Exiting the alleyway your nostrils are immediately assaulted with the smells of fish, sweat and opportunity. The Docks of Ptolus are not what you expected. Attached to what could be described as the “ass end” of the city they are a collection of old buildings, forgotten storefronts that have been repurposed (but not rebuilt), rough stone streets lit by streetlights which do not seem to match one another. Everything here seems to have been part of something else at one point until a crafty merchant came upon it and decided the front landing to an abandoned building would better serve the area as a street merchant cart.
As hard as it is to imagine, the people working on the docks seem to match the buildings themselves. A hodge-podge of humans, dwarves, elves, orcs and goblins, a few minotaurs and the occasional lizard man can be seen manning trade carts, loading and unloading merchant ships, repairing and arming exploration vessels, and running the various shops and taverns that litter the streets along the docks. The guard presence, although a bit more frequent, seems to be a bit more relaxed. They don’t seem to be looking for anyone in particular and are more concerned with keeping the peace and cargo moving.
The docks themselves appear to have stood the test of an undetermined length of time judging by the various markings and scars the wood wears. As the lifeline and main supply to the city the sight of their ingenuity does not disappoint. You can postulate that no less than a thousand crates per night are moved to and from this port carrying all manner of items and trade goods. Watching the workers you feel a bit of excitement. There is definitely opportunity here and you would do well to find it.
Moving down the busy stone street you eventually come to a tall 4-story building that has seen better, more vibrant days than its aging structure would suggest. It is one of the oldest buildings in the area but has seen a large amount of maintenance and renovations to the outside with what looks to be the most drastic when the 4th story (obviously not part of the original design) was added). The aged stone walls contrast with the mostly wooden upper floor to give the building the appearance of a small castle keep. A large, hand-carved sign out front identifies this as the “Merchant’s Gallows Tavern.” From the fierce glow through the windows you can see a bustle of activity inside. You know this to be the headquarters of the Port Sea Trading Company as well as the office of Captain Rubix.
A group of dwarves dressed in work clothes push past you, headed towards the front door in search of food and drink.
Swinging the door wide open you are bathed in the warm glow of a warm fireplace, the smells of food and drink, and the loud and often boisterous musings of wannabe adventurers. Stepping inside the room appears more lively and welcoming than the outside of the building would suggest. No less than thirty patrons are seated around tables in the middle of the room, around the large fireplace to the left and perched upon bar stools at the bar to your right. In the back a large staircase ferries longer-term customers from their rooms on the second floor.
A short, burly dwarf mans the bar and seems to direct traffic coming from the kitchen in the back. His long beard is flecked with the signs of age and dignity. He wears a clean apron and a rag is slung over his shoulder as he moves to and from the liquor bottles and mead barrels in the rear. Every waitress who exits the kitchen is given orders by him on where to go and where to bring what. You are fairly confident that he is the man you should be talking to.
As you are standing around taking this all in his eyes dart over towards you and in a loud voice he bellows, “Well come on in and keep the weather outside. I’ve got some seats at the bar right here if you fancy yourself in the drinking mood.”
When you approach the bar and sit down the dwarf heads your direction. From where you are seated you can see an elevated ledge behind the bar he is using to keep himself at eye-level with patrons. He looks both of you up and down and gives a little smirk before grabbing two mugs from under the bar and filling them with Ale. He sets them down in front of you and to your surprise the glasses are the cleanest you have ever seen. The dwarf himself seems very put together and tidy as well and you can tell he’s been doing this for much longer than the lines on his face and the color in his beard suggest.
As you drink and eat he makes his way back over to you after sometime. Dez’s question about the location of Captain Rubix prompts a smile and a response. “I had a feeling you would be asking such things. Since I haven’t seen you around the area before i’m going to assume you saw one of our fancy ‘Help Wanted’ posters.” He takes a step back and looks at Dez, then to Zarpa, then back to Dez again. “You are taller than I expected, but the goblin is spot on.” He walks to the other end of the bar and motions for a waitress who hurries over to him. He converses with her for a moment and she turns to head upstairs.
A few curious minutes later she reappears and speaks with him again. Walking over to you he extends a hearty smile. “I don’t believe i’ve brought me manners with me this evening. The names Tobias and I run the Merchant Gallows. Not a cent moves in nor a customer moves out without me knowing…and you two have moved yourselves into some lucrative territory.” You notice that as he is saying all this the people around you seem totally oblivious. Either they are doing a VERY good job of pretending not to hear you…
[Perception check…you both pass because I said so…]
…or [with the passed check] they are purposely ignoring what he is saying for fear of “hearing too much.”
“The Captain has taken an interest in you two. I’m not sure what she has planned nor do I want to know. That’s none of my business at this point in the venture. I’ll give you to the end of your mean to decide whether or not you want to follow one of my waitresses upstairs to the offices.” He turns away from you and goes back to serving other patrons and directing traffic.
Gesturing towards the same waitress he spoke to earlier, Tobias approaches the end of the bar and leans over towards you. “Missy here will take you upstairs to the Captain. We are in a sort of…transitionary period so you’ll have to excuse her if she’s a little shorter with her words.” The waitress, a small fair-skinned girl who appears to be in her early twenties with eyes that bare an age long past that, leads you towards the large staircase at the back of the room and up the stairs. Very few people take notice of your absence and as soon as you leave the bar your dishes and mugs are wisked away as new patrons take your place.
Up the stairs and into a long hallways with doors lining either side. You deduce that this must be the “inn” portion of the building and as you pass several rooms you can hear giggling or other, more “playful” sounds. This could be one source of income for Rubix as prostitution in the main city is often frowned upon and prosecuted harshly in the more upscale sections. Several doors have shoes hung over the handles. [You know this as the universal “do not disturb” signal]. Various platters are placed outside the doors along the hallway walls awaiting pickup.
The door at the end of the hallway is much larger and made of a more sturdy material than the rest. You guess it to be some variety of oak. Missy pulls out a key ring, fumbles with the keys for a second before finding an oddly shaped one, and unlocks the door. She gives a little huff as she swings the heavy door open and gestures for you two to go through. “Head to the top of the stairs and tell the guard Tobias says “Moonshine.” The cryptic and odd-sounding instructions are all you are left with as she closes the door behind you and then locks it.
Giving Zarpa a blank stare that seems to say, “I’ve been through much worse than you could ever do to me” the girl locks the door behind you. The staircase is narrow and steep, leading up to a small landing and then up a little further where it opens into a small room. A well-worn couch occupies the left wall, a rug covers the floor in the middle, and two battered arm chairs with a table between them are placed to the right. In the center back of the room is a large door with the symbol of the Port Sea Trading Company (birds with a flag/ribbon behind them). Next to it stands a rather large minotaur dressed in hide armor with a PSTC tabard adorned in blues and yellows. His massive arms are folded across his chest and you can see various implements of destruction strapped to his back and side. He eyes you suspiciously as you enter the room but does not move from his post.