346 The Squirming Medusa

Background Lore

The Squirming Medusa is a medium-sized two-story tavern located near the center of a large town. It is not the only establishment of its kind around but it is, by far, the most welcoming location for travelers and drinkers alike. It is large, spacious, warm, and the service is good. The tavern owner is a middle-aged man named Garjeen. Garjeen inherited the tavern from his father, as he did from his father before him. All in all, the Squirming Medusa has been in the family for three generations. Garjeen knows the business well, he started working in it when he was a little boy. He used to scrub floors, clean the rooms, and sometimes, help the cooks.

For the past fifty years, the secret for the Squirming Medusa’s success is a special drink they call “medusae blood”. The exact recipe is a concoction only Garjeen knows. The cooks know a partial recipe but Garjeen always finishes the process alone to ensure that the secret is safe. Medusae blood is a spiced wine drink that is served hot. The spice-rich smell of the beverage is famous regionally and the common hall smells of it from all the constant servings throughout the day. New customers always make comments about the thick perceptible smell when they visit the Squirming Medusa for the first time. When they drink their first pint of medusae blood and see where the smell came from they understand why the building is infused with it.

The second level of the tavern does not occupy the whole extension of the building. It stops middle way along the common hall and becomes a large balcony that overlooks some of the tables and the library. There are a few couches and side tables on the balcony but this area is reserved for clients paying for rooms. There are three rooms on the second level but, currently; only one of them is available for rent. Garjeen and his eldest son, Curjee, sleep in the southernmost room. The middle room (area 6) is Don Ardinno’s.

Don Ardinno is a client but his prolonged stay at the Squirming Medusa makes him an oddity in the inn. He is a middle-aged balding man who is very important for the local criminal syndicate. He helps manage, organize, and operate local substance distribution networks. They deal with a water-soluble powder that causes a sensation of an adrenaline rush when drunk. It is highly addictive as well. The substance always moves in small quantities but only a pinch of it is necessary to bring an adult into a temporary comatose state of bliss and hyperactivity. It sells well on the streets and puts lots of money in the crime lord’s pockets.

Don Ardinno often came to the Squirming Medusa as a regular client. One day, he needed a place to stay and lay low after a few of his sellers were busted by the city watch. He did not care for them, and they would surely end up at the gallows but Don Ardinno was not ready to share their fate. He came to the Squirming Medusa and rented a room for a month. Garjeen was delighted to secure the payment for a whole month of rent but later found out that it might have not been such a good idea.

Don Ardinno kept repaying for the room and he became a permanent guest in the Squirming Medusa. Garjeen would never mind that as long as he kept paying for his stay. But the guest overreached and decided to make the Squirming Medusa his base of operations. Now thugs, mercenaries, and hitmen come and go to visit the mobster and make illicit deals, substance purchases, and other unsavory courses of action. Garjeen sympathized with Don Ardinno, and he sure did not want to lose him as a client, but the illicit operation had to stop inside his establishment. Garjeen decided to go and talk to the mobster to demand that he looks for another place to do business. Garjeen was stopped on the tavern balcony (area 4) by Don Ardinno’s men. The thugs did not allow Garjeen to see their master and sent him away. They told Garjeen that he was not to be seen in the second level unless it were his time to go to sleep. They also reminded him that the room was paid for and they would keep on paying for it. He only had to name a price.

The Hook

Garjeen knows that the situation is beyond his hands now. The thugs do not interfere with his activities, nor do they bother the clients but the growing incidents of exchanges and reunions worry Garjeen. He worries that a detachment of the city guard finds a credible reason to raid his place. While the raid could end up with Don Ardinno behind bars, the city watch might also single out Garjeen as an accomplice. So, Garjeen has resolved to do this himself. He plans to hire a group of strong-looking adventurers to give Don Ardinno a two-days eviction notice. He would ask them to stay until the man abandons the room and goes his way. Surely 10 gp per person is enough reward for such a service.

Area Descriptions

Terrain. The inn features wooden flooring in the main and second level and stone tile flooring in the basement. The wooden flooring is waxed often but corners have seen better days and need prompt replacement. The stone tile flooring in the basement bears water erosion damage that gives it an air of a place more ancient than it is. Spaces occupied by a piece of furniture are considered difficult terrain.

Doors. The pinewood doors in the tavern have medium quality locks and average quality engraving of a medusa head on them. Two ruby-like stones pretend to be the medusa’s eyes in each of the doors. Closer inspection reveals that the stones are cheap tainted glass but it is not odd whenever a client steals one believing it is worth something. A character with thieves’ tools can bypass any of the locks with a successful DC 14 Dexterity check.

Light. Most areas of the inn/tavern have torches on sconces. There is a large fireplace in the common hall (see map). These sources provide bright light. The inn staff tries to change the torches often to keep the place warm and well illuminated.

Smells and Sounds. The sound of chattering, laughs, and the frequent minstrel or bard in the common hall singing songs or telling stories are common in the Squirming Medusa. The smell of the “medusae blood”, a beverage of hot spiced wine, is prevalent all around since they serve it every day.

1. Common Hall

A large portion of the Squirming Medusa’s first level is the common hall. A grand salon with a bar, dining tables, a small library, a game table, and an ornate fireplace with a golden statue on top. The room has a warm feeling to it and people often feel at ease as soon as they cross the tavern’s threshold.

The bookcase is packed with old books and tomes. The collection has varied works of classic literature authors. The books are in poor condition after so many people have gone through them.

There is a 30% chance that Don Ardinno is in the game table surrounded by his thugs. He never talks about business in the common hall. He prefers to make an appointment to receive visitors in his room (area 6) at a later date.

Four of Don Ardinno’s mobsters (bandits) lounge in the common hall at any given time. They usually play chance games or just pass the time telling stories while drinking medusae blood. If they hear trouble upstairs, they go to area 4 as soon as possible to help Don Ardinno. If a careless individual declares their animosity against their boss, they attempt to bring them outside and beat them in a back alley to teach them not to mess with Don Ardinno.

2. Kitchen

The kitchen is running and working throughout the day. The cook, Sandra, is often overwhelmed with the volume of work and the orders they must serve when the tavern is packed with patrons. She has three cooks to help her but the real limitation is the size of the room. There is little hope for an enlargement of the kitchen so they have to make ends meet with what they have. The kitchen has a door that leads to the alley behind the tavern.

3. Basement Access

A double door trapdoor with a heavy-looking padlock is the only access to the basement. The entrance is located next to the kitchen entrance, in the back alley. A character using thieves’ tools can pick the lock with a successful DC 16 Dexterity check.

4. Balcony

The balcony overlooks a few tables, the library, and the game table. Two large couches flank two side tables next to the room’s doors. Don Ardinno’s three bodyguards (two thugs and one bandit) sit on the couches and pass the time playing dice games and drinking medusae blood. They do not let anyone into area 6 unless Don Ardinno has already told them he is expecting a visitor.

5. Guests’ Room

This is the only room available to rent. If the adventurers stay at the Squirming Medusa, Garjeen gives them a key to this room and warns them not to mess with the bodyguards outside of Don Ardinno’s room unless they’re looking for trouble. After a few days of stay, Garjeen tells the adventurers about his problem and offers them a reward to help him (See ‘The Hook’ above).

6. Don Ardinno’s Room

The old crime lord did not intend to stay at the Squirming Medusa for so long but his men keep telling him that it is dangerous outside and that their control over this area of town and the establishment itself is the best course of action for the moment. Still, Don Ardinno does not intend to stay for more than a month more in this location. He is sick of the medusae blood smell and the average food that Sandra cooks every day.

When Don Ardinno (noble) receives the eviction notice, he does not take it lightly. He complies at first and says that he will leave in two days as instructed, but when the time comes, he’ll be waiting with reinforcements. If this happens, four extra bandits show up to support Don Ardinno’s claim over the room.

7. Owner’s Room

Garjeen and his son sleep here. The wooden chest contains their few clothes and accessories. There is nothing of value here as they keep their profits and important stuff in the secret room (area 10).

8. Basement Landing

The room appears to be a mixture of storage space and an improvised office. The wooden crates contain stored food and some maintenance material for the tavern. The desk is littered with papers, receipts, invoices, and other business paperwork in disarray. Curjee works the books here but his efficacy leaves much to be desired. Garjeen allows this because he has no idea how to keep the books updated and precise as his son does, nor that he does a great job either.

Treasure. There are three bank notes worth 10 gp each when exchanged. A character would have to travel to the city and visit the bank, pretend to be Curjee and make a successful DC 14 Charisma (persuasion) check to cash the notes.

9. Wine Cellar

Garjeen and Curjee brew their wine here. The secret ingredient for the medusae blood is added down here when they open a barrel for the first time. Then, it is taken to the kitchen where the cooks add some other spices and heat the concoction. A paper label glued to each barrel says when it was first added to the cellar. Each of the barrels is aged for at least three years before opening.

Secret Door. A passive Perception score of 14 or higher reveals that some of the south wall bricks are colored differently. They were removed and replaced at a later time. Puling the torch sconce activates a mechanism that makes a section of the south wall slide outward to reveal a secret path to area 10.

Treasure. Each of the barrels is worth 3 gp but no one in town would buy them knowing their origin.

10. Secret Room

The secret room is 15 by 10 feet and has no light sources or furniture other than two wooden chests. One of the chests is locked. A character using thieves’ tools can pick the chest lock with a successful DC 17 Dexterity check.

Treasure. The unlocked chest contains a leather bag with 250 sp and a smaller purse with 50 gp unless Garjeen already paid the adventurers. A set of fine silverware in an ornate wooden box is worth 20 gp. The locked chest contains 40 small leather pouches with a mix of spices in them. This is the secret ingredient to the medusae blood. The whole package can be sold for 5 gp at a local market as a spice mix. No merchant gives credibility to the claim that this is the special ingredient of the popular drink.

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