After trouncing a venomous Swamp Drake and plundering all the gold and magical items they could carry, it was time for the Searchers to make their way in earnest pursuit of the Sapphire Sword. Brut locked himself away with Quartermaster Edward to continue decoding the dwarvish sigils on Seneca's Sapphire Seachart, but directed the crew to sail Eastward through the Patras Narrows. The alternative, which had enticed him, would have been to sail south and around the peninsula. Even optimistically, though, the Southern passage would take 15 weeks. Brut would not have minded the easier sailing, and was eager to check on old friends from other ports. He wanted to see that they were safe and perhaps even get their help with decoding this blasted Seachart. Ultimately, though, he wagered that saving 5 weeks or so by passing through Port Nyanzaru would be better for their eventual journey- Provided they could stay out of trouble.
But staying out of trouble in Port Nyanzaru is no easy feat! It was famous for two things; Debauchery and the Patras Canals- an impressive system of ancient cranes, channels, and locks that could be used (after paying a bevy of fees, of course), to ferry ships of almost any size across the narrow strip of land that linked Agrinnia to the north and Chult below.
The challenge, therefore, was to disembark and stay safe for however long it took to get through all the channels and locks, then reconvene on the other side. They'd be back on the open sea again in approximately ten weeks- Provided the crew and cargo was there to meet the ship on time, and that the swindlers Nyanzaru was famous for didn't get the better of the party.
Arranging for Passage
Setting foot on the Nyanzaru Docks, the party followed the crowd to meet with their prospects. They'd need to make arrangements to buy a ship on the other side of port or move this one across, both of which cost in the tens of thousands of gold pieces.
- Terry Askew - A telepathic mute human Chultan male charging 30kgp for passage in only 1 week
- Spot, Pot, and Kot - Three Kobold brothers, charging 20kgp for passage in 2 weeks
- Kaylee - A halfling wearing stilts to see above the crowd, charging 10kgp for 3 weeks
After Guadalupe finished making inquiries and some sour first impressions, Persephone attempted to make arrangements with Kaylee. Eager to secure their business, but still quite busy, Kaylee shuffled through her collection of sending stones she kept fastened to her belt. She used one to summon Jethro, a Firbolg rustler who would arrange for the overland transport and storage of the party's cargo. The party agreed 10.5kgp for 5 wagons worth of cargo to be stored for 21 days, as well as 500gp to finish the 10kgp transaction with Kaylee.
Not having 21kgp of their own to give Jethro, the party made arrangements with the
rest of the crew, through Kevin, to pay for the transport with the crew's collected
wealth. While Kevin would normally be too timid to let his feelings be known, he had already sampled some of the local Tej. By fermenting honey corked with cinnamon, the natives of Chult made for an easy drinking alcohol that was ubiquitous on the peninsula. Not as harsh as beverages from other lands, and frequently mixed with fruit, Tej had a habit of making foreigners far drunker than they knew. The thereby newly uninhibited Kevin made his distaste for the being made to pay for the passage clear. Unfortunately for him, his helplessness was similarly clear, and the gold was surrendered. It was during this interaction that the crew learned that Kevin was actually born on that ship, and that he would not take leave of it so easily.
With Jethro's gold so apportioned, the Firbolg took final measurements using an enchanted chalk line, summoned Leomund's Secret Chest, and sent away the cargo and payment.
Ka'ara, less concerned with matters of metal changing hands, pushed her way through the crowd, trying to appreciate the vibrant colors and equally overwhelming soundscape. Flags and banners, bright with local and varied dyes, decorated every building and even individual people in the crowds. Minstrels carried standards and led raucous chants in the crowd.
A float, littered with cheering hooligans and variations on a single flag, ambled down the road that ran along the docks. Everything about the float seemed sloppy and proud. A more diplomatically inclined adventurer might have noticed that the parade was to celebrate Nyanzaru's recent vie for independence from Poliz, but politicking is hardly the job for a Barbarian.
Instead, Ka'ara tried to keep time with her drum and step along with the frolickers. Some misunderstandings about personal space- Namely feral children climbing over her body trying to feel the enchanted cool of Ka'ara's Greataxe of Frost- led to some slight and temporary misgivings, but the free flowing Tej and Persephone's cracking bullwhip smoothed over that and a great many other faux pas as the party matriculated into the city.
Swept forward by sweat and flesh, the party shambled through a market with nothing much to offer (save a misplaced and mummified goblin hand that Ka'ara quickly became obsessed with). On the other side was a big tree, helpfully labeled "The Big Tree" in Common by a sign hanging from one of its many branches. The tree soared 100ft overhead, with a footprint larger than any of the surrounding buildings. Closer inspection showed signs written in dozens of languages, presumably translations of "The Big Tree".
Place Your Bets!
The Big Tree was, in fact, hollowed out and fashioned to hold several stories of rooms. Concierge services within the open-air ground floor were available to the city at large, but the levels above were restricted to key-holding guests. After paying 126gp in full to acquire 3 such keys for 21 days, the party was able- For the first time in what felt like months- to stretch out on stable ground. No soft swaying and wobbling, no packs of people pushing by, no pressing up against a wall. And there were beds! Wonderful, stationary, one person a piece beds.
After getting some rest the party reviewed the pamphlets and advertisements they had either collected from outside or found within their rooms. Without hesitation, wagering on a Dinosaur Race was the number one most important activity for them to pursue. Wonderfully, The Big Tree had a viewing gallery on one of their limbs overhanging the main thoroughfare. Illusion magic reproduced larger than life announcers and close up shots of the streets-turned-racetrack below. A grand spire off in the distance, replete with bells, played a cacophony of jingles that apparently meant it was nearing time to place bets. Bellhops in the gallery passed around betting placards, in which the party submitted their wagers. Once the placards had been collected, the spire's polyphonic tunes got closer and closer together, eventually agreeing on a single note and rhythm, indicating the beginning of the race.
All manner of beast charged forward from the starting line as sixteen gates opened. A crowd favorite, the blue-skinned Tyrannosaur known as "Big Honker", pulled forward too an early lead. At the head of the pack racers overtook one another as their dinosaurs snarled at- Well, at everything, it seemed. The aging Dimetrodon that Ka'ara had wagered on seemed to have decided that today was not a for racing. It bolted forward a meager 30ft and then decided that this spot was as good as any for a nap.
The race continued on anyway, four or five beasts vying for position. Big Honker's lead was surrendered as it grew less and less tolerable of the whipping- It reared back and hurled its jockey forward, then tore through the jockey's multicolored outfit, staining it a deep and viscous red.
Now at the halfway point, the gap between first and second place began to close, leaving Big Honker and his lunch behind. There was really no telling which of the remaining might come out ahead.
[Somebody won, check notes re: winnings]
After inquiring with the concierge about where one might find enchanted weapons and tools, Lupe discovered that such talk was quite forbidden by the local Merchant Princes. In the span of the same breath, however, the concierge used a brief somatic casting on a slip of paper and palmed it over to Lupe. As she rotated the paper, the arrow upon it held true, point toward the part of the port referred to as "Old Town".
Sgt Roxley Sell
Along the way, the party passed through a grand gate that separated walls of surprising thickness. Beyond the gate was a military outpost stocked with Zhent mercenaries. Intrigued, Lupe inquired with the gentleman who clearly led the outfit; She spied insignia across his back that suggested he was the man to follow.
Like the men under his command, Sgt Sell wore traditional Chultan battle garments. Six brass discs held together two fabrics of surprising strength. While Sell kept the discs on his hips and ribs in place, he had unbuckled the disc on his left shoulder to better fan himself. This demonstrated not only the mechanics of the discs and the rigidity of the fabric, but gave passersby a tempting peek at the muscles that lay underneath.
After some frankly disastrous flirting, Sell blushed and resumed his duty as a guard- At least as professionally as he could in light of such a grievous failure. He informed the party that there were numerous dangers beyond the walls of the city, and that they should seriously consider a guide. If disease and dehydration didn't kill them, Yuan-Ti, Pterafolk, Undead, and Wild Beasts surely would.
Keen on Black Market goods and decidedly unafraid of mortal concerns, the party took their leave of the outpost and pressed on as the arrow pointed.
Grax Zorvac, The Eighth Prince
In a decidedly less disastrous interaction, Lupe made audience with the self-titled "Eighth Prince", Grax Zorvac. Master of the underground markets, he and his pet Dilophosaurus certainly looked the part. He sat atop a throne in a stone cavern, flanked and attended to by members of the Red Wizards of Thay.
For a fee that included a date with Lupe, Grax agreed to have his wizards Identify her magical rings and fashion a pair of boots of elvenkind as well as a longbow of flame. Ka'Ara also managed to acquire a Coat of Pockets- A Bag of Holding that was refashioned in to a more appropriate statement of decor.