9th day of the 10th moon in the year 4512 of the Noruz reckoning, morning.
Sorkin is fuming out of his ears about getting fleeced by those children. “I would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for you meddling kids,” he mutters to himself. He asks Jongo if Enril is savvy to his “trade secret.” Jongo vouches for Enril, so Sorkin creates the image of the owl carving using Phantasmal Force. Corvis confirms the likelihood that it is an elven totem. He doesn’t recognize it, but it is similar in style to the kinds of totems carved by elven tribes in this area. Corvis is disturbed that the tribe he was with wasn’t the only one recently eradicated.
Enril studies the floating image closely. He is in awe. Besides the incredibly intricate detail, it appears the coloring of the brilliant blue eyes, snowy white and light gray plumage, and gnarled yellow talons was achieved by treating the wood rather than painting it. Corvis is surprised at this too. He says totems are painted or simply stained as far as he knows. Corvis and Enril challenge Sorkin, but Sorkin sticks to his memory and insists the phantasm is accurate.
After hearing about Sorkin’s humiliation and Corvis’s explanation of Elvin totems, Enril offers to carve Sorkin an owl with movable beak and flappable wings that might be a stronger offer for the Yazd children. He says he can do a good approximation of the carving and handle the mechanisms to actuate the wings and beak, but he can only paint or stain the finished product, not infuse it with dye. He also says he’ll need about a week. He’ll have to use high density hardwood to carve the detail. He’s expecting a shipment soon for a project he’s working on at the shipyards and will be able to scavenge suitable scraps. He says he’ll work for free since this has to do with spirits and the honoring the dead. Sorkin can’t help but feel that Enril is taking pity on him for the fiasco with the children.
Corvis and Sorkin leave Enril’s to go to the Little Shoppe of Curios. Sure enough, Sorkin’s tail is loitering nearby. After walking a few blocks, Sorkin and Corvis split up. The nervous human continues to follow Sorkin. Corvis finishes circling back and is now tailing the tail. Corvis shakes his head at the human’s incompetence. The human is not making any attempt to check his own rear. Sorkin wanders the city aimlessly to give Corvis a chance to make a grab. Around noon, Corvis sees an opportunity. Sorkin has paused in front of a hat shop and the tail has ducked into a quiet alley with just his head poking out to observe Sorkin. Corvis picks up his pace to close in, counting on the natural sounds of the city to cover his own limited noises.
Corvis lunges for a body grab. At the last moment, the human spins around. His eyes widen in fear as he lets out a pitiful yelp. He flails his hands and slaps Corvis repeatedly in the face. The distraction is enough to allow him to avoid Corvis’s clutches. Hearing the commotion, Sorkin looks over and sees the human bolt out of an alley into the crowds. Corvis emerges from the same alley cursing.
Sorkin incomprehensibly mutters something about incontinence of laugh cells and runs after the lackey. He quickly motions to Corvis and tells him to follow the simpering man. The lackey’s sprint doesn’t last. He’s quickly winded and gasping for breath. He turns to lean against a wall with his face turned upward and eyes closed to await his doom. Sorkin and Corvis catch up quickly. As they approach, the lackey slinks to the floor panting and raises his arms as if to ward off expected blows. He whimpers, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Please don’t hurt me!” Passersby pause to gawk, but move along after dark stares by Corvis.
Sorkin snarls quietly, “Why is Ruffar having me followed!”
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I don’t know! He told me to watch to see if you violate any guild rules! I…I… haven’t seen you break any rules! Oh! Ruffar’s going to be mad at me again!”
Sorkin tries a different tactic. Sorkin and Corvis drag the Lackey to a nearby inn, buy him a drink, apologize for the rough behavior, and try to extract some information from him: how many thieves in the guild, what sort of person Ruffar is (is he harsh but fair or backhanded), what sort of politics are going on right now, i.e. how do they treat the incoming rush of Yazd emigres. Also, what exactly are the “guild rules.” Sorkin promises not to tell Ruffar about their run-in, in exchange for information.
Mory says, “I…I… never heard of no guild. I just do what Ruffar says. There are maybe five or six other guys hang around Ruffar, don’t really talk to me though. Oh! Ruffar’s gonna kill me! He don’t like screw-ups! I…I… stay out of politics, I’m a simple man… the Yazd folks are ok, never heard of no problems with them. I try to stay out of people’s business. Oh! Ruffar’s gonna be so mad! I don’t know about no guild rules, I just know I’m supposed to do what Ruffar says and nuthin’ else! He’s gonna kill me!! Ruffar will find out I screwed up! He always finds out! Oh! He’s gonna be so mad!”
Sorkin reasons Mory’s been sent to see if Sorkin broke any guild rules. He didn’t see Sorkin break any rules, so he must know what the rules are, or else he wouldn’t know if Sorkin were breaking them. Ruffar must have at least sent him to keep an eye out for something, so Sorkin tries to get this info out of Mory before letting him loose. Sorkin presses Mory. Mory gets even more terrified and blubbers, “I’m… I’m just supposed to tell Ruffar what I see you do. I don’t know much about the guild or the rules. Once I saw Ruffar’s buddies beat up a man pretty bad. I asked Ruffar why, and…and he said ‘breaking guild rules’ and then he smacked me real good for asking too many questions. Only Ruffar talks to me. His other pals don’t talk to me.”
Exasperated at the lack of specificity, Sorkin and Corvis decide going shopping can’t possibly violate any rules of any kind and allow Mory to ‘follow’ them to the Little Shoppe of Curios. Once there, they peruse the shelves until Sorkin hears Corvis gasp. In a basket are 7 finely carved birds (2 hawks, 1 robin, 1 eagle, 2 finches, and a falcon). Seeing Corvis’s interest, the shopkeeper offers, “1 gp each, 5 for the lot”. Sorkin whispers to Corvis: “What is it, elf? What are these for? Want me to steal ‘em later? What say you, elf?”
Corvis eyes the carved birds on the shelf, perhaps a little too long, then quietly whispers to Sorkin, “My tribe uses birds as totems. The eagle represents the chief, the robin a teacher. The hawks and falcon are types of hunter.” His jaw clenches. He swallows visibly.
Since totems are highly personal items and elves are not nosy, Corvis can’t say with absolute confidence exactly whose totems these are. However, this particular grouping can only point to one tribe, his own. Corvis asks the shopkeeper, “Who brought these items?” The shopkeeper shrugs and replies “Some of the Yazd refugees came in here to pawn them. Said they were toys. There were a few more that already got sold.” Corvis wonders about Sorkin’s owl. He did not know of anyone in his tribe with a totem like that.
Corvis’s jaw seems paralyzed in its clench. Sorkin sees Corvis flex his fingers as they start to drift towards his weapons. The rage Sorkin saw in Corvis’s eyes during the fight with the Claacos makes a disturbing re-appearance. Sorkin is pretty sure whatever Corvis is about to do will violate somebody’s rules. Stealing the totems at this point would not go unnoticed. Sorkin hasn’t seen another gnome or elf in Kahnul since arriving…
Corvis right hand grasps the blade at his side, holding it tight, knuckles whitening, as if to channel everything of himself into the blade. Grounding him. He can’t give in to despair or anger. Corvis examines the carvings closer. Some should be aged and worn as the elves keep them for life. Some should be freshly carved if they were taken from someone who’s only been recently accepted as an adult in the tribe. These carvings bear the characteristics Corvis reluctantly expects. Corvis shakes his head to Sorkin, “No, we… shouldn’t.” Then he turns to the store owner, “2g for the lot.” Still trying to keep his anger in check; he’s just a store owner after all, he doesn’t know that he’s selling religious totems and violating millennia of religious beliefs.
The shopkeeper replies, “2 gp? It’s just like you elves to take advantage of the misfortunes of others. I paid more than that to the poor Yazd refugees who had to pawn them just to be able to feed their starving children. I’ll give you six, excluding the eagle, for 4 gp.”
Corvis retorts, evidently not believing the shopkeeper’s story, “4 gold for the lot and let’s be done with this.” There’s a glint in his eyes as he quickly draws his short sword and places the edge on his left palm. There’s a welling of blood, a subtle wince, and he places his palm down on shop owner’s counter, sliding it along, smearing his blood. He keeps his gaze trained on the shop owner’s.
The shopkeeper pales at Corvis’s display and says, “um… sure, take all seven for 4 gp. Here, I’ll even throw in this flask of dwarven lichen ale. You seem like you need a stiff drink.”
When Sorkin and Corvis return to the inn, Enril is there. He apologizes, “I’m sorry, I can’t get the wood I need. There’s some bozo from Bandar with the customer who says he owns the scrap. Wants a gold piece for it. Called me a thief for trying to take it, but didn’t think he was stealing if I paid him for it.”
Sorkin is persistent about the carvings. “Well Enril, sounds like we may need to talk some sense into this Bandai guy. Funny, of all people, Bandais should support model-making…”
Sorkin leaves the elf at the tavern (not good to stir up old racial issues) and travels to the shipyard, posing as an emissary from Lord Dreyfus (after getting the necessary back story from Enril) on an unannounced inspection run of the progess. He tries to go on an inspection of the boat, looking it up and down, asking engineering questions to the big man. After the inspection, he examines the wood and feigns some concern as to the quality, asks for some scraps to do some tests on it back in the lab. Sorkin only takes enough wood for what he needs to make the statuette, plus a little extra for himself, of course! He takes 3 small pieces, for Enril. Then one of the medium pieces for himself.
10th day of the 10th moon in the year 4512 of the Noruz reckoning
Sorkin returns to the Red Reindeer Inn to seek out Ruffar. Ruffar is there. Sorkin keeps mum about the lackey, thinking he can always deal with him easily at a later time. He asks Ruffar more questions about joining the guild, and what, if any, are the rules for members. He also complains about the steep entry fee and if there is a way to mitigate the fee by performing other services. Ruffar studies Sorkin closely. Sorkin can’t help but feel a little uncomfortable under the intense stare, but doesn’t show it (save vs. paralysis succeeded). Eventually Ruffar speaks, “There’s only one rule. You do what I say, and only what I say. I’ll think about a job for you. Come by here tomorrow night.”
Sorkin bides his time the rest of the day refreshing his memory of his spells. Enril stops by the Grand Arms Inn after work to find Sorkin. He says, “I’ve completed your owl. That Bandar bozo ran off after my pal from the guild stonewalled him. It’s a good thing you left some scrap for me! I had the whole day to work on your owl. Good luck with those chillun’!” The owl is wrapped in an oiled rag. Enril instructs Sorkin to unwrap it and let it stand in the cool dry night air so the stain finishes drying. The mechanisms for the movable beak and wings work great. The detail is rough compared to the totem, but very good by any other measure.