Session 1: Three Jobs

Day 1; Early Summer; May 23, 2023

The Floating Market has come to the town of Welkin, an annual event that draws hundreds of people to the small fishing village in search of exotic, luxury goods. The market is run and managed by the Termite Folk, a clan of halflings from the central island of Natalia. The market is expected to stay in town for a few days, before continuing its counterclockwise journey around the Keshi Archipelago.

A symbol consisting of a circle with eight spokes with arcs between them

A small crew of scoundrels and thieves, consisting of Johnny "The Dead Man" Parched (a tortle pirate-in-exile), Marto Kwilliticutti (a gnome wizard hoping to learn every single spell), Ren (an owlin pickpocket who has recently been traveling with Johnny), and Starchild Oliver (a wood elf mystic who is guided by the stars), is sought out by a Termite Folk merchant named Per Anco. Per offers them a job "acquiring" a book called The Fold from another Termite Folk merchant named Zitona Malady. The book will bear a particular symbol, which he scrawls on a napkin, but she isn't a book seller, and will instead be found in the arts and crafts section of the market. Per claims that he's only offering this job to them, and to no one else, and he seems to be on the level (though perhaps omitting some additional information). In exchange for acquiring this book, Per offers the scoundrels any one item from the Floating Market, which can include one of the market's top-of-the-line ships. They agree, and choose to set off right away, at least to case the establishment, if not to complete the job as quickly as possible.

The crew arrives at the market and takes a quick assessment of the situation. People of all sorts are wandering around, perusing the wares. To the left are food items, to the right are tools and weapons, to the back left are books, to the back right are arts and crafts, and around the perimeter are ships and boats. The crowd is large, with people from all around the northeastern arm of the archipelago. The stalls themselves are set on wooden barges, with birchbark roofs, selling a wide variety of luxury wares. In the center is a larger building, with a counter around its perimeter, that seems to serve as an information kiosk. This serves as the crew's first stop, but they are forced to wait in line by a halfling woman who is complaining to the clerks about the market's security this year, noting that there have been problems at all of the previous stops. Johnny interrupts, noting that they know how to fight. The woman, who introduces herself as Tai, agrees to hire them on, despite Johnny briefly claiming that he knows how to do magic. She gives them hats identifying them as security guards, and sends them on their way with two pearls each.

Zitona Malady's stall in the arts and crafts section seems to be one of the more mundane stalls in the area. Her wares are rather small and simple wooden figurines, not worth much compared to the other luxuries, including a stall selling magically animated wooden figures nearby. Immediately next to her is a stall selling large wooden statues, including a life-size grizzly bear, though the barge behind hers is abandoned and another nearby barge is missing altogether, granting access to the water. As they approach, Oliver spots someone hiding on the roof of one of the stalls across the boardwalk, selling turquoise jewelry. Ren flies up to investigate further, followed by Marto's familiar, Frito, and successfully sneaks up behind them. Ren sees the vagabond is a local human woman, and she is staring directly at Zitona's stall. Ren startles the woman and convinces her to explain what she's doing up there. She gives her name as Margaret and explains that she was hired by Per to steal the same book from Zitona, though Ren doesn't let on that her crew is working on the same job, though she's upset that Per lied and hired someone else. Ren considers trying to recruit Margaret, though it isn't clear whether she has any useful skills. Frito relays what's going on, so when Ren eventually tries to convince Margaret to leave the rooftop, Johnny looks up at the roof suspiciously to show that the guards are onto Margaret. She isn't quite convinced, but moves on once Johnny goes into the stall and pounds on the ceiling with his peg leg.

When Margaret starts moving, the rest of the crew gets into position to try to capture her. Ren hides, while everyone else runs to the end of the row to nab Margaret when she climbs down. Marto coaxes her down with a minor illusion, convincing her that a guard has approached her on the rooftops. She jumps down, and Oliver entangles her. She breaks momentarily free, but with a punch from Johnny, a ray of frost from Marto, and a final command to stand down from Oliver, Margaret agrees to stand down, and she is escorted back to the information kiosk and handed over to Tai, though Ren stays behind, hidden, and notices that Zitona heads after the rest of the crew, leaving her stall unattended.

Since the stall is unguarded, Ren heads over to check things out. There's nothing of particular interest on display, but underneath one of the tables is a strange metal hatch, bearing five different symbols, including the one that Per had drawn for them. Ren touches that symbol, and the hatch unlocks, allowing her to make her way down the ladder into a room somehow below the floating barge, accompanied by Frito.

When Frito heads down the hatch, his connection to Marto is broken, startling Marto, who dismisses Frito and re-summons him to get the scoop on what happened. Tai is very happy with the crew's work as security guards capturing Margaret, and encourages them to stay on when the market moves to its next stop. There may even be a raise for them! However, they spot Zitona coming in their direction, and Oliver goes up to talk to her. She seems to be a nice old woman, though Oliver convinces her that she knows him from one of the previous stops. They have a conversation as "old friends", serving as a distraction while Johnny heads back to the stall. At the end of the conversation, Zitona gives Oliver a cookie, which he gladly eats, and she moves on to hear what happened with Margaret from the information kiosk.

Meanwhile, Ren has descended into the hatch, where she finds Zitona's secret bedroom. There are two doors out: a heavy vault door and a regular wooden one. Ren also finds a bag containing 15 pearls, and a book on a bedside table. Unfortunately, the book, which is titled Caleb's Primer on Mathematics, is not the crew's quarry. Avoiding the scary door, she heads out the other way, and finds a natural cavern with two additional tunnels, one leading to a library and the other to a workshop. In the middle of the cavern, however, is also a metal dome. She opens the door and goes inside, finding it to be a planetarium, with a star map projected on the ceiling.

By this point, Oliver, Johnny, and Marto have returned to the stall. Johnny is hesitant to descend into the hatch, since he barely fits, but Oliver climbs down and joins Ren, leaving Johnny and Marto to stand guard. Oliver is completely fascinated by the planetarium, but realizes that the stars aren't real: they don't correspond to the stars of Keshi at all. He touches the podium in the center of the room, which allows him to navigate the star charts and identify two constellations orbiting a central point star: one depicting a gnat and one depicting a starling. Back upstairs, Zitona starts returning to the stall, and Johnny closes the hatch so she doesn't notice that something is amiss. However, when she returns, she seems to sense that something is off. Oliver had said that he would stand guard, and she doesn't see him there, so she starts asking questions. Marto tries to distract her with another minor illusion, but she just tells Johnny to check it out, since he's ostensibly a security guard. When he turns around, she disappears down the hatch.

Ren and Oliver have moved on down the tunnels into the library, where they are greeted by a glowing avatar named Catalogue. Catalogue is at first worried that the two guests are intruders, but Oliver convinces them that they're friends of Zitona and registers the name "Zitona's Friend Oliver". Catalogue isn't aware of the book that the crew is looking for, but does have information about the planetarium, and about the symbol. The symbol is identified as the sign of the Order of Caesium, one of the Termite Folk clans. The planetarium is related to some research that Zitona has been working on recently. She's been reading from a book titled of Lost Constellations, which Catalogue pulls and Oliver takes.

Marto and Johnny follow after Zitona, but she's turned on a light in the bedroom and immediately notices them above her. She calls them down, and Johnny complies, forcing Marto down before him. Zitona is friendly, but berates them slightly for breaking into her home, where they're not supposed to be. Johnny blurts out some of the details of their plan, and even goes so far as to try to crack the vault safe directly in front of Zitona. She asks them to stay where they are, while she goes into the other room, knowing that there are more people down here.

Hearing Zitona approaching, Ren and Oliver hide in the library, quickly deactivating Catalogue. Zitona steps into the library, and quickly catches Oliver, bringing him back to join the rest in the bedroom. She doesn't notice Ren. Zitona offers Johnny and Marto cookies, which Johnny notices have a soporific effect, though he resists the lull. Oliver calls Ren back in, and Zitona explains her situation. Many people have been looking for her book, which constitutes a major change in the world's understanding of magical theory (though Marto notices that she perhaps hesitates a moment before saying "magical"). People with ill intentions could use the information in the book to cause even more havoc. Ren and Johnny come up with a new idea: to give Per a forgery and help Zitona instead. Zitona latches onto this idea. They'll be able to get their reward from Per and lead her enemies away from her hideout. In exchange, she'll also allow Marto to read some of The Fold (if he's able to understand it). Using the theory in The Fold, Zitona can access distant locations without too much trouble. They agree to bring the forgery to Per and then escape to the Isle of Grownde, where she will meet them in ten days. Ren makes a wonderful copy of The Fold and, with their new job acquired, they prepare to enact the plan.