In Adwa, City of Sails, one Master Voor throws a banquet. The feast is to celebrate the safe return of the Faithful Ox, and of course the heroes responsible are invited. Aya and Abd Al-Rashid accept the invitation; Attsu Tsarran declines, as it is impossible for him to eat and therefore it might be impolite for him to sit quietly and not partake of his host’s provender. Captain Tairasha of the Twist of Fate is also invited, but he sends his regrets, and his crewmembers Kismet and Notch in his place. It is a magnificent repast, with pumpkin stuffed with swordfish, rice and dates as one of the highlights. At the meal’s conclusion, Master Voor gives the heroic guests a presend, sacred oils of Koread.
During the banquet, one of the servant girls gives a pleading expression to Abd. Once the party breaks up to enjoy sherbets and dessert wines, he searches her out. Kismet quietly eavesdrops as the girl, Tafina, asks for the paladin’s help. Her brother Zamad was kidnapped recently, and she longs for his rescue. She describes him as green-eyed, prettier than she is, and wearing a ring with a crab motif that matches her own. Abd agrees to help, as does Kismet. The two of them go to pick up Aya from the wine-tasting — Notch having already departed, as a gnoll’s endurance for rarefied civilities is typically limited — and the wind-sorceress blithely agrees to come along.
The abductor in question is allegedly Doryaduun, a dwarven beast-seller who was impressed by the lad’s beauty while visiting the wineship where Zamad worked. The group knows roughly where the animal merchant has set up his tents, and Aya sends her avian familiar off to scout the property. It returns and reports that it’s seen tents and corrals with nothing more remarkable than white oxen, and that Doryaduun is there with four other employees.
To gather more information about the beast-seller, Abd recommends a visit to the information-broker Bubaas the Barber. Bubaas is delighted to meet Abd’s friends, and shares what he knows of Doryaduun. The dwarf apparently carries both an enchanted sword and an enchanted riding crop, though the barber doesn’t know specifics. He also likely has some sort of hidden storage area where he can transport less legal merchandise. Bubaas says the Immortal Sage might well be interested in the crop, and Abd agrees to consider that.
The three then go for a more first-hand look at the property. Kismet scouts the tents, and notes Doryaduun discussing matters with a regal-looking fellow in green. The conversation apparently goes poorly, with the dwarf spitting in the dust, as the gentleman in green leaves. To Kismet’s surprise, the visitor then makes a direct line for the ally where Aya and Abd are waiting. She must choose between speed and stealth, and she opts for speed to arrive in the alley before the stranger does.
The man in green acts as though he was entirely expecting to see the three of them there. “Hello, Aya,” he smiles. “Do you have an embrace for me?”
Aya introduces him as Mirza Taskasha, a prince of her acquaintance. The Mirza is very courteous, and discusses the business with Doryaduun. He says he would like to assist the group, in return for the riding crop. Kismet shoots alarmed glances at Abd, but the paladin is very serene about the offer, and simply nods. Taskasha agreeably informs the group of a secret entrance into the pumped tunnels below Adwa, reached through a cheese-seller’s shop. If one were to take the tunnel below, the third entrance on the right would lead to an old drydock that Doryaduun has repurposed. Aya thanks the Mirza, and they head for the shop.
It’s late enough at night that the cheese-seller is closed, and it’s quick work to undo the latch and let themselves in. The tunnels lead to a balcony overlooking the drydock, just as Taskasha had said. Below they see more animals, including beasts of prey, kept in cages. A pair of burly thugs stand watch, wearing Doryaduun’s black scarves with red clasps. A third man is puttering at a small work-table. Abd recognizes the alchemist — a fugitive ally of the Ascending Flame. There are no human captives visible, however — merely wagons for moving cargo.
The three leap from the balcony and rush the guards. The alchemist barely turns around before he’s knocked half to one knee by Aya’s storm breath. The thugs pursue her, and the alchemist shouts to take her alive — she’s very valuable to the Flame. But Abd and Kismet are right beside the genasi, and they make short work of the muscle. They swiftly pummel the alchemist near to senselessness and throw him in one of the empty cages after removing his weapon and potion belt.
Kismet focuses on the alchemist. “Where’s the green-eyed man, the pretty one?” Their captive’s response is to point at a nearby cage, where a mournful-looking green-furred monkey is clasping the bars and watching the proceedings. They look over the monkey and note that it has green eyes, and is even wearing a ring with a crab decoration. The three surmise that this is likely why everyone’s interested in Doryaduun’s riding crop.
The three then hide themselves among the wagons, reasoning that the beast-seller and his men will have little left to do up above. Sure enough, Doryaduun and his black-scarved muscle descend the exit ramp before too long. But the alchemist shouts a warning, spoiling the ambush.
Doryaduun is quick to respond, and he lashes the three men with his riding crop. One falls to all fours, becoming a lion — still wearing its scarf — and the other two become large, long-fanged baboons. Abd engages the lion, while the women fight against the apes. It’s a tense struggle, even more when Doryaduun becomes involved. He lashes Aya with the crop, and although she doesn’t instantly transform, she feels woozy and vulnerable. She makes for the cover of the wagons.
Abd turns his full attention to the dwarf. He smites the beast-seller again and again, weathering a strike from the crop as well. Before the lion can get a proper grip on him, he cuts Doryaduun down. Kismet then shouts for the animals to surrender, if they ever want to regain their human forms. The beasts are apparently intelligent and still remember human speech, and they obediently withdraw.
The three examine the crop, and Aya deduces how it probably works. They strike the monkey with it, and he becomes a charming green-eyed youth. They then use the crop on every other animal, and discover that each one was a cursed person — an eagle becomes a fierce-eyed warrior woman, a cheetah’s skin falls away to an acrobats, a fennec becomes a dancer and a python a wrestler, and so on.
Finally, they restore the lion and baboons to human form. Abd then turns and addresses the former captives. “These men were instrumental in taking you captive and preparing to sell you into worse fates. I leave it to your judgment to determine what to do with them.” He then strides up the ramp, followed by Aya and Kismet and a nervous Zamad, leaving the slavers to face mob justice.
Though Kismet is still unsure it’s the proper thing to do, they give the crop to Mirza Taskasha; as Abd points out, he didn’t actually promise the crop to the Immortal Sage, while Aya did promise it to the Mirza. The elegantly dressed prince tha