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Tales Of Moonsea - The Herald of Chaos
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  Tales of Moonsea

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!"

"Aye-aye, sir!"

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 followed suit.

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 hand.

"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, have you?"

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 fishermen's market.

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 commotion.

“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.