Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Part 1: The Pirates Who At Least Do Some Things

Not long after Seliph found himself dragged into the thieves' problem, the four of them were summoned to meet with Captain Darmin Zodge of the Flaming Fist, currently in the midst of handling a riot consisting of refugees trying to force their way out of the currently closed city. And when I say handling, I mean literally, the guy, a large, powerful, eyepatched man was in the center of the fray throwing punches before we pulled him aside.

"Well ain't this the most sorry ragtag group o'-wait a minute, izzat you, Seliph?! What are you doing here?!"

Seliph, who had not been looking forward to this moment after previously leaving the Fist, tried to seem as professional as possible. "Hello, Captain. Seems not a lot's changed around here has it?"

"It never changes. We've got refugees tryin' to bust down the gates to get in, refugees tryin' to bust down the gates to get out, and here I am, stuck dealin' with both sides of this stupidity." He was referring to the refugee crisis Baldur's Gate was currently facing, with the destruction of the nearby city of Elturel, in which the commander of the Flaming Fist disappeared. "All the while we have this other mess to deal with that I just don't have the time or the manpower for, which is why I summoned you lot. Take care of this, and whatever thievery problem you got yourself caught up in is as good as taken care of."

Seliph raised an eyebrow, knowing that whatever was likely to pass from Zodge's mouth wouldn't be pleasant. "Right, what is it?"

"There's a cult that needs dealin' with called the Dead Three Cult. Ever heard of 'em?" Without waiting for a response, he continued, "Right, they're worshippers of three gods of death, Bane, Bhall, and Myrkul. We thought we'd dealt with 'em already but apparently some have gotten away and are continuin' their foolhardy attempt to resurrect the Dead Three. So you see, this is a problem, but it's not a problem I'm equipped to deal with right now. I want you four to investigate the cult and handle them."

"Yes, that does seem like a problem of public safety. Okay, we'll do it," Seliph replied, not aware that he was speaking directly for the others. Not like it would matter. If they refused, they were going to prison, and Seliph had little desire to go to prison or work with Zodge again. The faster this cult was taken care of, the sooner Seliph could be free from this deplorable man.

Kalista, however, realized that going off with no information would be a terrible idea. "Where are they located?" she asked.

"That we don't know, but there's an information broker we'll have you contact who might be able to suss out their location. This is the only lead we have, but we also have these." He passed a badge with the emblem of the Flaming Fist to each of the party members. "These should afford you the same privileges as regular Fist members. Please. Do not. Do anything stupid." Each pause added emphasis.

"So...who is this info broker?" Kalista asked.

"Her name is Tarina. She can be found in the Elfsong Tavern."

The party thanked Zodge and set off for the tavern. On the path to the tavern, Seliph took Kalista aside.

"What do you want?" she grumbled, wanting nothing to do with this former guard who had gotten her caught.

"'s a little awkward know I used to be a member of the Fist? Well...a lot of criminals hang out in the Elfsong Tavern. People I've probably hassled or arrested in the past. They're not gonna want to talk to me. And that's the best case scenario. I guess what I'm saying is... these are your people, so could you take the lead?"

Ammon, the DM, started laughing, saying, "Man that's super racist."

Naturally I got a little defensive. "I'm not being racist! I'm being classist! Her being a tiefling has nothing to do with this, it's about her being a thief!"

Yes, there's quite a bit of irony here considering that Seliph was born into poverty as well.

Regardless, Kalista wasn't impressed at the sudden profiling. "You could have worded that better, but I've got you big boy."

And thus was born the nickname big boy. Which is funny because I imagined Seliph as more of a beanpole. Like, he's got an athletic build, sure, but he's like 6'4. Built less like a pro wrestler and more like a pro basketball player. Well, minus being like 10 feet tall.

Entering the tavern, the party was accosted by a half-ogre bouncer. "You not cause trouble. I no help you if you do."


"Don't mind Skoona," a voice called from behind the bar. "This is exactly what I pay her for."

"Right..." the party said in unison, stepping further into the tavern, until Kalista was distracted by an empty suit of armor sitting at a table. Across the armor's chest piece was written the name Klank.

"I'm gonna knock on the chestplate!" Karin said out of character, to a chorus of, "No wait!"

A hollow clank (or klank) sound rang throughout the armor. I personally imagined the sound from the aluminum Christmas trees in A Charlie Brown Christmas special. Anyway, a voice rang out from the armor.

"Why would you do that? Why does everyone think it's appropriate to just bang on my chest like that?"

"Sorry, I didn't think anyone was in there," she said, sorry that she'd got caught.

"I'm just doing my job...what's your problem?"

"You don't see me sitting around with a weird word painted on my chest!"

"That's my name...I don't like you," the armor whined.

"I don't like you either!" Kalista shouted and stomped off.

Seliph...well...had this reaction.

Kalista muttered something under hear breath, and Seliph rolled his eyes. Kalista walked up to the bar and asked what was available.

"Normal stuff you'd expect at a tavern, I suppose," the half-elf barkeep replied.

"Give me the absolute cheapest thing you have!" Kalista said.

" mean the stuff we give to beggars to get them to leave us alone? You know we have normal ales, right?"

"Your cheapest stuff would probably say a lot about the quality of your ale overall."

The barkeep was unconvinced, but Seliph then said, "I think she's onto something. Anyone can point to a tavern or restaurant's best food and make a generalization about the place, but what about the worst?"

"But why would you willfully order the worst stuff we have to offer?"

Kalista and the barkeep went back and forth for quite a while before Seliph finally took advantage of Kalista getting distracted and said, "Just give us two of the regulars. I'll pay, keep the change as an apology for the...hassling."

He took the rest of the party's orders, surprised that Sissy refused anything alcoholic.

"You realize we don't have any of those laws here, right? You see what kinda city this is right? We could give you ale and you'd be fine."

"No, water is fine, thank you," she replied, not wanting to continue the conversation.

After some mildly awkward silence, Professor Faust asked, "By the way, we're here to meet someone. Could you perhaps let us know where Tarina is, mister...?"

"Ah, yes, you can call me Alan. Tarina can be found upstairs playing Baldur's Bones." This got Seliph's attention, as he enjoyed games of chance and strategy.

"Thank you, sir," Faust said, nodding and joining the rest of the party in walking up the stairs. In a common area on the second floor were a few tables consisting of people eating, drinking, talking, and partaking in...hands (?) of Baldur's Bones. Not sure what to call it. The way the rules are explained in-game should you wish to play it in real life, it's basically blackjack, but with dice instead of a standard deck of playing cards.

Each player rolls three six-sided dice as their first roll, then the players take turns in a clockwise motion starting from the person next to the "dealer" deciding to hit, meaning they roll an extra D6, taking as many rolls as necessary to get as close to 21 without going over.

So...I suppose you, the reader, will have to make up your mind what individual games of this would be called.

Anyway, back to the story. The party looked around the room until they saw a table with a single human woman playing Baldur's Bones against an orc and a dwarf. "That must be her," Kalista noted, and the group walked over to the table.

The woman looked up from the table. "Excellent, more people to give me their money! Come, join us for a few rounds!"

Kalista and Seliph both sat at the table, Seliph shrugging at Kalista's confused sideways glance. The oath said nothing about gambling. However, before the first roll was made, Kalista asked, "So, you're Tarina, right? The captain said we could find you here."

The table went completely silent, until Tarina muttered a curse under her breath about the captain. "Guys, would you mind giving us a few minutes? Business call, I guess. The dwarf and the orc nodded and stood up, grumbling as they walked to another table. "Okay, what do you want?"

Seliph, anxious about any possible eavesdroppers upon hearing about the captain, quickly offered, "Sorry, we thought she'd play it more cool. Captain One-Eyed D-excuse me, almost reverted to my old vocabulary. Captain Zodge is having us investigate a cult and he said you'd have some information on their hideout."

"Honey, you're gonna need to be more specific. Do you know how many cults there are in this hellhole of a city?"

"I'm sorry, to be specific it's the Dead Three Cult. I should have said the cult."

"Ah," she said, understanding. "That particular cult. Yeah, I could tell you where they are, but I'm not gonna give it up for free. I've got a bit of a favor to ask."

Ah, of course, more chores. Always more chores with these people.

"At the very least, the sooner this gets taken care of, the sooner we can actually stop whatever nonsense this cult is trying to pull," Seliph said. "Okay, what do you need?"

Tarina began explaining how she used to be a pirate for a rather famous crew. She spent many years looting before finally deciding to quit the business, but not before she stole a lot of treasure from her own crew and made herself scarce. She'd managed to stay safe and incognito in a city like Baldur's Gate for quite a long time, until recently when she'd received word that her old crew was in town, and they wanted their stuff back.

"So it's protection that you want?" Faust asked. "How long will you be needing our services?"

"Just for today. I want you to either kill 'em or scare 'em off. Don't care which. Afterwards I plan to skip town. But first of course, I'll give you the information you want." She winked.

I'm pretty sure we all thought she was going to bail on us during the fight without giving us our information, but anyway, back to the story. The party quickly formulated a plan, or at the very least they decided that they would remain in the second floor of the tavern and wait for the pirates, who more than likely would just come in through the front door rather than trying anything that might invoke the wrath of the barkeep such as property damage.

Satisfied with the fact that, worst case scenario, she had four people to serve as meatshields in case the party couldn't handle the pirates, Tarina nodded in agreement to the plan. "Since we've got a while until they show up, why don't we play a few rounds?"

Seliph and Kalista agreed, while Sissy decided to sit and watch. Faust, however, wanted to avoid spending money on gambling as much as possible and opted to head downstairs to possibly subcontract some assistance in dealing with the pirates. Specifically, he went straight to Skoona by the door.

"Excuse me Skoona but am I right to assume you like punching people?"

"Of course. Punching people is best."

"What if I paid you to punch someone who is coming to hurt Tarina?'

"No help patrons. Only help Alan."

Faust pulled a gold coin out of his pocket. "What if I gave you this?"

Skoona paused to think for a moment. "How much stew can that buy?"

"Oh, very much. Probably more than whatever Alan is currently paying you."

Skoona paused again, then shouted, "ALAN! HOW MUCH YOU PAY ME?"

Alan, surprised at the sudden outburst, quickly shouted back. "I PAY YOU ENOUGH! YOUR WAGE IS PRETTY COMPETITIVE FOR YOUR JOB!"

This is where I made a joke about tipped minimum wage. That's it.

Faust discreetly handed her the coin. "You'll know them when you see them." He then walked over to the tavern to shoot the breeze with Alan while waiting for the pirates to arrive.

As they talked, suddenly, a ghostly melody sung in Elvish floated through the tavern, saying,

O sing a song of Elturel
Of water, woods, and hill
The sun dawns on her ruddy cliffs
And fields green and still.
This land of long-abiding joy
Home of the strong and brave
Renowned by all, across the realms,
And never once a slave.

O sing a song of Elturel
When foes are at her door
Her fields torn by cloven feet
From some infernal shore.
Arise the mighty Hellriders
Take up your swift, keen swords
Then charge into the hellish fray
And scatter devil hordes.

O sing a song of Elturel
And when the night does fall
Sleep safe beneath Companion’s light
Until the dawn does call.
We’re bound by mortal covenant
That only ends with death
And so we’ll sing of Elturel
Until our final breath.

"You understood it, right?" Alan asked Faust, who responded by tugging at his own elvish features (specifically his ears).

"Yes, I am only a half-elf, but I understood the words just fine, just not what it was talking about. What was it?"

"It is an elf spirit that has haunted this tavern for a very long time. Normally it sings about its long lost lover, but this is the first time I've ever heard it sing for Elturel. Definitely the first time I've heard it talk about Hellriders."

Faust thanked Alan for the explanation, and then said, "Well, perhaps I should return upstairs to ensure that everything is okay." And with that, he returned upstairs, seating himself at a couch behind the staircase landing to get a good view of anyone sneaking up the stairs, to the annoyance of two people who were already there.

Not that he needed the tactical advantage, as before long a voice called from downstairs, "TARINA! WE KNOW YOU'RE 'ERE! BE A GOOD LI'L LASS AND COME ON OUT!"

The party drew their weapons and Seliph ran to the top of the staircase to stop them, saying, "I'm offering you a warning right now. Leave and forget about this, and things don't have to get messy."

Naturally, because these people are pirates, they responded by drawing their weapons and trying to force their way past Seliph. However, due to limited footing on the staircase it ended up turning into a one-on-one match between Seliph and the head brute, trading blow for blow while Kalista, Sissy, and Faust tried to pick off the stragglers.

However, the head brute had an advantage in strength on Seliph, getting in a few good hits by sheer brute force over Seliph's more calculated sword swings and shield blocks. Including a critical hit, in which the pirate knocked Seliph's shield aside and quickly followed up with a stab, biting deep into Seliph's shoulder through his chainmail.

Things were looking bad for the party, as Seliph was the sole line of defense and the rest of the patrons didn't look like they were helping. That is until the tide was turned by Skoona brutalizing the pirate at the bottom of the stairs. I'll spare you the details but she was much more focused on keeping the one guy down rather than knocking all the pirates out, smashing him with her fists long after he perished.

As this was going on, the party gained a tactical advantage on the pirates as Kalista finally managed to pick the one in the middle off with her shortbow. After this, Faust decided to try to trick the pirates by using the spell Prestidigitation to make some magical energy dance throughout his hand, saying, "You should leave now before it gets worse."

Naturally, it worked, and the pirates started dropping their weapons and trying to escape past Skoona, jumping over the railing of the stairs.

The brute muttered a curse about his cowardly co-conspirators and tried the same maneuver on Seliph, though this time, expecting Seliph to be tired out from the last attack, his thrust was done with much less force or finesse.

What he failed to notice, however, was that Seliph had smacked himself on the chest, using his paladin skill Lay on Hands to heal himself, and while this didn't bring him back to full strength, it reinvigorated him enough to quickly catch the first and second attacks on his shield, knocking the pirate's scimitar out of his hands and catching it as it fell in his off-hand (which probably looked ridiculous as he held it in a hand that also had a shield attached to it, but whatever, the guy rolled a 1). He then said, "Last warning. Here's your chance. Get out of here."

The brute paused for a second and then said, "All right, I'm sorry, but you tell Tarina we'll be back!" Though considering he was also running as this happened it was more of a "Team Rocket is blasting off again" moment rather than anything remotely intimidating. Though I'm more than sure he'll be back.

Once the party took some time to catch their breath, they turned to talk to Tarina, who to everyone's surprise actually stuck around. "I gave you my word. I'll tell you where the cult can be found. Several blocks northwest of here is a public bathhouse with a walled garden and frolicking nymphs carved into its front gates. Followers of the Dead Three have been seen coming and going from the bathhouse, and I’m told there’s a secret door inside that leads to a dungeon. That’s where the killers are hiding."

Seliph opened his mouth to ask another question but was interrupted by Alan stomping up the stairs. "YOU FOUR! HOW DARE YOU UNDERMINE ME BY BRIBING MY GUARD?! DO YOU KNOW WHAT MANNER OF FOOL YOU'VE MADE ME LOOK LIKE?! GET OUT OF HERE AND NEVER COME BACK!"

Tarina laughed, following the party outside. "Looks like this is my cue. I doubt we'll ever see each other again, but hopefully our paths will cross at some point. Try not to die before then!" And with that she was off, leaving the party standing awkwardly in front of a tavern they had just gotten banned from (a first in any of my campaigns!)

" much for that..." Seliph awkwardly offered, before asking, "By the way, do you guys have a place to stay in town? We should probably rest up before heading into that dungeon." The party all shook their heads, considering their previous hideout was currently under surveillance by the Fist. "I've got a place in town, you guys are more than welcome to camp there. It's not much, but it's better than the street, and I'm a better cook than most of the people who offer food to beggars."

And that's where we've left our heroes so far. Seliph with three new roommates, and all sorts of adventures to follow.

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