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.

Skullport Shakedown: Moving Pieces

Flamerule 1 (Founder’s Day), Waterdeep, Halfway Inn, Brother’s Barkeeper Charity Chess Tournament

A carefully manicured hand with glassy nails moved to the earth level of the dragon chess board and nudged a white warrior piece forward. “So, how are the book sales these days?”

The human wizard smiled at his opponent and moved a black basilisk piece on the lower level. “Not bad, really. There was that… unfortunate happenstance at the docks some time back, which caused a modest increase in demand.”

A soft chuckle and another white warrior slides gently forward. “One orc’s death is another orc’s breath, I do suppose.”

He cocks an eyebrow as the black sylph finds a new home on the upper level of the board. “That’s a more poetic translation than I usually hear. Not a common proverb either. Do you count the orcs among your friends?”

A smile reveals slightly pointed teeth. “There are many orcs. Certainly a few would consider me such.” A third white warrior moves. “One caravan master told me that whenever she and I go out on the town, she has a very wicked time.” Bright red eyes crinkle at the pun.

Volothamp considers his options. The tiefling who drew lots against him doesn’t seem overly concerned with the moves he had made thus far, and he had preferred a standard opening sequence. Maybe he could pull off the Stone Thief’s Mate. It would be a quick way out. He positions the black dwarf in preparation. No alarm shows on the face at the other side of the table. An amateur then, most likely. “Wicked, no less.” he says, “That’s something, from those who drink fermented warg’s milk with their morning porridge.”

They pick up the pace of their play. White Oliphant. Second black Basilisk. White unicorn. Volothamp makes his penultimate move, nudging the black Sylph forward again, face neutral.

His opponent’s head dips, tipping a dark curl forward from behind a slim, pale antler. “Fermented warg’s milk…” he shudders. “Personally I prefer southern brandy. Even the product of our beloved local Chauntea sanctuary, which is probably just distilled novice sweat, is vastly superior to that.” Eyes still down, the tiefling lifts his hand towards the middle board, then pauses, sending a pupilless glance up from under curls and eyebrows. “That said. A drink?” He pulls out the Paladin piece and drops it to the lower board, beckoning over one of the ale boys with his free hand.

Time to recalculate. The Paladin’s Counter wasn’t the strongest response to his manoeuvre, but it was a clever one. Effective. Profoundly noncommittal in response to his own decisiveness. Held until the last possible moment, too. He stretched in his seat. This could yet be an interesting game.

Two glasses of brandy later, with the game’s end a decently engaging victory, Volo finds himself lingering at the bar to await the drawings for the third round of the tournament. The slight tiefling leans back beside him, a booted leg stretched out into the walkway. “Shame to find such a strong opponent this early on. I could have used the prize money.”

The wizard smiles. “This is where I might offer to keep an ear to the ground for any interesting opportunities. However, knowing neither your name nor your trade, I am afraid you have me at a disadvantage. Yourself too, perhaps, if it turns out we could be of use to one another.”

The tiefling extends a hand. “Tio. Sometimes I work with local guilds to follow up on accounts. See if things can’t be resolved… harmoniously. Beyond that, well, it is said that I like to entertain.”

Curse of Strahd 0: the Party


Human sorcerer / warlock. Charming as the larks above the field, and sly as the foxes in it. Striking of looks and smooth of tongue, Chand is used to getting what he wants. Which is power. Preferably lots of it. Quick to see who is a strategic ally and who can prove a useful shield, he reads social situations like others read books. Possessed of powerful magic, he is on all terrains a force to be reckoned with, though he prefers to keep above the fray where possible. His origin in faraway Halruaa gives him an interesting perspective on matters, and makes him a person of interest on most of the realms.

Has a strong interest in lycanthropes, but has not shared why.


Halfling rogue. This stout merchant mariner chose a land-based life for nebulous reasons. Cheerful of disposition and never one to say no to a drink, he provides light-hearted cleverness with a side of acrobatics. Always willing to scout ahead, he saved his comrades from more than one surprise.

In it for the thrill and the adventure.


Gnome druid. Don’t make the mistake of calling Fitzworth an elf – his looks sure are deceiving. He is a man with a passion. A passion for nature, for balance and for never again making the kind of mistake that severely damaged the heart of the gnomish settlement in which he, a foundling, was so lovingly raised. While plagued with self-doubt, he has a fierce temper once roused.

He hopes to find a way to redeem himself for his past mistakes, and regain his confidence.


Dwarven fighter. This formidable fellow and talented weaponsmith has been hunting the evil beings of mists and night since the human village in which he’d set up his anvil was attacked. First, he learned to bait and ambush vampires, then he studied fighting them most efficiently. Once his mentor fell victim to their chosen quarry, he sought out new companions to aid him in fighting that which he despises most.

He is motivated by the thrill of the hunt, the joy of killing evil things and the comradery of a raucous night on the town.


Human ranger. A man of few words, but amazing reflexes. Tracker and wilderness expert extraordinaire. Keeps a journal faithfully, and is quick to help a fellow adventurer in need. Does not sleep easy, but has not chosen to share the reasons for this with those he travels with. Hates all undead things with a passion.

Even his smallest whisper manages to capture everyone’s attention, and his advice almost always rings true.


Human cleric. One favored by the goddess Lliira is expected to be happy and joyous and light of heart. This fledgling cleric tries, and tries again, but commonly fails to conquer her fears. Kind of heart she is, and quick to help, but often self-absorbed to the point of nigh-paralysis.

Her reasons to travel are two-fold: her abbess told her to go (and Sumu is nothing if not obedient), and she is desperate for answers to her own questions, despite already knowing more than she lets on.


This native Barovian decides to throw his lot in with the group of outsiders after they help him bury his father. The taunts leveled against him by some of the locals have made him decide to try for dominion over all Barovia, as long as he can keep his sister safe. He’s got the heart of a lion, and pride enough to not let any insult stand.


Human paladin. Another outsider, captured by the mists. On his trusty steed, the lovely mare named Dusk, he’s ready to fight undead wherever he finds them. Gets surprised by the party on the road, but quickly decides to travel with them as they explain the nature of the conundrum that they face.

Has enough steel in his backbone to put a dwarven clan to shame.


Human fighter. The adopted sister of Ismark took some time to come into her own. Threats to her own life left her unwilling to pick up a weapon in righteous anger, but when one of her erstwhile protectors fell to ancient evil, she felt compelled to set her sights on the cause of all that has befallen her loved ones.

Now that she is here, she is a force to be reckoned with.

Out of the Abyss 0: the Party


Half-orc, monk. Possessed of an excitable temperament and a wind-swept and isolated backstory of which he does not like to speak. In his own words: ‘ not a people person’. Capable of amazing acrobatics, and punches faster than his shadow. Definitely someone you want on your side in a fight.

He is filled with the wisdom to his former mentor, who he calls ‘Elder Brother’. Considers the other party members ‘some of those he hates the least’.

(Ossian, basilisk, deceased)


Human rogue / bard. A quickwitted city kid with principles and an ear for music. Has a mind as sharp as his daggers, and a better heart than found in many of his early-life compatriots. Often the one to have the clever answer, but plays his cards close to his chest when it comes to the emotional effects of his exploits and his feelings about those he travels with.

He is the go-to guy for getting things done quickly and quietly.

(Fosse, basilisk, deceased)


High elf wizard. Absentminded wunderkind more interested in the pursuit of higher magical theories than in unraveling the mysteries at his feet. Often of good cheer, and either entirely unflappable or perhaps unaware of the dangers amongst which he wanders.

Always willing to lend a hand when a hard-to-reach monster needs incinerating, and also the one to provide safe shelter when no inns are around. Along with all that, he is a great guide during formal occasions due to his upbringing in the exclusive circles of Waterdhavian nobility.

(Steely Dan, shield guardian, destroyed)


Human Cleric. Started his life on the high seas, but turned to worship of Tempus as an adult. Possessed of enough gravitas and authority that people tend to follow him somewhat naturally. Has a keen sense for direction as well as a desire to plot a course that leaves no member of the party stranded. While he is a competent healer, he is a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield as well.

he excels when the party needs a good frontliner to field tough moral questions.

(Stony, earth elemental, deceased)
(Rocky, earth elemental, deceased)


Half-elf ranger. Grew up on the cold and windy moors while tending a modest flock of sheep for her guardian. Has parlayed those skills into adventuring and aims to be of use to the other party members, who she views as family.Usually has some healing magic tucked away when Royce needs a hand keeping everyone alive and can soften up the enemy from afar or finish them off in melee.

Has discovered she is happiest with a trusted animal companion at her side, and is generally content when surrounded by those she cares about.

(Fluffy, wolf, deceased)
(Achtoë [Eighteyes], giant wolf spider, deceased)
(Sunflash, giant badger, deceased)
(Tusker, boar, very much alive, thank you. Do you have any cheese?)
(Petri, basilisk)

Half-orc barbarian. Yet another victim of Drow cruelty, and then subjected to slavery under a beholder, Aznog traveled with the party for some time after a chance meeting. A great help in any and all violent confrontations, and often a cheerful note during other times. Playful of character and quick to make friends, but also fierce and fearless in battle. Would gladly place himself in harms way to give his companions a better chance at victory.