By Jeff Quick
Slavery isn't common around Faerûn, but certain nations still practice it, both on the surface (such as Mulhorand and Thay), and in the Underdark (nearly everyone). The slave markets in Mulhorand are popular and crowded by all sorts. Anyone who wants a slave of a particular breed or skill looks to the market here first.
Getting slaves to meet certain specifications is hard work though, and people with required skills or qualities can be hard to capture, or even find. That's why slave traders have set up shop in the busiest, most cosmopolitan city in Faerûn, Waterdeep.
The Angry Coxswain
The Angry Coxswain is entirely the dive one would expect. Located near the water, this low-rent alehouse looks terrible, but caters to people with silver to spend on quality alcohol. The owner, a Mulhorand ex-sailor named Ramas Shehepset (NE male human Exp5), knows how to pack the customers in with low-cost, high-quality libations. The house brewmaster, Orth Ironchisel (LE male duergar Exp2/Ftr6), brews duergar beers bitter enough to make a troll blanch, as well as creates ales as light and fresh as spring love. Some people might not agree with Ironchisel's alignment, but they sure do love his beers.
In addition to running a fine alehouse, Ramas and Orth also traffic slaves through the shop. Once a tenday, Ramas has beer specials that he advertises in different parts of town, depending on whom he's trying to attract for the market that tenday. If he needs blacksmiths, he makes sure flyers are hung near forges. If he wants bards, he puts them near theaters. All kinds of people come, but the placement usually draws a decent number of the kinds of people Ramas is looking for.
During these specials, Orth serves his "Blinding Brew" a concoction reserved for the special customers in the back room where Ramas keeps "the good stuff." Among other things, Blinding Brew contains native Underdark poisons designed to knock the drinker out. Duergar are immune to the poison, but anyone else who drinks a pint of the stout beer must succeed at a Fortitude save (DC 18) or fall unconscious for 2d6 minutes.
That amount of time is usually enough for Ramas and Orth to crack open one of the 6-foot diameter casks in the back room. This cask is false. It holds no alcohol, but it does contain a portal. The key to activate the portal is a splash of port wine onto the surface. Once active, Ramas tosses the unconscious victim through the portal and reseals the cask.
The Worst Hangover
The portal delivers its unfortunate cargo into a prison cell in the Mulhorand slave market. When victims awaken, they usually feel terrible and have no idea how they got into shackles in Mulhorand. Few people have the wherewithal to escape or make their ways back across the entire continent of Faerûn. Instead, they spend the rest of their lives in captivity.
People disappear all the time down by the port, so Ramas and Orth mostly operate undetected. However, they figure someone will get suspicious eventually, so they've contracted with a doppelganger to ease curious minds. Drejjd (N doppelganger) comes into the Coxswain about once a month during beer tasting specials and chooses one of Ramas's targets to impersonate. Then, after Ramas bundles the would-be slave off, Drejjd adopts the victim's life for a couple of weeks until the person mysteriously disappears or "dies" in a sudden accident. Drejjd varies his schedule and methods to avoid leaving a trail, but he favors the "long trip to see family" excuse when it's time to shed an identity and take on another one. He's been overusing that one lately.
Regardless, this tactic has worked splendidly so far. Craft workers and educated specialists from all over Waterdeep have gone missing or died, but no one has yet traced the common link of the Angry Coxswain in all of the victims' recent histories.
Ramas and Orth know that the trick won't last forever. However, they're both making great piles of money right now both from slave trading and running an alehouse. They know they need to keep a lower profile, but the money's too good to pass up. Besides, they have a quick and easy escape hatch all ready when someone finally does catch on, as long as they have a glass of port in easy reach in the back room of the Coxswain.
How to Incorporate the Slavery Portal Into Your Champaign
- While doing things about town, some or all of the PCs see that there is quite a discount on beer at the Angry Coxswain. What happens if one of the requests Rama and Orth need to fulfill includes someone among the PCs who show up?
- The PCs are approached by a young girl who is quite certain that her mother isn't her mother. She cites several examples of different attitudes and behaviors. What do the PCs find out when they start looking? Do they determine that it's a doppelganger?