We now return to VH-D20’s Behind the Barding: “A Heart Shaped Squeezebox,” The Emotional Journey of Roscoe Tosscobble.
After months of aimless wandering, Roscoe had found himself in Tok, enjoying steady work with The Monsoon for a few years. Pay was solid and the job was rewarding, but soon enough change was in the wind, and a storm was a brewing, with a whirlwind of trouble as all hail was breaking loose… tsunamis.
I wasn’t really considering branching out and working with a group. I mean I had a good thing going all my my lonesome, I’ve been a solo act for years, ever since losing Bosco, and I just… I… look, I’m sorry can you turn those off, I need a minute… I said turn those off!
Change would come in the form of a would-be super group and the one gig that would change all their lives. Roscoe and four others met that night in the back room of the Harlequin & Chalice to see the organizer. It would be a meeting they would never forget.
I’m already feeling uneasy about this, hanging around with a bunch of strangers, so when this Beholder comes in, calls himself Maestro. Now, I’m fixing to leave, things are just getting to weird. But then he explains the job, simple enough. To simple really, and I’m a cautious type, but the pay was extraordinary, and saying no to a betentacled abberational shoggoth from beyond the mortal planes didn’t strike me as a good business decision long term.
Roscoe and his new group act were commissioned for a limited engagement at Der Schnitzelhaus for a private performance for Mister Viktor Blutfaust, a local civic leader and business owner. It would promise to be the show of a lifetime, and the group knew they had to knock ’em dead.
Are… are you doing the innocuous euphamism thing? No, we were hired to kill the guy. Like I say, simple job just, what are you trying to lighten this up or something? I killed people for money, friend, there’s really no glossing that over for your audience, you can’t… actually, who are you doing this for again? I’m not sure that there’s any kind of broadcast medium I’m aware of on this plane, which makes this feel like a kind of poorly-worked-out conceit you don’t know if you’ll be carrying on week-to-week if… look, nevermind.
So what happened was me and Melior headed up to the place to stake out the venue for… I mean the site of the, see now you got me doing it. So we head up to the restaurant, she gets stopped by a few Bloodfist toughs, talks her way out of it no trouble. Apparently everyone else was in the middle of some drinking game thing or other, I come to find this out later, good to know we’re all taking the whole ‘murder a gang leader’ thing seriously, you know. But whatever, these guys were new to this, my job as the ‘old hand’ to show them how it’s done. Mel and I stake the place out, find a hiding spot, when the other three show up and make themselves inconspicuous on the street as the mark shows up."
And when they were finished, the audience erupted. This would be the explosive performance that would get them all kinds of attention in this part of town.
…um, okay, so ew, but yeah, that’s exactly what happened. I put the guy to sleep, we’re tying him up, and then the damn guy exploded. Like, literally, burst like a meatloaf pinata. Knocks us all unconscious. Time we wake up there’s a few of these bloodfist thugs on us, we fight our way through a few, but one calls his buddies up on us. Gotta think fast, so I tell the others to head upstairs through this secret passage in the meat locker. They all run up while I hide in a corner and pull a little trick I like to call the Splodey Barrel Flim-Flam, scares this rush of Bloodtusk thugs out of the restaurant and I make my way out with them. I get to an adjacent rooftop, we work out a plan to make believe the fake explosive I set up in the kitchen went off, torching the building with some of the high-quality liquers available there and leaving little evidence that anyone was there. Or so we thought…
The hot new group act was burning through the town, fame following in their footsteps. The news travelled fast and soon their names and faces were on the minds of all of Tok. It was such a quickly popular performance they had to sneak their way through town to avoid being mobbed by throngs of fans and hangers-on, and it would all culminate in a reunion performance back at the Harlequin & Chalice later that day. And though the atmosphere was jubilant, tensions were high.
Somehow, our names and faces all got leaked to the press, mine too even though nobody had seen me make my way through town, I had the blessing of the trickster from Madame Valentine that day and was, I mean not too toot my own horn, but an exceptionally sneaky bastard that day. So we split up to head back to the H&C, me riding back on Samantha’s camel. By this point none of us had seen Razz, figure he ran off when the guy exploded, none of us could find him. For all we knew he could have been the one who tipped us off to the press.
So we get back, barely escaping with our lives, and I’ll be honest, I’m paranoid as hell. I’m interrogating the bartender, this tiefling girl Drina who was there too, trying to get any information about this Maestro… thing, and getting nowhere. No money, and we’ve been clearly set up, and it’s all going to hell. Promised myself I wouldn’t get into a hole like this, you know? Kept trying to be careful, and here I was. We didn’t know anything, at least not yet, except that we couldn’t trust practically anyone but each other, and barely at that. But anyway, the show had to go on, party in the bar held in our honor for killing the head of the Bloodtusks, and we weren’t dead yet, so yeah, whoever held our fate in their hands, apparently they were better disposed to have us alive than dead. I had been in worse places.
And by the end of the evening, another command performance had the crowd cheering their names, singing along to the tunes of the concertina. Everything seemed on top of the world for the newly formed supergroup, but what would come next for them? We find out, when Behind the Barding continues.