The party spends their first evening in Penshin attempting to gather intelligence from around town. Diego and Banagher visit an upscale supper club (though Diego steps out for nearly two hours without remark), Alton and Vladimir a working-class tavern, and Moriel and Poppy sneak across town and stake out the University of Invention for a few hours. Unfortunately, nothing particularly useful is gleaned from the time.
In the dead of night, everyone is stirred by a knocking at the door of the safehouse. The party discovers a small wooden box left on the doorstep with an attached note. The note instructs parties unknown (perhaps those who had been squatting in the safehouse in the months since the underground abandoned it) to deliver the box of “tomatoes” to an individual one night hence. Opening the box reveals the “tomatoes” to be diamonds, nearly twenty-thousand sovereigns worth. A very drawn-out debate begins over whether to follow the instructions on the note or to keep the…tomatoes.
The next morning, after having decided to deliver the…tomatoes…as if they were the intended recipients of the box, the party acquires some basic foodstuffs to get by a few more days. An aggravated Vladimir goes for a walk, Gronk pursues. Alton checks for job postings at the university, but finds none. Diego and Banagher, on their way to the docks to collect information on the troop transports out in the bay, encounter Diego’s cousin Pedro, who informs him that his mother, whom he thought dead for many years, has instead been alive until just the past month. It would seem that the merchant prince who destroyed Diego’s family, Count Richileau, took his mother and sister Isabel in and has used them harshly in the intervening years. The three turn from the docks and head back to the safe-house.
The place looked as if someone had been using it recently. Another thing worrying Moriel was that since they had told the halflings virtually everything, there was a chance that the enemy might learn of the place as well. And their plans. It did not seem to worry the others, though. But since noone else seemed to worry about it, there had to be a reason for it. Maybe it was a human thing, something that she just did not understand about them.
As they ate, they discussed plans on how to get information from the university. Moriel thought she had an idea, one that would allow them to ask plenty of questions, and hopefully get a tour of the university. She and Banagher could simply walk up to the university and claim to be looking for texts concerning the elves. She went over it several times in her head, looking for weaknesses. Though not foolproof, she thought that she and Banagher would be able to pull it off. And any strange or silly questions could be explained by, well, her being elven, and not familiar with human customs. The major flaw, apart from someone actively looking for her, knowing her description, would be that noone would have seen her and Banagher enter the city.
They seemed to ignore her when she suggested it, and decided instead that she and Poppy should go scouting. Moriel tried to tell them she had no idea at all how to remain unnoticed in a city, and Poppy had even less knowledge, most likely. They seemed to think that hiding in a forest was the same as hiding in a city. The mere idea of going out alone with Poppy scared her silly.
Not that her objections mattered any. Not even when she admitted she had never seen a bigger crowd than the tournament back in Hillcrest, until she came here. The thought of going out among all those thousands of people while trying not to be noticed was a terrifying one. She did not really think they were trying to kill her and Poppy off; in that case, they went about it in a very stupid way that could endanger the mission as well. But she did not really understand why sending her out with Banagher, the man whose goddess seemed to be holding her protective hand over him, and even sometimes extend it to the rest of the team, was too dangerous, while sending her out with Poppy, who would most likely get half the city chasing her if anyone saw her, was any safer.
She was about to tell the remaining people that she had no intention of going outside to scout when she noticed Poppy scampering out the door. She felt like screaming in frustration. But the choice between going into the crowded city and leaving Poppy to wander the city on her own was not really a choice at all.
It was even worse than she had feared. The shadows, the smells, the sounds were all wrong. In the forest, she would have know what the sounds, or the lack of them, meant. Here, everything was foreign. The shadows were darker, somehow. And sharper, in more ways than one. The sounds, every time she heard a shout, she cringed, thinking someone had noticed them. There were voices singing, yelling, a constant buzz of sound that threatened to deafen her. And then there were the smells. The city stank. Of garbage, rotting food, vomit, urine, human wastes. How anyone could live in a place like this was beyond her comprehension.
Somehow, more due to luck than skill, they got to the university without being noticed. They found a small hidinghole with a decent view to the gates, but in Moriel’s opinion, that did not help much. She had no idea whatsoever how they were supposed to figure out whether the guards had any routines in just a few hours. A job like that should take weeks, maybe even a month. Sending her and Poppy off for this was a very high risk thing to do, with no real potential of anything vaulable result.
When they headed back a couple of hours later, they had seen nothing at all of value, but Moriel was getting increasingly worried about Poppy. The halfling was acting more and more irrationally, and it seemed to her the humans were not doing anything at all to discourage it, in fact, they sometimes seemed to encourage it.
Safely back in the hideout after a nerve-wrecking return, Moriel retreated to one of the corners. Not that it helped, of course, most of all, she wanted out of the city. But here, she was at least out of the way, and she could see the whole room. Maybe it was the fear that did it, maybe it was the feeling of the city closing in on every side, or maybe it was just the distance, but she could feel the forest calling her, almost as if it was physically tugging at her.
The loud banging on the door jerked them all awake. Moriel stayed in her corner, not bothering to join the others who milled around close to the door. She very much doubted that the enemy would knock first if they came calling, and since noone started yelling outside, she figured it was not the law either. Most likely, this had some connection to whoever had been using this hideout before them.
The dwarf opened the door, and brought inside a box with a note. It was not sealed, and so, of course, they opened it. And then everything seemed to fall apart.
Why were the humans so obsessed with these gems? Pretty, yes. And she supposed the money could come in handy, but not at the cost involved. Whoever had left the gems there for them to deliver would not just leave them. They would keep an eye on the hideout until the job was done. But several of the others, Poppy among them, wanted to keep the diamonds. Chances were keeping them would just antagonise another, until now possibly neutral, group, making their job even harder.
One of the humans called a vote, and though she did not really see the point – the damage was already done – she voted that they hand the diamonds over to whoever was expecting them. The vote was a tie, however, and the human suddenly changed his mind, deciding that the decision would be his. She shrugged mentally; that fake display of working together as a team and listening to the others made about as much sense as anything else the humans did.
Then the others went back to trying to find a way to keep the diamonds, while still pretending to hand them over. Moriel shut them out. She just hoped that the decision, whatever they ended up with, would not ruin everything. It would be too ironic if they got killed because of greed, after actually having made their way all the way to Penshin.
Action Report: Soutland Mission: Entry 5
We’ve established ourselves in Penshin somehow. It’s tentative at best and we’ve already stumbled into something troublesome, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Sent the team on short investigations and a scouting run on the target, nothing panned out and I still haven’t got a clue what to do about the fleet headed north. I need a plan, badly and I have nothing.
To top it all off, we got a package last night full of some real valuable cargo. I let it come down to a vote and the bastards tied, so I had to make the decision anyway. We’re going to deliver the package and hope it gains us some favor with whoever we’re delivering it to. Maybe we’ll get lucky and find some people willing to become heroes for a nation they’ve never met before.
I just hope nothing else comes up while we’re trying to get this done.
A disgusted Halfling sits upon the dirty upstairs floor of the hovelish-hideout and grumbles under her breath.
I donâ€™t have freedom!
I donâ€™t have shopping!
I donâ€™t have pretty clothes!
I donâ€™t have an entourage!
I donâ€™t have a clean place to sleep!
I donâ€™t have the back of a large elephant to ride upon!
I havenâ€™t gotten anymore gold!
I havenâ€™t found any clues or leads!
Worst of all, I havenâ€™t gotten my cinnamon sticky bun!
The things I do have seem inadequateâ€¦.the gold, the adder, the blanket. Well everything except my most mysterious of hats. Even my Moriel is inadequate. She shakes with fear. I will watch her closely.
The big city is not what I had hoped for. Having to hide puts a damper on things. Things just arenâ€™t going according to plan!
I will have to find other ways around things. I am Poppy, and where I am, opportunities materialize.
The Halfling eventually is lulled to sleep by her own words of self-praise and musings of miraculous events that she seems to think her existence alone generates.