Skullport Shakedown: Trade Secrets

Eleasis 23, Waterdeep, Dock Ward, The Hanging Lantern

The earliest hint of dawn light falls through the small basement window, filtered through dirt and cobwebs.

The kitchen is still too dark for fine needle work, so a moonlight-haired half-elf in sheer robes lights a squat, four-wicked candle. A steady dripping splishes onto the cracked, glazed tiles in front of her satin slippers.

She sighs.“You’re lucky you arrived when you did. Had you come sooner, you would have had to wait.” Tio frowns. “ A busy night? Tonight? I hadn’t thought it likely.” She nods. “An inland trade delegation.” Tio pulls a single shoulder up. “Guess they’re not here on sheep’s trade” She smiles. “Rough gems. And silver ore. Second grade.” “Will you tell Maradan of the jewelers then? You see her regularly.” “Probably. But first things first. You’re bleeding all over Polly’s floors.”

She reaches over and picks at the kerchief knotted around Tio’s upper arm. “Most people would go to a temple for this sort of thing.” Another one-shouldered shrug from the tiefling. “I prefer going to the seamstresses.” She gives him a look, then moves to kick him playfully. “Hey! Kicking a man when he is down, isn’t that against your religion, or something?” “If you cared about my religion, you should have gone to see a cleric after all.” He sighs, defeated. “Fine. Sorry.” As she unwraps the kerchief, the dripping speeds up. “That looks ugly. Why’d you let yourself get stabbed, dumbass.” “I know Hesper. No need to rub it in.” He slides over a small leather envelope. “Here, it should have needles pre-threaded.” “Did you even clean this before you tied your snotrag around it?” A third one-shouldered shrug. Hesper presses her lips together and moves her fingers in the gesture of a familiar cantrip before flicking open the envelope and picking up a curved needle.

Some time later they sit at a corner of the table, floor and silk slippers cleaned of blood, and a bottle of rum between them. Hesper’s face is more relaxed, and Tio’s a lot less grey. “You planning to spend the night?” “If Polly lets me.” “Hm. We’ve got a new girl, so no empty rooms. But we can share?” “That’d be nice. Old time’s sake, and all.” Hesper snorts at her friend. “Old times. You’re a baby, Tee. Shut your mouth.”

He gives her a smile over his glass. “Got you something, though.” He fishes around in a pocket awkwardly with his left hand before closing his fist on something and holding the closed fist out to her. She opens her hand underneath his and feels a cool weight drop into it. At first sight, it’s a smooth ring, completely unmarked. “Diamond on the inside. Casts Revivify when the wearer needs it.” She narrows her eyes at him. “Never in a hundred years could you afford that.” He shakes his head. “Was a smuggler who could, though. She didn’t deserve to have it.” “You’re kidding.” “Wish I was. If it was just contraband, I’d have let it slide. But you know what the laws are like down south, and she was shipping people. Not even just prisoners either.” “Fuck.” “Yeah.”

“Are you sure you want to take more jobs from this new patron of yours? You landed here for two out of three. He throws you at dangerous people.” Tio looks down at the table. “It’s better than the jobs for the gambling halls. That’s squeezing people with problems for gold they don’t have.” “You almost sound like an altruist.” He gives her a lopsided smile. “Pay is better. Equipment too. And that ring really has a clever enchantment. It doesn’t go off if you lose the finger it’s on.” “Okay, still not an altruist then.” “Well, I did give you that ring.” Hesper shakes her head, blows out the candle and grabs her friend by the uninjured arm. “Time for bed.”

Early that afternoon, as the Lantern’s staff stumbles out of bed and assembles over platters of hotcakes, cream and preserves, Hesper presses on. “You keep taking jobs like this, you need access to a real healer. This’ll scar and get stiff. You’re more likely to get injured again.” “Hesp, I swear, none of those god-botherers want to be seen anywhere near hellspawn like me. You know how it is.” “Bullshit, Tee, you’re bigoted.” “You can’t be a bigot about other people’s opinions.” “You know what I mean.”

From across the long trestle table, kohl-rimmed dwarven eyes stare at the tiefling and his friend. “My brother Damien would help you, as long as you didn’t, like, sacrifice to Asmodeus in front of him.” Tio arches an eyebrow. “Graz’zt, actually. Great-great-grandmother was a daughter of his.” Now Hesper really does kick him. He winces. “The little shit means to say he’s interested, and would like to know where to find your brother. Don’t believe him if he ever tells you that this ancestor was a princess, either. All tieflings claim a “princess” as their evil ancestor. Pretentious twerps, the lot.” Tio rolls his eyes. “Sure. Whatever she says. I’m Tio. Pleased to meet you, new girl.” “It’s Ingfrid. And my brother Damien lives at the sanctuary of Chauntea.” “Hm.” “You should go see him.”

The next time Tio shows up to see Hesper, he speaks of a new friend. And he didn’t bleed all over Polly’s old store room.