After a brief discussion, the party decided to try to locate some muscle at a tavern. Finding the Naked Sailor filled to the brim with dwarves, Plunt ingratiated himself with the locals by buying a couple rounds of brews for the lot. Autumn asked the Strom the bartender if any of the customers would be available for hire as muscle, but learned that most are sailors enjoying some shore leave. However, the Smoking Gnome (next door), the Dirty Soorenar, and the Flirting Blade each were known to have a more diverse group. They did, however, learn that a locksmith named Samar operated out of the central area of the Docks.
After finding directions to Kosef the blacksmith’s, the party headed west, only to find another smithy on the way. Here they learned from Gelo the blacksmith that the fake key was not forged. The key had a soft interior and a thin outer coating of iron, which just wasn’t something a smithy could or would do. Only magic could have produced something like this. After Plunt hired Gelo to design schematics for a clever wand quick-release contraption (which would be ready after Midwinter) and Autumn browsed some wares, an apprentice cracked open the fake key using a chisel. While this damaged the fake emerald, it also verified that the interior was a nondescript gray wood. Twig recognized whittle marks and suggested that the key may have been hastily put together.
The group visited an inn next. Twig convinced Miriel, the elven owner of the Orc and Dragon, that the party represents the Sceptanar. In a quiet discussion outside a loud kitchen, the party convinces her to use her inn as a honeypot trap that night. As bait, Plunt buys some drinks for the common room and blows through a lot of money at cards.
With a great deal of daylight left before they could set their trap, the party heads to the nearby brothel operated by Romero. While the not-quite-hostile proprietor didn’t buy their cover story about connections to the Sceptanar’s palace, they did get his permission to ask questions discretely. Plunt took a worker named Yuldra into a room and began questioning her while Twig and Autumn assessed the guards. Yuldra had plenty of gloomy pessimism to offer, but little information. Plunt mostly found frustration in the brothel.
Drawn to a stoic guard with “shiny eyes”, Autumn starts asking questions and getting minimalist responses. Then another guard draws her and Twig aside and introduces himself as Pieron. The following conversation was heavy on sarcasm but light on information. A third guard again pulls the pair aside and offers information for the right price. “My name is Epeigeus, and I have seen things.” Plunt returns and the party collectively agrees to bypass this opportunity for “information”. Autumn tries to flirt with Shiny Eyes a few more times but gets little response. He also seemed uninterested in being hired after work, citing a non-compete agreement.
Deciding to visit the final brothel before returning to the inn to set their trap, the party visits Thoë’s in the eastern docks. With a bit of humor, Plunt quickly finds chemistry with the tiefling owner who offers two individuals who she believed knew something relevant, though she explained one might have difficulty understanding one. Marcon the guard reported having seen a quick shadow on rooftops in the western docks on two different nights. The slave So-Karr described someone that smelled like a fish’s shadow. “A small fish with a big shadow,” he said, “not the big fish with the big shadow that steals strings.” Unable to glean more, they thanked Thoë for her time and returned to the inn.
While Twig and Autumn began preparing the room for the honeypot, Plunt played some more cards with one of the poorer performers from earlier in the day. After some drinks, he learned the man, So-Kehur, has lost a small fortune earned in a few years of dangerous sailing. Much of it, he admits, was gambled away. Yet he also witnessed the terror of a small chest getting stolen from his room. More significantly, while pretending to be asleep, he caught a glimpse of the thief’s face. A face he’s since seen around the docks. A face belonging to an immigrant named Jarron who is recently engaged to a beautiful serving girl at the Monkey and Dagger inn.
That night, the team left Twig’s companion Feather on guard over the team, having prepared to pounce should Plunt’s moneybags routine successfully bait the thief. Unfortunately, no theft was attempted in their room that night.
Disappointed by the honeypot’s failure yet buoyed by the lead from the night before, the party visits the Monkey and Dagger the next morning to ask after Jaria. A soon-to-be-released slave named Sothra seats them and strikes up conversation before sending Jaria their way. After some direct questions about her husband-to-be, Jaria becomes uneasy about the group’s offers of wedding gifts and indicates Sothra would be serving them going forward. When Sothra returns, she reveals she listened to the whole conversation and offered to help get any gift to Jaria they desire to give.
After a few minutes of talking, they find an unexpected ally in this slave girl. With promises to help her get out of the city after her release from indentured servitude, and vaguely noncommittal conversations about potential investment in her future as an innkeep, she agrees to be eyes and ears within the inn for the party, claiming to know all the inn’s hiding places and revealing her tendency to watch and listen to guests and the frequently disagreeing owners. As an example, she offered that recently Ulora has seemed uninterested in reporting thefts to the Innkeeper’s Guild despite the other owner Ungred’s insistence.