hlan's harbor had seen better days, but it was as good a refuge as anyone could
find in the Moonsea during storm season. The two sailors finished their last
duties on board once the "Fickle Lady" was safely docked. Todd went to collect
their pay from the first mate while Dag visited Captain Samgur.
"Cap'n? I'd be wantin' to ask ye, Todd'n I be done fer the night, and we
thinkin' warm grog and ladies on steady ground. 'Tis ok we go ashore?"
"I'd rather you didn't, I intend to leave this joke of a dock as soon as
the weather allows it. But I guess there's not much you can do on board until
then. Just watch your backs and don't get into trouble with the locals. So stay
off the ladies and easy with the grog."
"Hells, cap'n, ye says it like old Dag ever be cuzzin' trouble, ye knows
it ain't like..."
"Get the hell off the ship already!"
Packing only a few clothes in case they had to stay the night somewhere,
Todd and Dag left the ship and wandered into the Harbor Section of Phlan. As the
darkness gathered and the fog rolled in, the last few people on the streets were
heading home, except for a few merchants shutting down their shops for the night
in a local market. Rather aimlessly, they wandered through the narrow and dirty
streets looking for a tavern that would meet their expectations. Namely, a cheap
one. The upscale inn near the port authority would probably charge a kidney just
to be allowed in, and they'd surely have you pay for the removal, too!
It wasn't long until they found themselves in a seedy warehouse area,
where the stench of rotten fish was only moderated by the smell from the
abundant waste of unknown origin. Not that the rats were concerned about it, no
less than a score of them were having a field day fighting over the remains of a
seagull. A few dark figures could be seen slumped on the ground in the side
alleys or in the more sheltered corners, several snoring and clearly in a
drunken stupor, a few others not at all clear if alive or not.
"Tavern not be far, I says", said Dag. Todd simply nodded in agreement
with Dag's fair assessment of the landscape.
They were reaching the end of the harbor, which leaned against one of the
cliffs that were so common in these shores. If it wasn't for the completely
wasted sailor that suddenly burst though a door, they wouldn't have started to
guess that the dank looking warehouse by the rocky walls could be an inn. Or
even a warehouse. But yes, the words "The Sword & Serpent. Inn & Tavern. No
weapuns allowd." were carved on a moss covered plank that was propped against
the wall. With a shrug, Todd hid his dagger in a concealed pouch and Dag
Todd opened the door, but as soon as he crossed the threshold his face was
pressed hard against the wall by a hand the size of a roasted ham. "Never seen
your faces 'round here before", said the burly bouncer at the other end of the
"HRMMPF!!!", said Todd, wildly flailing his arms and legs and trying
unsuccessfully to get free from the bouncer's hand.
"Easy thar, boy! We mean no trouble, be payin' customers 'n all!", Dag
said. The fact that the bouncer was armed to the teeth did not go unnoticed. So
much for the hopes of a quiet place.
"It's customary to tip the doorman. In advance", the bouncer growled as he
offered his other, open hand to Dag. Trying not to give away his well earned
salary, he produced a few coins and deposited them on the brute's palm. With
something resembling a smile, the bouncer released his grip on Todd's head.
"Downstairs", he muttered as he put the coins into a pocket.
Todd fell on his butt and tried to quickly regain composure. "And pleased
to meet you too, goddammit!", he said, carefully punctuating each word. The
markings of the bouncer's fingers on his face gave Todd an almost comical look.
Before he could think of any more comebacks, he was rushed into the staircase by
Dag, who didn't find particularly appealing to get into a wits contest with
someone the size of a bear.
As they moved downstairs, the dampness of the place became even more
apparent. Moss covered the wooden planks that walled the staircase well, and
which at intervals showed the naked rock behind them. The basement was either
excavated into the rock or reusing one of the many natural caves carved by the
Moonsea. Whatever the origin, it was clear they were getting into a tavern: the
noise and the smell of cheap wine coming from the bottom became more and more
apparent as they descended the steps.
They opened the door into the tavern only to be forced to duck and dodge a
flying barstool that smashed against the wall. They have stepped into a scene of
complete mayhem. Half the patrons were engaged into a brawl, with all kinds of
objects and the occasional patron being hurled about and no obvious sides to the
fight. The other half of the patrons were about their own business and paying no
attention to the brawl other than to dodge flying stuff and changing tables when
someone landed on theirs. The tavern wenches, which looked more like (and
probably were) cheap whores than waitresses, maneuvered seamlessly through the
room as if nothing at all happened, stopping here and there to drop
liquor-filled jugs and carafes of wine on the tables and to sell some other kind
of goods to the customers. Trying to avoid being hit or dragged into the fight,
Todd and Dag sat at an empty table and waved at a waitress.
Amid the screams and the sound of breaking glass and the singing of
drunken sailors, a high pitched yell brought the brawl to a sudden stop. A man
was crawling on the floor, a dagger ostensibly protruding from his back. Two
men, probably friends of his, quickly grabbed him by the armpits and rushed him
out of the tavern, among the laughter and parting curses from the other patrons.
Dag was about to make some witty remark when a wench sat squarely on his lap,
her arms wrapped around his neck. Her frock (or lack thereof) and demeanor
clearly signaled she wasn't just offering drinks.
"What offers to you handsome sailors? New in town? What can Sally do to
make your stay at the Sword and Serpent pleasant?", she said.
"Er, why hello, lass! I be getting some of yer grog now, and heh, maybe
somethin' meatier later, heheheh", Dag said. Todd's eyes were fixed on the
woman's 'goods' and he barely uttered "Uh, yeh, me too". The woman unwrapped
herself from Dag and winked. "You got it, hon. Two coins now, maybe more later!"
Dag threw two coins at her and she left with a smile.
Only then the sailors had a chance to contemplate the whole scene of the
tavern. This was not so much a room as a refurbished cellar. Piles of boxes
littered almost every wall, and water dripped from cracks in the rock ceiling.
Tables and chairs were strewn rather than placed around, and several elevated
platforms were used as semi private booths by some customers. A group of men
stood in a queue in front of a table, where a ship's mate appeared to be
recruiting a crew. A few thugs seemed to be scanning the area looking for the
slightest excuse to trigger the brawl again.
Dag's eyes drifted towards a large platform, which was used by a group
that might have walked right out of a circus. "Ye seen bizarro world up thar,
Todd?" Todd looked up and saw the group of men, each stranger than the other,
all of them drinking heavily and doing nothing other than surveying the place.
An old cripple, both legs cut below the knees, sat in the center. Behind him, a
half orc even bigger than the bounder stared ahead showing no signs of
intelligent life other than his hand periodically wiping the drool from his half
open mouth. A few feet to the cripple's right, someone who Dag would describe as
"some scary sumabitch" stood, arms crossed and eyes darting around the room.
Tattoos covered his body from head to toes, and numerous knives and daggers hang
from his clothes and belts. Surrounding them on the platform, two girls not
unlike the waitresses catered to the cripple while several thugs with drawn
weapons guarded the access to the platform. Noticing them looking, the tattooed
man smiled back, revealing a set of teeth that had been filed to look serrated.
It hurt Dag just to think the pain something like that would entail. He was
about to mention it to Todd when the wench came back with their drinks.
“So, what brings you boys to these places?" she said as she dumped two
jars filled with some alcohol-laden beverage in front of them. “Come from afar,
Todd smiled nervously and said “We just stopped for a night, the storm
winds ripped our mainsail apart and we wouldn't risk the rest of the journey to
Melvaunt without…" and as he said the name of the Moonsea city, dozens of heads
turned around and three thugs stood up as if stung by something.
“What, have I said something wrong?" he said to nobody in particular. He
noticed Dag looked tense. “What?"
“Ye a Melvauntian dog, stranger?" a thug asked. Two more patrons stood up
as if on cue.
“Woah, woah" said Dag before Todd could even answer. “We ain't from
Melvaunt, we hail from Hillsfar, ye know? We ain't even goin' thar, just
stopping fer tha way… Ain't no Melvauntian blood in these here veins, heheheh".
Dag chuckle stopped cold as three more thugs stood up.
“Me sister got knocked up by them pigs from Hillsfar", one of them said.
“Nuttin' good ever came from thar!"
“Ok, ok, I dun even known which where I be born! Hold yer horses… Hey,
lass, I be paying a round fer all them nice fellers from Phlan…". He stood up
clumsily, knocking a mug down as he reached for some coins, causing the contents
to pour all over the waitress' frock, much to the delight of the onlookers and
the distress of the girl.
“YOU WORTHLESS PIECE OF…" yelled the girl amidst the general laughter. Dag
and Todd, somewhat relieved that the tension had eased, decided it was probably
best for all to leave right then. Dag placed some coins on the table, and as he
did so the waitress grabbed his wrist. “No, old fleabag, this ain't paying the
dress by a long shot. Open up your purse or by Beshaba's luck I'll be scratching
your eyes off!"
“You best do that, old man", a rough female voice said. “I've seen Sally
make quick work of real men, you don't want to try your luck". Dag looked back
to a fat woman well past her prime, assuming she ever had one. She walked in
long strides toward them from the bar as the patrons stepped aside, clearly not
wanting to get in between her and the sailors.
“Run", Dag muttered.
“Eh?" Todd replied, blindsided by the sudden order.
“RUN!" Dag screamed as he pulled Todd towards the door, not waiting to see
the thugs chasing them as objects of all kinds started to fly in their
direction. They ran upstairs and out past the surprised bouncer, who started to
chase them as well. When they dared looking back, a ragtag mob was in close
pursuit, cursing and shouting all the time as they tried to gain up on them. Dag
and Todd fled as fast as they could, eventually leaving the maze of streets the
warehouses formed, and coming out into the more illuminated area of the
The mob had thinned down to only a few thugs by then, but some of them
were ostensibly loading crossbows as they ran. The city watch was nowhere to be
seen, and Dag and Todd made a last run for the safety of the “Fickle Lady". Just
as they jumped onto the ropes tying the ship to the docks, a few bolts darted by
them and into the hull. By the time they gained the deck, the mob had dissolved
and the harbor was in peace again.
“What the hell happened there? Have you gotten in trouble again, Dag?"
said the captain, who had come up along with most of the crew, awakened by the
“No, no, sir! Old Dag been on his best behavior, I tells ye! Them Phlan
folk be really jumpy folk, if ye catch me drift, cap'n!"
The captain grunted and looked over to the docks, again roamed only by the
rats. “That's it. Nobody else goes ashore until we depart and you, you two are
going to be scrubbing the deck until I can see my face reflecting on it!"
“Aye-aye, sir", both replied.
The captain took a last look to the dock before ordering to untie the
ropes. He saw a glimpse of a strange tattooed man looking at the ship from the
distance. He could swear the man was waving goodbye at him. “A crazy lot, these
Phlanites" he muttered to himself.