The Hidden Hand

Session 39

The splintered plank of wood serving as the bartop creaked as the newcomers leaned on it, gesturing to the barkeep at the other end, idly smearing some grease around the patch of plank in front of him. Garrad, in the centre of the group, looks round at their surroundings as they wait, thinking back to the last time he was here. He ’d been just another street runner then, running with his gang, staying one step ahead of the law and trying not to attract the attentions of the Thieves Guild leaders too much.

It was kind of strange that, despite how many things had changed since then, that was basically what they were doing now as well.

The Rusty Bucket was a dive in a district of dives. Garrad knew that Fat Ron, him of the exposed girth and beligerant attitude, took great pains in maintain ing his bar’s rundown and unwelcoming appearance. Rumor had it that he even imported some of the more exotic stains and piles specifically, though he always strenuously denied it. In any case, a place as disreputable and overtly dangerous as the Bucket was a place only those willing to take their life into their own hands with every step or drink, and who never expected or wanted to see a member of the Watch ever, would even set foot in.

“In other words” Garrad thought whimsically, “perfect”

“so, anyway” Clubber Liang said, waving his mug of beer vaguely towards Garrad "you’s was tellin’ us about ’dis cave you found on ’dis island, right?

“ohh yah” Garrad said, thinking back. The evening was well advanced; his plan to drag all his old cronies round their old dives no he was back in Baldur’s gate had taken then through many of his old haunts, and things were becoming fuzzy, recollecting specifics was becoming harder and harder.

Still, in Garads experience, the truth had a nasty habit of getting in the way of a good story, especially one you’re busy telling to the Watchman who’s just interrupted you mid job.

“Where’d I get up to last time?” Garrad said, taking a swig of beer to add a moments extra thinking time.

“Some big guys and cave elves!” Ron shouted from the back, obviously paying too much attention to the stories and not enough to drinking.

“Right, those big bastards and their Drow mates. So, we kill them all an..”

“A lot of your stories involve you killing everything Garrad, normally in caves” Ron interjects “I thought you left us to go steal treasure”

“Lotsa things in caves needing stabbing Ron” Garrad replies sagely, “and they’re normally there ‘cos they’re guarding some ancient treasure or somesuch.”

“Stands to reason” Ol’ Bill, the groups resident old man and normal purveyor or tall stories says “Why else would all them monsters live down there otherwise?”

That being settled, Garrad continued “Anyway, past that cave was a big ol’ hall, walls covered in fancy looking decorations, obviously constructed. There was some bedding and tents dotted round, obviously from the Drow we had just bumped into. We were about to go see if their tents had any assets that could stand to be redistributed when some more of them showed up from outta the gloom. I guess we were to eager to put the boot in as we got dragged into a kinda ambush by even more of them, as well as a gods damned vampire”

Ohhs and Ahhs from the gathered group, and Garrad continues

“This vampire’s got some kind of animated suits of armor with him as well, tough bastards that took a lotta stabbing to take down, and all them Drow running about didn’t help matters either. So, we’re all hacking away at them, me stabbing what I can, Gregg treating them suits like a big tree and trying to chop ’em in two with his axe, and Polgara, Athon and Boltagar trying to keep the Drow at arms length while we deal with the suits. Eventually, the suits are lying in parts on the floor, the Drow are all dead or running, and the vampire is backing towards that cauldron of blood of hers….”

“Wait” Ron says “this vampire had a Cauldron of blood as well?”

“Whadday mean as well?” Garrad says, thrown off his stride by Ron and desperately trying to recollect what happened where. “I haven’t told you about another vampire with a cauldron of blood……have I?”

“Sure you have Garrad” Bill says, nodding sagely “that lady vampire down below the local crypts”

Hazy images of the crypts, and the many, many stairs surface hazily in Garrad’s mind, and he grimaces, trying to separate all the different things he’d run into since leaving Baldurs Gate.

“There was definitely some Drow” he says “I remember there being far too many tents for the group we killed in the cave, and I’m sure there was some kind of vampire, but you’re right, I don’t think he had a cauldron of blood…..he did have a hidden sarcophagus though!” Garrad continues, latching onto a brief flash of the ornate tomb with all the desperation of a drowning man finding a floating log. “That’s right, we finished off the Drow and his animated bodygards, and were making quick work of him, but he ran away into what turned out to be his chambers.”

Everybody in the group perked up at this. They all knew that posh guys, and vampires were always posh, kept their best stuff in their personal chambers. traipsing round dank dungeons, stabbing innumerable creatures and enemies was all well and good, but there had to be a [i]point[/i] to it all, and as far as this group was concerned, that point should at the very least be 24 carat gold, preferably with inlaid diamonds.

“We didn’t actually find much of anything though, other than some musty old scrolls and whatnot. But, you all know what that means…”

“Secret door” Ol’ Bill states sagely.

“Secret….TRAPdoor!” Ron says, jumping in, seeing Garrad’s smile.

“Under the carpet” the rest chime in, joining in the game. They’d all seen far too many “hidden” safe rooms to be fooled by a simple trapdoor-under-rug trick.

“Secret trapdoor” Garrad says, nodding “hidden under the carpet. At the bottom of the stairs is an ornamental baisen with, it turned out, one of those magical swords I was telling you about earlier. Polgara pulls it out and decides to keep it for herself, but most of the rest of the party are more interested in what’s down the next set of stairs, as we still haven’t found that damned vampire. Lo and behold, bottom of teh next flight; big ol’ ornate sarcophagus, and obvious signs of the entrance being used recently. Gregg does his strongman impressing, tears toe door off, and we find the Vampire, comatose inside. We weren’t sure what the best way to kill a vampire was, so we set fire to the place”

Noting the winces of his listeners, he quickly adds “[i]after[/i] ensuring anything valuable was already claimed, then headed back up.”

“Mission accomplished, we headed back thet way we came, through that gods awful troll piss-pool, and the” shudder “massive death spider room. We got to the entrance to the cave when….”Garrad trails off, noticing the gleam of metal and the red flash of a Watch tunic through the partly opened door

“And I think that’s out cue to depart” Fat Ron, looking suddenly more alert, kicks a solid looking barrel behind the bar aside, revealing a cunningly concealed door, and gestures to the group.

“Come on then you lot, git yer arses outta me place a’for thems watch finds yous. I’ll be damned if I let thems use you as an excuse to try and shuts me down again”.

Grinning, slapping coins on the counter as they file past, Garrad and party head out the back door of the Rusty Bucket, heading towards their next stop and making sure to stay one step ahead of the watch.

“Hey, Garrad” Ron calls, “how’d that Boltagar fellow work out? I don’t remember you mentioning him much”

“Heh” Garrad replies, “not [i]that’s[/i] an interesting tale. Buy me a pint in the Scarlet Wench and I’ll tell it to you”…



Session 39

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