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Harken Beremon, the tiefling bard, is not a minotaur. Taking orders from the tallest isn't his style. He finds his own shit to do for his own reasons.
Unfortunately, this time Tallest makes sense.
Harken should turn in the Flaming Fist quest and update Captain Bedieve. He doesn’t want to, but disobeying orders just because they came from the tallest is exactly as rational as obeying orders just because they came from the tallest.
Harken strolls through Heapside and finds the Flaming Fist station. The building is an impressive edifice that dwarfs the rest of the block without the need for any actual dwarves.
Inside, Harken finds Nameless Peon compiling stacks of paperwork. Files and folders are strewn on every surface. For a military-style regime, this Flaming Fist outpost looks quite out of order.
“Nameless Peon,” Harken calls.
“Deputy Harken!” they look up. “Where have you been?! What are you doing?”
“I’m here to see Captain Bedieve,” Harken says.
“You can’t see Captain Bedieve,” Nameless Peon say. “Because she’s dead.”
“Oh, well, shit then,” Harken says. “How?”
“She was murdered. We found her down in her office with her throat open,” they say.
“Who’s the new captain then?” Harken asks.
“That’s the thing…” Nameless Peon say, “There are so many crimes… And we’re stretched so thin…” They look up at Harken with desperate tears in their eyes. “We’re overwhelmed here! We’re made to follow orders, not give them!”
“Let me clear some stuff up for ya,” Harken says as he brushes his shoulders and stands before them. “I’ll be acting captain.”
“Oh, thank you! Thank you!” Nameless Peon quickly move around Harken, dusting off his coat and setting the front lobby back in order. They step into Captain Bedieve's office and return with a set of the captain's epaulets, placing them on Harken's shoulders to solidify his new rank.
Harken admires his new attire and steps into the captain’s office. He sits behind Bedieve’s old desk, wipes a bit of blood off the surface, and puts his feet up.
“Ahh,” he relaxes.
At that point, a cluster of concerned well-to-do Baldur's Gate citizens burst through the office door in a panic.
“Captain!” one of them shouts. “Captain, there’s a stirring at the market plaza!”
“Where there’s a stirring…” Harken starts.
“Come quick! It’s the Herd! We found them!”
“Which direction?” Harken asks.
“The market plaza!” they say again, pointing due market plaza.
“Alright boys, let’s roll out,” Harken says. He hops up from the desk and follows the concerned well-to-do citizens.
The market plaza, normally a bustling center of cheer and trade, looks like a battlefield. Bloodstained shopfront tents are burnt and broken. The cobblestones are destroyed and dislodged in several places. What would normally be a cool Vengeance day is now tainted by the plague of mayhem that has been festering in Baldur's Gate these past couple of weeks.
Harken passes the first pile of corpses: the dead Flaming Fist soldiers.
“Oh no, tragic,” Harken says sarcastically.
He sees Sleipnir’s corpse impaled by a spear. Tallest, Caeus, and Sfiros are unconscious and piled together. Elisin, the Hellrider paladin of Tyr, is dead next to them.
“One, two, three,” Harken counts his defeated companions.
The sole surviving Flaming Fist soldier staggers up to Harken. He is beaten and bruised, and clutching a broken arm. “They gave us hell, Captain,” he says with a cough.
“Oy, oy,” Harken nods. The bard casts cure wounds to patch up the soldier and restore him to a decent fighting condition.
“Are you kidding me?” Tallest snores unconsciously.
The soldier ignores Tallest and thanks Harken profusely.
“You’ve done a good job mate,” Harken says to the soldier. “You look pretty beat. How about five days off with pay? Sound good?”
The soldier is stunned. “Five days? Can we really afford that with all this mayhem?”
“We’re understaffed, but nothing’s more important than your health,” Harken says. “If you’re dead, that’s more than five days I’m without ya. You go and take care of yourself, mate.”
The soldier relents. “Fine, but make sure to take care of these fuckers,” he spits at the Herd.
Harken gives the soldier a gentle tap on the cheek. “Atta boy. Go home.”
The soldier leaves, and Harken issues orders to Nameless Peon. He has them retrieve Sleipnir’s corpse and load the bodies in two carts: one with the slain soldiers, the other with the Herd.
He makes a big show at the cart with the dead soldiers. “These soldiers died protecting your town,” he tells all the onlookers.
Harken gets the crowd involved in mourning the soldiers. While everyone is distracted, he grabs hold of the Herd’s cart from a soldier.
“I’m going to requisition a special room to interrogate these guys,” Harken claims.
The tiefling bard wheels his friends and Ellie away, cursing them in mock and in earnest.
Harken pushes them through Heapside and to the sequestered bathhouse. He lifts up the police barrier and slips all the bodies inside. Based on who used to work the bathhouse, this probably isn't the first time that dead and unconscious bodies were stored within.
Harken can’t drag them any farther, than the main bath chamber, so he casts cure wounds on Tallest, Caeus, and Sfiros to get them up and going.
“Ugh, I feel awful,” Tallest says. “What is that on your shoulders?”
“These are ah epaulets,” Harken shows off. “They made me captain now.”
Tallest sighs. “Good. That’s the best news I’ve heard all day.”
“Same here, mate,” Harken laughs. “So, what the fuck happened?”
“We were trying to shop, and the shopkeeper pulled a crossbow on us,” Tallest explains. “Then the Flaming Fists came, and they tried to arrest us for killing the Duke's son. And then they attacked us. And then I don’t know what happened.”
“First of all, you are wanted,” Harken says. “So I can get why they’d be scared if you’re in their shop.”
“Why would we be wanted?” Tallest asks.
“Did we not just kill a bunch of people?” Harken reminds him. “One of whom was a person of interest.”
“I didn’t tell anyone,” Tallest says.
“I did,” Caeus interrupts. “I’ve been telling everyone.”
They argue for a while about what to do next, settling on going to sleep.
Tallest leans a massage bed against the wall, finding the best hypotenuse for maximum sleepage.
Sfiros fills a hot tub and sleeps to the soothing warmth.
Harken finds a corner to curl up.
Caeus lays on the ground, each time he inhales and exhales, another part of his power armor mends itself.
The next morning, they drag Elisin and Sleipnir down to the Dog and Bastard inn, then duck them below to the area just outside the vault. They seal the passageways and hang up a banner reading ‘QUARANTINE’ followed by ‘DEAD BROTHER. DO NOT EAT.” There are several passageways leading from their location all over Baldur's Gate, but fortunately they have a tool for navigating the area!
They examine the map they looted from the vault and find a tunnel that leads northeast to the Oasis Theatre near Norchapel. If they go there, they could make disguises to get into Little Calimshan. Ukola, the jewelmonger in Calim’s Jewel Emporium, should have some diamonds they can buy with all this treasure so they can bring back a comrade or two.
Or just one...
They navigate through the sewers for half an hour until they come to a split path. The eastern path has a chalk drawing of the letter 'G' scrawled on the brickwork. The northern path has a smiling and frowning theatre mask logo scrawled on it. The Herd spends several minutes arguing about creating a logo for themselves after seeing these other logos, then they head north for a bit until they happen upon a ladder leading to a trap door, exactly where the map said was an exit to the Oasis Theatre.
Caeus casts disguise self by manipulating his power armor. Tiny nanobots flutter in a synchronized, pixelated mosaic emulating the form of a human man from Kinchasa.
“The shortest candle burns the brightest or some shit,” Caeus impersonates crudely.
Tallest climbs the ladder, opens the door, and finds himself in a costume closet.
“I’m going to try to make myself a disguise,” Tallest says, rifling through the costumes. Caeus and Sfiros help him with a fake mustache, a long-nosed mask, and a huge bowl hat to hide his horns. A long, ostentatious coat hides his tails.
“Let’s get out of this theatre and make our way to Little Calimshan,” Tallest says.
“I can only look like this for an hour,” Caeus says in an approximation of a Kinchasan accent.
They leave the closet and realize they're in a hallway within the theatre. Before Tallest can take one step, a frenzied stagehand immediately grabs him by the hand..
“You're on! You're on!” The stagehand drags Tallest down the hall and towards a door marked 'STAGE.' He shoves Tallest through the door, and the minotaur finds himself in front of a curtain and stage.
Lights shine bright into Tallest’s eyes, nearly blinding him as a crowd of people cheer. When his eyes adjust, he glances around to see a remarkable stage sporting a fabulous Chultan couch and a recliner. In front of the curtain is a massive sign that says, 'GOOD MORNING WITH GOODNIGHT' hinting that Tallest has just stumbled into some kind of talkshow.
A halfling sitting on the recliner leaps up and shouts, “I'm Jonas Goodnight, and here is our guest for the morning, the one and only Mister East Clintwood!”
The crowd erupts in louder cheers as the lights shine on Tallest.
Tallest smiles and waves through his disguise. He encourages the crowd, and the cheering roars louder.
Harken and Caeus laugh from backstage, then realize a sudden problem: down the hallway, a tall man with a long nose, bristling mustache, bowler hat, and flowing cloak steps out of a dressing room and heads towards the door to the stage: the real East Clintwood!
None of them even know who the hell this fucker is!
Caeus tries to intercept the large man to keep Tallest's cover from being blown.
“Push off! Out of my way,” East Clintwood shoves Caeus.
“Oy, are you the real East Clintwood?” Harken tries.
“What do you fucking think, you moron?” East says.
“There’s a girl back here asking about you,” Harken says, giving Caeus a thumbs up and whispering for him to cast disguise self again.
East shoves past him, too, but Harken grabs him again.
“Oy, mate, there’s a man out there,” Harken tries again, “who’s... coming for your life!”
“Piss off,” East Clintwood shoves him again.
Caeus lunges forward and forces the invisibility ring on East Clintwood’s finger. The large man falls asleep and turns invisible, landing witha thud. Caeus and Harken drag the real East Clintwood to the costume closet and shove him inside.
Caeus hangs a banner on the closet that reads ‘CLOSET OUT OF ORDER. ALSO, IT’S FULL OF HORNETS.’
On stage, Tallest is sitting on the couch and presenting the letter he looted from Mortloch Vanthampur on the night of his murder.
“That’s why I say, ‘you always leave a note,’” Tallest shows the note to the Jonas Goodnight. “Please clap,” Tallest says.
The audience is stunned that their happy day of celebrity smalltalk and bullshittery has now turned into revelations of murder crime, but a few faint and lonely claps echo in the theatre.
“East Clintwood,” the host pleads. “The people of Calimshan are desperate for hope. There has been no joy, and we are so fortunate to have you here to entertain us. We crave your signature comedy."
Tallest considers what would cheer up a crowded theatre of refugees.
“Let me tell you a tale from my hometown,” Tallest tries to come up with the funniest anecdote possible. “Rumor has it, a black star can fall from the sky, and send entire cities into Hell!” Tallest is not sure why this is funny. “That’s what happened to Kinchasa!”
The crowd is stunned into silence. Jonas Goodnight says, “Uh, sorry, what was that?”
“The black star story?” Tallest says. “You guys know this one? You hear about the black star falling from the sky and causing Kinchasa to descend into Hell?”
“That’s what happened to Kinchasa?” the halfling asks.
“Yeah!” Tallest says. “Everyone’s trying to keep this from you. That’s what happened.”
The crowd murmurs furiously. A call from the back shouts, “Who is responsible?”
“This is 'East Clintwood' saying this,” Tallest says, then stands upright and proud. “The person responsible is... DUKE VANTHAMPUR!”
The crowd gasps, then murmurs louder.
“Duke Vanthampur is behind this whole nonsense. She’s in league with Manzibar Kreeg! And he’s here, in Baldur’s Gate!” Tallest bellows.
More people in the crowd shout in support. More questions get thrown at the stage.
“Is that true?” the host asks.
“Not only is it true,” Tallest says, “it gets worse. We’ll go over all that tonight. We’re going to have a lot of laughs tonight,” Tallest remembers.
The crowd laughs, relieved.
“But we’re also going to cast culpability on those who deserve it,” Tallest says. “And that’s where I think a lot of fun is: holding those in power accountable. Those people are Duke Vanthampur and Manzibar Kreeg. They’re also in league with the Chaos gods.”
“Chaos gods?!” Jonas Goodnight exclaims.
“Remember the Chaos god Guga who used to live below Kinchasa?” Tallest continues. "Well, there are Chaos gods that live right here in Baldur’s Gate! There’s Khorne, the Blood God. There’s Tzeentch, who is weird. And there’s Nurgle, who is super gross. I don’t know if you’ve noticed all the cultists around, but that has everything to do with Duke Vamthampur!”
The crowd roars in furious support, raging at the tyranny lurking at the head of Baldur's Gate.
“It’s a big conspiracy!” Tallest stands up and waves his arms around. “We’re going to blow it wide open, here, tonight, at the Oasis Theatre!”
The crowd stands up and shouts louder.
“We’re going to take down the Vamthanpurs, and we’re going to drag Baldur’s Gate out of hell and into the future!” Tallest campaigns. “Who's with me?”
The crowd affirms in unison.
“What they don’t know is that there are more of us than there are of them,” Tallest says. “I say we march into Baldur’s Gate and protest at the gates of Upper City!”
Caeus slips into the audience and starts passing out crafts for the crowd to make banners and signs.
“This never would have happened under the old Manzibar,” Caeus adds.
“Tomorrow, at the crack of noon,” Tallest commands the crowd. “We’re going to march to the Upper City gate. We’re going to demand entrance. We’re going to demand an audience with the Duke. And we’re going to demand changes!”
The crowd erupts in approval.
“East Clintwood is going to be there,” Tallest lies. “We’re going to start a little thing I like to call 'democracy.' The government only works with the consent of the governed. No more of this 'Four Brothers on a council' or however they do government in Baldur’s Gate. It’s asinine! We’re going to put a stop to it, starting with Duke Vanthampur and Manzibar Kreeg!”
Tallest sees the rest of the Herd backstage signalling to wrap it up.
“And that’s all of East Clintwood tonight,” Tallest waves to the crowd. “Tomorrow at noon. Be there. We’re going to make a difference!”
The crowd cheers for Tallest as he leaves the stage.
“Did you guys see that?” Tallest asks Harken and Caeus as he steps into the hallway and slams the door. “They totally bought it. As if they’re going to have any power over the Vanthampurs. But their protest will be the perfect distraction for when we sneak into their house through the tunnels and kidnap their kid, Thurstwell.”
The Herd exits the Oasis Theatre and steps into Little Calimshan, which is more packed and brimming with excitement than ever. Even though Little Calimshan may be the safest place for the Herd to be, they decide to stay under cover just in case.
Caeus uses magical technology to look like a smiling, white-eyed Kinchasan.
Tallest waves to fans who think he’s East Clintwood.
Harken removes his epaulets to hide that he’s the law.
Sfiros eats grass and pretends to be a regular cow.
They offload their treasure with Ukola at Calim’s Jewel Emporium, and they purchase two diamonds for 500 gold pieces each. One for Elisin, and one for later.
At a nearby armory, they order custom plate armor to fit Tallest and two sets of splint armor for Caeus and Sfiros.
The Kinchasan armorer, a fellow named Mos Clau, says it will take a day to complete the armor. They pay half now and plan to return before the protest tomorrow.
Next on the shopping list: Potions! The best apothecary in Little Calimshan is old Madame Botha, the little woman who McSneakle bag-shat in front of.
When they enter her estate, Botha is tending to refugee issues. Without looking up, she says, “Oh, you’re those minotaurs again.”
“You recognize us?” Tallest asks. His fake mustache falls off his face. When he grabs it off the ground and shoves it back on, his hat falls off. Caeus sneezes and his hologram flickers.
“I’ve been around long enough to see through little tricks and facades,” she says.
“I hope you’re not offended,” Tallest says. “We’re not trying to trick you. We’re trying to trick everybody else. There’s been a big mix up. Everyone thinks we killed Amrik Vanthampur. We did. But it was self-defense. Also, we need some potions.”
Sfiros, still on all fours, moos.
“What is he doing?” Botha finally looks up and points at Sfiros.
“He’s pretending to be a cow,” Tallest says.
“He was pretending to be a cow,” Caeus corrects him. “Now he’s just having a good time.”
Botha does not approve of the bit. She could use the extra funds, though. The stream of refugees continues unabated. There are so many lost souls looking for hope.
She sells them six potions. They each take one and save two for Elisin and maybe Sleipnir.
“That leaves 5 gold left for a donation to the temple of Gond,” Tallest gives the gold to Sfiros.
They discuss whether Numooru would be willing to resurrect their friends again, and Botha overhears them.
“You’re looking for resurrections, are you?” She asks. “Around here, I know of two people who can raise the dead and make them as they once were. One is the leader of the Guild, Ninefingers Keene.”
“I wonder why they call her Ninefingers Keene,” Caeus wonders.
“Because she's got nine fingers!” Botha snaps. “Some people are born with nine fingers! The other person is the leader of the Gravemakers in Tumbledown,” Botha says.
“They’re on our secret map!” Caeus shouts about the secret thing, reducing its secretness. Sfiros stands up and examines the map with him. Caeus then turns to Sfiros, “Why are all the tunnels leading to your temple?”
“These tunnels probably lead to our steamworks,” Sfiros says. “It’s where we do a lot of inventing and smithing.”
“You’re just ‘inventing’?” the tinkerer mocks.
“Are you jealous that we have a bigger workshop than you?” Sfiros asks.
“My workshop burned down!” Caeus exaggerates.
“All you have to do is open your heart to Gond and you, too, could use the steamworks,” Sfiros exaggerates.
“I’m not interested!” Caeus says.
The Herd decides to head to Tumbledown through the sewers. Tallest's bizarre entourage reinforces the celebrity disguise, and they are greeted back through the theatre.
They find the costume closet with the trapdoor, and they almost trip over the invisible sleeping East Clintwood.
Caeus slips the ring off slightly, shoves a stale brownie and a cup of water in his face, and puts the ring back on the celebrity.
“What?” Caeus asks. “I didn’t want him to starve.”
They drag the invisible East Clintwood all the way through the sewers.
After an hour of waling, they arrive back at the secret vault area below the Dog & Bastard, and they drop the celebrity’s body on the ground. Caeus draws a chalk outline around him.
They pick up their friends' corpses, then examine the map and decide to take the tunnel south.
After a while, they encounter a great steel door with the symbol '99' scrawled on it.
“Cleric, what’s this mean?” Caeus asks.
“It’s the Cathedral of Rumusque!” Sfiros beams, looking at the infernal inscriptions on their map. Sfiros doesn’t quite know what Rumusque means, but he knows their followers are called the Rumusque Faithful. Their clerics believe in fighting against death, decay, and corruption.
“Sounds like we should open the door,” Tallest says. “Tool guys?”
Caeus hands Tallest the key with the matching 99 symbol, and Sfiros casts detect magic on the door. Radiant light forms the word 'MAGIC' around the door and the lock.
“Sfiros, this is your penance,” Tallest says and hands Sfiros the key. “Open this door.”
Sfiros moans and concedes. He jiggles the handle, turns the key, and opens the door. The magic around the door dissipates.
The door opens into a green-lit room. The air is musty and stale.
The ground is littered with unnatural footprints, and a single stone door is on the opposite wall. The Herd checks out the footprints, coming to the conclusion that they could only belong to something not from this plane of existence. Demons? Devils? A fiend of sorts, that's for sure.
Harken puts his ear up to the door and hears grumbling from the other side.
“I hear two enemies on the other side of this door,” Harken whispers.
“All right,” Tallest says. “Can you shoot them?”
They group up, ready up, and smash down the door.
In the other room, they see stairs leading up to an altar. Ripped pages of holy books litter the altar, and scrawlings of some unknown menace stain the walls.
At the back of the room, a demonic red creature is hunched over the scattered books. He turns surprised, and shows his needle-like teeth. He raises an axe that glows in the air in alarm, then shrieks at the intruders.
Fiends lurking beneath Baldur's Gate!
Caeus targets the demon books. He raises his arm, and his power gauntlet melts into a cannon. The tinkerer sends a firebolt from the armor into the middle of the bookcase, and the books erupt in flames.
The demon panics and tries to save the burning texts, reaching into the flames and tossing out piles of burning pages, scrolls, and tomes. The creature snarls in anger, seeing that its library is nothing but cinders now.
Sfiros targets the demon next. He gathers radiant faith in Gond, and a burst of sacred flame as hot as the Great Forge whips at the demonic warrior, blasting it.
Harken loves the idea of burning books, and he casts burning hands on the shelves and the demonic warrior. The demon screeches, but it doesn’t seem bothered by the fire, only by the sight of its precious texts scorched to ruin.
A hidden door bursts open, and a blue demon enters the fray. The blue demon whips around the room, its frame much more lithe than the red one. Upon its back, it holds a quiver and bow. The monster shoots lightning from its hands and zaps Harken, purging him of any magical benefits he was receiving and causing his movement speed to drop by 20 feet! It then takes a shot with its bow at Sfiros, but it misses.
Caeus charges the red melee demon with goring rush, and Sfiros blasts the blue ranged demon with a guiding bolt. Both demons dodge their attacks.
Tallest embiggens and smacks the red demon with his hammer.
Harken plays careless whispers from his bagpipes. The red demon is reasonably frightened by the whispering bagpipes, as are most mortal creatures, and it turns to run away.
Caeus and Tallest take this opportunity to attack the fleeing demon. Tallest’s hammer smacks off the demon’s head and triggers a self-destruct, exploding with psychic power that blasts Tallest for 4d6 psychic damage as the demon's last will scourges its attacker for a final bout of damage.
Exhilarated by the fresh kill, the Herd descends upon the blue demon. With flames and lightning, hammers and insults, they focus their rage on the ranged creature, which leaps across the room and rains down shots from its bow. But by now, the Herd has tested their mettle against fiends of the plane beyond their own, and they do not fear this monster's onslaught!
Sfiros pulls out his crossbow and his symbol of Gond. He loads the weapon with a bolt and prays, “Take this bolt, and imbue it with your energy.” He fires the crossbow.
The bolt flies through the dusty chamber and pierces the monster’s neck, pinning it to the wall. The demon cries out in pain before vanishing back to the hell from whence it came, leaving the Herd victorious in the decrepit bowels beneath Baldur's Gate.