What’s The Difference Between An Or-gee And an Orgy?*

Our trio is in Westgate. This is a bit odd, for Paladin at least, because Westgate is not a place for the pure of heart. Outside of Zhentil Keep, and Thay, it’s the worst place for the pure of heart, and yet Paladin likes Westgate. (He tolerates Thay, but Zhentil Keep is a no-go. Even he cannot handle the smells from that city.) Paladin likes Westgate mostly for the restaurants and their smells. Which is a bit odder. (A bitter odd?) He greatly wishes the general level of evil was much lower, but over the years, he has come to realize that larceny, murder, pettifoggery and really good food go together. Even to him, that makes no sense, but it is how things are, and so Paladin likes Westgate.

Monk also likes Westgate, for a related reason: the abundance of amazing coffee shops. Paladin once asked him why coffee shops and criminals seem to exist in nigh-equal quantities and Monk explained that since criminals tend to do criminal stuff at night, they need coffee. Since they have, at least occasionally, gold to spend, they like good coffee. “Oh.” Paladin said, and went back to smelling his latte. (Paladin never smells Monk’s coffee. Paladin tried smelling Monk’s coffee once and was miserable for a week. “It took forever to get that smell out of my head.”)

Barbarian doesn’t really care. There are few places she likes or hates more than any other places. The only real standout is Shadowdale. Because someone there thinks he knows everything and won’t shut up about it, and even she gets tired of the dickwaving with Storm Silverhand. 

What Barbarian doesn’t know is how amused The Simbul (and quite possibly Mystara herself) are by how much a certain archwizard annoys her, (and vice-versa), and how regularly the both of them work to arrange things so she has to go into or near said wizard’s home.

Mages, even good ones, even ones that have ascended to godhood, can be right proper pricks. Remember that.

As they walk about, they have their usual discussion about where to eat. As has become her custom, Barbarian is fine with whatever Paladin wants. She has decided Paladin is her…well, there’s not a proper word for it. She feels kindly towards Paladin, (she also feels things for Monk, but they are Very Different Things) and were Paladin a child or pet, would be said to be spoiling him rotten. Honestly, it’s how Monk also treats Paladin, and well, how just about everyone treats Paladin. 

There’s a rumor that Szass Tam built a kitchen with living staff just for when Paladin comes by for their semiannual checkers match, mostly because Paladin always gives him advance notice so he doesn’t accidentally destroy Szass’s zombies. “He’s the only living creature who is genuinely considerate of my feelings. Of course I’m going to be nice to him.”

She does ask that they not go to The Quivering Thumb, as it is one of the few places that has not only banned her, but spent a fortune in magic to make said ban stick. “They’re more whiny than a gnome without turnips. Something, something you’re not allowed to behead the other gladiators. Bah.” Paladin nods and makes a note of it, Monk, as he always does when she demonstrates her mayhem’ing ability, sighs and falls even more in love with her. 

Monk and Barbarian are a terribly cute couple. In that they are both absolutely enraptured by the other, (the cute part) and what that has involved in terms of surrounding areas is legitimately terrible, (the terribly part. They are literally terribly cute.) There’s a beholder that will never again open its eyes after accidentally espying them en flagrante destructo. That’s a description, not a typo.

They’re walking down a fairly large road in front of Big Edna’s Tavern when Monk pulls up short, gets an annoyed look, holds out his hand and says “Give it back.” Both Barbarian and Paladin are complely confused by this, and said confusion is not helped by Monk’s shadow suddenly appearing to give birth to just over a meter’s worth of halfing dressed all in black. A grumbling halfling. With red hair.

“You are absolutely no fun.” the halfling says. “I am all the fun I need to be, and if you take my money, I cannot buy coffee.” Monk replies. “Fine. Here.” “All of it.” Slitted green eyes roll into the back of Thief’s head. “One day.” she says as she drops another handful of coins into Monk’s hand. “Not yet.” he replies as he weighs the items she’s handed him. At this point, they are both aware of two things. First, Paladin is very happy to see Thief. Not that he approves of stealing or any of Thief’s hobbies, but she is one of his favorite people, for she manages to procure a variety of things for him to smell that no one else can. 

The second thing is the growling and chattering noises coming from Barbarian, who is seeing this strange woman bantering with her Monk. Her eyes are not quite actually glowing red, but it is a near thing. Thief, hearing the noises Barbarian is making, stands fully erect, which means she is slightly taller than Monk’s beltline, and says “DO I HEAR A MIDGET?” The murderous rage that was about to explode out of Barbarian does a reversal into joy so fast it sprains something, and Barbarian says “DO I SEE A GIANT?” with an unusually large smile on her face.

Thief turns, and in an explosion of giggling and squee-ing, jumps into Barbarian’s arms. No one is sure how she avoids all the spikes, but she does. Both Monk and Paladin are agog, for they have never actually seen Barbarian giggle, but giggle she does as she and Thief hug the dickens out of each other. “I didn’t realize you were in Westgate!” Barbarian says once they’ve stopped. “Aye, I’ve been here for a while now. I accidently own an inn” she says, jerking a thumb over her shoulder. “YOU’RE “Big Edna” now?” Barbarian says as she starts to laugh. 

Thief hangs her head. “Technically no, but everyone seems to just love to call me that. At least until they get stabbity’d.” “Well, I will not call you that Thief” Paladin says, “for you clearly do not like it.” The halfling beams up at him. “You are truly the bestest of friends as well as the cheapest of dates. All of you come inside, and Paladin, I have treats for you.” While Paladin is not a jumper, (he can out-jump an Otyugh. Barely), he manages what could be a heel-kicking jump while cheering. Half the passers by are amused by this, the other half throws down money and run away. Thief quickly collects the money, because of course she does.

They all head for the nicest table in the establishment, which is initially occupied by some “of” adventuring company. “The company OF light”, “The guild OF gold”, or whatever. It’s always something OF something. They quickly abandon said table at a high rate OF speed, without any words OF protest. Unsurprising given the simultaneous smiling from Paladin, Monk’s “I wonder if I could drive your elbow hinge through your skull with one finger tap” look, the glare of “IF YOU DO NOT MOVE I WILL END YOU AND EVERYONE WHO HAS EVER MET YOU” from Barbarian, or Thief smiling sweetly at them.

It is probably Thief. The last group she smiled at like that was found with stab wounds in their stab wounds. it’s one of the reasons Monk gets along with her: he appreciates her artistry. Thief likes Monk because while everyone for a league is hating him, they don’t notice her picking their pockets or their houses. (She cleans up during the yearly “Why Won’t Monk Just Die Already” hate parade in Port Llast.) 

Thief snaps her fingers, and drinks appear on the table for all. Paladin’s drink is not actually drinkable, but it’s there for the scents, not the taste, and judging by how Paladin is starting to glow a bit, they are very good smells. There is coffee for Monk, something very alcoholic for Barbarian and Thief has some vaguely vanilla-scented tea that she lets Paladin get a good sniff of before she drinks it. 

“So how…” Barbarian asks, “do you “accidentally” own a tavern?” “She stabbed someone for it.” Monk says. He and Thief get along, but it is a very grumpy kind of friendship. No one is sure why they snipe at each other the way they do, but that is Thief and Monk. A constant stream of insults and grumbling. “I did not. I won it fair and square.” “You have never done anything fair and square. You’ve never even managed a vaguely cheating triangle.” “Well, in this case, I did. Sort of. What I discovered was that if you’re going to stab a fat Sembian merchant in his nethers, make sure before he dies that he’s not under some stupid curse that transfers all his assets to you and keeps them, and you, there.”

“Wait…” Barbarian says, with badly concealed laughter, “…you’re the one that offed old fat Gornhaudar?” Thief’s eyes narrow and her lips grow thin with annoyance. “…yes…that would be me.” “Didn’t you know about his curse? I thought everyone knew about that.” “NO…no I did not. You think I’d have killed him if I had?” “You’re the only one. It’s why I only broke most of his bones when he groped me.” Thief rolls her eyes. “I knew I should have asked you about that. Everyone was dreadfully curious as to why he lived.” 

By now, Monk and Barbarian are staring at the two women, completely baffled. Monk drains his coffee and signals for more by first attempting to get the waiter’s attention, and when that does not work, flinging his mug so that it bounces off of the waiter’s and the barista’s heads before coming to a stop next to the coffee station, upright, undamaged, and ready to be filled. “Can one of you explain this in a way that won’t make my head hurt?” he asks. Paladin thinks about paying attention, but there’s a strata of a lavender variant that he’s only smelled once before buried under layers of efreet sweat and stone giant tears that is demanding all his attention. Also, he knows if it involves Thief, it will be very complicated and probably involve her deep love of shiny things. The only thing that ever changes is how complex the trouble is and how many shiny things are involved. He goes back to smelling.

Thief sighs and nods. “I suppose I should, since I’m now “Big Edna” after all. See, this restaurant? It’s a moneymaker. It always makes money. Been in Westgate since Westgate was big enough to have a restaurant, and it has always made money.” “This is bad?” “Monk…nothing always makes money. I don’t always make money. This place has almost two millennia of non-stop profit. The Time of Troubles? Profitable. Spellplague? Profitable. Dragon swarms? Profit. Lords of Hell running rampant? Profit. Plague? Profit. Swarms of whores? Profit. Nothing. Ever. Stops. The. Profit.” “I can see where that would attract you.” 

Of course it did. My gods, you own this place and you can do whatever you want because you’ll always have money. I was going to finally go back into full time literature acquisitions, which doesn’t pay well at all, but part of my deal is I get to read it before I turn it over.” “And then you found out about the curse.” Thief sighs and stands on her chair so she can properly slam her head into the table. “And then, <wham>, I found out, <wham>, about, <wham>, the curse.<whamwhamwham>” 

“Said curse being…” “That you can’t leave Westgate. When it was first cast, you couldn’t even leave the gods-damned building, but millennia or so of constant attempts at dispelling and circumvention by the victims, and it’s gradually weakened to where you can at least get to the city borders.” “What happens if…” “You try to really leave? You end up back here. Mid-stride. Mid-jump. Mid-jog, mid-skip, mid-slide-on-your-ass-on-a-long-trail-of-grease. If you’re on horseback, the horse keeps going, you pop in here…at full velocity mind you, which was not fun.” “Well, there goes my catapult idea.” “Already tried it. Broke six bones. Stop laughing.”

Monk thinks a moment, and hands his again-empty mug to the waiter who has realized that making this table wait, or even have to vocalize their wishes will be quite painful and so now is the very model of quiet, efficient, servitude. “That…is a remarkably appropriate curse” he says, chuckling a bit at the misery on Thief’s face. “It’s a remarkably something curse.” “So how do you break it?” “So far? Death. The owner’s. That’s the only thing I’ve found. You can’t sell the place, the curse won’t let you put it in writing or even verbally. I tried doing the entire thing in that finger language I learned from a Drow and my hands stopped working. I tried firing the whole staff and closing the place. The next morning, they were all at work, the place was open, and no one remembered me firing them. I’m making more money than I thought possible with less work than I dreamed possible and I am more miserable than a Drow at the beach.”

“Death…hmm…” Barbarian saying those words gets everyone’s attention. It’s rather like a dragon’s inhale. One with bad halitosis in addition to you know, the fire. Everyone in the room is quietly moving towards the exits, somehow casually running for their lives so as not to attract Barbarian’s attention. They’ll all have some very pulled muscles in the morning. Barbarian stands up, walks over to the nearest support column in the room and as gently as possible, removes a small piece from it with her axe. 

She looks over at Thief. “Did you feel that?” “No, it’s a piece of wood two of you away. Why would I feel you hitting it?” “Death…is such an imprecise word.” Barbarian looks over at Monk who has figured out what is going on and is also now standing, putting on the handwraps she says are her favorite, the ones that cause  things to catch on fire when he punches them. “I knew you were special.” she says to him, her eyes aglow with love. 

Love of Monk, love of immenent destruction, it’s hard to tell with her, but, they are indeed aglow. “Paladin dear, would you and Thief mind stepping outside for a few minutes?” she says as she dons her helmet. “Monk and I have a curse to dispel. Make sure you take Thief by her safe, she’ll want to grab as much as she can carry before.” “Before what?” “Before it’s all splinters. Hurry dear, Daddy and I need some special us time.” Monk’s eyes are starting to glow as well.

Somewhere, a blind beholder whimpers.

“But you can’t dispel curses, and Monk is not mymfffff” Thief has jumped on to Paladin’s shoulders and put her hands over his mouth. “Let us do as Mummy asks,” she says, “and make some haste for the nice, safe street. Don’t worry about the safe, Barbarian knows I don’t keep anything I care about in something someone might be able to lay hands on.” With that, they both exit, stage now.

Twenty minutes later, the restaurant is not even splinters. It would be doing well to be ashes. It has not just been destroyed, it has been removed from existence Of the crowd in the streets when the destruction starts, Thief and Paladin are the only ones left when it ends. Thief is the only one who watches the entire thing, and she’s not sure she should have. She makes sure Paladin is facing away from the bar, and has cast a lovely deafness spell upon himself. 

At the edge of Westgate, the four of them pause to let Thief work up the courage to take a step she hasn’t finished properly in over a year. In theory they are being “run out of town by the Eye of Justice”. By which they mean the most junior member of the Eye followed them at sufficient distance that he could see them leave. Barely. The step works, as Barbarian thought it might. “There’s not a huge difference between killing a building and killing a person. Well, I have to sharpen my axe a bit more after killing a building, and it screams less, but other than that, killing is killing. So now, what shall you do that you have your freedom but no more profit machine.” 

Thief once again smiles sweetly, causing Monk to start cursing in three languages no longer spoken on Toril, one of which never was. “Why, hang out with the three of you my dear. None of you are terribly profitable, but you are all a lot of fun.” Monk is the only one not in agreement with this idea, but Barbarian gives him a look and his protests die faster than the last person who told Barbarian girls can’t use axes as well as men. (Oghma is still researching exactly how she managed to do that much damage to one person on every plane of existence at the same time. Mystra doesn’t let him spend too much time on it, it makes him weep about physics.)

As they walk off, Thief suggests they should all go to Shadowdale.

Somewhere an archmage whimpers.

*if you aren’t enough of a Benny Hill fan to get the joke, I’m certainly not going to explain it to you. -Writer

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