|Mike Sullivan||Chris Warren
It seems that Gwyneth had actually been around Amber several days earlier, but nobody saw here because she had been almost immediately set sail for Alnos, posing as a rich merchants daughter. This was a plan of Randoms' to find out where the pirate base was. It worked, Gwyneth was captured among the rest of the people on the ship, and was brought to the (one of the?) pirates head quarters on some island. Once there she contacted Random with a Trump she had brought with her and Random passed some magical artifact through to her. This artifact was used by people back in Amber to pinpoint the location of the base. Then wyneth was brought back and the raid was planned. It was this raid for which Adria and Tom had been called back.
Just as everyone is abotu to board ship, Julian shows up with some young lady in tow that he had caught as she tried to get through Arden. This person, Janna, claimed to be Erics daughter. Not quite the complication Random needed at that time. Not wanting or having the time to deal with it at the moment, Random just had Janna come along on the raid to keep an eye on her, and if she happened to kill herself, so much the easier.
During all this, I (Gavin) was back in Alnos trying to keep this incident form escalating into a war - despite the Alnosian government pushing it in that direction. The King had gotten tired of my stalling on the agreement of responsibility he wanted me to sign, and so had "as a temporary measure" instituted a 75% tariff on all Amber trade through Alnos - a blatant violation of Golden ircle trade treaties. This was really more the meat of the matter, Alnos wanting to make it difficult for Amber merchants in an attempt to strengthen its own position. As soon as the Marquis told me about this, I was spending all of my time trying to defuse it.
During the sail towards the pirate base, Gwyneth gets a chance to talk to Random a bit and figure out a bit of what's going on. As the final approach begins, Random has Gwyneth go get a weapon. Gwyneth, as it turns out, knows almost nothing about such things. Luckily the ships sergeant at arms is a good one and picks out a fine blade for her. She spends the next hour or so practicing, with the help of Janna. Janna is a very good fighter, having grown up in a shadow with a strong duelling tradition. She was one of the champions. So, despite Random not liking her very much (or, at least, still disliking Eric) Janna managed to quickly and easily become pretty good friends with Random's daughter.
During most of this, Random was too busy arguing with Gerrard abotu the specific tactics of the assult. Gerrard wanted to do basically just a full frontal assault (of course) while Random favored a slightly more thought out attack. Eventually, as the deadline drew near, Random just pulled rank and Gerrard dealt. The attackers were broken into 3 groups - two smaller ones that would row ahead, land off to the side, and hit the pirates from their flanks, and one larger one lead by Gerrard that would make a more direct assault. The Marquis Gianelar and I were busy exchanging (through our offices) different versions of some sort of official agreement about the tax, figuring out what points were negotiable and what weren't. After a full day or so of this, the Maquis invited me over for a glass of wine. During this, we had a more straight talk about what was going on and managed to come to some sort of agreement whereby the tax would continue, but it would be held in a reserved account pending hte outcome of the whole pirates issue. I also managed to get some leeway in Amber actions (vis a vis allowing the Amber navy to enter Alnos waters) while in pursuit of the pirates. There was very pointedly no mention of where exactly the pirates were based or really what exactly the cause for the tax was, but reimbursement of the Amber merchants affected by the tax would happen through the Amber embassy, so we would have control over the spin. The merchants would also get some sort of interest, though much less than normal (the Alnos nobles end up making about 5 %, but I knew at that time that this would probably be resolved in the next couple of days - not really enough time for anyone to take serious advantage). All in all, it wasn't perfect, but it was more thanadequate, and probably better than could originally be expected given my lack of previous experience in such matters. Everyone was, if not happy, at least somewhat satisfied and feeling like more would be lost be reopening the issue than would likely be gained. The original agreement of responsibility was unofficially ignored pending the resolution of the whole pirates thing.
The attack on the base went off quite smoothly; Gerrard was a tank, Random was dancing and killing, Spot was surprisingly viscious and effective (for most of the trip he seemed pretty much comatose) and evryone acquitted themselves pretty well (even Adria). The pirates soon switched from 'Die capitalist scum!' to 'Please don't hurt me!'. The survivors were gather up and Gwyneth went to realease the prisoners. As she wandered through the camp, Gwyneth noticed that there were really far fewer people here now than had been there when she was a prisoner. Some searching by Tom (who was fairly wood crafty, having Julian for a father and all) and Spot (who was a decent tracker as well) turned up a likely path through the jungle where a large group of peopel had passed recently.
While Random and Gerrard and the rest of the standard crew finished checking the main base, Adria, Tom, Janna, Gwyneth, and Spot followed the trail through the jungle. It eventually let out onto a beach on a small hidden cove. There were definite marks in the sad indicating some people had been there, and there was a break in the reef where a skilled pilot could have gotten a godd sized ship through. Folks headed back to report this to Random. This info meshed pretty well with what Random was finding during basic questioning of the prisoners - seems like most of the important people got away.
Random then called me to let me know that Arjan had gotten away and would likely be arrivang in Alnos in about 12 hours. He also sent Janna through to me to get her out of his way. With the extra body and the early warning I thought that would give me enough time to set up a good stake out on Arjan local houses. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that Arjan was a shadow shifter and so he somehow either himself arrived or sent a message to the group of highest ranking members of his organization well before we got the watch established. After an hour of watching people slowly filter out, I realized what was happening. Given that the stakeout was a lost cause, Janna and I decided to tail one of them. We left a group of local guards there to continue watch on the place (all the local authorities suddenly got lots more cooperative once the official agreement had been signed), and we headed out to see where these people were heading.
After about a half hour tailing him, the fog began to roll in off the harbour at an almost unnatural rate. At the height of its density, the person we were tailing suddenly collapsed. We charged forward to find a dagger (Golden Circle make) in his throat and to hear footsteps receding in the distance. I gave brief chase, and Janna joined, but we almost immediately lost track because our own footsteps covered the noise of the others. Immediately thereafyter, the fog cleared. Seems that Arjan was not only a shadow shifter, but a very skilled one to be able to achieve such fine manipulation so close to Amber.
After that, Janna and I headed to the dock yrads to see if we could find what ships had recently arrived and what were headed out soon and for where. No luck in that regard, but with a bit of gentle threatening one of the friendly locals con artists (the guy who ran the crooked craps game I had participated in a few nights ago) pointed out to us where the revolutionaries tended to hang out. We then headed to that bar and Janna went in and attempted to make friends with a few people while I waited outside and watched the comings and goings.
Janna spent about 45 minutes or so socializing, and no one interesting looking left or entered the bar. Janna had managed to engage some local socialist idealist in conversation of an evangelical nature, but nothing useful was forthcoming. The guy excused himself as the conversation became more obviously merely an attempt at information gathering, and I saw him come out, followed soon thereafter by Janna. I left Janna her sword and tailed the guy alone. I followed him back to one of the groups gathering houses that we already knew about, saw him enter, and kept watch for abotu an hour. He did not come back out (at least not by any exit I could see). I then went back tot he dockyards to skulk around for the rest of the night and watch what ships were leaving, but to no avail. The next morning I sent a message up to the diplomatic quarters where Janna was staying, letting her know where I was and such. Most regrettably, it seems that Arjan and most of his key people had easily slipped through our net.
In a few hours, Random arrived in Alnos (he had set course for it the night before when he trumped me about the pirates likely arrival here) and Made a more or less official more or less end to the matter with Alnos. They were officially embaressed as Amber refunded the merchants, and things were just patched over and forgotten as these incident usually are. All the younger folk (Me, Janna, Adria, Tom, and Gwyneth - no Jamie though, she's still out some where, gone missing) got together and caught up on all that had happened. Not an ideal conclusion to the whole mess, but much better than things could have gone.