(OOC: This thread is full! Participants are Smiling One, Son Min Kyung, Ynsidia, Huang Tien, Isaias Kildare, Lectrix, and Oliver Rose) Pyx slid a silver mark across the table. The old sailor, his face covered in soot and his breath smelling of ale, flipped the coin to check its weight and transferred it to his shirt pocket. “Aye,” he said quietly, “People go missin’ sometimes, hereabouts. Nobody important, I reckon, or at least nobody whose relatives the Council would believe. What’s a few peasants to them? Specially as they profit off the business those ships do in the city, and bribes too I daresay.” “But we know just where she is,” Pyx argued desperately. “Surely someone on the Merchant’s Council would see reason, and order the customs agents to search the ship? They cannot simply allow their own people to be kidnapped and sold abroad, left to gods know what fate.” The sailor laughed, loudly enough that Pyx shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Well aren’ you an eager lad! Tell you wha, you might just be respectedable enough to be allowed to see the Council! Tell ‘em jus’ wha you tol’ me, and point yer prudish lil’ finger at Master Pelerion who owns tha’ ship, and see what they say. Yep, Master Pelerion, who been smuggling folk and beasts and dragon’s parts and stolen goods into and out of this city for... let’s see, near on three decades? Lining the pockets of the Merchant’s Council as he goes. How long you been in town lad, a couplea months? Ha, turn you into mincemeat pie, they would. Heresay, they’d say. Liar, they’d call you. You got nothing they wants, see, and they’ve nothing to gain by listening. Thas’ wha’ this city’s about. If you got nothin’ to give, best keep yer head down and outta trouble.” He nodded sagely, taking a swig of ale and seeming to enjoy looking down on Pyx with a superior gleam in his eye. Pyx endeavored not to grow frustrated, and considered their options frantically. “Then if the Council is of no use, surely other merchants in the city have taken such matters into their own hands. Do these smugglers have any enemies we might ally ourselves with?” “Ha! Smart lad, you are!” exclaimed the sailor. “A’course they’ve enemies aplenty, most especially other smugglers, or merchants they’ve stolen from over the years. Except they’re smart too, see, Pelerion and his lot. They’ve got enough clout ‘round here that you won’t find nobody local who’ll cross them, not for one little girl.” “I see,” Pyx said sternly. He fought down his temper, which had slowly risen to the surface. How could a city of such diversity, prosperity, and magnificence fail so completely at protecting its people? “Well then, have you any other advice to earn your silver?” “Oh, I’m full of advice, I is,” he said with a grin. “And I’ve special advice for you, sir, as you’ve been so generous. A fine budding merchant such as yerself must surely be in need of a worthy endeavor in which to invest his hard-eared funds. Now I happen to know a bloke offering high returns on a shipment of goods heading west to Elbion...” “I think I’ll take your first advice and stay out of trouble,” Pyx said with distaste, cutting him off. He stood, followed shortly by his comrades, and left the dilapidated dockside tavern with a disappointed air. Not to be dissuaded, he clapped the Vela’s deck officer, Darius, who was also the missing girl’s father, on the shoulder for encouragement. “Well, at least we learned something,” he said, doing his best to keep the crew’s morale high. “No-one local is likely to help us. Let’s put the word out quietly among some of the foreigners coming through the port, and see if anyone might be willing to help out a good cause. Worst case, if we don’t get her out before they sail, we’ll follow the Isabella to her destination and buy the girl back at auction.” Of course, they had precious little funds to do so, the majority of Pyx’s assets having been invested in the Vela’s cargo. Thus it was that Pyx and a handful of the Vela’s crew spent the afternoon walking the Allerian docks, quietly whispering their need in a few trusted ears, and careful not to disclose too many details about their plan to rob the Isabella of one of her captives. They regrouped in the evening at a more respectable inn, where they had claimed a small private dining room in the back that they might speak discretely with any mercenaries who came to ask about the job. Dinner was ordered, and they awaited any guests who might arrive.