You are all awakened by a loud clanking noise and the more vigorous rocking of the ship, as Nat and the captain crank the windlass to haul the anchors in. The sun is just cresting the ridge of the Galena mountains to the east, and the air is cool and moist. A light breeze blows from the west.
The other passengers also begin to rouse themselves. A few look like they’ve been up for a while. The farmers and settlers in the stern, especially, look like they have been up for a couple of hours at least—they’ve cleaned themselves up to the best of their abilities given the situation, their gear has been re-stowed, and their belongings ordered in anticipation of reaching land. Now, they bustle about tending to their animals; replacing their water and forage, shoveling the last day’s waste over the rail, and calming those startled by the noise of getting the ship underway. If they’ve noticed that a few coins are missing, none of them has acted upon it.
Eddie’s mother, decked out in the full rose-coloured regalia of a ranking priest of Lathander, stands in the prow of the ship, which has drifted to face the east, and recites her morning prayers. A number of the other members of that group sit or kneel behind her, listening and participating in turn—though the lizard man and the halfling appear to still be quite deeply slumbering.
With the anchor weighed, Captain Donal returns to the aft-deck, unlocks the rudder and begins to tack into the wind, turning the ship north-west around Thorn Island and into the bay.
Amara wakes, snuggled up to a small blue pony about the size of a small cat. It has a flowing white mane which she begins to brush as she wanders the ship. She picks up some leftover chalk and draws on the deck a little stable for her pony to play in. She picks up a piece of Shaddup’s charcoal and fills in details. From a bag tied around her waist she pulls a blue stick and draws curlicues around the edges of her make believe barn.
When the Minotaur wakes up she addresses him, “Mr. Donovan, I’m sorry for being rude last night, I was just so tired I fell asleep. Thank you for being so nice. I would like it if you and your friends helped me find father. Lightning here,” she points to the horse prancing around in the stable. “Says you are nice and that I can trust you.” She smiles shyly. “Maybe father will be able to help you with your adventures.”
Donovan looks hard at the pony. “I’m glad Lightning likes me, but, where did it come from?” He yawns widely and sits up, looking around the deck. He stretches and stands up slowly—looking worn, bedraggled, and much older than his thirty-some years. He stretches again, does a couple of deep-knee bends, twists a few times to pop his back, then does a cartwheel across the deck. “Ah! That’s better,” he says, running his fingers through his hair and beard to straiten them. “Now, tell me about this remarkable friend of yours.”
For the first time in a week, Lyra awoke in the same spot she’d gone to bed. Or close enough to the same spot as the boat lazily drifted as far as the anchor would allow. She placed one hand on the railing and stood in one smooth motion, barely hindered by her long dress and cloak after years of getting used to her mother’s insistence on ‘proper’ attire.
She’s a little surprised that Donovan is spry enough for a cartwheel, or that there’s even enough room for one with several of the settlers still sleeping.
Lyra rummages through her pack for something to eat. After yesterday’s grand entrance, she didn’t think she could wait until they reached shore. Dried apples from somewhere in Cormyr, two days ago. A loaf of sourdough from … somethingdale, the day before yesterday. It would do.
With her own meal finished, she turns her attention to Amara and Donovan. Lyra crouches next to the ‘stable’ and holds out an apple. “Are you hungry? I think I have enough for Lightning, too. I’ve heard that ponies like apples.”
The ship is well under-way by the time Gendry wakes. He throws a long, heavily muscled arm across his face to shield his eyes and tries to roll over, away from the sun, but his horns keep getting in the way. “Frack you dad!” He says to no one in particular. “Bad enough that you curse me with this bull’s head, but now I’m forced to sleep on my back forever?!” He grumbles and rises, trying to work the stiffness out of his neck.
He opens his small belt pouch, hoping to find a bar of soap, but has no such luck. He then takes a look at the sails and notices that the boat is sailing at a good clip and realizes that a bath would be out of the question anyways. His stomach grumbles and he yells over the deck, “Hey Nat, I thought you said we’d be in town in time for breakfast?”
He sits back down and looks at his new companions. “So, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m flat broke right now. If we get into Phlan early, what are the chances we can bust up some of those monsters in time to pay for a place to sleep tonight?”
Still watching the clearly magical miniature pony. “You have a good point Gendry. I’m not sure how long it takes to get a license and commission from the Council, but I suspect it shouldn’t take too long, given the liberal policies—nothing like in Cormyr. Really though, all we need is the license. There are usually enough goblin gangs and general ruffians in the slums and other uncivilized districts near to New Phlan that its not that hard to acquire beer money just by taking a stroll out the gates and bashing some heads. There are also usually a few private opportunities as well—merchants, temples, and shopkeeps who have business that they need done.”
“If we’re talking about going out and getting ourselves in a fight this afternoon, it might help to discuss tactics…” He reaches into his bags and pulls out two large spellbooks. “I have a substantial arsenal of spells and incantations designed to weaken, tranquilize, or incapacitate foes, and always carry several such magics ready at any time. So, I can take care of crowd control—though you may want to hold your advances until after I’ve disabled as many as I can, as such spells are not, by nature, precise.” He looks around at the others.
“Lyra, you mentioned that you could scout for us?”
“Gendry, are you confident enough with that sword of yours to keep any assailants away from those of us who are more mystically inclined?”
“Shaddup, what can you tell me about this ‘flaming chain sword’ of yours?”
Lightning nibbles on the proffered apple and whinnies, then unfurls iridescent wings from her sides and flies around Amara’s head. Amara smiles at Donovan. Lightning is my friend! Like Susalia, but she’s a horse. Lightning and Susalia tell me secrets. Lightning told me how to make myself pretty. She rubs her fingers over her eyebrows, spreading the coal dust, chalk and blue powder on them, then rubs it on her cheeks like rouge. She prances around waving her arms and sings,
Sune will make me pretty,
if I sing this ditty!
All the other girls,
will be jealous of my curls!
Everyone will love me,
and think that I am pretty…
She trails off, and her eyebrows and cheeks sparkle like they’re embedded with little sapphires. “Isn’t Lightning the best?” she squeals.
Everyone on the ship pauses and turns to look at Amara, as if seeing her for the first time. For a moment, at least, she seems to have the undivided attention of everyone on board.
Amara curtsies and says, “I would be ever so grateful for your help in finding my father.” Her eyes brighten and exclaims, “I forgot my uncle is also in Phlan! He’s a wizard! we could look for him!” She smiles brightly.
Donovan does a double-take and smiles, recognizing the components of one of his favorite spells. Despite realizing the effect is magical, he is no less impressed, perhaps even more-so, by the lovely little girl. “Well done Amara! Your uncle isn’t the only wizard it seems.” He bows to the girl. “We would be delighted to help you find your father and uncle, and assist you in any other way we may.”
Gendry nods to Donovan. “I was taught to fence by some of the best pirates in the Dragon Reach, and the added reach from growing a foot doesn’t hurt. I should be able to hold my own against anything we come up against, but I’m used to fighting with a full crew and a couple of bombards at my back, so I’ll need you keep the numbers in check. Luckily this body doesn’t bruise easily.” He pulls a small strip of black cloth out of his pouch. “Also, by the grace of Mask, I am able to perform some small miracles, to heal us or bless our actions. I’ll also volunteer for lookout duty—this body’s not exactly inconspicuous, but it’s senses are superb. I hardly ever get lost any mo…”
He trails off as he sees Amara. He had been convinced that she was just a little girl, but he suddenly realizes that she is the most beautiful creature he has ever seen. He considers proposing to her on the spot—surely she’s old enough… Then he realizes what he’s thinking and remembers that a pirate should never let himself be tied down, especially to a child bride. “Ummm…” His normally genteel tongue stumbles a bit. “Miss Amara. We were talking last night…before you fell asleep, remember. Parents suck. You don’t need your father. Just stick with us, it’ll be perfect!” He pauses, watching her for a reaction, then adds, “Please?”
Shuddup huffs and sighs, “lt’s called a self cauterizing bone saw. Once I get it running a small engine runs a bladed chain around a bar and there’s a trigger to inject fuel onto the chain which both lubricates it and causes it to ignite, but in a fight I typically either use a hammer or an arquebus.” He looks around at everyone either displaying magical abilities or spell books, “Is everyone else here a magic user? You know that magic is dangerous and unpredictable. Science is by far the safer option.”
Lyra interjects, “But magic is science, kind of. The bounds of understanding expanded through rigorous research, and experimentation. It’s just that when an experiment goes wrong it can go REALLY wrong.”
Lyra shuffles her feet. “I haven’t exactly finished my magical studies yet. I mean, I can identify spells pretty well.” Lyra inclines her head, subtly indicating Amara. “But I can’t actually cast any yet. Like I said, I could scout. And sing. And play the harp, although I don’t actually HAVE a harp here.”
She sighs heavily, and thinks for a moment. “If it takes a while to get our charter, there are less glamorous ways to work off lodging. Mending clothes, chopping firewood, helping in the kitchen, or whatever other chores an innkeep or farmer need done. I’m not very good at darning stockings, though.”
She turns her attention back to Amara. “Do you know where your father and uncle are in Phlan? Was he going to meet you at the dock? That’s probably the first thing we should see to.”
The other passengers begin to crowd towards where you are situated, clearly fixated on Amara. The crowd murmurs as they approach, “Awww…” “Dear child…” “I’ll take care of you…” Just as it seems like you might be crushed by the press of adoring would-be parental figures, Nat’s voice rings out over the deck, “Phlan ho!”
His voice seems to break whatever enchantment was laid upon the crowd and they instead turn and crowd against the port gunwale to get a first look at the city which will be their home.
“Thank you Mr. Donovan,” she replies. “That is most gracious.” She curtsies again.
Amara flashes a sparkly, dimple-filled smile at Gendry, “Well…maybe father will let me come play with you while you’re in the city? I’m sure if I had friends to keep me safe he wouldn’t mind.”
Turning back to Donovan she says, “I’m not a wizard like my uncle. I just ask my friends for things and they tell me secrets that help!” She holds her hand out to Lightning, who prances to a stop on her hand. She leans down to whisper to the blue pony, “Remember when we made those pretty fireworks? Let’s show our new friends.”
The pony, rears its legs, whinnies and trots around Amara’s head. A small blue disc about the size of a coins appears in front of its head, and the pony is sucked inside – its shape being distorted as if pulled through a wormhole. The hole collapses upon itself behind the pony’s rump with a small pop.
Amara replies to Lyra, “Father said he or uncle would meet me at the dock. Uncle is an important man here, father says. I think he counsels people or something.” She shrugs. “Father will be there I am sure of it!”
Lyra looks over to where the throng of settlers are crowding, then up, to the gulls that should be wheeling over the docks, then turns back towards the railing, closing her eyes and gripping it until her knuckles turn white, chanting the words to her mother’s divination spells almost like a mantra under her breath to help her focus.
As Valkur’s Wake swings around Thorn Island and into Phlan Harbor, you get your first view of the city. The harbor is surprisingly quiet, the gulls, jaegers, and dolphins that had been following the ship abandon it as it passes into the sound side of the island, and dead fish can be seen floating on the water’s surface. Wisps of smoke drift up from various parts of the city, whether from forge, or chimney, or arson is impossible to distinguish. The skyline is dominated by a massive castle of white stone,. a few spires lean precariously in places, but the whole is still gleaming in the early morning light. Donovan explains that Valjevo Castle is the heart of “Old Phlan”, deep within the monster-occupied sections of the city. Around the castle, the once-great city sprawls broadly, split down the middle by a black, mist-cloaked river. The area of the bay near the river’s mouth is a sickly gray color. The buildings that you can see are in various states of disrepair—with a number of large, ancient mansions visible on the north side of the river.
Donovan directs everyone’s gazes away from the river and the old noble’s district towards a small section of the city, not more than a four or five blocks across, near to the water’s edge, which he identifies as “New Phlan”. A high, wooden palisade wall, reinforced in areas by the remnants of much older looking stone towers, has been erected around three sides, with the fourth being the docks. Several large buildings are visible, and, judging from the scaffolding surrounding most of them, a significant amount of construction is still ongoing. The wall appears heavily guarded, with men stationed in twos and threes every thirty or fourty feet along its top. The docks, which you now approach, look like they comprise at least half of this section of the city, with buildings built almost haphazardly on the piers and pilings extending out into the bay. Even now you see signs of construction happening on the outer edges of the docks, leaving only one or two moorings available—not a problem since you see only a small handful of boats, and no ships other than your own.
To the west, just past the palisade, you see that a massive shanty-town, easily ten times the size of “New Phlan” has grown up, filling what look like some of the oldest and most run-down sections of the town and spilling out of the ruined walls of the old city and along the shore.
As Donovan finishes pointing out landmarks and the boat begins pulling up to the dock, he addresses his new companions. “So, step one once we dock, find Amara’s father and or uncle. Step two, talk to the Council about commissions and making sure we aren’t going to get arrested for carrying weapons or throwing spells in town. Step three, PROFIT! Step four, find lodgings.” He grabs his walking stick and slings his bag over his shoulder. “Actually, before we deal with all that, would anyone like a tour of the city…the safe parts at least?”
Gendry looks at the dead fish in the water, the sludge pouring out of the river, the black cloud over Thorn Island, the fleeing sea-birds, the ruined walls—“Nice place,” he remarks. He turns to Donovan, “Yeah, a tour would be nice. I heard that the Shadowlord has a temple somewhere in the city. If you have an inkling of where it is I could probably score us a place to sleep for the night.”
“Also,” he looks down at his feet, as if contemplating how far away they are, “how open minded are these Phlannars? You said they’d give me amnesty for being a pirate…does that extend to overlooking my head problem too?” He cocks his head and points meaningfully at his horns. “What’re the chances that I’ll start a riot just by stepping off the boat?”
Lyra’s eyes widened as the flying pony disappeared. She’d never dreamed of seeing one so close, even if it was not quite what she was expecting.
Wonder quickly gave way to confusion as birds and dolphin turn aside as the ship approached Phlan. “Surely there should be gulls at the dock, or crows picking over those who have fallen in the attempts at reclaiming the old city. How long has it been like this?”
She looked over at the animals on the ship, waiting to see if they showed signs of unease or distress.
Sure enough, the animals start to cry and kick at their stalls as the ship tacks into the sound. Nat, hands on the mainstay, shrugs. “It’s the river. It stinks of death. The animals just smell it from farther away. You’ll find some birds—rooks, pigeons, and the like—deeper into the city, and in the woods, but they won’t go near these waters.” He points at the dead fish floating on the water. “Parasites or no, no self-respecting gull’d eat that, and no fisherman in his right mind would take a fish outa the sound—like to find yourself sprouting an extra head or something.” He spits over the side yet again. “Cleaning up the river and the sound is top priority for the Council—anyone who could figure out how to do that ‘ll be swimming in gold. Of course, the Council has been saying that since day one, and no one’s managed to do a thing about it.”
As the animals grow increasingly agitated, Lyra’s brow furrows in concern. “Mr. Donovan? You said you have spells to tranquilize, didn’t you? Would you be able to put them to sleep so they don’t hurt themselves?”
Lyra approaches the panicking animals, singing softly to calm them.
Well, it’s not far down to paradise, at least it’s not for me
And if the wind is right you can sail away and find tranquility
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see
It’s not far to never-never land, no reason to pretend
And if the wind is right you can find the joy of innocence again
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see
Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free
Fantasy, it gets the best of me
When I’m sailing
All caught up in the reverie, every word is a symphony
Won’t you believe me?
Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free
Well it’s not far back to sanity, at least it’s not for me
And if the wind is right you can sail away and find serenity
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see
Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free
Shuddup eyes the murky water pondering exactly what’s contaminating it, and begins sketching a pumping system on the deck rail with soot on his finger. “So what’s in the water?”
As the animals begin to calm down, Gendry walks to the rail and takes a big sniff. He stumbles back, nearly gagging. “Talona’s Tits! That’s awful.” He goes to cover his nose, then realizes it takes both hands to cover his large, bovine snout, and looks chagrined. “Remind me to look for a place selling satchets once we have some money.” He turns to Shaddup, “Smells like a mixture of dead fish, sewage, brine, sulfur, and bad vinegar. There must be some monstrous pickle-factory up river…”
Shuddup’s impromptu sketch moves on to include large sequential holding tanks, "Do we have access to any dragons, red or gold would do. Dragon fire makes the best charcoal, really burns away impurities. What’s the source of the pollution? " Anyone who can read Gnomish notices Shuddup writing “Project Purity” on the rail.
Amara runs to the rail looking expectantly towards the docks. A purring noise starts coming from inside her cloak, and she reaches into a pocket and pulls out a small kitten that looks like a miniature blue and white tiger cub. “Oh hello Whiskers,” she exclaims. Amara holds the kitten up to her ear and listens for a moment. She twirls her dress and laughs delightedly and says in a singsong voice:
And now it’s time do do our chores,
And when we’re done something more!
Sing a morning work song,
To help the chores get done!
She begins giggling as little blue lights travel from the top of her head and crawl over her body, cleaning up dust, dirt and grime. They leave a lemon-fresh scent behind. She dances and twirls around her new friends as her little lights begin to crawl up their bodies one by one, repeating the same process.
Lyra smiles and curtsies to Amara as several distinct colors of mud disappear from her boots as the light travels upward. “Thank you, Amara.” She looks at the kitten and curtsies again. “And thank you, Whiskers.”
Donovan shrugs at Gendry’s question, “Given that the Council is willing to let goblins, ogres, and lizard-men in the city, I doubt a minotaur would create that much of a stir.”
He then looks over at the animals, “It seems like you have them well in hand, miss.”
Then back to Shaddup, “If anyone knew what the source of the pollution was, I’m sure the Council would have done something about it by now. If you’re that interested in the problem, maybe we can take a hike up-river and see if we can find whatever is causing it. Of course, that would mean being in close proximity to the river for an extended period of time, and going through some of the worst sections of Old Phlan, AND then tracking through the Quivering Forest. All of which seem like bad ideas at this juncture.” He looks at the plans the gnome is sketching, “What we really need is a boat that could safely traverse the river itself—and some way to protect us against the vapors coming off the water. Then we could just sail right up river until we found the source, and avoid most of the monsters.”
Lyra starts to speak but is cut off by a sharp look from her mother. She sighs, thinks for a moment and then looks over at Donovan. “What about circling around the city and heading upriver, not following the river directly? I understand the old city itself is still quite dangerous, but what about the surrounding area?”
Captain Donal steers the ship towards the wharf, as Nat tosses the mooring ropes to men waiting on the wharf. The ship is soon comes to gentle stop and is tied off. Nat removes a section of the gunwale and secures several planks to make a wide gangway extending down to the wharf. A half dozen men stand below and the settlers begin passing them the crates filled with their belongings, building supplies, and trade goods over the rail. Captain Donal passes the board with the passenger manifest to an officious looking halfling wearing a blue waistcoat. Nat motions that its okay to disembark and the other passengers begin to shuffle down the gangplanks, being careful to give Shaddup and his drawings wide berth on their way out.
The halfling stands examining the manifest for some time, occasionally making little humming noises to himself. Nat comes over to where you are conversing, “You folks are free to disembark at any time.” He walks over and extends a hand to Shaddup and Gendry. “Thanks for your help. If you want that drink I owe you, stop by the Bitter Blade around sundown this evening. It’s in the north-west corner of the new part of town, right by the Parkside Gate.” He then turns and heads down to speak with the halfling and the captain, leaving the five of you on a mostly empty ship.
“Yes, m’lady, the old city is extremely dangerous—adventurers return daily with tales of vicious tribes of gnolls, bugbears, and even giants in the deeper parts of the old city, not to mention trolls, basilisks, and other horrors. Going around isn’t much better though. Attempting to land to the west we’d have to contend with the pirates in Stormy Bay, the Zhentarim, and the various things that prowl the Grass Sea—mostly thri-kreen and prairie tigers. To the east, we’d basically be landing in the swamp, where we’d have to deal with man-eating lizard-folk and the undead that have been coming out of the old cemetery north of the city, not to mention the mosquitoes. They’re worse than anything.”
“I suppose if we wanted to circumnavigate the river and the forest that our best bet would be to sail west. If you don’t mind dealing with buccaneers and slavers,” Donovan looks meaningfully at Gendry, “then we could try landing in Stormy Bay and using Master Gendry’s pater-familias’ reputation to get the pirates to leave us alone. Then cut strait north, sticking to the edge of the forest until we reach the Dragonspines. Borrow a boat from one of the villages along Dragonden Pass, then sail south down the river until we find where the pollution starts. Such a circuitous route could easily take a month or more though.”
Gendry looks at Donovan and shakes his head. “Pirates aren’t a ‘leaving us alone’ kindof lot. My own dad turned me into a minotaur after all. Using his name with the locals would just be asking for trouble.” He shakes Nat’s hand and then follows him off the ship. “How ’bout that tour Don?”
Lyra looks over at her mother, now disembarked and speaking with the halfling.
“There are faster ways, but not entirely less dangerous.”
“Nevermind, Mr. McPillflup. It’s … complicated, and we’d have to know exactly where we’re going first.” Lyra looked around at the settlers making their way off of the docks and moves to disembark. “Amara, do you see your father or your uncle? What do they look like?”
Donovan nods, “Yes, we can finish discussing our plans while we walk.” He rummages in his bags and hands a sheaf of paper to Shaddup. “Here, you might want to make a copy of your drawings. I don’t think we can take the Wake with us.”
He walks down the gangway, looking around at the people on the dock. “Yes, Amara, which one is your father?” Seeing only a halfling and the handful of laborers, he begins to suspect that finding the girls father might take longer than he had planned. He mutters something under his breath and takes a harder look at everyone here.
Shuddup quickly copies his sketch into the paper and follows the remainder of the party down the gang plank whistling a Lantanan sea shanty
Amara stuffs Whiskers back into her cloak pocket and runs down the gangplank, looking around wildly. “Father?” Her voice rises an octave. “Father!?” Then her voice becomes tiny as she sobs out, “Father?” Her eyes get round and her lip quavers, and like a flood gate opening, tears begin streaming down her face. She covers her eyes with her hands, her shoulders shaking. A purring sound starts rumbling in her cloak as if to comfort her. “I don’t see them!” she wails to Lyra and Donovan.
Shuddup taps Gendry on the leg, “Perhaps you should lift her up, sometimes it harder for people like us to find someone in a crowd.”
Gendry stoops down and lifts Amara up onto his shoulder, tilting his head to keep his horns out of her way. “Don’t cry, Amara. Maybe your dad just didn’t get the news that the ship was coming in. I grew up in a port—there isn’t really any way of knowing what day a ship will arrive, and if he’s a merchant, he’s probably too busy to come down and stand on the docks every morning.” He begins shoving his way through the crowd so that she can get a good look at everyone. “Did he give you any kind of address or way to contact him?” Gendry asks, assuming the answer is know and thinking to himself parents suck, why should she even bother.
Amara sniffles, “Maybe…” My uncle is, “Aumry”. She snorts, “Of.” She gasps in a ragged breath, “Umber.” She takes a shuddering breath, “Beholderven”. Sitting on Gendry’s shoulders, Amara pulls Whiskers out of her cloak and holds the cat up to her face to snuggle.
Donovan looks up at the girl and smiles. “I know this Aumry. He’s an instructor at the Training Hall. If we’re taking a tour we should go right past there.” He steps into Gendry’s wake and follows him through the crowd. “Actually, the Training Hall should also be one of our stops if we’re looking for work, since they have a jobs board. We’ll look for your uncle while we’re there.” He thinks for a bit and then says, half to himself, “Aumry. Amara.” He looks up at the girl again, “Were you named after your uncle?”
Amara shrugs. “Dunno,” she says in a little voice.
Lyra and her mother fall in with the others. “Mother will be needing to go to the Training Hall as well, if she’s going to be offering her services as an instructor.”
Donovan scans the crowd with his spell, noticing that most of the dock workers do not appear to have any strong affiliations. The halfling appears to work for the Phlan Council, perhaps as a member of the Port Authority, and the two dwarves, Captain Donal and Nat, appear to be devout worshipers of Valkur, and closely aligned with that church.
Gendry finishes pushing his way through the crowd, the rest of you in tow. Just as you step off the long wharf, Donovan steps into the lead and points to the right, “We are now on Parkside Gate Road, one of the two major thoroughfares through New Phlan. On our right is the Port Authority, which governs all ships entering or leaving Phlan Harbor, and most smaller vessels as well. If we ever need to catch a boat out of town, this is the place to go.”
He turns a sharp left and walks along the docks. “As you can see,” he says, pointing to workers hammering pilings into the bay, “much of the expansion of New Phlan has happened dockside. Due to the monstrous occupation of the old city, most of the settlers have been forced to build their homes out over the water, so the active docks keep getting pushed further into the bay. Luckily lumber is readily available from the forest.” He sweeps an arm to the right, taking in a large pavilion containing an open-air market, “Here you can see the Dockside Market. Most merchants who haven’t yet constructed their own premises can be found either here, or in the market in the slums outside the wall. Like Nat said on the boat, be wary of the fish-sellers, they don’t always put out as far from the river as one would like.”
You walk another few blocks past several wooden tenements and one large tavern, your feet echoing on the boards making up the road. “That’s the Laughing Goblin. Probably the quietest dockside tavern in all the Realms, partly because no ships ever come to call, but mostly because they have a huge hulk of a bouncer. I stayed there last time we made port—the soup’s not bad.” Donovan then takes a right onto another broad boulevard, “This is Traitor’s Gate Road. Parkside Gate and Traitor’s Gate are both on the far west end of New Phlan and open into the slums. I usually prefer to take this way, as the orcs have been known to fire volleys of arrows across the river from the ruins on the north side. I don’t think anyone has ever been seriously injured, it’s a long shot, but you do want to watch your head if your take the Parkside Road. Many of the newer temples are on that side of town—including a temple to Gond which they were just breaking ground on when I was here last.”
Two blocks to the west he stops in front of a large, impressive stone building. All of the stones look like they have been recycled from older edifices, but the building itself appears relatively new and well constructed. “This is City Hall. This is where the Council meets and most of the business gets done.” You see the lizard-man and his companions standing outside the large double doors waiting to get in. “We’ll need to stop by later to get our commission, but for now…” He waves his hand towards the wall beside the gates, where numerous officious-looking scrolls have been tacked up. “…we can at least see what they’re paying for.” He briefly reads off the various proclamations posted.
“Just behind it you can see the House of Justice, where the Council and the priests of Tyr try criminals and malcontents. Punishments range from fines (which are then used to pay adventurers), to being forced to perform a mission for the Council for free, to being thrown over the wall at night with no weapons (for the worst offenses). The Temple of Tyr is on the other side of that, not a great place for fun-loving folks like us, but the Bishop of Tyr is the only one in town able to perform major miracles—in case we ever have need of such.”
Donovan walks you across the square from the City Hall to a large, ornate building, the old stones covered with new bas-relief carvings, and numerous fountains flanking the steps, which are strewn with flower-petals. You hear singing from within, “…that can’t be saved. Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time. It’s easy. All you need is love…” Donovan rolls his eyes, “This, of course, is the temple of Sune.” He hangs a right and walks behind the temple to a long, low building that looks rather haphazardly put together, the walls patched and stuccoed over in several places, “And here, is our destination.” He walks up to the large barn-like doors. “The New Phlan Public Training Hall. Inside you’ll find instruction in all manner of dangerous professions…and hopefully Amara’s uncle.” Several signs have been tacked to the door. He stops and reads those aloud before entering.
Gendry listens as Donovan reads the job postings, then perks up. His head snaps around to look at Amara, almost skewering her in the process. “Hey! Did he say Aumry? That’s your uncle right? Fifty gold a head isn’t quite the thousands we were talking about on the boat, but half up-front will pay for a place to sleep tonight and a good meal before we take on any dangerous stuff…”
Lyra looks over the job postings as well. “Melvaunt? That’s … east? How far is it, and what lies between for guards to cost so much? The graveyard thing sounds easy; from the posting you just have to get close enough to look around and come back alive. Why hasn’t anybody just tried scrying it or something?”
Donovan nods, “Yeah, Melvaunt is about fifty miles to the east. The road between here and Melvaunt is pretty well maintained, since its our nearest trade partner, but they go right through the swamp. The paladins of Iniarv’s Tower patrol the road regularly, but caravans are still attacked by swamp monsters and bands of goblins or ogres from Thar. So, yeah, caravan guards make good money, usually around 20 gold for a one-way trip. This one sounds like two-way—go there, pick up whatever it is, and bring it back—and it seems reasonable that whatever a professor of arcane arts would be shipping would be of greater than average value.” He pauses, thinking to himself, “The promise of payment in magical scrolls is pretty tempting. More spells we could learn, or use in a pinch, would be very nice.”
“As for the graveyard, the coming back alive part seems hardest. I don’t know about the rest of you, but most of my best spells won’t work on ‘formerly living entities’. And we’re not talking just a few zombies here. Reports about attacks from the graveyard always involve packs of ghouls and wights, things cunning enough and hungry enough to attempt to stalk you, surround you, and ambush you, not just shamble forward and let themselves be chopped up.”
Donovan looks over at the temple next door, and a lecherous gleam comes into his eye. “You know, it may only be 3 gold a night, but making friends at the Temple of Sune wouldn’t be a bad thing…”
Gendry smiles, “Getting into Sune’s temple at night could certainly be profitable, though probably not in the way advertised. Seriously though, we have to go find this Aumry guy for Amara anyways, we might as well talk to him and see if he has any more details about the Melvaunt job.” He opens the door and heads inside. “If it doesn’t sound like a good idea, we can always fall black on plan A and go knock together some goblin heads to pay for our supper. Or heck, maybe we can get Nat to take us over to the evil island of creepiness—sounds the Council would pay a ton to know what’s going on over there.”
Lyra seems completely and utterly oblivious to Donovan and Gendry’s intentions. “Helping an order dedicated to spreading joy in the world certainly seems preferable to knocking goblin heads to me.”
Faelana breaks off from the group with little more than a stern look at her daughter, to go see the council about a position in the training hall.
The large barn-like doors open onto a large, open-air atrium. Around the yard, two-dozen students, armed with a variety of swords and dressed only in their street clothes, are sparing in pairs, practicing a variety of parrying techniques. A pair of instructors wander amidst the students. One, an older man stripped to the waist to reveal impressive muscles and a mass of graying chest hair but wearing a bucket-helm with a large crest of red feathers, shoves his way between a pair of sparring partners, such that you’re afraid he’s going to get skewered. He shouts at the students for about a minute, for what you aren’t sure, as they appeared to be doing quiet well, then moves on. The other instructor, a slight man dressed in a monk’s habit, though with the cowl and scapular removed, comes in quickly behind him, praises the students and borrows the sabre from one, showing him an alternative grip and demonstrating a few cuts before moving on.
At the back of the atrium you see a large desk. A sign hanging over it reads “Registration” in common and several other languages, and a bespectacled woman sits behind it, looking up from a stack of papers rather vexatiously at the shouting instructor. Doors lead off from the Atrium to the left and right, and a rather rickety looking staircase runs along the far wall, leading up to a balcony surrounding the atrium, from which a number of other students appear to be watching, with more doors off of that.
Donovan waits until the shouting man is at the far end of his circuit of the room, then walks and strides up to the monk. “Excuse me Brother, do you know where we might find Professor Aumry of Umber?”