As the Porpoise wended its way through the channels of the Bay of Luza River, the party spied many a merchantman and naval brig on the same path. In fact, once they entered the mouth of the Bay, they were never alone on the sea. This gave the voyage a friendly feeling, despite the towering sublimity of the mountains of Goin to the south. From sea level, Goin’s snow-capped peaks stretched five and ten thousand feet above, many cliffs rising up to a mile in one sheer wall. After being in the channel for a few days, they started to notice hundreds and hundreds of large flying shadows shooting across the channel in all directions. Given their size and their height, the dark flying shapes could only be dragons.
After a week and a half of brisk sailing, the Porpoise approached the shores of Preen. The numerous small docks of the tiny town would not accomodate a ship as large as Ogutu’s merchantman, so the party waited for a transport ship to approach and aid them in making their landfall. Before they parted ways, Ogutu agreed to return in three or four weeks to retrieve them – as soon as his new cargo arrived in Bae Cul. From there he agreed to take them anywhere they’d like to go in the immediate area.
The captain of the transport ship that loaded the party’s dunnage was named Griswold, and he asked the party to state their business. As soon as he realized that he was in the presence of the daughter of the Duke of Lundy, he became very deferential and begged that he might answer any need. Before leaving the party on the main portside street of Preen, Griswold recommended an inn called “Correll’s”, the best seafood restaurant for many leagues. Griswold also arranged for Lucia’s animals and the rest of the party’s gear to be delivered to the inn. The party thanked the captain and headed up the winding streets of the town toward their lodgings. Lucia immediately sent a messenger off with a request to call upon the local peer, Sir Alistair Gennari.
At this point everyone took a moment to notice their new surroundings. They knew that Preen was a trading port and tourist destination of medium-small size, supported primarily by a thriving fishing and shellfish operation as well as a fair number of smugglers. They could see that the port was dominated by fishing vessels and that the hills of the village were ringed by scrubby highlands which soon gave way to the dense Myn Forest. Crinn shared with the group that he knew the Hebert crime family was very powerful in this part of Lundy.
After the party had their dunnage stowed at Correll’s and Lucia had made arrangements to have her animals cared for, the party went down to the restaurant of the same name. While they were dining, a man approached the table and introduced himself as Cary Hebert, the owner of the establishment. He welcomed Lucia and her friends to Preen and told them that he hoped they would let him know if they needed anything during their stay. Upon learning that their intention was to travel west to Overaun Castle, Hebert insisted that they use his local caravaner, Bradford’s, to arrange their journey – free of charge. “Consider it a favor to the Duke, especially in these ‘uncertain’ times,” he said. Asked what he meant by “uncertain”, Hebert inquired further whether the party had heard the news from Speezidvia, that the Queen had reportedly been assassinated following a terrible storm that came over the mountains of Goin and did a great deal of damage to Lyshi palace and the capital city. This news came from a draconic emissary from the palace, who arrived just days before at “Caraviu”, home of Sir Alistair. The Queen was out riding when the invisible assassain turned her to stone, then lifted her high into the air and sent her crashing into the earth, whereupon her body shattered into rubble. All this happened before the Queen’s bodyguards were able to stop the assassin; its presence was concealed by many powerful magicks. The attacker was ultimately destroyed, but only after carrying out its horrible mission. Needless to say, the party was horrified and perplexed by Hebert’s tale.
Soon after dinner, Lucia’s message was answered by one of Gennari’s men, who told her that Sir Alistair would be delighted if Lady Von Staden and her friends might come to Caraviu for brunch the next morning. Lucia accepted.
That night, Crinn went out on a mission of his own to speak with some of his contacts in the area. The following morning, he reported to the group that he had made contact with some people who were involved in prostitution. These contacts told Crinn that Linwood Shelley was in the habit of stopping in Preen for “pleasure visits” before going in to port in Bae Cul. They offered to be of assistance to the group in either detaining Shelley or gathering information or any other service they might perform. Additionally, these contacts warned Crinn that if the group were to travel with Bradford’s, their activities would be reported straight to Hebert. They all but insisted that the group use their services to travel to Overaun instead. All of these services came with a price, however. The contacts wanted Crinn’s help in freeing some of their fellow “employees” from servitude in Hebert’s underground harem. Crinn told the group that he would be able to find out more information after he met with someone at Cafe de Mauro the following day.
While Crinn recounted the story of his nighttime activities, Anubis was out at an armorer’s shop called “Smythe’s”, a local dealer who primarily did bulk work for the local militia and for the Hebert family. Despite Smythe’s gruff demeanor, Anubis arranged to have him make a chain shirt and a large wooden shield.
After Anubis’ return, a four and chaise pulled up outside of Correll’s and the group headed off to Caraviu in style. Sir Alistair’s home was a beautiful villa set on a series of flats in the highlands above Preen. When they arrived, the party was sent to the parlor, and soon Sir Alistair warmly greeted them there. He introduced his son, Antonio (with whom Daniella attended school at Masud) and Antonio’s fiance, Elena. Antonio invited the group to accompany him on a tour of Caraviu’s gardens while brunch preparations were being completed.
The group followed Antonio out of the house past Caraviu’s well-tended vineyards and into a gorgeous, if modestly proportioned, maze of gardens. He directed Lucia to some of the more interesting plants, though most of them were kept for their beauty rather than their medicinal properties. Soon the conversation turned to political matters. Antonio expressed great distress at the influence of the Hebert family in the area, and he confided to Lucia that he had had many arguments with his father about reducing Cary Hebert’s influence, which exceeded Sir Alistair’s own. Antonio’s father, however, was very reluctant to upset the delicate balance of power in Preen, and many of the elder Gennari’s advisors were, in fact, on Hebert’s payroll. Antonio wished for an opportunity to make direct moves towards altering the situation, however. He begged Lucia to use her influence and resources to locate men in Preen who might be disposed against Hebert – to form a nucleus of what might become a force for ejecting him from the area entirely. Once such a band could be brought together, Antonio knew of a perfect way to diminish Hebert’s power.
“In three days time, Hebert has a caravan coming to Preen from Bae Cul with an item of high value,” Antonio said, “probably something with magical properties. If that caravan were to be robbed of its cargo, it would show the locals that Hebert’s ‘protection’ is vulnerable and perhaps less trustworthy than is generally assumed.” Lucia agreed to do all she could, but admitted that her own influence in the area was minimal. Antonio thanked her vigorously, and the group returned to the main house to enjoy their brunch together.