My friends and I have been keeping busy in this quarantine with weekly Dungeons and Dragons meetings. We’re playing through a premade campaign that takes place in Baldur’s Gate, a big city in The Forgotten Realms, full of political intrigue and sneaky, underhanded plots. Our heroes were recruited by the local law, also known as the Flaming Fist, to investigate a series of murders thought to be committed by a local cult. Here is how we’ve been playing through this campaign as written as a fantasy novel. This is my best attempt at prose, so I hope you enjoy it.
Rinn swills the last of her whisky around in the glass and then knocks it back in one gulp. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Clover do the same with her cup of milk. It had only been a couple weeks since Rinn found this weird kid walking alone down one of the more dangerous paths leading into Baldur’s Gate, in shock and rambling about bandits, but in that short time, she had become Rinn’s shadow. Rinn didn’t mind so much since she had never had a little sister, being the youngest in her family.
“Another round?” Clover asks, looking very serious. Rinn chuckles.
“Not this time, kid. We’ve got that meeting with the Flaming Fist.” Rinn slips a couple coins across the bar in the way of a tip and scrapes her stool back “Normally I’d ignore the summons of an authoritarian organization such as them, but I’m just too curious to see what they want me for.”
“They’ve probably heard all about how awesome you are!” Clover exclaims, thrusting a fist into the air. “They know that you’re the most badass adventurer and so caring and…”
Rinn raises a hand and smiles again. “Hey now, you’re going to give me a complex. Let’s go.”
Clover hops down from her stool and the two head out the bar door and into the bustling streets of Baldur’s Gate’s Lower City. This is where Rinn and Clover have been living for the couple weeks it has been since they arrived to the city. Rinn’s not usually one to settle for so long, but now that she has this lovable preteen to take care of? Putting down roots doesn’t seem so far out of the question.
As they pass through the crowds of people in the streets toward the city gates, a dull roar of sound starts to build. Pushing past the last few people, the source of the sound becomes apparent. It appears that the usual traffic of travellers and merchants coming through the gates from the Outer City has exploded today. People are lined up way down the path and are bursting through the gates as guards trying to check them through.
Suddenly, the roar reaches a crescendo and a punch is thrown. Before Rinn or Clover can do so much as blink, the whole crowd is piling all over each other, shoving and punching and pulling weapons. The Flaming Fist men that were standing guard nearby dive into the fray. Rinn notices that Commander Zodge, the leader of the Flaming Fist, was leading the charge and making swings at anyone in front of him. So much for the meeting.
“Hey! Hey, knock it off!” Rinn turns to the sound of a small voice coming from along the edge of the riot. Wait…is that Amalie? And Maruck?
Standing only a couple metres away are two of the people that belong to the underground group that Rinn found after coming to the city. Always looking to disrupt the status quo, she started visiting taverns, pubs, and cafes in the area to find like-minded people. First, she was introduced to Maruck, a known defender of the less privileged of society and always one to stand against a guard on a power trip or to defend a helpless victim. From there, Maruck started bringing Rinn and Clover to meetings of his small organization. That’s where they met Amalie, who makes her coin singing and performing. The group is small and low-key, just people who don’t always agree with what the local government is doing and is always willing to stand up against tyranny.
Waving to get their attention, Rinn and Clover walk over. “Hey, guys, what brings you to the Basilisk Gate?”
“Oh Rinn, Clover!” Amalie smiles her usual wide grin and Maruck offers a half-smirk and a nod. “We were summoned by the commander of the Flaming Fist for some reason. I think they’ve had their hands full with all the refugees from Elturel. You know, all this?” Amalie gestures over her shoulder to the crowd that shows no sign of slowing down the violence.
Rinn thinks back to any news she has heard over the last few days. Something was going around about Elturel recently, but the information was spotty at best. Something about the city being attacked or having a coup or something like that. It wasn’t going well for them was the only constant in the rumours flying around the taverns.
Amalie tries a couple more times to yell at the crowd, but they ignore her and continue the beatings. Zodge, in particular, is taking out his aggression on anyone he can get his fists against. Amalie drops her hands from where they were cupped around her mouth to amplify her shouts. She abruptly turns and Rinn thinks she is just going to storm away when suddenly she reaches up and starts to climb a nearby shed. When she reaches the roof, she turns and starts casting a spell. A loud bang echoes over the heads of the brawling refugees and they all stop to see where the sound is coming from.
“We have an appointment with Commander Zodge!” Amalie firmly states. “I would like to keep that appointment!”
This distraction seemed to give just enough of a pause to turn the tide. The Flaming Fist guards take the chance to grab a couple of the instigators of the fight and put them under arrest. Zodge gives a couple orders out and then walks towards us.
“Well that’s one way to stop a riot,” says the tall, imposing man. “Can you remind me what our business was? I got a little distracted.” He wipes some blood that was dripping from his nose.
Amalie lands gracefully on the ground and wipes her hands together. “Well, you sent Maruck and I an official summons without much explanation.”
“Same here,” pipes up Rinn, holding the paper with the official Flaming Fist stamp on the bottom out for everyone to see. “It just says to meet you at the Basilisk Gate at this time.”
“Oh yes…you people.” Zodge looks a mixture of relieved and disappointed, if such a look was even possible. “Listen, everything I am about to tell you is in complete confidence. But the Flaming Fist is in trouble right now.”
Rinn suppresses a condescending laugh. “How so?”
“Well, as you can see here today, we are a bit overwhelmed with refugees from Elturel,” Zodge says, gesturing around himself at the hundreds of people. “They’re coming in droves ever since the city fell and we can’t spare the men to check every one of them and get them into the city. Plus, we don’t know who or what ultimately caused Elturel to fall, so we have to be very discerning about who we allow through the gate. Basically, all of our manpower is focused here and issues arising deeper in the city are falling by the wayside. That’s where you come in.”
“According to my sources, you three,” Zodge explains, pointing to Rinn, Amalie, and Maruck, “are all adventurers or have been previously. You, actually, I have no idea who you are.” He looks at Clover as though he has only just noticed her standing there beside Rinn, despite their similar size.
“I’m with Rinn!” Clover steps forward and stomps her foot. Zodge stares at her blankly and then looks at Rinn. It’s all Rinn can do to smile and shrug.
“Fine, have it your way,” concedes Zodge. “But I don’t want her getting in the way of the mission.”
“Speaking of the mission? You haven’t explained what that is.” Maruck blinks slowly at Zodge, nothing but deadly calm and focus in his eyes.
“Yes, I was getting to that,” says Zodge, waving off Maruck. “Like I said, just because we’ve got all this going on out here doesn’t mean that crime has stopped in the Lower and Upper Cities. In fact, there has been a string of murders committed by a cult in the name of the three demigods they worship!” Zodge pauses, looking at the group in front of him, expecting gasps and shock. However, this group knows the Lower City enough to not be surprised by something like this. They stare back, waiting for Zodge to continue.
Zodge clears his throat. “Anyways, I need you to investigate this cult and dismantle it. I’ll be giving you these,” he says as he hands out small badges with the Flaming Fist insignia on it. Clover snatches hers hurriedly and grins at it. Then her face changes to a very serious look as she clutches the badge to her chest. Zodge continues: “They should get you pretty much anywhere you need to get in the city and they mean that for the purposes of this mission, you are above the law. Don’t let anyone stand in your way to bring this cult to the ground. Do you understand me?”
Again, Zodge waits for a response he won’t get, expected salutes and standing at attention. What he gets is everyone tucking their badge away and nodding.
“Sounds good to me,” says Rinn, looking at her companions. “Everybody else down to kill some killers?”
“I don’t love how you put it, but I’m in,” quips Amalie, and Maruck gives yet another serious nod.
“I’m sticking with you, Rinn,” Clover says, sidling up to Rinn and grasping for her hand. “We can do this together! Our first big adventure! I’m so excited!” She finally grabs hold of Rinn’s hand and begins hopping up and down with it. Rinn makes a face, but the sparkle in her eye betrays the grimace.
“I guess that’s that,” declares Rinn, wrenching her hand back from a still vibrating Clover. “Where do we start?”
“Wait, what are we getting out of this?” Clover says, raising a single finger toward Zodge. “Adventurers like us don’t come cheap you know!”
“If you do what I say, I’ll see that you each receive two hundred gold pieces in addition to my gratitude, which is worth considerably more.” Zodge chuckles at Clover and turns back to Rinn.
“We have an informant in the nearby Elfsong Tavern.” Zodge points up the road “Her name is Turina and I would approach her with caution. She has some pretty dangerous friends, but she should be willing to help you guys out if she knows you’re with us. I sure paid her enough to be, anyway.” He rolls his eyes as though he is above these people he is forced to work with.
“Right, we’ll go find her then,” says Rinn, who at this point just can’t wait to not be in the presence of the commander anymore. “What do you know about the cult itself?”
“You mentioned three demigods?” Amalie looks puzzled. “Are you talking about the Followers of the Dead Three? I’ve heard of them before.”
“The one and only,” Zodge nods grimly. “They worship Bane, the Lord of Tyranny, Bhaal, the Lord of Murder, and Myrkel, the Lord of Bones. They operate in the name of chaos and fear and seem to be killing people in the Lower City at random to cause terror. They must be stopped by any means necessary.”
“We understand,” Maruck says. His deep voice echoes with his commitment to this cause. He’s spent his whole life defending the people of the Lower City, he’s not about to stop now.
“Then you are dismissed.” And with that, Zodge turns around and marches back towards his other men, who went back to checking people into the city. Rinn, Clover, Amalie and Maruck all look at each other and with meaningful glances, all turn and head in the direction they were pointed in for their informant.