After they left the dock, the group headed up to the Bazaar. Dale noticed that there were far fewer halflings loitering around than there had been previously.
“I guess they moved on,” he muttered to himself.
“Who moved on?” Lius asked.
“Oh, just some halflings that I happened to cross paths with,” Dale said. “The Boromar clan. Sent them down to Malleon’s Gate.”
“Oh,” Reina said. “That’s who that was.”
“Who?” Lius asked.
“Shifty halflings,” Reina said.
“Oh,” Lius said. “You saw shifty halflings too?”
“Yeah,” Reina replied. “It didn’t seem particularly unusual.”
“Why would you send them to Malleon’s Gate?” Lius asked of Dale.
“Because I figured there might be something down there that made the goblins move,” Dale replied. “I believe there’s a plot afoot somewhere.”
“But if the Boromar wanted something from Malleon’s Gate, why were they in Fallen?”
“It wasn’t something for them. But maybe someone wanted the goblinoids out of Malleon’s Gate.”
“But why were there Boromar in Fallen, then?”
“I’m not saying it’s what they want. It’s what whoever wants. Perhaps it’s all a ruse. Perhaps the goblinoids were given something that they would quite like to claim, so that they could get free passage through Malleon’s Gate.”
“Maybe it’s nothing to do with us,” Reina suggested, “and we shouldn’t worry about it.”
The party headed onto Viv’s shop, where Dale elected to stay outside.
“We’re trying to hatch something down on the docks,” Reina explained, “but getting intel’s been a little harder than we thought. We didn’t know if you might know a guy who knows a guy who might be able to help us lift some cargo that won’t be too missed.”
“Or a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy,” Lius suggested helpfully.
“What cargo in particular?” Viv asked.
“Valuable cargo,” Lius said.
“Has this power vacuum left anyone starved for a certain something?” Reina asked.
Viv thought for a moment. “Medical supplies seem to be in high demand at the moment. Since the scare down in Fallen, people seem to be stocking up on preventative herbs and curatives. I’m not aware of anything else moving at the moment.”
“Not sure I feel entirely comfortable stealing medicine,” Reina murmured.
“No,” Ina agreed. “Not doin’ it.”
“Well,” Viv said, “everything else will sell. It’s just not in particularly high demand.”
“Well, if you do have a contact,” Reina said, “we can discuss with them what items we can liberate.”
“You might try a fellow by the name of Gyles Helmer,” Viv suggested. “Owns the Knucklebone Tavern down in Sharn’s Welcome. They get a lot of sailors through there. He might have overheard something.”
“And is he the sort of person we’ll have to be subtle with?” Reina asked. “Or can we just lay it out on the table?”
“Probably best not in earshot of the sailors,” Viv said, “but I’m sure if you present some coin, he’ll be happy to oblige.”
The party headed back to their respective lodgings and changed before heading down to the bustling district of Sharn’s Welcome.
“Fancy a tumble, governor!?” one whore called out to Lius.
“Another time, perhaps,” Lius called back nervously.
They found the Knucklebone Tavern, which was a small, dilapidated building full of noise, heat, roiling sailors and half-dressed whores. As they crossed to the bar, a scuffle broke out, but by the time they reached their destination, it has fizzled out. Two men were behind the bar, one older and scarred, the other younger, but only slightly less haggard.
“Good evening, gentlemen!” Dale announced.
The younger man leaned over the bar, and grunted, “Alright. What can I get you?”
“Four pints of your strongest ale,” Reina said, “and whatever else these guys are drinking.” Reina burst out laughing, while Lius giggled anxiously.
The barman nodded. “Four silver, miss.”
Reina handed over the money, and the barman lined up four mugs of ale. Reina downed hers, while Lius took a sip and stuck his tongue out, grimacing.
As they drank, the older barman grunted, “Gyles, I’m gonna change the barrel.”
“Alright,” the younger man, Gyles, said.
Once the older man had left, Reina leaned over the bar, and said, “You’re Gyles?”
“Who’s asking?” the younger man asked.
“We may have something to discuss,” Reina said. “But this isn’t the time or the place. We have a mutual acquaintance, I think.”
Gyles gave Reina a suspicious glare. “Yeah?”
“When does the place close?” Reina asked.
“When there ain’t no more people here,” Gyles returned brusquely.
“Okay,” Reina said. “Well, my name’s Reina. I’ll try and talk later.”
“Alright,” Gyles said, walking over to serve another drunken sailor.
Reina walked over to the others, where Lius held up his ale and said, “You could slice this. We could live on it for a week.”
“That’s not a bad idea,” Reina said, taking another swig.
Reina and Dale broke off to socialise, while Ina and Lius remained at the bar. Ina ordered a glass of cheap rum, while Lius continued to nurse his ale.
Reina found a group of sailors, where a hulking half-orc woman was having a drinking contest with a burly human male, and soon joined in with the chanting and cheering. After a couple of pints, the human collapsed, and the half-orc woman threw her arms up with a celebratory cheer, before vomiting down her front.
One sailor soon began to attempt to chat up Reina, and she gleefully played along, even buying the sailor, Will, a drink.
Reina tried to turn the conversation around to the group’s career, and when she asked what boat they were on, the whole group cheered in unison, “Bountiful Lass!”
“I am!” Reina enthused. “Thank you!” Several of the sailors laughed boisterously at this, and everyone resumed drinking in earnest, with Reina occasionally attempting to find out about the Bountiful Lass’ route and cargo.
Dale, meanwhile, wound up dicing with another group. Lius, also found himself gambling, on a card game, winning eight silver on his first hand and eight on the second, only to lose on the third.
As the night drew on, someone spilled a drink over a man who sat with an armed and armoured group who looked like mercenaries. The man leaped to his feet and drew a sword on the unfortunate patron, who looked ready to faint.
“Uther!” another of the mercenaries snapped. “Hold your sword! We’re not going to get any information if we run through any of the locals!”
For a moment, the mercenary looked as though he would ignore this advice, but finally lowered his sword with a look as black as thunder. The sailors who Reina had been drinking with began to bristle, and a few patrons hastily left the establishment.
The atmosphere was tense for a moment, and then, Uther lifted his sword and cracked the man on the head with the pommel. He staggered back, blood pouring from his brow, and all hell broke loose.
As the sailors began brawling with the mercenaries, Reina went for the door, grabbing Dale as she passed him.
“But it was just getting good!” the halfling complained.
More and more people fled from the bar, and both Lius and Reina found themselves swept along with the crowd. Dale stepped to one side, and continued to drink his ale, observing the mayhem as the tavern’s doors were literally torn from their hinges. Ina grabbed the man who had been knocked out and dragged him under a table as the brawl intensified.
Dale strolled out of the bar and nodded casually to Lius and Reina, who were huddled outside the bar.
“Where’s Ina!?” Reina demanded.
She peeked inside, and spotted the shifter crouching in the corner. The fighting had subsided, with the sailors and mercenaries each retreating to either side of the room, staring each other down. Gyles cautiously made his way out from behind the bar, and said, “Go on, that’s it! You’ve had your fun! Go on, bugger off! We’re closed!”
Slowly, but surely, everyone filed out of the tavern, until only the barmen and Ina, Reina and Lius were left. Ina began to help the older barman set the bar to rights.
“Don’t think this’ll mean there’s a free drink for you,” the barman grumbled.
“Don’t want one,” Ina said dismissively.
Reina, meanwhile approached Gyles, who angrily said, “What do you want!?”
“We’ll help you get your bar straight,” Reina said. “Then we’ll talk.”
“About what?” Gyles asked.
“We were told by Vivian Varadar that you might be a man to talk to about certain jobs down here,” Reina explained.
“So, what?” Gyles grunted. “You want information? Is that it?”
“Yes,” Reina replied.
“Why didn’t you pissin’ well say so in the first place!?”
“Well, you know. Bar full of sailors and mercenaries, it didn’t seem like it was best to go announcing.”
“You don’t have to go and say it out loud, do you!?” Gyles thrust a broom in Reina’s direction. “You want information? Here you go.”
Begrudgingly, the redhead began sweeping up debris. Lius also set about helping Ina clear up the mess. Finally, when the bar was as right as it was getting, Gyles motioned for the three left in the bar to take a seat.
“Alright,” he said. “What do you want to know?”
“We’re looking for some things to steal,” Reina said.
Gyles gave Reina a disapproving look. “What?”
“Steal,” Reina repeated. “From the docks. We were told you might be able to help.”
“What my friend means,” Lius said, “is we’re a little light on coin. We’re looking to liberate some stuff from one of the ships.”
“What he said,” Reina sighed.
Gyles shrugged. “What have you got in mind.”
“Honestly?” Lius said. “Anything we can sell on and is not gonna be missed.”
“Well,” Gyles said, sitting back. “Whatever you take, I’m sure someone is gonna miss it. Best bet, if you want to be taking cargo off a ship, is find one that’s leaving early in the morning. They’ll load up the night before, then leave it overnight and head off in the morning. At least, that’s what they usually do. Coming in and getting drunk in the meantime.”
“I don’t suppose you’ve heard of any bringing in anything of particular interest?” Lius asked.
“Yeah, I’ve heard of a few,” Gyles replied. “Of course, I’m gonna have to replace quite a bit of furniture here. And, of course, I’ve lost the rest of the night’s earnings. So if you make it right…” Lius handed over a small bag of silver, and Gyles shook his head. “Mate, it’s not even midnight yet. It’s going to take a bit more than that. You want the information, it’s twenty gold.”
“Thank you for your time,” Reina said, promptly standing.
“Yeah?” Gyles grumbled. “That’s what I thought. Waste of my time. Get out of here, the lot of you.”
“It’s fine,” Reina said once the group was outside. “I know just the ship.”
“Oh yeah?” Lius asked.
“Yeah,” Reina said, grinning. “He told us everything we needed to know, and he doesn’t even know it.”
“Who?” Lius asked.
“That guy!” Reina exclaimed.
“Reina,” Lius sighed. “I think it’s time for you to go to bed.”
“No,” Reina said. “It’s time for us to rob a ship.”
“Reina, shush!” Lius hissed.
“Listen,” Reina whispered. “All those guys I was drinking with are on a ship that’s leaving tomorrow. They’re taking supplies to some place. It’s perfect! We’ve been handed a golden opportunity!”
“What do they have on the ship?” Lius asked.
“Supplies,” Reina said glibly.
“Reina,” Lius said softly. “I don’t think you can complete a job in this state.”
“I’m fine!” Reina insisted. “We’re never going to get as good an opportunity as this.”
“Why?” Dale asked, wandering over. “What happened to the information?”
“I’ve got the information,” Reina insisted, glaring at the halfling. “We’re gonna… it’s called the Bountiful Lass. All of the sailors are either drunk or have just been knocked out.”
Lius elected to head back to the apartment, while Dale returned to his own lodgings to fetch his rapier. Ina and Reina went down to Ship’s Towers to see if they could locate the Bountiful Lass. After around half an hour, Reina found the ship, it’s figurehead a maiden holding an overflowing horn of plenty.
When Ina joined her, she said, “If you wanna go and wait for Dale, I’m gonna try and find some way to get out there.”
“Alright,” Ina said.
Reina made her way to the edge of the dock, spotting several small rowboats. She found a place to stay out of the way until Ina and Dale arrived. Reina gestured to a nearby boat, and the three of them clambered down to it. Reina pulled her hood up and then untied the thick, slimy rope which bound the boat to the dock. Ina and Reina took up an oar each, and began to row out to the Bountiful Lass.
The going was hard, but eventually, they found themselves alongside the impressive vessel. A light was burning in one window, so they rowed around to the boat’s portside, where a chain led from the deck to the cold water below. Reina tied the ship’s rope to the anchor chain, then turned to Dale, and whispered, “Please try to keep it on the down low this time.”
“I give you my oath as a swordsman,” Dale said, before grabbing hold of the hefty iron chain and shimmying up towards the boat. Ina and Reina watched anxiously as he grew smaller and smaller, until he disappeared into the darkness.
The halfling reached where the chain entered the ship, with the deck still some way above him. Dale considered his options, then leaped up, grabbing hold of a dangling piece of rigging, clambering up to the deck. He peered around, but saw no one, so clambered up onto solid ground.
Reina followed soon after, and then Ina. Reina scanned the deck, spying a hatch which she assumed led to the cargo hold. Creeping over, she saw that the hatch was secured with a large padlock. Reina crouched by the hatch, asked Ina and Dale to keep a lookout, and then set about picking the lock. When it popped open, she attempted to open the hefty wooden door, but couldn’t quite manage. Ina gripped the iron ring and heaved up with her, and together, they opened the hatch.
Below was dark, save for the moonlight shining down through the hatch. Reina could see crates below, and a ladder lying on the floor. Frowning, Reina tied her rope to the hatch door, and asked Dale for his torch, flint and steel. He handed them over, and Reina shimmied down into the cargo hold.
Ina followed, joining Reina in a spacious hold chock full of crates, barrels and sacks. The women decided to split up and make their way around the hold, opening various containers. They bypassed shields, saddles, berries, cosmetics, oats, spices and metal ingots, until Reina found a barrel of fine cut gems. She began to load up her bag with them, ushering Ina over to do the same.
When they were loaded up, they set the ladder up and hurriedly climbed up to the deck. Reina snuffed the torch before she joined Ina and Dale up top. With Ina, she carefully lowered the hatch, and secured it with the padlock.
Reina was the first to leap down to the anchor chain and climb back down into the boat. Ina followed, then Dale, who jumped most of the way.
“Let’s go!” he hissed.
They rowed away from the Bountiful Lass and back towards the dock. They managed to reach a small jetty with several other rowboats moored to it without attracting any undue attention. Reina secured their boat to the jetty, and the three of them walked off as unassumingly as possible.
When they reached the apartment, it was the early hours of the morning. As soon as the front door opened, Lius hurried over to them, and asked, “Did you do it!? What did you get!?”
Reina opened her bag, and Lius eyed up its contents with a gasp. Reina searched through the gems, and thought that their combined worth was probably 100 gold.
The next day was Sul, and Viv’s shop was closed. Dale elected to stay in the apartment and guard his investment. Reina, meanwhile, convinced Lius to go and visit his parents. The pair made their way up to Cirris and Aria d’Lyrandar’s home in Oakbridge, where they were greeted by Lius’ round-faced, curly-haired mother.
“Surprise!” Lius announced weakly.
“Oh,” Aria said, smiling. “What a pleasant surprise to see you both!”
“Hey,” Reina said.
“We were in the neighbourhood,” Lius mumbled.
“Well, come in!” Aria said. “Come in. To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?”
“We don’t need a reason, do we?” Lius said. Aria offered him a somewhat sceptical look, to which Lius insisted, “We don’t!”
“It’s been a while,” Reina conceded. “We’ve been a bit busy, but we had a free weekend, so we thought it’d be lovely to come and see you.”
“Well, that’s very kind,” Aria said, “but I wish you’d have called ahead. I would have laid on some extra food for you.”
“It’s okay,” Lius insisted. “We won’t take up your day.”
“Well, I’m just in the kitchen, getting something ready,” Aria said, shuffling along the hallway. “Your father’s in the study, if you want to go and see him.”
Lius was silent for a moment, before croaking out, “I’ll… I’ll leave him to it for the moment.”
Reina and Lius followed Aria into the spacious kitchen, which was full of the smell of fresh vegetables and rich stew. She offered the pair a drink, to which Lius said, “No, thank you. But do you want a hand?”
“If you’ve got a hand to spare,” Aria said. “You can chop some vegetables.”
Lius set about this task, while Reina said, “I’ll have a glass of wine, if one’s going.”
“You do know it’s not even midday yet, darling,” Aria said disapprovingly.
“Yes,” Reina said. “But it is the weekend.”
“Yes,” Aria said, shrugging. “I suppose it is.”
Aria poured a glass of wine for Reina, and a smaller one for herself. She asked if Lius wanted to join them, and when he said he did, poured a small glass for him too. She made small talk with them as she busied herself about the kitchen, asking what they had been up to. Lius briefly touched on his work at the bookshop, mentioning that Viv had scalded him for reading on the job.
“You should totally read it,” Lius said. “It’s really good.”
“Hmmm,” Aria mumbled. “I’m not sure. I didn’t like that last book you recommended.”
“To each their own,” Lius sighed. “This one had pirates! Then again, I think the last one did too…”
“We also had a tour around the Golden Dragon,” Reina said excitably. “It was amazing.”
“Ooh, yes!” Aria said. “I’ve been trying to get Lius’ father to go on a cruise with me on it.”
“I’ll go on a cruise with you, if you want,” Reina exclaimed.
As Lius was chopping vegetables, he heard the click of an opening door, and slowly turned around, gritting his teeth. The tall, slender figure of Cirris d’Lyrandar appeared in the door, and he said, “Ah. Hello, Lius.”
“Hello,” Lius said tersely. “How are you?”
“Very well,” Cirris replied. “How are you?”
“Uh… good, yes,” Lius said, turning back to the chopping board. “Just dropped by with Reina.”
“Hi,” Reina said.
Cirris nodded to Reina, not taking his eyes off of Lius. “And to what do we owe the pleasure of this visit?”
“Why is everyone suspicious of me?” Lius muttered under his breath, before saying, louder, “I don’t need a reason to visit my parents. Do I?”
“Well, we haven’t heard from you in nearly a month,” Cirris said. “We were beginning to wonder what happened to you.”
“I’ve just been really busy,” Lius said. “Sorry.”
“Busy doing what?” Cirris inquired.
“Viv’s been… keeping me busy,” Lius said.
Cirris nodded. “Still in the same bookshop, then?”
“Yes,” Lius said. “Business has been really good. Hence why I’ve been so busy. Busy with business.”
There was a brief, uncomfortable silence, before Cirris announced, “Well, I’ll leave you to it, then.”
Lius did not turn around as Cirris walked out of the kitchen and closed the door to his study.
“The stew smells great,” Reina said after a moment, trying to dispel the tense atmosphere.
The silence stretched out a little longer regardless, until Lius said, “So… what’s he working on?”
“Oh, his usual projects,” Aria said.
“And… how are Aril and Iavar?” Lius asked reluctantly.
“They’re fine,” Aria replied. “Aril’s still in Stormhome. Iavar is doing his usual rounds.”
“So… they won’t be dropping by?” Lius asked.
“Not today,” Aria said. “No.”
There was another silence, punctuated only by the bubbling stew and the rhythmic tapping of Lius’ knife. Reina asked for another glass of wine, and Aria said for her to help herself, before turning to Lius and saying, “You know, Lius, I’m not nagging but you know what your father thinks about you working in that book store.”
“Yes,” Lius mumbled, looking down at the chopping board. “But… it’s gainful employment.”
“I know,” Aria sighed. “But he just wishes that you’d do something a bit more… challenging with yourself. There’s a whole wide world out there. You belong to one of the best connected Houses in all of Khorvaire. The world, even. You could go anywhere, do anything. A small bookshop in the Bazaar of Sharn isn’t exactly an adventure, now, is it?”
“No,” Lius said, his voice barely above a whisper.
“Just… you know,” Aria sighed, “if you do ever decide that you want to do something a bit more interesting, you’ll have your father’s and my blessing.”
Lius finished chopping vegetables, and Aria added them to the stew.
“Sure does smell good,” Reina said again.
“I’m just sorry that you didn’t let us know you were coming,” Aria said. “I could have prepared a bit more for you.”
“Perhaps next time,” Lius said. “I should have a quick word with father.”
“Yes,” Aria said. “I think so.”
Lius walked slowly through to Cirris’ study, his steps heavy and his face ashen. He reluctantly knocked on the door, and Cirris’ deep voice came from the other side of the door. “Yes?”
“Can I come in?” Lius asked.
“Yes,” Cirris said. “Yes, come in.”
Lius opened the door, stepped inside, and quickly closed the door, pressing his back against it. Cirris was sat at a large dress, writing something. When he was done, he set down his quill and turned to Lius.
“How are you doing?” Lius asked. “What have you been up to? Did you hear about the Golden Dragon?”
“Yes,” Cirris said. “Yes, thank you. Someone mentioned in passing that it was due by. You mum keeps pestering me to go on a cruise with her, but the rate that thing travels, we’d never get anything done.”
“You should take her when you get some downtime,” Lius suggested. “It’s very nice. I had a look around.”
“Maybe one day,” Cirris said, “when I don’t have quite so much on.”
“I was talking to Augustus,” Lius said. “He happened to mention-”
“Ah, yes,” Cirris interjected. “Old Gusty. What were you seeing him about?”
“Oh, we were talking about the Golden Dragon,” Lius said. “He happened to mention that some cargo had gone missing on one of the voyages.”
“Oh, really?” Cirris asked. “What in particular went missing? I hadn’t heard of anything.”
“I think some dragonshards went missing,” Lius said. “I found it quite interesting, so I went down to speak to Aelandra about it. I… she wouldn’t tell me anything, so I may have mentioned that you wanted to know.”
“Ah,” Cirris said. “I see. Did you find out what you wanted to know?”
“Not… not really,” Lius admitted. “She didn’t tell me much. But I just thought it was better coming from me that I’d mentioned you.”
“I see. Well, I suppose I should be flattered that you think of me in such a situation. If you do feel that you want to get involved in House affairs, then you need only come to me and I could arrange something. Maybe an apprenticeship. I know several airship captains. Or even on the sea, if that’s what you’re interested in.”
Lius processed this for a moment. “Yeah, maybe. Maybe. Who did you have in mind?”
“I’m sure your brother would be more than happy to take you on as a crew member.” Lius did not respond to this. “But, I sense that maybe you’d prefer to go somewhere else.”
“Perhaps that would be better for both of us.”
“If I recall correctly, old Gusty has a son that captains an airship. I might be able to pull a few strings, get you on board with him.”
“I’ll keep it in mind. Definitely.”
“Yes. Please do.”
The pair made small talk for a little while longer, until Lius excused himself. When he returned to the kitchen, Reina was giggling, and the bottle of wine was nowhere to be seen. Lius suggested that they should be going, and Reina muttered, “I really wish we could stay. That stew…”
“Call ahead next time,” Aria insisted.
“We will,” Lius said. “I’m sorry she’s drunk all your wine.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Aria said.
“I swore it wouldn’t happen after the last time,” Lius sighed.
“Not quite as much as last time,” Aria whispered with a smirk.
When they got back to the apartment, Dale sprang to his feet, wielding his rapier with a yell. Lius imitated his cry, and drew his own rapier.
“Is that really how you hold that?” Dale asked, frowning at Lius.
“Some of us have had professional lessons,” Lius retorted, sheathing his blade.
Reina prepared some food, and everyone ate together. In the afternoon, Reina visited the bath house, then bought some more groceries, while Lius read one of his books, and Dale read one of Lius’ books.
“I hear Lord Hamilton dies at the end of that one,” Dale said, glancing over at Lius.
“It’s non-fiction,” Lius said sharply.
“Yes,” Dale replied, going back to his book.
In the evening, Reina and Lius went for a walk, but got only a couple of streets away from their apartment before they came across a group of monstrous humanoids, including an ogre, walking in the same direction. Lius quietly suggested that they discreetly follow them, and they did so, keeping their distance, until they lost them after cutting down an alleyway. Perturbed, they returned to the apartment, wondering what this could signify.
The next morning, everyone rose early and headed out to Viv’s shop. When they reached the Bazaar, however, they noticed that several stalls had been vandalised.
“What happened?” Reina asked of a merchant who was picking up the pieces of his stall.
The man shook his head. “Bloody Daask. Trying to make a move on the district.”
“Did this happen last night, by any chance?” Reina asked warily.
“First thing this morning,” the stall owner replied. “They just rolled through demanding protection money, and before anyone had a chance to pay, they started wrecking stuff up.”
“Viv!” Lius said, alarmed. The group hurried to Viv’s shop, and were horrified to see door had been smashed open. They hurried in, to see books scattered everywhere. Viv was stacking books on the counter.
Lius ran over to her, and asked, “Are you alright?”
“Yes,” Viv grunted. “I’m fine. I know a bunch of gnolls who very soon won’t be.”