A crack of lightning flashes across the gray sky, revealing the rickety outline of the Low Lantern ship bobbing in the docks. Roaring thunder is muffled by pouring rain. Ravens caw menacingly from a nest of gull bones before flying off into the city. Sleipnir is still tainted.
A robed figure stands in the downpour, staring at the Herd as she repeats, “I am Elisin, Hellrider of Kinchasa. I am here to speak with Amrich Vanthampur.”
Caeus and Sfiros start making noises in their sleep. Tallest and Sleipnir make no noises in their standing.
“I have no time for games,” Elisin shouts over the rain. “What do I need to do to speak with your master?”
“You just have to look up,” Sfiros mumbles, dreaming optimistically of his simple times in penance.
“I’m right here,” Tallest says. “Name’s Tallest. That’s what everybody calls me, anyway. Sorry, you’re not going to be able to speak with Amrich. We don’t work for him, and he is recently deceased. We would be happy to help you in any way we can. We’re big fans of the Hellriders. We’ve heard a lot of rumors about your founder, Valour.”
“We met Dur-Dur-Dur, his best friend!” Sleipnir says, then turns to Tallest. “Show her.”
“Right here.” Tallest pulls out his book in the pouring rain. “I’m going to write your name down, too, if you don’t mind.”
Elisin looks around at the storm, the crowd of Bloomridge Dandies, and the carnage surrounding the Herd. If Amrich is dead, then that’s just one more layer of drama within Baldur’s Gate’s rising chaos. And if these minotaurs had a hand in his demise, then Thalamra Vanthampur would want their heads mounted in her living room.
“Is there a better place we could speak?” Elisin asks. “Amrich’s dead, and you guys look half dead yourself.”
“Let’s go to my house,” Sleipnir says.
Tallest turns to the Bloomridge Dandies, thinks about what he wants to say, but comes up with nothing.
“Meet us at dawn at the High House of Wonders,” Sleipnir says to the Dandies.
“We can’t get in the Upper City,” Elder objects.
“Show them this badge,” Sleipnir tries to take Harken’s Flaming Fist deputy badge from his unconscious body, but Tallest stops him.
“Is he a Flaming Fist?” Elisin asks with concern.
“Yes, technically, but he’s allied with us more than them,” Tallest reassures her.
“I’m trying to avoid the Flaming Fists. Will this lead them to me?” Elisin asks the two minotaurs who are carrying an unconscious deputy of the Flaming Fist.
The Herd votes on ditching Harken for Elisin since Harken is the police and Elisin is the cooler police. The motion passes with unanimous consent. Tallest tosses Harken over to the Bloomridge Dandies since they excel at smuggling men unseen around the city.
“Make sure he gets a long rest,” Tallest says. “We’ll meet you back in Bloomridge when we need him again.”
Two Bloomridge Dandies each take one of Harken’s arms and prop him up between them, passing him off as a drunk. Elder winks at Tallest, then his crew scampers off, disappearing in the pouring rain.
“Where to now?” Elisin asks.
“The minotaur district in the Steeps,” Tallest decides. “This way.”
The ragtag group dashes through Eastway and Heapside, the pouring rain keeping onlookers off the streets. As they enter the friendly territory of the Steeps, they hear commotion and anxious shouting coming from their destination.
Sleipnir finds the first child he can: a young dwarf girl. “What’s happening?” he greets her, hiply.
The dwarf girl stares upward at the creepy, robed minotaur, and her eyes widen. “Oh, you’re part of the Herd?”
“Yup,” Sleipnir beams. He’s proud to be in touch with the younger generation.
“Uh, sorry,” the dwarf girl stammers under her breath before she scurries off, leaving Sleipnir alone.
“I cast friends!” Sleipnir shoots a menacing beam of friendship, which spills out of the Nurgle brand on his arm. The friendly energy rushes through the child and enchants her with magical camaraderie.
The girl turns around with an unholy mixture of friendship and fear. “It couldn’t have been an accident,” she mumbles. “It couldn’t have been an accident, because it’s raining.”
“What happened?” Sleipnir demands of the little girl.
She turns towards Caeus’ unconscious body. “Your workshop is on fire!”
“No!” The Herd moos in unison. How could the workshop be on fire? Especially since they left it unguarded multiple times over several episodes while telling everyone exactly who they were!?
They rush onward to the minotaur district and spot a billowing column of smoke through the rain. True to the child’s warning, the workshop is burning! Flames fill the interior, but they spread slowly due to the downpour.
“It’s ok,” Sleipnir looks at the fire. “I have insurance.”
Elisin stares at the blaze. “You guys are making some enemies.”
“It’s probably the Guild,” Tallest says. “We’ve done a lot of Guild stuff. Do you have any purple lotus flower?”
“Purple lotus what?” Elisin asks.
“What kind of drugs did you bring?” Tallest asks.
“I don’t do drugs! I’m a knight of Tyr!” Elisin says proudly.
“Would a knight of Tyr put out this fire?” Tallest asks.
Elisin considers this and looks at the fire. Her eyes drift upward, towards the roof. The rain spattering on the shingles is keeping the roof from catching fire. “Do you have an axe?”
Tallest gives her a handaxe, and the knight of Tyr springs into action! She dashes up to Tallest’s bungalow and shimmies up the walls, hoisting herself onto the roof. She then leaps to the workshop roof like the badass NPC she is because of course she doesn’t have to roll skill checks! Elisin pokes around on the roof, feeling for weak spots, then raises her handaxe and hacks at the roof, punching holes in it. The persistent rain falls through the holes and into the workshop. The fire subsides.
“You’ll have some holes, but the fire won’t spread!” Elisin assesses the damage. She slides down a gutter and lands gracefully beside the minotaurs. “Where else can we go?”
“I guess we can try to fit in my place,” Tallest says.
“Where is your place? How far is it?” Elisin looks around for the arsonists.
“It’s right there,” Tallest points. “You were on it earlier.”
“They’ll know we’re in there!” Elisin protests. “How many minotaurs are there in this area? You kind of stand out.”
“We could go to the Elfsong Tavern, or the jeweler at Little Calimshan…” Tallest tries.
“We could go back to the Dandies!” Sleipnir suggests.
Tallest nods slowly, grasping for an alternative to taking his friends to Bloomridge. “We could go to the Dandies… or the sewer!” He finally decides. “We already killed everybody in there.”
“Where’s the sewer?” Elisin asks, eager to go anywhere else.
“That’s probably not a good place to go without rest...” Tallest remembers. “What about your girlfriend, Sleipnir?”
“She’s all the way in Tumbledown!” Sleipnir says.
“What about the temple?” Tallest tries. “I bet a knight of Tyr could get into the Upper City.”
“I’m wanted by the Flaming Fists,” Elisin states matter of factly.
Tallest sighs, defeated. “Fine... Bloomridge it is.”
“Back to the Dandies,” Sleipnir cheers.
“Find the Dandies,” Tallest decides. “I know the way.” The tall minotaur starts on a path from his bungalow that appears worn and well-trodden.
They make their way to Bloomridge, a district just south of the Steeps. If there was any color, wealth, or fashion in Lower City, it’s in Bloomridge. The views of the sun falling behind the Chionthar River attract luxury and riches. Comfortable townhouses squeeze among upscale boutiques and cafes. Rooftop gardens and ostentatious displays create an explosion of color. The district is all fine and, dare I say… dandy?
Tallest leads the Herd through the district with uncanny familiarity. Without hesitation, they reach a tavern that has two purple swords crossed above the entrance. A sign reads ‘The Crossed Swords.’
The entrance itself has an extremely tall and conspicuous door. The bright paint on the door has been worn down by frequent use. There is a separate, higher spot where Tallest’s hands match the wear perfectly.
“Lots of tall people frequent this establishment,” Tallest tries. “We do very well here.”
Tallest’s horns fit through grooves on the door frame as the Herd enters The Crossed Swords, and inside is a cavalcade of cheer and color. Pastel-colored flowers bloom in cultivated arrangements along the windowsills and rafters. Smells of bratwurst and sauerkraut and breakfast fill the air. A sign hangs on the wall celebrating ‘Sausage Fest,’ and several men sporting the Bloomridge Dandies armband sit among the crowd, enjoying their sausages with glee.
“Tallest!” several of the patrons exclaim.
“I’m not here for the Sausage Fest,” Tallest says. “I’m vegetarian. We need some burl.” Tallest drops Caeus and Sfiros on the ground. “There’s been a big mix-up, and we need some time to recoup.”
Baldur’s Gate culture among the crews considers “burl” a sacred act. All crews, even those against each other, are expected to offer refuge to each other to escape the law. The Dandies with purple armbands rush around the room to help and honor burl among the Herd. One of them brings Tallest a massive purple armband from the corner, but Tallest politely waves it away.
“You know these people?” Elisin asks.
“We’ve met a bit,” Tallest confesses. “I don’t know their names or anything… They aren’t in my book or anything…”
A few Dandies pick up the minotaurs and lead them upstairs to hide. “The Dandyland Suite is empty. We’ve got it prepared for you. You’re free to hunker down up there. You’re free to stay as long as you like,” the Dandies explain.
“How about some breakfast?” Sleipnir asks. “It smells amazing in here!”
“We can run up some breakfast for you,” the Dandie smiles. “It’s breakfast all the time at the Crossed Swords! What will you have?”
“Just some fruit and nuts for me, please,” Tallest says.
“Same here,” Sleipnir agrees.
Tallest stops the Dandie. “He really just wants food, though.”
“Right,” the Dandie nods. “Elder is still out. I’ll let him know you’re here when he gets back.”
The Dandyland Suite is spacious with uniquely shaped sofas and couches. The middle of the room is filled with a single large bed that could easily fit eight people, or one Tallest and one guest.
Speaking of guests, Caeus and Sfiros are still flat-out unconscious. Tallest throws his friends on the bed. “Let’s get rested up. Elisin, why don’t you tell us what you’re doing here?” he says, getting the room tidied up for an exposition dump.
Elisin takes off her cloak and stokes the fire expertly. She’s wearing an impressive set of armor. One pauldron is emblazoned with the scales of Tyr, and the other pauldron has a face with two bright eyes.
“It’s getting rough out there for everybody,” she says.
“What happened in Kinchasa?” Tallest asks.
“I’m not sure. I was training a few miles north when it happened,” Elisin explains, standing in front of the fireplace. “It was like a black star fell out of the sky. Everything turned darker than night. When it landed, the city sank into the horizon. By the time I got there, nothing existed except a big crater filled in by the ocean.” Elisin shakes her head. “Thousands. Tens of thousands of people. Gone, just like that.” She pauses and thinks carefully about what she is about to reveal. “I think… the Vanthampurs know what happened. They can give me some answers.”
“You’ve got two left to choose from,” Tallest says. “Because Morty and Amrich are dead. We didn’t kill Morty, but his mother did. Or she hired someone to. We went to Amrich to ask if he knew his mother killed his brother, and he started attacking us! Especially Sfiros.”
“Which one is Sfiros?” Elisin asks.
“Oh, he’s one of those two.” Tallest gestures vaguely. “She wants Baldur’s Gate to have the same fate as Kinchasa.” Tallest shows Elisin the incriminating letter Mortloch left.
“I have some leads,” Elisin says. “I don’t think Duke Vanthampur is doing this alone. Rumor has it, she was seen in the company of Manzibar Kreeg. I believe Manzibar Kreeg is right here in Baldur’s Gate. He knows something.”
They agree to investigate more on the matter tomorrow when they are no longer almost dead from a previous encounter. Elisin doffs her armor and flops over on the sofa. She immediately falls asleep into much deserved rest.
After a few minutes, the door knocks and opens. A young man throws Harken’s unconscious body into the suite. “Here’s another one,” he says. He looks around at the Herd. “This is going to be a party!”
But they’re not a party.
They’re a Herd.
And they got each others’ backs!
The Herd leaves Harken facedown on the floor where he falls and goes back to sleep.
The next morning, Caeus reconfigures his armor. He replaces the gun hands with big fists, and the lightning launcher with a shield generator.
Sfiros wakes up in pain and in cowhide. “I need to talk to my boss,” Sfiros says.
“We can’t go there right now,” Tallest decides. “We can’t get in with Elisin. This is Elisin, by the way. Elisin, this is one of the other two.”
“Who the fuck are you?” Sfiros greets the young woman with a traditional Gondish salutation. He sees the symbol of Tyr on her pauldron and narrows his eyes. “Are you a cleric? Is that a thing that you do?”
“I am a knight of Tyr,” Elisin says.
Sleipnir shudders, as though a chill just raced down his spine. He glances around the room. “When y’all got hit in the head, were people talking to y’all?”
“That only happens to me when I knock on doors,” Sfiros says.
“Oh…” Sleipnir says.
“Were you getting visions?” Sfiros asks.
“I’m just hearing stuff!” Sleipnir says.
“Is it Gond?” Sfiros asks.
“I don’t think so,” Sleipnir says.
“Was it Tyr?” Sfiros asks.
“I hope not,” Sleipnir says. “Because it was not good news.”
“What did it say?” Caeus asks.
“Rumor has it, it said, ‘Pain is an illusion of the senses. Fear is an illusion of the mind. Beyond these, only death waits, a silent judge for all.’”
The Herd considers this.
“Harken’s fault,” Caeus concludes.
“That’s pretty cryptic,” Sfiros says helpfully.
“I think what it’s telling me is that we need to get retribution on whoever burned my house down,” Sleipnir says.
“Your house burned down?” Sfiros asks.
“What?!” Caeus interrobangs.
“Where are we?” Sfiros realizes. “Why are there all these holes in the wall at waist height?”
“My house burned down?” Caeus repeats.
“No, my house burned down,” Sleipnir says, then frowns. “And I’m sad about it. I need some more purple drink.”
“Harken,” Caeus says. “Where’s Harken?”
“Oy, mate,” Harken says on repeat, stumbling to his feet and rubbing his sore head. “Where the fuck are we?”
“We’re at the Crossed Swords,” Tallest mumbles.
“Oy, I’ve never heard of that place in my whole life…” Harken says.
“Anyway... this is Elisin,” Tallest interrupts. “And this is Caeus. He’s one of the members of the Herd.”
“I fucking know who Caeus is!” Harken says.
“His house just burned down,” Tallest says. “Leave him alone.”
“We’re homeless!” Sleipnir wails. “Gosh!”
Sleipnir waddles downstairs for some much-needed breakfast. A musician sitting in the corner fills the room with a fun ukulele jig. A real toe-tapper!
A juvenile orc over six feet tall stands behind the bar. He smiles at Sleipnir. “Hey there little mini, what can I getcha?”
“I’ll just have a bowl of fruit,” Sleipnir says. “And a big bowl of fruit for my friends.”
“Oh, from this menu,” the chef replaces the menus. “What… what kind of fruit are you into?”
“Oranges. Apples. Pears,” Sleipnir lists. “Grapes. Cantaloupe.”
“Don’t worry about cost,” the chef says. “I never turn down burl.”
“Thank you!” Sleipnir says and takes the fruit bowls upstairs. He returns to the room with the Herd. “Hey Harken, there’s an actual musician down there!”
“Oy, mate.” Harken oys defensively.
Sfiros, ever one to assert his deity over others, rushes up to Elisin. “What’s Tyr like? Tell me about Tyr.”
“Followers of Tyr fight for what’s right, even if it means putting your life on the line,” Elisin explains. “You bring justice to injustice. You smite the wicked and protect the meek. It’s through Tyr’s teachings that stopped the Soulmonger. It’s through his teachings that saved Kinchasa from the Chaos shrine beneath its very streets.”
“I bet Tyr could cure this brand,” Sleipnir says.
“What kind of brand?” Elisin asks.
“A Chaos brand,” Sleipnir says. Elisin leers at him. “I didn’t do it intentionally!”
“You think Tyr has more power than Gond?” Sfiros laughs. “You’re crazy.”
“Didn’t she just say Tyr defeated Chaos?” Sleipnir asks. “I don’t see Gond doing that.”
“At least Gond didn’t get himself branded to get attention,” Caeus says.
The Herd gathers their things and leaves the suite. They bid farewell to the Dandies and find the nearest apothecary because even with so many healers, nobody wants to waste spell slots restoring Hit Points when spending money could get the job done just as easily!
The potions in Bloomridge are pricier than normal, but the Herd stocks up as much as they can. They consider shaking the vendors down, but Elisin is with them, and they don’t know what level she is. And she may be important to the plot.
The Herd offloads some loot, and Caeus pulls out his old armor from the bag of holding. “What about some scale mail? Since no one wants it.”
“Don’t go selling that yet!” Sfiros protests. “Let’s hold on to that for a minute.”
“No! Sell it!” Sleipnir insists.
“What happened to that chain shirt I gave you?” Sfiros asks.
“You gave it to me!” Caeus defends his new power armor. “I offered you the scale, and you turned it down.”
“You offered me the worst armor, and now you want to sell it and rub it in my face?” Sfiros asks.
“Sell it and buy a chain shirt,” Sleipnir says.
“I’m in penance. You wouldn’t get it,” Sfiros says, touching his hands to the dead cow skin on his chest. “You don’t know what it’s like to be a religious character.”
“You keep calling yourself a religious character,” Caeus says. “We just say ‘religious.’”
Sleipnir then proves that not only can he get banned from entering the High House of Wonders, but he can also get banned from dealing with shopkeepers! He produces the Tzeentchian robes he looted from the crazy fireball lady as well as the smutty romance book, hoping the shopkeeper will pay him handsomely for them. The shopkeeper promptly kicks Sleipnir out of the apothecary for trying to sell demonic clothes and pornography.
After shopping, the Herd wants to assess the damage at the workshop from the previous day. On the way, they ask Elisin what Hellriders do because she is one of those exposition NPC’s, and the Herd has a hankering for some lore!
“The Hellriders were an order of knights from centuries ago,” Elisin explains. “They were led by the great Zariel. Devil and demons and gods cannot be killed in the mortal realm, so Zariel rode into Hell itself with her knights, and there she vanquished Guga in his lair. That is why they are the Hellriders: they were willing to ride into Hell to slay the beasts where they live. Zariel was an angel, with eyes as bright as the sun. Her noble acts blessed all the people of Kinchasa with distinctive full white eyes.”
What a bitchin’ way to diversify some genetics!
At the end of the story, the Herd falls quiet and laments their situation in Baldur’s Gate: their home got burned down, their gold got wasted reviving Sleipnir, and their porno book still won’t cause any mayhem. Caeus is becoming more and more distraught at the thought of his home being vandalized.
“There is no workshop,” Caeus laments, his voice echoing from the gears and machinery criss-crossing his face.
“It’s there,” Sleipnir ensures him. “It’s just water damage.”
“Ellie saved it,” Tallest says. “You can mend it right up.”
“Wise Ellie,” Sleipnir prays. “Thanks be to Tyr.”
“I used to say ‘Go with Gond…’” Tallest says.
“You can still say ‘“Go with Gond!’” Sfiros says.
“Gond?” Sleipnir asks. “Who’s Gond?”
“He’s goned,” Tallest says, and everyone laughs. Except one of them. You can probably guess which one!
“I hope you know how to chug those potions when you’re down!” Sfiros, the devout minotaur who just finished a terrible penance for acting against his creed, threatens them with abandonment and violence.
But Gond is gone, and Tyr is here!
“Getting teary-eyed over there?” Sleipnir mocks the bovine cleric.
“Just see how you like your life without the power of Gond in it,” Sfiros huffs at his infidel compatriots.
“It’s basically there now,” Sleipnir says. “I got kicked out of the temple because they’re powerless to save me.”
“You got kicked out of the temple for having a brand of evil upon you,” Sfiros says.
“You were wearing a brand of evil armor set in there!” Sleipnir says.
“And I did penance!” Sfiros shouts. “Maybe go ask if you can do some penance.”
“They won’t let me,” Sleipnir says. “I said ‘Help me fix this,’ and they said, ‘We can’t! We’re powerless! Maybe Tyr can help.’”
“First of all, they did not say ‘We’re powerless,’ Second of all, they did not say ‘Maybe Tyr can do what Gond cannot.’ No one would ever say that,” Sfiros says precisely to the people who are saying exactly that.
Elisin turns to Harken and asks, “Are they always like this?”
“Oy, mate,” Harken says. “Oy… Mate.”
“It’s true. Chaos cannot be cured by Gond. Only Tyr can cure Chaos,” Tallest decrees from on high.
“No!” Sfiros shouts helplessly, his vow to follow Gond clashing with the minotaur rule of obeying the Tallest.
“That’s the rumor I heard,” Tallest says. “I heard it from a rumormonger.”
“Sleipnir is your rumormonger!” Sfiros, the HP-monger, says.
Tallest shrugs. “Rumor has it.”
Sfiros bellows in a Khorne-like rage, “Gond is the lord of all smiths! He’s not the lord of all getting that stupid brand off your arm! Maybe don’t go visiting demon gods!”
Boy, that exposition that was just supposed to cover a morning stroll across Bloomridge to the Steeps sure as hell devolved into a heated debate! Speaking of heated things, the workshop comes into view of the Herd as they finally arrive. The exterior seems fine, but the interior is burnt and soggy. Sleipnir’s walls are charred to dark, wet ash. Caeus’s workshop is scorched and melted. The roof is littered with holes. The grass on their lawn is burnt and inedible.
If only they knew who did it! If only their skill checks weren’t so garbage! If only Sleipnir knew that he could just read his character sheet and know he had a contact nearby.
Sleipnir reads his character sheet and surveys the neighborhood, knowing exactly which snoopy balcony would have a voyeuristic neighbor who could have seen the arsonists. It’s that snoopy dwarf Sfana up across the street! Where she’s always been! She’s a compulsive liar, and her rumors are usually outrageously false and ill-conceived. But she does spend all day snooping from her balcony, so sometimes she sees things that are true.
Sleipnir sighs, knowing that when you can’t find a good rumor, you have to trust an old liar.
Sfana is indeed on her balcony, rocking in her chair and wrapped in an old, unwashed blanket. Her braids spindle from her head, and her wide eyes dart hither and thither around her ornate spyglass. She spots the Herd coming up her street, and she whips her spyglass around to face them.
“Well, well, well, if it isn’t those herdie boys,” Sfana cackles. “Rumor has it, you’re homeless!”
“Rumor has it, you may know who did this,” Sleipnir says.
“Rumor has it, maybe I do?” Sfana says.
“Why don’t you rumor me who it is?” Sleipnir asks.
“Rumor has it, you’re on the wrong side of the Vanthampurs,” Sfana says.
“They know about us?” Sfiros asks.
“We kill every one of them we meet,” Tallest says. “How do they know about us?”
“Rumor has it, a ‘little birdie’ told me,” Sfana says with a bout of raspy laughter.
“What was this ‘birdie’s’ name?” Sleipnir asks.
“Don’t know,” Sfana shrugs. “Ravens don’t tell me their names.”
“Ah, so their name is Raven!” Sleipnir says.
Sleipnir is wrong.
“Isn’t the Grand Duke named Raven?” Tallest asks. “Ravengard?”
Sfana clears her throat and tries to clarify what she’s saying, “Rumor has it, a little birdie told me.”
“It has commune with animals!” Sleipnir suggests.
“No, it’s a Kenku,” Tallest suggests.
“Psh, Tallest,” Sfiros whispers, leering at the old dwarf woman. “These people are really dumb. You have to say ‘Rumor has it’ first for them to listen to you.”
“Oh,” Tallest tries, then turns to the crone. “Rumor has it, what does ‘a little birdie told you’ mean?”
“Rumor has it, oh! I didn’t understand your accent at first,” Sfana says with a smile. “Rumor has it, literally, a bird, a raven: a literal raven bird.”
“Now when you say ‘literal bird,’ what does that mean?” Caeus asks.
“Rumor has it, did this bird have a message attached to it, or can you speak bird?” Sleipnir asks, for Sleipnir cannot speak bird.
“Rumor has it, I saw a raven burn down your workshop!” Sfana tries again.
The Herd does not understand.
“Is this a rumor about a Kenku bird, or a little raven?” Sfiros asks.
“Rumor has it, tell me what that cow is saying,” Sfana stammers.
“Oh, rumor has it, it was a Kenku,” Sfiros says. “Is that true?”
“Rumor has it, NO. It was a raven,” Sfana flails.
“What could she possibly mean?” Caeus asks.
“Why are you being so cryptic!?” Tallest shouts at her.
“Rumor has it, which way did the bird fly after the fire was set?” Sleipnir asks, picking up on what the crazy old bat is trying to say.
“Rumor has it, a pair of ravens flew in from the east,” Sfana elaborates. “And then they flew to the Upper District. That was after they poked around in your workshop.”
“That sounds like a Gond thing,” Sleipnir says, turning on the cleric.
“Gond did not burn down your workshop, rumor has it,” Sfiros says.
Sleipnir turns to the other divine spellcaster. “Ellie, what do you think?”
“Are ravens common around this place?” Elisin asks.
“Rumor has it, I am not being cryptic!” Sfana shouts over their conversation. “I saw two literal ravens fly in from Eastway and burn down your workshop.”
The Herd does a lot of thinking.
“Oh, those were the ravens on the boat!” Sleipnir remembers the birds at the Low Lantern from the previous day.
“Yeah, they were eating those seagulls,” Tallest says. “How would they know where we live?”
“Because Caeus keeps shouting out ‘Have you heard of the Herd,’” Sleipnir suggests.
“Oh, the banners!” Tallest remembers. “Dammit, the fucking banners.”
“We have them everywhere,” Sleipnir agrees.
“Why’d you make them where birds could see them from the sky?” Tallest asks.
“They’re working,” Caeus points out.
“Now we need a new hideout,” Sleipnir says, thinking of a place as close to his bedroom as possible. “Let’s go claim the sewers.”
“Hold on, you aren’t even doing good with the rumor lady. Let me do your job for you,” Sfiros says, then shouts up at the dwarf. “RUMOR HAS IT, you might know how to sneak into the Vanthampur house.” Sfiros winks at The Herd.
“Rumor has it, you won’t catch me saying nothing that’s going to get me caught by no Vanthampurs!” Sfana wails. She starts to convulse in fear, waving her arms furiously like most old people.
“Rumor has it, Sleipnir’s got some gold for someone who knows how to sneak in,” Sfiros says. “Sleipnir, pay the lady.”
“Rumor has it, there are sewers that run all through Baldur’s Gate,” Sfana says. “Rumor has it, Duke Vanthampur started off managing the sewer systems of Baldur’s Gate before she climbed the municipal ladder.”
“Rumor has it, I don’t pay for old rumors,” Sleipnir says.
Sfana rocks back and forth in her rocking chair super fast so that it scoots her backwards and into her house. She slams the door in anger.
“See, Sfiros?” Sleipnir asks. “This is how it’s done. Now we get a free rumor. Let’s do what I said to begin with and move our headquarters to the sewers.”
Sfiros throws two gold pieces up to the balcony to thank the rumormonger.
The Herd starts their retreat into the sewers. They leave the minotaur district, then the Steeps altogether. They pass through Bloomridge, heading for The Seasons, but right before they reach Seatower, a prudish human woman with a quill and a notepad approaches them.
“Excuse me, are you the Herd?” she asks.
“Yes, we’re the Herd,” Tallest says proudly. “What’s your name?” The runed minotaur takes out his autograph book.
“I am…?” she stutters, looking for a nearby Magic the Gathering card to give her an idea for a name to have since this random encounter roll gave me nothing to work with.
“If you have to think about it, I don’t believe you,” Caeus says.
“My name is Newny, and I am from the Baldur’s Mouth News,” the human says. “I was hoping to ask you guys some questions about a conspiracy rising up here in Baldur’s Gate.”
Tallest nods and crosses his arms. “Oh, sure, yeah. We love conspiracies.”
“With the recent death of Amrich Vanthampur—” Newny starts.
“Amrich’s dead?!” Tallest lies.
“Yes,” Newny starts again.
“How did he die?” Tallest asks.
“We killed him, right?” Caeus asks, his mouth full of a dry brownie.
“He was slain in Low Lantern,” Newny explains. “Rumor has it, he was slain by a group of minotaurs. Do you know any other minotaurs?”
“Yeah,” Tallest blurts out. “There’s a whole bunch of minotaurs… in the minotaur district.”
“You wouldn’t say a bunch,” Caeus corrects him.
“Right, a herd of minotaurs,” Tallest says. “In fact, there’s one that works in the temple of Gond! Can you believe it?”
“Yes, Gond is very inclusive in its clergy,” Newny nods. “But tell me, why would a group of minotaurs want to kill Amrich Vanthampur?”
“The only reason I can think of why they would kill him, is if he tried to kill us first,” Tallest says.
“Yeah, he must have been a real asshole,” Caeus says.
“Is he the guy that has the devil?” Tallest asks. “You think the guy with the devil is a good guy?”
“Amrich was the son of one of the Dukes on the Council of Four. What do you think his death means for Baldur’s Gate?” Newny asks.
“At least one more funeral,” Caeus says.
“Already the Duke Vanthampur had her other son Morty murdered by some dude without a face. All so she can do a coup, and so Baldur’s Gate will descend into Hell, like Kinchasa,” Tallest explains to the woman.
Newny scribbles furiously. “Can you repeat that?”
Tallest sighs. “I don’t know if I can. There’s a lot of tongue twisters in that one.”
“Can I get your name?” Newny asks.
“Uh, just call me Tallest,” Tallest says.
Newny finishes her interview and exchanges socials with Caeus.
The Herd finds their way back to the sewer through The Seasons restaurant in Seatower. The sewer looks like only rats have visited since they were here last, meaning none of the Chaos cults have revisited their old haunt.
They find the room where Dur-Dur-Dur saved them, and they establish it as their new base of operations. First, they hang a banner that reads ‘Herd Loves Sleipnir Sewer.’
Second, Tallest says, “Harken, go clean up that area over there. Everybody else: take five.”
Sleipnir runs around the area for the first time. He can run around it this time because he isn’t dead.
“Did we go up here?” Sleipnir asks, poking around to collect vast amounts of rumors. “What are all these statues?”
One statue is of a great, vicious warrior with gorgeous armor, sitting atop a throne of skulls. Another one is the shape of several faces, mouths, and tentacles coalescing around each other in a maelstrom of insanity. The third one is a bloated, petulant monster chuckling with gluttonous glee.
Sleipnir hears a voice whispering in his head, then speaks to the Herd, “Rumor has it, when I look at this statue, it tells me to be quiet... I will not be quiet! There are so many rumors I need to get out!”
“You tell that evil statue, Sleipnir,” Sfiros says.
“Ellie, can you break this statue? I don’t like it,” Sleipnir asks.
Elisin enters the statue room and sneers at the sculptures of Khorne, Tzeentch, and Nurgle. She unsheaths her blade: a magic and destructive sword! She swings it at the first statue. The statue crumbles in a single hit, and Sleipnir feels a jolt of resistance run through his body. Elisin destroys the other statues in one hit as well, smashing the great monuments to Chaos in a three-stroke crusade! The haunting voice in Sleipnir’s head fades away.
But is it gone for good?
“Oh thank you, wise Ellie,” Sleipnir says. “What is the name of this magic sword?”
“This is Shatterspike,” Elisin holds the sword proudly, her reverence for the blade like that of a child before a grand master.
“Rumor has it, Valour Stevenson used this sword to knight me in Tyr’s service,” Elisin says valiantly. “I will always make sure this sword is used wisely.”
The Herd oo’s and awe’s at Elison’s awesome weapon, then spends several hours examining their new sewer base. They check the crannies for any hidden traps or foes. Tallest checks under the pooling water in the south corner for some spare missions. Eventually they dig through a pile of rubble in a hallway and find a secret room!
“There’s a whole room in here!” Caeus exclaims. “This can be the new workshop. Harken, clean up in here when you’re done there.”
“He still has a lot of mopping to do in the blood rooms,” Tallest says.
Harken huffs and puffs and blows into his bagpipes to cast thunderwave, blowing all the rubble out of the way. This reveals pathways further under Baldur’s Gate: pathways to who-knows-what and who-knows-where?
I-know-what and know-where: danger and Baldur’s Gate!
They set up a door and secure the exits, and then prepare for a long rest to recuperate more from the previous day’s engagement. Harken curses everyone and finds a corner to sleep in. Elisin unrolls her bedroll and prepares for the evening. Caeus and Sfiros hang up hammocks. Sleipnir finds a mostly empty crypt. Tallest leans against the wall, finding a good hypotenuse to stretch his frame.
The next morning, they wake up in the dingy (but homey!) sewer, ready to explore. They set off down the mysterious tunnel, travelling for what seems like forever down the long stretch. While following Tallest, they find scrawlings of infernal letters on the wall. The infernal lettering has arrows pointing back the way they came which say ‘Hideout,’ and the way forward with say ‘Plague.’
Hrm… Forward equals plague?
After a few more minutes, the Herd arrives in a familiar location: the crypt below the Dog and Bastard! This is the location they found while spelunking Goblin Behnie’s old hideout. They recall this area had several tunnels connecting in it which led all over Baldur’s Gate.
They also recall being only level 1 when fighting the plague monster zombie people in the safe just south of the room…
Hrm… zombies equals treasure?
They realize now they’re stronger! They could retrieve the treasure and XP from the plague monsters they left in the vault so long ago. They inspect the door to the safe, seeing that the vault looks like it was never opened. Even though obvious signs show that the Flaming Fist came down here and perused the place, they didn’t have the key to the safe, so the loot is still there!
Tallest leads the way... Elisin draws Shatterspike... and the spellcasters ready their best spells.
They open the door in...