Tuesday 31 March 2020

The Imp's Head

In Sigil's Hive District, there stands a building. It's three stories tall, covered in Sigil's traditional architectural 'blades', and stained with pigeon shit. It's not accessible from the street where it sits: other than a row of grimy windows, it has turned its back on Barb Street, like the sullen Hivers within.

Walking down a dark alley, always flooded, due to brokendown gutters, one might see a heavy, dark door, made of wood, painted black. The door is covered in thick, yellowy moss, and heavy strands of razorvine curl around the frame. Above the door, there's a crude piece of iron sculpture resembling the screeching head of an Imp.

If one were to knock, a small door viewer would slide open, with a rusty squeal, and you would see two balefully glowing orange eyes in the dark space beyond. This is Rozoknar, he is a Hamatula (Barbed Devil), he's the doorman, and the bouncer. Once Rozok's satisfied that you're not Hardheads, or Paladins, he'll open the door and let you in.

Inside, is the Imp's Head. The main bar is dimly lit, even at peak, due to the sheer level of grime on the windows. About sixty feet away, across a crowded room, stands the bar, a scraped, singed construction of heavy, dark wood. Above the bar, a sign in barely legible handwriting: No Change In Silver.

Behind it, stands the bartender; Kor Clotbur, an orangey Tiefling with alarming sabretooth fangs, and a massive scar across his throat. He speaks with a growl and a lisp. Kor constantly glances down at the massive crossbow he keeps behind the bar, not that he needs it to thrash a rowdy patron. Any casual observer can tell - he's built like a brick shithouse.

The main floor of the bar is crowded with round tables, at which sit the clientele: a barmy collective of Cagers, ranging from filthy, unshaven Hivers all the way round to perfumed visitors from the Market Ward. And let me tell you, that's a hell of a walk.

It's not like the bar has much to offer: the roof leaks, and everywhere you have to watch your steps for brass buckets full of dirty rainwater. The liquid sold as beer does not taste like it, aside from the alcohol content. Some accuse Kor of mixing the rainwater with grain alcohol. There's no band, not even a single bard on the empty stand in the corner. Water occasionally leaks up from the flooded basement, and on windy days there's always a fine rain of plaster dust from the ceiling.

Still, the bar is always full. Whispered and growled conversations fill the air, and there's always a broad selection of semi-famous patrons.

Willum, the sole employee of the P.I.C., sits in his own booth by the bar. He seems to be the only person drinking actual lager. No one dares sit across from him, unless they need something, or they're an idiot.

Bert, an elderly Human Athar with a specific grudge against the Raven Queen, the goddess of death. He'll buy anything claiming to increase longevity or prevent death, and many a crosstrader has peeled him with fake powders. His jacket's covered in jangling charms, and he's usually pouring some tincture or paste into his 'beer'. It's a wonder some basher hasn't sold him Purple-Worm venom, yet.

Seven-Times-Blessed, an Aasimar and disgraced lawyer, from some Material Plane or another, who offers advice and will represent a body in the City Courts, free of charge. She's incongrously cheerful and charming.

Hrogg, a smug Orc and member of the Doomguard. He comes here after a long day of knocking down walls and peeling off razorvine. He'll cheerfully challenge any visitor to a game of three dragon ante, but he'll get violent if he loses any money.

Brenca, a Wood Elf, and disgraced ex-paladin of Corellon. She'll not say what caused her to be disgraced, only that she's an Oathbreaker, and no, she won't help with your problems.

Aventa, a Human merchant from the Lower Ward who's going through a strange patch recently - she quit her Faction, the Free League, and has been cold and distant with her friends.

Colcook, the right hand creep of Shemeshka the Marauder, Sigil's most notorious crime boss. He's a hornless Tiefling, which is certainly disconcerting. He sits in the corner, drinking red wine, smirking at nothing and staring at the other customers. Kor would like to throw him out, but any slight against Shemeshka might result in his bar being burned to the ground.

And many other odd characters besides.

The Dark of It

Of course, the Imp's Head has a secret, and it's linked to that sign above the bar.

The Imp's Head is a bar for shapeshifters. The patrons - aside from Willum and presumably Colcook - sit around the bar in their true forms - only shifting back if they hear Rozok open the door.

Bert's a werewolf, and he knows he's headed to the Lower Planes for the feral violence of his youth.

Seven is a literal angel, albeit one disgraced for showing mercy to an escaping legion of Baatezu.

Hrogg is a wereboar, and while he doesn't necessarily keep that a secret, he likes the camaraderie of the Imp's Head.

Brenca's a changeling, who moved here from the Feywild after some traumatic event or another. She's not lying about being a paladin, though, prepare to be smited if you pry.

Aventa's not Aventa at all, but a Doppelganger called Salia, who was present when Aventa was murdered in a mugging. She briefly took on the woman's life to try and minimize her friends' grief, but she can't seem to find a way to escape the persona.

And Willum? Well, nobody bothers asking.

Kor knows about his patrons' true natures, and is entirely supportive. He himself is no face-changer, but his wife was a changeling, and she made him promise to open a place where those who the Cage doesn't trust, could come to trust each other.

He has, although the place barely stays above water. Both literally and figuratively.

Still, if one of your PCs is a shapechanger, mention that they've heard a rumour about a bar where their kind are welcome. After all, it can be good to have a place where you can be yourself.

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