We returned to the ship, some of the tension between our company and the crew dispelled by our rescue work. The riverboat moved on, and we moved through regions of choppy water and sudden stone cliffs. The river eventually widened and slowed, the Dauntless turning into the grand lake of Shinumetu. In the distance were three enormous blue domes, and in between us and these structures were hundreds of vessels, from one-man canoes to large ships. Quickly it became apparent that the sheer amount of vessels outnumbered the entire population of Ahtenko.
As we got closer, we realized the domes themselves were constructed of True Water, encircled by a dizzying array of moorings, landings and jetties. Quik’cz, the first mate we rescued, approached us as we took in the sight. He slyly mentioned the city was not a good one for greenhorns, pointing out that the East dome was for the Mitu (accomplished elementalists), the west for Shinu family (guards and military might of the town), and the middle dome was where business and governance of the two took place. Cooperation between the two families helped them get through the Scourge in a torpor, making Shinumetu among the oldest inhabited settlements in all of Nemahay. The domes were filled with water, with small pockets of air inside; these regions were generally considered t’skrang only, with outsiders advised to stay around the outside of the city.
Thanks to our work, Quik’cz would be willing to put in a good word for us with the harbormaster in securing a trading permit, required for any mercantile ventures in the city. Indeed, all merchants were required to declare the goods they wished to sell prior to engaging in their haggling. They would then be taxed for all claimed goods, regardless of sales completed. We decided to see if we could get the lay of the market first, in order to avoid paying excessive taxes. We also discussed possible inns, deciding on the mid-range Safe Harbor, as this would cost us a good deal less while having stabling and food included. We learned of a river historian named Ooren Mitu, who usually spendt his time in the center dome of Shinumetu. As Dave’s espagra-scale cloak was a thread item, this would be a useful lead for the grizzled elf in learning its secrets. If we wished to forge weapons or armor, Quik’cz recommended a t’skrang named Vix Numune was a skilled smith, glossing over the fact that she had left her family in some disgrace.
We docked on the east side of the city, with the crew returning our toll thanks to our help in fighting off the Wisps. The t’skrang helped us get our goods onto the docks before making an introduction to the Harbormaster, a morbidly obese yaguarete named Zerth. We introduced ourselves and learned the town was hungry for crafting supplies due to a land-based construction boom. We then let our ship’s crew know we would like to travel with them upriver in a week’s time if they were headed further north. Quik’cz once again warned us of the city’s ruthless side, reminding us to be wary of strangers with strange offers.
We proceeded to the Safe Harbor, a sprawling two-story building that extended onto the lake, with a large stable nearby. The inn was run by a yaguarete family, but crowded with orks and t’skrang. The proprietress called her adolescent son over when we entered, and the boy was instructed to lead us around. A price of 30 silver per night for the group, inclusive of stabling and meals, seemed more than fair, so we happily paid. As we explored the stable, we noted that our horses would likely be the only ones in town. As the stable did not seem particularly secure, we endeavored to keep the horses fed, healthy and secure by stationing members of our group with the draft animals.
We noted the brilliant domes once more, and I recalled that craftsmen had been known to create special blood charms that allowed non-t’skrang to breathe underwater. We wandered the markets, finding some chainmail Lokan wished to purchase, and selling some of our less glamorous armor in exchange.
Finally, we went to visit Vix Numune to forge our new chainmail. She was an older t’skrang, looking somewhat sickly, though it might have merely been the strange coloration of her skin – I must confess, I am no expert on this matter. She seemed particularly desperate for our coin, so we inquired further into her current situation.
She mentioned she’d done some pro bono work for some adventurers who recently disappeared. The group, known as the Scofflaws, was trying to bust a drug ring dealing in Weeper’s Wail. The group frequented the East-West bar. If we could find and return the steel she forged for the group, she’d be willing to buy it from us, or discount the price of forging items. Vix also recognized that the scales of Dave’s cloak looked like those of an aquatic creature and not an espagra – certainly an interesting development for our investigation of its origins. We paid her half of her fee up front to forge Lokan’s new set of chainmail and Tala’s magical chainmail.
We proceeded to the East-West, where we hoped to discover some clue of the Scofflaws’ fate, and possibly recover their lost goods to get Vix out of a difficult situation. Lokan attempted his first solo performance, failing to impress – surely, our lute-playing friend just needed some time to adjust to a solo act, though perhaps the folk of Shinumetu were simply harder to impress than any of the townspeople we’d encountered so far. Tala talked the barkeep up about the Scofflaws, but he wasn’t able to provide much information at first other than that the adventurers would come into the bar and loudly talk about cleaning up the town.
Our tired group clumsily attempted to pump the bartender for information, and after I’d offended the bartender and Dave failed to realize that a bribery negotiation was underway, I departed in a huff. Lokan, who had left after his performance, joined me, and we returned to the Safe Harbor and enjoyed a delicious, quiet dinner as we emotionally unpacked our journey so far.
Tala and Dave, meanwhile, unsuccessfully tried to ingratiate themselves with some rough-looking orks, who offered to have Tala try some Weeper’s Wail, but eventually bid them leave in no uncertain terms after Dave brusquely tried to insert himself into the conversation.
After our respective ordeals, we decided to call it a night. Well, all of us but Dave, that is, who rudely attempted to convince Lokan to join him in skulking about after the thuggish orks who were no doubt connected to the Weeper’s Wail ring. Lokan thoroughly rebuffed the Tir elf, and we proceeded to rest. In the morning, we received word from the river historian Ooren, who offered to meet us at the Safe Harbor in five days for dinner.
We completed some additional restocking of our adventuring supplies (such as booster potions), while conferring with Tukko in his investigation of the markets and deciding to sell our stock of timber and stone, purchasing a goodly amount of True Water in exchange. We also made a small donation to a guard to dig up more information on the Scofflaws, hoping for more leads on their unfortunate fate.
Brother, I cannot stress the strangeness and wonder of the Shinumetu capital. Perhaps someday I can convince you to join me in traveling here, maybe after our caravan has proven that overland trade to Vasheen is a real possibility. While the domes are wondrous, this place holds great promise to our people. The opportunities for trade are many, and the market this town provides for Tseni’s stone and Timbertown’s lumber could bring some great benefits to our family and our community.