"Someone was looking for you," a drunk, muscular man applying some paint to his fingernails says to Belmarniss as she walks by. "Drow girl."
Patpatpat. "Just prepare two of the reputation healing spell tomorrow."
"I heard a story about some folks who always talked about sensitive stuff with their female party member way up in the sky so everyone could see they were several feet apart but hear nothing! You wanna try that one?"
He looks slightly tempted but shakes his head. "Let's not attract more attention. We have a room upstairs."
Up they go.
They close the door and Alarm the room and sweep for invisible people.
"So this started about four months ago with a contract to rescue some sailors taken prisoner when their vessel was hijacked by pirates. One of them was minor Taldoran nobility. We went out for them and found an operation that was much more sophisticated than we expected, and not one but four vaguely important Taldoran people. Barely made it out, with only two of them alive and one raiseable body so we take them home and learn from their parents that they'd been being blackmailed for money and apparently-innocuous favors. Playing with foreign poltics is a good way to get yourself killed, so we tried to decline to get involved, but the angry relatives of the initial contract - he was dead and gone - threatened us with criminal charges. So here we are, doing antipiracy work for Taldor until they've calmed down and we can plead urgent business elsewhere."
"And they're oddly organized pirates. Operations here and in Absalom and in Taldor and in Cheliax, much better funding - much better magic items - than they could possibly be getting off, uh, legitimate piracy. The woman we're after was arrested with six men, and they were all broken out a week after sentencing."
"Any idea why she's been left behind? Or is that likely to be temporary?"
"We don't know. But if they've abandoned her maybe she's sour on them. And if they're taking her, maybe she doesn't want us to take this trend we've noticed to the authorities. - which, to be clear, we have done, we're up on all the paperwork, they haven't done anything about it yet."
"Can't go back and execute someone you sentenced to Hadassah because their friends broke out. Sentences are final until evidence you've failed to comply with terms, or broken another law, surface."
"Makes sense. Do I have some kind of cover story about why I might be convinced to let it lie, here, in the latter case?"
"Like all good pirates she reportedly buried her outrageous hoard of treasure somewhere."
"Do the authorities want her outrageous hoard of treasure or does it come with the job?"
"Depends where it is, actually? If it's in Taldor we would probably end up parting with most of it in the course of getting them to drop their spurious charges. If it's here we'll just get a flat 15% finder's fee but it wouldn't be complicated. If it's elsewhere I don't know. We haven't travelled to Cheliax as part of this whole mess yet, despite some of the pirates clearly originating there, and I'm hoping we won't have to."
"Am I going to get caught up into your spurious charges, coming into the mess at this hour?"
"I wouldn't visit Taldor until it's all resolved, assuming you get involved at all. But they're not going to come here for you."
"Where's Saint Hadassah's?"
"Forty miles from here. Up the coast."
"Is there a take if she doesn't have a stash? How do we split it?"
"Two hundred for talking to her. If you want in on the whole mess, we're drawing a salary from Sothis and averaging twelve thousand when we stop a ship."
"Nice. I can probably walk on a boat these days, even, I got somebody to stick my cantrip to an anklet. I'll talk to her and then probably join up."
"We haven't got much more on her. We can give you the questions we had in the letter."
"Don't think it'll mess things up if she recognizes them?"
"It's really hard to guess that off her rap sheet. I guess use your best judgment?"
"I'll paraphrase at least to start. You guys still have a magic carpet?"