Lord Durgas stepped off the stage, drenched in sweat and grinning like a feral cat. The Dead Dwarfs had just finished another electrifying set, and he loved playing music more than just about anything else in the world. Just as he reached the bottom of the backstage steps, a figure emerged from the darkness and fell into step beside him. Jergan, The Dead Dwarfs’ manager, clapped Durgas on the back and laughed heartily.
“What do you want, little man?” Lord Durgas asked.
“I got some stuff I think you’re really gonna like, Durgas. Sulastan Fire Whiskey. Even you won’t be able to handle this.”
“Hah! We’ll see about that!” Durgas said, as he took the bottle from Jergan and downed it in a single gulp.
“Happy trails, Durgas,” said Jergan.
Lord Durgas awoke some time later, his drool still sticking to the pillow. He tried to open his eyes, only to find they had crusted over in his sleep. He peeled them open using his thumb and forefinger, and the bright light from outside his room stabbed into his brain.
“What the hell time is it? Where the hell is everyone?”
He sat up and looked around. Sure enough, the inn room he had shared with his band mates was empty. Not only were they gone, but all their equipment and clothing was gone, too.
“Me mates! Where is me band?!” He jumped out of bed, but fell flat on his face as his head started pounding heavier than a bass drum. His vision went blurry.
“Oi! Me head!”
He stood up again, more carefully this time, and tried to balance. Looking around the room again, his eyes settled on a slip of paper on the table next to the door.
Dude! We tried to get you up, but you wouldn’t budge! What the hell did you drink, dude? You’re wrecked! Hahahaha! We couldn’t wait, dude. The last train to hell is leaving in twenty minutes, and we gotta be on it. Hope you catch up!
“Oh shit! They left without me! Maybe I can catch them!” He ran out the door, down the stairs, and out into the main room of the Moonsong Tavern. He yelled, “Jergan! You asshole! I’m going to kill you!” and then fell flat on his face at the foot of the stairs. He picked himself up, staggered over to the bar, and grabbed two full bottles of whiskey. He sat down at one of the tables and started drinking again.
Lord Durgas didn’t see the small figure hanging out in the back corner of the room. The light of a match flared in the darkness behind him, and the small figure blew a plume of smoke towards the ceiling.
“So you want Jergan dead, too, do you Durgas?” As you wish, Lord Durgas. As you wish,” Doctor Case said to herself..
He had stiffed her.
Doctor Case had spent six weeks building a special effects device for Jergan’s stage at the Moonsong Bar and Grill, and he had stiffed her on the payment. Pyrotechnics, lights of different colors that could be programmed to flash in different sequences, a fog machine, and a large screen to serve as a backdrop. There was even a little projector to cast magical illusions on the backdrop. It was all wired into a central programming unit with amps and speakers. The best part of it all was the fact that the control unit could easily fit into the palm of a person’s hand, or else mounted on an instrument. Doctor Case was proud of that control unit, damn it!
But that asshole Jergan had straight-up refused to pay her. She knew Jergan was a shady businessman, and that he had a bad reputation in the Merchant’s Guild, but she never thought he’d be stupid enough to refuse to pay. The Guild would hear about this, for sure.
Turns out, the Merchant’s Guild didn’t seem to care. They told her to take it up with the Thieves’ Guild, who, in turn, told her to take it up with the Merchant’s Guild.
Doctor Case screamed in frustration. This wouldn’t have happened if she were just a little more established. They were taking advantage of her…HE was taking advantage of her. Just because he knew he could. Once she could afford the Guild membership, she wouldn’t ever have to put up with this shit again, but for now, she was stuck. She had hoped this job would give her both the respect necessary to approach the Guild, and the money to pay for membership, but now she had neither. Plus, she was out all the money she had paid for the raw materials.
If the guilds wouldn’t help her, she’d just have to help herself. The pyrotechnics machine was built for concerts, but it had other uses, too. Doctor Case got up from her table, and started for the door. If he wouldn’t pay her, she’d just have to give Jergan a taste of the machine’s true power. She needed to go home, first though, to pick up the “faulty” circuit breaker she had built for an occasion just like this.
Tara was lost. She had only been in Bloodshire for a few weeks, and she hadn’t learned her way around the city yet. She didn’t have a lot of time to explore on her own, and her nightly patrols with the Devil’s Demons mercenary company didn’t leave much room for exploration. To make matters worse, what little time she did have to herself was mostly spent in the Upper City, where she felt safe, and the streets were clean and well ordered. The lower city was a maze of crime, greed, and trash. She hated it.
She only came down here to deliver a message to some low-life, two-bit hustler named Jergan. She had never heard of him, but he hadn’t paid his protection money to the Devil’s Demons, so she was sent to either collect the money or remind him why he was paying protection money in the first place.
She finally found his home, but it was clear no one was home. No surprise there. Jergan knew that he owed the Devil’s Demons money, so he’d be a fool to be home alone. She realized that he’d probably be hanging out at his bar, the Moonsong Bar and Grill, where he was sure to be surrounded by bodyguards and other hired henchmen. As she turned to leave, she felt a sudden pain in the back of her head. Right before she fell into darkness, she heard a voice behind her say, “Put her in the dumpster. We’ll deal with her later.”
Shiv might have been raised in the sewers, but he retained his Elvish sense of the finer things in life…even if he didn’t know it. He ate garbage, but it was the BEST garbage Bloodshire had to offer.
And so, Shiv’s favorite place to score a free meal was Jergan’s dumpster. Jergan had many vices, and one of them was good food. He loved eating, and he dined on the choicest cuts of meat, the freshest produce, and the softest bread. He only drank the finest wine and the tastiest beer. His table scraps were better than most people’s meals.
With this in mind, Shiv set off for Jergan’s place one fine evening. It was just past dinner time, when the scraps should still be fresh and warm. Shiv didn’t like for his food to get cold. He didn’t like getting caught either, though, so it was a fine science to get the timing right. Fortunately, he was an expert.
When he got to Jergan’s dumpster, he could smell the fresh food inside, and he could see the steam rising from the lid. He went over to it, and tried to lift the lid, but it wouldn’t budge.
“Locked,” he said. “That’s weird. It’s never been locked before. Oh well, no matter.”
Shiv dug around in his pockets for a few moments, finally pulling a thin lockpick from one. He put it in the lock, and wiggled it around a bit, until it snapped in two.
“Hey! That was my best pick, you stupid lock!”
He tried another one, but it broke, too. “Damn it! Stop breaking my picks!” He reached behind him, and pulled his trusty stickball bat out of its sheath. “If at first you don’t succeed, get a bigger stick,” he said, quoting his old master, Sarkum.
“Shelly!” he shouted, and touched one of his tattoos. Magical energy flowed into the bat, causing it to glow with green energy. He lifted the bat over his head, and slammed it down on the lock. It bounced off the lock, wobbling violently. The lock was unaffected.He hit it a few more times, more out of frustration than anything, but eventually tried a new tactic.
Shiv summoned his inner magic, and willed himself to transform into a raccoon. If anything could get into a dumpster, it was a raccoon. Or so he thought. He worked the lock with his little raccoon fingers to no avail, and then tried gnawing it open with his sharp teeth. The lock didn’t budge. He turned back into his kuchari form, and touched another tattoo. The lock began to glow softly, indicating it’s magical nature.
“A magical lock! That’s outrageous! Who puts a magical lock on a dumpster? It’s a sin! A sin, I say!” Shiv didn’t really know what a sin was, but he had heard the temple priests screaming about them, and knew they were bad. “Why, I ought to go straight to one of the temples and tell them I found the biggest sin in Bloodshire! They’ll come fix this stupid lock, and good!” Muttering to himself, Shiv set off to find a priest.
Meetings and Greetings
Doctor Case left the bar, and started for home. On the way there, she ran into Shiv. Having both grown up in Bloodshire, they knew each other, even if they weren’t exactly friends.Doctor Case could see the frustration on Shiv’s face, though, and decided to ask him about it.
“‘lo, Shiv. What’s your troubles?” she asked.
“You know Jergan? That rich asshole that always has the best food?”
Doctor Case stared at him in disbelief, before adding with a careful “Yes….?”
“You’re not gonna believe this, but he put a lock on his dumpster! Of all the insulting, hurtful, ridiculous things to do! I can’t even believe it! Can you believe it, Doctor Case?”
“Lots of people put locks on their dumpsters, Shiv.”
“Yeah, but this was a magical lock! Whoever heard of putting a magical lock on a dumpster?!?”
“Well. That *is* interesting,” Doctor Case said. “Come with me. I think I might have just the thing to get it open.”
They walked over to Doctor Case’s house, where she picked up her Delta tool and the faulty circuit breaker.
“You got anything to eat?” asked Shiv.
“Do you ever think about anything except food?”
“Well, yeah. I mean, there’s stickball. And Hide N Seek with my raccoon friends,” he said.
Doctor Case sighed, and went back into her house. She returned with a banana and half a sandwich. She was eating the other half. “Sorry, I realized I was hungry, too,” she said.
“Ah, that’s okay,” said Shiv. “Sharing is caring, right?”
They made it back to Jergan’s place, and went around back to the dumpster. Doctor Case aimed her Delta tool at the lock, and it popped open. Together, they threw the lid back, and peeked inside cautiously, both of them mentally preparing themselves to either fight or run away, depending on what they found.
Neither one of them was prepared to find an unconscious elf girl lying in the trash. Together, they lifted her out of the dumpster and sat her down on the ground. Shiv touched one of his tattoos, then tenderly touched the girl’s forehead. He whispered a few words, and green magic washed over her. The girl groaned, and her eyes fluttered open.
“Oh. Tara’s head feels like Master Derrin thumped her noggin for forgetting a lesson. Again,” she said.
“Who feels what?” asked Shiv.
The girl didn’t answer, but reached up to touch the back of her head gingerly instead. “Do you know who did this to Tara?” she asked.
Doctor Case stared at the girl. “You are Tara,I take it?”
Tara looked up at her and said, “Yes, I am Tara. Do you know what happened to me?”
Shiv answered. “Well it looks like somebody played stickball with your head, then dumped you in the garbage when they were done. Since it’s Jergan’s garbage, he probably had something to do with it,” he said.
“Yes, it feels like that’s exactly what happened,” said Tara. “And it sounds right, too. Tara was sent here to force Jergan to pay his debts. She was supposed to teach him a lesson, but I think Jergan is the one who taught Tara a lesson instead.”
Doctor Case helped the girl to her feet. “We were just about to go teach Jergan a lesson ourselves,” said Doctor Case. “You’re welcome to join us.”
“Oh! Yes! Tara doesn’t know anyone here in Bloodshire. She would love to have some allies… perhaps friends?”
Doctor Case started to say something, but was interrupted by Shiv. “Awww yeah,” he said. “We’re all going to be good friends. I can feel it!”
Doctor Case rolled her eyes, but didn’t say anything. Together, they all started walking over to the Moonsong.
A Most Tragic Accident
They walked into the bar, and headed straight for the stage area. They passed Lord Durgas along the way, but he was far too drunk to notice them. Aside from Lord Durgas and the bartender, the Moonsong appeared to be empty. They got to the stage, and Doctor Case started fiddling with the stage effects. Just as she finished putting in the faulty circuit breaker, Jergan came out of the back room.
“What are you doing there, Doctor Case?” he asked with a greasy smile. “You’re not thinking of trying to break or steal my property, are you?”
Doctor Case forced herself to smile. “Wouldn’t dream of it, Jergan. In fact, I was just upgrading the circuits. The amps and speakers should be even louder now. Why don’t you give it a try?”
Doctor Case knew her shit. The circuit would make the amps louder, for sure, but it would also send a severe jolt of electricity back into the instruments being played. It wouldn’t be enough to kill him, but it should knock him out long enough for her to collect her payment.
Jergan walked over, and hopped on stage. He grabbed one of the guitars from its stand (He kept instruments on stage at all times, just in case some band forgot their own. It happened far more often than people realized). He plugged in to the system, and started to wail. Between running his businesses and his *ahem* side businesses, Jergan hardly ever got a chance to play anymore, so he relished the rare opportunity. He was really good, too. Back in the day, he was popular across the entire continent. That was long ago and far away though.
As he played, the circuit began to overheat. Slowly, the charge inside of it began to build. It glowed hotter and hotter, and tiny sparks began shooting off from it, but nobody except Doctor Case noticed. Just as it was about to discharge, Doctor Case’s concentration was interrupted by Lord Durgas’ sudden bellow from behind her.
“Jergan! You asshole!” yelled Lord Durgas. “You made me miss my trip! Me band left without me, you piece of shit!” Lord Durgas picked up the bottle of whiskey from his table, and hurled it at Jergan.
His aim was off. Instead of hitting Jergan, the half-full bottle of whiskey hit the faulty circuit, just as it discharged. The alcohol intensified the electrical charge, and what should have been a strong, but very survivable, shock was transformed into a deadly, heart-stopping crackle of blue energy. It raced all over Jergan’s body for a few seconds, and he fell over dead.
Everyone stood still, frozen in place, mouths agape. No one could believe what had just happened.
The bartender reacted first. He screamed in horror, and then ran outside and started screaming for the guards. It didn’t take long before they arrived. Tara breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the Devil’s Demons patches on their uniforms.
“Let me do the talking,” she said. Everyone else was still too stunned to do or say anything, so they just nodded.
In the end, Tara was able to convince her superiors that Jergan had refused to pay, and that she had enlisted Doctor Case’s help in delivering the “message”. The three friends, along with Lord Durgas, were enlisted into the Devil’s Demons, and their adventuring career began.