Graxx is the first to react, asking Doozey to go speak with the beast. The halfling begins his bloody preparations while Neya asks about the toad's size. Ignoring the actual question, Utar takes a relaxed stance an reminisces. Doozey then takes one or two steps forward, studying the creature while Villonah and Biscuit stand ready to jump to his aid.
Doozey's nature check: With a finger in the trigger, the halfling says a few words, catching the full attention of the creature. As it turns and croaks, Doozey notices that the large hopper behaves very similarly to its more mundane brethren, probably reacting on instinct alone. Some beasts simply are more attuned to the weave than its peers, feeding passively on that connection and never ceasing to grow. Another realization comes to the hunter: that sheen on its skin is certainly not just water...
The creature does not like the attempted interaction (rolling for the toad's mood: 74). It takes a few steps back and suddenly springs into the air, over the bridge, and back into the river. It would seem it chose flight instead of a fight.
Unpleasantness averted, CRAP and friend (Villonah) stroll across the bridge and past one of the cities large west-facing gates (there are two). Crossing Podol Plaza once more, the group takes Podol Street before crossing the southeast bridge into Phlan's central ward. From there, the party exits the walled section of the city through the eastern gate and veers north through the residential district. While walking, you cannot shake the feeling a cat here or a seagull there move their head to follow your movement just a little bit too long... Eventually, you arrive at The Velvet Doublet. By the time they do, the lunch rush has already started, and the place is full.
The Velvet Doublet is no mere tavern. Its proprietors prefer the term 'festhall' and the rich citizens of Phlan have long stopped using any other word to refer to the establishment. The Velvet Doublet no doubt caters to the wealthy and it is known to satisfy those with exotic tastes. Both the decorations and the clientele look luxurious, and CRAP gets a few side-eye looks as they enter the place wearing their adventuring gear. Fine art adorns the walls, well-known ballads and verses are being played and recited from somewhere deep in the ballroom, and antique tapestries hang from the ceiling or protect the certainly flawless hardwood floor underneath.
The party sticks out as a sore thumb in this place (whether this is your first visit is up to you). The collective gasp that fills the air upon your arrival has its benefits, however. An old dwarf with a long, unbraided white beard (though the mustache is braided), and who wears a circlet around his forehead, whistles loudly to catch your attention. Other clients perform another collective gasp at the rude gesture, but the male dwarf does not care. He signals you to join him at a large table, where he sits alone. Once you do, he simply asks "Coming from the graveyard, I take?"
(OOC: Take that as an invitation to start the conversation. Unlike Dooguide Yovir, this guy is not going to freely start disclosing information before getting to know you a bit.)
After the greeting from the locals and previous lead in last time, Doozey chooses to stay quiet with a splintered focus on keeping Biscuit calm, and an eye out for more physical efforts to get a rise out the group. Though he tries to hide as much as well, the longer the group stay in the Velvet Doublet, the more 'twitchy' the halfling seems to become over it. A hand is never far from the still blooded crossbow at his back.
Rollback Post to RevisionRollBack
When you realize you're doing too much: Signature.
Villonah stays outside, not wanting to be "linked with a faction other than the one she has pledged her allegiance to."
At the table, in his own veiled way, Utar confirms Dornal's suggestion. "Aye, a friend in common," he says. "I am glad he was able to keep his word." The man looks more at his food than at the new guests at his table. He eats calmly and cuts into his steak with precision and patience.
Graxx is next, wondering why the festhall was picked as the meeting location. Dornal is brutally honest with his response: "Simple. From here, I negotiate from a position of power. Not many adventurers for hire are accustomed to this sort of venue, unless they have a long history of successes and are still alive to tell the tales... again, not very common. As for drawing attention, the people here are harmless. We've given them something to talk about in their next social event. It'll be forgotten by the time the next infidelity case among nobles trumps our little get-together here in terms of being gossip-worthy. I give it three minutes."
In response to Neya: "Such is the life of adventurers for hire. Work hard, keep yourself alive, and you might one day get people to come looking for you for work instead of having to chase it."
He then gives everyone a look, including the silent Doozey and Biscuit. "Speaking of keeping people alive, I need you to track a merchant for me." He sets his cutlery aside and elegantly takes a sip of his expensive wine. "He offers the odd supply here and there to my colleagues and I here in town, but has failed to return from his latest re-stocking trip down the Iron Route." He nods toward the southwest as to indicate which way this merchant went. "His name is Gilfron Milon, he is overdue, and I believe he might be in trouble. Once you find him, help him as needed to ensure that he continues on his way to Phlan from Hillsfar. There is 100gp for each of you in this if successful, except the dog. Agreed?"
He sets his kerchief on the table and signals for a waiter to come closer. The teen-aged human boy approaches without rushing, balancing an empty tray on his left hand and a long, clean linen towel on his right. He speaks not a word, letting his perfect posture announce that he is ready to take an order. Dornal turns to CRAP and says: "And a good meal too, paid upfront. Why not?" He then wiggles his finger while turning to look at the waiter as if he is ordering a round for the table. The boy leaves.
"A simple task," he adds. "Do it and I'll make sure our agents in Phlan treat you as friends."
(OOC: Feel free to roll history checks to see what your characters would know about the Iron Route or Hillsfar.)
Both Doozey and Biscuit almost perfectly mirror scrunching up their face in thought. Even if Biscuit did not quite understand what was going on, at the mention of 'except the dog', a growly emnates from the back of his throat. "Easy now, boy. Easy. Why don't you go see to Vinollah. She could certainly use the company, I bet." Doozey said while nudging the dog along.
After the woolly one eventually pads out to sit at the gnome's side, Doozey turns on the dwarf with a hard look for a moment or two prior to letting his expression soften. "I don't suppose you cannot throw in at least a treat for Biscuit upon our return cousin? For the hard work 'n all. It doesn't even have to be extravagant. Great Grandpa Whooza Bloodbeard was a miserly dwarf, but even he knew to pay all under his employ. Even the mastiffs." He says as much, hoping to appeal the dwarven sense of family, however distantly removed the two may be.
Whether he receives a favorable answer or not, Doozey looks to the rest, clearly leaning towards following their lead on the deal this time. Though if pressed for an opinion, he makes a funny but thoughtful face once more, and then simply nods in agreement with accepting the deal. "We still got the other matter to deal with too. If we can.. if there is a way to blend the two perhaps? If the course sets close on the coast...?" His whispers trail off there, and after a moment he turns to Dornal and asks, "You wouldn't happen to have some sort of, uhm, map of the course, and a description of the one we seek? Perhaps even if something he left you and yours during his last visit with his scent perhaps?"
"Aye, looking into the two would be advantageous if it's possible. But for now I'd take that meal and a few more details before we set out. We've at least one more stop before we head out."
Utar gives the festhall the once over. The richness of the surroundings are certainly impressive, but it lacks the warmth and charm of the Tea Kettle. Utar doubts whether it's doors will ever open again, but he pushes the thought out of his mind.
"Maybe weight swap some other information while we eat? Maybe on the spate of muggings within Phlan or the sightings of a ghost ship on the coast?"
(OOC Utar's history is a plus 2...that right there is a nat 1. Utar know nothing of coastal geography.)
Neya & Utar: This is the first time you heard of the Iron Route, though it is probably because you know it by a different name. All you know of the city of HIllsfar is that it is a city not too far away from Phlan, but whether that means 3 or 30 days worth of travel, you can't tell.
Graxx: You know the Iron Route as one of the main roads linking Phlan to other cities in the the Moonsea Region. Hillsfar is one of them, though not the closest large city to Phlan.
Doozey: You have traveled the Iron Route before. In fact, you used it to get into Phlan recently. It is the main road linking Phlan to Zhentil Keep, then Yûlash, then Hillsfar. It is mostly used to transport iron ore between the cities, as implied by its name, and as an alternative to shipping the ore through sea. There are many smaller villages or hamlets placed along the Iron Route in between the larger ones. Some have names, others are too small for even that. But more importantly, this route follows very closely the shoreline of the Moonsea, especially the part of it that connects Phaln to Zhentil Keep. In other words, the Iron Route is the road you'd have to follow if you were to travel down the Stormy Bay Coast, the area where all the attacks on villages and hamlets have been reported according to the partial info you got from Doomguide Yovir. Additionally, of HIllsfar, you know that it is a powerful city-state located on the southern coast of the Moonsea (Phaln is itself a powerful city-state located in the northern coast of the same sea). The city is heavily involved in trade in the region, acting as a hub for cities and settlements in the surrounding area. The Hillfarians specialize in the trade of iron.
"The mastiff can take its payment right now," Dornal says, pointing to the three waiters arriving with tray upon tray of pre-prepared meals. They place on the table a variety of dishes, including steamed shrimp, poached eggs, blueberry tarts, smoked sausages, beetroots, baked veal, and dried lemons. They also bring three types of bitters and two of cider, to help with digestion. There is more than enough food here for all at the table, including Biscuit.
"Like I said. This is the part of the payment that is paid upfront: a good, hearty meal on me. Accept my lunch invitation and I'll take it as you also accepting to take on my request." He says, clearly knowing how to properly host business associates.
He then adds, looking directly at Utar: "Sure, we can certainly talk more over lunch. You'd be contracted to me at that point so it would be in my interest to share what I can. However, I have just shared quite some valuable information on a certain prized merchant, so I believe it is your turn next. Tell me what you know of this ship of shadows..." He once again picks up his cutlery and resumes eating his steak, waiting for you all to partake in the meal.
"Thank you very much." Neya says as she sits down to vote in favor towards taking the job.
She then starts talking in a more hushed tone, but loud enough for the everyone at the table to hear, trying not to incite a panic in the establishment.
"To be honest, our own information on the ship is lacking. What is known for sure is it has been striking small villages and hamlets along the shores of the Moonsea. Reportedly, these incidents getting closer to Phlan. We have more, but most is either hearsay or from sources of strained reliability. But something tells me you are one who enjoys tales of a more outlandish nature on occasion, yes?"
Dornal looks at Neya, his face not betraying any emotion. "I almost always find hearsay has at least a tinge of truth to it. Almost always."
He takes a bite of a previously sliced loaf of bread and politely finishes chewing it before continuing. "Our mutual friend at the graveyard for instance. He tells me, under the confidence of our mutual benefactor association, that a strange man arrived in the graveyard yesterday, having wandered in on the road from the west, bearing wounds that already appeared to be at least one day old. We feared at first that it could have been Gilfron, but our friend tells me he does not match the description. I know little at the moment regarding the mysterious ship you mentioned, but it sounds to me that if it is attacking villages in the same direction where this man came from and from where Gilfron was reported missing... well, all these rumors are starting to tell a story, don't you agree?"
A slow and measure gulp of wine is next. After savoring it he asks: "Do you have more information about this strange ship? Something more... outlandish, you said?"
For all the mastiff's earlier disapproving, the tray upon tray of food is too much. If one wasn't placed at his feet, but there's a free seat available, Biscuit practically bowls Doozey over in his rush to hop in a seat and go to town on some steamed shrimp. If noone hasn't restrained him by the time Doozey gets up, the dog has already moved on to take some licks out of cider. By some glorious miracle or unspoken of training, he manages to keep from knocking food over if seated. Yet.
"Bloody Dog. If it isn't food with ya, it's complaining about stupid things." Doozey huffs, and after seeing most take their own seat for the spread, the halfling followed suit with some trepidation. As Dolan insist upon learning more, doozey cannot help but shoot the others a wary glance. "... Uh... well.. Only that some kind of Dracolich might be involved somehow." He said, sidestepping Villinoah's info.
Rollback Post to RevisionRollBack
When you realize you're doing too much: Signature.
Utar sits, letting the others talk, taking a moment to pick at the plates in front of him but ultimately enjoying the back and forth and trading of rumour. At certain times it is as if they are back at The Kettle, another round on its way...
"There's probably some fire mixed into all that as well, there normally is. If there isn't, the stories we tell afterwards should. Warriors bathed in fire and shadow... Like something from a fireside tale."
Another collective gasp fills the air as the many patrons become disgusted by the mess Biscuit is making out of those shrimp. The other food may not be knocked and the plate might be still in place, but the loud eating and slurping noises are enough to disgust the elegant clientele.
Dornal looks slightly more worried: "Dracolich, shadows, fire... these rumors are getting worse by the second. Moreover, the skies have been overcast for tendays now. Unnaturally long, if you ask me. I don't take these shadowy pirates of yours are keen on sunlight... Hmm... Too many coincidences."
He takes a deep sip of wine, after properly sniffing it. "I urge you to seek my misplaced merchant as soon as you are done having your meal. I'm afraid we have no time to waste if all these tales are as grave as they sound."
Passive perception -> Doozey and Utar notice that one of the fancy patrons has had enough. She is complaining to the restaurateur in charge about your unsightly presence and demanding that the man expels you from the festhall or "she and everyone she knows will never spend another copper here!"
Doozey quirks a brow, but Biscuit doesn't even so much as look at the voice. "Mm? Mn... Sooner the better, for the trail goes cold. Thanks for the meal, master Dolan. Hopefully, the next time we meet, it will be with good news, and then some. Until then-...." Doozey tries to effect a formal, dwarven bow of parting, though is clearly ill-practiced. Nevertheless, after promptly guzzling down whatever drink that wasn't spoken for at the table, he hops up and starts bodily pulling Biscuit away from the table.
Between his small stature and average strength (for a halfling), odds are it was more the sensation than any real feat on the stoutlings own that eventually compelled the whinning dog into following his buddy out the door.
Rollback Post to RevisionRollBack
When you realize you're doing too much: Signature.