Thursday, April 16, 2015

Masterwork Theatre: A Tale From the Coast, Part I

Art by Abigail Larson
 Good evening, and welcome to Masterwork Theatre. Today, we bring you a tale from Avinter; a land of crooked courtiers and ethnic estrangements, in a country called Balthir. As the story begins, we find two very good friends who have lived a long life of sojourning: Jim Crosby, a rough-edged but easygoing fellow, and Faldun, a Dwarf from the land of Mord┼źn to the East who took to the seas to sate his aspirations of adventure. After a lifetime of wanderlust, this unflappable duo has hung up their bootstraps, retiring to the exotic Aibrel Island of the coast of the province of Avinter where they opened their own tavern, christening it the Vrock Lobster.
 Since it's opening, their surf & turf beach bar became a popular hot spot for tourists and travelers along the coast and brought bountiful trade to the natives of the island. Bards performed every night with music, comedy, and shows of prestidigitation. Gambling tournaments of all kinds were held on weekends, and the food and drink was exquisite. They even hosted great Luau ceremonies every full moon for the natives.

 Unfortunately, the Vrock Lobster's reputation tended to rein in unwanted attention just as easily. As months passed, a nasty lot of unruly thugs calling themselves the Jawbreakers started sending goons down the the bar, demanding a cut from their profits.
 Jim and Fulvar took many actions in attempt to end the harassment, but Avinter officials paid little mind to Aibrel Island and its inhabitants. To top it all off, weeks worth of their supplies had disappeared. With no news from their supplier, the owners and proprietors of the Vrock Lobster were given no other option but to investigate the problem lest the bar sink into debt.

 Leaving the Lobster in the care of their trustred friend and employee, a native Darfellan by the name of Ooo!ha'poulapi!hoo Ha'olani!ohuu (Whom they simply called Ooo!ha for short; neither of them really did get the hold of properly pronouncing the dolphin-like language of the Darfellan),  Jim and Faldun took a charter ship to the city of Port Maverick to look for supplies and answers.

~

 "Okay, so we're at sea on the charter ship?" Guillermo reached for a handful of chips as he looked over his character sheet. "Not quite. We begin in the harbour of the city of Port Maverick." I realized at this moment that I probably could have opened the scene better, but a game master deals with these things when he's on a roll. "As the charter boat traverses the dockyard's still waters, you -" Derby looked up from the arena he had been making around his figurine with his dice, "What's the name of the charter ship?" Whoops. "Ships aren't boats, yo."
 "Oh, uh-" My mind began to catalog a list of ship names as I decided which one I felt inclined to use. "Can it be called the Prowl?" Derby asked, raising an eyebrow. "Why the Prowl" I asked, expecting the worst. "So we can be on the prowl for ladies, amirite?" He and Guillermo high-fived, half out of commitment to the joke, and half because Derby was very proud of his pun. He always had a supernatural ability to make puns, consciously or otherwise.

 "Alright, deal," I conceded, "aboard the Prowl, you feel less than a warm welcome from Port Maverick. Few vessels can be seen entering or exiting the harbor and what's worse; now that the ship has anchored, the port authorities have begun lining up and patting down the crew and its passengers, confiscating weapons and magical implements." I began to draw out a layout of the dock on the dry-erase grid. Knowing my players, spontaneous combat was not out of the question. "Nothing to worry about," Guillermo boasted, "Jim's whole body is a weapon. They can't confiscate fists!"
 "Your holy symbol may be of concern, the port officials have even been taking the holy symbols of priests and clerics that get off the ship." Guillermo glowered, "This is one of the reasons I retired to a tropical island." As I finished the details of the board, I asked them what their plan was, "You only have about five minutes. Going to turn over your effects, or do you have something else in mind?"

 "Well, let me ask you this, how are the ship's crewmen responding to this shakedown?" Smart thinking from the Monk of Melora. "Looking around, it's clear the crew are pretty sour towards the port authorities." Guillermo's face was a visage of mischief. "I think I have a fun idea."

~

 "How's the inspection treating you, pal?" Jim Crosby leaned against the ship's taffrail, smiling wryly at an angry looking deckhand who was stacking crates onto a pallet. The crewman spat on the deck in the direction of the authorities. "An't hardly a port na'more," his accent was thick with the roughness of the Halsten province dialect, "Afewer an' fewer ships is passin' in by a week. Afore ye knows it, all'n shippers'll be out fer hangin'. S'a tragedy fer me an' mine. None mentionin' the trade comp'nies."
 Jim furrowed his brow, trying to understand what the man had said. Fortunately, Fulvar was accustomed to the ugly speech of Halsteners. "Aye, we're not short of trouble ourselves," he leaned towards Jim and reiterated the crewman's plight more coherently, "it would seem the shipping companies are just as unhappy as these guys are."
 "Well my friend, I think I have an idea that might help us both out." Jim wrapped his knuckles on one of the crates. "That is of course, if you're interested." Fulvar eyed Jim apprehensively. If Jim thinks I'm stuffing myself in one of those crates he's going to be disappointed, he thought to himself.

 The crewman letup from his work and turned to look at Jim with his one good eye. "Wha's 'is ye be blatherin' up, mate? Ye workin' fer angle'n gettin' me cargo pas'thru them harbor bulls?"
 Jim exchanged looks with Fulvar, who relayed the crewman's message. "Ah," Jim unfastened a leather strap he had wrapped about his shoulder and loosed an ornate scabbard he had slung over his back; an ornate shell with three swirling patterns etched into the face of it hung by a small chain from the empty sheath. "You see," Jim said, "My friend and I are monks of Melora, Matron of the Sea as I'm sure you well know and-" Fulvar firmly tapped the hammer slung over his back "Runepriest, Jim. You're the monk."
 "Nuance," he shot back, "Regardless, these trinkets, and Faldun's hammer I suppose, are important to us and we don't want to lose them. It's very likely, being the man that I am, that when the inspection comes to me a good deal of ruckus will occur." He looked over the crewman's shoulder; the line of passengers exiting the ship was beginning to dwindle. "If you were to, say, keep some of our things with your cargo, the problems I'll be causing for the authorities will give you a good chance of getting your cargo off the ship unabated."

 The crewman eyed the odd duo carefully, "I an't gon' be smugglin' any black bis'nes fer ya. One sting'n at's me head in'r stockades." Haldun stepped forward, showing the man his holy symbol, "It's just a seashell, see? Nothing illegal. We just don't want the hassle of dealing with all that bureaucratic nonsense to get our stuff back just to make a short trip into town."
 The crewman thought the prospect over, "Well, yeh, awright. S'pose t'aint doin' no harm no which way. An' if'n yer given'r harbor bulls a tough one, Tha's jus' a treat fer the crew'n me." The crewman accepted their holy symbols, weapons, and gear, storing them in one of the crates. Jim grinned a grin that would make Olidammara himself; the lord of mischief, start worrying what shenanigans Jim had going through his mind as he and Fulvar stepped in line.

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