Captain Oloshan dropped us off outside Silverymoon, near the location where we had arranged to meet Amra. Not long after, the druid appeared, bearing a freshly-slain deer and several rabbits. Shuiba would eat well tonight!
First, however, we had some shopping to do. Tip and Phlugyar both had particular need of spell components and rare inks. The rest of us needed food supplies, and a few other mundane items. We also had a doppelganger to question.
Thus we reentered the city in disguise, with Amra assuming the form of a raven. We made our way back to the Tall Halfling with Erided, where Grindelman awaited us.
“Thenk ye,” said the dour dwarf as he sat down to a pint of ale. “Ah hud nae desire tae track th’ orcs as a prisoners. Still, it did gezz some idea whaur their encampment micht be….”
The prisoner was still tied up and unconscious. We woke the faux-Petula up with a bucket of col water, and I began the interrogation. Tip had cast Detect Thoughts to aid us in the collection of information.
I started by telling it the plain facts of the situation. Petula was dead. It was our prime suspect. While we would not torture information from it, its only hope of living through the night was to tell us the truth.
“You’ll kill me anyway, Arnold.” it replied. It knew my name! Either it had been tasked to spy on us, or it could read my thoughts, or it was the “Petula” we had rescued. I had already noted the fresh chain marks on its wrists, which suggested either it had killed Petula hours ago, or had been among the girls we rescued.
A few additional questions made it clear that the creature had indeed been among the girls we had rescued from the Orcs. It was the only one of its kind in Silverymoon, doppelgangers having apparently been hunted to the edge of extinction by the shadowvar, perhaps because their unfixed forms violated all limits of racial distinctiveness. Living as a beggar, it had stumbled across the girls when they had been held in the sewers, before they had been taken to the exchange with the orcs. It had freed the real Petula, and nobly taken her place.
This was a lesson we would do well to keep in mind. Nobility and kindness can be found in any creature. Our own band included a demon construct, a renegade Harper drow, a halfling rogue, a mercenary of dubious origin, and a “half breed” orc. In the world in which we found ourselves, we might find allies in unusual places, among shape-changers, were-creatures, “mongrels” and slaves— all those that the shadowvar considered beneath them.
Although Tip’s magic and been unable to penetrate its mind, we nonetheless released the doppelganger from its bonds in an act of faith and trust. This world needed more of that, if the various disparate elements of opposition to Shar were to be built into an engine of resistance. We made him an offer too: he would always find a warm meal at the Tall Halfling, if might agree to pass on any information he might discover on the slavers, potential foes, or the machinations of the authorities.
“I’ll tell the Ratcatcher,” said the doppelganger. While the comment passed by my friends, I I looked at him intently. “Ratcatcher” was the traditional term for the head of the Beggar’s Guild. My relations with the beggars of Waterdeep had been a close one in my previous world: in addition to my dues to the Thieves’ Guild I had always made it my practice to tithe to the street-folk a share of whatever I managed to relocate from the wealthy, cruel, and corrupt. I asked him how the beggars were viewed by the city authorities, and the answer was no surprise: they were seen as the dregs of society, outcasts of the shadowvar’s sense of class status and racial purity.
It was, in my view, a dangerous mistake by the shadowy powers-that-be. The underclass saw all. They listened, but were not noticed. They understood, but were not asked. They feigned an abject and obsequious deference to power, but dreamed of a better life. True, their lives hung by such a bare thread that they were hardly likely to be foot soldiers of rebellion. But they excelled in everyday forms of resistance, and had a code of honour of sorts.
I needed to meet this Ratcatcher, and see how we might help each other. If he was like the others I had known, he might be more than he seemed. Indeed, for all I knew he could even be the doppelganger before me.
It was late, and we had a hungry tiger awaiting us in Pendaster’s sanctum. However our magic-users were in need of their fancy inks, and I was anxious to find items that might better disguise us. We resolved to take a quick shopping trip to the market.
With the solar cycles of light and dark askew, the hours of commerce were long, and the market fairly bustled with activity. We purchased what we needed, and I nearly relocated a very magical-looking kukri strapped to the back of some important-looking human who strode past us. I failed, but only just, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to exercise old skills. As Deputy Guildmaster Whisperdirk used to say, the art only improves with practice.
We also encountered Kala, one of the girls we had freed, and her very grateful father, Kelvin. He was rather louder with his gratitude than I might have wished. I recounted Petula’s murder (without the part about a doppelganger), and urged him to keep his daughter safe. It was possible someone was trying to kill all who had witnessed the illegal trade.
At this point, there was a commotion in the market. It was the most bitter of all economic activities—a slave auction. The slaver merchant–one “Slaver Pete” stood in front of a warehouse or sorts, displaying today’s wares: several chained half-orcs all of them, all of them young adults, and all of whom appeared to have been bred to captivity and servitude…
Bred to captivity. Twist a badger and turn it inside out—that was it! My friends and I exchanged glances as all became clear. That was why the slavers, despite practicing a legal occupation, had sought to hide some of their nefarious activities. Young women were being kidnapped for use as breeding stock, traded to the orc tribe in exchange for their half-breed offspring. Perhaps many of the city authorities knew of this, but they certainly would not want it revealed. News of it would cause outrage, protest, maybe even open revolt.
There was little we could do. We had not the funds to free all those in captivity, nor could we afford to draw attention to ourselves (although Liam, when he finished stuffing himself with meat pies from a street vendor, tried his best).
With this bitter realization, we left the city. We briefly dropped by the farm of Mysha and her parents to warn them too of the threat to the girls. Then we teleported back to the sanctum. We had to decide on our plans and next steps.
I knew one thing, however. I would be happy to see these slavers dead.