After their long night, the party slept most of the day before heading back to the dockside bars. As profitable as the encounter with Plutivarch had been, it still hadn’t brought them any closer to finding Natalya, and it was back to asking questions in the few places they hadn’t been to. As they were walking out of one place, Scratchy said under his breath, “Don’t look, but somebody is following us.”
Millicent resisted the urge to turn her head and asked, “Should we confront him?”
“No, you go on to the next bar. I’ll see what he’s up to.” And as soon as they turned a corner, Scratchy darted off into the shadows.
Theodore couldn’t see anybody, so he just continued on to the next place, then the next. There he thought he saw something out of the corner of his eye, but when he turned to look there was no one there.
“What? What are you looking at?” asked the man he was talking to.
“No, nothing. Sorry, but you were just telling us about the disappearances?”
“It’s Nidalese slavers, I tell ya.”
“No, there are no slavers. That’s a false rumor. We found the guy who planted it.”
“What? Well, he was lying! It’s definitely slavers! Anybody who says different is probably a slaver himself! Hey, maybe you’re a slaver …”
Theodore rubbed his eyes in frustration. “I guess we’re done here,” he said, and then he, Millicent, and Zelcor left the bar.
Coming out into the street, the tail on them was clumsier this time, more careless. There were three of them, all trying to be nonchalant about walking through the alleyways of the dockside area. And still Scratchy was nowhere to be seen. Presently the three investigators had to turn onto a dark, narrow street. It couldn’t be helped; if you were going to get anywhere in the dockside area, sooner or later you were going to have to make your way down a narrow street. That fact didn’t make the experience any less worrisome, however, especially when there were three largish individuals following you.
Once they were halfway down the street, the ambush began. It started with a man in front of the party, trying to distract them. “Hey! You guys!” he said loudly, “I’ve been looking for you! You’re investigating the disappearances, right? I wanna talk.” As he did so, the three thugs behind the party reached for their short swords and prepared to charge in. It was an excellent ambush, except for the fact that it was totally expected.
From out of the darkness one of Scratchy’s arrows shot out and struck the rearmost of the would-be ambushers. He first cried out in pain, then pulled out his sword and charged toward the now-conspicuous goblin. His two friends also drew their weapons and began to move on Theodore, Millicent, and Zelcor, but they were immediately met with Zelcor’s color spray spell and collapsed, twitching, to the ground. Theodore, his morningstar out, advanced toward the man in front. “So you want to talk? Well, talk!” he demanded. The thug, it turned out, was suddenly not very interested in talking, or fighting for that matter. He turned and ran, with Theodore in hot pursuit. Millicent, for her part, decided to go and help out Scratchy. The goblin was great at sneaking around, but not so stellar at face-to-face combat, and she figured he would need her help in staying alive.
And yes, he did, but not much. Millicent engaged the thug attacking Scratchy, keeping him from stabbing the goblin, then the man collapsed to the ground, victim of a sleep spell cast by Zelcor. The gnome turned around, saw the last thug about to escape, and cast a sleep on him, too. Then he clasped his hands together and congratulated himself on the four unconscious prisoners the party had acquired.
When the thugs came to they found themselves bound and gagged in Plutivarch’s old hideout, the Puffy Pelican. Three of them were in the main room, being watched over by Scratchy and Millicent. The fourth, the one who had originally spoken during the ambush, was in a separate room, staring up at Theodore and Zelcor. The gnome may have been only three feet tall, but when you’re tied up and lying on the floor, even someone three feet tall is plenty intimidating.
“Ok, let’s try this again,” began Theodore, “First, to show you I’m not your enemy, I’m going to heal your wounds.” Theodore reached down and let the power of Nethys flow through him, causing the man’s bleeding to stop and the gashes in his skin to fade away. “Now I’m going to take off the gag, and you’re going to tell me who you are and why you attacked us.”
“You’re dead!” the man shouted as soon as the gag was off. “You’re so dead! As soon as they find you they’ll kill the lot of ya!”
“How? By attacking us? You already tried that, remember? Now, who’s they?”
“Wreckwash Blades, and that’s all you’re gonna learn! If you don’t let us go they’ll so cut you up! And … hey, what’s he doing?” The man was looking down at Zelcor, who was measuring his feet.
“Don’t worry about him.” said Theodore. “Now, why are the Wreckwash Blades interested in us?”
“You kidding? Three guys with a goblin go walking up and down the docks, asking all kinds of questions, and then the next day Plutivarch gets turned in to the City Watch, babbling about getting beat up by three guys with a goblin? Of course somebody was gonna be interested!”
“Well, I’m glad we got your attention. Now tell me, what have the Wreckwash Blades discovered about the disappearances?”
“Bah! I’m not gonna tell you! You can torture me all you want, it’s nothing compared to what they’ll do to me if they think I squealed!”
“We’ll see about that. Actually, what were you planning to do if you had captured us?”
“Hmph.” the man snorted. “We were gonna take you someplace, maybe torture you a bit, find out what you knew.”
“Torture? What kind of torture? What would you do to us, if we were the ones tied up?”
The man on the floor went silent. His eyes moved to Zelcor, who was measuring his leg. “Seriously. What’s this guy doing?”
“If you don’t want to give us information, that’s fine.” Theodore continued. “Just take us to your gang’s leader. We’ll tell him what we know, he’ll tell us what he knows, and nobody needs to be tortured and killed.”
“Is that what this gnome is doing? Measuring me for a coffin? You’re not gonna scare me, ya know. I’m not gonna tell you anything.”
“You don’t need to tell us anything. Just take us to meet the leader of the Blades.”
The man was starting to squirm uncomfortably. “It doesn’t work like that! Nobody just walks in and talks to Donal! We gotta clear you first! We gotta know who you are! Four strangers don’t just waltz into the hideout and start asking questions!”
“Well then set that up.”
“Well then let me go!”
“I don’t like it,” said a third voice. It was Scratchy, who had sauntered into the room. “As soon as we’re on their turf, they’ll totally kill us.”
“Well, we have to meet the leader,” answered Theodore. “because we’re not going to get anything out of this guy. He’s clearly just a lackey.”
“Is it a torture suit?” shouted the lackey in question, as Zelcor set about measuring his head. “It’s some kind of bizarre torture suit, isn’t it? You’re gonna wrap me in spikes or something!” Despite the man’s earlier declarations of not being scared, he was now sounding very concerned about his physical well-being.
“Yeah, he’s a lackey,” said Scratchy, “but walking into another, bigger ambush isn’t the answer. I have some other ideas, but we shouldn’t talk about them in front of the prisoner.”
“Ok,” responded Theodore. “We’ll just leave him alone with Zelcor for a while.”
“No, no!” shouted the prisoner, trying to scoot away from Zelcor. “You wanna talk? You let me go, and I’ll set up a meeting – public place, broad daylight, nobody gets ambushed. Sounds good, eh? It’s the best thing, if you just want to talk.”
“Now that’s more like it,” said Theodore.” Let’s meet in front of the Indros cul Vydrarch statue. At noon. You go set up the meeting, and we’ll release your other three guys when the meeting’s done.”
There was a a little more negotiation on the details, followed by various oaths by each party not to betray the other. Then it was done, and the lead thug was set free to set up the meeting. For insurance, Scratchy followed him surreptitiously. As the two of them set off into the night, Theodore turned to Zelcor and asked, “Why were you measuring him, anyway?”
Zelcor held up some fabric he’d been carrying. “Oh, I was just going to make him wear a bonnet.” he replied.