"I am to find Artus Cimber, one of the contacts mentioned by Miss Silvane. He was once a member of the Harpers." Harb smiles briefly at Rodrigo as he speaks, his voice just low enough so that the others can hear with little chance of being overheard.
"Killin' two gobbos with one quarrel sounds a'right fine to me." Dellrak says as he finishes his drink. "We need ta find two people in the city I say we go a lookin' for 'em. If we find nothin and go off to the jungle at least people will be known we are looking and may have us some information when we's get back." "
The last place Derio was seen was in the Old City, according to Alistair Bol, so the group finished their drinks and headed to that gate. By this time the rain was only a light drizzle. A crowd had formed near the gate, with people trying to get through in time to watch "someone take the Executioner's Run".
Miss Imogen spotted some of her urchins, who made their way over to the group, hoping for a lucrative mission.
Places of Port Nyanzaru: Executioner's Run
The road through the Old City splits around a rectangular, stone-lined pit 15 feet deep, 50 feet wide, and 200 feet long. The original Amnian residents built it as an arena for a highly competitive ball game, and it still provides cheap entertainment for the locals. Velociraptors, panthers, or other hungry beasts (a juvenile allosaurus is a guaranteed crowd pleaser) are set loose in the pit, then convicted criminals are dropped in at one end. Any criminals who make it alive through the gauntlet of carnivores to the far end of the pit can scramble up knotted ropes and win their freedom, along with the adulation of the crowd. Spectators line the walls for these spectacles — including representatives from every level of Port Nyanzaru society, not just residents of the Old City. Bets are placed on which criminals will survive, which will die, how far runners will get before a beast brings them down, and how many kills each animal will rack up.
A handful of Chultans have become celebrities by surviving multiple dashes through Executioner’s Run. It’s been suggested that some people continue committing crimes solely because a conviction is the only way to get tossed into the pit, and betting is always heaviest on a repeat offender.
Occasionally an animal manages to leap or scramble out of the pit and runs amok through the terrified crowd. Moments of such high peril provide a perfect opportunity for bystanders to become heroes in the city and earn favors from the merchant princes.
"I'm not sure how I feel bout all dis," the dwarf says perplexed. "Might fine to have to battle for your life in the wilds, but for another man's sport? BAH! I say we look elsewhere for them missin lads, and pray that aren't in one o' those beasts gullets."
With that the dwarf hefts his axe on his shoulder and turns his back on the long pit, marching off.
"It's an odd notion of justice - surely one's fleet footedness isn't indicative of worth... although, to be honest, I've heard of far worse. Thay is no picnic I'm told..."
And you are right Master Dellrack. If one is to battle for sport, then surely it shouldn't be to the death... although... only convicted criminals do the run I'm told. If there is a conviction, it means there is a process, and therefore, *some* kind of records. It might be worth checking out if all else fails...
Noting the urchins, Rodrigo added "...although I expect Miss Imogen is about to impress us once again with her resourcefulness"
"If the trials have been fair, then the Executioner's Run offers a chance where otherwise there is none, wherein native ability or divine favour may choose to show itself. I would be interested in watching," she tells the others. She is no no way repulsed by the violence or the crowd's fascination with this, even if she does not share it as viscerally as they.
It is heating that the children remember her -- admittedly it may be as an easy mark. But nevertheless they were helpful, and so she gain doles out a silver piece to each of the first ten children, and promises a treat to anyone who can give her information about Derio or about Artus Cimber. She holds her fingers to her lips. "You mustn't let them know you are asking," she warns. She brings her hand down, and weighs a fistful of coins in her hand. "But if you find them there will be a substantial reward."
A few of the children ran off immediately to get a head-start on the others. The smarter ones asked a few more questions, and upon receiving the answers, nodded and pushed their way into the crowd.
Not long after, an official-looking convoy arrived, bringing three bound prisoners guarded by men and women bearing yklwa spears and thatch-shields in colourful uniforms. A magistrate rode high on a throne perched atop an enormous long-necked beast draped in banners.
Rodrigo stood a bit back as Miss Imogen hired her urchins, scanning the crowd for watchers - or pick pockets. Once done, he drew near again and said "Next time we get paid I shall spare a few coins extra for you Miss Imogen - this could very well pan out..."
"... and it seems you are about to get your wish." He snorted and added "My father always said that sell swords had the strangest of luck. One of those prisoners may be one of those we seek..."
Harb barely looked at the pit once it's purpose had been discerned. The death found here was often artificial in nature and of little interest to his order. Not that he would have been likely to observe any of the dying up close without himself being of the condemned.
He was tempted to head to the suspected inn, but felt that he might be needed here in the short term. "Perhaps there is something to be learned here. I will... observe."
Harb will do his best to keep an eye out for anything suspicious. He'll pretend to watch, but have more focus on the crowd.
The Executioner's run seemed to go as the crowd expected. Three prisoners did the run: The first, a sickly-looking sailor condemned for stealing from a merchant prince, made it no more than fifteen or twenty feet before a pair of vicious-looking velociraptors leaped on his back and tore him apart. The crowd cheered and pointed. The second man made it to the end, but the large spotted cat that was chasing him was a much better climber. It pulled the desperate man off of the wall and shook him. It dragged him into a corner to devour him. Some of the crowd covered their eyes.
The last man appeared to be something of a local celebrity. Many of the crowd chanted his name "Hula'go!" as he ran, dodging left and right as a young allosaurus, left hungry for days, snapped it's powerful jaws at him. At one point, the creature managed to catch him by the arm, and he desperately punched it in the eye with some hidden shiv. The beast flung him into the wall and he rolled with the impact. For a moment, he was on the side of the beast with the now-injured eye, and the creature looked around for him, rolling it's head from side-to-side and snorting. He timed it perfectly and dashed for the wall while the beast was confused.
He was desperately climbing with an injured arm when the beast figured out where he was, it thundered toward him and snapped up at his feet as he just managed to climb above the top of it's reach. It made one last attempt, leaping into the air as he climbed over the low stone wall at the end of the run. It missed the man, but it nearly came out of the pit! Scrabbling at the wall with it's powerful legs, it made an attempt to climb out, the crowd backed away from the side. Finally, a few handlers with long dull two-pronged spears poked and prodded it until it fell back down into the pit.
The crowd erupted into cheers, and a great deal of money exchanged hands. Handlers threw the allosaures large hunks of meat and eventually drove it back into a big cage.
The magistrate pronounced Hula'go a free man and the crowd began to disperse.
Miss Imogen nods at Rodrigo's offer. "I'm testing a theory as well," she admits.
The crowd roars, and she doesn't elaborate for now. She turns to the events. At the conclusion, she hasty writes a note, and hands it to one of the urchins still milling about. She picks a tall girl, who might be eight, but who looks like she might have some orc blood in her, a generation or two back. "Give this to that man, and I'll have a silver for you when you return." The name Hula'go is written in impeccable penmanship on the outside. The note is of course unsealed, but it is folded closed.
[sblock=note]Miss Imogen requests the pleasure of your company for dinner, this evening at the Thundering Lizard, and hour after sundown.[/sblock]
Dellrak had been grumbling to himself, impatiently waiting for the others when he found himself marvelling at stonework of the ancient ziggurat. It had once been covered with delicate carvings but they were all so worn now, that it was hard to make any of them out. This looked like no human construction he had ever seen, though humans had added things here and there.
The larger two (of three ziggurats, Dellrak stood before the smallest) were nearly completely covered in human-built additions - boxy houses and wooden facades. But nearly everything was built on the ziggurats, and Dellrak found himself wondering what was inside them.
Then, through the parting crowd, one of the children came running, waving his little arms. "Mistress! Mistress! Come quickly! It is Mayni! We had found something at a hut by the edge of the jungle and something bit her! She is very sickly. I could not carry her!"
Mayni was one of the older, smarter girls and Miss Imogen would hate to lose her.
Harb discovered nothing of particular interest, and was too far away from the dying to even so much as properly observe the passing. He'd had little interest in the meantime and was happy to move on. Turning to the child, he spoke with compassion in his voice. "Take us to her and I'll do my best to help her."
The small boy (who's name was Louzo), ran past the smallest ziggurat saying "Come! Come! This way, masters."
He led the group between some shacks, and they quickly came to the edge of town. A terrible smell came from beyond a slight ridge*, and the boy ran along it until the area began to grow thick with large-leaved trees. In a clearing, a large thatch-roofed hut could be seen, and lying in front of it, a girl of around 12 years.
It had not been far, and they had arrived quickly. She was foaming at the mouth and choking, her eyes rolled back and her dark skin had gone a blueish-grey.
*Places of Port Nyanzaru Refuse Pit: An enormous sinkhole serves as the city’s garbage dump. Every type of refuse gets tossed here, up to and including dead bodies. It’s a festering scar of garbage, rancid water, and vermin. Rats, insects, and ravens abound.
Harb knelt next to the girl, looking for the source of her affliction and attempting to stabilize her in the short term. As he worked, he spoke to the others. "I will attempt to keep her alive, but we will need to get her to a local healer as quickly as possible. Also, if you can find the creature that bit her, it may be of some use."