1: A ROUGH NIGHT ON THE BLUE NIXIE

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dividerskull2“Whether we wound or are wounded, the blood that flows is red.”  ― Eiichiro Oda

13 Hammer, 1491 D.R.

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Night in Calimport.

Darkness enshrouded the most dangerous city in Faerûn like a thick cloak, casting a shadow over the huge metropolis, measuring almost six miles from East to West and three miles from the coastline to the Northern border. It was the capital city of Calimshan, and more importantly it was where Sergeant Jared Dansk spent his nights watching over his men.

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His command was Dock Ward, one of seventeen separate wards within the city. Dock Ward sat on the far Southern end of Calimport, housing the port for the capital, the largest in all of Faerûn. Massive, magical sea walls were in place to protect the docks, which could contain as many as 600 private vessels and an extra 30 military vessels. These sea walls were ancient, constructed during the Calim Empire by genies, both marid and dao. They were 150 feet wide at their bases 200 feet below the surface. They rose 20 feet above the surface during calm waters and were 30 feet thick at their peaks. The harbor itself was extremely deep, as the shore incline at Calimport was steep.

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There were fifty souls on his command tonight, and he planned to make sure that they all made it home safe to their warm beds. It was only eight bells, but somehow the Sergeant knew that it would be a long night. He paced through his rounds with a gnawing anxiety that he called his “sixth sense.” Something was brewing. He could feel it.

A chill breeze cut through the peril-riddled alleys, palaces, and dark paths from the East, cutting like a knife to the bone and smelling of the sea. The Guards in Dock Ward huddled close to their watchfires, drinking strong coffee to stay alert and warm. The breeze brought them sounds from beyond the safety of their posts, the howling of a wolf, the splash of a fish, or the croaking of a marshbeast. They could hear sounds of the city too, laughing, shouting, and the whistles were the ordinary ones that mixed with the clopping of hooves and the creaking of the docks. The guards rattled their pikes and sabers, trying to shake off the cold of Hammer, deepwinter in the Realms.

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The Sergeant noticed many things during his patrol, but he knew how to pick his battles. He had not survived thirty years on night watch by being needlessly heroic or nosy. He saw several black-clad figures pad through the darkening streets or vault across rooftops in the alleyways.  He ignored opium dealers selling their wares on the lower docks, nodded to a few wandering chirurgions, tipped his hat to several prostitutes, and slipped a few coppers into the cups of the beggars he passed along the way.

And that was when he heard it. A shiver ran down his spine as a cannon discharged, echoing through the night. He looked around, pinpointing the rising smoke as somewhere near Pier Five. That was the dry dock and there was only one ship being held there tonight.

Something was amiss at The Blue Nixie.

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Captain Solomon Negan sauntered across the deck of The Lucille to watch with sheer contentment as the Sea Dogs boarded the merchant ship. The blood thirsty pirates filled the night air with shouting and the clashing of swords. Every time one of his men took a step another of the Waterdeep sailors fell lifeless to the deck. Grapples were already in place, grinding gears bringing the prey closer to Negan’s predatory vessel. Everything was going according to plan.

Solomon braced against the railing as the two hulls finally met with a grinding of wood and metal while the grapples cinched tight. He turned and nodded to his Master Gunner, then drew a mastercraft pistol to take aim at one of the opposing soldiers crouched in the crow’s nest. Before the man could get off a shot with his heavy crossbow, Negan squeezed the trigger. He half-smiled as the man tumbled lifeless through the rigging and to the blood-slicked timbers of the opposite ship.

The Master Gunner gave an order, and two of the twelve-pound cannons belched fire and smoke, sending shot into the masts of the enemy ship, rending sails and rigging alike. The Sea Dogs continued to cut down defenders with their cutlasses while Zeed and the Aarakocra swept in as a second wave. Birdfolk descended on the already chaotic scene, dragging foes into the air screaming and dropping them into the icy waters of the Sword Coast.

“Get rid of their mast, knock holes in the hull, then get back on board.”

Smee’s voice was nearby. “Cap’n?”

“Don’t sink her. I want her badly damaged but capable of making it back to Waterdeep. I want the word to go out that the strange ship with the turquoise hull.”—he gestured to The Lucille —”is manned by dangerous  maniacs  and should be avoided at all costs.”

Smee’s voice again. “Capt’n!”

Solomon opened his eyes, suddenly realizing he was dreaming. He sat up in bed, sighing and blinking to stare at Smee learing at the foot of the bed.

“What?” muttered Solomon. “What’s the problem, Smee?”

“They’re back Captain. And they brought the blue boxes with them.”

Solomon nodded. “Give me ten.” He watched as Smee departed, trying to clear his head of the fog of the past.

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Solomon was pleased to hear that the “Blue Box Job” was accomplished with the bravado he expected from his deckcrew. Although he had told them to keep the mission a quiet one, he had served with them long enough to know that they would attract the attention of the City Watch at some point. They were too bloodthirty, greedy, and reckless to slip in and out undetected.

He sipped his morning coffee, listening to Smee recount the events of last night. The Sea Dog Sargent had been watching the crew then entire time thanks to an ensorcelled device planted on the Minotaur named Hapax. The crew had deposited the decoy boxes and recovered the others. Resistance had been met with extreme violence, and they managed to kill nearly the entire force of thugs guarding the Blue Nixie. Solomon was especially pleased to hear that his two assassins from House Basadona had seized the opportunity to eliminate Soller Vark, a local crimeboss.

“So what you’re telling me is that our men did a good job.” Solomon leaned back, quaffing the last of his coffee. He smiled, lopsided, at Smee.

The other man huffed and puffed angrily. “They screwed it up, Capt’n!” Smee waved his hands errectially, clearly frustrated and angry. “City Watch all over the place like ants on a honey pot!”

“Good,” laughed Solomon. “Then they did what I hired them to do.”

Smee was flabbergasted.  “You told ’em quiet. You told ’em easy in and out. You specifically said not to screw this up, Cap’n!”

“The Alchemist Fire crates are on the ship, and the job is done.”  The bigger man kicked his feet off the table, standing up and pounding the metal cup down on the surface of the table. He sneered and leaned down to put his face closer to Smee’s and narrowed his eyes. “They did the job,” he growled. “They get paid.”

Smee backed up a few steps, nearly falling backwards over a neary chair. He stuttered and stammered, finally able to say: “Yessir!” before he rushed towards the door.

Solomon put his hand on his spiked warclub, feeling the magic tingle up through his fingers into his arm. “And make sure you set aside some of that coin from Vanderboren to pay the crew’s back wages,” he shouted at Smee. “We owe them.”

Smee nodded as he sprinted from the room.

“We owe them plenty.” Solomon whispered to himself.

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John Morrissey LaValle, one of the many Uncles of Guild House Basadoni, watched the two assassins slip out of the conference room. He looked down at the earring and signet ring that had been taken from Vark’s corpse. He puffed a last time on saradush cigarette, and mashed it into the copper tray next to him. He watched the smoke rise, musing quietly. With the crime boss dead, there would be a small scuttling in the underworld. It would be a prime opportunity to move someone up the ladder into a different position within the city.

LaValle turned then, his senses finally alerting him to someone standing nearby. He nearly jumped when he saw Nemien Roblach standing in the shadows of the corner, smiling at him. The pirate was wearing one his usual garish outfits, complete with a huge tricorn hat sporting a big white feather.

“Dammit, Roblach,” murmured LaValle. He stood, scooping up the jewelry and shoving them into his pocket. “I told you never to come here.”

He other man grinned. “I’ve been here many times.”

“Never to come back,” LaValle growled in frustration. “We cannot be seen together.”

“You do not abide by those sorts of orders, we both know, John.”

LaValle sighed. “What do you need?” The Master Thief glanced at the door. “Be done with it.”

“Did you think that Solomon would defeat me?” Nemien sneered sarcasticly. “The privateer visited me last eve around midnight and cut up one of my finer cloaks.”

“Solomon,” Lavalle breathed. “I haven’t -“

Roblach made a grand gesture, waving his hand out like a playactor, tossing two small knives on the surface of the table between the other man’s fingers. LaValle snapped his hand back, surprised.

“I paid you good coin to let know me when The Lucille came back into port. Do not lie to me, you cur. You have spies on that vessel. I know that you placed them there months back.”

LaValle sighed again. “Obviously.”

The swashbuckler took a step towards the Guild Thief, swirling an ndex finger at the man as if it were a rapier. “You agreed to warn me if Solomon planned to come after me,” he said loudly. “Yet there he was, pistol and dagger in hand, with no earlier warning from the powerful House Basadoni.”

Slumping back into his chair, LaValle signed again. “Our bargain ended when you left the House, Roblach. You’re one of the Lotus Flowers now. Contact with you is forbidden, you ignorant lunatic.” He watched as the pirate’s eyes narrowed and he added quickly, “You understand that you are no longer, family, Nemien, no longer my Brother.”

Roblach stepped closer, scowling. His muscles tensed. For a moment, he considered putting a dagger through the older man’s eye socket. But he saved that for later. “I also know that LaValle rarely adheres to orders of law.”

“This is different,” shrugged LaValle. “Directly from the Grandfathers.”

The pirate blinked, surprised. He smiled, stood up straight, and twirled his waxed moustache. “Well then, my reputation grows.” He turned and padded back to the corner, leaning on the wall with arms crossed. “Have they increased the bounty on my head, as well?”

LaValle rolled his eyes, and smiled. “Roblach,” Another sigh. “What do you need?”

The pirate grinned widely. “I need you to smuggle me onto The Lucille.”

LaValle felt bile rise in his throat.

This was going to be a long night.

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