Being that the shadowy powers-that-be are looking for us, it seemed essential to make our way into nearby Silverymoon as quietly as possible, lest we come to the attention of the local officials and their Shaowvar overseers. Therefore I devised a cunning plan….
First, Kymm and I would enter as one party, me playing the role of a distant and none-too-bright relative of the owner of the inn where she lived and worked, The Tall Halfling. The others would then follow in two other groups, each with a couple of the girls. I was clad in my drab pickpocketing gear and somewhat disguised, while Tipwill cast a glamyre on the rest of our party to make them appear as a group of hunters. Amra would remain outside the city walls, to hunt for fresh food for Shuiba. His animal companion had been left behind in Pendaster’s former chambers beneath the College, and the tiger would be getting hungry for sure.
Once in the city, we would return the girls to their families, and make our way to the pub to meet Kymm’s guardian, the publican Grindelman.
Well, that was the plan.
No sooner had I engaged the guard at the gate with my story than Tip strode forward, offering a piece of gold–a month’s wages in these parts–to speed the process. Given that the plan was to enter as separate parties, it must have appeared even odder that he was suddenly offering to pay for a group of strangers, particularly one comprised of a young girl and an idiot halfling!
Fortunately, we were not detained, the lure of gold apparently having outweighed the suspicion of the gate-sergeant. We hurried on before he could change his mind.
Petula, the young prostitute among the rescued girls (who had seemed somewhat shifty in our previous discussions) quickly ran off and left us. Before she did so we gave her a share of the Orc treasure, as we had for Mysha and did with all the other girls. Each of the others then made her own way home, as we headed for the inn.
As we walked through the narrow alleys, I once again sought to keep some distance from my companions to avoid raising suspicions. As we neared The Tall Halfling, however, we came upon the scene of a crime–guards and Shadowvar officials standing around, as they examined the body of a freshly-murdered girl. Even more disconcerting, it appeared to be Petula, who had left our company not ten minutes earlier!
We hastened on our way, as I wondered whether this was tragic coincidence or evidence of some dark conspiracy. As Aunt Petunia used to say, you’re not likely to find two newts in the same jug of milk.
When we entered the pub, Grindelman appeared to be overjoyed to see Kymm, and Kymm equally happy to see the remarkably-tall halfling who had adopted her from the streets. There were a few others in the pub, including a swarthy elf and a girl huddled in the corner. I tried to indicate to Grindelman that we needed somewhere quiet to hold discussions, but before we could do so the girl stood up and bolted the room. She was the spitting image of Petula, whom we had apparently just seen bloodied and dead in the streets. It was all more dubious than a pickle in a brass spittoon.
We ran after her. It was essential that we not draw the attention of a crowd. I tried to trip her with my skiprock, but to no avail. The fleet-of-slippered-foot Shinzu, however, rapidly caught up with her, tripped her, and stunned her. She told the nearest onlookers that Petula was her wayward daughter (although not an elf, it was apparent). They nodded in approval. Clearly corporal punishment was popular in these parts.
Tip, in an apparent effort to distract those in the street, summoned a dark cloud of smoke and soot. This temporarily descended from the generally clear sky to obscure the road. His rural childhood and many years of study of the magical arts in an elite boarding school had clearly given him a unique insight into what passes for normal in the back alleys. Passersby muttered and made various religious signs to themselves as they scurried away from the area.
We carried the unconscious “Petula” back to the inn, only to discover that she/he/it was a doppelgänger of some sort. Had it taken Petula’s form recent, after the murder? Grindelamn swore that he had seen a “Petula” in recent weeks, so that didn’t seem likely. Had the creature killed the real Petula upon her return, to prevent discovery? Or had the doppleganger been among the girls we rescued? My mind was swirling like a sparrow in a washing tub at the many possibilities.
At this point, the drow introduced himself. His name was Phlugyar, and seemed to know both of Uncle Reggie and our quest. We were also introduced to Captain Oloshan the Laughing Skua, one of those strange sky-ships we had seen in the sky, and his first mate Buckminster. The captain appeared to have some sort of gem for an eye, obscured by an eye-patch. It was, I suspected, a Gem of True Seeing. I was confirmed in my view that old-fashioned disguises of the sort I had donned might be much better for us than those of the magical variety.
Before we could question him further, however, he and and Grindelman looked at each other in alarm. “Erised has been taken!” they exclaimed in unison….