Urixes wrestles with a feeling of dread that slowly rises up his throat. Something about being out here this morning…the staring eyes, the furtive glances, the hushed gossip…it’s all so niggling familiar, it’s driving the Tiefling crazy. The Warlock attempts to place the fleeing sense through the tired and frazzled haze swirling in his head…
Approaching the Coffee Stand alone (labeled with a cheap, flaking hand-painted sign which reads “Cup-Ana-Nibble”), the Tiefling draws barely a glance from the patrons in line, each trying to peer over the next to see what pastries lie on display. The proprietor of the Coffee Stand, a pinched looking man with a starched collar and a haircut parted down the middle, cleans glasses and attempts to rush the customers along, with varying levels of effectiveness.
Directly in line front of Urixes is a golden blond Tabaxi, hoop earrings in his right ear and several sharp teeth marked by golden replacements. He greets the Barista like a daily ritual, as the stern man nods tersely back to him. “How gozzit, Crispin?”
“Hrrmph. S’alright.” responds the Barista non-comittaly, spitting a heavy glob into the coffee cup he is polishing to a mirror finish.
“The usual,” The Golden Tabaxi says, turning himself to rest against the glass of the pastry case as the Barista begins to fish around the case with a sheet of newsprint for a chocolate cruller. The Cat’s eyes glance right past Urixes, and up the gangplank leading to El Gordo Loco, where Jack and Oak are currently ascending. The Tabaxi has clearly been keeping tabs of the two Shifters. “You see that, Crispin? Thought they’d ran those cheeky bastards the hell out of dodge…but looks like they’re back. Been waiting for the shit to pop off since I caught a glance….you think they just gots a death wish, or is the little one really that daft?”
And that’s when the realization finally hits Urixes. The Tiefling feels his stomach drop into his boots. It all suddenly makes sense. The looks, the secrets whispers…it was the same feeling Urixes got whenever he met an acquaintance from his former life. Recognition of recognition. These people are staring at your friends because, somehow, they’ve met them before…
As the Tiefling turns back, the Tabaxi and the stern Barista are bidding each other good afternoon. Crispin the Barista moves on to the next customer….his eyes meet the Warlocks, and narrow. There’s something about this man. He doesn’t ask your order, simply pouring from the carafe marked “STRONG” before you even get a chance to order and placing it on the counter between you. ”Well now…how can I help you,” he says with a strange touch of irony, leaning over the glass display and casually cracking his knuckles against the cup. “Sir?’
As Oak and Jack walk around to the Bar, many in the crowd scuffle to get out of the way as they approach (although whether this is due to your presence in particular, or the place’s table etiquette would be tough to say either way).
The two Shifters siddle up to the bar alongside four other patrons: a heavily bundled Kenku, hovering closely over a bowl he wolfs down with some intensity; a richly garmented Half-Elf, clearly spending freely and already deep into his cups by Noon; a large, muscular woman, heavily tanned and similar in body-type to Oak, who is nervously tapping her hands and feet; and a large, brash creature with a Shark’s Head , who is eagerly bragging to wait staff nearby about his prowess as a pirate.
Jack accepts the pitcher of fruit juice as it swings by on an overhead-carried tray. He takes a deep sip….(*delicious!*)…and feels the rush of crushed ice and sugar delight his taste buds…
The pirate pair wait patiently for their meals to arrive, listening to the restaurants deck buzz around them. Of the four pirates which sit next to you, the Half-Elf and the Shark-Man don’t stop talking, while the Kenku and the Muscular Woman seem to be trying to ignore, and be ignored:
“’Nother’ round!” says the Half-Elf, sloshing the bottom portion of his drink sloppily onto Oak’s arm. “Get n’other round, o’er here? Startin’ to git thirsty…”
“Love, that wasn’t even the haff of it!” The Sharkman assures a waitress, who seems to be trying to communicate the busy nature of her jobs wordlessly, to no avail. “Burned down the whole village, we did…that very dawn, too! Blimey little bloodsuckers had nowhere to sneak back to…watched em all burn up in the sun, and then we robbed their crypt anyways! Ha!”
“Nother round pliss! Oh, oh thank you…hey, I’m sorry,” the drunken Half-Elf says, attempting to wipe his drink from Oak’s arm with a dirty rag from the bar. “Didn’t men to spill’, jus been a ruff kinda morning, ya know?”
“Now, you group talk about this “Fucky Bunch”….if we was here when these assholes blew through town, we would’ve given em’ another thing what for, I tell you hwat! Out on dere asses er’ in da Brig! An if they don’t come real quiet like, then to the sword!”
“It wasn’t “the Fucky Bunch”…and you think no one thought of that?” the exasperated waitress replies. “Apparently, they chewed through the city like a pack of voracious rats, near fore anyone even noticed….Queen eventually had to throw a posse together. And even there, there were strict orders not to kill them…”
“Well, there’s your problem right there!” The Shark-Man expounds. “No law-n-order! No big hammer! No *bite*!”
“Say,” the drunken Half-Elf says, swaying in his chair as he tries to focus his eyes on Oak. He tries to steady himself in his chair, and momentarily attempt to shake off is inebriation. “…don’t I know you, ferm somewhere?”
The Changeling arrives at a rusty, dilapidated tub of a Ship. The restaurant boat is covered with a canvas sheet over the entirety of its Hull, save for a gutter-like stove chimney which juts out from the top. A wooden “door” (which appears to be the torn off bottom half of a shipping crate) is roughly jury-rigged into the side of the vessel. Several latches and locks rattle dangerously as Arno reaches for the handle…
Before they can twist the knob, the “door” springs out of its own accord. An ancient old man, unshaven and glasses nearly sideways upon his face, opens the door from the inside and peers out, holding the half-box between himself and Arno like a desperate shield. The man adjusts his glasses with one hand in order to see Arno better. When his vision straightens, the old man *balks*, turning white and beginning to stammer.
“Nononono, n-n—noo business here, no business here! Don’t w-w-w-want any trouble with you lot! G-g-g-good day, and thank you!” The door is slammed shut, and locked from the inside (the act of locking the door causes the hinges to rattle, one of them threatening to push out entirely). There is a commotion on the other side of the door: an argument, a cascade of swiftly moving feet, followed by unnatural silence. Finally, the lock frees with a loud pop, and the face of a young, redheaded teenage girl emerges.
The young lady smiles at Arno, in an apologetic and professional manner. “Alright, then? Sorry about me grand Pa: he’s not much one for strangers. No offense was meant, I can, ardently assure you! Come in, come in!” The redhead girl guides Arno over to one of the four “tables” in the place (really just barrels with boards nailed onto the top) and pulls out a chair for them. The place looks mostly bare and minimalist. A single door appears to lead back to the kitchen area. The Old Man nervously peeks his head out from the partially cracked barrier, until Arno notices him and he slams it fully closed. Bemused, Arno glances around to a couple of the tables, seeing they bear chipped glasses mostly empty of milk, and half eaten plates of fish crackers…
The young lady steps between Arno and the other tables rather awkwardly, producing a rough leather notebook and quill, and blowing a strand of hair out of her face. “Name’s Anna,” the young lady says, with a small curtsey. “An’ it’s a great pleasure an’ an honor to have you in our Shop! Umm,” the woman stammers, girding herself nervously. “…you’ll find all our paperwork in order. We have our copy here on premises…and of course, they have a duplicate in the Vault!” she assures the Changeling, nervously licking her lips. “So…won’t be needing anything in the way of loans, I’m afraid. Umm, then, I suppose…what can I help you with, today?”
The Tiefling sips the coffee, languidly returning Crispin’s stare. The stern man cooly leans over the counter as he cleans another cup, watching Jack and Oak disappear into the Bar crowd. He stretches the seconds out, acting disinterested. Urixes isn’t sure if he didn’t hear you, or if he’s ignoring you on purpose…
Finally, the stern man responds, acting bored as he stares straight through the Tiefling to watch the people milling around. “Now, that’s…an interesting response. One way to play it, I suppose…although it’s a wonder you all got this far on sheer gall alone. Alright, I’ll bite,” the man says, lazily scratching his chest with the backside of the washrag. “Those two Wild-Kind went on a three day tear through Chaff. Drank dry every bar in town…caused a significant amount of property damage…were responsible for a handful of assaults. Finally had to be rounded up, an' physically chased out of town, though they beat the absolute hell out of the Queen’s Crew before they left.”
“Lotta people thought it was just some arseholes being bigger-arseholes. Some of em’ thought they must’ve been Prince’s Dogs, sent to stir up shit while Lieutenant Pom is in town. But what I think,,” Crispin says, now staring pointedly at Urixes. “…Is that while they was wrecking up the joint, some quieter things were happening. Big shipment of “product” got set on fire and burned…orphans start to vanish from the streets…an’ then, a Tiefling ran the house over at The Sport of Kings.” The Barista smiles knowingly over at Urixes on this point. He’s pretty sure he’s “got” you. “So now, to my mind, what looked like some random mischief, seems more than a bit like a distraction for some “other” business, yeah?”
“From what’s said, they sicced the guards at Sport of Kings on the trail of this Tiefling once they caught on he was cheating, but he somehow ducked out, an’ made it to the Wild-Kind’s craft as they fled. Say' he didn’t have any gold on him when he absconded, though. Few people assume he ditched it on the swim out. Most of us, though, figured he had time to hide it somewhere in town….that’s it still here somewhere, and they’d end up coming back for it!”
The man frowns now, leaning in closer to Urixes, lowering his voice to a slow whisper as his eyes glare. “…all that’ planning, an yer gonna just walk onto, the streets of Chaff, like people wouldn’t remember who the fook you were? You lot’ll all get *pinched* or *murdered* before you find your way back to wherever you stashed the loot! Unless…you have my help. I want *in*.” Crispin turns away, keenly aware of the crowds around, watching for eyes on him. As he turns his back to pretend to service one of the caraffes, he slowly states, “I’ve got a place I could stash you and your friends, where you won’t be seen. No worries, of the Queen or Lieutenant Pom. You’ll tell me where the loot is stashed, I’ll recover it for you safely, and I’ll take my cut: 25%. More than fair for what I’m offering. Otherwise… if I were to holler, say you’re the mug? This whole crowd comes running.” Crispin smiles sinisterly at Urixes. “End your party fore it’s even started, an catch me a bounty meanwhile! No hard feelings, o' course: if not me, then some bloke twenty yards down Drummer Street, yeah?”
“So, what say you, Tiefling? Do we have an arrangement?”
Oak’s hangover is doing him absolutely no favors. The Shifter tries to keep an eye along the bar…watching the waitstaff…taking in the crowds. Other than the fact that several of these people are clearly ignoring you out of fear, or angrily discussing you in corners (you haven’t even had time to do anything, yet, Oak thinks grumpily), the big man simply feels his anxiety build, and the hairs on his neck raise. It’s disconcerting and a bit annoying, but it’s not like anyone in here is threatening you, right?
Oak’s meal arrives, and his attention is quickly subsumed by the steak burrito. Barely taking the time to taste it, the Shifter wolves down the wrap of meats and spices, finishing the enourmous thing within less than a few minutes. As Oak’s stomach gives a slight quiver, before happily settling, the Shifter sighs contently, and returns to his defensive view of the Bar Area. At that very moment, he sees the Orc that had been mean mugging him on the street walk up the gangplank, half a score of mates in tow behind, and all headed this way…
The people in here sure don’t care for Shifters, that’s crystal clear! The waitstaff is being highly polite and professional, but most of these people are glaring and whispering about you. The only reason Jack feels confident a fight isn’t about to break out is that the whole room acts like they’re completely, utterly terrified of you both as well...
As Fusspot prances along the bar, *snapping* at spilled food, Jack turns back and takes in the four barflys sitting next to him.
The muscular woman who can’t stop tapping might become an issue sooner than later. Pretend as she might, she clearly knows who the two of you are, and looks less fearful than the crowd and more “tensed and ready for action”. She seems to be waiting for someone...
The Half-Elf must be a businessperson of some kind. Clearly wealthy, or at least, was until whatever tragedy caused him to crawl so far into a bottle by noon. He’s slightly ridiculous, and Jack gets the feeling he’s not much smarter sober. Probably of no consequence, and certainly not a threat.
Sharkey over there must be one of the “Wild-Kind” shifters Jack has heard so much about lately. This one talks like a mercenary, and acts like a mercenary on vacation. Maybe Jack is reading too much into the beady eyes, but Shark-Head seems very much like he’d slit your throat for a nickle, or (at the drop of a hat) save your life for a dime. Also, the way he boasts, it sounds like he doesn’t much care for the Queen’s people *or* the Sun Prince.
And the Kenku who Jack attempts to engage with, well…
“D’ye mind?” the child says through the beak, clearly infuriated with Jack’s staring (and, probably, being caught out). “I got something on me face, or what mister?!” From somewhere in the deep cloak beneath, a tiny *cough* emerges from where the Kenku’s ribcage should be. The young child rolls his eyes, the “clever ruse” quickly beginning to fall apart. “Shit. Well, look…just keep it to yourself, alright mister? We’re…just here to get a bite…maybe pinch some fools who don’t need their wad. You keep your yap shut, an’ I won’t have to stick you!” The disguised child raises his sauce covered fork aggressively towards Jack, his confidence belying his small size.
“S’going on up there, Jim?” a muffled voice says from the coat below. “We caught out?”
“Nah, s’cool,” Jim reassures the body beneath him. “He’s a wanted criminal! Wanted criminal ain’t gonna go talking to the bosses now, are they? He’d get pinched, same as us!”
From beside Jack, Oak finishes up his meal and lets out a satisfied sigh. Jack’s friend looks out across the Ship, and starts, nearly popping out of his chair. Jack turns to see what got the Barbarian’s sudden attention.
“Oh-hoh, shit, mister!” Young Jim says, the fake beak on his face popping up and down as he giggles. “You’re for it now! That’s Gorgeous Grogmar, the Queen’s right hand! If he’s the one here to punch your ticket, you’re proper fucked!”
“But Jim, what if Grogmar’s here for us?” says the voice within the coat.
“Oh. Oh, shit. I hadn’t thought of that…” the boy considers…
Crispin smiles widely at the Tiefling’s response. He produces the small roll of paper used to run the shop’s daily budget from underneath the counter, tearing the bottom portion off while his eyes warily watch the crowd. Licking the quill and quickly glancing down to scratch out an address, the stern man hastily shoves the paper into Urixes’s hands.
“Here’s the location. I’ll expect you all soon. Come alone, just you and your cohorts. You try anything funny, attempt to get your friends to pull something?…I will vanish, and drop the Queen’s Men on your head. You’ll never see me again, Ace!”
“But you show up, follow the terms, don’t try to fuck me? And I’ll prove how useful I can be…here, take this too,” Crispin says, subtly passing over a brightly shimmering cloak hidden within his shirt. “Put it on when no one’s looking. Only got the one, but it’s better than running around with your *cocks out* like you and your buddies have been. Call it a lender…I’ll be wanting it back, obviously, and once you return it and our deal is situated, I’ll give you the antidote to the poison I just slipped ya’…”
“Hey now…take it easy!” the man says at the look on Urixes’s face, putting up his arms defensively. “What, you think I’m some kind of an idiot? After what you all did to the Queen’s Crew?...After what you did to Othro’s eye? I take out insurance, mate…leave nothing to chance. The poison is slow-acting…you won’t even feel anything, til’ come this time tomorrow. But, it’ll get’cha, and if you try to ditch me? Or sneak out of town without giving me my gear and my cut? Well,” Crispin says, forcing a look of contrived sympathy onto his face. “…you won’t be in a position to spend any sort of fortune, come about the third day.”
The stern man starts. “No time to argue it now, in any case….you’d better hurry, if you care for your mates…” says Crispin, nodding towards the gangplank to El Gordo Orco. A broad and self-assured looking Orc, at the head of a half score of well-armed pirates, are headed up towards the Main Deck of the restaurant with a determined purpose. People move out of the way, muttering matter-of-factly between each other about “Justice”. As Urixes turns back, Crispin has already hung a “CLOSED” sign, and is breaking his cart back down into boat-form. “Quiet as you can,” The Barista reminds Urixes over his shoulder. “ASAP!”
Anna stares at Arno as blankly as she can, although an eyebrow tenses in momentary, restrained frustration. The Halfling transformation, if anything, seems to have made the poor girl’s anxiety much worse.
The Changeling watches as the girl silently counts to five, moves her eyebrow back down through sheer force of will, and exhales silently through gritted teeth (anyone else in this town, she likely would’ve let have it). Despite her best efforts, the teenager still looks frazzled, confused. Though attempting to remain calm, she clearly isn’t sure if Arno is messing with her right now or not.
“Well…” the girl says finally, seeming to land on candor. “…you’re the Sun Prince’s Herald. The Changeling P-p-pom” Anna attempts, but fails to say the name to the Arno’s face without some slight trepidation. Steeling herself doggedly, she continues. “Some call you Half-Light, because you come before the Were-Things; or Lieutenant Pom. But to most…you’re, Lupo?” A light knock falls on the door from the kitchen side. Anna bows timidly to the Changeling and heads for the door. The young girl is, at the moment, clearly relieved to have a break from what she isn’t sure is a manipulative game or maybe some sort of ego-trip from the person she’s pretty sure is Lupo.
As she carefully disappears back into the kitchen, Arno gets one more good look around the room. The fish crackers…the milk…small seats (clearly just empty boxes) pulled in from the streets well beyond capacity for the Deck, and the running footsteps as you arrived. Children…this place is stuffed with kids, and probably more than just the relations of Anna and the Old Man. If they think you’re an associate of the Sun Prince (and it sounds like a fairly major one, at that!) they likely think you’re hear to buy or take their children! The thought rolls uncomfortably around Arno’s head…
Anna, making sure to close the door behind her, returns from the kitchen bearing a plate roughly the size of the Ship’s Wheel. Slopped atop the dish is what must easily, easily be four-plus pounds worth of dense pillowy bread, buried underneath a thick brown dressing which threatens to spill over the sides of the plate. The aroma wafting from the dish is heavenly.
“Here you are, then!” Anna says cheerfully, trying to avoid eye contact as best she can as she places the meal before Arno. “Will that be all, or is there…anything else I can help you with?” The girl is interrupted by a dinning noise rising slowly from outside. Apologetically excusing herself, the young woman makes for the “front door” and opens it up a crack, peering outside. “Hmmp…looks like trouble. Got the Queen’s Army out. Don’t worry!” she assures Arno with immediacy. “Nowhere near here! Your business is your own, that’s what I say! Certainly none of mine…”
The Shark-Man says nothing as Jack passes over the Pearl, turning the sphere within his gray leathery hands with an Inspector’s eye. However, the deep-throated, bar-rattling *growl* he finally gives when he finishes seems to be in the affirmative…
Jack and Oak leap the bar, landing roughly among a couple crates of lemons and oranges as they duck down out of sight. Waitstaff scatter from the area, suddenly deciding to bus the far ends of the Ship, and refill drinks further down the stern. Oak glares up at the Bartender, trying to get a sense of the man. He’s barely moved; currently polishing a glass with whitened knuckles, a glistening of sweat steadily building upon his brow. His pant legs and shoes are absolutely caked in lemon/orange splatter. He seems to be trying, for all his life, to avoid eye contact with Oak, the loud Shark-Man, and Gorgeous Grigmar’s group, all at the same time. The anxiety of it is cracking him, right before the Barabarian’s eyes.
From above, the Shifters hear panic and confusion from the other Barflys:
“…the hell’dhe go? Coulda swore he was here just a minute ago…” the Half-Elf confusedly asks everyone in general, not sure what’s happened to Oak. “..s’jest like the other night…”
Two of the chairs get kicked over, seemingly at once. From where the Shark-Man and the Muscular Woman had sat, an eerie and foreboding silence builds. “Wouldn’t try it,” a husky voice says finally (it must belong to the muscular woman). “Not worth the take. You gonna be a problem, Champ?”
“Oh, *absolutely*!” The Shark-Man responds, knuckles cracking, voice practically dripping bloodlust.
The “Kenku”, still at his seat, is having a muttered, fierce discussion, in two separate voices. No one else seems to have noticed.
Feet, too many, are stomping across the Deck. Oak and Jack can hear them coming this way. The Bartender standing above you is trying to swallow but failing; he’s making a strange gurgling noise with his tongue and throat.
“Gentleman!” The Shark-Man says from the other side of the Bar, his voice booming with congeniality. “Treat ya to a drink?”
“Oh, don’t even try it,” The Muscular Woman says with an annoyed huff. “Sir, listen…”
Nearby, the Kenku tenses…
Arno still isn’t sure the young woman trusts the assurances, despite their very best efforts. However, the attendant is eager to load up a box with their leftovers and place it upon Arno’s head. “Glad to help!” she says rather breathlessly. “You can come back any…umm, anytime…” the young woman parrots before she can stop herself. From behind the Chum Bucket’s kitchen door, a dozen small eyes peer out at the Changeling from grubby faces, fearful and curious in equal measure...
Once outside and assuming the form of a Chondrichthyes, Shark*Arno takes to the waters of Chaff, headed straight across the “bay” towards the Copper Camel. Ships are steadily sailing in and out of the area, as the Shipyard is one of the major “lanes” within the city. While the Changeling swims along, attempting to keep the box overhead dry, boats that notice them throw up the sails or spin their wheels, to avoid ramming the swimming creature below. Angry curses and shouts come out from many of the Decks, as Sailors move to avoid hitting the heavily-laden Shark. A few cold faces don’t bother to shift their crafts at all, and its all Arno can do to swim out of the way at the last moment to avoid being trodden. “Get out of the lane, jackass!” comes a surly voice from somewhere above. “Think yer special? That cause you’re a Shark, you get to just swim wherever you want? Get-outta-here!”
After a less-than-enjoyable swim (bottles were flung as freely as the insults), the Changeling finally paddles up to Dead Dog Drive, and the walk leading up inside the Triumvirate of the Copper Camel.
At the top of the gangplank into the High-End Tavern stands a terse and regal looking woman, holding a clipboard and watching Arno intently. The woman seems…less than welcoming. The look on her face very much says “I was hoping not to have to shoo-off vagrants today”. She tries her best to avoid eye contact, and clings to the clipboard at her chest like a protective holy symbol…
Jack’s plan seems to have worked! The commotion distracted the Orc’s entourage, splitting the armored pirates between attempting to pursue the young Shifter as he ports’ around, and attempting to calm and control the now whooping and tense-to-bursting crowd aboard the restaurant…
The second Jack reappeared near the gangplank, the Muscular Woman grabbed a glass mug from the Bar counter, and *BASHES* it over the Shark-Man’s head! The Shark-Man goes down to one knee, and makes a slowly building keening-noise…which is eventually revealed to be building, gut-busting laughter. “…..ahahahahahahaHA! Now it’s a party!” With a drunken shout, the Man-Shark hurls himself into the Muscular Woman, knocking her into a handful of her comrade’s and bowling the lot to the floor!
As the Man-Shark assaults the newcomers, the “Kenku” suddenly bursts in two! The top half, still wearing the beak-mask and hat, steals several bags of food from behind the counter, before cutting back across the bar and dashing towards the flag pole like a tiny comet! The lower half, dragging a twice-too-tall robe behind it, makes to steal several wallets from the fallen, thrashing pirates. When one of the prone pirates makes to grab the young child’s hand, he produces a small thick knife, and *STABS* the offending robbery-victim in the palm, before making towards the back of the boat and disappearing into the crowd!
This whole while, Oak has been creeping, slowly, quietly, gently, along the underside of the Bar. The Barbarian watches his steps, his space…his breathing…and crab-walks over to the Kitchen doors as chaos erupts all around him. He’s two steps away…he’s pushing into the kitchen…. Hmmmm, the Shifter thinks to himself momentarily, feeling an unbidden swell of pride. Think I’m gonna make it…
The Barkeep, still not having moved, finally drops the cup he’s been polishing, and it falls to the floor in a burst of sounds and tinkling glass! Most of the melee is too busy to notice, but one of them…Gorgeous Grigmar himself…looks over. He sees the glass…the Barkeep…and Oak, crouching near the kitchen doors. A sound like a *FURIOUS* Wildcat escapes from the Oak as he makes eye contact with the Barabarian. For the first time, Oak notices the Orc’s face…and the fresh, massive bite-mark over where the Orc’s nose used to reside. “*YOU!*” The Orc says, raising an accusatory finger. “*THE BITER*!”. Gorgeous Grigmar is now running, hopping over the counter within an instant, headed Oak’s way as fast as he can…
From their respective positions (mulling about the Kelp Carts watching the Ocean, and crouched in a boat with Fusspot avoiding a Search Party, respectively), Urixes and Jack are able to take in some of the idle talk and gossip of the people within the Marauder’s Market:
The cook’s mouths hang open, gawking over their simmering ranges as the Barbarian *BURSTS* into the kitchen. Oak halts just behind the swinging kitchen door, eyes quickly searching the counters for something with which to halt his pursuer. A rice bag, previously emptied and currently being used as a trash receptacle, hangs from one side of a counter, filled at the bottom with dripping egg shells and fruit rinds...
Seconds later, Gorgeous Grigmar *BASHES* his way through the kitchen door with his shoulder, seeking out the Shifter with something akin to vengeance! From just behind the swinging door, Oak forces the rice bag over the Orc’s head. The two big men struggle back and forth for a few moments: Oak attempting to subdue (but not hurt) the huge brute, and Grigmar clawing and scratching to get out, with more strength than Oak would’ve imagined! Their tussle eventually takes them both to the floor, where the pair roll back and forth across each other, until Grigmar finally bangs his head into one of the heated pipes during the struggle. As the Orc groggily tries to collect himself, Oak doubles-back out the still-swinging kitchen doors, leaps the bartop (as the melee nearby still goes on, the Man-Shark *hooting* from atop a group of men), and makes towards the Restaurant’s flag pole, shimmying down with a surprising grace.
A handful of people scatter as the large Shifter hits the boardwalk below, but most watch with excited anticipation. Another “fellow” in a large trenchcoat (exactly the same make and model coat as the “Kenku” you saw inside, in fact), having watched Oak’s situation, gives him a subtle wave, and totters off to the West, guiding Oak to safety and secrecy in a nearby alley.
Roughly around the time Grigmar, eggs still dripping from his face, emerges to look down the flag mast where his quarry escaped, Oak and the orphan pair are haggling in an alley. The top-half, Molly, puts her hands on her hips defiantly. “5 gp! For the coat and all the scarves! Take it or leave it!” the young orphan says, her tone that of a crimelord.
“Fuck’s sake, Molly!” her companion Ringo chides, scratching the back of his neck nervously. “It’s just a coat!”
“This is why you don’t go on runs, runt,” Molly says with utter disgust, spitting at Ringo’s feet. “You think they’re anything but marks. Look…this fella is on the run. He’s in desperate, specific need! And he can’t get our product anywhere else at the present moment! So, that’s when ya bend em’ over a barrel, en’ you really start…”
“Alright, alright,” Ringo says, still looking a little green around the gills. “But let’s hurry. They’ve stopped looking for the little guy, and now they’re about to start dragging the streets…”
Arno seems to have discovered the key to the maître d’s heart. The terse woman looks over the purse with a single flicking finger, taking account of Arno’s hoard within the time it takes a heart to beat. “A rather garish presentation,” the woman says quietly, being very judgmental of either Arno or herself right now (possibly, both?) “…but certainly effective. Very well, then,” the regal attendant says, straightening herself. “*I* am Madame Zelena…and *I* am at your immediate heed and call. Welcome, to The Triumvirate of the Copper Camel!”
“Rates for living spaces here are 40gp a night, which I can assure you are incredibly reasonable given the quality of service, of care….and of discretion, we can provide, for the wealthy traveler and dignitary! Let’s get you to the front desk, so we can envision your stay, and prepare your room…”
However, Madame Zelena frowns at Arno’s next request. She checks her clipboard…checks it again. A glance, subtly, back at Arno’s purse, and then a frown. “…no. No, I’m sorry,” she says, with what seems to be a genuine concern and confusion. “There’s no “Captain Arabella” on my list, and even if there was…a *GREAT* part of the prestige of staying at the Copper Camel is discretion, I’m afraid…If she was a guest here, and it doesn’t appear she is, I wouldn’t be able to tell you, not without her “express” permission…” The maître d leans over to Arno, and whispers quietly in their ear: “They’d kill me. It’s part of the contract. Secrecy is *everything*, here.””
“Now,” Madame Zelena says, straightening her back and checking the clipboard with an intense eye. “If you had the proper room number…even a proper name, *then* I might be able to help, but otherwise…”
The name "Valtari" makes Madame Zelena light right up. "*One moment*, let me just check!" The (now, dutiful and incredibly pleasant woman) replies, disappearing up the gangplank back up into the Ship. A pair of guards near the entrance shrug at one another, before turning back to their business.
Five minutes pass. Then ten...
The guards look at each other gormlessly at the Changeling’s request. These brutes don’t seem to be the most talkative, or clever, pair Arno has ever met…
One, the hulk whose helmet obscures most of his face, shrugs his shoulders silently. He either doesn’t understand Common, can’t help you, or doesn’t care either way.
The other, one-scarred eye and a sprig of brown hair exposed, scratches the back of his neck with the hilt of a blade. “Some odd Shifters an’ a Tiefing turned the place into a royal shitshow. Trashed the taverns, assaulted half the village, burned some shit down. Fun to watch! But, not fun to clean up, let me tell you…”
“They got run outta town few nights back, right after the Tiefling ran a big-score at Sport-O-Kings…lot turned tail an’ fled Northeast outta here! The Queen’s Men wanted em’ dead an caught, but she let em’ go, for some odd reason…”
“En’t a’sposed to gassip,” the hulk says thickly.
“Right, well, that’s just what I heard,” Sprig says matter-of-factly. “Only have to be a guest to get the “no-names” treatment, right? En’t my job to be discrete for every Wolf an’ Bear that charges through here, like they’re trying to commit suicide-by-pirate, issit?” The man with the scarred eye asks his friend hotly. The hulk shrugs his shoulders again.
“Oh! And there’s gonna be a festival!” Sprig suddenly remembers, his mood changing on a dime. “Professor’s in town…gonna show off some “game-changer”. Supposed to be why all the big-wigs are showing up this week…get a gander at the new goods!”
After nearly thirty minutes of waiting, Madame Zelena returns, half-jogging down the gangplank to meet Arno. “Ahh! Apologies, for the wait. I have made contact, but…um...well, in the interest of “our mutual friend’s” discretion, I should say no more, for the moment. Can you come with me please?” the regal woman pleads, maintaining her professionalism but seeming slightly desperate…