There was a long moment of silence. Gata looked out at his visitors patiently from behind his oversized desk, his spindly fingers steepled beneath his sharp, jutting chin. Renauld turned to his associates with a sigh.
“I vote that we just do this task for him,” he said quietly.
“Yeah,” replied Yannar with a nod. “Fair enough.”
“I can’t think of any other way we’ll get this information,” Fade muttered. Renauld nodded and turned back to Gata.
“Okay,” he sighed. “We’ll do it.”
A grin that was somehow grotesque broke out over Gata’s knotted face, and he let out a delighted chuckle.
“Brilliant!” he exclaimed. “Brilliant. Okay. What you need to do is, you need to go down into Lower Dura and see my friend Skakhan. He’ll show you exactly where to go.”
Gata offered the party directions to where they might locate Skakhan and sent them on their way. Upon exiting Gata’s shop, Yannar turned to the rest of the party.
“We should rest up before we head out,” he said. “What do you think?”
“Can we afford to wait until tomorrow?” Renauld asked.
“I’d benefit from waiting,” Fade explained.
The party searched the streets until they found a relatively welcoming halfling hostel. Zanros seemed reluctant to enter, but Yannar flatly told him that it was this or sleeping on the street. Zanros begrudgingly accepted this ultimatum, and everyone retired to their rooms, having paid the five silver fee.
The next morning, everyone awoke fully rested. Fade performed muted arcane preparations, while Renauld offered reverence to the window dressing outside his room.
Once they had donned their armour and were suitably prepared, the party left the hostel and wound their way down through the layers of Sharn, eventually reaching Lower Dura. The narrow streets were filled with gnolls, hobgoblins, goblins and other shifty looking people. Unlike the upper levels, which were magically illuminated by various everburning torches and glowing orbs, most of the lights in Lower Dura had been stolen or broken, leaving the streets dark and uninviting. The party also noticed that it was warm here, much warmer than the upper levels of Sharn.
They made their way down one dark, narrow street, illuminated by sporadic, sputtering torches giving off pallid pools of light and foul smoke. Even so, rough and dirty people crowded the narrow corridor, and the smell of sweat and sewage permeated the stale air. The tunnel eventually opened onto a large chamber where a throng of goblins, humans and shifters gathered around a small pile of garbage spread across rotting blankets.
“No pushing, no pushing!” one of the goblins yelled. “There’s always enough room at the Rat’s Market! Come on! Come on!”
From the description they were given by Gata, the party easily recognised this as Skakhan. Zanros offered to open negotiations with the goblin merchant.
“Are you going to threaten him?” asked Renauld. “Or are you going to ask politely?”
“I only do one of those,” Zanros said eagerly.
“I’ll go and talk to him,” hissed Renauld with a grimace. The druid stepped up to the goblin and asked if he was Skakhan.
“I certainly am!” croaked the goblin companionably. “Are you here to by some of my exotic wares?”
“I’m afraid not,” Renauld said patiently. “We were told by a goblin named Gata Gum that you have a package belonging to him. Is that true?”
“No, no!” yelled Skakhan, an offended look on his face. “I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick! I do know where it is, though. I know the fellow that has it.”
“And who might that be?” Renauld queried.
“Well… um… I’m sure you’d like to buy some of my exotic wares,” Skakhan said. “It’s certainly very dangerous; they could help you on your way! Just one gold piece per item!”
“I think we’re fine,” Renauld snapped. “Just information, thank you.”
“Certainly!” Skakhan cried agreeably. “Although, you see, I have many customers here. I’ll get back to you later, if you just let me serve these people first. Okay?”
At this, Zanros strode impatiently forward and tossed out a gold piece. Skakhan deftly caught it between swollen, warty fingers and in a flash, it was gone.
“You want to go to the E-213 valve cluster, just down there,” explained Skakhan hastily. “Head to the end of the corridor and you’ll find a large steel door. He’s through there. Okay?”
The party continued on their way, following battered metal plates which pointed to various maintenance tunnels and valve clusters, finally reaching valve cluster number E-213. Zanros entered first, followed by Renauld, Yannar and finally Fade. The duct was extremely dark. From up ahead, the party could hear the sound of running water.
As he walked into the valve cluster, Yannar lit a hooded lantern, which showed the mouth of another tunnel, along which water flowed. As the party walked into the tunnel, they noticed a metal grating blocking one end of the corridor. Zanros looked around, noticing several shadowy shapes in the darkness that he could not identify. The party headed on in single file, moving alongside the water, until the walkway ended, giving way to more running water. Renauld stepped to the edge of the walkway and thrust his staff into the water, revealing it to be no more than one foot deep.
Before the party could proceed, however, two shadowy figures emerged from around a corner ahead. Yannar held his lantern forward to reveal a pair of stocky, hairy men – shifters.
“What the hell are you doing down here?” barked the shorter of the two.
“We just want to move ahead,” Renauld said, holding up his hands defensively.
“Yeah?” the shifter snarled. “Maybe we don’t want to let you through here. Maybe we live here. You’re in our house! What are you doing in our house?”
“We just want to pass without altercation,” Renauld declared. “We mean you no harm.”
All of a sudden, a booming, gravelly voice growled from behind the party; “I think we should kill them.”
“Yeah?” chuckled the talkative shifter clearly amused. “Why’s that, Shank?”
The party turned to see one of the shadowy figures unfurling, straightening up, becoming something huge. There was a loud scraping sound, and seconds later, the huge, metallic form of a warforged stepped into the light of Yannar’s lantern.
“I think we should kill them,” the warforged repeated, producing a large, pointed sword, “‘Cause I ain’t killed anything today.”
Grinning, the lead shifter pulled out a jagged dagger. Renauld looked desperately at his associates, grip tightening on his staff as he did so. Yannar quickly unsheathed his sword while Zanros unhooked the warhammer from his belt. Fade’s metallic arm began to pulse and shift, quickly turning into a light crossbow.
“That warforged?” Zanros growled with a lunatic grin. “Mine.”
Bellowing loudly, Zanros charged at the warforged with Yannar close behind. Before they could reach it, however, the warforged plunged its sword forward. Fade, at the back of the party, managed to twist out of the way, but the huge sword still struck her in the side. Yannar stepped past her as she as she staggered to one side with a pained grunt, and swung his sword at the warforged, only for it to clang ineffectually off of the warforged’s metal hide. Once out of harm’s way, Fade muttered a few words, and all of a sudden, a shimmering, ethereal armour appeared about her.
Meanwhile, Renauld pulled out his sling and loaded it in one swift movement. He brought the sling around in a smooth arc, but the stone flew wide and splashed into the water. The shorter shifter cackled at this, before jabbing at Renauld with his dagger. Renauld leaped back, and the blade narrowly missed his gut. Seeing this, the taller shifter let out a horrible, bestial roar and charged forward, claws sprouting from his hands. However, after a couple of steps, the shifter slipped and crashed to the ground in an explosion of water.
The warforged turned its attention to Yannar, swinging its sword at him and striking him solidly on the chest. Yannar staggered backwards, gasping and clutching his impacted armour. Zanros stepped into the gap, a determined expression on his face. He lifted his warhammer, which seemed to glow with an eldritch light, and swung it at the warforged, but somehow, the beast managed to lumber out of the way. Fade, in the meantime, hurried over to Yannar, and, seeing that the paladin was injured, reached into her spell pouch and brought out a handful of iron which she threw over Yannar. Yannar let out a surprised yell and began to grow, his limbs expanding and his body swelling. His sword also began to extend, until both it and Yannar were twice their original size.
Further along the walkway, Renauld lunged forward, swinging his staff at the shorter shifter, who managed to swiftly dodge out of the way. As he moved, the shifter swung his dagger at Renauld, but the druid managed to parry the blow with his staff.
Yannar looked around, confused to suddenly be over ten feet tall. Unperturbed, the warforged thrust its sword forward, and the blade sunk into one of the enlarged chinks in Yannar’s armour. Yannar let out a howl of pain and rage, and, blood trickling from the wound, swung his now enormous sword at the warforged. The huge blade crashed down on the warforged, taking it to the ground.
“Kill stealer!” Zanros yelled, before stepping forward and bringing his glowing warhammer down on the warforged’s metal face. For a second, the warforged seemed to glow with an inner light, before slumping to the ground.
With the warforged disabled, Fade turned to the shifters and wildly fired off a crossbow bolt, which flew wide and clattered into the darkness. The shifters briefly turned their attention to Fade, and using this to his advantage, Renauld commanded Martin to attack the taller shifter. The crow sprung forth in a flurry of wings and claws, slashing at the shifter’s neck and face, and tearing off strips of flesh. Renauld swung his staff at the shorter shifter, but once again, the agile man ducked out of the way. Martin continued to claw at the taller shifter, whose face was now a shredded mess of blood and hanging flesh. The shifter’s howls of pain were suddenly cut short, as Yannar’s huge sword plunged into the berserker’s body. The shorter shifter turned around, a horrified look on his face, as Yannar twisted his sword, tearing the taller shifter in half.
Zanros’ glaive suddenly stabbed into the shifter’s side. The shifter roared in surprise and pain, and staggered back, clutching his bleeding side. Fade levelled her crossbow at him and unleashed a bolt, which flew straight and true, sinking into the side of the shifter’s neck. The shifter let out a choked gasp and fell to the ground.
The party regrouped, surveying the scene of the battle. Renauld took Yannar, now returned to normal size, to one side, and laid his hands upon the paladin’s wound, using druidic magic to heal them. Zanros trudged back to the body of the warforged and inspected it. He did not recognise the creature, but found ten crossbow bolts on its person, which he gave to Fade. Renauld searched the corpses of the shifters, taking five gold pieces from each.
Yannar picked up his lantern, which he had dropped during the fight, and the party continued into the next tunnel, splashing into the water with aplomb. A short time later, they came across a metal door. Zanros grabbed hold of the door and dragged it open with a horrible metallic screech. On the other side was a very dark shaft cut into the earth. Fade stepped up to the fissure and tossed an illuminated sunrod into the shaft. The glowing rod fell for less than a second, before landing on the ground below and illuminating what appeared to be a vast cavern.
The party carefully made their way into the shaft, noticing that were many beetles scuttling about. Renauld heard the scuttling of a great many insects in the darkness, and noticed that there were walls and buildings in the deep shadows of the chamber. Zanros moved ahead, with the rest of the party following. As they progressed, Yannar lifted his lantern to better illuminate their way, but accidentally shone the light directly into his face, and with a yell, dropped the lantern.
All of a sudden, both Martin and Locke began to squawk and flap about in a panicked manner. Renauld listened to his crow’s manic cawing for a moment, before turning to the group and sombrely telling the party that there was a huge, potentially dangerous swarm of beetles off to the left. The party readied their weapons, and then carefully made their way to the crumbling ruin to their right.
Renauld grabbed a handhold on the wall, but it crumbled in his hand. Yannar also tried, but the stone fell apart under his foot. The group surveyed the building for a second, before Fade made an impatient noise and slapped Zanros on the chest.
“Your grappling hook, you fool!” she exclaimed. Zanros glanced at Fade with an embarrassed grin, and then pulled his grappling hook from his belt. With a grunt, he hurled the grappling hook upwards. It soared over the lip of the building and landed with a clatter. Zanros wound the coarse rope attached to the hook around his fist and pulled hard, only to hear a loud crack. A large chunk of masonry fell from the roof, but Zanros managed to leap out of the way. The intricately carved but badly weathered piece of roof hit the floor and shattered in a cloud of dry, grey dust.
“This ain’t safe!” Zanros complained. “Let’s go through the beetles.”
“That doesn’t sound safe either!” Fade snapped. Before the pair could argue further, however, the whole party heard a hideous rustling sound. Dread in her stomach, Fade turned to see an enormous mass of black beetles scuttling towards them. Uttering a draconic word, Fade thrust her hands forward and a flume of fire sprayed out. It swept over the beetles, incinerating those on top but leaving those underneath unscathed. They surged forward, swarming over Fade’s legs up to her knees. Fade let out a shriek and charged backwards, kicking her legs and shaking off beetles. Zanros began to run along the wall of the ancient building, closely followed by Yannar. Renauld commanded Martin to swoop in and attack the swarm, but the crow managed only to pick off a few of the bugs. The beetles washed over Renauld, nipping at his legs and biting through his leggings. Seeing this, Fade turned around and fired a crossbow bolt at the swarm, but it landed ineffectually in the centre of the mass of beetles. Renauld charged after his associates, slapping at his legs, with Martin flapping after him.
The party skirted around the enormous, crumbling, when suddenly, Zanros and Renauld both stopped in their tracks.
“Dire rats!” Zanros cried. Seconds later, Fade and Yannar saw the hulking forms of two huge rats charge out of the darkness. As quick as a flash, Zanros stabbed out with his glaive. The blade sunk into the closest dire rat’s flesh, slipping between the jagged plates of bony armour on its hide. A gout of blood spurted out, and with a piercing shriek, the rat skidded to the floor. Zanros yanked his glaive free of the rat’s flesh, but as he did, the second rat leaped up and bit him on the arm. Green foam bubbled up about the rat’s jaws, and Zanros let out an agonised howl.
Renauld rushed forward and struck the rat with his staff. The rat dropped from Zanros’ arm and turned on Renauld with a growl. Zanros swung his glaive at the rat, but the blade connected with the rat’s bone plates with a clack and bounced back. The rat scampered towards Renauld, but suddenly, a ray of swirling icy particles hit the rat. The rat lurched to one side, shaking itself furiously, before turning on Zanros, from whom the icy beam originated. With the rat distracted, Renauld urged Martin forward. The crow swooped forward, dragging his claws across the beast’s face. Discoloured blood spattered to the floor, and the rat turned on its tail, squealing horribly.
Zanros, Renauld and Yannar all swung their weapons at the rat as it scurried away into the darkness. Fade scowled after the rat, then turned to the party.
“Are you okay?” she asked Zanros.
“Yeah,” he grunted. “I think so.”
The party wandered into the darkness until they came across a building that was more or less intact, with an unbroken, closed door. Zanros and Yannar identified the building as an ancient temple dedicated to Onatar, god of flame and the forge. Zanros opened the door and stepped into the large main room of the temple, which was littered with broken pews. At the end of the room was a font, which was full of seemingly clean water. Renauld was the last one into the room, closing the door behind him and slipping his staff into the iron rings on the door in order to seal it.
The group decided to rest for a couple of hours in the relative safety of the temple. While Fade, Zanros and Renauld prepared their bed rolls, Yannar refilled his waterskin from the font. Renauld inspect ted the nasty wound on Zanros’ arm, and used his magic to heal it as best he could.
Fade walked over to the font, and after a cursory examination, announced that it was somehow enchanted. Zanros wandered over and put his hands in the water. He closed his eyes, and after a moment, excitedly said that the water in the fountain had healing properties. Both Fade and Zanros emptied their waterskins and refilled them with water from the font.
The group rested for a couple of hours, before heading back out into the vast cavern. Yannar refilled and relit his lantern, and shone it around. Some way behind the church was another building, which seemed in equally good repair. The party walked towards this building, but as they approached it, Fade spotted a crevice in the ground ahead, about ten feet across. The party stopped at the lip of the rift, and Fade sent Locke ahead to investigate the building. After a moment, the raven returned with the news that the only visible opening in the building was a hole in the roof.
Zanros produced a length of rope from his backpack, and, with the rest of the party holding it, lowered himself into the deep fissure. As he climbed, however, he caught his foot on an outcrop of rock and tumbled into the whole, landing painfully at the bottom. He got to his feet, shakily, his breath coming out in sharp, shallow gasps. Once he had composed himself, he swung his grappling hook around and tossed it out of the other side of the chasm. It hit something, and Zanros gave it a tug. It held firm.
With a smile, the elf pulled himself out of the crevice, and moments later, the party saw him emerge from the other side. Renauld was the next across, and aside from a stumble on his way out of the cleft, it was a smooth journey. Fade went to follow, and Yannar stepped up to her.
“I’ll help you down, if you want,” he offered.
“Alright,” Fade said with a smile. “But mind where you’re putting your hands.”
Yannar grinned, and slowly lowered Fade into the gap. As the rope moved through Yannar’s hands, Fade lost her grip, and tumbled into the ditch. She twisted her ankle, and cursed in elven. Renauld and Zanros both winced, while Yannar looked oblivious. Fade irritably grabbed onto the grappling hook on the other side of the chasm and clambered out.
Yannar tied the rope around a broken pillar and made his way into the chasm, catching his foot on the same outcropping of stone that Zanros did. He landed in the bottom of the pit, but thankfully, his armour spared him serious injury, and none of his associates saw as they were attending to Fade. An abashed Yannar hauled himself onto the other bank. Fade and Zanros, both feeling the effects of their respective falls, drank from their waterskins and felt magically rejuvenated.
Zanros gathered up his grappling hook as the rest of the party studied the hefty double doors in the building in front of them. Zanros pulled on the iron ring in the centre of one of the doors, but it did not move an inch. An impatient scowl on his face, Zanros hurled his grappling hook towards the roof of the building, and once it was firmly secured, began to climb up the wall.
As he did, Renauld wandered around the building. Propped against the next wall was a crudely made wooden ladder.
“Uh… there’s a ladder this way,” Renauld said.
“I didn’t hear that,” muttered Zanros, who continued to obstinately scale the stone wall. Renauld, Fade and Yannar ascended the ladder and met Zanros atop the building. Renauld peered into the hole to see a tall hobgoblin pointing a crossbow at him. He ducked back just as a flaming crossbow bolt flew out the room below.
Yannar stepped to the hole in the roof and pointed his shortbow into it, but the hobgoblin had retreated somewhere into the shadows. With an annoyed grunt, Yannar leaped into the hole, landing gracefully on the floor below. He looked up to see the hobgoblin hastily reloading his crossbow in the corner of the room. Suddenly, Martin flapped through the hole, swooping at the hobgoblin. The hobgoblin dodged to one side, batting at the crow with his crossbow. Iron particles drifted through the hole, and Yannar looked up to see Fade, a wry smile on her face as she sprinkled the iron onto the paladin below.
Once again, Yannar began to grow, his frame quickly filling the room, his head almost poking out of the hole in the roof. Panicked, the hobgoblin fired his crossbow off. The bolt flew straight and struck Yannar under the arm. Yannar cried out in pain, the sound amplified by his enlarged vocal cords. Martin, recovered from the blow he received, flies at the hobgoblin, clawing at his neck and cheek. The hobgoblin swept his crossbow at Martin again, but this time the crow managed to fly out of the way.
Breathing heavily, clutching the wound in his side, Yannar swung his huge sword at the hobgoblin, but in his struggle with Martin, the creature moved out of the way. Yannar growled in frustration and pain. Renauld suddenly jumped down, but landed awkwardly and collapsed to the ground with a yelp. Sensing his master’s distress, Martin pecked at the hobgoblin’s face, tearing a chunk of his ear away. The hobgoblin howled, dropping his crossbow and clapping his hand to his bleeding ear.
Seeing that the hobgoblin was injured, Fade muttered a spell and thrust a hand at the hobgoblin. There was an explosion of orange light in the goblin’s face and it staggered backwards, tears squirting from its eyes. Zanros leaped nimbly down into the room as Martin continued to claw and peck at the hobgoblin’s face, ripping off a strip of the hobgoblin’s cheek. The hobgoblin screamed and staggered backwards. Fade closed her eyes and muttered a few words. As she did, a glowing bolt of energy materialised in her crossbow. Once it was fully formed, she opened her eyes and quickly fired the bolt into the building. It flew down and sunk into the hobgoblin’s chest, piercing the heavy armour there.
Zanros stepped forward as crackling electrical energy began to spark around his hand. He reached out, but the hobgoblin stepped backwards, thumping against the back wall of the room. Face bloodied and twisted in rage, the hobgoblin pulled a curved sword from its back and swung at Zanros, slashing the young elf across the chest. Zanros stumbled backwards as Fade fired another crossbow bolt into the room. It hit the hobgoblin in the leg, causing the creature to howl in pain and hop backwards.
As the hobgoblin hopped backwards, Yannar swung his sword around, striking the hobgoblin in the side and driving him into the wall. Zanros lurch forward, driving his hand into the hobgoblin’s chest. The hobgoblin’s eyes flew wide open, and he slumped visibly, dropping his sword.
The hobgoblin began to mutter in a harsh, throaty language. Fade, a goblin speaker, listened, and relayed to the group that the hobgoblin was pleading for mercy. Yannar reached up and gently brought Fade down into the building, seconds before he began to shrink down to his regular size. Renauld instructed Martin to halt, and then turned to Fade.
“Ask him why he attacked us,” Renauld said irritably. Fade spoke to the goblin in its native language, then turned to the party.
“He says he was defending himself,” Fade muttered. “He says we came to kill him.”
The hobgoblin coughed deeply, and thick, dark blood bubbled from his mouth. Yannar dropped to one knee and checked the goblin over.
“What’s his name?” Yannar asked. “And why would we want to kill him?” Fade spoke to the goblin again, for longer this time. The rest of the party heard both Fade and the hobgoblin mention Gata’s name, and then, the goblin pointed into an adjacent room.
“He says that Gata is a cowardly goblin,” Fade said, “and that the package is through there.”
“Ask him if that package is going to cause us any harm if we pick it up,” Renauld said. Fade spoke to the goblin, then turned back to Renauld.
“He says he didn’t exactly have time to prepare any traps,” she murmured. Zanros headed through to the other room, and moments later, came back holding a small wooden box.
“The paper was torn off,” Zanros reported.
“Ask him if he knows anything about Daveth,” Renauld said to Fade.
“Daveth, or someone named Q,” Yannar added. Fade and the goblin exchanged words.
“He says he knew Daveth!” Fade exclaimed. “But he doesn’t know where he is.” Renauld shook his head and trudged towards the door, pulling the wooden bar from it. Fade spoke to the goblin again, pointing her crossbow at him as she did. When she was finished, she stood up, hands on her hips.
“What did you say to him?” Yannar asked.
“I said we’d let him live,” Fade replied. “That his business is his business. But if he moves before we leave, we’ll kill him.”
“Fair enough,” Yannar said, sounding impressed. The goblin muttered to Fade, before picking up his sword. Yannar’s hand fell to the hilt of his sword, but Fade held up a hand. Yannar paused, as Fade leaned down and took the goblin’s sword from him.
“He’s giving us his sword,” Fade explained, “as a token of good will.” Zanros stepped over and gently touched the blade of the sword.
“It’s magic,” he whispered. Fade and Yannar both looked impressed at this, and Fade attached the sword to her belt.
The party exited the house and stood for a moment, looking at the crevice ahead of them. Zanros looked down at the box in his hands and sighed.
“How are we going to get over this?” Zanros asked. “I don’t want to drop this thing and break it.”
“Just be very, very careful,” Yannar suggested.
“Can’t you put it in your backpack?” Renauld asked.
The hobgoblin called from outside, in common; “Try using ladder! Heh heh heh! That what I do!” Yannar shook his head with a bemused smile and walked over to the ladder that was propped against the house. He carefully took the ladder in his hands, carried it over to the ditch and laid it across. One by one, the party crossed and walked back to the temple, where they rested for a few hours. Renauld healed Zanros’ wounds, while Yannar drank from his waterskin. The party then made their way through the cavern, bypassing the swarm of beetles and navigating the water-logged valve cluster to reach the outside world.
By early evening, they had reached Gata Gum’s shop. The party entered one by one and plodded up the stairs to the goblin’s office. Zanros set the box down on the desk and stepped back. Gata picked up the box and looked down at it with a look of distaste.
“Hey, where’s all the packaging gone?” he hissed.
“It was ripped off when we got it!” Zanros exclaimed defensively. Gata lifted the box and opened it, peering inside for what felt like hours. Finally, he closed the lid, set the box down and looked at Zanros with a sigh.
“Yeah, okay, alright then, fine,” he grunted. Then, he seemed to brighten. “Anyway, thanks. Thank you for this. It’s much appreciated.”
“Alright,” Fade said coolly. “Now the information.”
“Oh yeah!” Gata exclaimed, as if he had completely forgotten. “Well, you see, the thing about that is, I’ve just been so distracted recently, you see… um… I’ve got this problem, and I’m sure that all of you, as civic-minded citizens, will feel the same as me. There’s this gang, you see, and they’re distributing these drugs right in the bazaar. I mean, so brazen faced! Just… think of the children, would you? These terrible, drug-pushing people, and… if someone could make them go away, that would be brilliant!”
Renauld stalked forward, an incensed look on his face, and leaned over Gata’s desk. Gata recoiled, a look of terror on his face.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! Okay, then! How about this? I’ll tell you what I know now, about Daveth, and then you look into my little problem, I’ll look into your problem some more, and then we all come to a nice agreement! How does that sound?”
“All you know,” Renauld hissed. “Now. Then we’ll see.”
“Okay then!” Gata wheezed. “Here’s what I know. Before Daveth left, he said he was getting out of Sharn. He said things were being smuggled in by coast, and that instead of being in Sharn, sorting through all his business, whatever, he’d do it out on the coast, and then get someone else to mule it in. Um… quite where on the coast, I don’t know. He just said there were swamps. That doesn’t exactly narrow it down, but that’s all I know. If I knew any more, I would have sent someone to whack him already!”
“So, someone’s smuggling in for him?” Renauld asked. “What’s being smuggled in?”
“What isn’t being smuggled in!?” Gata cackled. “I mean-“
“We don’t need the list!” Fade interrupted.
“Be honest,” Renauld said. “Are you going to be able to find out anything more useful if we go and take care of these drug dealers?”
“Maybe,” Gata cried defensively. “Maybe. I might. I might be able to find the guy that’s bringing the things in. I might be able to find out where he’s coming from. Now, that would narrow it down! ‘Cause at the moment… we’ve got coasts all around us!”
Renauld turned back to his associates, his face impassive. Gata leaned forward, watching the party anxiously.
“What do you say?” Renauld asked.
“I want the package back,” Zanros replied instantly.
“At the moment, he’s the only lead we have,” Yannar said, ignoring Zanros.
“He has moderately given us what we needed,” Fade mused.
“Yeah,” Yannar agreed. “He’s given us more information than we had.”
“Okay,” Renauld muttered, turning back to Gata. “We’ll do it, then. But you better have some information for us when we get back.”
“Okay then!” Gata said enthusiastically. “Here’s what I know about my problem! Okay? Right. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Boromar clan, they’re this bunch of feral halflings. They’ve come in with the official Guild houses and they’re up to all kinds of bad things. Here’s a little history lesson for you! See, the Boromar clan, they used to be the top dogs in Sharn until recently. These guys, they call themselves The Daask, they’ve come in from Droaam… they’re all kinds of monstery guys! You know, gnolls, minotaurs, whatever! They’ve been putting the squeeze on the Boromar and they’ve been going down in the pecking order… until recently, they’ve got some kind of new wonder drug that everyone wants to get their hands on. It’s mostly been resigned to the lower cogs and what have you, but it’s sort of made its way up. I don’t know who’s done it, but, anyway, I’m informed that there’s a couple of halflings in the bazaar. It doesn’t narrow it down, I mean, there’s… what… two hundred stalls out there? Anyway, I tell you what, if you have a word with The Daask, I’m sure they’d know exactly who you need to go and… put out of business, if you will.”
“Where are they based?” Renauld asked.
“Well, you should be able to find them somewhere in Lower Dura,” Gata explained. “I mean, you’ve been there, you’ve seen them all. Shouldn’t be too hard to find them! If they don’t find you first…” Renauld shot Gata a look. “I’m kidding! I’m kidding!”
“Do The Drask take kindly to unannounced visitors?” Fade queried.
“Well, that depends entirely on what kind of business proposition you’ve got for them,” Gata chuckled. “I mean, if you went in there saying you’ve got a couple of Boromar problems you were willing to eradicate just for information, I’m sure they’d be all to happy to oblige you.”
A cynical look on her face, Fade leaned forward and glared at Gata. Gata met her gaze for a moment, before looking away, sweat pouring down his mottled brow.
“What aren’t you telling us?” she asked.
“Okay, whoa, whoa!” Gata cried, squirming in his chair. “Maybe if you just went looking for them on the street, you might attract some unwanted attention. Um… maybe, maybe go to Khyber’s Gate, that’s where they’re mostly based. I think there’s an old church there where they hang out. That way, you’ll definitely go right to the source!”
“Why are you trying to get us killed?” Renauld growled.
“I ain’t getting you killed!” Gata exclaimed. “I’m an information broker by trade, you see, that’s what I do! I mean, you’re not much of a businessman if you give everything out for free, right? Right?”
“I’ve had enough of this,” Renauld hissed, turning on his heels. “I’ll wait outside.” The changeling stalked out of the office, slamming the door behind him. Gata looked after him nervously, before turning to the rest of the party.
“That’s everything I know, guys,” he said fawningly.
“You sure?” Zanros asked.
“Absolutely!” Gata replied.
The party reconvened outside Gata’s shop. Fade took the sword that the hobgoblin gave her from her belt and studied it for a moment.
“I want to know exactly what this does,” she said.
“Let me see,” Zanros offered. He placed his hands on the flat of the blade and closed his eyes in concentration for a moment. “It’s a minor enhancement. Slightly stronger than a normal sword.”
“In which case…” Fade muttered, holding the sword out to Yannar. “Do you want to use this?”
“Thank you!” Yannar said with a smile, taking the sword and attaching it to his belt.
The party walked along the streets as the sun sank below the rooftops of Sharn. Eventually, they reached Khyber’s Gate. It was surrounded by gnolls and other monstrous creatures, all of whom regarded the four travellers suspiciously they approached the dilapidated church. Standing in front of the large wooden doors was a hulking green troll. The party cautiously approached the troll, led by Yannar.
“We’re looking for The Drask, who have a problem with the Boromar halflings,” he ventured. “We’re looking to help.”
The troll regarded Yannar for a moment, before turning around and opening the heavy church doors. The troll leaned in and grunted something to someone inside. After a moment, the troll turned back to the party, and beckoned them in with one shovel-like hand.
The party hesitantly walked into the breezy, spacious church. The huge room was full of towering creatures, all of them at least a foot taller than the party’s tallest member, Yannar. The troll at the door gestured towards the end of the aisle, and the party headed down. At the end of the aisle, pawing over a table loaded with books and scrolls, was a hefty, obviously female, ogre. Yannar stepped over to the ogre with a genial smile.
“Hello!” he said. “We are looking for some information. We heard about these halflings that are giving you some problems-”
“Oh, it’s you,” the ogre muttered, looking at Yannar with little interest. She picked up a scroll of paper, looked it over, and chuckled. Yannar shot a nervous glance back at his associates. “You’re after some halflings. Is that right?”
“Yes,” Yannar replied. “That’s right. The Boromar gang.”
“How did you know that?” Renauld asked.
“I see,” the ogre said with a wan smile. “Just because we’re monstrous, we’re not supposed to know things?”
“Not at all,” Yannar cried. “We’re just surprised, because we’re unrelated to your organisation.”
“Yes, that’s normally the impression people get,” the ogre said. “I’ll leave that for you to figure out yourselves. Okay, these halflings. You want the Fockle brothers.”
The ogre handed Yannar a scrap of paper, which said, in scratchy, spidery common, “DIVEAK AND JAMGRETOR FOCKLE.” The note also said that Jamgretor owned a store in the bazaar selling various homemade remedies, and offered the halflings’ address.
“By any chance, do you know anything about Daveth Portos?” Yannar asked. “Or anything to do with Q?”
Yannar held out the letter from Q. The ogre snatched the piece of paper, glanced at it for a second, then looked impatiently down at Yannar.
“I can’t help you with that,” she said. “Daveth? Yes, we know about Daveth. We ran him out of town. We won’t be seeing him around here again.”
“Seeing as though we’re doing this for you,” Fade said nervously, “is there any chance you could pass on any information you might have?”
“Like I said, we ran him out of town,” the ogre answered. “That’s all we care about.”
“Do you know where he went?” Yannar asked.
“No,” the ogre said coldly. “He’s gone. So are you.”
“Okay,” Yannar said hastily. “Thanks for your help!” The paladin turned and quickly walked away, followed by the rest of the party.
“If anyone asks,” the ogre called after them, “I’ve never seen you, you were never here. Okay?”
The party hurried out into the street, and the troll slammed the church doors closed behind them. Zanros glanced back, only for the troll to fold its arms and glare at him menacingly. Zanros turned away, and the party made their way quickly away from the church.