A Duel Endeavor
Vencarlo watched the nobles spar with one another. Years ago he opened the Orisini Academy at the heart of Old Korvosa, but only recently had it drawn the interest of so many of the young scions of the city.
Wearing meshed-wire masks, members of all of the houses taunted and ribbed one another in heated faux battles. Dressed in padded white outfits from head to toe, embroidered family crests helped distinguish the nobles from the commoners (and one another). Vencarlo watched as two matching hippogriff symbols, the sign of House Endrin, approached another couple, one bearing the lion insignia of House Leroung and the other a rook symbolizing House Jeggare.
"Show us what Gasta is marrying into, and we shall show you what she is about to lose," taunted Dervis, the younger of the two Endrin brothers.
"And let me show you what Leroung is about to gain!" cried Rosa Jeggare to her partner and fiancé.
As Rosa fought with Cecil Leroung, the rapiers of the two Endrin brothers met. Before long, Cecil had defeated his future wife and Jericho his younger brother. Jericho taunted, "Leroung can have you, Rosa, but let's see how he does against me." Before long, the Endrin cadet had the better of naturalist.
"He cheats!" complained Dervis of his older brother. "He spends his 'free time' practicing with the Sable Company!"
"And these taverns you frequent don't provide you with the same opportunities, brother?" The nobles removed their masks as Denargo, the senior student, announced the day's training complete.
In the ramshackle streets outside the Academy doors, a towering Shoanti guard played cards with another man no larger than one of the Shoanti's arms.
"Hit me," smiled the halfling.
"Cade, if you keep saying it that way I will." Abel dealt the halfling another card.
"Yes! I got a Black Jack! So do I win your money now?" he smiled.
"No, you need more than just a black jack for a blackjack."
Felin, a heavily armored guard for House Arkona, watched as he stood attention alongside guards from the other houses. "Blackjack, bah, a good thing the real Blackjack is far rarer."
"No love for the infamous 'Hero of the Downtrodden'?" asked the halfling.
Another guard, a young man wearing prestigious uniform of an Acadamae graduate, glared at the halfling. "Perhaps he's considered a hero by the likes of the self-proclaimed 'college' of Theumanexus, but for House Ornelos and any true wizard he's a simple troublemaker at best and a traitor at worse."
The halfling put his hand brushed his hand near his spell component pouch for a moment and then grabbed a piece of candy instead. "Ha! For someone so 'simple', he's evaded the likes of even the Acadamae's 'self-proclaimed' specialists in divination since the Cousin's War!"
The doors to Orisini's soon opened and the halfling and Shoanti slowly stood up as the other guards bowed to their nobles. Dervis approached Abel and patted him on the back. "Cecil's little friend didn't take all of your money today did he? He's quite a card player from what I've heard."
Abel looked confused for a moment and finally shrugged. "I was just passing the time until we could pound a few drinks."
The halfling greeted Cecil. "What will it be today, Master Leroung? Orange blossoms? Jasmine? Violets?"
Cecil looked at his bride to be. "Roses, thank you Cade." The halfling cast a spell and soon the young couple was clean from head to toe, leaving a subtle flowery scent.
"You may have to speak your arcane words again after we hear what Abel has to say," Dervis remarked as he turned to the Shoanti. "Tonight we shop! What places do you have in store for us?"
"There's a few places nearby. The Sticky Mermaid's great for fightin'. The Traveling Man is always packed on Oathday when they prepare the Feeding, but any other day it's near empty. There's the Eel's End..."
"We are NOT going to Eel's End," interrupts Cecil.
"...probably isn't for sale anyway. Then there's Jeggare's Jug."
Dervis laughs. "Jeggare's? Sounds like our job is already done, just ask your father to hand over the keys Rosa."
"I've never even heard of that place," replied Rosa. "I may not be as familiar with Old Korvosa as Dervis, but I'm sure my father would have mentioned it if it belonged to our house."
Cecil added "I'm not sure why we need to pick a place in Old Korvosa anyway. It's too close to the Arkonans for my comfort, and it's almost as dangerous as the Varisian camps outside the city walls."
"Yes, it suits my brother perfectly," remarked Jericho.
"Let's give the Sticky Mermaid a try first," Dervis said, following Abel deeper into the slums of the city.
A few minutes later the party arrived at the docks along the eastern end of the Isle of Old Korvosa. They approached a filthy, ramshackle building bearing the sign of a lewd half-woman, half-fish only to find the tavern was closed.
"Was lively a few days ago. Place gets shut down a lot though." The Shoanti banged on the door before the nobles could respond.
An old sea dog opened the door. "What is it? I told 'em I'd have the money at the Church of Abadar in the morning."
Dervis replied, "We're not here to collect for the Guard. We were thinking about..."
A horrible stench rolled over the party, and nearly everyone became nauseated. As others held their noses, Cecil and Rosa began sniffing the odor to determine its nature. "Salmon eggs perhaps?" Cecil asked of Rosa.
"I'm not sure," she replied, "but it is fermented and most foul. I don't like the smell or location. Can we please leave?"
Dervis frowned for a moment and then replied. "Yes, I was hoping to celebrate our purchase, but you can't do that with a closed shop. How about Jeggare's?" The nobles ignored the sea dog as he cursed and closed the door behind him.
Although still a few blocks away, music and cheering could already be heard from the Jug. The oldest surviving tavern in Korvosa, its sign displayed a jug on fire. Inside the temperature rose considerable, the loud noise and very crowded area making it nearly impossible to communicate. While Rosa and Cecil seemed very uncomfortable, the rest of the party simply seemed cautious. Dervis threw caution to the wind, however, and abandoned his friends immediately to step onto the stage. He joined in the chorus of a song about backwater Varisians and a devilish horse who tormented them.
With Cade not far behind him, Abel approached the tavern. Despite his booming voice, the barkeep couldn't understand a word from the Shoanti. He put up six fingers, hoping for an equal number of drinks. The barkeep's eyes lit up, and he put down a wooden cup and poured in something from a bottle. Putting on gloves, he reached underneath the bar and brought out six peppers and placed them into the cup. Several people watched the Shoanti and his drink, including Dervis and Jericho who had sidled next to him.
As the barbarian knocked back the concoction, his eyes began to water and his checks began to twitch. With all nearby eyes now on him he let loose a fiery belch. Flames shot from his gullet and he nearly scorching the locks of the Endrin brothers. The barkeep yelloed out 'Bucket Brigade!'. A bell rang and several patrons threw buckets of wet slop onto the two incognito nobles. The bar had a good laugh, including Dervis and Jericho.
The night went by with more drinking and merry making. As the noise died down, the party eventually had a private discussion with the bartender.
"I had no idea of your identities my lords. Please forgive me!" The bartender began to sweat, bearing the face of someone caught committing murder.
Rosa reassured the man of his safety. "My father, Tourin Jeggare has entrusted us with looking into local business opportunities. Could you tell us more about your tavern?"
The owner introduced himself as Parwin Smit, the owner of the Jug for the last twenty years. He claimed it was the first drinking establishment in Korvosa, surviving the Great Fire relatively unscathed. It was named after one of the founding patrons of the city, Montlarion Juggare, for his frequent stops to purchase Chelaxian fire whiskey.
"Interesting, we'll need to add a bottle for the Museum," Rosa says skeptically.
Dervis, now very intoxicated, confirmed the story with a tune called the Jug's Jeggy Jig, and shames Rosa for not knowing the history of her own House. He then gave the barkeep a hard pat on the back. "Gentlemen, I think we've found the right place!"
Not Playing with a Full Dock
A month passed, the party now owners of a busy tavern in Old Korvosa. News that the Jeggares had formally taken ownership of the Jug quickly spread throughout the city nearly before it hit the ears of Rosa's brother Pelt Jeggare. The soon-to-be brother-in-law to the young Endrins, Pelt met the party at the tavern to view their new 'hobby'. "I'm not sure I like this. This is where you wanted to put our money? I see little future here."
"But it's so much fun, and it's a great place to mingle with the hard workers. They know how to have a good time!" replied Dervis.
"If our houses are to work together, Dervis, you're going to need to clean up your act," his brother said. "I don't think the rest of our company has set foot in this place since you purchased it. It's a dive."
Pelt agreed. "My father isn't the only one with money. I'm interested in expanding our company, giving it a formal name and investing in something...a bit more prestigious."
Cecil turned to Pelt. "You studied shipbuilding at the University, perhaps investing in a shipyard?"
Pelt thought for a moment. "Yes, our cousin Morise runs the Twin House Shipbuilding Company. We could invest in that as partial owners."
Jericho smiled. "It's an obvious choice. Leroung's halfling labor and Endrin's naval contracts with the Sable Company have kept both of our families wealthy for years Pelt."
Dervis laughed. "I may not know much about shipbuilding, but I do know about rumors. After making the distant voyage to Vudra, the Arkonans are earning many of our father's former contracts amongst the lesser dock families. They even have the ear of King Eodred. Word is that his gold-digging wife, the young Queen Illeosa, wants to spare no expense on Arabasti ships."
Cade bit his tongue. Though he never met his father, he knew he worked on a Leroung ship. Abandoned at a young and forced to work for a cruel dock tyrant, Cade has dreamt of one day meeting his father. "We do use up less food and water, but the Queen probably thinks of our kind as 'bargain labor'."
"Well the old king's sweet young trophy doesn't know a thing about sailing then," said Pelt. "Halflings are very dexterous, and the luckiest sailors I've ever seen."
"They're also less likely to mutiny," says Cecil. "No offense Cade."
"None taken," replied the halfling wizard.
Jericho continued to entertain the new opportunity. "Let's check the shipyard."
The party planned a date to meet at the shipyard. At an earlier time Morise Jeggare introduced Pelt to Pirano, foreman at the Twin House Shipyard. "I heard from Lord Tourn Jeggare that you may be investing in our yard. We are working on several ship contracts right now, but times are pretty slow this week. It's the Riverwind Festival."
"Giving the boys some time off to party?" asked Dervis. "They can always go on a journey to the Jug!"
"Sorta," explained Pirano. "When the winds change for the week of the Riverwind, strange things happen and it spooks the men. They may not admit it, but I can sense it. Jittery fingers can turn into lives lost in this line of work, so we pick this week to give the men fewer hours."
"What type of strange things?" asked Jericho.
"Have you heard of the Shoanti Princess?" asked Pirano. "She's a ghostly apparition that's been sighted a few times at night, but only during the Riverwind."
All eyes turned to Abel. Rare in Korvosa, Shoanti are usually shunned by most of the populace for their violent history with the city. Abel shrugs.
Dervis, "If I may...." Dervis began to spin the tale of a young Shoanti servant girl who was killed during the early Shoanti Invasion. Also known as the Great Fire, this event caused a backlash against many innocent Shoanti previously living in the city.
"This is probably just a superstition," said Jericho, "but if there is any truth to the matter I'd like to investigate. "
Dervis laughed. "I supposed it is a 'naval threat', eh Sable Company cadet? But it sounds like a good story to me. If we see nothing, we can inspire courage amongst the workers, laying this myth to rest. Harder workers, better boats, more money eh?"
Cecil added "This would be an interesting endeavor. Camping along our dock during the Riverwind. Rosa and I have always wanted to examine the nocturnal habits of Korvosan marine life up close. "
"I could collect a few samples for the Museum, if you'd like to write a paper for the University, dear," Rosa replied.
Each night the company met at the docks and waited up all night for signs of an otherworldly spirit. Dervis spent most of his time dueling with his brother (and drinking), Abel and Cade played cards and the engaged couple explored what little sea life they could safely find. Pelt remained nearby, doing what little work he could around the dock.
On the fourth night Jericho spotted her. Wearing torn servant clothing, a ghostly Shoanti woman hovered just beyond the dock, over the water. She floated closer, looking down at the water and the dock.
Instinctively, Jericho took up his bow to defend his homeland. The arrow flew through the ghost. The party huddled together as Dervis sang a soothing ballad of peace. It had the opposite effect on the ghost however, and in a rage she floated towards Jericho and nearly frightened him beyond his years. Finally, Abel called out to the former woman, asking her for peace. The ghost looked confused, and reached out to Abel.
"Father, you have finally come back, but now only to destroy!" The ghost touches Abel, and soon the large Shoanti nearly slumps to the ground as his strength is drained.
Jericho tumbles behind the ghost and brandishes a strange weapon that no one has seen before: a saber with jagged edges along the blade. He sawed and sliced at the ghost, who had now turned towards the ranger and screamed in a high pitch.
The halfling finished waving his hands in the air and threw a shimmering silver bolt at the ghost. It hit unerringly and caused her to dissipate.
"Why did you fire on her!?!" cried Cecil.
"That was my reaction. She was an undead menace and now she is gone," he replied.
"For now," said Rosa as she held Cecil for comfort.
The party continued to watch over the dock for the night, and finally for the week. Word quickly spread to the dockworkers, and their praise and thanks returned to the ears of the party.