Sleipnir sees the long, stone stairs leading into the darkness. He walks in because he doesn't fear the dark; the dark fears Sleipnir. Tallest goes in as well behind him, horns scraping the stone ceiling as he tries to squeeze through the cramped passageway. He doesn't fear the passageway; the passageway fears Tallest. After a minute of travel, Sleipnir comes to the end of the hall, which has a ring on a chain hanging from the center.
"I think it's another secret hallway!" Sleipnir says.
Caeus magically tinkers to give the rest of his minotaur allies some light, causing a coin to glow like a weak lantern.
Sleipnir pulls the chain, causing the false wall to slide away and reveal a bedroom! The bed is unmade with a pillow and a footlocker chest. A door at the back end of the small room shows there is more to explore. Sleipnir picks up the footlocker chest and gives it to Tallest, who opens it up, sees that it’s full of clothes, then shakes them all over the room.
He has no time for human garments!
But the shadow minotaur isn’t finished—Sleipnir grabs one of the tunics and checks it out, rolling a 22 to decipher a key piece of information: this is the uniform of another Baldur’s Gate crew! The gray tunic, white fringe, and logo of a white hand sewn inside one of the gloves…
Sleipnir has committed enough espionage and voyeurism and secret sharing and peeping-tom-ism to have peeped this tom before! This tunic is a uniform for the Tenebrous Hand! And Goblin Behnie was wearing an outfit similar to it when they saw him through the smoke earlier.
This is his gang’s hideout!
Goblin Behnie is clever, placing the hideout beneath the one place Sleipnir would never look: a bath.
Sleipnir passes this information along to his older brother, Caeus, who promptly tells everyone in the group, “Yes everyone, I've found out this information!"
"You're so observant!" Sfiros says.
"I have my sources!" Caeus says.
"Gosh!" Sleipnir says, once again having his brother take all the credit for his hard work. I guess you could say he was... overshadowed?
"Caeus, what kind of stuff do they carry in their underground bathhouse lair?" Tallest asks.
Sleipnir steals one of the pillows while his brother and Tallest discuss boring stuff.
Tallest then opens the door, revealing in the dim light of his glowing coin that there are hallways leading from this door with several other doors attached to them. This place must be what those human people use for sleeping instead of a barn! What are they called?
"It looks like an Inn! I'm going to investigate sneakily!" Sleipnir says, then begins his creepification down the hallways, poking his head into doors and finding only linen closets, spare pillows, extra chamber pots, as well as other bedrooms.
He takes another pillow.
"We might be underground!" Caeus says, noting that the windows in the bedrooms touch only cobblestone walls—and no sign of afternoon sunlight is shining from anywhere.
"Caeus, why is Sleipnir going through the shit cans?" Tallest says, seeing Sleipnir grabbing handfuls of tiny soaps from the linen closet—as well as more pillows.
"Gotta take home the samples! They're free! They come with the room!" Sleipnir says.
"They give them away. He's not wrong!" Caeus says.
"Fair enough. Let's just move on," Harken says, hurrying the minotaurs along.
They pry around, finding another room with a small water reservoir complete with water. Sleipnir finds another bedroom and takes out another uniform, gives it to Harken, then takes a pillow.
When he gets back home to his bedroom, his fort shall be legendary!
"So what am I using this for?" Harken says, eyeing the uniform.
"We got to be sneaky!" Sleipnir says, knowing that the uniforms would look too strange if the minotaurs were wearing them. A tiefling would suit the clothes fine!
The Herd then realizes that there are a LOT of doors in this inn! Do all humans just get their own pens or something?
"This is not the kind of thing Gond would make!" Sfiros says, unsure of how to proceed through these doors.
"We are a long way from Warcross, boys!" Caeus says.
They keep checking doors, pocketing pillows, and finding more of these sleeping quarters for gangster crew folks. One of the rooms, however, has a wardrobe in it. Sleipnir opens the wardrobe, finding lots of casual clothes as well as a set of high heel shoes at the bottom! Thinking of a gift for Leone, he takes the shoes, but one of them is attached to the floor.
He braces himself for a deadly trap because this is a Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventure, but instead the high heels reveal the secret switch for another secret pathway! Based on the wood floors beneath him and this secret path, Sleipnir notices that this "inn" they’re in is the second floor, and that there are stairs down the hallway which lead to the first floor.
Nah, forget going to the first floor. This is a secret entrance! Secret entrances lead to the BEST plot hooks!
Meanwhile, on the first floor…
Goblin Behnie, the fellow they set out to murder, sits at a table. He has a bottle of mediocre wine recently uncorked as he pours his glass. Based on the clopping hoof steps above, Behnie knows his disciples of Tzeentch weren’t able to dispatch of the pesky minotaurs at the bathhouse. Fair enough. Goblin Behnie’s got to get caught at some point, right?
He sets aside some more cups. They’ll be down soon…
“Forgive us,” he mutters.
Hyde, his bartender, moans behind the bar…
Meanwhile upstairs, ain’t nobody going down to the bottom floor where the rest of the adventure continues because it’s time to go exploring down rabbit hole side quest nonsense!
The party barrels through the secret wardrobe room and ends up in another upper floor of another nearby building! This room looks like less of an inn and more of a house, with some beds in a larger area, tables for reading, and discarded clothes. They poke around, seeing that the next room over has a busted down door as well as signs of a great fight!
Someone was punching something in here!
Sfiros peeks around with the light source, staring into the busted-down room. In the corner is a puddle of black treacle-like substance with a pile of humanoid bones sitting in it, looking all skeletal and sludgy—like that Tim Curry character in that cartoon about the rainforest fairies where he sings about pollution!
"Oh no!" Sfiros says, seeing the bones.
"Rumor has it there's stairs over here," Sleipnir says, seeing that the hallway they’re standing in ends with a set of stairs leading to the floor beneath them.
Sfiros analyzes the room with the sludge skeleton in it. It’s dangerous in appearance… but maybe… "Wait this is a kind of room that we're not supposed to be in, but there may be some treasure in it?" he says.
Everyone urges the cleric to check out the room.
Sfiros steps in, clutching his holy symbol of Gond. He peeks around the area, steering (heh, steer!) clear of the black substance. He shoves a hand under one of the beds and grips a weird, ceramic, carved object. An idol! The idol is short and squat, and as Sfiros rolls the device over in his hand, he realizes that he’s seen this symbol in the Maggotkin of Nurgle codex from High Priest Numuroo’s study.
"I have found an idol to Nurgle! I think this goop came out of it!" Sfiros says.
"Destroy it!" Caeus says, not trusting none of that demon shit!
Sfiros shakes it around, sensing that it’s hollow. "I'm pretty sure the plague that's inside is not dangerous anymore!"
But Gond has a purpose! And this Nurgle is not fit for Baldur’s Gate! Sfiros raises his mace, which glints in the light of the coin, and he brings it down on the idol—it shatters! A wave of elation washes over Sfiros as Gond the Machine God is pleased.
"I feel really good destroying this profane thing,” Sfiros says.
"Do we think this is a death box?" Caeus says, looking at the pieces of the idol. They’re caked with dried, black mold.
"I can't tell if that stuff is sentient..." Sfiros says, looking at the blackened skeleton.
"Is this some Ridley Scott shit?" Caeus says.
Sfiros still doesn’t trust the skeleton in the black goop, so he picks up the broken door and sets it up like a barricade. He grabs tables and crates from the nearby bedroom to enforce the barricade, then punches out a gap in the top so that he can check in on this suspicious skeleton that is obviously some kind of trap and obviously going to come back to life at some point—right!?
"Do we want to set up a trap here?" Harken says, also suspicious as hell.
"If you got traps, go ahead!" Tallest says.
"I'm not opposed to a trap!" Caeus says.
Harken gets some rope and a dagger, then rigs the door frame so that if someone opens the door, the dagger slings around and stabs them if they come through. Home Alone would have been a much shorter movie had Harken been left by himself instead.
"Where'd you learn to do such a fancy dagger trap from?" Caeus says.
"Lots of night holed up in a fucking cheap room,” Harken mutters, reminiscing over his previous exploits.
They head downstairs and see that the black treacle from the upper floor has leaked down to form a tiny puddle below. A black stain soaks the ceiling where the ooze sinks down.
They see that this bottom living-room style area has a table set for dinner, but the dinner has been left to rot.
"So whatever happened here happened in a hurry if there's dinner on the table!" Sfiros says, taking note of the abandonment.
They realize that one of the windows near the door looks out into a courtyard—a courtyard!? Sleipnir looks out, seeing this small courtyard has an abandoned pile of straw, cart, barrels askew—and five emaciated dogs perusing the place. The bones of another dog are stashed under the hay.
“Hey there's some dogs outside. They look a little hungry,” Sleipnir says.
"We should give them some rations. How many do you guys have?" Tallest says.
"I have 10 rations... and a pillow for them to sleep in!" Sleipnir says, pointing out his stash of stolen pillows. He’s either the worst thief or the greatest smotherer.
Tallest opens the door and throws two rations out. The ravenous dogs fight over them, hurting each other as they claw and bite for the food.
Sleipnir looks around the courtyard, noting that this whole place is underground—most likely an older part of Baldur’s Gate that was built over. Dusty, old signs for the various shops still decorate the abandoned structures. Apparently there’s a warehouse, carpenter, scribe, potter, and butcher—as well as some unlabeled homes. They’re all pressed in against each other and sharing walls: a former business block now used as a hideout for a gang.
Speaking of gangs… where is the gang?
"We should definitely go to the warehouse first,” Sleipnir says, suspecting loot.
The shadowy minotaur throws two more rations out to the dogs, which pile on the rations as everyone dashes across the courtyard to the warehouse, following Sleipnir. They throw open the warehouse doors and see a large, crate-stacked storage area with a wrap-around catwalk on the southern end.
Oh yeah, and hanging from the catwalk is the corpse of a man, a noose around his neck!
Tallest runs up to the man, unties the rope, and lets him drop to the floor. Sleipnir examines the corpse, determining that he has been dead for at least a week.
"Any of you guys need one of these things?" Tallest says.
"What?" Sleipnir says, baffled.
"Corpses," Tallest says, nudging the body with his hoof.
"No thank you..." Caeus says, wondering what the heck is going on inside Tallest’s brain. Tall people are so bizarre sometimes! It’s like they’re not very grounded.
Tallest picks up a crate and puts it over the dead man to hide him, still not quite on point with how burial rites work for humans. Sfiros steps up and gets ready to perform a proper funeral for the man so that Gond may guide him to… Gond land?
"He technically buried," Sfiros says, taking note that they're underground. He whispers a Gondish prayer, but it's hard to think of something to say because he's only level 1. It’s literally the worst funeral ever. I mean look at this!
Sleipnir pokes through the crates so he can steal some shit during the funeral, finding only stashes of dried, mildewed creeper leaves—illegal substances from Chult! This would be a fine stash to sell on the black market, but as mildewed as they are, they’re now worthless. He pries open other crates and finds more of the spoiled leaves. On the bright side, he finds a set of jeweler’s tools and cooking wares.
"I'll take these," Tallest says, taking the jeweler’s tools.
Finished with all of the snooping, the minotaurs step up along the walkway and see that a ladder leads up to a trap door. They try pushing it open, but it smacks against the cobblestone roof enclosure built over the whole block. Harken is the only one who can fit through, so he squeezes in and rests on the rooftop, his darkvision giving a decent vantage point of the block.
"Everything looks like it's all connected...” he says, taking note that the rooftops sync with each other. “It's one big roundabout. The fuck you guys expect?"
"All right then get down here and let's go to the butcher's!" Tallest says.
Caeus throws some rations to the dogs so that they leave them alone, and they run across the courtyard to the butcher' shop! Sleipnir pushes on the door—but it won’t open.
"Tallest, hit!" Sleipnir says, keeping an eye on the distracted dogs behind them.
Tallest steps up with his warhammer, raises it high above his head, brings it down upon the flimsy door—and falls on his face because he rolls a natural 1 while trying to hit it.
They notice that the dogs have finished their rations and are now taking notice of the PC's.
Sleipnir and Tallest throw more rations to distract the dogs as Tallest stands back up, readying his warhammer for another swing at the door. "All right, that was just..." he mutters.
Tallest swings again and critically fails a second time!
"Tallest, aren't you supposed to be good at fighting!" Sfiros says.
"No, I'm just tall!" Tallest says.
"Just use the tools that Gond gave you!" Sfiros says, lowering his horns and charging at the door.
His roll is not very good as he smacks his head into the wooden door, not budging it.
The dogs creep up, and Sfiros throws food at them. "Don't judge us!" he shouts.
As Sfiros shouts at the dogs, Sleipnir charges at the door as well but his roll is also terrible, causing him to slam into the door and hurt his little noggin.
"I'm too little!" Sleipnir says, shaking his head.
This is super embarrassing. They would feel very ashamed if someone could see their mishaps. Meanwhile, back at the tavern, Goblin Behnie stares dumbfound out the windowt. He pops open a second bottle of wine as he watches the incompetent minotaurs slam their heads into a door over and over.
“Damn… I needed better cultists…” he mutters, taking a swig from the bottle. “They’ll find me soon.”
Goblin Behnie is wrong.
Harken shoves aside his beefy comrades and just takes out some damned lockpicks from Caeus’ supply of tinkering tools, scores a 20 on his lockpick check, and shoves the freaking door open!
Unfortunately, the butcher’s place is a reeking mess of rotten meat, cheese, and fly-infested halves of pigs. Also, another dog is in it. But this dog is more like a monster-plague-pustule dog with puckering suckers all over its face and a proboscis-looking tongue lashing around and ready to eat people. What will the party do to stop this fetid, maggot-kin, bug-monstered dog?
Sleipnir casts infestation!
That’s the WORST spell you could cast at a plague monster!
The spell does nothing but just throw more flies at the monster, which then dashes up and lunges at Harken since he’s the closest. The tiefling dodges underneath the monster's poisonous, lashing tongue as Sfiros casts sacred flame at the dog-beast.
He deals 1 point of radiant damage, but the damage causes noxious fumes to pulse from the beast, coating Harken in the gas and dealing 4 necrotic damage to him! Apparently, standing near this thing when attacking it is not a good idea.
The party will have to change their plan of attack if they don't want Harken to—
So Tallest steps up and slams the creature with a warhammer, hitting it for 9 damage and causing more black ichor to pulse out. Tallest steps aside, but Harken takes another 4 damage from the poison, dropping him down to 1 Hit Point.
"WHAT THE FUCK!?" Harken shouts, knowing that one more attack on this creature while he’s within melee range could reduce him to 0. Hopefully his allies will wait until he has time to get away.
Caeus casts firebolt.
He misses, which might be a good thing, and Harken has time to disengage with the monster and somersault into the courtyard, smacking Tallest on the shoulder as he does so. "You're up!"
"I just hit them!" Tallest grumbles, looking at the initiative tracker.
"I noticed!" Harken says, giving Tallest some bardic inspiration.
Sleipnir realizes that fighting a plague with another plague isn't how nature works, so he casts chill touch, slams the dog creature for 2 damage, then watches as the monster's ichor hits Tallest for a smidgen of HP loss. The dog lashes at Tallest with its tongue, unable to land a crucial strike on the large minotaur, only to leap out of the way when Sfiros conjures purifying radiant energy at the abomination again.
Gripping his warhammer in his tall hands, Tallest raises the weapon high into the sky—then critically strikes his foe on the spine, shattering it into a pulpy mess as its carcass slams backwards into the wall.
"Ah, this is gross. Can I borrow one of those pillows and use it?" Tallest says, looking at the goop matted into his fur.
"We got linens and things," Harken says, wiping the crud off him with some of the miniature sample soaps they stole from the inn’s closet.
The Herd then stands aside and lets the starving dogs dive into the butcher shop—their ravenous appetites satiated by the rotting meat and cheese. Tallest slams the door shut once they’re in, keeping them from getting back out.
"Now there’s going to be five dogs like that then!" Sleipnir says in a panic.
"Should we just eliminate them now?" Tallest says, hand still on the door.
"If they eat all that rotten nasty meat, they're going to die," Caeus says.
They go to potter’s shop and climb the stairs to the roof, allowing access to the roof of the butcher’s shop. Tallest chooses this perch to clean off his fur since it adds to his tallness, and if being tall is being correct, then being taller than tall is the most correct.
Minotaur philosophy is so complicated yet so simple!
Sleipnir goes and looks into the carpenter’s shop. Inside is a wide abundance of sawhorses, woodworking tools, and cords of lumber. "Hey, there might be some tinkering tools in here!" he shouts.
Caeus takes out one of the ten torches he’s been carrying this whole fucking time and lights it, no longer restricting everyone’s vision to the little glowing coin he created.
Caeus grabs a toolbox of carpenter’s tools, and Sfiros picks one up as well. Being crafters, they could put these tools to good use back at their jobs.
"I do not want these carpenter's tools," Sleipnir says, staring at a hammer.
They leave the carpenter’s place and peek into another residential home—this one has a dining area on the first floor with a half-read book sitting on it: Fifty Shades of Ulfire, a poor book for desperate people (as he recalls from his notes).
"Hey Caeus, I'll sell you this book for 2 gp!" Sleipnir says.
Caeus examines the book. "... All right!" he says, then buys it from his brother.
Sleipnir heads up the stairs, which has a stinky-stanky stench drifting down from it—one of rot. He avoids the stinky-stanky room and checks out a bedroom, finding a secret passageway that leads to the linen closet of the inn from earlier! He contemplates grabbing a pillow, but four pillows is enough.
Tallest pokes around in the same area and finds another room with two beds. They are regular people beds, just like the others. The inadequate tallness of the beds bores him, so he leaves them alone. All that’s left to check out now is the middle room with the stench…
They push open the door and see a grisly sight—a man lies dead on the floor near a fireplace mantle, his forehead bashed in and a splatter of gristle on the corner of the mantle. A table nearby is covered with a scattering of maps and dossiers, and a ring of keys rests on the bed.
Sleipnir grabs the maps while Tallest grabs keys. Nobody grabs the man.
"What happened to this man?" Caeus says, examining the macabre situation.
Sleipnir checks out the table some more and sees a letter. He gives it to Caeus, who reads it out loud,
MY DEAR CHRISTINE,
I HOPE THAT ONE DAY YOU WILL READ THIS AND KNOW THAT IN MY FINAL HOURS MY ONLY THOUGHTS ARE OF YOU AND THE BOYS. AFTER WHAT HAS HAPPENED HERE, I CANNOT ALLOW ANYONE TO LEAVE, EVEN TO DELIVER A LETTER, AND THAT MAY BE THE ONE THING THAT SAVES THE REST OF THE WORLD FROM THE HELL WE NOW FACE.
PLEASE KNOW THAT WE HAD NO INKLING OF WHAT IT WAS WE DID AND THAT MY MEN HAVE SACRIFICED THEMSELVES TO CONTAIN THE EVIL. I CAN DO NO LESS MYSELF. PRAY FOR ME IF YOU MUST, BUT FROM WHAT I HAVE SEEN HERE, I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT THIS WORLD IS THE CREATION OF ANY LOVING GOD.
GOODBYE MY LOVE,
"Who did this?" Caeus says, rereading the letter.
"Well I don't think that could possibly mean anything!" Tallest says, not liking the short human scribbling.
"... ‘The hell we now face?’" Sfiros repeats.
"That has to do with the nasty slime mold..." Tallest says.
"’Please know that we had no inkling... and that my men have sacrificed themselves to contain the evil...’” Caeus says, agitated that his average brain can’t make any more of it. “Blah blah blah Horadric cubes Deckard Cain!" he shouts.
"We may need to go gather some of that ichor after all," Sfiros says.
"Do you think Gond did that?" Tallest says.
Sfiros gasps that Tallest would ever think such a thing. "Gond... he guides us towards invention!"
"You don't even know how to do funeral rites for Gond!" Caeus says.
"You don't know how to do ANYTHING for Gond!" Sfiros says, crossing his arms.
Sleipnir chuckles in the corner. "I love it when people put down my brother!"
Everyone including Caeus turns to stare at Sleipnir.
"... You're brothers!?" Sfiros says, looking between Sleipnir and Caeus.
Before any more revelations can be revelated, they go to the scribe's place. Sleipnir sees stacks of books, inkwells, writing desks, printing presses—HE BARGES IN like a maniac and loots the hell out of the place, snatching up a scholar’s pack worth of gear.
"Writing stuff down is the only difference between fucking around and finding out!" Tallest says, approving of Sleipnir’s desire to write.
They go upstairs and find a safe tucked away in an office! Tallest flicks through the keyring he found and finds the key for the safe, inserting it. A poisoned needle launches from the keyhole into his finger, but the big minotaur’s finger is so thick that the skin can’t be pierced by such a short needle.
The adventurers open the safe to find some money stashed away, a set of building plans, as well as the financial records for several patriars of Baldur’s Gate—detailed listings of net worth and exchanges! A snooper’s dream! Oh yeah, and an ornate key that totally goes to a boss door or something.
Sleipnir takes the floor plans while Harken takes the information about the patriars. They can put this information to good use later on!
Tallest gives 3 extra gold pieces from his share of the safe to Sfiros and tells him to donate it to Gond. "He's blessing our herd."
Sfiros casts guidance on him in return.
They peek around a bit more, finding a fancy study room with an ornate rug spread across the floor. Sleipnir must have the rug! It will go perfect with his pillows and ink!
"Guys, do we want to take this rug back to our place?" Sleipnir says.
"Our place?" Caeus says.
"... Yes!" Sleipnir says, taking a stand.
Caeus huffs, "It's always been my place!"
"He built it!" Tallest says, stepping in line with Caeus.
"I pay the rent!" Sleipnir says. "He just added a workshop on it! He makes clocks! Nobody buys clocks in Baldur's Gate!"
"Where did all the gold come from?" Tallest says, crossing his tall arms.
"ME!” Sleipnir shouts, fed up with their nonsense. “HE ONLY MAKES COINS GLOW! HE SELLS ONE; HE CAN ONLY MAKE ONE AT A TIME, SO IF HE MAKES ANOTHER ONE, THE FIRST ONE STOPS GLOWING! You know what kind of reputation that gives him?"
At that point Sleipnir realizes that his brother's business model is based on literally giving away money.
"You sound jealous mate," Harken says.
Sleipnir stutters in agitation, "COME IN HERE AND GET THIS RUG!"
They don’t get the rug.
But they grab some empty inkwells to fill with black ichor, so that’s like the same thing right?
They return to the carpenter’s place after realizing they never went up the stairs when they went in the first time and stole a bunch of saws. They trapse up to the second floor and see a gut-curdling sight waiting for them at the top—a man lies slumped in the corner, his throat slit with dried blood having spilled all over the front of his tunic. Scrawled on the wall in blood are the haggard words, “FORGIVE US,” and as the adventurers get a good look at the man, they notice half of his face and one of his arms have mutated into pulsating boils and claws.
Just like the dog monster!
And the cover of this adventure!
Tallest raises his warhammer and eradicates the corpse because if there’s one thing they don’t fuck with, it’s zombie shit!
"Good thing my brother's not here," Harken says, eyeing the mess.
"Why?" Caeus says.
"He has a thing about putting fluids in his body," Harken says, remembering how his mother sat him down seven years ago and told him how Ezekiel died.
"Like drinking water?" Sleipnir says.
"You don't drink water!” Caeus says to his brother. “Mountain Dew isn't water!"
Sfiros sets up to perform a Gondish funeral rite for this guy because he's got some fucked up stuff going on. "Gond teaches us to be inquisitive and to tinker and to invent, and sometimes we go too far. It seems you went too far,” he says stoically.
"I think he's been tinkering with his biology," Caeus says.
"I'm still not in a hurry to forgive them. Sorry," Tallest says, scowling at the writing on the wall.
"Well, who is ‘them?’ AND they didn't say 'sorry!' They said ‘forgive us!’" Caeus says.
"Yeah, that's a weird way to apologize!" Tallest says.
"It's not an apology!" Caeus says.
"It's a command!" Tallest says, infuriated that a bunch of letters dare tell HIM what to do!
Sleipnir scratches his head a bit, then speaks, "... well he was writing with his throat blood! He didn't have much time to write 'please!’"
They investigate the rest of the area and find several sparring weapons, all blunted to practice combat. Apparently the Tenebrous Hand had a decent militia team.
Their curiosity satiated, they decide to return to the inn.
Goblin Behnie watches them approach. He’s now several bottles deep, even for a goblin, and he gets ready to confront the team that is sure to bring upon his doom. He straightens up, pours another glass, then watches as they approach the door to the inn and—
NOPE they go through the door to the house next to him!
“Fuck me…” he groans. “I’m never going to do my villainous monologue at this rate!”
Meanwhile at the house next door, the adventurers go back up the stairs, past the barricaded door (the skeleton in the goop hasn’t moved—they checked!) through the secret wardrobe room, back into the bedroom hallways of the inn, and THEN they go downstairs—
They head down the stairs into the lounge of the inn and see a groaning, vacant human bartender chained to the bar—his face a haze, like rabies congealing into a final relapse before total asepticism. Oh yeah, and Goblin Behnie’s over at a table covered in booze bottles near the window.
"Took you long enough!” he growls at them through slurred speech. “I've been WATCHING you here for SO LONG!" he blabbers, slamming his cup on the table.
Sfiros steps down and yells at him, "Well you're not even supposed to be in this module! It's internet bullshit! What? You've been sitting here for three hours while we explore an entire town!?"
"Have a seat!" Behnie says, pointing at the other chairs that have been empty for way longer than he intended.
"NO!" Sfiros says. "You tried to kill us!"
"Why did you do such a thing?" Tallest says, hands on his hips.
"Explain this!" Caeus says, pulling out the erotic book that he definitely hasn’t been reading—that dog-eared page was already in there! And the two sequel books just happened to be stacked underneath it! Caeus didn’t already own them.
He didn’t… already… own them!
Sleipnir goes up to the hazy-acting bartender and grabs some booze from the counter. Sfiros looks down at the table and notices that Behnie has scrawled three circles with arrows pointing out of them on the table—the symbol of Nurgle.
Behnie chuckles as the party closes in. "You caught me! You beat my attendants at the bath house. You beat the mooks from the Blushing Mermaid... you guys... you guys are somethin'!" he says, hiccupping between drinks.
Tallest grumbles, "There's one way we can make it where this doesn't happen again, Behnie. And that would be to eliminate you.” He holds his warhammer out in one hand. “... or YOU can start working for us!" He holds out a 1099-R form in the other hand.
"FIRST OF ALL!” Caeus says, shoving Tallest’s paperwork aside. “Let's get some answers. What are you doing here? Why are you fighting us?"
Behnie points at the bundle of notes that Harken pilfered. "You found our notes! We heard... or I heard, heh.. HERD! You guys! Hah! I heard that something very expensive and very shiny was going to the Hlaths from the Temple of Gond... soooo yeah, I had some of these weirdo Khorne boys. That's a funny word! And I said... why not? I'm all that's left now? Except for Hyde over there..." he says, pointing at the guy chained behind the bar.
"Why is he chained up?" Sleipnir says.
"I need to see... hic! If the rot will run its course! The others didn't see if it ran its course…” he mutters, his eyes going wide. “And they smashed their heads against the mantle, they hung themselves from rafters, they slit their throats... noble people! So noble... for a bunch of thieves.” He spits. “But here, I'm all that's left of the Tenebrous Hand, and who knows... maybe I'm rotting too! Eh.... probably not... it's one of those things that hits you in the soul... And everyone knows old Goblin Behnie ain't got no soul!"
Caeus doesn’t like what he hears. "It sounds wrong, but I don't know enough about souls to disprove that.”
"We had a mark...” Behnie says, his eyes rolling back in drunken stupor. “Some rich Patriar family up in the Inner City. Turns out: they had a secret. They had what we thought was an expensive… I dunno... relic? We took it back. Someone fucked with it... and turns out it was full of nasty black plague snot or something! It ran its course. We quarantined the infected. And the nobler ones decided to purge themselves from this world to keep it all contained... leaving just ol' Behnie... and of curse Hyde over there."
"What about the dog?" Tallest says.
"Dog?" Behnie says.
"Did you not have anything to do with the dogs?" Tallest says.
"FUCK! This thing infects the dogs too?" Behnie says, shaking his head and moaning.
Tallest takes out his hammer, steps up to Behnie, and slams it into the goblin’s head. Behnie's head erupts as blood splatters everywhere, his lifeless corpse stumbling to the ground, glass of booze still gripped in his hand.
"What about this guy chained up?” Sleipnir says, looking at Hyde. “We should probably kill him."
"I ain't taking on anyone! I'm hurt!" Hyde says, not wanting to get within melee range of anyone who could explode stuff on him.
Tallest steps up and smashes his hammer into Hyde, splattering ichor everywhere as the husk of a dead man clatters to the floor behind the bar.
They pilfer Behnie’s corpse, finding nothing of too much note except—a coin? A strange coin, about five inches in diameter and made of solid iron—stamped with a bizarre symbol. Nobody has seen this one before, and it matches nothing from the three chaos gods. As Sfiros holds it up to him, he hears a faint echo: "Everyone knows old Goblin Behnie ain't got no soul!"
He doesn’t like this!
"Let me take a look at that,” Harken says, grabbing at the coin.
"Let me!" Sfiros says, pulling the coin back. He can’t figure out what’s going on with the coin, but it definitely has magical properties!
They poke around the tavern, a search for expensive wine and spirits coming up short—but stashed in the back area is a trap door. Could there be answers down there?
"Do you think there's anything that can burn this place to the ground?" Tallest says.
"But this is underneath the city!” Caeus says, not keen on setting fire to everything. “What are we going to do here? We can try and close it back off! If we burn it or something, I feel like that's going to have far reaching consequences."
Tallest tries thinking like humans think. "Let's put a sign up that says, ‘WARNING: DO NOT ENTER. IT’S VERY BORING INSIDE.’”
Caeus tries to think of an answer. "Let's go kill those dogs. They shouldn't be eating that stuff.”
"Let's investigate that cellar first!" Sleipnir says.
They open up the trapdoor and see a ladder leading down to the wine cellar. They poke around in it, finding a pile of black goo just like the stuff from the house next door. Sleipnir takes out an inkwell and scoops some of the goo into it, then caps it. He searches around a bit more and finds a hidden door—he pushes a brick, revealing another hallway.
They go down the secret, cold hallway—the smell of vile rot, decay, vomit, and necrotic secretions is so thick they can taste it—and when they arrive at the end of the hallway, a scene of mayhem is splayed out before them!
Corpses blackened with the syrupy, oily-black slime are scattered across this central room—limbs hacked and discarded lie rotten in the corners, and scratches and discarded weapons give the hint that a great skirmish happened here! The nauseating scent is almost too much to stomach, but this bizarre room, at closer glance, has several hallways stretching out from the center, just like the one they entered from.
"Do we think this caused people to rage out and kill each other?" Caeus says. "Hrm... do not drink! Tallest, make the decision!"
"Let's go back to the butcher's and slaughter the dogs," Tallest says, ready to leave.
They leave the inn and go to the butcher’s place. Tallest opens the door, revealing five fattened, happy, satiated puppy dogs with big, sweet, cutesy-wootsy eyes. Their tails wag happily at sight of the bull-people who were the first to feed them in so many days!
"Stratholme must be purged!" Caeus shouts!
Caeus charges forth with his horns, missing his charge terribly as one of the dogs bites back at him. Sfiros raises his hands and casts sacred flame, causing one of the adorable dogs to burst into radiant fire and die. It’s so sad!
One of the dogs runs up and bites Harken, its minor damage dropping him to 0 as he falls unconscious. Another dog critically bites Tallest for 3 damage! He drops to 0 as well!
Everyone is panicking because these dogs are damn near killing them! This was supposed to be a sad, coming-of-age Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows and all those other Newberry Award-books-with-the-dog-that-dies-on-the-cover "But Pa!" kind of moment! When did it turn into Cujo!?
Another dog runs up and bites Sleipnir for 3 piercing damage while Caeus casts cure wounds on Tallest, bringing him back into the fight. A dog bites Sfiros for 3 damage, these animals just all-around MAD at the nonsense happening with them.
Sleipnir and Tallest obliterate a dog a piece with shocking grasp and a warhammer swing, while Sfiros casts healing word on Harken, bringing him back up to 6 Hit Points.
Spells, weapon strikes, teeth, and horns scatter around in the melee that shouldn’t nearly have been this hard! The challenge ratings for the dogs are 0! They do 1d4-1 damage! Why are the dice so stacked in their favor!? Eventually with enough smacks of a warhammer and spellcasting, the dogs are all dead, no longer a threat of being turned into creepy John Carpenter monster-things.
"We killed the dogs!" Tallest says, breathing heavily. "We got this one last place to go to... but we don't know how long it is."
"Let's go to one of those nice rooms—the scribe's—and hunker down... we got lots of pillows!" Caeus says, his eyes wide in horror at the purging that didn’t quite go as purgy as they planned.
They decide not to go have a hunker down rest, instead returning to the hidden cellar with all the tunnels and corpses and bad decisions. They poke around, finding that some of the hallways have portcullises over them with levers nearby, and judging by how far back the tunnels go, chances are these pathways go all over Baldur’s Gate!
The Tenebrous Hand really planned their shit out!
The southern hallway, however, has a fancy lock at the end of it. Didn’t that key in the safe have a fancy something-or-another on it? Tallest plants the key into the lock and turns it, opening the vaulted door and revealing a room stacked with pilfered loot!
Shiny, rare artifacts and choice treasure glint off the light of their torch, and the Herd steps in to examine the fancy gear. Even better, they can now close the vault door to keep themselves safe from the outside.
"We can stay in here, get all the loot, then we can leave," Sleipnir says.
At that point, a pair of eyes opens up in the back of the vault. Then another pair appears in the shadows. Then another… and another… and another. At this point, they remember a choice section in the letter left by Kurt to his darling Christina.