Chapter 12: We've Found One!

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Session Number: 83
Date: Sunday 23 January 2011
Venue: Fergus'
PCs & Players:

Arrian Rog1/Clr8 (Fergus) (kills: none)
Feren Rog9 (Yeran) (kills: none)
Rowaine Pal9 (Craig) (kills: none)
Tomen Rgr9 (Ash) (kills: none)
Troll Wiz9 (Densial) (kills: none)

XP Awarded: TBC

It is the next morning. Troll, Shalélu and Ethalyn head to the library for further study, leaving the others at breakfast. Shalélu bursts back inside five minutes later. "We've found one!" she says, a little breathless. "A neogi, in the marketplace!" She then turns around and runs back outside. The others follow her.

Shalélu leads the others to the market, slowing when she sees Troll and Ethalyn. Nearby, two spidery creatures with long necks are talking with a merchant, shopping and haggling over prices. Their monstrous appearance is only slightly muted by clothing. One carries saddlebags; the other is buying items and loading them into the bags. Rowaine senses moderate evil about the pair. Perhaps others do too; there is a small clearing around them, as if people are not that happy about venturing too close.

Troll says the neogi have been buying seemingly random goods from the market. They pay only cursory interest in the items they buy. Arrian looks around, remembering Ethalyn's words that the neogi often hire others. He cannot spot any connection between the neogi and anyone else in the throng. Aquilla's guards are not obviously present. Rowaine queries Troll about stalls the neogi have previously visited, then heads over to the last one.

"Good grief, what on earth was that?" Rowaine says to the stall keeper.

"Neogi," he replies. "They're alright. Merchants, mostly. This one bought some daggers. He haggled over the price less than I thought he would."

"Did he seem distracted?"

"I wouldn't say that. No, I'd say he just didn't seem very interested."

"Did he give a name?"

"No," the stall keeper says.

"Do they come here often?"

"Not really. I see them about every couple of weeks."

Rowaine buys a dagger to replace the one she gave to the elven scout, then moves on.

Meanwhile, Arrian seats himself at a food stall and buys a fish kebab, keeping an eye on the strange creatures. Tomen asks passers-by about the neogi. The next shopkeeper Rowaine talks to tells a similar story: the neogi bought some metal utensils but seemed disinterested in the process.

Rowaine returns to the others just as the neogi move on, heading out of view. "Follow them, Feren," Rowaine says. Feren disappears into the crowd.

She thinks back, recollecting that everything the neogi bought was made of iron. There cannot be a lot of ironworking going on here by the city's very nature. In fact, it is probably very tightly controlled. If the neogi are buying iron goods to resmelt, that's probably not allowed.

That's ILLEGAL!

Jailing slavers for lighting a fire in a prohibited area, somewhat reminiscent of Al Capone

The neogi leave the market, Feren tailling them. They head to the edge of the city - the same area where the party found grappling hook marks. There are few others in sight. The neogi stop at the boat's edge and talk nonchalantly in an unknown language. Feren walks past, up to the next street intersection about a dozen yards away. He looks back. The neogi are still there, looking in opposite directions. Feren turns the corner then peeks around. The neogi talk briefly, look about, then back towards the edge and scramble over the short wall. One removes its saddlebags and throws them over before jumping off. The other follows. Feren hears splashes as the saddlebags and the neogi hit the water. Feren returns and finds the others in the market, unwilling to follow up alone.

The party discuss what might have happened, and their next course of action. Ethalyn confirms that the neogi are not known to breathe underwater, leading them to believe that they cannot have travelled far. Troll lets the others know that the ocean is cold, but not deadly cold.

The group return to the Roasted Goat. Arrian removes his armour, stowing it in his backpack. Rowaine gathers a fifty foot length of silk rope while Tomen retrieves his grappling hook. They all then head to the boat edge. Tomen secures the rope, then he and Arrian climb down into the water. Arrian examines the side of the boat, finding scratch marks over a ten foot wide area. He points them out to Tomen, who looks at them closely. They appear to have been made in the preceding days and months.

Arrian dives down, looking around. The boat's side quickly undercuts, beyond which he can vaguely make out submerged buildings jutting down from Aquilla's underside. There are many points of light, some large. The nearest stretch of buildings are about fifteen feet away, roughly mirroring the buildings on the opposite side of the street above. Their doors are closed. There is no obvious sign where the neogi might have gone. He surfaces.

Arrian talks to the others, then climbs back to street level. Tomen dives down next, the better swimmer. He can see a number of creatures in the water, some large. An orca swims lazily around a building, a fair-sized squid keeps its distance. After surfacing, Tomen uses his Hat of Disquise to assume the form of an aquatic elf. He plunges sixty feet straight down. His altered eyes make out a great deal more of the undercity. The nearest row of buildings form a block with a lit, open space in its centre. He cannot see the source of the light, but knows that it is not daylight. There are many similar glows in the vicinity - at least thirty in his field of view. He references the nearest glowing area and then surfaces. He assumes his true form and climbs back to street level, trying to map the position of the light to the features abovedecks. He points out the block of houses directly ahead, figuring the submerged, lit space would be directly below an area about fifteen or twenty feet beyond the nearest front door. Might they gain access through the building somehow? Perhaps by climbing up, or by knocking on doors? What story might they tell the locals?

"Sorry, but my brother kicked his ball over your roof, can we come in and get it back?"

"There's an eight legged monster in your basement that wants to sell your children into slavery, mind if we just deal with that?"

Tomen slips back into the water and changes back to aquatic elf form. He takes hold of the rope end and swims under the buildings towards the glow. He sees the lit area: a rectangular 'courtyard', some thirty by twenty feet. Artificial light flickers off the water's surface, dominated by a boat hull around twenty feet long and six feet wide. He estimates the surface to be a good five or ten feet below sea level. Tomen checks his bearings, realising that he is nowhere near the location of the disabled boat they found earlier.

Tomen swims up towards the light, surfacing quietly. He finds himself in a lamplit room similar to the other belowdecks room that held a boat. This boat looks rather different to the other. It has no cabin and no mast, and two oars hang over the near side. As with the previous room, there is no visible exit for the boat, save being submerged. Ths boat is not held in place, as the previous boat was.

In front of Tomen, beyond the boat, is a platform with a ten foot wide archway in the far wall. Two bugbears stand either side of the archway; they do not yet seem to have noticed his entry. He smoothly drops beneath the surface and returns to the others, telling what he saw.

Rowaine asks Troll whether one of his Floating Discs might be able to travel underwater. Troll thinks it will. Rowaine pulls out the Pigments and together she and Troll draw a net with a drawstring to enclose a Disc. Trailling off the drawstring are four ropes. With a Disc inside and the drawstring tight, four people might hang onto the ropes and be towed behind. The pigments dry and take shape.

Troll conjures his Disc and manoeuvres it inside the net. Rowaine removes her armour. Arrian casts Magic Vestment on the suit before Rowaine places it inside the backpack, which she stows on top of the Disc. She pulls the net's edges tight with the drawstring, securing the backpack in place. Troll and Tomen enter the water while Rowaine, Arrian and Feren firmly grip the net. Everyone takes a deep breath and dives.

The Disc / net system works surprisingly well. Tomen leads the others to the boat room, about a thirty to forty foot trip in all. Rowaine splutters as she breaks the surface, attracting the bugbears' attention. They pace over, holding their weapons menacingly. Tomen ducks behind the boat.

"Are you here to trade?" one of the bugbears says in guttural common. "Get out of da boat, you!" The last to Tomen. He comes back into view. Rowaine asks what is available. A bugbear tells them to wait, then exits through the archway. Arrian dons his armour. The air in the room smells salty but clean, implying good airflow. Tomen looks the boat over. It is made of ironwood, but has no transparent floor like the other. It is fitted with seats and has two sets of oars. Besides a rudder at the stern, there are no other obvious controls.

The bugbear returns. Behind him is a neogi. "You are here to trade?" it asks. Its head weaves from side to side as it talks and it finishes its sentences with a smacking of its lips. "Do you wish to sell or to buy?" Rowaine asks what goods are for sale, noting that the neogi radiates evil. The neogi says that any who wish to view the goods must disarm. The party comply… mostly. Feren is a notable exception. Tomen chooses to wait and minds the party's weapons.

So Feren, exactly where do you conceal that mace? :-)

neogi.gif

"Come this way," the neogi says, beckoning. It leads the group into a room full of tables laden with items for sale: mostly foodstuffs, but there also appears to be a wide range of other goods available. Two other neogi scuttle about, opening crates.

neogi_market.jpg

Arrian expresses an interest in weapons. Rowaine comments that it is an unusual place for a market - might it not be more expedient to be located abovedecks? The neogi replies that they have a niche clientelle, but refuses to be drawn into any more answers. Rowaine looks at the wares. Most look new. She tries to identify any metal items she saw the neogi abovedecks with, but cannot remember any specifics.

Arrian inspects a long sword. Rowaine asks whether they might use divination magic. When permission is granted, Rowaine surreptitiously asks Troll to give the place a sweep. Arrian buys the long sword. While the neogi is busy with him, Rowaine asks Troll what he found. All the wood in the room radiates magic, as does wood everywhere in the city. He detects alteration magic on the surface of the water, the same as he found in the other boat room. He believes it serves the same purpose: to keep the water level artificially low. The rowboat radiates strong enchantment and alteration magic. None of the gear for sale appears to be magical.

Rowaine asks if the neogi have anything else. The neogi replies that all they have for sale is on display. Arrian asks for a scabbard. While the neogi is rummaging for one, he tells Rowaine that he is sure the neogi is lying. The neogi returns with two scabbards; Arrian buys the nicer of the two. The neogi then indicates elven wine and dwarven ale. Arrian's ears perk up. The neogi opens a crate and shows Arrian six earthenware bottles, each holding a pint of dwarven ale. It then points one of its legs, indicating four more similar crates - thirty pints in total. Arrian buys ten pints for nine gold pieces, plus a silver piece to deliver them to the Roasted Goat this evening.

Arrian then mentions in somewhat more conspiratorial tones that he is in the market for more … unusual fare. The neogi says that they deal only in the mundane. Arrian is sure the creature is holding something back. He tries a different tack, saying that he is also interested in acquiring help. The neogi replies that they only deal in trade goods, not services. The creature is not moved when Arrian pulls out a couple of gems as a potential inducement.

Rowaine asks how they use the boat. The neogi replies that it cannot travel, that they built it to make their clients feel more at home. Rowaine is sure there is very little truth to that. The boat is not for sale.

Feren and Arrian try to determine whether the neogi are the same as the two they saw above. It is difficult to tell with such a fantastic race, but Rowaine points out that these two are not wet. Arrian casually inspects the room for any other security measures besides the two bugbears. He cannot identify anything obvious.

Arrian talks quietly to Rowaine in dwarven, saying that he suspects they have found the slaver operation. Rowaine is somewhat unconvinced and wonders whether there might be other similar undercity markets.

Tomen excuses himself and dives into the water. He changes into an aquatic elf and looks for any other light sources close by. The nearest is at least fifty yards away - a fairly challenging ask, especially for those without skill or magical aid.

Rowaine asks the neogi whether there are any other branches such as this. The neogi shakes his head in a serpentine manner. Rowaine asks whether the market is accessible from above, and again the neogi responds in the negative, saying that they trade mostly with the water-breathing races. The equipment doesn't strike Rowaine as particularly suited for waterbreathing races, although she has learned that aquatic elves can transport goods in watertight containers.

"I don't think we can get the slaves here," Arrian says to Rowaine, in dwarven but this time loud enough for the neogi to overhear.

"You're probably right," Rowaine replies.

"We shall have to look elsewhere."

"I thought we were onto something here."

"It would certainly have been to our benefit to have found a place to buy slaves."

"Indeed," Rowaine replies. There is no reaction from the neogi.

"I think we need to do something, Rowaine," Arrian continues. "I don't think we can just leave this situation without being sure about what's going on. I think we can take out these four creatures without killing them and then we can investigate this complex." Still no reaction.

Rowaine frowns. "At the moment, you have a suspicion, but you have no evidence beyond the fact that they are somewhat unusual traders."

"I wouldn't favour taking any irreversible action," Arrian says.

"You wouldn't countenance doing the same in one of the markets abovedecks, would you?"

"If we had evidence that they were slavers, and that they were evil, and they lied to us, then I very well might!"

"Is this justifiable force, Arrian?"

"Is it justifiable that we do nothing?"

"If we continue in that vein," Rowaine says, "then we are bordering very dangerously on the vigilanteism that we have been warned against. Maybe we need to take this to the guard."

"I don't think the guard have any power here."

"Perhaps then they could clear us to use more force. It is a different scenario if we are acting in their name."

The party decide to leave, planning to take this new discovery to the guard. Rowaine says that they will return…

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