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All Roads Lead to Bandar Philia

General Summary

Big Wheel Keep on Turning

24 Sexemra, 887 Af.

Sharlot awoke and went to the common room, where she heard the innkeeper talking with Damien Bartles, the slightly sleazy man who had become her 'manager'. She overheard Bartles trying to explain how the Kenku recorders would play messages from local businesses advertising their wares when they were not otherwise occupied. She decided not to get involved, and went to examine what the Kenku was doing.

She found that the Kenku had a strongbox with 48 slots, each slightly larger than a copper coin. Above the slots were the names of songs and performers - she recognized her own work, and some names of songs with singers he hadn't heard of, and some where she'd heard of neither the song or singer. She picked one of these, deposited the two coppers that the box said 'per play', and listened. It was a drinking song, new to her, and she tried to capture its nuances. She had to play several times, but eventually did, and knew she had a new song to play soon enough. Hopefully, others wouldn't do the same to steal her music.

Damien had finished his discussion with the innkeeper, and she came to talk to Sharlot. He paid her for the work last night, and they confirmed that she would be performing at the inn rather than the Kenku. They couldn't come to a deal on further side jobs, as they went a touch farther than Sharlot was willing to go. The innkeeper then turned in for the day, and Damien oozed his way up to her.

He had found her a gig, performing at a much better inn than this one, for a week steady. Already wanting to move on and hopefully find her companions in Bandar Philia, she told him that she wouldn't be there that long. But Damien always had an angle, and said he could get her a gig and get her to Bandar Philia in style, cruising down the river on the luxury riverboat Sweet Kira. He promised her accommodations, regular pay, and all the entertainment the boat had to offer, just as soon as he cleared it with his friend. She told him to set up the deal, and spent the rest of the day talking with townsfolk. She eventually discovered there had been a theft at the church she had performed by. Apparently, they had the leg bone (which, she never asked) of a long dead saint. She put this out of her mind, and went back to perform.

She took the stage, and the people seemed glad to have something other than the Kenku. She made a decent amount in tips, and thought no more of the events around town for the evening. She retired, and slept well.

1 Septemra, 887

As she got back to the common room, she found several dock workers eating and drinking, discussing another murder in the warehouse district. She quickly set off to investigate, finding the body still in place and a small crowd around. Not knowing when or if anyone was coming to take away the body, she quickly poked around. The state of the body was disturbing - a lot of rage was taken out on the poor woman, and her face was unrecognizable. Sharlot didn't notice much else, mostly wanting to get away from the scene.

The murder shook Sharlot. While she couldn't tell what the woman looked like, she could certainly tell that she was close to her age, and they both had similar length and color hair. If the killer was seeking a type, she might very well be it. She missed her friends, and wished that they were here with her now. She was sure that between the group, they could put together the clues.

The Kenku continued to perform, and Sharlot learned much about the town. The most interesting were the dueling messages from two bakers - one would accuse the other of having rat hair in the dough, while the other had an ad accusing the first of selling old bread as fresh after steaming. Several more were present, and the Kenku played them off each other. It probably helped no ones business, but it was entertaining to the laborers drinking in the bar.

Sharlot performed again, and Damien appeared to meet her. He told her about the deal for the boat, and she was happy to make it. It would be nice to get away from the murders here, and hopefully she could get some peace in Bandar Philia. Perhaps the old group would be there? As she finished her performance for the night, a few cloaked people quickly exited, drawing her eye. She didn't get much information about them, other than one was unusually large, almost certainly bigger than Malcer or Carta. She put it from her mind, and went to sleep.

2-11 Septemra, 887

Sharlot packed her equipment, and headed for the boat. It truly was designed for luxury - over 200' long, at least 50' wide, three stories above the main deck and a massive wheel at the bag. Sharlot had never seen the like, and had no idea how it would work. The thought escaped her, however, as she saw the a tall cloaked figure drinking at the bar. It wasn't trying to be inconspicuous any more, and she could see the fist holding the whiskey glass was covered in hair. She was going to move closer, until Damien came up behind her and told her he'd show her her room. She followed, and got cleaned up, knowing her first performance was this afternoon.

When she reached the recreation deck, she saw that the creature was still at the bar. She said creature, because with the boat underway, it looked to have decided that it no longer needed to hide. Everyone on the deck was looking at it in some way, but the bartender had clearly made peace with the idea, and chatted amiably. The being was at least seven feet tall, and from what she could tell was covered in fur. It was cinnamon colored for the most part, darkening to chocolate at the tips. It had long ears, wide and pink inside, and a flat nose. Its eyes were huge, and the sclera was yellow with brown irises. Its lower incisors were an inch long or more, and it was clear it could do substantial damage with the bite.

Sharlot edged closer, and heard the creature ordering another drink. It spoke common, and with an accent that reminded Sharlot of Durdeg. Remembering the frightening men who had become her friends, she decided to talk to the being, putting aside any fear from its appearance.

The man before her called himself Kasret. They spoke of Deities and music, and how Kasret had been following her shows. The idea that this could be the killer briefly crossed her mind, but she decided it was unlikely. The marks on the woman she saw clearly came from fists - if Kasret attacked, he would surely leave more damage from his claws. Besides, he talked about coming from a distant land, and although he wasn't specific about it, the bit of accent and knowing Durdeg tipped her off. She was willing to take him at his word as a music lover and fan, especially when they talked about his pan flute. He assured her he wasn't very good, but he agreed to teach her some songs from home.

Kasret, for his part, was surprised by the warm welcome he had received from her. He rarely was welcomed, often shunned by even his own kind. His brief time in this land had shown him that his appearance was monstrous to most, and he had barely avoided being attacked several times simply for showing his face. Sharlot was one of the few who was willing to look past his appearance, and often clumsy personality, to have a pleasant talk. He felt a desire to protect the small woman, and so he listened carefully to the story of the killer on the road. He knew most of it, but hadn't cared much to investigate himself. But if she was mixed up in it, it may pay for him to get involved.

The first day passed, with Kasret drinking and gambling while Sharlot performed, the two talking in between. Kasret found that losing money at the tables actually got him treated better, and he wondered if the trade off was worth it. At least the staring wasn't continual at this point - apparently the wealthy of this kingdom could ignore with the best of them.

The next morning, Kasret was the first at the bar. He loaded a plate high with eggs and meat, and picked up three mugs of ale to start the day. He set upon his food, noticing the crew talking in hushed tones. Sharlot joined him, and they both eavesdropped. Kasret's oversized ears were well suited to the task, as was Sharlot's training, and they figured out that someone had gone overboard. As the two whispered to each other about the possibilities, the captain approached them. He alluded to the disappearance, and then what he thought Kasret's job may be. While Kasret had no idea where the captain might have gotten his information, he knew that he had some skills that may be appropriate, and agreed to help. Sharlot had already shown she had certain proclivity for unraveling a mystery, and they set off.

They went to the room of the missing woman, and did not immediately find much. No obvious signs of a struggle, nothing missing, no reason to think of much having happened. The two began a detailed search, and found some troubling things. Broken glass and a few drops of blood led to the discovery of some scuffs on the wood. While they couldn't swear to it, they could make an argument that someone had been quickly overwhelmed - perhaps with a potion or poison to knock them out? - and dragged from the room. With no obvious way to proceed, they kept their guard up and carried on.

Two days and a night passed, with no further evidence of violence. But their luck didn't hold, and when they met in the morning again, it did not take skills in eavesdropping to know something had happened. They were shown to the kitchen, where a body of one of the serving wenches was on the floor. She had once been a pretty young thing, but her face had been so severely beaten that no one could tell. It looked like her neck was eventually broken, but only after severe trauma. The killer picked a good place for it, as the noise from the wheel and the kitchen would have hidden any sounds. The duo looked around, finding more broken glass and liquid from a healing potion. A clue, for sure, but how to use it?

Sharlot was scared, and ended up going all in on trust of Kasret, asking if she could stay in his room. He agreed, and the two spent the day pondering the mystery, watching their fellow travelers, and performing or drinking and gambling. The formal dances were tense, as the rumor of deaths had gone around, but the evidence had been concealed before the rest of the boat could be sure. Another two days went by, and tension on the boat was very high at the evening dance. A few people left early, although one looked familiar enough to Sharlot that he caught her eye when he left. When a scream cut through the music, his face and bald head flashed through her mind.

The passengers bolted, running for their cabins. The crush of people did not injure anyone, but it did stop Sharlot and Kasret from getting to the source of the scream quickly. This time, it was at the great wheel itself. More blood than they had seen before, which told a tale of its own. The broken body laying on the deck looked to have been caught between the wheel and the railing. It might have been an accident, but for the broken bottles of healing potions on the ground. The two knew they were close - it was time to confront the bald man in the loose clothes.

The next morning, they found out who the man was - a very rich noble from Londe, going from melee to melee and competing as an unarmed warrior. He was in one of the suites at the front of the boat, and they went to see him. Since Sharlot fit his profile, she took the lead. Playing on his apparent arrogance and love of women, she got him to invite her in, and Kasret slipped in with them. Everything began to fall together - Sharlot remembered him competing barehanded in Geton Towne. She remembered him drinking potions and throwing them to the ground to keep in the fight, and she was sure it must be him. As the man insulted Kasret, she diverted his attention, bringing up healing potions. To her surprise, she found that he was using them as a drug. He said that taking one when healthy gave a hell of a rush, and offered her one. She took it, and played, and found that it did give a boost of energy and a moment of clarity. It did not last long, and she wished she had done it while composing music. Perhaps she would come back to that later, but for now, watching him drink a potion and throwing the bottle to the ground, she accused him. He spun a story of commonplace use of potions in this manner, justifying himself, but his words rang hollow. When his defense collapsed into throwing out his father's name, and rage was burning in his eyes, Kasret acted. He pulled a sphere from his bag and flung it at the nobleman. The tightly coiled iron bands unwrapped themselves and wrapped around the man. He was immobilized, and try as he might, he could not break free.

The two were confident they had their man, but the Captain was worried. The man was rich and connected, and the Captain did not want to be involved. Kasret kept the man confined for the last day of the trip, and the two took him to the court of Bonae when they reached town.

12-19 Septemra, 887

Dropping him off, they felt good about the trip. Damien finally left his room, and made a deal for her to perform in a high class inn, the Golden Arrow, for a week. She looked forward to relaxing for a bit, and figuring out where to go then. Kasret spent the time working for a local herbalist, and listening to Sharlot perform in the evenings. They planned to sit down and figure out what to do at the end of her gig, when the unexpected happened but were tired and went to bed. The next day would be early enough. She was on stage, with Kasret in his normal shadowed booth, when in walked a knight flanked by a Dwarf, an Orcan, and a young boy. Sharlot nearly missed her next line as she recognized Carta and his retinue, and she couldn't wait for her set to end to go greet him!

The Long and Winding Road

1 Septemra, 887

The lycanthropes and their pack dealt with, the group looked to the aftermath. Weco quickly entered the cave, counting on his short stature to keep him out of the smoke. Durdeg and Sif followed, and quickly asked Paniers' men to clear the natural chimney. The cave didn't have much, other than a bag that the werewolves had collected things. There were pounds of copper coins, and a decent amount of gold, although nothing in silver. A bag of gems caught Durdeg's eye, and he took them to inspect. There was also a bag of potions, and Sif took them for later identification. They left the cave, and began to discuss what to do with Paniers. Carta was sure that he had been cursed, and they knew that the next full moon was only days away - it would be much harder to cure if that happened first. Carta was not thinking clearly, and only knew that they could find someone in Craghold to help. The others concluded Inwood or Geton Town, with the idea that they could check Geton and still make it to Inwood if they had to. Everyone wanted to take him, but Malcer eventually argued that he should be the one. Carta insisted on going with, and they set out cross country.

As Sif and Durdeg looked at things, Weco took one last look around the cave, not letting on to anything he had found. He then joined up, and they prepared to go back for the horses. Carta came back to them, and said that Malcer had convinced him he had a duty to Lews and his other retainers, and Malcer would take care of the man. Trusting in his companion, he went to take care of the others who needed him. They rounded up their horses, met back up at the keep, and went to sleep.

Meanwhile, Malcer led Paniers safely to Geton Towne, and a priestess of Corinne had the ability to cleanse the curse. The Lord thanked Malcer, who turned to leave. Paniers asked Malcer If he would be back, and Malcer smiled sadly, then turned and left. He returned to the dock, surprised to find his boat still there. He scratched out his own name, and carved The Sabenne into the stern. He climbed into the boat, Tigger raising his head to see what was going on. Malcer sat down to row, and Tigger rested his head on Malcer's lap. Malcer spent a moment scratching Tigger's ears, then began to row.

2-19 Septemra, 887

The party set out in the morning, hoping to find Paniers alive and well. They took the road back to Geton, and found Paniers hale and hearty. He was planning on staying through the full moon that night before returning home. He was so grateful, he informed Sif that she could have the painting. Weco heard this, and was thrilled that he could complete his mission. When Sif informed him that he'd lost his shot, and she would be returning the painting, the Nelwyn fumed. He snuck away as soon as he could, bound for Bandar Philia to get his side on record first. Sif and Durdeg started to search for Mal, and to take care of some business in town. With the craziness of the carnival over, they found more reasonable prices, although still not the best deals they had seen. Carta spent his time tending to Lews, trying to instill the boy with honor befitting the Gods.

When Paniers proved cured, the group finally had to give up on finding Malcer. All indications from people in town were that he rowed away from the town the day he arrived. They had no idea why he had left, and they hoped to one day meet again, if for no other reason than to get answers. Mal had been one of the first in the group with Sif and Carta. With the previous loss of Sharlot, the band was shrinking, and friends were lost. Sif and Durdeg began to grow closer in response.

They returned with Paniers and his men to the lodge, where they took possession of the painting. From there, they set out to make the best possible time to Bandar Philia. The best time meant sticking to the roads, then the river, which allowed them to avoid any nasty encounters. After finally reaching Inwood, they chartered a barge that could take everything, and were finally able to relax as the river did the work. They arrived in Bandar Philia after dark, and looked forward to the end of the road. Sif immediately set out for Venfaren's tower, and Durdeg followed. Carta told the others that he would find an inn, and join them at the tower in the morning.

Durdeg and Sif reached the tower, and Venfaren was waiting for them. Durdeg was surprised when Venfaren recognized him as a hobgoblin, and more so when he expressed knowledge of Valbarra. Sif brought his mentor up to speed, including with the actions of Weco. Venfaren let him know that Weco had already been there and told the tale, slanted differently, of course. Deciding that was settled, they moved on. Venfaren inspected the painting, declaring it to be beyond his expectations. He offered Sif and his companions to join him the next day when he contacted Kolero - with the value of the offering, he felt he could bring at least some of them along. They agreed, and went to the guestrooms.

Carta found the first inn he came across, not holding out for much. The place he found was a small, dingy dive. He was shocked to hear music playing, not thinking a place like this would spend the coin on a performer. He approached the innkeeper to negotiate a room, when suddenly the man singing stopped, and he heard a familiar song. As the voice of Sharlot began to sing of the Horde of Custone, he spun to the stage, excited by the prospect of seeing his old friend and companion. Then he saw the singer was a short, hooded being. The rendition was perfect, though, and he approached to see what was going on. The lockbox was set up beside the short musician, with a number of slots. He saw Sharlot's name on there several times, and eventually dropped the two coins into one of her ballads. The being sang something else first, then mentioned a nearby stable selling used horses at low prices, before launching into the song Carta had picked. Amazed, he went to the innkeeper to ask.

The innkeeper told him that it's a new thing going around, replacing the expensive singers. Carta questioned him if he knew anything about the woman whose voice was playing then. After some hemming and hawing, the man got through that he needed a bribe to tell more, and Carta gave him two gold for his trouble. The man told him of the Golden Arrow, and the bard playing there. Carta thanked him, and set off. They arrived at the inn and he tossed too many coins at the stable boy to take care of everything. With his retinue in tow, he walked through the beautifully carved front doors and into a large, elegantly decorated dining room. The voice hit him, and he looked on the stage to see her there, singing an upbeat drinking song he hadn't heard before. He headed for the nearest table, to wait for her to finish and see how she would react to being found .

Report Date
03 Oct 2020

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Cover image: by Chance Rose


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