Skullport Shakedown: Breakfast at Frankie’s

From a crevice high up in the stacked stone wall, a small, beady-eyed face overlooks the room. Its nose twitches above the rolled up slip of paper it holds between its teeth. Then it wriggles its way through, short front paws pushing off against the gray stone. When its long body has cleared the crack, the weasel hops down onto the cluttered surface of the table. It drags the rolled up paper between the open books and instruments until it reaches the edge of the table, where it hops down onto a stool and then the floor. It’s claws skitter on the flagstone as it scurries to the chairs set near the window. Once there, it leaps up onto the wizard’s knee.

Volo exchanges the roll of paper for a piece of dried meat, which gets instantly devoured, then he makes a gesture. Unseen hands unroll the paper a comfortable distance away from his face. While he strokes the weasel that has splayed itself across his lap, he reads. Soon he frowns a little, then he frowns a lot.

Another gesture and the paper rolls back up and moves over to a brazier where it smolders and then lights up before scattering as ashes. A third gesture. With a tiny sound a dragon chess piece moves on one of the two boards at the opposite end of the room.

Volo sighs and looks down at the small familiar in his lap. “You’d think these adventurers would have have better sense, Vamoose.” The weasel chitters in response to its name. “I know”, the wizard continues with raised eyebrows. “Who goes and actually fights a mindflayer? You tell me… Still. They made it this far. It’d be smarter to keep them down there than to send another crew.”

The wizard rises from his chair, Vamoose digging its claws into the bejeweled robes to scamper up to Volo’s shoulder.


Frankie looks over the adventurers with some concern as they cross Skull Square and quietly file in through her front door. The dwarf glowers and grumbles and looks greyer-skinned than usual. The satyr and the halfling keep up lighthearted banter, but the tone is just a little too performatively cheerful to sound entirely sincere. The tiefling doesn’t say much at all, and doesn’t meet her eyes or those of his party members.

Well, it’s not the first time she’s helped a few people through a stroke of bad fortune, so she sets to work. A bucket of water from the shared pump in the square, heated over the fire with a few drops of patchouli oil to cover up the coppery smell of blood for them to wash off the worst of the grime. A quick sporeflour batter, fried in clarified goat butter, to serve along with pickled lake eel, lizard eggs and spiced root hash. She even pulls out a bottle of… well. They call it moonshine, but it’s really just the distilled byproduct of the local brewers’. Eye-wateringly sharp and tongue-looseningly strong, even for legit adventurers, she thinks, and so good enough for tonight.

Before the bottle is half-empty, and right as Din rambles through a vivid description of the various traps they dealt with on their way to Mugrub’s killer, a knocking sound reverberates through the room in which the group has spread their bedrolls.

Elissa flicks from view, probably to get a better sightline from the upper floor.

Din draws her rapier and Damien his axe. Frankie opens the door. A scaly, slit-pupiled face looks down at her. “Mistressh Fransheshca”, the dragonborn says “pleashe pash thish on to your houshe gueshtsh.” A large hand with black claws hands over a silk purse.

Before she can so much as ask the Dragonborn’s name, they turn away, using a prehensile tail to pull the door shut against her own grip on the latch.

Damien is the first to speak. “We know that one from the inn.” He exchanges looks with Din, who nods, and Frankie and then with Elissa as she reappears at the top of the stairs. In the silence after that, they look over at Tio, who hasn’t moved. He blinks. Blinks again. Shakes his head. Repeats, in a voice not quite his own: “Track the key. Likely contact: Boskynn, at Keelhaul, Zhentarim haunt. Look out for Drow messenger. Do not mess up again. Gold incoming. Go canny.”

Skullport Shakedown: An Unlikely Cast of Characters


You’ll notice we haven’t reported back within the implicitly assumed time frame for your little fetch quest. If you read this and it’s still invisible, we weren’t dead yet a sun’s and moon’s rise ago. At the time of writing we’re not yet topside, but plan to be soon when I get over having my brain leak out of my ears (stop laughing, you fiend – I swear there is a perceivable difference in my performance). “Send” me if you want to adjust scope based on this report, otherwise I’ll see you at Halfway’s soon to wrap up. Do you need an overview of expenses?

Your trinket caught the interest of the magpie-eyed Zhents and has been in their possession roughly since the moment we set foot down here. This by means of a noxious feller of the brain-eating persuasion. Name’s Roxy. He’s been making meals of some of the citizens. Possible opportunity for a clever person to gain a conduit for information down here (see “Frankie” of Skull square), plus perhaps an entry for your next book, should you care to do away with the tentacled parasite. Happy to retry ourselves, if properly compensated but we’d need more firepower and significant hazard pay. Roxy seems remarkbly resistent to both banishment and appeals to morality. The latter is not a surprise. Consider figuring out how he was compelled to act- maybe the Zhents can be moved to get rid of him if he’s lost his use. Likely lower risk and cleaner than extending our contract to include assassination – it’ s not our forte.

Other persons of interest:

Goblin operator of a boxing ring / gambling den called the Batroost, name of Grubbus Pipsnout. Can possibly provide dumb muscle where needed, and has a hand in the local gambling scene (where said Roxy, apparently, had been cleaning out the house). The aunties were willing to pay lil shorty for his information, but my estimation is that he’d not be a hard nut to crack for a minor business advantage. Possibly another good source of intel. Provided the gold to pay for purchase of said trinket.

Madcap necromancer in Deadman’s Corner who makes zombies to have an audience for her conversations with herself. Cheap buy, but picky on payment type. Called Laurel Stillwater. Has a sister? Apparently willing to hold onto sums of gold without much instruction and then hand them off to whoever. Could send a runner by once a week just to ask for the petty cash, I guess.

A victim of Roxy. Orc. Mugrub, or somesuch. Not herself particularly interesting, but she’s the link where Roxy broke his clever little chain of diversion. Mugrub picked up the gold from Zombies-R-Us and went to purchase the trinket from Thimblewines, which Roxy then presumably took off of her when he had her brain for a snack. Tentacle hickies gave him away. Wonder if he tried to hide her murder by killing others, or if hels just hungry a lot.

Crystallene, operator of Thimblewines and an overall delight. Unsure if she knew we would come for the key or if the pickup by Mugrub was what she expected. Did she even know what she had? She knew to sell well, so she must’ve been aware of something. Wonder if she fences other wares, as making a living off of mechanical cockroaches and painted eggs seems unlikely.

Found both guide and initial contact to be performing within parameters. Consider a sweep of the travel route as the slavers and their pet snakes were pesky and you almost lost Gwenson, (who you apparently pay upfront). Asathra is wasted on that inn. Girl is too clever for her own good – that little puzzle of hers almost reduced cuz Damien to tears and drove auntie Elissa to drink.

The Skulls are a pesky lot with not a single sane thought still between them. Please advise on a clothier, as I do think I’d look dashing in a bow tie.



Ps. Unicorn from C3 to E4.

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.”