There are a couple of places one might be able to find out about a rumored slaver haven close to these waters. One of them is on the deck of a ship headed in the appropriate direction – south in this case – and the other from Vesper’s underworld. The largest organization out of Vesper proper is called ‘The Nighthand’. These are not the kind of people that anyone openly associates with, nor admits to knowing, but they have eyes and ears in many places.
One of them slipped Catriona a note. Well a drawing. It was left at Grans with a drawing of her face on one side – and a pretty decent sketch too. The other depicts a tavern in Glowtown along the bay where the steel workers and tanners go when they get off work. In the drawing the moon is just starting to rise, suggesting a time. It’s amazing how people get around not being certain if someone can read, sometimes.
Catriona is intrigued, to put it mildly… but she’s sufficiently confident that she has little thought but to go. Even if they try to kill her, she expects them to fail – and incarceration is probably even harder for someone to manage. Overconfident, in the city of magic, but she *is* somewhat short on memories of Rifts Earth.
Consequently, she takes few precautions before setting out – chiefly just letting Slaine know where (and when) she’s going, before slipping out into the city, and activating a low-level ‘nobody here’ field again, to (greatly) reduce the risk of anyone tailing her to her destination. She intends to survey the establishment for a few minutes, to see if there’s an ambush already set up, before dropping the field and heading in.
Slaine had headed for Sarens Rest the night before and there’s been no sign of her since. Not that that’s uncommon. She does have lodgings in that city and she has work there.
Yet somehow, the half-pint mystic manages wander up to the tavern, just as Catriona starts her survey. Not seeing Catriona – that field really does do the job, Slaine heads on into the tavern.
It’s noisy, but that’s often the way of such establishments in Vesper. Even from here the sound of music and laughter is clear. The building itself is low, single story and in need of some repair, maybe a new paint job too. The salt breeze does a number on most kinds of construction. Outside patrons are sitting in cushioned wrought iron chairs and on benches. Inside the furniture switches to laquered wood, some of it nicked and dented, presumably from some ‘enthusiastic debates’ by the patrons.
As Catriona and Slaine enter someone coughs. ‘Ahem’. Off to the left. A corner with a sallow looking man and a sour looking middle aged woman who is quite clearly very, very armed. “Got the note, I see. Moment of your time?”
Catriona is rather surprised to see Slaine ahead of her… but presumes that the little mystic just got the message left with Gran. Consequently, she’s rather less surprised than perhaps she ought to be, and simply nods to the duo. “Why not?”, she asks with a slight smile, moving to claim a seat opposite the duo… trusting to her instincts to warn her should anyone hostile seek to move up behind her.
“Oh hey. Sorry I’m late. Got yer note. Had something to sort out in Sarens Rest that took a bit longer than I expected.” The smaller redhead murmurs to the other, looking as they’re spoken to.
“Ye seem to know who we are …” she says as she takes a seat, eyeing the pair “… how do we call ye? I’m assumin’ this has somethin’ with the pirates…”
“I’m Mister Croup. This is my associate Miss Vandemar. And yes, this has something to do with pirates. We heard you were asking questions of the crew of the late Fair Weather at the Restorium. May I inqurie as to the substance of your conversation?”
He seems polite. And he’s dressed… well ish. That particular kind of dressed up that is dressed cheaply and shows. So the suit Mister Croup is wearing doesn’t quite fit and his hair seems a bit oily. Miss Vandemar seems like she’d be more at home in body armor with bloodied blades in her hand than in the relatively businesslike and slightly stained blouse and pants she’s wearing.
In any case she doesn’t speak. She just glowers for the most part.
“Miss Moore. Miss McClellan,” Catriona provides, slightly arching one brow. “I suspect that you are aware of at least the outline of it. The substance…? I am curious as to quite why you are asking. Are you also investigating the matter… or are we being warned off from doing so? Naturally, how willing we are to share details might be determined by quite what you intend to do with them, or are offering in return.”
Slaine eyes the pair in front of them, taking in their dress and their demeanour. She startles just a little as Catriona calls her Miss McClellan – she’s … just Slaine.
“It might help …” she notes once Catriona speaks “… to know more about ye. Not just names, but //who// ye are and why ye’re so interested in the matter.”
“We represent certain interests within the city that had a… business arrangement with the Captain of the Fair Weather. His death or capture and the desturction of his ship has inconvenienced my clients. We’ve been asked to assist with the resolution of the problem as it is a matter of… a somewhat delicate nature. There are details my clients would prefer not come to light.” Mister Croup certainly likes to talk it seems.
Miss Vandemar grunts and pushes a strand of grey-blonde hair out of her face. “Dead people don’t keep contracts.”
Catriona darts a glance to Slaine. This wasn’t an aspect of the investigation that she had anticipated. “We had no indication of any… additional cargo aboard. The handful of survivors did not seem aware of anything unusual on their vessel,” she says – hoping that whether they were or weren’t, declared ignorance should help to protect them against enquiries from criminal elements. “The captain himself, if he survives, would seem to have been seized by the pirates. There is some prospect of that, since they appear to have been keen to round up captives for slavery. They did, however, also loot the ship – so any cargo will either have been seized, or have gone down with the Fair Trade when they scuttled her.”
Slaine raises her eyebrows at that and settles back in her chair. “Which details are those, may I ask?” she says quietly. “Hard to say if we can help, without knowin’ more.” She’s digging of course. There might be a clue here at any rate. As to why the ship had been attacked and what they were after.
“The cargo.” Mister Croup continues. “Was to be hidden but pirates are often versed in such techniques so I do not doubt that they found it before it before the ship was sunk. It wasn’t large and it was easily hidden. But if you know where to look…”
Miss Vandemar growls again but doesn’t add anything.
“Well of course. If this goes beyond the city – and it appears to – then it may be beyond our reach. But we might be able to provide information and would certainly be willing to assist in your investigation if you’re willing to help us keep names and… inconvenient possibly incriminating bits of information away from Miss Falstead. What do you say?”
Catriona darts another glance to Slaine. “I think that she is likely to be happy if people can be recovered, and the pirate problems brought to an end,” she ventures. “The exact details of how that was brought about are unlikely to be of, ahh, primary concern to her, and we could certainly focus upon other matters when reporting to her. And it does seem to be the case that this operation is unlikely to wrap up as soon as it has run out of Falstead ships to prey upon: I have the impression that it would take rather a lot to induce the pirates to simply stop there and be content with their gains thus far. Other maritime ventures in the region would be likely to feel the pressure next. So it would seem to be a good idea to stop them now, if we can, before any further arrangements are disrupted.”
“I won’t lie ta woman…” Slaine says quietly “but we don’ need to tell her everything.” The redheaded mystic might have a grasp on ‘shades of grey’ when it comes to the truth.
She’s quiet as Catriona speaks, canting her head slightly, watching the other two. “I’d like ta know what the cargo was… it seems to have caused a lot of trouble.” she looks to Catriona “Any help ye get in tracking this down, is good. We’ve precious little ta go on as it is.”
Maybe, too, there’s a little more incentive for them to ‘look the other way’.
“Wonderful. I knew you’d see it our way. See, I told you we could persuade them Miss Vandemar.” Mister Croup smiles and rubs his hands together.
Miss Vandemar grunts again. “Your persuasion takes too much talking.”
Croup waves her off airly and produces a small piece of folded parchment from inside his jacket. He slides it across the table. When unfolded it turns out to be a map, one that points to an island about ten miles south of Vesper’s southern border and fifteen miles or so off the coast.
“Now, I don’t approve of slavery. Nasty, wasteful business. But if you were in the market for them I hear there’s a set of old pens that used to be in use by a band of Horune pirates oh, a hundred, a hundred fifty years ago. Something like that. Been abandoned or so they say. But no one really checks up on this kind of thing do they? And it’s far enough away that no one would really think to look. You might find the captives there. And you might be able to figure out, just maybe, where this particular band of pirates is basing itself. Gotta put in to land somewhere for food and what not. The attacks are too regular to be coming from Atlantis, so it’s probably local.”
Catriona fights the urge to get into a badassery face-off with Vandemar… instead leaning forward to peer curiously at the map. In large part, she’s trying to assess if the island does indeed seem to fit the requirements of what they gleaned from the survivors. “This certainly sounds promising,” she concedes readily enough, eyeing the map for a scale in hope fo determining how large this island might be.
Slaine sits back, letting Catriona review the map that has handed over. “It’s a start.” Is what she says. There’s still the issue of getting over there, with enough people to be safe, but not enough to be conspicious. And who they could take.
“How do you know all this?” She really knows better than to ask that, but she really wants to know. “Who do you represent?”
“Miss McClellan…” Croup grins sharply and is it their imagination or are his teeth pointed? Maybe it’s a trick of the light because the impression is gone in a moment. “… my clients most ardent wish is that their privacy be respected. Let’s just say that we represent certain business interests in the city and leave it at that.”
The man rises and his partner with him. “Well, I do hope your investigations are fruitful. For the sake of those poor people.” He doesn’t sound horribly sincere.
“Or maybe they’re dead already.” Miss Vandemar offers helpfully.
“They may be, Miss Vandemar but hope springs eternal. Good evening to you both.” And with a too slick bow both underworld figures make their exit out the back of the bar.
The island isn’t huge. Sense of scale is a bit difficult but at a rough guess, based on the map, it’s half a mile across at the widest point and probaby a quarter of a mile long or so on average. Not huge, but big enough for some slave pens and a few buildings. Especially if anyone has bothered to dig.
But not exactly the best for sneaking onto unseen. Still… a lot better than it could be. Catriona looks up from the map, nodding politely. And fighting the urge to let her own fangs show. This is not the best place or time to play at who might be the worse monster. “This should prove helpful,” she says to Slaine once Croup and Vandemar have effected their exit. “Though I’m wondering if it might be wise to find out if those pair are freelance problem-solvers, or known to be attached to a specific group. I’d be wary of being seen to be owing allegiance to an underworld organisation. But talking to people who do jobs for miscellaneous people… that’s not going to link us to anything or anyone specific. And shouldn’t net us any additional enemies or problems. I hope.”
“They’re bad news …” Slaine mutters after they leave and Catriona speaks. “The map is useful. But, we’ve already taken the dance. We’ll have to pay the piper at some time. I can ask around about ’em though, if ye like.” Gran might know. The old mystic is even better connected than Slaine.
Standing up, she gestures to the door, looking grim. It’s time to go. “I want ta know what the cargo is. This is an awful lot of fuss it’s causin’. Pirates, Falstead and now these guys. I got a bad feelin’.” And maybe she should use some of her gift to investigate this …
Then again, maybe not. Not with that darkness that has taken root in soul.
Catriona nods sympathetically. “I have the impression that Falstead knows nothing at all about it… but perhaps she’s even part of this whole thing. Smuggling goods on her own ships, or whatever. I’d be surprised, but it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility,” she murmurs. Carefully gathering up the map, she stows it safely away, then rises to her feet. “You talking to Gran sounds like a very good idea, though. I’d like to know who wasn’t *quite* threatening us, just now. Then we’ve got to figure out how to get some sort of rescue or scouting misison to that island…”
Catriona receives a lovely hand-drawn message inviting her to a nocturnal meeting in a characterful part of town. There, she and Slaine meet an absolutely delightful couple, and discuss ocean cruises.
December 08, 2409
Glowtown, in Vesper