Night, Urthan 27, 973 IR
The Giggling Goblin
Foreigners' Gate, Floresta, Aureshan Empire
It's the latest of late summer in the city of Floresta. The streets have been pitch-black and sweaty for the past three nights, as the new moon coincided with a heat wave that has finally broken as a titanic stormfront rages out of the northeast. Now the crescent moon has appeared and the air has cooled to a more bearable temperature, but the gutters in the city center are awash with rain.
Out here, in Foreigners' Gate, there are no gutters except on a few major arteries. The Imperial Highway stretches from the city's gate to the white bridge across the Ilog, and of course that's well-drained, carefully sloped and graded to keep it passable in even the worst weather. And there are a couple of cross-streets that have ended up paved with cobblestones and gutters that leave them usable by wagon traffic even in wet weather. But the Giggling Goblin isn't on any of these. It's tucked down a side street that's paved with nothing but a slop of mud and manure that in dryer times would be dirt.
If Oceus weren't having a mighty and torrential piss on Floresta tonight, the Giggling Goblin might be full of teamsters and sailors bent on spending some of their hard-earned pay. But the downpour has kept most of them indoors, disinclined to plod through the muck any more than they must in order to arrange for hot meals and dry beds. The tavern is almost deserted instead, which is probably just as well. You aren't here to socialize, and anyway there's no reason to do it here if you could instead be across town with the Argent Cyma. Tonight is the supper club's usual meeting night—drinks, dining, and then a light orgy or whatever it is that the regular members get up to in the back room that none of you have been permitted to investigate. The regular members are (mostly) ordinary people: merchants, mid-level government officials, senior scholars of the University. Not movers and shakers, but up and comers nevertheless. Worth cultivating.
You're members, too. Sure. But you aren't regular members. You aren't dues paying members. And your sponsors told you to be here. Tonight. To pay a little of the sweat equity that constitutes your side of the deal that brought you into the society.
The exterior of the Goblin was unprepossessing: well maintained, but there's little to recommend the place to someone on the street besides the sign hanging above the door. Establishments like the Goblin often keep the doors thrown open at night, so that the light of their lanterns and fires will stream out to welcome punters. That isn't how things work around here, though.
Voitto Hamalainen, the publican, is your contact tonight. Aside from your own sponsor, he's the only member of the board of directors that you know by name. The half-elf is currently haranguing a grizzled old man, who roars with laughter as Voitto rasps at him, "You're a festering, drink-sodden sore on the fucked-out, gaping asshole of my life, Marko. A real punishment from the gods. Now swallow your fucking whiskey and get out of here. Maybe if I'm lucky a runaway wagon will plow your crippled arse into the mud."
He favors you with a glare as you enter the tavern, but doesn't bother to greet you directly. Marko has obediently knocked back his drink and now holds out the glass, clamoring for a refill, which Voitto provides, gracelessly, "Lereina's glittering clit. Drink and make me suffer. That's all you do well, surely. Let's see the color of your money, then. If this were a charity I'd have hanged myself years ago."