When truth can roam free
Those who seek it find the tracks
Of a shoal of fish
~ ~ ~
Metsubou and Han sat at the table in the corner of the House of Splendors. Han’s practiced eye took in the bar, soaking up the details he knew most of the others well into their cups of rice wine and ale would be missing. These sailors had coin to spend and were spending it in a place like this – a sign of two possible things in his experience.
“These sailors are rich enough to have coin to spare for the next proper ports.” Han spoke the first reason aloud.
“Maybe they think there be no next port.” said Metsubou, picking up the second.
He cast a closer eye at the three crews, which eavesdropping and time to wander to the latrines had revealed were off the Wise Choice, the Red Coin and the Loyal Brother. The Choice had a mixed crew of lizardmen and humans from the Delta cities. They were being most restrained, mostly talking and arguing quietly amongst themselves in a manner that told of the kind of ingrained discipline that came with long service under a harsh master, typically military.
The Brother was a ship from Qafayah, the shadow bazaar of the Sea of Storms. The crew was a mix of humans, different kinds of lizard folk and a hadozee like the poor soul they had fished from the wreckage earlier that day. These were all garbed in the turbans and long tunics of the Free Isles, arguing loudly and at cross purposes about card games, legends and other wide ranging topics. With them were the crew of the Coin, from Kinu Toshi, more men, lizardmen, a pair of ogre and there was a large apelike creature busy demolishing a pot of walnuts that Han had not managed to decide whether it was a very well trained gorilla or a grommam.
The Coin and the Brother were both bringing trade good to exchange for raw silk and swamp-lumber from the lizardman tribes scattered throughout the swamps and were complaining about the increased piracy along the coast between the Empire and the Shogunate. There were loud disputes over whether it was all attributable to lizardman reavers or whether one side or the other or another player from the distant cities was exploiting the situation to profit.
There were rumours that the magistrate in town was going to hold trials for everyone suspected of being involved in piracy, or that he woudl hand out warrants to hunt down and capture pirates, or that he would seize all goods suspected of being related to piracy. The magistrate was from the Delta cities and would reaffirm House Five Tigers dominion. The magistrate was from the Shogunate, a puppet of their delegation and the town would soon pass to the Shogunate. Taxes would rise. Taxes would fall. The warehouse district was full of basic goods, hoarded by greedy merchants for when the pirates cut off sea routes. The warehouses were full of weapons, slaves, cultists or stood empty. Fishing vessels remained unmolested, only traders were taken. All vessels were at risk, a whaler from Qafayah was overdue. The Lord Five Tigers would soon return in force to restore order or the Shogunate force already here would take up the task.
Han sighed at the tangle of conversation like the rope locker after cargo loading. There would be no easy tidying so he gave up.
“Finish your drink, lets find out what happened to Toshi.”