By Erskine Fincher
A tall, burly, red-headed man steps out of the River Wench. Wiping the beer foam from his coarse whiskers, he casts a furitve glance both ways up and down River Street. His face is bright red, his muscled arms are freckled, and his ample girth is restrained by a black tunic belted at the waist. An uncouth dock hand is your first guess, but then you see that he's wearing the livery of the Silver Crescents. His eyes stop when they get to you, and his face lights up. "Well, top of the day to ye stranger. I've nae seen ye down 'ere in the Dock Ward afore. What brings ye 'ere?
"A tour of the city? Sure'n ye've come to the right place then. I knows all about the Dock Ward. Mind ye it's no where near as bad as Calimport er Waterdeep, places I've seen the hind end of in me younger days. Still, Arylon's got it's seamy side to be sure.
"I patrols the streets for the Silver Crescents. Sgt Phyrgys McGhilliegh be me name, but me friends just calls me Mac. I knows the town from stem to stern, port and starboard, but the part from River Gate to Sunrise Gate below the wall be me speciality. The docks, where mule skinners, rafters, and drovers come to drink and to fight, that’s where I can be found most nights. I lets 'em drink, and if they be after fightin' I oblige 'em there as well." His face cracks in a grin, and you can see that he's missing a few teeth.
"There's not much ‘arm in 'em, mostly." His face darkens a little, "occasionally we get a thief in our midst that thinks it sportin' to lift a man's purse while 'e's in 'is cups, or slip a dagger in 'is back for fun, but I knows how to take care of them." He grins again, but this time there's an almost predatory look in his face that makes you shudder.
Returning to his cheerful disposition he asks, "well, what are ye after see'n' first, ‘ey? How about we go into the River Wench 'ere for a pint, I was just on me way in... Nae? Well, a walk down along the river sounds fine, to be sure."
Stepping with you out into the street he begins to point out various sites and keeps up a running commentary as you walk along.
"Back up there towards Trade Gate is the Rivergate community. Started out to be some sort o' 'umans-only club, but ended up as a bunch of run-down tenements. Not a nice place fer a youngster like yerself to be at night.
"That road there is Cemetary Road. It leads up through River Gate to Paradise Portals, but that be the last place I want to go... Har! Get it..? It's the cemetary... last place...?
"Urhrum! Well, anyway on up the road east o' the gate would be a very nice establishment known as the Silver Lady. 'Tis owned by the lady that runs the orphanage, and a lot of nice young lasses be workin' there. Running a uh- tavern is a dangerous business and I try to keep an eye on ‘em, and help ‘em out if they need it.
"This place crost the street 'ere is K&K Karriages owned by one Abee Khazook. 'E's a Bad'un, or some such, from Anauroch. Pretty nice feller, though, if ye be askin' me..."
You walk past rows of merchant houses and warehouses without a break in the monologue until you come up on a gap in the buildings on the river side of the road. Here there's what's left of a burned out building, blackened stones, old rotted timbers, a broken chimney-
Mac falls silent for a moment, and then says in a quiet voice. "The Friend of the Merchant. 'Twas a temple to Waukeen- burned down durin' The Time O' Troubles, it did." He looks at you closely and asks, "’ave ye ever seen a ghost? They say this place be haunted, and I'm fer agreein with 'em. I seen the ghost meself one night while walkin' home from Runedar's."
His eyes light up suddenly, "ah, Runedar's! Now that be a fine pub. It's just up the street here, come along and I'll introduce you to their Diamond Stout!
"What- ? Oh, that's Broda's Freight Hauling. They don't sell ale there. Nothin' but a bunch of wagons and sweaty drivers. Not a bad crowd 'less they be sober.
"That road there be Promenade Street. It'll take ye up through Promenade Gate and right to the Hall o' Justice. Many's the drunken bar fighter I've hauled up that road, ye'd think there'd be grooves in it from their boots draggin crost the cobblestones. Heh!
"There be a half-orc up that way that'll cut yer hair fer ye, and leave ye yer head, what's more. I've been waitin' fer 'im to take that razor of his to some poor sods neck, but 'e's kept 'is nose clean so far. Got some of the rich lady folk up in Inner Ward lettin' 'im cut their hair, if ye can believe it. 'Twas a time when folks in Arylon woulda kilt one of his kind on sight, and now they let 'im cut hair right in the middle of the city!
"Beyond 'im, west o' the gate there is the Greenleaf Tavern. 'Tis a very repectable place," he says with a touch of bitterness in his voice. "They don't abide singin in the common room, 'less'n ye be a paid hand at it. I was asked to leave one night. I wasn't particularly willin' to go, but a few of my friends in the Crescents persuaded me." He strokes his nose thoughtfully while he speaks, and you notice that it's slightly out of kilter as if it's been broken once or twice.
"I don't begrudge 'em their rules, though. Sure'n I didn't mean any harm by singin' but sometimes when the mood hits me I can't help meself." He shows you his snaggle-toothed grin again and leads you on down the street.
Approaching a wooden building by the river he points it out and begins to tell you, "now this man here be the best friend and most hated enemy of every poor sod who ever sipped a pint. 'Tis a pawn shop he's runnin'- yer best friend when yer thirsty and sorely in need of a drink, and yer worst enemy when yer tryin' to get Mama's ring outta hoc afore she discovers it be missin'." He chuckles ruefully. "Many's the would-be adventurer who’s set out on the road with his dreams and his backpack, just to end up in Arylon with all his dreams bent towards the next pint o' ale, and his backpack on the shelf of Dernik's pawn shop."
You reach a fork in the road, and Mac comes to halt. "This fork takes ye on up to Hill Street through the gate to Mad anae Sangh. That's the Silver Crescent headquarters. A fine bunch of gentlemen, and it's good to me they've been. I've seen the law from both sides, ye might say. They took me in, though, and gave me a place among 'em. Mind ye they put me in a place where I was sure to fit in, down 'ere in the Dock Ward and all. 'Twas more than I might've expected, though, and they did give me back me stripes after that incident at the Greenleaf, so I've got much to thank 'em fer-"
Two young boys with fishing poles run past headed towards the river. "Hey there Lads! Ye best be getting' back to the Schoolhouse afore Lady Kethry comes after ye with 'er horse whip!" The boys just laugh at him and keep runnin'. "Ah," he sighs, "she'd skin the man alive who lifted a hand against them kids o'hers, but she spoils the little brats rotten. They'd best stay away from that water, though. That river leads to the sea, and one day they'll be after followin' it. No man can look on the sea without it pullin at 'is soul. Sure'n don’t I know it."
You look up at the building that he's stopped in front of and see a sign that says 'Rundedar'. Mac points to the opposite side of the road from the pub and says, "now over here is a nice wine shop, if you like that sort of thing. It's called Silvershadow Exotic Wines, but me I be likin' yer everyday dark brew like what Runedar's ‘ere sells. If ye continue down River Street here ye'll soon pass by Ereval which is like the dwarven quarter only it has half-elves. Course, they be nothin' like dwarves 'cept fer the fact they all be livin' in the same place. Over there too, ye'll be findin' a place called the Halls o' Harmony and Cheer. 'Tis a fine place to go and hear a song.
"If it's cheer ye be after, though, Rundedar's is really the place. Come to think on it, I believe Delgyn still has me squeeze box from the last time I held a concert here. I'm gettin' the urge to do a little singin'. Perhaps ye'll join me, and I'll teach ye some of the old sea chanties I learned while sailin' 'twixt the Moonshaes and the Sword Coast... Nae? Well then, I beg ye to 'scuse me. 'Tis me first day off in a tenday, and I be after makin' the most of it."
Mac turns and strolls towards the door of the pub. You hear him break into song as he steps inside, and as his broken baritone assaults your ears you're left in no doubt as to why he was thrown out of the Greenleaf:
Come all ye young lads and sail on the sea!