of dealing with the Ship recently, she’s taken to outsourcing responsibility, while burying herself further inside her office, with paperwork and drink, forever searching maps…
”Gah-DAMMIT,” Captain Ari says, approaching Oak with hands firmly to her hips. “You too, Mr. Oak? I thought of every man on board, you’re the one I wouldn’t have to fucking worry…oh, nevermind,” She says, digging through a satchel (one of many slung over her shoulders) with irritation. “Listen, I’m getting paperwork in order and finishing up the supply counts. I need you to pull it together! After we depart at the Shipyard, you and the Wild Bunch stay behind while the rest leave…I’ve got a few extra chores for you all to handle for me while you’re in town.”
“Mostly just upkeep and the like: gonna have you all cashing in the Governor’s Writ, taking care o’ some of the hiring with my gal Crude’s help, and paying out the bonuses…but not until near the end o’ the trip!” she says, putting up a warning finger. “You give this lot their full chunk ofntheir first day back in civilization, whole group’ll be in debt before nightfall. They’re like children! Nah, put it off as long as you can…but probably no later than day four. They’ll start to get antsy after that…”
“After you cash out the bonuses en’ they get the Whispered Curse back in tip-top shape, come find me at the Camel, and we’ll talk additions with any coin we got left over. Oh, and there’s one other, little thing…a “special assignment” for you all. The Cap’n looks around to make sure no nearby ears are listening, and she then whispers up to the Shifter:“Reconnaissance. On the Queen of Chaff. She’s got command o’ every fifth island or vessel we’re gonna find out here, so its damn important that we’re on her good side. I’ll meet with her eventually, but first I want you all to get a read on her for me: what she’s like; where she spends her time; how she takes her coffee; and most especially, whether she has fond memories of Rax and Reynard, or the other kind.”
The Cap’n pulls back from Oak, nodding to Calthus as the 1st Mate wanders nearby helping move boxes. “So, take care o’ that for me, would you Mr. Oak?” The Captain says nonchalantly. “And don’t worry…with added responsibility comes added incentive. I’ll be sure to give you an’ yours a little bit out of the gate, in appreciation…”
Urixes moves about the Ship, head pounding, lighting fires under asses to make sure things are ready for arrival. Through his sluggishness, the Tiefling can feel a steady buzz of excitement, even among the (still varying shades of drunk/hungover) haggard looking members of the Crew. Everyone has a brand new pearl and a paycheck burning a hole in their pockets, not to mention a big bonus coming once the Captain taps the late Governor’s bank account. Each of your fellow crewmen discuss the various ways they plan to blow through their earnings (few, if any of the pirates seem to be spendthrifts or retirement types).
All the ceaseless talk of gold makes Urixes unable to stop thinking of a different payout: specifically, the eleven hidden staches of buried treasure he hadn’t revealed to the Koa-toa. His own life (this time) had been one of anonymous poverty, but the Warlock knew that the Voyage would require a good deal of coin to run: to feed and care for the Crew; to keep the Ship in working order and able to punch at a proper weight class; to buy the occasional passage and or information.
The memories of former treasures rising to the surface of his recollection, Urixes demands someone to fetch his paper and ink at once, while the images are still once more fresh in his mind…
As the city of Chaff finally, comfortingly slips in view over the horizon, Urixes hears that awful, familiar voice enter back into his head once more, like a glove full of maggots. Your master, the Ancient One, has *need* of you:”ARISE, MY WAVERING SERVANT…THE TIME HAS COME ONCE MORE FOR YOU TO ACT AS MY RIGHT HAND.”
“THERE IS A CREATURE IN CHAFF, WHO GOES BY THE NAME OF “CHIC THE BRICK”; A FOUL, CONNIVING LITTLE SPECK OF VERMIN WHO RENEGED ON THE TERMS OF HIS AGREEMENT WITH ME”
“MY ORDER, IS FOR YOU TO EXTERMINATE THIS BACKSTABBING PEST. SQUASH HIM UNDERNEATH OUR SHARED TENTACLE. HE HAS SIMPLY TO HAVE HIS COMFORTABLE LIFE, STOLEN THROUGH MY INFLUENCE, *YANKED* FROM HIM. I CARE NOT HOW YOU DO IT: LOUD OR QUIET, A KNIFE IN THE DARK OR A SUDDEN DROP INTO THE ABYSS. IT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE FOR ME. THIS TIME. EITHER WAY, *I* AM WHAT WAITS FOR HIM ON THE OTHER SIDE.”
“OBEY MY ORDERS, HE OF THE ENDLESS. FULFILL MY WILL.”
The crew of the Curse can tell that Oak isn’t quite himself. There’s some quiet, subtle snickering, disguised as coughing behind hands. Fingers go to mouths, mimicking the imbibing of Halfling-weed in a clear shot at perceived hypocrisy. A few chiding, whispered words about the current state/party proclivities of the Wild Bunch. Nobody has the courage to openly disregard the Shifter as he speaks, obviously, but no one’s plans look to be stopping either. In fact, as Oak speaks, Refi and Calvin are tucked back in the crowd, deep in hushed discussion as they occasionally look back towards Oak. Through a few half-read words off of lips ("rager", in particular), Oak picks up that the crew is likely planning a party upon receiving their bonuses, although the "rager" is being well kept out of sight or sound of the Captain, or her favored Wild Bunch of enforcers…
Jack rattles even as he stands, the many little bits of odds and ends discovered during his journey jangling against each other while he listens to Oak’s speech. Killian the Striker, respectfully listening to the Shifter, notices Jack’s situation, and smirks at the young man. Shortly afterwards, the Old Salt waggles a finger at Jack, summoning him over to talk.
“Ready to shuck-off some o’ yer old finds, eh kid?” The Striker laughs. “Well, if yer’ looking to trade currencies, head to the Vault…they’ll convert yer gold to jewels, jewels to gold...whatever ya’ need! Now, if yer looking to sell gear or anything else? Ye could always do the Outfitters shop, but, you’ll probably get below market-value. What I’d do if I was you, is spend my time at the Marauder’s Market! Ye’d be surprised at what kind a prices you can get on common items, if ye’ have the time to spare, and the lungs to bark…”
Laughing eyes bore into Urixes and his bleary countenance during the morning’s discussion. The crew is obviously, openly enjoying the sight of the “mature” members of the Wild Bunch struggling this morning. It has been, a long, long while, since Urixes has found themselves the object of open, unpunished mockery; they aren’t sure how to feel about it. But, such is the weight of responsibility aboard a free and easy pirate Ship.
Through his dully aching skull, Urixes wracks his brain for memories of “Chic the Brick”. A criminal nom de guerre, for sure, but the whole city is crawling with criminals. Chances are, the Tiefling will have to ask around to find who exactly he’s looking for…
Crude is overjoyed. “Zank you! Zank you so much!” she exclaims. “I’ll make absssolutely sssure zey are fed, und have everything zey need when you arrive! Here,” she says, scribbling out an address for Arno. “I’ll be ssstaying at Rat Shit Corner (looking to sssave money for our voyage). Contact za proprietor when you arrive, and have heem come find me jussst before midday. I’ll make ssssure we’re ready…and, before we depart, I promissse I’ll find a way to make it up to you!” Crude shows her teeth, and claps Arno on the back joyously. “Zank you, Arno….zank you sssso much!” And the Rak’ta departs, to finish preparations.
The Spying Eye gives a slight *twinkle” as Arno shows it the note. Somehow, the Changeling feels fairly certain that whoever is on the other side has seen you and responded…
Captain Arabella is in discussion with Michael, Carlee, and Zephyr, writing out a list of spices, drinks, and food stuffs to procure from the Marauder’s Market. Chaff rises to meet your Ship…
Sailing alongside, the Love Revolution *cheers* the Whispered Curse, filling their decks with waved, beautiful scarves and other colorful garments. As both Ships enter Chaff near the Shipyard, the Love Revolution pulls away from you, ringing its bell, pulling further into the City towards the Sea of Sighs.
Your Ship proceeds towards the Shipyard, where they are waved by a team of kobolds into a deep, cavernous, open-bottomed “Ship”, with high ceilings and moveable scaffolding throughout the craft. As the Curse docks alongside a built in workstation, two kobolds bearing clipboards immediately come aboard. One begins taking feverish notes, while the other enters into conversation with the Captain.
The Wild Bunch remains aboard the Main Deck, waiting for the Captain to finish discussing repairs with the Kobolds. Around them, their crewmates (laden down with personal effects) depart the Ship, wishing yourselves and the Captain a fond farewell as they pass, and making their way into the City. The three dwarves (looking much better then when you saw them in the Maw) come up to thank the Wild Bunch in particular. Balog nearly knocks himself over, eagerly shaking at Oak’s hand.
“Hey, just gotta say, thanks again to you bunch!” Balog says, grinning broadly. “It’ll be quite a story, to say I fought alongside you all! Maybe I’ll hire some artists, to make an engraving of our battle an’ hang it in my main hall, yeah?”
“We’re all headed to the Camel; they got the best food, an’ Balog an Erik were hoping for deep tissue massages! I hope to see you all while we’re still in town!” Olaf says, clapping Urixes on the back and giving Jack an awkward hug.
“Yeh! Olaf and me, we’re gonna stay for awhile, look for some new work! But if you guys need anything in the next few days, feel free to stop by!” Erik says, bowing with deference to Arno. “Thanks again Wild Bunch. It has been a genuine, genuine pleasure to meet you all!”
Eventually, its just the Wild Bunch and Arabella left aboard. The two twin kobolds who seem to be in charge of things, Nig and Nog, soon come over to shoo you all down the gangplank, so they can get their work started.
Captain Arabella, several knapsacks over her shoulders and looking wary, comes over to the Bunch, slowly unrolling an official looking piece of paperwork. She double checks the document, nods. “Alright, you four,” she says. “Appreciate you staying behind. I know you’ve earned a break here as much as anyone has, but I’ve made sure to add some additional compensation for the errands you’ll be running for me while in town!”
“Mr. Oak…”, Arabella says, rerolling the official looking document and handing it to the Shifter. “…here is the Governor’s Writ. Make sure not to lose it! The sooner you cash it in, the less you’ll have to worry about misplacing the document…but, the more gold you’re jangling around town with, the bigger of a target you’ll make for pickpockets and shakedowns! Which reminds me…your payments!” Captain Ari takes one of the knapsacks down from her shoulder, and withdraws from it four leather coin purses. She tosses one to each of you, with a pointed warning. “Be careful! Don’t spend it all in one place, and always keep a hand to your coin purse…”
“Now remember: Day Two I’ll need Mr. Oak to come to Garrety’s Redemption; to help myself and Crude select some of our new crewman. Arno, I heard you’ll be watching the little lizards so Crude can give the matter her full attention? Excellent, excellent…”
“Day Four, I’ll need you all to meet me in the morning, at the Triumvirate of the Copper Camel. I’ll pay for your breakfasts, and we can discuss additions we can make to the Ship with our remaining funds. Should have enough left over after everything to make some major improvements, which will help us last longer out there on the waters…”
“Other than that: have fun, but not too much fun; if you need me for anything, I’ll be getting pampered at the Copper Camel; and don’t need me for anything!”
“Think that’s all then. Whelp…Wild Bunch,” Captain Ari says, with a wry grin as she hitches a knapsack further up her shoulder. “Enjoy Chaff!”
Killian takes a deep drag from a cigarette, and pets the Wyvern gently. The creature *HUFFS* and lays her head down, pouting but resigned. “No worries there, Mate,” Killian answers steadily.”…I’ll keep an eye on her while you all are in town…don’t plan on travelling too far from the Ship, anyway,” The Old Man leans over to whisper to the young Shifter, trying but failing to keep the cigarette smoke from wafting towards Jack. “Like keeping an eye on the workmen in the Shipyard, make sure they know what they’re doing. I’ll get em to set me an’ Wings here up with a dingy er’ something. An’ it’ll keep me from…well, falling back on old habits. Used to be a pretty big gambler an’ drinker, back in me’ day. Don’t need the temptation, lad; that’s why I prefer the ocean!”
Jack, jingling with each step he takes, excitably guides the Wild Bunch through the boardwalks, bridges, and tied watercraft of the Southern Marauder’s Market. It’s all the group can do to try to stay up with the Shifter, as he eagerly climbs up decks, under rope fences, and tip toes across boom jibs, making his way through the City…
Jack and Fusspot’s excursion through the city is suddenly *HALTED* when they come across a boat which claims to have over 1,001 varieties of spiced meat preserves. As the Shifter eagerly receives a (handful of) sample, Arno manages to catch their breath, and flags down a trio of Gith at the head of a contingent of badly singing Bugbears.
The Gith, after some crossed wires and miscommunication, suddenly realize what the Changeling is asking. The trio (who seem overjoyed to hear themselves talk, and to have an audience) are apparently on their first journey to Chaff as well! Each of them begin suggesting their own favorites to Arno, pointing in different directions, voices cutting each other off as they argue and interrupt one another. Through the commotion, Arno struggles to make out the options being provided nearby:
-There is a Coffee and Pastry stand (with a bit of a line going) to the North of you. The coffee is apparently quote/unquote “legendary”, and the selection of pastries you see on display from here is fairly impressive! This is likely your quickest option for “on the go” food (the line is long; people take their time, choosing from the rich selection of dessert foods)
-There is a small, Greasy Spoon type restaurant, in a covered and darkened boat, about seventy-five feet to the East. It looks sketchy, but low key. One of the Gith *RAVES* about their gravy. It’s apparently a sit-down restaurant, but the Gith seem to describe it as a “hidden gem” of the area
-There is a big Burrito Boat that seems to be fairly popular, where patrons put in their order, have a seat along the Main Deck, and are served a large pitcher of some sort of…fruit juice?, while their food is prepared fresh. You passed the gangplank up on the way here. The Bugbears seem to be big fans of the place!
-Dwarves seem to have a sort of Jamabalya-type food stand set up. They only have the one menu item (a bowl of spicy, spicy looking fish stew), and the patrons eat their stew standing upon a soapbox as the dwarves and onlookers alike eagerly watch, hoping to catch big strong pirates *coughing and spluttering* as they try to down the incredibly hot concoction
-Finally, a rough looking pair of Dragonborns are running a Fry-up Shop. They speak little, and serve only orders of: thoroughly fried fish, thoroughly oiled and fried potatoes, and a type of rich dipping sauce which is thick enough to hold upside down without spilling. The line here is the longest you’ve seen yet, but the Dragonborns seem to communicate mainly via grunts, and their business hums along quickly!
As Jack tries to talk himself into an additional sample, and Arno tries to pick out the information from the loudly chattering Gith, Oak and Urixes stay back, watching out for their friends and taking in the sights and sounds. Street performers work along the boardwalks, some to make their bread and some simply for the pleasure of it. A band plays a jaunty pirate tune, nodding at passersby who leave a coin in a hat at their feet. All around, buccaneers, sailors, and mercenaries churn like lifeblood through the city.
…but something is…off. There is mirth in the streets, yes, but for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to follow the Wild Bunch. In fact, Oak and Urixes find that the longer the group remains in one place, the more bad vibes seem to build around them. The Shifter and the Tiefling, on high-alert for danger, try to subtly look around, take in what’s going on in the crowds.
Of the many, many people wandering through the Marauder’s Market, some of them are very clearly watching your group. Not all, but enough to feel a score or more of eyeballs (and growing) following the Wild Bunch around the city. Pirates glare at you from a safe distance. Hands cover mouths, as the city folk whisper about you. And, your senses tell you, that more than a few of them have begun to follow you…
Trying not to get caught looking, Oak attempts to get a quiet sense for those glaring daggers at the Wild Bunch.
It’s so much more than simply twenty eyeballs. Those are just the people staring directly at your group. But others around here react as well: crowds part, subtly; people caught in your path turn and take a sudden interest in wares, any wares, nearby; pirates in the immediate vicinity gain an acute interest in the skies above, or the planks below their feet. All these strangers are trying not to draw attention to themselves from you or your party.
Except for one:This Orc has been mean-mugging you all for the past couple of boardwalks. He doesn’t look away when Oak makes eye contact. In fact, the swarthy looking fellow licks his lips, and grins without humor back at the Shifter. From far across the crowd, the Orc’s nostrils flare, and the muscles flex involuntarily, as he puffs his chest out and taps a companion quietly on the shoulder…
The Boat known as “El Gordo Orco” dominates this area of the Marauder’s Market. The floating restaurant rises high above the other nearby watercraft. The only access point to the Ship is a walk up the gangplank, which leads to a Main Deck thirty feet above the main boardwalks below. On the other side of the Ship opposite the gangplank, a flag rises from a pole jammed deep into the water. Depicted upon the flag is a happy looking, pleasantly rotund Orc, in the process of devouring the remaining half of a burrito. The deck of the Ship is lively, with warm colors and exotic music ringing out loudly to the Market below. The smells in the air cause the stomachs of the Wild Bunch to rumble with hunger.
As your group soon observes, the method for ordering is simple. The customer stands in line at the long bar situated at the very center of the craft, waiting (not too long; the orders are taken fairly quickly) to put in their personalized requests. Steak, chicken, owlbear, and more; salsas, of every type of heat and sweetness level; rices, cheeses, beans, onions, all the ingredients and extras to satisfy any palate. Once the order has been placed, guests are told to go grab a chair in one of the four seating sections, where wait staff is constantly in the process of bringing around a strong smelling fruit juice to patrons while they wait for their orders. The wait time doesn’t seem to be too bad; maybe ten minutes, certainly no more, and the results look to be well worth it…