The Smuggler's Hold
Ha! I can see the “hidden” smuggler’s holds on that jumped-up barge from here. Won’t make it a mile into Andvallan waters before it’s boarded. I’ve worked with real blockade runners before; it’s a profession that quickly separates the quick and the clever from the imprisoned, or the dead.
What? Don’t act so nervous, all trade is fair game here in the cities of the Blueshine. Business is business here, it’s when you head up to Verdestia proper that you’ve got to worry about the sort of goods you’re carrying. Raw flowstones from the Onyx Sea down in Sundestia, for example, are strictly regulated. Dangerous stuff, raw flowstone, but there aren’t many Flowcutters outside Zustrenia. There are those that would trade a kingdom for certain flowstones, so for some it’s worth the risk. A chance to live in luxury for the rest of your days after just one haul? I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered trying it myself.
For others though, it isn’t even about the Golds – at least not anymore. It’s the thrill of it that now drives them to smuggle all manner of contraband across the seas. En’durz Hazzin, outcast Aethyrian merchant and finest smuggler I’ve ever seen… he’s the one that comes to mind. I remember that sleek cutter of his pulling up to one of my berths over in Kartagess. Sat low in the water, it was so overloaded with illegal goods, including a fair few of those glittering, deadly stones, fresh from the mines. He had half a dozen mages constantly renewing the wards over the flowstones, and most of the crew still barely managed to stagger off the boat before succumbing to Flowsickness. He gave me the dues he owed for docking, and the cut for the Merchant Lords, but then he pulled me aside and told me his plan to sail his cargo straight into the Dunharbor beneath Darkenhaven.
The madman! But he asked for my help, and the scheme was too intriguing by far to turn him down. First he needed a new crew from the Archipelago, since the ones that had got him here from Sundestia were going to need a few months recovery. Easy enough. But then he needed me to track down a Sarth bakery somewhere amongst the isles. That’s the sort of bizarre request I love! Took a bit of doing, but I actually found one here in Serpent Cove. En’durz loaded up the flowstones and shipped them over to the bakery. Took some cajoling and a prodigious stack of coin, but the Sarth bakers agreed to bake the raw stones into a few dozens of loaves. I hear even after scrubbing out their ovens the pastries still come out strange colors! But it worked, you couldn’t tell those baskets of bread from any other, aside from the weight, and En’durz thought of that too. An old enchanter friend of his ensorcelled them to lift just the way they should without a bunch of gemstones baked into them.
In spite of all that, I was sure he’d get caught. Sailing straight past the pride of the Republic navy, dozens of customs ships with mages ready to dispel any illusions, I didn’t give him a Vyundial’s chance in the Abyss. Once you get into the sea caves of the Dunport, you can disappear for good if you like, but the trick is getting in there in the first place. I figured he’d be rotting in a dark cell and moved on with other business, but not six months later he was back, pulling into my dock with another load of illegal Du’unsarran stones! He never explained what all it took to make it through, but he tossed me a small, amber sphere: a perfectly cut Xanthous flowstone! He wasn’t going to try the bread gambit again, but he had more than enough ideas to keep the game running for decades. We made a tidy profit together, but about a year ago he made his last run of raw flowstones. Not because he couldn’t keep passing them under the noses of Republic tax collectors, no, En’durz just got bored and decided to try something new.
Last I heard he was operating out of the Dunport now, smuggling young Half-Orcs and Ordrin with sorcerous talents out of Magdronog and Nordrukka and back to the Republic. Seems Zyranthea wants the arcane edge in the next war, but I doubt En’durz has gone soft and patriotic on us, all he cares is that it might be the only job more dangerous and exciting than his last one. If that ain’t the spirit of the Blueshine, I don’t know what is!
-Jervil Mabson, Entrepreneur and self-proclaimed ‘Master Procurerer’
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