The party followed Nikau over to the bar, and gestured to the halfling behind it. “Get these fine people whatever it is they fancy.”
“Rum,” Ina said bluntly.
“I fancy an ale,” Dale said, more politely.
“Your strongest ale,” Reina said.
“Do you have wine?” Lius asked.
“I’m sure I can rustle something up for you,” the barman said.
“One day you’ll like grown up drinks,” Reina muttered.
“Shh!” Lius hissed.
Nikau gestured to the four halflings he had been talking to, and said, “This is the gang. Or what’s left of it. Dollface, Naran, Saran and Nameless.”
“Why is he nameless?” Dale asked.
Nikau contemplated this, then shrugged. “You know what? I don’t really know. This lot do most of the enforcing around the district. Or they will when business gets back to normal. Ideally, what I want you to do is keep an eye on the district. Make sure things keep ticking over. Make sure all the businesses that pay their dues to the Boromar pay up, and if they don’t, go round and find out why not.” The barman brought the drinks over, and Nikau said, “Come on. Drink up. I’ll show you around the businesses.”
When the drinking was done, they headed out into the Bazaar. Nikau explained that the Boromar held sway over the Bazaar and the Callestan district, directly below it. Their first stop in the Bazaar was a hunched, elderly shifter in a back alley, who Nikau introduced as Bakki, the man responsible for pickpockets in the district. Next up, they visited a warforged weapon smith called Sword, then a half-orc named Jon, who ran a carpet stall and a business which Nikau described as a “cleaner,” and a stall which was run by two halflings that Nikau identified as Diveak and Jamgretor Fockle, exporters.
After this, Nikau said, “I’m gonna introduce you to one of the best fences in the district.”
Reina and Lius exchanged a knowing glance, and sure enough, Nikau took them straight to Viv’s shop.
“We know Viv,” Lius said.
“Ahh,” Nikau said. “Okay. This’ll be a quick introduction, then.”
“You don’t have to introduce us,” Reina insisted. “We can skip this one.”
“No, no,” Nikau said. “That’s fine. Just wanna make sure people in the Bazaar knows who’s who.”
The group entered Viv’s shop. She greeted him, then spied the rest of the party. “Oh, hello.”
“Hi,” Lius said nervously.
“Hi, Viv,” Reina said. “Just… dropping by.”
Viv nodded. “I see that, yes.”
“Yeah,” Nikau said. “These four’ll be watching over operations for us in the Bazaar. They say they know you already.”
“Yes,” Viv said. “We’ve had dealings on a few occasions.”
When they left the shop, Nikau said to the group, “No concessions for friends. Make sure she pays her dues.”
Their final two stops were at a stall called Pim’s Poultices and Potions, run by a human alchemist and poisoner called Pimmen Drakeson, and an unnamed stall owned by a gnome scrivener named Jean Albersteen.
“Well,” Nikau said when the tour was done. “That’s it. There the ones you have to keep an eye on. Of course, anything else crops up in the district, be sure to keep your eye out for that.”
“Any of them in particular cause you trouble?” Dale asked.
Nikau shook his head. “Nah, they’re all fairly reliable. You know, Jean occasionally maybe slips a few silvers past us, but as long as we get the cash off him. The better the district does, the better you do, so best keep things ticking over. So, I’ll leave you to it, then. You know where me and the boys are.”
Reina, Ina and Dale immediately started on their rounds, while Lius headed off to Viv’s shop. Viv smiled as Lius entered, and said, “Hello Lius. You here to shake me down for money?”
“No,” Lius squeaked. “Not at all. I’m here to work.”
“Oh,” Viv said. “I thought you were under the gainful employment of the Boromar.”
Lius looked down anxiously. “Um…”
“I don’t think you get to ‘um’ the Boromar,” Viv said.
“You think they’d mind me working here as well?” Lius asked.
“Let’s just say it’s best not to mix your interests,” Viv advised.
Lius frowned deeply. “I like working here.”
“I know you do, dear,” Viv said, smiling fondly. “But I think we both know it doesn’t pay particularly brilliantly.”
“When you work like I do, it doesn’t,” Lius murmured. “Still, if you do ever need anyone. I’m sure a couple of hours here and there won’t hurt. What they don’t know.”
“I suppose not,” Viv said. “And I always know where you are if trouble does occur. It’s nice to know that you’ll be on hand.”
Lius wandered the Bazaar for around fifteen minutes, until he bumped into Reina.
“That was quick,” she said. “Even for you.”
“She doesn’t want me working there now,” Lius grumbled.
Reina frowned. “Awkward.”
“No,” Lius said resentfully. “It might offend our new employers.”
“Well, can we still use her as a fence?” Reina asked.
“I didn’t ask,” Lius said.
“That would be an unfortunate door to close to us,” Reina said. “Well, want to help me look for trouble?”
“Sure,” Lius said half-heartedly.
“It’s alright,” Reina said. “With you by my side, I’m sure no one will cause any trouble. They won’t want to tangle with you.”
It did not take long for them to locate a commotion – a man arguing with a stall owner over the quality of a garment he had bought from her. Before the situation could escalate, however, and before Reina and Lius could intervene, the man threw down the garment and stormed off.
A few more hours passed, incident free, until, just before midday, everyone in their respective areas of the Bazaar spotted pickpockets at work. Everyone set off after their respective targets, Reina and Lius chasing after a young girl who had swiped a belt pouch, Dale pursuing a gangly human who had lifted a wallet, and Ina following a halfling who had taken something from another halfling.
Dale was the first to catch up to his prey. “Good haul?” he asked loudly.
The man spun around, held up two empty hands, and said, “Don’t know what you’re talking about.”
He walked casually away, and Dale set off alongside him.
“What do you want?” the man demanded.
“Nothing,” Dale said. “I was just interested in where you might be going.”
“None of your business,” the man snapped.
“Might be my business,” Dale replied. “Might be the Boromar’s business.”
“What? No. What? I… I’m with Bakki. It’s alright.”
“Jolly good then. Carry on.”
Dale turned and walked away. The man watched after him, perplexed, then continued on his way.
In another part of the Bazaar, Ina crept up to the halfling she had been following and tapped him on the shoulder. In an instant, he was gone, running full pelt down the crowded street. Ina took off after him, weaving in between people as best she could. The halfling was fast, though, and could easily duck between people’s legs. She almost lost him, but eventually managed to grab a hold of his tatty brown robes.
“Get off!” the halfling howled. “Get off!”
Ina dragged him over, and growled, “Hope you’re taking that to the right people.”
“Yeah,” the halfling spat back. “It’s going to Bakki. If it don’t get to him, there’ll be trouble. We’ll come after you.”
“Good,” Ina said. “That’s what I was doing.”
Ina released the halfling, who swiftly kicked her in the shin and took off once again at full pelt. Scowling, Ina sent an arrow flying after him, which narrowly missed.
Lius, meanwhile, walked over to the young girl, while Reina held back. The girl continued weaving through the crowd, and Lius soon lost her. Reina caught up, also having lost sight of the girl.
Lius suggested going to inquire with Bakki, but Reina insisted on getting lunch first. After they had eaten, they went into Bakki’s alley. A couple of children were standing in the alleyway, and both of them glared at Reina and Lius as they entered.
“Don’t worry,” Lius said. “We’re friends.”
“I don’t know you,” one of the youths, a scrawny, sallow-faced lad, snapped.
“We know Bakki,” Lius replied.
“Don’t know Bakki,” the boy said.
“Fine,” Reina said. “You don’t know Bakki. But should you see someone who looks like they might be called Bakki, maybe you should just make sure he’s getting everything he should be today.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked the boy.
“Well,” Reina shrugged. “You don’t know him, so you wouldn’t know. But, just a piece of advice.”
“How am I supposed to pass on a message if I don’t know him and I don’t know what you’re talking about, you weirdo?” the lad demanded.
Reina shrugged, and the children scurried off.
At fourth bell, everyone called it a day. Lius and Reina dropped by a locksmith to have a key cut for Ina, then headed back to the apartment, where Ina was already waiting. After they ate, Reina headed out to search for a copy of the Sharn Inquisitive. She found some copies pasted up, and gave them a quick scan, seeing a brief mention of Fallen now being quarantined, but little else of interest.
Dale, meanwhile, headed out to The Wooden Pegasus, where he caught up with the regular drinkers and spun his usual tales.
A few days passed, and the group continued their patrols for the Boromar clan. On the Sul of that week, as Ina was patrolling her section of the Bazaar, Nikau approached her.
“Here,” he said. “Gather up your mates and meet us at the Talon. Got some business to discuss.”
Ina made her way around the Bazaar, locating the rest of the party, before they made their way to the tavern. Nikau was there, along with his four associates and a halfling with his arm in a sling, his face a mess of bruises. When the group entered, Nikau gestured for them to sit down.
“When we were first chased out of this district,” Nikau explained, “the Daask had an ogre with them. You know it’s all gone quiet on that front, but our friend here’s had a run-in with him. So, yeah, we’re thinking of getting a few of the boys together and going to see what we can do about the ogre problem.”
“Is it just one?” Dale asked.
“Yeah,” Nikau said. “Just the one.”
“Well,” Dale said. “I don’t mind taking down an ogre.”
“I hear they’re big and tough,” Reina said.
“Yeah?” Nikau sighed. “Well, it’s strength in numbers, innit?”
“So, where is this ogre?” Dale inquired.
“Last I saw,” the injured halfling piped up, “he was in Oldkeep district.”
“Why did he…” Reina gestured to the halfling.
“I got off light!” the halfling said with a humourless chuckle. “You should see the other ones.”
“Is he just doing it for fun?” Reina asked. “Or to make a point?”
The halfling shook his head. “No. He’s got one of those little scaly fellas sitting on his shoulder, telling him where to go.”
“Kobold,” Lius said.
“So was the kobold just doing it for fun?” Reina asked.
“No,” the halfling snapped. “He’s doing it for the Daask.”
“They’re probably not gonna hang around in the Bazaar,” Nikau said, “so gather up your things and let’s get going.”
The party headed off to Djinn Alley, where the halfling said the ogre had emerged from. Nikau said that he would gather up his men and follow after them. The street was narrow and somewhat dim, with tall houses seeming to loom over the central thoroughfare. The party gathered on the edge of the street, and waited for a short while until they saw Dollface hurriedly approaching.
“Nikau and the rest are on the way,” he exclaimed, hunching over and panting as he stopped.
“Are you alright?” Lius asked.
“Yeah,” Dollface grunted. “Gimme a minute.”
Before the halfling could continue, Lius heard the thudding of heavy feet approaching.
“I think we’ve got company,” he wheezed.
Dollface looked around, flustered. “Where? Where?”
Lius nodded towards the end of the street. Dollface pointed to an alleyway leading off from Djinn Alley, and said, “That’s where Micker said he came from. Ideally, that’s where we need to stop ‘em going back down. Make yourself scarce.”
Dollface ran off and began to clamber up an awning. Reina hopped up onto a window ledge, but before she could get any further, an ogre lumbered into the street, with a small kobold sat on his shoulder.
Dale clambered up the side of one of the buildings, while Reina continued her ascent onto a rooftop. The ogre stopped in his tracks, and the kobold muttered something to him. In turn, the ogre pulled a huge chunk of wood from its back and waved it around, roaring angrily. Unperturbed, Lius threw a hand forward and muttered an incantation. The kobold looked around, startled, then quickly drooped, tumbling from his companion’s shoulder.
Reina readied her short bow and fired off a shot at the ogre, only for the arrow to bounce off its thick hide. Ina, too, loosed a couple of arrows, but was equally unsuccessful. The ogre, completely ignoring these attacks, prodded his small companion, and growled, “Wake up.”
At his insistent poking, the kobold stirred, and seeming to fully regain his senses, scampered back up the ogre’s thick arm. Lius hopped back and unleashed a blast of colour and light, which took the kobold down once again. Reina loosed another arrow from her rooftop, and the kobold was pierced straight through the middle.
“Yeah!” Dollface cried out. “You got ‘im!”
Reina looked down, horrified, as blood began to pool beneath the kobold. Lius, too, looked down at this, aghast. The ogre looked down at his fallen friend, let out a pained howl, and lurched forward, swinging his club wildly. It struck the slate awning on which Dollface had perched, and the halfling went flying. Detritus rained down on Lius, who stumbled backwards, holding his arms up defensively. The ogre continued advancing, and Lius cast whelm against him.
“Ow!” the ogre roared, clutching its head. “Hurts!”
The ogre barrelled forward and swung its club down at Lius, with the force of an oncoming lightning rail. Lius went down in one horrible, boneless motion and, seconds later, more rubble came falling down on top of him.
With a defiant yell, Dale leapt from his ledge, seconds before the ogre shattered it with a wide swing of his club. Dale latched onto the ogre’s shoulder, and jabbed at it with his rapier.
“Dale!” Dollface suddenly yelled. “Get out the way!”
Dale turned to see a hoard of halflings charging down the street towards them. Taking advantage of this distraction, the ogre hurled Dale to the ground.
Tears streaming down her face, Reina jumped down from the rooftop and charged towards where Lius had fallen. Dropping to her knees, she began to frantically pull rubble away, uncovering the lifeless half-elf. When he was free, she lifted him up with both arms and began to shuffle down the alley, away from the ogre.
The halflings reached the scuffle, and Nameless hurled a boomerang at the ogre. It hit the beast square between the eyes, and with a throaty gurgle, the ogre staggered back and then fell to the ground. Nikau ran out from the group, leaped up onto the ogre and began to frantically stab it with a dagger.
With the battle over, Ina charged down the alley after Reina. She stopped the pair, and whispered, “We probably need to go back.”
“Fine,” Reina mumbled hollowly, turning and staggering back towards Djinn Alley. As they reached the street, Nameless hurried over.
“Is he alright?” the halfling asked.
“No,” Reina sobbed.
“I’m sure he will be,” Dale said, walking over, “once we get him to House Jorasco.”
“I don’t think there’s time for that,” Nameless said, pulling a vial from his knapsack. “Give him this.”
Reina gingerly fed Lius the potion, then continued on her way towards the nearest House Jorasco enclave. Ina followed after her, while Dale remained with the other halflings.
“We’ll leave these two here,” Nikau grunted, clambering off the prone ogre. “Word’s bound to reach the Daask sooner or later what we done.”
To emphasise the point, Nikau snatched the boomerang off of Nameless, and buried it in the ogre’s face.
Reina managed to get Lius to House Jorasco, where he was whisked away on a gurney. Reina followed, collapsing into a seat in the waiting room.
A halfling approached her, and said, “What do you want us to do with him?”
“Make him better,” Reina croaked.
“There’ll be a fee involved,” the halfling said, somewhat indelicately.
“Fine,” Reina said. “Whatever.”
“Shall we give him magical healing or long term care?” the halfling asked.
“Just make him better!” Reina snapped.
“You’re the boss,” the halfling said. “His injuries are quite severe. We could get him up and walking again for… maybe sixteen gold.”
“What if I said he was injured helping Nikau?”
“Maybe five gold, and he’ll be good as new.”
Reina gave the halfling six gold, and let her head loll back, her eyes closed.
Less than thirty minutes later, Lius walked gingerly into the waiting room. Reina flew forward, wrapping him in a tight hug and covering him in kisses.
“You’re so stupid,” Reina said. “You’re so stupid!”
“Why am I stupid?” Lius asked, hugging her back. “Don’t be mean, I just died.”
“Shut up!” Reina insisted, kissing him more.
“Where’s everyone else?” Lius asked.
“Who cares,” Reina said.
“_You’re_ stupid,” Lius said, not unkindly.
“Yeah,” Reina agreed. “We’re all stupid, for getting involved with these people.”
Dale, meanwhile, headed to the Talon, where he explained to Naran and Saran what happened. The twins listened, and then commented that their suspicions of Malleon’s Gate being used as a Daask base were more or less confirmed.
“Good job, Dale,” Saran said.
“It’s good to have you on the team,” Naran enthused.
“Glad I could be part of the operation,” Dale said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a friend to go and see.”
The halfling wandered over to the Bazaar, where he purchased a bouquet from a flower girl, before heading onto the House Jorasco enclave. There, he was informed that Lius had been healed and discharged, and so he moved onto the apartment.
When he arrived, Ina was filling Lius in on what he missed.
“Hello,” Dale said, holding out the flowers uncomfortably. “Good to see you up and about. These are for you.”
“Oh,” Lius said with a surprised beam.
“It’s the best I could do at this time of night,” Dale said defensively.
“They’re lovely,” Lius said. “Thank you.”
“I’ll go now,” Dale said.
When the halfling had left, Lius gave Ina one of the flowers from the bouquet, and left one outside Reina’s bedroom door.
The next morning rolled around, warm and drizzly. Dale made his way to the usual meeting point at the usual time. Shortly thereafter, Lius and Ina arrived, looking tired and listless.
“No Reina today?” Dale asked.
“No,” Lius said. “She’s… ill.”
“Oh,” Dale said. “Alright, then. I’ll cover her portion.”
“We could just divide it between us all,” Lius suggested.
“No,” Dale insisted. “It’s fine.”
The trio divided, and set about their usual routine. Around mid-morning, Dollface approached Lius, and asked how he was doing.
“I’m okay,” Lius insisted.
“Yeah?” Dollface asked. “Well, good job on the little scaly fella.”
“Thank you,” Lius replied. “Did everything work out okay.”
“Yeah,” Dollface said. “Yeah, we got ‘im. Those Daask certainly ain’t gonna be messing with us in a hurry.”
“Well… good,” Lius said, unsurely.
The day passed without further incident, and that evening, Dale returned to The Wooden Pegasus to tell tales of his daring exploits.
Lius, meanwhile, decided to talk things through with Reina, who seemingly had not left her bedroom all day.
“It was an accident,” he whispered, knowing what she had been thinking without her needing to say.
She was silent for a long moment. Then, quietly, sullenly, without moving, she said, “Was it?”
“I don’t think you meant to kill anyone,” Lius said. “Not you.”
“Of course not,” Reina said sharply. “But… I wasn’t careful.”
“It was an accident,” he repeated. “You can’t be responsible. You were defending the rest of us.”
She looked down sadly. “That doesn’t excuse me, Lius. I… I killed someone. You can’t know what that’s like.”
“No, I may not, but I know what you are like. You made a mistake, but that doesn’t make you a bad person. Think about it. The Daask hurt people all the time, they’re not afraid to rough up anyone in their way. I’m not saying it changes anything, but… Perhaps Sharn is richer for losing one of them.”
She was quiet for a long moment, then shrugged. “Maybe. Still… I… I don’t want to be the one to do that. I don’t want to do it again. I… I can’t become someone who’s comfortable with hurting… killing people.”
Lius shook his head and leaned down, giving Reina a quick kiss on the cheek. “You wouldn’t. I know you wouldn’t.”
The next day, all four of the group headed out on patrol, but one by one, were contacted by a halfling, who advised them to go and see Nikau.
Lius visited the Talon first, where he found Nikau counting a huge stash of money. The halfling said, How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine,” Lius said.
“I saw you out there,” Nikau said. “It’s always good to have a spell caster with us. What can you do with that?”
Lius listed some of his spells, and Nikau quizzed him on his more offensive spells, which Lius admitted wasn’t his strong suit. As they talked, Dale arrived, and Nikau gestured for him to wait while he concluded his discussion with Lius.
When they were done, Nikau handed Lius a small pouch of gold and a healing potion “just in case,” and sent him on his way. He ushered Dale over, and said, “Dale. Good of you to join us.”
“You wanted to see me?” Dale asked.
“Certainly do, Dale,” Nikau said. “You got a glowing review from Dollface. I heard you were jumping all over that ogre, giving it what for. That’s what I like, you know? Someone who’s got the confidence to really take it to the Daask.”
“I do have confidence,” Dale agreed.
“I like your initiative,” Nikau continued. “Trying to figure out where they’re coming from, that’s something we’ll maybe be able to look into in the future.”
He gave Dale a bag of coin too, and the blond halfling headed out.
Ina arrived next.
“I hear you did some good shooting out there,” Nikau said. “Good to have someone on point, but if you can lay off the pickpockets a bit? I like your enthusiasm, you know, but maybe less chasing, alright?”
“Dunno,” Ina said with a smirk. “It’s good exercise.”
“Yeah. Don’t wanna scare ‘em off, though.” He handed Ina a bag of gold, and said, “You might wanna check in with Sword. I hear he’s got some good arrows going cheap. Something to spend your newfound wealth on.”
The group met up at lunch, and Lius asked Reina if she had gone to see Nikau.
“Yeah,” Reina said. “I heard he wants to see us. So we should probably…”
“I’ve already been,” Lius said. “I went straight there.”
“Oh,” Reina said. “Well, the rest of us can go.”
Dale and Ina looked around uncomfortably, and Reina sullenly said that she would go to the Talon on her own.
“Hi,” Nikau said when Reina entered the tavern. “How’s it going? Some good work the other day. Just got to ask, though. You and Edric? You… got a thing?”
“You could say that,” Reina said cautiously.
“Right,” Nikau said slowly. “Yeah. Okay. Um… that’s alright. Just so I know. Dollface said you got a bit rattled when he went down, so… there gonna be a problem?”
“As long as it doesn’t happen again,” Reina said, “it won’t be a problem.”
Nikau frowned. “Yeah, well, you know. Dangerous work. But it pays well. Here you go.” The halfling tossed Reina a pouch of coins. “Good work. Just keep it together, yeah?”
“Sure,” Reina sighed.
When their patrols were done, Ina went to visit Sword’s stall.
“Would you care to buy a blade?” the warforged asked.
“Arrows more my thing,” said Ina.
“I’ve managed to get my hands on a few quivers,” Sword said. “Not a lot. Twenty of each, but two kinds.”
“What you got?” Ina asked.
Sword reached under his stall and pulled out two gleaming arrow heads. He tapped one, and said, “Twenty of these. Non-magical, but finest you’re likely to get.” He held up the other arrow head. “Serpent’s head. Okay for shooting people, better for shooting things. Small things; ropes, weapons, strings. Cuts right through.”
Ina bought a number of each arrow, and Sword said that he would inform her should any new items of interest come in.
That evening, Dale hit the town once again, taking home a pretty young halfling woman. The next morning, Lius commented on his odd scent, which Dale brushed off. They went on their usual rounds, until they were once again summoned to the Talon.
Nikau was talking with Naran and Saran as the party arrived. He quickly concluded his discussion, before turning his attention to the party.
“Things have been going smooth in the Bazaar,” Nikau explained, “thanks to the new blood, here. Problem is, we’re having a bit of trouble down in Callestan. Seems the Tyrants have decided we’re clearly not good enough to be offering them protection. Decided to take things into their own hands. Someone’s gonna have to go down there and have a bit of a word with them.” He looked over at the party. “How about it? They don’t know you. They don’t seem to want to talk to any of these lot.”
“What are the Tyrants, exactly?” Dale asked nervously.
Nikau laughed. “Don’t worry. Their bark’s a lot worse than their bite. If you want a new identity, you want a stand-in, you want an alibi, you go to the Tyrants. They’re pretty much all changelings, and maybe some doppelgangers, we don’t know. Either way, you’ll find the head honcho, at least the one we do business with, in a tavern down there called the Broken Mirror.”
“So,” Lius sighed. “What exactly needs to be done here?”
“You know,” Nikau said. “Just go down there, see if you can convince ‘em that the Boromar aren’t exactly on the decline anymore. I don’t know, throw around some magic. Swing your sword, shoot some targets, whatever you want to do. Disappear into the shadows, just impress them. That’s all I’m saying.”
“Anyone we should ask for in particular?” Reina asked.
“If you go to the barman,” Nikau explained, “say you want to talk straight to his face. Don’t ask me, it’s a stupid code thing they’ve got going. He’ll see you to the right person. Let us know how it goes. We get good money coming in from the Tyrants, you know? We certainly don’t want it to disappear.”
“I can imagine,” Lius murmured.
“Well,” Reina grumbled. “No time like the present.”