The party book themselves into The Toggle Hotel and are taken to their rooms by the bellhop Mark. They quiz him about various aspects of the city, but mainly the Sooty Gang, and learn, amongst other things, the location of the gang's head quarters in the Warrens. Next they decide to head further into Highground and check out the ruined airship tower.
The lady at the desk asks them if they're interested in a room. Will most definitely is, and asks if it would be possible to have the suite and a single room nearby, but not adjoining. She says she has a single room that's down the hall from the suite. Raphina can't understand what the big deal is and Batthwack says it'd be convenient if the rooms were adjoining because in an emergency he could just come straight through the wall. Will hurriedly explains to the receptionist that Batthwack's not being serious, even though he knows he is. He confirms he definitely wants the single room to be down the hall, relishing the thought of some privacy for the first time in weeks.
The receptionist slides two pieces of paper across the desk for Will to sign. She asks how long they're staying. Will doesn't have any idea of course, but he can't risk having to stay somewhere else, so he books the suite for one night for the rest of the party, and the single for himself for three nights. The paperwork is duly updated accordingly. There's a pause and then Batthwack says "Are you sure we're all gonna fit in that single room tomorrow night?" Will's quick to remind them that they have rooms booked at The Dam Top Inn. Gwen says she's might book her own private room, or maybe even meet someone and stay with them. When asked, the receptionist says the hotel is very popular and they regularly get fully booked. Gwen decides to book her own single room for three nights as well.
Will doesn't want to sign his real name on the paperwork, but he's concerned that some magic may enchant the paper and force him to be truthful, however he can't discern that any magic is present, and writes his name as "Horace Gusterson" without any problem. Will and Gwen pay their 26gp and 6gp respectively and the receptionist slides a small brass key to Gwen and two brass keys to Will, one small and one large. The large key is six inches long and very heavy.
A young halfling man dressed in the familiar hotel uniform arrives to help with their bags and show them to their rooms, which they're told are on the second floor. Raphina asks the bellhop's name and he introduces himself as Mark. Raphina begins quizzing him as he leads them towards one of the staircases at the back of the lobby. He says he lives in Beartoggle, in the Warrens. She asks how the weather's been, and Will chimes in with a glint in his eye, "Has it been sooty?" Mark's initially confused, but with a little help, he gets the gist. He denies there's anything wrong in the city, which Will finds suspicious. He tells Mark that there could a big tip in it for him if he gives them some information about the city. Mark considers this for a moment before suggesting they head up to the rooms.
They're led up one of the sets of stairs to a hall that leads off to the left, down which they continue. Mark stops at a door about two thirds of the way down on the left and tells Gwen that this is her room. The other single room is a few doors further down on the right, and then a little further again they arrive at a set of double doors, which is the suite. Will opens the door to his single room. There's a small bed, a chair and a little table, and in an adjoining room there is a bath. At the sight of this, Will clasps his hands under his chin and can just about manage an emotional "Thank you!" Mark asks Will for the large key, which he hands over. Down the hall, Mark grandly inserts it into the lock on the double doors, turning it three times. He pulls the handles and opens the doors wide to reveal the suite's sitting room.
Will suddenly becomes aware that there is more calliope music playing in all the rooms as well, just like in the lobby. "How do we turn this music off man? You're not telling me that this music is playing everywhere in this hotel?" he asks incredulously. They're told that the music automatically plays from 10am to 9pm, but can't be turned off manually. "It's part of the charm of the Toggle Hotel!" says Mark as Will loses his shit. Gwen tries to calm him down by reminding him that they're unlikely to be back here before 9pm and even offers to give him some more nose puffies to put in his ears.
The disappointment brought on by the constant music is palpable as Will looks around the room. There's a nice table and couches, settees and chaise longes scattered about the room. He sees the bar by the wall on one side. The far wall is dominated by huge windows that overlook the river and Tinkertown on the other side. There's an open door on the left which appears to lead into a room with a large bathtub in it. There's a door to the right which is where the beds seem to be. Gwen wonders if she'll even fit in the single bed, deciding that she'll probably not be able to stretch out without her feet sticking out of the bottom. Batthwack no longer has that problem and in fact he finds himself looking around for all the places he can fit, even wondering if there's a vent that connects the suite with Will's room.
Gwen sits at the bar and Mark offers to pour everyone a drink. Will suggests they close the door so he can tell them everything he knows about Beartoggle. Batthwack stands by the door to make sure this guy isn't going anywhere. While Mark fixes drinks, Will leans on the bar and asks Mark about the Sooty Gang. He says they're pretty bad. "They're crazy. I don't know what they're up to. They've been getting worse ever since the guard all disappeared." He explains that a couple of weeks ago the guard became occupied looking for a killer. Gwen says she's heard that rumour too but everyone she's asked knows nothing about it. Batthwack suggests maybe it's not real. "There was some event a couple weeks ago here in Highground where a couple people were killed or died or something. I don't know, I guess the official story was it was an accident, but there are whispers that it was some crazy person with a crossbow that killed them, shouting something about the dam. I don't know."
Will wonders if the Sooty Gang could have been responsible for the killing and Mark says they have killed people and they burned down the airship tower. He says nobody knows what the gang's motives are; they just seem to be destructive. Gwen can't understand that mentality. Mark relates details of an incident in which a gang member smashed a store window and when the public confronted them, they stood their ground and were killed by the crowd. "You don't want to mess with them. They don't seem to care about anything" he says.
Gwen says that these gang members should get some education at the university and Raphina asks Mark if he studied there to become a bellhop. He says he never went there. He didn't have time for that; he just needed to earn a living. Gwen offers Mark a sticky brick, which he is very impressed with. She explains that she makes them and used to have a store. Mark says there's a few candy stores in Highground, but he's never tasted anything like this before. He says he might go to the university if you can learn how to make sticky bricks. Raphina's very encouraging.
Back on the subject of the Sooty Gang, Will asks what draws their attention. Mark says that what they do really seems random. There are a few guards around, not many, so he would hope they're trying to put a stop to it. Will asks if Mark knows where their headquarters are, since he's from the Warrens and he says he absolutely does; it's an old rundown place in the northwest corner of the Warrens, up against the dam. He says that it feels like they rose to power only in the past few weeks, though he feels like he had seen them around before that.
The quizzing continues with Gwen asking Mark about Tomorrow, Today!, whom he's not familiar with, but might have heard of, and Raphina asking him whether he knows the lady with the pink hair, which also draws a blank. Raphina scrutinises Mark, searching for signs of genuineness, or a lack thereof. As far as she can tell, he seems to be doing his best to answer the questions, and is probably wondering when he'll receive the tip he was promised. Will rolls a gold coin on the bar. Gwen asks who owns the hotel, but Mark says he doesn't know. He says that Tish, the lady at the desk, is his boss but he doesn't know who her boss is. He doesn't aspire to be working at the hotel forever, so doesn't really care about moving up the ranks.
Gwen comes up with a different question. "Let me ask you this. Are there any exotic dancing clubs around Beartoggle anywhere?" "And are there puppets in there too?" adds Raphina. Mark looks around and lowering his voice he says "Well, it's funny you mentioned puppets. Down in the Scarlet Market there's a puppet place called Hands and Fingers where it's actually a front for a club just like that." He says he's not aware of a law against strip clubs in Beartoggle, but there's none out in the open, so perhaps there is. Will finds this highly offensive, and begins to understand where the Sooty Gang might be coming from. When asked, Mark says he's never been to Hands and Fingers; he's not old enough.
Will wants the lowdown on the Grand Staircase Footrace. To everyone's surprise Mark says he heard some people talking about the fact that the race has been brought forward to tomorrow, but he doesn't know why. He explains that the race is a big deal, with the prize always being something special relating to the city of Beartoggle. This year, whoever wins gets to keep the key to the city until the next race. Raphina and Will seem underwhelmed. Mark says it's a big brass key that the Arbiter currently holds. The last person who won the race got to release the water from the dam. He explains that sluicing the dam is done annually, normally by the people who operate the dam, and is a big event in its own right. Will doesn't understand why this is an incentive to run up all those stairs. Mark says that there's also just the kudos of being the winner.
Still feeling bemused and offended by the ridiculousness of the race, Will rolls the gold coin to Mark. Cheerily he says "Well, if you need anything else, you can come down to the front desk and the Toggle Hotel is here for you." He leaves and closes the door behind him. Batthwack says to Raphina "Wouldn't it be great to let water out of the dam?" Raphina wonders if the key to the city unlocks the dam. Will's confused. Does she just want to flood the city? Raphina continues, "Here's the thing, if we flood the dam, then this hotel floats away like so many rafts across the Beartoggle!" There's a pause. "I don't think that's how it works, Raphina" says Will.
Batthwack says that he feels they should try and win the race, but Will can't understand why. Gwen tries reminding him that winning the puzzle contest in Morrow's Inlet was fun. Will says "That's not what I consider fun. Fun for me..." Will just stares off into the distance like he's trying to figure out what fun is. Gwen offers him her massager, but he politely declines. He says that if they want to run the race they can go ahead and he'll cheer them on from the bottom. Sheemie pipes up to remind them that you have to run back down too and the group brainstorm some of the fastest ways to descend, forgetting that you probably need to be alive to collect the prize. Gwen suggests that Kowl is pretty fast, which gives everyone ideas about using their pets or familiars. Will realises he's the only one without. An idea pops into his head and he looks sideways at Sheemie. It's suggested that Mo would actually be great in the race, but it might result in a few casualties.
Batthwack suggests they take a break from the incessant calliope music and take a look at the airship tower. On the way out, Will pokes his head round the door of the bathroom. It's very nice, nicer even than his own bathroom back in Tivoli. He's marvelling at this when Batthwack pushes past him, goes into the bathroom and closes the door. Will quickly makes himself scarce and goes to check the bathroom in his own single room. It's alright, but not as nice as his own back home. "I paid for a nicer bathroom for you people. I hope you're happy" he says through gritted teeth.
As Will leaves his room, he carefully closes a hair in the door, so that when he comes back, if the hair has been disturbed, he'll know if someone's been in the room. They all make their way downstairs and as they pass through the reception, Raphina surreptitiously searches around for the source of the calliope music. She's not able to see any visible source, so can only assume that it's being magically played. They go outside, the calliope music fading behind them. Will voices his doubts that the hotel is as fancy as he initially thought. Raphina agrees that it's really weird how they play that music all the time. Will wonders if there's some way to dispel it. Sheemie makes some kind of mental leap and suggests murdering a wizard, which Gwen is quick to step in and reject.
The group head off down the road in the general direction of the airship tower, which they had seen from on top of the dam. Eventually they emerge into a large, flat, grassy, open expanse. It's pretty featureless, except that right in the centre, reaching up into the sky, is the burned remains of what used to be an airship tower. The platform at the top of the half intact tower is completely missing and there's scattered debris around the base. This depressing sight reminds Will of the fact that this could have been his ticket back home, or at least somewhere a lot closer. Raphina can't understand this senseless destruction, wondering if in fact there is some logic to all this. Will completely agrees with this. "A gang has a motivation. They have a boss" he says. Gwen says she was part of a clan, which her father was in charge of. Will even suggests that Ricardo Ulysses could be their leader. Gwen's right behind this idea, saying "Oh, he likes to break stuff for fun. I wouldn't be surprised if he was behind it." Will is reminded that Ricardo had allowed himself with an ibish on the airship. Raphina's mind is clearly still full of the hotel music because she makes a connection between the calliope music and Strahd's organ playing.
Will looks around the airfield for any sign that the Sooty Gang were here. They make their way over to the ruined tower. There's no question that fire was the cause of its destruction. Signs have been posted warning people that it is unsafe to climb the tower and the bottom of the stairs has been roped off to block access. Will was expecting to see gang graffiti or some evidence of their involvement, but can't find anything. Raphina spots something at the base of the tower. In an area that hasn't been burned so badly, there is a shape that has clearly been smudged with soot into the wood intentionally: the silhouette of a bird in flight.
Any memorable quotes from the episode
- The episode title quotes Alex. When the bellhop/porter Mark is relaying stories about the destructive deeds of the Sooty Gang, Raphina suggests "Maybe they do really just need hugs. Did anyone try hugs?" Gwen: "I just think they need focus and they all need to start taking classes at the university." Raphina: "Did you become a bellhop at the bellhop programme at the university young man?" Alex: "I'll hug them until they enroll!"
- Any other Pork Fried Dice memes / non-canon moments / interesting facts that you think are worth noting
- The pen is blue! https://youtu.be/dAE7uOO_4v4
- See https://linguaholic.com/linguablog/genuinity-vs-genuineness/
- See episode 202: I Bet You Think This Pneumatic Tube Is About You
- See episode 246: A Pompion's Guide to Six Rivers
- See episode 171: So You Guys Are Gonna Be The Balloons Now?
- See episode 134: I Always Get Philosophical Just Before I'm Murdered