Blood in the Streets and Old Xoblob's Shop
After Aleina's journeys through the Underdark and the High Forest, walking in a human city now felt strange and unfamiliar to the aasimar. Born and raised in Baldur's Gate, the streets of Waterdeep should have felt a bit like a homecoming. But the street she now walked with Jhelnae, Kuhl, and Sky was nothing like the Upper City back home. Her patriar family might have been poor, but it was poor by the standards of the high born. When she went on evening strolls growing up, it had been on well cobbled streets, lined and lit by enchanted lamp posts, in a district with high walls and curfews to keep out 'undesirable elements'.
This district in Waterdeep was full of tall, densely packed, tenements that left much of the neighborhood bereft of moonlight at the ground level. Most of the buildings were run down, which was strangely comforting as the signs of neglect reminded Aleina of the Dlusker manor back home. Rather than enchanted radiance, candlelight flickered from the street lamps they passed here, and the circles of light didn't even overlap with that of the next lamp post down the road. The smell of the salt air was at least familiar. Baldur's Gate was also a port city after all. But here it mixed with the stench of excrement and garbage that would never be found in the Upper City. And everywhere the underlying smell of rotting fish lingered. That last was appropriate, she supposed, for a district named the Dock Ward.
The clip-clop and clatter of a horse and coach making its way down the center cobbles of Snail Street drew her attention and she unconsciously slowed to watch it pass.
"I was thinking the same thing," Jhelnae said. "We should have taken one of those. Saved ourselves both the walk and trying to follow Volo's directions. He was drunk after all. A coach was sitting in front of the Portal waiting for a hire."
"Actually," Aleina said. "I was just watching in fascination. We don't have those in Baldur's Gate."
"You don't?" the half-drow said.
"It's actually a law," the aasimar said. "No livestock larger than a peacock in the city."
"A peacock?" Kuhl asked, voice confused. "Why a peacock?"
"Hey, don't ask me," Aleina said. "I didn't write the law."
"Which makes me wonder," Sky said, tail lashing as she made her way down the side walkway for pedestrians. "How many peacocks does it take to pull a two-wheeler like that? And do they fly when the passenger is in a hurry, or do they all run together really fast?"
"Hate to disappoint you, Sky," the aasimar said. "But we just don't have hire-coaches. Not even peacock pulled ones."
"People in Baldur's Gate are not very creative, are they?" the tabaxi said.
"Oh, if it was at all possible," Aleina said. "And if they could make any coin at it, someone would have done it. You can trust that."
"Well, we took a really big coach today," Sky said. "It's pulled by a whole team of big horses, and we sat in the roof seats."
"Yes," Jhelnae said. "Yet another wonderful experience Sky dragged me on. The streets were so clogged, people walking were moving faster than us."
"It was fun for a few blocks," Sky said, shrugging. "And I caught those pick pockets trying to steal your purse."
"I really should have blasted those little cretins," the half-drow said. "Instead, Sky made me give them a copper nib each. Considering all the coin I later wasted arguing with my mother via sending spells, I probably should have given them more. They would have at least used it more wisely."
"You should have given them more," the tabaxi said. "They were just little kittens. It was so cute. They had a distraction scheme and everything."
"Distraction scheme?" Kuhl asked.
"The tiefling boy pretended to almost fall off over the roof railing when the carriage swayed," the half-drow said. "When I went to help Sky pull him back onboard, this tall, lanky girl went for my purse."
"Good thing you caught them," Aleina said. "Or you wouldn't have had the money to finally let your parents know you were alright."
"She didn't catch anything," Sky said with a dismissive wave. "I grabbed the first kid, even though I could tell he wasn't in any danger of falling. He can't fool someone else with a tail. Then snatched the wrist of the other one when she went for Jhelnae's purse. And then, I had to scare the third with a hiss when he ran up to kick me in the shins because I caught his friends. It was a lot of work, but fun!"
"They were just children?" Aleina asked. "How young?"
"Oh, no," Jhelnae said. "Don't go all mother-hen on us. These little brats weren't lost sprouts like Stool and Rumpadump. They knew what they were doing and were good at it. They probably took those nibs I gave them and the coin they got pickpocketing someone without a tabaxi friend, then retired to their mansion for the night. Right, Sky."
"Not everyone can have a tabaxi friend," Sky said, cocking her head in consideration. "So, probably."
"I wasn't going all mother-hen," the aasimar said. "I'm from Baldur's Gate. We have street urchins there. I was just curious."
The conversation fell away as they skirted around a gathering of people smoking pipeweed just outside a tavern. The hanging sign above the sidewalk named it the Sleepy Sylph, and it had a picture of a fairy-like creature bent over slightly at the waist with a tankard in each hand. As Aleina passed, nose wrinkling from the smoke, the door to the tavern opened as patrons exited and a burst of lively music escaped. The aasimar caught a glimpse of a common room with tables covered in white cloth where scantily clad waitresses dressed in costumes of diaphanous silk and fairy wings scurried about.
"They seem to take the names of their taverns quite literally here," Kuhl said. "Our inn is named the Yawning Portal and it has a big yawning hole in it. That place is named the Sleepy Sylph and the waitresses dress like sylphs. Is there going to be a dragon on a spike in the middle of the Skewered Dragon?"
"If it does," Aleina said. "It would still be more practical than those stupid sylph costumes. Can you imagine working there? Can you please take this platter of greasy food and tankards to that table across the room over there? Oh, and please try not to spill it on the delicate layer of white gauze that is barely covering you."
"And while doing that," Jhelnae said, following the aasimar's lead. "Wear these cute little wings that are sure to snag on every table and chair in the place. Not to mention how it will catch on the wings of the other waitresses when you try to do complex maneuvers, like I don't know, just walk past each other."
"I think you two are exaggerating just a bit," the half-elf said, chuckling. "I could see the appeal in those outfits."
"Oh, I'll bet you could," Aleina said, rolling her eyes.
"But more importantly," Kuhl said. "What are we supposed to even do when we get to the Skewered Dragon? Volo already went back there and asked after his friend Floon. No one saw anything. What are we supposed to learn by asking again?"
"He went back there today, Kuhl," Sky said. "As in during the day. We're going there at night."
"That distinction is important?" the half-elf asked.
"If something happened to Floon at the Dragon," the tabaxi said. "It happened two nights ago. Therefore, the regulars who might have seen something, are night drinkers. Not afternoon drinkers. The time you go makes a difference."
"That actually makes sense," Aleina said.
"Of course it makes sense," Sky said. "I say a lot of things that make sense. Like saying if you are staying in a place that features a big yawning portal, you should go down that portal and see what it is all about."
"You just had to remind her of the well in the Yawning Portal again, Kuhl," Jhelnae said. "Didn't you?"
"Sorry," the half-elf said. "Let's stay focused on finding this Floon character, Sky."
They continue down the road. Late as it was, after the ninth bell, there was still plenty of street activity. Most of it foot traffic, like themselves, but the occasional carriage, buggy, or hire-coach trundled by.
Aleina saw another knot of people up ahead and at first assumed it was the normal congregation outside a tavern. But as they got closer, they found it was something altogether different. A line of soldiers wearing tall steel helmets and green-and-goldenrod doublets cordoned off the street in front of them. The City Watch. They barred the way to the group of finely dressed young men walking in front of the companions and directed them down an alleyway instead. Beyond the soldiers were bodies.
"What's going on here?" Kuhl said, slowing.
He was obviously just speaking his thoughts aloud, not expecting an answer. Aleina answered anyway.
Half-a-dozen corpses lay on the cobblestones seemingly victims of some terrible skirmish. More members of the City Watch crowded around three blood-drenched humans kneeling in the streets, hands on the tops of their heads. They were being questioned by a pair of female officers, one with her dark hair gathered in a long braid and another with wavy orange-red hair. These two wore different uniforms than the rest of the guard, impressive looking polished silvered breastplates that looked custom fitted to them. The armor of the dark hair one was prominently emblazoned with engravings of five gauntlets while the other woman's armor held three. Some sort of rank insignias?
"Get on," an aging member of the City Watch said, catching their attention and waving them along with his truncheon. "Nothing to see here."
Aleina hadn't even noticed they'd pretty much stopped to study the grisly scene before them. When they didn't immediately respond, the watchman repeated the motion with his weapon, directing them towards the same side alley taken by the previous group.
"We're trying to get to the Skewered Dragon," Sky said, not put off by the soldier's gruff manner. "The directions we have say it is further that way."
She pointed further down the street.
"The Skewered Dragon?" The soldier gave them a surprise and sympathetic look before shrugging. "Down Trollcrook alley right there and then right on Zastrow Street. Right again when it meets Fillet and you'll come right to it. Snail Street is closed until we get this sorted."
He pointed again with his truncheon to the same alley he'd indicated before.
"Blood in the streets," Jhelnae said, as they made their way to the alley. "Are we in Menzoberranzan, or the so-called City of Splendors?"
"Since we're not deep underground," Aleina said. "The latter I'd guess."
They followed the young men who had been similarly redirected by the Watch through the alley. Cobblestones gave way to hard packed earth and gravel which crunched under foot. Normally this little side road would be completely dark, but it seemed the Watch anticipated the need for light down their detour. Torches burned in hastily nailed up holders along the length of the alley. Aleina was impressed. She didn't know if the Flaming Fist mercenaries who guarded the Lower City in Baldur's Gate would have been as efficient. Then again, she'd never walked the Lower City at night, nor come across a bunch of bodies in the street back home. Following the line of torches, and the group ahead of them, they soon came to the wider, but still packed earth and gravel, Zastrow Street, and turned right.
"Fillet Lane should be the next road, right?" Jhelnae asked. "I think I see it up ahead."
Before they got to the next road the group ahead bounded up the steps of a four-story building decorated with purple silk draperies hanging down from upper floor balconies. The hint of exotic spices and perfume was in the air, not enough to eliminate the rotted fish smell of the ward, but enough to mask it well.
"Be welcome to the Purple Palace," a painted young woman said, waving the group of finely dressed young men inside.
"And enjoy yourselves gentle sirs," a huge man in leather armor said as he held open the door.
Something in the way he said it conveyed another underlying message. They were to enjoy themselves, but only so much. Aleina wasn't sure exactly how he did it. Maybe it was the sheer size of him.
"And what of all of you?" the woman called out in a lilting voice, slightly accented and hinting at faraway places. "Can we entice you to partake in the dancing delights of far off Calimshan?"
Her outfit was definitely calishite influenced in design, but merely a costume to look exotic. The top she wore had a low-cut neckline and left her midriff bare. The dress below was slitted and slightly see-through, and a generous amount of costumed jewelry sparkled over the entire outfit. She was also blue eyed and fair skinned, much like the door guard next to her, so nothing like the actual calishites Aleina had met in the enclave known as Little Calimshan outside Baldur's Gate.
"Ahh…not right now," Kuhl said. "Maybe later."
"Maybe later?" Aleina gave the half-elf a sidelong glance.
"Ummm….I mean not now, and not later," Kuhl amended.
"Not now or later?" the woman said, with a little pout. "Don't see anything tempting?"
She posed, sliding one leg forward through a slit in her dress, and pulling the silk kerchief hanging down from her turban in front of her face to use playfully as a veil. She blinked coyly with her brilliant blue sapphire eyes.
"It's not that," the half-elf said, sounding increasingly uncomfortable and glancing at Aleina, Jhelnae, and Sky, for some sort of verbal rescue.
None came. The aasimar, for her part, was taking pleasure in watching him squirm in revenge for his earlier comments about enjoying the sylph costumes.
"It's just that," Kuhl said. "We're sort of on our way to the Skewered Dragon."
"You'd rather spend time in the Skewered Dragon than have drinks and watch dancers at the Purple Palace?" The woman's pose fell away, and she dropped the silk veil away from her face. "I'm going to assume you've never been to the Skewered Dragon and don't know how badly you've insulted our establishment. Otherwise Jost here would have to come down and pummel you to defend our honor."
"Actually, I'm just paid to guard the door and to keep the patrons from taking too many liberties," the big man said. "My duties don't extend to defending the honor of the place and that half-elf actually looks like he can handle himself. Also, I've got no problem with the Dragon. Drink there myself sometimes."
"Why am I not surprised," the woman sighed.
"A jack has to drink somewhere," Jost said, shrugging.
"You get discounted drinks here," the woman said.
"A jack has to drink somewhere and not be pestered," the guard amended. "The Dragon is close, and I know none of you dancers would ever step in there."
"You aren't the only people who have had this sort of reaction when we told them where we were going," Jhelnae said. "That bad?"
"How do I put it," the woman said. "It's just around the corner. You'll recognize it as the building with the broken front windows and the anchor stuck in its roof. That give you an idea of its quality?"
Her lilting accent was gone, speech descending to a Waterdhavian accent that sounded street born.
"Saryn…" the Jost rumbled beside her.
"Oh, relax," the costumed woman, Saryn apparently, said. "You're the one who is telling them they should go to another establishment, so I'm dropping my act as well. Besides, look at the way they are dressed. Does it look like they can afford the price of our drinks? Or that they'll be throwing a lot of coin on the dance floor in tips after routines?"
"I suppose not," the guard said, with another shrug of his massive shoulders.
"And how am I supposed to convince them this place is all that exotic," Saryn said. "When it's a group with a catgirl, a drow, and…what are you anyway?"
The woman's comment had caused Aleina to look down at herself. Since the Underdark and the High Forest, they had bought new sets of clothes, but they were very practical traveling clothes with no frills. Her group would certainly not look like they had any coin to spare. Which, thanks to donations to her family's coffers, was actually true. She looked back up and found Saryn's question apparently directed at her.
"I'm an aasimar?" she answered.
"What is that?" the courtesan asked.
"Someone celestial touched," Aleina said.
"A celestial touched person," Saryn said, looking back to the mountain of a guard.
"I'm not a catgirl," Sky said. "I'm a tabaxi. Red Sky in the Morning. But what I really want to know is were you drinking at the Skewered Dragon two nights ago?"
Jost shook his head, "No, not two nights ago. Why?"
"We're looking for a friend who went missing around here two nights ago," Kuhl said.
"Were either of you working here two nights ago?" the tabaxi said.
"Not two nights ago," the big guard said. "That would have been Rhand. But he did mention he might have heard a ruckus of some sort. If he did, it was on the other side of Old Xoblob's shop, and he didn't go to find out. We guard the Palace. Anything else…"
"Is not our concern," Saryn finished for him.
"Old Xoblob's shop?" Kuhl asked.
Next to the festhall, at the corner of Zastrow Street and Fillet Lane, stood an unusual shop with a deep purple facade. Strangely, it was open even at this late hour, and lanterns lit its window and the purple sphere-like monstrosity displayed prominently inside it.
"What is that?" Sky asked, voice full of fascination.
"That is Xoblob," Saryn said. "A beholder. Go ahead and take a closer look. He's stuffed. So, it doesn't bite or shoot out eye rays or nothing like that."
Above the door to the store hung a sign with elaborate letters spelling out "Old Xoblob Shop." As a group, they moved towards the store window, drawn by their collective fascination.
"Good luck finding your friend," Sayrn called after them. "You're obviously new to the Deep. If you ever do come into coin, come back. You can watch some shows and I can tell you about the city between sets. A little verbal tour so to speak."
"Didn't you basically just admit to us your drinks are overpriced?" Aleina asked.
"I meant expensive," the dancer laughed and gave a sly wink. "Not overpriced. There is a difference. It's quality stuff, and then there is the ambience of the place and the entertainers, like me. So, it will be coin well spent."
In the last part her voice again shifted to her lilting one. She had caught sight of a new group passing by, one with more coin to spare than the companions.
"By all that dances," Jhelnae mumbled under her breath as they made their way to the neighboring store. "Did she really just suggest I should buy overpriced drinks so I can watch people dance? It's like these Waterdhavians don't know what an Eilistraeen drow is or something."
"Which is why," the aasimar said brightly, "Your mother wanted you to find the other Eilistraeens here and help restore her temple."
"You just had to remind me," the half-drow said with a sigh. "Didn't you?"
"Look at this!" Sky said. "Wouldn't it be amazing to meet a live one?"
Sky was talking about the stuffed beholder in the window of the shop and Aleina had to strongly disagree that meeting a living one would be 'amazing' in the least. Terrifying, yes, nightmare inducing, yes, horrible, yes and deadly, yes, but most certainly not amazing.
The monstrosity on display was huge, more than six feet across, with a large central eye and a maw filled with sharp teeth. Tentacle-like stalks were spread across the top of its head, each tipped with another smaller eye. It was so well preserved that if it wasn't for the gathered dust on it, Aleina would wonder if it was actually in some sort of stasis spell instead of being a stuffed specimen.
"Let's go inside," Sky said. "We can take a closer look and also ask the owner if he saw anything two nights ago."
Like always, the tabaxi didn't wait for a consensus, but immediately followed her whim. A bell above the door jingled as she opened it and a cloud of lavender-scented purple smoke escaped out onto the street. Undaunted by the overpoweringly flowery smell, Sky entered. The companions took a last savoring breath of Dock Ward air, before following.
Every wall was painted purple, and every dusty knickknack on the shelves was dyed a deep violet. A hairless old grey deep gnome wearing plum-colored robes sat cross-legged on the counter. Nine purple face-painted eyes decorated his cheeks. The gnome lowered his pipe and exhaled a cloud of lavender smoke, then raised a hand.
"Hail and well met! Come browse the shelves of the most curious curiosity shop in the world!" he said.
Aleina glanced at the shelves. It all looked like worthless random junk. At first glance she saw a bell, a little cage without a door, and a statuette of a halfling. What everything had in common was it was all dyed or painted purple. Sometimes in really thick, unsightly layers where you could barely tell what object lay underneath.
"Really like purple, don't you?" Jhelnae said.
She looked back, caught the aasimar's gaze, and gave a slight shake of her head in bewilderment.
"Not really," the gnome said. "No more than mauve, violet, or lilac. Or plum, iris, or magenta. Or…"
"Okay, okay, I understand," the half-drow said, cutting him off. "I misspoke. You like a lot of different colors."
She made a show of browsing the shelves to walk closer to Aleina.
"But all otherwise known as purple," she whispered.
The aasimar struggled to keep a smile from her lips.
"Sorry to bother you so late," Kuhl said. "But we were wondering if you could help us. We're looking for a friend of ours. Fair haired, human, handsome, well dressed. He might have walked by your store two nights ago. Do you recall seeing him?"
The gnome's face went from serene to nervous in an instant. He glanced out the window facing Fillet Lane, then back at Kuhl. A deep inhale from the hose off the glass water pipe with the purple liquid and the lavender smelling smoke, however, calmed him.
"No, I haven't seen any humans around recently," he said. "Can't really help you there. Can I interest you in one of my curios?"
"You haven't seen any humans around recently?" Jhelnae said. "Really? In a city full of mostly humans?"
"No," the gnome said, shaking his head.
"Forget all that," Sky said, stepping in front of the half-drow. "What's your name, anyway."
"Xoblob," the shopkeeper said.
"See," the tabaxi said. "Your neighbors told us wrong. They said the stuffed beholder in the window was named Xoblob."
"His name is Xoblob too," the gnome said. "But I am not related to the eye tyrant hanging in the window. Though you would be forgiven for making that mistake."
He gestured to the eyes painted on his cheeks.
"Yeah, you two could be twins," Jhelnae said.
Sky made a shushing motion back at her and her tail twitched in irritation.
"How did you come by that stuffed display?" the tabaxi asked, voice almost a purr.
"It came with the store when I bought it," Xoblob said, taking another suck at his pipe, then exhaling a cloud of lavender.
He seemed to be fully calm now, back to his earlier disposition, his agitation at Kuhl's questioning about Floon forgotten.
"So, you didn't always own the store," Sky said. "What did you do before that?"
"I was an adventurer," the gnome said.
"An adventurer," the tabaxi said. "That's what we are. Why did you decide to retire and buy this shop?"
"I was drawn to it," Xoblob said. "I was down in Undermountain and a gas spore blew up on me. From then on I felt a little like a gnome and a little like something else."
He trailed off, staring towards the stuffed beholder in the window, seeming to forget all about the others in his store while he puffed on his pipe.
"I'm pleased to meet you, Xoblob," Sky said, drawing his attention back. "I hope we can be friends."
The little gnome gave a start, but then smiled.
"Friends, yes of course," he said. "But hopefully customers first. Browse and buy. Lots of curious curios here."
"Oh, Jhelnae here is going to be a customer," the tabaxi said. "Both a customer and a friend."
Sky moved aside and presented the half-drow.
"I am?" Jhelnae said.
"You are," the tabaxi said, giving her a meaningful look.
"Oh," Jhelnae said. "Oh!"
She made a twisting gesture with her fingers that immediately captured the gnome's attention, then started casting her charm, humming a series of notes as she did so. When she finished, Xoblob eyes glazed a bit and he smiled broadly at her. The way Aleina understood the magic, the gnome now regarded her as a trusted friend.
"Ask him what he saw that night?" Sky asked.
"Xoblob," the half-drow said. "Two nights ago, you saw something out that window."
She pointed towards the window facing Fillet Lane.
"What was it?" Jhelnae asked.
"I saw two men. I don't know if they were handsome or not. I can't judge with humans. But both had fair hair and were finely dressed like he said." The little gnome pointed towards Kuhl. "A bunch of men ran up and clubbed them from behind. I think there were five of them. What is this city coming to? Who wants to buy curios when that sort of stuff is going on?"
"Where did they take them, Xoblob?" the half-drow asked, moving forward and voice excited. "What happened next?"
"I don't know," the shopkeeper said, shrugging his small shoulders. "I didn't go to the window. I didn't want them to know I'd seen. They drug them back off that way."
He pointed behind his store, further down Fillett Lane.
"Did you recognize any of the attackers?" Jhelnae asked.
"No," Xoblob said. "I never saw those men before."
"Did you see anything else?" the half-drow asked. "Anything at all?"
The gnome thought for a time. "One might have had a black tattoo of a winged snake on his neck."
"Anything else?" Jhelnae asked.
More thinking from the shopkeeper, then he shook his head.
The companions exchanged looks, then Kuhl motioned with his head back outside. The others nodded.
"Thank you, Xoblob," the half-elf said. He took one of the gold dragon coins Volo had given and put it on the counter. "We're all buying something. All becoming customers."
Following his lead, they all took something from the shelves as they filed out. Aleina didn't even look at what she grabbed and shoved in a pouch. They reconvened just at the corner of the store.
"I don't like this," Kuhl said. "We shouldn't have used magic on him like that. It isn't right."
"What you mean is I shouldn't have magic on him," Jhelnae said, an edge creeping into her voice.
"Stop," Aleina said, trying to quell any argument before it could get started. "Kuhl, you have a point. It isn't right to use magic on someone to force information out of them. But he knew something and was scared to get involved. Which is understandable given what he told us. And you heard what he said. If that was Floon he described, he is in a lot of trouble. Also, someone else as well. Is our reluctance to use charming magic worth the lives of two people?
The half-elf took a deep breath, blew it out in a sigh, then shook his head. He looked over at Jhelnae, and they shared a nod. All better. They wouldn't have been able to have survived and escaped the Underdark together without quickly being able to form ranks when needed.
"You're right," he said. "And Sky, that was amazing the way you calmed him back down after I put him on guard."
"I wanted to make it as easy as possible for Jhelnae," the tabaxi said. "Her magic doesn't always work."
"No it doesn't," the half-drow said. "And when it doesn't, the failure can be quite dramatic."
"We learned something else as well," Kuhl said. "Whatever other faults he has, and no matter that he was half drunk, Volo's instincts were good. He felt his friend was in trouble, but he also felt that his friend was running out of time when he approached us out of desperation. We should head to the Skewered Dragon and see if we can learn anything else."
Aleina couldn't argue with that, and from the worried looks they all exchanged, neither could anyone else.
I wrote a bunch of this up and I was quite proud of my descriptions of Waterdeep. Then I was reading through it and Aleina sounded off in my head and said, "Yeah, this looks like blocks and blocks of texts with none of us getting to interact with the environment. To my mind, it basically sucks!"
And I was like, "You're walking through the city? I just need to describe what you see. So it is big blocks of text."
And she said, "Can't you let us talk about what we see?"
So then I was like, "Fine. Talk away..."
Which turned out to be a HUGE mistake because next thing I know she is going off about the costumes she caught a glimpse of in one of the taverns.
So I apologize. This went very random very fast. By the way I used the interactive map of Waterdeep and charted their path to Old Xoblob's Shop. Great resource. Also the two ladies in shiny breast plates are from the novel Downshadow by Eric Scott De Bie (Araezra Hondyl and Talana Taenfeather). I wanted to include some cameos from some of the novels and I went to the same University as the author (years and years apart, so I never knew him).
On festhalls...now it is well known that festhall was code for brothel in the old days of Realms publication. They are trying to scour our all such things in 5e and since I personally know a lot of young kids who play DnD, I'm fine with that. Note, however, I played as a young kid myself (we had pictures of naked goddesses in our books) and it really wasn't a big thing (then again, our parents never even really looked through our books). Here is the deal with Greenwood and the Realms. If you read his novels, there is a ton of sex going on. And he didn't discriminate by gender. There are scenes with noble ladies bragging about hiring male prostitutes two and three at a time. He envisioned the Realms as not being so prudish and Victorian as we are. I don't have an issue with it. But when it comes down to my tastes, I'm definitely a lot more 5e in my preference. So my version of the Purple Palace was highly sanitized where it was implied there was just a bunch of innocent dancing going on. Lame, I know, but that is how I chose to handle it... :)