The Lady Elamnea requested our presence – and by “requested” I mean she sent a bunch of her goons and it would be a braver bunch than us that would refuse her. Mel was complaining about her aching back and arms from all the hard lifting she’d done on her short stint on the wharves, and Almaz was snoring away in the corner, but we hauled ourselves up and down to Her Ladyship’s place.
There she told us that the docks seem to be hit with some sort of bad luck curse. First a golem dropped a ship – a whole ship – all the way down the cliff. The ship and its crew came out about as well as you’d expect. The sharks were happy, but. Then, in three different incidents, stevedores had fallen off the platform, again to their deaths. One, you could attribute to clumsiness, but two is co-incidence, and as an old and wise writer once wrote, three is enemy action.
Next, a large number of the stevedores had come down with a nasty case of food poisoning. Now the stevedore’s stomach is one of the strongest in the business, as their diets come from the pubs near the docks and the leavings from the ships. Only the strongest guts of the lot last more than a couple of weeks, so for a whole crew to come down with the runs is a bad thing.
So we agreed to help Her Ladyship with a bit of investigation. She’s treated us right up to now, so we’ll do the job for her.
Just as a bit of side info, the docks have a few loose stevedores that sign up job by job, but most of them belong to a crew, like our friend Skrark and his family, and of course the other bunch of Tengu led by Skerrikrak. There was a group dealt particularly with the loading and unloading of rare and dangerous animals – they were the ones who were dropped. In fact, what’s left of the regular crews are the Tengu, and a couple of the regular lot, including one set called the Cliff Top Crew.
Almaz headed to the Tengu to have a chat to Chirreep, as she seems to trust us after the little … incident … with her ex-girlfriend. I decided to keep my ears open for any potential trouble hotspots, and Mel caught up with a lass called Mauldroit with whom she’d made friends when we were working on the docks last time. Nice girl – works hard, looks like she’d be handy with a sharp weapon.
Well, it looks like Chirreep‘s been indulging in the teenage angsty poetry. She and Al did the girly heartbroken bonding thing over “My heart is black, like my feathers”, but there didn’t seem to be any Tengu involvement in the whole thing. Mel and Maul signed up for an afternoon’s unloading, and the Captain wasn’t happy that Mel turned up so late in the day, but there’s less and less stevedores available, so he took her on anyway. I took up the drinks jug and mugs (hey, I know it was heavy, but they didn’t care how slowly I walked as long as I got there), and probed a little. Seems there’s a great deal of ill-feeling towards the Tengu – more than usual. Someone’s stirring up trouble, but it was hard to find the source. Someone’s being very careful.
We’d hit the pub for a while (without gaining any useful info), then settled in for the night – when there was a huge crash and screams. Turns out that a pub had come loose from the rock wall and the building had gone crashing down through the other layers of housing on the side of the rocky knoll that this town is built on. I inspected the fastenings, and while I couldn’t determine anything specific, I felt there had been some sort of tampering with the magical properties that kept it safe. Mel and Maul lent a hand by trying to rescue people, and healing where possible (so that’s what Maul’s good at! We should definitely try and keep her with us). The inn was a “no Tengu” inn, of which there are many around these docks – I slid off while everyone else was busy and made my way down into the mid-Undercity to have a quick talk to Skerrikrak, but came back with the info that no, the Tengu hadn’t done anything. There was little we could do, so we headed back to catch what sleep we could before morning.
I felt the need to double-check the beam on which the Inn had been hanging, but it was sound. The golem in the harbour, too, showed signs that its magic had been tampered with. Meanwhile, Al and Mel headed to the pub where the food poisoning had come from to have a chat with the Innkeeper there.
He revealed that the cook, a dwarf by the name of Fronson, had worked there for some time with no problems, but had that night come in acting oddly. Shortly after dinner had been served and Fronson had gone off with his pay, the customers had started feeling ill. All of them had eaten the stew, and all of them had been incapacitated for some days. Fronson had turned up the next day for work as usual, but the Innkeeper had sacked him on the spot, and now he was staying with relatives, so we headed out to find him
We found where he was hanging out, and as drunk as all getout. A few hard dunkings into a nearby casks of water, and he was ready to talk.
“Tell us what happened at the Squatting Dragon!”
“It’s the Squitting Dragon now!”
Fronson, it seems, has a habit of spending his money on women. He’d gone to his favourite nightspot, the Saucy Beard, after work a week back, and met a lass with huge … tracts of land. Forested even. And hair. Lots of hair.
Maul: “So she’s got Tit Merkins?”
(Rest of party and DM are rendered incapable for about 5 minutes)
Fronson had had a couple of drinks with her, and then fallen asleep. He’d woken up, thought it was the next day, and headed into work. As soon as he got there, the boss had sacked him!
Subtle questioning (in words of one syllable) elicited the response that she wasn’t one of the usual available dwarf or dwarf-simalcrums present at the establishment, and as he was fairly unforthcoming about any other details, we decided to hit the Saucy Beard for some better information.
Where the women are women, but the beards are 50% fake.
This place wasn’t as bad as some. The floor was, as usual, squishy and sticky, but at least that wasn’t caused by tiny tentacles trying to grab your feet as you walked past. It was late morning by now, and the girls were lounging around or getting a bite to eat before work started. About half of them weren’t dwarves at all, but were gnomes and halflings with beards, and I have to say, even with the facial hair, some of them were damned sweet! Al offered herself for work, in reality to chat with the girls and see what they had to say.
Al: Tell us about your visitors?
Girl1: What? The Health Inspectors?
Girl 2: No, that guy from council who doesn’t want his wife to find out.
Al: “No, Fronson.”
Girl 2: "You mean Slobberguts?"
Al: “Ick. Yes. Him. Tell us about the last time he was here.”
They proceeded to tell us that he had come in and almost immediately a new girl, whom no-one had seen before, had him off in the corner. They’d left together, and no-one had seen her since. Truth to tell, they were grateful to her for taking on Slobberguts.
A quick check back with Fronson’s ex-employer told us that Fronson had been acting rather odd that day – and that the stew he had made was not the one he made every other day. So either he was being mind-controlled, or someone had impersonated him, slobber and all.
We’re Starting to Run Out of Ideas.
We did at least manage to find out that the last two crews left, the Tengu and the Cliff Top Crew, were in high demand, but that suspicion was falling even harder on the Tengu. I checked once more with our finely feathered friends – Skrark was preparing his people, because he could feel a fight brewing, and Skerrikrak just felt it was business as usual. Mel used her skills and felt that the Tengu weren’t hiding anything, although we did remember that some of them had been to magical college so might have gained the knowledge necessary to un-enchant the bolt and the golem. We decided that our next best plan was to infiltrate the Cliff Top Crew and try and pick up information that way. The dwarf in charge, Bergron Stonecrusher, hired on Mel and Maul (on reduced rates as they were there only half the day) and directed us to Norman the Foreman. I tried doing my usual “take the drinks around”, and one guy seemed about to talk to me when his mates called him away. However, Maul was able to pick up that there was some nasty action planned for the evening, that concerned Tengu and weapons and probably not in a positive way.
Al smarmed in with Bergron, and used the old racist joke to see the response trick. The response was pretty viperous – Bergron is sure the Tengu are a bunch of job-stealing item-nicking invasive … no, I won’t go on, but you get the general idea. Al then offered to use her spells to assist in the evening’s “activities”, but Bergron was starting to smell a rat and declined her offer. Then it was knock-off time and the team headed to the pub. We joined them, but were cold-shouldered out of the group that seemed to be heading for trouble, so we took advantage of their preparation time, and hot-footed it to Skrark’s house to warn him. Just in time, too – the mob were on the warpath!
So here we were – most of our motley crew on the left side, separated from the mob by the skinny bridge, which luckily meant that they could only approach us a couple at a time. However, one sneaky little blighter has secreted himself behind a barrel on the right hand side. Can you see it? Our side are the red dots, and that red dot on the right is … your humble correspondent, Cogglefree Bridgewomble. Although, it might have also given me a clearer path for a fast escape, were such required. Al, who has a great deal of bravery in that little body of hers, stood on a barrel and tried to persuade the dozen men armed with crowbars and such that their actions were foolish and there must be a better way. She then stated that there were large numbers of Tengu in the house, willing to defend themselves. (In reality, the Tengu had evacuated, and the noises were courtesy of Al’s spells).
At this point a man at the back, armed with a Molotov Cocktail, started the telltale signs of readying a throw. I waited until the best possible moment, and shot my crossbow at his back. It hit! But alas, it did not do enough damage, and the fiery bottle was launched to crash open against the side of the house. Once more Al’s magic came to the fore, and the fire was dampened (at least for a while).
The mob charged, and Moll cast a spell at Norman (who seemed to be their ringleader), which made him stop, blanch, and then turn and run. From this point, there was much confusion, spells of sleeping, swinging of axes and firing of crossbows and our two taller party members showed that they can slice, dice and grate in a most satisfactory manner. Of course, we’d just finished dropping the entire mob when the watch showed up, declared us all to be suspect, and took us to the cells.
Where they kindly allowed me use of parchment and pen, and from where I have written this missive. We are being called in front of the Watch Commander, so I shall finish this later.