25 Olarune, 998YK, Cliffscrape
Hunched forward on her elbows, hands clasped around her third mug of the evening — or was it her fourth? — Captain Daina ir’Lizani looked across the dingy tavern table and scowled. “Why the long face, Trucco?”
The rogue sighed. Cliffscrape, he insisted, was a great place, but he found himself in the unpleasant position of trying to avoid a lot of old “friends” while simultaneously looking for people to flesh out the Crown and Bell’s skeleton crew. On top of that, it didn’t seem like Cliffscrape was offering many money-making opportunities for the taking, and earning more coin was rather essential to hiring crew.
Daina rubbed at her face. No, she agreed, there weren’t nearly enough opportunities in that regard. She’d been working the streets all day looking for a job that the Crown could fulfill on their way to Regalport and had taken Sashtroon with her, hoping that his familiarity with this part of the Principalities would translate into knowing the right people to talk to and the right questions to ask. Instead, he’d spent the entire time getting sidetracked by chatting up Daina, asking questions about her, trying to get to know her better. It was so damned frustrating. They needed those jobs in order to pay the crew, but they couldn’t do those jobs without enough crew, but…
“I’ll tell you, Trucco” Daina continued, her voice uncharacteristically bleak and bitter, “it feels like every time something goes right, two more things go wrong. We got ourselves a ship!” she cried, waving one arm in a grandiose gesture, “and then some trolls killed two folks who were just trying to help us! We killed the trolls, and then Rus got sick! We came here thinking maybe we’d find work, and I came here thinking maybe I’d start to be able to find some of those folks that ghost of Torlan’s couldn’t find for me…” Her voice began to crack a little. “It just got me thinking, Trucco. I— I want to see if some of my old friends are still alive, if they’d even want to talk to me after I cut tail and ran on them.”
Trucco’s face drooped. All that talk about the Mourning, and old friends, had started him thinking about his old paramour Lancia and others he’d left behind. How he wanted to live up to what their expectations of him had been, but it was so difficult. He hadn’t felt like the things they’d wanted of him, the way been with them, was his life. But whenever he had been with them, and then part of the hrazaak team in Metrol, he’d felt like he was part of something bigger. Something good.
“And then the whole thing crumbled to pieces, in one single night.”
“Hold on a moment!” Torlan huffed, rousing himself from his own silent moping. “You keep talking about this Lancia as if it’s the past tense, but didn’t we just find out that she hasn’t passed through Dolurrh?” The despair in Trucco’s voice took on a hint of panic. The thought of finding Lancia, of seeing her again, was far more terrifying than the thought of not. What would she say to him? What would she think of him? What would he say to her? Daina nodded again. She couldn’t stop thinking about that herself. She wondered every day if her late husband Mazello would be proud of her, but then just the other day she’d— nevermind that. How was Torlan doing?
“Well, I’m doing alright” he insisted, before conceding that perhaps things weren’t as good as the face he liked to put on. He was feeling stressed and confused about the spirit telling them that the people who died in the Mourning hadn’t passed through Dolurrh.
“Yeah, that was a load of tribexshit!” Daina snarled. “Folks who died in the Mourning didn’t pass on? That can’t be right.”
Torlan shook his head, that stress and confusion he’d admitted to creeping into his face and voice. “What am I supposed to do with that information?” he cried. “Am I honour-bound to spread that news to the world?” Daina’s expression grew darker. How did Torlan know that thing hadn’t lied to him?
“It was a librarian!” Torlan replied. “They never lie!”
The three of them fell back into silence, alone with their thoughts. As they continued drinking and listening to the sounds of a storm battering against the tavern’s roof, they each started to realize that something was…off. When they’d arrived at the Lazy Boar several hours earlier, they’d all been in good spirits. The day had not been the abject failure they were now making it out to be. Daina had found a job hauling cargo to Regalport, which was exactly what she’d been hoping for. Trucco and Torlan had managed to hire enough crew to give the Crown and Bell a full complement for that cargo run. And now, they were all finding themselves in the throes of a deep melancholy, malaise, and despair. Something wasn’t right.
Before they could think about it too hard, the taverns’ front door crashed open and a bedraggled, shady-looking human woman and gnome man barged in out of the storm dragging an unconscious human man between them. He was bleeding profusely from a wound in his thigh. The woman yelled at the bartender for help as she swept everything off the nearest table and hauled her injured companion onto it, and as Daina drunkenly rose to her feet, she could see that the man’s injury was beyond a bartender’s skills. Broken bone was sticking out of his mangled flesh. It was bad. But Daina had never let a problem being above her pay grade get in the way of helping someone in need, and she pressed her hands into the wound in a futile attempt to stop the bleeding. “Don’t you guys have a healer???” she yelled.
“I don’t even know him!” the woman yelled back, pointing at the gnome. “There’s no healer here! This is a tavern!” the bartender shouted, adding his own unhelpful reply to the pile.
The combination of an unnaturally foul mood and a man bleeding out beneath her hands was too much. “I mean is there a healer here, in Cliffscrape, you fool!” Daina snapped. “You!” she jabbed a finger at the gnome. “Go get a healer!” He took off running. As the bartender tried to help Daina staunch the spurting blood, Trucco surprised everyone including himself. Pulling a potent, expensive healing potion out of the pouch on his waist, he impulsively administered it to the injured man. It was mere moments before Daina began to feel the wound knit and close. Breathing a collective sigh of relief, Trucco and Daina began to hear shouts from the street in front of the tavern.
“Hey! Hey, you! Are you a healer! Great, we need a healer…wait, where are you going? Why did you lie to me! Go find a healer!”
Trucco raised an eyebrow. “Did he…did he go find a healer…or…” Daina sighed and sent Trucco to go tell the gnome that the problem was taken care of. They began making their way back to the tavern, gnome — and some kind of mechanical, spider-like contraption — in tow. Back inside, Daina and Torlan asked the woman what had happened. She introduced herself as Leeza, and said that she and the man — whose name was Glib — had been out by the rocks on the southern outskirts of town when they heard a sound like thunder, but no storm had rolled in yet. Heading further up the shore, they’d found a sloop dashed on the rocks, and saw survivors of a shipwreck out in the water…where sharks were circling. Glib had gone in to try to help one, and been attacked by a shark in the process. As she was telling her story, Trucco and the gnome returned, and she gestured to the latter.
“This here gnome came out of the surf too. You know,” she said, leaning forward with a glint in her eye, “that wreck’s still out there. Might be able to rescue a few survivors and get some goodies from those who didn’t make it, eh?” Thanking the woman for the information, Daina extended a hand and introduced herself. Leeza rolled her eyes. “There’s folks out there in the water, you’d best get movin’!” she scolded. Daina, Trucco, and Torlan got moving, accompanied by the Leeza and Glib (now perfectly healthy), with the gnome trailing behind.
The situation was grim. About thirty feet offshore, they could see a ship in the final stages of sinking, and the water full of people and sharks just as Leeza had described. The Mourners got to work. Torlan’s song rang out over the water, infusing all it reached with a burst of energy. Where he’d been feeling uncharacteristically morose not ten minutes earlier, Trucco now found the uncharacteristic altruism he’d extended to Glib extending to the shipwrecked sailors as well. Swimming out into the water, he cut his own hand in the hopes that it would pull the sharks attention from the survivors and onto him instead. It worked a little *too* well for the rogue’s comfort, but Daina wasn’t about to allow his act of selfless heroism go to waste. Swimming out to the group Trucco had bought more time for, she managed to bring two of them back to shore as her dragonmarked flared and its protective shield sparked up around them. His song complete, Torlan joined her, and the gnome — who’d said his name was Patch — fashioned a makeshift raft for people to cling to. As Trucco realized he couldn’t fend off all the sharks he’d drawn to himself, he started swimming further away, leading the sharks further and further from their intended dinner. Seeing Patch struggling, Daina swam out to tow him and the remaining three survivors clinging to his raft back to shore, her dragonmark flaring brightly to envelop all of them before going dark and dull as she felt its power fade.
Safe ashore at last, the exhausted survivors and their rescuers took a head count. They’d managed to save most of them. The first few people they’d pulled out of the water were well-dressed merchants who Glib — who hadn’t partaken in the rescue efforts — was starting to hit up for a reward, and the second group was the crew. Their ship was lost, their captain was dead, and they were wet, cold, and in shock. As Daina, Trucco, and Torlan began helping everyone to their feet to get back to town to rest and recover, one of the merchants introduced himself as Nestor, and told Daina that the ship had sailed from Elysium. Introducing herself in turn, Daina remarked that she had some crew from Elysium, and repeated that they’d best get everyone to an inn as she took her jacket off and wrapped it around Nestor as he began to shiver uncontrollably. It was at that moment that a crowd of well-armed, rough-looking individuals appeared from the southern path and one of them demanded to know what had happened here.
Daina knew trouble when she saw it. Pushing her way through the survivors and planting herself between them and the interlopers, she informed them in a hard voice that these people had been shipwrecked. They were cold, in shock, and she was getting them back to town. Were these newcomers going to help or not? As she spoke, she felt something stir within her and her drained, dull dragonmark began to faintly glow again. The man looked her up and down and snarled.
“We’re not here to help. We’re looking for a woman. Bald lady, rough looking.”
Daina remained as unmoved as her opponent. “If you want to find anyone here, your best bet is to help me get these folks back to town — or if you’re not going to help, get out of my way.”
The man sneered. “No, I don’t think I will.” He pointedly looked past Daina and raised his voice so that everyone could hear. “We’re looking for the bald lady. Any of you sorry sods know where she is?” Torlan advanced to Daina’s side with one hand on his cutlass, making it clear that she wasn’t alone.
“We’ve all just had a tough time of it,” the old dwarf said, echoing Daina’s words. “Why don’t you let us be on our way, and we’ll speak of it tomorrow.”
The man was no more impressed by Torlan than he had been by Daina. He shook his head again. “I’ve got you all here now,” he snapped. “I’m not dealing with it on the ‘morrow. I’ve got a job to do, I’m here to do it, and you all are gettin’ in my way.”
The Mark of the Sentinel erupted in blue light around Daina’s eye as she drew her own sword, bringing it up between her and the crowd of toughs in a defensive stance. “You’ll find your answers back in town” she repeated. Keeping her eyes fixed on the man in front of her, she called back to Trucco to start leading the survivors to the inn. The man’s eyes went wide at the sight of her dragonmark, but its display didn’t have the effect Daina had intended.
“Oh, a big shot from House Deneith?” he sneered. “You’re far from home!”
“I’m right where my home is,” she retorted. “My home’s docked in port, and I’m her captain. So whatever business you have with a handful of people who got shipwrecked and washed up on shore after being attacked by sharks, you’re going to handle it back in town. Trucco, lead them on.”
The man shifted his feet a little, looking mildly uncomfortable. He was clearly not used to being opposed, at least not by anyone who had a fighting chance. “Come on, it’s just a question!” he protested, appealing to the survivors again. From behind Daina, one of the merchants piped up. They had indeed seen a bald lady, and she’d left the ship before it was wrecked, taking a dinghy ashore.
“There’s your answer,” Daina replied, her voice steady and firm. “You can leave now.” Not content to let Daina have the last word, the man snarled at her again. Yeah, he had his answer — was that so damned hard? Daina let out a short, sharp, humourless laugh. Was it so damned hard for the man to not come there and threaten a bunch of shipwrecked civilians? Apparently it was.
He jabbed his finger at her as close as he dared with her sword still up. House Deneith didn’t own Cliffscrape, or anything else in the Lhazaar. Daina was outnumbered here, and should be more careful who she messed with. With that threat delivered, he turned to leave at last, and the party, survivors, and Patch began making their way back to town.
As they walked, Patch told Daina, Torlan, and Trucco that he might have an idea of why the gang Trucco had identified as the Bloody Blades were looking for this mysterious woman. Patch had been on board that same ill-fated ship as the people they had just pulled out of the water, and he corroborated the survivor’s story about the woman having taken a dinghy ashore moments before their ship was destroyed She hadn’t said a word to anyone the entire voyage, until she started begging the captain to let her off, and Patch didn’t imagine that was much of a coincidence — especially since her exchange with the captain was the moment a wave of oppressive melancholy and lethargy fell on the ship. On top of all that, as soon as she left the ship, something had struck it from below, and that was the end.
Daina’s eyes widened at that. She and the others had been feeling off not twenty minutes earlier, all the way over at the tavern. The timeline matched Patch’s account of when that same effect had hit his ship. It it had all come from the bald woman, that meant she was an extremely powerful mage. “Wait,” Trucco said, “that’s why we were all whiny in the tavern earlier?” Patch nodded. “It stands to reason” he deadpanned.
Daina rubbed at her eyes. That sounded like a real big problem, but it was one well outside her wheelhouse and above her pay grade. It was late, they were all exhausted, and this mystery would have to wait.
The next morning, the party was eating breakfast in the common room when four of the sailors they’d saved came to see them. They’d been talking, and since they’d lost their ship and their captain, they needed new ones, and Daina seemed like an honourable sort. She smiled, shook each of their hands, and welcomed them aboard. Torlan and Trucco had managed to recruit three people the previous day as well, and the rogue had one more person he was hoping to recruit as the Crown and Bell’s quartermaster: a gnome by the name of Laurina Starkflight, who owned a shop in town…but who he’d first met in Metrol, working the streets as a thief. Daina stared at her friend, eyes wide at the overly casual revelation that Laurina was an old friend from home. As Daina expressed her delight and insisted that Trucco introduce them, the rogue chose his next words carefully.
“She has, ah, a bit of a temper,” Trucco began, “but you should get to know her before saying anything. She’s good with money, she’s good with finding information, she’s good at all sorts of things!” Daina grinned. If Laurina joined the crew, she wouldn’t be the only one on board with a temper. Maybe her and Rosie would cancel each other out. Trucco grimaced. “It’s not that kind of temper…well…you’ll see.” Leading his friends into a small storefront, he grinned at the old gnome woman behind the counter.
“Laurina!” Trucco cried, opening his arms wide in an attempt to greet her with a kiss on each cheek. “It’s been too long!”
She glared daggers at him. “Fury’s breath!” she swore. “By the Host, what are you doing here? Why are you disgracefully entering my shop again?”
The rogue’s grin didn’t falter. “When was the last time I was disgraceful to you?” he protested. “I am always in my most gracious form!”
Laurina rolled her eyes and put a finger to her cheek as if she actually needed to think about her answer. “Ah, let me think. It was the last time you were here, and you had a job that you botched, and the Bloody Blades got the best of me and took my goods.” As Trucco began protesting his innocence again, she cut him off. “OH!” she cried, her voice growing increasingly loud and shrill, “I forgot the best part! You never came back! That’s the last I saw of you, when I was giving you the order to take care of them! But you didn’t take care of anything, you just left me!”
“Put yourself into my position!” Trucco cried. “If everyone was chasing you, if you were running away, if you could finally board a ship to get away from this fucking place, wouldn’t you take that opportunity?”
Laurina remained unmoved by his pleas. He had no business running away when there was a job to do! “What about the job, Trucco???” she hissed, now seemingly as exasperated as she was furious. Always quick to turn on the charm, Trucco changed tactics and declared again how glad he was to see her. And not only that, but he had the most wonderful opportunity for Laurina as well! Pushing off from where she’d been leaning against the wall watching the whole exchange, Daina did a poor job of stifling her laughter as she appeared at Trucco’s side and decided it was time to put the incorrigible rogue out of his misery. Was he going to introduce them or what?
“I really think that your friend here has turned over a new leaf” Torlan insisted, interjecting on his friends behalf. “Why, just last night he saved many sailors from a shipwreck and—” Laurina’s raucous laughter cut him off, and then a familiar, nasally voice piped up from the back of the room.
“It’s true, Laurina.”
The old gnome spun around and threw her hands up in exasperation at the interloper. “Patch!” she shouted, “now you’re going to insult me by not saying hello?”
“Laurina,” Patch began, moving forward to join the others, “these are my new…friends? Everyone, this is Laurina. My old friend. My old, old friend.”
The woman scowled, but with an affectionate glint in her eye. “Not so old that I can’t kick your ass” she retorted as she caught Patch in a big hug. Daina laughed out loud this time. She liked Laurina already. Taking his cue now that the old woman was in a somewhat better disposition (though not necessarily towards him), Trucco introduced Daina and Torlan, and Laurina waved them to join her in the back as she dropped down behind a large desk. Patch followed, dropping into his own seat on the other side like he owned the place as Daina glanced at him hesitantly out of the corner of her eye. Now that it was daytime, and not raining, and no sharks were circling and no thugs were threatening them, there was something familiar about the gnome that was dancing around the edges of her memory like an itch she couldn’t scratch. While Trucco came clean with Laurina about the reason for his visit and began his hiring pitch, Daina sidled up next to Patch.
“I— I’m sorry,” she began, “do I know you from somewhere? Do you ever hang out at the Silver Eel in Port Verge?”
The gnome looked her over and rifled through his satchel. Pulling out a warforged component, he offered it to her. “You still need any repairs?”
Daina frowned. “What are you talking about? I don’t have any ‘forged parts”
“No,” Patch replied, “but wasn’t that how I helped you during the War? Repairing warforged?”
Daina’s expression went from confusion to shock. So that was where she knew him from. “Sovereigns and Six,” she breathed. “Were you Winch’s mechanic?”
Patch nodded. “I was there.”
Daina found it had suddenly become very hard to form words. “I’m Daina ir’Lizani of the House Deneith 85th,” she told him, her voice quavering a little. “My husband Mazello was the second in command of that company. I remember you.” Patch nodded. He was sorry for her loss; he had suffered many himself. Daina blinked back tears as she broke the news. Patch had been seconded elsewhere when Winch was killed, and it seemed the brass hadn’t bothered telling him before sending him off to his next assignment. Winch had always spoken so highly and fondly of his mechanic.
“There were very few like him” Patch murmured.
Daina held Patch’s gaze. “He died saving my life.”
“Then I’m glad his sacrifice was not in vain” Patch replied.
Three feet away, Trucco was laying it on thick. He’d been unsuccessfully trying to flatter Laurina for the past several minutes, and her patience was wearing thing. What had he actually come to see her for? The rogue announced that he had a fantastic business opportunity for her, and he knew how much she loved business opportunities, and it sounded like her business wasn’t going as well as she’d like it to, and…
Simultaneously cutting off Trucco and interrupting Patch and Daina’s reunion, Laurina gave the other woman a pointed look. “Do you have anything to do with this ‘opportunity?’” she asked. “Because I think it’s going to take forever to get it out of him, and he’s not coming out with it.” Her eyes still wet with held-back tears, Daina chuckled. Trucco, she revealed, had told her that he thought his old friend might be interested in serving as the Crown and Bell’s quartermaster. But she could see that Laurina had a shop of her own, and perhaps wouldn’t be keen to give it up.
But perhaps she would. If the same people the Mourners had run afoul of the previous night were also nipping at Laurina’s heels, maybe this “business opportunity” really was one that would benefit them both.
Behind The Scenes
- Question of the week: have you ever been conned or robbed? How did it happen?
- This week, Savage Tales of Eberron welcomed guest player Ian to join us in the role of Patch. You can expect to hear more from patch for the next three sessions as this new story unfolds!