The thoroughly unsatisfying conversation with Zograthy left the party somewhat adrift. After some discussion, they decided to visit the less savory drinking establishments in the dockside parts of the city. They hoped they could meet somebody who could tell them something, anything, about Natalya. Or the disappearances. Or the Tower Girls. Or anything more useful than what Zograthy had said. What they got was the following, in rough order of frequency:
“I don’t know nothing.”
“I ain’t tellin’ you nothing.”
“How the hell would I know?”
“Get that goblin out of here!”
As the day wore into evening, and evening into night, the lack of results began to wear on them. Then Zelcor had an idea. “Let me talk to them. I’ll intimidate them into talking!” he suggested.
“You’re three feet tall,” replied Theodore. “You can’t intimidate anybody.”
“Yes I can. I can intimidate a halfling. And it just so happens I know a place that has a halfling barkeep.”
“Well, then what are we waiting for?” And off they went.
The place in question was the Rusty Anchor, and the halfling in question was Torius Kunderlink, who was even shorter than Zelcor and had a bench sitting behind his bar so he could stand on it and (almost) look his human patrons in the eye. He was a particularly friendly barkeep, quick with a story and more than happy to listen to yours. Even if Torius wasn’t privy to any deep dark secrets, he would at least be up-to-date on all the latest rumors.
“What can I get you?” Torius asked cheerfully as they strode up to his bar. Then he noticed something. “Um, I’m sorry. Is that a …”
“Goblin. Yes.” said Millicent. “He’s a pet. He won’t hurt you.”
Scratchy didn’t really enjoy being called a pet, but he and Millicent had found that this was the most expedient way to get people to stop pointing out that there was a goblin in the room.
“We don’t need any drinks, we need information.” Zelcor began, climbing up on a stool.
“Information? About what?” answered Torius, his tone decidedly less cheerful.
“What do you know about Natalya Vancaskerkin?”
The color drained quickly out of Torius’ face. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”
“Really?” answered Zelcor. “I doubt that very much.” He put his hands on the bar, and tiny flashes of light began to dance around his fingers. “Don’t try to run,” he said as Torius backed away. “It’ll just convince me you have something to hide.”
Torius paused, then looked around furtively at the mostly-empty bar. He stood very still for a few moments, as if weighing his options in his head, then replied, “Act like you’re ordering a really complicated drink.”
Theodore and Millicent gladly complied, inquiring about all the most exotic liquors they could think of. Torius took a bottle off his shelf, then walked back to the bar and onto his bench. Pouring the liquor into a glass, he whispered, “What are you trying to do? Get me killed? If the Sczarni even think I told you something about one of their own, I’d be dead!”
“We just need one woman, and no one will know the information came from you.”
“I don’t know, and you’re putting my life in danger. She probably just got taken like the others.”
“And what do you know about that?”
“Uh, nothing,” said Torius, stirring the liquor.
Torius took a long time stirring the liquor in silence, then said, “Ok, you didn’t hear this from me. But they say there’s a ship coming in tonight at midnight. The slavers will load their prisoners on it, then take them away to be sold.”
“And where is this supposed to take place?” Zelcor asked.
“Right in front of the Puffy Pelican. Now go away and leave me alone!”
“Well, thank you very much for the drink.” Zelcor said loudly. But as he left Torius had one last thing to say.
“Um, you didn’t pay for that?”
Theodore flipped him some coins. For information and drinks, it was worth it.
Leaving the bar, the party made their way over to the Puffy Pelican. Years ago, it had been a popular spot for sailors, but now it was just another empty and abandoned building in a particularly forlorn section of the docks. If you were going to pick up a shipment of slaves under cover of darkness, this was a good place to do it.
“Let me scout ahead,” said Scratchy, “I’m sneaky!”
“Alright,” answered Millicent, “But be ready to help out if things get violent.”
Scratchy agreed and snuck off into the darkness. The other three were about thirty yards from the front of the building, crouched behind some old crates and hoping they could get a glimpse of whatever was going on. They could see the faded picture of a Pelican above the door of the building, and some feeble light leaking out the windows, but no sign of a ship.
“Do you hear anything?” Zelcor asked, but no one had. It was almost midnight, and if there were a slave pickup planned, it was one with no ship, and few slavers. Just as the three of them were discussing the oddness of it all, Scratch returned.
“One person, not wearing armor,” he reported. “He has a magical light in the center of the room.”
And now it was time for a plan. One person wasn’t typically very dangerous, but anyone who was hanging out at the site of a rumored slave pickup was someone you wanted to learn about. The party decided that Scratchy would go back and try to loop behind the mysterious stranger. And the three non-stealthy ones? They would just walk in the front door.
“Not the most brilliant plan, but it’ll do,” Zelcor said, just as Scratchy scooted off into the shadows once more. After waiting a decent interval for Scratchy to get into place, the others began the march to the Puffy Pelican. It only took a few minutes to reach the door, but it seemed like hours. Their boots striking the ground seemed loud as thunder, and they all felt sure someone was watching them, about to ambush them, but it couldn’t be helped – that was the price of not being sneaky.
Finally, they reached the door. Millicent took two deep breaths, then pushed it open. She saw nothing inside, so she and the others stepped into the Puffy Pelican. As soon as all three of them were inside, however, they were greeted by a cone of swirling, multi-colored light. Though there was no force, she fell down, unconscious, as if struck. Then Theodore fell unconscious as well. Zelcor recognized the same color spray spell he had used against the Pugwampi earlier, then he too fell down.
From where the cone had originated, a thin man in tattered noble’s clothing materialized out of the darkness. His quarry defeated, he felt this was a good time to gloat. “What a bunch of morons!” he began, “What a bunch of ignoranamuses! You have to wake up pretty early to outsmart old Plutivarch!” What he did not know was that Scratchy was behind him emerging from the shadows behind him. He also did not know that Zelcor was only pretending to be unconscious. He had been able to resist the color spray and was only waiting for the proper moment.
The battle that followed was short and swift. Zelcor fired off a color spray of his own, while Scratchy shot two arrows. The color spray failed to affect Plutivarch; the arrows did not. Soon the would-be captor was lying on the ground, bleeding and begging for his life.
“Please don’t kill me!” began Plutivarch.
“We won’t kill you,” said a now-revived Theodore. “Just tell us who you are, and where are the slavers?”
“There are no slavers! It’s just a story I made up! I figured if I spread it around then sooner or later some Pathfinders would show up, and I could sell them to the Aspis Consortium!”
“What?” said Millicent, “so you’re just a lone wizard?”
“He’s not a wizard. He’s a sorcerer.” added Scratchy, “A wizard wouldn’t be dumb enough to come up with this plan!”
They all had a good laugh, but then Theodore got serious. “So who’s responsible for the disappearances, then?”
“I don’t know! It wasn’t me! I was just trying to make a little profit! Please don’t kill me!”
Theodore sighed, but they didn’t kill him. In the end they took him, bound and gagged, back to the Pathfinder Lodge, where Sheila Heidmarch agreed to have him taken to the City Watch. It turned out that there was a price on Plutivarch’s head, which the four party members split with the Pathfinder lodge. They also kept some potions and some gold that Plutivarch had been carried.
Zelcor looked at their little haul and said, “Well, not much information, but at least we got paid this time.”