Moonday, 19 Gozran 4704
It was just two days after the barroom brawl at the Stirge and Hammer. In the late afternoon, while Darshan, Turgrox, Zak, Extrarius, and Don were all enjoying a beverage, an unlikely duo walked up to the bar, and asked Basila to speak with the owner. One of the pair was a short, wiry man of Varisian descent, wearing a somewhat shabby-looking formal business suit and a bowler hat. The other towered well over six feet in height, and appeared to be of Ulfen descent. He also wore a ill-fitting formal business suit, and leaned on a heavy oaken cudgel… which he did not appear to need as a walking stick. Basila got her father Vasaro.
The shorter man introduced himself as Mr. Gordo and his taller friend as Mr. Stubbs. ‘’While we ouselves are not officials of the Cerulean Society, it is my understanding that your annual premium is due later this week… Oathday, I do believe.’’ He paused and grinned. “Now, I don’t know your financial situation, but I’m sure you know what happens to honest businesses like yours if they fail to pay the Cerulean insurance fees. Now, I’m offering my own policy— a sort of insurance on the insurance, if you will. For the incredibly low price of just 5 ducats a week for the next year, we will guarantee payment of your insurance payment.”
Vasaro reacted poorly, and told Gordo precisely where he could put his insurance premium. Gordo smiled, and replied, “Well, I’m sorry that you feel that way. We’ll be in touch.” They two swindlers left.
Darshan spent an hour asking his Sczarni friends about these two. He learned that Gordo and Stubbs were members of a Sczzrni-affiliated gang called the Old Dock Boys, who mostly worked the Old Dock ward of Old Korvosa. The connections told him that the Old Dock Boys kept several hide-outs, but recent turf wars with Rat’s Teat Boys have greatly thinned their numbers, and they’ve mostly been keeping low. The Old Dock Boys are led by an ex-Sczarni known as the Splithog Pauper, a con-man who usually dresses like a beggar. He took his street name from the Old Dock Boy’s former headquarters on Splithog Alley.
Later, Darshan spoke with some of the rats that lived in the basement, asking them to let him know if those two guys ever showed up again—especially at night.
Wealday, 21 Gozran 4704
In the middle of the night, Darshan felt something furry brush against his nose. He woke to find a large rat sitting on his chest, staring at him. Darshan then followed the rat downstairs, and was surprised to find that the entrance doors to the Stirge and Hammer were ajar. Darshan called out a warning, and a few minutes later, Vasaro walked downstairs, wearing a dressing-gown. “What’s going on, Darshan?” asked the innkeeper, and Darshan pointed out the open doors. Vasaro then went into his office, and a moment later shouted, “We’ve been robbed!” He told Darshan that the inn’s strongbox had been stolen— and it contained the insurance premium he had planned to pay the Cerulean society on the day after tomorrow!
The following morning, Darshan and the other adventuring regulars were trying to figure out how to help their innkeeper friend, when Gordo and Stubbs had the gall to show up again. Gordo pitched his “insurance on the insurance” offer again, but now the premium had increased to 20 gp a week! Vasaro reacted even less charitably that the previous time, pulled a knife, and told the “Sczarni scum” to get out of his establishment. The two retreated, dropping smokestick in the bar on their way out. At that, Darshan, Turgrox, Don, Extra, and Zak all followed them.
A chase through the streets of Korvosa ensued: The swindlers dashed through traffic, slipped through a noble’s procession, darted through a crowded marketplace, and tried to lose their tails in the warrens of Old Dock. But the party managed to follow them down an alley that dead-ended at a run-down building. Squatting halfway down a muck-smeared alley, sandwiched between a derelict wainwright’s shop and a sad-looking bakery, stood the dilapidated mission house. A crooked belltower rose from the building’s rear, and a half-dozen grease-smeared, cracked, and boarded-over windows gazed out from walls that might have once been painted white. A small sign hung over the the building’s battered oaken doors: “St. Caspieran’s Mission. All Welcome.”
The place had heavy oaken front doors, flanked with two smaller doors at right angles to the main doors. The back of the building had a large stained-glass window depicting the goddess Sarenrae, although several individual panes were broken or missing. Wooden panels filled the gaps in the windows to keep out the rain. Behind the mission sat an overgrown, trash-strewed courtyard surrounded by a low stone wall. A lone, overgrown oak tree dominated the courtyard, its branches hanging over a second-floor balcony. A back door into the building appeared to be boarded over and nailed shut. Don volunteered to climb the tree and check out the balcony, while the rest of the group went around front.
In the front of the building, A sign on one of the side doors read, “Flophouse: Upstairs and take a left.” Someone had scratched out the word “left” and scrawled “hike” above it. The other side door read “Flophouse: Upstairs and take a right,” but a note had been tacked below the sign: “Flophouse full: No vacancies.”
Darshan spiked one of the side doors shut, and opened the other door. Wooden stairs led to the second floor, and Darshan ascended them. Turgrox followed him. Meanwhile, Zak and Extrarius opened the main doors.
Through the main doors, Zak and Extrarius beheld a sorry sight. About half a dozen unfortunates sat or wandered through a large room that smelled strongly of boiled cabbage, smoke, and urine. A carved marble font decorated with grease-stained Sarenite carvings held about a gallon of scummy water. One of the unfortunates was missing both legs below the knees: he sat on a wooden plank affixed with small wheels, and dragged himself across the floor with his hands. A young woman rocked herself on a pew in the sanctuary an mumbled incoherently. An elderly gentleman dressed in shabby clerical vestments sat next to her, seemingly trying to speak with her. From a side room, a hoarse female voice shouted, “Hey Jhonas! We’re out of cabbage! Get off your lazy ass and buy some more or we won’t have enough for dinner!” A man with an eyepatch and a scraggly gray beard looked up from a solitaire card game, and asked Zak if he could spare a few pence. Gordo and Stubbs were not, apparently, in the room.
As Darshan ascended the stairs, a gruff voice called out, “Hey! The flophouse is closed! Get your ass outta here!” The voice belonged to a Sczarni-looking guy who approaced Darshan menacingly. Darshan responded, “No rooms at all? I’m just looking for a place to crash…” as Turgrox slipped by him in the dim light, and clonked the guy in the back of the head with a blackjack. The guard crumpled to the flloor with a loud thud. That seemed to alert others in the flophouse, who came out of their rooms to check out the commotion, and seeing intruders, attacked! Darshan called out to Zak and Extra for some help.
Meanwhile, as Don climbed the tree he saw some motion from an open window. He then heard the thunk of an arrow embed itself in the tree a mere inch from his left ear! Looking back at the window, he saw the shadowy silhouette of an elven archer nock another arrow. Don scrambled to the balcony, where the archer wouldn’t be able to get a bead on him without leaning far out the window. He tried the door into the building, but it was locked. Peeing into the door’s window, he saw a grizzled man asleep on a pallet. A large square birdcage sat on the balcony next to the door, and three pigeons cooed from inside. Don knocked on the door, but the man didn’t awaken.
From downstairs, Zak and Extra heard the sound of a thump from upstairs, and also head Darshan calling for them. So they exited the mission and ran up to the flophouse, where they found Darshan and Turgrox fighting several men armed with daggers. One guy emerged from a room down a side corridor holding a wooden crate. He threw the contents of the crate at Zak— and out flew a scorpion the size of a housecat! The scorpion hit Zak square in the chest and then fell to his feet, where it attempted to sting him. Fortunately, the stinger wasn’t able to penetrate Zak’s leather boot— yet.
Don tried to break down the door to no avail, so he then took a running jump into the open window that the archer had been shooting from. The half-elf made it through the window, but landed awkwardly in the room, sprawling on the floor. This surprised the archer, who dropped his bow and drew a longsword as Don got to his feet. A flash of recognition passed between the two: they had known each other as boys back in the Mierani Forest, although there had been no love lost between them. The archer grinned, and said, “Well, half-breed, looks like this is the end for you,” and he slashed Don severely with his longsword. Gritting his teeth through the pain, Don cast a spell, and his hand crackled with necromantic energy. He touched his old enemy, and the elf recoiled in pain. Don then circled around the elf, toward the door out of the room.
Back in the hallway, the party was overcoming the den of thieves that had taken over the flophouse. By now, several lay unconscious on the floor, and two more of the giant scorpions menaced party members and thieves alike. Darshan opened the door to the room where Don and the elf squared off. With the aid of his friend, the two managed to knock out the archer. In the last room of the flophouse, the party discovered Gordo and Stubbs. Stubbs swung his cudgel at Zak, connecting, but Zak managed to shake off the blow. The former barber swung his own greatsword at the thug, slashing the Ulfen hard across the belly. Clutching his bowels, the Ulfen fell to the floor in a pool of blood. Seeing his muscle fall after a single strike, Gordo’s face went white, and he dropped his rapier and raised his hands in surrender.
With the fight over, Darshan tended the wounded enough to ensure that none of them would die. They tied up all of the Old Dock Boys and stashed them in one of the rooms. Turgrox then questioned Gordo and learned the story: Under orders from the Splithog Pauper, Gordo and Stubbs had been offering “insurance” on the protection money owed to the Cerulean Society. Yes, they did know that this gambit was risky— that targeting those protected by the Society could draw the wrath of the Society, but they said that the Pauper was planning to give the Society their regular cut of the proceeds. “It’s been tough for us since the Rat’s Teat Boys took over half our territory— and half our members. This seemed like a good con.” Gordo said that he had indeed broken into the Stirge and Hammer and stolen the inn’s strongbox, but he wasn’t able to open the lock. He gave the whole box to the Pauper. When asked where the money was now, Gordo replied, “I don’t know! You think we’re trusted with knowing where the Pauper keeps the gang’s tresaure?” At that, Zak punched him out, and they stashed the unconscious Gordo with the others.
Exploring the rest of the flophouse, the party found the Pauper’s bedroom, and looted it. While they did find some valuables and useful items, Vasaro’s strongbox wasn’t there. They did find the stash in the lower floor of the belltower: Vasaro’s strongbox (still locked) plus a bunch of other valuables. Climbing the ladder to the belfry, Turgrox found a grappling hook affixed to the inside of the window, and a hemp rope dropping down to the courtyard. While the party did recover Vasaro’s money (plus some extra for themselves), the Splithog Pauper got away.
Don and Extra found Father Padrick, the proprietor of the mission house, and explained that it appeared that the Old Dock Boys had effectively moved in to use the mission house as their lair. Padrick, a man well into his seventies, and blind, sighed deeply at the news. “I’ve been running this place for twenty years, but I’m getting too old to do it any more. Since I went blind back in ‘99, I’ve been relying on my caretaker, Jhonas, to handle the day-to-day affairs. Jhonas, did you know about this? Jhonas…? Hey, where’d he go?” Padrick said that he would petiton the main Temple of Sarenrae for more assistance to run the mission house, and that it was probably time to retire.
The party returned to the Stirge and Hammer with Vasaro’s strongbox. Opening it up, the innkeeper was relieved to find that all of his money was still inside. Vasaro opened up the bar for a couple of rounds in celebration.