Lecuis and Aseir follow through the back entrance of the Seven Sails Inn, where Snikket and Von Anvil went just a few minutes ago. Raven remains in the shadow of the wagon, trying to compress his tall catlike physique into the smallest form possible. "I don't like this. I'll wait here," he says.
Inside, Lecuis and Aseir see the corridor with its side passage leading off to the right, and the downstairs common room ahead, where some of the inn's guests are having breakfast. Reaching the intersection, the two spot Snikket and Von Anvil crouched in front of door about fifteen feet down that side hall.
At this moment, the porter with her hair in braids who first accosted Doctor Lurr about the bill enters the far side of the common room (about thirty feet from Lecuis and Aseir). With her are a cocky-looking young human man and a slightly older, heavyset man whose teeth protrude like tiny tusks, suggesting some orcish lineage. Through the haze of last night's carousing, Aseir recognizes the crimson colors and dead-tree insignia worn by both men as signs of Ship Rethnor, according to the Suljack sailors the most violent and thuggish of Luskan's gangs.
The porter points to the hall where Lecuis and Aseir are standing, a look of irritation crossing her face when she spots them there. The younger Rethnor tough smirks and rolls his shoulders; the older half-orc snears and spits to one side. Both start making their way through the common room without concern for those patrons they shove aside along the way.
"Aseir, please. Gentlemen, whatever the problem may be there is definitely a better way to handle this then fisticuffs. Can we please try to discuss this?" Lecuis puts his hands out in front of him in a defensive manner, hoping to convince them to sit and talk, debating spells should it fail
The two men of Ship Rethnor seem quite interested in what Aseir has to say, far less so Lecuis' attempt to keep the peace.
"Now who's the rude one?" the smug human tough says to Aseir. "Pig-faced? That's his mother you're talking about. We're called to take your man Lurr off to the compter*. But please, please tell me you disagree." In an act of mock civility, he bows and gestures forward, indicating that his half-orc companion may enter the narrow corridor first, which the man does, blocking the way into the common room.
"Back it up," grunts the half-orc, "or I bring the clouts."
From his spot just around the corner, Snikket hears every word said, though he hasn't yet laid eyes on the Rethnor rowdies. Over by the door that Doctor Lurr is apparently imprisoned behind, Von Anvil looks at Snikket quizzically and asks, "Are we not getting out the Doctor?"
Lecuis finishes casting the spell, but aims it at the part-orc, "please, can't we be friends? Whatever the doc has done doesn't need to end badly. And my friend Asier here is just mad cause I got the lady and he got a tattoo. If you let us take the doc and leave town, the next time we come round we will pay what we owe and pay for our stay in advance. Help a lowly circus bunch out please?" Not certain if his spell worked Lecuis crossed the fingers on one hand behind his back and rested his other near the hilt of his rapier.
The Rethnor man at the end of the hallway grows suspicious as Lecuis starts moving his fingers and reciting the words of the beguiling spell. "Oh no you don't," he says, pulling a blackjack from his belt and advancing on Aseir, who stands between him and the tiefling.
Across the common room, the porter who brought these two in watches the unfolding scene with trepidation, while the assorted breakfasters speculate to each other about the prospect of a violent morning's entertainment.
The half-orc takes a few steps down the hall and whips his blackjack at Aseir's head, but the acrobat is ready for him and easily avoids the blow.
Lecuis finishes his charm spell. The half-orc winches and shakes his head before saying, "Hey, stop messing with me!"
"What's he try to pull on you, Tor?" the human tough asks. "Here, bring that slippery one out this way and let me have a go at him." He steps to one side and unsheathes a shortsword, prompting gasps from the diners that sound more like anticipation than shock. The faces of a few gawking onlookers come into view through the doorway of the common room.
Snikket moves back to where Von Anvil is standing. The dwarf steps out of the way and Snikket opens the door into a small office where Doctor Lurr is manacled to a heavy chair. The Seven Sails' day manager is there, along with a man Snikket recognizes as part of the inn's security staff.
"Oh, Snikkers," says the Doctor, "good to see you. I've been trying to work this out, but these gentlemen are just being unabashedly unreasonable."
"Sorry," says the manager, "your boss isn't going anywhere but to compter until he settles his Luskan debts. He's left a trail of worthless notes all over town."
"I just have to put the final touches on that deal with Sir Fishbanner," Lurr explains to Snikket, "Then everyone can get paid."
Snikket pauses, thinking for a second and holding his hands out, as if to calm the situation. "How much does the doctor owe? If what he says is true, the circus can leave our equipment as collateral until we have the money. The circus has many things; tents, wagons, horses. Surely more than enough assure our return." He points to the doctor. "Certainly worth more than keeping the doctor locked up, and if he lies, you can sell our things."
"Oh, just a pittance for your stay at the Sails," says the manager, "but we're the smaller part of the debt I gather. Sure enough they'll assay all your bric-a-brac at the compter and sell off what they can to square accounts."
"Kelpie's clam shell, man. Get it together!" laughs the human thug as his companion repeatedly fails to connect with Aseir. "Come back here and let me have a go at him." The frustrated half-orc shakes his head and backs out of the corridor to some laughter from the people in the common room. He treats them to an angry scowl and they shut up.
Practically skipping down the corridor, the fresh combatant flicks his shortsword to and fro at Aseir. His mouth forms an O as he too misses his mark, but then he performs a deft maneuver with the sword, cracking the aerialist solidly on the head with the weapon's pommel. The observers gasp. From his place behind Aseir, Lecuis thinks he sees money changing hands among the breakfasters.
"Ready to step aside yet, friendo?" the grinning Rethnor man asks.
Hearing the commotion in the hallway, Snikket straightens. "The doctor, and the entire circus are under Suljack's protection. Snikket does not think you will fare well angering the Captain." He pauses, hearing more commotion from behind him. "Snikket's ally in the hallway is marked to prove our allegiance. Call off thugs, unchain Doctor, and we talk of reparations."
The manager starts to look concerned by Snikket's ominous words, until Von Anvil says, "What you mean, dragon boy? Von got no markings. Why say that?" This seems to put some doubt into the managers mind, and he shrugs. "Frankly, it's out of my hands now. The Rethnor bullies will expect their commission, and between Suljack and Rethnor, I'd rather raise Suljack's ire. These Rethnor girls and boys don't play around."
"But I'll tell you what," he says, "I like your gumption. If you want some honest work while this debt business gets sorted out, I'm short a messenger. Free room and board if you run notes around town when I need it."
"Here's an idea," proposes Doctor Lurr from his chair, "I've come across some information about an abandoned cache of goods between here and Mirabar. Why don't I just hand that over to you and we call it square? It's got to be worth at least three times what we owe here."
"Did you not listen to what I just told this gentleman?" the manager tells Lurr in exasperation.
Down the hall, Aseir backpedals away from the smug Rethnor man, getting his bearings after that stunning blow to the head. The tough gives a bow of thanks and is about to continue down the passage to the east, when Lecuis surprises him by striding forward and, with a flick of the wrist, conjuring up a magical clap of thunder that shakes the walls and makes glasses rattle out in the common room. The patrons back there shout and retreat to the far end of the room.
The force of Lecuis' thunderclap blows the Rethnor man's hair back and makes him close his eyes, but doesn't seem to actually hurt him. He shakes his head, smirks and puts out a hand to shove Lecuis back out of the way, but his smile falls when the muscled tiefling doesn't budge.
Just then, the outside door behind Aseir swings in, revealing a bare-chested human man a bit older than the smirker. He's got the crimson tree of Ship Rethnor, along with many other images, tattooed on his torso. Through the doorway, Aseir catches a glimpse of Angelica the Snake Chamrer up on the wagon, holding a halfling and a human Rethnor woman at bay with her ox whip.
"Do me a favor and put these two to sleep," the smirker says to the new arrival, who obligingly draws his blackjack and strikes Aseir in the arm.
The boom of Lecuis' spell is quite loud in the office. The manager, Doctor Lurr and the guard all startle at the noise. Von Anvil, who is the only one with a view of the intersection where Lecuis is standing, says, "Song boy sing."
Aseir winces at the blow, rubbing his bruised arm before pulling his shield off his pack to don it. "Alright," he announces, "a solid blow has been struck. No need for another. Why don't we step inside and see what's to be done."
He waves off the man that struck him, "you go tell the goons to lay off Angelica before somebody ends up flayed alive. Lecius, let the others through."
Lecius sighs as he puts his handaxe away and raises his hands above his head, "You know Asier, I'm getting real tired of this, maybe it's time to quit the circus you know?" Lecuis thoughts turn to Angelica and the young Lady Fishbanner for a spilt second, before he prepares for whatever might come next.
The two Rethnor men in the corridor with Lecuis and Aseir are visibly relieved when the tiefling and genasi step aside and let them proceed. "No hard feelings, mate," the jovial man says as he touches Lecuis' shoulder in passing.
Snikket and Von grumble a bit, but go along when they see that Aseir and Lecuis aren't about to flout what passes for legal custom in Luskan. The inn's manager unlocks Doctor Lurr's manacles and the Rethnor toughs escort him from the building. "Had I known I was to be manhandled by baldfaced ruffians," the Doctor says, "I should never have accompanied you back to your lair!"
When Angelica sees Lurr come out of the Seven Sails in irons, she too gives up the fight and lets the two women of Ship Rethnor take control of the circus wagon and oxen. Kulanukate rolls out of the wagon, stretches and takes in the scene. Several of the inn's patrons have come out to watch as well.
The Rethnor toughs let Aseir, Lecuis and the others get their personal possessions from the wagon before taking possession of the vehicle and its remaining contents. The smirking man, who introduces himself as Silvergrave, explains what will happen with Doctor Lurr: He and the wagon will be taken to the Compter, where the goods will be inventoried and appraised. Then there will be a period where any remaining creditors can come forward and lay their claims. An administrator will prioritize the debts and oversee the sale of any valuables to pay everyone. At that point, if there are still debts outstanding, the Doctor will have to find a way to arrange payment before he's released. This whole process could take days, weeks or months, depending on what claimants come out of the woodwork and how much the administrator can get for the oxen and other items. Silvergrave suspects the case will be handled by someone named Balbon Rubycurser.
Assessing their options, the members of Doctor Lurr's Circus declare the following intents:
Being a quartermaster and drover respectively, Von Anvil and Angelica are going to try and get work with a caravan bound for the city of Mirabar, which is where the rest of the circus set out for two days ago. Azu Kilare the fortune teller is leading that vanguard group in Lurr's absence.
Kulanukate is going to take the dogsbody job that the manager of the Seven Sails offered Snikket, hoping that Lurr gets out soon.
Snikket convinces Raven to join him in heading back towards Neverwinter, which is where the circus just came from. The kobold fire priest speaks portentiously of following his deity's calling and a pilgrimage to "Kossuth's Molten Mountain". Raven seems characteristically nervous at the prospect, but goes along nonetheless.
It's early in the morning on the sixteenth day of Flamerule, as Aseir and Lecuis find themselves out on the streets of Luskan, the City of Sails, with, at least for the time being, no job, no place to stay, and just the items on their backs.
As Aseir and Lecuis haul the heavy packs that hold all of their worldly possessions through the morning streets of Luskan, they hear the locals talking about the giant longship that crashed into the docks last night before being quickly incinerated by mages of the Arcane Brotherhood. Everybody wants to go to the beach for a look, but the area is now apparently closed off to gawkers.
A couple of hours have passed when the two circus chums are approached by a male dwarf with blue thread braided into his long blond beard. "Ach, there you are," he says, "I was told a larger group, but you two can pass this on to the rest." He hands out a calling card and waits while Aseir and Lecuis look it over.
The winged serpent immediately stands out as an insignia of the Zhentarim, best known these days for the caravans they operate on all the major roads of the Sword Coast and beyond. In the prior age, their reputation was quite a bit more flowery, and Lecuis knows many old tales featuring the "Black Network" as a cabal of scheming villains. Contrary to this longstanding reputation, in recent years the Zhentarim has stepped forward many times to help resolve some regional crisis or other, even working when necessary with their old rival the Lords' Alliance.
A handwritten note on the back of the card reads,
Sincere greetings. I hear already of your deeds on the Snapdragon last night. Should you now find yourselves at loose ends, and have the time, I would very much like to see you at my offices. I will compensate for your trouble. R. Fellwell.
"Well," asks the dwarf, "will you gather your associates and go to him, or shall I bring word otherwise?"
Lecuis sighs, "Afraid the others have moved on from us friend, we're all that remains. All though, we are looking for work and a way of the city. What do you think Aseir? We could hear him out?" Lecuis strums a quick cord to cast message, this will probably get us out of here at least.
Lecius turns to their guide and motions for him to lead the way. "Do you mind if I play a little as we walk, I must always be trying to improve." and it can't hurt to ready to cast my spells, He thought as he began playing a marching tune.
"Oh, you play as you like sir," says the dwarf with the blue beard, "I've got other business down here in the Reach, but you'll find Frostwell House easy enough. Just across Dalath's Span and then a walk over to Mirabar Shield." With a sharp farewell salute, he consults a slip of paper from his breast pocket and jogs off to his next task.
Having spent nearly a tenday in Luskan, Aseir and Lecuis know that Dalath's Span is the middle bridge across to the North Bank, and that Mirabar Shield is a walled compound housing ambassadors from the city of Mirabar. The North Bank seems mostly dedicated to warehouses, workshops, offices and other essentials of trade and industry. Frostwell House is indeed tucked away in the northwest corner, where the city's north wall meets the imposing Mirabar Shield compound. It's a long building of plaster-covered stone with a small balcony over the main office entrance. Around the far side of the building, workers are unloading carts just inside large, open warehouse doors.
Lecuis wanders up to the workers and trys to get some attention, "Excuse me good sir's. We are here to meet with a Mister..." he consults the card, "Fellwell, Rathis Fellwell. Can any of you point us in his direction?"