The session begins with the party holed up in sewer maintenance closet CCLXVII and needing to find passage to Isla Malarta. Three navigatorial families, Mastelli, Santoni and Espiere, possess routers to the archipelago and could possibly offer passage. On Darian Shuh’s counsel the first family to be approached was the Mastelli, whose router window opened in less than a fortnight and would represent the fastest exit to the city. Shuh arranges a meeting for the next day and the party is informed that litters will be sent to pick them up. Much consternation occurs when Szilvia realizes that the break in to Shuh’s residence has left her without the necessary jewels to appear in polite society. She sets out to acquire them from a social contact of hers who is told they are needed for a secret tryst.
Prior to the first Mastelli meeting Mo the Guildsman (a name other than Guildsman having been arrived at through inter-party discussion) proceeds to one of the known corpse collection zones in the sewers with the hopes of finding a body sufficiently close to his own with which to fake his death. His arrival scares off a woman who had been searching one of the bodies. On searching the professionally eliminated corpse it turns out to be the fixer that Tomasso had seen arrange for the murder of Alberto and the theft of the seal. Believing her to have been interrupted mid task he takes a closer look and discovers a note indicating that a reward will be provided (no details of by whom) for the murder of Matthias and the recovery of Szilvia. Mo proceeds to locate a correctly proportioned corpse and, outfitting it in his old Guild attire, crushes it in one of the sewer pumps and discards it in a location that is likely to be discovered by regular patrols.
The next day two litters arrive to pick up the party. Matthias and Szilvia are greeted in person by Gian-Lorenzo Mastelli who greets them with the respect due to the nobility and ushers them into the first litter and introduces them to his daughter, and presumed protégé, Ellena. The remainder of the party are ushered into a second litter with two decorative ladies. The litters escort the group to a luxurious and totally concealed restaurant in the tenements of the new city. The restaurant, indicated only by a lily on the door, is a sumptuous two story affair with walls of Yaol wood paneling, string music and elegant dancing. The hangers-on are entertained downstairs with the two ladies who, on closer acquaintance, prove to be highly skilled bodyguards concealing an impressive array of weapons. Mo, whose previous culinary experience did not extend significantly past rat, decides that after such a meal there is some merit in becoming a gastronome.
Gian-Lorenzo spends the evening wining and dining Mathias and Szilvia in a private booth upstairs, putting on a clinic on charm and courtesy for his guests as well as his daughter. At the end of the meal, he gets down to business and offers the Mastelli proposal. In exchange for 100 clumps of Yaol wood they will ferry the party to the archipelago. Mastelli agents will provide the local manpower to extract the trees and, of course, ship the product, but the Sarkad’s will not be able to harvest any Yaol until the contract is complete. This request represents between a third and a half of the remaining clumps of Yaol that are thought to exist in Sarkad controlled territory. The evening ends with no commitment but thanks on all sides and an indication of future discussions.
The following day the party travels to the Santoni residence to hear the second offer. The Santoni compound is clearly a working manor with trade goods and bills of lading laying about. Szilvia cannot resist taking one. The party is ushered into a room to meet with Abramvel Santoni, the patriarch of the family who will conduct the negotiations, and Osti, the younger scion and newly minted head of Neu Ungren’s secret police.
After almost no ceremony and without any deference to noble rank Abramvel tables the Santoni offer. The Sarkad heirs will commit themselves to protecting the Santoni supply of material to the city of Doran (and through Doran, the Orangemen rebellion). This will be done through the provision of a series of warehouses on Malarta whose contents (and movement of goods) the Sarkads will remain ignorant of but for which they will be responsible to provide protection. The Sarkad heirs will also provide security in the form of a notorized letter in which they commit to this arrangement and support of the rebellion. This will be held in Santoni possession to be used as leverage in case the heirs consider reneging on the deal. No commitments are made and the party leaves the manor. On the way out Szilvia is quietly relieved of her appropriated papers by Osti and the party is greeted by Lucca Santoni in the hallway as he emerges, in underwear, from a room with a women’s corset on the door handle.
The next day sees the party, sans Tomasso, at the Espiere manor for the final offer. The mansion, a monument to the vast (new) wealth, and complete lack of taste of the clan. All surfaces that could conceivably be gilded are and then adorned with expensive collected art. The group is lead past paintings of previous family heads (some suspiciously new) to the grand salon and their meeting with Jonathan Francis flanked by a pair of impressive Northern bodyguards (brother and sister). After listening to Jonathan prate on for rather longer than is quite agreeable about the his merits and other closely related topics an offer is tabled. The Sarkad claimants will commit to fully honoring the monopoly of island trade that was promised (but never fully delivered) the Espiere by their grandfather. As a surety that it will not be reneged on this time they would sign notarized documents that, should the agreement not be honored, would make two of Jonathan’s children the largest land owners in the archipelago. The grant would be of sufficient size that it could only be accomplished by quickly conquering the remainder of the island or handing over almost all current Sarkad territory.
On their return, the party compares the merits of the three deals. Neither of the heirs seem to be enamored of the Santoni proposal fearing the consequences of providing such a permanent piece of blackmail material. Likewise the Espiere deal is considered and found wanting. Szilvia points out that it’s equally likely that Jonathan Francis will be happy if the deal succeeds as if it fails. The profits gained from a monopoly are not necessarily more important to him than the status that could be gained in the Empire by becoming a significant land owner. As well there is Shuh’s future plans to use Tomasso’s illegal router to milk the Espiere trade for customs revenue. In the event of the Espiere’s being granted a monopoly there would be more trade to tax, certainly, but the leverage the family would have in extracting payment (with the land grant hanging over their heads) might be greatly diminished.
This leaves the Mastelli deal and its issues. As mentioned the 100 clumps requested represents a significant part of the remaining Sarkad stock and the inability to sell any Yaol until the Mastelli have extracted their due might cripple the new regime’s finances. Set against the other offers, however, its felt that this the least worst of the three. Tomasso compiles a reasonably comprehensive document outlining the current state of Mastelli trade in the archipelago (see: not good) which is hoped will provide an advantage in the future negotiations. A further meeting is arranged.
In the meantime Vida has sent a note to the Espiere household requesting a chance to test his mettle against such impressive warriors. An evening meeting at Kinfy between him and the woman Anushka Vardar is arranged. Szilvia decides she would like to go as a spectator, dressing the part as a noblewoman looking for an evening of bloodsport and Tomasso accompanies her in the capacity of a bodyguard. The bout is short but eventful as the two meet on the copper colored sand of the arena, Anushka a stunning, if imposingly large, specimen of oiled skin, muscle and tightly bound breasts. Vida manages to block the first jab and scores the initial blow of the match by overpowering her defense of a shot to the left arm only to be destroyed, moments later, by a feint and a ferocious blow to the torso. Stunned to near unconsciousness, the bout is over and Anushka, salutes the crowd’s lewd proposals with single finger salutes. She completes two more fights before meeting Vida in the dressing rooms and congratulating him on a well fought bought. Szilvia loses a skud having bet on the wrong horse and is propositioned by a patron who has been amused by discovering that he has pickpocketed some useless and humorous trinkets from her pocket.
Having decided that the Mastelli offer represented the best chance of success Shuh sends a message to arrange a new meeting. Several days later the litters again approaches the residence. This time the destination was one of the sluice gates at the edge of the swamp and, embarking on a barge, the gate is lifted by several Guild members and they proceed out into a dark and foggy wilderness. The destination, what you would get if you asked Capability Brown to design a druidical dell on an island in the swamp, takes approximately 10 minutes to appear through the murk. Alighting they are directed to a sub-grove of tastefully arranged stumps where they are served by elf-like hostesses who flit in and out serving light refreshments, Gian-Lorenzo giving the impression that this is as ordinary as a pie served by your standard tavern wench.
The conversation turns quickly to the proposal with the heirs introducing Tomasso and providing him the floor for an outline of their understanding of the current Mastelli fortunes on the island. Quite smoothly Gian-Lorenzo taps out of the ring leaving the Tomasso to be handled by the second and more appropriately suited member of the Mastelli tag-team, Ellena. The arrived at compromise surprises both parties, Gian-Lorenzo obviously being slightly surprised at the concession of a reduction in the quantity of clumps from 100 to 90 and the agreement on a two year schedule which leaves control of the timeline for harvesting more firmly in Sarkad hands than originally suggested. Tomasso, on reflection, is surprised to find that he had been so “managed” by someone who he would have sworn had not understood spillage or balance of payments when the conversation began. Concessions that had seemed both logical and probable beforehand seemed to slip through his fingers in a smooth series of semi-satisfactory but oh so reasonable objections. Regardless, a deal concluded, the parties agree to meet at the Mastelli residence the next day to conclude the arrangement and return to lighter fare.
The Mastelli residence; a sprawling compound grown organically to include numerous adjacent properties and festooned with a curious number of aquatic trophies, and the party are greeted by Gian-Carlo Mastelli to conclude the paperwork. Having availed themselves of the services of Neu Ungren’s pre-eminent legal mind not currently on private retainer to a navigatorial house they examine the contract for the agreed upon deal. Finding that the terms are all as outlined, the legal scholar opines that the contract is sufficiently tight that should this arrangement not be concluded neither heir nor any of their future subjects would be able to trade a groat for anything, anywhere, to anyone, ever again. Arrangements are discussed and it is agreed that it would be best if the party were loaded as cargo in well appointed boxes and were to remain in the hold for the duration of the journey. In the interests of peace of mind, Tomasso is to be enrolled as a sailor for the duration of the journey and will represent the party interests should any need representation. The journey should take three weeks and the vessel captained by Sorrigo Mastelli.
Final preparations are made for the voyage. Lacking any reliable lieutenant, Shuh reluctantly shutters his operations to be resumed later when an acceptable individual could be sent out from Malarta. Vida presents a letter to the Espiere mansion thanking Anushka for the combat and regretting that he must depart but perhaps their paths would cross again. Tomasso requests an advance from Shuh for services rendered and with 15 skud, quite likely the greatest sum he had possessed up to now, proceeds to the docks and purchases a small block of unworked Yaol wood. This he presents at the Mastelli household with a note for lady Ellena of “To a profitable and successful future”.
Only 10 days since the receipt of the signet and the letter, the heirs, Vida, Mo, Alfonso and Shuh are packed into the hold of the Mastelli ship with Tomasso waiting on the quay. Anchors weighed, sails sheeted, the vessel slips out of the harbor into Neu Ungren bay with all on board praying for a kindly weather and a quick passage. Some, seasick for the first time, praying more fervently than others.
Shortly after leaving Neu Ungren, Tomasso discovers that in the jostle of getting the ship unmoored someone had slipped a handkerchief into his pocket. The cloth is embroidered with seemingly nonsensical words inscribed in router notation. No amount of re-arranging and comparison to their surroundings (since they are sailing the Mastelli router to the archipelago) reveals any hidden meaning but Tomasso is convinced that a message of significance is encoded within and is determined to discover their meaning.
A week out the vessel makes an impromptu stop at a small island and the captain, along with several crew, leave in the launch for several hours. They return with the largest tuna that Tomasso has ever seen and the Sorrigio is seen to be in a noticeably improved mood. Tuna for all and the head is sent to one of the officers quarters to be preserved for display at the Mastelli mansion.
Approximately halfway through the voyage a stowaway is discovered in the hold after Szilvia notices missing food from their stores. On questioning she is discovered to be the same woman that Mo had seen examining the corpse of Alfonso’s murderer’s contractor, Georggio. A less than satisfactory line of questioning identifies that the woman was definitely fleeing from Neu Ungren for reasons that might be related to her husband or lover but that she might not be truthful in saying that she is not currently in the employ of some unknown party. Not wanting their arrival in Tunne to be announced and hoping to arrive in Al-Thasdun prior to the Santoni ship which could be the next possible source of intelligence that they had fled Neu-Ungren, an arrangement is made with the captain. The woman, apprehended in the hold, is instructed to remain below for the duration of the voyage and to return with the ship where she would be given a serving position in the Mastelli household.
And thus to Tunne, a town as unlike Neu Ungren as is possible without being completely landlocked. Tall palm trees, a climate not actively trying to kill and the scent of coconut, rum and illicit profits on the air. It’s hoped that passage to Al-Thasdun will be had less dearly than this last voyage.